Monday, May 27, 2013

May project 2: "Walking with Jane" zebra quilt

This is a real first - two quilts in one month. This one is for "Walking with Jane", an organization that creates awareness and does fundraising for neuroendocrine cancer. I help out occasionally by copy editing the website, but I thought I'd offer my support in a more tangible this time. The group is run by one of my teachers from high school - Jane was his wife, who died from the disease in 2010.  Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) and the resulting cancer are slow-developing, rare, and often misdiagnosed. A patient can go for years thinking they have IBS, when in reality, they have a tumor causing those symptoms. And if an NET is left undetected and untreated for many years, the patient is left with very few options for treatment.

The medical community has an aphorism, "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras." The thought behind this is that a doctor should first think of common ailments when making a diagnosis, and avoid assuming that the presenting symptoms are that of a rare disease. NET cancer is thought to be a "zebra", since NETs are so rare and so many patients are originally given a wrong diagnosis.

The zebra has become the mascot of NET groups, so that was my anchor point when designing this quilt. I was lucky to find a great zebra fabric, and it gave me a chance to try making a pattern described in the book "Wonderful 1-Fabric Quilts". The idea is pretty simple - take a striped fabric, cut it into triangles, rearrange it, and you've designed a quilt that looks complex but is made up of nothing more than large half-square triangles.

I was impressed by how little effort it took to create something that looks great. I'll definitely be making more one-fabric quilts in the future. It'll be a fast and painless way to rid myself of any yardage of stripes.

So the kaleidoscope-pieced zebra fabric quilt was great and all, but the quilt wasn't complete that way. I had more to say, so I made that into the back.

The front has a lot of negative space, except for a callback to the zebra aphorism, and Walking with Jane's logo in a modified log cabin block. For the logo, I ordered a swatch from Spoonflower. For the letters, I used Elizabeth Hartman's "Refrigerator Magnets" pattern, and was able to make them almost completely from black and white scraps. For the negative space...I made a mistake. Can you see it? I can't unsee it. I ran out of white and when I went back to buy more, I bought a different brand. The whites are ever-so-slightly different. I really hope the difference is just more noticeable in the photo, in the bright sun.

I finished the quilt off with all-over loopy free-motion quilting and a blue binding. The finished project ended up being 65"X65". I really should make up a map for all the places these quilts are going - this one is headed to Fall River, Massachusetts, where Walking with Jane is hosting a yard and craft sale on June 2.

And since I did two quilts in one month, I think I've earned myself a little bit of time off. My husband asked me recently, "Are you really having fun doing all this?", and I admit that I'm a little burned out. So for June, maybe I'll do a couple of small projects, but I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself. I need to dedicate myself to something else, like schlepping the baby around the house, and maybe painting a few walls before my mother-in-law comes to visit.

Friday, May 17, 2013

May project: a very manly quilt

My husband (pictured above) doesn't much care for quilts. He tolerates my hobby, but to him, quilts are a little too feminine, a little too juvenile, and overall not his first choice in bedding.

But why let that stop me?

I've compared myself to the Cake Boss in the past, and I've found that Buddy Valastro and I have another thing in common: if we tell someone that we have a gift for them, they pretty much know exactly what it is. Any time Buddy said "I have a surprise for you!", the recipient would be like "It's a cake, right?" So as my husband's birthday approached, I'm sure he knew what Quilt Boss had in store for him. 

This quilt has been in the works for a while - the earliest drawing I have of it is from two years ago. The layout was inspired by this picture:

...which can be found here.

And since it's been so long, you can imagine how relieved I am that it's done! The quilt is twin-size - my husband works a rotation schedule where he lives in a dorm at work for two weeks at a time, and I thought that maybe it would be nice to have a touch of home on his bed. Or, he could stuff it in his closet and lie to me about how much he loves it, and I would never know the difference.

And even though my husband doesn't like quilts, I made sure there was nothing here he could complain about. I used all his favorite colors. There's not a single print in here that could be considered too cutesy, babyish, or girly. I even found a great fabric by Echino featuring manly colors and realistic looking helicopters. (His hobby, which I put up with, is flying RC helicopters, so this fabric was destined for him.)

Usually he prefers to use a plain fleece blanket, so I backed it with pieced fleece in coordinating colors:

I wish someone had warned me about fleece, because there's definitely a learning curve. I liked that I didn't have to use batting in the middle, which made for a nice light quilt, great for a blanket hater. I didn't like how stretchy the fleece was. Just imagine, that colorful rectangle started out straight. I like my tops and backings to match up a little better than this - those wrinkles aren't the end of the world, but they're irking me. Using a fleece backing was my "something new" for the month - in the future, I'd probably do it again, but not on a quilt this large.

Even though Mr. Youth Hostile doesn't have much feeling for the quilt, he was pretty happy with the matching pillow I made. The form inside is a down pillow, which he loves. When he found my stash of pillow forms, he asked that I make a cover for this one so he could use it. That's the only time he's shown any interest in this little sewing thing I do, so I figured that it was right to make him the cover he asked for.

So I said that this quilt and pillow gave him nothing to complain about. Well, that's not quite true. They put a wrench in his packing plan, and didn't fit in his suitcase this go-'round. He had to leave them home this time. So for now, they'll hang out in the guest room.

Did you notice that we're only halfway through May, and my monthly project is already done? Guess I need to start something new...stay tuned.