Wednesday, January 16, 2019

a little sewing and maybe too much thinking?

I've been sewing on the graduation quilt for a couple of days now.  There are 20 columns to sew and I've gotten 16 of them done...

The first few columns I carefully draped over my ironing board to see that they would line up correctly.  It sure looks like they're going to be okay, so now, to save space on the board to actually iron things, I've stacked them up in just one stack.

I decided to sew each of these one column at a time.  That means I needed a leader-ender project.  What better than some of those tiny stars!

I completed 12 tiny stars between 16 columns.  So that means in order to sew the remaining four columns, I need to start three more tiny stars.  Math!!!

So the thinking part...

In the past few days I've come across a few blog posts and articles that all, in my feeble mind, seem to fit together.  Maybe they won't fit to you, but I wanted to share them.

First, I've started following a blog called Elefantz, written by a talented gal named Jenny.  What got me started reading her blog are the adorable, feminine-looking embroideries she does and combines with quilty techniques.  But she is doing a book study with the book "The Gentle Art of Domesticity" by Jane Brocket.  I don't have the book, but it has struck a chord with me, the things that Jenny discusses and quotes from the book.  This week she talked about the difference between the necessary and the creative parts of managing a household.  I never thought about it that way, but it's exactly what I am doing - in the mornings I do chores and, when those are completed, I get to do the fun things - sewing, reading, even just simply snuggling my kitties.  She also talks about letting go of the perfectly clean, sparkling tidy homes we see on television as a goal.  Now don't get me wrong, my house will never be THAT clean, but it felt like someone was giving me permission that I could clean some and then allow myself to have fun.  I don't have to feel guilty about my house not being perfect.

And then I ran across an article "Craft Is Not Trivial" and enjoyed every word.  This was the first post by this author I have read and I definitely want to read more.  Felicia, the author, talks about how crafting has been horribly stereotyped as something that is less than so many other pursuits, like academics, sports and even art.  How folks who do crafty things aren't taken seriously in their endeavors.  And I thought about my journey as a quilter.  I started making quilts in 1994 (with much help from my mom in those early years!), but was essentially a closet quilter.  I didn't make many (I was in college when I started and just having the time, space and extra money to do that was difficult enough!) at the start, but I also didn't really tell anyone.  The few friends who got quilts from me (baby quilts to start), were probably surprised.  Or thought my mom had made them.  Because my mom was much less of a closet quilter, but as a mother of college-age kids, it was more acceptable that she pursued these "grandmotherly" interests.  For many years, probably at least 10, I only told you I was a quilter if I really got to know you and trust you.  Because I felt like my crafty adventures would make a person think less of me.  Why I felt that way, I can't explain, but I would list "reading" and "gardening" on forms that asked for hobbies.  (And to me gardening deserves quotes because mostly I cultivated a weed patch that I wrestled in the late summer to gather tomatoes!  I've since given up and just purchase tomatoes to can from a local farm every few years.)  I even joined a quilt guild with my mom during those closet years, but only the members knew what I was doing.  Eventually, I've come to embrace being a quilter, but I often still get odd looks.  You?  "You're too young" they say.  Or "Quilting?"  As though they must have heard me wrong.  So the passive-shaming continues.  But through my blog and the local quilt guild, I have found like-minded friends who I can share my creations with and not feel self-conscious.  This article presented a more scholarly look at why I've felt the way I have about quilting.  But I'm not sure it will make me shout "I'm a quilter" from the rooftops.  Not yet.

Finally, I'm in a kinda rogue book club on facebook.  There's a singer/songwriter that I love who started this.  He's a music nerd and a book nerd and fesses up to both.  His instagram account often has photos of stacks of books he's bought and cozy bookstores he's found while touring.  And he reads like a maniac.  So he started a book club.  And because it's online, there have been some funny memes...  One of them dealt with Marie Kondo and her method of decluttering and how few books she feels a person should have.  And then I came across an article talking about how her method of purging and tidying should not be applied to books.  It made so much sense to me and I feel it ties in with the other two articles.  This article considers books art, which I agree with, but I also think crafty pursuits are also, see, in my brain, these all fit together.  But I enjoyed this article as well because the author talks about how art (books) should challenge us.  I feel the same way about crafty things.  And I don't mean every quilt you make should be an art quilt for a fancy challenge.  I mean that we get to choose to try new techniques.  Use fabrics that are non-traditional.  Sometimes what looks like a simple pattern turns into a nightmare of a challenge, but we persevere because we want that quilt so bad (remember my Arcadia Avenue top?).  And the one thing that I read and really liked was that unread books are imagined futures, not failures.  I think our fabric stashes are exactly that.  We haven't failed to make a quilt with them yet, we're dreaming how they could make something beautiful, as yet unimagined, somethings.

So there's my ramblings.  I hope they make sense.

But I feel all smart this week.  I don't often come across this many writings that speak to me...maybe I'm not reading enough?  (Ha!)

Time to decide if I'm gonna tackle those last few columns of graduation quilt and tiny stars or just snuggle the kitties for a while...I have to work tomorrow, so it's probably best I don't get myself wrapped up in anything too involved so I can get a good night sleep!

Happy quilting!

PS We can't have a post without a photo of a cat, right?  So here's Freddie...learning to help sew in the manner of Emma-No.

PPS I also forgot I had this Freddie photo.  A long time ago, one of the APQ blogging buddies, Beth, knitted me some microbes.  They were tucked away in my sewing room, but today Freddie found cholera.  He has been having such fun with it, I couldn't bear to take it away from him...

(note the look on sister Gabby's face!)

PPPS I didn't research the Marie Kondo method, so if the article, or the way I represented it is wrong, my apologies...

Monday, January 14, 2019

time to vote!

A few days ago, I posted my final project and the journey to make it for Project Quilting Season 10, Project 1.  The voting is open through Friday, so if you have some time to check out some amazing projects, head on over and check them out and vote for your favorites!  You get 10 votes, so if you'd like to use one for me, that would be great.  But there are some pretty awesome quilts...I had a hard time picking my other nine!

And while I'm waiting for the votes to be cast and the results to be announced (and the next project theme to be given), I started working on the graduation quilt for my niece.

I cut all the pieces before retreat, but decided it was not the right time to start the quilt there.  And boy am I glad I did!

Other than not having fur-baby help at the retreat...

...this took more than an hour.  I had to get about six or seven columns on the floor before I could wing it without constantly consulting my diagram.  Which didn't help much because I'd colored it with only four colors, but purchased six and decided to use five.  Ugh!

But I persevered and, with lots of comments from the peanut gallery (aka the hubby - sitting in the recliner just beyond the photos - you can see the candy wrappers he threw on the floor next to his chair behind Emma...boys...), I had a layout that looked pretty balanced.

You can see the colors changing with the waning sunlight between the photos.  We did have a beautiful sunny day yesterday (though fairly cold - not normal January cold, but cold enough!), but being winter, those sunlight hours go fast.

The cats got bored with me about halfway through putting pieces on the floor, so that helped it go faster.  Of course, when I sat down to pick it up, it was a NEW game!  (And Freddie kept trying to run off with the binding clips I was using to secure each column stack...ah kittens...)

It took nearly as long to pick up as it did to lay out, but that was a must last night.  There was no chance this would look anything like what I started with if I left it out overnight!

The pieces are all neatly stacked and ready to sew.  Because the way this quilt is, I will be sewing vertical columns, not horizontal rows.  I may have a little mental challenge there to start, but I think it will be okay.

And I was happy I had enough of everything.  I started to worry about 3/4 of the way through, but I ended up with at least one extra long strip and one extra square of every fabric!  Thank goodness, since I had cut up literally every bit of fabric to get the estimated number of pieces I needed.

Now that lunch is done, I should go sew.  But first, Emma wants to know why I'm so interested in taking her photo here.  Well, I had leftover spaghetti for lunch.  I should have known that eating without Emma trying to share my plate meant something was amiss.  While I was eating, she was in the kitchen sink, licking out the bowl I heated the food in.  Can you tell?

Oh, Emma.

Happy quilting,

Thursday, January 10, 2019

project quilting 10.1

In my last post, I mentioned this Project Quilting challenge.  I was pretty sure I wanted to do it and pretty sure I wanted to use this as an opportunity to try new techniques this year.  So instead of letting the little voice in my head slow me down, I dug in!

"Hope Springs Eternal" here I come!!!

Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time know I am a microbiologist by training.  And that I like to put a science geek twist on challenges...remember my "Under" challenge that brought you bacteria, viruses and fungi?  Well, why not continue that tradition?

So, being a bit of a nerd, I started researching how hope can me measured or understood scientifically.  What I found is that there is little research or anything that talks about how hope (or any version of positivity) affects anything.  There is a huge focus on the negative behaviors and emotions (which, if we're being honest, does make sense), but the best I found talked about this imbalance of knowledge.  So I had no chemical structures, no leading scientist, no groundbreaking theories to inspire me.

Maybe something that illustrates the imbalance of ideas?  But how?

So I kept searching.  Many keyword searches on many different platforms and I finally came across this poster:

This came from a website where you can order many graphics like this on shirts, posters, cell phone cases, etc.  It spoke to me.  Hope is not something scientists talk about.  You create a hypothesis and try it out.  Sure you hope you're right (or wrong), but it's not like you write up your paper "we hoped this would work", you state that you had an idea and it did or did not pan out.  But whether it was right or not, whether it worked or not, you keep on going.  Either you revise your original hypothesis to try again, or you take your results and move to the next question.

This is how scientists work.  In a very less visceral way, this is how "hope springs eternal" in the scientific community.

Due to the short deadline and questions about copyright issues, I didn't want to waste valuable time waiting for permission to recreate the graphic in my way.  (Also, that's a lot of letters there in "experiment"!)  So I kept reading and thinking, but this idea just wouldn't go away.

The following morning, in the shower, it hit me...and I made my own mock-up graphic:

Yes, it's not much different.  (And I even had to download an app to my phone to make this snazzy thing!)  But it embodies both the scientific pursuit, but due to "try" can also be transferred to just about any aspect of human life.

Early on, after seeing the original graphic, I knew I wanted to try free-piecing letters.  Something I've never done, but if I'm going to grab this challenge for all its worth, this is a place to start.  So again, being a bit of a nerd, I did some research.  (Don't you just love smart phones?  I can sit on the couch with the hubby and ignore his football game while also spending time with him...kinda...)  I found a few websites and felt I was ready to tackle the task.

Off to the sewing room to start.  I decided I would tackle my box of strings for the letters.  I thought I had more greens, but it turns out my stash of blues was much larger.  Much in part to one particular marbled blue that had many 2" strips, of which I have no memory of their origin.  That's okay.  Blue is good.  Background?  Into the stash and I found a marbled medium green - another I don't remember acquiring - in the quantity of about a half yard.  That should be good, right?

I had no idea how to scale the letters.  I expected they'd all end up a bunch of different sizes.  I expected to fail and try again multiple times.  But I started at the beginning and worked my way through.  With a little note in my journal to cross off letters as I'd made them.  (That crossing things off a list is something I do enjoy!)

In no time, I had two letter t's!

At this point, I realized that I was deconstructing letters in a way that I hadn't thought about since probably first grade when we were first learning to write them.  I have learned to take for granted that my brain and hands work in concert to create letters every time I write without even thinking about them!  This was a fun exercise - even realizing that an upside down a is an e!  I'm sure at one point in my life I knew this and it was foremost in my mind, but it was a delightful rediscovery.


The letters quickly appeared on my design floor (I am not lucky enough to have a wall, but that's okay because the cats would surely knock everything down anyways...this way at least it's already down there!) and I absolutely fell in love with the a's.  They kept me going to get all the letters done before I took a break for lunch.  (And I still adore them.)

To my surprise, all the letters are about the same scale.  I have absolutely no idea how I managed that.  But I took it for a good sign that this project was meant to be.

But then came the next hurdle.  I had overcome the letter creation, but now to make them all fit together!  Lunch is often a time when I talk myself out of continuing in the sewing room and end up on the couch under a quilt and a pile of cats, with a book or the television remote.  I wasn't going to let that happen.  I know I still have a few days left, but you never know when true trouble will strike and I learned long ago in my career as a scientist, just do what needs to do be done when you can do it.  Tomorrow-Katie will thank you!

Back up to the sewing room.  And it hit me as absolutely obvious that they all needed to just be the same height.  I'd worry about sewing them into a top after that.  Well, that's not very hard is it?  Much like letter deconstruction, this was one step at a time and turned out far simpler than I'd imagined.

With minimal ripping (I decided after the fact that the first t should have extra fabric under it, not on top, so that it looked like the tail of the y was hanging down below - something that was terribly obvious once I set it on the floor), I had the letters sewn into rows.

Along the way, though, I giggled a little...

...I love food!

The next decision was how to set the blocks?  Left or center justified?

While the centered option called to my sense of organization, I finally decided that in science, it's not about making it pretty, it's about making it clear and factual.  That's how the left justified option feels to me, so the decision was made.

The remaining steps were fairly simple.  Just a skinny sashing between the rows...

...and some larger pieces to fill in the ends of shorter word rows (I almost ran out of green!)...

...and finally a skinny border around the outside to make sure the words stood out from the (to-be-blue) binding.  I had to piece the outer border strips just a little, but nothing tragic.  And I didn't run out.  And I can now say this mystery green (that I didn't like all that much to start with) is gone from the stash!  Yay stash reduction!!!

Now for the back.

I have a decent stash of back fabrics left over from larger quilts, so I went to that pile first.  And what did I find?  The absolutely perfect fabric.  AND a piece large enough for this quilt without piecing it!

The cats were, of course, present to assist.  They had been for multiple other steps, but I managed to sneak photos when they weren't mid-project.  (No small feat!)  But science geek fabric!  This is left over from my science geek hexie quilt I did a few years back and even the colors were in the same families (though not quite a perfect match).

I sat on the floor with this for a while.  I won't lie, a cat or two may have taken up residence in said lap, keeping me there perhaps longer than I should have been, but sometimes you just gotta do the kitty snuggles!  I contemplated how to quilt it.  My original idea was straight lines.  But seeing the double helices in this fabric, I thought perhaps I could duplicate something along those lines.

After shooing the cats off the quilt a few times, I tried to mark the quilt in an effort to get double helices that looked somewhat uniform.  That was not to be.  The marking pen was dried up.  The hera marker was not going to provide what I needed.  So back to straight lines.  That's okay, sometimes your first idea is the best one, right?

But do I have the right color thread to quilt this on the longarm?  I don't have a ton of colors, but each family is at least singly represented.  Guess what color green I don't have?  Yep.  I have a bright lime and a dark forest.  Nothing that would look very good.  And anything else I felt would take away from the design, just as too light or too dark would.

I guess I'm going to quilt this on my little machine with my "walking" (push, pull, drag, nearly break your arm) foot.  Straight lines should go fast, right?

So I spray basted it, putting a sheet on the floor first so later I don't stick to my floor until enough cat hair covers it to take care of the problem.  (Did I mention I broke my vacuum the morning I started this project?  No, I didn't, did I?  No joke, it's done for.)

Then to audition thread colors.  I have a wider selection of greens in regular sewing thread, so out came the (hidden because naughty Gabby who threw all the threads on the floor 3 nights in a row while I was sleeping is still around) thread holder.  I had a nice kelly green, but that was too dark.  A lime green stood out like a sore thumb (but we'd established that earlier).  I ended up with a pea green.  Like canned peas pea green.  It blended well with the green, so I was happy.

No photos of the quilting process, but I was on a roll.  The hubby called when I was about 2/3 done to say he was on his way home from work (2 hours late) and starving.  I told him I'd start his dinner as soon as this was quilted.  (Still trying to convince him to just take 5 minutes to eat something at work - I've even bought him snacky foods to keep at his new, promotion-provided, desk, but alas...he's too "busy"...)  So I pressed on and finished it.  Straight lines go fast, but there are So. Many.  And if we're still being honest, the idea in my head had them much closer together.  But this is good, too.

After dinner, I trimmed and squared the quilt.  I used a few more of the blue strips for binding.  They were all about 2", so I ventured to try skinnier binding than I usually do and it went fine.  I moved my needle over a bit to take a slightly skinnier seam allowance and then, after a few friends have told me they press their binding before turning, I tried that.  What a wonderful idea!  It helped a TON, I'm sure!  Even turning the corners was easier.  (But I'm not sure I'd tackle pressing binding on a queen-size quilt...well, maybe...)

The hubby requested my presence with him in the evening, so I couldn't sew down the binding.  I suppose, though, it was okay.  He does deserve some time with me and since I was gone for 4 days over the past weekend, he claims to have missed me!

This morning, though, I was up and out of bed, ready to get this finished!  The cats, though, had other ideas...

I got one pin in place to turn the binding in preparation for hand-sewing it down on the back and this happened.  At one point four of the five were all on top of or next to me.  The two pictured here are the worst of the thread-chasers.  And Lexie (the grey one) being deaf, doesn't even know you're yelling at her to stop.  Fun times.

Eventually, they settled down and I managed to get the binding sewn down.  It was musical cats, though, during the process and by the time I was done, all five of my fur-babies had visited.  They usually help me with this step, but I cringe with how much fur some of them leave behind!

I knew to consider this truly finished, it needed a label.  I'm terrible about labeling the quilts I keep for myself, but this being a challenge, I knew it needed to be labelled accordingly.

(I crossed out where I live via technology.  Sorry folks, but not terribly important to you.)

And the final quilt?

Laying on the floor of my living room in what looks like it might be sunshine.  Well, I guess for January in the northern hemisphere, this qualifies for sunshine!

It measures about 24x26.

It's larger than I imagined, but since I had no idea what I was doing when I started those letters, I'm just happy it didn't turn out queen-sized!  (Because sometimes that sort of thing happens to me...)

So there you have it.  Science geek Katie's entry into the Project Quilting Season 10, Project 1 competition.  If you want to see the others, click on the link at the beginning of this post.  There are already a few up and it's fun to see how different folks interpret the well-known saying.

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast; 
Man never Is, but always To be blest. 
The soul, uneasy, and confin'd from home, 
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

― Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

Happy quilting,

Monday, January 7, 2019

well, it's january...

I thought about squeezing in a 2018 recap post, but it never happened.  And now it's January.  Maybe another day...

So I guess I'll just share with you my retreat fun and how I've started off 2019!

I am very thankful I worked so hard earlier to prep for retreat.  Cutting "kits" for projects really made a difference when I had little time to pack.  But I managed to remember everything I needed!  I didn't need to borrow a single thing.  Then again, I mostly worked on one project...

You'll remember I cut and cut and pulled a muscle in my leg and cut and cut pieces for the the green quilt, right?

This was project number one at retreat.  I probably should have been working on the graduation quilt, but after seeing where we were sitting and the amount of (or lack of) floor space, I opted for something that did not require to be entirely layed out before I could sew.

So green X Plus blocks it is!  (Plus I was only mildly excited to start these...)

The blocks took longer than I anticipated.  Of course, there were a lot of long pauses in sewing for conversation...  I was sitting at a pod of 7 tables, so there were 6 other ladies there with me!

But by the end of day two (day one being arrival day and only about a half day once all was set up and moved in), I had the entire design wall you see above filled with blocks...

Sorry Colette for blurring you out, but you didn't tell me I could put your face here, so you're just a funky blob.  But you can see all 35 (well, most of them) here.  I need/cut 49, so I decided to just keep sewing.  I knew I could get all of them done before I had to leave.  

It looked pretty green in person, but seeing it through the lens of a camera, it looks less green.  And with an additional bunch of blocks, I'm sure it will be just fine.  The layout is yet to be determined, so that will make some differences too.  (Right now there are a number that have the same fabrics next to each other - different parts of the block, but same fabric...and with about 38 different greens alone, that should not be happening!)

I did finish them all!

This is just the pile after returning home, but I finished!  Of course, I still have to figure out the layout and sew the dreaded long seams, but I'm pretty excited!

After this, I still had a few hours left before it was time to pack up.  Yep, just a few hours.

So I pulled out my bag of about 150 fabrics for tiny stars and dug into that project...

And finished 5.

Pathetic, right?

But that's okay.  This is five more that I don't have to make later.

I didn't take many photos of projects others were working on.  In part because I forgot.  But also because I didn't even know who was making what (design walls were everywhere!) and wasn't comfortable asking everyone if I could share their projects on my blog...

But I did take a few photos of what friends were working on...

Colette, of the blur above, finished this top for her second project:

It's called Antelope Canyon and gave her a few fits.  She didn't have to rip out much (if anything?), but she had cut and labelled obsessively the weeks before camp and I heard her mumbling to herself a LOT during construction.  She also finished a bunch of blocks for another project, but because I was hogging the design wall, they didn't get displayed.  Oops!

And my sister-in-law was working on these guys:

Not the best photo, but last Christmas (2017), I gave her the Awesome Ocean quilt kit.  She's slowly plugging away at it, but any of you who have done patterns by this designer know they're very involved.  So she also sewed a bunch of other, simpler, projects during the weekend.  And some of them had a short display on the design wall, but I was too busy sewing, gabbing and eating to remember to snap any photos.

In addition to sewing, gabbing and eating, I made a trip to a nearby quilt shop.  And I was bad...

Remember how I said no more precuts without a purpose?  Well...I bought a bundle, but they were so doggone cute.  I'll figure something out.

The other fat quarters were free.  5 free fat quarters for the new year.  None of them are anything I'm super excited about, but they'll get used somewhere.

And the pattern was 15% off.  It's been on my Pinterest board for a while, but having the actual pattern will be better inspiration.

Have you noticed they're all sitting on a bolt of fabric?  No?  Well, they are.  At $7.50 a yard, plus 15% off, this overdyed muslin was a MUST.  And why not just get it all?  I have a desire to make a few scrappier quilts this year, but the background is always a bother.  I like to have my scrappy quilts a bit more unified than just light vs. dark, so this will be perfect.  And with 8 yards, it should last at least a couple of projects!  I still need to get it washed, as it's quite stiff, but that's a project for another day...I need to finish a few that I've already started for now.

Today I am not working (which surprised me, though I am not complaining), so I am doing laundry and need to run out for a few groceries.  After lunch...I'm not doing well in the getting things done department today.  But my bags are unpacked, my sewing room set back up (mostly) and the last load of laundry is in the washer, so I'm getting there.

I'm considering ideas right now for the Project Quilting challenge.  Have any of you heard of this?  It's pretty cool and inspired by Project Runway.  This year I am not participating in the UFO challenge (I really don't have that many, outside of tops needing quilting), nor am I doing the rainbow scrap challenge (I need a focused project for that and just didn't come up with one this year), so I thought a new challenge might be fun.  And something outside of my usual box feels right.

I am also working on the details (in my head, of course) of a monthly self-challenge.  One of the blogs I enjoy (but can't remember which...), the author had a box with projects written on scraps of paper and drew one each month.  I liked the idea of the UFO challenge, as it guided my squirrels each month.  If I don't have a guide, I will probably have a good year NEXT year for the UFO challenge...  So if I have a jar...  The hold up is what to put in there.  I am thinking ideas like "start a new project from scraps from a Pinterest inspiration" or "longarm something" or even "hang the wall-hanging guild challenge quilts"...and if I finish one challenge, I can just draw another.  I don't necessarily have to do them only monthly.  Once a project is finished, I can move on.  But I have to be careful to not just stall out when I hit a paper I don't much like!  So now that I am home from retreat, work shifts have decreased and it's cold out, I will be working on that jar.  (If you have any suggestions, I welcome them because they can't ALL (or mostly) be "start a new project"!  Well, they could, but that will probably be ugly!)

Time to go feed Emma (she has placed herself between my face and the computer screen, so this post is getting increasingly hard to type) and myself as well.  Because going to the grocery store hungry will break my pocketbook!

Happy quilting,