Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tweet - July's Lovely Finish

Tweet - July's Lovely Finish

July's Lovely Finish is a finished crib-sized (40 x 60 inch) quilt top, inspired by three of the blocks we've made for the Block Lotto this year: Bird, I-spy House and Flying Geese.

The biggest challenge came when I ran out of the hand-dyed background.  I took out my dye supplies and tried to make more ... with mixed results.

Friday, July 26, 2013

After the Storm ... Puddles to Play In!

Sunrise over the Neighborhood - July 26This morning, as the sun rose over the neighborhood, there were few signs of the violent thunder and lightning and rain last night.

But there were puddles ... and Johnny Be Good found them.

After the Rains ... Puddles to Play in

Johnny Be Good ... On PatrolJohnny usually takes his morning surveillance role very seriously and is constantly on the hunt in case a bird comes too close as they fly to and fro around and above the house.

The roof is also a good place to keep an eye out for the dogs and people on the ground.

But the puddles of water on the roof turned him into a kitten and he was soon splashing up a storm.

His sister, Grace, found the wet deck so unpleasant that she didn't venture far before going back inside. These two may be the best argument of nature versus nurture.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cleaning up the Crumbs ...

I love working with scraps and often start with my (sorted by color) scrap bins when making blocks for the Block Lotto or other projects.   But lately, I keep finding that most of the scraps in my bins are too small.  I have been thinking of cleaning out the crumbs for a while ...

Today I used up most of the almost-always-too-small scraps and a few larger ones from the red bin and put them together into two big crumb-pieced squares–one is redder and one is pinker.

Red Crumb Square Pink Crumb Square

Each square measures between 13 and 14 inches.  I wonder how many more I can as I work my way through the scraps ... maybe enough for a small crumby quilt?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I'm blaming it on the Moon

Moonlight - July 22I figured it was close to a full moon when I couldn't sleep the past couple nights. The lack of quality sleep is making my days less creative/productive, too.  The bird quilt is still not basted ...

Last night, before I went to bed, I stepped outside onto the roof deck for some fresh air and a glimpse of the moonlit landscape.

I wasn't thinking when Grace followed me out, like a shot and went over the wall to the roof beyond the deck.  Johnny soon followed her ... and I was left to watching for glimpses of their white spots as they wandered.  After a while, when it was clear they were not coming in anytime soon, I went inside for my camera and a package of cat treats that I knew would be interesting to Johnny ... he must have heard the fridge door, because he was already inside when I came back upstairs, with treats and camera in hand.

Cats on the wallBelieve it or not, both cats usually come inside when I call them ... but not under this crazy-making full moon ;-)

In the dark, all I could see of them was the occasional flash of white fur in the moonlight.  Since I couldn't take a photo of them, here they are a couple days earlier ... I think Johnny is threatening to groom her to death if she doesn't get off his wall.

Monday, July 22, 2013

More of the Same (on the Design Wall)

Some things have been moved around, but little has changed since last week on my design wall and several projects are waiting there this morning.

Design Wall - July 20

035 - Feathered Star VariationI made one more of the foundation pieced feathered star blocks from the book, A Flock of Feathered Stars, as one of my Daily Feathers, making five blocks ... and a reason to see how they would look if put on point.

The curvy-pieced bird blocks are waiting for one more for their flock ... and a design in which to live.

The I-spy lotto blocks are waiting for the end of the month when a winner's name will be drawn.  I really liked the idea of using simply house blocks as frames for I-spy fabrics ... when, over the weekend, I saw the quilt that Brenda is making using this idea, I saw proof of the possibilities of this approach.

The house blocks also serve to remind me that I need to add the explanation of the approach I used to the Block Patterns page ... which I'm going to do as soon as I finish this post.

Almost Finished quilt top - TweetA few days ago, this crib-sized quilt top came down from the design wall–although I have shared the photo on the Block Lotto, since the design elements came from bird, house and flying geese blocks we've made this year and on the Daily Feather, but forgot to include it here.

I was going back and forth in my head about what I wanted for the back. Over the weekend, I picked up a black and white print with the idea of using lots of colored quilting threads that will show nicely, front and back. I think quilting this is going to be a lot of fun and want to get started soon so that it will be a Lovely Finish for July.

I'm sharing my design wall with the linky party on Judy's blog.  Are you?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Life is a Bowl of Cherry Ice Cream

Some beautiful organic cherries at the market inspired me to make some of this today.

Cherry Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

After trying a recipe found online for Raw Chunky Monkey, I wondered if I could create something similar for one of my other favorite Ben & Jerry's flavor, Cherry Garcia.   I will probably play with the idea more,  but this first attempt was pretty good.  Here's how I made 2 generous servings ... for me, tonight and ... me, tomorrow.

Life is a Bowl of Cherries (and Chocolate) Frozen Desert

For the Ice Cream

1 cup of fresh cherries, pitted
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup no-fat greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Blend all the Ice Cream ingredients together until smooth. 
Taste. Depending upon how ripe/sweet the fruits are, sweeten as desired.    
Pour into an ice cream maker.  
Prepare the mix-ins. 

For the Mix-Ins

1/2 cup fresh cherries,  pitted and chopped
Chocolate of your choice, chopped into chunks.  Chocolate chips would work.  The chocolate in the Raw Chunky Monkey recipe would work.  I used 2 squares from a bar of Green & Blacks Dark 70%

When the Ice Cream is about 5 minutes from being ready, add in the mix-ins.
Scoop and enjoy.

Making this treat and having the phrase, "life is a bowl of cherries," pop into my head made me head to the internet to find out where it came from ... I found this interesting quote by C. JoyBell C.

“I think that there are those who write of life being a skip on the sidewalk, a chocolate bar, a bowl of cherries... the problem with that is it ends up disappointing people. Because life is more like being on the tube in London; you never really know what could happen! But then there are those people who bring a box of chocolates to eat on the life, it isn't a skip on the sidewalk, but it is a matter of strength: "Can I bring my bowl of cherries to feast on while I stand here in the gutter?" that's the essence of life. Can you still put on your rose-colored glasses while your eyes are filled with tears, and see everything in rosy colors? That's the strength that fuels a true life. Can you think to bring your little box of chocolates with you while you sit on the tube running under the streets of London? Because you should. Because even if you don't know anybody, and you don't know what's gonna happen next, you should have your box of chocolates with you. You should eat your bowl of cherries. And that is what life is.” ― C. JoyBell C.

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Design Wall Today and Making Do

Here's how my design wall looks today.  I'm sharing with the list of quilters on Patchwork Times for Design Wall Monday.

Design Wall July  15

I've made a few more I-Spy Houses for the block lotto.  I really liked the idea of using a basic house shape to frame I-Spy fabrics as doors and windows, but I didn't like my first couple efforts so well.  I think, after making more, I have developed a feel for the proportions that work best.  For more details on making these blocks, visit the Block Lotto.

The bird blocks are parked, waiting for me to move the quilt design I have in my head onto something more concrete, so I can continue. 

I've now made 4 of the 12-inch paper-pieced feathered star blocks from A Flock of Feathered Stars as part of my Daily Feather project.  My plan for fabrics for these stars is to combine green fabrics with low volume fabrics and to work only from stash. While the overall quilt I make from these blocks will be scrappy, each individual block is not ... until recently, when for the second time in as many weeks, I thought I had started with enough background fabric for something and ... ran out.  I wondered if the universe was trying to teach me a lesson about being a better planner :-) 

Detail from Finley Feathered StarIt felt like a tragedy at the time because more than half of the block was made and there was no opportunity for a planned mix of the two prints, but, even in person, you have to look close at the green polka dot star block to see that a second pale blue fabric is used as background for some of the feathers.

It made me think about the concept of making do, and how that applies to today's quilter.  For me, in this block, I made do by finding a similar fabric in my stash.  

Not long ago, on a modern quilter's blog, I read how she was making do in a quilt when the fabrics she had from a single line of fabrics weren't enough.  She needed more and added a fabric from  the same designer, but a different line.

Making Do seems to have a much different meaning than a few decades ago, when our predecessors made quilts.  I started thinking about a museum exhibit I saw years ago at the Henry Ford Museum of improvisational quilts made by Susana Allen Hunter.  Many of her quilts were made from all kinds of fabrics.  The mosaic medallion quilt below was made between 1960 and 1965, from cotton prints and solids, corduroy, flannel and seersucker.  The back pieced from fertilizer sacks.  This tenant farmer from the rural south was really making do ... and created some pretty interesting quilts.

Mosaic Medallion Quilt

You can see more of Susana Allen Hunter's quilt and all my photos from that exhibit in my Flickr photo set Quilting Genius 2.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

July's Lovely Progress ... and Today's Plan for Slow Stitching

Here is where I am with Tweet, the crib-sized quilt that is my project for a Lovely Finish this month.

 On the design wall

021 - Flock of Flying Geese (Quilt Units)The bird blocks and a large flock of flying geese were made as part of my Daily Feather project.

What's next:

  • Miter the corners of the borders (they are pinned in place now)
  • Re check my match ... I made a large flock of flying geese units, but, although there are more than you see in the photo, I don't think that I have made enough.  
  • Make more flying geese if needed.
  • Make the corner blocks for the flying geese border
  • Add the flying geese border
  • Add/stitch appliqué elements (perches and doors for the houses)
  • Mark the quilting designs.  I plan to use a mix of marked and unmarked free motion quilting. 
  • Layer and baste the quilt
  • Quilt, bind and label it. 
It sounds so quick and easy, doesn't it?  The appliqué will be sewn by hand--my plan for today's Slow Stitch Sunday

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sometimes in Quilting, the Journey IS the Reward

Journal Cover DetailFor today's feather-themed project, I hand-pieced this abstract feathery block, a variation of Practice Petals from Judy Dale's book, Curves in Motion.

I wanted to push myself to try smaller, tighter, more tortuous curves than my previous efforts with this technique using Judy's Bird pattern.

Same Bird Pattern - different processes

It was a challenge and if you take a close look, you can see a lot of imperfection.

After I finished sewing it together, my immediate reaction was that the design would have been much easier for me, and the result would have been better, if I'd used appliqué instead. Then, I thought about Viki Pignatelli's technique for curves and thought it would also be a candidate for a design like this.

One of the things I love about quilting is that there are often many ways to accomplish a design idea. And sometimes, when I realize, after the fact, that I could have chosen another, easier, path, I beat myself up a little.

But, the upside is that I love that there is always something new for me to learn about quilting.   And so while I WAS beating myself up a little for painstakingly making templates, marking fabrics, aligning seams and registration marks and hand-stitching it together instead using a technique within my comfort zone, I also was reminded that sometimes the journey is the reward, and the result of my effort is that I am learning a new way of dealing with curves and that with practice, I will improve and have a new tool in my quilter's box of tricks ... and that realizing my idea for those bird blocks may actually be within my technical grasp.

In the meantime, my sad feathery abstract effort has become a journal cover and a reminder that sometimes the Journey is the Reward.

028 - Feathery Abstract Journal Cover

You can read more about it on today's blog post on The Daily Feather.

The theme for the Linky party on the Block Lotto this weekend is love/hate, best/worst or good news/bad news.  I suppose I am an incurable optimist because I always seem to find the silver lining.  In quilting, often the silver lining of a "bad" quilt project is the lesson learned .... even if the lesson is that you hate a particular technique and, in the future, will find another way :-)

But for me and this particular effort, I feel like the journey was worth it and that I'm making progress on this particular learning curve.   Bonus: I have a little finish to show from one of my Daily Feathers.  Can I get a whoop whoop?

I'm also going to join the parties at Richard and Tanya's Link-a-Finish Friday and Finish it Up Friday on Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What would you do?

This is just about how far I got with last month's project for A Lovely Year of Finishes before I stalled.

Stalled ...

My plan was to appliqué some small lighter blue leaves to the vines, but I became afraid they would tip the balance and this quilt would become all too blue.  I do love how the border came out, but all that blue made me hesitant to add more.

I could have decided to stop here and call it done (and meet the #aLYoF deadline), but the vine and red star flowers just don't seem flower-ish enough without something to support that vision. The question is what?

What would you do?  FYI, the top is now 60 inches squares and I probably don't want to make it any larger.

I'm joining the link lists for Esther's WOW and WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced ... and hoping someone will have the perfect solution for me.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Order from the Chaos on my Design Wall

Lately, lots of ideas have been bouncing around in my head and around the studio.  They are reflected by the chaos currently on my design wall.

Design Wall - July 6

Much of this mish-mash of projects comes from my Daily Father project ... the rest are blocks made so far for the Block Lotto.   Starting from top left and working my way down, I have: 

  • the first 12 inch feathered star in a series of blocks from Carolyn Cullinan McCormick's book, A Flock of Feathered Stars: Paper Pieced for Perfection.
  • three blocks (one embroidered drummer, two foundation pieced feathers) for a Yankee Doodle quilt idea.
  • my pieced bird from Judy Dales' book on Curves.  I mentioned a while ago that I wanted to try hand-piecing this block and that is my plan for Slow Stitch Sunday tonight. 
  • three I-spy House lotto blocks.  I don't like the proportions of a couple of these blocks ... I'll definitely be making more of these–I'll post more about them and share the block pattern later this week
On the right side of my smallish design wall is the birdie crib quilt in progress.  I haven't yet cut into the newly dyed fabric to see how well it's going to work and I have some open design questions about borders, but I feel on track for a Lovely Finish in July.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Risk of Working From Stash

Oops - Not enough fabricA not-so-funny thing happened when I started with some hand-dyed fabric from my stash for the background of this quilt–my choice for July's Lovely Finish in #aLYoF...

I thought I'd have enough for a 40 by 60-inch crib-size quilt.  The fabric closely resembles the real-life summer skies in New Mexico and I really wanted to use it. I chose yellow-orange and red-orange fabrics for the bird blocks because I've never met a split-compliment color-way that I didn't like.   I put a handful of bird blocks together and started designing on the wall ...

and then, I ran out of background fabric.

I was reminded of why I like scrap quilts.  If the background had been made from a bunch of turquoise fabrics, it would have been easy to add one (or a bunch) more to finish the design ... but since I had used a single fabric for the background, I was stuck.

I considered filling in the background with turquoise and white 4-patches, but just couldn't quite get on board with the idea.   I started to thinking about dyeing more fabric and wondering if there was any chance I could create a good enough match to the color and texture.  This morning I decided I had nothing to lose by trying.

The Solution - Dye more Fabrics

I pulled out some old dyes and my dyeing supplies. I dyed four fat quarters in a subtle gradation to attempt to match the color and one yard, tightly packed in the yogurt contained on the left to attempt to match the cloud texture in the original.

4-step gradationFor me, it wasn't exactly like riding a bike–probably because there isn't a lot of muscle memory involved. Frieda Anderson's book, Fabric to Dye For, provided the basic measurements.

I confess that my goal wasn't just to create some matching fabric ... I also wanted to replace some of the turquoise fabrics I'd stolen from another work in progress for the bird quilt.   The value gradation of fat quarters I created will be perfect for that other project.

The one yard piece of tightly scrunched fabric didn't match the original texture ... but I think it's going to be good enough.

Below the quilt-in-progress is laid over the new yard of fabric. Even though the dye was VERY old, the color match is great ... and once the new fabric is chopped up and sewn, I hope it won't be that discernibly different than the original.

Will it work?

Opening up my dyeing supplies has been a bit like opening Pandora's box ... dyeing is so satisfying, I'm already planning what I want to dye next.  It's no coincidence, I think, that this quilt has me thinking about creating a set of fabrics with colors gradating from turquoise to orange.

Friday, July 05, 2013

FYI, Feedly ...

Feedly ErrorLast night, I happened to update a bunch of apps on my iPad, including Feedly.

This morning, my plan to take my morning coffee out on the deck and catch up with the blogs I follow was foiled when I tried to log into the Feedly app.

If you use Feedly, migrated there from the "retired" Google Reader, and encounter this error, know that trying to refresh will not necessarily help.

Google made a change in their interface and so logging in using your Google account may fail depending on the device you are using.  If it happens to be an iPad or iPhone, although the fix has been made in a new update for the Feedly app, it will take a few days for Apple to test it, bless it, and make it available to those of us that need it.

You can read more about it on the Feedly blog, here:

Update Regarding "Feedly is Over Capacity Message" on iOS

In the meantime, the trick is, if you are connected, DON'T LOG OUT.

Watching the BirdsThis morning,  I enjoyed my coffee, watched the cats surveilling the neighborhood and listened to the birds singing while Johnny cackled at them and got ready to pounce if they came near.

... then I realized I was probably still connected in the Feedly app on my iPhone and could use it for reading blogs when I'm out and about until the update is available.

The photo of Johnny Be Good was taken with my iPhone.  The one below was taken a few days ago with the iPad–it's not good, but I have managed to take so few of the two of them together.  They are not unlike models–it takes a skill I don't have to take a photo in which they both look good :-)

What was that?

Thursday, July 04, 2013

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy ...

OK.  I'm not really a Yankee Doodle Dandy in any real way, but the song (and the nursery rhyme on which it is based) is stuck in my head.   It all started when a migraine–my first in years–sent me to a darkened room yesterday and I stitched this.  (FYI, it worked!  I woke up migraine-less and feeling great).

020 - Yankee Doodle

The original, a gift from Gay's Sentimental Stitches site for the Fourth of July, made me think of Yankee Doodle and, although the original didn't have the feather in his cap, I couldn't resist adding one for my Daily Feather.  You can follow the link to read more about the project, the nursery rhyme and WHY he stuck a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni.  I was happy to learn more about it's origins ... it makes my Yankee Doodle feel even more appropriate for today.

Curiosity about Yankee Doodle and Macaroni aside, Happy Independence Day to Americans, where ever you are and however you celebrate.  I'm off for breakfast at Pancakes on the Plaza, the Santa Fe tradition ... and hoping that this year, I managed to arrive before the lines stretch all the way across the plaza and through the crowds like last year.  Last year, it was a short walk from the adobe casita ... this year will involve driving and finding a place to park, but I know it will be worth the trip if only to hear the music and drive Yankee Doodle out of my head :-)

I'm also hoping the potter whose work I bought there last year (in addition to pancakes, there's an art fair and an antique car show) will be back.  I love my "pancake bowl"–which is basically a mixing bowl with a handle and a spout–and use it all the time.  I want to acquire another beautiful, functional piece.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Beginnings of a New Project for July

My Flock of Five Birds

The flock of five bird blocks were made as part of my Daily Feather catch-up after a most unproductive weekend.  I am planning to add more feather-y design elements, but first I am auditioning fabrics and moving things around for the quilt's center.  Right now, I am thinking it will become a crib-sized quilt.

If you participate in or follow along with the Block Lotto (or this blog), you already know how to make the bird block and the basic house shape.  The block pattern I developed for the Bird Block is available on my Block Patterns page–it's free, if you'd like to download the directions and make a flock of your own. The house shape is being used to make I-Spy Houses for this month's Block Lotto.  I'll add those directions to that page and post my row of houses soon. 

After being overwhelmed by life and real and self-imposed deadlines last weekend, I wasn't sure I was going to join the July goal setting party for A Lovely Year of Finishes, but ... it has become a good way for me to focus and finish things ... or at least move specific projects forward in a significant way, so I'm in.  It's definitely been a case of the journey being the reward for me, too.

I'm also joining Esther's WOW (Wips on Wednesday) linky list and WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced. 

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