Friday, March 27, 2009

My Travels with Miranda

A fortnight ago I had the pleasure of making a business trip cross-country with a new acquaintance. By the end of the 6-hour plane ride, I knew we were going to be fast friends.
The next couple of days at the presentation and during the trade show we were on our way to a life-long friendship.

A lot of you know Joan Hawley, of Lazy Girls Design. I have long admired her bag designs visually and follow her very informative blog every Monday morning. However I had never had my hands on one of her designs to use.

I'm by nature an impatient and demanding bag user. I want a bag to have everything I need, whenever I need it with a minimum of rooting around. I want it to be able to carry all my reading and writing materials, my iPhone, second pair of glasses, wallet, passport case, camera... the list is infinite. When I want anything I want it fast. I want to be able to put down the bag and have her stand up by herself. And above all I don't want the shape of the bag to distribute the weight so badly that my arm is sheared off at the shoulder when carrying it. Miranda by far exceeded all my demands and even anticipated a few I didn't realize I had.

Stuffed!: iPhone, wallet, glass case, my idea corral (see "Stripes Rule!" post), quilting magazines , two books, travel pillow, passport case, and a Runaround bag you can't see because of the angle.

Joan had made me a Miranda Day Bag using the sienna & black colorway of my Sketchbook fabric line that debuts at the coming Spring Quilt Market. We were doing this with the idea of co-promotion at the trade show I was traveling to.

I was carefully wrapping up Miranda into my suitcase when I took a closer look at her and realized that she looked perfect for that long plane ride. So I unstuffed my usual bag and arranged everything into Miranda. Already I could tell Miranda was not just another pretty face. Here was a bag that knew what it took to go the distance.

As it turned out we had an extremely productive and satisfying trip. Miranda garnered compliments all the days we were there and has continued to do so back on the home turf accompanying me on my shopping expeditions. She can even carry my 12" Macbook!

Back at home at the studio meditating upon a successful trip.

And Miranda also loves her little sister Runaround which she carried lovingly and safely all the way across the USA and back. Check out the zipper and thread tutorials Joan has posted starring Runaround also in Sketchbook fabrics on Joan's Lazy Girls Design blog.

And for the readers among you:

You can see this is one of the books that I carried on the plane with me.
Mauve: How one man invented a color that changed the world by Simon Garfield.
Check out the review on Amazon for details. It's a real page-turner for anyone concerned with color. I whipped right through and so has Pamela, my dedicated UrbanAmish pupil. (And she doesn't even get extra credit for it.)

As background for the book shot I used Pamela's current Color Wheel quilt project.
Visit her website if you haven't yet. She has some very exciting color ideas too. (See sidebar for link.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Don't Drink and Drive! ...or is it Don't Quilt and Drive? ... definitely Don't Drink and Quilt.

The following UrbanAmish cautionary tale is brought to you by Barbie Vanderfleet-Martin, good friend and quiltaholic. I met Barbie through my local quilting guild: Garden State Quilters. The guild is composed of roughly 200 or so of the finest quilting addicts in the middle northern area of New Jersey. Barbie is a very accomplished and out-of-the-box thinking quilter. She owns a longarm which she wields with dextery and finesse. She, along with her good friend Alicia Bell, are the women that keep the guild members supplied with fine quilting-related classes and lectures year round.

UrbanAmish Legend #3 reporting in:

The Amish quilting imperfections are due to their belief that only God is perfect. I believe that too. Although my reasons are very different. I began my first lesson with the intention of beating all by making a quilt in an evening. With my Fabric all selected and cut I was off to the races. I had 16 Indian Hatchet block to put together. Being the advanced quilter ( huh ) I chose to do this without the templates in a flip and sew method.
This would leave me with a number of half square triangles for border option. Thinking ahead I am. Here is the result. Two perfect blocks. We thought only God could do that.

HUH! We thought Barbie could as well. Somehow things got turned around at about the same time My Dear Husband called 'Cocktail Hour'. I now have TWO perfect blocks and 14 to unsew. And how did this happen?

(Editorial comment: Besides saying Huh! a lot Barbie als
o says Eh? quite frequently. Guess where she's originally from.)

God and the Amish do not drink. I believe this is what makes their designs so perfect. I however do so love a refreshing Caesar and hours of some very interesting sewing. I am not perfect but know how to have a good time.

At about this time I switched to red wine. The quilt was left until the morning after........

Caesar recipe:
Rim glass with celery salt.
  • 1oz vodka
  • a bunch of ice
  • top up with Clamato juice
  • a shake of tobasco
  • a stir stick of celery stalk and a twist of lemon
A clear-headed but unrepentant Barbie did manage to turn it all around to face the right way the next day. Here's her India Hatchet top. I must say I was very pleased to see an older fabric design of mine used for the focus fabric. And I love the fabrics that she chose as complements. She created a very exciting multidirectional flow with her fabric choices.

The red focus fabric Barbie used is from my Chelsea Morning Collection: Crimson colorway.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Report from "The Watering Hole": Real UrbanAmish Legend No.1

I started getting wind that something was up in Pennsylvania when I got a picture of fabrics clutched closely to the body. A sure sign of an oncoming quilting frenzy if I ever saw one. Not too long afterwards I started receiving snaps of blocks as they were coming together. Finally there was the top! All in the space of a weekend.

Dolores Joshua, Road Warrior (a.k.a. Blank Quilting Sales rep) had managed to surprise and delight me once again.

What follows is the story told in her own words of her UrbanAmish Africa adventure through UrbanAmish Lesson 1 • Indian Hatchet (You can download this lesson and templates for your own use in this post.)

Where to start? This is my first journey into blog-land, so it is a bit premeditated, not natural, nor comfortable for me….

But here goes…..
I read the UrbanAmish lesson over and just let it percolate in my head for a few days, not consciously thinking about it. That way I knew when I was ready to tackle the project I would have worked it out in my subconscious. Finally one morning I was ready to take on the challenge. I walked into the living room where a pile of fabrics was being auditioned for other projects. Suddenly the Safari II fabric I had lived with for MONTHS was calling out to me. I had never figured out how I wanted to use this wonderful, graphic fabric.

I suddenly knew! The description of medium value as “equal distribution of lights and darks” ran through my head and I knew I had a good focus print. (See the Zebra print at the beginning of post.)

Next challenge…the two accompanying fabrics.

The companion piece from the collection was a no-brainer choice for fabric B. It fit the description perfectly- “Darker value tone on tone”…and it was a smaller scale print!!!

Next choice….my lighter value tone on tone.. Now I was confronted with a conundrum. I always think “why use one fabric when 20 will do?” I knew I wanted to add a teal blue to the brown in this fabric, and when I went to my stash many fabrics were waving their hands at me.

I got out my ruby beholder to check the appropriateness of these choices. I didn’t want any one of them to vary greatly from the others.

This is a close-up view of the fabrics as seen through the Ruby Beholder.
Same fabrics without the red filter.

This quilt layout can be found in Lesson #1.

I already knew that I would use an arrangement of blocks like the one in the blog…it had a very rhythmic feel to it and I could feel the drums beating and a very African theme emerged in my mind.

I counted up the blocks in the original design and went to work! The final quilt emerged a few short hours later and I am very happy with the end result. I call it “The Watering Hole.”

Having lived with the top for a week or more, I know what I am going to do for borders…that will follow soon, hopefully this weekend.!

I like the way the various blues add variety and gives the “water” depth.

Phoebe gives her approval!

Okay; I just have to ask. How many of you DON'T own a cat who sits on every quilt you make. I figured it'd be easier on the Blogger server to pose the question this way.

Coming up in the next posts:
  • Traveling with Miranda! A photographic tribute to a real fine design.
  • UrbanAmish Lesson #2 (Rome Might Be Built in a Day)
  • Real UrbanAmish Legend #3 tells her story. (If she ever puts that wine glass down)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Report from the Fringes: Real UrbanAmish Legend No. 2

My friend Marta surprised me Sunday evening with an email chronicling her very first piecing adventure. She had Pamela and I laughing and chuckling for quite a while after reading it.
We thought any quilter at any level would enjoy reliving their early piecing adventures through Marta's intimate encounter with the Indian Hatchet UrbanAmish Lesson 1.

Marta is a very accomplished knitter hence the title: Report from the Fringes. She is also a very accomplished gardener hence her preoccupation with the direction of stem growth in her block. But we digress: read on!

Subject line of the email: Hatchet Quest.

"There once was a knitter with a designer friend. Designer-friend said, "Be an Urban Amisher." So with designer-friend's cool pattern and fabrics, knitter (that's me) set out on the quest. Note for readers: I learned how to sew for a Girl Scout badge about 40 years ago. (Where does the time go?) Yes, I can thread the machine, but my sewing generally consists of zigzagging edges for hems.

Nice pattern. I liked having the pre-made templates. Lazy I am. And good thing the instructions included checking the scale and how to change the printer settings.

I chose designer-friend's English Garden (floral), A La Mode (Stripe) and a plain green from the stash. Okay, are all the stripes supposed to go the same way? I cut extras so that they would.

Am I supposed to pin these? And why are there pointy bits hanging over the edge? I suppose in spite of the triangles I should center the two pieces. Yikes! Should be right sides together. Bet you quilters were screaming when you saw that.

Maybe it's time for a tea break. Does anyone have any chocolate?
(Editorial comment: Marta does not know this but her pinning style will probably cause some squeals from quilters also. It's best to let her have her tea and chocolate in peace.)

I'm worrying about those triangles.
(Editorial comment: I'm still worrying about the pinning.)

It's really going to be a pain to have to finish each of these off. The reverse button on my machine is stiff. I really think I need to read something about quilting.

Okay, I made one seam. Here is the reverse side.

But I think the flowers look like they are growing the wrong way. Does direction matter? Knitter-gardener can't stand it if the flowers are growing upside down.

Why God invented the seam ripper...

Is there a technical term for this? I'm starting to wonder if this is called the Indian Hatchet because you want to throw yourself on it.
(Editorial comment: Glad we didn't mention anything about the pinning before. We can tell she's at a fragile junction now.)

In Yolanda and Barbara's book, Holiday Quilts I read about chaining.

That makes piecing go much faster.
(Editorial comment: Not sure, but do you think there were some decorative stitching attempts on this one seam? I don't remember that being included in the chain-piecing instruction.)

Maybe quilting is like swimming. So dangerous it should only be done with a buddy present.
(Editorial comment: We are also glad her scissors seem to have short blades. Should curtail any possible damage.)

How I learned to chain. And which way to press the seams.

Press toward the darker fabric.

Aren't they cute? I'm not sure if I should press as I go...

Oops, never watch TV while cutting out your pieces.

Well, if there's extra, I guess I can just slice it off.
(Editorial comment: Interesting. She's not using your typical quilterly see-thru grid ruler. The things we take for granted.)

Do I change thread colors?

They look like Tibetan Prayer Flags.

A digital camera was handy when I was trying out Yolanda's variations: Variation One, Parallel.

Two: Flipped and Mirrored

Three: Mirrored

Four: One Quarter Flipped

Five: Parallel and Flipped

Six: Inverted and Mirrored. I flipped back through the photos on the camera and decided I liked Flipped and Mirrored, Variation Two.

Hmm. Now is that saying, "Measure Once; Cut Twice? Oh well, hope I can make up for it at the machine.
(Editorial comment: I know I've muttered that very prayer once or twice myself.)

Well, it's done. How do you quilters get all of the little corners to line up?

I know it's weird, but I really like the back."

This docu-drama was contributed by Marta McDowell, botanical lecturer and author of Emily Dickinson's Garden.
Marta is also my co-author on A Garden Alphabetized (for your viewing pleasure) a book of twenty-six images and twenty-six essays is for all lovers of flowers and gardening. Marta wrote the essays, I made the images.

Visit her very entertaining and thoughtful gardening blogspot at:

This book and Emily Dickinson's Garden available through Amazon.

Coming next: Lesson 2 and tales Real UrbanAmish Legends Nos.1 & 3.

Having your own UrbanAmish adventures? Tell me about then. Tell us all!

Become an UrbanAmish Legend in your time!

To get UrbanAmish Lesson 1 as a free download: Click here.

To get the UrbanAmish Lesson 1 Template set as a free download: Click here.