Saturday, November 16, 2019

A New Quilt

So I made a quilt.

The enterprise has been in grievous disarray for some years now, during which the quilting room gradually filled with crap and detritus and great drifting dunes of litter and dust.  During that time, I would occasionally decide that it was time to get fired back up, and launch into cleaning the room, or taking an inventory of unfinished projects, or otherwise "getting ready."  Heavens, in Summer 2016, I apparently decided to muck out the blog!  

What I found in all of these self-conscious rebirths was that the startup tasks were so daunting, my determination never lasted to the point when I would do much sewing together of cloth.  A machine that was almost always giving me mechanical problems didn't help any.

Early this fall, I started thinking about sewing scraps of blue together.  But this time, with no preamble of cleaning the room or making a formal design, I just found a container of blue scraps, pushed a heap of rubble off of a folding chair, turned on the machine, and started sewing.  That proved to be enough fun that eventually it seemed worth taking on a new challenge, clearing off the ironing board.  By the time that the sewing machine's mechanical problems rendered it unusable again, I had enough momentum to hie me to the repair shop.  When it was clear that we had passed the point of repairs, I coughed up the cash for a new machine.  Maybe I'll tell you that story someday.

I had to buy a new iron, too.

Eventually, I shaped my little blue patches into strips, made some vertical light-light strips to give the thing some structure (and, to be honest, for ease of assembly), and by gum I finished it.

I've been working on some old projects too.  The room, though not what you'd call "tidy," has become... shall we say... navigable.   Who knows, maybe someday I'll even attend to my quilt blog!

The Specs

Title: none 

Serial Number: Hmm... actually the records are also in a bit of disarray currently.

Dimensions: I'm... not sure.  I'm sure there's a tape measure around.
Batting: An grubby old electric blanket.  Before using it, I had to rip out all of the wires and elements, which was good fun.
Backing: Pieced horizontal strips of scrap flannel. 

Quilting: Horizontal straight lines.

Begun: August 2019
Finished: October 2019

Intended Use/Display: Blanket.

Provenance: I'm keeping it myself.

You can see that the angle of the back is a few degrees
off of true.  Aligning fronts and backs is not
something of which I have a knack.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Niece #3's Graduation Quilt

My third niece graduated from high school in 2014, and by that Christmas I was starting to feel that I should do something about getting a start on her graduation quilt.  On Christmas afternoon I asked her some questions about preferences, colors, and so on.  Then I holed myself up for awhile with the internet, and gathered a bunch of images of quilts that seemed related to what she had described, saving them on a Pinterest page.  That night, she gave me the thumbs-up and thumbs-down on that little virtual quilt collection, leaving me with a set of nine that she liked. 

Looking at these, I decided to try again with a concept I used, not terribly successfully I think, in a wedding quilt a few years ago: mottled blues and whites in a grey lattice.

This time, I would put the lattice on the normal ordinal orientation -- squares instead of diamonds -- and not try to get cute with the shading of the lattice.  I'd try to get away from a single big monolithic pattern.  And, I'd try to see how far I could get from blue, and still have it be basically a blue and white quilt.

So, I cut a whole lot of squares:

And started arranging them, mostly randomly:

The further you get in assembling this kind of quilt -- unless you've planned it all out from the beginning (which sounds like it would be better, but in some ways gives you less control over the final product) -- the more you have to make decisions about how the various pieces are going to sit relative to each other.

Anyway, eventually you sew everything together and there you are.  In this case, there I was on December 20 of last year, just in time to stuff that sucker in a box and make it a twofer graduation/Christmas gift.  It's the thought that counts.

Honestly, it's one of my favorites of the quilts I've made.

The Specs

Title: "Niece #3's Graduation Quilt"  
Serial Number: 75

Dimensions: 95" x 66"
Batting: Commercial batting from recycled plastic bottles.
Backing: Strips of solid flannels.  Didn't get a picture, apparently. 

Quilting: Following the lattice frame.

Begun: Christmas 2014
Finished: Just in time for Christmas 2015

Intended Use/Display: Blanket.

Provenance: In use, as far as I know.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Housekeeping, part II: The Shops Abide

Having brought the blogroll into the mid 2010s -- nine moribund blogs got the axe, one active one got the nod -- it's time to apply a little elbow grease to the next item in the sidebar.

I haven't paid guild dues in forever, and for that matter haven't been in any of these quilt shops in at least five years, being more prone to export fabric than to import it these days.  I knew that Center Diamond was still kicking, only because I passed right by it on a trip to the beach last week.

The Shops Abide
I'm surprised, but kind of pleased, to report that the guild and all seven shops all appear to be alive and well.  Pioneer Quilts confused me, as they apparently moved locations several years ago, but it sounds like they are still doing their thing, just several miles west of where they used to.

Which is great, but I don't know if I'm really chummy enough with any of the shops at this point to call them "home base," or even "my."  But they all are -- or at least were! -- terrific places, so I can leave 'em up on the ol' sidebar.  I'll just make the descriptions a little less... personal.

To be continued...

Honestly?  This post is mostly a stalling tactic, putting off the moment when I have to really start thinking about "Shows I've Been In or Have Aspirations To Be In," and find out whether I have aspirations to be in shows.  I'm not sure whether my hesitation to think about that is the anxiety of reluctance, or the butterflies of anticipation.  I'll figure it out soon enough!

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.