Thursday, May 31, 2007

Simply inspiring

Something came over me when I stepped into the Kinokuniya Bookstore in Rockefeller Center. I was entranced, bewitched. I was in the neighborhood, and innocently thought I'd just check out their selection on crafts. Well, let me just say it's the closest thing to a black hole I will ever encounter. What was my lunch hour, turned into almost 3 hours of perusing, pondering, putting in basket, taking out of basket and settling on a shameful amount of books and periodicals.

Oh, that doesn't look like a shameful amount, does it? Well, I'm deceiving to you. This is only a mere portion of the books and periodicals I bought. I'm kind of ashamed. Not enough to change my ways, mind you. This also excludes the shipment that should be arriving any day now (which I forgot about it. bad bad sign.) Barnes & Noble was bad enough. Now, I've got Kinokuniya in my clutches, and ladies (and gents)... it's going to get ugly.

Like many of you, I find the japanese crafting books to be so inspiring. The layout of the books reminded me of flipping through graphic novels at the Forbidden Planet. It's the simplicity, and the lightness of touch. Lightness of touch is something that's always escaped me. All of my drawings and paintings are deep and bold. I go through charcoal like I'm feeding newsprint. Nothing inferred. I prefer to write in Sharpies as opposed to fine tip pens. Playing the piano - always allegro, never andante. When I run, it's like the earth shakes beneath my moose-like steps. I'm pretty much built like a Mack truck. But, enough about my hang-up's. These pages have me wistful and dreamy.

My favorite out of this last bunch is the 156 Original Patchwork Designs by Yoko Saito. Filled with patchwork blocks, I'm salivating at the thought of what I can make! The designs are whimsical, but not goofy. I love this little sewing machine block:

(ISBN# 4-529-04188-3)

Jewelry Pouch

Inspired by the Purl Bee...

Amy Butler's Belle Fabric

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Mistaken notion

My piddly progress on my granny squares. I thought crocheting was supposed to be so much faster.

Not that I've been working on them day and night, but come on... 31 squares completed? Thirty. One.

I do still like the colors. I'm regretting not taking the picture in Fire Island. My half-a**ed lighting is for sh**.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Spring turns to Summer

The unofficial start to Summer began this past weekend here in NYC. Memorial Day weekend is when NYer's typically give a collective sigh of relief in anticipation of the slowing of the city. Even more typical of NYer's is that we leave. We get out of the city, and that's just what we did.

I was tempted to bring the sewing machine along, but the one thought that stopped me was that it might get wet on the ferry ride out to Fire Island - never mind its weight, bulkiness... the overall inappropriateness of a piece of machinery on an island that doesn't even allow cars during the high season. So, I packed my knitting (Swing Jacket, argh) and my crocheting (Granny Square Afghan) and forgot almost everything else. I'm a very bad packer. Pack light is my motto and to-hell-with-it if it doesn't fit. Well, I had plenty to keep me busy and that's all that mattered.

Once I got out to the house and the beach, my will softened and my motivation... well, I left it somewhere on the Long Island Expressway. I laid back and ate, napped in the sun, ate...

napped on the deck, ate some more. You get the picture. (I don't know how I managed to take the Rembrandt of all fruit pictures, but I had to share. Who knew a big bowl of fruit could look so serious. I think photography is next on my list of things to tackle.) I managed to eek out a few squares and a couple rows. What was really great was that I was able to appreciate the loveliness of the nature that surrounded us. And one thing I had almost forgotten all about... REAL sunlight. I got a whole bunch of it over the weekend. And it threw everything into a completely different light, in every way. I never noticed all the subtle variations in this beautiful hand-dyed yarn I've been using for the afghan. Pure prettiness.

Even my anxious city dog was able to stop and appreciate.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Patchwork complete!

I just finished the quilt top to the baby quilt. I'm happy with the result, but it didn't come without a few hurdles. I feel a bit stupid saying this out loud, but I was using the wrong presser foot for about the first quarter of the top. I was assuming that the outside edge of the foot was 1/4". I was wrong. It was more like 3/8", or something more precise in metric. I realized I had a presser foot especially made for patchwork with a 1/4" edge, with a built-in a fabric guide. I mean duh. I did get the Patchwork Edition to a sewing machine afterall. After that, the sewing went much more smoothly and quickly. In the end the minor differences at each seam made the whole top a little crooked. I'll have to square it up before I quilt, I guess.

So, I think I'm going to just use the hot pink Amy Butler fabric for the binding edge. I just ordered a special presser foot from Bernina that can attach the binding in one go. We'll see if I'm coordinated enough to use it. I can't say that I minded the hand sewing to finish the binding. It was very soothing.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Quilt for Baby Girl

When I found out the date of a dear friend's baby shower, my mind started to race as to what I could knit her. That's right, a baby girl. The options were endless. I have over a month and, of course, the first idea was another Zimmermann jacket. They're so precious. Then, I got a newsletter from Jimmy Beans Wool and their contest winner's pattern was for a baby and so cute it is. But, I consulted a close friend and fellow crafter, and she suggested I continue on my quilting path and make her a quilt. Why yes! A quilt! It would last longer than a sweater which she'd outgrow. And, for a summer baby... well a quilt was the ticket.

I raced over to The City Quilter and bought some fabric I had seen on a previous trip there. Heather Ross' Lightning Bugs and Other Mysteries for Free Spirit Fabrics. I just loved the dogs and who could resist the throwback to the VW Bus. The colors are more 70's, less baby and if you knew the couple you'd know how perfect it was. Less pristine, more quirky. They'd appreciate these "Little Darlings" colors.

I added some leftover Amy Butler Lotus fabric I had and think I'll use it for the binding. Give it a little oomph. But for the backing, I'm going to stick with pale pink. She is a girl afterall.

I set out to find the perfect pattern. I needed one a beginner like myself could handle. And after I buying about 5 quilting books and 6 quilting magazines (along with the rest of the sewing section at B&N), I found a really cute one in the latest Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting magazine. It's called Crossroads Baby Quilt, and since the pattern only had straight lines, I thought I'd take a stab.

I cut the pieces.

Pinned to sew.

And planned the layout.

It is SO 70's looking! I love it! I think I remember my mom's beaded flowers having this color range. A lot of yellows, oranges and browns.

I'll hopefully be finishing the patchwork this weekend, and then I'll have to figure out a quilt design.

Monday, May 14, 2007

One thing leads to another

I've been working on my granny square afghan, one square at a time, and as I started "researching" other granny squares and afghans online, I stumbled across quilting and patchwork. I began taking in all the quilting blocks and thinking of future afghans I could make with the feel of an old-fashioned Americana quilt.

Months ago, The Migglesworth was kind enough to buy me a no-frills Singer sewing machine from Target. I wanted to play around with fabric, and make home decor items as opposed to, let's say, clothing. I even signed up for an "Introduction to Machine Sewing" a two-part course at The City Quilter. The City Quilter boasted brand new sewing machines they just brought into their classroom, and for a mere $45 I thought this class would be a great investment. I learned the basics of the machine and left the class with a decorative pillow case.

So recently, I bought the latest issue of Blueprint which included a lovely article about the owner of Purl Soho and Purl Patchwork. The article was about her love of handmade things, and a certain dreaminess started to come over me as I looked over the photos of her apartment with her many hand-created or hand-refurbished items. What resonated was a lovely and simple quilt. Instructions for this quilt were on the Blueprint/Martha Stewart site, so I began to think whether or not I could do this... did I have the room even to make something sizeable like a quilt, and do I have the patience.

I returned back to my sewing machine a little guilty that I hadn't played around with it much since taking the class. I dusted it off and started cutting up some scraps and practiced sewing some straight lines desperately trying to remember all the tips my instructor had given me. I thought to myself, "Self... why not?" So, I high-tailed it over to The City Quilter dead set on recreating the Blueprint quilt and bought:

7 different kinds of fabric, totaling 12 yards
Twin-size batting (after the incredibly knowledgable staff simply shook their heads when I mentioned the words "king-size bed" and "first time quilting" together.)
Mettler spool of machine sewing thread in all cotton
Basting Pins
Binding Clips
Bias Tape Maker
Magnetic Pin "Cushion"
Dear Jane book

I already had some basics from my class and previous lives, like:
OmniGrid 24" x 6" Ruler
45mm Rotary Cutter
12" x 18" Olfa Cutting Mat
Gingher Fabric Scissors
Glass head pins
Seam Ripper
Hand Sewing Needles
Sketch & Wash Pencil
Iron/Ironing Board

(A LOT more supplies needed to start as opposed to knitting and crocheting. I had a whole little sweatshop set up in my teeny studio.)

Ran over to Barnes & Noble and bought:

Better Homes & Gardens Complete Guide to Quilting

Fabric I started with:

With the more-difficult-than-it-looks rotary cutting behind me, and after doing the patchwork - halfway through the quilting, I became exhausted with my Singer. It wasn't built for the quilting part of this project. It was fine for the patchwork even though it sounded more like a machine gun than a sewing machine. The feed dogs weren't supporting the heft of a quilt, and the darn lightbulb was hot and making me sweat. My mind started to drift back to the machines I used during my class at The City Quilter. The new machines they boasted were Bernina 440 QE's. I did my research on sewing machines, and after the sticker shock of the 440 model subsided, I decided to invest in a lower model Bernina. I purchased the 230 Patchwork Edition model. Not cheap, but it was like pricing out a Rolls Royce and "settling" on the Porsche. But after my Yugo of a Singer (fantastic machines, just not their cheapest model), I was in heaven. This baby can sew. I mean... SHE CAN SEW. She whistles as she works.

And here you have it. My very first quilt... not even Twin Size, more like lap size, but I thought a decent start:

So when The Migglesworth offered to buy me some yarn for Mother's Day, I looked at him sheepishly and suggested Purl Patchwork instead of Purl:

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Progress on Granny

Here's some progress on my Granny Afghan. I've thrown four more colors - nine colors in total now. And I was hesitant about using too girly of a bunch of colors, but thought better to make some girly than something drab. So, here are the new colors being slowly worked in. The dark violet is a bit dark in the picture, but it's much more vibrant in person. And, after getting the opinion of my crochet class last night, they convinced me to leave it in. I'm going to keep it completely random after thinking about doing some pattern, or starting with some spectrum effect. For my first crocheted afghan, I'm going to keep it simple - at least simple in the planning.

Hope you like the colors. And I've downshifted from the king-size plan, to a throw. Not surprising. I calculated I would need about 650 squares, so I thought better not. I don't want to get sick of it before I'm using it.

The ongoing saga of the Swing Jacket sleeves - progress is slow. I do a couple rows a night, doing both sleeves at once. I won't be getting anywhere fast at that rate, so I'm going to try to pick up the pace soon. Ah well... what's the rush?