Sunday, November 30, 2008

My unconventional approach to making Dear Jane blocks.

I have a feeling that I am going to end up making a Baby Jane with the fewest number of pieces in history! Through trial and error I have discovered that my favorite method of constructing these tiny blocks is reverse needle turn applique.

I have two ways of doing it depending on how much white there is in the block. If there is lots of white I trace the pattern directly onto my 5 inch square of white on white fabric using a blue water soluble pen. I then pin the WOW on top of a five inch charm in my chosen colour. I put lots of tiny applique pins through the parts of the block that are going to remain white. Using sharp pointed applique scissors I cut away the white from the coloured sections leaving a scant quarter inch to turn under and applique in place. When the block is finished I simply spray the block with a little bit of water to erase the pen marks.

For blocks that are mainly not background fabric I trace my pattern onto the dull side of freezer paper. Using my sharp pointed scissors I carefully cut away the paper over the white parts of the block. After the freezer paper pattern has been pressed onto the coloured charm I pin the two fabrics together through the parts that will not remain white. I cut the coloured fabric out of the holes left in the paper leaving my scant quarter inch to turn under.

The variety in stitching techniques is really pleasurable. Sometimes I have the hard paper to push my needle against. But then I have the feeling of crumpling paper in my hands as I work the block.

I imagine that these blocks have a crisper finished look that goes with the crispness of the paper. And sometimes I have just the softness of the fabric in my hands. The patterns on these blocks have fuzzier edges. Evidence of the give of the fabric without the freezer paper holding it in place.

I feel some guilt that my finished quilt will not have been pieced in the manner of Jane Stickle. I won't have cut and pieced thousands of tiny pieces into my blocks. But I will have spent the hundreds of hours, sitting quietly with my needle and thread as I stitch block after block.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Etsy Newbie

The good news is I've made my first sale on Etsy. The bad news is I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing!

How much should I charge for my craft? How do I know how much to charge to ship things? What should I make to put in my store? This is a whole new part of the craft world that I know nothing about.

I've always known that I wouldn't want to have a booth at a place like the One of a Kind Show. My feeling is that to be successful there you need to make one small thing really well, and make it over and over, and over again. That is anathema to me. I like to try my hand at different things all the time. I play with different colours, patterns and fabrics. My focus shifts from fabric to paper to paint. I've been doing a lot of quilt-making lately but I can go for months doing nothing but make photo collages or cards.

This is why Etsy appeals to me. There seems to be more of an opportunity to put whatever extra work you have lying around in your store and see what sells.

But for how much? That is the question.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pulling Fabrics

I recently joined The Black and White Challenge Quilt blog. I've been looking for an inspiration (kick in the pants) to get me working through my black and white stash. I didn't even realize how well this group ties in with my guild's Spring challenge until I started pulling fabrics this morning.

Originally I was thinking of doing "Completely Dotty" in Black and White and Green/Turquoise/Blue. I was going to call it "Green Revolution". I got to thinking about how our world has changed completely over the last few years and how if we keep going 'green' we'll be able to keep our skies blue! That led me to trying to incorporate my guild challenge fabrics into my stack of fabrics. The theme for this year's Guild Challenge is "Like Night and Day" and we received three great fabrics in our packages: two black and whites and one blue, black and white fabric (Califon Mark Lapinski’s Home Collection # 3003, # 3005 and Mark Lapinski’s Krakow Collection 3014).
I'm so pleased to be using fabrics from Mark Lapinski's collection. I have got to figure out how to join his posse! In the photo the B/Ws have already been incorporated into the stash and the blue is the second one from the bottom.

Of course once I added these new fabrics to my pile my colour changed completely from green to blue. Now I need a new title lol! And maybe even a new design. Back to the old drawing board.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quilting Rules

I learned again, and let's hope for the last time, that you really do need to start in the middle and work outwards when you are quilting. I started out turning an orphan block into a preemie quilt. It got too big, and too pretty, so I thought I would make it into a wall hanging or table topper. Despite my recent frustrations I've been having some success with straight line quilting so I got to work on adding some stitching in the ditch and outline quilting. I started in the middle and everything was going beautifully. But then I got the great idea to stitch around the borders before completely finishing the quilting I was going to do in the middle. There was puckering, there was pooching, there was ripping out of stitches, there was the intention to just throw the whole thing on the floor for the dog to lie on...

But no, I will persevere. I will rip out what I have to and use this as a great opportunity to learn from my mistake and never make the same one again!

So what are the rules?

1. Always use a 1/4 inch seam.

2. Press to the dark fabric.

3. Quilt from the centre out.

4. Make the backing and batting about 4 inches bigger than the top on all sides.

5. Only use quilt shop quality 100% cotton.

6. To prewash or not to prewash?

I'd love to hear your comments. Are there any more hard and fast rules that I didn't mention? Do you ever break any of these rules to great success?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

To Do Lists

The great thing about having a To Do List is that even if you don't get the things on your list done you get other stuff done that you're doing in order to procrastinate from working on your To Do List. Are you with me?

I've made several more preemie quilts, created a Flickr Group for people to post photographs of their own preemie quilts, joined Etsy and listed my first quilt for sale.

The store room in the basement is getting cleaned out. I finally gave an old computer that we've been toting around for years to our handyman/computer repairman Rob Kelly. When we first stopped using it I couldn't just get rid of it because I was positive that there was stuff on there that we just couldn't part with. Rob has promised to shove anything that looks personal or important on to a disc to give to us. I'm thinking that some of our first emails that Eyal and I wrote to each other may turn up on that disc.

Now that I'm making preemie quilts I had an excuse to drop in on the 2nd Anniversary Sale at Cock-A-Doodle Quilts to stock up on flannel. I'm glad I didn't get too carried away because my discount balloon only had a 20% coupon in it.

I was thinking today that making preemie quilts is a great way to "stir the pot", or get the creative juices flowing. I'm getting such a kick out of making these tiny quilts. They are so light and soft, come together so quickly, are such a great way to use up blocks that I've had squirreled away for years, and are destined to be used by such innocent and deserving little people. What could be more fun?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I hate quilting!

Oh, don't get me wrong. I love choosing fabrics, planning designs, cutting, piecing, binding, giving the quilts away, wrapping myself up in a quilt, just about every part of the process except Quilting! After all these years I just can't get the hang of moving the quilt smoothly through the machine without breaking threads. And needles. And thread again. Thank heavens there are wonderful women like Sandy, Deb and Karen to do my quilting for me!!

Can you tell I've had a frustrating afternoon?

But I've also had a wonderful afternoon re-purposing an orphan block as a real preemie quilt!

It is so easy and so satisfying!

1. Grab an extra block. Add co-ordinating borders to bring it to 18 inches square.

2. Layer it on a 20 inch square of flannel.

3. Do some really simple quilting (even I managed this step!).

4. Trim the quilted square to 19 square inches.

5. Turn the flannel edges half way to the quilt top and press.

6. Turn again and top stitch all the way, mitring your corners as you go.

Voila! A completed preemie quilt!

Preemie Quilts

One of the great pleasures of making quilts is giving them away. I imagine the recipient all curled up on the couch watching t.v. or drinking a cup of tea. If I make wall hangings, table runners, postcards or basket/bowls I dream of these objects being appreciated and finding a place in someone's home and heart.

In the past I've made charity quilts with both of my guilds. Sometimes these quilts are given to people in need and sometimes they are given to groups to auction off in a fundraiser. With this type of gift I somehow feel removed from the act of giving the quilt since it is given by the guild to an organization for them to choose how to distribute.

I've been starting to make preemie and baby quilts. These quilts are quick and easy to make, don't take a lot of fabric and are a great way to try out new patterns or design your own. Sandy Lindal was kind enough to quilt my first one pro bono. I got it back from her last night and I have to say "Quilting really does make the quilt"! Thank you so much Sandy!

Unfortunately I started making my preemie quilts before looking at the terrific information available on the web. Now I know I need to use a flannel backing, no batting and use minimal quilting.

I'll take a few of them to a local hospital with a NICU. I feel a direct connection with any Mom who has to visit her newborn child in the NICU, having had my twins there for just five days after being born four weeks early. I remember a kind nurse telling me "Nothing hurts more than having your child in the NICU". But as I think about it I'm not sure I would have wanted someone to make my baby a quilt. I did not feel "needy". I had my friends and family looking after me and I was just focused on getting my babies home safe and sound.

No, I think it would be better to direct my gifts to a local shelter. With the cold winter coming and the downturn in the economy there are going to be far too many people in need of a warm hug and a warm blanket.

To Do List Update:

1.The first preemie quilt is finished - ready for a label and to be given away!

2. The Kaffe Fassett is at the quilter. I did not purchase one new piece of fabric or batting to make this quilt!! Even the back is pieced together from scraps I had on hand.

3. I purchased two metres of purple fabric on sale at Sew Sisters to back the Laurel Burch mermaid panel and kaleidoscope. Sandy is going to quilt it and get it back to me in time for me to work on it at the beading workshop with Pam Woodward in January.

And the projects I've added to my list:

1. Blue and white baby quilts like Benjamin's quilt to give away or sell on Etsy.

2. Choose a project to make with the gorgeous stack of about 100 lights, medium and darks I pulled from my stash.

3. More baby and preemie quilts in time for the Holidays.

Onward and upward!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make Do or Do Without

Ya, like I'm going to live by that one! I have been on a bit of a fabric diet lately though. I haven't started any projects that require new fabric for the last few weeks. And I'm finding that I'm actually being pretty productive.

I'm taking a beautiful top that came out of this resolution to Sandy Lindal to quilt today. I made a split nine-patch using mainly batiks and fossil ferns from my stash. I did give in and buy a gorgeous batik to back it in from Sew Sisters. I will post a picture as soon as I get the quilt back from Sandy.

Working through my stack of UFOs I have a couple more quilts that I can give to Sandy to quilt:

1. a Laurel Burch panel that I surrounded with One Block Wonder hexagons - I'm going to buy another back from Sew Sisters today (tsk tsk)

2. my interpretation of Kaffe Fassett's leafy rosy quilt that I might be able to finish piecing today (if I ever get off the computer)

I also have a couple that are in the middle of being quilted or are ready to quilt:

3. a bright, pretty baby blanket that's half quilted

4. an applique table runner/wall-hanging that's layered but that I've been nervous to start quilting

I found some items that are further from completion:

5. an octagonal One Block Wonder that I started cutting and piecing without fully reading and understanding the instructions. Not recommended, and very frustrating to recover from. I'm not convinced that all the time and effort will turn out to have been worth it. But I do intend to get it pieced and quilted, and show the picture to prove it!

6. a pretty pink lone star that I decided to start making without ever reading a pattern. We'll see how that one turns out lol

7. the finished applique from the Renske Helmuth workshop I took. I need to finish the moss and decide if I'm going to add the sashiko border that she taught us how to do.
And even further from completion:

8. A bunch of triangles and circles that I've been coming back to for years in hopes of making a Circle Play quilt.

And I'm starting to design:

9. a wall hanging for my cousin's son Shlomo in honour of his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.

Okay, that's my to-do list for the rest of 2008!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tiny Riders

I got to accompany Emily's class to the Royal Winter Fair today. It was such a pleasure to revisit the same cheesy, or should I say "buttery" favorites that I've been returning to for as long as I can remember.

The high point for Emily was finding out that there are stables in the Toronto area that will take eager riders as young as seven! Up until now she thought she wouldn't be able to start lessons until she turns nine (the youngest age you can start at Sunnybrook or the Horse Palace).

Emily is as bad as her mother when it comes to taking on a new interest. She wants to find out all about it and experience it now!! I've already signed her and Zachary up for lessons starting this Sunday. Believe me, I would have heard about it from her if I had put it off for a minute longer.

She is so aware of her petite stature that she immediately began wondering whether she would be able to get boots and breeches in her size. Cue a research/shopping trip to Greenhawk and Repeat Rider. Success!! Not only did they have her sizes, they had them on sale!!

What a difference a few years makes. The twins are still tiny for their age, but it's nothing compared to when they first started skating lessons. Their feet were so small that we had to put slippers on them before they put on their Size 8 skates (the smallest on the market). I sure wish we had taken pictures!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Baby Quilts

For some reason I have always found baby quilts the hardest to make. Usually when I am making a quilt as a gift for a friend or family member I spend days, weeks, or months thinking about them as I design and stitch their quilt. We draw closer with every stitch in a very meditative and intimate process. When I present the finished quilt I am also giving the gift of my attention.

Maybe my thoughts careen around too much when making a quilt for a baby. I am thinking about the whole life of the child, from conception through some time in the distant future when they might share their quilt with their own child. I also think I am stuck on the platonic ideal of what a baby quilt should be. Perfectly airy and light, yet warm and comforting. Soft colours, yet bright and cheerful. A quilt that will be immediately appreciated by the soon to be parents, yet treasured forever by the as yet unborn child.

My most successful baby quilt so far was for my great nephew Tycho. By sheer coincidence I began cutting the fabric for his quilt almost at the moment of his birth. The joy of his parents and grandparents suffuses this quilt and gave my thoughts a focus as I cut, sewed and planned.

Thank you Tycho for teaching me how to make a baby quilt!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A quilt for Christie's niece

Ok, now I'm intimidated. I was chatting with Christie Blatchford at my sister Judy's election night party about the crafts she was in the process of commissioning from our mutual friends Mary McIntyre and Don Taylor. When I told her that she should commission a quilt from me, she said "Hey, that might be a great wedding present for my niece". I did not realize at the time quite the emotional attachment she has to the young lady. Check out the piece she wrote about her in yesterday's Globe.

I'm even more honoured to have this as a possible commission now.

I haven't made many quilts on commission but those I have done have stretched my creativity in ways that the quilts I make for myself don't. "Rachel's Beauty", the other quilt I showed at the YHQG show this weekend was made as a wedding gift for Eyal's cousin Don and his wife Rachel. When I told them I was going to make them a quilt they asked me to use earth tones, a colour way that I had never worked in before. I thought about the fact that they were from Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of NYC. They were moving to Florida right after the wedding. I decided that a small quilt that they could take with them was more likely not to end up in storage than a full size one would be. This gave me the opportunity to do a challenging pattern based on a traditional quilt block called New York Beauty. I don't think I ever would have finished it if I had tried to do a bed size quilt.

Don and Rachel are happily settled back in Staten Island now with their new son Benjamin. I hope that when they looked at this quilt when they were living in Florida that the spikes reminded them of their New York roots. I can't wait to go to NYC to meet the newest addition to our family and to give him his quilt. And of course to return "Rachel's Beauty" to the lovely Rachel and Don.

I'm looking forward to the next time I begin the process of exploration, questioning and inspiration that comes with any new project. Maybe it will even be for Christie's niece the "gorgeous" Jen and her "great, and very funny fiance".

Friday, November 7, 2008

EZ Roast Vegetables

Tonight will be the first Zohar family cook-off in years and the apron has passed to the children. The ingredients they were given to work with were Sweet Potatoes (Yams) and Pasta. This was a great opportunity to show Emily how a couple of her favorite foods are cooked.

We threw a few beets in a microwave bag for three minutes on high, peeled them and the sweet potatoes and cut them in one inch cubes (more or less). The soup pumpkin Emily was given on her class trip to the farm was cut into reasonable size chunks and thrown into the roasting dish (we'll take the pumpkin out and peel it before serving the children's creation). A couple of handfuls of shallots were peeled and thrown into the roasting dish. All of it was tossed with pepper, salt, fresh thyme and three tablespoons of olive oil. We'll throw the pan into the oven for half an hour at 425 once we get to Saba and Safta's house, cook the pasta and toss it all together, adding grated parmesan and some parsley from the garden at the last minute.

When Emily was asked what she would say about her dish when she presents it to the judges she said that cutting up the vegetables is a lot of work! Maybe she won't be making this dish herself any time soon but it's great for the kids to learn how food is prepared.

I wanted to get a picture of the chefs at work but Emily insisted on taking a bird's eye view photograph of the finished product.

Expanded Snail's Trail

This quilt is hanging at the YHQG show this weekend. I got such a kick out of walking into the show and seeing the great way in which the volunteers had hung it.

I wonder if anyone else has ever had the idea of expanding the Snail's Trail block into a full size quilt before? Or if it's an original design? If not I wonder if I can or should copyright it?

I made this quilt top years ago. It started out as a simple Snail's Trail block. Then I wondered what would happen if I just kept going. And going. Deb Kopeschny did a great job of quilting it for me. I added a cute little appliqued and beeded snail that can be pinned anywhere on the quilt depending on how her journey is going. I wanted to come up with a more exciting name "Snail's Great Adventure", "Snail's Voyage" "Snail Discovers the Universe" but decided that for its first time out a more descriptive name might be just what was in order. So it's "Snail's Trail Expanded". This is also the first quilt which I've listed for sale. Please contact me if you're interested in purchasing it!

In the Beginning

Can you believe "Third Girl From the Left" was taken!? All these years of thinking about having a production company (or any kind of company) called "Third Girl From the Left" and now it's taken!

I've always loved the idea of the girl from Iowa telling her folks "When you see the Rockettes, look for the third girl from the left at the beginning of the second song". That's how I see my life in the arts. I'm there, I'm working it, but I don't expect anyone but my nearest and dearest to notice.

I've spent a lot of time in my studio this week. I spent all day Tuesday making a "Waiting for the Polls to Close" quilt. Lots of thought, and love, and trepidation went into the quilted version of Obama's logo. I found red fabric with Hibiscus in my stash - perfect for the fields, and the binding fabric reminds me of hanging chads!

On other days this week I've been re-purposing fabric originally quilted and cut for a wearable art jacket. It has been cut up to become several wall hangings, a book cover, coffee sleeves and motifs for greeting cards, so far.

The recent financial meltdown has inspired me to use up fabric in my stash before adding to it. I've pieced a pretty nine patch out of lots of batiks that have been piling up for the longest time.

I'm not inspired to use my traditional calicos at the moment. Maybe I'll make a scrappy log cabin like the one I saw today at the York Heritage Quilt Guild's biannual show.