Monday, July 20, 2015

Elephant Parade

Look out! Look out!
It's elephants on parade
Here they come!
Hippety hoppety
They're here and there
Yes, elephants everywhere

Look out! Look out!
They're walking around the bed
On their head
Clippity cloppity
Arrayed in braid
Yes, elephants on parade

What'll I do?
What'll I do?
What an unusual view

I can stand the sight of worms
And look at microscopic germs
But technicolor pachyderms is really too much for me!

–Pink Elephants on Parade,
Music and lyrics by Oliver Wallace and Ned Washington

I thought I'd lead with cuteness. I am pleased to introduce my newest nephew, Baby Firefly. Adorable, no? He's such a mellow, sweet, happy little dude.

And now for the backstory. Because there always is one. In the top left corner is my cute sister, Jill, a.k.a Jilly Beans, and her family. Beginning in the 12:00 position and rotating clockwise, we have Lizard Boy, Firefly, Toad, Cricket and Mr. Jilly Beans.

When Jill announced that she was expecting, of course I put a baby quilt in the queue, right behind Christine's Flower Garden {BTW, Christine still lives in her own home, is in church every Sunday and turns 101 in just two months!}, Friendship Garden and Thoroughly Modern Lily. Jill and her husband decided not to find out the gender of the baby, so I planned to make a smaller version of Friendship Garden because I still had a bundle of half-square triangles sitting about and a multi-colored quilt would be great for either a boy or a girl. Those first two quilts in the line-up, the signature quilt and the triangle quilt, were fast to the finish {nothing like a deadline to keep you on target}, but it took me almost six months to finish the lily quilt. That was kind of fortuitous, because Lorna over at Sew Fresh Quilts started an absolutely adorable and completely irresistible quilt along about a month before Firefly was born and since I didn't finish the lily quilt until after he was born, I then knew the gender and decided that an elephant quilt was in order.

Lorna did her quilt in solids. I loved the uniformity; the mama elephants have dark bodies with light ears and the baby elephants have light bodies with dark ears. I decided to use batiks in my quilt but tried to stay true to the original design by using darker fabrics for the bodies of the mama elephants and lighter fabrics for the ears, and vice-versa for the babies. Each elephant is unique. There are 49 different batiks and I quilted each elephant with a different design in the "headdress" and "blanket." I think this is my favorite quilting.

A birdie with a yellow bill hopped upon the window sill. Cocked his shining eye and said: “Ain't you 'shamed, you sleepy-head!”
–Robert Louis Stevenson


I loved making these birds and they were fun to quilt too. I pretty much can't do a quilt without doing a few swirls in it.

Inspired by the way that Geta quilts her hexagons, I gave it a go in these octagonal flowers. Lane frequently uses leaf designs in his quilts, so I tried that too. And, of course, pebbling is all the rage these days, so that's how I did the centers. All art is derivative.

Slow and steady wins the race, right? This quilt took about 2½ months, start to finish as my only project. I was on a deadline for this, too, or it might have been longer. Work takes up so much time and gets in the way of my real life a lot. In any case, I love this little turtle! I used the shell fabric in another quilt and it was fabulous there too.

And this little frog is adorable! Lorna put together such an cute quilt pattern. It was so fun to make and the top went together really quickly.

While I was working on this quilt, the foot pedal on my machine broke. As it so happened, it was a Tuesday night. The tension was also really off on my machine and Wednesdays are service pick-up days for the quilt shop I got my machine from. I called to see how long the wait was {minimum is 1 week and I've waited 3 weeks before} and they told me it was a week. So I dropped Grace off first thing on Wednesday morning. And then I went a little over-board with the embroidered quilt label. It was OK that I did, because it was 2½ weeks before Grace was ship shape and back in working order. {They couldn't fix the foot pedal, though, so I ordered a new one and it was here in just a week. Just a bit ironic, don't you think?} I've been using Fabri-Solvy self-adhesive stabilizer for embroidery lately. It is pretty fantastic. You run it through your printer, cut it to size, peel it off the paper backing, stick it to your fabric, stitch and when you're done, it washes away.

I have a number of pieces of batting hanging about which are too large to throw away and too small to use in a quilt, so I did something I haven't tried before. I pieced the batting. Vicki over at Sew Inspired talked about doing that once on a very large quilt, so I asked her about her technique. She told me how to do it by hand and also by machine, but warned me that sometimes when you do it by machine one side gets stretched a little bit. Not wanting to take any chances I joined three strips of batting together by hand to make a piece large enough for the quilt. It took forever. I may or may not try it by machine next time.

It is a very old tradition, dating back to 2010, to use satin blanket binding and minky or ultra cuddle on a baby quilt. This was no exception. I found a pretty silver sating binding that matched the grey background. And I bought a flat-fold remnant of extremely soft ultra cuddle for the back. You can see a peek of it in the photo with the quilt label above.

I suppose that about does it in the way of talking about this quilt. I would like to welcome the handful of folks who have started following my blog lately. I haven't done much in the way of posting since I started working full-time about a year ago. Nevertheless, welcome, and I hope I keep you at least a little bit entertained. Like with this super cute photo of Grasshopper and LadyBug with their new cousin. I can remember when they were that little and hardly believe I have two full-fledged teenagers.

LadyBug loves to hold the babies. I think that is awesome! And I think more cuteness is the perfect bookend for this post.

Today's post brought to you by:
Sew Fresh Quilts

Monday, May 18, 2015

Thoroughly Modern Lily

There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature. ―Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

The photos aren't perfect. I think I had a smudge on my lens. But here is the my Thoroughly Modern Lily quilt finished and hung in the customary quilt photographing spot. Pattern available here.

I worked on a name for this quilt, but nothing seemed to fit. So, I called it what P. called it, Thoroughly Modern Lily, after her Grandma Lillian whose quilt top inspired her. I kept P. in the loop via e-mail while I worked on this quilt. Only after I sent her this photo did I realize that I left a very important bit of information off the quilt label. I didn't mention my inspiration. But I'll mention it here. Thank you, P., for sharing your creative genius. You do beautiful things with fabric!

It was already past dark on the day I took this quilt to my friend, Eloise. We kept missing each other's phone calls and I finally caught her at home. It's been more than a month since I gave it to her, but I called yer yesterday to see if I could stop by and snap a few quick photos. Thanks to LadyBug for the assist. {BTW, she's 13 now and might have finally hit a growth spurt. She's getting pretty tall. I can't believe how grown up she is getting.}

Here's an artsy smartsy shot. I have to say, though, photos just don't quite do quilts justice at all. When Eloise pulled the quilt out yesterday, I was slightly surprised by how awesome it is {if I do say so myself}. If you look at it just right, you can see a sub-pattern of large circles formed by two of the lily petals in each of four adjoining blocks.

And, a snap of the quilt back. I used the same blue on the back as I did for the background on the front; a piece of Kona that I bought for another quilt, but ended up not liking it for that. That quilt was my first quilt made entirely from stash because I had a rather large piece of Kona in another color that I liked better for the back of it. The lily quilt is my second quilt made entirely from stash. I think I used 12 or 13 different colors of thread, and I really like how it looks from the back.

One final, gratuitous quilt shot.

This quilt took me six months, start to finish. I started it right after I finished the triangle quilt in October and it is the only project I worked on during that time. As soon as the Lily quilt was done, which was at the beginning of April, I started my next quilt. But Grace took two weeks off for a spa retreat. Her tension issues were making me tense, so I told her not to come back until she was all sorted out. She took her sweet time but when she did get back, she was ready to get down to business. She makes a beautiful stitch now and my next quilt top is finished. I used stash for everything but the background and back. I even pieced the batting to use up some of the smaller pieces I have on hand. I'm anxious to start the quilting now. If only quilts would baste themselves . . .

Monday, May 11, 2015

The End of the Line

“I've come so far short in so many things. I haven't done what I meant to do when I began ... I haven't lived up to my ideals.”

“None of us ever do,” said Mrs. Allan with a sigh. “But then, Anne, you know what Lowell says, ‘Not failure but low aim is crime.’ We must have ideals and try to live up to them, even if we never quite succeed. Life would be a sorry business without them. With them it's grand and great. Hold fast to your ideals, Anne.”
–Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea


My dad keeps telling me I should put up one final post that says, It's dead, Jim. He's a funny guy, my dad.

Both blogging and sewing have had to take a back seat, but I'm not done with either of those things yet. It might be a bit of a snooze-fest around here — I started this post almost 2 months ago and am just now getting back it to it. The pictures were all edited and everything, so the hard part was done. All I had to do was add the witty commentary. Wait. Maybe the hard part wasn't done. Anyway I'm still sewing, even if it is just 15 minutes before bed, and still want to show what I'm working on.

While it is not the end of the line for my little blog, I did finish off this spool of 1300 meters {that's 1420 yards for those of us still using Imperial measurements} of AURIfil 50wt thread. Of course, I didn't use up that whole 1420 yards in just this one project. I've used it in a number of projects, but it is pretty cool to think that sometime I've sewn at least 710 yards {because, you know, half of that goes in the bobbin}. I'm sure more yards than that are run in the average football game. And it doesn't sound so impressive when you convert it to miles and find out that you can't even get to the gas station in 710 yards. But still, 710 yards. One stitch at a time.

A while back, the lovely and talented P. over at The Way I Sew It found a quilt top that her grandmother had made. She puttered around with it and collaborated with Sandi at Piecemeal Quilts to put together a pattern for it. Once that was complete, she took apart her grandmother's quilt top and remade it as a wonderful keepsake.

I loved the fun design, and ordered the pattern right away. Sidebar: it is currently available for free here. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do, but as ideas sometimes do, it went on the back burner. I have this sweet friend in my neighborhood that I've gotten to know pretty well in the last five years or so, and wanted to do something nice for her birthday. So, I started playing around with colors.

I designed around a piece of blue Kona {I can't remember the name of it for sure, I think it might be Rain} that I bought to go on the back of the triangle quilt, Friendship Garden. It just didn't work on that quilt, but I wanted to try and make it work on this one.

I also had a piece of Kona in Snow, left from Christine's Flower Garden. My first thought was to use the blue as the centers of the flowers and the sashings and the white as the background, but it worked better the other way around.

I started with the easiest bit of quilting first. I did the stitching in the ditch and the meander in the background. Then I decided I wanted some straight lines, but I wanted it to be as easy as possible. Marking with tape is such a hassle and if you use a washable marker, you have to wash the quilt before you give it away. While I do love a soft, crinkly, washed quilt, I also love how a quilt looks after it is freshly quilted. So, I used a Hera Marker to score lines into the fabric. Actually, I started out using the back side of a 99₵ seam ripper to make the markings, and eventually bought a Hera marker. I did everything free-motion and backtracked in the seam allowances, completing each flower without stopping. It's not perfect, not by a long shot, but it was good practice.

To balance out all of the geometric quilting, I put some swirls in the lily petals.

I kind of like how it is coming along.

Here's a close-up of the quilting on the lilies.

The quilt is finished, and I've already taken it to my friend. It was supposed to be for her birthday, which was December 24th, but I was a little late getting it to her. Like, four-ish months late. I've got photos, but they need editing, so we'll end on a cliff hanger. I'm hoping to finish this story off a little faster than I got it started. In the meantime, you can see what I'm up to on Instagram.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jardim da Amizade: {r}Evolution of A Quilt

The world is but a canvas to the imagination. –Henry David Thoreau

I've been wanting to show you/off this quilt for a long time. Let's pretend it is the beginning of September again. When we left off, I'd just shown the completed signature quilt that was for a wonderful lady who had just turned 100. A dear neighbor, who has a long-arm, offered to do the machine quilting, so we're going to jump back a little further to the last week of August while the signature quilt was out for quilting. I received word in mid-August that some very special friends were coming from Brasil to visit, that they would be here for only a short window of time and that there was going to be a get-together on October 3rd. The gears in my brain began to turn and as soon as I dropped the signature quilt off with the lady who had volunteered to quilt it, I pulled out a bunch of half-square triangles I've had hanging about for a while and got to work.

Fast forward to October 3rd, and voilà. Jardim da Amizade, which translates directly as Garden of Friendship, but it is more comfortable to say Friendship Garden.

I took my inspiration {and this photo} from Wendy Sheppard at Ivory Spring. She is a truly amazing quilter. When I saw her quilt, I knew I wanted to make one of my own. I adapted the design, making my quilt square {I love square quilts}, rather than rectangular and my HSTs are 2" rather than Wendy's 1½" {can you imagine!}. Here's another little tidbit about Wendy's quilt; it took her only 5 days from start to finish.
Color Burst by Wendy Sheppard
Image Source

Wendy was inspired by the quilt below, which is on display at the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Washington, DC. I did some quick maths and there are 1,200 small half-square triangles in this quilt, all hand-pieced. Wow!
Old Maid's Ramble on display at the DAR Museum
Image Source

When I got the newsletter from my favorite local quilt shop the other day, I was delighted by another variation of this quilt. Aren't the colors beautiful? It is done in Moda's Lakeside Gatherings fabric line, and I love this take on the design.
Ladies on the Lake by Suzanne
at Corn Wagon Quilt Co.
Image Source

I had the greater part of the half-square triangles I used in my quilt already pieced when I decided to make this quilt. Some of them were even pressed open. The rest were ready and waiting to be pieced. I finished piecing those while the signature quilt was out for quilting, and as soon as that quilt was finished and delivered, I started piecing blocks of half-square triangles. It was a crazy undertaking to try and get this quilt done in such a short amount of time while juggling a full-time job, full-time mom and wife duties and a busy volunteer job at church. More than once I said, I don't know if I"m going to get this done. But I have to try.

I worked color by color and tried not to repeat any one print in each block. I wanted to photograph each block as I went, but it was hard to align my crazy schedule with good lighting as the days grew shorter. And I decided that I'd better spend every spare minute working on the piecing.

I like to do an embroidered label on the back of my quilts, but there just wasn't enough time for this one. Instead I used a permanent, archival quality pen and wrote my label out. I included a quote from Alfred Tennyson, If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk through my garden forever.

Melissa Kelley at Sew Shabby Quilting saved my bacon again and did yet another rush quilting job for me. After an all-nighter, Mr. Bug dropped the quilt off on a Tuesday morning on his way to work and Melissa had it ready for me on Wednesday evening, just in time for Mr. Bug to pick it up on his way home. She did a beautiful job on an edge-to-edge computerized floral design. I love the way it turned out. I then spent every second I could getting the binding on and hand-stitched to the back.

That week is kind of of a blur, but I'm pretty sure that Mr. Bug and the Not-So-Little Bugs ate a lot of cereal and take-out pizza. I didn't get much sleep and I was pretty useless at work. It was close, but I finished in time to take it to the get-together on Friday night. These are my Brasilian "parents," João Roberto {John Robert} and Maria Lúcia. I respect, admire and love them so much and it was so good to see them again!


This is the first quilt I've done that came completely from my stash. Granted, I did a swap for about half of the little half-square triangles, but all of the fabric I used for the swap came out of my stash and the ones I got back have been sitting in a drawer for so long that they count as stash by default. I did go and buy a piece of Kona in a sort of grayish-blue for the backing, but when I got it home, it wasn't quite right. I had a large quantity of Kona in Coal from a project that will probably never get off the ground, so the blue I bought {I think the color was Rain or Fog or something} went to stash {and is now being used in the next project I'm working on, which is another quilt made entirely from stash and which I hope to show you sooner than four months after it is finished and given away!}.

Other fun facts about this quilt:
• It has 640 small half-square triangles
• The total number of triangles {large and small} is 1,344
• The quilt measures 68" x 68"
• I'm going to make at least one more quilt like this because I'm slightly obsessed with half-square triangles.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christine's Flower Garden

Every man desires to live long, but no man wishes to be old.
–Jonathan Swift


When last we left off, we were pretending it was early September. I was hurriedly trying to get a signature quilt finished for a lovely lady I know who was turning 100. This is her graduation {photo of a} photo in 1932. Isn't she beautiful? Nevermind you can see my reflection in the glass and I was too chicken/lazy to call her family and ask for a digital copy, which I know they had. Just ignore the extra head growing out of her right frontal lobe and the extra shoulder over her right ear.


Back to our story. As the deadline for the party drew near {which I might add was 11 days before her birthday. #talkaboutstressful}, I started to collect signatures for this fantastic quilt that I'd dreamt up using 1930's reproduction fabrics to make 100 signature blocks for the lady who had just been coming into her own in the 30's and was now turning 100. That was really, really fun! Families from the neighborhood and many of her long-time friends stopped by to sign a block. It was so interesting to hear what they had to say and how they felt about Christine. It turns out that she is pretty much as amazing as I had suspected.

~time elapse~

Ta, da! Signed and assembled blocks with sashings ready to go. I used Sharpies because they are relatively inexpensive and have infamous non-solubility. Yes, I know they're not archival, but they come in such lovely colors and I'm hoping that the acid will all wash away when/if the quilt gets washed some day.

~time elapse~

All told, there are 338 signatures on this quilt

Christine is just as beautiful as ever, wouldn't you agree? She cried a little bit when I gave the quilt to her at the party. And, actually you can see it wasn't quite finished. Note the binding clips on two of the four sides. I told you they moved the party up 11 days, didn't I? So many people were invested in this quilt that I decided that taking it unfinished to display was the only option. I came back after the party, brought it home to finish the binding and took it to her the next day. We had a nice time looking over all the blocks together.

As I was working on this, I kept praying that I'd be able to get it done in time for her birthday. I wasn't sure if I would be able to pull it off. There were so many people involved that I didn't want to let them, myself, or Christine down {not that she was aware of the quilt, but I feel like it is kind of a let-down to give someone a gift after their birthday}. There is a fellow quilter in my ward {congregation} who has a long-arm and when she came to sign a block, she offered to do the quilting as her gift to Christine. Who am I to turn away the answer to a prayer when it knocks at my front door? It was a no-brainer to take her up on her offer.

I mentioned that it was fun to collect signatures, right? The top right square in the picture above went all the way to Pittsburgh and back to be signed by a family who used to live in our neighborhood. The block under that, in the bottom left corner, is signed by a little Japanese woman who has been friends with Christine for years. That, I think, is my favorite block of all.

The block below in the bottom left corner is a close second. The couple who came to sign this block dropped by at about 9:00 pm, and embarrassingly enough, I still hadn't cleaned the table from dinner. They were very gracious while I cleared away some dishes, wiped the table and pulled out fabric samples so they could pick which they liked best. The wife narrowed it down to three different blocks and then told her husband to choose. He started to choose something that was not in the options she offered. She got him back on track and then she asked him to sign for them because he had better writing. Their kind negotiations and the familiarity of their back-and-forth was very telling of a long marriage of cooperation, mutual respect and love, and friendship. Anyway, I think their birthday wish was rather creative.

Gratuitous artsy smartsy quilt shot. That trumpet vine makes the perfect backdrop for quilts. I wish it were in bloom all year round.

Christine still lives in the house her husband built for their family in the 60's. Her family checks in on her several times throughout the day. When the weather is good, she walks around the block. She was even still driving until just three years ago, when her eyesight became too poor. She still goes out in the early mornings, before the sun comes out {she's very careful to avoid exposure of her skin to the sun} to weed her roses. I thought it fitting to call this quilt Christine's Flower Garden. The finish was really down to the wire and I didn't have time to sew the label into the back like I usually do, so I put it in the corner. I kind of love how it turned out.

More about this quilt:
Working on a plan
Moving forward with a plan
The first half of the blocks
The second half of the blocks