East Dakota Quilter


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Sampler Quilt Progress Report

I must admit I didn’t get much sewing work done last week because I had a birthday to celebrate. So far, being “old” is awesome! My boyfriend and friends threw me a surprise party. Since then, I’ve been working on three different projects:

1. Scanning & organizing family photos. My grandma’s health is failing, and I would really like to honor her by organizing some photos to share at the funeral that will likely happen this weekend. While the circumstances are not great, it has been incredible to see how meticulously she kept photo albums, indicating how much she valued the people in them. She also had some interesting documents from my grandpa’s service in World War II.

2. Sampler Quilt. I finish a quilt block every now and again, and I’m done with 23 of the 49 total blocks. (My original grid below shows I’ve finished 24 blocks, but one of them turned out ugly, even if the measurements were correct and the corners lined up. I felt cheated.)

grid

blocks

3. Barn Quilt. My sampler quilt requires use of a sewing machine, so the project has limited mobility. But ever since I crocheted the edge of a baby blanket, I have enjoyed working on smaller projects during my lunch break. (Much of the Windy Hill onesie was done in my car.) I have decided my new “mobile” project will be a “barn quilt.” There will be 13 embroidered blocks, each featuring an image from my childhood in South Dakota. Examples include my grandparents’ house, the house I grew up in, our barn, my dad’s 1980 Buick LeSabre (which we had looooong after the 1980s), our mailbox, the first tractor my grandpa bought brand-new, etc. This is general layout, minus some of the photos I’m still collecting:

BQ template

I plan to use a patterned tan-and-navy border in a primitive style–and since I already purchased 5 yards from Primitive Gatherings, this plan is almost certain to become reality! I also purchased several skeins of matching embroidery floss and traced the main lines of four different photos, so I am ready to begin as soon as I finish the most urgent family photos.

This project was originally inspired by the Barns of Wisconsin set I saw featured at the Quilt Expo in Madison (September 2012). I thought I was being clever by using a color other than red and including buildings other than barns, but I have since learned that bluework is a popular style of embroidery, and I discovered this set of quilt blocks, too. Mine will still be one-of-a-kind and feature images that are special to me, so I eventually found peace with not being as original as I’d hoped.


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Embroidered Notebook Cover

Prowl: Lucky Jackson

I’m in the middle of many projects right now, but they’re taking so long to finish! As a treat, I decided to work on a project I knew would only take a few days.

Lucky Jackson does some neat embroidered portraits with two or more fabrics. I knew if I drew an original portrait or did anything very involved, it would quickly go from a 2-day project to another of the unfinished projects that make my head ache. Instead, I decided to try to apply the technique to clip art.

My boyfriend was recently offered a job with the U.S. government. His favorite time of day is the morning when he’s drinking his coffee and reading internet news. With the new job, I probably won’t see as much of him during this golden part of his day. I decided to make him a notebook cover. In the notebook, he can jot thoughts or follow-up notes from his online foray. He’s in his 30s but jokes about being a doddering old professor someday, so I thought this image, which I found for free online, would be perfect. I added the coffee cup.

Embroidered Old Man With Computer

I saw a product at the store that would’ve prevented fraying, but I’m okay with the way it turned out. I was equally lazy in tracing the notebook and adding a seam allowance instead of doing the proper measurements. I’m not bothered. If I try the technique again, I’m sure the next one will be better.

Finished_Notebook_Cover

It’s so rewarding to finish a project! Frankly, I doubt my boyfriend will use the notebook much. It’s not really something you whip out in front of your professional colleagues. But he knew I was thinking about him and had a smile.


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Embroidered Onesie: the Collaborative Version

I’m not a stereotypically artsy person. I am not laid-back. I don’t spontaneously have an idea that I have to sketch out without using other art as reference. And I’m not good at laughing at myself. So when my boyfriend started offering unsolicited advice about my most recent project, I was kind of peeved, to say the least. Then EVERY SINGLE ONE of his suggestions improved my project! Now I have to offer an awkward thank you for his help.

My aunt had a baby last week, which means I have a new cousin! I knew I wanted to make her something. The baby blankets/quilts/play mats I’ve been making don’t seem to be terribly useful, so I wanted to try something new. I decided to embroider a onesie after seeing this post by Sew Lovely Embroidery.

Shopping for onesies is hard, by the way. I don’t have kids, so I was really out of my element at Target. The regular clothing racks only had pre-designed onesies. I knew there must be blank ones somewhere, so I kept searching. Eventually, I found some plain onesies between the bibs and the blankets in a regular aisle, not the clothing area. They were mostly white. I know you can dye fabric with Rit, but let’s be honest: I wanted to start right away. (I found a few onesies that I thought were blank and colorful, but they had really hideous bears on the front! Ugh.)

I got the onesies home and realized right away they were too thin for embroidery, that my threads in back would show through. I decided I would just embroider on a separate patch of fabric. Enter boyfriend. “That square looks kind of weird. You’re just going to stick it on there?” Um, yes, that was the plan. “Maybe you can change the shape. You know, make it more organic.” Hmm… He rifled through the contents on my desk (NoNoNo!) for a paper and pen to sketch what he meant. His original sketch looked scary, but when I played around with it, I found a hexagon was actually pretty similar to his suggestion. Definitely better than my plain rectangle, but also not as difficult as a circle.

While the boyfriend read a book, I started stitching. I finished the animal and the baby’s name and got to the hearts in my pattern. “These should be the same color as her name, right?” I asked, turning to him. I thought if I asked a directed question, he would just agree—especially since he was reading and not really paying attention—but noooo. “They should probably be a different color,” he replied. “Red?” I asked suspiciously. “Yeah, red.” He’s going to ruin it, I thought to myself. I continued my project, secretly pleased I could blame him when it didn’t turn out. Only the red was really cute. I decided to do red stitching around the hexagon, too, and voilà:

I bought a few more onesies while I was at it. I think they’ll be good gifts. I mean, even the mom with everything can work a personalized onesie into her baby’s wardrobe. I will also try VERY hard to be more receptive to good advice! For example, I have read on various blogs that some people embroider with 2-3 strands of floss instead of all 6. I might give that a try next time.


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Quilt Expo – Madison, Wisconsin

A month or so ago, I received a spam message in my work inbox that was forwarded from a legal organization I belong to. The solicitation related to a quilt expo in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s probably the only spam message I’ve ever appreciated.

I thought about the message for a long time. Given how short a time I’ve been making quilts and the limit of my skill so far, it seemed like a bit of a stretch that I’d need to attend a quilt expo to get ideas. Not to mention the fact that I just started a project that could easily take me 10 years to complete. I discarded all these arguments because Madison sounded like a really nice city to visit for a quick overnight trip. Entrance wasn’t expensive, and since I work in the suburbs an hour and a half from my Chicago apartment, I reasoned I’d already be almost halfway if I left from the office Friday afternoon. I really just wanted to see what colors and patterns other people use–beyond an internet search, which has been my only experience so far–and this seemed like a fun opportunity to do so.

I felt a little out of sorts when I arrived. Everyone else came with at least one other person. I didn’t know where to begin, and I didn’t have an expert with me to consult (or even someone whose presence would force me to pretend I knew what I was doing). Luckily, the quilt contest exhibit was right by the front entrance. I decided to start there.

WOW! I saw hand quilting, machine quilting, appliqué–you name it! And these weren’t lazy quilters like I am. My favorite was a quilt that won third place in its category, Dreaming in Color by Dorinda Evans of Madison, Wisconsin:

I also loved this border on a quilt called Tangerine Rose by Lynn Droege of Overland Park, Kansas:

This quilt (Geisha Fans by Barbara Fuller of Baraboo, Wisconsin) mixed quarter Dresden blocks with normal, square blocks, which I thought was interesting:

This quilt, Chicken Soup by Sheila Hixon of Lakewood, Wisconsin, made me laugh more loudly than was appropriate at the expo:

Another of my favorites was an embroidered-block quilt called Barns of Wisconsin by Sue Brooks of North Freedom, Wisconsin:

Here are some close-ups of the detail in her quilt:

I bought some embroidery patterns from a vendor that are in a similar style. My plan is to review the templates and use them as a stylistic framework to create my own patterns of barns and farmhouses that were part of my childhood. This was based on the success of my first-ever embroidery project, which I began in my hotel room the night before the expo. When could someone ever be more excited about quilting than the night before a quilt expo?! But I didn’t want to lug my sewing machine with me, so I needed a more mobile project that would expend my extra creative energy. There’s a block of my newest quilt that had a letter “B” on the layout I drew. I figured if I gave the quilt as a gift, that would be a great place to embroider the couple’s name, and since my boyfriend’s last name starts with B and most of his siblings are unmarried, they seemed like likely candidates. Then I got more realistic and thought how hard it would be to part with a quilt after making dozens of personalized blocks. So I picked a pattern I liked for myself instead, Sarah Jane Studio‘s October–which matches the autumn theme of my quilt colors.

After I finished looking at the contest exhibit, I had just enough time for coffee before I went to Nancy Zieman’s class: Nancy’s 30 Favorite Sewing & Quilting Techniques. My mom learned how to sew by watching PBS’s Sewing with Nancy, so I had all the giddiness of someone about to meet a favorite celebrity.

And she was funny! Some of my favorite moments:

Nancy commented on the course title. She said, “Some of these tips are better than others. With 30, they won’t all be winners!”

Nancy said her favorite method of organizing projects is to roll the pieces of fabric into a large towel so they don’t get crease marks. An audience member jokingly asked, “How many towels do you have, Nancy?” Nancy responded, “Only *I* know that!”

At the end of the presentation, I even helped take down the quilt that was a backdrop for her presentation! That’s right: I touched a quilt Nancy sewed! Haha. She was gracious enough to take a photo with me before I left, too.

After class, I walked up and down the rows of stalls. I saw lots of cool things and eavesdropped on more than a handful of conversations. I overheard one lady say to her friend, “There’s a light-up quilt. I guess that’s the new thing this year.” I thought to myself, “Yikes! I don’t even know what the old thing is!”

I need to learn how to use wool and felted wool. There was lots of it, and it was so pretty!

My favorite booth was for a store called Primitive Gatherings. They had such a fantastically gorgeous selection of fabrics. When I walked past on the way to Nancy’s class, I stopped a few seconds to grab a business card (well, slip of paper) and drink in the colors. Afterward, I was surprised there was a line just to get into the booth! A lady walking by said, “That makes sense. It’s all in the name.” Apparently, this place is famous. I bought a bunch of fabrics for the back side of my Dear Jane quilt. Since I’m thinking of doing quilt-as-you-go, I could make each square a different fabric. They’re so pretty, maybe I’ll even use that side as the front!

I was disappointed when the $60 I spent didn’t get me one of their printed bags. This is actually very stupid. I mean, I have a ton of printed bags. I usually avoid getting more because I don’t want to store them. But the salesperson told another woman she had to carry the bag with the logo out, and then I unconsciously waited for him to tell me the same thing when I made my purchase. (I was browsing when the other woman checked out.) No luck! Like I said, I shouldn’t have been disappointed because I don’t really need another bag. And with as popular as they are, it would’ve been impractical for them to print bags for every customer, regardless how little each spent. I get it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the booth itself. I asked if I could take a photo and was told I couldn’t. But it was the absolute nicest way to be turned down. The salesguy looked a little uncomfortable when I asked, frowned a little. “It’s okay if I can’t,” I said. “I understand you’d want to protect your brand image.” He looked relieved. “Sorry,” he said. “Boss’ orders.” He could’ve just said no. Instead, he looked like he wanted to say yes and was struggling because he couldn’t. I don’t care if he was the boss and it was his own decision, it was nice of him to humor me like that! And I really can’t fault anyone for wanting to control their own branding. What I do have a photo of is the fabric I purchased from them:

Shopped out, I went to the extension part of the quilt exhibit to look around. Again, the quilts were a lot more elaborate than anything I could (or would choose to) make with my old, very plain sewing machine. Here were some highlights:

Not A Farmer’s Wife by Carolyn Vogel

Goodnight Sweetheart by Jean Lohmar

I left fairly early. I was glad not to have to wait around for an expo partner and congratulated myself for having decided to go alone, after all.

The weather was fantastic. I thought about driving straight home, but I didn’t want to waste such beautiful daylight hours. Instead, I drove to the capitol building in Madison and sat outside on a bench, working at my embroidery piece:

I had a great day and am glad I went to the expo. In the end, I think the target audience is people who are much more into quilting and batik fabrics than I am, but it was still a nice way to see a wide variety of fabrics all at once. Would I consider going again? I really don’t know. But I couldn’t have asked for a better first quilt expo experience!