Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Too Darn Hot!

Today it's 95 and tomorrow is supposed to be 100.  I know most people in the U.S. are experiencing similar temps...that just means that it's too darn hot everywhere.  Most days, I spend my afternoons holed up in my house being crafty, or I trot off to a fabric store in my air conditioned car...and then hole up for some crafty time!  It's fantastic!!  Except I have been neglecting other duties around here...like weeding...ugghhh!  I hate weeding!

I hate it with a fiery passion.  I would like to have a garden, I just don't want to have to do any duties associated with gardening.  I hate bugs and spiders and anything that might make contact when I least suspect it.  Yes, I want to save the planet, so long as it doesn't touch me in the process.  But our house came with beautiful landscaping and so in previous years we put effort into maintaining it.  Last year I bought one of those super cute gardening mats from Target.  I used it the first day, but since it had been sitting in the dirt all day, it had to live in the garage.  My mat would rather live in the house....or at least, I would rather have it live in the house.  At this point, it's been in the garage for over a year....who knows what kind of bugs or spiders might be on it...what if I pick it up and get spider web on my hand?  Nope.  Can't do it.  So today I just stood up, all hunched over, and pulled weeds.  (Don't worry, I used the sporty bug spray (even though I am most definitely NOT sporty), full sneakers so bugs didn't get through those holes in my Crocs, and some thick-ass gardening gloves!)

I have to admit though, that I know NOTHING about plants.  I can't even identify poison ivy (small children can point it out, but not me!  I must not be allergic...never had an issue with it...) - yeah, I know the leaves are supposed to be shiny and grow in 3s (right?), but a lot of things grow in 3s - or maybe I'm just REALLY good at tricking myself into seeing 3s - and many leaves have a waxy surface...even now that I've looked it up via the magic of Google Images, it doesn't look like anything special...pretty generic if you ask me...  ANYWAY, the point is that I have no idea what I'm doing with plants...I pull out anything that looks out of place and just hope for the best!  

The thing is, that if you ignore weeds, they will not go away.  They gather strength and use their powers for evil.  They grow to freakish heights.  We have succeeded in ignoring our weeds all year!!  I probably would have continued to ignore them...except that I realized, with horror, that our house appeared to be in foreclosure based on the out-of-control look of our yard.  (Although embarrassing on some level, it did make weed identification easier for me.)  So I sucked it up and yanked 'em out!!  They're not all gone, but it looks a bazillion times better.  I just wish I would have done it last week...or a month ago...or any day that would have been cool enough to avoid getting instant swamp ass the second you step outside! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Even More Organic Goodness!

I mean, can you really have too much organic goodness?  I didn't think so.

First of all, don't forget to check out part 2 with Jan DiCintio over on Fat Quarterly.  (I am not a paid spokesperson...I just love Fat Quarterly and Jan and being nice to the planet!  I should also note that I don't actually know Jan, but I'm 99.99% sure I would love her if I did!)

Second of all, since we're on the topic of organic quiltiness (ok, maybe I made up that word, but the Webster people will be calling me soon to make it official), I have a little project I made a few months ago.  Everything except the solid white and solid orange are organic!  WOO!! HOO!!
 I really wanted to make a strip quilt and I really wanted to use the Monaco fabric line by Monaluna...so poof!  The perfect union. 
 This will be making its way to London for our friends' daughter.  Our friends have a vespa and the little scooters made me think of them.  I can just imagine them cruising along with little Grace in a papoose!  (They wouldn't really do that.  Although with the magic of Photoshop, anything is possible!) 
 I used Ashley's tutorial and I'm glad I did.  Everything came together quickly and easily...and I didn't have any fabric morphing (you know...when you sew a bunch of straight lines and then you lay it out and it's all curvy and bumpy and one side is longer than the other?  none of that!)!  If you're into spray basting, this tutorial looks fantastic.  You quilt and piece at the same time!  I wanted to use it to save time and avoid pinning but I just can't bring myself to use chemical basting methods. 

(I know they're supposed to wash out, but I'm just not so sure that's enough to ease my mind...  You know that new car/new furniture/paint smell?  That delightful scent comes from Volatile Organic Compounds.  They stick around longer than you might think.  They're not so good for the planet and terrible for people! And they're often found in craft adhesives...  Honestly though, even if they had zero VOCs, I would still try to avoid them.  If something smells that bad and makes it difficult for you to breathe, it doesn't really matter what the chemical is...you just don't want to be inhaling that crap!  PLUS, even if I wore some sort of gas mask, I don't imagine the dogs would be so keen on them! 
Seriously? (photo credit)
 Ok, sorry peeps...enough about that...this is a quilting post, not a lecture on chemicals!) 

So let's get back to the back of the quilt.  I used Pure Organic in Aqua and a leftover piece of the Flowerbed print. 
I quilted on either side of each seam using the edge of my walking foot as a guide (somewhere between 1/4" and 1/2"), starting with the centermost seam and working my way outward. 
Starburst in orange
So the final stats: 

size: 41" x 52"

fabric: Monaco by Monaluna, Pure Organic (chocolate and aqua), Kona white, some solid orange (maybe Moda Bella in Ochre?)

batting: the usual (50% bamboo, 50% organic cotton)

thread: piecing = Aurifil, quilting = King Tut (these are my favs and I try to stick with them whenever I can - I know I've been really spotty about including stuff like this with quilt stats, but I figure it could be useful to someone at some point...  I also just realized that Aurifil has quilting threads...has anyone used them?  Are they as amazing as I imagine?)

Now I just have to get the label on it.  I'm calling the quilt Go Go Grace.  Part of the holdup has been punctuation.  Chris and I couldn't decide whether to use "Go, Go Grace!" or "Go! Go, Grace!" or "Go, Go, Grace!"  (We actually had quite a list of possibilities.  Yeah, we're like that.)  A trusted source has suggested "Go-Go-Grace!" (you know, like "Go-Go-Gadget Arms!")!  Just because she turned to Inspector Gadget in a time of need, I will probably take her suggestion!  This quilt is so crinkly and snuggly and organically good!  Now if only I could get this puppy in the mail so its proper owner could enjoy it!!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Organic Goodness

Hey Peeps!  Fat Quarterly is talking to Jan DiCintio of Daisy Janie.  Today she wrote about organic cotton (what does it mean, what does it do for the planet, etc.) and tomorrow she will be back for a little Q&A.  Today's post is very informative and very well-written - I expect tomorrow will be equally fantastic. (I mean, Fat Quarterly + Jan DiCintio?  How can you go wrong?)

Jan is my hero.  I love her.  I want to marry her.  The production and packaging of her fabrics go beyond GOTS Certification and they're produced in a Fair Trade Certified facility.  Amazing!  It's sometimes tough to find organics and they're more expensive, but I REALLY think it's worth it!  Please, please, please check it out!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hey Farm Lady...

...take THIS!!
#1, Attic Windows
And this...
#4, Basket Weave (had to change the layout a bit so it didn't look so much like a swastika)
Bam!
#39, Friendship
Pow!
#84, Spool (My pink fabric looks like thread wound around the spool! Little things amuse me!)

Shazam!!
#40, Friendship Block
Obviously, I finished up a few more blocks for the Farmer's Wife Quilt Along!  Our relationship is on the mend (although we might have encountered a little setback with my attitude at the top of the post...I'll send her flowers and make nice again.) 

As you can tell by looking at these blocks and my first three, I have no color scheme for this quilt.  I don't even have a general style for this quilt!  I'm making blocks with whatever fabric I feel like at the time.  Soft, bold, solids, prints...who knows what I'll be up to next!  (I know what you're thinking.  I'm really living on the edge here with my renegade fabric selections.  Next thing you know I'll be drinking soda and staying up past 10:00.  Somebody stop me!) 

I'm really not sure how this will work.  Maybe I'll divide them in to 2 or more quilts.  Maybe I'll put them all in one, as a reflection of how varied my tastes are. (I really do like many different styles...I'm not lying!)  I'm interested to see how this all comes together with the next 103 blocks!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bird on a Crooked Fence

I started this quilt months ago.  I was SO ahead of the game.  Well in advance of our friends' daughter's birthday, I found out that her favorite color was purple and immediately got to work on a quilt.  The design had been bouncing around in my head for ages and I thought it would be perfect for Olivia (friends' daughter). 
Out of the blue, I was thinking about the split rail fence quilt block.  It looks something like this:
Maybe it's just me, but doesn't that look more like a privacy fence? You be the judge...
Clearly, you're all picking privacy.  I'm glad we're on the same page.

So then I sat down to draft my own split rail fence block.  And it quickly turned into a whole quilt!  So here you have it.  My Crooked Fence:
As usual, I pieced the back (remember my creative cutting? Yep, it was for this one!)  I also pieced the label into the back - much easier than trying to do it at the end, but you have to be ready to name your quilt early in the game! 
The piecing and basting went really quickly (even with my setback).  But the quilting took FOREVER!  Because it was a fence, I decided to quilt a wood grain pattern into each rail.  I used the drawing on this blog as a guide at first, then started looking at our cabinets and wood trim when I needed other ideas.
(you can see it best on the back)
some of my favorite "rails"
That's what took forever.  One day I worked on it for about 7 hours and I only got 2-2.5 rows done!  Part of that is because the quilting ends up being relatively dense.  The bigger part of it is that I'm really slow when it comes to this type of quilting.  It's one thing when you can just do some nice random loops or stippling.  But when I have a pattern or lines that I'm sticking to, I take it slow.  (I even used free motion to quilt in the ditch for each rail...the only way for me to learn is to practice, practice, practice!)  Plus, for some of them I marked a rough pattern...and for some of them, I was displeased and ripped my stitches right out! So this is that quilt I've been quilting for weeks.

And then, because I really wanted to name the quilt "Bird on a Crooked Fence," I added a bird!
see it up there? top right? (I know, the yellow doesn't stand out too much in this photo!)
And because my friend Patty taught me how to hand quilt, I had to try it out (plus I thought it would be SO cute for this one!). 
I added a little sun,
I used 1 strand of yellow thread and 1 strand of orange.
some clouds (which are hard to see in the photos since I used light blue thread),

and a little speech bubble for the bird. 

I got so carried away that I did the hand quilting and all of the binding in about 36 hours..my hand turned into a claw!  But it was worth it.  It's all packed up a ready to ship out in the morning!

So here are the stats:

SIZE: about 40" x 60"

FABRICS: Tufted Tweets (Laurie Wisbrun), Bird Tree (Saffron Craig), Sandalwood (Amy Butler), Kona solid from Purple People Eater bundle, Go By Bike (Erin McMorris), Bloom (Wodland Delight, Paula Prass)

BATTING: 50% bamboo, 50% organic cotton

BINDING and BACKING: fabrics from JoAnn that I did not note the names of (the darker purple on the back is a Kona...maybe Iris?)

Olivia LOVES to read.  (Hence the bird looking for a bookworm!)  I figure she can use this quilt to lay in the grass and read in the summer, and snuggle up on the couch and read in the winter.  I hope she loves it!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sooo....

...my last day of work was nearly two weeks ago.  I thought I would be blogging up a storm!  But instead I have been looking for a new job, finishing quilt tops, finishing whole quilts, running errands, and attending couple's  counseling with the Farmer's Wife.  (Oh, and maybe reading Sweet Valley Confidential and giving myself a pedi...maybe...)

In the past few weeks (I can't remember when) I finished up my quilt top for the Marshmallow Brochette Quilt Along!  Woohoo!  
(the color is a little off...it came out of the camera like this...and I can't seem to fix it...but you get the idea!)
I only lagged behind a little bit with this one as far as piecing went.  I lagged behind a lot with taking and posting pictures...and now I'm obscenely behind with the quilting!  (It's Attach Your Binding week and I'm still trying to decide how to quilt it!)  Anyway, I used Pure Organic in chocolate for the background, Kona white for the borders and connectors, and a combination of a Kona Pretty in Pink fat quarter bundle and Joel Dewberry prints for the squares. 

Now, when I first discovered the world of Modern Quilting blogs, I was reading along with Quilt Dad one day when he was, rightfully, gushing about Joel Dewberry.  I clicked the little link in Quilt Dad's post and immediately fell in love with Modern Meadow.  It was the most beautiful fabric I had ever seen and I knew I could not live without it! (I'm not exaggerating.  I would have died a thousand deaths if I couldn't get my hands on it!  Luckily, before I had to be put on life support, I ordered a bundle of berry fat quarters from one of my favorite stores).  I'm still in love with this line and I want to buy more!

Maybe because it was one of my first modern fabric purchases, maybe because I love it so much that I don't want to waste it on the "wrong" project...whatever the reason, I have not been able to cut into this fabric.  Hoarding the thing you love and saving it for a special occasion go against my way of being.  For example, we use our fancy china every night that we cook dinner (we can't put the it in the microwave when we have leftovers...Chris tried...it was a quick, and unsuccessful, trial....I did not tell him "I told you so." Well, I guess now I did...).  Chris also uses one of the good coffee cups every, single morning. We want to enjoy our china every day, not just on special occasions.

I am usually like that with fabric too.  I like to use it and make something that I can enjoy.  So what the heck goes on with me and the Joel Dewberry bundle?  I still don't know. But when I started piecing my Marshmallow Brochette quilt, I held my breath (I'm not kidding) and cut 1 square out of each of my pinks! 

(I seriously cut out a square - not even a whole strip.  Baby steps...)  I only ended up using 5 of the 6 prints, and I mixed them in wherever they fell in the color gradation.  I'm so in love with the colors and design of this quilt!  Thanks for being a design genius, Natalie!!  I already have the fabric for the backing...I just need to piece it and get it basted....and quilt it...and pick more fabric and attach the binding.  See?  I'm practically done!

(Wow, I got a little wordy there, huh?  See what happens when I bottle it up!)

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Farmer's Wife is my Frienemy.

That's right.  Frienemy.  The title of this post was going to be "The Farmer's Wife is my Therapist."  When the Farmer's Wife Quilt Along first started popping up all over Blogland, I wasn't so sure about it. I mean, the modern blocks looked amazing but I just wasn't sure I wanted to jump in.  (Don't tell anyone, but as a general rule I don't love sampler quilts!)   But the more blocks I saw, the more I fell in lust.  Quilt Dad, Twin Fibers, KerryBerry, the Ginger Monkey, Camille the Simplifier, Texas Freckles, Leila with the Orchids...vixens!  All of them!  Taunting me with their amazing blocks!  I immediately sat down with my book and pretty much every piece of fabric I have ever acquired.  I had seen so many beauties that I thought for sure I would just pull out some delicious scraps and start sewing my heart out.  Except it was kind of overwhelming.   So I popped over to the Flickr group and noted the blocks people put together with only 2 different fabrics.  Then I thought about some color combinations I had been meaning to try.  Now I was cooking with gas!  My first block was the windmill (#108) - I cut the paper templates and traced them onto the fabric.  It wasn't my favorite method, but it worked ok and I finished it in no time.  See?
windmill, #108
Starting with my second block (the wrench, #111) I traced each paper template onto freezer paper, making a few pieces for each shape.  Then I ironed them onto the fabric, rotary cut, carefully peeled the paper off, and stitched 'em up.  Ta-da!!!
wrench, #111
I found it easier to trace onto freezer paper than fabric, and using the rotary cutter after ironing gave me nice straight lines and better pieces overall.  I was feeling good.  No, I was on fire!...Bam, finished another one!
Box, #9
For these first three, if something else wasn't going well in life or I just needed a break, I whipped up a quick Farmer's Wife block and all was right with the world....she was my therapist!  I felt awesome, ready to take on the world!!  And then came Night and Day.  Sure, it's a little more advanced than the others.  But I was feeling awesome, remember?  I could probably do it with one hand behind my back (ok, I wasn't THAT confident...)  Made my freezer paper pieces, cut my fabric, sewed the first quarter block together...not bad!  Until I realized that it was supposed to be a square...and it was definitely NOT square.  (Plus, I'm not sure if you can tell from this picture, but that one piece isn't even in alignment...it's just hangin' out there by itself...what the what?)

OK, back to the Flickr group.  I found this and this and this.  Beautiful, right?  I read the comments...paper piecing!  YES!  Got some templates to paper piece the block in 8ths...sat down, knocked out another quarter block...but just before I sewed the 8ths to each other I tore the paper off so I could press my seams open.  (They just seemed so bulky when the paper was attached...I'm not so hot on bulky...)  It turns out, this was not the right move either...I mean, it was a significant improvement, but not quite there.  Plus, my fabrics were switched...I know it shouldn't matter, but I wanted to switch them back. 

I tried 2 more times...and 2 more times I made sucky blocks!!  Well, the 3rd mess isn't quite so bad - the pieces seem to match up better now that the paper has been torn off...that's probably not a good sign either but I might stitch them together and see what happens.  (P.S. paper piecing is hard!)

I got so fed up, that I threw away my messes before I could even take photos to show you.  Then I felt bad, took them out of the garbage, and got some pictures.  Chris thinks I should just do a different block...or take a break from sewing...(huh?)  But now this farmer's wife has pissed me off!  I must be able to conquer this damn block!!!!  Part of me wants to keep working on it until I get it right.  But logically, I know Chris is right.  So I packed up all things relating to my new frienemy and put them on the side.  For today I will be quilting the quilt that I have been quilting for weeks. (Seriously, I must get that finished soon...it's a birthday present for a little girl...her birthday was a month ago!  YIKES!)  Happy 4th everyone!! 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Warning!

Looking directly at the following picture may cause blindness!

It's as if these legs have never seen the light of day before.  (Yes, they are actually reflecting the sunlight!)  At the risk of causing temporary loss of vision to those around me, I am making my way out into the world with exposed skin.  I apologize in advance to the good people of Northampton!