Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quilt Design Progress

Color palette Remember these?

Finally. Phew. After poking away at it here and there all summer (well, okay, more "here" than "there" since I was on the road so much), I have finished my stash mystery challenge design for this quarter--the one using warm colors. I've had the design in my head since a couple of weeks after I announced the challenge itself last June, but wasn't able to take the time I needed to learn what I needed to learn in EQ7 to finally get the design done. Last night did the trick--I brought my laptop down to wrangle with EQ while my husband was watching "Top Shot." I could be companionable while still quilty, and mostly ignore what was going on on TV. Admittedly, some of their shots are pretty impressive, but I'm just not a ballistics kinda gal.

In any case, I got the design finished last night and just completed the process of printing off all the requisite rotary cutting and template pages this evening. Lots of templates. Dang applique. What am I doing to myself? Oh well--won't be too futzy; planning on doing it raw-edge-style by machine. I'm also still leaving a bit of room for design changes; I have the overall outline done, but may continue to tweak it as I go.

I should be able to start getting some of the cutting done tomorrow night, but I'll be gone this weekend. That being said, I still have some hope I might be able to make my own deadline for the challenge! How are you doing on yours? Remember, there's a fabricy prize awaiting!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Little Perfume Behind Each Ear...

Fair warning: This blog post has nothing whatsoever to do with quilting.

I tend to be, oh, how would I say it, "reactive?", "sensitive?", "especially tuned in?" to smells. Sometimes that's not altogether a good thing--it's not unusual for me to be with my family and find my stomach suddenly turning from something I'm smelling...and no one else even notices. But usually it's a nice thing; I enjoy nice smells, and smells have strong memory associations. Certain twists of the wind and suddenly I'm a little kid back on the rock beach at my family's cottage on the lake growing up; another twist and it's a flashback to playing frisbee on the green between two dorms at college. I can't grind my coffee at the grocery store without burying my nose in the bag when I'm done and taking a good, deep, inhale. ("Yes, judge, that's right--I inhaled. Deeply and with great pleasure.") My husband sent me flowers for my birthday last week and every time I pass them on the kitchen counter I bury my nose in them again. OK, so a couple of them make me sneeze but it's worth the deep sniff.

I don't think I'm particularly unique in this--I think lots of us respond strongly to smells in one way or another. After all, it's instinctive. Our little animal selves aren't that far removed from those who rely on a sense of smell to tell them whether the one approaching is friend or foe. But what about how smells make us feel about ourselves?

I really enjoy wearing a nice perfume. I don't have many--just three or four (and a couple of random samples still sitting on my vanity as I milk them for all they're worth). I tend to swap out which I'm wearing by season. But those perfumes have lasted me an insanely long time because, sadly enough, I don't wear them out much anymore.

I work for a religious organization with boards and committees--when I travel, I'm usually traveling to be at meetings in stuffy conference rooms with said boards and committees. Over the last several years, we've inevitably had at least one, if not two, people on the board with severe allergies, for whom the slightest scent can send them into asthma attacks or severe migraines. I've seen it in action--I fully believe this is an issue for some. So we now use unscented candles in all of our worship times; we've stopped wearing perfume to meetings; we're careful about our hand creams and our hair sprays. It's all about avoiding the scents.

I've become so used to it, in fact, that I rarely wear perfume out at all anymore--somewhere in the back of my mind is always the caution: What if the person sitting in the airplane seat next to me is allergic? What about that person at the next table over in the restaurant? In church on a Sunday? At my quilt guild meeting?

A few weeks ago, I found myself looking at the perfume on my bathroom vanity with a little sadness and (admittedly) just a touch of resentment. "Shoot," I thought. "I miss wearing perfume." Suddenly I realized, well, duh. Just because I work from home and the only other ones who will smell it are my dogs doesn't mean I can't wear perfume every day! No more keeping the expensive stuff for special occasions. No more thinking perfume is for others to enjoy. I love the way my perfume smells, so why not enjoy it every day for myself? So for the last couple of weeks, every morning after I take my shower and get dressed, I put on my perfume.

I might be sitting here in shorts and a tank top, and haven't laid eyes on another human being since 8a when my husband walked out the door this morning, but dang it, I smell good. Wearing perfume somehow makes me feel just a little better about myself--a little more special or something. Like I'm doing something just for me, my own little quiet enjoyment in a day. Funny--my dogs haven't even noticed. Or maybe that's why they're laying especially close to my feet at my desk these days. Maybe they think I'm getting dressed-up-in-doggie-terms just for them. After all, their little black noses are all about the smells.

Regardless, I'm feeling just a little bit more special these days. So what do you do to help yourself feel just a little bit more special?

(Image by misteraitch through Creative Commons:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Birthday Mini-Quilt-Retreat Part 2

Pinwheels in Progress
Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
So after I finished those strips, I spent a few minutes posting the rest of my quilt library on GoodReads, then putting all those books away (thereby regaining some serious shelf space). A few more minutes of straightening up and my sewing room was once again a clean slate.

Steeling myself, I returned to the pinwheel quilt. Ah, the lowly pinwheel. It so innocently sparked such controversy in the quilting world a few months ago when it became the calm in the eye of a storm regarding the "dumbing down of quilting." Like all storms, I believe that one has subsided. Myself, I have no particular opinion as to whether pinwheels are beginner, intermediate, or advanced. I just think they're dang cute.

I wanted a light summer wallhanging, and I also wanted to use up some fabrics from my stash. This puppy is completely from stash. Woohoo! And then, the piece de resistance, which I can't put appropriate accents on at the moment--the Double Diamond Ruler from Bright Quilting Notions. (Kim, are you paying attention? Tee hee.)

Kim, a listener as well as the inventor of the DD ruler, sent me a sample ruler set to use as a giveaway and one for me to play with. I messed around with it immediately and loved the effect, although I didn't love my initial efforts. I made some bad fabric choices. Since it was just a tablerunner, I had no problem deep-sixing that baby and chalking it up to experience, but I really wanted to mess with the rulers again. The pinwheel quilt gave me the perfect opportunity.
I think this wallhanging will end up being named "Pinwheel Garden" or "Summer Garden" or something--not sure. But I like the idea of pinwheels as flowers and the DD affect as a picket fence around the outside.

I'm going to tackle the quilting this weekend too, I think. Should get more time on Sunday morning. Then I want to play with some embellishing. So keep posted!

Happy birthday to me--a mini-quilt-retreat

I took this afternoon as a half day vacation for my birthday, and am celebrating in my sewing room. My first task of the afternoon: Finish getting the Jelly Roll Sampler strips sorted for blocks.

If you buy this book, do pay attention when the authors say to sort all your strips first, before you start cutting the strips for blocks. I did fine for the first 6 or 7 blocks; the last 5 got a little trickier and I had to start doing some swapping off with earlier blocks to get better contrast. Although my jelly roll had the same number of overall strips as the one in the pattern I'm using, it has a different proportion of darks, mediums, and lights. And although I was quite freely recategorizing strips based on how they related to other strips in the set, there are some combos that just don't work as well. So by the time I got down to the last two blocks, I was digging into my 2 1/2" strip stash to find some alternatives.

Let me just say--if you're a jelly roll fan, be sure you buy the Moda Marbles jelly rolls. The link happens to go to the one I used today; but there are a couple other colorways available. I also own the Brights roll. These help support your other jelly rolls by providing a wide selection of solids or marbles to fill in gaps of whatever jelly roll you're using. At a quilt show recently, I also picked up a couple of rolls of 20 strips each of lights (made up by the quilt shop); I've found that often jelly rolls don't have enough lights or darks--they're heavy on the mediums. Makes sense, since they're strips from a collection of fabric and most collections produce mostly mediums with just a few darks and lights tossed in. Anyway, in today's case, I could've used a few more darks but was able to fill in with one strip from my Moda Marbles roll, plus a strip from my stash, and then just went with a more muted look on the final block than I would've normally. I think it could actually be kind of pretty. It'll be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Enjoying my quiet afternoon catching up on some other quilty podcasts, finishing up cataloguing my quilt books on GoodReads, and moving forward on another quilt project. My son, nephew, niece, and nephew-in-law (said niece's husband), are taking me out for a birthday dinner tonight as my husband's out of town today--that'll be fun, but I've got about 3 hours left of mini-quilt-retreat before that happens!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jelly roll sampler in progress

This really poor picture is of the only sewing I've gotten done this week so far. And, technically, there's been no sewing involved yet. I'm puttering away at sorting a jelly roll for sampler blocks using the new Jelly Roll Sampler book by Pam and Nicky Lintott. The jelly roll I chose (Fig & Plum by Fig Tree Quilts for Moda) isn't high contrast, so the blocks will be fairly muted. I think the overall effect will be fairly shabby chic or something. If it turns out nicely, it might go well in my aunt-in-law's cottage, but I'm not marrying myself to any particular thoughts of how the end results might be used yet.

So, there's the sum total of my quiltmaking life for the last week. I guess I can cut myself a little slack after finishing up that Serengeti project. Speaking of he is, hanging in her dorm room.

Also living in her dorm room, a lion quilt my mom made her when she was little--maybe 5 or 6. She was a huge Lion King fan most of her childhood, so she's surrounded by lions.

That's what every college girl needs, right?

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Test and a Shop Hop

My daughter's driving test today went swimmingly, despite several indicators to the contrary. Threatening rain, a 90-minute drive to the test site, having already failed one test.... I took the day off from work to focus on getting her through today as successfully as possible. We spent a little time on some last minute practice, then made the drive to the town the test was in, had a relaxed lunch, hung out for a bit. And then--yay! She passed! Only 6 days before leaving for about squeaking it in under the wire!

I took advantage of the fact that the town we had to do her test in is right in the middle of Amish country. Good food, great quilt shops. There's one I particularly like--an Amish family farm where she's set up a fabric shop in a shed in her driveway. It's bigger than that sounds, and she has a lot of nice fabric in there. I had recalled that she had several of the Moda Essential Dots collection last time I was there, and I'm a fan of those. Yep--still there! And more colorways than I recalled! So I bought colors I often use--a yard of each, except the one on the far right. I got three yards of that one because I'm planning on using some of it as sashing for an upcoming project.

After dinner tonight, baby girl took her first solo flight in the car, asking me if I wanted anything from the grocery store. Sure--we can always use another gallon of milk. Off she went! To keep my mind off her being out alone in my car, I spent a little more time prepping for an upcoming project from the Jelly Roll Sampler Quilt. Playing with fabric--the best therapy!

Book Review: Stack the Deck Revisited

Stack the Deck Revisited: Updated Patterns from Stack the Deck!Stack the Deck Revisited: Updated Patterns from Stack the Deck! by Karla Alexander

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It might be a little early to post a review of this since I just bought it today and haven't actually made anything from it yet. But I bought it because someone had taught me this technique at a quilt retreat a few years back; I've made a few quilts using the basic idea, but could never get it to work quite right. What a difference it made reading her actual instructions! Now it all begins to make sense...

Plus, I like some of the variations she presents on the basic concept. I'm particularly a fan of the stained glass window version towards the back of the book.

So, although I've already made three and a half quilts using this idea (the half being a UFO I really must finish before winter hits!), I can see a few more in my future. They're a hoot to do and, if you stick to fairly basic versions, pretty fast. Great gifts for babies, kids, and anyone needing a cuddle quilt.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Another finish--Serengeti

"Serengeti," designed by Toni Whitney (see post for info)
Yippee! I can add another finish to my list! I had a day off Friday after my trip to Phoenix and was so jet-lagged that I wasn't up to much except sewing. Or, at least, I had the right kind of sewing I could do while jet-lagged. Perhaps that's more accurate. In any case, between Friday, Saturday, and about an hour on the binding today, I was able to finish the Serengeti project in time for it to head off to college with my daughter. A week early, even! Woohoo!

To give you some perspective, this finishes about 26"x 24". I highly recommend Toni Whitney designs, and the kits for them through Bigfork Bay Cotton Company. The pattern was extremely well written and included all the drawings for the pieces in such a way that it was very easy to figure out which pieces were supposed to be done in which fabric, and in what order to fuse them down. As I have said before, I went ahead and bought the kit instead of just the pattern--it saved a tremendous amount of time trying to find the right fabrics, and I'm really not sure it was much more expensive than having done it all on my own would have been. Since this was to be a piece for my daughter's enjoyment and nothing that I intended as a piece that would show off my own talent, such as it is, I was fine with doing this one by kit. Usually picking out fabrics is my favorite part of a project, but this particular project would have made me crazy. I know my limits.

This pic shows a little of the detail of my stitching around the edge of each piece. The pieces are all fused down and it's not the kind of thing you'd do much quilting on (unless you wanted to really go to town with bringing out detail of fur with thread, I suppose), so you stitch down every one of those tiny little pieces to make sure they'll really stay put.

Then you put the backing on and quilt the borders. I just did a very simple stitch-in-the-ditch on the two narrow inner borders, and as simple as I could get in the outer border. Partly, I wanted to get the thing done so I didn't want to spend a lot of time on the borders, and partly I really wanted the focus to stay on the very cool and majestic lion.

I enjoyed doing this, and learned some things along the way. That being said, I'm also thrilled it's done. It'll be awhile before I tackle something that requires tweezers to move itty bitty pieces into place again.