Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Migraine at the Gates

Yes. It's been a while since I've posted! I have ideas and no time, and that's the same reason I'm not making more quilts, too... huh.

Anyway, finished this one at Thanksgiving:

those eyes are my first non-fusible machine applique (um, not counting bias applique...)

I call it "The Migraine at the Gates" and it's a rail fence quilt. And thanks to this awesome fabric I got from the awesome Pink Castle Fabrics, it really is a fence.

And I used up practically all of that bamboo fabric left over from my Japanesque pillows.

and the quilting is a diagonal grid to suggest another layer of fencing.

and the backing is this navy floral fabric from the 80s

And that's all I have to say about that. I hope to have the current project finished soon, but Christmas crafting, surface design, and rediscovering my loom have kept me from it, so we'll see. I at least want to have it done by the time school starts up again after break... but, who knows, we'll see?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rag Rug!

here it is in place on the floor...
So, I finished this at a meeting on Thursday night. At last! I guess I thought it would take 5 months, and it only took around 2 1/2. I give the credit to trying to get one color sewn together ready for the loom every night. Not that it happened every night, but trying to live up to the goal went a long way towards getting it met...

I got scraps from Brenda at Pink Castle Fabrics (and if you want some, too, just ask her! She has claimed to have boxes of them) and the loom I used is one from Craftsanity. I used the nine peg coaster loom. I sorted the scraps by color before starting, because I wanted discreet blocks of color, but as I ran out of fabric, there started to be blocks of two or more colors.

obligatory close up image

And doesn't it look amazing! I was working on it, as I said, in meetings and at Fiber Expo at the Black Sheep booth, and I always get compliments and questions. The main question is how much fabric do you need to make a square? And the answer is, that even after making 40 of them, I have no idea.

The weaving was fairly straightforward, it's the transforming 18" strips of fabric into lengths long enough to weave on the loom that was the hard bit (I used the sewing machine). But at least it saved me from the horror of cutting apart my stash for rugs. *shudders*

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Leftover Moon

So, last year, about this time, I made a few of these:

grumpy moon wreath!

Which left me with lots of leftovers:
so many moons, so little time

So, recently, I took a few of the leftovers and some black and white fabric (which I also have tons of!) and put this together:

starry night, foggy night, snowy night, moon.

It has a double binding, which is a bit painful*, though not too terrible on a small piece like this (22x17"). It's a trick I learned at one of my guilds! So, the double binding:

Cut a strip of fabric 1" wide, fold in half, iron.
Line up the raw edges with the raw edges of your quilt, sew on with a 1/8" seam. Do not miter your corners, or you will regret it when you go to miter the next set.
Apply your binding the usual way.

*The only thing that makes it painful is having to go round 3 times, rather than 2. Otherwise, it's really quite simple.

And if anyone is interested in a moon wreath, I have some left, though not the turquoise one in this picture; I have purple or dark blue. Let me know, and I'll set you up an etsy listing. $35 + shipping.

Or you can make your own! Here is a tutorial I wrote up on Craftster.org.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Spoonflower samples have landed!

Okay, so, making fabric with Spoonflower is something I've meant to do for a long time. A number of days ago, I finally did. I made three fabrics, boats, soldiers and soldier with stripes; and ordered up the 8 inch samples.

and here they are!

It is a bit hard to explain them, so maybe I won't. Well, quickly, it's about Dunkirk, and the evacuation, and the soldiers on the beach and the armada of little ships, and I want to put it together as ocean waves.

And I put together one block with my sample, but I've run out of soldiers.

and here is that. I may have messed up the seam allowances on the center square, but, anyway.

And anyway, they are too large, and I find I loath the far left guy. So I will be cutting my army of nine down to eight and shrink them. This will no doubt call for another round of samples... but I have some other ideas.

At least, I love the little ships. They are extremely and perfectly tiny. And if you want to buy them for yourself, I opened them up for public purchase (no pressure!). The soldiers, not so much.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stash-plosion! And what to do about it.

so, maybe I have a problem

What happened was this - I posted this picture to facebook and twitter:

what? I'm just quilting here.
And on each, I got comments about the strange mass of fabric above my chair.

I thought, well, maybe there is something to it. And yes, it is a horrible mess.

What happened, though, is this. Everyone is having a sale. All August has been sale after sale after sale. First, a sort of local fabric store was selling off their fabric for 40%-50% (I went twice).  Then the excellent Pink Castle Fabrics had a blow out sale to make room for new stock, and I bought fabric, then I happened on this... And bought more fabric.

So, I have been thinking, as I am quilting, as I am deciding what I am going to buy for my next quilt, and finding things I can't resist. Can I put that in quotes? Things that I "can't" resist. That I don't want to talk myself out of?

Well, it calls for a system. A system full of exceptions that can be exploited when the need is great. I do not want to have a stash that is only full of the remnants of quilts past. I enjoy the serendipity of finding something perfect and forgotten, and also, you know, you can never find what you are looking for when you are looking for it!

Or is that rationalization? Maybe, maybe.  As much as I would like to subscribe to the buy whatever you love philosophy, it makes me unhappy to spend all that money... So, where were we?

Right, a system! Here's my plan:

Basically, for every quilt I complete, I get a $1 allowance/ square foot. An allowance to spend on stash builders and other fabrics I want but can see no immediate use for.

But, importantly, threads and fabrics required for quilts I am actively working on are exempt, because to not do so would be shooting oneself in the foot. My second exemption is for fabric for backs of quilts when it is $6/yard or under, because, seriously! a good backing for a great price is too much to pass up.

Of course, this may just lead to my increasing the number of quilts I am actively working on (currently, I have at least 3, maybe 4?) But, well, why not?

As for the current stash, I went to Ikea and picked up this:
"from the top - sky fabrics, classic florals, black and white, stripes, solids, and lastly, Christmas
Well, it might work.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Finally! Pirate quilt!

It was finished ages ago! Seemingly. At least... 3 weeks ago? But I have been enjoying my new sewing machine too much to post. (Actually, I have only had the machine for two days, and that is a spurious excuse. But hey! new sewing machine!)

once again, I photographed it weird, but it is a rectangle in real life

There is a lot going on, so bear with me! This is for my elder child, who is into pirates. The sails we painted together (I did the purple one, she did the green and black. This was an attempt to sun print, it didn't work that well, but if you look closely, you can see the tiny clothespin shadows). The screenprint of the island is made from one of her drawings. The sun, you have seen before. The ship is many thin strips of fabric and ribbon overlapped to form a ship (it is built on a base of muslin). The flag is batik! (I made 5, and this was the only good one; on the rest the wax overtook the design). The border is a commercial red star fabric (stars are the theme!) and some black fabric I hand dyed.  The moon is from my best thrift store find of all time, Star Trek fabric. (She does not know the sacrifices I make for her!)

The border, and the ocean, are Seminole patchwork designs. Which is a sort of stripe piecing. It is amazing, although, I have to admit, I do not like sewing long strips of fabric together. (again, the sacrifices!)

pirates! castaways!

If I were to do it again, I would... run the sky from light to dark so they were not heading into a storm. Also, that would solve the issue of the sun facing the wrong way, and the ship appearing to abandon the people on the island. Which is something that concerns my daughter, too. Although, that would lead to a new problem, when the black flag would be against a black sky.

Also, I would not make it so large! That crazy quilt sky almost drove *me* crazy...

Monday, July 23, 2012

a quick, wordy, papermaking tutorial

I wrote it up as a page on my website, because the url would be easiest to tell people at Maker Faire, where I will be demonstrating this exact thing this weekend out in the heat!

So, here's link: http://blotchandthrum.com/paper.htm

And maybe someday I will do a pdf with pictures, but it is not this day...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Batik post mortem

I just washed it on Tuesday morning, to take pictures. Sadly, no good one of the whole piece! But here's a taste:

The horse turned out okay...

So, a while back I had an idea for a batik piece based on a Tartar folktale about a witch/bloodthirsty water spirit (who does ride a horse...).  I have done batik before... my birds, for instance, are a bastardized version of it, but I was thinking a real, honest, no ink, just wax and dye project. Then I was reading a book that said, you can only dye things 4-5 times... and asking around, people seem to agree, with the caveat that if you dye very light colors to start with, you can squeeze in a larger number of shades.

And I wanted both orange (for foxes!) and blue (for water!)! which can't co-exist, in a sequential order (that is, you can dye one, and wax it, but if you dye the other, everything turns brown, so nothing is orange, or blue or which ever the second color was). so, sadness.

Then I bought fabric paints, and figured I would cheat. Deciding to paint in the orange first thing, then wax it along with the white, and then four colors (green, blue, grey, and black) I was all set, except for one thing.

The wax. I use soy wax, entirely because it is easy to clean up. You can wash it out of textiles with hot water and soap, unlike, say, every other kind of wax. But unlike every other kind of wax, it is soft, and prone to leach out of fabric, a point brought up to me by the one person who I could find to ask about this: Margarita of Margas Crafts (and go look at her blog!) who also uses soy wax.

I have done batik style dyeing, in multiple baths, by piling on lots and lots of wax. But while she thought that the wax probably wouldn't last through the dyeing, I thought there was maybe a chance.

Well, she was right... It does not work well. However I think it failed in an instructive and interesting manner. The wax, even if not thick or applied to both sides, will survive one dye bath:

skulls dyed once
bones, painted in wax, one side of the cloth only, then dyed in one dye bath (medium gray)

But the wax degrades over time or exposure to water or both, so, by the fourth dye bath, which was black, everything that was supposed to be white was mostly grey:

foxes and bones
four dye baths later - for both the red fox and bones

And patching it before every dye bath does not work either! (which, had I remembered! I'd already been taught. It's a trick for adding texture, to let the wax cool and then add more next to it, it doesn't join, so there is a hairline crack for the dye to seep into.)

But I think I can use this information to my advantage and I am not discouraged, although I will chose my next subject with care and not have so much fiddly detail... I just can't expect it to be the sort of wax it is not.

And actually, the unpredictable breaking, cracking and wearing out of the wax (what 'proper' batik wax would avoid or at least decrease) is what I like about soy wax (that, and the easy clean up) although it destroyed this project... (but it wasn't the only issue, my colors also were poorly chosen or executed. green was green, but blue on top of that was also green, and grey on top of that was also green...)

But let me show you what I love:

the hand
the hand! I finally did it right, and left space for the dye to creep in!

It is funny, because had this worked, I think I would have gotten it batik out of my system and moved on to something else, but as it is, I am inspired to keep trying. But something simpler! With lighter colors!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Another month, another quilt

I am somewhat ashamed of my lack of updates, but I feel somewhat like I've been running flat out... anyway, enough excuses, and on to the quilt!

sea turtle quilt, back
wall hanging for a green room

This is for my younger daughter's room. She had picked out the sea turtle fabric, and I had just had one technique for sewing curves for quilts explained to me. One brief sketching session later, I was off and running.

The moon is a screen print on top of a commercial print, a leftover from another project.  There are also a few hand dyed fabrics, most notably the top left corner of the vignette (I don't know what you call it, the main part of the quilt, but not including the border?)

I tried a solid lime green border, and it was a no-go. So I went with scrappy in different colors, from darkest to lightest. The rick-rack came from Etsy, after a trip to the local fabric store yielded no lime green only something called "leaf green."

sea turtle quilt, back
and the back, which shows the texture of the quilting better.

The sky and farthest reaches of the border were free motion quilted using a darning foot (and the parts where the thread tangled up are where I forgot to put that foot down!). The skinnier segments of the border were quilted in the ditch with a walking foot. The hill was quilted with embroidery floss by hand in little Vs. The binding is another attempt at doing an all machine binding, but I am still not entirely pleased with the results...that remains an area for improvement.

Of course, making a quilt for one child requires a quilt for the other. And that is not yet done.  I did show it to her today, and her response was that I needed to hurry up and finish it, so that's positive, though, I can't, as I am dyeing some fabric for the border, and the rest I ordered, and has not yet arrived.

But I can show you a preview of one piece of hand stamped and painted fabric that's used in it:

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="sun fabric!"]sun fabric[/caption]

I forgot until I was a bit into the carving of the stamp that the sun would, of course, when printed, be facing the other way! And yet I kept on, so it faces the wrong way... though, that doesn't seem to be a problem until you see the quilt. Also, had a bit of a problem inking it, but I still like the look, anyway, I only needed one good one.

I've just obtained a few transparent Setacolor paints, which I used here, and have been having an exciting time playing with them for a week or so, doing some sun painting as well as stamping and painting.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Newest Quilt

And yet, as I say that, I finished it over a week ago (two weeks? three weeks?) and am actually quilting another as we speak (well, alright, I'm typing, but you know)... and doing the screen prints for a third and dyeing fabric for a fourth.


squares quilt
semi-crazy squares in salmon and various shades of blue

It's cute, but tame (for me); at least according to one friend of mine! And some of it is hand-dyed, too, which is good as I will soon be overrun with hand-dyed fabrics.  I recently ordered 20 yards of undyed fabric, and already at about 5 yards in I am drowning in the stuff!

Although, that in itself is awesome and a problem I am happy to have.

Monday, April 23, 2012

One failed experiment

I dyed a number of shirts around Christmas, sadly too late to go into Christmas shows, but I've dug them out tonight because I have a spring show, the only one I am doing this year, in about two weeks (less!).

Seven of them I have passed as sale ready, five need more work and one was disqualified for the print being wildly off center.

And then there is this one:

spotted shirt
and... not quite.

I think it is a great idea, and yet a poor design. Pink and blue make purple, of course, and so it was bound and dyed in one color, then rebound and dyed in the other - and the white spaces became (pink) and the bound spaces remained (blue) while the rest of the shirt became purple.

But it just sits there and looks... chaotic. And not in a cool way. And now I shall spend a few minutes puzzling over whether there is a way to employ this simple technique that would look good, or if it will remain an unmarketable curiosity.

In the meantime, this particular shirt goes into the pile for gifting to pregnant friends...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Yarns for February and March

In the annual tradition of breaking one's New Year's Resolutions, I've sort of given up on spinning. I am having some stress issues with my hands that make spinning and knitting untenable at this time.

However, I did manage to spin some yarns in February and March that I can show off:

pink yarn
can't wait to knit this up, when I can knit again... :/

Half of this is a roving purchased from my friend Riin at Happy Fuzzy Yarn. The straight up pink ply is something I carded on my drum carder.

superwash sock yarn
sock yarn! superwash and nylon blend

I bought this superwash natural colored merino... well, it's not exactly roving, but somewhat prepped... back at Greencastle's Fiber Event years back. (When I lived in Illinois; as Greencastle is now a bit far for a day trip.)

I carded it on my drum carder, blended with nylon that was dyed orange or gold or yellow. It was pulled out into a sort of roving and spun fine. The second ply is unblended merino. It should show subtle striping when knit up.

blue yarn
spun from lincoln locks and silk hankies

The locks I purchased at a recent Spinner's Flock meeting, there are two colors - turquoise and a teal. They were roughly combed with, uh, combs, to open and blend them, pulled out into a sort of roving-esque preparation and then I attempted to corespin onto a very thin, light green commercial silk yarn (to varying degrees of success - there is more of that visible than there should be). That was plied with a teal silk ply made from hankies I dyed years ago.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

folktale art quilt, finished!

tomtittot art quilt
It turned out a bit different than I had thought, but I'm pretty pleased.

The only problem I had was one I already had anticipated - with the thickness of the figures. I am working on alternate methods of assembling figures, though in my next quilts...

Also, I think there is too much blank space. But it does look like the plan. I'm just not sure it was a great plan in retrospect.

It's about 18 inches high, and 25 inches wide.

And here's the back.

quilt back
a bit out of focus!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bird Quilt!

Alright, the last time we saw the birds, they were done being dyed.

I picked out some fabrics and used the birds most complimentary to those colors. I didn't do a whole lot of planning, and if I did it over, it would have been a bit different (of course) but I'm happy with it.

Although I did not have enough of that border fabric to go around, hence the odd corner.

I've been reading Sew Wild which is very helpful for the hesitant machine quilter, and I just tried to relax and quilt, and it went pretty well. I only ripped up one or two bits.

the bird quilt!
at last complete!

I thought a scrap binding would look neat (and it does!) but my god, it was a ton of work... I am not used to working on the bias.

the back of the quilt
obligatory shot of the back of the quilt

I've hung it over my loom. Sadly, I can't do much more at the moment, I took my machine back in for service due to tension issues.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A long delayed January post

yarn the second
Superwash merino and nylon - also spun from batts I made. About 4 oz... fingerling weight.

yarn the first
Spun on the drop spindle from two carded batts, mostly teal, pink and grey, let's just call it "wool". The second ply is this commercial silk I bought. The first thing I've plied with something I didn't spin myself. It's fingerling weight, of course.

Well, my resolution was to spin two yarns a month, and I did finish January on time, I just never got around to posting it!

And speaking of fingerling weight, not sure I will finish the two yarns for February in February, because I am almost done with one ply each! (one on the drop spindle, one on the wheel... which seems to be the way I am working these days.)

But really, I am currently also interested in sewing, and I don't have a lot of time now to split between two hobbies! (Let alone five!)

Mostly - I failed to mention this before, but I have been employed full time for the last month, and you may have noticed the corresponding drop off in blog post volume. However, I am going to try to be more on top of this, especially since the bird quilt is almost done and I will need to show it off!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sewing room!

So, I've been working for three weeks on redoing the sewing room, something that has been on my to do list since at least January of last year!

And now I'm pretty much done, apart from the ironing board and purchasing a new table.

sewing room from door
The view from the door. This is where I want a table for the machines.
To your left is the fabric shelves and further to the left is a closet with more fabric storage. I had a picture, but it's not great. It's a closet.

To the right:

ironing and cutting stations
Once the machines are moved, this desk will be for cutting.
The ironing station will have a top that is a piece of plywood covered by cotton and felt and canvas, to make a 2 foot by 3.5 foot ironing board. The shelf is iron storage.
I'm pleased with the project so far, especially because I've been able to collect sewing supplies from all over into this tiny room, instead of having them strewn about the house. I used to just sew in here and do the ironing and cutting on the other side of the basement.

Frankly, it would be more impressive had you seen what it looked like before... It was cream of mushroom soup color, and with teal carpet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rainbow quilt

So, I had an idea about log cabin piecing using rainbow colors in rainbow order. And I was reading a quilting book about wonky cutting - where you sew your pieces together, press, put them on the cutting mat, then turn them a bit, and cut them smaller. So, two ideas combined into a wonky log cabin rainbow quilt.

rainbow quilt
the quilt is actually a rectangle! It's just been photographed strangely.

I started with 6 fat quarters, one each in (mostly) red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Then they were cut into strips of various sizes - from 1.25 inches up to 3.5 inches. (And I wrote that down on a piece of paper I have subsequently lost!)

Anyway, I put the three largest strips aside for the first two rounds, and put all the rest in a bowl, and picked them out randomly. Each color was the base color for two squares; one working in the red to orange to yellow direction, and one in the purple to blue to green direction. If that makes sense?

example square
an example square - yellow is the first color.
Every time the sixth color was put on, they were recut on some angle - except the last go around, where I had to cheat a bit to make the blocks all the same size. Mostly because I ran out of green and purple (because they weren't actually full fat quarters; I'd already used some pieces of them for other things), I ended up fleshing out many of them with extra orange - the fabric I had the most of.


Even so the blocks weren't big enough to make a baby quilt themselves, so I used sashes to make it crib sized.

and the back
and the back... monkeys!

It was quilted in the ditch with my new walking foot. Pretty happy with that. I may even do another. (I know I swore I'd never quilt again before, but... I'm interested now!)

Since I finished this, I saw a book with a five pointed log cabin, rather than the normal square. It looked really neat, and I'm putting it on my list of things to try... one day.

At the moment I have a couple of wall hanging sized things in various states of not-doneness. I'm trying to redo my sewing room, but the progress is slow, and without a sewing room, I'm not getting much sewing done!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Crafts of the Past: Things from the box!

I saw an interesting talk this week at the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild by Loretta Oliver. She spoke about her journey to becoming a felter, and her inspirations, and had a slide show of many beautiful pieces. Afterwards, she did something unique, however. She showed us pieces that did not work, that were not finished, that had been abandoned and put into "the box," which in her case was not really one box but several, and explained why each piece ended up there.  And then she showed us some pieces that had been made from abandoned earlier pieces. I thought it very illuminating - as crafters we don't usually speak of our misteps, and what we might make of them.

In that vein, and because I have been cleaning out my basement, I'm going to show you some sad, abandoned ideas:

beaded star
this was a test - pony beads and fishing line

I think I was planning to make a curtain out of pony beads, this test bit is only 8" long - and it's heavy, and they don't hang together well. And I failed to compensate for the fact that the beads are longer than they are wide! I made this on a sort of improvised bead loom made out of foam core.

napkins with a pocket
Two cloth napkins, sewn together, with pocket. Let me explain!

Eight years ago I had a great messenger bag, it was red plaid (but otherwise great), and the best thing about it was the CD walkman pocket, with the grommet in it so you could pass the headphone cord through. And when the bag wore out, I thought, hey, the pocket is still good! So, I sewed the pocked onto some napkins that I really liked, and then the project stalled. And now, no one even has a CD walkman anymore.

Presently, the plan is to remove the stitching and let the unpocketed napkin go join the ranks of cloth napkins we keep around for eating. The other - well, I think it will return to the box.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Obligatory reflective New Year's post

Alright, so last year, I made a resolution to not buy yarn or fabric, and I didn't buy much yarn (3 skeins!) but I bought fabric uncounted, and I am not repentant, as I rediscovered quilting, and what can you do?

Secondly, I made a giant list of projects I meant to do last year, and I did maybe a third of them?

This year, I made a list of some things I need to do and some I want to do, and here is what I'm going with:

Sewing for kiddos: pajamas for child B, for child A a bathrobe, another skirt, and perhaps a dress.

Sewing for me: one skirt.

Quilting: Finish the outstanding projects, then work on a few small art quilts - specifically to master curves.

Dyeing: One batik piece.

Weaving! I have done so little weaving this year, it's sad. I have a project on the loom now that I hope to finish soon and then start churning out some dishtowels to replace old unexciting mass produced ones. If I get through those, I'd like to move on to rag rugs.

Spinning: Another hobby I have been neglecting. I have decided on a goal of spinning at least two yarns per month.

Sewing room revamp: it is in sad shape, sadder still because this was on my list for last year! Apart from addressing the obvious flooring problem, I want to rearrange furniture to work in a place for an ironing board and move the office stuff out, and bring my fabric stash back in.

Destashing! I want everything to fit somewhere out of the main room without all the current overflow.

give it away now
good bye to yarn and latch hook supplies

I've already got this underway, I've cleared out latch hook stuff, some yarn, some roving, a third of my sewing patterns, and the bulk of my record collection. Also going are many pairs of jeans I got off someone on Craigslist, since they'd just been sitting around here for a year and a half without my doing anything much with them... There is more to go, I'm sure; I'm in a getting rid of it sort of mood.

I'd also like to do more yarn and fiber dyeing, but I'm not promising anything. Things are going to be a bit different here in the new year, but more on that later.