On the Farm

>> Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chickens! Eggs! They're all on the farm. The Metro Market chickens link Molly's quilt to her twin brother Andrew's quilt. I wanted the quilts to be distinct and unique, yet connected in some way. Fabric in multiple colorways provide some congruence, though the colors, design, and layout of each differ.

I started with squares and rectangles of the chickens (and one other non-farm animal -- can you see it?) and added layers to them. I tried to pick the subsequent fabrics at random, though admittedly I adjusted to ensure that they were all represented and there weren't major clusters of fabric or certain ones that dominated. The black fabric with white "beads" (3rd row down, center block, 3rd square layer) continues to be one of my favorites -- alas, I only have a bit left and I have no idea where I found it. I'll be using it sparingly in the future. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Michael Miller black/white ironworks worked as a frame (bottom right, for example).

I used a hippo from the IKEA hippo fabric I have as the label. I've been meaning to do this for a while but often forget. It coordinates perfectly with this quilt...

 ...because one center block is not a chicken, but a hippo. Not so much a farm animal or even a domesticated animal of any sort, but I couldn't resist. Some ladybugs and bees made it in as well, though they're certainly not limited to farm life.

I backed the quilt with bright yellow fleece. For those who wonder, I use a regular universal needle for quilting with fleece. There may be a needle I'm "supposed" to use but I've always had good experiences with my standard ones. I created a grid of horizontal and vertical lines, but interspersed some closer and farther apart so it's not a standard grid. I really love this quilting and expect to use it again in the near future.
Washed-up and sun-dappled! I used a red fabric with black and white dots for the binding, and I think it brings the quilt together well. I've been incorporating a lot more solids in my quilts of late. This one uses red, yellow, and white, all of which please me. It's hard to pick a favorite block out of these, but I do love the mostly black-and-white with the small yellow chicken center. But then there's the second row, left block with all the different colors in it which I also love. I like that it's hard to choose a favorite! I'm also pleased with the mix of business (blocks) and order (layout). There's lot to look at it, but it's also possible to focus on one block.

Molly's quilt nestled in its own bag. Unlike the handles of Andrew's bag, which required a little manipulation after I sewed them on wrong the first time, I remembered (and double-checked) how to sew these handles on correctly. I also used some thin interfacing to give them a little more heft and make them sturdier. I started with a 5" wide piece of fabric, interfaced it, folded it in half and ironed it, and then folded the edges to the middle and ironed it, and then sewed down the 1.25" handle. I think they'll hold up well to wear-and-tear.


Portrait Gallery

>> Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I've been dropping hints and sneak peeks at a quilt without telling you. My friend Torie had twins in mid-March, and I've been working on 2 quilts since then. I knew what fabrics I would use for several months but, out of a certain amount of superstition plus not enough time [I know the grammar is wonky there], I didn't start making them until they arrived on March 19. I planned gender neutral quilts so I could decide which one went to which child after I had made them.

The quilt started with the Metro Market chicken fabric in green and blue. I then added fabrics that I thought meshed well -- some prints, some solids, some from my stash, some purchased for the quilt. I started with the squares and rectangles. This quilt was all improv -- improv pieced and improv laid out. As a result, the quilt ended up being much larger than I planned because I had lots of blocks and they needed to fit somewhere. As soon as I started laying out the blocks on my floor, I dubbed it the Portrait Gallery. It reminds me of collections in museums as well as walls of family photos in homes.

I stipple-quilted it, taking a risk and mixing up some blue and green thread. I couldn't decide which color to go with (the back is light blue fleece) and then decided to go all out, and use lots of color in the quilting. I was uncertain about it, but I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.

As I put it together, I added the little pieces of fabric. Various quilts around the blogosphere inspired it, though I can't point to any in particular. I just like the way floating fabric looks. Perhaps that's why Torie described it to me as "zen-like" which, at least for the moment, describes Andrew.

Here you can see the fleece backing (soft and warm!) as well as brown-dotted binding. I am particularly fond of the conversing chickens and hope they spark some great imagined discussions in a few years.

After finishing the quilt, I had a small strip of apple fabric (on the left) remaining. I almost tossed it in the scrap bin, but then I had a thought: why not make a bag to put the quilt in? Torie is quite the recycler and loves bags, thus it seemed appropriate to reduce unreusable packaging and make something that, in the future, can carry library books, store toys for the car, or tote food from the Farmer's Market. Of course, if mom wants to steal it, that's her prerogative.

Spring (albeit a bit chilly) has returned, the grass is growing, the sun is shining, and I can take quilt pictures outside again. There are so many little pieces of this quilt I love, like the little tree over there on the bottom right. At some point in the process of making quilt #2, I decided that this one would be Andrew's quilt. It was a gut/intuitive feeling and, according to Torie and her mom, each quilt meshes well with each infant's personality. They can always trade later if they so please. 

Tomorrow....Molly's quilt.


Earth Day

>> Thursday, April 22, 2010

I hope everyone has a chance to get outside and enjoy the earth today. I'll be outside for a bit, doing some reading, but I must confess that I will be inside for much of the day. I'll be proctoring an exam and, more importantly, watching the NCAA Women's  Gymnastics Championships. Prelims are today and there is streaming internet which will tie me to my computer for a good few hours of the afternoon and evening. Go Stanford!

School and work have dominated my life for the past few weeks, but I've been able to sneak in a little sewing and will have a few things to show soon. A few people have emailed me with some questions and requests for blog entries, and I'm working on those as well. If you have any questions or things you'd like me to address, leave me a comment and I'll do my best to answer in May.


Aleph-Bet Art

>> Friday, April 16, 2010

I just learned about these posters.

They're artistic representations of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph-bet). You'll note that in this one, the first (aleph), middle (mem), and last (taf) letters are shaded. In addition to marking the beginning, midpoint, and end of the alphabet, they also spell out emet (truth). The font used is a variation of a classic and standard printed Hebrew font.

In this image, a single aleph stands in the center, and each layer of the circle adds a new letter of the alphabet. The artist, Tsilli Pines, explains the story behind these posters here.

The combination of the font and the graphics remind me of the lettering one finds on posters from mandate Palestine and the early years of the state of Israel. The font is still in use and you can see how it has a certain sans-serif-y modern edge to it.

In addition to cool posters, Tsilli Pines also designs ketubot (wedding contracts) and offers DIY ketubah kits with suggestions for ways to customize them.



>> Sunday, April 11, 2010

All sorts of lovely fabric has arrived recently. Some Kaffee Fassett, some Denyse Schmidt, some Joel Dewberry, and all sorts of silky Moda solids. Some from Rosebud Quilter (huge sale, check it out!), some from Sew Love Fabrics (everything is currently 20% off), and some from Cotton Candie fabrics (great prices all the time).

I stare longingly at the fabric, new and old, in my stash, wanting to play with all of its cotton delightfulness....But it's the end of the semester and work comes first. I'm hoping to squeeze in a little sewing here and there over the next three weeks, but it'll be tight (and I can't show my current project quite yet). But I noticed that this is post #299, which means 300 is next, and that sounds just about right for a giveaway. I'm not sure what it will include (suggestions welcome!) but stay tuned....


In the Works

>> Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I've got a couple quilts in the works, one mostly done and one partially there. But I can't reveal them yet. Instead I'll show you the bag I whipped up this weekend. Things I learned while making it: Craft Fuse is a handy little tool, handles are little buggers, and check 8 times before sewing lest you err in ways that can't really be fixed. Umm, yeah, so I know how I'm supposed to sew in handles so they're all nice and hidden and even though I was convinced I was doing it the right way, I was not. So the handles on this bag are not ideal. But I'm ok living with this.

There's a treat for someone in the bag, just sayin'. If you look closely, you can see my not-so-amazing solution to the strap issue. But I recommend not looking too closely. I took these pictures before the loud April showers arrived. Lots of thunder and hard rain woke me up in the middle of the night....but I kind of love spring/summer showers for the loud thunder and bits o' lightening. Also, I'm heading into a grading cave for the next 5 days so rain, thunder, and lightening comprise a very appropriate backdrop since I need to work not play.


Friday Recipe: Zucchini Lasagne (kosher for passover, I promise!)

>> Friday, April 2, 2010

Passover (it's day 4) makes me very jealous of Sephardic Jews (of North African and the Middle Eastern heritage) as they can eat a category of food called "kitniyot" -- corn, beans, pulses, legumes, and such -- that Ashkenazic Jews (of European descent) cannot. It's not the ban on bread and bread-like items that makes this holiday challenging for vegetarians, it's the restrictions on kitniyot and therefore sources of protein, that are difficult. Also, Passover reminds you just how many [processed] foods use corn syrup and soybean oil.

In any event, I had an epiphany when I realized that my friend Alix's Zucchini Lasagne is kosher-for-Passover as it brilliantly uses zucchini strips in place of noodles.

Friday Recipe: Alix's Zucchini Lasagne

*3 large zucchini
*cooking spray (olive oil will work too)
*1 small onion, finely chopped
*2 medium garlic cloves, minced
*12 oz button mushrooms, sliced
*3 cups tomatoes, chopped (approx. 3 beef steak tomatoes)
*1 tbsp dried basil
*1 tsp dried oregano
*¼ tsp nutmeg
*¼ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
*1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick strips. Place in a bowl and salt generously, tossing once or twice to coat well. Lay strips on paper towels on your work surface. Set aside 1 hour. 

2. Meanwhile, spray a large saucepan with nonstick spray (or use olive oil) and set over medium heat. Add the onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes.

3. Add garlic; cook 20 seconds.  

4. Add the mushrooms; cook, stirring often, until they give off their liquid and it reduces to a glaze, about 7 minutes.

5. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, nutmeg and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes start to break down and the sauce thickens, about 25 minutes.

6. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F.

7. Blot any moisture off the zucchini strips with paper towels. Use one third of the zucchini strips to line the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan, laying them lengthwise like you would lasagna noodles. Top evenly with one third of the sauce, then one third of the shredded cheese. Place half the remaining zucchini strips on top, as before, then top evenly with half the remaining sauce and half the remaining cheese. Repeat this process one more time: using the remaining zucchini, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

8. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling, about 45 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing into 6 pieces; serve. 


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