August 31, 2012

Friday Round-up

Each Friday, one of us does a little round-up of stuff that has stuck in the brain this week.  Kind of like an ear-wig, but with stuff.  Ear-wigs are okay, too.  It's not always sewing related.

Emily started last week's round-up with her favorite autumn brew, I thought I would continue the trend.  Meantime Brewery is by far our favorite beer provider.  It is our local micro-brewery and by local I mean it is a five minute walk from our flat.  They also have two local venues (20 and 30 minute walks from the flat).  If it is a sunny afternoon, chances are we are enjoying a London Lager and whichever seasonal brew they have on offer in their beer garden.  If you visit count on an evening at The Old Brewery.

photo by AB Chao from her blog
To continue the refreshment theme, Hurricane Isaac is creating a bit of havoc in the bayou, but some are trying to make lemonade out of lemons, or more accurately, A Dark and Stormy out of rum, ginger beer and limes.  I have to admit this is probably in bad taste, but that Kraken Rum looks delicious.

My yoga class this week was cancelled.  These cookie cutters by Baked Ideas are going a long way to making up for a missed 90 minutes of twisting, stretching, omm-ing.

photo by Serenah Photography
Sausage and Mash.  

Seriously, I laughed so hard at this I might have cried a little.  I mean, are you kidding me?  I wouldn't say I am a huge fan of pet photography (my pictures of the adorable and devilish Trinculo aside) or dogs in general, but Serenah Photography in Brisbane is coming very close to changing my mind.  But a fair warning, the cat photos feature those weird hairless things that I don't really believe can be categorized as cats.

Are you hungry yet? Thirsty?  Now you know where to go.  Have a great weekend.

August 29, 2012

The show must go on

Soundtrack: The Greatest Show on Earth (film)

Inspiration: You can shake the sawdust out of your boots but you can never shake it out of your heart.  

The day I tackled the remainder of the circus block, I wasn't planning to quilt.  But, as I flipped through the TV channels, it just so happened “The Greatest Show on Earth” was playing.  How could I pass up a sign like that?

After the frustration that was the socks and fishnet piece, I wasn’t thrilled to get back to it.  I wasn’t even sure how that piece was going to work with everything else.  I had been so out of whack making it that I didn’t really think about how it might translate to the bigger project.  So I left it aside when I started.

Much like my time in the circus, this block proved to be a turning point in the larger project.

First, I moved my work space from the dark kitchen to the slightly brighter living room.  At the time this was to watch the film while sewing, but now it works for floor space.
Second, I began to see the quilt as a whole instead of focusing on each section.  This block was created with the resulting quilt (or show) in mind as opposed to just fitting it to itself.
Third, this section was the first to be created solely out of pieces yet to be cut, which left me with a lot of excess material.

But let’s get to the sewing.

As I said, this piece needed to be cut first.  This caused me a bit of pause.  It’s one thing to put aside shirts you know you won’t wear again, it’s another thing to cut them up when they are perfectly useable.  I didn’t have nearly as much to work with in this section as I did with the others.  Only five shirts and a pair of rainbow striped underwear.  Two of the shirts had only pocket designs.  I started with those and cut out a simple square leaving the rest of the shirt relatively whole.

As I have said before, once the first cut is made, it all just becomes a bit of material.  The pocket designs freed of their excess, I moved on to the larger designs.  Soon I was left with just a few squares and rectangles.

I began as I always do and started laying them out in some pattern.  And again, I couldn’t see where I wanted to go.  And again, I started by connecting pieces of similar shape to create larger shapes.  

Let me pause here to note how similar this repetitiveness is to the experience of the circus.  Every day is a new town and new set up, but every  day is also the same routine again and again.  Every time I start a block it is a new set up and experience, but the steps that get me to the end are surprisingly similar every time.  This isn’t unique to circus life, but it is a relationship I spent a lot of time observing and recording.  Those observations and resulted writings earned me a PhD, so I guess it is something I notice.

As I moved on with the block I noticed other ways in which this particular section reminded me of the circus.
As I began to piece this section together, I realized this would be the last section of the quilt.  This caused me to pause in my usual improvisation.  If this was going to be the last section, it needed to be built in such a way to stand on its own but also connect to the others (just like a singular act in the circus).  Before now, I had created each completely independent from the rest.  That couldn’t happen here.

The other pieces came out and I began, for the first time, to think about the whole of the project.  How would these pieces fit together?  Would they fit together?

It turns out they would.  Those extra strips I had left from the ‘zen block’ proved to be the perfect pieces to work as connectors between the previous two sections and this last one.

What started as a block, became a long strip to anchor the other sections.

In order to finish this section I had to work in the moment as well as think ahead and remember what I had done previously.  Again, a relationship I observed during my time on the road and which translates beyond the ring of the circus.

What I’m thinking ahead to is what I am going to do for the back of the quilt?  As I said earlier, this section left me with a lot of excess material as it was the only one to start as whole pieces.  Have I learned enough over the last few weeks to make a back piece completely out of scraps?

It seems a tall order, maybe impossible.

But as they say, "nothing is impossible when you work for the circus."

August 27, 2012

Christmas Stockings in August

Surprise, surprise--I've completed yet another Christmas project.  I promise my next patchwork undertaking won't have red, green, or Santa anywhere near it, because I realize just how insane I am.  To be fair, I was raised this way, and in South Carolina right now, my mom is quilting her Christmas stockings and planning her Christmas tree skirt, so obviously it's hereditary.

It's been a couple weeks since I've updated you on my Thimble Blossoms Merry stockings.  I seemed to make very little progress on them for various reasons, but most of all, it's the end of the fiscal year and I'm pretty much just exhausted every day.  The last thing I want to do is work more when I get home (even if that work is more play).  I want to make dinner and read magazines and watch TV.  Finally, last Friday, I decided to end this craziness and just finish everything.  Just do it, Emily!

This sounds completely ridiculous, but I really worried about Nick's stocking.  I make a lot of things for myself, and I know I can fudge it and still be happy.  No one else will notice!  But making something for Nick, who I never make anything for, really worried me.  Thankfully, he loved his stocking front when I pieced it earlier this month, and that was half the battle.

To quilt his, I followed the chevrons: each one is quilted right through the middle.  I did use a "hand-quilting" stitch on my machine, which used a lot more thread than I expected.  Also, it isn't shown, but both stockings are lined with a red Kona, a little darker than the red shown here (JoAnn's doesn't have the best selection).

I also didn't want to fully quilt the backs of each stocking, so for Nick's, I just freehanded a few snowflakes here and there--just enough to keep the stocking back and lining attached.

I made myself the pinwheel variation, and I have to say, I'm not totally in love with it!  I think it's really busy, which is totally my fault.  However, I am still proud of myself for trying it, and I'll still use it at Christmas.

I quilted mine using the lines of the pinwheels: I did two straight lines on either side of the diagonals.  Simple.

To quilt the back, I went a little crazy and outlined a few Santas freehand.  It's subtle, which is fine.

My last steps may be to embroider our initials--I still haven't decided on that.  What do you think?

Also, I wanted to show you a picture of my sewing area:

I've been using my mom's Husqvarna Designer I since May, but she's decided she wants it back, so I've packed it up and am taking it with us when we leave for South Carolina Thursday.  (Don't worry--I'll still have a post for you Monday!)  My poor little table feels so empty, even with everything on it!  I share this space with my dining room table and fabric/cookbook storage, which is why everything looks crammed in--it is.  But it's mine, and until I have an actual sewing area, it will work!

How was your weekend?  Anyone else working on Christmas stockings, tree skirts, or presents?

August 24, 2012

Friday Round-Up

Oh my good lord...why did Friday take so long this week?!  

  • Wild Olive's printable quilt cards are adorable.  How would I use them?  I can see them becoming note cards (perhaps writing down notes about projects, things you've learned, etc...), little handmade calling cards, bookmarks, whatever!  So cute.
  • Dessert!  I found some great recipes this week, from brownies on Smitten Kitchen to fall apple cake from Martha Stewart.
  • Speaking of fall, as you can see from the above picture, it's pumpkin beer time in these parts!  I don't remember it coming so early, but boy, am I thankful.  Post Road Pumpkin (Brooklyn Brewery) is my favorite, but this Punk'n from Uinta Brewery in Utah stole my heart with its label and its taste.
  • I am in love with Aneela Hoey's Cherry Christmas, and Amanda made an awesome pillow with it this week.  I may grab a charm pack and make one just like it!
  • And because I mentioned Aneela Hoey, did you see her sneak peek of Posy?  It's quite different from her usual look and reminds me more of Heather Ross, which is right up my alley.  I can't wait for January!
What are you sewing this weekend?  I have some great projects to show you on Monday, but tomorrow I'm heading to an LQS (over an hour away...not so local) with a friend from my Modern Quilt Guild.  Here's hoping we find some good stuff!  (Because we definitely both need more fabric...)

August 22, 2012

of socks and fishnets...

Inspiration: “The circus is a jealous wench. Indeed that is an understatement. She is a ravening hag who sucks your vitality as a vampire drinks blood – who kills the brightest stars in her crown and will allow no private life for those who serve her; wrecking their homes, ruining their bodies, and destroying the happiness of their loved ones by her insatiable demands. She is all of these things, and yet, I love her as I love nothing else on earth.” ― Henry Ringling North

This project has a way of contradicting me at every turn.  This week was a stressful one for our little family.  We were waiting on someone else to make a deadline.  We had done everything we could and we just had to wait.  It was infuriating.  I may have shed a few tears and ‘googled’ anxiety attack.

In the midst of this, I decided to get back to the quilt.  It has been giving me long hours of mindfully present bliss and that was just what I needed.  Except the quilt didn’t get that memo.

As stated last week, I was moving on to the circus section of my tshirt collection.  Last week I dove into my research box (literally a file box labelled "PhD Research" filled with papers and scraps and such) looking for something and discovered a few more usable textiles.  They were a bit musty by virtue of the state of the research box but I suddenly had an idea.  I would turn these into an appliqué.

You may remember (because it was only last week) that I previously shied away from appliqué as I had no idea how it might work.  And, to be honest, I didn’t want to break my stride of ‘competent’ sewing.  But this week my mind was a bit frazzled and apparently that meant I was ready to tackle a little appliqué action.

I started with two socks/arm warmers.  This was a dancer’s trick I introduced to the circus when I strained my arm learning to mount an elephant.  At the time I told everyone the injury was from mounting the spare tire on the bracket on backend of my motorhome.  I’m sure they believed me.  Who wouldn’t believe that story?  I mean it’s not like they all watched me flail about and bang into Lisa’s (the elephant) head about ten times the day before.  Of course is was from the tire.

I digress.

The socks weren’t going to work as tubes so I sliced them open, stitched down the wonky heel bits and sewed them together to create a wonky square.  Easy.

The plan then was to appliqué part of my showgirl tights to this square.  However, the square was a bit…wonky…as I said, so I decided to mount the square on a larger piece and then tackle the fishnet appliqué.

This is where the stress of the week started to show.
Remember last week I made that cute little square with the hole?  It went so well and looked so good I decided to try that technique again.  Not only was it easy but it would add some visual interest.  You know, link some pieces together?  Because there isn’t enough going on in this quilt, I need a little fancy machine work to up the visual interest.
These seams went so wrong, I’m almost embarrassed to show you.  But I’m stuck with them, so you are too.
I’m blaming the textile itself.  Socks are not meant to go through the machine with fancy stitches.  There is no other explanation.  I mean I did have one eye on the clock and the other on the phone, but I’m sure that has no bearing on the mess that is this square.

I ran the first length and the pins kept getting caught in the foot and then pulled along creating weird gaps in stitches and bunches in fabric.  The next length I tried less pins thinking that was the problem.  Still a disaster.  The last length I went back to lots of pins but tried a feeding technique using both hands (which is probably what I should be doing every time).  Slightly better result.  I can’t remember what I did for the last length.  I think at that point I just wanted to be done with it.

The square was done.  It was a calamity, but it was done.  Now came the task of adding the tights.  I had a lot of ideas about creating some more ‘visual interest’ but in the end it was all I could do to just finish this bit.  
Initially, I wanted the tights to include a portion of repaired fishnet, but as anyone who has worn these knows, they always rip (and so are repaired) at the crouch and I really didn’t have the mental capability to figure out how to get that section tactfully onto the square.  I went with a portion of waistband which created its own issue.

It took me close to an hour to stitch that band of fishnet.

And that was when I declared myself done for the day.  This one square took as much time as last week’s entire block.  Too much stress, very little mindful, present bliss.

Roll up next week for the concluding story of the circus block.

August 20, 2012

Book Review: Denyse Schmidt, Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration

I don't have a whole lot of progress to update on, so I thought, for a change of pace, I'd post a book review!

I love Denyse Schmidt and have for many years.  I'm attending her lecture next month in Manhattan and buy her lines as soon as they're released.  Recently, I also picked up her newest book, Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration.  This book contains patterns and instructions as well as background on these pieces.  While they're technically traditional styles, Denyse (we're on a first-name basis) has used modern colors and techniques to make them wholly new.

Let's take a look!  But first: I apologize for the photo quality.  Rainy days kill any sort of natural lighting.

The orange peel quilt is featured early in her book.  Using crimson and tangerine, two colors not normally seen together, this quilt has a lot of movement and warmth, seen on the pattern page:

I don't think I'm anywhere near being ready to make an orange peel quilt, but maybe by this time next year I'll be able to.

I love, love, love star quilts.  A red-and-white star quilt is my absolute favorite.  So this Crazy Star, with a mish-mash of coordinating fabrics on a solid background, really speaks to me.  

There are so many possibilities!  I'd love various reds on a light blue background.

Flying Geese, which are another favorite of mine, have a different layout in Ocean Waves.  I bought Denyse's pattern "Point Me," which also features geese, in the spring, and love the new ways she arranges them.

Imagine the possibilities with Courthouse Steps!  Denyse uses three colors here, but two colors, a color and a pattern, or scraps would all create different effects.

Wagon Wheel is, hands down, my favorite quilt in this book.  I love the chartreuse!  Again, curves are probably beyond my capabilities right now, but soon enough...

This Snake quilt reminds me of Denyse's "Single Girl," deconstructed.  The colors are similar, the curves are present, but instead of single rings, there's a steady movement from corner to corner.

There's a Mariner's Compass quilt hanging in the store where my Modern Quilt Guild meetings are held, and it's always used as the prime example of what modern quilts aren't: the precision, the batiks, the size are all too rigid and old-fashioned for most modern quilters.  But My Compass, Denyse's version of a Mariner's Compass, is breathtaking and modern in a primitive way.  

A lot of these quilts remind me of Civil War-era or Amish quilts: the roots of quilting are present, but solids and scraps are used to create a unique version.  Simply put, I believe Denyse Schmidt is a genius and her interpretations of these traditional values add depth to the modern quilt world, especially when many quilters believe we just do improv blocks and only use white.  This book is chock full of inspiration and gorgeous photos.  Take a look through it yourself!

For 2012, on my blog Lemony Fresh, I made a resolution to create over thirty apparel items throughout the year.  Next year I might shift my focus to quilting, and quilt my way through this book, not necessarily in order.  Kind of a Julie & Julia (looking at you, Ariel!), but I imagine my version of Julie's eggs will be applique.  What do you think?

What have you used as inspiration lately?  Are there any books you'd recommend?

August 17, 2012

Friday Round-up

Each Friday, one of us does a little round-up of stuff that has stuck in the brain this week.  Kind of like an ear-wig, but with stuff.  Ear-wigs are okay, too.  It's not always sewing related.

Last time I ended with the Olympic Opening Ceremony.  This time I am opening with the Paralympic Games.  I am overly excited for these to begin.  Much more so than I ever was with the Olympics.  I'm a little embarrassed at how the Paralympic Games are treated in London.  Royal Mail only recently reversed their decision to not issue stamps for each of the Paralympic Golds as they did for the Olympic Gold medalists.  Outdoor screens and festivals set up for the public to view the Olympic Games together are being dismantled.  The BBC which provided endless, commercial-free, coverage of the Olympic Games is not doing the same for the Paralympics.  However, Channel 4 is ROCKING the lead-up to the Paralympics.  In fact they have been doing so for months.

This advert makes me tear up every time
I am desperately trying to get tickets, but thus far have been unsuccessful.  I'm not a fan of sport generally, but I do love an underdog.  Not that these athletes are underdogs.  They are truly superhumans, but their Games is being treated a bit like an underdog.

photo by Valerie Berta Torales from her blog
On to another athletic underdog of sorts.  The American Circus.  This beautiful blog, The Mudshow Diaries, documents one woman's view of life on Kelly Miller Circus.  This is the circus I joined for a few months back in 2008.  It is a place I miss desperately at times.  Whatever you think you know about circuses, this blog will make you think again.  She is a beautiful photographer and thoughtful writer.  Of all the books and memoirs and exposes I have read about the circus over the course of my research (and trust me, it is A LOT) Valerie comes closest to portraying it as I experienced it.  Maybe because we both joined the circus instead of being born into and so can be enveloped by it as well as see it as somewhat exotic.  But what comes across quite clearly is the home the circus creates for itself and the pride it has in continuing this tradition against the odds.

In honour of Julia Child's 100th birthday this week, and because I gave you food last week, I am recommending this book.  Julie Powell's second book, Cleaving, made me want to slap her (although the butchering parts were interesting) but this one I really enjoy.  I know many people found the Julie of the movie insufferably annoying.  I didn't, but I can see how that would happen.  If you are one of those people, I doubly recommend this book.  The Julie of the book is much different and much more relateable.  Or at least that's my opinion.  The Julie of the book is also a Buffy fan.  A significant character trait left out of the movie.  

by Kate Imbach from her site Matchbook 
An now for a little fun.  Matchbook pairs book covers with swimsuits.  Or bathers as we have taken to call them, because we are apparently quickly becoming pensioners in our 30s.

That's it from me this week.  OH!! Except for this.

Wednesday's block was included in a quilting round-up #Quilt Art daily.  Many thanks to Indus Crafts.

Now that's it from me.  Really.  Have a great weekend.