Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hello, world!

Let's think back on a magical time. A time when I used to blog -- and when I used to SEW. I remember many Sunday mornings that I spent happily in front of my sewing machine, whiling away the hours with a Miss Marple mystery playing softly in the background. I haven't had many of those days since I decided to attend graduate school and moved to Michigan, but I have been slowly getting back into sewing over the last couple of months, which has been wonderful. And I realized that I even have a quilt to post about -- the last quilt I finished, in August 2011. (YIKES! That seems even stranger since it's 2013 now.)

The saddest thing about this is that I finished the quilt so long ago -- and so much has happened in my life since then -- that I remember very little from the process of making it. The photos will just have to tell the story for me! The pictures don't capture the colors in the quilt was much more subdued in reality. The photos make it look garish, but they'll just have to do for now! 

I see that I rounded the edges and did a bias binding.

I see from my progress post that the quilt was about 95" square before quilting, so I will assume it finished up somewhere between 90" and 95" square.

I do remember doing minimal, straight-line quilting. I merely echoed the diamond shape of the blocks. It looks like the lines were probably spaced about 1.5" apart. I also used 100% bamboo batting, which I love. Bamboo batting is the BEST!

The colors are closer to real life in the photos above and below.

My grandmother has a boat named Salty at her house. I got trapped under it (underwater) once when I was a kid. It seemed like a good prop for a quilt!

This was the biggest quilt I've ever made, and I'm definitely proud of it! I remember telling myself that I wanted to take a break from making bed quilts after I finished this, and I think I've taken a long enough break!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Light-and-Dark Log Cabin

I started a light-and-dark log cabin in early May, following a huge fabric-buying spree at Keepsake and Marden's (a discount store in Sanford, Maine. Don't ask, just go.). I described the motivation and process for the quilt in this post, but it's been so long that I'll go over it again. I felt a sudden compulsion to attempt to use up my (albeit meager) scrap stash and make a log cabin quilt when I returned from the NEMQG retreat. I cut up all the scraps I had into 2" strips (for 1.5" finished "logs") and pulled out a stack of 2.5" squares that I already had sitting around from a failed project that I never posted about. (Don't you love when that happens?) I cut three yards of KF Shot Cotton in Blush into 2" strips, calculated some basic measurements, and went to town sewing a mockup block. Happy with the first attempt, I chain-pieced 48 more.

...not so fast, of course. There was a period during block construction where I just could not believe that the project would ever be finished. You know the stage: when you realize you're only about 60% of the way through the blocks and you find it all but impossible to imagine that your hours of slaving away at the machine have resulted in such a meager pile of fabric. "How many more seasons of Will & Grace must I endure before I finish this thing," you ask yourself as you try to remove the chocolate stain you left on the last block you ironed.

Anyway, the blocks took me more than a month to sew. Once I finished them, I realized that the blocks together measured nearly twice the size of my entire living room. I considered renting space in the library or resorting to other bizarre venues for laying out my blocks. Luckily, my friends Rachel and Piper very generously agreed to allow me to use their dining room, even going so far as to remove almost all of the furniture in the room to accommodate this behemoth.

I'm so glad I went to a friend's house at this stage because the diamond layout I had originally planned just wasn't working, and if I hadn't had another person there to corroborate my negative feelings about my chosen layout, I might have plowed ahead. But neither of us liked it, and finally I settled on a variation of the "barn raising" variation: an off-center diamond.

I am just so happy with the layout we chose, the way the fabrics are working together...everything, really! It's all solids except for one old gingham shirt (which you can't tell is a print unless you are six inches away from it) and a few strips of Yuwa Honeycomb in black. The top measures about 95" square.

Once I had the layout set, I sewed the top together within a couple of days. I also whipped up a backing using Kona Light Jade and as many scraps from the project as possible. I have to admit that I can't conjure up the love for pieced backs that most quilters seem to possess. I think I'm going to start using fat backs, even though the fabric selection leaves much to be desired. By the time I've finished a quilt top, I'm ready to quilt it, bind it, and enjoy it. Sewing a backing just frustrates me. I have "sew-cried" my way through many a pieced back. Now I just need to find an inexpensive source for fat backs...and, of course, quilt this monster!

I hope you all had a productive weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

American Folk Art Museum, Part Two

Sorry for the radio silence over the past week...I've been taking advantage of a spate of cooler weather to quilt a gigantic quilt! So without much further ado, here is the second part of my writeup about my visit to the American Folk Art Museum (part one is here).

The best part of the exhibit by far was the selection of Log Cabin quilts. They didn't have many Log Cabins in the show, but the ones they did were just beautiful. All except for one were light-and-dark variations, and the remaining quilt was a lovely Courthouse Steps variation. I learned from their placard that traditional Log Cabin quilts were foundation-pieced, not batted, and not quilted (though they were sometimes tied). I was very surprised to learn that! I will definitely use that method for the next Log Cabin I make.

I started working on a Log Cabin about two months before I went to the show, and I thought I wanted to lay mine out in the variation above. The fabric contrasts in the quilt above and the one following were so stark that the quilts almost glowed.

In the quilt above, the blocks were smaller than usual--probably only 6" or 7". I had never seen such an unusual Log Cabin block arrangement before. You wouldn't just stumble upon this arrangement; it was clearly carefully planned out. The corner blocks have a pink center square, but are completely black, whereas the rest of the blocks have a black center square and contrasting black and pink "logs." There are also tiny squares of yellow integrated into the pink side of eight blocks. Finally, the pink sides of the blocks feature a maroon strip that lends a lattice-like appearance to the finished quilt.

This Courthouse Steps quilt was one of the best I've ever seen (and my favorite quilt in the show). Its maker was a retired tailor who gathered up his satin, silk, and velvet lining scraps for several years and finally made this quilt. I took at least ten pictures of it, but the lighting was very harsh and they didn't all come out. This one made me want to make a Courthouse Steps quilt ASAP. My last quilt generated enough scraps that I think I may be able to do a small one.

The museum also displayed a beautiful quilt in the Barn Raising variation (some people today call this variation a "Center Diamond" instead).

I loved the border that the maker added. It gives the quilt more movement and dimensionality, I think.

So there you have it! Although they only displayed four or five quilts, I loved them all and thought they were the best in the show. I had been working on my own Log Cabin quilt for about two months when I went to the show, which I think is why it struck a chord with me. I'll show photos of the layout process for my Log Cabin tomorrow. But now, I'm back to quilting. Enjoy the weather, everyone!

Monday, July 18, 2011

American Folk Art Museum, Part One

I'm having a health issue right now that requires me not to spend time in the heat and sun, and because I don't have AC in my apartment, that means no sewing! Last week I tried to sew, ended up heating my apartment to almost 95, and made my condition significantly worse. So this is the perfect time to post my photos from my trip to the American Folk Art Museum in NYC.

I had wanted to go to this show with my friend Yahaira, but Amy and I ended up needing to visit the city for something during the last few days of the show, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to see it (the show closed on July 8). I took a non-quilter friend, and yall know how that can be, but she was a good sport about the whole thing.

(Excuse the glare, through which you can see my legs and feet!)

Like all quilt shows I've attended, it was organized by type of quilt, which roughly corresponded to periods of years (though not always). They also displayed a few total outliers. I plan to write a separate post about the Log Cabin quilts, but here are some of my favorites from the other portions.

The museum grouped together the applique and signature quilts from its collection. It displayed one gorgeous Baltimore Album quilt, which was by far the best example of such quilts that I have ever seen in real life:

Here is my favorite block, which depicts the Capitol building:

What struck me most about this quilt was the very modern color combination. It reminded me of a few Moda fabric lines from the last year and a half or so.

A few other images from this portion are below. Many of the quilts featured writing or images drawn directly on the front of the quilt. In this particular star signature quilt, each block contained a very detailed image, like the bird below:

The messages drawn on the following quilt were faded from wear and difficult to discern. I wish I could have read them, but they probably were never intended for the prying eyes of the public anyway! I loved the following block in particular; most of the work you see is embroidery. I've noticed many more quilts with surface embroidery recently.

This whitework quilt was the best-preserved quilt I've ever seen at a quilt show. It dates to around 1800, if you can believe it. There wasn't a tear or stain in sight.

I particularly loved this quilt, which featured a stunning likeness of our 22nd and 24th President, Mr. Grover Cleveland:

Since President Cleveland was not married when he entered office, I like to think that some young woman was pining away for the strong and handsome Grover during the making of this quilt. I'm pretty sure it was the work of a quilt guild, though.

This Dresden Plate quilt represented the entire 30s. I appreciated the work that went into it, but I didn't feel very drawn to it, even though I love repros. I guess it didn't help that some irresponsible parents were allowing their three young children to grab at it and pull on it while I was trying to take photographs. (My friend, who has been a nanny in NYC for years, didn't help matters by muttering angrily about the childrens' poor behavior.)

The show also featured a section on African American quilts, with a lovely writeup about how few African American quilts have survived, out of an unknown number that were created. I left wondering how diverse the African American quilting tradition really was and is, and if what we think of as the style of African American quilting is even wholly accurate.

Of course, there were many other quilts at the show. I hope you got a chance to go to one of the two exhibitions the museum hosted. I thought they did a beautiful job. They chose wonderful examples from their collections, and I am so happy I had the opportunity to visit. But the best is yet to come. Stay tuned for the second part of my writeup!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Break in Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

I wonder if any of you remember a time when I told a story on my old blog about how my aunt once informed me, upon seeing my lone Double Wedding Ring block, that the DWR is "a quilt ya make when ya got absolutely nothin' else to do...a quilt ya make when ya retiahed."

Needless to say, my aunt (who is actually my GREAT aunt, but we call her "aunty") was a big quilter in her time. Since nobody else in our extended family ever really took to quilting, she is quite enthusiastic in her support of my hobby. She never threw away any of her old quilting books, and instead passed them onto me. I have been the proud recipient of many Georgia Bonesteel books, patterns, and templates over the last year and a half...all of which I plan to save for the next sixty years and foist onto my own great-niece someday.

My aunt was diagnosed with a severe form of lung cancer in December 2010. The doctors gave her between six and eighteen months to live. But they, in their ignorance, did not realize the great force they reckoned with. Eighteen months to live if she stopped smoking a pack a day? No, thanks. Nineteen months later, this 87-year-old force of nature is still kicking, after driving herself to and from her chemo appointments the entire time.

So naturally, when the one-year mark came and went and she was doing pretty well, I decided to make her a quilt. Being 87, she has very traditional tastes, and I wanted the quilt to be as traditional as possible while still reflecting my own style, which I thought she would appreciate. I made a 14.5" string block out of fabrics from the first lines of Amy Butler fabric, and then mixed in some of my own printed scraps. I bordered the center block with an inch of Kona Bone, 2.5" of Olympus Cherry Blossom, and 8" of Kona Bone. I bound it with the Olympus fabric as well.

I did not machine-quilt it, but instead tied it by pulling the ties through to the back, a method that my friend told me her grandmother taught her. I did piece the back, but I do not have any photos of it because when I was reviewing the photos I took before I sent the quilt, I hit "delete" instead of "back" on most of them on the computer (it was early in the morning). Only these three remain.

It's just a lap quilt for when she has her chemotherapy treatments, so it isn't too large...maybe 50" square. But I really hope she likes it and uses it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Long Time Coming

I've had this quilt finished for a month and a half, though I've neither sent it to the recipient nor blogged about it (I'm even sitting on it as I write). I have, however, brought it to one BMQG meeting...and that counts for something, right? The colors are difficult to capture, but they are most accurate in the photo below.

I made this little quilt for a dear friend, who was the first in our group of friends to get married and is now the first to have a baby. She is deeply religious and traditional, and I tried to make something that reflected her life and family.

The quilt is based on the Amish quilting tradition in several ways. The first and most obvious is the geometry and color patterning. As in many Amish quilts, nothing is random. What looks like a tossed-down array of triangles is actually very deliberately and evenly laid out, which you can see if you study the first and last photos in this post.

The second is the quilting. When I initially set out to quilt this (my first quilt on my new machine, btw), I tried to draw in lines with chalk so my triple-quilted triangles would look somewhat even. I had to use chalk because teal is the one color that the water-soluble pens I use to quilt will not wash out of.

The first few lines got erased when this quilt traveled with me to the NEMQG retreat, and I decided not to reapply them. The Amish have a concept that nothing is perfect except God, and this concept extends into their quilt-making. Their quilts may look perfect in books, but there is always at least one thing (albeit small) deliberately "wrong" with the quilt. I chose to keep my quilting lines organic to reflect this.

One major departure from the Amish quilting tradition was the addition of written words to this quilt. My friend is a big romantic...even her wedding invitation had an entire page of quotations about love (and yes, they were very cheesy, as befits a wedding invitation!). I quilted a few lines from an e.e. cummings poem into her quilt in a triangular pattern to echo the geometry in the quilt. The "love" you see above is the first word of the poem, and it is in a chartreuse triangle in the top-middle of the quilt. I placed all of the words in the chartreuse triangles, and I free-motion quilted all of them on there. I didn't use transfer paper or anything like that.

I backed the quilt in one color, FSDS Chamois. I used KF Shot Cotton in Sprout and Sky, Moda Crossweaves in Flamingo, Bella Solids in Teal, and Kona in Violet (I think? I don't have my color card with me right now) and another shade of Kona blue-green. I think I'm careless when it comes to recording my color choices when I use Kona because I know I have the color card, but it's never near me when I need it...

All in all, I love this quilt because I love what it illustrates about quilting: the ability to make a completely personalized gift for someone you love. What could be better than that?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Back from vacation!

Hello, friends! I've returned from my vacation! I didn't sew for almost two whole weeks. I really missed it, but Disney was fantastic! I didn't bring my phone with me anywhere or check e-mail at was so liberating.

I do have two FOs to show you, but they're awaiting the perfect photo op. In the meantime, I have two blocks to show you. The first is my bee block for my wonderful friend Meaghan. She asked us to make a 12.5" block using a Ting Tong and Things tutorial. I loved the process of creating this block, and I also loved the colors she chose. I selected the ones I liked best to make a block that I think combines both of our personal styles very well. Meaghan, I hope you like it!

The second is the starting block for a very special quilt I plan to make throughout the summer. I think I swore off log cabins a while back, but I suddenly had an urge to do a log cabin quilt. After a huge fabric-buying splurge during the BMQG retreat (when I acquired 18 yards of fabric...but at least it was all on sale...), I felt so wasteful that I decided I had to make a scrap quilt. A log cabin seemed like the perfect thing.

I don't have enough solid scraps to make an entire queen-size top, so I cut into several of my newly-purchased fabrics as well. I made a significant dent in my scrap wall, and I don't have any scraps left in a few colors. See how economical I can be?

I hope you all have a fantastic Memorial Day weekend and get a lot of sewing time in!