Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Quilting a Little Sunshine

It seems like the end of February is always a bit challenging for me when I'm at home with small children. A combination of endless rounds of sick kids (sometimes by the time the flu goes through all four of them, the one that started the last round gets something else . . .), bitter winds and general cloudy, snowy weather have been giving me the blues this winter. I feel something like this:

Fortunately, for me, I have lots of yellow fabric. LOTS of yellow fabric. So, since the sun won't shine, I decided to make some sun. This might be a tea cozy - one of a series for an etsy shop I'm planning on opening next month.
But then, now that its on my design wall, I could see six of these making a pretty fun baby quilt too . . .
Here's the grey for the "rain" blocks, which will probably have blue at the bottom.

Whatever this becomes, its keeping me from feeling so light deprived at the moment. Here's to cotton sunshine.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


 As promised last night, here are the penguins I was working on while reading blogs and watching "Skyfall". These penguins are for Aaron's "bestie" at school. He has been using the word "girlfriend", but I suggested that he was perhaps too young for that term to really be appropriate. Ahem.
 In any case, it is his friend's birthday party today, and when we asked her parents what she likes, the list included penguins. Well, I remembered that there was a cute penguin tutorial up at the purl bee, and the idea for these penguins was born. Aaron loves crazy, wacky stuff, so he wanted the penguins to be multi-coloured and silly. I decided she needed a pair. 

A sweet girl penguin with a soft pink tummy and heart wings:
And a crazy multi-coloured boy with a striped tummy - I love the fact that the tummy looks just like those old fashioned swimming costumes.
 These were really quick and fun, and I'm sure more will appear in our house soon. Is it permisable to make winter animals for Easter baskets?

In any case, we sadly say goodbye to these penguins, who are now wrapped up in a shoebox, eagerly awaiting their new home.

Good Thoughts on Modern Quilting

Right here,  Thomas Knauer makes some great points on Modern Quilting. That, along with attending a Montreal Modern Quilt Guild meeting has all kinds of ideas rattling around in my head . . . if I get them sorted out I might commit something to virtual paper. But first, I have penguins to finish. My penguins are Montrealers, not New Yorkers, so they are a little more colourful - hopefully I'll remember to take a photo of them before Aaron takes them off to his friend's birthday party tomorrow.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Quilt for my Mom - finished and sent

Although this quilt made it into my list of to-do quilts, I forgot to show you the finished quilt, as I finished it in the midst of my Madrona Road Challenge madness. As you can see, I photographed it on a cloudy day in mid-January, so my apologies for the grey photos. That's what the light was doing, so I just went with it.

My Mom was born in the 1930's and her childhood was mostly in the '40s, so I wanted to make a quilt that used some fabrics that would remind her of that time period. Since she also loves dogs and children,  I wanted to include those in the quilt somehow too. She has always liked blue and red and wears mostly those colours. I wanted this quilt to feel a little bit like it had been made from clothes from her wardrobe, even though it wasn't. I went with a simple pattern of squares, as I knew she would appreciate this as much as something more complicated - she does not sew much and is not crafty.

 I get my creative, colourful bug from my Dad and his parents, who were very creative people. My Mom is  very strong and active, and played hockey into her 60's, so we don't really have the same gifts.
My Mom also loves elephants, so I had to add them somehow. When I went to visit her in October I noticed that pretty much everything in her apartment is blue and beige, so I decided to make the back to match that. The quilt is tied for simplicity, and I like the drape it gives the fabric. Also I was a bit burnt out on quilting (ahem - I can't think of why) so I wanted to tie this one.
My favorite print is the big flowers, which I beleive is from Urban Chick's Sweet collection. I also like the girl of a swing, and the classic Lotus dots in this quilt. It is not really "my" colours, but I had to include some splashy prints as it was made by me.

Here is is all folded up and ready to go. I mailed this out at the same time as my Doll Quilt, and it fortuitously arrived yesterday - on Valentines day!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Doll Quilt Swap 13 - Received!

I had a lovely mail day yesterday! I came home from a Bible Study I've started attending on Wed mornings to see the mail man walking up the street away from my house. I ran into the house, curious to see if it would be the day of the Doll Quilt. And it was! This is the lovely package I got from Emily (simple life, simple girl):

quilt, lovely scraps, a vintage button, a card and two rolls of washi tape
I had requested something colourful and whimsical and happy. And this quilt is all of those. It has my favorite combination of colours, it is beautifully pieced and quilted, and there are fun little details in the fabrics - mice and bees and flowers hiding among the dots.
Here it is all laid out - isn't it amazing? One thing I love about quilt swaps is that you often get something that you love, but could never make for yourself. This is a stunning little quilt, and I could never make it for myself, as I'm not super good at hand work.
I decided that it needed to hang in our hallway to ward off the winter blues. My quilt wall is being taken down so I can repaint (the lower half of the wall suffers from being behind the table on the side where the boys eat, and the wall next to it suffers from an over enthusiastic art experiment involving a brown ink pad).
I think it is the perfect size for this spot, don't you?

Friday, February 8, 2013


I don't know if it was the blowing snow, or the early morning, or the fact that my husband is away for the weekend, but today I feel connected. Connected to all the mom friends I have all across the country who are performing the same parenting rituals as me. Waking up too early. Making coffee. Planning school lunches. Snuggling babies. Fixing lego ships with fumbling, not yet awake hands. Wrapping arms around children as they climb on and off my lap, or check in as they run by making blasting noises. Finding missing socks, boots, neckwarmers and mittens. Waving goodbye with a baby on my hip as the bus drives away. Coming back home for a snuggle and a snack with my littlest littles.

On days like today I miss the times before I had school aged kids, when I could sneak off to my friends' houses and live in solidarity with other moms of young ones for a few days. I miss those days of sharing my morning coffee with friends, laughing and joking and making endless rounds of toast for hungry little mouths.

I wish our culture shared motherhood more. I wish we opened our homes - clean or not - to our friends for mornings, afternoons, and weekends. Parenting is so much easier when it is shared among a group of mothers and when the children can play with one another. Living together, instead of just formal visiting, is a beautiful, lost art. I wish we could reclaim it.

In the meantime, I will send my words out to you, my friends, across the country (and through this blog the world). Pour yourself some coffee. Make some toast. Snuggle your little (or big) ones close. And invite someone over for the afternoon - whether your house is clean or not.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Owls in the Cupboard - My Finished Doll Quilt

In the last week or so, I have been busy working away on the doll quilt that was due in the mail today. I decided to do a variation of something I have done in the past that was popular and fun to make: teacups.

I started out with this sketch, way back in Novemeber, when the swap first started. I was going to make the teacups and applique these little birds on.
 I was sketching late at night, and as you can see, the birds weren't sure why they were on the mugs - and neither was I. Although I realize that a whimsical quilt is just that, whimsical, inconsequential things bother me. I really wanted to give the birds a reason to be sitting en masse on teacups.
 So, I decided that maybe some of the birds were ON the teacups, and some were free, and it would be like a joke, like the free birds were trying to get the birds off the teacups. Or like there would be all teacups and one bird in the middle of them - one unexpected free peiced bird in the midst of the teacups with birds on them. So I started making cups and mugs.
 And then I made a few more, and a bird to go with them.

 As I progressed, however, it seemed that a log cabin was called for. To quote the great artist Winnie the Pooh, "It wanted to come in after the [red mug] so I let it". (speaking of which, if you have kids and you like to play them stories, you really must get the cds of Stephen Fry and Judy Dench and a bunch of other brilliant British actors reading Winnie the Pooh - they bring out all the comedy perfectly, my kids love them, and I don't mind listening to them a hundred times because the characters are so well done). In any case, I kept playing, adding owls when I could and eventually, a second bird and then a final mug. This was my first time working with text prints as a background to anything, and I must say I love the final result. The only thing that was tricky was balancing out the quilt - some of the prints I chose as my lights were very light, while some were more medium. This meant I had to be careful with my final layout.
Eventually, I ended up with this fun little nine patch quilt. I didn't have a lot of time for complex quilting, and I was really taken by svetlana's quilting on this quilt, so I decided to do something similar on my quilt.
I also quilted around the teacups and birds in matching thread so that they would stand out a bit more against the background. I must say, these owls just make me laugh - they are kind of funny and creepy and cute all at once.

I bound the quilt with a black-on-black print I've had in my stash forever, wrote a label of sorts on the back, and popped it in the mail.
I love this quilt, and would have gladly hung it on my own wall. I hope my partner likes it just as much or more than I do. I may have to make myself something similar, except I only had a scrap of the owl fabric, so I will have to find some other weird animals or people to go on my mugs . . . hmmm, we'll see.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fragments and Dreams - My Madrona Road Challenge Quilt

After many late nights and many, many spools of thread, I have finally finished my quilt! I started out thinking I would do a little bit of doodle quilting to accentuate what was going on, but as time went on I got deeper and deeper into the quilting. I'm not sure this quilt entirely works compositionaly, but it was fun to stretch myself to make it. I was hoping the quilting would balance out the quilt, but I don't think it did. However, I am proud of the work and thought that I put into this quilt, and I think it is a sign of where I am going as a quilter.

Here it is, in all its glory! The concept of this quilt was pulled out of the text fabric, so to understand it, you have to know what the strips of black text fabric say. The top left is "stitch by stitch she pieced her life together", then "the family settled in a little house with a big life on Madrona Road." The center appartment building says, "The country mouse and her prince grew restless in their beuatiful city", while the quote next to the flower says "longed for a steadfast place to call home". The ladder and hand says, "After battling an evil giant she vowed never to climb ladders again", the center star says, "Sweet dreams" and the bottom right quote is "Alas, the winds called her to seek her soul in the desert".
On my Flikr photo I wrote a little artist's statement: This quilt was inspired by the text fabric and the night time colours - I wanted to make a quilt that had the same effect of fragmented, unfinished images drifting over the surface of the quilt. The free motion doodle quilting fills in details and adds texture to the quilt, adding extra images and words (a castle by the giant's hand, wind in the desert, a garden outside the hosue) that expand the images and continue to reflect the text in its  free flowing stream of consciousness style.
I'll walk you around a bit of the quilting, shall I? If you'd rather just look at the pictures, feel free to skip the text all together. But its there in case you're interested in my process and the details.
Here we see the giant's castle and the clouds behind it, as well as the swirl-y quilting I put on the whole bottom left of the quilt. The writing says "Here be giants". Now I wish I had echo-quilted these yellow flowers too, as I did with the ones above and on the right of the quilt. Maybe I'll pick it out and re-do it if I have the time . . . (ha ha).
Since I was playing with the interaction of images vs text, and piecing vs quilting, I was feeling all Postmodern, and decided to layer my own words on top of the words and images that were already in the quilt.
In case you're wondering, free motion writing is easy. If you have some practice and control with your free motion quilting, and you can write cursive, then you can write on your quilt. Around the star there is this same swirl-y quilting, with small stars and hearts added in.
The wind is quilted around the girl, and the yellow flower has echo quilting in it. The flowers are expanded outward into the white space. I quilted "Let the sunshine in" and a sun next to the yellow flower, which reminded me of the sun.
The house has clouds and swirls above it, and a garden below it. There is a path leading from the text about finding a place to find their own. The house has bricks quilted into it, and the is texture in the roof and the curtains.
This flower motif is one of my favorite parts of the quilting. I will definitely use this again on another quilt.
On the other side of the quilt I quilted in the words from the text above, with spools on either side. Above this is the part where I made square spirals. I'm the least happy with that part. My original plan was to do straight line quilting, and I think I should have stuck with it, or made the lines much closer together - more like a 1/4 inch.
Finally, next tot he house, I wrote "Home sweet home". This also shows a nice section of the clouds and swirl-y spirals. The swirls sort of expanded into these spirals as I continued quilting, and I think I like them better. I will probably use them as a quilting motif again, too. The clouds were also fun.
Overall, I had a lot of fun quilting this - it reminded me of the geometric doodling I used to fill pages with in highschool during class. Although the final product is a bit random, the process of making this quilt was great, and I will definitely use some of the things I learned in future quilts.