Wednesday, February 27, 2013

BlogLand Travels

Been hopping around the blog-o-sphere lately.  Just want to keep track of where I've been and what thoughts occurred to me as I was here-and-there.

Cat Patches: home of the NewFO 2013 challenge.  I really resonated with her post about "feeling let down after finishing a project".  I totally get that!  The mental focus goes away, and my ADD brain is casting about for something else to fixate upon.  (Fortunately, this is not my current problem, as Nancy Drew is taking up all my spare brain-circuit time.)

In that same posting, she showed a picture of a Crabapple Hill Studio pattern: Calendula Patterdrip's Cottage
Wow, never thought I could love something with such muted colors!  And so much embroidery!  (And when was the last time I embroidered anything?)  What am I doing looking at this--am I crazy to even gaze at it for ten seconds longer?  Well, suffice it to say that this pattern strikes my fancy in a most unusual way.

Never Too Hot to Stitch: home of the 2013 Year of the Finished Project linky party.  I like her rules for finishing projects in 2013.  And the fact that she lets those participating set their own version of the rules.  I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with what I have currently bitten off, and wanting to make lists or create some sort of order to my projects.  This might be just what I've been looking for.

Sew Many Ways: home of the Sew Darn Crafty weekly linky party.  I probably won't be a linker-upper, because the volume of links is a little overwhelming.  (ADD means knowing when to limit exposure to sensory overload; it's why I don't go over to visit Pinterest.)  But I do like that she has lots of places to explore: crafty stuff, organizing stuff, sewing stuff.  Things that are right up my alley.

Sew BitterSweet Designs: home of A Lovely Year of Finishes linky party.  This one takes the "I'm committing to finishing something this month" idea and breaks it up into smaller pieces.  Three blog posts a month: setting the goal for the upcoming month; checking in on progress toward the goal; and having a finishing "party" at the end of the month.  I like this idea.  Maybe I'll try it (in March? Not sure yet).

Can you tell I'm all about trying to get some things finished up?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Big stitching

I'm so in love with big stitch quilting!  I pinned the barnyard play quilt at retreat, and decided to use big stitch around the perimeter (the layers were sandwiched pillow-case style).

 Along the way, I kept looking at the rest of the quilt--which I had intended to machine stitch--and thinking of other places to use big stitches.

So far: the cow-spotted border getting the big stitch treatment

It helped that the magazine I got on the first night at retreat  (McCall's Quilting, Jan/Feb 2012 issue) had an article on big stitch quilting.  The article was informative.  And inspiring. 
Plus, being at retreat, I had a whole crew of people to give more advice on how to hide my knots and what types of thread to use (not just perle cotton!  I'm using floss for more color variety.  And thinking of mixing colors for even more effects.)

I look forward to showing off more of the big stitches (as I get to them).

Quilt-along, month 3

This month, I was working on the wishing well.  Got the machine sewing portion completed at retreat, but stalled on the hand finish and the quilting embellishment.  (Oh, how I wish I were more confident at free-motion quilting!)
This should be an easy finish-er-up item, but I got distracted.  And I will stay distracted until the Nancy Drew project is complete--since that one has a definite deadline.

Next month's assignment: apple tree (already have the fabrics picked out)
Due date: March 16 (same day as buck-a-block)

Wish me luck!  I feel like I'm getting too many projects creeping into my WIP pile...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nancy Drew fabric has arrived

As the button on my blog attests, I am a participant in the upcoming "Nancy Drew is a Clue" blog hop coming up in March.  My job is to make something featuring the Get a Clue with Nancy Drew fabric line from Moda.  And then blog about it.  Only a few short weeks away - aack!

My Nancy Drew fabrics finally arrived this weekend, and I am excited to get started.  I really wanted to drive up to Portland (nearest store I could find that had it) and see the selection in person, but it really wasn't worth the gas and time it would take me, so I ordered a charm pack and a panel online.  Had no idea what to expect, as I have never used a charm pack before.  Also, I really couldn't tell the size/scale of some of the prints.  (And this will be important in my finished creation.)

Starting to look for a patchwork scheme
Can't possibly use all these charms

And here's part of the panel: six classic book covers.  About 14" tall and 9" wide, per book. 

Can't you just see a tote bag (or two) out of this fabric?

Well, I'm not supposed to give away my Nancy Drew idea until the official unveiling.  Just know that I will be busy sewing away behind the scenes, and may end up abandoning any work on other projects in order to meet the deadline.  (I know my propensity to finish things at the last possible minute.  Just add in a dash of perfectionism, and my painfully slow speed at sewing, and it's a slam dunk.)

Check back in March for the final product!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Use it up!

I'm all about using things up lately.  I pieced the back of one of my WIP baby quilts specifically to use up all of a piece of fabric I've had in my stash since the late 1980s.
Turquoise zebra stripe - when was that last popular?
 Final border on this same quilt was pieced with the remains of another ancient stash fabric: a light blue cloud print.  I actually altered the star piecing of the border because I didn't have enough of the fabric to complete it as designed.  But I used up all of the blue fabric in the process.  Win!

And, as I was machine quilting on the front of said baby quilt, I chose to use an almost-empty spool of yellow thread that I thought might not make it through all the portions of the quilt that need to be yellow.

Done stitching - with thread to spare!

Oh yeah - yellow thread in all the right places
I was willing to run out of thread (and finish one or two stars with quilting in off-white), so I didn't feel like it was taking too big of a risk.

Less stuff makes me feel free.

Nancy Drew - mystery blocks

Thank you for visiting my blog today!  I have never participated in a blog hop, but I was inspired by the Nancy Drew fabric line, so I jumped right in.

I have had a shifting-block toy in my classroom for many years--advertisement for a textbook company; made out of laminated wood--and I always wanted to see if I could make a fabric version of it.  I imagined being able to fussy-cut specific fabrics to show off a particular design on the three interior surfaces, then cloaking the exterior in something different to camouflage the wonder hidden within.

Doesn't that sound like a mystery?  Couldn't you imagine a hidden clue in the center?

So, I made some prototypes: covered a single foam block in random scrap fabrics, just to check for what size to cut, and how much room needed to be left open to squeeze the block in before hand-stitching it closed.  (Too much ease, it needs a tighter fit to work well.)

Second prototype: got the shop teacher at the high school to cut up a sheet of foam (from JoAnn's) into beautiful cubes for me.  Worked furiously on figuring out how to cut and assemble fabrics to fit around the cubes, then figuring out how to make it move.  Decided--due to the extremely complex nature of the beast--to hand stitch all the seams.  Oh, silly, silly me!  Hand stitching is SO not my thing.  There it sits, even now.

But I had done my research.  I had made my mistakes on the prototypes and adjusted accordingly.  I was ready for the treasured Nancy Drew fabrics.

Bought a charm pack of Nancy Drew, sight unseen.  I have never worked with a charm pack before, and couldn't tell on the website what the scale of the various fabrics was.  I was most concerned with the size of the silhouettes, as I wanted to feature them (or one of the book covers) on the interior faces.  I even considered changing the size of my foam blocks (and ordering a layer cake instead of charms), just in case.  But I beat back the perfectionist demons, and forged ahead with the plan for 2" finished blocks (which makes a 4" overall cube).

The unveiling:  since this project moves, I wanted to show you a video of it in action.  (Many thanks to the electronic media class at my high school--you can check out some of their amazing editing work on YouTube).

There are SIX exterior surfaces and three interior scenes.  I wanted the interiors to be fussy cut, but had the limitation of the charm squares. 

It's all good, eh?  Done is beautiful.
My LQS wants me to write up the instructions for this project, but I can't even imagine how.  I might consider teaching it as a class.  If I ever venture out of my high school classroom, that is...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stack-n-whack: story of a quilt

Sit back, children, as I tell you the full story of the stack-n-whack quilt for my bed.  (I realized at show and tell that I really wanted to tell more than I was able to--here's my chance.)

Queen-size stack-n-whack

Not sure which came first: the fabric or the pattern.  I have had both for so long.

The pattern is from Bethany Reynolds' book Stack n Whackier Quilts. I had made one other quilt from this book as my first ever stack-n-whack--a low-key throw-over-the-back-of-the-couch-in-the-playroom type of quilt featuring a Hawaiian surfer print.
 I found the pattern called "Sarah's Roses" absolutely stunning, and had bookmarked it.

The fabric is home-dec weight, very large in scale.  I really wasn't sure if the weight of the fabric would work in traditional quilt piecing (can 1/4" seams hold up?) but I just loved the colors.  The creamy yellows and golds perfectly matched both the paint color of my bedroom and the sheets on my bed at the time.  So yummy.

The magic of stack-n-whack, though, comes from slicing up the fabric and seeing what happens.  What kaleidoscope patterns would come into being?

With pattern and fabric ready, this project waited patiently in a closet for several years.  Finally cut into it in the fall of 2010--after I had gotten a divorce, no longer lived in the lovely yellow/cream bedroom or slept under those tan/yellow sheets.  And, most importantly for my creative process: I no longer had to please anyone but me in making this quilt.

Design decisions

I needed to make the pattern queen size, so it had to be wider.  Went from three vertical strips to five.  That part was easy.  I also disliked the pattern's treatment of the space beyond the medallions--I felt like it was too plain.
original pattern - too much undecorated space

Since I can complicate anything, I chose to put more stack-n-whack small hexagons in the space at the end of each column.
my version - more hexagons!

Small triangles of a bold print can actually blend in
Color: what to do with the setting triangles for the small hexagons?  My friend Dwynn helped me think outside the box (she got me started with the red, for one thing), and I kinda went crazy with the options.  Couldn't limit myself to just a few colors, so I ended up buying six fat quarters for this task.  Most surprising to me was the way the large sunflower print (which I thought was too bold to fit in) actually disappeared within the tangle of the design.

Spent so much time contemplating what to do about finishing off the shape of the hexagon edges: 
smooth everything into a rectangular quilt, or leave a bit of a sawtooth edge?  In the end, I put a 3" border around the central pieced hexagons, letting the color contrast emphasize the sawtooth on both top and bottom; but I used a large cut of the main fabric for a second border along the pillow end of things.  

The effect is bold and geometric, but I think it makes a nice frame for things.

I wanted swirls quilted in the small hexagons
 The quilting was custom done by Celeste, and I think it's marvelous!  She asked about my vision, and then both interpreted it and added to it.   Since the back is a very plain fabric (Robert Kaufman quilter's linen), the quilting design shows up best there.
She said she was inspired by Middle Eastern art forms
The backing was pieced with a row of hexagons down its center.  Why?  Because I didn't buy enough backing fabric, and I needed to extend it.

Thanks for going on the tour with me!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Routine Maintenance

Time for me to quote about how life is all about the maintenance...  And for me, that means I need to keep up with my routines.  Which I have not done lately.

The most troublesome area has been my finances.  Here's just a symptom of that area:

Look! I see some cash in there.
My wallet.  There may be a twenty dollar bill in there with all the receipts, coupons, and business cards, but it's hard to tell.  And financial guru Suze Orman tells me that I need to respect my money (and myself) in order to maintain a satisfying relationship with it.  This scene does not look very respectful.

Wider view of the whole purse, just before I dumped everything out for a bit of a cleaning.  Whew!  What a mess.  Found a check from my Dad for my birthday (thanks, Dad!), as well as five gift cards from various occasions dating back to last year's June graduation.

Where to go from here?  How do I get back to having financial routines?  I even downloaded a phone app to keep track of my on-the-go cash spending, but haven't taken the time to fully figure out how to use it.  So it's just hit-and-miss, and I end up saving cash receipts "just in case".  Poo.

Well, no good news story here.  Just hoping that by blogging about it I will feel like I am now obligated to go and do something about it.  Thanks for putting up with my mini-rant today.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Some in, some out

I've been keeping a list of items that come into my life, so I can make good on my New Year's resolution to have one item leave for each new thing that comes my way.

Lots of the January "in" was gear related to my Birthday Weekend getaway to the snow: gloves, hat, scarf, new snow boots (old ones were 20+ years old), gaiters.  And, fittingly, I was able to purge older snow gear that was no longer needed.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Declutter Challenge

Found a blog, The Organised Housewife (she's Australian, thus the s where I would put a z), that has a "Declutter 52 Things in 52 Weeks" challenge.  I was intrigued!

My new year's resolution is a bit stalled: I have a long-ish list of things that have "come in" to my life, with no balancing outs.  I had thought it would be a simple matter to match in with out: a new spatula means I need to get rid of an old spatula.

Not so simple.  The January quilting retreat resulted in a load of swag coming home with me.

Magazine, charm pack, notepads, sewing gadgets, tote bag (to carry all the stuff home), socks, gloves, nicknacks, etc.--total count of items in for just this event was 20--aack!

I gave away some of the retreat items immediately: a book on sewing with knits for small children, for example.  I have offset some of the new by discarding old: got rid of three quilt calendars, knowing I have enough projects and ideas within magazines and books.

So, this is where the Declutter 52 Things comes in and rescues me.  She talks about the places where clutter breeds and lurks:  under sinks, in laundry rooms, in the back of the linen closet, in those filled-up drawers that I never open.  Yes, I have to go back to scouring around the edges for things to get rid of. 

First candidate:
Ummm, yeah.  About those drawers that I never open...

Oh, wait: there's actually two of that sort of drawer in this particular dresser.  They are both filled with beading/jewelry-making supplies, some papercrafting tools (I see a decorative punch on top), and miscellaneous "craft" stuff.

To be completely honest, there's another drawer in the living room that also belongs with this stuff.  Call it overflow?

So, this is my next declutter project.  I wouldn't let Sweetie throw anything away last time she tidied in this room, so she just tried to categorize and corral (thus the plastic bins and containers to hold like items).

But, as I have learned from FlyLady: you can't organize clutter--you can only get rid of it!

There must be at least 20 items in here that need to go away. 
Setting a timer helps: 15 minutes at a time.  I can do anything for 15 minutes.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Project Report for January

First project report of 2013.

Finished TWO items in January!  So exciting.  And already reported on, of course: Santa and Eeyore sweatshirt.

Also on the "done" pile, but not counting as projects...

Mending of the gray trousers.  Methinks they turned out quite spiffy, nicely fitting in the hips to match their well-fitting waist.

And mending of the Columbia jacket.  Velcro came out rather well.  Don't mind the color difference between the gray (original) and black.  After a week of wear, the hand-stitched velcro seems to be holding up.  Good deal.

Completed projects this Month:  2
Completed projects Year to Date:  2
New projects this Month:  0
New projects Year to Date: 0
Discarded/donated projects (farewell!): 0
Net Project Count for 2012: -2

Off to a good start.  New projects are calling me, but I am working diligently on the many UFOs and WIPs.