Monday, April 27, 2009

Another Charity Quilt

My quilt guild hosted a sew-together again on Saturday. You could bring whatever you wanted to work on, and I chose to sew another charity quilt as I'd written a column in the guild newsletter committing myself to doing so. As I hadn't had a lot of time to prepare for the day, I was glad to rediscover in the attic some flannel kits that I'd purchased at Jo-Ann's a couple of years back when the neighborhood was hosting a monthly art night.

The quilt was really simple to make: the blocks were already cut and fringed. But the sewing method is entirely opposite to traditional sewing and you have to sew with the WRONG sides together... Let's just say I did a fair amount of unsewing. And while it was a nice feature to have the blocks pre-fringed, it made it that much more difficult to actually sew because the fringes could get turned the wrong way and fall into the seam, and you had to sew a wider seam because they were at times cut to differing depths.

Nonetheless, I'm sure some little girl will come to love this blanket. I have six more similarly styled kits so won't run out of charity projects anytime soon!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


If you know me well, you already know that raspberries are my absolute favorite fruit. If something has raspberries in it, I am extremely likely to order it. We had a pretty large patch of them when I was growing up and I used to love to go out to pick the raspberries, probably eating close to as many as ended up in the bucket (sorry, Mom!). While I don't have space for my own patch right now, I've found an absolute heaven about an hour's drive away, where I can pick loads of raspberries each September, freezing baggies and baggies, and making many batches of jam. Ben will testify that getting me out of the raspberry patch can be something of a challenge.

So it only seemed fitting that at some point I make a quilt in honor of my favorite fruit. Here's my raspberry quilt, made for my art quilt group's meeting last week. We were working on Chapter 7: Thread Work of the Art Quilt Workbook, by Jane Davila and Elin Waterston, with a theme of "food."

The raspberry includes two different colors of reddish thread, plus a bit of white on top. I created one row of "seeds" using a straight stitch on my machine, dropping the feed dogs, and moving the fabric around under the machine. This worked well, but I ended up with some puffiness from going around and around in a semi-circular fashion that I didn't really like. I remembered that Ann Fahl had mentioned in a workshop I took last spring that she free-motioned with a zigzag stitch, so I decided to do that throughout the rest of the project, and it worked really well, filling the areas a bit better and eliminating the ridges/puffiness.

The most difficult part of the task for me was figuring out where to put the darker and lighter colors and to make the highlights. I worked from a photograph I found online and used Photoshop to convert the image to grayscale, which allowed me to see some of the contrast a bit better. I also played with adjusting the contrast of the photo so I could gain a better sense of where I needed to use the lighter and darker threads. After some study, I realized that the object was lit from both sides, which had created part of my confusion.

While it's not perfect, I think this turned out "berry" well!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Weekend Sewing

I had the opportunity to get a bit of sewing in over the long weekend. First off was finishing up the Indigo Girl Quilt that I previewed in late February. The central blocks had been pinned to my design wall for pushing a month and I had the border pinwheels together after my "finishing bee" group met last month.

I really like how this project turned out - it was purchased as a kit from the Fat Quarter Shop, and uses the Urban Indigo line from Fig Tree Quilts. The pattern is Jelly Roll Jive from A Graceful Stitch - Quilt Designs by Denise Sheehan. I have fabric from this line to make another quilt, but I'm not sure it'll materialize this spring or later. I have so many projects I want to do right now that I might put that one off for a year or so... (yes, it's sad when you talk about putting things off for a whole year!).

The method for putting together the above project results in a lot of "waste" half-square triangles. Knowing they would simply sit around if I didn't do something with them right away, I threw together this little arrangement.

It's small, but I'm fine with that and am considering whether I want to frame it and do some more half-square triangles or just keep it like this. We'll see.

Finally, given that my design wall was cleared off, I sewed this pattern (called "X-Rated") from Schnibbles by Miss Rosie's Quilt Co.

This is a quilt that requires planning from the get go because you sew it together in rows on point, so I really and truly needed the design wall. I started it Friday night after getting home from the baseball game and finished it on Saturday night, which is pretty good! Now I just need to figure out how to quilt it; unfortunately I can't tell from the picture in the pattern how that one was quilted, so I can't steal any ideas. I love the fabric too - the Portugal Collection by April Cornell. It uses charm packs that I bought when I visited Erica in Michigan last August. Finished, it will look lovely hanging in our spare bedroom (yellow walls).

I've also been working on some thread painting for my art quilt group, but I need to make some much more significant progress before I have something I can show you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Play Ball!!!

Ben and I are quite thrilled that baseball season is once again under way. We're just not into other sports and the six months when there is no baseball are arguably the coldest, dreariest months of the year, so baseball also signals that spring (and warmer weather) may soon be back. As for that warmer weather... it sure hasn't materialized here. The thermometer seems to be stuck in the 40s.

On Friday we attended our first ever opening day for baseball, being totally converted Brewers fans at this point (yes, I think I will root against my beloved Reds when they play the Brewers this week). We've had opportunities to go to opening day in the past, but knew that the crowd would be different than a regular game day, namely drunker. Not being fans of drunken fans, we hadn't gone. Plus we really don't get the hours of tailgating that they do beforehand in these parts and the thought of showing up hours in advance just to get a parking spot wasn't thrilling either. But we decided to give it a try and hoped that the weather would be decent enough to allow us to ride our bikes to the ballpark.

Well... the weather was clear. But it was cold. About 40 degrees and windy. I think that is probably the coldest day that I have ever been on a bike and willfully riding around outdoors (so cold at times that my eyes teared up). But it worked really well to ride the 5 miles or so to the park and pull right up to racks along Friday's, aside from drunken people yelling at us from cabs and Ben getting his tired kicked by someone post-game.

The good news was that opening day actually felt like a BREWERS game. We had tickets again yesterday (yes, Easter Sunday evening game, an ESPN Sunday night baseball game in Milwaukee, the first in 12 years), and at least half the crowd were Cubs fans. It's not fun to be buying coffee to warm up during the game, hearing screaming, and wondering whether that means something good for your team or the opponents. I don't so much dislike the Cubs so much as the fact that their fans are way too numerous in our stadium. You're supposed to have a home field advantage!

We've been present for some pretty notable (and rather dubious) highlights already:

1. The Hot Dog had a bit too much to drink before the game on Opening Day. How else do you explain falling down at the end of the race?

2. A come-from behind win on opening day, 4-3, final!

3. Reed Johnson robbed Prince Fielder of his first grand slam last night. (MLB needs to get with embeddable video. Really this was an amazing play, even if the difference would have meant a Brewers win.)

4. Brewers pitching walked in 4 straight runs to the Cubs last night. Apparently this has been done only 9 times since 1969; twice within the last five days (Braves vs. Atlanta last week and Brewers vs. Cubs last night). Not fun to watch. What the heck is up with Suppan? And who is going to step up? Hopefully Gallardo will get it going tonight!

I hope you all enjoyed your Easter and that you have time to enjoy a little baseball as well. Sewing updates to come later, I hope (time to go catch the game for an inning or two).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sleepy Baby - Linus

On Saturday, the guild had a charity quilt workshop, which basically meant bringing along whatever project you might want to work on for charity. We had a decent turn-out of about ten members over the course of the time I was there - from 8:30 to 3. This year our designated charity is Project Linus, whose mission is "to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans..."

I decided to start on a kit that I'd picked up at Patched Works in December because I thought it was just too cute. The pattern is called Sleepy Baby by local Milwaukeean Connie Griffiths (at least I'm guessing local based on the 414 area code on the back of the pattern). The pattern uses the Sleepytime fabric line by Lori Gardner. This was a pretty quick and easy project that looks fabulous too. The pattern is definitely straightforward, but could benefit from a bit of spellchecking and editing. (Not that I ever make mistakes in my blog posts...)

In contrast to yesterday's post, the quilting on this went quite quickly as I just meandered all over. Interestingly, the same threads used to quilt Swirly-Gig worked perfectly for this project!

The guild meets tomorrow night, so I'll be showing this quilt and it'll make its way to some deserving child. Tina, if you like this one, I have an extra set of the panel blocks and could make something similar for nephew #2...

Monday, April 6, 2009


Over a year later, I have finally finished this small spring project!

The pattern is called Swirly-Gig from the Paula Stoddard booklet Hooked on Charms. The fabric was from the Folklorique line by Fig Tree Quilts.

As I mentioned not too long ago, I'm not always in the mood to machine quilt. And I also struggle to decided exactly how I want to quilt something, so that's part of the reason why this sat for so long. But the colors in this project were definitely calling to me and this is the year I'm trying to finish projects, I forced myself to give it a whirl.

I think I might have quilted it to death, and it definitely was a project that I wondered when I would ever finish, as it kept going on and on. In the plain blocks, I quilted a feathered wreath and cross-hatched the centers, sizing them up from a pattern in the book Skillbuilder Mastery for Quilting by Machine by Renae Allen. In the pinwheel blocks, I stitched curves from corner to corner of the triangles (I don't know what this pattern is called, maybe orange peel or something like that). And I just did lines in the border to keep it simple.

I used a lovely green Aurifil thread on the top and a blue on the back; there are definitely some pop-throughs, but it was difficult to tell at the time because I was also using Golden Threads paper for the wreath outlines.

Here are some close-ups:

It's not perfect, but you have to start somewhere, right? While I've been quilting for about ten years now, I still consider my machine quilting skills to be relatively elementary. I still have a small stack of tops to machine quilt myself; we'll see how soon I tackle them. I can definitely promise you some piecing is in my future later this week!

I'm going to hang this in my cubicle tomorrow; perhaps the Dean will stop pestering me about the Valentine's project I still have hanging...

Painting & Decorating

Seeing as winter isn't in a hurry to leave us here (at least we didn't the the snow that they were calling for yesterday!), we've had plenty of time to work on putting the house back together after the painting was completed last Tuesday.

We've had a lot of questions about how things have gone with the painting and what things look like now. Here are photos of the living room, dining room, upstairs hall and a look up the stairs (changing the paint color from black to white on the risers lightened up that area remarkably!!!). We're still playing with layout in the living and dining rooms - we'd brought in some, but not all - of the furniture for a large quilt guild meeting last week and came upon the current setting, which we like a lot (with the love seat in a corner). The new curtains are from JCPenney, the curtain rods from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and the rug from Pottery Barn. Had loads of fun trying out different samples from a variety of stores (and even more fun returning them later!). We're really, really liking the new colors and decor.

Built-in corner cabinet in dining room:

View from living into dining:

Looking towards the front of the house in the living room:

The fireplace and mantle:

Looking toward the back of the house in the living room:

View up the stairs (like I said, the white is amazingly different! the handrails are a different color now too):

Second floor hallway:

What do you think? I think Ben might be going into withdrawal as he no longer has the painter here during the way. But two weeks was long enough!