Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Green" Baby Shower Favors

I have a wonderful daughter-in-law (DIL), who I have been trying for years to get "hooked" on quilting. But, she is a practical and utilitarian sewer, who sews when necessary. I remember when her brother and his wife were pregnant with their first child. After prodding her for years about trying quilting, she came to me and said she was ready to make a baby quilt. I suggested a very quick and easy, flip and sew project. We went fabric shopping and she had so much fun picking out airplane theme fabric. I thought - aha! I hooked her.

A few years later - yes a few years, her dear friend from elementary school was pregnant, and she was ready to make another quilt. Last year we even took a free workshop at a local sewing shop during Earth Day and made a reusable shopping bag. She loves it and uses it. But it was one and done. And then her brother had twins. That time it was two rag quilts made from flannel. She still was not bitten.

Now her sister is pregnant. Time for another quilt? Yes! And what did I think of the idea of making reusable shopping bags as bridal shower favors? She even brought me a pattern. First I have to let you know that her sister is determined to reduce her carbon footprint. She has made an effort to have as little purchased new for this baby as possible. She has been trying to reuse and/or borrow or buy used what she needs. Then she will register for her baby shower. I really admire this. Sometimes I think there is just too much consumption in this country.

So I thought my DIL's idea for the shower favor was a great idea. And I had a brainstorm, thinking of too much consumption, wouldn't it be even better if we went through my fabric stash and used as much of my fabric as possible? How many bags did she need? Wow! 30, maybe 40? Decorator fabric was plentiful, so I thought, and my DIL chose a color palette. Then we picked some quilting fabric. The deal was that I would cut up the fabric for her and she would do the sewing.

I spent almost a day cutting up all of the fabric and experimenting. It looked like so much fabric before I started. It yielded enough for 27 bags. I made a few prototypes. First I changed the pattern so that the body of the bag was cut as 1 piece. I also added a bottom gusset, which is so easy to do, and really makes it a professional looking bag.

The first bag I made was the green striped bag on the right. I shortened the bag, but I thought it looked too small. So I used the dimensions from the original directions.

My favorite bag is the one on the left. I had bought that fabric a few years ago for an Autumn tablecloth. I wanted to try making a bag from it since it is a cross between an organza and a taffeta and I was concerned about its sturdiness. There was enough to cut 6 bags. The sample came out beautifully.

So now I am on a mission to not buy any fabric for this project. I just have to go through my stash one more time and then ask friends to come up with enough fabric for 13 more bags. And my DIL has a lot of sewing to do.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy Passover

Passover begins Monday, March 29th, at sundown. The Jewish holiday starts with a meal called a sedar. The sedar is a ritual meal that is guided by a book telling the story of the Jew's exodus from Egypt. It reminds us of how we went from being slaves to this wonderful thing called freedom.

To me, the Jewish religion is so much about tradition. I no longer have parents and have no siblings living near me, so the ritual of a sedar becomes my responsibility and my honor to pass on to my children. In simple terms, Passover lasts 8 days and during the holiday we are not allowed to eat leavened products and certain types of wheat and vegetables. This ban on leavening is symbolic of the quickness with which the Jews had to leave. There was no time for the bread to rise. So we eat Matzoh, unleavened bread.

As a child, I remember my mother cleaning the house of all types of bread and non-Passover products. She scoured the kitchen countertops and covered them with oilcloth. Then she placed a set of glass dishes that we only used for Passover on top of the counters. We were no longer allowed to open any of the doors. There was also a separate set of utensils and pots and pans. Then there were the special foods mostly made by Manischewitz that were placed on top of the counters. We were only allowed to eat food that was labeled Kosher for Passover. It was hard as a kid. No bread, no sandwiches for school lunch, none of our regular cereal, no pasta. So there was always some type of little treat that we never had during the rest of the year to make us feel a little less deprived.

Setting up my kitchen for Passover is not as rigorous a process as in my Mother's day. I do not follow all of the rules that she followed 40 years ago. My homage to my Mom are my glass dishes. Each year at the end of Passover, they are washed, wrapped in paper towels and put away in boxes. The day before Passover, I take them out of the box, wash them and lovingly place them on my kitchen counter. I think of my Mom.

I bought a beautiful handmade glass sedar plate that holds all of the symbolic foods for the sedar.

I take out my Matzah cover

that I made from a pattern I designed as OyVey! Quilt Designs.

I now have my own special treat that I make for my family called Caramel Matzoh Crunch.

And I am so happy to have my children and husband around my sedar table as we celebrate our freedom together.

A little treat for them to take home. And if you'd like to send a cute greeting to some of your family or friends that couldn't be with you, send a free e-card. (s0me of them are better than others.)

Happy Passover to all those that celebrate it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Another Scrappy Braid Quilt

Our guild challenge for this year is a baby quilt. The only requirements are that it measures 40"x40", no cheater cloths and it must be quilted and bound. After being displayed at our June quilt guild meeting, the quilts will be exhibited and sold at the West Chester Growers Market to benefit a local women's organization that helps needy mothers. Check their website at the end of May for the date.

I have returned to my favorite scrap buster quilt of the moment - the braid quilt. I cut up a bunch of 3"x8" rectangles and sewed them into braid strips, separating the pink and the brown to make a cute little girl quilt. A thin strip of brown fabric on the top and the bottom was used to separate this section from the top and bottom borders. My only question at this point is why when you cut up a bunch of scraps, it never seems to diminish your piles of fabric?

For the top and the bottom border, I pulled the softest fabric, called minkee, from my stash. I had bought it a while ago and was waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it. This challenge was it. I couldn't think of anything softer next to a baby's cheek. On the minkee borders, I appliqued the letters using fusible applique and a machine blanket stitch. I chose not to border the sides. I like the vertical look that you get with only borders on the top and bottom.

Getting ready for machine quilting, I basted the layers using a spray temporary adhesive product on my design wall. I have found this method to be quick and easy for small quilts. First I pinned a bed sheet to my design wall, making sure that the sheet covered part of the floor. (The spray adhesive can be a nasty product if it is not contained. )

Then I pinned the backing fabric, wrong side out to the sheet. This was done with lots of pins and pretty taught so that it didn't shift. I sprayed the backing mainly focusing on the 4 edges. The batted was smoothed onto the backing starting at the top and working downward and outward. This was then repeated for the quilt top.

Free motion machine quilting was used with an all over daisy chain pattern and pink cotton thread. In the minkee borders, I just quilted around the letters.. I didn't want to make the minkee stiff.

A little baby girl will be so lucky to get this adorable quilt. And the women's organization will benefit as well. Winners all around.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

AQS Lancaster Quilt Show Review

Oh I had such high hopes. AQS was putting on a quilt show in Lancaster, PA, our backyard quilting capitol and home to the Amish. AQS. This is the Paducah AQS. In Lancaster - about 1 hour from my house. This was going to be a high quality, exciting quilt show filled with eye candy and quilts to drool over. The previous quilt show held in Lancaster at The Host Farms, Quilters Heritage Celebration, said their good byes in 2009. It had indeed grown a bit tired. It was time for them to leave. AQS stepped in to fill the void.

The facility was beautiful. The new Lancaster Convention Center is attached to a brand new Marriott. The show was on 3 floors and also at an off-site location. There was a free shuttle bus provided to get to this other location that was a little over a mile away.

I so want to say nice things, but I think the most positive things I have to say I just said. Oh, one more - there were LOTS of very clean women's restrooms.

I was truly underwhelmed. First, the lighting was horrible. Many of the quilts were so poorly lit, that you couldn't tell if they were raw edge appliqued or appliqued with the edges turned over. And did you want to know if those quilts were machine or hand quilted? Forget it!

The quality of the quilts also left something to be desired. There were a few wonderful quilts, but many that you wondered how they were accepted into such a prestigious show. The Best of Show quilt was a Mariner's Compass by Linda Roy. It was exquisitely pieced and quilted with metallic thread (and we all know how difficult that can be), but was it innovative or unusual at all? I didn't think so.

The one trend that I dfid notice was the use of unusual edge treatments and borders. In Double Damask, Liz Jones used small scallops and striped piping. It gave a great effect.
And there was one with "tabs", created by Janet Shore.

Karen Kay Buckley's border had these beautiful spirals in the border created from appliqued leaves.
Esterita Austin also had a humorous quilt called "Incommunicado" with an unusual border and a very cool depiction of transparent wine glasses. Sorry that I don't have a photo of it. By the time I saw it, I had given up and put my camera away. My favorite quilt was one by Betty Busby, called Cherry Trees. The reflection of the trees in the water was done with paint and was just wonderful. It was embellished so tastefully with beads.

Many of the quilts have been around, for a while. Some I may have seen at least 4 years ago. The vendors were interspersed with the quilts. It made it a little hard to immerse yourself in the quilt entries. Once you went to the 2nd and 3rd floors, there must have been more vendors than quilts. I have to say there was nothing that interested or excited me to try something new. Most of the vendors seemed to focus on country type fabric and patterns.

I am getting depressed even writing this blog post. I just hope that not a lot of people knew about the show, there will be more publicity and that next year will be better.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guest Blogger

Yippeee! I am so excited to be a guest blogger on Quilting Bloggers. If you want to read about how I got here and developed my acclaimed art quilts, click on the Quilting Bloggers logo just to the right.

If you are visiting from clicking through Quilting Bloggers, welcome! I hope you enjoy reading about my quilts, tips and inspirations and road trips.

I am currently working on a piece inspired by the Kantha Quilts. There is an exhibit at The Philadelphia Museum of Art in The Perelman Annex. These quilts are gorgeously embroidered layered cloths made in the late 19th, early 20th century in what is now Bangladesh and West Bengal. I view it as Indian folk art. Stay tuned for my inspired piece.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Thought I Swore Off Knitting

I learned to knit when I was a child, as so many of us did. My sister taught me. She was left handed and I was right handed. Somehow I ended up learning to knit continental style. I didn't realize that this was desirable until recently.

I never really got into knitting. Maybe it was the first garment that I ever made. It was for my boyfriend, who later became my husband. I knitted a solid green V-neck vest. This was back in the 70's. Thinking back on it now, I must have used a synthetic yarn. That vest was stiff. He called it his viking vest. He may have worn it once.

I started knitting again when everyone was making those skinny scarves with the eyelash type yarns and the size 19 needles. It was fun, for a while. I tried making a couple of sweaters, but I never grasped the concept of test swatches. So the very expensive sweater that I made ended up being resized with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine. That didn't work very well.

Then I got into making felted purses. That really worked well for me. Swatching wasn't important and if a stitch or 2 was dropped, you couldn't see it after the purse was felted. I did try socks, but you can imagine how that ended. My favorite piece I made during those knitting times, was my needle holder.

I made it from wool fabric that I hand dyed. I love dragon flies. It folded up and the silk ribbons were there to tie it shut. The inside, which was made separately, had pockets to store straight and circular needles. I used cotton fabric, which also had dragonflies on it.

If I were to make another one, I would put a stiff stabilizer in between the outside and inside. I also would add a flap at the top to prevent the needles from falling out.

So after making a bunch of felted purses, I just decided knitting wasn't my cup of tea. If I wanted to sit and do some type of handwork, I preferred beading, embellishing and embroidery. I gave away all of my yarn. I did keep my needles just because I loved my needle holder.

Then the other day, I met my friend Hattie for lunch and she is wearing the most awesome scarf. I love it. It has these fringes along the long edges. I wear those kind of scarves a lot. But I've never seen one knitted. Before the end of the day, we hit the yarn store so I can knit again after being knit-free for 4 years.

Oh well, at least I had the needles.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mud Sale

I went to a mud sale today. Most people ask, "what is a mud sale"? There is no mud for sale, but it was really muddy due to the spring thaw of snow. A mud sale is an annual fundraiser done in certain towns out in Lancaster County. The goal is to raise money for the local Fire Department. They auction everything from quilts to horses to tools and antique furniture. There are hundreds of people. And lots of Amish made food, such as fresh donuts and pretzels. I can't believe how many Amish there are that live in the area. They must all attend this big event.
It is another world. This is a row of Amish buggies. Most of them are refurbished and they are waiting for their auction time. It really was a beautiful day. (We are so ready for spring.)

The best part of the mud sale is the quilt auction. Local women drop off their quilts to be sold. The women get a percentage of the sale and so does the fire company. There are no reserve prices. Some of the quilts are wallhangings. Some are made from pre-printed panels. Some are antique. Some are just beautifully done quilts, handquilted by Amish women. They have a great system of hoisting up the quilt that is for sale for all to see. First on the right side and then on the left side. It is a very efficient system that wastes little time.

This rack holds all of the 379 quilts to be auctioned. Seats are really hard to come by. The sale started at 8:30AM and was still going strong at 3PM.

Many bargains were had. Most of the bed quilts went for about $300. The pre-printed children's quilts sold in the range of $20. It was quite an experience. Hmmmm, there's one next Saturday at the Gordonville Fire Company.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Finally, The Wedding Quilt

I can finally share the quilt that I made for my son and his new wife. (I was surprised when I found out that sometimes she reads my blog!) This was the first quilt that I made using my new favorite scrap pattern from Moda. Two great things - you cut up all the fabric into 2 1/2" x 7" rectangles. Can't be easier than that. The second great thing is that the pattern is free on Moda's website.

I was saving a bunch of fat quarters for another project that never materialized. The colors were perfect for their house. I just kept sewing until most of the rectangles were used up. That's the beauty of this pattern. I just had to make sure that the braid strips were the same length. I have to add that when I sewed the long braid strips together, I intentionally offset where the rectangles met. If I had to match all of those points, I would have had no hair left by the time I was done. Moda's pattern does the same thing.

One of my goals was also to make it a heavy quilt. My son thinks it would be perfect if a quilt could be as heavy as that lead apron they put on you when you get x-rays at the dentist. The batting I chose was Hobbs Heirloom wool batting and then a flannel for the backing. That quilt turned out to be really heavy.

Before the quilt is quilted, I put a label on the back. I used the label from their wedding announcement. I know everyone has heard it before, but it is so important to document your quilts. Using your computer to make the label becomes such a simple thing.

After printing the label, I frame it out with some leftover strips from the top, add triangles to the corner. It is then fused to the backing and I stitch around it with a machine blanket stitch. Easy.

My wonderful long arm quilter, Susie Racobaldo quilted it for me. She doesn't have a website, but if you want her e-mail, contact me.

Then my buddy helped me to bind it. I really had to squeeze that fabric for the binding. I used the border fabric but had to also use a bit of another fabric. But you would never know unless you looked for it.

I headed to the dollar store to get a gift back. I just try not to use wrapping paper anymore. It kills me that you buy it, spend the time wrapping it and then as soon as it is unwrapped, it gets thrown away. On my way there, it dawned on me that for the same price, I could run into Home Goods and get a reusable bag.

These bags are just gorgeous and perfect for the gift giving of a quilt, and they cost 99c. So I bought all of these. And they have a snap at the top, too. I really don't care that the store name is visible. I think they're gorgeous.

And finally, here's the quilt!

I think they liked it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

On The Road

I'm heading to the Allentown, PA area tomorrow, Tuesday. I'm speaking about how to personalize quilts with words and images. Your computer's word processing program is a very powerful design tool. So if you're in the area, come to the Crazy Quilters Quilt Guild monthly meeting, starting at 7PM.