Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Inspiration from the Past

I tend to be a traditional quilter.  I like hand-piecing and hand-quilting, and I love traditional patterns.  Much of my inspiration comes from the quilts my great-grandmother made.  This beautiful Dresden Plate is one of her creations.  I love everything about it:  the vintage fabrics, the yellow and white sashing, the scalloped border, and of course the Dresden Plate pattern itself.

Naturally, it is hand-quilted.

One day I will make a Dresden Plate of my own (it's on my quilting bucket list).  I only hope mine will be as pretty as my great grandmother's.

I'm going to be linking up for Vintage Thingie Thursday hosted by the Colorado Lady.  Be sure to check out all the other interesting vintage thingies be shown this week.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pansy Quilt Top Done

The Pansy quilt top is done! It's nice to have this WIP reach the halfway point. This is one of those projects that spent a year or two languishing before I got organized.

(Sorry, I can't take a picture without Charley doing his Vanna White routine.)

The majority of the blocks came from a swap organized on the RTCQ newsgroup. It was called the "Your Pick" swap because we each selected our own focus fabric--mine being the pansy fabric. Then we cut 12" squares of our fabric, and sent one square to each of the other participants. We received beautiful blocks back in return. How cool is that?

In my opinion, block swaps are a lot of fun because the swaps have often forced me to work with other colors and fabrics that might not be my first choice, thereby stretching my quilting skills, and I receive blocks back that I wouldn't have made myself. For example, I received a couple of lovely appliqued blocks for the pansy quilt. Applique really isn't a part of my quilting repertoire yet, but nevertheless, I'm now lucky enough to be able to include it on this quilt.

Even after I got focused on the pansy quilt, it took me a long time to finish the top. I decided to do the pieced butterfly border. There are 52 six inch butterfly blocks on this top. These border blocks proved to be more work than the rest of the quilt! I've often admired pieced borders, and wondered why they aren't used more often. Now I know. Still I am very pleased with how the border looks on my bed.

I'll be linking up over at Amylouwho's for Sew and Tell Friday. Be sure to check out everybody else's lovely work.

Say it with me.....

Say it with me, Quilters: The seam ripper is my friend; the seam ripper is my friend; the seam ripper is my friend....

The freakin' *&^%$ ripper is my friend!

Okay, I feel better now. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Quilter's Got to Eat #3: Tangy Pork Roast

Get out your crockpot, Quilters. Here's another fast meal to get you in and out of the kitchen in a hurry.

Tangy Pork Loin:

1 pork loin roast (size not critical)
2 med onions chopped
1 bell pepper (color of your choice) chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1/3 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp Splenda (or sugar if you prefer)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Place the pork loin roast in the bottom of the crockpot. Throw the chopped onion, pepper, and celery on top. Dump in the can of diced tomatoes. Mix together the ketchup, Splenda, Worchstershire sauce, vinegar and lemon juice, and pour over the top. Ignore until done (which for me is somewhere between 6 and 8 hours on high).

I usually serve cauliflower and cheese sauce with this dish. Peel the leaves off the head of cauliflower, wash, and microwave for 12 minutes. The cheese sauce is just 6 oz of evaporated milk and 2 cups of shredded cheese, heated and stirred until creamy. It usually takes me a total of 15 minutes to finish this last part of the meal, most of that waiting for the cauliflower to cook. I'm really pushing it to get my dishwasher unloaded too.

I usually cook a fairly good sized pork loin. It makes great sandwiches, and also reheats well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mulling the Quilting Bucket List: A Stack n Whack

Ah, the Quilting Bucket List. Such a good idea for getting focused (Thanks P.!).

Then the pressure set in. This is a Bucket List; not a "someday, wishing and a hoping" list. I can't just add my 400 or so "someday" quilts to my Bucket List. I mean let's be real here. If I'm lucky, I complete one quilt a year. Even if I get faster by improving my free motion quilting skills, I'm probably looking at only two quilts a year at best. And seriously, I'm not holding my breath on that.

So given those parameters, what is a reasonable number of projects to put on the Bucket List? I decided that number would be ten (a nice round number)--with the option of adding more if a Bucket List project becomes a WIP. And this is where the pressure came. I have to prioritize from 400 "someday" projects to 10 bucket list projects. Whew! It's not that easy.

Nevertheless, I have decided on another Bucket List project: A Stack n Whack quilt. I love the look, and sheesh, I've owned the book for 10-15 years. It might be good to get some use out of it. Right? Heck, I even have fabric for the project, also about 10-15 years old. Methinks this one is no brainer.

I didn't have to look far for inspiration. Cynthia at Home Matters 1st, recently posted a picture of her lovely Stack n Whack quilt. Isn't it gorgeous?

(photo courtesy of Cynthia at http://homematters1st.blogspot.com) Thanks Cynthia!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another WIP Bites the Dust!

Another WIP bites the dust!

I've been anxious to finish this quilt, because I made it for a friend, Matt. His wife, Robynn, received her quilt for her birthday in April. When I started the two quilts (nearly 2 years ago) I hadn't really intended the quilts to be birthday gifts, but Robynn's was done at the appropriate time, so I couldn't resist sending it to her for her birthday. Matt's birthday followed about 7 1/2 weeks after Robynn's, and unfortunately I just couldn't get his quilted, bound, and washed in the time between their two birthdays. So being late, I'm eager for him to have it.

The quilt measures 66 X 78, and is composed of thirty, twelve inch blocks.

I made this quilt around Matt's favorite color, turquoise. Turquoise is an interesting color. I had always thought of turquoise as being a specific shade of blue; a subset of blue so to speak. However, when I started rummaging through my stash, and looking at fabric online, I realized it wasn't that simple. There are the blue turquoises and the green turquoises. I asked a few fellow quilters which color people mean when they speak of turquoise. As you might expect, I got several different answers. At that point, I decided to use both the blue and green turquoises in Matt's quilt. Delving into the color in earnest, it became obvious that while turquoise may be a subset of blue (or perhaps green), it is so much more than that. The different shades of turquoise are seemingly endless. I began looking at the color in a whole new way. What fun!
Matt's quilt is the first quilt in which I did any free motion quilting. While I did stitch in the ditch around each block and did a significant amount of straight line quilting, I free motioned the "petals" that are the main motif in each block.
I learned a lot about free motion quilting from this experience, but I still have a long way to go:

1.) I got better at controlling speed and motion.

2.) I realized that although my skills will most certainly improve over time (I hope), free motion quilting will never have the same look as machine controlled straight line quilting. However, some people like incredibly talented lady at Ivory Spring get exceptionally close. (For anyone interested in getting tips from a pro, you should check out her blog series articles, "Thread Talk".) Free motion quilting is more art than drafting. Both give wonderful results, but they are distinctly different.

3.) I also decided that perhaps a smaller motif that utilized only 1/4 of the block might have been easier to manage than the petals that ranged over nearly the full 12 inches of the block. I'll give that a try on my next quilt.

So in a nutshell, free motion quilting went from totally terrifying to enjoyably terrifying. HA!

While a quilter always sees the flaws, and things she wishes she'd done a bit differently, I'll say that overall, I'm pretty pleased with the way this quilt turned out. I hope Matt is too.

I'll be linking up over at Amylouwho's for Sew and Tell Friday, and at Lit and Laundry for Finished for Friday. Check out these blogs and see everyone else's wonderful work.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My First Quilt

While a quilter's very first quilt may not be her most inventive, it may not be her prettiest, it may not be her most well-constructed quilt, by virtue of being first, it always holds a special place.

The Rose Star quilt was my first quilt. Ever since I was a child admiring my great grandmother's scrappy quilts, I knew that one day, I would make a scrappy quilt of my own. I collected fabric scraps from the seamstresses in my family (primarily my paternal grandmother), and daydreamed about starting a quilt. However, I never managed to get organized. It was the worsening of already rather significant allergies that severely curtailed the time I could spend outdoors which finally pushed me to start the quilt. I decided that if I couldn't be outside, I needed a positive inside project to keep from losing my mind. Quilting has been my escape ever since.

The Rose Star pattern came from a Traditional Quiltworks magazine. (I don't think it is being published any more.) The original pattern was scrappy like mine above, but where I have blue points on the perimeter of each "rose", their pattern showed green. Green points did make it look more rose-like, but hey even a newbie has to make a pattern her own.

My Rose Star quilt is hand-pieced with the exception of the outer, white border and the binding, although the binding is whipped down by hand on the back. It is also hand-quilted. It never occurred to me to use the sewing machine. In thinking back, trying to remember why I made the choice to hand-piece and hand-quilt, I think there were several reasons: 1.) Old sewing machine that was temperamental, 2.) Very limited experience with sewing machines in general, 3.) I wanted to feel at one with my pioneer ancestors (yeah, I realize that sounds hokey, but it was true), 4.) I wanted to be able to do my project anywhere and a hand project is much more portable than a machine project.

The quilt is not made with 100% cotton fabrics. Oh, I'm sure a lot of them are, but not all. I didn't realize that most quilters use only 100% cotton. So there are some poly-cotton blends, and even a piece of 100% polyester faux suede. Guess what? The quilting police never took me away.

I honestly do not remember how long it took me to finish this quilt. I believe I started it in 1995. I know it took me 3 winters to quilt it (I don't quilt during the warm months because I hold the quilts on my lap). I know it was finished by the time we moved away from Kansas to escape the allergies in 2002. And it is residing on my bed now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When Projects Collide

I had hoped to be able to blog about finishing Matt's quilt and get it off my WIPs list, but that wasn't to be. It's not that Matt's quilt isn't finished--it is--but I haven't been able to wash it yet. And it's really kind of ugly with the washable marker quilting lines all over it.

However, I do have a good Friday finish. The tile in the laundry room where the washer and dryer sit is done! As of today, they are back in place. It is this DIY tiling project that has kept me from washing Matt's quilt.

The laundry room isn't complete finished, but having the washer and dryer back is a important milestone. Now we're down to just one little spot where the sink sits. The sink is residing in the garage at the moment. (Naturally, Charley had to get into the picture, although he's pretending not to care.)

Here's the latest update on the New York Beauty blocks. This brings the total to 78.

I'll be linking up over at Amylouwho's for Sew and Tell Friday. And for the first time, I'm going to link up at Lit and Laundry for Finished for Friday. Wander over to these blogs and see what everyone else has been up to.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Antique Washstand for Vintage Thingie Thursday

This wash stand is another piece I inherited from grandparents when they downsized. It originally belonged to my great, great grandparents (or if it belonged to anyone before them, we don't know about it). Like the Hays House dresser, my grandfather rescued, repaired, and refurbished this lovely piece of furniture. It came to my grandfather through his parents who also used the wash stand in their own home for some time. One day, my great grandmother asked my grandfather to haul it to the dump. Instead, he took it home, and that's how it came to be in his possession.

When my grandfather got the washstand, it did not have the towel bar. Whether it originally had a towel bar, we don't know. However, my grandfather felt it was incomplete without one, and added it several years after he'd refurbished the piece.

I love the curved lines on this piece, both on the towel rack, and the feet. The casters on the feet, make the washstand easy to move. (Wish more modern furniture had this feature.)

There is lots of storage space in the drawer and down below, where I keep my vintage quilts. (However, that will be a separate post for another time.)

I'll be linking up over at the Colorado Lady's blog for Vintage Thingie Thursday. Wander on over and see what everyone else has to share.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Quilter Has to Eat #2--Curried Beef

While I can't compete with Ms P's. "Slack Tea Thursday" over at Quilting in My Pyjamas, my goal is to be in and out of the kitchen in an hour. That includes dinner preparation, unloading the dishwasher, and reloading it. To that end, I bring to you Curried Beef:

Olive oil for sautéing
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1 ½ lbs sliced beef
1 can diced tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
16 oz frozen broccoli
1 C frozen peas

½ tsp tumeric
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp dried mustard
¼ tsp fennel seeds
¾ tsp black pepper (¾ tsp will be pretty peppery, so I often use a bit less)
red pepper flakes (optional)

In a large pan (I use my 12" skillet), sauté the onion and garlic until they begin to soften. While sautéing the onion and garlic add the spices. Add beef and brown a bit. Add remaining ingredients and barely cover with water. Simmer until cooked.

To speed up the process just a bit, I buy premium stew meat beef, which is already cut into pieces, so I don't have to slice up steak. I also usually start browning the meat and add the onion and garlic as I get them chopped. Then I add the spices. Stir the spices in a bit, but don't worry that they're not well mixed at this point. (They'll be a bit sticky.) They'll mix in fine once you add the liquid.

It usually takes me about 25 minutes to get all the ingredients in the pan. I let it cook for another 35 minutes to make an hour total from start to finish. During this 35 minutes, I unload the dishwasher and reload. After supper, with the whole meal prepared in one pan, clean up takes about 5 minutes.

You'll notice I didn't give an amount for the red pepper flakes. That's because I'm not qualified to do so. Red pepper flakes are often included in curry, however, the people at my house tend to be weenies about spicy hot food, so I don't use any red pepper flakes. Those brave souls among you will have to experiment if you want to add the hot stuff.

If you have a smaller family (there are three of us), there will probably be enough curried beef left over for another meal. It freezes well. At a later date, take the curried beef out of the freezer, thaw, and reheat in the microwave. Now that is a slack meal that I bet even Ms. P could appreciate!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Color in the Quilting Process

As quilters, we make decisions about color with every fabric choice. I expect that most of us are familiar with the color wheel, and that some us may have even had some color theory in an art class or related subject. I had a basic lesson on color in a college class many years back, but when it comes to color selections, I don't tend to analyze my choices in any logical terms. Colors speak to me emotionally, not logically.

There has been some interesting research on the subject. For example, the color red can make us perform badly on tests. Red has been shown to raise blood pressure, while blue is calming. People are more likely to make risky gambling bets sitting under a red light as opposed to a blue one. And the color red makes men more attracted to women. (I guess the Lady in Red knew what she was doing.) Then there is "drunk tank pink" used to calm the inmates, although it works only initially. The color of a room can even produce physiological affects. When employees at a company complained about a blue room being too cold, the company repainted the room a warm peach color. The temperature of the room never changed, but the people no longer found the room to be cold.

These are concepts I never consider when making color choices for a quilt, but I find them interesting. However, it doesn't explain why some people are more drawn to one color over another. My favorite quilting colors are the cool ones: purple, blue and green, especially in the jewel tones. However, my mother is drawn to fall colors. I notice some quilters find red to be absolutely divine. And others prefer more subtle hues. What's up with that?

Color in quilting has been a learning experience for me. As I mentioned above, I love the cool colors, however, I quickly learned that the cool colors really don't shine unless coupled with at least one warm one. (If I'd paid better attention to color theory in college, I might not have had to figure this out for myself.) Yellow tends to be my warm color of choice, but I'm trying to branch out to some of the others. Then there is my Storm at Sea WIP (the subject of an upcoming blog article) in which I'm putting my cool colors on black to see if they'll pop without using any warm colors. It looks good on EQ5, but will the reality be as good? Interestingly enough when I planned the Storm at Sea, I didn't think of it in terms of, "Will the black make the cool colors pop?" Instead, I thought, "Wow, this might be awesome". Yeah, a lot of analysis there.

So what is your approach to color? Do you tend to stick with your favorites? Do you know why certain colors are your favorites? Do you try to branch out?