Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wild Horses

Some things you just cannot plan for.
Quilting takes time, and a lot of planning, from choosing the fabric, to the design, and the colors, complimentary and primary. The "feel" of the quilt is often hard to settle on. Many of the quilts I make with a specific recipient in mind are meditations on the person, and my relationship with the person, and the other people surrounding this person. But sometime things need to happen more quickly.

A couple of weeks ago, my father's health took a nose dive, due to him falling into cardiac arrest. Luckily my mother was with him, and got him help immediately. A week in the ICU was followed by transfer to another hospital and a triple bypass heart surgery. He's still there, and, though improving, will be there for a while longer as he awaits a defibrillator implant. After that he'll be heading home, but will be facing a long recovery.
During day 3 of this, I was at home, trying to relax via sewing after a turn at the hospital. I'd left my father, and my mother with him, and headed home. We did not then know what the prognosis would be. At home I was working on a quilt for my daughter, and thinking about the things I could do to help my dad, and my mom, and the things I could not do. And then it hit me. My dad was going to be in bed for a while; I'd donated quilts to hospitals before; I'd make a quilt for my dad to use at the hospital. This was a way I could use my hobby to make things a bit nicer for my father, regardless of prognosis.
I left my daughter's quilt, and went to the fabric store. Luckily, I know my father well enough so that the rumination part of the creative process didn't need to take long. My dad's a life-long lover of horses. He loves westerns, and has a great fondness for the myth of the west and of the cowboy. I would make him a horse and cowboy quilt. I also knew I wanted the quilt to have movement, and a sense of the outdoors. I bought fabric of horses running free and 4 other fabrics in blue, green, and brown. Out of them, I made this:
And a detail: 
I made the strips "wonky" because I thought it would add to the dynamic feel I was going for. A friend also pointed out that it fits with the Old West theme as it makes it more "rustic". I hadn't thought of that, but it works.
The reverse looks like this:
And a close up:
The quilt is knotted with reddish brown embroidery floss, intentionally used to recall to mind the quilts of the 1800s. The quilt is Single size, and will, I hope, be useful to my dad as he convalesces in front of the tv or computer.
It turns out the unit he's in at the hospital will not let him keep a personal blanket, so this will have to wait till he gets home. I will however, print him a picture of the quilt and take the print out to him. He can keep it with the rest of the cards, photos and pictures his grandkids have made for him.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Earlier I posted about a quilt I'd made for a friend's daughter, Audrey, and you can read about it here: Part of the fun about that quilt was the scrappiness of it, and the fact that it enabled me to make use of my fabric stash. In fact, it was so much fun, I decided to make another one, posted about here:
Then I made this one.

And a close up:

The inner block is a dolphin fabric I used for a different baby quilt and the strips are all from my wall o'fabrics.
I enjoyed making these, and it was great to see how one pattern can have such different feels to it, depending on the color palette I used. This last one is also different from the others in that the blocks have yellow sashing. I felt that the piece was turning out too dark, and was deliberating how to lighten it up. When I talked to AJ about it, he suggested light sashing, in a fabric that was not too busy. Perfect.

Comfy Quilt for Robin

My sister in law Robin is one busy lady. She's got a family (husband and two teenage kids), a cat, a dog, and is holding down three part time jobs. Busy.
A few months ago, while at  my in-laws, Robin was not feeling well and snuggled on the couch in the daisy quilt of the last post. She liked it so much I decided to make her a comfy quilt of her own, in the hopes that she will actually have some time to use it, and not just when she is sick.
Since this is a new sister in law, I did not know her likes and dislikes as far as colors and patterns go. Facebook to the rescue. I contacted my niece and asked her about her mom's favorite colors. Turns out, the hands-down favorite is red (and no red robin jokes, please, she said). I went to the store and bought some fat quarters in different reds. I also bought some super comfy shaggy kind of fabric (I don't know what it's called...) to put around the borders for extra snuggle-ness.
The quilt:

And a detail:

The design is one of my favorites, the disappearing nine-patch. I love the randomness of the finished look. I then bordered the piece with black swirly fabric and added a broad border of the super-snuggly red fabric. Red satin blanket binding finished it off.  The back is made of flannel for added coziness.
I presented it to Robin at Christmas and she was feeling the edges over and over as she repeatedly stated that it is just HER size. She was NOT planning to share it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let there be Daisies

A couple of years ago I found a colorful, striking fabric of daisies on a black background. I continued scrounging around the fabric store (which I do all too frequently...) and found a  complimenting fabric: smaller daisies on a black background! I immediately snatched both up. When I got home I washed them, folded them neatly, and put them on the fabric shelves I have in my sewing room, er, studio. And there they sat for a while, folded with other fabrics that had grabbed my attention when I saw them.

One weekend a few months later I found myself bored. This doesn't happen often, and when it does, it doesn't last long as I always have projects in various stages of completion lying around the house. But that weekend, none of the existing projects excited me. So I went to the shelves of fabric, and started looking at them and touching them (Fabric selection has always been a very tactile thing for me; I am not sure why). I saw the Daisies and the project jumped into my brain, fully formed. I cut the big daisies into panels, used a burgundy fabric to sash the squares, with white (with black polka dotes) cornerstones, and bordered the whole thing with the smaller daisies, using the red as corner stones this time. Like so:

Detail? Here it is:

Using squares and all straight lines made this project quick and easy, just what I needed that weekend. It was gratifying, contained, and I liked the vibrancy of the colors.

I listed it on Etsy, but when AJ saw it he declared his mom would love it. So he bought it off Etsy and gave it to his mom for Christmas. She liked it so much she refused to use it for a while, preferring to drape it over her couch and look at it. I think it is being used now though...I'll have to check

Comfy Quilts

Some quilts are for babies to lie on, some are for beds of all sizes. Some are for hanging on walls, and others are for lounging. The lounging quilts I call Comfy Quilts.
When my sister-in-law was pregnant with her second child, I knew I'd make a baby quilt (about which I'll post in another post), and when Jo said she was having kind of a rough pregnancy, I decided to make her a comfy quilt. I hoped she would use the quilt for whatever she needed, whether on the couch, around her shoulders, on her legs, whatever.
Jo is a person of nature. She hikes, climbs, camps. She is studying the areas where water meets land and so I decided to make her a quilt that encompasses both green and blue, and one that has motion, as she does. I wanted this quilt to be soothing rather than lively, and that helped decide on the colors, graduating shades of blue and green, and the pattern, which was not symmetrical but not too random.
Here it is:

And a detail:

The squares are made of smaller squares made of triangles made of strips. First I made regular squares of strips of different shades and widths. Then I cut them into triangles. Then I mixed up the triangles and combined them into different squares.

The border is of a blue fabric with the streets of Paris on it. I use this fabric in everything I make for Jo, or her kids. It is from a dress her grandmother made for her mother when she (Jo's mother) was a teenager. I first got this for Jo and my brother's wedding Chuppah about which you can read here: Chuppah for Yair and Joanna. It was given to me by Joanna's mother. I used it in the Chuppah and had some left over. I've been incorporating bits of it into things for their family ever since.

When I gave it to Joanna she thought that was for the baby. I had fun giving her another one a few months later when the baby was born!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A recent Creation

Monsters! I love them. Some are scary, some are sweet, some can occasionally be a mix of both.
When I found a monster panel fabric I bought it, even though I had no project planned for it then. I knew I'd find something to do with it. I mean, we're talking monsters!

Quilting projects without an intended recipients are quite liberating as I just work with color and composition (painting with fabric?) and am not bound in any way by my conception about the person who'll use it. I have no idea who'll use it after all.

And here's what I've done with it:

And a close up:

And another close up (because these monsters are just too cute):

I cut out the panels, leaving the blue and purple border they came with, and sewed white sashing around them. I know there's an official term for the interrupted sashing I have here, I just don't know what it is. Basically in each corner I sewed a purple fabric with itty bitty pictures of the monsters. This was the original border of the fabric. It was good to use it even though I initially did not know how I would incorporate it. Around the panels I sewed a lime green border, which was a lot of fun.

The backing of the quilt is squiggly purple fabric, with some of the lime green fabric used as the border. This, apart from being a fun fabric to work with, also adds cohesion to the quilt as the front and back have the same border and binding.

In honor of this quilt I have revived my etsy shop, and will hopefully be listing a few more on there in the coming couple of weeks.

The really fun part? As I was finishing the quilt, Shira saw it and exclaimed she loves it and wants it. When I explained it's really too small for her at 4 ft. square, she asked if I could get more of the fabric and make her one too. I said sure. The following morning AJ saw the quilt and also promptly exclaimed he needs a blanket with this fabric too! Luckily, when I went back to the store, they still had some, so I bought 4 more yards.

The later fun will be the challenge of creating 3 different quilts of the same fabric, and having each quilt be its own thing. I'm looking forward to that.

Shira's Quilt

Shira's always liked color. She liked it when she was little and she likes it now.
When it was time to make Shira a quilt for her twin size bed, I knew it had to have color. I also wanted it to be a quilt she could grow with, and so didn't want any one color to dominate the others. Another thing I wanted to take into account is her personality, which has always been very dynamic. This is a person who's always felt comfortable being physical. When younger she was constantly running, skipping, jumping, hopping, climbing, whatever. She plays sports and is full of energy. She learns things by doing them.
So the dynamic aspect needed, for me, to be present in her quilt (much as it was in her baby quilt, I just now realize).
I decided on the fun, and sweet pattern of bow ties (or candy wrapper as it's sometimes called), which I thought would work over the years for her. The dynamic aspect came out in using different color fabric for each bow tie and in the arrangement. Instead of the usual lining up the bow ties in rows, with each bow tie angled the same way, I decided to organize them in concentric squares, and put the whole thing on point, so it creates concentric diamond shapes. Like so:

And a detail:

The bow ties are made from many different fabrics. And the whole thing is brought to cohesion with the lavender fabric for background. This works well also because purple has been a constant favorite of Shira's. Another element that helped bring the quilt together is the multiple borders around the patchwork. I have 3 thin borders, including one in the lavender, and one thicker one.
The whole thing is quilted onto a store-bought blanket and bound together. The blanket is dark purple and so that worked well together as well. The blanket has worn since I got it for her, and the quilt is now her lighter blanker, reserved for warmer nights, or as a second blanket for really cold nights (like the ones we had a little while ago).
She still likes it, and is still a dynamic person. I enjoy looking at it and, as always, enjoying seeing how fabric continues evolving in meaning as it gets incorporated into different projects, and the recipients evolve and developed.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rahel's Quilt

When Rahel moved from the toddler bed to a twin size bed, she got a big blanket. This was not one I made, but one from the store. However, the following year, I decided to change this. I wanted to make her a blanket that suited her, and included the colors she liked at the time, but also one that would stay relevant as she grew older. At the time she really liked pink (shocking, now, to anybody who knows her) and dark red. I found a great twisty pattern in a photograph and proceeded to figure out how to make it. This usually involves doodles on graph paper, and little bits of cut paper moved about the design comes together. This takes math, especially geometry.
When I was younger I was not very successful in math. I struggled with it in high school and college, had tutoring, and had to take the HS exit exam 3 times before I passed, barely. I remember the day I realized I am using math and geometry in my quilting, and how easy it comes to me in that context. I guess I was not just "bad" at math. Rather, I had no relevant context in which to use and understand it. Now I do.
The pattern for Rahel's quilt involved triangles and squares, with colors intertwining and the pieces forming diamond shapes. I worked hard on it. Here it is spread out on my bed, with the cat getting involved:

And a detail:

I quilted this top onto her blanket, using it as batting, and bound them together to make the whole. The quilting technique here is "knotting" as opposed to sewing. I used white yarn sewn through all layers, looped, and knotted. I did this in the center of each cream colored square. I find this technique useful when the quilt is too thick to fit comfortably in my little sewing machine. If the knots are close enough to each other, the quilting works well in holding the piece together.

I gave it to Rahel for a birthday and she loved it. She used it for many years as her main blanket and now, though she's got another, bigger one, she still wraps herself in this regularly, and keeps it in her room, using it sometimes in addition to her other blanket.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And now for something (almost) completely different

When AJ and I first got together, he was much interested in my quilting. He asked questions, and wanted to learn different aspects of my hobby. After talking about it for a bit he suggested we make a quilt together. I was thrilled. The idea was that he would design it and I would construct it.
I showed him some of my quilty books, and photos, and we talked about fabric and design. It became immediately apparent the fabric would include skulls.
AJ likes skulls.
I took him to my favorite fancy fabric store, New Pieces, and we looked there. Then we looked at my favorite go-to store, Joanne's, and looked there. Then we went back to New Pieces. Eventually we got fabric from both stores to go with the design AJ decided on. We got a comforter from Ikea to use as batting, and set to work. The quilt would be warm, for winter-time, and big. AJ had a queen size bed and I tend to roll in my blankets, like a burrito. (I do it in my sleep without realizing it) So the quilt needed to be big enough for both of us to use comfortably when I spent nights at his place. It ended up being 3 yards square. Huge.
Here it is:

The only area large enough to spread this out, was on my living room floor. It's huge.
Here are some close ups:
This is the center block

And this is the corner block:
The fabrics here were chosen by AJ, except for the black background. It was a lot of fun doing this with him.
But that's not the end of the story.

I also wanted to surprise AJ, and make this his birthday present, so I decided to make the quilt reversible, and designed a reverse side. I wanted to use similar colors, and incorporate more skulls, but also didn't want it to be too similar. I ended up with this:

I did it by cutting 2.5 inch strips and sewing them in even-increasing lengths, to make the wedges.  I didn't really plan the order of the strips, and if you look at the quilt closely you can tell the wedges are not of the same size. There are nine of them, which is also unusual, and was not planned. The design is similar to the strip circles I made for myself years before and is, in essence, one giant strip circle, but with skulls, and a spider's web feel if you look at it a certain way. I sewed some decorative stitches on top of the main seams, in red zigzags, and appliqued the whole thing onto the backing.
Now the quilt was not only huge, but heavy! It is so heavy.

A close up:

I presented it to AJ for his birthday and he promptly named it "the coolest blanket in the universe", which is kind of funny considering how warm it is. He also declared it impossible to say which side was more awesome.
We use it now, as our winter blanket, and alternate sides, using it strip circle side up for a couple of weeks and then flipping it over to the AJ-design side for a couple of weeks.
It was great to share this experience with AJ, to have him be interested in my creativity, and to work on a creative project together.


I make a lot of baby quilts.
Baby quilts are fairly quick, so gratification's quick. They are also symbols of joyous occasions, and are much appreciated by the parents as well as the baby lying on them. When I make a baby quilt it is quite often a mix of my current mood/fixation/challenge, my knowledge about the parents' likes and dislikes, and a kind of meditation on an unknown person. Sometimes the designs come easily and other times I have to ponder quite a bit. My baby quilts have ranged in color, size and design, and are always a product of me processing the various factors.
A few years ago, beginning 4 years ago, I went through a very colorful period. I made baby quilts that were lively (or loud, depending on your perspective), with high contrast and lots of elements.
As luck would have it, I had two nephews born in that period. So I got to make two extremely colorful baby boy quilts.
Now I hardly ever gender code baby quilts (unless I know this is important to the parents). When I started making the first of these two quilts, I knew I wanted something with an animal theme. Both of the baby's parents are biologists, and naturalists, and I knew this kid would get a lot of natural world education. At the same time, I wanted COLOR!
The answer? Animals and batik.

And a detail of the animal block:

I warned about the color contrast, didn't I?
I love this quilt, though it's not a color combination I normally use. I loved the dynamic nature of the colors. I think the parents loved it too, and I know they keep it in the living room.

A few months after this was made, another baby boy was due to be born. It was time for COLOR quilt number two. And this one presented different things to me. I wanted this one to be more uniform, to be dynamic without too many colors. I looked in some of my books and found a pattern that seemed right. I changed the colors a bit, to make more contrast, and this is how it came out:

Two shades of blue, a green and a yellow.  I like how they work together, and the combination of triangles and squares.

This quilt was sent off to Israel, and I forgot to take a picture of it before it went abroad. Luckily there are digital cameras...
These two COLORFUL quilts are the most colorful I've ever made. They reflect a certain period in my quilting. I love them

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Equal Opportunity Quilting

So one day my cousin emails me and says, no fair. She says I am a discriminatory quilter. It seems, she pointed out, I only made quilts for people who got married or had children. Is that, she asked, what one has to do in order to get a quilt from me? Though not absolutely true (there was the bedspread for my parents), the lady had a point.

Having this gross discrimination pointed out to me, I immediately started planning an equal opportunity quilt. I wanted something colorful, but not too crazy (more about my crazy colorful period in a different post). I wanted it big enough to fit her bed, though I didn't know if she'd use it for that. I also knew I wanted to use fabric from my stash (yes, I know, that seems to be a pattern. You'd think, with all this using up the stash stuff, my stash would dwindle, but no. It doesn't. Very odd). I looked around, in my books and such and decided on a pattern some call stepping stones, though I've also heard it called, squares or boxed squares. I cut some squares and some strips of various fabrics (thankful  for rotary cutters) and started constructing the stepping stones. I wasn't sure how I'd put the whole thing together but eventually decided to alternate. I thought this would give the quilt more cohesion as a pattern.

 Detail? Sure:


It was fun for me to see how the different fabrics go together when put next to the blue (which has tiny details in white that you cannot see in this picture).

I put it in the mail and sent it off to my cousin. She texted me a picture of it as soon as it was on her bed. That made me happy

quilting for household peace

One winter, several years ago, I decided to use left over fleece to make us a throw for the couch. I had gotten the fleece to make ponchos for the girls the previous winter, and had enough of it, along with a solid blue fleece, to make a simple patchwork quilt, this:


I cut the fleece into 5-inch squares, tossed them on the floor, and started sewing them into strips, without planning the order.  The backing is flannel I'd bought for a project that never happened, and the whole thing here was ridiculously quick and easy to make. I did it in a weekend. When I presented it to the girls they immediately declared it was the best throw in the house and started fighting over it. It fit them better than their baby blankets, but was too small to share.
Trying to keep the peace in the house, I set to make another throw. I knew I wanted to use up fabric I already had, and knew it needed to be warm, to give the same cuddly feeling as the fleece. Corduroy came to the rescue. This time I used fabric left over from dresses I'd made all the girls a couple of years previously (I make the kids things for winter presents...). I cut the fabric into 6 inch strips and started laying it down on the floor. I put a bit more thought into this one. It looked too....uniform somehow, even though the strips were different. To break this up I suddenly had the idea of sewing some stripes perpendicular to the others. The backing is a length of fleece I'd bought at a garage sale years before.

Here it is:

And a detail, the better to see the perpendicular stripes:

When this second one was presented to the girls, the fighting stopped. Both girls were happy. The throws have worked great over the years, being big enough for the girls to grow with them. On cold nights each girl will still take one of these to her bed, throwing it on the bed, sometimes between them and the regular blanket.
These throws are some of my first attempts at working without a pattern. I found it so liberating I began to do more quilts like that.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kid craftiness

I like doing art with my kids.

We always have craftiness kits, and loose material all over the house. We have a full Armoire dedicated to paints, papers, colors, things to glue, beads, yarn, and so on. I encourage creativity and am pretty much always available to help.

A few years ago, when Shira was in 4th grade, I decided to do a project with her class. We did this in several stages. First I came into the classroom and talked to the kids about the concept of it. I explained that I would bring in fabric squares and markers, and they would draw. I would then sew all the squares into a quilt and we'd put it up for sale at the annual fundraiser. The kids came up with a theme for the quilt. They couldn't decide between superheroes and aliens, and so decided to have superhero aliens as their theme. They did some sketching and drawing, and then I came back and we colored for an hour or so. Some kids needed more guidance than others, and I circulated among them and helped out. The teacher basically had the time off, although we learned she is quite the talented artist herself, having contributed a great square, of a drum-playing squirrel! I took the squares home and sewed them into a quilt, the kids having decided on the color for the sashing (it's in the school colors). I then came back to show them the finished project and it was great to see them so proud of their art and accomplishment.

Here is the finished quilt:

We hung the quilt in the main hallway of the school and put it up for the silent auction. One of the parents bought it and presented it to the teacher as a present at the end of the school year.

The next year I decided to reprise the process. I came into my daughter's now 5th grade class and we did it again. In many ways it was easier this time: the kids were older, and some of them had done the previous one with me. Most had a good idea what they wanted to do. I talked to them, and we came up with a theme, animals, and I left them to sketch. I came back again, with squares of white linen and plenty of markers, and again we drew for an hour or so. Some kids were missing that day but really wanted to participate so I left extra squares and markers. When everybody had done their squares, I picked them up, sewed them together and came back to show the kids.

Here it is: Shira's 5th grade quilt:

Once again I asked for, and got permission, to hang this up in the hallway, and we put it up for auction again.

It was great to share this hobby and passion of mine with the kids. They did a wonderful job, both times, and were rightly proud of themselves.
And I enjoyed every minute of it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stain Glass Windows

A couple of years ago I went to my first quilt show. That was quite the experience for me. First I did a quick run-through, quickly taking in all the quilts. Then I started walking again, slowly, relishing the different styles, patterns, fabrics. There were artsy quilts and folksy ones. There were creations I would not necessarily call quilts, they were so far removed from "blanket", or quilting itself. These were creations of fabric, lace, wire, branches. Magnificent pieces of art that cannot be used in any way other than hanging on the wall and admiring. I got overwhelmed by the abundance and had to go out. But I came back the next day (and dragged my Mom with me). This time I was able to appreciate all of the pieces, each for its own beauty or craft, and I found myself getting into the techniques themselves. I found myself studying the patterns, trying to figure out how they were built and crafted. I also ogled the Way-to-expensive quilting long arm, the object of fantasies for if I had money to throw around, but that may be the topic for a different post.

One of the patterns I saw that really intrigued me was an optical illusion pattern that made the blocks float ABOVE the background, casting a shadow on the background.  I decided to try and make one like that, out of fabric I had at home. (I always seem to add challenges, don't I). I came home and looked all through my stash (which was in bags and boxes at the time). And found nothing.

A few months later I tried again, and found a beautiful, multi-colored batik fabric I'd somehow disregarded before. This fabric had black circly lines all over it. I also found a blue fabric with black swirls on it.  Together these two fabrics reminded me of stain glass windows, and an idea was at once created. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. This:

The red fabric provides the shadow of the stain glass squares and, to me, makes them appear to float above the blue background.
A detail:

I enjoy learning different patterns and techniques. Sometimes I wonder if I should take a class somewhere, and somehow I never do....I guess I like teaching myself, bungles and all.

And one for me

I rarely make quilts, or any sewing project, of which I myself is the recipient. I am constantly making things for others: family, friends, babies, co-workers, charity. I rarely make anything for me. I think this is common to artists, who don't make things for themselves but for the consumption of others. It is also, I think pretty common for mothers-taking care of others and their needs. But I also think it's personality.  I rarely pamper myself full on and I find it difficult to accept pampering from others (just ask AJ).

So it took quite a while before I made myself a quilt. I'd made several baby quilts by then, as well as a couple of twin size quilts for my girls as they moved to twin beds. I'd also made a bedspread or two. And then, I decided, it was my turn. I remember thinking about it specifically as a gift to myself. This came at a time when things were tight around here, spatially and financially. I'd just had a reduction in pay at work, and the girls and I moved to the smaller place downstairs as I could get more for renting the upstairs portion of the house to housemates. The place downstairs was not only smaller, but had poorer lighting and no tub; it was a definite step down. So as compensation for this, I decided to make myself a quilt, for MY bed.

This being such a special and unusual occasion, I decided to make myself a particularly complex quilt. My mom had given me a book about quilters years before and in it was a photograph of a beautiful strip quilt. I was able to figure out the pattern by studying the photo and make this. I call it "Strip Circles":

The quilt is made of triangles and strips (and our cat Elliott just had to get in the picture). The strips are all from my stash (you can tell I had been sewing for a number of years by now; look at all those fabrics!) and are one inch wide, before sewing. That's a lot of strips. I sewed the strips onto the triangles, making ever-increasing pizza slice-shaped pieces. I then sewed two slices together and combined them with triangles of the background fabric. This formed squares which I sewed together into larger squares, making the circles.

A close up:

This quilt took a bit of time to make, but not as long as I thought it would. Sewing machines and straight lines go well together. I pieced the top, along with the border, and used an Ikea comforter as batting. For the back I sewed together two kinds of red swirly fabrics and some solid burgundy to have two totally different effects on either side of the quilt (and thus my reversible quilt idea was born, an idea I will use many times over the years). I had it done in time for winter that year and was happy to cozy up in it.

A few years later I upgraded to a queen size bed and this no longer fit. It has since been used on the couch and in the guest room. It makes me smile to see it, every time.

Quilt for Shira

By the time Shira was born, I had already been quilting for a couple of years. Her quilt was one of the first baby quilts I made (I think the first one might have been for my cousin's daughter...). For Shira's quilt I decided to try my hand at a dynamic pattern, one that included movement in some way. I knew I did not want to have a super girly quilt; I still usually avoid gender-specific quilt color choices, unless I know that it would be important to the baby's parents. Also, for Shira, I knew I wanted something with lots of colors. The challenge, at the time, was finding a pattern that included lots of color but was not too chaotic. I needed something to tie the quilt together so it would not overwhelm a baby's sight. Taking baby sight into account I also knew some contrasting colors and/or patterns would work well. This is what I came up with:


The pattern is called "tilting stars" and in the book it had all of the stars in one color. I chose scraps to make each star a different color and put them in with the uniform white for cohesion and contrast. The purple sashing also helped tie the quilt together. A close up:

As it turned out, Shira was an extremely self sufficient baby. She spent time entertaining herself. She loved being on the quilt, looking at the different colors and patterns of the stars.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A new baby quilt

A few weeks ago I finished a scrappy quilt in yellows and reds. It was designed for my newest cousin/niece (my cousin's daughter), who was born 8 weeks ago. I didn't want to post about it until I'd presented it to the Momma, but I did so tonight (and she loved it) and so here's a picture.
Flowers for Hadas:

It's the same Pattern as a quilt I made for another baby, Audrey, and about which I posted already.

Ducking Around with Audrey:

I was amazed by how wonderfully different they look with the different color palettes. In both of them the strips are from my stash, and I enjoyed the opportunity to use up different colors.

As always, it's so gratifying to me to see how fabrics continue to find their way into project after project, and how each project is sort of continued into the subsequent ones. In both of these I was able to incorporate fabrics from earlier quilts, and clothes I'd made for kids, and Halloween costumes. I was able to incorporate fabrics I was gifted over the years as well as fabric I'd bought.

I find this aspect of quilting both reflective and creative, looking back and forward at the same time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wall Hanging Bargello

A while ago my mother asked me to make a wall hanging for her dining room. She wanted something that would go with the colors of her dining room, burgundy and cream. She also asked that whatever I make not have sharp angles as the dining furniture have curvy lines.  I started thinking about different patterns, but could not find one I liked. I let the project lie dormant for a while as I worked on several other projects. Then, it was time, I decided. I took out all the books I have, looking for inspiration in the form of curvy lines. 
Now lately I've been on a "scrappy" kick, one that means I use scraps as often as I can. However, I couldn't do a scrappy here as I wanted the burgundy colors. Finally I found a pattern in a book of Bargello patterns. I'd bought the book years ago, after doing the Blue Cathedral, which is also a Bargello design. However, in the 9 or so years since I bought the book, I've not made a SINGLE Bargello quilt. This would now change. I found a pattern that involved dinky little pieces, in right angles, that when sewn together just so, make a curvy line to form an elliptical design.

Blurry picture:

And a detail:

I put loops on the back so it can be hung without breaking up the pattern in any way.

This quilt proved to be my most challenging yet.

First there were a gazillion points to match. Secondthe whole thing kept wanting to veer off center. I had to rip out more seams in this one project than I've had in all my previous ones, I think. Another frustration was the really rigid pattern. Now I know, Bargello's like that. Still.

AJ has learned long ago to give up on the "no one notices but you, hon. Really" so he just heard me vent, and picked the billion little bits of thread off of the couch/chair/jackets.

A few nights ago I gave it to my mother, who likes it, so she can hang it in her dining room.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yair and Joanna's Chuppah

A few years ago my brother Yair got married. He and his wife Joanna decided to have a community chuppah. They asked me if I would help and of course I said yes! They had their guests to send bits of fabric, beautiful or meaningful or both, to me, and I put the lot together into a patchwork Chuppah for them.

The fabrics include T-shirts belonging to my Dad, with photos of some of his grandchildren; fabric from a dress Joanna's grandmother had made for Joanna's mother when she was a teenager; strips from my grandmother's kitchen towels; commemoration t shirts; fabric drawn on with fabric markers, decorated by my youngest daughter and oldest niece; a piece with an embroidered message from my older daughter; silk given by one of Joanna's friends; and an embroidered purse, cut into its parts and incorporated. There are many other cuts of fabric contributed by more friends.

The experience was great, and quite meaningful to me. Not only did I get to Make a quilt for Yair and Joanna, but I got to learn and stretch as a quilter.

Since the piece grew as each contribution came in, I had no set plan before I started. This is reminiscent of the Crazy Quilt with two important differences. First, the pieces were not cut in weird angles and, second, I did not use decorative stitching. I did, however, incorporated lace, ribbons, yarn, and crocheted material. It was great to lay them all down, sew them together, and watch the piece come together.

Now, before I knew about Yair and Joanna's idea of the community Chuppah, I'd decided to make them one of my own. I asked them, and they said yes. This is what I made:

And a detail:

The center blocks are birds flying in a circle. I'd figured out the pattern from a picture in a book my mother gave me about quilters in America. It took a while, and some geometry, but I did figure it out. working with diamond-shaped pieces was interesting, and challenging.  The border is in the "flying geese" patten and is made with different-sized triangles.  This side of the Chuppah let me use many scraps I had and I was able to incorporate older fabric from various projects and clothes I'd made.

I made both pieces the same size, sewed them together, and voila! My brother and his wife had a double-sided Chuppah for their wedding.
The Chuppah is now hanging in their living room and they alternate the sides so that both are part of their house.
I get great pleasure from seeing it, and remembering the day, the process, and all the stories behind it.
One of the things I love most about quilting (or patchwork really) is the fact that it is so multilayered, but in fabric and in meaning. How great to be able to use fabric used by 4 different generations, of multiple families, across two continents, bringing together family and friends into one piece.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My First Quilt Ever

My eldest child did not get a quilt from me at her birth, but her birth is what, indirectly, started me on quilting.
When she was born my brother and our friend Shelley gave my daughter a quilted baby quilt, which was lovely. They'd both worked on it, including stitching embellishments on it, and it meant so much to me.  I loved the idea of a gift crafted with love, and the fact that it seemed such a versatile form of art. The possibilities seemed endless with this art form, and the fact that the result is usable made it even more attractive.

When I got my first sewing machine, I decided to try my hand at quilting. I bought a book, Quilting for Beginners, by Frank (the book is so old I cannot find a picture of it online. It was published in 1990), and started making things. I made a pillow for my mother with appliqued tulips, for example.

About a year into it I made my first quilt, a wall hanging for my daughter:

It is a modified star, and is appliqued rather than pieced.  I took the template for each ray and elongated it to different sizes so that the beams are not identical. The inner part of each ray is the same size, and the outer ones differ. However, each ray is the same fabric on the inner and outer parts. I sewed the star together, and the appliqued it onto the background. I put batting and backing fabric and sewed it all together. If you look at the back you can see one of my biggest beginner's mistakes. I quilted the piece with white thread, front and back. On the front it's fine since the fabric is also white. On the other hand, the backing is burgundy, with white seams all over it. I learned you can have a top and bottom thread of different colors, and that sometimes that is the right way to go.
Another thing I learned from this piece is the importance of basting. Up until then, it didn't matter so much since I used two layers of fabric, cotton mostly, with no batting. It was easy to line those up and keep them aligned. Batting makes things move however, and the top and bottom layers of this quilt are doing different things in the finished pieces. I fixed it so you can't see unless you're close to it and know what you are looking for, but the lesson of this has stayed with me: when quilting, baste.

The Red Starburst hung in my daugther's room for a long time, then in the hallway leading to her room. Now it's hanging in my study.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Giving Something Back

For a while now I've been looking for ways to give something back, in my community. I have been looking for ways to use my skills/talents/time to help others. It took a while to figure out WHO I wanted to help; there are so many people who could use the help, and deserve it. There are so many causes and organizations. One of the ways I decided to help is by donating kids' quilts. The first thing I did, months ago, was make two quilts for Quilts For Kids: That was great. I made two quilts for them.
Since then I've been trying to find a local organization that I could work with.
Two weeks ago I called Children's Hospital Oakland to see if they take quilts. They do. The hospital is a ten minute drive from my house, which makes it convenient for me. And they were so grateful. In fact, the lady there told me, they are having their annual fundraiser in mid-November, and would I mind if they raffled off some of my quilts at the fundraiser, the proceeds of which go to the trauma rehab ward. I said yes. Gladly, yes.
Today I drove to the hospital, met with the nice lady and handed over several quilts. Some have been with me for a while, and all of them are for kids, the largest being a twin sized quilt.
And here they are!

Box of BonBons:

Kimonos Galore:

Monkeys in the Middle:

Purple Ladder:

Summertime Rag Quilt

I also gave the lady two sets of decorative pillows I'd made for earlier incarnations of my living room (I forgot to take pictures of them before I gave them away).
The nice lady will send me their blanket specifications so I can donate some quilts to be used in the hospital itself. This will be an ongoing thing for me.
I am pleased.