Sunday, October 31, 2010

No Tricks, Just Treats

I had an unexpected opportunity to be out in the car this afternoon. It was so pretty I decided to go back out and get myself some eye candy. (I didn't think to take the camera with me the first time I went out.)

Isn't this charming?

Not far away I spotted this:

It's a utility pole... but look what's happened to it!

I'm not sure how the power company feels about it but I think it's pretty cool. :- )

Our City Hall has a planter box out front that is tended by a professional. Her work brings me joy every time I drop off our payment for services rendered.

I don't know what these flowers are called but I'd sure like to get some for my garden some day. They are just past their prime now.

Those are probably the best/most interesting of the photos I took today. I also have pictures that were taken last night when DD brought the grandbabies over. I haven't downloaded those yet but you can be sure that that was another treat.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

October Creativity Challenge - Mail Art

We're getting close to the end of the month so I figured I'd better show you some of what I've done in response to A Creative Dreamer's "Mail Art" challenge.

I've used stickers to embellish my letters and envelopes for years. Not a lot, mind you, but just enough to add interest. The concept of mail art goes way beyond that. Folks are not only making their own envelopes or other mailing containers, they're taking envelopes apart, painting and drawing and sticking things to them and then sewing them back together! In fact, you should go check out what June has done. :- )

My first attempt was to decorate this Priority Mail envelope that had already been stuffed with scraps for a swap and sealed shut. I knew it would be tricky to work on that soft, unstable surface. I'm not much for drawing either (as you probably know by now if you are a loyal reader).

Eventually I had a stroke of genius. I went down to our Visitor's Center and picked up a bunch of the color brochures that promote the various sights and events in our area. That provided me with lots of beautiful color pictures to use.

It turned out more like a photo album page than anything else but I thought the recipients might enjoy a glimpse of what's around here. If you look closely you may see that I used chalk pastels to add color around the photographs. I went over this whole side of the bag with clear packing tape to keep the pictures from ripping off and to keep the chalk in place (although it seemed to take to the surface of the envelope pretty well). I also used a few stickers - some fun Halloween stickers on the address side of the envelope.

I had another opportunity to dress up an envelope last week. This time I thought to do the decorating before I filled the envelope but I was kind of stuck as to what to do. This is what I came up with:

My hands weren't real steady that day. The 'stitching' is a little wonky and the pockets are obviously off kilter. Still, it was fun.

I had yet another envelope to send out this week. It was just a regular business envelope, plain white. It looked so stark and naked! I got out my colored pencils and just shaded around the delivery address, giving it some fall color. I put a seasonal sticker on the back and shaded around it too. No pictures to share with you, but I'll bet it's one of the prettier pieces in the system at the moment!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Time to Play

I dropped off the parts for the Harry Potter quilt this morning. It was hard to see all my old friends having fun together and not dare to step in. There were many new faces in the crowd too. In an attempt to cheer myself up I stopped at the thrift shop on the way home. I found some fun things (which I haven't pictures of - sorry) but I think going in there was a mistake today. Some days my body seems to be able to handle it better than others. Today was not one of those days. I now have a massive headache and chills. Oh well, this too shall pass.

On my design wall are a couple of blocks left over from the Harry Potter quilt. There were duplicates of some of the Windmill blocks. This one turned out small for some reason. I'll probably end up cutting it down at some point and then using it.

On the bottom in the photo above are just a couple of the scrappy blocks I have going.

Since I'm sort of between projects at the moment I thought I'd try to put together a Priority Quilt for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. I've had this set of four Sunbonnet Sue blocks for a few years now. They were made by an elderly member of my quilt guild who has since passed away. I've never felt good about putting them in a quilt that will get used and laundered. I'm afraid they'll come apart under hard use.

But singly, in wall quilts, they could be charming.

I picked one, trimmed it up a bit, and added some additional color.

Now my dilemma is how to quilt it. I don't consider myself a hand quilter but I'm not sure machine quilting would be entirely appropriate. So it's sitting on my design wall until a good idea comes to me. In the meantime I think I'm going to either play in the scraps I received in a swap with V over at Bumble Beans or get out my stripes and dots and see what happens... Or I may end up just vegging out until tomorrow.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Leaving Hogwarts

I found the leftover scroll print from the back I put on my Flower Garden quilt and thought it would make perfect sashing for my Harry Potter blocks. I had enough to do the inner sashes...

But then I decided I really wanted the outer sashing or frame to be slightly wider. There wasn't quite enough of that lovely scroll to pull it off. Rats! I couldn't find anything in my stash that I felt would make an appropriate substitute either. After a fruitless trip to the store where I'd purchased the scroll print I remembered that I'd used a long strip of the backing to make a sleeve for the Flower Garden quilt when I was asked to exhibit it earlier this year.

There was just enough in that sleeve to allow me to make the wider frame around the blocks - woohoo! I wanted to put cornerstones in that frame and it's a good thing because otherwise I wouldn't have had enough of the scroll print. I wanted the cornerstones so I could include a couple more owls and two train patches for the Hogwarts Express. (I would have done more with the train if I'd had a more appropriate train print.)

I've known what I wanted to use for the final border almost since the beginning of this process. But before I put that on I felt it needed a transition fabric. This lovely red was ideal.

That inner frame (the scroll print) is 3" finished, and the red is 2" finished. I cut the outer border strips to finish at 4" but they looked too small. Fortunately I auditioned them before I actually sewed them on! And, fortunately, I had plenty of the border print. I cut the strips to finish at six inches and put them on. Ta daa:

I'm very happy with the way this turned out. In fact, I am so happy with it that I don't want to quilt it myself. First of all, I can't figure out how to do it in a way that would please my aesthetic sensibilities with the skills I currently possess. It could be tied but I don't want that for this quilt. My regular long-arm quilter is not in a position to help out this time around.

There's a sub-group in our local quilt guild that meets every other week to work on quilts for children in our Foster Care program. I called one of the members this morning to see about donating this top for them to quilt and then pass on to Foster Care. I haven't done one for them yet this year and it does seem kind of silly to always be donating out of state. So the top and a back and some binding will probably be delivered to them next Tuesday. The best part is that I found out that the donated quilts get hung in the Foster Care offices. When a child comes into the system they see the quilts and can pick one out for themselves. In my mind there's no better way to gift a quilt to a child than to let them pick the one they want on their own.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Four Houses of Hogwarts

At the end of the last post you saw how I laid out the focal blocks for my Harry Potter quilt. There were gaps that needed to be filled however. Hmm... what would be appropriate? Something that would add to the story line of the quilt top but not take attention completely away from the focal blocks...

Eventually I thought of the banners representing the four Houses of Hogwarts flapping in the breeze around the Quidditch field. Then I had to look up the colors (and found a wonderful website in the process). Now, what block would be best to use?

My first thought was something on the order of a Rail Fence.

This struck me as a little heavy and clunky, especially for something that's supposed to be waving in the wind. It was also more labor intensive than I really wanted.

The next block I tried was Gwen Marston's Windmill.

Much quicker to make and I like the look better. These are Ravenclaw's colors by the way, blue and bronze. Bronze was hard to come up with in fabric!

To fill in all the holes I had to make two blocks for each House. The first set of red and gold that I made for Gryffendor turned out looking more like red and brown (or bronze, like Ravenclaw!). It was a simple matter to make two new blocks with a lighter "gold."

Originally my intention was to just mash the blocks up against each other in the interest of speed of construction. (These quilts have to be in Michigan by the first weekend of December.) Once I had all the Windmill blocks made and in place, however, I realized that they needed sashing to separate them visually. That's the next step.

Sharp-eyed readers may notice that I changed the fabric framing up the central Harry Potter block. Before the completion of the top it will undergo one more change. You'll see that in the next post. :- )

News flash: I just found out that there's an exhibit of sets and costumes and props from the actual Harry Potter movies that will be opening tomorrow at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. Wouldn't I love to see that!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Visit to Hogwarts

Rather than baste and quilt "Child's Play" (see previous post) right away I wanted to get out some more remnants to see what else I could create. I found a print that was inspired by the Harry Potter stories. I also had a little bit of an official Harry Potter print. I fussy cut images from both prints and ended up with quite an assortment of shapes and sizes.

The bigger images fit nicely into a patch that will finish at eight inches so my goal was to build up the smaller images to that size.

My first inclination is always to design in a vertical format. As I built blocks and cut images I tried to arrange them vertically. It wasn't working very well.

So I tried a horizontal layout. All of a sudden things seemed to be falling into place much more easily!

If you look closely (double click on the picture) you'll see how I've built up the various images. You'll see that I've added Hedwig the owl and the golden snitch to the mix too. I am shooting for a finished quilt about 40 x 60" again but then I got to thinking that if there's a Harry Potter fan on the waiting end for this quilt it might be an older child who is also bigger. So we'll see how it grows. :- )

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Child's Play, Part Two

This is what I had when I got stalled on this quilt for a little girl.

Overnight my subconscious must have been working on the problem of what to do next because in the morning I thought of these blocks:

The 1930's reproduction prints in these blocks have just the right feeling of youth and playfulness. Those navy strips were giving the quilt a much more adult, serious aura and that's not what I wanted. I determined that the wide blue border on the left had to be cut down too, to keep it from overwhelming the quilt top. Once I did that it became obvious where the Shoo Fly blocks would go. To keep the juvenile quality to the quit I used the cloth doll print in place of the floral when I bordered the blocks.

It took me a while longer to realize that I also wanted the Windmill or Pinwheel blocks in the quilt. Finding the right thing to sash them with was another challenge. What I used is a small-medium scale leaf print with just the right shades of pink and blue. It looks better in person than it does in this photograph, trust me. After that was the issue of a bottom border to get the length I wanted. I felt more of the Shoo Fly or Windmill blocks would be too ordinary, too expected. So I got down my orphan block box to see what else there might be. I found baskets.

Eight inch baskets. What to do to fill out the row? I had ten inches overall to fill somehow. I considered five inch blocks, but then I wondered why I had to divide the space evenly. Why not shift the blocks a bit and have six inches between two and four inches between the other two? It would be a fairly simple matter to make a couple of Rail Fence units (or just strata if you like) to fit into those spots.

The hardest part was deciding on what prints to use in the units. Pretty quickly I realized I had just enough of the cloth dolls and the leaf print to use them again, and doing so provides continuity. It was the center strip that gave me fits. I tried a print with a white background and felt it stood out too much. I tried a yellow, with the same results. This pink pansy print seemed to do the trick.

Finally I needed 3" all the way around to bring the whole thing up to the 40" x 60" I was shooting for. Of all the fortuitous things, I had a companion print to the little navy blue floral that fit the bill. Same colors, same flowers, just in a larger scale - very appropriate for a quilt of this size.

Whew! It's done. And I found the cutest print on sale for the backing. I'll have to show that to you later though.

Now I'm off to build a quilt for a little boy using the same process. This is fun!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Child's Play, Part One

I mentioned that Margaret's Hope Chest is looking for children's quilts for their Wrapped in Hope project. That sent me to my novelty prints where I found this remnant of a doll house print. My first step was to add a couple of strips to bring it up to dimensions that would be easier to work with. I like to keep a six inch grid in mind when I build a quilt this way, just winging it with remnants and scraps and orphan blocks.

Boy, these pictures aren't as good as I thought they were. You should be able to click on them for larger views though.

Next I dug around some more, looking for other prints that would make sense with the doll house. I found doll house furniture and a print that could be dolls or little girls.

I found some cute vintage style toddlers who wanted to be included. And then cloth dolls ~ had to add them in!

To balance the navy blue background of the cloth doll print I used a small floral on the opposite sides.

I sort of got stuck at this point. I'm happy to report that it didn't last long. I'll show you how this little quilt top turned out in my next post. :- )

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's a New Day

I woke up feeling so much better this morning that I just couldn't let that gloomy last post stand. I did play in my bright scraps yesterday afternoon...

I'm sure that helped, but things are so much improved this morning that I think something else was at work. Maybe I wasn't fully recovered from the exposures Monday. Whatever. I feel good this morning and I'm going to use this energy to make the most of today.

For as much time as I spent at the sewing machine it doesn't feel like I have a lot to show for it. The top two blocks in the picture above will grow to 8.5", the one on the bottom will be 6.5" after I've added another strip or two.

I learned that Margaret's Hope Chest needs about 30 more child's quilts early in December for their Wrapped in Hope program. That got me thinking about some of my older juvenile and novelty prints. I hope to pull some of those out today to see what I can come up with.

The Creativity Challenge from A Creative Dreamer for the month of October is "Mail Art." I have this Priority Mail envelope all sealed up, ready to go, but it occurred to me this morning that I could use this opportunity to fulfill the challenge - early! Stay tuned ;- )

It's amazing what you learn when you read the fine print. Apparently I have sent out 500 posts from The Magpie's Nest.

I don't really find that all that hard to believe. What does surprise me a little is that y'all are still coming around to see what I'm doing!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blood and Bones

I feel like I've drunk from this cup again. Had to go visit the vampires yesterday for a blood draw. First, the gal did not do a good job. Second, she was wearing something completely overpowering, in spite of my mask. I doubt it was a perfume; it could have been her deordorant. The alcohol swab didn't help matters any either. Today I found out I have to go back in again for some kind of follow-up visit. I only just recovered from yesterday's exposure. :-P

I finally completed the top for my husbands' new quilt. The columns of pieced blocks were overwhelmed by the spatter paint print so I cut some extra sashing and made those two columns wider. It made all the difference.

I have it spread out on our double bed for its' photograph but it will only be a twin size quilt when it's finished. I still need to create a back for it. I think the more prudent action today would be to sew up some scraps or to find a way to work with some happy colors. I need to get out of this funk somehow.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Fiber Artists' Fantasy

So last night I was mulling over all the projects I've committed to doing and all the other ones I want to do sooner or later. Eventually I had this lovely vision of a large, light-filled, open space with a hard surface floor (in the vision it looked like hardwood). There was a giant cutting table in the middle of the room. Like maybe six feet by eight feet... minimum. Three sides of the room were ringed with sewing stations, each one set up with the fabrics and tools necessary for a particular project. Not just banquet tables but built in cabinets with storage drawers. There were stations for my beading and journaling too. I didn't see it but there must have been at least one ironing board in the room, an extra wide one, and a washer and dryer somewhere nearby.

All I had to do was walk in and decide which project I wanted to work on that day. I could go immediately to that sewing machine (or whatever), sit down, and begin working. {deep sigh}

Wouldn't that be heavenly?

Friday, October 8, 2010

But I Don't Want to Put My Toys Away!

I don't feel like I have much to share. I've been working on my Sketchbook Project but the pages I've been working on are not finished and I'm not willing to show them unfinished (still haven't figured out why). What I find interesting is how much time it takes to bring a page to completion. It's also been one of those up-and-down weeks in terms of my health. What I have accomplished is setting the pieced blocks for my husband's new quilt into two columns. Here's a partial shot of one of the columns:

Unfortunately, the Day of the Dead patches are hard to see in these photos. I have two blocks each of three vignettes but arranged them in different orders in the two columns.

The quilt will be about 84" long when it's done, that's why you can't see the bottom of my panels. I cut the whole cloth strips between the pieced columns to finish at 12". Now that I have the five strips up on the design wall I'm thinking I need to add a narrow strip of the black (a Moda marble) to either side of the pieced columns to give them a bit more breathing room. In order to do that I have to clear the cutting table of the Sketchbook mess first. And in order to do that I have to find someplace to put the mess. I've let things go in other rooms to the point that I'm running out of places to pile stuff. One of these days I'm going to have to break down and use my energy to tidy up rather than to play. :-P

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dog Mistress

I didn't intend it to be so long between posts but you know how it goes. Especially around here where my body can take offense at the slightest provocation. We're feeling better today though, and I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a new resident of the Magpie's Nest: Miss May Belle.

She has arrived from Piccalilli Patchwork via As you can see she came prepared with her shawl and apron and a tiny basket of May flowers (to tide us over until next spring you know). Under her blue calico dress she wears a petticoat of pure white. Her clothespin legs are modestly covered with painted bloomers, complete with painted lace edging.

She's even wearing a beaded necklace!

Miss May Belle only stands about 4.5" tall. That makes her the perfect size to be mistress of my herd of china dogs. They were delighted to have her take them out for a walk.

There has been no further progress on my husband's new quilt. I hope to get back to it today. He's really happy with what he's seen so far. :- )