Sunday, December 31, 2017

1930's Scrap Quilt finish

I'm happy with posting all these finished projects!  This quilt *may* have been done in 2016--it was certainly well used over the course of this year.

 Last appeared on the blog in June 2016; I had just finished piecing the back at retreat and dropped it off at the long-arm quilter.

Jayne is such a wonderful quilter!  This is the 3rd quilt she's done for me, and I don't think I said much more than, "Please do something in line with the nature of the 1930's timeframe."  She created an amazing border treatment of feathers and waves in the scrappy-cream negative space.

I didn't really love my pieced back, but the quilting really improved its likabiliity.  And has not diminished my using the quilt this year.  It's one of my favorites for napping on the couch.

Successful scrap quilt!  Made from someone else's cast-off scraps, even.  And made entirely from stash, including using up all of a 20+ year old piece of background fabric.

Thanks for a great 2017!  More completed projects need to show up on the blog, and more in-process reporting should happen as the backlog of the unblogged gets sorted through in 2018.

See you next year.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Grandmother's Fan Pillow finish

Look, another finished item makes it into the blog!  This was one of my goals to finish in March, and I had to confess that I still hadn't finished it by July.

I used a pre-printed muslin backing to make the Grandmother's Fan block from an assortment of blue fabrics that were leftovers from making another pillow (not yet blogged).  Probably my favorite aspect of this pillow was the Man About Town background fabric from Northcott Studio.  (I have since purchased another big length of it--too versatile not to have more of this.)

This same fan was previously seen in pink fabrics, from a challenge block I made in January.  I also have a few more of these fan blocks made up, in Japanese indigo fabrics.  And I have yet more of the printed muslin, just no plans for it...

Meanwhile, loving this finished pillow!

Friday, December 29, 2017

She Likes It! Christmas Quilt Unwrapped

Now that the Christmas dust has settled, and the shredded wrapping paper gone to the bin, I can happily report on the largest quilt I've ever made: she likes it!

Here is the inspiration.  A painting from her house, that her husband said encapsulated the kind of art she likes.

Also, "her favorite color is purple."  These are the fabrics I pulled.

And I put them together pretty much in that order, using a variation on Elizabeth Hartman's Metropolis pattern from her book Modern Patchwork

One quilt "block".  King size.  Purple?  Check.  But not quite in line with the inspiration artwork.  No problem, this quilt has 2 sides, I'll just make it reversible!  And so, I moved far far away from my comfort zone...

Bought a giant swath of stunning fabric: Discovery Tree, from Frond Design Studios (whose mission is "to keep hand-designed art in fabric") and started playing around on my design wall.  My main concern was how to let the fabric be the star--not cut it up into blocks and lose all its fabulousness.

I had one repeat of another Frond fabric, Metamorphosis Hurricane, so I worked to insert one of its motifs into the fiery party.  And I was off and running!

"Running" is not quite the right word for it.  Despite using a free-form, improv cutting and piecing technique, I was tortured about every cut and placement.  I spent hours deliberating over which fabrics to insert, as I gently pried apart the flames to inject variety and break up the five repeats within the main fabric.  Used two different colors of Moda Grunge fabric along the top and bottom, but continued the set-in bits of color there as well.

So worth it!  The look on her face, the squeals of "I can't believe you made this for me." And, "How did you manage to keep this a secret for a whole year?"  Yep, Christmas joy, right there.

Thanks for reading along this far.  I have a tendency to gush over my completed projects.  It's the main reason I started blogging: to track my finishes, and to tell a complete story with each quilt.

Since this is such a big finish, I'm linking up with TGIFF

hosted this week by Kathy's Kwilts and More.  Follow the link to see some other amazing December finishes--I think many of us have been keeping mum on Christmas projects.

To Cathy. Love, Alla

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Textures: I Ruff You

I am in love with textures lately!  (Okay, maybe always, but I'm working on a couple textured projects, so it's only natural to highlight textural elements.)

The shop has a panel that will stitch up into a children's book.  (One of Sandra Magsamen's Huggable and Loveable book panels.)  I happen to have a soft spot for children's books--especially those made of cloth. (see some of my previous book makes here and here)

So I stitched it up!  But I had to add a few embellishments.  You know, just because.  On the front cover, I couched down a striped cord for the heart/balloon's string.

On the page with the words "10 tiny fingers and 10 tiny toes", I stitched on buttons from my big ol' button jar: ten of 'em!

I appliqued a matching eye patch on one page, made from KraftTex (a washable paper that feels and looks like leather).  Oh, and can you see the french knots I added to the dog's ears?  Black-on-black doesn't show up so well in photos...

What goes around the outside of a Valentine heart?  Well, I used rick-rack instead of lace.

I just used good old Perle cotton to stitch around some of the words pre-printed on the panel.

 And finally, the doggie on the back cover was missing a tail!  Can you imagine?  So I stitched up a little felt tail.  Much improved.

What do you think?  Are you a fan of cloth books?  Any favorite textural elements that the kids in your life really like?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mid-month Check-in

"Forgiveness is important when you're trying to do something every day." --Abby Glassenberg, from the While She Naps podcast

It's more than halfway through the month of December, how is my 31 days of blogging coming along?  Well, dear reader, you have probably noticed that I have not written a blog post every day.  Yup, that happened (or didn't happen, really).

Pro's and Con's: what have I learned so far?

  1. As of this post, I have published 9 blog posts in December.  This is more posts than I had in the entire year before December.  So... essentially going from not-blogging to somewhat-frequently-blogging.
  2. The app on my phone no longer supports my blogging.  So I don't have the option to quickly snap a picture or 2 and have a simple blog post that way.  I should probably download one of the paid apps for this purpose--the photo step really tends to get in the way of quick posting.
  3. On at least 3 occasions this month, I have been at a place where I consciously chose to sew instead of blogging.  If I get the chance to choose sewing, that will almost always win.  So how do I structure blogging so that it doesn't actively compete with sewing?  Hmm, something to think about...
  4. Even Cheryl Sleboda, the lovely hostess of this 31-day challenge, has missed a few days.  December daily anything is HARD.
  5. Perfectionism really gets in my way.  Always.  I have 29 draft posts in "partially completed" form, that could become published blog posts.  If only I didn't need to: take the picture, edit the picture, find the link, mess with the formatting, etc. etc. 
  6. Hand sewing beats blogging?
  7. My posts tend to be looong wordy.  True daily blogging would require shorter posts, with less emphasis on them each being a work of art.

These seem like valuable lessons.  I think embarking on new adventures and taking on challenges can provide those lessons in ways that clumping through life in my normal manner would not.  Have you learned from a recent challenge?  I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, December 15, 2017


At some point, probably while I was busy not-blogging, I started taking medication for my ADD.  I am a little sheepish about admitting this publicly, because I was trying so hard to manage my symptoms without resorting to pharmaceutical intervention.  I saw the stimulant meds route as a failure of my willpower, or some other such nonsense.

I think I first entertained the notion after the 3rd time my therapist said, "Are you sure you haven't tried any medications for managing your ADD?"  (Um, I'm pretty sure I would know if I had been on meds for this...)

So I tried a prescription.  Very low dose.  And within a month, my therapist fired me as a weekly client, because most of the source of my frustrations and depression turned out to have been due to  dealing with the way my brain processed the world.  So that was a win.

But it's not all rainbows and bunnies.  I still struggle with my brain wandering off in random directions (see recent blog post, for example).  I am still incredibly slow at doing things.

I have major needs in terms of executive functioning of my brain.  These needs are not addressed by the meds.  As one of my HS students once said of ADD medications, "It helps me to focus, true, but it doesn't help me figure out what is important to focus on."

And so it goes.  Much better in some areas--I can leave a task half-finished because of an interruption and often come back to finish it--but no better in others.  Some days I am sad that I need to take a daily medication in order to "feel normal".  But then I spend some time in the presence of another adult with un-managed ADD, and I feel so bad for them.  I know what pinball game is going on in their brain; I am grateful that the meds allow my brain to have stepped away from that game.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tutorial: HST 101

HST: half-square triangle, the basis for many quilt blocks

I know about 8 methods for making HST's.  Some of them involve special rulers, specially marked papers, or other tools to simplify the process.  I have my two favorites (a tool and a paper product), but I can and do use others--they each have their pro's and con's.

This tutorial will show the most common method for making TWO HST units.

The math

finished size of HST unit + 7/8"

Cut two squares of fabric this size (coordinating fabrics, contrasting fabrics, or focus fabric + background fabric).  For example, a 2" finished block will use two squares that are 2 7/8" by 2 7/8".  This measurement allows for the diagonal seam allowance, and will result in TWO HST units that each measure 2 1/2" on a side (and will finish within a larger quilt block at the desired 2")


1.  Marking
On the wrong side of one of the fabric squares (choose the lightest fabric for easier drawing), draw a line along ONE diagonal.

You may use any straight edge/ruler for making this line.  Similarly, you may use any pen/pencil that will make a narrow line; the line will be within your seam allowance and will not be seen.

Alternatively, a tool called the Quilter's Rule Quick Quarter can be used for this marking step.  If you use this tool (very brief video here from Connecting Threads on YouTube), you will mark not only on the center of the diagonal, but along each of the edges of the tool.  This marking should be done in pencil.

2.  Stitching
Place your two fabric squares right sides together, pinning if you wish.  (I pin here because I am cautious when sewing along a bias, and don't want any chance of distortion.)
Stitch 1/4" away from each side of the line drawn along your diagonal.

If you used the Quick Quarter tool, these 1/4" stitching lines have been drawn by you already.  Simply stitch along the drawn outside lines.

3.  Cut and press
Cut apart your square along the center diagonal line.  Open the two HST units, pressing the seam allowance to one side (usually toward the darker fabric, unless your pattern advises otherwise).

Want more HST techniques?  I have written about a couple other techniques here and here (these were not meant to be tutorials, but do include some details)

Can you learn a technique from just pictures and text, or do you need a video tutorial? 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hawaiian Souvenir Fabric

The recent visit to Oahu featured lots of typical tourist activity: hotel luau, pineapple plantation tour, beach time, and souvenir shopping!

A top recommended souvenir shopping location is the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, which features hundreds of vendors, both the imported mass-produced variety and handcrafted local artisan fare.  Hawaiian print fabric was seen everywhere.  I picked up some off-cuts of fabric from a booth with aprons, hats, bags and potholders.  It made me happy to find bundles of Hawaiian print scraps, but I really had no idea what to expect inside each one.

The squares were about 3 1/2", so not quite charm size.  Each fabric appeared about a dozen times, and there were 20 different fabrics.  They were all heavier home-dec weight.  I was able to make a bundle of fabric squares for each of my co-workers at the shop.  I hope they like working with scraps as much as I do.

The oblong bundle contained similar fabrics as the squares, but in varying quantities.  Each print appears in several colorways, plus maybe a dozen different black-and-white prints.  I'm envisioning a patchwork tote bag, maybe an oven mitt, and definitely a microwave bowl cozy (I like this tutorial from Happy Hour Stitches)

I got to escape touristy Waikiki and go to a fabric store at one point, and I might've gone a little nuts.  Fabric Mart has 4 retail locations and specializes in all things Hawaiian print: apparel, home dec, quilting and batiks.

My favorite purchase: 3 1/2 yards of black rayon with a large chrysanthemum print.  Although the flowers are large, their placement in vertical rows with plenty of surrounding black background means that I can envision this looking pretty and formal, given the right silhouette.

Two other rayons and a barkcloth, all with classic Hawaiian floral motifs.  The rainbow floral in the center will be a challenge, but the blue & green prints seem more wearable--Hawaiian print shirts, anyone?

Finally, some bargain fabrics.  The red and pink were each less than $5 per yard.  I will use one of them as a bag lining, and maybe make a pop-up basket from the other.

Whew!  Twelve yards of fabric--but someone in one of my fabric stashbusting groups said that souvenir fabrics don't count.  Don't you agree?

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Quilt hanging sleeve alternative

Found this photo as I was trying to organize the digital clutter.  I took it at Late Night stitch-n-bitch, back when I lived in Oregon.  I thought it was so clever!

Instead of a sleeve: make triangular pockets in the top corners of your wallhanging, then cut a yardstick so it fits snugly.  I suppose a length of inexpensive wooden trim/molding or off-cuts from a lumber yard could also work.  And the *genius* final touch is to attach picture-hanging hardware to the center of the wood, so your masterpiece can be hung on a simple nail.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Attack of the Open Computer Tabs

Warning: ADD post ahead.
This is what my brain looks like... an ever-shifting random collection of ideas and information rabbit holes, some of which I have clearly abandoned, but which I cannot let go of (why is that?)  Here are the tabs currently open on my browser--I'm sure some psychology grad student could do their dissertation off of this list...

The Technium: 1000 true fans - an online article by Kevin Kelly, which is used in Tim Ferriss' book "Tools of Titans."  An essay, originally posted in 2008, on how small entrepreneurs/artists just need 1,000 passionate customers that they can engage with repeatedly in order to make a living.  Interestingly, a Web search on the title will get you lots of more recent commentary and support for the concept.

Search results for images: "chicken silhouette" "simple cat shape" and "bat shapes for children".  I'm up to something, just can't get myself over the fear of not being able to draw.  Really, I just need to get out of my own way...

Apps to make your own memes - umm, yeah I guess I was into that.  For about a minute.  And yet, the tab is still open on my computer.  At this point, I'm starting to feel like I don't pick up my sweaty socks off the floor...

Slave Chain quilt block, also called Job's Tears.  The link discusses some history of the block but doesn't give a tutorial.  I am interested in this block, because the African American Quilt Guild of Oakland, of which I am a member, is making Underground Railroad quilts this year.  And while the concept of using quilts to send messages to escaping slaves--described and patterned in an Eleanor Burns book from 2003--was widely discredited by scholars, that has not stopped our efforts to publicize links between quilting, slavery, and African Americans.  I had looked briefly through Barbara Brackman's book "Facts and Fabrications: Unraveling the History of Quilts and Slavery" that expanded upon blocks that might be meaningful in an Underground Railroad quilt, and the slave chain block kinda stayed with me.  In a fittingly uncomfortable way, I might add.  So I am sitting with this discomfort, now represented by an open browser tab, as I work (on and off) on the blocks for my guild quilt.

A post on Washing Rayon Clothing and Fabric - rayon is very delicate when it is wet; good tips here

I dreamed of the Convergence Quilt pattern one night (without knowing what it was called, or who the designer was), as a response to working with two Frond Design Studio fabrics that didn't make the cut for the giant quilt currently awaiting binding.  Lo and behold, a customer at the shop the very next day came in with a Convergence top that she needed borders for--along with a host of photos on her phone of various Convergence patterns she had made over the years!  The serendipity, I tell ya.  An almost-tutorial on the process is available on the Adventures in Quilting and Sailing blog, but the author of the post tells you to get your hands on the Ricky Timms book, as it has so many variations, and clearer directions, etc.  Plus, it's always good to support the actual designers who do the work to birth these great ideas!

Amazing Quilts by Grace - saw her value tool on an episode of Fresh Quilting (or was it Quilting Arts TV?)  Really think I need one...  As the saying goes,
"Color gets all the credit, but Value does all the work"

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Visual Diary: Oahu

Hotel carpeting: always interesting
I'm not much of a photographer, even when I go to amazing places on vacations.  This trend has improved only slightly with the age of the camera on one's phone.

So, if you'll indulge me, I have about a dozen photos from our recent trip to the island of Oahu that I'd like to park here in BlogLand.  No selfies.  Very little scenery, especially of the typical sort.  I just pull out my camera when I see something inspiring.

Exhibit A: hotel carpeting.  I have demonstrated before my love of the quirky design that is the hallmark of hotel carpets.  Couldn't help myself.  (Full disclosure, I have snapped pix of the upholstery of restaurant booths, too.  My family knows I have no shame.)

I really found lots of textures and themes in Hawaii that were calling out to me.  Come along for my version of sight-seeing!

 First things first: Hawaii boasts lovely flowers and unusual plants.  And those tropical beauties decorate many surfaces--including this phone booth.  (When did you last see a phone booth?  With a working phone?)

Some actual Hawaiian flowers and plants.  Fun to see plants that we consider indoor houseplants growing much happier in their tropical home environment.  Even Oakie took time to admire a simple floral display (in the restroom of one of the botanical gardens we visited).

The Kapa (traditional barkcloth, right) displayed in our hotel was a true work of art from a woman working to bring back this technique to artisans in the Islands.  Of course, I wanted to investigate becoming her apprentice--how cool might that be?

Another textile-related inspiration.  What is it about textures that I cannot resist?

Somehow, part of our hotel complex was dolled up to look like a village or temple area in Asia.  Not quite sure what that was about...

But the details were pretty cool, so out came my camera...

The memorial atop the sunken USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor features two versions of an abstract Tree of Life.  The Tree symbolizes rebirth and renewal.  I was very moved by visiting this memorial, and equally inspired by the interpretation of this very old Tree symbol into such a contemporary, graphic version.  (Of course it looks like a modern quilt to me.  How could it not?)

Having just worked on a traditional sashiko design, I think my brain was tuned in to Japanese symbols found throughout Hawaii.  The Island culture today is certainly mixed with a lot of Asian imagery and themes.  This picture is from a shopping area that seems to cater to Japanese tourists.

And finally, we conclude our tour of Hawaiian motifs with a t-shirt.  I liked this one because the traditional Honu sea turtle was decorated with a map of the islands.  Good graphic design: combining two appealing, iconic images in a cohesive, new way.

I escaped my vacation without purchasing any apparel.  But those ubiquitous Hawaiian print fabrics did come back with me...  I'll save that tale for later.

Do you take pictures of unusual things while traveling?  What does one do with pix of the hotel carpeting, anyway?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

December Goals

Well hello there, goal list!  The endless ToDo lists may lurk in dusty corners everywhere these almost holi-days, but there is something so wonderful about setting stitching goals at the beginning of a month, and then checking back in to see how it all went down.  I have loved seeing the monthly goals of Barbara over at Cat Patches (plus she's just a hoot to read), but I see that she has abandoned this practice for 2017.  Alrighty then, I will have to supply my own humor as I go thru my list for December.

But first, let me predict the length of this goal list.  I am notoriously good at forgetting half of the WIPs or other promised sewing projects that I have going on... How far away from reality am I here?

My guess: 10

hush-hush quilt feature

Goals for December

1.  Finish super-secret quilt
Not too exciting as goals go, can't show a full picture until the recipient has it in hand.  But let me say
that I am delighted with the quilt!  My largest quilt ever, only the binding left to do.

2.  Finish baby quilt for Guild charity drive
Much as I would love to work on a new, simple quilt designed from fabrics in my stash, the short timeframe until the Guild holiday party requires me to be pragmatic: I am finishing the quilting on a UFO.  Last seen in October 2014, when I reported I had successfully sandwiched the quilt.  I had clearly lost interest in this project, a red-pink-black sampler quilt that was finished piecing in October 2012.  My FMQ skills are still not up to the task, but I have a plan for quilting.  And I think the binding might even be cut out already...

3.  Finish puppy pillow sham
Elizabeth Hartman's Dogs in Sweaters pattern.  So. Darn. Cute.  Most of the quilting is done, just the border area left.  And then to put a back on it.

4.  Hand-stitch binding on Circles BoM quilt
There are a few more applique and finishing bits to go, even after the binding is complete, but December's goal is to use some prime Bowl Game watching time to finish the binding.

5.  Make/complete 3 blocks for Woven BoM
This year's BoM at the shop has the theme Woven from Tradition.  And the color story modern pink lemonade.  It started in September, but I still have some stitching to do on October, November and December blocks.
Oh, and I probably should have a block ready for January--given that I am teaching this BoM and all.

6.  Finish 2 chirimen samples
For the shop: I started two small hand projects using vintage Japanese chirimen rayon.  One of them is an ornament, so it seems like a reasonable goal to finish it for display this month.  But then again, it requires hand-work.  Do I have any air travel coming up?  That's my best hand-work-finishing location.

7.  Finish "C is for Chicken" book
This is a sample for the class I will teach in February.  Need it completed so that it will attract students to take the class.  I have been dilly-dallying because I feel like I can't draw a decent chicken.  But...the collage chicken has the barest resemblance to poultry, and I'm not rushing to remake it for a lack of realism.  I just need to get over myself. 

8.  Memorial stockings for the siblings
Our much-beloved childhood quilt was cut up to make a repurposed Christmas stocking.  Now I need to make 2 more--one each for my brother and sister.

Actual count: 8

Good gravy!  Long list, busy month.  As always, I have several other projects that vie for my attention (new & shiny anyone?)  I did NOT put them on the list, hoping to stay focused on the ones listed here.  As if 8 projects really represents "focus".

In an effort to FOCUS, I am declaring item #7, the "C is for Chicken" book to be my One Monthly Goal for the linky party hosted at Elm Street Quilts.

I will be reporting my progress on the pesky poultry pages later this month.  Wish me luck!