Into the Blue

>> Friday, August 30, 2013

A few weeks ago, about five days before I left Michigan for a conference in New York, I made plans with my friends Josh and Adam who, as it turned out, just returned to the city with their new son. Josh and I have been friends since high school and it's the sort of friendship sustained over irregular yearly-ish visits rather than regular emails and phone calls. Hence it was only when I announced I was flitting through town that I learned about Leo's arrival. At which point a flurry of fast sewing and quilting ensued.

I decided to continue the minimalist monochromatic series with a perennial color favorite: aqua. (Also, I knew I had enough solids or near-solids to make this design work, which is not something I can say for most colors. Aqua: it speaks to me and makes me buy it.) Working on a fast deadline meant that simplicity reigned, and a giant starbust seemed fun and (relatively) simply. I drafted 4 20" blocks on butcher paper and paper-pieced the quadrants. Keeping giant pieces of fabric in line was a tad tricky, but I only had to unpick and resew 2 seams, which I considered a victory.

Keeping with the simplicity theme, the back consists of two large pieces of fabric from Erin McMorris collections: a large red chunk from Weekends and a smaller saffron bit from LaDeeDa. I had been waiting for an opportunity to use the large red flowers, as chopping this particular large-scale print seemed counterproductive. I made this quilt a couple weeks after Rossie's thoughtful post about gender and quilting, and I was particularly pleased to use a giant floral print on a quilt for a boy because, seriously, flowers are awesome for everyone (in fact, it was a former male roommate who taught me that sometimes you should just buy flowers for yourself, because they're lovely and pleasing to look at and increase joy).

The quilting is "echo-plus," which is to say quilting lines offset about 1/8" from each seam, plus a line through the approximate center of each wedge. Enough to hold the quilt together but scant enough to keep it soft and drapey. When I arrived with the quilt, I learned that my color selection was prescient as Leo's room has a Tiffany blue accent wall.

Black and white chevron-striped binding? Yes, please. I adore this binding. I'm convinced it's brilliant, so don't tell me otherwise. The stark contrast between the soft aquas and the robust black thrills me. Also I got to sew it with black thread and I so rarely use black thread that I think the spool has been with me for at least 5 years. It was crying out to be used.



>> Thursday, August 22, 2013

I was not really prepared for the summer onslaught of babies. Lots of my friends had babies; few quilts were on their way or even gestating in my brain. But this quilt's concept, the fabric pull, and the mulling over of design started this winter, after I made this emerald quilt. I thought it would be cool to do a series of minimalist monochromatic quilts, all offset by a binding in a different color. And since I bound the emerald quilt with orange, I figured orange should be next in the sequence.

At one point I envisioned a giant asterisk quilt. But as June turned into July and I decided to make the orange quilt for the forthcoming bebe of my friends' Sarah and Danny (#2, actually), I was feeling less asterisk-y and more linear. I wanted to play the oranges off one another, and the slats of some blinds provided inspiration. Some Riley Blake circles helped finish off the quilt front when I ran out of the darker orange solid (measure before sewing, why bother?)

To contrast the linear nature of the design, I quilted a giant offset spiral, which is almost impossible to see, but I think conveys the idea of light streaming through an upstairs window. I am very pleased with the peppy aqua binding as well.

The primary backing fabric came all the way from Liberia. My roommate did some research there last summer and, knowing my love of fabric, brought me back a couple different pieces. The selvage on this one noted "veritable real wax super binta" on one side and "guaranteed real wax" on the other -- so definitely a legit batik print. Although I'm not a fabric pre-washer, there was a slightly waxy residue on the print and I wasn't sure how color-fast it was, so I did pre-wash it. After a washer-dryer cycle, it feels like old thick cotton sheets, and while there was a little bleeding of the navy dye, it was barely noticeable. Danny and Sarah departed Michigan for New Orleans in July, and I was pleased to be able to send Karl off to the land of beignets and jazz with his new quilt.



>> Thursday, August 8, 2013

I have learned many things this summer, including the fact that mental blogging does not, it turns out, translate into actual blogging. Thus I have a bit of a blogging backlog to address--which is to say, to actually blog, rather than contemplate blogging while running, showering, doing dishes, walking dogs, or any other sundry activities. First up: Windmill.

This quilt started as an experimental block initially created to use the blue/green stripe (a Marimekko/Crate & Barrel outlet print). I had a vision for the block -- and the eventual quilt -- but plunged into sewing before I figured out the best way to make the block. The best way is not to paper piece the half-square-triangle-with-stripe and add a border, for, as the above image indicates, it's very hard to line up correctly. Had I paused and drafted a paper-pieced design for the whole block, well, that would have been smarter. But I didn't, at which point the block design changed to fit what I had and what precision I could handle.

Semi-bordered squares: perhaps they suggest motion more than stasis? Let's go with that line of argument. When my friends Ethan and Hagit had a baby this spring, I decided I should finish up this quilt top and send it off to Cincinnati, where they've graciously offered me meals and more when I was there for research last year.

At which point I realized I could use some fun Ed Emberley prints (dogs & frogs) for the back, and plucked some other coordinating prints from my stash. The quilting appears a little more clearly on the back -- I used elongated squiggles in the spokes of the windmill and stippling throughout the rest of the quilt. The thread became unintentionally variegated as the two spools of deep blue were not, as it turns out, exactly the same. But I'm cool with variation and impatient with shopping, so a mixture of blues turned out to serve my needs perfectly. I'm banking on Daniel not noticing for a long while, if ever...


Eph + Eph, or How to Make A Chuppah

>> Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sometimes you show up to graduate school and find out that another cohort-mate went to your alma mater, albeit 6 years after you did. Then you bond over purple cows, and become friends and office-mates. You meet his partner (who also attended your alma mater), who eventually moves to town, and you hang out some more. Eventually they get engaged and you offer to make their chuppah (wedding canopy) and, finally, about 4 months before the wedding, it's time to make it. So, how to make your friends a chuppah, in 10 easy steps.

1. Have friends who also have thoughts about design. A&Y looked through my blog and some flickr groups and we met to discuss what they liked and found compelling -- something modern, something with purples and blues, and something containing both regularity and surprise. I suggested a modern, random half-square triangle design, and they agreed -- provided they could choose the colors.

2. Ideally your friends have an eye for color too. We took a field trip to Pink Castle Fabrics, back when it was still in Brenda and Jason's basement. There they learned that fabric is mesmerizing and captivating and makes decision-making difficult. They found out that there are a lot of shades of blue and gray and yellow and white (and many fewer of purple). But they persevered and selected a fabulous stack o' fabric which consisted of: white, lake, marine {more aqua-blue than slate-blue in real life}, regal {more purple-y than it looks on the screen or in pictures}, charcoal, and yellow. I confess I was a little unsure of the lake blue at first, wondering if it was too pale, but it worked well.

3. Start cutting (6" strips, cut into 6" squares). I started cutting at a crafty meet-up, where Rae dubbed the bundle of solids, "vestment-like."  Makes a lot of sense for a wedding canopy!

4. Sew: I divvied up the squares into factorial-like piles and started sewing. Somewhere along the way, my arithmetic went awry and as I finished -- or so I thought -- trimming the squares (down to 5 5/8"), I realized I needed about 18 more squares. At which point I grabbed some fabric, cut some squares, and sewed them together, without much thought as to the precise number of squares per color.

5. Iron for awhile. Consider vacuuming the "design floor." Get all determined and sweep and vacuum said floor. Start laying out squares. Move around as seems wise, or possibly because you step on some squares and mess up the order.

6. Maintain some semblance of order. As you may be able to see, I made myself little tags (right bottom) to keep the rows in order. For what may have been the first time ever, I did not mess up the order and need to unpick and resew. That might never ever happen again. But I think it's a strong endorsement of tagging rows in some fashion (mine are bits of fabrics with numbers written on them -- very high tech!).

7. Press seams for some time. Catch up on the season finales of NCIS, NCIS-LA, Castle, and whatever other shows you like.

8. Baste. I used a white flannel sheet as batting and a white cotton sheet as backing. I basted it over my ironing board, which I find is the best way to keep everything aligned, tight (I iron the layers as I pin baste, thereby smoothing out any wrinkles).

9. Quilt. I opted for what I like to think of as a lattice-like curved grid (a technical term to be sure). On the top I used white thread, and on the back I used white, purple, and yellow (purple and yellow being ze college colors and all).

10. Bind (in Kona Regal) and admire your handiwork. Also revel in finishing 2 weeks before the wedding and one week before your friends need the chuppah.

Enjoy watching two lovely people get married. Celebrate with them, think lovely thoughts about the ceremony (sunburn notwithstanding), take lots of pictures, play with fun filters, and wonder why capturing the gorgeous deep purple is so so hard.


Summer in San Francisco: A Quilt

>> Sunday, May 26, 2013

The grass was wet and I needed to take pictures of the quilt. I toted it around with me as I ran errands, attended a party, and went about my weekend business. As I was returning home, I noticed this abandoned auto garage and decided to take advantage of its industrial chic driveway to take pictures. I assume everyone walking and driving by thought I was nuts (it's on the edge of a neighborhood, along a busy road, so there were plenty of people available to gawk). What you can't see, or can't see well, in this image, is the barbed wire above the "no parking" sign. Alas I forgot the towels and other means of circumventing barbed wire (you learn a lot from watching crime procedurals...Burn Notice is particularly effective for acquiring such knowledge). Ah well. Back to the quilt.

This started as low-volume play with triangles, a riff on the March weather that tacked between gray and gray. I rummaged through my scrap bin and stash and plucked out a variety of solid, almost-solid, and light prints, and cut away. The light gray, green, and blue solids became powerfully saturated (context: it matters, as we historians like to repeat, over and over and over again), but watching the whites and creams duke it out as the rows came together was equally fun.

One of the best aspects of random layouts is the fact that mistakenly sewing a row in the wrong order doesn't matter. I might have done that. Possibly twice.

The green and blue tree print (Marimekko) needed to go on the back, or rather needed to be displayed in large quantities and thus needed a spot of honor on the back. That represented one of the first decisions I made in planning this quilt. I had no idea what would join it until I needed a back and started mixing and matching options. I'm pretty sure the remnant triangles are my favorite part of the back. Until my eyes linger on the coral-orange stripe and I like it best. It's so hard to choose among awesome design elements, but handily I don't actually have to actually make a decision. I like the back a lot, that's all.

The diamond quilting--offset by what is a little more than 1/4" inch but less than 3/8" of an inch (5/16", it would seem)--pleases me greatly. Especially on the back where it stands out and looks very quilty. The binding comes from an ombre Marimekko remnant that shuffles between grey-blue and deep green. At one point I know I had a fabulous name for this quilt, but my brain has siphoned it off to somewhere presently irretrievable; as a result, I shall dub it Summer in San Francisco, for that's where it will lodge, and the colors are, in a way, quite reflective of delightfully chilly SF summers.


Diamond Derby

>> Thursday, April 25, 2013

It snowed--snowed!--here yesterday. Grrr. But that reminded me that I last took pictures of a quilt in the snow. Thankfully, that snow was in February, where snow belongs.
I started playing with diamonds in December, sketching out a few different options. Just because. I didn't know who would get this quilt, and just felt the urge to play a bit. The final sketch became the plan, albeit one that swerved when sewing the blocks together. I forgot where I had placed the blue block, but I don't think that slight switch mattered much.

A lot of my favorite oranges and aquas leapt from the scrap bin into this quilt (they're very active, those scraps). In an attempt to keep the strips straight, I paper-pieced the diamonds. This turned out to be handy less for the strips and more for the background as I had very little charcoal painter's canvas to spare and needed to piece together scraps which were easier to handle when paper-pieced.

The back: some fun black and white and aqua and orange prints. I used straight-line quilting, some vaguely standardized distance apart. Maybe an inch? It's hard to recall such details from February which is perhaps why I should have posted this earlier. Oh well, should you seek to emulate it, pick a distance and enjoy! One of the best parts of finishing Diamond Derby (which I just named now, should you have momentarily wondered) was that I got to give it to Yasmeen (or, really, her awesome parents) in person. The post office usually delivers quilts for me, which is a nice service and all, but it's way more fun to watch people unfold quilts.


Crunch Time

>> Sunday, March 24, 2013

When I was in college (in the olden days), the dining halls had a bread table, and on the bread table sat a box of matzah -- presumably left over from Passover and set out until consumed. During my first year, I learned that there were people who actually liked matzah. This was a revelation, as I could not fathom how one could enjoy the taste of cardboard. It turns out that when one does not eat it for 8 days every spring, one can like it. I mean, it still boggles my mind, as I limit my matzah consumption to small amounts on Passover, but still, there's something in there for the psychologists to think about.

A friend recently enlisted my help in a gift project, and to help her, I realized I needed to figure out how to piece certain Hebrew letters, notably the tzadik (above). Rather than make a lonely letter, I decided to make a word -- matzah -- and then make it into a matzah cover. This was timely, since Passover starts tomorrow night. I kept things simple and made white letters and used a blue/green ombre fabric (Marimekko scraps). I wanted the quilting to evoke matzah (which is sort of grid-like in appearance) without sewing over the letters. I tried out some straight-edge free-motion quilting which, I learned, is harder than curvy free-motion work. Or maybe I just need more practice. I like the effect, imperfectly sharp lines and all.

I dug into my scrap bin for the back and played around with some improv curves. I think I might make a bigger quilt with curvy columns. Usually I choose my binding to make a quilt pop, but this time I decided to emphasize the ombre fabric and use it to bind the quilt. It blends along some edges and pops along others. I like it.


A Little Garnish

>> Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Frozen snow adorns the landscape. Lest you think this is a good thing, it is not. It's icy, rigid, and ugly. Also, it's March, and this sort of stubborn snow seems unnecessary. It's time for spring, mud and all. I assume that's why I've developed a regular hankering for radishes. They're sprightly and crunchy and colorful, and the big log pink and green log cabin in the middle of snowy white cotton sort of reminds me of them.

The resemblance is obvious, no? This square started as an scrap-busting coaster project, until I realized I don't really like making fabric coasters. They're small, kind of annoying, and the ratio of time spent to fulfillment is terribly low. So I abandoned that plan, and made a baby quilt instead. One big block, lots of negative space, and some delicate loop quilting, and the ratio of time spent to fulfillment was so much better. I've also developed an appreciation for chartreuse. It's not a color I particularly love or to which I gravitate, but I like it with these bright pinks -- or with turquoise and navy.

This photo session -- which admittedly transpired in January or possibly even late December -- produced an abysmal array of images of the quilt back. Most of them were blurry -- and not in an artsy, fun, instagrammy sort of way. Nevertheless, I'd been looking for the perfect project for this Erin McMorris Wildwood print. It seemed best used as a large slab but pink/grey/chartreuse is not a color combination I'm accustomed to using; thus it sat on the shelf under consideration for several years before nabbing a spot on the back of this quilt. A little light green binding later, the quilt was done and shipped off to northern California where winter is sort of like spring in Michigan.


Recipe: Hamantaschen

>> Thursday, February 21, 2013

Purim is upon us, or will be Saturday night. It's loud, brash, costumed, and carnivalesque. Merriment comes in many forms, including baking, so for those looking to make some traingle-filled-deliciousness, here you go:


1/2 lb. butter (1 cup/2 sticks/16 tbsp*)
2 large eggs
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. flour + more to roll out dough
1 tsp. baking powder

{Be wild! The options are infinite.} Last night I used:
Raspberry Preserves
Blackberry-Pomegranate Jam
Apricot Jelly
{Basically, you want the filling to be thick so it doesn't run. Mohn (poppyseed) is traditional though, truth be told, not my favorite, no matter what the Slate wizards claim.}

1. Combine butter, eggs, and sugar. Mix well.
2. Add flour and baking powder. Mix well. Add more flour as necessary. The dough should be just a slight touch sticky.
3. Place dough in refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350.
5. Roll out dough about 1/8" thick. Cut out circles. (I use a pint glass as a cookie cutter.)
6. Place about a teaspoon of filling in the center. Make triangles -- I find this pinwheel technique (as shown at the bottom of the link) the best for creating secure triangles.
7. Bake for about 13 minutes at 350.
8. Eat, share, enjoy!

*Last night, we decided to make a third batch with 1.75 sticks of butter remaining. They turned out fine, so you can reduce the butter if you so please with little, if any, consequence.


Into the Emerald Woods

>> Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Way back when, in the fall, when there were still yellow leaves dancing in the trees and fluttering on the ground, I had this idea for a quilt series: monochromatic, two-tone, shape-focused quilts. I made one, pulled the fabric for a second, and got stymied for time. But perhaps it will be a series developed over many months, a yearly touchstone of Two Hippos designs. Or it will stay in my head. Which is fine too.

The front yard is currently brown with specks of old snow, maybe even a few remnant piles of white glory. But every fall it gets coated in brilliant yellow, providing the perfect backdrop for a very green quilt (pre-washing -- had to take advantage of the color). For the record, I made this before Pantone selected Emerald as the color of the year, but obviously they read my mind. The particular greens came from my unlabeled stash which means I cannot tell you where to find them. I sort of think one of them was from P&B textiles, but that's all I got. The binding was Moda Orange, I know that.

It started with the medium chevrons, pieced from 5" squares turned into HSTS sewn together into chevrons. At one point, it was all chevrons plus negative space. I liked it but didn't love it. Also, it was a touch small and I was out of the darker green fabric (a regular issue when one quilts from stash and does not plan ahead of time -- it's more fun this way, I promise).

In a quest for movement, I added the line (cue first week of 9th grade geometry and lessons on points and lines. I mostly remember the teacher talking about dots as points and points as lines, beyond that I much preferred algebra to geometry). I considered upping the green quotient with some bright lime, but I held tight to my two-toned vision.

Until the binding, when I auditioned several more greens and, on a lark, some orange. It needed orange. But before I bound, I quilted, in irregularly spaced curvy lines. It's one of my favorite quilting methods (imprecise, fast, crinkle-inducing, and echoed the Mendocino backing fabric -- super soft stuff, that Mendocino line). It was tempting to keep this one, but it was too small for me to use (at about 36"x45") and too large to hang. Instead, it made its way to Chicago and the hands of the young Judah Oliver, whose parents, I happen to know, also adore green.


Winter Star

>> Friday, January 4, 2013

Sometimes the background color is the easiest choice to make. When a friend asked me to make a quilt for her friend's new baby, she suggested something "green or maybe purple, nothing too boyish." I loved this set of color instructions. I toyed with purple and gray (a combination that often pops into my head and maybe one day will make it into a quilt), but I knew green was the way to go, and Moda Dill just felt right (and, um, I had a bunch of it. Practicality plays a role too). The question was what other fabrics to use.

My fabric stash is not wanting for greens, but a lot of them fall more on the blue-green side of the color wheel. Chartreuse, despite its current fashion popularity, rarely made me press click when I viewed it online. But lovely as my aqua-trending stash is, it just didn't feel right. Which surprised me, because I had already decided to use a purple binding, and I thought blue-greens would fit. But then it made sense: green/blue-green/purple completes the rainbow, but walks, rather than sashays, down the runway. Yellow-greens it would have to be. Loosely interpreted (that wood grain is really more yellow, than yellow-green), I settled upon 8 star-worthy choices. I'm not even sure which one is my favorite, and I thought picking a favorite would be easier with a color scheme that I buy less frequently. Except that I think less commonly acquired means more carefully selected. Fabric stashing can be tricky like that.

I shrunk Jeni's Vintage Star Quilt, making it baby, rather than giant, sized. By baby-sized, I mean about 40" square. The 10" piece of Seedpod, with its perfectly matching dark green and wonderfully coordinating yellows, oranges, and light greens, determined the size of the star. That is, I made big HST blocks with 10" squares (9.5" trimmed), which yielded a 36" star. I wanted it to float, so I added 2.5" green borders on all sides.

If there's one animal that predominates in my fabric collection, it's birds. Which is a little funny since I know very little about said creatures. I might be able to identify a robin and a raven, but there my ornithological knowledge ends. When rendered in two-dimensions, however, Joel Dewberry's birds stand apart from Paula Prass' and Laurie Wisbrun's separate from Valorie Wells. Thus the backing brought together a yard of nesting birds with a wide strip of flying ones. Free-motion stippling--with variegated green thread on the front and white thread on the back--holds it all together. Finally, purple edged its way into the binding -- a beautiful Marimekko purple print I picked up over the summer at the Crate & Barrel outlet.


Processing 2012

>> Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I think of 2012 in two halves: the traveling half and the quasi-settled half. Despite a lot of roving dissertation research, I still managed to squeeze in quite a bit of sewing time last year. Not in a diligent, disciplined sort of way, but in an unrestrained, furious sort of way.

And so it is true: I am a binge sewer. The latest example merely illustrates my habitual tendencies: I didn't touch my sewing machine for about a month this fall, from Thanksgiving to late December, and then I pieced and quilted like a madwoman for a few days in late December. I finished three quilts (all of which need to make their way to their new owners before debuting here), I started two quilt projects, and I migrated some design ideas from head to graph paper. Then I cleaned up, hosted friends for New Year's Eve dinner, and crossed back into dissertation-writing (and less sewing) land. That's my way, my pace, my pattern, my flow, and it's not going to change. It's imperfect, but it works.

Likewise,  I've settled into my quilting style; I adore minimalism, negative space, and saturated color. Shapes matter, graphic sensibilities predominate, and color preferences drift between warm and cool. I don't think this will radically change, but it will stew, evolve, and mature. I'm starting to concretize a sartorial style as well. Sewing a dress for myself helped me think more about how garments fit and, most importantly, how I want them to fit. I saw a dress I wanted to make, and when I asked a friend about possible patterns for something comparable, she exclaimed "that is So You!" At which point I realized I know what I like and I can identify what will look good on me (a revelation many have before age 32, but late blooming is blooming nonetheless).

But here's what I don't know: where this style will take me, the views it will show me, the people to whom it will introduce me, the ways it will change me, the ideas it will instill in me, or the possibilities it contains. So given this: to curiosity, discovery, and fresh ways of thinking, doing, working, and living in 2013.


  © Blogger template Autumn Leaves by 2008

Back to TOP