31 January 2013

In dangerous hands...

I don't always know why I buy things.

Sometimes, it's just because they are pretty. My friends know this about me. Especially Gwen.

Hence, the beautiful box of 108 pieces of felt from WoolFeltCentral.com, Gwen's felt source. For me, it is as much about the acquisition as the application. Once I had these gems in my hot little fists, I knew I had to—wait for it—catalog them! Sigh. Roll out a blank Excel spreadsheet and get to work! I love this stuff.

A couple of years ago, when I started organizing my fabric via a color system, I discovered Joen Wolfrom's Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool. She assigns a number from 1 to 24 to colors on the color wheel, and then sub-numbers for values/tints. When I get new fabric, I photograph it, assign it one of these color numbers, and then add it to my visual data base. When the images are sorted by color name, they display in spectral order. Bliss! It's not a perfect system but mostly does what I need.

So, I made the spreadsheet using the information the seller. This included their colors' names, the order in which they were packed, and the DMC floss match color they provided. I then went on the quest to find or create swatches for all 108 colors and then put the appropriate swatch on the appropriate row. Then it was time to assign the Color Tool numeric value. And if all this wasn't enough, I then assigned two different tonal values to each swatch. These values came from looking at each swatch under a red, and then a green lens. All tolled, this took much of one weekend and a few afternoons. Here's a screenshot of one of the simpler sorts. If it's not worth obsessing over, is it really worth doing? Ha!

On the more 'normal' side of life, I think it's fair to say I have friends who like felt. And actually make things from felt—REALLY darling things from felt. From Gwen, here are five monkeys waiting to jump on a bed, and a waterspout, spider, and sunshine. Pretty dern cute, eh?

Even if I never make anything from my beautiful pieces of good quality felt, I really enjoy having it all the same. And, when/if I do, you'll see it here!

Also felt-related, I relented and finally purchased a Christmas stocking kit, on clearance. Some of my friends make these and seem to enjoy the experience. I'm still a little befuddled about the process, but now I have a chance (and plenty of time) to try one, too! I haven't done that much up-close, detailed hand stitching in recent years, so this will certainly require a different set of skills. Truth be told, I loved it for the mouse and the candy cane! I'll let you know how it goes.

Kapalua Batik...

I am not sure how long ago I purchased this jellyroll, but I know it's been sitting around awhile. I never had much of a plan for it, but finally made a quilt top from it this month.

I knew I wanted to add some solids (yes, SOLIDS) to my next project, so what better place to hide some in plain sight among all these colors? I found four solids I could love—a bright chartreuse, a deep raspberry sherbet, scrumptious eggplant, and bright orange. I played around with several different designs on the computer. I wanted to intersperse the solids but wasn't sure about its order—randomness, hard pattern, or perceived randomness IN a pattern? And then, what would be the easiest way to sew it all together? My first runs at it looked something like:

Colorful, but not too orderly/orderly enough. Then I was reminded of a zig zag pattern I liked and came up with how I wanted to  sew 20 sets of two strips, then each of the solids onto that. I arranged all 40 strips into a spectral order I liked, numbered them (you'll see number labels in my layouts), and paired them. Here are those 20 sets of strips, arranged beautifully. Yes, it did take quite a bit of manipulating to get them to lay this way, but what good is having beautiful fabric if you can't fondle it?

Once all of the pairs were put together, I needed to add them to their solids. Which way to best attach the solids—long strips or short ones? Short ones won the day. (Based on the arrangement in this shot, I am wondering if I am a wanna-be bartender? Look at the cocktail napkin fanning of those blocks!) Problems I ran into in this jelly roll of strips was the fact that all the long edges were already 'pinked' and they were not all consistent in width. Using all those edges as guides gave me some wonky dimensions. This required some adjusting of seams along the way and that gobbled up lots of time. In the future, I will straight cut all the strips into a width I know is consistent and even.

So I had the idea in my mind and printed out so I could follow it while piecing. Zig zag. I attached 80 pairs of paired batiks to 80 solids and started thinking about the vertical strips I'd build to make the zig zag. Hold on a minute. What if I rotated these blocks and mixed up the pattern a little? Hmmm. Sure, I could do that. It wouldn't be a hard zig zag, but more of a suggested zig zag?
Time to commit. Here's how the columns of blocks went together. Having to go back and 'fix' some of the strip inconsistencies made this part of the process a bit more tedious than necessary, but all in all, it still went together fairly well. Oh, did I mention I wanted the back seams to be pretty, too? I pressed and flared my seams and love the effect even though no one sees them.

I'm not sure how I'm going to finish, back, or bind this top, but I'm happy to have this much done. Right now it's about 54" x 67". Voila!

29 January 2013

Spokes, Totes, and Hand Warmers...

Last spring/summer, I became friends with Kelsey. I first became aware of her when she was in a series of some very funny sermon series bumper videos. It was a series about dating. Here is the link to the first of three* (see below) videos she did. What a funny way to get to know someone! She and I knew many of the same people, especially media team staff/volunteers. It also turned out that we'd just started attending a community group her parents led.

We got to know each other better over some Starbucks coffee and church activities. Within a few weeks, she adopted me as her 'Second Momma.' What an honor! I was tickled!

Kelsey and her roommate, Hailey, started riding bikes. Seriously started riding bikes. As in 'cycling!' They joined a group of mutual friends who have a cycling group. Their organization's name is Rollin' With the Homies. Here's their patch/label, a Group Fly design.

Fast forward to mid-September and Rollin' With the Homies is riding in the Bike MS: The Mother Road Ride | Tulsa to Oklahoma City. It was a 150-mile ride from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, with one overnight stop in Chandler, Okla, and benefitted the National MS Society. Kelsey was riding the first leg of the ride, and Hailey was doing both. We decided we want to go to Chandler and welcome them there. 

We got there with some time to spare. After a bit, we got word they were coming in. Click, click, click. I've gotta confess I love the little square single-shot photo on the right most because I know Kelsey's just saw us! The one next to it is what everyone else saw. Beneath is one of the two of them. Can you believe how lovely they look after cycling 75 miles up and down the hills?! Guess there's something to be said for good training!

I knew I wanted to have some sort of surprise or trophy for the girls as they finished the first leg of the 150-mile ride. But what? A week before, while at Quiltworks, I saw this fabulous cream and dark blue fabric made into a tote bag. Free pattern with purchase of fabric? YES! I was especially fortunate to find two fabric color combos so I could make distinctly different bags for them (roommates having identical bags was impractical). And I lined them. I was concerned they might not be the most useful gift, but I LOVED the look, so took my chances. I presented the bags after they arrived and was so thrilled they loved them. Yay! Turns out they were perfect for carrying their helmets and shoes. Tah dah!

A little more time travel—Christmas. I came across a knitting pattern for fingerless gloves—plain, but a pretty moss stitch. After making a pair for myself, and a little inspiration, I knew I wanted to make some for Kelsey that resembled owls. I so enjoyed making those that I thought Hailey, avid cat lover, might get a giggle out of kitty ones. So, here ya go! My mind is a mysterious (and furry) place!

The owl eye and beak motifs came from the an Amigurumi Pattern I used in making Kelsey's little owl friend, Wilbur (see post). Then I added a couple little tufts for 'ears,' and there ya go.

For the kitty ones, I just added plastic cat eyes, pink nose, mouth stitching, and triangle ears. This particular pair was bigger than the owls, but I think it made the kitties rounder looking.

I'm so glad I have these lovely young women in my life to enjoy, cherish, and pelt with homemades! And I get a daughter in the deal! Wow!

*(Okay, here are the second, and third video links. Enjoy!)

11 January 2013

Catching up...

I've written about my artist friend, Morian. I love her paintings. I love what I've learned observing her painting style. And she's a really nice person, too. So, every so often, she does a giveaway of some sort—random drawing, Pinterest pin, etc. I have won TWO of the two contests I've entered (a stuffed orange tabby kitty pillow and a print of one of her horse paintings). I was feeling a little guilty about this, beyond just curtailing the number of her contests I enter. Morian well deserved something FROM me, so she got a fabric bowl made from my favorite batiks. I'm happy to say it lives on her desk at work. Ironically, for the past 7 years, she's worked for the same company I worked for 16 years ago. Small world, indeed.

Back in September, friends of ours were having a special 'homecoming shower' for their little boy, Fletcher. He's lived at The Children's Center in Bethany, Oklahoma, since he was a little baby, just over 7 years ago. Anyway, they were hoping to bring him home to live in October, so friends were throwing a shower to help his family in getting some needed supplies and equipment to aid in the transition. Due to an insurance glitch, his homecoming has been delayed. Well, just a couple of days ago, the insurance company has relented and Fletcher is due to come home and live in his OWN room under her family's room for the first time. Everyone is very excited. This is the first Task-It™ Basket (pattern designed by my friend, Martha) I made. I made the process far more complicated than it needed to be but got it done with minutes to spare! Ha, ha! I loved the Dr. Seuss characters! We placed a few toiletry items and lotions inside.

Fast forward to December. Friends in our former community group were having their first baby. Dad is a serious Alabama fan. What better than a Tide Task-It™ Basket? I was going to put the baby's name on the crimson lining but decided dad may hijack it someday for his TV remotes! This basket it a bit smaller because of the one-way print direction and a first set of seams I misjudged. Their beautiful son arrived a few days early and has made his parents and family very happy. We couldn't be more pleased for them! Roll Tide!

These Task-It™ Baskets are becoming great go-to gift beginnings—make it, fill it, give it!

Christmas was...

It's been so long since I posted any creations, I really don't know where to start. I'm picking a couple of random items I made within a few days of each other. (Turns out I'm making a few shorter posts in near succession.)

New rug & grand puppy
I promised my son Matt's girlfriend, Ariel, I would make her a fabric bowl. I'd had a couple of ideas along the way, but didn't get around to it until just before Christmas which worked out great because she got a new area rug for her living room and those new colors inspired this new bowl.

Taking nothing from my other bowls made to date, I think this is my favorite. This one reminds me of a raku-style pot. I was always going to use the slate blues, and maybe some browns, but the pop of mixed colors the rug suggested really made this one stand out. Shown below are swatches of the three fabrics used to make the bowl. The third one (round discs of color) are from a collection I've recently discovered and absolutely love. It's from Moda and is called Juggling Summer from Zen Chic.

Then here comes Christmas. I was invited to Ariel's mom/step-dad's house in Tulsa for their family gathering. I wanted to make a hostess gift for her mom. I was still desperate for an option the night before and asked a friend of mine who happened to be on Facebook overnight. She suggested I make one of her Task-It™ Baskets. I'd bought the pattern a few months ago and have already made a few of them. After a little hemming and hawing, it wound up being a great idea. Martha also told me that a box of Keurig 18-count K-cups fits perfectly in it. Bazinga—perfect hostess gift. I hated parting with these two wonderful fabrics, but I guess that makes the gift all the more special. (And, I replaced the fabric a few days later, of course.)
And then there were a couple of Christmas ornaments. Years ago, as a child, I had a little felt mitten into which Santa would leave a dollar bill each year. I am not quite sure what's happened to that mitten, but I was feeling sentimental about it and decided to create a new one. This started me on my quest for BETTER felt. What's readily available in sheets at Hobby Lobby is pretty pitiful. This particular felt was not their standard white, but a thicker version with glitter. (I've got a whole post about felt coming soon.) Apparently Santa has become pragmatic over the years. I got a note from him this year saying only little girls under 13 still get dollars, but he's held on to my last 'Little Girl Dollar' since 1969, and with interest (complete with CPI inflation calculator data), I got $5.93 (rounded up to $6.00). 

And then there were the Froebel Stars (Fröbelstern). A friend in our D'art group showed these to us just before Christmas. They are part of her German heritage and she'd made and boxed dozens of the beautiful ornaments to accompany the Christmas cards she sent out this year. I was immediately taken by them and came home and started folding some. I found the easiest material to use was gift wrap ribbon. It provides long, consistent widths. I first tried cutting strips of scrapbook paper but had mixed results. The star on the left is the traditional 3D version. On the right is a modified '2D' version that can be mailed flat. It loses something in the flattening, but is still interesting.

T-shirt quilt...

This was the first I've ever done. When my friend, Denise, said she'd saved all of her daughter's T-shirts since she was little and wondered if I knew how to make a T-shirt quilt, I figured—sure. The learning curve wasn't too steep. Some parts of the process were definitely easier than others.

Part of my process is to layout my design on my computer first. I took photos of all the fronts and backs I was going to use. After I figured out some consistent measurements, I chose which designs/colors would be where. I presented Denise and Kayleigh the computer images for their approval. The chosen layout was without the sashing and border (bottom image).

Once I got all of the shirts cut, I adhered each knitted panel to fusible interfacing to stabilize each panel. After that, I joined together each column of panels and then each row together. And this is where it started getting heavy. Ah, ha. Add to that a layer of fleece (used as batting, and another layer of fleece for the backing, and you get one rather ungainly mass of fabric. After a couple of hit-and-miss tries (read: stitching and ripping out), I wound up hand-basting the entire quilt sandwich together. I think  this totaled ten rows of basting—multiple runs horizontally, diagonally, and vertically. And though that was a bit time consuming, it made quilting all the layers together much easier. I just stitched-the-ditch and called it done. I found I also need to make my binding narrower. This one wrapped a little wide over the backing. Somewhere along the line, I got the idea I needed to make 3" binding. After further investigation, I think 2.25" might work better.

Anyway, here's the finished piece. I appreciated them waiting over 90 days from start to finish. Rumor has it, another one of their family members wants a T-shirt quilt, too. Because I 'gifted' my labor, I have no idea how much I'd charge for something like this. Early in the process, I was thinking, while I was on a roll, I wanted to make one for myself. After I was done, I decided I needed a break.

07 January 2013

Pay it forward...

The first five people who comment on this post will receive a special little handmade gift from me sometime in 2013. May I ask in return that you also post this and pay it forward to others in some way?

I just recently tried doing this on Facebook and did not get five takers, so we'll see if this gets a better response. And, if you're one of the three Facebook commenters, please let fiver others 'win' this time. Thank you.

And thanks to Jeanne at Spiral for re-inspiring me to try again.