>> Friday, June 29, 2012

In March, I asked my do.Good Stitches: Empower circle to make Triangle-in-Triangle blocks. They indulged my crazy idea, and I had a big pile of triangles to make into a quilt. For both time and design reasons, the triangles stayed in a pile for weeks, maybe even months. Although I loved experimenting with the triangle block, I never made a plan for how I would turn the triangles into a quilt top.

I tried a number of layouts -- rows, hexagons (big and giant), diamonds, trapezoids -- with a number of different color schemes -- like colors together, contrasting colors together, rainbows. None of them clicked. They just didn't feel right -- some were too chaotic, some lacked unity, some bored me. I returned the triangles to their piles and let them be.

One night, while annoyingly awake at 4 am, I thought anew about the layout problem. At which point I had the amazingly obvious pair of realizations: I love negative space and thus needed to use it with the triangles. I love irregular, geometric designs and thus needed to apply that idea to the triangles. So I did.

I connected some triangles and left others standing alone. I let some rows sit side-by-side, and I inserted some space between others. I started with some triangles farther apart and chopped fabric to bring some closer together. It changed along the way, as is my style, and I like the result. Now I just need to quilt it.


Circle Up

>> Friday, June 22, 2012

"Circle Up" is about being a team -- a team of 8 friends supporting another friend from afar. It's about a community circling the wagons and barn-raising for a friend, even when we're scattered across the country. It's about encouragement in times of need, warmth in times of stress, and love in times of challenge. It's about investing in people and making that investment tangible.

On a design level, this quilt is a riff on Alissa Haight Carlton's "Red Square" quilt in Modern Minimal. There are three circles instead of a square and 4 vertical lines instead of 3, lines on right and left, more color and less neutrals, and no red, so the move from origin point to finish line was certainly meandering. In fact, I originally planned to make it purple, blue, and gray, but the solids I had access to just didn't mesh as well as I desired. The yellow vertical line? That was added when I felt the design needed some oomph. I suppose I just can't not improvise.

While the design rests of the graphic power of solids, the back -- gasp! -- uses a print. The gray is from Ellen Luckett Baker's Quilt Blocks collection, and is not only versatile but super soft. I added in some white, charcoal, and Betty's orange to make the back -- the solids are a mix of Bella Solids and P&B textiles. I don't love P&B solids, but I do love the magnificent shade of green they make.

I had a hard time deciding how to quilt Circle Up. Part of me wanted to use the same circle pattern Alissa used in Red Square, but I was concerned about manipulating a quilt this big (60x70) with the particular set-up I had at the time. Actually I was most concerned that swing around the quilt would pull the plug out of the outlet (it was a stretch) and I would end up stopping and starting all the time. That seemed like a plan laden with problems, so I opted for irregular, all-over, mostly straightish lines. And I like it. It's enough quilting to be secure, but with sufficient space to crinkle and drape well. And I avoided knocking out the plug, always a good thing with items electric.


Berry Lime Sublime

>> Friday, June 15, 2012

It's true: I'm naming this quilt after my favorite Jamba Juice drink. Which I haven't had one for several years because I'm rarely near a Jamba Juice. But I passed a Jamba Juice yesterday (no, this isn't a plug for the company or a sponsored post despite the use of a corporation name three times in three sentences), and had a naming epiphany. So back to the quilt emerged from two complementary interests: 1) a desire to use off-white (Moda Snow, I believe) as the neutral and 2) a stack of yellow, orange, and green fabrics (the purple inserted itself later -- fabric having a mind of its own, after all).

Square-in-square blacks may be my favorite go-to block. As per usual, I started with a stack of fabrics cut into strips and some sense of which fabrics might serve as the center focal points. Of course, the size of the starting square and variation of surrounding squares can make the center more or less of a focus per se, but that's just another reason why I like the improvisational nature of this block.

The first three blocks were made from only yellow, green, and orange fabrics. Then a piece of the reddish-purple fabric I was using in another project landed on the square and I knew that purple was an absolutely necessary addition. In keeping with my current proclivities, negative space was a must. I made 9 blocks but discarded one when I decided a rectangular layout spoke to me more than a square one (the voices, sometimes you just have to listen to them).

The quilt also grew from its intended size, which meant that my initial plan for the back (which is to say, sans framed panel in the middle, would be too small. A problem, indeed. It was not until I rummaged through my stash to modify the back that I realized the Laura Gunn Lantern Bloom prints matched perfectly. This oversight arises from my stash organization: although most of my fabrics are stored by colorway, I have a separate box that houses the few fabric collections for which I have the majority of prints. Lantern Bloom lives there.

In one of my rare efforts at quilting forethought, I carefully measured the purple tile mosaic print (the big stripe above) to make sure I could use some on the back and have enough left over for the binding. That way, the color-coordinated front and back would also share some fabric. Well, technically the two sides already shared the yellow (from Joel Dewberry's Heirloom) and green (from Sandi Henderson's Secret Garden), but Lime Sublime lacks the pizazz (and taste) of Berry Lime Sublime, so the purple was necessary.

Assuming my courier did his job, the quilt made it to a baby shower for my friends Trevor and Allison last Sunday. Allison's due date is the day before my birthday, but I'm all for sharing birthdays, since the July 27th is such a fine day. And when they head to the hospital, I get to borrow their amazingly sweet and well-behaved dog, Cricket, so it's a pretty win-win situation for all.


dGS: May

>> Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I've returned to the whirlwind life: going to sleep in 5 different places in 6 nights. It's almost glamorous, except for the shlepping of stuff, the digging through the bag for contact-lens solution, and the reacquaintance with x-long twin beds. So maybe a college dorm room isn't glamorous, but my 10-year college reunion (go Ephs!) was delightful and fun, if a tad exhausting. In the past week, I also snuck in a couple of academic conferences and now I have a couple of weeks in New York for research (and play). In each of my previous NYC summer stints, I lived in Brooklyn. This time, my friend and I are subletting an apartment in the East Village, which means--among other things--that I am surrounded by tons of vegetarian cafes and restaurants...pure delight, I must say.

While real life has a funny way of limiting sewing time, I managed to get these blocks together (at the last possible second) for do.Good Stitches. In May, Kelli asked for framed patchwork blocks. I was grateful for a simple block (see: last-minute sewing), and I think these will look great together in a quilt.


Vegification: Tofu Soba Noodles in Curry Broth

>> Monday, June 4, 2012

Image snagged here

Someone recently asked me if I got bored with vegetarian cooking. The simple and immediate answer is no (even if I've been derelict about adding recipes here). There are tons of great vegetarian recipes out there as well as plenty of non-vegetarian recipes that are easily made veggie. Last week, I vegified this beef soba noodle dish and adjusted it to ingredients I had on hand; I'll definitely be making it again. Here's my vegetarian version.

Tofu Soba Noodles in Curry Broth
Serves 4-6 

1 pkg tofu (firm), cut into cubes or strips
kosher salt
1 pkg soba noodles
8 c. coarsely chopped bok choy
1 lb. spinach
1 c. coconut milk
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp rice or white wine vinegar (rice would be ideal but I didn't have any)
2 tsp honey
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp peanut or walnut oil (I happened to have walnut oil in the cabinet)
2 tbsp fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
3 tsp red curry paste (more to taste)
1 tbsp sesame seeds

1. In a large pot, boil water + 1 tsp salt. Add soba noodles and cook according to package directions. During the last minute of cooking, add spinach and bok choy. Drain and rinse under cold water.

2. Prepare tofu: steam it or lightly fry it. If you're steaming it, you can steam it over the noodle pot while the noodles are cooking. If you lightly fry it, do so now (this will require more oil).

3. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 tsp salt, coconut milk, lime juice, vinegar, honey, and pepper. Stir with a whisk.

4. In a small pot, combine 2 tbsp oil, ginger, and garlic over low heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add coconut milk mixture and curry paste. Stir well, until curry paste has fully dissolved.

5. Combine pasta, tofu, curry mixture, and sesame seeds. Toss well. Eat, and take the leftovers for lunch.


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