Awesome Austin: The Stitch Lab

>> Thursday, September 30, 2010

What a marvelous space! Several people suggested that I stop by the The Stitch Lab, and it didn't disappoint. It's a lovely space in a converted bungalow on South 1st Street (and easy walk from the river trail). The staff is lovely -- I arrived when they opened and they even offered me a cup of coffee. If I lived here, I would definitely spend time in this sweet spot. It looks like they have some great classes (including some bag making ones I'd love to take).

 Of course, I couldn't step in and then leave without buying some fabric. I haven't had a chance to photograph my purchases but I figured I could indulge since I was able to take a shuttle rather than pay for a cab to last night's lodging. As a small store, the fabric selection isn't enormous but it's incredibly well curated. They've picked great lines and parts of lines. If I had lots more money, I would have bought cuts of all sorts of fabrics that looked good together.


Mini-Lego Quilt

>> Saturday, September 25, 2010

I started making some gender-neutral quilts in the spring, in preparation for my various friends who had due dates over the summer. I got a little behind on finishing some of these projects, but a few weeks ago I was able to finish this one and send it off to San Francisco. Born in early July, Gabriel received his quilt in time for any 3-month celebrations that may have occurred and a couple weeks before he moved south to San Diego.

I made Jen and Claire's Lego chuppah a couple years ago, and while that design was named for the shapes of legos, this quilt uses the primary colors of legos. I modified Ashley's Blocks & Stripes pattern -- I made it a little smaller, using smaller blocks and thinner stripes. I also alternated using solid strips with 1-3 strips put together.

I quilted 1/4" on either side of all the blocks. I'm really liking this quilting method of late! This pattern is great for showcasing a variety of fabrics. This one includes a number of fabrics from multiple designers and collections -- some Amy Butler, some Metro Market, some Tina Givens, some Michael Miller, and more.

The back really shows the quilting and actually took more time to put together than the front. I love the patchwork squares (all leftover from piecing the front) next to a larger piece of Monaluna chickens.  I also incorporated the label into the quilt by encasing a white square with little scrap patchwork squares. I might love the back even more than the front.

I wasn't sure what color to use on the front. Part of me wanted to use read but I thought it would be hard to choose a red that coordinated with the slightly different reds in the fabrics I used. It came down to yellow (a deep orangey yellow) and blue, and the yellow won out.


Natstown Quilt

>> Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A few posts ago, I mentioned my little monster of a quilt. I made this t-shirt quilt for my brother. Although I promised to make it for him for his birthday in 2009, it took until 2010 to get it done. To be fair, I didn't receive the t-shirts from him until about 10 months ago, so I don't bear the total burden for the delay. But at about 75 inches x 75 inches, it was a monster to handle in its latter stages, in part because I was moving furniture around to find a space to lay it out and then baste it.

Why the Nats quilt? My brother works for the Nationals (but, no, he is not a baseball player). If you want to discuss concessions or retail, he's your guy (who will probably kill me for posting that publicly). And since my trips to DC never coincided with home games for me to attend, I didn't even see them play this year. Everyone else in the family saw Strasburg's debut but I was left to hear about it. Perhaps I'll get to see his re-debut after his long recovery from shoulder surgery.

Nevertheless, the quilt is comprised of t-shirts from the Nats' first season in the new Nationals Park. These were promo t-shirts and, depending on the shirt, I used either the front or the back in the quilt. T-shirt quilts contain both easy and difficult elements, and I'll offer some thoughts based on my first t-shirt quilting experience:

1. Lightweight interfacing is a must. It was the only way to keep the knit edges from rolling up and helped stabilize the stretchy fabric.

2. Some people use sashing with t-shirt quilts. I opted not to because I find that the mixture of knits and quilting cotton looks and feels strange (to me). I also couldn't figure out a color that would work well, though dark blue probably would have been fine.

3. The size of graphics on the t-shirt will determine, in part, the size of the quilt (unless you cut off part of the design, which could work quite well in some cases). There are people with more patience than I have who work out ways to use t-shirt emblems of many sizes. Three was all I could handle, and 2 of the block options shared the same width! With these shirts, the "president" graphics were the tallest and led to 16.5" blocks (also handily the size of one of my square rulers).

4. Interfacing and cutting takes a lot of time; piecing the blocks does not.

5. T-shirts are heavy and the quilt top is pretty hefty as a result.

The grey N*A*T*S*T*O*W*N shirt gave me the idea for the 5" row amidst big blocks. It also gave me a chance to use the curly Ws that were on the front of many shirts.

Like these guys. As this shows, I opted for straightforward quilting, about a 1/4" from each horizontal seam and 1/4" from the vertical seams of the big blocks. I alternated red and blue thread, using red below and to the right of each seam and blue above and to the left of each seam.

Most of the shirts were white, so I wanted to distribute the few grey and red shirts across the quilt. I played with the arrangement a couple times to work it out. Initially I used a 4x6 arrangement of blocks (in addition to the short row) but its length was so out of proportion to the width that I ripped out a row and made it 5x5.

Though you can't see it in any of the pictures, I backed the quilt with soft red flannel. My brother asked why I didn't "use any of the stuff that makes quilts puffy" (aka batting) and, truth be told, it was a very pragmatic decision. The t-shirts were heavy and I didn't have that much space to baste; as a result, I wanted as few layers as possible and opted for the flannel alone. It's still very warm.

And totally unrelated, Sukkot starts tonight. Chag Sameach to those celebrating the feast of booths. I helped my dad put together my parent's sukkah but alas lack one of my own. Nevertheless, it's a wonderful harvest holiday. Enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of fall!


Home Goods

>> Thursday, September 16, 2010

Although I'm not participating in it, the {Urban} Home Goods Swap has (not surprisingly) produced all sorts of lovely gifts -- quilts, small and large; placemats; table runners; bags; pillows; and more. Clicking through the images and reading blog posts about items made and received has been quite inspiring.

I made a set of placemats and coasters for my sister's wedding shower last weekend. I'd never made quilted coasters before, so this was a chance to experiment.

I started with a slightly wonky log cabin, quilted it, and cut it into quarters, as you would for a Bento Box quilt. The cutting was a tad tricky because I was hastily finishing them at my parents' house where I could use my mom's sewing machine but had no access to a rotary cutter. Scissors it had to be, and I made do.

I bound each coaster in a different black and white fabric. Coaster binding was a little harder than I anticipated. When I first started quilting, I loathed binding. Over time, I've gotten quite comfortable with it and don't mind it at all. However, the small sides of coasters meant that my usual technique for sewing together the 2 ends of the binding strips didn't work (or I'm not dexterous enough to make it work) so I went with a slight overlap which produced additional bulk. But I think I'm more aware of that than most users of said coasters will be, or at least I hope that's the case.

I pieced the placemats in a mostly improv fashion, using strips from my scrap bin. Red, white, and black were givens as the colors since that's my sister's favorite color combination. I confess I started with no vision. Given the time constraints, I knew simple was key and they would coordinate but not match. Because they're not matchy-matchy, I decided that using the same fabric for the binding would help bring them together.

I used the pattern on the backing fabric as a guide for quilting. For the first time, I quilted from the back -- following the lines (sort of) of the black and white fabric and not knowing exactly how it would appear on the front. I like the results a lot, but I think this method worked because it was a pretty simple and regular quilting design. The curved lines are not exactly the same as one another but they are the same distance from one another.


Shana Tova!

>> Wednesday, September 8, 2010

[Delicious, from Alexander Henry's new Farmdale collection.] 

Shana Tova U'Metukah
{A Happy and Sweet New Year}

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins tonight. As someone who has always lived according to the school calendar (my working days were all spent in schools and universities as well), the new year beginning in the fall makes a lot of sense to me. New opportunities, new starts, new chances all fit with summer slipping into fall. Eating apples and honey and hearing the sounds of the shofar (a ram's horn blown like a trumpet of sorts) are two elements that mark the Jewish new year. The holiday lasts for 2 days (this year, Wednesday sundown through Friday sundown) and is both festive (lots of delicious food) and serious (symbolic casting away of sins).

Whether or not one focuses on sin in a religious sense, this new year, like others, is a time for taking stock, reflecting on the past, and moving toward the future. It's less about resolutions and more about resetting. I'm certainly pleased that I'm entering the new year with exams in the past and new projects (work and fun) in the future.


A Fine Specimen

>> Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It was finally time. Time to get a new iron. After contemplating it for much of the summer for, after all, the old iron worked...just on its own schedule, I finally purchased a new iron.

My three primary considerations were: weight/heft (more rather than less), price (less rather than more), and a decent cord. Indeed, the major problem with the old iron was the cord, which was hanging on by some number of threads and electrical tape. Hence the heating up or not on its own schedule. Having recognized that the cord represented the major obstacle to iron longevity in my experience, the cord presented itself as the feature that differentiated the buyable from unbuyable irons. Namely, once I saw irons with retractable cords, I knew that the one I got would need to have such a thing. My thinking is that the retractable cord will prevent the weight of the cord from pulling itself into oblivion when hanging off the iron. We'll see if this hypothesis holds.

I ended up with another Black & Decker and, so far, its behaving and performing beautifully. I had forgotten what good work a real steamy iron could accomplish. That binding there in the picture? It was a snap to iron. Even though it was longer than any other binding I've ironed in months, it took much less time to get it folded up nicely.

Oh and that 336 inches or so of binding? It was put to good use yesterday. More pictures and a post forthcoming....once I find some helpers to aid in photographing this little monster.


DQS 9 Received

>> Monday, September 6, 2010

This weekend I received the quilt made for me in DQS 9. As it turns out, DQS 9 was a swap and Jeanette (scrapnchick) and I ended up as one another's partners, so I sent a quilt off to her and she sent this one to me. On flickr, I know she said this challenged her to move outside of her usual color palette, and I think she did a great job making a fun and bright quilt. I especially love the jumbo ric-rac stem -- I don't think I've ever seen ric-rac that big before. My plan is to hang this in my otherwise drab, standard-issue office to enliven that space.

Jeanette was kind enough to send along some extra goodies as well: a cathedral windows pincushion (wow! I've long admired cathedral windows but they intimidate me), a hexagon needle case, some red trim, and a cheery notepad. Thanks Jeanette!


Austin Options

>> Thursday, September 2, 2010

In a little under a month, I'll be heading to Austin, TX for a conference. While the conference has its own merits, I'm especially excited to spend some time in Austin as I've heard amazing accolades about the city but have never been there before (in fact, my time in Texas has been limited to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport). My somewhat voracious consumption of fabric, quilting, and design blogs tells me there is an incredible crafty community in Austin. For those of you who live there, visit there, have heard things about Austin, what should I make sure to do while there? Where should I eat (I am a vegetarian, however, so even the best barbeque is not going to lure me anywhere)? What fabric shops should I check out? Any and all thoughts are welcome.

More quilty stuff coming soon.

And the photo has no direct relation to this post. I figured that the orange was appropriate for Austin, however.


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