Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dressed for Mad Men

The television show Mad Men has started up again after a 17 month break.  What is it about this show people find interesting?

The main character, Don Draper, is a real scoundrel.  He cheated on his wife (they’re now divorced), he’s lied about everything in his past, he treats women like dirt and to top it all off - he smokes – Yuck!  Yet, he has that certain something.  I suppose it’s a certain something that’s tolerable when you’re only watching from the comfort of your living room couch.  I know if a man like that was in my life, he wouldn’t be for long.

You know what I really like about the show?  The fashion.  There’s something really interesting about the garments women wore in the late 50’s early 60’s.  Women dressed.  They wore hats and gloves.  Everything coordinated.  They dressed when they went out to dinner on a date (you know, they wore clothes, not a dishtowel barely covering their butts that nowadays are suppose to pass as clothing...).  They dressed when they went to church.  They dressed when they had their girlfriends over for tea.  The bottom line is that they made an effort.  Something I think that’s sorely lacking now.  Hey, I’m guilty of this as well.  Sometimes just thinking about the effort it takes to pick the right outfit for something makes me want to crawl back into bed and forget about it.  We have become a society of ‘good enough’ people.  That’s a double edged sword I think.  Yes, it’s nice knowing that whatever I choose (in most cases...) from my closet to wear for an occasion will most likely be fine.  Because there are no real standards anymore left to gage what is or isn’t acceptable.  But on the flipside of this because there are no, or extremely lax, standards, there are no expectations and no consequences for a poor choice so why make an effort at all?  Perhaps I’m too old school.  My mother had expectations of the way I dressed.  There were plenty of times I was sent back to my room to change because I was told jeans are not appropriate for church, bare legs are not acceptable for a dress or skirt and tank tops are not appropriate – EVER.  A little old school goes a long way I think.

So, I’m thinking I might make an ‘ode to Mad Men’ couch throw using all the psycho 60s/70s style fabric I’ve been collecting for no particular reason other than I like the unusual prints.  That way the next  time I’m curled up on the couch watching Don Draper doing another woman wrong, I’ll be appropriately dressed for the occasion.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I'm a Modern Girl....

Last night I attended the inagural meeting of the Perth Modern Quilters.  There were six of us in attendance and we had a great time getting to know each other and making a connection.

This is what I love most about quilting.  Quilting all by itself is a productive and stimulating art form (yes, I'm saying art form because I'm really tired of the title 'craft') but when you gather more than one quilter in a room it becomes a social endeavor.  Not only then are quilters sharing their love and expertise with other like minded individuals in this time honored textile field, but they're becoming friends as well.  I know of no other artistic endeavor than can come close to the entertwining of two so important human desires - the need to create and the need to socialize. 

I love my quilting life.  Because of quilting I keep a connection of rich memories to my grandmother, who taught me to quilt, and to my father who introduced me to the wonderful world of textiles through his work.  And now through quilting I've created, and continue to create, a rich circle of friends who share my love of needles and threads and wine and laughter.

I wonder if quilting is to a woman what football is to the guys?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ray-di-ant - Desperate Housewives Quilt-a-Long

This is my block submission for the Desperate Housewives Quilt-a-Long.  I call it Ray-di-ant.

Most of my quilt history is in the traditional style.  So when I began designing a block for the Desperate Housewives quilt-a-long I wanted to achieve two things.  One, I wanted the block to be a challenge to what I've done before so I definitely wanted it to be modern in look and feel.  And two, I wanted to incorporate one of my favorite block types - a star.  I didn't want just a star though, I wanted one with a twist - something a little unusual.  Ray-di-ant is what I can up with.

This block was a challenge to my quilting skills as well because it's assembled as a foundation piece block.  I've only foundation pieced once before and that was a long time ago.  In quilting, as in many of life's endeavours, if you don't use a skill you lose it and I'd completely lost the knowledge on how to foundation piece.  Thank goodness for You Tube and my wonderful quilt resource library.  I knew all those book purchases would come in handy one day!

So here's my tutorial on how to make Ray-di-ant.  I'm not going to go into the process of foundation piecing because frankly, there are wonderful teachers out there through YouTube that can explain it much better than me.  I'll leave some things to the experts.

As this is constructed as a foundation pieced block, you can print this jpeg and size as needed.  Sorry, I don't know how to attach a PDF to this blog so the jpeg is the best I can do.  If you copy and save the above graphic you should be able to paste it to any word processing program to the size you need (for the Desperate Housewives Quilt-a-Long all the blocks are 8 inches finished, so you would want this to print as a 8 1/2 block).  I printed out the pattern using regular printer paper but you can use special foundation piecing paper if you prefer.  I found that since none of fabric pieces are that small, regular printer paper was easy to remove.

First, copy and print the pattern.

Next I would suggest pressing and starching all your fabric pieces.  The stiffer the better I found when foundation piecing.  To construct this block I used left over solids from other projects.  Scraps work great with foundation piecing because you don't have to be concerned about bias.  Just ensure your scrap pieces cover over the area you want to place it in with at least a 1/4 inch extension of fabric over the edges.

Refer to instructions on how to foundation piece.

Ensure your fabric completely covers the shape on your pattern.  Pin it in place before flipping it over to sew the seam.

Remember to sew from the RIGHT side of the pattern with your fabric on the WRONG side.  Your fabric should face down to the back side of the pattern so that when you fold the printed pattern back after  the seam is stitched, the correct side of the fabric is facing out.

Continue to sew fabric to your foundation until you've covered all the shapes on your block except the modified circle.
Your block should look like this  when all the pieces are added without the circle.

Using the printed pattern as a guide, trace the modified circle onto fabric adding a 1/4 inch seam allowance around the edge.  I just guest-i-mated this.

Clip and turn under your seam allowance.  I keep it in place using just a dab of water soluble glue.  Press.

Once your seams are pressed under your circle should look like this.  One side is straight as it lays along the edge of your finished block. 

Place your circle on top of your completed pieces.  You can now hand stitch it down using any appliqué method or you could even fabric fuse it in place.  Whatever you prefer.  You can see in the photo above that I hadn't trimmed the edge yet.  You should do this before sewing your circle on.

And here is the finished block
There are lots of variations you can achieve with this block.  Here it is in shades of blue only on a neutral background.  When places in the quilt I shifted the star so it wasn't uniform throughout.

And here it is with a multicoloured background and multicoloured beams.
 I hope you enjoy making Ray-di-ant.  I'm looking forward to seeing your completed blocks.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Always Learning

This is only one shelve of one bookcase I have for my quilt library

I'm always learning.  

Though I've been quilting for years, yonks, eons, I'm always at one time or another in my quilting life - learning.  Nothing brings this realisation home to me as quickly as when I'm challenged to walk on 'the road less travelled' in quilting techniques.

Just recently I've been planning and executing appliqué projects.  Something I wouldn't have considered in my realm of abilities only a few short years ago.  But now having tackled at least the rudimentary aspects of this technique, I feel ok about going further and learning more.  I'm hopeful that one day I'll actually take on the ultimate challenge of a Baltimore Album quilt.  But that's still in the future.

Right now I'm in learning mode once again.  I've volunteered to submit a block to the Desperate Housewives quilt-a-long.  The block has to be an original design with tutorial.  I thought, I can do that.  And I have.  I've created a really cool block using that fantastic quilters tool Electric Quilt.  Though I could have designed the same block, and sort of did initially, on just a piece of draft paper, EQ makes the process soooo much easier and quicker.  So now that I've got the block designed, I'm met with the issue of what technique is best to produce it. 

I've decided that foundation piecing would give me the most accurate point for a star style block.  And as it's a modern interpretation of a star, it's a bit wonky and asymmetrical in it's style.  It could be pieced but foundation piecing will be more accurate and less confusing since the block construction is non-traditional.  So here's the rub.  I'm very inexperienced at foundation piecing.  Years ago I did a small project and it turned out well but since than I've haven't done any others using this technique.  In quilting as in a lot of things in life it's a 'use it or lose it' proposition.  And I think I've lost it.

So what is a quilter to do when faced with this dilemma?  Go to her extensive quilt book library of course.  And when I say extensive, I mean extensive.  When we recently moved to our new house both my husband and step-son were amazed (and frustrated) at the amount of books I had to pack and move - well, they had to move.  And once the boxes got here to my new sewing room I had the problem of finding a place for them as my new sewing space is smaller then my old one and I have less bookshelves to put them on.  So, they've ended up spread around the house a bit.  I'm hopeful that one day I'll get a few more book shelves that I can dedicate exclusively to my quilting library but right now whenever I need a book I have to go on the hunt.

Thank GOODNESS for experts!

I knew I had a few really good reference books on foundation piecing - I just had to find them.  Which I did after about an hour of looking and after consuming much coffee to keep my head from exploding from frustration.  So, after I send off this post to my blog, I'm going to settle down with yet another cup of coffee and troll through these books to refresh my brain on the correct technique for foundation piecing.  That way I'll make the experimental block, take photos in the process and write instructions with more knowledge under my belt.   Perhaps referring to expert advice first instead of just 'winging it' is going to be beneficial to me not only in producing the finished square and putting together instructions, but also to the person who's going to attempt making the block who may be like me - not experienced as a foundation piecer.  

Stay tuned for my block.  I should have it posted within the week.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Where Did the Mojo Go?

I’m at a frustrating point in my quilting life right now.  It’s not that I don’t have PLENTY of projects that require my attention – I certainly do.  But every single one of them are at the point of needing more fabric cut to continue.  And you know, lately I’m just not in the mood to cut fabric.  Usually when I reach this point of being lazy and not moving forward with work I always have a hand sewing project on the ready to pick up until I get my mojo back.  But even my hand sewing projects need bits cut. 

 Aaaaauuugggg!  I just have to get my head in the right place to do some measuring and cutting.

So I’m wondering – do any of you hit that brick wall of motivation once in a while?  And if you do, what do you do to get yourself out of it? 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Metropolitan Night

Metropolitan Night
Well, I finally finished my hand stitched work of art that I'm calling Metropolitan Night.  Sounds very swank, doesn't it!

I'm really pleased with how it turned out.  I used nothing but solids in the 'buildings'  in cotton but there are also bands of black velvet, grey suede, and red and blue silk mixed in as well for added texture.  It took me six months from start to finish which for a hand piece is pretty quick.  As you can see from the photograph its big - or rather long.  You can gage it's dimensions from the doorway to the left of the piece.  I thought for it to have real visual impact and give the impression of a city skyline with tall buildings, it needed to have height so it's pretty much floor to ceiling.  Lets just say you can't miss seeing it.

Its pieced entirely by hand and machine quilted with invisible tread.  I quilted the sky with swirls but you can't really see it in the photograph.  The blue 'sky' fabric is the only fabric in the piece not a solid.  It's a mottled dark blue with a hint of black.  I tried five different solids as the sky first but none of them worked.  This piece I had in my stash and was perfect for the effect I was trying to achieve.

It's now in a place of prominence at the end of my entry hallway.

I had a lot of fun with this piece and I'm enjoying my foray into making quilt works for their artistic value as opposed to pure utilitarian use.  I'll never stop making bed quilts of course, but it's nice to stretch my creative wings a bit.