Thursday, 31 May 2012

Colour Block of the Month: Cyan

This month's Colour My World Challenge was to create something using the cyan family of colours. I was unsure what to do at first, because this isn't a colour I use often. In fact, there was really only one fabric in my stash that fit the bill. My goal is to try out a new improvisational piecing technique for each colour block, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to experiment with image fracturing.

The aim of fracturing is to make an image more interesting by cutting and reassembling it. There are a lot of ways to do this, and the more complex ones can yield stunning results, but I opted for an easy start in order to get a better grasp of how a design changes when it is cut and sewn.

Having mostly seen this technique used on floral and landscape prints, I thought it would be very interesting with my abstract fabric. This is the panel that I started with:

With random vertical cuts, I divided the image into more or less equal parts. I kept an average width of one inch, which means that for every strip one half of the design would be hidden in the seam and the other half would remain visible.

I numbered all of my pieces as I cut them to make sure they stayed in order, and then reassembled the design. I'd expected fifty percent of the image to vanish, which it did, but the new design that emerged surprised me. The shapes were more condensed than I'd expected, and the line across the middle remained unbroken despite the random angled cuts that I started with.

I decided that it looked pleasingly abstract and added a solid border to finish it up. This is the fifth block of my improvised rainbow quilt.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

TNG Thoughts and More Fun with Felt

We've been working our way through Star Trek: The Next Generation in the evenings over the past little while. I remember sitting down to watch Encounter at Farpoint with my dad on premier night in 1987. It was awesome. I was immediately hooked. I wanted so badly to get on board the Entreprise and meet Wesley Crusher.

In over four seasons so far there hasn't been a single episode I didn't remember. Q's crazy antics. Locutus of Borg. Geordi falling in love in the holodeck. Data's trial. Wesley's space bubble. Tasha's death, her return, her sister, then her daughter. I'm looking forward to some great time loop episodes coming up this season too. There are two things that I'm noticing about the show now that I didn't as a child: 1) Every minor alien race across the universe happens to have independantly designed the same wedge-shaped starship, with only slight variations. 2) Deanna Troi is not a useful part of the crew, why is she even on the bridge? And someone get that poor woman some help for the camel-toe emphasized by her colourful spandex uniforms!!

Fast forward 25 years and I am still following Wil Wheaton. Did you know he has narrated several audiobooks, including some Mark Twain? He's been reading me Ready Player One while I sew this week. Fun story for you 80s kids out there. I get the feeling it will inevitably end with me revisiting some classic text based adventure games. Oh, and while I'm at it, I've got one more Star Trek related plug: did you know there's a book on Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel by theoretical physics professor Michio Kaku?

If you aren't a TNG fan and just skipped the above three paragraphs, I will now move on to the crafting. I usually do some sewing to keep my hands busy when we watch TV. As a result, I've added plenty of new big eyed felt friends to my stash since my last update.

Note: the flower had two leaves this morning, but it was really windy when I went outside to take pictures. The second leaf will likely never be seen again.

I've seen some people make really cute blog themed applique quilts. That's what I'm thinking of making with these guys eventually. I also received a Henrietta Hippo pattern from 529 Mason Street during Sew Mama Sew giveaway day last week, so stay tuned for the adventures of my soon-to-be felt house hippo.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Rail Road Tracks for Animal Rescue

I decided to sew up a new kitty blanket for this month's Free Motion Quilting Challenge. This is the eighth one in the series, inspired by the Snuggles Project, and they're starting to make quite an adorable little pile in my sewing room. All of the blankets will be donated to a local animal rescue organization at the end of the year.

These are the flannel pieces I put together for the front and back:

This month's challenge was a foundational design by Leah Day. It involved drawing a loose wavy line over the blanket as a guide, and then filling the space around it by weaving over the line with another design. I chose to use boxy shapes as my filler to create a rail road pattern. Having a base to follow made drawing the boxes a lot easier, but I went with such a big scale that the guide line itself was hard to stitch.

I didn't realize when doing this that the boxes were supposed to extend to fill in all of the space. I made them all the same length instead, which made them look more like rails but left a lot of empty space in between. Ah well. Overall, this was a quick and fun design that came out looking okay despite the irregular corners on most of my boxes.

The finished blanket looks like this:

Friday, 18 May 2012

Blogger's Quilt Festival - Rainbow Star Revisit

Amy's Creative SideIf you are here visiting as part of the Blogger's Quilt Festival, welcome! This is my first time participating, and I am looking forward to being inspired by everyone's favourite quilts.

I've been quilting for less than a year, but thanks to the wonderful resources available online and at my local quilt shop I've made tremendous progress in that short time and impressed myself quite a bit. Every quilt has been a learning experience, and I've received plenty of support from family, friends, and fellow bloggers. The Rainbow Star mini quilt I chose for the festival is the one that most reflects that support.

This quilt was made for the aunt who taught me to use a sewing machine when I was ten. Over the next couple of years, we made many things together: pants, vests, cushions, curtains, and a crazy elaborate gown with faux-corset top and a twelve foot hemline for a medieval themed wedding.

Throughout her life, my aunt has done a lot of sewing for herself and for others, but with retirement has come the switch to painting and piano playing. Since she is no longer sewing, she decided to offer me her entire fabric stash! Here's a small sample of what I brought home in my suitcase:

If you've been following my blog, chances are that you've seen quite a few of these fabrics make their way into my projects. See those Care Bears on the bottom right? That's an original series print from the 80's! I have a special use in mind for them soon...

As a thank you, I chose some solids to coordinate with my aunt's bright polka-dot print and jumped right in to a complicated project without a pattern. A few tricky diamonds and Y-seams later, I had a full lone star! It measures 30" square. Can you believe that I actually managed to align all of those points after quilting for less than six months?

This quilt was my entry for the Modern Mini Quilt Challenge in March. Here is a detail shot of the straight line quilting and stippling (my first on a real quilt). I absolutely love the rainbow binding as well.

As soon as I was done, I rolled this up and shipped it to my aunt with a thank you letter. She was very moved and has decided to hang it up even though it doesn't match at all with her d├ęcor. There will definitely be Sunbonnet Sue placemats heading her way eventually too as I continue to practice and improve.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Spotted Dinosaurs Baby Quilt Completed

My little nephew arrives tomorrow for his first visit and I've finished his quilt just in time. This is a dinosaur themed baby quilt with a flannel back (details on the fabric and pattern can be found in this post). It was the perfect opportunity to try my new free motion quilting skills on a real project.

The last few months of the Free Motion Project Quilt Along have focused on perfecting stippling, and that's the design I decided to use for this quilt. I'm so proud to have completely quilted this blanket myself! I had a few problems with scale and with forming nice curves, but none of that matters to a seven month old. Overall it looks great, and is really soft and cuddly.

I quilted the seams and corners as much as possible, then double stitched the binding onto the edges in hopes that it will stand up to multiple washings. When I was a littl'un, I had a white Winnie the Pooh blankie. It was dragged around in the dirt, cried over, thrown up on, and its silk ribbon edge was sucked until the ink wore off. I will be extremely happy if this blankie has a similar fate.

Here is what the finished quilt looks like. (Sigmund knew he wasn't allowed to cuddle up on this one, but he did come and give it the once-over to make sure it was up to his standards.)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Fire Hydrant Quilt Block

I've been thinking about Leah Day's advice that there is more value in creating a pattern that can be shared than there is in making just one quilt from it myself. Design is the element that interests me most in quilting, and I tend to come up with lots of non traditional ideas for which patterns don't currently exist. In theory, I am also good at technical writing and transforming abstract things into concrete instructions.

My goal is to put together a pattern for a fire hydrant quilt block as a proof of concept. The pattern would make both of these two options:

The block has a lot of pieces that need to be assembled in the right order to fit. I drew a scale version of it that (hopefully) will show the order of assembly. I also listed the number and size of pieces to cut from each colour. Next comes breaking it down into step by step instructions.

I think they're pretty darn cute. However, there's no way of knowing if anyone other than me would ever want to use this design for a quilt. Should be a good learning opportunity either way.

Update: the pattern for this block is now available HERE! 

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Opinions from the Kitchen: Cinnamon Treats

When I was young, I used to wonder why there was syrup for mixing chocolate milk and syrup for mixing strawberry milk (yuck), but no syrup for cinnamon milk. I imagined that cinnamon milk would taste just like a liquid version of cinnamon toast. I set about experimenting to see if I could create this wonderful stuff myself.

My first attempts (ground cinnamon dumped into a glass of milk) were a failure. Cinnamon will not mix with cold milk, period. My ice cream experiments worked better. And I soon discovered that you could use it in icing as well. I still love to make cinnamon flavoured desserts. Someday, I will share my sour cream & cinnamon icing recipe for apple pie.

In the meantime, here are some cinnamon treats to take along on a picnic or share with your barbecue guests this summer.

Cinnamon Rice Krispie Squares

Regular Rice Krispie squares are pretty good. The chocolate chip version isn't bad either, but wait until you try them with cinnamon!

To make these, simply follow the recipe on the box (or your favourite variation of it). Once the marshmallows are melted, add 1.5 teaspoons of ground cinnamon and mix well. Then proceed to add the cereal as per the recipe.

These are easy to make and there's very little clean-up required so you can easily whip up a few batches for a party. They disappear quickly at our place.

Cinnamon Blondies

There was no way I could pass up this recipe from the Kitchenarian. Her little cinnamon squares looked like heaven.

This was rather work intensive for a small pan of blondies, but they melt so easily in your mouth that you won't even notice you've grabbed a second one. I found the cinnamon flavour to be very mild though, and since this is a post about cinnamoney goodness I recommend that you throw in some more for good measure.

It's a fact that blondies will never be able to match the ooey-gooey fudginess of brownies. I won't try to convince you that brownies-level satisfaction can be reached without chocolate. However, if you're craving a toffee square with a slight hint of cinnamon, check these out.

Coffee Cake or Muffins

This coffee cake was featured in my 2011 Cake Review, but I felt it deserved another mention since it's such a favourite. It is the full sized version of Martha Stewart's Coffee Cake Muffins.

It's two layers of moist sour cream cake topped with cinnamon crumble. You have to bake the cake much longer than you would the muffins, and it's a little bit tricky to get out of the pan without ruining the cinnamon topping, but it has been well worth it every time.

For the muffin version, be sure to give yourself an extra half hour to divide the batter and topping into 24 parts to fill your muffin cups. It's worth it when you want to give them away. Who doesn't love receiving a mini coffee cake?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Houndstooth Turtles Quilt Finally Over With

Houndstooth Turtles is the first quilt I ever made as kind of a proof of concept to see if I could actually do it. Having just learned to use a rotary cutter, I jumped right into a complicated project without a pattern. I cut the pieces wrong to start, and then proceeded to sew them together wrong. As a quick fix, I decided to take the focus away from the stuff that hadn't worked so well (piecing and pressing) with something that I knew more about (hand embroidery and felt).

Details of what went wrong are in my original post here.

I tried to quilt this no less than six times, but didn't have much luck. I know now that it's because I was using really slippy high loft batting and bad quality thread. Eventually, I had to admit that I didn't like this quilt very much, and it has been sitting in my sewing room unfinished for six months. This week, I resolved to finish it.

I used the zippling design from this week's Free Motion Quilting Project exercise to finally quilt this properly. Then, I pulled out all of the really bad stitching in the ditch that was left over from my last attempt. The zippling was fun and looks good, definitely one I will use again. It's easier when there are no curves to worry about!

I also stitched around the turtles to give them more pop, and they did become really nice and puffy.

Apart from the zippling and the turtles, I still don't love this little quilt, but at least it's done! I plan to hang it on the wall of my sewing room as a reminder of how much I've improved.