Sunday, January 28, 2007

No inspiration this week...only boring quilting!

Didn't I say that I was done with flannel??? For some unknown reason last fall I bought a package of assorted 8" flannel squares, some having Strawberry Shortcake fabrics. At the time of purchase I was thinking...this would make a quick quilt for a baby. Then I started reminiscing about how much my nieces loved Strawberry Shortcake in the early 80's and thinking that they would really love a quilt with these fabrics. I waited for the idea to go away, but it took hold, and I knew I couldn't make a quilt for one niece and not the other, so I had to make two quilts. I remembered my lesson from my previous experiences with shrinking flannel and I prewashed all the squares. After washing, the squares measured 7 1/4". I started to figure out how much more fabric I would need to make two lap size quilts, instead of one crib quilt. Since I had nothing in my stash to match this stuff, I found myself shopping for fabrics to go with, for borders, backings and bindings. Oh brother...I have so many other things on the go, why did I pursue this? I hate when this happens...I get an idea and it won't leave me alone, and I get excited about it, not thinking of how much time it will actually take me! On the right is my sewing machine set up to do the quilting on my dining room table...sorry family, no cooking or eating until the quilt is done!

The older nieces' birthday was on friday. "Your gift is coming" I said to her, "it's not done yet". She is used to me saying things like this and she always says something like it makes the birthday fun last longer knowing she has a package to look forward to. I finished quilting the first one today. I quilted an "all over" pattern trying to make shapes that look like "S" ( for Strawberry Shortcake) which I am trying to show in the photo on the left. The quilt is very heavy with all that thread on all that flannel. I was happy with the striped pink binding fabric that I found. This is a photo of me happily sewing down the binding. You can see the backing fabric that I found and my little quilt-snuggling dog! I was coming around the last corner and found this mess!
The corner of the backing fabric had folded back on itself and I quilted over it. Now I have to decide if I will remove the binding, and rip out the quilting, then requilt and rebind the corner - or leave it. I'm pretty sure I will leave it as it is and sew a label over top! While I tried to calm down about that, I basted the other quilt, so I feel like I am in the home stretch now. The second nieces' birthday is Groundhog you think the quilts will arrive in New Jersey by then?!?!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Inspiring People

At my quilt guild this month we had Sybil Rampen as our guest speaker. I must say that she is one of the best speakers I have ever heard! She was inspiring, her work was unique, she was generous with sharing her ideas, and she was very entertaining. In addition to being an accomplished fibre artist, Sybil is also an author and has written a book called "The Grannies", which I am giving to my Mom for her birthday. She has also written and self published a book of fibre art techniques called "Milkweed Angel" and I have ordered that for myself...let's call it a Valentine's Day present for myself!
After the meeting I was thinking more about sources of inspiration. One of the guild lectures I provide is on my sources of inspiration... I talk about 14 of my most used sources of inspiration, and show the quilts I have made from these sources. Many of the original quilts I have made were inspired by people and special occasions. Such was the occasion at a "big" birthday party for my friend Louise Hopkins...I won't give away just how "big" of a birthday this was! Louise is the person who introduced me to quilting many years ago when we met at the hospital where we were both working....she was an occupational therapist and I was a family therapist on a treatment team. At the time I met her, she was hand quilting a huge log cabin quilt. I loved to hear her talk about her quilting and invited myself over to her house to see that quilt. Louise encouraged me to buy a sewing machine, believing that I could learn to quilt. And because she believed it, I thought it must be true! Having never sewn a thing, I bought a sewing machine! From that day on, I have become more and more addicted to quilting...rarely does a day goes by that I do not work on a quilting or beading project. And because I owe my introduction to quilting to my friend Louise, I wanted to make her something special for her birthday. I started with a photo of her children that she had sent in her Christmas card the year before. I made photo transfers of that photo plus a few other photos I had taken of sunflowers. I added in some of my hand painted fabrics and some textured commercial fabrics, and used one of my favorite designing techniques. I cut a variety of fabrics into squares and rectangles, generating approximately about twice the number that I will actually use. The size of the pieces are based on a 1" finished measurement, so the squares start at 1 1/2" and the rectangles start at 1 1/2" x 2 1/2". For larger wallhangings I cut some of these smaller pieces and then increase the sizes so I have a variety of colours and sizes. Then I organize the pieces in a way that pleases me and sew them together. On quilts as small as this one (7" x 8") I do a minimum of quilting, and this quilt I finished with a two colour binding. There are a lot of things that are symbolic of Louise and her values in this little quilt and although I can see things that I would change now, I still smile when I see this photo and think of all the inspiration and encouragement Louise has given me over the past 17 years. Thanks Louise!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bumped up a generation

I just realized this week that I have been bumped up a generation. I am no longer invited to the weddings and baby showers of my cousins and friends. Now I am being invited to the celebrations of the children of my cousins and friends! How did this happen so quickly?!?! My children would say "You know you're old when...."! Today I feel old. I went to a baby shower to celebrate the birth of my cousin's new grandson. On the right is my cousin's daughter Darcy and her new beautiful son Benjamin. I remember very clearly holding Darcy when she was a newborn and now she is a mother! Of course I had to make a quilt for Benjamin and started by sewing together 6" squares. Then I cut out some shapes (heart, bear, moon, star, bib, block, sun, block and bottle) and buttonhole stitched around the shapes. I love the buttonhole stitch, and although it is faster to do by machine, I still enjoy stitching by hand. Then I quilted using my walking foot and straight stitched in all the seam lines. I hope Benjamin will enjoy napping under his new quilt! I'm going to have a nap now, because I am old and old people need naps too!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

To complain or not to complain!

Thanks to the readers of my blog who have encouraged me by telling me they enjoy reading about my quilting adventures, and those who encourage me by buying me pins to wear about of my quilting students gave me this button which says "I'll be blogging this later"!
I can hardly type tonight because of all the snow shovelling and ice scraping I've been doing lately. I shouldn't complain about it because we have waited so long for winter to arrive this year..but I will! I was on call for the Sunday night shift, and got paged to come in to work in the middle of the ice storm. That meant not only going out in the middle of the night, but scraping layers of ice off the car at 2 am to drive in to work, and then coming out at 5:30 am to scrape the ice off to drive home, and then getting up at 8 am to scrape the car AGAIN to take my daughter to school. I was exhausted and the muscles (or lack thereof) in my arms are protesting all this "non-quilting" type of activity!
But this morning made up for it, even with the sore arms and sleep deprivation! I taught a miniature quilting class and the students brought in their finished projects from December. This was the project they had picked to make a quick and easy Christmas gift. Once again they did a fantastic job of adding their own touches with borders, and embellishments such as ribbons and beads.
And they started their new project of the month using the connecting corners. I gave them two versions to chose from, one based on an this old quilt I taught years ago that I called "Candy Kisses", which uses the connecting corners techniques, with the background fabric on two corners and the "kiss" fabric on the opposite corners . "Candy Kisses" is a lap size quilt and I donated it a couple of years ago to a children's charity. In today's miniature class, the version they were making used an easier and much smaller version having a block size of 2 1/2". Their other layout option was the quilt I showed in Sunday's post (Jan. 14), having a finished block size of .75".
The students were so preoccupied with talking about the weather and winter illnesses that they forgot to complain about the tiny pieces they had to cut for this month! Or do I dare to hope that they actually love it as much as I do?!?!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Connecting Corners

One of my favorite techniques to play with, especially on a miniature scale is "connecting corners". I first tried this technique in the late 90's, when I made a mystery quilt written by Susan Druding called Four Star Square. (Susan attributes this technique to Mary Ellen Hopkins.) On the right is the mystery quilt I made from this pattern. It is a 40" square wallhanging.
Since then I have had lots of fun playing with the technique and have made many miniature quilts over the years using variations of this block...
starting with a square and sewing a triangle on one, two, three or all four corners, then playing with layout designs. Also, by changing the size of the connecting corner, you can get different effects. On the left is a quilt I finished last year called "Flower Children". The flower blocks are made of four petals. Each petal has three white connecting corners and one dark green connecting corner.
Below is a scan of my latest miniature quilt using connecting corners. The blocks are .75" finished and the finished quilt is 6.75" square. (See Dec. 10th blog for photo of some of the pieces sitting on my ruler ready for sewing.) I played with some design ideas on EQ5 until I found this border that I liked. The binding is made from a piece of ribbon.
I am teaching this miniature pattern this week to other miniature enthusiasts, who will hopefully enjoy making their version as much as I enjoyed making mine. However, one of the quilters has already emailed me to say that she has cut the tiny pieces for the class, but instead of calling them squares, she calls them "swears"! I think that means she's not enjoying it so far!!!

Monday, January 08, 2007

"Time of Your Life" - Challenge Quilt

Oh my goodness...I have had quite a frustrating day with Blogger today. I have heard about the problems other people have had, but this is my first experience with it.
I enjoyed the peace and quiet in my house today since the children are back to school. I spent time thinking about my New Years Resolutions/Goals, both personal and quilting related. Two of my quilting goals are: to set aside time once a month to have a "try something new day". I have lots of ideas, but don't give myself to time to just play and experiment. The second goal is to finish the challenges issued in my two online groups - on time!
This is my last quilt of 2006, which was a challenge piece that fit into two of my group themes
1) to make a quilt based on a song and 2) to make an abstract quilt based on the theme of "marriage". I chose a Green Day song that my son likes to play on the guitar called "Time of your life".
Some of my favorite lyrics are:
So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time ...
It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.
In the centre of the quilt I put a photo transfer of our hands/rings on our wedding day, as a symbol of our commitment and enduring bond. Around it I made a "clock" of grey and maroon (colours from our wedding) shapes from light to dark, symbolizing the time that is passing, from our newlywed light and carefree days to our darker days in later life, facing the regular life challenges that everyone has. I machine quilted with Yanmet thread, which is a beautiful thread that I love for machine work. It is sparkly and rarely breaks, no matter how fast I quilt. I had purchased many beads and embellishments for this quilt, but much to my annoyance, the cheeky quilt refused to let me use most of them! It did allow the 12 bicone swarovski crystals around the photo and a simple beaded binding. On the right is a close-up photo of the beaded binding based on an idea from one of my favorite books "Beading Basics" by Mary Stori. The quilt measures 9.5" x 10.5" and will be hanging as part of a group exhibit in Nebraska September 2007.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Years Resolutions

I am getting close to feeling desperate for some quilting time!
For the past week I have been helping my daughter renovate her bedroom. I have always tried to nurture my children's creativity but this week, I realize I may taken this a bit too far! Nothing is straightforward with her...she has a billion ideas for how to do every step of redecorating, most of which involve lots of shopping (ugh!), and piles of money. This is a photo of my daughter, who got up early one morning to paint the 9 drawers on her new storage unit...each drawer a slightly different shade. She looked just like me when I am painting fabric, and she was just as happy!
Tomorrow they go back to school and I get my life back!
In between shopping, painting, and moving furniture, I have been thinking about my New Years Resolutions, reviewing last year's accomplishments and activities, and planning for the coming year. Maybe tomorrow I will have more time to write about that. Right now, I must go and put the new handles on the dresser drawers

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

The celebrations are all over and all that is left now are the memories, the photos taken on my new digital camera (thanks to my husband for the perfect gift) and the big mess! We spent time today trying to make some space in our little house, take down the lights, and put away the decorations. I also have to put away the Christmas quilts, including this wallhanging in the dining room. I made this quilt exactly 10 years ago. My husband's family had rented a lodge in Red Bay and when we arrived we discovered that they had a big fluffy cat at the lodge. Because I am very allergic to cats (can't breathe!) I had to leave the family fun, and head back home. Feeling quite sorry for myself, I thought I would cheer myself up with a brief stop at The Hobby Horse. I found this pattern, bought all the fabrics, and spent the next couple of days piecing the top. Although I missed out on the lodge memories, I sure enjoyed my quiet days sewing by myself! I still enjoy this quilt, even though the quilting leaves much to be desired. The free motion quilting is a disaster...the tension is a mess in most places on the back, and the "motion" is not at all "free" is very spastic, uneven, and bizarre in places! To make things worse, some of the border is quilted, and some is not. It needs more quilting and every year I say I will finish it, but I haven't. Maybe this year!
I almost forgot to write that while I was in New York, I stopped in at the Calico Gals quilt store. It is in an old barn and looks kind of scarey from the front! But inside it is an amazing store created in the barn lofts, having an unparalled collection of Batik fabrics. I bought lots of fabric for my stash and enjoyed visiting with the friendly staff. I almost signed up for a mystery class because the price and fabric bundle was just too irrestible, but the class was already full!