Monday, July 30, 2012

Word of the Week: Frenetic. Oh, and Finished!

It has been a crazy week! I've not only been a bit delinquent in my posting, but also in my reading! So apologies to anyone who has posted cool stuff recently-- I'm taking a quick skim through things, but am bound to miss a lot.

Backyard Baby Boy FINALLY Finished

First, I did finish something! I actually finished this way back on the 19th, but like I said, things have been a little hectic. Anyway, I have completed pictures of my Backyard Baby quilt! (Apologies for the pics-- I had a haircut the morning of the shower for which the quilt was intended, so I left it with my mom and asked her to take a few pics, with mixed results. But it should get the idea across.) I loved how the finished quilt looked! And it was so soft and snuggly.

Look! A quilt with legs!



With the mama-to-be.

The recipient is a friend of mine who I have known since preschool. Her grandma would pick up her, her cousin, and me and take us to our respective babysitters' houses. Her husband went to high school with us and is a good friend of my brother. He is a high school biology teacher, which is why I loved this fabric so much for them (the nursery is "science" themed.) :) They're a really neat couple and will be terrific parents to their little boy!

A Whole Bunch of Other Stuff

Aside from the baby quilt, most of last week was occupied by one of my best friends' wedding. Wednesday night was the bachelorette party (We did a themed murder mystery, which was awesome. Even if I was the killer...) Thursday involved frosting 480 cupcakes and getting manicures. Friday brought hair appointments and the big day itself!

We were all super excited about it.

I don't know if I have any readers from the Great Plains, but it has been ungodly hot this summer. It is always hot in Nebraska in July-- I think the average high temp for the month is around 95--but this year at least half of the days I've been here have been at 100 or above. So, it's been super nasty. My dear, darling, beloved friend, for reasons unknown, decided that it would be amazing to have an outdoor wedding. In July. In Nebraska.

Well, God clearly loves her, because Friday marked the first cool morning there has been since I've been in the state, and a high temperature for the day of only 88! The ceremony was in the shade (at least for the bridesmaids-- sorry groomsmen!) and was reasonably comfortable. I don't know how she got so lucky! It was nice on Saturday too, but now it's back up to 100 again. Timing is everything, I guess.

I was especially excited for the wedding because my boyfriend flew in from Michigan to attend with me! It was fun to introduce him to all of my college friends and to have a little extra time with him.

The perfectly lovely indoor and air-conditioned space at the botanical garden. ;)

The wedding was a blast, and I loved seeing all of my college friends again. I feel strongly that my friends are among the biggest blessings of my life, and my college friends are essential to that view. Every time I spend time with them, I feel that I hit some sort of amazing jackpot. It's been quite awhile since I've laughed as much as I did this weekend. Yay friends. :)

With the beautiful bride. I met her the first week of college! Friends ever since.

Since it was a Friday wedding, I took the boy around Omaha on Saturday. We went to the Farmers Market, where I introduced him to the pastry delight of my Czech forefathers, the kolache, and then to the zoo. A lot of people are skeptical, but Omaha's zoo is one of the tops in the country. There is a huge indoor rainforest, an aquarium, a "desert dome," and all of the usual zoo stuff too. It's pretty cool, and we had a great time!

In the rainforest.

Freaky giant crabs at the aquarium.

In front of the desert dome. Why yes, I left my updo in. For $50, I always try to get a second day out of them. :)

On Sunday, we toured the Nebraska State Capitol (he's an Art Deco junkie, and the capitol is a great example of that) before he caught his plane.

So yeah, I'm a little tired. :)

Linking up with Plum and June, and catching up on blog hoppers!

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Where I Sew

I know, I know... you were just dying to find out, weren't you? ;)

Like many of us, I don't have a special little room to use solely for my sewing supplies. I think that's a good fit for me, because I think if things were tucked too far away I'd sew a lot less. But unlike many bloggers, I live alone, which means I can sort of let things take up as much space as I want without having to clear the table for dinner. Hey, I'll enjoy it while it lasts. :)

Helper kitty will be joining us on this tour.

Here it is in all its glory! My dining room/sewing room. If I'm sewing during the day (rare, unfortunately), I have abundant natural light. At night, my apartment has the typical lighting of apartments, which is to say that there is more light in some deep sea vents. But I make do.

See where my cutting mat is off to the left? That's an amazing new discovery. No, of course I realized that I always had a counter there. But I didn't realize initially that it's the perfect height for cutting, and I cut out my first quilt on my table, which was very painful and annoying. But now... I'm really going to miss that wide, perfectly positioned counter whenever I move! 

I move my ironing board to the position you see above whenever I sew. The rest of the time, I leave it set up in front of the window as a "vertical enrichment" tool for my large and lazy feline. Believe it or not, that's actually what I bought the ironing board for before I started sewing. :)

Bingley sees no reason the board should ever be used for any other purpose.

 A closer look at my machine. My table offers a fair amount of space, even though it's not the hugest dining table in the world.

I love my 1950s advertisements. These are all from old calendars that I've acquired over the past five or six years. The one below is probably my favorite, and hangs above the cutting area/kitchen counter.

Dude had it rough.

And here is my machine, Peggy. This is Peggy's last quilt. :( The next time I am sewing in this space (I'm currently visiting family and friends in Nebraska), I will have the new machine my mom found for me on craigslist, a Bernina 930. I'm sure there will be a post on that when the time comes! But for now, this is Peggy, a 1969 Singer with some flaws and foibles, but who valiantly led me in my return to stitchery. 

'Atta girl, Pegs.

The view from my sewing machine, where I watch way too much House Hunters.

I've included the following photo just for Bethany and Jenn, as we are having an informal "grossest ironing board cover" contest. Feel free to join us in confessing your ironing board shame. :)

Also pictured: starving cat.

Wanna see my fabric? I love how it looks, all in mini bolts like this. You can see I haven't entirely gotten the hang of it and some of them are a little taller than others. Oh well. I still like that I can see everything at once and how beautiful they all look standing together! I have mostly small yardage--a lot of fat quarters, in fact.

Usually, I have this facing the other way to minimize sun exposure from the adjacent window.

My pretties.

Hope you enjoyed the tour! It's not fancy, but it works out really well for me! I'm linking this with Pink Chalk Studio's "Where I Sew" gallery. Head over there and drool at some really neat spaces!

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Of Pillows and Chaos

It feels like it's been forever since I've written a post or read anyone else's! The last week has been a complete whirlwind. More on that later, but I'll start with the "pillow" part of the title and then move on to the chaos.

Yesterday was the bridal shower of one of my very dearest friends. I have two best friends (even though I sound like a second grader when I put it like that) and they mean the world to me. I expect that I'll make many more friends throughout my life, but in these two, I believe I have my friend soulmates. They are amazing. I remember meeting the one who is getting married, M, my very first week of college in a Bible study. I also vividly remember that she seemed very quiet and thinking "She seems like she'll never talk. I guess we will probably not be very good friends." Ha. Wrong on both counts. :)

My dear M is an interior designer and has a very modern aesthetic quite different than mine, so I was a little worried about making her something, but I've decided to forge ahead anyway. I'm making her a quilt (she doesn't know about that yet) and I think it's going to be perfect for her. But I decided to use the scraps to make her a throw pillow:

I look super-awkward in this picture. Here's how the making of this pillow went down:

--Friday 5:00 pm: Decide I should start working on the pillow.
--Saturday 5:00 am: Leave to go run a 5k two hours away and then make food for the shower with a friend. Return home at 11:00 pm.
--Sunday 8:00 am: Begin working on the pillow again. With the assistance of my mother cutting out the back pieces and helping pin while I showered, finish at 12:45. "Wrap" the pillow in a pillowcase from Ikea (I used the other pillowcase as the backing for the pillow.) Shower is at 3:00, in a city two hours away. My mom snapped this quick picture of it as I was running out to the car to leave.

This is how I roll.

I used Oh Fransson's tutorial for the Mod Mosaic Pillow. It's a free tutorial, so download it and make one for yourself! This was my first attempt at anything improvisational, so it was nice to try that. It's not really my style, so I'm not sure how much place it has in my life, but it was fun to try. My sister-in-law stopped over on Sunday morning (add that to the timeline too!) and she loved it, so I'm sure it will be a good skill to have on hand for gifts and the like. The tutorial calls for it to be quilted, but I ran out of time to do that, so mine is simply pieced with a piece of muslin on the back. The world, alas, is an imperfect place.

Where am I looking? I have no idea.

Most importantly, the bride really liked it. She was pointing out all of the fabrics in it that she loved. I think she's going to be really surprised and delighted by the quilt!

This weekend was just the culmination of a crazy week. I spent all of Wednesday and Thursday driving from New York to Nebraska. It's about 23 total hours. I actually really don't mind the drive--it's kind of relaxing and a good chance to just zone out (haha, not a good thing to admit) and listen to music and audio books. I like to say that if grad school doesn't work out, I'll become a truck driver. My cat is also a total trooper when it comes to car or air travel, so that helps a lot too. And, my boyfriend drove down from Michigan and met me in South Bend, so it was wonderful to see him, even if just for a short time. We met for the first time in South Bend when I was driving from Nebraska to New York last summer, so it has a bit of a special place in our hearts.

On the road in western New York.

As I alluded to earlier, I ran a 5k. This is the first time I have ran anything, ever. I am not a runner. Emphatically not. But my sister-in-law isn't either, and she thought this Color Run sounded fun. So we decided to give it a shot.



You know how some girls look cute, no matter what sweaty, disgusting thing they're doing? That's not me. No, I'm the girl who ends up with a purple Hitler mustache at the end of the race.

I'm not sure I loved the experience, but I didn't hate it, and I would consider doing it again. However, I would not do one in July in Nebraska again.

Don't worry, my car is melodramatic. It was only 100 degrees.

 Anyway. I'm taking it easy today. :) Linking my pillow up with Plum and June, and checking out what others have been up to!

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Goals, and the People Who Have Them

I came to a realization this week. One of the things I like about sewing and quilting is that it gives me a chance to finish something. In my non-sewing real life, I'm in the midst of a PhD program. I've been in it for four years, and I've got at least two more. It often feels like a long, slow march to nowhere, and that's particularly true of the stage I'm at right now--writing the dissertation. It's a new experience for me to work on something for years before I can say it's finished, and that's frustrating, especially when that one thing is the main measure of how you're spending your time. In a sense, it will never be done--there are always more sources I could find, more secondary sources to consult, and more revisions of the writing. It's a tough thing to go years without much sense of completion.

So, I think that's what appeals to me about quilting. There is a beginning, there is a process, and then there is a very clear, definite end. It's really satisfying.

I think that's part of the reason that I don't have 15 WIPs at any one time. Most of my projects, at this point, have very definite destinations and corresponding deadlines. There is also a budgetary component keeping me in check too. :) But most importantly, I think it is crucial to me that I have an area of my life where I can and do get things finished.

How about you? For many women, the main appeal of sewing and quilting seems to be as an outlet for creating, and I definitely get that. But upon reflection, I think having a small sense that I've accomplished something is even more important to me than is the creative component.

That said, I do have a few goals for the coming month. I'm headed back to Nebraska in a few days, and each of the next three weekends, I have either a baby shower, wedding shower, or a wedding, and I have sewing goals for all of them. :)

I got all of the squares cut for my best friend's wedding quilt this weekend. I'm really excited about this quilt, because I think it's going to look awesome and that she'll really love it. I'm also a bit nervous, because I want it to look good and it's the largest quilt I've made thus far. But the pattern is simple, and I think it should be manageable.

Know what's tough to find? Canary yellow. Seems some sort of goldenrod color is more in right now. Also very hard to tell yellow shades online.

I'm also using scraps from these fabrics to make her some throw pillows for her shower, which is Sunday... we'll see how that goes. Hopefully I won't have to resort to getting something off the registry. I feel like that's always a little fraught when you're shopping for close friends. I just feel weird saying, "You mean so much to me. Have a salt and pepper shaker set."

Does anyone else love seeing the little scraps from a project all piled up? I do.

Otherwise, I had a lovely weekend (a better one than Andy Murray did, anyway... poor guy.) We finally got some much-needed rain, and I enjoyed the thunderstorms on Saturday morning. Sunday cooled down nicely and I went to the Farmers Market after church in search of strawberries. Sadly, there were none, so I got some Pad Thai instead.

One of the top Farmers Markets in the U.S.!

Gorgeous flowers!

Complete with eccentric musical performances.

Then I went kayaking. I don't have as many pictures as I intended, because it turned out to be far more windy on the lake than I anticipated, and I needed both hands to control my boat! I guess the windsurfers and kite surfers should have been an indication of windspeeds, but I missed that. :) So I spent most of the time paddling around the calmer, but less picturesque, inlet.

Cornell from a distance.

I ended the day eating ice cream and cherries on a friend's dock and enjoying the 70 degree weather and amazing sunset. Sometimes, life is not too bad. :)

Linked to Plum and June's Let's Get Acquainted Link Up!

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Red, White, and Binding Hell

Happy 4th of July! Welcome to Earf. (One of the internet's most persistent misquotes--Will Smith clearly says "Earth" and YouTube agrees. At any rate, yay Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum for figuring out how to defeat the aliens with a Mac PowerBook and a WWII airplane.)

Anyway. I sewed a bit yesterday and today, though I didn't make as much progress as I wanted to, primarily because I am lazy. It happens. But I did make enough progress that all I have left to do is sew the binding down on the back.

Speaking of binding, let's get to the binding hell of the post title. This binding did not go well for me.

There was a lot of this happening. :(

In addition to the little "situation" pictured above, I ended up having a lot of extra binding by the time I finished a side, particularly on the two long sides. I pinned really well and appropriately tautly (I thought) so it really flummoxed me, as well as made me pretty angry (I may or may not have told my boyfriend I was going to burn the quilt.) I didn't know what to do with it, so when I got to the end with the excess, I re-mitered the corner, and then folded the excess like so:

Technique pictured in no sewing book, ever.

After I folded the binding over to the other side, the corner was a bit thicker, but it didn't look too bad, so I guess it was an ok solution. But why did this happen? This is only my third binding, but I didn't have trouble at all with the first two. But I think the problem is more with my equipment than me (that sounds like I'm evading responsibility...) I have an old, basic Singer and no walking foot. My first quilt binding was attached with my mom's fancy-schmancy new Bernina (with walking foot.) My second quilt binding was just that little table runner which was much more thoroughly quilted and also much smaller with less room for the binding to get bunched up over a distance. So I'm wondering if I just didn't have enough hands to make this workable without the walking foot.

In any event, I'm going to wait until I have access to a machine with a walking foot when I do my friend's wedding quilt, which is my next project.

It was highly irritating, but after I flipped it over and pinned it, it still doesn't look too bad from the front. It'll be fine once it's washed and finished, I think. Still qualifies for Freshly Pieced's WIP Wednesday.

A few other pictures from the process:

1) Basting: I thought I'd have to go to my office to find enough hard floor for this, but my kitchen had juuuuust enough room (kind of). :) Also, I now know that my kitchen is only slightly bigger than 40" by 50"!

Eat your hearts out, greedy women on House Hunters.

2) Backing: I'm really happy with this fabric. I found it in the sale section! It matches so nicely and it's really soft. So many wins right there. I'm still a bit on the fence regarding my feelings toward the binding, but it's too late now. :)

Backing: "Journeys" (Free Spirit), Binding: "What a World" (P&B Textiles)

Anyway, I medicated my binding woes with chocolate pie. It always helps.

My kitchen has the lighting of a cave. Now you know why I'm not a food blogger.

I hope you all had lovely holidays (if you're in the U.S., otherwise, I hope you had a lovely Wednesday). I walked a couple of dogs at the shelter this morning--an 80-lb. Rottweiler who couldn't believe how amazing life and walks and the whole world in general were, and a 5-lb., 10-year-old Chihuahua who can barely walk from an old dog attack injury--making it my most disparate dog walking experience ever. My boyfriend and I independently decided that we would make ourselves burgers in lieu of having any plans, and once we discovered that our brains worked exactly the same way on this point, we had a "burger contest." As one might expect from a distance burger contest, the results were inconclusive. All we know is, in the immortal words of Ron Swanson, that "turkey can never beat cow."

I love you, Ron.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Quilt Top and Quilting Conundrums

I finished my Backyard Baby quilt top this weekend! What a great block and quilt design--it went together so smoothly and easily. I'm completely pleased with how it turned out.

I think this is a terrific quilt top design to have in your back pocket for gifts you might need on short notice. Here's why:

1. It's super easy, and goes together really quickly. You could probably make the whole quilt in a day, if you had all day to work on it and a longer attention span than I do.

2. It can be budget-friendly. That's actually what inspired me to try it. I used a 1/4 yard of each print (and that was juuuust enough!) The rest is a solid fabric, which is cheaper. I don't know about you, but while I'd love to fill each quilt with nothing but the latest designer prints, that's not happening on a grad student budget. This was a way to feature those prints, but still only buy a yard total of them.

3. It's a great way to feature a few favorite prints. I think the prints can really stand out with this particular pattern.

As mentioned before, this is based on the Filmstrip Quilt at crazymomquilts. I adjusted the measurements and made fewer blocks than in her tutorial though.

Now, I have to make some decisions about quilting, by far the part of the process that intimidates me the most. I had originally planned to try some meandering squiggles, simply because I've never done that before and it seems to fit the fabric (it's almost like the path that bugs walk in!) But I've been losing a bit of nerve and thinking of various grid possibilities, which would also look very nice and be easy to pull off given the block structure on this one. What do you think?

Bloomin' Spiral                              Gridlines

Rows of Loops                          Meandering Bug Paths

I had a really great weekend beyond quilting. On Saturday, I went kayaking for the first time since I got back from Michigan. I thought I'd be smart and bring my old camera, but I was stupid and put my new card in it and it didn't work. :( It was beautiful though. I love kayaking.

I took this one last summer. Gorgeous, huh?

Also, fifteen years and one day after the publication of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (or "Philosopher's Stone," I suppose), I finished the entire Harry Potter series. I read a little of the first book in the late 90s as a teen, and for some reason, it didn't grab me at the time. But this time, it definitely did! I loved the series, and want to read all of the books again. :) Better late to the party than never!

Happy Monday--have a great week!

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fresh Sewing Day: Happy July!

First day of July! Like most of us, I'm not sure how it came to be July already. I've had a great summer, although (unsurprisingly) less has been accomplished in the dissertation area than might be hoped. Ah well.

I don't have a lot of big project finishes this month, owing to a typically nomadic summer for me that found me in Michigan for over a month with only my little sewing machine! Still, it was nice to try some new things, such as bags.

June 2012 finishes!

I've got one quilt top done, and another in the works, so my July finishes will have more quilts!

There's one picture in my collage I haven't blogged about yet-- my new pincushions! I made these this afternoon out of some scraps. I didn't have one before, and now I have two. Easy and cute!

I'm linking up with Lily's Quilts Fresh Sewing Day and also the Small Blog Meet! I'm looking forward to checking out some other new blogs!

Lily's Quilts

Lily's Quilts

Happy Sunday!

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