Thursday, November 29, 2007

Close Encounters with UFO's

No, I wasn't abducted by aliens!
I have just been away teaching and busy with holiday happenings.
But I am still working away at my huge stash of UFO's...those UnFinished
Objects. How they seem to multiply!

I got thinking about other reasons these things are called UFO's. The one I am working on today is a great qualifier: it seems to have come from Light Years away!
The fabrics are are quite old now (yet not nearly "vintage"!) and have a grey shading to them. At some point I used this quilted wall hanging for a demo, as it had some of the edges trimmed and binding applied, but not finished, on only one side!
Oh, yes, I remember that binding. But I'll be darned if I can find where the rest of it might be. Not even in my big plastic box of bindings that I have thoughtfully made and are awaiting the day their own UFO's come home to land.

This is, by the way, a piece that has four snowmen with top hats and scarves (a Debbie Mumm design, if I recall...yes, this thing is very old!). Now it has a new black & white binding....too bad it does not match the black & white border it was supposed to! Well, I guess UFO's are full of surprises!

All it needs now are some black button eyes. Then it can find a home in one of the many boxes I'll be mailing across the country soon.
That's another reason why they're called UFO's...they will travel far, far away to shock and amaze people who are not expecting them, and will probably leave those people speechless!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Quilt Mobile: On the Road Again!

The Quilt Mobile is ready to roll!

That's my mini-van. It's been the Quilt Mobile now for many fact, this is the third vehicle I've had by that name.
The first was a light blue Dodge Caravan. Then there was the dark blue Nissan Quest. Now it's a dark grey Toyota Sienna (not much brand loyalty, eh?).
When it was time to trade in the Quest, I debated about my choice. I don't need the "Mom Mobile" aspect of a mini-van now, so maybe it was time for a car?
But I like the idea that I can load up to seven other quilters and take off on adventures, so another van it had to be.

Then there times like this, when I am getting ready to go give a lecture and teach. It sure is good to have enough space for the huge design walls and over-flowing scrap basket (the main prop for my "Taming the Scrap Basket" lecture, although it has never been tamed!), not to mention the tote bags of supplies and suitcase.

But time is wastin' and I must be ready to go early tomorrow....stay tuned for adventures away from home!

Friday, November 9, 2007

World's Greatest Project!

Yes! I have the World's Greatest Project!

But you're going to have to figure out what it is.
That is, you're going to have to figure out what your greatest project is.

I've been thinking about what makes a great project and why people keep a trend going. What is it that everyone is looking for?

I came up with three qualities for a Great Project:
  1. Most materials are something you have on hand.
  2. It won't take a very long time to complete.
  3. It has lots of creative potential.

We all enjoy a reason to go shopping, but if you have anything remotely resembling a stash, then you like to make something using that fabric. It's much easier to buy special notions, patterns and supplies if you have the fabric already(or some to start with!).

There's nothing like an heirloom know, the one with thousands of pieces, an applique border and all hand quilted every 1/4".
There's nothing like it in my house!
We all want to do a project that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. The heirloom quilt is a wonderful thing to do, but it won't be under the Christmas tree until the next decade!

My favorite projects are simple ones. They are basic and uncomplicated. Once I can see how the parts go together, then my mind starts thinking about "What if...?" That's when the fun really begins and the creativity starts to flow!
I am very good at taking a simple project and making it unbelievably complex...but at least they're my own complications, not somebody's poor design or dense instructions.
(and a small tip-o-the-hat here for all the great quilt designers who do have their patterns tested by real people before going to print!)

Purses and aprons seem to be the going trend right now and I believe that's because they tend to meet the three qualities I mentioned. Easy block patterns, "jelly roll" strips and small quilts are also popular for the same reasons.

My most recent World's Greatest Project was a nine-patch quilt with an unusual setting.
What is yours?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Who needs a quilt?

If we each made a quilt everyday for the rest of our lives, we still could not meet the need that exists for charity quilts.
Almost every guild I've ever heard of has at least one charity project, and many independent quilters give away some potion of their work. Maybe quilters just happen to be people who think of others, even if that only includes people in their own families.

The range of projects is amazing. My guild makes quilts for children who are entering the foster care system (and placemats for Meals On Wheels and several other groups who ask for quilts). It seems like everyone likes making the smaller size kids quilts.
One member has just decided to severely reduce her stash, and asked that we use her donations to make some larger size quilts. So we're going to work on some for the older teens who are leaving the foster care system and have to live on their own.

The Veterans Hospital not far from here always needs do many medical places. Remember the last time you had to wait for a doctor, wearing just a paper gown? Or maybe you've been involved with chemo-therapy. They keep those clinics really cold! A lap quilt can mean a lot to somebody, both physically and mentally.

Other great ideas I've heard are making doll quilts to go with beds that a local woodworkers group makes to give during the holidays, or making small quilts for the policemen to carry along for a person in need.

I remember talking with a lady who worked at a nursing home. She was lamenting that they had a closet full of knitted afghans! The problem was the laundry couldn't handle those, so the clients never got them...but a lot of effort had gone into the mading. It's always a good idea to ask before you start a charity project, and be sure what you can give will be what is needed & used. Just because another same-type organization loved getting quilts does not mean the place you might think of can use them.

One of the bravest projects my guild did one year was make utility style quilts to be given to homeless people. We gave them to a shelter, to be given to the people who were turned away for lack of room. Who knows how long those quilts lasted out on the streets...maybe a week, a month...maybe not that long. But they did give comfort for at least one night.

People in the guild are always begging for machine quilting classes, and the truth is that you just have to practise. The best thing to practice on is a charity quilt. It will give you the experience you need with handling a bulky item through your home sewing machine. And in the process you'll be creating something of use.

Any time I can find a "win- win" situation I am all for it!
Who needs a quilt?
Everybody does...for all kinds of reasons!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Using It All Up

I have staggered from my studio, covered in tiny little threads (or badges of honor, as I like to call them). The blue & white Nine-patch top is finished!

It has strange scrappy sashings. I cut strips from the collection of blue fabrics I found with the blocks. The strips between the blocks are all the same size as the blocks, but I did the sashing between the rows with odd lengths that were intended not to be the same size as the blocks!

Well, that was an interesting experiment...I'll have to look at it later and see if I like it!

I sewed the long strips of blue squares into 3 rows to make borders all around, and ended up with a top about 55" x 58".
This is why, when asked how big my quilt is going to be, I answer, "As big as it is when I'm through working on it."

By the way, I did locate the original blue & white top made from the same collection of blocks. It has a blue & white striped sashing, and the same triple-strip squares border as I made for the top today.

There were a few strips of squares left over, so I put them together to end up with 4 nine-patch blocks (all dark & medium, no real pattern) and then sewed those togther in a strip.

My goal: to use up every bit of this stuff!

I looked at the remaining blue fabric and found a piece big enough to fill in for the rest of a pillowcase hem, but no piece big enough for the bag part.

That had me rooting in the stash where I found a fabulous sateen type yard that has dark & medium blue little cresent moons! What could be better?

Now I have my own beautiful new pillowcase.
Best of all, I have entirely used up or scrap-bagged everything that had been hiding in a tote for several years!

I think I am finally getting somewhere.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Lots o' Little Nine-patches

I have belonged to a quilt guild for many years...almost since it started in 1989. I have even served two different 2-year terms as president.
In this guild, at the end of the first year the president receives blocks from the members. If you go for the second year, the gift is a quilt top (some presidents have even received finished quilts).

One time I requested blue & white nine-patch blocks because I thought it would be fun to have loads of blocks to play with. And I knew everyone would make a lot of blocks, because the pattern was easy. Somewhere in my stack of un-quilted tops is the lovely peice I made with many of the blocks.

In my process of re-discovering the floor in my studio, I found the remaining 52 blocks. I think I have also found the reaon why they weren't used.
These blocks ranged from the requested 6.5" (unfinished) size to less than 6"! Some of the edges seem to have been inspired by the Cubist school of art. One even had a pinked edge. Two or three were also questionable about being blue.
This is one thing I know from guild membership: your personal projects bear no relationship to Group Projects!

Group Projects (including large batches of blocks made by a variety of people) are an entirely different animal. They almost always involve "somebody" doing a major amount of work to bring all the items to a similar, workable size!
Since these blocks varied by less than one inch, I decided to trim them all down to 5.5". This made them the same size and balanced, though slightly off of a traditional 9-patch (I doubt anyone will notice).

Now it's just some sashing and borders and I'll have another top to add to my stack! Appearently when I made the original top, I made long strips of scrappy blue squares (now I really need to find that top because I can't remember what I designed!). There are loads of those left, that's got to go in the border, since I'm trying to use up all this stuff! I would have used those for sashing, but after trimming down the blocks the squares will not match.
Design tip: if things don't match, they have to be really different. Close just looks bad!

Now I actually have enough floor space exposed to make it worthwhile to get the broom out and sweep up!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Getting Off the Floor

Just in case you have never heard Sunnie's Rule of Storage, here it is:
"Any horizontal surface becomes a storage area, until gravity takes over."
This includes the floor.

My studio is small, maybe 10' x10' in a strange old-house sort of configuration. It has a floor made from heart-of-pine, but you wouldn't notice, because the entire floor has become a storage area (where it isn't covered by furnture). It's a one-woman, one-cat operation, and right now the cat doesn't have enough room!

My goal until the end of the year is to try and uncover some of the floor. I guess that means I am concentrating on UFO's that have landed! So far, so good... I have emptied tote bags that held old class projects (finished the items and returned the remaining fabric to the shelf or box where it belongs) and managed to corral fabric back into containers.
This morning I took all the pieces from a Diane Hire class (3 years ago!) and finished a small wall hanging. Then I grabbed a red tote bag from under the ironing board and discovered a collection of blue & white nine-patches. Not only have I got a start on another new quilt, but a sizable area of floor was exposed!
I feel like I am really accomplishing something!

Please don't ask about the batik stack, is not in an actual walk-way, and will be saved for later!

Now, if I could only figure out getting digital pictures posted here, you could really appreciate my work!