Fruit Salad Finish

>> Sunday, June 27, 2010

Just as I added this picture to the post, the tornado siren went off. It's been a month of tornado sirens every few days with the requisite rain and thunderstorms. To be honest, I didn't realize I lived in a tornado-prone area until this summer. I thought tornadoes hit the Plains, which are south and west of me. But apparently I live in a tornado area. Ah well.

Back to quilts...this is the finished fruit salad quilt that started here and has been significantly altered. I really love the result, which I wasn't sure would happen when I started chopping. But adding pink and yellow dramatically altered the quilt top, in a good way. The blocks are 6.5" square and the sashing is 2". I almost adding sashing to the outside borders but decided I preferred the blocks running into the edge.

Here's a close-up. The pears remained intact, as a couple people suggested they should. I also added the remaining pear fabric I had so there are more pears scattered through the additional blocks.

The back shows off the grid quilting (in a light pink thread) quite well. I quilted lines 1/4" offset from the lines of the sashing and the blocks. For the back, I pieced some chocolate brown (the brownies that accompany the fruit salad dessert?) with some Art Gallery daisies. The binding is Art Gallery Dazzling Wheels -- a fabric that I just got my hands on and have already used in several items. It's a neat fabric on its own, and the deep pink + yellow + white combination has served me well in coordinating with fabric in quilts and bags.

I'll send this off to the Rainbow Around the Block project tomorrow. I'm a little sad to see it go, but I'm sure it's recipient will use it well (it will got to a child, I'm sure, as it measures about 30" x 40").


Summer Reading

>> Friday, June 25, 2010

A little departure from quilting today....those who know me in real life know that even after spending my work life reading, I can easily continue reading. I devour mystery novels/thrillers like candy. I call these books "brain candy" -- I eat them up quickly without any concern for educational content. That said, some are certainly better than others, and a couple years ago, a friend introduced me to Barry Eisler's books. His books are in the "better than most" group -- more developed characters, intriguing ties to contemporary political events, and a somewhat "inside view" from an author who spent 3 years working for the CIA.

About a week ago, I returned home and saw a flat rate priority mail envelope waiting for me. I couldn't figure out what it was, as I hadn't ordered any fabric recently which is usually what arrives in FREs. I went closer and saw that the return address was Barry Eisler's. And then it clicked. His publicist had contacted me about 6 months ago asking if I would be interested in a copy of his forthcoming book. I obviously said yes and promptly forgot about it in the midst of school and work and other obligations. But here it was -- signed, with my name, and all. I'm guessing that because he dedicated it "to the bloggers," his publicist found people who mentioned his books to send them to, and I had mentioned his books here. Whatever the reason, I never mind receiving free books (and that, friends, was the requisite announcement that I did not purchase the book I am about to review).

Due to school reading that needed to get done, I had to leave my bright and shiny copy of Inside Out sitting on the mail pile so as not to be tempted by it instead of finishing the required reading. But earlier this week, I broke down and determined that I needed a break from work and reading a mystery was the way to go. It took me an evening or so -- as I said, I read fast, I guzzle books like this barely stopping for air, water, or food.

It was a lovely evening, filled with the adventures of Ben Treven, a very undercover black ops soldier first introduced in Eisler's last book, Fault Line. Asian countries have played a big role in Eisler's work, with his first protagonost, John Rain, spending a tremendous amount of time in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Inside Out starts in Manila, with Treven in jail after a bar fight in which he killed an Australian agent. His former commander comes to offer a "get out of jail" card but this one isn't free, as Treven must pay up in the form of a covert mission to locate one Daniel Larison, another former black ops guy who has gone rogue and is blackmailing the CIA with torture videos. The slimy and cutthroat world of spies, counterterrorism, national interests, and big money come into play as more characters, with mixed motivations, enter the narrative. Treven -- who, as a black ops man himself, best understands his target -- traverses DC and Florida, before heading off to Costa Rica in pursuit of Larison. Along the way, helpful, misleading, and compromised agents and informants populate his world, aiding and interfering with his work.

In addition, midway through reading, I wondered how the turn to a new lead character (Treven) fit with the disappearance of John Rain, the aforementioned protagonist of Eisler's first 6 books. Eisler anticipated me here, as a late reference to Rain suggests that the Rain's Return might greet us in bookstores in the not-too-distant future.

Full of the twists and turns of a political thriller, Inside Out is a fast-paced page turner. Like all of Eisler's work, what makes this book stand out is its rootedness in power politics of the day. Though certainly a work of fiction, it is one grounded in recent events, power politics, and the uncertainties of contemporary warfare. Eisler handily includes a source list and bibliography for those interested in the "deep background" behind this tale. And if you're a savvy political blog reader, you'll notice some names throughout plucked from the blogosphere -- an Eisler touch. Not that the character to which the name is linked is necessarily a judgment of that person; the friend who introduced me to this series was a character quickly killed off in an earlier book, and I'm pretty sure that was meant as a friendly gesture! If you or anyone you know likes the thriller genre, add Inside Out to your summer reading list; just be prepared to ignore the rest of your life for a bit while you read it (excellent beach reading, in that regard).


Fruit Salad

>> Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A few weeks ago I posted about a work-in-progress piece that needed some major help. The most frequent comment I received was add color and chop/re-arrange. Well, I've done both. I did some radical chopping and added a bunch of pink, yellow, and white to the blue, green, and brown of old. Because I tend to work in spurts and binges, I did most of the chopping, adding, piecing, sashing, and quilting in a couple of days and failed to take adequate pictures. As it is, I've only got a couple pictures in its current state (awaiting binding).

But I decided radical was the way to go and I'm very pleased with the result, which will be a baby quilt that I'm going to donate to Anna Maria Horner's "Rainbow-Around-the-Block" project for victims of the Tennessee spring floods.

The original top had pears (the bottom row above) and apples. While I didn't add any other fruit prints (I think those two stretch the limits of my fruit collection), the pink and yellow reminded me of strawberries and pineapples. And fruit salad is all chopped up and mixed together, which is why I'm dubbing this one "Fruit Salad." I'll post additional pictures once it's all bound up -- I just need to decide what fabric to use for the binding.

Stay tuned for a 2hippos-coordinated service project. I'm working out the details now, but I think it will be a great and easy opportunity to do some sewing goodness.


Handmade is Better

>> Thursday, June 17, 2010

I saw this shirt over on Whipstitch and just had to look it up for myself. At $20, it's not cheap but I'm thinking about it....

I rewarded myself for getting a lot of work done over the past few days with an evening of sewing last night. Now I need to take pictures of what's in the works.


DQS9 Inspiration

>> Sunday, June 13, 2010

I was lucky enough to make it into DQS 9, and love watching all sorts of neat mini quilts pop into flickr as folks start creating them for their secret partners. If you've made it over here, hi partner! I've made a mosaic of some quilts I love -- some simple to construct and some more difficult, but all of which I find inspiring. I love bright color -- both prints and solids -- and negative space. As I put this together, I realized that I picked a lot of quilts that showcase birds, either in design or via fabric. But there are lots of directions to pursue and I hope you have fun being creative. I can't wait to see what you come up with for this summer swap.


Three Bags

>> Thursday, June 10, 2010

I didn't mean to disappear for a week but it happened. I'm learning that my summer is filled with bursts of activity -- reading for school in big spurts, crafting in chunks of "time off," and taking care of errands once they've built up so as to be necessary (would anyone like to grocery shop for me?). Such is summer 2010.

Over the past couple of months, I've been working on my bag-making skills. I started with playing with tote bags, such as this one.

I had made a few totes before, but this is the first one I used canvas-weight fabric (that's Jessica Jones' Green Sprig fabric). The canvas gives the bag a nice weight without interfacing and works especially well for handles -- they're nice and sturdy. I lined this one with some Dazzling Wheels from Art Gallery's Sugar collection.

A friend asked me to make her a buttercup bag about 10 months ago. I regret that it took so long, but the time lag meant that I acquired this neat piece of vintage fabric from the SMS fat quarter swap.

I made some modifications to the bag pattern. I interfaced the lining and the strap to give it more heft and left out the tab/buttons. The last bag I made felt a little light so I hope this one will stand up to longer use. I lined it with some Night Glowing Daisies from Art Gallery's Sugar collection (notice a pattern here...).

Finally a birthday present tote bag for an amazing friend. Purple was the key color here and I used some purple seeds for the lining and a couple Anna Maria Horner prints for the exterior and straps. What does the whole bag look like?

I had the hardest time getting a good picture of the whole bag in good light, so ultimately I opted for the modeling shot, with my bed as the backdrop. I suppose the red sheet doesn't exactly let the bag stand out, but it was better than the other options. I love those big centerpiece flowers from the AMH's Garden Party line and wanted to highlight it accordingly. The white strip between the focus flower and the falling flowers (technically I think it's called "receiving line") came into being when I realized that the fabrics would work better if each got to bask in its own glow. I think the white separator helps do that.

More bags on the way...


Orange Creamsicle Quilt

>> Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Last week I mentioned a quilt that I needed to bind before shipping it off to BASICS/Promesa as a donation quilt. This crinkly specimen is that quilt, and I am proud to say that I managed to stuff 2 quilts into a Flat-Rate Envelope. Even the postal worker at my nearby post office remarked on my stuffing abilities (luckily the 3 clerks there are very supportive of cramming as much as possible into free rate envelopes and boxes; I've heard some other post offices are not so kind).

In its full glory -- lots of orange (Moda Bella Solid) and 3 improv pieced squares. I made the squares this winter with some scraps from several other quilts and then they sat in a pile of fabric for about 5 months before I figured out what to do with them. I opted for a simple quilt with one row of the funky squares. Negative space does the heavy lifting here.

Here's an up-close look at those squares. I think the middle one is my favorite with the big chunk of fabric on top and lots of little pieces on the bottom. But I like the other squares too, especially the black-and-white swirls plopped in the middle of the square on the right. If anything, this quilt reminds me that scraps can go a long way and be transformed into all sorts of interesting layouts.

I opted for stipple quilting -- thanks for everyone's tips about getting rid of those ugly loops on the back side. To be honest, I have no idea what trick did it -- cleaning out the link, rethreading, trying new thread...I pretty much did it all and had no problems. This has happened to me before...that darn[ing] foot poses problems and then suddenly all is well in free-motion quilting land. I've certainly gotten faster at it though I'm still working on a more even rhythm and few jagged angles.

I pieced together another flannel back from flannel remnants -- some stripes, solids, and gingham all mixed up together make for a warm and soft quilt. I love the simple solid white binding as I think it brings the whole quilt together. Note too that it was possible to take pictures outside; these were taken at the end of last week, when the sun still made an appearance. The rain has taken over yet again. I wouldn't mind the drizzle but we've had several episodes of thunder, lightening, and crazy downpour that I could really do without. Personally, I think it should only rain between 11 pm and 7 am so it doesn't disturb my plans, but the weather gods have not decided to follow my brilliant logic. Ah well.


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