Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why I Love Traditional Blocks . . .

I was one of those kids who spent a lot of church staring at the panelling behind the pulpit counting how many strips of panelling were contained in each row, or staring at the tiles on a restaurant floor trying to figure out the order they had been laid out in. This is why even through I love free piecing and the freedom of "Modern" quilting, I also love traditional blocks laid out in traditional patterns.

For example, I've been working on this sweet little peach and yellow hourglass quilt for my friend Emily. I started with this stack of peach and yellow and white fabrics - some of which I didn't use. But as you can see, there's a lot of medium tones in that stack. Because Emily likes clean, and simple, I made about half the blocks with white and one other medium to dark value fabric. But because Emily also likes vintage, I made the other half of the blocks with a light-to-medium print and a medium-to-dark print.
 I initially tried to lay these out the same way as they were laid out in the tutorial I followed , which only had white and a medium / dark pink. In that quilt, the blocks form a secondary hourglass pattern.
I found that this layout didn't really form anything with my blocks, as you can see in the top right of the photo. So I started playing with the layouts of the blocks, and I discovered that with a few alterations, I could get this pattern:
That is a lot of secondary pattern bang for your buck, don't you think? First there's the appearance of on point dark / light square in squares. Then there's a sawtooth star in the white fabrics as well as another star that I don't know the name of . . .and if you look really closely there's something that looks a little bit like a  churn dash block as well . . . in any case, this is the kind of quilt that I would love to hang somewhere to stare at all day. Or at least I hope it will be when I'm done.

And that is why as much as I love the energy and boldness of modern very simple quilts, I also love making these kinds of quilts too - pattern and colour and value play are so satisfying.

Friday, April 12, 2013

And for my next trick . . .

I've got two project to work on - one old and one new. The new one is a little bit secret, although I don't think my friend reads my blog (if you do, hide your eyes, Emily!). This is the stack of fabric that is going to become a quilt for her little baby girl, due next month. I asked her what colours she was feeling for this baby and she said peach and yellow. My initial thought was to use my Freshcut stash, but it also includes a lot of this green that I really like but she's not fond of. So, I reached deep into my stash and picked up a few bits and bobs online, and here's the fabric stack I came up with:

I think it will make a sweet little vintage-y quilt which will be just Emily's style. My fingers are crossed, in any case.

The other thing I'm working on is the quilt formerly known as the Toast and Tea Quilt, which I started back in 2010. I had this fantastically complicated idea of having blocks looking like dancing toast, wonky tea cups, lines or words from "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" and who knows what else. But then I realized that I will never have enough time to make the quilt in my head until I'm about 50. And by then I'll have a new idea. And really, I do like these blocks just by themselves. I like the interplay of the two different dot fabrics in each block, along with the various random background fabrics.

So I put the blocks up on my design wall and had a stare at them. I made enough half-square triangles to make 14 blocks, thinking I would be interspersing them with other things. I took two out that I don't think actually go with the others, and decided to add 8 new blocks, to bring the total up to 20.

When I looked at the blocks, I thought they sort of looked like Popsicle colours, but my favorite flavor - lime - was missing, as was blue, like the rocket blue-red-white popsicles you could only get fromt he ice cream bike when I was a kid. Yes, in  Thunder Bay there was an ice cream bike, usually driven by an opportunistic teenager in search of an easy summer job (though how pedaling a bike with a full metal freezer attached to it in a city built into a hill could be considered easy is beyond me).

 Its funny, because I hardly ever let my kids eat the glucose and food coloured laden popsicles, even though I used to scrounge for change around the house so I could walk up to the corner store and buy them. But then, you can no longer send in 100 popsicle sticks to win a free frisbee from the POPSICLE club, now can you?

But I digress! So, the newly dubbed Popsicle quilt is now under way! I picked a few new neutral fabrics to add to the ones I already had - including a few precious squares of my favorite Japanese teacup print as a nod to the original quilt - and I'm on my way! Its amazing how actually having a do-able plan makes a quilt go faster.

If it keeps snowing (snow in April - I know), I might get this quilt top done pretty fast. Or maybe I'll finish the peach one first . . . I love decisions like that. So much easier than deciding how much DS time is appropriate for an 8 year old.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I did say I'd been busy . . .

I don't know if any of you work this way, but I tend to putter away on several projects all at the same time. This means that sometimes I look like I'm not really doing much - nothing is finished or I just have a bunch of fabric stacks drifting around the house. At other times, like this week, I get a lot finished and I look amazing. For a few days. Until mud season comes and all my times is taken up wiping the floor, washing 3 sets of clothes for everyone and yelling "Take your boots off! Well, carry them to the back door, then put them back on!" and "Turn the hose off, you're making the back yard into a mud hole!"

In any case, I ALSO finished these curtains this week:

 You see, we had blinds on these windows way back when our room was the boys' room. And while they boys room is pretty much finished and organized (except the closet) and Emma's room is pretty put together (have I ever showed you Emma's room? I don't think I have since I was painting a year a ago), our room has just been left. The walls are this awesome green colour, but that is as far as we got in decorating / organizing our own space.
So, we had these Ikea blinds on the windows. They did a tolerable job of blocking out the light of our busy street. But then Aaron discovered that they were only stapled onto the rolling thing (sigh). And that was the end of the blinds. Since then we've had fabric held up with thumb tacks over the windows. They did a less tolerable job of blocking the lights and the would get pulled off all the time and thumb tacks would end up strewn about our bed.

So I send Dave to Ikea to buy new blinds, but they were discontinued, and he couldn't decide on a pair of curtains. And then I saw this Joel Dewberry fabric, which is very William Morris-y in the best way, and I decided that it would be perfect. And so it came in the mail. And sat while we got brackets. And sat while I decided how best to make curtains. And then sat half-made when we changed out mind. And then sat some more because, well, I hate sewing all those straight seams and I can never get them straight and then the curtains are crooked and SOME people feel the need to complain.

Now that spring is here, I couldn't put small children to sleep in my room anymore because it was too light. So curtains had to be finished. And there were Craftsy Quilt Con Lectures to listen to anyway. So now they are finished (a bit crooked - I won't tell if you don't). And now I can sleep at night. Remind me of why it took me so long to finish five straight seams again?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Well, I finally did it!

I opened my little etsy shop. And let me tell you, right now it is little and basic, but it is OPEN and that's what matters. I figure starting somewhere is better than procrastinating until everything is perfect, right?

 I was hoping to open with many designs of tea cozies and some coasters and a pretty banner, etc, etc. That isn't happening right now, but I do have these three cute tea cozies ready to go.
Want to go check it out? You'll find me at Cozy Monster.
 If you have an etsy shop and can offer me any advice, I'd gladly take it. Or if you notice anything terribly wrong, also drop me a comment or email.

Owen's Quilt

Two weeks before his first birthday, Owen's quilt is finally done! Fortunately, its big enough for a toddler (40 x 48) so I'm not too worried about the lateness! Emma was sick and mostly wanted me to sit around with her yesterday, so I got a lot of crafty type things done, including stitching down the binding on this quilt.
I finished the piecing in the middle of last month, but then when I started machine quilting it, my machine got grumpy and kept leaving snaggles of thread and ugly ridges all over the quilt. This was mostly because I was lazy when I basted it, but rather than re-baste it, I simply decided it was small enough to hand quilt, and smooth out as I went.

I quilted with purl cotton, making x-es in the squares along the outside of the quilt and random sized boxes in the rest of the squares. I am not a super good hand quilter, but I really liked the slightly heavier texture hand quilting added to Emma's baby quilt, and I thought it was a nice size to practice on, so I went for it.
This quilt was easy to put together, and really shouldn't have taken me almost a year to make. But there are so many busy fabrics in warm and cool shades that I wanted to use that it took me a while to figure out how to give it a sense of order. In the end I simply alternated dark and light outside blocks, while trying to scatter both the novelty prints and the super busy prints evenly throughout the quilt. In the dark outer squares I also alternated warm and cool fabrics. This quilt was on and off my design wall several times at several stages in between other quilts.
In then end, I'm glad I took all that time, since it is a quilt that is living at my house and I have to look at it every day. When I was finished, I laid the quilt out to show Owen. He was most impressed with the Horton the elephant block.
The back of this quilt is two organic cotton prints - one bought with the intention of backing this quilt, and the other bought because is was so darned cute. The little paper boat print is one of those prints that would have otherwise been scattered through everything I made for the next few years, but I think I'm happy using it on this quilt that I will see every day for many years to come.
I was laughing at myself, as it was a cloudy day yesterday, and I was sad that I couldn't photograph this quilt. Then suddenly the sun came out, and I ran outside to hang it on the clothesline (our back yard is a mud and ice pit), and then drape it across various chairs around the house, madly clicking pictures before the sun disappeared again.

Its been a busy week of finishes - I'll have more to show later in the week (unless more children get colds, in which case I might be too busy making lemon - honey drinks and passing out kleenexes).

Monday, April 8, 2013

The sun is finally out, and the snow is melted in front of our house, but not yet in our dark bottom-of-the-hill-surrounded-by-duplexes back yard. Last Thursday (also garbage day - my apologies)Emma and Aaron decided to try out their new Spring box of sidwalk chalk.
They spent a while tracing each other on the sidewalk and drawing on the side of the house.

I love watching these two play together. People often laud the benefits of having kids really close together so that they will play. But Emma and Aaron, at almost three years difference, are the fartherst apart of all my kids.

When we first moved to Montreal, though, they were the two kids that went off to daycare together, and stayed home with Dad together. This means that they have spent a lot of time together.
Now that Aaron is in school, they don't see each other as much, so it is always a joy to watch them re-connect and play together. Their play is very visceral and physical and involves lots of jumping, dancing, and running. This little girl LOVES her big brother and is always happy to have his undivided attention.
Sometimes I feel guilty for all the quiet home time with Mom that they missed. I feel bad that their early childhoods were so full of upheaval - moves, job changes, changes in caregivers.
But I am glad for this beautiful relationship and bond it has created between these two siblings.
I really hope they can carry this closeness with them through life. What a blessing and gift that would be for both of them.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Because I know the suspense is killing you . . .

I thought I would show you these:

 Yes, in the nick of time, at 1:30 am, I finished these little guys, with the help of some Mad Men (season 5 is finally on Netflix - yay!), some embroidery floss and a little bit of fabric paint.

This is Owen's cute, bright little bunny (although they boys have decided he's actually Victor Frankenstein):
 Followed by Emma's sweet girly rabbit:
 Next is Andrew's zombie rabbit (known a Frankenstein):
 And lastly Aaron's weird bunny. Apparently I have to add a cape - not sure why.
I had so much fun making these - they were super easy and relatively quick.

Unfortunately, in order to get them done in time, the rest of the housework got put aside, so I've spent the last day and a half putting things back together. Whew!

Reminder to self: start Easter softies before Holy Week.