Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Gifts

Lovely as vacation was, relaxing can be difficult when you are used to having busy hands. Preparing for Christmas was almost as fun as celebrating it. At the last minute, I decided to make a few gifts. Now that the gifts have been received, I can share them with you :o)

Introducing...the Citrus Series!

I started with some gorgeous Birdie Spokes by Birch Fabrics, Pearl Bracelet in Green by Lizzy House, some lovely Kona solids, and a couple scraps of Little Folks voile (every bit of that stuff will be used).

I used Dream Green batting by Quilter's Dream. It's made from recycled plastic bottles, so it's kind of a gift to the Earth too.
A duo of mini quilts went to my dad and his fiance. I finished them with a bit of hand-quilting in gray and yellow perle cotton thread. Because I didn't mind taking larger stitches with the perle cotton thread, I practiced the traditional method for hand-quilting instead of my usual way (taking each stitch one at a time). I found it pretty enjoyable. Maybe perle cotton will teach me how to quilt "for real."

A set of 8 coasters found a home with my cousin. They measure about 4" square and are backed with Kona Cayenne.
The gray fabric is Kona Medium Gray. I love how it lends the perfect coolness to those citrus-y flavors.

They fit right into the San Diego landscape, no?

And because I couldn't let go of those beautiful fabrics completely, I made an organizer for myself. The tutorial is here: Where the Orchids Grow. Mine is slightly larger than the tutorial (8"x10.5" finished), and the side pockets are increased accordingly.

As the tutorial suggested, I sewed the fabric to the batting when joining the strips of fabric together. I love this method! It sped up the process and made the layers sit more smoothly together. I wonder how it would work on a full-sized quilt top...

What I wouldn't do to get out of basting.

I cut into my luscious Echo prints to make a Buttercup Bag for my orange-loving sister. I forgot to get pictures of it, but quilt friends, it was super cute. I have never made a bag before, and even I thought the pattern was easy-peasy. Try it!

For mom, I whipped up a set of fabric boxes in her favorite colors. The middle size comes directly from the Sometimes Crafter's tutorial, with which I am clearly obsessed. I've made like ten of these things, and there's no end in sight! So easy and useful.

To make the small box, I started with a 10 inch square of fabric, and cut out 3 inch squares from each corner. For the large, I increased the original square to 20 inches with a 6 inch cut-out. I wouldn't make it any bigger though, as the increase in size definitely challenges the shape of the box.

Finally I made another set of 6 coasters and a box for my friend who just moved into a new apartment. Her color scheme is black, red, and silver.

I pulled out six reds from the Kona Spice fat quarter pack, and sewed together 1 1/4" strips. I cut the fabric into strips, each 1/4" larger than the next.

Each coaster is backed with a different red.

This bundle is due to arrive in her mailbox any day now. I really hope she likes them!

Holiday Cheer

My husband gives the most unique compliments. For example, today he told me that I have a nicely shaped head. He elaborated with: "Your head would look good on money." That is so strange is has to be honest, right??

Of course, it can go both ways. He once declared: "I like girls with big noses." Thanks? In any case, it feels good to be accepted just as I am. Family is like that.

Family time during the holidays is extra special. You look at that unique collection of people you love more than any other, and think, Yup. This is where my heart is.

We enjoyed a great visit to San Diego this Christmas. It was full of warm and funny moments. That I forgot to photograph. So you'll just have to trust me on this one.

I did, however, capture quite a few trees. Sorry, People I Love. You've been replaced by trees that I Love To Photograph.

Seasons are different here.

Each day was bright and sunny under that wide, glorious sky.

The sun has a powerful, personal warmth in Southern California. It's really unlike anything else.

At night the dry desert air dropped into the low 40s.

Got to have a daily walk. One day we went to Lake Chollas.

During vacation, I tune in to the rhythms of the day so differently than during a work week.

The angle of the sun is a treat to observe.

The changing crispness of the air is something to savor.

Colors appear like treasures.

The marsh at Los Elijos was alive with birds and other skittering critters.

In Southern California, lush growth is consistently mingling with dry, brittle shells, all of it equally hearty. Hollow, scratchy twigs hover like halos over sweet-smelling grasses. Leafless trees sleep beside neighbors that are bursting forth in flower.

Nature illustrates balance: life and death; endings and beginnings. The veil between them is thin.

It's comforting to see the world moving through these changes exactly as it should, at peace with its own metamorphosis.

As we prepare for a new year, and come together to celebrate the abundance of the last, I hope you and your family had a beautiful holiday and a restful reminder of 2011.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Work in Chaos Wednesday

There are a million things I ought to be doing besides sewing, let alone posting about it.

Stern Grove in San Francisco
The holidays, and the ending of a year, demand more giving, more socializing, more making and baking and overall output. Yet as the days grow shorter and colder, and things generally wrap up, I want to do less and less. Not that I'm Grinchy (at least I don't think!). I'm craving quiet time and empty space to just be. Maybe its just a natural point of contraction as the solstice draws near.

In any case, my sewing table tells the story. Too many projects, not enough focus! (Also, not enough daylight! It's tough to get good pictures with so few bright hours in the day.)

Let's start at the top of pile, shall we?

In Progress
I've been working on my blocks for the 4x5 Bee. It was really hard to decide on a block pattern. After much scouring of Flickr photos, I chose something simple, yet striking. I hope my bee-mates like it as much as I do.

Two down, three to go. Amazing how turning the smaller triangle the other direction changes the whole dynamic of the block.

Fabric for the next one is all ready to be cut.

Mumu has also been getting some attention. I had put together 3 blocks with mixed fabrics, and then really didn't like the look of it. Somehow, it seemed incomplete and the pattern wasn't showing through as much as I'd wanted. So I ripped it apart and put the blocks together with like fabrics. Something about sewing these blocks is really soothing. I'm looking forward to finishing this quilt so I can use it. Should I be working so hard on something just for me at this time of year? Can I help it??

And Paisley Sunrise is making progress as the nights get colder and I need a big cozy project to be under while I watch TV at night. Truth be known, Mr Awesome occasionally snags a corner too. This quilt is getting a lot of job training right up front.

I've completed a set of surprise somethings for a Christmas gift. More somethings will soon be posted after they are gifted, as well as the AMAZING tutorials I used. Let me take a moment to say thank you to all bloggers who offer free tutorials for the beautiful, functional stuff you somehow, magically, manage to invent. 

New Projects
We've already established there's no old problem a new project can't fix, right? Friends, I've been shopping. The hype about Echo (by Lotta Jansdotter) got to me and I ordered the whole half-yard set. Absolutely no plans for what this will become. I'm happy just looking at it.

This is my favorite print.

I also popped on a half-yard bundle of Far Far Away III (Fabricworm may have been having a sale...I made out like a bandit! Their organic cotton selection = drool). That little girl playing with her horsies is ME, I swear. I think these are going to be my Swoon quilt. And maybe a small giftie for my friend who used to play horsies with me!

Bit Stalled
My brother's Graduation Quilt

Total WIPs: 5 quilts, 3 Bee blocks, 8 small gift items
Soon To Be WIPs: 2 quilts

I hope you all are getting your holiday sewing accomplished and finding peace amongst the hustle and bustle that comes with the close of a year.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tiny Pies

Apple pie is a big deal in my family.

Never is it more in demand than at Thanksgiving.
When I was a kid, my mom would give me the leftover bits of pie crust dough to roll out and fold over the rest of the apple pieces. I have come to love these little dumplings more than the pie itself, so I always make a few for a morning-after breakfast treat.

This year I wanted to capture the small coziness of the dumpling, but give folks the traditional pie they know and love.

Enter the cupcake!
I made everything like normal, then rolled out a handful of dough and fit it into a cupcake paper. I stuffed the tiny pies full of apple-y goodness, making sure to drizzle in as much sweet juice as possible. The crumble topping made a huge mess, but was delicious.
And everyone could say they ate a whole pie :o)

Happy Thanksgiving, quilt friends. I hope it was a warm and cozy day for you and yours.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Portrait of a Husband (Specifically Mine)
The man lives for flannel.
I started with a pile of his old clothes.

My family affectionately refers to my husband as "The Flanimal"...or, sometimes, "The Wooly Flammoth."

There were two goals with this quilt:
1. Rush.
2. Stay with the big picture.

I made this quilt in only 5 days, which is quilting at the speed of light for me. (At times, my heart was literally racing. It was weird.) Why? I wanted it done so I could hang it up. We moved around some furniture on Sunday, leaving this blank wall over the (beloved) cozy red chair. I knew a 36"x36" quilt would warm it up perfectly. And since this is the chosen habitat of The Flanimal himself, of course his beloved shirts belonged here.

(What is that wooden thing in the background? Don't get me started...)

Math is cool.
I wanted it to look random, yet pretty. So I used the Fibonacci sequence to determine all of my measurements (2, 3, 5, 8, and 13, mainly).

As I was rapidly piecing, I thought about my great-grandmother, who did this all the time, and I'm sure it wasn't that big a deal to her. People just needed warm blankets, so she put stuff together. I wonder how much time she spent laying out blocks and musing over choices. I tried to keep her perfectly-imperfect quilt top in mind as I cut this fabric by hand, with scissors.

Happily I had a yard of Kona Navy Blue in my stash. Easiest backing ever!

When it came to the quilting, I wasn't sure what I could do that wouldn't detract from that beautiful big picture. I thought hard about it while basting. So much so that I basted the quilt to the carpet. Le sigh.
In pure avoidance of more basting, which I patently hate anyway, I popped the thing into the quilting hoop.
I made some random stitches here and there.
An M (for his last name)
Some reinforcement for the elbow holes.
He was wearing this red shirt almost every day when I met him. It's maybe the softest thing ever :o)
I remembered how much I love cross-stitch.
I may have gone overboard as I abandoned the big picture for a while to indulge my zest for tiny details.
I've so admired Victoria's hand-work at The Silly BooDilly, as well as Nova's at a cuppa and a catch up. It was fun to try some improv hand-quilting of my own.

While piecing, I accidentally sewed three strips together without checking which was the front, so one got on there backwards. Rather than spend time taking it out (yes, it would have taken like 10 seconds), I decided to anchor it with buttons from the shirt sleeves and a little hand stitching. Mistake = opportunity, right?

Once I had enough "basting" in, I machine-quilted some random vertical lines for extra stability. I tried a couple horizontal ones too, but I got bored so I stopped after two. (Meh, enough was enough already.)

I folded the edges of the backing over to bind it (by machine), made my own style of corners, added my signature, and made a hanging sleeve.

He collects rare and antique books.

Now that it's hung up, I'm amazed that it's pretty much exactly like what I pictured. So awesome to have my first wall hanging up in my own home!

Yet I'm having a hard time letting go of all the flaws I see. Like I wish there was more red. And it could be a little longer. And I see some repeating patterns where I was trying to be random.

Why do I love to be miserable.

At least Mr Awesome is content in his peaceful reading corner, musing over a first edition Nietzsche.

Imperfect or not, this quilt is already a treasured family item, as I hope it will be for many years to come.