Scales and Dots

>> Thursday, May 27, 2010

A couple weeks ago Kathy mentioned a quilt drive through BASICS/Promesa. This South-Bronx-based organization helps disadvantaged families in an array of ways and Victoria has spearheaded a quilt drive for those that the organization is moving into housing. I realized I had contributed multiple quilts to several organizations in 2009 but none yet in 2010. As a result, I plunged into my stash and had fun improvising my way to this soft yellow and purple quilt.

To be honest, I like the far-away picture of the quilt better than the close-up but this one gives a sense of the quilting and shows off some of the fabrics as well. To make the quilt, I grabbed fabric and cut 3" strips. I then cut the strips into smaller squares and rectangles and started piecing. I knew I wanted pieced strips of different lengths to which I added the background yellow (from Moda, maybe 1930s yellow? I wish solids had selvage labels....but I heartily endorse Moda Bella Solids as they're soft, pretty, and easy to work with).

For the back, I pieced together a couple of flannel pieces that I had left from other quilt backs. It's therefore a very soft and warm quilt.

I feel like I'm on a roll with bindings -- picking a fabric and color that's not necessarily in the quilt but helps make the quilt work. I'm not a pink person but I've been drawn to magentas of late and I found that the magenta/pink dot combo really worked here. I think the quilt sparkles in a way it would not with a purple or black binding (other options under consideration).

I've got another quilt to contribute in the works -- it just needs a binding and it'll be ready to send off!


Peaceful Pile of Quilts

>> Wednesday, May 26, 2010

This pile has some newly made and older quilts, making this a sneak peek of sorts. I'm at a seminar/conference thing this week so I'm a little short on time for a longer post but coming soon...

In the meantime, for any free motion quilters out there, any tips on why the bottom fabric gets loops? I've cleaned, rethreaded, rewound the bobbin, played with the tension, and taken off and reattached my free motion foot but it's acting up. Any tips, suggestions, advice for what else to try, adjust, or fix?


Welcome Selvage Blog Folk

>> Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If you've clicked over here from the Selvage Blog, welcome! If you're looking for my post about my Selvage/Dresden quilt, please scroll down or click here. While you're here, take a look around and say hi. I hope you'll come back soon. I've got several new things to post soon.


From Ugly to ?

>> Sunday, May 23, 2010

I know at least a couple readers made it through last night's long post on process, so I better follow through with some process posting :)

Up first...

This piece started as an effort to use up some squares from the Portrait Gallery quilt. I thought I'd piece them together and create a wall hanging. Which I did, sort of, but I hate. I think it looks ugly. The colors don't sparkle, it's not that interesting to me, and I can't imagine hanging it anywhere. So I folded it up and let it drift to the bottom of my works-in-progress pile.

I think it's now time to do something with it, but I'm not yet sure what that something will be. I'm thinking of cutting it up and refashioning it to something else altogether, a la Jacquie's Urban Garden quilt. I think I'd chop it into strips and squares and add some new fabric and see where it goes. Alternatively, I was thinking about cutting it into lots of little squares and putting them together and see where that goes. This morning I started wondering whether I needed to immerse it in a sea of other colors. so chop it (in whatever way) and add in tons of other colors. Maybe I'm just not that into this color combo and adding some warmer tones would spice it up a bit.

I'm all ears for suggestions. What would you do with it? I'm game for radically remaking this, and it could yield a wallhanging, a new quilt, or anything. And if it doesn't turn into anything I like, I'm okay with that too. In other words, if it turns out to be a rotted piece of fruit, well that can be interesting, and if it turns into delectable fruit salad, that's a bonus. It's an experiment, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.


A Process Post

Recently several bloggers have posted about and advocated more discussion of "process." I've been thinking a lot about what they've posted (part I, below), and I've been trying to work out my initial and more thought-out response to these posts (part II, below) and to figure out where I stand (part III, below).

{Warning: Lots of text ahead!!} 

Part I: 
Who is talking and what are they saying? Where did this "process" thing come from and what does it mean?

Cheryl reflected on her experience wandering the hall of the Invitational Show at Quilt Canada, considering the differences between art quilting and her quilting, between traditional quilting and modern quilting. She pointed out that "quick" quilts -- which may or may not be modern in creation or aesthetic -- have increased, a trend she suggests relates to blogging. Who doesn't want to announce a finish and reveal a picture of one's latest work? But this might be a sign of competitive blogging more than a symbol of renewed quilting energy.

Picking up on Cheryl's thoughts, r0ssie responded with a thought piece on what she dubbed "mutant quilting." Quilts morph from ideas and inspiration and thus, she argues, we ought to spend more time thinking about, writing about, and discussing this mutation. Whereas quilting blog conversation often starts at the end, with the finished product, she advocates "talk[ing] more about where...ideas come from" such that quilters can "learn what [they] mutated from" and "participate in creating knowledge for the next mutant." Thus she pushes us to push ourselves -- as designers and as discussants, to think about and explicitly talk about process. This means sharing sketches, choices, mistakes, and transformations, and doing so along the way, not at the end with a picture of the finished product in hand. To this end, she offered a follow-up post that articulated a "process pledge":  
"I, ________________, pledge to talk more about my processes, even when I can’t quite put them in the in words or be sure I’m being totally clear.   I’m going to put my thinking and my gut feelings out there.  
Finally, Jennifer offered a three-post series on "Quilting Without Obligation" (here, here, and here). She underscores that despite her own competitive nature, she quilts out of love and out of her own desire. As she looks out on the quilt-blogosphere, she says, "I would much rather read, "I was inspired to design this quilt by... I really struggled with this step... I don't like sewing binding on by hand but I did it... I messed up when I was cutting this fabric..." instead of "here's my perfect quilt that I made in two days, don't you love it??" Moreover, she writes, "Art should be a rich process with rich results.  A process with ups and downs.  A process with imperfections that come to life because you stretch to work with them."

That's a lot to consider and digest.

Part II:
I have to confess that my initial reaction to all of these posts was split: I agree and I am a little uncomfortable.

I'm all about process. I love learning, I love seeing how people think through their ideas (of all sorts, quilting and not), and I love seeing how ideas develop, from the mind to the page, from the page to the cut fabric, from the cut fabric to pieced blocks, from pieced blocks to the quilt. I've learned a lot from reading other people's blogs and while finished products can teach and inspire, I certainly learn more from reading about the process. In this regard, Jennifer's post really resonated with me. As a math professor taught emphasized in college, brilliance stems from failure and learning from mistakes, not from brilliance. Indeed, he made us keep "failure journals" and record attempts to solve problems, obstacles we ran into, attempts to find new paths, and reflection on why we were stuck. I think this is brilliant pedagogically and intellectually, and I think encouraging people to embrace failure -- to ponder it and to build on it -- at all levels of learning in all realms of life is truly important. In many ways, I think the call to discuss process embodies this ideal.

BUT {because there's always a but...} I must confess that the process pledge made me uncomfortable. My gut discomfort probably stemmed from my own habits of blogging a finished product. Yep, I'm guilty. And I'm guilty of making fast, quick quilts too. But I'm not ashamed of that and, I think, I tend to admit it. But my discomfort made me think about my own reasons for blogging and the rationales (thin though they may be) I have for blogging finished products. I started blogging almost 2 years ago. I had moved away from a core group of friends who, among other things, had nurtured my crafty sensibilities. Few of them were interested in fabric or quilting, but all of them supported my endeavors and wanted to know what I was up to. As a result, I decided to plunge into the newfangled (to me) world of blogging. My foray into the blogosphere started with an audience (a small audience, but an audience nonetheless) and I figured I would simply post the pictures of my latest finished project and discuss it a little, letting friends and family check in as they wanted (or not).

At some point along the way, I found a whole world of modern quilt bloggers. I stumbled through the crafty-bloggy world by clicking on links here and there. I had no map and had no method. I occasionally commented, but more often than not, bookmarked and returned as I randomly saw fit. Google Reader stepped in and allowed me to add subscriptions so I could stay more on top of the blogs I liked and, as I discovered more, I added more and more blogs and I do my best to read them. At some point too, I found myself with more readers. People beyond my real-life circle of friends. They came over, they read what I had to say, and they commented (commented!).

Thus blogging and reading blogs has absolutely transformed the way I quilt, the way I show my quilts, and the way I think about conveying my ideas to others. BUT (it had to come back!) in two ways, my quilting remains the same as it always has:

1) I more often quilt in bursts than in steady, regular chunks of time which means that I may spend a weekend on a quilt, moving it from nothing to something quickly and then not finish it until I have another chunk of time. This emanates from the time (or lack thereof) I have and is not necessarily conducive to process posting.

2) More importantly, I make the vast majority of quilts (and other sewn items) for other people, as gifts. I learned to sew and quilt by helping my mom make a quilt for a friend who was moving away and I continue to make quilts for friends and family, as markers of celebration of one sort or another. I don't know how many items I've made in the past few years, but I've only kept 2 of them: 1 challah cover and 1 scarf. I therefore have a very pragmatic reason for waiting to post finished products: I want my recipients to be surprised by the gifts I give them and many, though not all, of them read my blog, some occasionally, some regularly.

Most of the people to whom I give things know I'm making them something (I've got several overdue gifts to catch up on as I write) and thus the actual item and design are the only ways I can surprise them. This absolutely conflicts with the process pledge, an idea I like so much in theory. I'm not going to discuss or show pictures of the works-in-progress because I want to maintain a surprise.

There are occasions when this isn't totally an issue. For example, when I made Beth & Harley's chuppah, they were fine with my blogging about it. When I made Jen & Claire's chuppah, they were okay with my posting in-progress pictures but not the final version. But more often than not, I'm plugging away at a quilt that I don't want to reveal before the recipient receives it.

Part III:
Where does this leave me?

I know that as much I look forward to learning from other people's process posts, I probably won't 'process post' most of the things I make ahead of time. I commit to maintaining my habits of discussing the metamorphosis of the quilts I make, though it will most often occur after the final product exists. As I write this, I realize I could store posts ahead of time that document process even if I don't post them until the quilt has made its way to its new owner. But that seems a little disingenuous, so I need to think about it more.

However, I also aim to do a little more process posting. I have 2 quilt projects that exist only in my head and are not intended for anyone in particular (though they will probably end up as gifts to someone!). When tomorrow offers me daylight with which to photograph the starting point of each project, I'll do so and post about it and see where it goes.

Part IV:
This is a really long post and if you've made it this far, I'm impressed! I'd love to hear what you think about anything I've said (disagreement is, of course, fine and even welcome). I'd also love to hear what you'd like to see me blog about in the future.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for teaching me so much of what I've learned in the past couple of years.


Blogger's Quilt Festival: Spring 2010 Edition

>> Friday, May 21, 2010

Picking a quilt for this quilt festival was tough as I've made a lot of quilts I truly love over the past 6 months. Moreover, I've made a lot of quilts that have tested my skills, taught me new tricks, and yielded new ideas.

So what to pick? I selected the quilt that I think represents both what I've learned and where I've learned what I've learned about quilting in the past few years. I've learned a lot about fabric -- designers and manufacturers, color selection and combinations, places to buy it online -- and I've learned most of what I now know from the blog world -- from inspiring images to excellent tutorials.

How does this baby quilt reflect what I've learned?

1. It uses a simple shape (the tumbler) to emphasize both the fabrics used and a sense of movement.

2. I used a tutorial that Amanda Jean (now back and blogging again!) posted on the Moda Bake Shop (a great place to go for ideas and instructions).

3. I used fabric accumulated through the vast network of online fabric shops (including Hawthorne Threads, Above All Fabric, Cotton Candie Fabric, Sew Love Fabrics, and Pink Chalk Fabric ) as well as some picked up in-store based on an online recommendation (for a store near where I used to live but never knew about prior to blog-reading).

4. Speaking of fabric, this quilt showcases fabric by designers & companies I now know well but couldn't have named, identified, or recognized 2 years ago. It includes some Laura Gunn Lantern Bloom, some Sandi Henderson Meadowsweet, some Amy Schimler animals, some Anna Maria Horner Garden Party, some Urban Chiks 1974, some Joel Dewberry, some Erin McMorris Wildwood  as well as some batiks and a fabric from my stash whose provenance is unknown to me.

5. It has a back, a pieced back! An interesting pieced back (which might be my favorite ever). Incorporating a design concept from the front on the back and figuring out a new way to use is something I learned from looking at lots of other people's quilts.

6. Quilting: The quilting is 1/4" offset from each of the vertical seams, another trick I learned from the amazing wealth of quilt images and descriptions available online.

7. And then there are the pictures. Back in the day (the high school and college day, that is), I was very into photography. Mostly of people and sports. But for various reasons, I moved away from darkrooms and film, only to rediscover an interest in photography in the digital age. While I'm far more invested in quilting and crafting, I've started thinking more about how to document the quilts I make. Looking at other people's images -- the ones I like and the ones I'm not so keen on -- has helped me think about how to photograph my quilts. I still have a long way to go, but it's one of the benefits of the interconnected world that it's so easy to scroll around and get ideas for how to do something. I'm itching to play more in Photoshop and Illustrator, and I never thought I'd say that a decade ago.

And with that, head on over to Amy's master site for this quilt festival and check out other people's awesome creations.


Giveaway Winner!

>> Thursday, May 20, 2010

There's lots of fun in the May (and June!) air -- birthdays, camping trips, graduations, anniversaries, movies, vacations, births, gardening, sewing, classes, reunions, and more. Enjoy!

My trusty random generator picked:

which corresponds to:

Sewlovins, I'll be in touch by email to get your address and send the fabric on its way.

I've got some quilts and other projects to show you soon....


SMS Giveaway Day!

>> Sunday, May 16, 2010

First, a shout-out to my regular readers and a welcome to newcomers via SMS' Giveaway Day (I encourage you to take a look around but I also know you've got all sorts of giveaways to enter. So welcome, and I hope you join the flock of regulars).

How does the above picture relate to Giveaway Day? Well, those are images of the last few quilts I've made, and I've been collecting the little scraps, the tiny ones too small to go into the scrap box, in a bag on my sewing table. Scraps that would be perfect for a ticker-tape quilt, as well as some strips that could be deployed in a string quilt, and a few larger squares and rectangles that could be used in almost any scrap quilt.

But that's not all.

The scrap bag will arrive with some stripes -- a fat quarter of pink Sugar Snap squiggly lines and a large-but-not-quite-FQ of some Michael Miller blue/yellow/brown stripes.

{For those who aren't sewers or who aren't loving this giveaway or who simply love all giveaways, I'll be doing another one in the next month of something I've made so my non-sewer readers out there can get something too.}

The fine print:
*Leave a comment below. Tell me something fun -- about yourself, that you'll do in May, that you're saving up to do, about where you live...
*Make sure you leave a way to reach you -- through your blogger contact info, an email address, etc.
*The giveaway is open until Thursday, May 20 at 8 pm EST.
*This is open to everyone, anywhere in the world.
*I'll probably select the winner randomly, but if someone tells me an amazing tale, bribes me with something amazing, or otherwise makes me laugh out loud, I won't guarantee I won't pick them (how's that for a sentence based on negatives!).

Good luck!


Dresden/Selvage Finish

>> Thursday, May 13, 2010

This little project needs a name. Any suggestions?

I started playing with the selvage string blocks a while ago. I sewed the blocks together and placed the large white square in the middle. I cut out a back and basted it and then it sat in the WIP pile for a while. I wanted to finish it but I couldn't figure out what to do with the big gaping white space in the center. At first I thought I would use my new-found free-motion quilting skills to do something. Flowers in different colors? Sort of like these? I liked the idea, but I wasn't sold on it, so I let the project drape over my ironing board for months.

Stephanie had been showing her neat work with dresden plates, but they intimidated me. Finally, Elizabeth wrote a tutorial for SMS' April quilting month and I decided to plunge in. I went to my scrap box and picked out a rainbow of fabric, trying to use ones whose selvages were already in the blocks. Deciding which fabrics to use was tough but I love the choices I made, as the dresden plate includes lots of fabrics I love. 

And it turns out dresden plates are pretty easy (at least once you read the directions carefully and sew the wide ends of the fabric together to create the point; it doesn't work so well with the narrow ends -- I know, because I tried). I need to work on my precision-circle cutting as well as my stitching down of the dresden plate, but I think it's a keeper.

The back was from my stash and I love the way it looks, with the circles popping out from afar. As you can see, I quilting in a spiral in the white dresden plate center and then did straight lines to make a grid on the selvage blocks. I even added tabs, based on this tutorial from Modify Tradition (a great newish blog, if you haven't seen it). For the binding, I opted for the solid dark aqua, which is very bright. I mostly love it, but occasionally I think, "wow, brightness." I'm not totally sure what I'm going to do with this. I thought about giving it to my mom for mother's day, but I wasn't sure a) if she'd like it and b) if I wanted to let go of it yet since it marks the fabric I used in 2009. (And since I didn't, I'm very delinquent on a mother's day gift. Sorry, Mom. I owe you one, and if you want this, I will give it to you. Let me know...)

And coming soon....

SMS Giveaway Day: Monday May 17 
~ I'll be giving away something or maybe 2 somethings ~


Productive Procrastination

>> Monday, May 10, 2010

Like many people, I procrastinate. Sometimes I'm trying to avoid hard work, other times I'm feeling unmotivated, and still yet other times I'm just restless and seemingly unable to focus. One of the rules I set for myself this year was that I could only watch TV (by which I mean watch shows on the internet) while crafting. I haven't always held myself to this but I've been pretty good. And yet there are times when I opt to make something without the side benefit of TV. Indeed, when I find myself mindlessly scouring the internet, I've been trying to train myself to pause and ask whether I'm really going to get back to work in 5 (10, 15...) minutes or whether I should acknowledge I've fallen off the work wagon and ought to intentionally dedicate my time to something else.

About a week and a half ago, the "intentionally dedicate my time to something else" won out over writing my last-ever class paper. It was a Thursday night and I was having people over for Shabbat dinner on Friday. After making challah and soup, I sat down to write....and found myself trolling the internet. I stopped and realized I wanted a new challah cover, a more spring/summery one. And so I decided to make myself one. Three and a half hours later I ended up with a fun sherberty-orange zig-zaggy challah cover.  

Inspired by all sorts of zig-zag quilts I saw on flickr (e.g., here, here, and here), I knew I wanted to do a few things: use vertical zig-zags, use three fabrics similar in hue but different in design (Amy Butler's Lotus dots, Sandi Henderson's Darmer's Market Peach Medallion Bloom, and a Michael Miller trellis print), place the orange zig-zags next to one another, and have a fair amount of negative space. Originally I wasn't sure about the size, so I started by making the half-square triangles (HST) with the white solid and Lotus dots and then decided how many I liked. From there, I made the rest of the HSTs and laid out the full design. I tried to be very deliberate in creating piles and keeping the correct pairs together but the seam ripper was called into service when I sewed a right side of fabric to a wrong side of fabric in one set of HSTs.

I could tell you that in terms of making the challah cover, I was working symbolically: I used three orange fabrics for the three orange zig-zags and, in Hebrew, shabbat has three letters. If oriented in one way, the zig-zags move left to right, as Hebrew does, into the larger negative space. However, I just thought of all that now. However, I was purposeful in other ways: I quilted the zig-zags and followed the patter (imperfectly) into the negative space. Moreover, I deliberately chose a bright green binding (brighter in person, than in the image; the fabric is from Erin McMorris' Wildwood collection). I think one of the ways in which my quilting design has grown significantly over the past year is in making color choices that allow the quilt to zing or pop or choose your favorite onomatopoeia verb. In the past I probably would have opted for a safe choice -- one of the oranges; it would have been fine, but just fine. I think the green really elevates this challah cover in ways an orange binding would not.

And the back: some more fun orange (Sandi Henderson's Farmer's Market Petal Party). I used this challah cover last week, and it was well-received by my guests. I may be making some more similar ones in the future. If you'd like to get in line and order one, be in touch!


Friday Recipe: Chickpea Curry

>> Friday, May 7, 2010

I disappeared for a bit, totally unintentionally. I even have several blog posts written (mentally anyways!). But the semester finally came to an end, and I've been wrapping up a few things this week. I'll be spending my summer reading for exams, but I'm hoping to reward myself with some crafty projects as I complete the reading I need to do each day.

But first, I've got a chickpea curry recipe for you.

**Warning: I made it last week and didn't write anything down, so it's from memory and it relies on tasting and adjusting as necessary. If this isn't your cooking style, I recommend trying it (or not, it's up to you!).**

Chickpea Curry
Serves ~8-10

1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
tomato paste
2-3 medium tomatoes, chopped
~12 oz fresh spinach
1 c. vegetable broth (liquid or hot water + powder)
crushed red pepper

1. Add oil to large saute pan and add the onion and garlic. Stir over medium heat.

2. Add 2-3 tbsp {this is where I didn't measure so play around} of tomato paste and the tomatoes to the onion garlic mixture. Stir and let it cook into a sauce/gravy (~5 minutes).

3. Add some spices (start with the curry/coriander/cumin/red pepper in smaller amounts and add more to taste). You'll probably want more curry/coriander/cumin and less red pepper.

4. Add the chickpeas and stir. Let it cook for ~5 minutes.

5. Add 1 c. broth (or mix 1 c. hot water + powder broth, stir, and add). Stir.

6. Let everything cook over low heat until the liquid has reduced into a gravy-like texture. Stir occasionally (~ 1/2 hour). Taste occasionally, adding any or all of the spaces as you see fit.

7. Add spinach, mix in, and let it wilt into the chickpea mixture.

8. Taste again and add spices (e.g., salt and pepper) as necessary.

9. Enjoy!


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