Monday, February 26, 2007

Sewing on the flamingo legs

Flamingo appliqué legs

I'm really reaching the end of my rope with this camera. The color's washed out, everything's blurry, blech. Hardly ideal to show of the shapely, albeit disembodied, flamingo legs now appliquéd onto the Other's Assembly Line quilt. (I like that name for the block layout, but it needs another name when embellished with the flamingo.)

Both of the legs are stitched down now (in the picture, just the right one), as are the two nubbins at the tops of the legs (see the original design), so tonight I'm pinning on the big fat bird body and starting to sew it. Then it's just the beak, the wing, and the eye.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Quilt update: Card Catalog and Assembly Line

Card Catalog quilt finished

Never got around to posting about Card Catalog while it was in progress. I've written before about my affection for card catalogs, which developed in high school when I worked at a public library. I still work with books professionally, so this quilt seemed like a natural—especially since I wanted to try printing on fabric.

The bibliographic data is genuine, downloaded from the British Library and the Library of Congress, though I had to fudge some of the lacking info to flesh the cards out (an embarrassing level of Dewey Decimal recall helped). I picked out several fonts that looked like catalog cards, some with a typewritten look, others dot matrix.

The other blocks are various shades of brown to suggest catalog cabinets. I knew I wanted a wood-grain pattern for the brown rectangles, but I hadn't ever hand quilted—and that's where the Mother came in, with lessons over Christmas. Usually, the Mother told me, beginning quilters use polyester batting, thread the same color as the fabric, a regular design, and guide lines drawn on the fabric. Me, I went with cotton batting, contrasting thread, and a complicated, freehand design. Some of this was out of ignorance, but some was just because I'm too impatient to practice on a throwaway project before starting on the real stuff. It took some time to get my stitches even too, but I was amazed how dense the quilting was by the end. And I love how the texture turned out. The grommets add a little bit of extra detail to a design that's essentially pretty simple. I'm thrilled with how it turned out. The quilt's seasonally appropriate, too, since it's evidently National Library Lovers Month.

And what did we learn?

  1. Peeling the inkjet fabric off their paper backings distorts everything. And frays the edges. I'm also convinced that what my PC tells me is 3.5 inches is actually a little less in the real, printed world. My printer will let me have a quarter-inch margin on three sides of a page, which I intended to use as the seam allowance, but in future I'll give the blocks some extra room to allow for threads to fray from the edges when the backing comes off.
  2. Hand quilting is hugely satisfying. A perfect excuse for plopping in front of the telly in the winter. Since my previous quilts were made from patterns and machine quilted by the Mother, it was very pleasing to finish a quilt I'd designed, pieced, and quilted entirely on my own. And the act of hand quilting itself is extremely relaxing and therapeutic, if a little rough on the middle finger of one's nondominant hand.
  3. A quarter-inch binding is plenty. The Mother insisted this was true, particularly for small quilts, but I wasn't sure I'd manage it. This binding turned out much crisper than my previous ones, both at the corners and along the edges, and it makes the whole quilt look more finished. There was one spot where the block was a little narrow and I had to fudge the binding a bit, so I'm working on more accurate seam allowances.
  4. Not every quilt has a home. I knew from growing up that quilts didn't have a purpose and that they quite easily overtook the space available to them. In my one-bedroom apartment, this one had nowhere to go. Eventually I stuck it up on the wall in an odd place, but it lets me admire my handiwork, so I'm happy.

Assembly Line quilt design Assembly Line quilt top

Since finishing the Card Catalog quilt, I've been working on this quilt for the Other, using fabric he picked out when I was in California. It's another quite simple design—I've only been piecing rectangles so far (I'm itching to try triangles)—but I staggered the grid to give it some movement. I'm calling it Assembly Line. The top is all pieced, but I'm going to appliqué a flamingo on in more greens and mustards. The binding and the eye will be flamingo pink, and I'm considering using the same pink for the quilting thread. I'm not entirely sure yet. For now, I just need to do a little playing about to work out how big I can make the flamingo with the fabric I have.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A long overdue Christmas update

Thanksgiving was the last post? How dreadfully rude I've been. I've hardly been reading blogs for the last few months, though, much less writing them. The Other's Christmas pressies only just got shipped off (thanks for understanding, dear Other). But things are starting to straighten out.

As the crafty blogosphere well knows, good intentions for handmade holiday gifts can quickly go awry. Only half of my planned projects ended up getting started, and those begun weren't always quite finished. The Mother's bag still needs a strap, and she was left to sew the backing onto Youngest Brother's embroidered pillow, stitched to a design modified from The New Crewel in colors he's planning for his dorm room.

crewel embroidered pillow

Youngest Brother is getting quite handy with a needle himself. He started making sock creatures from Stupid Sock Creatures, and now he's making them to his own designs. His skills grew even over the week I was staying with the family, and the creatures are brilliant. I wanted him to make me one, and he started to, but we agreed that it was his best yet and he shouldn't part with it. He's been making rugs, too, and gave me this one as a Christmas gift. It's made of fleece and feels brilliant under your feet—I love it!

fleece rug

The Mother made me this pin cushion in homage to the rodents with which I share my home (though they've been making themselves scarce for several months, touch wood). I'd been meaning to whip up a pin cushion myself, but this beats anything I could have done. It'll go nicely with a quilt I'm planning, too.

mouse and cheese pin cushion

The Mother was working on Middle Brother's wedding quilt over the holidays, Youngest Brother was making sock creatures, and I was starting to hand-quilt my Card Catalog quilt, which I'll post on soon. I don't think the Father and Middle Brother quite knew what to make of the lot of us sewing away in the living room. The Mother and I made the rounds of all the quilt shops in the Charleston area and even took a crack-of-dawn road trip to the bowels of North Carolina for the legendary Mary Jo's Cloth Store. All the ladies in the quilt shops insisted that the prices and selection were unbelievable, but neither of us had seen it for ourselves. The shop was tucked into the mall that time forgot, but it was a thing of beauty: bolts and bolts and bolts and bolts everywhere—quite overwhelming. Thanks must go to the Mother for offering up her credit card to satiate my every fabric desire. It was great fun to shop for fabric with someone who knew (more than me) about quilting, too, and we were both bouncing ideas off each other all week. Now I'm all stocked to start several of the quilts that have been simmering in the design pot....