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.