Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Down Under

so here's the new and improved Dotty Dresden Plate (see previous post for that fiasco). the colors are much better suited. i went into my current stash and picked out fabrics that had a "clear" coloring to them. i don't know if that makes much sense to you (it didn't make sense to my graphic designer friend so i know i'm not using technical terms here)--but it's colors with white to them, rather than dusty browns.

here's one with the center placed on top. i really like the red/white polka dots!

this is the stack of fabrics i'll be using for the blades. i've included my recent acquisition of Kaffe Fassetts, some Heather Bailey Freshcuts; some Sandi Henderson's Farmer's Market; and a little of Robyn Pandolph's Flirt. (there's also one or two random fabrics in there) quite eclectic!

i also included my little stash of fabrics called A Day In the Country--an Australian line. i don't believe they're available here--or at least i haven't seen them. though you might be able to still get them from here.

they are the loveliest fabrics. so soft--and the colors are bright and clear. i'm saving most of them for a China Doll quilt i'm planning to make for sophie, "one day."

i was lucky enuf to get these fabrics because paul's aunt in australia had given us some cash in australian currency when the twins were born. it wasn't quite enough to make it worthwhile to exchange at a bank (with the high rates) but enough to make us wish we could do something about it. long story short, i found this store who was willing to take a chance on me--i sent her the cash, and she sent me these lovely fabrics. what a treasure!
(p.s. you should check out her blog. great minds think alike--she's also doing a Dresden Plate pattern right now and even used American Jane fabrics!)

Dresden Plates

so the lobster dinner last week gave me extra energy and i started cutting a new hand-work project (which doesn't make a lot of sense 'cos Grandma's Pop Garden is far from finished) at 10 p.m. that night.

i've been obsessed by this quilt ever since i saw the cover for the book Material Obsession (great blog too; i'm always inspired by the quilts their customers make)

i've always wanted to make a dresden plate quilt--i like the combination of easy piecing and easy applique--it's always good to have a portable hand-sewing project to take along trips (that Grandma's Garden is getting way too bulky!) but i've never been inspired by the ones i've seen. i do like 1930s palette and 30's fabrics are actually ones i collect--but i didn't want to do a traditional dresden plate. this one however, with the bright colors and the polka dot background and centers, was perfect! (i was just listening to a podcaster who also mentioned this quilt but specifically disliked the background as way too busy :-) that's what makes the quilting world great--we all have different sensibilities)

so in my head, i've been planning out this quilt for the longest time. i have a stash of American Jane fabrics that i've been collecting and i thought it would be perfect for the quilt. it's almost traditional for a dresden plate, but not quite. so i started cutting into a charm packet that night.

this is why you shouldn't start a project at 10:00 p.m.!

looking good ...

oh no!!!! it's all wrong! it actually doesn't look so bad in the picture, but in reality, the colors were all wrong. the AJ palette is on the dusty side, while the polka dot background is a clear white. and why would i choose a traditional coloring when that's exactly what i didn't want? sigh....

a much better background--it's from an older AJ line. well, this will be a cushion cover instead. i plan on making an AJ quilt sooner or later so the fabrics definitely won't be wasted.

here's the colors i'll use instead. lots of Kaffe Fassett and bits of all the "modern" fabrics i've been buying recently. i just pieced one plate today--and it's looking quite glorious. i'll post pix of that soon.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lobster Dinner

Last Thursday, i had a hankering for lobster! (pardon the dirty dishes in the sink :-) it's relatively cheap these days at $8/lb. my husband refuses to kill a live animal, but i figure, we're not vegetarians or anything, it's just hypocrisy to say that we can't kill an animal to eat.

yum. she was quite delicious. though it's a little scary how much butter i consumed along with the lobster.

here's Max. he doesn't make it into the blog very often. the kids were fascinated by the lobster. i explained that we don't kill animals for no reason--but we do kill them to eat them. the twins tried a little, but luckily didn't like it too much :-) my oldest is allergic to shellfish, so my husband & i got to enjoy it ourselves! (this was a 2-1/2 pound-er)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thank You!

i was lucky enuf to receive 2 books from Linda Lum DeBono of Dzyning Things. she was having a giveaway of some of her fabrics--i didn't win--but her sons convinced her to give out extra prizes--how cool is that :-)
my SIL snapped up the scrapbooking book--so cute, but not my thing. the quilt book has cute applique designs--i better hurry up and make a couple before my kids get too old!
thanks Linda!

Monday, July 20, 2009

T-Shirt Quilts

wow--it's already been a week since my last post. i have renewed admiration for you bloggers who blog consistently--it's too easy to let days go by!

today's quilts are some that i recently finished but started late last year. it's a long story so again, feel free to skip to the pictures (that's what i'd do :-)

last year in our church, JH passed away from cancer, leaving behind his wife, PH and 2 young children--the oldest is a year older than my oldest and the youngest is a year younger than our twins. even though i didn't know the family (our church isn't huge, but it's still hard to meet everyone), it was still really sad, especially thinking about the kids.

a few months after his passing, my friend JL who is a talented photographer, offered PH a photo session with her kids. while doing so, she also took some pictures of JH's collections--one of which was a t-shirt collection. he was quite the traveller and there were t-shirts from all over the world--and lots of t-shirts from the Hard Rock Cafe. PH mentioned that it would be nice to make the t-shirts into quilts for the kids but she didn't know where to begin. JL's ears perked up but didn't come right out and offer my services; but she came to me later and told me the situation.

it is not to my credit that i didn't immediately think, oh good, i can make these quilts. instead i was a little hesitant, thinking of all the time it would take to make these two quilts--and that it wouldn't be exactly "fun" --but more tedious work. fortunately, i came around and realized that God didn't give me a whole lot of talents, but that quilting is one of them, and it's not often that i get to use it for His glory!

i introduced myself to PH at church and we got the ball rolling. now obviously, PH is still going through a hard time so it took a long time to get things started-- for her to bring the t-shirts to church (so i can pick them up), and for her to choose the sashing materials (from my stash).

side story: God has such a sense of humor--so while going through my stash to see what would be suitable for a 6-year-old girl (the older child)--i came across a length of Lakehouse fabric that is similar to the flower pattern used in Lakehouse Baskets, but instead of a black background, it's white. i thought it was absolutely perfect for a little girl--fun and feminine without being too sissy. but again, instead of thinking, yay--i have the perfect fabric, i thought, and to quote the great PamKittyMorning, "if i use it, IT WILL BE GONE." it was quite the struggle to add it to the pile for PH to choose from and to be quite honest, i would put the fabric back into my stash, God would nudge me, and i would have to take it out and put it back in the shopping bag. so finally, after months of this back and forth, PH & i finally had the chance to go through the fabrics and when she got to the Lakehouse fabric, she basically said "eww--too bright"!!! i'm sure God was giggling up there at my selfishness!

like i said, it took quite awhile to get organized--a few months actually. in the in-between time, i was able to make the Roman Peace quilt, the Think Pink quilt and the Little Romance quilt --which again shows how God is in control and has only wants what's good for us-- He saw what was holding me back (time) and directly addressed the issue. yay God :-)

so yada yada yada. here's the first quilt. PH chose the Little Romance fabrics (from April Cornell) for her daughter's quilt. very sweet colors.

i wasn't sure who should get this rather flamboyant lady, the daughter or the son, but figured the girl could handle it :-)

here's the boy's quilt. i thought the blue starry fabric & red pindots were a little dull--but a boy probably doesn't need/want "pretty". it was also quite fortuitous in that my husband says that the boy's t-shirts are more interesting to look at. so it works out that the sashing isn't as fun as the girl's quilt. i tried to divvy up the quilts by value in color, and then also equally dividing up the Hard Rock t-shirts.

i wonder how JH got the t-shirt from Cuba? pretty cool.

most of the graphics are from the back of the t-shirt; and the shirts also had a smaller logo on the front. so i ended up with tons of the little logos. i used two of them for labels in the back (PH wrote the labels and they're a tad personal so i won't show photos of them).

after finishing the two quilts, God gave me another nudge, and asked, what about PH? i had one t-shirt graphic which was larger than the 12-1/2 x 12-1/2" blocks i was using--but it was so pretty that i didn't want to cut into it. also, while choosing the fabrics, PH really liked a teal-green one for her son. but i didn't have enough of that one fabric--it was a part of bunch of scraps that my friend ZM had given me while de-stashing her stuff. and the rest of the fabrics didn't seem "masculine" enough for PH's tastes (there was one fabric i had chosen for her son which i thought the design looked like firecrackers, but she saw flowers and immediately nixed it as too feminine).

so with the one big block, and lots of little logo blocks, the design was pretty easy to come up with. (though having said that, while drafting it on paper, i got my numbers completely mixed up and ended up cutting one fabric all wrong!!! luckily i had lots of that one. hats off to you designers out there!!)

the colors are a little washed out, but it's all shades of teal, green and purple. these were all scraps from a leftover project from ZM and she has great tastes so i knew all these fabrics would coordinate perfectly :-) only the 4 corners are from my own stash and that's the fabric that i messed up in the cutting.

this is the block i especially like--it's from the Hard Rock Cafe in Singapore.

i really like the back too--i don't usually piece my backs with such little pieces of fabric 'cos inevitably i sew in some ripples--but these quilts are lap-size--all are 60" square--so it was really manageable. even so, this back was a little smaller than it should've been.

of course all these t-shirts were washed before i cut them up, and even though i used my own laundry detergent, there's still a smell (a pleasant one :-) to them that i think is JH's--these t-shirts were well-used and loved for many years before i got them.

i haven't had a chance to give the quilts to PH yet--i hope to do so soon (of course i had to photograph and blog about them first! :-) at first i really wanted to see her reaction and see if she would love them (and you quilters know how gratifying it is to give a hand-made gift that's truly appreciated). but now it almost doesn't matter what her reaction will be--these 3 quilts aren't really my gift to them. they truly are a gift from God--He drove this whole project--He only allowed me to be part of this process (and was quite gracious about it considering my initial selfishness!)

i hope these quilts will be a comfort to the H family. that they will know though whatever pain and loneliness they experience, that their Father in heaven really wanted them to have a physical expression of His love and comfort. He is still holding on tight to PH and her children.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Birthday Cupcakes!

Hooray! i received TWO exciting packages today--from MYB (i made the Roman Holiday quilt for her last year) for my b-day (which was back in june--how nice to stretch it out into july!)

shoot! i thought she knew i was on a diet!

aren't they tempting?

MYB knits the cutest sweaters--she's made one each for my kids--and she knit these for me!

they are sooooo cute. the pattern came from here, and serendipitously enough, awhile ago i had sent MYB the link for the blog since it was a knitty one.
the fabric as the backdrop was in the package from Fabric Depot (it's either Swell or Sweet by Urban Chiks)--on sale of course :-) MYB also gave me a gift cert for FD and this is one of the fabrics i got. (i also got a Glace layer cake--really good price over there.) the thing with gift certificates, especially for fabric stores, is that you (i) end up spending way more than you got in the first place. oh well, i figure, it's like getting a discount card :-)

i think this is my favorite. thanks MYB!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lakehouse Baskets

i blogged about this quilt in the last post about My First Quilt--this is one of the last ones i've done. but i'm so happy with it that i'm gonna write a little more.

like i said, this pattern is from the Leisure Arts book series--this one is called Quick Quilts From Your Scrap Bag. (though none of the patterns are particularly "quick.") sadly, i wrote that in my first quilt, i was slavish about following the color placement of the pattern, and on closer examination, i was kinda slavish about this one too.

i didn't follow the colors for the actual baskets--too many of those! but for the borders and setting triangles. oh well, some "real" designer figured it all out and she was pretty good at it! all the basket fabrics are from my stash. way back when, whenever i bought a bright fabric, i would cut off a 8 inch strip and store them in a shoebox. so gathering all the scraps for the baskets were a cinch.

the binding, border, inner sashing & setting triangles are all fabrics from Lakehouse. and that's my sophie :-)
digression time. so i have 3 kids, a 5-year-old (almost 6) and 3-year-old (almost 4) twins (sophie is one of the twins). i still had time to sew when i had 1 kid, but i was pretty besotted with him so didn't sew too much :-) my husband & i were married almost 10 years before having kids, so we had tons of time and energy for our first kid. and then the twins came. of course i loved them too, but wow--it was HARD having 3 kids, and twins at that. i had a little help but not too much and that first year was a blur. needless to say, not much sewing was done during that time.
by the time they were two, i was getting a little more into the groove of things and was able to attend our local Quilt Festival again. (we're lucky in the South Bay Area to have the Pacific International Quilt Festival as our "local" one). i first discovered Lakehouse fabrics there and just loved the bright colors--one stall had all these cute FQ bundles. i'm not one to buy things at full price so when i came home, i looked online and found them at some store (can't remember now) and ended up spending a lot more than i would've if i had gotten those FQs! that's when i got these fabrics. i also bought a bunch of the flowery fabric with a white background and a few other Lakehouse fabs--that'll be another quilt "one day". (and i have another story about that fabric when i post about the t-shirt quilts i recently made.)

oops--a misshapen basket--not worth it to unpick the seams since there's bias edges so i put it on the back.

here's the back. that panel in the middle & surrounding big blocks were a FQ bundle that my friend was destashing. really pretty fabric but i knew i wasn't going to use them for a quilt and realized the back is a good place to put it!
even though the kids are still young, i'm back to quilting. sometimes they can "help" me, but they're at the age where they can play quite happily among themselves (though while writing this post, i've been interrupted numerous times!)
it's amazing how the quilting world has changed in the 3 years that i took a hiatus from quilting. the blog world really exploded and i find so much inspiration from there. designer fabrics seem to be much more prevalent though maybe that's just me. since i don't have time to wander around my LQS anymore, i mostly buy online, and it's safer to buy established collections.
maybe that's why i love this quilt so much--it has a great framework of Lakehouse fabrics, but is also from my stash. a lot of my recent quilts are made from one line of designer fabric--and though they certainly look very tasteful and i love them too--this basket quilt is truly representative of me :-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My First Quilt

Camille & Carrie are starting this thread about our very first quilts and the last one completed. Quilters' Newsletter Magazine has this topic as a regular feature in their magazine though they usually ask famous designers & quilters--and since i will never grace their pages as such--i can post it on my own blog :-)

feel free to not read this long-winded post and just look at the pictures--i wanted to write it down my crafty history for my own posterity's sake.
growing up in Hong Kong, both my parents worked, and not to say i was neglected or uncared for--quite the contrary--but there wasn't much time for my parents to nurture or encourage any creativity. ironically, my parents are both rather good with their hands. my mom knits and sews--she's very practical and mostly makes clothes and whatever is useful. she gets a little too practical and sometimes her workmanship is a little shoddy (don't worry--she'll never read this :-) but if you need anything made of fabric in a jiffy--she can do it. i've started her quilting in the last few years but like i said, she's practical, so she still thinks it's a little odd to cut up perfectly good fabric to make basically, another piece of fabric. my dad works with plants and rocks and that kind of stuff--he likes to create little bonsai scenes, or landscapes in his aquariums, stuff like that--very old-school Chinese.

so even when i had the craving to do craftiness growing up, i didn't have the opportunity. my aunt taught me to knit & crochet but HK is hot and i didn't like handling all that wool (probably acrylic). i had a hippie cousin who was in HK briefly (after a stint in the Peace Corps in Fiji Islands) (very hippie-ish) who taught me macrame but i didn't remember it after she left.

it wasn't until college that i started doing anything crafty. my sister was into cross-stitch at the time and i did a little--but there wasn't too much time to do needlework in-between all that studying and partying (just to say--my "partying" was the very tame, Christian kind :-)

i stayed at the same college for graduate school (library sciences) and that's when i finally had the time and a little money to start getting into crafts. i did some stencilling (very badly--i didn't know any of the techniques) and painting on wood, and dried flowers (when a friend came over, she had an allergy attack with all the dried flowers--and dust--in my apartment :-) --lots of hot glue was used. it was exploring a whole new world for me!

back then (almost 20 years ago), our local crafts chain store was called Leewards and i think they were later bought out by Michael's. there weren't any stores near my house so anytime i was near one--out in the suburbs--i would just go crazy and buy all sorts of crap. by now, i had started working and had actual money for the first time in my life. i think i spent most of it on craft supplies!!

(the pink ice cream is probably the only fabric i would buy again today)

and then, i found Quilting. i went to a crafts expo with LHB (i made the Roman Peace quilt for her wedding this year) and bought a bunch of crap (i remember i got a baking dish in the shape of a heart--so NOT my style now; a blue and white woven throw with cows and farm animals on it--finally gave it to goodwill last year; and a embossing stationary set--used it once--still have it--maybe one day... :-) AND the pattern for this quilt. i mainly bought it 'cos another friend VLJ was really into ice-cream and i had some idea of making the quilt as a present for her. (i kept this one, but eventually made another ice-cream quilt for her 1st baby, and the 2nd design in the pattern of ice cream sundaes for her 2nd baby).

i bought all the fabrics at Joann's (it was probably still called New York Fabrics then) near Serramonte Mall. i had the pattern and was slavishly copying the fabrics in the photo--i remember being thrilled with the striped sashing fabric because it was so close to the one in the photo. i think i even placed all the colors in the same location! (shoot--i wonder where the original pattern is--it'd be interesting to see how close i got to the picture.)

(yikes--the sides really do bow out that far!)


i fell in love with the whole process. buying the fabrics, cutting them out (no rotary cutters--just templates and tracing) , piecing them all together, etc. etc. i had forgotten, but i actually hand-quilted this! (see the huge stitches above) i think because i had didn't know how to machine-quilt it. and i'm pretty sure it was a polyester batting inside. i used my mom's old sewing machine. she was back in HK at this time so i remembered having to borrow a book from the library just to figure out how to thread the machine. it was an old cabinet machine, not a Singer, that she got at a garage sale years ago. we still have it but i don't think it works anymore.

VLJ bought a cheapie sewing machine too & started sewing--dolls, simple clothes, etc. and i followed suit on my mom's. i remember sewing a stuffed cow from a panel, making a pair of shorts (i still have some fabric from it), little stuff like that. oh, and a half-finished dress (horrible!) was started around that time. but quilting was it for me. it felt like coming home.

what did i learn from quilting while making this first quilt? my biggest lesson was that i don't like solids. in the 100s of quilts i've made since then, only 1 or 2 have used solid fabric since. a lot of quilters i see out in blogland are using plain whites for sashing--and i guess with lots of quilting, that would look good, but i still prefer tone-on-tone whites or creams as my background. i just think that looks better--but obviously that's totally subjective. and i also learned to never use polyester batting--i just don't like the way it feels.

(Lakehouse Baskets. 2008-2009)

so all this quiltiness started around 18 years ago. wow--i'm old. and this is one of my latest quilts--not a single plain fabric in sight :-) like many of you, i have a long list of WIPs so i can't say this is my last quilt but it was finished this year. it's quite appropriate though, 'cos the colors are still bright and are actually a little reminiscent of my ice cream quilt. i don't only make bright quilts--my color tastes run the gamut--but i still have a fondness for pure bright colors.

(pattern by Tracey Brookshier; Quick Quilts From Your Scrap Basket) (i'll post a full blog just about this quilt later--i really like it :-)

i'm still not a good craftsperson (don't look at my points, or lack thereof) and i still love color--i just embrace all colors now. and i've given up all my other craftiness. it's like i've decided to major in quilting and i don't have the time nor interest in anything else. i still have a box of cross-stitching stuff out in the garage and i've made one redwork quilt but i've decided that i like hand-piecing more than embroidery.

a lot of my friends don't have any sort of passionate hobbies. of course they go out more often and visit interesting places, are able to save money 'cos they don't buy endless amounts of fabric, and are healthier 'cos they actually go out and exercise :-) but still, i wouldn't trade my love of quilting for anything. it's part of me. it's coming home.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Reading Program

awhiles ago, i won two FQs of some Little Golden Books fabric from Jona of the beautiful Stop Staring and Start Sewing blog (she also owns the online store, Fabritopia which has a nicely edited collection of fabrics). it was actually an impetus to start a blog--i had been a lurker on blogland for a couple of years--but winning the fabric seemed like truly a blogworthy event! thanks Jona :-)

this is a super-easy tote bag to make (pattern found here)--perfect for grocery shopping or library visiting. here we are outside our local library after signing up for the Summer Reading Club.

...and the other side of the bag.

i was a Children's Librarian in my previous life and spent countless hours organizing, promoting, and just doing the Summer Reading Program at my various libraries. so when i had kids, that was one of the first things i wanted to do with them! check out your library to see if they have a Summer Reading Program--they usually have prizes--free books for kids--woo-hoo!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

More Shopping

now why would i say a silly thing like "last shopping trip"? makes no sense at all! June is my birthday month and the celebration continues (into July). my girlfriend CW has her b-day in July and this year we agreed that we would go shopping for ourselves in each other's honor (she's going to Banana Republic). so thanks CW! i had fun going fabric shopping :-)

this latest spree was at Fabric Shack. this is a great place to go if you want the newest fabrics at a discounted price (around 10% off), but their sales section (remember, i'm a bottom-feeder) is even better! all the fabs are from the sales dept but with varying prices.

more Japanese cuteness.

2 pieces of Pop Garden that i don't already have, for the hexagon quilt i'm piecing. (it's slow going!)

i have a little stash of American Jane going on. this is an old line but coordinates with all the other AJ fabs. if i didn't already have too much fabric, i would've bought a few more yards for backing. as it is, 1 yard is quite enough.

more Kaffe Fassett. i've resisted him so long, it's so much fun to finally succumb and buy these gorgeous fabs. have you seen Quiltsalott's banner? (it's a really fun blog too) that quilt would look great in all Kaffe. one day...

and this is what happens when you leave the fabric out and the boys get to it and play who-knows-what with them--lots of fraying. don't worry, they're now safely out of harms way. oh, i meant the fabric, not the boys :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th Everyone!

aren't these dahlias (they're dahlias right?) beautiful! i think one of the best ways to celebrate anything is to go to your local Farmer's Market and buy flowers and fresh fruits & vegetables!