Saturday, August 13, 2016

A must-have notion for quilters

As I posted back in April, the MMQG is currently doing a challenge based on the works of Guido Molinari. I finished my quilt top in April and have spent the intervening months staring at it in despair as I tried to decide how I was going to quilt it.

I have never spent so long staring at a quilt top without being able to picture how I wanted to quilt it. I could have done something simple, or something innocuous that you wouldn't really notice... but this is a piece that has meaning, this is a piece dealing with art. I wanted the quilting to be part of the piece, not just something that faded into the background.

So, of course, I decided to do something like this:

Because why make it easy when I can make it impossibly complicated for myself! ;) I started on it yesterday afternoon and it has gone fairly well so far. 

When I say "fairly well", I mean I've only spent about 50% of my time seam ripping and redoing. ;) At the moment I'm having to rip out and redo a particularly visible section... this is the first time I've tried quilting like this and I'm learning a lot. Most notably: Don't start right smack in the middle of your quilt where your inevitable screw-ups will be most obvious when trying out a new quilting technique. See, I'm learning! :P 

Through this process, I have discovered an absolute must-have notion for quilters. It is a book called "Creative Cursing: A Mix 'n' Match Profanity Generator" and it an absolute life saver. When I make a mistake that has to be taken out and redone, I simply give the book a quick flip and yell out the profanity it presents me with! It is amazingly stress-relieving, as well as being entertaining for others within earshot. Now and then my boyfriend will poke his head into the workroom and inquire: "Uhh, did you just call your sewing machine a 'crap bucket'?" I cheerfully reply "Yep!" and he backs away slowly to the other room.

I really should get back to the quilting... there is much left to do (and redo). For now, I leave you with this: 

Monday, August 1, 2016

To pink or not to pink?

When I was younger, I hated pink, I avoided it at all costs. Slowly over the years, though, I have made peace with it and now I can actually appreciate it... in small doses.

I am currently making myself a new purse (using the Sydney pattern from Swoon) and I chose the Macrame Leaves canvas from Cotton + Steel for the outer fabric, which has little pops of neon pink in it:

In putting together the purse, I realized that the way in which I had cut the pieces for the front of the purse meant that I had none of the little pink bits showing. So I stopped what I was doing, ripped out the sewn seams then recut and re-sewed the pockets so that there were some of the pink bits showing.

*long, existentially fraught pause* I don't know who I am anymore.... :P

Friday, July 8, 2016

I support #SewDiversity

Here we are, yet again... in the news another story of another instance of someone doing something horrible to someone else. I don't even have to give a specific reference here... chances are, whenever you are reading this, there is something terrible in the news. Shootings, bombings, rape, Trump, etc... we are spoiled for choice over ugly, hateful things to think about. 

In my heady college days at UC Santa Cruz, I often heard the phrase "If you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention" and right now it feels more relevant ever. That said, I've started to type and then deleted a dozen different things here... but, I just don't know what to say. Today I have gone beyond pissed off into confusion and helplessness. Maddie of Badass Quilters Society has written a lovely post in response to the current situation (she also shares my writer's block) and reminds us that in times like these, small gestures are still important. 

I cannot fight every fight and I cannot champion every cause, but neither can I ignore them. What I can do is focus on the causes I find most important and make sure I support and promote them in my immediate sphere of influence. By doing that, I hope to inspire those around me to do the same... and I might be a little pissed off now and then, too ;) (hey, I'm a UCSC alumnus, it's what we do!) To that end, I shall continue to support inclusiveness and celebrate diversity in my little sewing and quilting community, and tomorrow I look forward to spending a few hours with some of my fellow community members in putting together a quilt for the Orlando MQG to donate to those impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting. I may not be able to change the world, but I can at least try to make it a little better for a few!

If you are interested in digging further into the specific issues that triggered my and Maggie's posts today, I strongly recommend you start with the Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism–from Ferguson to Charleston; it is an incredible article that goes in-depth into the discussion of racism and lists a ton of great resources and discussions on the subject. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Failure is always an option

As Adam Savage notably said many times on Mythbusters, "Failure is always an option". In fact, he talks in-depth about the importance of failure in his excellent 2016 Maker Faire talk... I highly recommend you give it a listen.

From early grade school through high school I took the 'honors classes' track through school. I mostly enjoyed it, but as we approached our senior year, it became something of a pressure cooker for everyone to 'live up to their potential' and get into a good university and go on to save the world as we had grown up expecting we would do. Or, yanno, move to Seattle and have Eddie Vedder fall madly in love with you. Hey, gimme a break... it was the 90's. ;)

In all that time, however, the one thing we were never taught was how to fail. Failure was the enemy... failure was unacceptable... failure meant we just weren't applying ourselves hard enough to the problem! Looking back now... if there were one thing I could go back and tell my younger self, aside from "Dear god, do NOT get that perm!", it would be simply that it is ok to fail. Failure will be, by and large, the one thing you learn from the most... it is ok to fail. Fail as many times as you need to, just make sure you learn from those failures.

Even now I have a hard time when I try something new and do not succeed at it. Which is crazy if you think about it... how can you expect to do something perfectly that you've never done before? But still, that little high school honors student voice in the back of my head laughs at me when I don't get something right the first time. But luckily, my adult voice has slowly learned to drown out that other voice as I remind myself repeatedly that it's ok to fail.

Case in point, the travel bag I made last summer. It was a first attempt and while it turned out fairly well, I made a poor choice for some of the stitching on the handles, using an invisible thread that snapped under the weight of the bag. It has been kicking around my workroom ever since... the repairs are not difficult, but getting to them requires taking the bag apart and redoing it. Considering I have another travel bag that I prefer using anyway, and I have certainly learned my lesson about using invisible thread, I am comfortable with calling this one a failure.

Some days, all you can do is salvage the hardware and move on to another project. Perhaps these will be reincarnated into a new purse, instead :)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Be careful...

I learned an important lesson this weekend... if you are a quilter, be careful about taking a non-quilter to the vendor tables at a quilt show. At the Vermont Quilt Festival this weekend, my mom found a flannel quilt kit that she had to have and now I have another project on my 'to do' list. :p 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Hexie magnetic needle minder

I love useful little sewing gadgets... I have a weakness for the notions section of a fabric store. I love any little thingamabob that promises to make my sewing life easier, better, more organized. They aren't always necessary... but I love them just the same.

A year or two ago I had come across a tutorial for an adorable little flying squirrel needle minder and had bookmarked it for future reference. At the time I wasn't really doing a lot of needlework or hand sewing, so I didn't get around to making one until now. Since I do most of my quilt binding by hand, and the binding I do mostly while sitting on the couch watching tv, I have learned the extreme importance of keeping close track of all small sharp objects. It only takes sitting on a needle one time to learn that lesson ;)

While the flying squirrel is indeed cute, I've had hexies on the brain lately so decided to go with a nice simple little hexagon instead.

The supplies were quite simple... I used some felt I had on hand from last year's christmas ornament making frenzy, a small neodymium magnet that I had salvaged from a box closure, some glue and thread and a bar pin to attach it to. I simply cut out two hexagons from the felt, glued the magnet to one of the hexagons and sewed it to the bar pin. I then sandwiched it with the other hexagon, hand-sewing around the edges to secure it.

And there you go... a pinnable magnetic needle minder to keep track of your needle, pins, even small scissors or metal thimble. I went with a pin back rather than a two-layer magnet as the tutorial suggests, but that is just personal preference (plus I had some pins laying around waiting to be used). If you don't want to use a pin, you can always just use a second magnet or you could use a metal snap clip instead. The options are endless! Heck, I might even make myself a few more! :)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

May is for Makers week 5 - Bendy Bag

Finally, we wrap up the month of #MayisforMakers with week 5. I have made hardly a dent in the patterns that I have purchased, but I have plans for all of them!

May Is For Makers |

As I mentioned before, I am an absolute sucker for a good zippered pouch or useful basket or bag, and while I was having a hard time finding another quilt or clothing pattern that I *really* wanted to buy, I had no trouble finding another zippered pouch pattern! I ended up choosing the Bendy Bag by Lazy Girl Designs, and honestly I really can't wait to try it out. It is offered as part of her Craftsy class, Zip It Up: Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags, but you can purchase the pattern separately. I got the class (on sale, woot!) and will be jumping into it as soon as I can.  

Image courtesy of Lazy Girl Designs

The pattern seems quite interesting... you put the zipper in flat and then a fold is sewn in on each side, origami-like, to bring it into the bag shape! I like the square-ish shape of this bag, I'm sure I'll be able to find plenty of uses for it. 

So now that I have all of these new things to make, I had better get working! I hope you managed to show your support for an independent maker/artist/craftsperson this month... and if not, it's not too late! Get out there and show them some love :) 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

May is for Makers week 4 - Rebel Quilt

At the beginning of the year I had told myself that I would spend this summer making some progress on my heap of projects waiting to be done. Thanks to the #MaysiforMakers project, my heap has grown significantly rather than shrinking... I think my 'stash' may have finally exceeded my life expectancy.

May Is For Makers |

Being something of an art geek, I have wandered through many museums and galleries, flipped through many art and art history books, browsed many design blogs, watched many art documentaries and so it does not happen often that I gasp aloud upon seeing a piece of art or design. But when I came across Libs Elliott's Rebel Quilt while browsing modern quilt patterns a while back, I gasped. It is so pleasingly chaotic, yet balanced, and the colors she chose are so wonderful that I spent a long, long time looking at it: 
Image courtesy of Libs Elliott

In March, we were lucky enough to book Libs for a workshop with the MMQG in which we learned Y-seams and worked on a giant hexagon pattern. Mine is still partially finished (yet another item on the project pile), although it inspired me to go outside my comfort zone and choose a mustard yellow palette that I ended up being quite pleased with! I'm not sure what I'll do with this one... unusually for me, I'm actually tempted to use the same palette as in the above image, I find it *that* striking! Then again, who says I can't make more than one!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

May is for Makers week 3 - Tiki-tastic!!!

I have a confession to make... I'm having a really difficult time not getting carried away with buying patterns. And it's only week 3... I need to pace myself.

May Is For Makers |

Buying patterns and supplies for any project is a dangerous thing for me... I get carried away and buy too much ("But that way I'll have extra if I need it!") or I commit to more than I can get accomplished. My "To Do" pile of fabrics and patterns is seriously staggering. 

But! I had promised myself I would work my way through some of my 'stash' this summer, and spending a little on some new patterns is a good way to motivate myself to do that... it's all for a good cause in the end, right? ;) 

So, for this week's pattern I decided to go with some clothing. Summer will be here soon and my wardrobe is sadly lacking in summer dresses, so I remedied that by buying the Jacaranda Plus-size Dress from Tenterhook Patterns on Etsy.

Photo courtesy of Tenterhook Patterns

Why this pattern? Well, I just happen to have the perfect fabric sitting around waiting to be put to good use:

It will be tiki-tastic! All of my other projects can wait! :D 

Some days you're the windshield...

Some days you're the windshield, some days you're the bug. Today I was definitely the bug.

It's been a very long week for me... one of our cats unexpectedly spent last weekend at the emergency vet for a serious urinary problem, so we spent most of this week having to wrangle him to administer medication, try to convince him he liked the new special diet he'll be on (he is not convinced), and worriedly monitor his recovery to make sure things were improving (they seem to be). Add to that my boss surprising me with the news that he was taking the rest of his paternity leave starting the beginning of next week and my work load would be instantly doubling, and the MMQG is wrapping up for our summer break starting in June, so yeah... I'm pretty worn out.

That said, the MMQG stuff has been the one enjoyable part of the week... we have some fun things in the plan for the last two meetings before our summer break. Plus planning out our schedule for next year will be exciting... I do enjoy spending time with that group!

So this weekend I planned to stay in and just relax, and to take my mind off things I put on a few episodes of my favorite podcast and settled down to work on a few little sewing projects that needed doing.... And absolutely nothing has turned out how I wanted it to.

The first thing I tried was a quilted cover for a notebook for which I took careful measurements and made a pattern before starting, checking it as I went only at the end to have it just that fraction too small to fit the notebook. So I set that aside and tried a boxy zippered pouch I wanted to make for my various USB cables, instead. I used a pattern and followed the instructions carefully only to get to the end and find... I didn't like it. I had done it right, it looked exactly like the picture, only the zipper opening was so awkward I knew it would drive me nuts so I undid a few of the seams and tried to correct/improve it. Well, of course all I could do was cut it down further until I got the zipper opening to work how I wanted it only to have the pouch itself be so small as to be unusable for the original purpose I had in mind. *sigh*

I was eyeballing a third small project in the hopes of salvaging some of my sewing mojo, but at this point I think I'm going to call it a wash, go make myself a cocktail and relax a bit with the cats and boyfriend. Here's to this coming week being much less eventful... tchin tchin! ;)