Coloring: The Butterfly Gardener

Secret Garden by Johanna Basford - The Butterfly Gardener - finished

“The Butterfly Gardener” – Ink design by Johanna Basford in Secret Garden, coloring and custom artwork in the center square by me.  All coloring was done with Prismacolor Premier colored pencils (36 pack).

The coloring bug has bitten me yet again.  I don’t know what it is about adult coloring books that I find to be so ridiculously addictive.  All I know is that when I get the itch to color, it’s like entering a mystical time warp of colorful, flowery bliss.  My latest finish is this flower garden filled with a melange of delightful creatures.

Continue reading

Rainbow raspberry kiss quilt top

Rainbow raspberry kiss quilt top in progress

After much indecision, here’s what I came up with!  Still a rainbow, but not as linear as my initial arrangement.  I added more warm blocks to better balance out the cools, and I mixed the blocks up a bit so the color transitions wouldn’t be too harsh.  If I’m honest, I’m not 100% happy with it, but I am NOT ripping out any seams at this point!

One thing I learned during this exercise is that I wasn’t born with an eye for color arrangement.  Getting that perfect mix and balance is really hard!  I admire people who are good at this, and I hope to get better with more practice.  There are few things in life that can’t be learned, right?

Raspberry kiss quilt - seams pressed open

Here’s a close up of the back.  The internal seams of the blocks are pressed to one side (to the darks whenever possible), and the seams connecting the blocks are pressed open to avoid bulk at the points.  All seam allowances are 1/4 inch.  There are approximately a million loose threads stuck all over this quilt top, but hopefully I’ll catch them all during basting!

I’m debating adding a thin white border around the edges, for two reasons: (a) to give the blocks a bit of room to “float,” and more importantly (b) to give myself a little wiggle room during basting and quilting.  Maybe it’s just my lack of quilting skill, but having only 1/4 inch seam allowances on the edge of the quilt often results in uneven edges for me.  I feel like the quilt top shrinks a bit during quilting, and it’s nice to have a little more fabric along the edges to compensate.

By the way, this quilt is huge.  It’s currently about 74″ x 90″, without the border or binding.  I don’t know where/how I’m going to baste it…. so suggestions are welcome!  I may have to use the huge table at Gather Here for this beast.

Will keep you posted!

Summer vacation

Raspberry kiss quilt - blocks assembled into rows 1

That’s right folks, I’m on vacation!  After a very challenging summer at work, I’m taking a few days off to recover before all the craziness associated with the fall semester kicks in.  It’s my favorite type of vacation, too: staying home with nothing planned.  I feel so freeeeeeee!!!

Case in point: I am writing this post out on the roof deck in the middle of the afternoon with a belly full of sushi and a cup of coffee brewing.  My sewing machine is in the adjacent room along with my rainbow quilt top in progress.  Maggie (my sweet kitty) is napping on her cardboard scratcher, and all is quiet here in Cambridge.  Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than this.  :)

Continue reading

Analysis paralysis

Circle of rainbow raspberry kiss blocks

With nearly enough blocks to start assembling my quilt top, analysis paralysis has set in.  I have a rainbow of colors, but should they be arranged in rainbow order or not?

The random order is a little less obvious than a classic rainbow, but do the colors get jumbled with such a variety?

Raspberry kiss - 81 blocks in random order

Then again, although rainbow order is super cliche, do the colors look more harmonious in a more organized layout?

Raspberry kiss - 81 blocks in rainbow order

Or should I do something else entirely?  Perhaps a hybrid of the two?

The quilt is currently 81 blocks strong (9 x 9), and I think I’m going to make 18 more, for a total of 99 (9 x 11).  So, I have some wiggle room to adjust the color scheme a bit, perhaps making more of one color than another.

I think I know what I want to do, and it involves a bit more rearranging.  What do you think?  Honest opinions welcome!

Amidst chaos, there is sewing

Raspberry kiss - green blocks during assembly

Amidst the chaos that seems to define the most recent events in world news, American politics, and my day-to-day life, there has been sewing.  Calming, peaceful, and focused sewing.  Do you sew to drown out the chaos?  I know I do.  It works pretty well, at least temporarily.  :)

Continue reading

Sewing room improvement: small but significant

Sewing room improvement - table risers - close up

Have you ever taken 5 minutes to do something and think to yourself, “Why didn’t I do this AGES ago???”

This past weekend I walked across the street and spent a whopping $11 and made a major improvement to my sewing room.  I bought four all-purpose plastic tubs, propped up my sewing table with them, and saved myself a ton of back pain.

I was truly amazed what this extra 8 inches or so of height did for my back.  I feel like a complete idiot – I should have done this ages ago.

Sewing room improvement - table risers

As you can see above, my sewing table is now level with my ironing board, which is a good sign that the table is now at an adequate height for working while standing.

You can also see how my desk is blocked when the “studio” is set up.  BTW, this is actually the desk I am writing this post in right now.  :)

I don’t know how long these plastic tubs will last, but for $11, I don’t really care.  I’m just happy that I have temporarily overcome my idiocy and managed to fix this extremely fixable problem.  Hooray!

On managing people: a rookie’s perspective

Managing people

My new job never ceases to challenge me.  I’ve talked about it before, wondering how long it would take for things to calm down after a tumultuous transition from grad student to postdoc.  But you know what?  I’ve come to the conclusion that things are not going to calm down.  Stress, anxiety, and exhaustion are my new normal.  I know I’m not alone in dealing with work-related stress, and in the grand scheme of things am doing pretty well in life, but man, this is tough!

I think it’s safe to say that the work I’ve been doing lately is, hands down, the most challenging work I’ve ever done in my life.

The latest challenge?  Managing.  At 36 years old, this is the first time I’ve been responsible for a bunch of people on a daily basis.  This summer I have five students working for me full time, a combination of undergraduates and high school students.  Thankfully all the students are wonderful, very bright and motivated, and really a pleasure to work with.  The challenging part is keeping everyone moving forward simultaneously.

Continue reading

A quilting diversion

Raspberry kiss blocks in progress

I spent nearly 8 hours on Saturday cutting out fabric for my floral Robson… and I’m still not finished!  That’s on top of all the cutting I did the previous weekend.  I’m starting to think that I may have overdone it will all the layers on this coat.  So far I’ve finished cutting all the flannel interlining and the main fabric, in addition to most of the lining pieces.  I still have to finish the lining, cut out all the interfacing, and cut the hair canvas that I got for the front facings/lapels.  Will I ever be ready to start actually sewing this beast???

No pictures of the coat this week.  Just imagine a heap of cut fabric.  A large heap.

Because I needed a break after all that cutting, I whipped up a few quilt blocks.  I’m using this free raspberry kiss pattern and the leftover scraps from my Aqueduct Quilt.  These were so quick and fun compared to the hell of coat fabric cutting.  Wait, did I say HELL?  Isn’t sewing supposed to be FUN??  Let’s just say that cutting is not my favorite part of the sewing process!

Anyway… back to this little quilting diversion.

Raspberry kiss blocks - early block

I think my blocks are getting better as I go along.  The block above was one of my first, and you can see some puckering along the interior seams.  Later, the blocks seemed to lie much flatter, as you can see below.  Progress!

Raspberry kiss blocks - late block

I have a bunch more blocks cut out and ready to sew, mostly blues and pinks to add to the mix.

Fabric cut for more raspberry kiss blocks

For now though, my main focus is still on the Robson.  I’m really looking forward to starting the sewing process, assuming I ever make it thorough the abyss of cutting.  Oh cutting, why do you torment me so??

Hope you’re all having a good week!

Epic fabric cutting in progress

Robson Trench - black bias binding

There is going to be a ton of fabric cutting for my floral Robson trench.  This weekend, I started to make a dent.  Above, feast your eyes on approximately 12 yards of bias binding.  This took me an entire afternoon!

Robson Trench - flannel interlining fabric cut

I also cut out all the flannel interlining…

Robson Trench - starting to cut floral cotton sateen

… and started on the main floral fabric.  Confession: I almost cut out these front facing pieces with the print upside down!  I’m so glad I caught it in time.

Lots more cutting to go, including the slippery rayon lining which I always hate cutting.  I need to find a zen-like state of inner peace before I attempt this.  :)

I won’t finish this coat anytime soon, but I hope you’ll enjoy seeing little bits of progress here and there.  Stay tuned!