Saturday, April 26, 2014

A confluence of inspiration

Inspiration 1:
Were you lucky enough to see the Folk Art Museum's exhibit of red & white quilts? I was not so fortunate, but I pored over the internet images of those who did see it & shared their images online. It was called "Infinite Variety", was held at the Armory in New York City & represented one woman's collection of 650 (!) red & white quilts.

Inspiration 2:
I was poking around in my stash & pulled out several red prints. Then I pulled out a few more, was thinking, hmmm, red & white quilt, Infinite Variety-style. But I had quite a few quilt balls in the air, so I stashed the reds back in my stash.

Inspiration 3:
The International Quilt Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary this year -- their *Ruby* Anniversary. So they put out a call for red & white quilts -- old & new -- for display.

Hey, I'm going to make a red & white quilt!

I pulled a wide age range of cherry-red prints -- old calicos, novelties, gingham, dots, contemporary prints -- then got out my Idea Book & found a sketch I made of sparse & randomly placed bowtie blocks. I decided I wanted the look of the traditional block, with one piece of fabric making up the knot -- but without having to set in seams, so I made a dimensional bowtie using this tutorial. I quilted it with my fave wiggly walking foot stitch (last time, I promise (at least for a while)). I really love this quilt, it is so cheery!

I am concerned that after the first wash, I'll have a red & pink quilt. I'll use hands-full of Color Catchers, but do you have any other suggestions? I've read of using Dawn dish soap to set dye.

Downtown Foley's

Back in the day, cities, large & small, had their locally-owned department store. Some stores have managed to stay in business, others have either closed their doors or been bought out by large national chains. Ask anyone of a Certain Age about their local store & you'll hear lots of stories & fond memories.

Foley's was one of Houston's department stores. I moved to Houston too late to see Foley's in its prime; by the time I was here, it was Foley's in name only, bought by Macy's. Eventually it lost even its name.

The downtown flagship store was built in 1947. It was a simple, graphic structure that seemed to anticipate the modernity of the last half of the 20th Century. I never really noticed it or gave it much thought -- that is, until it no longer existed -- it was imploded in September of 2013. Then, thanks to the images on the internet, I kind of fell in love with it. The north-facing facade seem to beg to become a quilt. My quilt is not an exact replica of the old building, but an homage to downtown Foley's & all the other department stores that are now gone.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I like big blocks & I cannot lie

I've had a few projects recently that were made up of pretty little parts. So after some small sewing, I decided to sew big for a bit.

A while back, Victoria at Bumble Beans was making Winged Squares -- delightful & quite old blocks -- I love them, they repeat & create some very cool patterns -- so I decided to join her.

Only I went big -- really BIG.

I'm really starting to like big blocks. I love their bold statement. I love their Pop Art-y-ness -- you know, like giant shuttlecocks or huge, sculpted balloon animals. You really have to have the courage of your convictions when you make them. Until now the largest blocks I've made were Swoon and Modern Maples -- 24 & 12 inches, respectively. My Winged Squares are 30 inches. Four of those & I've got a quilt!

Quilting? I was thinking of using this quilt to work on my free-motion skills -- pebbling? maybe feathers in the triangles somehow? I'm not sure & am open to suggestions.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hater no more

I've always loved making quilts -- picking patterns, colors, fabrics. There is nothing more fun than seeing 2 fabrics joined together with stitching! Then laying out the units to make the whole -- pure joy! But in my long history of quilt-making, different phases of the process have come & gone as my least favorite part.

I think when I started out, I liked least/hated cutting out of the quilt. I suspect the reason may have been that I was using scissors & sand paper templates. Rotary cutters, rulers & mats were brand new when I began getting serious about quilting (does that make me sound ancient!?). Once I got my "whizzy whacker", I was faster & (usually) more accurate, but I still did not love it. Over the years, I've learned tips & techniques that make me better at it. Now, I get on cutting jags & just cut & cut & cut.

Even when I was young & limber, basting used to kill me. I'd clear a space on the floor & crawl & stretch & reach -- it makes my muscles ache just thinking about it! Now I have Shug set a tabletop on a couple of saw horses; clamps & spray baste are a great help, too. I still have to reach a bit & if I baste more than one top my back gets tired, but there is no more up & down to the floor. I do a better job & even look forward to making my quilt sandwiches.

It was not all that long ago that quilting was my bĂȘte noir. I nearly always machine quilt & I used to dread it. Again, I think better techniques have helped. Early on, I was taught to 'put my pedal to the metal' when doing free-motion. My shoulders hunched, I didn't breath & I ended up with jagged, uneven stitches. Slowing down & relaxing has done wonders -- I'm no pro mind you, but not that bad. I also experiment more with my walking foot quilting & like the results I'm getting.

Another part of quilt-making that I did not like was anything that involved handwork. Projects flying forwards would come to a screeching halt when I needed to get out needle, thread & thimble. With hand-sewing, it is not better skills that have made me more appreciative, but learning to slow down & to like slowing down. I don't think I would ever do much hand piecing & I'm not particularly good at hand-quilting, but sometimes I wish for some handwork to curl up with.

Easter Sunday was beautiful down here on the Gulf Coast. I was able to indulge in a bit of all aspects of quilting. I hope you & yours had a wonderful day as well.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Learning to exhale

All I want to do is make quilts. I don't want to go to work or vacuum rugs or make dinner. I don't want to go for a walk or read a book or take a nap. I don't even want to blog. After the years when my 'free' time was not really my own, I am finally learning to expand into my unscheduled hours. I'm (more than) a bit selfish & stingy with my now really free time, but that is beginning to fade.

A dog story I read on Instagram reminds me of myself. A woman I follow there fosters pedigree dogs. She recently took in an adult male dog, a  sweet & good fellow, but very nervous & un-used to freedom. She can only guess at his story -- not abused, but neglected & often confined, maybe from a puppy mill. At his foster home, the ability to run & play then rest was just too much for him; he'd pace until he was weary but couldn't rest until he was back in his kennel. The good news is love & nurture is bringing him around.

That's where I am now. I sew until I'm exhausted. I have to make myself stop. I just finished my 5th & 6th quilts for the year. Tops 7 & 8 are done, basted & ready to quilt. It isn't like I'm in a race, mostly I am enjoying myself, but I'm trying to pull myself back, kennel myself so to speak, so I don't get burnt out.

Quilts 7 & 8 will be Christmas gifts for our 14-year-old nephew & 12-year-old niece. They are terrific kids! The last quilts I made for them were their baby quilts, so they're due some new ones. The tops were made using the Fat Quarter Shop's Charm Pack Cherry pattern. (The whole time I was assembling them I was humming the B-52's song, Love Shack -- I guess because "Charm Pack Cherry" made me think of "Love Shack Baby". Anyway...) 4 charm packs worth of fabric in each quilt, they were easy & fast & are pretty cute -- well, one is cute, the other is manly. ;-)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

One year

It has been one year since my Mom's death.

In my small experience with loss, the first year is the worst -- all the milestones -- a year ago we were doing this or that -- and anniversaries. It is a little different losing a person who had dementia, you've been 'losing' them all along, but the finale is so very, well, Final. I feel a bit changed by her years in memory care, then death, kind of tempered -- stronger I hope, not harder. And it is a strange not having parents anymore. The child in me feels unattended, a little uncared for. The adult in me does not feel ready to shoulder the mantle of being the Senior Generation. I can't be a Matriarch (or Aunt-riarch)! I don't know anything, I'm just a kid!

The last time I saw my Mom was about 6 weeks before she died. During that visit, I went with her to get her hair done. Very often with dementia suffers, if they don't understand what is being asked of them, they'll just answer no. Do you want to go for a walk? Do you want to eat lunch? Do you want to have a bath? Do you want to get your hair done? Saying "no" is easier than trying to understand the question in their plaque-addled brains. My Mom's hair, permed & set all her life, had become long & straight because her permanent had grown out, the only 'do' she had was what the aides did after they gave her her shower. So we went together down the hall to the beauty/barber shop where she got a wash, trim & set. She looked nice. Then I did something I had not done in her 3 years in the nursing home:  I snapped a photo of her. She looked directly at my camera with this heartbreakingly clear, blank, bleak expression. I love this picture, can still see a glimpse of my Mom there. Then a new filter app that let me turn this photo into a 'watercolor; it took a bit of the edge off the original, making it even more beautiful to me.