Sunday, May 13, 2018

Well, no wonder I couldn't find my mojo...

When I don't want to sew, I know something is wrong. Feeling jet-lagged and fatigued two weeks after our trip was my indicator. My doctor sent me to the ER, and the ER doc discovered my hemoglobin was way low. I was admitted for 36 hours and received infusions of two pints of blood and a bag of iron. I have a colonoscopy next week to see if there's an internal bleed, and I'm very happy this issue isn't blood-clot related.  I'm also thrilled with my doctors and the LaGrange Hospital.  When I got home, I looked for something easy to do.  This little zip pouch was just the ticket.
Holly found me this terrific cork and zipper. The edges are raw.  Free pattern courtesy of Sew Sweetness.

With this little bit of energy, I have also gone back to the project on my design wall.  I had 12 improv blocks from my ever-growing scrap pile.  But for a usable quilt I need 20 blocks.  I am still finishing the final three.  Attic Windows seems like a great way to feature these blocks.  And I need a new hand project.  So I will work on this block by block, do a bit of machine quilting to get each block into its "window", and then finish each block off with some hand work.  Below are two blocks set into their windows.  The side panel fabric is from New Zealand and features those wonderfully lacy leaves and little hidden kiwi birds. 

This high school graduation quilt has been quilted, bound, and delivered.  It is 90" x 108."  This quilt is the 4th one I have done for Meg, a nurse I met during my first knee replacement way back in 2009.  So now each one of her 4 kids has their own t-shirt quilt.  Meg's daughter is graduating from Fenwick, whose colors are black and white.  Meg let me know that her daughter has been showing this to her friends - great affirmation!
This fabric is going to be turned into a Sloan Bag for my friend Jenny.  I love this fabric and have yet to cut into it.  With black handles and side pockets, I think this will be stunning.  The three fabrics on the side will be used for the lining, accents,  and interior pockets.
And this is how I'm celebrating Mother's Day.  What a gift my mom gave me by teaching me to sew - and giving me her machine!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Wanted: Quilting Mojo

 In the 34 years I taught for the Chicago Public Schools, my biggest issue was always changing gears:  from summer days to back-to-school falls, from Christmas vacation to those dark cold days of January, even returning from Spring Break, even though there were only 10 more weeks of school.  And Life's Rhythm remains the same - it's hard to get back into the swing of things after two weeks in Portugal.  There is only a 6-hour time difference, but that's just enough to mess with me.  The only real sewing I've done in the past week is quilting and binding this charity quilt for the Morgan Park Youth Ministry.  Carol, this is ready for pickup!  It's 72" x 90", all washed, and ready to go!

But what else do I want to do?  First on my list are Arabesque bags - they are simple and useful and one-day projects.  I have had my eye on both of these fabrics above.  The lighter fabric is for the purse lining - purse linings must be light!  

These lovely neutral sandy browns are for a Tudor bag for my friend Melissa.  Tucked under the upper left corner is some dark brown vinyl that she bought - I want to use it for the bottom of the bag.  And of course the lightest fabric is for the inside of the bag.  This Tudor bag will be a little bit taller than the pattern because I know how Melissa uses her totes! 

One of my favorite people is going to India this fall on a pilgrimage of sorts.  For years she has travelled with this Aeroplane bag.  This used to be my favorite bag until I discovered the Sloan.  Jenny's bag is going to be a twin of my bag.  Here's a side by side comparison of the two bags.  All bags mentioned so far today are by Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness.  Her patterns are a dream to follow! 

And my supply of cork is growing.  So is my inspiration.  The two little bags are ones I bought in Portugal.  And I'm thinking carefully about what I want to do with these fabulous shades of cork. 
I don't have a current hand project, so I am eyeing these 12 blocks that are all 12.5" square.  What if I enlarged them using an attic windows approach and then add some hand quilting?  So, thinking...
And last is a charity quilt kit I took home from from my guild, volunteering to quilt and bind it.  More about this project as I get into it. 

The weather has turned warm, there is a massive deconstruction project about to happen across the street, and I'm struggling with compression hose in this hot weather.  But there's a new baby about to emerge into the Thompson family, and everything is blossoming and turning green.  Nice! 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Spring and Summer Plans: Quilts

There are so many fabrics I want to work with and turn into quilts.   I do think - more than anything - the fabrics determine the design of the quilt.  Like so many quilters, I have a constant love affair with fabrics - and my budget doesn't allow me to keep up with everything that I crush on.  However, a good compromise are the precuts that several companies are doing.  For example, there is a collection, Catnip by Gingiber, that has caught my eye despite the name of this collection.  

Look at these variations on black and white and beige.  I love the variation in scale as well as the designs.  These four charm packs and a jelly roll (42 strips of 2.5" fabrics in the same collection) will make something terrific.
Catnip by Gingiber

Another collection I love is Fragile by Zen Chic.  This collection is mostly black and white with a pop of bright yellow and a touch of turquoise.  I used this collection to make a baby quilt for Cristina's new little nephew Helios - look at it here.  I have already started making blocks.  These to the left are 8.5" x 14.5"  A layout could be subway-tile style or a straight stack. A neutral background could be used sparingly to calm down the bright yellow and dotted prints. 

Fragile by Zen Chic

 The third collection of fabrics is also by Zen Chic, German designer Brigitte Heitland. Obviously, I love her eye for design and scale. This fabric line is Modern Background *Luster* and is one I used for my stepdaughter Julie's guest room quilt - see it in this blog post from last August.  Apparently I am not finished handling these fabrics.  In this line its her tasteful use of both the gold and silver metallics as well as  the white/grey/beige/grey/blacks. 

Modern Backgrounds *Luster* by Zen Chic

There is enough of these peppered shot cottons to make a full-size Trip Around the World. 

These are 9.5" blocks in the wonderful collection Aubade by Janet Clare, another favorite designer.  I fell in love with this collection while I was working on a quilt for Cristina.  These blocks could go onto a white, eggshell, or grey background - see the shelf of neutrals below.

So much pretty fabric.  Can't wait to dive into one of these.  

Stay tuned for Part Two - Spring and Summer Plans:  Bags/Purses

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Quilt Finish: Perfect Storm

A quilt starts with inspiration.  And I had only the best - Rossie's Double Plus Good.  It's the quilt that hooked me into the modern movement years ago.  At a Chicago MQO retreat in 2012, sitting across from Mary P, I began to work on wonky crosses just strips of brights against some Kona snow.  I even joined these blocks, only to decide I didn't care for the effect.  So I put it away. 

Meanwhile, I have been accumulating scraps of wool batting left over from various projects and bits of a wonderful Windham backing - it's a wonderful texture thing.  And it dawned on me I could join 4 of these little 8" blocks and make a 15.5" block and that perhaps some handwork would perk these blocks up.  So I began to play and came up with this:

 I had 14 of these blocks and above all wanted to make something useable.  So these blocks became the outer border for 6 additional blocks with no piecing, just handwork.  Like this:

Part of this perfect storm is that I finished the handwork on my sister-in-law Chris's quilt and needed something to stitch.  So these middle circles were just the thing.

I knew all along that I would use Sharon Pederson's reversible technique to join these 20 blocks.  But then of course the dilemma is what fabrics to use.  And that's when my QuiltCon 2018 shoppers - Holly and Sarah - come in.  They bought for me a panel of Yoshiko Jinzenji fabrics, and I instantly knew that it needed to be used for this quilt.  Here's a picture of this panel. 

Here it is:  60" x 75"

Center Detail

detail from the back

I'm so in love with this.  I'm currently machine-quilting a quilt I made for a fund-raiser.  I have invested time and money into this quilt, but I just don't like it.  About that quilt I am saying, "Someone's gonna love it - it's just not gonna be me."  And for this quilt?  I know not everyone will love this quilt, but I sure do.  It's staying in this house!

A quick shout-out to my quilty peeps who are retreating in Racine this weekend - heeeeeeey!  In honor of this retreat I am keeping retreat hours this weekend (which means sewing as soon as I get up).  We're getting ready to leave town, and too many things need to get wrapped up.  Peace out!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Look Who is Home!

Erich at the Sewing Room in Lombard has fixed my mom's Featherweight, the machine that was her wedding present in 1948.  The machine I learned to sew on.  The machine I took to college with me. 
I tripped over the cords in December, and it crashed to the floor, breaking off the bobbin winder among other things.  Because this machine has a cast-iron body, I didn't think it could be fixed.  But Erich?  He did it.  He's been working on my machines since the late 80's.  What a valuable resource he is.  I hereby solemnly swear I will find a better studio location for it!  But getting this machine back, along with the addition of my Brother PQ 1500 means I must get rid of one of my machines.  My Husqvarna Sapphire 830 is officially looking for a new home.  

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Apologies to Sting and the Police...

Every seam I make
Every stitch I take
Every quilt I make
I'll be pressing you.

(next verse courtesy of Sarah Shulman)
Oh can’t you see
You belong to me
My poor hands ache

With every quilt I make!

(repeat chorus)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Design Wall Epiphany

 My quilty friends are the best.  Holly, with help from Sarah S and Melissa, took my money to QuiltCon 2018 and shopped for me.  Holly knows what I like before I even know what I like.  Look at that terrific red print by Brooklyn Mojo. ( I have already ordered more of this fabric.)  And for the past few weeks I've been looking at a collection by Moda called Catnip.  Relax - no cats.  Just a terrific selection of black and white prints.  And Holly gets one (I have since bought more charm packs and one jelly roll of Catnip).
Other booty:  some metal zips, a wonderful blue denim/linen fabric, some great bits of cork fabric in different colors, several terrific prints, a couple of excellent grey textures, a new product Kraft-tex Paper Fabric ("rugged paper that looks and feels like leather but sews/cuts/washes just like fabric").  Seriously.  But what really caught my eye is this panel of fabric that's at the bottom to the left.

This is a yard of fabric by Yoshiko Jinzenji.  Google her for some wonderful images of her Japanese minimalism.  I took a class from her at QuiltCon 2015 - here's a link to that blog entry.  Then I bought some of her fabric, which was all black and white.  This panel that Holly just bought?  Little bits of colors and design - all abstract and whimsical.  So, what to do with this terrific yard?  And I must confess that I have been hoarding the black and white fabrics.  Sometimes pieces are just too beautiful to cut into.

And here comes my epiphany.

 These blocks are 15" square.  And they have each been hand quilted.  There are 14 outer blocks and 6 inner blocks.  But these blocks must now be connected, and I will use the "reversible" quilting method by Sharon Pederson.  I taught this method over 10 years ago - see the blog index for more on this method.  I've been pondering what fabric to use on the front of this quilt.  To use any of the jewel-toned solids from the crosses just seems  too much.  But a light fabric doesn't work for me either.  The answer?  this Yoshiko Jenzenji fabric.  It will be perfect for the front sashing/border for the front of this quilt and perhaps even for the binding.

A word about the back of these blocks. The block backs are all scraps from other quilt backings.  Some of these backs are pieced.  The same goes for the batting.  I had lots of bits of wool batting left over.  Most of these 15" blocks have a pieced wool batting.   I feel good about using these leftover bits.  This quilt will be one I will hold on to.  Note:  the other person in this house walked by this design wall and said, "Meh..."  It's okay.  It really is...  We don't all have to love the same things!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Scrappy WIP, A UFO, A Commision, and a New Machine!

  I started these cross-ish blocks 6 years ago and am finally figuring out what to do with them.  Looking at this picture, it doesn't look like much, does it? But look at the next picture - there's handwork which isn't quite showing up on the big picture.  The outer 14 blocks may need more stitches for texture, but meanwhile I'll work on the big circles in the middle, and see what develops.  The back of these blocks and the batting - all wool - are leftovers from other projects.  And the texture and weight of the quilt will be perfection.   There's no urgency to this project, so I can work on this evenings.  Or whenever.  And I'm still plotting what fabrics to use on the front and back in order to attach these blocks reversible style. 

This Glampalot project from June 2016 is together, and it will be a part of the silent auction for the Morgan Park Youth Ministry annual fundraiser.  As I have said before, somebody is going to love this quilt - it just won't be me.  In preparation for quilting, I made a backing of neutral leftover bits that are getting too old to live.  After a good pressing, I cut all these fabrics into 20" widths and sewed them together.  This backing will work nicely with the front - I'm excited about quilting it!  Since the backing is tall enough, I am putting a narrow green border at the top and bottom - for unity.

 Meanwhile, Nurse Meg - I met her 9 years ago during my knee replacements - needs a t-shirt quilt for her youngest daughter.  We have already done t-shirt quilts for the older 3.  The shirts are together.  Meg has requested black and white for the borders.  So that's the next step.  I want to get this to Terri and Frank for long-arming before we leave for Portugal in April.  Just to make this quilt different from those of her siblings, we are making this big enough for a queen-size bed quilt - 90" x 114"
Here's the really big studio news - there's a new workhorse!  This machine is a Brother PQ 1500 SL.  It is a purely mechanical machine that is FAST (1500 stitches per minute, if anyone is counting) and goes back and forth.  No zigging or zagging.  I was thrilled to get it from Amazon for under $450 because the box had been opened.  Yes, the box had been opened, but the machine was never used and all the parts were there.  It has a knee-lift which I knew I would like.  I didn't know however how much I would love that feature.  We are now friends - upper threading , bobbin winding, needle changing all a piece of cake.  I love how it quilts and I love how it pieces.  And when I go into Warp speed, John can hear it on the first floor!
And this pile?  It's time for period purses! 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

All My Bags are Packed

Baby Trip Around the World - 48" x 60"
  Well, at least the quilts are packed. I'll carry the big one on the plane, and John is packing the baby quilt in his luggage.  I have enjoyed my month of quilting for the Chrisses and am excited to go to Orlando tomorrow.  My nephew Chris T was one of the first kids that I fell in love with.  To go to a baby shower for his wife Andi and hang with my sister and my niece Jen is definitely exciting.  That my sister-in-law Chris will drive me to this venue and that it's so close to her home is even better!

 My sister-in-law Chris's quilt is the biggest one I've ever quilted myself - 104" x 120".  Sometimes, in the middle of a project, I get sick of it or I'm ready to move on to the next project or I just want to get it done.  But this quilt?  I slowly fell in love with it, especially when I decided to do a piano -key border.  I love the two jelly rolls I used - one by Carolyn Friedlander and one by Zen Chic - and how they work together.  I splurged on the backing, a wide backing by Moda that has the nicest and softest feel.  
It's batted with a very light Mountain Mist batting.  Perfect I think for its home in Orlando.  Kona Snow, a great shade of white, is the background for the quilt.  A bit ironic, eh?  Chris and Jerry will no longer have to deal with snow.  And this quilt whispered to me that it needed some handwork.  So there are 12 of these circles stitched at the junction of  four log cabins.   This picture shows the detail from the back.

My sister, soon to be the grandmother of three, put together her Hungry Caterpillar kids' room.  And of course it's charming.  There are still two little doll quilts coming from the leftover fabrics.

 So, now what?  The Caterpillar projects are complete, and the projects for the Chrisses are packed. Here's my trick for getting over the end of a project that I love:  start a new one.  And I've been doing just that for the past week .  At my first Chicago Modern Quilt Guild retreat I was working on a project.  But once I put it together I didn't like it.  So I put it away.   Debbie Pine's November 2017 CMQG meeting about Unfinished Projects really hit home, and this is one of my UFO's.  So after getting it out and thinking and playing, I now have a plan. 

 Seeing these little 8" blocks joined to one another wasn't very interesting to me.  So I took them apart and just let this project sit.  Now?  I've made larger blocks from 4 of these smaller blocks and added some hand quilting.  These blocks are now 15.25" , but I only have 14 of them.  above all, I want this quilt to be a usable size.  What a great design opportunity for some handwork in this middle 6 blocks.  These blocks, once individually quilted, will be joined using Sharon Pederson's reversible method. This quilt is also a great opportunity to use up batting scraps.  Piecing batting is undetectable.  I'm also using scrap bits for the backing.  And yes, I have enough...

Here's to March and Spring!