Thursday, August 30, 2012

Changing gears

I discovered an exciting feature about my embroidery machine today: the feet screw down to adjust the height of the attachment. This means I can simply place an old shelf over the cut-out on the new table, without worrying about finding something large enough to fit the entire embroidery unit (which is quite large). I had been a little worried about that, so I'm feeling relieved this evening. I got a nice start on the festive Christmas flamingos that I'm stitching out for my friend Deb:
Reindeer flamingo
Once I got the first of these in progress, I had the opportunity for the ultimate in stitcherific joy: running both machines at once!! What a glorious mess was my "studio" area:
The third flamingo is stitching out at this point. Happy, messy mess!
I used the second machine to start sewing selvedges down to make some new bolster pillows for our family room. These are rather tedious to make. It feels like it's taking forever. I must remind myself that I did quite a number of other non-sewing things today, so in reality getting them half finished is an accomplishment.

I oriented one set to go around the diameter of the pillow, and the other to run along its length. One set I left a bit apart to show a glimpse of the fabric print, but I prefer the look of the all-selvedge version where only the fabric titles and color registration dots are visible. I think it looks like a code.
Most selvedge projects that I have seen leave a bit of fabric showing between strips.
I prefer this look, where the fabric prints are entirely hidden under the selvedge strips.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Beauty in Taupe

I wouldn't typically consider "taupe" a beautiful shade, but in this case...
Unnamed (2012) from Brasstown Star block pattern. 60 x 76".
Sometime last year I picked up a stack of 10-inch squares from the free table at my chapter meeting. These weren't the sort of fabrics that I'm usually drawn to, but something about the collection of them drew my eye. I searched around for a block pattern that used no more than 10" in a particular fabric, then pawed through the stash to find some neutrals to pull them all together.

I filled multiple pages of graph paper with notes to figure out how to use what I had without much waste and without needing to buy more. I was especially pleased with how I worked the same block pattern into the sashing of this quilt; I tried to use the lower contrast squares in the dark sashing and the brighter higher-contrast fabrics in the light blocks. I do wish I had had a bit more of the dark batik to make a border frame, but c'est la vie...I love it anyway. With the leftover corner bits, I even made a wallhanging and a mini: a three-part series!

This top sat in the UFO bin for over a year, but after I found Elizabeth Hartman's orange-peel quilting tutorial I knew it was the perfect motif for this quilt. Quilting one quarter-circle arc at a time was tricky for the first two rows, but it got a lot easier once I could complete the circle shapes by eye.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Honey Mini

Still loving the Modern Patchwork projects! My menfolk were out of town for two days last week, so I enjoyed nearly 48 continuous hours of stitchery related time. I spent one very fun day shop hopping with a friend, and the rest of the time watching a Law & Order: SVU marathon (Why would I do such a thing?, one might wonder...because I love bad television and Diagnosis Murder isn't on Netflix) and sewing. And petting dogs.

Largely because of my personal stitch-a-thon, I managed to finish two projects -- one big, one small -- today. (Technically, the hanging sleeves and labels aren't complete, but to my mind, once that binding is stitched down, it's a Finish.) The first one I'll share is the miniature version of the Elizabeth Hartman's Honey quilt, the hexagons on the cover of the book. I do love my hexagons.

I chose my colors for August's color palette challenge:
I dropped the red from my project and focused on the feather itself. I pulled out a few chunks of  taupe-y grayish browns and some scraps of blue left from my mom's Sudoku table runner (the one shown in my banner at the top of the blog). Here's the top all marked up for some isometric grid quilting:
I did a variation on the theme of the orange-peel motif that I've been using for my big taupe quilt, but on a triangular grid rather than square...I made a flower of life!! I do believe I have decided how I'll be quilting the scrappy hex top that's waiting so patiently in my overflowing UFO bin.
Although marking the lines took a little time, this quilting uses such a gentle curve that it could even be done with a walking foot rather than free motion. I'm including both photos because, whatever I did with that camera, they came out great for showing the quilting!
The last photo didn't come out as well because it's dark and I was excited to get this post up, but here it is all bound and done!

Turquoise scraps

Although many of my monthly scrap-related goals have gone by the wayside, I did manage to put together a turquoise QAYG block for eventual assembly, and for the monthly Free-Motion challenge. The motif this month was a little tricky. I did a little better once I stopped thinking of it as "jester hats" and more as E3E3E3. This is very similar to the clouds that I quilted on my pink placemat a few months back. I will use this again, continuing to try to get the pointy points a little more pointy. My collection of these is starting to look quiltastic!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Xylophone miniature

This is the Xylophone pattern from Modern Patchwork.

I love this scallop print fabric so much -- I acquired it for my tropical hexagon sampler a few years back, and this is the last little scrap of it. I couldn't be happier with the look of this little gem, but I probably won't make the full-size quilt since it's a technique that wastes quite a bit of fabric. That's too sad for me. :(
Unnamed miniature, based on Xylophone pattern by Elizabeth Hartman (8.5 x 23")
If you're one of my thousands of readers who are following along and have the book too, you might notice that I skipped the Fire Drill pattern. Not exactly...I have the top done, but I haven't quilted it yet and it certainly won't photograph well at night.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

T-Shirts these were

This spring a good friend commissioned me to make a t-shirt quilt for her son's birthday. We combed through a few piles of the shirts she has been saving and pulled out all of the Marvel and Star Wars designs to give the project some focus. We found a nice selection of coordinating fabrics to use as borders and backing.

The tricky part of this project was that the shirts were worn from the teeny toddler years through the mini-man-size years so the images weren't all the same size. I had to spend some time measuring the usable sections and laying them out like a puzzle on graph paper to figure out how to make them fit best, with roughly even border strips. The planning effort was worth it, I think -- I really like the non-grid layout of this quilt, and how the busy comic border fabrics bring the whole thing together. I quilted straight lines around every block through the borders, and some custom free-motion work in each block.
Marvel/Star Wars T-shirt quilt, May 2012 (approx. 72 x 72")
Back of Marvel/Star Wars T-shirt quilt
Fun blogging fact: Yesterday was my 100th post!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Caught up in Craftsy!

Here's my 16th block in Tangerine Tango for the Craftsy block-of-the-month (which is technically TWO blocks every month), making me officially all caught up! This one was from April, and the assignment was to design your own block using English-paper-pieced hexagons in any size. I happened to have this nifty bee on a great scrap I picked up from somebody's trashcan (she confesses guiltily), so I decided some honeycomb would be just the thing. These little guys are about 3/4" on a side - yikes! Great way to use up teeny tiny pieces if you're psychologically incapable of throwing away fabric scraps, but I don't think I'll be making a whole quilt with these any time soon (but never say never!).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Quilting in circles

So I have my taupe quilt all pin-basted and my new table all ready to use. My plan is to use Elizabeth Hartman's orange peel motif, dividing each square of my quilt into two-inch quarter squares as the grid. Earlier this week I took the plunge and dove in with the first row. I chalk-lined the midlines across the center row and gave it a whirl: I was not impressed with my arc shapes. I let it sit for a couple of days while pondering whether to rip.

I have a real philosophical objection to ripping -- I feel that even the crummiest job is a valuable learning experience and that perfectionism is the enemy of productivity. Anti-Ripping Philosophy Appendix A: I always fix functional mistakes and problems that would interfere with a project's usability, but I tend not to overthink the aesthetic decisions -- these generally have a way of working themselves out. Last year in a class with Erin Waterston, she made a comment about seeing beauty in the "hand of the artist." Same idea, I think. This is a hand-made creation and I'm eyeballing the motif instead of marking every line.

So, philosophy in hand, today after a long morning of proofreading, I decided to try another row to see whether finishing a complete set of circles might make it look a little better. (In for a penny...)

Guess what? It did look better! By no means would I describe this as perfect, but I'm going to keep going instead of turning back. I did two more rows today, so I'm on pace (with a goal of two rows per day) to finish up just as the fall semester starts.

What's your opinion on ripping/unsewing?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rapid City mini

Last night I quilted the Rapid City miniature (from the Elizabeth Hartman's Modern Patchwork book, of course). I did an Asian-inspired motif, which was harder than I thought it should be. It did get easier as I went though...practice, practice, practice! Plain black binding, which I spent time this spring preparing many, many yards of. I'm not even editing that last sentence.

Unnamed (17.25 x 22.25"), based on Rapid City pattern by Elizabeth Hartman.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Exploring my studio space

A peek at my new table set-up (thanks to my handyman husband):

A challenge for this project is that the base of my machine is considerably broader than the bed, so I still need to cut a piece of acrylic to wrap around the arm and cover the little gap that's still there. Works like a dream though - I have quilted a few little pieces just to get a feel for the new angle; the table itself is about three inches shorter than the desk I was using, and it's also recessed another three inches or so. That's a whole new skeletal pattern to get used to.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Seems like you've got a Pink Rink in your Think

Awesome little baby quilt from Elizabeth Hartman's Roller Rink pattern. To make this, I used one yard of Karen Combs' four-shade Cascade fabric, with some white and black solids for the frames. I have a shades-of-brown one ready to go too, just waiting for suitable borders. I'm thinking teal will be the winner for that one.
"Pink Rink" baby quilt (top). 36 x 48".
Anyone get the post-title reference?

New England Clambake

We got the call today that our new dining room table is ready for us to pick up, so I prioritized finishing the binding on this cute runner. I couldn't resist this clambake fabric, which was a perfect focus in the Waffletime pattern:
Clambake table runner. 48 x 21". Waffletime pattern by Atkinson Designs.
Simple meander quilting, made easier by my new recessed sewing table!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wedding gifts

Some things I made earlier this year for the bridal shower and wedding of my husband's cousin. They had a really beautiful wedding day, with everything decorated in warm shades of coral and ivory, and elegant seashell motifs on the invitations, place cards, etc. -- tres chic. Congratulations to the new D'Ambrosi family!

Her tableware was graphite and raspberry, so I made the table runner to coordinate.

Scrapbook cover, made with free-form piecing and some pretty seashell charms. I even put a vinyl CD sleeve inside the back cover.

From the Chocolate Covered Cherries pattern.  I did the alternating feathered-heart and feathered-circle quilting with my embroidery machine using Sulky Blendables in Mocha Mauve.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Painting in the sun

As consolation for his not being old enough to go lap swimming, I spent yesterday's lovely afternoon with my eight year old and a big box of paint. We had a frabjous day sitting on the patio creating works of indescribable beauty. He has asked me not to post photos of him or his work, but here's a few snaps of what I made.
The workspace.

Nice fun graphic effects with just some rubber stamps and bright fabric paints.

A few things I tried with Pebeo Setacolor paints (a la Mickey Lawler's painting class). I got this amazing lettering effect by laying a sheet of die-cut scrapbook paper over the fabric as it dried in the sun (in the background of the workspace photo above). I bought a few sheets of this paper on clearance last year just to try this, and I love how it turned out -- exactly what I was hoping for! Now, to get a little better mixing colors...
Close-up of shaded lettering
I did some numbers too. This is a blue that even I would use!

Child the Younger mixed this sunny orange; we achieved the "scale" effect by laying a plastic pizza box liner (thanks, Jeannie!) over the paint as it dried in the sun. We have plans to try this in the future using greens and greys in an attempt to achieve more realistic scales. There are a lot of dragon-centric artistic decisions among the under-10 set around here.

The back is lighter, but the scaling effect still shows.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rapid City miniature

Between storms last night, I put together a miniature Rapid City from Modern Patchwork. I really like how this came out; the taupey grays are very warm and rich, and I think they give this a very elegant flair. It's not quilted yet. I'll probably end up using plain black thread, but if I can some dark variegated thread with a hint of this plummy red, I'll use that instead.

This would be a terrific scrap pattern, either controlled for a specific color way (I'm thinking autumn fabrics, with cream background & brown borders) or just random willy-nilly scraps. I think I'm going to make this my next scrap buster; it uses fabrics a variety of sizes, including some pretty small bits, and she gives very specific directions about how many of each to cut.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Finished Metropolis blocks

I have the blocks for my Metropolis quilt finished! I started on Friday night, and got seven of the nine pieces together that evening. Yesterday I put the eighth strip in, but upon waking up today I realized that the batik (which looked fairly good in the dimmed room we were futilely trying to keep cool) really stood out and ruined the whole bright effect. Not enough saturation to match the other fabrics:

I had my seam ripper out before I finished my first cup of coffee. I found just enough scrap pieces of a nice reddish brown that worked in the batik's place, then I finished off the blocks with a shimmery turquoise. I haven't decided whether to use plain white as the sashing and (wide) border; I could go with a pale turquoise or a warm cream color or something else entirely. I'll probably take a block to the solids row at a shop and slap it up to see what jumps off the shelf. That approach usually works for me.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Too hot to hoot

Despite this horrific weather, I managed to do a little sewing today, almost finishing the nine blocks for my full-size Metropolis quilt (from -- you guessed it -- Modern Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman). I gave up because I didn't want to plug in the iron to press the progress that I did make.

I haven't decided whether to go with turquoise or royal blue for the final strip. I'll have to look in the full light tomorrow morning to make up my mind. The blocks look good so far though, although I can't get my camera connection to work, so for all you know they could look absolutely terrible. Perhaps I am a compulsive liar. I'll monkey with the camera tomorrow -- the cords are probably melted.

Another iron-free job that I managed today was to measure all of the picture-frame pieces for my in-progress quilt based on Tula Pink's Grand Salon pattern. That one should go together pretty quickly now.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Table plans

My weekend plan is to get a new table for sewing, a little lower so my shoulders will stop hurting, and solid pine so I can cut a hole in the top to recess my monster machine. The taupe quilt is basted and waiting for quilting (I intend to use Elizabeth Hartman's technique for orange peel quilting), but the drag of lifting it up and over the bed makes it hard to smoothly make those shapes.

Here's my woodworking plan:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Glam Garlands miniature

While we were watching the Olympics today, I found a quilting design that I really liked for the third miniature from Elizabeth Hartman's Modern Patchwork book. Click here and take a look at the purple wall -- I liked the random-angled lines and I thought it would complement these bell-like shapes.

I used a FriXion heat-erase pen to mark a bunch of lines across the quilt. You kind of have to steel yourself to draw across your quilt with black ink! I stitched right across the lines with the walking foot (no free-motion on this one), took it to the ironing board and with one quick pass, the black lines disappeared. Those pens are AWESOME for marking!

I didn't want heavy quilting on this one -- I like the airy effect of these shapes on the white background; it reminds me of a tropical windchime (...hey, maybe that's a good name...) -- so the quilting only took a few minutes. I stitched the binding and the hanging sleeve on while we watched Casino Royale. I don't really get the whole 007 thing. Every single scene, all I could think of was Austin Powers. ("I'm Richie Cunningham, and this is my wife Oprah.") Perhaps THAT would be an even better name for this mini.

Unnamed (12 x 24"). From "Glam Garlands" pattern by Elizabeth Hartman.

August color challenge

The photo selected for the Color Palette Challenge in August reminds me of the "What Is It?" puzzle that used to be on the back cover of National Geographic World magazine. May, June, and July all had vibrantly colored photos, which were well represented in my Closet of  Cotton Delights. Totally different kettle of fish this time -- I might have to dig in a bit to unearth something in this palette. That's what makes it a challenge, though!
Vicki Welsh chose this serene photo for August's Color Palette Challenge.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

More Craftsy catch-up

Now that I have some bona fide professional work, my early-in-the-day stitchery time has been curtailed significantly (probably a good thing, since I'd have to change my blog name), but I did manage to make one of the May blocks for the Craftsy block of the month. Fun - I can't believe I haven't done this before. I have a whole box of strips saved from other things, so I might spend a day or two stitching up a whole mess of these wonky log cabins for another nifty scrap project.