Friday, December 26, 2008

Snowpocalypse 2008

Okay, so I live in Oregon, and snow is pretty rare for us in the Willamette Valley. It usually happens once a year for a day or so,  and then it's done. This year it's lasted at least a week and half and it suuuuucks. I just want to drive my car. I got a holiday job at a department store, and am lucky I can walk there,  and to stores for minor provisions, but I have things I need a car to do.

Like drive to Salem and get my cutting system and sewing machine. Or drive to a store and buy a better sewing machine. Or drive to a store and buy heavy groceries. I'm being a huge baby about the snow because I hate it, and am seriously glad to see it leaving. I thought I'd be able to get my table runner done by Christmas, but lack of a sewing machine really put a damper on that. I'd just about finished stitching in the ditch (poorly I might add), so it's almost there. It'll be ready way in advance for next year!

I've been plotting my next quilt. Quilt Pro has been driving me a bit crazy with their triangle measurements, but I'm just going to have to work around it. It's taken me a while to find a color combination and style I like, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to go with this.

I think it looks like rows of dancing monkeys, or monkeys holding hands. It also looks easy enough that it won't drive me completely crazy, but interesting enough that I feel like I'm accomplishing something.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Molasses Cookies

When I was a little kid, my mom worked for the State Fair. She worked for the Wine Pavillion, or something like that, and we got a lot of free passes to the fair every year. We used to go almost every day, and I have a lot of strong memories of those experiences.

I also spent a long time perfecting a chocolate cookie recipe, and love to bake. In 2006, I decided to combine State Fair and baking, and enter some baked goods. I entered berry pie tarts, and chocolate cookies. I got red ribbons for both, but I don't think that was necessarily impressive. The pie was 3rd out of 5th, and the cookies were 3rd out of 8th. Don't get me wrong, I was very pleased with the outcome, but my competitive nature called out for more.

This past summer I entered again, with the same pie, cookies, and also banana bread and peanut butter cookies. I was working at a summer camp at the time, which hampered me a bit. I didn't have my own kitchen, or supplies, but I did a bit better in the showings. I placed second out of 15 for the berry pie tarts, and got 2nd out of (I think, I'll check my records) 18 for the peanut butter cookies. I was beyond delighted! I had some ingredient issues with the chocolate chip cookies, and forgot to pick up muffin tin liners for the banana bread muffins, so I felt like I didn't have my best showing there.

Now I'm on the hunt for blue. I'd like to enter molasses cookies, but I haven't found a recipe that I really love yet. I really enjoy a cake like cookie, and my molasses have been coming out kind of flat.

I tried out a new recipe this weekend, which blogger isn't letting me cut and paste, to mixed results. They were fine, didn't have much loft to them, and needed a little vanilla I think. They also came out crisp on the bottom when fully cooked, and undercooked other wise. I'll keep trying.

This is not to say that I didn't eat them anyway!

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's Christmas Time!

Okay, so, BBW was driving me crazy, and not in a good way. I realized that one of the things I like about quilting was the repetition and ease of it. It's not that it doesn't engage the brain,  but there is a rather soothing quality to the clear destination a quilt can provide. BBW was too much work, so I just wasn't working on it, which was no fun. I have a lot of ideas I want try out, and spending time not working on something fun was no good. 

So I started my Christmas Placemat plan.

And I got Quilt Pro 5, which doesn't seem as cool as Electric Quilt, but what can you do? I ran into a few pitfalls. I looked up placemat sizes online, and made the above pattern at 12 x 18. More on that later.

I also got the Alto Quilt-Cut system, which takes a part of quilting that I'm not to good at and made it a lot easier. All of my cut pieces came out uniform, and it took less than half the time. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than what I was doing before.

And here is one "placemat" finished. I found out some things along the way, the first being that the initial double square I had planned for the middle wasn't really the best thought out. I took a pre-planned block from the Quilt-Pro, and stuck it into my layout. I checked the yardage requirements and thought I was good to go. Turned out that the middle square bits didn't fall into 1/8th inch increments. That was no good, as I couldn't really get a consistent cut between the pieces. I settled for just a plain square, after I cut out the bits for the more complicated middle square. The second issue was that I still am not getting a good consistent 1/4 inch seam.

I'm going to blame my sewing machine. :) Oh, it's probably me, but this machine isn't exactly top of the line. It's something my mom bought, so I have no idea when or where it came from. I taped a piece of paper to mark where the 1/4 inch seam is, but sometimes I make and sometimes I don't. I would like to get a new machine, but the Internet isn't being very helpful. I'm wary of going to a sewing machine shop, because I don't know which machines are rated well (there isn't a clear consensus online as to how brands compare) and I don't want to get some salesman who is working on commission. Consumer Reports is coming out with sewing machine ratings in February, but I don't know if I can wait that long! My friend Leslie has a Janome, so maybe I'll test hers out.

Oooh, another problem. 12x18 really isn't big enough for a placemat! I should have just looked at one I already had! This photo is my "placemat" on top of a correctly sized placemat. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself at this point, with all the cut out pieces I didn't use due to poor planning, and a wrong final size, due to poor planning. It was almost enough to make me give the whole thing up. But when the goings get tough, the tough make table runners! I used my original design idea, and sewed them together for a table runner. Which may or may not be how table runners were invented in the first place.

Here was another issue I should have thought of. I've made sawtooth blocks before, for my first quilt, and they involve flying geese. I didn't really think about it when I was cutting out the triangles in the photo. It was what Quilt-Pro recommended to cut out, so cut I did! I forgot that last time I made these, you use rectangles, and cut them down to the triangle part. It seemed like a lot of extra work at the time, but making them with the triangles already cut was more frustrating. The points were very flimsy and harder to pin and get through machine than if I had done them correctly.

This would make any long-time quilter laugh, and it's for posterity, but here's my stash. That's all I've got so far. If I'm still doing this in 20 years, I'll look back at this photo and laugh.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Process

I got a lot of work done on BBW during the election coverage. I didn't realize how stressed out the entire process made me, until CNN called the election and I burst into tears. I was standing at the ironing board, trying to keep ironing and just crying. I couldn't stop! It was such an epic moment.

This is work I did tonight, in a step by step fashion. Here I've laid the elements I want to sew together. See that white slab above the cutting mat? I've been using that as a long ruler to cut long strips of fabric. Maybe I should get a real ruler for that...

And there are all the individual blocks waiting to be sewn together, and the layout they need to be on the computer screen. I've sewn them together the wrong way more than once, so I'm double checking now. 

I think it's starting to get pretty cool. And I'm over half way done! Surprisingly, after yellow and white, gray is the most used color. If you had asked me what colors where in this painting before I started this project, I don't think I would have even remembered that gray was a color in it. 

Monday, November 3, 2008

Slow Goings

Well, here's the next layer of BBW. This project can feel really tedious at times, as every piece of it is unique. I think there is something soothing in repetition, and this project doesn't exactly have it. I do enjoy seeing segments finished though, so it's not a total wash. I would like to revisit this theme someday, and see if I can't get some sort of "inspired by" quilt pattern created. Something with the same color scheme, but with more repeated elements, and actual blocks! I might need some distance from this particular imagery for a little bit, assuming I ever get it finished. I'm pretty sure my next project is going to be something small and Christmasy, like placemats. I think that would be pretty fun.
I don't have much family background in quilting, or really any sort of crafty activities. I do have, however, two antique quilts in the house, made by someone in the family. I know they are from my mom's side, and I wish she was here to tell me who made them, and how they are significant! I'll ask my one of my aunts, I hope they will know. This first one is an applique, and I like a lot of the fabrics used.

Look at those pretty red flowers!

And look at those misshapen circles! 

More interesting fabrics.
This quilt is amazing. Everything is perfect, and stitched so nicely. The fabrics are gorgeous as well.

I love the blue and orange flowers.

The quilt above has been sitting in my linen closet for years. My mom would never let us use it because it was too special. This is the first time I've ever actually looked at it, which is a shame because it is so pretty. I'll have to figure out some way to display it. Someone put a lot of work into it, and it deserves better than hiding on the bottom shelf of a closet no one ever looks in.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Much Nicer

Okay, I added the smaller triangles, and I think it really takes it to the next level. Now I just have to figure out how to make it! The flying geese portion worries me, as the triangles on the side aren't standard, as does the pointer looking bits. I think I'll have to divide them into two triangles, and then I'll have to figure out how to attach the lower triangle.

Ah, but here it is with the new addition.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Inspiration in Unlikely Places

As an unemployed person, I've got a lot of time on my hands. This being the case, I decided to replay one of my favorite games, Final Fantasy XII. I've been rolling through the game, and what's this I see on the wall?
That looks like a quilt pattern on the wall. Who can care about manufacted nethicite when there is patterning to be done?
I scoured the internet for screencaps of the scene that showed the pattern, and captured the photo below from a youtube video.
Then I sat down with Illlustrator and tried to recreate the pattern. It took me awhile, and it's not exactly the same, but I think it would make a pretty nice looking quilt. I didn't get the small triangles on the outer triangle (that doesn't make any sense to anyone else I bet) and maybe when I'm more restful I'll see about adding them.
I think this will be my next project. I like the planning stage, but I know better than to stop work on BBW, no matter how frustrating I'm finding that particular quilt at the moment. I'm also going to need a few days to figure out yardage and piece sizes for what I'm going to call Fantasy, in honor of the game. Illustrator is not the best for creating quilts, and I really wish they made Electric Quilt for the Mac. I'll have to figure something better than Illustrator out. At least for Fantasy I'll only need to figure out two squares, instead of with BBW where there are no real repeating elements.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Quilting, A young woman's game?

These poorly shot things are the strips I have been using to create the BBW quilt. When all the edges are joined, the finished size vertically is 1 inch, so I've been working with a grid and using these pieces as building blocks. It's more complicated than it needs to be, and it's definitely been a labor of love. If I really didn't want to create this (which I'm not sure why I do!) I would have pooped out on this project. 

I stand by the choice to have a quilted element, rather than a straight copy, but if I had it to start again, I might not choose the strip element, just because it's a fussy way to do it. I don't mind the way it looks though, put together. These photos don't really show the detail well, but I'll take better close-ups when I'm closer to finishing.

I've been going back and forth to Portland to try and keep up the moving effort, and I stopped in Aurora on my way up when I saw a sign saying they had an antique store. I've been trying to furnish my new place with antiques, so I've hit almost every store between Salem and Portland, and all down 99. 

Aurora has more than an antique store, it has many. And they all have good stuff, and lots of furniture, which is what I've been mainly looking for. But the most exciting thing, was that there was also a Quilt Show going on. I'm kicking myself for not taking my camera. There weren't that many quilts, but there were some very impressive ones. I was there on a Friday, so there weren't that many people there but the average age was 40+. It seems like this is the case with a lot of the blog I've been reading as well. Married with, or with out kids is common too. 

It feels a little isolating. I've been entering baked good in the fair as well, and these aren't young people's hobbies. Granted, I haven't looked everywhere on the internet or around town, but it would be nice to have people more my own age involved in this.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quilting Like a Sailor

I've got a new project. 

When I was a kid, I had a book of Western art history. I used to pour over the pages looking at the various painting from the 15th century to modern art, and it fascinated me. My mother asked me my favorite piece, and I always said it was Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian, pictured below.

I'm very sure I wouldn't claim it as my favorite painting now (not that I could name a favorite right this second), but it's always held a special place in my heart. 
It is however, made of squares! And what's better for quilting? So I decided I wanted to recreate it in quilt form.

The debate in my mind then becomes, should I try and recreate this exactly with fabric instead of paint, or use the template of the painting and use quilting methods to make it art in a quilt form?

When it's phrased like that, it should be obvious that I am aiming for the latter. HOWEVER, this  project so far has been an exercise in frustration! The first quilt was easy! Someone else figured out the yardage, the pattern, how to cut, how much to do, but in this project I'm on my own, which has lead to a lot of swearing on my part. I'm building a template matching the original proportions in illustrator, and using that and a grid to figure out how to put it together but it's been frustration and long process.

I had originally thought to make the squares into 9-patches of solid color, unlike the one below. I figured that would add to the quilt like quality.

The scale of the project makes that difficult. The nine patch above would have a finished size of 3x3. The squares in my quilt would be 1x1, and I just can't wrap my mind around that. It's sort of hard to see, but the squares on the nine-patch are made up of three strips sewn together. It's my compromise between a pure copy and a quilted touch.

Sewing together all the strips (at 1.5 inch width when all three pieces are sew together), and making the illustrator guide have been really time consuming.

Each of the strips took a day.

I've also been focusing a lot more on matching the seams, as it's a really geometric design, and the iron has seen a lot more use.

Here is two more days of work, mostly due to my own miscalculations, and a computer crash. I've sworn more in genuine frustration doing this project than any other time in my life!  The rest of the row I'm working on should go pretty quickly, as there are larger white spaces, and I pre-cut 1 inch finished size squares.

A lot of quilters name their quilts, so the tentative title for this one is BBW, which unfortunately is also an acronym women sometimes put in dating ads meaning Big Beautiful Woman. I'll keep thinking about it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


In addition to being unemployed, I'm also theoretically moving to Portland. It's taken a bit of time to furnish and prepare my new place, and while that's been exciting,  I've been dragging my feet getting up there. Partly because I'll really and truly have to find a place for my dog, because she's too big for my new place, and partly because I just can't get motivated to leave the place I'm living now. I did go up on Friday and get mattresses though, so I can finally sleep up there on a bed, instead of on the couch.

While I was there, I met up with my friend Jennifer for a quick cup of coffee. I took this picture of her, and asked if I could use it in my blog. It didn't occur to me that she would ask to read my blog though! It's just that devoting myself to writing about this particular topic is a little new, and I suppose it may be a little different than expected. 
This flowers below are the craft project I used to fill my time before I started the quilt. It was a lot of fun to make these, and best of all, I can't kill them like I do all real plants in my care.
And, I finished the quilt! I found a pretty blue backing at JoAnn's (which was way better than Wal-Mart, and more price friendly than The Quilted Village) and finished the quilting and binding. Here it is in a natural habitat.
The quilting itself was a bit frustrating, but only because I had no idea what I was doing. Making the quilt top itself had three pages of instructions and diagrams. The binding process had at least thirteen steps listed in the directions. 

The actual quilting instructions simply read "Quilt as desired".

Wait, what? What does that mean? I had intended to hand quilt it, but got about a half an hour in when I realized it would take me weeks to finish. Maybe I'll try hand quilting something smaller. I don't quite know how people make all the really pretty designs, as I found it quite cumbersome to deal with the bulk of the quilt on the sewing machine. I ended up just doing straight lines with a fancy stitch.

I might have researched more options on how to do it, but I think I was mostly concerned with just finishing! Now, onto the next project!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Getting Closer!

I told my friend Elyse that I had started a quilt, and she suggested that we try quilting together. Elyse went to fashion school for awhile, and spent most of her childhood on a sewing machine, so she had a lot of stuff to show me. Like, what all the buttons on my sewing machine are (backstitch? what's that?). Her ex-grandmother in law had given her a bunch of fabric all cut up, so Elyse and I embarked on a mini quilting bee. We walked down to the library to check out different quilting books, and found one that just suggested laying out a bunch of fabric, cutting it in a square, and then cutting it up randomly. Which we did. The photo below shows one of the crazy cuts and all the fabric in the background.

Elyse (pictured below) did all the sewing, and I think she was drawing mostly on her fashion background, because all the seams were 5/8in instead of 1/4 in. The squares came out pretty wonky, due to the way the piecing worked out. It started out as a 6 inch square, and cut down to about 4 inches. We've still got a lot of work to do, but the ex-grandmother in law has a longarm quilting machine, so maybe we will send it through on that? That would be sort of exciting. I don't really like many of the fabrics we are using, but maybe when we finish a bunch of squares it will look alright. Elyse sent me home with the whole tupperware container full, so we'll see what happens with it.

In terms of my own quilt, I finished the top! I wasn't crazy about the dark red fabric through the whole process, but now that it's on the edges I really like it. Now I just have to figure out how exactly to put the rest of it together. I bought the batting, so I'll try and figure it out. The instructions in the magazine are pretty confusing. 

I drove my self crazy putting this together. I sewed the two longest strips of blocks the wrong way, and had to rip out the seams and re-sew it. I almost just said forget it, but then I realized that none of the outer strips would fit it I did that. Later I sewed one of the outer red strips on the wrong way, and had to rip out that seam too. Why didn't I pay better attention? Doh!

I'm so weird about buying things. I bought the batting at the locally run quilt store, The Quilted Forest (instead of Wal-Mart) because they had 100% cotton stuff, and when the saleswoman asked me if I was going to machine quilt it or hand quilt I totally lied and said I planned on machine quilting. I had told her earlier that it was my first quilt, and I guess I didn't want her to think I was too ambitious to try and hand quilt it. Why do I even care what she thought? She seemed really nice too. I can't seem to stop myself! Sales people make me flustered. I couldn't bring myself to buy romance novels at bookstores for years because I was afraid the clerks would judge my choice. 

I had planned on getting some backing fabric as well, but the fabric in the store seemed pretty expensive, most of it was at least nine dollars a yard or more. The fabrics at Wal-Mart were much cheaper, but the selection was way worse. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My first quilt

So, I'm currently unemployed. The economy is tanking, but hey, no big deal right? I'll get a job someday! 

But I need something to do in the mean time, right? I'm tired of watching TV all day, and the internet is getting old. Why the heck did I pick trying to quilt? I don't really know much about sewing, but what can you do? I tried knitting, but I don't really like the way the finished product feels, and I don't really want anything you can make by knitting or crocheting. The feel of yarn is sort of repulsive to me.

Blankets on the other hand, well that's a different story. I picked up a quilting magazine at the store, and picked a quilt that looked cool, and went to town.

Here's the other thing about me. I hate being new at things. I hate learning things. Well, that's not exactly true. I hate it when other people know I don't know how to do things. I didn't want to go to a quilt store to get all my new supplies (which is dumb because I'm sure they would be delighted to help) because I didn't want anyone to know that I don't know what I'm doing. I bought my fabric at Wal-Mart because I felt like no one would bother me there, or ask any questions about why I was buying what I was buying. Even then, my heart was pounding. What is someone found out that I was trying to make a quilt that was way to advanced for me? It's like I was afraid that the quilt police would burst in at any minute and tell me I was doing it wrong and that I shouldn't buy what I was buying!

I just bought supplies I thought I might need by skimming quilting how to sights, and came home with fabric, a rotary cutter, a fabric cutting mat, some thread, and some needles. Luckily, my mom was a sewer so there was a sewing machine in the basement.

Now, the quilt I decided to make was probably a bad call. For a few reasons. 
  1. It's a full size quilt.
  2. The magazine says it's for advance quilters.
After a lot of cutting, and swearing at the sewing machine though, I sewed together all the top squares, pictured below.

To get to this point was/is a huge learning process! It took about a week. This magazine isn't exactly geared towards beginners! I cut all the white fabric with the fabric completely spread out, before I realized that it would be a lot easier to cut the pieces with the fabric doubled over so I cut twice as fast, and the whole thing fit on the cutting matt. I also learned that I didn't have to sew something on the machine, cut it off, and start all over. I could just put in pieced square after square so they formed a little chain. 

Some square turned out alright, like the one with the red square center (a Martha Washington Block) Everything mostly lines up where it is supposed to, and all the points are pretty crisp and the triangles all have pointy ends.

The other blocks, with the pinwheels (Sawtooth blocks) well, some of them didn't turn out quite so well.

Yikes! The pinwheel points don't match, and neither does much else! Oh well. It's my first quilt. I'm looking at this as a learning experience. I've been reading this great blog by a woman named Tonya at and she talks a lot about just quilting, and not caring how perfectly everything matches, which eases my mind a bit. No quilt police are going to but into my house and tell me how much my pinwheels suck, and I'll have a nice warm blanket to watch TV with.

I'm going to my friend Elyse's house tomorrow, and she says she'll give me a few pointers. She also said she has bags full of quilting flannel already cut into strips and we can have a little quilting bee, which sounds fun.

On a side note, it was beautiful today! I'm savoring the sun while we have it, because god knows, here in Oregon it's likely it won't be seen from November to April. Here's the view from the deck.