Monday, March 28, 2011

The story of a determined pattern

This is the tale of a determined pattern.

I found myself with a Saturday afternoon free. Those of you with very small children will understand what a rarity that is. I knew that Steve would be gone most of the evening so I took advantage of the 50/50 split we try for on the weekends and said "I have an errand to run.." Then I took off for the drive to one of my favorite quilt shops.

Here's a dirty little secret: I don't like either of the shops in my town enough to call them my "favorite" quilt shops. One of them is stuffy and dark and it's really clique-y. Don't get me wrong, it's lovely to have a store where they recognize you and are happy to see you and hear about your projects and all that good stuff, that can make a good shop great. But with that store I get the feeling that if you're not part of their crowd they don't have time for you.

The other is a nice store with sweet people but geared heavily towards stitchery, needlepunch, and other textile crafts. And while they're one of the few stores I've found that actually carries Riley Blake fabrics, they don't carry Moda. With those things in mind I tend to make the drive about 20 miles further to the two stores in a neighboring town.

I tucked a couple of fat quarters into my basket and then spent the next half hour just... poking. You know, where you kinda tune out and just browse. I love that. I'd been meaning to try "Brown Eyed Girl" by Miss Rosie's Quilt Co. but when twirling through the pattern rack I found "Eventide" instead. I stared at it and then as though by magic it leapt into my basket. Leapt, I tell you! It spoke to me and said "Take me home!" When I said "What?" it said "Quilt along!" I sighed and realized that there's just no arguing with a really determined pattern.

I got home and thought about fabric. My first reaction was that I had a Park Avenue bundle that still had the ribbon around it. Then I remembered that Thelma was using Park Avenue and that given what I'd recently done with Madeline's Good Fortune if I used Park Avenue too that would make me the Single White Female of quilting.

So I went with Rural Jardin. Well, mostly Rural Jardin. I pulled out all the leftovers from my MGF and some blue Rural Jardin that I had tucked away and started piecing. I know I could have strip pieced a lot faster but I loved getting each block together one by one. I'm strip piecing the inner border strips but where there's more color thought I'm going one at a time. And I'm loving it.

I had to get some of the lighter blue to do the big double hourglass blocks and that's not here yet but fingers crossed it'll be here by the weekend. In the mean time? My design wall looks like this:

And growing by the minute!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Feet hurt, Heart happy

In honor of National Quilting Day some good girls got to go to AQS Lanaster. It's possible we did some shopping.

(editorial note: there are four people's worth of insanity in that photo. Yes, it's still a LOT of stuff but per capita it was perhaps merely "obscene" as opposed to "GNP of Burundi")

Are we embarrassed by our own rampant consumerism?

We really really are not.

Debrief and more later, for now I have to go put a cold compress on my debit card. Poor guy seems to have strained himself somehow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The sincerest form of flattery..

I had been looking over at Nicole's blog at Sister's Choice and saw she'd been saying that she wanted a quilt like the Schnibbles called Madeline... only bigger! Then she had the inspired idea to skip finding one like it and just make a big version of Madeline. It was "all grown up" as she said. Nicole always blows me out of the water with what she does. The colors played so beautifully and she even was super helpful about how to measure and cut the setting triangles for the sides. And then she sent us over to see what Thelma had done and I was a goner.

A few of you may be familiar with Thelma over at Cupcakes and Daisies. She's amazing and her work is just breathtaking. I love how precise her work looks and how she's not afraid to fiddle with a pattern to make it work for her. She liked Nicole's big Madeline but needed it to cover a king sized bed. More blocks or a medallion in the middle? Medallion in the middle was her choice. Again the inspiration fairy struck and Thelma realized that the stars and layout of the Good Fortune Schnibble would fit perfectly in the center if she modified the border just a touch.

Presenting, Madeline's Good Fortune, is it not stunning? It just took my breath away. I though "I must have that quilt." It's bigger, more complex, and requires more precision than anything I've ever done before, but I figured I could maybe make it work if I took it easy and did it in bits and started with the big blocks before getting frustrated by the central medallion with its wee little fiddly bits.

Like some kind of glorious twist of fate, about a week later an online quilt shop I frequent got in almost all of the Rouenneries collection at $4 a yard. What I did next could be politely described as "overbuying" and might more accurately be called "losing my fool mind." I substituted some dark reds from other French General collections and got some of the pearl fabrics from Lumiere de Noel and then surveyed my hoard.

Yeah, I bought like twice as much fabric as I needed. The good news is that I'm now set for another project! Anyway. I knew I wanted to use the Fit to be Geese ruler I'd gotten for Christmas so I had to modify the pattern cutting requirements. I did some math and figured out what I needed and sat down and spent the better part of an evening cutting everything out and putting it in labeled bags. I was positively anal about the bags and it totally paid off.

So, long story short (too late!) I finished the top last week. The border fabric I'd originally picked ended up not working, the scale was just off, and the one fabric I'd really really really wanted could not be had for love nor money unless I spent $24/yd and ordered it from Australia. I'll pass, thanks. I let Steve pick out which fabric he thought would work and he was right, it's great.

Is it perfect? No, certainly not.

Point on the far right? Lovely. Point on the far left.... not quite so lovely. But A for effort, eh?
Rather than pick it out and make it super perfect I'm loving how I can see improvement from one block to the next, this quilt is big enough that I can watch my skills evolve across it.

These pictures are pre-border:

On the design wall it looks a little too brown. It also looks a little small but that's because there is absolutely NO way this whole thing was going to fit on the wall. So I did just enough to see how things would play together and then laid the rest out on the kitchen floor.

Here it is, sans borders, basking on the lawn:

And here's one taken today with the borders on. I really must get a taller place to take pictures.

I really could not be more pleased. Thank you to Nicole for wanting Madeline to be bigger, to Thelma for wanting it to have a medallion, and to Carrie for giving us the Schnibbles that made it all possible. I am so inspired by my fellow quilters, they make it possible for me to reach for things I thought were impossible just months ago.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

WOE! The battery for my beloved camera (I'm not kidding, I love it, it's called My Squishy) just stopped recharging right as I had a bunch of things I wanted to take pictures of, so bear with me on the phone cam shots while I wait for the new batteries.

Now, first things first, my new quilting BFF:

(is it not obscenely sexy?)

I only took up quilting about a year and a half ago, but I've been sewing one thing or another for twenty years. Mostly medieval reenactment clothing and bags for armor and archery equipment, but the occasional more structured item would sneak in there.

For those things the throat space on your machine isn't a big deal. And though I occasionally got frustrated with lack of power and the tendency to burn out the motor 2ft from the end of satin-stitching a 25yd hem skirt (about which I am STILL bitter) I managed to get by with $98 Wal-Mart Singers and steel-head mechanical machines from my youth. Okay, from my mother's youth. But man those things are like old Volvos, they just go and go and go until you get too big for your britches and think you can fix something yourself and snap the belt on the 1977 Viking.


Honestly, I still have three of those old steel-head machines in my basement. The snapped-belt Viking, a semi-industrial Singer from the mid-60's that still runs like a top, and a Pfaff which we call "haunted" because of a short in the power cord. You might not notice such a short in the cord until one day when you're alone in the sewing room and you finish sewing a piece and you turn around to iron it and the machine suddenly takes two more slow stitches. At which point you will REALLY notice, and possibly scream like a little girl.


When I took up quilting I did fine on my existing machines until I decided to try free-motion quilting at which point I bought a Brother that came with the right feet and could actually do the stitches, more expensive than any machine I'd bought so far but still less than my average electricity bill. Lately though I've been having trouble with the power. When going over a seam it would loose oompf and dodge to the left. The resulting seam allowance can best be described with the technical term "hinky."

I sat and thought about what I wanted in a machine. Two decades and two separate hobbies that involve sewing mean that spending some actual money on this machine wouldn't be a waste of money. Even if I gave up quilting (gasp, wheeze) I'd still have to make garb for reenactments and frankly, I just like sewing.

I thought about my actual BFF and the machine she bought (a Pfaff 4.0) and how much she loved it, how much the technology actually helped her. I thought about how much I loved the Brother when it was new and the motor still had some balls to it. I thought about the phrase my friend Jeff uses when playing cards with me - go high or go home.

And I bought the Janome Horizon 7700. Going from the Brother to the Horizon is like trading in your asthmatic old Geo Prism for a Rolls Royce. It's just completely changed my sewing life.
Eleven inches to the right of the needle, 5 LED lights, 254 stitches, dual feed 1/4" foot, it's like someone read my mind. It's possible that I pet it lovingly as I walk by.


Next post it's back to the actual quilts with pictures of my finished Apple Pie (it's getting binding finished today!) , my Schnibble salute to Spring, and hopefully my finished quilt plagiarism project provided the border fabric gets here tomorrow or the day after.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jam and Jelly Joy

A mysterious fairy dropped a jelly roll of Breakfast at Tiffany's on my doorstep. (Okay, it was just a really good sale, I'm weak.) And I'd been meaning to try the Jam and Jelly pattern from Fig Tree Quilts for a while. So this seemed like fate.

The color choices were the hardest part, really. You want them to "go" but still have contrast which means some combinations you're really attached to won't work. Once I'd gotten them picked out the sewing was a breeze. Sorta. Who's got advice on how to sew and press jelly roll strips without them curving?

And now, a quiz! Which of these two blocks do you think the pattern calls for?

That's right! Block two. Now, which one do you think I made six of without noticing? Yeah. Sometimes I'm not the brightest.

Still, after some unsewing and resewing and a very small amount of swearing I was back in the game. The blocks actually went together really quickly and I was totally tickled to get them all up on the wall.

But I liked it even more after I got the sashing and border on it.

I took it to the shop where I rent time on the longarm and did a truly mediocre quilting job. But it was almost all freehand, so that was cool. I even did freehand feathers in the borders. They're a hot mess but they were a good learning experience. I finished putting the binding on it last night and today I just need to do about an 8"x8" spot of quilting where I had to tear out some of the longarm stitches (hot mess, remember?) After that it's into the washer and dryer and hopefully I can spend some time this evening curled up under a quilt I made myself, something I've never actually done.

Next? Pictures of my new quilting BFF and my enormous act of theft.