Love Letters to Friends, As Well As Very Important Musings on Earth Shattering Matters:
Thread Count, Powerlifts, Quilting, Karaoke, Lemon Cookies, and Graphomania

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Blackhawks, Furballs, and Irish Chains: The Wedding of E and J

…another foray into traditional patterns for wedded friends, with sporty colors and concern for cat hair.

Back in November, friends Erica and Josh tied the knot, but before that I had asked what kind of colors I ought to consider when making their present, and E informed me that red, white and black were her colors: the colors for her wedding, the colors of her beloved Chicago Blackhawks, and also partly the colors of her alma mater, where she met her future husband, though she didn't know that last part at the time - though it sounds like maybe Josh knew!  - and also where he also proposed to her.  Aw!

A pile of preliminary fabric pulls, with E and J's invitation for guidance.

I know E from our mutual obsession with the weightlifting part of Crossfit - in the past, we eschewed the WODs in favor of hiding out on the Oly Lifting side of the gym.  But last year we successfully completed, like what? 3 whole months of mostly WODs? Which for us is amazing!  And we should start doing that again soon, and certainly after the number of cookies I've been enjoying this holiday season, which are shortly to number in the billions, right after I finish this batch of Tollhouse Chocolate Chips I whipped up today.  Crossfit does not figure into this quilt story: that was just a reminder to E that she needs to call me and/or start coming to the 11:00 Saturday Oly class on Belmont.  I promise I won't even talk about doing the morning class ever again!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sketchy Ducks and the Teal-Lime Triangle Kid

…in which some triangles meet up, and some do not.

One of my volleyball teammates (team name:  Volleybrawlers) has had a baby!  Well, okay, his wife had the baby, but Bobby helped.  And prior to this actually happening, like back in spring, I have this vague recollection of asking him about the upcoming Blessed Event, and him mentioning something about nursery colors being in the blues and greens, and also that ducks would be involved.  I'm sure I had to pry this out of him during post-game beers, as I don't think that nursery colors are typically the sort of thing Bobby would volunteer, so I may be a little hazy on the details, or in fact have made up the entire thing up.  But as always, when someone gives me a color, such as "blue", I immediately panic, thinking "WHICH blue?"  There are so many.  Inevitably, my color paralysis leads me to choose All The Blues, like so:

Several blues, and a couple of lime greens.
In the first version of this, there was only blues, but it was kind of dead and boring to look at.  I think throwing some lime green in there livened it up a bit, and in my head the lime green was befriended and introduced around by the light blue to everyone else, and now they all get along like a house afire.  Don't ask me why my brain anthropomorphizes the relationship between colors like that.  Royal Blue doesn't like me to talk about it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Arkansas Traveler, Stem Stitches, and the Magic of Paper

….being a wee wedding quilt for an old college chum, with some forays into paper-piecing and label-making.

I know I can be a bit scattered when it comes to spacing out on Important Things Happening Around Me, but somehow, my friend Jeannie got married this fall and I was caught unawares.  Curses, people!  Don't you know that my ability to provide you with a decent crafty Major Life Event present relies on some lead time?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Minky Rules, Orange Peels, Omniscient Lady Pirates and Low-Volume Postage Stamps

...being a foray into all-over quilting pattern, with some success, and also Minky backing for which, it develops, there are Rules.

In my Big Excel Doc of Ideas and Scribbles, I had come up with a pattern I was calling Switchback, with repetitive squared off loops...and for a few of those loops, I continued the color onto the back, as you can see here in the far right two versions:

I was showing some of my plans to a couple of folks and my friend the Cap'n looked over my shoulder and declared, 'That one.  I like that one."  And to my surprised question, "The Switchback?"  she replied, "No, the back of it." And voila! (or perhaps that is "Argh!") A quilt is born.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tractor Cozies, Dental Aprons, True Blue Swoons, and the Big Five-Oh

….it ain't heavy; it's my brother's birthday quilt.  Well, actually, it IS heavy.

Some few weeks ago, I consulted via email with my most senior brother, Hercules "TVC15" Reflux, about what kind of quilt someone might want, if someone were to be turning 50 soon, and happened to know someone else who was in the quilt-making business.  This is the brother, by the way, who introduced me to "Space Oddity" and also to the loud, stupid joys of punk, in its heyday; who, the night before I precipitously went to work in Alaska all summer when I was 19, asked no questions about my incredibly poor planning, but trotted me right out to SportMart to buy me a tent.  And who came with me to Alaska the following year.  Who decreed that I should wear a shirt bearing the legend "Jail Bait" when partying with his rugby team when he was in college despite the fact he wasn't letting me talk to any of them anyway; and who is always up for a long bike-ride, for helping to move your heavy furniture, or for acting as an excellent, canny straight man in the continual comedy routine that is my siblings' dynamic.  He's smart, he's funny, he's got a heart o gold and is genuine, salt-of-the-earth good people.  I mean, he's my big brother.  I LOVE the guy.

Anyway, to the question of quilt preferences, Herc responded, in his inimitable way:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Phantom Frankenquilt Lone Stars and Other Works of Fiction

…a quick quilt meant to bring cheer, deep in the heart of Texas.

This quilt fights cancer.

A friend I shall dub L is in Texas is going through chemo, and so to send her some moral support and good juju, and to continue my streak of sending quilts to people in the very hottest parts of the country at the very hottest times of the year,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Positively Educational: An FMQ Primer

…Part one of I don't know how many.

Testing, testing…….

Or that's then plan, anyway.  This here top, colloquially known as a "Plus Quilt" or "Cross Quilt" among modern quilters, is my guinea pig for Free Motion Quilting.  You know how I've been complaining that I don't want to f*ck up anyone else's quilts by practicing my FMQ on them?  Enter one quilt, not earmarked for anyone in particular, and in need of a great deal of stitchery.   When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!

This guy has actually been a number of months in the making, at least in the "thinking about it" stages - ever since March or so,

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Team Autumn, Handmade Wiggles, and Drawing Outside the Lines

…being a dipping of the toe into machine quilting in the negative space, with promising results, but a full-on belly-flop into the limpid pool of nostalgia.

In the halcyon days of yore, after college, and after the diaspora of many friends out of state but before everyone was gone, and before kids, and usually between September and November, there was Team Autumn.

Ringleader Bean totes a mighty harvest from The Orchard.
Her minions are not so successful in the hunt.  Astrid, Chadly, and SeƱor "The Legend of Sleepy" Fitzgerald. 
This quartet of intrepid autumneers claimed the season for our very own

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thrifty Sparta Sugar Shock: A Self-Diagnosis

…being a re-discovery of an old friend, with unexpectedly sweet results.

Summer has been a bit of a lull - well, okay, a torpor.  I'm doing some sewing, but not finishing much.  As anyone who's ever been in my company for more than 3 minutes knows, I HATE to be hot, and my motivation to do anything drops drastically when the temps go up.  I prefer to sit in the bathtub with a cold Mexican Coke, panting until September.

But I made a discovery the other day that was cool, so I figured I'd share.  This is a crappy, beat to hell quilt that I bought for $5 from what I recall as an ice cream store, in Sparta, Wisconsin, while taking a lunch break from acting as a massage therapist on the Minnesota to Chicago AIDS Ride in 1997:
Sorry the pictures are so dark.

I had only wanted it, really, because we needed something to keep the sun off of our clients in the (incredibly hot, smelly) tent we were working in. But of course because it was an AIDS ride, and the AIDS quilt project was making its way around the U.S. on a pretty much continual loop by then, many of my clients naturally made this association and it triggered them to talk openly and emotionally about their friends, families, and lovers who had battled or lost their battles with HIV and AIDS.  That was probably one of the most conversation-provoking sun shades I've ever used.  I've always kind of loved this thing since then, even though it really is in horrible condition.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Binding the Fractured Flower

…that's not a euphemism.  It's the completion of Lulu's birthday quilt.

Not much to say on this one, just a few final photos of the completed quilt I was calling "Apophenia", but which pattern is really called Fractured Flowers - as I'd previously decided, I bound it up in orange stripes with a hint of green, for the most part…..though naturally, I ran out of it after making an error, and in my attempt to finish the whole quilt on time, I used a little scrappy bit of other orange fabric, which tone I ended up liking better for being a little orange-er and warmer.  That's okay, though: I still like the stripy fabric as well.  Binge-watching for this binding was seasons 1 & 2 of "Grimm."  How I love to bind a quilt and half-pay attention to bad television featuring pretty men.  I am a middle-aged cliche.

A few more photos….the first is the whole completed top with binding still in progress on the upper and upper right-hand sides (you can see the little binding clippy things I've been using instead of pins, which I dearly love:)

And here is a slightly better view of the quilting,

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bias, Material Differential, and Apophenia: Why Is This Blog Post Titled Like a Thesis?

….being an examination of the attempt to make a quilt beyond my skill level, a very frustrating process indeed.

So my sister, Lulu Fishpaw Reflux, had a birthday a couple days back, and though I have been manically trying to complete her quilt since, oh, early February, it was not done on time.  Why, you say? Well, I reply, because I got it into my head that Lulu's decor could use a nice soothing repetitive geometric pattern and I thought I'd found just the pattern for her - though I think I may have been confused, because she has said that her preferred decor would look like "a very expensive private sanitarium" but I believe instead I have made her something that might drive her screaming to just such a place, if she gazes upon it for too long.  But lo! You can see for yourself, IF YOU DARE:
You are getting verrry sleepy

This here pattern is called Fractured Flowers, by Happy Stash Quilts, which looked

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Drunk Babies, Part II

....and also drunk sewist, if this free-motion quilting is any indication.

After a flurry of activity around the holiday break, I slacked off a bit in January, but am back at my machine and now trying to beat some upcoming deadlines.  One of them is the impending birthday of Emmy, the as-yet-not-arrived-daughter of my cousin's daughter, and while I'm sure that familial relationship has a name I'll be damned if I know what it is.  Let's go with calling me her "aunt", a suitably generic term that nevertheless gives me a reason to make her a wee blanket to welcome her arrival.  Though probably a Bad Influence Aunt, given that I still think the idea of drunk babies is hilarious.

So:  welcome, Emmy!  And congratulations, Amy and Jesse!

Back in the fall, Emmy's mama Amy came to Chicago for work and was accompanied by my cousin Mike (Amy's pa), and some of their midwestern family came into the city proper, to overeat at a chophouse chosen to assuage Amy's steak craving, and to drink convivially, and to figure out how we could invest in Mike's dream micro-brewery, and to ultimately wind up at a Wrigleyville bar where there was a karaoke contest going on (that last being most definitely my fault).

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Imperfect Quilter

 ...wherein it transpires that sometimes the process really IS more important than the result.

So the last few things I've made have been for Other People, and that is an honorable and worthy pursuit, and one I will happily continue.  But I do find myself stressing a little about making something worth giving away, and that slows me down (as it well should.)  However, with as many theoretical-quilts as I have floating around in my brain, and with as much fabric as I've amassed over the past year, it behooves me to whip out something small and meaningless from time to time, both as a sop to my increasingly loud and insistent quilt-muse, as a skill-building venture, and a reminder of the pleasure to be had in making something practical, but not perfect.  Sometimes I just itch to do, without thinking too hard about what I'm doing.  In fact, that's pretty much the story of my life.

So I'm usually quite comfortable with perfection as option, rather than necessity, but this time it wasn't even a secondary or tertiary goal.  This time, the goals were simple -  make something fast; test the use of double gauze as a backing in case of any oddities requiring different sewing techniques for "real" projects down the road; and use one of the hundreds of patterns I've dog-eared (digitally speaking) to work on values as a design element.  This is the result, evidencing varying degrees of success - it's about 60" x 70" or "napping size," in the vernacular:

Sort of a crappy picture of the result, but you get the gist.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Twenty-Eight Years and a Million Little Pieces least, that's what it felt like.

I'd mentioned that I'd sent two quilts out last week. The other has arrived, so Now It Can Be Told  - no thanks to USPS, who told me it'd be there last Thursday, the swine, and then somehow got it to Kansas before sending it back to Illinois before it progressed to California. I know Americans aren't supposed to be good at geography, but jesus christ, people.  KANSAS. All you had to do was keep going in a straight line.

This assumes no detours to, say, Corpus Christi or Bozeman

So E, my good friend and long-time comrade in meat-eating, being mesmerized by radio plays, bookishness, aversion to talking on the phone, and general snarkery, moved her fam out to the west coast some years back, leaving miserable Midwestern winters and high-quality restaurants for the tolerable climate and subdued surfer-student vibe of the O.C.  We met in high school when I trilled an alarmingly friendly, "Hello, person sitting next to me!" at her on the first day of sophomore honors English, only to be chastened by her icy, basilisk stare of dismay; but all was forgiven later, when I sneezed into a Kleenex and she wanted to see the result. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Drunk Babies

I sent two quilts out today, both started a way back in 2013.  The first was this here baby quilt for a former lifting buddy of mine, Mags, who has since gone back to greener pastures in WI and has just last week spawned her very first infant, Anne.  Hooray Mags!

The proud parents didn't find out the sex of the baby until she was born, though, so Mags gave me free rein to pick colors and do whatever.  I started with some wonky stars but didn't like them, so I gave this one a shot: a version of Julie Pickles' Mod Pop.  I say "version" because I didn't buy the pattern, since I already have a Drunkard's Path template that I could use for this sucker: lord knows I needed the practice on curved seams, but also it amuses me to make something for a baby called Drunkard's Path.

So this is the basic block, using my giant pile of thrifted men's shirts as the grays.  The plan for the color part, since I was not tied to anything gender-specific or nursery colors, was ALL the colors:  a colorwash quilt.  Exciting!  Turns out, though, that the best way to do a colorwash quilt is NOT to start with something that is yellow, orange and green and work out in a circle from there.  Bad plan, for not the least of which reason is that it turns out I didn't have all that much green in my stash to begin with and should have husbanded its use a little more carefully.  As it is, "green and pink" ended up being one of my color areas, to confusing effect.  To wit: this ended up in the middle -

Monday, January 13, 2014

OCD Crafty

Mostly, I want to put up a year-in-review type post, but looking back, I was pretty lackluster in the Make Strides Towards Happiness and Fulfillment Department.  I blame my job, of course, because that's easy.

So instead of going forward, I went on a tangent, and the tangent was: quilting.

This happens to be right up my alley, personality-wise: something that I can do by myself in my apartment, in a sort of mindless fugue state from which I surface 12 hours later to discover I have created a functional thing that I can give away and start over?  Sign me up.  I had zero sewing skills prior to fall of 2012, when I took an Intro to Sewing and then an Intro to Quilting class at Lill Street:  Art Classes for Adults.  Most of the way through the ItQ class, I made the Shades of Gray one below, and it was off to the races.  And so the following are what I finished in 2013.

Shades of Gray was made out of thrifted men's shirts in, uh, grays, and Kona charcoal, I believe, was the solid.  I didn't use a pattern, but it's basically a sashed brick layout.  I still have this, but I don't actually use it much: a lesson in useful sizing and also the relative value of a cozy backing.