Friday, October 1, 2010

Feeling Uninspired

Its been a while since I posted. I guess "life" has taken over around here. For the past couple of weeks I've had very little "free" time. I guess that's what happens when you work full time and have kids. Unfortunately, it means that there hasn't been all that much going on in the studio these days.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I was in the studio trying to come up with a plan for a couple of baby quilts. I've got friends and relatives expecting and want to come up with something great for them. I have a pretty big stash of fabric, so I don't want to go out to buy additional fabric for these projects...but, most of the fabrics in my stash don't really read "gender neutral" either. So...what to do?

I pulled a bunch of things out to look at them and was feeling really pretty uninspired. Nothing jumped out at me. Nothing was making me itchy to cut into it. So I kept digging.

Eventually I found some left-over fabric from a quilt kit that my parents bought for me one year for my birthday. Usually quilt kits come with just the bare minimum of fabric to make the quilt - no room for rotary cutter or piecing error. But this quilt kit came with a significant amount of "extra" fabric. Plus - its super cute fabric. And it reads "gender neutral". I'm not sure I have enough to make 2 quilts from it...but I can definitely get one. And if I add some other prints (or solids), I might just be able to stretch it further.

Right before this project, I pieced together my oldest son's Christmas quilt. I haven't decided yet if I am going to leave it as-is or if I am going to add borders to it. But, it is made out of all Ghanaian fabrics (of which I still have a fair amount in my stash - yay!) I think he is going to love it once he knows the fabric came home from Ghana on the same day that he did. I still have to come up with a quilt for the youngest for Christmas....and I still have all the quilting and binding to do as well. I better get crackin'!

Small steps forward.

Now I just need to find some time to actually sew...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Works in Progress

Even though I've been crazy busy lately, I have managed to carve out some time to spend at my sewing machine. As a result, I have a couple projects in progress in my sewing room.

Here's a sneak peek at what I've got going on:

And a second project:

Both of these projects are using the Disappearing Nine-Patch block. I haven't done this before, but I really like how it is turning out. Plus, its pretty easy.

Every sewing room needs a helper, right? Mine was around to rescue the cat from behind the big machine frame...since the last thing I want is to accidentally leave the sewing room for the night only to learn the next day that I've locked the sleeping cat in.

This is what I've got hanging on my design wall right now. I'm trying to decide whether or not I like it. The fabric is Tula Pink's Neptune (which I love, love, LOVE). Not long ago I managed to score some Neptune pre-cuts...and I snatched up a few. This is made using one charm pack...I hadn't actually worked with Neptune before, and I wanted to play with it. So, I pulled out one charm pack and started sewing. I just love how these fabrics look together. Tula Pink is a genius. I'm not sure if I'll do much more with this little project or not. It might just end up being a little baby quilt or something. But, it was fun to sew the Neptune. Now I have to come up with concrete plans with what to do with the rest of the Neptune in my stash!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

And sometimes you buy a chair you don't need...

Today the two little boys and I headed to a furniture store to look for something. After spending about 10 minutes in the furniture store, I knew I wasn't going to come out with anything...things were WAY too expensive for what I was looking for. On a whim, I decided to see if I could find a used furniture store. After all, I love having previously-loved items. As long as its in good shape, its just fine with me.

I didn't really find what it was I was looking for, but I did find a chair. Now, my husband knows that I have a "thing" for chairs. I love a good chair. I'm not sure what it is about chairs, but I just love finding nice chairs at garage sales or auctions (and apparently the used furniture store).

I don't really have room in my house for another chair. But, I guess this one will have a home in my bedroom for a while...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Color Inspiration

Color inspiration for a quilt can come from just about anywhere. A couple of months ago I rescued a pretty tattered looking Bird of Paradise plant out of the compost pile. I happen to work in a building that has a large greenhouse, so finding plants to rescue in the compost pile isn't exactly a rare occurrence. It wasn't in the greatest shape when I brought it home, and I wasn't exactly sure how it would do. But, I potted it up and stuck it on the front porch.

This morning, I walked onto the front porch and found this:

Color inspiration, indeed.

Tufted Tweets

I haven't been quite as productive as I was hoping I'd be this summer, but I haven't exactly been slacking off in the quilting department either. I've quilted 4 small quilts that were in the unfinished projects bin (they are still waiting for binding - but progress is progress). I've also pieced together 2 big quilts...and I have another big one almost done. In fact, I'll show a couple photos of the current project below.

I'm curious about others' quilting process. Which parts are your favorites? Which part is your least favorite?

Honestly, I LOVE planning a quilt. I don't often follow a pattern, so my process usually involves pulling out the sketch pad and some colored pencils. I even throw in a ruler...and to be honest, I should put a calculator in my drawing box, too.

I have to admit I am a terrible fabric shopper. I don't pick a project, and then go purchase fabric for the project - getting just what I need. Instead, I find the fabric first...often purchasing fabric that I love, telling myself that I will come up with the perfect project later. This means that I end up with fabric in my stash that I decide I don't like as much as I thought I did. Or I end up buying more fabric to go with what I have to complete a project. But, shopping for fabric and dreaming up projects is one of my favorite parts of the process.

Once I get started on a project, I have to admit that my least favorite part is pressing the fabric. I'm not good about ironing my fabric before I get started on a project...and once I get started, I will work as long as I can without pressing the seams. I just hate having to set up the ironing board in an already-too-full space...and ironing is just boring! I know its important...which is why I often work in columns. I'll get all the columns done...and then I'll go on a marathon ironing spree before I sew the columns together.

Which is exactly where I am on my current project. The columns are all pieced together - I just have to press all the seams before I can finish up. I just couldn't do it today. Maybe tomorrow I'll drag out the iron and get it all done. Then I'll have one more quilt top finished!

The fabrics in this project are Laurie Wisbrun's Tufted Tweets. I just LOVE them! Also in the mix are a few Kona solids. I am loving how this quilt is looking. And its going to be BIG! Hmm...quilting it should be fun...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Recent Fabric Scores

I realize its been a while since my last post. Poor little blog is getting neglected, I'm afraid. I've been spending the last few weeks home with the kids. This means trying to do some work from home, cramming in all the doctor appointments for these two summer months that I have "off", as well as trying to spend as much time as possible with my hubby and boys since the hubby is heading off to more military training in the near future. Oh...and I'm quilting as often as I can, too. Unfortunately, that has taken a back seat to other (more important) summer activities.

I have, however, been able to do plenty of fabric shopping lately (much to my checkbook's dismay). A couple of my recent fabric scores are worthy of a post. First, I managed to find an incredible sale on Anna Maria Horner's Good Folks line of fabric. How I managed to find this, I have no idea, but I managed to score several fabrics from the line for $3.99/ I got free shipping...and I had an additional coupon! That NEVER happens! Plus, you all know my love for Anna Maria Horner....So I HAD to buy a few yards. Right?

My second fabric score is also really exciting. I have a love affair with another fabric designer as well. But, the truth is, I've never seen this particular fabric designer's fabrics in person. I've seen lots of photos online, but none of the quilt shops I've visited have carried her lines of fabric (at least they didn't have them while I was there, anyway). There is one particular line of her fabric that I would LOVE to get my hands on. Its discontinued...and it seems everyone loves it. This is great, except that it makes it almost impossible to find.

The designer? Tula Pink

The fabric line? Neptune

Oh how I love it...

Well, the other day, I managed to find a half-yard bundle of some of the Neptune fabrics on Etsy! Woohoo! I snatched that up right away...and then started wondering if I might be able to find some additional yardage somewhere else so that I'd have enough to make a big quilt from it. After MUCH searching, I was able to find a Neptune honeybun at a reasonable price and snatched that up, too. I can't wait to finally have some Neptune in my stash!! And then I get to start cutting it up!

In case you are like me and you're wondering where on earth there are still some folks selling Tula Pink's Neptune fabrics, here's where I found mine. The half-yard bundle was at klbowser's Etsy Store and the honeybun was at Fabrically Delicious.
Photo from klbowser's Etsy store.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nearly a decade...

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it has taken me nearly a decade to finish a quilt. Nearly a decade? Yikes! How is it possible that much time has passed since I started it?

In my mind, every quilt has a story. Some stories are short...and others are long. Some stories are sweet...while others have a serious dose of blood, sweat, and tears. The story of this quilt is one of those longer stories.

A little more than ten years ago, I left my small town and my small college for a trip to Tanzania. It was just a month-long trip, but it was a trip that would end up influencing how I view the world today. I know its a cliche to say that it was a "life-changing trip", but it was just that for me.

Not long after my trip, I discovered that my mom had taken up quilting. It didn't take much for me to convince her to try to teach me the basics. We spent a weekend making my very first quilt. One with big blocks, large pieces of fabric...and it was flannel. It is proudly hanging on the quilt rack in my sewing room - my very first quilt. Soon after that, I decided I wanted to try another quilt. I wanted to make one big enough for my bed. I didn't want to spend much money (quilting fabric is expensive on a graduate student's budget) so my mom and I went to the quilt shop and bought fabrics from the clearance section. They weren't fabrics that I would pick now...and if I'd had a bigger budget then, I certainly would have picked other fabrics. My mom helped me find a pattern that I thought I could pull off on my own (a simple 9 patch) and I went to work. My mom helped here and there, but it was mostly my own. I still use that quilt on my bed (though its getting kind of worn...and the dog has put a hole or two in it).

But the quilt that this story is about is the very next piece I started on. I remember I was using an old hand-me-down machine from my mom. It was actually the machine that I learned to sew on when I was a kid. It was basic, but it was all I needed back then. I had two roommates, and not much living space that was "mine". But, I crammed my little sewing table into my room and convinced myself that I would find time to sew.

Somewhere along the line I found this book:

And on page 150, I saw this quilt:

And I knew I HAD to make THAT quilt. That quilt transported me right back to Tanzania. That quilt made me feel Africa all over again - just by looking at it. I knew I had to have a quilt like that in my house to look at every day.

I had no idea what I was doing. The book didn't have a pattern for the quilt. Just the picture. It had patterns for a couple elements that are in the quilt, but nothing specific for that quilt. I had no sense about quilting etiquette or about translating a photograph of a quilt into a quilting design, but I knew I had to try to re-create that quilt for myself.

So I worked on it. I made lots of drawings. I did lots of math trying to figure out how to make all the pieces fit together and trying to figure out what sizes to make everything. Once I thought I figured it out, I headed to the quilt shop to buy fabric. Then I started cutting...and piecing...and ripping seams...and re-piecing...and buying more fabric to make up for the bits I had ruined along the way.

In the end, I got the quilt top I wanted. I had another local quilter do the quilting for me...and when I got it back I got to work on the binding. And that's where I quit.

For a long time.

I got married. My husband spent a year in Iraq. When he got back, I didn't do much sewing. We adopted two little boys...and all the sewing I did was for them (or other babies in the family). We moved a couple of times.

And all this time this quilt sat in a box in storage.

I have decided that this summer is all about finishing projects. I have several quilt tops that need to be quilted, and I am convinced that I am going to make a genuine dent in the "partially finished projects" bin in my sewing room. But in order to do that, I had to go back and finish this quilt. So last week, I pulled it out and finally hand-stitched the last bit of binding.

It felt so good to finally finish this quilt.

So thank you to Laurie Barnett for designing such an amazing quilt. One that invoked such an amazingly strong emotional response from yours truly. And now I have one to hang on my wall to bring me back to Africa every day.