Sunday, December 19, 2010

a baby quilt finished -- before the baby!

My first effort at making a baby quilt stalled badly while I was sewing on the binding. I somehow got the binding a little too short when I sewed in on the front by machine; at first I thought it would be fine and plowed on with the hand stitching. Then I just completely lost all motivation. The quilt went into time-out. I realized just wasn't happy with the too-short binding, which led to an icky puckered section:So I ripped a bunch of stitches, realized the binding had been almost an inch too short,

and proceeded to fix it. Because the baby is due soonish, I decided to finish the binding by machine. I think it looks fine.
So I got it packaged up for its new little recipient-to-be:
And shortly afterward, got this picture of the quilt on the crib!
Now all it needs is a baby.

P.S. I'm immensely proud that my first baby quilt is done before the baby arrived. I'm terrible with deadlines! Doesn't it feel great to get something right for once? Happiness all 'round.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

some Friday play

Yesterday a good friend of the lab came by and brought us holiday cheer. We'd all been a bit down, with the snow, and trying to finish a manuscript I was hoping would be done this summer, and one thing and another. But our friend cheered us up so much I finally came home and played with this:

Connecting Threads had a black Friday sale selling strip sets for half price, so I bought a couple in bright solids. It was such a great deal that I've been hoarding them ever since, and today I finally busted them out and started to play.
I cut 14" strips and started to piece them together.
I made blocks in warm and cool colors

and played with how those might fit into a woven stripe effect I was thinking about a while back.
I've also been wanting to try making a version of "Sonja's Windows" (a pattern in a quilting magazine somewhere, I don't know which one) ever since I saw some here.

I squared my blocks up to 13.5", and, right sides together, pinned a cool block with the stripes going vertically to a warm block with stripes going horizontally.
Sew around all four edges:
Cut apart on both diagonals:
and the result is four stripey half square triangle blocks!
I'm not really sure yet if this is what I want to do with these strips, and whether I'd put sashing between the blocks or not, but it surely is fun to just sew some happy colors together and see what happens!
I had a great Friday night. How about you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

a new project

I've been inspired to try making a spiderweb quilt. I've been saving these fabrics for a while, as I have an idea who this quilt might go to, but for a long time couldn't decide on a pattern. I'm liking the white stars.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two string quilt tops

I've finished piecing two string quilt tops, a small lap sized one:
and a matching doll quilt. I had to make two because the brown I used for the strings doesn't quite match.
They're still not my favorite, but I'll work on finishing them and perhaps they'll find a good home someday.

It feels good to make progress!

Friday, November 12, 2010

from science, inspiration

Today I was working with my cells, and once again was struck by how beautiful science can be:
Look at that amazing color gradation. I think even the little hint of blue from the cap of the tube I was using makes a nice accent.
I may quilt to de-stress from what I do, but never let it be said that it doesn't inspire me, too.

Time to go home and sew something full of color; it's a bit like meditation, and when my mind is calm from making things, that's when I see my research project most clearly, and get new ideas to try. It's all a big, sappy cycle.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

preparing for winter, continued

It's a lovely, sunny day, probably the last sunny weekend we'll have for a while, and you can tell where our priorities are.

Brad is taking advantage of the good light and nice weather to caulk up the windows, which leak atrociously, in the hopes that things will be less breezy (and perhaps slightly warmer) in the house this winter.
Me, I just want to use the sunshine to get good pictures of things I've made but not yet photographed in natural light.
As I'd hoped, the EZ Fisherman's rib hat was a two-evening project, and it is ridiculously and wonderfully warm. (Just in time.)
After caulking the windows, Brad was kind enough to hold some quilts for me! So, here are some images of finished objects you've already seen, now new and improved with actual light. Nice as the wood floors of the house are, they're not great for taking pictures of quilts, especially not on overcast days or at night.
The purple zig-zag and the Coffee Birds quilts have both been quite busy lately. The purple zig-zag lives on the back of my comfy armchair,
and because of its size and cheerful coloring, Coffee Birds is perfect for curling up on the porch swing or for napping on the couch.
I still really like the quilting pattern on this quilt, though it was a huge pain to rotate the darn thing 90 degrees every few inches. Worth it, though, now that it's done!

The autumn checklist:
*Put away summer socks. (Check.)
*Dig out winter clothes. (Check.)
*Make sure the furnace works. (Check.)
*Attempt to seal up the house for the cold weather...a never-ending battle, but we've tried..
*Make use of last sunny days to take pictures of fiber-related goodness: check!

What have you been doing to prepare for winter?

Friday, November 5, 2010

making my own sunshine: a quilt story

Thanks to Amy for hosting the fourth Blogger's Quilt Festival. Here's my quilt story.

I remember one day in my teens lying on the back seat of my parents' car, staring out the window at the bare, grey branches of a tree against a dull grey sky, and knowing deep down in my soul that the world would never be colorful again.

My first semester of college, as the days got shorter, I lost interest in food, and people, knitting and classes. I had less and less energy and stopped doing things one by one until eventually I didn't eat, didn't shower, didn't talk, or get out of bed, or go to class. My friends brought me food in bed, urged me to eat, to read my favorite book, to pet my stuffed monkey, anything. Eventually one of them made me an appointment with Health Services, dragged me out of bed, walked me over, prompted me to speak when the words didn't come. The nurse told me I had mono, drew some blood, and sent me back to bed.

But the blood tests came back negative. They drew more blood, ran more tests, looking for rarer strains of the disease. So they sent me to the school psychiatrist, who, without making eye contact or asking me a single question, told me I had seasonal affective disorder (whatever that was), and started to write me a prescription for Prozac. For the first time in weeks, I felt something: panic. I didn't want Prozac, my family didn't believe in altering one's brain chemistry, and I refused point-blank to take drugs. The psychiatrist looked up at me for the first time since I'd entered his office.

Reluctantly, the psychiatrist told me he had a colleague who could tell me about an arcane treatment involving a "light box." Clearly, he thought this was a ridiculous idea and that his colleague was outdated and out of her mind, but I went home with a loaner full-spectrum lamp that looked like had come straight out of the 70s.
I sat with that light box, day after day, and my energy came back, I came back to life, and when the light was on, other people were drawn to my room and the feeling of sunshine. I bought my own "happy lamp," and rejoiced the day it came in the mail, and told everyone they could borrow a lamp from Health Services, if they were insistent about wanting one.
Winters in Wisconsin are even more difficult, and as the end of summer approached, I wanted to capture the cheery feeling of summer in cloth. I pulled out bright yellow and blue fabrics, looked online at quilt after quilt and tutorial after tutorial, looking for just the right pattern. I settled on a bento box pattern, which has soothing straight lines but lots of visual interest. I added lots of quilting to give the quilt texture, something to touch and pet during the dark days of winter.

This autumn while as the seasons changed, the fog came down again, and this quilt, which I had loved when I first made it, suddenly looked impossibly garish. My favorite foods became repulsive, their flavor overwhelming. Knitting lost its appeal. I dug out my happy lamp, gritted my teeth, and kept going.

Now every day as I sit under it, my sunshine quilt convinces me to eat, to go to work, to try to keep busy, because it is my promise to myself that the sun will come back again.

Thanks to Cherri of Cherry House Quilts, who shared her story of the gospel of quilting, about how quilting helped bring her back to life. She inspired me to share my story. Her book, City Quilts, is full beautiful quilts and inspiration of the quilty kind.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

cold head? warm hat

Well, it's that time of year again. My head is cold, and I have been thinking about wool a lot lately. First I became obsessed with the idea of wool batting for my quilts, then I started thinking about more socks, and finally I couldn't get a couple of balls of lovely purple wool from my stash out of my head. I bought two balls of Artful Yarns Shakespeare in lovely variegated purples during a Webs sale, though I had no idea what I wanted to do with them. You know how it is -- you buy irresistible yarn, knowing you'll find the right project eventually.

A couple of people have been knitting the Yarn Harlot's One Row Scarf lately, and I thought about using that. It's a pattern she designed to show off her handspun, and works well when you aren't sure exactly how far your yarn is going to go. But my head is cold, and I remembered a warm, brioche stitch hat by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Aha!My yarn isn't as chunky as the yarn EZ recommends (closer to 4 sts/inch than 2.5), so I cast on twice as many stitches as was recommended, and since I prefer knitting in the round, I looked around on Ravelry until I found someone who had knit it in the round, followed the links, and found this (slightly blurry) YouTube video:

After several inches of hat, which went very quickly, I looked back at the pattern and realized I was using what EZ calls Fisherman's Rib, which involves knitting into the stitch below along with the stitch on the needle, rather than her slightly more complicated Prime Rib or brioche stitch, but it's thick and warm and pretty and I think it'll do very nicely. With any luck, it'll be done tomorrow and on my head, with no sewing up to do!

May you find the happy warmth you are seeking in your own stash. Stay warm!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

what I'm up to

What are you up to?

Friday, October 29, 2010

why I love Franklin Habit

Dear Grad School Experience,
Lately, I have realized, on an uncomfortably visceral level, that success in grad school is not so much about how smart you are or how hard you work, but about how many times you can get knocked down and then get back up again. A seemingly endless capacity for this type of punishment appears to be necessary.
Largely gratuitous hexagons included for those of you who aren't interested in grad school rants. It's what I've been up to while I've been lying on the floor, metaphorically speaking.

Well, fine. This is me getting back up again. That doesn't mean I have to like it.

Enter Franklin Habit. I love everything about his blog, The Panopticon. Franklin is witty, his lace is intricate, his photographs are incredibly beautiful, and his cartoons always make me smile. My only regret is that his output is finite; craftsmanship of this quality can't be mass-produced in sweatshops, which is too bad on those days when three or four new posts from Franklin would be just the thing to cheer me up.

What do the wonders of Franklin Habit and his blog have to do with the suckiness of grad school? Well, apparently he too has had a bad day lately, and managed to express his sentiments with knitterly humor, in a way I'm just not able to at the moment, and he put it on a t-shirt. Short, sweet, and to the point, it reads:
"*FU. Repeat from *."

So there, grad school. Take that. I'm off to sew more hexagons.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

my head is full of stripey quilts

So lately I've had lots of thoughts of stripes in my head. Red Pepper Quilts has made a very cool quilt called "In A Spin" made of striped fabrics cut into triangles, then reassembled into squares so they form a square-in-a-square design. Go look at the quilt, my description is completely inadequate!

Meanwhile, it's the season for new TV shows, and my eye was caught by a trailer for CBS's new show, The Defenders. OK, so it wasn't really the show that caught my eye, it was the wallpaper. In the trailer, there's a moment when one of the main characters is sitting in front of what looks like wallpaper made up of squares of purple stripes arranged in a checkerboard pattern, so that it's all the same purple stripe, but adjacent squares alternate between vertical and horizontal striping.

Please see my totally inadequate screen shot of a dark corner of the office; the wallpaper looks more brown here, but it was the best I could find on short notice that didn't include any characters. I'm hoping CBS won't go after me for reproducing an image of their show's wallpaper without permission.

So anyhow, the wallpaper immediately reminded me of this purple stripey fabric I have in my stash, and I thought it would be possible to re-create the effect of the wallpaper by cutting squares of striped fabric, and making the checkerboard pattern with the alternating vertical and horizontal stripes. But I thought that would make a pretty boring quilt; I guess it's wallpaper for a reason. However, this got me thinking. I have more of this striped fabric in other colors: red, magenta, orange...the blue I used up on the back of the Coffee Birds quilt, but I have plenty of other striped fabrics in a rainbow of colors.

What would happen if you made a quilt top from striped fabrics, alternating horizontal and vertical stripes, like so:
and then added in a "woven" look I've been thinking about (I'll get to that inspiration quilt in a minute) by, say, having all the horizontal squares in the top row be a red striped fabric, and then the horizontal blocks in the second row be orange. Meanwhile, there would be columns of vertically-striped fabrics, represented here in shades of blue and green. (You'll have to forgive my limited color palette; I currently have a grand total of 12 colored pencils. But you get the idea.)
Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I've been mulling over a quilt from Oh, Fransson! that I've been wanting to play with since I first spotted it. It's the "Stacks" version of her "More Simple Modern Baby Quilts" pattern (scroll down, there are three versions of this quilt, and it's the middle one!). As she describes it, it's like a coin quilt, "but the stacks are "woven" together." I'd really like to post one of her pictures here, but can't figure out how to contact her for permission. Anyhow, follow the link, and look at the middle picture of the "Stacks" version of the quilt.

When I first saw the "Stacks" simple modern baby quilt, I immediately envisioned this quilt in a wild-and-crazy color combo I've been wanting to try: purple and green coins, with an orange background. (I know there's a technical term for a purple, green and orange color scheme, but at the moment I can't seem to locate my color book.)

However, when this old idea collided with my new obsession with stripes, I ended up with a quilt concept that is made up of bits and pieces of all of the above. Now, I do not own a copy of Oh, Fransson!'s pattern, and therefore do not know how it is made. But what I want to do is a little different; I'm inspired by the woven effect, but want to put it together differently.

I'm currently imagining a quilt made up of 10" blocks (finished). The background (light blue solid in Oh, Fransson's "Stacks" quilt) would be a warm peach solid. The woven bits would be made by strip-piecing blocks as in Old Red Barn Co's first quilt-along (like the first quilt I ever made, for my sister Button); five strips 2.5"x width of fabric would be sewn together, and then cut into 10" squares. The five fabrics in each strip set would all be purple (or green), and the stripes come from having all those strips of fabrics lined up next to each other. It's after midnight and I feel my description is a bit incoherent, so I drew a (pretty crappy) picture to illustrate:
It differs from Oh, Fransson's quilt in that, instead of the strips that form the squares running perpendicular to the direction the "weaving," they're parallel, thus adding the stripes I've been craving to an inspiration quilt I've been admiring.

I also think I'll play with the block size and number of strips; I'm thinking maybe smaller blocks with fewer fabrics per strip set (3?), and having more than three "woven strips" in each direction. I think it would be cool to perhaps have four or five, and that way I could include one blue stripe in the purple direction and one in the green direction. Dunno. Still playing with ideas. Any and all suggestions/comments welcome!

OK, back to bed. Maybe now that I've gotten this quilt out of my head and onto paper (or the internet, as the case may be) I'll be able to sleep.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wisconsin Quilt Expo 2010

Last month I went to the Wisconsin Quilt Expo. It was truly amazing. I arrived at 9 and by 10 my camera battery was dead. I've been meaning to post about it since I went, and there was just too much to say so I kept putting it off. Instead, I've decided to post pictures a few at a time. There were just so many incredibly amazing quilts to see!

One of the highlights for me was the Sit & Sew workshop called "Beginning/Intermediate Free Motion Sewing" with Renee Shedivy. It's one of the things that has inspired me to branch out a bit with my quilting patterns. I've found that I'm starting to enjoy the quilting as much as the patchwork, and really look forward to developing my skills at both. In the meantime, here is some of the incredible inspiration I found at the quilt show!Detail of Diamond Flowers, pieced & quilted by Christy Schliesmann of Racine, WI.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

another finish for 2010

Well, it's official! Tonight I finished sewing the binding on the purple zig-zag quilt, and it's done! I chose a lavender, navy and green stripe that pulls together the colors in the quilt top and the backing fabric.

Here's Brad testing the quilt out for me:
When life gets frustrating, finishing something can feel so good. I hope you find a way to get a finish when you need one!