Sunday, February 25, 2007

My inspiring brother

I am posting about my brother today. He is a very inspiring person, both as an artist (he is a writer and guitar player) and in terms of the perseverance and bravery he has demonstrated in all that he has faced in his life. He has been sick off and on for about 25 years due to a congenital illness (arterial vascular hemangiomas) requiring numerous surgeries over the years, resulting in a permanent traech tube, which causes him untold suffering in his struggle to eat and breathe.
Here is a photo of us from a couple of years ago. (Don't look at my "post-tobagganing hairdo"!!) This is the photo mosaic quilt I made for his birthday based on photos that I took of him writing on the beach. I used Ami Simms photo transfer paper to transfer the photos to fabric. I cut the photos into squares and rectangles, and added in some commercial fabrics that fit the colour scheme and theme of writing. (See blog entry from Jan. 23 where I talked about making a quilt for another one of my favorite people using the same technique). In the border around the centre photo, I wrote (free motion machine quilted) the names of his four favorite poets.
He is quite sick again and I am sending him lots of loving and hopeful thoughts for a quick, non-surgical recovery from his recent symptoms.
My quilting time this weekend has focused on getting myself organized for a quilting retreat (Monday to Wednesday). What to take?? What to take??? How many UFO's can I work on in 3 days? How much sleep do I really need?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More "Connecting Corners" Quilts

In January I wrote about my enjoyment in using the connecting corners piecing technique (see posts from Jan. 14 and 16). This week the students from one of my miniature quiltmaking classes brought in their amazing finished projects (from the previous class in January). I am always so thrilled with the creative ways in which these women interpret each project, through their fabric selections, design ideas, and quilting choices.
In that class, they had a choice of block size and block design based on the connecting corners technique. The smaller scrappy version used a block size of 1 1/4" (unfinished) with corner pieces cut at 7/8"! These are the three finished projects from the quilters who braved the really mini version:

It was a challenging size to work with and didn't they do a great job on their quilts?!?

The larger version used 1 1/2" squares and required more coordination of the fabric colours to form hugs or kisses, whichever they preferred. Again each quilt is unique in terms of colour selection (notice the chocolate kisses in the middle of the bottom row??!?), use of sashing (or not) and in terms of border treatments.

They are beautiful miniature quilts, most of which were finished in time for Valentine's Day. And those that are still "in progress" will be ready for next year's Valentine's celebrations!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Quilts in the mail...finally!

I have finally finished the Strawberry Shortcake quilts for my nieces. The first quilt (on the left) went really quick. With the exception of the backing folding back on one corner, I had no problem and enjoyed working on it. The second quilt (on the right) was a nightmare...really it was the worst quilting experience I have ever had! Even as a beginnner, I never had this much trouble with machine quilting. I could not quilt a 7" block without the thread breaking 2 or 3 times. At first I thought maybe it was the new varigated Coats thread I had I changed the thread. I tried Sulky, Gutermann, Mettler, two types of YLI, and Aurofil. But each of these threads kept breaking. And of course I tried changing the needle. I tried a universal, a microtex sharp, a metallica, a stretch and finally settled on a quilting needle because it felt like it was going through the quilt easier, but the thread was still breaking. Even quilting at a snail's pace didn't keep the thread from breaking. After spending more than a week trying to quilt this thing, I believe the problem was the batting. For the first time I used a "Warm and White" batting, because my regular choice of "Warm and Natural" wasn't available. This was the only thing that was different between the first and second quilts.
I created a new quilting design (photo on the left) since I get bored quilting the same pattern over and over, and it would have been a fun design to work with, if not for the thread shredding problem. On the right is the backing fabric for the second quilt.
I cannot tell you how happy I was to finish the bindings and finally hand the box of quilts over to the post office ! Now...on to more fun and creative projects!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

It's a cold and snowy Valentine's Day here...cold outside, but warm inside! The roses my husband gave me are just beautiful and he even left little treats and cards for the children...he's a keeper!
It started snowing last evening and I was too nervous to drive to guild meeting so I missed out. I spent the evening sewing the binding on the Strawberry Shortcake quilt #2 and will be so happy to get that in the mail to my niece. This second quilt has just been my worst quilting experience ever....I will post more details and photos of the finished quilts soon.
On the left is a photo of the mini quilt that my son is taking to school today for the Grade 6 Valentine's Day raffle. I hope it finds a nice home! My son refused to give Valentine's cards to his classmates as he finds the whole Valentine experience "disgusting"...instead he has chosen to give out gummy tarantulas! He is a character!

I was quite sure they would cancel school today, but schools are open, so early this morning I ventured out to drive the kids to school. This is how my car looked before I started digging it out! Good day to stay inside and quilt!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

More Paper Piecing

I was demonstrating paper piecing at the local Michaels store this afternoon. I picked up a couple of project bags to work on, and one of them was this block from Linda at Paper Panache. This is one of four blocks you could get from her site around the Christmas season. She surprised us by posting different blocks depending on when you downloaded your pattern. Now there is a new block (larger and more complex) posted and I will work on gathering my fabrics and then put everything in a bag for when I have a few minutes to work on a project. People often ask me how I get so many things finished and I am often asked "do you sleep"? Yes...I sleep 8 hours every night, but I do sew or do hand work almost every evening after I put my children to bed. It is often the only time I have to relax and have quiet time to myself. Also I run down to the machine if I have any "found time", even if I only have 5 minutes to spare. It's amazing how much I can accomplish with a few minutes here and there!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ice and Snow

Maybe the icicle fascination is getting out of hand!?! These are some recent photos I took around my neighbourhood. You know it's too cold when your dog refuses to go for a walk! But I still enjoy looking for new icicles...longer spikes, more points in a row, unusual shapes, etc. I like the shot on the right because of the shadow on the wall. And the icicle on the left is getting bigger every day. more photo...from this morning...the ice crystals on the inside of my screen door. They were so beautiful and sparkly but difficult to photograph.
And on to my recent quilting endeavours...after all these years of quilting, I still really enjoy paper piecing and always have a few of those projects on the go. During the Super Bowl I finally sewed the faces on these snowpeople. I had great fun rummaging around in my bead box to find tiny beads that looked coal. This pattern is by Wendy Vosters and it was definately not a beginner project. The blocks were a little tricky to sew (4 separate pieces) but fun to work on.
However, the trickiest blocks to paper piece are those that have multiple pieces (more than 6) with lots of diagonal or partial joins...and when you don't even know what you're sewing! On the right is one of the mystery blocks from one of my favorite paper piecing sites Paper Panache. Every two months or so Linda posts a new (free!) mystery block. I love to select the fabrics, prepare the pieces and leave everything in a baggie beside my machine, so that when I have a little time to work on it, I can pick it up and continue from where I left off. I still have the Christmas block (which is a 6" square) sitting there waiting for me. Fun Fun Fun!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Quilt Rotation

It's time for quilt rotation...every month I change the quilts hanging in my home. I have taken down the January ones and put up the Valentine's theme quilts. This is still one of my old favorites that I called "Heart Patches"...a very simple miniature quilt with 1.5" 9 patch blocks on point, with hand quilted hearts. It is hanging in the dining room.
On the left is another old favorite from my days of block swaps. In the centre are 6" swap blocks
from a Valentine's Day exchange in 1997 and around the outside border are 3" blocks from a "Nine patch Niblets" block exchange in 1998. It took me a long time (years!) to put this wallhanging together and was my first experience with the large range of measurements in the quilting world. A 6" block to one quilter is a 5.5" or 6.5" block to another! I finally figured out to sash the 6" blocks to make them go together, and the 9 patch blocks I just trimmed liberally and made them fit. This quilt is hanging in the living room.
I really learned a lot from my block swapping days in the 90's and it was always lots of fun to get the "squishies" in the mail. I still have lots of blocks sitting around my quilting room...everything from the hourglass and 9 patch block exchanges, to beautiful star blocks. I had to stop participating in the swaps because I just couldn't keep up with using up all the blocks and getting the projects quilted...too many UFO's accumulated.
This week I am starting to plan which projects to take along to a quilting retreat coming up at the end of the month, and I'm sure at least one of those projects will involve using up some of my blocks from internet swaps. At last year's retreat I stressed myself out by setting goals that were too ambitious. I think I took 9 projects to work on, and tried to do some work on each of them. This year I am taking fewer projects and focusing more on the relaxation part of the reatreat. I hope February passes quickly!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Distracted by sparkles

It is very cold these days, with lots of snow to shovel. This was the view looking out my bedroom window. The sun coming out during the day melts the snow on the roof and makes wonderful icicles from the eavestroughs. As I walk the dog every day I admire the wonderful sparkling icicles on the homes around the neighbourhood. It sometimes interferes with my driving too, as I have been known to stop the car to admire icicles!

And inside I am trying to get those flannel quilts done. But it is boring, so I take frequent breaks to work on a teaching sampler for a beaded bindings class I am teaching this semester. These are some of the miniature quilt bindings for which I have either added beads to the binding or used beads for the binding. My favorite book and inspiration is "Beading Basics" by Mari Stori. I made my first beaded binding before I bought this book, and only came up with the idea because I made a quilt that was round, and not knowing how bind a round quilt, I came up with the idea to use beads to finish the edge. Then I found this book and realized my idea was not original at all! Well...I have a few minutes left in the day. I will tuck the kids into bed, walk the dog (and check out the icicles), make some tea, and get out the beading tray!