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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Embrace the Suck

I recently read a book that had a big influence on my creativity. It is "It's Great to Suck at Something," by Karen Rinaldi. I highly recommend it. The title might be off-puting, because of the word suck. The author's proviso is that we ought not suck at important things, such as our jobs. But hobbies, that is different. Her main hobby is surfing, which she started at age 40. She loves to surf, and invests a lot of time and money into her hobby. By starting in mid life, she doubts she'll be a great surfer, but she is mostly ok with that. The book goes on to share Buddist philosophies, and to talk about not being a perfectionist. Perfectionists are annoying. As one of my friends said, the only thing I'm perfect at is annoying myself. hahaha. Two of m daughters are involved in SCA events. SCA is a historical reenacting group. They are very involved, making their own historically accurate garments, camping out and having festivals, and teaching each other historical skills. Diane has been chosen as the barroness for the upcoming year, starting the end of August. Her emblem is a bear, with a group of garlic flowers over it's head.
Her new gown will be purple silk, made in a historical middle ages design. It will be embellished with amethysts. I decided to make her a banner like her emblem, in flag size out of rip stop nylon. I had left over supplies from a recent garden flag, and as synchronicity would have it, her bear became purple. I printed off the emblem, and drew graph lines to hep me enlarge it with free hand drawing. This is where the suck came in. I nearly froze when I started to draw a bear on a 3 foot scale. But I told myself, it's great to suck ata drawing, and went for it. After feeling discouraged at my bear, I googled line drawings of bears. They are a wide range, and really anything goes. The nose and the narrow eyes are the key. The next tricky part was then cutting into the purple rip stop nylon. I didn't have extra to spare. But I laid the paper on the fabric and got brave. Once I let go of trying to make it good, it got fun and it turned out great. Diane's bear looks fierce. My bear looks like she is ready to tear into a log for bugs and honey. Even with the eyebrow she is more cuddly than fierce. That is ok.
I foundAnd, here is my some fancy fringe for the bottom of the banner. I did some thread painting to add details.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Sew it and a Baby Will Need It

I started this new year with a challenge to myself. I saw a Quilt Along (QAL) on social media and thought it might give me some prompts for block ideas. It is headed by Molli Sparkles The draw was to use the top shelf fabric that is "too good to cut up." It is the paradox of most quilters, buying luscious fabric to cut up and sew back together, then thinking it is too nice to cut. Saving it for later.I am not yet committed to the QAL, at this point I'm a voyeur. The first block is Scrappy Cross Patchwork Block by Bonjour Quilts This is an easy block that uses up litte scraps. It can be matchy or completely scrapped out. I've seen this block in quilts both small and large. It is eye catching. I decided to start with a color that I seldom use: pink. I made a block using some fun Tula Pink and Kaffe Fassett florals. The cross is a purple plaid by Jason Yenter. I liked the block although it doesn't have musch value contrast.So I sewed a few more pink blockks adding some value variety. Pretty quickly I had 9 blocks, enough for a baby quilt. I decided to go ahead and make the quilt, and then put it up for sale in my etsy shop.
I chose a pretty Kaffe triangle print for the back. It has pinks and greens in soft pastel tones.The binding is a violet Moda gradient. It frames the quilt and draws your eyes toward the blocks
What challenges or resoutions have you set for the year?

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Banana Company to the Rescue!

I needed a fabric fix. The problem is, I live in a small town and the nearest fabric dealer is an hour drive or an internet wait. There is a great antique consignment shop in town, the Banana Company. In the back room there is a corner for fabric and notions, placed in a vintage hardware rack. For $10 I found a pretty, vintage, hand pieced quilt. Who doesn't love a bargain? It is a variation on a Singe Wedding Ring. It looks to be from the 1940's by the prints and colors. The fabrics are in very good shape, the piecing thread is still strong, and except for a few tiny rends, it was in perfect shape. I added a soft buttery yellow 3 inch border. The measurements are 68" x 82". I was ready to sandwich it for basting but I kept dragging my heels. It just kept nagging at me, "what are you going to do with this quilt?" As if that really matters. I intend to hand quilt it to go with the hand piecing. What was this quilt trying to tell me? "Feed Me, Seymour." Finally I used my morning writing to figure out the silent messages this flimsy was sending. I read a blog that is a treasure trove of primitive style and hand applique and hand quilting, It inspired me to add my own style of applique design. Previously I have done a humongous amount of circle applique, on a quilt designed by Karen Mcleen, 'Lollipop Trees.' I used acrylic templates called 'Perfect Circles,' designed by Karen Kay Buckley. I highly recommend them for ease of use and quality of results. I am not affiliated with these products in any way. I had a bunch of left over circles, made from Kaffe Fassett fabrics, ready to sew down. They were left over from the Karen Mcleen project (which I named 'Magnum XL.') So I laid them on the quilt and yessss it was just what the flimsy needed. So I began making more circles for the quilt top in earnest. I am enjoying this hand sewing so much. Even watching TV in the evening with DH Mr. Thimblepie is tolerable with this yummy project. Here it is, in progress. I am swooning.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Yes, I Can Make Quilts Bigger

I am back at the keyboard. I spent several years mending and finishing vintage quilts for my etsy business. It may sound strange, but I got an ego boost from the compliments I received for my work. I have always struggled with the inner critic and lack of self esteem for my work. When I repaired old quilts and was told how I had made them cry with joy, or worked miracles, I felt good about myself. Some of the quilts were fabulous. But some were really bad, and needed to be tossed. After some struggles I decided to retire from that work and spend all my time creating my own epic stuff. I had to turn one person away since then, and turns out saying NO isn't so hard after all. A year ago I did a job that seemed impossible. I made a nice quilt bigger. Here is the before:
I was sent a nice full sized quilt, well made with quality fabrics. Nicely machine quilted, well bound. She wanted it to be about 12 inches bigger on each side. So. First I took the binding off. I bought some lovely batik to quilt and attach. I did Free Motion Quilting (FMQ)which I found tedious. My cat helped.
Then I used home made batik bias tape to attach the layers. I sewed the back layers together first. I used a coordinating color.I used quilt as you go techniques.
I continued to get help from my cat.
Then I pressed the bias strips and sewed them down on the front. I chose pink because that was an accent on the main quilt.
Here is the front after I finished. I chose to do machine binding.
And here is the after, cat included. The review was glowing and I think you can see why my ego was fed. "Jane’s work was perfect. She took the quilt my friend made and extended it so it would fit on my bed. It now looks like it was designed that way from the start. I attach a photo from the day it arrived when I immediately threw it on my bed, replaced my cat’s bed, and the cat approved the change. I think you can see the quality of Jane’s work."

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Pandemic Zombie

Here is the story of how I became a zombie. It is a true story, perhaps in the Twilight Zone. 6 months ago the pandemic reared it's ugly head. Quarantine happened so suddenly! Zoom became a thing, ready or not. I didn't feel affected by the quarantine too much since we live in the mountains with lots of room to roam. Plus, around here, hardly anyone has followed the suggested social distancing, except yours truly, so it seemed like news on TV was unreal. Looking back, I was mentally numbed by the fear. Even figuring out my odds of getting sick didn't help a lot. I got internal stress and in the process of ignoring it, I became zombified. Like the perserverant person I have always been, I pushed on through and I have continued to mend quilts and make cool creations, with less vim and vigor. Blogging felt way too tough. I played a good amount of computer games. I was commissioned to finish a Cathedral Window Project 2 months ago. I was thrilled to have such a pretty project. Some of the menders I have been sent, only a mother could love. This one was interesting, and started with such a funny introduction: "I, the one who hems pants with staples and tape, have inherited pieces of what was destined to be a Cathedral Window pillow. The large triangle of work measures roughly 29 inches per side with a hypotenuse of 40 inches. There are also a few additional strips of completed squares (shown in picture) and myriad squares of patterned fabric cut for more squares."
Here is the history of the project: "The quilter's name was Flora Etta Foley, and she was my mother-in-law's mom. "MaMa" was born in the late 1890s and died in the early 1970s. She lived all her life in rural Russell County, in the central part of Kentucky. She had a dozen or so siblings, and may have finished through 8th grade. I like to think that the cathedral window quilt was a project she started just for herself, when she had the luxury of time and security to make something beautiful instead of something necessary. My husband found it (the boxed project) in 2011 when he was cleaning out his family home. He brought it to me, and I put it in a desk drawer. It's taken me only a decade (almost) to find you, but perhaps now MaMa's pillow can come to be." Here is the project midway.
15 hours of hand sewing later, I finished the pillow case, and put a zipper into one side. When I first received the project, I had gushed over the amazing handwork and how special it is. After sending the finished photos and invoice, I got this request from the client, "I wonder if I could ask one more thing from you? Could you put in words what it is about the workmanship on the cathedral windows that made you take notice? It's all magical to me, but I would be interested to know what sets these apart so I can make note of it." Here is what I wrote to her, "When I first saw the cathedral window piece, I noticed the color placement. It is made up of little scrap pieces of 50's and 60's cotton fabric in a classic range of colors found then. As in a piece of art, my eye moved around and saw smooth movement. The little windows are perfectly even. This takes a good eye and practiced hand to curl the edges without markings, and take tiny even stitches. You will see that the stitches are visible on the backside (inside) and look like perfect, even quilt stitches. This is amazing because it is all invisible on the front. My blocks are not as even or tiny and don't all go through to the back. This method of stitching, to make the back look as clean and perfect as the front is often seen in Nordic embroidery. Believe me, I tried, but it is tricky! I believe the diligence and workmanship shows a real love of the process. You have a lovely, durable piece of art."

Friday, February 7, 2020

Better Than I Could Have Ever Imagined

I was contacted recently by a woman who had a set of hand sewn felt ornaments made by her grandmother. They were embellished with beads and sequins. She wanted them sewn onto a table cloth for a gift. I was intrigued. When I received them I decided they looked like they had been made in the 1960's. They reminded me of projects I saw in my mom's McCall's magazine. I called the client back to discuss buying the table cloth and found out I had 4 days to finish the project. Somehow that had escaped me at first. I blame our (new) puppy for my inattentiveness. This was a BIG problem, because I live, as Mr. Thimblepie likes to say, 50 miles from a traffic light. Getting a large red oval table cloth, not to mention doing the sewing, seemed daunting. After pondering for a minute, I thought to call my friend Linda, who supplies table cloths for our quilt auction. Sure enough, she had one that she'd give me. WOW Talk about synchronicity. I set aside the other repair job I was working on to drive to her home and pick up the cloth. It was perfect. She thought McCall's magazine, too. When I got back home I laid out the felt ornaments. One puzzling thing was the pieces that looked kind of like snow drifts. After playing with them I realized they were script words "Noel." Turns out the client had not looked through the box and didn't know about the words either. She said she was afraid she might damage them. I laid everything out, rearranged the trees and decided they would make nice centerpiece enhancers. They were kind of tricky with beads close to the edge, but I am used to fidgety pieces. They will look pretty and sophisticated with an evergreen and pinecone arrangement in the center, maybe with some varied colored poinsettias. Next for the reindeer and Santa's sleighs, 2 sets of 4 deer and a sleigh for each side of the table cloth. I spent a day machine appliqueing all of the pieces, then used some Aleene's tacky fabric glue to hold down the little bits that eluded my machine. It is flexible and water proof when dry, and dries clear. I was able to call the client and let her know the table cloth was ready before her deadline. I sent her photos and she said, " Wowwwww! It’s better than I could have ever imagined! THANK YOU" What a kind thing to say.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What's in a Name?

I started some propeller blocks a few years ago for a commission. I liked the fierce retro airplane fabric; chosen for the fellow receiving the quilt. He had a penchant for vintage airplanes. The companion fabric, sort of pebble looking, was something I loved. The colors worked, so I gave it a try. I used chartreuse blades for the first quilt, then switched to red bandannas for this second one. I was thinking about a Quilt of Valor (QOV) for my cousin Joey Holbrook, who was a pilot during the Vietnam War for the air force. He grew up on a sheep ranch and it seemed homey and fitting. There weren't enough for a big quilt so I sewed some airplane blocks from a book titled, 'Quilts for Kids' by Carolann Palmer written in 1993. (I used to sew with Carolann at Quilter's Anonymous retreats in Washington.) After I made a fleet of airplane blocks I realized that coordinate or not, the two blocks did NOT work together. So, I made an airplane QOV for Joey and relegated the propeller blocks back into the UFO basket.
The top needs to be quilted, I will do that before Memorial Day, when the annual Holbrook family reunion happens in Chesterfield, Idaho. I'll present it to Joey and give him a big thank you hug for his service. Meanwhile, the propeller blocks finally got my attention. I auditioned several fabrics for sashing and had just enough to make it work using both of them. I did not intend for this to be a dark quilt, but between the curry inner sash, the navy outer sash, and the outer border being a dark taupey grey it is dark. The corner stones wanted to be included and then shocked me with their presence when the top was finished. As I was pondering this lovely strange little dark quilt, I thought about ceiling fans.
They are often unseen but vital in our open home. We have a wood stove that heats the loft super fast. The warm air needs to be circulated and thank goodness for ceiling fans. Also important in the summer to move cool air up and hot air down and out. So, the quilt became my ceiling fan quilt.
This little quilt borders on being one of those UFOs where I wonder, "what was I thinking?" I like it, I like the darkness, the strangeness, and the name.