Monday, July 16, 2018

Doing the Math

                      There are 4 Sunset purses.  And there are 4 Navy-Yellow Purses.
 The Design Wall now has 24 purses.  7 are from this Winter.  And 17 have been made this month.  I still have 3 more to go, but then the math isn't even so I might as well do 4 more.  Which equals 28!  And then I can mail them to Washington State where they will be shipped to Zambia.

The hardest part is yet to come:  writing a note of encouragement to put into each purse.  The Sew Powerful staff tell us purse-makers that the girls who receive purses love and treasure these notes.  So, 4 more purses to make, 28 cards to write, and $5 per purse to cover the shipping to Zambia. 

I must do some other tasks before finishing these and the cards.  But it's only July 15! 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Sew Powerful

July is my Sew Powerful month.  This purse initiative and the menstrual hygiene education program is just one aspect of Esther's Farm, which also includes Zambian seamstresses, a soap co-op, farming, and spiritual and educational guidance.  This is my 3rd year sewing purses, and it's important to me and the other 2,000 purse-makers from across the world, including Australia and New Zealand.  My goal is to do 20 this month and get them in the mail.
 This particular purse pattern is fiddly, in my opinion, even though I have made over 50 of them.  There are 11 purse pieces, each of which needs to be interfaced.  That's a lot of steam and heat and labor.  But making these purses is addictive.  Instead of saving special fabrics, I am now using more of them to highlight the purse front flap.  A little dynamic fabric goes a long way. I started with 7 and have done 9 more so far.  Look at the changing design wall in the pictures below!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

End of June Checklist

 Make a Farewell Purse for Dorothy - check.  She's on her way to Florida.  I found this Zippy Purse pattern by Jen Fox Studios.  I'm sure I will make this one again.

 Play with the roll of Kraft-Tex that Sarah and Holly found at QuiltCon 2018 - check.  I like this little tote.  But it's too little.  I'm not sure I like Kraft-Tex, a paper product meant to wear like leather.  At this point I think I'd rather work with more cork.  The beauty of both products that is the edges can remain unfinished. 

  Speaking of which, here's a little zippered pouch made from cork.  It's not lined and went together in less than 30 minutes.  I think I like it.  I need to play with it more.  Under it is a little zip pouch made from the lining of a bag I tried to make with cork.  Between the cork and the Soft and Stable, it just didn't work.  And it's one of my favorite patterns - the Hey Mercedes bag by Sara Lawson. Ive made is several times - look here.  As I deconstructed it, it dawned on me that the lining zip pockets could make a nice little pouch.  And it did!

The last item on my checklist was to reorganize the studio and put things away so that I can devote July to Sew Powerful purses, the menstrual hygiene education program in Zambia.  I'm pleased - and luckily this horribly hot weather has helped - to say that I've gotten started.  My goal is to do 20 purses in July.  So far it's just Jury Duty and a couple of doctor appointments on the schedule.  The picture above shows all the parts necessary for just 2 purses - this pattern isn't an easy one.  But this project is so worthwhile.  Below are 7 purses already finished and just waiting to be mailed.  Look out, July!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

An End Date

 These two Tudors are complete.  I am going to hang onto the multi-colored one for a while.  The other is for my Quilty Melissa.  I love the size of these bags.  In both, in addition to simple inner pockets, there is a sleeve for a water bottle.  Melissa's bag has some faux textured leather on the bottom and lower sides.  It was easier to work with than I anticipated, and I still under Soft and Stable, a foam interfacing, under it.
And here's my new rule:  For every completed new project, I have to do a UFO.  Because - seriously - we all have an end/expiration date.  (Relax - everything is fine - just a reality check).  I found these blue blocks from the Janet Clare line Aubade. I made them at the winter retreat last January.  After putting them on the design wall, I was pretty uninspired.  So then I thought about the disappearing 9-patch.  I sewed 9 blocks together and then center cut them into four blocks.   When I put them together (sew below), meh...

   So then I began to think about separating the blocks, giving them some space to breathe, and putting them on point.  And look!  Now I have some space to do some hand-quilting in the big empty blocks.  I will tuck this away until next winter.  Now?  I can go back to another tote back or two.

 I have a new product that Holly and Sarah got for me at the last QuiltCon - it's a paper fabric for bags and totes.  It is sturdy, can be washed and distressed, and is pretty intriguing.  I can't decide whether to to use Soft and Stable with it as well.  I do know I'm doing another Tudor.  But I am not finished with the faux leather and might start another one - see below.  Or maybe I'll just work on both at once...  And then back to another get the idea...and period purses...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Perfect Quilting Weather

I know what you're thinking:  "Hey, didn't she use that same title for a blog post in the deep midwinter?"  Why, yes.  Yes, I did.  What I love about quilting is that it is an all-weather sport.  Here's the body of niece Molly's quilt. 

It started out like this, and this arrangement was just so uninspiring and static.  These blocks needed, like so many other quilt blocks, some room to breathe and for the design to emerge.  The sashing give this design a 3-d effect, and offsetting the columns also helped.

This is the finished quilt top, ready for the long-arming.  It is 88" x 110"  Her parents are coming for a visit Labor Day, and I am hoping this quilt will make it back with them!
On to the next exciting projects.  On the design wall are ALL the parts for two Tudor bags .  I like this pattern a lot - it's the size of a shopping bag.  Exterior zippered pocket.  Pockets on the inside.  Water bottle holder.  Great straps.  All the hard prep work is  done.  Now,  I just need time to sew.  At least it's perfect sewing weather!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Sloan Travel Bag - complete!

There's a zippered pocket on the front of the bag.
Each outer side has a pocket.
The bag zips shut.
Inside there are 2 zippered pockets and 2 side pockets.  

This Sloan Travel Bag is not an easy pattern.  But when the steps are broken down and taken one at a time, the end result is beautiful and pragmatic.  I have used the one I made myself on a half-dozen overseas trips - it's the ideal carry-on.  My friend Jenny has this bag now.  I was secretly hoping it might be too bright for her.  But she loves it. 

Finishing the Sloan means I can now start Molly's quilt - this is what I have after two hours.  Right now it's just a matter of making the blocks.  Layout will come much later. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Merrily I Sew Along...

*medical update at the end of this post   

Here's the front, back, and sides of a Sloan travel bag for my friend Jenny.  If this fabric turns out to be too bright for her, I will happily carry this bag.  I've had this fabric for a couple of years and love it.  The interior bag, essentially a second bag with zippered pockets and side pockets, is at the sewing table right now.

My niece Molly has been on my list for a while, and we finally found a set of fabrics she likes.  I'm still deciding on design, but I do have a jelly roll (42 strips that are 2.5" by 42), a layer cake ( 40 10.5 x 10.5 squares), and a charm pack (40 5"x5" squares) ready to go! 

The design wall is still hosting these 20 blocks that are all 15.5".   The body of these blocks are from my ever growing stash of blacks, grey, and white - with the obligatory bits of red, of course.  This project is another "quilt as you go" or reversible quilting, the technique I used for this quilt recently (with full credit to Sharon Pederson for this reversible technique.)  I love being able to grab a block and stitch.  Such a sensible way to sew, especially with summer weather. 
Detail from one of the blocks

Detail from another block

Here's a new studio toy.  This tool is to punch holes in leather belts.  But I am hoping to use this to "punch" through multiple layers of fabric so that I can set rivets.  I have tried using a hammer and a punch awl, but it's pretty tricky.  So I am eager to get this out of its plastic casing (which is also always a challenge...). 

A few months ago I bought 75 yards of zipper tape and pulls.  I'm pleased to report that I have successfully used this tape for the interior zippered pockets of the Sloan bag mentioned above.  It's a bit tricky to get the pull onto the tape correctly, but thanks to a tutorial on Google, I know how to do this!

Speaking of Google, I had to Google what my GI doc found during my colonoscopy:  three AVM's which he cauterized.  AVM's are arterio-venous malformations where arteries and veins get all tangled and stem blood flow.  Dr. Lee took care of the three he could see, but there's the possibility there might be more.  So I'll have some more blood tests this summer and see if my hemoglobin rises.  And I'll see Dr. Lee in August for the next step, if there is a next step. 

When I was released from the hospital two weeks ago, I made some Chocolate Chip cookies with a recipe that uses a lot of tahini.  These may be the best cookies ever.  The day after my colonoscopy I made some oatmeal butterscotch cookies.  Both of these cookies came from a place of gratitude.  I thrilled to be alive and feeling good.  (and I shared these cookies - I can't have stuff like this around the house!).  I love my doctors.  Monday is our 36th anniversary - just tons more gratitude.  I'm a lucky and thankful woman.

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!