Thursday, December 30, 2010

Books I've read in 2010 *woohoo*

Because I can't quite sit down long enough to post anything of substance I am listing the books (and short'ish stories) I've read in 2010. I love reading. I would give up every modern convenience as long as I could keep my books. I bought a Kindle back in 2009 and fell in love with the gadget and I am not really into gadgets. I take my Kindle everywhere I go even though I may not have time to read. Out of 913 books on my toy, I've read 69 of them this year.


January
1. Under the Dome by Stephen King
2. Hunting Love by Dana Marie Bell
3. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
4. The Shunning by Beverly Lewis
5. The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan
6. Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder
7. Soul Intent by Dennis Batchelder
8. Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch by B J Daniels
9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
10. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham


February
11. Already Dead by Charlie Huston
12. In the Warrior's Bed by Mary Wine
13. Neuromancer by William Gibson


March
14. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
15. Going Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters by Anne Kreamer
16. Anthem by Ayn Rand
17. The Dunwich Horror by H. P. Lovecraft
18. When Night Falls by Margaret Daley
19. Pretty When She Dies: A Vampire Novel by Rhiannon Frater
20. Cuts by Richard Laymon
21. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
22. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
23. The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood
24. A Gift of Grace: A Novel by Amy Clipston


April
25. As The World Dies: The First Days: A Zombie Trilogy by Rhiannon Frater
26. As The World Dies: Fighting to Survive: A Zombie Trilogy by Rhiannon Frater
27. As The World Dies: Siege: A Zombie Trilogy by Rhiannon Frater
28. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr


May
29. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
30. Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
31. Watchers by Dean Koonz
32. The Family Bones by Kimberly Raiser
33. The Dark Highlander by Karen Marie Moning


June
34. The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
35. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
36. Spell of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning
37. The Walk by Lee Goldberg
38. Sisters of Glass by D. W. St John
39. After Life by Jaron Lee Knuth
40. Dune by Frank Herbert


July
While I don't know how many so I can keep track, I've read probably dozens of short smutty stories that were available for free for the Kindle.
41. Soul Catcher by Leigh Bridger
42. Lakota Flower by Janelle Taylor


August
43. The Outsider: A Novel by Ann H. Gabhart
44. Feed by Mira Grant
45. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
46. Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville (the only dead tree book on the list, all others were ebooks)


September
47. Mozart's Blood by Louise Marley
48. The Book by M. Clifford
49. Marked (Eternal Guardians) by Elisabeth Naughton
50. The Companions by Sheri S. Tepper


October
51. 33 A.D. by David L. McAfee
52. Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle


November
53. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel
54. The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel
55. The Mammoth Hunters by Jean Auel
56. The Plains of Passage by Jean Auel
57. The Shelters of Stone by Jean Auel


December
58. Memoirs of a Serial Killer by Tricia Benet
59. Midnight Girl by Will Shetterly
60. Tokyo Zero by Marc Horne
61. 3 by Moxie Meszal
62. The Death Trip by Marion Stein
63. DEAD(ish) by Naomi Kramer
64. The Son of Man: Two Elders of Zion by Charles Johnson
65. Containment by Christian Cantrell
66. The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman
67. Emmanuel (The Fulfilled Prophecies) by Raul Garcia Lamoutte
68. The Frank Diary of Anne by Daniel Dillard
69. Tooth and Nail by Craig DiLouie

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Time flies...

So it's been a while. It's been a strange past couple months. I managed to get my submission for Quilt National 2011 submitted by the due date thanks to FedEx. While I like the piece I knew right off it wouldn't be good enough for Quilt National. My goal with the piece was just to submit something for a juried show. That was my resolution for 2010 and I succeeded.

When I got the rejection email I wasn't surprised. What I was surprised about was that I still felt a little bit sad. I knew it was coming but it still stung a little bit. I put so much time and energy into the piece and even knowing the rejection was coming I still had a tiny little bit of hope.

The sad thing in a way is that I haven't worked on anything artistic since. I started working on holiday gifts and then it was the final training runs for the Chicago marathon on 10-10-10. That alone took up a lot of time. I finished that marathon which now puts my marathon/half marathon record at 4 marathons and 2 half marathons completed.

Right after the marathon I started a fitness class at my gym. It's kinda funny. I've always disliked working out. Growing up all I wanted to do was read. I dreaded gym class and stopped taking it when I had the choice. I didn't go on walks or runs or hikes or do any biking. I had no desire to get into any physical fitness. I only started doing marathons because my sister wanted to do the Disney marathon. I signed up also and made it 8 miles before getting pulled out because I was slow. That embarrassed me so I went home and signed up for the Chicago marathon to redeem myself (they allow slow people to finish on the sidewalk). I kept signing up for races for my health (not to mention I didn't gain weight while training).

This year I finally realized that training for full marathons took up too much of my time. I am so slow that when it came to long runs, they took up my entire day. That's a whole day just spent out on the bike path trying to get my miles in. It was so frustrating and I rarely looked forward to it. So I decided there would be no more full marathons. At least not until I could get faster and more in shape.

My first step was to sign up for a class at my gym. I love my gym. I've joined 4 different gyms, a different one each year, before I finally felt at home at one. My current gym is my 5th and final gym. I've been a member since 2007 and never once thought of quitting.

The class I am in is Move It to Lose It. There are 3 other women in the class with me and our trainer really pushes us. It's rough. It's really rough. Especially when she has us going up and down 5 flights of stairs. Illinois is very flat so training outside is pretty easy. There are no ups and downs to worry about. Running up and down 5 flights of stairs is HARD! And we all know not to complain because then we will do those stairs more often. *laugh*

The class is part fitness and part diet. Only not dieting, more like focusing on what we eat and how much. We keep a diet and fitness log book. That first week of writing down what I eat and then calculating calories was frightening. I knew my portions were too large but when I started to focus on portion control I found I actually started to lose weight. Just working out wasn't enough.

Yeah, everyone knows it takes both eating better and exercise but until you actually start writing down what you eat, you just don't realize how out of control portion sizes are. I even cut back on my beer intake which is where a lot of my calories were coming from. I still have a beer each night but between cutting back on that second or third bottle and being more aware of my portion sizes I have actually started to lose weight. To the point where I am now at a number I haven't seen on my scale in 5 years. I am finally getting back my health and figure by doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. And I am not giving up foods, it's all about portion control. It also helps that our trainer looks at our food diary and makes comments about how we are doing and we have a weekly weigh-in.

I'm not trying to be all preachy. But I do feel better about myself. I actually look forward to my class (although I do hate it while I am in the middle of it) because I know I am getting fit. I have to be more aware because I have the family genes where I could become rounder than I am tall and that scares me. This class has been incredible and I am actually sad it will be ending soon. I want to sign up again.

My next goal is to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim with the boy and I won't be able to complete it without becoming more fit and being a healthier weight.

Not that this has anything at all to do with sewing. *laugh* But I have been so lax about updating here and I haven't had anything interesting to post about on the sewing front.

Except for the new cover I whipped up for my pretty new Kindle, Graphite Gertie. I adore my Kindle. It is the greatest electronic invention of all time!

My Cover for Graphite Gertie

Saturday, August 07, 2010

August already?

I have been lax in updating my blog lately. I've been working hard on my submissions for some juried art quilt shows so I haven't wanted to upload photos of them until they are done and sent on their merry way.

July was a busy month. We traveled to Ohio to spend the 4th of July weekend with family. The boy turned 40 while out on his two week MegaJam (a yearly cross-country road trip on his motorcycle). I sewed about 60 hours a week. I cleaned the house until it sparkled. The pups and I went on many long walks and played in the backyard. I ordered too much fabric from Fabric.Com because they kept having sales (and at $2.96 a yard, I couldn't pass up adding to my stash). And then the first weekend I bought a new bike and the boy and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary! So here are random photos just to make the post more interesting.

The boy's bike all packed for Megajam 2010

This is the boy's bike all packed up and ready to ride! That is two week's of gear in the cases and dry sacks.


George is hot

George the 2 1/2 year old boxer who is too hot to play in our backyard. He's a rotten dog and I love him! He also hogs the bed at night.


Friday is hot

Friday the 5 year old boxer who is a lemon. Poor girl has very bad allergies and is on a daily dose of steroids and Benedryl.


Yummy fabric!

Lovely, lovely fabric! I have no idea what pattern I will use with these but when I saw the black and white prints I knew I wanted to add some bright Kona cotton solids with them. And the multicolored dot fabric was perfect for a binding. I more fabric than I can possibly use in one year!


My new bicycle

And lastly, my new bicycle (guess which car is mine *laugh*)! My old one was slow and heavy so the boy bought me a new, fast and very light bike for our anniversary (I bought him a painting by our college friend/guy who introduced us). We celebrated 18 years by riding down to the Lincoln Park Zoo for lunch and then to Navy Pier for some live music and a beer. 28 miles round trip but wow does my new bike make it easier to ride than my old one.

So, not quite a sewing post since I don't feel I can share my current projects until after their submitted. I really need to set aside at least one day a week to update here before I get too far behind. I have one more month to work on my juried show projects before photos and forms are due. It makes me very queasy but entering at least one show this year is my goal. I have seen the work that gets chosen and I can't quite accept that I may have a chance also. It's scary and intimidating.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Thread stash!

Because Sew, Mama, Sew! asked...

The fantabulous thread holder!

How did you select colors for your personal thread collection?
I am a fan of bright colors so when I am buying thread I always scan the brights first.

Do you always match the color perfectly to your project?
I'm not very particular about matching. Sometimes I just like to use up the last bits from a spool of thread when I know the stitching won't show. Other times I try to match and still other times I want there to be a lot of contrast.

Do you ever use contrasting thread?
I like to use contrasting thread depending on the project. I am really into thread sketching which calls for a lot of contrast. It's really fun to see a design build up simply by using thread.

The fantabulous thread holder!

Do you use the same color in the bobbin as the upper thread?
I try to keep the colors with the spool and bobbin similar just in case I get my tension wonky and the bobbin thread shows in the quilt top.

What if a fabric has big areas of very different colors?
When fabric has a large area of one color and smaller areas of another, I try to match the thread with the largest color area.

Do you have any tips or suggestions about choosing thread?
I am a trial and error quilter but I tend to stick to 100% cotton thread. I do have a lot of polyester thread from way back in the day which I only use on wall hangings. Like fabric with like thread is my sewing motto!

Spools!

Can you show us a picture(s) of your thread collection?
I love taking photos of my thread collection ever since my husband build me this very fine spool holder. It's like a work of art hanging on my wall.

Do you ever buy thread because you fall in love with the color (without a particular project in mind)?
I have bought some spools because of their color. Some I've had for years just waiting to be used. My recent foray into thread sketching has allowed me to use all those colors I just had to have.

Spools!

Do you “invest” in thread?
This spring I decided to invest in a number of thread sets from Connecting Threads. I've been really pleased with the quality of the thread for the price. I machine quilt my own quilt sandwiches so I need to have a lot of thread on hand and that is easily done with Connecting Threads.

What types of thread do you have? (elastic, quilting, all-purpose, wool, etc.)
I really don't have anything more exciting than 100% cotton thread with the occasional spool of poly. I've never tried using elastic/wool/filament threads.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another two weeks have passed...

I've been lazy about posting here. My current project is too dull to blog about much so I have been avoiding posting about it. The idea is interesting but the step I am on is really maddening.

White on white

It's all about white stitching on white fabric. Lines upon lines upon lines. The piece is 40"x70" and the stitching runs along the length.

Lines and lines and lines and lines

So many lines of stitching! The closer the lines get the slower I need to sew and the longer it takes to get to the finish.

Art quilt process

That bit on the right? Those lines of stitching are a bit more than a threads distance apart. And I am sewing between those. It really was a good idea at the time. And when I see the piece as a whole I like the look of it.

I have two prototype pieces but I can't decide if I should post them. Since this is for a juried art quilt show I wonder if it is a good idea to show more than a small sample. After I send off the photos and application maybe I will feel better about posting images of the whole quilt.

Anyway... since I needed a bit of a break, yesterday I took out some blocks I'd been working on a couple months ago and started sewing them together.

Fingerprint batik

The bright batik print reminds me of fingerprints. The colors are very intense and fun. I got the fabric from Fabric.Com during one of their big sales. That store will be the death of me. They have such bargains and keep sending me coupons so I order more. They had a big sale last week and sent me a 30% off coupon so I just had to order more fabric. I went with many prints good for binding and even some browns!

Fingerprint batik

So anyway, that is where I got these amazing batiks! And with some diligent sewing, I actually managed to get really good points!

I'd really like to get some sewing in before work but I desperately need to work on getting my headache under control. We're had so many ups and downs in temperature and sunny/rainy days that my headaches have been piling on one after another. And I've had insomnia the past two days so it's like all my headache triggers are ganging up on me. I have about 3 hours to get this under control so I can focus on work.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cross-eyed...

I really have been sewing since my last blog post. I cannot believe it's been 10 days since I left an update here. Betsy is still working wonderfully and nary a broken needle! I was able to finish up my two prototypes for Quilt National and actually get started on the actual piece.

Since my last post I managed to take out my quilt frame and get the front, batting and back pieces pin basted and am in the process of quilting the layers together. It's not really exciting work because it is just white stitching on white broadcloth. Very, very tedious stuff. Eye-crossing work. All I am doing is sewing straight lines down the length of the quilt but since the stitches are soooo close together I need to run the stitching very slowly. It's difficult to explain and even more difficult to get a good photo of it.

What I am finding interesting about the idea is that while what I am doing is at first look very minimalist, the actual work will be very detailed. The white on white is deceiving. And I haven't even gotten to the actual bit of color that will be added. Altogether there are four pieces, the backing, the batting, the whole cloth white top and then one colored strip that will be somehow stitched to the white top. I am pleased with everything so far.

The hand-dyed fabric I purchased from Sew Batik at their booth at the Chicago International Quilt Show is so inspiring! The gradations I have really are incredible and I am having a difficult time making myself cut into them. Luckily what I am using for the Quilt National submission will not need to be cut into. *whew* I have plenty of other pieces I bought from them though that want to be used, if only I could gather come courage to cut them up! Why is it so difficult to use pretty fabric??

And because I have not uploaded the white on white stitching photos, here is a photo of me and my new haircut.

New hair!

It's not the best photo, since I too it with my old cell phone. My hair was down to the middle of my back and for the past 5 years I've been letting it grow with the occasional trimming. But last week I decided it had to go so I made an appointment with the amazing stylist where I go and he bundled up the length into two pieces and chopped it off. Now I have short hair (it is all razored up in the back although it doesn't look like it) and long enough bits to donate to Locks of Love.

I missed my short hair!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Frustrating

I haven't been able to do much sewing this past week. When I was sewing the Suesse Sac a week ago I kept breaking needles. I'd assumed it was because of the thick interfacing and many fabric layers. So when I spent last weekend working on an art quilt idea and the needles kept breaking I was at a loss. I kept resetting my machine and rethreading the spool and adjusting tension and changing needles. Nothing worked! I'd spent hours reading my manual and Googling for an answer.

Last night the boy asked if the problems started after the last time I cleaned my machine. When I thought about it I realized it had. The purse was the first thing I'd sewn after the cleaning. Needles breaking on that project seemed to make sense. Needles breaking two minutes into some straight seams and during free motion quilting, not so much.

Not only was my machine breaking needles, it was skipping stitches. All the time. I couldn't sew one seam without skipping a couple stitches.

I cried.

Seriously, I broke down in tears.

So after the boy asked me when the problems started I decided to once again take apart Betsy and see what I could see. I thought maybe I missed picking out a bit of needle and that was jamming things up.

I found nothing.

I gave Betsy another cleaning and oiled up a couple spots. I spent a couple hours looking into every nook and cranny to see what could be going on. Nothing was screaming "I'm gonna break your needles!" so I carefully put her back together and held my breath as I tried again to do some free motion quilting.

Betsy is behaving! Everything I tried to do before last evening seems to be going smoothly. No skipped stitches, the thread is catching around the bobbin like it should and above all, no broken needles! (Which is a good thing because I've gone through most of my stash of needles and only have a few left before my new order arrives next week.)

It's a mystery as to what was causing all the problems. My only thought is that it has something to do with the plastic bit that sits right over the bobbin area. There is some room for it to shift around when you are replacing it and perhaps it was replaced wonky when I cleaned it last. It can only move about 1/8th inch from the center position, maybe only 1/16th. But it appears to be enough to through the entire machine out of order.

Luckily this week Fabric.Com had a sale on sewing notions because I needed more sewing needles! I stocked up and made a note that should this happen again, I need to check the machine immediately!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Beginnings

At the end of March I was asked to make a retirement gift for the head Bosswoman in my office. The theme we decided on was Beginnings, a publication we put out every year that is chock full of writing by adult students within Ohio's ABLE program. It is my most favorite thing my office does and it really has become a grand celebration. Our head Bosswoman speaks every year at the conference about the importance of the day and how proud she is of the work the authors put into it. I finally was able to attend this year's conference and spent the entire day all teary-eyed. The authors show up with friends, family and their teachers and are presented with certificates and bound copies of that year's publication of selected authors and artists. It's a really incredible event.

I didn't hesitate on accepting the challenge of the gift although I was nervous because I am always harsh on my own work and worried that it wouldn't be good enough. I had an idea immediately and set to work sketching it up. The design became more gridded than I had first imagined. I wanted to use the book covers and the freeform idea I originally had would have overwhelmed the covers. I wanted those to shine. But I also needed something more than just the cover.

When I think I the publication I think of growth. Many of the authors submit writings over the course of years. With each acceptance the student learns and grows. You can see that in their writing. I decided on a simplistic flower that would add color but not detract too much from the publication covers that would be layered on top. And I wanted to use blue because that is the "office color". And I would have to use batiks and hand-dyed fabric because they are the fabrics I love the most.

The boy and I headed to the fabric shop on an errand day and he helped me choose the green of the leaves and the blue for the border and binding. The covers I created by using the photocopy transfer technique I learned in school. I had originally decided to use those iron-on things but past experience taught me that they just would not do. I'd done the technique in the past using black and white photocopies but never color. When I tested color I found it was much more intense and durable than those iron-on transfers.

There were hours upon hours of applique and thread sketching involved. Upwards of 60 hours. I spent a total of 81.5 hours on the quilt and about 60 of those were just on those applique bits. The back of the quilt is just white with two quilt labels, one with the office logo and "with love from the staff" and the other with the reason for the quilt and my name/location/year. And I braved running out of time and hand-stitched the binding onto the back instead of machine-stitching it like I was considering.

I wish I'd have hung the quilt better for the photo. The boy is still learning how to photograph quilts. He's more of a nature photographer so he's having to learn new techniques to get decent inside shots of quilts. So here it is... my big project that I spent about 6 weeks on. It really isn't as crooked as it appears in the photo. If I ever get around to it I will crop down some of the cover pieces because there is so much work done to each that doesn't really show up in the photo as a whole.

Beginnings quilt

I learned sooooooooo much making this quilt. It was my first attempt at whole cloth with applique (the center white piece is whole cloth anyway). This makes gift #5 that I have made for coworkers. Two baby quilts, two retirement gifts and one going-away gift. I seriously love my coworkers. The joke is that no one ever really leaves the office and it is true. People just can't say goodbye entirely and still help out in some way with various projects we have going on. I'm very fortunate in the job I have. It really is like a second family there. And I really miss being in the same office with them since I work from home in another state.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I have a new purse!

Tuesday I started my Suesse Sac and I was so excited yesterday to finish it I raced right upstairs after work. The colors are so damned cheery and the print is fun! The butterflies really grew on me as I sewed. I'm still glad the butterfly print was put on the interior though, it would have been a bit too much with the blocks.

I did a bad thing by forgetting to adjust my needle position when I started sewing the bag sides together. I had a huge seam allowance on it which I really couldn't easily rip out and start over due to the heavy duty iron-on interfacing I'd added to the inside fabric. The stuff really does give the bag more form but it is difficult to work with. I broke a total of 7 needles on this purse. 7! The seams on the blocks added to the interfacing made certain areas really rough to get a needle through. I had to sew slowly and if the needle hit a hard spot, I moved the fabric forward in tiny increments until I got past it. I've never broken so many needles on one project before. Usually it is because I hit a pin but not this time!

So, without further ado, photos!

Front of Suesse Sac

This is the front of the purse. I added a loop and button closure to keep my goodies more secure. I wish I'd thought ahead a bit in this and been able to sew the end of the loop between the fabric sides when I was putting it together. The loop is stitched to the inside of the purse and just looks a bit lumpy.

Back of Suesse Sac

The back of the purse. Really nothing more to say about that!


Interior of Suesse Sac

The interior of the purse. I added a split pocket to the one side and then a larger single pocket to the back. I am hoping the pocket is as level as I think it is. It's difficult to tell because the bag bottom is not flat. I was tempted to cut it even but then I decided I liked the curve it has.

Things I would do different if I make another? I would try a lightweight interfacing or quilt batting. With quilt batting I could do some thread sketching which I am very fond of. I'd also think of closure types before starting. I'd like to see a zipper inside or maybe one of those magnet closures. Velcro works but sometimes the sound is really, really loud and embarrassing. I'd also make the straps wider. They were 2" and I wavered between making them 3" but I thought that would be too wide. I shouldn't have second guessed myself. I would also do a different pocket system, maybe an internal one between the interior and exterior fabric so all I need to do is make a slit in the interior fabric.

I am happy with the size since I expanded it in the pattern. The bag is 9" deep, 15" wide at the bottom, 12" wide at the top of the bag and hangs 22" from the top of the strap to the bottom of the bag. It's a good size for me. My quilted Kindle bag fits in there nicely and isn't overly bulky. The tutorial was easy to follow and I really like the final product. I cannot wait to use my new purse!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Suesse Sac

I am a fan of StumbleUpon and the other day I stumbled upon an article talking about summer purses. I'm not into purses as I once was (I was a big fan of tin lunchbox purses for years) but my Timbuk2 Metro Daypack is a bit heavy for summertime even though I adore it to pieces. I needed something lighter and less bulky. So I Googled patterns and found the Suesse Sac Tutorial. It looked very cute and easy to sew so I decided to give it a go.

I went through all my fabric and decided to use a print instead of my stash of batiks I am saving for art quilts. I found the following and wondered what possessed me to buy it. I am not really into butterflies or the 1970's flower design on the fabric on the far left. I can only guess it was the colors because I love the colors.

Suesse Sac fabric


Monday, May 24, 2010

The Process Pledge

 The Process Pledge

I found The Process Pledge linked from another quilting blog I read. The concept intrigues me because it is pretty much what I want to do with this blog. I started this as a way to get thoughts and ideas down, to make them concrete. I've never been good at keeping a handwritten journal. I just can't write as long as I can type. And being able to post photos and links so easily on an online blog is perfect.

To quote r0ssie, "The goal of the process pledge is to create a new sensibility in quilting blogs where we don’t just show finishes or occasionally confess about our moments of indecision, but chat openly and often about our works in progress, our inspirations, and our moments of decision."

I like that. My ideas change depending on my mood and blogging about the process would be an interesting experiment. The progress from an idea to a sketch... to fabric purchasing and cutting... block sewing and layout... it's organic. Definitely not static.

The questions posted are engaging...
  • Do you have any new sketches to show?
  • Is this design inspired by a past quilt or someone else's quilt you saw (link, please)?
  • Does the color palette come from somewhere specific?
  • Are you trying to evoke a specific feeling?
  • Is this quilt intended for a specific person?  How did that inform your choices?
  • Are you following a pattern, emulating a block you saw somewhere, using a liberated process, or totally winging it?
  • What are you hating about this quilt at this stage?  What do you love?
  • Did you push yourself to try something new?
  • In working on the quilt, are you getting ideas about what you might want to try next?  What?  Did you sketch it?
 I am always sketching ideas with too many notes alongside them. Some quilts are inspired by what I've seen quilt artists (and yes, they are artists no matter what) create and others are inspired by paintings, photographs or clothing or shadows... the world is inspiration! For me color and feeling go hand in hand. The quilts I've gifted are always designed around the receiver. I want the quilt to be treasured by them. Sometimes this may mean I do something I am not particularly fond of but I stay interested because I enjoy seeing the look of happiness when the quilt is given.

Lately I have been pushing myself to try new techniques and work outside my comfort zone. I'm not good at sticking to a plan and sometimes my ideas don't transfer to fabric as well as I would hope. I've come to look forward to those serendipitous moments and let the process determine the outcome. It allows me to be free with the whole creative process. And most times the end result is better than the original idea.

And since I still have not uploaded photos of the retirement quilt and haven't taken photos of my thread sketching test or  my art quilt prototypes I am going to sign off and decide what to create next! Betsy got a cleaning this afternoon after the 81.5 hours it took to make the retirement quilt so she will be ready to get on with a new project!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Two weeks passed...

Over two weeks have gone by since I posted last. Since then I have finished the retirement gift, driven to Ohio for a fabulous work conference where the gift quilt was given, saw my 11 year old nephew play baseball for the first time, played catch with my nephew for the first time, run in the Cleveland Half Marathon where I got a new personal best, got to work in my office with all my amazing coworkers, went to see Metric with my 14 year old niece, saw an old friend again after not seeing her for 5-6 years and driven back home where I still have not unpacked everything.

It's been a busy couple of weeks. I have photos of the gift quilt to post once I upload those on Flickr. I am always so harsh on my own work an always point out the flaws but this time I am really trying not to do that. The quilt did turn out well (although a bit narrower than I had planned) and I am pleased with the finished piece. I believe the recipient is also happy with it. Unfortunately I am terribly insecure when it comes to giving things I have made so I begin to doubt myself seconds after being told it is lovely.

Beginnings 4

This is an unfinished applique bit on the quilt. The book cover is not as horribly crooked as it looks in the photo, I just did not take a good picture. There are 13 flower and book covers on the quilt which I will hopefully post some time in the next week.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Inspiration...

I have this notebook I take with me when I go to the  Art Institute of Chicago. They recently opened a Modern Wing that is simply stunning. It is a modern Prairie style building that is so bright and clean and open. I prefer modern art over the "Masters". For me, the work by the Masters is more about a story while modern art is more about the feelings and emotions of the artist. The viewer gets to decide for herself what the work means.

At the AIC there is this painting by Barnett Newman which catches my eye every time. It is Untitled 3 and is 56' tall and 3" wide. It juts out from the wall in a 5" frame. It's reddish and silvery grey, very simple. But striking because of the dimensions. I see the painting and want to make a quilt.

There are so many paintings in the Modern Wing that inspire me to make quilts. I have pages upon pages of notes for research. Yesterday I was stalled on the gift quilt since I am waiting on one final photocopy to transfer onto the quilt label. I broke out my idea notebook and decided to research my favorite painting. And I found the following painting...

Barnett Newman - First Station 1958


This is Barnett Newman's Station of the Cross - First Station painting from 1958.  If you are not a fan of modern art this may just look silly. I mean, it looks like someone threw down a strip of masking tape and sloshed some black paint around it, then removed it for a clean line. Modern art is like that. I see some of it and wonder how it ever made its way into an art museum. There is this painting at the Cleveland Museum of Art that always drove me batty. It is huge! And the canvas is painted black with a black gridwork that you can barely make out and the whole thing is surrounded with a black frame. It is hanging in a museum, why? But someone saw something in it just the same as me seeing something in this painting by Barnett Newman.

I spent 4 hours yesterday sketching quilt ideas after seeing this painting. I have pages and pages of sketches complete with technique and color ideas. And then I browsed my Quilt National books so I could see if my ideas were on par with what gets accepted. Some of the quilts are so detailed and intense and others are so simple and intense. Some are stitched and beaded until you can barely see the fabric and others are simply a showcase for the fabric.

This is the year. This is the year I finally woman up and submit something to a juried show. While I hope what I do will get accepted my main goal is to just submit one art quilt. It doesn't sound so lofty a goal when it's typed out but I am pretty insecure when it comes to things like that. I get almost sick to my stomach when I give things away as gifts, sending something to be judged by my peers? Are they even my peers if I've never tried getting into a show? Egads!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Quilt dreams

Last night was horrible. My dog George had something caught in his throat (we're thinking a bit of Nylabone he is currently destroying) and woke up coughing about every half hour or so. This happens every so often so it isn't anything to worry about, it's like having a hair caught in your throat (a dog hair in my experience... no more smooching pups!). I woke a little before 1am because I was hot and soon after George started his coughing. I counted down the clock chimes until  just before 5am when I finally fell asleep. In between 1am and 5am we had many bouts of coughing dog, some animal in the alley being tortured, a skunk spraying and a very loud and very scary thunderstorm. I just could not get back to sleep!

So while I laid in bed begging for the sleep monster to revisit me all I could do was think about sewing. I kept wishing I could just get up and start sewing. Except my workroom is right next to the bedroom so the boy would be able to hear as I chugged away on Betsy. I have this amazing fabric I bought a while back and have been itching to cut into.


Fishies

The fishies, shells and bubbles are Timeless Treasures by Luli Sanchez and the circle prints are Wheels by My Mind's Eye. All were purchased from Hawthorne Threads. I was browsing there one afternoon and just fell in love with those goldfish. And unfortunately I had absolutely nothing in my stash that would go with it so I had to order some coordinating prints. That brown circle print? It's one of the very few browns I have in my stash. In fact, it is only one of two brown prints I have in my stash. The other brown is a circle/dot print I bought because it matched some other fabric I had.

Browns are my weakness. I don't wear brown, I don't decorate my home in browns and I don't sew with browns. I consider the browns in my stash a challenge. I want to be able to incorporate all colors when I sew because I may need that brown somewhere. And with that goldfish fabric, I needed a brown to balance out the blues and oranges.

Last night all I could do was imagine different patterns for this fabric. I think I want to do circles to keep with the theme. And anyway, I am really enjoying working with circles! Circles in a block amuse me. they just look so snazzy. And I imagined that fabric in some pretty interesting ways last night. I just wish I had been able to get going with it!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Too busy sewing and traveling to post...

I drove out to Ohio last weekend for my nephew's birthday and had a couple moments where I wondered what I was supposed to be doing since I was not sewing. It was a strange couple of days not having my machine and current project with me.


Batik goodness

Because I am working on another gift I cannot post photos for another two weeks (but the photo above shows e fabric I am using). Two weeks! It doesn't seem nearly long enough although I am almost done with the top. My goal this weekend is to get the entire top sewn. It is a whole cloth quilt with lots of applique. Lots and lots. And plenty of thread sketching. Tons! It's pretty daunting. I have these grand ideas when it comes to quilting and sometimes they don't work but so far *fingers crossed* this is coming out just about how I  envisioned.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wedding quilt!

Since the quilt has now been received I can finally post photos!

I whipped up this quilt for my husband's cousin and fiance (now, wife). I knew I had to find some nature-oriented fabric because they both enjoy hiking and being outside. The big question would be color. And then I saw photos of the interior of their home and knew I wouldn't be stuck using earth tones entirely.  If I had my way everything would be bright and eye-blindingly cheerful!

The fabric came from Hawthorne Threads because it's the first place I go for printed fabric. Some of the fabric is from Joel Dewberry's Ginseng line, Studio E's Nature-ology line (the pretty blue birdies!) and Carolyn Gavin's Wild Thyme line. The colors reminded me of the wall color in the photos and were cheerful without making me go blind. And they weren't all browns and greens.


Jeff and Sunshine's wedding quilt

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Applique trick...

My hometown has this really great fabric shop called AnnaLouisa's Needle Arts. I went there a year or so ago with my mom and bought a whole lotta batiks and learned a great technique for applique. I'm trying to teach myself new techniques so I finally got around to testing this one out.

First up... used fabric softener sheets! The very nice woman who was cutting my fabric (whose name I believe is Chris) said this is the trick to nicely turned edges without having to turn them as you sew the fabric piece onto the larger area.

IMG_4774

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Spring cleaning!

I finally finished the gift quilt I'd been spending all my time on over the last ten days (no photos until after I mail it out) and realized my sewing machine had more fluff in it than it should for being 5 months old. I'd cleaned and maintained it once already but when you see chunks of fluff appearing each time you sew, it's probably a sign that you need to do another cleaning.

Sending my machine off for cleaning is not an option. I mean, it is an option but one I do not choose. I prefer to do the maintenance myself which saves time and money. I'm sure I am doing things wrong but I never had any problems after keeping up the cleaning on my old machine so I was certain I could do it for my new machine also. It's a different beast inside what with the computer guts but unless I mess with the feed dogs it is much easier to take apart and put back together.

Tools of the trade


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Too large...

I finally got the large gift quilt on my frame. It's... it's... it's really too scary for words! Even the dogs are scared!

Extended quilt frame and scared dogs


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fabric goodness...

Monday morning as I was doing my daily blog reading I had a surprise waiting for me. I'd won a yard of fabric from the previous Friday's "Free Fabric Friday" post on Sew, Mama, Sew! I saw my name posted... well, I saw the name Christine posted and when I put my mouse over the linked name I squealed like a little girl. My name linked to my blog!

The giveaway question was For your chance to win one yard of free fabric (6 winners!), please do one of the following:
Tell us the title and author of your favorite quilting book. (Please try to limit it to 1 or 2.)
If you’re not into quilting (yet) or quilting books, tell us what, if anything you’d like to learn about quilting. Or, tell us one of your sewing goals for 2010.


My response:
"The Quilters Ultimate Visual Guide: From A to Z– Hundreds of Tips and Techniques for Successful Quiltmaking by Ellen Pahl is pretty much my quilting bible. I’ve been teaching myself to quilt since the 1990’s and last year I found this book and it’s helped me sooooo much with all the techniques I’d been struggling with.

Also, my 2010 goal is to get an art quilt submitted to at least one juried show. All I want is for one quilt to be accepted, I don’t care about winning any ribbons. Getting accepted is enough of a start for me!"


I was so surprised because, for people who read their blog, you know how many people comment on their posts. I've been commenting to win on their giveaways for months but I never thought I'd actually win! And I did! And not only did I win a free yard of fabric, I got to choose what fabric I wanted! And it was not an easy decision. But I had to pick something so I went with Poppy Bouquet Lime from Laura Gunn's Poppy line since it was the one fabric I did not already have from that line.

Thanks Sew, Mama, Sew!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rage to art

I've been really irritated this week. Things I've seen and read in the news have just rubbed me the wrong way. Especially when I get on certain social networking sites and see the misinformed status messages from some people.

Today after work I went upstairs to get an image onto fabric. Rage. I just feel rage. I'm not one to smash things or yell at people. I bottle things in. But fabric therapy is good.

Hooping it up


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Another one down...

Sunday I finished up the circles quilt. I whipped up a binding from the prints in the quilt top and got to work pinning and machine stitching it to the front.

IMG_4825


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Circle quilt almost finished!

I don't have photos today because I forgot to take some and currently we have a houseguest sleeping in the room where the quilt is pinned to my design board. (Or would that be design curtain since it is a white flannel sheet handing from a decorative rod?) I really wanted to quilt it in circles but my circles looked more like loops so loops it stayed! My free-form machine quilted circles need much practice.

But overall the quilt looks good. I can't wait to put the binding on it and mark one more top as finished.

Next up, the yellow and black quilt!

Yellow & Black

I bought the fabric online and when I got it I was unsure what to do with it. Most always I buy fabric because it caught my eye, not because I have specific plans for it. I loved this bundle of fabric from Hawthorne Threads and knew I had to have it. I swear every time I buy fabric the print is sooooo much larger than I had thought it would be. I have no idea what to do with large prints! Luckily I had some solid yellow in my stash that really brought out the yellow within the prints. I am pretty pleased with the overall look but sometimes I wonder if that lower right corner fits with the rest of the block.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the frame...

I finally got another quilt on the frame. The first time I used the quilting frame I had to pin and repin the layers together because the backing was more taut than the batting and top. SUCH a pain since I'd used little quilters safety pins. And boy howdy did I pin baste the hell out of it! Even using my crochet hook to help remove the pins, my fingers ached at the end.

The frame itself is wonderful! I purchased the Grace EZ3 Fabri-Fast Hand Quilting Frame which I finished with a natural Danish oil to strengthen the wood. It was fairly easy to put together once I figured out the illustrated instructions. Some of those steps were tricky! I decided to get a frame because my dining room table was getting beat up during the basting and floors aren't so convenient when you have two boxer pups trying to lend a hand. The frame folds up pretty tight so I can store it when guests arrive.

Quilt on the frame

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thread sketching attempt

I got an early Christmas gift in November. I told the boy all I wanted was a new sewing machine. I'd been using a Husqvarna Viking 350 since 1994 and while it did everything I needed it to, it didn't have enough armpit room. You know, that space between the sewing arm and the base! I like to quilt my pieces myself and I was tired of having to shove so much bulky fabric in such a small area. So I researched different machines and decided to stick with the Viking because I really liked my old machine and the sewing feet I already owned would also fit onto a new machine. And the winner was a Sapphire 850. And the timing was perfect! Husqvarna was releasing a new model, a Sapphire 855 so the 850 was on sale for practically half of the original selling price.

The first thing I sewed was the boy's Christmas gift. He'd helped me pick out the fabric at the sewing expo we'd attended (without knowing it was for him, of course) and when he left for his Key West MegaJam, I made him a wall hanging. It is based on a photo of our hiking boots at the top of this mountain in Muir Woods in California. It was my first attempt at thread sketching and I was winging it.

There was one major issue I hadn't anticipated. The top was layered with the batting and backing before I thread sketched and this made the piece get all puckered and warped. No matter how firmly I tried to hold the layers taut, the fabric puckered. I couldn't iron it to any semblance of flatness. While I was pretty happy with the image I got, the puckering  just made it look terrible.

"Hiking Boots in Muir Woods"

Monday, March 15, 2010

Reading...

In February 2009 I ordered the Kindle 2 the day it was released. Now, I am not a gadget person. I have no desire to have the most recent version of anything electronic. I didn't get a cell phone until late in the game and all I want is something that will allow me to make calls in case of emergencies. I still use my iPod from 6 years ago (although I do have a 3 year old Nano that I use when I run). I only got my own laptop when I went back to school. Hell, I'd rather chop food with a knife and cutting board instead of using a food processor. But the Kindle... once I heard people talking about them I knew I wanted one for myself.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Stash...

I am having guests this weekend so I haven't been able to start anything new since I finished binding my last quilt on Friday. I have 4-5 quilt tops that need backs sewn up so I can get them finished and start a new project. And oh how I want to start a new quilt top because I have new fabric!


Here we have some lovely Laura Gunn items from her Lantern and Poppy lines.
Left to right are:
Lantern Bloom, Tile Mosaic in Wine
Lantern Bloom, Tile Mosaic in Turquoise
Poppy, Dogwood Stripe in Spice
Poppy, Dogwood Stripe in Denim
Poppy, Climbing Vine in Spice
Poppy, Climbing Vine in Olive


Friday, March 05, 2010

Workspace tour

For the past year I have been trying to set up my workspace so the 10'x10' room had the most bang for its buck. The room also doubles as a guest room so I need my space to be organized and uncluttered while still being guest-friendly. The boy has been great with building things like a shelving unit that sits over the radiator and under the window, a peg board to hold and various tools of destruction/creation and a frakking amazing spool holder that I somehow managed to overload with thread. I can't believe I started out sewing on an ironing board!

My current quandary is how do I fit everything I have into this small space and also keep it as a guest room? (I've stored the quilting frame in another room and folded down the ironing board and shoved it in the closet while I took photos.)


Working area
My lovely Ikea desk/table along with the killer spool holder and new spinny office chair. I keep my laptop handy so I can watch Hulu while I sew. And on the table is the current quilt on which I am hand-sewing the binding. Tedious at times but it looks so nice when I am done. Next quilt though I am testing the machine binding tutorial from Red Pepper Quilts.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Blog overhaul...

The boy said to me a couple weeks back that I should keep a quilting blog to hold myself accountable. I started this blog originally in order to to do just that when I signed up to train with Team in Training. After I was done I mostly just let this fall by the wayside.

I started quilting by way of printmaking back in 1994. One of the projects I worked on during one of the umpteen times I took the class was a quilt design printed on paper and then pieced together. It just didn't work for me (although I did get an A on the piece) so the next project I printed on muslin. White was fine for the image I used but I decided to sign up for a surface design class where I heard there would be hand-dyeing taught. I fell in love with fabric. It went beyond printing on paper. Printmaking was just one step. Fabric could be cut, dyed, sewn, embroidered, beaded... so many possibilities! I bought a little Viking 350 and sewed everything atop my ironing board. My sewing skills were horrendous but not nearly bad enough to lower my grade below a B at the worst of times.

In 1998 I was hired full time at my current job and I ended up putting aside classes and my sewing slowed considerably. I still did some hand-dyeing on the weekends and tried my hand at making cloth dolls. But every so often I would work on art quilts. I made plenty of baby quilts that I gave away as gifts over the years. When I think back to them I shudder at the shoddy skills. I had been teaching myself quiltmaking so everything I made was another learning experience.

Over the last two years I started up sewing in earnest. I sewed quilts to raffle off for Team in Training and for my 20th high school reunion. I began focusing more on my technique in order to make something I could be proud of. It couldn't just look good, it had to be functional, durable. And now I have plastic bins of finished quilts that I can be proud of.

2010 will be the year I finally quit talking about it and actually submit an art quilt to at least one juried show. This is my 2010 resolution. And this is where I'll try and document what I do to hold myself accountable to this goal.