Monday, November 29, 2010

Cone Nebula Quilt - Part 3

I have completed the second section of the quilt, and I thought I would show you how I sew together a block so that I keep all of the pieces in order. This is especially critical in a quilt where there is not a regular pattern to the blocks. In other quilts I've made with the kaleidoscope block, I've only used three colors, and it's been easy to keep track of where I am. With this complicated design, I've had to get very systematic. So, I lay out a section of 15 blocks.

(This is seen from the right end of the section.) I use a specialty ruler to cut out the pieces. (The ruler is two floors away from this computer, and I'm not running upstairs to get the brand name. Any quilt shop or big-box craft store with a selection of rulers will probably offer these rulers.)

I start off by going through and sewing all of the corner triangles onto the long triangles.
Then I lay the solo triangles on top of its neighboring dual triangle.
I stack those in order and take them to the sewing machine.
I sew the pairs together and press the seams open. (I press most of my seams open, not to one side or other. This make for flatter seams, and it's easier for me to line up the seams when sewing units together.)
Then I sew together the pairs of triangles.
When I have two sets of pieces,
I sew the final seam in the block.

Then I start at the upper left of the section and sew together one block at a time, going row by row. I sew the blocks together as I complete them and sew the rows together as I sew them. Here is the second section, all sewn together.

As I was working yesterday afternoon, I was not the only one working in the sewing room. The Brat Cat, when she wasn't walking around on the table, moving my pieces around, was primping.
Meanwhile, Hubby Dearest and Princess Kitty were cuddling.
Here is a shot of the craftwork done by the kitties in the house (note the upper right corner of this picture) as well as the princess getting some extra attention from her favorite fellow.
Finally, this weekend, I made the family's fruitcakes. My mother started making fruitcakes in the mid-1960s, and when she died seven years ago, as the oldest daughter, I picked up the banner and am carrying it forward. Here's a shot of the prep (it took about three hours from the time I walked into the kitchen until the cakes went in the oven).
Here are some of the fruitcakes (if my sister sees this, please note that I used the "atomic" cherries; you and your daughter can stop hyperventilating about whether I'm ruining the family's Christmas).
Really, finally, here's Baby Boy being cute - which is what he does best.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday - #16

As I say every Wednesday, this is part of a ring sponsored by Tami, and she has lots of talented people taking part in this weekly check-in of crafty progress.

I want to start off by responding to a very interesting comment I got last week from Urban Exile (and if you haven't discovered her non-crafty blog, please be sure to read it; she has a lot of other interesting things to say).

No, Liz, I could not see you had started on the back. The abstract form I see before my eyes does not say jacket to me at all, and that only increases my admiration of your ability to hold the abstract concept of the jacket in your mind as you slowly construct it, knot-by-knot. Amazing.
After I read this comment, I dashed upstairs, held up the jacket-in-progress, and recited the comment to my non-crafting husband, who said, "She's right. I see you sitting there with a ball of yarn, two sticks, and a set of directions. As you work, I know that you can see a little boy wearing a jacket. I'm also amazed." When I took two steps back from these remarks, I could see the very odd enterprise in which we are engaged. We are challenging the manufactured, mass-produced world around us and going about the business of individualized, customized creation. We are taking pictures in our heads, simple materials, and many hours of our time, and bringing forth items that would not otherwise exist.
Folks, we need to keep crafting not just to produce objects (heck, I could walk into a random big-box store and pick up and pay for a cute jacket for my great-nephew in the time it's taking me to write this blog entry), but to keep these crafts alive. We need to keep this knowledge fresh in the culture in which we live. Those of us who have the need to make things and to learn how to make things perform a valuable service to the culture. We remind the culture of its roots and its possibilities.

I LOVE this commercial. The craft matters.

Here is the current progress on the jacket:
I haven't made a tremendous amount of progress, partly because I have just started reading Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. I have a dear friend who shares my taste in literature, and she thrust the book into my hands a few weeks ago and said, "READ this." So, I'm reading it. I haven't gotten very far in, but I'm hoping to make good progress this weekend. (No, I do not intend to see the mini-series.) Anyway, it's hard to read a big thick book and knit and cuddle kitties (I'm getting good at two out of three at a time).

I spent all of Sunday afternoon (really my only available extended sewing time) working on the Cone Nebula quilt. First up, here is the sewn-together first section!
Next is the long view of the laid-out second section. This seemed to take a very long time because even though I have a lot of fabric cut up, I kept running into the situation of not having the RIGHT piece of fabric. Arrgghh!!
Those bright dark blues in the picture do not look anywhere near that bright in person. Very interesting what the camera does. The little white stickers are the tracking numbers for the blocks. I am easily confused and learned a long time ago to mark as I go. The stickers have letters and numbers indicating placement, and the stickers show which patch is at the top of the block and the orientation of the block.

Have a good week everyone. Those of you in the U.S., I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday - #15

This is Wednesday, so be sure to check out all of the fun projects being shown in WIPW on Tami's blog. I check out most of the projects each week and find them interesting, inspirational, and colorful. Thank you, Tami, for hosting this!

I spent a lot of would-be knitting time this past week reading Brick Lane by Monica Ali. I will say that for a middle-aged Michigan woman who has spent most of her life in a mainstream middle American lifestyle, this book was a real stretch. I simply could not understand the passivity, the acceptance of fate, and the obedience the Bangladeshi women in this book exhibited. At some point, around page 100, I had a talk with myself along the lines of "this book isn't about you; it's about someone else; either slip into her life and see the world from her eyes or put the book aside." I really had to let go of huge parts of myself in order to read this book. Once I began to "see the world from her eyes," though, I realized that I was on a wondrous journey into a very different place than I ever could have imagined. I'm glad I read this book, and I know that I need to seek out other books like it. Parts of the book take place in the immigrant community in London, parts in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The characters are well rounded and believable (once you let go of your own cultural assumptions).

Anyway, I did get some knitting done! (And, that's why you came here today, I know.) Here is the jacket so far. You can see that I have started on the back.
There is a small group of women who gather several times a year and have a sewing-talking-eating day together. We are getting together the day after Thanksgiving, and I think I'll work on the jacket that day rather than take a sewing project.

I finished warping the loom this weekend and, yesterday morning while waiting for the dryer to get the towels just a little dryer, I started on the weft. Here is a beauty shot of the warped loom. (Yes, while hanging out near the washer and dryer, I'm adding fabric to the loom - maximizing that waiting time.)
If you peeked in at my Monday post, you saw the progress on the Cone Nebula quilt. If you didn't, here's a big picture of the work so far.
Well, that's all I have this week. I do want to say that it was a little disconcerting to watch the news coverage of the Big Engagement last evening because I remember getting up at some gosh-awful hour like 3a to watch Prince WAPL's* parents get married. It was the summer I graduated from college, and I took the day off from job hunting to sit with my sisters (one had just graduated from high school, and the other was half-way through high school), all of us in our pajamas deep into the morning, utterly fascinated by the whole thing. Diana was our contemporary and someone to whom we could relate. It was fun seeing her son last night. Life is funny, isn't it?

*William Arthur Philip Louis - one of the local newscasters in Detroit gave him this nickname at birth.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cone Nebula Quilt - Part 2

I had some extended time this weekend to work on the Cone Nebula Quilt. I have decided to work in chunks of 15 blocks - 5 across and 3 down - mainly because that fits nicely on my worktable and gives me room at one end to cut more pieces. I found that as I worked, I needed to cut additional pieces of some fabrics and go hunting for additional fabrics. As you will see in the pictures below, I have taken to heart the fact that I paid for both sides of the fabric. I have found this trick to be a quick way to get additional shading - pay attention to the green fabric that has leaves on it.
I am making use of commercially printed fabrics, fabrics that I have dyed, and fabrics that I have painted. The dark yellow fabric with squiggly light yellow lines is from a soy-wax batik class I took a year ago in the summer. Once I had laid out the bright fabrics for the 15 blocks, it was time to lay down the dark fabrics. I decided to lay down single-piece-wide "lanes" so that there would be some movement and variation within the darker sections.
I think that adds some subtle changes. Here's the big picture view from the end of the table.
Looking at this picture, the bright orange pieces really stick out, but when I go back to the source picture, there are very bright areas, and I really don't want this to be single-value quilt.

You may wonder why I am laying this out on the table and not on the design wall. The brutal fact is that my design wall doesn't hold individual pieces of fabric very well. It's great when I have blocks that I am arranging and holding up with pins, but when I'm working with small pieces of fabric, the table simply makes more sense to me.

Here are the first three blocks done and sewn together:
I am planning to quilt-as-I-go with these sections - I'll sew together the 15 blocks, then add batting and backing, quilt, then move on to the next section. It's a little nervy - it's assuming that I won't want to change any fabric placement, and I may hold off on the sandwiching and quilting until I have all of the large pieces done. I'm still thinking about that.

I have a practical issue to deal with in that the sewing room is not used as a sewing room every day. Most of the week, it's a cat snooze spot. So, to protect my work, I laid some pieces of cardboard over the layout....

 Then, I put a large piece of cloth over that....

Then, I piled the uncut fabrics for the quilt on that....
And, finally, put a blanket over all of that - creating a snuggly cat bed....
In the end, I recognize who is in charge of the "sewing" room....
Have a good day, everyone.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday - #14

I skipped last week's WIPW because I am a political geek, and my head was filled with numbers. (Also, except for the governor's race in my state, I was pretty upset about the results. 'nuf said - except that I am THRILLED with our new governor!! He is making all sorts of really great early decisions.) Anyway, this is part of Tami's WIPW ring, and I hope that you go check out the rest of the lovely projects in progress this week.

Here is the progress I made on the Cone Nebula quilt this past week:

Will you trust me that these two piles took several hours to iron and cut? I truly don't know how much I cut, but I figured I could make a good start. After making that first block and analyzing the picture, I decided it would make a lot more sense to do the layout in chunks of several blocks. I have a picture in my head of how I want the colors to interact with each other - and I keep going back to the Spitzer Telescope picture as reference. This coming weekend, I'm hoping to get some actual layout and sewing done.

The Haiku jacket for my great nephew is looking like this:
You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I was commenting that the fabric of the jacket wasn't quite right. I was on size 6 (4mm) needles. I swatched on size 5 (3.75 mm) needles, but that wasn't much better. I didn't have a pair of size 4 needles in the right length, so I tried size 3 (3.25 mm) needles, and the fabric has a nice, tight weave (no tiny fingers will be able to poke through!), and the fabric has a better drape. The jacket's lapel is at the bottom of the picture, and that part that is sticking out is the shoulder area of the front (just to give you a reference).

Several months ago, Hubby dearest finally went through his clothes bureau and cleared out ill-fitting and worn-out clothes. This past Saturday, I went through those and sorted into four piles: trash, cleaning rags, rug rags, and St. Vincent's Thrift Shop. The rug rags I tore into strips, and this week, I have started warping a rug on the loom that I bought at the guild's summer show (because working full-time, doing volunteer work, reading good books, and having two three intense hobbies aren't enough). Anyway, I have wanted to weave ever since I was a little kid watching the neighbor lady on her big garage-sized rug loom. I go to places like Colonial Williamsburg and hang out in the weaving shed. Something about turning 50.....
It's a start, and I'm thrilled. I figure if I add a few strips every time I go into the basement, then I'll eventually have a rug.

I've also been reading. I finished the book on Chinese history and picked up Jacquelyn Mitchard's Still Summer. She has a podcast and a blog! Must seek out! I will say that I dearly love this woman's books. Her characters are like the people I encounter in my daily life, the problems they face are real, and the way the issues get resolved make sense. This book is really intense and quite frightening. She builds the suspense nicely and handles the resolution well. It is about a Caribbean cruise taken by four women who have known each other all their lives. Bad stuff happens, and they have to deal with it. I really don't want to spoil the plot beyond that.

This past week I read Barbara Vining's (Ruth Rendell's) Anna's Book. I've mentioned Lady Rendell before. I LOVE LOVE LOVE her writing. I'm not sure if I've mentioned here how I found her. I was in Aunt Agatha's bookshop in Ann Arbor a year or so ago, looking for a novel by P. D. James that I hadn't read. Unfortunately, I had read all of the novels they had, but there was a sign saying, "If you like P. D. James, you might also like Ruth Rendell."

Anna's Book takes place in both London in 1905 and London in the late 1980s. A baby is born in 1905 and dies as an old woman in the late 1980s, but who is this child and how did she come to be in the life she lived? Rendell knows how to set a scene, how to spoon out information, and how to keep you reading until the very end. It was a very engrossing book.

Right now I am reading Monica Ali's Brick Lane about a young Bangladeshi woman in an arranged marriage to a much older man. I'm only about 30 or so pages in, but it's good so far.

What are YOU reading? working on? worrying about? Let me know.

Oh!! Oh!! Oh!! So exciting! This evening, I'm going to a live taping of the Slate Political Gabfest! It's going to be in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan law school. I have been listening to this podcast for about four years, and it is my favorite podcast. I am SO thrilled.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cone Nebula Quilt - Part 1

This weekend, I finally cut the first pieces for a quilt I've been mentally planning and dreaming over for at least six or seven years. This is the Cone Nebula quilt, based on a picture I saw on the Astronomy Picture of the Day website several years ago. If you're not already checking this site regularly, you really should add this site to your habit; it has really interesting pictures every day, and you learn some science, too!
I was not able to find the link to this picture this morning, but this is the inspiration. A couple of years ago, I decided that I would do it in kaleidoscope blocks. Here is a test block I did just to remind myself how to make them:
You start by making the corner "ice cream cones," then sew those to the plain triangles until you have it all sewn together. Ideally, you have eight points meeting in the center.

A couple of years ago, I started coloring this version of the quilt, and I finished the coloring yesterday. After I took this picture, I put numbers down the side of the map and letters along the bottom so that I could keep track of the blocks.
Here are the dark fabrics I've been collecting for this quilt. I have them sorted with the darkest darks in the left column, the next darkest darks in the middle, and the medium darks on the right.
I plan to mix these up through the quilt, creating "lanes" of color. This will require some careful placement of fabrics. Here are the light/bright fabrics I selected for the non-dark pieces:
I really want high contrast between the darks and the lights. Here is the first block:
I have a sticker in the upper middle. It has the location code of the block, and the sticker is oriented so that it's readable when it's in the correct orientation. You can see that the points don't match in the center. I sewed the block twice. Looking at this picture, I may take it apart and resew it with different fabrics. I clearly need to do a lot of thinking as I go. I also cut the next few blocks:
Finally, I wanted to show you the true queen of the autumn, sprawled on the sideboard in our dining room.