Tuesday, August 30, 2011

late summer bounty

Didn't we just check the zucchini vines yesterday?!?

That's a 2.5 litre pyrex bowl, for the sake of perspective.  Apparently our tiny vegetable patch is not yet exhausted.

Today also witnessed delivery of some sewing-related goodies:

If you haven't yet explored Z & S Fabrics 50% off sale, you had better get your tush over there right now...it ends tomorrow.  The site is easily overwhelmed by web traffic, so it takes some patience to get your order placed, but it's well worth it. I think the Kona solids are all sold out, but if you search patiently by manufacturer you'll find some treasures.  This bundles includes some yardage of Kona snow and plum, and more "Miss Mod" prints for my Mystery Quilt.

I also received 20 little lovelies (Anchor pearl/perle cotton) from the U.K.

This fills out my stash of perle cotton very nicely...especially for someone who only just started to experiment with hand quilting.  Advice and suggestions are most welcome!!

Last but certainly not least is my Big Birthday Present:

Advice and suggestions for getting started with EQ7 are also most welcome!  Anyone for an EQ7-along?

I'd love to know what the last days of August have yielded in your neck of the woods!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sweet Pea

I had a lovely birthday today -- thank you so much to friends and family for their good wishes (including this sweet post by my dad, which made me cry!). My 43 years have not been uneventful, and there have been many difficult times, but I can say that overall I feel very, very lucky. I am a happy birthday girl today.

And here is "Sweet Pea" -- another quilt finished, which makes me feel a wee bit better about the summer coming to a close.  This quilt is for my littlest one, packed with little surprises (scraps of various Heather Ross prints, Japanese fairy tale and other cute fabrics) and featuring some of the florals she likes best; some gnomes on the back, because the girl loves classic gnomes (smart cookie); straight line quilting and a little hand quilting around the inner pink borders.

Hubby fell asleep on the sofa after a long day, so it was just me, the camera and the quilt this evening.

Today I think I'll let the photos do the talking.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

rambling thoughts and a sleepy Sunday

My hubby has taken the little one for a bike ride (although a whispery early morning phone call has me suspecting that this outing is connected somehow to my birthday!  Tee hee, lucky me!).  It is quiet here, there's a breeze tinged with Fall coming through the window, and I thought it would be nice to document a few moments from this lazy morning.  This will be a rambling, meandering post, but I hope you'll indulge me!

There was train play this morning on my orange string quilt -- such a nice use of a quilt, if you ask me. Looking at this set-up also makes me feel a little nostalgic, because these Thomas the Tank Engine trains were my son's when he was just the age our littlest one is now: 2 years old -- and that was 15 years ago.  It seems like yesterday, it really does.

The passage of time -- when you have children -- is a strange, strange thing. 

My son was playing with these very trains the night his sister (my older daughter) was born. 

He woke up around 4 a.m. and emerged bleary-eyed from his room to find me, his dad, my best friend, the midwife and the birth assistant all in the living room.  "It's like a party!" he said, happily.  And he was a little guy who loved parties.  He played trains while I laboured.  When things got a bit intense, we reminded him that it was hard work that I was doing.  "Don't do hard work, Mommy!" he pleaded, hanging on me.  "Do EASY WORK!"  Wise words from such a little guy. 

He covered his baby sister with kisses when she was born, still connected to me by her cord.  The trains were forgotten for a little while.

And now 14 more years have passed, and here I am about to turn 43, and with another little sweetie playing trains.  Sigh.  I don't know how this happened so quickly, but it's nice to feel so happy with my life.

And here are a few sneak peeks at another little labour of love, finally -- after sitting dormant for many weeks -- coming close to completion.

First it had to be basted (and being a bed-sized quilt this required moving all the living room furniture and rolling up the rug), and test-driven by Penelope.

There was a good amount of straight-line quilting done, and then some polka-dot binding cut (3" widths this time around, to show the Savon Bouquet dots to their full advantage!).  I thought I'd throw in a gratuitous shot or two of my favourite cutting tool, the June Tailor Shape Cut Plus.  If you don't have one, you really should get one!!  It makes cutting piles of evenly sized strips a breeze.

And now I'm hand-quilting (first time, so it's a little wonky...but still cute, I think), stitching around the inner pink border of every block with DMC Perle cotton in variegated rose.

With just handstitching ahead of me (the remaining quilting and then finishing the binding), it's all easy riding from here on in.  And when I'm sewing by hand my mind seems to wander, drifting through a sea of memories.  I bet I'm not alone on that one.   

Monday morning feels very far away right now, and I'm just going to enjoy that! I hope you do too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

waste not

Things are heating up for me, work-wise, and the stitching time is going to be limited for the next few weeks.  But I just had an interesting experience during a blissful stolen hour, making a block for week 13 of the Farmer's Wife Quilt-along. 

As soon as I made the conscious decision to devote some time to sewing -- to turn away from the constant stream of work-related e-mail and the many, many tasks related to my book manuscript -- as I was setting up my sewing machine on the dining room table,  pulling out my box of FWQAL scraps, my rotary cutter, and my mat, a wave of pleasure swept over me.  It felt so familiar and so lovely to be doing just what I was doing.  I think I need to sew even -- or especially -- when I'm so busy and stressed out!

So here is Block 92, Waste Not.  I paper-pieced it, removed the paper but have not pressed it...forgive the wrinkles please!

Today's experience was just a reminder to choose wisely what I do with my "spare" (HA!) time.  Messing around online isn't very therapeutic, but sewing certainly can be. 

I think the next sewing item on my agenda is the basting of my little one's new green-and-pink quilt.  The top has been complete for a couple of months now, and I think that it will feel really good to get that project done!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Farmer's Wife QAL, week 12

This week's sanity sewing: two blocks this week for the FWQAL, both paper (foundation) pieced. 

First, here is block 66, Periwinkle.

Next up, block 82, Spider Legs. 

I found these slow-going, for some reason; I don't think they were particularly challenging, but I found the paper piecing tedious this time around. 

I think I'll return to playing with the good, old-fashioned templates next week, accuracy be damned!

In other stitchy news chez moi: my Loulouthi hexies are looking pretty lovely...but I'm going to hold out on that one until my 2" diamonds arrive and I'm able to fill in some gaps.

I'm getting to close to finishing the Garden Fence quilt top.  It certainly brightens up our otherwise dingy back porch!

Must run...but I hope everyone finds a little brightness and beauty today!

Monday, August 15, 2011

hexie update...and a new project

I have stalled a bit on my hexagons (part of Lynne and Gayle's Hexalong) -- primarily because my 2" diamonds are all tied up, I'm waiting for some more precut ones, and I don't feel like using homemade ones.  But here is where things stand, with many (most) of my hexies put to the side for the time being, and the "constellations" taking centrestage:

I know what you're thinking: that woman should sew less and paint more!  Boy, does our front porch need to be re-stained.  In my own defense, I have been planning to tackle that project, but this summer has been too hot and steamy for painting.  For now, I hope you can just appreciate the rustic look.

In an effort to use less paper I raided my stash for 5 yards of fabric and turned it into a whole lotta napkins.  But since there are five of us, I think I might need more yet.

And a new project is brewing; can't tell you much about it, but here are the first 10 blocks using what you might recognize as Cynthia's "Garden Fence"design.  More to come!

So there we go: one project on hold, one very mundane project complete, and one fun project begun.  Whatever you are tackling today, I hope your week gets off to a good start!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

returning to the Farmer's Wife quilt-along blocks

It now has been several weeks since I made any of the FWQAL blocks -- and I knew that my participation in that QAL would have to be in fits and starts, despite the fact that the rest of the QALers are humming along at the nice, steady pace of 2 blocks a week.

I made 26 blocks in the first six weeks or so, and now finally here are 2 new ones.

#102, Whirpool

#103, Whirlwind

It seems like a good time for a group shot.  Note that block #3, Basket, is currently undergoing handle relocation surgery and couldn't be present for the photo.

Back to work!  Have a lovely day, everyone :)

...and then there were two

Early in the summer I had a total of 3 quilts awaiting basting, quilting, and binding...and now I have just two, since I FINISHED (yay!) the gift for my mum.  I'm calling it "In Bloom," which references a little song about spring that my mother sang to me when I was a little girl.  She's guaranteed to catch the reference :)

Based on Corey Yoder/Little Miss Shabby's "Sunny Trails", this project took several detours before it was complete.  I decided to work with 9-patch blocks -- to make the most of my prints -- rather than the 16-patch squares featured in Corey's pattern.  This really messed up the construction as laid out in the original pattern...so it was a bit of a mind-twister to develop an alternative means of construction. I didn't document the quilt-top-in-process, but if anyone happens to face the same dilemma in adapting Corey's sweet design, please feel free to contact me!

I was inspired by a Moda scrap bag I bought last winter at Fabric Shack in Portland. I have bought four of these scrap bags over the past 18 months, and the contents are sometimes a surprise.  For instance, the very first one I bought showed a nice little piece of "Fandango" -- the brown medallion print -- but turned out to contain 99% of another line, less to my liking, and which will remain nameless.  So when I spotted another scrap bag with Fandango in its window, I was a little wary -- but took a chance.  I'm so happy I did, because for less than $10 (there was a sale!) I added a nice collection of Fandango prints to my stash.  Everything in this quilt was built around those scraps.

The solids feature two of my mother's favourite colours -- yellow and turquoise.

I stretched my prints as far as I could, but still had quite a ways to go to make this a full bed-sized quilt.  Every last scrap of natural solid in my stash and several additional yards of a Fandango print purchased specifically for this project helped me there.  I don't usually add borders to my quilts, but in  this case I really like the way that one Fandango print looks in large expanses. I worked in narrow borders of the yellow and the turquoise. 

The back is pieced from the remaining yardgae of Fandango, a deep(er) turquoise solid than that used on the front (from Connecting Threads, I believe) and some pale blue Kaffe Fassett shot cotton.  I also worked in some of the leftover 9-patch blocks and what remained of the yellow solid.  Binding is a Fandango stripe in the same range of greens as the border print.

The whole thing is free motion quilted in white, with large, loose meandering in the central panel and some flowers of various sizes on meandering vines in the outer borders.

The FMQ shows up particularly well on the deep turquoise, but I was in such a rush to give this gift that I snapped my photos quickly -- and may not have quite captured the sweetness of the stitching.

One down, two to go -- and I have to make the most of grading-free evenings in August!  I'm going to try to tackle the bed quilt for my little one next...especially now that the weather has cooled down a bit.  There's something about the end of summer that makes me feel like finishing things....

Saturday, August 6, 2011

adding some method to the madness

My Loulouthi hexagons have been driving me slightly mad.  I love making them, but am unsettled every time I try to arrange them together.

I have had very generous and positive feedback from my QAL friends in the flickr pool, but still I have been feeling...troubled.

I know my sweet husband thinks I worry too much about...well, everything...but, honey, please trust me that it's okay.  I have to have problems to solve; I think it's in my DNA.  Bear with me!!

Here's my analysis and the approach I'm currently taking.

The "candied hexagon" project that is the inspiration for much of Lynne and Gayle's Hexalong lends itself really well to fussy-cutting and a diverse range of hexagon types.  But I have spent some time staring at the works-in-progress and the inspiration quilts for the HAL (cue knowing laughter from loving husband), and have concluded that -- to my eye, anyway -- the organized disorder of the design lends itself to a relatively limited palette.  Having multiple fabrics that read similarly in tone and hue helps that quilt to work.  And when it works, it works beautifully.

I say all this with the benefit of retrospect, since I chose a gorgeous line of fabrics -- Anna Maria Horner's "Loulouthi" -- and one that is great fun to work with, but one that it is also very challenging for this particular project.

Initially, I had hoped that by introducing a few solids (I used dark brown, a sage-y kind of aqua and a deep teal) I could tame these fabrics and make the project harmonious.  But it just wasn't working (to my eye). I had reached a point where I just didn't know what to do next.  I have never abandoned a quilt project, and I certainly didn't want to do so now.

I needed some order, some method, an anchor.  So I am now turning my tumbling block stars into "constellations": a Y-shape of 3 tumbling blocks, each using one of my green-blue solids, surrounded by 3 60-degree triangle stars, featuring the other green-blue solid. Each constellation features the same three Loulouthi prints.

Here's the first constellation:

And a second one is in progress, reversing the positioning of each solid:

With these constellations as visual anchors (and ones that have a balance of the two solids), I think I should be able to reintegrate some of my oddball hexies and still have something that is pleasing.  I think.  I hope. Fingers crossed!

Quilt Patis Giveaway Winner

It was great to hear all your Quilt Patis and hexagon project ideas!

The winner of the giveaway (chosen by a random number generator) is ... 

25. Debra said...
I'm a new follower and glad I found your blog!

Congratulations Debra!  Once I have your mailing address, I will forward the info to Judy at Sew Sisters and the Quilt Patis of your choice will be on their way to you.  I would love to see what you make with them :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

immersing myself in natural dyeing

In an effort to give myself a little vacation of sorts -- if I can't run away to a desert island with my sweet hubby, then at least I can have a little break from my work-work -- I signed up for a 4-day workshop in natural dyeing at The Workroom.  We are three days into our day camp, and it has been great fun.  Tomorrow will be all about overdyeing, more experimentation, and (for me) dyeing some wool yarn (aran and fingering weight) and a yard of silk.  Yummy.

Here are the cotton items I brought home today.

First off, my "new" solids (a couple of yards of Connecting Threads white quilting fabric, rendered colourful):

From top to bottom, these pieces were dyed with cochineal (a South American bug that yield pink through cardinal red), osage (the heartwood of the osage orange tree that yields this nice yellow -- but with a post-mordent bath of copper or iron we also say it make some nifty greens), logwood (a Latin American tree whose wood can be used to produce soft grey-purple to purpley-black), and madder (a root used for centuries in Europe and the middle east to produce earthy reds, but here it dyed my cotton a nice soft orange). 

Today we played with indigo (which is a very, very interesting dyestuff, and behaves very differently from the other natural dyes we were introduced to on days 1 and 2).

With just a single "dip" in the indigo vat, my cotton lace trims emerged a pretty cornflower blue.

 We also experimented with some shibori techniques (Japanese resist dyeing).  Here is my experiment with marbles tied into the fabric (the scrap on the left) and with a stitched pattern (a kind of gathering stitch made with a very strong polyester thread, gathered very tightly then tied; the scrap on the right):

I also experimented with clamping wood blocks onto the fabric, to produce large geometric patterns.

The diamonds are my favourite of the day; the rectangles need a little more "oomph," so they're going back to camp with me tomorrow for some over-dyeing.

 So that's my day.  I haven't (yet) done a scrap of work-work, but I think I needed a day like today.

Tomorrow: YARN and SILK! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I need more hours in the day :(

Too much to do and too little time.  Boo hoo.  The end of summer is in sight, and I hadn't had any real vacation time until this past weekend, when we visited my dear friends J and F in Evantson.  And this week I signed myself up for crafty day camp (for adults, of course!): a four-day workshop in natural dyeing.  (Right now my fabric is sitting in mordant baths, but I hope to have some interesting items to share soon.)  All my work-work is being pushed into the late afternoon and evening hours this week, but I think it will be worthwhile.

I'll have to keep this post brief -- which is difficult to do, because I am bursting with ideas and the desire to make things, even with so much on my plate.  Boo hoo.

Enough whining; on with it!

I got some treats in the mail.  First, I returned home to find my order from paperpieces.com

 -- which promises to facilitate the production of many more hexies for the Hexalong.  I just need to figure out where to take things in the next round of hexagon making!!

I played with the arrangement of the current lot -- just for the sake of picture-taking-- and I don't yet have things quite where I want them (not even close).  I need to stare at these photos for a while before taking action.

Sorry about the toes; space was limited :)

My Loulouthi hexies make me swoon -- sometimes in a good way (the fabrics are so lush and beautiful, aren't they?  Isn't it perfect for the candied hexagon project?) and sometimes in a not-so-good-way (why didn't I choose an easy, subtle palette for this quilt?  What was I thinking?!).  Oh well.  I'll work it out, but I might need to take a break from all this wild beauty; I could go "down home" and whip up some more of my Farmer's Wife blocks.  Yup.  I think I'll do that...as soon as I have time.  Boo hoo.

In other postal news: I also received the gorgeous scrap bag from Sew Fresh Fabrics -- which I won over at Lily's Quilts.  Yay!

There are so many little treasures in this bag...it makes me want to sew something new...but, alas, I cannot do so right now.  Boo hoo.  (Here we go again!)

Stop sniveling, Prof. S., and just appreciate your good fortune.  Look at all these beauties.

If only I had more time....I wish I could focus on the book manuscript every day AND go to crafty day camp AND clean my office AND do FMQing on my mom's quilt (I haven't even shown you that one yet!) AND get the undergrad documents in order AND make Farmer's Wife blocks AND experiment with making exotic popsicles (!) AND crack the nut that is my hexie quilt...AND start about 50 new projects.  Hmmm.  I think I'll have to settle for getting some writing done and playing with fabric for just a little while each day.  If I can do both of those things AND keep my family happy, then I think I'm in good shape.

Still, I can't help wishing for just a few more hours in every day. What would you do with more time?