September 28, 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.

Yes, I'm back from Greece.  However, while in Greece I contracted a stomach bug.  It seems our fancy hotel didn't have potable water.  Pete's stomach of steel somehow survived and he was able to enjoy the sun and scenery.  I was in bed for three days watching Greece's version of 'quality American movies' which seems code for anything that was straight to video 10 years ago.

Needless to say, I don't have much for you today.  I haven't looked at the internet for a week.

It is full-on fall here in London, so I will treat you with some autumnal treats.

Admittedly, this is for spring, but one transitional season's bounty is another's treat.  I love this snack.  We make it with feta and whatever baton of bread is going stale in the cupboard. We like it with a nice juicy steak, but more often than not we eat it on its own. We made this for some friends of ours last year, one of which had never had leeks.  After this meal he insisted on including leeks in their wedding dinner.  It's that good.

This is one of those soups that is incredibly easy to make yet tastes different every time.  We use whichever pasta sauce we have or was on special at the grocery.  In addition to the mixed beans, we add carrot, corn or any other vegetable that might be languishing in the crisper.  (Do you sense a pattern with my cooking?)

This is my take on this lovely soup.  The result is fantastic but it takes ages to simmer down.  For the crouton top I use the method described in the leek toast recipe, but add gruyere cheese to the second side.  To be honest, the croutons are the best part.

Another of my soup recipes.  Actually, it's a Weight Watchers recipe, but it's one of our favorites (it's at the bottom of the post).  A nice addition to this one also came as an accident.  I had some onion bagels which crumbled at every attempt to slice them.  I turned them into gruyere covered croutons for the top of the soup instead of the swirl of yogurt.  However, the swirl of yogurt is lovely as well.

Wrap yourself in a duvet and have some soup.  Winter is coming.

September 26, 2012

Why Do You Quilt?

Why, hello again!  As I said on Monday, Ariel is in Greece, so I have Wednesday duty as well this week.  I sat at my desk (at work...whoops) thinking about what to post today.  Should I gush over new fabrics?  Nah.  Should I follow the lead of my personal blog and talk about quilt plans?  I could, but readers may think I've lost my day planner and had to settle for a blog to keep track of my to-dos.  What to write, what to write...

And then I started thinking, man, I'm chilly.  It was in the 40s when I walked to work today, but because the high is 72, I didn't wear tights.  Even after some coffee, that chill hasn't left my legs!  I could use a small quilt for my cubicle, but I guess for now I'll use my scarf as a makeshift blanket.  I remembered saying bye this morning to our new kitten, who had dragged my heirloom quilt off of the coffee table shelf and onto the floor with his toys.  Was he cold too, or is he just bad?  (Yes.)  I ordered backing and binding for my Modern Maples quilt yesterday, but am waiting on a walking foot to quilt it, because I don't want to rely on sending them off anymore.

Why do I quilt?

The simplest answer is necessity: I live in the mid-Atlantic region, where we have seasons, and it gets cold in the winter.  Even in late September, I reach for a throw while watching TV, just to cut the chill.  While I won't necessarily need quilts on my bed, I'll need some for the couch, for the car when we drive south this winter for the holidays, for my cubicle, for whatever.  To stay warm, I need a blanket.

But, honestly, I could've gone to Target and bought a cotton throw instead of investing time, money and patience into a new hobby--if all I was looking for was something to keep me warm.  It must go deeper than that.  I don't have children, and I'm not getting married for a year, so the idea of heirlooms that I create are a bit outside of my realm: while it's nice to think of handing these down, I'd rather focus on using them here and now and worry about inheritance later.

I will admit, I like knowing something.  Please don't confuse this with learning; I'm very much like my mother in that I don't want to learn--I want to know.  The only way to know something--sewing, quilting, knitting for a month--is to do it instead of just read about it.  After I won those six cuts of Chicopee--too little for garments, too much for accessories--I had no choice but to pick up a rotary cutter and get going.  And down into the rabbit hole I went, researching projects, finding new blogs, and buying patterns.  A woman obsessed, a woman possessed, whatever you want to call it--I'm now her.

At Quilters Take Manhattan, Denyse Schmidt mentioned that she started quilting because she was looking for a community and somewhere to fit in during her tumultuous twenties.  I certainly relate, and indeed, it's why I started sewing.  I think quilting, because it came later to me, was just the natural progression, and allowed me to expand my circle of friends and peers (even if they're online and not in-person).  And one has definitely influenced the other: I recently sewed a top-secret quilt top for someone made completely out of curves, but thanks to my experience with garment sewing, I had zero problems with it.

Finally, I think I quilt because it's another way to create.  That seems to simplify it too much, and honestly, do I need to create more in my life?  Apparently, I do, because I feel that pull toward my stash, toward my mat, toward my ruler every day while I'm at my desk, while I'm on the train, while I'm making dinner.  Sometimes I feel like cutting pieces for a new quilt top, and other times I feel like cutting a blouse.  But quilting, and modern quilting, have expanded my to-do list as well as my done list, and I can surround myself with more homemade items.  My goal is to look around my apartment and be able to say "I made this!" whether it's a blanket, a skirt, or even the coasters.  I prefer a handmade life, from what I wear to what I eat, and quilting fits in perfectly.

So, your turn: why do you quilt?  Is it a simple reason?  Is it much more complicated?  Do you do it just because you have to--there's no other way!--or do you do it because it's a fun hobby?  Spill it!

September 24, 2012

Modern Maples Quilt Top

Hello!  If I seem particularly chipper, I am: this quilt top is very exciting and I'm so happy to share it!

I know many advanced quilters will wonder what the big deal is, but, to me, this quilt is so special.  I used some of my favorite fabrics, I used a pattern I've loved, and I just feel like I got it this time.  Do you know what I mean?  Something clicked and everything made sense.  Every part of sewing this was a dream; never once did I think, "Dear lord, just let this end already!"

Okay, so before the happiness becomes nauseating, let's see some pictures!

First, let's take a look at the blocks.  Each block consists of four HSTs, a solid square, three printed squares, and a stem.  The blocks are about 12" square, once all is said and done.  To make these, I used sixteen fabrics I had in my stash, two DS Quilts prints I picked up from JoAnn's, and white Kona.  Choosing the fabrics was fun but also a little nerve-wracking; I think I went back and forth on them for about a week, editing the stack everyday when I'd come up with a new idea.

Yuwa (left) and DS Quilts (right) blocks.  I bought the Yuwa on Etsy.

Whoops!  As soon as I took this picture, I realized my mistake in the lower left.  After I fixed it, this block became one of my favorites.
 Eleanor and Puddin' were there every step of the way for me, as usual.  One of the hard parts about having such a small apartment (and, therefore, a small sewing space) is there's nowhere to hide.  The cats always find me!

This is a Timeless Treasures print, I's at least a few years old, and my mom gave it to me when she weeded out her stash.

Laying out all eighteen blocks.  The cats are inspecting every inch for quality control.

Looking at the photo above, I realize my mistake in the fifth row--one of the blocks should be in space two instead of space five.  Ah well.  It's something I didn't catch in time, but it didn't affect anything in the long run.

It's a bit of a random layout, which is fine.  I knew I wanted my favorite blocks to form the center column, which is the only column without a white block.  From there, I tried to balance the amount of orange and gray in the upper and lower halves, so one wouldn't look super heavy over the other.

From the top left: Timeless Treasures, Lizzy House Guising, Flea Market Fancy, Cloud9 Monsterz, MoMo Half-Moon Modern, Yuwa, Flea Market Fancy, Far Far Away III, Guising (two prints next to each other), Guising, Far Far Away III, Monsterz, DS Quilts, Flea Market Fancy, DS Quilts, Guising, Far Far Away III.

This was not a particularly taxing quilt, which maybe led me to have more fun with it.  Everything fit together, I was happy with the layout and I worked with some of my favorite fabrics and fabric lines.

We've had such wonderful weather lately--the temperatures this morning were in the 40s and 50s, but it was sunny.  Perfect for taking pictures!  Unfortunately, it was a little muddy, so I worried about that, but I think it turned out okay.

I would like to note that the DS Quilts fabric is incredibly high-quality--a nice surprise for something from JoAnn's.

So there it is--my fall quilt!  Horror of horrors, I think I'm going to quilt and bind this one myself.  I am terrified.  However, thanks to no money, I can delay it a few weeks until I can buy backing and binding.  Do you have any suggestions?  I'd like to back it in something orange and bind in navy--Hope Valley comes to mind, but I may be offbase there.

What did you make over the weekend?  Also, as you know, Ariel is on holiday in Greece (boo hiss) (just kidding, but seriously, I'm at work and she's in Greece!), so I'll be back Wednesday with another post!  See you then.

September 21, 2012

Friday Round-Up

Man, we are deep into the kitten stage here at the Sposetta-Regnier residence.  The cat is adorable, but he's driving us completely crazy.  While I love his playfulness, there is a line, and he crossed it when he knocked over a vase of flowers before 7 AM.

Here's what interested me this week!

  • Purl SoHo announced their new line of embroidery patterns, a collaboration with Egg Press.  As an embroiderer and a fan of Purl, I love these!  I think they'd be perfect for a nursery or a girly bedroom.  I just have to convince myself $60 isn't too much to spend on crafting!
  • Pumpkin cookies with brown-butter icing sound like a perfect dessert at this point in the season.  Too bad Nick doesn't like pumpkin or I'd be forced to make and eat them all!
  • I know you've seen this gingham patchwork quilt by now.  It's everywhere!  I think I'm going to make one in purple.  I love the simplicity!
  • Is it wrong to wear a cardigan over my wedding dress?  Oh well.  I've started gathering ideas  for what I'll either make or buy and they all scream "cardigan."  (You can read my thoughts on my wedding here.)
  • I saw this on Pinterest last night and thought it was particularly relatable for sewists.  Everything we do has love and passion stitched into it, but sometimes there are mistakes.  Let's hope we learn from them!
Have a great weekend, everyone!  Feel free to share your inspiration in the comments.

September 19, 2012

Topsy Turvy

Hello Folks!

We are moved into the new house.  And by moved I mean we managed to get all our stuff from the little one bedroom flat into the house.  Do not suppose we are unpacked or settled.  That would require more effort than we can manage right now.

However, instead of buckling in and organizing, we are running away to a beach in Kos, Greece for a week.  We are in desperate need of some sun and warmth.  Summer never really properly arrived here in the Big Smoke, or at least it didn't in our estimation both being from countries where summer means it gets over 70 degrees for more than two days.  So we are heading somewhere it is still above 70 degrees for days at a time.  We plan to do nothing but sleep, read and swim.  Hopefully get a little colour.

For you readers in the US, it's like going south for a week.  

But we leave today so here are some photos of the piecing of the top of the quilt.  This was a moment I also learned the value of ironing as you go.  There are some wonky squares veering to the right or left, but I think I worked out the kinks with some extra strips between sections.  These strips were made out of the sleeves of some of the circus tees.  Nothing goes to waste here.

At this point you might notice the section on the right is looking a bit different than when I laid it out to tape the floor.  These things happen when you don't have a plan.  I'm still not sure if no-plan is the best plan, but I'm making it work the best I can.  There were a few hiccups here near the end, but I only had to unpick one piece.  Once the right and left sections were relatively the same size and attached relatively evenly, I tackled attaching the long circus strip.

See that wonky-ness near the bottom center? No worries, I fixed it before I attached the bottom.

I had to use the dotted line trick again, but this is what happens when you go with the no-plan plan.

So what do you think? The top is done.

Here's the kicker.  When we were packing, I found another bag of tees I had set aside for the quilt.  Oops.  I guess I'll have to find something else to make with them.

Maybe some throw pillows for the new house?  I kid.  Sorta.

September 17, 2012

Quilters Take Manhattan 2012

Happy Monday!  I hope everyone had a good weekend.  I had a wonderful weekend--I went to New York!  My friend Melissa and I attended Quilters Take Manhattan (I won tickets last month) and drove up I-95 to hear Denyse Schmidt speak about her inspiration and background.

The event was held at FIT, which I've never visited, but now I need to go back and see the museum--the posters in the building's windows showed some gorgeous clothes!  After we checked in and put our things down--and checked out the goodie bag, which was full of Chicopee and charm packs--we took a look at the display in the hall.  Denyse's quilts from Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration were hanging along the sidelines, and we were free to photograph and touch them.  What could be better?

My Compass

Crazy Star

Shoeman's Puzzle
One thing Melissa and I both noted is that the stitches aren't perfect.  While many quilters would be appalled at this--myself included, at least in my work, but especially if it were on display--it made me feel so much better about my work.  I don't want you to get the wrong idea: I'm not anywhere near Denyse Schmidt's level of quilting/patchworking (if she worked in the penthouse, I'd be the dumdum toiling away in the boiler room), but knowing that her stitches and her stitchers are able to just be themselves is incredible freeing.

Two things I learned from this is a) these quilts are quilted by someone else and b) these quilts are hand-quilted.  I believe the figure-eights above are machine-stitched, but the Mariner's Compass, the Tobacco Leaf (below)--most, if not all, others are done by hand.  Good god!

In front of Shoeman's Puzzle

Tobacco Leaf--hand-quilted! 
For the Quilter's S.O.S. interview, Denyse was asked to bring in a touchstone piece that exemplified her work.  She created this quilt for an exhibit in New Mexico about ten years ago, and yep, I'd agree that this is clearly Densye!  I'm not an improviser because I like a little more structure, or at least guidance.  However, I was mesmerized by this.  I kept staring, mentally ripping the seams to figure out how the pieces came together, how they were determined.  

Denyse also talked a bit about her background.  She started as a graphic designer, but found herself looking for a creative outlet (that wouldn't just be thrown away) and a community, because she was far away from family and friends.  Wow, do I know that feeling!  Those are both reasons I started sewing in early 2011.  She didn't begin quilting until her 20s--again, it was so good to know she wasn't a child prodigy, releasing Flea Market Fancy when she was fresh from grade school.  The whole interview was incredibly inspiring.  

Improvised piece from 2003

Denyse Schmidt's interview
After Denyse's interview concluded--and I suggest you all listen to it once it's posted!--Jennifer Chiaverini spoke about her Elm Creek Quilts books.  These are fictional books about a group of quilters.  I've never read them, but when I spoke to my mom and aunt about them, they were familiar.

Courthouse Steps
The Quilt Alliance gave away some wonderful prizes--none of which I won.  Who do I speak to about that?  (Just kidding.  Kind of.)  Melissa and I saw the new Brother quilting and embroidery machines in action.  We also saw Liesl Gibson of Oliver + S sitting behind us!  As much as I wanted to say hi, I was too nervous.  Besides, I had introduced myself to Denyse Schmidt merely hours earlier.  How much excitement could my heart handle for one day?!

After quick trips to the City Quilter and M&J Trimming, we headed back to D.C., completely inspired and wondering why we don't have these resources closer?  We have so many ideas for our Modern Quilt Guild, but it's too early in the game to see where it will go.  If you live in D.C., Maryland or Virginia and want to hang out with some cool quilters, please let us know!  We're dying for some more interaction.

Anyway, see you next time, New York!

This morning I got up early and started working on this week's projects.  Yes, that was an "s" you saw--I have three quilts of various sizes in the pipeline.  It's going to be a busy week but I feel good, like I said before!

How was your weekend?  What has inspired you lately?

September 14, 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.

photo by Tania from her blog
I thought I would actually give you some sewing links today.  Novel, I know.  This story about an anti-quilt is a fun read.  I also like the idea of an anti-quilt.  However, despite the lack of piecing here, I find this quilt just as meaningful as any other.  It's the story that makes it a quilt, I think.  Not the pieces.  

photo by Completely Cauchy from her blog
I have a confession to make.  I can't get into quilting blogs.  I have tried.  I really have, but I have no desire to read tutorials or blow by blow descriptions of technique.  I guess that makes me a bit hypocritical, but what can I say?  However, I happened upon this blog, Completely Cauchy, and her irreverence and political slant are delicious.  There is a passion behind her needlework and it comes out in the visual product, no need for description.

But who am I kidding?  All I can really think about is the move.  It's happening tomorrow.  I don't remember being this stressed in any of my prior moves, and there are a lot.  The international leap might be an exception.  As it is with any project, I was procrastinating a bit on the packing front and starting looking for ideas for moving announcements.  Sure, I could just send everyone an email with the updated info, but this is our first real house together.  All our own.  Surely that deserves something a little special.  

In clockwise order: air mail, nest, coordinates, luggage tag, hot air balloon, and another nest.

What do yo think? I'm leaning towards the coordinate theme.  I am a geographer after all and we do live spitting distance from the Prime Meridian.  But who are we kidding?  It will probably end up being a mass email.  

Have a great weekend!  

September 12, 2012


Oh Folks.  I am exhausted.  And not from all the quilting.

I did get a little over-zealous and went on a bit of a quilting binge, but now I am tired.

Also, we are moving this weekend and the stress of moving into our own home is overwhelming.  More so, because we ran out of boxes about two thirds of the way through the kitchen.

So while I am flattened physically, my quilt is also flattened.  I learned the lesson of ironing.

This is one of those lessons we all know in theory, but don’t necessarily heed until we learn the hard way.  I didn’t iron any of the top sections while piecing.  I know.  Especially stupid considering t-shirts are not the most obliging of materials.  The wonkiness (that’s an official term) produced by not ironing is obvious in the slight slant in each section.

However, on the back, I learned my lesson.  Working with tiny, curly strips of jersey was impossible without sewing.  After ironing the pieces already pieced, I found that I tend to sew my seams on a slight arc.  No matter how diligently I pin, the result is a slight arc.  Of course I didn’t realize this until I flattened everything out.

I started to mark the route, as it were, in an attempt to get back to the straight lines I achieved in that very first section.  It feels a bit like going backwards, like putting the training wheels back on after learning to go it alone.

One of the reason I hadn’t ironed was that I don’t have the square footage in my flat to layout a quilt and iron it in the same space.  I have taken to quilting in the front room, which means rolling back the carpet, setting the machine up on the credenza and the ironing board out in the hall.  Not a flowing system, but it worked.

Sewing the back became a bit of an obsession with me.  As with most obsessions, I was operating in a bit of a vacuum.  Not on purpose, just due to the sheer ‘present mindful-ness’ that quilting brought to me.
It wasn’t until I was almost done that I even thought about how this back might translate to the front when it came to the actual quilting part.  These sections are oriented vertically, but with horizontal strips.  The front sections are separate squares, neither vertically or horizontally.  How will the quilt stitching look cutting across the front?  Or should the front serve as the guide? These are questions I have yet to answer.

Once the scraps were cleared and the three sections ironed and laid out in its tape outline, I realized it wasn’t quite wide enough.  In fact, some pieces within the sections were significantly skinnier than their surrounding pieces.

How did that happen?

More importantly, what to do about it?

Now all the wrinkles are flattened out, the flaws are becoming more and more evident.  Corners I thought meeting up in nice squares missing just enough not to look intentional, just mis-calculated.  Do I rip out the seams and try again?  Or do I leave it as a lesson?

Flurried, obsessive bouts of sewing are enjoyable, but mindful, patient, practice results in more satisfactory product.

Right now, I am just too tired to undo it.  The perfectionist in me will have to let it go.  A lesson learned.

That and ironing.

September 10, 2012

The "Summer's Over" Quilt Top

Let me be clear, before I get into things: there is no love lost for summer ending here in DC.  I am a fall girl, always have been, so I am completely excited to have seen a red leaf today.  Bring it on!

I learned while making this quilt that I tend to attach too much meaning to my projects.  For example, I was discussing backing and binding with my mom Friday, and I actually said, "Well, the names 'Chicopee' and 'Pow Wow' remind me of summer camp, even though I never went, so I'd like something that captures that spirit."  Yeah, I want to slap me too.  I did purchase backing and binding--I'm using some Madrona Road, along with Chicopee--but only after I looked at nearly every fabric available at Hawthorne Threads.

I'm going to get into the pictures soon, but first, the details: I used six prints of Denyse Schmidt's new line Chicopee, as well as a blue coordinate that I've had in my stash for ages (it's really soft and a loose weave, so I'm thinking it must've been something my mom picked up at JoAnn's).  For the background, I chose FreeSpirit Solids in NuGray.  Manatee is the same charcoal color used in Chicopee, so I went a shade lighter for some contrast.  I really can't recommend FreeSpirit solids enough, either: this fabric is soft and didn't fray nearly as much as Kona does.

The pattern is Cluck Cluck Sew's "Pow Wow" in a throw size.  While I cut enough for a twin, I thought better of it before sewing it--that would be insane.  I don't even have a twin bed at my disposal.  If you make this quilt, be sure to follow the "scrap saver" tips and keep your HSTs!  I have so many left over for mini quilts!

We don't have any sponsors, so I'm not being paid, but I will mention that Hawthorne Threads, Pink Chalk Fabrics and Alewives Fabrics (three of my favorite online stores) have Chicopee in stock, and the Cluck Cluck Sew Big Cartel shop has this pattern and many more.

Pictures now!

Choosing fabrics

Cutting strips for the pieces.  I love this method.


...and piles upon piles.  I tend to be a messy sewer, but I always clean up!

First step: done!  This is the bottom of each block.

Just half of the leftover half-square triangles.  I can't wait to piece these babies!

Blocks: done!  Also, an adorable cat on a vintage tablecloth.

And here we are!  There were people using my usual grassy spot, so I had to make do.

Ignore the bent sashing; I was trying to do this quickly.

Mistake one: there are visible selvedges throughout the quilt!

Mistake two: for some reason, with this print, the right-side top always came out sideways!  Very strange, especially because I followed directions.

Yay, it's done!  Like I said, the backing and binding are on their way to me, so soon I'll have a finished quilt!

What'd you sew this weekend?  Have any plans for a new project?