Monday, January 28, 2013

On the Road (again)

The Madrona Road is back on the design wall.  This time, in smaller bits:

Slow and steady, but it's progress...

My plan for these little snippets looks NOTHING like the current layout, which is a shame, because I'm kind of grooving on the whole "sunburst" vibe.  As it is, the geometry of arcs and radiating sectors escapes me at the moment, so I think I'd better stick to the original (and by that, I mean the third) plan.  :) Stitching will hopefully commence tomorrow -- it's getting too late tonight.  I'm hoping things will start to take shape here shortly.

In the meantime, I'm off to read a chapter before bed.   Although I love books, the older I get, the more I realize how limited my exposure to literature has been (as a chemistry major, I tested out of English altogether).  Every once in a while, I try to make up for lost time by picking up a book the literary world considers a "classic."  This week, it's Jack Kerouac's On the Road.  Guess I'm in the mood for a little adventure.

How I will likely spend the remainder of my evening... Instead of grading.  :)

What are you reading tonight?  Any favorite "classics" I should add to my list?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cat. Y Wonkus.

I managed to finish a keychain zipper pouch for Emma's friend just in time for the party Sunday.  I used the Li'l Cutie tutorial by Anna over at Noodlehead, which is one of my favorites (all finished edges on the interior...   I love everything that woman makes!).  I couldn't force myself to go with black and dark blue...  It just felt too serious for such a young girl, so I went with a cheery aqua instead.

I wanted to embellish the outside with a little something to give it character, and this sassy cat seemed just the thing.  I found loads of cat images to peruse on Masterfile.  Not only do I like the silhouette on this one, the tail is reminiscent of a "J" for her initial.  Of course, I had to add red glasses because Joy wears red glasses.  (Although, hers look a lot less 'Sally Jesse Raphael' than my version).  The cat and glasses are "faux-appliqued" using No-Sew Heat 'n Bond, with fluorescent-green eyes and lining for good measure.  I hope she likes it.

Front panel of Joy's keychain zipper pouch.  If you look closely, you'll notice that the cat's eyes glow a fluorescent yellow-green.  (Cat design based upon Masterfile image found here).

I've had a few other projects kicking around this week.  I finished a second wonky quarter-circle block for Val's Heroes Helping Heroes Quilt.  This one is a tad wonkier than the first, but not quite there yet.  For some reason, I struggle with the wonkus.  Must be the chemist in me.    

I think she's up to ten blocks received so far.  I'm anxious to see how these all come together.  If you'd like to join in the cause, there's still time to make a block or two before the deadline.  All the details can be found on Val's blog posts here and here

Finally, I stitched together my first-ever boxy pouch.  I used Libby's tutorial from over at Truly Myrtle and some pre-quilted scrap fabric I had laying around for practice (so I could skip the interfacing).  It's a good thing, too, because my practice version turned out all catawampus.  Instead of the 9" x 4" x 4" dimensions of the sample pouch, mine came out 12" x 4" x 2".  The astute among you will see immediately what I missed:  I inadvertently swapped the length measurement with the width during construction.

I have to admit to feeling a little cranky while sewing this one.  I get a little grumpy with tedium.  Still, the minute I turned it right-side out, the grump was gone.  This is a nice little bag.  Fully-lined, with finished edges on the interior (unfinished edges are a thing with me).  I need to go over the math once (or twice) more to make sure I've got it all straight, but I think with the right fabrics, this could be a great little toiletry bag.   

Which would be nice, since I can't seem to conquer unfolding my Weekender pattern.  *Sigh.* 

 Have a good Thursday, everyone!  :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mental-Siggy-Road Block Party.

Mental Block

Emma has a birthday party later today for her good friend, Joy.  I promised to make her a present, but I'm stumped.  Is there a quick-- but COOL-- gift tutorial out there for an almost-twelve-year-old girl?  You know, something all the other girls will envy (that won't get Emma laughed out of the party)?  Here's the sum total of what I know about the guest of honor:

- She's a girl.
- Tomboy.
- Likes to read.
- Favorite colors:  black and blue.
- Considers herself to have a "dark side."

At 12.

Oh!  And, she likes cats.


She's a nice kid, and she and Em are pretty good buddies, but, we're T-minus 13 hours and counting now, and I've got nothin'.  SO...  Ideas please???

While you're thinking about THAT, here are a few other blocks I've been working on this week:

Heroes Helping Heroes Quilt - Wonky Circles

My (first?) block for Val's Heroes Helping Heroes Quilt.  Hope it's wonky enough.

Val from HowAbout Pink Please? is working on her second charity quilt for the Heroes Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Indianapolis that serves and supports the local cancer community.  Several of my friends from the St. Louis Modern Quilt Guild contributed to last year's offering, a gorgeous string quilt that raised $1000 at the foundation auction.  Val's looking to repeat last year's success with an improv circle quilt inspired by this beauty from Erica of Kitchen Table Quilting.  She's off to a good start, but her numbers are down since last year, and she could use a few more volunteers.  If you have an extra minute this week, hop on over to her blog and check out the wonky circle block tutorial.  It's a fun block to make, and there's plenty of time to squeeze one in before the early-February deadline.   I hope to finish at least one more myself.  The first block is in tribute to my best friend, who has Stage-4 metastatic breast cancer.  The second will be for Jon Stephen Smith, the brother of an online friend, who passed away this week of complications after a long battle with glioblastoma multiforme.  Hope you can join us.

Siggy Blocks

Siggy blocks (edited to remove personal information).
Just sent off my signature blocks for the latest round of the Modern Siggy Swap, generously hosted this time around by Karin of Cascade Quilts.  I'm trying desperately to grow my collection of these fun little guys (tutorial:  p.s. i quilt), but we only had 33 participants this round.  :(   Our numbers were down this time, I think, after a series of delays receiving our blocks back from last round.  Those things never bother me-- I appreciate anyone who takes the time to organize such a thing-- but a few of the ladies were pretty hard on our last swap mama, who seems to have quietly stepped down as a result.  My thanks to Karin for stepping in this round, and to our last swap mama for all of her hard work on our behalf.

(Madrona) Road Block

Madrona Road Challenge fabrics.

Despite loads of planning (and a few fabric purchases), I've hit a definite snag on this one.  My initial thought was to make one giant quilt block (below, unintentionally wonky corners courtesy of PowerPoint).   Although quite the geometric achievement, when I start pairing the actual fabrics together, the overall look is pretty drab.  Definitely not modern.

Road block #1.

Then I thought I'd be brave and finally try my hand at Amy Butler's Weekender Bag.  I recently fell in love with this version by Elizabeth Hartman using her quilt-as-you-go method.  Oh, how I covet this bag!  With most of the interfacing left out, I could finally scrounge up the confidence I needed to take this puppy on.  I even stocked up on Advil for good measure.

Final preparations underway for commencement of the Weekender bag.

But once I sat down with the fabrics and started piecing panels, I realized it wasn't going to work.  If I'm going to put a fortnight's worth of effort into a bag, I want to pick and choose from all of the fabrics in my stash.  If I only get through one in a lifetime (and, let's be honest, the errata alone may kill me), I don't want to be locked into this fabric line.  I like the line, I do.  But, the "ocean" colorway feels a little flat to me.  I think you either need to break it up with loads of white, or combine it with the warmer tones of the "citrus" line (great example here) to really brighten things up.

So, what now?  Apron?  Coasters?  Industrial-sized oven mitts?  Whatever I choose, I've got a deadline looming, a gift to make, and very little in the way of inspiration.

Think Joy would like a box full of fabric?  :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lime 'n the Coconut

My Aunt Nan just celebrated a milestone birthday.  When I was growing up, she lived eight hours away, so it was always a treat to see her.  She was the "Cool Aunt" who did exotic things, like put pineapple in her cottage cheese, and toilet paper in her hair.  My sister Maggie and I would sit side-by-side and admire her from the doorway as she pedaled her Exercycle to Englebert Humperdinck.  She's a pretty lady with a big heart who takes very good care of herself, and others.

And, it shows.    

She has thankfully moved back to the area, which means I get to see her on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that also means she's away from her girls-- and their families-- whom she misses greatly.    So, Maggie and I thought a little birthday celebration might be in order.  After dinner out at a local restaurant, we went back to my Mom's for ice cream and cake.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Nan!  With wishes for many, many more.  

My gift for Aunt Nan was a tote bag she can take to the beach.  Each year, she and my Uncle Tom visit Emerald Isle with her girls and their families to sip margaritas and soak up the sun.  Uncle Tom (who has a nickname for everyone in the family) calls her "Spunky," hence the applique.

Spunky beach tote for Aunt Nan.

For the patchwork, I cut into my Lucy's Crab Shack layer cake, a perfect fit for this project with its "Carolina" text print and built-in "Exercycle."  I even fussy cut some of my Heather Ross Goldfish-in-Bags as a nod to "UT" (his nickname, from niece, "Big Bum").  

Maggie, the zany sister, went another way.  She got Aunt Nan a Maxine Hula Wobbler, complete with grass skirt and coconuts.  Aunt Nan took one look at Maxine's mantra and just about lost it.

The best gifts of the night, though, came from Little Man and Miss Em.  They each created handmade cards and gave her biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig, birthday hugs.

And, she drank 'em both up.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Copy and waste

Coach and I sit screen-to-screen across the kitchen table like the MacBook version of Battleship.

Tap.  Scroll-scroll.  Tap...  


"What's the matter?"


We both go back to work tomorrow.  He's a little fussy.

Tap.  Scroll-scroll.  Tap...  


I flick my eyes across the bough of his laptop.  He just glares at the screen.

Tap.  Scroll-scroll.  Tap...

"@#%*&^! Mac."

"HEY!  Not in my house!"  

It's not the word that bothers me.  You just don't diss the Mac.

But for Coach, whose school district just made the switch?  Evil incarnate.

"How come when I copy THREE pages from one document, it becomes FIVE in another?"

Mental eye roll.


"Is the font the same?"


"Are the margins the same?"


"Did you click on that little clipboard icon to preserve the original formatting?"

Wait for it... Wait for it...



"My work here is done."

I shut my laptop and strut to the sewing room feeling pretty good about myself.  The sun is shining.  The birds are singing.  Right up to the moment I flick on the light.


Judge not, my friends.  Copying is harder than you think.


At Christmas, my Mom gave me a bag full of clothes.  Mostly polyester pants and sweatshirts with birds on them.   But among the mess was a dozen or so shirts from her days working at the courthouse.  Mom loved her job at the courthouse.  Typing out warrants for the district attorney, she was right in the thick of things.  All the gossip, the murder, the trials and intrigue.  Mom had a front-row seat.  She couldn't wait to come home with the latest dirt to pre-empt the Fox2 News.

"You'll never guess who was arrested today!"

Unfortunately, a mild stroke (and a hefty dose of cliquish ageism) forced her to retire a few years back.  As a result, she has fixated on that point in time.  She scours the paper for names we should recognize.  She cranes her neck in church to spy on the judge.  She treasures anything that ties her back to that life.  So you can imagine my surprise when she presented me with her entire collection of casual-Friday workwear, "State's Attorney ~ County of St. Clair" embroidered on the chest.      

"I can't wear these, Mom.  They're two sizes too small."

"I know," she says, "but I can't give them to charity.  What if some drug dealer buys them all up and sneaks into the courthouse?"

See?  I told you.  The Mama with the Drama.

The shirts are a combination of fabrics:  pique, fleece, knit.  In decidedly less-than-modern colors.  Like chambray blue with antique gold embroidery.  I thought I'd like to make her a quilt, a way for her memories to literally keep her warm.  But, not some floppy t-shirt quilt.  And, how to hide the fabrics?

Then I remembered this quilt, by the amazing Ashley of Film in the Fridge, and thought,

Rainbow Plus Scrap Quilt, by Ashley of Film in the Fridge.

"YES!  I have a plan."

I should say right off the bat:  I. Love. This. Quilt.  It's everything a quilt should be.  Crisp, yet subtle.  High-contrast, without feeling stark.  Happy.  I love the way the gradations in value give the plusses a three-dimensional feel.  I love the transparency of the piece, the movement, the richness in hue.  Everything about this quilt feels right to me.  Right down to the wavy stitches.  So, I set out to make Mom a scrappy quilt of her own that would incorporate the logo from each of her work shirts.

Shouldn't be hard, right?  Look at this stash:

That, my friends, is a fat lot of fabric.  Surely I can create enough scraps to replicate this beauty.  I say "create" scraps, because I don't really have any.  Of any decent size, at least.  So, one by one, I pull fabric after fabric-- some of them my treasured favorites-- and cut pile after pile of individual squares.  My whole winter break.  Between baking the cookies and wrapping the gifts, every spare minute.  Pull the fabric, press.  Cut, fold, repeat. Working through my Excel spreadsheet of requisite blocks, one plus sign at a time.  They look happy together, my little stack.  Cheerful and gay.  They even camouflage the work shirts.  Everything seems headed in the right direction.

Until I put them together.


I mean, WOW.

How is that even POSSIBLE?  The lights were on, I wore my glasses.  How can it possibly be that bad?

I can't even LOOK at it, I get so mad as I compare it to the original.

First, the scale.  Ashley's blocks are 2" square.  Mine (would) finish at 4.  Her quilt measures 36-inches on the longest side.  Why-oh-why do my idols insist on teasing me with baby quilts?  I am not a baby.  I do not have a baby.  When I fall in love with a quilt that I absolutely must make, why does it turn out to be the size of a bathmat?  I'm a big girl.  I married a big guy.  Quilts should be functional.   Keep your feet warm AND cover your head.  Or heck, I don't know.  Maybe cover a bed!  (My regrets, Dr. Seuss, but I am seeing red).    

Changing the scale, of course, means that even in cases where I used the same FABRICS, they'd never FEEL the same as the ones in her quilt.  Prints that read graphic and bold for her become flat pseudo-solids in larger proportions.

And, while we're at it, can we talk about the fabric, please?  If I'm going to reproduce a quilt, I want an exact replica.  "Designer" fabric and all.  But, honest to God...  Who can afford it?  I'm not an uber-blogger.  I go months without writing, have no delusions about striking it rich with my pedantic ravings.  So, how come it chaps my hide when "complimentary" bundles of the latest lines seem to rain down on the rest of the world?   "Look what Anna Maria Horner sent me today!  Her entire spring line, and keys to her Prius!"  Hyperbole Police, I know, I know.  But, STILL!  I'm a good Catholic girl.  I try not to covet.  But Flickr and Blogger and Twitter and Pinterest tease me...  They lure me in!  The more I see, the more I want.  Not to create, mind you.  To copy.  It's embarrassing, really, how many bundles of fabric I've bought in the past year in the hopes of recreating someone else's quilt.  This one.  And this one.  And THIS one, too.  When did "my own thing" cease to be enough?  What exactly has happened to me?  My answer came last night while prepping my lecture for nursing chem:


It doesn't seem that long ago that I stocked up on fabric at Wal-Mart super sales.  Not because I liked it.  Because it matched.  That Wedgewood blue floral that "went with" Dad's equally-sad recliner?  As a chemist with no innate color sense, "match" was a very big thing for me.

Next came Hancock, Hobby Lobby, Joann.  Then, an honest-to-God quilt shop.  It was about that time I discovered the Modern Quilt Guild.  No chapter in St. Louis, but I lived vicariously through everyone's early favorites.  When we finally got The Guild in town, my very first meeting introduced me to the Who's Who of designer fabric.

I had no idea.

Once in the guild, the stalking began.  Not just the big names.  My fellow members, too.  I liked to sew, but these women were amazing.  So much more productive than I was.  Soon, quilting wasn't enough.  There were pouches and mug rugs and aprons to make.  Blocks-of-the-month and online swaps.  I realized pretty quickly that the big names became big names primarily by starting blogs.  That day, Miss Stash Would was born.

But, alas...  Life is hard.  My job is hard.  Or, at least, hard for me.  I work a LOT outside the home.  Most nights-- truth be told-- I work there, too.  I can't keep up with the big-time bloggers. (I can't keep up with my dishes).  I can't homeschool my kids as they set up forts beneath the fantasy long-arm in my basement.  Still.  My type-A personality rears its head, whispers, "Maybe, just maybe, if you play your cards right, you could start something new and change your life."  People online do it all time time, right?  But now, I know more, and a blog won't be enough.  You have to host a giveaway and force people to follow so you can "up" your burgeoning readership.  You have to get sponsors.  You have to get MORE sponsors.  You have to write a pattern.  You have to write three.  Then print some cards and go to Market.  Publish a book.  A magazine.  Teach for Craftsy.  Start an Etsy store and design for Spoonflower and create a ruler that ends up as Oprah's Favorite Thing and before you know it, your children (Fons and Porter) are writing a tell-all memoir outing you for missing their dance recital because you were so strung-out from your all-nighter hand-stitching your binding to the back of a quilt no one ever asked you to make in the first place that you fell asleep in your macaroni and cheese at the office Christmas party.

I know I'm not alone.  I know it's a continuum.  I see friends gear up, get published, close brick-and-mortar stores and venture out online.   I see friends with active blogs slow down over time when they decide other things are just more important.   I know it's human nature.  All part of evolution.  But some days, I look at them all, and feel like I'm failing.  It's hard to resist that rush of excitement when we briefly brush shoulders with those names that we recognize.  Maybe we all crane our necks in church to spy on the judge from time to time.  If we're lucky, the thing about evolution we never forget is that it can't happen without change.  If you flawlessly copy that one single gene over and over again, nothing new would ever appear in this world.  Just a single point mutation is all it takes to change and make us new.  Simply put, we've got to do our own thing, never mind what everyone else is doing.  Otherwise, we forget all the unique, individual traits we bring to the gene pool.

So, enter and exit the race as you see fit.  You'll get no judgment from me.  For me, it's time to stop moving the goal posts and just enjoy making things.  Write about the not-so-modern pillow I made for my friend.  Buy fabric at Joann, "real" Kona or not.  And someday, when I'm feeling up to it, redefine Mom's quilt.  Not as a flawed and garish copy of something I love, but my own interpretation for someone I love.  Just one more step in the evolutionary process.