Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Big Tidy Up

One small task I accomplished today was the tidying up of my craft supply cupboard (not to be confused with my fabric cupboard, twice as large and currently in need of a serious overhaul/refolding session).

Along the way I (re)discovered a few things, including a number of quilt works-in-progress, but also a pack of vintage nursery rhyme embroidery transfers and a "Mary and Her Lamb" I must have embroidered well over a year or so ago.  What was once forgotten at the back of the cupboard will now, with just a little more work, make a nice big pillow for Frida's bed.

I also reaffirmed the fact that I have a lot of garment patterns -- some that I'm not sure about (at one point last year I gravitated towards retro dress patterns with high necklines, but these do not suit me!), and others that I would really like to make.  I had the very pleasant surprise of a Lisette blouse -- still a bit high in the neckline, but not too bad -- on which I had practiced my FBA, and which I had left 5/6 complete last summer.

It fits quite well and all I have to do is set in the short sleeves and hem!  Yay! My wardrobe needs a boost, so I'm definitely going to finish this and try to put a little time into summer clothes.  I have the fabric, I have the patterns, I think I'm starting to figure out how to adjust patterns to fit (relatively well), in about a month I'll have some time -- there's nothing to lose.

In the spirit of use-it-or-lose-it, I decided to revive a Farmer's Wife block I had marked as "reject" because of the fabric choices; looking at it again, I think it's just fine.  In fact, I quite like it.  So back into circulation it goes, block 94, Tall Pine Tree:

block 94, Tall Pine Tree
And I have a couple of other FW blocks to add to the stack:

block 63, Ozark Maple Leaf

block 47, Homemaker

And finally, I have a new obsession -- with handquilting, thanks in large part to Carolanne's "whole cloth" quilting class which started yesterday at the workroom.

I traced quilting designs onto two pieces of fabric yesterday, including one soft, earthy yellow I dyed during the natural dyeing "camp" I took at the workroom last August.  I went a little nuts last night, and stitched the whole thing with a beautiful Valdani 30wt variegated thread.

You can get a much better sense of the yellow colour of the naturally-dyed cotton here.  I used plain muslin for the back, since this will be a pillow.

My stitches improved a lot in the course of the day!

Now I am really excited to tackle something more ambitious.  Have you made any discoveries lately?

p.s. The title of this post is for the benefit of my parents, who bought this book for a little dark-haired girl with a very messy room. I know they'll remember it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

And then there were 76.

Newly harvested FW blocks:

block 49, Honeycomb

block 46, Hill & Valley

block 84, Spool

block 91, Strawberry Basket

block 101, Wedding Ring

block106, Wild Rose and Square

block 88, Star of Hope

block 99, WCTU

block 25, Cups & Saucers (take 2...still not satisfied, but it's a keeper nevertheless)

I now have 76 blocks total -- time for a group shot! 

Looking at these together, it's a LOT of colour and I'm thinking that this quilt will need wider sashing than Laurie Hird plans for in the book.  The upper of the two white solids in that photo is Essex Linen, and I think that's what I'll use for my sashing. 

That said, I think I'm just about done -- because with wide(r) sashing this is going to be one HUGE quilt, even if I stop at 83 blocks (in the book, 83 blocks are used -- with the narrow 1" sashing -- to make a twin-sized bed quilt).

I'll have to stare at this photo a bit to plan my next steps.  What do you think, wise readers? 2" sashing?  On point?  Tangerine cornerstones or maybe that grassy green? I can't believe I'm almost there!!

Have a great day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

and yet MORE Farmer's Wife blocks

...guess who's still housebound?  Yes, that would be me.  And for the third day in a row, the only tasks that seem doable -- beyond e-mail, which never ceases -- is the making of Farmer's Wife blocks.

Soon all will be back to normal, I'll be back to (my version of) reality, and my FWQAL productivity will likely grind to a halt, or at least slow down dramatically.  But for the time being, I'm enjoying these little diversions.  And the palette grows cheerier every day, which I'll take as a good sign (of what, I'm not sure..?!).

Here today's harvest:
FW block 24, Country Path

FW block 30, End of Day

FW block 44, Gentleman's Fancy

FW block 37, Flower Pot

I was inspired by Hadley's recent post about using iPhoto for a relatively low-tech approach to brightening up craft photos with a white surround (there must be a name for that?), but my pic's didn't want to cooperate fully (they were extremely over-exposed when I followed Hadley's steps...just today's light conditions, I suppose).  But at least this got me to fiddle with the photos a bit, and render them a bit brighter (closer to their material realities, actually) than they sometimes appear here.

If you have any simple ways to jazz up your craft photos, I'd love to hear about them!  Enjoy your...what day is it?...Saturday, right.


Friday, March 16, 2012

all I'm good for

I'm pretty useless today, and feel VERY lucky to have such an amazing husband: he gave Frida a fun and active day, taking advantage of the beautiful weather while I convalesced at home.  And now he's making dinner.  He's an angel (with a little devilishness thrown in there, too!).

All I seem able to do today is make easy Farmer's Wife blocks.  "Easy" in this case means blocks I can make without using templates (not up to that!).  In some cases this also entails some adaptation of the designs as they appear in the book (guessing on proportions).

Some of these I like better than others, but that's the nature of a sampler quilt, right?  That's what I'm telling myself, anyway :)

I'll start with my favourite of the morning blocks, Prairie Queen:

Feeling a bit lukewarm about block 107, Windblown Square:

 and block 98, Waterwheel:

But that's okay.

And it certainly didn't stop me from making an afternoon set, in slightly more cheerful colours I think.

Here's block 108, Windmill:

Block 111, Wrench:

and block 109, Windows:

This brings my FW total to 61, past the halfway mark.

Looking forward to some healthy, active days -- even if that means a slowdown on the FWQAL front.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

sick day

I stayed home from work today to nurse a nasty cold.  I had held out a good, long time -- all three kids had the flu earlier in the month -- but I guess my defenses were finally down.  So now it's my turn to be sick.

In my line of work it is sometimes more complicated to take a sick day than not, so I only cancel classes when I really can't function.  For instance, today it would have been so much easier to lead a discussion about "Red Riding Hood, or The Saucy Squire of Sunnydale" (a panto script from 1900) than it was to set up discussion boards and write a full prezi for this unit of my fairy-tale seminar.

Because I have a few readers from the UK, and in case they're curious, I am linking that panto prezi (if you're not familiar with prezi, it's a snazzier presentation tool than powerpoint.  You just need to use the forward arrow at centre bottom to navigate your way through). Bear in mind that North American students generally know nothing about panto: it is totally foreign to their experiences of the fairy tale in popular culture.  And they are sometimes a little resistant to its campiness (I'll see what I can do about that!). Feel free to chime in here, and I'll pass your thoughts along to my students.

Okay, so that took up the first half of my sick day.  I tried to nap, but was too achy to relax.  So I made some Farmer's Wife blocks (logical, right?).  At very least the sewing (and the 4 dozen 1" HSTs involved in the first two blocks) took my mind off my sinuses.

Here are block 26, Cut Glass Dish:

Block 27, Gathering Birds:

And I finally tackled block 18, Century of Progress:

I took some liberties with the construction of Gathering Birds (to avoid having to locate or make any templates) and Century of Progress (to keep the asymmetry of the one in the book, but to do so in a way that was more pleasing to my eye).

I believe this brings my total to 55 FW blocks, so I'm just about halfway there! This is definitely the biggest quilt project I have ever tackled...but I imagine it will feel very satisfying to complete it. 

It has been a fairly tedious day, I'm fighting the cold-induced blues (being sick always gets me down), and I could use some distraction -- so your thoughts about campiness and the fairy tale, working on big projects, or crafting while congested would be most welcome.

Regardless, have a good day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

a long Wednesday

There are no work-in-progress shots today.

This is the mid-point in a pretty crazy week here, with all three kids off school for March break but my hubby and myself still trying to plow forward through week 9 of our 12-week teaching semesters.

Yesterday was a busy but really great day, with my friend and collaborator Christine making a guest appearance in one of my undergrad seminars.  We have done almost all of our research and writing together long-distance (thank you skype), so this is a rare treat to work side-by-side.  With everything we were trying to accomplish during her visit, we agreed that the most difficult task for us was getting a decent photo to send to a campus reporter.  We can talk and theorize endlessly, but try to get us relaxed in front of a camera? Ha!

So the choices were either too relaxed --

Or something that allows us to maintain a little dignity while still looking like ourselves -- or at least ourselves after two 90-minute commutes, two seminars, and South Indian take-out. I'll leave you to guess who is who :)

Christine has to do research on her own today, because while my Wednesdays are usually grading-and-prep-and-sanity days, March break means that today will be a childcare day too.  Right now Frida is watching an episode of the Backyardigans; and did I immediately start grading?  Well, no, it is 8:30 a.m. and I hardly slept (cue sad violins), so instead I attempted to get a few shots of some sweet FQs that arrived from the UK yesterday.

Last year -- the year of the VQB/virtual quilting bee, for me -- I helped Kaelin to coordinate Bee (A Little Bit) Japanese.  This is where I met Paula, who is not only a lovely person and talented quilter but also an independent fabric designer. I love using unusual fabrics, ones you won't see everywhere, and these little lovelies are the latest additions to my stash.

Of course, Ramone had to hijack this photo shoot as per usual.

Ramone is apparently a much better photo subject than his humans...if only the university paper wanted to do a story on him!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday morning in Marrakech

Today I'm having a stroll around Majorelle Gardens with my lovely friend Annabella of Life's Rich Pattern as part of her interview series, "My Modern Muse."  How fun!  You can read a transcript of our conversation here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring cleaning!

Tomorrow my friend and collaborator Christine arrives from Salt Lake City. This year we finished a mammoth manuscript together and are once again putting our respective undergrad seminars into dialogue online, but now we are also going to be visiting each other's classes, in the flesh.  My students are in for a treat on Tuesday, and in about a month I will be in SLC to visit both U of Utah and Brigham Young, where I have another good friend and colleague. Lots of little adventures coming soon.  But today is all about SPRING CLEANING chez Bobbin.

Five people and two cats make a lot of dirt. Oh yes.

Now the sun is shining and our winter's worth of ick is disappearing.

The oddest discovery of the morning were the four empty Janome bobbins I found in the kitchen: two under the fridge and two under the stove. (And then there's also the one under the sofa, which was sucked into oblivion by the vacuum.)

I think this was Penelope's handiwork (perhaps her version of spring cleaning?).

But of course this is a sewing blog, so back on topic: the only sewing I have been able to do has been by hand, very small bits of progress on last summer's Loulouthi hexagon project -- but it's progress nevertheless. Photos soon, I promise.

It really feels like spring is around the corner now, and I couldn't be happier about that.  The past 12 months have represented quite a tough year for me and my family, one of those once-in-a-decade kind of tough years. I am looking forward to the start of a new cycle for us all!

So here's to fresh starts, clean floors, and sunshine!  Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Finally in the mail

So this afternoon I finally got myself over to the post office and mailed a little package of giveaway goodies to Jan. 

Jan liked the idea of a surprise (and I'll try to maintain a little mystery here).  She told me she likes "anything bright and modern really or a bit quirky."  So I put together a couple of things Jan has seen before...

...and a couple of things that are difficult to get outside of the U.S....

...and then, for good measure, I added a couple of quirky Japanese gems...

I'm sorry it took me so long to get this done, but hope Jan has fun with these!

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Berry Patch

Hours and hours of grading, and then I couldn't take it anymore; threw my down jacket on top of my pj's and shoved my bare feet into my snow boots, grabbed my camera and "Berry Patch" -- recently completed after a Sunday frenzy of hand-quilting (a first) --  and marched outside...on one of the coldest days of the year.  I guess I really needed a break!

I'm sure I looked like a madwoman, but I just adore this little quilt!  I do!!

It took me by surprise, this one -- started on a whim (wanted to make some "granny square" blocks), and also with the idea of a personal challenge (how to make that Kona plum work as a background colour for a stash low in purple?), and with no clear end in mind, I grew to love this project more and more over the past few days. [ETA: The granny square blocks were made from some of the 2.5" squares I had chopped up a couple of months ago, from pieces in my scrap bags. So while this project didn't make much of a dent in my stash, it did make a tiny one in my scrap collection!]

The addition of Annie's Seed Catalogue as the sashing fabric was the turning point for me.   

As you can see, it is pretty grey day here, with just a little sunlight peeking through, but I was finally able to capture the colour of the "plum" solid.

One of my favourite stashed prints --stashed no longer! -- "Viva" by Alexander Henry, is the backing fabric. Those great, big, juicy white-and-grey Michael Miller polka dots are the binding fabric.

If this were a few inches smaller I could enter it in the "Modern Mini" quilt challenge that wraps up today.  But, alas, it is 41 x 41" so it remains my own private challenge quilt.  Maybe it's better that way.

Armed with fresh packs of nice sharp embroidery needles and a stash of perle cotton, I think there's more hand quilting in my future.

In the meantime, rest assured that the perle cotton will be put to good use.