29 January, 2009

In The Category of Insane

Most certainly I should be committed.  I am feeling a bit overwhelmed some days as it is.  And on those days I feel like the crazy lady in that scene in "Airplane" where people line up to slap her because she is going a little blinky.  Hubby would probably be first in line and I would slap myself second, third, and fourth.

So, what do I do?  Sign up to volunteer of course!  I've just taken on the challenge of developing a day and a half professional development event as part of Quilt Canada 2010.  Planning an event like this is certainly in my skill set, but it is a lot of work.  Thankfully most of my immediate responsibilities have to be concluded before I return to work in May.  And the event isn't until next April/May.  Phew.

Oh wait, but there is still a lot of work to do.  That's where I am hoping you, my fantastic readers, can help me out.  If you were attending a conference/workshop as a quilting professional (teacher, judge, designer, store owner, writer), what would you want to see?  This isn't about technical skills or new patterns.  This is professional development for your business, yourself.  Some of the topics we've thought about are incorporation, getting your quilts appraised, branding, breaking in to markets, the ergonomics of craft, and lots more.  Any suggestions?

As the event planning moves along I will also keep you in the loop.  Maybe some of you will join us?

26 January, 2009

Moving Forward

My Project Improv has begun!  I could tell you all about our house re-ordering, bedroom moving, infant separation anxiety, new laptop(!), sick kid, and date night adventures, but that all seems so ordinary compared to my latest quilt project.

Can I make a confession?  While I like the look of wonky log cabin blocks, I don't love them.  There are some gorgeous examples out there, but I've made a few myself and now I'm done. When it came to my own Project Improv I wanted a different challenge.  I turned to my latest obsession: triangles. 

These blocks are made with the same technique as you would a wonky log cabin.  You start with a center shape and sew strips on one side.  Open, press, rotate and sew on another strip.  So on and so on.  To get the triangle shape I started with a small triangle.  And because I wanted distinct triangle shapes I went white - colour - white.  To ensure I got to the desired size I created a template that I used as a guide.  It let me know if I needed a thicker or thinner strip when it came time to sewing on the outside white triangle.  I then used the template to trim the blocks to size.

The entire thing is a scrap/stash quilt.  Each coloured portion of the triangle is different, with colours from nearly every bin in my stash.  I really liked the white with multi-colour effect of Amanda Jean's Snippets quilt.  In my first fabric pull I grabbed about 30 fabrics.  After laying out the first group of finished blocks I've decided that I need to make some more blocks, and I might vary the size of the triangles.

Now it's time for my second confession.  I don't like making wonky log cabin type blocks.  I find it tedious.  Yes, you can get a lot of blocks done, but the construction part is boring.  Well, it is for me.  But I am committed to this and I am liking the way it is turning out.  We'll just have to see where it goes.  In the true spirit of Improv I don't have much of a plan right now.

21 January, 2009

A New Addiction

Oh, what have I started? I felt the need to get quilty last week and I wanted a start to finish project. The Monster started playing with dolls recently, so a doll quilt seemed like a good choice. From start to finish it took me about three hours. That includes the time spent with The Monster picking fabric.

I've had this Dick and Jane fabric for a while. She is obsessed with the Dick and Jane books. Do you know how annoying those are to read and reread to the enjoyment of a 2 year old? Maybe I was hoping that the quilt would quell her desire to hear the stories by encouraging her to make up her own with Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff, and Spot on the quilt. Yeah, foolish thinking on my part.

This is very simple construction. Two pieces of fabric sewn together and some circle appliques covering the seam. To quilt I simply outlined the circles and copied the diamond pattern on the big piece of fabric.

There is one more bit of work to do, or rather, re-do. I did the binding by machine - a big mistake. I've never done that before and I won't do it again. One quiet night I will take the seam ripper to the stitches and sew it down properly, by hand. Of course, I have about a dozen more sketches of other quilts to make. And a list of little girls I know who would love a doll quilt...

18 January, 2009

Inspired Improvisation Ready for Delivery

My Inspired Improvisation quilt is done. Oh, and I finally got my new camera, so I can share the pictures with you.

This quilt was truly an improvisational piece. In a fit of insomnia a few months I bundled up and headed to the basement. On the table was the doodle I'd saved. The Monster was only scribbling, but it captured me and I kept it. From that drawing I started pulling fabric, cutting some squares and strips, swiped my rotary through the squares, and sewed. As you can see, some blocks only got swiped once, some twice, some here, and some there.

When I started I had no plan. This was definitely about the process. Hell, I didn't even know if this was going to end up as a quilt. Sometimes you just need to start something and see what happens. Along the way I realized that it was going to turn into a vibrant quilt and I needed to start thinking about the end result. At that point I began to plan block sizes and total number of blocks. And because I didn't cut enough fabric that first night I could actually cut to better size and end with less waste.

The back was pieced with the few remaining fabrics in large enough quanities. This was entirely stash-built so I wasn't about to buy fabric for the backing. It required a bit of creativity, but I thought I captured the energy of the front on a large scale for the back.

The label had to include The Monster's scribbles. I scanned the original and used it as the background for my label. Unfortunately our ink was a little low so the colours weren't as vibrant as the original, but that paper is damn expensive so I wasn't about to reprint.
The quilting is in sharp contrast to all the angles of the front. I debated with myself for a few days over whether I should contrast the design or mimic it. I started it and then let it sit for a few days because I wasn't sure about it. To be honest, I went ahead still unsure merely because I was too lazy to rip it out! I'm glad I did. It gives a nice weight to the quilt and the contrast is striking.
Finally, the quilt was finished with this multi-fabric binding. It was the perfect touch. A solid binding would have been too boring.
I can't wait to deliver this one. My boss is still waiting for his heart. He's home now. We'll be heading up in a few weeks and with luck I can present it to his family for his transplant recovery. If not, then I can get a visit with a remarkable man and show him some gratitude for all he's done for me.

13 January, 2009

Breaking Free

Improvisational quilting is not just about making wonky log cabins or wavy strip quilts. it's about not buying kits and patterns and fabric lines. In the spirit of Project Improv, and because I still don’t have a camera, I thought I could offer some encouragement for those just breaking into improvisational quilting.

Where do you start? Well, that depends on your goals and inspiration. Are you trying to make a baby quilt to match a room? Have you fallen in love with one particular fabric that you want to showcase? Are you simply interested in playing around at your machine? Heck, maybe it's all three.
For the nearly 50 quilts I've made or contributed to in my 10 years of quilting I can honestly say that maybe 5 were from a pattern - a straight out of the package or book pattern. I'm not one to be told what to do, so early on I started adapting ideas I saw, or creating my own to make my quilts. I would really call it an evolution of technique and effort, not a style.
The first foray into my own designs was simply taking traditional block patterns and putting them together without a pattern. I never understood how companies got away with putting together a pattern for a traditional block, like a maple leaf or churn dash, in a simple setting and convince people that they should pay $10 for it. Maybe it made sense before the proliferation of block patterns available on-line or in books? But you still see them in the stores. I digress.
My favourite places to search for blocks were here or here. If I was making a quilt for someone in particular I would try to pick a block that related to the person. For example, a Monkey Wrench block for a friend that likes to make furniture. Generally I would make a few blocks before I decided where I was going with the quilt. I almost never decide exactly what the quilt will end up as before I start. It is always an iterative process. Sometimes the settings were even quite traditional, with sashings and everything. It just depended on the recipient (if there was one planned) or simply what looked right.
Another favourite thing for a while was to take a block pattern and make it big. This works nicely for baby quilts. A 12 inch block translates nicely into a 36 inch block. This evolved into what I called jazz quilting: taking that original block pattern and repeating it in different sizes.
Then I got my new sewing machine. Thus started the obession with circles. I've made a whole shwack of circles quilts, all very different. The first one I did is one that still requires a label, but it already keeps Hubby warm on the couch in the evenings.

Subsequent circle quilts have included pieced backgrounds. This move then got me thinking about different ways to do these backgrounds and new shapes to applique. It's amazing how a simple shape like a half square triangle can look so different depending on what you do with it. Three of my most recent quilts all have half square triangles, but fabric choice and placement change the way they look. Often I cut the fabric first and make the blocks, then worry about placement and setting. Such was the case with this, this, and this quilt.

Along the way I've tried new things too. I had to get my Denyse Schmidt on and made this quilt a while ago.

And I liked the idea of the popular Yellow Brick Road quilts. But again, I couldn't bring myself to buy a pattern for what looked so simple. Rather than try and copy it I drafted my own pattern. When I went to make the quilt I decided I didn't want the look of a whole bunch of squares and rectangles. So I combined the wonky log cabin look with the pattern I drew and came up with this.
(Sorry about the crappy photo, I could only find a tiny one. The original is on the old computer and that's packed away for the renos.)

My latest projects have been about shapes too, and a lot of seeing what happens as you sew. Cut some fabric and sew, then see what happens. It's kind of like what would happen if Jackson Pollack quilted. Sometimes it is more about the process and not the end product. But you can still make something beautiful out of it.

When you are looking to break free from patterns and kits, remember you don't have to throw out everything from traditional quilting. It is always still a good idea to use a scant quarter inch seam, press well, and trim your blocks square. You can still take those traditional ideas and make them into something new. Don't be afraid. Just start sewing.

09 January, 2009

Baja Inspirations - Water

What? A water-themed slideshow of just pictures of water? That would be pretty darn boring. Oh look, here's some blue water. And more blue water. More water, this time the waves are bigger.

There is no combination - aside from peanut butter and chocolate - that is more perfect together than kids and water. Any slide show of a trip to the ocean has to include kids playing in the water.

Grown-ups can play too. Here was the day we had a big water fight.

On a calmer day Hubby took Little Miss Sunshine into the ocean for a quick dip. She didn't like it the first time, but was happy the second time we did it. Alas, no photos of the second time because that was after the camera took its own dip in the ocean.
Of course there are lots of fish in the ocean. There were also a lot of these porcupine fish on the beach. These poor swimmers were quite easily tossed up by the waves. This one was still alive so we had a good look at it and dropped it in a quiet spot to hope for the best. My nephew wasn't very impressed.

One day we all piled into a panga, or fishing boat, to do some deep sea fishing. In the morning the boys caught sierra mackerel. In the afternoon we caught dorado and tuna. My brother snapped this photo at sunrise.
Just one of our rods primed and ready to go.
This was not a good moment. We'd just hooked two dorado and were high on the adrenaline and bruises of pulling them in - and the excitement over good eats for dinner. The captain, Ramone, was rehooking the lines and Hubby was steering the boat. Suddenly he couldn't steer. We were a good 6 miles or so from our launch beach and the steering on the boat broke. For a while Hubby actually steered the motor with his hands, but we couldn't go very fast that way. So Ramone tied a gaffe to the motor and amped up the speed while he and Hubby took turns holding the gaffe. It would be nice if the adventure ended there, but it doesn't. Once we got to the beach both the boat and the truck used to haul it out got stuck in the soft sand. Boy that fish tasted real good when we finally got home!

On another day all twelve of us loaded on to another panga to go snorkelling on the live coral reef at Cabo Pulmo. Absolutely stunning, but no one had an underwater camera. Also on the trip we saw a mama humpback whale and her calf, the flying rays you can see in the picture below, and we got to snorkel with a colony of wild sea lions. The latter was one of the highlights of the entire trip for me.

The morning after our snorkelling trip we were drinking our tea and coffee at the house when we spotted whales about 100 metres off shore. We watched them for about twenty minutes, after which time Hubby woke up. Without hesitation he grabbed a kayak and decided to see how close he could get. He raced out there, but this was as good as it got. See that tiny black spec? That's the whale. By this time she (we think it may have been a mama and calf again) was turning out to deeper waters.

Finally, no pool is really a good pool unless you cannonball. I snapped this great shot of my nephew just before we began our cannonball contest. No surprise, my 250 pound father won!

06 January, 2009

Baja Inspirations

Well, it was a beach vacation afterall.

Because I still don't have a camera and can't share with you the label making frenzy I've started, I'll share some snippets of our vacation. The trip has inspired a few quilts for me. Still sketches, but inspiration nonetheless. Today's segment are some of my favourite beach photos.

Little Miss Sunshine aka Monkey aka Smiler aka Stinker Pooper Farter was in heaven in the heat and the sand. Thankfully she likes her showers afterwards too.

Our nieces and nephews also loved the beach - who doesn't? This was them on their first morning. I can't take credit for the photo, their mom snapped it.

My sister-in-law snapped this photo as well. She would go out every morning and search for shells and seaglass (another post). We had quite a collection at the end of the trip.

Speaking of searching for shells, this was the Monster on one of the few "Find a Shell" journeys she was willing to join me on.

Every exploration begins with baby steps. I am in love with this photo. It is Hubby with the Monster and my brother's oldest son. They're probably looking for hermit crabs, or shells. Low tide, fresh footprints, and adventures.

Just a quiet beach.

Just my Hubby and the Monster

Up next will be the water shots.

02 January, 2009

Report From Home

We're back! Back to winter, friends, and our crowded, messy house. And we couldn't be happier.

That's a lie. I could be happier - if I had a camera. In case you didn't know, digital cameras don't like dips in the ocean, no matter how brief.

New camera is on order. And I will post more pictures from our trips - lots of inspiration for new quilts. In the meantime, we are trying to get some order on our house and I am on a label making binge.

For a brief glimpse on our trip make some lime pie. More to come.