Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolutions and the State of the Stash

So here're my quilting/crafting related resolutions, plus an assessment of where I stand on current projects and a reflection on my stash. In some ways this long post is really more for me than for my readers, so if you don't feel like reading all this, scroll down for a couple of pictures.

  1. Buying fabric - I really do want to minimize the amount of fabric that I buy, but since I doubt that I will be able to stop completely, I want to focus on only buying things that fill in holes in my stash: browns, greys, oranges, bigger pieces, polka dots, solids. And some other stuff that I probably haven't thought of yet. More on stash below.
  2. Finishing - this will just be the continuation of what has already been going on lately for me. I will continue to make finishing older projects a priority.
  3. Prioritizing projects - when I start new things they need to be the projects I am most committed to, not necessarily the funnest sounding new thing I just thought of. I have at least one typed page of project ideas, and that is only the titles with maybe a couple word description. We're not talking paragraphs or anything. I will probably continue to have new ideas. As the speed of my ideas seems to outpace the speed of my production, I need to prioritize what I work on. (That said, some scrap projects will have to be a priority, as I am drowning in scraps.) I kind of have a sense of which long languishing ideas need to be a priority, but as they're probably only meaningful to me at this point, you all will just have to stay tuned.
  4. Trying new things - I really want to push myself to try new techniques. Things like curved piecing, working with diamonds, set-in seams, applique with more than one shape, etc. I think it will be good for me to challenge myself. I have been planning a drunkard's path quilt to push myself into curved piecing territory, so that is going to be a priority, see above.
  5. Learn to free motion quilt - I have saved batting scraps for practice, and I have at least one quilt top that I'm pretty indifferent to that I've been saving to be my first practice top. It's just a matter of actually getting going, not that anything in particular is stopping me...
  6. Work on not-quilting crafts - I have a small list of other projects that I want to do. It's so much harder to get started on things I don't do regularly, and so easy to work on quilting because it's familiar. But I wanna work on some other stuff, too :) 
(Ahem. As for personal resolutions, finding a job and moving are at the top, bottom, and middle of the list. If I do a good job on those it will undoubtedly interrupt creative progress for a while, but that's the price you've got to pay...!)

We interrupt this word-heavy post with a picture. Block 7 of 11 for the swap:

Scrappy Star for LouraPalmr

On Stash

I realize that having a well supplied fabric stash is really part of my process, since I usually work from my stash rather than buying fabric for a new project, and I often take lots of inspiration from my materials. I think this is also why it's sooo hard for me to get rid of fabric since everything seems to have potential to me. The only thing I really have a problem with is the size of my stash. Sure, normally I'd say...the bigger the better! The real problem I have is just that I am not really settled yet, and I don't really expect to be any time soon. So having a huge amount of fabric stash means having to move it and find a new place for it with alarming frequency - in the last five years I've moved four times, and will move again as soon as I get a permanent job. Just for context, here is a picture of my fabric as I found it crammed in some storage space when I returned from Texas:

My stash

Yes, if you're looking closely there's a shoe hanging off that basket. I don't know why; this is just exactly how I found it. Oh yeah, and there was one more sweater box I found in another closet later on. And my mom gave me two boxes of fabric she is getting rid of. Of course I don't HAVE to keep it, but I haven't gone through it yet. Plus all the stuff I brought home with me from Texas. So you get the idea. I wish I could reduce the size of this just to make it more portable. Maybe I will just sort it not with the idea of getting rid of stuff (because that is too hard for me!*), exactly, but rather separating the strictly necessary from the less necessary. Then at least when I move I can focus on my energy on moving the most important stuff and decide what to do with the rest later. Like get rid of it. Or reincorporate it. (The latter is way more likely.)

*As an experiment, and because the bin wouldn't close, I went through my blues to cull whatever I could live without and would be willing to get rid of. I pulled three pieces, a fat quarter and two smaller pieces. Didn't help much. Now I'll have to try it again to cull the "less necessary".

Block 8 of 11:

Block for Southern Flower

On Projects

I have been fretting about having so many projects going at the same time, but when I actually sat down and took a closer look it's not really so bad. I have eight works in progress. 2 of those just need borders, but I need to find the perfect fabric and buy it, so that is currently holding me back. Hopefully when I get fabric those will be quick finishes. 4 of the wips are long term projects - things that are not on any real time frame, that I have been working on forever and will continue to work on for a long time. I don't feel and rush to power through and finish those; that's just not the kind of projects that they are. On the other's okay if they take a long time, but I do have to work on them occasionally! I won't start another project of that kind until at least one of these hits the finished top stage. 1 of the works in progress is my swap quilt, which I obviously can't do much with at this point in time since I'm still waiting for people to send me the blocks. The last of those projects is a log cabin quilt that is basically the one thing on this list I need to focus on working on and finishing. So not really that bad, right?

The finished tops list (could also be called the to be quilted list) breaks down in a similar way. There are 10 items on the list. 3 are in line to be hand quilted, and since I can only really hand quilt one thing at a time, there's not much I can do with those for now. 2 I am saving for free motion quilting practice - see above for my resolution to learn free motion. 2 are boy baby quilts (probably) so I am probably going to wait to finish them until I have someone to finish them for (probably). 2 I am not sure how I'm going to quilt them. They are both good candidates for free motion quilting, but in that case they will have to wait until I am "good enough". Otherwise I could quilt them with the walking foot, but it would probably have to be time-consuming, fussy, stitch in the ditching. So waiting to decide on those two. And lastly there is one that I am ready to baste and machine quilt anytime now and will probably work on soon.

Sooo... There you have a long explanation of where I stand creatively entering 2009. Actually there might be more, but I'll save it for another post. 2008 was such a truly wonderful year for me. My time at the shelter taught me so much and I was so blessed by the relationships and experiences I had. Even if my current state of limbo makes me feel like it's not ending on the highest note, it was a great year. I have high hopes for the adventures to be had in '09, so with that in mind...

Happy New Year! Hope you all have some fun tonight...I'm planning on it ;-)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Theatre Ts

T-Shirt Quilt Close Up

This t-shirt quilt is my final finish of the year. This is actually the first t-shirt quilt top that I made, which I put together my freshmen year of college. At the time I didn't have any knowledge of machine quilting or the necessary tools to machine quilt with, so I knew I wouldn't be able to finish the quilt for a good while. Now in my charge to finish finish finish I have finally completed it.

T-shirt Quilt

These are my theatre t-shirts from junior high and high school. I have had lots of different creative pursuits at different times in my life, and theatre was a very important one to me during that time of my life, including both acting and working behind the scenes. I haven't been involved in any theatre related activities for a long time, but I knew I would never be able to get rid of the t-shirts, so now I never have to. I'm happy with how it came out.

T-Shirt Quilt

I finished seven quilts in 2008, six in the final 2.5 months of the year. Not bad, all things considered!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Little Bits of Progress

Here are the three latest blocks that I have made for the block swap. I have done six now, which means I have five to go. There are three groups of twelve people participating in the swap and some people are in all three groups meaning that they will make 33 blocks and receive 33. One group is just the right commitment level for me. I feel like I can give each group of fabrics individualized attention and choose a block that is well suited to them, rather than doing a more assembly line process (which is totally fine if that works for you, but is not my preferred way to work). I have made the bears paw variation twice and will make it at least once more, because I'm finding it's a good block for a lot of fabrics (most people sent at least 5) and allows me to highlight certain prints.

Block for Gordongirl

House Block for Ashley

Block for 1b1g1k2

As hoped, I did some pretty basic stitch-in-the-ditch quilting on the rail fence and got it bound, wrapped up, and in the mail by Friday. The postman assured me that there is at least a chance that it will get to the recipient by Christmas. I have to admit that, backed with super soft flannel and quilted enough but no more than enough, it was soft and cuddly enough to win me over. It just goes to show that sometimes it actually is worth it to un-sew a queen size quilt top...

The Very Purple Rail Fence, ready for Christmas gift giving

Because of the minimal quilting this picture does not look much different than the finished top. I really like the finished texture of a quilt that is minimally quilted and therefore not too stiff, especially for a throw quilt that is meant to be cuddled under. I do always quilt at least to the specifications of the batting, although in all honesty I might fudge it a little sometimes. I realize that a less densely quilted quilt will not have as long of a life as one that is quilted 1" apart (that is what I took away from hearing Harriet Hargrave speak, that and also that if you don't quilt your own tops you are a topper and not a quilter) but for a quilt like this I'm fine with that. If my friend enjoys it for 5-10 years I will be happy.

More machine quilting in progress...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Crayon Quilt

This is what I have been hand quilting on, and I took the last stitches on the binding last night:

Crayon Quilt

It's pretty cute! The blocks are hand colored by yours truly (hey, if you don't have kids just do it yourself) using Pentel pastel dye sticks. I got a box of these right around the time I started quilting and was using them to decorate t-shirts, but I just had to try doing a quilt with them. I cut out a bunch of 6" muslin squares and went to town, drawing whatever I wanted.

Crayon Quilt Detail

The designs are a kind of playful, juvenile (i.e. badly drawn in some cases), but very fitting for a crayon quilt, I think. When I finished drawing I bordered half the blocks with blue and half with green and set them together in a regular straight set, alternating blue and green. That design was kind of boring and hard to look at - busy, I guess, but not and a good way. So I took them apart and reset them into this design, which I think is a lot more dynamic.

Crayon Quilt Detail

It is backed with three conversation prints. I like the variegated rainbow binding, but I kind of wish I had chosen something that would give it a more solid frame since it doesn't have a border. It works, though.

Crayon Quilt Detail

It's about 40"x40". A few more detail pics on flickr.

This was a pretty old UFO if I originally started the blocks right around the time I started quilting. I am still powering away at finishing things. With the exception of joining the block swap (and that's a big exception), I haven't started anything new since returning to Illinois. I really want to reduce the number of projects I'm working on at any given time, but that means I have to finish a lot of the backlog first. I kind of want to be the kind of person who works on projects beginning to end - not that I will ever be the kind of person who only works on one project at a time. But a few at a time seems more manageable to me, and would minimize the number of projects that get finished 7 years after they're started - like this one. I currently have eight tops-in-progress, and 13 projects that are at least to the finished top phase or beyond. Hmmm, what shall I reduce that to??

I also kind of want to reduce my stash but that's like this whole other can of worms... I just love fabric. Too much.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


My Baby Quilt

Look! It's my baby quilt! As in the one that was made for me when I was a baby. Mom started quilting the year before I was born. I think she didn't know if she was having a boy or a girl so she worked on two different quilts. I don't know what happened to the boy version.

I was looking at this the other day and thinking...maybe this explains my love for appliqued heart quilts. I adore them. I have files full of pictures of them and plans to make about a hundred of them.

My first needle turn hand applique project, naturally, was a heart quilt. The top has been done for I think a couple of years, and yesterday I basted it for hand quilting.


This was the handwork project that I took with me on my semester abroad in Mexico my senior year of college. My second needle turn applique project, still in progress, is...the exact same pattern in different colors and fabrics. True story.


Stay tuned for the finished version of my current hand quilting project that I hope will be finished tomorrow at the latest.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Very Purple Rail Fence


This is the worksheet the kindergartners in "my" class were doing on my first day of substitute teaching.

Rail Fence

I finished this top today. It was previously a finished top, but first of all it was too big, and secondly I didn't like it. I had the blocks in a non-traditional rail fence layout and it just didn't work for me. And a nearly queen size quilt is really too big for a quilt in this color scheme, especially for an adult, and especially since I didn't like it. If I might finish a smaller quilt that I don't entirely like, I'll never finish a big one that I don't like. Got it? So, I un-sewed an entire large quilt top and re-sewed part of it into this. And now I like it reasonably well. I don't think rail fence will ever be one of my favorite patterns. I chose it to highlight the blocks from another printed fat quarter from Block Party Studios, which happened to be the right size/shape for this. It's 56"x63", and will brighten up the couch of one of my best friends who loves purple (and I hope isn't reading). I actually hope to finish it soon. (For Christmas?)

Rail Fence Overall

Psalm blocks

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