Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm ba-aaack!

Will you look at that? Looks like I gained a few more followers while I was on vacation. So happy to have each and every one of you!

If you're in the U.S., you know that last week was Thanksgiving. I went home to visit my family for the first holiday in 10 years. You read that right. 10 years. It was over much too soon. My little brother (he'll love that) was there for about 24 hours at the same time as me and my best friend from high school (gulp, 20 years ago!) was there with his husband. Wish I could have spent the whole week with all of them, but they had lives and travel arrangements of their own. BFF had the idea to do family portraits one day. Here are a few:

Thanksgiving saturated

Heroes 1

Heroes 2

3 generations

Unfortunately, my brother wasn't there that day, but was visiting our dad, instead. He had grown a mustache for Movember along with a number of his friends back on base in Pensacola. Try as we might, he WOULD NOT let us document said lip caterpillar, but I captured a wee peek of it.

Movember Bud

I'm very proud of him and miss him a lot. 24 hours was not nearly enough time to spend with him. He's promised to come visit us in Minnesota next summer.

So I'm back home, now, and plugging away at my projects while my sweetie is in Hawai'i <sob!> without me. It's hard posting anything, though, because I'm working on so many different projects for Christmas and my friends and family are very supportive in reading my blog. <Hi! I love you guys!> Luckily, I think I've come up with a couple pics that won't give anything away.

Sneak Peek WIP 2Sneak Peek WIP 1

Doesn't that stack look like a bunch of pancakes??? Nothing else I can tell you about it, yet. Come January I'll say more.

Another Pay It Forward is half done! I call it Starry Night.

Pay It Forward #4 WIP

And I'm having fun with fabric on the design wall. Nothing sewn, yet, but I can tell this is going to be cool.

On the design wall

My holiday crafty list hasn't shown much progress:

1. Snakes and Vines - still not done and I didn't get to see my friend and her boys (one of whom this is for) when I was home. This may need to be a finish for  2012. I'm quilting it in a really neat but work-intensive way.
2. PIF 3
3. PIF 4 - 1/2 done
4. PIF 5 - work has begun!
5. Mondrian commission - Sarah, would you understand if this wasn't started until January? I'm sorry it's taking so long to wrap my head around!
6. Kona challenge quilt - partially quilted
7. Non-traditional Jack
8. My sweetie's quilt
9. Charity item
10. House Project Quilt for a friend in the flickr-verse
11. Maverick Star for my MPLS MQG meeting this Thursday
12. Sewn Together VQB blocks for Rick - fabric has arrived

How is your list coming?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Another one bites the dust!

I love Queen, don't you? And Freddie? His mustache is magnificent and there's just something about him on stage that exudes all sorts of sex appeal.

Unfortunately, I did not get much done in the way of sewing on Saturday. I was plum tired! We allowed my quilting companion, the Kitten, to "sleep over" Friday night. He was so happy that he kept crawling up on my chest, settling his little head onto my pillow-chin, and purring so loudly he woke me multiple times. I guess the orange guy needs some happy nights in his old age, I just wish I could sleep at the same time!

Sunday was my day. I got up before 8:00, well-rested for a change, and went right up to my sewing room for some textile fun. I pulled fabrics for two of my remaining Pay It Forward items and set to work. By the end of the day (with a couple of large chunks of time taken out of the middle), I had made a pillow cover!

Pay It Forward #3 complete
This is my first ever dresden plate. I followed Elizabeth Hartman's tutorial (she of Oh, Fransson! fame) on Sew, Mama, Sew! She provided templates, but I thought it would be easier to get a heavier duty ruler than try to fashion a cardboard one myself.

All the blade fabrics were pulled from my scrap bin. I decided to use Kona Navy for the background, as all the reports I read on Market this year said Navy is the new Gray. A girl needs to stay current!

Instead of Elizabeth's template for the center, I used a circular tin that was handy in my sewing room and was large enough to cover the hole in the middle. (Although, now that I've done it, I see that a larger coin in the center makes for a more modern look. Will need to rethink that for future iterations.)

After attaching the blades and center to my quilt/pillow sandwich, I echo quilted all around until I reached the edge.
Pay It Forward #3 complete quilting detail Pay It Forward #3 complete quilting detail

The only thing I will change for future dresdens is to whip stitch the slashes created for turning the center coin closed. It might not be so noticeable on a lighter fabric, but you can really see the X I made against the Navy.

On the back, I installed a zipper for easy cleaning and bound like a regular quilt.
Pay It Forward #3 complete back Pay It Forward #3 complete back detail
I don't know why I had been so afraid of zippers. Honestly, it was really holding me back from joining The Pillow Talk {Swap}, which is just ridiculous. I have installed zippers on clothes before, so why did a pillow make it seem so hard?! I took a few seconds to run through the proper installation of a zipper for a skirt in my head and just did it on a slightly larger scale.

This cover is finished at 16" square, but I stuffed an 18" pillow form inside for pictures. I don't have a 16" form in my closet, so I'll need to go find one before I can deliver this Pay It Forward item to it's (hopefully) happy recipient.

My holiday crafty list now stands at:
1. Snakes and Vines - I'm getting very discouraged on this one; it's taking much longer than I hoped and absolutely will not be done to take to Portland with me
2. PIF 3
3. PIF 4
4. PIF 5
5. Mondrian commission
6. Kona challenge quilt
7. Non-traditional Jack
8. My sweetie's quilt
9. Charity item

I also have a few random blocks to create.
1. House Project Quilt for a friend in the flickr-verse
2. Maverick Star for my MPLS MQG meeting this Thursday
3. Sewn Together VQB blocks for Rick (I'm awaiting fabric in the mail)

And I'm going on vacation Saturday, so I've got to pack and clean the house a bit before I go. Hopefully, I'll get to spend some quality time with my mom's Bernina while she's at work next week. I am, of course, looking forward to spending my first holiday with family since 2000. I've been home since, but never around the holidays. It's just too expensive to fly then! I decided it had been long enough and cashed in some miles for the Punk and me to make the trip. Mr. Man will be joining us, then heading to Hawaii, our semi-annual vacation spot. Unfortunately, I have to head back to work. I sure hope I get to enjoy the beach again soon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

One down, eight to go.

Having spent the entire weekend nursing a raging headache, I didn't get as far as I was hoping to in the quilt department, but I DID finish up item number 9 on my list. Oh, you didn't realize I had a 9? Neither did I until later.

We have an annual United Way drive in my office and I plum forgot I had agreed to donate something to it. Enter the UFO! (As far as you know I don't have any more of those, okay?) I pulled out a scarf designed by Boo Davis in her Dare to Be Square Quilting book. I'm not normally one for buying books, but I really loved her designs. Anyway, this scarf was completely pieced and edges finished. I just had to finish the quilting!

Now, I knew I had started it months ago and the quilting wasn't the best (see exhibit A), but I wanted to go with it and do the rest of it the same way.
Old quilting
Exhibit A
Look at those weird loops, manky tension, and uneven stitches! Was I drinking when I started quilting this thing? No, I just hadn't had much practice at free motion quilting.

After working on it a while, I sewed myself into a corner, so took it off the machine and flipped it over for a look. Enter exhibit B.
New quilting
Exhibit B
I was really amazed at the difference. I knew I had improved over this year since I have been forcing myself (through my 12 in '11 challenge) to work on my FMQ, but I really had no idea how far I'd come. Look at the crisp peaks, the even's lovely! Now look at the two sections together:

Disaster! (Nothing like a side-by-side comparison to show you how far you've come.)
Stitch comparison
Old vs New quilting
At this point, I was considering how much time it would take me to finish this scarf. The quilting would definitely be perfect for the piece, but (as I mentioned earlier) it was pretty likely that my head would explode at any moment and splatter all over my sewing room. I'm sure my heir would not appreciate the blood stains her newly inherited stash. Deciding it would take less time to rip out all the quilting and come back at it with simple straight line stitch in the ditch around the purple print, I sat down with my seam ripper, Suzy.

All the old stitches came out in about 15-20 minutes. The new stitches took twice as long - and there were fewer of them! At least I know that my newer quilts are more likely to stay together a good long time.

An hour's worth of work netted me a pile of thread and a fresh slate!
Unsewing is no fun
Less than an hour later, it was finished up and checked off my modified list. The Punk agreed to model for me. Isn't she cute!?

Scarf 6

Scarf 4Scarf 2Scarf 1Scarf 5

Such a ham.

So, the holiday quilty list is still as follows:
1. Snakes and Vines
2. PIF 3
3. PIF 4
4. PIF 5
5. Mondrian commission
6. Kona challenge quilt
7. Non-traditional Jack
8. My sweetie's quilt

How is your must-finish list faring?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ack!!! -or- It can't be Christmas sewing season, yet!

I don't know why it sneaks up on me every year, but it does. Christmas sewing season is here, people! I'm not talking about crafty quilty wonderfulness for decorating my home for the holidays, I mean Christmas presents, Pay It Forward items, and commissions.

In order to properly attack my sewing stack, I took stock of all my WIPs and outstanding projects. In WIPs, I have 6 total;

3 tops, one of which was a Christmas present last year and I really ought to get around to quilting that puppy,
  African Bento WIP My Sweetie's Garden WIP String Theory WIP Xmas

1 top and back complete but not yet sandwiched, Mauka WIP front Mauka WIP back

and 2 in the process of being quilted.
  Snakes and Vines free motion detail 2 Peekaboo

That's not so bad, right?


Is this thing on?

There is an outstanding commission that I'm stalled on. I'm so stalled that I've only pulled the fabrics - and my client was there to choose them! It will be a lovely Mondrian-inspired quilt, which is a relatively simple design, but you would be amazed at how intimidating it is.

Then, I have three Pay It Forward items to finish up and deliver before the end of the year. I thought maybe one of my WIPs without a home might become a Pay It Forward, but after review, not one of them is just perfect for my peeps. Poop! (Yes, it's sophomoric, but I'm trying to keep it PG here and just you try saying it without giggling or smiling a little. It always lightens my mood.) So, I noodled a bit on my PIF recipients and came up with something that will suit each of them to a T. Only one will be a full-blown quilt, though, so that should lighten the workload.

I also saw a sa-weet top online the other day that I would love to put together for my kiddo for Christmas in non-traditional colors. She saw it over my shoulder and said she wanted one, so it's a sure fire winner in the present department.

pieced by craftywaffles - NOT my design
I know I absolutely will not be able to finish all my WIPs, so I'll concentrate on one of the quilts currently under my needle (the green batik you can see above). I MUST finish my PIF projects before the close of the year and I just can't let my commission go any longer. That's 5. Then, I have the Jack, the other quilt currently under the needle, and last year's Christmas present to my sweetie to try to finish up. That makes 8.

I may have a bit more on my plate than I could possibly chew, but I'm going to try like the proverbial dickens!

I'd love to hear about what you're working on. Do you have a snowball's chance of finishing it up? Please tell me I'm not the only crazy person in the blogosphere.