Tuesday, September 28, 2010

my first baby quilt

My friends Matt & Kelly are having a baby girl in January, so I'm excited to be working on the first baby quilt I've ever made! I've seen lots of really great baby quilts around the blogosphere, and just hadn't had an excuse to make one myself yet.

When I found this bright, stripey fabric a while back, I thought it would make a great binding for a cheerful, colorful baby quilt. And when my latest package from the Fabric Shack came with several fabrics in similar colors all stacked nicely together, I had to just add a few more and make a quilt!
I've been doing a lot of thinking about brick-like patterns lately, and was thinking about doing something along those lines, but the thought of having to carefully piece all the strips together so that the vertical seams (the "mortar" between the short ends of the bricks) lined up on alternating rows made my head hurt. And quilting is supposed to be fun! So, perhaps something a little more random.

I searched through at all my favorite quilt blogs and flipped through all my books looking for inspiration, when I came across this quilt:
It's the "Party Stripes" pattern from the "Better Homes & Gardens: The Best of Weekend Quilts" book, which I bought on clearance for $3 back when I first started quilting. The pattern isn't exactly what I wanted, but certainly has the right flavor.

So I adapted it! The pattern makes a 54 1/2" x 75 1/2" quilt, and I wanted something more like 45"x60". It uses narrower strips of fabric than I wanted (1.5" or 2", whereas I wanted to work with 2.5" strips), and calls for a lot more fabrics and colors than I wanted to use. The construction method was perfect, though, so I did some sketching and some math and came up with my own version.

Here are some of the sets of strips going together:
And after a happily productive weekend, here is most of a quilt top! (It's actually still in three pieces, but I figure two seams left is close enough, at least for pictures.)
I'm at the stage I always seem to hit where I'm nearly done assembling the quilt top and am suddenly not in love with it any more. I'm pretty sure that I just need to finish it up, make a quilt sandwich, and decide on a fun quilting pattern, then I can fall in love with it all over again!

I was worried that the original selection of fabrics didn't have quite enough pinks in it, but pink is just not my favorite and I told myself it didn't need to be too girly. I do think the color balance would have been better with some more brights (including pink), but I'm thinking about using a variegated pink thread for the quilting, which should even things out nicely...right?

Anyway, it's fun to make something for an entirely new person, and work a little outside my comfort zone at the same time!

Monday, September 6, 2010

still quilting!

Happy Labor Day, to those of you who celebrate it (and those of you who don't)! I was at work fora while this morning, but when I finished things up there, I came home and back in front of the sewing machine. Here's how the quilt is looking this evening.It's overcast and has been raining a bit today, so the light isn't great, but I wanted to see the quilt outside.
I'm really liking it, which is good, because I'm not nearly done yet!
Here are some close-ups of the quilting. I now have 2.5 of the 5 rows of blocks quilted, but so far I've been concentrating on the ends. The middle is a lot harder to get through the machine; I've come up with a system of rolling the edges tightly and fastening with binder clips to help squeeze things through the throat of the machine.
It's not exactly easy in places, and it's certainly not fast, but I like the results! I hope you do, too!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

today's menu: ratatouille and a quilt sandwich!

This morning, Brad was up before the sun smoking some brisket.Me, I am not that ambitious (though I certainly do enjoy eating the brisket someone else has spent 14 hours cooking!). I took some herbs from the garden,
some beautiful veggies from the farmer's market,and made ratatouille (yum)!That took most of my morning. We had a lovely lunch off the grill (thanks, Brad!), and then I got to work on the quilt. I pieced the back, then remembered I'd meant to add a contrasting stripe on either side of the blocks. Oops.
But I thought it looked OK, and when I measured, it was just big enough. So I flipped it over
and built a quilt sandwich!
I added lots of pins,
and lots of bobbins of cheerful yellow thread (it's Essential thread from Connecting Threads, in Butter)
and was ready to quilt! I spent a lot of hours (at least 4 or 5) doing organic line quilting. (You can find nice instructions and an example of this technique here, thanks to Jacquie of Tallgrass Prairie Studio, another quilt blog I greatly enjoy.)
I'm quilting every 1/4 - 3/4", widthwise. After quilting all afternoon (and OK, the whole evening, too...maybe more like 6+ hours in total) I have gotten some quilting in each of the blocks to help stabilize the sandwich, and have finished the quilting on the first row of blocks. One down, four to go! It's going to take a while, but I really like the resulting texture, so it's worth it.


something I really like

Lately, I've been catching up with back episodes of CogKNITive, a knitting/psychology podcast I greatly enjoy. One of the segments Dr. Gemma always includes is "something I really like." First of all, I really like that she always includes something she likes; secondly, I'd like to share something I really like!

I really like my Hot Socks. I knit them in December, and they have been through the washing machine several dozen times, and they still look fabulous. I simply cannot seem to take a picture that does justice to this yarn, which is Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in the Citrus colorway. I love Tosh Sock. The colors are incredible. And, as I just mentioned, it stands up really well to harsh treatment. Don't they look great? The stitch definition is still excellent, the socks haven't shrunk at all, which I've found can be an issue with many superwash sock yarns, and the color hasn't faded a bit. I'm rough on my socks, and this yarn is incredible at standing up to everything I've thrown at it. I'm not associated with Madelinetosh in any way, but the wonders of this yarn makes me wish I were!

Something else I really like: being able to work on a quilt while watching movies with my sweetie. The hexagons, after taking a little vacation -- they got tidied up when folks were visiting and never got un-tidied -- are back!
I've decided the bigger hexagons I was working on were just a bit overwhelming in their size. 19 little hexagons is a few too many to make up a big hexagon, so I've downsized. For now, these little bites of instant gratification are just right.

Speaking of, I was worried that my recent trend towards instant gratification (large quilt blocks, mini knits) was a problem. Am I completely without staying power? Then I realized that I am four years into a Ph.D. program, and it'll be at least another year, and likely longer, before I finish. I don't have a commitment problem; I just need my hobbies to be there for me right now.

I hope your fiber is there for you when you need it, too!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

rain, rain, go away!

Now, don't get me wrong, I love rain. Rainy days make me happy. Thunderstorms are best. But sometimes, I wish their timing was a bit better.

Today was the first day of classes, meaning all the undergrads are back on campus, many of them for the first time, and we had torrential rains. At one point as I was trying to get home, I counted 17 people in the bus shelter! And most of them don't know the bus routes and schedules yet. Cozy.But that's not why I want the rain to go away. This is what things look like in the laundry room currently.
We have a leak. Our fantastic landlord Duane came to look at the roof again yesterday, but whatever he did doesn't seem to have fixed the problem. Oh, well. It doesn't rain this hard very often.

(Don't worry, the stash is in another room. Where there are no leaks. I checked.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

a quilt back in progress

Tonight I've been working on a back for the sunshine bento box quilt. I've got 2 yards of this busy yellow and blue fabric; I bought a lot of it because I thought it would make a cool quilt back and wasn't quite sure how else to showcase this fabric. The pattern is just a little large and busy for most of the piecing I have been doing. Because the quilt top measures ~62"x77", this backing fabric is just long enough but not quite as wide as I need it to be. That suits me just fine, since I prefer pieced backs anyway, and I have a bunch of scraps left over from the blocks. So this evening I sat down and pieced five scrappy blocks to add to the back.Here they are in a classic blogland shot complete with toes. (The blocks are ~16" square, so I had to stand on chair to get them all in the shot.)
Here are the blocks laid out on the busy backing fabric.
I'm pretty sure I'm going to need some sort of border between the two, but I haven't quite worked out the details yet. I'm thinking maybe some of the darker blue fabrics. I think the contrast is really helpful in the blocks where those are included.
I'll sleep on it. It's not quite there yet, but it's moving in the right direction. And I solve a lot of problems in my sleep. Perhaps I'll have an answer in the morning. There's no rush; I won't get around to assembling the quilt sandwich until the weekend. Time to mull it over and get it right. I think I know how I'm going to quilt this one, though; pictures to follow.

I also finally gave in and bought some fabric for the back of the purple zig-zag quilt. I kept trying to find a combination of things in my stash that would work, and I just wasn't feeling any of them. I had an idea and (somehow) no purple fabric in the right color, and not nearly enough of any one fabric in purple, or green, or any other color I thought might work with the top. I thought about doing some really wide stripes, but as the quilt is wider than the 44" width of the fabric, it just wasn't working. $14 later, I think I have what I want. Or I will soon -- it's in the mail. Still not sure how I'll quilt this one yet; I've got some ideas but haven't quite decided. Should I use white thread, or lavender, or purple, or something wild and crazy for contrast? Should the quilting echo the zig-zags, or be more organic? Or I could do straight horizontal lines to emphasize the sideways stripe of the quilt, or use diagonal straight lines to emphasize the on point setting of the individual blocks.

So many problems to solve; so few nights to sleep on it! I should go get to work on these pressing questions. Good night, all!