Saturday, September 29, 2012

Re-whipping some WIPs

Along with last weekend's cleaning/tidy frenzy, I pulled out one UFO and un-buried a WIP from the bottom of the "current" box.  (How current does that make it, then?  I think it might have passed from WIP to UFO while it was composting in that box.)

Anyhow, my eye was on the end-of-month project report: would I have anything to report as "complete" for this month?  It's a bit disheartening to feel like all those old projects are still sitting around in their unfinished state (and I just went out and bought fabric--oh wait, it's for the t-shirt quilt, a project that was started in 2011).

Eeyore - immune to enthusiasm.


Here's an older project that can't be too hard to finish: sew cuffs onto sweatshirt.  Cuffs are already cut out and pinned in place.  They are faux chenille, but that effect won't show up until the garment has been washed.  A ribbed cuff will go on after that, made from the original waist ribbing.  How hard can it be?  How much time can it take?  How much will I procrastinate, since it means changing thread color and needle size on my machine?

and WIP

The big WIP excavation was on my Wallhanging with Words.  All the letters are complete, but not sewn together into words.  From my experience completing a single word, I know there's lots of little steps in there.  Good contrast with the larger projects, where a single step can seem to take forever.

So, I'm trying a new approach with the letters: using them as leaders and enders.

Here are some of the wallhanging letter pieces (in turquoise), along with larger BOTM blocks (in red/black/pink) that are getting framing/sashing strips.  When I am finished chain-piecing a pile of the BOTM blocks, ready to take them to the ironing area and pin on the next strip, I use a single step on my letter block as the end of the chain, leaving it in the machine after sewing its seam.

I'm not doing a very good job of describing the process, but I learned about it from this book. Bonnie K. Hunter talks about the technique in detail on her blog, with lots of examples of quilts she has made using it. (I even think she has a book entitled Leaders and Enders.)

So I am re-whipping this WIP.  Glad to be making a bit of progress as I work on finishing the BOTM baby quilts.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Untidy build-up

"Life is 70% maintenance."  --Robert Downey, Jr.

Well, the Tidy Fairy has been too scared to visit my sewing room recently, so the room reverted to its wild and untamed state over the past month or so.  I can sure put on a mess! There was untidy build-up everywhere.  No wonder I haven't wanted to go in and sew.  Even my cutting and ironing surfaces had been buried, to say nothing of the available floor space.  There was just barely room for the dogs (who sleep in there most nights).

Didn't take any "before" photos, but I thought I'd celebrate the Day of Tidy that I spent excavating.
The problem corner of my sewing room now contains a 10-drawer organizer.  I brought this in from the garage to replace two boxes of WIP materials that had become unmanageable.  All the little bits and pieces of an ongoing project (or several ongoing projects, as the case may be) were too hard to keep track of.  Now... the two "red" drawers contain the pieces for my red/black/pink baby-quilt-to-be.  And likewise with the other eight drawers. 

So, the shelf that usually holds "the projects" can now hold the big pieces that go with those projects, and all the smaller pieces are safely tucked away.  (See the backing fabric I picked out for the stack-n-whack?  It's on the bottom of the pile.)

Things that got put away: all the fabric I have bought recently (including my sale purchase for the t-shirt quilt); scraps from the 1930's reproduction quilt I finished over the summer; knitting needles and supplies (from our move last October!); and a couple summer-ish projects that just aren't getting done any time soon (sorry, Oakie).

Monday, September 24, 2012

How long 'til dinner?

I continue to be an anthropologist, watching how Sweetie--born organized, compulsively tidy, and with infinite patience for my lack of these qualities--manages the household chores.

So... How long 'til dinner?
Would you believe 5 hours?  This is the scene from the weekend, when we had some friends over for a little dinner party.  Table was set for dinner as soon as the lunch fixin's were put away.
Really, I am still amazed.  The staging was done so far ahead of time that there was little late-afternoon hustle and bustle.  Sure, a bit of a flurry near the stove, but none of the other heart-stopping, stress-filled activity that makes dinner parties too much for me to take on.
And a lovely evening was had by all.  (I gotta learn how to be like this in my planning and preparation.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nerdy comic

Dear Son shared a link with me today, to my favorite online comic, xkcd.  Nerdy, sometimes sweet, intellectual in all the right ways.  *Sigh*

The title to this comic is "ADD", which I read as meaning the mathematical operation.

Silly me, this is my attention-deficit disorder daily routine!  Thank you Child, for understanding your mother. I love you!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

T-shirt plan... maybe

Start Your Engines

"Don't you just love starting a new quilt?  For me, it's a new beginning, filled with possibilities and anticipation.  I can spend hours thumbing through magazines and books to find the one pattern that simply must be made ahead of all others.  The thrill for me is in the hunt, actively using sight and touch to find the perfect fabrics.  My mind is alive, weighing all options.  I tingle with excitement as I cut the fabric, knowing my sewing machine will soon hum and finished blocks will cover the design wall.  As the quilt top progresses, though, there seems to be a point where the initial excitement fades, replaced with repetitive work.  It feels like the top will never be done.  The temptation of the next quilt, beckoning from the stash, grows stronger and stronger, making the task of finishing that looms ahead even more daunting."
(This is the beginning of an essay by ZJ Humbach, from Quilter's Newsletter, September 2007; she goes on to extoll the joys of longarm quilting as a different sort of creative outlet.  The essay also describes some of the challenges of the ADD adult - excitement about new ideas, and great challenges with follow-through.)

So, I'm sorta stuck in the in-between: I am actively exploring the next project--a t-shirt quilt with Sweetie's college memories--while trying to maintain energy to finish framing, sashing and bordering the two baby quilt block collections I made over the past year in Buck-a-Block.  Oh, and I want to get back to working on the wall-hanging with words that I started last summer.

But ideas for that t-shirt quilt are very compelling.  I found a setting idea I like in Terrific Tees: I can't believe it's a t-shirt quilt!

Log cabin blocks in white and scrappy reds, with room for 6 white t-shirts.  The t-shirts integrate almost too well in this design, as they are all on white backgrounds.  The t-shirts I have to work with have much more variety in color, scale and theme.  Plus, I have 12 of them.

Started coloring on a blank log cabin page, to see if the "rainbow" color scheme might work here.  I kinda like it, but I'm still restless: maybe there's a better design out there.  Will all 12 t-shirts fit here?  Will they look out of place?  Will the t-shirts be adequately showcased?

What's the rush?  Nobody's waiting on me to finish (or even start) this quilt.  Well... Piece by Piece is having a great anniversary sale this weekend.  Don't I owe it to myself to buy fabric I might actually use (soon!) when I go visit the quilt shop?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Quilts in geometry class

School has started, and I'm once again a busy bee.  Three different classes to teach--two of them brand new.  I'm scrambling to find my groove, but I know it'll come.

Chapter 2, lesson 6: Geometric Problem Solving.  Hmm, word problems in a geometry setting... What on earth could I use for that lesson?  Oh, that's right: quilting!

Went to stitch-n-bitch this week and got started on the framing for each of the blocks for my black-red-pink baby quilt.  So I made the geometry lesson about the black and white fabrics I'll need for the frames.

Made a cute little worksheet illustrating how the finished quilt might look.  Didn't have them consider seam allowances at all, and let them work in pairs to figure out whether I had bought enough fabric or not.  It was surprisingly complicated for them--but I loved the different methods of finding out how much fabric was required.  Most of them worked entirely off area (square inches), with no consideration of if you could cut or sew the fabric using their method of calculating:
  • Take one of the framed blocks (18" x 18"), find its area, then subtract out the area of the shaded block (12" x 12")
  • For each block make 4 strips, each 3" x 15", so each corner overlaps exactly the same way
  • For each block make 4 rectangles, each 3" x 12" and 4 corner squares, each 3" x 3"
  • Take the area of the entire quilt (54" x 54") and subtract out the areas of the shaded blocks (12" x 12" times 9), then divide the result by nine; you will need 4 times this number for the black fabric, and 5 times this number for the white fabric
Inspiration for a lesson

I have the blue blocks hanging up in my classroom for inspiration.  For me as well as the students.

Don't know when I'll get to stitching next.  Heavy sigh.  I always forget what the beginning of the school year feels like...

Monday, September 10, 2012


I love being inspired.

Believe in today.
Your life is now.

Now all we have to do is go out there and live it!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sewing AND a workout

Sweetie spent some quality time sewing last week, while I was finishing my big fat quilt project.  I heard from the other room, "Well, at least this way I'm getting a workout with my sewing."  I had to go investigate.
We have one of those bistro-height dining table and chair sets, meaning you can't touch the ground when you are seated there.  Well, that's the table that the second sewing machine got set up on.

So, how does one sew when one can't reach the foot pedal?
Can you see the foot pedal squeezed between the thighs?  So clever.  And functional.

And what was this fabulous sewing project that Sweetie tackled?  Capes!  For the adult superhero or superhero-in-training.
Made from a lovely Alexander Henry rainbow stripe (we love rainbows in our house!), the design was cropped, so the cape wouldn't get caught up on foreign objects, and made to attach via safety pins directly to one's running bra.  So clever again...
After the race, the capes were a bit worse for the wear, but held up remarkably well, even protecting the face and head from barbed wire attack on one of the obstacles.  (The Laundry Fairy reports that they came back to brilliant technicolor after a simple washing.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Alaskan fabric

A bit of tidying up in the sewing room, and I found fabric that I had purchased on our recent Alaskan trip.  Stopped in two different quilt shops:

Both specialize in Alaskan-themed prints and patterns, as they are located in busy tourist areas overrun by the cruise ship crowds all summer.  Since I was beginning to explore ideas for "the next quilt project" as we were on vacation, it was hard to only stay in each store for an "appropriate" (to the non-quilter, at least) amount of time.
I ended up buying prints from a line called Animal Spirits, by Robert Kaufman.  I got the black-and-white first, with each animal bordered so they could be used individually.  I just loved the Tlingit/totemic appearance of the animals, and was pleased at the assortment of animals offered.
By the time we got to Seaward, I had discovered the artwork of Sue Coccia, the artist who designed the fabrics.  I loved her coloring books (don't the black-and-white animal fabrics just beg to get colored in?) and calendars and stationary.  I won't reveal here who is getting what from my souvenir shopping, but I love her artwork!
'Nuff said.  Fabric for the stash that is beautiful and inspirational: my fabric souvenirs.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Stack-n-whack top *done*

I feel so good!  Finished the top of a stack-n-whack quilt for my bed.  Have been working on this since November of 2010, and want to tell the whole story of this quilt, but I should save that for when it's really done done.  (As in, ready-to-put-on-my-cozy-bed.)
For now, a couple pictures: sawtooth border on the bottom.  Took me many months of should-I? shouldn't-I? to decide whether to square that off or not.
View from the pillow-end.  I added some 120-degree diamonds to the borders.  Was initially going to put in flying geese there, but I found some leftover stacked pieces. 

I am meeting with a custom quilter this week to make plans for getting it done.  I've never had a project custom quilted before, and I'm a little intimidated by trying to decide what to ask for.  Fortunately, she's a pro who can add her thoughtful artistry to my handiwork.

I can't wait!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Not really a project report

Nothing got completed in August.  Nothing got started in August, either; so at least there's that.

Cute toes auditioning a border idea
For recordkeeping purposes, here are last month's numbers, unchanged.
Completed projects this Month:  0
Completed projects Year to Date:  12
New projects this Month:  0
New projects Year to Date: 11
Discarded/donated projects (farewell!): 8
Net Project Count for 2012: -9

Made progress on my big stack-n-whack project, and participated in Quilter's Yard Sale: not much to report.  In the process of this, I made a huge mess in my sewing room.  Got to get that Tidy Fairy to pay it a visit...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Buck-a-block August complete

Month 12 of the year-long Buck-a-block: it's a wrap!
My red/pink/black colorway version of Cups and Saucers, a block we had already made back in April, but whose components can be rearranged multiple ways to give different block looks.  I'm lovin it.

 And, starting to plan for putting the blocks together, I pulled out my Kona black and white solids.  Want to put borders on each block, alternating colors.  Sweetie helped me see that the blocks with the black borders will stand out more, while the white-bordered blocks will tend to fade back a bit.  
Maybe you can see this stand-out vs. fade-back effect in the two blocks pictured.  Excellent: I *love* three of the blocks in this colorway, and feel more "meh" about the other three.  Makes the decision of which frame color to put on each block easy.

Blocks complete.  There's a baby quilt in the not-too-distant future!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cute cloth book idea

I'm a sucker for children's books.  Even better if they're cloth children's books.  I have created several from scratch, using ideas found in this book
"How to Make Cloth Books for children" by Anne Pellowski
I have also embellished books made from pre-printed panels, which is what made me gush over the cloth book I saw at STCA.

It's made from a counting panel (Ten Little Things, by Moda) and has both the number and the word for each number (in Spanish and French!) on each panel.

OhMyGoodness! Eight cute owl-ies!!

So there's a darling pattern sheet for making the panel into a cloth book, by sewing strips from a coordinating Moda jelly roll around each block.

"Ten Little Things" jellyroll by Moda

On each facing page, the designer used chalk cloth (who knew such a thing existed?)

But I can imagine other types of facing pages,
like this oversize paper-pieced ruler segment by Elizabeth Hartman from Oh, Fransson.  I was so in love with this when I saw it--wouldn't it go nicely on a children's counting book about numbers?

Or facing pages that involve the reader in doing something,
like "count the flowers as you take them out of the (pocket) basket and button them in place"
or "count the dishes as you lift up the flaps to reveal them".  Both these techniques have been used by me in a baby busy block cloth toy.

Of course, what really makes this particular project precious are the adorable details:  grommets, fancy ribbon to tie the pages together, and a zipper pocket in the (front to hold the chalk).

I also like cloth books that have a handle on them.  (I used to see them in the Lillian Vernon catalog, but can't seem to find any there now.)  That wouldn't be too hard a detail to add on.  Cute, cute, cute!!!

(For future reference, several websites have more cloth books for children ideas.  One nice starting place seems to be eHow.)