Wednesday, February 22, 2017

binding the little ones close

 i'm currently binding "star of the circus" whenever i get the chance: soccer games, while visiting with friends, or when we're just hanging out as a family. it's nice that it keeps my lap warm while i work since this is the time of year that's desirable.

i like to have some photos snapped of me working on the quilt because i'm foolish enough to think future generations who own this quilt might actually like a picture of grandma working on the little piece of her they've inherited. i would certainly like to see any heirloom i have when it was in the works, in the hands of the maker. so i grab a child and ask them to take some pictures.

 naturally, i prefer that this happen when i feel photo-presentable, which is usually on a sunday afternoon after church. a few weeks ago all of this was happening when i got an interested photobomber. first, she asked if she could sit next to me in the photos, wanting what she always wants: attention and the world to revolve around her 5 yr old self. she's a cute enough prop that i said ok.

 then she asked if she could help me sew! one of the reasons i enjoy handwork is the methodical, meditative, slow-paced aspect of it. i can either concentrate on a conversation in the room, or have one in my head. either way, it's always slow work. but adding a 5 yr old into the mix makes it even slower.

i admit i was reluctant to let her into my personal stitching space at first. but we worked it out very nicely. i place the needle, getting it started. she pulls it through. she did ask to do all the work herself after a minute or two, but i held firm to the arrangement. i do want the binding to be functional and look good, too. (it's the perfect opportunity to introduce her to her own stitching projects, like burlap stitching.)

however, giving her a chance to sew with me has many benefits.

it increases my enjoyment of the project and adds to the emotional value of the quilt. i imagine someday i'll look back and say, "i remember when d5 was so little and we stitched this binding together!" her involvement becomes part of the story of the quilt.

it also creates pleasant memories and associations for her, piques her interest in sewing, and attaches her to the project. when she looks at quilts she's helped me with, she'll be able to think, "i helped mommy make that!" i'm hoping this spurs her to create on her own in the future. of course it's an opportunity to instruct her on sewing skills.

so often, letting the kids "help" me sew is anything but help. it can cause extreme frustration and maybe even some explosions on my part. however, i believe it's an important investment in not only their future as creative people, but an investment in our current relationship, as well.

i already know this quilt is going to take several sit-down episodes to bind. slowing down a bit more to let her sew with me isn't going to delay the process much. since there's no deadline on this quilt, i have the luxury of being able to include her.

and as it turns out, she only stays interested for a short period of time anyway. after a few minutes, she'll bounce off to other things. i'm glad this is a lesson i'm learning right along side those she is gleaning.

it has certainly made both of us happy in this instance.

Friday, February 17, 2017

stella grande quilt series

edited to note: i will eventually work up a tutorial for this quilt pattern. for those who have inquired, the large hsts are 12" sq finished, the neutral border is 6" x 12" rectangles with 6" sq corners, and the colored border hsts are 6" sq finished. the quilt measures 60" x 72", a generous lap size.

nearly as soon as i started this over-sized sawtooth star quilt composed of large hsts, i began dreaming of other color combinations and slight border variations that i could do with this basic pattern formula. i got all excited, envisioning a whole series of these giant star quilts. maybe one a month for a whole year!

and then i remembered this is me we're talking about. the world's slowest quilter who has completely sporadic, unpredictable quilting time available to her. the girl who was crazy enough to co-host a gypsy wife quilt along last year, and then had to bow out halfway through due to extenuating family circumstances. granted, we don't have major accidents in our family often, but our life is pretty demanding, nonetheless.

so i decided a commitment to some sort of timeline for a quilt series was out of the question.

but the colors wouldn't get out of my head or leave me alone. they were morphing and multiplying like rabbits in there.

i literally fell asleep dreaming of color combinations. when i woke up in the morning, i went through the limited selection of solids i have on hand and tried to recreate what i'd been dreaming of. this pull came somewhat close, but not really.

i started to get obsessed.

so i packed the littlest one in the car and we went to the local(ish) shop that carries all the kona cotton solid colors, and i started pulling out colors.

i think i brought home about 20 different shades, including several pinks.

so when i got inspired by the love all around block by may chappell, which was made from the same formula as my star center, i was able to pull pinks off the shelf and whip one up in an evening. (realize, when i say things like "churn out" or "whip up," i'm talking about different speeds than the quilters who would have actually completed the entire quilt in the same amount of time. it's a relative term. my "whipping" is always interrupted by one of 8 people who need me to sustain their lives in various ways.)

shortly after making that giant block (with the intention of adding the borders like the first quilt), i decided my idea of a quilt series wasn't so crazy after all. i made the backing, basted, and quilted the first quilt (henceforth known as star of the circus) in one weekend. i did. me. i did this! it was so completely doable!

i jotted down several other ideas i had for color combinations, mostly based around some theme or color story i was interested in exploring.

eventually, i went back to the store for more color.

all kinds of greens, especially vibrant tones that echo "greenery", pantone's color of the year, and those with a yellow/puke-y edge to them.

then there was an assortment of other colors i had in mind, too.

this is going to be a winter story of ice and snow and evergreen trees.

although i did have a green and pink floral story in mind, when i was shifting piles of fabric around, i serendipitously created this beautiful combo that i'm dying to play with, too. i'll be doing both the original and this one.

there's also this pile that was inspired by quilter jenna valoe's color palette. i'll admit when i looking at the photos from instagram and pulled these colors, i was a bit dismayed at first. individually, they weren't colors i would usually use. but put all together by jenna, i did like them. so i went ahead and got them. they are totally growing on me as a collection now.

and thus a series of quilts is born.

i'm not committing to timelines or a number. i'm going to play and see where it takes me.

but i did come up with a name for this configuration i'll be working with:

stella grande

large star.

stay tuned to see how many stars get added to my constellation.

Friday, February 10, 2017

chain piecing the love

 i've got a few photos and thoughts to share of the progress on my love all around quilt. i'm sticking to the same basic formula i used on the star of the circus quilt: large center sawtooth star composed of 12" blocks, 6" neutral background border on all 4 sides, 6" colored border on upper and lower end, 60" x 72" quilt.

obviously, i chose a different number of colors and color layout for this center star, which gives it a different look and feel. i'm always intrigued by the way small changes like this affect the overall look of any given pattern. before, i had a star with a pinwheel center. now i have a star composed of four hearts.

next, i had to decide on the border treatment. before, i used 6" hsts with specific placement of the light and dark colors to give sort of a wide triangle effect to the border. this time, i wanted to try something different. initially, i was leaning toward using the same shapes i use for the background border (6" corner sqs and 6"x12" rectangles) in the heart colors. it would have been the fastest and simplest way to go. but i decided to echo the heart shapes from the center. this meant i would be varying the pattern slightly, since the heart shapes were composed of 4 hsts, not too. i decided the effect would be worth breaking out of the formula a bit.

this meant lots of hsts for the 20 hearts i would need. if i was making 6" sq heart blocks, i could fit 10 across the top border and 10 across the bottom border. 20 hearts, composed of 4 - 3" hsts. that's 80 hsts, 20 of each of the 4 pinks.

i'm still getting a kick out of the way chain piecing resembles bunting or a swag every time it comes off the machine in one long string of shapes. and i still want to photograph it every time.

this little lady likes to snip things, so i set her to work on the chain piecing. she was in the middle of practicing her rollerblading (christmas present) on all the tile in our downstairs, but she stopped and snipped for me.

i love finding little jobs like this to involve the kids in the process of my quiltmaking. it adds to the story of the quilt. they'll be able to look at it and say, "i helped with that one!" also, it exposes them to the process and teaches them some of the skills involved. i like weaving these things into their childhood memories while passing on the skills.

the hst  is the story of my quilt life these days. i hope this means i'm getting better at them.

although this little batch might attest otherwise. i found a whole new mistake to make: 3 squares pieced together instead of 2. how did that happen? i suspect because kona cottons are slightly thinner than other quilting cottons i've been working with, so i didn't notice that i'd grabbed 2.

and since i cut the light background squares and the colored squares from different size pieces of cloth, i miscalculated the number of light squares i'd cut by 2. hence, the two piles came out even when i layered 3 squares, not once but twice! nothing seemed amiss until i cut through the first set and was amazed to see two colors there. then i had to try to figure out where the 2 missing light squares were. some pondering over my math and cutting configurations eventually brought me round to the correct conclusions. i am no computer, but i usually figure it out in the end, after taking the long way round.

pressing and trimming batch after batch

now i have hearts in four pinks, clockwise from top left: flamingo pink (kona color of the year 2017), pomegranate, candy pink, camellia.

here's a close up that shows the two background colors i'm using: pearl pink and pale flesh. the color difference is very subtle, but in person, you can actually detect it. in photos, they tend to look identical. when my eye catches the difference as it roams over the quilt shapes, it always give me a little surge of delight inside, for some reason.

now to finish those hearts and get the borders on so i can get this quilt to my aunt!