Friday, December 31, 2010

Larry King can applique like nobody's business

or so he says.

I saw this video on Kyra's Black Threads blog, and it made me laugh. Hope it brings a smile to you too.

And look at that. I'm finishing the year doing something new: posting a video to my blog.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's a top

I resisted the urge to make oven mitts and put the top together instead. I'd like a little wider print border, but I didn't have enough fabric as I had only a half yard. The top measures 24 x 27 1/2 inches. An odd size. Wall hanging maybe. I don't see it getting any bigger. Done is good. Now back to the 600 half-square triangles.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How to procrastinate with fabric

Because I should be doing other things, I started a new project. I'd seen this quilt before, thought it was cute, and wasn't tempted. Then I saw it on Kathleen Tracy's blog A Sentimental Quilter, and probably also subconsciously needed to procrastinate doing something, so I immediately got to work on it. Today, it is a partially assembled top. Tonight, it could be a completely assembled top. (Although I saw these oven mitts on the Bloomin' Workshop blog, and I'm wondering if I can get my hands on the right batting today.)
Once I decided to make this, I went to the new shelves and pulled out these fabrics. I remember seeing the print at a quilt show, loving it, buying it, buying four fat quarters to go with it, and then putting the lovely grouping together in the cupboard until the right pattern came along.  
I needed more variety for this project so I pulled more fabrics, and in the end only the red of the original four fat quarters made the cut. The above picture represents hours of fabric pulling and decision making!
I wasn't sure about the cutting part so I traced the template on my top before using a ruler to cut it out. I wanted to make sure the squares were squares and that I didn't wack off bits of my template trying to rotary cut around it. I should have starched this top before cutting, but I forgot. Kathleen's directions were helpful, but there's also a bit of winging it. No idea where to find a proper pattern.

Oh, and I also started Bonnie K. Hunter's "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll" mystery quilt, and I have 600 half-square triangles to make. Yes, 600! Plus most of Step 3. ... I bet JoAnn's has Insul-Bright.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Slow progress

Seventeen pieced, and six more cut out. I've been enjoying choosing all the fabrics for each block position and then cutting them. I rummage around in my stash for something else that might work in a position, then rummage some more and reject most of them before making final decisions. I love the fabric selection process. I could do that all day, but I'd have nothing to show you except a stack of fabric. Maybe you'd like that.

The only rule has been a minimum of one Aboriginal fabric per block, but as I was admiring my handiwork the other day I realized I made one without any Aboriginal fabric! I also realized as I looked at this photo, that the yellow fabric in the large half-square triangles in two of the blocks (top row second from right and second row second from left) probably needs to be in three blocks to balance out its placement.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My entry in Blogger's Quilt Festival

I'm sharing this quilt for Blogger's Quilt Festival because 1) it's finished except for the label, 2) I was able to get a picture of the whole thing between wind gusts yesterday and 3) I had lots of fun putting it together.

The pattern is Girlfriends Galore by Kathy Doughty from Material Obsession's first book.  I had bought a couple yards of Philip Jacob's print "Daffodils and Dogwood" around the same time I bought the Material Obsession book. I was planning on making a different pattern from the book, but these two insisted on meeting. The rest of the fabrics were pulled from my stash. I didn't have enough yardage of any one fabric so I used several fat quarters of similar colors to make up the yardage.

The different piecing sections made the quilt fun to work on. I get bored doing the same thing over and over. With this quilt there was the Lone Star center, a few set-in seams, then a triangle border, some four-patches and some half-square triangles.   

Maggi Honeyman of Texas did the machine quilting on this. I hope that you can see in the picture how great her quilting is. Each section is done differently to complement the piecing. Because I used a solid backing it looks like a whole cloth quilt. That makes it reversible and is why it doesn't have a label. I'm not sure what to do because it should be documented (I regret not putting labels on some of my earlier quilts), but I want to be able to use it with either side showing. Suggestions appreciated.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why my husband rocks!

The sewing room has been undergoing a major rearranging and installation of new shelving and a bigger design wall. Thanks to my husband, this is now the best sewing room I've ever had. Here are some before and afters:

The design wall moved to where the bookcase was and got taller (no vent on this wall) and a bit wider. The design wall is batting stretched over a wooden frame and mounted to the wall. I've used this kind of design wall for years, and it works well. The fuzzier the batting, the better the sticking power.

The sewing table faces the window. Much better feng shui, and I can see what the neighbors are up to, nosy woman that I am. My husband put in a shelf for the TV, and I took out the table it was on, giving me more room.

The red drawers were under the sewing table, and now they're stacked in the corner, filled with UFOs and binding for tops that need quilting. Maybe having a tower of UFOs will remind me to pull one out when I'm ready for something different. Who am I kidding? I'd rather start something new! My goal should be to not let the number of UFOs exceed the capacity of the tower.

Where the design wall and a shelving unit were, I've got new custom shelving thanks to my husband. Everything in the old shelves and bookcase fits in the new shelving. I also managed to squeeze in a few things from the closet.

I have saved too many magazines! I need to get rid of them to make room for fabric from the closet. Any ideas what to do with old quilt magazines?

In the closet I have fabric sorted by color. (More or less. It's a mess at the moment.) In these new shelves I have fabric that isn't one partcular color, novelty prints, and stacks of fabric I put together and thought would make a great quilt once I figure out what pattern to use. Some of these stacks have been waiting years for the right pattern to come along. Maybe I should look through those old magazines before I get rid of them. ... Oh, a new project. As long as it doesn't become a new UFO. There's no room in the tower.

Happy Halloween

A Halloween card from my Japanese pen pal. She always sends great cards. I love the owl and bat. I wonder where I can find something like this in the States.

Wishing you all lots of treats and no tricks!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rounding up

I've been busy around here, but not with quilting. The only quilting was yesterday when I tried to work on my Aboriginal blocks. I should have known better than to attempt anything with this head cold. An entire day of sewing and unsewing and only managed one block. (Hope this post goes more smoothly.)

Positano, Italy.

Mostly I have been busy with vacation. My friend and I went to Italy for a Cooking Vacation, and it was amazing! Our week was filled with excursions and classes. We had three hands-on cooking classes in restaurant kitchens with Positano chefs as well as trips to Pompeii, Ravello and Capri.

The cooking classes were fabulous. We made arancini, gnocchi, ravioli, pizza and mozarella among other dishes. (I'm inspired now to find my pasta maker.) After cooking, we ate the multicourse meals and drank wine. Fortunately, Positano is known as the Vertical City so we had no problem working off all those incredible meals. The city is a virtual Stairmaster!

We were all surprised that the chefs used peanut oil to cook with and olive oil as more of a garnish. They said it was because the peanut oil handled high heat better than olive oil. The chefs also chopped vegetables with some pretty small knives. Not at all what we were expecting.

Basilica, Pompeii.

How amazing is this floor mosaic?  

A quilt pattern in the House of the Faun, Pompeii.

Pompeii was unbelievable. I guess I was expecting a museum, and I think there is one there, but mostly you walk around the excavated city and see what has been uncovered. The surviving paintings and the mosaics are incredible, both that they survived at all and look so great, but also because you can walk right up to them.

2009 Richardson Farm Corn Maze taken from a small plane.

After I got home, my husband's brother and his wife came for a brief visit. We took them to the World's Largest Corn Maze. Unfortunately, I think all the pictures are on my brother-in-law's camera. So here's a couple of pictures from last year's maze, which I never did blog about. Last year's had a Lincoln theme. This year they are celebrating 100 years of Scouting, and they have a new Farm Scene Investigation game to go along with one of the mazes. That was a lot of fun. We didn't make it to all the checkpoints this year because we ran out of daylight and didn't have flashlights.

My husband pretending to be lost in the maze. 
Photo taken from the top of one of the bridges. Otherwise, all you can see is corn! 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Halloween is in the mail

 I got it finished, and since this picture was taken it has been washed, dried and popped into an envelope. I'll head to the post office in a bit. Looks like I have a good chance of getting this to Japan before Halloween.

The pattern for this is my own invention, based on the block Autumn Tints. I used fabric from Minick & Simpson's Halloween Night by Moda. The quilting is straight lines on the diagonal in both directions except in the center where I quilted straight lines about an inch or so from the outer edge. I didn't want any seams or stitching in the very center so that whatever is set there wouldn't wobble.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A busy couple of weeks

I made these newspaper placemats as a retirement present for my friend, who I met on my first journalism job more than 20 years ago. She was the cops reporter when I started, and when you went somewhere with her she would point out crime scenes along the way. She got me more interested in cooking and to subscribe to Bon Appetit, which I still do. Her party was great, and I got to visit with people I hadn't seen in decades, and we told lots of stories of my friend. Those were such fun times. I guess because we were young and had the energy to try anything. 

I was, of course, stitching these placemats up the night before I flew back to New England for her retirement party! I adapted the pattern from Penny's napkin tutorial at Sew Take A Hike, changing the dimensions to be placemat size instead of napkin size, and using two layers of newspaper fabric so the placemats are reversible. I used solid fabrics from my stash for the border, but because I didn't have enough of one fabric for all the borders, I used a different blue for each.

I'm still plugging away at the Aboriginal blocks. This is what they looked like before I took them off the design wall to work on a Halloween table topper.

I searched through Barbara Brackman's "Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns," looking up words related to autumn (fall, leaves, pumpkins, etc.) to find a block that would work for this project. I found Autumn Tints (1103c), which seemed perfect: simple construction that could be arranged into an interesting composition that matched the tone/mood of the fabric.

I made some sketches and started piecing. The center was to be a solid piece of fabric so that if you set a vase or something on the center, it wouldn't wobble on top of a seam or cover up the piecing. The black fabric seemed too stark, and the orange was perfect, but I didn't have a big enough piece.
So I cut the biggest piece of the orange I could, and then cut out the pumpkin stripe from Minick & Simpson's great Halloween Night fabric and mitred it around the edge. When I was done, I realized I hadn't calculated correctly (looked at the finished size instead of the unfinished size when I was cutting!) so I had to add some coping strips to make it a bit bigger!

The plan all along was to use the pumpkin stripe as a mitred outside border, and I like the way it looks even though the pumpkins don't match up on the mitres. I used Harriet Hargrave and Sharyn Craig's book "The Art of Classic Quiltmaking" for a refresher on mitring.
If you've made it this far, then you get to see the lovely little bouquet of flowers my neighbor brought me yesterday when she came to check on me. I was hit by a car Friday night walking home from work. I was in the middle of a crosswalk, when a man who was stopped at the stop sign decided to drive through the intersection. He drove right into me, knocked me down and stopped on my foot. Amazingly, nothing seems to have been broken. I don't know what is more shocking: seeing a car tire parked on your foot or having someone drive into you so purposefully! I've been trying to stay off it and keep it elevated, but it is my sewing pedal foot, and I have a whole long weekend of stitching planned.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Round the block

Block 9 of the Sue Ross Block of the Month is done. I machine appliqued this one, and I have to thank Harriet Hargrave for her great book "Mastering Machine Applique." In it is everything you need from machine settings and needle size to different techniques explained through words, pictures and illustrations. I used the invisible machine applique stitch that looks similar to hand applique. I learned how to machine applique from this book, and I turn to it every time I want to machine applique.

My souvenir of the Winterthur exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Couldn't show it to you before because it was in the dishwasher.

Monday, August 9, 2010

American Quilts: Selections from the Winterthur Collection

My Carpenter's Wheel has nothing to do with this post, but I don't have any pictures that do! And this is the last thing I finished, for the Sue Ross BOM, so it'll have to do.

This weekend I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see "American Quilts: Selections from the Winterthur Collection." The exhibit was good, but no photography was allowed, which is why there are no related photos with this post.

There were some incredible quilts, and the more closely you looked, the more you saw in them. A lot of people looked at the quilts for a few seconds and moved on. The things they missed! One white wholecloth quilt with the densest quilting I've ever seen was actually made from two quilted petticoats. Can you imagine that much work going into your underwear?

A number of wholecloth quilts were done on floral fabrics, which apparently was common for the time period. One was quilted with a feathered border, an inner border and then clamshells through the center. The quilting was hard to see on the floral fabric, and I am amazed the quilter would put that effort into something that wasn't noticeable unless you really studied the quilt. And how did she see her markings? What did she mark with?

Another quilt was made with two sizes of half-square triangles in a large variety of fabrics with newspaper sandwiched between the layers. You could see the newspaper in places where the fabric had deteriorated. I think the woman who made the quilt was married to a ship's captain so she had access to fabric from around the world, and the exhibit pointed out some of the interesting pieces in the quilt.

For hexagon fans, there is a beautiful example on display. I noticed one teenage boy pointing out to his mom how the quilter had mirrored fabric choices across the quilt. He was quite impressed with her placement. I was impressed he'd looked that closely.

My husband walked up to me when I wasn't a quarter of the way through the exhibit to say he was done, but he was going to show me his favorite quilt and then go look at what else was in the museum and to take my time. I did!

The museum is beautiful, shaped reminiscent of a sailboat and located on Lake Michigan. After viewing an impressive amount of art inside, we got coffees and sat on the terrace and enjoyed the view, the perfect summer weather and a swarm of dragonflies.

One last thing from the exhibit that made me smile was this quote from the write-up for a lone star quilt that you see in the exhibit advertising: "Despite its skillful construction, this quilt will not lie flat." We've all been there!

There's still time to see these quilts. The exhibit runs for a few more weeks, through Sept. 6.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

You can find fabric anywhere!

Yes, even at the EAA AirVenture, "the World's Greatest Aviation Celebration."
Not me. Another woman buying fabric, albeit with planes on it,
instead of looking at planes and plane parts with her husband.

The fabric was the highlight for me although I did enjoy seeing some of the planes like this one that we walked through.

My husband tells me this is a Galaxy C5A, one of the largest planes in the world.

There was a long line to climb the ladder up to the cockpit. See it under the "hood" of the plane? I wasn't even tempted being afraid of heights (or maybe just of falling) and that was a long way up.

This crane plane was interesting too. As was the air show. I enjoy watching the stunt pilots perform. Friday night we saw the Lt. Dan Band with Gary Sinise. We camped a couple nights and were lucky enough to end up next to two other couples we knew and the flush toilets and showers! My idea of camping. That and lots of beer. Ha.

AirVenture is pretty amazing. According to my Internet research, about 535,000 people attended this year's seven-day show run by legions of volunteers!

On the way home, we stopped at the quilt shop in Oshkosh, Quilt Essentials. It was a nice shop and I found a couple pieces on sale that came home with me. All in all, a nice long weekend.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Smoke, fire but no giant robots

This was the view out of my window at work today. Filming of Transformers 3 is going on throughout the city, and apparently I saw Shia LaBeouf and Josh Duhamel running around, but didn't realize it until later in the day when I looked at some photos on the Chicago Tribune website. Like Oprah, they were little specs from where I sit.

We all marveled at the guy using a hose from the back of a truck to spray dirt over the scene to freshen up the destruction after a few hours of filming. One of my co-workers is now aspiring to be the smoke guy! That does look like a fun job.

Need to tell my nephew about this and finish up that Transformers quilt soon. Still have backing to make for it, and then to quilt it. ... At least the binding's done!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Adding to the stash ... again

Didn't find the same cornerstone fabric, but found something that will work. I searched the Internet for a couple hours after I got home from the quilt shops and figured out the fabric I used was Pepper Pistachio from Momo's Wonderland (that took awhile) and it isn't available any more. Oh well.

While looking for a cornerstone substitute, I found these adorable Halloween fabrics from Minick & Simpson. I don't normally make holiday themed things, but the pumpkin stripe (which I see now I have covered up in the photo) reminded me of my Japanese penpal. I will make her a little table topper, and if I start now, I have a chance of finishing and mailing it to her in time.

When I didn't find the cornerstone fabric in the first shop I went to, I had to go to another. In both shops, I was distracted by the first bolts of fabric I saw as I walked in! The two on the left are new from Clothworks, which I found at the first shop. The purple floral from P& B was found at the second shop. I love the colors. No idea what I'll do with these. I just hope when I figure it out, I will have enough.

Everything's being washed now so I can get some sewing done this afternoon.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Traditional modern quilting

The block that started it all. More photos below.

Before the long stretch of work travel, I read these posts about modern quilting. I had been thinking about modern quilting some before reading the posts. Seems to me that the current modern look is very much like old, traditional quilts yet I have the feeling the modern quilter doesn't want to have anything to do with traditional quilters. I find myself caught in the middle.

My mother quilted, starting in the mid-'70s, but I was never that interested until in my (early!) 30s when I was looking for a present for her and I wandered into a quilt shop. I was captivated by the fabric and the quilts and took a class. I've been quilting for more than a dozen years now.

I took lots of classes, learning as much as I could about different techniques so that I could make what I wanted the way I wanted. I've followed patterns, more so in the beginning, but I prefer to make up my own designs and pick my own fabric, which is the best part.

I look at the current modern stuff and it reminds me of my beginning quilting: simple designs, lots of white. I like it, but I don't want to make it. Nor do I want to make a Dear Jane quilt. And that's why I feel caught in the middle. Caught between too simple and too complicated. Current modern and traditional. Trying to find my own style by taking a little from this and a little from that, appreciating it all, but not feeling obligated to be one thing or the other.

I started this blog to document the things I was doing (so I could remember when, how, why) and so I'm taking the process pledge and will try to be more articulate about my choices.

Here goes:
Picking fabrics one block at a time.

That block at the start of this post started it all. I was working on the Sue Ross BOM and had ordered some Aboriginal fabric from Material Obsession. The fabric and the pattern came together in my head and I made one block. Liked it, and decided a bigger quilt was in order.
Normally my fabric selection process is to pull a bunch of fabrics, decide what goes together and use that pile. This time I made one block, and decided the background and corner squares would be the constants through all the blocks, and every block should have some Aboriginal fabric in it. Then I chose the fabrics for each block, pulling from my stash as I went, and not paying attention to how all the fabrics look together in a pile. They do seem to look OK piled together, but I'm not sure I would have pulled this particular pile of fabric if I had used my usual selection process.

Tools of the trade include a remote.

I make my half-square triangles bigger and trim them down. I'm a little anal retentive about accuracy.
Here's where I'm at: Six blocks made. Enough cornerstone fabric for 11 blocks. Enough background for 10. Wanting to make a much bigger quilt. Thinking of setting the blocks solid instead of the original vision for sashing.

So off to the quilt shop to see if I can find more of that background and cornerstone fabric.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

6 states, 5 days, and only 1 quilt shop

We didn't fly over the fireworks this Fourth. Weather wasn't cooperating. Plus we are old and have trouble staying up late enough to watch the fireworks, put the plane back and drive home (over an hour away). Pitiful. At least we haven't started lining up for the early-bird dinner special yet!
Sleeping Giant from our hotel in Helena, Montana.

I had said I was going to post some pictures of our April vacation so here they are. Just a few. We had plans, they fell through and so at the last minute we decided to take our plane to visit five of the six U.S. states I haven't been to yet. (Can't make it to Hawaii with our plane.)

We picked state capitals except for Kansas, where we chose a place with a good barbecue restaurant. I'm sure they have some in Topeka, but there's one right next to the runway in Paola!

Day 1: First stop is Bismark, North Dakota. Sorry no photos. We stopped for lunch. I had a quilt shop picked out for a visit. Hubby wanted to keep going. We did.

Next stop: Helena, Montana. Beautiful scenery. A very nice guy who used to live in Chicago gave us a ride to a hotel. Also had a quilt shop picked out for Helena. We didn't go.

Leaving Montana and headed into the Rockies. Not so great visibility for a while.

Flying over the Rockies.

Day 2: We stopped in Nampa, Idaho. My husband was so excited because he saw Bob "The Hurricane" Hannah walking across the tarmac. I had/have no idea who he is.

View from the Nampa, Idaho, airport cafe.

Derek and Carmen had their reception here. The TSA was not invited.

Lunch in Nampa. I had a quilt shop picked out in the Nampa/Boise area. We didn't go. Seeing a pattern here? Then on to Salem, Oregon. We arrived about 10 minutes after the general aviation place closed so we walked with our luggage over to the main terminal. Derek and Carmen were having their wedding reception in the terminal. We found out later that no commercial flights had been in or out of the Salem Airport in about a year! Fortunately, signs advertising hotels had enough current information we were able to find a place to stay, and they sent a hotel shuttle for us.

Day 3: I had a quilt shop picked out for Salem too. And I got to go because we stayed the whole next day in Salem. Greenbaum's Quilted Forest was amazing. I spent a couple hours in the quilt shop while my husband wandered around downtown and the park along the river. Then we went to the Haillie Ford Museum of Art, which was exhibiting work by the senior art majors. I would have loved to have brought home one of the sculptures of extinct animals created with found metal pieces, but it wouldn't fit in the backseat.

Downtown Salem on a Sunday was pretty interesting. The Reed Opera House is full of shops and we had a coffee there and read all about Cyrus Adams Reed. What a character!

The Cascades (and Rockies) were close!

Day 4: Back through the Cascades and a fuel stop in Idaho. Then on through the Rockies to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for our overnight. My husband said it was the only runway he's had to climb to reach. It was a little scary landing here.

Steamboat Springs during "mud season," which is after ski season and before summer.

Flying over Colorado.

Day 5: Kansas for barbecue and then on back home. We beat the weather getting out of town and again getting back, leaving a couple days at home recovering before we had to go back to work.