The one where I broke up with AMH (A Monstrous Headache)

/ Tuesday 11 December 2012 /
I present to you, dear readers, the most difficult thing I have ever made. It is a quilt with velveteen hexagons on the front, bamboo batting, and flannel on the back.  It looks pretty, I grant, but it is a monster. It took me nearly the entire weekend to quilt it, and I am still feeling it in my shoulder blades!
Velveteen monster completed
The top wasn't too bad to put together.The velveteen frays like mad, and I should probably have gone with a 1/3" or even a 1/2" seam allowance. But I went ahead with the quilter's quarter inch.
Afterwards, I seemed to remember that I had read a blogpost by Anna Maria Horner that warned of this - where are these insights when you really need them?
To ensure that the seams held secure during the normal usage of a quilt, I decided to stitch in the ditch using a wide zigzag. I was particularly concerned about the joins of the y-seams. I used a yellow Aurifil 28 wt thread for this.  Upon scrutiny post-wash and dry, the seams seem to have held up well.
Zigzagging in the ditch because I don't trust the anti-fraying properties of this velveteen, especially with y-seams
I do like the way the zigzags show up outlining the hexagons on the back.
Oh my word! Muscling this through the quilting on my little Pfaff was something else! Hercules and his labours had nothing on what I went through. I really thought it was going to send me back to physio - my shoulders and back were on fire with the weight of it. I took a break after each row to stand upright and swing my arms.
The hexagons are 9" across (I used the Marti Michel template to cut them) so I needed something to secure the centres. I thought about tying them, but decided to go with a decorative machine stitch. You can see if it you look closely in the centre of this hex.
This quilting makes a nice and loose quilt, kind of floppy.  It is a very strange shape, though. It's about 80" long and 50-odd inches wide (I have hung it sideways on the line in these photos).
The velveteen, flannel and cotton binding are all from Anna Maria Horner, who happens to share the monogram of this quilt, A Monstrous Headache!
Truly, by the end of the weekend, I was ready to divorce this quilt. I had mentally projected all my ill will onto it and even once it was finally washed and dried, all fluffed up, I was still feeling hard done by.
I was cranky about its odd shape and wondering what in the world had possessed a woman who is experiencing her own personal summer in the depths of Canadian winter to construct a quilt that weighs about 20 lbs. and heats up like a blast furnace!
However, I am starting to come around. Even though I swore that we broke up on the weekend, I am beginning to feel that we were only "on a break". I think we might have a chance to be happy together, after all!

Pinqua star finished

/ Monday 3 December 2012 /
What is "pinqua", you ask? Clearly, it is pink + aqua! I'm so happy to have this baby quilt finished - it's 48" square, which is pretty big for a baby quilt, I guess. I quilted it with Aurifil 50 wt in big looping swirls so that it would be soft and floppy.
And I backed it with pink minky, so it is very luxe! I'd never used minky before, but it was fine. The best part was that it comes in 60" width, so I didn't have to piece the back at all. I found it a bit heavy to maneuver through the quilting process, but overall, no problem.
Baby quilt finished
I used the leftovers from the FQs to make a pieced binding. Each strip averaged about a foot long - what are the odds that at least one of those joins would end up on a corner? But the binding gods were smiling, and I dodged the bullet.
I do love the soft, washed effect of these HSTs. It is far from a colour combo that I would choose, but I think it's lovely for a new baby girl. My doc student and I made this quilt for another doc student in our program. Her baby is lovely - I get all broody for grandchildren when I hold her. Fortunately it doesn't last long after I return the little one to her mother, since my daughter is only 19 and a second year student at uni. I think I'm going to have to wait awhile. (I love this last shot, with my able assistant peeking out - it reminds me of that old cartoon "Kilroy was here".)
quilt ninja

On to the next thing

/ Tuesday 27 November 2012 /
The next thing is this: a quilt top for a new baby. One of our graduate students had a baby girl recently. The student was supposed to be a guest lecturer in my class two weeks before she was due, and - cue Murphy's Law - she came early. Anyway, my doc student and I thought it would be a nice thing to make a quilt for the new baby.
Baby quilt made by me and @lheggie
We used the Big Shot Pro, a 3 1/2" HST die, and a bunch of fat quarters to make this sweet little quilt top. It's based on the Miss Rosie quilt pattern Chip, but we made our blocks a larger size and we didn't use a border. It's 48" square. In this photo, the greys look a bit brown, but they are really grey. I'm thinking some pink minky on the back.
Baby quilt made by me and @lheggie
Also, I was fairly restrained on the fabric front during the Thanksgiving commercial frenzy, but I did indulge in some heavy lifting on the Sizzix front. Joann's was having a 50% off sale on Sizzix products. They were mostly dies for paper crafting, but I did get some flower dies and cutting pads. Then the Canadian retailer Stitch in the Ditch had a massive clearout of Sizzix dies for 35% off, including some of the strip dies, HST dies, etc. I bought a LOT of dies. And although it was not on sale, I bought this Rose Dream die, as well. Can't wait to try this beauty out! I'll take pictures!
Black Friday indulgence

Zip It!

/ Tuesday 6 November 2012 /
I couldn't touch my sewing machine during September and the first half of October since I was writing a grant proposal. But as soon as I was finished I had the urge to sit down and make some quick finishes. I made four cute zippy pouches - different from the ones I have done before.  This one is my favourite - I love this Martha Negley feather print. It is a perfect size for storing my EPP pieces.
See-thru zippy pouch 3
I didn't use a pattern for these, but I was inspired by something I saw on the internet ages ago that stuck in my head. Alas, I don't remember where I first saw the inspiration, so if it rings a bell for anyone, let me know and I'll put up a link.
See-thru zippy pouch 2
I gave this last one to my daughter - I took a quickie photo with my watch in to show her the clear front, but the watch stayed on my arm.
These are lined with batting, which I attached with spray baste. I used a 6- or 10-gauge plastic vinyl that I bought at the local chain fabric store. The backs don't show in these photos, but they are the same print that you see through the front. Super easy, super fast.
See-thru zippy pouch 1

P.S. It's election day today and I would appreciate your vote! I was nominated in the best quilt photography section of the Bloggers' Quilt Festival. Go here, and scroll down to the Quilt Photography section; vote for Stitchliterate - if you click on the thumbnail you can see the original post and more photos of the quilt. Thanks to all who nominated me!

Everybody's Doing It!

/ Monday 5 November 2012 /
Voting, that is!  Tomorrow is Election Day in the US, and won't we all be glad when that is over! Even the Canadian news is awash with polls and pundits weighing in on the presidential election.   Well, here's another election you can vote in, and this one is for everyone around the world!

My quilt, Summer Wedding, was nominated for best quilt photography in the recent Bloggers' Quilt Festival.  My BQF post where the quilt is featured in full can be found here. I am tickled pink! So if you care to vote for it, please go to this link and scroll down to the section dedicated to quilt photography; you'll see this photo above my blog name, Stitchliterate. Give us some clicky love! I would be grateful for your vote!

A Summer Wedding in October

/ Thursday 25 October 2012 /
This quilt, Summer Wedding, is my entry for the Bloggers' Quilt Festival. It's not the first time I've blogged about it, but I have a couple of new photos of the recipients to show which make it really very special.  I made this quilt for the wedding of a young couple who met when they were my students at Queen's. They worked in my lab on my research project six years ago and I supervised their Honours theses.

I had to keep this project under wraps while I was making it since the bride reads my blog, so there are no progress photos to speak of.
Summer Wedding
I knew the wedding colours were blue and yellow, and I used the invitation as a benchmark, throwing in some black and grey for a bit of gravitas (married life isn't all sunshine and daisies, you know!).
Summer Wedding
It was a real endurance test! There nearly 1000 HST units in this quilt, and I cut more than half of them by hand using the Marti Michell templates. It took ages! Finally, I succumbed and bought a Sizzix BigShot Pro and cut the rest of them in 20 minutes.
500 triangle units cut with the BigShot Pro in 20 minutes

The quilt pattern is based on the traditional block Ocean Waves, machine quilted by me on my home machine. The background is an ivory Essex linen/cotton blend. It finishes 64" x 70".
In her speech at dinner, the mother of the bride, a midwife, thanked me for giving the newlyweds the "babymaker". I hope I'll be making a baby quilt before too long! Thanks for dropping by - enjoy the rest of the entries in the Bloggers' Quilt Festival!

Quilt name: Summer WEdding
Traditional quilt block Ocean Waves
Pieced and free motion quilted by me
Size: 64" x 70"
Best Category: Scrap Quilt; Home Machine Quilted; Bed

NB: Wedding photography by Ray and Soo Kang; post-processing by Eric Akaoka

Amy's Creative Side


/ Sunday 21 October 2012 /
I've been working like a demon on a research grant which was submitted on the 15th. And of course all the things I was pushing off until after my deadline caught up with me this past week. But this weekend I devoted myself to pure enjoyment. I stayed in my pajamas all day today and sewed. I worked on a WIP that I had to put aside when I ran out of background fabric. Once the replacement fabric came in, I was too snowed under to do any work on it. This block uses the Chinese Gongs pattern by Nancy Cabot. I used this block for my Gong Show quilt and I really like it. The blocks are fast and easy to put together and the only downside is using the plastic template and cutting by hand. So in this version, I am using the Curious Nature line, with Essex linen in Carrot as the background. The blocks are 14" finished.  Back in April, when I only had four blocks made, I asked for feedback about potential layouts. Now that I have 16 blocks, I'm asking the question again. Which do you like best? (The photos aren't the best, but I think they give a general idea).

This first one looks like sparkplugs, I think.
These next two are more similar, but still different.
I don't know - I'm leaning towards number one. What do you think?

One more quilty story. Yesterday was the wedding of my doctoral student, who has been working with me in one capacity or another for more than seven years and of whom I am very fond.  She was married at the Crystal Palace (which sounds very grand but is really a big barn with windows) at the fairgrounds in Prince Edward County.  It was a lovely DIY wedding that was full of happiness and charm.  The bride was radiant and I cried, of course - I can't help crying at a wedding! I was honoured to be asked, with my husband, to do a reading, and also to loan a quilt for the backdrop. My quilt Miss March had colours that were in the ballpark, so they strung it up on wires hanging from the ceiling. They stood in front of it when they exchanged vows. I wouldn't show photos of the happy couple in front of the quilt without their permission, but here's one my husband took of me before the ceremony.
Me and my quilt at @lheggie wedding
Huh.  That's before the ceremony - I hadn't even had any wine yet.

Growing the garden of rose stars

/ Sunday 23 September 2012 /
Or should that be galaxy of rose stars? I'll have to sort out what metaphor is best - still working away at these so I think there's plenty of time.  Alison showed her amazing near-finish and asked to see mine. So here they are so far. There are 18 made so far.
Growing a garden of EPP rose stars
They are time consuming, since each one has 31 pieces, but the stack grows slowly but surely. I never sit down to watch television without one in my hand. And since my husband and I are currently obsessed with the going through the back catalog of Battlestar Galactica, I am making fair progress.  If you want to see the stars individually, go here to my Flickr set.

Quilt your dreams

/ Saturday 1 September 2012 /
Quilt your dreams
I have always wanted to send a quilt top out to a long-arm quilter, but I never felt like any of my quilts were worthy of such an honour. I do an okay job quilting on my domestic sewing machine.  A quilt would have to be pretty dang special to get the LA treatment! The day has come. I sent out my EPP stars quilt to Shannon, and she did a tremendous job on it.  Truly, it just sings. I could hardly stop petting it enough to put the binding on it.   I never thought I could be one of those annoying women who says "I wish I could show you the photos", but apparently I am, at least for now.  But I couldn't resist sharing this sneak peek, with the exhortation to quilt your dreams.

Not dead

/ Tuesday 24 July 2012 /
Although you may be excused for wondering, I am not dead. I am, regrettably,  largely absent from my blog these days because I am working on two new course preps for the fall, plus doing a systematic review of the relationship between music and reading. I have hardly touched my machine since finishing the wedding quilt I showed last time. But on the weekend, I did make a couple of pouches that I was pleased with. My daughter works as a server in a local resto and she carries her float and notepad in a laminated cotton pouch I made for her.  She's had a couple of requests from the other servers that I make one for them. Pouches are so quick and satisfying to make up - I couldn't say no.  One was for her friend Montana, for whom I made this laptop case. She came over and picked out the laminated cotton she wanted. I used a light purple Parisville scroll print for the lining.
Laminated cotton pouch
The other was for a young man server, who said his favourite colours were orange, yellow and brown. I didn't have anything in my stash with those colours that wasn't girly, so I strayed a bit from the colourway, thinking that manliness was more important than colour. I used a random brown patterned home dec fabric from my stash and stitched a Ruby Star Rising transistor radio to the front.
AM Radio Pouch No. 1
Actually, I made two of these, since I quite fancied the prototype in my imagination and knew I would be sad to let it go if I made only one.  Not sure yet which one I'll keep and which one will go to James.
AM Radio Pouch No. 2
These pouches are lined with an orange print. My husband opines that they border on purses and therefore, by definition, fail at being manly.  All I can say is if the young man feels that it impugns his manhood to carry such a thing, I'll gladly repatriate it!

Country Mouse

/ Thursday 28 June 2012 /

Last night I experienced something new: I went to Joann's Fabrics. We don't have it in Canada, but every American blogger I read talks about Joann's (usually disparagingly), so I was interested to see what we have been missing. I'm in Munster, Indiana at a training course this week, and I saw it on the way back from dinner last night. We got there at 8:40 and it closes at 9, so I knew I couldn't get in too much trouble. I did check on my phone to see if I could find a coupon on the internet for 40% off, but no such luck. But here is my haul: I'm very happy with it. I thought I'd never get any of this DS fabric since it's the Joann's-only line, and this book has been on my must-buy list. Goodness, it's a huge place, isn't it? I certainly did feel like the Country Mouse, looking around at everything there. I can see how the 40% coupon would be a huge enticement to stock up on staples. And how nice it would be to be able to just drive out and pick up the tools and notions you need instead of having to order absolutely everything online, like I generally have to do. The fabric itself, however, was of limited appeal, which is what I expected, given what everyone seems to say. Nevertheless, I am happy that I had the chance to see how the other half lives, and to score a few goodies!

Summer Wedding

/ Tuesday 19 June 2012 /
Summer Wedding
In my last post I explained that my radio silence over the last month or so has been mainly due to the fact that I've been working like a dog on a special quilt for a couple who are getting married this weekend.
Summer Wedding
This couple met at university, and in fact, they met in my lab, where they volunteered for a couple of years and did their Honours thesis research.  I have been lucky to come to know some very special young men and women in my role as a professor, and it's a wonderful blessing for me to see these two take this step together.  As I wrote in the card I included with the quilt, I feel a bit like the mother of both the bride and the groom, if that is possible in a way that isn't too weird!
Summer Wedding
I chose the colours for the quilt from the wedding invitation: blues and yellows, and I threw in some gray and black for a bit of added sophistication.
Summer Wedding
The background is Essex linen/cotton blend in ivory.  The pattern is a traditional one called Ocean Waves and it's made from 8" blocks, and it finishes about 64" x 70".
Summer Wedding
I made a little label for the back, with their names and my name and the date of the the wedding. The binding was scrappy, made from some of the 2 1/2" strips that I had leftover from using those Marti Michell templates.
Summer Wedding

Because the bride-to-be told me straight up that she can't resist surprise busting and she already knew that I was making her a quilt of some description, I had to maintain some element of surprise by limiting any progress shots and keeping the quilt off the blog.  But Purolator's online tracking showed me that the quilt has been delivered to her family home, the bride just phoned me to say how much she loved it so I think it's safe to share it now. 
Summer Wedding

I cannot tell a lie - this quilt really put me through the wringer. It called for 888 HST units.  I started out using Marti Michell's templates because I didn't want to make the HST units and then trim to size, but that meant cutting 2 1/2" strips and then using that template to cut each triangle. And if you layer too many strips, you start to lose precision.  Cut, cut, cut for hours on end.  And the template had those blunted corners so that you could match everything up, so those little tiny cuts had to be made, too.  It practically killed me.
500 triangle units cut with the BigShot Pro in 20 minutes
Summer Wedding
Summer Wedding
I am well acquainted with the phenomenon of falling out of love with a quilt during the process of construction.  It happens with just about every quilt I make. Somewhere in the middle of it, I start wondering what I had been thinking, and inevitably I begin to feel dissatisfaction with the colour scheme or block choice creeping in. I am experienced enough to know, however, that this misery vanishes like a puff of smoke once the finished quilt comes out of the washer/dryer.  Surprisingly, though, I never wanted to break up with this quilt, and by the time it was finished I was nearly heartbroken that I had to send it off to a new home.
Summer Wedding
Summer Wedding
Summer Wedding
In fact, this quilt was single-handedly responsible for me busting the bank and buying a Sizzix Big Shot Pro.  I had made about half the units I needed and could see carpal tunnel syndrome on the horizon.  After I ordered the BSP online, I had serious buyer's remorse until about ten seconds after I unpacked it.  I cut the rest of the triangles I needed in 20 minutes.  Woo hoo! I also ordered the Accuquilt Winding Ways die, since Accuquilt dies are compatible with Sizzix products (but not the reverse) and I'd always wanted to make that block.  Here's a photo of my test blocks - can't wait to make a proper project using that die!
Trying out the Winding Ways using the accuquilt die

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