20 January 2011

Quilt One (2010–2011)...

The rest of the story...
At the end of 2010, I decided 2011 would be the year I'd make a quilt. 2010 became a year of considerable fabric acquisition. I got hooked on fat quarters and quilt fabric shops. I mean, really, how much trouble can I get into only one little rectangle of fabric at a time? Fat quarters made excellent little purchase to supply my Christmas gift sewing, so I was especially happy to discover them. Organizing them becomes a whole hobby in itself.
As it turned out, waiting until 2011 to start the quilt was not happening. A couple of days after Christmas, I started scanning some fabric and 'building' my quilt in Photoshop. I chose these three fabrics—one yard each of the stripes and two yards of the plaid. Over five years ago I bought them from Hancock Fabrics as part of their then-sponsored St. Jude Quilt of Dreams partnership. This fabric sat around as a good intention all these years. One of the reasons I probably never did anything with it before now was that the color palette was not my favorite—perfect for practicing.

I arranged the scanned layers of cloth into a simple blue stripe and green stripe checkerboard in Photoshop—three-inch squares. I then added the plaid panels in different sizes over the field of striped blocks. Everything moved around and I settled on my design. I then divided up the design into nine-unit blocks—five across by seven down.

Once I had the layout, I created a spreadsheet in Excel to determine if I had enough fabric to complete the design. I numbered each 3x3 block; counted how many of each size block I'd need, and so forth. This is probably not the normal procedure, but my left brain jumped in and insisted she'd be in charge. I humor her as much as possible.

I started cutting and sewing and pressing and was well on my way to finishing the top in just a couple of days. One thing I discovered along the way was I had not taken uneven stripes and pattern orientation into consideration. There were definite east/wests in the green stripe and north/souths in the blue stripe. I had a stack of blocks 'done' and had to rip and resew almost half of them. But I'm glad I did.

I stumbled through choosing batting and finding nice, wide backing fabric. I opted to hand-tie the layers together. Thank goodness for the hot tub cover. It's an expanse almost 8x8 feet and at a good height. Down the road, I'll send one out to be stitched down. No plans to buy any quilting machines. For now, me and my 1975 Lady Kenmore machine have done fine.

Insert the 2010 Oklahoma City Quilt Show. I figure I was risky—about to finish my first quilt and think I was invincible! I attended last Friday and came away with a clue or two how to do the binding. Turns out I had just enough information to be dangerous and wound up adding a detail I hadn't planned. Ah, my best friend, serendipity. I finished by hand-stitching the binding over a couple of days and finally finished it two days ago. And at the end of the day, it feels so good curling up with, yet, another finished project!

Hmm...what's next? Maybe some time for drawing some Zentangles; organizing my fabric for real and on my iPad (my newest tool toy); sewing up a tote bag or two; deciding on something to make for upcoming newborns coming into the the world; planning that next great quilt; or maybe, even, dismantling my office and repacking it with a bit less clutter. We'll see!

02 January 2011

Bearing Fruits...

of a creative season. I've wanted to blog about them all along, but because most were Christmas gifts, I needed to be cleverly covert or just wait. Given the hit-or-miss accuracy of subtlety, I decided to wait.

Months ago, when I was working on a special black-and-white rooster pin cushion for one friend, another friend casually mentioned she'd like a rooster pin cushion, too. Well, that chicken finally came home to roost on an evening filled with friendship and the new tastes and textures of Ethiopian cuisine. Karen is such an incredibly wonderful friend and someone I've like practically from the instant of meeting her. Hmmm…how long ago has that been? I'm guessing maybe four or five years ago? Wow! And thanks to some of her travels, I have got some great photos from Israel hanging on a wall and can't wait to get at least one from the Italy trip to grace another. Oooh, and I need to ask if she took photos in Greece! I love traveling via her camera lens' eye!

I've had this project in mind for awhile, and eventually, all the pieces fell into place. For months I've been saving Gwen's Inchies with the intent of putting them all in one place. Thanks to a Shutterfly coupon/certificate, I had credits for an 8x8 book and a place for my idea to grow. A little Photoshop magic and some simple page layout later, I ordered and received my special treat. At that point (end of November) the most difficult thing to do was to hold on to it (and keep my mouth shut) long enough to save it for Christmas giving. About three weeks later, I finally got to give it to GweNomi. I could have never predicted its reception. I am still so touched and humbled that something I created helped make someone SO happy!

I have long heard that it's the family traditions that make holidays memorable. I can't think of many traditions my families have held/established (other than making sure Matt gets chocolate covered cherries for Christmas) so being a part of others' traditions is treading into interesting territory. This year, I had the chance to be part of Naomi's family tradition of decorating sugar cookies. It was so much fun seeing her mix up three colors of freshly made icing, having some white icing in a piping bag, and then assembling a tray of at least a dozen jars of sprinkles, nonpareils, sugars, and candies. Whoa—this is serious business! Being neither much of a freehand sketcher, nor having a T-square close at hand, I had the opportunity to 'wing it.' And as much as anything, it was just lots of fun. Only later did I realize it could have been a great Zentangle opportunity! I came away living important statement—it is never too late for a happy childhood.

This has also been a sewing season. This year's special and personal gift to give was a rework/resurrection of an old design from my home sewing days twenty years ago. After a little resizing, I came up with a small coin/card case I could customize for each friend based on their interests/style.
I have bought LOTS of fabric (have I mentioned my fat quarters addiction?) the past few months and used many pieces for each of the 20+ cases made. I was happy to finally come up with a pretty way to gift wrap them after the first few were 'plain Jane' approaches. 
The week before Christmas, Toni, one of my favorite friends was in town from Colorado. I had the chance to spend some of that Monday with her. In addition to having Braum's Hot Fudge Peanut Butter sundaes for brunch, we also needed to fabric shop so I could make her a purse like mine. We shopped at Oklahoma Quiltworks and she found two perfect patterns. I discovered it's kinda fun having someone else buy the fabric for something I get to put together! 

Toward the end of December, I resolved that I would create and finish one quilt in 2011. Lofty goal, but attainable. I started thinking about a design. Knowing it would take me too long to decide among other peoples' design, I started piecing together (on my computer, in Photoshop) a maze of interlocking "S" shapes. Then I had to think which fabric (of my stash) I'd use. I remembered some pieces I'd bought from the 2005 edition of the St. Jude Quilt of Dreams line at Hancock Fabrics. Its patterns did not lend themselves well to the "S" design, so I came up with a modified 9-square pattern. It's comprised of 35 squares arranged five across and seven down. Before I knew it, I was cutting fabric and had a pile of ironed and starched squares complete. What a great feeling! I spent my New Year's Eve piecing together blocks into strips into a whole patchwork top about 45" x 63". I am not quite sure what all comes next, but I'm thinking I might get more than one quilt finished this year! What a great way to start a new year!

For Christmas, I received my official Zentangle kit from Tom. It's a beautifully boxed collection of tiles (pre-cut squares of the very nice official paper), booklet, drawing implements, and instructional DVD. Oh, and I almost forgot, a lovely calligraphed custom gift tag! My plan is to put/add more tangles in my life. I'm now carrying a medium size Moleskine grid notebook in my purse to capture and practice patterns.

One very important thing I learned about myself lately is I am most happy when I am creating something—anything. I went through several days of just spinning my wheels and feeling agitated and frustrated. Creating keeps my mind, hands, and heart busy with more than just busy-ness. It keeps them busy with love.

Happy New Year!