Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jewel experiment

Having been exclusively quilting for a week or so, I was itching to do a little piecing for a change. Working through the worst headache I've ever had in my life (seriously, what the hell?!?) I pulled out the nifty new Hex N More ruler that I picked up at Sew Inspired earlier this month. I'm really quite impressed that I managed to wait two whole weeks before trying it. I have been thinking that I want to make the Lotus quilt with the citrusy fabrics that my cousin and I picked out together in California. I didn't want to commit to cutting those without trying the technique on something smaller, so I cut a few jewels and triangles out of some leftover Klimt print that I used to make my sister a purse, and a pretty lacy icy blue batik that coordinates beautifully with the print.
"Amanda's Bag" pattern by Marlous Designs, made for my sister in 2011
The pieces sewed together very quickly and easily; I made eight triangles altogether. My first thought was just to sew these into a single linear table runner.
However, although the fabrics were pretty, the single-line arrangement doesn't really show off the piecing geometry. I arranged them into a simple hexagon, which I always love...
...but adding the other two triangles made a diamond shape that would look good on a table and really lets the geometry shine. This is my favorite small arrangement:
I still have lots of both fabrics, so I could just keep going and make a full-size two-fabric quilt. Or, I might make some placemats and/or coasters to go with this smaller table topper. I haven't decided yet, but my California fabrics are all washed and pressed and ready to go, and those colors are WAY more exciting to work with, so this sample will undoubtedly languish unfinished for some time.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Still quiltin'

I had originally planned to do just straight-line quilting on the Star of David quilt, but it really called out for something more special, so I've been working on a Flower of Life quilting motif. It's a little effort to mark and sew only one line at a time, but it's turning out really pretty. The afternoon sunlight coming in my sewing window is perfect for showing off quilting lines -- I'm so lucky to have this wonderful little corner of real estate for my very own purposes!

Halfway done!

This close-up (with some loose threads and pins still in place) shows the motif so beautifully.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Newington Group Quilt(s)

After a few winter-weather postponements, the ladies of the Newington Schoolhouse Quilters finally managed to schedule a successful worknight for assembling our group quilt. This year we are using Elizabeth Hartman's Roller Rink pattern, using a vibrant combination of blacks, whites, with small random pops of bright color. I made ten blocks a few months ago; the ladies of our group provided over 200 blocks for this project!
We started with about 100 blocks of each border color.
Eleven of us got right to work, starting by sewing blocks into pairs, then pairs into quads, then quads into strips of eight. About halfway through the process, I stopped sewing and started directing, because I didn't want us to end up with too many long units that would eventually need to be taken apart. Before we realized it, we had ten strips of 19 blocks!
The tables filled up fast!
Our energetic co-president Tammy, taking a turn at the pressing table.

Within three hours, the eleven of us had assembled TWO beautiful finished quilt tops! Each measures 76 x 80", a very generous and usable size. The second top actually still needs the final seam sewn, which I volunteered to do in the interests of everyone getting home before it was too late, and because I felt bad for shirking my sewing responsibilities while everyone else worked so hard.
First finished group quilt top! (76 x 80")

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Journal Project: Love

The theme that my journal quilting group selected for this February's project was Love. I used a fairly predictable interpretation, a depiction of another Charley Harper print called "Vowlentine." I love the clean lines and geometry of his illustrations, and I really love how he used the heart shapes to represent this cozy family of barn owls.
"Vowlentine" by Charley Harper (1922-2007)
In addition, just as I was getting started on this project, my friend Mary recently shared a poem that really spoke to me, like a slightly sunnier, more nature-oriented version of Rilke:

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I love those last two lines so much. I am a fairly cynical and pessimistic -- sometimes nihilistic -- person, and I have really been working hard to give my boys some sense of hope and wonder in what often seems like a shitstorm of a world...these words so perfectly express my hope that they will grow into men who seek adventure and challenges, and who will recognize happiness when it hits them.

"Love" (8.5 x 11")

Monday, February 11, 2013

Snow Dyeing: The Exciting Conclusion!

If you missed yesterday's post, I am taking advantage of The Blizzard of 2013 for artistic purposes by doing some snow dyeing. I woke up early this morning, and the hardest part of the project was waiting until noon to see how the dyeing came out. When I lifted the lid, this is what greeted me:
Melted snow, pools of dye.
The next step is to rinse the fabric under cool, gradually warming, water until the runoff is mostly clear. Then it needs to soak in Synthrapol to set the color for ten minutes. Gak!! More waiting!!
Synthrapol soak.
After another quick rinse, it needs to a short, hot wash followed by high-heat drying. Here's a peek in the washing machine. I resisted the urge to unfold it and look closely while transferring it to the dryer. That was hard to do.
A quick peek after the spin cycle...colors!!
Then, a hot iron to finish setting the color, and it's done!!
This shot shows about half of the three yards that I dyed.
Motif close-up
From now on, I think my winter storm preparations will involve stocking up on white fabric and Procion MX dyes! (And coconut rum.)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Metropolis class

Last Sunday, which feels like it was a century ago, I started a monthly class at Lisa's Clover Hill Quilts that showcases the 12 patterns in the Modern Patchwork book that I have been so obsessed with. It was a lot of fun working with everyone to find the right combination of fabrics for this design, and I carefully took photos of everyone's Before fabrics and After projects. Then, however, I misplaced my camera's memory card. This was extra sad, because I hadn't emptied it since Christmas, and it had birthday photos too. I thought it had fallen out of a bag in the parking lot or my driveway or somewhere in between. Today, though, it turned up right where I had stashed it so as not to lose it. (Is there a word for the feeling of immense relief coupled with self disgust? I bet the Germans have a word for that.)

So, at long last, here are a few photos from last Sunday:

Sue started with a lovely airy floral as her feature print, with some perfectly shaded coordinates to offset it.
Sue's finished block! So elegant...makes me want a cup of tea in the garden!

Tina went for bright! Her fabrics were vibrant reds, oranges and pinks; the class had a fun time shopping for just the right taupey gray to offset all these brights.
Tina's finished block! I think she's making more to assemble a full quilt...can't wait to see how it comes out!

Liz brought some wonderfully vibrant prints and batiks as coordinates.
Liz went home with a really fun finished block! I love the geometric prints as the "background" choices!

I didn't get a photo of her fabric choices, but Sara's finished block looked so fresh and sherbet on a summer afternoon!
Carol had scads of great choices, but decided on this fun button print paired with some brights...I will track down a photo of the finished block!

Ginger wanted to feature a pretty floral print; I love how the dark pink backgrounds pick up the shades of the hydrangea!

My fabric selections. I'm planning to use this same collection every month, then assemble all the blocks into a single sampler quilt.
The blue background is hard for me to appreciate, but I like the circus-y effect of all these brights together.
I plan to start next month's Roller Rink class with a Show and Tell session, because I'm eager to see how Ginger and Carol's projects came out. Thanks to all of you for letting me photograph your projects!

Fun with snow

The storm scoffers were proven wrong; New Britain got over 30 inches of snow in less than 24 hours! I love when nature makes these gentle little reminders of Who's Boss. The view from our windows is absolutely incredible.

View from the front windows across what was once Barbour Road; tip of fire hydrant is barely visible in the neighbor's yard.

Side window view; some genius tried to drive home around midnight and got stuck. Whoopsy.

We might convert this into a luge run. The swings are buried!
My menfolk, young and old(er), have been diligently digging out our driveway with the understanding that the plows will make it here eventually. We currently have one driving lane down Barbour, but that's only because our neighbor happens to work for the city and he needed to come home late last night for fresh clothes and presumably a toothbrush and food, so he drove a plow home. Our family is cozy, fully powered, and well stocked for food so for us it's just kind of fascinating to watch. We do have friends, though, who are much more involved in the recovery efforts. A big THANK YOU to everyone who is working around the clock to clear, rescue, and dig the state out from this storm. I hope people will remember that the plow drivers, police officers, fire fighters, etc. didn't cause this to happen; they're humans doing the best they can, and they have to sleep too. Patience, people...

Anyway, I have harnessed a few buckets of this snow for my own purposes -- snow dyeing!

Step 1: Wash some fabric to remove the sizing. I started with a funky white-on-white Hawaiian print that I have had for years, but which never seems to jump out at me. It also happens to be the only length of white fabric that I have in the house. It has some great motifs on it, so if it dyes well ... well, let's just say I know a few people who will like it. (You know who you are!)

Snow dyeing! This was the only length of white fabric I had in the house, but it should have some cool effects.
Step 2: Soak the wet fabric in a soda ash solution for a half hour. I had to dig out my old dyeing pots for this.
Soaking in soda ash
Step 3: Squeeze out the extra water and arrange the fabric in a bin for dyeing. I didn't want a tie-dyed look with rubber bands or stripes, so I just scrunched the fabric loosely.
Ready for dyeing!
Step 4: Cover it with clean snow. We have plenty of this available. It wasn't hard to track down.

I bought some "fresh Himalayan snow" from these two apple-cheeked Sherpas who were selling it door-to-door.
Snow-covered fabric!
Step 5: Sprinkle dye powder on top of the snow. I used three colors (which is all I own).
I started with a few spoonfuls of midnight blue dye.

Next I added a bunch of deep purple.
I finished with a few sprinkles of bright green.
Step 6: Cover and wait. This is the hardest step for me. You have to let it sit for at least 24 hours. Mine is sitting right in front of the furnace in the basement; it should be somewhere warm enough for the snow to melt, but not too quickly. I hope I used enough dye powder; I want nice vivid colors, not washed-out pastels.

After it's done, you have to rinse it a little, then wash it with some Sythrapol before ironing it. Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Swirling Spectrum

I spent some pre-storm time ironing the fabrics for a new pattern that I bought on Monday; the power is still on, but all the pieces are now cut. (I guess I'll have to iron something ELSE now, or else in that event I could just make myself work on one of the many handwork projects that are languishing in various drawers, bags, and baskets. Or organize something.)
I am so in love with this piece I could just explode!
I'm a fan of any project that works in the whole spectrum, but I also really like the weird angles on this one, and I think the fabrics really blend together beautifully. One of the pentagons is already sewn together (I did it last night -- just couldn't wait), and I'll work on the others tonight while the boys are watching some ridiculous superhero movies.

Storm! Star!

While the storm is gathering its breath and taking aim (if I were this storm, and if my Faithful Readers will permit me a moment of anthropomorphizing, I would take special note of the addresses of the people who are laughing at its current state...), I got the Star of David top ready to quilt!!! I sewed the last three rows together last night, and added some narrow borders around the whole thing this morning. I impressed myself with frugality this time; the borders for this were the trimmings from the oversized back of the Autumn Rapid City quilt (Hey! No "finished" photo of that one!?!). I knew it was a good idea to save those two-inch strips!

Approximately 64 x 86"
I really like the effect of the colors shading from dark to light on every point of the central star; I'm glad I took the time to arrange them to give the illusion of dimensionality.

Now I can turn my attention to a new pattern that I picked up at my meeting on Monday night, using some nifty rulers with 36 and 72-degree angles. Pentagons! Decagons! PENROSE!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Star progress

I finished sewing the rows for the Star of David quilt! I really like how these colors work together; it's very soft and elegant. Big storm on the horizon for the weekend, so (if the power stays on) I might be able to get this top mostly sewn together this weekend.