Monday, December 28, 2009

And Lo, There Was Gifting
(pt. 1)

Christmas has come and gone, and I was in a frenzy of crafting to prepare for it. My biggest gift was a twin-sized quilt for my niece Marja, who is 18 and headed off to college next fall. As I had previously made a quilt for her older sister (back in the hazier days of my skill level and fabric selection,) it seemed time to gift this fun-lovin’ gal with something funky.

I thought I had done my prep work well in advance, asking Marja’s mom (my sister) back in May what colors she might like for a quilt. My sister said she’d get back to me, and did, in September, after I had chosen the pattern, purchased the fabric, and cut the thing out. The September answer was “purple.” The reality was a mix of lovely aquas, greens and light blues; some Amy Butler Midwest Modern, some Flights of Fancy by Michael Miller and a lovely Kaffe Fasset polka dot.

The pattern, Eclipse, came from the Modern Quilt Workshop (Ringle and Kerr) although I tweaked it a bit, and shortened up the size of the squares. This change worked out great, giving me four cuts per length of fabric instead of three! If I have committed a serious design error by altering the fabric, I can’t really tell.

The circular piecing was pretty fun, and if I was careful, and pinned a lot, I found that I could do a pretty good job of it.

The quilting was pretty basic, but I really liked the outcome, my organic grid pattern played off the quilt pattern and lent an all-over quiltiness that pleased me. 

I had a bit of a struggle with the back: although I had purchased plenty of my current fave Dharma Trading’s cotton sateen, I ended up miscalculating my cuts! I hand dyed two hunks in ‘seafoam’ and ‘turquoise’ but ended up just a skosh short, necessitating a creative piecing job for the back. My oldest nephew, the Industrial Design major, quite liked my ultimate backing, what do you think?

I bound the quilt in the Michael Miller polka dot, having purchased an extra couple of yards from my fledgling LQS Creative Union Fabrics -- just the right touch, I thought! One of my favorite parts of this project was that I got the thing done sometime in November - far, far in advance of Christmas, and way before I decided that I would try to make all of my Christmas presents!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Giveaway Day Winner
Commenter #33 debbiekl was the lucky winner of Jed the doll! I hope this sqooshy little guy loves his new home

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Happy Giveaway Day!

The fine women at Sew, Mama, Sew! have organized a Giveaway and I am thrilled to participate. I took time out from a busy day yesterday to sew up a little someone, hurrying to finish so I could capture his charm while it was still sunny. I also scrubbed my kitchen floor, shook out a houseful of rugs and threw a recently completed quilt up and over the swingset to snap a few pictures.

But enough about me - what do you get? If you are the lucky winner of my giveaway, you just might get Jed. Dapper and optimistic despite losing both arms to a chainsaw mishap, Jed sports the finest in Pacific Northwest flannel. His hair is a jaunty acrylic boucle, a surprisingly luxe touch for such a homespun guy. Jed’s forbearers are Ted and Ned, hand-made for my two boys; Graham, 5 and Hayden, 7. 

Jed is stuffed with “100% Premium Polyester Fiberfill” making him very huggable, something I’ve discovered after rigorous product testing. Although squooshy enough to be pillows, Jed and his brothers have also been used as missiles, battering rams and all-purpose whackers. 

Oh dear now here come some tears! Apparently, Jed is THE favorite - when I told Graham that I was mailing him off to someone he started bawling! “I want him! I have three reasons: because I love him, I really want you to not, and because I like his pants and he’s a new one.” (Wasn’t that four reasons?) Hayden chimed in with,“Oh Jed I’ll miss you, I’ve certainly enjoyed those few short times we’ve had together.”

Perhaps you’re feeling more doll-quilty? If you are my gifted one, you might choose this delightful little doll/sample quilt, featuring a soothing palette of aquas and greens, backed in a light blue print with a kicky pieced stripe. The white cotton is a luscious sateen -- cool to look at, but warm and soft to the touch. Twenty two inches square, a gal could probably fit two, or even three Barbies beneath it. 

 Please specify which item you would like. I will have one of my assistants draw a number out of the hat and mail the prize off to the lucky winner. I look forward to your responses!

Monday, November 30, 2009

There’s Power in Trying Again

Man, I tell you, I have certainly been in a dither on this next project. See, I’m trying to finish up a quilt top - a lovely Kaleidoscope (from Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! by McClun and Nownes) in nothing but polka dots. I finished it two years ago, and haven’t really moved it up to the active pile until now because I have been looking for *just* the right backing fabric. I felt the quilt deserved it, because making this sucker was one template-using, individually-cut time-consuming project! I’d been saving up polk dot fabrics for a couple of years, and I worked on the piecing from January to May of 2007. No wonder it took so long, I just counted and it’s comprised of 2,688 pieces of fabric! Yikes!

Well, after finishing the Christmas Present, I thought, let’s start working on a UFO. Still needing the backing fabric, I did a look-see on the ‘net and found a truly delightful Alexander Henry print from the Fashionista line -- It had a range of bright colors that echoed the front. Perfect! But yet, not. The line was from 2005, there were only 5 yards left. “Oh, that’s fine, I’ll only need six yards -- I can piece it together with something else.” Problem solved.

Tra la, tra lee, last Sunday we went to Bainbridge to take the boys swimming at the Bainbridge Aquatic Center, and I snuck off to go to Esther's. I had trimmed the thinnest little sliver of the print (which had sent me in such a timely manner) and merrily began matching some fabrics to flesh out my five yards. I bought three *more* yards of fabric for the backing and created 16 of these:

I thought it would make a lovely sort of ‘blended’ quilt back, fun to look at - interesting! I finished up the Pinwheel blocks and went upstairs to check the fabric length again, I thought I had just the right amount for two lengthwise strips. Tug, tug, pull, pull, I stretched out the fabric on the quilt top to discover, no. Not enough for two lengthwise pieces. Drats! I briefly told John my silly saga and he said, “why don’t you buy one piece that’s big enough?” Why not, indeed. Any suggestions on what might work well with this?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Done Quilting!

Slicing off the excess fabric and batting from a just-completed quilt is a truly satisfying moment. All of a sudden the crisp edge of your design and hard work is revealed. I am thrilled to be done quilting Someone’s Christmas present! Although certainly not challenging, the quilting motif I picked was pretty time-consuming. In the end, I am impressed with the density of the quilting, and also fascinated anew by the way the quilting changes the graphics of the quilt top. Colors seem to merge and blend, the overall crispness of the design is now more muted, more...wavy, indistinct.

The moments after finishing are also exciting, because finally, finally, one can think of moving on to the next project! At first I was having the urge to do something in deep, rich colors, blues, magentas, deep green, or -- I could finally lay out my Polka Dot Pinwheel, or -- start in on another new idea I’ve been kicking around, or -- I could start sewing some more Christmas presents! Aack! Back, back, I want back to the doldrums!

In the end, I started sewing up some cute little fabric balls. The boys enjoyed them quite a bit, they’re fun to throw, fun to twirl and spin if they’re on a ribbon, and fun to sniff if you hide a little bit of dried Sequim lavender inside. I might make more for Christmas ornaments, air fresheners, cat toys, or juggling balls... who knows?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Beef Burgundy Recipe!

NSQ headquarters has certainly been busy quilting lately, but as I am quilting a future present I am not posting pictures of the work in progress. As of today, I calculate that I am 92% done with the quilting! And rare for me, I have already decided upon the binding fabric for this to-be-gifted quilt once I am done stitching the ever-so-tiny 1-1/2" squares. That means today's highly read and commented upon post will feature a recipe hand-written and created by me.

Although I suppose I should be daunted after watching the movie Julie and Julia in which Boeuf Bourguignon featured prominently, I am not. I do not have a copy of Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking, and have not based this recipe on that. *My* recipe is an amalgamation of the one my mom gave me, and of about four others that I found on the Internet. Through trial and error I have made it my own, and it approximates the one my mom used to make me as my most-requested Birthday Meal. (Was that a tradition in your family? where the Birthday Girl --or Boy, got to request the meal for the night?)

I finally got myself a 6 qt. Dutch oven after wanting one for a really long time. I got mine from Target, after reviewing the hefty $200 plus price tags of the Le Creuset ones available. I've used it a couple of times this fall and have really loved using it. I think it satisfies my love for, first of all, baking! And, it's not hard to love the rich, heady aroma of meat braised in wine on a cold, blustery day. I've double-checked this recipe a couple of times, and feel like I've got it down. Let me know how it works out for you, if you try it!

Tracy's Beef Burgundy

4-5 oz. salt pork minced
1/3 C flour
1tsp. kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
2.5 - 3 lb. beef round roast
1-1/2 t thyme
3-4 cloves garlic
1 onion chopped
1/4 C cognac
3/4 L burgundy wine
5 sprigs Italian parsley
2 bay leaves
2-3 T unsalted butter
1 lb. mushrooms stems removed, then sliced in two if large
3-4 small carrots, or 1-1/2 cups mini carrots
1 can or jar of pearl onions, drained

Try out salt pork in dutch oven over medium high heat until crispy brown and no longer sizzling. Remove to paper towel lined plate. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a pie tin. Cut meat into 1-1/2” cubes, then dredge in flour mixture. Brown beef cubes in salt pork fat in dutch oven in batches; with beef forming a single uncrowded layer for approximately five minutes per batch. Add unsalted butter and/or olive oil to subsequent batches if needed.

Add chopped onion and garlic to last beef batch. Put all beef and any accumulated juices in dutch oven, then add warmed cognac. Light with a flaming spaghetti strand, then extinguish flames with wine. Add 3 sprigs parsley, thyme and bay leaves, bring to a simmer then transfer to 275° oven. Cook for 3 hours. While cooking, brown whole mushrooms in large saute pan over medium high heat stirring or shaking pan occasionally, until mushrooms are uniformly brown. Add carrots to stew 45 min. before serving, add onions and mushrooms 30 minutes before serving. Serve over buttered curly noodles and top with chopped fresh Italian parsley. Serves 8*

*That is, it serves two adults and two young boys age 5-7, twice!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Sweet Spot or Doldrums?

It's a windy, gray day here in Port Townsend -- just like 200 more to come! Just kidding. Or not. Facing me today is migraine and back pain recovery and lots of sleepiness. Yesterday's migraine was a doozy. Beyond that, I've got my delightful mystery project to work on. I have been quilting it now for just over a week and am nearly halfway done. The sweet spot of this part of a quilting project, particularly if you are liking the results of your quilt top, is the peaceful meditative nature of simply sewing, sewing, sewing those quilting lines. I am doing an organic all-over grid pattern, so my mind is not too taxed by a complex quilting design, in fact it is rather meditative.

The doldrums part of the equation is that I am missing out on the push and pull of the creative process. I am not continually reflecting on my color and pattern choices, nor am I struggling with mastering the techniques involved in a particular piecing project. It might help if I had a better sense of what my next project should be, so that my mind had a creative challenge to work on as I quilt away. Will it be purple quilt top? (as that is the color scheme I've heard the intended recipient of this mystery project would really like) or should I get cracking on one of my many UFO's? A new project might include some trips to a fabric store or two, something that doesn't seem likely to happen in the near future.

Before I make that decision, I will share a NSQ first --- a recipe! I have created a fabulous new way to use up some of the leftover Halloween candy I bought. Hopeful, or hungry, me, went and purchased a 60 piece bag of Fun-Sized candy bars last Friday only to give out a total of 5 pieces to trick or treaters! I created the recipe below to reduce our inventory of extra candy and it was delicious!

Leftover Halloween Candy Brownie Bites
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
6 oz. unsalted butter - cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
a pinch of salt
1/2 C, plus 2 T unbleached flour
4 Reeses Peanut Butter cups cut into thirds
4 Fun Sized Almond Joys cut into thirds or in half, depending on your love for coconut

Chop chocolate and place in a microwave-able glass bowl. Melt chocolate in microwave for 1 minute on high. Add butter and microwave for 40 seconds more. Stir until chocolate and butter are melted. Mix in the sugar, and then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add salt and vanilla and stir, add flour and stir until just combined.

Grease two mini-muffin sized pans with Pam, and scoop brownie batter into each cup (I use a cookie scoop that measures about 1-1/2 T in volume) Poke either a Reeses piece or an Almond Joy piece into the center of each brownie cup. It is fine if a wedge of candy sticks up out of the batter, that will actually make it less likely for your brownie to stick to the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, until brownie top is set.

Unmold each brownie bite by running a butter knife around the perimeter and gently prying out with the knife. Cool on wire rack and try not to eat half a dozen in the next ten minutes.

I took my batch to a meeting the night I made them and they got rave reviews. Let me know if you try them and how they turn out!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Meet Ted
Ted was created last Friday when I was in a grumpy mood. I had dreamed up the idea of Ted quite some time ago and took the opportunity of this dreary Friday to get going on the little guy. I had the blue plaid fabric on hand from back in the day when the Swain's downtown carried a really random assortment of cut-ends of fabric. This particular blue made a couple of sassy "comfy pants" (hand-sewn pull-on pants with an elastic waist) for the boys when that is the only type of pants they wanted to wear.

Ted's fringe of a hairdo is from a silly little acrylic boucle that also graces the bottom of a nifty A-line skirt I made for myself out of black...polar fleece! Ted's grimace is a scrap of truly lovely bark cloth I zig-zagged on. Now, after a week of tough-love, Ted's grimace has frayed quite a bit-- it's a mere shadow of a grimace.

I'm totally satisfied with Ted's dimensions, he seems just puffy enough-- with a totally huggable, throw-able body that the boys' enjoyed. The next day i started in on Sylvia,* a girl doll with a red plaid skirt and curly red hair. Alas, I ran out of stuffing part-way through and she remains unfinished. I'm afraid her dimensions, face, hair and everything else will not please, she may truly end up as One Fugly Stuffy.

I'm somewhat chagrined that I now live in a town which carries no 'utility' fabric, and no Stuffy stuffing! It's an outrage I tell you!

*Both Ted and Sylvia's name's were picked out by Hayden, who, as he is only in second grade, did NOT name them after Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, or for that matter, after a dear friend's spouse who is also named Ted.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Important Lessons Learned

Big doings here at Naptime HQ. Went to Target this week. Mecca of stuff. Place you go to buy the things you'll ultimately curse and rue the minute you have to pack up and go somewhere else. Stuff accretion HQ. Anyway, got a groovy new ironing board cover. They actually had upwards of 6 different options. Michael Graves personally designed a couple of them.

Lying on top of said new ironing board cover is part of a "square" for the current quilt. The Important Lesson I've Learned this week is to press, rather than iron, these curvy pieces. Makes everything the much better. And also, the going slowly and using lots of pins is also good for the curvy pieces.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Learning Curve

I am finding that I simply love Mondays and Tuesdays. Selfishly, those are the days I typically don't work, don't volunteer at school, and have the most time to myself. I've been rather frenzied these last Mondays and Tuesdays -- going for sinfully delicious bike rides, tank top and shorts hikes on the beach and through the Fort (it's been hot this week!), sampling some crazy Steve Ross TV yoga workouts, with bursts of house-cleaning, laundry and of course...sewing.

This past Monday, I finally started grabbing some fabric out of the closet to give curved piecing a try. At first, I was going to pick some gunky old fabric just to see how it would work, but I compromised and used some mostly inexpensive fabric I picked up a while ago at *gasp* JoAnn's! Here are the results:

I'm going to give this basic pattern a try for a refreshing aqua/blue number. I'm a few cuts into some of my yardage, and my rotary skills are a little rusty - I've got wonky-edges! Sounds like I need to focus on better ironing and more aabeisance to Goddess Just-So.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

UFO Thursday

What was I thinking? That's what I've been wondering about all afternoon after I pulled this unfinished KING-SIZED quilt top out of a UFO pile. For the life of me, I can't remember why I decided to make this quilt top so big. I think this was my 3rd quilt project - which means I probably made this in 2002. I know we didn't have a King-sized bed back then -- we were still 2 years away from welcoming Graham into the world, and still lived in our small Uptown house with bedrooms far too small for a bed that big.

I do know that I followed the directions for this "Roman Square" from my much-loved copy of Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! by McClun/Nownes. I imagine I must have bought all my fabric downtown at the now-defunct Quilter's Cove, but I must have used a lot of fat quarters, as I don't have too many of these fabrics left in my stash. Perhaps it was the blissful idiot-joy of strip piecing which grew this top so big - whirrr, whirrr, whirrr goes the sewing machine, endlessly, endlessly. I had to iron out a few wrinkles before I took the picture, and came away kind of impressed with my fabric choices, I used a lot of small scale, old-fashioned fabrics - a look I've never really repeated. Perhaps I got it out of my system?

I've still got a King-sized hunk of wool batting lurking in the garage, and even some green gingham backing fabric to finish this up. Now that I've machine-quilted a Queen size, would I be able to tackle a quilt this big? More decisions.

One thing this trip back down the memory (or lack thereof) trail has put into focus is one of the shames of my parenting career so almost complete lack of written recollections of what/who/where the boys were as they were growing up. I comforted myself with the notion that I really was living mindfully, and loving/cherishing/honoring each stage, but as this quilt top shows, one forgets.

And so, without further ado - a Summer 2009 recap!

I remember looking forward to summer beak with happy anticipation - I had grown weary of the grind of getting the boys off to school, picking Graham up at 1:00; then driving back to school to pick up Hayden at 3:30. I calculated I made around 700 trips in my green station wagon for this just-over-a-mile journey. Boo! to dreary routnine! Boo! to finding shoes and jackets and packing lunches in a hurry! Boo! to cajoling Hayden to do his homework or practice his violin!

One of the first things we did that vacation was go out to Graysmarsh Farm to pick strawberries. The boys were so cooperative and pleasant and fun to be with, I remember thinking "huh, this parenting gig is certainly getting easier - where's the drama? the tantrums? the changing of poopy diapers on the ground between the rows? Where are the tears?" Alas, there was none. We picked 20 pounds of strawberries that day!

My joke was that the boys were 'homeschooling' that summer, as I hadn't signed them up for a lot of camps or activities, but after all, they were kept pretty busy. Hayden went to Centrum's Fiddle Tunes camp for a week, we took swimming lessons for two weeks (blissfully, both boys lessons were at the same time!) and at the end of the summer, Hayden did a week long a.m. soccer camp.

In past summers' one of my biggest issues was the feeling of being trapped at home, either due to infancy and frequent napping, to a highly labile toddler, or to post partum depression (THAT was a fun summer!) My strategy for bypassing this this year was to go running in the morning before John went to work. It worked blissfully and brilliantly. The early summer weather was delightful and dry, and the scenic jaw-dropping wonderment of my runs through Fort Worden, and it's nearby neighborhoods was reliably delightful. Crows, crows, crows, raven, deer, bunnies (!) and coyote scat were nearly daily sightings. My wintertime-spring walking regimen found me in pretty good shape, so the uptick to not feeling horrid each time I ran was not too long. Plus, I had what I began to think of as my "moral superiority" to keep me warm the rest of the day knowing that I had already worked out and been a good fitness gal before even eating breakfast. Sadly, at the end of July, I injured my hamstring - a boo-boo I still haven't really fixed.

Another key to the enjoyment of this summer was the boys' delightful and nearly constant, good-natured and easy relationship with one another. For hours they would build and re-build and role-play with their Legos and the various contraptions they built. I was left to a puttering presence, wandering about the house doing laundry, cleaning, cooking, baking and sewing.

Usually by the mid-afternoon we would rally and go to the beach, or a park, or a playdate. We were low-tech at the beach this year, almost always riding bikes down there, with Graham and our gear in the bike trailer. We had a couple of nice plastic shovels and some old buckets at the beginning of the season, but after that...sticks, hands and sheer exuberance carried the day. Moms and occasionally a dad or a nanny stretched out on blankets and discussed gender spectrum issues, the sad fate of local teenagers or the many uses of supermarket rotisserie chicken.

Other events for the summer included our first County Fair -- with pony rides, giant slides, a bouncy castle, kettle corn and Pepsi's. The boys' first drive-inn movie - Up! which Hayden and Graham both proclaimed was "ok," some 60 pounds of fresh-picked fruit and a total of zero sunburns. By the end of each day I was pretty calm and happy, and although I was rarely in the mood to cook, somehow we all got fed.

Next summer? Hopefully a lot like this one. Maybe Graham will really want to learn to ride a bike, maybe Hayden will get over his vehement opposition to a bike ride longer than three blocks, and hopefully they'll both continue to play together so cooperatively and harmoniously.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mini Quilt Monday

I've been dithering and a-dithering over finishing up the queen-sized nine-patch, first, trying to come up with suitable backing fabric in the right quantities, and then agonizing over border quilting styles and finally, fretting about choosing the perfect binding fabric. Enough already! Just finish the darn thing!

As part of my dithering, I sewed up this little darlin' - a lovely maquette made to not only test out the quilting I intended to do on the nine-patch, but also to see how my aqua, blue and green fabrics for my next quilt were going to get along. Quite delightfully, I'd say. This little quilt 18-1/2" x 20-1/2" reminds me of clean laundry on the line on a hot summer's day, or a freshly ironed white cotton shirt right after you've put it on, and before you've spilled a commuter cup of coffee down the front of it on your way to work.

Oh, I also pieced the back of it a little, and was pleased to see that my quilting came out right in the center of the squares - hard to plan, but I tried! Today marks my first full Monday with both adorable boys in school. I've got vacuuming and laundry and yoga and cooking and bike-riding on the agenda, as well as plenty of sewing, stay tuned!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

U.F.O.* Thursday

Today I am going to feature a photo of a *U.F.O., or Un-Finished Object, something I have quite a lot of. This one hangs in the sewing room/computer room and enjoys a choice little spot on a big white wall. I'm actually not really that interested in 'finishing' it, I think it makes a nice little wall hanging just as it is. It was created in an Improvisational Quilting class offered by Esther's Fabrics. Only the second quilt class I've ever taken, it was quite delightful! I liked that the instructor gave us each a big bag of fabric to work with; we were encouraged to not color coordinate, and to, of course, be spontaneous.

It has been a miserably rainy week here in PT, not so good for getting outside with the boys, but excellent for staying inside and getting some sewing done after our two-week sewing-machine free vacation. I was thrilled to finally finish the nine-patch top today. I sewed together 328 individual 2.5" squares to make a double border, plus added another white border on to that. Phew! The next step is one I balk at, putting together the backing. I think I find it difficult, as it sort of boggles my brain to do the math to make the thing come out correctly. I'm pleased that I have the backing fabric in hand (a bright Michael Miller stripe), but am feeling like I should piece the back a little bit, since that seems to be all the rage these days. How about a really, really big nine patch of alternating stripes? Hmmm?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Behold, Most of the Nine-Patch Quilt Top!
My goodness, was this a tasky little number. Sewing the sashing strips took a bit longer than I expected, all that pinning, tugging, and praying that things would line up was a bear. But, thanks to some dreary foggy mornings around here, I found the time to get it done.

I'm not in love with the way it looks so far, but think it will look better once I add a double border of 2.5" squares, another white row, and then some funky binding. My sweet quilt-holder-upper (that would be John,) is probably counting the minutes right now before he gets off work for two weeks at the Lake! I may go into sewing-machine withdrawal, whilst we are gone, but I just moments ago finished sewing the binding on the Blue Monster (which doesn't seem so horrible as I have been feeling about it,) so I can take it with and hand whip-stitch it to while away the many spare minutes.

I am excited about the big pile of mostly aqua, brown and light blue fabrics I have stacked up on my cutting table right now, they will be the next big project I am going to work on once I get back (oh, after I quilt Mr. Nine-Patch!) I almost want to take them with me to give me inspiration in thinking of a design, but I'm afraid they would get all smokey smelling from the many campfires at the Lake. Fare thee well!

Friday, July 17, 2009

O.K., Now There's 90

I guess I couldn't leave well enough alone, and thought that I should stretch that nine-patch quilt top into (maybe) a queen size, so I rustled up 40 more fabrics to create twenty more blocks! There was a bad photo of them all laid out in the spare room - but having just looked for it, right now, it appears to have vanished. Curious.

I tried not to dither too much on the layout as the colors are so confusing and confused I couldn't really see the point. I came up with various "systems" for the lay out, and finally opted for a loose Roy G. Biv (the acronym for the colors of the rainbow, don't you know,) and just let it lay. I think I only swapped a couple of blocks. I did try to put the 'uglier' blocks to the outside, and my favorites toward the middle.

I like sewing the blocks together, it's a satisfying and progress-evident part of the process. I discovered some really lovely white fabric in my stash for the sashing, which after some internet sleuthing I figured out was the white cotton "Quilter's Dream Sateen" from Dharma Trading. I was nervous I'd run out midway through putting it together, so of course had to buy some more! It came in the mail today, and at first I thought it was the wrong stuff, it looked so stiff and shiny, but after washing, it's the same lovely stuff and I am good to go.

I've been meaning to post some pics of the second in my Blue Quilt Series (that makes it sound so purposeful, instead of the somewhat random event it was,) but I have been busy taking the boys to parks and swim lessons and obsessively playing Bejeweled on Facebook. Oh, the shame. More quilting after the weekend, with some photos to come.

Friday, July 03, 2009

70 Nine-Patch Squares, By Golly!

I finally finished all 70 squares for crazy mom quilts quilt-along! I think the suggestion was that one was to make these squares out of scraps only. Well I dutifully tried that, and scrambled around in my various shoeboxes, baskets and bags for coordinating scraps. That only lasted until about square thirty or so...and then I gave up and started pulling fabric off the shelves, ironing the edge and cutting off 2.5" hunks.

But still? Phew, what a time-consuming project! Probably made all the more time-consuming as I set a rule for myself that I would not repeat a fabric. Yes, for those of you doing the math at home, that's 140 different fabrics! I inadvertently goofed by using an orange polka dot fabric twice, and also gave up on finding a coordinating fabric for another square and re-used a peach-colored paisley twice. I'm kind of impressed with how long I would dither on each fabric choice - each square a dilemma.

This quilt top will be sashed in white, which I think will set off the myriad of different colors nicely. I'm looking forward to using white fabric as I NEVER have! Still curious as to how all the squares will get along - stay tuned.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

There's a New Quilter in Town!

On Thursday, Hayden and I finally got around to putting together his fabric for a quilt we cut out a while ago. He successfully wrenched me away from my project (grid quilting the all-blue monster) while I had enough patience and calm to teach him a few basics. He learned how to thread the machine, pull up the bobbin thread, and sew a straight seam. We both agreed that for now, I would be the one to do the rotary cutting, and the ironing.

It was a lot of fun! I'm normally not the most patient when it comes to kid projects (a horrible admission for a full-time mom!) but Hayden listened very patiently and accepted his inability to do everything perfectly. The best part about the whole eneavor was his enthusiasm, demonstrated by his patented "happy jump" -- the pogo-like vertical two-foot hop he does on the soccer field, and at the carnival, whenever he is really excited and happy.

Yesterday he finished the quilting and sewed on the binding. The next step will be to teach him how to blind stitch the binding to the back side. He was a little resistant to hand-sewing, but I think it will be a good skill for him to learn -- and will also free up the sewing machine...for me!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Order Up!

The boys and I toted a crate full of quilts down to Jeanine's store today. And I was so glad to get them out of the house I felt like shouting "order up!" as I did when I was a breakfast cook.

I've had them mostly done for over a month now but have been dithering on tags, labels and signange. I finally beat Macintosh Pages into submission and created a "look" I really like. I bought a font ("Deviant Plain" dontcha know) and floated my text over a puffy white cloud in a beautiful blue sky. Sharon "got" the dreamy, peaceful concept I was going for when I showed her a tag today, so there's my positive reinforcement.

Jeanine had a scarf rack already hanging in the store where she decided to hang the quilts. I'd love to be a fly on the wall as people are looking at them...hopefully they'll say nice things, and even more, I hope they'll bring them home and find a cuddly baby to enjoy them.

I don't reckon I will really make what one would call a profit on these, but I did get the satisfaction of creating some wonderfully well made little works of art.

So, if you're looking for a special shower or baby gift, head on down to About Time Clothing at 839 Water Street in lovely Port Townsend and pick yourself up one of my creations.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Mini Quilt Monday

Over on a stitch in dye is a feature called Mini Quilt Monday. I' pretty sure this doll quilt I made for Harper's fifth birthday qualifies: at 17"X14" it's a wee little gem.

I was pretty random in constructing it - I'll call it a "disintegrating three strip," as I simply grabbed some strips of fabric off of my sewing table and sewed them together, then cut them up into 4" blocks, sewed those together, and then cut them apart a la the disappearing nine patch technique. Eureka! orderly, yet random, just as the disappearing nine patch is.

Harper's birthday party was yesterday, and the whole afternoon was a delight. Graham and I walked the four blocks to her house with me in heaven because he held my hand the entire way. I swoon every time I get to hold his hand. Harper's folks have a lovely big house, with an epic yard. After being physically attached to me for a good solid hour, Graham finally got up enough gumption to run and play and join in on the birthday fun. It was a "parent's stay" kind of party and I enjoyed a couple of glasses of white wine while having lovely conversations with the assorted moms and the few dads. Oh, and the weather was gorgeous! Sunny and warm enough to wear a skirt and sandals! My idea of the perfect temperature.

At present opening time I was trying to get a cute picture of Harper and her new quilt, but as I was using the little Canon camera which is dreadfully slow, my cutest pic has another child's head in the middle of the frame! I'm pretty sure Harper loved her gift as after the presents were all opened, she was carrying it around the lawn, clutched tightly in her little hand.

What an absolute treat to know adorable five year olds who love doll quilts!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Big Hunk of Swirly Blue Fabric

What does six yards of 90" wide unbleached muslin look like after it's been low-immersion dyed in three different colors of procion blue? Like this:

In my quest to a) use up some of my fabric stash, and b) finish up some UFO's, I found this big hunk of fabric (purchased when?) and soaked it for 24 hours in the aformentioned blue. I sure hope I successfully rinsed out all of the dye, because now it is the bottom layer of a quilt sandwich laid out in the spare bedroom. Just one to two-hundred safety pins later, and I'll be ready to quilt!

The quilt began as a project for Graham, who was in need of a full-size quilt. He specified "blue" when asked for his preference, and lo and behold I found over 40 different blue fabrics in the mighty cabinet o' stash. It wasn't until after I had gotten nearly all of the fabric cut that he capriciously changed his mind, and declared that he wanted his new quilt to be 'green.' Oh well.

The pattern for the quilt top is called "Anvil Star" and turned out rather nicely, I think. Midway through the dyeing process I realized that I had been down the all-blue quilt top with low-immersion dyed backing fabric road before: for the "Making Waves" patterned quilt that currently graces the guest room. It may not be a ground-breaking innovation for me, but if I ever get it all quilted, I bet Hayden, the new recipient, will enjoy it. Perhaps he'll even dream swirly blue dreams while lying underneath it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Manly, Yes, But I like It Too!

And behold, here is a manly little quilt I made for a friend's store. She specified "four girl quilts and two boy quilts" - roughly the same proportion of girl:boy clothing available at Gymboree!

I stole the colorway from a previously completed quilt made in a different pattern (which, try as I might, I cannot find in my pattern drawer!) - it features Kaffee Fassett's "Targets" fabric, which I loved the moment I saw it in the store. I've subsequently bought a little piece of "Targets" in the blue/pink/lime/ orange colorway. I'm sure it will leap out of my stash cabinet right quick.

For the pattern on this little darlin' I tried the currently popular "Disappearing Nine Patch" that has been taking the inter-blogs by storm. I made big beefy 5" squares and really enjoyed the orderly, yet random way this went together. As you can see, this quilt has a manly backing fabric, and I tried diamond quilting for the first time, simply chalking one 60 degree line down the middle of the quilt and using my stitch guide to keep the lines roughly 2.5" apart. The whole thing reminds me of men's ties and haberdashery.

I'm curious to see how this will be received - black and brown for a baby quilt? What do you think?

Monday, May 11, 2009

My First (Completed) Quilt

With late-life motherhood came an abundance time! Well, not *free* exactly, but no longer was I working 40-60 hours a week teaching high school english or writing copy to promote music festivals, or raising money to put on said music festivals, etc. So, round about the time Hayden was 6 months old, I got the notion to start sewing. I had my grandma's Singer Featherweight, but no manual and no parts. Those had somehow been lost in the transfer between my mom, my sister and myself. Although I could find out the exact date of birth of my machine on the internet, I couldn't find a manual, and since I didn't know how to thread the machine - I was stuck! Stuck until I wrote some nice lady in Texas (whose address I did get from the internet) and she sent me a xeroxed copy of the manual. I was off and running!

My very fist quilt was an unlovely fence rail which annoyed me to no end once I got it done. There was an olive green in a paisley print that I could not overlook. Plus, this first quill suffered from numerous misaligned seams and so was relegated to the bottom of a drawer.

For this, my second quilt, I chose the fabrics with care, and settled quickly on a scrappy nine patch pattern. I learned how to set my blocks on point, and machine-quilted it all myself. I actually love the way it came out. Although I had intended it for a crib quilt for Hayden, it never quite made it there. Now, it still hangs on the wall of my second lil' darling's baby room - a room we still have yet to find a use for (except for storing the dozen or so finished quilts and quilt tops!)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Today dawned with a sore throat (for me) and the thought of making my mother a lovely little mini-quilt for Mother's Day. I thought; bright Amy Butler prints, some reds, some pinks, maybe even some applique. Once the kids were dropped off, the mood to create said lovely item had waned. Instead I spied the brown and green and orange fabric scraps from the two "boy" quilts I'm working on, and thought, "hot mitt."

Well, it was a slicing and dicing affair. I suffered not one, not two, but three rotary cutter injuries (!) and scrapped this thing together. i had to drag the young one downtown after school to take it to the little mail shop to get it in the mail in time. At any rate, it will probably keep my mom's hands protected. Tomorrow's bound to be a better day, right?

Monday, May 04, 2009


Who knew? There's a vast global cadre of blogs about quilting? Mine is just the 4 millionth outcry from an overeducated woman sublimating her intelligence by cutting up beautiful fabric and sewing it back together again. One fine and robust example is "crazy mom quilts" a sparky sounding gal named Amanda Jean who is wondrously productive. Her blog has great stuff, and tutorials, too!

Last week she announced a "quilt-a-long" of a scrappy nine-patch. I, and over 250 other people announced their willingness to participate. The call was simply to create a nine-patch square once a day for 70 days, periodically post a picture of your results, use up a bunch of one's carefully saved fabric scraps, and soon; enough squares to make a delightful quilt.

I'm liking it, because a) it has caused me to actually organize some of my carefully saved scraps, and b) I am having fun making tiny color decisions and going through the manuevers of tiny assemblage. Quilt project writ small.

Anyway, here are my results (I'm a bit ahead of schedule: the thing started on Monday, April 27) - I'm two days ahead!

At first, I was randomly pulling scraps out of baskets and then I thought it better to curate and select my scraps. Have you noticed the pink theme?

In other news I did not get the somewhat career-esque position I applied for, and have been subsequently examing my navel and my place on Planet Earth.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

San Diego Purse

In February, on my last foray as a traveler, I accompanied a friend on a buying trip to...Las Vegas! I took my big old Coach bucket bag as I figured it would make a good carry on, one that would hold snacks and water, sunglasses and mints, vodka and Kleenex. Well, it did all that, but was a big brown weight on my shoulder. Ouch.

So, for our Spring Break trip to San Diego (o.k., lets get LEGOLAND!) I knew I’d want a big ‘ol bag to again carry the aforementioned stuff, but with room for sunscreen, granola bars, fruit leather, maps and hats. Clearly, what needed to happen in the week before we left, was to make -- and quilt, a purse!

I was limited to fabric on hand and had a choice of red or green corduroy for the outside, with a tasty selection of big-patterned juiciness for the inside. After dithering, red won out.

The pattern is from a great little book called Hip Handbags. Great directions, lovely diagrams, lots of great sample photos. I keep on making the same style from it, the “Tuck”, but that’s o.k., it has a pleasing trapezoidal shape and works well as a shoulder bag, even when I bump up the size a little.

I first started quilting the linings of my purses this Christmas, when I made small “Tucks” for my nieces. I hadn’t been liking the prescribed fusible interfacing (it just kind of gave a wan stiffness, with no body) that the book described, so I simply quilted some batting directly to the lining fabric. I ended up with a just right amount of stiffness and body, with of course, the added delight of quilty goodness.

I like my finish project, but now back from our trip, I think I would have liked a slightly smaller bag, one with a shorter strap that would hug in closer to my body, giving me freer motion to pick up children, cocktails or a People magazine at the airport newsstand.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Streak of Lightning

This big (96’ x69’) quilt was certainly a long time in the making. I started it in 2002 and just finished it last month. I found the pattern in the wonderful book 101 Fabulous Rotary Cut Quilts, a highly useful compendium with full page color photos and easy directions. One of the first books I bought as a novice quilter, I’ve since made about six quilts from it!

What I liked most about this quilt from the beginning was simply the fact that I chose the fabrics because they appealed to me. I mixed juvenile prints with batik, hearts with flowers, with no audience in mind. The Michael Miller “Font” fabric was a draw - and I like the way the zig zags pop out from the black and white. I’ve since gone on to collect even more fabric with text on it, enough so that when it came time to finding a binding I already had the fabric -- committing the cardinal sin of mixing a serif and sans serif font together.

This quilt also reminds me of the splendor that was Quilter’s Cove, the now long gone quilt fabric store, that used to be on Water Street here. Back before I was a quilter, I remember walking in and being sorely intimidated by the sheer vastness of the array of neatly arranged fabrics, and the somewhat stern-looking employees. Despite that, with Hayden in tow, or on a run downtown on the weekends during his naptime, I came to be quite good friends with the owner, who was good at helping me with sewing and fabric selection problems. The brick walled shop had great natural light, and some 40’ tall ceilings (the loft upstairs was reserved for sale fabrics and classes) - to me the place was like a combination of candy store, liquor store and shoe store, definitely a zone of temptation. My shameful stash is mostly due to buying just a little of this and a little of that, and from spending liberally at the twice-yearly sales.

Anyway, Streak of Lighting has been through many revolutions in my life, and has been shuffled out of the sewing room and out to the garage and back again. Since I started trying to machine quilt it, I’ve gained a lot of confidence -- moving from stitching in the ditch, to unmarked, unplanned zig-zagging. Originally just made to please myself, it now graces Graham’s bed, where hopefully, the five-years-old and one day young man will learn to identify the rest of the letters in the alphabet (at his teacher conference this week, we learned he can identify exactly half of his uppercase letters.) Maybe through osmosis?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Rule of 10

Here it is, another freshly finished little quilt top. It caused me just a little bit of fabric selection consternation - but I found out that the more fabrics I added in, the better I liked it. The final number of fabrics came in at 10, and like many a quilter, I figured I'd make a rule about it - thus, the Rule of 10! Follow it and be wonderful.

It's not a truly "scrappy" little quilt, as I mostly stuck to some of the wonderful Amy Butler fabrics which have been biding their time in my somewhat shamefully large stash. Oh, and it includes the crucial bit of Kaffe Fasset, in this case "Paisley Jungle." Sigh, I think I could use Paisley Jungle in every quilt. Or at least some Kaffe Fasset fabric in every quilt.

I did have some key help with the photographing of this quilt, a certain someone who is turning FIVE next Wednesday. He opined that he liked the quilt top, and said it was pretty.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Few Essentials

I think my shopping trip was intiated by our discovery last week that we were almost out of maple syrup. You know, real maple syrup that now costs something like $64 a gallon. The place to buy this Saturday and Sunday morning breakfast essential is Costco. One hour out of town Costco. So, after dropping the boys off at school, I zipped off to Consumerdale. There I went a little nuts.

Oh, I should also mention, our chest freezer was looking kind of empty. It is not empty anymore. Maybe it was because I was shopping without the kids, but man, did I buy a lot of food at Costco. Steaks, cheese, nuts, more meat, some chicken. Did I mention I bought some meat? If you are feeling low iron, stop on by.

Anyway, with all the meat stashed in a cooler chest I stopped by to buy some fabric essentials. Orange polka dots, orange stripes, some pink, more polka dots - basics. I was really trying to be thrifty! I think they look nice in the sun here, all washed and mostly ironed, and they look like they kind of want to be in a quilt together. We'll just see if they get their wish.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Seeing Double

These two lively little quilt tops were part of a test. The test was to see how long it would take me to cut and piece a stroller sized baby quilt. I tried to do everything as quickly as possible, including selecting the fabrics! I held my decision making down to a dither of about 15 minutes, and it took me a half hour to cut out the fabric for both.

The first quilt top I pieced together in an hour, in the very time-hungry manner of laying each square out individually on my design board, as I just can't quite figure out how to strip piece something so that it has that pleasingly random look I like.

For the second (nearly identical?) quilt top, I used the first as a template and chain-pieced the squares in order from left to right, top to bottom. Unfortunately, I didn't get an accurate stop-watch timing of this method, as I did it while; doing laundry, making dinner, running a bath for the boys and surfing the internet!

I'm mostly pleased with how they turned out - they look sunny and breezy - and hopefully will be very fetching with a bright orange flannel backing and a pink polka dot binding.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Retired Quilt

Now it seems a little faded, a bit tired. It’s a little thinner now, five years after I made it, and it’s been replaced by a bigger, brighter quilt I just finished.

The retired quilt is noted as “Avery’s Quilt” in my sewing journal. Avery was my first pick name for the baby I was carrying as I made it. Crib size, it came from a quilt shop pattern called “Crazy Baby” which was an ingenious method of stacking eight fabric squares together, cutting them in random shapes and then shuffling the fabrics back together so each square was different. I started with the alphabet fabric border first, and then had fun mixing and matching the muted primary colors for the squares. I know I picked the alphabet fabric partly because Hayden, then just two, was crazy about everything alphabet. Alphabet blocks, stickers, magnets, cookie cutters, the boy who learned the alphabet in a week at 21 months was on fire!

I ended up liking the quilt quite a bit as I finished it, and spent quite a bit of time re-configuring the color placement. Now I look at it and wish I had done the quilting differently, it’s all stitch in the ditch, and as such, adds nothing, and doesn’t even make the shapes pop out better. I do remember finding solace in the act of making it that last month of that pregnancy, dealing as I was with nausea, heartburn, a sideways and/or upside down baby and painful varicose my toes! Not to mention the close quarters of sharing the house with my parents who stayed with us for that last month.

But finally, that sideways upside down baby, Graham Thomas, was born via c-section. Home from the hospital I stitched the binding in place and once he was ready for the big milestone of a big boy bed, “Avery’s Quilt” became his.

It seems like we are facing a lot of milestones of independence these days; Graham started Level One swim lessons this week, his first foray away from the “parent and child” class. The sight of him, bare chested, sitting on the bench clear across the pool, tugs my emotions in opposite directions. I’m filled with pride at his courage and autonomy, and with bittersweet sadness now that my baby is no longer at my side, or in my arms.

As for his retired quilt, I guess I’ll give it a wash and gently fold it up, to find a home at the linen closet at the end of the hall.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Making a doll quilt for a little girl is wonderfully fun. Not only do I get to choose the happiest scraps in my scrap basket, I can also amp up the pink and mix lavender, orange and green at will. These are mostly Amy Butler fabrics I had kicking around, with a super girly white with roses print for the back.

At Ursula's request, her parents threw her an "adults included" party. They'd recently been to Oaxaca, Mexico where they had been to a friend's birthday party. Ursula had such a good time there, she wanted to duplicate the experience.

I'm not sure what the party in Mexico was like, but this one was wild! Mostly it was wild due to the fact that there were approximately a dozen children there under the age of seven, with a high preponderance of boys. They were chasing one another in laps around the kitchen island, they were bouncing (literally) off the furniture and walls in the playroom, and they were devouring crispy tacos -- sprinkling taco meat, cheese and lettuce bits all over the hardwood floors.

When it came to present opening time, Ursula was totally in charge. She and a couple of the other little girls rounded up all the presents and put them in the middle of the living room floor. As the hostess was busy, I helped find a pen and paper for another mom to write down the gifts and givers (I'd hate for anyone to miss out on a thank-you note opportunity!) The happy five-year-old got a range of girly things, some princess puzzles, a Barbie like doll and some books. When she opened my present she beamed from ear to ear, stood up and did a little twirl, clutching the quilt to her chest.

I think quilts are a good thing. Bright, soft, all cotton and so fun to give away.