September 29, 2010

Quilt 5: Design Error + Awkward Solution

Quilt 5 is my first "fat quarter" project. I bought the fabric without having a design in mind - and (more importantly) without having measurements in-hand.

I found a lovely calico of a teal background with splashes of yellow, green, and navy. Just luscous. There was only a couple of meters on the bolt, so I bought it all, figuring any scraps would surely come in handy some day. Then I selected fat quarters (and fat eighths) to compliment it. Came home, whipped up a log cabin design - but quickly realized that the quarters/eighths I'd bought were not really going to give me large (or even medium) log cabin blocks.

Here are the quarters as they looked before cutting (and the background fabric).


I want a quilt "throw" for the lounge - something large enough to tuck under my feet and still pull up to my chin. Not a bedspread certainly, but a quilt large enough to curl up under at night.

(OK... Now let's get REAL here... I'm NEVER going to curl up under this quilt... because I'm ALWAYS going to have another quilt on my lap - one that I'm actively quilting...).

Anyway... once I got the logcabin blocks together I realized that the overall size of the quilt was going to be smaller than desired.

How to add inches to it? Well... of course... I did it wrong. Oh, Pauline, where were you when I needed you? (Pauline is a good friend and my quilting guru, so naturally I'm going to blame my mistakes on her).

Here's the original design:

Here's what I did with it:

What I SHOULD have done is make the sashing between the blocks bigger than originally planned. That would have spaced the blocks more, but it would have looked better than what I actually did.

I made the outer border panel bigger - a LOT bigger.

Yes, I did model it first with my quilting software (as you can see above). It looked, well, OK there. But the actual quilt just looks awkward - the huge border overwhelming the much smaller log cabin blocks.

As I've said before: "I'm not a perfectionist."

Pauline (being the artist she is) would probably pull this apart and fix it properly. Me? Nah. FULL SPEED AHEAD!

September 22, 2010

Breast Cancer: 2 - Quilting Hoop: 2

This past week has brought some improvements. I'm now 8 weeks out from the abdominal surgery, 5 weeks out from the mastectomy/recon surgery - still terribly sore and pretty dogonned frustrated with it all.

But, finally, I'm finding that I'm able to do a little quilting. Finally.

It's lovely. Evenings in the loungeroom now include some TV (or more often, a DVD), a nice fire in the wood burner, bright lights and my quilt project.

So I'm giving the quilting hoop 2 points. It deserves them. It has been patient, even though I have been less so.

September 15, 2010

Breast Cancer: 2 - Quilting Hoop: 0

OK. Another week has gone by and although I can tell the swelling under my arms is starting to go down, it's still not possible to sit and quilt comfortably. I've tried various sitting/reclining positions and so on.


No good.

How long can this go on? Grrrrrrrrrrr!

September 8, 2010

Breast Cancer: 1 - Quilting Hoop: 0

This is not going to go down as one of the more "fun" periods of my life. That said, it's also not the worst, either, not even close. But it's been unpleasant enough.

As part of my preparation for my bilateral ("double") mastectomy I pieced and pinned a couple of smallish projects, thinking it would be nice to have something I could quilt during recovery.

Well... it was a nice thought.

With surgery number one I found that I couldn't quilt because of the IV drip in my left hand. Once that was out, however, I was able to get back to it. Before going in for the breast surgery I asked how long the IV would be in. "24 hours" was the answer I got. HEY! HURRAY! Good news, that! I'd be in the hospital for a total of 5 days - but no problem, folks... only the first 24 hours would see me wired up with an IV. So I packed a quilt project in my hospital bag.

What I hadn't counted on was the swelling under my armpits. My cousin Beth (who went through this 3 years ago) mentioned the swelling at one point - but I didn't realize how uncomfortable that was going to make me. The swelling isn't actually tender anymore (it was at first) but it DOES prevent me from positioning my arms comfortably.

So here I sit - unable to quilt - at least for now.

September 1, 2010

Fat Quarters - The Devil Made Me Do It...

In a previous post I explained the technical idea of "fat quarters." Now I'll describe the deviously planned impact these little innocent-looking bits have.

It's brilliant marketing. Brilliant.

Quilting calico runs between $15 to $25 a meter. The cost of a quilt, therefore, is just astronomical. When you lay out a new design and think "yardage", you reel at the hit your pocketbook is going to take. When you go into the store to look for, say 2 meters of something, you pick up a heavy bolt. You then have to wander around with this massive roll of fabric and look for something to coordinate with it. You are aware of the weight. You are aware of the cost.

Fat quarters, however, are small - easy to pick up, easy to pair up with other little fat quarters, and much less expensive. Once you figure out that you can grab a few "fat quarters" (at $4 to $7 a pop) and make something, well... you get suckered in.

The quilt shops all put their fat quarters right in the center of the store. It's the same devilry that causes grocery stores to position the lollies directly across from the breakfast cereals. They know they have you. You'll walk in with every intention of picking up that inexpensive meter from the "clearance table" - but you have to walk past the fat quarter table to get there.

Yeah... they know what they are doing.

You walk up to the table (no... you are pulled... it's a magnetic force... BEWARE). You spot the edge of something pretty - something unusual. Orange and gold dragonflies on a field of navy (no! impossible! how can it be so pretty?!?!?!) You extract it from the mass of neatly tucked-in folds of similar size. You look at it and think "oh! I wonder what I might use this for..." And you can't help but look to see what might coordinate. The next thing you know, you're designing (mentally) a work of art large enough to cover the Vatican.

I watched friend Pauline hit the FQ table the first time she took me to what is now my favorite quilting shop. She walked around the perimiter, of course, first looking at the bolts of fabric. She found some lovely lavender calico and bought enough for a single-sized coverlet. She thought that would save her. Wrong! The overpowering tractor beam of the FQ table pulled her in. And after about half an hour she was caught - a moth to the flame. I watched as she sorted through hundreds - literally HUNDREDS of fabric swatches. Matching, discarding this, picking up that. Pauline is an artist. She has a fabulous eye for finding interesting coordinating bits. In about 40 minutes she assembled a stack of quarters - browns and burnished coppers - that looked as if the good Lord Himself must've intended those bits to be together in a harmonious rhapsody of color and pattern. Delicious. But I saw how MANY of these quarters she had. Most were over $5 a unit - and she had something like 20 units.

And of course, being a good friend, I did what any other girlfriend would do. "GO FOR IT!" I said "Gorgeous! Yeah! Do it, Pauline!"

Sorry. No self-restraint possible in a quilting store.

I escaped the magnetism of the evil FQ table that day. But only about 4 weeks later I found myself in another quilt shop - one that was closing down and had excellent "everything must go" prices. I'd intended - yes actually intended - to buy some quarters to make a quilt. I did that. But also came out with enough bits (totally different color/pattern) to make a 2nd quilt top.

As I write this I am planning another trip to the quilt shop. I want to pick out some fabric to use in making table runners and other smallish projects that I can work on while I recover from my upcoming cancer surgeries. I know that the fat quarter table is a good place to start. Logically it should turn out well. But... will I be able to walk out with only the items I plan to?

Doubt it.