Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cookie Night Catch-Up

Tonight was cookie night--gingerbread, sugar, and chewy chocolate; all are safely packed away for family gifts. I've been making my Christmas cookies from the same special cookies-only edition of Martha Stewart Living since 2001. Say what you will about her personality (and ethics), every darn recipe I've made from her cookbooks or magazine comes out wonderfully. This year, both of the kids were old enough to help with the decorating, which was both hilarious and horrifying. Luckily, good taste and good taste need not go hand-in-hand.

Since I'm feeling productive, I thought I'd go through my picture file to see what I haven't posted. I'm realizing that I never posted the quilts I made for my son. So, here goes.

The first is based on a Country Threads bulls-eye pattern. I think it was *the* pattern that inspired all the raw-edge cut-n-piece blocks that appeared a few years back. His nursery was blue and yellow, so I knew my color scheme--and again, all these fabrics were from my stash at the time. Here's the weird thing--I know exactly when I made this quilt because I was sewing it the morning of the Columbia shuttle disaster. Initially, I just had on CNN because it was background noise. Then, I looked up because I started to hear those eerie calm tones in the NASA radio announcements; the same ones you hear from doctors when things have really gone wrong. I had already decided to name the quilt "Digable Planets," as a nod to a long-ago trip hop band and to the fact that I had put up star curtains in his room, but the events gave the name an edge that otherwise wouldn't have been there. I quilted it with lots of spirals. At a distance, the disjointed blocks in this color scheme have a real Eric Carle-feel to them that I like very much.

I made both of my children a pieced and an applique quilt. Initially, I bought the Monsters pattern for another quilt for my daughter, but life intervened (literally). So, I redirected this project for my son. As it turned out, the Monsters quilt suits him perfectly, my wee little beastie. When he was still in his crib, I would take both children over to touch each monster at night. They especially loved the green one in the lower right with perle cotton "fur." Now, it hangs above his bed, and he fiddles with the bottom when he tries to fall asleep. So, at least once a week, I rehang it to get the weird wrinkles and warps out. This pattern was a block of the month through a neighboring quilt shop, but I skipped the massive triangle overload border in favor of a plain one (quite honestly, time was of the essence at that point). I still love this border fabric; it's such a fun red. The blocks are closely stippled on the interior, and the border is looping squiggles. I remember that I initially stippled a couple blocks in variegated primary, but it was so distracting that I ripped it all out and did it again in plain white.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fresh Market Madness

I have succumbed to Fresh Market Madness, which is now an official disease in my town. I went on the first day it opened, went back two days later to buy even more for a party we were having that night, and then stopped by the next day to buy meat on the way home from a party. Clearly, much of this is my way of dealing with the stress of my friend's death (on the day of her funeral I bought a giant blow-up snow globe for the lawn). Still, nothing beats tackling a quilt room cleaning and new project empowered by Peet's coffee and gourmet ginger cookies :) A guaranteed way to beat the blues. So, I have several photos to tell my story.

The first three are of my quilt space, half of a room I share with my husband's video and music editing system. What's extra nice is that the window directly overlooks the backyard, so that I can watch the kids play while I work. The project on the wall is done now and more pictures follow. I bought a bunch of stock cabinets to organize my life at my last house and they've come in very handy repurposed for the quilt room. I also used to have to keep all my fabric in the garage, hence all the labeled plastic bins. You can see all my dissertation materials on the shelf above my sewing machine; I use this same desk to write my diss in marathon multi-day sessions when I can manage some time away from work. That's Jack on the chair.

Earlier I mentioned that I was working on a new holiday quilt. I've called it "The Merriest" after a June Christy song on my Holiday iMix. It's kind of an abbreviated version of the APQ cover quilt this month. All of the fabrics, including the border, were in my stash, and I even had the black to white variegated thread that I used to quilt the border. I quilted the interior with looping squiggles in a bright variegated and the border with loopy-linked stars. The applique is simply iron on. The quilt is hanging next to the front door, so I couldn't see even machining it. I finished it today and then whipstitched the binding while catching up on TIVO'd Ugly Betty's. I really like it. There are four of each item because we're a four person family :) I also took a close-up of the quilting.

Monday, November 27, 2006

This Is Not Your Year

That's the title of a song by the Weepies, one of my absolute favorite bands, and it kind of sums up my feelings today as one of my dearest friends died early this morning after a short but mean battle with cancer. I was going to post images of the quilt shown in sandwich form below--now finished--since I really like the quilting I did in the border (linked leafy vines), but the pictures all came out blurry. I have no idea why. This weekend, I had to finish one feature for a chapter in my book and write a grant on a topic I know very little about and worry about my friend. So, I, of course, finished a quilt and completely organized and cleaned my quilt room. Then, plowed through my writing. And, then, tonight, worked through my grief by beginning a new quilt for the holidays--a modification of the cover quilt from the Dec BHGAPQ. It's amazing how soothing the clean light from a tracing box can be, and how comforting it is to simply trace shapes over and over.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Post-Turkey Day

One of the quilts I put in the gallery show came from my office, which has left a blank space on my wall at a time in my life when I don't need any more open spaces. So, I found this stack of blocks in my quilt room and decided to pull them together into a basic 3x3 wall quilt. I don't know when I made these or why; my seams in a few were atrocious, which I deftly covered with some sashing. I actually had ten of the blocks but left one out to make this work. I'm going to try to get it quilted this evening so that I can hang it Sunday when I run in to clean off my desk so that I can start back after the holiday with a sense of purpose. I'm thinking of calling the quilt "The End of the Smithsonian" since it has some fabrics in it from the very first Smithsonian repro line. I like the off-block in the middle; it adds something to the mix.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Quilt Show

I was invited to show three quilts in a gallery show at work. What's nice is that my quilts were considered strong enough to hang next to those by our local quilt artist of some renown. I had to write an "artist's statement," which was surprisingly difficult. I didn't realize it would be mounted next to one of the quilts, so it's been interesting to get comments on both the quilts and the statement. Only two of us are not selling our quilts. I've never sold a quilt. I'm always befuddled about pricing them; it was difficult enough to value these three for the exhibit insurance. I once traded two for advertising for one of my husband's bands; they were fun baby quilts for the publisher's nephews. I prefer to just give them away to people who would appreciate them.

Here are the three I selected.

This quilt is new to the blog. I made it years ago as a mystery quilt. I was stumped when it came to a border and went with the checkerboard to pick up the purple and gold of the tulips. I used lots of different shirtings for background. It's quilted in a repeating diamond echo every two inches out into the checkerboard to reinforce the lines of the leaves, with a swirling pattern in the border that reflects the fabric. It's 48 inches square.

This is a small quilt that usually hangs in my office. I needed a small one for the show and it's 24 inches square. I've written about it previously. As you can tell, I like checkboards!

I've blogged about this one before. It's a nice wall hanging size, about 42 by 48. It's so bright. I don't know if I mentioned before that I changed thread colors for each piece to match the base color, which made for much joy when doing the border (quilted with one spiral circle per square).


It's been a while since I posted. Life has been intervening in all sorts of ways. I wanted to post a picture of the quilt I made for my friend who has been ill. She went into the hospital a little over a week ago and took it with her for comfort. When I visit her now, it's either wrapped around her or draped on her chair. I wanted it to warm her through a winter she will now not see, but it is likely serving a more important purpose where it is. Nurses and other visitors compliment me on it, and I'm never certain how to respond. There are lots of things I could say, but I usually just say "thank you."

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I'm still working on my homespun Lucky Star quilt. I actually ran out of one of the threads I've been using to quilt the top (YLI Sticks and Stones--just lovely), so I moved on to another part of the quilting and then ran out of cream backing thread. I had no idea it would take this much thread. I'm stippling around the stars in YLI Pastels, which I have a bunch of, so as soon as I can zip to the store tomorrow to pick up some cream, I can keep on with that. Our local quilt store closed several months back (not a terrible loss, sadly) so I no longer have a place to pick up thread quickly. That was really all I bought there--my taste did not map to their buyer's.

So, whilst waiting, I thought I'd post another picture of some already-done quilts. These are the third and second versions--respectively--of my daughter's and son's nap quilts. You likely can guess which child belongs to which quilt. My daughter's first quilt was a small pinwheel; her second, a Lucky Star. My son's first was a Lucky Star. When you send these to school, you wash/dry them every week, which makes them very soft but also adds to the wear and tear.

My daughter's all pink quilt arose because I had made her a twin-size quilt in bright colors, following on the heels of two bright nap quilts, and her response was--"Someday, mommy, can you make me a pink quilt--with just pink." So, I did. Since I was about to make her third nap quilt, I didn't want to devote my life to it, so I simply pulled some pinks and bought a nice pink ballerina novelty print. I cut strips of various widths selvedge to selvedge, sewed them with consideration to pattern and size placement, evened the edges, and bordered the quilt only on the sides to get a nice width to length ratio. It's quilted with variegated pink thread and backed with another pink print. She loves it.

My son's quilt is made from the first iteration of the Sock Monkey fabric, which I think is just outrageously cute and funny. (I've bought some of the follow-up version, too.) Plus, I call him my little monkey, so it's quite appropriate. His quilt is made exactly the same way and bordered with the Sock Monkey face fabric, which also backs the quilt. I once made the mistake of asking him if he had his monkey blanket, and he looked at me very seriously and said, "Mom, it's a monkey quilt."

I know some folks sell patterns for quilts like this, but let's be real--how hard is it to find fun fabric, cut a bunch of strips, and sew them together? Throw caution to the wind, people!

And, that's my dog sleeping contentedly next to the quilts. We have a stack of cozy, cuddle quilts under the coffee table that tend--after use--to end up on the floor until I restack them. If I don't get them quickly enough, she claims them as her roost.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Random Threads

I haven't updated this in a bit, so I thought I'd throw a few different items together.

First, I shall speak about wonderful people, the kind who call you in the middle of lunch out of the blue to ask if you would like an extra Bernina that's just sitting in the garage because it needs a good home. These are the best kind of people, ever. So, for them, you buy gifts of . . .

variegated thread--which is one of the best inventions ever--to use in their other sewing machines. Behold, the Gift Tower of YLI! I have to confess that I kept the top spool, "Earth," for myself--it just fit my muddiness so very well.

Also, I thought I'd update you on the quilt that opened this blog. I've finished all the blocks (it's a Lucky Star quilt) and am awaiting a free moment to assemble the top. Maybe this weekend.

It turned out very natural and peaceful looking, which is ideal since I'm making it for a friend who's going through chemo. She wears lots of linen, which made me think of these homespuns as the perfect fabric for her. The background fabric has little glowing dragonflies and complements the star/sash fabric quite nicely. I need to find a good backing fabric now.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Just Outside Your Door

When we moved into this house about a year ago, I decided I wanted to hang a quilt outside my front door--kind of a changing exhibit. Initially, this was easy because I had a pumpkin quilt that I had finished years ago and hung inside my old house at halloween. It looked lovely and the mail lady loved it. Of course, I packed it away after halloween and now can't find it to post a photo. C'est la vie. Same with my "Wear Warm Clothes" quilt that hung at Christmas. But, maybe I'll find them in time for the seasons.

For fall, I did a rustic daisy quilt. The pattern for this had a very boring picture on it; almost every fabric was a tone on tone, flat looking thing that left the quilt kinda lifeless. But, I saw the possibilities, plus I loved the idea of the odd pieced border. I used busier but still muddy prints throughout. This is blanket stitch applique by machine, with stipple quilting in a variegated thread in the background and swirling quilting in the border. I like it so much, that I've moved it inside to hang permanently--and now need to make a new fall quilt. It really isn't crooked; I just had to work around the dog while taking the photo.

After the holidays, I wanted something to suggest new life. I have had this pattern forever, but never got around to doing anything with it. So, I thought, why not? I changed the borders, but the center is as designed. Again, in the pattern photo, the fabrics were very solid--but I do not lead a solid life. I have to confess that this is simply ironed on, since I began to question why I would spent several hours appliqueing quilts that were to hang outside my door. The border is scraps from inside the quilt cut into different size strips, sewn together, and cut as one fabric. This looks kinda lumpy because it was folded away in a closet. Before hanging, I'd iron it, but I was too lazy to do that for this photo. The one thing that bothers me about this quilt is that the crow looks like a dove. So, I get around that by thinking of it as a mourning dove. The flowers also look a bit too perky.

For my summer quilt, I used another old pattern and some fabrics that were bundled together (maybe Kaffe Fassett? these look like Westminsters of some sort) along with a background dragonfly fabric that I've had forever. I'm using a lot of that in a quilt I'm working on now. For this little door quilt, I wanted something that looked like a surrealist ice cream dream summer--and I liked that some of the fabrics had a weird scale for a quilt this size. One of my problems with these door quilts is that I want them finished and up! I'm very into completing things. So, I never stop to think if the hanger on the back conflicts with the spacing of the hooks, which it does in this case--making it bunch up a bit. I'll work on that.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Something Borrowed

I'm trying to knock out a couple posts while my children are getting ready for bed. I'll keep most of my life ramblings on my music blog, but for the record, I will just say that--for the sake of my children--I have been pee'd on by a hamster. What greater love? Okay, here's a quickie. I bought five old quilt blocks at a sale one year and pulled them together into a little quilt that we actually now use as a piano bench cover.

Aren't these blocks fantastic! I love the icky, icky greens; the random 9-patch in the lower right corner; the make-do quality. My star quilt is a simulacrum of this artistry born of necessity. I set the blocks with a repro shirting and bordered this piece simply with dark civil war era prints. The quilting is basic as well. The backing is pieced in thirds of the same fabrics used in the bindings. It has a beautiful simplicity and earnestness to it, I think.

You Say Vase, I Say Vase

Get it. Well, I try. This is another quilt I have up in my office. I was once in a quilting group that kind of sank of its own weight when it turned out only three of us ever finished anything and the rest just bought a lot of fabric. But, one thing we tried were little quilt challenges. This was for a flower and vase challenge. It is one of the few needleturn applique things I've done. It just takes too darn long.

I am particularly fond of the vase fabric. I had it in at least three colorways and worked it in tons of projects. It's so perfect! I combined several different elements from an old Brannock and Patek book to make the flowers, vase, and star corners. If you're very observant, you'll recognize some of the checkerboard border fabric from the sashing on the strippy star quilt. If you're not, you won't. The quilt is heavily stippled around the applique pieces--even at this distance you can see it. I quilted the vase along the wavy lines in the fabric, which added a nice dimensionality to it. I like that I chose yellow for the background. The real yellow is a bit more acid and brighter than the way it looks in the photo (kinda mellow gold). Just a few months ago, I found a set of wool flowers on eBay that look just like this design, and I arranged them in the dining room to go at all cock-eyed angles so that I have somehow reproduced my quilted still life in reality. Freaky!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Here Comes the Sun

So, as I mentioned, I have two color palettes. You've seen the muddy, now here comes the sun. I also love bright, bright colors--especially for my children's quilts. I don't care what Pottery Barn is selling folks; kids are not especially into tasteful color palettes. They want bright stuff, the whole crayola universe. The next few posts will be about my sunny side.

Here's the first quilt I made for my daughter. It's from a Judy Martin book on stars. I am particularly fond of lime (as you will see), so I used the surprising number of limes I had in my stash (yep, this is a complete stash quilt, which may say something frightening about me) for the background. I pulled the other colors to stand out against the greens. I wanted a multi-color border, so I just cut squares from the star fabrics and then made binding from the leftover scraps. The background is stippled, and each star element is quilted individually in a kind of shape-maze. I quilted a spiral circle in each border square (can you tell I didn't have any children when I made this?). Actually, there's so much quilting that I started to pull up the back threads a bit. I did enter this one in a quilt show and expected to be body slammed for the quilting issues, but instead, I got recognition for color use. Perhaps they were blinded by the profusion of lime?

Here's the second quilt I made for my daughter. This one is completely from a Fons and Porter kit; it's one of the few quilts I ever saw where I wanted it to look exactly like the picture. Again with the lime! I still look at this quilt from time to time, when--for example--I'm putting away all her clothes or cleaning her room, and cannot believe I made all those little 9-patches. Whew! The daisies are appliqued with a machine button-hole stitch. This one is stipled in the background with straight-line quilting through all the 9-patches to frame the daisies. Each daisy has a spiral quilted in the center (I was in a mega-spiral phase!), and the setting triangles are each quilted with a triangular maze shape. I love this quilt. It's so happy and open.

Also, one great thing about bright multi-colored quilts--they go with almost any bright solid. My daughter's nursery was painted jalapeno green and purple. Her room now is painted pink and yellow. And, it still all works. Embrace the brightness!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Little Big Quilt

I love taking classes, but I don't have much time to do that anymore. When my parents lived in Atlanta and I was footloose and fancyfree, I drove to visit and take a class with the Little Quilts ladies. It was designed as a methods class in which you produced a small star quilt (4 blocks). The goal was to learn their method for selecting colors, using "magic" colors that spark others, using mix-matched piecing, getting an antique-y feel to your quilt. Well, I left the class with four blocks and a mission. I just wanted to keep making these stars. I cut up my scraps and stash and through all the requisite pieces into a box. Then, I would sit for a couple hours "auditioning" fabrics and building the little stars. I would pre-assemble them and store each star--unsewn--between the pages of a quilt book. Eventually, I filled a few books and decided to sew. Then, I had stacks and stacks of stars . . . and absolutely no clue what to do with them. In looking at a book of antique quilts, I found a strippy set quilt. A-ha!! So, I set them this way. Here's the resulting quilt:

Years after taking that first class, I had the opportunity to show my finished quilt top to the Little Quilts ladies, from whom I was taking another workshop at a retreat. They were suitably impressed. At that time, I had some loony notion that I would big stitch quilt it by hand. Um . . . yeah, that didn't work out. Instead, I finally finished machine quilting it a few months ago (about 7 yrs after starting the project). Each one of those setting triangles is quilted with a folked-out fleur- de-lis pattern, the stars are quilting in a plus sign, the setting sashes are quilted in rolling loops, and the border is quilted with stars. About half way through quilting this, I cursed myself and decided to never make another big project. But, I do love it!

In my second Little Quilts class, the goal was to learn their color techniques (which I already had down after obsessively making a billion star blocks) and to make a small 4-patch doll quilt with these techniques. Well, about 75% of the class seemed really confused about the color stuff, so while they kvetched, I made my four patch quilt. And, then, with more than half the class to go, I was essentially done. This is when I learned that nothing turns a quilting class against a member faster than being efficient and paying attention (meow!). At this time, I was really obsessed with 16-patches for some reason, and sitting there, I realized that I could turn a lot of my 4-patch scraps into strip sets to make little 16-patches. So, I did. This also peeved a lot of people, because now I was making an even more intricate quilt while they were struggling with the 4-patch (really meow). Good gravy. Anyway, this is the quilt that resulted:

Like the larger quilt, this small one hangs in my office. The 16-patch blocks are 3.5 inches, I think. It's quilted fairly minimally. I gave the 4-patch to my sister, and it's somewhere in her house. It had the best pink in it. Ah, fabric memories.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

My Muddy Corner of the World

I am kind of schizophrenic when it comes to color choices. I have a bright (Kaffe Fassett/KP Kids bright) side and then a very muddy side (I think I saw Diane Gaudynski use that term once, and it is absolutely perfect). I am not a pastel or jewel tone (ack!) girl--though when making quilts for others I sometimes will do muddy pastels. So, what do I mean by muddy. Well, I'm more a repro/Brannock/Patek/CountryThreads girl. Actually, many moons ago I took two classes with the Country Threads ladies, and this post is about those quilts.

One was a pieced mystery; the other an applique project. The mystery was called "spaghetti for a crowd." Looking at this quilt now, I find it hard to believe that I made it. It's huge, first of all, and it has a very nice pieced sashing that I would never have patience for now . . . two children later. But these colors are all me! I remember that my red was the envy of the class; it's the most perfect deep brick sliding ever so slightly to rusty orange. After completing these billion pieced triangles, I laid out the entire quilt once night whilst watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To this day, I can even remember the episode (Buffy tried to kill Faith) because I paced back and forth over and over rearranging the blocks--and of course, as soon as the quilt was done, I found some I would have moved. It took me another year to find the right border (I think this is a Terry Clothier Thompson print), and then probably another year to finish it. It hung in my office for a year, and then I finished another quilt with a long story (to be blogged about later) and replaced it. It fits in perfectly in my dining room:

The applique took me even longer to finish. This is another big piece with an elaborate border. When I made it, I had a huge quilt room with all the fixin's and all the free time in the world. The scope of this project would probably turn me away now (though I'm in the midst of charting out Brannock's Flowers quilt). That I did finish it fills me with a fabu sense of accomplishment. Actually, it never stood a chance of becoming a quilt until I bought a newsed Bernina 1090 about three years after the class. As you likely know if you're reading this blog, the 1090 has a blanket stitch for embroidery (something my 1030 didn't have). As soon as I got the 1090, I went to town and whipped it out over a few weeks; I remember Ken Burns's Louis Armstrong bio was on. By the end of the actual class, all I had finished was the pieced sun and two or three letters, which I had hand-stitched. I especially love the stalk of morning glories; the background for this section is pieced as well and has one of my all-time favorite shirtings, a great chicken print. In the original pattern, some of the letters were reversed to be "folky," but since I don't actually suffer from a learning disability, I decided it was okay to place them all correctly. After I finished this, I was so happy with it that I entered it in a local show and received criticism because my plaids and stripes didn't match. No duh. The letters are crooked, too.

Wooly Bully

Wow, that was exciting. Okay, in taking pictures of all the quilts I've made and still own (well, not including those we regularly cuddle with), I also decided to take pictures of quilts from which I draw inspiration. I've collected wool utility quilts for a few years. I have most of them stacked in the dining room, but I've hung a couple beautiful examples on the walls in the living room. The colors in these quilts, the outrageous mixings of textures, and the work that went into quilts made of cast-offs for everyday use (as Alice Walker would say) is so touching and, indeed, inspirational. Each undoubtedly has a fantastic story behind it.

The wool nine patch was one of the first I bought; isn't it fantastic the way the black and white plaid jumps out. This quilt and the wool fan are hand quilted.
Can you imagine piecing wool on a curve? And then handquilting it? Good gravy! All of the others are tied. The tied quilts have the best backings and bindings. One very simple quilt of suit samples has an odd polyester-y tropical print binding that seems like it might have once been a 40s dress. The muddy colors of most really appeal to me--dusky blues, barn reds, mustards, black, forest greens, faded greys. I do have one chinese coin wool quilt that looks very modern and could hang quite comfortably next to a Rothko. It's the top folded quilt in the little shelf (which I found especially to fit these quilts). In the other photo of folded quilts, you can see my dog, who is clearly less than impressed.

Trying to Upload

If all goes well, you will see the fabric that I'm using in my latest project. I love (LOVE) this fabric; everytime I look at it, it reminds me of that scene in The Great Gatsby when Daisy cries over Jay's shirts. It was remarkably painful to cut it, but I got through it (thanks to the soundtrack from Pride and Prejudice).

Saturday, August 19, 2006

And so it begins

I was randomly searching for a new project (ha!) the other night and stumbled upon some webring devoted to quilts. Because I have so little to do, I thought, "well, gee, why don't I have a quilting blog?" And, so it begins . . . here's the only issue. I have no clue whatsoever how to upload photos. So, as soon as I get a quick tutorial from my husband, I'll post a bunch of my finished work, and then can document my work in progress. Actually, I'm starting a quilt for a friend this weekend, so imagine the possibilities. Stay tuned.