Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Halloween monster wreath

Happy Halloween, everybody. I just remembered I made this last year and promptly hung it up on my door (on the inside, that is; the neighbors probably already think I'm crazy). I can't take credit for the design—it comes from callakat on Craftster. Loads of people have been making some really creative ones this year, so take a look.

You know, I don't think I've even touched my hot glue gun since I made this thing....

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Day at the Beach quilt all done

A Day at the Beach quilt

Blame the recent radio silence on Day at the Beach, the super-basic Denyse Schmidt quilt that I just finished. As in, completely done. Quilted, bound, everything. Saturday night, I was up late with the sewing machine, figuring out how to get the binding on the top layer, and then I hand-sewed all day Sunday and for the next couple evenings to get it sewn onto the back. And then the following evenings were inevitably taken up with swooning over the finished product. More photos of the project here.

So what have we learned, class?
  1. Use cotton. I could blame the local fabric stores, but I'll take responsibility. In my overzealous ignorance, I bought a bunch of cotton-polyester blend and used it here in the black section. (Actually, it feels like some of the prints have a bit of poly in them, too.) Cotton feels so much nicer, and the Quilt Fascists would of course lynch me for even touching a synthetic fiber. Even so, I'll be damned if I use 100% cotton thread—mostly because I can't find it.
  2. Big chunks of fabric are a pain to cut. This pattern was an obvious choice for a beginner because the piecing is so simple. But measuring and cutting such enormous swaths of fabric is much harder than slicing up a pile of six-inch pieces. I needn't worry, though; I've plenty of small-chunk projects simmering in the brain.
  3. Binding is fun! The Mother said she liked doing it, but I thought she was mad. She may still be, but she's also right. I couldn't stop binding. If there'd been a child or small animal in the apartment on Sunday, I probably would have bound its lips together just because I could. My stitches aren't perfect, though I think I made a pretty decent effort for a first go (but see no. 4 below). Part of the delight was the binding fabric, which I'm really pleased with.
  4. Mitering corners is hard. I was warned about this. It'll take a few more quilts before I get it right.
  5. Don't use a sheet for backing. I thought I was being clever. Far from it. El cheapo sheet did have about the same weave as el cheapo cotton, but the sheet wasn't quite wide enough, so the finished quilt dimensions are a little weird (the top had to be cut to size). I could have pieced something else to the backing, but I was lazy and this was a learning project. So mission accomplished.
  6. Run a sweatshop. After the fabric-buying excursions in California, it's clear I couldn't afford to quilt were it not for the free labor of the Mother. Her machine-quilting service was quick and friendly, and the price, of course, could not be beat. She considered binding the thing herself; I'm glad she left the fun for me.
  7. There's nothing better than curling up under something you made yourself. Well, it might be better if the Other were here to curl up with under the quilt. Some day.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Happy birthday to me!

Charles Harper bird

Charles Harper bird

My birthday was last week while I was away, and look what I got from the Mother! I've already posted some of her great quilts, and she's showing off once again with these fabric versions of Charles Harper prints. Harper did some great midcentury illustration, especially of birds. When the Mother saw them in a book I have, she thought they'd be great reinterpreted in fabric. These are the first ones, based on these prints:

The Mother dug through her stash to find the fabrics and then snipped them into shapes, which were then fused to the background fabric. The details are in pen ink. The print fabrics are a nod to the textures of Harper's prints but also lend an extra depth—the Mother searched high and low to find a scrap that replicated the warbler's shaded breast. Then she stretched the fabric around canvases.

I love them both, but my favorite of the two is the top one. It's always been one of my favorite Harper birds, and there's an extra mixed-media quality to it with the bleach splotches. I'll try to get them hung up this weekend so I can gaze at them all the time. They're be the thing that people comment on whenever they're introduced to my apartment. Is the Mother fantastic, or what? What she can do with textiles always amazes me.

As if that wasn't enough, the package also had a copy of EQ5, which is software for designing quilts. I've been playing with it for a few days to figure it out, and I'm quite excited. Modern quilts with irregular blocks are a little trickier to do than traditional grid patterns, but I'll get there (hell, I managed QuarkXPress). I've been sketching quilt ideas in a book of grid paper, but as a child of the digital age, I can't properly play with designs unless they're on the screen.

And that's still not all—the Mother also stuck in a bunch of fabric. She knew I was planning a quilt with lots of text prints, and she thought the dots would look good with my Plain Spoken quilt. Perhaps in some pillows?

fabric for quilting

So as I'm sure this blog makes apparent, I have lovely parents. Thanks Mother!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tchotchke Tuesday: Moon globe

Moon globeOrigin: eBay

I had hoped to show you some tchotchke from my vacation this week, but it turns out I didn't buy any, much to my surprise. This moon globe came from a moment of less restraint. In the last installment, I mentioned the space-age bedroom plan, and this leans in that direction too. The globe's marked with the sites of orbiter landings, but since it was made in 1963, it doesn't show any manned missions. These things come up on eBay fairly frequently, and after hemming and hawing for a while, I decided I well and truly wanted one. That's the trouble with tchotchke: you want it, you buy it, and then it just sits there. Doing nothing. Though I will be able to locate craters the next time somebody asks. Which they're sure to do frequently.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Crewel and unusual in California

Crewel flamingo hand towel

OK, forgive the cheesy pun. I got back Saturday from visiting the Other in California and have just finished stashing all the fabric I bought (which is another story entirely). My quilting projects all require a sewing machine, but the Mother has passed on a genetic defect requiring a needlework project to be on the go at all times, so I embroidered my way across northern California. The Other likes a good flamingo, so before I left I creweled this towel for him based on a design in a Charles Harper book (more on him later, too).

Well, I say crewel, but The New Crewel defines crewel as embroidery with wool on linen twill, and since I'm using pearl cotton on a cruddy Ikea hand towel, it doesn't technically qualify. But the stitches are the same, and so is the basic look. The stretchy terry cloth was hardly ideal, though.

Crewel stars in the embroidery hoop

This grey cloth leftover from recovering my sofa works much better, as I discovered when I started embroidering these starbursts with spiderweb stitch and French knots.

The Other seemed to like my housewifely embroidering while we watched TV or drove on the freeways, though I made less of a stellar impression on the flight over. I'd decided that if I wasn't stuck right next to someone, I'd give crewel at 30,000 feet a go, and I ended up having a row to myself. So out came the embroidery hoop and I set to work. I caught the woman in the row behind staring; she quickly averted her eyes when I noticed. After the plane landed, she asked her male traveling companion if he had liked the copy of Running with Scissors she'd lent him. He had not. "Don't you like memoirs?" she said. He made a quick glance at me. "I'll tell you later." Three guesses what his objection to the book was—first two don't count. She also commented to him that my bag was cool as we trotted off the plane, but he was unresponsive. Behold the power of men with needles.

I can't be blamed entirely for the substandard nature of my materials. Despite begging the Other to stop at every craft shop in northern California, no crewel wool was to be had. We popped over a hill in San Francisco, an embroidery shop appeared, and I made one of those "STOP THE CAR NOW!!" demands. But though they had "crewel" painted across the window, there was still no crewel wool except that already packed up in kits for embroidering flowers and leaves and other grannyish patterns. So I'll either be pulling apart tapestry wool strands or sticking with pearl cotton.

Denyse Schmidt oven mitts

In other news, just before I left I made these Denyse Schmidt oven mitts for Mintyfresh, who's just moved. She helpfully left a comment here a while back to let me know what colors she likes together. Good luck, Minty! The mitts are quite fun to make (I made one for me a couple months ago), though I've yet to bind a pair without cursing like a sailor.

Stay tuned for more on crafting and thrifting in the Bay Area....

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Tuesday without tchotchke?

To anyone listening out there (tap this thing on?), apologies for the lack of posts. Work has got the better of me. I have all sorts of projects I want to write about (latest craft technique: crewel embroidery), but I don't know that I'm even going to get time to enter my robot in the Craftster challenge!

On Thursday, though, I'm off for a week-long vacation to see the Other! Hurray!