Friday, June 29, 2012

gift season

I love making and giving quilts as gifts.  I really do.

This is fortunate, given that I have now established a pattern of giving baby quilts to each new addition to my social circle-formerly-known-as-baby-group (Frida's -- she and the other "babies" are now 3 - 3 1/2 years old, and several have welcomed new babies to their families in the intervening years).  We were supposed to get together for a picnic in the park last weekend, when I was going to give new baby Ben his quilt. -- but we were rained out.

So today I am finally going to deliver this most recently completed quilt, inspired by some recent fabric finds at Len's Mill in Guelph -- most especially a froggie print (Child's Play with Nate & Kate) that combines colours I loved as little girl of the early 70s, orange, brown, and green.  The same visit to Len's Mill yielded 2 yards (end-of-bolt) of Amnerican Jane dots in orange and an unidentified brown-and-green geometric print that I really like with the frogs.

another baby quilt-in-progress

From my stash I drew some solids and then I made a very simple quilt, letting the fabric do most of the work.

baby Ben's quilt

Frida likes baby Ben's quilt

baby Ben's quilt
I even added one of the little labels I had made last winter by etsy seller gutenTAGs.  I have been a bit shy about attaching these to quilts...until recently.  Now I'm on a roll!

labels, reverse

A little iconic sketch first made for me by my hubby years ago is featured on the back.

I could write (and considered writing) a whole post about the thread tension and other machine-related problems I had when I set out to free-motion quilt this project (all solved after a few hours of pulling hair and stitches)...but I don't think I have it in me. Another time, perhaps....

I also have been working steadily on hand-quilting on dad's king-sized bear paw quilt, a little every night, and loving it. The process is slow-going, but it is giving me a chance to look closely at each print I used, to enjoy the sweet harmony between prints -- it is really a pleasure.

But "gift season" is almost at an end -- I should be able to get the last quilt top for a friend fully pieced today or tomorrow -- and I have to admit that I am ready to get back to projects I had put on a back burner, like my Farmer's Wife quilt (111 blocks need to be sashed and I miss seeing them) and my Swoon quilt (which is 70% pieced). And given that this final gift quilt is very sedate (it is a mocha-and-parchment coloured interpretation of Denyse Schmidt's Irish Chain quilt from her new book...with a few pops of aqua thrown in), I feel that a project full of wildly riotous COLOUR is in my future!

It can be a little tricky to strike a balance between making for others (seeing through their eyes) and making as self-expression, don't you think?  Well, onwards...!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Granny's Tool Shed

It has been a while since I posted, but I have been a very busy bee.  The most important news for me is that my collaborator and I have finished the copy-edit checks on our manuscript, and the copyeditor has already cleaned it up and resubmitted to the press.  Typesetting is next!

It has been four years from proposal to typesetting; this is not a terribly long time in the world of academe (my first book -- single-authored, a monograph -- took ten years from concept to publication, ugh), but it still feels great to have arrived at this point.  It's pretty exciting to see it here and here. Yay!

In the context of my sewing life I do have other progress to report.  I have had to resist the temptation to share progress shots of a quilt I made for (another) one of Frida's Montessori teachers -- because a couple of them have been known to peek at this blog:)  Kelly's last day at the school is today, and her quilt is now ready.

Using another design from Kim Brackett's Scrapbasket Senstations -- this one is called "Tool Shed" -- I pulled a range of lavender, purple, blue, aqua, and pink prints from my stash. I was aiming for something pretty girly, more like Granny's tool shed.

Kelly's quilt

I pieced with Aurifil 50 wt on Dot, my 1947 Singer Featherweight, after giving her a thorough cleaning and oiling.  Dot may have been clean and tidy, but you can see that my work space was not.  Sewing is messy, at least for me!

messy messy

a handful of "tool shed" blocks

Granny's tool shed, in progress

The background and sashing fabric is an unidentified natural solid from my stash...I think it's Kona Bone. My favourite detail has to be the deep blue narrow border, which is Tula Pink's Parisville "French Lace."  I just love that shade of blue, also used in a couple of the tool shed blocks.

Granny's tool shed

I straight-line quilted...well straight-ish, anyway.

Tool shed, detail

I chose Kona Sky for the back and Lecien Petit Fleurs lilac pin dots for the binding. I used all the lilac pin dots I had for the binding, which says something about our family's feelings for Kelly!

Granny's Tool Shed, finis!

Granny's Tool Shed, back

Granny's Tool Shed, pre-gifting...Ramone will miss this one

Thank you for everything, Miss Kelly, and bonne chance!

Monday, June 11, 2012

surprising myself

I am hand quilting my king-sized Bear Paw quilt...and no one is more surprised than I am!

I started by hand quilting around the centre 2.5" square in each of the 30 blocks.  That seemed reasonable and something more readily done by hand than on the machine.  But once that was done I felt pretty exactly was I going to quilt this thing?  While at Sew Sisters the other day, buying the backing fabric, I picked up two spools of "Bottom Line" -- one taupe and one pale yellow -- figuring that they would be safe choices for machine quilting this project without losing a lot of the detail of the fabric (as can happen when doing all-over FMQ with a highly visible thread).  I love the texture in the Painters Canvas so much and didn't want it to be overwhelmed by quilting.

Anyway, it struck me that it would be nice to simply outline the "bear paws" themselves, but on the machine this would involve either a TON of manoeuvring and directional changes (if using the walking foot) OR a TON of precision free motion quilting, and both options sounded less like fun (this should be fun, right?!), more like wrestling a bear.

So this morning I decided to just see exactly how long it really took to outline quilt a block by hand.

the block that started it all

Well, it wasn't exactly quick, but then again I didn't have to take over the dining room, set up the machine, wind new bobbins, do a test swatch -- nor tear out any stitches.

And I love how hand quilting looks, even my slightly irregular stitches.  It's very relaxing to do and fun to look at.

hand quilting with variegated lemony Aurifil 12 wt

It probably wouldn't take so long if I didn't stop frequently to pet each little area of hand quilting, front and back.

hand quilting of Bear Paw, in progress

hand quilting, back view

I'm using a variegated Aurifil 12 wt from my favourite online thread supplier, Tristan Italian Threads. I don't know if my thread has an official name other than "4658," but I like to think of her as Lemon Meringue.

hand quilting with variegated Aurifil 12 wt

the hand quilting continues

The hand stitching I'm doing here is obviously pretty minimal and I'm still planning to machine quilt the outer border (probably straight lines using the spools of Bottom Line I bought for the project). Nevertheless, I have to admit that I have quite a bit of hand quilting ahead of me...but whose idea was this anyway???

 I'd love to hear about any crazy big projects you have taken on, without quite thinking it through...especially if your story has a happy ending! Best to all.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Getting basted on a Saturday night

Tonight I rolled up the rug, blocked the front door with the sofa, and basted my dad's king-sized quilt! It wasn't a pretty sight, but we're all friends here, right?

basting isn't pretty

Of course, Penelope was quite a pest while I was taping the back to the floor -- and she was much relieved when the whole process was done. Finally, she seemed to say, my comfy spot.

finally, a comfy spot!

I spent a long, long time at Sew Sisters yesterday, searching for a backing fabric that would work well with this quilt and not break the bank (!). The sweet staff of the shop and many rounds of their customers helped out. It was a team effort and I finally made a choice -- wallpaper roses from Heather Bailey's Pop Garden. The colours harmonize remarkably well with Secret Garden, and I don't think I would have been able to make this call if I were shopping online (my usual route). There is definitely something to be said for the brick-and-mortar shopping venue. My dad wanted something fresh and peaceful and I think this fits the bill. I love it!

my helper

Next up: quilting this monster! I used a lovely king-sized wool favourite batting. While pinning, it struck me that it would be awfully nice to use wool for my Farmer's Wife quilt, since I'm planning to hand quilt it...I might just need to visit the Connecting Threads batting sale.  Hmmm....

I hope you all are having fun tonight. I think it's time for a stiff drink and some episodes of Storage Wars.

I really know how to live it up.

Bye for now!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bear Pa

I'm thinking of my father today and happy to see his Bear Paw quilt fully pieced.  It's king-sized, the largest quilt top I have ever made!

bear paw

The bear paw blocks are made of select prints from Sandi Henderson's "Secret Garden," plus one of the very simple and graphic green prints from Denyse Schmidt's "Greenfield Hill" (I'm feeling too lazy to go look at the selvedge, and I don't have the print names memorized...!).  The background/sashing fabric is Painters Canvas, which is a non-solid solid that I really loved working with here.

This is a very big quilt...and tricky to photograph. I gave it a try on our queen-sized bed, but you don't really get a good sense of it.

king-sized bear paw, pieced

My dad and I decided that to show to full advantage this quilt needs two tall men on stilts, or at least step ladders. And a nice old barn would serve as a good backdrop. But none of this is in its future. Instead it will soon take over my living room floor (to be basted), and then the entire dining room (to be quilted), and finally it will live with my parents on a beautifully big but cosy bed where I hope it will provide lots of comfort and many peaceful sleeps.

I love you Pop.