Apr 152014

I’d mentioned I joined a swap on Craftster.org. Now that it is finished and there is no way I can ruin any surprise, I’ll share about it.

The swap was for a printed fat quarter. Fat quarters, for you non-fabric crafters, are a quarter yard of fabric but instead of a 9″ by 44″ strip (a straight cut of a quarter) the fabric is cut at a half yard, then cut in half again so you end up with a 18″x22″ piece of fabric, which gives you more of the print and is often a more usable size. The printing could be done any way, screens, lino or other blocks, sun printing, whatever. Given my recent tribulations with the very old Yudu emulsion sheets I was determined to give it another shot, so I chose screen printing. Although, I have to say that I am itching to carve something lately. Anyway…

My partner for the swap was sheepBlue, who has a nice blog here. I was so lucky she was my partner – if you read her blog you’ll quickly see that we are kindred spirits in our ‘likes’. We agreed on two FQs for the swap.

Here are the ones she sent me:
Fat quarter from Sheepblue.
An undertakers and embalmers print ad in charcoal on a dappled goldenrod color. The text looks great and the repeat is impeccable! I can already tell this will be one of those treasured fabrics that I parcel out carefully over the years. Right click and view in a new tab to see a larger version if you’d like to read the text.

Fat quarter from Sheepblue.
Yes! Violet bird skulls and flame flies on a shale fabric with citrine dots. I love it. I’m planning to use this in a large bag, possibly a grocery getter. I am forever forgetting (maybe embarrassed by?) the freebie or purchased reusable bags in my car when I run into the grocer, so maybe if I have a work of art like this to carry, I’ll remember.
She really came up with designs that are perfect just for me.

And, as promised:
Successful screen burn - ahhh!
A successful screen burn! I’d already coated a recovered screen in Diazo emulsion and it was ready, so I burned it. Looks great and it picked up all the details and edges. A sigh of relief. I guess those other, four year old Yudu emulsion sheets that have been curled up this whole time were really just not up to snuff for this work. To be sure, I used the Yudu emulsion sheets that I bought only two years ago and they worked fine on the next two screens. I did some things differently this time – I made sure they were very flat (by crushing them under a slab of wood for two days) and I skipped the Yudu fan; I put the screens in the makeshift darkroom with a fan blowing right on them. They dried completely in about an hour. So the emulsion sheets work and I exposed them with the Yudu machine easily. I have two more sheets, although I don’t know how old they are, and I’ll maybe try them, but I think I’ll just use the Yudu screens with the Diazo or other brand liquid emulsion. The sheets are precut at 10×14″, but the screens themselves are more like 11×15.5″, which leaves a lot of wasted screen. Using liquid, I can go all the way to the edge of the screens, as you can see in the above picture. Despite the sheet shortcomings, the Yudu machine works great as a screen-exposing station, light table, and light-tight screen storage area. Worth it.

Based on the questionnaire I received I came up with a few ideas.
Fat quarter I made for Sheepblue.
Crop circles! She had listed as inspirations alien abductions and geometric, radiating circles or patterns, so crop circles seemed the obvious choice. I really liked making these and I might make another, accessory screen to go with these. You know, one day when I have a project for them.

Fat quarter I made for Sheepblue.
Another inspiration was eyes. I came up with two designs for that, this one literal. I drew up an anatomical diagram of the eye and made it big! Slick liked this one enough to ask for it on a tshirt. This is the second FQ I sent to sheepBlue.

My third design, I kept for myself.
Fat quarter I made and kept for myself.
When I was thinking about different ways to draw eyes, I also thought about eye patterns, as seen on oscilloscopes. Quick explanation, overlay signal waves for comparison. Clean signals give overlapping lines and an open eye. Messy signals start to overlap imperfectly, while bad signals go all over, up to a closed eye. Many measurements can be made from such pattern displays. I made stripes of those three states and printed them. When it was done, I realized only people who’d ever used oscilloscopes or at least understood eye patterns would find this interesting; everyone else would dismiss it as a simplistic design. So, I kept this one for myself.

This was a fun, quick swap and I seriously lucked out with my partner pairing. But, now I’m trying to get ready for workshop work and the screens are all being filed away for the summer and fall. If I can ever get back to that blue quilt, I can finish it up and pack away all my sewing items, too.

Apr 142014

Wyoming has long winters, and I don’t really mind. Every spring I see blooming flowers and trees, green sprigs on everyone else’s blog while I still see snow outside. Our spring weather always arrives in fits of amazing sunny weather spliced with heavy snow storms. Due to our special mountain-influenced location, our weather can change very quickly, often within a few hours. Want to know more? Read this. This weekend started off fairly tame, with 60F weather, sun and gentle breezes.
Saturday morning:
Tulips rising under the apple tree.
The tulips are starting to come up under the freshly pruned apple tree. I am hoping my daffodils come back, too.
But then during the late night, we had rain which turned to snow as the temperature dropped.
Sunday morning:
Tulips smoothered under a blanket of snow.
We ended up with an inch or so of slush and a few inches of snow on top of that. It was like walking through a mud pit. Hope the tulips survive. Tulips are tough; they’ll probably be fine.

Sunday snow.
Pretty, but probably incompatible with freshly budding plants. It kept snowing the whole day.

Sunday snow on our porch rail.
Good reason to stay in the house on the weekend, if you can.

Apr 122014

Down in the workshop last night, I needed to clean up a few remaining scraps before digging back into the blue quilt work. Since I had my camera and the scraps, I thought I would do a quick, visual explanation of chain piecing and Leader-Enders, which I previously had tried to explain. Some people mentioned they had no idea what I was talking about, so I thought a couple pictures would do the trick. I grabbed some scrap muslin and got to stitching and shooting!

Say you want to sew two pieces of fabric together. This is what that looks like:
Explanation of chain piecing.
Two pieces of fabric, stitched together. Very simple, yes? See the thread tails hanging on either side? When sewing you have to leave long tails of thread so that it doesn’t pull out of the needle when you begin sewing again. There are few things more frustrating than the simple trimming of a thread tail too short and having to rethread your machine when it slips out of the needle eye! So, you have the tail you left on from the last time (at the lead or beginning) and you have a tail of thread from when you pulled it out of the machine and cut it free. Sure, the second, end tail can be trimmed right next to the last stitch, but you get the picture here. There are about five inches of wasted thread that you now have to keep out of the feed dogs, pull to the side, trim and throw away. Seems like wasteful work, doesn’t it? How can we get around it? You still have to make sure the thread won’t pull back out through the needle and you want to have it in a controlled place where it won’t tangle itself in the next thing to be stitched or caught in the presser foot.

How about this:
Explanation of chain piecing.
We still have the tail from before, but now we have only a tiny bit of thread between each fabric combination. Now you only have to trim the starting bit of tail off and snip the little chain between the pieces. This is chain piecing. Instead of pulling each piece off the machine and cutting it free, you simply feed one piece in after another, with only a shy space betwixt. Simple and clever. Good stuff.

Now, how to get rid of that leading tail of thread there?
Explanation of chain piecing.
Easy, leave a piece under the foot! Cut the thread chain off behind it and leave the end piece under for the next time. Now that end piece of fabric is doing the work of holding the thread safely and you have no long tails to fuss with. Not only is this a wonderful convenience, this is a Leader Ender. That spot of fabric will lead off your next work (until you cut it free) and an Ender, too, since it was the last bit from your previous work. Where this gets exciting is when you plan the Leader Ender instead of just grabbing up whatever scrap of fabric you were about to trash. You want that piece to have stitches, why not make it useful? Plan out a quilt or some small project. Cut the pieces for it and keep them in a stack or box to the side of your machine. Then, every time you are working on your real or focus project and need a Leader Ender between your focus pieces (to get the benefits of chain piecing), they are at your fingertips. Using this method, you are saving thread and making a quilt (or other project) all at the same time. It is almost like the Leader Ender project makes itself while you’re doing other things.

Explanation of chain piecing.
This is how you would see it. You’d leave a Leader Ender under the foot from the last time you sewed – at this moment it is an Ender because it was at the end. You’d come in and work on your project, in this picture it is a blue scrap – representative of the blue quilt I should be working on right now. When you’ve used up all your ready pieces of focus project, you slip another Leader Ender at the end of the chain and leave it under the presser foot. Your cut free pieces look like this. You snip off the Leader Ender (which is a Leader now, as it led your sewing today) and put in an the Leader Ender project box, and carry on with your focus project. Get the idea? This is how the wonky blue cabin quilt came in to being; I was using the blue scraps from the baby quilts (real project) as Leader Enders (although I didn’t know they had a name at the time) and *pouf* quilt blocks appeared.

You might be thinking by now, “that is all fine, but what next?”
Explanation of chain piecing.
Eventually, you will end up with a stack of Leader Ender bits put together. You will have to invest a small amount of time with them to prepare them for the next stage. These pieces you see above need a quick press and to have their seams opened.

Explanation of chain piecing.
Like so.
Then you would pair them up with whatever pieces come next in your pattern or free-formed Leader Ender project and place them in that same basket, ready to slip in when they are needed. Let’s see, I’ve got some black broadcloth over here, let’s use that as part of our Leader Ender project.

Explanation of chain piecing.
Yes, like so. You’d pair and stack and they’d wait for you to sew. You know, I have a scrap of blue over here …

Explanation of chain piecing.
Yeah, that works. Maybe …

Explanation of chain piecing.
Yep, that works, too. This looks decent. Hang on …

Explanation of chain piecing.
Mmhmm, good stripe. Now, let’s add a little more of that black broadcloth around it.

Explanation of chain piecing.
And some edges.

Explanation of chain piecing.
Oh yeah. That looks like a placemat, doesn’t it. You know, I have some leftover batting over there …

Explanation of chain piecing.
Now we’re sandwiched.

Explanation of chain piecing.
Maybe a zig zag down the center to cover up the black thread we’ve used on the white muslin. That’s nice.

Explanation of chain piecing.
Some quick echo quilting lines zipped back and forth. Now I can self-bind it. Wait, remember what I said I wanted to try last time, about using different colored corners on a self bind? I have a small bit of blue here …

Explanation of chain piecing.
Yep, just enough to put on the corners. Now let’s see if I can bind this by machine.

Explanation of chain piecing.
Yep, that worked a charm. Okay, placemat done. Wait I didn’t come down here to work on a placemat, did I? I was going to clean up and work on the blue quilt so I can be ready for workshop building in the warm weather.
What am I up to?
Oh yeah.

Explanation of chain piecing.
Explaining Leader Enders in chain piecing.
See what I mean about Leader Ender projects practically making themselves?

Explanation of chain piecing.
So now what do I do with this? I know, let’s have a little prizebag giveaway here. It will be a reward for folks who made it through that lengthy post. I’ve got some goodies in a bag and this placemat can be the main piece for it. Leave a comment on this post by April 15th at 2100 MDT. Tax Day deadlines all the way. In your comment, tell me if you found that explanation above helpful; if you think you get the idea of chain piecing and Leader Enders or now. I’ll throw every unique user into the random pull and mail or hand out to whoever wins it. Good luck!

The Standard Fine Print:
You must be a registered user for this blog – because that is how you can make comments! You may have only one entry into this contest. You must either live in a place I commonly drive to or past or be willing to submit a mailing address to me to receive the prize if you win. I’m happy to mail the prize anywhere in the world where it is legal to do so. The prize bag contains items I’ve gathered or created (as seen above) which may be desirable, useful, useless, offensive, sublime, or merely silly to you; I make no guarantees to the value, usability or likability of the prize, although they have been historically well received.

Read all about previous contests and prize bags by clicking this link here.

Apr 092014

Alright, everyone has had a chance to anticipate, so here is the whole quilt.
Centzon Totochtin quilt.
All 400 of the Centzon Totochtin rabbit gods of drunkenness and parties. These Aztec divinities met for frequent parties and drank lots of pulque, which is a potent alcohol made from fermenting the juice from the heart of the maguey plant, seen at the bottom of the quilt. The Centzon Totochtin are the children of Mayahuel (the goddess of maguey) and Pantecatl (the god of fermentation). Of course they all had other responsibilities and qualities as well. Being a drunken rabbit god is not a sinecure, after all. Lots of god-stuff to do.
The borders are blocked chevrons with matching color star embroidery in the center. These colors are a bit too … primary, bright and bold for my taste, but I was trying to stick with Aztec colors. The whole thing is canvas instead of my regular choice of fine thread count quilting cotton. I figure Aztec fabric would have been rougher than modern technology products and canvas was the best choice of fabric I could get on short notice in my small town selection. I bought a bunch, but there weren’t many colors, so half of what you see was dyed in my workshop. I enjoyed the fabric dying process a lot more this time than the last time I tried it. I used a small, cheap Crock Pot (since I was only dying eighth-yards per batch) and I had a utility sink right there. Much better and I was able to get the colors I wanted. The canvas made all the stitching and ironing more difficult and the quilt is heavy for its size, but the effect is exactly what I wanted, visually and texturally.

Centzon Totochtin quilt, the one inch bunnies.
The majority are one-inch bunnies. I spent two days drawing a mass of bunnies, scanning them, then cleaning them up in PhotoShop. I didn’t draw a full 400 individual, probably just under a hundred. Many of them are pulling double and triple duty on the quilt.

Centzon Totochtin quilt, the two inch bunnies.
The two-inch bunnies. These guys got slightly more nuanced lines, with the scale. You can definitely see my style of bunny drawing here. Having to scan and edit these guys means I have them all for later use, as desired. I’ve already turned one odd bunny into watercolored art and made it into a pin-backed button and worn to work. I’ll make some more like that to have around, just in case.

Centzon Totochtin quilt, star embroidery.
I’d planned to have 400 stars embroidered. But, while I had about 385 done when my fabric arrived, I had to cut many of them off to fit the top together. I wanted to add the now-shy-40 stars in the separating lines betwixt the panels, but I had less than no time left, being late already to deliver the quilt to the show. Thus, the quilt currently has 360 stars.
Since I’m fairly confident it will not sell during the show, I will add the remaining 40 stars when I get it back at the end of the month. At that time I can add the remaining embellishments. The show requirements stated 2D work only and most arrangements consider anything more than a quarter inch as dimensional. This meant I had to leave off not only the leather-wrapped feather tassels but also any beads or cottontails, in case they poofed up atop the quilting. I have the stuff sitting in a labeled bag, waiting for May.

These aren’t great pictures, but I will definitely take better ones when it is down from the show and after I’ve added the last “illegal” bits to it. While this whole thing isn’t exactly my own personal style, I am very glad I made it. Now, a quilt about a collective of drunken Aztec rabbit party gods entered into an Easter art show? That is absolutely my own personal style.

Apr 052014

This is Oz’s favorite game:
Oz playing the attack the blanket game.
Slick pulls a blanket along the floor and Oz alternately attacks and rides the trailing end. Oz gets very excited by this game – to the point of startling the other cats. We only play the game until that fuzzy orange cat starts panting for breath – then it is mandatory break time.

Apr 042014

For a recent gathering, I made my ever-popular cloud icing on dark chocolate, jumbo cupcakes, but wanted to add a dab of fun as well. Thus, shark-cakes!
Shark toys embedded in cupcake icicng.
Sure, it is only shark toys (very well washed) stuck in blue icing. Not every food project can be as involved as the petit fours. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Shark toys embedded in cupcake icicng.
Plus, Slick likes a lot of icing so this was the perfect reason to pile it on. And sharks are always swell.

I like to do these non-practical, fun and frivolous baking projects, but don’t do it too often. When I do, it is because some occasion or social event has arisen and I gouged out a bit of time to bake. I’m considering starting a monthly, fun baking project habit. I have all these neato baking tools, pans and decoration – and I want more whenever I see them. I figure if I bring in the majority of the treats to work, it won’t be a significant negative impact on my healthy eating habits (such as they are). What do you guys think?

Apr 032014

See, it looks like these guys are greeting me at the door when I come home.
Oz, The Captain and Moxie greet me at the door.
But really, they’ve been there for an hour and want me to get out of their line of sight so they may go back to watching the neighborhood. What they’re actually thinking is probably more like, “you’re home – could you move it!”

Apr 032014

Some people have been asking if I got the Mythical Art Show Quilt done in time to enter the show – especially since my progress bar for it is at less than 100%. I haven’t blogged about it because I didn’t have any photos, but yes I did finish in time – mostly because the ladies running the office that day were staying late, which gave me an extra two hours I desperately needed. I have to say, it was rough. There are still loose threads, there is cat hair stuck in the embroidery, a one small spot on the back needs restitched and I didn’t finish the embroidery as much as I wanted. I didn’t have any time left for finishing, touch-up, ironing or even a fluff in the dryer. I took not a single picture of it either, just hopped in the car. But, it is done. Done is better than perfect.

When I achieved done, I rushed over to the Artists’ Guild and was the next to last person entered in the show. I had planned to assist hanging it, then give it a once over with scissors to get the loose threads, then with the sticky roller to get some of the cat hair off it. However, they had such a large number of entries, they weren’t ready to hang mine anytime soon. AmyKatt took me to a very nice dinner as a reward for finishing in time, which was sweet of her. Last night after work I stopped by to pull of stray threads and delint it, which it still really needed, and took a couple crappy cell shots of it. Now, I could share those blurry shots now, but the thing is hanging up in the Artists’ Guild, right by the door. The Artists’ Guild is a non-profit organization and measure some of their success by the number of people who sign their guest book. I would like to encourage anyone who is in Cheyenne to stop by and see my quilt, and the rest of the show, in person some time this month. They are at 1701 Morrie Ave – in the SW corner of the Holliday Park (the park with the lake and the Big Boy you drive past on Lincolnway). Take ten minutes, sign the book and look at the impressive show that is up this month. Most of it is more fine art than craft – and I’m not saying one is better than the other and don’t care to get into that debate. I am a crafter because it is what I like to do and I hope everyone is doing their thing because they like to do it. The visit will be worth your ten minutes, rest assured.

And your teasers:
Centzon Totochtin Art Quilt teaser.
See, it is Easter-related; there is a bunny!
Centzon Totochtin Art Quilt teaser.
Lots of small, repetitive embroidery.

Fun stuff.

I spent the rest of the weekend recovering. Took a long bath with bubbles, read a magazine, went to bed early and slept in, played a videogame, and watched some television on the sofa. My evenings so far this week have been catching up – buying groceries, doing laundry and getting a handle on the mess the workshop turned into while I was frantically finishing the quilt in time. I think I’m back to nominal now.

Since I’d finished a project, I joined a swap on Craftster. It is a fabric printing swap and after my struggles with the emulsion sheets, I thought it would be rewarding to burn and print a screen successfully and conquer that struggle. I mean, I’ve burned and printed screens before so not that part really, but the emulsion sheets were problematic themselves. So, I shall print the design for my partner (idea is set, sketching today) then fight with those sheets. More on that later.
In the meantime, stay tuned for cats!

Mar 262014

I took these shots over the weekend with my cell phone, which has become my standard fallback for photos as of late. The sun was out, the breeze was mild and we opened the door for the cats to enjoy the fair weather.
Moxie, napping in the sunlight.
Moxie only wanted a bit of dappled sunlight. I like the way she sleeps with all her paws together.

Friday, napping in the sunlight.
Friday might be our weirdest cat. She is very entertaining.

The Captain, napping in the sunlight.
The Captain likes to sun his belly. When he’s quite warm, like in this pic, he pulls up his paws together like that. What a cat.

Oz, stealing a spot in the sunlight.
Oz wanted the corner for his sunning spot, so he sorta nudged his way into the corner, put his paws on The Captain’s chest (The Captain had turned so as to defend his spot) and pushed. There was some nipping and minor wrestling, then they shared the area.

As usual, Nora was not participating in the sunlight enjoyment. The open world does not agree with her tentative grip on reality. It will be a tad quiet here on the blog while I finish the Mythical Art Quilt project, so savor these cat photos in the meantime.

Mar 242014

As discussed in the last post, I decided to attempt the larger project I dreamed up for the Artist’s Guild Easter show. It has to be in by this Saturday at the latest, so I needed to do a lot of work, very fast. As part of that, I decided to give myself a birthday present I am always in need of – more time! I took two days off work and essentially bought myself 16 extra hours I’d not had before. This turned out to be vital, because along with sleeping in and having relaxing, quiet lunches with the cats, I spent both days drawing and editing until my muscles cramped up. I really underestimated how long it would take me to totally prepare the base art for my piece. I often fail to account for PhotoShop time. I’ll add that to list of things to get better at. Anyway, having two days off, to myself, was wonderful and I went in to the regular weekend energetic and refreshed. Which is good because Saturday was not a day of success for my arty project!

I needed to screenprint my work, so I pulled out the old Yudu platform and tried out some emulsion sheets on a couple high count mesh screens. The sheets were a little old, but I’d kept them temperature controlled, so I gave them a shot. That was a mistake.
I met with failure:
Screen emulsion adherence failure.
The emulsion sheets, which have plastic on the handling side, never dried completely – even after an hour under the platform fan and sitting in the dark overnight. When the plastic was to be pulled off, the middle section of still-wet emulsion came off with it. Complete failure.

And more failure:
Screen emulsion adherence failure, foam version.
The second screen did the same thing, but on this one the emulsion turned foamy. ??? Yuck. Absolute failure.

As a backup, I’d purchased the regular bottles of emulsion chemicals, so I cleaned a screen and coated it, converting a closet to a temporary dark room. A few hours of dry time was needed, so I went back in to the workshop. Since I was still feeling hopeful, I went ahead and exposed the remaining, partial screen so I could do a test print and see how it looked.
Screenprint test run = failure!
We don’t need to go into details. In summary it was another outright failure. Very discouraging and no reason to continue with the screenprinting plan and possibly burn up all my remaining time trying to make it work. I had to go work on a different project for a while as I processed the setbacks and came up with a new plan. But, a new plan was born – two new ones, in fact.
Plan One: Spoonflower. This small company will take your uploaded files, of whatever, and print it onto a variety of fabrics for you. I’ve been a member since they were “beta”, but never ordered fabric. At first, I felt like this was cheating, but I know that is silly. I cannot personally afford a multi-thousand dollar, giant, fabric printer and this company has many. It is my art, they are merely putting it on fabric for me, for a small fee. Normally, this would take too long, but they have a reasonably priced “rush service” which means my fabric will arrive on Thursday evening. Is this cutting it close? Hell yes. But, it was going to be close anyway, so this is better than nothing. Plus, the cost ends up being less than the cost of the screens, emulsion, and inks I’d have used doing it myself. I like this plan a lot. If the fabric looks the way I expect it will, I will flat out love this plan. Swish.

Plan Two: if somehow the fabric doesn’t arrive on time or doesn’t look good or whatever might happen, I will use the “gel medium on printed paper, press to fabric, dry, then wet and rub the paper off” technique. It will be messy and not as neat looking and a serious pain in the fingertips, but I will get my drawings on the fabric. I swear it by the power of Grayskull!

In the meantime I have a couple more fabrics to dye, a lot of sewing to do and a long embroidery list that could make a nun cringe. I will have to spend all my work lunches and smoke breaks out in my car or somewhere, embroidering that quilt. No, I don’t smoke, but I figure if my coworkers can run off every other hour for 15 minutes a shot, then I can too – only I’ll be putting thread in fabric instead of smoke in lungs. This week should be fair weather, so I’ll use my car as my workspace. I’d like to simply use the breakroom, but everyone likes to talk and ask what you’re doing and I don’t have time for that. Or desire.

It will be close, but I think I can make the deadline if everything goes generally okay and I don’t go off the rails. The visual only exists in my head and I really, really hope it looks as cool when I bring it into existence. Wish me luck.

Mar 172014

Last week when I was reviewing the blue quilt, I told you, “I’d spent some time doing hand embroidery on them, then ripping most of it out because I didn’t like the look.” When I laid them out to audition the borders, I started looking at the bits of embroidery and stitching that I left in and I sorta liked it again. Since it looked good at the minimal amount left, I decided to go ahead and add the same amount of stitching to the other quadrants.
Stitching, close up.
I spent a couple hours on over the weekend enbroidering. Now I have to make sure I don’t go too far with the stitching, must keep it light. I meant to work a lot on the quilt this weekend, but I had some social activities, some movie watching, a bit of sleeping in and a very long bubble bath as priorities to the stitching, so I didn’t get too far.

The four body blocks.
The body quadrants, all laid out in their future order. I meant to have them together and edged by now, but then I started the aforementioned decorative hand stitching, so I’m off plan. A bit behind, sure, but should still have the thing done in the next couple weeks.

However, during a social activity this weekend, some of the Artist’s Guild gals were encouraging me to enter their Easter show. The problem with that is I’d have less than two weeks to get something made and ready for the show, which means I’d have to put aside the blue quilt and work extensively and exclusively on the show piece. I was probably going to skip it and keep to my schedule, but last night before bed I thought of two ideas that I love. Now I really want to do both of them. One of them (my favorite, of course) is a huge project. I don’t know how long it would take – probably many late nights and some weekend dedication, too. I work slow and I play around a lot, so I would have to be Serious for the next two weeks to get done in time. I don’t know. I’m going to think about it while I’m at work today and decide. If I go with yes, it will be Massive Productivity in all my off-time.
Oy. Me and my big ideas.

Mar 102014

Woah, three weeks gone. Happens fast. Two of those were weeks completely wrecked by work. I’ve had to come in for half the middle of the night to help with some problems, then come back in to work the regular work day. It was exhausting and I accomplished almost nothing at home during those weeks, merely sitting on the sofa and watching tv in the evenings, trying to stay awake. Not productive at all.

The weekends are mine, though. After the Rainbow Stripes Quilt was claimed, I thought I’d start something new. Inconveniently, the timing to start a new project coincided with a funk in which I absolutely despise all my project ideas and everything I do is crap and I have zero motivation. Hate it when that happens. To circumvent the funk, I pulled out an old project so there would need to be no judgments about it. Since it has already been created past the initial stages and only needs some finishing, it doesn’t have to be subjected to such new project criticisms.

I selected the Blue Wonky Cabin Quilt, which was folded and smushed up inside a box under the sewing area. The last time I showed you this quilt was here, back in April of 2011. I did finish all those blocks, for a total of 36 blocks making a 137 cm (54″) square altogether. I’d spent some time doing hand embroidery on them, then ripping most of it out because I didn’t like the look. After that, it has had no attention since the end of 2011 due to workshop and basement work. The blocks alone make a decent size top, but I thought they needed something to space them out from the edge, so that you can look at them and not be overwhelmed by their craziness. I didn’t want a plain border sashing, so I thought about what I could do for a border that was unusual, to compliment the wonky blocks, and scrappy, so as to tie the border and body together. I came up with a zipper-look line, which I thought of as simply the corner edges of a cabin block instead of the whole square of the cabin. So, you put down one piece and edge it, then instead of going around, you only go back to edging it, again and again, and keep going. To me it looks like a zipper, but apparently (after looking up my creation on the internets) this sort of thing is called a braid. I can buy that. I couldn’t find any pictures of anyone doing it wonky style, but since mine is only a little wonky and mostly balanced, I can’t really complain.

I did a trial run to make sure it would work:
A test of the idea.
These are only tests, don’t worry that the colors don’t work with the blue blocks at all. I merely grabbed whatever was at the top of the scraps box that I could reach. Result: success. This will work. I pulled out the blue fabrics I had left in the scrap box and dug up any of the remaining wonky-used fabrics and cut strips off them, too. Back when I attached the wonky blocks together, I arranged them so there is a subtle fade of light to dark and green-blue to purple-blue. To echo that, I split my strips into light, dark, green, and purple shades of blue for each edge.

Good beginning of the border braids.
Here are three of the edges: dark, purple, green. The light blue edge is still under the foot here. The pokey edges will get trimmed off and each side will be edged with the same solid blue that edges the blocks, then they will surround the block body. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing for the backing, quilting, or binding, but you have to eat an elephant one bite at a time, right?

You must ignore the crappiness of these photos – I took them under florescent light with cell phone and shaky hands. Yes, I have good cameras, but at some point I have to use whatever is nearby or it will be weeks before it gets on the blog.

Coincidentally, I made another discovery while looking up my invented border on the internets. If you recall, this quilt came about because I had leftover scraps while sewing the two blue, baby quilts. I started slapping scraps together to hold the thread in between “real” quilt pieces. If you’re not a sewist, I do this so I don’t have to pull out extra thread when cutting a piece off the machine, then later trim the threads off the piece when it is removed. If you stick your next piece right after the previous one, you only have about half an inch of thread between them and can snip them apart. You save thread, you save time and you save the huge hassle of having thread tails all over the place to track, trim and toss. I have seen it called chain piecing as well as something else, but you get the idea. This is the second most useful sewing skill/habit to learn after seam depth.

Now you know what chain piecing is and that I was using it to make these wonky blocks betwixt making the real quilt project of baby quilts. Well, while I was surfing around I saw people referring to Leader Ender Quilts. I’d never heard of such a thing. At first I thought it was an individual name of someone’s quilt, but after I found more references I launched full research. It turns out Leader Ender Quilts are purposeful in-between chain piecing quilts. People find a quilt with lots of little pieces they want to make, cut out all the bits they’ll need and line them up and put them to the side of their work area. Then, when they start on a “real” project (can be any sewing, not only quilting) and need a bit to stick in to hold the thread after a “real” project piece, they can reach over and grab from their Leader Ender pile. Eventually, the Leader Ender Quilt gets completely done simply by holding threads in between other projects. The thread-holding bits would end up at the beginning (or lead) and end of the “real” project pieces and are thus called Leader and Ender. It turns out that yet another thing I made up to be practical is a named thing already. That is always the way with sewing. Someone has done it before and it has a name, but good luck finding it before you invent it yourself. If only we could download knowledge into our brains like in The Matrix.

That’s my latest project. I’ll try to share more and better photos of it soon. Now that my work schedule is (or should be) back to normal, I ought to be able to make some good progress on this blue quilt. Probably due for some cat photos, too. I’ll work on that.

Feb 102014

Two weeks ago, I finished my first weaving project on the loom I built last month. I learned a lot, one thing being how little room to create sheds I had with how I warped the thing. I ended up with over a meter (4′) of fabric created. If I want a longer piece, I’ll have to warp it like a tapestry loom and move the work around the frame. Anyway, this piece works for a short scarf.
You all remember Toby, the werewolf scarf model:
My first woven scarf.
It is just long enough to wrap once and maybe loop once. I finished the ends with a hem stitch, then overhand knots of fringe. The whole thing is alpaca, so it is nice and soft.

My first woven scarf.
The front ended up fuzzier than the back side. The weft yarn had a knobbly texture to it that fluffed up in a lot of places. This being my first weaving work, I made a lot of errors; missed warps, inconsistent tension, that sort of thing. But, even with its many imperfections, it is still a soft and fairly attractive scarf. I had fun making it and I will weave more things in the future, most likely.

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