Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Baby "I" on her quilt!

Baby "I" on her quilt!, originally uploaded by wooly jen.

Our friends had their baby -- a beautiful baby girl!! Thanks to her mamma, I have this sweet photo of baby "I" enjoying some quiet time on her quilt.

What a little sweetpea!  I may have to get her to model all of my quilts....

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I haven't been able to find much time at the sewing machine this week.  The number of work-related things I need to accomplish before Tuesday (that is, day after tomorrow...gulp) has been slightly daunting, and has left me with little creative time.  But I will be able to switch gears soon -- or at least to rediscover something approximating "work-life balance." 

In the meantime, I have tapped into the pleasures of handsewing -- eminently do-able in the little 5 minute windows between student papers, while waiting for water to boil, or while playing a footsie version of "London Bridge" with my littlest one (yes, I can stitch, sing, and elevate my legs simultaneously...I am a multitasker!).

Inside this pretty tin box (lovely ladies selling insecticide)...

is everything I have needed to do a little hand-sewing  

of a tiny but growing field of hexagon "flowers"

but I have run out of pre-cut paper hexagons, and the ones I cut myself from printer paper are have 1200 paper hexagons on order (!). 

That should keep me busy!

Eventually this will make a nice "grandmother's flower garden" quilt, and I'm in this for the long haul....But I do already have an idea in mind for another hand-pieced project.  My biggest challenge in the next month or so is finishing up a few projects -- so I can start some new ones!

I'm curious: how many projects do you have in process?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Introducing "E," the sewing boy wonder!

I started teaching myself to quilt on a Kenmore sewing machine -- and even though she ended up in the closet a year later (when I fell for the Janome Horizon...sigh...) I still feel very affectionately towards that first machine. I have read that the Kenmore-labelled machines are actually made by Janome, but whoever is responsible for the design of that machine should be praised: it has a good manual and is also very well labelled (on the machine itself), making it relatively easy to thread, wind bobbins, switch stitches and all the other things that eventually feel like second nature.

Well, the Kenmore had been in the closet too long -- and now she finally has a new home, in a small city about an hour from here, with my friend Miriam's family...most especially her son E. 

Miriam is like an honorary sister to me, which makes her two boys honorary nephews. Close in age, the boys have very distinct personalities and talents: I'm absolutely certain that each of them will discover new areas of interest as they head into adolescence -- so I don't want to pigeonhole them -- but I think it's fair to say that E looks at the world like a scientist, or maybe an engineer (always busy building, making and unmaking) and his brother is both a great observer of social dynamics and a great athlete.  They're wonderful boys.

Over the weekend I gave E his first lesson on the Kenmore.  I showed him how to unscrew the plate, remove the bobbin housing, and clean out the lint.  We wound a couple of bobbins.  We threaded the machine.  He sewed lots of straight lines.  He tried out the zig-zag, stretch stitches, and the three decorative stitches.  He stretched the decorative stitches, first in length and then in width.  We made a buttonhole.

And then off he went, with the machine and a few scraps to play with.

E is the kind of person who only needs to be shown the workings of a machine once, and then he's got it.  He's been busy turning my scraps into useful items, and I can hardly wait to see what he makes in the coming weeks!

catching up on bee blocks

The remaining days of April are busybusybusy, but somehow (?!) I managed to carve out a few little moments to get caught up on bee blocks.

In Bee Scrappy, Amy requested Denyse Schmidt "drunk love"-inspired blocks in shades of grey and purple.  This is a stashbusting bee, so I had a chance to dip into my small stash of purples (I love them, but rarely think to use them...that may change).  First I made this block ("tipsy mushrooms"):

And then this one ("drunk Alice"), which may be one of my all-time favourites:

Coincidentally, both of the April "queen bees" in Sew Modern and Bee (A Little Bit) Japanese wanted Elizabeth Hartman's mod mosaic blocks.  Donna mailed out a rainbow of fabric scrap packages -- and I was lucky enough to get yellow (and I added a couple of little scraps to the mix!).  I absolutely adore this fresh, sunny block, and hope she does too:

For her part, HandmadeRetro sent beautiful Japanese fairy-tale prints to be "grouted" with chocolate brown quilter's linen.  The overall effect is very bold and graphic:

But you need to get up close to appreciate the Frog Prince:

and Pinocchio:

I look forward to seeing the finished quilt tops!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

big wheels for the wedding quilt, and some experimentation

I had an appointment cancelled this morning, and took advantage of the freed-up time to stitch like mad -- assembling all 6 of the (really big) wheels for M & T's wedding quilt.

One of the great things about working in a quilt-along group (I'm racing to catch up with Lily's Quilts Dresden QAL) is that I can offer up photos of my work-in-progress to a group of smart and helpful quilters.  Case in point: yesterday I stitched up and then posted on Flickr a photo of my first "wheel" for this quilt:

I had read that before stitching the inner circle and outer sashing, these blocks rarely lie flat -- but I was wondering if mine was perhaps too ripply.  Luckily, one of the eagle-eyed QAL members rescued me from my own stupidity: I had sewn together 22 leaves instead of 21.  Time for the seam-ripper.  All is now well, and I feel better about putting aside this project -- now in decent shape -- while I finish grading a set of portfolios. Phew.

One last little thing: fresh from the dryer, a quilt I started 6 months ago when I wanted to experiment with the FMQ on my (then new) Janome Horizon.

I pieced the top from a Moda scrapbag bought 18 mos. ago at Fabric Depot in Portland, OR.  I had been lured in by that particular scrapbag because a lovely strip of Kate Spain's "Fandango" (Alhambra) was visible -- but I opened the bag to discover that most of the fabrics were from Sandy Gervais's "Awesome" line.  Now these are not my favourite fabrics -- they're a bit too "Olive Garden" for my taste -- but they were perfect for a quilting experiment!  (And I have since discovered that many people like them, so this experiment will soon be given to a family member!)

What I really do love about this quilt is the way the free-motion quilting -- which I did with a light green cotton thread -- looks against the backing fabric, which is pieced from a beautiful Kaffe Fassett shot cotton (dark brown with a green cross-weave). The stitching doesn't photograph very well -- in reality, it looks like a flock (?) of butterflies, and it feels like buttah.  You'll have to take my word for it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

yet another project: the wedding quilt

I have a to-do list for work -- e-mails to send, grading to do, meetings to prepare for, articles to read -- but I think I now need a sewing to-do list. I'm not going to beat myself up over this, since each and every project underway, nearly finished, or about to be started is fun in its own way. Here it goes:

finish piecing:
Miss F's pink-and-green extravaganza
pin baste, quilt and bind:
orange string quilt
Bee (A Little Bit) Japanese quilt top
Dream On uneven stars [Sew Modern quilt top]
Frida's Neighborhood [Bee Scrappy quilt top]

PLANNED but not yet begun!
Negroni shirt(s) for MLH
reversible hooded jacket for Miss F
jeans for Miss F (the girl keeps growing!)
sundress for me
MPB Men's Jeans sewalong

Sewaholic Crescent Skirt sewalong

Lily's Quilts SAL: big dresden blocks

I have lots of grading to do today, but took a little time to cut 126 dresden leaf pieces for Lily's Quilts QAL. I am making a quilt for our friends M & T, who are getting married next month. I would have loved tackle a DWR (double wedding ring) quilt like the beauty made by my bee-buddy Kaelin, but I just won't have the time.

I know a DWR is in my future -- what a great challenge! -- but, nevertheless, I am very excited to be using my grey, black, white and blue fabrics for the giant dresden blocks in Lily's SAL!  (As I type this, I realize that I have been influenced by Kaelin's palette....)  Tally ho!

Monday, April 11, 2011

adventures in hat-making

I have finished a few little things this week, but they have not been far.  One project that I managed to complete was the sewing of a sun hat (yes, I am optimistic that spring has sprung, or will do so soon) for Miss F.

My first attempt was a flop...not "floppy" but a real flop.  I can't even be bothered to photograph it, but I will send out a warning to anyone planning to sew Butterick 5056: option A (top RH corner in the mosaic below) is drafted terribly.  Maybe there's a reason why they didn't show it on a real live baby!

The hat came out super-duper shallow -- it might work for an infant Frankenstein (or so says My Loving Husband, who knew that this first hat was oh-so-wrong and that he would be viewing as many hat-attempts as it took to get this right!).

The only good thing to come from this failed object is that I got the method down pat.

My next two attempts used the bucket hat pattern from the pretty new book by Liesl Gibson (of Oliver + S fame), Little Things to Sew.  I had pre-ordered this book, and luckily I made a mental note of the reversible hat featured in it.  So here it is, hat #2 in two colourways of a print from Anna Maria Horner:

It has barely left Miss F's head, but I will try to get a better photo of it soon.  In the meantime, I'm happy to report that the pattern is great, the instructions are well-written (as they always are from Ms. Gibson...I love her patterns!).  The only tricky step is the handsewing/slip-stitching of the second fabric "bucket" to the brim.  For some reason, this step was a snap on hat number #2, but didn't go so smoothly on hat #3.  We're just going to call that one a "lined hat" rather than a reversible one.  Photos of that soon....

Saturday, April 2, 2011

nine-patch for another spring baby

Tomorrow I am co-hosting a baby shower for the baby-group friend who is expecting her 2nd baby in just a couple of weeks.  She liked the idea of a baby-group-mommies' reunion, but specifically asked for NO GIFTS.  Of course, I had already made her forthcoming baby a little something-something, oh well....You can't really tell a quilter friend NOT to give a baby gift, can you?  Maybe quilts don't count.

And one of the other mommies in our little group is ALSO expecting a 2nd baby.  Hers is due in May, but while we're all gathered tomorrow I'm going to discreetly pass her a little gift too.

This second baby quilt is just a simple nine-patch, but I love the citrusy colour palette, the "Tufted Tweets" prints, the little elephants  (centre of each block and the full back) brought a little sunshine into the house, even if I did have to unpick some lousy straight-line quilting.

The quilting is still straight-line, but now in a bright tangerine, with a solid aqua binding:

I hope each baby enjoys his/her quilt and that each momma can forgive my rule-breaking.