Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Spy received, a nice story -- and off on vacation!

My niece Laurel just phoned to say the I Spy quilt arrived and was a big hit! I'm so pleased. Here's a photo of her daughter Julia enjoying the quilt. Apparently Julia was so excited when the quilt arrived that she would hardly let it go so her mother could look at it! I have hexagons cut for 3 more I Spy quilts for my other nieces' and nephew's children. I must be crazy, but when I heard how excited Julia was to receive the quilt, it makes the time and effort more than worthwhile.With this I Spy quilt, part of my quilting journey has come full circle. I made my first quilt when I was a college freshman for the child my brother and his wife were expecting the following autumn. I didn't know how to make a quilt -- I just cut squares and stitched, some by hand, some by machine, using fabric we had on hand (I don't know why we had it). When I finished piecing it, I knew it needed backing -- I didn't know about batting in those days. So I purchased some flannel and borrowed a machine to stitch it envelope-style to the back. I didn't quilt it -- didn't know it needed it! I proudly gave it to my new niece Laurel. Alas, it fell apart the first time it was washed. Everything shrunk unevenly and the stitches pulled out. I was devastated, and gave up quilting.

Fast forward more than 30 years, to 2005. My husband and I spent 6 months in California on his sabbatical, just a few minutes from where Laurel lives now. I had decided the time was right to try quilting again. Coincidentally, Laurel had taken up quilting, but as a working mother of a newborn, she had no spare time to sew, so she lent me her machine. I took a class at a local quilt shop and haven't stopped quilting since! It feels right that I should make a quilt for Laurel's children -- hopefully, this one will hold together!

And finally, I am beyond excited about leaving tomorrow for vacation -- it promises to be an amazing trip (Amsterdam followed by bits of the Italian coast and Greek islands)! I will be back looking at blogs around July 17, and I hope you come back to visit me then, too. I'll have lots to post! Hope everyone is enjoying the summer (or winter, for you Australians). See you in a couple weeks!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Why can't yellow be spelled like Jello? (or why I sometimes get takeout for dinner)

I guess I could have also called this post "ow"!The o went together so fast that I thought I was on a roll, but the w ... let's just say I have a larger scrap pile than I used to! It took a loooong time, and now I wish I had made the little inner strokes wider. I had hoped to move on to another color word and if I hadn't made the mistake of checking the time, I would have. I almost did anyhow (love that Chinese takout), but I have been hankering for slow-roasted tomatoes and I had promised myself to get them into the oven for tonight. Brian came home with some amazing bread from Mirabelle's, and that with the tomatoes will be a to-die-for combo. They're in the oven now.
I have been working hard to finish up my I Spy this week, and Saturday we had a Project Linus workday, but my Stroop quilt has been in my mind the whole time. I am now thinking that I will try to make some small color words, too. Should be fun to do and will make for an interesting quilt. The Stroop effect must be pretty strong -- as I was thinking about how to make the w, I kept seeing it in yellow. I remembered that I had made the word red, but I couldn't remember what color I had chosen to make it! Odd, isn't it?

I thought I'd also share these two useful tools with you. Someone suggested using a toilet brush (a clean toilet brush) to pick threads up off the carpet. My sewing space is mostly uncarpeted, but I have one small rug and it gets really thready -- the brush works pretty well. I got the Cotton Picker at the Chicago Quilt Show and it's fantastic -- just swipe it over cloth and all the little quilt droppings (as my husband calls them) stick to it like a charm.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I Spy finished!

Just needs a label, which I'll do this afternoon. I don't usually label my quilts, but this is a gift for children and I want their names on it.
Here's the back. A friend suggested using the map, and I think it's a great idea.
We had a Linus workday yesterday and the guild member in charge of our raffle quilt brought the blocks that have been completed so far. (Some still need eyes.) We got permission from Ami Simms to make her adorable Dog-Yeared Calendar Quilt as a fundraiser for Project Linus. Each block has been made by a different guild member. When it's all put together, we'll raffle the quilt.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I Spy binding

Finally! I had hoped to have this in the mail this week, but with overnight guests, working, getting ready for vacation, and a bit of laziness on my part, I didn't get the binding on my I Spy. Didn't even work on any other quilting projects. This morning I read the Calico Cat's blog and she was discussing whether or not to trim the batting and backing before stitching on the binding. I was taught not to trim, did that once (my first quilt) and then never again. But I got thinking about it after I read her post and decided to try one more time to attach the binding before trimming. It was great! No worries about whether I was catching the backing, whether there would be enough fabric at the corners, etc. I think I'll do it this way from now on!

I also do mitered corners it what I have discovered is an uncommon way -- I stitch them in as I go.I learned this method from Sharon Pederson shortly after I started quilting. It's easy and since you begin and end at a corner, you don't have to do that tricky bit to get the binding ends to meet in the middle. It looks good when it's done, too. Directions are in both of her reversible quilts books, although she says it's not her discovery, just a method she was taught years ago.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Time for a real stretch

I don't have a background in art and I've sewn very little over the years, so I'm a little surprised at how intensely I've taken to quilting. I've spent the last couple years learning basic quilting skills and figuring out what works for me, and now I'm ready to break some rules! Actually, I don't think of it as breaking rules, I think of it as trying my wings -- finding out who I am as as a quilter. If the end result is not aesthetically pleasing, it doesn't matter what rules are followed or broken.

I love this book -- I've spent hours looking at the quilts and trying to figure out what makes them work. Most of them I like, several I love, and a few I could do without. It's not a pattern book, it's a book that gives you ideas you can play with. It shows you a few things you need to know, then sets you free. And now I'm going to give it a try! We recently repainted our main living area and changed the furniture. This was a big step for me -- my first walls that weren't white! We love it, but we have a big blank wall over the cranberry red couch. My wonderful husband suggested that it would be the perfect place for a quilt. And it would! So I'm going to try some of the suggestions in this book to come up with a quilt for that space. YES!

For other projects -- Laurel's I Spy quilt is almost completely quilted (I love watching the diamonds form on the back!) and in looking through the Outside the Block book, an idea for a border for my Stroop quilt just popped into my head -- I hadn't even thought about a border before! Can't wait. Unfortunately, I have to go to work in 10 minutes.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Art in the park

It's been so hot (93 degrees today) here lately that we've been heading over to Meadowbrook Park early in the morning to get in some walking before we melt. This morning I brought my camera with me. The park is a prairie preserve and also a sculpture garden, with maybe two dozen sculptures scattered along a two-mile loop. For reasons I don't quite understand, this one seems very quilty to me -- perhaps because of the squares? These guys, directly across the path from the previous sculpture, have always been among my favorites. They're not particularly happy fellows, but I like them anyhow. The whimsical nature of both sculptures really appeals to me.

And of course, Mother Nature provided some beauty of her own. This graceful deer was breakfasting some thirty feet from us. Yesterday we suddenly came upon a deer only eight feet distant. We stared at him and he stared at us, then bent his head and continued to eat. It makes getting up early worth the effort!

Friday, June 15, 2007


My younger daughter Val is home visiting for a few days (hoorah!) so most of my free time is spent with her, but I managed to find a few minutes today to get back to my Stroop quilt. The letters are not sewn together, but I laid them out on the background fabric for this photo. The scale is uneven, but I'm just leaving it for now and after awhile I'll figure out what I like and what I don't. The pink color is more true in this photo than in the one above:
I've been using Tonya's tutorial, but as her basic message is play, play, play, I haven't followed it to the letter (pardon the pun). I put an angled line in the y just to see what it would look like. I made one straight l and one angled l, but it turned out less angled than I had anticipated. I have found that to be a common problem for me. The angle always feels much bigger when I'm cutting and stitching than it appears when it's done.

I'll add the ow soon (the o looks easy but the w is a tad intimidating). Leaving it as yell for now has some merit. I had a rather unpleasant week at work and a bit of yelling might have been cathartic, if not productive in the long run. I did take today off to be with Val, however, and that was very nice. Actually, a couple days ago I wanted to work on my letters and found I was too keyed up to concentrate. I just wanted straight line sewing. Today when I started working, I was sorry I hadn't attempted the letters because they are so much fun that it would have been good for me.

And I found myself remembering that my dad once took some medication that made him see things in the wrong colors. His first clue to the problem was when he noticed a pink schoolbus on the road!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Borders, in more ways than one

I got the borders on the I Spy quilt a couple days ago. I had been worried that the green background was too dark, so I put in a yellow inner border to lighten it up a bit. I considered using FMQ to write the names of some of the items in the quilt along the inner yellow border, but was afraid it would get sloppy. I also would need to do that before I made the sandwich since it would read backwards on the back and would interfere with the map I'm using for backing. I think there's probably enough going on this top that I don't need to add more. Here's a very crooked photo.

I was looking at this quilt closely again and noticing all the little things I had fun including. I have a hexagon with a Dutch girl in it, since this is for the children of my niece who lived in the Netherlands growing up. I put in a block of Abe Lincoln, since I live in Illinois. There's a hand print block that makes me think of the sweatshirt with my kids' hand prints that I made when they were very young. And then I thought of my niece's children looking at this quilt and I wondered what memories they will form of it, and how long they will carry those memories? I must be in a reflective mood, because it reminded me of the old Simon & Garfunkel song that alludes to the 'borders of our lives'. Normally I'm not so sentimental, don't know what brought this on.

As long as I'm on the topic of borders, I'll mention that I'm crossing a few this summer. We'll be spending a couple weeks in Greece and Italy, preceded by a few days in Amsterdam. I can't wait!! I've been to both Amsterdam and Italy before (though only one of the places in Italy we're going this time) but I've never seen Greece. Here are a couple things I'm looking forward to:

The amazing mosaics. This was my one and only quick shot of the tiles in the entry way of San Marco in Venice. No photos allowed inside. I didn't know that meant no photos in the entry, but they let me know very quickly. As you can tell by the light reflecting in the upper left corner, these tiles were underwater -- Venice does flood. Truly amazing floors, amazing. I bought a book with photos of many of them, and came home and got Bella Bella Quilts.

This was a stairway landing in the Doge's palace next door, where photos are allowed.
And, of course, I'm looking forward to good eats! Here's a cheese stand at a farmer's market in Tuscany.
And here's where you can go to learn to cook -- but with such flavorful, fresh ingredients, you don't have to be a chef to make delicious food.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Busy week with Linus

It has been a very busy week getting ready for a Project Linus worknight. I'm chair of the Linus committee at my guild and it is far more work than I had anticipated, though I feel good about it. People have been extremely generous with fabric donations, although not all of it is really child-friendly (but we've been working on creative ways to incorporate that fabric into the quilts). This week we made Happy Houses.It was so much fun, although the sewing took no time compared to the hours I spent sorting through our fabric and cutting out the pieces. Do click on the photo to enlarge it so you can see all the people and animals in the doorways. If you're interested in making any Happy Houses yourself, I have links to the original directions and some simplified cutting info posted on the blog I keep for the guild's Linus projects. Click here for the instructions. I'm trying to decide on sashing -- all suggestions welcome!

The roof and sky are made by the quick corners method, which is easy but wasteful. One of the ladies stitched all the leftover triangle pairs into squares. We have a big block box where we put leftovers like this and eventually they get used in a quilt.

And finally, here I am in my very messy sewing space. Brian had put a new memory card in the camera and snapped this photo to be sure it was working. I'm putting the borders on the I Spy quilt I'm making for Laurel's kids. I trimmed the hexagons without incident, thank goodness, and hope to finish up the quilt this week. I'll post a photo soon.

A red thumb

I wish I liked to garden. I do love gardens, I just don't enjoy the process of gardening, and I confess to some guilt about that -- like I'm deficient in spirit for not liking to dig in the earth. I have tried gardening with very mediocre results and I think of myself as having a brown thumb. But a couple years ago last November, some friends brought over three bare twigs with the unlikely claim that they were from their raspberry bush and stuck them into the ground behind our house. Incredible! Even I can't stop their frenzied growth (and why would I want to?). Such luscious berries, so full of flavor after the tasteless fruit from the grocery store. Although I'm sure I don't get credit for this -- people tell me I couldn't get rid of the bushes if I tried -- I now think of myself as having a red thumb. Well, maybe only rosy red, as I have never done well with tomatoes.

Every morning for the past week we trot out the back door and pick berries for breakfast. So delicious! We have so many this year that I may even try a berry pie, though as DH Brian says, why would I want to ruin them by cooking?

Dear California relatives, eat your hearts out! And if any of you grow raspberries out there, please don't tell me.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The red blue

On Saturday I made the word blue for my Stroop effect quilt. (And what did I do on Sunday? Nothing as fun as this was!) Making these letters is the most fun I've had quilting in a long time, and I always enjoy quilting! I've been playing around with different angles in the letters. It's a real mind bender to know how to cut and stitch angles so that you end up with the fabric opening in the right direction enough to cover the area that needs to be covered. I'm learning! None of the letters are sewn together, and I've left plenty of extra fabric so I can lop things off as need be. The letters are different in scale -- compare the b and u -- and partly I love that and partly it drives me crazy (as my husband says, it's not a long trip!). I'm going to make lots of color words before making any decisions about things like scale. I'm practicing this type of freedom in my quilting (just like I try to practice being 'random') and I'm hoping the final quilt will be the better for it.

I also realized that I was not picturing straight rows of words, but rather helter-skelter words at odd angles all over the quilt. I don't know if that's how I'll actually do it, but it will be a piecing challenge if I decide to go that route. Still, I think it can be done. Whatever I decide, I may have to re-do some words or letters, but at this point that thought doesn't bother me. This quilt is a real learning experience.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Quick -- What color is this?

Did you say red or green? It confuses your brain because it's getting both messages -- the word red but the color green. Psychologists call this the Stroop effect. You can learn more about it at a neuroscience site sponsored by the University of Washington, and it even has a couple tests you can take to see how much more quickly you can say the colors when they match the word than when they don't. This is the beginning of my next quilt, the one with rainbow colors hinted at in the previous post.

I am totally smitten with Tonya's wonky letters. So engaging! So many possibilities! I've been toying with various ideas about how to use them and finally settled on this. Seems to fit the style of the letters, too. If you've never seen Tonya's quilts, you're in for a treat. Her blog is Lazy Gal Quilting, and on the sidebar she has a link to tutorials for her wonky letters. It's not my usual style to just cut and stitch without measuring several times first, but it was a blast!

Here's a photo of an old (a very old) t-shirt of mine that has the mismatched color words. Guess I've been fascinated by this for a long time. We saw an exhibit on the Stroop effect at a science museum in Canada many years ago and my husband, who is a cognitive psychologist, explained it to our kids and me. My older daughter went on to major in social psychology in college and the younger one is finishing her major in cognitive neuroscience, so this quilt will fit our family well!