Opiegp's Blog

Pig in the Suburbs


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A Maker

Just recently, a couple of weeks in fact, I became aware of the term “maker” as applied to crafters/artisans/diyers . . . .  I like it.  I am a maker of things useful and otherwise, interesting and otherwise, beautiful and otherwise.  I make.

Cavy On

A Floor Mat for the Guinea Pigs!

Pattern:  The letters are from the Moda “Spell it with Fabric” blog hop, reduced to 3/4 size.

Fabric:  The blue background fabrics are from Amy Butler’s “Daisy Chain” collection; other fabrics are stash scraps.

The Cavies (aka guinea pigs Tula and Chia) live in the basement in the summer; their house is at the bottom of the staircase.  I made this floor quilt for the landing in front of the cage, partly for The College Kid’s amusement, but mostly because I have never made fabric letters.  The backing fabrics are Joel Dewberry home decor weight scraps, the batting is also made up of scraps from other projects, and the binding is made from one of Mom’s nightgowns.  This was a fun project, and the letters were addictive to make.  I also sewed a whole set of letters at full size for one of Emily Dickinson’s pithy poems . . . .  that one is a “someday” quilt.


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A Lesson in Quilting

Chain Link front

Chain Link Quilt

A few years ago I entered my “red-and-grey” phase and bought a bunch of — you guessed it — red-and-grey fabric collections.  And then I couldn’t figure out a good pattern for them, so they all sat in the stash.  Last year, I ran across a vintage block pattern from the 1930s that formed the basis for the Chain Link Quilt.  The pattern appeared as part of the “Nancy Page Quilt Club” series, a Depression-era creation of an enterprising home economist named Florence La Ganke Harris (1886-1972).  In the original pattern, the block finished at 10.5″ square, but of course the size is easy to manipulate by varying the width of the patterned strips.  The block is easy to assemble, and as the author commented in the advertisement, the “over and under effect is both good and unusual.”

I broke into my Etchings by Three Sisters jelly roll, and began to assemble the blocks.  And then I got bored.  This is why the finished quilt ended up with patches of bright blue, greens, and yellows, most of which came from Mom’s housedresses.  She was, after all, born in the early 1930s.

Pattern:  Chain Link Quilt, from Florence La Ganke’s Nancy Page Quilt Club.

Fabrics:  Etchings, by Three Sisters; various red and greige scraps from the stash; patches from Mom’s housedresses

Modifications:  I used 2.5″ strips, so the finished block was somewhere around 14.5″ square

Thoughts:  

1.  I should have planned better for the over-and-under effect, but I piece the same way I knit, more or less on the fly.  Oh well.

2.  I know some people say that you are not a REAL quilter unless you actually quilt your own work.  Well.  Fighting words, right?  I learned TWO new skills with this project: (1)  Quilt-as-you-go, and (2) actual quilting.

For the QAYG, I wasn’t thrilled about any one method out in blogland, so I came up with a combination method that involved a fair amount of hand-sewing.  Since I have more than a touch of OCD, it’s all good.  As for the actual quilt pattern, I probably should have gone with something curvy/flowy, but at the time I was quite enamored of Anne Bright’s “Square Dance” pattern, so that’s what I went with.

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The back, as well the batting, were all scraps; the purple is part of a sheet (c. early 1980s) from Mom’s linen closet.

I love the border fabric.  I love all the hand-piecing and hand-sewing I did on this project.  And I love Mom being part of this quilt.


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The Perfect Point

About a year ago, I started making the Swoon Quilt, by Camille Roskelley.  Yes, I know, I was late to the party.  For a few weeks I chugged along, sewing each block with scraps from all the quilts I have ever made in my short quilting life.  Then I lost my sewing mojo as the house buying and house moving and house selling stuff just went on and on . . . .  I had only one block left to do, and I finally got around to it after a 3 months hiatus.  I LOVED my fabric choices for that last block!  And then I discovered that somehow, my bare-quarter-inch seam had shifted, and that last block was about a quarter-inch off on all sides.  Sigh.  This is by way of explaining why the finished quilt has extra patches in the background color, because of course I had to stick to the “scraps only” rule, and wouldn’t you know I had no more Moda “snow” left, and I had to fuss with not just the last block, but adjacent blocks too.  Anyway.  I did finish, though, and I love my Swoon, fixes and all:

Swoon!

Swoon!

As a result of Swoon, I had even more triangles than I had before.  Then I found the Mod GeoCruiser quilt by Kelli Fannin (read about her inspiration here).  I had been wanting to do a bicycle-themed quilt for DH, and even though this is a cruiser bike (and a girly one at that), and he is a road bike fanatic, I thought it was a fun design that he would like.  It also helps that he is the most un-macho man I know 🙂  So this is the quilt top:

Mod Geo Cruiser

Mod GeoCruiser

I learned how to make really sharp points with this quilt: cut the triangles larger than specified, then trim down after sewing.  Really simple idea, right?  The small amount of fabric waste is so worth it, because despite my best efforts, I do not have a consistent quarter-inch seam (as I proved with Swoon).  I’m still not fond of triangles, but at least I can sew really good ones now!

My cruiser is made up of scraps from previous quilts, plus fabric from Mom’s house dresses.  I really like the idea of having bits and pieces of her dresses in this and all future quilts; the therapist tells me what I’m doing is taking Mom with me.  That is a very comforting thought.


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Finished: Basement!

We built our new house knowing we were going to have to finish the walkout basement so The Teenager would have somewhere to live.  DH and I wanted single-floor living, and we got that in 1250+ square feet main floor:  master bedroom suite, his-and-her offices, a guest bathroom, and one continuous space for kitchen, dining room, and living room.  The plan is compact and efficient, and we both like having no hallways.

The basement is pretty much the footprint of the house, minus the crawl space under my office.  We did not finish the basement at the old house because it already had 2000 square feet of living space, and the crappy aluminum windows leaked in big rainstorms.  By the time we built the new house, the city had adopted new building codes that required a comprehensive drainage systems around new constructions.  This is especially important because our new house is about 100 yards from the innocuous-sounding Spring Creek.

Our favorite contractor (who did all our remodels at the old house) finally got going on our basement in mid-February.  Eleven weeks and $32K later, I am declaring the basement DONE!  Well, except for the glass surround for the shower stall, which is being fabricated even as I type . . . .  I hope.

DH's Exercise Room

DH’s Exercise Room

Why yes, those are interlocking play mats from Home Depot 🙂  We had an extra curtain rod, so we are using it to store exercise bands.  The floor here (and everywhere in the basement) is polished and stained concrete.  It turned out beautifully, but had I known about the xylene solvent (“It’s a double benzene ring,” said my brother the chemist) and how toxic-smelling it would be during the first 10 days, I would have had asked for the polish without the stain.

The exercise room is in a Jack-and-Jill setup with The Teenager’s bedroom.  The bathroom is spacious, and is perhaps nicer than our master bathroom:

IMG_3315

The Teenager chose the cabinet, in “Purple Gloss,” which looks like a dark eggplant color.  It is indeed very glossy!  It has a solid surface top with integrated sink.  We asked for the extra-large sink, and a good thing because it is the only one in the house large enough for washing sweaters.

Shower

Shower

The shower base is also solid surface, and because this is a teenager’s shower, the tiles are very large for minimal grout lines.  The decorative strip is made up of glass tiles in shades of pale grey, with blue accent tiles that were left over from her bathroom remodel at the old house.

Storage cubbies!

Storage cubbies!

Our contractor hates wasted space, so he built these cubbies to take advantage of the space under the staircase.  The short side of the space is in The Teenager’s room:

IMG_3325

She now has more storage space than she has ever had, but no doubt she will manage to use it all.

Finally, gratuitous pictures of sewing projects:

IMG_3323

I sewed the curtains from IKEA linen and the last of my bicycle-themed quilt scraps.  The Teenager chose the fabrics, so I think she actually does like those curtains.

Floor quilt

Floor quilt

This was the third quilt I ever made, and not as successful as I originally envisioned.  I was in my orange phase at the time 🙂  However, it does work well in her room to cut the chill of the concrete floor, so all good!

Final thoughts:

I would not recommend doing this, but because of our timeline, I picked the floor color, the wall paint, and the bathroom colors independent of each other.  It worked out, but while I like the floor color (supposed to be “terra cotta”), I think I could have gone with my original choice of turquoise!


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Reuse Reduce Recycle Project, Part 3

About a year ago, while waiting for the builders to start construction, I started making curtains for the new house.  I bought UNWASHED linen from Ikea, and after getting them home, understood for the first time why WASHED linen was such a prized commodity.  The linen actually turned into this lovely, mid-weight fabric after laundering, but it was so drapey that I could not for the life of me cut a straight line.  I struggled through 25 yards of material (did I mention all the windows are 7 feet tall and really wide, and I was sewing 100″ x 104″ panels?) and decided that I was never going to make full length linen curtains again.  Ever.  Unfortunately, I still had basement windows left . . . .   but luckily, I also had many fabric scraps left over from various quilt projects: IMG_3283The walkout basement has a very large east-facing window, and in the morning, these panels look like stained glass.  They are of course too long for the windows: the short story is that I thought 9 foot ceilings really meant 9 foot ceilings, but of course I forgot about the various space-occupying plumbing and HVAC elements, one of which runs right into the top of the window so that I cannot hang the curtain rods anywhere except inside the window frame.  Sigh.  And I am just too lazy to shorten the curtains, so for the forseeable future, the bottom of the panels will remain gently folded on the window sill.

I took up quilt-making because like most doctors, I have a touch of OCD in me.  There is something very satisfying in cutting precise geometric shapes, sewing the precise seam, matching the precise points.  A plastic surgeon attending told me once that I was dextrous, and unfortunately for me, I have never forgotten that comment.  These curtains are scrappy, improvised, and obviously imperfect, and I felt so free when I was making them.  I look at them and I smile; they make me happy.


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Mom’s Summer Quilt

I do not remember ever being hugged by my parents (or any of my relatives, for that matter); that would break with tradition and social/cultural practices.  Mom told me once that words were words, gestures were gestures, and I should “just know” that everything my parents did was because they love us.

Mom.2

Mom made all her house dresses: A-line, gathered neckline, raglan sleeves.  It was a simple and easy pattern she found years ago, and she stuck with it, never varying it except with the pattern of the fabric.  I don’t think Mom ever saw a floral fabric she didn’t like; they were the one frivolous expression of her inner life.

I brought a bunch of her house dresses home.  I am wearing one now, a green floral affair soft with age and wear, and immensely comfortable.  Mom, who weighed 110 pounds, always thought she was a size 12, so she made her clothes with generous amounts of fabric.  As I cut up some of her more beloved dresses to make the summer quilt, I see the thinning of the fabric where she sat, the small patch to repair a rip next to a seam, the little bit of adornment she allowed herself in the tiny pleats at the neckline.  And when I hold the fabric to my face, I can still smell her, the particular mix of laundry detergent and the cupboard where she stored her everyday clothes.

The hugs I never had?  I have them now.  I know you loved me, Mom.


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Reuse Reduce Recycle Project, Part 2

I spent my internship year at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, a somewhat run-down community hospital in a not entirely salubrious part of town.  The place was old enough that most of the patient care areas did not have air conditioning, and during the summer the nurses would set up industrial-sized fans (the kind they use in gyms) at ends of hallways to help ventilate and cool the wings.  The in-patient population tended to be elderly, and there was a rumor that one of the attendings had the biggest Medicare billings amongst all private practices in the state.  The typical admissions were old, institutionalized, and usually DNR, except when they weren’t — and there were also rumors about certain families who kept Dear Old Mom/Dad/Aunt/Uncle alive in order to collect their social security benefits.   The hospital was strapped for money, so various services went home after 7PM:  phlebotomists, EKG techs, respiratory techs, unit clerks, runners who delivered radiology films (yes, these were the days before everything could be pulled up on screens).  Even the cafeteria closed down by 7, which is how I ended up eating my first, and last, White Castle burger from the vending machine.  On the usual call night  the residents would drown in scut work: drawing blood and ABGs, inserting countless IVs because the nurses were required to give up after two sticks, hunting through the stacks for radiology films, doing EKGs with machines that still used rubber suction cups and required leads to be switched between readings, figuring out settings for respirators, inserting NG tubes and various other catheters into various orifices (because nurses didn’t do those “invasive” procedures, and delivering patients from one place to the next.  I got to the point where I could do ABGs on anyone, and do them in the dark!  I spent years 2 and 3 of my residency in another Saint hospital.  This one was better-run and had money, and I was shocked to discover that all I had to do was WRITE the order, and miraculously it was done!

Anyway, I had a couple of souvenirs from my internship year: scrubs (of course, because how else would anyone know you’re a doctor unless you are wearing scrubs from another hospital), and a couple of towels.  Like everything else from the hospital, these towels were depressing, scrawny and tiny even when new.  I used these towels for years as back-up bathroom mats, and kept putting off turning them into rags.  A few weeks ago,  I attacked the linen closet as part of my R³ Project, and the towels were still there, still scrawny but usable.  And this is what I did with them:

St. Elizabeth's Hospital bath mat

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital bath mat

In my short quilting career, I have still managed to accumulate a large amount of fabric scraps.  In this case, the block was from a quilt top I was never going to turn into a quilt, and it happened to fit perfectly on the towel.  I stitched the quilt block directly on the towel, added a couple of scrap fabric to the sides, turned the towel borders in and stitched them in place.  My memories of St. E are not entirely bad, and this bath mat (and its fraternal twin) makes me smile and think more kindly of that year.

The St. E mats got me on a roll, and for three or four weeks now, I have been reducing my fabric scrap pile.  We have more bath mats!  We have mud mats!  We have kitchen floor mats:

A kitchen floor mat

A kitchen floor mat

I sewed all the strips directly on top of the batting and backing, as in strip quilting.  This small rug has scraps from just about every quilt I have ever made — not that I have made that many, but still.  The backing is leftover fabric from drapes I made years ago that I no longer have:

Reverse side of kitchen mat

Reverse side of kitchen mat

We have place mats:

DH's place mat

DH’s place mat

And the reverse, flannel fabric from one of his old shirts:

Reverse of place mat

Reverse of place mat

These sewing projects reflect my personal commitment to making something useful out of materials that were probably going to end up in the landfill.  I suppose all I have done is shift the landfill day sometime in the future, but for now, it is enough that day is NOT today, or tomorrow, or next week.

Tula's Quilt

Tula’s Quilt

Even the Guinea Pig has her own quilt!