Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Status Update & Blogger's Quilt Festival

So we survived Hurricane Sandy with no loss of power or storm damage (as far as we know)!  Hooray!  However, it makes it rather hard to take nice outdoor pictures when you are surrounded by a "Frankenstorm"!  I prepared for the loss of power this time extensively, after losing power this summer for several days to the crazy derecho that caused such damage to the grid in the middle of a heat wave.  On Sunday afternoon, I baked fresh cinnamon rolls, filled all our water pitchers, and waited in line in the cold rain for 3.5 hours to get my early vote cast, since we have a super important opportunity in Maryland this election to vote for equality that I didn't want to miss!  I hope so much that we are the first state to approve marriage equality for everyone by the popular vote.  With gay aunts who are very dear to me and a model of a successful marriage, the issue is very personal and important to me...it must be, because I mistakenly only wore flip flops, and it was cold, but I waited for my turn (though I had a lovely chat with several folks in line around me, which made the waiting much easier!).

For this fall's Blogger's Quilt Festival, I had a real debate.  I thought about sharing the first big quilt I ever made, more than a decade ago now, since the improv pieced back is still a favorite design - I called it my Frank Lloyd Wright inspired quilt and always preferred the back to the front.  Alas, it is so faded from constant use that an indoor picture just doesn't do it justice, so I'll share it another day (or better yet, make it again in better fabrics).  Maybe I'll even write it up so it will be my first official pattern!

But for now, I'll instead share my latest finish - a quilt for the new baby of my friend Kakuti and her husband Chris, who will be arriving any day now.  This quilt is a variation on a pattern that many of us used for last year's 100 Quilts for Kids.  I altered it a good bit, so some of the squares are now rectangles and the middle of the three borders is wider than the others...next time, I'll make this even more pronounced, I think, as well as perhaps substituting a larger piece for the center.  I used a charm pack of Half Moon by Moda as well as a variety of black and white prints that I bought in my first fabric shopping spree that I'd been saving for FOREVER!

I pieced the back to take advantage of those wonderful large polka dots, and I wanted to include some red, as well.  I used the binding tutorial from Red Pepper Quilts to machine bind it using a 2.5" starting strip (versus my normal 2.25" width), and I was very pleased with how it turned out...only one place where I had to go back to recatch the binding.  I think the key is definitely lots of pins, and by my third side I figured out how to pin from the top, which made it a little easier.  I also loved her measurements for how to overlap the ends - it worked perfectly and was much flatter than my usual tuck-under-one-end method. 

I did straight-line quilting with my walking foot in black and red. It required a few thread changes as I worked from the center out, but I think it was worth it to have the texture without distracting so much from the design.  I really like how it turned out - as usual, it will be hard to give away, though I'm very excited to share it with such a lovely couple. 

Luckily, when I bought the first charm pack, I decided to buy 2 so I could make one for our future child.  I've been making charity quilts and quilts for close friends' babies for awhile now, but I've decided I really need to start a stash of quilts for when we have a child, since many bloggers have mentioned that they had a hard time quilting once they were pregnant.  So, you'll likely see something like this again if you keep following my intermittent blogging!  I'm going to have a lot of big finishes in the next few weeks to share, and I plan on quilting a lot when I'm in Georgia around Thanksgiving taking care of my mom after her back surgery.  While she rests, I'll be sewing up a storm in the next room between bringing her little cups of tea and snackies!  While I'm home, I am very excited about giving my brother his new duvet cover and my nephew his new Chasing Chevrons quilt, plus I've got gorgeous fabric for a log cabin for my mom that I may wait to sew once I'm down there (or maybe I'll get it done in advance, we'll see)!

Blogger's Quilt Festival Statistics

Finished quilt measures: 40″ x 40″

Special techniques used: machine pieced, machine quilted with walking foot, machine bound

Quilted by: ME!
Best Category: Favorite Baby Quilt, Favorite Home Machine Quilted Quilt

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My latest charity quilt

Despite my best intentions, I only completed one quilt during the 100 Quilts for Kids charity quilt drive.  I probably should have been more focused...instead, I also completed 3 tops, all of the pinwheel blocks for another, and a fun hand-stitched hexy strip that will be the centerpiece of another.  Indeed, I was worried I wouldn't even finish this one in time - on Saturday morning, it was still just a top and a back!  I used Cindy's tutorial, but I only had a partial jelly-roll with no repeats, so I didn't have enough fabric to make more than 3 columns, and I really struggled my way through this one, including unpicking several seams (a rarity for me).  I had started by cutting my jellyroll strips in half so I could make the two sets I'd need, and on the second set, I figured out that I could make them line up better if I went ahead and cut off a 45 degree triangle from each end piece so I could line them up as I sewed the strip sets, since I didn't have any extra fabric to spare!

What really made it a doozy was the micro-stippling.  I haven't done any free-motion quilting in a couple of years now, so I'm very out of practice, but I really enjoyed it.  My stitch length is all over the place, and it certainly is far from perfect, but I think it will make some foster child in Ohio, courtesy of My Very Own Blanket, immensely happy!  (At least I hope so!)  I think it is a good sign for a charity quilt when it is really hard to give it away, and this one definitely fits that bill!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Catch-up quilts...

So, I'm a much better quilter than I am a blogger, but I'm trying to improve.  It seems like now is a good time to try to show off a few older finishes that never made it on here, since I've got lots of in-progress projects that won't be finished for another few weeks perhaps.

My cousin, Kelly, had her second baby right around when we were getting married.  For her first baby, Julian, I made a cute little bib/burp cloth thing (a rectangle to put over your shoulder to sop up drool...not sure what to call it) with a hand-appliqued chick on it, since she and her husband, especially, love orange.  As usual, I didn't photograph it - if I had a nickel for every cool project I made and gave away without photographing, I'd have...well...at least a dollar!  Anyway, you'll just have to take my word for it that it turned out very cute.  I wanted to do something a bit bigger for her second baby, both for her and as a special thank you to her parents, my aunt Roz and Uncle Dean, who were kind enough to host our completely wonderful wedding reception crawfish boil at their house in New Orleans.  I wanted to finish the quilt in time to bring it to New Orleans, since I thought they might enjoy having the quilt at their house for when baby Archer comes down to visit (or they could deliver it on one of their many trips to see their grandbabies), but I didn't have much time to get it done because I'd been so focused on finishing the quilts that were long overdue for my bridesmaids, Anne and Talia, before the wedding.  

The weekend after our wedding, Bryan and I went to Chapel Hill to see several nights of surf band music (my husband's obsession) and to see where he grew up, meet up with some of his best college friends to celebrate our marriage, and to generally take a stroll down memory lane.  We had a really fun time during the days, heading over to Greensboro one day to our favorite BBQ place, Stamey's, and hiking through the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park that he'd gone to frequently as a kid.  We drove by old houses he had lived in and by the little lake that was the location where he and his brother first "ran away from home" with their backpacks filled with PB&Js and comic books.  We even drove by his elementary school.  (I'm a nut about stuff like that...I made him do the same thing with me when we went to New Orleans for our "official" reception, including my elementary school, favorite park, and the first house I remember living in!)  We saw the house in Chapel Hill that he shared with his awesome housemates in college, the planetarium where he worked (and saw an amazing show about black holes that really blew my mind), and we enjoyed walking around campus.  We also went to some great restaurants for dinner in Chapel Hill that I'm still craving, including the Lantern and Cholonad.  But, the official reason for the visit was the Instro Summit.  I've started to like surf music (especially since we went to Croatia 2 years ago to see an incredibly friendly Croatian surf band called the Bambi Molesters and ended up being interviewed for Croatian television for the length we went to to see the band).  But, I am not a concert-girl, despite marrying a man who likes nothing better than going to see live music.  I knew I didn't need to sit in a little bar for almost 24 hours over the three days watching bands (though I did go one evening and it was more fun than I expected!).  So, I decided to try my hand at a strip quilt, ala Film in the Fridge and after seeing one of the charity quilts Katie made last year, except that I also wanted to do it in the quilt-as-you-go method, and I wanted to do it in the hotel room when he was off galavanting with a few of his college friends the first night of the shows.  I cut all the print fabric at home so that I wouldn't need my cutting mat (though I forgot to cut the coordinating solids I so carefully purchased).  I knew the hotel would have an iron and ironing board, so all I needed was my strips, batting, backing, pins, thread, and trusty sewing machine.  And voila!  I used Kate Spain's Central Park fabric on the front, an old hand-dyed for the back, and Kona cotton (perhaps tangerine) for the binding.  (I should add that Kelly lives in New York and takes her kids to Central Park, so it felt doubly appropriate!)

In my first evening at the hotel, I had a quilt-ish!  I ended up deciding to add quite a bit more quilting when I got home, including some straight lines around the seam lines, as well as tracing some of the curves in the tree print, though I made that harder than it needed to be by using my walking foot.  And while I got the binding attached once I got home, I didn't have time to hand-sew it down until I was on the plane heading for New Orleans!  So, in these pictures, it hasn't been washed yet, but it was wrinkly more from its handling than the process...it was actually pretty easy to keep it smooth as I sewed it down, even without using basting spray (though next time I think it would have been easier to have spray basted the backing to the batting before starting).

In addition to sewing down the binding by hand, I wanted to actually sign the quilt, since that is another of the things I rarely do but am trying to improve on.  I think it helps that my new married name is 6 letters shorter than my maiden name.  It's a bit hard to see in this picture because I just used orange thread instead of perle cotton...why I took all these pictures indoors is beyond me, since I could have taken some really great outdoor shots, but there you go...at least I got my mom to help me snap some pictures for once!

Uncle Dean, the host with the most!
And, I can't leave this topic without a few pictures from the "reception".  I should start by saying that Bryan and I both love eating crawfish.  One of the first times he cooked for me, he made crawfish pie.  And I think one of my big attractions for him was a family from New Orleans (for many, many generations)!  When we were thinking about our wedding, we considered a lot of options, but we decided that rather than have all of my family from New Orleans trek to DC, it would be a lot more fun for everyone if we just traveled to New Orleans!  So, my awesome aunts from Champaign, Illinois, my brother and nephew from Athens, GA, my parents from Atlanta, GA, and Bryan and I from DC/MD all descended upon my uncle's house for Memorial Day weekend!
The traditional "crawfish race"!
My aunt, in particular, was very worried about the heat of New Orleans that late in the season, so in addition to the standard crawfish boil tables under tents, they set up a little cooling spray system on the side of the tents that worked like a champ.  We were all dressed in our grubbiest clothes (which was funny when I tried explaining to the lady at Nordstrom's Wedding Suite that I didn't need lovely white shorts for my crawfish boil reception...I don't think she understood what is involved in a crawfish boil!).  And we sat around eating crawfish, crabs, corn, mushrooms, potatoes, whole cloves of garlic, onions, and spicy sausage.  We had bought a doberge cake from Gambino's as our "official" wedding cake - half chocolate and half lemon.  This is a wonderful cake, but really the reason I wanted it was because my dad's dad ("Pop") always loved lemon desserts, and especially lemon doberge, and that was my way of bringing him, in spirit, to our celebration, even though he passed away almost a decade ago.  In addition, my uncle Bud and his wife, Dena, brought us a lovely cake that had whipped cream, berries, and maybe pastry cream...it was delicious.  Aunt Roz had bought beautiful flowers and had some really fun decorations.  My brother also brought his mandolin down and played some music for "our first dance", which my honorary Aunt Cathy filmed.  It really was wonderful - better than I had even imagined.

Intense concentration on putting crawfish into my mouth!

My brother, Rob, continuing the family tradition, and sharing a crab claw with his son, Rowan

...who happily accepted.
The happy couple, complete with my aunt's hysterical wedding decor!
Bananas Foster in action!

We also ate at a lot of fun restaurants, including a dinner at Commander's Palace with the famed Bananas Foster (who knew cinnamon thrown on the fire would make such a good show!), the impeccable Mr. B's Bistro, Bryan's old favorite Mother's Restaurant, and Emeril's Delmonico.  And we couldn't go to New Orleans without a stop for beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde.  But the best meals were at my uncle Dean's house.  We had an amazing brunch the day after the crawfish boil with crawfish etouffee omelets, crepes, fruit, and the best hash browns on earth (made from the potatoes, onion, and garlic from the crawfish boil).  And before we left, my uncle went completely above and beyond and made my absolute favorite - crawfish bisque - complete with the crawfish stuffing in the shells.  Thank you so much, Uncle Dean and Aunt Roz, for being such wonderful hosts.  I asked my nephew which of his aunts' wedding celebrations he preferred, and, of course, since my reception did NOT involve putting on a suit or sitting through a boring ceremony but did involve eating delicious food, playing horseshoes, fishing in the canal behind my uncle's house, and playing lots of fun games, well...I won hands down!  :)