Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Start of Something

As the year comes to an end my mind predictably turns to resolutions. I just pulled up my "resolution" post from a year ago. I had six resolutions: four I did decently well at, the other two were complete non-starters. I stuck to my resolutions about buying fabric, starting and finishing projects, and did okay at trying new things. I did NOT even make an attempt at learning to free motion quilt, and I spent very little time on non-quilting crafts. I did finish my Texas scrapbook, but besides that I'm not sure if I can think of any other non-quilt crafting that I did. That might change this year since I got some jewelry making supplies for Christmas.

I guess I won't make resolutions this year. I'm still working through my transition and waiting for all the pieces of my life to "land", so it's hard to say what's going to be realistic or possible for me in the "creativity" and "creating" department.

I think if I was going to make a resolution for this area of my life right now it would be to validate my creative activities.

Anyway, while I was at my parents over this holiday I did NOT do any hand quilting (less time was spent watching TV than usually might be). I did however decide to pull out the scrap box and do some good-old-fashioned sewing together of scraps. This is a little "start of something" - probably will get some borders and be a crazy-ish baby quilt. It was fun.

Start of Something

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Waiting...

I hope you have all been enjoying a long and grateful weekend. I've been back at my parents for the weekend. I had it in my mind that I would pick up some project from the top of my pile and sew on it for the four days I was here. It would have been nice. Instead I grabbed a project from the top of the pile and have spent a few odd moments trying to pick fabrics for the borders (haven't actually picked them yet). So. Oh well, probably wasn't a realistic goal. I just miss actually working on stuff...ya know?? On that note, no apartment yet, but I think I theoretically might have one soon! In theory!

I did go thrift shopping on Black Friday in search of an 80s prom dress for a party I'm going to next weekend. One of the shops was having an amazing sale where everything was at least 50% off, and given that enticement I couldn't be prevented from buying some nice scarves and sheets if I saw them. I suppose this technically counts as buying fabric. However. It was worth it. To pay $1.50 for a NEW double size flat sheet in an awesome print...well, surely no one would pass that up.

New! Never used!

Not new, but in good shape and cheap!

Oh yeah, here's another picture from my trip to the Fine Art of Fiber show way back when. In exploring the botanic garden we discovered these shrubs in the shape of a nine patch block in the English garden. Kind of a fitting setting for a quilt show.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fine Art of Fiber 2009

Here are a few of my favorites from the Fine Art of Fiber show at the Chicago Botanic Garden this past weekend. It is a guild show for a few Chicago area guilds...sadly I did not get all the info on which guilds. It was also a beautiful 70 degree day in November, and I was so glad to get to spend it at a huge garden/park and not in the middle of the city.

Not Mrs. Murphy's Pot Holder
Not Mrs. Murphy's Pot Holder by Allison Blakely

Water Triptych
Water Triptych by Roslyn DeBoer

Stripes for Sally
Stripes for Sally by Diana Burrows

Hannah's I-Spy
Hannah's I-spy by Georgia Cibul

I am not really currently sewing much, except for a bit of hand quilting here and there. I am on the hunt for an apartment, and ones with potential dedicated sewing space get high marks. I think it's going to be a little while yet before the apartment is rented and the sewing space set up. Little by little! Thanks again to everyone for the well wishes on my new job. Things are going well so far. I have tons to learn, but I am enjoying it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Crumb Cake


You may remember the pieces of this quilt from this post a while back. They have been dormant for quite some time whilst I went through a lot of different design options in my head. My original plan was to keep the units small and uneven and sash them with thin black sashing for sort of a mosaic look. I was having too much trouble visualizing that, however, and when I tried to lay it out I did not like how it was shaping up. So the pieces continued to sit while I processed it in some dark corner of my brain and worked on other things. Finally I just decided that the best solution really was to just sew them all together into one big scrap mash up, and this piece is the result. My original fear is that this would dilute the impact somewhat, especially since the quilt uses only three colors so there is not tons of contrast. However, in reality I think it works, and I'm glad to finally have a finished top, as this has been in progress for...forever.

This quilt is sister to this one, and I have one more I'm thinking of doing from the same set of scraps to complete the "quilt family." I guess some people might call it a series.

my favorite bit

I would LOVE to hand quilt this, but I am torn because there are so many small piece and therefore TONS of seams. Some pieces are all seam. And maybe it's because my fingers are sore from my current hand quilting project that wrestling with a million seams doesn't sound fun to me right now. We'll see. I am loving hand quilting (the look of it) more and more these days; it just seems like it adds so much to the finished textile. I have always enjoyed the process, too, of course, but since I know there's no way I can hand quilt everything, I have to be selective about what I choose to work on. I just wish I would hurry up and get better at machine quilting so that maybe I would feel the same way about it, rather than just seeing it as a fast but not very nice way to finish projects.

(Bleh...it seems hardly a post goes by that I'm not apologizing for the quality of the photos, and maybe I should just get over it! However, I hear good photos are not in season right now, and I could not wait any longer to share this! I probably just need to improve my photoshop skills.)

In other news, I know only a few posts ago I was blogging about my new job as a teacher's assistant in a preK. And that has been a fun gig, for sure, and I have enjoyed it. However, I got yet another new job! I will be working as a paralegal in a non-profit agency that assists immigrants and refugees. It is more in the vein of what my long term interests are and is a better opportunity in a lot of ways. So I am excited, even if I am also sad to say good-bye to the preK kids. I am gearing up to relocate to the big city (Chicago) in under a week!! I will be staying with friends when I first go up so it's sort of a "soft" move - I won't be officially moving all my stuff until I figure out a more permanent living arrangement. As a result of the move I would not be surprised if the blog goes quiet for a while. I'm not strictly saying it will, because I hope to still make an effort to post. However, we'll see how it goes!

In the meantime, back to cleaning and packing. This includes more internal wrestling about the amazing volume of fabric I have in my possession and what, if anything, I should do about it. A question that never goes away??

Monday, September 21, 2009

Setting for Swap Blocks

I've been trying to develop a setting for the blocks I received through the craftster block swap I participated in at the beginning of the year. I've had a basic idea, but was not sure which of the many possible variations I wanted to do. Any of the versions would require more blocks so I started this past weekend by working on more blocks:




By the time I finished these blocks I had landed on a setting idea that I thought I was happiest with, so that's what I worked on the rest of this weekend. None of this is sewn together yet except those strip set borders:


To guide your viewing, let me just say that it is "upside down" in this picture, but I did not rotate it because then the angle looks funky. Also, I can already see that in the center section I will switch the top middle and the right middle blocks (according to where they are in this picture) to balance the colors more. Also, sorry it's dark - it was late evening by the time I got around to this. Keeping those things in mind...

Actually I'm finding I like it more today than I did yesterday, but I'm still going back and forth between liking it and fearing it might be too busy/funky/weird/? I mean it certainly is busy, and the borders and lack of sashing do nothing to calm it down. It does have a certain charm to it, though.

Now wait, I am anticipating that someone somewhere will want to know what it would look like with the strips sets flipped around so the white is on the outside, so I laid that out, too. Try to cleanse your palate before you look at it, though...








Ok, here it is (and the good news is, this picture is right side up and all the blocks have been moved around):


Hmm...personally I definitely like the first one better. I will continue to mull it over. I have one more block and lots of scraps that will go on the back.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Steps Completed


Here is the finished London Steps top. While I realize it is not something that is everybody's taste, I am pretty happy with it. I enjoyed experimenting with more non-quilting fabrics and mixing lots of different kinds of fabrics, and it has the look I was going for. To finish this I think I am going to combine two quilt ideas into a two-sided quilt, so I will be soon be working on another "top" for the back of this.


I am now working as a teacher's assistant in a pre-K classroom at a public school. This is still not my long term final destination job, but as jobs go it's a definite step up from substitute teaching, and I'm enjoying it so far. It has put a limit on my sewing time, I think mainly because it's been taking me longer to think about and transition between projects. I've had other jobs where I actually thought about sewing projects at work and came home ready to work on them, but so far I find I don't have time to let my mind wander while corralling three and four-year-olds all day. I actually kind of like the fact that the job absorbs me while I'm doing it. It has made me realize, though, how much thinking I actually do about quilts before and while I work on them, and that thinking time is an essential part of the process.

As a bit of an aside, flipping through my Hancock's of Paducah catalog I notice they are selling Gee's Bend quilt kits with a pattern to make a Gee's Bend style quilt, and a fabric line called Gee's Bend solids. I admit my initial reaction to that is not a positive one, given that patterns, quilts, and fabric lines seem so far from the things I love about Gee's Bend. Am I being narrow minded? Maybe it's just a way to make the aesthetic more accessible to people who have trouble working in a liberated way? Maybe it's positive because it's ostensibly making money for Gee's Bend (says they "partnered with the Gee's Bend Quilter's Collective). What do you think?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

London Step

I am no longer trying to reduce my fabric accumulation by getting rid of fabric.* I will only reduce my stash by using what I have and not buying anything new. Here's why: I can't get rid of fabric. As soon as I get a pile of fabric together that I have convinced myself I can part with, I am inspired to make something with it. Yes, there is something about seeing all that unloved, rejected fabric together in the same place that inspires me. Contrary to popular believe, this is NOT because I'm trying to get rid of fabric that is beautiful, or that I love or even like, or that on its own inspires me. Each individual piece of fabric in the pile is ugly, weird, or minimally it's boring, and almost all of it is of questionable quality. Every individual piece I can look at and say, "Oh yeah, I can get rid of this!" That's how it got into the pile, after all. I guess it's the pile that gets me. Once I see it all together I say to myself, "you know what I could do with all this..." and the wheels start turning. And it's all over.

So maybe I should just try getting rid of my nice fabric??

This is the first project inspired by "the pile". It is based on a photo of a quilt in the book "Bold Improvisation." If you get a chance to look at that book, I highly recommend it. I got it for my mother for Christmas and have been enjoying it ever since! There are many quilts in there that give me ideas. One in a zig-zag/rail fence pattern called "London Step" kind of jumped off the page at me, and I am doing an interpretation of it.


Obviously it is a pretty free-style piece. I did no planning in terms of the fabric combinations and colors (do I even need to tell you that?). I didn't attempt to directly replicate the blocks/color combos in the inspiration quilt, but tried to get the same random "using up odds and ends" feel. I have used at least four fabrics so far that are not quilting cottons - some flannel from an old sheet, a stretch twill, a corduroy, and some pillow case fabric. This is the first time I have mixed so many fabrics, so we'll see how it goes. I think this is slightly more than half the number of blocks I will end up doing...

Well, the good news is that while I'm busy being inspired by my junk fabric, for the most part I have been realllllly good about not buying new fabric. Ever since I spent my Christmas gift certificate, I have only made a few small fabric purchases - a few yards of black and grey broadcloth, two or three 50% off remnants, and maybe two other pieces of yardage and one fat quarter. I mean we're talking about a time period of more than SIX MONTHS, so I definitely think I'm doing pretty well. And I've decided that if I continue to be good about not buying fabric for about another, you know, year or so, then I will buy myself some frivolous things as a treat. In the meantime I'm going to try to focus on USING WHAT I HAVE!! That means I need to get sewing....................

*Watch this space for posts in which I resolve to reduce my fabric accumulation by getting rid of fabric.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Historical Design

Mary Todd Lincoln's Sewing Table

While it's pretty blurry in this picture, under the framed mirror next to the window is Mary Todd Lincoln's sewing table at the Lincoln Home in Springfield Illinois where the Lincolns lived for about 17 years before they moved to the White House. On the tour they told us it was where she did all the family's sewing. I was the only visitor snapping pictures of the carpeting, but the designs were so great that I just had to share. Wish I'd gotten more of the wallpaper.




I have not had much to share the past few weeks partly because I was rushing to finish two quilts that were both gifted this weekend. I traveled out of town to a wedding and one quilt went to the bride & groom while the other went to some friends who hosted me along the way. I was in such a mad rush the day I left on the trip that I only had time to take a few quick pictures. They did not come out very well, but they're all I've got!

This first quilt is made with a set of charm squares from So You Sew Fun II line from RJR. I bought them half price from the Fat Quarter Shoppe. I'm sure many of us have done this because charm square packs are not very expensive in the first place, and then when they go on sale they seem like a very affordable price for a little piece of inspiration. Although I'm sure there are a million things you can do with them, I'm not sure if they really fit into my personal way of working. (Maybe I need to be more creative.) However, I think this quilt works no matter how simple the design may be, and it has a modern feel to it that I thought would be good for the college friends who hosted me the first night of my journey. They are good friends and the quilt was less of a hostess gift and more of a "good friends" gift.



The second gift was this improv log cabin quilt I posted about recently. This quilt went from beginning to end in a very short span of time! At least by my standards. It is hand quilted with black #8 pearl cotton in a baptist fan pattern. The quilting went so quickly! Those baptists knew what they were doing. Of course I did not mark the fans at all so they are pretty wonky in some places, but I think it works with the overall feel of the quilt. This went to the bride & groom, and I hope they will like it.

(This quilt actually quite possibly lays flatter than any quilt I've ever made, but the wind was blowing it in this picure).


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Me at Sisters!

This is too fun not to share - turns out I made a small tiny contribution to the Sisters quilt show! Dionne, one of the people I swapped quilt blocks with for this swap finished her blocks into a quilt and the quilt hung in the show! You can check it out here - it looks so great!

My block is on the far left side, third down from the top. Looks like this:

Block for Gordongirl

Thanks Dionne!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

256 Square Inches

252 one inch squares (1.5" unfinished) + about a week of on-and-off sewing = this piece:

With pin cushion for scale

All that work for a piece that is smaller than a fat quarter! That's my pin cushion on it for scale. I have so much additional respect for people who make full size quilts out of squares this small, like this one for example!


Of course a big part of the reason why it took me so long is that I planned the layout and every square had a specific place I wanted it to be. That meant I couldn't do too much chain piecing because I felt I would quickly get confused about what went where. I could imagine that working in a less planned way would go faster, but no matter what it would be time consuming!

The sad thing is I would like to conclude from that that I shouldn't bother saving scraps this small anymore, but I probably will. I actually kind of liked it, and I could see myself doing this again. Oh the horror.

Overall View

This quilt is somewhat reminiscent of this one, except that those were five inch squares. I will probably end up doing one in every possible size. Why not.

One inch charms

If anyone thinks that this looks super fun, I have a bag of one inch squares I can send you. I don't know how many squares are in it, but enough to make a good start I think. I'll send it to the first person to express interest, if anyone does!

1 inch charms

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another Quilted Garden

I am back in Illinois after a very pleasant trip to Texas. Shortly after returning I finished this quilt that I've been hand quilting since February or so. It was almost completely done before my trip. I only had about half the binding left to sew down, so I got that done fairly quickly after getting back.

This quilt is really a collaboration between me and my Aunt. She did the hard part - she needle turn appliqued all of the gorgeous flower blocks and gave them to me as a gift. I assembled the top and did the quilting.

Aunt M's Flowers

I think the quilt is 60 x 90ish. It is photographed on a queen size bed here. I think it would probably fit a twin bed pretty nicely.

Aunt M's Flowers

Aunt M's Flowers

Aunt M's Flowers

As much as I love this quilt (and I do), after hand quilting two predominantly yellow quilts in a row I am feeling very ready to work with another color for a while!

I have been slow getting back into my old routines since returning from my trip - namely sewing, blogging, and reading blogs. In the last two weeks I found and started a summer job and signed up to do some volunteering, and those things have taken up most of my time. I think I will continue to ease back into things.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rose Garden

I am safely arrived in Texas, so it's safe to say that you may not hear lots from me in coming days/weeks. Before leaving Illinois I did manage to finish patching the blown out seams on the project I mentioned in my previous post.


This top was sewn many years ago, but has languished in the closet forever due to my lack of quilting skills. Because it is foundation pieced on muslin, I thought it would be too thick for hand quilting. At the time I made it I didn't yet machine quilt, and when I started machine quilting I didn't think I was good enough to work on this, since I'm particularly fond of it. Now my machine quilting skills are slightly better, but more importantly I decided I would rather have it finally finished so it can be enjoyed.

I'm fairly happy with the quilting, but the good news is that you can barely see most of it, anyway. There is a grid of wavy lines in the center section, and a vine in the border (no leaves).


Most of my photos did not turn out great, but the thing I love about this quilt is hard to capture in photos anyway - the texture created by using the stitch-and-flip method to create the field of green surrounding the flowers. I got the idea to make flowers this way when I was sewing my crazy quilt, which used the stitch-and-flip method. Revisiting this project made me want to think creatively about other ways to use the same method to create different effects.


If I come across anything interesting and fiber related down here I will post, otherwise I'll be back in a bit. I will try to find time to read blogs, too, but if you don't hear from me for a while, know that I promise to catch up later.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Strippy 1

Here are two simple baby quilt tops I did last week. When doing my scrap organizing project a while back I set aside any strips that were selvage to selvage. I had fun putting them together in different combinations, and these are the results. I thought about adding borders or other additional elements, but I think I've decided that I like them as is, simple though they may be.

Strippy 2

In other news, school is just about out for the summer meaning no more work for a substitute. I've decided to head back to the shelter in Texas for part of the summer to visit and help out. I leave next Wednesday. I'm not sure how long I will be gone for, but things my be a little quiet around here in the meantime. Of course you never know! I do hope to have one or maybe two more things to post soon. I have one project that is quilted and even bound, but unfortunately I found not one, not two, but three blown out seams when I was doing the quilting! Some patching is going to have to happen before it is considered "finished". I'm trying to force myself to get that done so I can share it, because it's a project I'm really excited about. Maybe I will be able to get to that today. Stay tuned!

Hope you're all gearing up for a great summer!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Going With The Flow

Improv Log Cabin

Remember this free-pieced project? And how I was trying to finish it or something? I decided I had "enough" units, I trimmed them to size, and then I started trying to come up with some kind of layout for them. Still working on that.

In the meantime I looked at the remaining scraps that I had set aside for that project and noticed that I had a lot of long strips of various widths left. A few seams later:

Improv Log Cabin In Progress
(This is actually before I sewed the blocks together, but it looks the same.)

I guess the best way to describe this block is improv log cabin. I tried to follow somewhat of a log cabin pattern, but obviously there's no real plan for the colors and the strips are all different widths. It's a little busy, but I really didn't want to sash the blocks. I think it works, though!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Scrap Pinwheels

I have mostly lost all focus on whatever it was I was trying to accomplish and am now just messing around and experimenting. Exhibit A:

Pinwheel Doll Quilt in Progress

Pinwheel Doll Quilt in Progress

Perhaps there is a method to my madness. More to come...?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Still More Hearts!

This is one of my favorite heart quilts. It is made by my mother, and since she had it sitting out I decided to snap a few pictures and share it with you all.

Mom's Heart Quilt

Obviously the few appliqued red hearts jump out at you the most, but the majority of the hearts are in the quilting. Every solid square has a heart quilted in it.

Mom's Hearts Close

Mom's Hearts Close

Hi Mom!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring Cleaning

So I have been cleaning. I should say I have been trying to clean. I have been sorting through my huge overflowing piles of fabric and supplies, trying to turn a critical eye towards it all and decide what I MUST have and what I can get rid of. I've spent some time this year reflecting on the topic of stash and whether or not I need to reduce mine. While logically I can easily talk myself into keeping it all because it is all a part of the creative process, I finally realized that I WANT to reduce the amount of stuff I have. At the end of the day it feels out of control to me and feels like a burden. I think I will be happier if I reduce. In the same vein, my wardrobe is also on the chopping block. My book collection will very likely be next.

The problem is that I keep coming across certain supplies and thinking - I will just whip this up into a quick project in order to move it out of my stash. And the problem with THAT is that "whip this up into a quick project" is not really something I do.

Case in point: a set of five heart-themed blocks made by a friend of my mother's in the 80s. Mom was going to get rid of them, and since I am incapable of resisting a heart theme, I had to take them. So then I came across them while cleaning the other day and thought...that's right, "I'll just whip this up into a quick project." After all, in this case much of the work was already done for me.

Heart Sampler

Problem is, I wanted to try to modernize the blocks with the setting, but I was having a hard time thinking of a good way to do that, and that was impeding with the whole "quick" part of the process. In the end I decided to go with something simple - if it looks like it could be from the 80s, well so much the better, I say. Parts of it look a bit brown in this picture, but the colors are really mauve-y pinks. I was planning to put more borders on to make it more of a medallion style, but when I finished the first border it was a nice size for a baby quilt and honestly just looked finished to me. And it's well suited for a baby quilt, so I thought why not just go with it.

Here's a close up of this block that doesn't show up very well in the overall shot (even here it doesn't show that clearly - it so hard to photograph those subtle colors!):

Heart Sampler Close Up

My Favorite Quilt Pics From Flickr Users