Saturday, September 22, 2012

And now, the fabric....

If you are not a crafter, quilter, fabric-lover, you have my permission to skip over this post. 'Cause it is all about the fabric. The finds. The projects. Color and texture and awesomeness.

If you are a crafter or quilter or fabric lover, enjoy the color parade.

To get you started, here is a look at my stash cabinet "before" --

My stash cabinet, without the current Works in Progress or any new fabric.
And here is the massive pile of stuff after I gathered it all from the various nooks & crannies of luggage space and dumped it on my cutting counter --

all the stuff

And here is my stash cabinet "after," once I'd organized and arranged all of the new fabric and returned the various "works in progress" to their rightful places (remember, I took all my WIP home with me to show Jules & R) --

all filled up.
Works in Progress returned to their shelves,
and all the new fabric sorted, folded, stacked & put away neatly. 

So, what is all of that stuff? Let's have a little show & tell....

Up first, some cat-themed fabric for a quilt that The Artist wants for his bed. He's requested that the center medallion of the quilt feature the full Tri-Force Emblem from the Hyrule Shield from the Legend of Zelda games. Luckily for me, he was able to find a color image of this symbol so I can try and convert the image into a quilt pattern.

He wants the border to be cat fabrics, and he wants a cat face in the center of the back of the quilt, pieced from fabric. As the pieced portions will be made from solids  or tone-on-tones, which I can easily and inexpensively find here, I only bought the cat fabrics for his quilt. I had to keep in mind the colors used in the images he wants (a lot of blue, red and green) and so choose cats that would play nicely with the rest of the quilt. I had to leave behind some adorable beach cats, because the colors were just way off from everything else, and the scale of the print was far too large. Luckily, The Artist is happy with these.

I'm planning a simple 4-patch for the border blocks, alternating the small all-over print with the other two prints. Jules and I did some serious math to figure out how much yardage of each I will need; I was very grateful to have her along, because I usually just pick a random number and buy. I would be devastated to run out of these fabrics half way through the project, so I'm very glad she was along to calculate for me! I've got to learn how to do that.....
Cat Themed Fabric
 Next we have some additional prints I needed for The Writer's quilt. I designed the border to be gray with red, and so I needed a few more grays to manage that as well as a few more solid reds. The diagonal stripe (black with white) that is shown will be the binding fabric, and then the red and the grays will be used in the border. He was thrilled with all the prints I found, which is a relief.

for the Comic Strip Quilt
 I found this wonderful clay tile fabric at the shop in South Dakota, after I relented and bought the Radiant Suns pattern and fabrics. I plan to use this primarily as a vertical (or horizontal, not sure yet) stripe down the back of the Brazil quilt, and will use some as one of the "terra cotta" colored fabrics in the front. I bought enough that I will have some left over for future projects as well; it was just too perfect to pass up.

Clay Roof Tiles, a Michael Miller fabric

I also found a few "just because" pieces. The gold fall leaves (top left) and the purple (also leaves), as well as the assorted red & black florals (bottom/front right) are things I found at the first S. Dakota shop, before we took The Adventurer for ice cream and when I was still saving my fabric budget for Texas. I thought the leaves, in particular, would be sort of reminiscent of the scenery we saw on our trip. If I'd stumbled across these after buying the other stuff, I would probably have passed. I'm not sure what I'll ever do with them, but I think some fall placemats (for the gold), and perhaps some valentines, or Christmas, from the red/black floral. I have a vague plan to make seasonal/holiday placemats for each season, so these will work into that somehow. 

The gray swirl (front/bottom left) is just absolutely gorgeous and I couldn't leave it behind. I forget which shop it came from, but it's scrumptious. The gray with words printed on it, and the wrapped stack of little squares, are both from a line called Mama Said Sew; more on that below. The red solid (which really has small dots) and the gray swirl will likely be used in whatever project I dream up to utilize the Mama Said Sew line. 
all the little extras
 Here is the full contents of the Mama Said Sew "Charm Pack" (set of 40 five-inch squares). On closer inspection, perhaps the large gray with black lettering is not directly from this line, but it coordinates (in color and theme of the words) well regardless. I am not sure yet what I'll do with this little pack, but it was simply too precious. You can just see the large gray piece spread out beneath all the small squares. I would love to get more of this fabric line in larger pieces; the graphics have just the right touch of whimsy to be classy and fun all at the same time.  Now I just have to decide what to do with this....
Mama Said Sew! (by Moda) Charm Pack and coordinating Fat Quarter
 Also in South Dakota, I found these celestial/space/astronaut themed fat quarters. The Artist once upon a time requested "planet fabric" and so I thought I'd pick this up for him. Then I thought maybe I'd use some of it in the Radiant Suns quilt, and then I thought I would use it to make a gift for The Artist rather than just giving him the fabric to use himself. Now I'm not entirely sure, but he & I will sort it out soon.

We visited Johnson Space Center & Space Center Houston while in Texas, and of course were there when we heard Neil Armstrong had passed away, though I bought this fabric before that. I'm glad we had that experience though, as the boys learned a bit about Neil Armstrong, the space program, NASA, etc. and so now this fabric becomes even more meaningful, which is nice.  Especially nice is the second photo -- a gray with all-over print, talking about none other than the first moon walk, space exploration, etc. The perfect thing to pair with this moon landing fabric and make....I don't know what, but I'll think of something appropriate.
moon, stars, planets & astronauts

all about space,
and a gorgeous sunset
 And, just for reminders, the fabrics I bought for the Radiant Sun quilt. The medium-tone blue that is beneath everything else will be the border, then the silvers (top) and dark blues will be for the night sky/moon sections, the bright yellows and bright blues for the daytime/sun sections, and I'll work in the gray/gold (whch has a star print and a luminescense) into some star blocks, somehow. I haven't figured that out exacty, but it will be beautiful when it's done. Just need to get the idea from my head onto paper....

One Giant Leap....
Two states. Three quilt shops. And a whole lot of fabric. What sort of shopping makes you happy?  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meeting My BFF....

I've talked before, often, about my quilting mentor & dear friend, Jules, over at And Sew On... She is the friend for whom I did my first ever quilt block, a true Labor of Love (and worth lots of laughs, now...), when she needed a few more signature blocks done so she could complete her President's Quilt (she was president of her quilt guild one year). 

She is the friend who encouraged me to go ahead and try quilting. The friend who didn't laugh, too much, when I called or emailed with mistakes and silly questions. The friend who I sent all my quilting questions to, knowing she'd have the answers. She has been my long-distance, via email & you-tube videos (that she has made just for me), quilting mentor.

But even before that, she was my friend. And over the past however many years (neither one of us can quite pinpoint when, exactly, our friendship started) she has gone from "on-line acquaintance" to "email/blog buddy" to "dear, dear friend." I rather dislike using the term Best Friend, because I feel badly for the other good friends I have -- there are about three ladies in my life who I would love to claim as my Best Friend. I feel pretty equally attached to all three of them, I think/hope they all three feel the same way, and so I hesitate to say "Jules is my best/dearest friend" because even though she is, so are these other two women.

But. Hopefully these other two women know that they are also loved & cherished, and won't be jealous when I say, Jules really, truly has become a very dear friend over the past few years. She and I email daily. We talk on the phone sometimes, though not often, due to conflicting schedules. We know each others' secrets, for the most part, and keep them. And yet, until this trip to Texas, we'd never met in real life.

Jules was brave enough to get on a plane and fly from Illinois to Texas, just to meet me in person. We were both rather giddy over the prospect. To have a several-years-long connection with someone, and finally meet in was a dream come true for both of us. She prepped by sewing a tote bag to serve as her carry-on/personal item on the flight. I prepped by packing up all of my "works in progress" quilt stuff, plus my red white & blue quilt, so she could see these things in person. And in case we had time to sew. (we didn't, but it was important to me that she see my projects in person, so she could give me her honest opinion, not just thoughts based on photos).  I was the eager student, proud & nervous about showing my teacher what I'd done. It was a little bit hilarious as I kept her up late the first night she was in Texas --- I kept pulling out fabric and half-done projects and just babbling on and on and on until I finally realized she was maybe a little bit tired. Oops. What can I say, I was excited!! My mentor, the person who taught me everything I know about quilting (even if it's all been via email) was finally there, right in front of me!! Of course I had to show her what I'd accomplished!! Right??? Right.

me, showing the partly finished Argyle quilt top to R;
this is pretty much what it looked like when I showed it to Jules, but a repeat the next day ;)

I picked her up at the airport, waiting patiently at the bottom of the escalator I thought she'd come down. She did, we saw each other at exactly the same moment and I'm pretty sure there were tears in 2 sets of eyes right then. It was surreal. Out to the car we went, she met The Chemist and The Boys, we went and dropped them at my mom-in-law's house and wound up eating dinner there and then.....Jules & I went off to our hotel! Yes, not only did I get to meet my BFF in person, finally, but I got a few nights away as well. Sweet!!

Our first morning together we got up early, ate breakfast and took the boys to see my other very good friend who happens also to be mom to my boys' best friends. She reads Jules' blog and also quilts (she is the one who encouraged me to start with a jelly roll & jelly roll pattern, as it would minimize the cutting I'd need to do) and was delighted to meet Jules as well. So fun, colliding worlds on purpose like that. We had a blast together! For dinner that night my Mom met us for Mexican food, which was a treat. Love introducing my favorite people to each other!

R, me, Jules

The next day we did some touring around --- I took Jules to Galveston Beach, as she's rarely been and wanted to dip her toes in the ocean. I did clarify that it's just the Gulf of Mexico, not the actual Ocean, and that was fine.

umbrellas at Stewart Beach

Jules & me at the beach!

Then she came with me to the Lego Store with The Boys -- what a friend to tag along on that! From there, we went by NASA. I forget that NASA is a big deal, but our hotel was on the same road as the Space Center, and we passed the outdoor rockets on display. Jules wanted a photo, so I turned into a driveway/street that led to a parking lot and asked the security guard if we could just park and take photos. He directed me to Rocket Park, a small parking lot that lets the public access, free, the building where the Saturn 5 Rocket is kept as well as a few other rockets. Sweet! We wandered around, took photos, read the signs that tell about the Apollo missions, and just enjoyed the day.

Jules' first visit to NASA

one of the outdoor rockets that prompted us to stop in the first place

For dinner that day I dragged Jules to a local legend burger joint, Tookie's. Originally opened in 1975, then closed for a few years after Hurricane Ike, Tookie's reopened in 2011 (I think). Best burgers in the area, if not the entire state. As Jules' husband is a pig (and corn) farmer, she was delighted to try The Squealer (my favorite as well) which has bacon mixed into the ground beef before the patty is formed. YUM.

The Squealer, a Tookie's Special
plus their world-famous onion rings
for perspective -- the burger is 1/2 pound of beef.

On Jules' last day, we picked up my sewing machine! She took a few photos of me having my lesson, wandered the quilt shop while I played, then we shopped some before heading out for lunch, a stop at the local park and I took her to meet my grandparents. I had to show her all the things, places & people I'm most proud of, and the Gallery is one of those places; my grandparents, some of those people. I was thrilled to introduce my dear friend to some of my dearest family; sadly, we both forgot to take pictures of that.

me & my new machine :-)

getting my lesson

Galveston Bay, as seen from the park near where I grew up

From there, the long sad drive to the airport. Boo. That was not fun, and there were tears again. Not the happy kind this time, either. I do not enjoy goodbyes. At all. BUT. It was amazingly wonderful to finally meet my dear friend in person, and I am so so so so glad we got to have those few days together! What a treat!!! Cherished memories, for sure.

Houston skyline

Tomorrow, I'll back-track and show off more pics of our visit to see 3M and their mom and then...finally...the rest of the fabric finds! Stay tuned!

Monday, September 17, 2012

One Giant Leap....

As I mentioned in my last post, while the boys went on to the second cave tour, Kim & I took The Adventurer, who was surprisingly all "adventured out" by then, to get ice cream. We stopped at a small quilt shop on the way, where we browsed a bit and I bought a little fabric. Not a ton, not at this shop. Some fun fat quarters (quarter yards of fabric, cut differently than a normal quarter-yard) and that was all.

From there, Dairy Queen for an ice cream treat for my patient sweet boy. Grandma Kim is pure genius when it comes to kid-appeal. She has set the bar high for birthdays; already my Artist is lamenting the fact we won't be at her house for his birthday this year, and wants to know can't I make a cake as good as hers rather than buy one from the store. Sadly, no; pretty sure if I tried to bake and make my own frosting it would still not turn out quite that well.

Back to the ice cream, this was Kim's genius idea. She very stealthily told my sweet boy that if he'd sit quietly in the quilt shop, we'd get ice cream after. This was announced to me somewhere around the time we walked out to the parking area when we were finished shopping. Here I'd thought my plan (let him take his hand-held video game in the store) was the reason he'd stayed so quiet; nope. It was all for the ice cream. Does she know how to "Grandma" or what?? (yes, yes she does.)

After our ice cream break we headed back to the campsite. Only, we got detoured past a 2nd quilt shop (HeartSong, in S. Dakota). And that.....that was a little stroke of destiny, or fate, or serendipity, or something. Because I wasn't planning to buy stuff. I knew that once we got over to Texas, I had a very large purchase to make (a new machine, already reserved for me) and that I had very little room in my budget to actually buy fabric. Plus I knew that once I got to the TX shop, I'd surely find fabric I needed to buy; that store is huge and amazing. So, I wasn't planning to buy very much at all.

Until I walked in and saw this:

This quilt stopped me in my tracks. Jaw dropped. Mouth, hanging open. One syllable escaped my lips -- Wow. Actually, I think I actually said "Holy Cow....." and then just stood there. Gazing. Van Gogh's "Starry Night" -- in fabric. Wow. Even now, I can stare at the photo and just be mesmerized. This quilt....this stunning beauty....would not let me out of its grip.

Starry Night Quilt -- HeartSong Quilts, Hot Springs S. Dakota
I glanced at the pattern package; pattern and the templates for cutting those curved bits. Not a bad price, $30 or so, but more than I wanted to spend. Add in the 16 fat quarters needed, plus the border fabric....this would eat up my entire fabric budget for the trip. Only, I knew I'd still buy fabric in Texas, so what this really meant was it would put me over budget by a significant amount.

See, per my request, The Chemist gives me an allowance. This is really just a line in the budget that designates how much I can spend freely each month without worrying I'm impacting the need portion of things, and is an easy way for me to be sure I'm not overspending. The Chemist, being the generous guy he is, gives me a pretty good amount. And, being the understanding guy he is, he accepts and allows the boys and I to overspend on our US trips; i.e, he gives us an advance on our allowances. Still, I didn't want to go too far into the future. He wouldn't care, this was my own personal limit.

So, I tried to ignore the quilt. I wandered the store several times. I probably walked the perimeter, staring at bolts of fabric, three or more times. Without truly seeing a thing. I sat with The Adventurer who was getting a little bored. I watched Kim shop. I looked at all the other quilt samples on the walls, which I'm pretty sure were beautiful as well, but I don't remember. I didn't really see anything. I begged for something, anything, to grab my attention away from the quilt, which was money I didn't want to spend. And on a kit. A kit of all things!

Now, my friends assure me that this was not truly a kit. The fabric was not pre-packaged with the pattern and templates. It wasn't. I got to choose my very own fabric. But. Something in me -- perhaps the artist or designer side of me, perhaps just the part of me that has always rebelled at being the same as everyone else -- really rebelled at the idea that I was going to buy a pattern, and make it in the same colors as the quilt on display. I was going to copy a quilt. A quilt that, so prominently displayed, probably a lot of other people were copying as well. I was going to make something just like everyone else. I shuddered, cringed, and figuratively ran from that idea. It was this, even more than the money, that I fought against as I walked through the shop, trying so hard to find inspiration somewhere else, anywhere else.

Eventually, as The Adventurer's patience wore thin, I gave in. I picked up the pattern. I shopped for the fat quarters. I decided I would do some moons and some suns, so I chose half of my blues as daytime sky colors and half as nighttime sky colors, and half of my yellows as bright noonday suns and the other half as silvery midnight moons. I assured myself that this was enough of a tweak so as to not be doing the exact same quilt. I browsed the dark blues looking for a border fabric, and while the helpful attendant cut my fabric for the border, I gave one last glance around the room.

the pattern, and the fabrics I chose
the border fabric is on the bottom

And then I saw it. Clay roof tile fabric, perfect for my Brazil quilt. I had walked past that fabric at least 10 times and yet I never saw it; that is how distracted, how hypnotized I was by the Radiant Suns pattern, the Starry Night quilt. I quickly requested a yard or yard & a half, I forget which, of the clay tiles fabric as well. And then I stopped looking and paid. Even more than I thought it would be, but I knew if I left that store without that pattern and fabric, I'd spend the rest of my life trying to recreate it anyway. I knew that I'd regret not buying it way more than any regret about over spending, and I was right. Even as I came home and entered my purchases into our budget program, even as I calculated when I will next actually get an allowance, I sighed a happy sigh that I did, in fact, bring home my Radiant Suns/Starry Night non-kit.

It was a small step; something most quilters wouldn't bat an eye over. And some quilting friends have assured me that there is much to be gained from following a pattern -- knowledge. Tricks. Tips. Skill-building. And I know they are right. They've shown me photos of block-of-the-month and quilt-along projects, where everyone really is doing the same thing and yet the finished projects all still show the mark of their maker in their uniqueness, whether subtle or bold differences. And I am reassured, even though for me, it was a giant leap.

Have you ever experienced a "must-have" situation like this? What gripped you so hard you had to buy it?