February 28, 2013

Pre-mom, Pre-baby

I procrastinated the piecing of Pruin's quilt (surprise, surprise) due to indecision about a pattern.

I procrastinated the piecing of Pruin's quilt due to lack of mojo and meaning.

I procrastinated the piecing of Pruin's quilt due to my underlying terror about becoming a mom.

This quilt is for my unknown child and I have no idea what it takes to be a mom.  How to make decisions about the life of another being when the future is so unknown.  How to trust my gut when the stakes seem so high.  A million other fears about my capability and the result of that ineptitude affecting an innocent.

All this fear and indecision was held in the piles of triangles waiting to make this quilt.

But as with this child, I had to start.  In nine short weeks this being will come into the world whether I am ready or not.  So the quilt might as well be ready.

I channeled the age old advice, 'fake it 'til you make it' and got the machine out.

It wasn't pretty.  There was a lot of grunting.

It was also very dim.  The lighting in our dining room is great for eating and giving your skin that airbrushed look, but not so hot for concentrating on detail.  About a quarter of the way through I donned my headtorch in order to get a bit more light.

It's all very glamorous over here.

It took awhile to get my flow.  These shirts are all different textures and I kept getting the corners caught up in the teeth.  The seam allowance is all over the place, but the rows seem to be lining up relatively well.

Piecing went a lot faster than I expected.  That scared me a little.  Surely, it should take more time to make something this laden with meaning.  But perhaps the speed is meaningful as well.  If there are a few things pregnancy has taught me about life in general, the first is that there are too many 'shoulds' in this life and trying to follow the precise directions of all those 'shoulds' may very well end you up in a ditch.  The second is that time moves on much faster than expected or desired.

This quilt is unlike my last in so many ways.  It is much more automatic.  A lot less thought and consideration is going into the piecing.  I'm not sure how I feel about this streamlined process of using a pattern.  It still seems a bit hollow but I can't deny I enjoy the visual created using patterns.  Every day and quilt can't be the giddy experience of my first.  In fact, I probably won't find that again.  It was a unique experience taking in more than just learning to quilt.  I really can't expect to replicate that every time.  I'm working on finding the uniqueness in each quilt experience and accepting whatever comes.

Three hours later and the rows were done.  I had been laying them back on the floor once complete.  A little throwback to my initial technique.  The grunting was getting embarrassing  Then I noticed my bare dining room walls.

Oh! Hello, new design walls.

The six rows of Pruin's quilt now hang taped to the dining room wall.
A constant reminder to keep sewing.
Just keep sewing.

The baby is coming whether I'm ready or not.
Just keep sewing.

February 25, 2013

Paper Piecing: A Test of Patience

Things are a little out of control over here:

No, I'm not talking about the state of my stash, though it is growing.  I mean I'm in the middle of a thousand projects, all more important than the last!  I don't like having open projects, but the highest priority, that is really making me nervous, is my February do.Good Stitches blocks.

do.Good Stitches is a charity bee run on Flickr.  I've seen a lot of great quilts come from it, which is what made me want to join in the first place.  It's also a great way to give back: all ten quilts made each year go directly to a local charity.  I belong to the Haven group, which was started last month.  Our quilts benefit a domestic abuse shelter in upper New York state, where the host is located.

I'm a quilter in the group, along with four other quilters and five stitchers.  Quilters have to design a quilt twice a year and then quilt it once the stitchers and other quilters send back the blocks.  The host designed the first quilt, and asked us all to make paper-pieced blocks with motivational words for the children in the shelter.  We used Elizabeth Hartman's Refrigerator Magnets pattern, which was donated to us, and stitched up our blocks.

I cannot say this was my favorite project ever.  In fact, I've put it off until the last weekend of the month because I wasn't looking forward to paper piecing in the least.

Alas, I got one of my words done: strength.  And it took no less than 90 minutes.

Tiny pattern pieces

Block layout

I have one more block to make, which will have to wait, though not too long: I think I have to have my blocks in at the beginning of March (read: in like three days).  So this was a lesson of procrastination and of patience: I do not like slow-moving projects, and I hate putting them off even more.  The "strength" block isn't quite done yet; I need to add a border so the Quilter can piece everything correctly.  However, I will say that I really like being part of a bee that supports a good cause, and I like being able to use up some of that ridiculous stash you saw above.

I will also say that my months will consist of HSTs.

What'd you stitch this weekend?

February 21, 2013

Future memories

Hello, Thursday.

Sadly, I didn't get much done this week in terms of physical quilting.  I did however make major in-roads in the collecting of stuff for the little person on the way.

While I wasn't sewing this week, I was thinking a lot about this space and where I want to go with my quilting adventure.  When we started it was all about one particular quilt for me.  A personal journey through my past facilitated by my old t-shirts.  It was revealing and exciting and at times even intoxicating.  I couldn't stop.  I went on 12 hour binges of piecing.

It was new and it took time. It unearthed memories forgotten and revealed serendipitous moments and connections between personal history and the current life of the material.

This new quilt isn't as exciting right now.  I'm not feeling the same connection to the material.  Maybe because the material is filled with Pete's memories and not mine.  Or maybe because I used the pieces as regular fabric, cutting out patterned pieces and not listening to the fabric itself.  These materials have no meaning for me and it's making the work harder.  Even the upholstery remnants spoke to me more.

I'm also putting off working on this particular quilt because I feel it will be done really quickly.  It needs to be done quickly. I only have two months before the little *bundle of joy* arrives and sitting at the machine is getting more and more difficult the bigger I become.  But something about the time and stages attached to the first quilt made it seem more real.

I took some time to procrastinate and started reading a new book about a quilt exhibition at the V&A a few years ago.  I missed the exhibition at the time.  It was right smack dab in the middle of me finishing my PhD, getting married and then having an early-life crisis (I kid, a little).  As I read the book, I'm kind of glad I missed the exhibition as now I get to read all the research that went into putting the collection together.  The theories about the role of myth in the preservation of quilts and the practicality and luxury of pieced material.  Many of the quilts in the book had no deep significance to the maker at the time of creation.  The significance and myth came after the fact with its use.

Of course.

How could I be so narrow-sighted?  Yes, the first quilt I made was for me.  The materials were meaningful and the journey to a new life was also meaningful, but it was an exercise in recovering the past.  This next one is for a person who only half-exists at the moment.  It's meant to be a starting point, a first.  It's meant to collect meaning along the way (and by 'meaning' I'm thinking commemorative stains of baby's first diaper explosion or first picnic outside, whatever).

And of course, it's not devoid of meaning.  It has traces of both Pete and I, just as the little person it will comfort has traces of us both.  Where is goes with that mix is still a mystery.  For the quilt and the little person.

I've been obsessed with tracking down memories about quilting and stories of the craft and was always thinking of these memories and stories being past tense.  Ignoring all the evidence (wedding quilts, baby quilts, housewarming quilts, guest quilts, etc.) that points to the memory making power of quilts and quilt-making being about the future and all the memories that have yet to be made in conjunction with this bit of blanket.

So I think I have found my mojo with this quilt.   I'm on-board with the materials and the possibility.

Let the piecing begin!

February 18, 2013

Modern Quilts with Roots

In the six months I've been quilting, I've exposed myself to a lot of blogs, books, magazines, and exhibits on quilting and the history behind it.  All needle- and fiber-arts have deep roots, usually related to necessity rather than the art and craft we associate with it in 2013.  While I'm drawn to modern quilts and fabrics, it's not a surprise that these themes aren't original and can be seen in works from two centuries ago. 

My mom gave me this book in May, before I started quilting, and I skimmed it but didn't really pay much attention until this weekend.  This isn't a book review, but I wanted to talk about the main theme I saw in this book, from 2004: quilts from 1850 are more relevant than quilts from 1950.

A lot of these quilt styles are easily recognizable: sawtooth stars, lone stars, pinwheels, nine patches, on and on.  I've ever reviewed them here, in my Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration and Liberty Love reviews.  They can be seen on Etsy, on Flickr, on blogs--made with Momo and Anna Maria Horner instead of men's uniforms or old dresses.  Upcycling is still relevant--Ariel is the best example of this I know!--but it isn't the only option anymore. The fabric retail industry shows just how much freedom there is in fabric styles, colors, and themes, and choosing to add new into the old is a very modern choice.

This quilt in particular reminds me of Farmer's Wife quilt blocks.  I've seen them done in everything from batiks to Echino.

"Crazy Quilt"--the first improv quilt?

Stripes.  Solids.  Saturated colors.  This quilt isn't featured on the MQG blog--it's 100 years old.
However, for as many relevant quilts there were in this book, there were also quite a few that made me cringe.  While it's true that this book is almost ten years old, the quilts featured date back for hundreds of years.  It surprises me that so many antique styles can look contemporary, but all it takes is a bad applique or a weird scalloped edge to date it immediately.

These were some examples of quilt styles not typically celebrated by modern quilters.  "Whig's Defeat," from the late 1800s, features a scalloped edge and fabrics in cream, mauve, and hunter green.  The funny thing is, instead of the 1880s, it looks like the 1980s.  While these styles certainly have their place in history, it's completely offbase with the modern/traditional movement.

However, ironically, the worst section in the book was the "modern" section: 1950 - present.  2004 was before Modern Quilt Guild, before Heather Ross and Amy Butler, before the resources we have today.  Looking at the quilts labeled contemporary in this books makes me realize just how far modern quilting has come in the past few years.  That's not to say there aren't plenty of quilters still using these techniques; one visit to a traditional quilt shop shows that batiks are alive and well!  But for as much as I loved the Civil War sawtooth, pinwheel, and lonestar styles, I couldn't imagine ever using a template to cut out and applique a polar bear to a bear claw quilt.  Jeni B. has a bear claw quilt in Modern Quilts From the Blogging Universe that is wholly new and fresh while not reinventing the wheel.

Polar bear applique.  Need I say more?

I think what this book says to me most is that color choice really matters and has changed quite a bit.  The 1800s had muted calicos and stripes--women and men wore these homespun fabrics so they were naturally used in home projects.  As quilting became more decorative than functional, and fabric choices evolved from clothing scraps to a growing stash, quilts lost their traditional edge: featuring goldfish instead of stars, and flowers instead of nine patches.  Modern quilting has gone back to these roots, keeping a foot in both worlds: functional quilts made with designer fabrics.  They aren't thumbing their nose at tradition, but rather paying an homage.  

There is a well-known animosity between modern and traditional quilters, and whether or not you've experienced it, you probably know the main disagreements: modern quilters don't have enough rules and traditional quilters are too stuffy; modern quilters need a color wheel lesson and traditional quilters need to brighten up and add prints.  I think this book in particular is deep-rooted in tradition and traditional quilting; if it were written in 2008 or 2009, improv quilts would be in the contemporary section without a doubt.  I find myself gravitating to the older quilts in all traditional books--art quilts are normally featured as "contemporary" and, seeing as how they're almost wholly non-functional, they just go against what I think a quilt should be: a blanket.  

It's important to know the history of what you're doing, whether it's painting, quilting, or making dinner.  Nothing exists in a vacuum.  Pulling from the past and deciding how those traditions are interpreted helps to further a movement.  Books like this one are a great resource because they explain the background of how our favorite blocks came to be.  But it definitely takes an editing eye to decide what is relevant and what isn't, what is true to one's style and what isn't.  As with any book, every project isn't doable, but once a quilter is able to determine what is and isn't his or her style, choosing quilt blocks and merging them with a stash--upcycled or new--becomes easier and more meaningful once it becomes deliberate.

How do you merge old and new in your own work?  Do you know what your style is or are you dabbling?

February 13, 2013

A little housekeeping

Chinese New Year has come and gone, for some of us it is the season of Lent and for others of us spring and its feeling and promise of renewal can't come soon enough. (Although the screaming, pooping, squirmer that will come with my spring this year is anticipated and feared in equal measure.)

This little space on the internet isn't immune from these feelings of renewal and cleansing.  A few weeks ago Emily mentioned in passing a Skype session in which we made some plans for this little quilting adventure.  We are still working on some of the ideas and slowly coming up with a timeline for rolling out the changes and doing some behind-the-scenes work to make these new additions and edits gel with our current tack.

We started the blog with the idea of documenting the life of a particular quilt for each of us.  I was starting with a memory laden pile of t-shirts and Emily had a stash of fabric aching to be turned into something.  We weren't interested in creating tutorials or step by step, blow by blow descriptions of the process or portfolios of photos.  However, as each of the original pieces came to an end that is exactly where we found ourselves; diligently showing our work with little meaning or storytelling.

We started to think about what we love about quilting and what we want to share with our readers.  And while we will still share what we are currently working on, we want to expand our quilting discussions to what we are thinking about, what sparks our interest in the craft and what moves our readers to quilt.

To that end, we have made a few changes and will be looking for a bit of help from you, our lovely readers and quilting community.


Monday will remain devoted to Emily and her quilting adventures and forays into her local quilting community.

Tuesdays and Wednesday will be spaces for historical/traditional discussions/stories and wordless posts highlighting the visual and artistic aspects of quilting.  We want to dig into the stories behind popular/traditional block designs, or terms or photos or superstitions, etc.  We will leave it open to interpretation.

Thursday will become Ariel's day to babble about material re-use mis-adventures and ruminations.

Friday Round-Up will transition to a monthly recap of links shared throughout the preceding days with a few special extras we found around the internet.  Taking its place will be a kind of occasional Scrap Bag of quilting stories, memories, interviews, or book reviews, etc. we (or you) collect over time.


Obviously, most of this will be our own work and discoveries, but we want to create a space for community discoveries and stories as well.  Maybe you are interested in a particular aspect of quilting, or maybe you have a story or memory of a quilt you can't shake.  Why not share it with us?  It could be a single image with a caption or a complete history of a family heirloom.  Whatever it is, we want it.

So have a think and drop us a comment or email and let's stitch together a little virtual quilting bee complete with craft, storytelling and cake.

February 11, 2013

Too Much Sugar, Not Enough Sewing

I have a confession to make: I am thoroughly unprepared to write this post.  I've eaten a lot of Cadbury Mini Eggs and I've had so little quilting-related projects going on lately--things I actually want to make, not things I have to make--that I feel lame even contributing to the flow this week.  It's not that I've been sitting around, thinking about everything but quilting; on the contrary, I've been working on a couple quilts this week.  But there's either been no progress to show or nothing new to showcase.  I'm almost done with my second Cluck Cluck Sew Inside Out quilt, this one commissioned by a former classmate of mine, but we've all seen it before!  Boring.

To be honest with you, quilting has been in the back of my mind, but still on my mind.  I've taken on yet another hobby, and it wouldn't be Emily to dabble, so I've thrown myself all-in to this one.  Gardening (the new hobby) is more time-dependent than quilting; I can piece a block at 2 AM or PM, in rain or snow or sun, but planting vegetables requires some planning and forethought and checking the forecast.  I've been preparing that lately and grinding through my other projects.

But this isn't a gardening blog, is it?  I'll save that for my personal blog, instead.  This is a quilting blog, so pull it together, Emily.  I almost flaked out and ran another book review but decided that was just too much boring for two weeks.  I'm still really excited to start sewing projects from Liberty Love, and even bought my first cut of Liberty--two yards of Wiltshire Berry in the darker colors--to celebrate my tax return.  However, because it'll go toward a garment, that's another story for my personal blog.

I never did talk about plans for 2013, and seeing as how it's now February, maybe I should go into that a bit?

  • I have three--three--quilt tops that need to be quilted.  That seems so wasteful, doesn't it?  I have a project plan in place for the year (exciting!) and they are all on it. 
  • I have one quilt top that is in progress.  I started it back in September, as something to do.  It's so boring to me now.  I'll probably finish it and tie it instead of machine-quilting, but not anytime soon.
  • The baby quilt list is down to two--Ariel and my manager.  I almost quilted Ariel's today--I can't wait for you to see it!  My manager isn't due until August, so she can wait a little longer.
  • I joined do.Good Stiches Bee, a charity quilting bee.  Our quilts support women and children in abusive relationships (currently living at a safe house), and I'm a quilter, so I need to design two quilts a year.  I'd like to call on more traditional blocks and found some on Pinterest I really liked:

Lord knows I love a good HST, and stars!  The blocks I have to sew for this month's quilt are paper-pieced letters, two things I've never done before.  I haven't started on them yet...but I will!  And perhaps you'll see them next week!

  • Nick mentions making a quilt for our bed every once in a while.  That's not happening.
In all, 2013 shouldn't be too busy, besides my do.Good blocks and baby quilts.  It's been a rough start because I haven't gotten to play around at all yet: everything I've made has been commissioned or done for someone or something else.  While I really love that, and I love giving people handmade gifts (if they appreciate them, that is), 2012 was all about sewing for me.  It's been a hard adjustment!

How have your sewing goals been so far?  Have you been able to accomplish anything?  Also, if you have any gardening tips for the southeast, I will take them, gladly!  Sorry I'm so lame this week!

February 6, 2013

Triangles, Triangles everywhere


A lesson in patience.  Cutting all these triangles is tedious. I'm feeling out of my element.  The last two pieces I made were based almost entirely on the materials themselves.  The t-shirts dictated their shape based on logos.  The remnants came in a squarish shape so I went with 'half square triangles' (or HST as their known in the quilting world, as Emily informed me after the fact).  Pete's shirts are not lending themselves to any particular shape on their own.

Based on the backing fabric, I decided to go with a triangle pattern to mirror the bunting.  This means cutting out a lot of triangles.  I started with the sleeves and front panels of each shirt.  The palette was looking a little washed out so I threw in a few triangles from extra backing fabric.

After three rounds of cutting triangles I couldn't bear to look at any more.  I used to have the same feeling ironing these shirts.  When Pete retired these I was so pleased to never have to iron them again.  Of course I did iron them one last time before I chopped them up into triangles.  It was bitter sweet.  

I felt it was time to mess with possible patterns.  Before I began cutting I attempted to plan out a few possibilities.  It wasn't working, so I started cutting.  I figured I would wing it when the time came.

The time came and I was still clueless.  I have gone through about five different versions of similar patterns and now I am even more clueless.  So many possibilities!!

I hit on one particularly geometric repeating pattern that reminds me of a circus tent (can't get away from it) and one with a more subtle pattern that looks a little haphazard.

Pictures have been taken of each and I will deliberate for a bit.  Maybe I'll attempt some chaos.

February 4, 2013

Book Review: Liberty Love

I've gone a little crazy these last few weeks--I think upwards of five quilting/sewing books have been delivered to my house since January 1.  What can I say?  My Amazon wishlist has been lonely and I needed to spend some time with it.  And this doesn't include the number of books coming from the library!

I plan on reviewing most (if not all, let's see how boring my upcoming projects are!) of these books, and wanted to start with the latest release: Liberty Love, by Alexia Abegg.

I also thought this would be a great opener because it ties the two of us--Ariel, Ms. Londoner, and me, country bumpkin U.S.A.--together, even though Ariel has told me she doesn't go to Liberty.  I admire her restraint.  I'm a bit of a ridiculous person (see above re: books) and would blow my entire salary there in a couple weeks.

I have really high standards for books, both fiction and non-fiction, and craft books are no different.  I won't accept a book with an excess of unnecessary projects, especially projects that seem to exist only to waste my stash. I also don't want anything too cute, too country, too babyish, or too outlandish.  Thankfully, this book arrived and I didn't have any of those thoughts at all.

The book opens with this picture, the Marcelle Medallion quilt.  I love this as more of a work of art than a quilt.  Look at all the different fabrics used!  I see Liberty, Denyse Schmidt, MoMo, Yuwa, Pez...such an eclectic mix.  It boggles my mind that someone (Alexia Abegg, I'd bet) chose the fabrics, put them together, and walked away with a quilt so gorgeous it looks like both 2013 and 1913, even 1863.  I love it!

After the introduction and the obligatory "here's how to sew" section, Abegg includes a fold-out of Classic and Seasonal Liberty prints:

 I want them all.

The projects included in the book are sectioned by type: baby quilts, quilts, accessories, clothing, what have you.  I love the baby quilts.  I really enjoy making baby quilts anyway, but the Liberty and modern fabrics together are so feminine and soft I want to make them for myself and my cats.

Who doesn't love stars?  This is the Sugar Stars Quilt.

I almost never sew accessories, and I don't know why, because they're such a good use of small scraps.  However, I've been thinking of a new pincushion lately, because my little tomato is falling apart at the seams, and this log cabin pincushion is just too pretty.  It would also be pretty cost-efficient: there are plenty of Etsy listings for Liberty scraps under $15, and considering how tiny these pieces are, you'd be able to make a few pincushions from one scrap pack.

I also like the Sew and Go Organizer, which is surprising, because these typically don't hold my interest.  I don't travel with my sewing, but I'm attending the Sew South Retreat next month and will need to pack up my things and trek off to the South Park neighborhood of Charlotte.  This would keep everything together, but I think I need some Liberty-themed scissors, definitely.

 The clothing in this book also stands out as "adorable" instead of "an afterthought."  Seriously, if I never see another boxy, caftan-like pattern in a book, it will be too soon.  Alexia designs for Green Bee Patterns and many of her patterns are for women and children.  Unsurprisingly, those were the patterns I liked the most!

The Little Pearl dress is so classic and feminine, lacking ruffles, hot pink, or an excess of quilting cottons.  I need to make an army of these for absolutely no reason at all.

The Michelle My Belle dress is also so summery, and is the big-girl version of Little Pearl.  Instead of Liberty, though that is wonderful, I'd like to make one in chambray with a tiny Liberty ruffle for the spring.  I did just get a nice cut of chambray I've been itching to use...

The Lulu Tunic reminds me of Colette's Macaron but not as dressy.  This would be cute with leggings in the fall or winter.

One giant perk is all the patterns are included in the back of the book!  I'm not picky about pattern envelopes; I see some bad reviews on Amazon for different books because "the envelope doesn't have a Velcro closing--how am I supposed to keep track of paper in an envelope?!"  Well, be an adult and just do it.  Anyway, I really appreciate books that include patterns instead of basing everything on templates or rectangles.  Thanks Alexia!

Overall, I give this book two thumbs up and think it's a great addition to any modern sewing library.  Now I need to go buy a ton of Liberty and never escape the crushing debt it causes, at $37.00 a yard.

I was not compensated for this review.  I bought my copy off Amazon.  I really love books and sewing and am more than happy to spend money and share my opinions with the masses.