Monday, January 31, 2011

sneak peak

Sunday dawned overcast - I know because my two-year-old called to me at exactly six a.m. to come get him out of bed and we watched the pink sunrise together over breakfast - and after everyone was up, I thought I might try to finish the back of the boys' quilt.

It was finished by lunchtime, so I figured I might as well tempt fate and try to baste it while my two-year-old took his nap.

Not only did I baste the thing, but he slept for three hours and I quilted it too. The whole thing. He woke up before I was done, so the very end of it was quilted with him climbing on me, but it turned out okay regardless, and was in keeping with how I'd pieced it. With him in my lap or climbing on my back...

The free motion quilting was still too intimidating and I don't have the right foot attachment for it anyway, so I did vertical wide-angle zigzags instead. After the first line I felt a little giddy with how good it looked.

Now all it needs is the binding... but I might not have the time for that until next Sunday.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

quilt top done

Each block is different and they are all improvised. I just played around with bits of fabric until I came up with an arrangement I liked, sewing up one or two a day and all the while hoping it would look good when I put everything together.

This morning I arranged the blocks and began assembly. When it was done I realized I'd unwittingly created something of a pattern with the placement of the blocks. The ones with orange form one diagonal line, while the blocks with blue are around the edges.

I am pleased with how it looks. And my corners match up! Success.

It seemed to go by so quickly, the piecing of this little quilt, and I look forward to finding the time to make the back before my batting arrives from England.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

cars and rockets

This is what I am working on, the quilt for my son. I do a little each day. It is slow going, but, and I base this solely on the quality of my piecework thus far, I can't quit my day job just yet.

I will be using the car blocks for the top and then I will do the back in solid orange with a handful of rocket blocks, including that little guy.

Hey there, little guy.

Monday, January 17, 2011

winter fruit

The weather was nice this weekend, so I didn't do much sewing, just a little here and there.

I took lots of pictures, though. The shapes and colors of our fruit bowl caught my eye.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

couldn't resist!

These are so much fun to do. I said I'd allow myself one per day, because that's all I really have time for. Except, then, yesterday, I made an exception and did two.

The little bicycle and moped are my favorites. This will be a small quilt for my son, and it shouldn't take me long at this rate. I'll probably end up having to wait on the batting, which I have to order from the UK since I haven't been able to find any 100% cotton batting around here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

one step forward, two steps back

Well. I spent the better part of Epiphany wrangling quilting my nine square quilt. I bought some pretty pale yellow thread and used straight horizontal and vertical lines.

It started out fairly well, except for the length of my stitches, which varied no matter how hard I tried to keep them even. And then, suddenly, things began to go awry. My fabric bunched up in a couple of places and I realized the quilt wasn't looking the way I had wanted it. But I would not give up! I would persevere! I finished quilting the thing.

Finally it was done. I took it off the machine and laid it out. I realized something had gone terribly wrong. There was the bunching, but it was more than that. The lines were too simple on an already simple quilt top, and the soft natural cotton fabric I decided to use for the sashing and back needed something sweeter and looser. The straight lines were almost too harsh for it. They made it look not just shoddy, but really drab, too. It was all wrong.

An hour later, I was ripping it all out.

Three days later, and I still have a third of the quilting seams to rip out. I have quilted around and inside the blocks in orange, green, yellow and blue perle cotton as I go, so that I don't go crazy with my seam ripper and poke my own eyes out; the hand quilting keeps me sane.

We had terrible wet weather this weekend. My husband built me a fire in the fireplace and I spent a few hours a day on the couch with my nine square quilt. It is so nice and cozy, even if it is still unfinished, and on Saturday, my five-year-old climbed in under it with me. He wasn't tired! He just wanted to help by ripping out a couple of stitches, and then he rested his head on my shoulder and promptly fell asleep.

If I'd been feeling at all discouraged, this would have cured me of it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

special delivery

I was not expecting this package until next week, especially considering the Italian holiday tomorrow, but it came, brightening an otherwise gray day.

I ordered it from Fernandina Fibers on Etsy, and she ships more quickly than anyone else I've ordered from in the US.

This lovely Art Gallery fabric is the last bit I needed for my lovely Art Gallery quilt. In mid-December, I finally came up with the final design in my quilt notebook and, after calculating the amount of fabric I'd need for the piecework, sashing, binding and back, I realized I'd need to order more. (Like the 9 square quilt, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.)

As eager as I am to play with the Art Gallery fabric, it will have to wait. I have promised my five-year-old a quilt, and this fun fabric is for that. He and I have come up with a few designs, but nothing definitive as of yet. Now that the fabric is here, I think it will be easier for us.

I didn't realize I ordered so much of it! I also have some solids arriving any day now, so we will definitely be able to do something really great with all this fabric.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

the process

My new found obsession with quilting has found me reading anything I can get my hands on, from tutorials and tips to quilters' reflections on quilting. I've ordered a couple of books and have been reading far too many sewing websites in the evening when I can't make too much noise in my sewing room for fear it will wake the boys (and the downstairs neighbors' kids). This caught my attention today.

I understand exactly what she means about the meditative benefits of the process and the repetition. Sewing reminds me a little bit of my translating work in that you break everything down only to put it back together again, and you leave your mark on it in the process. It has always been the process that I enjoy the most about translating, the step-by-step of it, the little pieces that make up the whole. I might spend an hour on one paragraph and then half an hour on the two pages that follow, and sewing projects are a little bit like that as well.

I'll admit that I also like the solitude of both. There is something so incredibly satisfying about losing yourself in a project completely. So, anyway, I think that this is part of what has drawn me to quilting.

Speaking of which! Although my abilities are nowhere near any of the women's whose blogs I've been reading, I am enjoying lots and lots of highly satisfying progress. The boys played so well this afternoon that I managed to devote a couple hours to my 9 square quilt and it is coming along nicely. I like it more and more as I work on it. I realize most people would consider it a very easy quilt, but it has provided me with exactly the kind of practice I need. It is my first time using a rotary cutter, my first time doing piecework and my first time doing all the measurements on my own rather than from a pattern or making and cutting out a pattern first.

This quilt is nothing like the quilt I planned. It is much bigger, for one thing, since I miscalculated my seam allowance by 2cm! And the fabric is completely different than what I had wanted to use since I was too impatient to wait for it to arrive from the US. I have tons of scraps too, which I will probably use for a scrappy binding since I overestimated the amount of fabric I'd need. But I kind of love it anyway. It has definitely given me more confidence to attempt more complicated projects, and I am much more adept at measuring and cutting and pinning and sewing than I was at the start.

I think I will probably always love this quilt because it will be my first real size quilt, even if there are tons of mistakes and I'm not crazy about some of the fabrics I chose (what was I thinking?). The 9-star block might not be exactly the most elegant composition I could have gone with but there is something homey about it and it makes me smile whenever I go into my sewing room, switch the light on, and see it laid out on the guest bed waiting for me. And I know that when it is finished, I will probably remember the process of it - and my discovery of that process - whenever I look at it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

my first completed quilt

I am so proud. It is the tiniest little thing. A doll quilt, basically. But it is mine! And it is completed. And I kind of love it.

This is my favorite block:

This is the back, a single wonky star:

I followed the wonky star tutorial I found on The Silly Boodilly, which Film in the Fridge also links to, and it was very simple and fun. My husband liked it a lot and asked for a quilt made up completely of stars, but my five-year-old did not care for the wonky stars at all and went so far as to instruct me to make everything even on his quilt - which is still in the design stage - and not crooked, like on this one.

It was very much a learning process, and making a bunch of completely different blocks taught me a little more about construction than I would have learned from my simple square quilt.

There are tons of glaring mistakes:

In my eagerness, I neglected to cut all those little threads and now when I hold the quilt up to the light, I can see little blue threads through the white fabric. Not pretty.

Also, I thought it would be easier to square everything as I stitched (??) or after the fact, only to realize that maybe such approximate cutting wasn't such a good idea.

I definitely need to work on my quilt sandwich basting skills as well. When it came time to quilt some areas, I had little pouches of fabric with nowhere to go. Whoops!

Lastly, my sewing machine isn't the greatest and I often have to rethread. There is a little area in the piecework where the seam is already loose. And I haven't even washed it yet...

But I enjoyed the process so much that I went out for some sashing fabric for my abandoned nine square quilt - I couldn't wait for my fabric to arrive from the US!

It is very exciting the way everything comes together, one bit at a time, from putting the pieces together, assembling the layers and then quilting. I had a lot of fun trying out different quilting lines and patterns and I loved stitching on the binding at the end.

I think I might be hooked.