Monday, December 13, 2010

December Weekend, Chicago Style

I spend a fair amount of my life daydreaming about what I would do if I had a weekend to kick around Chicago.  This past weekend, my daydreams came true.  With nothing definite scheduled, we decided to actually do some of the things we have talked about all year.  On Friday, my sister Katherine, Sean and Mags and I went to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the Christmas trees from around the world.  I hadn't been there since I was a little girl.  I remember going there with my parents--it almost felt the same...The good news is, the exhibit is still going strong.  Some of the trees were downright decked to the gills, dressed to the nines and chock full of ornaments, flags, and in some cases, framed pictures of pasta (that was the Italian tree, by the way).  I am not sure if we're supposed to assume that Italians really do put framed pasta pictures on their tree. My Italian grandma certainly did not.   Anyway, we had a great time looking at the trees and an even better time being together.
And, now that I carry a camera EVERY where I go (it's a little embarrassing...) I could not resist taking some pictures of non-Christmas related things.  Some of these would make for interesting quilt inspiration...I know we're mostly square and rectangle girls at Blue Underground Studios but I have some imminent plans to try some other shapes.

The fun did not end on Friday!  We unexpectedly got tickets to the Straight No Chaser concert at the Chicago Theater on Saturday night.  Woo Hoo!  Sean randomly found this a cappella men's group in this video on youtube last year (along with about a million other people.) 

And now they're making CD's and touring and all that good stuff.  And they are so great live!

We were having a serious flashback to our dating days when going out was a regular occurrence for us.  After the concert, we decided to really live on the edge and go for a drink at the Gale Street Inn.

On Sunday, we had company for dinner and decorated our tree.  It was a perfect way to end our perfect weekend.  Maggie hung most of the non-breakable ornaments at the bottom of the tree and we hung all of the breakable ornaments at the top.  

 I am getting a little tired of our tree skirt so I wrapped our Around the Block sample around the tree stand instead.  I actually think it looks kind of cute!

I love how the living room looks with the tree up.  And I love non-traditional uses for quilts.  Someday, I'll make a real tree skirt.  But in the meantime, I think this is a pretty good substitute.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Silk Revisited

I took a few minor diversions from my original '12 blocks a day' plan on these silk blocks.  However, I find that having a goal in mind really helps me stay somewhat on track.  If I hadn't given myself some sort of deadline, these blocks would still be in the contemplative stage.

As I finish them up, I am wanting to share some things we have found helpful when working with silks...

1.  Start your project with a fresh rotary blade.  Seriously, just change your blade! Your cutting will be easier and more accurate (which means your sewing will be more accurate).
2.  Change your needle before you start to sew.  A new needle will make for smooth sewing on dupioni silks.  I was sewing for several years before it even registered that I should be changing my needle on a very regular basis.  Once I started, I made sure I was never without extra needles.
3.  IGNORE THE FRAY!  This is hard, especially if you are at all persnickety about your personal space and its cleanliness.  The silks will fray...and you will find it all over your house.  Just this past week I found some stray silk in our egg carton, on our Christmas tree, and on my kitchen floor.  It's a by-product of working with these amazing fabrics.  Get a good lint roller and move on.
4.  Do not pre-wash your silks.  The resulting fray will leave you with not a lot of room for cutting your pieces.

We really have come to love working with silks and the richness they add to a quilt.  Since they can't really be laundered, they are great for small projects like throws, wall hangings and table runners.  

Happy Quilting!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Good Intentions, derailed

I started this week with every intention of starting a new quilt for market out of this lovely selection of fabrics:

But I got distracted by the print on the left....the clamshell print from the Parisville collection by Tula Pink (it's actually called 'fans' on the selvedge).  This happens to me all the time!  I wanted to start cutting all of the fabrics but I could not stop thinking about that clamshell print and how great those colors would look in a solid palette.  After wandering around the kitchen weighing the pros and cons of deviating from my schedule, I finally decided to give in.  (I rarely ignore an urge about studio, when it is full of random piles of fabrics that are evidence of this.)  So, I trucked upstairs to Maggie's room to find my solid bin.  Of course it was at the bottom of a stack of bins.  I quietly moved the top bins out of the way and began to assemble a group of solids in the semi-darkness of the morning.  When I finally carried them back to the kitchen, I was pleasantly surprised by the result.

So now, I have a new stack of fabrics waiting to become a quilt.  This stack is on our piano, which is also currently the home of my bowl of scissors (yes, I have a bowl of scissors), a bottle of best press, a cow pitcher for my sister , two strings of LED Christmas lights and a book of Broadway Show tunes (the only thing that actually belongs there).  I will stare at it for a while as I am sewing and hopefully I will make something with it.  However, I will not give in to unnecessary pressure.  I think half the fun of sewing is about dreams....the dreams of unmade quilts.  

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Review

Well, Thanksgiving dinner is over, the leftovers have been dispersed, the extra chairs have all been returned to their rightful places and the last dishes, and serving pieces have been washed and put away.  All in all, we were quite satisfied with everything this year!  We made all of our usual recipes for turkey, stuffing, etc with a couple of new twists.  We always make cinnamon rolls, a tradition started by my grandmother's sister Alice.  She was one of the best cooks in our family, and we still sit around and talk about some of the meals we had at her table.  Up until this year, we have been experimenting with different cinnamon roll recipes, but I think we can finally stop looking.  We made the recipe from the Pioneer Woman Cooks blog ( were heavenly!

We also made a departure from our traditional cranberry sauce and made Cranberry Chutney from the Orangette blog (  It was fabulous!  But the food was not the only highlight of Thanksgiving day.  Almost our entire family was together with the exception of my youngest little berry of a sister, Margaret.  With the other seven of us and the nieces and nephews, we make a pretty good party! 

Today, instead of giving in to the temptation of going to the mall for some black-Friday blowouts, we took a ride to Monches Farm in Colgate, Wisconsin.  For someone who could pass a pie out her dining room window into the neighbors extra bedroom, going to a place like Colgate is a real treat.  Once you get off the highway, the drive is beautiful.  There are quaint farm houses, fields and even horses!  You just don't see things like that near our house.  (Not that I would trade in my short ride to the loop, close proximity to Super Dog, or lawn I can mow in two minutes flat...)

And, Monches farm....well, it is a place to get ground-hardy perennials, dried wreaths and swags, beautiful Christmas ornaments, and so many other fun 'needful' things for your house and garden.

It has been such a wonderful week--it's going to be hard to get back in the swing of things and back to work on Monday!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Whenever I want to get a quilt done in a timely manner, I divide the total number of blocks by the number of days in which I'd like the finished blocks.  In this case, I decided to try and make 12 Berkeley blocks a day to finish them in four days.  Things were going swimmingly until Friday.  Friday was riddled with unexpected happenings--most of them good.  I started the morning sewing, as I usually do when I am on a mission.  Then my sister called and wanted to go out to lunch....and then I decided to stop at the nursery for some pine boughs and curly willow branches to put in the pot outside on the front porch.  At the nursery I did an extensive search for ornamental cabbage plants (they were out of them...) which took us some extra time.  After I arrived home and started to make the arrangement, I decided to do some much needed clean-up in the front yard.  I then proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon with my husband (and I tried to explain to him just why I had to buy dead branches for the front porch) and at the end of the day went out to a fundraiser for The Willows Academy, where I used to teach. In short--I had a great day.  But, I only finished 6 blocks.  Luckily, I had finished the assigned 12 blocks in the previous two days bringing my grand total of blocks to 30 for the week!  Needless to say, I'm feelin' pretty good about that.

And now, I have to decide whether or not to try and finish this quilt top before Thanksgiving.  Let's see...I'm spending the week with my family (code for hanging out with the sisters, cooking, eating and watching old movies).  We are very serious about our Thanksgiving menu at our household.  And unlike Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut, we really do make the food we talk about.  That having been said, I think I have decided to give myself a reprieve for the coming week.  Berkeley Blue will have to wait.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Silk Love

It's always a great day around here when the UPS guys stops by.  ( be fair, I have to include the FedEx guy and the postman as well...) Recently he delivered a yummy box from Brewer filled with dupioni silk kits.  One of the latest silk collections we have worked with is called Jeweled Treasures. Originally meant to make the Silk Gems pattern, this kit includes 16 jewel-toned fat quarters. I now have one of my very own and am about to start my silk quilt collection. I think, however, that I am going to shake it up a bit.  Instead of making a Gems quilt, I am actually going to use the Berkeley Blue pattern (created for the Sapphire Silk Collection).  I am hoping to have four of these silk quilts in time for Spring quilt market in Utah.  We'll see how that goes...

I love working with silks.  I admit, I was reticent at first.  Janine (my friend and business partner) and I would go to local quilt shows and she would buy up every dupioni silk she could find.  I could not imagine making a quilt with these fabrics!  Before we started collaborating with Brewer on these silk collections and patterns, I came out with a quilt pattern called Circus--the first quilt I had ever made using all solids.  Janine promptly made one out of silks and the rest is history -  We were hooked!

(In case you're interested, Jeweled Treasures silk collections are now available on our website!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It Has Been a Long Time in the Making

Hi!  Thanks for stopping by.  After literally years of thinking about it, I have finally taken the plunge and started a blog.  I am both excited and nervous about this commitment.  I think it will do a lot in terms of keeping me in check!  I know I will be working on things just to have them to put in a post.  I am also welcoming the challenge of putting thoughts, ideas, and the latest happenings at Blue Underground Studios into words. I am nervous about actually posting regularly...but have resolved to do the best I can.

The irony is that the very thing that gives me something to write about - my quilting studio-is the very reason I have the time to finally start this blog.  We are currently in the process of completely redoing my quilting space which is in the basement of our 1945 English Tudor on the north side of our beautiful Chicago.  For the past month, when I have not been working on quilts for market, I have been cleaning out bins of fabric, shredding paper, getting rid of TONS of scraps, wondering why I ever started some of my old UFO's and sorting through my old history notes from my former career as a teacher.  All of my fabric and sewing supplies are now stashed around our my daughter's room, in our foyer, the den, the kitchen...Being productive is going to be a challenge.  But, I am certain it will be worth it!

Stop by often to see my latest quilting projects, etc!