Friday, June 10, 2011

Moving Day!

I'm moving to a new blog!

Check me out at:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pinwheels in progress

Remember all my half square triangles?

Somewhere between class & work, I have managed to make a little progress.

You know the drill, squares into blocks, blocks into rows, rows into...

a finished top! Well, nearly finished, I'm going to add a border of some sort. I'm thinking just white... but maybe something in the corners. What do you think?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Action! Adventure! Quilting!

My mouth is on fire and my belly is full of som tam and cha yen (spicy papaya salad & Thai iced tea). Pok Pok Noi, a satellite branch of the wildly popular Thai restaurant Pok Pok, has opened up just a 15 min. walk down the street from my apartment. Oh man, it's good stuff! It's about 10 times more expensive than the same food would be in Thailand... but I must admit there's also 100% fewer cockroaches. It was so nice to sit at a table on the sidewalk with my mouth quietly burning as tinny strains of Thai country music poured out from the window beside me. Good times.

Oh, it's nice to be home, and it's nice to have that little taste of nostalgia right up the street, but man my life has been a bit low on action and adventure lately. It's been an ongoing cycle of studying, work, studying, class, studying, laundry, studying, and sleep, occasionally interrupted by an awkward date with an unsuitable gentleman. Livin' la vida aburrida baby!

BUT! That's all about to change. It's summer! Well, it's almost summer, and I've got plans. I decided not to take Spanish 202 this summer, and to just pick it up again in the fall. The up side of this will be a nice long vacation from conjugations, indirect object pronouns and wondering if the table is masculine or feminine. The downside of course will be that when I start classes again I will not remember anything about conjugations, indirect object pronouns, or whether the table is masculine or feminine.

To combat this summer brain-drain I thought I might try to find a Spanish conversation group to meet up with. But last week, an even better opportunity arose. The brother of one of the Spanish teachers at my college came to our class and gave a presentation about Costa Rica... he has a tour agency and organizes educational/cultural tours of Costa Rica for students every year. They stay a few days with local families, spend a day river rafting, take Spanish classes, explore the rain-forest, and visit an indigenous community. Oh yeah... and they spend about half the trip in little cabanas a short walk from white sand beaches on the Caribbean Sea!

I think it took me about 12 seconds to decide that I was going to go. Really all I did was flip through the packet he'd handed out until I found the price, confirmed that it wouldn't put me in debt, then spent the rest of his presentation imagining myself beach-side with an umbrella drink in hand. Yeah. I'm going to Costa Rica this summer. Pura Vida Baby!

I've made peace with the fact that I'm never going to save enough money to be able to buy a house. Travel is a priority in my life and as long as I'm not putting myself in debt to do it, that's what I'll be spending my money on. w00t!

In other news, now that my class is wrapping up, I've started quilting again. Expect a quilting post shortly.

Yay summer!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lots and lots of little squares

I have a love hate relationship with quilting sometimes. At times I really enjoy the mindless & repetitive tasks.... in particular cutting out the pieces and then grouping them by color & size. I love chain piecing, I'll sit there and pin a whole stack of pieces while watching TV then zoom zoom zoom zoom through my sewing machine. Then I snip & stack the pieces, snip & stack, snip & stack. Love it. But then of course at some point in the process I'll realize "good lord, I've got about 25 more steps before I have an actual quilt."

When it comes to handicrafts some people are process oriented -they don't really care how long it takes to finish a particular piece, they just enjoy the process of working on it, and others are product oriented - these are the folks who like to write lists & check things off. I'm probably about about 30% process oriented and 70% product oriented. I enjoy the process up to the point when I'm piecing the top and it starts to get big. Then the desire to have the finished quilt kicks in and I power through to the end.

I'm in the first 30% of my next few quilts at the moment, but don't have much to show yet.

Way back whenever I'd found this "Rachel's Baskets" quilt pattern in a book I think it was called "Relax & Quilt" (pattern by Marti Michell) and wanted to make it for my niece Rachel.

I had a rather healthy stash of calicoes leftover from my first quilt, so I started cutting out little 31/2" squares out of what I had... picked up a few pretty fat quarters and as time went by with this quilt still in the 'someday' stage I'd cut the scraps from my other quilts into 31/2" squares as well.

You can imagine, I ended up with lots and lots and lots of squares. Lots and lots and lots of little squares.

Well 'someday' kept getting pushed back and eventually my little baby niece was much more interested in Hannah Montana than in cutesy, pretty, little girly-girl calicoes. Oh well. I made her another quilt and was left with all these little squares.

Now, I loves me some scrappy quilts, and am currently curled up under my very first calico quilt, but my tastes are changing and I really want to start transitioning my stash more into the batik world. But in order to do that I need to mentally and physically start clearing out some space.

To that end... all these little squares have to go someplace. I've got two ideas in mind.

1. A pink pinwheel quilt... I'm thinking lap-sized (or you know baby-quilt sized if any of my friends would actually have a GIRL for a change - I've made about 9 or 10 baby quilts and all but 1 were for boys!)

2. A calico / white half square triangle quilt something like this one from an appropriately named quilt blog "squares & triangles" :

And to that end I've been making little half square triangles like a mad-woman.

Matching and pinning.

Sewing and snipping.
Flipping and pressing.
Ah... and when you flip 'em and press 'em open you get the wonky little tabs at the corners. I guess I could leave them in, but then the seems would be thicker than necessary... gotta square 'em up.

Snipping and sorting.

So that's what I've been working on. And I'm at the point where I'm getting a weee bit tired of the repetitiveness and thinking "good lord I've got 25 more steps to go!" But I guess it's all part of the process.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Batik Bricks

I finished up Batik Bricks a little while ago.

I didn't do anything fancy with it, just some diagonal quilting, and what is becoming my signature (lazy) straight line quilting in the border. I think it turned out fine. I'm still not okay with the purple, but oh well.

Lesson learned... if I don't love the fabrics, I'm probably not going to love the quilt.

Oh... and in February I finished up this Pirate quilt, and gave it away on Saturday.

Somehow though, I completely forgot to take any pictures of it finished up! I did a thin black inner border, and I can't remember if I did a red outer border... or if I just finished it with red on the back & red binding. Gah... it looked pretty good, can't believe I forgot the finished shot. Oh well.

So I hadn't posted it in February, but it was finished, so that's 3 finished quilts in the first three months of the year. If I keep on this pace, I could conceivably meet the 12 quilts in a year challenge... but I'm not sure how hard I'm going to pursue that.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stand Up

I'm continuing to play around with art quilts although I'm still somewhat uncomfortable using the term "art" to describe anything I've made. Exuberant Color has done a few posts on Journal Quilts and I very much like the idea of using a smaller format to experiment with techniques or color or whatever. So I think I'm going to start doing more Journal Quilts.

The recent earthquake/tsunami/nuclear catastrophe in Japan has really brought me to tears on several occasions. But what has struck me more than anything has been the Japanese people's calm and determined response. There's been no looting or panicked rioting, just a solid resolve to pick up the pieces and move forward through their overwhelming grief. After looking through some editorial cartoons I was inspired to create something of my own to express what's been happening.

It was kinda weird actually, I'd saved a bit of frayed ribbon from a gift for no good reason - but I think it worked well here. Also, months ago I'd experimented with soaking fabric in salt water, then drying it out just to see what happens. Not surprisingly it creates a kind of interesting white crust, which again... seemed pretty appropriate. I put most of this together last night after work and finished it up today. It seems weird to say I like it considering the subject matter... but I am really pleased with it (despite the wonky embroidery), and intend to do more journal quilts in the future.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I'm still here...

and I have actually been quilting. I've just been so dang busy lately with my new job and taking Spanish classes. Between my commute time and class time and homework time, there's just not a lot of time for much else.

But slowly & surely I've been piecing this - Batik Bricks. Originally I'd bought the red & purple fabrics to make a quilt for a friend but when I showed her another batik quilt she told me that she wasn't really a fan. So much for that - I figured I'd just make it for myself. The thing is... I'm not a huge fan of the color combination.

So I'm going to finish this one up, but I don't know what I'm going to do with it. All I know is I've got to stop making quilts for other people. Or at least I need to make a bunch more for me first.

I was reading on another blog a couple weeks ago about quilts as works of arts or as functional pieces... and in the comments there was a split among the quilters, some who want their quilts used and loved and worn to pieces over a lifetime on beds & couches and others who liked to keep their quilts pristine, see them as works of art & display them proudly, or keep them safely tucked away in closets to look at once in a while. Obviously those are the two extremes, and most people are somewhere in the middle. But personally I'm a use 'em to bits kind of quilter.

But I do also like the artistic aspect of quilting and... my personal confession is that sometimes I take out all of my quilts just to look at them. =)

Ok - back to homework now. Tengo mucho tarea.

Monday, January 17, 2011

First FO of the new year!

Thanks go this three-day weekend, I was able to finish up my first quilt of the 2011. Technically I started it in 2010... but it was just a top, all of the quilting & binding took place this year.

As with all the quilts I make, I absolutely love this one. The fabrics make me sooooo happy. Thus, I'm calling it my Happy Batiks quilt. Went with my new favorite quilting technique - wavy diagonal lines. I'm really starting to feel like my quilting is improving.

*Just wanted to add that I want to show this quilt at the Sister's Outdoor Quilt show this summer. I'm also trying to decide if I want to offer it for sale there or not. As I was making it my intention was to try to make this one for sale, but then I got it all finished up and I just love it! Selling a quilt you've made yourself is almost like selling your baby, you know?

If I ever do decide to start selling my quilts, I think the key will be to make two identical quilts at the same time... and keep one for myself!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My quilting heritage

When I visited my family in December my Mom dug out a few quilt tops that she had inherited when her mother passed away and they cleaned out the house. My Mom was never a quilter, she mostly made clothes for us when we were kids, although she did make a few applique pillows and things like that. Now that I'm the quilter in the family, she gave them to me. =)

My Grandma had been a seamstress in a clothing factory, and would use whatever scraps she had to make quilts. I've seen a few of her quilts and to be honest - they're not beautiful. She used polyester or cotton/poly blends because that was what they were making clothes from where she worked. And her eye for color was... well, eccentric I guess. I loved my grandma... I promise, and I'd never want to speak ill of the dead. But her quilts were never meant to be art pieces, they were functional, practical, 'waste-not-want-not' blankets. So forgive me when I warn you that this particular quilt top is ugly as sin.

The blocks themselves are not that bad... a variety of fabrics, mostly men's shirting, cotton & some cotton/poly blends (I'm guessing based on feel and shininess... I'm certainly no expert). It's all machine sewn. And she changed up the orientation of the half square triangles in some of the blocks. Can anyone tell me what these blocks are called? Do they have a pattern name?

The only real 'sin' in this quilt are the fabrics she chose to border the blocks & in the sashing. It feels like a really poor quality cotton, and good lord Grandma... what's with the little red & yellow kids? It really does clash with the blocks. But my Mom said that she thinks Grandma had used the blue and yellow fabrics to make dresses for some of my cousins. So... again, waste not want not.

It's now up to me to finish it up. I've seriously considered un-picking the blocks and using a solid blue for the borders & sashing to remake the top, then to at least preserve Grandma's intent... use the blue 'dancing children' fabric in the backing. But then I showed it to a friend, he argued that, you know - this is the real deal. This is a woman who worked and used what she had available to make something functional, and that I should preserve her choices. It's a strong argument. And honestly, this is one of only two things I have that my Grandma actually made (she was much more of a cook / baker, and what I wouldn't give for one more jar of her currant jam!!). But if I finish it up as is... it's unlikely that I'll actually display it in my home. Whereas if it were just the blocks & a plain blue background, I'd proudly display it on my sofa or bed.

So what do you think? How should I finish it up?

Next up is a top from *her* mother... my Great-Grandmother. And this one is much more in my color palette & taste. I just love this bow-tie pattern.

Looking at the fabrics... they feel like they're all cotton, one of the yellows is a waffle weave, and the sashing fabric is a very loose weave, but they're generally in good shape. The thing that cracks me up is that some of them look *exactly* like some of the reproduction 1930s fabrics that are popular right now. Except, you know, these are most likely *actual* 1930s fabrics!

Unfortunately, as they say on Antiques Roadshow, there are some condition issues. The yellow waffle weave in particular seems to be pulling away from the fabrics it's sewn to. So there are some seams that need repair. Does anyone have any advice for that?

The blocks were hand pieced, and then the yellow sashing was machine sewn on later. I'm wondering if my Great-Grandma did that or if maybe my Grandma inherited the blocks & sewed on the sashing.

Without getting too sappy, I do feel honored to be carrying on the tradition of quilting in my family. Both of these projects will be huge undertakings, and I'm not sure if my skill is quite up to it yet. But at least with the one from my Grandma, I know she would want it finished up and used to pieces. I'm fairly certain that she's the source of my Mother's and my strong practicality gene (if there is such a thing) and she wouldn't want her quilt top just sitting around gathering dust for another generation. The yellow one though... will need a careful hand, so I might hold on to it for a while.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

In with the new...

Happy New Year!!

I know New Year's Resolutions are made to be broken, but there are several things I hope to accomplish this year.

1. Take care of my health.
A few things fall under this one, first get a new doctor. Second, see the optometrist and get new glasses. Third - I'd like to join a gym and get back into swimming. It won't be quite as fun as swimming in the bathwater warm teal blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand, but it will be good for me. I'm also going to give up Dr. Pepper specifically and in general try to cut down on my soda / fast food consumption....limiting it to once a week at the very most.

2. Get in good financial shape.
I'm pretty happy that I've managed to furnish my apartment, start taking classes, and travel a bit while still staying debt-free this year. But I've got virtually nothing in my savings account, and like everyone else's, my IRA took quite a hit in 2009 and won't be recovering any time soon on it's own. So for 2011, I need to start putting a bit more money into savings & investing.

3. Creative aspirations.
I'm pretty happy with the amount of quilting I've been doing, but I really want to step it up a notch. I want to put a quilt in a show this year, most likely Sister's Outdoor Quilt Show. But if I don't finish something up in time for that, I'll aim for a local show.

4. Philanthropy.
The one thing I slacked off on this year as I rebuilt my own life, was giving back to others. So in 2011 I want to start contributing to a charity and try to volunteer a bit too.

5. Take the next few steps on my career path.
It looks like this year will be when I choose a grad program and apply for it. I'm aiming for Fall 2012 admissions... so this will take place in late 2011... but it's still something I'll be working towards.

And that's about it as far as formal goals for 2011. Wish me luck!