Sunday, May 30, 2010

so many colors!

I've gone a little crazy with cutting 5" squares for the rainbow quilt. Here they are, laid out for spraying with starch, in the hopes that a little stiffening will help me sew on the bias without distorting the fabric so badly. Aren't all those colors just yummy?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

felted friends

Here are my felted friends, stuffed and ready to play!It's such a beautiful day, and they look like they want to go frolic outside.Good idea. See you later!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

rainbow socks

I'm still in a rainbow mood, so when I saw this yarn on KnitPicks, I couldn't resist. (Felici, in the colorway "rainbow." Appropriate.) I decided to make some plain vanilla socks, just rainbow stripes, with purple toes and heels. The purple is KnitPicks kettle-dyed Essential in Eggplant. Yummy.

There may not be a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, but I hope there will be a pair of cheerful socks!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

HST adventure, continued

I'm having lots of fun with my rainbow quilt! Here are the HST blocks I have assembled so far; they will be 8" square when they're all sewn together:
I have some more that are most of the way assembled; one seam left to go!
I think when they all go together in the quilt top, I'll have a pretty good mix of colors. Nice and rainbow-y, which is the mood I'm in right now! You can see that I've decided to try an "everything but purple" color scheme. Unusual for me, since purple is a color that really speaks to me, but I started with bright pinks, greens, yellow and orange, and decided to try one of these "leave one color out" color schemes I've read about but never tried. We'll see how it goes! My triangle sewing leaves something to be desired, but I think I'm getting better.

I really hope to get some more blocks assembled this weekend!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rainbow HST Quilt

I've been really enjoying Red Pepper Quilt's blog lately, and I recently felt inspired by the HST (half-square triangle) Overload quilt. I enjoy the shapes and the bright rainbow colors are really appealing to me right now. You can see from my pile of scraps the sort of bright, sunny colors I'm going for. I cut a bunch of 5" squares (pairs of each color, plus extras to use on other quilts):
I paired up light and dark colors, marked a diagonal on the light-colored square, and sewed a seam 1.4" to each side of the diagonal line. Here they are, ready to be ironed; you can tell I still haven't quite mastered the art of sewing an even seam on the bias (diagonal to the grain of the fabric), as they're a bit wrinkly:
Then I cut them apart on the marked line, like so:
Which gives two pairs of triangles sewn together!
When you unfold them, you get half-square triangles!
I originally tried just trimming off the triangular bits from the seams,
but in the end I had to trim them down to 4.5" squares. Trimming about 1/8" allowed me to square them up again, as my imperfect sewing & ironing meant they weren't all quite...quite. Also, 4.5" squares simplify the math from here on out!
I can't wait to assemble them and see what it'll be like!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I feel so productive today! Three knitted creatures went in the washing machine, and three cute felted guys came back out! Here they are laid out post-felting:They're not stuffed yet, but they'll still stand on their own!At least for a bit. Here's an action shot with the grey sheep falling down:
I can't wait for them to dry so I can stuff and finish them! I'm having so much fun I even started another sheep, this one with two strands of undyed Stockbridge (a yummy 50/50 wool alpaca blend, the white yarn I used in the grey alpaca) and one strand of the oatmeal-colored Lamb's Pride. I'm too lazy to try to figure out how to modify the pattern to make bigger animals, so I'm sticking with the "add more strands" strategy for now. Fun, fuzzy, cozy, what's not to love?

Friday, May 21, 2010

my two cents on modern quilting and design process

Today I stumbled upon an interesting conversation going around the blogosphere about what "modern quilting" is, and about sharing design process more in our blogs. Specifically, I've been thinking about R0ssie's post on mutant quilting, in part in response to Naptime Quilter's post "throwback - a digression," and R0ssie's process pledge.

What does it mean to be a quilter? A "modern" quilter? What route did you take into quilting?

Marit brought up cooking, and that really resonated with me. I think the fiber arts, like cooking, can be approached in a variety of ways. With cooking, you can learn in the French tradition, Julia Child style, in a strict classroom with a fussy guy yelling at you to cut your veggies precisely in various shapes whose acceptable dimensions are defined down to the millimeter, and you can learn precisely how to make each of the "mother sauces" from which all other sauces are made. Or you can travel the world (in person, or via books, restaurants, or the internet) and absorb the traditional cooking methods and flavors of Morocco, Greece, Russia, Spain and Peru. You can be an avid coupon cutter, priding yourself on getting $50 worth of groceries for $5.23, and eat whatever it is that is on sale. You can learn a set of techniques, and then pull stuff out of the cupboard and throw it together using those techniques. You can cook strictly from recipes, or be inspired by recipes, finding flavor combinations and cooking methods, or simply modifying dishes to suit.

I think knitting and quilting are very similar: you can follow a pattern, using a prescribed yarn or fabric collection, for a pre-determined outcome. You can substitute your own "ingredients" into a traditional or commercial pattern. You can draw inspiration from "recipes" that "sound good" (patterns that look intriguing, blog posts that get your creative juices flowing, books, museum exhibits, Flickr, etc). Or you can start with a familiar "flavor" made up of a favorite color combination, and try a new technique! The permutations are endless.

What does this have to do with what "modern quilting" is or sharing the quilting process? For me, it's all about approach, and how that influences the process and outcome. There was some discussion of taxonomy, and how to classify different sorts of quilts, for example a quilt with lots of white and bright colors. I think there's more to it than that, though; it's not just about what colors and lines are in the quilt, but also how the quilt came into being. Did the quilter see a quilt she/he loved on someone's blog, buy the pattern, and use the recommended fabrics? Or did the quilter putz around with a stack of fabrics, do some improvisational piecing, and play around on the design wall? Or maybe she saw a great photograph someplace, loved the color combination, and sat down with a sketchpad to capture the "feel" or palette of the photo in a quilt. Any of these processes could give rise to a quilt with lots of white and bright colors, but I think that even if you had three identical quilts made via these three routes, each would be a different kind of quilting. Does that make each of the quilts taxonomically distinct, or are is it only the quilters (and their creative processes) that are different?

I don't know.

What I do know is that a Chef, a home cook, my next-door neighbor and a foodie can each make me dinner. And, different as they will be, I will enjoy them all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

strangely addictive

I've been having some grad school doldrums at work, and hexagons just weren't cutting it. I needed something soothing to do with my hands, something that would take attention, but no thought. These fit the bill:Sheep! A Felt Flock, by Bev Galeskas, knit in yummy soft Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted, an 85% wool, 15% mohair single-ply yarn that I love to knit with and is perfect for felting. For the smaller sheep, I used one strand of the Lamb's Pride in oatmeal and size 10 needles. To make the second sheep larger, knit with two strands, one of Lamb's Pride and a second of Andean Treasure, a buttery-soft 100% alpaca yarn, on size 11 needles.
This project was just right. No matter what crafty, creative goodness I try out, I always come back to knitting. It's food for the soul. I used to prefer acres of stockinette so I could have the pleasure of watching it grow FAST, and making up my own sweater patterns, but for now, this was just what I needed: pattern knitting that requires attention to detail on every row, but no actual thought beyond what yarn to use.
And the results are cuddly and soft, and good to pet.
The sheep are ready to felt, and are shown here with an alpaca I knit a couple of years ago. I may be too old for stuffed animals, but I still love to cuddle and pet my alpaca, and to use him as a pillow. I hope to get his sheepy brethren felted and stuffed this weekend, and then I'll have a whole family! Also, I might have ordered some more yarn to knit more sheep...oh, and possibly a pattern for flamingos, too. :)

What feeds your soul when life hits a rough patch?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I've got quilting on my mind

I've been thinking about quilting patterns a lot lately; not patchwork patterns, for the quilt top, but patterns for the actual lines of thread that hold the layers of the quilt together. I've decided that I really like the crinkly look that comes from lots of quilting, like in my disappearing nine-patch, but I want to do something beyond the stippling I used on that quilt.

As a child, I used to make drawings by starting with a couple of long, swooping lines, and then turning them into an animal, or landscape, or just a geometrical design. Why not start a quilting pattern the same way? Like this:So, I decided to move to the white board and play! (Please forgive the glare.)
After putting in a few big, broad lines, you could echo those lines to fill in the whole quilt.
Starting with a few simple lines would serve a double purpose, too; not only could you give the quilting pattern an outline, but it would be like basting the quilt, getting the layers connected broadly across the whole "quilt sandwich." Here's an example of starting with just two lines:
Or three:
The topmost line didn't work for me once I started filling in; I took it out, and ended up with this. You could give the quilt a lot of movement and directionality with the quilting pattern!
I decided to see what this sort of quilting pattern (shown in black) might look like when put on top of a simple, geometric quilt top, reminiscent of a simple strip-pieced rectangle-based patchwork pattern (shown in green).
You could make a very simple patchwork pattern incredibly dynamic! I like the contrast between the straight horizontal and vertical lines of the "quilt top" and the more fluid, organic lines of the "quilting."
I think I may have to try to put together some small, simple quilt tops this weekend so I have some canvasses to play with. Maybe I'll do some small baby or lap quilts using bold color combinations, about which I'm curious but haven't yet tried: yellow and blue, a watermelon pink-and-green, or simple black and white. So many ideas, so little time...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

a cozy nest of hexagons

Some days at work are long and frustrating (big surprise, eh?). But it makes me happy and relaxed to come home, sit in my armchair next to my sweetie, and be surrounded by a project I can work on with my hands. Here's what's surrounding me today. On my left is a partially-assembled green hexagon-of-hexagons; on the right I have stacks of 2.5" squares of fabric
and all the tools I need to make more little hexagons.
It's a nice system; even though I keep making progress on assembling big hexagons from the little hexagons (lovely warm toes of my slippers shown for scale),My tupperware of little hexagons never gets any emptier! The color selection is slightly different from last time; I've been working on expanding the range of hues. I realized I needed more colors at the less and more saturated ends of the scale, so I'm going for some pale and dark values, instead of just medium values. Well, that's the goal, anyway. It's fun. What are you doing to relax?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"directionally correct"

I was a virtuous grad student and went to work this morning to start some new experiments. It means next week is going to be incredibly busy, but it'll help things move forward faster. OK, that wasn't really such a virtuous thing to do, it's what a grad student should do, but both my weekend and next week would have been easier if I hadn't, so when I got home I decided to reward myself for doing the right thing by doing the fun thing for a while:As a result, I've made progress on my projects at work and my fun projects at home! These are two sets of aqua and white nine-patch blocks I started working on one night ages ago. The picture above shows 16 squares that will have sashing in between the blocks; the 25 blocks below, with a different blue fabric but the same white, will be sewn directly to each other, without white space in between. As Brad would say, since he works in industry these days, everything is "directionally correct." Things feel like they're going veeeeeeeeeeery slooooooooooowly, but they are moving forward.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

how hexagons work

I enjoyed the sunshine on my porch today making more hexagon pieces to sew together, and thought I'd take advantage of the natural light to show how hexagons work! I'm starting with commercially-cut paper pieces, though if I were more patient or a little less OCD about exactitude, I could cut my own.I'm using hexagons that measure 1" on a side, so a 2.5" square of fabric is big enough to cover the entire piece of paper. I have a lot of 2.5" strip scraps left over from various projects, and have raided my scrap basket to make as many 2.5" squares as possible. I now have stacks of them sitting around the house (and today, on the porch!).The paper piece is set on the wrong side (back) of a piece of fabric; this could be a hexagon of fabric, but it's much easier to just cut a square, so I'm sticking with that. It also seems less wasteful; the extra bits of fabric could get thrown away, or they could add extra bulk (and a little more warmth) to the final quilt.
You fold the edges of the fabric over the paper piece and baste at the corners with thread in a contrasting color:
I'm using plain cream-colored thread, since for this project I'm mostly using saturated colors. I've seen people use blaze-orange, but I like the soothing effect of the white and it's still easy to see so it will be easy to remove later.
Once all six sides have been folded over and basted down, the back of the hexagon looks like this:
And from the front, you have a nice hexagon of fabric with lines of basting thread!
Two hexagons get put together front to front, and you sew along one edge. Unfold, add another hexagon, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Once the hexagons are sewn together, the basting thread is removed and the paper is taken out. A queen-sized quilt with hexagons this size will take more than 1,000 hexagon pieces. That's a lot of hexagons! We'll see how far I get before I get bored.