Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More Dear Jane Progress

DJ A10
Above is block A10 (woot for double-digits!), which is also my first attempt at reverse appliqué. I used the same back-basting technique I use for regular appliqué and I think it was successful (and still relatively painless, too)!

DJ A11
And here is block A11, which has 33 pieces! I cut the outer squares and rectangles a little larger to combat my problem of blocks coming out a bit small, but when I finished and pressed the block I was able to trim it on all four sides, probably equal to the additional that I'd added in the first place! Awesome. I know some people say that it's a sign of a beginner quilter that you haven't yet figured out 1/4" seams. That may be true, and for the most part I have it figured out for my sewing machine piecing, but by hand... it's a different story. There just seem to be too many variables.

With these two blocks, I am now caught up for the year (until Sunday night, when A12 is "due"), and nearly done with row A! Exciting stuff!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

DJ A9 + some handmade politics

Here's finished block A9, which was a surprising struggle for me to complete. I used tissue paper to kind of paper-piece the center few rounds. That was tricky. Then I ended up with the center a little too large, so I trimmed it before adding on more borders (log-cabin style) and somehow trimmed it too much, and had to rip some sides and sew on new pieces. Ugh. Then I kept putting together the triangles wrong for the outsides, before finally figuring those out and stitching them on. I did more ripping on this block than probably all the others combined. Definitely not fun, but I'm glad it's done! 41 pieces!

And now, switching gears a bit to get a little political... I've been thinking a lot about labor and unions lately (Wisconsin is my home state, and I've been following that situation closely via college / facebook friends who are teachers and protesting) and this week I happened to catch some thought-provoking documentaries on HBO that are semi-related. The first was Triangle: Remembering the Fire on Monday, all about the horrific fire at the Triangle shirtwaist factory in NYC that killed almost 150 people 100 years ago. Then last night I happened to catch most of Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags, which is about New York's garment district--and its disappearance.

What's basically come out of this idea stew, for me, is this: Collective bargaining rights are important for so many reasons, which include worker and workplace safety. Garment workers are typically young, female, commonly both, and have a long history of being abused. Something like 95% of all clothing sold in the U.S. in the early 1970s was also manufactured here, whereas that number today is closer to 3%. That's right: about 97% of clothes sold here were made in factories overseas, probably by women, possibly by children, and for a wage of less than $1/hour.

It's hard to find clothes that were made here (other than American Apparel, which is difficult for a feminist to support for a completely separate set of reasons)--in fact, other than AA tees, I don't think I own anything made here. It's hard to make clothes. Especially pants. But it's also hard to spend good money on things that were manufactured by exploiting those with little or no power. Watching these documentaries almost back-to-back has really inspired me to strengthen my efforts to craft my own apparel (and maybe tackle some of those difficult pants). Winters are tricky, but summers are easier, and I have a ton of fabric in my stash... Although the ethics of fabric manufacturing are tricky, too, but I think the lesser of two evils. And if you're a reader of this blog, you know I don't have to be convinced of the value of the handmade.

Okay, stepping off my soapbox now.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Scrap garland

garland 1
I've been sort of mentioning this in a very roundabout way, but I'm having a birthday soon. A BIG birthday. And while I normally don't make a big deal about my birthday (other than dropping some gift hints for Rob and going out to dinner with some close friends), but this year, I'm making a big deal about it. Part of this big deal involves a new dress, part of it involves a bit of menu planning, part of it involves a LOT of cocktail testing (yum!), and part of it involves some easy peasy handmade decor. Like this garland, which was sort of inspired by this, except is even easier.

garland 3
I spent Saturday night's movie time (Micmacs, which we loved) pinking a lot of what was in my scrap basket into square-ish and rectangular shapes. I didn't have any templates to follow, I just took what I had and made the shapes a bit more straight. For some, I left them as is, un-pinked. Then, yesterday, I put them all through my machine, but instead of making the garland two-sided, I alternated right-side-up and upside-down, so that from both sides the garland would be pleasant. Hey, sometimes the wrong side of a fabric will reveal something interesting!

garland 2
Then I strung the entire thing around in my apartment, felt giddy, and took pictures. It's about 50 feet long! And yet, my scrap basket still looks as full as it did before. Huh.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Dear Jane!

Yep, I'm definitely on a roll this year! Above are four more row A blocks, all completed in February, I believe.

A2 was 44 pieces, the most so far! It took quite a while to complete, and I think it came out slightly too large, which is sad, but I'm not re-doing it. I will just lose some of my points when I piece it all together.

A3 was done in only 2 pieces; I made the appliqué just one piece, and left the background as one piece as well. I know it's not true to Jane's, but this way I have a finished block that is exactly the right size. Even though my circle got a little wobbly and my inner points aren't as crisp as I would like.

Block A4 came out a touch too small, I think, but I really like it anyway. I worked on both A3 and A4 when I was in Florida last month.

A5 is okay, but some of my points lost their points when I put it all together. Sad. Still, I really like the focus fabric on this one, and I like the block as a whole.

Block A7 furthers my adventures in back-basting appliqué! I am quite pleased with how this one came together--and with the pointiness of my points. I actually used the melon shapes from block B12 instead, because I didn't think the diagram in the book was "true" enough to the photo of Jane's block.

And believe it or not, I have another block finished that isn't documented here, plus another in the works! Who knows--I may actually finish by the time I'm 40! A girl can dream... Totals as of these blocks: 25 completed, 396 pieces!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weekend recap

Wildflower pincushions
I finally feel a bit better (still dealing with my allergy situation, but it's improving) and have some energy to focus on other things. I took last Friday off in an attempt to give myself a long weekend in which to be extremely productive. Wishful thinking... Instead, on Saturday I gifted the above Wild Flower Pincushions (made in January) to my quilting friends who had just had birthdays, and then we proceeded to get ridiculously, sloppily drunk. It was lots and lots of fun. Oh, and those pincushions are really really big!

bday dress cut 1
I spent most of Sunday hydrating as I recovered from that night of debauchery. I did attempt to make some progress on a dress for a special occasion. Consider this your sneak peek.

Iris helping cut
Although it's difficult to get too much done when you have such enthusiastic help...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Patchwork linen pouch (take 2)

V pouch front
Hello! Happy March! I wasn't planning on a two-week absence, but life happens. I was out of town for some family stuff, including a memorial for my beloved grandfather, and am now dealing with a horrible hives situation of semi-known origin (detergent on hotel sheets?! really?!? I am a sensitive flower, apparently). Not feeling great can really sap my energy, and I just haven't been very productive, though I'm still Dear Jane-ing (!) However, I'm happy to report that before I took my trip I made this patchwork linen pouch (from I Love Patchwork!, and this is my second time making this pattern) as a gift.

V pouch back
My friend Vanessa has been really amazing lately, and when Iris was sick a month ago, she selflessly drove us to vet appointment after vet appointment, sometimes at 10pm on weeknights, sometimes at 8am on weekends. Selfless, indeed. Knowing Vanessa, I knew a gift of money for gas or any other attempt to reimburse her in that way would be flat out rejected, so I had to get crafty. Vanessa has recently become intrigued with embroidery and wants to learn. She already has Jenny Hart's awesome book, but I figured she could use some supplies to get started.

V pouch lining
So, I loaded this patchwork pouch up with some fabric, a really nice hoop, needles, about a dozen different colors of floss, a thimble, some nice Gingher stork embroidery scissors... Everything I thought she needed to get stitching! This gift went over perfectly, and the pouch is the perfect storage size (I know because I keep all of my hand-stitching supplies in my pouch like this). This pattern comes together so quickly and easily, and it was a treat to use some of my Little Folks voile for the lining. Thanks again, Nessie! You're the best!