Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bully for you, chilly for me

Do you realize this blog has existed since 2008? TWO THOUSAND AND EIGHT. In July, that was five years. And I've been checking out some of the blogs of people who have become (relatively) successful in the quilt world and have found that many of them started around the same time. It was like a whole bunch of us collectively plugged into the Matrix and were uploaded with the instructions to make quilts and start blogging about it. Except the difference between me and them was that they were all "Here's my tutorial for for sewing on a binding" and I was all "HOW THE HELL DO YOU MAKE THESE SEAMS STRAIGHT? FRICKIN' LASERS?" I got a magazine column out of it; they got fabric lines and book deals.

I mention this only because I've been thinking a lot about fame recently. Well, quilt world fame, which is not the same as regular world fame, in that there's generally no singing or posing for magazine covers in one's underwear. Yet.

David likes to tell the girls that mommy is famous, which always makes their eyes get a little bigger. But then we have to have a discussion about how famous mommy actually is.

David: Mommy's famous.

Kids: Really????

Me: No.

David: C'mon. You're a little famous.

Me: No, I'm not.

Kids: How famous are you, Mommy?

Me: I am not as famous as Selena Gomez. I am more famous than you. But our plumber is more famous than you, so that's not saying anything.

Kids: Do people want your autograph?

Me: No.

Kids: Do people want to take your picture?

Me: God, no.

Kids: Do people want to meet you?

Me: They think they do, then they slink away, disappointed and disillusioned after glancing at the black pit of nothingness that is my actual personality.

(pause to define "disillusioned," "black pit of nothingness," and "personality.")

Kids: Well, don't you want to be more famous?

Me: Who wants ice cream?

This conversation came up again a few months ago when two different people in close succession referred to me as a "rock star." In both cases, I had to check a couple times to make sure they actually meant me. I certainly don't feel like a rock star. God knows I don't look like one (unless you count Meat Loaf). But it was so sweet to be thought of that way, I had to announce it to my family.

Then, in the last couple of weeks, I've had more people refer to me as "a name." As in, "You are a name in the industry and companies will want to work with you." And when I hear this, I always think, "Aw you're so sweet...and so wrong." I have absolutely no idea how to gauge my own...let's not call it fame—let's say "infamy." I am always being encouraged to approach people at Market like they're gonna know who the hell I am and like they'll be all, "Oh, it's YOU! We love you! You're so...marketable." I pretty much assume that a) nobody knows who I am, and b) if they do, they don't want anything to do with me. First of all, I am oddly-shaped. I don't know; I just always assume this is working against me. Second: I have major bitchy resting face. It's a handicap. And third: I have managed to offend a lot of people in the last five years, some of whom are pretty well-known in our little world. And not just for the cursing either, but for my columns! And to that last point, there's stuff there I can't even tell you about, but it's enough to give me pause every time I contemplate even commenting on someone's blog or responding to a post on Facebook. Being incredibly shy AND outspoken at the same time makes for an odd (and oddly shaped) stew. It's why I suck at self-promotion.

Anyway, to anybody who ever called me "famous"—thank you. I appreciate each and every opportunity to make my kids think I am far cooler than I actually am.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Alcide Herveaux: The Quilt Tutorial

Yes, I am still madly in love with Alcide, and enough people have expressed interest in a tutorial (two!) that I decided to go ahead and crank one out. Keep in mind that this tutorial was written while under the influence of aaaaall kinds of drugs for a sinus infection and an unrelated head cold (the head cold came on after the sinus infection—in what world is that fair?). So, I'm high and cranky–not generally my best combo.

Get It:
• a selection of solids—layer cakes work well, as do fat quarters. Or scraps, even. 
• about 1.25 yards background fabric
• about 1/3-yd binding material
• about 1 yd backing material
• batting
• thread
• a strong will to live
• quarter circle templates. I use these by Elisa's Backporch, because they are acrylic and will produce consistent results. If you prefer to make your own templates, you can download my pattern here.
• access to the seasons of True Blood that feature Joe Manganiello as Alcide Herveaux. If this is not an option, or you are a weenie about vampires and blood and stuff, then go with Magic Mike. If men aren't your thing, please use the inspiration of your choice. This is an equal-opportunity blog, and we only discriminate against people with no sense of humor.

Cut It:
Alcide is approximately 39" x 39" and there are two basic blocks that comprise it. You will make 18 of Block A and 18 of Block B

Block A

Block B

1. Take your templates and cut out 36 quarter circles from your variety of solids.

2. Then cut 36 background pieces from your background fabric.

A word about cutting: If you are using the acrylic templates, I highly recommend you invest in one of those teeny rotary cutters, if you don't already have one. They will handle the curves much more smoothly, much as naked werewolves do. Also, I have one of those old Brooklyn Revolvers, which is basically a rotating cutting mat/ironing surface. I got mine from my mom, but apparently AQS is now selling them, minus the ironing surface, for a bajillion dollars and change. I believe Olfa also makes a rotating cutting mat. These help a LOT, since you don't have to contort your body into weird positions (that's what he said) or do that thing where you are basically aiming the rotary cutter right at your own gut. 

3. Save the scraps from your multi-colored solids for your triangles. If you go exactly with my version, you will need one 2-inch square from each color. But you may decide to go larger, so read on before you start cutting these.

Sew It:

4. Now we sew some kick-ass curves. Sewing these kinds of curves is daunting for a lot of quilters because it basically seems like you are being asked to perform some kind of magic trick. I mean, once you start pinning, you realize that you've got two curves going in opposite directions!


To add insult to injury, those curves? They ain't the same size. That's right. The curved edge of your quarter circle and the curved edge of your background are not the same length. But you know what is? The line about 1/4-inch in from those edges—your seam line! Freaky, right? So, when you are pinning—if pinning is your thing, and we'll talk about that—you might notice that the edge of your quarter circle has some ruffly bits, even if if feels like you are smoothing everything flat under your fingers, and that's because both things are happening.

There are some tutorials and videos out there that show you how you can sew curves without pinning, or with using minimal pins, but this has never worked for me. I can sew long, gentle curves this way, but not curves like this. I need pins and lots of 'em. So, I'm going to show you how I do it, and you can Google the heck out of it and see if some other way looks better to you. Then we'll all meet back here for cookies.

Pinning and Sewing the Insane Curves
5. In order to pin your curved edges, you'll first need to find and mark the mid-point of each curve. The simplest way to accomplish this is just to fold each piece in half and finger press the fold, like so:

6. Since we are working with solids, it doesn't matter which side is up, but if you use prints, you'll need to put them Right Sides Together at this point, and line up those marks you just made. I always do it so that they sort of nestle into each other:

And pin that sucker:

Now comes the contortionist part where you pin the rest. This is where you will start to need that strong will to live.

7. There are straight edges just to the right and left of both your curves, and we need to line those up. Pull the edge of your background fabric around so that the end of it's curve meets the end of your quarter circle's curve, and the straight edges are lined up:

And pin that sucker:

See how I added that extra pin there on the left? That is optional and most likely just superstitious on my part. But if you believe in spooks and haints, you can do it too.

8. Do the same thing at the other end.

9. Now we want to pin all the bits in between. You'll find that if you curve your edges toward you a bit, making them like two bowls nested inside each other, they will line up a bit better for you. As you do that, find the approximate place along the curved edges that is halfway between the center pins and one of the pins you just placed on the edge. Again, under your fingers, the very edge of one fabric might pooch out while one lays flat, but remember that the place 1/4-inch in from both those edges will line up, so just go ahead and pin it, even if you aren't totally sure it feels right.

Once you pin that, do it again, between that pin and the outermost pin.

Then again, in the space next to the middlemost ("Next time, on Middlemost, Mr. Blargy commits a social faux pas when he neglects to DVR the latest episode of True Blood for Mrs. Blargy and her mysterious visitor, the Countess du Flunquie. Will the Countess reveal his embarrassment at the ball? Will Mrs. Blargy ever call her husband by his actual first name (Leslie)? Find out, next time, on Middlemost.") pin, until you have pinned the whole edge. If you feel you need a few more, just pop 'em on in there. Who's to know?

10. Now, you have to take a deep breath and sew. My main advice here: go slow and if the first one doesn't go well, just keep at it. If you allow yourself some practice time and practice material, you'll give yourself the chance to figure out what feels right and works right for you. Now, I do something that my lawyers say I have to tell you to NEVER EVER DO because you could poke your eye out or lose a limb or explode your machine or burn your house down or something, but when I started doing it, all my circles came out better. Infinitely better. But don't do it. Because of the exploding eye burning limb thing.

I sew over my pins.

That's right I said it. I sew over my pins. I know a lot of people do this already and are all like, "Yeah, I dance with death every day, so what?" But I was always under the impression that it would bring about the apocalypse, so I avoided it. But then, when I was having issues with my circles, I tried it and angels wept, my circles were so much better, In fact, it's improved my accuracy in all kinds of ways in all my sewing, but you didn't actually hear me say that out loud and if you try to say I did I'll deny it and call you a damn dirty liar.

Here's a video to show just how slow I go when I sew, and how I make tiny adjustments as I go, helping to keep that top fabric from ending up with a pleat under the needle.

Riveting, no?

11. Press your seam to the darker fabric, or open, as you prefer.

12. Because my blocks sometimes end up weird on the ends (especially when I don't sew over the pins or I try to record a video with one hand and sew with the other), I built in a trim so you can cut off any weird edges. Using a square-up ruler, trim only the two edges that have seams to make your block 7 inches square.

Now, when you add the triangles, do a test version with your practice fabric to make sure your 2-inch square will fit properly. You may need to size it up or down a bit to get it just right, depending on how your circles come out, so having those practice pieces helps a lot here. What you want is a triangle that overlaps your circle by just a 1/4-inch, so that when you sew everything together, the bottom point of the triangle is right next to the bottom of the circle, like this:

13. Take one of your squares and, using the marking tool of your choice, mark a line across the diagonal:

14. Place the square at the bottom corner of your circle block, lining up the edges, with the diagonal line running as shown:

15. Sew right along this line. Then trim, 1/4-inch away from the seam line. Flip your triangle over and press.

This is your A block. To make the B block, the process is the same, but you'll be placing that square on the opposite side, so your block turns out like this:

16. Make 18 of Block A and 18 of Block B.

17. Lay all your blocks out according to the illustration and switch them all around a million times until you like the configuration. Sew your blocks together in rows, then sew the rows together, making sure to line up the seams.

I chose to do echo quilting in the background and left the rest unquilted, mainly because I could not for the life of me figure out how to quilt the circles and triangles without ruining the whole thing. If you come up with something, please show me!

So, there it is. I hope this was enlightening, or at least mildly entertaining. I love seeing my stuff on Pinterest so feel free to pin this as long as it links back here. Bonus points if you send a pic that manages to include Joe M./Alcide H.