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.