19 May 2011

It's time for the Blogger's Quilt Festival!

Hi! If you're coming over here from the Blogger's Quilt Festival, welcome to the Quilting Hermit! My quilt for the Festival is very special (I'm sure everyone else's quilts are too) to me and to a wonderful little girl that I knew for almost a year.

It all started when my husband and I moved to Europe and my husband left on a several month business trip. One of the people who helped me out a TON was my new friend, A. I met A and her daughter, M, at church the first week I was there when A introduced herself and made me feel like I was truly welcome in church (sometimes it can be pretty daunting to show up as a new person, even in church!). A picked me up from dropping one of the cars off for 7:30 in the morning. And then she dropped me back off the next morning, also at 7:30, to pick up said car when it was done. She never complained about it. It was my first time that my husband and I had been apart (we'd been married a little over a year at that point) and I was in a new place, trying to figure out life in a totally new country! So someone who is willing to drive you back home so you can make it to work by 9 is golden.

I started to get to know M one Sunday when A unexpectedly invited me to go see "Ramona and Beezus" (an hour's drive away) with M and one of M's friends. On the drive, I realized that M is quite a bit like me when I was her age (8 years old) - imaginative, loving to read, curious about everything. I explained why I couldn't wear pierced earrings to her, and also how non-pierced earrings work. She found out that I sewed, and was enthralled.

A, M, and I still got together (although not as often) once I started working full time. We'd go to board game nights with a few other friends (hooray, Settlers of Catan!) and enjoy each other's company. It seemed like just a few days later when our husbands all finally came back from their business trips and we only saw each other in church. And just a few months after that, A and M were going to be leaving Europe for the States! All of those times we said "we should get together" but never did suddenly seemed like such a shame...I should have made time for A and M. So on the night before they flew, we finally got together for a short time during board game night at my house. I took A and M into my sewing room and M had a blast looking through my fabric scraps. I offered to make her a doll quilt and she requested something with beach colors.

I knew what I wanted to do for the quilt - make one of my typical drawings from my childhood into a quilt for her. When I was her age, I would draw ocean scenes in sidewalk chalk all over the driveway. They consisted of an ocean floor full of wildlife, a desert island with a palm tree, and a sun either in the top corner or setting over the whole scene, with a few M shaped seagulls flying overhead. I decided to try free-piecing with this quilt, and you can see my first free-pieced fish (Nemo's dad Marlin) here. I made the rest of the top fairly quickly, although that palm tree was the absolute bane of my existence. The completed top, basted and just barely started with the quilting is here.

I taught myself free motion quilting (or at least started teaching myself) with this quilt. No practice pads, no making pot holders to try a new quilting design. I started out with stitching the seaweed in the ditch, then outlined the three fish, then made the swirls in the water. From there I put the waves on the strip at the top of the water, made bark and veins on the palm tree, and quilted the sun and seagulls. Then I attacked the big elephant in the room: pebbling. I don't know why I thought pebbling would be so hard. It wasn't. I figured it out on my own. My pebbles are rather messy, but I don't mind. They're perfect for their purpose in life. I pebbled the beach and the ocean bottom and gave the fish scales. I bound it with some leftover binding, and for the first time ever put hanging triangles on the back.

I think that's all the description I let's see some pictures! Yay pictures!

Front overall view of the quilt:

Closeup on the sun's quilting/piecing:

The seagulls...I LOVE them!

The palm's a little rough, but that thing was a bear and a half to make. I almost gave up on the whole quilt just because of how difficult those fronds were to piece! Luckily, my husband encouraged me...and while it's still not perfect, it's perfect. You know?

Closeup on the desert island...that fabric was won in a giveaway almost a year ago. I won some bags of scraps and this fabric was in it! So perfect!

Ocean waves! Love them!

Dory...she was a little hard to make, but I got her. All of the fish have scales, but they're easiest to see on her dark stripe on her back.

Nemo and his dad, Marlin. Marlin came first, then Nemo. Such a cute little family!

Pebbling on the bottom of the ocean - this fabric was another one that I won in the giveaway. Everything in the giveaway was perfect (a lot of the leaf fabrics I used in my mom's Falling Leaves quilt were from this same set of scraps) for projects I've done or are planning on doing.

Overall view of the back. In hindsight I would have used something other than that purple fabric for the hanging triangles, but they were already cut and didn't require anything but a quick press down the center of their diagonal before using.

One last artsy shot. I love this quilt.

A said that they have received the box, but M's birthday isn't until the 24th and she's not going to open it until then. If you want to know how M liked it, check back next week!

If you haven't already, go check out Amy and the rest of the participants in the Blogger's Quilt Festival!

Amy's Creative Side

08 May 2011

Is it already Sunday?

Have you ever had too much week and not enough weekend? Yeah, me too. This week was no exception...I think I need a weekend for my weekend! But I do have a lot to look forward to this coming weekend! My parents are coming to visit...I haven't seen them in person since June, although we do Skype regularly! They'll only be here for a few days on the tail end of a business trip for my dad, but I'm so excited to be able to show them around Germany! My mom's never been outside of the US and Canada that I know of, so this is her chance to try out her new passport! She was going to go to Germany last year but the Icelandic Volcano (I'm not even going to try to spell its name) cancelled that trip.

I'm turning to you, bloggy friends (I know you're out there, even if you are quiet!) to help me through this week. My husband's company is going for a trip to Normandy this weekend and so he left tonight. Yes, it's Mother's Day, but we don't have any kids so it doesn't really count for us. After all, you kind of need to be a mother to celebrate Mother's Day, right? Well, not at church today. To try to be sensitive to women who may be trying to conceive but not having luck, flowers and muffins (96 of which were baked in my kitchen by my husband and two friends on Saturday afternoon and night) were given out to every adult woman. I don't seems like it might be a little overkill to me. And then there was the debate with my husband afterwards. So tell me this - the pastor at the beginning of the service asked any woman who hadn't gotten a flower to raise her hand, but none of the women did and their husbands either had to point to them or raise their hands for them. Do you think that the women were being selfish and wanted their husbands to do a little more work to get them a flower? Or do you think that the women just didn't want to make a fuss about it then and that they would get their flower after service? My husband thinks the former and I think the latter. Anyways...I seem to be going off on rabbit trail tangents a lot right now...I hope you can follow the popcorn popper that is my train of thought!

While the guys were making a mess of my kitchen (you should have seen the state of my stand mixer this morning! Dried blueberry muffin batter in the part where the bowl hooks in! Seriously?), I was cutting and sewing. I pieced the back for the newest quilt I've been working on. It's for my friend Kate, who is due June 1 (so it's not late yet!). The front is a simplified Bento Box Quilt that is just a square in a square (not wonky), not a multi-leveled square. It's for a little boy so it's all bright reds, oranges, yellow, blue, and green on the front and the back is another of the sheets that I used to back the Brown Bag Quilt. I cut this one horizontally and put in small pieced square-in-square blocks in a double row close to the bottom. It helps to tie the back (orange and khaki flowers) to the front (bright Bento). I could have bought another back for it but it would not have gotten here in time for be to be quilting it by now! I am proud, though, because all of the squares on the back are 100% out of my strips and crumbs and scraps. That makes me happy, although I don't think it's made a dent in the least! Every little bit helps, though. So here's the quilt all scrunched up in my Jenny Janome!

And here's the back - the quilt is not straight, which is why the stripe of little blocks looks's definitely straight across (or close to it!):

I spent yesterday sewing with some dear old friends: Evelyn, Ninny, Ruth, and IdgieLizzie, Jane, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Bingley, and Christine, Raoul, Meg, and the Phantom. So did you guess which movies I was watching correctly? I love those movies...I've watched all of them probably dozens of times in my life so far, much to the annoyance of my husband. I love watching my favorite movies over and over and over again (I've watched Fried Green Tomatoes probably 5 times in the last month alone) whereas he watches them, appreciates them, and puts them away. I can't just put them away, though! They're like old friends! And every time you see them you catch something realizing that Raoul knew that it was the Phantom with Christine on stage during the showing of Don Juan Triumphant based off of his facial expression, or noticing the exact moment when Mr. Darcy falls in love with Lizzie. Yes, they're old friends, and the more you spend time with them, the better you know them.

And then the last bit of fun stuff for this post - the stash report! Did I make it back into the positives yet? Let's go see! (I'm such a cheeseball!)

Stash Report:

Used this week: 2.4 yards
Used year to date: 10.5 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 8.8 yards
Net usage for 2011: 1.7 yards

Woo-hoo! I'm back in the black! It took me long enough, and I think I'll be negative again here before too long, but I've officially used more this year than I've added. It feels great.

This reports includes the pieced backing on Kate's quilt. I haven't done anything beyond that. And I won't be doing any major sewing next weekend so hopefully I can stay in the black, but my anniversary (the big 2 year mark!) is the 23rd, so my report may sink back into the negative again...

01 May 2011

The Brown Bag Quilt (plus a long-overdue stash report!)

If you were paying attention to the sidebar on my blog, you would have noticed that the Brown Bag Quilt (henceforth in this post known as the BBQ) is listed as a 2011 finish. I got it done on the very last day I could have and got the pictures posted to the flickr group. But life happened (I went to a ball, went on a marriage retreat, and otherwise stuff just got in the way) and I never posted here about it! Shame on me...but over at the BBQ Blog site, they said "We would love for each winner to comment and leave a link
to their blog so we can follow any other fun information and photos they might have gathered during the months the contest was going on.  "

Now, if you remember, this was the pile of fabrics I started out with:

A little crazy, right? My thinking was to use the black entirely for sashing since it was so much darker than all of the other fabrics and it stood out...a lot. But with the other ones, what to do? I settled on a disappearing 9 patch design, but I would sash in between the 9 patches with the black, and then maybe sash between the cut up pieces, but that was dependent on how much of the black I had left. These each were half a yard of fabric, and as I found out, it's not much when you're trying to use that much sashing (even if you do cut it to 1" before using it!).

As for adding in fabrics, I wanted to downplay the large-scale prints so I pulled the biggest prints I had. After all, using small scale/solids would emphasize the crazy print combinations I had, so I went big. After all, go big or go home.

Then I cut. And sewed. And cut. And sewed. And didn't take pictures of any of it. I know. I'm bad. I improvised a lot so I could use as much of those fabrics as I could...the rules of the challenge said you had to use 90% of the fabric you were given. So extra bits from the cutting became a piano key border around the outside of the top. When the top was done and I just had to choose a backing, I grabbed one of those old bedsheets I bought at the thrift store! I bought them despite the fabric diet...but almost 7 yards of fabric for about $3? Exactly. But to tie it into the front (since it wasn't included in the front at all), I cut it diagonally and inserted the leftovers of the piano key border going through the back.

I quilted the quilt in a kind of plaid way. I quilted a line 1/4" to one side of a black sashing line all the way down. I quilted a second line about 1/4" to the side of THAT line. I did this on both sides of all of the black sashing. Then in the border I just quilted in the ditch between the piano keys. I bound it with leftover strips of the focus fabrics and that was that.

Front of Quilt:

Back of Quilt:

Texture shot to show off the quilting a bit better (I usually understand pictures better than descriptions...and I'm sure I'm not the only one):

As you can see, a ton of crazy not-really-matching fabrics in there...but they match because they don't match! Right? ...right? Beyond the pictures, the thing this quilt really taught me is that I don't pin enough when I baste quilts. Because this was an interlocking sort of quilting design, there are quite a few small puckers all over the quilt where two lines intersect. It's not really noticeable unless you know to look for it, but lesson learned. Pin like it's going out of style.

I have no idea yet who this quilt will go of my husband's coworkers is expecting he and his wife's second baby but they haven't found out the gender yet. If it's a girl, this one will go to them (because they're supposed to be moving in two months and I wouldn't have time to get another one done for them). If not, it'll probably go to a charity like Quilts for Kids.

And on to the stash's been a while. :) Let's see...

Used this week: 4 yards
Used year to date: 8.1 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 8.8 yards
Net usage for 2010: (.7 yards)

This report estimates the following:

1 yd - piano key slash on the BBQ + binding, 164 2.5" squares for Thomas Knauer's No-Repeat Scrap Vomit Quilt (isn't that name AWESOME?), playing around with a few random strings and crumbs to make two crumb blocks and four string blocks...none of which I like and which I will probably offer to anybody willing to give them a good home at some point here in the general future
2 yds - finished quilt top, will be posted later
1/2 yd - binding for the hand-quilting project that's been quilted
1/2 yd - top, back, binding of the Nemo quilt

Not bad...and I'm almost back in the black! That being said, there may be a TON of fabric coming into my stash next month (not because of me...but my anniversary is coming up and hints have been dropped) so I better get sewing!

And, if you've gotten this far (which I do appreciate!), answer me this one question: How do you stretch your quilt backing, batting, and top out when basting (for sewing on a domestic non-longarm sewing machine) so that you don't get mini puckers when you quilt in any sort of intersecting pattern?