Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tangents and Distractions

This is an off week for me, as my employer closes the week between Christmas and New Years. I had all sorts of giddy plans for this week, which in retrospect were just ridiculous: clean the apartment, donate all extraneous clothing, books, etc., get up at 7 am, eat healthy food and not the Christmas sugar leftovers, exercise, meditate, write out my 2011 plan, visit with a friend or two, finish an essay, write every day, a guitar to practice. A nice, quiet, restful but productive week.

Well, none of that got done. There was a blizzard, for one thing, which required hours of staring out into the snow and bad TV and internet surfing. And then it later required serious digging to find my car; well, the back half, to be precise, since the snow drifted so much. This was a tad problematic, as my shovel was in the trunk of my car. Yesterday, I had to take the cat to the vet, and now know way more about feline anal glands than I ever wanted to. I was happy to know hers were just a bit clogged up and there was nothing serious, but phew. The smell was just indescribable, and certainly not fit for public consumption. And for the past few days, construction crews have been in the downstairs apartment tearing out the floor and playing loud Latin rap music, which has sent me into PTSD mode from flashbacks to my NYC apartment, where I endured months of the walls vibrating from the exact same music. (So much for quiet meditation and writing.)

But mostly nothing got done because I got a on a sewing project. I mentioned that I recently joined my local quilt guild, and I'm participating in a friendship block exchange. The way they do it is, you write your name and what you want (a color, a block style, a theme), and then you pick someone else's name. Each month for three months you make and give them two blocks; the last month all is revealed, and you give them the pattern instructions and any leftover fabric so they can make 2 more blocks, and then sew up the quilt top in any manner they see fit (a lap quilt, a table runner, a wall hanging). There's no rule about block size or anything, and is pretty much up to one's interpretation of the indicated theme. (I was boring. I indicated "scrappy log cabin", because I've always wanted one and figured even the most beginner quilter can sew one, and a more advanced quilter would find some way to spice it up.)

The person I picked indicated she preferred "Asian". I assumed she meant the Asian-inspired quilt fabric that I see a lot of, which was a bit troublesome because it's just not my thing at all. I spent several hours raiding my fabric stash to find anything remotely Asian in theme, and came up totally empty handed. That necessitated spending Tuesday afternoon browsing at both of my local fabric stores, trying to buy fabric that I didn't really care that much for, for a total stranger to boot. But I found some fat quarters, and some background fabric, and figured something would turn out.

I also spent several hours poring through old quilt books and magazines, trying to find a pattern to use. I wanted a bigger block, as it would be easier to actually make something useful with only 8 blocks; I wanted something that would complement the Asian fabric I had bought; and I wanted something fairly easy to piece, in case I was handing the project off to a beginner; and I wanted something that would instill a hint of surprise after the first exchange. I found this "T" block pattern from an old Quilter's Newsletter Magazine from November 2001 (why yes, I am a packrat, why do you ask?). It's called "Kimonos and Cranes" by Jan Fecteau, and what I really liked about this was that the T's sort of look like little kimonos when sewed with the Asian fabrics. I also liked that they were 12" blocks, and while the original pattern was more scrappy with the fabric choices, I could use one fabric for each block and still have a little surprise. In fact, with the way some of the fabric is printed, there were some fat quarters where I could make 2 completely different-looking blocks with the same fabric.

The pattern was marked "easy", which was another plus...until I realized that lately (as in, the past freaking 2 years) I've been mostly strip piecing, or sewing simple 5" blocks. And for me, any time triangle points are involved, things immediately become Not Easy. No matter how carefully I cut, or how carefully I sew (and I have a 1/4" sewing foot on my machine), my crisp triangle points are often missing. And I know all the tricks, too - using a pin to match up opposing points, sewing just shy of the point's intersecting seams, etc....but still, my seam ripper and I are spending lots of quality time together. I also have the darndest time squaring blocks up when there is a lot of piecing in them. You can see on the first block below, the lower left side is a tad off...but regardless: I actually really like it.

It's sister blocks are now littering my living room, despite not being due until MARCH, because I am now fixated on sewing these. In fact, I am contemplating hoofing it back to the fabric store for a few more fat quarters.

Oh, and also? I hope the recipient of my blocks is not allergic to cats...

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