Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Octopus Quilt

My husband loves anything with tentacles.

So the "Octo Garden" fabric from Tula Pink's Saltwater line was an instant favorite with him.  I bought a fat quarter bundle of the line a while back, intending to make a man-quilt for him.

I decided to use only the red and blue color ways, saving the green for another project because I didn't like how it looked with the red (I think the blue+green color ways and the red+blue color ways look good together, but can't really go there with the red+green combo).

I picked out a pattern that I thought would highlight the large-scale prints, and cut all the fabric.   Then I laid it out.  And I hated it.

(Apologies for the terrible photo.  I'm getting better at taking pictures, and also at designing quilts!)  I hated this layout of the colors, and just wasn't that thrilled about the pattern either.  In reality, there would have been more white space, but I was still convinced I wouldn't like the end product.

Having lost my enthusiasm, I bundled up all the carefully cut pieces and packed them away.  In the back of my mind, I was trying to figure out what other pattern could use the selection of 5" and 10" squares, plus 5"x10", 2.5"x5", and 2.5"x10" rectangles I had now cut.

Recently, I decided I could use the cuts to make a plus quilt, basing everything on 5" squares.  This made it easy to use the 5" and 10" squares, as well as the 5"x10" pieces (just cut everything down to 5"x5"), but still left me with various 2.5" slices that would have to be pieced.  Rather than piece 3 strips together and cut them down, I decided to use red and blue solids to fill in the gap created by the seam allowance.  Thus my 2.5"x5" rectangles could be pieced together into nice 5"x5" squares.

I wanted a dark grey background and went to Joann's to get some Kona solids.  Fail!! They had no greys at all!  But I was impatient (this is a recurring theme), so I just bought a dark grey print from their standard fabric.  This may have been a mistake—the Joann's fabric is really stiff and scratchy compared to the lovely texture of the Tula stuff—but it looks great, and the texture even has a pebbly-ness to it that I think adds to the beach-y feel of the quilt.

I didn't even bother laying the whole thing out, just came up with a design on paper, stacked up my grey and colored squares next to the machine, and started piecing strips.  

Piecing squares this way goes SO FAST!  Talk about an instant gratification project!  And these are what I need, since my sewing time happens after the toddler is asleep, until I get tired, and only on evenings where I feel up to it.

Within short order, I had a bunch of these:

I finished piecing all the rows last night and laid everything out in the living room.  Super-exciting!  I neglected to take a picture, so you'll have to wait until I have the top pieced.  But it won't be long now!  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Catvent - Macavity!!

Macavity, Macavity,
There's no one like Macavity. 
There never was a cat 
Of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, 
And one or two to spare:
Whatever time the deed took place, 
Macavity wasn't there.

I've been making more ginger cats, since I loved the first batch so much.  And the entire time, I have had this song from "Cats" stuck in my head.

Macavity's a ginger cat.
He's very tall and thin.
You'd know him if you saw him,
For his eyes are sunken in.

His brow is deeply lined in thought, 
His head is highly domed.
His coat is dusty from neglect,
His whiskers are uncombed.

He sways his head from side to side
With movements like a snake.
And when you think he's half asleep, 
He's always wide awake!

T.S. Eliot paraphrasing Arthur Conan Doyle, as harmonized by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Genius.

My grandma took me to "Cats" when I was about 4, and I was obsessed.  My sister and I used to dance around the living room for hours to the soundtrack.  I was "Mr. Mistofeles, the magical mystery cat", and she was the disreputable "Mungo Jerry".  Those were even our Halloween costumes one year.  I think my mother would be happy to never hear that recording again!!

My dad created an entire serious of brilliant bed-time stories based on the cats of the junkyard (and incorporated a traveling circus to boot!).  We even have a few of them on tape.  Again, genius.

And then some other, more respectable cats: 

I love how these calicos came out.  I was worried when I was cutting them, but I think they might just be my favorites.

The remaining cats are pieced, but not yet sashed, so not too far to go!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Quilt That Started It All...

In 2012, we had a baby and moved across the country from CA to NJ.  In the midst of it all, we wound up living with my parents for a couple of months due to lease-timing issues.  These months happened to include the birth of our son.

This was my mom's first grandchild.  To say she was excited is a crazy understatement.  She made a couple of baby quilts, which were quite simple and came together quickly.  Looking at them, I got inspired to make a quilt too—but a queen size one for my own bed.  

My previous quilting experience consisted of making a throw-size quilt top with my mom when I was 10 years old as part of a Colonial America school project.  So I didn't really know what I was doing, but I really, *really* wanted to do it.

We picked a pattern called, I think, "Picket Fence" (although there seem to be many different patterns with that same name).  My mom had seen it in a magazine the previous year and cut it out and saved it. 

After several unsuccessful runs to fabric shops, we decided to make it using the same fabric line used in the magazine: Robert Kaufman's Daisies and Dots.  Knowing what I know now, this pattern was obviously designed to use a Jelly Roll, but we blithely managed to order ⅛ yard cuts and cut our own strips.  

I was cutting strips all through my early-stage labor.  (All in all, I had 40 hours of labor ahead of me, so there was plenty of strip-cutting time!!!)  My mom and I then pieced, basted, quilted, and bound it during my maternity leave, while I was living with my folks.  So I think of this as my maternity leave quilt.  

It now sits on our bed.  I love the fresh, bright colors.  And NJ in the winter can be pretty dark, so it's nice to have so much white in the room.  I put a border on the quilt, using a pattern that I now add to many of my quilts: narrow white border to set off the pieced center, then wider colored strip, then white, then a binding.  It gives the quilt a nice frame, and adds about a foot in each dimension.

The quilt is backed in a sheet from Target---super easy!  No piecing!  And the sheet is a cotton-polyester blend, which gives the quilt added strength so it can last a long time.

The quilting is very simple stitch-in-the-ditch along one of the diagonals.  This was my first time quilting anything, so I wanted to keep it simple.  And it was *slow* (because I was a nube), so I only did one direction before I lost patience.

Here's the obligatory baby-on-quilt photo (from > 6 months ago, so he looks very small and round!).  Seems only right, since this little guy was there at the very beginning of the quilt (or should I say, this quilt was there at the very beginning of this little guy!).  Either way, they have the same birthday!

While I was making this quilt, my best friend and her partner announced their engagement.  So of course, I decided I had to make them a quilt too!  And that's how it all began...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Catvent - Ginger cats!

The charm packs arrived, and I've been making ginger cats.  I love them!!!  

My other sister, the one who isn't getting a quilt, has a super-handsome ginger cat.  (I figure she doesn't need a quilt, because she has a cat.  Mostly, I can't be bothered to make more than two cat quilts, at least for now.  But this is a good excuse, right?)  His name is Tiburon, which means "shark" in Spanish, because he likes to cruise around the bedroom and only the little tip of his tail is visible above the edge of the bed.  Here he is doing kitty yoga:

He's a gorgeous color.  And here are his quilt-y cousins:

Like a stupid, I only ordered one neutral pack (the other was the "silent film" color-scheme, for making black-based cats).  And of course, the charm pack only has one charm of most colors, like charm packs usually do.  It didn't occur to me that I would need one charm of each color for each quilt!  

Only a few of the cats can be made with *half* a charm, so in order to get two of each cat, I substituted patterned fabric that reads as nearly-solid for some of the solid scraps.  

The substitution made me feel like I was breaking the rules in a naughty way.  Silly, right?  It's not like the quilt police will come and arrest me, or like my mom/sister will find the original pattern and say, "Hey, these cats have patterns where they should have solids.  You suck."

These are my cats.  I can make them any way I like.  Lady Catherine will never know

Catvent - Pale-faced cats

As I may have mentioned, I am not the world's most patient person, particularly when I'm excited about something.  I wanted to make more cats, and I didn't want to wait for my neutral solid charm packs to arrive.

Fortunately, I knew that I wanted to include some white or nearly-white cats in the quilt, and I have a whole bolt of Kona white.  Initially, I was planning on using darker neutral solids for the background, but (a) I didn't want to wait (see above!) and (b) I thought it might be nice to have a little color in the quilt.

I chose a soft blue for my Mom and a tea-green for my sister and dove right in.  My plan is to have one colored-background cat in each row or column of the quilt.

Several white, or nearly-white kitties, and then a couple white & black kitties (my Mom's favorite type of cat).

At the moment, I'm not thrilled with the white & black ones, but I'm hoping I'll like them better when they are in context.

Seven cats down, 18 left to go.  I love making these!