Monday, February 8, 2016

Bags in Process

Did you see this fabulous Sloan Travel Bag I finished a few weeks ago?  I love how it turned out and decided to use these fabrics I bought in New Zealand last spring to make two more bags.  These fabrics are based on Maori designs, and I was thrilled to find them in Oamaru on the South Island .  This bag is 19" x 15" by 7" and perfect for travel.  But - and this is a pretty big but - it has a lot of parts.  I have spent two days cutting the outer, lining, and interfacings.  There are 7 pockets - 3 with zippers and two with snapping flaps.  The bag itself has a zipper closure.  But here's the other but:  the payoff is a big one.  These bags are designed well (thank you, Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness), absolutely practical,  and meant to last. 
My bolt of Soft and Stable ready for cutting

In some ways purse and bag making is like doing a jigsaw puzzle.  Which fabrics to use and how to use them are part of the fun.  First you have to make the pieces and then you have to figure out how to assemble them.  Good thing I have always liked puzzles! 

A couple of little zip pouches, just to use my machine on these days of cutting and interfacing.  Fellow retired English teacher Carol got the bag with commas.  She was pretty happy with it. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Scrappy Log Cabin in Process

I have scraps.  My scraps have scraps.  Seriously, I have several baskets of scraps.  And every so often I use them.  This project is one of them.  But don't confuse a scrap project with a crap project.  I have done some fabulous things with scraps.  Long-time friends Ed and Marge (John and I taught with Ed at Farragut, and then Ed and I were transferred to Englewood HS together) just bought a home in Wisconsin, and this quilt is for their new place.  Marge likes bright and cheery and is fairly traditional.  So, what a great opportunity to use some of my scraps and revisit what is perhaps my favorite quilt block of all time - the log cabin.  These blocks above have  3" center because I found a stack of blue blocks that were 3.5"   Using 2.5" for the width of each log, the finished block is 11.5" square.  There are 10 blue-yellow, 10 green-blue, and 10 yellow-green blocks.  As I was putting these blocks together, I began to realize that the greens and blues are darker than I intended.  So here's how I first put these blocks on the design wall:

I left two inches between the blocks and auditioned some yellow sashing in the upper left corner and a green floral sashing in the upper right corner.  Sashing would be more work but would also create a bigger quilt.  This arrangement creates a diagonal design - sort of.  Then I began to think about group the blocks to create on-point squares:
Can you see the blue and green clusters?  I can't because the yellow dominates.  So I decided to go with letter the yellows be the star.
At the first QuiltCon in 2014 I heard Heather Grant give a talk about the growth and development of modern quilting, and she observed that the affordable digital camera has been an absolute game changer.  And she's right.  What a luxury it is to be able to look at these design changes and be thoughtful about what I want to do next.

My decision - although I will take a day to let all this percolate - is to go with the first design and use yellow to sash and separate these blocks.  Although I did think about incorporating some purple:
Maybe it's time to get Marge involved in the decision-making...

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Die is Cast

For almost two years I have had three yards of a knit print - Dotted Boulevard, an Art Galley Jungle Avenue knit designed by Sara Lawson.  I even bought some patterns.  But truly I don't know how to work with knits.  When I muttered something about being unsure how to finish knit seams, several friends told me to google and look for tutorials.   A great idea but I haven't done it yet.  Meanwhile, Craftsy had several end-of-the-year sales that were too good to pass up.  And I bought the above - patterns with fabrics.  And seriously, each kit was under $25.  I do want to tackle these, but I haven't had great success with clothing in the past.  And I'm the one who just cut up two jackets and turned them into purses. 

Over the weekend Sara Lawson emailed and asked if I would be a guest blogger at Sew Sweetness in March, evaluating a class of my choice from Craftsy.  I looked at the classes, and - amazing coincidence - there are several involving sewing with knits.  The one that appeals to me the most is Essential Techniques for Sewing Knits.  So, the die is cast. 

My plan for February:
  1. take/watch the class and apply what I've learned to the patterns/kits I bought
  2. document/photograph the process
  3. evaluate the class
  4. write the blog entry in time for the March 7 posting
Ok!  We've got a plan!  

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Turning Jackets into Totes

These are Arabesque purses, a free pattern from Sara Lawson at Sew Sweetness.  It's one of my favorite purse patterns - see the  Index on the right bottom of this blog.  While I would normally use Soft and Stable as the purse base, these purses are actually quilted jackets that I made - look at the December 3, 2007 and the March 17, 2009 blog entries.  The first jacket has traveled with me many times - look at this wonderful picture of me with two Turkish friends in the capital city Ankara.  But these two jackets have just been taking up valuable closet space since I haven't worn either of them in two years. So obviously deconstruction was called for.  This makeover has been very liberating, something I need since I'm gearing up for a new focus in February - more of this soon...
The straps are from the jacket.  So is the Exterior Pocket and the Interior Pocket.
These purses will allow me to continue to enjoy these fabrics in the most utilitarian of ways.
These sleeves will make perfect little zip pouches. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

For Julie

One half of this 98" x 114" quilt
Julie is the middle of my stepchildren, the older of the two girls. She just turned 50, has made some serious life changes, and works very hard. She was out of town a few months ago, and I slept at her house so that hs junior Brandon wouldn't be alone. And I discovered the quilt I made her over 10 years ago was shredding. She was too busy to get involved with selecting fabrics for a new quilt, so I chose for her - a lovely gold, a rich Merlot, and a floral batik. The night I showed her these fabrics for her approval, she was wearing very similar colors.  I've been lukewarm about this quilt, but what changed it all was the quilting.  Terri and Frank of T and F Quilting in Lemont are my long-arm quilters, and I love them.  Terri chose the gold thread, and I asked for a wool batting and this lovely basket weave pantograph.  Frank's tension is always perfect, and the dimension the quilting added was just what this quilt needed.  A word about the back:  I thought of using browns from my stash for the backing, and Julie loved that idea and that this quilt will be reversible. 
 My hope is that this quilt conveys to Julie how much she is loved and how proud her dad and I are of her. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Process Pledge

Kitting Trail Totes with zippers and hardware
Do you know Rossie Hutchinson?  She's from the Ann Arbor area and one of the first who made me aware of modern quilting with her quilt Double Plus Good.  In 2010 Rossie initiated the Process Pledge, urging bloggers to write about the process and not just the finished product.  I try to do that.  And this post is a process post.  The Sloan Bag I just wrote about yesterday had 5 main pattern pieces, each of which needed a lining, an interfacing for the lining, an exterior piece, and Soft and Stable interfacing.  There were 7 pockets, each of which had several pieces.  And then the hardware - 4 D rings, 3 zippers, and the purse feet.  I should have taken a picture of all these various pieces and parts when I was ready to assemble.  Here's what's in process this week.
This quilted jacket has just been sitting in my closet.  Today I cut it apart and am going to turn in into an Arabesque bag, a free pattern from Sara Lawson.  

This is the start of 30 log cabin blocks for friends who just bought a place in Wisconsin.  She likes bright and cheery, and I am working out of my stash and scraps.  The backing might even be from my stash!

 The Chicago Modern Quilt Guild is hosting a Medallion Quilt-A-Long, and I'm using this project as an opportunity to work with my growing stash of scraps in my favorite colorway.  Already I'm excited about this.

In order to make any more Sloan bags or Arabesque or even little zippered bags, I need more zippers.  All I have are some pastels and brights, and I need mostly blacks and reds.  So I ordered from my favorite zipper source, Zipit.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sloan Travel Bag

This is the Sloan Travel Bag by Sara Lawson, and I like this one very much.  Diligent blog readers know that I am crazy about Sara's Aeroplane bag and have made several.   It's been my go-to bag for overnights and weekends.  However, I think the Sloan might be my new favorite.  It's larger than the Aeroplane, and I think it's more practical and larger, especially for plane travel.

There are 7 pockets, enough to keep even the sharpest person confused about where things are - one exterior zipped center, two exterior sides with magnets, two interior sides and two generous zipper interior pockets.

Purse feet in hopes of extending the life of the bag.
The use of Soft and Stable as a base for all exterior pieces along with a lot of Shape Flex interfacing gives this bag a polish and durability.   In fact, this Aeroplane bag to the left has been to Viet Nam twice and washed several times.  I traded this bag to Jenny for nail services.  Recently one of her grandsons caught one of the straps and ripped it.  I was able to fix it, and Jenny will continue for sure to use it.  I love this bag because of the fabric and because she has gotten such great use out of it.  I hope this Sloan bag wears as well!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Two-Week Old To-Do List: a picture-heavy post

One of the many perks of finishing a big quilt, like "My Answer is Yes," is the freedom to work on lots and lots of smaller projects.  This list was made on January 7th in preparation for a sewing weekend.  In high school I had a job in which I was paid by the amount I did - I made minimum wage while my friend Cathy made three times what I did because she was so fast.  Good thing my quilting is not based on speed!

Two more Sew Powerful purses

These nine went in the mail for the 2/1/2016 deadline.  This project is picking up steam, and I think there will be more of these to come!  If you're looking for charity sewing or a good place to donate money, investigate the link above.
I love this Molly Market tote, and I love this combination of fabrics.  I keep giving them away, but only after ensuring that I have the fabrics to make another. 
This was a Scoop Tote by Green Bee was a kitted pattern at Craftsy on sale for $20ish and included 2.5 yards of fabric.  This 'crossword' fabric is a Cotton & Steel quilter's canvas, and I saw it at Quilters Quest for $22/yard.  SCORE!
A zip pouch still waiting to be made...
I'm putting the finishing touches on this Sloan Travel Bag by Sara Lawson.  I like this pattern very much and went to sleep last night thinking of which fabrics I want to use for the next Sloan bag.  More on this once it's finished...
In conclusion, a pretty picture of "My Answer is Yes" in situ.

Monday, January 18, 2016

"My Answer is Yes"

"My Answer is Yes" is my first big finish of 2016 - it is 96" x 108".   I started it in October when my Chicago Modern Quilt Guild had young modern quilt author Amy Garro as our speaker.  Her book is Paper Pieced Modern.  During her lecture/trunk show I struggled with whether paper piecing is a good tool for the modern quilter.  But then I saw her quilt The Bachelor and decided to give this paper-piecing pattern a go. 
This block is one of six paper-pieced blocks that are 12.5" square.  Here's a link to the first block I did and a picture of Amy's suggested layout.   I struggled with what do do with them - whether to incorporate additional fabrics, and what to use as a background. By mid-November the backing arrived (a gorgeous Art Gallery grey with a shimmer of gold), and by the end of the month it was pieced - almost.  By  mid-December it was delivered to Terri and Frank Karls for some custom long-arming.

 Frank took a picture of the quilt, and we talked about how to quilt this.  I loved Amy Garro's pebbles - this linear quilt needs the softening, and I am so pleased with what Frank did.  He did minimal quilting in the six big blocks, so that I could do some hand-quilting in them.

 This is the entire back of the quilt.  This quilt?  It's all about the texture.  The wool batting gives additional definition to all the quilting Frank did. 

 As a modern quilter there are so many tools and techniques available to us.  Did I use paper-piecing in this quilt?  Did I use improv piecing?  Did I use some plain fabric for blocks?  Did I use new fabrics?  Did I use some old fabric?  Did I machine piece?  Did I do some hand quilting?  Did I have the quilt custom long-armed?  Can a modern quilter use paper-piecing and improv quilting in the same quilt?  Can a modern quilting combine long-arming and hand stitching?  Will the results be overwhelming and breathtakingly beautiful?

My Answer Is Yes. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"Thou Hast It All..." *

 In Act III, scene 1 of Macbeth, after Macbeth and his wife have murdered King Duncan and Macbeth is now in line to become king, Banquo says to him:  "Thou hast it now - King, Cawdor, Glamis - all as the weird women promised."  And this is what John has to say about the new tables in my studio.  "Thou hast it all."  And I do!  My favorite handymen of the Handyman Frank organization reworked my flimsy cutting tables and have converted them into these wonderful sturdy work tables.  Both are 36" by 60" - the guys reused the tops of the tables I had.  My contribution was to buy sets of locking casters so that reconfiguring the workspace is a snap.  Above is the 36" by 120" configuration, so important when basting quilting.  Below is  72" by 60".  Notice the shelving.  The top shelf is perfect for tools and project boxes.  The bottom shelf holds rolls of batting and Soft and Stable!  

 My favorite configuration for daily work is this L shape - it allows me to work on both sides of a project, something this left hander finds a necessity.  I'm going to have great fun doing some reorganizating with these shelves.  About Handyman Frank:  brothers who went to the high school at which I taught.  Nice, talented, reasonable.  I for sure recommend them!

 (* The one blip is in this blog title is that I am still losing my hair.  Doctors whom I see professionally and personally agree that my body is still in recovery and healing from the events of August.  But for the most part, I do have it all!)
This just arrived. See?  I truly do have it all...