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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).
 Mainly I remember a lot of delectable cream sauces and froofy pink girlie cocktails at dinner, followed by five of us bending the laws of physics in order to pile into one cab for what felt like an hour to go the 5 miles to the bar; and then the delight of singing "Chicken Fried" with my cousin Sue and also "Piano Man" with Mike MUCH to Amy's astonishment and glee.  (Mike has a lovely voice though he tries to deny it.)

Amy, despite not drinking and having been in class all day and being pregnancy-tired, was a total trooper throughout these shenanigans, though I think it was touch and go there as to whether she would fall asleep in the middle of karaoke (until Mike sang! wide awake for that part).  And somewhere amidst this frivolity, Amy told me that her nursery colors were going to be in a antiquey-pink-and-soft-yellow (or maybe she said ivory? or maybe I hallucinated that whole conversation?) scheme; and miraculously I retained this information despite increasing quantities of froofy in my bloodstream.  Hence, another round of pinks, along with some lighter floral yellows and even a darker mauve or two for some depth.  The brown fabrics ended up in there because I'm down with brown, as ever.

I'd had a hankering to try this ogee pattern for a bit, and had determined I could use the same Drunkard's Path template I'd used to make Maggie's Mod Pod Colorwash quilt to approximate the shape, albeit with a more squared off top and bottom to each ogee.  So voila! another drunk baby, quite different from the first, which was in fact cut and pieced before Christmas but then went dormant while I finished the ones I've already posted about (essentially, in order of due dates.)

Here is Emmy's antiqued ogee laid out on the floor to get the colors mapped out:

sticky notes: quilter's secret weapon

And here is how those drunk babies get made - this is the basic quarter circle/curved L shape (excuse the heinous ironing board cover, which has since been burned by fire and replaced for being so ugly):

Curved seams are something I'm glad I learned in a class.  Even though when you invert one fabric on the other, the curves are now curving away from each other, you still sew them as if they curve the same way, which involves some crafty pinning or, for better sewists than me, holding the top fabric to guide it into place as you sew, a nice tutorial for which can be found here:

Then you end up with a pile of these curiously crimpy curved pieces, which must be ironed flat into squares; cue jammie shorts and Gladys Knight for an hour or two of ironing sing-along:

 Then when all your curves have turned into squares, you just sew the squares together in rows as per usual and poof! a top is born..... though you can see from the Pucker Factor here that my curved sewing leaves something to be desired. Fortunately, that all usually evens out in the wash, quite literally.

This particular top I chose to pair with two layers of an ivory gauze for the back, for extra baby-soft coziness and possibly to act as a spit-up quicker-picker-upper: that's "two layers of single gauze" as opposed to double-gauze, which is a fabric in its own right.  While the puzzle of how to back Emmy's quilt was perplexing me, at a trip to Vogue Fabrics I happened upon an exactly-right-amount remnant of regular ol' gauze that made me think - Aha! If I can't buy double-gauze in ivory, then I can make it, and by gum that is what I did.  So when basting the usual three layers of quilt together - top, batting  and back - I just added another layer of back in there and started quilting.  Easy peasy.

(A word about the elusive double-gauze: double-gauze is apparently all the rage for clothing in Japan, but it's expensive and hard-to-find in the U.S. and when you do find it, it's usually a pretty distinctive Nano Iro fabric line that I like, but wasn't exactly the color story I was going for with this quilt.  But ooh, so pretty.  I used some solid olive double-gauze on the Canning Day quilt and it is divine.  The main difference in using two layers of regular gauze is that regular gauze is crinklier on purpose, and so a bit stretchier to work with; but I just spray basted the hell out of it and had no issues.)

Well, the basting was easy, at least. The quilting....let's just say that I trust Amy, Jesse and baby Emmy will all be forgiving of my only-second-ever-attempt at free-motion quilting (FMQ), which turned out a bit comically in spots.  I hand-quilted around the edges of the ogees to start with... then I decided I should just make simple freehand FMQ flowers in the middle of each ogee to keep the batting in place.  How hard could those be?  Ha ha!  HOW HARD?  Ha ha ha!

Listen, I'm not even entirely certain my simple flowers are going to turn out well when I doodle them with a ball point pen, much less when I'm busting them out in thread.  Modern quilters have embraced "wonky" as an aesthetic, so I guess these mean I'm of The Wonky School:


As long as we've decided that I am Emmy's "aunt", let us also decide that these attempts are "whimsical and child-like" rather than "aberrant and possibly the product of substance abuse."  Fortunately, the thread I quilted with is mostly invisible on the front side, with the exception of on the darker browns, which is kind of nice - that way it doesn't interfere too much with the ogee pattern but lends a cheery extra crinkle in the wash, and the back is a bit more "whimsical" and interesting to look at.

As a bonus, I do have a little more confidence in controlling the speed of the fabric with my hands to match the speed of the foot pedal, i.e., needle; which is sort of the crafty equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your tummy, but it occurs to me that no amount of sewing practice is actually going to make me a better artist, and that I should probably do what all the FMQ tutorials suggest and doodle on paper first, over and over, to drill the muscle memory prior to trying to wing it on a quilt.

Meanwhile, this is off to Amy, Jesse and Emmy, as a hello! and welcome! and hope I made it in time for one of the showers! with all my very best wishes for the next chapter.  And next time I see you, Amy, I'll definitely be after you to sing something with your dad and me - after all, I'm sure Emmy will be as pleased to hear you sing as you were to hear your dad, right?

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