Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two string quilt tops

I've finished piecing two string quilt tops, a small lap sized one:
and a matching doll quilt. I had to make two because the brown I used for the strings doesn't quite match.
They're still not my favorite, but I'll work on finishing them and perhaps they'll find a good home someday.

It feels good to make progress!

Friday, November 12, 2010

from science, inspiration

Today I was working with my cells, and once again was struck by how beautiful science can be:
Look at that amazing color gradation. I think even the little hint of blue from the cap of the tube I was using makes a nice accent.
I may quilt to de-stress from what I do, but never let it be said that it doesn't inspire me, too.

Time to go home and sew something full of color; it's a bit like meditation, and when my mind is calm from making things, that's when I see my research project most clearly, and get new ideas to try. It's all a big, sappy cycle.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

preparing for winter, continued

It's a lovely, sunny day, probably the last sunny weekend we'll have for a while, and you can tell where our priorities are.

Brad is taking advantage of the good light and nice weather to caulk up the windows, which leak atrociously, in the hopes that things will be less breezy (and perhaps slightly warmer) in the house this winter.
Me, I just want to use the sunshine to get good pictures of things I've made but not yet photographed in natural light.
As I'd hoped, the EZ Fisherman's rib hat was a two-evening project, and it is ridiculously and wonderfully warm. (Just in time.)
After caulking the windows, Brad was kind enough to hold some quilts for me! So, here are some images of finished objects you've already seen, now new and improved with actual light. Nice as the wood floors of the house are, they're not great for taking pictures of quilts, especially not on overcast days or at night.
The purple zig-zag and the Coffee Birds quilts have both been quite busy lately. The purple zig-zag lives on the back of my comfy armchair,
and because of its size and cheerful coloring, Coffee Birds is perfect for curling up on the porch swing or for napping on the couch.
I still really like the quilting pattern on this quilt, though it was a huge pain to rotate the darn thing 90 degrees every few inches. Worth it, though, now that it's done!

The autumn checklist:
*Put away summer socks. (Check.)
*Dig out winter clothes. (Check.)
*Make sure the furnace works. (Check.)
*Attempt to seal up the house for the cold weather...a never-ending battle, but we've tried..
*Make use of last sunny days to take pictures of fiber-related goodness: check!

What have you been doing to prepare for winter?

Friday, November 5, 2010

making my own sunshine: a quilt story

Thanks to Amy for hosting the fourth Blogger's Quilt Festival. Here's my quilt story.

I remember one day in my teens lying on the back seat of my parents' car, staring out the window at the bare, grey branches of a tree against a dull grey sky, and knowing deep down in my soul that the world would never be colorful again.

My first semester of college, as the days got shorter, I lost interest in food, and people, knitting and classes. I had less and less energy and stopped doing things one by one until eventually I didn't eat, didn't shower, didn't talk, or get out of bed, or go to class. My friends brought me food in bed, urged me to eat, to read my favorite book, to pet my stuffed monkey, anything. Eventually one of them made me an appointment with Health Services, dragged me out of bed, walked me over, prompted me to speak when the words didn't come. The nurse told me I had mono, drew some blood, and sent me back to bed.

But the blood tests came back negative. They drew more blood, ran more tests, looking for rarer strains of the disease. So they sent me to the school psychiatrist, who, without making eye contact or asking me a single question, told me I had seasonal affective disorder (whatever that was), and started to write me a prescription for Prozac. For the first time in weeks, I felt something: panic. I didn't want Prozac, my family didn't believe in altering one's brain chemistry, and I refused point-blank to take drugs. The psychiatrist looked up at me for the first time since I'd entered his office.

Reluctantly, the psychiatrist told me he had a colleague who could tell me about an arcane treatment involving a "light box." Clearly, he thought this was a ridiculous idea and that his colleague was outdated and out of her mind, but I went home with a loaner full-spectrum lamp that looked like had come straight out of the 70s.
I sat with that light box, day after day, and my energy came back, I came back to life, and when the light was on, other people were drawn to my room and the feeling of sunshine. I bought my own "happy lamp," and rejoiced the day it came in the mail, and told everyone they could borrow a lamp from Health Services, if they were insistent about wanting one.
Winters in Wisconsin are even more difficult, and as the end of summer approached, I wanted to capture the cheery feeling of summer in cloth. I pulled out bright yellow and blue fabrics, looked online at quilt after quilt and tutorial after tutorial, looking for just the right pattern. I settled on a bento box pattern, which has soothing straight lines but lots of visual interest. I added lots of quilting to give the quilt texture, something to touch and pet during the dark days of winter.

This autumn while as the seasons changed, the fog came down again, and this quilt, which I had loved when I first made it, suddenly looked impossibly garish. My favorite foods became repulsive, their flavor overwhelming. Knitting lost its appeal. I dug out my happy lamp, gritted my teeth, and kept going.

Now every day as I sit under it, my sunshine quilt convinces me to eat, to go to work, to try to keep busy, because it is my promise to myself that the sun will come back again.

Thanks to Cherri of Cherry House Quilts, who shared her story of the gospel of quilting, about how quilting helped bring her back to life. She inspired me to share my story. Her book, City Quilts, is full beautiful quilts and inspiration of the quilty kind.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

cold head? warm hat

Well, it's that time of year again. My head is cold, and I have been thinking about wool a lot lately. First I became obsessed with the idea of wool batting for my quilts, then I started thinking about more socks, and finally I couldn't get a couple of balls of lovely purple wool from my stash out of my head. I bought two balls of Artful Yarns Shakespeare in lovely variegated purples during a Webs sale, though I had no idea what I wanted to do with them. You know how it is -- you buy irresistible yarn, knowing you'll find the right project eventually.

A couple of people have been knitting the Yarn Harlot's One Row Scarf lately, and I thought about using that. It's a pattern she designed to show off her handspun, and works well when you aren't sure exactly how far your yarn is going to go. But my head is cold, and I remembered a warm, brioche stitch hat by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Aha!My yarn isn't as chunky as the yarn EZ recommends (closer to 4 sts/inch than 2.5), so I cast on twice as many stitches as was recommended, and since I prefer knitting in the round, I looked around on Ravelry until I found someone who had knit it in the round, followed the links, and found this (slightly blurry) YouTube video:

After several inches of hat, which went very quickly, I looked back at the pattern and realized I was using what EZ calls Fisherman's Rib, which involves knitting into the stitch below along with the stitch on the needle, rather than her slightly more complicated Prime Rib or brioche stitch, but it's thick and warm and pretty and I think it'll do very nicely. With any luck, it'll be done tomorrow and on my head, with no sewing up to do!

May you find the happy warmth you are seeking in your own stash. Stay warm!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

what I'm up to

What are you up to?