Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Travel Quilt #6 and some public crafting

I have been working steadily on Travel Quilt #6 since last fall and it is growing.  I got a chance to piece a few units while I was in Manhattan over the weekend and took this pic:

It is amazing how many fewer photos I am taking now that social media isn't a daily habit.  I have been peeking into Instagram lately because I miss my friends, but I don't yet feel the need to post regularly there again.

Travel Quilt 6 is interesting in that I am writing on the triangles but the fabric selection has gotten chaotic (as all my quilts do, I don't know why this surprises me) and I needed to reign it in a bit.  I added horizontal hexagon sashing between some of the rows and that helps but I'm envisioning a 60 degree diamond border and then a wide DSQ print to give it a straight edge.  I am antsy to get to the border stage but I know it's best to just keep piecing units and letting it grow as it will.  I am working with the local library to set up a drop in sewing session for May. Once things are finalized and I have a flyer to share I will post details.  I miss having a quilt group and I'm hoping to make it a regular occurrence if I can. I love having the input of quilters in real life for decisions like these.

I finished a huge quilt at the beginning of 2020 and have yet to post about it here.  I am wondering if I should try to submit it to any local or national shows.  Does anyone have suggestions or know of places taking submissions this spring? Please share.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A reintroduction


My name is Jessica Alexandrakis and a long time ago I started a quilt blog.

I quilt pretty much every day.  There are certainly times where I'm more focused on one project than another, but I usually have multiple quilts going on at the same time.  I love pulling fabric, using up scraps, whipstitching (EPP and BINDING!!) and taking a finished quilt out of the wash.  I hate measuring, squaring up, fixing mistakes, and fiddly machine paper piecing patterns.  We all like what we like, you know?  I also like writing.  sharing. documenting and rereading my journey with making soft housewares to be USED.  I am not an art quilter.  I don't do embellishments.  I don't do matchy matchy.   I follow my gut and make what I want.  Sometimes I make the quilts that want to be made, without much forethought.  At any rate, I enjoy the process and I want to share it here with you all.


I just told my 7 year old that I used to write a blog and I told him what it was--  A way for people to tell their own stories online.  He said he had lots of stories, so we agreed to make more time for paper journaling. 
And for me, I want a facebook/instagram free 2020, but I'm writing here because I am open to connecting in other ways. 

Pen pals
1x mail exchanges
Mail art
Holiday exchanges 
Round Robins (I'm dying to do a row by row...)
Kids letters/packages.

I have been using the internet now for 23ish years... I don't want to become a recluse but I want to enjoy how I interact with others online, and commercialized social media platforms haven't been having a positive impact on me for a long time.  I'm still looking for ways to connect with quilters in real life too, but somehow the demands of modern life, work, parenting... there are so few hours in the week.  I won't give up though, there are too many good stories to tell.

Please follow, no, connect with me here.  ♡

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.  

Travel Quilt #6 and some public crafting

I have been working steadily on Travel Quilt #6 since last fall and it is growing.  I got a chance to piece a few units while I was in Manha...