Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday morning

When everything in adult life seems a bit daunting, stressful or unrewarding, it's nice to tune into the energy of a cat.  On Sunday, Penelope basked in sunlight, and nuzzled recently-completed quilts.

And then I had to go and stick a camera in her face.

She did go back to sleep.  She's good at that.

This morning, I turned to something manageable before tackling the challenges of the week.  I caught up on the blocks for bluepatchquilter's Mystery Quilt. 

First I made the HST star from week (or really fortnight) 3:

And then I made the two Ohio Stars assigned for session 4:

I am now all caught up with this fun quilt-along.

I hope this sets the tone for the days to come -- and that everyone is finding something rewarding to do at the start of this week!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday catch-up

No sewing today, but documentation of FOs can use some catch-up work, so today's post is All Business.  Here we go:

Miss F wore a Mod Kid "Frida" dress -- and although I'm linking Patty Young's website, I think the Frida pattern is OOP (sadly).  This is the 2nd "Frida" dress I've made (so far), but one that I don't think I have ever photographed.

It's a little crumpled, and I think both F and I were feeling a little impatient during our photo shoot, but you get the idea:

Cute, huh?

I have to say again that I love this pattern: it is sized very generously (the 2T is still roomy on our tall 2 1/2 year-old) and is easy to get on and off, the pattern itself has great instructions and lots of possibilities for variation...seeing her in this dress today makes me want to make another one (or two!).

And of course the pattern has the best name ever!!
Next: I finally photographed the finished "Links" quilt, a gift for our friends W and L.  Again, I'm not sure today's photos do justice to the object itself....

Despite looking a bit crumpled here, this quilt really did finish nicely.  I quilted it in a big, loose version of stippling, and it is very soft.  The backing is a combination of the dark grey solid, some "Nest" paisley, and repro kitty print that the recipients will appreciate.

Finally: I recently made one of the more ambitious blocks for the Farmer's Wife sampler quilt: it is block #65, "Peaceful Hours" -- and it took two attempts to get it right.  After 11 blocks worth of good experiences with the FW templates, I ended up using foundation piecing for this one.

So that's about it.  It is a slow, hot, sleepy day....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On the cutting edge

Looky here: according to The Telegraph, quilting may be the next Big Thing.

I have a few thoughts I'd like to air, some general and some more personal.

First, I love the exposure this article gives to new waves of quilters.  I bristle slightly, however, at the idea that the craft's communicative possibilities, past and present (its capacity to be something more than decorative), are somehow "dark" and weird.  (See the article for context!)

It seems to me that depth of meaning is a latent part of any form of creative expression; whether a particular item (text, painting, quilt, whatever) achieves that depth of meaning is another matter, but I have yet to encounter a handmade object that didn't communicate something about its maker.  Being human, those makers are complex -- sometimes joyful, sometimes troubled -- and mortal. 

One of the things I love about quiltmaking is that it produces inherently intimate objects: each inch of a quilt has been handled multiple times, stitched, transformed during the making, and a finished quilt anticipates many more intimate encounters with human bodies -- laps, legs, tummies, hands, cheeks, toes.  An old quilt carries with it a history of encounters of with life and corporeality.  It is a beautiful, meaningful thing.  It is pulsing with life and intention -- and neither life nor human intention is uncomplicated.  There is nothing aberrant about sorrow or anger or even violence (unfortunately); they are part of human existence, and they are inevitably part of the fabric of quiltmakers' lives.  Beauty and complexity are compatible; any quilt enthusiast understands that!

Okay, I'm off my high horse -- and I do realize that the journalist in question needed a "hook," something sensational to write into her story about a craft that many general readers still see as decorative and quaint: in this case, she wanted to expose quilting's dark underbelly (!).

But back to the appeal of quilts.  Cats, dogs, and babies get it: they always gravitate to the hand-made objects.

When I wanted a wool-filled comforter for Miss F nearly 2 years ago -- certain that it would solve all her sleep issues (!) -- I was driven to make my first vaguely quilt-like thing. It was a completely improvised, whole-cloth blanket of sorts, stuffed with wool and quilted in an odd, irregular way.  And even before it was finished,  it drew her (and our cat Penelope) like a magnet.

When it came to binding the quilty-thing, I stumbled across Heather Bailey's tutorial for continuous quilt binding -- and EUREKA! a whole world of online creative stitchery opened up to me.

I think my skills have come a long way since then, and the possibilities for challenging and beautiful projects seem endless -- but the qualities that attracted me to the craft initially are still absolutely central. 

So will quilting be the next big thing?  And wouldn't you like to know more about the U of Glasgow researchers' findings re: the health benefits of quilting?!?  I know I would!

Making hay: Farmer's Wife quilt-a-long, episode 3

I know for a fact that there will be many weeks in the coming months when I cannot accomplish much towards long-term sewing projects like the Farmer's Wife sampler I am making hay while the sun shines! 

I just made up two more little blocks while listening to CBC (where I was so sad to hear that Canada Post workers have been locked out -- sad for them as a union, yes, but also sad for myself because I expected my Farmer's Wife book in the mail today.  That sounds very selfish, I know...but boo hoo).

Here is my interpretation of block #8, "Bouquet":

And block #51, "Hovering Birds":

Two morning "makes"; better than two cups of tea for starting this pretty spring day!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

FWQAL fever

For those who don't speak e-quiltese, the translation of my post title is "Farmer's Wife Quilt-along Fever."  And it's contagious!

The blocks are so wee and cute and quick...they almost sew themselves!

So in the tiny corners of my day I made "Calico Puzzle":


"Big Dipper":

I took a stab at "Basket" -- but since I am flying blind (my book has not yet arrived!), I didn't quite know what to do about appliqueing the basket handle.  (That poor little bias strip is just sitting on the sidelines, waiting for me to figure things out.)  I'm now thinking that I probably should have done that step before assembling the block, but for the time being I'm just going to put this aside -- at least until I have some guidance from The Book (or from my helpful friends in cyberspace!).

Finally, I just made my absolute favourite FWQAL block to date, simply called "Box" -- and I had to photograph it before the light disappeared altogether (so it's not even trimmed yet):

This block combines two aesthetics I love, but which I didn't expect to mesh well: the wildness of Kaffe Fassett prints and simplicity of vinatge feedsacks (the yellow and white print is a reproduction feedsack by Glenna Hailey for Maywood).  I know this combo won't be to everyone's taste, but I like it -- and I'm going to make it my goal in this sampler to (finally) use up the 1/2 yard of this Kaffe Fassett print.

I think I like where this is going!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Farmer's Wife and historical quilt design

Anyone who knows me is thinking, that woman needs another long-term project!  Or not.

I seem to have caught the highly contagious Farmer's Wife fever: I have joined the (viral) quilt-along based on Laurie Hird's bestselling book The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt: 55 Letters and the 111 Blocks they Inspired.  This sampler quilt is (as the title suggests) made up of 111 quilt blocks, each just 6.5" square.  I'm looking at the project as a little master class in historical quilt block construction, and love the fact that all the blocks are made from templates -- the way quilters shared and followed block designs before the advent of the rotary cutter.

The members of the FWQAL flickr group have gone a little nuts over the past week, churning out "Big Dippers," and "Calico Puzzles" like there was no tomorrow.  I have ordered my copy of the book from Amazon, but it won't be here for at least another week (boo hoo), so I just improvised a couple of the most straightforward blocks:  "Autumn Tints" and "Basketweave." 

The final layout of the sampler quilt has all the blocks positioned on point, like so:

I rearranged the layout of the Basketweave block slightly, to make it read less like a swastika (common to some classic quilt block designs -- but my interest in historical accuracy has its limits).

A fellow group member was incredibly generous, and e-mailed me the pdf of the template for block #1, "Attic Windows" -- so after two unsuccessful attempts at getting the right finished measurements, I finally got it:

I am not completely confident about my fabric choices for this sampler -- and choosing fabric is usually my favourite and least tortured part of the process.  So the matter on which I could really use some input is this: do I plow ahead (like a good farmer) or should I put some more time into planning this sampler?

Friday, June 10, 2011

sewing with a purpose

Conference paper: done.
Article revisions: nearly done.
Book intro: fully revised.
Critical piece on "genre": underway.

I have been making progress on work, and that calls for a little sewing...yes indeed.  And nothing motivates me to complete projects like the desire to give a gift.

A few days ago I had figured that my green-grey-pop of orange "Links" quilt top would be stashed away, completed at some point in the distant future.  But lo and behold, we received a skype call from our good friends W and L that very night, and while we were catching up with them they mentioned that L is going to have surgery in 2 weeks.

W and L are the sweet, funny, smart friends -- and they also tend to downplay the seriousness of events in their lives.  Everything should go just fine for L, but she will need some quiet recovery time...and what better comfort than a quilt?  Add to that the fact that they just bought their first house and painted their living room a soft green and white...brainstorm!  "Links" will be theirs, and now it's back in rotation, ready to be basted and quilted and gifted.  Yay!

Another gift is brewing, this one for my mother -- and it began as a stack of 2 1/2" strips of Moda "Frolic" (cut from a Moda scrap bag purchased at Fabric Depot in Portland last February) plus some sunny solids:

And currently at this state of development:

The design is based on "Sunny Trails" by Corey Yoder, aka Little Miss Shabby.  Of course, I had to make things much trickier for myself by making 9-patch blocks rather than 16-patch blocks (I already had 2 1/2" strips cut, yadayadayada) -- which messed up Corey's whole block design and meant I had to devise an alternate assembly plan.

Blah blah blah.

It really wasn't too hard in the end, not at all, but it wasn't mindless recipe following, either!  Maybe I'll include details in a later post on this quilt -- which is not yet fully pieced (I'm going to make a scrappy border, but am waiting for some Frolic yardage to arrive).

I hope you like it, Mama!

What motivates all of you?  Is it an idea, a shared project like a quilt-along, the recipient?  I'd love to know!

Monday, June 6, 2011

consider it scratched

Making the "links" quilt top reminded me of fairisle knitting: curiosity to see how the pattern emerged drives the maker onwards...just one more row and then I'll take a, there's that shape done, and the start of the next...maybe just one more....

It was a little windy today, so there's no one perfect shot.  My very patient husband held the quilt top while the wind blew it one way --

and the other --

My desire to solve this little puzzle of a pattern was like an itch that needed to be scratched, and it has been now: the top is complete, and I'm ready to put it aside. 

Somehow this project seems to have helped me to get my thoughts in order, again much as my knitting used to do in years past.  I feel ready, finally, after a month of "distraction" (actually very important and urgent family business that needed my attention) to turn with energy and focus to my writing projects -- both a book under contract, nearing completion, and a second really exciting project that my writing partner and I just dreamed up during a skype meeting yesterday.  I generally keep mention of my professional activities out of this blog, but maybe I'll mix it up a bit...if anyone's interested?

Friday, June 3, 2011

not pink and not orange

It's been quite a while since I made anything that didn't have either pink or orange in its palette.  These happen to be Miss F's (current) favourite colours...hmmm....

Anyway, night before last I was gripped by a sudden and very intense desire to play with brown and green and grey -- and I started chopping up fabric before bedtime, ostensibly for a "future" project.

The next morning I thought it might be nice to take Dot, my 1947 Singer Featherweight, for a little spin.

Vroom, vroom!  Next thing you know, I have almost half a quilt top, and although there is a touch of orange in it, there's no pink to be seen!

Design is from Kim Brackett's Scrap-Basket Sensations, sans batiks.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Garment sewing for quilters

I first started sewing in 2008 in order to make clothes -- and especially clothes for myself.  If I had devoted my creative time and energy to sewing garments, I would probably be pretty skilled by now.  I look at Tilly (from Tilly and the Buttons) or Peter (from Male Pattern Boldness), and all that these self-taught sewists have accomplished in just a couple of years, and I feel a little -- just a little bit -- sad.  But over the past three years things have changed.  I had (another) baby and  I discovered quilting.  My creative time and energy have been sent in several different directions.

Making clothes for a little one is great fun -- they are quick and easy and Miss F looks cute in everything! -- and quilting is completely addictive, creative, and satisfying.  Along those lines, I have a couple of recent finishes.

The other night I whipped up these little shorts from some denim scraps...they took about an hour to make, start to finish.

And Thea's Garden is now done, ready to be given to its little namesake.

Quilting (with all the possibilities of colour and pattern) has definitely taken up permanent residence in the creative corners of my brain; I think about possible projects all the time, and see quilt blocks everywhere -- but I still would like to be able to sew for myself.  So between writing tasks -- which are going to dominate my summer -- I am going to try to tackle some projects that are wearable and that are just for me.

Circumstances have conspired to make me feel less-than-glamorous recently (despite my husband's best efforts to make me feel otherwise -- thank you, sweet one!), but I am determined to make myself some simple summer dresses...ones that actually fit!

Towards that end, I have just finished a (first) version of M5882, which is a Kay Whitt pattern (aka Serendipity Studios) for McCalls.  I am getting better at adjusting commercial patterns to fit my body.

The most flattering shot --

And one of the less flattering shots (what happened to my legs?  And what's with the No Frills bin full of junk?) -- 

By the way: there were worse photos, but I have to maintain some degree of dignity!

I used some of my stash of quilting cottons for this dress -- a dark brown solid and a reproduction feedsack print...although I guess I might want to avoid anything called "feedsack" if I'm trying to feel better about myself and my wardrobe....

I made many, many adjustments to the pattern, including adding 2" to the bodice length, an FBA, a swayback adjustment, deletion of the neck and armhole facings (used white bias tape instead) and narrowing of the bottom band.  Next time (and I think I will make another version of this dress), I will make the dress a little bit shorter.


Back to the grind.