Friday, February 1, 2019

Route 78 - A Finished Quilt

I've lived on the northwestern border of New Jersey for the past 20 years (since elementary school). It has its positives and negatives, but one giant negative is that generally, it takes an hour or more to get almost anywhere I need to go, in every direction. I'm sure it could be worse, but for someone who doesn't enjoy driving or cars or anything related, it can be quite the burden - especially when Interstate Route 78 here is a treacherous and busy road with many accidents (I watch a Facebook group specifically dedicated to NJ/PA 78 updates nearly every day; the sheer number of commuters and trucks is unbelievable).

However, I have found something positive about my constant commutes over the years. Driving home on Route 78 West towards my town takes me over a (somewhat scary) mountain, but the views are astounding. And if I hit that spot right around sunset, it's always worthwhile. Several mountains are surrounded by the most astonishing color spectacle.

I'm always the one driving when this happens and thus have never been able to take a photo, but I did catch the infamous sunset over mountains when I pulled up to Shoprite one night. It's a bit more drastic and mountain-y from the highway, but hopefully you get the idea! I see sunsets like this all year round. Who would have thought - New Jersey, amiright? (Please note: I am a Jersey girl. I love NJ). :)

This quilt (72" x 78") was made over several months of 2018, using lots of special scraps and brick by brick improvisation, which I used to teach. It was all about creating a seamless transition between each color. When you look at the sky, do you ever wonder how those color change? I do, constantly!

So, each block has pieces of the colors surrounding it, which makes it have a pixelated look. What I LOVE about planned improvisation is that there's always a plan, but I never know exactly what the quilt will look like when it's done. I also quilted each color differently (and into the next color) to further emphasize the transition. It was fun coming up with the various motifs and pairing up Aurifil threads: 1320, 4020, 1133, 2600, 1243, 1135, and 2605.

The gray mountains were appliqued on after I pieced the sky. I wanted them to switch from light to dark gray, as if the sun was still lighting up part of the mountaintops. That's not really what I typically see from the highway, but this creates more interest. :) The binding also transitions between colors.

This quilt is really special. Whenever I brought it to lectures last year and mentioned the name, people in this surrounding area seemed to know exactly what I was talking about. Fun fact: there's only one diagonal seam in the whole quilt (besides the mountains), and it's in the above picture!

I'm trying to decide on another landscape quilt to start this year - to use up my scraps and make something once again that completely enthralls me in the process. Isn't that what it's all about? What natural scene would you/have you recreate(d) in fabric?

Linking up to From Bolt To Beauty

Monday, January 21, 2019

"For the Child" - A Finished Quilt

A couple months ago, right before the crazy holiday tide started washing over everything, I received notification that I'd been chosen to participate in the 2nd annual Windows of Understanding, a public art project organized by Rutgers University in New Brunswick and Highland Park, NJ. I've become increasingly interested in creating more meaningful quilts that go beyond my little sewing room, so I'd jumped at the chance to apply to a program whose slogan reads, "We See Through Hate." Each artist would be paired up with a local nonprofit to convey, through art, their needs. Definitely my cup of tea.

I arrived for the introductions and public art training at Mason Gross School of the Arts, not knowing what to expect. It was an inspiring yet strange night, being surrounded by passionate artists who were mostly Rutgers graduate students and a few other adult artists (I just kept thinking, I feel old, being back in a place like this :) ).

Since I'm a teacher, I was assigned to work with CASA of Middlesex County (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children who are abused or neglected - by the way, this organization exists nationally). That's a worthy cause that truly left me wondering if I could do it justice. If anything, the public art training gave me a lot to chew on; it was a whole new world. Diving into the public piano project last summer without any training (literally just me and a bunch of paint cans) made me reflect on that experience even more.

 It's double-sided! More volunteers with children.

Then, I had the opportunity to meet with the Program Director of CASA of Middlesex, Stephanie. We talked about the main goals of the organization and the one that stood out most was volunteer recruitment. It's clear that CASA could not do what it does without caring adults who go through an intensive training and come out ready to support foster children who need them (85,000+ volunteers nationally).

Here are the results (read my artist statement below)! Luckily, I had time over winter break to delve into this project and give it the time it needed. As of today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the art tour is officially open and runs for the next month. I'm extremely honored and proud to be a part of this effort.

"Adult volunteers make drastic, positive differences in the lives of New Jersey's foster children through CASA. This quilt was stitched together by hand and machine to illustrate hope. Fragmented, but bright colors in the background come together to join volunteer and child. The quilting on top showcases the ripple effect of this trusting bond. Just one volunteer can make all the difference by giving time and attention. What could be more important than people coming together to help children?"

The hashtag so far showcases some of the artworks exhibited, and they are absolutely incredible! If you're local, make sure to pick a day that it's not -20 wind chill (no joke) and take a walk around New Brunswick (special art tour map right here)! My quilt is hanging in the window at Destination Dogs, which is a great spot (and um, if you like hot dogs, I can very much recommend going inside, plus you can see the other side of my quilt)! Maybe you'll learn about a new nonprofit that didn't cross your attention before. Plus, there are tons of events surrounding the art exhibition, though for now, some have been postponed due to the frigid temperatures. But don't miss this!

(Thank goodness, the quilt was bright enough to conquer the mean glare on that window - at least from a distance. Phew! Double batting for the win).

Monday, December 31, 2018

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019!

2018 was the best year for my family since 2012, and I'm grateful for it. My husband and I were just recently reflecting on this fact. It was a big year namely because I got a new job that I love. This brought big changes to my quilting pursuits: I stopped writing The Wonky Press email newsletter after 3 years and as of this month have paused all lectures and workshops indefinitely (more about this here). I think it's safe to say I am no longer trying to be a part of the quilting industry.

The relief these changes have brought is indescribable. I've been pulled in many directions for a long time, and it's time to just focus on one thing for a while. In the past, with deadlines for teaching, patterns, lectures, and blog hops I felt compelled to quilt in nearly all my free time and more if I could swing it. And truth be told - I loved it. While I'm very grateful for those opportunities and all the people I have met and worked with, now that I'm taking a break, I'm enjoying quilting more as a hobby (and have more time for other hobbies). This makes me really happy - happier than I thought I could be.

This year I finished 16 quilts (5 haven't been shared online yet). Several of these just had finishing touches added on this year. A few baby quilts, one community quilt, a few explorations of minimalism (see the Quilting Modern Quilts Blog Series), 3 other gift quilts, and one for myself (Kintsugi, which embodies a lot of what I mentioned at the beginning of this post and my feelings about craft). You can read full blog posts for all those pictured above right here.

 Here are some of my favorite "small" makes of 2018. :) Most were towards the end of the year.

This year I also tried some new crafts. I got really interested in painting murals, and completed my first, on a piano (!), no less (check the latest issue of UPPERCASE magazine - you might see a familiar face!!). This project would have been difficult to complete at other times in my life, but it was the right place and the right time. Thank you to SOPAC for that amazing opportunity to contribute to the community of South Orange, NJ.

 Read the full post about the piano project here. The design is based on one of my quilts!

My main focus right now: I'm currently working in conjunction with the Windows of Understanding public art project through Rutgers University and the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA on 2 quilts for exhibition. I am excited. :)

3rd block for Raspberry Applique BOM, in progress through 2019

I decided NOT to set goals for 2019 - more like plans. I'd love to attempt another Kintsugi quilt. Maybe I'll start garment sewing again, maybe not (apparently I really have to be in the mood for that; I just love quilts!). Maybe I'll knit more; I'd like to finish my Hufflepuff scarf before I see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in March! Maybe I'll be able to complete a wall mural. There are definitely more felt crafts and hand sewing in my future. I'll likely be finishing some WIPs and working on my Hawaiian applique (which deserves its own post - see photo above!). I'd love to have another chance at a community quilt this year.

I'll be posting about the 5 other quilts I still need to share publicly, plus the upcoming exhibitions. But who knows, really? I'm leaving it open otherwise.

Do you have creative goals for the new year? Happy New Year and Happy Making 2019!

Linking up:

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Handmade Holidays 2018

Handmade holidays (and birthdays) have become a large part of my making for the year. As long as I can swing the time, I'd much rather make something for someone (if I know they'll appreciate it) than wander aimlessly around a store or click "buy" online. This is just my preference, and one way of gifting isn't better than the other, of course! This post contains the bulk of all the things I've made the last 3 months.

Winter tablerunner - long put away out of disinterest and finally finished this year (for me! Yay!)

It's a wonderful feeling to be told by people (namely my mom, sister, and two oldest nieces) that they'd prefer I make them something. Handmade holidays has its downsides, too. It means time management and proper fabric buying/preparation. It's probably more pricey when you factor in the time it takes to make something. For the winter holidays, it means starting in September or October. Over the last few years, I've relied on my quilt guild's early November retreat to get as much done as possible in a weekend, and it's great!

Pillow for my mom - the sashiko ginkgo leaves (pattern from Easy Piecing) on the right were done early in the year. Always knew I'd make it into a pillow for her; I've made several sashiko pillows at this point and one other just for her! :)

Next up: pouches! First, a Hamilton the musical-inspired pouch for my sister's boyfriend, who now LOVES Broadway (and Hamilton). I quilted the lyrics to his favorite song "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)" on the back the pouch, and included NYC fabric on the inside (he loves NYC, too!).

I also made 5 emoji-inspired pouches for my older nieces, depending on personality (for example, one of the oldest got the stars because she loves performing). In the holiday crazy I forgot to snap a picture of these finished, but I was super pleased with them! Each niece also got cute holiday socks inside their pouches. These were made up as I went using HeatnBond Lite for the faces and fusible fleece to give them structure.

What do you make for really little kids? I've tried several tactics and now I know you can't go wrong with hats. I used a pattern from Fleece Fun and just altered it to use knit scraps and felt. I was a bit nervous as I'd never made a hat before, but my tiny niece and nephew put them right on and didn't take them off for hours! Example A:

I made these little embroidery wall hangings for my husband and his best friend, who love Pokemon and especially the infamous Surprised Pikachu meme.

And finally, onto the felt flowers - my newest craft obsession. I've been posting a lot about felt and felt flowers on Instagram, and this will definitely continue! I love it - I think I was a florist in a past life. Working with felt is so different from fabric but I'm enjoying the challenge of trying new flowers and making surprise wreaths for friends. Here's an example of the several winter-themed wreaths I made recently. The best part is being able to use one embroidery hoop for two wreaths!

I also made my mother-in-law her own terrarium. She'll never have to worry about watering these succulents (tutorial from Benzie Design, where I get my felt!).

Usually I have no idea what I'll make year to year, but next year's niece and nephew presents are already cemented in my mind. That's a big relief though, because I don't have to worry about it. I can just start making - once I've taken a proper break from this year's holiday, that is. :)


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