Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bunny bag

This morning for Try-it-out Tuesday I made this sweet little drawstring bag to fill with felt rabbits for K's Easter. I have since replaced the organdy ribbon with a self-fabric tie, which I think is a great improvement. I'll photograph the bag again when all the bunnies are made so you can see the difference.

I tried, unsuccessfully, to make a similar bag for my nephew J, but the fabric I chose was of poor quality and refused to make up into a suitable product. I'll try again if I can find another appropriate print, but it's hard to find Easter-y prints that aren't too pink and flowery.

*Pattern for the bag came from Sew What? Bags! by Lexie Barnes

Yesterday's Mix-it-up Monday was quite a hit -- I made the Quiche Lorraine, referring to it as "egg pie" to K so she'd understand the concept of what we were making. She thought the concept was gross but was happy to help measuring and mixing and pouring, and even ate a bite or two when the thing was done, a full 30 minutes after the cookbook said it would be. I will definitely make this again, with the understanding that pre-made pie crusts and pre-cooked bacon make the job a pleasure instead of a chore. I may even make it for Easter Brunch.
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Monday, March 30, 2009

Behind but still busy

I still have not gotten the desk moved into K's room, but at least it's empty now and ready to go. I have been clutter-busting all over the house, which is good for my overall disposition but less good for my concrete goals. Still, clean is clean. I'm not complaining.

I also got the main fabrics chosen for dawni's quilt. The number of fabric pieces I had to pull out from my stash in order to find them was staggering, and reminded me once again that I need to build up my collection of reds. Hopefully I can start pressing and cutting those mountains of fabric today.

Plus, it's Menu Planning Monday, which means it's grocery shopping day. And I need a bazillion things from Target. Does anybody have an extra hour or two they can spare? I really need to get my spring cleaning done!

Monday: Quiche Lorraine (let's try this again) and black bean soup (left over from last week)

Tuesday: Spaghetti w/jarred sauce, turkey meatballs, applesauce

Wednesday: Marinated chicken breasts, rice pilaf, green beans

Thursday: Manicotti, salad

Friday: Rice and beans (left over from last week), baby carrots

Saturday: Clean out refrigerator night

Sunday: Pizza night

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Remember the chococolate-and-vanilla blanket that I felted? The one where the binding got all puckered? I got tired of seeing it sitting on the floor of my closet, where it stayed because it was too sloppy-looking to put on the bed, so I butchered it. In my new favorite sewing book, Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing, there is a marvelous felted-wool baby blanket project, and I happen to know a relatively new baby, so I thought I'd give it a try. It has a gloriously colorful patchwork binding that was too much fun to make.

So much fun that I ended up making two blankets! Heather's project called for an appliquéd monogram, but a) I am afraid of appliqué and b) I liked the simplicity of the blankets as they were, so I left the monograms off. Not bad for a day's work.

As far as Studio Saturday goes, I did not meet my goal of moving my old desk into K's room -- though there is still hope that that might happen today. I did manage to get all of D's books downstairs, and even had him sort through them and choose some to give away, which left enough room to move the travel books and atlases downstairs, too. That leaves me with most of the second Billy bookcase empty; I'm keeping two shelves full of photographs, negatives and cameras because they qualify as "art," and because they occupy K's attention when she's in here and I'm busy with other things.

Because I got carried away with the sewing yesterday, I may not work on any sewing projects today, but we'll see. The bug has bitten and I am eager to get to dawni's quilt.
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Friday, March 27, 2009


The "My House" quilt is finished! I love the way it looks with the matching pillowcases.

I love the pieced backing -- it contains some of my favorite fabrics, that I had been saving for a special project.

I was in a big hurry to finish the quilt but I did want to put some kind of label on it. My embroidery skills could use some honing, but that's for another day.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thinking it through

It's always good to have a plan. I'm doing very well with my meal plan for the week -- I can't say it's been perfect, but dinner's been on the table each night with a minimum of fuss, and I have a good sense of what I can serve for next week as well. So I'm providing a plan for my creative work week with Think-it-through Thursday. Here goes:
  • Free Play Friday -- By definition, I don't need to put anything down here. I will speculate, however, that I may spend some time finishing the "My House" quilt and working on the coordinating pillow slips. Since K has the day off from school, we may work on some "'broidery" together, or possibly sort through some photographs.
  • Studio Saturday -- My plan is to have all of D's books downstairs by Saturday. Then I want to empty the drawers out and clear off the top of my old desk, so that we can move it into K's room, thus freeing up needed space for my cutting table.
  • Stay-with-it Sunday -- Since I expect to be done with "My House," this will be the day I plan and choose fabrics for dawni's Friendship Star quilt. If I have time I will cut and maybe start piecing.
  • Mix-it-up Monday -- I want to make the Quiche Lorraine that didn't get made last Monday, so I will do my menu planning and grocery shopping around that. Since K will be in school I will also work on felt rabbits.
  • Try-it-out Tuesday -- This will be my chance to make the drawstring bag to hold K's rabbits in. With any extra time I will work on finishing up the rabbit family and piecing dawni's quilt.
  • Works-in-progress Wednesday -- There is a poncho that needs about 30 minutes to finish up; there are some journal covers with a little work left to do on them; a baby afghan that needs finishing; and any number of projects that need to be noticed and prioritized.
For the rest of the day, I'm putting ties on "My House." I hope to finish the ties and embroider my name and the date on the back by bedtime. Then I can run it through the wash to give it that antique-y look and spread it on the bed -- at last!

A simple scarf

This scarf turned out exactly the way I hoped and expected it to -- plain, soft and warm -- back in January when I started it! It's an unbelievably simple two-stitch crochet pattern, so there's no reason why I couldn't have knocked it off in a couple of days, but I am just not that into crocheting these days, so it took 3 months instead of 3 days to do. It would still be sitting in its pouch in the passenger seat of my car had it not been for Works-In-Progress Wednesday, my new day to set aside my current project for one that's been sitting around unfinished for a while.

I love the yarn that I used to make this project -- it's Rowan Wool Cotton, which comes in many lovely colors and has a lovely drape and sheen. It's not cheap, but it's worth the price. I bought different-colored yarn to make two other scarves, so I hope I can get over my anti-crochet kick long enough to whip those up. The pattern for the scarf came from Crochet Scarves! by Candi Jensen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Peeps you can keep

Who better to great you on Try-it-out Tuesday than Peter Cottontail himself, the first of my branchings-out into new territory. He's a wool felt rabbit just about the size of a Marshmallow Peep but with (in my humble opinion) tons more character. I plan to make about 7 more of the little creatures in different colors to give to K for Easter Day, along with a little drawstring bag she can carry them to church in for some quiet play. It was fun to work with the wool felt and embroidery thread, and to fashion the charming little critter in a relatively short time.

This project came from Cynthia Treen's Last Minute Fabric Gifts.

If you're looking for some entertaining and informative reading, you could do worse than to go over to the Peep Research Page .
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Contest winner

And the winner is...

#6, dawni!

Thanks for playing everybody! dawni, I'll be in touch with you so we can plan your miniature-quilt prize.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Quilt

Thanks to all who suggested names for my four-patch scrap quilt. I love them all! I think my favorites were The Amazing Technicolor Dreamquilt, Eight Bit Mona Lisa, and Pelangi, but none of those made it to the top. That's because I remembered a favorite poem by Nikki Giovanni called "My House," from her 1972 book of the same title. I'd love to quote the full text of the poem here but there's something so wrong about that, so I'll give you the quilt-related stanza:
i spent all winter in
carpet stores gathering
patches so i could make
a quilt
does this really sound
like a silly poem
i mean i want to keep you
You must, must, must read the whole poem, however, if you are a lover of poetry. Read it aloud, read it to someone you love. You will understand, then, why my quilt must be called "My House." It is a quilt about gathering patches, pieces of my days and work and family, it is a quilt about taking charge of my life and bringing peace and wholeness to my world, it is a quilt about opening up my self to those I know and love. It is a nesting quilt, it is a growing quilt, it is a welcoming quilt. Welcome to "My House." Come over soon and share it with me.

Mishmash: The long haul edition

Since I didn't get to it yesterday, this is my unofficial report from "Stay-with-it Sunday," my afternoon dedicated to making progress on ongoing projects. Naturally I worked on my nameless quilt, tying and tying and tying till my fingers were sore. I am nearly finished with it and, if I work hard, may have the whole thing complete by this time tomorrow. I also put some small effort into moving books out of the studio; my medium-term goal is to have this finished by next Saturday.

Today is Mix-it-up Monday, which for the time being will be dedicated to a cooking or baking project. Today I'm making Corn Scones from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home -- a recipe I've tackled before with some success. I'll also be making black bean soup and quiche lorraine for supper, assuming all goes well; I'm just feeling a need to branch out creatively and enjoy the fruits of my labor with my family tonight.

I've also decided to join with Laura's I'm an Organizing Junkie blog Menu Plan Monday followers and post my weekly menu plan here. More than 400 women share their menus on Laura's blog every week and find that doing so is a great way to stay motivated and inspired, so I'm going to give it a try. Here goes:

Monday: Quiche Lorraine, Black Bean Soup, Corn Scones

Tuesday: Chicken with BBQ sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli

Wednesday: Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice, Salad

Thursday: Chicken and Noodles with Pesto Sauce (Stouffer's,) Baby Carrots

Friday: Crock Pot Tuna Casserole, Peas

Saturday: Pizza night

Sunday: Clean Out Refrigerator Night

Simple, right? Now I need to haul myself to the grocery store so I can follow through. If this works it will save me time, effort and money and keep my family fed and happy, so wish me luck!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Studio Saturday -- Dinosaur Dig and Book Blitz

Welcome to the first of a series of themed posts designed to keep me on my creative track. The idea behind Studio Saturdays is that I will set a goal each week towards the completion of my crafting studio, and spend an hour or more working toward that specific goal. This week, I actually had two goals: 1) To have D remove his obsolete, dust-gathering computer equipment to the recycling center, and 2) To empty as much as possible the two tall white Billy bookcases from Ikea, to make room for crafting books and supplies.

D came through with flying colors! I had an appointment to keep this morning, and when I returned home at 11:00am he had not only purged the office of cyber-junk, but had also relieved the choir room at church of a useless wooly mammoth of a PC. I was less successful in completing my task, which metastasized as I realized I was going to have to clear out bookcases in our bedroom and in the Great Room downstairs in order to accommodate the exodus of printed material from the office. I did manage to get the space cleared, but only moved out half a Billy bookcase worth of materials from the office. And now my cookbooks are in the bedroom, which just seems wrong. Give it time, I keep telling myself. It'll all come right.

So tomomrrow I'll put a little more effort into getting the house (let alone the office) under control, and I'll work hard at tying my quilt -- the closer I get to the finish line there, the safer and cozier I feel. It's totally worth all the hard work.

What projects have you been tackling this weekend?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fit to be tied

I finally finished stitching the binding to the back of the quilt this afternoon. It's been a slow five days, but for once I feel secure that the edges of my quilt will hold together -- no fraying and raveling on this one -- and the corners surprised me by mitering nicely. Now it's time to pull the layers of the quilt sandwich together by tying a square knot with white pearl cotton in the center of each four-patch. I started doing that earlier this evening and I'm liking the way it's going. Helps to balance the bright, crisp blue flowered border with the hippy-dippy scrappy-patchy center. I'm liking it. Except.

The whole idea behind the four-patch quilt design was that it should have an amount of structure without being stuffy. The blocks were laid out just so, from top left: light patch, dark patch, light patch, dark patch, so that -- in my mind, as I set up the rows -- the dark patches were like stair-steps climbing up the quilt. Nothing sophisticated, to be sure, and it won't win any prizes for visual effects, but I do think it's easier on the eyes than a totally random layout would have been. And then I take a closer look.

Of course I knew there would be mistakes. There are ten zillion squares in this thing. Some of them were bound to get turned round the wrong way. No big deal. It's when I begin looking for those oversights that I begin to drive myself berserk. Because, of course, they're all I can see.

As I work through the four-patches, inserting the ties, I'll have a chance to notice, lament and remember every single mistake. Then I'll name the quilt, wash it and put it on my bed, and it will mellow and age. I'll read, write and watch TV under it, spread it on the grass and picnic on it, wrap and transport antique furniture in it, and fold it in a laundry basket for an old, old fat cat to sleep on. The colors and textures and harmonious and discordant patterns will become faded and fixed and ultimately, utterly beloved -- no need for any concern about flaws here.

How many "mistakes" can you find in the picture of the quilt top, if a mistake is a four-patch where the dark diagonal is turned in the wrong direction? I'll count how many are on the actual quilt, and if our numbers agree I'll do a drawing and make someone a surprise!

The Amazing Technicolor Dreamquilt Contest

My quilt is nearly bound. After that I will do the ties -- I am finding it so soothing and satisfying to do all of this handwork -- and then it will be time to name and label the quilt and call it done. My goal is to complete the quilt by the end of the day on Monday. In case you've forgotten what it looks like, you can view a picture of the quilt top here.

Now that you've refreshed your memory, it's time to get to work.

Think of a name for my quilt -- the point here is to have as many working ideas as possible. Leave your suggestion in the comments. (If you don't have a new suggestion of your own but really like someone else's, leave a comment to that effect.) For each original comment that you leave, I will enter your name in a drawing to win a miniature quilt that I will make especially for you, colors and design to be determined at a later date. To earn an extra entry, become a follower of my blog or subscribe to its RSS feed and leave a comment saying that you have done so. Or invite a friend to comment on this post and drop your name in their comment.

Contest will be closed at the end of the day on Monday, March 23, 2009.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Midnight shortbread

I love to cook. It's a throwback from my grad school days, when I would spend my daytime hours slaving over piles of books to be cataloged (ah, that new book smell!) and my evenings wriggling about in uncomfortable chairs, surreptitiously nibbling on popcorn from the library school's basement vending machine and wondering how Seven of Nine could manage to save the day (night? how could you tell?) on Voyager each week in that darn silver cat suit and those precipitous stiletto heels. Despite the yummy homemade soup I'd bring for my dinner in the fancy-schmacy Thermos my mom gave me when I quit my teaching job to go back to school, I was always ravenous when I got home from class at, like, 10:30 PM, and I needed to cook because peanut butter and jelly wasn't going to cut it.

I had a book I loved -- I won't call it a cook book, it was more of a food book -- that my sister gave me a hundred years ago. I still love it. It's called Home Cooking: A Writer In the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. It reads (to me, anyway) like a novel, as does her other food book, More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen. I would turn to these books, not so much for recipes as for inspiration -- for such wonderful end-of-the-day dishes as rösti (like hash browns only better) and welsh rarebit -- and for astonishing projects like homemade dill pickles and yogurt. They kept me going during the grind of graduate school -- I would fix myself some amazing comfort food and eat it while I watched The Food Network or Nick at Nite on TV, then work on some hippy-dippy crochet project before I started my homework.

All this is to say that, since grad school and marriage and the arrival of Miss K and the advent of the quilting bug, my cooking obsession has fallen by the wayside. But for the last few nights I have not wanted, I have needed cookies. And I am simply too busy to make them. I have to clean up cat puke off the sofa. I have to launder 1,171 socks (becasue 1,172 would be one too many.) The bed has to be made so we can muss it up again. (Yes, it does. It really is better that way, D. One day you'll understand why.) The answer? Midnight shortbread.

Why shortbread?
  1. Three ingredients. Always on hand. Butter. Flour. Sugar.
  2. Very little cleanup (assuming that, unlike me, you do not fling the flour about as you measure it.)
  3. Hands-on time is minimal. (No, don't use two knives to cut in the butter, that's ridiculous. Use a pastry cutter, you'll be done in no time.)
  4. Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake. No cookie cutters, no messy drop cookies.
  5. Make a fluted edge. Or don't. Cut into wedges.
  6. Flip on the tv or snuggle down with a book and let the oven do the work.
  7. Nibble daintily? Crunch and munch? You decide.
Why midnight?

So you get first dibs, of course. You can share the leftovers in the morning -- they're wonderful spread with a little butter (and, if you're feeling decadent, a sprinkle of sugar) and enjoyed with some tea or orange juice. What time do you get up? I'll be over.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Progress report

I managed to pick up a version of K's tummy bug, but in between bouts of wonkiness I basted the edge of my quilt, trimmed the excess batting from around the edges, created the binding and sewed it on to the quilt top. It's looking more and more like a finished product! Left to do:
  • Slip stitch the binding to the back of the quilt
  • Make the quilt ties (I'm thinking plain white pearl cotton for these) and trim them evenly
  • Name the quilt and create a label for the back
  • Sew on the label
  • Wash the quilt to give it the "antique" look I'm after
  • Make the pillow slips
I'm tentatively planning a "Name That Quilt" contest if I can drum up enough interested readers and think of an appropriate (handmade by me, of course!) prize. Any suggestions?

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Hi to anyone who is visiting Magnificasti for the first time, and welcome! Check out some of my earlier posts, view photographs of past projects, and follow along with my progress as I work to transform my husband's old office into my new crafting studio. If you like what you see, become a follower or subscribe to the RSS feed and come along for the ride! And do leave a comment with any feedback you have to offer, or just say hello. I'm so glad you stopped by!

Byrd is the word

I try to get to choir rehearsal about half an hour early each week, in order to catch up on filing or in case the director has anything he'd like me to help him with. This past Wednesday he had a whopping pile of music to be distributed into the choir members' boxes -- not surprisingly, since Lent is moving along at a fast clip and we'll be needing a ton of music for Holy Week and Easter. I looked at the first piece and saw that it was a particular favorite of mine, perhaps my actual all-time favorite choral work, and I jumped for joy. Really. You can ask him.

It's William Byrd's "Ave Verum Corpus." You can listen to it here.

Aside from the fact that it's just an unutterably beautiful motet, I think it is a memory I associate with the Byrd piece that causes it to fill me, not so much with hope, but with certainty, that this Holy Week and Easter will be solemn and sacred and vivid and glorious. This is what I remember:

While I was at Carleton I sang in the vocal ensemble in the Carleton Pro Musica. There were usually between eight and ten of us, and we rehearsed twice a week in a little practice room in the Music & Drama building. (Aside: The M&D was one of the few places where you could still enter part-way into the underground tunnels that used to connect the buildings to afford students and faculty some shelter from the harsh Minnesota winters.)

We would sing silly warm-up exercises and then work hard on the pieces we were given to learn, with guidance from the group's director as he dropped in, working his way through the different ensembles. Looking back now, I can see that we were spoiled in that a) we had plenty of rehearsal time, and b) we had in common the drive to perfect our performance. In our church choir (which I have sung in for ten years) we are blessed with neither, which I am no longer bitter about -- that's life -- but sometimes it makes me feel disappointed.

So during Spring term of my Freshman year we were given the Byrd "Ave Verum" to work on, and I think it was a favorite with pretty much everybody. I don't remember much about the rehearsals, except that as time went on I put more and more effort into following the tenors' line, which, if I closed my eyes, would make me feel like I was floating on air. One afternoon we all agreed to troop down to the basement to the tunnels so we could rehearse the lovely motet among the tunnels' astonishingly good acoustics.

When we got there, we mixed and mingled and molded ourselves into an inward-facing circle. Someone gave the pitch and we began to sing. I don't know who hit the lights, but almost immediately I felt hands holding each of mine. We sang the whole piece through, in the dark, holding hands, with that lush sound resonating about us. I can't remember another time when I've felt so real, so present, so completely involved in what I was doing.

It's a reminder to me, today, that when I sing, be it the William Byrd or the Patricia Hurlbutt (yes, you read that right, and the composer's name is indicative of what we'd like to do with her anthem) -- I need to be alive, focused, prepared to work as hard as I can to ensure that whatever piece I'm performing is as perfect as possible, and to inspire others to do the same. This is not a small challenge, but it is definitely worthwhile.

My new digs

It's been a long time coming, but at last I have taken residence in D's former office! I'm still referring to it as my "office" for the time being, since it is clearly set up for paperwork and not for sewing, but some very important things have happened in this room over the past day or two:
  1. I have located the floor. (The beige carpet is in excellent condition. This is most likely because, during D's work-from-home years, it was covered in a sea of paper which protected it from all the cat puke and baby vomit. I think, then, that I will keep the carpet and put the money saved toward something more important like maybe a decent quilting machine?)
  2. I have pinpointed the problem areas, i.e. the things D still needs to get rid of, and I have made a plan for him to follow through on these that he can actually carry out in a reasonable amount of time. This requires supervision and patience, but it will be well worth it.
  3. I have gotten a handle on getting my own things under control. The piles of craft clutter that accumulate after a winter of making gifts and then undertaking a major quilting project were outrageous, and my "temporary studio" still needs attention, but at least things are neatly piled and arranged instead of flung about willy-nilly.

I love my French bulletin boards but I think I'll re-cover them; I'm definitely leaning toward reds, pinks and yellows for my color scheme. The Fred Small poster (from a concert in Great Hall my senior year at Carleton! Autographed!) will probably have to go, but I hate to give up Fred entirely -- will have to think about that. And may or may not relocate the diplomas -- maybe keep mine and give D's the boot?

Possibly the best part is the part you can't see because that's where I'm sitting -- my comfy leather armchair (that one in the picture is D's and it's slated to LEAVE because it is NOT comfy) with the fluffy yellow "Lemonade" afghan draped over the back. In front of it my laptop just fits on the top of a thrifted wooden side table that has been loved by some child or children, who left their mark in dabs of brightly colored paint all over the legs. Nothing like furniture with character.

Next on the agenda: Move D's mathematics/computer science book collection to a bookcase downstairs and reclaim one Ikea Billy Bookcase for quilting/crafting books.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Quilt show booty

Early this afternoon the three of us trooped off to the Love Apple Quilters' 2009 "Spring Into Quilting" Show -- what fun! Or it would have been, if K had not been so gosh-awful whiny. Turns out she was coming down with a fever and upset tummy; we plopped her on the couch with some ginger-ale and crackers when we got home. So I didn't get to see many quilts, but I took a turn through the vendors' exhibits and picked up a handful of flyers so I'm now aware of a number of upcoming events. And I rummaged through a lovely merchant's vintage linens to find this embroidered pillowcase -- see how pretty?

I have a book called Craft Challenge: Dozens of Ways to Repurpose a Pillowcase that gives directions for turning this into an enchanting sundress for a two-year-old girl, and while I currently do not know any two-year-old girls, I expect to know about three of them in the not-so-distant future. Hence.

Then I found some delightfully soft and vibrant scraps of wool. I wanted them so badly but couldn't imagine what I might use them for, so I walked away from them, noting as I did the enormous basket of (clearly hand-dyed) wool roving on the table nearby. On my second pass by the woolens exhibit, I fingered the roving for a moment, then dove in. I came out with the Easter egg colors below:

I know that wool roving is used in needle felting but I've never tried that; the only thing I've ever done with it is make felted rocks, which is probably what I'll do with this roving. I've also seen instructions (in The Creative Family by Amanda Soule) for making little round felted balls, about the size of superballs -- which little children supposedly love -- but they look like a ton of work for not much reward.

So when I went to purchase the roving I asked, just for kicks, what the scraps were meant for, and was told that they were for felted wool appliqué -- which of course never occurred to me because I am mortally terrified of appliqué and have never once considered trying it. But felted wool is all the rage these days, and I know that it is unbelievably forgiving -- and these wool scraps had such a soft hand and such rich and gentle colors. I took a deep breath and bought some. and I found this on Amazon when I got home. I should have it by Wednesday, so look out!


It's been a busy, intense week with a lot on my mind and a lot on my plate, but I managed to get an enormous backing (which I love -- I would show it to you but I want it to be a surprise) pieced and the three layers of my quilt sandwich pinned together. I was a little disappointed that the organic cotton batting was so thin and rough to the touch, but I didn't want a heavy batting for such a large quilt and you can't actually touch the batting once the quilt is done, anyway, so I'm not going to worry about those things. The beauty of the cotton batting is that it will shrink when the quilt is washed, giving the whole thing a puckered, "antique" look.

Now my job is to baste around the outer edge of the quilt top so I can trim off the excess backing and batting, and then I will make and apply the binding. Then it's plug-and-chug, tying and trimming the knots until it's time to make the pillowcases (yes, I had enough of the bright blue floral for two of them) and name the quilt and then happily ever after. Onward and upward!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Here's the top

I'm high as a kite from finishing the top of my scrappy four-patch quilt about forty-five minutes ago. It took that long to spread it out on the floor and chase the cats off so I could photograph it for you. You'll notice that the navy blue border I'd had my heart set on was replaced by a subtle medium blue print from my stash -- thus saving me the need to buy any new fabric and, I think, coordinating well with more of the greeny-blue blocks that show up all over the quilt.

Now my job is to piece together a backing that is at least 95 in. by 85 in., to set aside enough medium blue fabric to do a self-binding, and to baste the top and the backing together with a lovely organic cotton batting I purchased at Jo Ann's today. With luck I'll even have enough blue fabric over to make pillow slips. Here's hoping!
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Saturday, March 7, 2009

What she said

Earlier this week, on Soulemama's blog, I read a post that truly inspired me. You can read the entirety of it here -- and I would encourage you to do so if for no other reason than to drink in the glorious photographs she includes in every post -- but the comments below do a great job of summarizing how I'm feeling without my adding a thing:
Sometimes these things - our passions and our projects - get done in simple, yet miraculous ways: in the two-minute increments of time that may appear at a time; with the help of a sweet husband who carries a little extra weight for a moment so I can do something as silly as knit a sleeve in silence; or as the chosen priority for a day over a pile of laundry/bathroom cleaning/bill paying. Sometimes we go to extreme/comical/ridiculous measures to make our passions happen in the everyday. Because the way it makes me feel - the way it feeds my soul - well, that fuels me to be a better person. And a better mom.

One little stitch at a time.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Quilt quickie

Just dropping in to say that I have waffled once again and I am quite pleased with the results. I decided that I liked the hippy-dippy folksy appeal of the simple four-patch layout and, just for the heck of it, laid out a 10 x 12 array of blocks. It looked great -- just what I had envisioned when I started the quilt!

So I'm currently in the process of sewing rows of four-patches together. I thought it would be tedious work, but I'm finding it curiously relaxing. In the back of my mind I'm churning about what sort of backing I want to do (pieced, I think, using fabric from my stash) and whether I want a border and what color it should be (narrow and navy blue print, perhaps) -- more about those things later.

I'm loving the rhythm of piecing right now, and am using it as a reward for getting some amount of housework done. Projects in the works: A hooded towel for my new first-cousin-once-removed, some receiving blankets and maybe a star quilt for my niece-to-be, many tote bags because I have such lovely home-decor remnants piling up, and of course the mama-daughter pajama pants from the lovely vintage bedsheet. Right, I'd better get busy!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Nowhere fast

Well, after an hour or so of fiddling, I have come to the conclusion that I need professional help.

Oh, you knew that? No, really, stop laughing.

I'm going to the quilt store downtown and ask the ladies what they think. Laying the blocks out in a "random" pattern is simply not working, it's just driving me insane and it looks sloppy and unpolished. I need something to pull it together, some sort of lattice work and border to pull it all together, and I am simply too inexperienced to figure out how to do that on my own. So I'll go stack my blocks back up and put them in a little box and cart them down the street and see what they say. You don't ask, you don't get, right?

One patch, two patch, three patch, four...

Well, all of the four-patch blocks have been sewn together -- the picture above shows them stacked in their neat little piles. That was a job! I spent a fair amount of time the other day laying out possible combinations of 4x4 blocks but found myself stymied in the end. Hmm... Wheels are turning as I type. I had been thinking I needed to make 4x4 patches and then sew those together, but I'm liking the simplicity of the four-patch blocks juxtaposed as they are in my photograph, perhaps with a little tweaking so that all of the dark patches "climb" in one direction. Hmm...

Obviously the thing to do now is lay them out on my fabulous huge design wall WHICH IS STILL TOTALLY IMAGINARY, thank you very much, I will be laying them out ON THE FLOOR, and count out how many I'd need to make a such-and-such size quilt. Which means I also need to figure out how large a quilt I want to make. Oh, how tedious. But these things must be done, so off I go.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mishmash: Lost weekend edition

February went by in a flash! Crazy things happened, the likes of which I will not delve into here. The most important thing is, I was happily reunited with my sewing machine and we immediately began with that all-important project of re-covering the ironing board -- without which no other project could proceed. I've had the prissy yellow oh-so-utilitarian print in my stash for over a year now, and the ironing board seemed like the perfect place to put it to use, with a big floppy white bow to hold it in place.

My major project for the month was a scrappy four-patch quilt which is sloppily spilling over into March. I ransacked my "large scrap" bin for pieces I could cut into 3 1/2" selvage to selvage strips, then rummaged through the "small scrap" bin and found shamefully many more such strips, cut and pressed them, and sewed them together in pairs. I'm currently cutting up the paired strips and sewing them into four-patch units. I haven't decided exactly where I'm going to go from there, but I want to make a tied quilt large enough to go on our new queen-sized bed, preferably not too ugly, so stay tuned.

I tried to set myself a "No New Fabric" resolution for the month of February. You can see below how that went for me. I only really had three remnant-shopping trips to Jo Ann's, two of which are represented below, but they were fruitful ones. And I bought some vintage bedsheets and pillowcases which, for all intents and purposes, could not be considered new, could they? And see how lovely? I'm going to make matching pajama pants for K and me out of that blue flowery stripe with the wide trim at the end -- for $3.99 at the Goodwill, who could fault me?

No work at all was done on the craft room during February -- it makes me want to crawl into a closet and shut the door to write that publicly. But I've acquired several new inspirational books to leaf through, that have made me want to continue to take my time gathering thoughts and furnishings for the new room and really make it both my own and truly as functional as it can be. This, however, is no excuse for the sacks of paperwork needing to be taken out and shredded or the bin of photographs to be waded through. I must get on the ball, I must.