Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Yippee! Productivity!

In spite of the low-grade headache I had most of the day yesterday I was able to finally find some embellishments I thought would be fun to use on a doll body for the Comfort Dolls Project (see link in sidebar). The body was made about 5 years ago so she's been very patient with me, waiting for her adornments! I'm quite pleased with the way she turned out:

The flowers are glass beads, the "vine" is a ball chain I picked up at Wal-Mart some time ago (back when I would still venture into that store). I thought it worked very well.

That success inspired me to add a little more "hair" to the first doll I worked on:

Maybe she's done now. ;- )

When I couldn't post my accomplishments to my blog last night (it was that bewitched time of day when Blogger doesn't cooperate) I surfed some other blogs. I got hooked by the 6x4 Lives challenge at Sharon B's blog. There's so much to see and to read on her blog that I hadn't really looked into it on previous visits. As I read about it last night, however, my mind conjured up all sorts of possibilities for the 6x4 postcard format. I've made fabric postcards before, but using that format for personal experimentation or recordkeeping had never occurred to me (duh!). I got so inspired that this morning I have been going through my stash of batting bits and pieces, cutting them to either 4" x 6" or 8.5" x 11" for my journal quilts.

I haven't come across any yet that were big enough for more placemats. There's another bin for the bigger pieces of batting. Maybe when I get into that one I'll also find a piece to use in the baby quilt I'm supposed to be finishing up for the wee one due at the end of August or early September!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Gifts and Comfort

My birthday was back in June. My sister sent me the dvd of the PBS program "Craft in America" and a note stating this was only part of the gift. The rest of the gift was delivered Friday: the coveted tote bag from Trader Joe's! Hurray! Ever since I caught a glimpse of it on Be*mused's blog I've wanted one. We don't have a Trader Joe's close enough to us for me to shop for one myself but I mentioned it to my sister in Oregon and apparently she was keeping an eye out for me. When she finally found one she bought it and kept it at her house to air out for a few weeks. I don't know how comfortable I'll be carrying it into Fred Meyer or our food co-op to pack my groceries home in but I'll sure enjoy having it to look at in the studio! If I were a knitter I would use it to carry around my WIP. I may have to find a nice big UFO to keep in it so I can justify leaving it out in plain sight! (Shouldn't be too hard, considering the number of UFO's I have on hand...)

By the way, if you haven't seen the "Craft in America" program yet be sure to look for it on your local PBS station. DH and I caught it accidently one day and were mesmerized. That's when I mentioned it to my sister. She had seen it too and was also fascinated by it. I've watched the dvd twice now since receiving it for my birthday a little more than a month ago.

Every day last week I seemed to run into something that made me ill. Just when I'd begin to feel better, wham! a new toxin would hit me. I hardly left the house either. Which means the toxins were coming in through open windows or being released here in the house. I felt well enough Saturday to do a bit of beading on a doll body I'd made a few years ago:

(I wish the beads showed up better in the photo.) I'm not sure whether she's done or not. I'd like to do something for a face but everything I've tried hasn't looked right. I really like the swirls of color in the fabric so that's what I used to direct my beading. My intention is to send this along to Pat for her Comfort Doll Project. I'd like to get another one done and send a pair of them at one time. I have other doll bodies I might be able to use. Or I might make up a new pattern. Just for fun let me show you a few of the small dolls I made back when I was making more dolls than quilts:

This is my first "Belle." The placement of the pattern in the fabric makes this doll. I only added the bells and beads for her hair. I happen to love the tinkling sound the bells make. To me they are the voice of the doll, speaking words of encouragement and comfort.

I think of this one as my "Beach Belle." Same hairdo, button face (mother-of-pearl) and another button I see as a sand dollar or other natural ocean flotsam one would find on a beach (I cut off the shank so it could be sewn flat to the doll body).

Finally there's Flo. Flo is straight out of the 1950's and ready to serve tea. I don't have a clue where she came from. She's very prim and proper and a very conscientious hostess. I am SO not like her!

All of these dolls are original creations. I only have these and a couple of others still in my possession. The rest have been sold or given away. What's amazing to me is how these little inanimate objects - nothing more than fabric, stuffing, and bits and pieces of embellishments - can have so much power to soothe or lift a wounded spirit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Not Much Action in the Nest

This will be a brief post as I'm still not feeling well after several unexpected chemical exposures over the last few days. I haven't had the enthusiasm or the energy to do much of anything but I have made some progress on my current journal quilt:

The bright orphan bits and pieces I recently uncovered are calling to me softly and I have a hint of an idea for my next journal quilt. What I need is to be well enough to respond to these whispers of the muse. Sometimes I can force myself to action on a project or necessary chore. What I'm finding more difficult to deal with are the changes in mood and outlook that chemical exposures seem to cause in me. Toxins alter my brain chemistry, and not in a good way. (It occurs to me that I may have mis-named this blog. It would have been more accurate to title it "From the Canary's Nest" as I am but one of the canaries in the coal mine of our toxic environment.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ack! More Orphans!

After I finished the fourth placemat in my now-official "Placemat Series" it occurred to me that I had not come across a house block that I distinctly remember making but do not remember using.

"Where is that block?" I wondered.

I had been through the blocks in the drawer often enough to be confident it was not in the drawer.

"Have I used it in something I've forgotten about?" I don't know what that would have been.

I lay awake that night, thinking about it.

The next morning, on a whim, I went into my studio closet. My studio, I should confess, is what was intended to be the master bedroom of this house. The closet, therefore, is twice the size of any of the other closets in the house. It has rather deep, dark recesses at either end which I have managed to fill up with assorted boxes and containers of things. You know the sorts of things that end up in those kinds of corners. Don't tell me you don't! Anyway, right on top of one of those stacks of boxes was a pair of brown cardboard boxes almost exactly the same size and shape. I pulled them both down to inspect the contents. The first box held rescued linens that I intended to incorporate in my quilts someday. You know, dish towels with puppies embroidered on them, an embroidered pillow top, a couple of small molas I acquired when I was working at the La Conner Quilt Museum... that sort of thing. But the box held something else as well: more orphan blocks and bits. For heaven's sake! How did these get in here? Why weren't they with all of the others? What am I going to do with these?

Well, several of them were four-patch blocks featuring animals that finished at 3". There were a few strips of piano key or Chinese Coin piecing. Hmmm... you know... if I alternate the four-patches with the strip pieced bits...

Before I knew it I had another placemat ready to be quilted! DD had asked for one that had an assortment of animals on it for DGD to find and name. And I didn't even have to work at it!

And that house block? I found it. It was in the second box, the one clearly labeled "Houses."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The New Project

In my last post I mentioned I had a new project in the works. This is the story of how it came about and what has come from it. Read on if you dare!

DD has been using plastic laminated placemats on her daughter's Elmo table to protect the surface during meals, etc. Last week or so she asked if I would be willing to make some "wild and funky" placemats to replace them as they were beginning to show signs of wearing out.

They could be a Christmas gift she said.

I said, "of course!"

Saturday (I think) DD informed me that the plastic mats had come apart already and she'd had to throw them out. Could I make a couple of new mats ASAP? And could at least one of them feature the primary colors so she could help DGD learn her colors?

Hmmm... You know, I don't think there's anything I love more than a design challenge! (That's design, not engineering or construction!)

Because DGD and I are such fans of Elmo (see Monday's Meme) the first thing I did was to go through my fabric stash to see whether I had something that might have The Little Red One's image on it. Nope, no luck. But I had some scraps from curtains someone had made that had pictures of Big Bird and Bert and Ernie and Cookie Monster on it. Big Bird was too big for a placemat, I only really had pieces of Ernie, and, to be honest, Bert was a little scary. Cookie Monster was as good a place to start as any! I went through my pile of food fabrics (novelty prints with images of food on them) and discovered I had fruits, vegetables, ice cream - in two different prints! - Hershey's candies, and one rectangular scrap of a guy making pizza. I could either be the BAD Grandma and surround Cookie Monster with ice cream and candy or I could be a GOOD Grandma and give him nothing but fruit and vegetables to eat. I chose to let Cookie have his pizza, an assortment of fruit, and a few vegetables. I put the ice cream on the back of the placemat for dessert. :- )

Next I wanted to attack the problem of a placemat featuring the primary colors of the color wheel. This was harder than I expected. I kept trying to make it more complex than it needed to be, both in the number of colors and the construction. It's only a placemat for crying out loud! DD specifically suggested solid colors, maybe set with black. I'm sorry, but, "yuck!" I don't DO solid colors! I've made my share of Amish style blocks and quilts in the past, and yes, black does set colors off beautifully, but I have to do something to make this project fun for me to do! Or at least interesting.

I did my best to pick out fabrics/prints that read as a solid color. I was determined to include the neutrals as well: black, white, and one shade of brown. I envisioned a rainbow effect. Maybe I could pull that off in a Log Cabin block? This is what I came up with:

It's okay. I couldn't find anything I liked for a binding so in my haste to just get it done I resorted to black (technically it's a black Moda marble). I also quilted as I constructed the block. Which means I was sewing the strips on and sewing through the batting and the backing all at the same time. Somehow one green/purple seam got skewed. I blame the polyester batting I was using. Or the cheap green fabric. Whatever; DGD won't care!

Not being entirely happy with that attempt at the color wheel I gave it another go. This time I used simple squares of each color (which DD herself had suggested - ahem) and I didn't work so hard to try to find prints that represented the pure hue. Personally I like this set of colors better than the ones in the first effort. I even found a way to incorporate white and black and brown. The border fabric is perfect; it has all the colors I've used in the body of the mat (with the exception of black and brown). Choosing a binding took some time but I'm much happier with this second try. (Does it count as a series if you're just making placemats?)

The last mat I'm going to show you is actually the third one I made. It started with what was probably one of the oldest of my orphan blocks. As I've been going through them lately to make the Orphan Train quilt and the baby quilt I have tossed out a few from the early years that were made with the worst of fabrics. This block was a survivor. I've always thought it was cute, even if it was a little wonky, and considered making it into a doll quilt or something but, obviously, had never done that. Apparently I was saving it for this placemat because this went together more easily and happily than any of the others with the possible exception of Cookie Monster's. All I did was add a strip of the same print that I'd used in the center square to either side of the block and then fill out the corners with a vintage print I didn't even know I had in my stash. Bordered it with the blue plaid to make it bigger, found a perfect companion print to back it, and had enough of a red calico very much like what I'd used in the block to bind it. Voila! The whole thing reminds me of a picnic (even though the bears are doing chores like marketing and baking and mopping the floor!).

These first four placemats ought to be enough to hold her for a while. I have ideas swirling about for others now... holiday themes, crazy patch, maybe more orphan blocks... Fun, fun, fun!


Due to technical difficulties yesterday I could not make the promised second post. Blogger was having issues when I was making my attempt. There seems to be a specific time of day in this part of the world when the system is overloaded or something. Anyway, here we are.

What I wanted to show you was the now-complete baby quilt top:

The multi-color print reads very dark in the photos. The contrast isn't quite so stark in person. You can see that I tried to distribute it evenly over the surface of the quilt. That helps, I think. I had to take off the bottom "border" after I first assembled it because it was a quarter of an inch narrower than the rest of the quilt top. I enjoy improvisational piecing but that would have been a construction challenge I wasn't willing to cope with. So I took out the checkerboard unit, made a wider one, and put it all back together. Much better! Now it just needs to be layered and quilted or tied. I'm not sure whether I have a piece of batting in house that will fit this quilt. It's been too hot to go digging in the closet to find out. And I got distracted by a new project. But more about that later...

A few days back I finished filling out the tree trunk on my journal quilt with sequins. I really like the way it looks. I have a couple of ideas about where to go next with it but haven't made up my mind yet. It's been pretty muggy and warm here since then and I have not been inclined to do handwork as a result. Too sticky!

And speaking of sticky, if I don't get back to the sewing machine now it will be too hot to do the pressing that needs to be done inbetween seams...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday MeMe!

Okay, in response to Finn's tagging me for this meme, here we go!

5 Things To Do Before I Die:

Overcome or recover from my chemical sensitivities
Make a family heritage quilt
Swim with dolphins
Visit the American Visionary Museum and Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, Maryland
Go to Lego Land (with or without grandchildren!)

5 Things I Can Do:

Visually identify nearly all of the dog breeds currently recognized by the AKC
Give a man a decent haircut
Read in a moving vehicle - as long as there's no scenery to look at!
Always find room for more beads, sequins, or fabric!

5 Things I Cannot Do... Yet:

Eat pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, strawberry shortcake (and a whole host of other yummie foods)
Keep a clean house
Decide what picture or image to use for my blog portrait
Stop eating chocolate (I found one that falls within my dietary restrictions!)
Move to a Caribbean island

5 Things That Attract Me to the Opposite Sex:

A healthy sense of humor

5 Celebrity Crushes:

Cary Grant
Pierce Brosnan
Matthew McConaughey
Cap'n Jack Sparrow

5 People I'd Like to Do This (Tag! You're it!):

Atet at Quilting in Cornfields
Barb at Why Not?
Beadin' Gram
Janet at I'm Going Crazy; You Come Too

This was fun to do. I came up with twice as many Celebrity Crushes as I needed! What does that say about me? Coming up with things I Can Do was a bit of a challenge. Made me think outisde of the box as it were. Figuring out who to tag was the hardest part! I read so many blogs in a given week, across so many different categories of interest, it was difficult to know who might be of a mind to play this game. Hopefully I have chosen well. Now I have to go tell them they've been tagged!

I do have a show and tell for later today...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Baby Quilt Progress

If you recall, these are the orphan blocks I've pulled from my collection to make into a baby quilt for our next grandchild. Most of these blocks were made over a decade ago. (Closer to two decades for some of them!) My favorite block of the bunch happens to be the one in the center, the one made with the bright, clear green. It is also the newest block of the bunch.

I ordered three pieces of yardage from eQuilter.comfor this quilt. The fabric on the left (below) was intended to set the blocks together. The blue dotty print will be the binding.

Below is the print I bought for the backing. It was especially appropriate because DD was my ladybug when she was little and she now has a thing for frogs. I love the good wishes that are printed all around the frogs and bugs and leaves. They are exactly what I hope for for this new GD. I only wish the fabric itself was a little softer to the touch. Hopefully it will soften up with repeated launderings!

This morning I have been framing up the house blocks with the multicolor print. The new fabric is a little darker/grayer than I'd like but it works with those colors and prints from years ago. DD was just here and she's happy with it so I guess I'll keep working with it the way it is. I prefer the brighter, clearer colors that I have been using in more recent years but I'll just have to deal with it! My current challenge is to figure out how I want to include those pinwheel blocks (which were originally made for DD's first "big girl" quilt) at the top and bottom...

While DD was here she showed me a quilt she'd purchased at a garage sale last weekend. I wish I'd thought to take a picture of it while she was here! Rats! It's only a baby quilt (if that) but it's made of a mix of fabrics - some vintage - that some of us are suckers for. Nine patch blocks set with alternate squares of solid burgundy, set in rows that were sashed with a sweet pink and red heart print and a light blue dress fabric that had a gold thread going through it and I don't remember what all else. There was a seersucker stripe in one of the 9 Ptaches. It had a border all the way around and was tied with long strings of something white-ish. Could have been string or maybe crochet cotton. An adorable little quilt that she got for $1.00! In really good shape too. I am so proud of her for thinking that quilt was worth rescuing. Yeah! Daughter after my own heart, even if she doesn't sew a stitch!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

We Have Achieved Functionality! (Hurray!)

I'm feeling better today. It's supposed to get hotter than usual for this area however so we'll see how long I last. My plan for escape from the heat has been foiled by the Department of Transportation. Road work is being done on the major thoroughfare between here and my "safe spot" on the coast. I feel more able to make the drive today than I have in days but the DoT will have one lane of the two lane hiway closed for repairs. That means I will have to sit in exhaust fumes in order to get to the coast at all. Because it is on an island there's no way to avoid this traffic tie-up. If I get desperate enough I may give it a try. At least the road home will still be open and by then I will be feeling refreshed (in theory anyway).

For your viewing pleasure today we have "The Luv Shack." I made this as a Valentine for my DH seven years ago. It might measure 8" x 10". It's certainly no bigger than that!

I want to give you a couple of links to check out. First, Pat at Gatherings has come up with a wonderful way for fiber artists to bless the lives of women who are starting over after leaving abusive relationships. Read about her Comfort Doll Project here and see if you can find the time to make a little treasure to lift someone else's spirits at an especially difficult time in her life.

My next offering is a political cartoon. You have been forewarned! If I had the skills I would just put the cartoon here on my blog but I hope you will take a moment to click here and go check it out. I really don't think anyone will find it offensive, unless you or someone you love works for the FDA or a major drug company.

I have been tagged by Finn at Pieces From My Scrapbag to do a meme. This will be my first one ever! I'm having to spend some time thinking about my answers so I plan to respond to her "Monday MeMe" on Monday next. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Monday Morning

I'm feeling pretty poorly this morning; I don't know exactly why or what the cause may be. Oh, the joys of chemical sensitivity!

I want to send out a note of thanks for the compliments on my recent work. Your little notes lift my spirits where nothing else seems able to. Thank you for taking the time to stop by, have a look, and leave a comment.

Hopefully I can lose myself in beads and sequins or seaming fabrics together until this passes. Until then...

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Journal Quilt Progress Report

My energies of the last couple of days have been focused on my journal quilt for this month. After I got those appliques sewn on I spent quite a bit of time trying to get a feel for what to do next. I auditioned several colors of beads, some other trims, tried a few "theme" ideas on for size...

Eventually I came across some white rice beads. I don't know what else to call them. They're just plastic, they're not bugle beads, they look like large grains of white rice. It occurred to me that they would make a good outline for a tree trunk. So I stitched the outline of a tree trunk. I wanted to get a picture for you when I had only the rice beads sewn onto my ground but DH had absconded with the camera. He and DS went up into the mountains yesterday. They had a lovely time, and so did I - at home! They took pictures of mountains and trees; I created a tree.

Then I remembered a pretty iridescent glass heart bead I've had for awhile. I sewed it on in the center of the trunk. It may be a knot hole, it may be one of those hearts where lovers carve their initials. Who knows?!

Today I have been sewing on sequins to fill in the trunk of my tree. They're not the sequins I bought last week, but they are sequins nevertheless and I have been wanting to do this technique for a while now. I first practiced it in a workshop with Rebecca Rousch. She does some fabulous work! You can sample it here.

I still have no idea what else is going to go on this journal 'page.' I have no idea what significance a tree - or a white tree - may have. I figure I have the rest of the sequining to do on the tree before I'm really forced to make the next decision anyway.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

"Helpmates" Revisited

I had a request for a close-up shot of the center panel of my journal quilt "Body & Spirit: Helpmates." I was surprised to learn that clicking on the previous photo of the quilt did not produce the larger image. I just figured that happened to all my photos automatically! I'm no techie, nor am I a photographer. But! I just happen to have a photographer husband who is home today and who was happy to have the opportunity to play with his toys. ;- )

I'm not sure what you're looking for, but hopefully you'll find it in one of these shots:

The fish skeleton, the key, and the ship's wheel are all charms. The clock is a button. The lock was a button also; I cut off the shank to it would sit more closely to the surface of the quilt. I wanted to tone down the color somehow but everything I tried just wiped off. The heart on her bodice is hematite, the bird fetish is shell.

The lily-of-the-valley-type flowers were printed on the fabric. I just went over them with beads and floss, pretty much in the same colors as was on the fabric. There are four fire polished flower beads, a large blue vintage button, and a ribbon yo-yo flower head. Their stems and leaves are all beaded. On these smaller leaves and the lily-of-the-valley flower heads I used what I know as a leaf stitch. It's the kind of leaf you make when you're making a leaf fringe.

I felt very fortunate to have this bit of textile in my stash and to have it fit the theme so well!

Nose to the Grindstone (and if you believe that...)

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Fourth of July. It was actually sunny and dry here! That was some kind of a record! In honor of the Fourth (well, not really, but it does read as red, white, and blue so it seemed appropriate) I got out one of my really old UFO's and finished the top finally. I had taken it out about a year and a half ago after it sat maturing for several years. Sometimes we just need more experience before we can finish a quilt to our satisfaction! At that point I realized why I hadn't finished it yet and took off the borders that were causing the problem. Then I got interrrupted or put it away for some other reason until the other day. I found my notes on what I intended to do with it and just did it. Now it fits the bed the way I want it to and I only have to acquire the batting and buy or make a back for it. It's made entirely of flannels. My intention is to tie this one, probably with a red perle cotton, because that was what I envisioned from the beginning. (What you may not be able to see is that the borders are a solid navy blue. This pic was taken outside on our overgrown bed of creeping juniper.)

The bright orphan blocks were hanging around in the back of my mind, and so was my commitment to make a journal quilt for this month and a baby quilt for the next grandchild. I pulled the blocks out of my orphan drawer and started going through them. Lo and behold, there was a pieced bit leftover from one of my favorite quilts that was nearly the right size for a journal quilt, and it has the right greens in it! So I added some fabric to bring it up to size, basted it to the batting, and spent a good deal of time rummaging around in my stash o' stuff. I still don't have a theme or topic for this quilt, and that makes me uncomfortable, but the whole point of this exercise is to break the confines of my comfort zone. I found a machine made lace applique that has these cool circle elements to it, cut them apart, and sewed them onto my ground. I have an idea for a direction I could go with this but nothing is written in stone. We'll see how it develops...

As for the baby quilt: I put these blocks on the wall today. There are plenty more left to work with but this covers the size DD has requested. It won't have the full Orphan Train look to it but I think it will be a happy quilt in the end. The challenge now is to find the right fabric/print to use to frame up the smaller blocks. I really want to have just one fabric surrounding all of the blocks. I don't have the psychic energy right now to make a lot of decisions about what to put where. This needs to be a simple and quick project, not an ordeal. The Pinwheel blocks at the top and the bottom are leftovers from what was going to be my DD's first "big girl quilt." As it turned out, she never got that quilt. Eventually I made a Log Cabin variation for her when she was a teenager. The best of her Pinwheel blocks went into a quilt I made for her firstborn, but that's another story!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Finn's Rescued Orphan

So I'm a little slow in posting it for those of you who may not have seen this top on Finn's blog a couple of weeks ago, but this is the rescued orphan top I "won" in Finn's give-away! This apparently was the salvagable part of a larger quilt. In my opinion all it needs is borders and it would be big enough to be useful on the couch for snuggling under. What those borders will be remains to be seen however! I'm thinking something simple and plain, to show off the blocks. But we'll see. I have a hard time doing simple and plain. ;-)

I've been looking closely at this top. There are Jacob's Ladder blocks and 25-patch blocks and a couple of Log Cabins that have been made to fit with the other blocks by the addition of single squares or small 4-patch units. The prints are very bright and cheerful for the most part, from the mid-20th century. There are a couple of fabrics that Finn and I think could be the "mourning prints" of the late 19th/early 20th century (they are the black prints in the 25-patch block in the second row, just right of center). All in all a very cool top. For those of us who like that sort of thing anyway!

On a related note, as a result of working on my Orphan Train quilt I now have a better idea of what I want to do with my black & white & pink friendship blocks. I a-l-m-o-s-t started working on it today. I'm not quite ready for another big project yet though. So I'm fishing around for a workable idea for my next journal quilt. I really want to do something with those sequins!!!