Coloring <3

I love coloring. I always have. I recently decided that I wanted to color, gosh darnit, and so I would get some coloring books and colored pencils.

Since I live in a rural area, I can’t get coloring books at local stores. When I looked on Amazon, everything I found was $10-$15 bucks (in yen… I was buying from JP Amazon, but whatever). I balked a bit at that, but the desire to color was strong and I bit the bullet. Thankfully, it turns out that all of these books are well worth the price. Continue reading

Changing Tides Fiber Art Shop

Changing Tides in Juneau isn’t technically a hole-in-the-wall shop, since it’s on the second floor of a building full of shops. I found it via a street-level window display.

Changing Tides Street-Level Window Display

It’s also a little bigger than what I consider hole-in-the-wall. But as it caters to cross stitching and needlepoint as well as quilting, it’s plenty cramped for one. Continue reading

RainTree Quilting

While I was in Juneau for Kyle’s wedding, I visited two quilt shops. I wanted to visit at least one, so Ash pulled up the GPS app on his iPhone and we went to the first one on the list. That was RainTree Quilting.

RainTree Quilting

RainTree Quilting is located off of Mendenhall Loop Road. A few trees separate it from the street, but the store itself has enough front windows to give the place a light, airy feel. They have a show room and a class room, with completed quilts hanging in each. The fabric selection reminds me of what Quilt Tree carries here in Anchorage, in terms of color values and the types of patterns they carry, though there were fewer oriental fabrics.

The owner was in that day, with one employee. Both were friendly and helpful; we got to chatting a bit about Anchorage quilt stores and quilt tourism in general. I may be only starting quilt store touring, but they said that people come through from all over. They were fine with me taking pictures (though many of them came out poorly). I ended up cutting both the picture taking and the chatting short, though, because Ash and Patti were demonstrating signs of boredom, eventually retreating to the car.

I’ve decided that I will get a fat quarter of some green fabric and a yard of something else nifty from each quilt store I visit in my travels. From RainTree Quilting, I took away a bright green fat quarter with a scratchy/speckly pattern and a dark blue batique with a dog sledding pattern on it. It’s possible I could have gotten that same batique from The Quilted Raven in Anchorage, but I wasn’t sure and it really appealed to me while I was there.

Fabric Purchased at RainTree Quilting

I found my visit to RainTree Quilting a pleasant experience, and recommend the place highly. More pictures can be found on Flickr.

Work in Progress: My First Quilt (Top)

I have completed my first patchwork quilt top! It’s actually been completed for a couple of weeks, but I didn’t get around to taking pictures of it very quickly.

Ta da!

I cut three 2.5″ squares from each of 40 different fabrics, which I put in a bag. I shook the bag until they were thoroughly mixed, then pulled them out, stacked them, and proceeded to make rows of ten squares each by just pulling them off the stack. I didn’t count how many fabrics I used, so I’m lucky it came out in a number easily divisible by ten — I had no squares left over. I then took my mish-mash to The Quilt Tree and picked out the border fabric (thank you, Shannon, for advice about the color).

It’s sewn by hand, and I eyeballed all the seams (’cause who wants to mark that many pieces of fabric?), so… some of the squares came out a bit rectangular, but I’m pleased with it, overall. It’s just for me and my learning experience, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. I was more interested in how the colors would look together. This was a modified version of the first “lesson” in the book Color from the Heart: Seven Great Ways to Make Quilts with Colors You Love; the book wanted me to do that, but instead of just sewing them together randomly, I was supposed to put the whole thing on a design board first. That book, like most I’ve found today, assumed I was going to be machine quilting in a work area, not hand sewing on a bus.


All of my corners came out nice and sharp... but they didn't always match up perfectly.


I learned much in the course of sewing this together. I’m sure I have more to learn, since I haven’t quilted it yet. And probably won’t before the new year… I have multiple craft projects in the works that are to be given as gifts. When I do, though, my plan is something like the following picture — though less crazy in color. Though honestly, if hand-quilting thread came in crazy colors, that would be different. I want to get the hang of doing this in the first place before I experiment with using weaker thread, though.


The actual quilting will also drape with the cloth instead of looking retarded in terms of perspective.


Although no two adjacent squares in the quilt top are made of identical fabric, there are several spots that have two of the same fabric flanking a second fabric. Quilting it with the plan above will help hide that. I love the little sandwiches, but I also like the idea of being able to blur their existence with a little bit of thread. (Muahaha!) The quilting I do on the border should show nicely, since my hand-quilting thread is light in color.

The border’s not planned as much as the middle. I want to outline the corners to cover up a mistake I made trying to set in the last little bit. I don’t know what I’ll put in the corners, though. I’m toying around with ideas like sakura blossoms, goombas, and wedges of cheese. Not all together, of course, I mean to pick one and use it in all four corners. The center of the top, bottom, and sides, are going to get the kanji for north, south, east, and west. East and west will be backwards on purpose; it was a suggestion of my brother’s that amused me. I can never remember which way is which anyway, so why not? That’s So Raven Lena! I haven’t decided what to fill the rest in with.

The Birth of a Quilt Log

I went to the Loussac Library‘s fall book sale last weekend. I was hoping to find good Japanese reading material, but they were pretty much cleaned out on that. I did find some quilt books, though. I only ended up with one because this one lady snapped up every quilt book but the one I was holding while I was flipping through it to decide if I actually wanted it or not. I’m very happy with my one book, though.


The copyright on this book is over twenty years old, and there doesn't seem to be a newer edition. What would you call it, anyway -- The New New Quilting and Patchwork Dictionary?

The New Quilting and Patchwork Dictionary by Rhoda Ochser Goldberg is a nice quilting resource book. The first third or so of the book is information on different quilting supplies and techniques. Concise introductions all around. The rest of the book is quilt block patterns built on grids to make drawing them out at any size for templates a piece of cake. There are pre-drawn templates for basic geometric shapes at the back, right before the quilt block index.

The real gem in this book, though, is page 1, which I’m sharing with you.


Click for legible size. It's worth the read.

A quilt log! Plans for quilts to make in the near future and others to make eventually when I have the appropriate skill have been circling around my head and scattered through text files on my desktop since I first bought cloth. A quilt log gives me a single place to keep all that information, in addition to the above-mentioned benefits. You’d think something as simple as a quilt log wouldn’t be that important for posterity, but between my recent world history class and having a genealogist for a friend-sister, I’ve come to realize just how important such things are to really understanding the people of a given era and area. I’m not exactly representative of the average, I don’t think (one of the pages going into my quilt log is for a fussy-cut Super Mario Bros. quilt I’m planning for the distant future, for instance), but maybe that’ll make my quilt log more interesting to anyone who bothers to read it later.

Like the author of the book, I’ve opted to keep a three-ring binder. I will (hopefully) fill it to overflowing at some point in the future and have to split my log into multiple binders and/or transfer it to a bigger binder. For now, however, I’m using one of my ridiculously old binders that I’ve been keeping since middle school — or maybe earlier — simply because it’s a shame to throw away a good one.


The shark and headless horseman stickers glow in the dark.


Behold the power of adolescent doodles!

Anchorage Log Cabin Quilters 2009 Quilt Show

The local quilters guild, the Anchorage Log Cabin Quilters, runs a quilt show every September. This years started yesterday and ends today, running from 10 AM to 4 PM with their silent small quilt auction ending at two and a raffle quilt being given away at 3:30.

And if you like quilts, you should go.

The quilt show is divided into three sections. Along the right wall as you come in were a number of tables and displays set up showing off some of the things members of the ALCQ do — calendar quilts, quilts to match specific teddy bears, group projects, and the like.

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One woman was also giving a demonstration of how to make ruched flowers, like the one shown below. [Edit: Once upon a time all the pictures in this post linked to my Picasa web albums… which I deleted. I can’t find the picture that’s supposed to go here, so here’s a video showing how to make them instead.]

This flower was part of a quilt in the second section, which was devoted to the work of their featured quilter, Mary Lee. This woman has mad skills. I spent half an hour in front of one of her quilts, admiring the details. It’s one of my favorite quilts at the show, from the Alaska Railroad train near the top to the itty bitty hand-embroidered bees by the beehive near the bottom.

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Her others, which appeal to my sense of aesthetics to varying degrees, all display skill I can only hope to match some day.

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The third section of the show, which takes up almost the entire left hand side as you walk in and wraps around the edge of the balcony on the second floor, displays quilts from the rest of the guild. The range of size, color, and type is great. Some of the quilts displayed were in evidence at the state fair in Palmer, also, including the grand prize winner.

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One of the largest quilts was also my absolute favorite at the fair. The woman who made it, Holly, was on hand to talk about it, too. I don’t remember the exact number of hours it took her to complete, but it was over 2,700. The finished product is 11’x13′ in size.

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My favorite part is how she did the fletching on the arrows. The shaft and head of each arrow is done in colored quilt blocks, but the fletching has gray quilt blocks with colored embellishments added — flowers for the arrows pointing inward from the right and paisleys for the arrows pointing inward from the left.

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The last thing the quilt show has to offer are a number of small quilts for auction. The small quilt auction is a fund raiser for the guild to sponsor the events and classes they hold over the year for their members.

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I have more pictures uploaded to my Flickr web albums, linked below.


First Visit to Quilt Tree

I finally got off my duff and walked over to Quilt Tree this evening. Up ’til today I had gone exclusively to Seams Like Home due to its extremely close proximity to my place of work. (Well, except for one after-hours fail attempt to hit the quilt shop in Eagle River with my sister.)

I didn’t realize before going there that Quilt Tree is a combined quilting and yarn crafts shop. And they don’t waste any space. They have bolts of cloth on top of shelves and leaning against shelves on the floor, leaving just enough space to peruse. I didn’t wander into the yarn section — though I probably should have, since I need some supplies for my Halloween costume — but it looked just as crammed as the cloth half of the store.

The color and pattern selection is perhaps a bit more muted at Quilt Tree than at Seams Like Home, on average. The two stores have some of the same fabrics available, but there’s really not too much overlap. Not outside the batiks section, anyway — I haven’t decided how much I want to get into batiks yet, so I didn’t really look at them.

Quilt Tree’s fabrics are a hair pricier than those at Seams Like Home. It’s really a negligible difference, though, generally $0.50 a yard. Their fat quarters are priced about the same, and like Seams Like Home they’re willing to cut a fat quarter off of just about any bolt for you. Exceptions to that at Quilt Tree are upholstery fabrics and their selection of imported Japanese fabrics.

The imported Japanese fabrics are wonderful. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill oriental designs; they’re the kind of fabrics Japanese crafters like to use for their patchwork. The cloth designs varied from simple prints to cute prints to a few bolts that seemed designed to be miniature fabric stashes on a single bolt (having several simple designs spanning the length of the fabric in stripes). The ones I looked at all ranged from $15-$20 per yard. They tended to fit in with the trend towards more muted colors I saw.

Overall, it’s very nice. I’ll definitely be hitting there more often as I seek to inflate my fabric stash.

Book Review: Quilting Makes the Quilt by Lee Cleland

Quilting Makes the QuiltI found this book at the Loussac Library, and I am so glad I grabbed it. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in quilting.

Cleland wrote this book to illustrate how big an impact the quilting design itself has on the final look of a patchwork quilt. To this end, she made five identical copies of each of several quilt tops, then quilted each top to batting and backing in a very different way from its quintuplet siblings. Classic quilting techniques are featured on some quilts; others break outside the box a bit. Excellent pictures of both full views and close-ups of the quilts do a fantastic job of illustrating the author’s point.

Although the book was written by a machine quilter, the information contained within applies to both machine and hand quilting. This is more of a book about design than technique, though the author’s perspective as a machine quilter leaks out a bit.

Bottom Line: The book is worth owning, but I found the concepts clear and simple enough that I don’t plan to buy it. It’s great for sparking one’s imagination, but isn’t much of a reference book. Although definitely a great book for a beginning quilter to look at, experienced quilters may or may not find it useful.

Work in Progress: Final Fantasy Tissue Box Cover

In the process of working my way up in difficulty to the needlepoint projects I daydream about, I am making a tissue box cover. I’m pretty sure everyone who’s ever done plastic canvas needlepoint has done at least one of these, and by the time I finish this project I will be no exception. Mine is a simple display of characters from the original Final Fantasy for the NES. The order in which they appear on the box is semi-inspired by 8-bit Theater. I’ve got the fighter and black mage on one long side of the cover, with the white mage and monk on the other long side. The thief and the red mage each have a panel of their own. The final product will have physical and magical damage dealers alternating all the way around the box.

Clicking on any of the images will take you to a Flickr set with more and larger pictures.


The pattern I made on my computer for one of the long sides.


First I drew the pattern outline on the plastic and filled it in.


All sides outlined, filling in background.


Starting to add color.

Getting Into Plastic Canvas, Part 2 – Testing Things

In my previous post on plastic canvas needlepoint, I talked a bit about what it is and what people have done with it. In this post, I chronicle the embarkation of my journey toward understanding what all can be done with it, and how. Larger versions of all pictures can be found here.

How the Internets Have Failed Me

For the most part, the coolest things I’ve seen don’t seem truly inspired.  I don’t mean to dis them here… they’re really quite nifty. And a small percentage are downright fantastic.

But here we sit on all the possibilities of three-dimensional stitch work, and people make plain boxes. Some of the boxes are very nice. Some incorporate a little bit of extra three-dimensional-ness in the form of sewing one or more flat, decorational panels to the outside. The bulk of them are just plain ol’ squares.

So far, having been doing this for about two weeks now, I’ve mostly stuck to boxy things myself. One has to start somewhere, after all, and learning the ropes on simple shapes has proven very effective. I, however, have a couple of projects in mind which will require complex shapes and techniques to be successful. I therefore spent most of this morning trying some things out.

Whipstitching Two Pieces Together Along a Custom Curve

In addition to your basic sheets of plastic grid, here are a number of specially-shaped forms available for plastic canvas work – diamonds, circles, triangles, etc. (And apparently if you go overseas they have a wider variety of fancy forms available — hemispheres, pre-made bags, and the like.) The first big project I have in mind, however, will require shapes that have a combination of long and arced sides to be whipstitched together. I needed some idea of how to go about it and what the final product would look like.




This is not particularly new or special. It was a good experience for me, but about the only thing I learned was not to be afraid of using the same hole on one piece of mesh for two different stitches on the other one. The side of the curved-over piece which isn’t whipstitched to another piece of mesh refuses to hold its curve perfectly, as I’m sure you can imagine. It’d be fine if I’d whipstitched it to another piece.

Joining the Edges of Two Sheets of Plastic Canvas in a 2D Manner

Sheets of plastic canvas only come so big. This could be a problem for a couple of projects I’d like to do. Whipstitching is what I did above to bind the two pieces of canvas together. My goal with this experiment was to see if I could whipstitch two pieces of canvas together, flat and seamless, to make a single-looking, larger piece.

This test came in two parts really, each with a subdivision of its own. Part one was about joining straight canvas edges together, and part two was about trying to join a stair-stepped edge together.

In part 1A, I worked with binding the straight edges of two different pieces of canvas together. The pink one was a 2×35 strip I had laying around from my earliest foray into plastic canvas. I tried looping it around to join the end, but (partly due to the stress of the mesh, which was a particularly stiff variety, trying to stay straight) it put too much strain on the yarn I was binding it with. It would only hold its seamless look while I held it with both hands — I couldn’t even get it to stay in place long enough to photograph it.


Part 1B was an attempt to join two blue rectangles along straight edges. This went reasonably well, until I got to finishing the edge with the overcast stitch. Where the two pieces of canvas came together, the yarn wanted to slip between them instead of staying over them. I was able to avoid that some by going over the spot multiple times.

The real problem with this was that I had trouble keeping one of the two rectangles from moving upwards, shifting out of place. I was able to fix that by inserting my needle under a row of stitches across the backs of both pieces. I couldn’t leave the needle there indefinitely, of course; I’d have to find some kind of pin to leave there permanently for this solution to really work. On the plus side, that would help keep the pieces from folding and/or flopping around — the overall stability is increased.


In part two, I looked at joining two pieces along a stair-stepped edge, to try to take care of the stability problems without having to resort to permanent pins inserted in the back. Part 2A was a major flop simply because the stitches ran with the edge instead of against it. There was no way to join the pieces seamlessly because there was no place to put more stitches going in the same direction.


Part 2B, however, went quite well. As I’d hoped, the finished product was much more stable. I made my job easier to start with by shoving a couple of needles through the back to stabilize it while I worked, and when I took them out at the end had no stability problems. The seam isn’t as sturdy as a solid sheet of mesh, of course, but it’s not unsturdy like the joined straight edges above.

The third picture does a great job of showing the flaws here, though. Under the right (wrong?) lighting conditions, a slight height difference is noticeable, making the seam apparent. It also suffers the same sort of overcast stitching problems the straight-edge join had.


Things to Try Next

  1. Again trying to join two stair-stepped pieces together with the stitches running along the edge. Inability to do that is a serious flaw. If I leave more of the canvas unstitched, I could conceivably overlap the stair-stepped edges more. If it works as I anticipate, it would leave a definite ridge, so it would have to be used judiciously and incorporated into the decoration by design.
  2. Making a two-dimensional object stick straight up from another piece of mesh. I’d have to find a way to prop it up somehow — there would be a definite right and wrong side to it, too. Probably only good for decorative sculpting. Necessary for a project I have in mind.
  3. Using a piece of mesh on top of a piece of mesh to force a more three-dimensional look under certain lines. This idea is inspired by puff machine embroidery.