Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's Time for a Party

I've been away for such a long time! Almost 4 months! So much has happened in that time and it was impossible to maintain any thought pattern long enough to think about a blog post. But what has brought me out of hiding is Michele from  Quilts From My Crayon Box and the big reveal of her famous Modern Mystery Round Robin 2. This was one of those posts I have been looking forward to sharing with you for a very long time. So you can imagine my disappointment when I tell you that my photos that I have been so carefully collecting are gone, gone, gone.  The hard drive died, as well as my backup. I did not make a back up of my back up, and so, all I have to show you are a few stolen photos from some of the other links of my work.

I started out by sending out this center block of appliqued fish.

I asked my team to imagine what they would see on a snorkeling trip off the coral reefs. 

The first one I received to work on was Kim's who made a paper pieced flower grouping.

  I set it on the corner and added freestyle appliqued flowers to make it square again.

 The second one I received was Diane's from England. On hers, I added green triangles set in purple triangles, framed by red triangles.

 The third one I received was Laurel's.  I really enjoyed the jewel tones and found them inspiring.
I added Ohio star sections all the way around.

The fourth quilt I received was Megan's. Something about that a giraffe print in the center got me thinking about Africa. This quilt was beginning to tell a story and I wanted to add a chapter to it. So I appliqued some hard working ladies on the top tending their flock, and on the bottom, I added some what I hoped looked like a wavy Serengeti plains feel to the top.

The last one was Bea's.  I liked one of the borders added near the middle, so I repeated that motif.

Then mine returned home. Now the picture I am showing you here isn't what I received. There was a thick solid blue border in the middle that stopped the flow. I removed it and replaced it with some re-purposed water color wonky log cabin blocks I had and made my block off centered. I really love the intricate work the ladies placed into my top.  It definitely looks like a beautiful, fluid watery adventure. I truly enjoy it!  I plan to enlarge it to a lap size quilt to use during the winter.

Once again, Michele, thank you for your hard work in keeping the swap running smoothly, and special thanks to this crew of quilters who really inspired me to try new colors and techniques.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Maybe We Should Run an Advice Column

Yesterday’s Dear Amy column with the quilting grandma’s letter about her ungrateful son and DIL struck a nerve in so many readers. My post received an increase of 444% hits, and the comments section in the Washington Post’s Lifestyle section received 240 comments. Funny, the comments about the advice given to the quilting grandmother with the ungrateful son trumped the alcoholic boyfriend advice by 240 to 5.  I can’t report on the Chicago Tribune’s comment section because they require me to pay to read their paper and I am a bargain hunting news junkie.
I tallied the comments and wasn’t surprised that most of the readers were in favor of chewing out the son in providing what Zurn coined a teaching moment. That is the mom thing to do. 

What came close behind as advice to the quilting grandma was to let go of any expectations of what they will do with the gift, and don’t give anymore.  A lot of comments recommended she take the quilt back and bring it out when the grandchild came to visit to create a special memory. 

And the most popular lament from gift receivers of handmade goods is actually very good advice to those of us who love giving handmade gifts. Just because we love what we do and what we make doesn’t mean others will. We need to check our egos at the door when selecting a gift and give some thought to whether the recipient would need or want it.   
And my favorite comment of all?
Ye Gods, what was so hideous about that "meaningful" quilt that mom's own son told her to stop - just stop - giving them any gifts whatsoever?

It boggles the imagination. Was it full of sinister clowns? Ducks and guns? Psychotic color schemes. Made of old women's underpants?

Ah yes, sinister clowns and psychotic color schemes. I love the word picture of that one. Stay tuned for news on this blog about an upcoming challenge to design the worst quilt ever. Meanwhile I’ll get the address for this ungrateful son and his wife and we can all send them our meaningful work.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What Do You Mean You Don't Want It?!!?

So this morning, I'm sipping my coffee and indulging in my guilty pleasure - advice columns. I come across Ask Amy, a syndicated advice giver, I think out of Chicago, who answered a letter from a quilter.  I'll let you read it here , but I'll post it below as well.

"DEAR AMY: My 27-year-old son and his wife are expecting our first grandchild this summer. I am over the moon. As a gift for the baby, I made a beautiful, meaningful patchwork quilt.
Not only did I not receive a “thanks” or “I like it,” but I was told that I would need to run any further gifts past them to make sure they would need it. My son went on to say that they do not have a lot of extra space to store blankets.
"This quilt was made with only one thing in mind — showing my grandchild how much I care. How should I handle my feelings of rejection and disappointment? Do I continue to send gifts with the hope that they meet parental approval?
"Or should I send gifts of cash, which I am loath to do? -- Quilter in a Quagmire

"DEAR QUILTER: I can understand how disappointed you must feel, but you have spun this disappointment into a massive dilemma about gift-giving. You might be someone who wraps your considerable positive and powerful feelings into quilts, gifts and other material things. This abundance of kindness can create unintended pressure for a couple who haven’t even become parents yet.

"You should determine to give this new baby the most important thing of all — an easy and loving relationship with you. Nothing further is required."

 Wow. Just wow. I mean, when does abundance of kindness expressed through a quilt equal pressure? In short, Amy's suggestion in handling feelings of rejection and disappointment was to blame the quilter for wanting to show kindness in a way that makes sense to her.  I'm trying to think as I type here, but here's the thing. This guy is her son, who is my own son's age. If his mom is like any of us, then he has to know his mom is an enthusiastic quilter. He should be anticipating that she is going to want to make a quilt for any baby he brings into this world. But to order his mother to run gift ideas past them first? 

Help me, dear readers, She sent a quilt, probably a 36" x 54" baby quilt. She didn't send a treadmill, or a Magic Bullet drink mixer that takes up an entire kitchen cabinet with all of its connectable parts. While I sympathize with the space dilemma a young couple starting a family might face as this is a common scenario that so many of us go through, his answer made no logical sense. He and his wife will find out soon enough that babies  will take up more space than they will ever have, even if they live in a mansion. I think his answer reflects a painful underlying dynamic here, and that is why this good quilter feels so rejected.

So I ask you - have you ever given a gift where you spent considerable amount of time and  maybe money only to have it so summarily rejected the way this son rejected his mother's gift? If you were to give this good woman advice, what would you suggest she do to overcome her feelings of rejection? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Such a Busy Month

I was always the kind of student who could find anything more important to do right when I should be writing a paper or cramming for an exam. And I'm finding the same to be true now, especially since I made a commitment to learn FMQ, in order to finish 2 major projects.

But to free up my time, I have to free up my mind, which means knocking off my list those little chores that nag at me.  In my sewing room, I had a basket on my table that was overflowing with scraps. For some reason, I feel I can't move forward until I deal with them. I divided them up into 3 categories last weekend.
1. Pieces big enough to do something with, (wider than 2.5")
2. Pieces too small to do something with but too big to throw away, (> 1", < 2.5")
3. Pieces too small to do something with, but could be used to make applique circles (>.75", <1").
4. Throw away.

I then spent some more time shoving category 2 into separate jars according to color.  It seems that blue is a major color for me. I needed 3 jars for blue, dark, medium and light.
I spend about 1/2 hour in the morning before leaving for work doing something in the sewing room. This week, I've been grabbing a jar and making crumb blocks out of those pieces. So far, I have 2 blocks done. The white one is 9x12" and the green is a 9x10" polygon.

When I get these done, I don't know if I'll be any closer to starting to free motion quilt, and then I received an invitation from my good friend from Spilling Energy to learn with her Free Motion Quilting during one of our play dates. Yes! Now I can get started.

I've also finished up a number of other tasks on my conscience, but I can't share photos since they are surprises. I mailed out this week my contribution to Kim O'Donnell's block for the Modern Mystery Round Robin 2013, and I mailed to Moscow the embroidery challenge Masha is hosting at autumn-colors-sew-along.

And 2 nights a week, I hand quilt on Laura's quilt, since it is high time that project is finished off as well.

And to finish up some business, the winner of the Fairmount Park Table Runner giveaway is Holly Zurn! I can't wait to see how she uses that fabric.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quilt U Be Mine Big Reveal

Happy Valentine's Day!

Last October I entered in another one of Michele's Round Robin Swaps with a little trepidation. This round robin was only 4 months long, and it required each participant to add on 2 borders up to 6" in width before sending it on to the next participant. This was a big commitment to enter right before the holidays. But I agreed. I was in the middle of designing my first block when Hurricane Sandy hit, which totally threw my schedule off balance. But my teammates were very gracious and understanding ladies and and did beautiful work on my block even though I had sent it out 2 weeks late.

In mid November, I sent out my 8" starter block.

I received from Rachell  in Utah her center block.

I wanted to play with the rhythmic flow the center hearts gave and added the applique tulips and the dancing squares. Here is a closeup of the machine applique.

In December, I received from Michele, Rachel's block from California.
Michele took the center block and tilted it a bit which created a waving movement. I wanted to repeat the polka dots somewhat, so I made log cabin blocks with white centers then appliqued dots on top of the top border.

In January, I received Michele's block. I broke the rules a bit with hers. I made my border additions wider than 6" so I could play with my new Dresden ruler.  I also added applique birds and flowers to give it a Pennsylvania Dutch feel to it. I knew that Michele has plans to attend the Lancaster, PA quilt show in March. Then to make the Dresden plates fit the quilt, I added another border at the bottom. Not sure what that design is called, I quickly sketched it out on graph paper.

 Here are close ups of the applique and half Dresden plates.

 At the end of January, I received my little block back, and my, how it has fattened up!  I love it. I haven't done much to it other than add a leftover applique bird to the center pink border, but I like how the different shades of red make the eye dance. It will be fun to add on to this one more to make it into a lap sized quilt. The borders were carefully constructed, and the color balance is very playful. A very fun combination. Thank you to Rachell, Rachel and Michele for not only putting such careful thought into their additions, but also for sending me their tops on time, giving me plenty of time to construct complex additions. I was able to test new skills, new rulers and border designs. A wonderful experience!

Thanks again to Michele for coordinating, or more accurately, corralling such a diverse group of quilters into keeping deadlines and doubling up on the border additions each month. I invite you to go to her website, Quilts from My Crayon Box, to see the links to all of the other finishes.  They are stunners!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review - Log Cabin Quilt ebook by Fons & Porter

Eric Woolf, the Online Media Coordinator for Fons & Porter, asked me to write a review for their latest eBook, Build Your Best Log Cabin - Free Log Cabin Quilt Patterns You can access it here for free.
The book was 24 pages long and focused on three log cabin designs, the Traditional, Courthouse Steps, and the Chevron.Each pattern type came with beautiful photos, basic instructions, and a really nice cutting chart to accommodate a variety of finished quilt sizes.

A very important yet often overlooked detail in pattern instructions, finished size proportions, were provided for both the finished quilt as well as the finished block. Each project was also labelled with a project rating of either easy, intermediate or challenging. To finish up the details, each project also provided a list of material requirements to complete the suggested color layout.

I've sewn log cabin quilts in the past. My first one was a traditional block created to insulate a drafty door in an ancient building we lived in while stationed in Germany. The second one was the courthouse steps pattern which I gave to my father years ago. So to test the instructions in this book, I chose this time the Chevron Log Cabin.
There was a pattern for a doll size quilt to represent the chevron pattern, but I focused instead on the sample picture provided and tested the size chart. For my blocks, I chose the smallest size, 4 1/2 inches, with a strip width of only 1". Silly me, I thought that if the blocks were smaller and narrower, the project would go faster. Wrong. If anything, working with such tiny pieces of fabric made the process longer. There is no room for error in a tiny block. One tip I did pick up on was in the margins of the book. Their quick tip was to line a pizza box with a piece of batting to hold the strips without them sliding around. I tried that using a flat plastic box I had on hand and it worked!

The chevron block I made consisted of 8 strip sets, a total of 17 pieces per 4 1/2" block. I cut out the pieces exactly as instructed per the size chart. Here is where I would add a suggestion in the book. While the size chart depicts the width, the quilter should cut the strips a a 1/2" longer than the required length. So many variables are present that the book cannot account for to ensure accurate quilting. Besides sewing an accurate 1/4" seam using accurately cut strips of fabric, other variables would be the tension of either the top thread or the bobbin thread, whether a sewing machine needs a tune up, or in my case stopping and starting in the middle of sewing a block to answer a phone call or tend to a sickly daughter can also play a significant role in the finished results. As you can see, by the time I got to the end of each row, there wasn't quite enough fabric to stretch to the end. The technique I normally would use is to use a piece a little longer than needed then have a little extra to block and trim at each strip for more successful results.

I can fix this for the most part through blocking or resewing, and although it isn't quite done yet, I wanted to show you the chevron blocks so far. My plans are to turn this into a pillow cover.

The last section of the book included instructions on how to add piping to the binding and how to create binding with no lumps. I enjoyed this book and found it to be a well written primer for a very popular and versatile pattern.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Giveaway Reminder for Lonni Rossi Fairmount Park Collection

I just wanted to remind you again of my blogiversary giveaway I am hosting this week. Follow this link and leave a comment to enter your chance to win this beautiful collection of Lonni Rossi Fairmount Park fabrics along with instructions in this kit to make a gorgeous table runner. 

Enter here and leave a comment!