Quilt Festival: Fall 2010 Edition

>> Friday, October 29, 2010

Quilt Market is in Houston, and Amy is hosting the Blogger's Quilt Festival again. I debated what quilt to post. I narrowed my choices down to 2 quilts from the past 6 months or so, but remained uncertain. They're such different options, and I learned a lot while making both. In the end, I chose to feature my DQS9 Mini:

Sifting through the DQS9 Flickr files, I really admired (and favorited -- not really a word, but I'll work with it) a lot of bird quilts. Quite handily, so did my partner. But I had done very little applique work, and felt totally out of my comfort zone even as I wanted to pursue this new type of quilt.

When I sit at my desk and stare out the window, a tree branch pokes into my line of vision. In late August, there were a couple of red birds (cardinals?) who hung out on that branch, and they served as the immediate inspiration for this quilt.

My quilting has grown over the years, from fearful stitching-in-the-ditch to more confident, intentionally showing lines, to free-motion swirls and more. But once I had the background and all the applique in place, I had to figure out how to quilt this little one. How to tell a story or really make an image with quilting. I plunged into the challenge, selecting a bright green thread for the grass. I felt good while sitting at my sewing machine, but felt a little queasy when I was done. Was it overwhelming? Maybe a bit. That's when I added the tiny pink "flower" squares. Ultimately I added tiny seed beads on top of the flowers (one per square) and now love this section of the quilt. But I had some scary moments of "holy shit, did I just ruin this" along the way.
I've started to incorporate labels into the quilt backs I make, and this version is my best yet. The label is the back. The fabric around the white square represents the fabrics I used on the front, and the white bird here was the pattern piece for the pink bird on the front. This mini flew off to Utah in August, where it happily resides (Jeannette tells a great story about it, go check it out!).


SE Michigan Crafter's Meet-Up

>> Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rae (of Made by Rae fame) is organizing a SE Michigan craft meet-up next week, Thursday night to be precise. I'm so excited. If you're in the neighborhood (capaciously defined), I hope you can make it.


This and That

>> Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quilt Market starts this week, and Amy is hosting the Blogger's Quilt Festival again!

Amy's Creative Side - Blogger's Quilt Festival

Above All Fabric is having a great sale ($4-6/yard!). I might have bought a yard or two or three...

I spent this weekend grading exams. I took a couple of CSI-watching breaks, but no sewing occurred. However, I have a few things in process that should be photographed and uploaded soon. Actually, the images are on my camera. Now they need to move from camera to computer. Ok, off to teach.


A Challah Cover in Chicagoland

>> Friday, October 22, 2010

I had the pleasure of going to Chicago for a couple of days earlier this week. We had a 2-day fall break, I have a lot of friends in Chicago, and some friends from out of town were there. It was a wonderful trip, filled with good times and catching up with friends as well as excellent, excellent vegetarian food. I highly recommend both the Chicago Diner (incredible veggie reuben) and the Blind Faith Cafe (stellar Mongolian stir-fry). I also got to give this challah cover to friends who recently moved to Evanston and bought their first home.

The challah cover combined a partial dresden plate with one of my new favorite fabrics: lightweight dark denim. I picked this denim up when I got the denim I used for Beth's bag. It's a touch darker and much less heavy -- somewhere between quilting cotton and home-dec weight cottons. It's really easy to sew with and looks great with so many quilting fabrics. In particular, Laura Gunn's Lantern Bloom really shines next to it, and I think a quilt may emerge. But I digress...

I had made the dresden plate a few weeks ago and struggled to find the right color to set it on. Denim answered that question, but I was still uncertain about what fabric to use for the center. I tested out quite a few options -- mostly reds, but a couple blues; some solids, some prints. Finally, I realized that this Amy Butler Lotus print (so versatile!) was ideal because it let me put the little flower center in the corner of the challah cover. It took a little fussing with circles to get it right (I still have to work on cutting and sewing circles), but I love the result.

Finally, I had to decide how to quilt it. I hemmed and hawed, debating free-motion quilting, echo quilting, grids, and more. In the end, a few simple lines that created just enough of a stripey look won out. I confess I started quilting thinking I might have to rip it all out. But I didn't.

Since the Lotus print worked so well at the center of the Dresden Plates, I opted to use it on the back. I chose the solid off-white binding because it brought the front together. While it doesn't make the back pop, I think it does its job. Overall, I'm really pleased with this challah cover; I had no idea what it would look like when I started it, and I love the final product.

It is, however, lacking a name. Any thoughts on a good name?

p.s. If you like Dresden Plates, check out Stephanie's. It's amazing, and how she has had the patience for a full quilt of them is beyond me.


Recovery: Bag-Making Style

>> Sunday, October 17, 2010

I would say that I followed this tutorial except that following implies reading instructions well enough to actually, you know, do as they say. Which I, mostly unwittingly, did not. From the outset, I planned not to include the zippered divider pocket that the tutorial used. But aside from that, I planned to follow -- and until several hours in, thought I was following -- it. Except that I wasn't. If you click on the link, you'll notice, for example, that Kerri's bag is more square than mine. Mine is longer because I did not orient the front, back, and side panels correctly (in fact, I mistakenly picked up the bottom panel in place of the side panel).

But despite these errors and the sewing aggravation that ensued, I rather like the final product. I used denim that I had picked up at JoAnn's awhile back and combined it with a couple of Art Gallery fabrics. I made this bag for my friend Beth and there was something about the top yellow fabric that just made me think of her. So I planned the rest of the bag around that fabric.

I will say that I found the upper flap/handle-attachment process a little tricky. I want to try and make this bag again; however, I want to see if I can figure out how to assemble it the way I've assembled all the other totes I've made: by making the exterior and the lining separately and then bringing them together. This pattern requires making the bottom and top separately and I think I'm just more comfortable with the interior/exterior method. I think change will require making the sides differently as well. But I'm not sure....it's something to play around with and see what happens.

My favorite part of the bag may be these side pockets with just a touch of the lining fabric peeking out. I love the detail. I added the flower embellishment at the end: I had some extra pieces of fabric and thought the exterior could use some pop.

Overall, I'm satisfied with the final product. Even if the process was less than ideal, I learned a lot about bag assembly, different methods of piecing bags, and how to fix unexpected problems.



>> Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Not the blog, thankfully. But earlier today, someone in China hacked into one of my email accounts. It's the email account that blog comments go to and thus some of you may have unfortunately received a spam email "from me." Apologies if you did, and I hope you simply deleted it.

I found out pretty quickly (since I received an email "from me" on one of my other accounts) and immediately changed the password. After I changed the password, Google alerted me that someone had accessed my account from a Chinese IP address, which is how I know where the hack occurred. It really bothers me that there are people (or people who programmed machines) to hack into other people's email accounts and send malicious emails. Unfortunately, this is not a problem I'm positioned to solve. But my sincerest regrets if you received a fake email from my account. Hopefully it looked spammy enough that you immediately pressed delete. 


Mishaps, Miscues, Mistakes

>> Sunday, October 10, 2010

I could not figure out why the two pieces didn't align. The top and the bottom pieces weren't off by a fraction of an inch, but by several inches. How on earth did this happen? Was my seam allowance that off? The measurements were correct. I checked them several times before starting to sew? Oh well, it's time to fix things. I guess I'll rip out stitches, trim the top piece, sew it back together, and move on.

It was only in the midst of sewing it back together that I realized where I went wrong: I misoriented (is that a word?) the pieces! The rectangle should have been turned on its side. The side pieces were the bottom and the bottom pieces were the sides. Drat. {Except my language was more colorful and only in my head.} I'd already ripped up, cut up, and rebuilt the top piece. There was no going back. Except for some more major trimming due the incorrect orientation. Bummer. The reason I chose this pattern was in fact for the other orientation.

Welcome to my mind, circa 4 pm on Sunday. The project that should have been easily finished by then was nowhere near complete. Not only had I messed up -- a combination of poor reading and, most of all, a total lack of thinking as I blindly (mentally anyways) pieced fabric together -- but my mistakes meant that my final product would barely resemble the original I wanted to produce. Having failed at basic instruction reading, it was time to improvise, and improvise I did. I'm pretty satisfied with the final product, though I remain annoyed with myself for my very stupid, easily-fixed-had-I-spent-a-second-thinking-about-what-I-was-doing mistakes.

What was I making? I'll show you as soon as it arrives at its intended destination.


Fanned Flowers

>> Saturday, October 9, 2010

I blogged about the beginning stages of this quilt about a year and a half ago. About a month later, I blogged about quilting the top. And that was it. I don't think I ever posted the full quilt. And it sat, quite patiently, in a small (very small right now) stash of finished quilts waiting for a new owner. I sent this off to Rachelle, my friend Phoebe's new daughter, this week. This is definitely the most "quilted" quilt I've ever made, with fan quilting about 1/4" apart.

One of the advantages of well-quilted quilts is that they fold up quite easily, and I was able to stuff this one in a flat-rate priority envelope without mangling it too much. Luckily, I have a friendly local post office where the employees are quite generous about manipulating priority envelopes; I've heard that others have encountered less forgiving folks who reject thick envelopes.

I'm still playing catch-up on a lot of other fabric-related projects. If all goes well with getting work done (ha!), I'll have a solid chunk of quilt time on Sunday. Then again, it's a glorious day outside so work may be delayed in favor of gorgeous fall weather...


1000 Autumns

>> Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the best fiction I've read in years. A friend sent it to me about a month ago, and I've been slowly reading it, a few pages a night. Except for the nights I got really into it and couldn't put it down. I wanted to finish it as quickly as possible and savor it for as long as possible. It's not a perfect book, but it's a beautiful book with rich characters and unexpected plot twists.

The year was 1799, and a pious Dutch clerk finds himself on Dejima, an island-city near Nagasaki for foreigners run by the Dutch East India Company but overseen by Japanese. Though he doesn't know it, the Dutch Empire is waning, but de Zoet is determined to earn substantial-enough wages to return to his love, Anna, in Holland. Tasked with making sense of the disorderly and dishonest company books, de Zoet finds that honest accounting serves as only one of many challenges. The suite of characters he encounters on Dejima -- settled foreigners, suspicious Japanese interpreters, a wise doctor, clever cooks, and an alluring but scarred (literally) midwife -- open a multitude of tales: matching wits, cross-cultural clashes, adventure tales, forbidden romance, and more.  I won't give the plot (or plots) away, since you should read it. I could (and will) read it again to enjoy the narrative and relish the beautiful prose.

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September was a crazy month filled with travel and hectic working. I haven't sewn a thing in weeks, and I'm looking forward to getting back into the crafting groove. I ave several projects waiting to be finished and several more to start...


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