Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gee's Bend inspiration

if you've read anything about american quilting and it's recent history, especially the modern quilting movement, you've probably come across the term "gee's bend quilt." i enjoy reading about quilting history almost as much as i enjoy actually making my own quilts, so after coming across the term a few times, i looked into it. i found not only a book for myself, gee's bend: the architecture of the quilt, but a children's picture book, stitchin' and pullin': a gee's bend quilt by patricia mckissack, which follows along as a young "bender" girl describes her journey from baby playing under the quilt frame to making her first quilt. there's quite a bit of african-american history woven into the story. best of all, the young narrator describes how she makes fabric selections for her quilt from scrap clothing and fabrics; every piece has a meaning.

yesterday, the two littlest school girls and i enjoyed exploring the picture book and then looking at photos of some of the real quilts from my grown-up book. today we took that one step further when i had the girls pull scraps for their own mini quilts, built around a theme. getting them to stick to a theme and not just pull fabrics they liked took gentle reminding, but they managed pretty well. they also have a few other themes in mind to explore in the future.

 d4 picked "camping with dad" for her theme. she snuck a lot of "wildflower" prints in, but kept pretty close as i reminded what she was doing. her bits represent:
  • the paisley - lots of flowers
  • the brown spot - a hole i found that one time, probably a snake hole
  • pink oval elements - keeping dad's rules, because this one is in order like all his rules
  • burnt orange scroll - dad
  • purple flowers - flowers i find and trees; i find lots of flowers
  • blue - Jesus because i think of him sometimes when i'm lying in the tent or feel him when we are at the campfire
  • brown ditsy floral - dirt
  • navy blue solid - the river
  • green flannel - grass because it's green and fuzzy
  • white spots - marshmallows
  • orange - camp fire
  • green with circles - trees
she also picked some for pinecones, the tent, hot cocoa, and then started getting one for each person that goes camping with her.

 that prompted her to dig deep in the scraps saying, "where am i in this basket?! i need one for me."

 d3 settled on finding scraps to represent people in her life. if she tries to pick one for each and every relative, it's going to be quite a quilt since her extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins is near 100 people. then again, she's enamored of very tiny pieces, so we'll see.

 as they worked on their gee's bend memory quilts, i worked on my memory book - project life. i'm so far behind! probably even farther behind than i am on quilting. there are just never enough hours in a day or lifetime to do all the things i'd like to.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"in hand" epp link party #7

welcome to april's "in hand" epp link party. i'm looking forward to seeing what everyone has been up to the past month. i've done a bit of work on my wheels, but nothing to show really. the last time i pulled one out on a plane, i started talking to the gentleman who sat next to me and was also stitching (on canvas), so i didn't end up making much but had a great conversation. maybe my travels this month will yield better results.

there were so many great, unique projects last month that narrowing down three to highlight was a nailbiter! here's what i settled on:

karen at pieces of contentment has a new hexi project going in lovely, calm shades of blues and greens. she has created a wonderful, mini on-the-go kit to get her hexies basted. i always enjoy working tips like this. thank you, karen, for the idea.

paula at mud, pies, and pins has been going free-form and creating her own epp shapes to form a variety of stunning butterflies. if you didn't get to see her work, do check it out! you will be amazed.

and one of my very favorite epp projects out there, the rose star quilt by lucy of charm about you (one of my very favorite people). she was adding one more row of stars and then on to the border. i just can't wait to see this one finished up! golly, it's gorgeous.

Friday, April 4, 2014

listen while you work

 d4 had an epic finish week: she completed the kitty softie she has been working on (sporadically) for about a year now. and then she completed a quilt for her kitty all in one night. after we finished the quilt last night, she said, "wow! i can't believe i did it all in one night. the kitty took me 10 days and the quilt only took one night." well, not exactly, but we did knock out that little patchwork together in about an hour, give or take.

kitty in the beginning - april 2012

as she worked on the kitty, i remembered how she started it during general conference last april. it was all her own design, made from felt that she cut herself. many of us were doing handwork, as we usually do while listening during general conference, when she pulled out her box and started making something on her own. she's needed help with threading and when she gets tangled, as well as a bit of instruction, but this really was her project. last october, she again pulled it out on her own and made progress as we listened to the fall session of general conference. this last week, even though it wasn't conference yet, she pulled kitty out to work alongside me as i sewed.

go here to find out how

her internal kitty-sewing clock must have known conference was close because it's this coming weekend. we'll be listening to uplifting, inspirational addresses from religious leaders, men and women, and keeping our hands busy while we listen. if you'd like some peaceful background listening for your sewing this weekend, join us for any or all of the four two-hour sessions.

kitty couldn't wait for conference to get finished. d4 got her done right down to her bright blue tail and orange heart on the front. i suggested that maybe kitty needed a nose (so it would look more like a cat) but the creator responded, "the stitching already looks like a mouth so she doesn't need a nose." okee-doke.

after getting the mini quilt made for kitty, d4 said she needs some clothes now. so maybe that'll be her conference project this weekend.  what'll i be working on?

usually i'd say epp! well, last night d3 pulled her christmas gift quilt out of my "needs binding handstiched" wip pile and decided she was "going to snuggle it even though it's not finished." that made me realize we are 4 months into the new year and i should really get the binding done on those 3 quilts for my daughters. so it looks like binding for me while i listen. wouldn't that be a miracle if i could actually finish all 3?

something else that might be keeping the kids busily quiet while we enjoy conference? legoes, of course. here are some creative master builder makes from the girls this morning:

everything is awesome!

especially on general conference weekend. hope your's is a good one, too, with plenty of sewing, family time, and personal renewal.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

gypsy steps

 i had a mid-week sewing fest last night. the mr took some of the older children to a sporting event so i had the evening pretty much free at home. d2 made a simple dinner for all of us (once she realized mom was in the sewing zone and might not come out to make dinner for a while) and the 3 littles hung out with me in the sewing room. i did take an hour break to help d4 create something tiny and quilty, which i'll share later. otherwise, i plodded along with my gw blocks. i was supposed to be making march's blocks, but after the first courthouse step block, i just kept going with those.

 this is an 8" courthouse step block. it turned out a lot cooler-toned than the other blocks i've made so far. i purposefully chose the outer border to include the blue for a tie in with the cool colors as well as the warm colored flowers to help tie it to the rest of the quilt. i almost got the fussy cut center right, but somehow was about 1/8" off. it's not too bad, though, so it works for me.

 this fussy cut center is also a little bit lower than i would have liked, but i cut it from a scrap, so it is as it is. i still love it! the yellow modern solids ii does not have as much color play as the teal i used on the pinwheel, but i do like it with the other fabrics.

i am becoming a solids convert! well, sort of like i am a denyse schmidt convert: i am learning how to use bits and pieces to compliment and enhance my designs. in fact, while deciding on my color palette and pull for the triangle along quilt, i realized i absolutely love solid triangle quilts! so i've ordered more of these modern solids ii and a few other almost-solids for that quilt. i'm actually pretty excited to work with more solids! (as might be indicated by the unusally high number of exclamation points in this paragraph.)

 as i was working on the courthouse step blocks, i kept trying to find a use for my goat sample piece sent to me by cia. however, it was a little too big for any of those blocks. so i hunted through the pattern book for a block that could utilize this piece. i found a courthouse step sq-in-sq block that would work. i still had to cut off a bit of one of his feet, but it was the best i could do. my 13 yr old quilting critic son had to point out the missing foot to me. i explained to him that if i had moved it over to the left a little, the goat would not have enough "room to breathe" with his nose right up against the seam. the mr chimed in with, "yes, goats need to be able to breathe." s1 followed right up with, "well, he can get enough oxygen from all these flowers around him. he could still breathe."

fussy cutting that goat at an angle was no small task. a 4.5" square ruler would have made it a whole lot easier, but i dont' have one of those. i kept thinking i was going to mess it up and then i'd be out a goat. yeah, it's just fabric, as they say, but i only had one bit of this and there was no room for error. fortunately my late night brain functioned for me. however, i did cut the squares for the outer triangles wrong and had mull over what went wrong for a bit before realizing it was a 1/4" too large on one side. oh, so that's why my triangles weren't symmetrical! fortunately, i was able to salvage them. too big is a lot better than too small in most cases. the gypsy goat still needs an outer border - green, i think - but it's looking pretty. that heather bailey dandy stripe from "nicey jane" is awesome! as i cut it last night, i was sorely tempted to go order a few more yards of it. (didn't - for the record. yet.)

i hit on one more scathingly brilliant idea for working on gw last night: i'm now cutting strips as i go. the pattern calls for 60 wof strips, 20 at 2" wide and 40 at 4" wide. that's a lot of strip cutting and i wasn't looking forward to doing that all at once on 60 different fabrics.

so far, i've only been using small pieces of each fabric so when i go to cut, i've been lazy. i've just pressed a corner of the fabric and cut out what i need without squaring it off first. it seemed like too much trouble to square a whole piece when all i needed was a few inches.

however, last night as i thought about all those strips i'll eventually need, i decided to go ahead and press and square every time i need a piece of new fabric, and also cut a strip out while i'm at it. genius, i tell you! (maybe i read that somewhere else and it just surfaced as my own idea last night?) now i have a growing pile of strips to set aside for later. two birds with one stone, and all that. i was thinking i should use each fabric in a block and then somewhere else as a strip, too, so this is going to make keeping track of all that much easier. thank you, quilting muse, for the inspiration!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

triangle along pull - updated

***i'm updating my fabric pull for the triangle along. after looking at #trianglequilt on instagram, and marking all the ones i liked, i realized i really like mostly solid quilts best. and after playing around with the modern solids ii pieces that i got from cuts of cotton, i decided to get some more solids/near solid basics for the triangle quilt.

(bye-bye fabric fast and it's only the 2nd!) i love the way they look on the order screen. i've kept this screen open just so i can go back and look at them again. something about the way they look in all that white makes me happy. when i made the collage, they look a lot more color dense. that's something to keep in mind when making the quilt, i guess. now all I have to do is wait for them to arrive. these will form the base of my quilt and i'll use all the lovely prints mixed in here and there. maybe just one or two of each print. i'm gonna have a lot of leftovers!

perhaps i'll do a double-sided quilt with strips of all these luscious prints on the back.

i've wanted to do a triangle quilt, and paula's quilt along is the perfect opportunity. however, now that i have dug out my pull, made last month, it's looking something like a train wreck and i'm unsure of myself. there will need to be some culling done here. i really like all the triangle graphics out there in solids with pops of colors on more low-volume backgrounds. this looks nothing like that! maybe once i start cutting and placing, i'll get some inspiration?

linking up with paula's selection party for the triangle along.

The Sassy Quilter

pinwheel learning curve

 my march bom blocks for gypsy wife and sugar block club did not get made in march. i had a few hang ups about "perishing" for gw and also for fabric placement on march's "explore" block. i wanted them to be just right so they got pushed aside. it's not like i didn't have plenty else to work on around here. now that it's april and i got a few baby quilt finishes out of the way (yay!), i decided to work on my monthly projects. i started with the pinwheel sq-in-a-sq blocks for gw. and that was as far as i got after about 3 hours of cutting, sewing, pressing. sheesh! these are intricate, detailed blocks. i have a whole new respect for people who do such piecing all the time.

for the above block, i went out on a limb and used a solid for my outer square! it's a modern solids ii by alissa height carlton, in "sea" i think, purchased from cuts of cotton. if you are like me and just never use solids because, well, they aren't as interesting or you are unsure how to use them effectively, you might want to give some of these solids a try. they are crossweaves so they have more color depth and play. i really, really like it! me! a solid! yep, it was a big moment over here when i finally cut into and used this gorgeous piece of solid fabric.

 after making my first set of pinwheels last month and then seeing everyone else's in the flickr group, i learned that i needed more contrast in my fabric choices and that i like the pinwheels with two fabrics/less scrappy. i'm pretty darn happy with how this mix turned out. there is a touch of icy blue in the amh print, which helps tie it to the blue art gallery print. then the jd border print also has red for a further tie, but pink for another note of fun. the tiny red dots set if off perfectly for me. goodness, that's a lot of time and though going into one 5" block! but i'm learning a lot about color and fabric placement one block at a time right now, which is better than one whole quilt at a time, so i think it's a good investment.

 all the seams are another issue i need to master here. i pressed the blue bordered block to the sides, which made a lot of bulk in the middle intersection. i know there's supposed to be a way to nest them, but i couldn't remember how or where. can anyone point me to a post or tutorial on this? you'd think one of the bazillion quilting books i own would address this, but i couldn't remember one and didn't want to go looking.

i pressed the red dot bordered block open, which seemed to be better. but i'm open to suggestions and advice!

i got my sewing space all cleaned up over the weekend. but now look at it after just these two little blocks (and a few mini hsts)! messy, messy.

linking up with lee's wip wednesday at freshly pieced. WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

the newest expected arrival

 march 26th, 26 days - that's how long i went this month before a legitimate need arose for some fabric purchasing. my friend venessa and i settled our duel over d2's girl baby quilt at the church auction with me promising to make her an identical quilt for her highest bid; proceeds going to the fundraiser, of course.

i assured her that i had all the same fabrics at home only to return home and find out i did not. i was shy the green and pink dot fabric. there was a moment of panic because this is an old "nicey jane" print and those are getting hard to come by. however, an etsy search found me what i needed - on sale, even. i got a little more of the "picnic bouquet" in pink just to make sure there was enough of that, too. so now i have what i need to make an identical quilt. only i'm going to use a green dot fabric for the back and the stripe for binding because i just think it'll look better.

i really and truly did not want to make this purchase. i was feeling so good about getting all the way through one whole month, especially after my disastrous february free-for-all. but it was absolutely necessary. the quilt's already been paid for, for cryin' out loud! i was sorely tempted to wait until april first just to say i had gone a whole month, but didn't want to risk it. (oh, me of little faith.)

oh, and while i was at it, i may have dropped a few scraps of heather bailey prints in my cart, too. maybe. scraps! heather bailey! yeah, i caved. but only just the tiniest bit. i'm dreaming up a project just for these bits already.

so i pretty much went the entire month without any purchases at all. one allowable exception is pretty good. it's not the squeaky clean record i wanted, but it's pretty darn good. especially in in comparison to other months. i can say that on another occasion i completely resisted the urge to purchase and made-do with my on-hand stash. i pulled together everything for d2's baby boy quilt from stash, which was a huge stretch. but it paid off in the end. oh, and i also scrounged for a binding for "way out weston." i didn't think there was anything good in my stash but there was. hurray! that's two victories and one concession. (patting self on back presently.)

rebecca lynne asked for tips for how to stick with the fast:

  • don't look - simply stay away from websites or stores since you're not going to buy anything. why torture yourself? if you don't know what you're missing, you kinda stop missing it so much.
  • media fast - take it one step further and stop looking at sites that are going to feature new product or that are heavy on hype. i found myself frustrated when seeing all the cool new ideas out there (which are eternally endless) because it fed my desire to "try that, too." stop being inspired and do what you wanted to do last week/month/year.
  • be a homebody - not only did i stop visiting the interwebby so much, i stopped posting so much myself. by spending less time ogling all the great ideas on the computer, i made more time to actually make stuff at home. and focusing more on actually making stuff rather than trying to document or share it constantly helped me buckle down on quilting chores i wasn't excited about.
  • focus on current projects and wips - my biggest pitfall seems to be the need to round out what i have on hand when i start something new. there are so many things laying around here, begging to be finished that there is no need to start anything else. yes, it's thrilling! yes, i adore new projects and am burning to cut into my to-do list in my head. but continually starting and never finishing anything just makes for piles and piles everywhere. none of the half-finished piles are what i had in mind when i got inspired or invested in the project at the beginning.
  • fall in love again - i find it helpful to look over the stash i already have, remember the projects i was so excited to make just a little while ago. it gets me excited all over again and i'm less apt to look elsewhere for a fabric thrill.
  • do some antique quilt browsing- this was a surprising help for me and i'll explain more about it in a separate post. let's just say seeing lots of worn and weary, often times unfinished quilts made me stop and think about my pile of wips and the real longevity/value of what i'm creating. it made me question my obsession with producing dozens and dozens of ultimately fleeting and fragile objects, especially at this time in my life.
those all rather blended together, but one item really does lead right into the next. i hope this is helpful to someone else or at least makes someone think.

i've realized i have quite an imagination. it's pretty much bottomless. when i was a little girl, that meant i was always coming up with new games to play or ideas to explore. i thought that part of me had grown up. now it's manifest differently: i can't stop imagining all the brilliant/adorable/cool things i could make. just like i'm tempted to fill my plate too full with all the tantalizing foods at a banquet because my eyes are bigger than my stomach, i fill my to-do list far too full with all the possibilities of what i can do or make. this only leads to stomach aches and mounting messes, not a pleasurable meal or quilts to enjoy. i keep reminding myself that a few awesome quilts wrapped around me are far better than piles of fabric languishing on shelves. (and in boxes, under tables, falling over on table tops, filling up the floor, etc.)

linking up with the march fabriholics anonymous check-in at making rebecca lynne
here's the kicker!!! before writing this post i pulled out the fabrics to get that commissioned baby quilt made only to discover i didn't have enough of the "pocketbook" print, either. all i could find was a cut-into skinny quarter and i need a full fat one for the quilt. darn! etsy rescued me again. it's ordered. i was baffled how this happened since i was certain i had found a nice cut of yardage in my stash last week. however, i cleaned up my sewing area and transported last month's towering purchase pile upstairs and just couldn't find it anywhere. i must have been mistaken. but as i wrote this post, i looked at the photo of the stack for the quilt and there it is! right under the stripe.
one full yard of "pocketbook" in pink
loosing my mind, i tell you. it's completely gone.

Monday, March 31, 2014

and now it's a girl!

my finishing streak continues - i've finally completed baby cousin elizabeth's improv frames quilt. it got pushed aside in the wake of penny patch and the christmas gift quilts last fall. for a while now all it was in need of was the binding.

since october, the top was mostly complete, but i thought it was a bit small and wanted to add one more frame around it. the only fabric i could find to do this with was the yardage i had picked for the backing. unfortunately, i only had one yard of that fabric. i was going to make-do by figuring out how much excess fabric there was, divide that by 2, and then split the difference between the top and the backing, but it was rather risky and wouldn't give me very much of a border at all. besides, the quilt was running on the small side, anyway. so i played it safe and tracked down some more of the pretty paula prass garden lattice in sunset for michael miller fabrics. it wasn't as easy as i hoped finding any, but in january i found 2 yards (yay! staying on the safe side and a bit extra for stash) at an etsy shop called "vintage inspiration."

 not only did my fabric come prettily wrapped in some sewing pattern tissue paper, but there were a few vintage popcorn bags thrown in as a special treat. the kids are going to love those on family movie night!

inside the carefully wrapped package my fabric was nicely folded and tied with a satin ribbon, too. i love shops that give those extra little touches.

all of that was a while ago and i let it sit while i worked on other projects. but a few weeks ago i got out the fabric order and put that border on. but i forgot to include another little peek-a-boo piece of the umbrella girls in the frame like i wanted to! argh. that took a little bit of a patch job to fix.

 i decided to put the piece in where two of the frame pieces met to avoid excess cutting. but i forgot to figure in the seam allowance when i cut the piece. darn it! i was going to use the two little faces for the piece, but cut it short, so i had to go with another bit instead.

i don't know why it was so hard for me to wrap my brain around how big this piece should be and how to fit it in properly, but it was. until i had done it incorrectly and then i could see exactly what to do! my little remaining scrap of the fabric did not have anymore faces in it, so this rather boring umbrella piece made it in the spot instead. not sure it was worth all the effort, but there it is.

 today i put my big girl pants on and did the machine binding to complete this baby. usually i make binding while sitting at the machine, sort of eyeballing the 1/4" overlap when piecing. however, this time i did it all at once, standing up at my cutting mat. that's when i hit on the brilliant idea of using my cutting mat marks as a guide for a more accurate 1/4" overlap. it worked!

 when it came to joining up the binding, i pulled out my favorite directions from block party - the modern quilting bee. my only problem with this tutorial is that the binding is a solid color. in fact, it seems every binding tutorial in every quilt book, whether photographed or drawn, uses a solid color binding so it's nearly impossible to tell which is the right or wrong side of the fabric and which way the fabric is manipulated. i photographed it with patterned fabric myself, once apon a time, so as to help me remember which way to do it, but don't know what i did with those photos. go figure. anyhow, i made notes in the book so i can remember. someday i'll be able to do this from memory. for now, i'm glad of my notes!

i took yet another stab at machine binding with this quilt. i went extra slow and really focused intently on getting the alignment correct. it's an improvement, all right, but by no means have i yet perfected machine binding. it's HARD! i feel like an amateur all over again when it comes to machine binding. just when my quilts were starting to look pretty good, too. i only plan on doing it for baby quilts because of the added durability. however, because of the speed, I'm sorely tempted to finish off the stack of "just needs binding" wips this way.

i'm going to be so sad to see this quilt go. i truly love it. i hope baby elizabeth comes to feel the same way.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

it's a boy! again!

 my 2nd finish in forever, right on the heels of the first one earlier this week - another baby boy quilt. "way out weston" is complete. i can't say it's my favorite finish, but i can say it's done. some of the fabrics in here i like a lot and others i . . . don't. it's that simple. my own two boys held up the quilt for my finish photo, but not without some boy silliness and dog photo bombing.

 this is a little better, even with the chihuahuas in the background. while he was assisting me, he was examining my quilting, and s1 remarked, "uh, why is this line so wiggly?" i told him it was because i did wavy lines this time instead of straight. "oh, good! because if it was supposed to be straight, well . . . it's not." after i had such difficulty with the straightline quilting on this little fella, i went ahead and added in more purposefully organic lines to make it look like they were all supposed to be wavy.

i alternated a light tan and a baby blue aurofil thread. unfortunately, they are so light you can't really tell the difference without looking closely. and even then, it's iffy.

the nutty quilting was only one of the issues i've had with this quilt. in the end, the colors don't look as balanced because of what i had to cut off the left side when the backing turned out too short. it's bugging me that there isn't another dark blue strip on the far left.

enough of the nitpicking, though. it's done and ready for baby weston, who is about a month old now. this is one time where i really hope what everyone always says about non-quilters not noticing flaws they way we do is true.

i gave machine binding another go with this quilt. it was an improvement over my first/previous attempt. i just did a straight stitch with juki this time. it's alright but i still need to get a better grip on the construction and measurements behind a good machine binding.

i do think the michael miller textured basics stripe in orange made a nice frame for this quilt.

"way out weston" over and out.