27 Feb

I Won!

I am victorious over the scrap bin. Yes, it lives to fight another day, but I can now reach in and actually rifle around to find appropriate fabric bits to work with. So much better than the solid mass of cotton it was two weeks ago.

It took two quilt tops to make a dent in the bin: first the Zigeunerquilt (still in quilt-top form until I feel like finishing it off), and second, this:

I had expected to make the stars very scrappy, but I came across a lump that was once the off cuts of a friend’s rusty/stripey quilt and really liked the way they looked. It was a rather big lump, so using it had a very positive impact on the scrap reduction. The purples did not come out of the scrap bin, rather the purple drawer in my regular stash. It had not been getting a proper workout, so this whipped it back into shape (meaning the plastic drawer doesn’t bulge anymore). I’ll back and baste it today and probably quilt it this weekend. I’m not sure if I’ll send it to Tia for the Brushfire Quilt Project, or to my hubby to be given to a soldier at the field hospital on the base where he works/lives.

25 Feb

Clever Me

If I were a high speed home schooling mom or at least a Montesori-minded one, I’d probably have bought a sturdy wooden clock toy while the kids were in diapers. But I’m just your average mom who’s trying not to buy more clutter (purses and note cards don’t count as they contain clutter and spread good will), so when my second grader needed a clock with hands to move to do her time-telling math homework today, I had to think quick. I think I was pretty clever — and cheap too!

DIY learner’s clock: 1 plate, 1 spoon, 1 knife, masking tape, marker. Assemble as shown.

24 Feb

Good Mail

The mail has been good to me lately. First, I couldn’t help myself. I HAD to buy Sandra’s Viking notecards; and while I was at it, I decided I might as well get the adorable mobile too.

Since I’m new to Hawai’i and don’t really know what’s here, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to subscribe to Hapa/Hale’s blog feed. It’s mostly fashion stuff that doesn’t apply to me, but I still get a feel for what’s going on outside the strip malls and big box stores. So, when Sasaki Creation’s bags popped up, I knew I had to have one. This is an Omiyagi Bag, but I’m probably keeping it for myself. Now that I look at Barb’s blog though, I might need a Kukio bag (scroll down the sidebar). They’re all very Hawai’i without being typical and touristy (IMHO).

(The interior fabric is even coffee bean fabric!)

The best mail though, was the surprise from Nic. Since I joined the mushroom swap and she is a mushroom and kitsch aficionado, I guess she figured she had what I needed. Really, I have no idea what triggered her generosity, but I’m not complaining. Look at all the Pimpinellakram (“Stuff” from her line, Luzia Pimpinella) she sent me:

Not only does this include mushroom, gnome, and owl ribbon hot off the presses, but also a Pimpinella keychain featuring one of her brand spankin’ new mushroom embroidery designs (if I had the embroidery module for my sewing machine, I’d be buying all of Nic’s designs for clothes for my daughter. I’m not though because, like scrapbooking, that’s a whole can of worms I don’t want to open). Anyway, there’s Little Red Riding Hood ribbon and the deer in the woods one I’ve been eyeing but not yet bought, plus sweet matroishkas and hearts too. And stickers! Cute overload! Thank you, thank you, thank you Nic! The ribbons will be so much fun to sew with.

I love my mailbox (even more so in that all this mail goodness comes to my door — I don’t have to get myself to the mailroom on post [after 11:00] to pick any of this up!).

22 Feb

Fairytale Forest

I’ve been working on this piece on and off since I bought the beautiful hand-dyed background fabric from Dijanne Cevaal nearly a year ago. I kept adding more and more embroidery, but when I’d step back it still looked the same. Finally last week, I just decided I was done for now and stretched it on stretcher bars (like an artist’s canvas) to see how it looked. I’m not sure if it’s truly done, so I’ve set it aside for a while. I think it’s actually too big for what it is because it just begs to be looked at up close. I have not finished the back with anything, so I can still add more embroidery if I want, it will just be a bit harder at the edges where the frame is, and it may affect how taught the piece is (I wet it before stapling it to the stretcher bar frame so it would shrink up as it dried). I keep trying to maintain a balance between a richly encrusted surface with textural fabrics, embroidery and beads, and letting Dijanne’s work show through. A few people who saw it in progress suggested I add a fairy or two. I hesitated at first, but it really did want something to lead your eye about. I had fabric with soft green non-cutesy fairies on it so I added three. This is not a deep thinking, push the barriers of art kind of piece, so I think the fairies are perfectly in keeping with the sparkley yarns and magic toadstools.

Fairytale Forest © 2009  Kristin La Flamme
33″ x 33″

21 Feb

“It’s Chrysalising!” (said my son)

For anyone still anxiously awaiting caterpillar news, it’s good! I’ve been keeping a close watch on the last caterpillar standing. I’ve noticed interesting behavior too. You’d probably expect a caterpillar to just go randomly about a tree munching anything in it’s path. Nope. Ours seems to have found a favorite leaf to call home (large and relatively sheltered from sun and wind) and then it goes out on food forays, systematically eating all the leaves on a branch. Once satiated each day, it returns to the home leaf for a rest before venturing out again for the next leaf on the branch. Here’s how it looked shortly after I last blogged:

Yesterday, I noticed that it had left it’s home leaf, but instead of heading out for a bite to eat, it worked it’s way down the tree and onto the stem of a ceramic flower I had “planted” in the pot.

Since it had turned from poopy to green in less than four hours, I expected this change to happen rather quick too and watched closely. Over the course of the day, it seemed to compress. It also spit up a little silk sling to hold itself in place, and “let go” of the wire stalk.

And that was it. Instead of a chrysalis this morning, it looked just the same. I admit I was disappointed. However, I think it’s metamorphosis may be temperature dependent. As a sort of aside, my son mentioned this morning that caterpillars have the chrysalis inside them and must shed their outer skin to expose it. Hmmm. I’m not sure where he learned that, but when we returned from shopping mid-day (and the yard was nice and sunny), the caterpillar was wriggling wildly and indeed seemed to be pushing something down it’s body. We were witness to the last bit:

And something definitely did drop off the end of the chrysalis:

And now we have a beautiful, still, chrysalis which will hopefully become an equally beautiful butterfly.

To be continued…

19 Feb

Me Versus the Scrap Bin

It was touch and go for a while, but I think I have the better of the scrap bin. I’m not a control freak, but I do like to know where to look to find things.

I think that’s what was bugging me about the scrap bin. It was so full and compressed that I never knew what might surface. My stash busting log cabin blocks have definitely made a dent in the scraps, but now that the bin contents are no longer compressed, it’s still pretty full in there. I have a Plan B though.

Plan A was for log cabin blocks on point. In the Amish quilt I saw (from the exhibit “Diamonds and Rows: Quilts from the Schlumberger Collection,” sorry, no picture of the actual quilt) the logs were pretty plain and the centers stood out in vertical rows. I had hoped maybe that would happen with my scrap quilt as the green centers were the only constant. It didn’t. But that’s OK. In retrospect, I think every other log cabin may have had a non-contrasting center in the original (by Kathy Lapp, circa 1920).

Things I noticed while making my scrap quilt:

More is definitely more. When the blocks were small with only one or two rounds of logs, they looked hideous. You noticed all the clashing colors and patterns. With four or five go rounds, it all blends together into scrappy goodness.

I had a lot more red scraps than I remembered. This was a fortuitous because I think all the red looks great with the green centers (complimentary colors all you color wheel-phobes out there).

The centers (or negative space if it’s a spiderweb quilt) need to be STRONG to not get lost amongst all the varied scraps. Red is a classic scrap quilt puller-together, but I think this green works well too, as would a bright cobalt or aqua or orange!

This is not a project for the faint of heart (see the need for strong color above) or those who like control and matchy-matchyness. I went nearly completely random here. The only time I’d swap out strips was if the length was too short and I could see a smaller block within the next few down the line, or if the same fabrics ended up right next to each other (same fabrics on different sides of a block, or with a log or two in between was perfectly acceptable). I made no attempt to organize by darks and lights, by colors, or to make a concentric pattern.

I laid all my blocks out last night and saw a gypsy tablecloth, or skirt, or drapes, or something. So that’s what it will be. I’m not even going to make corner or setting triangles — this will have the zig-zag edge you see in the photo. I might try to find some picot/lace edging though. I have to research a little on the ins and outs (pun intended) of finishing off this kind of shape.

Plan B: I think that my stuffed drawer of decent sized pieces of purple fabric is the answer to the scrap bin of now quite tiny pieces. I really enjoyed the liberated stars I made for my Brushfire Quilt project blocks, so while I’m on a roll, I think I will cut a bunch of purples into small squares and make scrappy stars with (hopefully a lot) of the lighter bits still in the scrap bin.

17 Feb

Stash Busting

Today is “Fabriholic Blog” Day. See, the great thing about having so many blogs rolled into one is that sooner or later, I just might post something someone can relate to. 😉

Anyhoo, there’s some talk amongst the fabriholic blogs about how one can organize their fabric stash, what makes a well rounded stash, is your stash pre-washed and neatly folded, etc. A few of my answers are:

I rarely go out shopping for a specific fabric/project. When I see something I like, I usually buy a half yard. That bites me in the butt later when I want to make a garment, or a quilt with a large plain space, or if I want to actually make blocks with the same fabric in them. Hence, my quilts tend towards the “scrappy.”

I am a pre-washer. Who can be bothered to stop and wash when inspiration hits? I don’t care if I get a tangled mass of threads, I just want to get rid of any sizing and prevent unexpected bleeding. I don’t often iron though. That can wait until I need to use the fabric since it will just get wrinkly squished in my drawers anyway.

I sort my fabric by color. Then I shove it in my drawers. When I can’t fit any more fabric in a drawer, then I know I need to stop collecting for a while. Blues were out of control until I made a strippy blue baby quilt and the giant blue string Lone Star quilt. Now I need to make something purple — STAT.

I consider all my projects to be stash busters. If the colors are right, I have no problem mixing something contemporary with something that’s been sitting in my stash since the 1990s, with something gifted from a friend or picked up from the Quilt Guild freebie table. A perfect stash has the full range of colors and neutrals and covers a wide range of lights to darks. Some fabrics with interesting textures like wools and silks are a good addition too. I’ve never met a fabric I didn’t like (well, except for the bag of polyester double knit house dresses from my neighbor’s mom), and my stash shows it.

And that has led to a recent stash crisis. Somehow, in all the piles of half started projects, the thing that bugged me the most was my full-to-bursting scrap bin. Two days ago I HAD to make something from scraps and take the bin down to hopefully half capacity.

I was thinking a spiderweb quilt and when we were out buying buttons for my new asian blouse the other day, I saw a lime green solid that screamed basis for a scrap quilt! (I bought 1.5 yards!) Then I decided that the spiderweb scrap quilt was being done very well by sewists with happy light fabrics and lots of linen and that I would hate mine in comparison (silly me, but whatever). I switched gears to a log cabin with an interesting layout seen in an Amish exhibit. I had sketched the quilt thinking subdued dark neutrals with cobalt centers, but hey, it would work as a completely scrappy quilt too. Besides, my stash is mostly subdued colors anyway, right?

Wrong! Apparently, I’ve been on a brights kick. I’ve also got some pretty ugly stuff at the bottom of the bin that hasn’t been skimmed off in many a year. I think you can tell something about a person from their scrap bin. Is there a preferred color scheme? Does the person buy fabrics in collections? Are the dated fabrics removed? Are the scraps mostly florals, or plaids or geometrics? Mostly large or small scale prints? A yes to any of those questions would probably result in very nice tidy scrap quilts. I have to answer no to all the questions. The first few go-rounds on my log cabins were looking pretty hideous, but I decided that the only way to beat the scrap bin was to keep going. I’ve decided (since I’ve barely made a dent) that I’d increase the size of the blocks from 6″ (the size of my square ruler) to 8.” I think this will help to homogenize all the wacky color combos going on. There’s some hot pink and aqua competing with the green centers, but I think they will be OK in the end. I’m on day two of sewing and the scrap bin is just laughing at me and spitting up crazy fabric, but I will persist.