Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Venus de Hilo is on the move...

Liv Friis-larsen -
Aloha everyone, I'm waving "see ya" -- to Blogger, that is. Venus de Hilo now has a site of her own, and I'll be blogging over there from now on.

A zillion thanks to the handful of kindred spirits who have been following the VdeH thing here; it's made my day every time I see someone else has joined up. My heartfelt apologies to those of you who discovered me so recently through the Blockapalooza thing. I hope you will forgive me for asking you to click on over to the new site and follow me there so soon after you went to the trouble to do so here.

I'd have moved you all over myself if I could, but that's beyond my technical skill and patience at surfing google and the WordPress forums for solutions. For your convenience I've set up Google Friend Connect in the sidebar at the new place, where you'll also see an RSS feed thingie up in the header for those who prefer that.

I've decided not to move these archives over, but I will be reposting pics of my fave projects and of course updating you on all the as-yet-unfinished stuff as I make progress on the WIPs/UFOs. There's room, too, for the handbags and home decor that occasionally amble out of the sewing room, and when I sew up something new to wear I'll show that off as well. Do expect more quilting, though, and less of the other stuff, than you've seen here if you've been following me for a while.

First up, Blockapalooza Block 15, which I made two ways. You can read all about that here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quilted Bark

Yesterday I finally got all set up (i.e., cleaned up the awful mess on my sewing table) and started to quilt the monochrome project for the Modern Quilt Guild challenge. Got all three "tree trunk" sections done in a free-motion pointy-swoopy kind of thing that I hope looks at least a little bit like tree bark:
Took these shots early this morning. At 7am the sun this time of year the sun shines straight in my office window from a low angle, which I thought would light things up so you can see the stitching. That's a section of the front on the left; stitching shows up better on the back (right)... glad I thought to snap that one, too.

It's taken me a long time to:
1) Get back into quiltmaking after a decade of focus on other things
2) Get a few tops from idea into "finished top" mode and ready to quilt
3) Try my hand at free-motion quilting

I won't claim to be any kind of master at this... what you can't see (I hope) in the pics is how unable I am to maintain anything approximating a regular stitch length. Moving the fabric under the needle, though, visualizing where I want the stitching to go and getting pretty-darned-close to the effect I'm aiming for... that's going better than I'd imagined. I feel like I have a knack for this, even if my skill level on the technical side is a long way from expert.

Next up, I'll do the upper edge, which is intended to imply a leafy canopy. Have some ideas for how to quilt that, but will need to do some playing around on a practice piece to try them out.

In the meantime, I'm haunting the 'palooza flickr page waiting for Block 15 to turn up, and have a significant heap of admin-type tasks piled up on the desk. Being self-employed is wonderful, but I've given a few too many hours to sewing and not enough to paper piles the past week or so. Today I need to stay out of the sewing room and keep my butt planted in my desk chair until I've been in business mode long enough to get some stuff done.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Block 12-ishes and a UFO

More blocks, variations on 'palooza block 12, for my planned 9-block top. This pair features back-to-back corner geese units:
I love the blue-yellow combo in these. The resulting star and large diamond really pop.

And for this last pair I placed the "geese" facing out:
The very dark accent fabric is actually a lovely small-print tonal brown.

I've had so much fun making these, and look forward to putting them all together into a top. I have ambitious visions (still somewhat vague) for sashing and bordering these. I will play with ideas as I finish up some other projects on more urgent timeframes. These blocks are about to go into a "works theoretically still in progress but temporarily on the back burner" bin while I quilt the monochrome forest, finish up the OBW borders, and maybe even get this little cutie quilted up:
This is a not-very-large "confetti" wall-hanging I made early last summer to play around with the method and my tiny scraps drawer. I liked it enough to add a border. The border and light blue background both are leftovers from making curtains for our bedroom, so I'm planning to hang it in there. I set it aside at this stage because I did not yet have the extension-table thingie that makes machine quilting so much easier. This morning I sandwiched it up with a backing fabric and got it pinned and ready to go. Best part is it's small enough I was able to do that on the kitchen counter instead of crawling around on the floor. I won't get to this immediately (the monochrome project is a higher priority), but do hope to get it quilted very soon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Block 14... not feelin' it

Sorry dude, but Block 14 is not inspiring me. It's not a bad block. I can see a few things I'd change to do it my way, and it might be fun to play around with on its own. But in my 'palooza context (which at this point is fairly far off the main track) it's so obviously destined to sit on the sidelines of the design wall that I've decided not to bother with it. (Besides, if you're going to contribute a block to something as public as this quilt-along, lighten up about claiming copyright and just let people have fun with it!)

In the meantime I've been making more of my versions of what was originally Block 12, which of course I did not render exactly as per the instructions, so it's not really "Block 12" anymore. I liked the way my first two turned out so much I decided to expand on the theme and make a separate 9-block top from them. I've been puttering along on this all week, cutting a few new fabrics here, sewing up a few goose units there, shuffled some bits from block to block, and at last have a WIP I'm happy with. Here are a few of the new ones (more to come in another post, later).

This is a sister-block to the first one I made:
I used different fabrics for the on-point squares, the 4-patch, and half the geese, and the purple solid is a slightly different shade, but overall I kept it a fairly close match... but diferent enough to be interesting.

Same approach with this one, which is a fraternal (but not identical) twin to the second one, also here:
This one's a singleton, planned for the center of what will be nine in a grid layout:
For this one I placed the "geese" nose-to-nose, instead of in flight formation or back-to-back.

There are two more pairs to show off, as soon as the stragglers are ready for a public appearance, and I've rephotographed one. My camera is overly fond of yellow, apparently, and reluctant to properly portray blues. Indoors, outdoors, flash, no flash: the blues hardly ever come out looking like they should, even when all the other colors are right.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Plans, slightly disrupted

Monochrome teaser... ready for basting:
Returned from errands the other day with over 5 yards of unbleached organic cotton batting, so no excuses for not finishing up a few projects now! Cut and prewashed batting  (soak in the sink, spin in the machine, through the dryer on medium heat) for the monochrome wall-hanging, and wow, was it soft and light and scrumptious when it came out of the dryer!

Laid it all out on the hall floor yesterday afternoon during a brief window of opportunity (one cat asleep, the other outside), to start basting. Got up to the pin stage before the one cat woke up and the other came in and both plopped themselves down on the quilt sandwich and stuck their paws and noses in the pin bowl. No real mess done, although there are a couple small claw holes in one spot... nothing that won't disappear during quilting.

Had hoped to start quilting this morning, but we had some distractions overnight, in the form of the civil defense sirens going off every hour until after 3 am... hard to get a good night's sleep while under a tsunami warning! The best part was the 4.5 earthquake here while we were glued to the tube at 11pm hoping for updates! That's big enough to give the house a good shake, but nothing too serious. We get a lot of smallish rattles here, so no biggie, especially compared to what happened in Japan. Fortunately the high water has not had much affect in Hilo, although downtown is still closed. Once again I am so glad we moved up out of the tsunami zone two years ago (and this is one reason we moved!).

Anyway, all is well in my little corner of Hawaii, but I do not function well without sleep. Still feeling groggy and mentally not very sharp halfway through the larger-than-usual pot of coffee brewed up this morning. So, instead of embarking on quilting with a batting I haven't used before, which is likely to mean at least some testing and tension adjustments, I think I'll go do something mindless like sew up more bits from the scrap drawer, like these:
My "very small" scraps drawer has a lot of bits in it that are 2.5" wide but less than square. A couple days ago I used some extra minutes in the sewing room to put these strips together. No specific use in mind yet, but they will come in handy one of these days for a pillow border, or block sashing on a scrap project, or something else fun. 

Haven't started 'palooza Block 14 yet, so I might feel inspired to pick fabrics for that and get the cutting done today, too. I doubt I'll have the brainpower for much desk work today, so that means lots of time in the sewing room. (Time I really should use to clean up the kitchen, vaccuum the house, or do laundry... it could happen.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Block-a-Palooza Block 13 (twice)

Block 13 (from Camp Follower) is a nice one, with tons of potential for color play. Which is kind of funny, because the original is so pale and subtle (qualities rarely used to describe my fabric choices).

I started with this one...
... because I've been wanting to use the red (in the corners) and brown colorways of "Asian Circles" together in something, and the turquoise and orange are so nice together I wanted to use them again, too. I like the detail of the floating nine-patch in the center, but that teeny little 1/8" border around it was something of a pain to produce. I said I wasn't going to do that again.

But I did. This morning I finally emailed all our tax info (there's a lot of it: we own two home-based businesses) off to our accountant, and rewarded myself with some time in the sewing room, producing this version:
I like this one even better. My original thought was to make a smaller nine-patch and frame it with a 1/4" border, but once I got going I figured "1/4", 1/8" might as well do the skinny one as the other." That purple and brown batik is a hibiscus print and one of my favorite fabrics. It sneaks into a lot of things I make. And I've been itching to use that Phillip Jacobs "coral" print in good-sized pieces somewhere. Here it is even better in the corners than I'd hoped.

Did you notice that little snippet of red leafy print in the very center? Yup, it's the other colorway of that "little green leafy" I've been including in each block. I've had the red on reserve for use in sashing/setting in some way when all the blocks are done, but couldn't resist sneaking a tidbit in here.

There are several 'palooza blocks that I like so much I want to make an entire quilt out of them. This is one of them. The temptation to exclude these blocks (and a few others) from the 'palooza quilt (whatever that turns out to be) so I can do something else with them is a strong one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Two out of three...

... borders are on the Amy Butler "One Block Wonder" quilt top:
It's a crappy day for photos here, very gloomy and rainy, but let up just a enough for a little brightness in our south-facing kitchen so I rushed to drape this over the counter for a quick shot.

Another round of sawtooth triangles will be added before calling this top "done." Those triangles are still in small units on my design wall, hope to get the final border on before next weekend. I cut the print border as wide as possible (which was about 10.5") to showcase the original fabric. I wasn't sure at all, until I got this far, that I would like the sawtooth thing; concern was it might be too circus-tent-y. But I'm liking it a lot. It adds that little bit of unexpected whimsy that I like to think is part of my "style." Without it, this is a bit more over-the-top floral than even I can stand.

Anyway, bad light, not quite done top... couldn't stop my impulse to show off in-process.

I haven't made a final backing decision yet, am waffling on binding options, and have no idea yet how I will quilt this. Lots to ponder as I sew a gazillion more little triangles together...