Meanwhile, at Chez Two Hippos...

>> Thursday, July 26, 2012

There has been a little redecorating afoot at Chez Two Hippos. Namely, the hanging of pictures and the making of new pillow covers in the living room (which also functions as my sewing space -- see back left corner). This has been a long time coming, or at least 9 months coming. There used to be cranberry trim (including all the windows) in this room. Cranberry trim is a terrible idea. Perhaps you want some deep red in your room? I highly recommend a wall.

After three years of muttering obscenities about said cranberry trim, it was time to do something about the horribleness. So, much like a Soviet dissident in the days of yore, it got disappeared last fall (I've been reading crime fiction set in mid-20th century Eastern Europe...). White trim is quite lovely. At the same time, the walls received some paint love (Olympic Park Loop, if I recall correctly) and I took the plunge and acquired (rather inexpensively, thanks to a super sale and $1 shipping) a fun area rug. A few months later, I bought a map. It looked good in the room, even if it sat on the floor waiting to be hung for another 5 or so months. The cranberry pillows, however, remained.

Until I returned from research this summer and couldn't stand them any more. At which point, I had to change them. Immediately.  And there commenced about 16 hours of furious design and sewing, after which three new pillow covers made everything better. As I don't do matchy-matchy very well (or at all), I opted for different designs in three shades of the same palette -- bright (above), muted (below), and dark (below) -- all of which coordinate with my gold couch. Sidenote: the couch belonged to my grandparents' and it is the world's most comfortable couch. Back to making things...the design above was inspired by Rebecca's pillow. I think if I were making it again, I'd use a solid white instead of the Echo print, since it's a little busy for my taste, but it works. And since I used scraps of some of my favorite prints, I get to see some of my favorite prints all the time. Win.

Originally I planned to make the HST pillow (on right) with solids, but when I laid out the solids, they weren't speaking to me. Or they were, and they were saying "don't use me." Which was great because I got to dig into some stashed favorites, including the orange Heirloom Tile and the yellow and gray prints from Dena Designs' Taza collection.  The improv pillow (left) is definitely my favorite: solids + negative space + circle quilting = awesome. I admire those who circle-quilt much larger pieces because, damn it takes a lot of time and focus.

There's something about this picture line-up of pillow backs that makes me chuckle. They're all envelope closures, though a touch different at the overlap point (broad band of contrasting fabric, no contrast, and thin band of binding). Here too, I dipped into some stash favorites (for the fabric followers -- Nicey Jane + Park Slope (L), Central Park (M), and Max & Whiskers (R)). So there you have it: a much-aesthetically-improved living room.


Carry On

>> Friday, July 13, 2012

I will never be mistaken for a designer handbag aficionado. I couldn't identify one to save my life. And it seems that most of them are made of leather, so it's not going to happen. But since I still tote things around with me, I do need something in which to place it. Ideally that something will 1) hold my wallet (a sorry little rubber-banded item at the moment), phone, a book, and maybe a light sweater, 2) be versatile, and 3) make me happy. In case you're wondering, the latter results from a secret combination of size, functionality, and fabric.

For errand-running and multiple-book-toting, I find my Lickety Split bag super useful. But it's less than ideal for going out or simply carrying fewer items. Sarah has a great free tutorial for this purse, which I found through some combination of googling "purse, trapezoid, and pleats." I knew the shape I wanted, but didn't really want to work out all the details. The internet, and crafters who also work as engineers, are quite handy in this scenario. I've been waiting to use this print (Amy Butler's Water Bouquet in Midnight, from her Love collection) and found another use for the remnant of grey hexagon dots from this quilt. I modified the pockets to fit my wallet and phone, and added a slot for a pen (an effort to avoid ink splots all over the interior). If I made it again, I'd add more interfacing around the magnetic snap, but save that detail, this purse is perfectly sized and straightforward to make.


Squeaking By

>> Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Deadlines and I have a contested relationship right now. Witness: My June do.Good Stitches blocks.

Heather asked us to make Lynne's "Lynne Bob Square Pants" blocks with Kona Ash as the background color. I could blame my tardiness on the fact that I was waiting to get back to Michigan and get my hands on some Ash (true) or on being away from my sewing machine for almost all of June (true) or a tree getting in the way of weekend sewing at the end of June (true). All of these factors contributed to my delinquency, but I also confess that once back in Michigan, with my sewing machine, in possession of Kona Ash, I also tarried a bit. These blocks are a lovely, but a bit persnickety for my sewing tendencies. They're going to make a great quilt, but 36 squares yielding a mere 12.5" block? It's just not my style. As I said at the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild's Sew-In on Sunday, 3.5 hours of sewing should require using more than one bobbin.

In the spirit of confession-time, I will also note that this month I definitely have a favorite block. The aqua and red one. I'm pretty sure quilters, unlike parents, are allowed to express preferences among blocks, but I usually try to love them all equally. Not this month, I'm afraid. But that's okay because the quilt chorus is also a lovely place to be.


Sand and Sea

>> Friday, July 6, 2012

Some fabrics are more challenging to design with than others. I picked up the block-y, stripey fabric at the Crate & Barrel outlet over a year ago. Of all the fabrics that comprised my 7-pound haul, this was the one that stumped me the most. I couldn't figure out what fabrics would work with it (sure, white would be fine, but it seemed a little boring) and I wasn't sure how it would work in a block,simple or complex. Did the lines need to be straight? If so, there was a problem, because I quickly realized it was impossible to true-up the fabric on the grain and keep the printed lines straight.

About 6 weeks ago, I was using a (generously gifted) groupon at G-Street Fabrics, which was a little tough because their cotton print selection is not, shall we say, all that modern and their solids shelves lacked the obvious suspects such as Kona white, ash, or coal (weird, right?). When my eyes fell upon Bella Solid Wheat, I knew I had a solution to the Marimekko stripe challenge. It may not be the most "modern" of combinations, but it works.

Google Reader helped solve the block conundrum, as I read about Lu Summers teaching a workshop on portholes at the recent Fat Quarterly retreat. While my nomadic life took me many places this spring, it did not plop me down in London for this retreat (surprisingly, the Queen didn't invite me to her Jubilee which occurred the same weekend). But the interwebz are very powerful and led me to Jodie's tutorial, which served my needs perfectly.

I made 10 basic portholes, altering the direction of the stripey fabric in a few different ways. Once I started making the portholes, the rest of the table runner design arrived in my brain. With my predilection for negative space, it should not be shocking that the runner would have a row of sea glass portholes surrounded by sand (or, technically wheat, in which case perhaps there is a clear river running through a wheat field?). The landscape metaphors need not be stretched beyond their means; suffice it to say that a good chunk of the 2 yards of wheat fabric disappeared into this project.

At one point I thought I might make 4 coordinating napkins, except that the remnant pieces were too small. But pieced together, they became the back.

At first I thought I'd just do a little wavy line quilting in one section of the solid area. Then I started, and two bobbins later, I had done a lot of wavy-line quilting in all the solid sections. As you may be able to see, I snuck in a few green lines amidst the natural thread. Usually binding acts as a frame, but this design called for less of a frame  and more of a finished edge. As a result, I used more of the wheat solid to bind it. Despite the oppressive heat, I finished it yesterday, just in time to take with me to Josh and Shannon's wedding party. They had a small April wedding, followed by a fun July celebration. Josh said us grad student sorts didn't have to bring gifts, but I don't always follow directions very well.


12 Hours

>> Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Friday started like this -- at my parents' house, reunited with my sewing machine, playing with some new porthole blocks (made using Jodie's tutorial). I made such blocks and sewed them together into a table runner top, with plans to make the backing in the afternoon and quilt the table runner later in the weekend, before returning to Michigan.

But 12 hours later, Friday ended like this. Well, not like this exactly, because it was dark out by 10.30 pm when the power went out and we heard a large thud. The derecho storm that pummeled the DC area caused a tree to fall on my parents' house. No one in the house -- 2-legged or 4-legged -- was harmed, which is the most important thing.

Friday night was very long, with lots of moving furniture, clipping and clearing (a small number of) tree branches, waiting on hold for hours with the insurance company, and calming terrified animals. The fire department arrived pretty quickly (especially given the number of fallen trees and unpassable roads in the neighborhood) and determined that the house was still safe, provided we stay away from the side that was hit. Neighbors were extraordinarily helpful -- calling the fire department, providing tarps, bringing over helmets and head lamps (neighbors who go for spelunking? very useful in such circumstances), helping to clear out the affected rooms and salvage what we could, trimming and clearing about 100 pounds of tree branches, getting cars out of the way, etc. The local police conducted neighborhood sweeps around 4 am (I wasn't sleeping anyways...) to make sure everyone was ok.

My brother showed up at 6 am on Saturday morning, at which point we could see the full damage. I christened what had been my brother's old room "the sunroom." My mom quickly edited it to "the undesired sunroom." To be fair, it was a terrarium for a bit, but by mid-day Saturday Tyson's Tree had removed the tree (they have a very impressive operation, for anyone looking for tree removal in the DC area) and it was a sunroom, albeit one with blue-tarp filtered light. Yesterday the damaged area was boarded up, and now it's a matter of getting contractors in to assess, estimate, and finally rebuild.

Needless to say, no more sewing occurred over the weekend. I'm now back in Michigan, where sewing may resume if the heat relents anytime soon...


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