Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Little Time to Sew, but Something to Show WIP Wednesday

In the past two weeks, I've only had an hour here or there to sew, which, I've discovered, I don't like.  But we've just been super busy with other stuff around here so that's the way it goes.  Still, I have a couple of projects to share today.  First I am almost finished with my Magnetism Table Runner.  I had made extra squares when making the original quilt and I decided to turn them into a table runner, or rather, if you like, a Skinny Magnetism Quilt.  I put it on my table, and I thought it was fun there:

and then I put it on the narrow wall by my stairs, and I also like it there (although the stairs are on the right and I didn't include them in the picture...oops):

It just needs a little tweaking and then it will be finished.

Second, I will share a project I'm really excited about - a new design I'm calling Triangle Jungle.  It features Black and Whites and Botanicals by Marcia Derse, and Poems from Pebbles from Malka Dubrowsky - two lines I'm gaga for and I almost think were created for each other.  It's only the top but I'm pretty jazzed with it:

I had an absolute blast making this, despite the challenges.  I'm planning to make a pattern for it soon. 

Finally, a finish - I'm done with the tree and here it is:  

I admit I'm quite please with this piece, too.  It turned out so well I plan to make a couple more using different tree shapes and backgrounds.  I'm crazy about that batik fabric I used to frame it - it comes in several different color palettes and I think it's perfect for this tree.  I didn't even quilt the frame, because I like that it looks like a frame...

That's it for me this week - can't wait to take a peek at what all ya'll are doing out there!  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Start and a Finish, of Sorts - WIP Wednesday

Wow - can't believe it's been an entire week since I last posted.  I've been immersed in a new design this week.  I got the idea on Friday and I already have a finished top!  But I'm not quite ready to share it, yet.  So here are a couple of other things I've been toying with in the last week or so:

First, none other than Lorna MacMahon's Zany Zebras!  

These are for a pillow I'm making for my cousin's daughter.  Obviously they are unfinished, but I enjoyed making them.  I have to say I'm pretty impressed with Lorna's designs - they are challenging!  And cleverly done.  I made them in pink as you can see.  I'm going to make a big floor pillow with Harper's name on it.  I think they're super cute!  Gonna do the elephants next, for her twin brother.  

Also, I made a throw pillow cover , too.  It was completely improv but I'm pretty happy with it. It features Marcia Derse and Malka Dubrawsky prints that I got at Quiltcon.  They are wicked cool prints that go together so well I almost think were made for each other...

The piece I finished also features both these fabrics, and I was originally going to put this on the back, but now I think it is perfect for a pillow.  It needs a little tweaking, too - as I accidentally flipped one of the borders and one of the corners is just a little too small (I wanted them wonky but this is a little bit much!) but even if I leave it the way it is, I like it. I'm trying to decide if I should quilt it or just add a back and make it a regular pillow.  I'm thinking that white space needs to be filled.  

Last, I've finally come back to visit my tree.  And I'm so glad I did.  I started experimenting with canopies and this is what I ended up with:

I  considered leaving it leaf-less, but I was staring out my studio window at one of the Post Oaks with its new green leaves and they looked like blobs of different colors as they danced in the wind.  Of course it's exaggerated, like the rest of the piece but I'm diggin' on those blobs of green and I think it adds a lot to the piece.  I'm just appliqueing them on.  I seriously love this tree - those aboriginal fabrics make me so darn happy.  I'm waiting for my next design inspiration for them - I adore working with them and I have a lot of it left!

So that's me for this Wednesday.  Can't wait to see what everyone else is doing - it's so fun, thanks Lorna at Sew Fresh and Lee at Freshly Pieced for doing the linkys!  

Oh and I wanted to add the finish of the hexie baby quilt I made for my temporary daughter's (my exchange student) new baby bro:

It's so fun!  and I have to say I'm pretty gaga about the binding - it turned out perfectly!  Don't have a photo of the back, but wish I did -it's super cool, super soft yellow and gray chevron MINKY!  I also want to keep it for myself...but I made if for the baby, so off it goes.  Boo hoo...NOT!  Because I have a bunch of hexies from the same line left, so I CAN make another.  Hooray, Huzzah and all that - lucky me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I'm working on it...WIP Wednesday

The fabric arrived Monday so I was able to complete the piece I've been working on - I'm calling it Criss Cross (for sadly obvious reason). 

 I'm not sure how much I love it.  I mean - I like it, but I'm not in love yet - I think it still needs something...but what?

I tried putting some items in the middle to see if they added the missing element - some small colored square,

 some x's..

but they weren't right.  I thought about slashing through the white with some pops of color, but that is wrong for the feel of the piece and it doesn't need any more thin lines - and no circles, more's the pity for this circle fiend...I'm not usually a fan of borders, but I'm seriously considering a border for this one.  I have an idea, but I'm not sure I have enough of the necessary fabric for it.  

One thing I'm kind of jazzed about and want to share is how I did the corners.  I wish I had taken pictures of it, because it was actually kind of silly, but by golly, it worked.  If you'll recall, I laid it out on the diagonal, and sewed it that way.  So I ended up with all these squares of fabric sticking out, and it was pretty shape-less.  I got out the old duct tape (cause I was out of the blue masking tape) and just taped a square around the piece where I wanted the edges to be.  Then I boldly drew around it with a pencil (there were some empty spots where the corners were of course) and I literally hacked off the extra, outside the duct tape - Crazy?  Yes!

But here's the part I really like:  the extra parts just happened to be rough triangles, so - yep, you guessed it - I used them for the corners that were missing!  I just sewed and flipped. And it worked!  Then I taped the thing to the floor and tried to mark it again, but I realized I was just going to have to use the rotary cutter and try to square it up.  And by darned - that worked, too!  It's kind of thrown up on the wall so it looks wonky, but it's actually, shockingly, STRAIGHT.  I was thrilled that I didn't have to use any more of the precious Crosshatch fabric (of which I've already used three yards and which I need for my son's college bound quilt) for the corners.  And I liked that it worked - made me kinda happy that doing such a nutty thing actually worked.   

So "Bully for me!"  on this crazy improv.  I'm just cutting and sewing and its coming together. However, it is kind of bias-y, so I have to be careful if I do add borders, but what the heck - I'm feeling lucky, so I'm just gonna continue to fly along and see what happens.  

Tally Ho! (oops, mixed those darn metaphors again - sorry.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Up a Creek, Without a Net

Oops - ran out of fabric today.  I guess that's what happens when one just starts cutting up and sewing fabric together.  The thing is, I had two yards and it wasn't enough.  Yikes that's a lot! I had originally bought it to use on a quilt I want to make for my son, Jonas, who is graduating and going to college this year, but then I decided to use it on my current project and like I said - I used it all up.  And dammit, I had plans for it! Well - I use the term plan loosely here because although I have some fabrics grouped together I don't actually have a PLAN plan, just a few idea plans.  

Which brings me to today's topic, improvisation.  I got the idea to write about this from the brilliant Marianne at The Quilting Edge, who shared (one of) her processes of improv creating which I found quite fascinating, especially given the development of the above project. (Which I shall expand upon, dear reader, momentarily.)  In fact, when I think about it I believe that most of what I do is improvisation, of a sort.  Here's the way it often works:  I get an idea (usually at some strange or inopportune time - often just as I'm drifting off to sleep) and I sketch it.  

Now you might wonder where I go to get my ideas. I guess I go to the usual place - 

Where is that?

The truth is, I don't really know all the time, specifically.  It's rather strange - It's happened before that I got a whole bunch of ideas all at once - like I'm channeling the universal creativity.  When that lightning strikes I spend a lot of time sketching crazily - can't get them on paper fast enough.  (By the way, they're not necessarily all GOOD ideas...I'm just sayin') 

Other times my brain's offline and I have to go looking - through books, magazines, or catalogs(all kinds), or staring at artwork (all kinds).  I've also gotten ideas from books I've read, dreams, graphics on a commercial, from hikes or trips I've taken, from songs - you name it. 

Sometimes inspiration or ideas actually come from the fabrics themselves.  If I have a group of fabrics I really like and I want to use I'll pin them up on the wall behind my computer. That way I spend a lot of time staring at them and if I'm lucky I might come up with something. 

I keep notebooks pretty much everywhere, just in case.  I'm thinking that for every eight or ten ideas only a few are worth pursuing.  But I do sketch most of them, because I've had it happen that a bad idea can turn into a good one with a little time and tweaking.

Here's how the one I'm currently working on developed: Last week while sewing with my friends I was a little at loose ends, so I began to willy-nilly cut a bunch of coordinating fabrics into one and a half inch strips.  I wanted to do something "architectural" and I thought I just might need some strips.   When I finished cutting all the fabrics up, I was like 'Oh crap!  I have no idea what I'm going to do with these things - have I just wasted a bunch of fabric?'   But it was time to go home, so I began to pack up all my stupid strips, rather annoyed at myself. I mean - what the hell was I going to do with them, really! 

All of a sudden, I got an idea.  But I had to hurry off to some deal I had to go to for some - thing - I don't remember what - but I do remember I all I wanted to do was go home and sketch my idea before I forgot it.  Luckily it lurked around in my brain so when I got home I could still remember it enough to make a sketch.  I don't know if it's actually architectural but I thought it was kind of cool.  

But geez - how to do it?  I had no measurements whatsoever - no idea how big the thing was going to be, no idea how to construct it...or if it was going to look good with the fabrics and ideas I had.  The only thing I did have was a design wall and lots of one and a half inch strips..  I thought "What the heck, I'll just start sewing."  So I did.  I cut up and sewed strips together and put them up in the general direction of the sketch on the wall, and then sewed some more, until I had this:

I kinda liked it.  But now O Shit I had to sew it together if I wanted to continue, which I did. The question was, how?  In what order? I did try to go back and measure, hence the numbers on the sketch,  but it really wasn't helpful at all so I gave up on it.  (You're starting to see the difficulties challenges of this type of creating, I'm guessing)  I went to bed at that point.  I was all 'figured' out.

Anyway, I managed to get a sort of rhythm going the next day, and I've been working on it enthusiastically for over a week.  Until today, that is, when I ran out of background fabric. 

'And why did this happen, Carrie?' asks my disapproving Auntie Superego.   'UH - DUH, Auntie Ego - it's because I had no idea how much fabric I would need...because I had no idea what I was going to do...because I HAD NO PLAN!  So what's your point?'  (Luckily I was able to order more of the background fabric; I say luckily because it is that popular Crosshatch pattern by Riley Blake which is getting difficult to come by. It really is a great background fabric...I do get rather attached; at times I've kind of wished I'd bought an entire bolt of of certain neutrals just so I can use them whenever I want...but I digress.)
Naturally, the piece is on hold until more fabric arrives.  I'm not entirely sure how it will end up at this point, but so far, I like it, and I'll stare at it until I can work on it again.  And while I wait, I'm going to start my next project.  And no, I don't have a plan for it, either - just a sketch.   

I guess it all comes down to the fact that I really just like the freedom of recklessly creating, even though it may be a path fraught with - well, I think of them as shit piles, like the cows constantly leave in the road right where the tires go, but let's be genteel instead and call them obstacles.   If some part (let's face it - a large part) of me didn't like it this way, I'm sure I would use the fabric calculators or computer drawing tools that others use with such amazing results.  I'm not saying I never will use them, by the way.  I think - no I KNOW - they are fabulous and I will learn to use them some day, I'm certain.

It's just that for now, I'm having so much fun up here dancing on the wire - despite the - er - obstacles below.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WIP Wednesday - Starting New Projects, FInishing Old Ones

My brain is tired today...from having to figure out how to make ideas or sketches into reality. Sometimes I just wish my ideas would be a little more simple, you know?  (Sigh)

However, it's all good because I'm so pleased with the baby quilt I've made for my exchange student's new baby brother.  It's almost finished.  It could be completely finished  right now except I admit, I'm mostly playing with my new machine. Audrey is literally a dream to quilt with.  I love her so.  

It has the most amazing minky on the back.  You can tell I'm out of the baby business - I had no idea there were so many cool, modern, multi-colored designs for minky nowadays!  I think I might make myself a throw with some of that mod minky for next winter - it's that hip, really!  I was scared to quilt with it but it has been just fine - even fun.  I love the puffy effect it has on the front.  

As for the quilting design, I'm kind of flying without a paddle (How's that for mixed metaphors?).  I figure it's a baby quilt - it's going to pee and pooped upon and it doesn't have to be perfect, so I'm just adding things in here and there, and I even dared to use colored thread, too.  Although I don't know what I was so afraid of - you can't really see the colors! 

I'm officially obsessed with hexies - cannot get enough of them!   I already have a new idea for some really cool ones...but I have other fish to fry before I get on with that baby. 

This week I cut up some fabrics for my next project - in oranges, blues, greens and yellows using lots of Riley Blake and some graduated fabrics.  I have a sketch but no real idea where I'm going with it - it's an improv-ed improv.  But like I said, sometimes I don't feel like figuring things I'm really just piddling with it.

I also received fabric for the Riley Blake MQG challenge - forgot I had entered it, to be honest.  I have two potential ideas for that one, too - but naturally, both involve figuring...not today!  And I've got time - it's not due till July.

Last, as promised, here is a look at the finished product from Monday's blog, called Magnetism.  I still have a couple of things I want to tweak, but for the most part, it's done. I'm so pleased with it now that the quilting is exactly right.  I even feel like it may be some of my best work to date. 

Which leaves a lot of room for improvement, some might say.  Hmmm.  I'm okay with that!

Thanks for stopping by - I really enjoy our little weekly visits to each other's blogs.  It's so fun!  See ya next week...

Monday, March 16, 2015

When is Failure not a FAIL?

Failure isn't the opposite of success, failure is a stepping stone on the way to success.
                                                                                      Arianna Huffington's mother

I finally finished my before un-named piece that I've been working on for a good two months or so.  It now has a name, Magnetism, but before I show it*** I want to tell the story of its creation.  This is one of those pieces that looks really simple (in fact I had to seriously check my ego when my sister-in-law said it looked like it was easy to make), but wasn't actually easy at all.  Basically once I had the drawing, I had to work out the construction, and it took a lot of thinking (for me at least) to figure out.  Once I got the how I was gonna do it, I had to actually do it.  Let me say, however, that although I felt it was a challenge, I really found myself enjoying it rather than being frustrated.  In the end I made about 7 extra squares because I wanted to make them as well as I could (notice I didn't say perfect, because I know better than to strive for perfection).  I even only got mildly irritated when I cut right through two completed squares and totaled them while trimming the colored circle seams. No cursing or even kvetching at all - that has to be a record!   

Once I got enough squares completed to my satisfaction, I was ready to construct the top. In my original drawing I had continued the yellow through the black sashing.  I worked on it for several days and tried many different ways, but I was just not able to make it work.  To my surprise, I really didn't find myself irritated or impatient at all even though nothing I tried worked.  Yes, I was a little disappointed, but once I saw it put together I was completely happy with it even though it hadn't lived up to my original expectations. 

Yahoo!  Now I was excited to back and quilt it, but then - I got another idea!  I decided it might be nice to put little black and white pluses in the middle of the piece.  Knowing it was not going to be a quick deal, I debated with myself and even took a photo and asked my friend Diane if I should.  She said yes of course - why wouldn't she?  It looked good and besides - she didn't have to do it!  But I agreed, so I then had to go back and undo the sashing and do what it took to add the pluses, adding more time and challenge.   And yes, some mild irritation attempted to sabotage my zen, but I succeeded in ignoring it and remaining calm and patient and yes, I really loved the result and deemed it totally worth it.

Finally I was ready to back and quilt it.  I don't really remember when I started it, but I have to say that this piece had already taken a lot longer than I thought it would but - and this is big but for me - despite the challenges so far I really had intensely enjoyed making this piece and I really, really liked it.  I spent a lot of time thinking about how to quilt it, but I couldn't come up with anything. Finally I got irritated with myself for acting like I was designing the Taj Mahal, so I just sat down and started quilting just the corner pieces.  And I'll be darned if I didn't like it!  

It was really time-consuming, however, and in the meantime I spent at least three hour-long walks trying to come up with a quilting design for the middles of the squares.   Again disgusted with myself putting too much energy into it, (I mean, I'm not going to be put in quilting jail or lose a limb if it's not right, am I?  It's just not that important, Carrie!) I sat down and started quilting the middle squares.  This time, however, it didn't work out.  Well, let me correct that - at first I thought I was happy with it.  In fact, I was so happy with it I actually quilted three entire squares.  Then I put it up on my design wall and looked at it for a day or so and realized not only was I not happy with it - I HATED it.  It wasn't true to my own personal design aesthetic at all - I realized I was trying to do heavy quilting like I'd seen on many quilts at Quiltcon - and more importantly, it wasn't at all right for this quilt.  But it was a heckuva lot of quilting and would take a heckuva a lot of time to pull out all those tiny stitches...

I thought about leaving it and just finishing the piece, I really did.  I mean, how important is this quilt?  I'd already spent so much more time on it than I had anticipated, and I do actually have other obligations to fulfill.  On the other hand, I really, really love this piece (sans the quilting, of course) and I really, really wanted the quilting to be right.  So I sighed heavily and began to pull all the stitches out.  It took over 45 minutes to undo the quilting on only one side of each square, but I took my time and pulled out every one of those suckers. And (and this part is almost miraculous to me) I actually felt grateful while I did it, because I was so glad that I could actually fix it.  After all, I wasn't in a hurry to finish it, and no, it's not important in the great scheme of things, I get that.  But when I had time, I worked on it a little bit.  To say I enjoyed it would be exaggerating, but I didn't mind it at all.  When I got too fatigued I just stopped and put it aside.  It took about a week, during which I finally figured out how I actually DID want to quilt it, and now, well - I sort of feel like it's some of my best work, ever!

But more importantly - I enjoyed creating this quilt, failures and challenges and all.  It was frustrating at times.  It took a long time.  It could have been a complete failure.  But it wasn't. And I really believe that in part it succeeded because no matter what happened, rather than allowing negativity to creep in, I just enjoyed the challenges.   I stayed calm and positive and was almost  - dare I say it?


Do I expect to be this way all the time from here on out?  Of course not!  I'm still me, and I'm far from enlightened.  But I'm going to try to remind myself of the joy of this experience often - especially when confronted with things that frustrate or annoy me.  Who knows - maybe in time it will become my way of handling things MOST of the time.  I think I'd like that.

***  I'll share some photos of the completed Magnetism in my next blog, I promise - it's late and I'm too tired to deal with photography right now.  Here's a look at the piece with the "all wrong" quilting, though.  I made it extra big so you could see it.  (Ugh - I still don't like it!)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WIP Wednesday - An Extremely Productive Day

Both yesterday and today I've actually sewn very little because I've been so busy doing other things...but I have so many fun things to share!  

First of all, I got a new machine and table and they are already so happy-making!  I got a Bernina 750.   She's a real beauty, my Audrey.  Just look at that long, graceful neck...and she purrs like a kitten! 

I call her the BMW of machines.  It was love at first stitch but there's so much more to her than her looks - I'm definitely going to take the classes so I can make sure to get the most out of her.  Although I suspect that the truth is, I would love her just for her thread cutter and all that extra space, but she's incredibly deep, too!    And just look at how she greets me every day...

She's just brilliant.  I could spend all day with her and never get bored!

So I've been working on my tree.  I won't lie, it's been a serious bitch, I won't even bother with the details, but much cursing and ripping of seams has occurred.   Finally got it put into the background, though - phew!   It's all wonky, but I simply cannot worry about that at the moment - it's fixable (I'm sure).

 Next step - figuring out the leaves.  I have the fabrics all pulled, just need to decided how to move forward.  I'm putting it away for a few days, though - I'm not feeling particularly friendly towards it at the moment.

I've also been ripping and ripping away on my as-yet unnamed piece.  I quilted three squares entirely before I realized I didn't like the way it was looking.  I actually timed myself - it takes an hour and a half to pull them all.  But I don't mind, actually, although it is tedious for sure.  I really like this piece and I want to do it right.  I'm just glad I can take the crappy quilting out - I would be worse than sad if I had to leave it all wrong.  But I've taken my time, just doing one side of the square at a time.  Had to go out and buy a new ripper, though - burned the old one out -  RIP old ripper!

Last (but still extremely exciting)...I'm published!  In Fresh Quilts Spring 2015 - it's awesome!  I really love this magazine. Here's the cover:

 It's a little surreal to see my piece in there - but I can handle it.  Here's the spread:  (Pardon the shit photography please, I'm in a bit of a rush - the real magazine is gorgeous, I promise.)

I've also spend a good deal of the day on these adorable little Ombre dots charms pack.  I cut them into quarter squares and have make about 20 different arrangements so far...and the problem is, I liked them all.  Nice problem to have, I would say...I don't have a photo to add right now, but I promise to add one later...

I also went to the quilt store today and did laundry and vacuumed the house (not that you can tell - we are drowning in mud at the moment and a lot of it makes its way inside so I give up.

But a very busy, very fine day, I would say!  I'll be around later to check out everyone's work - right now I'm headed out to dinner - such an excellent way to end the day (no cooking)! 

CIAO Bellas y Bellos!