Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Finished projects

After a long time of not quilting, I’ve recently gone back to it,  and while I was also working on some challenging creations, I also took the time to finish projects I’d started before the hiatus. One of them is this:

This is a quilt from a Quilts for Kids packet. It is my….fifth one for this organization which distributes quilts to kids in hospitals. Every time I finish one, I request another packet. I enjoy it, and enjoy the freedom of working with colors/patterns that are out of the norm for me.
Close up:

Quilts for Kids sends me pre-cut fabric, and the pattern. I provide batting, and the sewing, and send it back to them. Then they distribute it to different hospitals to comfort children. It's a worthy cause and one to which I enjoy contributing. It is, as my kid would say, a win-win.

The second project I finished is this (excuse the corner cut off by the picture):

This was inspired by the parasol fabric, and I enjoyed making it, and using those rich colored fabrics, very much. The little diamonds of red and blue remind me of lanterns…
Close up:

Next up, a post about some of the newer projects, as soon as they get gifted to their respective recipients.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

As Promised...

So, while it's true I am back to sewing, and really loving that, it's also true that the projects on which I am currently working are intended as gifts, which means I cannot post about them until after they are received by their respective recipients. To carry us through until then, here are some cross-stitch projects:
This is the second cross stitch I made (the first one is hanging on the wall in my office, and I've been forgetting to bring the camera to work to take a picture of it). I made this for my eldest as she was embarking on a serious, transformative journey. The butterfly had come to symbolize this journey of hers, for me, and was a frequently recurring image/sighting/metaphor. This seemed a fitting gift.
Here's a close up:


This is the second one I made, for a friend who'd moved to New Mexico, looking for peace, a slower pace of life, and tranquility:

 Close up? Sure!

And the third one, most recently completed, for my youngest, who loves loves loves horses:

This kid (14 years old now!!) has loved horses since she was old enough to say "horsie", and probably before. She loves them.
Notice the horse in the cloud?
That is the reason I chose this particular pattern.

These are all counted cross stitch patterns (I call them cross stitch by numbers), which makes them ideal for when I am too tired to do any meaningful brainwork. They've been keeping me creative and have provided much needed relaxation during all these sewing-free months of my hiatus. I am working on another one right now, though back to sewing, and will have more to post soon.
Yay for creative outlets!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Has it really been that long? Well, I'm back.

Wow! It's been a long time since I posted anything here.
Life has taken a bit of a detour and I've not been able to post, or even quilt for that matter.
A bit of explanation: Quilting is both a hobby for me, and a form of meditation and therapy. I use it as a creative outlet. I also use it as a means of relaxation, or a way to think about something without focusing on it too intensely.
About a year ago, my family began going through some serious upheavals. The upheavals involved a family member who was suffering from severe depression and anxiety. This, obviously, affects the whole family, and I was dealing with it, to the best of my ability, while still managing all the other aspects of life.
One of the things that made it bearable for me was my sewing. Designing, sewing and quilting pieces became a coping tool. Spending time in the studio became a respite, and a refuge, from the trouble lurking in (seemingly) every corner of the house. I sewed a lot.
Then, after a breaking point and drastic measures to help my loved one, and restore some peace to the house, I found I could not sew. I tried. Really I did. I sat at my machine one afternoon, and...felt anxious to the point of leaving the studio. This caused me great distress! I realized my sewing had become too closely associated with my own anxiety and worry. Sadness lived in my studio.
I stopped sewing for 6 months.  I did nothing other than the occasional mending.
Works-in-progress just sat there. I didn't even bother tidying up the room, until 4 months later when house guests came to stay and 2 kids needed to use the studio as a bedroom for two weeks.
I had some faith that I would sew again when I felt better, but I couldn't push it.
It's not that I stopped crafting altogether; I just stopped sewing.
I recently started being interested in quilting again, and now have 2 works-in-progress. I will post about them soon.
In the meantime, the next post will be of my cross-stitching which has been my main medium since April.
Thanks for those still reading, and sorry about the long break!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tumbling Skulls

The lady who works at the consignment store I went to the other day said they were looking for baby quilts with skulls. Hey, I thought, I can do that! I went home and looked in my stash O’ fabrics and found some skully fabrics I’d gotten a long time ago. I don’t like to use skulls so much myself, but my husband? He loves them. So a few years ago we made a quilt together, which he designed and I constructed. And then I made him another one a couple years after that. As a result, I have skullish fabrics that needed new projects!
I made this one:

It uses a fairly traditional design, called Attic Windows, which creates an awesome 3-D effect. I love the way fabrics influence each other. The red, for example, looks more vibrant next to the grey, and they grey still has some depth because it’s next to a strong color (rather than white for example).
Here’s a close up:

And for the backing I wanted something different, but still uncommon. I found a length of this faux batik fabric in metal colors and decided to go with it. Here’s a close up of that:

And how they work together:

I brought this piece, and a few others, to the store, and the lady took them all. Hey! My stuff’s in a store! (I know, it may not sell, but still, I’m excited)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


It's been a long time since I posted here; life's kind of gone sideways for a while. But things are better and here I am, posting about a recent project which was unusual for me, quite challenging, and very rewarding.

A few weeks ago, I was presented with a challenge. I was asked to make a couch quilt for my cousin, for her birthday, and honoring the work she’s doing as a post doctorate in neurology. Her husband asked if I’d be willing to make a brain-themed quilt. A quilt? A present for my cousin? A challenge as a quilter? Of course, I said yes. He looked on line for some inspiration pictures, and sent them to me. When I said I don’t know how to translate the pictures into patchwork, he assured me I’d do a great job and left me to it.

Ok, so the first step was to enlarge a picture of a brain, to a size that might work for a centerpiece of a quilt. This is not as easy as I thought it would be.  I cropped the image into three overlapping parts, magnified them as much as my printer would allow, then went to a photocopy store and had them enlarge them further, making sure the three cropped images still line up properly:

Next I pondered the type of fabric to use for this brain. I looked at my fabric wall as I am still trying to whittle down my collection, and I tried several combinations, but soon enough I settled on some batiks I had. I traced the brain sections onto the batiks, and soon realized I would need to hand sew them with all those curvy lines. Here they are before the sewing:

For the next step I decided to applique the brain onto a square. Now this is highly, highly unusual for me. I am not fond of applique, nor do I think I am particularly good at it, but for this, well, the thought of piecing the brain into a fitted background just seemed too hard. I appliqued the patchwork brain using a tight zigzag stitch and was really pleased to realize I could use the same stitch to add more detail to the patchwork brain. Like so:

And voila! The center piece was done. I sewed a border around it, and then two more borders around that, and set to create the outer border.  And this step took me a while to figure out. The original idea included images of neurons and I looked at many images, but it is beyond my skill to actually create a patchwork neuron block. Finally I used printable fabric sheets (kind of a cop out, but it worked). I printed images of neurons off the web, set the ink as best as I could, and sewed them into square blocks.
Here are some examples:

I alternated the neurons with blocks with centers of the dark blue batik quilts. I thought it added…balance.
The final touch was appliquéing a black puzzle piece onto the brain, to symbolize my cousin’s work. And the letters embroidered are CRF, which is what she’s working on, more specifically.
Here’s the finished piece:

I mailed it to my cousin’s husband and he surprised her with it tonight. Success!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quilts for Kids

For a number of years now, I have been working with Quilts for Kids, the national organization that makes and distributes quilts for children in hospitals. More recently I’ve started working with the local chapter of this organization and the lady who coordinates it. She asks for pieced tops which she then quilts, using batting and backing fabric of her own, using her long-arm and spare time. This system works well for me as my favorite part is designing and piecing the top. 

I love making tops. 

I get to put colors and prints together in different designs and many of my tops are experiments of one sort or another as I manipulate traditional designs into new ones, or try different color combinations. The tops are a lot of fun for me to make, and I am glad to have found a way to have them do some good. Patty of Quilts for Kids gives the quilts to the Ronald McDonald house to help ease and cheer kids, and teens, who are struggling with illnesses, often away from home.
Over the break I started two tops for Ronald McDonald, and when I asked Patty what kinds are in need right now, she told me some teens are there, back again for another round of treatment.
So I set about making some twin size tops. In my ongoing attempts to use the fabric in my stash, I needed to do some thinking, planning, rethinking. I laid out fabric on the floor in different bunches to see which ones might go together, and how to make them colorful but teenager-ish.
I finally finished them last week, and here they are:

This is my trusty disappearing Nine-Patch, in rich warm colors:
And a close up:

And this is a Churn Dash pattern in a different color scheme:

 And another close up:

They go out in the mail tomorrow and my hope is that they make somebody feel a bit better.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

7-year Journey

All quilts are manifestations of journeys.  Some represent a journey already in flight, others a journey still to come. Quilts can be commemorative, celebratory, representing life’s memorable moments, life itself, and, sadly, sometimes, death. At times they are reminiscent of the past and other times they represent a hope for the future. And quilting itself is a journey, one of color, patterns, reflection, and artistry. Some quilting journeys are short while other last years. This post is about my longest quilt journey yet. It has taken me about 7 years (I think) to complete this quilt, though I’ve done other pieces during all this time. I’ve also learned a lot from the making of this quilt.

Years ago my mother gave me a book, called American Quilters, Women and Domestic Art, written by Patricia cooper and Norma Bradley Burferd and published in 1978. This book contains stories and photographs of quilts and quilters and was my first quilt related book. I began looking at patterns, deconstructing them in my head, reconstructing them on graph paper, and thus making my own templates for cutting fabric. I’ve spent hours and hours with this book, and my trusty graph paper, and have made several quilts using patterns I saw in the book. One such pattern was particularly intriguing to me. The picture in the book was of a scrappy quilt made of many pieces that were all one shape. I later learned this is called a one-block quilt. I was also intrigued by the curvy lines of the quilt; not a single seam was straight. Not one.
I tried to find the design in the stores or in other books but could not as I didn’t know what it was called. I looked in library books, in catalogs in fabric stores, online. I asked people in the stores, and looked further online. I found nothing. Finally I went to a specialty quilting shop here and piqued the owner’s interest enough for her to come on the journey with me. Together we looked at her books, from the store as well as from her private collection and finally, finally, I learned what the pattern is called. But this created another set of questions as the pattern has two names, which flow across regions and historical periods: sometimes the pattern is called “apple core” and other times it is called “double axe”. I’ve since done some more research but I haven’t yet discovered the history or development of this double name. (Many quilt patterns have multiple names, I’ve learned.)

I decided I need to make one. So I figured out from the photograph in the book, and with the help of the fabric store lady, how to make a template. I made one out of construction paper and set to work cutting pieces. Since these pieces are indeed all curvy lines, the rotary cutter is beyond useless here. No, this I had to do the old fashioned way. I marked the lines on fabric then cut each piece with scissors. 

I have, I think, 625 of these pieces. Next I sewed them into pairs, then into quatrains and so on, like this:

I sewed all of the pieces by hand, since my machine’s ability to sew curvy lines was very frustrating for me, and this is, in part, why it has taken me so long to finish this quilt. However, since I’ve been working on it for years, I’ve been able to add pieces from other projects along the way, and this creates a quilt that tells related journeys within it; I can now look at it and see clothes I’ve made for my girls, baby quilts I’ve made, several wedding quilts, even some costumes. It includes fabrics from my stash, that of my sister-in-law’s, and the oldest piece is from a dress my other sis-in-law’s grandmother made for her daughter (sis-in-law’s mother) when she was a teenager.  It includes fabrics from pieces I’ve made for family and friends, pieces I’ve made in celebration of new life and some in hopes of health. 

(I’ll have to have another post with more close ups of some of these memorable fabrics.)

This past December I finally finished it, and it’s now a bed spread for my parents. It is roughly three yards squared. The entire piece is hand sewn, except for the binding, and the quilting is done with knots of embroidery thread.  

The quilt-making journey is done with this piece; now it starts its next journey, as a finished quilt that tells of history, and family. The only thing I haven’t done yet is sign it. I just don’t know what to call it.

Here's the finished piece, on my parents' bed: