Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quilts Are Like Potato Chips

"Betcha can't eat just one!"

That was what they used to say about potato chips when I was a kid. Now that I'm an adult, my quilts are like potato chips. I love quilting, and I can never work on just one project at a time.

As I wrote previously, earlier this month I started Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt, Carolina Christmas. And I decided that I would really focus on it. I would be disciplined. I would get it done!

So there I was, merrily cutting out 2.5 inch strips from one of my neutral fat quarters. But when I got near the end of that piece of fabric, it was too narrow for another strip, yet too wide to be tossed into the string box. Then I remembered that Bonnie's Bricks and Stepping Stones uses 2 inch neutral strips. It's supposed to be a very quick to make quilt. And Fillius needs a quilt, poor thing. So I cut a 2 incher. And after that it just made sense to cut a few 2 inch strips from every neutral I was using for Carolina Christmas.

But sometimes that last bit of a fabric would be a bit too narrow even for a 2 inch strip. So I'd cut a 1.5 inch strip and set it aside. But what to do with them? Ah! Bonnie's Chunky Churn Dash pattern calls for 1.5 inch neutral strips. It also uses 2.5 inch neutrals squares which I'm already cutting for Carolina Christmas. My goodness! This quilt would practically cut itself out without my noticing.

Before I knew it, I was pulling colored scraps out of my bins for the strips and squares and bricks I needed for these two other quilts. The chunky Churn Dash blocks finish at 6 inches, so you really can use up rather small scraps for them. And the bricks in Bricks and Stepping Stones finish at 3 inches by 6 inches, making them perfect for large prints which I often find difficult to use because they don't "read" as any one color.

So that's how I've come to be cutting (and sewing) three quilts at once. I love working this way because I'm process (rather than project) oriented. That is, I love the process of quilt making so much that it almost doesn't matter whether I actually finish the project. I also like the variety of working on more than one quilt at a time. Whether I feel like cutting, piecing, quilting, or binding, there's always a step at hand to suit my mood. (And as soon as I choose a pattern for my dino quilt, I'll have four going at once.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Road Goes Ever On and On -- To California

I forgot to mention that I finally made it to Road to California on Sunday, the last day of the show. And I had only four hours in which to see all of the quilts.

As usual, it was a fantastic show. My favorite quilt was "Tribute To Tolkien" by Sue McCarty. This picture doesn't do justice to it. (You can see a somewhat larger and more detailed one here. And if you click on it, you'll get an even closer view. ) The designs were drawn freehand on the black background fabric, and the metallic and polyester thread painting is stunning. In the photo you can just make out the Black Riders galloping across the bottom border. But what you can't see is Gollum clambering up the rocky slope to the left. On the left side of the quilt you can probably make out a golden eagle about to land on a tree. But in person you will notice (though not immediately) that the tree has a subtle face -- it's actually an Ent. How I wish my Mythie friends could have seen this. It was breathtaking!

I didn't expect to have time to shop the vendors, but at the last minute I bought some fat quarters: purples, blacks and neutrals. They were marked down to $1.50 each and can be used in all three of my current projects.

Yes, I am currently working on three quilts. More on that next time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Scary Fabric

Every quilter has a fabric like this in her stash.

Well, maybe not exactly like it. Dinosaurs in boxer shorts with a background of clubs is a mite unusual. (And if you click on it for a closer look, you'll notice that the boxer shorts have a pattern of doggie bones on them. Wooo!)

What I really meant was that every quilter has fabric which engenders the same response in everyone who sees it: "Why did you buy that? What were you thinking?"

I bought this fabric many years ago from a vendor at a quilt show. The reason? It was so appalling that I just had to have some. And it's lain in my stash ever since.

Until now.

I have an eighteen month-old grandson, and it occurred to me that I could make a quilt for him from this fabric. He is the first male grandchild in the family and has three older, and very forceful, sisters. I think he needs a quilt that screams, "I'm a guy!"

I have less than a yard and a half of this stuff, so I can't simply use it as a backing for otherwise conventional little boy's quilt. What pattern could I use that would display these dinos in all their glory. I turned to my quilting sisters on the Quiltville Chat, a Yahoo Group of ladies who love making scrappy quilts from Bonnie Hunter's patterns. I've gotten some cool suggestions, but if you have have one too, please let me know in the comments box. Fabric this awesome only comes along once in a lifetime.

P.S. My son, Fillius, was just reading over my shoulder and said, "Mom, some fish need to be thrown back into the think thank."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jedi Quilting

I saw a picture of this "Soothing Eye Pillow" in the current Connecting Threads catalogue. (It was on the same page as the ergonomic seam ripper.) And what popped into my head was an image of young Jedi Quilters practicing their sightless rotary cutter technique under the supervision of Jedi Masters. ("You've taken your first step into a larger world with fewer fingers!")

Saturday, January 16, 2010

In Which Using Up Scraps Leads to Buying More Fabric

I always love Bonnie's color combinations so much that I want to make my Bonnie-quilts exactly like hers.

Carolina Crossroads: red, white, and blue? Perfect! (Besides, I have so many of them.) Hand me that rotary cutter.

Double Delight: indigo, chocolate, double pink, and cheddar? Bonnie, you are channeling my inner color sense! (Or maybe I'm channeling yours.) Hand me that rotary cutter.

Carolina Christmas: red, green, and gold? I love Christmas colors. And I'll bust so much stash making this quilt because I have so much of these colors. Except the gold, of course. I'll have to buy some gold. (I told you about my quest for gold in a previous post.)

So I bought and preshrunk my gold. And then I began to think, "I'm not being very creative. I always use the exact same colors Bonnie does." I commanded my dormant individuality to arise and assert itself.

"Purple!" I said. "I have lots of purple. And I like purple and green together. They are complementary colors (just like red and green), and they look good with gold. And I will call my quilt, 'California Advent' since purple is the liturgical color for the weeks proceeding Christmas."

So I pulled my neutrals from my stash. Hmmmm. Not as many as I thought. Making scrap quilts has really put a dent in them. So I bought more neutrals. Anyway, you can never have too many of those. And when Bonnie posted an update on the amount of background fabric we'd need, I felt vindicated. My shopping conscience was bathed in a glow of justification.

I had plenty of greens, so that was fine. But what happened to all my purples? Yikes! Didn't I have a huge number of those? Oh, yeah. I like purple. Funny how that leads to using them up. Maybe I should buy more. But that's adding to the stash, not using it up. More indecision. Should I go back to red?

At this rate I'll never get my quilt done. There's only one thing to do. Pick up that rotary cutter and start slicing the golds and neutrals for step one. Like Scarlett O'Hara, I'll postpone thinking about the rest of my quilt for another day.

I feel a little giddy, but scrappy quilters have to get used to living on the edge.

Update: As you can see from the picture at the top of this post, I ended up buying more purple. No wonder stashes never get any smaller.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Quest for Gold

(In an effort to bring my blog up to date, I'm posting the following, a version of which was previously posted on the Quiltvillechat group at Yahoo where those of us who are working on Bonnie Hunter's current mystery quilt share our progress.)

Okay, so I made a last minute decision to join in on the Carolina Christmas mystery. True, my sewing room and my cutting table is a bit of a mess right now. True, I haven't pulled any fabric yet. But I have lots of greens and purples and plenty of neutrals. All I have to do is buy two yards of a nice gold.

So yesterday* I headed out to Local Quilt Shop #1. My mom asked to tag along because she needed some fabric for a new valence for her kitchen. She's got a great eye for color, so I always enjoy shopping with her.

Problem #1: "I'm looking for a nice gold," I announce as we enter the shop. I pull out a few bolts of solids." Something like this, only I'd like it to be a print."

"Those aren't gold," she counters. "This is gold." The bolt she's holding up is too pale. And it's not what I think of as gold. It reminds me of boring, upholstered furniture. Or very old kitchen appliances.

"Well," I concede, "maybe 'gold' isn't the best word to describe the color I have in mind."

We wander separately through the store, each on our own fabric quest. I find a couple of possibilities, but nothing that screams, "Buy me! I'm perfect!"

My mom finds a possibility for her valence, but it too is not quite perfect. "But isn't that the special green you use in your kitchen?" I ask.

"No," she replies, "there's a bit too much yellow in it." I don't argue because she has an amazing visual memory for colors. Me, I'd have to bring a swatch. We decide to visit Local Quilt Shop #2.

Here my mom finds a black and white fabric which she thinks will work. She pairs it with some giant rick-rack. I'm still auditioning golds. She watches as I hold a bolt of gold up to a shelf filled with purples. "What do you think?" I ask.

"It doesn't go with those purples," she replies with a shake of her head. "But you could use it with that purple over there." I check, and she is right. That purple is gorgeous with that particular gold.

"But, Mom, I'm going to be using this gold with lots of purples. I'm just trying to get an idea of whether it goes with purple in general."

"But which purples?"

"Well, I'm not buying any of these purples. It's a scrappy quilt. I'm using purples I have at home."

"Then shouldn't you have brought them with you?" (She knows I can't carry colors in my head.)

"I'm just trying to find a gold that looks good with lots of greens and lots of purples."

My mom's brow wrinkles as she tries to visualize this. "Is this supposed to be an ugly quilt?" she asks hesitantly.

"No, it's supposed to be scrappy."

"I think," she says deliberately, "You should choose this fabric by yourself."

And so I did.

I got two yards of Blush Texture Marigold by Benartex.

"What are you going to use this for?" asked the clerk as she unrolled the bolt preparatory to measuring and cutting.

"A scrappy quilt with greens and purples."

"Then this will be perfect for it," she said emphatically. Just salesmanship? Or was it quilters seeing eye to eye, sharing a common vision that escapes those who sew fashion and home dec?

By the way, I was so enamored with my new gold that I bought a fat-quarter stack of some of the other colors in that line. Aren't they rich and luscious?


*"Yesterday" as in the day before I originally wrote this.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Road to California -- I hope!

Perhaps you've noticed the "Carolina Christmas" button that has recently appeared on the sidebar. I put it there because I made a tardy decision last month to sew Bonnie Hunter's newest mystery quilt. I'll be wearing a real life version of this button when I go to Road to California some time this weekend.

I bought a multi-day pass to this show and was looking forward to being there on three out of the four days. Unfortunately, due to family problems, I'll probably only get to attend on Sunday which seems hardly enough time to see all the quilts, much less browse through all the vendors. But this year being what it is, I suppose I should just feel grateful that I can go at all.

Anyway, if any of you other Quiltville fans should spot me and my badge, please say hello!

P.S. I haven't been able to chronicle my progress on "Carolina Christmas" so far, but plan to bring the blog up to date on it very soon.