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.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Not So Much Progress Wednesday

This is going to be a blahg post.

My Work Life has been busy, quilt friends. It's absorbing a ton of creative energy, which is pretty great, actually. I'm happy to be a person who loves my work. But it sure doesn't translate into a lot of quilting progress.

Let's start with some VICTORIES!

My sewing space got a make-over this week!

I've been scouring craigslist for a solid, cheap, drafting table that I could use for cutting and pressing to replace the little antique folding table I commandeered in recent months (I'll be honest, it was our dining room table). Ye olde folding table was killin' my back.

Ta Da!
The new find is adjustable height, sturdy, and plenty wide. The seller claimed it was birch, which, even with my craigslist goggles on, was impossibly optimistic. But for $30, quilt friends!

The table top sits on those little saw horses, which provide a perfect place for my baskets of WIPs.

Sadly, after moving it in and drooling all over it, I haven't done much work here yet.

Before (sans table)
Would it be wrong to admit that I'm a little intimidated by the improvements made to my sewing space? The corner is sort of looming there, demanding productivity, à la the pushy furniture in Brave Little Toaster.

After (and slightly cleaner sewing table, hmm)

Sometimes I look around my apartment-turned-sewing room and wonder how this all happened. I mean, I've only completed 7 quilts since 2002. (I'm the crockpot of quilters.) Yet it is such an important part of my life. Well, when the shock wears off, I know I'll love getting down to crafty business in my sunny little nook!

Nothing like a nice blank canvas.

In other EPIC VICTORIES, I finally finally FINALLY picked a layout for my brother's quilt. (I think. Probably. There may be some slight tweaking. Maybe.)

Ta Da!!!
I love the criss-cross. And I love ginormous blocks. And it's boyish. Win.

There will be 3 of these.

And one of these. But I think I'll replace the purple triangles in the middle with plain yellow ones.

So happy to have this whole thing figured out! I've started putting the HSTs together. Yip yip!

Spring Sampler
Emma's Trip Around the World (need a better name for this one)

One block for my Block Party Bee, a wonky log cabin of Sherbet Pips:

For some reason, this was a tough one. I had ideas that didn't pan out. But I like the result, if I'm a certain distance away :o)

Check out many more works, and likely much more progress, over at Lee's:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Very Special WIP Wednesday

We all have projects that have been laying around for, well, a while. Possibly also guilt-tripping us with their beady little eyes.

Get ready to feel better about them. This quilt top has been a work in progress for more than 40 years.

My mom came up for a visit this weekend, and brought a family heirloom with her: a quilt top made by my great-grandmother in 1968.

From a dress my mom made in the 60s
It is at once the most hideous and most beautiful quilt top I've ever seen.

From a dress of my grandmother's
Emma Dashnaw, my great-grandmother, pieced it on her early-1900s Standard treadle (still used by my aunt).

A dairy farmer's wife in rural New York, Emma did it all-- home-made doughnuts (Mom's favorite memory), gardening, cooking, baking, quilting, garment sewing, and button-collecting, not to mention all the chores involved in keeping the cows, kids, and chickens happy and healthy.

A shirt my mom made for her dad
As her quilt top shows, Emma favored function over form. When clothes were worn, she cut them up and re-purposed them as blankets. My grandfather, an Army Sergeant, would bring her old wool army blankets, which she used as batting. All her quilts were tied with yarn.

A party dress

When quilts got old, she just sandwiched them in between a new top and backing.

Clearly, Emma was not plagued with my level of perfectionism. Then again, she was probably just too busy.

What better time to introduce my classic seamstress mom to modern quilting than with a backing for this quilt. I thought a liberated log cabin block, on a field of Kona Snow, would be just the thing.

How did that print get in there? Sneaky.
Selecting the fabric was fun. Since the front is so busy, we decided to go with solids that reflect the major colors in the top. I really branched out from my normal palette, and ended up loving the result.

At the end of the day, there's just no matching brand-new cotton and 43-year-old polyester.

So we forged ahead!
Mom looked on anxiously while I cut random strips. She was still a little unsure as we laid them out. But once we started sewing, cutting, and placing, she could see it taking shape. I have never done improv sewing with another person. It was an amazing experience to co-create a piece of art.

The result
I am so so in love with it. I think Emma would have loved it too. How marvelous to think that over 100 years of quilting heritage made this piece possible.

I might have a new obsession with solids.
So from Emma's WIP list, to my mom's, to mine...a top and a backing that will span two centuries, four decades, a continent, and four generations.

(Did I not promise you'd feel better about your own WIP list? :o)
When my mom visits again, we're going to tie it together. Too many metaphors!!!

Progress Has Also Been Made On...
Brother Quilt

A Lisette Portfolio dress

Still Marinating
Paisley Sunrise (being hand-quilted)
Spring Sampler

Annnnnnd....since we're talking family and WIPs (heheheh), I want to wish a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my favorite little sister, who is 21 today :o)

Check out more WIPs over at Lee's (whose link-up is having a birthday! Congrats on one year, Lee! Thanks for keeping this going!):

Monday, November 7, 2011

Portfolio Dress

Lisette Portfolio dress
I learned to sew from my mom, an excellent seamstress. She currently designs and repairs costumes for a ballet company. I can hardly remember a moment of childhood that doesn't include her handmade touch: clothes, outfits for my dollies, quilts, toys, Halloween costumes. (And I didn't even mention the edibles!)

Since Mom was up here for a visit this weekend, I thought I'd recruit her to help me make this dress. It looked super cute, and maybe not too hard?

And it wasn't too hard. Except the neckline. Which was a whole other thing. But I made an important discovery.

I really don't like making clothes. I like to have them. But not make them. Maybe it's my measuring phobia. Or having to follow a pattern. Just not my thing. But I'm super happy to have this dress in my closet!

I quilted myself.
Dork-fest: I saw a little square piece in the pattern and had to make a churn dash to go in there.

The dress has since been hemmed and is awaiting a pretty little button.

It is thoroughly:
-what I will be wearing every Saturday if it's not too cold

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WIP Wednesday

I had all this stuff for hand-quilting laying around.

It needed a little home of its own. This tutorial looked not-too-intimidating, except the interfacing. Let the truth be known: until last Saturday, I was a fusible web virgin! I know, I know! In this day and age! So it was off to the dreaded neighborhood fabric store.

My conversation there went something like this:

"Do you have fusible interfacing?"
"Um, I think we probably should." [Shows me two things that I really hope are interfacing since I've never used it before.]
"Is it iron-on?"
"Oh yeah definitely probably iron-on. I think it definitely should be." [Asks co-worker, who also doesn't know.]

Needless to say, my confidence was at minimum, but at 99¢ per yard, I took a chance and happily it worked out pretty well. It was kind of cool to iron it on and watch the magic happen. (I'll admit to looking around for more fusing projects...many more boxes may be appearing around our house. That tutorial was fun and built up my confidence!)

The interfacing wasn't too stiff, so my box doesn't have the crisp shape of The Sometimes Crafter's, but I really like it all the same. And it's so girl-y in pink and purple :o)

Happy little notions!

The fabrics are Leaning Trees from Woodland Wonderland (Jay McCarroll for Freespirit Fabrics) and Illuminate from 1001 Peeps (by Lizzy House for Andover Fabrics). Just in case you were wondering :o)

So that's it for finishes. The day I finish an actual quilt, look out your window because there will be a parade.

After getting all my HSTs done for Mumu, I came across this post by "pure happenstance," aka my obsession with Flickr (for the record, I think this quilt is gorgeous and I actually like the unique shape). Which led to a little research on AMH voiles and their 3/4" shrinkage in the wash. Gulp. I basically never pre-wash fabrics because a) it's expensive (coin-operated machine in my apartment building); b) I'm lazy; and c) I'm really just lazy, there's no good reason.

Now, I do love crinkly, but since I'm mixing the voile with regular cotton, I thought it best to take precautions. So I threw the whole kit n' caboodle in the wash and crossed my fingers.

Looks kind of like a muppet mouth...Mumu Monster?
Luckily the voile didn't fray much, but it did shrink by about 1/2". I'm squaring up the HSTs to 7", which will make 25" criss-crosses. Still plenty large. Whew.

(Sidebar: I store my WIPs in baskets. This one was my latest thrift store find. So pretty!)

Meanwhile, Paisley Sunrise is ambling along. I have the hand-quilting in the center panel totally done, wahoo! Just two more to go. And the borders. And the binding. So, it's not even close, basically. 

Still Marinating
Brother Quilt
Spring Sampler

Check out some more projects-in-process at Lee's blog, Freshly Pieced!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blogger's Quilt Festival

After browsing through many wonderful blogs featured on Amy's Creative Side, and reading truly amazing stories about quilts, I was inspired to share one of my own.

This is my very first machine-pieced, full-sized quilt, completed in 2006.

My then-boyfriend (now the one and only Mr Awesome ;o) had a big birthday coming up and I wanted to give him something really special. Like, really super special. (I was pretty sure he was the one.) I decided to make him a quilt.

The year before I'd made a doll quilt from a kit, plus I'd made two mini-quilts when I was about ten years old. All were pieced and quilted entirely by hand. I didn't even begin to guess how unprepared I was to tackled a full-sized quilt. Good thing my stitchin' mama was only a phone call away, of which I took copious advantage:

"Hi, honey, how's it going?"
"Mom. There's no time for small talk. I have a sewing problem."
"Oh okay. What is it?"
"How do I thread this stupid machine again?"

Ah, that machine. It was a Brother (more like a Bother), a very thoughtful gift from my mom, and a giant pain in my tush. Not that I didn't pull and tug the fabric every which way trying to get my poorly cut pieces to magically fit together (I didn't have a concept of 1/4" seams OR squaring up). Needless to say, our relationship had its share of communication problems. From which issued forth many rectangular blocks that were supposed to be, ahem, square (ideally). Ironically, the quilt itself was supposed to be rectangular, yet ended up more square-ish.

If only I had discovered the liberated piecing movement earlier!

Anyway, my woodsy sweetheart loves all things outdoor-ish, so I selected a pattern using Bear Paw blocks out of a traditional quilting book. I chose 4 different color combos to represent the different seasons.

Winter, when everything is cool and dark.

Spring, when the rain comes and everything blooms.

Summer, when the sun bakes everything to within an inch of its life.

Fall, when everything is really dead, dry, and brittle.

It's possible my Southwestern experience of seasons clashed slightly with Mr Awesome's New England notion of them. ;o)

This quilt took about 3 years. I hand-quilted it by stitching in the ditch, most of it without a hoop. There were big plans to do some embroidery in the black squares (a tree in the colors of each season) but I really wasn't up to the challenge, and honestly, I think it would have been a bit overdone.

I presented the finished quilt to my guy for his birthday in 2006. He immediately put it on his bed and we still sleep under it every night. It's gotten a bit faded, but what can you do? It's a family quilt that was made to be used.

This quilt taught me some important lessons:
1. Quilting has so. many. STEPS!
2. Which means you have to go slow and enjoy the process. And not expect to finish in a month.
3. And celebrate small victories. Like making HSTs. Or cutting off the corners of them!
4. Patience is a virtue (that I need to work on :o)
5. Pins are your friend.
6. Better to rip out a seam than deal with the same problem over and over again.
7. Better to just line it up right and sew it carefully than rush through and have to do every seam over.
8. Good tools make all the difference.
9. Quilting is best when you can share the process with like-minded folks.
10. Every bit of frustration is worth it when you cuddle into that pocket of softness and think, "I made this!"

Thanks, quilt. You may get an extra snuggle tonight!

Check out more stories at Amy's: