Tuesday, April 28, 2015


 i missed quiltcon 2015. did you? i flirted with the idea of going, but i just couldn't justify being gone for it. not now, not at this point in my life and my children's lives. that's totally a personal decision and i was ok with it. but when the photos started pouring in to instagram and i realized how many of my favorite internet quilty people were there, not to mention that it was in austin, one of my very favorite cities i ever lived in, i may have regretted that choice just a little bit. especially missing the gee's bend ladies! however, austin quiltcon is all water under the bridge, memories for those who went or didn't.

i looked up the next dates for upcoming quiltcons and was excited to see that the 2017 show is in savannah, ga. i've heard all kinds of good, romantic things about savannah, but inspite of having lived in the south several times and the state of georgia twice, i've never been there. quiltcon seemed like a good excuse/opportunity to go in a few years and check the place out. i was talking about the missed austin conference and the upcoming savannah one with my husband. he said, "great! you should go. i'll come with you. you can do your quilt stuff during the day and hang out with me at night." um, that's not how it works, hon. quiltcon is for being with your quiltly people all day and night.

fortunately for me, he took me to savannah for our 20th anniversary this spring instead. whew! and i have to tell you, savannah is amazing. we were there for the beginning of azalea season, so blooms were just starting to pop up all town. savannah is built around 24 sqaures, which are kind of like parks in the center of the blocks, in a grid pattern. it's very walkable and incredibly pretty.

i'm sharing a few shots i took around town in case you were thinking of going to quiltcon 2017 and need some incentive beyond quilts. here follows some sightseeing photos i took and a bit about some savannah sewing spots as well.

 personally, i just loved all the colors and natural textures everywhere on all the architectural features and structures.

 savannah is a city of churches. this catholic cathedral had some incredible stained glass inside. we visited this one and several historic homes open for tour, also.

there are a variety of architectural styles preserved through out the city.

 and there are some pretty good eats - like the ice cream sandwiches at byrd cookie company. the cookies are famous, but we went right for the cookies with ice cream combo. they were perfectly sized and utterly delicious.

 the highlight of the trip may have been lunch at the wilkes house. our first day there, i kept noticing poeple coming out of a street level entrance, which was curious because most of the main entrances are on the second floor. one of the patrons explained to us they'd just eaten lunch at the wilkes house. lunch is served, boarding house style, daily from 11am to 2pm. you have to line up outside and wait to be seated at a table for 10 with whoever is next to you in line. a typical wait is about 30 minutes. there are 20+ dishes of authentic southern home cooking served up to the table, followed by dessert. $20 a person, cash only. we were assured it was really great food and worth the wait.

the next day, we tried it out, waiting in the rain with a larger-than-normal crowd (which had started to gather for st. patty's day the next week. another story.) my husband is in the above photo, at the rear with the black and rainbow striped umbrella.

 we were a bit afraid this was mostly hype, just an experience you had to have if you went to savannah, with mediocre food. fortunately we were dead wrong! it was so completely delicious, every last dish. if you do quiltcon 2017, you had better make time in your schedule for lunch at mrs. wilkes or you will have missed one of the finest institutions of southern cooking on the planet.

ok, ok, you're thinking. architecture and great food. fine. but we're quilters and fabric lovers. well, savannah has that too! i was on my anniversary trip, but the mr was very nice about letting me do some fabric shopping when the chance occurred. unfortunately for me, the luck of the irish was being spent elsewhere during that holiday season. no kidding, the very first shop we passed on the street after we parked our car the first day was a fabric shop. he said i could go in, but that seemed the wrong way to start our romancing, so i told him it could wait til later. later that day, i noticed another store, but we were in a hurry to get to our anniversary dinner, so i let that one pass, too.

the next day we were out and about, i was ready for some fabric shopping.  fabrika fine fabrics is in downtown proper, pretty close to byrd cookies, if i remember correctly. a peek in the windows had me drooling. it's a wonderful looking shop.

 unfortunately, window peeking is all i got. they had just closed down for the st. patrick's day weekend. i was crushed.

 apparently savannah is the second largest st. patrick's day gathering in the united states. it's rather like mardi gras. the streets get closed down to auto traffic and the party gets big. we were there the week before the holiday and things were already getting plenty green and crowded. they city even "greens" the fountains, shown above. i guess the local merchants not in the party business are wise to this and they simply close shop. if i'd known this, i would have taken the husband up on the fabric shopping offer the first day instead of being such a noble, self-sacrificing wife.

 the first shop i had seen on the first day, measure - a fabric parlor, was closed also when i tried it the second time. i couldn't believe my bad luck! both shops were open the first day and closed when i went back.

measure had some very cute window displays with some fun fabric projects and vintage items in the window displays, but i couldn't see any more than that. looking at the site on-line i can tell i missed out! (they have an etsy shop, and ig account, too.)

so, yeah, i didn't come home with any fabric for a 20th anniversary commemorative quilt or anything like that. but i will definitely be going back to savannah. maybe for quiltcon 2017.

anyone thinking of being there, too?

Monday, April 13, 2015

at the moment and a serious dilemma

 it's been a while since i've had a finish. i'm right in the middle of a couple of projects, some which are approaching the finish of phase 1 - piecing the top/making a flimsy.

 "dreaming easy" is getting it's rows pieced together. unfortunately, i sewed one of them on backwards last week so i'm at a standstill until i unpick the whole darn row.

 my triangle quilt, which really needs an official name, is developing a split personality. i find i have two types of rows: bold, bright colored ones (top and bottom) and gentler, softer rows with less contrast between the triangles used, like all the golden bits in between. i am either heading towards 2 separate quilts or two sides with slightly different colors because the bright ones are not blending too well, especially the one at the bottom of this photo. this fabric pull was a branch out for me and i'm learning about it as i go. i'm curious to see where i end up when all the experimenting and play is done.

poor old penny patch 2.0 is begging to come out of the corner of shame. after i failed to realize i was sewing the directional prints all the wrong way, i stuck the design half wall containing the laid out blocks in my formal parlor, facing toward the wall to help preserve it from child-induced disasters or simple curiosity. this also greatly enhance the appearance of this "nice" room of the house, can't you tell? three months in the corner is long enough, so the other day i pulled it out to consider what needs to be done.

 it wasn't looking too good on the other side of that design wall! i opted to remove all the blocks and just start over with the layout once i get all the new pieces cut. in the meantime, i put "dreaming easy" up on the wall since there wasn't any spare room for it anywhere else.

that's all that's in the works at the moment.

 now here's my dilemma.

 my dining sewing space is hardly recognizable as a dining room anymore and is not easily converted for use in it's original mode. in fact, it's overrun with sewing and looks terrible. this is one of the first spaces of our home you see when you enter the front door. it's simply not attractive. even when i clean it up, which i do regularly, after an hour or two of me working in here, it looks a mess again. not to mention that fabric and boxes "hiding" all over the place even when cleaned up doesn't look nice.

my poor husband has been pretty patient with the whole scenario, as much as he dislikes it. the other day he said to me, "we need to enclose this and fully convert it to a sewing room for you." on the one hand, i love that idea. the location in the house is just where i would like it to be if only i could close it off from view when wanted. being able to make this a more functional sewing space would be dreamy, too.

but then i loose my formal dining room, which i haven't really had for over a year anyway. i'm not using it as the dining room but the idea of forever giving up that option is hard to formalize. before the sewing came in i had this space almost exactly where i wanted it for a nice dining room. i like to use it for sunday dinners for our family, large family gatherings at holidays, and the occasional, rare entertaining spree. i've collected lots of white ceramic wares which are housed in this room. the genealogy wall, with our family tree fan chart and heirloom photos is also really special to me. i don't know where i would move these two collections. the 12 seat dining set is a whole other matter entirely.

in reality, this became a sewing space a long time ago and i should probably just give in. a set of sliding barn doors across the front will give me a space i can open or close as needed. then i can get to work making it a truly functional sewing space, which will also open up room in my bawthroom if i can bring all my stash down here.

i don't think i need to ask any sewing enthusiasts what they would do because that's pretty obvious.
oh, decisions, decisions!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

bandwidth - a simple yet large finish

you will have to use your imagination a little here and turn the quilt upright in your head
 i have reached the end of a series of finishes. the way i work, i usually start several things in succession and then they get finished close to each other, too. the beginning of this year i completed a couple of quilts that had been going for at least a year. this one - "bandwidth" - is the last of that group. i was supposed to take my younger son, s2, out for lunch and a photo shoot, but that just hasn't happened. i felt the need to get this post done since "bandwidth" was completed in january, so today i grabbed the only two children available in the last of the afternoon's light and we snapped some shots in the backyard. apparently our grass is growing in abundance. d3 and d4 had to stand on chairs to hold up this behemoth quilt as even on it's side it's too tall for them. their little arms just couldn't get it straight enough but that's okay - the wonkiness of the photo rather reflects the accuracy of the quilt stitching. if i remember correctly, "bandwidth" measures approximately 98" x 70", making this the largest quilt i've made to date; almost double the size of what i usually do. if i cut it in half i could have two throw quilts. i didn't exactly aim for this size. i simply cut up the blue i was using for the panels to what looked like a balanced size to the strip sections and this is what i ended up with.

the front of the quilt is composed of three sections of jelly strips pieced together in rows running horizontally across the quilt, and four panels of solid blue (kona's windsor). my color scheme came from a jelly roll of riley blake's "superstar" fabrics i purchased for the strip sections. by the time i got around to making the quilt, i thought it would be better to use only some of the strips and incorporate coordinating colored prints. (the leftovers went into a baby quilt, "way out weston," for a new little cousin.)

technically, this is my own design, but it's hardly worth calling it a pattern. i sewed strips together and inserted panels. end of story! still, it makes for an effective, straightforward, modern design aesthetic that i am rather fond of.

i quilted in a randomly spaced straighline stitch, also on the horizontal, in a light blue aurufil 50 wt thread. i was going to use three thread colors, but decided that was too much work with all the thread changing. in the end, it was easier to just keep going in the same color. i don't know what possessed me to use such a light, high-contrast color on those dark blue panels because i had trouble with my straight lines being straight. they look fine from a distance and i think when i wash the quilt, the effect will be corrected even more.

 the back was pieced together from large cuts of two prints from the "superstar" collection and some leftover strip pieces.

 the binding gave me pause to consider the possibilities, but i finally decided to go with another coordinating print from "superstar" with one fun little accent piece of an orange "monsterz" print. i machine bound this one because it was going to need extra durability since it's for one of my boys.

this "monsterz" print is probably my favorite from the whole quilt. i am also using it in s1's wonky coins quilt. i decided to add this bit in as i was attaching the binding. as soon as i put it in, i realized i should have sewn it on straight rather than on the bias, but it was already done. not a deal breaker, though.

now my little man can stop asking me when his quilt is going to be done! he's been snuggling and reading under it since the moment i finished it.

and using it as a superhero cape, too.

he obviously likes it and makes use of it daily, which makes this mama quite happy. now i just have one more mama-made to go and each child has one.

linking up with amanda jean's friday finishes at "crazy mom quilts."

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

hello, jade princess

 oh, happy mail day!
this is probably the happiest mail i've gotten in a long time. and since i order books and fabric online regularly, that is saying a lot. but this package just has a lot more meaning to it, which is what makes it so special and extra-happy.

the icing on the cake of opening this package was i didn't realize one of my favorite prints was in this quilt, and there it was, right on top. i'm currently using that "antique flower" print from the "miscellany" line by julia rothman for cloud 9 in my triangle quilt.

photo courtesy of rachel hauser at stitched in color
 so i've been crushing on rachel hauser's "jade princess" quilt for quite some time. (as well as sara schraw's modern flower version.) and i'm a crazy enough fan of hers that last summer, when we were travelling through the south, i thought about contacting her and asking if i could purchase the quilt and pick it up in person. you know, just so i could meet her. it seemed like a great way to get two birds with one stone. (yes, i am a total freak; but, no, she doesn't need to be scared of me. honestly, rachel, you don't.)

anyway, i decided against that for a couple of reasons and it seemed the quilt just wasn't meant to be mine. but then rachel had her baby last month and there were complications and an auction on instagram to help raise funds for their family's unexpected medical expenses. i was on my 20th anniversary trip and i missed the auction. i had been so excited for rachel through this whole journey of her getting to that baby and i really wanted to do something. after realizing i missed the auction, i remembered "jade princess." low and behold, she was still in the etsy shop and i decided now really was the time to buy her.

 the colors of this quilt may look slightly different in the lighting in my house versus how they looked in rachel's, but it does not disappoint in the least! those dainty, orderly dots (comma chalk periods) used for the background of all the blossom blocks are so cute. and the peach leans to the pink side, a very pretty shade. in middle school peach was my favorite color - the first time i ever moved away from my childhood love for red. i've since returned to red, after a few stops at forest green, white, and robins egg blue, but that doesn't stop me from admiring this peach, too.

my other favorite detail since seeing this quilt in person is the quilting done in all the sashing. it's a chunky white 12 wt aurifil in a large stitch. it's reminiscent of hand quilting, or as close as i've seen achieved with machine stitching. i love it! i'll have to give this a go myself soon because it's an awesome effect.

i really like the backstory of the inspiration for the quilt, whose color scheme was taken from this image from fjeldborg. i think rachel did a fantastic job of translating the colors and feel in the image into the quilt. that single pop of jade, balanced by the two mustard blossoms, amidst all the softer colors, works so beautifully. rachel's use of color moves me and motivates me to try new things in my own quilts. maybe someday i'll be able to achieve what she does so effortlessly.

the dogwood quilt was a project for rachel's penny sampler class, which was not offered again this last round of classes she did, even though i voted for it myself. maybe someday it will go up again and then i can learn how to do my own blossoms in this applique style. until then, i'm going to continue loving on and snuggling in this beauty made by rachel.

Friday, April 3, 2015

bloom where you are planted OR make new friends but keep the old

jill and i have been friends for most of the 8 years she lived in my neighborhood. about four years ago, i talked her into taking a beginners quilting class with me, and over the next three years (instead of the month the class covered) we spent many a friday morning having a little sewing social, working away, ever so slowly, at those two quilts, and a few other things, too. last april, just before jill moved out of state, we completed those market square quilts and had one last friday morning together, eating brunch and photographing our creations. 

"bloom where you are planted" quilt top
 although i eventually found a new friday morning sewing friend, becky, i have missed jill and her family dearly over the last year. she recently emailed me they were coming in town for spring break and i realized i wanted badly to finish the quilt (she didn't know about) i had started for her on my birthday last year. that last friday we were together before she moved, i got the idea to make her a version of the first quilt i self-designed, which she loved so much. i even had somewhat similar fabrics by the same designer that i was pretty sure she liked. (now i'm wishing i would have hunted down a jelly roll online and made her an identical one. too late!) however, i didn't even cut into the fabrics before she moved and even though i completed the top eventually, it was just a flimsy languishing away in a corner. but when jill said they were coming, i decided to get to work on a finish.

"bloom where you are planted" quilt back
 getting the quilt done was no small task that required selective neglect of a few other things i should have been doing or people i should have been spending time with. and i was completely apprehensive about whether or not jill would even like it, when all was said and done. it is, after all, a really, really bright and in-your-face colorful quilt. but i got it finished before she arrived. i'd invited her over for brunch and told her i had a new quilt finish i needed help photographing.

jill and her family came over for sunday brunch, my husband's waffles he's been making almost every single sunday for the last 12 years. we hugged, chatted, ate waffles with fruit and bacon, and caught up. the whole time i was bursting inside to hand over her quilt. finally, the eating was done and i told jill i needed help with that photography.

then i handed her the quilt, all rolled and tied up. it took her a moment to realize i was giving it to her for keeps. when she got it open, she was just in disbelief that it was for her. she started crying and saying it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for, and that it was so bright and cheerful, over and over. i wasn't expecting this kind of reaction at all. all my apprehension and doubts and regrets melted away and i admit i got a little choked up, too. i've never made anyone cry with anything i've made. (except for the time when we were newlyweds and my husband found a bone in the first bite of fish i'd made and spit it out on his plate. but i was the one who was crying, not him.)

two versions of my "cinched" pattern: the original "out on a limb" (inverted - oops) and the newer "bloom where you are planted"

i think this move from our warm and sunny desert home, where she'd been most of her kids' lives, to a new tiny town far away, coupled with a cold and windy winter, had been wearing on jill. giving this to her before she left would have been really nice, but i think the timing worked out even better the way it happened. it was a tangible statement about how she's been missed when she had been missing us, too. i hope my loud and cheery quilt will brighten up her home and remind her of friends who love her far away. she asked me what i had named it (because of course i didn't actually get a label made). when i told her i called it "bloom where you are planted," a saying that used to reside on a sampler in my mother's kitchen, she started laughing. "that's pretty appropriate," she replied. i hope this quilt helps her continue to bloom in her new place even as she remembers those of us she left behind.

 we went to a wild preserve section of the neighborhood and took a few photos of jill's quilt, as well as the original version, "out on a limb." my 16 yr old, d1, photographed anything requiring me to hold a quilt. i only quickly glanced at the photos for color and lighting. later, i noticed i was holding my quilt upside down. "how did you not notice this?!" i asked her. "i don't know - i don't know how your quilt is supposed to go!" she replied. "but they were the same quilt! couldn't you see that one was upside down?," i pressed. she just laughed her beautiful laugh, smiled loudly, and shrugged her shoulders, letting it roll off like everything else unimportant in her life. it wasn't her fault about the breeze blowing on jill's quilt, either.

jill, i hope every time you look at this quilt you remember our friendship in a happy way, that it encourages you to smile, be brave, and go on making a home and roots in your new place. that's a hard thing to do, but i know the Lord has transplanted you where he needs you and your family to be. just don't forget how loved you are where you were.

"make new friends but keep the old" is another great adage to live by.
that can be the back up name for the quilt.

the detailed steps for this tutorial are spread over 5 posts i wrote as i made the "bloom" quilt and worked on the pattern. find the others here:

cinched part one - fabric requirements and strip preparation
cinched part two - the accent strip and block, modifications from the first quilt, joining blocks for the long strips
cinched part three - joining your strips and sections to assemble your top
the three-strip accent stripe pieced backing - how to make the backing
loops and crinkles - quilting choices for "bloom where you are planted"
cinched full tutorial

linking up with crazy mom quilts's friday finishes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

loops and crinkles

 when it came time to quilt "bloom where you are planted" i decided to do modern loops, al a denyse schmidt style. i remember thinking when i had seen this done elsewhere before that i wasn't very partial to it. however, when i got one of her patterns, i immediately noticed some amazing texture in the quilting. "what is this amazing texture and what quilt pattern made it?," i thought. on closer examination i was surprised to find it was the modern loop pattern i had seen attributed to her. (see it here and here)  i have to say, done by denyse it looked much different than when i had seen it somewhere else. and my version of it here is going to look different, too, than denyse's masterful editions, partially because i didn't take the time to go back and look at her quilting before i did my own. true to fashion, i just sat down and started doing it without any real practice.

therefore, this quilt became a study in the different styles of the modern loop, aka "wishbone", quilting pattern. you can do it with the loops skinny or fat, narrow or wide, squat or elongated, circular or ovoid. really, there is a ton of room for interpretation here. i'm still deciding which way i like best.

 some of my loops appear more like circles because they are so fat and round.

 some of them are more vine-like, such as those in the red strip above, because they are so spaced out.

on the very first row, i was making loops across just one strip. before that row ended i decided to do the rest over two strips for two reasons: one, it would be a lot faster; two, having a center line to work off of would give me more reference points for making the loops, presumably aiding my consistency in shape and spacing.

some are more teardrop shaped and others more like eggs.

i didn't intend to do more than one set of loops on a single strip, but found i had disrupted the flow of evenly spaced pairs, so i had to do two more single-row loops, which i randomly spaced out to the left and right of the first row. this gave a little more variety and interest to the quilting, as well.

 here you can see some of the variety i ended up with and how i chose to stipple-quilt the green accent strip across the middle of the quilt.

 in the accent block, i outline quilted the layers and then bravely did a micro-pebble in the skinny gingham strip. i've only ever done pebbles once before, a few years ago, when i practiced them in a fmq class i took. i definitely need more practice or at the very least should have looked in a book to review the technique, but, nope, not my style! i just went at it and probably retraced my steps a lot more than necessary because of it.

i considered tracing the butterfly in the center of the block, but wisely recognized the high likelyhood of my chances for error there and let it be.

i was quilting this baby on a deadline, which, after doing twice in the same month, in succession, i realize i never, ever want to do again. somehow it just sucks a lot of joy out of and inserts a lot of guilt into the process. but that said, i am glad i got both of them done in time for my intended deliveries. no regrets, just renewed determination to make well in advance.

i finished up the quilting late on a saturday night. sunday morning i threw the quilt in the washer. because of all the red, i put two color catchers in with it. that must have been a good idea since they came out pink. i chose to wash the quilt on the gentle cycle, extra water, with dreft baby detergent. i figured the dreft was good and gentle for babies, it would be nice to my quilt. there are probably even better detergents for washing quilts, but this is the gentlest thing i had on hand.

normally, i would lay out the quilt on my tile to air-dry overnight. however there was no time for that in this case. so into the drier it went, on low-heat, gentle cycle. when i opened the drier door less than an hour later, i got a thrill i've never had before. the crinkle on this quilt was so glorious, and the light scent of the dreft baby detergent smelled just like my newborns' clothing, coupled with pleasantly warm heat to make me burst with sensory joy. i ran to get the camera, wanting to capture the vision in the drier. unfortunately, there wasn't enough light to do it properly, so i moved the quilt to the family room in the sunlight.

 even with the aid of the sunlight, i don't think i really captured the texture very well. i've never had a quilt crinkle like this before so i just didn't know what all the fuss was about. but now i do!

 i couldn't stop touching it even though i was afraid of ruining the crinkle.

 i thought this was definitely as happy as this quilt was going to make me.

but then i gave it to jill and her reaction topped everything. that'll be my next post. the crinkle deserved a whole post of it's own.

i wanted to use the darling selvage from this quilt in the backing very badly, like i did for "paris daydreams." but as you can see, it was printed right on the very edge of the fabric and would have been mostly eaten up in the seam allowance. so i opted to use those cute ladybugs and the print to tie up the quilt for gifting instead.

tune in again later this week to see it unwrapped.

linked up with lee's wip wednesday over at freshly pieced.