Friday, July 28, 2006

Emily Dickinson sampler

Emily Dickinson sampler
Originally uploaded by crafty mathea.
It's Friday again, and I have not posted anything at all since last Friday. To busy stitching I suppose... Well, actually I think it's the heat getting to me - I haven't been up to doing much of anything except stitching.
I thought I'd show another WIP this time - one of the cross-stitch projects I'm currently working on. This one is from Stitcher's World and features a lovely Emily Dickinson poem. I had finished the beehive and the vases of flowers some time ago and then put it away for a while, as I couldn't quite face stitching all the letters. When I finally got around to it, it only took a few days. Typical! What was I waiting for?
I'm sorry the picture is a little blurry. That comes mainly from having a cheap ancient digital camera, and partly from the skill of the photographer... It does not have a zoom feature and doesn't take good close-ups. This is particularly obvious when I try to photograph cross-stitch - something about those little pixel-like stitches being converted to digital pixels seems to make the pictures extra blurry. Well, at least I know what to wish for for my birthday. Any suggestions about what type of camera to get? About the sampler: a floral border outside the one I've started and then some bees here and there, and it's done. It shouldn't take too long, if I don't put it away again, that is! At least now I have blogged about it, and that should keep me motivated to finish it. Feel free to ask about my progress ;-) !
As for the other WIP, my kite quilt, I have actually finished the top! I found a great Jan Mullen fabric for the backing and I'll just give it a quick wash and then I'm ready to layer and quilt. All the kites will get tails, but I haven't quite decided whether I'll just use a contrasting rayon thread and ordinary stitches, the triple stitch on my sewing machine or some cording to make the tails stand out more. I think the latter option would look great, but that might prove too much of a temptation for inquisitive little fingers - I'm not too sure ... ??

Friday, July 21, 2006

On the balcony

It just occured to me that I have forgotten to show pictures of this quilt which I finished just over a week ago. It started out as a summer project and was originaly meant to be a table cloth. However, I soon decided that it was a bit too busy and bright for my table, so I decided to back it with polar fleece and use it as a throw instead. And here it is, ready for an evening on the balcony watching the sun go down.

The pattern is inspired by Kaffe Fasset's Pennants-quilt from his first patchwork book, and is made using one of the Tri-rec rulers. I had never tried those before, but I was impressed with the speed and ease with which the whole thing went together without using templates. I used a store-bought fleece blanket with rounded corners, hence the rounded edges on the quilt. I was quite impressed with the way I managed to keep track of all the blocks and which way they were to go, what with having to transport the pieces back and forth between home and quilt shop, but after quilting I realized that I had got one of the blocks in the wrong way after all. Never mind, it's there to stay now and I suppose most people won't notice it! And I have stopped being coy about the things I make - "no, this is nothing, and look at the mistakes I've made..." was what I used to respond with if people complemented my work. Now I prefer to smile and thank them for noticing, and try not to blush for being so self-congratulatory. As adults we tend to put ourselves down a bit. I think I have something to learn from my youngest nephew: when someone tells him that he is clever he simply says "yes I know"! A bit too much coming from a forty-something, I suppose, but a slightly modified version accompanied by lowered lashes and a bashful smile might be all right...
Talking of my youngest nephew: here is a glimpse of my WIP, the kite quilt that he will get for his birthday. I have joined the kites and background pieces in strips now and here they all are ready to be joined together. The picture shows an example of my summer laziness, I have taken to using my embroidery frame (hiding an unfinished tapestry) to hang the strips from so I just have to swivel around on my chair by the sewing machine to grab the next trip when stitching them together.
And now, back to the balcony...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I think I'll hang on to that day job...

Isn't this lovely? It is not one of my creations, but a free pattern found here. There is one dress for each month of the year (this is the March dress) all in 50s style. A friend of mine sent me the link yesterday, and I've been thinking about them ever since. These dresses are from a time when my mother was a young girl. She's about to retire from work this autumn, and I was thinking that a quilt, wallhanging or something with these dresses might be a fittingly nostalgic present for her. Or maybe I'll just stitch them and keep them for myself... Or make one set for me and one for her! They are not too complicated, and shouldn't take too much time to stitch, hm... tempted!

But first things first, there is a kite quilt to finish. It is coming along nicely, but it is a good thing that I don't do this for a living: with all the frogging I have had to do on this project, I would never have made enough of an income to keep myself in the style I'm accustomed to :-D I have persevered though, and I can safely say that I have got the hang of this foundation piecing thing again, for now... I think it will be a while before I try it again, and by then I will probably have forgotten how to do it and will have to start all over again.

Never mind, I have finished all the blocks now and joined them to the background pieces, so I have five strips of blocks laid out ready to be stitched to the narrow strips that go in between. As long as I manage to get some quality time with my sewing machine tomorrow, I'll manage to get those finished as well and I can start assembling the quilt top. So far I'm confident that I will manage to complete the quilt before August 10th, to present it to the birthday boy.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Oh what joy!

I received my books from Amazon the other day. These three had all been on my wish list for a while, and when I realized they were all available on special offer, the finger on the mouse button only had to make a few rapid up and down motions and the trio was on it's way to my home...

They arrived a couple of days ago and I haven't really had time to study them at length yet, but with this lovely weather and my balcony garden being at the peak of its beauty right now, I'll be enjoying some precious leisure time there poring over these gems this weekend. The one I have been spent most time with so far is Kristin Nicholas' "Colorful Stitchery" - such an inspiration! I have done some embroidery over the years. Although my main focus - before I discovered quilting - was on cross-stitch, I have tried crewel work and after a embroidery class last winter I think I've finally got the hang of stem stitch and feather stitch as well. This book really inspires me to try it on some useful items for the home.

My mother and my grandmother both did various needle crafts, but the person who really inspired me to create was in fact my great grandmother, who died long before I was born. The country cottage where she lived all her married life is full of items she created. Beatifully crocheted curtains, appliqued wallhangings, embroidered tablecloths and chair covers - you name it, she did it all. Sadly my aunt and uncle who inherited the place have no appreciation of "old stuff", so it's not all on display anymore, but at least I have been allowed to "rescue" a lot of her things for safe keeping. Hm, that's subject of a whole blog post of it's own, I think. I really should photograph and catalogue all those tablecloths...

Back to the book. Although it is a fresh take on an old craft, it also reminds me of some of the work of the Bloomsbury set. I remember visiting an exhibition about Dora Carrington's work in the Barbican years back (probably around the release of the film about her life in 1995) and there were whole rooms designed to look like her home, where everything was painted and created especially for the places they were placed. Although the designs in this book are nothing like those, I get the same feeling of objects lovingly created to be displayed in rooms that are creatively put together. Such an inspiration!

The two quilt books, Denyse Scmidt Quilts and the Ringle/Kerr Modern Workshop one are also well known in Blogland, I think, and I will not be the first to draw inspiration from these. Once I have finished my self-appointed task of making quilts for all nieces and nephews I intend to spend more time creating just for the sake of creating and I believe these books will be among the ones that will help me further along this path. I can't wait to begin! But first I have some kite blocks to finish...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Another Friday, same WIP

It has been a hectic week, but I have made some progress on my kite-quilt. Here are some of the kites pinned up on the background sky fabric. I have actually finished all the kite parts of the blocks, and they will all go up on my design wall* tomorrow to decide which ones go where. Once I have decided, I can finish the blocks with sky-, sea- or sand-fabric respectively. I hope to have this done by the end of the weekend.

The Jan Mullen fabrics and some other brights from my stash seem to work quite well for the kites, so my soon to be six year-old nephew will get a bright and cheerful quilt to suit his bright and cheerful personality. He is such a sunny child, always with a glimpse of a dimple in his cheek and a twinkle in his eye as he talks a mile a minute and twists everyone around his little finger. I can't wait for him to see his quilt :-)

Talking of little boys, I was quite impressed by another little one yesterday. A group of us gathered at the local quilt shop for a stitch-and-chat. One of the girls couldn't get a sitter, and had brought along her son who's just turned five. He was put to work by his mum, making headbands for his cousins. His mother cut the fabric (chosen from his very own stash, which he brought in his own little bag) and some polar fleece for the backing. He stitched the pieces together on the sewing machine, his mother clipped the corners before he turned them inside out. His mother ironed them and he did the quilting, on the machine, before his mother added the velcro. He obviously enjoyed the whole process, working with his mother, choosing fabric and thread for each of the cousins and doing most of the work - it was obvious that this wasn't the first time he had used a sewing machine though. But it really goes to show how much a child can manage with a little help (and supervision) from an adult, if we dare to let them have a go. I bet he'll have wonderful memories of crafting with his mum, and who knows, maybe he will become a quilter when he grows up!

*"Design wall" is rather a grand name for it, come to think of it! I haven't got much free wall space available in my small flat, so my design wall consist of a flannel sheet with big metal eyelets in two corners. This is hooked on to the wall whenever I need to use it and is easy to take down again once I'm finished.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Is it better on paper?

I have started a new quilt. This is one I have been planning to make for quite a while. I have made bedquilts for my niece and for four of my five nephews, so it's about time that the youngest one gets his.
The original pattern is from an old copy of Quiltmaker, but I have changed it a bit, and found a fabric collection with sand, sea and sky that I think will work well as background for the colourful kites, some flying in the air and some waiting in the sand before they are launched - the impression I want to give is a fun day at the beach. The kites are supposed to be made with foundation piecing, and I made loads of copies of the paper foundations, got my fabrics out and got started. I have been wondering these past few days, though, if this paper piecing thing really is such a good idea...
I have done some earlier, but I can't remember having had so much trouble with it. The kites have angular pieces of different sizes, and it was quite a challenge remembering to place the fabric pieces in the opposite direction of where they were supposed to go when they were flipped over, and invariably I'd find that the piece of fabric I had used was just short of covering the whole area it was supposed to. It is no coincidence that my seam ripper is in the middle of the picture :-D
To make matters worse the bacground fabrics are directional, and I certainly don't want to have vertical clouds or waves, so there was a challenge... Luckily I remembered that I'd seen an article in an old issue of Quilter's Newsletter about paper piecing with directional fabrics and how to get it right, and I was able to find it and put it to good use. It took some time getting the hang of it, but I'm getting there...
What I find though, is that I have to cut the fabric in larger pieces than I would if I were piecing in the traditional way, and I end up with loads of offcuts that will really swell up my scrap bag. I think my puritan mind is having a slight reaction to all this waste, so I'm not too sure if this is the technique for me. Still, I am getting better at it, and that might serve me well in future projects - if I ever want to paper piece again, that is!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A nine-patch of plans

Originally uploaded by crafty mathea.

I tend to have several projects going at once, and sometimes it is a bit difficult to stay motivated, and remember what I intend to make before the deadline is there. There is also the risk of getting sidetracked and forget about current projects because something new and exciting pops up in my mind. That's the stuff UFOs are made of...

I won't even go there, just yet - I have several UFOs as well, but these are the projects I intend to put in some work on in the near future.

I have blogged about my bright pennant quilt, the Café de Paris quilt and the Home Sweet Home quilt recently, so I won't bore you with details yet again.

Then there is a new quilt about to get started: My youngest nephew is the only member of the family who hasn't got his own bedquilt yet, and his birthday is in August, so it is time to get started. The EQ sketch of kites in the top right corner is what I have in mind for him.

The Madison bag for my middle sister was a success, but there's no time to rest on my laurels. My older sister's birthday is coming up in less than a month, so there's another bag to make. She's not the very girly type, so the Madison bag will not do, but I caught her studying my turquoise Chelsea tote with great interest and I know she loves my green Kaffe Fasset quilt, so she'll get a green tote with foliage, fruit and flowers.

My Amy Butler quilt is still waiting for it's borders, but the good news is that the fabric has arrived, so that project is one step closer to fruition.

I have some quilted postcards lying around, some of which are half finished. They were made for a class and I had left them in different stages to show the whole process. There's really no excuse not to finish them...

A friend showed me a travel document folder she had bought and which I thought was a very good idea to bring along on one's travels - enough room too hold passport, tickets etc. As a "serious" quilter I wouldn't even dream of going out and buying one, though ;-) - I'm going to construct my own quilted version complete with zipper and all. I'd better finish that before my holidays in August.

Just to fill in the whole nine-patch of projects, I'm showing a glimpse of my stitchery quilt. I'm working on a series of garden themed embroideries that will be set with floral fabrics to make a garden quilt sometime in the distant future. For now it is just a nice set of little sewing projects that are quite handy to put in one's purse and do a bit of stitching on when I'm out and about - in waiting rooms, visiting with friends and so on.

Looking at all this I see that I have plenty to keep me occupied in the coming weeks - I'd better get started!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

That was quick!

I was holding my breath here to see if I managed to upload a picture. Blogger hasn't been cooperating with me the last few days, but I gather from the help-forum that I was not alone. I had ever so much trouble in getting pictures uploaded to my previous post, but eventually I managed it by creating a new post, uploading the pictures and copying the text into that one before deleting the previous one - what a computer genius! Enough said about that - it's just so frustrating when things don't work the way they should!
It dawned on me yesterday morning that my sister was on way home from her holiday in Cannes, and as she had celebrated her birthday while she was there, she would probably invite the family to a party once she got home. I have known her birthday was coming up, of course, and I have known what I was going to give her ever since my youngest sister's birthday in April, so why hadn't I done anything about it?! Procrastination could have been my middle name...
There was nothing for it though, so I set to work once I got out of bed. Cut the fabrics before I had my breakfast, and then it was off to the sewing machine. Luckily I have made this particular handbag (Amy Butler's Madison bag) so many times, that I could do it without checking the pattern every minute, so it went together during the day, and I actually managed to get a few other things done as well... The flower was hand stitched in the company of a good movie in the evening, and stitched on to the bag with a cone shaped button from an old blouse in the middle. Perfect for a flower, not so perfect on the blouse - dancing partners kept complaining about getting stung ;-)
The previous ones I've made have been made from Amy Butler fabric in bright colours, but that wouldn't do for this sister. I found a linen look-alike in soft colours with matching Jinny Beyer fabrics: green for the lining and dusky pink for the flower. I'm quite pleased with it myself, and I hope sis will be as well, when she gets it this afternoon, for sure enough, she phoned yesterday as I was putting the finishing touches on the bag, to invite us to a garden party today...