Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Knitting

I just had to slip this post in before the new year.  I have two new family members this Christmas, a son-in-law as of May and a daughter- in-law as of September.  They needed Christmas stockings to match the ones my husband's aunt knit for him and me and our three kids in the mid 70's and 80's.  My husband's original stocking from his childhood was moth eaten and had been knit for him around 1948.  His Aunt Ruth replaced it at the time she made one for me as his new bride.

My husband found the pattern on line and I had my work cut out for me- my intarsia knitting skills were quite rusty.  But here are the results, and in time for Christmas, too.  Jeremy and Carrie's colors do not quite match those of about 30 years ago.  But neither did the ones from the 70's and 80's match those of the 40's and 50's.  Color palettes do change! 

Christmas Quick Flannel Completions

My daughter was here for five days over the Christmas holiday and we had fun just hanging out in my sewing room, pulling out my fabrics, and looking at kits I had purchased and have yet to make. We just generally enjoying each other's company in the colorful ambience of oodles of fabric.  It is neat how we both share a love of color.  She really liked these blue bowls and blue tea kettle... the color of her recent May wedding. 

I rediscovered purchases I had stored away. She too fell in love with several of them and I was bemused enough to  quite gleefully let them return home with her in her itchy little hands.   I got inspired to complete some tops that just need backing and border decisiveness. I think they have mellowed enough and, after sharing ideas with Robin, I have enough renewed enthusiasm that I can move forward on them.

I was also energized to whip up some short projects that are very satisfying because they can be 100% completed rather quickly.  My daughters bridesmaid is having a baby in March.   I felt it only fair that I spend at least as much time sewing items for the baby as the bridesmaid had spent ironing my daughter's gown, train and crafting table cards and seating posters for my daughter's wedding!  I sewed up a flannel baby wrap ( two layers of flannel, no batting) and some burp cloths. The projects were quick.   The baby wrap was a flannel panel (selvages on top and bottom) that I backed with a coordinating flannel print by wrapping the edges around on either side for the vertical print borders.  Ironically the fabric was purchased when I was out visiting my daughter in OK, traveled back with me to CA, and now will be used by a baby back in OK.

I did minimal quilting around the animals and palm trees to hold the two layers of fabric together but kept it sparse so the flannel will still be able to drape softly.

There are some quilting lines around the borders, also.

 And here is the front and back of the coordinating burp cloth.

I also made two dinosaur burp cloths.

I made an owl burp cloth and a giraffe burp cloth.  I love the variety of colors and prints.  I think half the fun is picking the fabrics to pair together.

Grinch: Quick Assembly Update

Well, last blog I was all excited about the framing fabric for each quilt block and went into my choices and reasoning in great detail.  This quilt is unusual for me in that I have no plan and I am just winging it as I go.  No surprise then that the assembly is not going smoothly.  Here are the framed quilt blocks all together.

I have already changed the framing on the Grinch and Cindy Lou Whoo with presents block from that multi colored mini block print to a less chaotic two tone green. I have also decided that the framing of the two yellow blocks will need to be changed as well to something of the green or red bent.


I wanted sashing between the blocks but did not want it to look orderly so I added some stack and whack green rectangles.  These were originally going to be catty-wampus checkerboards of red/white/green/yellow but even before assembling them, I realized the high contrast would compete for attention with the Grinch blocks.  I backed off to just shades of green.

Here is a close-up of the TOP half

And here is a close-up of the BOTTOM half

Here are some photo responses after a frantic e-mail to my daughter on Dec 4th titled "Help, the GRINCH is winning"  (Hard to believe it has been so long since I blogged-  but Christmas IS a busy time of year).  She suggested I add some red lines to draw the eye to the Grinch blocks.   I think the idea could work but I do not particularly want to cut apart seams I have already done so I have set this project aside to think on a while.

Robin's Option 1 Wonky Crosses:
Robin's Option 2 Wonky Crosses:

Stay tuned.  I may be a few weeks before this project comes off the back burner.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Grinch: Blocks 6-10 of 10

Here are the next 5 blocks of the Grinch quilt.  I picked the red frame fabric to match the Grinch's hat and coat.  I introduced black because it is in the pen and ink rendering of the cave.  Even though the frame fabric is flowers I thought the squiggly vines imitated the cracks in the cave walls.  This fabric is left over from a red, black, and white quilt I made for my nephew, Dean.

Since I introduced black with the previous block I chosen this batik to frame the fireplace image.  It make me think of black soot and tongues of flames.  It may be too dark when compared with the other blocks depending on how I separate or put sashing between them. I think it suits the image well but may be too far a stretch from the red/green/yellow used thus far.  This fabric was also left over from that red, black, and white quilt I made for my nephew, Dean.

The fabric framing this next block was also a freebie given away inside a snowman cookie jar.  I thought the little boxes imitated the presents the Grinch and Cindy Lu Who are holding.  This does introduce another color, blue, to the green/red/yellow theme but the blue picks up the color of the bow on the gift the Grinch is holding.  I think it goes great with the image but I am reserving judgment if it will fit in the quilt.  If I change my mind, there are only four straight seams to take out... no biggie.

The frame fabric for the next picture could not be green because of the image border.  The red fabric I picked is pretty mild and unassuming but the dots do echo the balls on the Christmas tree.  Not all fabrics can be yelling out and competing for attention.

For the final block I picked a Grinch-ly Green with spots.  Do you remember the Disney move The Sword in the Stone?  There is a scene in there where Merlin and the witch Madam Mim are having a wizards' duel, turning themselves into different creatures to overpower each other.  Merlin wins when, instead of becoming a bigger animal, he becomes a germ and infects Mim so she becomes ill.  She turns green and is covered with spots- just like this fabric.  See what connotation and memories fabrics can evoke?  That is why this fabric speaks Grinch to me.  Also, the spots are kind of like the holly berries on the wreath.

Here are the blocks assembled on my design wall.  I do think the fireplace block and the block where Cindy Lu Who is holding a present kind of clash.  The batik used on the fireplace and the calico-like print used on the present block do not have the same feeling though I can not quite describe it- probably because most of the framing fabrics read like a solid, but the calico like fabric does not. I may change the framing fabric on one or both blocks. I need to stop working on this for a while and sleep on it; then look at it again over the course of the next few days.  

The fireplace block may look better with a red frame even though the lower Christmas tree image has a red frame and the fireplace block has a partial red border.  Here are four alternatives to the black/red batik frame.  I am sort of leaning toward repeating the fabric on the left.  It is the same fabric I used on the block that was the cover of the Grinch book. That block was centered and not tilted and so is the fireplace block.  I have very little of this fabric so the framing may need to be narrower with this option.  

Alternatively, I am also considering splitting the dual image into two small ones.  The pictures are not intertwined so that is possible.  Each could be framed differently and both tilted, leaving only the top center cover block oriented squarely.  Hmm... this idea has a lot of appeal.  Gotta sleep on it.

And by the way, here is that red/black/white quilt that donated its leftover fabrics.  Can you pick out the two red/black fabrics?

Grinch: Blocks 1-5 of 10

I bought a Grinch panel at the Pacific International Quilt Festival this year (PIQF purchases) and set my self a goal of making it up with only fabrics from my stash.  Here is the panel with 10 Grinch scenes as purchased.

I decided, since Dr. Suess has a whimsical, twisty way of illustrating, that I wanted this quilt to have some quirkiness.  I have never tried tilting blocks before so I was going to give it a whirl on this one.  Also printed panels have a way of not being printed squarely on the fabric grain and are often distorted, so tilting would disguise that.  Here is my rough plan for the quilt.  If I do put in those 8 square rectangular fillers, the squares will be stack and whack and not uniformly lined up as pictured.

I began pulling from my stash to find fabrics for the frames for each image.  I had a blast!  (I also made a huge mess, but that is par for the quilting arena.)  Here are the first 5 blocks with my reason for choosing the framing fabric I did.

I got his fabric in a surprise collection when I used to subscribe by mail to a fat quarters medley of the month from Keepsake Fabrics.  It is a rather large scale Christmas print and with only one fat quarter of it, I never quite knew how to use it.  I picked it for the book cover illustration block because it has the right red, the right green, and because the gold picks up that of the Grinch's eyes.  I also liked that the spikes of the flowers echo the spikes around the blast encircling the Grinch.

This fabric came "free" inside a plastic snowman cookie jar I bought at JoAnn's Fabrics many years ago. Is is a very graphic yellow and red pattern that reads sort of like orange and almost hurts your eyes with its brightness.  I thought that sort of in-your-facedness suited Dr. Suess and look how perfectly it matches the wrapped gift in front of the dog Max!

OK, this next block has a green inside and  red outside so I did not want to border it with either of those colors.  I'd already introduced yellow in the last block and I found this paint speckled fabric in my stash.  The yellow ties in with the star on the Christmas tree and all the dots tie in with the ball Christmas ornaments on the tree.  See how much fun this picking fabric thing is?

This next block was bordered in red so I wanted to go with a green frame- but should it be sickly monster Grinch Green or lettering kelly green?  I found this fabric was perfect since it had both greens.  And remember in the TV special where Boris Karloff in his deep voice sings the song "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch"?  There is a line in the first verse "You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel".  Don't they look like banana peels all over the place?

The next red bordered block needed to be framed in green.  But ya gotta have that Grinch Green, too.  In the next block I had this stripe left over from another quilt.  The yellow lines in it brings out the Grinch's eyes I think.  And the lines also accentuated his snakelike skinniness.

Well I am going to stop blogging so I can get back to sewing.  So far no newly purchased fabric yet in this project.  Oh, and by the way, this is what that green stripe was left over from.  Sweetly springtime and not  at all Grinch-like, I'd say!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Completed Spiral Table Runner

After all those fabric purchases I felt obligated to complete something.  I needed to back and quilt my Thanksgiving themed spiral table runner.   I had decided I did not want the look of binding. Instead, I cut the batting first and sewed it to the wrong side of the runner top stitching along all the valleys of the teeth that formed the points along the outer edges. Then I used the stitching line as guidance for trimming.  After all, stitching can be redone but cutting is permanent.  I found scissors best for this task.  Somehow we quilters forget that not everything has to be rotary cut.  I had even flipped my mat to do the cutting around the perimeter.  Somewhere I read that rotary cutting mats do not "heal" as well from cuts on a curve.  The suggestion was to use the non-gridded reverse plain side for cutting curves.  Anyway, it was a moot point.  Scissors worked better.  I then used the batting/top combination as a template to cut my backing- also with scissors.

Cutting the backing was a bit confusing trying to decide which way to run the grain of the fabric but I decided that making it fit within the fabric width was allowed to influence the orientation slightly.  Here is the backing. I picked it because I thought the paisley shapes picked up the shape of the runner and the orange inner cores of the teardrop shapes  were a good color blend with the front.  I was going for an overall cornucopia effect. 

After sewing the backing to the top/batting combination, right sides together leaving a small opening, I turned it right sides out and smoothed out the curves.  This was much easier than I had anticipated and the two corners poked out nicely.   I stitched around the perimeter, closing the opening I had left for turning. Then came the dreaded phrase in my book, "Quilt as desired".  My creativity zone goes blank.  Here I just split the difference of the teeth at the different fabric interfaces.  I considered stitching in the ditch along the zig-zag.  That would have been more work. I could have mustered the patience to do that if I thought it would be the better look.  But I wanted to keep the smooth curve effect and thought zig-zags that might be too jolting.  I am not thrilled with how it nips the points.  I considered keeping to one side of the tips instead of bisecting them but what is the inside on one half of the runner is the outside on the other half. Here is the quilted front.

And here is the quilted back.

I think the next one of these I make I will attempt free motion ocean waves along each color - kind of like this.  I can't even draw them much less stitch them!
And here is the finished product.  

One of the nice side effects of this blogging is that I get at least one table surface cleared off.  Must have a spot to take a picture... 


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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cambria Trip Pseudo Shop Hop Purchases

This weekend my husband and I went for a weekend away near the Central California coast at a Lodge called Cambria Pines.  He is great with indulging me in my fabric weakness and we stopped at a bunch of quilt stores on the drive down and back and here are my purchases.  I was shameless, but a lot of it was on sale or clearance and all of it just dang irresistible (obviously).  This post is mainly for my daughter since she is of the opinion you only buy fabric with a set project in mind and not for stash building.  She is in her early years as a quilter.

First stop going south were two stores in Paso Robles.  Birch Fabrics' brick and mortar store has a website called  It is a bright airy moderate size store with a lot of large scale graphic prints.  I started out slow at this store and only bought two scraps from the bargain bin, very wrinkled and totaling 1/2 yard.  The apples and pears were so bright and cheery. Owls seem to be in lately and I used to collect them in my high school and college years.  I can see fussy cutting the owls and tress and making a small wall hanging for a baby's room.  I just noticed both pieces have my penchant for dots in them.  I did not notice this at time of purchase- really!

The second shop on the way south was The Quiltery in Paso Robles,  This was a small shop but the owner had a niece who did lovely tole painting on her counter and shelving.  (I did not think to take a photo, duh!)  She was selling 1/2 yard bundles of 15 fabrics for $20.  I bought one for the unusual greens, beiges and blacks. Unusual for me; I tend buy jewel tones and reds for some reason but am remedying that situation.  Ya gotta admit though, the dancing lambs and flitting bumble bees that were included are cute.  Hmm... only 14 fabrics here.. dunno why the 15th is not in the photo.

On the return trip home from our three-day, two-night getaway we went to the Cotton Ball in Morro Bay,  I bought very little here but the outstanding features of this shop were some oil painting of quilts for sale (~$2000- out of my price range) and its stained glass window on the second floor.

I did add to my lack of greens and got some letters to personalize my son's jackets that seem to vanish on a regular basis.

In the next city of Atascedero there were two quilt shops.  In the shop called Sew Fun,, I hit their bargain fabrics and got three panels to make set of a stuffed toy train cars with accompanying buildings.  We have no grandkids yet but my husband is a model railroader and a train buff and we hope that some day...

Also in the 1/2 price fabrics were these beauties.  I loved the feathery blues in the one on the left and the one on the right was just plain funky and fun.

I added to my supply of flannels to make burp cloths.  No, I do not expect my son and daughter to be extremely prolific nor do I anticipate future grandchildren to be upchucking constantly; but, the burp cloths are quick and fun to sew and make good gifts.

There is one more flannel, owls again, that I could not resist, in the far right of the next photo.  The other two fabrics do have intended uses.  The polka dot is for the Grinch quilt I have planned and the wavy beige is for the animal print wall hanging I have planned.

The next three are fat quarters for which I have no intended use but that I liked.  The butterflies have those kind of swirls I am drawn to.  I thought the black and white print was cute because it had a bit of pink snuck in it... and dots of course.  Be sure to read the print on the grey one in the far left.  And yup, more dots!  I made a lot of purchases at this store because, well, my husband was busy at the hobby shop, and I had more time to be dangerous.

At the final store, The Quilters' Cupboard,, also in Atascadero, I bought a Xmas kit.  I was attracted by the unusual Christmas color scheme that included an aqua and a lime green with the red.  The technique to make it is also a deviation from matching  exact points so should be fun for a change.

I also bought some train fabric my husband gravitated to and a cheerful stripe to go with it.  It is a lovely shade of blue and reminded us both of a blueprint.

After coming home I took these photos to post and felt inspired to FINISH a project.  Which I did!  Next post: Spiral Table Runner completed.  Right now I really should cook dinner for that oh-so-patient and indulgent husband of mine :•)