Monday, August 1, 2011

Thoughts on improvisational piecing

I am loving the improvisational piecing in this quilt, which is "Nate's Quilt" from Malka Dubrawski's Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, and Inspiration.

Things I am learning:
  1. The look might be random, but there's a ton of planning that goes into that look.
  2. The build might be wonky, but there's a lot of skill that goes into building the wonkiness.  (I need to work on this part.)
  3. There are many degrees of randomness and wonkiness, between quilters and within quilts.  (Take a look at Alissa Haight Carlton and Kristen Lejniek's Block Party--The Modern Quilting Bee: The Journey of 12 Women, 1 Blog, & 12 Improvisational Projects for examples.)
Questions I'm considering:
  1. Can there be too much wonk?  (I think the answer is, sometimes, but it can be balanced with similar wonk elsewhere in the same quilt.  I had help with this question from a more experienced quilter.)
  2. Where can I find fabric that is not quilting cotton to quilt and sew with?  Linen, silk, good corduroy, wool suiting?  (I am not impressed with what I find at the chain stores.)  There is one store in our town that carries some of these things, but are there other sources?  I am not against ordering online, but I prefer to see and touch what I am buying.
  3. Where can I find other quilters who are interested in modern quilting?  One answer would be to take a class, but I not had good experiences in knitting classes I have taken and worry that a quilting class would be similar.  I would rather spend my money on good fabric and books.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More fabric love: Planning a baby quilt

I had fun this morning pulling favorite fabrics from my stash and combining them with some fat quarters I purchased last week to make a  quilt for a new baby I'm going to be meeting soon.  I'm really feeling inspired to go wild with prints and colors, and I'm looking forward to doing some improvisational piecing.  Stay tuned -- this is going to be a wild ride!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fabric Love

Today I put some of my favorite fabrics up on the wall.  They are all (except one) from my vintage fabric collection and it was hard to cut into them, but I love seeing them together.

They look terrific with the "My House" quilt in my bedroom.

To secure the fabric in the hoops, I trimmed the fabric to about 1/2 inch larger than its embroidery or quilting hoop, then ran a line of hot-glue down the edge of the hoop and pressed the fabric down over it.  Some of the excess fabric is still hanging over the back end of the hoop, but it doesn't show and it doesn't look bad in the back.  The hardest part was not burning my fingers on the glue.

Now I am getting ready to make a baby quilt and at least a half dozen other things.  My studio looks like Santa's workshop walked in and exploded inside it.  I have a feeling it's going to be this way for a while...

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ten Things: Four

Lately I have been thinking about my Great Aunt A.  I would tell you that she taught me how to crochet, but that isn't strictly true.  She taught me to crochet, while I was teaching myself how to crochet; that is, that crocheting is a worthwhile pastime and can produce valuable, desirable finished objects.  Likewise, she taught me about sewing, embroidering and other needle-crafts.

Aunt A. was a remarkable needle-worker herself and had made beautiful clothing for my mother (and her dolls) when my mother was a child, and had moved on to afghans and pillow-cases and crocheted lace Christmas angels as she grew older.  She never did anything less than her best work.

I would work next to her with my crochet hook or embroidery needle, and from time to time look for her approval.  She was always gentle and kind; the worst thing she ever said was, "You didn't do a good job."

I hear those words now as I look at a crooked seam, a split stitch or a sloppy join.  They don't always make me go back and redo my work -- sometimes it isn't worth it -- but they always make me think.

First, that I should always do my best work, that there is no excuse for that.  I try to remember that and, if I am tired or just don't feel like sewing or knitting, stop.

Second, that kindness and gentleness go far in this world.  They go farther than we can ever know.  I try to remember that and moderate my words and tone whenever I speak.  This is very hard.

Aunt A. died before she knew of the influence she had on my life.  I tell K stories about her while we sew together, and I hope that K will know some of the goodness and richness that my aunt brought to my life.

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Anniversary Quilt

    Congratulations! To my parents-in-law, on forty amazing years of marriage!  Wow!

    To celebrate, a whole bunch of us got together and made are making a quilt.

    Last spring, we all went to the quilting store together to pick out fabric.  We took over the place with our scraps of paper and calculator-phones, pulling out bolts and fat quarters every which way.  It took a long time to choose.

    Then we went to the four corners of the earth our respective homes, in four different states.  Many, many emails and Fed-Exes of replacement fabric ensued.  

    Two people did embroidery, one person pieced the border, and another person pieced the quilt top.  They sent everything to me, and I sewed the border onto the quilt.  Now it looks like this:

     Here's a close-up of the embroidery:

    I marked the quilt top with an off-center diagonal pattern and basted it with the batting and backing.  I did some of the quilting, but had some trouble with my machine, so did not finish the quilt in time for the anniversary celebration.  I think my parents-in-law were pleased to see the unfinished quilt, though, and will be glad to have it when I can do the quilting properly.

    It moves me that we were able to pull this together, even if we didn't quite come up with a finished product.  I think it says a lot about my in-laws -- who are, indeed, a remarkable couple whom I have always known to "Choose life!"

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    SCI Knitting -- July Update

    Here is a sampling of the hand-knits we have received to go to the Seafarers at Christmas -- aren't they magnificent?

    Some are done by veteran knitters and some by absolute beginners, and all were made lovingly and with great care for the intended recipients.  I am told there are plenty more in the works!

    I think I admire most about this project is the zeal with which so many knitters have taken it up -- they are not stopping at one scarf; I get quite a number of hat-and-scarf combos, and often multiples.  Also, there have been several women who had not knitted a stitch before this project started but who have found ways to learn the ropes and have become amazingly productive knitters.

    The deadline for our church's part in the SCI knitting project must be October 15, because of the work involved in putting together the ditty bags for the Seamen's Christmas.  With that in mind, it is time to start thinking about the future of our knitting group, and considering other causes for which we might want to knit.

    I will be addressing this subject at the next Knitting Group meeting on July 21; please attend this meeting if you are able.  If not, you can drop me an email or leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on the matter if you wish, and I will share them with the group.  

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    Friday, July 15, 2011

    Christmas Bazaar Crafting -- Patchwork Ornament

    Last night's project for the Christmas Bazaar Crafting Group:  a "Quilted Christmas Ornament."

    I love that this is a no-sew project!  It is tricky to get the hang of making these, and they are a bit time-consuming, but the results are so satisfying!  I hope we can make a handful to sell.  

    Full tutorial can be found at Pot Holders and Panty Hose.

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    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Journal Cozy

    I love my patchwork Moleskine notebooks so much that I dislike writing in plain ones anymore -- to the point that I will avoid making notes until I have time to decorate a new notebook.  (I know that's ridiculous.)  Then inspiration hit, in the form of an embellished Ann Taylor sweater from the thrift store.  Why not make a journal cozy that I could reuse?

    It took a lot of improvisation to get to this design.  Some things I learned:
    • Don't try to machine-sew over beads and sequins.  Just don't.
    • It might be a good idea to use some stabilizer if you're going to sew satin ribbon to sweater fabric.  If you plan to do this, make sure ahead of time that you have some on hand.  Otherwise, you might have to change your plans.
    • Sometimes you end up with a significantly different-looking finished product than you envisioned.
    • From my young friend Miss R. -- ‎"Don't be afraid it won't be perfect, the only thing to be afraid of really is that it won't BE."

    Instead of binding the edges with pink satin ribbon or hemming them, I had to opted to zig-zag them with pink and purple thread.  Rather than try to get the stitching "just so," which I knew I couldn't do, I went over the stitching several times in different colors for a layered effect.  I like the way it turned out.

    To finish, I zig-zagged a double length of grosgrain ribbon into the back my new notebook for place-holders, letting the stitching go a bit wonky once again.

    What a fun project!  I will be interested to see how useful this turns out to be.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Checking in

    This is just a quick post to let you know that I haven't disappeared off the face of the Earth.  We have returned from our vacation and are still setting things to rights, and I am working on a major project (to be unveiled here soon) and have many smaller projects in the works.  Also look for updates on SCI knitting and Christmas bazaar crafting.  Hope you are all well and doing whatever you love with whomever you love!

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    On my needles: Vacation knitting

    Today marks the middle of our three weeks' vacation "down the shore."  I brought a ton of fiber with me, along with my entire collection of knitting needles and my spinning wheel!  Last year I wound up having to buy yarn and needles to work with, but I wasn't going to make that mistake twice.
    I spent the first week swatching with Atacama yarn by Arucania, a discontinued DK weight alpaca that looked kind of skanky in hank form, but knit up into a lofty confection of a fabric with the big needles the Neck-Down Wrap Cardigan called for.

    Yes, it took me a week to get gauge.  I knit three funky-sized swatches (which, incidentally, I did not wash because the ball band indicated that dry cleaning would be most appropriate -- I suppose I should have steamed them, but what's done is done) and alternated the boring swatch-knitting with some hippy-dippy crocheting.

    The Rickrack Kerchief, in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, is right up my alley.  It's the right level of challenging, which means that I can watch TV or daydream while I work on it, and it's the right type of finished product, meaning that I will totally wear it when it's done.  And it has a ribbon woven Right Into The Headband.  I am completely mesmerized by ribbon these days -- buying it, saving it, making it, using it.  The Christmas packages are going to be so much fun this year!

    So finally I finished the swatches and started on the wrap cardigan.  I had thought that I could not do another row of stockinette-with-raglan-increases when this number showed up.  There is something about this pink-cotton-candy knitted fabric that makes it such a pleasure to work with that I don't care if the knitting itself is uninteresting.  The yarn is fascinating and I cannot wait to see what it will do next.  The thought of making a little more of the fluffiness in my hands is enough inspiration to keep me going, and I hope this will  be a project where the process and the product are equally important -- I want to wear this loveliness.

    I have also been reading a lot about knitting this vacation, and have many big ideas concerning fair isle, ganseys, log cabin knitting, organic cotton washcloths and multi-media knitting, but that's for another post.  What's on your needles this summer?

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Emergency Quilting: Stacked Coins

    A little over a week ago, I needed a teacher gift.  Like, now.  For K's other teachers, I had made small quilts, but I hadn't started one for Mrs. First Grade.  What could I do?

    I got out Last Minute Patchwork and Quilting.  There, under "8 to 12 Hour Gifts", was a wonkily cut Stacked Coins quilt.  Surely I could complete it in, say, 24 hours tops?  I hightailed it to the quilt store because I did not have time to diddle around with scraps.  Fat quarter bundles, baby.  Yeah.

    I cut the wonky coin strips and tossed them like a salad before I realized you were supposed to leave them in piles and sew them in "random" order by choosing them deliberately.  Also, I cut half the fat quarter bundle into the wrong size coin strips so had to put them away for another project and was left with only orange and yellow fabrics for this quilt.  But it all worked out okay.

    The finished panels:

    Cut into strips and arranged into rows:

    The sewn quilt top, basted (I used over 1,500 pins on this small quilt top -- I am slow, but I am learning to be thorough!) and ready to be marked.  I used a Clover chaco liner, which was great except that the chalk would rub off and I would have to re-apply it right before I quilted an area.  If I were doing it again I would use my Hera marker.

    Three things I learned about quilting from this project:
    1. Buy the very best batting you can afford.  It really does make a difference.  Really thin cotton batting is a dream to work with, and it was perfect for this quilt.
    2. The tension on the machine needs to be adjusted up, not down, at least in the case of my Kenmore.  Adjusting it down leads to loosey-goosey stitches on the back.
    3. I only ever want to machine-quilt with my Kenmore, unless I am using a longarm.  That machine is a real workhorse!

    The finished quilt -- washed and dried, it crinkled so beautifully that the imperfections in my quilting melted away and it looked really gorgeous.  I am totally making one of these for myself!

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    Holiday weekend treasure!

    Memorial Day weekend is the official start of Yard Sale Season for me, and D and I kicked it off this year by heading to a 40-family yard sale in Lancaster, PA, where the pickings always seem to be a little more exciting than they are at home.  

    (I'm especially loving the blue rosebud cotton print that you see in nearly all of the pictures below!  There's enough of it to make myself a pair of summer pajamas...)

    Those big needles are called "Jumbo Jets."  The little ones beside them are size 17!

    Yard-sale notions are practically free! To heck with Jo-Ann Fabrics! 

    That big hoop is 17 inches across -- huge!  I'm going to use these to make a wall display of my favorite fabrics.

    I love vintage greeting cards. Six different kinds in this box!

    A souvenir tablecloth with cocktail napkins. I don't really know what to do with this, but I thought it was interesting-looking.

    I have so much fun on these adventures, and I am so lucky to have a husband who enjoys them too (even if we did end up with a copy of Men In Black II.  Ugh.)  Thanks for a great day, D!

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Planning a Vintage Linens Quilt

    This is what happens when the vintage linens pile gets a little too large in my fabric closet.  I had in mind a yellow-and-orange quilt, but the green insisted on coming for the ride. 
    My plan was to do a strip-style quilt like the one in Patchwork Style.   Somehow, though, I couldn't visualize a vintage-linens version of that.  I checked out another Make Good:  Crafts + Life book, Natural Patchwork, but nothing there moved me either.
    Fiddling with the yellow-and-orange linens didn't help.  I remembered that Anna Maria Horner had some free quilt patterns up on her blog, and I went to take a look.
     The Folk Dance Quilt was intriguing, and I wondered if I could pull it off with the linens I had.  I printed it off and began yanking things off the shelves and swapping them around.
    This would give me the chance to use patterns I had thought would never see the light of day!
    Playing with colors and patterns is so much fun!  I can't wait to see how they look in the zig-zag patchwork.
    Having done all this, I am thinking rather guiltily of the *ahem* four unfinished quilts (plus two wool blankets) on my shelves -- so I hastily remind myself that it is the process for me, not the product, which is most satisfying -- and also that I try to spend some part of every day on a work-in-progress, and so do in fits and starts get things completed.

    What a joy to start a new quilt! and with my beloved (and overflowing stack of) vintage linens!  What a joy!

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Potato-Chip Tea Towels

    I have been sitting on a bunch of feedsack material for several years now -- I think I bought it when I was getting ready to paint the studio and was planning to make my own curtains.  Then I found the pretty eyelet curtains that are still hanging from my windows and tucked the feedsacks away. 

    Recently, I noticed that my kitchen linens were in rags but was reluctant to buy new ones.  I went to get some plain white birds-eye cotton to make dish towels, but the feed sacks caught my eye.  What good were they doing anybody in my fabric closet?

    Enter Potato-Chip Tea Towels, so called because you can't make just one.

    I followed the dish towel pattern in Linen, Wool, Cotton, omitting the zig-zag stripes and adding mitered corners to the hems (which I needed to learn how to do, and am so glad I did)  after doing about a few towels without them and getting annoyed at having to stop and pick out stitches at the lumpy ends.   My favorite thing about these towels is the hanging loop detail -- I plan to put up hooks in my kitchen so I can put them on display!

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    (Not too) swift

    Yeah, I should have known that I was not going to be winding yarn without ending up with a kitten in the swift. The title of this post, of course, refers to me, not the cat, who managed to navigate his way around the contraption pretty, um, swiftly.
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    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Ten Things: Three

    I am a poet.  At the moment, my poetry is dormant, but I have made a decision to wake it up.  Look for it here. 

    I wrote pretty good poetry as an elementary-schooler, pretty typical (read: angsty and obscure) poetry as a middle-schooler, and pretty decent (if somewhat controversial) poetry as a high-school student.  My eleventh grade teacher was a wonderful mentor, and I was published multiple times in the school literary magazine, Pen and Ink -- admittedly I was literary editor my senior year, so there was some serious nepotism going on there.  I spent a summer learning about the ins and outs of life as a poet at the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts, and I wrote prodigiously in my journals and read constantly.

    To start off, here's the last poem I remember writing:

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Ten Things: Two

    Although I haven't done it in many years, I love to make pysanky -- Ukranian Easter eggs.  That is one of the reasons I am trying to clean out and sort my world.  I want to go back to this absorbing and challenging craft, and try some new adventures(such as hand-dyeing wool, yarn and fabric) in a more organized, well-defined space.  I think that, as a crafter and artist, I am at my best when I allow myself access to many different media, but concentrate on just one or two at a time, flowing from project to project as my mood dictates.