Hack It!

>> Thursday, May 31, 2012

A confession: pillow covers escaped my repertoire until a couple of weeks ago. They pop up all over the place, the perfect "easy" way to redecorate one's living room or bedroom. I suppose they take less time than painting the walls, but painting the walls always seemed much easier to me. After all, I've done my fair share of painting. I pick my favorite saturated color of the moment, get some painter's tape, collect the drop cloths, and start painting. Pillow covers, in contrast, require design. It's best, therefore, to start simple, right? Or to hack some templates.

Fresh off my successful foray into piecing curves, I decided to forego practicing more basics and dive into the next challenge: a big circle outline. There are lots of ways to achieve this, and I could have gone with Dale Fleming's Six-Minute Circle method. But the point was to practice my new curve-by-curve skillz. I had some New York Beauty templates, but of course I had printed the super-advanced kind, the ones with many many spikes and layers. To limit the crazy-making, I wanted 2 curves, not 5. And I wanted a particular width that existed in my head, but not on the template. Obviously the solution here is to hack the templates. I drew a line where I wanted the curve to be, adjusted both the inner quarter-circle and the outer edges and held my breath. Well, not really. I just cut out the templates, cut out some fabric, sewed some pieces, and hoped it worked. For the most part, it did. With a little trimming, I got just the circle I wanted.

Then I set about making the pillowcase. In theory I knew how to do this, but I did check a few blog tutorials just to make sure. In an ode to simplicity, I decided against fiddling with zippers and opted for an envelope closure. This also let me use the small, not quite fat quarter, of a Tula Pink Parisville print that brought together all the colors I was using. The colors being lavender, mint, and gray, all chosen to match my roommate's room decor. Because this pillow cover made its way back to Michigan to celebrate Marie rocking her prelims. [For the non-graduate-school-immersed, prelims (or comps or orals or name-your-test-word) are the big exams between coursework and the dissertation.] Anyhow, since I was unavailable for the in-town celebratory drinks, I sent a present instead. Whether a fine adult beverage or a classy modern pillow cover is a better way to celebrate is a decision I leave to others.


Dog Days

>> Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Am I the only one who listens to new (to me) albums on repeat, for weeks on end? Maybe I'm just weird like that. Florence + the Machine tells me, about every 50 minutes or so, that the Dog Days Are Over, but I'm still stuck in sweltering DC. Summer in DC is supposed to be sweltering -- which is why I don't like it and try (not always successfully) to avoid it. But the end of May? It's not supposed to be this damn hot. But before it got too hot to move, much less wield an iron, I made a bag. Well, I made a few other things too, but we'll stick with the bag for this post.

At this point, I think I've trained my friends to not expect timely birthday presents. As per usual, I knew I wanted to make Claire a Lickety Split bag -- I find it to be one of the most versatile bags I've made and own. At a Del Ray Fabrics tent sale a few weeks ago, I snagged some fabric for it. When I last saw Claire, she mentioned surrounding herself with bright colors to make her black-clothes-base shine (and she rocks both bags and shoes). This is one of the few prints from Amy Butler's Lark collection that I liked, and I think it will play nicely with black clothes.

I make a couple modifications to the bag pattern -- I add some fabric ties in the center but make only 2 pockets. Usually the side with the pockets seems like the de facto "inside" but with this bag, I'm not so sure. Because these pockets, they are awesome.

See: awesome! Shiny, happy, awesome. Home-dec weight birds that pretty perfectly match the olive snail scallop print (from Tula Pink's Prince Charming collection). It's a good thing the pockets are on opposite sides because I think they're about an 1/8" different from one another, due to some winging it while fussy-cutting the bird. I'm quite certain it has no effect on its utility.


Curves Ahead

>> Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's only taken 14 years, but I've finally taught myself how to piece precise curves. I'm glad I waited, because I'm a big fan of the "no-pin and trim" method (also taught in Rachel's Curves class). I only pin when absolutely necessary, and even then I try to find ways around such tedium. I have a plan for a larger quilt, but the goal was to smart small. I thought I had printed some templates out before I left Michigan. I mean, I had printed them, but I thought I actually had them with me. But no, I left them in a pile of papers back home. And I don't have easy access to a printer right now.

Never fear, there's always a way. Such a way might include, for example, tracing templates from the laptop screen. Press gently. It will work. Even with drafty templates and no pins, the pieces basically line up. That looks pretty circular, right? Trimming is the key, and it's really quite effective with drunkard's path blocks. Even if the block sews up a little tipsy (because that Belgian beer was super delicious), it's fixable.

I limited myself to one storage box of fabric when I left Michigan for this temporary jaunt away. I chose to bring my box of solids plus a few other prints for a couple of planned quilts (this not being one of them, of course). But one of the prints worked for the back, and Betty's Orange clamored to serve as the binding. That's a siren's call I can't resist. Ditto on the seductive curves. Now that I've made them, I'm captivated.


Topo Map: A Quilt

>> Thursday, May 17, 2012

I've been waiting to show off this quilt for a while now -- the delay is all my fault, as I forgot neglected to take a full dose of pictures when I had the chance and had to ask its new owner to make up for my flawed execution. I scurried to finish this in March -- literally sewing on the binding the day I hopped on a plane to deliver it, or to meet up with my Bad-Decision-DinosaurTM-embracing and general-ruckus-making friends, Joel and Jenny. Joel was my fabulous roommate when I lived in Madison, and aside from being one of my closest friends, he has -- in the past 1.5 years -- defended his dissertation, found a job, bought a house, gotten engaged, and done all sorts of awesome things because he is awesome.

And awesome gets you a quilt in my book. It might be a super-late quilt, but it will get to you, one day. It will even be size-appropriate, because when you're tall, you need a tall quilt, obvs.

As previously noted, I accidentally channeled Denyse Schmidt's brain as I made this quilt. I'm pretty sure her technique does not involve making a bunch of half-square triangles (hsts), arranging them, abandoning that arrangement, realizing that said hsts could form giant flying geese with tails, piecing said geese, chopping the tails, and arranging them asymmetrically. Except maybe that last part, because DS, like yours truly, embraces the asymmetry. Sometimes being a little off-balance is a good thing.

I'm usually a mix-the-fabric-lines kind of quilter, but for some reason, my acquisition of Joel Dewberry's Modern Meadow led to some MM-only projects. Or MM+solids. In this case, 5 or so yards of Moda's Bella White (I should order that stuff by the bolt) and this lovely light brown courtesy a Target sheet. Because when you've taken all the quilt materials with you to Cincinnati to finish the quilt after working at the archives and then change your mind about what the back should look like, a sheet is a smart option: it's financially responsible and super soft to boot. This picture is theoretically upside down, if the location and direction of the quilt label matters, which it probably doesn't.

I don't have a great close-up of the quilting, but it resembles a topographic map -- you know, the ones that indicate elevation by the density of contour lines -- hence, calling this "Topo Map." Which is also perfect because Joel a) loves maps, b) sometimes makes maps, and c) taught me much of what I know about cartography. And flying geese love topo maps, or they should, if they want to fly efficiently and not run into trees.

Sometimes we go for the quizzical-hipster-in-ice-cave look, where a quilt would probably be quite useful.


Spring Green

>> Sunday, May 13, 2012

This quilt started with the green (Moda's Dill, possibly?). I had visions of a very green, a very spring quilt. The idea came to me in February -- seeking spring, I suppose -- but I didn't act on it until April (there was a touch of travel and work and whatnot in between). It took me a while to decide on what colors to use with the green, and in the end, more green -- lime? -- won out. With a touch of yellow and white.

This quilt was all about play -- with color, with shapes, with ideas, with lines. I started piecing and let it develop. The small lime rectangle was a fairly last-minute addition, when I wanted some oomph. It took a few nights for the quilting plan to gestate. I felt the improv piecing needed some structure for balance. The single chevron-esque quilting is the result.

This quilt is a classic case of looking more simple than it is. It's not that the piecing or the quilting were complicated, exactly. But the piecing had to feel right, and the quilting, well, getting straight lines the same distance apart is not all that easy. I got impatient midway through and let it settle, returning to it the next night, when the quilt + sewing machine + sewing machine operator were a little more in sync.

This quilt back started with about 4 other pieces of fabric. Only the bright turquoise was a constant. I began with a focal print that was white with colorful gear-like wheels on it. But it felt off. Then I remembered the Laura Gunn's lemon tile mosaic (except it's not called lemon), and it hit just the right spot. It adds a little texture but keeps the color scheme united around green.

This ripply picture makes me chuckle. I'm not sure why, I just like it. And after I mailed it off to a friend whose baby is coming any day now, I realized that Dartmouth is the Big Green and she teaches there, so there's that. But it still started with wanting to make a spring quilt for a spring baby.


Black Hole

>> Sunday, May 6, 2012

The last 2 weeks of April and the first week of May pretty much escaped from my life. I mean, I know where I've been -- the travels include 3 different time zones, some flights, a set of two 11+ hour and two 5ish hour drives, work involved writing a couple conference papers and conference remarks, tooling around in multiple archives, and life included trying to take care of basic things like laundry and food preparation during this insanity. I'm not sure I've ever experienced quite as much zig-zagging about as I did in April 2012 (which in my mind includes May 1-5 as well).

Not that ends, exactly, as tomorrow I'll get in my car again and head to DC. But, quite remarkably for my life this academic year, I will be in DC for 4 weeks. Four weeks. In one place. Amazing. I should also note that while all my clothes for the next 7-8 weeks fit in 1 carry-on sized bag, the same cannot be said for my sewing stuff. Since I'll in one place for so long and driving, it seemed like a good idea to bring my sewing machine. I tried to keep it reasonable by pre-selecting some fabric for some projects, but we'll see how that goes.

In the meantime, I was able to squeeze in a little sewing over the crazy month. Last weekend, I eked out my do.Good Stitches April string blocks just under the May wire (which might bear some resemblance to a May pole, at least in my fogged mind). There was a also a little piecing and quilting, though not much else. Which is a problem since I really wanted to finish some bag gifts for some friends, but luckily, they're very patient people. They may have to be patient for another two months, alas.


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