Thursday, February 28, 2013

Scrappy Trip-Along

Just a tiny scrappy trip-along update today. I finished cutting out 1,296 2" squares from 216 unique fabrics.

scrappy trip-along

I've finished a few blocks and I love how they're turning out!

scrappy trip-along

I've been taking my time with these. I set up all the squares for a block and then when I'm sewing other things, I sew a pair as leaders and enders. Before I know it, I've finished what I'm working on AND finished a scrappy trip block.

scrappy trip-along

Sometimes I make a whole block start to finish but I actually prefer to sew them as leaders/enders. I like that I'm getting two things done at once...the thing I'm supposed to be working on and a scrappy trip block as a bonus! It'll take me much longer to finish the quilt this way but I don't mind. I'm focusing on the journey and it is so much fun!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Crystal's Favorite Things!

Here's a list of things I super love right now and thought you might like them too:

1. First, I just have to tell you because I am so proud: Ian wrote a short story that will be published in a book coming out this summer. The collection is called This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death. It's the "sequel" to their first collection Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die. I've read the first book and a few stories from the second and I just can't get enough! It's so interesting to think what the world might be like if there was a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. Morbid? Perhaps. Fascinating? I think so!

Machine of Death

They have offered a preview of Ian's story so if you're interested in reading it, you can find it here. If you want to know more about the whole Machine of Death phenomenon including free pdf downloads and podcasts from the first book, check it out here.

2. I'm obsessed with this gorgeous "Seed Stitch Wrap" over on the Purl Bee. I've just recently learned to knit...like, I can do knit, purl and increase (just one kind of increase, I'm told there's more than one way to do it). Oh, I can also "knit in"...very impressive, right? Anyway, I want to make this wrap, like, so bad! Once I finish my current project I'm going to seriously consider making one.

3. I'm waiting ever so patiently for Alicia to release a kit for these adorable felt bunnies, complete with Liberty dresses and knit! caplets. She says we have just a week to wait...but a week is so long! I might not buy a kit since I have lots of felt and Liberty at home already but a sweet little kit all packaged up for me is very tempting!

4. I've mentioned this before but my brother makes gorgeous wire-wrapped jewelry. I have a few pieces that he's made and I wear them nearly every day (I'm even wearing one in my blog photo).

wire wrapped brazilian agate pendant

I mention this because he set up an etsy shop: Akua Hana. He and a friend have teamed up to sell his jewelry and her Venetian masks. I don't know much about the masks, never having seen them in person, but I can tell you that the pendants are gorgeous. They're even more stunning in person.

5. So, I was reading Martha Stewart the other day and found a tiny article about a couple who bought a goat farm. Did you know it's my dream to own a goat farm and keep bees and sell honey and cheeses and everything wonderful? And here these people are living my dream and it made me happy and then a little sad. And then I saw that they sell homemade caramels from their website and I suddenly felt it was really important to support a fellow dreamer. Now that they've arrived, I'll tell you that these caramels are SO good! Ian prefers the original sea salt and bourbon vanilla, I prefer the chai. A side note...I bought the "festive" gift set because it had lots of caramels, a blank card with a cute goat drawing AND came in a pretty dupioni silk bag that I can reuse. It's, like, win/win/win!

So there you have it...my five favorite things for February!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dear Jane: Quilt As You Go

So, part of the reason why I love the Dear Jane quilt is because Jane did some seriously dense and seriously beautiful quilting! It got me thinking about how I wanted to quilt mine, assuming I ever finish it.

I thought how amazing it would be to have a hand quilted Dear Jane but then I remembered what a chore it was to hand quilt my Bottled Rainbows (which is finally 100% finished, by the way). See evidence here:

Bottled Rainbows Quilt

After looking up some tutorials, I decided to give the quilt as you go method a try. I do enjoy hand quilting very small quilts and the DJ blocks have 1/2" sashing. It's like it was meant to be!

So, here we go:

dj8

I make a quilt sandwich with my block, warm and white batting and a square of the same Liberty fabric that's featured in the block. Then I make big, messy (yet oh so delicious!) stitches using DMC #8 pearl cotton (in white) that I bought from Purl Soho. I'm using Jane's quilting as inspiration but I'm not set on following it exactly.

dj10

Once the block is quilted, I trim the whole thing to 5" and then add the 1/2" sashing (like in this tutorial). The back sashing is first sewn by machine, then finished by hand (just like a quilt binding).

Dear Jane Quilt

So far, it's a perfectly enjoyable way to finish these tiny blocks! I think I'm a fan of quilt as you go...are you?

dj5

dj9

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Good Morning Jane

This is how I spent my four day weekend:

dj1

Early morning sunshine, coffee, fluffy piles of Liberty and tiny Dear Jane blocks.

dj2

Absolute perfection.

dj3

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dear Jane: The Plan (and Links)

After staring at this quilt for seven years, I feel like I know it very well. On the other hand, I feel like I'll never truly know it, never discover all its secrets. My first introduction to this quilt was through Brenda's website: Dear Jane. There you can read about Brenda's journey, find tips on making the blocks and purchase the book, templates and/or the computer software. I have the book and I love being able to take a closer look at each block (although I do wish the photos of each block were larger and more detailed).

Two things to know about the book:
1) There are no directions on how to put the blocks together, although each block has a template drawn to the correct size.
2) Not all templates exactly match Jane's original blocks. (From what I can tell from pictures, it looks like some are corrected in the software.)

The good thing is that there are lots of tutorials online. By far my favorite site is That Quilt written by Anina of Twiddletails fame. She shows how she assembles each and every block, triangle and kite.

When it comes to choosing fabrics, I beg you to use your favorite and very best fabrics for this quilt. I speak from experience here: you will very quickly become annoyed with your fabrics if you don't love them or if they are of poor quality. If this happens, you might end up hating everything about your quilt and throwing all your blocks away like I did. Maybe you aren't as temperamental, maybe you'll play it cool and keep on making blocks. But maybe, like me, you'll have a fit and cry a little and vow never to sew anything ever again. Choosing the right fabric is seriously important!

Part of that is choosing colors and how you want to arrange them within the layout. The original quilt is arranged in a Trip Around the World pattern. The center is green, the next ring is yellow, the next brown and so forth. Anina's Rainbow Jane shows this off to perfection.

You can also go random like her 1930's Jane version...this is what I'm going to do! Searching Flickr for "Dear Jane Quilt" brings up lots of quilts with different color combinations and layouts.

For my Dear Jane quilt, I've decided to do a random color layout using my precious Liberty of London stash:

liberty3

I bought some of these when I was in London two years ago and the rest came from Purl Soho. I actually just ordered a bunch more prints...this quilt takes a lot of fabric and I want it to be really scrappy. Except there will be little to no purple or yellow...I just couldn't do it, you guys! You know how I feel about purple. I'm totally cool with other people liking it but it's just not the color for me.

liberty4

Anyway, there's another facet to my DJ plan that I'll reveal once I figure out if it'll even work. My package from Purl should be here soon and then I'll know for sure. There is excited waiving of hands going on over here!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dear Jane

Seven years ago, when I was a brand new quilter, I discovered and fell deeply in love with the Dear Jane quilt.

stickle2

It was created by a woman named Jane A. Blakely Stickle during the Civil War. Not much is known about her or this quilt.

As you can guess, I immediately became obsessed and started to make a Dear Jane quilt of my own. It wasn't long before I started to feel my inexperience. These blocks finish at 4.5" and I was often overwhelmed by the tiny pieces. Some blocks were a huge time investment and I started to hate the fabrics I'd chosen. I worried about putting together such a large quilt top and had no idea if I would be able to quilt it on my tiny machine.

I gave up after a couple dozen blocks and tried not to dwell on the terrible experience. I eventually threw all my blocks away in an effort to free myself from the constant reminder of my failure.

But even after all that, the original quilt still holds a special place in my heart. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. More specifically, I've been thinking about the amazing woman who made this complex and beautiful quilt.

The amount of work that went into making it is almost inconceivable. This quilt wasn't planed with computer software or sewn on a sewing machine. She didn't have plastic rulers or rotary cutters. She didn't send it out to be long-arm quilted. Instead, she sat in her farmhouse (perhaps on the front porch?) and planned 225 different blocks and cut fabric and pieced them all by hand. She sewed the 80"x80" top together by hand. She quilted it by hand. She bound the scalloped edges by hand.

The more I think about it, the more I'm awed by the whole thing. I struggle to piece quilts using all the developments of the modern sewing world yet this woman created this quilt with, what...pencil, paper, scissors, needle and thread? And this quilt is just one of thousands made in the same way throughout history. It is a truly humbling thought.

After much consideration, I've decided to give this quilt another try. I'll talk more about my plans soon but until then, I'd love to chat about this quilt with you. Like, have you seen it before? Do you like it? Have you started to sew your own? Have you actually finished one?! How does this quilt make you feel? (Sorry, that last one is a little ridiculous but I always ask Ian how my quilts make him feel because it makes him all squirmy and it's funny...but that being said, I do honestly want to know how this quilt makes you feel. Just so you know, this quilt makes Ian feel hungry.)