Monday, March 29, 2010

starting anew

Well, I was having trouble settling down to sleep, so I decided to get up and iron and start a new project, since I finished quilting Coffee Birds!

I've been thinking about different ways of highlighting bright blue fabric in a simple nine-patch quilt top,
as well as different quilting patterns. I think it would be cool to make a truly unique quilting pattern by using a fingerprint! You could take a fingerprint, then modify it to make the lines more continuous, since most fingers have little wrinkles that interrupt the pattern of the swirls and lines (or whatever they're called). But to show it off, I think it would be best to have a relatively simple, geometrical patchwork pattern underneath. Like...a nine-patch pattern!However, I'm just not crazy about a lot of the traditional scrappy nine-patch quilts out there, so I wondered what would happen if I played with very simple, clean colors, like white and the sort of blue that has been on my mind. Then if you put the white in the middle and corners instead of the dark color as is more traditional, and played with adding sashing between the blocks (shown above), or just putting the blocks directly next to each other (below), you could get quite distinctive effects with very simple colors and piecing!So, I ironed some fabric and started cutting some more 2.5" strips. My favorite.I love it when I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head (a color, a quilting pattern, variations on a patchwork pattern) and find a way to experiment with them all simultaneously. It's such an efficient way to test out lots of crazy ideas!

quilting accomplished!

Well, my aching arms and I are finally done with the Coffee Birds quilt! After all that heaving the quilt around to rotate it, I eventually started quilting all the horizontal lines in one block, then turning and doing all the vertical lines. The final quilting is like a Greek key pattern.I think it is much easier to see the quilting pattern on the back, at least in photographs. It is large enough for the recipient; he is 6'4", it is about 65" square.I added some nice green binding, and it's complete!
I love finishing things.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

quilting coffee birds

I've been working on quilting the Coffee Birds quilt for my favorite coffee drinker! I couldn't decide what color thread to use for the quilting, so I asked him, and Brad said black. I was worried that such a dark color might really stand out, but I needn't have worried.
I really like the quilting pattern I decided to try. It's much more difficult than I'd imagined to rotate the quilt 90 degrees every few inches, but I really like the look of it.Now if only I could photograph it, life would be grand!It's much easier to see on the green, but of course this is between blocks; the individual blocks each have the birds in the middle and are built out from there, so you can't really see the square spiral pattern.
Maybe it'll show up better on the back.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

how to make a darn good sandwich

Brad just made me the best sandwich I've had in a long time. I did say that Italian sausage wasn't the only thing that came home from the local deli yesterday! I thought I'd share the wealth.

Start with some delicious fresh basil bread; add a little mayo,
some incredible panchetta from the local Italian deli,

and some marinated artichoke hearts (also from Italian deli).

Rehydrate some of last summer's dried homegrown tomatoes. Commercial sundried tomatoes can be substituted, but they just won't be bursting with the same incredible sweetness and flavor. Add tomatoes to the sandwich.
Top with another piece of incredible basil bread!

Serving suggestion: make two; enjoy over March Madness with your favorite NCAA fan.

a lovely Saturday morning

Brad starts a new job on Monday, so today we drove out to see the building and visit a nearby bakery. It's just our kind of place: a few tables where you can sit and eat, and a great view of all the action. It was also nice to see all the human diversity there, both in terms of age and ethnicity. Madison is a great place, but practically everyone is white. I watched an extremely studious young black man painstakingly weigh out flour and sugar while a boisterous pair of middle-aged hispanic men cheerfully shuttled trays of baked goods all over the place, an old white guy plodded around joking with the customers, and a pair of very focused bearded men worked as short-order cooks.
Brad and I sat and enjoyed a blueberry scone while we waited for some bread to come out of the oven. We were treated to a couple of pieces of buttered cinnamon bread fresh out of the oven -- heavenly! We went in to buy a loaf of bread, and came home with this:sourdough, multigrain and basil. We had to bring it home and put it on a rack to cool, as it was still hot. It kept my lap warm all the way home, and smelled incredible. I was grateful for the warmth, as after a week of beautiful spring weather, it snowed in the night. Fortunately Brad got in a little grilling yesterday. This week took a walk to a little Italian deli, where he got some incredible mild Italian sausage, among other things, which we enjoyed for dinner last night. This morning the grill looks like this:In spite of the cold, we're having a great morning so far. There is bread in the kitchen, quilts on the couch,
and a Dorothy L. Sayers audiobook on my iPod. Life is good.

Friday, March 19, 2010

you know you're a computer geek when...

I work at a university. I do breast cancer research, but I work in the old hospital, and we share the building with lots of other departments: medical history & bioethics, statistics, medical physics, physical & occupational therapy, pharmacology, physiology, and computer science, to name a few.

A university has a natural rhythm, composed primarily of the ebb and tide of undergraduates, but there are plenty of smaller, if no less important, patterns around. You can always tell when computer science is recruiting by the signs in the hallway. I work across the hall from an elevator; posted next to it today is a sign:
In case you didn't catch the part that clearly indicates that computer geeks are involved, I've enlarged it:Only Serious Geeks of the computer science persuasion use English like that!

Rock on, computer geeks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

spring has sprung

Madison is beautiful in the springtime. My bicycle Martha has had her spring tune-up, and this afternoon I went for a ride by the lake. The ice is receding, but still present.I couldn't resist stopping during my ride to take some pictures.Martha, who originally belonged to my mother, is named after one of her childhood friends. My mom and I were both fortunate enough to have some really great childhood friends. I don't know if she and her buddies enjoyed playing around outside as much as me and mine, but I do know that neither of us had this kind of view in the park:
I love Madison in the springtime, and though I've lived here for four years, I still haven't gotten over the amazement of living a block from a gorgeous stretch of open water.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

a front and a back

My goal for the weekend was to get the Coffee Birds quilt top assembled, a back made, and the quilt sandwich assembled. I didn't quite make it, but I came close. One quilt top, now assembled:It doesn't look very different from the individual blocks laid out on the floor, but there was some work involved nonetheless.
I decided to do a pieced back, as the quilt top measures 65"x65", which is too big for any one cut of fabric in my stash. Also, I really like pieced quilt backs! I cut 21"x2.5" strips of some of the fabrics used in the quilt top, and added an edging made of leftover bits from the blocks.
Then I cut a 66" length of fabric into two pieces, inserted the strip in the middle, and voila!
One quilt back.
(The bit of orange peeping out in the corner is the quilt top, which is sitting on the table underneath the back.) It took me pretty much all day to get the back put together, and by 5 o'clock when I was finally ready to assemble the quilt sandwich, I was just too tired to focus properly. I figured there was no point in doing a shoddy job of pinning it all together, so the top and back ended up on the dining room table instead. They'll get assembled eventually.

I hope you all met your goals for the weekend! Cheers,

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

inspiration in interesting places

I'm TAing this semester for a cell biology lab class, and during lab one afternoon, found the colors in an assay the students were doing to be a lovely example of the beauty of a monochromatic color scheme.One of the unexpected fringe benefits of teaching! Perhaps it will finds its way into a quilt or knitting project someday, and when it does, I will look at it and think fondly of this, my first class of students.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

coffee birds

Every year when I get my tax return, I try to put most of the money into savings, but spend a little of it on something fun. This year, I ordered some tomato plants from a local nursery (to arrive early next month, I can't wait!), a few books on gardening and quilting, and some fun fabric from the Fabric Shack. One fabric that caught my fancy for reason I can't fully explain is these cheerful little coffee birds. I don't drink coffee, but there was something about the lovely blue background, the bright birds, and the coffee beans that just made me smile. I like them even better in person. After ironing and putting the fabric away, I kept thinking about it, and eventually felt inspired to design a quilt around it.

In addition to the blue in the background, the birds contains lime green, orange and red, so I chose those four colors to use in a courthouse steps pattern.

Here is my original design sketch:
Some of the blue, green, orange and red fabrics I pulled together:
I cut 5" squares of the coffee birds fabric, and then 2.5" strips of the others. I cut 5", 9", and 13" lengths of the orange and green, and 9", 13" and 17" strips of the red and blue. One of the resulting squares:Here are the 16 squares (17" each) laid out on the floor:It's definitely different from most of the things I've done before, but I like it. I'm finding that one of the really nice things about quilting is how quickly a project can come together. It took several days of sketching and two different versions to come up with a layout I liked, but once I started getting fabric out, it was just two days before I had all the pieces cut and sewed into squares. I'm hoping the quilt top (and perhaps even the quilt sandwich!) will come together next weekend.

Here's to the joy and excitement of new projects!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

thanks, Brad!

Brad was kind enough to take some pictures of my finished quilt in the sunshine. Here it is posing on the porch swing:

Isn't it cheerful?