Sunday, December 1, 2019

Unexpected surprise

I brought Charlie (my chocolate point Siamese) with me to Rich's this weekend and I always bring a quilt from home so he feels comfortable and has a home base that smells familiar.  By the end of the weekend he had claimed Rich's computer chair, so he definitely made himself at home, but that's not what this post is about.  I had Travel Quilt #5 on the quilt next to Crumplequiltskin and I was shocked to find that the quilts looked... the same.  Both are dark with bright scraps, but as I was making them, separately, years apart, I remember thinking that this use of dark really wasn't "me".  But here we are.  Two of my recent finishes happen to look.. incredibly similar and an awful lot like me.

Travel Quilt #5 started on a car ride to Virginia, spring 2014?  I put the borders on and quilted it in 2018 and then it sat on my couch with pins in it, waiting for some perle cotton.  A few lines of quilting got stitched in one corner, but I don't know if I'll do the rest.  The machine quilting will definitely hold it together and when the urge to hand quilt strikes, I've got a project ready to go.  

Crumplequiltskin happened this past fall.  I spent the end of the summer just making crumb blocks and playing with layouts in my new sewing studio.  I grabbed a stack of blocks and added a few borders and trimmed them into huge blocks (16"x20"?).  This top went together very quickly and was just the right amount of sewing for me to focus on at the time.  I had it long armed through The Quilt Tree in Nyack and the binding went on shortly after.  It was made specifically for Rich's couch.  62" x 93".  Rich thinks it's for him, but really, Archie has claimed it.  

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Reworking a t-shirt

So I guess like a lot of people, the standard neck line on modern t-shirts (you know, the unisex or male sizes, not the ones cut cute for girls that they charge extra for), those neck lines aren't always how I want fabric on my skin during the day. So I got this red t-shirt at the thrift store a few weeks back and it had a cut neckline and I thought, I don't know if I can wear that... I mean it seems a little bit risque. But it has become a wonderful sleeping shirt and I thought with some adjustments, I could turn it into something, a way to alter some of my current wardrobe to make it more "me".
And here is my process:
First, lay out the shirt you are copying from and take some measurements. 

Although this thrifted shirt did not have a tag in it, compared to my other t-shirts, I'm guessing it was once a size medium. The shirts I'm choosing to alter in this tutorial are both unisex-adult large. So I measured and put pins where I want the cut neckline to start. I have average to narrow shoulders on my 5 and 1/2 foot frame and I don't always wear a bra but I still wanted it to sit comfortably on my body after I cut off the original neckline..

Then I measured how far down I wanted to cut it. On the white t-shirt, I did have print pretty high up on the chest so that limited my ability to give a scoop neckline, which I think is my preferred. But I made a pin where I wanted it to be roughly following the guideline of original.

Next step is to mark a cutting line. In my new sewing space (!!!) I have already brought over a whole bunch of notions but I did not have a water-soluble marking pen so being is this was going to be a make-do upcycle.  I marked my line with a regular mechanical pencil-- I used a spool of thread to give me the same distance around the original neckline, which you don't have to do at all if you don't want to follow that curve, but first I drew that line and then without cutting anything I moved on to the sewing step.

Using Pearl cotton number 8 and taking a piece of thread maybe 6 in longer than the line I want to stitch, I buried the knotted end in the seam allowance of the t-shirt and then just did a running stitch maybe quarter inch lower than my cutting line-- only on the front-- seam to seam. I then buried the thread in the other seam allowance.  I repeated that two more times and then, using my fabric scissors, I cut along the cutting line on the front of the shirt.   On the back of the shirt I cut just underneath the neckline and along the original seam so it's more of a straight cut across the back.

I was so excited to take a picture and see how I fit on my body, I just threw the shirt on I did not wash it so I don't know how the stitches will hold up.  Based on experience with other raw edge jersey knit, I do think it's going to roll a bit after I wash it but I think that'll be fine with me.  On the next one, I might want to adjust the neckline a little bit more so it covers more of my shoulders. I definitely want to play around with a squared off or scoop neckline on future t-shirts so that gives me a lot to do in summer.  The whole project start to finish took less than an hour. So I highly encourage you to pull out a t-shirt you have not worn in a while and give it a try.  Then you can see how you like it before you try it on one of your favorite t-shirts. If you do it, please let me know!! send pictures here in the comments or find me on Instagram (@jessica_alex) and send me a private message there because I'm really curious to see if this works for anybody else. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Making, Publicly

Earlier this year I made the decision to start quilting on my 15-minute breaks at work.  The building has a beautiful lobby with tons of natural light and the 10:30 a.m. sunshine -- it's unlike anything.   To just sit there and sew for 15 minutes.  Since February, everyday I've been quilting in public in my super posh office building and I have made so much progress!  Travel quilt #4 (which was originally started for my 2013 book Quilting on the Go) was going to be the big quilt project in the book but when we were going through what to include, the art team didn't like the colors -- they didn't think it fit in with everything else in the book and so the idea was scrapped.  Of course I had already started making the quilt...

I wrote on the stars as I had been doing with Travel Quilt #3.  I would write the date and the place- city and state, and if there was an event-- My cousin Janel's wedding, George's 3rd birthday, etc.  It sat and waited for 5ish years and then I picked it up again.  I'm not doing a lot of pleasure travel these days so Travel Quilt #4 was mostly stitched at the dojo, in the laundromat, also on Richard's couch, and on that little couch in the lobby in my office.

photo by @marini.richard

And it's finished. This May I finished Travel Quilt 4.  It still has the templates in the sides and I have to top stitch  down the borders... don't really know what color I want to go with yet .. (*in other news I have a new sewing space! But I'll save that for different post )

So yes, I have been posting sporadically on Instagram for #TheHundredDayProject where I have pledged to spend 100 days quilting in public. So far so good but I usually don't on the weekends because I'd rather stay in and quilt at home. 

When I'm out there quilting in the world, a lot of people ask me (mostly my co-workers) what I'm doing and how long it's going to take and if I would sell my quilts or if I do sell my quilts ... and the answer is:

I don't want to monetize my hobby.  I don't want to commercialize what brings me comfort.  I make quilts for me and those people around me in my nest of comfort where I feel both powerful and soft.  ;)
I think more people would benefit from the task of making things for pleasure.  The repetition of it.  The slow and steady progress.  And the satisfaction that comes, even many years later, from being able to USE what you've made. 
(I am sitting on Travel Quilt #2 right now)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Radiating Squares

So far, 2018 has been a lot about unpacking baggage.  Some that I was ready to look at (this quilt, for one) and others that feel more like someone ripped open and dumped all my hard memories out into the present.  Old ideas, old beliefs, that were well hidden and nearly forgotten about.  But the social/political climate in America right now has many people uncomfortable as we look long and hard at choices we have made, action we took or didn't take, and secrets we have kept.  I'm struggling a lot with this.  I think it's fair to say I'm overwhelmed but functioning.

For as strong as I've gotten in these last 3 years, it seems the next level of adulting is always more challenging than the last.  This past weekend Rich and I finally got to take some pics of my finished Radiating Squares quilt.  Running through the yard was a much needed release from the stress of my reality-- dad had a stroke Friday night and once again I feel so very far away, both in distance and in time.  I was well cared for by my chosen family though.  Friends checking in,  which I am so grateful for, but I had so little news to share.  Even now, it still seems I am waiting, waiting.  Not part of it, just watching and hurting.  I don't yet know if or when I will be able to travel to see him.  But in this decision, more baggage opens.  If I go, am I the prodigal daughter?  Am I dramatic/comic relief or am I actually helping?  I have to believe that my presence means something, because if I don't, I just want to hide and shove all of these awful thoughts right back into the bag they came from.

Tonight I'm going to make the label and prep this quilt to go off to its new home.  Sometimes you can shake out the baggage, accept it for the role it played, and let it go.  I'm happy this quilt is almost done and ready to become part of someone else's story.

If you're curious about how this quilt began, my old posts are here.  It was part of a 2010 bee, originally inspired by a quilt I saw at the Empire Guild show in 2009. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Tie Dye! (or Chicago for me)

The kids and I tried tie dye for the first time earlier this month and it turned out great.   I wanted to give it another go so I ordered supplies and had them sent directly to my dad's place.  Last weekend we all got to dye t-shirts and dish cloths.  It was definitely worth the mess (and blue fingernails).
George and Jack had a bit of experience so they knew what designs they wanted to try.  Jack calls his grey shirt "Lumberjack" because of the suspender-like stripes.  George's heart impressed all of us.   I could do this over and over.  I want to experiment more with single colors and maybe mixing my own colors?  I don't think I'm ready to try anything but the standard tulip dyes, but they do fade after a few washings so I need to figure out how to stop that from happening.  There are so many experiments I want to try.  Pretty soon we won't have anything to wear but tie dye..

These are the first attempts done in NY on 4th of July.  We applied dye right on the grass so our feet and knees got pretty colorful.  I liked how that allowed us to control the color placement though.  In the Chicago batch, we used a plastic sheet to work on and it allowed excess die to run and pool.  Many of our shirts have random spots of unintended color (blue on the bottoms of George's pink heart sleeves, green in the white "frame" I was trying to get on the heart sleeve tee).  Our feet were cleaner but the dye got everywhere.  I think I will try without the protective sheet next time.


And the batch from Chicago:

I realize that a few of these are pics have already been shared on instagram and facebook, but I am pretty fed up with main stream social media these days.  It all feels so... out of my control.  So I wanted to document life over here again.  

Chicago for the kids

I took the kids to Chicago for a short trip.  We don't go often and I really wanted them to get some quality time with my side of the family.  I also wanted them to experience being in the places and spaces that created my world as a kid.  My grandmothers' houses.  Their backyards.  Sitting at the same tables and seeing the same views as I did.  We also had a few outing/adventures, including a trip on public transportation.  I still chuckle that I feel totally comfortable taking public transportation alone in any major Japanese city, but trying to figure out how to get from my dad's house in the suburbs to downtown (a distance of 17 miles) was such a challenge.  Anyway, we made it.  We even attended a reunion for my high school singing group and they got to play with the kids of the people I hung out with 20+ years ago.  Memories made. Pictures taken.  Love shared.  I'm glad we went.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Blogging-- or can it just be my online journal?

If you've had a blog for over 8 years, then you may remember that wonderful time around 2010 of quilt blogging.. when there was such a positive energy floating around, just as the modern quilt guild movement got started (notice I didn't capitalize the guild, back then it was just a really good idea).  Many bloggers who experienced that time have lamented over the years that blogging has changed, the community is gone, it's just not the same... and it's true.  I'm sure blog posts have been written on it, this doesn't need to be another one.  I do miss that era.  But I also miss my own early days of blogging, back in 2006, when I was reading a whole bunch of really awesome craft and home blogs and I wanted to write!  I wanted to say something and see if anybody out there would read it.  And they did...
But in the beginning, it was mostly for me.  To track my projects.  To sort out my thoughts on trends and process.  To record my journey.  That's what I want to do again.

Because-- I'm not in the thick of quilt industry stuff anymore. It was fun to be on the fringe for a while, to know people and watch my friends become successful.  But my life has changed, as things do.  I'm still on my journey, it just doesn't look like theirs anymore.  It has always been mine and I have always written from my unique perspective, but I think the intent is different.  I think this space can be useful to me now.

Over New Years I put up a design wall.  Rich said to me, "It's not your place until you put up a design wall."  Now that's the truth.

It is for him.  He is important to me.
We make quilts for people when they are important to us.  To strengthen that connection and to spend time focusing on it.  It's a good way to spend time.

I don't know what other quilts I want to make.  I would like to finish up old projects and let them move on.  To become useful.  My closets are full and I need to make space.  My goal for 2018 is to finish 10 quilts.  Not start and finish, just finish.  I have jotted a list in my paper journal, it's not at 10 yet, but we'll see where the year takes me.

Now I'm working on just these two.. the string pieced crossroads (I know this block has a name, but I have forgotten it) and Travel Quilt 4, from my last post.  Still sorting out a functional sewing space in the new apartment.. I have a lot of multi-use spaces so I can't keep projects out for any length of time.  Oh!  I also bordered and basted Travel Quilt #5!  So I'll also need to find somewhere to set up the Janome so I can put some lines of machine quilting into it.   Here's a teaser shot for anyone who missed it on instagram.  One side of the border went on a bit warped, I noticed while basting, but I'll work with it.  I am so so happy this top is done.  There's a lot of my life in this quilt and I'm looking forward to revisiting it as I quilt and bind.

Unexpected surprise

I brought Charlie (my chocolate point Siamese) with me to Rich's this weekend and I always bring a quilt from home so he feels comfortab...