Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dead Simple, dead quick

Lynne at Lily's Quilts has hosted several quilt-alongs, and the current one is appealing in its simplicity: the Dead Simple QAL, which involves play with colour and the simplest patchwork construction of all -- loads of squares.
I have had lots of fun in Lynne's previous two QALs: last spring there were these giant dresdens --

which ended up being one of my favourite quilts to date --

Then I caught Lynne and Gayle's Hexalong fever last summer --

which produced lots of hexies, not all of which were destined to be part of the project --

and which morphed and transformed, more than once, until I finally settled on some kind of pattern (hexie constellations) --

and which has stalled been temporarily suspended --

although I am determined to get back to it, yes indeed.

Anyway, I didn't think I was going to participate in the DSQAL, but one evening little Frida and I were playing with a charm pack of Little Apples, and I started pulling fabrics from the stash.  Frida had veto power, and together we came up with a combination of fabrics which I cut into 5" squares, until we had a total of 81 (including the charm pack).

This weekend I sewed them up on the Featherweight, which gave me a chance to play more with that sweet little machine and also to produce something "dead simple" and also dead quick.

I think that ultimately this quilt will live at Grandma and Grandpa's house, where it can be used for naps (Frida's, not G'ma and G'pa's!).  

I love the Little Apples charms, and now have to decide (1) whether I want to enlarge this...I'm considering a narrow white border and a 4 - 5" colour border beyond that and (2) what to use for the backing fabric...Little Apples yardage? A red and white print?  Yummy flannel? If so, then what colour? Hmmm.

An added bonus to this layout is that it will allow me -- once the Janome is back in circulation -- to try Elizabeth's clever "Dogwood" free-motion quilting pattern featured this week on Oh, Fransson! -- without having to mark the quilt!

Yay.  Don't underestimate the value of instant gratification!

Finally, if I were more clever or more determined perhaps I could come up with some sort of word play on "dead simple" on this, the eve of Halloween.  But since I feel neither clever nor determined right now, I offer instead a Halloween-themed photo: "Kitty Love, with Pumpkins."


Friday, October 28, 2011

My entry to the Bloggers' Quilt Festival, Fall 2011

This is the first time I have participated in the Blogger's Quilt Festival coordinated by Amy of Amy's Creative Side -- but I have lurked around the biennial festival before, and been inspired by the varied and beautiful projects entered by bloggers around the world.  So if you have found your way here through the BQF -- welcome!!  Mine is a relatively new blog, and I love to receive feedback.  Thanks so much for coming by.

Without further ado, here is my entry: my orange string quilt, finished in May of this year.

I learned a lot about my own creative process in making this quilt -- and there are a few moments that stand out in my memory, making me particularly attached to this quilt.

I began this project because (a) our sofa is very drab, and needed something bright and cheerful, (b) I was intrigued by the process of making a string quilt with paper foundations, and (c) I had a lot of orange in my stash!

Making the blocks was a blast, at least at first. It was great fun to play with and juxtapose the range of orange shades, from pale apricot to deep reddish hues, and exciting to start putting the blocks together. 

What I learned: I almost always hit a wall, where I lose touch with some of the playfulness and creative spontaneity that I love, and get mired in worry and self-doubt. Yup, it has happened time and again, and now I am just learning both to accept the fact that I worry -- I always worry -- about the quality of my workmanship at some point in the process, but also to trust that I will work through it.  (In this case, I worried about the quilting -- which I have grown to love!)  Just knowing this about myself-as-quilter has helped me to take my moments of doubt and worry a little less seriously! Seen in a positive light, my tendency towards self-criticism pushes me to recognize and try to solve problems. 

Okay, enough of that.  Onwards.

First some more shots of the quilt itself, including Penelope Cat's final inspection:

Fond memory #1:

My 17 year old son had two friends over one Saturday night, and the boys willingly, cheerfully, enthusiastically helped me to tear all the paper foundations off the assembled quilt top.  I had used whatever scrap paper was available -- so we were tearing away drafts of my lecture notes, scans of drawings by my daughters (ages 2 and 14), print-outs of electronic receipts -- basically, the paper residue of my winter semester.  It was fun, it was cathartic, and it was completely unexpected.  The boys seemed really intrigued by the whole quilt-making enterprise (at which my son seemed amused and baffled!). I will always remember that.

Fond memory #2:

Our recently adopted and domesticated former-alley-cat Ramone loves this quilt.  He sleeps on it every day (he's making up for lost time, after what I imagine was a kittenhood of light sleeping and constant alertness to potential dangers out there on the streets).  Here he is, looking quite relaxed and very Halloween-y:

Awwwwww!!!!  It's nice to know that my work is making one little fellow very happy!

I am really intrigued by the variations on this basic construction principle, and have been drooling over String Quilt Revival by Virginia Baker and Barbara Sanders.  Now that I have satisfied my fascination with orange (at least temporarily), I think there's a red -- a very, very red -- string quilt in my future.

If you haven't explored the Quilt Festival, do so!  It is great fun.


Thanks again for visiting, and I would love to hear about the colours that inspire you!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Farmer's Wife QAL, week 22

Hooray!!  Three quick blocks this week...all assembled in an hour, on the Featherweight, so they are a smidge wonky, but they measure up and all-in-all I am happy with these.  And I am very happy simply to have found a way to work a little sewing into the first hour of what promises to be a busy day.

I suppose I could have taken a few extra minutes to trim these up and get looking nice for the camera...oops.  Please excuse the rough edges.

Here is block 20, Churn Dash:

Next is block 34, Flock:

And finally, my favourite of the week, block 48, Homeward Bound:

I love the two DS Greenfield Hill prints I used in this one.  I think Greenfield Hill deserves far more air time than it has received: the prints have such a great retro feel to them, and they are very versatile.  They are new additions to my stash, but I hope to feature them properly in a project very soon!

Finally, I want to apologize for not keeping up with responses to all the kind comments on recent posts.  Please know that I truly appreciate each and every comment!  And special thanks to Liz for pointing me in the direction of the seam gauge for the Featherweight.  I have one on order, as well as a 1/4" foot for the Featherweight -- one of these two options should work, and I'm looking forward to improving the accuracy of my Featherweight piecing very soon.  Thank you so much, Liz!

The Janome is going in for its repair next Tuesday, and may be out of commission for up to two weeks.  Boo hoo!  It takes so long to have a minor repair done, it is frustrating -- but of course I am very glad to have my little back-up machine.

Time to tidy up and get to work.  I hope your day is off to a good start!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

rough hewn

Late last night, in a moment of wine-infused impulsiveness, I pulled out my little storage box of scraps and blocks for the Farmer's Wife QAL, oiled up my 1947 Singer Featherweight, and made a couple of blocks. 

These are my first foray back into the FWQAL in three weeks -- and made without the lovely reliability of my Janome, on which I have finally mastered the scant 1/4" seam.

I can almost, but not quite, get a consistent seam on the Featherweight.  I am using a clear 1/4" foot, and it just isn't quite as controlled as I would like. It has worked just fine for the construction of a quilt top like this one, pieced entirely on the Featherweight:

But in detailed little blocks like those in the Farmer's Wife sampler, every little smidge off a 1/4" matters...and before you know it, points are swallowed, corners misalign, and the farmer's wife is in tears.

Well, nothing that dramatic happened, but some further tweaking is definitely in order if I'm going to keep piecing FWQAL blocks on the Featherweight.

But, for now, at least I have a little something to add to the pile (38 blocks in total).  Here, in all their imperfect glory, are block 12, Broken Sugar Bowl:

and block 15, Buzzard's Roost

I had to re-do several seams, several times, so these blocks are not pretty from the back...but, in their defense, they do measure 6.5" square, so they are entirely usable for this project (despite some blunted points and imperfect joins...).

And they immortalize a crazy, busy, productive, unusual, Janome-less time in my life.

So there!

Happy farming, everyone.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I write like...

...Lewis Carroll??  Who knew??

According to the "I Write Like" analyzer, my most recent blog post is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll.  So my writing is, basically...nonsense (of the highest order, but nonsense nevertheless).


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Enchanted bobbin, indeed

As a fairy tale scholar, I should know a lot about the vagaries of enchantment.  Once upon a time, I joked that my sewing machine was enchanted, that it seemed to spin out project after project, magically, with very little input from me (or so it seemed in those leisurely days of maternity leave and sabbatical). Ha ha.


I chose to call this blog "the enchanted bobbin."  Clearly I forgot all my fairy-tale lessons about naming determining fate, and vice versa. 

So, yes, true to my blog name, my bobbin is now enchanted, and not in a happy way.

I was stitching away, glad to be home from our conference and happy to steal 10 minutes to sew something up (on a whim) for Lynne's "Dead Simple Quilt-along"... and then -- CLICK. 



Bobbin is bewitched. 

It will not play nicely in this sewing game, no matter what I do.  I have removed the bobbin case, cleaned it, added a single drop of oil to the wick (first time since I bought the machine 14 months ago), replaced the bobbin case (several times over), rethreaded the bobbin, but all to no avail.

My beloved machine needs a fix, and hopefully the Janome dealership can break the spell, quickly and relatively painlessly.  Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I am happy to have my handstitching project, which I worked on while my sweet husband did the driving to and from the conference, and while our 2-year-old amazed us with her new-found ability to amuse herself in the back seat.  We did have some help in the form of a portable DVD player, and our friends "Charlie and Lola" and "Peppa Pig" -- but I was very surprised at how low-key the drives actually were this time around.

I managed to make 10 hexagons worth of 60-degree diamonds, and have many more diamonds basted and awaiting assembly. 

I tossed caution and planning to the wind, and just added diamonds of any hue and a result, my tumbling blocks look a little unbalanced, but I think I am going to plow forward and just trust that it will work out in the end!  (These hexagons are not yet joined, so I can still play with arrangement when I have a quilt-top's worth ready to go.)

I don't have much time right now to sew, anyway, but if I really start to suffer from machine-sewing withdrawal I can use my 1947 Featherweight...which is currently buried under a pile of books! 

In the interest of full disclosure, here is an unretouched photo of the "power chair" where I do almost all of my writing, grading, and editing (computer on my lap).  Off to the right are books and papers, predominantly but not exclusively work-related, and the black box skulking in the corner is my Featherweight.  A Groovy Girl mermaid doll and plastic shopping cart are never far away.

 So back to the chair and back to work I go. Hopefully I will soon be reacquainting myself with the good side of sewing magic....

Good wishes to you all...use them wisely...and no wishing for more wishes, cheeky monkeys....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

EPP on the road

I should preface everything by saying I am now in the midst of the craziest month in recent memory!  It is exciting to be so close to major deadlines (my collaborator and I have an ISBN! we are negotiating cover art!  but we also have 30+ text intros to write...gulp), but also dizzying.  In a typical teaching semester I work really hard, but this is truly exceptional.  It's a little nuts, completely unsustainable, but it is also not going to last forever.

Anyway, my husband, littlest one and I are headed to a conference tomorrow, traveling by car.  My amazing husband gave me the gift of hours of quiet time yesterday, and I managed to finish my paper, which I'm presenting on Thursday but needs to go to the panel discussant this evening. Phew. 

Today we are celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving, and now we actually have a little bit of leisure time to prepare for our trip tomorrow.

When it became clear that I really was near the end of my paper, my mind turned to -- what else -- a little sewing project I could take with me.  Right now, a day in the car sounds like fun: no e-mail, no pressure to write or research or prep or grade.  I'm going to SEW!

I already have two English paper piecing projects underway.  One is a grandmother's flower garden started many months ago:

The other is my Loulouthi hexie project, which is inching towards completion.

Neither of these projects is highly portable at the moment...BUT I have been inspired by the 60 degree diamond quilts that have been all over the blogosphere and flickr...there's even a quiltalong group.  You can see some gorgeous shots of their works-in-progress here.  The ones that really caught my eye feature scrappy tumbling blocks (sets of three diamonds) set between white stars (sets of six diamonds).

Yesterday I raided my overflowing scrap bag and started churning out 2" 60-degree diamonds.  Luckily I have a big bag of the paper templates from

But I was having copy-cat anxiety.  I couldn't bring myself to replicate that project so exactly, as gorgeous as it is.  I needed a twist.

White or off-white was guaranteed to work for the stars that dominate my inspiration project, and gray is always a possibility...but I think I have reached a gray-saturation-point. So for my solid I decided to audition a gorgeous Kona "amethyst" (I'm 95% certain that's the shade.  I really need a Kona colour card!). Why not try something a little more daring, right?

I'm happy to say that I love the effect of the amethyst.  Some of the Kona shades are kind of magical: there is something about the level of colour saturation that is so beautiful I can almost taste it.  Does that make sense?  Colour delight that is is a wonderful thing.

There are a lot of loose ends and last-minute details to work out before we leave tomorrow -- we can't travel by tricycle in our pj's, although Frida is game to try.  But I'm happy that I do have a fun new project to carry along.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian friends, and 
I hope you have a great week wherever you are!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Project Ramone

Remember Ramone, the (formerly) stray cat who adopted us last month?

Well, I'm happy to report that he is doing great!  I hope I won't bore you to tears by offering a full account of Ramone's journey towards domestication. He has turned out to be the gentlest cat I have ever known -- he is a total sweetheart, completely submissive to plump old lap cat Penelope (despite the fact that he is a young street kid and infinitely stronger than she).

When Ramone first turned up on our doorstep, we were immediately struck by the fact that Penelope -- who hisses and spits and puffs up at the sight of any strange cat -- was completely relaxed around this new little visitor. Interesting.  They even touched noses through the window screen. Hmmm.

We fed Ramone for about a week, and after a family survey and blind ballot we named him...a sure sign that we were growing attached.

Then he disappeared. And then I spotted him on the porch of a local house that supports a feral cat colony.  "Oh, Ramone!" Our eyes met.  He didn't show his face around here for about a week.

And then he came back.

And he looked terrible.  Skinnier than ever, lethargic, and sad looking.

We had never managed to touch him, he looked sickly, and this time around I was feeling very hesitant about feeding him.  Did we want a sick, unfixed male cat hanging around?  Well, no. And I couldn't imagine ever being able to get him to the vet.

My daughter Chloe decided to set up a cat carrier as a little hideway on the front porch, with the hope that Ramone might take to it.  I was skeptical, I'll admit it.  But within 10 minutes -- Ramone was in his box!  He had just saved his life.

Long story short: we got Ramone to the vet, he was neutered and immunized, he went through a course of antibiotics to treat his infection-related anemia...and now he is thriving.  He has discovered that he loves being petted -- so much so that any time I raise my hand to take a photo, he dives at it for a pet.  So most recent pictures look something like this

or this

or this (you can see that Penelope is continuing to keep a close eye on her new sibling)

But I did get one decent picture while my husband played interference with the cat treats.

Ramone has lots of scars and F.I.V. -- souvenirs of his rough start in life.  He is also a little skittish, unaccustomed to the kinds of noises and activity characteristic of indoor family life. But he is a total sweetheart and (I know I'm biased) isn't he a cutie?  I love him.

Ramone likes little corners and hideaways so I'm planning to make him a couple of little houses.  I have ordered a back issue of Stitch for this pattern by Penny of Sew Take a Hike:

I have the perfect fabrics for this project...can't wait.

Okay, that's Ramone's story to date.  In the coming months I hope to have some pictures of him curled up on a quilt, safe from winter storms! I can think of no better use for a quilt.

Have a good day, everyone.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September in retrospect

Fresh Sewing Day
I'm linking up with Lynne's Fresh Sewing Day again this month -- so to anyone who might have stumbled over here from Lily's Quilts: WELCOME!  Thank you so much for coming by, and I hope you see some things here that interest you.  As a fairly new blogger with a very small set of followers, I truly appreciate being able to share my work, and love to get feedback!

It's really such a lovely thing Lynne does -- giving everyone a chance to reflect on the month past, to look at others' work, and to encourage networking among stitchy bloggers.

September was a terribly busy month for me -- although October will be even more intense with one minor and one MAJOR (book manuscript! gulp!) deadline barrelling towards me. 

Nevertheless...I did have two finishes in September, both gifts for teachers at little Frida's Montessori school. 

At the beginning of the month I finished up "Blue Skies and Sunshine," a wedding gift.

More recently, I made a baby quilt,"[Gray geese] over the rainbow."

There was also some Farmer's Wife QAL progress, after a long hiatus:

some hexalong-ing:

and some first steps (and one little mis-step) for a new project:

I've said it before, but I really mean it: in the midst of a high-intensity and high-stress period of my life, I truly appreciate the windows of creative time, however narrow they may be. 

Thanks again for coming by!