Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Raisa's Quilt

The proximate cause of my current flurry of quilting activity was two babies that arrived this spring.  New babies are of course in need of bedding, like the flowers need sunshine.

What I discovered when I waded into the workshop was that I had already finished and given away seven of the eight so-called "Quick Children's Quilts."  I improved and finished the eighth one for one of the Spring 2016 babies; I talked about that project last month.

That obviously left me with another baby to get swaddled!  Rather than start from scratch, I decided to take some outtake blocks from a full-size quilt that was (and is) still under construction, with the working name "Somewhat Crazy Quilt."  As the title suggests, this quilt will be like an old-fashioned "Crazy Quilt" in that it is made from piecing together irregular scraps of fabric.  It differs from the classic crazy quilts in that there is no fancy top-stitching involved -- I don't do fancy top-stitching -- and in that the craziness is constrained by regular square blocks, set off within a near-white lattice.  (I wrote about making the blocks for the Somewhat Crazy Quilt on the other blog in November 2014).

So, I put together 12 leftover blocks from that project, and came up with this:

I pieced together some scrap flannel for the back and a few scraps of commercial batting for the insides, then gave it a bit of free-form quilting and a quick machine binding.  Boom!

Now, the girl who got this quilt is little sister to the girl who got the "Four Dragons" quilt a few years ago.  I'm told that when the new quilt got home, big sister immediately claimed it for herself, without necessarily relinquishing title to the older quilt.  Well, that's their business to work out between themselves.  I just like knowing that they're getting used.

The Specs

Title: Raisa's Quilt 

Serial Number: 77

Dimensions: 52" x 40"
Batting: Pieced commercial batting.
Backing: Pieced scrap flannel.  
Quilting: Loose, squiggly machine-quilted grid.

Begun: May 2016 (from existing blocks).
Finished: May 22, 2016.

Intended Use/Display: Child's blanket.

Provenance: In use as intended.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Doing Some Housekeeping at State of the Craft

For decades, I've had this recurring fantasy that I somehow end up with a dilapidated, cluttered, abandoned house, and it's my responsibility to explore it, sort everything out, and get everything neat and tidy again.  I wonder if this is a common quilter daydream.  After all, it has a vague similarity to taking a heap of fabric scraps and going throwing a lot of more or less satisfying labor into it until it becomes attractive and functional.

So here I am now, breathing a little life into a long-abandoned quilting blog.  I started by just establishing a presence -- posting a few posts -- but it's time I started cleaning up the joint, too.

First off, I had to moderate the vast backlog of comments that had accumulated since 2012.  It turned out there were seven of these.  Four were spam.  Task Complete!

Then, I changed the labels to correctly show that "Unquiet Dreams," a quilt I finished in January 2011, is finished.  Task Complete!

The Ghost Blogroll

Next came the "blogroll," the list of other people's quilt blogs implicitly recommended on the sidebar.  Since blogs never had a very long half-life, even when they were popular, I feared the worst.  And indeed, a lot of my blogroll is moribund:
  • Quilts Galore -- Last entry: September 2010
  • CraftyPod (Crafts in General) -- "As of January 2016, this blog is no longer being updated."
  • Manxgirl from Ramsey Town -- Is no longer in Ramsey Town, but is still making quilts!
  • Sarah's Stitchery Saga -- Last entry: September 2014
  • Dordogne Quilter -- Site no longer exists
  • Quilty the Libster -- Quilty signed off in 2013. She's all happy and married these days.
  • Rebel's Work In Progress -- Last entry in June 2011.  Reb still quilts, though!  I went to the Sisters show with her last week!
  • Exuberant Color -- Still in operation, and still featuring terrific work!
  • The Calico Cat -- Still going, sporadically!  Probably!
  • Welsh Quilter -- Last post, December 2013
  • Indigo Mouse -- Last post, March 2015
  • Pam's Pages -- Last post, January 2015
  • Jovali Quilts -- Last post, January 2013
  • Feed Dog -- Still going, sporadically!
So, only 4 out of the 14 blogs I've got listed over there are still active.  But you know, I bet if you took a random sample of blogs from four years in back, you wouldn't have anything NEAR 28% of them still in operation.  So in a goofy sort of way, this survival rate is a testament to the robust resilience of the quilting community.  Or something.  Task Complete!

Continuing Down the Sidebar...

I will have to similarly Konmari my honor list of quilt shops, which will be interesting since I don't know that I've been in a quilt shop this decade.  And eventually, we'll see how many dead links I've got in the "Other Places to Ogle Quilts" list.

But the interesting one is going to be "Shows I've Been In or Have Aspirations To Be In."  Because, I don't know.  Do I have aspirations to be in shows?  I might!  And looking at that list will kind of put that to the test!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Hey, I finished something!  Mostly!

This is, for better or worse, a quilt with an idea behind it.  But before I tell you about that, take a look at the picture.  What do you think of it?

The Story:  Once upon a Christmas my oldest sister gave me a set of green-brown fabrics that I immediately realized I wanted to use as a background for something.  In late 2007, I asked readers of my blog to comment on a range of simple symbols I had found or suggest new ones, because I was looking for "one single very bold symbol on a relatively neutral background."

Then, nothing happened for a year.

Then, there was a flurry of action!  Over three days, I polled blog readers again as I presented a basic shape, then twisted and turned and pinched and elaborated and deformed it, partially in accordance with their suggestions, and always trying to move it away from any obvious or known cultural associations.  I called this process "Democratically Aided Design."  It was fun.  A couple of weeks later, I announced that I had finalized my symbol, also deciding on the spot that it had no "right side up."  Six weeks after that, I had put together the background, and I asked folks what they thought about colors for the foreground.

And after that, I don't remember much!  There's a series of photos from no later than October 2013, but probably earlier, that show me how I scribed the symbol onto paper at the appropriate size, cut it out from the fabric, and then appliqued it onto the background.

Then at some point I must have backed it, batted it, quilted it, and bound it, because when I started pawing through my quilt stuff a few months ago, there it was.  I had basically finished it, put off the boring bit of putting on a hanging sleeve, and forgot about it.  Because I'm an idiot.

The Idea: In my defense, the boring business of putting a sleeve on this quilt is quadrupled, because it needs to be able to be hung with any side up.  And that's because this quilt doesn't really display a symbol so much as it is "about" the nature of symbols.  When our brains see a simple or moderately complex graphic device, we automatically try to interpret it.  If you want to get all fancy and intellectual at this point, you can talk about the arbitrariness of the sign, but it's not required.

"What does it mean?" is usually the question people ask about the symbol.  Was that what you thought?  People will ask, even if I've just explained how it was designed.  Over the years, I've received a healthy handful of emails from strangers asking if they could use the design for jewelry for their sweethearts or tattoos to get together with their sister or friend, which is kind of interesting because -- not to belabor the point -- it doesn't mean anything.

And, this is somehow important, it means nothing no matter which side is up.  So ultimately, it needs four hanging sleeves, which are very boring to sew on.  I've put on two so far, so I figure that's enough to call it "done."

The Specs

Title: "Symbol"  
Serial Number: 78

Dimensions: 64" x 64"
Batting: Presumably commercial batting.
Backing: Green flannel.  
Quilting: Machine quilting, some following the applique and some in concentric squares.

Begun: Actual work started October 2008
Finished: Hung for the first time July 2016

Intended Use/Display: Wall hanging.

Provenance: This one's a keeper.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Eight Quick Childrens' Quilts, Part VI

A few months ago, I found myself with two new Babies of Note entering the world, and figured it was time to get cracking on the ol' quilting front.  When I took stock of the works-in-progress department, which was in considerable disarray, I eventually determined that I had one baby quilt face left from the "Eight Quick Children's Quilts" series.  It was the one I'd called #8, but that's not why it was the last one.  It was the last one because it was the boring one.

Well, obviously you can't give a baby a boring quilt.  It might screw up their development!  So, after mulling over the situation for a bit, I decided to add some warmth and visual interest by intercutting it with some bright orange stripes.  "Bright orange stripes," with the orange contained in a thin dark outline and the stripes overlapping each other in a weaving pattern, was an idea I used to tolerable effect to liven up another lackluster pattern, in 2014's "Jennifer Challenge Quilt II."

Did it do the trick this time?  You make the call!

The parents like it, that's the important thing.  It's possible that the baby herself will weigh in eventually, but it's still a little early for that.  (If you just can't wait to see a toddler be adorable about a quilt, though, I encourage you to revisit the video in last Friday's post.)

The Specs

Pompous Title: 8 Small Scrap Quilts for Children #8
Serial Number: 69

Dimensions: 50" x 36"
Batting: large scrap piece of commercial batting.
Backing: Pieced scrap flannel.  
Quilting: Close machine-quilted grid.

Begun: May 2012
Finished: May 8, 2016

Intended Use/Display: Child's blanket.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Eight Quick Childrens' Quilts, Part IV

"But Michael," I hear you asking. "Didn't you kind of jump from 'Eight Quick Childrens' Quilts, Part III' (in May 2013) to 'Eight Quick Childrens' Quilts, Part V' (this week)? What about Part IV?" Good catch, you!

The reason is, I already kind of did Part IV on my other blog awhile ago. Um, April 2014. How time does fly! Here's what I said there, at the time.

I haven't been doing much quilting.  I don't know if I even identify myself as a quilter anymore.  But I did finish an actual quilt recently.

It is made from scrap and recycled fabric, and has lots of jolly frogs and bugs and whatnot.  Its new owner is the new daughter of the one-time Dork of this blog, G.  Here she is, hanging out with a stripy friend:
What does she think of her new bedding?  Well, let's be frank, she's probably not doing much critical thinking yet, being still pretty new to the open air.  But who knows, perhaps she will find herself like-minded with Natasha, who is a bit older and 2500 miles away but who also has a Michael5000 quilt.  Natasha's mom recently wrote to say:
Just wanted to let you know that your quilt has been blanket # 1 in Tashi's crib for the last several months.  It is not too clingy, too hot or too cold (not to mention quite beautiful and interesting to look at).  Every night and nap, I say, "Do you want Michael's blanket?"  and Tash says, "Yes, Michael's blanket."  And I pull it over her.  Then if it's colder out I say, "Do you want Ruthie's blanket too?"  And She says, "No, Michael's."
Ain't that adorable?  It's almost enough to make me want to make more quilts.  For Natasha, anyway. 

So yeah, that's what I had to say back in 2014.  But obviously the State of the Craft readership, if there is one, is going to want more details than THAT!

The Specs (G's Daughter's Quilt)

Pompous Title: "8 Small Scrap Quilts for Children #2"
Serial Number: 63 

Dimensions: did not record.
Batting: did not record.
Backing: Pieced scrap flannel, mostly crazy zebra stripes.  
Quilting: Diagonals across individual blocks.

Begun: May 2012
Finished: March 2014 

Intended Use/Display: Child's blanket.
Provenance: Quilt is in adorable use.  I mean, check this out.  It's almost ridiculous.


Right on! Let's get a look at Natasha's quilt, too!

The Specs (Natasha's Quilt)

Pompous Title: "8 Small Scrap Quilts for Children #1"
Serial Number: 62

Dimensions: 45 1/2 x 56 1/2
Batting: Extravagantly pieced scraps of commercial batting.
Backing: Pieced scrap flannel.  
Quilting: A very wavy grid in metallic orange.

Begun: May 2012
Finished: June 2012 

Intended Use/Display: Child's blanket.
Provenance: A few months ago, owner's mom said that Natasha is still into her quilt.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Eight Quick Childrens' Quilts, Part V

I suppose you could say more cutting things about a fellow than that he has fallen down on the job of documenting his quilt output.


Well. I suppose the most pressing question on everybody's mind is "Gosh, Michael, whatever happened to those eight children's quilts you started knocking out four years ago?"

Why, in fact I finished the last of them last month! But this post isn't about this one.  This one is about the third-to-last of them I finished, which I gave away sometime in early 2013.

In case it has slipped your mind, this series was all thrown together from my stock of premade squares, and I used mostly checkerboard patterns.  Obviously we're not talking about particularly adventuresome design concepts, here.  That being said, I really like this one!  The rich maroon and green trim (which was just some salvage bedding) lends some dignity to the proceedings, and though I say it myself the off-kilter diagonal quilting was an inspired choice.

I also like that this one has a subtle theme.  There are four Asian-style dragons scattered through the piece (they are in light blocks, if you want to go looking for them).  That made it appropriate for the Bhutanese-American little girl that the blanket ended up with.  Look up the Bhutanese flag if you don't believe me.

The back was pieced together from a riot of smallish flannel scraps.  Again, of the eight quilts, this one seemed best aimed at the household it ended up in.  Doesn't it look kind of South Asian?  Also, if you look closely at the back, you can notice something that I had completely forgotten about: I interrupted the quilting pattern in order to pick out the four dragon squares.  Again, I have to congratulate the 2012-13 version of Michael5000.  He seems like he was pretty on the ball, to judge from this quilt.

The Specs
Pompous Title: 8 Small Scrap Quilts for Children #7, "Four Dragons"  
Serial Number: 68

Dimensions: 54" x 41"
Batting: did not record.
Backing: Pieced scrap flannel.  
Quilting: Conventional machine quilting with scrap thread at 30 degree diagonal.

Begun: May 2012
Finished: June 2012, according to my suspect records

Intended Use/Display: Child's blanket.

Provenance: As of this writing, still in active use as intended.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

More Adventures with Scrap Strips

I was pretty pleased with Green, the second of my "sew a bunch of strips together and call it good" quilts.  It and its earlier cousin Purple and Blue, were great ways of burning through fabrics that were ugly or just not to my taste, or of which I had long, skinny pieces not likely to be of much use otherwise.  Purple and Blue actually started out just as an attempt to clean out my blue and purple fabric drawers, and it ended up being one of my favorite quilts ever.

These were very easy quilts to make.  Easy cutting, and then lots of long, straight seams that were kind of like driving on Kansas highways.  The piecing was easy, the quilting was easy, and, since all quilting lines cross the entire length of the piece, there was minimal burying of threads involved.  For better or worse, you don't even really have to think very much.  There is a little bit of design-as-you-go, in keeping similar fabrics from ending up too close to each other and in trying to avoid having the lateral seams get too close to lining up.  For the most part the design is just one simple concept.  For Green, the idea was pretty much "I'mma put together 2" strips of green fabric and see what happens"; the end product is just an extrapolation of that original idea.

So, having stumbled onto a way to turn junk into respectable quilts quickly, I have a number of follow-up experiments in the hopper.  Although the color-based pieces were very attractive, though, I find that a lot of the surplus and salvage fabric that I look for ways to do something useful with tends to be multicolored.  In order to be able to use my idea with that stuff, I'm experimenting with using strips of particular values rather than colors.

Here is what happens when you start working with the concept of "two inch strips of darks alternated by one  and a half inch strips of lights."

It looks a little bit like I've already got a solid quilt top there, what you're seeing is actually lengths about eight strips wide lain side by side.  Obviously, the effect isn't as pretty as the color-based quilts were, but I don't think it's half bad.  Again, most of the fabrics were edge remnants or pieces I can't imagine any other use for, so having them as part of a respectable whole gives me a real feeling of something-for-nothing.

Since I didn't bother to plan how many strips I would make or need, I've ended up with an unusual problem: much more pieced area than you would ever want in a scrap quilt.  In fact, I think -- I haven't decided for sure yet -- that instead of one very large quilt with the strips running across the length of the quilt, I will cut those long strips in half, and make two smaller quilts with the strips running width-wise.  Actually, I think I'll cut the strips not exactly halfway, but at around 3/7 of the way across, and then make the "shorter half" wider by...  well, it's hard to explain.  That will have to be the subject of another post.