Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

No, it is not a mirage. It is actually I, Shortcookie, returned as if from the grave!

It has truly been eons since last I checked in, and it's been about that long since I was last in a regular sewing groove. But there was something about the coming holiday season that has returned my sew-jo (aka, sewing mojo).

Since I relocated back to the east coast from Utah almost a year and a half ago, I've been doing freelance work as an educational researcher and writer. It's directly related to my former life as a professor, but it is quite a different pace, with most of the work done from home in what I call my "day-time pajamas"—clean, fresh pajama bottoms with a comfy sweatshirt—as no one can tell from my email and reports what I'm wearing! No complaints about my work clothes, but it has been a bit of an adjustment to the pace. My consulting work is not yet up to full speed, so I have felt guilty over this past year when I spend any time sewing instead of working on drumming up more business.

So, day after day, I've walked by my mostly unpacked sewing room upstairs, trying not to be enticed by all the fabric yumminess. I did occasionally pull out my machine to work on my medallion round robin with my Utah quilty friends, and I think I may have made one baby quilt, but other than that it was one big goose egg for sewing over the past year and a half.

And then Christmas approached and I got that crafty vibe that you just can't say no to!! I have an abundance of fabric, extra time on my hands, and some ideas I've wanted to work on, and so it began anew!

I had made a vintage Lilly Pulitzer quilt for my mother almost three years ago, shortly after I began sewing and quilting. It is a smaller lap size, and it was early in my skill development, so I decided to make her a larger one with a bit more finesse. I was inspired by the baby quilt designed by Allison Harris over Cluck, Cluck, Sew. Her design is for a wonderful baby quilt that uses the WOF of each color, with a strip that inverts the color array. In order to make mine larger enough for my mother's use, I decided to create two rows of pieced fabrics for each color (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Turquoise, Light Blue, Purple, and Pink), with white in between.

This is a lot of color to through into my mother's life (and decorating scheme), so I decided to make a more muted backing that still ties to the front scheme. A while back I had ordered a ton of Lotta Jansdotter's fabulous Kita fabric, intending to use it for drapes, but we ultimately decided that the print was too small a scale for the room we had targeted. Such a sad thing it is, having 8 yards of fabric without a purpose! So I used that fabric for the backing, with a panel of color strips.

This quilt still needs to be quilted and bound (see below for explanation of that), but it should be about 63" x 63". I know that usually only baby quilts are square, but I find them a satisfying shape for a cuddle on the couch quilt.

What's more fun than doing just one large quilt just before Christmas than doing another one! I decided to do a quilt for my brother and his wife, who live up in Boston. I had made another lap-sized quilt for them a few years ago. I wanted to do something that would fit well with their lovely 1920s' home and balance both a masculine and feminine aesthetic. I found several versions of the quilt online of the quilt I've made for them, although can't find a source, so I apologize for not giving credit to the original designer. If you're out there, let me know and I'll give you proper credit!

I was originally going to use the Kona slate grey for all the shadows, but had a brief, panicked meltdown when I thought I didn't have enough for the whole quilt. Karen, as always, stepped in with both a calming influence and a great idea, suggesting that I alternate the slate grey Kona with the Lotta Jansdotter Kita. I later realized that I actually did have enough of the slate to have done the whole quilt, but I found I preferred the alternating light and dark shadows. 

For the backing, I used a similar approach as with my mom's quilt. My back was starting to act up, so Karen took over the sewing. She came up with yet another great idea and created a patchwork panel using all the fabrics from the front, set between Kita. This quilt also needs to be quilted and bound, but should be 62' x 72'.

They were both quite a hit at Christmas, even though they each remain unquilted and unbound. And now for that story . . . What I have not yet mentioned is that this great inspiration to make these two quilts was five days before Christmas. Knowing that we would be driving to my mother's on Christmas Eve, that left only four days to get it all done. Apparently my back and shoulder didn't quite like non-stop marathon sewing sessions, so I hit the wall. I woke up on Christmas morning and couldn't raise my arm above my shoulder. 

So, dear readers, I have likely overwhelmed you with too much quiltery after so much radio silence. But my chief 2015 quilting resolution is to get back quilting and get back to blogging, so stay tuned for much more soon! Lots to report!!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Still Back from Quilt Bliss!

So, continuing my saga from the other day . . . after we arrived at Timber Moose Lodge, we settled into the sewing room, which was transformed from this great upstairs room with a fantastic view of the mountains:

There wasn't quite enough room for all the sewists, so another room was set up on the first floor. I snuck down there occasionally to lay out and baste my quilts, and they had quite a cool, zen sewing environment. Just a handful of ladies, but they were having a great time and had plenty of room. I loved being upstairs, although there were a lot of tables to fit in and it was sometimes hard negotiating around people on the way to and from the iron and cutting table. 

Before I forget to mention it, throughout the retreat we had the most amazing meals, prepared by Pamela's sister Christina, mother Ginny, and aunt Becky. Seriously good. I tried to be good and skipped most of the desserts, but they were incredible: bouche de noel, meringues, rustic tarts, and more! They worked so hard for us and did an outstanding job. Thank you ladies!!

Throughout the retreat there were many great classes and trunk shows. Because I signed up late, there were only a few classes left, but still such great choices! I have to confess that I spent most of my time sewing, so I only got to one class, but it was great! I took a fabulous scrap class with Amy Smart. Amy reviewed a number of great techniques to use scraps, but we focused on making a string pieced quilt. It was perfect! About a year ago I won scraps from Film in the Fridge, leftovers from her lovely Bonnie & Camille Ruby quilt, and I've been holding off using them until I got around to doing these string blocks. I made it through one block before digging back into other projects at the retreat, but I'm inspired to finish a quilt with them. I was so impressed by so many ladies at the retreat who really dug in and made a ton of these blocks. Amy had the great idea of cutting the block into quarters, which made a super cute baby sized quilt. 

In addition to the class I took with Amy, there were great classes by Amanda Woodruff on mixing and matching fabric, Emily Sessions on quilting, Kristin Barrus on quilt journaling, Anna Morrison on paper piecing, Leigh Hansen on carving out creative time, and Jeannette Hartvigsen on her fabulous hand-turned appliqué. 

I had been so crazed with work and preparing for my big meeting in DC (which was scheduled for the day following the retreat) that I really didn't have much time to plan (or pack) for the retreat. The morning of, I opened up a suitcase and just dumped in somewhat random piles of fabric. All were tied to projects I had already planned, but I just ran out of time to think about how much I could accomplish and how much to pack. As a result, I ended up with a rather small suitcase filled with retreat and work clothes and a large suitcase filled with fabric and assorted projects in progress. Some of what I packed were the medallion quilt blocks from the round robin I've been working on. I had three to tackle, and April had the awesome idea of us working on them together at the retreat. I've decided not to show the blocks, as I know there are peekers out there! 

But here's a photo of some of the great swag we received:

There's an adorable little print of a sewing machine, two Omnigrid rulers (5.5 inch square and 1x5 inch ruler), little snips scissors, some Aurifil and Metrosene thread, a charm pack and Kona solids mini charm pack, and that adorable little name "tag" person. It's all resting on top of the great Valentine's table runner made for me by my secret swap partner, Lori. I've also included some of the fat quarters I bought at Corn Wagon on my way to the retreat (on the right) as well as two cute Christmas FQs from April. I have just realized that I neglected to add (but need to include) the great little jar filled with selvedges that Sue gave me!

Going to the retreat has really rekindled my sew-jo, and I've been busy since I returned working on a hexie quilt. I've noticed everyone around me getting into the hexie craze for some time, but it really just didn't interest me until now. The QuiltBliss swag included a little hexie starter kit with EPP templates. While I love all things paper piecing, I initially only picked up the little hexies when I returned from the retreat with a bad cold and ended up in front of the TV (and Olympics) for a solid week. Now I have totally gotten into it!

I initially started making flower circles, using the same scraps pictured above, but I didn't like the more traditional look they were creating. I unpicked what I had done and restarted using a swirling spiral pattern which is making me much happier. And the best part? All of the fabric I'm using—even the white Kona—comes from my scraps collection! I forgot to add something to give a sense of scale, but they're little 1-inch hexies. So lots more to go if I want to make this into a lap quilt!

Okay, enough for today . . .  stay tuned for more to come!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Back from Quilt Bliss!

And back from the blogging grave too! This past month or two have been totally crazy with a big work project that, of course, coincided with the much anticipated Quilt Bliss retreat! My work project included a big trip to DC and I initially worried that I'd have to skip Pamela's retreat in order to meet my work obligations. A little bit of tweaking of the itinerary and I made it work!

As you know, I left Utah mid-summer, relocating to the NYC area. When Pamela first mentioned she was hosting a fabulous luxury retreat along with the Utah County Modern Quilt Guild, I knew I wanted  to go, but I assumed I wouldn't be able to come, given that we're still very much settling into our new jobs and new home. When I discovered a few months ago that there was still room in the retreat AND I realized I had some frequent flier miles piled up, with the support of my honey I decided to make the trip. I knew it'd be a fabulous experience, not to mention a great opportunity to catch up with dear friends.

And what an adventure it was! My dear friend Sue weathered a nasty storm to drive all the way up from Utah County to pick me up late at night at the SLC airport. I settled into her guest room, which included chocolates on my pillow! The next morning, April picked me up and, along with Marion, we wended up our way up to Heber, stopping along the way at several fabulous quilt shops. As I may have mentioned, it has taken some adjustment living in the NY metro area in terms of the shortage of modern fabric stores. There are a few places out on Long Island that have primarily batiks and traditional fabrics, but we have to head into Manhattan to the City Quilter to get some real options. I felt as if I were coming out of the desert into the rich world of Utah fabric stores! Despite the great temptations at Corn Wagon, Gracie Lou's, and American Quilting, I walked away with some fat quarters and some new fabric ideas for my wish list.

We then headed up to the Timber Moose Lodge in Heber. So grateful for Marion's trusty monster truck! A lot of snow had accumulated and only the most robust of 4 wheel drive vehicles were making it up the hill! We actually passed the Dave's Bernina truck, which had gotten stuck going up the hill. After a little backing and forthing up the hill, we finally found the lodge. Funny that you can drive past a 26,000 square foot home and not see it!

Yes, this place is so massive that I could fit my entire house—with room leftover—in the lodge's great room! This incredible place is apparently the largest privately-owned log cabin in the U.S. It has 13 bedrooms, 16 bathrooms, an indoor pool, outdoor hot tub, a game room, and plenty of nooks and crannies, including a gorgeous crow's nest with a nearly 360 degree view!

The lodge overlooks a private lake, which is apparently stocked with fish! I didn't bring my camera (just one thing too many to pack!), so I'm using photos from the lodge rental site (thank you!), but during our stay the lake was frozen over and covered with snow.

I bunked with my friend Sue in the lodge's bunk room, which had six queen-sized bunk beds. I don't think I've bunked down with so many people since sleep-away camp in my teens! There was such an impressive number of bathrooms that despite having almost 60 people sharing facilities, I never once had to wait in line for the shower or potty!

So this is a little glimpse of where I stayed. Stay tuned tomorrow for more about the retreat itself!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Utah, I'm a coming!

So, I don't think I've mentioned that I've signed up for Pamela's fabulous 2014 Quiltbliss retreat in Utah. Yay!

I left Utah mid-summer, not sure of when I'd be back, so I'm really excited to be able to come back to catch up with all my quilty friends!

And what could be a better way of catching up than a four-day modern quilting retreat right in the middle of my favorite snowy season?!

Just look at these funky and fabulous accommodations!

Queen-sized bunk beds!! Totally fabulous, right??

I'm already starting to collect the projects I'll be bringing. Lots to sew, lots to sew, my friends! I've been kind of in a sewing funk of late, as I'm still trying to figure out and settle into my sewing space here. Being back among my sewing friends will be so fabulous! And there will be amazing classes with talented folks like Amy Smart, Anna Morrison, Emily Sessions, and many more!

Maybe I'll finally get around to that table runner that I've been meaning to tackle . . .

Monday, November 11, 2013

Back in the Groove

I think I'm hot on the trail of my sew-jo at last! I was wandering through blogs and found a great tutorial from Amy at Diary of a Quilter for a modern take on the pinwheel. I had some charm squares looking for a home, so I got busy and fell in love with this pattern!

It took no time at all to whip up, even with the addition of the border with 1 inch squares and rectangles. 

Now I just have to figure out how to quilt it. Any suggestions? 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Looking for my sew-jo

So, I'm in search of my sewing mo-jo (my sew-jo, as I call it), as it seems to have wandered off somewhere recently. I love sewing and making things. I want to sew. I spend time thinking about which projects I want to work on. I just can't seem to get myself up and going.

Part of it is that I still haven't fully settled into my sewing room. I need to install shelves so that I can put everything away. Until then, I have piles upon piles of loose fabric and such. I also haven't figured out my set-up at my sewing table. Like where do I put my laptop so that I can follow along on tutorials and such? Right now, it's piled up on top of a plastic basket that started out holding feet and supplies for my Juki, but now has become a catch-all for all things that wander by. If I want to baste a quilt I need to clomp downstairs (in my boot for my injured foot), lugging the quilt, and giant roll of batting, where I can lay it out properly on the dining room table. Then I can either lug it all back upstairs to quilt, or have the machine dragged downstairs for me to work on.

I think the other part of it is this pesky boot I'm lugging around on my right foot. I feel clumsy, I have to use my left foot on the pedal, which is awkward, and my sewing room feels even smaller with this enormous boot.

In my search for my sew-jo, I wander in and out of my sewing room, sort of wistfully visiting my neat fabric piles organized in color order. I just can't seem to turn the ignition!

Not all is lost, of course. I did finish a baby quilt for a former neighbor's new baby girl, Rosy:

The quilting took no time . . . not counting the SIX HOURS I spent sorting out the tension issues. Apparently both my needle and bobbin tension were off, so I kept going back and forth trying to get it right. Still not perfect, but much better.

I also sat down this morning and whipped off these, using Threading My Way's helpful tutorial. There are a ton of great tutorials for these drawstring bags out there. I adjusted the pattern to make a slightly larger bag. These bags are going to be goodie bags for . . . I can't say yet!

So, still looking to get back in my groove, but making a little progress!

Now I'll leave you with some gratuitous puppy pictures from this summer at the beach in New Jersey:

Oh, and by the way, I'm now on Instagram . . . You can find me there at maggieb016

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fabric Hoarding

So, I can't be the only one reluctant to cut into my favorite fabrics, can I? I've been hoarding some of my most treasured collections, afraid to either do something with the fabric and then regret it or to use it up and not have it left. Take my Heather Ross/Munki Munki collection:

I do occasionally cut into these fabrics for my baby quilts—the poplin Munki Munki is just so soft and the images so amazingly cute. But I most definitely hoard it. However, I've recently been so inspired by Susan at Canadian Abroad, who just showcased her gorgeous Heather Ross quilt. I love what she's done, and it's made me consider cutting into and using my HR prints a bit less stingily (is that a word?).

My most prized HR is this fabulous wahini/surfer girls print that's just impossible to find. But what good is fabric if you never use it, and instead just visit it occasionally and stroke it lovingly?!

I did, once upon a time, actually surf (badly), so I particularly love these adorable surfer girls. While I have given away a lot of the things I've sewn, I'm not sure I could give away whatever item contains this. But the more I think about Susan's great quilt, I think this would look fabulous in a quilt mixed with other HR fabrics.

Just picture it, this surfing fabric, alongside HR's Mendocino collection, with its mermaids and sea horses!

A while back, I scored a great deal on a whole luscious yard of HR's pink with VW vans—definitely the right transportation for my surfer girls!

In addition to my Heather Ross, I've also been been hoarding, er, holding onto my Melody Miller Viewfinder fabric. I think I bought the last two yards off of Etsy about 9 months ago, and I've been reluctant to cut into it.

I think it's time, however. I think I'm going to make a shopping tote, using this great grey textured fabric from Architextures. I typically follow Bijou Lovely's tutorial for making the bag. More on this as I get going on it.