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!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

the baby top becomes a quilt

After staring at it for several days debating about backing fabrics, I finally decided on a cheerful bumble bee flannel.

I decided to try out a new batting; this one is an 80%/20% cotton/polyester batting that I picked up a while ago at JoAnn's. Normally I'm a fiber snob, with both knitting and quilting, and prefer natural fibers to synthetics almost all the time, but the 80/20 blend seems so popular with some folks that I thought I'd give it a try. I had a crib-sized batting on hand, and it was just big enough. For once my backing fabric was actually larger than my top by at least an inch or two on all sides (just barely big enough), and I had a little problem when my basting pins only went to the edge of the quilt top. I should have pinned the batting and back together, because at one point the back folded over and I quilted it that way.
Fortunately I noticed not too far along. It still meant some quality time with the seam ripper, but not nearly as long as it would have taken if I hadn't noticed fairly quickly.
I also did something new by using a loop-de-loop and star quilting pattern, with a pink Gutterman thread on top and yellow thread in the bobbin. I like the effect! It was also a good choice, since the quilting took a lot more thread than I anticipated and I used at least 2.5 of the 3 spools of pink thread I bought for this quilt. I also thought the yellow would go better with the bees on the back. I just hope the baby likes it!

Now I just have to attach the binding and it'll be ready to send to a new baby!

Monday, October 11, 2010

how pathetic is my life?

I just fought a battle with the printer and won, and now I feel like a badass.

Yeah. It's been like that. How're things out there in the world?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

quilting the purple zig-zag quilt!

My poor zig-zag quilt has been languishing lately. I bought several yards of a deep purple print for the backing, and then one day while working on my hexagons found one made from this purple and green print, and I realized it would be an even better backing than the one I bought. I had to piece it together a bit, but I figure that's no problem. So, I got a quilt sandwich together! The batting is a crib-sized White & Warm, and it was just barely big enough.
After a lot of mental back-and-forth about the quilting pattern, I decided to go with a loop-de-loop pattern to contrast with the sharp angles of the piecing.
I used a violet-colored 100% cotton thread from Connecting Threads, and I really like the effect. Unfortunately, I went a little too fast with the free-motion quilting, and in places the stitch length is longer than I'd really like, but I think it'll do. On the up side, I got all the quilting done in one day!

Progress feels good. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

my favorite bumper sticker

It can be a bit dark and maze-like down in the basement of the former hospital where I work, but there's one thing down there that always makes me smile.
I needed that. I hope it brightens your day, too!