Week #3 Challenge - progress

Just a little teaser of what I'm working on for the menswear challenge. I bought a couple of silk ties and a tweedy wool sportcoat at Goodwill yesterday, and immediately tossed the coat into a hot water wash for felting. I'll tell you, cutting apart a jacket to get at the usable pieces is NOT a fun task. Had I been thinking, I would have looked for a wool skirt with a similar pattern -- easier to deconstruct -- but I rarely think in instances when it would be helpful.

Anyway, I had no plan for this piece (and really still don't, if you want to know the truth). I thought I might be able to make another piece for the Priority: Alzheimer's Project if I kept the dimensions small. I started thinking about a man walking on a windy day, with his tie flapping up, maybe over his shoulder. This piece surely won't be a realistic interpretation of that idea, but I still like the image!

These are just 3" pieces of wool, with the patterns running in alternate directions. I joined them edge-to-edge with a decorative stitch, and ended up with this approximately 9" square surface. Then I took apart the tie (another fun project) and cut some strips, and grabbed some silk ribbon from my stash. I don't really know if it'll look like this, but thought you might like to see my mind at work on an abstract piece. (Don't forget, I warned you I was eclectic in my quilting tastes!)
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Goofy, I know...

but I had to show you anyway! This is a picture of the landing on the stairs to the second floor. Behind this lovely fabric is a layer of plastic, some duct tape and a cute little door that opens to a small storage space. Luckily, I use that space to store fans when it's not summer, so it was a no-brainer to cover this space when The Batman suggested it might be a security breach for the bats in the attic.

If nothing else, this exercise has reminded me how much I like this particular fabric, although it doesn't go with anything. If I don't completely hate it by the time it's safe to open the attic doors again, I might make a new curtain to replace the one shown on the left.
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Week #2 Challenge -- FINISHED!

Here's my diptych for the Project Runway Week #2 Challenge. I traded the wool star on the tree for the cute button that says "Believe" (leftover from some other project) -- gives it a little more character and a much-needed darker hue.

The snowman (well, it looks more like a snowgirl to me, with the button snowflakes) has hand embroidery for the eyes, eyebrows and mouth, then I hand tack stitched the cheeks and nose, too. That was more a function of not having the right color of thread for machine buttonhole stitch!

I photographed the pair atop the book the pattern came from... I decided that way I wouldn't forget to tell you source! The pattern is actually for coasters, with an additional layer of felt on the back, but I decided to make ornaments instead. I just have to add a hanger of some kind. But I'm still calling this one finished :)
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Sophie's Week 2 Challenge

Go see Sophie's great week #2 diptych challenge here, if you haven't already. It's still a work in progress, but who am I to judge? Neither my week 1 nor my week 2 are finished. (Apparently I chose an obscure thread for the quilting of the feathered star, so that one may languish until I can locate more.)

Anyway, I love the free style of these pieces, and the day/night contrast. I can't wait to see how she finishes them.

Chiroptera Defense System

It only took an hour, 600 staples, several yards of red duct tape (the color was important -- to me!), the 4mil plastic and some Jenny Beyer floral fabric from my stash. I securely stapled the plastic to the door frame all the way around -- a killer for the woodwork, but I decided it was a worthy trade off -- and duct taped it to the floor. I also reinforced that around the bottom third of the door on both sides... My George has a serious fetish for vinyl and plastic, and I know he'll be tempted to munch on this.

I then covered the plastic with fabric and stapled around again, but less close together. The plastic itself was less obvious than I expected, but as I said, it's George's favorite snack. I'm hoping by coving the plastic with fabric, he won't be tempted -- or at least able -- to chew through our defense system!

Lather, rinse and repeat for the little storage space door under the attic stairs (access through the landing on the second floor). Return plastic to bag and store on top shelf in sewing room, well out of George's reach. Pretend everything is normal as to not attract any more of his attention than I already have...

The Batman

Seriously, you may not want to read this post. I'm writing it mostly to chronicle what I learned today (and wish I hadn't!), because I'll need to know it again in the future, I'm sure.

The Batman came today (he's the bat-proofing specialist, of course). His first stop (after making friends with George the cat) was my attic. I have a full-height walk up attic -- tons of space, although unfortunately it's not very nice up there. All I did was open the door, he turned on his flashlight, and said "You're not going to like this." The further he walked, the worse it got!

Apparently, I have bats living in my attic (probably my belfry too, but that's another topic!). What my dad and I thought were mouse droppings in February 2006 were in fact bat guano. No wonder the traps never caught any mice!

The good news is that it's getting colder and generally bats go into hibernation for the winter.
The bad news is that they're hibernating in my house.

Even if one could rustle them up and out (and put in the one-way exit doors), the products The Batman uses to seal the entrances and exits (and any other place that looks like it could become one) only work when it's at least 60*. Hopefully we'll have a warm, early spring, since I basically have to live with the bats until it warms up.

According to The Batman, bats like drafts, so he advised me to try to wedge towels or fabric under the attic door to stop that cold -- and inviting -- draft. My mom and I decided I should take it about 35 steps further... I bought some 4mil plastic and a staple gun, and I'm just going to seal off that door completely. That way, I can stop the draft (a good thing in general, since it's cold -- my attic isn't insulated) AND keep any bats upstairs who feel the need to stretch their wings! I've decided there's nothing up there I need that badly anyway. I'd much rather sleep at night than have Christmas decorations.

One other thing -- bat guano is very toxic and can cause the lung disease histoplasmosis, so should you ever need to remove some, wear a respirator and have fresh air and open windows. Do I even need to explain that I'm paying The Batman to do that for me?!

So, think brave thoughts for me and sleepy hibernation thoughts for my houseguests, and hopefully we'll make it through the winter without seeing each other :)

How could I forget...

Christine Thresh's wonderful paper dolls, from her pattern Kate & Friends. She's done men, women, boys and girls for your paper-piecing pleasure.


Inspiration for Menswear Challenge

Thought I might jumpstart your thinking by sharing some links to quilt ideas and sources that are menswear inspired.
  • ABOVE: Tied quilt made from "various suit and coat materials, rectangular sections of various woven materials, backed with green plaid material, each section with center orange cord knot. No mark. Size: 66" x 64"." (from an old Dargate auction catalog)
  • Kate's journal quilt, using fabric from her father's Hawaiian shirts
  • Kate's quilt top, using that shirt fabric in a totally different (and very cool) way
  • Lots of menswear inspired quilts at QuiltBug
  • If you EQ, there are 16 shirt front blocks (most with long ties) in the Contemporary Pieced block library
  • Men of Biblical Proportion -- quilts by men, about men and for men, based on the men of the Bible. (I wish there were more pictures on the site -- I saw one of these pieces at a local show before it went to the exhibit, and it was amazing.)
  • Wagga rugs, a traditional Australian covering made by men -- the rugs themselves aren't much to look at, but they might inspire you...
  • Several sports-themed quilts made from patterns by Spring Creek NeedleArts
  • Tied quilt made from "various suit and coat materials, rectangular sections of various woven materials, backed with green plaid material, each section with center orange cord knot. No mark. Size: 66" x 64"." (from an old Dargate auction catalog)
  • Quilt made from wool suits by blogger Kodachrome Knits, inspired by Good Things from Tag Sales and Flea Markets by Martha Stewart
  • I'm no Sunbonnet Sue fan, but one of her boyfriends would also fit the bill for this challenge.

Oooooohhh Menswear (Project Runway week #3 Challenge)

Love this challenge! The designers are dressing the very stylish Tiki Barber (former NY Giants football star). I so would not want to tackle a shirt and a suit in something like two days. I did think they might give a surprise extension on the time, given the more complex tailoring required by this challenge.

Your mission this week is a project that is distinctly masculine, either through the fabrics, materials, theme, shape or style. Thoughts that cross my mind include:
  • suiting fabrics in traditional dark colors with pinstripes, checks, etc.
  • sports themes, particularly football
  • figures and/or portraits
  • plaid flannel shirts, or other menswear shirts
  • neckties and/or pocket squares
  • anything that reminds you of the men in your life
I have some gorgeous windowpane checked shirting that I bought in the garment district last time I was in New York City... I might use that, or some of the plaid flannel bits in my stash from another project. Or maybe something with pockets...

I'll always associate pockets with my dad, as he refuses to wear a shirt that doesn't have at least one pocket (he prefers two). I bought a cute plaid shirt one year for father's day, and just assumed it had a pocket... You know what's coming next... no pockets. My mom even ironed it without noticing -- but my dad sure did, once he went to put his stuff in there! I'll never live that down...

What does this challenge say to you?


Week #2 Challenge -- part 1

Christmas ornament
Originally uploaded by AJB30

If you didn't know it already, you're going to see that I'm very eclectic in my quilting tastes... wool felt, holidays, traditional patterns and color combinations, fun art pieces, postcards, well, you get the idea.

I pulled the wool felt last night for a pair of Christmas ornaments (and felted two small pieces in hot water in a mixing bowl!). I cut everything tonight, but have to find a way to mark the embroidery on the other piece. Maybe tomorrow... After looking at this, I emailed my mom and sister with an addition to my Christmas list -- a circle cutter!

(Photo slightly overexposed -- the inner circle is cream.)

Oh -- this is done because I ran out of thread on the other piece. When you see how close to finished I was... well, let's just say I wasn't very happy! Again, not a great photo -- I suspect the piece isn't really square, but it's showing particularly badly because I'm just tossing it on a quilt rack and hoping for the best!
feathered star WIP -- almost done

The Week Ahead

Thank you for your nice comments about my funky little project... I still haven't decided if I really love it, but I feel good about working on it, and that will have to do for now ;)

I'm feeling somewhat more hopeful this week...
  • My bite splint is back from the lab, and I'm happily clenching and grinding already this evening.
  • I have an appointment with The Batman for Thursday morning.
  • I have only two background segments left on my PJ week #1 project.
  • I felted the wool for week #2 last night.
Too bad I have to clean the house before Thursday morning and go to an early evening meeting Wednesday night! Ah well, baby steps, baby steps.

I might be most excited about meeting the Batman in person... expect a full rundown later in the week!


Project Runway Challenge - WEEK 1

Yeah, I'm still behind on the week #1 challenge... but making progress again! I think I mentioned I had an orphan feathered star block that I was thinking about using. I still can't quite believe I cut it for this project, but what the heck -- it wasn't perfect and it doesn't go with anything else, so why was I saving it?

The block must be around 15.5 or 16". I overlapped the block with a piece of the background fabric, both right sides up, and cut a nice gentle curve. After piecing the new plain fabric to the block, it was (sadly) a little out of square, but I persevered. I first quilted the straight lines, where the pieces would have been if I hadn't cut the block.

I had first thought to quilt inside the lines, making the plain side look more like the pieced side. I started that the other night, and ended up picking it all out. In the process of doing that, I decided it was too obvious to quilt it that way -- it would be more interesting to quilt outside the lines. Of course, if I was going to all that work, I wanted the quilting to show.

Be careful what you wish for... I also really wanted to try a new-to-me background filler I learned in a class with Carol Taylor earlier this year. For the first ten minutes, I hate-hate-hated it. The quilting lines looked like blood and it was completely horrible. I decided I would keep going (there was enough done that ripping it out again was NOT an option!) and if nothing else, one of the cats could have a new little quilt. (One of my mom's cats -- George is much too big for this little quiltlet!)

Luckily, the more I quilt it, the better I like it. It's still a little odd, but I'm OK with that, at least at the moment. The photo above is the result of a little more than an hour's worth of quilting. About three more hours of that (I'll have that filler in my muscles by then, I hope), then finishing.

Don't ask about week 2 (the diptych)... I think I've decided to make a pair of Christmas ornaments (yup, taking the easy way out!), but I'm not really in the mood today.

Here's a closer view of one corner. Do you think I should go back after the filler is done and try to "darken" the straight lines that represent the pieces?

Holy cow -- I just clicked the close up image to be sure it would get bigger -- and it does. Don't say I didn't warn you! I almost deleted it after that, since the quilting isn't really that great, but I decided to be a big girl and leave it for your viewing pleasure. I think this filler at this (small) size is better suited for a much thinner thread. See, I did learn something...

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Image Meme

Via Jane and Kate:

Here’s what you do:
1) Answer the questions and type into Google image search
2) Post a picture from first
results page

Age on your next birthday:

A place you'd like to visit:
One of your favorite places:

Your favorite object:

Your favorite food:

Your favorite animal:

Your favorite color:

Name of a past pet:

Where you live:

First grade teacher's last name (this is a problem... I know her first name, and I know my sister's first grade teacher's name, but I can't come up with MY first grade teacher's last name. I think it started with W, but honestly, I mostly remember that she didn't like me! I guess I'll go with the first name for now, and amend if I can remember...)

Your middle name (not really, but this represents the middle name I offer when asked!):

A bad habit of yours (safety pins instead of sewing on buttons):

Your college major:

Your favorite holiday:


Word Power

Build your vocabulary and feed the hungry at Free Rice. Via the "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks. Like Bethany, I can get to level 42, but I can't seem to stay there!

When I was a kid, it seemed I had a huge vocabulary... probably from being a voracious reader. I'm still addicted to reading (I'll read almost anything), my vocab seemed to stop growing after high school. I'd suspect it's related to the lack of reading I did in college... my chosen major didn't require math, literature, science or history.

Anyway, go, play, learn new words, feed the hungry and give thanks.


Two pieces. $15 and a dose of style (of course!)

This week's challenge, should you choose to accept it, is a diptych. And on the cheap. Two pieces that work together, total raw material cost not to exceed $15 -- and should reflect fall or winter in some way. That price includes any batting, backing, thread, interfacing, fusible, embellishments, etc. And yes, stuff from your stash counts against your total. I'm definitely thinking smaller is better this week!

Last week's challenge has turned out to be a bit bigger than I first thought. Not physically -- it's probably 16" square -- but the ripping last night really took the wind out of my sails. Well, that and last night's bedtime adventure...

For those of you who have been reading for any length of time, you know that my house seems to be a hotel for wayward bats. Yes, another little brown fuzzy one dropped in unexpectedly last night, looking for milk and cookies, I guess. I finally was able to throw him out the window (literally).

VERY high on today's to-do list was to call The Batman. Seriously. That's his name.

In the meantime... maybe tomorrow will bring the opportunity to finish last weeks challenge piece.


One step forward...

And one step back. I spent about an hour piecing, layering and doing basic quilting on my Project Runway challenge piece. Then I spent almost an hour ripping out about 1.5 minutes of really terrible free motion quilting. Given that I just finished that, I guess I'm done for today. A girl needs her beauty sleep after all ;)


Make It Work time!

Monday already... and while I can clearly SEE my Project Runway piece in my head, I haven't done a single thing to turn it into reality. Work is rather exhausting lately, and any tiny bit of energy left at the end of a day seems to go into sitting on my bum holding George. Tomorrow is the day. It must be, or I'll fail at my own challenge, eh?!

For now... some sales analysis awaits me. Lucky me :)


More challenging thoughts...

First, I have to say: the winning garment from last night was lovely, but it didn't seem very fashion-forward to me. Stars have been wearing that flowing Grecian style on the red carpet for many months now. Although I definitely would have made the plaids match on the structured top, I thought it was generally more interesting.

I'm still thinking about how I might approach this challenge. I have an orphan feathered star block that would definitely speak to my traditional side; maybe I'll do something funky with it. I think one of my strengths, actually, is working with color. I love searching out just the right fabrics and combining them in interesting ways. Maybe I can incorporate that idea idea somehow. Hmmmm......

Unfortunately, I have to work during the day Saturday, so Friday night is pretty much my opportunity to tackle this challenge. Wish me luck!

Oh, slightly unrelated note -- Marianne posted this (sort of) self-portrait today on the quilting.about.com forum. This might be one way to show YOUR point of view...
'Self'Portrait (17


Project Runway Challenge

Ah... a new start to Project Runway. Are you watching?

There are three tents, all white. They look like cheap white plastic from the outside... but are filled with thousands of dollars worth of yummy fine textiles on the inside. The designers had 10 minutes to choose fabric and then 13 hours to make an outfit that expresses their point of view.

Wow -- one of the designers (Elisa) is grass staining one of her fabrics. Not sure what that will lead to... I'm typing this in real time ;) 10:35p update -- she's nuts -- Stacy and Clinton would call her "hippy-dippy-trippy" for sure!

OK, here's the challenge, should you choose to accept it:
  • Dive into your stash for not more than 15 minutes.
  • Choose fabrics, trims, papers, whatever strikes your fancy.
  • Whatever you pull out during this 15 minutes is all you have to work with -- no return trips to the bottom of the scrap basket!
  • You'll have to be on the honor system, unless you have an inside track to Heidi Klum or Tim Gunn!
Create something that expresses your point of view -- you might think of it as a journal, a postcard, a bigger art expression, or whatever works for you. The goal is to show yourself -- your personality -- through what you create.

Meet me back here anytime before next Wednesday at 10 p.m. to show your stuff -- comments with links to your work are great; you can also email me at amyquilts (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll upload your pics/descriptions. (Replace with symbols as needed) Let's keep this "loosey-goosey" -- your piece doesn't have to be finished, you don't have to play every week and no one goes out of style at the end of the week!

Here's what I'm thinking about... My quilting "personality" is very fractured -- I love traditional quilts, difficult blocks like feathered stars, classic color combos like red and white, but I also love bright colors, artsy quilts, and trying new things. My life right now is also very fractured -- I'm completely stressed at work, exhausted at home and feeling rather uncreative. I'm not sure how this will play out in my piece, but there's a point of view buried in there somewhere...

What are YOU thinking about? How can you (or do you) express your point of view through your quiltmaking (or crafting or art or whatever)? Or do you do that with every piece you make? Take a leap with me, especially if this is a little outside your usual box.

Wow -- the editing pace of these outfits on the runway is insane -- I can't hardly take in the work beyond initial impact. I hope that doesn't continue.


Another week...

I swear, I just don't know where the time goes! I hired one of the open positions on my team this week (finally), and conducted five interviews for the other one. Hopefully we can hire that early in the coming week. My consultant was here all day Friday -- we got some good planning work done, but I didn't do anything else, so I remain behind, behind, behind!

I took the night off tonight, though, for some fun -- I saw the Blue Man Group. (Photo below from their web site.) You probably remember them from the Intel commercials a few years back...
The production -- called How to be a Megastar -- was amazing. It opened with some playing of the drumbone (the instrument shown above), and progressed to more complex tube instruments and things that looked to me like giant cat whiskers, that I now know are called airpoles. The guys really don't say a word (or take a break) for about 90 minutes, and are backed up by a band of eight, including three drummers, three guitarists and two vocalists (one also plays keyboard). They use technology and big screens extensively -- it's a very "produced" show -- and some of the effects were really creative and, best of all, unexpected. We laughed so hard -- without spoiling the storyline, the show is essentially a riff on a major rock concert, complete with tips and tricks for becoming famous and relating to your audience. It's completely hilarious.

If you have a chance, go. You won't regret it (although you might want to take an aspirin first as a preventive measure -- it gets LOUD).


Dresden Plate for Faye

Here's the latest block for the Birthday Block Swap on quilting.about.com. I seem to have cropped the photo unevenly, but it is 12" finished. Miss November (also known as Faye) requested 6", 9" or 12" blocks in 30s prints on a white-on-white background. Although 30s fabrics are not really my cup of tea, I wanted to make a block that would be typical of quilts of the time.

I was going to print templates from EQ6, but the 16-blade pattern gave three different templates to be used in each quarter of the plate. Since I've never made a block like this before, that didn't seem like a recipe for success! I ended up buying a template set a Joann (making me glad all the fabric was stashed!) to make this block. I wanted to make it smaller, but the only templates they had make this 12" version.

(The block is lying atop my Melody Johnson quilt, so there's a little bright show-through on the white background.)
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Halloween Cactus?

This is my "Halloween Cactus" -- it burst into bloom on October 30 (and today was the first chance I had to photograph it). Almost every stem ends in a bud, waiting to join the fall foliage show.

This isn't the first time this Christmas Cactus has bloomed since I got it in December, but it is the most buds I've seen on it. I moved it to a different window this summer, and it seems very happy there. Since I'm terrible about watering plants (somedays it's hard enough to water myself and the cat!), this is the only plant in the house. It makes me smile to see it all blooming...

Speaking of George, this is out of his reach -- and for good reason. I don't know if HE eats plants, but my mom has had two cats who liked to munch on Christmas Cactus. I'll just say that the leaves don't seem to be particularly digestible... And knowing my George, he'd figure out how to use the plant as a weapon and poke me with it ;)
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