Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My "final" selection for Chasing Chevrons

I have so many WIPs right now that I actually have no business thinking about a new quilt, but what can I say? I like thinking about patterns and how I would do them differently. My fiancée likes to joke about my cooking television show - "the tall order chef" - in which I will take a meal that should take half-an-hour and instead make it take 3 hours. Perhaps that is true of my quilting as well, but you never know until you try! I'm going to try the grid method and Thangles for my half-square triangles for Chasing Chevrons - measured my fabric pieces last night so I can figure out the best use of the fabric. Also, instead of cutting all the background blocks and then sewing them back together, I'm going to figure out larger units to cut. This is partly because I don't have 3.5 yards of fabric for my background so I'm hoping those seam allowances will help make my 3 yards and a few inches work, and partly because I like making things harder in the name of making them easier! Also, it has a lot to do with little time in the sewing studio and lots of time waiting around - commuting, waiting for mark-ups to begin in noisy environments where actual work would be difficult, brief lunch breaks, etc.

So these are the fabrics that I think I'm happy with (after pulling lots of other combos). I was going to go with a light gray background, but the background is such an integral part of the quilt design and I love this aqua so much (and other than white or snow or various grays, I don't have huge pieces of fabric in my stash). I've either bought fabric for something specific or I've bought, at most, 2 yards (and usually 1 or even a half yard) for my stash. Of course, since I've pledged to myself not to buy any more fabric for 6 months (or until I significantly use up what I have), that limits my options a bit.

I plan on keeping enough of each print to make a scrappy binding - I think that might look especially good with this quilt.

So I'll plan, and I'll keep trying to clean out the studio so I can work in earnest soon - I folded a bit more fabric last night between turning off the work laptop at 10:30 and falling into bed! Can't wait to have everything organized to my liking! And all because I needed to find batting for Anne's quilt! I found it tonight, but managed to rewrinkle my top and back, so hopefully tomorrow night I can unearth the ironing board, give them a good press, and get that sucker basted!

Cindy and Sarah, thanks so much for your nice comments! I did get to peak at Aileen the Saturday before Thanksgiving, but she slept during our entire visit! She is really cute, though! Her poor mom had been asleep when we got there, and I've never seen Anne look so tired. I have to say, if my most energetic friend was that tired, I'm not sure how Bryan and I will survive a baby, since we're both older than the new parents by quite a bit (and will be even older by the time we get around to getting pregnant). So, I think I should make some baby things for our child in advance, just in case I end up sleeping every moment our baby is asleep! For tonight, though, I should go to sleep while our cat is asleep! She's been giving us practice waking up before the alarm, but I suspect tomorrow I'll be up before her for my Pilates class. I love Pilates...I must to wake up at 6 am! Hopefully I'll get some actual sewing time this weekend, and until then, I'll plan!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Behind again...

I'm behind again on my blogging, but I got in some lovely sewing time on Friday and finished the front and back of Anne's mini-quilt. I added some borders after taking this picture, so it's now about 28" square, I think.
Once again, I love my log cabin scrappy back...just enough fabric to finish it (and hoping the binding I made for the first quilt will have enough left over (planned overs, my mom calls them) to finish - otherwise, I'm in trouble).
I was trying to find batting, which lead to the long awaited major sewing room reorganization. The problem is that work promises to be insane for the next 3 weeks, and I can barely step into the room right now. Not good!

I did finally decide on my fabrics for the chasing chevrons quilt along - will try to get a picture up soon, along with my photo tour of the Capitol Dome!

Sorry for going back to my absent blogger ways...lots to share, but not enough hours in the day (or, rather, higher priorities for those hours...pies needed to be baked, green bean casserole needed to be prepared, and our Porksgiving extravaganza needed to be enjoyed! That's right - we celebrated Thanksgiving with delicious pulled pork BBQ (smoked a pork shoulder all day!), sweet potatoes, spoon bread, Not Your Mama's Green Bean casserole, pumpkin pie and pecan pie. Fresh dinner rolls on Saturday for eating leftover BBQ sandwiches was a real hit, too! Wish we could do it all again next weekend!). We also had a major housecleaning - finished hanging our pictures, and I even finished unpacking my clothes from when I moved in back in March! Not sure what I'll do now that I don't have to step over suitcases on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night! And a vacuumed living room...were we abducted by aliens and reprogrammed...perhaps!

Hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings, too!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Slow progress

I understand now why basket weave sashing is not all the rage! Progress is slow, and without my scraps to keep myself straight, it would be impossible. But, with that said, I'm enjoying the puzzle-like nature of it. I thought about taking it to the guild meeting to try to finish before seeing Anne this afternoon, but I think I'm too dependent on my design wall, so oh well...I'll just have to visit again soon when it is finished!

Update: As of Sunday night, I had completed the top half of the quilt, and it looks fabulous!  I made plentiful use of a new bottle of "Best Press" that I bought at Capital Quilts after the DC Modern Quilt Guild meeting on Saturday - wow - where was that all my life?!?  I have been using spray starch occasionally, but I'm extremely sensitive to scents (aka massively allergic to most scented things - scented candles = itchy, red, oozy, angry skin), so I was delighted to find an unscented starch alternative that isn't in an aerosol bottle.  

Anyway, I did have to do some seam ripping (including the fact that I figured out I'd sewn 1 block can just see it peaking from the bottom of this picture).  Ah well - that's what seam rippers are for!  But...I foresee the second half being a little easier, now that I'm getting a feel for it.  And, in looking at this quilt all together, I think that there would actually be some easier ways to piece it.  Cindy was right - it really doesn't look anything like the garden fence anymore...I was pretty surprised at how much making the inverse of the pattern changed the look.  Good to know for the future!

So, when I have the whole top together, I'll be asking for your opinions on a new name!  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lobster and Mushroom Cream Sauce over Pasta - "It's what's for dinner"

On weeks like this, when work is really difficult, exhausting, and frustrating, I like to spend my train ride to and from the city imagining what I would sew if I had more time in my studio. I'm pleased if I can just get dinner done and the dishes cleaned up before collapsing (and I've learned from experience that sewing is a mistake when I'm that tired!). Imagining is definitely the way to go!

Last night, after racing the whole day, I needed to cook a nice dinner for us using the old "what ingredients are in my fridge?" method of meal planning. I was lucky, because the ingredients were pretty awesome!

I had most of a perfectly cooked lobster from my incredibly awesome "Master Chef" series cooking class at Culinaerie in D.C. on Tuesday night (the topic was crustaceans, and the shrimp bisque and jambalaya leftovers had already made for a pretty above average lunch!). So, after getting our hunger in check with a couple of bites of leftover red beans and rice that Bryan couldn't finish on Tuesday while I was in class, I used the new method we learned for de-shelling the lobster (brilliant), cut my beautiful whole claw and tail meat into smaller bites the size of the pieces from the knuckles, melted some butter in a pan, and tossed in the lobster just long enough to warm it. Wish I had an appetizer like that every night! I think Bryan really extra-appreciated how worthwhile my class is as we fed each other warm, buttery lobster! The secret - bring the pot of water to a boil, put in the lobster, and start timing when the water comes back to the boil. Cook for 9 minutes for a 1 pound lobster, adding 1 minute for each additional quarter pound. Pull it out of the water, grasp it with a towel and quickly remove the tail and claws. Toss the claws back in the boiling water for another 2 minutes, and quickly cool each piece as it comes out of the water (run it under cold water or toss it in an ice bath) to prevent the residual heat from over cooking it. My chef-teacher made an incredible Asian-style lobster salad with a lemongrass aioli, shiitake mushrooms sautéed in sesame oil, sesame seeds, scallions, and cilantro (as I recall without looking at my notes). It was fabulous, but lobster in plain melted butter is pretty hard to beat!

Anyway, I then threw together a portabello and button mushroom cream sauce with shallot, rosemary, thyme, and white wine over some Super-pasta, with a side of steamed broccoli. Not bad for a weeknight supper (understatement!), but definitely the explanation for no sewing progress. I'm out with a friend tomorrow, so it looks like Friday night will be my night to finish Anne's quilt before visiting her and meeting Aileen for the first time on Saturday. Hopefully it will go speedily, and if not, I'll finish it by the time they are back from Thanksgiving! One thing I've decided...I have enough stress without stressing over my hobby!

I'll have a cool post, hopefully tomorrow, showing the one really awesome, special thing I got to do today. Here's a hint...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


So, sadly, the long weekend went by without any sewing. :( Bryan and I are hosting his mom and uncle for Thanksgiving, so we spent the long weekend focusing on getting the house in order. Little things like replacing the powder room toilet, which turned out to be much more difficult than our first toilet replacement in Bryan's bathroom. We'd grown so confident after our first try was so successful, but apparently we need toilet shims or something, since the toilet is at least 1/2 inch off the floor and shifts when weight is applied. Wish us luck - we'll need it!

Our big focus was consolidating/organizing/hanging artwork. Bryan's dad, Claude, is a very talented painter, and we had a number of unframed canvases that we wanted to hang, as well as a huge stack of art his mom no longer wanted but that Bryan kept for the frames. So the process began of trying to find appropriate frames for our favorites. We had some success! A few of the combos worked so well that we decided we couldn't have found a better match if we'd had them custom framed. Check these out!

The sailboat with the yellow mat is incredibly special to me. I am not a painter, but on our last visit to Greenville, I got my long-standing wish of a painting lesson. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Claude paint, hearing him explain how he goes about it, and just having that quiet time with him. Here's my version...and let's just say it will not be framed for viewing, but I'm keeping it with his painting. Someday, I'll be able to show Claude's grandchild the paintings that he and I worked on together, hopefully alongside many canvases painted by Bryan.

Bryan is also a very talented painter, though I didn't know that until that visit. After my painting lesson, Bryan sat down and painted a picture from a photo that he took on our vacation to Croatia last year.   It's the image I put in my mind when I need to relax, and I was pretty blown away that Bryan could paint that well after not doing it for so many years. He gave the painting to his dad - a long overdue promised gift, and I'm hoping he'll paint another version for me someday. Amazing how special art made by someone you know and love can be! Whether it is a quilt or a painting, family heirlooms can be created if the intention to share a special gift or talent is there, and that process of creating together can strengthen bonds in a really unique way, I think. I still think fondly of sewing time with my grandmother and playing in the wood shop with my grandfather, and I miss them more because of that time spent together in a tangible activity that allowed me to get to know them in a different way.

And speaking of sharing experiences, I missed my mom this weekend when Bryan and I ran up to a French pastry shop in Baltimore for one of these! My mom and I love to travel to Paris together. Our last trip was 5 years and 1 month ago, right before I started my current job. It was a celebration of passing the Georgia Bar exam and becoming a "real lawyer", and we celebrated with our favorite - a choux chantilly from our favorite shop - Tout au Beurre. This picture is of the deluxe version of a cream puff - a Saint Honore - from Patisserie Poupon.  It was delightful! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Great progress and Quilt Along

I've been hard at work on the mini-quilt, except for a brief pause on Monday night to attempt to make my fiancee a sleep mask.  It was not a success, mostly because of a misunderstanding on how he wanted the design.  For some odd reason, he thinks that having a triple layer of tightly-woven fabric completely covering his nostrils might make breathing difficult...what a concept!  (Though he did agree that having the nose piece does really prevent the light from coming in and helps it stay in place!)  As an untrainable mouth breather, it never occurred to me, but that's ok - I'll now have a back-up mask once I finish hand-stitching the bias binding, and I'll keep working on the design in hopes that I can share a little insight.  I've so far learned what not to do, and that's a good first step!

This is where I started sewing last night on the mini-quilt, and by the end of the evening, I'd finished piecing all the blocks and made my scrappy pink sashing (though I still need to iron it - I made one very long piece of pink awesomeness!).  Next step, green sashing, and then I need to think about how I want to piece it.  I'm thinking about trying to do a sort of basket-weavy design to mimic some of the ins and outs of the green and pink...can't wait to play tonight after dinner! 

This is moving fairly far from the garden fence design - I might need to give it a new name (since mini inverse basket-weavy garden fence is a bit long)!  What do you think, Cindy?  Have I strayed enough to give it a new name?  Or do you want to see the finished version before deciding?!?

My binding is already made, so after I get the top done, I just need to come up with a back (which I keep wanting to start on, but I'm waiting to see the final size of the top first, since I may decide it needs a border of the floral on the white background...won't decide until I'm there!)  That back will be the most challenging, as my fabric scraps are getting quite depleted - it will definitely be improvisational, but I'm fairly sure that I have enough - glad I made the binding first (and I saved the trimmings from the big quilt, so I may resort to piecing those little bits if I have to)!  Of course, if I have any leftover, I'm excited to try making a baby bucket hat from the Oliver + S book that was featured on a blog the other day...and the cycle continues!

And in other news, I've decided to try my first quilt-along!  Jennifer from That Girl, That Quilt is hosting a Chasing Chevrons quilt along, and it looks like fun!  I've watched so many quilt alongs, but I have so many projects on my to-do list that I've always felt guilty jumping into a new one.  Well, I've finished a lot of quilts lately, and this blog is making me feel like I can get even more accomplished (mostly because of such great encouragement - thanks for all the great comments, and a special thanks to everyone who is now publicly following me - it is nice to know that I have more readers than just my mom and a few old friends!).

That Girl... That Quilt

I'm so excited to see how it goes, and I'll try to share any changes I make or different techniques that I prefer, as well! 

Happy Veteran's Day, everyone, and wish me luck!  I'm hoping to finish this quilt in time to enter it in the Sew Mama Sew mini quilt contest on Monday!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Another layout

So this is what Cindy's suggestion looks like on the design wall (though imagination is needed for the sashing-still not wanting to cut it all until I'm sure!)

What do you think? I think it is my winning layout so far. Sarah - I know what you mean about the potential of the sashing to break up the design, but I didn't think it looked right when I tried it with no sashing - too much white, I thought (though I appreciate the suggestion).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mini, inverse Garden Fence

Wow - I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the positive feedback on the original quilt for Aileen!  Thank you all for making me feel so good - I now understand why people take the time to blog!

I'm a pretty frugal person, and I love the challenge of using scraps from one quilt to make another one - especially because, in this case, the other quilt ended up pretty large, I just adore these fabrics, and I am not ready to be done with them!  I also thought Anne would enjoy having a smaller version to throw over Aileen in the stroller or car seat.  So as I was working on the big quilt, I had lots of strangely sized scraps that I cut into 1" width strips that I could use to make a half-scale, inverse of the original. 

So, I cut 16 (actually 18, because I can't count) 2.5" squares of the white-on-white and then surrounded each square with my 1" strips of the prints cut to either 2.5" or 3.5" lengths.  I ended up with a 3.5" block.  I then cut print pieces that were 1" x 1.5" and sewed them between strips of white that were 1.5" x 2.75".  (I started trying to differentiate between the two sides and was sewing some of the print pieces to 1.5" x 1.75" pieces, but I decided I wanted the design freedom to have them all fit either side, and then I'd trim the extra white off as I pieced the blocks.  There was some level of planning involved at this point, in that I wanted the prints in the outer strip to match what was in each block, so I figured out how many sides featuring each print I'd need (since I'd been fairly random on the blocks, just trying to use up the smaller pieces as much as possible, the prints aren't distributed evenly (because I wanted to save the biggest pieces for the back of this quilt - I thought I had an uncut fat quarter left, but realized that I used most of it for the center square of the back of the other one - d'oh!)).

Then I went to work.  Because many of prints were used in small numbers and I was working from scraps (including extra pieces of the 1.5" white border from the back of the big quilt), the usual method of cutting all the pieces and then chain sewing the units worked well for each little set.  But, I had about 4 prints for which I was going to be using a longer piece, so I used a more efficient technique.  For example, the green with small multi-colored "lanterns" (as I dubbed them) would be 14 sides, or 21" of the print to be sandwiched, so I cut 2 2.75" x WOF strips of the white, cut them down to 22-ish", sewed them to either side of my green strip that was also about 22", pressed the seams open, and then subcut my units from there.  Much faster and more accurate, I think - especially because I could resquare them as I cut along the strip, which I found I needed to do several times.  Also, once I decide on layout, I'll be trimming everything to make sure it is all perfect, anyway, since I'm pretty hung up on precision, especially in a design like this.  I love "intentional wonky", but that's different!

So, here's where I need your help.  I'm very torn on the best layout.  The layout in the first picture was suggested by my lovely fiancee (because he was so helpful in the final layout of the other quilt), and I like that because you see a bit more of the pattern.  But with that pattern, it is slightly more difficult to decide on sashing placement - thus I played with scraps below to try to figure out what would look best.

Then, I decided to try my original idea of switching the sides (below), so that in each block, all of the verticals are one print while all the horizontals are the other print.  And then I thought I would alternate the blocks.  I was then thinking about trying to do a double layer of sashing with the floral print on the white background between the pink and green print.  The downside of that design is that you lose the linking that comes from those little bits of print moving out from the central block.  I should have laid that out, too, but I didn't want to cut that fabric down if I wasn't going to use it.

Anyway, I'd love your opinion and feedback on either of the above choices or on a different way entirely. Another thought is to use the final concept but make it only 3 blocks square, instead of 4, and end up with two tops.  I'd be slightly afraid to try to use them as a front and back, since the chances of me aligning them perfectly seems slim, but I could try.  Or, I could back the second one with one of the fun batiks that I've found to match the colors.  Hmmm...maybe even have a quilt to sell to cover the costs of all the fabric I've been buying for charity quilts of late...that's another idea!

I'll set this aside until sometime this weekend (though it kills me because I want to get it done!), but I'd really like your feedback.

In the meanwhile, I've had an order placed by said lovely fiancee for an eye mask.  I've been wearing ones that I've gotten from airlines for a few years, which is pretty ridiculous since I can sew!  He tried mine the other day and saw the beauty of it (plus, I've never made the black-out curtains that I promised to make back in April, so this will be a good short term solution until I'm ready to tackle that task...after I finish cleaning up/organizing the Woman-cave (aka studio)!).  I'll try to actually take some pictures and write my first tutorial as I go, since I'd guess that these could make fun Christmas presents.  I mean, really...the gift of good sleep is priceless!  And hopefully by this time next week I'll have another completed quilt to show off, and my design wall can once again be covered in a storm-at-sea quilt that I desperately need to finish!