Friday, March 30, 2012

Finished Quilt: Myself, as a Teacher (photo-heavy, epically long post)

It was finished on Tuesday afternoon so it would be ready to show after class on Wednesday.  I roped a couple of the tallest boys on the Education Students' Society council into helping hold it outside in the building.  It was sunny so there are shadows. We were in a hurry.
The one on the left is Kyle.  We had the following conversation:
        Kyle:  Am I going to be in this photo?
        Me: No.
        Kyle:  Then I'm not doing it.
        Me: Oh. Ok.  You can be in the photo if you want.
        Kyle:  Will I be tagged?
        Me: No.
        Kyle:  Then I'm not doing it. 
I love my friends.  Jon, by the way, didn't really care if he was featured or not. (Thanks for your help, gents!)
I've discussed part of the symbolism of the quilt in past posts, all tagged with Teacher Identity Project, but I'll go into detail here.  The quilt represents who I am as an antiracist, anti-oppressive educator. Why did I pick a quilt? Well, for starters, like teaching, quilting is something I love doing. There's also a rich history of quilting bringing people together. It represents community, sharing of knowledge and skill, collectiveness.  Quilts are practical, keeping people warm, and beautiful, showing craft and art. I hope that my work as a teacher keeps my students warm and empowers them to keep themselves and others warm with what we learn together.  Quilts are also used for activism.  I remember the profound experience of viewing the AIDS quilt when I was in high school.  I am inspired by the Quilt of Belonging which represents all the different peoples of Canada.  So much hope and togetherness. And above all, love.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blitzkrieg & Basting

SO.  I was quiet on the internet this weekend.  Didn't touch it.  I was absorbed in many things but most importantly, I was working on the Teacher Identity Project Quilt.

I received a bundle of scraps (and by scraps, I mean huge chunks of fabric) from Cafe Jabbaccino.  I was giddy beyond giddy and couldn't wait to get sewing.
My living room looked like an episode of Fabric Hoarders for much of the weekend and most of the activity had to be strategically set-up and coordinated so that I didn't burn the house down with the iron, cut myself with the rotary trimmer, or trip on any of the many cords running across the floor.  I may have lost the remote once or twice as well but I did manage to watch (sorta) a number of films I hadn't seen before and eagerly awaited the new season premiere of MadMen (during which NO SEWING happened.  Don Draper needs my full attention.)
Confetti made from scrap crumbs

I managed to finish the top and back (both pieced within an inch of their lives) before the sun meant pictures were out of the question. Here's a sneak peek:
The quilt is basted now.  I tried a new method of layering the sandwich to which I am now married, I love it so much.  I forget where I saw the idea (send up a flag if it was from your blog, please!) but it's sweet.  It sounds like it would take longer but it saves a ton of hassle.  You spread out your batting and then smooth out your top on it.  When every wrinkle is gone, trim the batting around your top to a couple inches larger and roll the whole thing up. Then you tape down your backing, centre your roll and roll it out, smoothing as you go.  If it's off-centre or going wonky, easy fix to roll it back up.  Trim the backing to your batting edge and pin like the wind.  I saved myself about twenty minutes doing it this way and I had to fight much less with the masking tape, the pins and wrinkles.  Awesome.

I began free-motion quilting an actual quilt for the first time last night.  This has been the perfect project to try new things and since it's definitely not a "decor" project, perfection isn't expected or part of the end goal.

The living room is mostly returned to its former glory.  I'll need to hit it with the vacuum when I'm finished.  I can't wait to show you the binding I made....

Sunday, March 18, 2012


As in, I have it.  Just in time to wreak havoc with assignment due dates, I contracted the plague.  I've been silent on the web this week and literally silent at home the last few days as my voice completely left me.  I'm hacking and coughing, handed in three major assignments and did a group presentation between naps and fevers. On the plus side, I think my abs are benefitting from the non-stop cough riot.

So much for my sewing rampage planned for this weekend.  However, a back-ordered Christmas gift of yarn arrived last Friday, before due dates, a phenomenon known as Murray's Law:  Something you want to do will beckon with ferocity the second you need to buckle down on what you have to do.  Now that I have a bit of a school breather, though not literally breathing all that well, I can knit for a bit guilt-free. Between that and laundering every scrap of bedding and contaminated clothing, my weekend's been quite full.

I've also sewn some hexes and part hexes together for the Teacher Identity Project.  Funny how they don't always go together like you think they will. And how the second you take the foundations out, the middles go all wrinkly.  There are deep life metaphors in the oddest of places...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Blue Skies

Okay, so no sewing again this week.  But I still have a thing or two to share from my rampage sewing weekend last month.
Dresden wedges before sewing. I take a photo to check placement as I go. Yes, the lighting is abysmal...
I was experimenting with improv piecing.  I'd actually started this project before Christmas but set it aside in the chaos and hadn't come back to it yet.  It started off with a delighting over Kona solid fat quarters at my local and an idea to use the dresden wedge rulers I'd picked up ages ago and hadn't touched yet.  I wanted to see if I could use different wedge shapes and lengths and still end up with something not entirely ugly.  Then I grab a bunch of blues as well and went to town.

I started with strips in various widths, sewing random strips together.  Then I cut those strips in various widths, and started making blocks.  Once I had most of the pieces in large chunks, I started fitting them all together and using leftovers to fill the gaps.  I placed them around a plain square where I thought my dresden would go. Who wants to cover up all that piecing?? Not this guy, though she occasionally rethinks her choices.*

Eventually, I had a squarish wall-hanging-sized top and I appliqu├ęd my sun to it.  This is how it looks so far.

I am planning to free-quilt the heck out of it with all kinds of thread and embellishment so that the sun doesn't look like a bunch of solids sewn together all crazy-like. It's going to take some nerve-building to get to that point.  I'm a little nervous that what I envision in my head won't translate to the fabric. You probably won't see it for a while but I thought I'd share it anyway. Another work in progress for the pile, which I'm totally going to tackle.  And soon.  Just not today. :-)

Have a great weekend!

*I almost wish I'd done it all in batiks but I'm not about to tear it apart.  Plus, sometimes the all-batik quilts get a patina of boring over them.  Not all, but some.  I think it's a "too much of a good thing" issue.  They are lovely to sew with though, even if the odd batik causes me to wrinkle my nose with an 'ew' for colour and pattern..

Friday, March 2, 2012

Identity Quilt Update: Paper-piecing gone crazy

My back is on the mend.  Thanks for the well-wishes!  It's still tricky to sit upright in hard chairs but luckily a number of my classes were cancelled this week and I could take it easy. I missed only one, on Monday, and to be fair, it was an 8am class. While I'm starting to catch up on things put on hold during my incapacitation, I should still be writing papers right now.  But I'm taking a break to show you some of the blocks for the Teacher Identity Project Quilt.
Gorgeous, isn't it?  I didn't make this one.  This is the centre from the one made for me by materials&method.  I love it.

I've been doing a ton of paper-piecing.  I still feel quite new at it but it's an addictive little process and I love the possibilities it opens up. This one is the Love block by Kelbysews (made at 50% of the original size.) It can be found at SewMamaSew.

This matryoshka block pattern was found at this wonderful little Etsy shop after I spied one done at AlaMode.  I used a matryoshka print I'd been hoarding for just the right project.  Well, what could be more perfect?  
The idea behind this block is simply this:  I lived six months in Russia and the experiences that I had there are deeply entrenched in who I am as a person, which affects who I am as a teacher.  I remember very well the tough-love grandmothers who scolded any and all strangers for not wearing hats or for drinking cold pop while at the same time, sharing knowledge about art or helping with directions.

I found a number of other paper-piecing projects to capture my nerd side.  Let's face it:  whatever my interests, excitements, and passions are, they will show up in my teaching. Most of these came from Fandom in Stitches.  Fun stuff.  At this point, I'm thinking the Batman crest will appear as a thought bubble in Yoda's mind.

The Apple logo.  During my internship, Steve Jobs died and I couldn't help but reflect on the impact he's had on my daily life.  My computer, my phone, my music, etc, and a philosophy of being all have a Mac mark on them.  Macs have always had close ties to education as well.

The red block is an interpretation of a potholder design from the latest issue of FatQuarterly.  I'm a subscriber and the collaborative energy behind it inspires me. I've learned a great deal from reading it. Here's the twist:  obviously it's not a potholder. I'm repurposing the design and adapting it to what I need, using the resources I have to suit my goal.  It looks like a pair of darts.  I see feathers. So we'll see how that turns out.

Okay.  The MockingJay completely kicked my A&%! 
I did not tidy it before taking this picture because I want to be completely transparent about my own capabilities.  All that white stuff? Ripped seams.  I took parts of it apart a few times but it still isn't aligned quite right.  And it's small.  5" finished size.  It looks a tad more warped in the photo because of all the seams; it's not lying flat.  Including it because: a) not every plan I have as a teacher goes smoothly, b) I love The Hunger Games and hope to use the books in my class someday, and c) mistakes and challenges are part of the game - admitting my own and learning from them helps me to empower others to do the same.  We learn more from our mistakes and grow more when we are challenged than we do when we are always successful and do only those things that we are already capable of doing.  Plus, the books are about survival and I survived this block.  It'll be a scar in the quilt but I earned it!

And as for my incapability of the last week, I had to do SOMETHING. So I worked on these socks.  I started them in August, started teaching and hadn't touched them in months. I'm past the heels now but it'll likely be a while before you hear about them again. Back to the papers...