Monday, April 23, 2012

Wow, my bad...

If someone would like to explain to me where the last month has gone, that would be awesome.  In reality, life has been sort of ridiculous lately.  Super short-staffed at work, lots of stress that seems to come home with me and knock me out on the couch as soon as I walk in the door, running around trying to get myself prepped for a pending vacation (my first in nearly seven years--woohoo!), trying to keep my flight-phobic husband calm about said pending vacation, realizing I have nothing to wear on aforementioned trip...  Yeah.  I'm a bit of a basketcase, though some of the stress is good.

I admire people who travel easily--I was one of those people, about a dozen years ago.  I shake my head at my young self, traipsing around Europe on breaks from studying in London.  If I knew then what I know now? Kind of glad I didn't, actually, as being young and foolish was half the fun, I think.  

In any case, I've sort of turned into a weekend sewer, since the evenings have either been filled with errands (shoe shopping, in particular, is a helluva chore.  I'm abnormal, I know.  But if you wore a 10-wide, US, you'd be crabby about finding cute shoes, too.) or I've just been coming home and collapsing.  As much as I'd like to share details of work stress, since people have this wonderful idea of libraries being these quiet, calm places to work, suffice it to say that filling out police reports and trying to manage coverage for service desks AND still have enough people available to get new books and dvds out to the public in a timely manner makes for some interesting times.  Anyone who thinks libraries are dull and quiet probably hasn't been to one in awhile...

Oh, and I'm still writing blog posts for work, which acts as sort of a creative siphon, so that by the time I get home, I'm running low on words.  I know, weird, right?  Rest assured, this blog will likely never wind up monetized, simply because I don't think I can manage to get paid to maintain TWO blogs-worth of content!  That, and my point-and-shoot photos are nothing to write home about.  :)

On the weekends (though I often work those, too), I've managed to carve out little pockets of time to get to my sewing machine.  The results?

A couple more Swoon blocks.

Some improv piecing to clear my head, and my scrap bin.

My blocks for the April round of do.Good Stitches, Peace Circle, using Michelle's tutorial.

And occasionally pulling little piles of fabric for a couple of secret projects.  Don't you hate it when quilters pull that card?  Me, too.  And I'm sorry!  I'll have more to share on these piles in about a month.  

Now, let's hope I can manage to hop in here and say hello between now and then, shall we?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Slowly Swooning

The last week or so, I've felt "off". Maybe it's the time change? I feel frustrated, unfocused, and edgy. I thought maybe it was because of the full moon (it can't just be me who has trouble sleeping when it's so bright?). Then there's work stress, but then, who doesn't have that, right?

I know. I'm whiny. And tired. Mid-way through the week, I thought maybe some quality time in the sewing room would help. Until I started sewing parts of my Swoon block together wrong, and then I knew it was time for bed.

(Block 6 in progress. Also, please disregard my disgusting ironing board cover...thanks!)

I'm so close to being done, though! And by so close, I mean...I have 6 of 9 blocks done. Just 3 more! But as I am admittedly one of the slowest sew-ers on the face of the planet, it takes me an hour or so to cut all the pieces for a block, and then about 2-3 hours to sew, press, and assemble the block. When I'm in a good, productive groove, I manage a block a week, cutting one night, sewing the next two. If I'm super-lucky, I do that AND cut a second one, then sew it up one day during the weekend, provided I actually have a day off that weekend. (To the women who work full-time, and are moms, AND manage to blog and finish a quilt or more a month, I salute you--I don't know how you do it. I feel like a slacker!)

(Blocks 1-4)

(Block 5)

I have so much I want to accomplish, but Swoon is feeling like a big beautiful albatross right about now. I want it finished! Now! Especially since I have three other quilts waiting in the wings that I want to leap into. Normally, I'd just shift over for a few weeks, then try and shift back. But my track record on the "shift back" part is kinda shaky, so I'd rather avoid that if at all possible right now.

So, to get my proverbial engines revved, I had a play with a few different color palettes this morning. Nothing I plan to cut into quite yet, just a little juice for the old brain, and the eyes.

First, this delicious stack of Heirloom by Joel Dewberry, from the Ruby and Sapphire colorways. I chose to keep the greens out of it, and just ran with purples, pinks, and those bits of mustardy yellow. Those who have been reading around here know that I am typically not a pinks and purples, at alllll. But this collection really spoke to me, with the architectural, modern feel to so many of the prints. My plan is to use these beauties for Camille Roskelley's On A Whim pattern, which is what the Swoon-along group on Flickr is working on next (alongside another of Camille's patterns, Hopscotch, but I'm saving that one for another day...).

But there's another quilt in the works, and I have some test blocks I need to make in the next month or two. So I built this palette of basics in royal, navy, carrot-y oranges, and sunny yellows.

How can that not make you happy? I'll be sharing more of this one as we get closer to the summer, I think.

Hope everyone has lots of their favorite things this St. Paddy's weekend. My husband HATES corned beef, so we're skipping that and going straight for the Guinness! Cheers, and happy sewing!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Southport Congregational Church Quilt Show, 2012

I've spent the last week kind of noodling this post around in my head, because it feels like there's so much to it. Those of you who have been reading since last year may remember that I attended this show with my grandmother last year, too. (If you missed those posts, take a second to go back and browse--there were some really incredible pieces!) Southport Congregational Church has been putting on this quilt show, Fabrics and Fabrications, since 2003, and it is hosted and run entirely by community volunteers. The proceeds go to Emerge, Make a Wish and Project Learn. This year's show hosted over 150 quilts and quilted objects, and the theme was "Reuse, Recycle, Rejoice!". There was a huge showing of scrap quilts, as you'll see, as well as a special exhibit of art made from found or repurposed items. The special exhibit was super-crowded, and I didn't manage to get many photos of it, unfortunately.

The day was overcast and kind of dreary, which meant that there wasn't the same stained-glass glow lighting the quilts in the sanctuary as last year. The lights were turned all the way up, but some of the photos still feel a little dark--my apologies! I also didn't get a chance to take as many pictures this year--last year, my grandmother had brought her cane, but chose not to walk very far, and sat at the entrance of the sanctuary while I ran around and ooh-ed and ahh-ed and snapped photos. This year, she'd brought her wheeled walker, and I believe I might have used the term "heck on wheels" more than once. She's a speed demon with what she calls her "jeep". So I didn't get as many photos as last year, and therefore chose to keep this as one post.

There were LOTS of scrap quilts this year, and they ranged from antique to contemporary, traditional to modern. Actually, you'll see that there are quite a few more modern quilts this year than last, something one of the volunteers mentioned while talking to a reporter from the local paper as we walked through the chapel display (the chapel's pretty small, I swear I wasn't eavesdropping...much). It was cool to see that shift in the show quilts in just a year's time!

Finally, I will say that there were a few issues with the program this year, so I will share what I can that I think is accurate. I'm also linking out where I can--I'm not receiving any compensation or incentive to do so, just so this is all above board!

This first is a star sampler using a Connecting Threads pattern, using fat quarters. It was finished in 2010 by Pat Cole, machine quilted by Butler Country Crafts, Clyde Park, Montana.

This Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt was hand-pieced, -appliqued and -quilted. I don't think I've ever been to a quilt show that didn't feature a hexagon quilt! There's a reason we're all obsessed with these all over again, I think--they're so timeless. We might not use seafoam green borders if making one today, but if you didn't include that, you could easily be looking at something a modern quilter might create today.

Log cabin variations were very well represented this year. This one was made in 2008, machine pieced and quilted.
This next was made in the 1930s, and was machine pieced on a Singer treadle sewing machine, then hand-quilted. Many of the fabrics were flour and feed sacks. I could have honestly looked at this one all day.

Another log cabin quilt, hand pieced and quilted, finished in 1998.

I kind of love the crazy scrappiness of this next one. It was made sometime before 1920, according to its family pedigree, and is just a flimsy (an unquilted, unbacked quilt top). It was hand-pieced by the owner's grandmother and great aunts. I really kind of have to wonder why it has gone unfinished for nearly 100 years. What happened? That's one for Jennifer Chiaverini to write about, huh?

This next one I totally fell in love with. I love Ocean Waves, though the thought of so many little HSTs gives me pause. It's a bucket-list pattern for me. This one is a quilt that obviously saw lots of hard use and was well loved over the years--you can see that some of the fabric triangles are worn clean through to the batting in some places. The program says 1922, and was made by the same women as the quilt above. Can't you just see a group of sisters sitting and hand-piecing triangles every night? This one went into the owner's grandmother's wedding trousseau. I love the stories behind these.

This four patch had pride of place on one of the front pews. Unfortunately, this is one that the program sort of doesn't agree with the number, so it will go down as the mystery 4-patch.

And now we start seeing some of the modern-feeling quilts. This one, made in 2006 by Richard Killeaney (a local CT quilter), is machine pieced and quilted, using 13 men's dress shirt fabrics (some over dyed with natural dyes). The back and batting are organic cotton. As a side note, there was a second quilt made in a similar style by Mr. Killeaney in red and white fabrics from recycled men's shirts. Unfortunately, I could not get a photo where that one did not read as sort of muddy pink! Could not do it justice, sorry Mr. Killeaney!

This next is also one of Mr. Killeaney's quilts, and I really wish I'd gotten a better picture. Called "Design Elements", it represents different elements of quilt design, including photocopies on some of the fabric of paper piecing designs. The creme color represents masking tape. This quilt was made in 2003.

Can you tell yet that I seriously love Richard Killeaney's design aesthetic? This 2008 Zig Zag quilt is another of his designs, made from 13 different men's shirts, with a linen backing and organic batting. May I say that the linen backing gave this quilt the coolest drape? I didn't touch, but I did ask one of the gloved volunteers working there to show me. I just love the neutrals, the echo quilting, the giant zig-zags. It honestly made my heart go pitter-pat!

Numbers 130 and 75 in the next two pictures were both made by one of the lovely ladies my grandmother and I lunched with that day, Charlotte Matthews. I'm particularly enamored of this first one, with the almost pixelated edges and neutrals mixed with just a couple of pops of color. Her process on this was to copy a photograph onto graph paper, then determining colors and sewing it together using just squares. It is called Leaves in Pond Ice. I can see it, can you?

Charlotte's other quilt, #75, was a scrappy throw to cheer up a friend. I was also taken with #74 beside it--do you see the wonky piecing? Me, too!

And finally, can you guess who made #46?

If you guessed Richard Killeaney, you'd be right! I have to say, I didn't look up anything in the program until after I got home, so this was all purely by what spoke to me. This piece was Mr. Killeaney's RISD thesis, machine pieced and appliqued, lined with flannel.

I hope you enjoyed my little highlights tour of the show--I'm very excited to attend a second show here in CT next month, the bi-annual Connecticut Piecemaker's Quilt Guild show, A Spring Shower of Quilts. The madman was nice enough to accompany me at the last show, two years ago. I'll be interested to see if there's a shift toward more modern quilts in this show after two years, especially since seeing such a shift at the Southport show.

What's inspiring you these days?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Swooning, babies, Valentines

So, do you Swoon? As in, are you one of the over 800 quilters participating in Katy's madcap Swoon-along on flickr? I am, and we're all mad for Camille's pattern, and it's awesome to see everyone's different takes on the block. Of course, say Camille and Katy in the same paragraph and you know I'm there! And here's what I have to show for it...

Three Swoon blocks (these big babies finish up at 25" square) and a slightly blurry pile of fabric that needs putting away. My sewing room is a disaster, always. Perfection would be boring--that's my story, and I'm sticking to it... In any case, I have a fourth block cut and ready for piecing, and plan on going for the full 9, plus some borders to make it big enough for our queen-size bed. And this one? I'm sending out for quilting. It'll be the first I haven't quilted myself, and I'm a bit nervous about it. Cart before the horse at the moment, though.

In between Swoon blocks and all the bee blocks I've been cranking out, there was time to put together a Valentine's Day mug rug for The Madman,

to match his Man Cave quilt, currently draped over MY quilt in said Man Cave.

Also, does it count as a commission if you're not getting paid for a quilt? Didn't think so. We'll call this a favor, then.

The Madman's co-worker and cw's girlfriend are expecting a daughter next month, and TM asked me if I'd make them a quilt. How can I say no to a man who helps me baste my quilts? So I weaseled the nursery colors from his co-worker (pink and brown) and started thinking. I had a small stack of Weekends by Erin McMorris in pinks, golds and browns, which I had won from a Fat Quarterly giveaway last year, saving it for the perfect project, of course. So I added a few basics from my stash, and went with simple patchwork to show off the big prints. And wound up with this:

Thanks to the Saturday storms that cleared off in time for me to snap a photo before it headed into the wash! I quilted it with straight lines, two on either side of each vertical seam, using the edge of my walking foot as a guide. To the Weekends fabrics, I added a brown solid, some Kei Honeycomb dots in pink, a pale pink with square dots from Aneela Hoey's Sherbet Pips, and Tula Pink's Birdcage print in pink from her Plume line. Oh, and a brown and cream sprig from Liz Scott's Sugar Pop line, which I also used to bind it.

I backed it with a pink and white floral from City Weekends by Oliver + S, which is so, so soft and cuddly. Hope the parents-to-be love it!

I know I do! The finished quilt measured at 38 x 44", and I used 6" squares to piece it. And that's a second finish for the year--I am on such a roll!

I have some cool pictures to share later this week from the annual Fabrics and Fabrications quilt show in Southport, CT, which I attended last weekend with my grandmother. See you then!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bee blocks, catching up

What a wild month--it's amazing how a few things like a stomach virus (YUCK!) and a quilt commission will just knock the whole month out. I am all caught up (actually, a little ahead of myself) on my bee blocks. I've stayed true to my word, and I'm down to two bees (from five at one point--I am feeling much saner!), but there's been enough to keep me busy!

First, there were two scrappy green stars for February's round of my Peace circle over at do.Good Stitches, using a tutorial by Amber. Such fun little blocks--I fell so in love with them that I have a super-scrappy version in process. Like I need another WIP, I know!

And then there was a call for some scrappy log cabin blocks for a special quilt for a girl going through a rough time (you can read about it over here), and I was so moved by her story, I had to help out. In a night, these little guys were sewn up and then sent out the next morning.

Then I started putting together piles of yummy fabric for the lovely ladies in my hive of 4x5--I'm caretaking for hive #2 this quarter (see, still a little nuts!), and my hive has some great color combinations...

Which quickly became some of these Ribbon Stars (tutorial by the illustrious Faith of Fresh Lemons). Really fell in love with these--they actually come together super fast, and the piles above became these:

Over the course of a few evenings. See the extra in the bottom left corner? That was my test block in my colors this round. I love seeing them all together again. Can we say, future scrap quilt? (Really, this should surprise none of you at this point--I always have...several in progress!)

And finally, March's blocks for do.Good Stitches are already done and sent. Paula was heading out of town for a few weeks and gave us our assignment early, so I took a couple of evenings and knocked these babies out--8 little 6.5" scrappy blocks using the tutorial over at Completely Cauchy.

Love them, with their little red centers--Paula's only stipulation on color.

SO much happened in February, obviously it's going to take me more than one post to tell y'all about it. In which case, I'll be back in a few days with Swoon blocks, a baby quilt, and what I made for my Valentine. :)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Project Monogamy

AKA, finishing a project.

First of all, where the hell did January go? I blinked, and it was over. I had a week off in the middle, a stay-cation, marred by the death of my godmother, who I've known since I was hours old. The world is a sadder, duller place without her, and I miss her like hell. I spent most of the rest of my vacation in my sewing room, losing myself in piecing and color and old episodes of SVU on Netflix. Ask my husband--I was not a joy to be around that week, crying at the drop of a hat, not sleeping well, and no nerves to speak of. I'm on the other side, and I'm grateful I had the time away from work and people to get my act together. I'm also lucky to have a husband who just holds me when I'm a mess. :)

But from all dark places come bits of light, and at the end of the week, I'd finished my first quilt-along. EVER. My favorite fabric maven, Brenda, started a Bust Yo Scraps! quilt-along at the beginning of January, and boy, did I have scraps to bust! I pulled all of my blue, aqua and green scraps, then threw in a few odds and ends in gray and black. I cut and cut and cut and sewed for hours, days. I'm not normally one for sticking with a project to the end, and I'm still not sure what was up with this. Maybe because it was the first quilt I was making just for me, specifically? I don't know.

All I know is, at the end of the week, I had this.

Said awesome husband helped me baste it, and I started working on picking a binding. I thought I knew just what I wanted, until I pulled it out...

Have you ever had a different idea of what a fabric in your stash looks like? I somehow remembered this Tula Pink fabric as being much more green than this, but when I pulled it, it read paler and more gold than I'd remembered. I spent several hours kind of casting around aimlessly, pawing through my stash. I lit on this DS Quilts print, and decided to run with it. Two hundred and seventy-some-odd inches of binding later, I had this...

The quilting, usually my least favorite part, was smooth and easy and pleasurable on this one. I never know how the quilting will go--sometimes the easy stuff takes me ages and plenty of frogging, sometimes the ones I think will be more challenging are fast and easy. I decided to try and take it easy on myself for this one, and just went with straight lines about a third of an inch or so to either side of each block seam. I used Warm and Natural batting, which allows you to quilt or tie up to ten inches apart. My quilting lines are about seven inches apart across the blocks, and it made for a soft and cozy lap quilt.

This quilter finally has a quilt of her own. It has scraps of so many favorites, and it's backed with another DS Quilts print.

My first finish of the new year, AND one that would work really well with Jelly Rolls or Charm Packs, too. It went super fast, and I'm so happy to finally have a quilt on my own--now I can stop stealing the Madman's Man Cave Quilt when we're watching TV! (Although, this quilt, which finished at about 54"x62" after washing, is slightly bigger than the Man Cave Quilt, and now the Madman is whining about needing a bigger quilt, too. *sigh*)

Now, on to the next project! Hope everyone else had a good sewing start to the new year, and I promise I'll try and post again before March!