Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Final Cuts of Block #1

Today I finished the final cutting for my Block #1 applique pieces.  I organized and packed up all of my supplies and fabrics and I'm ready for tonight's class.  I'm both nervous and excited to pin down and begin the applique of my first pieces of this quilt!

Craft from all Corners!

I am fortunate to have a lovely college student/daughter  who is studying Cultural Anthropology.  Since world travel is directly applicable to her degree (she just finished all of her required coursework for her undergrad degree a semester early!), she has managed to travel the world in her past few years of school.  She spent a J-Term semester studying a women's fair trade weaving cooperative in Chiapas Mexico (in the southern mountains of that country).  The group is called Jolom Mayaetik.  She brought me some lovely pillow covers (not to mention a few hand towels and a lovely felted wool purse).

Then, she spent a semester in Suva, Fiji.  She took classes at the University of the South Pacific and lived with a local family.  While there, she wrote a research paper on the function vs. form of native Fijian art, looking at the impact that the tourist market has had on Fijian arts and crafts.  She brought me home some beautiful tapa.  I plan to frame and hang them in my living room.

As a bonus, she also brought me a bed spread with two pillow shams.  The spread and shams represent the Indian influence in Fiji.  The family she lived with was Indian-Fijian or Rotuman.  And fortunately for her, she loves Indian food and the family (like my daughter) was vegetarian.  She did get sick of Roti and Dal by the time she returned home though.

Her final college-based excursion was this past January.  She spent four weeks in northern regions of Thailand.  Based in Chiang Rai, she studied the Akha tribes.  Specifically (since it was a Biology class), she studied the effects and uses of the local herbs and plants on and by child bearing women.  Thus, she was able to combine Botany and Anthropology.

For me, her travels have meant that my home now houses the hand made labors of women in other cultures.  Many of the women my daughter bought from were those with whom she had formed relationships, learned about their craft and met personally.

As I crochet, sew, applique, etc... I think of the beauty from around the world, handcrafted by women just like me, but also very different from me.  I feel a bond.  I appreciate the hand work and I enjoy my quiet time with needle and hook.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sampler Block, Fabric Choices and Template Preparation

I've selected my background fabrics for the Applique Sampler Quilt.  I chose grey-ish blues in batik/water color designs.  The two watery blues are for the background squares and the one with dots is for the border squares.

Since I chose this type of background fabric, I thought I should stick with batik type fabric for my applique pieces.  I've decided to follow the color scheme in quilt sample below (except the background of this one is all one color and is white where mine will be pieced shades of blue).

I chose one fabric for the blue tulip heads in Block #1 and 2 different green fabrics for the leaves.  I also selected a purple-ish blue for the stems.

Block #1 templates needed to be created so I could cut the pieces of fabric into the shapes that will be appliqued.  The diagram below shows the separated blocks in the quilt.  I think we will be making them in order.

First I had to wash the fabric.  It air dried - since I don't have a dryer - and then I ironed it smooth.  Next, I used the pattern included with the book and a Sharpie to trace the Block #1 design onto a piece of clear plastic sheeting.

I cut all of the blue background blocks according to the directions in the book.  Apparently, it's best to cut the background blocks somewhat larger than the actual size they need to be.  When you add applique, the piece shrinks up a bit.  Before piecing the blocks together, they are trimmed to the exact block size.  Fortunately, the pattern in the book gives me the exact sizes for the larger block sizes and the exact block sizes.

I made sure to use little sticky notes to label each block with the block number and the size I cut it.

Then, I traced each of the four shapes that make up this block onto freezer paper using a fine tipped Sharpie.
When cutting out the traced shape, be sure to keep the entire outside template intact - it helps with getting the exact pattern design you want!
Don't forget to label all your templates.  Put the quilt name, the block number and the applique piece number on each template - you can use them again if you make the same quilt or block another time.

Next, use the outer template by holding it over your fabric so you see exactly what pattern you will get.  Add your inner template and take away the outer template.  Now you can iron (shiny side down) the freezer paper template onto the right side of your fabric.  A template can be used several times before the iron on side doesn't adhere any longer.  For Block #1, there are four separate shapes and I needed four copies of each!

Once the template is ironed onto the fabric, use a white marker or chalk marker (washable!) to outline your shape.  I used a CLOVER brand marking pen.  It's kind of like magic ink - you can't see it right away but it gets whiter as it dries.  Once you've traced it, remove the freezer paper template.

I place the fabric on a piece of fine sandpaper so that it doesn't shift when I trace.

When I finish cutting all the fabric templates for Block #1, I'll show you the end result - stay posted!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All Aboard for Applique

Do you applique?  I've decided to learn.  I've signed up for an awesome applique class at a local quilt shop.  The class will use this book to create it's 1930s sampler quilt.

YIKES!  Applique is hard.  AND, there are a lot of steps to it.  However, I think I'm up for the task.  I'll be updating you on my applique progress for the next several weeks.  I can't believe that at the end of the class I'll have a pieced and appliqued quilt top ready for quilting.  I think I will hand quilt this one to finish it off.

First class, we learned some REAL basics and bought some necessary tools - like new sharp scissors that cut to the point and teeny tiny little needles that I can hardly see called straw needles.  I also got a really cool spools of thread and some baby pins 1/2" long. 

These are my new things.

Some other weird things you use to applique are toothpicks (to help turn under the applique piece as you go - and we've learned that it's better when it's slightly wet from holding the toothpick in your mouth) and for me, my trusty LLBean headlamp.  Even with bi-focal contacts, the tiny stitches will be hard to see.

To practice at the first class, we learned how to make a template (a leaf), to cut it out, trace it and cut it from fabric leaving 3/16 of an inch border (the turn under part).  Then we learned how to make a knot in the thread (I've forgotten how and have to re-learn; there's a special technique), how to take little tiny invisible stitches while holding the needle in a position my hand isn't yet used to and how to turn the outside point corners.  My outside point corners are NOT yet mastered and there are a lot of them...oh my!

This is the first leaf I appliqued.  This is done with 2 pieces of sample fabric - just some scraps used to practice.  I think I need at least one more leaf practice.

Homework for next week was to cut out the templates for our 1st block, purchase background fabric (wash, dry and iron it) and cut out our background blocks.  We also have to use plastic sheeting to create an overlay block so that we can tell how to pin the pieces to the fabric - wow... the methods are nice because they make sense, but the process was a lot for my little brain to encompass.  This reminds me, I need to make a trip to the hardware store for some super fine sandpaper and a roll of clear plastic sheeting - what craft job isn't complete without a trip to the hardware store?

I visited the website of the authors of the book we're using.  Their names are Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins.  I loved their applique quilt designs.  I visited the web page where people shared their quilt creations.  So cool.

Next APPLIQUE post, I'll show you my fabric, discuss my color choices, and give you an update on the creation of my first block templates and overlay.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's YUM.

One of my favorite things to bake is cut out sugar cookies.  I always make them for Christmas.  Every Christmas Eve the whole family joins up around the table of bare sugar cookies to ice and decorate them.

But, I also like to make cut out cookies for other occasions too.  This year, I made some really awesome cookies in honor of Valentine's Day (which also happens to be my anniversary).  Since we had two (yes TWO) special dinners with friends this weekend, I had lots of folks with whom I could share my cookie creations.

First step - make the dough.  I always use the same recipe.  It's from an old Fannie Farmer's cookbook I inherited from my grandmother - I discovered this recipe because she often wrote notes next to the recipes she had made and indeed, this one had a note that said "good sugar cookies," so I tried them and she was right.  It's been my exclusive recipe ever since!

The cookbook also lists lots of variations on the cookies.  I use the basic recipe which is:
1/2 cup butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 t vanilla, 1T milk, 1-1/4 cup flour, 1/4 t salt and 1/4 t baking powder.  I make it in the kitchen aid mixer and when it forms a ball I wrap it in waxed paper and put it in the fridge to chill (about an hour).

Once the dough is cold, I roll it out with extra flour and use the appropriate seasonal cookie cutters to cut them out.  I bake the cookies so they have only a hint of brown on the edges.  The cooled cookies rest until they have hardened and then the decorations can begin.

I started with some of this.

I rolled them out like this.

When I run out of cookie trays a pizza pan works too~
The cookies cool on newspapers.
The decorations get going!  I make my decorating icing with confectioners sugar and water - only a few drops of water are needed for a pile of 10X sugar!  I add food colorings and use spoons, knives and even chop sticks to decorate.  I also top the wet icing with goodies like M&Ms, chocolate jimmies and DOVE candy hearts.

This time I went a step further and melted some chocolate.  I used semi-sweet chocolate chips (Trader Joes brand) and a white chocolate bar also from Trader Joes.  I melted them in a dry bowl over a small amount of water in a pot on the stove.  I used a very low simmer.  I iced the cookies with one chocolate and drizzled the other chocolate over it.  10 minutes on the back porch to cool and firm up and they cookies were ready to eat.  They were DELICIOUS and tasted like Pepperidge Farm milano cookies.
I had some chocolate left over after I iced the cookies so I dipped some Trader Joes mini almond biscotti in the melted goodness as well - the results were TRES DELICIOUS!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Crochet Projects

One thing I particularly LOVE about crochet is how easy it is to pick up and put down a crochet project. It's easy to tell what row I'm on to set down the hook without dropping a stitch. Recently I've made a set of coasters (forgot to photograph before they were sent in the mail as a gift), lots of pot holders and I'm working on a granny-ish blanket.
I also designed my OWN wine bottle cover. I'm pretty good at coming up with my own patterns, but I'm terrible at writing down what I did. I'll have to get better at that because I LOVE IT when other people share their patterns - especially the free ones. Any pattern I create and share will be free on this blog. Check back later for the wine bottle cover photo!

Let's Get Goin'

So, I've been following blogs for a while, but I am a true beginner when it comes to creating one myself. I'm still trying to figure out how to DESIGN my blog. Fortunately, I think I figured out how to create a custom label for my blog header. I used Storybook Creator PLUS 3.0 by Creative Memories to design the header.

Try out the FREE (much more simplified than PLUS) version of Storybook Creator PLUS by downloading it to your computer. It's a desktop program and there is now a version for MAC as well as for PC. Follow www.mycmsite.com/sjenkins to try it out~

Bear with me while I get this up and running!
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