Saturday, July 6, 2013

Miles Garrett Irby

On June 19th at 9:52 a.m., we brought our son, Miles Garrett Irby, into the world in what turned out to be an incredibly easy experience!  I had complete placenta previa, so we had a scheduled c-section at 38 weeks to avoid me going into labor.  So, the anesthesiologist did a spinal, got me talking about my hobbies, and after a little discussion of modern quilting and modern traditionalism, I was able to look up and see my baby!  After we met him, Bryan and our boy were taken to recovery and my mom was shown in to hold my hand for the rest of the c-section, which went quickly and well while I talked about other sewing projects, baking, and cooking.  Yup...after being so upset about missing out on natural childbirth and having major anxiety about bad interactions with the anesthesia, I must say, it was a pretty awesome experience! I had a few problems later that day/night with throwing up, which is not fun when your belly has been cut open, but I was sitting up in a chair the next day and able to walk the day after that.  My recovery since has been way better than I expected, thanks in part to good pain medication.  My only problem has been not overdoing it, which is hard when I feel so good.  I have to remind myself that I had major abdominal surgery!

So that's me... Now for the important part!

Miles was 6 lbs., 3 oz., and 20" long at birth.  He smiled almost from day 1, and continues to be a very smiley, happy baby except when he has gas pain.  He was jaundiced and lost a lot of weight at the beginning, but my milk came in just in the nick of time and we went through some craziness to feed and supplement him every 2 hours for several days.  Our wonderful nurse, Kristina, made all the difference in the world, helping us with a plan and when we were completely wiped out from no sleep, taking Miles to care for for a few hours so we could get a few hours in.
 And by 6 days after his birth, he'd already surpassed his birthweight, so all the hard work paid off! My mom spent 17 days with us, which made all the difference in the world...I'm not sure how we would have survived without her!  
Also, my dear friend Anne brought a ton of delicious food, as well as wonderful quilted items!  I'll do a separate post about that, but for now let me leave you with some pictures and get back to napping!



For more cute photos, check out the results of our professional photoshoot when Miles was just 9 days old - they are pretty adorable (not that I'm biased). http://dianalewkowicz.smugmug.com/Other/Miles-Irby/30241374_cS23K4#!i=2603049953&k=MB79fwh 

Friday, April 26, 2013

I'm still alive!

I knew I shouldn't have made my New Year's Resolution be to blog more...because that made it destined to fail! But I am still alive and well, if not quilting much!

I'm now 34 weeks pregnant, and my boy is moving and wiggling, giving me horrendous heartburn, and generally keeping me worn out, but wow...it is just so cool! We're most likely going to be meeting him in about 3 weeks, as I have complete placenta previa right now and will have to deliver early by scheduled c-section in order to avoid hemorrhaging. It's not at all how I wanted things to go (I was planning a natural childbirth and actually looking forward to that experience), but as the time draws near, I've come to terms with it. Indeed, the idea of knowing "today's the day I'm having this baby" is actually pretty helpful. We'll know more on Friday, when they do another ultrasound just to see if maybe I've gotten lucky and that pesky placenta has moved out of the way, but as it gets hotter and I get bigger, I'm becoming ok with not holding out until July! As long as he and I are healthy, that's what matters!

So, we decided a few weeks ago on a nursery "theme", which will give us something to work towards in the next 4-5 months! The theme had been post-apocalyptic wasteland, as my poor husband had to take everything out of his office (including all the stuff that was in the guest room when I moved in and took it over for my stuff, including my sewing area) and organize it and put it in storage or find other places to tuck it in the house. We had the room painted a pale yellow called "morning sun", and we're having new carpet put in because the painter got as much paint on the carpet as the walls practically! (Oy - renovations by a guy who turned out to be a real jerk at 32 weeks pregnant is a bad idea! That said, I'm so happy it is almost done, and though there are lots of flaws and things that should have been done better, I keep telling myself it is a vast improvement over what we had!) The "official" colors will be teals/aquas with chocolate brown accents, and the theme is the Galapagos, since we went there for our honeymoon and loved it (and took great photos of the animals that we can have printed and put on the walls, perhaps). I don't know how far we'll go with the theme, though I am tempted to get a better map of the Galapagos for the wall with marks where we visited...that would be fun! Of course, what I should do is make the map with fabric and appliqué with the completely awesome MistyFuse...I'll have to think about that! And Bryan showed me a cool constellation quilt that makes me want to make one of those of the sky that we saw there last June - yet another project that might be done in time for his college graduation! Yes, I am way behind to decorate properly....indeed I'm trying to ignore other people's beautiful, coordinated nurseries that are ready for months before their child is born (or their large stacks of quilts, outfits, fabric baskets, curtains, etc...all the things I should have been making but haven't! I'm already a bad mother. Ah well!).

I did at least commission my mom, a polymer clay artist, to make a Galapagos mobile for us, and I am thrilled with how it turned out!

I'm sure I'll start blogging more as we have pictures of a little boy to share, and hopefully I'll sew something eventually so I have something to show! I've got a few things started (or at least fabric purchased and washed), so when we unearth my sewing area again from the renovation mess, I should be able to make a little progress.

And I'm doing a little hand-sewing on an old project that I should, in theory, finish at some point soon! It's a little yellow quilt with chicks on it that my friend Anne and I started together many years ago...hers is finished and on the wall of her nursery, and mine has been sitting half-appliquéd for years, mostly because I used steam-a-seam lite, which, in my opinion, is absolutely miserable to sew through...especially when there are several layers of it. I hate to not finish it by hand since it is mostly done that way, but geesh...it's not fun trying to make neat little blanket stitches through it. We'll see!

The picture with my husband was at 22 weeks, I think (March 3...for my husband's birthday present, he got to feel his son kick for the first time! Well-played, baby!). And the picture of my son was from his 28 week ultrasound. I was thinking about asking a random person on the train this morning to take an updated picture of my baby bump, but that feels slightly creepy, so I'll just post one soon when I can remember to have my husband take one! I meant to take a bunch, but alas...I seem to have a lot of good intentions that don't quite happen! I just have no idea where the time has gone!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My most energy-consuming project!

So, other than working on the DCMQG QuiltCon charity quilt, I've done really no sewing in the last month and a half.  We did have a fun sewing day after our regular December meeting, where Jessie and Heather came over to my house to help finish piecing the top.  After working away for 4-5 hours, we got it to this point, and then I let it sit until practically the last minute, despite offers from Jessie to get together to keep sewing.  I just had no energy (and thought I was coming down with a cold...not a great Christmas present to someone with three kiddos)!

But, with a deadline looming to get the front and back to Aubrie for the quilting, I finally got with it, pressed and trimmed and joined the columns for the top, and then put together parts of this back.  (I stole Aubrie's picture from Flickr, as I didn't even bother to take one.)  I'd gotten the top pieced and the back large orange piece of fabric framed by white on three sides by late on Friday night, having taken the day off from work to work on it all day/evening.  But on Saturday morning, I still hadn't started on the improvised pieced section, and it took a lot longer than I thought to figure out how to use all the little scraps that were left from the top to put it together.  We had dinner plans and tickets to see the Infamous Stringdusters and Lake Street Dive with our friends Mike and Cathy, so I called Aubrie, and she graciously agreed to finish putting together the backing from my improved block and the white.  I can't tell you how grateful I was...or how much I needed a nap.  She has been madly quilting it since I delivered it on the 29th of December, and I'm completely blown away.  Her quilting is exquisite - check out her blog (and the two more recent posts after the one I linked you to) - and hold on to your socks!  I really can't wait to see the finished product.  I'm also grateful to Linda, who drove all the way to my house to pick up the few remaining scraps to put together the scrappy binding and sleeve and is taking care of the final steps...she made me feel better about my utter exhaustion/worthlessness!



So, the big question, then, is why have I been so tired and what could possibly have gotten in the way of quilting, especially when I have so many great projects to work on?


This was our first ultrasound, and it totally looked like he was waving his little arm nub at us!
Well, the answer is:
I've been growing our son! 

Here he is at almost 15 weeks, complete with legs and feet that I'm glad I can't feel yet, since he never stopped kicking!

Yes, I'm thrilled to say that this little parasite has been consuming all of my energy, and we couldn't be happier!  He's due on July 3rd.  We have been getting terrific care from Women Ob/Gyn of Annapolis, as well as the Center for Maternal and Fetal Medicine.  I'm turning 36 on Saturday, so I was "diagnosed" at my first appointment with "advanced maternal age" (ha!), so I am getting extra special attention and care, including access to an incredible genetic test called the MaterniT21, which told us at less than 14 weeks that our baby is a boy and that he is not at risk for the three trisomies (including Down Syndrome).  (Interestingly, the doctor and sonographer both predicted "boy" at 12 weeks, but told us not to buy anything based on that until the genetic results came in.)  Of course, I was sure we'd have a girl (because I looked forward to making cute dresses and reusing the hand-smocked dresses that my grandma made for me), so the one quilt I made pre-pregnancy has a nice bright pink binding.  D'oh!  Good thing I have some really cute aquas, teals, and periwinkles from a quilt I made for a friend ~6 years ago...just enough to make the same quilt for our baby boy (which is awesome, because I really loved that quilt.)  And he may just have some quilts with pink in them, too...I highly doubt he will care, as long as he is warm and his belly is full and he's being snuggled by a doting parent!  And wow...I cannot wait to snuggle him...I'm very much counting the weeks (though also feeling like we have a lot to do in the next 24 weeks, too, to get ready (since we've done nothing yet!))!

We have our next big ultrasound on February 1st, but I'm really relaxed at this point that everything is going to be fine (and that if it isn't, my amazing husband and I will support each other through it)!  So, other than sleeping constantly (or wanting to), I've had a terrific pregnancy.  I've had a touch of nausea now and then, but none of the typical morning sickness symptoms, so I consider myself extremely lucky.  I've had some pretty excruciating tailbone pain from sitting at my desk at work, and I hurt my shoulder when I finally ended up laying on my coat on the floor during a lunch break to take a nap, since I just couldn't function, but that's all pretty minor.  My cravings have led to some laughter - all broccoli, all the time, for awhile.  Also, grapefruit.  I've been doing pretty well with eating well, though with an occasional slip or treat.

For Christmas Eve, we went to our friends' house for their annual Christmas/birthday open house.  Mike has a Christmas Eve birthday, and one of the highlights last year was looking at his baby book that his dad had brought down.  The hospital bill, in particular, was pretty funny - the long-distance calls seemed huge in comparison to the rest of the bill, and his mom was in the hospital for 4 days...I remember the room and board for the baby for those days was something like $20.  Anyway, Mike is a huge coconut fan, so Bryan and I made him a special birthday treat - lime coconut cheesecake.

It was outstanding - here's a picture before we did the final decorations...I can't believe I didn't get a picture snapped after I'd piped the coconut whipped cream on top and covered it with toasted coconut and a lime wedge.  It looked like it was from a fancy patisserie.  Also, we totally did it wrong, because we didn't have time to let it sit overnight, so we baked it longer (thus the golden top), but it worked like a champ...no complaints from anyone, believe me, and the texture was still creamy and delicious.  I just had the thinnest little slice, but my husband really wants me to make another.  I don't trust us with an entire cheesecake in the house...I'll make it when we can take a portion and then share the rest with others...the problem is that how do you take 3/4 or half a cheesecake to a party.  Hmmm...maybe I'll make it for the Inauguration brunch we're going to on Monday and just encourage Bryan to eat a big piece while there (and this time we'll be able to take home the leftovers, since it isn't a birthday prize, except we might have to fight Mike for it)!

Christmas Day was pretty low key, which is how we like it.  We had these beautiful chocolate croissants, thanks to my lovely friend Courtney.  She had them shipped to us from Williams-Sonoma, and my gosh are they a wonderful treat!  (We also had them on New Year's morning, and I'm thinking we'll have them on Saturday for my birthday breakfast before I run off to the DCMQG meeting all day - hooray!)

What else?!?  I bought myself a VitaMix 6300 from CostCo for my present to me(!), and we've really enjoyed it so far.  We've made a ton of Caesar salads thanks to how easy it is to make a great dressing.  We've also made soups, smoothies, mango lassis, and a bunch of other things.  I made myself sick initially from eating way too many vegetables and fruits in a 2-day period.  I've not completely gotten the hang of the smoothies with veggies in them yet, but experimenting is fun, and I already see me making baby food from fresh produce from the farmer's market next spring and summer for our little one.

We tried our hand at Indian food around the holidays, and we had a pretty lovely little feast...not sure why that picture is flipped, but you get the idea.  Chicken makhani, along with some whole wheat naan from Wegmans, a little curried rice pilaf, and a mango lassi made for a happy me!  I'm trying to really eat a lot of different cuisines and spices (and lots of garlic) now so I can develop my little one's palate in utero (and so he isn't fussy when I eat the things I like to eat when I'm breast-feeding because he'll recognize the tastes).  We've been eating lots of spicy foods, too, and Thai.  I'm ready for some Vietnamese soon...I may let my husband off the hook about cooking my birthday dinner for me on Saturday and just suggest we go to the little dive-y Vietnamese place near us that I love, but...a home-cooked meal where I've done nothing to help sounds like quite a gift, indeed, these days!

And speaking of wonderful meals, I went over to Anne's house last Sunday, where she had prepared a really lovely lunch for me that included a wonderful roasted root vegetable soup, fresh cornbread muffins, and a green bean, tomato, and sliced almond salad that was out of this world.  It was such a treat to see her and her now almost 15-month-old daughter, Aileen, who is an absolute doll.  She's so busy that I'm not sure how Anne keeps up, but she's sweet and so cute with lots to say (babbling mostly).  I hadn't seen them since right when I'd become pregnant but didn't know it yet, so it shouldn't surprise me that Aileen had grown up so much, but it did!  While she was down for her nap (which is now like clockwork from 1-3), we visited and started cutting out a diamond quilt out of pink and brown flannels.  I'd originally bought the flannels with the idea of making sleep sacks, in addition to our matching quilts, but instead I'm now going to make a throw size flannel quilt for me (along with Aileen's toddler quilt), since we have plenty of fabric and it kills me that I regularly sit under a polyester fleece blanket in our living room, since I haven't made myself a quilt to sit under yet!  I really need to get with it!  :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Rob & Kim's Fandango Duvet Cover Finished

So, if it isn't obvious already, I'm a little obsessed with fabric designed by Kate Spain.  One of the first lines of hers that I saw and fell in love with was Fandango.  I had bought a little yardage of it from Hancock's of Paducah without having a real plan, but when I saw it in person, I knew the colors were perfect for my brother.  I was home after Christmas last year, and I showed him the fabric and asked him if he'd like me to make him a new duvet cover, and he chose the design I'd just used for my friend Anne's baby quilts.

The duvet top, with a small double strip of fabric that will fold over and encase the duvet almost like the old style of pillowcase.

My brother is a pretty special guy.  He actually inspired my interest in quilting by teaching me a really cool quilt design back in college, having learned it from his wife, and he helped me complete my second quilt (the first being more of an opportunity to show off cross-stitch).  I wish I had a picture of that little quilted wall-hanging we made together - I gave it to my best friend at the time, and it was really cool. Anyway, my brother is a professional potter who runs a studio in Athens, GA, called Good Dirt.  He is talented in so many ways, and I'm so proud of him for pursuing a career where he can teach, help people (he does so much for his community and for charity), make incredible art, use his science background and all of his skill sets, and spend quality time with his family, like walking his son to and from school.  A Rhodes Scholar with a D.Phil. in molecular genetics, he certainly could have been pushed into a career that didn't satisfy him, but he was brave and decided to pursue his artistic side, even though he works like a demon for a lot less money and accolades than he could have received if he'd taken a more traditional path.

So, I'd managed to get my hands on 2 charm packs of Fandango online, but I needed more fabric to make what amounted to two quilts sewn together!  Thanks to the awesome folks at one of my local quilt shops, Tomorrow's Treasures, who kindly sold me 1/8 yards from every bolt of Fandango in their collection with no argument about minimum cuts (so grateful), I was able to make this awesome duvet cover for my brother and sister-in-law, and I even finished it in time for Christmas this year.  Less than a year for a project of this size...I really must love my brother!  ;)

The back of the duvet cover.  The area on the right is actually at the head of the bed, so when they fold down the duvet cover, all those lovely blocks will show.

I pieced and quilted the front in 4 sections, which I then joined using a bit of trial and error.  I tried to take pictures to write a tutorial for how I did it, but I've realized that it really will depend on what you are trying to join as to the best way to approach the technique (plus I can't really show what I did in pictures that well).  On the back, I quilted it in two segments.  The blocks were one unit, and the fabulous print was quilted separately, and then they were joined.  I did a much better job on the join on the back, as it turned out.  Another great reason to practice an idea on scraps first to work out the kinks.  While the front required a lot of hand-sewing to create a smooth seam on the inside, the back was able to be pieced entirely by machine (and still looked really neat thanks to careful pinning on the back while slowly stitching from the top).  Luckily, that is the side that will be more up against their bodies, so a nice smooth join is more important on that side in terms of comfort.



While I did straight-line quilting with my walking foot on the entirety of the top and the pieced section of the back, I'd been practicing my free-motion quilting on all these charity quilts and decided to give it a go on the print fabric by following the design in the print - a great no-mark method for quilting.


Here's a look at the inside of the duvet cover, so you can see the quilting pattern better.  I wasn't perfect, but I think it will give it a nice light texture and a little added interest, and I used a thread that blends so any wobbles were less obvious.  Also, you can see in this picture that I made a hemmed facing to finish the bottom edge of the top, since I didn't want to disturb the pattern with any type of binding. I also did some other lovely couture touches, that unfortunately are hard to photograph, but I'm very proud of the workmanship in this piece...it's really well-made and should last them a very long time.  I hope it doesn't get too crinkly after it is washed...I love the crispness of the piecing and the quilting as it is.


And, as usual, I'm not sure whether I like the front or the back more.  I love reversible quilts, even if they are a lot more work!  It was pretty hard for my mom to photograph this monster, but I'm hoping when my brother picks it up from my parents around Christmas that he'll be able to help her take some pictures where you can really see the entire design...it might take the whole family to hold it up!  Two quilts in one gets pretty heavy!  I also can't wait to see it in place on his bed...a bed that he made himself in a lovely craftsman style (did I mention that he is also an expert woodworker, or that he engineered and manufactured his own colored concrete countertops in a nice terra cotta to go on top of cabinets he built from scratch, or that he made his own sink out of porcelain?)  That bed/house deserved a finely made quilt to pull all the colors together, and thanks to Kate Spain's lovely fabric line, a nice design by Cindy of Hyacinth Quilts, and a lot of time and effort by me, I think this fits the bill!  Now I just need to make coordinating pillowcases for both Rob and his wife, Kim, with a bit of yardage and the little tiny scraps I have leftover from the top (and by little, I mean little)!  :)

Quilt Stats:
Rob & Kim's Duvet Cover
Fabric: Fandango by Kate Spain, Kona Snow
Thread: Gutterman and Mettler
Size: ~74" x 76"
Quilting: Straight-line and Free-motion
Special techniques: Precision piecing; Quilt-as-you-go and joining multiple sections, including hand-catching/tacking seams with invisible stitching; Hemmed facing; Enclosure flap with french seams; Zig-zag finishing on inside seams to prevent fraying & flatten seaming

Friday, December 7, 2012

December's Just 3

So, we're already well into December, but I feel like I should set some goals for myself this month, since I have been sitting out of sewing time lately.  I've been really tired lately, both from stress at work and the lack of daylight/incoming cold weather, and I feel like I need to motivate myself, or I'll continue to be a couch potato watching episodes of Elementary and the Mob Doctor (having finally caught up on Breaking Bad and Major Crimes).  There is a part of me that really wishes we never even turned the tv on, but the lazy part of me is happy for ready entertainment when I'm too tired to move.  I'm sure hoping I'll have my mojo back in January.

So, here goes:

1)  Make progress on the QuiltCon charity quilt that must be completed by January 31st.

We were sent a bunch of cool improv blocks that we need to turn into a twin-sized quilt for the Austin Children's Shelter.  By the end of December, I hope that the back and front will be complete, that a sandwich will be ready, and that it will hopefully be being quilted by one or more of the awesome members of the DC Modern Quilt Guild.  Hopefully much of that will happen tomorrow at our DC Modern Quilt Guild meeting.


2.  Quilt Rowan's Chasing Chevrons quilt

I showed my nephew the Chasing Chevrons quilt top that I was planning to give him if he liked it, and he absolutely loved it.  He's a wiggly sleeper, and we all decided this one will tell him which way to wiggle as he sleeps, except some paths might make him fall off of the bed!  So...now I just need to get it quilted!  My goal for December is to get all four quadrants sandwiched and quilted.  I can join them and bind them in January, but I'd like to at least get the quilting done while I'm in practice at free-motion quilting.  I am thinking about a concentric circle swirl design, but I'm still not positive about the approach, especially since I want to quilt it bigger than I have been lately.  Perhaps I'll seek the advice of my brave and trusty advisers tomorrow!  I'm still in the camp of preferring piecing to quilting, but I'm trying to teach myself that quilting is fun, too, and knowing a 10-year old boy in Athens, GA, is super excited about having this on his bed means it might actually get quilted in 2012 (and delivered in 2013).



3.  I should be saying "Finish charity quilts", as I know I would feel much better to get them all done and mailed out, but I think I need to take a small time out in sewing for others to make something small for me.  Specifically a pillow for my office chair.  If I end up having to sit at my office on Capitol Hill on the day after Christmas waiting for Congress to decide on how to avert the fiscal cliff instead of taking a week off to relax and sew and cook good dinners for my husband, I'd like to do it in style with something happy looking at me when I walk in.  My little purple placemat is not enough.  I've been watching all this pillow-making in the blog-o-sphere for awhile, and I have plenty of pillow forms that are eagerly awaiting covers/usefulness.  While I'd like to take time out to make myself an actual quilt (shocking), I have a quilt for my mom that I'd like to make first (now that she has seen and approves of the fabric/design), plus I really, really need to get to work on my husband's t-shirt quilt.  He is so patient, and I'm waiting on my test to see how it works to not interface the entire t-shirt, but I've been waiting for that for months.  I need to just get a back on there, sew over a few seams to stabilize it, wash it, and see how it looks.  I shouldn't actually call his quilt a quilt, as I am thinking very strongly of leaving out the batting, since, unlike me, he is often warm.  In addition to my giant granny panties throw quilt for sitting in my comfy chair under, I need to make myself an actual bed quilt with heavy batting, since I'm cold under my current sheet, blanket, and not-quite-large-enough flannel quilt.  Oh shoot...and I probably need to make the purse I promised last Christmas for my niece before this Christmas.  Argh...just 3 is hard...but thanks, Traceyjay, for trying to make me focus.  I have a lot of sewing to do without my mojo, but writing this out felt pretty inspiring.  Now let's see if I can accomplish the 3 (maybe 4, 5, or 6 things I'd like to do this month), and I'll have new goals for January!

:)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another charity quilt finish...

So, I was going to enter this quilt in the QuiltCon Modern Quilt show, and though I finished it in time, I didn't finish it early enough to get a nice photo of it.  It's amazing what a bad photographer I am...I really need to read the book my dear friend Anne gave me so that I can learn how to take awesome blog photographs!  And I need to set up a clothesline outside in my backyard, so I can have better light.  Anyhow, I ended up not entering the contest, as I decided I really wanted to enter quilts that I was super proud of, and I didn't want to spend $60 on entry fees with photos that wouldn't do these justice.  While I really like this one and the purple one I just finished a lot, and I like that they are my own designs (though the quilting was inspired by Angela Walters' book and they are based on traditional concepts), they really are just vehicles to practice free motion quilting.  The one I really love, that I finished over Thanksgiving and have no pictures of yet, since I literally sewed the last seam as I was supposed to be heading to the airport, well...that's the one I wish I could have entered.  Alas, it is a duvet cover, so two quilts in one and no binding.  My mom has promised to take photos, so I'll share it soon...it really is awesome, and I managed to finish it in less than a year...wow!

But back to this little quilt, here it is:



I'm really happy with how much my free motion quilting has improved. I used a variety of designs, including some stencils to stitch butterflies in the center and corners.  I'm still not perfect, but I've been noticing lately that very few quilters are perfect if they don't have a stitch regulator, so I'll give myself a break!  I'd like to practice on a few more of the charity quilts that are in progress (and I'm really looking forward to being done with them so I can start on new projects for family members, including my patient husband, and even a couple for me!).  I'm also just about ready to quilt my Chasing Chevrons quilt.  My nephew (10) is going to be the proud recipient, and now that I've shown the top to him over Thanksgiving and gotten him excited, I need to actually finish it so he can use it!  Little by little, I'm getting those projects checked off my list.  By 2018, I should be done!  ;)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Latest charity quilt finish - Purple Plaid FMQ Craziness

So, I'm more than a little excited about my latest charity quilt finish.  I absolutely LOVE this quilt, and while it is extremely tempting to keep it for my future child (or to claim that in order to keep it for me!), I bought this fabric from Connecting Threads for a charity quilt, so I will give it away to hopefully make a child in need have a brighter day.  But wow...this one will be really hard to part with!  And I'm most definitely going to be making it again in other fabrics (probably purple batiks if it is really going to be to my taste)!  I love the finish that the cream binding gives the composition - and I machine bound it again.  This time, I used 2.25" starting width double-fold bias binding, because I made the binding awhile back, and I had 3 places near the corners that I had to go back and hand-sew, but not bad.  (My new technique is to make the binding before quilting a quilt, so that I don't get bogged down at the end...though the quilting part still seems to be the real slow-down in the process.  I actually enjoy the piecing and binding way more than the sandwiching or quilting, but I'm hoping to change that!)
 

Hey Angela Walters, don't worry...I'm not quitting my day job (but I do like your book)!
I decided when I pieced this one that it was the perfect design to really practice my free-motion quilting skills, and I'll be the first to admit, I need a lot more practice!  The final side definitely saw some improvement from the first side, but I have a long way to go before I'll feel really proficient.  But..."they" say practice is the key, and I certainly got a lot of practice with this one!  I even tried just following straight lines with my fmq foot, and by the end, I had somewhat even stitches. I also learned that since I can't draw a smooth curve, I shouldn't be surprised that I can't quilt one either!  And yes, I had to take a picture of me snuggling with it mid-quilting.  


I used cream and purple Mettler thread, a little bit of my regular quilting/walking foot, a lot of my FMQ foot, and Warm and Natural batting (that's the big roll behind my head that I got for $200 during a Jo-Ann's sale for all of my charity quilts, though I've since decided I slightly prefer Quilter's Dream batting).  I spray-basted this one at our DC Modern Quilt Guild Sewing Day at Material Girls in La Plata, MD.  (I love Jessie's blog-post about that!)  And now I'm about to go throw it in the wash to see this crinkle effect that everyone in blogland is so in love with that I normally try to avoid since I like my precise piecing/quilting to be evident!  This time, though, I'm hoping that it will dramatically improve the look of the quilting (aka hide the mistakes a touch), but I had to put a few detail shots here pre-wash so that you could see the myriad errors...so that when I'm really good we can all have a laugh about how far I've come!  ;)

When I finish the entire current batch of charity quilts (inspired by Katie through 100 Quilts for Kids), I think I'm going to have to find an old cool split rail fence to hang them all on, since they are going to be quite a sight!  2 completely finished so far...at least 4 more to go!  I started quilting on the first pink one last night, and I'm hoping to finish it this evening while my husband is back in New York City for the rescheduled concert from last Sunday.  I made him be my quilt holder before he got on the road, so for once I actually have an outdoor picture of a quilt.  Don't faint!  ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Status Update & Blogger's Quilt Festival

So we survived Hurricane Sandy with no loss of power or storm damage (as far as we know)!  Hooray!  However, it makes it rather hard to take nice outdoor pictures when you are surrounded by a "Frankenstorm"!  I prepared for the loss of power this time extensively, after losing power this summer for several days to the crazy derecho that caused such damage to the grid in the middle of a heat wave.  On Sunday afternoon, I baked fresh cinnamon rolls, filled all our water pitchers, and waited in line in the cold rain for 3.5 hours to get my early vote cast, since we have a super important opportunity in Maryland this election to vote for equality that I didn't want to miss!  I hope so much that we are the first state to approve marriage equality for everyone by the popular vote.  With gay aunts who are very dear to me and a model of a successful marriage, the issue is very personal and important to me...it must be, because I mistakenly only wore flip flops, and it was cold, but I waited for my turn (though I had a lovely chat with several folks in line around me, which made the waiting much easier!).

For this fall's Blogger's Quilt Festival, I had a real debate.  I thought about sharing the first big quilt I ever made, more than a decade ago now, since the improv pieced back is still a favorite design - I called it my Frank Lloyd Wright inspired quilt and always preferred the back to the front.  Alas, it is so faded from constant use that an indoor picture just doesn't do it justice, so I'll share it another day (or better yet, make it again in better fabrics).  Maybe I'll even write it up so it will be my first official pattern!


But for now, I'll instead share my latest finish - a quilt for the new baby of my friend Kakuti and her husband Chris, who will be arriving any day now.  This quilt is a variation on a pattern that many of us used for last year's 100 Quilts for Kids.  I altered it a good bit, so some of the squares are now rectangles and the middle of the three borders is wider than the others...next time, I'll make this even more pronounced, I think, as well as perhaps substituting a larger piece for the center.  I used a charm pack of Half Moon by Moda as well as a variety of black and white prints that I bought in my first fabric shopping spree that I'd been saving for FOREVER!

I pieced the back to take advantage of those wonderful large polka dots, and I wanted to include some red, as well.  I used the binding tutorial from Red Pepper Quilts to machine bind it using a 2.5" starting strip (versus my normal 2.25" width), and I was very pleased with how it turned out...only one place where I had to go back to recatch the binding.  I think the key is definitely lots of pins, and by my third side I figured out how to pin from the top, which made it a little easier.  I also loved her measurements for how to overlap the ends - it worked perfectly and was much flatter than my usual tuck-under-one-end method. 

I did straight-line quilting with my walking foot in black and red. It required a few thread changes as I worked from the center out, but I think it was worth it to have the texture without distracting so much from the design.  I really like how it turned out - as usual, it will be hard to give away, though I'm very excited to share it with such a lovely couple. 

Luckily, when I bought the first charm pack, I decided to buy 2 so I could make one for our future child.  I've been making charity quilts and quilts for close friends' babies for awhile now, but I've decided I really need to start a stash of quilts for when we have a child, since many bloggers have mentioned that they had a hard time quilting once they were pregnant.  So, you'll likely see something like this again if you keep following my intermittent blogging!  I'm going to have a lot of big finishes in the next few weeks to share, and I plan on quilting a lot when I'm in Georgia around Thanksgiving taking care of my mom after her back surgery.  While she rests, I'll be sewing up a storm in the next room between bringing her little cups of tea and snackies!  While I'm home, I am very excited about giving my brother his new duvet cover and my nephew his new Chasing Chevrons quilt, plus I've got gorgeous fabric for a log cabin for my mom that I may wait to sew once I'm down there (or maybe I'll get it done in advance, we'll see)!

Blogger's Quilt Festival Statistics

Finished quilt measures: 40″ x 40″


Special techniques used: machine pieced, machine quilted with walking foot, machine bound

Quilted by: ME!
Best Category: Favorite Baby Quilt, Favorite Home Machine Quilted Quilt

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My latest charity quilt



Despite my best intentions, I only completed one quilt during the 100 Quilts for Kids charity quilt drive.  I probably should have been more focused...instead, I also completed 3 tops, all of the pinwheel blocks for another, and a fun hand-stitched hexy strip that will be the centerpiece of another.  Indeed, I was worried I wouldn't even finish this one in time - on Saturday morning, it was still just a top and a back!  I used Cindy's tutorial, but I only had a partial jelly-roll with no repeats, so I didn't have enough fabric to make more than 3 columns, and I really struggled my way through this one, including unpicking several seams (a rarity for me).  I had started by cutting my jellyroll strips in half so I could make the two sets I'd need, and on the second set, I figured out that I could make them line up better if I went ahead and cut off a 45 degree triangle from each end piece so I could line them up as I sewed the strip sets, since I didn't have any extra fabric to spare!

What really made it a doozy was the micro-stippling.  I haven't done any free-motion quilting in a couple of years now, so I'm very out of practice, but I really enjoyed it.  My stitch length is all over the place, and it certainly is far from perfect, but I think it will make some foster child in Ohio, courtesy of My Very Own Blanket, immensely happy!  (At least I hope so!)  I think it is a good sign for a charity quilt when it is really hard to give it away, and this one definitely fits that bill!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Catch-up quilts...

So, I'm a much better quilter than I am a blogger, but I'm trying to improve.  It seems like now is a good time to try to show off a few older finishes that never made it on here, since I've got lots of in-progress projects that won't be finished for another few weeks perhaps.

My cousin, Kelly, had her second baby right around when we were getting married.  For her first baby, Julian, I made a cute little bib/burp cloth thing (a rectangle to put over your shoulder to sop up drool...not sure what to call it) with a hand-appliqued chick on it, since she and her husband, especially, love orange.  As usual, I didn't photograph it - if I had a nickel for every cool project I made and gave away without photographing, I'd have...well...at least a dollar!  Anyway, you'll just have to take my word for it that it turned out very cute.  I wanted to do something a bit bigger for her second baby, both for her and as a special thank you to her parents, my aunt Roz and Uncle Dean, who were kind enough to host our completely wonderful wedding reception crawfish boil at their house in New Orleans.  I wanted to finish the quilt in time to bring it to New Orleans, since I thought they might enjoy having the quilt at their house for when baby Archer comes down to visit (or they could deliver it on one of their many trips to see their grandbabies), but I didn't have much time to get it done because I'd been so focused on finishing the quilts that were long overdue for my bridesmaids, Anne and Talia, before the wedding.  

The weekend after our wedding, Bryan and I went to Chapel Hill to see several nights of surf band music (my husband's obsession) and to see where he grew up, meet up with some of his best college friends to celebrate our marriage, and to generally take a stroll down memory lane.  We had a really fun time during the days, heading over to Greensboro one day to our favorite BBQ place, Stamey's, and hiking through the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park that he'd gone to frequently as a kid.  We drove by old houses he had lived in and by the little lake that was the location where he and his brother first "ran away from home" with their backpacks filled with PB&Js and comic books.  We even drove by his elementary school.  (I'm a nut about stuff like that...I made him do the same thing with me when we went to New Orleans for our "official" reception, including my elementary school, favorite park, and the first house I remember living in!)  We saw the house in Chapel Hill that he shared with his awesome housemates in college, the planetarium where he worked (and saw an amazing show about black holes that really blew my mind), and we enjoyed walking around campus.  We also went to some great restaurants for dinner in Chapel Hill that I'm still craving, including the Lantern and Cholonad.  But, the official reason for the visit was the Instro Summit.  I've started to like surf music (especially since we went to Croatia 2 years ago to see an incredibly friendly Croatian surf band called the Bambi Molesters and ended up being interviewed for Croatian television for the length we went to to see the band).  But, I am not a concert-girl, despite marrying a man who likes nothing better than going to see live music.  I knew I didn't need to sit in a little bar for almost 24 hours over the three days watching bands (though I did go one evening and it was more fun than I expected!).  So, I decided to try my hand at a strip quilt, ala Film in the Fridge and after seeing one of the charity quilts Katie made last year, except that I also wanted to do it in the quilt-as-you-go method, and I wanted to do it in the hotel room when he was off galavanting with a few of his college friends the first night of the shows.  I cut all the print fabric at home so that I wouldn't need my cutting mat (though I forgot to cut the coordinating solids I so carefully purchased).  I knew the hotel would have an iron and ironing board, so all I needed was my strips, batting, backing, pins, thread, and trusty sewing machine.  And voila!  I used Kate Spain's Central Park fabric on the front, an old hand-dyed for the back, and Kona cotton (perhaps tangerine) for the binding.  (I should add that Kelly lives in New York and takes her kids to Central Park, so it felt doubly appropriate!)

In my first evening at the hotel, I had a quilt-ish!  I ended up deciding to add quite a bit more quilting when I got home, including some straight lines around the seam lines, as well as tracing some of the curves in the tree print, though I made that harder than it needed to be by using my walking foot.  And while I got the binding attached once I got home, I didn't have time to hand-sew it down until I was on the plane heading for New Orleans!  So, in these pictures, it hasn't been washed yet, but it was wrinkly more from its handling than the process...it was actually pretty easy to keep it smooth as I sewed it down, even without using basting spray (though next time I think it would have been easier to have spray basted the backing to the batting before starting).

In addition to sewing down the binding by hand, I wanted to actually sign the quilt, since that is another of the things I rarely do but am trying to improve on.  I think it helps that my new married name is 6 letters shorter than my maiden name.  It's a bit hard to see in this picture because I just used orange thread instead of perle cotton...why I took all these pictures indoors is beyond me, since I could have taken some really great outdoor shots, but there you go...at least I got my mom to help me snap some pictures for once!

Uncle Dean, the host with the most!
And, I can't leave this topic without a few pictures from the "reception".  I should start by saying that Bryan and I both love eating crawfish.  One of the first times he cooked for me, he made crawfish pie.  And I think one of my big attractions for him was a family from New Orleans (for many, many generations)!  When we were thinking about our wedding, we considered a lot of options, but we decided that rather than have all of my family from New Orleans trek to DC, it would be a lot more fun for everyone if we just traveled to New Orleans!  So, my awesome aunts from Champaign, Illinois, my brother and nephew from Athens, GA, my parents from Atlanta, GA, and Bryan and I from DC/MD all descended upon my uncle's house for Memorial Day weekend!
The traditional "crawfish race"!
My aunt, in particular, was very worried about the heat of New Orleans that late in the season, so in addition to the standard crawfish boil tables under tents, they set up a little cooling spray system on the side of the tents that worked like a champ.  We were all dressed in our grubbiest clothes (which was funny when I tried explaining to the lady at Nordstrom's Wedding Suite that I didn't need lovely white shorts for my crawfish boil reception...I don't think she understood what is involved in a crawfish boil!).  And we sat around eating crawfish, crabs, corn, mushrooms, potatoes, whole cloves of garlic, onions, and spicy sausage.  We had bought a doberge cake from Gambino's as our "official" wedding cake - half chocolate and half lemon.  This is a wonderful cake, but really the reason I wanted it was because my dad's dad ("Pop") always loved lemon desserts, and especially lemon doberge, and that was my way of bringing him, in spirit, to our celebration, even though he passed away almost a decade ago.  In addition, my uncle Bud and his wife, Dena, brought us a lovely cake that had whipped cream, berries, and maybe pastry cream...it was delicious.  Aunt Roz had bought beautiful flowers and had some really fun decorations.  My brother also brought his mandolin down and played some music for "our first dance", which my honorary Aunt Cathy filmed.  It really was wonderful - better than I had even imagined.

Intense concentration on putting crawfish into my mouth!

My brother, Rob, continuing the family tradition, and sharing a crab claw with his son, Rowan

...who happily accepted.
The happy couple, complete with my aunt's hysterical wedding decor!
Bananas Foster in action!



We also ate at a lot of fun restaurants, including a dinner at Commander's Palace with the famed Bananas Foster (who knew cinnamon thrown on the fire would make such a good show!), the impeccable Mr. B's Bistro, Bryan's old favorite Mother's Restaurant, and Emeril's Delmonico.  And we couldn't go to New Orleans without a stop for beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde.  But the best meals were at my uncle Dean's house.  We had an amazing brunch the day after the crawfish boil with crawfish etouffee omelets, crepes, fruit, and the best hash browns on earth (made from the potatoes, onion, and garlic from the crawfish boil).  And before we left, my uncle went completely above and beyond and made my absolute favorite - crawfish bisque - complete with the crawfish stuffing in the shells.  Thank you so much, Uncle Dean and Aunt Roz, for being such wonderful hosts.  I asked my nephew which of his aunts' wedding celebrations he preferred, and, of course, since my reception did NOT involve putting on a suit or sitting through a boring ceremony but did involve eating delicious food, playing horseshoes, fishing in the canal behind my uncle's house, and playing lots of fun games, well...I won hands down!  :)