Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Time Spent Crafting

It feels like I'm getting my mojo back a bit. It could also be that I'm finally starting to fight 10 years of conditioning. Here's the deal, my husband has been working in the restaurant industry for as long as we've been together, 10 years. In that time, we either did the long distance thing and barely saw each other, or were living together but working opposite schedules. So what little time we did have together, I felt this strong urge to at least be near him even if we weren't actively doing something together. Then about eight months ago, my husband broke his hand, he couldn't go back to cooking until it was healed and was out of work for two months. During that time he decided that he wanted to change careers because he actually liked spending time with me and so he spent the next few months trying to find something. Unfortunately that hasn't worked out, but the conditioning of 10 years was still there. So between being pregnant, having lost some of my quilting mojo, and that, it's been really hard for me to tear myself away and spend some alone time in my sewing room.

I also recently celebrated my 30th birthday (Valentine's Day) and on my birthday I always do what I want to do. That included sleeping in, cross-stitching in bed, having my husband cook me German pancakes for brunch, going to the grocery store to grab fruit and some other things I wanted, including a fruit tart, ordering Thai food for dinner, and watching something on Netflix in bed at the end of the day, I also decided to spend time in my craft room. I did and it was quite productive. I finished the top of the braille alphabet quilt.

I also cut fabric and put together one of the three blocks for the November queen bee and got the other two blocks to the trimming down stage.

Not wanting to lose momentum, I've been spending a bit of time each day since then in my craft room and have finished the other two bee blocks.

Made a scrappy improv block for the guild.

And actually got the back of the Michigan quilt put together. I even emailed the long-armer to make sure she was still willing to quilt that beast for me, since it had been almost a year since we started talking about the quilting.

We actually got a snow day today, so my three day weekend became a four day weekend, so I managed to get the memory quilt blocks done for the Bright Modern Baby Quilt and kept working on my leader and ender project.

I realized that I'm woefully behind on my memory quilt blocks and need to make myself a list of blocks I still need to make and then actually find the fabrics I used in my scrap bin or stash. I've got the fabrics laid out for the Braille Alphabet Quilt memory blocks, so I may work on those next.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Sports Fish

I've spent so much time in bed cross-stitching because I was sick all weekend that the first fish is almost done. I started this as a surprise for my hubby's 30th birthday, but that came and went and I didn't actually start this until a few days before and there's still two fish to go. So I got him a few other gifts and told him about this one. He was actually pretty excited about it when I told him what it was going to be and that we would hang it underneath his "A fisherman lives here with the best catch of his life" sign once it's done. This one is a Striped Bass. It's still missing most of the face, a dorsal fin and a lure. Then there's going to be a Rainbow Trout underneath and a Coho Salmon above, with a tackle box and fishing rod respectively.

I ironed the borders for the Braille Alphabet Quilt but have not attached them yet. And I actually pulled some fabric for my long overdue November Stash Bee blocks and started cutting. I have fussy cut the three center sections and cut out the churn dash portion for one.

In baby news, I'm now two weeks away from my official due date. Our to-go bag is packed except for my music, the stroller and car seat are sitting by the door (and Sir has discovered that there is the perfect amount of space for him to sit in the stroller underneath the car seat after initially being very leery about this new contraption).

I'm having more and more trouble getting good sleep. This morning I woke up around 5am to go to the bathroom and my right hip and back on that side hurt so bad I thought I was going to throw up. Not fun. Luckily that was gone by the time I had to get up for work. No amount of pillows between my legs or pads under my stomach seem to help me get comfortable for the night. Part of the problem is that once I'm asleep I really don't move, no matter how uncomfortable my body may be getting. But it lets me know in no uncertain terms once I wake up just what a bad idea it was to sleep with my head on my arm or curled up a certain way. I know I won't be getting a whole lot of sleep once this baby makes an appearance, but I cannot wait to be able to sleep comfortably on my back again.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Braille Alphabet Quilt and More Cross-Stitch

So the center of the braille alphabet quilt is done. I have also sewn together more grey squares than I care to remember and now have four rows of grey squares waiting to be ironed and attached to the top. It might actually get this quilt done at some point in the near future.

There are two other projects hiding in this picture (well, three)... The sashing for my blue, black, and white quilt can be seen below the quilt top. Unfortunately the next block I ran through my machine came out just a bit too small, despite double-checking the measurements, so now I have to rip it out, cut new sashing, and try again. :(

I also still have some of the Charming Kate Spain squares up, although most have now fallen on the floor and been picked up and stacked haphazardly somewhere in my craft room. And finally, that big box is the crib... which is still in a box... and should go in that corner, where everything else is currently stacked. Sigh. But at least our "to go" bag is packed and our letter from the pediatrician is signed saying they are ok with us giving birth at a birth center instead of at a hospital and that they'll see our child within the first 48 hours after birth. Baby steps, as it were.

I also finished the frame for February on my Story Time Sampler and started stitching the door. The door proceeded to screw with my OCD to the point where I ended up ripping out three rows of stitching to make it symmetrical. I set it aside for a bit and then came back to it last night and have gotten the door past the door knob. February is The Secret Garden, which was one of my favorites when I was a kid. So I'm really excited.

My goal for this week is to actually put together the backing for my Michigan quilt and contact the long-armer I started talking to almost a year ago.

Friday, January 30, 2015

More Cross-Stitching

I found my missing two projects! And then I wanted to smack myself, because I actually remember seeing them fall off the back of my cutting table and thinking, "I'll pick them up later." Well, later never happened and then I ended up crawling around on my hands and knees at eight months pregnant trying to retrieve them. Sigh, why do I do this stuff to myself?

But I have gotten to work on the Carmagua Horses over the past couple nights. It looks more of less like a brown flame, but I love the subtle shading that's going on. It's actually the chest and neck of the central horse. Also, you can't really tell, but the background fabric is an ice blue. Which I had to order specifically for this project, because Joann's refuses to carry anything but white Evenweave, but have Aida in almost every color of the rainbow (ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but certainly several commonly used background colors like beige, black, light blue, etc.).

I'm really excited to get the next clue for the Story Time Sampler on Sunday. Still hoping to stay caught up on that one while working on my other projects once I'm done with that one. My other goal is to get that braille alphabet quilt done before my coworker's baby arrives. But walking into my craft room has me feeling overwhelmed these days because it reminds me of all the things I still want to do in there before the baby arrives. :(

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cross-Stitch Madness

So I've been crafting quite a bit lately, just not necessarily sewing. I did get a little farther on the braille alphabet quilt at our last DCMQG Meeting, and continued to work on it more when I got home that night, but for the most part I've been more interested in something more portable. Something I can do sitting in bed, which for me is currently the most comfortable place to sit, or downstairs in our "new" glider (new to us). Or in front of my computer while I'm waiting for something to happen in World of Warcraft. So I'm back to cross-stitching. I've tried a variety of hand quilting things, including EPP and hand-binding quilts, but none of that has held any appeal to me.

So here's what I've been working on lately:

This is the 2015 Story Time Sampler from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. I actually ordered and then waited for the background fabric to come in before starting this one. I also have all of the floss I need and I'm very dedicated to keeping up with this one this year, partially because besides one banner across the top, each month has its own frame and I can do the frame along with the inside of each frame without my OCD nagging at me. I made a few minor adjustments to the pattern, but otherwise this is January's Alice in Wonderland.

I've also been making some progress on the 2014 Once Upon a Time Sampler from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. This one my OCD would not let me progress to the insides of the boxes until the entire border was done, which didn't happen until earlier this month. I've been filling in the bigger areas of color and will then go back in to do the smaller areas. I still don't know what to do about the white on white, since I just couldn't wait for the background fabric I had ordered to get here before starting.

Finally, I've been making some progress on my Phoenix. I started this ages ago when we still lived in Florida and I've been working on closing out some of the colors in this. I'm completely done with the reds, working on the blues right now, and will continue from there. The most tedious part is the three different tans in the background, so I'll probably leave those until last.

I also started an Excel spreadsheet with all of the DMC floss numbers I have in my possession, although I cannot for the life of me find two of my WIPs. This is bugging me to no end, because our house really isn't that big and you would think I'd be able to find two gallon bags of floss and cross-stitching instructions. Everything else I've sorted through and logged, realizing that I have a lot of duplicate skeins. That list is now accessible to me on my phone and computer, so next time I go to Joann's I can pick up a few floss colors I'm missing in my stash.

In other news, I'm officially an aunt. My sister delivered her baby boy, Henry Erich, on January 20th and I couldn't be crazier about the little man. I think the only thing that will trump having a cute little nephew is giving birth to my own kid in about four weeks (hopefully). My sister ended up being 10 days late, so I'm hoping not to follow suit with that. Here is the cutie:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2014 Finish - Bright Modern Baby Quilt

Final Stats
Name: Bright Modern Baby Quilt
Dimensions: Unknown
Pieces: 16
Pattern: My own
Technique: Patchwork
Materials: 100% Quilting Cottons
Quilting: Machine quilting done on my little Euro-Pro

This quilt started with some "unusual" inspiration. I had asked my coworker about nursery theme and such, and if I remember correctly, she just said they were doing bright colors. Upon further prompting she did share that they have several modern art prints in their apartment by Kandinsky and Morris Louis, that they adore. So I did some Google searches on those artists and came up with a whole slew of ideas, but the ones that stuck with me the most are the colorful lines that Morris Louis often uses in his paintings. I drafted a basic design in EQ7 and once I was satisfied with the general color placement, I went and bought several Kona solids.

Cutting and sewing the quilt top was the work of about one day (sewing day with the DC Modern Quilt Guild followed by an evening sew-in at Capital Quilts). Which ended up being fortuitous, because I hadn't picked a background color. So I bought some Kona Bone during the sew-in. I had bought the backing fabric at the same time as the fabric for the stripes and ended up finding a lightly dotted fabric at our next DCMQG meeting at Patches. Quilting is straight line, outlining every stripe and then roughly 1/4-1/2" apart in the background area. As per usual, I embroidered my initials and the year into the lower right corner. I'm happy to say that despite the modern and graphic nature of the quilt, my coworker loved it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Once Upon a Time

So I've been sick this week and I have this thing about working on baby quilts when I'm sick. I know that the likelihood of germs (or in this case likely a virus) sticking to the fabric is slim and then it surviving the wash I put it through before gifting is even slimmer, but something about it just skeeves me out. So I just don't bother. Instead I've been flexing my creative muscles by continuing to work on my cross-stitch Once Upon a Time Sampler by The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. It is their 2014 sampler and every month I would get a new box to fill in with a fairy tale. The sampler is adorable and I've loved seeing what they've come up with every month, but the end of 2014 came and I didn't even have the border done. So after some serious work, I did manage to complete that. And then also finished stitching all the month names in the boxes. Next up, starting to fill in the other colors. I'm thinking of just skipping around for a bit to fill in the larger areas of color and then going back in for the smaller areas.

I've done a lot of the stitching while sitting in bed on the weekends, when I'm too lazy to get up. Or sitting in the glider that will eventually go in the nursery but is still sitting in our living room in the evenings when I'm ready to stop playing World of Warcraft but not yet ready to go to bed.

Here's how I keep my thread organized. Every time I start a new color that I haven't cut apart yet, I cut the skein into lengths of about four rotations (one rotation = one length of the skein from fold to fold). This either leaves you with one length of six rotations, or I usually cut the last several rotations in half, so it ends up just a bit longer than the other strands. Then I thread it onto a small ring with the number and keep it all on one large project ring in order by number. Once the project is done, I just open the large ring and dump all the little rings with thread into a bin that I can then dig through for the next project. I need to find a better way to store these. I had a great idea for an over-the-door organizer, but the reality of having to sew several hundred hooks onto two layers of duck cloth has kept me from completing this project. Maybe eventually this will turn into some sort of toy organizer for the seedling as the base is already hanging over the back of the nursery/craft room door.

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 Finish - Community Quilt

Final Stats
Name: Community Quilt
Dimensions: 60 x 72"
Pieces: Unknown
Pattern: Skyline Block Tutorial and Others
Technique: Paper piecing, Patchwork, Applique, Curves
Materials: 100% Quilting Cottons
Quilting: Machine quilting done on my little Euro-Pro

So I realized while updating my completed quilt lists that I haven't blogged about two of my 2014 finishes. One I had definitely promised everyone was the Community Quilt that I put together in February. So the story is this: I started a bee in 2013 and one of our members had to drop out due to increasingly severe medical issues that prevented her from sewing. After hearing all the details, I figured what better way to remind her that she was part of a community in the wider sense, than to get all the quilters in our bee and in another bee she was in together to make a quilt for her. I had a lot of interest and created a private Flickr group so we could scheme brainstorm.
After looking at her Flickr favorites, I found a lot of house and skyline blocks, so that started my creative wheels a'churnin' and I sketched out a quilt with skyline blocks on top and various house blocks on the bottom with a road running through the whole thing. I figured this would give the quilters enough creative freedom to come up with something fun. There was also a metaphor in there somewhere about getting out of the dark city of pain and medical procedures and into this bright, diverse, global community of quilters.
It took far longer than anticipated to get the blocks I needed, and I finally gave up on the original layout (I think I was going for a 7x7 block layout originally) and just worked with what I had. But I did get blocks from Illinois, France, and California just to name a few. I made the road blocks, set the signature blocks that people sent me into the straight road sections, squared up the house blocks to be 12.5" square, and put everything together over the course of a few weeks. The curved road segments and the disappearing road segment gave me the most headache, but I ended up paper piecing the disappearing road segment using a piece of scrapbooking paper as the base and used another piece to make a template for the curved segments. Actually sewing the curves was less hair-raising than I thought it would be.

I made the backing from fabric I had bought specifically for the quilt a while back and then decided to go ahead and quilt it myself because it had been over half a year since trying to get everyone together to make the blocks. And although I'd had an offer from one of the group members to do the quilting, I just wanted to get it done instead of sending it off to someone else. I also made the scrappy binding and sewed it on myself, despite someone else's offer to do that part as well.

I sent it off with a heartfelt letter about how we all wished her well and that we were sad that she couldn't sew currently. I got back the sweetest email saying that the quilt had arrived at the perfect time when she was feeling really down and that it reminded her that there were people out there rooting her on. It just reminds me of how important it is to make the effort, no matter how big or small, to remind the people in our lives that they matter to us.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 in Review - Plans for 2015

So this is a quilty year in review. I only finished six quilts, but I also spent several months this year with very low energy due to growing a tiny human. I doubt next year will be much more productive, what with giving birth to said tiny human and actually trying to then keep it alive. So without further ado, here's a look at what quilty finishes 2014 held for me.

Riley Blake Fabric Challenge Baby Quilt at the beginning of February:

The Community Quilt at the end of February:

The Weekend Star Quilt for a coworker who lost her younger brother in a car accident in March:

This was my one and only commission quilt this year, the Blue and Black Cross Quilt for my husband's aunt:

The Bright Modern Baby Quilt for a coworker in July:

And my last quilt finish of the year was the Grey Basketweave Baby Quilt for my sister:

My plans for next year include the following:
  • Make the back and send the Michigan Pixel quilt to be quilted (if we can scrounge up the money).
  • Finish the braille alphabet quilt for my coworker and send it to her in Portland.
  • Finish at least the top of my Charming Kate Spain quilt.
  • Make the back for my brother's wedding Plus Quilt and find someone to quilt the monstrosity  for a reasonable amount.
  • Make progress (maybe finish) my sister's wedding Hexie Quilt (barely started cutting fabric for this), but that will also be a king sized monstrosity, so that may need to be sent out for quilting too.
  • Make at least the top for my brother-in-law's wedding Scrappy Swoon Quilt (pieces are all cut and some of the parts are already put together), queen sized so I might be able to do the quilting myself.
  • Attempt to make a baby quilt for myself, we'll see where that falls on my list of priorities.
What are your quilting plans for 2015?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Last Finish of 2014: Grey Basketweave

Final Stats
Name: Grey Basketweave
Dimensions: TBD
Pieces: Front - TBD
Pattern: Basketweave, elephant and birds inspired by a picture on Etsy
Technique: Patchwork and Rough Edge Applique
Materials: 100% Quilting Cottons
Quilting: Machine quilting done on my little Euro-Pro
So this quilt started like most of my baby quilts, by me subtly (or in this case not so subtly) requesting information about the nursery and sex of the baby from my younger sister. She told me they were doing grey and white sheets, with jungle animals, and that for a boy they would add accents of navy and for a girl fuchsia. Like me, she doesn't care much for the "normal" baby shades of light blue and pink. She also sent me a picture of the rug she had purchased for the nursery, but said that might not be the final rug. I drafted some ideas in EQ7, sent them to her, and waited to hear back about the rug. Once she confirmed that she was keeping it, because nothing better had come along, I started cutting the grey and white pieces and sewing together the blocks. Then, once she told me the sex, I added in the two "ribbons" of navy. Usually I keep things a secret, but in this case, I sent her pictures of everything from my fabric choices to the steps along the way, which was a bit like working with a committee. In this case, one whose opinion I actually valued. Also everything she commented on coincided with thoughts I'd had myself, so it was nice to have things confirmed.
Once the top was done and the edge pieces trimmed down, I used the trimmed edges on the back to disguise the seam between the two halves of the flannel elephant fabric I had bought for the back. It turned out so neat that I may need to try that pattern for a larger front at some point. After basting the quilt, I used a largeish pebble design to free motion quilt in the grey and navy areas. I was originally going to do a design in the white areas as well, but my fabric got all puckered in the first test square and I ended up ripping out all of the stuff in the white area, which took way, way longer than the original quilting had done. I think it took about 15 minutes to quilt and 4-5 hours to rip. I was not a happy camper, at all. The pebble quilting, however, went quite well. At first, I just traveled along the seams from one square to another, but after a while, my OCD kicked back in and I stopped and started each square and buried the threads afterwards.
Once the quilting was done, I added the applique on top of the quilting. My sister and I had agreed that the quilt looked a little "sad" with the navy, grey, and white. So she suggested adding some lighter greens and blues, and approved my color choices for the animals. I added in some darker pops for the ear and wings. I tried to free-motion around the outside, but the iron-on stuff I used was too thick and my machine kept dropping most of the stitches. So I switched back to my walking foot and used that to tack down my applique pieces. I went around the bodies twice and added touches like feet, beaks, and tails on the way. I only went once around the ear and wings, because those seemed a little less important. The only thing I didn't add was eyes, because I couldn't stomach the thought of twisting the quilt in a tiny 360 degree circle three times.

For the binding, I grabbed my pile of 2.5" strips of grey and tried to do light/dark, light/dark. I machine sewed it to the front and then hand sewed the binding in the car on the way to Kentucky and while we were in Kentucky on the way to Mammoth Caves. I ended up hand embroidering the eyes after I embroidered my initials and the year into the bottom right corner, once the hand binding was complete. I even managed to convince my 36 week pregnant sister and my hubby to help me get some pictures on the way out of the Mammoth Caves National Park. Although it's a little dreary, because December, I'm rather happy with how it turned out. I even got context shots in the nursery when we got back to my sister's place, something I almost never have, even though my quilts are almost always meant to go in a specific setting. So this time I could actually see my grey and white background against the grey and white sheets in the crib, the matching elephant on the mobile to my applique elephant, and the basketweave pattern next to the brick pattern of the sage green rug. I have to say, I'm quite happy about this finish.