Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thea's Garden, in progress

This little quilt is coming along, now pin-basted and ready for quilting.  It looks a little crumpled this morning (it was folded overnight), but you can get the basic idea:

The design is from Scrapbasket Sensations by Kim Brackett -- although I made mine smaller and left out the large print border.  To make the "flowers" I drew on samples of old favourites from and new additions to my stash.

My husband commented that the whole thing was looking a little "grown up" for its intended recipient, a 2-year-old girl.  So I tried to lighten things up a bit on the back.

The backing fabric is a yard of a cute Jay McCarroll print that has been looking for a good home, along with some lettering that I improvised...and is thus a little uneven:

This is just a little gift, so I'm thinking I probably shouldn't do any elaborate quilting...maybe just stippling...but then I wonder if I should take every opportunity to keep trying to expand my repertoire.  Can I maintain a category of small, quick projects, and another of ambitious skill-builders?  Any suggestions would be most welcome!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let's call it "shabby chic"

I'm exhausted.  Totally and utterly exhausted.  I won't trouble anyone in my teeny, tiny blog readership with details, but the upshot -- sewing-wise -- is that my recent bits of stitching are far from perfect.

I'm okay with imperfection.  In my current state I simply can't fret about small things like imperfect seams!  In fact, having even a little time for sewing feels like a beautiful, precious luxury.

Here's what I made in the past few days.

First up is block #2 in Sheila/Blue Patch Quilter's Mystery Quilt-along: "starry path," a beautiful paper-pieced block.  This is my version, in all its outrageous and imperfect glory:

Starry joins the big star block from week 1; I like to think of them as two outrageously dressed but relatively down-to-earth sisters, women you would want to spend time with even if their outfits sometimes made your head spin.

I also made a couple of test blocks for Thea's Garden -- a little quilt I'm going to make for a toddler I've never met, daughter of a sweet and generous young woman. 

This one is going to be a festival of pink and purple "flowers" on a pale yellow background.  I love the look of the elephant fabric, to the left (fabric designed by my bee-buddy Paula Ozier), especially next to the Innocent Crush block, to the right.

Hmmmm.  I think that's all I have in me right now.  But I sure would love some comments (cue tumbleweeds...), so if anyone feels chatty or has similar experiences of trying to be creative against the odds, please feel free to chime in!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When did I do that?

May has turned out to be an unexpectedly busy month, and being caught up with high-priority, time-sensitive tasks leaves me with little creative time...or so I thought.

Last night I gave my (very patient and tolerant) 17-year-old son a look at recent finishes and stitchy items-in-progress -- and it struck me that, somehow, I am managing to keep making things.

I am so glad.

Sewing has become an important part of my life!  I knit for decades, and loved it, and was/am quite good at it, but sewing is so versatile and (sometimes) so quick and satisfying -- it has provided such a welcome balance into my life.

So I am particularly happy to see that even when under pressure and some stress there are still little windows of time into which I can fit some stitching, and those stolen moments do add this:

    and these, made for Christine (her nephew, actually!) in Bee (A Little Bit) Japanese:

With such terrible limits on my time as I've had lately, it has been hard to get motivated to make bee blocks...but I'm so glad I worked on Christine's blocks last night.

She had requested a cheater star, and provided a really cute assortment of car-themed Japanese fabrics.  The second block was also to pick up on the "transport" theme.  I'm calling mine "Ambulance Chaser."

I also started on the week 2 block for the Blue Patch Quilter's Mystery Quilt-along.  More on that soon!

Monday, May 16, 2011

rain, rain go away!

It's a dreary day here, cold and rainy, and I am hunkered down inside. But my thoughts are elsewhere.  I am blessed with an incredibly creative, strong, hard-working, generous, kind-hearted woman as my mother.  I love her so much.  She deserves all the good fortune in the world. 

On to a little stitchy distraction: the weather is clearly NOT cooperative, so I have gone ahead and photographed my latest finish, the orange string quilt.  It is sunny and cosy and crinkly.

This quilt is not my best work to date, far from it.  But I learned something from making it, it is cheerful and comfortable and will get lots of use on our living room sofa.

I'm not a great photographer, and every one of my quilty photo shoots has one of these -- a crooked kitty-cat action shot with my toes in the frame. Today we're letting it all hang out.

While I had the camera out, I decided to get some photos of our bed quilt -- the largest I've ever made (queen size), made to coordinate calmly with our Amy Butler curtains in our cosy little "master" (ahem) bedroom, and one that I actually finished several months ago.

Really I should place "finished" in quotes, since this quilt went straight into daily use before I could snip all the threads...and there are even some stitches (an aborted attempt at quilting inside the large circles) that need to be unpicked.  Oh well. This one is warm and well-loved.

It is backed with the softest flannel -- Anna Maria Horner's Good Folks.  Of course this makes it heavy, and the free motion quilting was quite a workout.


Currently on the machine: my little quilt for the Toronto Modern Quilt Guild "solids" challenge! Robert Kaufman generously donated charm packs of Kona Cotton in the "dusty palette."  The challenge in our branch of the MQG is to make a quilt top from that charm pack plus no more than 1 yard of 1 additional fabric (from our own stash). 

I am making a square playmat.  I cut the "charms" (5" squares) into 2.5" squares and then paired them with an oatmeal solid.

If you look closely (and of course that's what little ones do when they're playing, right?) you can see that I embroidered the word "play" in the centre square of a nine-patch block.

I am now busy quilting little pebbles into the oatmeal sashing. 

This is a simple project, but I absolutely love it!  It looks like a game board, and I think it will inspire lots of play.  I can imagine little cars traveling the pebbled laneways, and action figures taking their places on the coloured squares....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

lost in the blogosphere

Phew, that was a long 21 hours of Blogger problems...but it's nice to see that my last post was restored.  Unfortunately, a few comments disappeared in the process.  My apologies to those who left them; I certainly did not erase them (!). 

I love to get comments -- I truly appreciate feedback and ideas and just the general sociability of communicating in this format.  Hopefully Blogger will cooperate to keep all of these conversations in tact and accessible.

I have a finished quilt to share (very soon -- I just need the nasty weather to end so I can take some photos) and a Modern Quilt Guild challenge quilt in process (and I'm very excited about this one), so there will be more to come very soon!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

"Did it come in any other colours?"

I have always been obsessed with colour and choices -- as evinced by my trademark childhood refrain (which I reputedly asked each and every time I received a gift): "Did it come in any other colours?"  I'm amazed I didn't discover quilting earlier in my life!

I recently joined a very fun and funny flickr group of quilters in a Mystery Quiltalong hosted by Sheila, aka bluepatch quilter.  Sheila is leading her blindfolded group through the making of a quilt, with block instructions posted fortnightly/biweekly.  At heart I'm still that little kid obsessed with colour and variety and possibility -- and I'm having a blast seeing the range of fabric choices and how they come together to create very different effects in the same block design.

MY CHOICES: I really wanted to participate, but I knew I couldn't justify any fabric I shopped my stash for the required amounts of fabric.  3+ yards of "background" fabric were required, and that limited my choices considerably: I have a lot of fabric (!), but very few of my cuts are over 1 yard.  I also found it very challenging to select fabrics without a sense of how I was going to use them -- but that's the challenge and the fun of this quiltalong, so I plunged ahead.

I settled on this Anna Maria Horner brown and pink polka dot fabric for the background (I have exactly enough, and took that as a good omen), paired with some retro-looking fabrics from a line called "Miss Modd" which I bought recently from the 1/2 price Z & S Fabrics sale.  I also have some pink Alexander Henry "Heath" in there, from my pal Brenda aka Pink Castle Fabrics.  I may mix in some solids just to calm the whole thing down...we'll see.

The colours in this photo -- taken under artificial light -- are quite distorted.  The palette is actually much more riotous, as you'll see in the photo of my first block, below. 

The first block was a biggie: 18.5" square, and I wasn't at all sure that my fabric choices were working...but I like the effect from a distance and my fellow quiltalong-ers have been very encouraging, so I'm just going to roll with it!

It is fascinating to see how different each quilter's block looks, based on individual fabric choices. I can hardly wait to see what Sheila will have us do next....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I was explored!

Wait -- that sounds vaguely obscene.  Let me clarify: my photos were explored.

I have sometimes wondered how certain people -- people I don't know, who aren't in any of my online groups, and whose user names I have never seen before -- have stumbled across my photos on flickr.

Well, I just discovered that 4 of my flickr photos have been "explored" -- featured on flickr's "Explore" pages based on the site's "interestingness" algorithm (?!).  I was once a high school math whiz (although you wouldn't know it from my career choice), but I find it difficult to imagine how exactly  this algorithm functions.  Regardless, I am delighted to find out that it is working to circulate my photos.

Here are the pic's deemed worthy by my new best friend, the Interestigness Algorithm. 

Two were of recent quilt tops made for friends:

One was of a finished quilt made as a Christmas gift for my dear friend Freda:

 And the earliest was of the very first bee block I ever made (last May):

The results may signal that (1) I make my best work as gifts for others (I was thinking about this today as I finished quilting my orange string quilt -- more on that soon) and (2) work-in-progress shots sometimes get more traffic than those of finished objects.  Hmmmm.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Hooray!  I finished the quilt for our friends who were married on Saturday!  I hope they enjoy it.

These GIANT blocks were from the quiltalong hosted by Lynne of Lilys Quilts.  They were great fun, although I did feel stressed at points about whether the whole thing would piece together nice and flat (it did, thankfully!) and since I decided to forego the quilt-as-you-go instructions I did have some interesting decisions to make about the quilting of such enormous circles.

Nevertheless, I'm particularly happy with the quilting on this one (a combination  of straight-line, free motion quilting, and stitching-in-the-ditch...the latter of which, I discovered, can be done well with my Horizon's Accufeed foot and a needle position of 0.2).  You can appreciate the quilting best from the back view...although you may need to squint a bit to see it in these photos.

Really, I like everything about this quilt -- the design, the fabrics, the quilting, the super-soft shot cotton binding.  I think it's the best quilt I've made so far -- but hopefully I'll get better (or at least learn something new) with each project.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

sewing deadlines

My professional life is defined by deadlines -- but I don't generally sew under any kind of pressure at all.  Today, however, I was sewing like mad, trying to finish the piecing of the quilt I'm making for our friends who are getting 3 (!!) days.

I'm very happy with today's progress -- these blocks are the giant dresdens from the Lily's Quilts quilt-along -- and now I have two more schooldays (i.e. child-free days) to get this gift basted, quilted and bound.  (The quilt-along has directions for a QAYG/quilt-as-you-go method, but I'm piecing and then quilting this in a more conventional way.  This doesn't seem like quite the right time to experiment with a new quilting method!)

I didn't use all six of the blocks I had made -- due to time constraints, but also because this is already one BIG quilt (plenty for two laps). In fact, this thing is so big that I had to recruit my long-armed husband for a photo shoot. 

I spent so much time at the sewing machine today that I started to get a cramp in my right (pedal) foot...I'd say that that is a sign of a FULL day of stitching.  Time for a break...more later....