Monday, March 17, 2014

Quilts Made Modern / Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. 2010

Authors Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr run Modern Quilt Studio and I am an avid fan of their work. They've published several books now, as well as a magazine. This particular book is the first one I ever purchased about modern quilting. While there are a lot of great patterns and ideas for quilts, it was the first book that helped me understand what modern quilting is and how to think about design. I'd been anxious to use the book and I ended up choosing a pattern from it when I was given this group of Amy Butler fabrics by QBFFT.

In my mind, those fabrics did not lend themselves to something traditional. With the exception of the one solid, they seemed to fight with one another. I had to find a way to get them to work together. As I perused this book, as well as other pattern books, I kept coming back to this one photo, despite how different my fabrics were from the ones used in the book.

This quilt is called "Improv." The individual blocks are pieced using an improvisational technique. There is a degree of structure to get you started, but then it becomes kind of random. I began by cutting my 10 fabrics into strips of several different widths. Then I cut about half of those strips into small pieces 2-5 inches long. I tossed all of the small pieces into a container, mixed them up, and then randomly sewed them to the longer strips. Like this:

Here's my container of small pieces:

I wound up with small units that I sewed to more strips. Then I began to randomly sew those units together to create larger units:

Until I had a stack of blocks:

The blocks were supposed to measure 6.5 x 6.5 inches. But I wasn't paying attention at first and I soon realized my blocks were nearing 8 x 8. So I made 35 7.5 x 7.5 inch blocks. It was easy to get carried away.

I loved being forced to just sew units together. This really put me outside of anything I had ever done before. After auditioning the squares against various solids, I settled on this purple.

And here are some close-ups:

It's randomly quilted with spirals.

I'm really happy with how this turned out. This book not only gave me a great way to use those fabrics, but it taught me to think very differently about the kind of quilts I want to make. It's a tremendous resource for anyone interested in modern quilting.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

QBFF Challenge--FQ Exchange

Two years ago I blogged about a challenge the QBFFs and I had organized. We exchanged 2.5 yards of fabric. Each of us had to take the fabric we were given and make a completed quilt for the person who gave them the fabric.


These are the fabric collections we exchanged. The fabric for my quilt is to the left. The fabric I received is above on the far right.

It took 2 years for the last of us to finish her quilt. I actually finished mine in late 2012, but I couldn't reveal it until now. Below are the finished quilts.

The rules were pretty simple. We had to use some of each fabric, we could only add one more fabric, and the quilt had to be at least lap sized (bigger than a crib quilt, smaller than a bed quilt).

QBFFA and QBFFC exchanged the two collections in the upper left above. Here are their completed quilts side-by-side:

Here is the quilt QBFFT made for me. I absolutely love it! I think I need more yellow in my life:

Finally, here is the one I made for QBFFT. I used an interesting pattern, and I will blog more about it shortly.

We're already hard at work on our next two challenges! It's a great way to stretch our abilities.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Very Special T-Shirt Quilt

Fellow blogger SonomaLass, did me the great honor of bidding on my Brenda Novak Auction item last year. She won a t-shirt quilt made by yours truly and I'm pleased to say I finally finished it. My first finish of 2014.

The previous time I had done this, the winner was someone I worked with. When I needed to talk to her about fabric choices, I could just pop over to her office. This time all of the consulting was done long distance and I had a lot of fun going to the shop, taking pictures of various fabrics and sending them to SonomaLass for her to choose from. I even set up a Flickr page to document my progress on the quilt. (If you go look, the pictures are arranged in reverse chronological order.)

So here's a look at the finished quilt:

One shirt was "re-created" by printing the images on printable fabric. That stuff soaks up ink so nicely. It also soaked up some of the red dye when I washed the quilt. I was a bit surprised to say the least, because I had pre-washed the red twice to get as much excess dye out as possible. So in the following pictures you can see one block is slightly pink instead of stark white. Frankly, I rather like the effect.

And here are some closeups:

 And finally, a look at the back.

It always makes me nervous to cut into someone else's precious memories. Then once the top is finished it takes me a couple of weeks to get up the nerve to start quilting. I don't know why, because once I get started, it really is easy and rather fun. All turned out well and I'm grateful to know it will be loved and used.

By the way, it is not lost on me that today is TBR Challenge Day. This is the second month is a row I've missed. I have no excuse for January. This month I blame the Olympics.

Speaking of the Olympics, every time I see the Sochi Olympic graphic my heart just smiles. So beautiful. They need to market the fabric to quilters.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

December 2013 Ornament Project

Every now and then I get in a mood to make a batch of Christmas Tree ornaments. I've posted about them a couple of times in the past. I ran across the instructions to these stars and churned out a couple of dozen of them for family and friends. Here are the ones I kept for myself:

So remember how I finished all of those UFOs earlier this year? By July I had finished 11 quilts. In October I made a quick wall hanging and that was the last project I finished in 2013 besides these ornaments. Not that I wasn't sewing. I've simultaneously been working on a full-sized t-shirt quilt (it's all done except the binding!!!) and a twin-sized bed quilt. But neither one got finished in 2013, so the year ended on a bit of a whimper compared to how it started out. Still, if you include the stars, I finished 13 projects last year. Not too shabby.

I don't have the incentive of a UFO contest for this year, so we'll see what I can find to motivate myself. I went back to work full-time in November, so free time for sewing is a little harder to come by. But I have some ideas of what I'd like to work on and I'll try to post some pictures in a few weeks.

A belated Happy New Year to you all.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Love Overdue / Pamela Morsi. 2013

Hello friends! Sorry for the long silence of late. I'm still here, still reading and quilting, and still hopeful to find time to share more of it with you. I read this book the other day and am anxious to talk about it. So here goes.

I have to start out this review with a little conversation about me :)

I'm a librarian who has spent her career in the technical services (cataloging and acquisitions) departments of 3 different academic libraries. Despite spending a few years doing some fill-in Sunday reference work in a large public library, I really have no significant public library experience. Like many of you reading this, I am a huge user and supporter of my local public library. Most of us academic types are far more used to the Library of Congress (LC) classification system. It's very different from the Dewey Decimal system (DDC) used in most public and school libraries. The DDC was created in 1876 and while it has been revised and updated nearly 2 dozen times since, its "bones" reflect the world as it was understood in the 19th century. LC was created not too long after, but really developed in the early part of the 20th century and it reflects the collection of the Library of Congress. They are very different beasts.

Despite the fact that I've been using LC in my work for the last 30 years, I actually cut my eye-teeth on DDC, because my first library job was at one of the few large academic libraries that had never made the switch from DDC to LC. I have a soft spot for DDC despite my academic snobbery which insists LC is better. I have an old t-shirt (that will someday make its way into a quilt) from that first job with the picture of a woman cataloging books and labeled with the Dewey number for baseball (796.357) and Cuttered with my last name. Each of us in the department chose a Dewey number for their favorite hobby or pastime.

Anyhow, Pamela Morsi's latest book, Love Overdue, uses the DDC in the most awesome way. I can't begin to tell you how delighted I was as chapter by chapter, Morsi took me through the DDC as she told her story about a small town librarian who rediscovers the love of her life. Imagine the thought and craft that had to go into telling a story while finding elements that correspond with specific class numbers in almost all of the major divisions: Philosophy (100's), Social Sciences (300's), Languages (400's), etc. And to do it in a progressive fashion, i.e. start in the 000's and progress to the 900's, just the way you might walk through the stacks of any public library. The result is chapter headings such as "304.3: Factors Affecting Social Behavior" and "631.2: Agriculture: Techniques, Equipment." Morsi did a brilliant job of incorporating the concepts of the various DDC numbers into those chapters.

Love Overdue is the story of Dorothy (D.J.) Jarrow, a librarian who has moved to the small town of Verdant, KS to assume leadership of the Verdant Public Library. D.J. had a lonely childhood and after college, graduate school, and a job working for a boss from hell, D.J. is anxious to find a place to call home. (Oh, did I forget to mention the homage to Wizard of Oz?) D.J. arrives to find an interfering landlady, a library that's dark, unwelcoming, and way behind the times, and typical small town characters who know everything about everyone. D.J. also discovers that Verdant's resident pharmacist, Scott Sanderson, son of the interfering landlady, is also the sexy guy D.J. had had a one-night stand with many years earlier while on Spring Break on South Padre Island.

Scott knows D.J. is familiar, but he doesn't recognize her as the girl who's haunted his dreams all these years since their hook-up. The night was embarrassing for D.J. and she's not anxious to admit they'd met before. D.J.'s initial mortified reaction to meeting Scott has him sensing her hostility and in no mood to try and get to know her. But his (interfering) mother convinces him to spend time with D.J. and in time she lets down her guard enough that they really get to know one another, even as D.J. continues to keep secret their previous encounter.

See, that night was so embarrassing for D.J. that in the years since she made herself into a conservative, up-tight woman--thereby meeting the popular librarian stereotype. As we get to know D.J., though, she is not that stereotype. She has modern ideas of what a library should be and she's willing to make whatever changes she has to in order to make her library the centerpiece of Verdant. And Scott, who had been burned before (and not just by that encounter with D.J. all those years ago), begins to believe that he has met the one woman for him.

There are so many things happening in this book: D.J. and Scott take center stage, but there are issues of death and grieving, finding ways to help people cope with change, breaking down stereotypes and assumptions, and even life in Kansas during the wheat harvest. Sometimes a book will hit all the right buttons and make you stand up and admire the work and craft that went into writing that book. Love Overdue hit those buttons for me. That I could also thoroughly invest in the romance made the book doubly enjoyable.

So, how much did I love this book? The copy I read is one I borrowed from my public library. When I finished it, I bought a copy for myself.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TBR Day. Ghost Planet / Sharon Lynn Fisher. 2012

This month's theme is books that received lots of hype. I don't really have anything like that in my TBR pile, so I decided to go off in a totally different direction and review the first SF romance I've read in ages. This book was a finalist this year in the RITAs and the description was intriguing so I picked it up several months ago. I finally read it this weekend and I really, really liked it. Fisher was nominated in the "Best First Book" category. If this is her first book, I'm definitely looking forward to more.

Earth is in a bad way as the environment has become extremely toxic. A new world has opened up that has incredible potential to provide the sustenance Earth needs. But there's a very strange phenomenon on this planet. Whenever a new human arrives on the planet, someone from that person's past is reincarnated into a very human-like body and is somehow tethered to their human. Everyone has a "ghost" trailing behind them. The ghost is fully aware of who he/she used to be. Yet for the human, it can be extremely unsettling to have this person trailing around behind them. It's one thing if your ghost is a beloved spouse or an old friend. It's another if your ghost is an abusive parent. So a Ghost Protocol has been initiated to keep ghosts in the background, shunned and ignored. Ghosts become pale imitations of the humans they used to be.

Elizabeth Cole is a psychologist who has traveled to this new world to work with the psychologists who help people acclimate and learn how to deal with their ghosts. When the book opens she meets Murphy, her new boss and creator of the protocol. It turns out they'd met once before, back on earth. There's an instant attraction between them. And then it turns out that Elizabeth died when her ship crash-landed and Elizabeth is a ghost--tethered to, of all people, Murphy. Elizabeth goes instantly from being a welcomed and respected new colleague to being shunted to the side. And Elizabeth isn't going to take it lying down.

As Elizabeth digs deep to discover what exactly it means to be a ghost, she manages to get Murphy to really look at her and not ignore her. Their attraction deepens and it becomes imperative to understand the nature of their symbiotic relationship and the ramifications that has for the development of the planet. Meanwhile there are other people at work who want to exploit the ghosts and the planet's resources for commercial gain.

A book about reincarnating the dead brings up numerous interesting questions. Fisher doesn't necessarily answer all of those questions, but she does delve into issues of control and responsibility for those who didn't ask to find themselves in the position of being a ghost. It was particularly interesting to see that the treatment of the ghosts was important to the planet's ability to be developed for humans to use.

The book is in 1st person from Elizabeth's POV. This is perfect for seeing her dismay, confusion, and anger upon realizing she's a ghost. It's also great for seeing her wrestle for the control over her own life that was lost when she "died." I enjoyed the romance that developed between her and Murphy just as much as I enjoyed the world Fisher created. Frankly, I'd love to see more books set here, although it doesn't appear right now that Fisher is going to do that. Still, what a lovely debut. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes SciFi Romance.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Phyl's 5 Phaves from July

Yes, yes, I know. It's November. I don't want to admit how long I've had a draft of this post waiting to be published.

5. Her Best Worst Mistake / Sarah Mayberry. (2012) This book received a lot of attention when it was first released, so I was pretty eager to read it. Plus, I've liked most of Mayberry's books that I've read. This is an enemies to lovers story, and really interesting in the way Mayberry's characters, Violet and Martin, shed the assumptions each has had about the other. This book runs concurrent to Hot Island Nights (which I haven't read). Elizabeth and Martin had been engaged for years, when suddenly Elizabeth flies off to Australia in search of her biological father. She leaves her best friend, Violet, to break the news to Martin. Martin and Violet have never gotten along. Violet thinks Martin is all wrong for Elizabeth, and Martin objects to Violet's flamboyant ways. On the surface they seem so different for one another, yet when Elizabeth's flight gives them the opportunity to get to know one another better, they find they had more in common than they anticipated. I think the development of Martin and Violet's relationship is well and realistically done. I liked this book very much.

4. VJ : the Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave / Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Allan Hunter, and Martha Quinn. (2013) For several years in the early 80's, after MTV came on the air, I treated MTV like a radio--keeping it on in the background while I did other things, looking up to watch the videos when my favorite songs and artists came on the air. These days I have a satellite radio that I carry around to plug into my car, my office, or my sewing room. The '80s on 8 is one of a handful of stations I listen to regularly. I was eager to read this book that, using a conversational style, chronicled the early years of MTV. It was enjoyable on a number of levels--for the personal look into the lives of the four authors, for the look into the business of starting up a music cable channel, and for the stories behind music and events I remember quite well. This is a great read for anyone who enjoyed the early years of MTV.

3. Betrayal / Sandra Schwab. (2013) This novella is Schwab's newest book in ages. I'm so glad she's publishing again. Betrayal will remind readers of the Disney movie The Parent Trap, which was actually based on Erich Kastner's Das doppelte Lottchen, a German children's book. Georgina is living in Germany where she welcomes home her son who had been travelling in Italy. It is not long before she realizes that this boy is not the son she knew, but his twin who she'd left behind when she fled her husband, Ash. Her sons met one another in Italy and had traded places. Georgina needs to take this twin home and confront the painful past she left behind. This is a nice angsty, emotional read, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

2. The Heiress Effect / Courtney Milan. (2013) Oliver Marshall is a man with a mission. He is the bastard son of a duke, raised on a farm, yet given a gentleman's education. His goal is to be the voice of the people and sometimes that means doing somewhat distasteful things to secure the support of the rich and powerful. Jane Fairfield is an heiress with poor social skills and a terrible sense of style. In reality, Jane is trying to repel those who would marry her for her money. As Oliver is thrown into her company, he sees that there is much more to Jane than most people see. But what is he to do when he has to make a choice between Jane and achieving his goals? This is an interesting look at the slippery slope our choices can take us down, as well as the politics of an era when the people were gaining a louder political voice. There's also a secondary inter-racial romance involving Jane's sister that I wish had gotten even more attention. Still, I loved this entry in Milan's Brothers Sinister series.

1. Honest Illusions / Nora Roberts. (1992) This title appeared on one of the AAR staff's top 10 picks and since I enjoy going through Roberts' backlist, I picked it up at the library. I'm so glad I did, because I think it will go down as one of my top 5 Nora's. This book is really different from most of hers that I've read. It's more of a saga as it takes place over a couple of decades. It's also really dated--in a good way. Modern technology would change this book in so many ways that I'm not sure the story could be told the same way today. Anyhow, Roxanne Nouvelle is the daughter of a renowned magician who is also a jewel thief on the side. A significant part of the story takes place during Roxanne's youth when her father takes in a runaway boy and makes him part of the family and the magic act. As kids, Roxanne and Luke battle one another all the time, but as young adults they fall in love. Just as it looks as if they're ready for their happily ever after, Luke disappears, and it's years before he comes back. There's someone who haunts Luke's past and he's determined to keep him from the family that took him in when he was young and desperate. I laughed in spots, I cried in others, and I was swept away by the drama. It was interesting that the main characters were thieves and yet they were the "good guys." I'll read this again.