Sunday, August 31, 2008

Batik Friendship Stars

Here are the batik Friendship Stars I made at the Make a Blanket Day last Friday. The backgrounds are all identical; I tried to get the point colors to be more true and it made the turquoise background pieces look like they don't match. The centers are all from the same piece of fabric too, but the batik they come from has so much variation in it that each one will be unique. I'll be making two more Friendship Stars of each colorway. Then there will be four corner Friendship Stars (all alike, I think) that I haven't chosen fabric for yet. The center panel has nine stars, each 9"x9", the corner ones will be smaller, only 6"x6". I'm planning to sash the center panel with a spectacular grass green batik, with dark blue cornerstones. This is a baby quilt, about four feet square. I went to the Make a Blanket day with a plan and every batik in my stash. I had a very different, darker, lower contrast quilt in mind, but when I was auditioning fabric for the stars, I ended up with a very bright quilt yet again. I just fell in love with the look of the turquoise fabric against all three of the contrasting red/purple/pink. They're not hugely different from each other, more subtle, and the centers are very unifying too. I'll be curious to see how it turns out because right now it looks NOTHING like my EQ6 color design.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

International Siggy Swap - Shenny Valks

I had pretty much given up on ever seeing this siggy. I think I sent my siggy off to Shenny in Curacao in early July. As time passed, I figured it must have gotten lost because I never heard from her. I didn't worry about it too much, except to regret forgetting to put 1st Class International Air Mail on the envelope - I thought perhaps that was the problem. When this turned up in the mail yesterday, I had to double check my list to see if it was from the same person in Curacao that I had sent one to. Anyway, it's a very nice siggy, from a very exotic local. Curacao is an island in the Netherland Antilles ABC islands, which include Aruba, Bonnaire and Curacao. I believe they are also known as the Leeward Islands because they rarely get troubled by hurricanes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Great American Smoke Out!

Larry helped me work with the fabric that Christine gave us this past weekend to try to remove the smoky aroma before I let it into the house. Here's what we did that worked pretty well. There was hardly any breeze on Sunday, so we set up a cardtable and a sawhorse outside with a sheet of cardboard on top to make a large flat surface. We layered the fabric on the cardboard and when a single layer was down I doused it liberally with Febreeze. Then we put down another layer on top of the previous one and doused that one. Larry said it was like making lasagna! Lol I think we had ten layers total and I used most of a full bottle of Febreeze. We took an old plastic (and very dirty) mesh fluorescent light fixture rectangular insert and laid it on top of the whole assembly. It let in air, but kept the fabric from flying off. We left it all out there in the sun for a few hours, then I took off the top two denim rows and let the rest breathe for another couple hours.
I'd like to say that it smells perfectly fresh now, but that would be a lie. I'd say it's at least 80-90% better and smells much more like Fabreeze than it does smoke. I no longer feel like I'll be getting nicotine poisening through my fingers from it anyway. I organized the fabric by colors and themes etc and placed the little stacks in a laundry basket. I put the basket right next to the Ionic Breeze air machine in our bedroom in case it was still exuding that smell. I did a sniff test a few days later and I think it has improved even more. That Fabreeze is wondeful stuff! It would probably air out even better if you didn't do layers, but I wanted to finish during this lifetime.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Make a Blanket Day - We Thangled all the Way

Last Friday a bunch of us Blanketeers got together and Thangled together some Friendship Star blocks. Rhonda had worked with Thangles before, so she gave us a quick tutorial on how to use them and we were off! They certainly help speed up the process of making half square triangles, though for accuracy, I think I prefer pure paper piecing myself. Here are Virginia's Thangles being sewn on her vintage Singer. You can just see the dark green fabric that she's using for her stars peaking out from the Thangle at the lower left corner of the picture. I think the dark stars are going to look terrific with the jumble of brights she's chosen for the rest of her quilt that are laying at the right of her machine. My pile of batiks is in the center of the table - the turquoise and blue fabric is going to be my main background.
Karen brought her Featherweight and it was a treat to see her sewing up a storm on that tiny little machine! We all liked her table top combination pincushion/scrap bag. I know I could use one just like it; I spent most of the morning looking for a trash bin. Look at how cute Karen's polka-dot Friendship Stars are coming out. I can't wait to see that one all made up. Karen is our resident professional long-arm quilter who has generously been quilting our Project Linus and U.S.O. charity quilts for free. I guess she has machines in all sizes!
And speaking of generous, here's Bea (at right) with this incredible Jacob's Ladder quilt that she's made and is planning to donate as a raffle item to Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish for their building fund. Isn't it amazing! By the way, Bea quilted it by hand. She said it only took her two to three months. I asked if her that was just a few hours per day, and she said, "No, sometimes I worked on it for 10 hours a day." I don't remember how I responded to that; I think I just stood there with my mouth hanging open. Fortunately no flies flew in. Sheila, Bea's daughter, had raffle tickets with her to sell; she found many willing takers among this crowd.
Here's a close up of Bea's hand quilting. She quilts like the Amish. I've said it before that she could put on a bonnet and quilt among them; now I have proof. So beautiful and such nice, even stitches. I love her color choices too. If I win it, it would make an outstanding wedding present for my Mom, who recently got engaged to be married. It even matches her bedroom... though of course, she'll be moving when she marries. I forgot about that little detail!
And here's the fabric feeding frenzy! Christine, one of our knitting/non-quilting Blanketeers, had dropped off two big bags of fabric squares that a friend had given her a long time ago. Christine's friend used to make ties out of cotton and these were the leftovers. There were many cool vintage fabrics present in the jumble.
We dumped the fabric out on the cart and I told everyone to take what they wanted and I would take home the rest. Despite the fact that Christine's friend must have been a heavy smoker, there were plenty of takers for the fabric (though a ton of it was leftover, including a bunch of denim that I really tried to find a good home for. lol) It was a real feeding frenzy. Only Virginia, who can smell a camera a mile away, noticed that I was snapping pictures merrily away the whole time.
Lots of fun was had trying to sort out the heaps of little fabric squares, most around 4"x4" or 6"x6". Here are Sheila, Mary and Rachel in front, with Rhonda and Brandy nearly obscured, all trying to make hay out of this vintage treasure trove.
All in all, another terrific Make a Blanket Day. We learned something, we sewed something, we ate something (lots of somethings), we got some cool, free fabric and we had lots of laughs. Here you can see how many nice, bright kid-friendly fabrics there are in the jumble. (I guess Brandy noticed me here; the others are too intent on their scavenge hunt.)
The only thing that would have made it better would have been if more people could have attended - maybe I could have off-loaded the denim on one of them!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

International Siggy Swap - Monique Feys and Manie van den Berg

This past Saturday I got two international siggies in the mail! This threw me into a frenzy because I didn't actually have two of my own siggies ready to go. Uh oh. Time to get busy. Monique's siggy is a cute little teddy bear on the run; I think it's hand drawn. I'm pretty sure that hers is the first siggy I have gotten from Belgium. I had to run like her little bear to whip up a few of my own siggies; fortunately I had several sewn together that only needed stamping and signing. I got mine out to Monique and Manie this morning, so I'm all caught up now with two to spare.

Manie van den Berg collects scissors, so her siggy is doubly appropriate with pairs of scissors on both the fabric and the center. I wrote her about the amazing pair of scissors we saw in Albuquerque at the World of Knives; they were so huge that you would think they were just for show. But when I tried them I found they were so light that they would be fully functional. I posted a picture of them here back in June. (The picture doesn't really do them justice, they had to be well over a foot long): By the way, that is not some weird script on her siggy, her little town is called Rijswijk, but I have no earthly idea how it's pronounced. Google maps shows that she is indeed living "in the free nature between two rivers, in the middle of Holland." In fact, you can see what must be a gigantic white ship churning down one of the rivers near her house.

Monday, August 25, 2008

International Siggy Swap - Helen Clark

I got an email from Helen Clark in Michigan last week asking if I would like to swap siggies. Sure! I replied. Glad I did because I got this hand-embroidered gem in the mail from her a few days later. I just love the embroidered ones; I'm always impressed with the significant amount of work that some people put in to making just one siggy. It came with a lovely hand-written letter too, which is always a bonus. I googled-mapped Helen's address and I could see her exact house! (I just love technology sometimes.) Helen lives in a lovely rural area of the Lower Peninsula with her children nearby. I was very surprised when she wrote that she is 84 years old. I hope I am both as techno-savvy and as good with the needle as she is when I get there in 37 years.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fantasy Pony Update

I thought I would be clever and fill plenty of bobbins ahead of time so I wouldn't have to stop in the middle of stippling to wind some more. I thought 6 bobbins would be a good start. lol I haven't quilted anything as large as Fantasy Pony in a long time (60" x 60"). Six bobbins got me through about half the quilting. I'm really pleased with the thread match and with the quality of the bobbin thread itself. I had never used Presencia thread before, at least I think that's what it's called. I love the cheap (40% off) backing fabric I found at Hobby Lobby. I think the thread-fabric color match is dead on too.

Presencia is a lovely 100% cotton thread that comes cross-wound on a large silver grey spool. Very little pilling, no breakage and almost completly tangle free. I wish I could say the same for the Premium Sulky 30 wt. All-Purpose mercerized cotton I'm using on top! I bought it because it is variagated in color from a greenish yellow to a lovely grass green and coordinates very well with the pony panel, but yikes! I have NEVER had thread break this often. It is by far the weakest thread I have ever used. I replaced the needle, played with top and bottom thread tensions... everything I could think of, and still it breaks repeatedly.

I dislike the thread so much that I was glad my LQS was out of stock when I went back there for more. I might not run out, but if I do I'm going to finish up with a plain, light yellow green Mettler silk-finished thread, which has never let me down yet. And if I have any of the Sulky thread left over when I'm done, then I'm pitching it out! I'll never quilt with it again. Stitch stitch Break! Stitch stitch BREAK! Argh! Seriously, I can just pull the thread apart without it cutting into my fingers at all. That's not normal. Oh well, I need to get back to stippling it instead of just complaining about it. More later.

Monday, August 4, 2008

International Siggy Swap - Cuny van Collenburg and Hanny Verbakel

Today was a banner day for siggies. Not only did I get two beautiful siggies from the Netherlands, I also got two siggy centers from a dear family friend. I couldn't believe it! The two Dutch siggies are both remarkable, each in their own way. I think Cuny's siggy may be the most striking siggy that I have gotten so far. I love the pink and purple batik. She writes the clock motif is "...the picture of time. Something we all need very much to do all things we like, but also need for each other." Cuny, I could not agree with you more!
Hanny's siggy is a hand-drawn picture of a "real Dutch windmill" near her home. She sent me a picture of the actual windmill. It's really lovely; it looks like it could have posed for a Dresden plate hundreds of years ago. I should send her a picture of the Sweetwater wind farms in west Texas; they're so hi-tech and abstract that it's hard to believe the underlying technology is fundamentally the same.
Today's mail also brought a special treat from my dear family friend, Kathi, a non-quilter in Chicago. I had sent Kathi and my family muslin squares and instructions on how to complete siggies. I offered them several levels of effort, from just signing the muslin square to making a full-blown siggy (since the latter is a lot to ask of non-quilters). Kathi told me in her note that I should be getting more siggy centers from my family since they made them as a group over the 4th of July weekend up at my family's cottage on Big Island on Chute Pond in northeastern Wisconsin.
I can see that these centers were made with found objects which just adds to their charm. (The cottage was built in the 1930's and things tend to go there and stay, if you know what I mean; still, I'm surprised there were any buttons and lace to be had on the entire island.) I'm very much afraid there were no permanent pens on the island either. Unfortunately, when I sprinkled them to get the wrinkles out, the patterns immediately started to smear. Perhaps I'll trace over the markings with Pigma pens, then dip the whole thing in white vinegar and iron it dry... maybe I better test this plan first!