24 June 2011

The wedding was wonderful...

Now that they're married, I posted the blog about their gift. I suspect they'll open their gift long before they'll find my blog! Congrats again Bekah and Daniel!

(Photo by Blue Shoes Photography)

The gift...

After receiving the Scrabble® letter tile fabric, here's where I started the wall hanging. (I can't believe that all I have are travel sets of this great game!) Being a purist, I wanted to start the puzzle on the star block. This is the format I chose to use, with a slight revision—moved GREEN over one block for visual design interest. Once I saw how the tiles would fall on the board, I built the design in Photoshop.

I like having a picture of my objective while I'm working on a piece. One of the details that changed from the planning stage was the use of grosgrain 1/4-inch ribbon I was going to stitch between the blocks—too much much work for not enough 'umph.'

What wound up taking the most time was attaching the bonus blocks text. Once I decided to use the iron-on inkjet printable transfer, I needed it to look tidier than a big ol' blob of transfer. I stripped out the space between each line of text and around some of the rounded letters.

After plenty of trial and error, I managed to make most of the 'clear' background of the transfer fade into the fabric. And although I was using a couple of dark fabrics, I used the transfer sheets for light fabrics. The sheets for dark fabric transfer are on a white background and even after trimmed around, would leave a white outline. That would not work here.

The finished wall hanging is approximately 20" x 27". To personalize it a little more, I added their wedding date and a cute photo of the happy couple. I attached a couple of hanging loops on the back and it's ready to go! By the time I post this (I'm saving it in the drafts folder until then), Miss Rebekah Thun will be Mrs. Daniel Green! I'm so excited for these two great kids. (I get to call them kids cuz they're younger than my kid.) I'll post a wedding pic! And in my typical mommy mode, I can't wait until I get to make a baby quilt for them someday!

23 June 2011

March, April, May...

Ah, finally!
I filled in the new May background squares and attached the whole strip with the March and April finished blocks. The May packet came with more strips of background colors—medium dark and dark. In April, the lower right corner started some of the dark which will spread diagonally over the entire lower right of the finished quilt. When I think about how many pieces make up this top, well, it just boggles the mind. It's 68" x 30"—almost 40% of the top built!

June's block (22" x 22") looks to be pretty straight-forward. It's one big pattern block, a small pattern block, and simple strips of light background. This is a digital composition of how it looks. Of course, I'm already chompin' at the bit for July's packet!

I am glad to be getting back to my magnum opus. Last Saturday, while taking a class at Sooner Quilts, I saw their three long-arm quilting machines—ooh, aaahhh. Once I'm finished this biggie, I'll be having it quilted somewhere. It's much too large in size and investment to not have done professionally. This BOM finishes in December so I won't have a completed quit until at least early 2012. That sounds so far away but I also know it will be here before I know it. This super-sonic acceleration down the back side of middle age is astonishing.

Speaking of Sooner Quilts' Free Motion Machine Quilting class, I had a great time. In addition to learning and practicing some free motion skills, and sitting next my friend Becky, I had the chance to visit with two gals I worked with several lifetimes ago. (Okay, it's only been 12 years, but what a 12 years it's been!)  We all worked together at OESD, Oklahoma Embroidery Supply and Design, in Edmond. Martha was teaching the class and Bobbie was taking the class and sat to my right. When Martha announced two of her former co-workers were in the class, and nodded my way, I turned quickly to look at Bobbie (in a completely different hairstyle—really cute) and was thoroughly surprised. She had been the owner's secretary/administrative assistant. Martha was in charge of the illustrators and digitizers. I was hired in late-1997 to produce their first and successive press-printed catalog of embroidery software designs. I was only there for 16 months, but Martha and Bobbie were there much longer. Several years later, OESD was absorbed and mostly dismantled by Bernina.

Back to free motion—we practiced our technique on this Skillbuilder patterned fabric (36" x 44/45"). Additionally, I learned about quilting spray adhesive (light tack to hold a quilt sandwich together); the need to RELAX (dammit); mistakes are okay; and that we couldn't criticize anyone's work—ESPECIALLY our own! Oh, yeah, I remember—this is supposed to be fun! Ha ha! After class, I had a chance to shop a bit in the store. What's really blown me away is their HUGE variety of batik fabrics. Shivers!!! I stayed a little while to chat with Becky, bought three fat quarters, said my goodbyes, and then was on 25-mile trip back home. I must get back there someday. Hmm, was it accidental that I left my clip-on sunglasses so I have to return soon? Martha emailed me later that day with a link to some incredible free motion examples all in one place: Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project. And because I want to practice all over again, or remove any trace of not doing it perfectly the first time (me?), I ripped out all of my old stitching, put a new backing on the practice piece and am ready to start again! Evil grin!

Expecting a busy next few days. There's a quilt show at the fairgrounds; a wedding (absolutely great couple—can barely wait to post about the gift I made for them); a marriage retreat; and photographing folks to be baptized. Come Monday (btw, long-time fave song), I'm either gonna be exhausted or energized—maybe both!

17 June 2011

Tickled pink...

THIS is what I love about making/giving gifts. Is she just not the most precious little lady? I also imagine the day when she's a toddler or pre-schooler dragging her blankie around. Wow!

15 June 2011

Shhh...can't tell yet...

Here's a detailed portion of a project I've recently finished but can't show off yet. It's a gift for a wonderful young couple I know. They're getting married in nine days and I don't want to let the whole cat out of the bag until they have their gift in hand.

Several weeks ago, I came across this wonderful fabric online from fabrics.com. Sadly, I now see this fabric is out of stock for a few weeks. Whew, glad I got my two yards delivered earlier this month! Each isolated 'tile' is approximately 2.375" x 2.625". There are seven rows of 14 tiles which equals 98 tiles per pattern repeat. This is comparable to the 98 letter tiles plus two blanks that are part of a Scrabble® board game. The character count is close, but not exactly what the boards list. I took only one seven-row set and cut out each tile with a .25" border on all sides. Within the two yards I purchased, I have THREE 'complete' sets of letters. Ah, my gears are spinnin'.

Kona Cotton swatch card
I worked out the puzzle I wanted to use on my travel-size Scrabble board to see where they'd look best. I came up with a layout I liked and started taking inventory of how many blocks of each color I'd need. I realized early on that I would probably like making more custom 'boards' down the road, so bought ample quantities of Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton solids. I chose a brand name fabric to ensure consistency of color now and in the future. I wanted something I could expect to easily find/match today and months from now. At this point, I had no idea how I would create text for these bonus word/letter score boxes.

Finally, piddling about in Photoshop while trying to problem solve along the way, I remembered I bought some inkjet printable iron-on transfer sheets. Hmm. Can I do it? I've got light, medium and dark color blocks. After many tests and trials, I worked out a way to make the cleanest transfers possible. I transfered the text onto already cut color blocks of fabric rather than waiting to iron them on after everything was assembled. This was an important enough process to get right long before assembly.

Altogether, I pieced together 80 rectangles of letters, background color, and bonus block colors. I did a simple quilting job and added a binding made from woodgrain-look fabric from the same collection. Please check back late next week for the whole picture! I'm pleased with how it turned out and love getting to give it away!

This Saturday I'm taking that Beginning Machine Quilting class at Sooner Quilts. I hope to learn how to get comfortable with freemotion quilting. And I'm sure it will be fun finding another fabric source.

I can't believe I haven't worked on my BOM quilt for several weeks. I've pored over my May and June blocks but haven't finished either set of blocks. I have sorted and trimmed the new dark fabric strips I received in May, so that's a start. If I can get out of gift-making mode, I'll settle in to my BOM. And speaking of gifts, we delivered the baby quilt to Miss Cairo. She is such a beauty, has a great set of parents and a wonderful big brother!

10 June 2011

Subtitle change...

It's evident I've pretty much strayed away from paper and have gone head-long into fabric. And though a paper trail has a couple of definitions and could be retained, I'll bow to my interest for now. So, welcome to my "phabric" trail!

04 June 2011

A blogger award...

My friend, Kim Rogers, awarded me the Versatile Blogger award.
It was given to her by one of her blog readers, and she passed it on to a few of her favorite blogs. Her blog, The Bleary-Eyed Scribe, details her life as a Wife, Supermom, Avid Reader, and Children's Writer. Kim, thanks so much for the honor! And in keeping with the spirit of the award, here are the rules:
  1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself.
  3. Pass the award along to buddies whose blogs epitomize said theme.
  4. Contact those buddies to award theme.
  5. Rules 1-4 are optional. You can adhere to them only if you wish to.
Below are seven random facts about myself:
  1. I was in Hawaii before it became a state. In July 1958, the plane that brought several Korean adoptees to the United States refueled in Hawaii. Our destination was Portland, Oregon. I was less than a year old so remember none of it.
  2. My first memory was when I was four and having my tonsils removed. I remember them putting what felt like a plunger on my face and asking me to count backwards from 10.
  3. I've lived in 28 homes/apartments across the US.
  4. I've had more blue cars than any other color.
  5. I started college as a Special Ed major. That lasted for one semester.
  6. At least 10 of my past employers are no longer in business.
  7. Other than at funerals, I've been in the presence of only one dead body, and it wasn't at all scary.
Stay tuned for more smatterings of my life and creative process, of which you are certainly an important part! Thank you, Dear Readers (a term hijacked from Gwen)!

03 June 2011

Pins, pins, pins...

Over the years, I've grown fussy about the straight pins I use. Before starting to sew semi-professionally more than 20 years ago, I used standard straight pins. At that point I started using longer pins with round bead heads. The ones I used most were like the yellow ones (far left) in the photo.

A few years ago, I came across the next generation of pins—a little bit thicker, but the GLOW in the dark. I am not sure why that was such a big thing, but they came in their own combo pincushion and plastic jar.

Taking on piecing and quilting this past year, I was introduced to flat head pins. I love the length and flatness, but their thickness created quite a bit of lumping in the fabric.

Enter fancy-schmancy French extra fine pins I got at Prairie Quilt last month. These have glass heads and are a svelte .40mm thick. They are perfect for some of the projects I've worked lately. The fact they're 16 cents each is a little scary.

Just the other day, I found an extra fine pin, though a little larger than the French ones for half the price. At 40% off at Hancock's, they're about one-third the cost of the Frenchies, and I think they'll do fine in most fine pin applications.

And I found those flat spring hair clips being repurposed in quilting world as clips that secure folded binding waiting to be tacked or sewn down. They were also another 40% off deal and they worked quite well!

Granted, it doesn't seem like a 'big' thing, but having the right tool for the job is so helpful. Oh, and I came across a contraption called Pintastic (click for YouTube video) by June Tailor, Inc. You dump all your ball head pins into its hopper and turn on the motor and it begins feeding you pins, one at a time, at your fingertips. I think the noise would get on my nerves. I reasonably sure I will not feel compelled to get this. Anyway, Hancock has them for $29, for the time being.

It's a bird, it's a frog, it's a cat, it's a bat...

It's Super Houndstooth! I came across this mega-format look back in January and knew I wanted to make it someday. It's much easier to discern when looking at the whole quilt (below).

My inspiration for this was a pattern by V and Co. The pattern was available to purchase via download, but I opted to work it out for myself. An though it's quite dramatic in high contrast colors or black and white, I've seen it done in a multi-color palette of bright prints as done by Kim Lapacek, from her pattern by StudioCherie. She has used hand-dyed and batik fabrics. Be sure to check it out—it's a completely different 'vibe' and is quite striking! It reminds me of a beautiful watercolor painting.

At the right is my Photoshop-generated planning image. I think I've mentioned before that, so far, all my quilts start out as a digital Photoshop file comprised of scanned or photographed fabric. It helps me to work out different issues and processes long before I start rotary cutting my fabric.

This wound up being 9 x 9 blocks of 5-inch (finished) squares. There are 25 solid brown; 16 solid pink; and 41 diagonal 4-piece blocks. I was delighted to discover the 4-piece blocks are identical, only rotated 180˚ to work on a brown or pink row. Tah dah!

I can hardly wait to meet Miss Cairo and give her something she'll have as she grows up. The backing material is called Pine Boughs. I am also thinking I might want to get names embroidered by someone with that capability. My appliqué work is not what I'd like. By the way, these were all fabrics I bought on our May 21st stop at Prairie Quilt in Hennessey. We were up in Perry for the high school graduation of Luke Andrew, who is soon on is way to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs this month. We ambled our way back home via Enid and Hennessey for each of our shopportunities—Tom at a plastic model shop in Enid, and mine at Prairie Quilt. Compromise is good!

One of the things I've done with these past four quilts is make a 'mini' for each—maybe the size of a block or two—in this case about 11 x 5.5 inches. I use scraps of the same fabrics (top and backing) and batting. On each, I try out different stitching options; play with binding; adjusting tension; thread tests, etc. On this one, I even made some notes! It's great having a 'practice space' and have a keepsake memento, if it is a gift quilt. Of the five quilts I've completed this year, three left our house as gifts. I think that's a pretty good percentage! I love getting to share this creativity with my family and friends!

It's fortunate I finished the quilt when I did—this is what was left when I finished using a decorative stitch securing the binding. I'm still using Coats Cotton for most of my piecing and quilting. Occasionally I use some Gutermann or Mettler but I guess I'm a cheapskate. One of my Bernina teachers recommended using the those because they're made in Europe just like my machine, and are apparently twisted opposite of Coats & Clark. Maybe someday I'll take an up-close look at it.

It's been a busy day. Overnight, I signed up for a Freemotion Quilting class at Sooner Quilts in Guthrie. A friend of mine said she was taking it and it sounded like a good idea. I also discovered the teacher is someone I worked with 12–14 years ago. Today I had the chance to visit Quilter's Corner in Midwest City where I bought four new fat quarters. On the way home, we stopped by Oklahoma Quiltworks and they had my June BOM ready. And when we drove up, I saw my first online order from fabrics.com on my doorstep. Whew—what a day! 

Time to go play with my fabric!