29 January 2010

That Old Fabric Meme

Today, I got a little message in my formspring inbox that reads in part “I saw on you blog that you live in Michigan. Are there any fabric/quilt shops with contemporary fabrics here? If so, where?”

I love questions!  Feel free to ask anything  in comments or by using the formspring box (it's at the very bottom of the right column.)

Fabric Shops in my area:
I live in Ann Arbor. There’s really only one shop that has contemporary fabric and that is the The Viking Sewing Center. They have mostly traditional stuff and kid’s stuff, but they are a big shop, so even though they don’t specialize in modern fabric, I would guess that they have about 50-100 bolts of it (lately: Amy Butler, Studio E, Erin McMorris). I tend to browse the juvenile section as well because some of the mixers in those lines can be quite nice.

If I’m out towards Saline, I will stop intoThe Quilting Season because they carry some lovely contemporary fabrics. However, this is a much smaller store with a smaller selection, so I don’t go out of my way to visit them. All told, I probably purchase only 30% of my fabric in brick-and-mortar stores; I do most of my fabric shopping online.

General tips for finding brick-and-mortar shops with modern quilting fabrics:
Perhaps the most useful short cut I have discovered for finding out which fabric shops in a city have modern stuff is looking at stockist lists for Amy Butler. I also look at online reviews for fabric shops on Yelp! (search for "quilting" and also "fabric store"); these reviews often give a sense of what kind of fabrics are stocked in a store. I have also asked on Craigslist by logging in for the city I'm visiting and then going to community-> artists; be sure to leave a way for people to contact you (anonymized email is my choice) you can also ask in the Craigslits crafts forum, but the forums are international, so be sure to put the city name in the header for your topic and don't be shocked if you get no response, or even rude responses mixed in with helpful ones.

I'm such a nerd about this because choices in my area are so limited that I tend to look up fabric shops whenever I travel.  Two of my all-time favorite shops are Mill House Quilts in Waunakee, Wisconsin (just outside of Madison) and In Town Quilters in Decatur, Georgia (Atlanta area).

As long as I’m going on about fabric, I’m going to take the opportunity to answer the meme that Sew, Mama, Sew! started ages ago about fabric stashes.

Fabric Meme
When you shop for fabric, what size cuts do you usually buy? (i.e. If you see something beautiful, but you don’t have a use for it right away, how much do you buy?) 
Let’s say I were buying 10 pieces of fabric, usually, I would be buying 2 yards of one, 1 yard of 2, and ½ yards of the rest.

Do you buy on impulse or do you go out looking for something you need? 
I quilt from my stash, so there is almost never a strict purpose when I’m shopping for fabric. However, I wouldn’t call any of my shopping impulsive as I have a tight budget and a limited color palette and aesthetic that I lean towards.

How do you store your fabric?
It’s on a bookshelf in my office. It doesn’t get any direct sunlight there and I can see it all.

Do you have any special folding techniques?
I iron my fabric before stashing it and then fold it over my 6.5” acrylic ruler.

How do you sort your stash? (color, print size, collection, etc.)
My fabric is not sorted. I find that taking the fabric off the shelf and flipping through it piece by piece as I build a stack for a quilt is a really useful exercise. I just bring the ironing board over to that corner of the room to use as a table, pull the fabric off stack by stack and go through it. This results in fabrics continually being shuffled up against each other in new compositions and I see combinations that I never would have generated on my own (which I then set aside or photograph to remember).  This also reminds me of what I have in my stash.

(This is a combination I discovered while pulling out oranges for Stinky's Quilt.)

What tips do you have for building up a well-rounded stash?
I have no interest in a well-rounded stash. I like grays, I like mustards, I like bright reds, I like cloudy pastels, I like mid-century slightly-pukey colors. Most of the fabrics I have in my stash are those colors, the rest are likely to be dyed or discharged before I use them.
It is a little harder to explain what patterns I like, but I definitely don't like tossed novelty prints or two-way novelty prints, just one-way novelty prints.  I like a hand-drawn look, but not a painterly look. I like geometric prints, but not high-contrast geometrics. (Yes, it is true, when you look up picky in the dictionary, there's a picture of me!)

When do you say enough is enough?
Before things get messy and before I spend money than I don't have. (Being so picky does help with this!)

Do you have a current favorite print in your stash? Let’s see it! 

 Isn’t that perfect? It’s a sheet from Garnet Hill (the pattern is called Piazza). It’s going to be overdyed ecru and then will become the back and binding for The Code Quilt.

27 January 2010

Buttons and Badges

A while back, I started the Fresh Modern Quilts group on flickr; once it was quite wee and now is a busy bustling place of quiltastic sharing and love. (I get the most excited and amazing emails from people after they find us…it’s the coolest.)

If you are a blogger who wants to help spread the good Fresh Modern Quilts word, I’ve made a few badges that you can use.  Thanks to those bloggers who already link to the group and gave me the push to make these badges!

These are made using images of my own quilts.  I’d like to make three more using other people’s quilts as background, to submit one of your quilt photos for consideration, please post it in this flickr thread:

The first three badges (in three sizes):
Fresh Modern Quilts on flickr
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Fresh Modern Quilts on flickr
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Fresh Modern Quilts on flickr
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Fresh Modern Quilts on flickr
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Fresh Modern Quilts on flickr
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Fresh Modern Quilts on flickr

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Fresh Modern Quilts on flickr
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Fresh Modern Quilts on flickr
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Fresh Modern Quilts on flickr

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In Blogger,  add these by going to the "layout" tab -> click "add gadget" -> choose "HTML/JavaScript" as the gadget type -> paste in code -> save your changes!

25 January 2010

Quilting is Good for You

I know I'm not alone in enjoying the company of TV or DVDs when I quilt. Lately my favorites have been the first seasons of Ugly Betty (so sweet!) Veronica Mars (so sassy!) and the BBC miniseries Little Dorrit (ah, Dickens.)  I was able to check all of these out from the public library...gods bless the library!

Last week, I heard a news report on the health risks of TV that convinced me that my quilting habit is negating some of the ill effects of all that TV watching.

According to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, every hour of daily TV time, correlates with an 18 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and an 11 percent risk from death from all causes.  That's huge!

But here's the thing: the TV is bad for you not because of any rays it emits, but because people sit so still to watch it.  It's your impression of a statue that gets you! 

The good doctors who conducted the study recommend that people get up and move around more when watching TV.  And they don't mean exercise, they just mean move a little, mill about, wiggle your bits.

Well, anyone who quilts, and especially anyone who quilts improvisationally knows that quilting is all about moving around from the ironing board to the sewing machine to the cutting mat.  Thus, I'm forced to conclude that quilting is good for you!  Yay!

You can hear the NPR report on this study here.

Oh, and for those of you who prefer podcasts to DVDs, I'm sure you've heard of the amazing This American Life  but have you been listening to Radio Lab?  I love that show...its all the things you forgot you loved about science...give it a go, you'll be glad you did.

22 January 2010

I crack me up.

Yesterday, about halfway through the day, I realized that I my outfit coordinated exactly with this baby quilt I made a while back:
I made this quilt last summer as part of Old Red Barn Co's quilt along.  The turquoise squares are not part of the original pattern.

(old picture...oooo, I miss that greenery!)

That's my own quilting design, too.

I made the questionable decision of backing this in solid black and then quilting it with gray thread, so my little quavery missteps in quilting (which I *like* on the front) look really stark and weird on the back.  Oh well, you live and you learn, right?

I think this quilt would look really great as a wall-hanging in an ultra-modern stainless steel and cement kitchen.  Too bad I don't have one of those!

19 January 2010

Dye Dye Dye

I started this blog mostly to talk all about dye and I’ve yet to say anything about dye!

Why? Well, there is too much to say; too many places I could begin.  So, I guess I will begin by just talking about what dye I use and where to buy it.

I use Procion dye (a.k.a.  fiber reactive dye. )  Procion dye is what most of the garment industry uses for their cottons.  It is permanent and awesome.  It is not longer patented, so it can be found at many places under many names.  It is almost always referred to as Procion dye in the product description, if not the actual title.  Look for it with other cotton & plant dyes.  Online, you’ll find it at Dharma Trading Co. (as Fiber Reactive Procion Dye) and PRO Chemical & Dye (as Pro MX Reactive Dye).  Jacquard doesn’t seem to have an online store, but you’ll see that brand in many art supply stores.  I’ve priced out dye in the online shops and everything seems to have basically the same price. I have no preference from brand to brand.

I actually own very few colors of dye.  I have some custom colors  (gray, ecru, brown) but  I usually mix my own colors from primary colors (red, blue, yellow---see specifics below).  I learned how to do this from the book  “The New Color Wheel Fabric Dying” by Katy Widger. Elizabeth of “Oh, Fransson!” tipped me off to this book in this blog post, which shows some of the results you can get with the color wheel dying.

In addition to great trouble-shooting information, “The New Color Wheel Fabric Dying” demonstrates how to get an almost infinite variety of colors from red, blue, yellow, and black dyes. You can buy “The New Color Wheel Fabric Dying” directly from Katy’s website.

With Katy’s permission, I’m reprinting the primary colors for the three main manufacturers of Procion dyes:
Dharma #: Lemon Yellow 1, Fuchsia Red 13, Cerulean Blue 23, Jet Black 250
ProChem #: PRO Yellow 108, PRO Red 308, PRO Blue 406, PRO Black 602A
Jacquard Procion® MX #:  Yellow MX-8G, Fuchsia Red MX-8B, Blue MX-G (no black is listed).
(full disclosure: I don’t own black dye yet)

Word of advice: if you are anything like me, you have a tendency to want to buy a whole bunch of supplies for a particular craft right away.  In my experience, this is bad. Going into a new craft, it is often impossible to know whether I’ll do it for a wee bit and then be done or if my excitement about it will continue.  So, I always try to buy minimal supplies at first, thus keeping myself from spending hard-earned money on stuff I’ll be over in a month.  If you aren’t sure how into dye you are, I would start by buying one or two small (2 oz) tubs of dye and some soda ash.  (Soda ash is the stuff that helps the dye bond to the fabric.)  I started with brown and gray.  In my experience, procion dyes can get very bright very fast, so keep that in mind when selecting hues. I have some "bright green" that I suspect is manufactured in the center of the sun.

Another “budget check” that I do in regards to crafting is that I really try to limit the number of books I purchase.  When I started dyeing, I read several library books on the subject.  That's how I learned the basics.  I own just two books on dyeing, Katy’s book (mentioned above) and Malka Dubrawsky’s book (she uses the same dyes and does batik stuff, too).

There is a lot of information on both ProChem and Dharma’s websites.  (However, it is a bit overwhelming at first, so probably not the best place to start.)

Okay, so now I’ve begun to talk about dye!  Yay!  In my next dye post I will talk about how to prepare a basic dye bath.

In the meantime, I have a question, do you know any other blogs that talk about dye?  I’m trying to make a list of them.  So far, this is what I’ve got:

Frequently talk about dye:
Stitch in Dye
Simply Robin
Dye Candy

Sometimes talks about dye:
Oh, Fransson!

Thank you!

15 January 2010

craft hope for Haiti

Did you know that in the wake of natural disasters, the best help comes from organizations like Unicef and Doctors without Borders? Studies show that they are many times more effective than the military in helping in these situations. So, while it is awesome that the US and other nations are sending in troops and supplies to help the people of Haiti, it is crucial to lend support to humanitarian organizations if you can.

Craft Hope for Haiti Shop Spreading seeds of hope one stitch at a time

(Actually, the best help comes from citizens on the ground helping each other out; in the wake of disasters, people do not panic, they are smart and generous and help each other out. Crime rates go way down and people that wouldn't typically work together set aside their differences to get things done. People are awesome and kind. The media does us a great disservice when they talk about looting and otherwise further disaster myths.)

I have donated one of my baby quilts to craft hope for Haiti. It should be posted shortly in the craft hope etsy shop . 100% of proceeds from the shop go to Doctors Without Borders. Please consider shopping at their store, making a donation of your own craft good to craft hope, or donating money directly to a humanitarian organization.

If you want to read more about disaster studies, look for this article:
Tierney, K., Bevc, C., & Kuligowski, E. (2006). Metaphors Matter: Disaster Myths, Media Frames, and Their Consequences in Hurricane Katrina. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 604(1), 57.

I think you can get it here by clicking on the left-hand link that says "Full Text (PDF)"  (I can but it is hard for me to know if you can because this IP address is identified with a University).

14 January 2010


Yesterday,some fat eighths of Anna Maria Horner's new fabric line "Little Folks" arrived in my mailbox.  I had won them from Pink Chalk Studio...what a lovely treat!

Since these fabrics are in colors I'm not likely to use in a quilt, but are so lovely and soft on their own, I folded each eighth in half and stitched them into hankies. 

I've tucked one in my parka's pocket; I'm ready for my next attack of the sniffles!

10 January 2010

Books on a Shelf

I don’t think of working on multiple quilts at the same time as having “balls in the air.”  Because it is not a pressure situation for me, I’m not juggling them, I’m just enjoying them.  No, it is more like having multiple books on a shelf and I can read whichever I please whenever I want.  It makes me happy.  I have limited space and limited storage, so I naturally max out on quilts-in-progress space and have to finish a quilt to start a new one

Since I’ve started dyeing and discharging fabric I find that having multiple things going makes more and more sense.  I’ve got a big dye project that will be ongoing for quite some time (the Kalka Quilt), but I can dye blocks for that quilt a great variety of colors, so when I made some a pea-soup-colored dye bath in order to alter some fabric for the Herds and Birds Quilt, I put in some blocks for the Kalka, too.  Thus, things get done, bit by bit.

This week, I pieced  a few more blocks for the Herds and Birds Quilt.
I’ve got 12 of these blocks now.  I’m aiming for 25.
Can you see the pea-soup-colored pieces in that block?  A couple are solid and one is made with a pollex-shaped resist.  That's one of the newer shapes in my shop and I've been having a lot of fun with it.
Pollex is another word for thumb, which was the original inspiration for this shape.  I also think this shape could be used to great effect for dying houses and doors, especially if overdyed on commercial prints.  I may have to do that soon.  : )

Herd and Birds is such a tossed salad of awesomeness--I'm mixing my dyed stuff with indie fabrics, with mass-produced prints, and lots of solids, too. It's a lot of fun and each block surprises me.

This week,  I also pieced the backs for two quilts and then drove the quilts over to my friendly local long arm quilter to do (I’ll share once they come back!) 

In other news, I’m planning for a quilt based on this book cover:
I call this the Methods Quilt (after the title of the book). It is being done in mostly shot cottons and chambrays, which I’ve been slowly acquiring.
You’ll notice that I don’t have an off-white color in the stack yet. That’s because I had figured out how much of each color I needed, but never calculated for the white color (it is trickier as it is in a bunch of pieces, all chopped up.) Yesterday I was feeling mathy, so I sat down and remapped the book cover into a grid that would make the quilt twin size.  And then figured out how much off white fabric I needed.The white is shown in gray here, with darker gray designating places that I will be doing some piecing with white and a color to emulate the text fields on the book cover.
Now I’m ready to shop.  But first, I’ll need to make a pie and watch the Packers game.

07 January 2010

Filling in the Stinky Spectrum

To execute my plan for Stinky’s quilt  (which you can read about in this post) I need quite a bit of fabric in six categories:
1. Dark teal
2. Medium teal
3. Light (mostly white) teal
4. Light (mostly white) orange
5. Medium orange
6. Dark orange

As you can see from this picture, I am seriously lacking in some departments.
Well, that picture was taken on December 4th and I have made some progress since then. 

02 January 2010

fabric favorites oh-nine

Kim over at True Up just posted a fabric meme.  2009 favorites.  Oooo…I like to talk fabric. 

Following her categories, here are my favorites:
1. Favorite Quilting Weight  Cotton Collection:
Good Folks by Anna Maria Horner. I rarely like more than two prints for any collection.  I loved so many in the Good Folks collection!

2.  Favorite Digitally Printed Fabric
Birdies. As the answer to many of the following questions will tell you, I got really into indie fabrics this year.  One of my favorite indie prints is Birdies by Aunt June, she has these printed at Spoonflower.

One Dozen Cousins

My dad is one of four kids and I have 12 cousins on his side of the family.

His mom took up quilting just before the eldest of us started graduating from high school.  She decided to make a quilt for each of us as we graduated from high school.  I’m grandkid #3.  This is the quilt my Grandma made for me:


01 January 2010


When I first moved into this apartment, there was no curtain for the front window.  So, as a temporary measure, I clipped up a wide piece of muslin.
Four years later it was still there.
Unsightly, no? I'll keep it small to spare your delicate eyes.
And yet, it was lovely in its own way, as it let in so much light.
And I'm the only one that uses the front room--it's my office--so I wasn't so worried about it.

Well, last week, my bedroom curtain fell off the wall and in order to fix it, I switched out the curtain rod and had to sew a bit.  It was maybe 20 minutes of work, using materials that I had on hand, and I loved the result.  It made me realize how much I might appreciate it if I actually did something about the office window.

I had this bit of fabric that I wanted to use:
I had purchased this fabric because I loved the green growy bits. This fabric has *almost* been in a number of quilts, but always ends up getting pulled out.