29 April 2010

the continuing adventures of my to do list

two down, six to go!

I did the dyeing for the full stops quilt.  These came out darker than I intended, but it has lead me to a new plan with my Full Stops Quilt...I'm not going to piece the circles, I'm going to use itajime, dye, and bleach to achieve them.  I'll put that on the list for June!

I didn't lay out a special reward for this dye project, but don't worry, I'll be treating myself quite nicely this weekend because I've just successfully defended my dissertation (the last big step!) So, it's going to be good beer and good food and good friends all weekend.
Plus...The University of Michigan's commencement speaker this year is President Obama and I get to go see him speak!  Yay!
Plus...my mum is coming to see me and Obama and is also going to treat me to tickets to the Broadway musical "Spring Awakening."  Fanciness all around!

I'll be back after the weekend with a report!  And maybe I'll even have another part of my to-do list to cross off!  In the meantime, if you have a spare moment, please go and vote for my friend's photo on the Jones Soda website.  If she wins her photo could appear on a Jones Soda label...this would be awesome because her photo records her amazing kindness and generosity.  As she says on the website, "For the last ten years, I have dressed up as "the Valentine Fairy" on Valentine's day and have spent the day giving out valentines to strangers. I started doing it because I felt that Valentine's day made some people feel left out. I continued to do it once I learned how happy it made people. In this picture, my sister and I are giving out silk roses, chocolates, and cards to unsuspecting community college students. We gave out over 500 valentines that year."

Isn't that awesome?  For the last two years I have helped to make these valentines and seen photos of her spreading Valentine's cheer in hospitals, hospices, and old folks' homes!   

Click here to vote for the Valentine's Fairy!


26 April 2010

I updated the shop.

Thought you might like to know.
For those of you who don't know what you are looking at, let me explain.

I sell plexi shapes through a shop on etsy.

These shapes are intended to be sandwiched around fabric...

And then submerged in dye...
To get blocks...
To make into quilts like this...
Or this...

The shapes come with instructions, though I've been slowly making a set of super-complete image-filled tutorials on this blog.  I've gotten as far as which dye to use and how to prepare a dye bath.  Instructions on preparing fabric including options for clamping are forthcoming.

Malka Dubrawsky, who introduced me to this technique has a primer on her blog. Just go to her blog and then scroll down the right-hand side looking for the "Clamping and Dyeing Fabric: A Basic Itajime Primer."

If you want to get fancy while explaining this to people, this process is called itajime shibori.  Itajime is pronounced eeta-gee-me.  I totally thought it was "he" in the middle, not "gee" until I heard Malka say it here:

If you look at the wikipedia entry on shibori you will see that there are many types of dyeing that might use these shapes.  I tend to think exclusively in terms of quilt blocks, but I know that some of my customers use the shapes in other ways (that's a vague statement because I'm a bit vague on it!)
Anyway, all the bundles are back in stock and there are some new offerings, too.

I'm particularly enamored of my new Twinkle Twins bundle...

and I've already started to use the rectangles.

As always, if you have any questions or want something that has sold out temporarily, feel free to email me (there's a link in the upper-right-hand corner of the blog page).

24 April 2010

one down, seven to go

I've crossed #4 off of my list.
I'm all caught up in the quilting bee.

Wendy asked for little self-portraits. I did my best.  It's not the sort of thing that comes naturally to me.  I think the end quilt is going to be very special.

Digs (aka Amanda), on the other hand, asked for pluses and minuses, which are right up my alley.

Have I mentioned how much I'm loving this trend I'm seeing of using beautiful solids as the base or background fabric? It was white for so long, and then gray crept in, and now I believe all bets are off!

22 April 2010

It feels good to get some stuff done.

I got a lot of stuff done this week.  Including picking up this print from the framing shop. The print is from Mary Kate McDevitt's etsy shop.  It was $10 for a signed limited edition.  A steal I tell you, a steal!  (You'll notice the shipping cost on this poster is high, I recommend asking the seller to send it by a slower method. She can and will.)

The frame is a $13 jobby from Home Goods.  And the mat and mount cost less than $15. Sweet.  Picking out the mat was hilarious.  Because I wanted turquoise.  Which is not the conventional thing for a mustard print.  The lovely owner and operator of Art Spoken didn't take much convincing though.  I told her, "I know it's the wrong thing, I just want to see it." Once we put this mat on the print and saw how lovely the mustard looked and that it made the eggplant look eggplant (it read as black with other colors), she was sold. I'm so pleased to have this beautiful motivational print!  It is so right: it does feel good to get stuff done!

I've got a week of more-or-less free time while my committee reads my dissertation so I'm going to get some quilty stuff done!  Luckily, Jacquie over at Tallgrass Prairie Studio is rallying anyone who is interested to get some things done, so I'm going to join in.  Thanks for the kick in the butt Jacquie!

spring to finish big

This is what I plan on accomplishing by May 31st.
Jacquie suggested that we think of how we would reward ourselves.  Mmmm...rewards.

The Picnic Quilt.
This has been in this state for like 9 months. Time to quilt!
Reward: a picnic, of course!

The Methods Quilt top needs to be finished.
Reward: Letting the long-armer quilt this one.

Custom quilt
Reward: Getting paid.

Catching up on the quilting bee.
Reward: Beer.

The Code Quilt...I'm going to try to get the center of the top done so I can start to figure out the border.
Reward: Ice Cream Cake

Dye fabric for The Full Stop Quilt
Reward: Hand-dyed fabric is its own reward!

Cover for the bin thingy
Reward: A new album.  I'm thinking Daft Punk or The Sounds.

Another Dye 101 tutorial.
Reward:  Beer.

18 April 2010


I've got nothing new to show you people.

Why?  Because I'm pushing hard to finish ye ol' dissertation and the writing process isn't as photogenic as the quilting process.

Even if you really make an effort.

Ho-hum.  I've been motivating myself with long lists of everything I'm going to do as soon as the big D gets turned in.  Dyeing is on the top of the list.  I want some hand-dyed solids for a quilt I'm planning.  You see, I'm in love with this collage by Anna Betts.

I sent her a message a while back to ask if she'd mind if I nabbed the design for a quilt.  I was granted permission (thanks, Anna!) and then experimented with some techniques for piecing circles and started to think about fabrics. I have repeatedly pulled fabrics from my stash with the full stops in mind, but I never got a stack that clicked.  A stack of hand-dyes are going to be the answer, I think.  I'm planning on grays plus the Teal to Coral color array from Widger's book.

I'm also excited to get cracking on some works in progress, but that's just a matter of sitting down and sewing...fun to do, but not something that creates much of a diversion just to think about.  : )
Jacquie's doing another Spring to Finish Challenge, so maybe I'll join in!

Some stuff that piqued my interest this week:

Originally uploaded by mrsmcporkchop

1. I'm loving this block mrsmcporkchop posted in her flickrstream.  Using yellow as a base fabric?  Yum!

2. Sew, Mama, Sew! had an interview with one of my quilting idols Denyse Schmidt.

3.  And finally, the giveaway at Fresh Modern Quilts on flickr wrapped up, so I got to play Yente/Santa and connect prizes to people. Everyone made my life easy by following directions and being speedy. I think 8 of the first 10 winners got their #1 pick, which was awesome!

13 April 2010

t-shirt headbands

I quite like headbands. 

Unfortunately, I have a really big head, so storebought headbands fit so tightly they give me headaches.  And simply tying a scarf around my head has never worked too well either...probably I have my grandmother’s Finnish hair…super fine and soft…it’s so easy for the weight of the dangling scarf to pull the rest of the scarf off of my head.

As a result, I’ve made myself a few headbands over the years and my favorites are those that I’ve stitched from old t-shirts.  I made one this weekend and I photographed the process.
Here’s the t-shirt I was cutting up. 
It’s a tissue-weight t-shirt. The fabric is a little bit stretchy. If you have thick hair or coarse hair or curly hair, I imagine you could use a standard-weight t-shirt, but if you have very fine or thin hair, definitely go for the lighter t-shirts.

Step One: if the t-shirt has a hem, cut it off and discard.

Step Two: Line up the bottom of the t-shirt with a line on your cutting mat, then use a ruler and rotary cutter to cut a 5-inch width of the t-shirt off.  This is going to be your headband.
Step Three: Try on the headband.  Depending on the size of the t-shirt and of your head, it will likely go around your head twice with a little room to spare. If it fits perfectly as is and you like the way it looks, you are done!  If not, proceed to step four.

Step Four: Cut open your headband.  If your t-shirt had seams on the sides, that's where you should cut; take out the seam.  Now, instead of one big loop you should have a single length of fabric.
Step Five:  Make the fabric back into a loop, this time with double-thickness.  To accomplish this, take the ends of your fabric and put them on either side of the remaining seam (or, if your tee had no seams, the middle point of your fabric loop).  You may find it useful to use a book to wrap the headband around.  Pin.
Step Six: Sew the headband back into a loop.  I use a simple straight stitch with back-stitching at the start and finish.
Your headband should now look like this:  one double-thickness loop.
Step Seven: Try the headband on, putting the seam at the back.  If it is still too big, cut and resew or add a small pleat. 

Step Eight:  Once the headband is the right size around, you can adjust the width of the headband with scissors or a rotary cutter.  A scrunched up 5-inch width of tissue tee works perfectly on my head, but you may want a skinnier headband.

Step Nine: Have a cup of tea.

I hope this was clear enough, let me know if you try it and have any questions!

10 April 2010

Target Hack

I'm always on the lookout for a good bag in a good color at a cheap price.
Which is why I picked up this little mustard number when I saw it at Target for $13.
However, given that I didn't love the flop, I figured I'd be making at least one modification to it.  In the end, I decided to not only chop off that flop but also add another pocket to the front.  So now I have this:
I altered the opening by first doing a simple line of straight stitching around the top just above the line where the straps connect. This helped me keep the lining place when I cut off the excess fabric.  I then bound the top like I bind a quilt.
I made the pocket and binding out of Anna Maria Horner's upholstery fabric "volumes."  The pocket was made by stitching two rectangles of the fabric together, leaving a small opening to turn it outside out, pressing, turning it outside out, pressing again, then stitching around the edge to close the opening and create a more finished look. 

I affixed the pocket to the bag by machine stitching down two-and-a-half sides of the pocket.   Where the pockets overlapped, I stitched by hand so that I could attached the new pocket to the mustard pocket without closing the mustard pocket.
 I'm tremendously pleased with the end result.  I feel very springy with my bright new bag.

04 April 2010

March of the Tools - Cast Iron Pans

It’s April you say?  I should not march out tools?  Well, see, I wrote this in March, but I couldn’t get a decent picture of the pans.  You know, one that communicated how much I love them.  I still don’t have that picture, but I’ve given up now--I’m ready to proceed with lackluster pictures!

I love cast iron pans.  They are safe, easy and last for decades.

I have three nice ones and do almost all of my cooking in them.  They are naturally non-stick and brilliant at distributing heat evenly.  They can go on the cooktop, in the oven, and even into campfires!  The only time I ever get out any other skillet is when I make crepes.  Cast iron pans do lend a little flavor to everything they cook…a lovely savory flavor.  Usually, this is a good thing, but not with crepes!

I occasionally try to convert folks to cast iron pans and people really seem to have the opinion that cast iron pans are tricky to deal with.  This is not true! 

You have to handle cast iron differently than you would non-stick or stainless steel pans, but learning how to handle them is as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.

The goal of these is to keep the pan seasoned!  A well-seasoned cast-iron pan is non-stick.
1.  Use the pan often.
2.  Always leave a thin layer of oil/grease. (So, if you have to wash the pan, dry it and then grease it).
3.  Never leave food or water in the pan.
4.  Cook with stainless steel spatulas that will scrape your pans (scraping is good!)

You should totally try out cast iron pans!

Start with a medium size one for frying eggs, quesadillas, and learn to use them…you won’t regret it!

I really like the information found here:  http://www.richsoil.com/cast-iron.jsp
Who would have thought that video of a dude frying an egg could be so fascinating? 

However, I would like to note that I cook tomatoes in my pans all the time without any trouble.  Also, he's really into bacon grease as a seasoner, I prefer olive oil.  Figure out what works for you.

Here’s what I made in my pan one night last week:

How to:
1.    Sautéed a couple cloves of garlic in olive oil.
2.    Threw on several handfuls of fresh baby spinach.
3.    Dumped several cups of leftover spaghetti noodles onto the spinach.  Let it sauté that way for about a minute (with the pasta smothering the spinach) before stirring.
4.    Then continue to cook, stirring and scraping the pan every minute or so, until the noodles were heated through and some noodles had a fried look.
5.    Served with parmesan cheese and a tiny bit of sriracha sauce.

(As this photo suggests, I'm a parmesan fiend.)

Less than 10 minutes.  All whole foods.  Delicious.
I can’t believe some people throw out leftover pasta…I make too much on purpose!

01 April 2010

So, I started this little Flickr group...

and one thing led to another...and now we have 2000 members.  And so I decided to organize a little celebratory giveaway and one thing led to another...and we ended up being able to offer 29 of the best prizes ever. If you are into awesome stuff like this...

or this...
 you might want to enter to win. If so, go on over to Flickr and say hi!