>> Monday, July 25, 2011

Slow, slow progress on the quilting front. To be honest, the combination of renovation, moving, planning future research trips, and the gross gross heat, not much has happened, craft-wise. Also, the moving meant returning my sewing machine to its vacation spot at my parents' house as I didn't want to clutter up my brother's current apartment with my sewing machine as he's moving out shortly (provided the fixer-upper bathroom gets finished soon). Anyways...

Before waving goodbye to my sewing machine (I really need a name for it, any suggestions?), I played around with piecing circles a la Fleming. I used this tutorial and watched this video before cutting into anything. Overall I like the method, though I need to practice more to get perfectly flat circles. I think it's very forgiving, as any slight flaps should disappear upon quilting. I don't have a fully worked out plan for this quilt, but there will be more Terrain circles. Everything else is subject to change.

Also, the grey fabric is Moda Charcoal. I have to say that while I generally love Bella Solids, I'm a little disappointed in both Charcoal and Slate. I had ordered them hoping they would be similar to Kona's versions, but they're not. While it may be hard to see in the picture, they're too green to be true charcoal or slate. They'll work but they're not as versatile as true greys would be; however, since my Solids swap partner loves olive/artichoke greens, I think these greys will be perfect to use in conjunction with that project. Now I just need to decide what to make her.


When I Have Arthritis in My Thumb....

>> Monday, July 18, 2011

....I'll know whom to blame. I spent several 10-hour days helping my brother and his girlfriend work on their new-to-them fixer-upper. It's a classic DC rowhouse that needs, um, work. More work than anticipated, I think. It has, as they say, "good bones," and I think it will be quite lovely one day. In the meantime, the goal is to get it liveable -- and I am quite invested in this goal as I'm supposed to live there.

This experience has renewed my appreciation for the hard work of demolition, construction, remodeling, and renovation. It's no wonder it costs so much, when such efforts require things like pulling staples out of formerly-carpet-covered floors. Luckily the hardwoods underneath the carpet are in great condition. The two rooms sanded yesterday look fantastic and will look even better when stained. But staple-removal in 3 rooms and a staircase took 2 people 10+ hours.

So a few thoughts from this weekend's work:
1. Never ever carpet over good hardwood. Sand and stain the hardwood, and relish it.
2. Do not paint over textured wallpaper (or any wallpaper for that matter).
3. Do not plaster and paint over wallpaper (seriously, strip the wallpaper when it's fairly straightforward and then plaster and paint).
4. Four layers of bathroom tile are too many. Rip out the old and replace the new before creating an absurd tile-monster bathroom floor.
5. Some people are willing to live -- and eat out of -- disgusting kitchens. Seriously, who doesn't clean up the mouse droppings? Or allows layers upon layers of grease in the oven? But when you encounter such grease, Easy-Off* is your best friend. It's probably full of terrible chemicals, but it is a fabulous cleaner. I really should have photographed this marvel. The oven is now a usable appliance once again.
6. Bleach and white vinegar are truly amazing cleaning products.

I have to confess that I'm still a little tired and sore from the weekend. And my sewing machine sat idle as I squatted and pulled staples, hacked at old wallpaper, and ferociously cleaned a kitchen. There are a few little projects I'd like to wrap up over the next couple of weeks, but the state of the fixer-upper may determine how much gets done...

image from here

But when I get back to sewing, I'll have something new to play with. I checked my email this morning to find that I've won some Aurifil thread and a color card from Lynne's giveaway. I've heard that this thread is silky to work with, especially because it produces very little lint. I'm excited to test it out and perhaps find myself a new kind of thread to use. It also looks like the 5-pack includes a multi-color thread spool and I think that will be especially fun to use on a quilt top.

*I have not been paid to endorse this product. My mom and I plucked it off the shelf because it claimed to be fume-free (true!) and it turned out to also be a miracle-worker. I thought it would take about 8 passes to find the original metal in the oven. It only took one. 


Super Solids

>> Wednesday, July 13, 2011

While perusing posts in Google Reader this morning, I discovered For the Love of Solids [a modern swap]. When I made my last mosaic for DQS10, I realized I had a ton of solids-only or mostly-solids in my flickr favorites. As a result, this seemed like the perfect swap to join I'm coveting lots of solids quilts. I still need to finish, err make, my totally late DC Modern Quilt Guild Solids Challenge quilt, which is next in line after I roll around with my Terrain scraps.

But in the meantime, joining another swap seemed wise like a fine summer activity to add to my growing to-do list. And picking just 16 solids or solid-ish quilts was actually tough, so, assuming I get in, I think my partner will have lots of ideas and inspiration with which to work. I realize that my mosaic also highlights my inclination toward shades of blue, but I also love deep saturated oranges and reds. In any event, I'm hoping this swap will push me to start making more solids quilts, since I seem to click the star on so many of the ones I've seen. To learn more or to sign up, click here.


Settling In

I'm settling into what I think (?) is my second-to-last temporary living arrangement for the summer. Before moving in, I stopped by my parents' house to repack and pick up a few things, including my envelope of Terrain scraps from Kate Spain. I've now ironed them and, yesterday in the archives, I figured out what I want to do with them (how's that for multitasking productivity!). Hint: there will be circles.


Ferris Wheels and Fireflies

>> Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Friends, work, and California sunshine conspired to keep me away from the blog for a bit. I was lucky to get selected for a seminar that took place in the Bay Area, and spent 10 days back in Northern California learning as well as hanging out with friends. While my nomadic life has its downsides, one of the major upsides is the opportunity to return to places and people I know well with some regularity. That said, this quilt is for Shira, the new daughter of one of my closest childhood friends.

We laugh about it now, but when our parents introduced us one summer, Beth and I were sort of unimpressed with one another. There was neither active liking or disliking, just that blase "our parents are friends but so what" reaction. Then the following fall, we took gymnastics classes together and sports accomplished what our parents could not: creating a lifelong, tight friendship. Back then, we lived a few miles away from one another, just far enough to require parents' shuttling us back and forth. Of course once we both left home for college, her parents moved to a house a couple streets away from my parents. While the timing precluded us from taking full advantage of this proximity, it's certainly been a boon to my visits home and, most recently, getting quilts to her family.

When Beth told me that she and Harley had decided on purple and green as the colors for the baby's room, I decided to make a quilt that would hopefully coordinate but also stand on its own. I used two blocks from Lynn's Big Fat Dresden Quilt-Along which I previewed here. After making the two blocks, I contemplated adding the thin border, per the QAL instructions. But never one to completely follow directions and wanting a quilt that measured something like 40x60 instead of 30x60, I went in a slightly different direction, and added what I think of as the "bamboo strips" to opposite sides of the circles. I used the scraps from cutting the dresden plates, pieced them together and sewed them to the grey at an angle, all very improvisationally which is why one got snatched up by the binding.

The quilting is a little melange of styles, with flowers, vine-like trellises, circles, and stippling. I placed one flower in the center of each dresden plate and then added them at irregular intervals along the bamboo. To make the quilting more continuous and therefore easier, I connected these flowers with trellis vines.

Then I free-motion quilted spirals in each dresden plate and added stippling around the edges. If I were to do it again, I think I would use my walked foot and follow seam lines for the circles as I think doing it freehand was harder than necessary. I want to try tighter, more controlled circles in the future as I've seen them on a lot of quilts recently and I like the effect, especially when the rest of the quilt has a lot of 90 degree angles.

For the back, I plucked a just-shy-of-2-yards piece of Soul Blossoms from my stash. It fit perfectly, and given all the motion on the front, I thought a single piece of fabric would be nice. For the binding, I chose the Lavender Fans from Tanya Whelan's Dolce collection, which I had also used in the dresden plates. As for the name, the circles reminded me summer carnival/boardwalk/festival ferris wheels while the bamboo strips add a twinkle of color, like fireflies on a summer's night. As I write this out, I'm thinking that perhaps "Shira's Splash of Summer" sums it up well. Here's to many fun summers ahead.


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