Sunday, December 30, 2012

Handmade Christmas

So the handmade Christmas happened.  Of the five people I needed gifts for who were involved in the "handmade only" gift exchange, I ended up making three gifts, buying one that was handmade by someone else (this was allowed within the rules of the exchange), and giving on "gift certificate" for a future handmade gift.  So you would think that making only three gifts would be an easy task and I wouldn't let it go down to the wire...but of course I did.  The good news, though, is that they all got done and I'm pretty pleased with them.

The gifts are as follows:

1) A set of throw pillows:

These I made for my little brother with scraps from the t-shirt quilt I made him several years ago.  He recently moved into a new house so I thought he could use some help with the decorating...

2) A covered journal made from the tutorial over on Exuberant Color:

3) A mini-quilt a.k.a a sketch:

My mom sent me Rayna Gillman's book as a surprise earlier this year, without realizing that I was already a fan of her blog.  This mini-quilt is the result of my early experiments with her techniques.  It was a lot of fun to make.  The purple section of the mini-quilt is a re-worked block from this quilt that I have a ton of leftover blocks from.  Perhaps more of those are to come.

Anyway, overall I enjoyed the handmade Christmas and will have to think about doing more handmade gifts in the future.

As the year draws to a close I'm starting to think about what I want to accomplish creatively in the new year.  I'm glad to be able to say that I actually made a few quilts in 2012, which is certainly a respectable thing for a quilter to be able to say!  Ha ha.  Hopefully I can keep this trend going next year.  I just want to think critically (as usual) about what specifically I want to work on.

Enjoy the new year everyone!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Baby Quilt #2 For This Fall

Now, really, you would think I would know better than to let this happen, but apparently not.

I was finishing this up right before the baby shower this morning and in the craziness I somehow let it leave my possession without getting more than one not-very-straight-or-well-lit picture of it.  Pretty inexcusable for a blogger, right?  Hopefully I can get some better ones once baby gets here.

Quilt for baby boy

It actually is fairly straight in real life, and more crinkly since this was before I washed it.  But at least it's something to give you an idea of what I made.

I decided to machine sew the binding for the first time in my life and it was an enormously frustrating process, I didn't like how it looked, and the edges got distorted in some places due to my occasional total mangling of it.  Sigh.  However, that being said, I could actually conceive that with practice (maybe a lot of practice) I could achieve a machine sewn binding that would be acceptable to me.

I also used a medium loft batt so it is a little puffier than what I normally make, but I think that works well for baby.  The last time I was at JoAnn's batting was 40% off and I bought a bunch of different batts that I've never tried before in the interest of experimentation.  This is the first experiment.  I also only quilted in the ditch, which adds to the puffiness.  It will be nice and soft landing pad for tummy time and other adventures.

Approximately 36x48"

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Design Wall

How to make the easiest design wall possibly ever:

 1) Buy cheap polyester blanket at Family Dollar
2) Tack to a wall
3) That's it

  Cheapest easiest design wall ever

On the design wall

I don't know if these piece will ever actually happen, but it's fun to play with.  That's the advantage of having a design wall :)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Baby Ready

So baby quilt #1 of fall 2012 = accomplished.  And it's a very good feeling.





There is one more baby quilt I am definitely going to do this fall, and others that are more optional depending on how much time I end up having, so we'll see what I come up with!

My family and I also agreed to give all handmade presents for Christmas this year - they can be handmade by someone else and purchased by me, but all handmade.  However my goal is to make everything myself rather than buy things handmade by others, so I need to get started on that very soon as well.  Hopefully I am not biting off more than I can chew.  You never know with me though.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Breaks and Babies

Anyone who has continued clicking through my posts through the ups and downs of the last few years will understand why this post resonated with me so much.  Breaks will happen, life does ebb and flow...the secret is to not let breaks become full stops.  That is what I am committing to.  That, and maybe fewer breaks.

Well, here I am in the sewing room continuing to work on baby quilts.  There is a certain challenge in making gifts.  There is this tension between making what I want to make and making what I think the other person will like - looking for that place where the two intersect, if such a place exists.  I have been playing around with different ideas as I suggested a few posts ago, but recently began to get frustrated because nothing I came up with seemed "right" for the friend with the soonest due date, and neither did anything I had on hand already seem appropriate.

I finally decided to revisit the baby registry and after looking at all the yellow and green prints that she'd chosen for the things on the registry I glanced around my space and my eye rested on a yellow and green print that I have been in love with lately (from a dress I bought at a thrift store intending to wear but that turned out to have a small tar stain on it that I had missed).  I decided to pull fabrics that I had on hand that would work with that print, and suddenly I started to see what might be at the intersection between my style and their tastes.  This is what I came up with:

Yellow & Green Baby Quilt

It is simple, but the best baby quilts usually are.  The light fabric is a buttery soft butter yellow flannel.


To me it is sweet, but not saccharin, baby appropriate, but still a tiny bit edgy.


Finally something I'm satisfied with.

Now I just have to quilt it, but that's the relatively easy part.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Just in Time for Sweater Weather


I say all the time that I love living in a place with four seasons.  It's not that this isn't true.  I do like having four distinct seasons, because I appreciate the contrast and think that spring and summer would never be so nice if they didn't come after fall and winter.

That being said, there are few people you hear complaining more at the end of summer than me.  There are lots of wonderful things about fall, certainly.  It's a great season in many ways.  But it can take it's time getting here.  I find it a little hard to let go of the warm, no jacket, no worries weather.

This year, though, I will be ready to go having finally finished this project...


This quilt/coverlet/blanket (no batting...what do you call it?), the early origins of which can be found here, is made from felted fool sweaters that I collected over a few years.  Most of them came to me pre-felted - either because they were mine and I felted them accidentally (oops!) or because I found them at the thrift store or at the shelter I used to work at already felted - no doubt rendered unusable to the original owner due to a mistaken trip through the dryer.

I love that this project enabled me to give new life to these objects that had been rendered unfit for their original purpose (being worn as a sweater of a particular size!) and might have therefore been thought to be useless.  I realize more and more how much we miss when we look at the world that way!


Backed with blue flannel and minimally quilted in the ditch.


It's about 60"x60".

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olas Del Oceano


As much as I love free sewing, making it up as I go along, and trying new things, there are nevertheless a few traditional quilt patterns on my list that I will not be happy until I have made.  One of them is Ocean Waves.  Back, way back, when I went through a frenzy of cutting up my scraps for different projects in the hopes of reducing the irreducible volume thereof, I cut a big pile of squares destined to become half-square-triangles for an Ocean Waves quilt.  

This is a true scrap quilt in that every scrap in the box is fair game and no attempt has been made to choose a color scheme or coordinate colors.  It's incredibly fun to be reminded of the sources of all the different scraps - it takes me back to a lot of old projects.


Truthfully, with the number of time-limited projects I've mentally committed myself to lately, and my track record of late, this is probably not the best thing for me to be spending my time on.  However, I've had a lot going on at work lately, and my ability to compartmentalize, usually one of my strengths, has been really challenged.  This repetitive, methodical project has been really relaxing to work on as I can just focus on one simple task and it helps me clear my head.  I have been listening to the works of Jane Austen on iTunes while sewing away.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Quilts of Summer 2012


An in-progress baby quilt.  Within my circle of friends there are several little ones expected this fall and winter, so I am turning my attention to shower gifts.  At this point I am just working on a few different ideas to see what develops rather than planning any one project for one specific person.


This started just by sewing scraps together, and is mostly from the scrap bin.  When I started on it I thought it was going to look very different, but this is what it quickly became.  

Also, check out my new sewing table:  


A friend moving to California was getting rid of it, and it is much nicer than the old computer desk I had been using!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Good Intentions

So since I have been making my return to creativity I've been thinking about checking out the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild with an eye towards making some creative friends and finding new ways to challenge myself.  I was planning to make the February meeting my first.  I cleared my schedule for it, planned my route, and started something for the February project, quilts for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative.  The only mistake I made was making a mental note that the meetings started at 4:00 PM.  Then, as you've probably imagined, when I was on my way out the door (literally, with coat on & purse in hand) and went to the website to write down the exact address of the meeting place...I realized the meeting started at 2:00.  Unfortunately I was already running about 15-20 minutes late so I decided it wasn't going to be worth it to spend an hour and a half on the train in order to be at the meeting for probably 40 minutes!

So maybe I'll make the March meeting?

Ah well.

AAQI Quilt Top

I guess the good thing is that it inspired me to start this AAQI quilt, which I will still finish and donate.  I'm thinking I'll add some embroidery but I haven't decided exactly what yet.  Then quilt it up and send it in.  I'm very much hoping not to lose steam on it - I mean none of this should take very long, so it's a good test of my New Year's follow through...

Goldfinch Detail

The colors of AAQI quilt

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Random Stripes

Random Stripes in the sun

Extended post title: Random Stripes -or- Something I Actually Finished (Or At Least Finished The Top Of)

I have been calling this project "Random Stripes" because it is an improv variation of the traditional Roman Stripes pattern.  It is inspired by an antique quilt I saw in a book (stay tuned for me to figure out which book it was and give it credit here) and wanted to create my own "version" of.

I first declared this top to be "done" many years ago when it was just the center part with the blue border.  Then, before I got around to finishing it, I decided it needed something more and at someone's suggestion decided to add more pieced borders to it.

Then I put it in a pile where it sat for several more years.

I took it out again recently a decided it was finally time to do something with it.  After experimenting with a few possibilities I decided to try adding a row of blocks on top and bottom.  Once that was done, although there are a million other things I suppose I could do with it, I think it actually feels "done" to me.

Random Stripes Overall View

Maybe I should say "done for now" given the history, but I have a feeling I'll stick with this.

It's pretty "random" as the name suggests, but I think it will make a fun toddler quilt for a little one to play on and with.  Or even possibly a nice lap quilt for a suitably "random" adult.  I'm not sure where it's going to end up yet, so we shall see!  It is 44ish x 62ish inches.

Random Stripes cloes up

In other news, I have a three day weekend!  And I have to tell you I'm feeling quite extremely favorable towards three day weekends just at the moment!   I have to be grateful for work since I would never be able to enjoy time off so much if it weren't for work.  Right?  Right?

Hope you're all doing well out there in blogland :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Getting Ready

Basting in progress...

As it happens I had last week off of work. One of the things on my "to do" list was "getting organized" creatively, or at least starting to, and laying some groundwork that will allow me to make better use of what free time I do have available for creative pursuits. I feel like I've gotten a fair amount accomplished. I basted a quilt, cut most of another quilt, cleaned my fabric storage area, and just generally took stock of what I've got going and what I want to be working on. It feels good to be flexing those muscles again, so to speak.

The majority of my fabric is actually still being stored at my parent's house, and as long as I remain in this apartment and as long as my parents remain benevolent towards me it's probably going to stay that way. There just isn't room here, and that's apartment life with roommates for ya. Because I've had to be selective about what fabric I have here, I've tried to prioritize the things I most want to be working on. Or the things I want to force myself to work on.

I know I know you might be thinking, if you have to force yourself to work on it doesn't that indicate that you don't WANT to work on it? I see how you could draw that conclusion, but no, I don't think that's always the case. There is a difference much of the time between what I truly want to accomplish and what I end up working on because it comes easily. When a project still needs the initial planning or starting burst of energy or requires me to figure out how to do something new I might end up not working on it, even if objectively it is something I truly want to do.

Well, this year in art and life I am working on finishing what I start - both literally and mentally. A lot of good ideas (and not just in quilting but in all parts of my life) never make it out of my brain because I never get around to doing the work they require - or sometimes just because I never get over the hurdle of starting, which can be very hard work.  I hope to break out of that pattern to, and hope I will be facing up to challenges and doing the work that needs to get done to make these projects finally happen. At least that's the plan.

And that of course in addition to finishing things that I have literally started, as in works in progress.  That seems to be everyone's goal this year!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fabric of a New Nation

One of the nice things about living in Chicago is getting to enjoy the exhibits from the Art Institute of Chicago's textile collection (and the Art Institute in general, of course). I think I have now seen four exhibits there, of varying interest to me, but I always am excited to see what's there and usually make it my first stop when I go.

The current exhibit is one some of you have probably heard about, entitled Fabric of a New Nation. Follow the link for a better description than I could give, but basically it addresses American textiles and textile traditions in the years immediately following the independence of the United States.

There are some quilts in the exhibit, such as this:

Star quilt

I found this star quilt fascinating, particularly because the stars are (from what I could see anyway) pieced from four 'V' shaped pieces of fabric rather than from eight diamonds - the pattern of the fabric is uninterrupted across the 'V', which is how I could tell:

Star quilt detail

The Star of Bethlehem was clearly a show stopper - still very very bright and vibrant and a fascinating sampler of period fabrics. Plus it is easily king sized.

Star of Bethlehem Quilt More detail
Love the fabric!

I was also very struck by some of the embroidered pieces, both samplers and embroidered wool bed spreads. I have been toying with the idea of doing a sampler for some time, particularly because there is a certain quote I want to immortalize with needle and thread (you'll have to wait, possibly forever, to find out what quote). I have had a hard time figuring out how to plan and execute it, however, since the only samplers I've ever made were counted cross stitch and from a pattern. This exhibit gave me a lot of ideas, though, so maybe I can actually move on it. 

This was my favorite sampler and the one closest to the way I envision what I want to do:


Probably my second favorite - I'm so smitten with the pond!


Detail of the pond!

One of the embroidered coverlets:
Embroidered wool coverlet Embroidered coverlet detail
Close up of the embroidery - click in to flickr and choose all sizes if you want a closer view.

I have also played with the idea of doing something like this, too - at least if not in this style then a similar approach or technique. Another example:

Embroidered wool blanket

There are more pictures of the exhibit, with many other examples and close ups, here.  Overall I really enjoyed it and found it gave me a lot to think about...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ring in the new...

Well, clearly 2011 has been a fallow year for me in the quilting/sewing/fiber arts area of my life, among other things. And that's okay. I think that if that's where the flow of life takes you sometimes, that's where you have to go. Right now I feel like I'm coming back around to this part of my life, or at least wanting to. Things are stirring.

In honor of a new year, new perspective, new priorities, I decided to finish this piece:


It is small, 14"x18", and machine quilted in what I like to call wavy cross hatching (I'm sure this is not a new idea).


I'm going to hang it in my office at work to remind me of my creative self...

I know some of you may be wondering what happened to the baby quilt of the last two posts? Well, what happened was, the baby was born. And it was a boy. So, I ended up gifting a boy baby quilt that I already had completed and on hand. What will happen to the bit of the folk art angel quilt I had completed, I don't know yet. It's going in the incubator, I guess. But I liked the suggestions I got of adding borders, etc., so we'll see.

Just a few other creative things I'd like to share. Check out this necklace my little brother made me for Christmas!!

Necklace up close

Fun, right? It's awesome to be from a family of makers.

Last but not least, after seeing this tutorial, I have spent many a happy moment making paper snow flakes. Here are some I cut from our junk mail like she did in the tutorial, but I have moved on to every and any variety of paper.


Snowflake up close

Ah yes. So anyway. We'll see where I go from here. I obviously never claim to know what's around the bend for me or where life is going to lead me. But this is where I am right now, at the start of another year.

All the best to you and yours :)

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