Friday, August 8, 2014

Recycled to Modern

I remember going to the Denyse Schmidt show at the NE Quilt Museum awhile back and an older lady whispered to me "There's no such thing as modern quilting, just new quilters that don't know we've already done it all."  At the time I thought maybe the chip on her shoulder was causing her to oversimplify, but after checking out the recent Quilts and Color exhibit at the MFA a few times, I have to admit she's got a point.  I mean, yes, there are new interpretations of old patterns and techniques, new ways things get put together, new color combinations and perspectives, but all of it has some foundation (piecing, ha ha) in what's already been done.  

What I realized at Quilts and Color is, that's what I LIKE about quilting - none of it's new, but it's all new to me, and I can make it without the calico.  My favorite moment of this exhibit was when I came around a corner and saw this quilt from the 1840s. 

You can't tell from the picture, but that's a red calico!

How had the modern Orange You Glad You Married Me quilt I made for my husband last year gotten onto a wall at the MFA?  I mean, I'm flattered, but I remembered sleeping under it just last night!


After this discovery I started comparing all the quilts to things I had made. The wedding rings picnic blanket I did for a friend?

This 1940 unknown African-American quilter from Missouri version seems, well, more modern:

My economy square?

That pattern's been around since at least 1840, albeit without the cats:

I don't mean to come across as a complete narcissist - after I got done comparing all the quilts to my own, I just stood back in awe of the color combos (that was the point of the exhibit)

That border, with all those skinny stripes echoing the inside!

I love this border - I will recycle this idea soon!

I actually don't love this quilt, but I'm in awe of it

My favorite color combination of all time

And the mind-blowing handwork.  Can you imagine piecing this star so precisely by hand? I can hardly imagine doing it with a machine.  That's a life's work there.  Just amazing.

And the applique quilts without the use of fusible web, spray baste or a machine set on zig-zag? I dedicated two months to my first needle-turn project - the corners are unbearable, the patience and precision are just... well it was just awful.  It's nice to feel like the pain of that project is finally serving a purpose.  Now I can look at a quilt like this and realize how close to inhuman the workmanship is.  It's a new experience for me - to get emotional over a piece of art, not because of what it looks like, but because I understand the love and determination and patience that must've gone into creating it.  It makes me a little sad that the quilter doesn't know her work is hanging in the MFA right now.

I mistook this Mennonite for a Hawaiian.
Who knew they had so much in common?
It was an education in color theory for sure, but this exhibit was also inspiring in so many other ways.  Feeling grateful to be learning all that I am.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Love

Every once in awhile a fabric comes along that is just Love At First Sight.  That happened to me with this dark teal Liberty fabric a couple of years ago, with the unfortunate name 'Mitsi':

The thing about Liberty fabrics is they're obscenely expensive and they are usually a very, very thin cotton.  So unless you know exactly what you want to do with it, it doesn't feel like a wise investment.  Even if it's the purdiest thing you ever did see.  Even if all your friends want to date it too.  Even if it drives a really nice convertible and has a dog.

Being a rational person, I didn't buy Mitsi right away. But every few months I would cyber-stalk it, just to make sure SOMEONE  was still selling it. And a couple of months ago it seemed like it was starting to disappear - not a good sign when only Etsy sellers have stock left. I bought two yards without a plan. I would have always regretted it if I hadn't made my move.

This is the summer shirt I decided on.  I needed to do a tester because I didn't want to make a mistake with Mitsi, come off as overly enthusiastic.  so I did a first version for my sister with another voile favorite, Amy Butler's Josephine's Bouquet.

The back had this pretty tie to make it size-adjustable:

It came out nice enough, but was pretty roomy and the v-neck wasn't working with the sleeves so well.

So when I cut into Mitsi I went x-tra small (I know, if you've ever seen me in real life you can guess where this is going) and did a more tailored sleeveless version with the v-neck.

I didn't try it on until after I sewed in the arm and neck lining, because I thought Mitsi and I had an understanding.  I thought we were in this together.  I had no idea how uncomfortably tight it would be across the shoulders, or how the alignment of the v in the neck with the gathers at the waist would just be so, so wrong.

All to say, this is going to need to be un-sewn (and I used the tiniest stitches which will be hell to rip out), and maybe re-sewn without the pretty French seams, or repurposed altogether.  That's the end of my trying-to-sew-clothes phase for awhile. The girl totally burned me. The fantasy of matching sister shirts was nice while it lasted. I hear Sister Responsibly and Amy Butler are still going strong out in sunny California.

Luckily I've spent the last couple of weeks working on a much more successful project.  My first entirely paper-pieced quilt, full of some lovely new fabrics.  Maybe not Love-At-First Sight fabrics, but some Japanese cottons that were at least nice to hang out with.  I'll show it for real once it's shown some loyalty quilted.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My First (Dresden Plate)

Our Modern Quilt Guild did a sewing room swap where you picked someone's name and anonymously made them a gift for their sewing room.  I'm usually more into the giving part of this kind of thing (hello, Secret Santa) since it involves my two favorite things: getting creative and surprising people.  But in a swap with these talented ladies I must admit I was selfishly much more excited about what I was going to get.  I was not disappointed!

One of the suggestions I'd given my giver was a knitting needle organizer.  I've bought material specifically for this project twice, but never got around to designing or making anything.  This has been my system since I bought my first pair of needles seven years ago:

I was lucky enough to have my name picked by the amazing and talented Hema, and knew before opening it that this was going to be so much better than anything I'd make for myself.

The back has this lovely umbrella material and my NAME, which as you all know, if you've seen my next generation quilts, is one of my favorite things to include on a handmade gift.  So I loved that, especially since it was in my favorite color.

The inside had more fabric from the same April Showers line - originally from Seattle, anything with a rain/umbrella motif will always remind me of home.  Since knitting is really a cold and rainy day activity, it felt particularly appropriate.

It took me about two seconds to fill this up and discover I had as many as three sets of the same size needle - now I know exactly what I have and will never buy another duplicate. And how nice that there's space for the long needles and right below, the double-pointeds? You'd think she was a knitter.  Everything I wanted to, fit, including the crochet hooks and stitch holders.  Thanks so much Hema!

My recipient had no requests in terms of object or color, so I got to do whatever I wanted.  I had never heard of thread catchers until I saw them at Quilt Camp, and immediately wanted one (so everyone else must too, right?).

They're like little trash cans you can hang off your sewing table for when you clip threads/corners so your floor doesn't look like mine.  I decided to use this pattern, and was pretty happy with how it came out.  My only complaint is that you're supposed to use glue in several different sections when sewing wasn't that hard and made it so much nicer.  I ended up only using glue to attach the rubber shelving mat on the bottom, and even that I'd sew on next time.

This was a May project so I was feeling summer and went with yellow and this corn/sunflower fabric that I bought too much of at Marden's ($2.99 a yard!).  I don't even like yellow that much, but I like it here - and since it turns out my recipient lives in Florida most of the time...

The top is a pin-cushion topped with a mini-dresden plate, which I'd never tried before.  It was totally quick and easy and made me want to make a whole quilt of them.

The pin cushion is velcro-d to the stability tile, so you can detach it if you need it elsewhere:

I was very happy with what I gave and got, can't go wrong in a swap!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Meh Mondays

I don't get to much of the Sunday Times anymore, but I usually make an honest effort with the magazine, and always make it at least to the Meh List. It seems like it'd be easy to come up with entries for this, just like it seems like coming up with a good entry for the New Yorker caption contest would be easy - but it's not.  This week has been all about Meh projects over here.  Maybe I'll make that like a craft blogger thing - we've already got Work-In-Progress Wednesday and Finish-It-Up Friday, maybe it's time for Meh Monday, where you post the projects you finished, but that either aren't that impressive or that you aren't that happy about.  Only I'm sharing on Friday, because I've got to move on to bigger and better things!

My first project was a new seat for the stroller I got J for Christmas.  The cheap-o fabric gave way on December 26th and the poor thing has been pushing it around for a few months now, unable to figure out why everything keeps falling out the right side.

The frame at least seemed sturdy enough, so I'd been meaning to do a new cover.  I really wanted to incorporate pompoms.  We like pompoms around here, we just aren't sure what to do with them.  J puts them in the salad spinner, the cats smack them all over the house and I just like to squeeze the ones that come on a ribbon like this:

Then I found this fabric last week.  J and Smashy Cat have been very sweet together lately; she likes to show him books about cats and he likes to smash his head into hers.  This totally reminded me of them (despite the whole vegetarian thing in this house):

It was about an hour project, very simple to just copy the old one.  

Not at all what these pompoms were intended for.  It looked much better before I put them on, but someone is really into them and I'm worried about what would happen if they were suddenly gone. It got a very satisfying reaction from the recipient who saw it through a window and started jumping up and down yelling "I see that! It's COOT!" So, kind of ridiculous but there you have it. 

I also did some spring cleaning this week, since spring has suddenly decided to show up.  I had to throw away about six of my favorite t-shirts because they've developed these little holes.

This is the genius of ladies clothing manufacturers - get us addicted to these super-thin, soft t-shirts that will only last a season, charge us twice as much because they're "tissue paper thin" and then sell us replacements next year.

For some reason the holes in my shirts are always concentrated in the stomach area.  I have no idea why that would be.  But these Ciao Bella salted caramel ice cream bars are pretty incredible (skip the other flavors, this is the only good one).

I remember seeing a tutorial about turning your oldies into toddler t-shirts, which seemed like a nice way to give them a second life.  You just lay out your shirt:

Lay a T that fits your kid on top and trace down each side and across the bottom:

Sew the sides, take up the bottom too (or don't, it could be a dress if you don't have those stupid holes), and there you have it:

Hey, and if the neck is too wide and goes all flash dance, just add a binder clip - they don't even notice.

The whole thing took under ten minutes.  Wasn't sure what to do about the neck, but a friend suggested elastic, and that took another three minutes to string a 1/4" strand through the pre-existing neck. Here's the finished product:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Sun Tea Dress

Does anyone else remember Red Rose Tea? I think it was like the Lipton Brisk of the 1950s (and '60s and '70s).  The kind of thing you won't find at Whole Foods but they still believe in it at Market Basket. We had it in our kitchen growing up, but I think we only used it for sun tea.

I don't remember ever getting a porcelain miniature...
I remember trying to serve it to my Grandpa Lee once, thinking it was so sophisticated with the little red rose on the tag. That's when he told me that I should never drink bagged tea because it was made up of all the dirt they swept up from the factory floor after the good leaves had been sold as loose leaf.  Other lessons from Grandpa Lee:
1. You shouldn't order fried rice because it's just a way for the chef to dispose of leftovers;
2. It's OK if you bruise easily, it's because you have aristocratic blood; and
3. Education is the one thing they can never take away from you.

But those are discussions for another day. I have fond memories of both the box and the dusty, factory-floor-flavor of this particular tea and the sweet, sweet tags - I knew someone would do something creative with these if I just searched Etsy!

When I found three yards of this material at Fabric Basement, it was a throwback to the Red Rose days.  I pictured a cute tea-length skirt or something simple and retro that wouldn't throw me too far off my carefully-calendared creative track.

I abandoned the skirt idea when I came across this much-too-complicated dress pattern that seemed perfect for the roses: Simplicity 1687.

I KNOW- $18.95, are they crazy? All I can say, is it would've been a good opportunity to use a Joann's coupon, if I'd had a current one.  Simplicity is very proud of the fact that they have never adjusted their sizes, so you are really supposed to go by measurement.  This can be really disheartening.  According to Simplicity, I needed to go up FIVE sizes. Fantastic.  Way to make me feel like this dress will be flattering.

I made the lining first, just to test it out, and it was HUGE.  Like ten inches too wide. When I cut into my pretty rose fabric I chopped it down three sizes, blindly hoping maybe that would fit? It's already way out of character for me to make a lining first, so there would be no more testing.  A reminder of why I shouldn't make clothes and should stick to quilts.  Just as I was finishing, I realized I'd included an extra panel in the original lining I did - which was (in part) why it was so huge.  The dress barely fit - at the last minute I had to make some awfully narrow seams and even my hidden zipper got into the act, affording me another 1/4 inch since I didn't "hide" it.

Aside from sizing, I was also really annoyed that the pictures showed a contrast fabric both above and below the pocket zipper while the written pattern only included fabric below, which is just dumb and would look totally weird.  Here's how they suggested it would look:

I had to make that part up myself.  Who publishes a pattern with that kind of mistake?  Sorry, but if you're going to sell something like this at a premium price, you might want to test it. My improvisation was good enough:

Aside from the pulling at the neck (I think my shot cotton was too thin? Or something with thread tension or not enough curve clipping? Although I clipped the heck out of it. It's so hard to learn from your mistakes when you aren't sure what they are), I think it came out pretty nice.

Now I just need a warm day.