Friday, October 14, 2011

Learning to Tattoo

So I was cruising the stacks at my local library (and found myself in the craft section of course) where a book title jumped out at me.

Zen Tangle

I just loved the opposition suggested by those words...

"Zen" implying a smooth sort of flowing ease (which I would love to achieve) and "Tangle" implying utter 4 year-old chaos (hair, shoelaces, etc. which I have achieved on any number of occasions).

Turns out the concept is a catchy term for doodling...primarily with black ink.

Think of it as a sort of tattoo for inanimate objects (minus the pain, butterflies, declarations of love for mom, country or some barmaid named Bernice).
I decided my old bamboo lazy-Susan would be my first

First I painted a base coat of flesh color to simulate actual skin...
Okay, not really - I only had three jars of craft paint handy - flesh, red, and brown and since flesh was the won the draw for base coat...still I had you going on the whole tattoo theme didn't I? 

Then I added in the red and brown.
Side note - Dave hated it at this stage - he said it looked "blotchy".
Explaining "zen", "tangle" or even "shading" required far too much effort so I stuck my tongue out at him instead.
I will tell YOU, however, the idea is to divide up a large space into smaller spaces and then start "tangling" with a Sharpie. It is hugely time consuming and yet totally fun.
I kept coming back to it over a few days - each time picking a new area and then tangling up a new design.
It's officially ZEN-TANGLED!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Making of an Alex Quilt...

I made my son Alex his first quilt when he was four years old. It was a simple pattern (which was all I could manage) featuring oddly leaning pine trees on a cream background. He loved it (small children have low standards) but decades of washing have reduced it to a mere shredded ghost of its previous misaligned glory.

So last month, after several minutes of protesting, Alex finally agreed to let the pine tree quilt go to that special quilt shop in the sky...after exacting my promise to replace it with a new one.

But there were rules:

Rule #1: No flowered fabrics could be used (that rule narrows the choices at any given quilt shop by 85%).

Rule #2: Earth tones were required (that 15% just narrowed to 5%).

Rule #3: The backing had to be soft but not overly warm so the quilt could be used in summer (I searched high and low for brushed cotton - and had to settle for a light flannel).

Soft and the swirly lines hide any quilting whoopsies...
I was up for the challenge having just signed up for a "Rhinestone Cowboy" quilt class at the local quilt shop.

So I sent Alex a snapshot of the quilt pattern made up into a lap quilt at the store...

My quilting teacher made this lap quilt for her cowboy themed TV room.
And he responded with...

Rule #4: "No cowboy themed fabrics either" (So I was down to 3% of the available fabrics assuming I excluded Christmas prints).

Pretty much I bought a "fat quarter" of every fabric they had that met Alex's criteria.

I was super excited to take the class.

I would have the chance to learn new things, meet new friends and use my new sewing machine...

Of course the night before class my excitement turned into back-to-school jitters. I was a bundle of nerves - Would they like me? Would I make a complete fool of myself since I barely knew how my new machine worked? Would there be snacks?

Luckily for me there were only two other students (and they had met a few weeks before at a beginning quilters class so they were friendly and understanding). The teacher was very knowledgeable and patient.

And best of all - they had COOKIES!

I had cut all my squares at home so was ready to start sewing in class.
We started by sewing the main blocks together which doesn't sound like a big deal but you have to try and get all the corners to line up...which is a big deal because it's hugely hard for me.

Quilters call this "nesting seams" because they aren't supposed to use the real words which are more like, "#%&*ing seams".

These are my first two blocks...with the "nested seams" and they only took 4 hours to sew.
By the time I had sewn all the blocks together - (a week later at home after tremendous profanity and few adult beverages) I no longer called it a "Rhinestone Cowboy" quilt - it became the "Nesting Nightmare" pattern.

Since Alex wanted a double bed sized quilt I had to use the floor as my design wall.
Of course I had some help with the layout...

Huckleberry loves Alex's new quilt...
But not as much as Golly does!
Actually I did have a lot of help with this quilt in the form of long-distance phone support from my sister Caroline who is a math/science teacher and expert quilter (she's super good at calculation and all the geometry quilts require). With her advice I was able to put my new sewing machine and its fancy stitches to good use.
I love these embroidered corners!

And I thought the wave pattern looked pretty cool too.
After the quilt top was assembled, I had to "slapplique" the stars on top. The idea is to "slap" them down without sewing the edges under. This allows their raw edges to become ragged in the wash and gives a rustic texture to the quilt top.

The stars were my favorite part of the pattern!
A month later I'd sewn all the "stars upon thars" and was nearing the home stretch. Of course, that was after a LOT of unpicking or "reverse sewing" as quilters say (they're just full of cute sayings) during this project.

In fact, I had to "re-sew" the entire binding by hand...with some help from Golly as usual. 

Golly just LOVES Alex's Not so least not until my bruised fingers heal up.

The real question of course is, "Will Alex like it?"

He likes it!!!