Sunday, August 31, 2008

Did You Think I'd Forgotten...

... about the Take It Further challenge for August? I didn't! It's been in the back of my mind all month while I finished up the Studio Journal class and started on the Fungly quilt.

The challenge this month was to consider the issue of balance in our lives. Specifically, Sharon asked, "What is balance to you? Do you maintain a balanced life? How do you balance aspects of your life?"

My life is much less complex than many people's lives are these days. There's less in it to balance than there was even three years ago. Nevertheless I often feel torn or out of balance in my activities. I do not feel that I live a balanced life, and I am easily thrown off balance.

There seemed to be a lot of options for interpreting this topic in textiles. I made notes, even drew a sketch of one idea. Finally, a few days ago, this came out of my morning journal session: Sailing a boat to a destination is rather like the way we navigate through our days and our lives. Not everyone has had the experience of sailing a boat, but it still seems a very apt metaphor to me. You have to focus your energies and attention on different activities at different times, you have to change plans at a moment's notice, and there are times when you are becalmed or just sailing smoothly and you can sit back and enjoy the scenery. Sometimes when you are becalmed it's up to you, the sailor, to make things happen. Balancing the activities and events in our lives is not a static thing. It is not a place we reach and stay at for any amount of time. It is constantly changing, and requiring us to adapt and change as well. Unexpected gusts of wind can throw us off course or threaten to dump us in the drink.

So I rummaged around in my stash and found a print of boats under sail. I was able to cut a 4" x 6" piece which I then hand quilted to a piece of batting. I may be a Quilter but hand quilting is not a process I particularly enjoy. I considered that my fulfillment of the "take it further" aspect of this month's challenge! I doubt that you can see it in the photograph but I tried to indicate the wind blowing with my quilting lines. In the 'water' part of the picture I quilted in horizontal lines.

I probably got more out of this challenge in the thought process than in the production of the postcard quilt. That's okay though. Maybe I'll be a little easier on myself in the future as a result.

Oh, and FYI, I have decided to just finish the Fungly quilt at the size it currently is. Thanks to those of you who contributed your thoughts on the matter :- )

Here's a shot of it on my kitchen floor:

And in keeping with the fun+ugly theme, this is what I've put together for the back:

The Mary Engelbreit print is just big enough to accomodate the width of the top, and the snapdragon print ("Petal Pets" from a long time ago) at either end give it the necessary length. Now all I have to do is get the layers assembled so I can tie it!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fungly Progress Report

I've got all my blocks sewn together into a top! Too bad it's so wet and gloomy around here; I can't get a decent picture for you. (Once projects get too big for my design wall I'm out of well-lit places indoors to take pictures.) However, I have a minor dilemma for which I'd like your input. My top currently measures about 54" x 72". I'm only 63" tall, so I'm tempted to just stop at this point and make a back for it, but I'm wondering whether it would be smarter to put some kind of border(s) on it to make it a bit bigger. Apparently this is going to be "my quilt" as no-one else in my family seems interested in it and I don't think I want to give it away. Any suggestions or ideas?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Pillowcases

Some years ago when novelty pillowcases were a brand new thing in this area I made one for each of my children. Then my husband got one. (One of the kids has a wizard print on the cuff of his, DH's features a music print.) At the time I couldn't find a print I liked well enough and that felt personal enough to bother making one for myself. Lately all the prints I've considered were directional, in the wrong direction. Well, I finally found a print I like that isn't directional. The challenge was to find a compatible print for the cuff!

Ta daa:

What's ironic is that the cuff fabric is the same print I used for the body of a pair of pillowcases I made for our bed way back then. I just hope this doesn't crunch too loudly when I lay my head on it! ;- )

While I was at it I made up a pillowcase out of the fairy print DD bought with Miss M in mind. It goes perfectly with the her current favorite book! (DarlinigDaughter loves fabric but doesn't really sew yet.)

And just to prove that cats aren't the only ones who help out when quilters are auditioning blocks for position in a quilt top:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

And the Fungliness Continues...

The morning after the grandchildren went home my neck and shoulders were so stiff and sore I could hardly move my head! I was very gentle with myself all day. Things improved enough that I was able to make four more fungly liberated stars yesterday:

I don't know if you can tell, but that upper left star is made out of a coin print that my friend C~ let me have a piece of. I wanted to use a dollar bill print I have for the background but there wasn't enough contrast even for a fungly block :- (

I assembled a few more Hourglass blocks in the process as well.

Remember this Dachshund star?

I made it specifically for C~. She has two miniature Doxies and wants to make a fungly quilt of her own. Figured I'd help her get started!

I now have 36 liberated stars for my fungly quilt. I was surprised to see that I have a grand total 18 Broken Dishes blocks as well. I could keep making liberated stars out of fungly fabric combinations but this project has spawned ideas for some of the other old fabrics in my stash (hurray!). I want to practice the discipline of finishing one quilt before beginning another {gasp!} so I have to figure out how I want to set this batch before I move on. I have made notes in my studio journal though, so hopefully I can come back to those ideas and act on them when I finally do have this quilt completed :- )

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Quick Update

My eldest son has flown up from Arizona to spend a week or so with us. The whole family will be gathering here later today and filling up the house for 24 hours or so. Before the mobs descend I wanted to show you the progress I've made in the last few days. There won't be much sewing going on for the next couple of days!

First, the quarter-square triangles, sewn into Hourglass blocks:

And the most recent fungly stars:

As much as I'm looking forward to spending time with the grandbabies and my own children, I sure hope I get to see tonight's episode of Project Runway. Chris March suggested a drag queen challenge last season and they took him up on it! I can hardly wait!! (And you all thought I was such a good little girl!)

Monday, August 18, 2008

So Many Triangles!

I took QuiltPixie's advice to just sew triangles together this weekend and save pressing them for when the heat wave broke. This is just a sampling of what I accomplished:

The temperature has come down but the humidity has gone way up. I'd almost rather have the heat! In other places I've lived the humidity would drop significantly when we finally had a big thunderstorm. While rain is predicted - scattered showers - we rarely experience that drop in humidity afterwards. Nevertheless, I have pieced and pressed some of those triangles into more Broken Dishes blocks.

These are mostly 8" blocks (or would be if they were perfect!). The littlest one on the bottom right will finish at about 2".

These will be roughly 6" blocks:

And these will finish at something like 2.5":

Now I have quarter-square triangles ready to be sewn into Hourglass blocks. There are still plenty of half-square triangles to be sewn together too, but I have to admit I'm getting rather bored with this process. I want to piece some more liberated stars!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stars and Dishes

Pretty soon I'm going to have to lay these stars blocks out on the bed and make a decision about what to do with them. I really hadn't planned to make a full sized quilt but I'm addicted to making these things! Maybe there will be more than one quilt coming out of this sewing marathon...

In addition to looking for and using my older prints I'm sewing half-square triangles together that I cut from scraps years ago. When I come across a set that are actually the same size and work together (more or less) I'm making Broken Dishes blocks. Now I'm thinking ahead and cutting half-square triangles from the scraps I'm using for the stars whenever I can.

Apparently we're in for some unusually high temperatures here this weekend. That may slow me down on my stars and dishes. It gets pretty toasty in here with the iron on, the windows closed, and it's 90 degrees outside!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More Fungly Stars

Wow. I didn't realize it had been so long since my last post. Time flies when you're making fungly blocks!

I'm sorry this is such a poor picture. It looks like I used a wide angle lens!

It has helped to have the Olympic competitions going on in the background. I can listen while I cut and sew but then stop to watch the actual race or whatever. We've had mixed feelings in this household about supporting the Beijing Olympics, even by watching them, because of China's history in terms of human rights. I can't help myself though; I used to swim and dive and participate in track and field. I still don't condone the Chinese government's attitudes or policies but I do support the athletes who have chosen to dedicate themselves to their sport and have excelled as a result.

Anyway, as I've made more liberated stars for this fungly project my blocks have become less and less 'normal.' I've been going through my shelves, looking for the smallest and oldest pieces of yardage hiding between the newer ones. It's been especially fun to look for something surprising to pair with an old calico for example. :- )

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fun, But Not Ugly

It cooled off enough in these parts for me to be able to face turning the iron back on in the studio and do some sewing. (I have to keep the windows closed to maintain the air quality in my home and we do not have air conditioning. On top of that, my studio is on the west side of the house!) Naturally I had to have a go at the Fungly Challenge.

I'd discovered some larger scraps during the recent reorganization efforts so I figured I'd see what could be done with those to start with. It took me forever to even decide on a block pattern to use. I just didn't feel up to a bunch of triangles, even if we're not going for accuracy here. In the end I chose to make more liberated stars. This is what I came up with:

Not exactly fungly in my book. Fun, yes, but there's nothing I consider ugly in any of these prints! (Well, the one that reads as almost a solid black is uglier than the others in person.) Let's face it, the stuff in my stash is there - for the most part - because I like it or can see its' potential in a future quilt. Even if it's dated. I do still want to make a bed quilt of dark reds, indigo blues, and shirting reproductions someday. I may have to force myself to dig out the muted calicoes to mix with some novelty prints in order to make blocks that would really qualify for this challenge!

I also managed to finally bring the panda bear preemie quilt top up to size.

To recap, this top was built intuitively, starting with the fussy-cut panda patches. From that point on I simply added strips of varying widths to create blocks. Then it was jigsaw puzzle time, deciding on the placement of the blocks and adding strips as necessary to join the blocks together. I think the next preemie quilt I make will have to be something a little more straightforward. My brain is tired.

Now I have to find an appropriate flannel for the back. I'd better get on that while it's still cool...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Fungly Quilt?

I may have found just the thing to snap me out of the post-exposure funk I've been in: a fungly quilt. Not that I need a new project mind you!

During the course of the studio journal class Sharon pointed out that everything in her stash is sorted according to color. I thought about my stash and realized that the one thing that is not sorted that way is my scrap collection. My yardage is, my beads are, my threads are, but my little scraps - the crumbs that I can't throw away for love nor money - were just jumbled together various bags and bins.

For the last week or so I've been sorting the bits into color families. I thought seriously about sorting them according to size but knew in my heart that I would get bogged down in that process very quickly. My hope is that I can use the leader/ender technique to piece the smallest bits into bigger units. Then one day I can sit down and sew the units onto strips to make 'mile-a-minute' type blocks.

In the meantime, I have shelves that are threatening to collapse under the weight of the yardage I have collected over the span of about 20 years. My recent preemie quilts were an effort to begin to use up some of those old prints. They're not even going to make a noticeable dent however!

I hadn't been around to read blogs for several days. Today when I checked out Tonya's Lazy Gal blog I learned about the Fungly Quilt Challenge she and Bonnie have cooked up. Ah ha! This may be just the ticket - something fun and loose to bring back my enthusiasm that has bee MIA lately and I can get another quilt top out of it! (You notice I said "quilt top" not "quilt." We have to be realistic here!)

I have plenty of fabric to choose from, that's for sure ;- )

Monday, August 4, 2008

Life is a Collage

We're in our sixth and final week of the studio journal class, and this week the focus is on collage.

Collage can be defined as "an assemblage of diverse elements" (per Of all the design techniques/exercises that Sharon has given us so far, this feels the most comfortable to me. I think that's probably because it most closely approximates the way I work: gathering and assembling an assortment materials into a cohesive whole (I hope!).

I've made a couple of collages in my journal but I don't think either of them will be taken any further into fiber. That's okay though. Practice is practice and all of it is valuable.

Speaking of taking it further, this is the challenge Sharon has posed for the month of August:

"In my chaotic and hectic life I often admire people who are able to maintain balance in their lives. What is balance to you? Do you maintain a balanced life? How do you balance aspects of your life? That is the challenge this month - balance."

The challenge of balancing our creative endeavors with the rest of the activities and demands in our lives came up often amongst the students in the studio journal class. It's an ongoing struggle, even here in the Magpie's Nest where life is pretty calm in comparison to the rest of the world!

I'm not sure there could be a better metaphor for life than collage. Don't we spend the bulk of every day trying to bring a collection of diverse elements into some kind of order? That order, whatever it looks like for an individual, creates balance in that person's life. And generally that's when we feel the calmest or most in control of our lives.

In spite of the fact that I'm trapped at home, where one could assume that my life would be very routine (ie: balanced) nearly every day brings something into my world that throws me off balance in one way or another. I don't feel that I have yet succeeded in creating a harmonious collage out of my daily life. At least, not on a consistent basis. Still working on it. In fact, I'm going to keep working on it every day I'm allowed.

Having said all that, I don't have a clue yet what I will do for my August Take It Further postcard quilt!