Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gifting Season

We were BOOed tonight. Last year, the family across the street began a neighborhood tradition of "BOO"ing. You secretly leave a pumpkin of Halloween goodies, along with a cute poem and a little ghost image at two friends' front doors. Then, these friends need to BOO two of their friends, and like the old shampoo commercial revealed, soon there are dozens and dozens of happily BOOed families. I found our BOO basket by the door when I went out to turn on the Halloween lights. Tomorrow, we will excitedly pull together our BOO baskets and then run them around to the children's friends. Such a simple thing, but it brings so much joy!

That's today's theme: bringing joy! One of our guild service projects is to make doll quilts for the Salvation Army and the local homeless shelter. Each quilt complete with a doll or teddy bear is given to a needy child. I finished my two quilts (due in November) this week:

The charm squares were a gift themselves, from my guild secret sister last year. I thought they'd make a beautiful little quilt for a lovely little lady. The border, which I love, is a remnant from the backing of my strip quilt posted last blog entry. The binding comes from a couple bright Fassett FQs. They turned out exactly as I wanted, but then they needed owners to snuggle.

So, today, after early voting (hint, hint), I ran my kids up to pick out two teddy bears to match the quilts. They picked out almost-twin bears to match the almost-twin quilts. Here are the teddies sitting proudly:

I can only hope the receipients are as happy getting them as I am giving them. And, as someone I early voted for today once said, "There has never been anything false about hope."

My next project is quilting my daughter's All About Me quilt, the top of which I finished last November. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yes We Can

My politics in this election are fairly open--just check out my sidebar. So, I was excited when I saw that Denyse Schmidt and friends have made a wonderful "Yes We Can" quilt as a fundraiser for Barack Obama. If you'd like to support the campaign and possibly win the quilt, visit her personal fundraising site for Obama. Each donation of $10 gets you one chance at winning the quilt. Good luck!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Time's Winged Chariot

Wow, it's been a while, hasn't it. I finished the work-y projects I mentioned in my last post in July . . . plus a few more. In August, I also took a vacation to one of my favorite places in the whole world. Here's my vacay self-portrait:

Here's a funny story about paying attention to details . . .

Our state natural history museum is having a quilt show: Quilting Natural Florida II. I was encouraged by several guild members to complete a quilt to enter. It seemed like a great opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone, as I don't really "do" non-traditional pieced or appliqued quilts. So, I downloaded a bunch of photos of Florida wildflowers, meaning to design a wall quilt of a field of flowers. Well, since I spent most of the summer designing new degree programs, rather than quilts, the October 1 deadline really snuck up on me. So, for two feverish weekends in September, I worked like mad on my first ever original art quilt.

I first sketched a potential design that included the flowers I most liked from my photos: verbena, blue-eyed grass, black-eyed susan, firewheel, and echinacea. They seemed to have a good variety of color and shape so that they'd be distinguishable from each other. The sketch is on half a sheet of typing paper. (typing paper--man, am I old!)

Great. Of course, then I had to think for a very long time about how in the world I'd get from this sketch to a quilt. While I thought that through, I pulled the colors I wanted from my stash. This was really very fun . . . trying to get the right colors and also a sense of depth in the variety to capture the moving light.

I finally realized that if I simply selected my background and then cut paper shapes that approximated the size of the flower heads I wanted, I could place them and then use them as guidelines for drawing bigger flower patterns on fusible. I had already decided to use raw edge applique. This felt like some kind of Nobel-worthy breakthrough :) I started in the upper right corner and just worked my way across, flower by flower. I figured that if it looked awful, I'd just ball it up and pitch it with no one being the wiser.

Well, after the first black-eyed susan and echinacea, I was completely overwhelmed. It really seemed to work and was looking awesome (IMHO). And, it seemed really, really easy once I broke the code of how to transfer the drawing concept into fabric. It took a while . . . I listened to all of Christopher Buckley's Supreme Courtship just while drawing, cutting, and placing the design--then almost finished No Way to Treat a First Lady while quilting it. Here's the finished piece in whole:

And, in a close up of the quilting:

As you can see, I went to town with the quilting. The background is curliques in variegated blue, and then each flower, stem, and leaf has its own quilting design in matching thread. Oh, and each border has its own design, too. I especially like how the batiks work in the background and borders. In keeping with the theme of the show, I called it Flora-dah (get it!). The quilt is 27 inches by 23 inches.

Okay, here's the funny part, as I was putting together my package to mail it just in time for the October 1 deadline, I gave the application one last glance. Yep, it needed to be mailed by October 1 . . . 2009! So, I finished the quilt a year in advance. Sigh.

The upside: I love (LOVE) it. It's completely unlike anything I've ever done, as my Flickr album documents, and is (by my standards) a full-on success. I'm putting it in a different show this year since I can't bear to wait more than a year to display it.

On a completely different note, I won the summer strip challenge that Hanne organized. I posted the top months ago, but finally got around to quilting it last weekend:

The quilting is all curliques in a pastel variegated. I really liked how the jelly roll worked in this format--all the piecing and binding is from one JR, so I think I'll remake this for my family with a S'mores JR I have on the shelf.

Whew, that's enough catching up for now.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Brownie's Bloomers

I finished the Hopkins's Aunt Agnes's Bloomers, which I'm calling Brownie's Bloomers because of the color palette.

I especially like the faded border. I found this fabric on a sale rack at one of my favorite quilt shops and bought the remainder of the bolt. It looks so worn and faded, while being brand new and workable. My ideal fabric!

I cleaned up my quilt room after finishing this project so I can use it as an office for the next few weeks to finish off work-y projects (degree program proposals, etc.). So, if I get to any quilting, it will be applique.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fluttering By

I just got the beautiful summer Four Seasons Quilt Swap quilt sent by Bea. You can see her lovely work at Capricorn Quilts. Bea lives in Germany, and she kindly included some genuine German gummi bears for my children (who have already gobbled them up!).

Here's the quilt--with bright, cheerful butterflies floating through the summer:

Now, here's the odd part. After taking this photo on the patio, I followed my dog to the back part of the yard. And, for the first time I can recall in the three years we've lived here, I saw a real butterfly on one of our flowering trees. I had my iPhone with me from taking the quilt pictures, so I immediately snapped several of the butterfly:

Clearly, it was attracted by Bea's quilt. It even posed like one of her butterflies:

Thank you, Bea, for such a summery quilt!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Projects Old and New

Last weekend, I was cutting a piecing a small wall quilt that I thought would make it into a December show. About half way through, I realized it was horrible looking. The background was dull and didn't pull the fabrics together at all. People who don't quilt sometimes think that smaller quilts are intrinsically easier to make. Well, only if they don't have a lot of pieces. This one had a ton, and I was completely depressed when I realized how unattractive it was. Wanting to make sure I wasn't way wide of the mark on my assessment, I asked my husband to look at the quilt. Before responding, he paused . . . dead giveaway. So, I swept up the many pieces and deposited them in the circular file.

But, I needed to get right back on the house, so I looked over my shelf. I had a nearly decade old finished applique piece sitting there. It was my first ever hand applique, from a needleturn class taught by Mary Sorenson from her original pattern. (She was a fantastic teacher and I use the methods from this class to applique to this day.) I was compulsive about getting it right, so the piece is really nice. I'm especially pleased with the teeny vines, all needleturned. The applique heart vine just needed a border or two to be done. It's nothing I would ever keep, so I thought it would be perfect to show and maybe even sell.

I settled on a thin olive-y green inner border and a checkerboard outer border of blues to capture the blue flowers in the heart wreath. I dug all the blues out of my age old stash; some of these lines pre-date my children! Here is the finished quilt, which I called In the Heart of the Night:

The gallery curator has been bugging me about photos, so I sent her this one last week. And she immediately emailed me back that she wants to buy it. How funny . . . all because I started a crummy project and needed to bounce back with a better one!

This weekend, I went back to a quilt I had cut a couple weekends back. It's another small piece, from a pattern by Carol Hopkins Designs called Aunt Agnes's Bloomers. Lots of teeny pieces (3/4 in squares!). In my typical more-is-more strategy, I used 32 fabrics in the quilt, which finishes to just 13" x 18" before borders. I stuck with the pattern's color palette of browns with some pinks. (I think I'm on a pink and brown kick--over the past few months I've bought a slew of it in all sorts of varieties: cupcakes, chocolates, polka dots, modern florals, checks.)

The Hopkins patterns are designed for repro fabrics and involve a lifetime of cutting, seam matching, and pressing. All the seams are pressed open, which is fun for the fingers. Each little block in this quilt has 13 pieces.

Here's the array of pieces pre-sewing:

And, here's the finished top as I try out borders:

I'm going to use four of the leftover darker brown 1 and 1/4 in strips for an inner border (a different one on each side). In the background is a faux-faded repro that has a great mix of pink, tan, and gold/green that I'll use for an outside border. The quilting will be fairly straightforward--straight lines to emphasize the horizontals and verticals. It should be done next weekend.

I took these last two photos with my iPhone. I upgraded the software this weekend and have been hypnotized by Pandora, the build your own music station. If you haven't tried it, you need to. It works on any internet-connected computer in addition to the phone version and is free. I now have a slew of me-centric streaming radio stations each based on my favorites artists. So, depending on my mood du jour, I can listen to my Madeleine Peyroux station, my Kanye West station, my Amy Winehouse station, or my Gillian Welch station. How fun!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Almost Swapped Out

I just need to whip-stitch the binding, and my year of Four Season's Quilt Swapping is done. I am pleased with the results. I quilted this one like mad, with small white curlique quilting in the applique panel, wavy rays radiating from the sun, green leaves in the grass, and hot pink flowers in the side borders. I did make a judgment call not to blanket stitch the main stems on the flowers as it seemed too overpowering. I did one and actually took it out. Here's the nearly final product:

I got to finish the top and quilt most of it last night while my children had their first sleep-overs with friends, while they danced, watched movies, and committed general mayhem about the house, I sewed. One of the fathers came over to hang out with my husband for a while, too, so the family was engaged on many fronts!

I've also started the Book Awards Challenge 2; for full details, see my newly revived "Getting My Read On" blog. Should be fun!