Friday, November 27, 2009

Indy-palooza!


Those of you that have been following a while probably remember my little dog Indy.  He loves to hang out in the studio with me, and I enjoy having him. 

I've been meaning to make him a quilted halter for a long time.  I purchased a cloth halter over the summer, (for an exorbinate price!), but it's very light and he needed something warmer.  So, I scavenged in my scraps and did a little strip piecing.  Now he has a flannel lined halter that's nice and snuggly and colorful.  He'll be one fashionable pooch at the park!

I tried my hardest to get him to pose so you can see the detail.  He wasn't cooperative at all!  I was able to snap one picture that will show you the fun fabrics I used, and the basic way the halter fits.  I made a pattern from the expensive one but was able to get a better fit around his neck.  I'm going to have to adjust those straps but he was kind of wiggly.  He'll be more cooperative when he knows we're going to the park.  It's dark and rainy out here so he knows he's not going anywhere, smart dog!

                          

I also made him a little bed to use in the studio, and also to put next to me on my oversized chiar.  This way he can be the same height as my lap and I can pet him and still do needlework.  Works for both of us!
                          
The bed is a very basic box pillow.  I used the scraps from my recent strip cutting marathon to make it and didn't have to cut any pieces!  Love it!  It went together in a couple of hours.

I was looking at the pictures of him and it looks too small for him, but usually when he's sleeping he curls up into this little ball and he's got tons of space on this bed.  I can't wait to see him snuggled up next week while I'm working away.

Well, that's it for now.  A fairly productive day sewing-wise, but I still have to finish that pesky laundry!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I'm off to fold and hang . . .

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Slide Out Strip Storage


Wow, that's some title ... try saying that five times fast!

Yesterday I mentioned that I was reorganizing my studio, again!  Well, I'm finally finished and so excited to get started sewing!

Above is the sliding drawer cabinet I was telling you about yesterday.  I bought it a few years ago at Target in the closet organizing section.  It's very solid and simple in style, which I like.  It's also extremely handy! 

Now I have all of my 3 1/2" and 2 1/2" cut strips lined up and ready to roll.  All I have to do is pull out the drawer and I have instant access.  Of course, I may have to worry about dust so I'm going to have to come up with something to cover these long term, ( I have some large pieces of cardstock that should work), but in the meantime I'm enjoying how neat and organized they are.


                                         
Now that I've cut up all of my odd pieces I don't have any excuse to not sew.  I have a few hours in the morning tomorrow so I hope to get a few things started.  On Friday we will probably avoid the stores, (it's crazy!), and hang out at home all day.  A perfect sewing day!  My husband home to keep my son and dog occupied and a clean and organized studio to work in.

Another thing to be thankful for!

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Getting Ready for Turkey Day



It's that time of year again!  It's so hard to believe that it's nearly Thanksgiving, and will soon be Christmas. Where does the time go?

I always have so much to do and yet seem to find ways to distract myself from doing them.  Fortunately, I'm not having Thanksgiving at my house this year.  I've done it the last 4 years and although I always enjoy the day, the days leading up to it are exhausting.

This year I don't have the build-up to worry about.  I only have to prepare a couple of dishes to bring along.  Every year I make this delicious sweet potato/yam dish that everyone loves.  Essentially it's mashed sweet potatoes and mashed yams, layered with circles of homemade pecan toffee.  When it cooks the toffee melts into the potatoes and as it cools slightly it hardens again.  So it's a combo of creamy and crunchy, and is so delish!  Unfortunately it has about 12 trillion calories per serving so I always leave the leftovers behind, (or hand them out if I'm hosting).  I'm the only one who likes them in my house and it's too tempting to have it around....yummy, yummy, massive tummy, massive and growing tummy, . . . you know what I mean!

My preparations for Thanksgiving this year involve re-organizing my studio space.  The last time I just cleaned it up, but I'm doing different things now so I need to set it up a little differently.  The main thing I'm doing is reorganizing my paper reams, and getting my fabric strips out of their boxes and within reach. 

I still do a lot of graphic design work, but it's mostly computer files that get sent around, so I don't need to have the paper at my fingertips anymore.  I actually enjoy being able to design something, and with a click of a key have it sent where it needs to go.  Before it was all about sending print proofs and going round and round and back and forth.  Now, I just send it and the client or printer takes it from there.  So much easier for me, but now I'm stuck with reams of paper I rarely use.

So, I found a home for them in my linen closet and cleared out this really cool slide out shelf unit to put all of my strips on.  I'm putting the strips on pieces of custom fitted foamcore.  So, now I can slide out the shelf and pick up the foamcore with all of the strips on it.  It will make sorting and selecting a lot easier, and neater, (I hope!).  As soon as I finish I'll take pictures so you can see.  The unit is actually a closet unit, mean't for holding sweaters.  I bought it as a paper cabinet because it was so easy to pull out the shelf and grab the ream.  I can't tell you how many nails I broke trying to pry a ream off a regular shelf!  I'm looking forward to re-purposing it for quilting.

My son is waiting for me to finish this post so I can take him to his school's Book Fair at Barnes and Nobles.  I haven't been over there in a while, maybe they'll have some new quilting magazines! 

Oh well, I hope to post again tomorrow.  In the meantime . . .

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, November 20, 2009

What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?


I just picked up the most recent copy of "Quilter's Home" magazine.  It's the last one that Mark Lipinski was involved in producing and it was nice to hear his "voice" throughout.  I'm not sure what the magazine will be like moving forward, but I'm willing to give it one shot.  I know it won't be the same but a quilting magazine that addresses the lives and lifestyles of quilters is important.  I hope if "Quilter's Home" doesn't maintain that mission that another magazine will take up the challenge.

The reason I'm talking about this is that there was an article in the magazine that really hit home for me.  It's by Annie Smith, who has a wonderful podcast at www.simplearts.com/.  I've been listening to her for years and she has a really positive and inspiring attitude. 

The problem I have with so many quilters, teachers, and quilting "celebrities" is the way they can come across.  There are some that I feel talk down to me, (like I'm in kindergarten or something!), and then there are those who are all about them, (their fabric line, their books, oh, and isn't everything great about me!).  There's also a tendency to drop names and make those of us who aren't part of  "the group" feel like we're back in high school, anxiously hoping to be asked to join them at their table in the cafeteria.

Sometimes I just want to say, so what, big deal, now give me something I can use!

Annie isn't like that.  She has a lot of contacts in the quilt world and has had her share of success, however, I always had the idea that she was "one of us."  I enjoy listening to the interviews she does with my favorite quilting "stars," and many times I feel like I'm right in the room with them, asking the questions myself.

Her article is called "Ditch the Fear" and it's all about not letting fear hold us back from what we really want.  She was inspired by a sign that said "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"  Wow, that's a good question!

I've struggled with fear for years and I know it's held me back from doing things I want to do.  Now that I'm getting older I realize that I better get going or my opportunities for doing those things may go away forever.  It's now or never, baby!

Fear is actually one of the reasons I put off blogging for so long. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to find a "voice" that I was comfortable with.  Sometimes when I go back and re-read my posts I wonder about how I'm coming across.  I'm sure I'm like most of you, blowing my own horn is not something I'm very comfortable doing.  Sometimes I get so excited about something I've discovered that I want to pass it on, or when I've had a success I want to share it.  However, whenever I do I second-guess myself and agonize over whether or not I came across as a "show-off." 

I'm proud of my accomplishments, mainly because they reflect a dedication to the art form.  My talent I can't take credit for, it's a combination of gifts I was given at birth.  However, I can take credit for taking the time and making the effort to make something of them and of myself.

Whenever someone says to me, "Oh, you're so good, I could never do that."  I always want to say to them, "No, you can't do that, not because you're better or worse than me, but because that isn't what YOU should be doing.  You should be doing YOUR work, and I'm sure it will be just as or more fabulous than mine!"

I can't tell you how many times I've encountered people who are afraid to pursue their dreams.  Fear is such a powerful emotion that can paralyze you and keep you from moving forward.  It's that little voice in your head that says, "No one will like that," " My price is too high," "Everyone is more talented than me," "I'll never get it finished." you know the routine, on and on and on it goes and it never shuts up!  My little voice even has an annoying blah, blah, blah delivery.  At least it could be more entertaining, a British accent might help!

I'm working on killing off that annoying pest, I want to pull its' plug and toss it out the window.  Whenever I hear it chattering at me I actually try to visualize it as a tape recorder, then I pull the cassette out, yank out the tape and tear it up.  It feels so good!!!

I have some exciting things in the works, which I hope to be able to share soon.  In the meantime I'm going to keep tearing up that tape, and keep those fears at bay.

If you share this problem I hope you can do the same. 

Just think what we could accomplish if we knew we couldn't fail!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Creative Journey Returns . . . Finally!



Yeah!  Finally some progress on that Creative Journey Quilt.

For those of you who are recent followers a couple of months ago I found a piece of patchwork and decided to make a small quilt to show you how I "grow" quilts. 

I'm not a pattern user, nor do I like to plan things out too much.  I guess you could say I'm a bit of a thrill seeker, (quiltwise, that is ... I'm a real wimp otherwise!). 

This quilt was supposed to be a "Creative Journey" which would unfold for both of us.  I thought it might be interesting for you to see how my creative process works, and it would be a good way for me to understand how I think, so hopefully I can learn some ways to speed up this process.

Recently I finished appliquing all of the butterflies around the border.  Once that was done, I was stuck.  I knew I wanted something "floral" in the center, but try as I might I couldn't figure out how I would do it.  I always had in my mind that there would be a few large flowers, with leaves, vines, smaller flowers, and more butterflies.  However, making that work on this patchwork background was going to be difficult.

Since there were so many colors I had to find a way to make whatever flowers I decided to applique stand out from the busy background.  I'm not a big fan of solid colors, (boring), but I realized that I might have to go that direction, at least as a way to give the flowers more presence.


So, I attacked my stash, looking for patterns I could fussy-cut to get floral shapes.  I found an Alexander Henry floral that I was able to cut up to make the "petals" of this flower.  I reverse appliqued it to the flower center I made with a turquoise batik, and two other fussy-cut pieces.  I also made some "vines" from green bias strips.  My plan is to have the vines connecting my flowers and allowing the design to mingle with the border.  Because I'm not sure what I'm going to add under this flower, (at least a leaf or two and another piece of vine), I did not applique the flower "petals" yet.  Once I'm happy with it I'll stitch it down and probably add some embellishment, (I'm thinking beads on the bright pink part of the petals).

Now that I have a general idea I've been collecting options for flower centers and petals.  When I'm working on something like this I like to have a lot of options so I can try things out.  Here's a sample of what I've collected already.  Remember, I may not use all of these and those that look like they might not "match" can be changed by adding embroidery and embellishments.



I also collected a bunch of green fabrics and hand cut some leaf shapes.  I've basted the edges down and now have a collection to try out and see what works.  I've been sure to collect different shades of green, some with blue and pink in them to give me a way to integrate the "green" into the rest of the piece.


I'm actually excited about this again and am looking forward to tackling it tonight after I get back from my son's basketball practice.  I was feeling a little overwhelmed but when I got my bag back from the Quilt Quest, (last post), I was inspired and couldn't wait to tackle this project again.  Itchy thimble I guess!

Let's hope I can keep this up and nothing else happens to put me behind.  Oh well, what can you do, life happens!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hippie Chic



I just received my 2008 Kaufman Quilt Quest First Place winning bag back from it's year long journey all over the country.  It's called "Hippie Chic" and it feels like it's been gone since 1969!

It's one of my best pieces and includes a ton of embellishment techniques.  The picture above shows off a lot of them.

One of the things I love to do is embroider over fabric.  It gives it dimension, and makes it possible to add different colors.  The flower in the upper left corner is a prime example.  It was a fussy cut applique which I embroidered to add interest.  Notice the chain stitching around the flower.  I love to do this because it hides a multitude of sins.  When appliquing a small curved piece it's very difficult to turn the inner edges without showing some stitches.  By chain stitching over the edge I can cover any odd yet necessary stitches, and add dimension as well!   Also note the beading that goes along with the applique's details. 
                         
Here's another detail showing more techniques.  Notice the beaded quilting stitches around the squares in the upper right corner.   I love delineating shapes this way, the square button only adds to the theme.  Also, notice how I use the dots in the patterns.  Applying different round embellishments add interest and make it possible to add more color than was original to the green and turquoise pattern.
                            
This is one of my favorite techniques.  The central pattern was originally just the squiggly circles in green on the turquoise background.  I quilted the green squiggles with different coordinating colors, topping off the ends with seed beads.  I used tracing paper to trace some of the shapes and made templates to apply appliques of coordinating fabrics.  Notice that they are all of the same pattern but different colorways, except one!  I used a different pattern just to mix things up.  Also notice that there are six appliques, usually a no-no as odd numbers are preferred, however, because I used that one different pattern, I made it work. 

Also notice the beaded quilting in the lower left corner.  This made it possible for me to add the turquoise color to the orange and pink fabric, and it carries on the curved edges of the fabric's design. One of the more fun things I did on this piece was add the name of the featured fabric line in alphabet beads.  You can see "Color Theory" in the upper left corner.

I hope you enjoyed looking at these techniques and can find some use for them in your projects.  It's amazing how much they add to any quilt.

I'm working away on a few things and hope to have more to share soon.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Friday, November 13, 2009

Inspiration


I don't know about you guys, but I find inspiration in all kinds of places.  Recently I was doing an image search and came across this picture.  I love the color combos!  Catch that British flag pillow in hot pink and green!  There's a real joyful mix here so I had to find out more.

Turns out this is a tea shop in Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco.  How could I have missed it?  I lived in the "City" for years but don't get over there very often now.  We usually try to head over during Dungeness Crab season so we can get our crab sandwich fix, so next time we're at the wharf I have to go over and check this place out.  The website is www.crownandcrumpet.com/.  Check it out, the photos are divine and the food looks yummy.  It's such a girly place.  Love it!


It's so funny that I ran across this site.  When I was at the Pacific International Quilt Festival there was a booth that had all of these fun fabric packs, bright pastels with a food theme.  They would have been right at home in this shop.  I didn't buy any there because they were selling them in sets and I already had some of the coordinates.  However I did find these two Michael Miller fabrics online and ordered them.


I just received these and they are as cute as they look.  I have a lot of pink, brown, and green coordinating fabrics so I think this will be a fun combination. 

Here's another photo of the tea shop, love that bright pink and white checkerboard floor!  Wouldn't it make a great border for a quilt?
                                
Isn't it wonderful that you can find inspiration in all kinds of places!  Sometimes I think it's just meant to be as I ordered the fabric before I saw the website.  Of course, my sweet cravings had nothing to do with it . . . yeah, really!

I'm off to do some more cutting and hopefully get some piecing done today.  I also have to try to clear some space in my studio as it's beginning to look like a tornado came through here.

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Giving Birth to Twins ... not what you think!



Yes, it is true, I actually finished something!  Actually, two somethings! 

These are the bags I made using my Stash Challenge fabrics.  There are some fabrics I bought this year, and the triangular Indian fabric I've had since the early 70s.  I remember buying it in this really cute boutique in Lake Tahoe when I was there with my family one summer.  I've used bits and pieces of it over the years and still have a few triangles left.  It actually feels good to use them!

These bags have the exact same patchwork base but are embellished and finished differently.  Since I string pieced them at the same time it was a lot less time consuming.  Besides, I like to take the same thing and finish it differently; it kind of takes away from my problem of always wishing I'd done something differently.  This way I have a second chance!



Here are some details.  I stitched beads to the outside of my appliques, and went to town with my collection of buttons.  I'm determined to use up as much of my stuff as I can.  I hope this determination holds up!

One thing you might not be able to see is how I attached the straps.  I really hate the way straps look when they're stitched onto the front of a bag.  I've been guilty of it myself, and there are times when they look good that way.  However, I wanted a more tailored look so I inserted D rings directly into the patchwork between the first and second rows. 

They're attached via strips of fabric which I reinforced with fusible web, (I also didn't have to sew them...yippee!).  I then looped the strips around the D ring and then stitched it directly into the seam.  Once I mounted the patchwork onto my fusible batting, I fused the strip facing away from the D ring and then stitched in the ditch to make sure it's reinforced.  It's a light and easy way to attach straps and I've never seen it before . . . although I'm sure someone else thought of it before I did!

Anyway, I hope those of you who have taken up the challenge are working on using up your stash.  I'm going to make some more bags in different sizes, some for gifts and some to sell.  I'm planning to get a store up soon and I'll let you know when that happens.  Pricing everything is the hardest part!

Oh, and I got my bag back from Kaufman Quilt Quest!  The ribbon was a little frayed, but the bag looked great and for once was bigger than I thought it was ... how could that be?  I'm really losing it!

Here's hoping somebody finds it, and quick!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Working Away



I'm in the process of cutting up a couple of boxes of older fabrics so I can use them in strip piecing.  It's a tedious process but once I'm finished I'll be able to whip up a bunch of stuff and that will be fun.  In the meantime it's a plodding process of ironing and cutting and it's getting to be a drag!

How do you guys feel about the process of preparation?  Things like organizing your stash, sorting embellishments, untangling thread, and cutting strips and squares?  Sometimes I enjoy it, but then it gets to that stage where you just want to get it done so you can move on.

I don't know about you but I've always fantasized about being one of those chefs on the cooking shows.  You know, the ones where they have all of the ingredients premeasured in little glass bowls and all you have to do is the fun part?  I used to work in the catering business and always used to feel sorry for the prep crew; cutting up onions, trimming asparagus, peeling potatoes, they did for a living all of the things I hate doing.  Wouldn't it be great to walk into your kitchen and have all of your ingredients premeasured and ready to roll?

I suppose that's the appeal of "jelly rolls" and "layer cakes."  I love the idea but when I see those cute packages I just want to keep them and look at them.  It's like buying that fabric that's too beautiful to cut up.  You know you have to in order to use it, but you just can't bring yourself to do it.  I have a few of the Moda Tins and they are still intact, even though they're several years old.  They're just too cute as they are!  I don't have the heart to disturb them.

So, instead I find myself ankle deep in fabric scraps, cutting up fabric from the 90s and trying to mesh it with my newer fabrics.  It's a challenge and has it's fun moments, but all this cutting is making me crazy.  I have at least a few more hours to go and I feel like I can't take any more . . .yikes!

Of course, I could just stop but I can't do that.  Once I get on a roll like this I'm obsessed, I just have to finish cutting up this pile of fabric, somehow integrate it with the rest of my stash, and then I can really roll.  In the meantime I have to deal with cramping fingers, stray threads, (oh, why did I wear black pants?), and the realization that no matter how hard I work the stack never seems to get smaller.  What's with that?

Oh well, back to the cutting board!

Oh, and the picture above is of my First Place handbag from the Robert Kaufman Quilt Quest 2008.  I found this photo on the internet and it's better than the one I was using.  I still haven't gotten it back but they told me it would be a few weeks before everything got shipped so I'm expecting it soon.  It's so weird getting a piece back that's been on the road for over a year.  It always seems smaller than I remember, and I have a hard time reconciling what I saw in my mind and what is actually in front of me.  It's an odd feeling.

Anyway, I'm nearly finished with two handbags I made from my first round of using up my old fabric.  I thought I might have them ready for photos today but my son had basketball practice last night and I lost too much precious TV (aka: hand sewing ) time.  I'll work on it tonight.

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Stash Challenge!


As those of you who've been here before know, I have a monster sized stash.  Of course, I always say it's because I've been quilting since the Stone Age, but that's only kind of true.  Actually, I love fabric and I have the stash to prove it!

Recently I found a small plastic box filled with fabric.  These were pieces that I had originally intended to give away, but couldn't part with at the last minute.  I'd intended to integrate them into my stash but when I saw them again I decided to give myself a challenge.  Make something using mostly the "found" fabrics, while adding only a few new fabrics to make it more "up-to-date."

When you've been collecting fabrics for years, you have to make decisions about which fabrics look "too dated" to use in a new piece.  I've tried to only buy fabrics that I love, but that means that I have more "trendy" fabric that tends to get dated quicker.  This is something to consider when buying fabric, if something is "trendy" you might want to buy just enough to make something while the trend is hot, but not so much that you have a lot of it in your stash moving forward. 

Anyway, I've been working on an idea of making patchwork bags that are more tailored and less "quilty."  I know that "quilty" is the point for most of us, but there are people out there who appreciate a more tailored look.  So, I decided to use a selection of my found fabrics to make some patchwork rectangles that I'm going to make into some new tailored bags.

Above is a photo of my layout.  I started using my digital camera and printer for this kind of thing a while ago as I'm notorious for mixing up my carefully laid patchwork while stitching.  I have the special pins, and I've tried the masking tape markings, and I've even laid them out on a grid and pulled them row by row.  But, I've had to accept the fact that my life doesn't support those techniques. 

I'm on a major push to "idiot proof" my life as I'm becoming a "major idiot!"  When I photograph and print the layout I can just leave it next to the machine and I find it easier to double check and make sure I'm doing it right!  Also, if I sell the piece and someone wants me to reproduce it, I have the print in my file. Since I've been using this system I've yet to mess up.  One point for me!

I'd like to challenge all of you to make something out of some older fabric in your stash.  Add a splash of something new and let's see what you come up with.  It's a great way to thin out your stash, and get something out of it.  Besides, with the holidays coming everyone could use a few extra gifts, (that won't cost you anything extra!).  I'm thinking I'm going to be giving away patchwork bags this Christmas!

I'd love to see what you all come up with.  If you send a picture to my email address:  susan@gillygaloofus.com. I'll publish them here and we can have a "Found Fabric Festival."

I'll be posting pictures of my bags as soon as I get them finished.  I'm fine tuning now!

Also, sorry I haven't posted in a while.  I have been working away but haven't really had anything interesting to blog about.  I figured if I was bored, then you'd be bored by my boring musings about boring stuff . . . now I'm really bored!
Anyway, I'm still working on that Creative Journey quilt with the butterfly border.  Last week I was trying to figure out how to get started on the center.  I've done a little work on it so hopefully I'll be able to post some photos next week.  I had major "quilter's block" but I think I may have had a breakthrough so we'll see if I'm right.

Hope you're all keeping busy and having fun!

Happy Stitching!
Susan