Monday, November 11, 2013

Let the quilting begin.

I'm calling the quilting step of quilt-making step 3 of 4, with piecing the top and pinning the layers as steps 1 and 2. Although, this is really overlooking the big first step of cutting the squares and might make it seem like the pinning step is equal in weight to the other steps.  The pinning process is brief with a mere hour or two of work as compared to the many tens or possibly hundreds of hours the cutting and quilting steps require.  While brief, it will keep the distinction of a step if only for the significance - it begins the transition from a fabric to an actual quilt. Plus, there is a social element that makes it even more fun!

Yesterday, I invited a couple girlfriends over for an early lunch and quilt pinning party. Angela and Sandy came over to help with Ang's kiddos as lively observers. Nick was actually pretty intrigued with the process. He came in the door asking how many squares are in the top.. I reported that there are 758!  I made the favorite Provencal tuna salad from the How to Eat Supper cookbook, blueberry wheat bran muffins, and no-fuss Betty Crocker brownies.  We snacked and pinned.  and snacked and pinned and snacked.

The process is pretty simple. All layers were pressed, then the muslin backing was smoothed and taped to he floor. I prepped the room by rolling up the rug and mopping before friends arrived. Next the cotton batting was smoothed on top.  The quilt top was sandwiched on top, smoothing from the center out. Ang and I started pinning in the middle and spiraled out part of the way before Sandy arrived to pitch in and finish it up.  Casey even put in a few pins and took some pics.  The whole affair only took around 2 hours.

No work for me today (hooray for long weekends), so I decided to jump right in on the next step - definitely the most time-intensive - the quilting, which is the part that binds the layers together.  Quilting for this pattern consists of sewing 56 rows in one direction, then turning 90 degrees and sewing another 56 rows with seams on both sides of the quilt top seams.  I read the pattern for her tips with this stage and began by rolling up one side of the quilt to the approximate center.  The instructions are to sew long rows from the center out while unrolling the quilt.  The quilt is so big and bulky that just rolling it takes a few minutes of fiddling.  The roll fits easily under the arm of the machine.  The tricky part is dealing with the tendency of the fabric to pucker and pull while going the length of the row.  It is a bit frustrating to see the layers bunch up and takes some concentration to keep the seams relatively straight while the foot is trying to pull everything through.

I can't tell yet if there is anything I can do to reduce this effect.  So far, I'm just trying to keep an eye on the reverse side after a row to see if it is obvious.  It is definitely noticeable where the muslin has gathered, but according to the pattern, the entire quilt is intended to pucker after the first washing and drying - this is supposed to give it a certain look with the bonus feature of hiding imperfections in the sewing - we shall see.  It seems that despite efforts to smooth the bottom layer as much as possible and with pins in every other square, the fabrics still move enough to provoke some cursing.  So far, I've finished 4 rows.  It's hard to see, but the last pic shows the two sets of rows - 4 seams all-together - with blank rows on both sides.  Time to take a break and make some pizza dough for pizzas tonight.  After that, I will try to limit myself to only another 4 rows, since there are a million other things I would love to do on this glorious day off... one of which would involve getting outside to enjoy the beautiful day - maybe some painting in a little while?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Quilt - Part 1b and a pair of warmed hands

This is mostly a quilt update. Didn't seem right to call it part 2 when I'm still in the middle of the first of four major quilt-making steps: 1. Sewing quilt top; 2. Pinning quilt layers together; 3. Quilting (definitely the most time-intensive part); and 4. Binding the quilt.

The quilt top step is possibly the most fun since it is in this part of the process that the personality of the quilt emerges. All of the fabric choices come together to blend colors and patterns.  This step is now half complete with 14 of the 26 long strips of 28 squares sewn together.  I'm thrilled with the look of the quilt top so far!

Another project that was worked in over the past month was a pair of handwarmers.. that i gifted to myself. I was in a handwarmer craze several years ago and made several pair, all of which were gifted away with the intention of making a pair for myself one day. Finally, I revisited the blog of a Roman girl who seems not to be blogging much anymore but still has free handwarmer patterns up. I had to experiment quite a lot with the number of stitches and rows to make the sizing right for my yarn and am happy with the result. The yarn is a pale mint cotton from Coats & Clark.

I can't resist closing with a pic of Sim who decided he would try to get packed up with our kitchen stuff when we were preparing for a weekend trip to a Cheaha cabin.

If he blended in a little better with the slow cooker he might have made the trip!  ;)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The missing years.

I somehow can't remember very many craft project in the past 2-1/2 years. Partly horrible memory and also a dryish spell while big life changes were happening.  Some of the things I can recall (maybe because they are lying around the house) are the trivets, potholders, and candle.

The trivets were major fun to make and were all unique Christmas gifts for family.  We thrifted for dishes and joyously smashed them to pieces. The candle was a recent craft. Really fun and easy but requires equipment and kitchen takeover (think cover every inch of counter and backsplash with aluminum foil), so not sure if we will adopt this craft into the mix. We were taught the basics in a candlemaker's home.

The scarves were both started ages ago and finished in the fall (soft/fuzzy) and winter ( bright/ simple).  The color didn't pick up well in the fuzzy scarf for some reason. It is a big mix of yarn knitted together.  I can't give specifics on yarn or shop.. I have been using up a large stash and long ago threw out the labels.  Not sure about pattern anymore either, but nearly every pattern I use comes from The Purl Bee blog of the Purl Soho folks.

The hanging organizer was seriously started about 4 or 5 years ago. It matches a sewing machine cover that was my very first sewing project under the tutelage of a neighborhood sewing teacher.  I think the plastic frustrated and intimidated me so much that I tucked it away for what ended up being years. Fast forward to a few months ago when I did a craft room reorganization and came across that project bin.. out it came and I worked an hour here, hour there until it was finished! Very satisfying to finally complete something that feels big. I can't even imagine how the final quilt will feel.

8 years old.

It's hard to believe we've been in Birmingham for 8 years! Feb. of '05 we moved into this house and brought Simcoe home that April. He was estimated to have been born in February so we gave him the same birthdate as our move-in day.. 2/14.

Looking at his kitten pictures is nostalgic. His personality now seems so different from his kitten days.  He is both a super sweet lover kitty and very demanding and we love him dearly.  His friend, Rosa, is a year younger. Of course we love her dearly, too. Her love is on a schedule.. early in the am or late at night - she doesn't care to be touched much otherwise.

Both are all grown up now.  :)

Bread education.

This is not the first bread-making experience. To make bread that goes from decent or fine to good, in my opinion, you need the starter.. The biga or poolish or whatever it is called in whichever cookbook, depending on the region of the world influencing the recipe.  This can make an all-day affair turn into an all-nighter as well.  This time, I revisited Bread Alone, which I long ago borrowed from a friend. It's a long process. I'm not gonna lie. Did the long slow poolish overnight in the fridge. Then from 8 in the morning until late afternoon the dough was babied. It was cool in my house so I tried using a heating pad to raise the temp. Put a towel between the pad and bowl and monitored the temp with a thermometer, aiming for the high 70s.. close to 80. The heating pad worked great! Only drawback is the need to sit closely by to watch and adjust, turning to medium or low or off or moving off the pad entirely.

The kneading process was extremely long this time, not sure why exactly. I set the timer for 15 minutes, knowing that was the minimum set in the book. The dough still needed flour and kneading for a good 10 minutes more.  Once kneaded, the process was straightforward. The fermentation yielded a risen, doubled dough. The shaping and proofing went better than expected despite a power outage from a storm. I would have raised the temp for the proofing to make it go quicker, but there was a 4 hour period with no electricity, so no heating pad and no heating oven. The oven situation caused a dilemma. The loaves doubled, but nowhere to put them, so when the power came back on and it was time to put the first loaf in, I made a decision not to touch the loaf - just slide 'er in.  The second loaf, I experimented by deflating and reshaping then baking. This proved to be a mistake. I now know that the proofing helps create a less dense, more hole-y bread. If it needs reshaping, I think it should get another brief proofing period.  So, the result was one (the first and more round in photo) bread the way I like it - chewy, with holes and great flavor. The other loaf was too dense, but you live and learn..

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

First quilt, Part 1.

Oh my. No post since 2010. It's not that there has been no crafting. While less frequent than previous years, there have been projects including several handmade christmases with trivets, crocheted kitchen towels, and more. The next post will show off a few things that are handy. I'm hoping that with a tablet posting will be quicker and easier, since the photos are there to grab.
It's spring break, so not only am I happily in the middle of several projects, but there is time to think about documenting a thing or two.  Much of my free time this year has been devoted to cooking, which makes me eager to also share some of those experiments.
I have always wanted to make a quilt. I used to follow more closely, but now just catch up periodically with Alicia Paulson's blog, Rosy Little Things. I will never understand how she manages to make so many beautiful things. It's constant. She has made a number of gorgeous quilts and when she posted the Olallieberry Ice Cream Quilt, I thought this might be a good pattern to try for the very first go at quilting. So far it has been fun and relaxing. There really is no fuss with the fabrics. It's supposed to be random, so just an assortment of pretty colors and patterns thrown together. Her method is interesting the way you join all of the squares into long strings of pairs, then snip the pairs apart and join them into long strips. That is the stage I am in.. With 10 strips of 28 squares and 16 strips to go.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Aprons and Kitchen Spruciness - Part 1.

The first part of 2010 has made this the year of the aprons for me. So fun! I've always wanted to make an apron and finally made the first apron from Anna Maria Horner's book, Seams to Me: 24 New Reasons to Love Sewing. It was for Jenny's birthday - the "Cup Half Full" pattern, thus a half apron. The fabric I've had for a while and really screamed Jenny to me, so I went for it - it's bold and vibrant just like Jenny-Jen. I hope this apron will help spark her creative spirit in the kitchen - not that her artsy self needs any help.. she's an artist and a teacher and a lover of cooking by nature. The fabric is by Alexander Henry, Pink Zinnia - purchased from Etsy. The pattern was very well written and detailed. There was no confusion.. or cursing .at all. which is not normal for me. I'm not the best with sewing patterns even when they're well-written and mistake-free. The waistband and tie design was very clever, I thought. You'll see what I mean when you try it - I'll definitely make another apron with this pattern.

The embroidered apron was made for Emery's 10th birthday. It was really fun to plan out, since she's a very crafty young lady and has many interests. Her #1 interest since a very young age is cats, so that was a no-brainer. The rest of the pattern pieces came from a sheet of kitchen designs, "Krazy Kitchen". All of the pattern pieces were the iron-ons from Sublime Stitching.

I've really enjoyed embroidery lately - love picking the bright, lively colors, love choosing a stitch for each segment. It's relaxing and allows for creativity - even when led by an iron-on pattern, you can add as much or little as you like for the look you want. Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching is so inspiring with her stitching - as are the many stitchers who post to her website and flickr group - they must be a lot quicker with their stitching than I am or at least much more patient, adding the accents and level of detail to take an embroidered piece from a project to a work of art.