Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Do you have any quilting needs?

This is the question I have often asked my two grandsons, and they always answer with a sly smile and a no.  Last weekend granddaughter Natalie, a senior at Crystal Lake Central HS, said she needed a quilt and would I be willing to make her one.  Would I?
WOULD I?  OMG, this is what I live for!  Nat showed me her newly-painted bedroom.  We talked about design, and she wants something low volume.  So I went home, searched through some on my on-line stores, and ordered what you see on the left.  This background?  I love.  But I don't know if Natalie will. The background is faded bits of maps and texts.

But now to complicate things, look what I found in my stash - darker shades of the colors in Nat's bedroom and a different background.  I'm not quilt sure how to describe it except it's neutral and low volume.  I would prefer to not work with a solid light background, and I need to see if Nat is ok with this.

So here are all the possibilities for this quilt.  Natalie, which background do you prefer?  And do you want just the fabrics I initially ordered - the ones that closest match your bedroom?  Or may I just some of the darker shades - in a minimal fashion - in the quilt?  This quilt is all about you! So get back to me on these two issues, and then I can get started.  And you can stop reading now because what follows is just some studio babblings.  I just finished two big quilts - Cristina's and Julie's (which is so big I took it to Terri and Frank for longarming).  And the studio is out of control.  So yesterday I looked at piles, some various UFO's, and am in the middle of a clean- up.

For instance, I found this nappping quilt.  I had done all the rows but they weren't sewn together.  So I sewed them.  This will be 60"ish by 80"ish.  I'm deciding whether to use the paper airplane fabric or the notebook paper fabric for an outer border. Look at  Paper Obsessed, a line of fabrics that I love.  The blocks on this quilt are all 8.5" by 11".  And each block has something to do with notebooks or writing or computer or text.  Because this quilt is smallish, I am going to quilt it and gift it to my sister - it will be perfect for her grandchildren.
The pile on the card table

The piles on the cutting table.  I gave away a Tudor Bag that I love, so I am going to make another.

 July was going to be my month to sew for Sew Powerful and make "period purses" for young ladies in Zambia.  But shingles threw my rhythm off.  I will do some purses but perhaps not until late August or September.  Guildster Danni was cleaning out her stash and wanted to get rid of cotton webbing, which I think is perfect for these purses.  But now - where to store this?  Meanwhile, I'm happy to be sewing and feeling good.  As my friend Bill Stearman often says, "Life is good." 
My scraps have scraps.

And here's that lovely pile of fabrics that Mimi gave me in April.

Yes, another pile.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Quilt For Cristina

"She smote the ground and a quilt appeared." No, of course that's not how it happens. There is so much thought that goes into the design and execution of any creative project. And when that project is for someone special, every part of the creative process becomes even more deliberate. For years I have coached my little neighbor Cristina in quilting. She started as a 7th grader and knocked out her first quilt. She had the knack of going to my fabric cabinets and sniffing out my best and most prized fabrics. But then she would do such neat things with them! Check out the index of my blog under "Cristina" for various bits of history. One summer during high school she came down and helped me with a little workshop for my granddaughter and one of her friends. During Cris's senior year of high school she and her friend Katia both made Trips Around the World. Cristina now has a degree in fine arts from Iowa State and also has a certificate in Graphic Design. Her eye has always scared me a bit because mine is so unsophisticated. While she was getting her Graphic Arts certificate, she lived at her parents' home and came down here to make a couple of quilts. One of the quilts she did had this Moroccan Tile vibe, and I could tell she really liked this sort of aesthetic.

Janet Clare designed Aubade:  A Song to the Dawn, a beautiful line of fabrics.  And I was in love.  I bought a jelly roll and a mini-charm pack.  Along with a neutral background and a darker background, I knew I wanted to use these in a quilt for Cristina.  But here's where it gets tricky.  For years I've been suggesting Cristina go improv and do interesting things - things like negative space and varying scale.  So I knew I couldn't do just any old thing for Cristina's quilt.  While I have coached her with her quilt-making and maybe helped finish a quilt or two and have made her various little bags and totes, I have never - in our 15-year friendship - made her a quilt.

This was the first designs. I like how the blocks are of varying scale and thought that a navy might make a great sashing.  But not for Cris - she has a lighter eye.  And despite the varying scale, this design left me cold.

And then I remembered a picture I cut out from the Keepsake Quilting catalogue.  I like the visual interest of connecting blocks to one another, almost like game pieces.  And the design for Cristina's quilt began to take shape.  I didn't want it to be matchy-matchy, and I think the varying scale of the blocks and the little connector bits helped with that.
The back of the quilt
Cristina is a ditherer. Wait - there's a better way to say that: she is deliberate. I am not. I have my mother's subway efficiency - I get things done but they may not always be the most attractive. As Cristina was "dithering" over some part of the design process, I would be on the other side of the studio muttering things like: Just get it done! Be bloody, bold, and resolute.And so now I had to take my own advice.  The front of the quilt is pretty tame - I love it and I think Cristina's will, too.  But it's tame.  So I wanted the back to be improv-ish.  And I love how it turned out. 
The quilt and its various layers on the basting table.

The quilting is all straight-line with a walking foot.  This part of the process is one I find very satisfying.  Every line of stitching is soothing.
Despite our 41-year age difference, we both enjoy our friendship with one another.  Her move out of the neighborhood to Pilsen marks a definite change and end of an era.  She has her own studio and workspace (really, her loft is terrific), she has a big-girl job, and she has a rock-solid boyfriend.  This quilt celebrates Cristina's full entry into adulthood and marks the end of a very special time in our lives.  There are very few people I love more than Cristina.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Picture, Just Pictures

A Quilt of Bicycling T-Shirts representing lots of miles and a couple of injuries and a lot of fun

The Quilt I've been working on for Cristina is finally basted and ready for quilting, a process I enjoy despite the size of this quilt.  All the quilt wrestling will pay off.  I'll post this quilt when it's finished along with the story behind it.

These fabrics just joined the others.  No specific plans, but I sure do like them.

Little neighbor Kate is working on this for her father.  These are blocks her grandmother did, probably in the 70's or 80's.  Her dad found them after his mother died.  Kate took them and said, "I bet Donna would like these."  Her dad agreed.  But Kate instead is working on this for him.  The four corners will be filled in by some crazy-pieced blocks.  See below.

Medical note: my shingles are gone but the nerve pain/burning continues. Pretty annoying but not debilitating. Glad to be sewing again!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A June Blur

What happened to the month?  Seriously, it's almost over!  The month started with a liquid diet after my esophagael POEM procedure.  Then I graduated to a full-liquid diet.  And before I could get back to the doctor for my post-op appointment, I developed Shingles (yes, I had the vaccine).  So my best-laid sewing plans have been derailed.  Today has been my first "normal" day in two weeks - and I must quickly add I am still on drugs.  These little lightning shots coursing through my abdomen are more than annoying.  Did you know I used to quilt?  So here's a little bit of eye candy for June, starting with the two graduation quilt recipients.  Thanks to mom Janice!

The HS graduation quilt
The June college graduation quilt. 

I was all set to turn this into a duffel bag but wanted to change the dimensions of an existing pattern.  Quilty Holly pointed out that doing this sort of thing on drugs might not be the best idea.  
These fabrics are the backing for...

this quilt.  It's for Cristina.
Tools of the trade - gloves, safety pins, grapefruit spoon.  It's what works.

This t-shirt quilt is all pin-basted and ready to quilt
Julie's "going-away" quilt - the batting is even acclimating.  Just have to quilt it...    

July was going to be my sew-for-charity month - for SewPowerful.Org.  It still will be.  But I may not get started until mid-month...  Life is a constant readjustment.  Let me end with some gratitude:

  • I'm thankful my shingles weren't in my eyes.  That really looks uncomfortable.
  • I'm thankful for the LaGrange Hospital Emergency Room - I was in and out Monday, June 12, in less than 3 hours, complete with antivirals, opioids, and steroids.  
  • I'm thankful for John - he continues to be attentive to every need.
  • I'm thankful for the medical expertise of my sister and brother-in-law - they again were there with their support the past few weeks.
  • I'm thankful for my GI surgeon - this POEM procedure seems to be successful!
  • I'm thankful that I feel like sewing and doing something other than sitting!  
Here's to a normal July!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Good Remembrances of Things Past

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with quilting and contains not-so-great photos

The American Cemetery in Normandy
My tradition on Memorial Day was to call my dad and brightly chirp "I remember you!"  He was one of the lucky World Ward II vets who returned home.  Just recently in Normandy and last year at the American Cemetery in Luxembourg and in so many other ways, we are reminded of the greatest generation and how so many lives were sacrificed.  So very sobering.  The purpose of our recent trip to France was so that John could see the Normandy Beaches and for me to see the Bayeux Tapestry.  But the beauty of this trip was that it was a constant reminder of our trip to France with my parents in 2003.

My dad and Claudia at a private salon, 2003
My parents were lucky in that they lived long and full lives.  But their decline at the end was difficult to witness.  They went from vibrancy and independence and lives of service to total dependence for daily living. After they died within 6 moths of one another, I remember asking someone how long would it take to get the images of their end days out of my mind and be able to remember them as they once were.  And this recent trip to Paris?  It has made me remember they as they were.  I felt like they were on this trip with John and me - in the best of ways.  There was a srolling accordionist at one of our dinners in Paris, and he played my dad's entire repertoire, with the exception of a tango, which I requested and he played.

Evening river cruise on the Seine

In 2003 my dad had a chance to accompany Claudia Hommel, a Chicago-based singer who specialized in French songs. I celebrated my 53rd birthday on the flight over to Paris in 2003.  This means John was 63, my mom was 75, and my dad was 78.  And to put these numbers into perspective, I am now 67 and John is 77.

My mom was so frail and so small and so blank for her last years.  So to see this picture from our trip 14 years ago is joyous.  We were in the Luxembourg Gardens having hot chocolate while my dad and John went to the Louvre.  When John and I arrived in Paris two weeks ago, our hotel room wasn't ready so we went out for a walk - and there we were:  right by the Luxembourg Gardens.

A truly memorable event on the 2003 trip was returning to Paris from the Dordogne on a train that broke down.  We had to wait 45 minutes for another engine.  So what did my dad and Claudia do?  They performed.  A few left the train car, but several more came in.  And my mom muttered - with Claudia translating for those around her -  "Ive been married to this man for over 50 years.  He's played gypsy funerals, Easter Bunny breakfasts, wedding, bar mitzvahs, but this is the first broken train. "

We spent an afternoon at Giverney, and it was delightful.  There is beauty in an autumn garden, and I recall that we pretty much had the gardens and Monet's house to ourselves.  But just recently in Giverney we encountered a mob scene.  Granted, the gardens were gorgeous and in full bloom.  And everyone was there.  90% of them had selfie sticks - pretty annoying.  What a contrast from October 2003 to May 2017!

The last time I saw Paris?  It was good.  Very good.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Back in the Groove, Sort of...

Jet lag is real.Even though there's only a 7 hour time difference between Chicago and Paris, we felt it.  The first day home I tried to pay for a Starbucks with my driver's license, which I grabbed before walking to town.  Luckily, the people in that shop know me and let me have my drink on credit.  Knowing I wouldn't be at my sharpest, I purposely left two projects which require lots of repetitive sewing.  This is a jelly roll set of fabric from Janet Clare's Aubade line my Moda.  These fabrics have a softness that remind me of Cristina, the young lady who has been quiting with me for 14 years.  While she has made several quilts - including quilts for others - in my studio.
 In all these years I have never made Cristina a quilt.  She has earned for BFA from Iowa and her Graphic Design certificate from COD and is living in her first apartment, a terrific loft in Pilson.  So this quilt is for her.  These are just the building blocks so far.  It's a special pressure doing something for someone with such a strong sense of design.  But I am going to pull out all the tricks I've taught her over the years and combine them with what she has taught me.

Julie's quilt is still on the floor.  It needs some borders so that it can be used as a bed quilt.  And I think I am going to make her some matching pillow cases.  I am intending this quilt to be light and airy and a nice contrast from the last quilt I made her.  With both of these quilts, I have loved touching all these fabrics but don't necessarily want them in my house.  So it's good to make these for people I love.
The only significance of this picture is the upper narrow shelf.  It has five sets of fabric that I am eager to turn into purses or totes.  But not right now...

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Leaving the Country and Coming Home to Medical Procedure

It's always a stress - albeit a good one - in getting ready to leave the country.  The "what if..." is always present.  So I'm trying to wrap things up before we head to Paris, Normandy, and the Loire Valley this Saturday.  What I worked hard to complete are two t-shirt quilts:

These quilts are for siblings.  Both went to St. Xavier for elementary school and Lyons Township for high school.  The red and yellow one is for the one who is graduating from Iowa State.  Now, all three of Janice's children have t-shirt quilts that will last their lifetimes.

This quilt is in 8 columns on the design wall.  I am hoping to get this into one piece before we leave.  John's middle child Julie is moving to Atlanta in August.  We are going to miss her dreadfully.  Somehow making this quilt is assuaging these feelings a bit, and we will just have to visit her often - and sleep under this quilt.  Her son Ryan, our oldest grandchild, just graduated from Ball State last weekend.  Ryan's brother Brandon is graduating from Lyons Township this month - he's heading to Colorado State.  And grandson Jack Mo is graduating this month, too - he's college-bound but I haven't heard his decision yet.  Big changes for our family!

At the recent Chicago MQG retreat in Racine, after making the blocks for Julie's quilt, I played - in 3-D.  I love quilts because they are flat.  So doing something dimensional is challenging for me.  Luckily, guildsters Melissa, Eileen, and Holly were there for some hand-holding. Sarah E just didn't seem to have the same issues I did.  I think I will try these patterns again.  Both require separating zippers, but these patterns are great fun.

And I tried - or am still trying - to redeem this retreat project from years ago.  I made additional blocks and now am pondering whether I want to sew them together and sub cut them or - ....

As often as I try to put these fabrics and these straps and this zipper and this pattern away, they all keep making their way back into a pile.  So this means a new duffel or tote pretty soon. 

The medical procedure is a GI one - my lower esophageal sphincter isn't working correctly.  My local GI referred me to Northwestern, and the Northwestern docs say this issue needs treatment.  I think it will be a minor one, but it's still surgery and I am figuring out - thanks to the Interventional Radiologists who worked wonders on me two years ago - the whole blood thinning issue and what to take to "bridge" the blood thinning while I stop my regular medication.  I am thrilled to have good insurance and some many terrific doctors.  And best of all?  One of my quilties, Holly, works at Northwestern and is terrific at hand-holding!

Recuperation will involved a one-night hospital stay and then a week of liquids and a week of stuff through straws.  Since I won't be able to focus on food, I can see a lot of sewing in my future the first 2 weeks of June.  A good thing...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

UFO, Inspiration, Design, and Retreats

 What a lovely spring it's been - perfect for walking and little road trips and a weekend getaway.   It's been a good time to finish a couple of small projects.  The red cork Hey Mercedes is something I started at the Fall Retreat in Racine.  I love this purse style, but it's not the best application of this terrific cork fabric.  Luckily, I lined it in a similar color to the cork.  I am working up my courage to do some top stitching.  And then this purse will be complete.

I quilted this cork fabric to the Soft and Stable interfacing. 
This gusset is such an important design element.  I am hoping with use that these pieces will fit together a bit better. Perhaps I could have done a better job of trimming and clipping.  Next time...
  This is another Sarah Lawson pattern, a Tudor bag. I've been wanting to make this bag for a while. The top picture shows the difference between the Sloan bag (my favorite for weekends) and the Tudor, which is perfect as a tote.  I took out some of the design elements because this fabric has such a great features.  There's an outer zip pocket, two inner pockets, and an inner sleeve to hold a water bottle.  There's a twin to this bag (it was my prototype) and now belongs my friend Jenny.  Same fabric, but different lining and handles.

My handymen were here, covering my design wall with gridded flannel fabric.  This fabric was something guildster Dani M was working with at the last retreat.  She graciously went shopping for me.  And it's only taken 6 months to get it on the wall.  I love it.  

At last Sunday's guild meeting one member showed these wonderful little boxes.  I was so taken by these that I totally forgot who brought them.  But I found the pattern and bought it - this will be on deck for the retreat.  I hope to make three and have zippers and infacing for Melissa and Eileen.

Here's a UFO that is so old..."How old is it?"  Well, it's so old that I was working on it at a retreat sitting across from Mary P, she who was our Chicago MQG president 2010-2011 and has been living in Texas for the past 4 years.   At last Sunday's meeting I was sitting with Melissa, and she had a couple of ideas for what to do with scraps, and one of them was for this pattern.  It uses cross-cut blocks.  And this made me go home and get out these blocks.  I have perhaps 60 of them and fabric for me.  When I was working on this, I had in mind Rossie H's Double Plus Good quilt.  But then I became disenchanted with what I was making.  Perhaps my crosses weren't wonky enough, and I think my insert strips were too wide. 
So I am trying to make the inserts narrower. This weekend might be the right time to redeem these blocks and make something functional.    The above tutorial from The Quilter's Table involves making blocks, sewing them together, and then cross-cutting them.  So, I'm thinking...
The other possibility for retreat sewing is taking a jelly roll of fabulous metallics  - Modern Backgrounds "Luster" by Zen Chic.  Two strips make 2 blocks.  With an outer border these blocks are 10" x 16".  Sometimes to make the best of sewing time at a retreat, a simple repetitive task is just the answer.  Also, to be absolutely honest, I just like touching these fabrics.  The picture below has the strips in pairs.  I just need to cut and pack them.

Going to the Siena Center in Racine is a privilege.  I'm taking with me a quilt to donate - Sister Claire will know what to do with it.