Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pretty, Pretty Fabric

I was one of the lucky winners over at the Park City Girl Quilt Festival and received these lovely half-yard cuts (Darla by Tany Whelan) from Down Shadow Lane

bag fabric

They came today and were just so pretty I had to sew something up immediately – and, for once, I knew exactly what I wanted to make.  I’ll be going to Quilt Market in a couple of weeks (*** See note below), and I could really use a  make-up bag.

I’ve never been much of a “girl,” and, really, there just hasn’t been a lot of make-up in my life.  I am actually still using the wee make-up bag that my mother gave me back when I was in college (let’s not dwell on how long ago that was).  I’m willing to admit: it’s time to up my game.  I had ordered a wristlet pattern from Oh, Fransson!  recently and decided if I left off the handle, it would be just perfect.  Aren’t these fabrics wonderful?  Thank you, Down Shadow Lane!

bag outside 2

bag inside

I think it came out so pretty!  (And Oh, Fransson!’s pattern is so wonderfully clear that even I was able to get the zipper in and the lining working like it should.)

*** About that going to quilt market.  Did you notice how casually I mentioned it?  Pretty smooth.  Downright sophisticated.  Like I do this kind of thing all the time . . . Not!  Actually, I’m more or less beside myself.  This will be my first time doing anything like this.  Wow. 

Even though I’ve been a teacher for over twenty years and I’m in a classroom speaking before a group of people all the time, I’m a little worried about this one.  I might forget that English is my first language; I might forget it’s my only language and end up making strange guttural noises that will have shop owners backing away ever so slowly and carefully.  Let’s not upset the crazy quilter.

Then there’s the small matter of how long it’s been since I’ve been on a plane.  (Not giving details on that one because, frankly, it’s embarrassing).  I’m the kind of person who could get lost going around the block.  What if I end up in Poughkeepsie?  It could happen. 

All I can say, wish me luck!  I am so going to need it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Love it!

Oh, yes.  The colors are a little more vibrant in reality (still working on my photo skills), but this is the idea.  Finished size: 11 1/2 by 12 1/2.

red and white miniature quilt 1

I really, really love how this came out.  Like I said, I don’t always know until a quilt is made up what my ultimate verdict is going to be.  And it’s true this is a little visually noisy.  Doesn’t matter.  Still love it.  Makes me happy to look over and see it pinned on the wall. 

Not even sure why.  It’s not like I’m a big fan of the color red.  Red is all right.  I like it in combination with other colors, sure.  But it’s not like seeing a  red and white quilt typically fills me with a deep seated need to “make one now.”  This was just an experiment, a “Let’s see what this looks like in red and white,”  an “I’ve never made a red and white quilt before” kind of experiment. 

Didn’t expect to fall in love.  But I did.  Yup.  I love this little quilt.

This and the Kaffe Fasset version are the May projects.  Love them both.  Happy days.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ready to Go

I am at last ready to sew up the diamonds in red and white.  With as much fabric as I have (ahem), you’d think I’d have a big ole pile of red and white prints.  I certainly thought I did.  But, no.  Thank heaven for shop hops and friends with stashes! Between the two I managed to finally put together the red and whites I needed.

I usually design the basic pattern in EQ6.  Like this:

red white diamond

This way I get a basic idea of what I think of a design.  I’ll admit I’m a little worried this one is going to be too high contrast and too visually noisy for what I’m thinking of, but not so worried I’m not going to plunge ahead.  Sometimes I just don’t really know until I sew it up.  Looks like this is going to be one of those times.

Particularly when I am uncertain about design, I’ll go ahead and lay out the patches to see what I think.  Like this:

red white diamond patches

Yeah, still a little worried, but also kind of liking it.  I mean, red and white.  A quilt for purists, right?  Once more unto the breach. 

And here I am all set up and ready to sew.  I really believe in that “in Minutes” part of the book title.  I make sure I have everything right at hand at the sewing machine when I’m ready to start sewing the foundation.  With everything close, I never have to get up from the sewing machine (unless I am overcome by a sudden lust for Dr. Pepper and chocolate – which has been known to happen).

ready to sew

Tomorrow or the day after I should have this little guy all done up.  As they say, the proof is in the pudding, so – we’ll see.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Quilt Festival

Park City Girl is holding a quilt festival and asking for blogs on our favorite quilts.  What a great idea!  And there are so many lovely quilts being posted with their stories.  Turning to my own quilts I realized that, of course, it’s not easy picking a favorite. 

My first thought was this one.

It’s the very first quilt I made adapting Anita Grossman Solomon’s Fold and Sew technique to miniature quilts.  I remember how excited I was when I realized my experiment was actually going to work!  So, besides just liking the look of it (a batik fan here), this little quilt has  a lot of sentimental value – I didn’t know it at the time, but it whispered the promise of a whole new adventure in quilting.

And then I thought about this quilt.

I was so excited when I made this one and realized the technique would work with a pattern like this – that the quilt looks like it would be hard to make with little pieces but was actually quite easy.  The border was quilted by a friend and I am so grateful for the friendships quilting has brought into my life.  Besides, I love the look of Amish quilts.  I was thrilled when C&T picked this one for the book cover.

But then I asked myself, if the house was on fire and there was only one quilt I could save (granted, a bit morbid approach to the question), I decided it had to be this one.

amish quilt 1

This is the first bed size quilt (the first pieced quilt) that I ever made.  I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  That it lies anything resembling flat is a miracle.  I didn’t know about rotary cutters or quilting rulers.  I drew lines on fabrics, depending on the patch size, with either a regular twelve inch ruler or a yard stick.  I cut the patches out with regular sewing scissors, not being all that particular about it either.  When I sewed patches together and things didn’t quite line up (go figure), I just took my scissors and cut the extra off. 

I sewed the entire top together,  and then, before I sandwiched it, one of my sons spilled a drink on it.  The dark green fabric ran onto its neighbors.  I stuffed the whole thing into the washer and then the dryer.  Amazingly enough, the color bleed came out and the seam allowances didn’t entirely fray away to nothing.  (I had a quilting buddy from Israel and she told me once  they had a saying there: “God loves fools.”  I figure I’m the living proof).

Then, though I was vaguely aware it was possible to quilt on a sewing machine, I wanted a “real” quilt.  Hand quilting or bust, right?  Of course, I’d never hand quilted either.  I drew lines about an inch apart all over the top of the quilt.  I didn’t know about the quilting stitch either.  So nearly all of the quilt is done with a running stitch.  About half-way through I learned there was an actual quilting stitch which might save me some of the physical pain hours of a tightly gripped needle was causing me.  Those first stitches were pretty awful (same size?  straight?), but by the time I got to the outer borders, they looked pretty good, really.  I was proud of that.

amish quilt 2

So, one, this quilt is my favorite because it carries in it all that newbie joy of discovery, first love completely untainted by any sense of the “right” way to do things.  And frankly, that would all be reason enough to say this is my favorite.

But here’s the real heart of the matter: most of the quilting was done while I was sitting with my father during his last year of life.  He had Alzheimer’s and couldn’t be left alone.  Once a week I’d visit so that my mother could get out of the house, run errands or just breathe.  Over the course of months, I watched my father’s mind disintegrate.   He’d sit on the couch and look over at me in the rocker, quilt in my lap, needle in hand. 

“And how long is it going to take you to finish that?” he’d asked, his voice teasing.  “Years?”  And then, because he’d always been a gentle man, he’d say, just so I’d know he was only teasing me, “It looks real good.” 

William Bokros

In the Fall, when I first began these weekly visits, he might repeat those exact words over fifteen or twenty times.  He’d also tell me stories about how during the depression he worked as a gardener at the Duke estate in New Jersey.  She employed seventy gardeners he told me, repeating himself a dozen times over the course of an hour.  Her house was nearly a mile long. 

I quilted.  It gave me something to do.  It gave me something to look at as sometimes, and it’s still hard to admit this, it was just to0 difficult to look him in the eye as I tried to respond to a comment I was hearing repeated for the hundredth time as if I was hearing it for the first.  By mid-winter, the number of gardeners who worked the estate varied wildly.  She employed forty, seventy, a hundred and fifty, two hundred.  By Spring, he could no longer complete a sentence.  I quilted –  tiny stitches a lifeline as I filled in the gaps of the story for him.  So he could keep going, get through till the end, before five minutes later he began it all again.

And then, suddenly, the stomach cancer that had been slowly growing over the year, reached critical mass.  Within weeks, he was dead.  The quilt was still unfinished.  In the months following, I spent hours every evening working on it.  I needed to finish it.  And I did.

amish quilt 3

It was hard those first few nights that I slept under this quilt newly draped over the bed.  There was so much pain in it.  It occurred to me it was a little perverse on my part, perhaps, that I wasn’t just willing to put the  thing in a closet.  “Get some distance,” I’d tell myself.  The quilt stayed on the bed.  It kept my father closer somehow.  As the weeks went by, it became clearer that all the hours we had spent together had been stitched into this simple, flawed, first steps stumbling quilt.  What greater gift could I ask for? 

The quilt carries painful memories, of course.  But love isn’t always free of pain, we know that.  My imperfect, now faded, quilt is a testament of love.  Of my love for my father, for who he used to be, for the kindness and dignity he held onto even as disease took so much away, for how grateful I am that I had those last hours with him – painful and awkward as they were, that I was, even though imperfectly, able to give something back to him for all the care he had provided for me over so many years. 

Quilting is about color and design, of course.  It’s about loving fabric, and loving the act of creation.  But it’s so much more, and I never forget that, perhaps because this first quilt taught me the lesson with such depth and poignancy. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Doll Quilt Swap 6 Received!

How lucky am I?  Look at this lovely quilt that came in the mail –

DQS6 received

Isn’t it just wonderful?  Made for me by Bea in Pennsylvania – I just love it!  And look at these great quilt ladies that came with.  I think I see some of my quiltie buddies there!

DQS6 quilt ladies

The walls in my sewing room are  periwinkle blue, so how perfect is that?  Yeah, I know exactly where this little beauty will hang.  Thank you, Bea!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

DQS6 Ready to Go

So the doll quilt is finally ready to go to its new home!  My photo doesn’t  do justice to how bright and glowing the Kaffe Fasset fabrics are.  I really like how this came out –  I’d feel a little sad about sending it away except, for once, I was smart ahead of time and cut a second set of patches!  Still have to sew it up though . . .

DQS6 sent

The doll quilt swap has been so much fun!  I’ve just loved seeing all the new pictures posted on Flickr (and wondering which one might be headed my way).  Meanwhile, I’ve been hitting up all my quilting buddies for red and white fabrics.  In addition to making another (mostly) Kaffe Fasset version of this pattern, I’m ready to do this up in red and whites as well.  Might ponder some other combinations as well – one of my absolute favorite parts about quilting: day-dreaming possibilities!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Christmas in April

Every Christmas Eve I tell myself that next year I’m going to be on top of things, that I’m going to start sewing up gifts early and that I will not, will not, be in my sewing room finishing up gifts as the clock ticks down to Christmas. 

Who knew I would actually follow through?  Certainly not me.  But, hey, look at this – Christmas in April!



I love these baskets!  The basket pattern comes from Pink Penguin


Click here to open her wonderful tutorial.  Ayumi graciously allowed me to post a miniature version of the pieced section of the basket as a project on my website.  Click here to hop over to the projects page of my website where you can download a PDF file that includes directions on how to use the 13-Square foundation from Miniatures in Minutes to make the pieced section of the basket, as well as cutting directions and notes on some minor modifications I made to Pink Penguin’s pattern.  The quilt layout diagram in the project matches this basket:

basket blues