31 July, 2009

Garnet Gals Birthday Quilt

Here's another one that may not seemingly seem like me, but one that I treasure. This is my Garnet Gals Birthday Quilt. And the Garnet Gals are?

When I first made my way online in quilty explorations I landed on the World Wide Quilting Page and their chat pages. For a couple of years I participated as one of the only young (under 30 then) ones. I met women who are still good friends and inspirations. I participated in block showers for sick friends and family. And I learned.

About four or five years ago the chat board started to get ugly and a few of us decided to start our own little Yahoo group.  It was done under the banner of the Red Hat Ladies. I know, I'm not exactly Red Hat material, but they gave me a pink one and let me in. We've been chatting and sharing ever since.  

In our first year we did birthday blocks for each other. On everyone's birthday they were surprised with blocks. 19 blocks plus one we made for ourselves.  The blocks were to be in Red Hat colours, or Pink Hat, in my case. This is what I did with mine. There was that one odd yellow and purple block, so that led to the choice of that starburst fabric. The setting isn't particularly unique, but it isn't exactly common.

The back was pieced from some sale fabric I found and that gorgeous dahlia fabric.  Did I mention that my Red Hat name is Lady Dahlia? And that dahlia's are my all time favourite flower?

The entire quilt is about 84 inches square. At the time I pieced the top I had never quilted anything so large so I sent it to the long armer, Berny Sproule.  She found a dahlia pantogram that finished the whole thing off perfectly.

I remember my mom or Hubby dropping this quilt off at Berny's when I was on bed rest when pregnant with The Monster. I think she was about 6 months old, at least, before I even picked it up.  And I only got the binding on this past winter. 

And I finished the label, and all that needle turn applique, on Inauguration Day this January. The label is my favourite part of the quilt.  Not only for the fabric, but because it shows the history and the makers of all the blocks.  This quilt may not scream Cheryl, but it shouts friendship. 

29 July, 2009


Welcome to my niece's room. B is a cute, cute, cute 5 year old. She is a girlie as they come, loving tea parties, dresses, and jewelry.  She has a wonderfully pink room, filled with animals, frills, shells, and a mural of country life surrounding her, complete with Charlotte's Web. 

When I walked into her room the other day this was the view that greeted me. Not perfection, not the sign of a mom-made bed. But the sign of a played in, jumped on, and snuggled in bed. And right there was the quilt I made when she was born.

That is a paper pieced quilt.  Yes, me, paper piecing.  This wasn't a one time experience, either. I actually really enjoy paper piecing. Have you lifted your jaw off the ground yet?  

The butterflies were a mish mash of pink scraps. And though you can't see it (I neglected to get a close-up) I embroidered the antennae in black, with a little eye too.  The butterflies also have some detailed quilting.  The rest of it is quilted in a grid pattern and free motion heart motif.

I love that the quilts I've given to my nieces and nephews are loved and used.  They aren't hiding away on a high shelf or in a box of baby stuff.  Okay, maybe two are, but those kids are older. I forgive them.  But it gave me great pleasure to see this quilt a little bit dirty and just piled on the bed.  That meant it was loved.  No matter the design, the technique, or the recipient that's all I can ask for.

27 July, 2009

New York Beautiful

Not much is happening on the quilting front lately.  Hubby is out of town, the house is bearing down on me, and I'm simply exhausted by the time the girls stop jumping on the bed and chattering to each other, finally collapsing in the heat.  Rather than leave you with another picture of a chubby baby in a bathing suit I thought I would open the vaults and share some of my older quilts.

This New York Beauty was a pivotal piece of work for me. It was my first truly scrappy-style piece, although not truly a scrappy quilt. At last count I think there were 23 different fabrics in this quilt. Before this quilt I was quite set on simple patterns on a white or single coloured background.  Since this quilt I've barely made a quilt that way.  Looking at this quilt again, I've also barely made a quilt with borders since.  One step forward, one step back.

I made this quilt as a wedding present for my brother and sister-in-law.  Actually, Hubby and I made this quilt. When I first started giving quilts as presents Hubby insisted that his name also be on the label.  My insistence was that he actually help with the process if he wanted his name on the label. Usually that meant expressing an opinion on the fabric choices or the layout, or helping me baste the quilt.  In this case he helped pick the pattern and even took the class with me to learn how to make the block.

For the record, if you have any single male friends sign them up for a quilt class.  If there are no young, hot chicks in it, there are lots of moms and grandmoms with single daughters who will be happy to set him up. I was in the room with him and they were still trying to set him up with other women! 
The colours for this quilt were chosen to remind my brother and sister-in-law of the beach. They met and started dating in California. And my sister-in-law is from New Orleans. It seemed appropriate to do what we could to remind them of warmer weather since they were moving back to Edmonton after they got married.  And we chose the New York Beauty block because my brother proposed on the top of the Empire State Building.  Such meaning, it might be a bit too much.

It is probably safe to say that this is one of the most-used quilts I've ever made. My sister-in-law uses this, with a duvet and a heating pad to sleep. I mentioned that my sister-in-law is from New Orleans and moved to Edmonton, Alberta, right?  

22 July, 2009

Can You Quilt the Grass?

Generally, no two quilts of mine are quilted the same.  Honestly, I don't think I've ever even stippled the same sort of way twice.  Many times I am inspired by a certain fabric in a quilt - flowers on a quilt with flowered fabric, for example.  Sometimes I am inspired by the graphic nature of a quilt and choose to reflect or accentuate it with the quilting design.  And sometimes, the original inspiration brings out the quilting design.  Such was the case with my Grass quilt.

I wanted the quilting to look like blades of grass.  There is all that white that was begging show off some cool quilting.  Really, the quilt top was even designed with this quilting idea in mind.

In order to pull off a new idea effectively you can't just throw some thread in the machine and see what happens.  As anxious as I usually am to start quilting the second I've closed my last pin I do like to do a bit more prep work before the needle hits my quilt sandwich.

The first thing I do is sketch.  More than once a quilt pattern comes from some random doodle done in a fit of boredom.  Last week I was on a conference call and my mind was wandering to exactly how I was going to quilt blades of grass without actually sewing a bunch of vertical lines down the quilt top.  I have no idea what was said about feed-in-tariffs that day, but from my first doodle on a sticky to this full sheet sketch I knew I had a good pattern. 

It was important to me to capture the randomness of growing grass and the movement you see when you get down on the ground and actually look at the grass.  I also didn't want it to look like a whole bunch of scratches stretching horizontally across the quilt.  I think the full sketch captured what I had envisioned in my head.  On to testing.

An old quilting friend of mine once gave us some really good machine quilting tips at a retreat. One of the tips she passed on was to create a binder of machine quilting samples.  Take note of thread, tension, and tips to make a pattern work.  That way there will be no second guessing when you want to do that pattern a second, third, or fourth time.  It also works well for testing a pattern and working out any kinks before you tackle a big quilt.

This was the sample I made to test my sketch.  In this case making a sample was a very good idea.  On my machine, when I do more curves I have to have my tension set quite light. That did not work on this pattern.  Problem corrected I also realized that this pattern was going to require some good speed control.  In just a few minutes I worked out my frustrations and was able to develop some rhythm for quilting.

On to the quilt.
Holy crap, I'm in love with this.  I still worry it is a bit to flame-like, but it really is exactly what I wanted. The amount of thread this is using is phenomenal - one bobbin doesn't even do two horizontal passes of the quilt.  Really, I could care less about the thread costs (I am so not doing that math at all).

Now, just to finish.  I'm only about a third done. Sometime in August...

19 July, 2009

Where I'd Rather Be

Have you ever noticed that the majority of people who work a desk job decorate their office with vacation photos, pictures of idyllic locations, artwork from their kids, or pictures of the family itself? Have you ever noticed that all those things make up for places they would probably rather be that work?
Welcome to my work week! I have a few family photos, but I've surrounded myself with quilts and colour. Can you tell where I would rather be? If I can't spend my day quilting or with the girls, I'm bring that with me.
The requisite office supplies are surrounded by artwork from the girls - the joys of finger painting and glue. That is one of my favourite photos ever of Hubby there on the right. Taken about 12 years ago after some water-skiing. Every day when I'm on the phone and I can daydream about painting around our little craft table or those carefree times of summer without kids. And I don't see those fantasties as mutually exclusive.

Right under my Project Improv quilt sits this little area. An old wooden tray holds keys and the crackberry. It also holds my water bottle (I hate drinking cold water) and the best teapot ever. You could also call this part of my office a bit of inspiration. That glass vase is filled with my sea glass collection and the shells from our most recent vacation. And the Marimekko tin holds markers. Markers which are used should my girls or someone else's kids visit the office. Markers which as used to sketch out design ideas that hit while I'm supposed to be working.

Finally, I have to include a photo of this piece of artwork. It may look like a piece of felt with bits or scrap ribbon, buttons, pompoms, and a jingle bell. I actually think it looks like a mini art quilt. And The Monster made it just for me, just for my office.

Yeah, I know where I'd rather be.

16 July, 2009

Of Boardrooms and Safety Pins

When you work full-time, have two little girls, are undergoing a reno, and actually want to quilt you have to get creative.  And by creative, I mean you have to get up at 5 am to sneak into the office early in order to baste a quilt.

Yes, I am a little crazy.

15 July, 2009

For Little Girls

There are times when I question why I choose the homemade route.  Like at 11:00 pm on a Friday night when I'm exhausted.  But when I see the look on the face of the sweetest, most hilarious two year old I know and her mom it is SO worth it.

One of my dearest friends had the best birthday party for her youngest girl, Ellie, on Saturday. I've known this little one since she was born and I've enjoyed watching her through all her stages. I love to watch her sit on the kitchen counter and help her mom make pancakes, or mother her little babies, or simply move water from one spot to the next.  I see her follow my Monster and her big sister, or kiss Smilosaurus like she was her own little sister.  When you know someone like this and you love them, how can you not stay up late to spoil them?  Sleep is always there.

Details on the apron?  Fabric is a mix of an old Amy Butler (Ginger Bliss), a Michael Miller, some Anna Maria Horner, and some from this quilt, made for the birthday girl when she was born.  And I made the apron the same way I did this one and the one I made for Ellie's older sister.

Happy Birthday El!

12 July, 2009

No More Whining

Okay, there has been far too much whining here of late.  I could continue on - life's just beating me down these days - but it is time to move on.  Seriously, I need a kick in the butt and some perspective.  Don't let me whine anymore.

Instead I will share some good news and some quilt photos.  Other than the gates, our fence is done!  We can also now run around and play on the new grass.  And speaking of grass, I finished my grass inspired quilt.

I should clarify that this quilt is more inspired by the intended patio in our newly landscaped yard.  The patio is still a month or so away from being completed.  Maybe that's why I wanted to do this quilt - letting my imagination run wild while I stare out the back window.  Or compensate for the lack of patio?  Oops, I said no more whining.

The top is made entirely from scraps.  Okay, maybe the whites technically qualify as stash, not scraps.  But they weren't big pieces.  All the greens do come from the scrap pile.

The white squares are 12.5 inches and the pieced sashing in 4.5 inches wide.  Those are unfinished numbers.  I made the sashing pieces by trimming my green scraps - those that were big enough - to about 13.5 inch strips.  After dividing them into dark/medium and light piles I sewed two strips together.  I then trimmed them, often on an angle, to 12.5 by 4.5 strips.  The cornerstone pieces were made from smaller scraps, sewn together into a simple four patch and trimmed down.

Initially I thought this would be a great picnic quilt, but Smilosaurus is way too messy for that this year.  The quilting will be a challenge - at least to me.  This is where the grass inspiration will really come in.  Stay tuned.

And speaking of perspective, I wanted to share with you some good news.  Do you remember this quilt?  My colleague and old boss finally got his new heart on Friday.  We heard yesterday that he is already recovering quite well.  So when I'm whining about the state of my house and busyness of life, remind me that heart matters more.

PS  This last pic includes fabrics from that Inspired Improvisation quilt - and one of the many aphids hanging around these days.

07 July, 2009

Lazy Days

Yes, I know I've shown this quilt a few times already. But this picture exemplifies our lives these days. The mess, the exhaustion, the unshowered...

I was out of town for a few days last week for work. While away I got the call that my great uncle had passed away. He really was like a second father to my mom and a grandfather (in addition to his own 24 grandchildren!) to us. While I hadn't seen him much as an adult I wanted to be there to say goodbye. So we packed up and headed to Saskatoon and area for a few days. We hung out with the almost never seen giant Ukrainian family, showed Hubby and the girls the farm where Baba grew up, and said our goodbyes.

After 20 hours (total) in the car for two road trips, a holiday, the discovery that our sweet Maple (a.k.a Damn Brown Dog) is incontinent in the poop department, and continued potty training for The Monster we were ourselves literally pooped. While everyone else in the house slept on Sunday morning I busied myself with laundry and a bit of tidying. That's all I could muster.

Somewhere in there I did get a bit of sewing done. Unfortunately, the weather isn't cooperating for me to actually take a picture of anything. The Grass quilt top is done. Oh, and the fence is so close to being done. I can now use a section of it to act as my design wall - once it stops raining.