Monday, December 27, 2010

Echoes in Walnut Dye

Yesterday I finished echo quilting the hand-pieced walnut dye quilt the third graders are making for our school's fundraiser auction. Pictures can be found here!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Handwork

After so much sewing, I thought I'd create something new.

"Have you ever built a fire before?"

"No, but I've assisted countless times."

Behold, my first fire! Complete with newspaper, kindling and a hickory log or two.

Gifts have been opened and received with joy, and that means I can share a few process pics of my favorite gift to give. (Unfortunately I wrapped the completed piece before taking pictures and neglected to photograph it yesterday).

I started with yo-yos.

I arranged them into a front...

And a back! After hand-stitching each side, I mounted them on chocolate brown wool suiting and put a pillow inside!

Another gift came into being from my granny squares. I just single crocheted around the edges to connect them into a scarf. It embodies kitsch, but in the end I think it's wonderful, so it went to my best friend from college.

And now for a new project! Below are photos of the walnut-dyed quilt top created (i.e. hand-dyed and hand-pieced) by the third grade. The quilt will be auctioned off at our school's charity gala. My contribution is the quilting.

This is where my free-motion practice is coming into play! With the exception of one square, I intend to echo-quilt the piece. The excepted square was solidly dyed, and I intend to "write" the quilt's origins on it. The whole thing is set up at my parents'. I got a few squares done yesterday with the intention of completing more today. We will see how icy the roads are.

Because the quilt is so olive-y green, it was decided to add color in the binding. I made yards... and yards... of binding, some for this quilt...

And some for my own walnut-dyed piece!

Hope your Christmas was delightful, and may your new year be bright!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Fabric Fast


I have too much.

Maybe you're the same way. Maybe you've noticed that your stacks of fabric look like this.

That you have pieced quilt tops you'd like to sandwich and quilt.

That family heirlooms-in-the-making are awaiting your TLC.

That people have given you pieces you'd like to finish.

That treasures are lying around in storage bins.

That you've said, "Oh, sure, I'll take 'em. I'm sure I'll find a use for 'em eventually," one too many times, but "eventually" never seems to come.

That you just don't know what to do with it yet, but you might as well hang on to it.

That your stash is pouring off shelves and out of drawers, awaiting realization of half-formed dreams and doodled designs.

Oh, and your closet is overflowing, too.

But you wind up at the fabric store anyway, and those colors look so tempting, and that print is so cute, and it's on sale anyhow, so you come home and add to the mountains and piles and bins, that list of to-do's that always seems to have a couple of things you forgot but were really exciting to think about at the store.

Well, I'm done. I've been thinking it over, counting the cost, weighing the gravity of such a decision, but finally I've come to it.

I am fasting from buying fabric for a year. (And that includes clothes, too!)

It's not the budget that's inspired me, although I'm sure the extra cash will be put to good use. It's not the eco-friendly connotations, either, although a "reuse/recycle" rather than "consume new" attitude certainly fits there. It's not even an issue of space and storage. I'm just ready for more completions. I figure the best way to complete is to exercise restraint on the front end.

2010 has been a banner year for sewing for me. I started this blog to document my work, but I had no idea how much I'd create. I started with a few pieces by hand, but have since completed my first quilt, created clothing without patterns, designed my own toys, had my sewing machine permanently set up, been commissioned to tailor, mend and design... It's been far more than I could have imagined. And I believe 2011 will be no different. I look forward to my creativity being stretched in ways I've not thought possible.

I'm working on creating a button if any would like to join me in this venture. I'm not looking to start a movement, but the journey is better when shared!

So here's to January 1, 2011, and a year free of fabric purchases. Happy fasting!


I have a button thanks to this tutorial!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spoilerish Gifts

If you are my grandmother or a dancing physicist, this post pertains to gifts for you. Your choice to continue reading may result in the spoiling of your Christmas surprise. Consider yourself warned.

Now... hooray!

I made a neck warmer for Grandmother! Why a neck warmer? Well... they're less bulky than scarves, they're great for scrap yarn, and since my grandmother is très chic, she will be on-trend. (Examples can be found here and here.)

The pink part is a removable crocheted t-shirt yarn pin.

I think she will like it, however she chooses to wear it!

And now for something completely different... sort of. I wasn't intending on creating anything special for the dancing physicist (yes, friends, I know a physicist who dances. And he's a great leader, too! Don't get me started...), but then we we were having Chinese one afternoon, and I watched him open his fortune cookie and disregard the fortune. And by disregard, I mean that he dropped it on the table in front of him but was so oblivious to what he'd done that when I asked him what his fortune said, he could not remember where he'd put it.

I had to laugh. And as it turns out, we both had great fortunes.

Now he gets one with more permanency! And as he won't be eating this cookie, and the fortune is sewn in, there's no chance of losing it this time!

'Cause that's a fortune I'd not want to lose, either. Fo' reals.

A little something for me. Until recently, I had one cozy headband to keep my ears warm. Now I have two! Do men wear cozy headbands? I love the color scheme for myself, but I realize dudes may dig it, too.

Yes, that's me. Last bit of spoilers: new 'do. :-)

Happy last-few-days-before-Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010


Sewing is starting to be like painting. That is to say I start with an image of what I want and set to work, but what comes out is supremely greater than what I thought would happen. It helps having the most creative Genius in the universe whispering in your ear (just sayin').

My coworker commissioned a Christmas dress for her daughter. "Y'know, it can even have manger scenes on it, or maybe a star in the middle..." Well, I found the fabric and love it. I love its Van Gogh-esque colors and softness. I love how the blue cuts the other Christmasy colors, and yet it's special and sweet.

And how's that for a star on the chest?

My coworker loved it, exclaiming over the eyelet (not part of the original pattern--found here), the ruffles, the fabric... What a great learning experience. I'm looking forward to seeing it on that sweet girl!

Speaking of anticipated sweetness, the following bit of mending gets delivered this evening. Imagine shredded coat lining instead of teeny whip stitches. Seriously, I am only posting this because I am amazed at how it turned out--and how easy to boot!

The collar was detaching for several inches in two places in the shirt below. Can you tell where?

How 'bout now?

Blanket stitches and millimeter-long back stitches, again with the amazement of what came out of my fingers.

Couturiers' seamstresses are said to have "fairy fingers". I think Holy Spirit fingers trump them (just sayin'). :-)

Thanks for listening to me brag! Have YOU ever created something and were amazed at your own work? Surely I'm not the only one...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Much Ado About the Holidays

Happy Chanukah! Light the lights! If you don't have a menorah, or if, like me, you are letting a friend borrow yours, tea lights and cheery saucers make a wonderful chanukia in a pinch.

I am seriously contemplating a fabric fast for the next year. I have so much that I want to do with what I already have, but then I buy more... and more... and the list of "to-do" grows longer and the list of "complete" remains short. And then I have these bursts of inspiration, or someone asks me to do something and I get excited about that... For example...

Holiday "finger fidgets":

Shell granny squares à la Meet Me At Mike's from garage sale yarn. Purpose TBD.

Aunt Bess ornaments, requested by my mother's sister. Below is a reference photo of the original (I have my mother's hands), followed by my progress.

Fabric fortune cookies + holiday cards for coworkers, inspired by Lady Harvatine.

And something is being felted.

Add to this the Christmas dress I'm working on for a coworker's daughter (due tomorrow), alterations requested by my sewing machine student's mother (due before school lets out), a few inches of mending for a friend (due ASAP), and a walnut-dyed quilt top being assembled by eight-year-olds lurching towards my sewing machine (due by the end of the school holiday).

It's snow flurrying. Rosemary latkes and pomegranate arils for breakfast. Two cups of coffee, a box of sufganiyot, Misty Edwards on repeat... Life is not too busy to spend time enjoying and being enjoyed. I believe God's love language is quality time. This Feast of Dedication (a.k.a. eight nights of dates with God) feels all the sweeter in the midst of all the doings of the season.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Maybe you've noticed changes to my blog format? That is because I just encountered a bit of my ancestry. While visiting family, I was admiring a display of old photographs. Some I recognized easily, of some I demanded copies, some I'd never seen before.

And one had me captivated.

It was Lillian Catherine, my great grandmother. Her quilt hangs on my wall, and I named my blog for her.

I was amazed to see so many of my own features in her face. It touched me deeply.

Now, this is the same side of the family that received the t-shirt quilt. (It was duly shown off and received all the praise and admiration it merited.) Noting my penchant for fabric, my aunt brought out a surprise.

More of Lillian's stitches! This beautiful quilt top was found years ago in my Papaw's basement. Some of the stitches resembled those of the quilt I already own. Others looked machine-done, reminiscent of the flyfoot blocks made by my grandmother Frances. Maybe they both worked on it? In which case the quilt, once complete, will be even more precious.

I am looking forward to an opportunity to better photograph this top. It really is lovely--lots of turquoise, striped shirting, prints that have inspired modern "vintage" lines... Such a treasure. What a gift!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Not For Wimps... or "How I Spent My Thanksgiving"

Once upon a time I embarked upon a t-shirt quilting adventure. Through the process I have gained stamina, endurance, perseverance, patience... if I were to get a commemorative tattoo for the completion of this puppy, it would say "Quilting is not for wimps!"

Care to waltz with me through the journey? It began with thirteen Tennessee Titans t-shirts given to me by a cousin. Cute story here: my cousin went to try out for the Titans cheerleaders and ended up with this handsome stunt partner. They both made the team, fell in love and married! Hooray! These are memories from their cheering days.

Preliminary arrangement: twelve for the front, one for the back. I bought heather gray cotton flannel for the backing.

My plan was to take the whole project to my parents' and use the dining room table (made by my father! See--artistry is genetic!) to quilt it. I'd changed my plan on the top and used a couple of solid squares from the tee backs to fill it out to 16 blocks. But I still wanted to piece the back before heading to my parents'. No sweat, right? I'll do it Tuesday after work.

But... Tuesday morning did not go as planned. I ended up having several hours of "family bonding" with my dad courtesy of an ovarian cyst making its presence known. By noon I was at home scarfing basmati rice and soy sauce, and Dad was picking up meds to keep me loopy. Yrch. Not my fave. Needless to say it kept me from the sewing machine!

Not to be daunted, I awoke Wednesday late, refused meds, packed helter-skelter and headed down the highway (all of two exits--extensive road trip, I know!) At my parents, I took over the front of the house! First I pieced the back...

Then I lay out my batting--a donation of high-loft poly from a friend. It had to be pieced a bit, too...

And then the top! Curvy safety pins, ahoy!

Then for the step that I thought I remembered reading about somewhere: painter's tape grid.

Looking back, I think I would still take this step because (1) pencil lines on jersey knit, even when backed with fusible web, do not sound like fun and (2) moving a piece of tape along as I sewed on either side for 65 inches does not sound like fun either.

Next step: practice pad. Woo hoo. So thick and soft-looking! The 'rents were impressed.

Happy Thanksgiving! What a sight go greet the morning! THANKfully (ha ha, punny, right?) dinner was low-key veggie soup for four, and the dining table was not required.

Lines... More lines... 13 each direction. For a beginner, this was daunting. And sweet little Kenmore's foot pedal kept getting overly excited! We had to let her breathe a bit between lines of stitching.

But sometime on Black Friday morning, she was done!

Since I didn't get a photo of the backing before, here's a few.

My stitching wasn't perfect. I plan on hand-stitching bits like these.

And then there was the grid of tape. It was perforated where I'd run straight over. My fingernails got a work out. Mom and Dad helped, though. They were so excited to see it come together!

Ah... tape-free!

And then binding! I demonstrated the wonders of rotary cutters and self-healing mats to my mother as I cut navy blue flannel binding. And voila.

I'm not being too critical on myself for this attempt. It's by no means perfect. You can see how the binding ended up covering some of the screen prints. You can see how the stitches pulled some. Other imperfections I've already discussed.

Thoughts for the future: batting is not necessary. This was very thick and cumbersome, and I'm not sure it's worth it. (Tell that to the quilt's owners as they snuggle under it at a football game--I'm sure they'll disagree!) In general, despite the fusible web, the t-shirt material itself was harder to work with than a calico. I guess that's not surprising. Maybe my expectations were too high?

All in all a good experience! It may be awhile before I agree to do another of these, and I'm sure I'll make changes, but I'm thankful for the ability to grow my skills in something I enjoy AND spend time with my family in the process! Delivery is tomorrow. Mom is working on schemes to show it off without ruining the surprise for the intended recipient. That's family for ya. :-)

Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to the holiday season, ya'll!