Sunday, August 29, 2010

today's progress

Here are my 20 blocks laid out on the kitchen floor:I haven't gotten the quilt top assembled yet, but here are the blocks sewn together in pairs in the last bit of afternoon sunlight.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

why grad school is hard, and what makes me feel better

Warning: self-pitying grad student rant. For quilting content, please skip to the pictures.

I think that part of the reason grad school is so darn hard is that one is required to come up with completely original ideas. As an undergrad, I learned to come up with arguments (sometimes new to me) using ideas generated by other people: works of fiction, essays, primary sources. I just had to take information and ideas found by others and arrange it all in a nice, orderly manner so that the ideas flowed from A to B to C, and I was really good at it.

The reason I am thinking about all of this is that I've been writing a paper. Not the kind of paper I wrote as an undergrad; as I've said, that was mostly about taking quotations (or paraphrased bits) of other people's work, arranging it logically, and then writing little connecting bits in between. Once I had the quotes or facts arranged, the rest of the paper practically wrote itself. (At least, that's how I remember it, four years later!) For the past couple of months, I've been struggling to write two entirely new research articles, and it feels like a totally different process, though I'm not entirely sure why. I take facts (generated by me and my colleagues, not by others), and then arrange them logically to form an argument. That's OK. But then I have to contextualize it all within the field and especially to explain what is new and important about these facts, what we now know that we didn't before this paper was written. And that's a lot harder. It's the intellectual equivalent of carefully defining one's place in the universe. Which is very small, but you have to make it sound important, or else why should someone bother to read it?

Enough ranting. After coming up with a complete draft of this difficult piece of work, I'm consoling myself with some quilting. Last night I completed 12 blocks for the sunshine bento box quit, and I liked them so much I decided I want 8 more, so I can make a 4x5 block layout, rather than the 3x4 I had originally envisioned. Cutting of fabric ensued. Time to go put the pieces together!!

A parting thought: I once heard of someone who made a comment to the effect of "why is doing research so hard? Anyone can do a Google search!" Research is hard because someone has to come up with and then prove all of those ideas Google finds for you!

I think it's so much easier to come up with ideas in crafting because a) they don't have to be original and b) you don't have to prove anything -- the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. (Also, it's not my job...not sure if it would be as much fun if I had to do it. What do you think?)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

the sunshine bento box continues

Here are my 12 blocks for the bento box quilt, ready to be cut apart and re-assembled into bento blocks. Each one measures ~16", but I've trimmed them to 15.5" to ensure they're all square.
Each big square gets cut into quarters
And they'll be re-assembled like so:
Here are some stacks of quarter blocks,
and here they are pinned together and ready to sew!
Not bad progress for a weekday.

I hope your Thursday had as much sunshine in it as mine did!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

work-in-progress: sunshine bento box quilt

These blocks don't look like Bento Boxes yet, but they will. So far they're log cabin blocks, but when they're done (a center then two layers of alternating blue or yellow strips) I'll cut them into quarters and re-assemble them into Bento Box blocks. These are just a few of the blue-centered blocks-in-progress. The blocks with yellow centers are currently full of pins and not in a good place to photograph. I got home from D.C. Monday night, but haven't been sleeping too well since I got back, so I've got most of the initial piecing done. I'll take pictures of the semi-completed blocks before and during the cutting and re-assembly process.


Friday, August 20, 2010

another new quilt: sunshine bento box

As is so often the case with me, there are so many things I want to try that when I find a chance to try several new things at once (like the no-triangle zig-zag pattern and making a quillow; this still isn't done but is still the plan), that's exciting. Two things I've been wanting to try lately? A blue-and-yellow quilt (sorry Mum, I know that's not your favorite), and the bento box quilt pattern. I'm going to D.C. this weekend to hang out with fantastic friends I haven't seen since we graduated from college in 2006, but I couldn't resist choosing and cutting some fabric before I go.

Here's a stack of cheery yellow and blue fabrics:There are several great modified bento box tutorials out there; I particularly like "quartered squares - a modified bento box tutorial" from Film in the Fridge (another of my favorite quilt bloggers) and "bento box tutorial" from Quiltin' Jenny. They both end up with different block sizes than I wanted, though, so I'm using measurements from "Bento Box Quilt, Part 1" from Sonnet of the Moon.

I chose 6 fabrics each in yellow and blue, and cut a 6" square of each, plus 3" strips (6" and 11" long in color B, 11" and 16" strips in the same color as the center square). I've got everything cut and ready to sew when I get back from D.C.! Safe travels to everyone going places this weekend. And may your weekends be as fun as I know mine will be!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

a new obsession: mini knits!

As you may have noticed, I tend to do things for a while, and then move on to something new. For a while, I was knitting socks from Cookie A. patterns; then, I decided I wanted to knit little stuff. Not tiny, like 1/12 scale dollhouse knitting (visit Bugknits for that!), but mini. I've belonged to the Ravelry groups Mini Knits for a while, so it's something I've been meaning to do. Then I just couldn't resist any longer! Here are the results.

I started by experimenting with scraps of yarn leftover from my rainbow socks; I never finished the big socks, but I did remove a bit of yarn from the beginning of the second skein so that the two socks would start their pattern repeat in the same place. Even though I tend to prefer my socks knit from the toe up, since I've been on a Cookie A. tear, it seemed only fitting to try a top-down mini sock. I found a great pattern from Everwhelming Liz, and away I went!
I wasn't crazy about where the self-striping stripe went on my first sock (the yellow sock with the orange foot/toe), so the next sock I made with the red, adding an orange heel and toe. I had just enough red yarn; I had to unravel my original red crochet chain (for hanging the ornament) and replace it with an orange one to get enough red yarn to finish the foot. The results are worth the fiddling, though!I also knit this sock ornament in plain blue (Knit Picks Essential in Gulfstream) and green (Dream in Color Smooshy in Happy Forest).
After a few plain stockinette socks, I decided I needed something a bit more complex. Enter the Fawkes Lace Mini Sock from Dawn Brand. I used some Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock Multi in Bittersweet left over from my Brilliant Socks.And of course socks alone aren't enough! There are plenty of other mini patterns out there. Mittens (pattern is Mini Mitten Ornaments from Andrea Kopacek).And, of course, no collection of winter clothing (mini or otherwise) is complete without...a sweater. Yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Blue Yonder and Deep Waters, left over from recent Cookie A. full-sized socks. Yay minis! They take quick knitting gratification to a whole new level. Plus, they're just too cute, and are still useful -- they'll be Christmas ornaments this winter!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

a zig-zag quilt top!

This weekend I've been sewing away on my purple zig-zag quilt top. Here it is, with all the squares laid out on the floor ready to be sewn together:And, many hours later, assembled and trimmed!
It turns out I'm not crazy about sewing together squares on point (rotated so they look like diamonds, or like the points of the compass), which I don't completely understand since it's really not that different from sewing together strips of squares in the normal way. But it's done now and I love the result!

Next problem: backing. This quilt top is too big for any of the pieces of purple fabric I have in my stash, and I can't decide what I want to do with the back. I want to turn this into a quillow, or a quilt that folds up into a pillow, and that's only complicating the choice of a quilt back. Hmmm. Thoughts (and pictures) as I figure it out.