Monday, December 25, 2006

California Dreamin'

It's Christmas at last, so I can finally post this quilt! This will be a long one. It all started with a photo of Brian that I took at Ano Nuevo State Park (just south of Half Moon Bay), which we visited in the winter/spring of 2005. It's one of my favorite photos of him:

Time passes. One morning I watch an episode of Simply Quilts in which the guest (sorry, I can't remember her name -- just that she lives in San Jose) showed her Andy Warhol style quilts of the same person done several times, each time with changing colors in the style of Warhol's Marilyn Monroe images. Then one day it occurred to me that Brian's photo would lend itself to that kind of stylization. Could I do it? The first step was to print the photo and see if I could reduce it to clear lines. After a couple attempts, this is what emerged:

More time passes -- not sure where to go from here. What kind of fabrics? How big? How many images? Would Brian like it? How would I do the applique? Summer passes. We are into autumn and I decide it would be a great Christmas present for Brian, or at least I hope it would be. I decide to fuse the fabrics and then do satin stitch, but my one attempt at satin stitch (on a Linus applique) was pretty dismal. Harumph. But after practicing on the word purple, I think it might happen. Meanwhile, Jocelyn has come to visit and we picked out fabrics (also posted earlier this month). So the plan is to make the quilt while Brian is in New York visiting his family. The good people at Sew Sassy have already told me to use a fusible interfacing on the lame (pretend there's an accent on the "e" -- it's not 'lame' as in limping) sunglasses, and I am ready to proceed. It's not as straightforward as simply switching the fabrics out -- the border fabric can't be a background, the shirt fabric touches not only its own background, but others, etc. -- it's a bit like solving Rubik's cube. Eventually I get it so the fabrics are never in the same place twice and never touch each other. Then I fuse and cut and lay out, and this is what I get:

I hate it. I think Brian will hate it. It's not that the fabrics don't work together, but I wouldn't want to look at them again and again. And it doesn't mean anything. It's an exercise -- what does this have to do with Brian???? I moan and groan. Finally, inspiration strikes! The photo was taken on the coast. Brian loves the California coast -- he sometimes visits Half Moon Bay before driving down to see the kids! Why not have Brian and the coast intertwined in this quilt? The design morphs from "Cool Brian" into "California Dreamin'" -- I just need landscape fabrics. So it's back to Sew Sassy.

I love these! There's ocean, sky (see the shining suns?), trees, sand, dry earth, and -- already in my stash -- pebbles. I need only 5 of the 6 fabrics and finally push aside the pebbles. I liked the idea of them, but I needed the warm color of the dry earth fabric to give the quilt a little zing, a little golden glow of the California hills basking in the sun.

There are problems, of course. I learn how hard it is to do a really smooth satin stitch around curves. I find that metallic thread can be temperamental. I become acutely aware that only an idiot or a masochist would ever choose to work with lame -- I won't go there again! But it gets done, and I like it. I really like it. I realize it's maybe even an art quilt. Brian may even like it. Except for the binding, it's done!

Doesn't it look like Brian?

Have yourself a fuzzy little Christmas

Val has her minkee blanket! I tried to make her one a few weeks ago (when I made Jocelyn's), but I made some mistakes... ask me how I know you need to pin with safety pins and not straight pins to be sure everything lies flat together. So we went to the new quilt shop in Mahomet and picked out flannel and minkee. Val knows her own mind -- we were in and out in nothing flat because she immediately knew what she wanted. I stitched it up a couple nights ago when she was with her old friends from high school and put it under the tree for her to open this morning.

Val is no longer on Italian time, so waking up for Christmas morning was a little harder than it would have been a few days ago. So she cuddled with minkee and our Merry Christmoose (push his stomach and he plays Christmas carols). Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Frances' Quilt

Finally, now that I have sent Frances her quilt, I can put up a post about it! Here's the quilt after the quilter returned it but before I put on the binding. (The photos of the bound quilt did not come out so well. The binding is the same color as the dark purple border - just pretend the white batting around the edges isn't there.)

You may remember seeing the pattern in an earlier post. The fabrics here are different, though also with a somewhat Asian flair, and so the quilting is different. I sent this out to be quilted and what a beautiful job Connie Lightle did again! She did the quilting on Val's quilt, too. Look at the details:

Connie does such a fabulous job, but I do feel like I'm cheating. I do all the fabric selection, all the cutting and piecing, and then the quilt is transformed by her quilting!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Seeing purple

Chris Lynn Kirsch, author of Replique Quilts gave a workshop at our guild. Alas, I was out of town (well, don't be too sorry for me -- I was on vacation in British Columbia). But the chair of the Project Linus committee talked to her about making some of her cute quilts for Linus. She gave us permission to work on one of her cuddle and learn quilts (to be published in a forthcoming book, possibly with photos of the quilts we make!). Here's the purple block I made for a quilt that will have lots of color names. It looks like applique, but uses her technique instead. You'll have to get the details from her book, but basically you stitch from a pattern on the back of the block through two layers, then cut away some fabric and satin stitch around the edge. Fun!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sock it to me!

A present! For ME! Yay! It's a beautiful sock that Jocelyn knit with self-striping yarn. I love the colors and it fits perfectly. I was afraid that hand knit socks would not be comfortable, but in fact this felt wonderful on my foot. I have been promised that sock number 2 will be forthcoming after Joss's very long plane rides to and from India. I can't wait!

Fun Fabric

Such fun colors! Wonder what these are for?
You'll have to wait and see...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jocelyn's minkee blanket

Soft indeed! Jocelyn was just home for a visit, ostensibly to see her parents but I think it was really just to check out her minkee blanket. Definitely soft!

And apparently also good for hiding.

But not quite big enough to cover disrespect!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Christmas minkee quilt

Most of the quilts I make are not for me, often for readers of my blog. So how do I post my activities when I want them to be a surprise? At least this quilt is meant to be enjoyed during the holiday season, so I sent it early and now I can put it on my blog!

Jay's Christmas quilt - The Story: A couple months ago I went to an estate sale. It was my first one ever! The quilt guild sent a notice that the homeowners, one of whom was a quilter, were moving into a retirement home and were getting rid of quilting items. I went to see if there was any fabric for Project Linus, and indeed there was -- I bought 3 boxes of fabric for a total of $12! Some had to be discarded and a couple things were not appropriate for Linus, but the rest was a real boon. The holiday panel was in the box and we don't do Linus holiday quilts, so I pulled it out to use. I thought it would be good to practice my quilting on a big panel. And it would be nice to have a holiday quilt. Then I thought it would be a nice holiday quilt for my mother, who likes holiday decorations but doesn't have a lot of space. A quilt over a chair would be festive without taking up table or shelf space, and could be easily stored in the closet. So I decided to use it as a gift for her, probably lined with flannel to make it warm and cozy.

Then I discovered minkee! It's wonderously soft and cuddly (see my previous posts) and washes like a dream. Alas, I had no red minkee and was regretting it, when a new quilt shop in Mahomet opened and they carry lots of minkee. So I bought red for the panel. I didn't have the panel measurements with me so I guesstimated how much I would need and added extra for insurance -- and ended up with only 1/2" more than I needed! I pinned it to the panel with safety pins, lots of them, then quilted the printed red sashing with wavy free motion lines. Finally I put on a binding made of holiday cotton print, and that was it! It was fun and fast.

Here is a closeup of the pictures on the panel. They are holiday scenes in subtle tones -- but don't worry, I compensated for the subtlety with the red backing! Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Let's see if this works

I'd like to add a photo and the url to grab mine from gmail is too long for blogger's taste, so I'm posting it here and will grab it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I had heard of minkee, and when I finally felt it, it was beyond what I had imagined. Soft -- so soft! -- that you just want to keep touching it. I had also heard it was hard to stitch, so I hesitated to buy any.

But when I saw the fabulous blankets my nieces' Aunt Barb made for their new babies, I just had to try it. (Here's a photo of the one she made for Andrew.) Only one place in town carries Minkee, and they had a limited selection, but I bought some to make a small blanket for a newborn daughter of one of Brian's colleagues. Not hard to do! And quick.

Here's what I learned:
(I like this feature on Jocelyn's blog, so I'm doing it, too.)

1. Buy a lint roller and keep a vacuum or two handy when you work with minkee. There is amazing fuzz everywhere! Did I say everywhere? I meant EVERYWHERE!

2. Minkee is a cheap high. I don't care how bad you feel, working with that amazingly soft fabric makes you feel better. It does slip and slide, but somehow it just didn't bother me, because I was trying to hold that cushy-soft minkee in place.

3. Minkee is almost as good as bubblewrap. It doesn't have that satisfying sound, but button pushers and bubblewrap poppers (Val, are you listening?) will love the dotted minkee. Those little dots can be pushed down and popped up forever. You can get a closer look at the bubble dots in the photo to the left (they look a lot like what are called popcorn stitches in knitting).

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Happy Challah-day and A Mystery Solved

L'shana tovah! (Or "happy new year" for those of you who don't speak Hebrew -- of course, I don't speak Hebrew either, but I know a phrase or two.) Today is Rosh Hoshannah, the Jewish New Year, which is celebrated by eating apples dipped in honey to ensure a sweet new year. A circular, raisin-studded challah flavored with honey and spices usually is on the table, too. The challah must be covered and blessed before it is eaten. And that's what the mystery block of a few posts ago has become -- a challah cover:

After Val described a meal she had at Jocelyn's, marvelous in most ways but pitiful in that they resorted to using a paper towel to cover the challah, I knew I had to get busy and make something a little more elegant. I found the pattern in Q is for Quilt by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes. It's a block from a larger quilt. The blocks are made in such a clever way -- each basic block (as in the mystery block) is cut in half diagonally to make the basket, then setting triangles are added and a plain rectangle is stitched to the top. The apples are appliqued.

I completely loved the machine quilting in the book, but of course, I have no skills in that area. But what the heck -- a challah cover is small and each block makes two, so if I totally blew it ... But it came out pretty well! I added the bee to symbolize the honey. I wrote apples and honey in one of the v's of the basket, but it doesn't really show up. (To make the rest of the quilting easier to see, click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Val, I sent this one to Jocelyn (care of Laurel, since Jocelyn currently has no address -- though she will soon! -- and Jocelyn got to play a little with Julia and Andrew as a bonus when she picked up the cover), but yours is underway!

Saturday, September 09, 2006


Happy Mother's Day to me! Val made that very cute tea caddy you can see among all those tea boxes. It's a Mother's Day gift that just got finished. I love it! I'll put several different tea bags in it and keep it in my purse. I wish I had had it this past week in Denver. The hotel I stayed in had only Earl Grey tea in the room, one of the few teas I just don't like. Rather an odd choice for a hotel, but I suspect that they used to have several varieties and this is just what was left. I don't think very many people are that fond of Earl Grey (nothing against the Earl himself, please, but the tea...).

'Tis a mystery!

Ah, yes, a nice boring square- in-a-square block. What's mysterious about that? It won't stay that way! I can't tell you more than that (it would spoil the surprise), but I will post the finished product. I promise. It's already getting close.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4!

In this block for my Press for Success class, we had four centers to snip the threads in the seam and swirl around -- plus a fifth intersection where we simply snipped the seam to let the fabric fall in opposite directions. Pretty amazing. (Click on the photo to see the block in greater detail.) This block is called Shoo Fly, a new one for me. Again, my fabric choice obscures the design. I'm starting to regret that I chose such a big print. I knew it would be weird, but I wish I had kept the lines of the stitching cleaner.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Beautiful beyond words

Oh, I see, I think you think I think this block is beautiful. Well, I like it, but don't really want to waste my bragging rights on this. What I am referring to is the BACK of the block. While I did the stitching myself, the beauty is all from the wonderful method I learned in my Press for Success class. I can't believe how amazingly flat this block is. Right now it is next to my computer and I am patting it from time to time just because I can't believe it's real or that I had any part in its construction. Click on the photo to enlarge it if you want a better look at the way the block is put together.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Kudos for Myrna!

Here's my finished center block for Myrna Giesbrecht's Press for Success class at Quilt University. It went together so easily. I love putting blocks together this way! And check out the back:

What I really love about this (besides the flatness of the block) is that the blocks will join easily with butted seams. Take a look at the photo of the back. To join blocks, turn one a quarter turn and see how the seams butt up to each other so well! Hoorah!

Celtic Corners

Here's my Celtic tablerunner as it stands so far. Once you stitch down the bias on one side, you have to go back and stitch down the other. I think I'll do that all at the end, so right now it looks a little bumpy and curvy because the far side is coming up a bit. It's a neat project -- fun to learn how to put this together in a reasonable way rather than with one long piece of bias that you form appropriately. I worked on this in the car on the way back from Chicago, and had quite a headache by the time we got home. I hope it isn't a problem on airplanes!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Hovering Hawks

"Hovering Hawks" sounds so dramatic, like something is about to swoop down from the sky. It's the name of the first block for my sampler in the Press for Success class. (Did I hear you groan at the pun?) The angularity of the block and the half-square triangles (HST's) look like hovering hawks, I guess, but the impact of the line is somewhat diminished by my fabric choice (see photo below). That's ok, however, as I love my fabrics and couldn't stand a sampler of traditional blocks in traditional fabrics.

Anyhow, we started by making a grid and stitching 1/4" from the diagonal lines to form HST's. Very cool!

Then we cut along the lines and pressed (very important!) carefully, and trimmed the blocks to exactly the same size. It really is easy to work with blocks that are exact.
And this is what the block looks like!

And, very important, this is what the back looks like. Nice and flat, no?

Monday, August 21, 2006

My quilting buddy's convergence quilt

Great quilt, no? Glen, my good quilting friend, made this. It's a Ricky Tims convergence quilt that she made with hand-dyed fabric. Just gorgeous!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Consistency of taste & other news

I read somewhere once that if you buy only things you really love for your house, eventually you'll find that everything goes together, even though purchased independently. That's because your taste affects all your purchasing decisions. I seem to have very definite negative taste ("I don't like that"), but it's not clear to me that there is a cohesive style that captures what I do like. In any case, I laughed when Val gave me these great earrings on my birthday -- look at the quilt I was making at the time! I definitely like these!

And speaking of quilts I'm making, lesson 2 just went up yesterday for my QU classes. I have started stitching the celtic applique. I cheated and marked the design on my fabric with pencil. The instructor is afraid pencil won't wash out, but there are disadvantages to other marking methods, too. One student in our class marked hers, but the weather was humid, and when she picked it up to start stitching, all her markings had disappeared! Suzanne Marshall, who taught another applique class I took, marks everything in pencil, so I decided to do that. I marked well within the pattern lines to be sure the bias tape covers it up. Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sampler done!

Yay! Here is the completed top for my first Press for Success sampler. I don't know what I'll do with it, but the pressing techniques will really help me with future projects.

Watch your back

My Press for Success class at QU is wonderful! Myrna Giesbrecht, the instructor, does a fabulous job. This is the back of our first sampler project. It's a simple 1-patch, no problem, but by the time all the rows get joined, there are always some seams going in the wrong direction and you get lumpy messes at the intersections. Myrna has a pressing plan for everything, so we pressed half the blocks one way, half another, and different rows different ways, etc., until by the last two rows that we joined, every seam on the row matched perfectly, each side butting nicely with the other. (Doubleclick on the photo to enlarge it so you can see how flat everything is.) The back looks great, and in front, the points are all perfect! This is all the more amazing because I did not use even one single pin during this whole project. I still have to put on the two borders. (She has one on the sampler, but I'm using two because my fabrics need them.) I can't wait until we do flying geese blocks!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Viva Italia!

Val has a blog! It's all set up for when she goes to Italy. She PROMISES to post photos so those of us on this side of the Atlantic can get vicarious pleasure from her sojourn. Check out the link to the right!
Disclaimer: Just so you know, I'm not the only one who suggested (over and over) that she become a blogger while abroad.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Good things come in EBay packages

Today's my birthday!! And I got three wonderful packages from EBay, each containing a fabric with a moose print. Thank you, Jocelyn & Valerie! As Val says, they all match since they all have moose(s), even though one is black with red mooses, one is green with batik mooses, and the other is blue and white one above. I need to don my Maine moose shirt and get a-quiltin'!

Am I biased? You bet!

And here's the proof! I just made 24 strips of bias tape for my Celtic tablerunner class. The instructor, Nancy Chong, gave directions for a simple way to make bias tape from any fabric using a Clovis bias tape maker (that's the little doohicky in the photo) -- but we don't follow the directions that come with the gadget. She has a very clever way to do it. She also has us pinning them on a paper towel tube to keep them from opening before we use them. Since they were so easy to make once I got the knack, I made them while Val and I watched an episode of Monk on TV. Guess what Val did:

And here I am, showing off:

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Will the rightful owner please speak up?

Even I need to clean out the knitting basket every now and then, and yesterday had a "now and then" feeling to it. I knew there were two things in it, both needing to be finished, but I was delighted to find that one needed only to be cast off and the other just needed some ends woven in. Hoorah! But what was that fuzzy black thing at the bottom? Another scarf, presumably knit by one of my offspring, but I am not sure which one (sorry guys!). Could you let me know?
Here's a close-up of the yarn in case that will jog anyone's memory. Nice, I really like it!

The Little Man was in a modeling mood, so he agreed to show off the other two scarves. I have these, plus a lovely one Val made me, and so I shall have to be certain to wear them this winter. I think what I need now is a thinner, cotton scarf that I can wear indoors. No one sees the outdoor scarves, or if they do, they are too busy stomping their feet and rubbing their arms to keep warm to notice.

Our Little Man was given to us by Brian's mother when we moved into our previous house. She bought him at a crafts fair in Florida and asked the vendor to send him directly to us. When he saw the address, he told her that his sister and brother-in-law, a professor at the UI, lived in the same town. Seven or eight years later I went to a PTA committee meeting at someone's home only to discover all sorts of little men (and little dogs and little cats and not-so-little men) like ours all over the house. Turns out the woman's brother had made our little man.