Sunday, April 6, 2014

EEEEP! Finally Giving EPP a Try

I am heading down to the wire on my book, but that doesn't mean I am not doing any handwork. I CAN'T not do handwork. I pass no judgement on those who can either focus or zone out appropriately, but I can't comfortably watch TV or go for a long car ride or play Scrabble with friends if I don't have something I'm doing with my hands. (Can you guess that I've never been able to stick with meditation? But that's another story.)

I've long been interested in English paper piecing (EPP). Its portability appeals to me, as does its flexibility and the variety of things people do with the finished hexies. But what's never appealed to me is the cutting out part. And the sheer number of methods overwhelmed me. People seem so opinionated about this way or that being the best (and only) way. So when I spied Tula Pink's cute little EPP kits, with their pre-cut fabric squares, I decided it was time to give it a try. (I chose the Acacia fabric in blues and greens.)

Here's a bit of what I accomplished last night (after watching and reading 4200 online tutorials, because there are at least that many ways to do EPP). I've settled on the basting with thread (vs. glue) method, using a paperclip to hold the fabric to the Paper Pieces templates, and on not stitching through the paper. I may add a punched hole to the cardboards to make them easier to pop out with the tip of a scissor. I also think I'll iron them before I remove the cardboard.

The kits are lovely, though I would love to have a few more squares with the fox's face. I'll combine the pieces with some solids and do something or other with the hexies...for now, I'm thoroughly enjoying the fabrics and the satisfaction of watching those finished pieces pile up. Though a kit is obviously unnecessary, it was just what I needed to get me started. And I'm thrilled to have another way to use the packets of 2.5" fabric squares I've accumulated.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

More Oaxaca, More Color

More shots from our February trip—our great escape into a world of color.
Colander garlands
A quilt-like textile made of embroidered squares
One of the Santiago brothers in La Union
La Union guard turkeys. Seriously loud and scary.
Then sacred and the profane at a ceramics shop
Ocotlan Market wares
Oaxacan fabric store zippers


Friday, March 21, 2014

February in Oaxaca: Colors

I was lucky to escape the Polar Vortex this winter for 8 days and nights, and to once again visit Oaxaca. While the food, friends, and temperatures were a highlight, it was being in a landscape that wasn't monochromatic that did me as much good as anything. This was a winter that left so many of us feeling trapped, physically and mentally. And I also felt trapped visually. Being in a place where color was so enmeshed in the everyday did my soul a lot of good.

Here's some of what we saw. There will be more to come.
Market crochet samples
Carvings in La Union
La Union brickyard
Oaxacan embroidered shirt 
Sweet baby of a bookmark vendor
Young plants in a greenhouse
No explanation needed
Al fresco chess tournament on Oaxaca's zocolo



Monday, March 17, 2014

Tiny Bits

I've decided that while I'm finishing up my book (see previous post, numeral 1), the only way Pearl the Squirrel posts will exist is if they're short and sweet. So here starts the beginning of a photo, a phrase, or a project per post. My expectations need to be low if I'm going to continue. (Yours probably already are, given the delinquency of this blog.)
So today, for your viewing pleasure, a baby blanket I knitted for my friend's sweet baby girl. The only good thing about the very cool spring we're having is that she'll get to use it a little before it gets very warm, since though we had her baby shower in December, I didn't manage to get this to her until last week. (It's also got grey on the sides, which you can't see in the photos. It's knit with Classic Elite Yarns Toboggan.)
Sweet dreams!

Friday, January 10, 2014

What's keeping me BUSY

Poor, neglected blog. If there are any readers left out there, I certainly appreciate you! Here's what's been keeping me busy:

1. I'm working on a book with the tentative title of Art Quilts of the Midwest: publication date is March, 2015. I'm interviewing and writing a bio of each of the 20 artists whose work will be included—there were close to 100 entries—and have yet to talk with one who hasn't taught me something new, provided an interesting perspective on art and place, and been kind and lovely to "meet."

2. The spring issue of Stitch includes a couple pieces I wrote: an article on cross-stitch (loved learning that history) and a back-page essay about sewing the same pattern multiple times.

3. Posts I'm working on for Moda's Cutting Table blog continue to enable me to talk to some talented designers...I've got an interview this afternoon set up to "meet" one of their newest (you can find the story on Monday on The Cutting Table).

4. I've been working at Home Ec on Thursdays. The sock monkeys at the top of the page were tucked into my bag yesterday in preparation for the class I'm teaching on Sunday at Home Ec—it'd been so long since I made a monkey that I stitched the one on the left as a refresher....and I must say its cheery outlook during these dreary, cold days was my reward. (Sock monkey history here.)

5. And I've been putting Pearl's booties on nearly every time we head out into the Polar Vortex (we refer to this as Pearl's booty call). She hates them, and stands on three legs, holding the offending bootie up until I force her to put a leg down so I can put on the next one. This continues until all four are on, her leash is hooked to her collar, and she trots out of the house and down the sidewalk.

6. I made mitered-corner napkins for Maggie for Christmas out of Minick and Simpson's fantastic woven Midwinter Reds.

7. I finished binding the quilt I started last summer based on the workshop I took with Bill Kerr of Modern Quilt Studios. Linda Duncan quilted it, along with two others you'll soon see, and I really love it.

8. I've been knitting, but both projects are gifts, so their unveiling will have to wait.

So that's what's up with me...how about you?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pincushion Presents

A few years ago Kathy C. made me a bottle cap pincushion as a Lake Tahoe quilt retreat gift. I thought it was adorable, but it took me awhile to realize
how useful it is. I wound up keeping it in my binding box (a former stationary box in which I keep needles, thread, Thread Heaven, clips, and now, this pin cushion, all in preparation for binding quilts at a moment's notice). It's so useful that I decided to make them for my bookgroup and a few other friends for Christmas. 
Here's how many I've made so far (minus one, which I gave to a quilting friend in Berkeley). I started working on them this summer at the lake and really enjoyed combining the wool felt colors (small pieces purchased from Wooly Lady) with learning new stitches. I used Valdani thread for the embroidery. 
I wish I could get the tops to be a little smoother and less "cupcake-like," but they function as they were designed to do, so I guess I shouldn't worry too much. My bookgroup seemed to like them—I also included a pack of my favorite pins with each one. 
Our bookgroup holiday party is always so much fun and a true tradition at this point—our group has been together for more than 20 years. We exchange gifts—some handmade and some not, depending on how busy we've been—and cookies. This year Anne also made us a lovely soup and salad supper. 

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Me and O

I try not to bore you with a tale of every article and blog post I write, but I do have to share that while I was at the grocery store on Wednesday evening I came across the January issue of O magazine, and in it is a story written by....ME!
Yup, I've been pretty excited about this for some time, now, but had to keep it under my hat. I pitched the article and it was accepted in August. I'd thought for some time that the Days for Girls story I'd written for Stitch and Quilt Country needed to be told to a wider audience, but I just couldn't decide where. My sister has a subscription to O and when I read the copy she'd left at our cabin this summer I realized it would be the perfect place to tell that story. Turns out it was. They did a lovely job with the layout, headlines, and caption.

As happy as I am to have a clip from O, I'm also thrilled that Days for Girls is getting the publicity that comes with coverage in a magazine whose circulation is 2.7 million (and that's just the paid readership—think how many people pick it up at the dentist's office or hair salon). I just love it when my writing does some good for someone or something good!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Setting a record

Yes, I've set one all right...but it's for length of time between blog posts. Not such a good thing! So herein is a quick rundown of what's been up since mid-October.

Finished some backs and took quilts to Linda Duncan for long arming!

I was thrilled to finally get three quilts off my stair railing and to the quilters. One is back, another is ready for pick up. Here's the first (used the six Farmer's Wife blocks I made on the back).



Interviewing authors for my upcoming book!

Yup, I'm working on a book about art quilts and have had the great pleasure of talking with some of the  artists whose work was selected for inclusion. Can't say too much about that just yet, but it's an exciting project that you'll hear more about in coming months.

Quilt Market!

Had my usual wonderfully-inspiring-and-thoroughly-overwhelming-time. All the usual suspects, plus Cotton and Steel's debut, a stroll through Market with my Stitch editor Amber Eden, quick meet-ups with Lisa, Jennifer, and my other wonderful Meredith editors, dinner with my friends Mel and Mary Lou, a hug from Carolyn Friedlander, a quick chat with Lissa from Moda, and travel with Codi and Greta.
Brigitte Heitland for Moda
Anna Maria Horner's booth (Free Spirit)
Carolyn Friedlander's booth (Robert Kaufman)
Lakehouse's Holly Holderman and PamKitty Morning, with @szyhomemaker, @frecklemama, and Greta Songe
Laurie Simpson of Moda's Minick and Simpson demoing big stitching
Smilin' Vanessa Christenson and her booth for Moda
Austin!

A quick visit with my wonderful daughter Maggie and her beau, EJ. We took walks, bought boots, saw adorable babies, and ate great food.
Maggie and EJ's backyard grotto
Coolio chair at Austin's Nannie Inez
Coolio daughter
Surgery!

Had a small skin cancer removed from my nose. 18 stitches. Kind of a shock at first, but a month later it doesn't look half-bad. And they got all the skin cancer in one fell swoop, so hooray! (Reserving photos of this one)

California!

Went with my husband, who had a meeting. Saw old friends in Sonoma and Berkeley, a hike across SF that ended in dim sum, and Thanksgiving with my folks in southern Cal. A highlight was my first  face-to-face meeting with fellow Etsy contributor Karen Brown, with whom I've corresponded for a few years. Wish we lived closer...there's a kinship there, for sure.
Karen in her alpaca jacket
Bay view from the Presidio
My awesome dad, his awesome pumpkin pie, and Paul
Santa Barbara pelican
And now home, where I made a few bibs for a baby shower.
One other thing I did was work on a story for a new (to me, but you'll know it) publication that will be out in January. Looking forward to sharing that exciting news soon!

Happy Holidays...hope things are going well for you and yours.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A workshop with Crazy Mom Quilts' Amanda Jean

Amanda Jean's slabs and strings
Our guild lined up Amanda Jean Nyberg, co-author of Sunday Morning Quilts, for a workshop and I signed up immediately. I had the pleasure of interviewing her and Cheryl Arkison for an Etsy story and really enjoyed talking with them and their entire philosophy of saving scraps. I don't know about you, but I can't throw scraps away. Actually, I'll bet that you can't either. I go through phases, where I save even the little triangles I've cut from joining binding strips. I admit that eventually I've tossed them, but now that I've had a class with Amanda Jean, I wish I hadn't!

My scraps
Scraps can be overwhelming, and the goal behind Sunday Morning Quilts is to help them be less so, to make them actually useful. Our class started with a discussion of sorting scraps (Amanda Jean and her friend Pam even brought a set of scrappy sorting boxes) and sorting our own took some time. But it did make them more useable. I was trimming some blocks I'd made from my scraps and Amanda Jean came by and there was a tiny little square—maybe 1.5 by 1.5 inches—that I'd cut off the end and she confessed that she saves even those. Her frugality is matched by her creativity, and she puts these scraps to really great uses.

Amanda Jean's high-and-low volume quilt, Shady
One thing I enjoyed seeing was that even though her aesthetic is scrappy, she has a "look," a clear, colorful palette that shows up time and again in her quilts. I felt quite inspired and started with a log-cabinish block of multicolored scraps.

My slab
I decided, however, to limit my palette and went for blue, green, and yellow with a bit of grey and was quite enjoying that. I'm not sure yet what I'll do with the bit I made, but I do think I'll keep at it, as I have a ton of scraps in these colors.

Amanda Jean laying out gum drops
If you ever get the chance to take a workshop with Amanda Jean, don't hesitate. She's funny, friendly, and spends a lot of time walking around and talking through issues with quilters. A day well spent!
Scrap baskets, rug knitted from selvedges and strings, and 2.5 inch square quilt
My friend Kristin's slabs. We bought that dark blue fabric together six or seven years ago and both used scraps of it in our slabs.