Friday, October 5, 2012

Wait, it's October?

Life has certainly been busy recently. Moving, campaigning, crafting, unpacking, travelling. It's left me with little motivation to add to this little blog, but here we go.

We have two dear friends who are adopting from Uganda (read all about it here), and I wanted to make quilts for the two additions to their family before they left. Two quilts. At the same time. I really adore a baby quilt pattern that I have used in the past (the small quilt at the end of the post), but it just wasn't going to work for this project. I wanted to incorporate fabric from the previous two quilts that I made for their homegrown children into the two quilts for their heart grown children, but unfortunately, the fabric pieces I had left just weren't big enough for my go to pattern (one that I have made 4 times now... I really love that pattern!).

So, what do I do? I go and find some inspiration.

The first nudging of an idea came when I was watching a new PBS special on the Quilts of Valor program (which is something I would love to do at some point). Eleanor Burns (of Quilt in a Day fame) was featured on the program doing a Tossed Nine Patch pattern. She made it look so simple. So very, very simple. So, I thought that these two baby quilts would be the perfect way to test this pattern out. Small, quick, easy. Simple, right?

In theory.

So, the basic pattern of a tossed nine patch is pretty straight forward:
1. Sew a nine patch block (9 equal sized squares sewn in three rows of three)
2. Cut the nine patch block into four equal squares.
3. Toss all the new squares and reassemble them into a beautiful quilt that looks much more difficult to sew.

Simple, right? (I even found a YouTube video of how "simple" Eleanor makes it out to be).

Well, the problem is that I have a really hard time matching fabric. Well, really, matching anything. It was fun to go shopping in my stash for all the fabrics, reliving memories, thinking about the different projects that I had sewn. I found fabrics that I felt coordinated with the two from the original quilts and complimented each other without actually making the same quilt for both children.

I decided to make 4 inch squares to sew into the nine patch pattern and make 12 nine patch blocks. Using a standard 1/4 inch sew allowance, this would give me a finished quilt of about 31" x 42" which, I've been told, is a pretty ideal size for a child's blanket. So I cut lots of fabric and figured out which fabrics went with what. And tried to balance the use of flannel and cotton in the two quilts.

But then I over thought the process. Or maybe under thought? Either way, step three for quilt one took waaaaaay longer than I expected.

I think in the end, though, the quilts turned out quite nicely.

This was the first quilt that I did. For this one, I did not take Eleanor's advice to use the same fabric for the center square of each nine patch. I had some convoluted way of arranging the fabrics in the nine patches and working through some sort of pattern that made sense in my head but was extremely chaotic after the whole jumbling process. The arranging of this quilt to make sure that the colors were well distributed and none of the same fabrics were touching took me two days. Really. Ask Jeff.

And here's the second quilt. For this one, I did use the same fabric for each of the nine patch blocks and arranged the other eight fabrics in a much more intuitive way (I figured out which ones looked nice next to each other, and then just rotated the eight fabrics around the center block for each of the 12 nine patch blocks). This made the post-jumble layout of the quilt MUCH easier.

Jeff picked out which backing went with which quilt since I forgot what I was thinking in between buying the fabric and actually attaching it to the fronts.

And blanket binding. How I hate thee! But, in my opinion, no baby blanket is complete without that satiny finish along the edges, so it is always worth the bother. No matter how many times I do attach this blanket binding, I always forget what I did the last time. My favorite tutorials are here and here. The key is getting your zig zag stitch just right to minimize bunching.

I am not a quilter that actually quilts her quilts, so these are just tied with coordinating floss. The batting is 100% cotton which is the perfect weight for Florida.

I was so worried that the quilts would be too busy and crazy, but when I delivered them to their new home, they seemed to fit right in. The coolest thing, too, was that I had no hint on nursery theme for these puppies, so I started with the animal fabrics (thanks, Mom. Those are from your stash!), the two fabrics from the other quilts (which are the green palm tree and the light yellow polka dot), and went from there. Turns out the two babies will be welcomed with a circus theme! And blanket number one has a fabric that coordinates almost perfectly with the crib bumper for the bed. God was certainly in the sewing room with me on these ones to make sure they turned out just right for this very special project.

The tossed nine patch really was a fun pattern, but I'm not sure if I would do it again. Or if I did, I would probably have the nine patches in all one color family. The next quilt will be back to my favorite again :-)

(p.s. Thanks for the photos, Karissa, since I completely forgot to take some in the rush of finishing the quilts on time. You can see them featured in her virtual baby shower here)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Quilts big and small

I promised that I would soon post a post (redundant?) about a large project on which I was working, and because I waited long enough, you'll get a two for one deal. If you stay until the end, you may even get a bonus project.

Quilt number one (drum roll please....)

My SIL commissioned me to make this quilt for her niece that will be attending FSU this Fall (Congrats, Brianna!!). This was the very first full size quilt that I have ever completed... or really attempted for that matter, so I was a little intimidated. I didn't really have many guidelines for the quilt, just make it FSU and preferably a twin size rather than a lap blanket. The finished product is about 90" x 60" (its shown on our queen size bed and reached the edges).

I didn't really take pictures as I made it since, quite frankly, I was flying by the seat of my pants on design. To start, I based my design a bit off of Nancy Zieman's "fat free triangle" method. It made the sewing part go super fast, but I still hate all the cutting. I had to go back to the fabric store a few times since I miscalculated material amount (hey, I'm an English major, not a math major). I also didn't realize how difficult it would be to find coordinating fabrics to match the FSU licensed stuff. The yellow (or gold or whatever the "official" color is called) is really a bizarre color, so I found it was actually easier to find material that matched the crimson color (which I thought would be really difficult to match). If I were to do something like this again, I would probably make the double blocks of the crimson FSU fabric actual rectangles to save some time.

I did some basic machine quilting which you can see in the first small picture. I chose to go around the diamonds as the simplest design element. This was my first experience machine quilting something this large, and my machine and I exchanged quite a few words. I definitely recognize the benefit of having a long arm machine, now. In addition to the machine "stitching in the ditch," I also tied with crimson and gold floss around the solid squares. The one thing I discovered with this is make sure you have a needle with a large enough eye so that you're not killing your fingers trying to pull the floss through all of the layers.

For the binding, I cheated a little and used a self-binding technique. I researched many different sites on the internet to find some help with this, but I liked the binding help on Annie's Attic and Ludlow Quilt and Sew the best. There was also a series of videos on YouTube by the Missouri Star Quilt Company that was great, too (be careful, though. I got lost for quite some time watching all of their fantastic tutorials). I also machine sewed the binding rather than hand slip-stitch since I was on a bit of a time crunch. I think that it turned out quite nice.

The other tip that I found while layering this quilt was that you need a large space (thank you living room floor). A hard floor is nice. In order to make the backing nice and tight, you really need to tape the backing fabric to the floor (if you have carpet, you can also pin it into the carpet). I never knew that, but I'll admit that it took me a few frustrating hours before I caved and looked up why my backing fabric wouldn't stay smooth during my layering process. Let my frustration be your learning experience. And if you're curious, I used a 100% cotton batting that isn't as fluffy as polyester batting but is just perfect for Florida.

Also, since I didn't use all those scraps left over from the fat-free triangle method, I do have more FSU fabric for anyone interested :-) It's probably not enough to make another full size quilt, but we could work out something.

Quilt number 2 is much smaller and in a pattern that I have done several times before:

It's a crib size quilt I made for a friend who will soon be blessed with a little boy. As you may have guessed, the theme is dinosaurs (ROAR!). The fabrics are a mix of 100% cotton, cotton flannel, and fuzzy-material-that-should-not-be-manufactured-because-it-is-a-nightmare-to-use-and-makes-a-huge-mess (although I think the official name is warm & cuddly). I declared that the little pieces of green fabric it left behind should be dubbed fabric poo. I love using the satin binding on these baby quilts because I feel that every baby needs a little oy-oy (as my brother used to say) in their lives. I just wish that I would remember how I attach it so that I don't have to rethink the process everytime I make this pattern. For this quilt, I did a little hand quilting around all the fuzzy fabric. I found that it was so much thicker than the cotton, that it just needed a little something to help ground the whole thing together.

And the bonus project is fancy burp clothes for the same baby. What baby doesn't need some camo in his life?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My name is Joy, and I might be a Luddite

I have recently come to terms with the fact that I am a bit of a Luddite. And what, some of you may ask, exactly is a Luddite? According to the Oxford English Dictionary (that's the OED to its closest friends), a Luddite is "one who opposes the introduction of new technology, esp. into a place of work." A group of manufacturers were given this name after following one Captain Ludd in protests during the Industrial Revolution. They essentially tried to stop the march of progress by destroying the machines that were replacing them in the factories. Obviously, they weren't successful, but the name stuck. So that's something they accomplished.

It's not that I don't appreciate technology. Hey, I'm using a blog. I have a Facebook account. Email rocks. Twitter and LinkedIn may grow on me. We just bought a tablet (but I hate (!!) mobile apps. I want to see all of the options, not just the ones your choose for me). And the Internet, well, it's pretty cool.

The Internet: it's bigger on the inside (who's a Doctor Who fan out there?).

Love the IT Crowd.

Sorry. Back to the main topic.

It's just the rate that technology and gadgets are changing can be a bit mind numbing at times. Being in the information profession (that's fancy speak for librarianship), I think that I see so much more of the new technologies, and even what I see is only the tip of the ice burg. My position in the Tower does keep me a bit insulated from many new fangled notions since I'm just trying to pull us past the mid-1990's (I'm getting a new scanner!!). I just find myself thinking I wish I could just give it all up, plow an acre of land, make my own clothes, and coordinate an old fashioned book exchange for the other homesteaders nearby.

So what prompted this oh so very philosophical post? As I may have mentioned, I'm running for an office on the Board of SLA (that's Special Libraries Association). As part of the campaign process, we have to answer questions periodically to help the members get to know us. You can see my most recent post here. The question about techie gadgets just irked me a bit. I really had to tone down my snark. Again, it's not that I have anything wrong with techie gadgets, but they are certainly not the end all be all of helping people in a library or information resource or research setting (and I don't really think the question implied that, it's just where my mind went this evening).

Here was my work for the last two weeks: listening to recordings of carillon concerts (good, actually very enjoyable) combined with trying to get my computer to do something else so I could multitask (not so good) all the while trying to find carillon music appropriate to play during a 5K race (you can still participate). Today, I had 4 hours to actually burn the CD. Between the additional editing that needed to be done, the rare visitor that came to see me in the library, and my super slow computer, it took me 5 hours to accomplish this task. Yes, my computer is that slow. Really. It's not that I was just impatient. It took an hour and a half to burn 66 minutes worth of music to a CD today. What new techie gadget do I want? A computer that works faster than a snail's pace. A scanner with a wide enough bed to capture 8.5 x 11" paper (who buys a scanner made for A4 paper in the US?). A phone that doesn't get all static when a storm is approaching. Reliable electricity and temperature control (historic buildings are a bit of a bummer about things like that). Running water (I kid not). There are librarians out in the world doing what they can with a whole lot less. Tablets, smart phones, apps, blah, blah, blah. Let's make sure everyone has the basics before we go all crazy. The good news is that I should be getting a newer computer, scanner, and other 21st century computer equipment next week!! Eeee!

Call me a Luddite. It's ok. I'd even wear the t-shirt.

If I start a tech-free commune, who wants a plot of land?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Crafting is good for the soul

We'll just ignore that once again I have seriously neglected this blog. I'll say that life has been consumed by many things. I'm running for an office on the international board of SLA, serving my regional SLA chapter as president,  planning some trips to conferences, and crafting away. I've been working on a really large project that I'll be able to share soon (but not yet) and some smaller projects in between.

Last weekend, I facilitated a Bible study for my church's women's retreat. We evaluated our thought closets, considering how it is that we as women talk to ourselves, what takes up the most space in our thoughts, and how God would actually like us to talk to ourselves and prioritize our thoughts. I had my doubts about the format (we watched several videos in the Jennifer Rothschild study Me, Myself, and Lies: A Thought Closet Makeover) since we were trying to cram the lessons of a 6 week study into a weekend, but I think it went well. Our church is planning on doing the rest of the study this summer, and I really can't wait.

So, what does this have to do with crafting? Crafty woman that I am, I couldn't miss out on an opportunity to make a little something for the ladies that attended the event. A few months ago, I saw a blog post about making journal jars, and I stuck it on the back burner of my mind. When I started studying for this event, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity.

Step one: gather jars of all shapes and sizes. Why buy jars when we empty jars all the time? The size of the jars ranged from a small jam jar up to a spaghetti sauce jar. It really made no difference, but I think I liked the odd shaped jelly jars the best. Make sure the lids fit snugly on the jars. I found metal worked better than plastic in terms of holding the paint. I did use one canning jar, and I just glued the two pieces of the lid together with tacky glue.

Step two: make sure the jars and lids are nice and clean, clear of all labels and glue, and don't smell funny (like one pickle jar I wanted to use). A nice long soak in warm soapy water worked well for most, but you may need to pull out the Goo-gone on the tougher labels.

Step three: I painted the jar lids to make them look less like discarded food jars and more like a crafty item. I painted both the outside and inside of the lids to give them a more finished look. This was the part that took the longest since you need to let the paint dry completely between coats. The outside of the lids took about three coats, depending on the lid material (plastic, metal, shiny metal). The insides only took about two (mostly because I was lazy).

Step four: jazz them up! I found a super cute dress form graphic over at the Graphics Fairy, my go-to site for license free graphics. Book mark it. Now. After some consultation with my DH, we agreed that I should color them to match the lids. I think that it added a very nice touch. I used my Crayola True to Life crayons that have complimenting colors mixed into one crayon (they are my most favorite crayons which is why it is so sad they were discontinued). For the inside of the lid, I made a little reminder of the Bible verse that was the focus of our study.

Step five: I attached the graphics to the lids using Mod Podge which is always super fun to use. It took about two coats to cover the graphics and make it smooth enough. I am also hoping that this step will help protect the paint from chipping. Let the lids dry completely before placing them back onto the jars (the point is to be able to reopen them after all).

Step six: fill the jars with journal prompts. I used a bunch of thoughts from our study and then when I gave the jars to the ladies, I encouraged them to continue filling them with favorite Bible verses and other prompts that will remind them of God's will for their lives. I colored the back of the paper to match the lids and dress forms.

If you had a journal jar, what would you put in it?