My niece Chelsea got married this past weekend. She is the eldest of all Neal's nieces and nephews, and was just a baby when Neal and I started dating. Later on, she was the flower girl at our wedding. A few weeks ago, her mother Cindy and I were chatting about the wedding and I asked whether Chelsea and her fiance Michael would prefer a handmade gift or something from their registry. Cindy said, "I think they would really appreciate something handmade, but you know, the wedding's only three weeks away."
I'm calling this one "Two Hearts." It's a jumbo Log Cabin block with a 24-inch center block surrounded by 6-inch strips. The newlyweds have a red leather sectional, so I wanted the main color to be red. The quilt measures 72 inches square--a generous size for a lap quilt. I used several favorite fabrics from my stash, including a couple of Anna Maria Horner prints and some of my beloved Liberty prints--both of London and of Target. The backing is a Kaffe Fasset print. I don't think I've made a sewing project in the past couple of years that didn't have at least some of this print in some colorway or another!
I machine quilted concentric squares around the strips, then went back in and hand quilted around the medallions in the center fabric using an aqua thread that matches the fabric. And as a final accent, I used red embroidery floss to pickstitch two intertwined hearts in the lower right hand side of the quilt.
There's a new family in town:
To be more specific, they are in our front yard. We first noticed they were there when we saw a large bunny just sitting in our yard early one morning, not moving. As we continued to watch, we saw several little bodies moving under her and realized that she was nursing her babies. A few minutes later when we left for school, she was gone so we went over to check it out. There were five baby bunnies packed into a tiny hole. We never saw the mother again, but I'm certain she must have come back at some point. Over the next two days we saw the babies both in the hole and and just outside. I think they must have just been born; they didn't know enough to be afraid of us.
I was a little sad on the morning I went out and found the hole empty (although I can now mow the lawn again). I'm sure I'll be seeing those bunnies again somewhere on my early morning jaunts through town.
It's Greta approved!
I finished this one a few weeks ago and it is a real shot in the arm for fresh spring color. There are so many great fabrics out right now that Justine and I had trouble narrowing down the choices. I think in the end her color choices were just right.
I really love it all, but my favorite part of the quilt is the backing. It's a new print from Anna Maria Horner. I think I could stare at it all day. It comes in three different colorways, and I'm quite certain I'll be using one or more of them again.
Of course I never imagined delivering this quilt to Justine in a hospital room, but that is what happened. As we all worried and hoped for a fast and complete recovery for her, I also stitched away, Finn and Liam and Neal and Greta all cuddling under the quilt at some point as I worked on it. In this way it is like a giant get-well card you can nap under. I remember reading somewhere that a quilter traditionally sleeps under a quilt one night before giving it to the recipient in order to imbue it with all the good thoughts that should come with a gift from the heart, and that, in a way, it what we did. I hope it brings her some comfort.
About 14 years ago I made a quilt for Dan and Justine. It was a Christmas present, and before I started I asked my brother, "Hypothetically speaking, if you had a quilt made for you, what colors would you like it to be?" His answer, which has since become family lore, was "Whatever doesn't show dirt."
I made them a Trip Around the World from a very muted palette: Blues, greys, and a dark cranberry. The backing was a black and white plaid that to this day reminds me of the thick blankets our horses wore in the winter.
Earlier this year Justine told me the binding was showing wear and asked if we could replace it, and, while we were at it, put a new backing on with bright, springlike colors. Turns out, though, that there's not much in today's fabric palettes that would go with this color combo of yesteryear. I suggested that I fix the old quilt AND make a new one to satisfy her craving for all things orange, pink, green, and aqua.
Here's the problem with the binding. The fabric has literally worn away, a problem made worse by the fact that their cat likes to suck on the fraying bits. It was like this all the way around. I started pulling out the handstitching holding the binding to the backing, but after a bit it became clear that the whole edge just had to go. And so:
Justine found a great white/pink fabric for the new binding. I like how it freshens up the whole quilt while still blending in with the more traditional colors.
Here's the whole thing in all its old-new glory:
And lastly, a little something to keep track of all that history:
Next up is a quilt in a fresh new colorway to brighten up their bedroom. It won't be long now!
I finished Allegheny about a month ago, during a freak March heat wave. The unseasonably warm weather made the idea of knitting a dress from alpaca yarn seem ridiculous. But I carried on until it was done, and the weather had me thinking it would go up into storage for the summer without ever being worn. But then the weather shifted back to something more recognizeable as spring in New England, and suddenly my alpaca marvel didn't seem quite so ridiculous. I've worn it a few times, and today finally got the chance to get some photos. I very much enjoyed knitting this one--the writer/editor in me is always grateful for a well-written pattern, and this one is one of the better ones I've come across.
The boys and I tried dying eggs with beets, spinach, and onion skin/turmeric. The eggs in their pretty pots looked so promising, but the results left me wanting. The first two made very faint colors and the eggs came out very blotchy. The eggs took the onion skin/turmeric dye very well, but they turned the exact shade of---the brown eggs already in my fridge! And also, the combined stench of boiled eggs, beets, and spinach is making me very hesitant to open the fridge for any reason.
I had to laugh. They are sort of charmingly rustic, I guess, but next year, back to the fizzy tablets.
My adventures as a costume shop seamstress continue. This experience has been a blast--from working with the other women to watching the performers' fittings. (My favorite so far was the strapping fellow who, after first asking for his shirt sleeves to be taken in even more to show the definition in his arms, suggested his costume instead be revised to suspenders-no-shirt, and then treated us all to The Gun Show to further his point.)
After working in the shop for the last two weeks, I am a lot more confident in the work I'm doing--not to mention faster! Prior to this experience, I had never used a serger, and now I'm wondering how I ever did without one. Ditto for a counter-height cutting table, and a couple of dozen other notions and tools. I see a stock-up trip to the dreaded Jo-Ann Fabric in my future!
Every woman in the production needs an apron, and while most of the dresses have been rented or purchased and simply need altering, the designer decided to design and build aprons for everyone. After cutting and serging the pieces, I took a couple home to construct over the weekend. When they were first talking about aprons, I had imagined a simple rectangle tied around the waist with ties. I couldn't have been more wrong. These are more like pinafores, basically a full dress worn over the regular dress, so the women can slop around doing whatever they need to do, then pull off the apron and have an unsullied dress for Sunday. (If I had such a thing, I would never again have to look down at myself while waiting for the kids at pickup and realize that I once again had wiped my floury hands all over my jeans before rushing out of the house.)
I recently re-read the entire Little House series, and as I worked on these and the others I built at the shop, I could not help but think of the Ingalls girls out on their homestead with no one around at all, and how they had to stay neat and tidy all the time. And then of course, as I always do when I think about the Ingalls family, I thought again that these books would be a perfect guide for the apocalypse as they really are a documentation of how to do everything from next to nothing.
These aprons were made in that spirit, but with so many modern conveniences it was hardly work at all. I can't wait to see them all together with the finished costumes. I think I'm going to love how the production looks.
Mom and I headed to Naples, Florida this weekend to attend the wedding of her dear friend's daughter. When Mom showed me the invitation for this event (a large box containing a crystal-embellished starfish, among other things), it was clear we were not dealing with a run-of-the-mill exchange of vows. We knew beforehand that the bride's gown was custom-made in Paris and that it was only fitting for her guests to glam it up as much as possible. The weeks we spent planning our outfits for the various events were not in vain; all the things we chose were fun and completely appropriate. Here we are after the ceremony and before the reception:
It was a little windy.
My shrug turned out pretty good, and I was happy to have it because I got a ridiculous patchy sunburn that afternoon and the shrug covered at least some of it. It seems to be a little large in these photos--it's slipping off my shoulders. I didn't notice that as I was wearing it.
I love the look of the lace at the bottom edge of the back, and I'm so glad I went to the effort to add it. I'm really happy with this outfit overall and I hope I get a few more chances to wear it. Sans sunburn, preferably!
I "worked outside the home" today.
The mom of one of Finn's schoolmates recently told me she has a costume-designer friend, Amanda, who is working on an opera at the New England Conservatory and needs someone to help her sew costumes. The mom had remembered I had made a tote bag as a class gift for the boys' teacher last year, and gave her friend my name. After talking briefly over the phone, we agreed to try each other out to see if we could work together.
The opera is Paul Bunyon and the costumes, as Amanda described them, are "Little House meets Lumberjack," lots of plaid, calico, and suspenders. I described my experience to Amanda and she said it sounded like a good fit, and that the work was for the most part fairly straightforward stitching. Nevertheless, I was nervous last night, fearing I had somehow overstated my abilities and would make some ridiculous goof straight off the bat. (This may be a side effect of many years of not being paid for my skills--a person starts to think they must have nothing of value to offer!) I was reminded of how I felt the night before my first day as an editorial assistant, when I studied the copyediting marks page from the Chicago Manual of Style as if there was going to be a quiz.
I showed up at the design shop in the South End and immediately was put at ease by Amanda. They are still in the process of fitting the costumes to the performers, so she showed me the rack of items that have already been fitted and marked with the performers' names and the required alterations as well as the rack of items that are still under consideration. Arranged across the floor were heaps of boots, piles of caps, and a tangle of suspenders.
Amanda showed me the show's "Bible," a book containing a list of the performers, their roles (most of them are playing two roles), their measurements, and everything that needs to be done to each costume, including purchases, alterations, and dying. As I make each alteration, I need to cross out each thing I do and initial it.
After a quick tour of the work area, Amanda set me up with my first alterations. I tacked sleeves, let down hems, pulled out the flannel lining on a pair of pants (it would have been too hot under the lights), sewed on MANY suspender buttons, removed belt loops and took in a pair of trousers based on chalk marks that were made yesterday at the performer's fitting. (Did you know that I knew how to take in trousers? Neither did I.)
As far as I know I didn't make any glaring gaffes. I probably was going fairly slow compared to an experienced professional, but I figured it was better to do a good job than just fly through. She also said something about how terrible it would be if suspender buttons started popping while onstage, and I got a little paranoid. I don't think my suspender buttons are going anywhere any time soon. It must have been OK, because she asked me back for next week!