30 July 2008

Quilt design decisions

quilt squares on the floor
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

After the amount of time it took to do the first quilt layout, I really wasn't sure that I wanted to do it all over again. But the sewing will be a much bigger enterprise, so I metaphorically rolled up my sleeves and did a different layout. It's still an overall random appearance since I have 38 different fabrics, but the blocks of 16 have different "themes". I did an "animals and fruit" one, several "stripes and geometrics", lots of blue variations, some pink squares, etc. Thankfully, it turned out to be much faster to lay out this way. I took lots of pictures and now I can compare them.

Artistically Random

Theme Blocks

I've made a poll in case any of you dear readers have a preference.

29 July 2008

Designing the Picnic Quilt

filling in randomly
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I started laying out my quilt!

While this is very exciting, it's also a lot more work than I realised. Much of it is turning around bent over trying to figure out where to put a square (and subsequently needing to take breaks when I get dizzy). Having something look artistically random is much harder than just making something statistically random. The human eye is so darn good at spotting patterns and groupings of similar things that it kind of spoils that random appearance.

To make matters worse, once I started laying it out, I got another idea. Barbara asked me on the weekend if I was planning to do a 9-patch type of pattern and I said no, I was going for random. But once I saw all the 38 (!) different fabrics separately as opposed to in the square tower, I thought that maybe doing blocks would look nice. To match the block size of the back, I'm thinking blocks of 16 selected by common colours in the fabrics. So I plan to lay the quilt out a second time and pick the one I like better. Who me? Make my life more difficult.... Never!

28 July 2008

Summer weekend

girl's night print
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I hope everyone had a glorious weekend. Mine included these moments:
  • read in the park with my sweetie while we munched on graham crackers (oh how I look forward to the picnic quilt which will be much more comfortable than our dollar store tablecloth)
  • took the last bite of an ice cream cone just before the first crack of thunder
  • cut out some more squares for my picnic quilt (crossed the 500 mark)
  • had a nostalgic sleepover party with 4 of my girlfriends (we made pizza and chocolate gelato from scratch, played a cheesy 80s boardgame and watched a cheesy 80s movie)
  • lainevierge gave us matching girl's night prints that she found at the Fringe bazaar (they come from Witty Workshop)
  • made pancakes for breakfast
  • played scrabble in the park with Barbara
  • went to bed far too late on Saturday and consequently very early on Sunday

state of the stack of squares
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

25 July 2008

weed patch progress

My little weed patch has made some nice progress, but oh how I wish I'd taken a "before" picture when it was overgrown with scraggly grasses, clover, and weeds. My ground covers are spreading out nicely as you can see from this animated gif that I made (and you can see that I took one of the pics before weeding it...)

19 July 2008


quilt back
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

Buttons Galore

Originally uploaded by allisongryski

There is this wonderful button shop on St-Denis. It's on the West side of the street if you go North from Mont Royal until you get there. That's how my friend Taylor and I found it when we went on Thursday. I've no idea what it's actually called but signs in the window say "boutons" and "ruban" which is precisely what they carry. Best of all, there's a big trunk FILLED with loose buttons. And you can dig through it to fill little bags. If you just scoop out a lucky-dip bag, then it's half the price (or rather, if you select buttons individually it's double the price). I got a medium bag of pick-and-choose for $4 and selected these lovelies:

You can see more pictures of my new button stash in my newly created Crafty Materials set. A rough count is about 250 buttons ... no wonder we spent more than an hour in the shop and I barely looked at anything else they had. Scooping through that trunk of buttons was as satisfying to the senses as sifting through a treasure chest of coins and jewels.

17 July 2008

Cherries at last

cherries and more
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I alluded to an online fabric purchase here and here. Well that's it up there. The photo doesn't capture how scrumptious the cherries are... especially the larger one with tone-on-tone dots. The blue rose, green raspberry, and pink garden twirly ones were all on sale and fell into the "might as well" category. But I'm glad I did. Everything is so pretty and it all arrived at top speed. It was shipped on Friday from The Fat Quarter Shop and arrived on Wednesday. I discovered this place through my reading of yvestown, a lovely interior-decorating type of blog. This is the first time I've bought fabric online and while I will endeavour not to make a habit of it, this was a positive experience. Normally I like to see the colours properly and feel the fabric, so online isn't ideal, but the lure of browsing fabric in my pjs is pretty tempting. On that dangerous note, especially given that I've reduced the size of my quilt, I will not be buying any further fabric for it. I announce this publicly in the hope that in the glare of public scrutiny I will actually stick to my intentions.

16 July 2008

Revising grandiose plans

too big
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

In my enthusiasm to start sewing the back of my quilt, I cut out a bunch more large squares yesterday. Today I was still a few short, but decided to lay it out anyhow. I shoved all the living/dining room furniture out of the way. As you can see... it's still too immense. I couldn't even fit it in the picture. I realised that this would just be unmanageably big. I had picked the size by finding a quilting page that talked about standard quilt sizes and I went for the Queen size. Yipes... the measurements never really translated to my mind's eye. So I've decided to scale back a bit to this (5x6):

I may still cut out some more big squares to combine with my spare squares and make a second smaller quilt, but for now, they'll just get folded up and stashed. I really need to figure out a better fabric storage system since the milk crate that I tuck under my sewing desk is starting to overflow.

15 July 2008

Images from the future

a few big squares
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

Yesterday I realised that I don't actually have to have all my small squares done before I can sew together my big squares. This thought was so exciting that I immediately laid a bunch of them out on the bed to see how it might look. Big was the answer I got. I only got a 4x4 section laid out and the final size planned is 6x7. (Apologies for the rather poorly lit photo, but you can't count on good lighting when you indulge yourself in instant gratification.) I shall plow ahead and not look back. A huge picnic quilt is a cozy delight and much more flexible than a small one. Since I still need to cut out 9 squares for the back, I decided to give myself the immediate satisfaction of drawing a layout of the different patterns.

This may not bear the least bit of resemblance to the final layout, but it was a lot of fun drawing not-to-scale, not-very-accurate little versions of my patterns. I felt like I got a glimpse of what this quilt will be.

14 July 2008

Fabric folly

reprodepot fabrics
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I'm not sure when this blog turned into fabric porn, but I just can't resist taking pictures of stacks of pretty fabric. I also can't seem to resist buying it, more's the pity. (The full extent of said lack of will power will become clear when I receive and photograph a certain package that's in the post). I got the 4 remnants above from the Reprodepot table at the Pomme-Pomme craft/zine fair this past Saturday. My favourite is the top one with snails and pea pods.

The space for the fair at La Sala Rossa was unfortunately muggy and crowded. After a quick once-around and a good rummage through the fabrics, my friend Taylor and I left in search of ice cream. We found ourselves some AC and inspiration at the nearby Au Papier Japonais first, then stopped by Local23, an excellent consignment/vintage clothing shop that was new to me. Then we wended our way back towards Le Patio (where I had a refreshing Guava-Grapefruit sorbet) and met up with my sweetie. The three of us finished off the lovely afternoon by having a picnic in Parc Lafontaine. There were further picnic and park lounging plans for Sunday, but the weather gods weren't having it and it poured rain all day.

In other fabric-stacking news, here's a picture of my quilt-squares-so-far. It actually looks less impressive in the picture than the square of paper on top with 410 written on it suggests it should.

That means the stack on the right has 410 squares. The stack on the left is the 16.5" squares for the back, of which I have 31/42. And if that wasn't enough fabric for one day, here's a picture of one of my favourite thrift-store sheet finds. This is actually the first one that I bought for the quilt.

12 July 2008

Tart and refreshing

homemade limeade
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

The limes were outrageously cheap at the market, so a batch of homemade limeade seemed in order. I looked for a recipe online but everything seemed too sweet. I like my limeade tart and refreshing, so here's my method (which can be scaled as necessary):

In a pot, combine:
1c sugar
1c water

Heat while stirring until all the sugar dissolves (it should go clear). You'll end up with about 1 1/4 c of simple syrup.

To make your limeade:
1 c fresh lime juice (6-9 limes depending on juiciness)
1 c syrup
4 c water

Chill and serve with ice and mint sprigs. I froze my extra syrup in ice cubes for use later. I've heard some grated ginger is a yummy addition, but I haven't tried it.

I also made some wholewheat pizza dough and whipped up some delicious pizza with red onion, mushrooms, parmigiano-reggiano, wild roquette, tomatoes, bocconcini, and fresh ground pepper.

11 July 2008

how to peel a raw egg

icy egg
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

Yesterday I made some muffins and discovered that two of our eggs were cracked. I thought we'd just gotten them that way from the market and was feeling mildly annoyed. Today I found the real reason. I think the top shelf of our fridge is extra cold and they were just freezing. I had the very surreal experience of peeling this raw egg. The yolk was still liquid, but the whites had all frozen, so I peeled off the shell like it was hard boiled. I just plopped it in a bowl and figure we'll make scrambled eggs with it or something. When it thaws.

10 July 2008

The "I might as well" danger

fabric remnants
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

My stacks of quilt squares are starting to reach teetering heights. I have 405 (of 672) small squares done and 31 (of 42) large squares. I just cut up some pretty ones from a selection of fabric remnants that I bought from the fabric shop around the corner. I just popped in to savour their AC on a sweltering day. I thought I was safe. I didn't have my wallet with me. But then I dug through the remnant bin and found pretty things and learned that they'd happily set them aside for me to come back for later. oops. Well at least this little fan of fabrics only cost a few dollars. It's much less dangerous than my browsing of online fabric shops. I may go ahead and make an order because I really would like my quilt to have a cherry print and I've never seen one here (and it seems an unlikely pattern for thrift store sheets). The problem is that then I think well as long as I'm making an order and paying for shipping ... .

08 July 2008

crispy new shoots not so crisp when shot

young garlic
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

In addition to the boatload of strawberries, we bought some beautiful young garlic from the market on the weekend. Yesterday, I snapped a few pictures of it on the coffee table. While I quite like how the picture looks small, the full size isn't perfectly crisp. I have muddled along without a tripod so far by leaning on chairs, resting on tables, and waiting for the brightest bit of a sunny day. But even though I did two out of the three for this photo, it's still slightly soft in the original size.

I would like to find myself a tripod that is a) inexpensive, and b) allows me to shoot straight down like this. I'm not sure if b) is going to be tricky or not. The only sort of tripod I've used in the past was built such that this would basically be impossible. A copy stand is the tool I know of for shooting straight down at a flat surface, but I'd rather something more versatile so I can shoot on different surfaces. Some research is in order, but any pointers in the right direction would be most appreciated.

07 July 2008

Strawberries: with glee and great abandon

strawberry preserves
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

Just about every summer, I like to buy strawberries when they're in season and delicious and cheap and make a bunch of things to enjoy both right away and during the winter. I went a little overboard this year. On Saturday, I bought 2 flats (24 pints) of organic strawberries from the Jean Talon market. I washed all of them and put 24 cups (only about 10 pints worth) into my giant stockpot to macerate with some sugar and lemon juice.

On Sunday morning, I made a delicious orange-yogourt loaf cake to go with strawberries. I used lemon and lime zest and orange juice from concentrate since I didn't actually have an orange on hand. This recipe promises to become a new favourite. It whipped together very quickly and the result was sweet enough to be a tea cake, but also pleasant for breakfast.

I also made a strained strawberry juice, but forgot to take any pictures. Just imagine a long length of nylon tulle, folded up and pinned with clothespegs over a stripy bowl. A splodgey mass of mashed strawberry, cooked with some fresh mint and basil leaves, sat on this, slowly dripping essence-of-summer into the purple-and-pink bowl. I was left with mostly-juice-free, but still yummy strawberry pulp, so I attempted to make a summer berry and bread pudding thing. It turned out yummy, but didn't exactly work since it relies on the juices completely soaking the bread and I only added a stingy couple spoons back. Sometime I'll actually have to follow the recipe, which calls for a variety of different berries.

On Sunday afternoon, I turned the macerated strawberries into a syrupy jam. The recipe is from my Mom and while not really jammy enough for toast, it's excellent on pancakes, waffles, ice cream, and porridge. I may try some over a slice of my orange-yogourt cake. It was very satisfying to listen to the ping of my jam pots as the proper seal formed. I managed to get nearly 14 assorted pots of strawberry preserve. I labelled some of them with some old paper labels that were my Grandmother's.

After all this, and still with boxes of strawberries in the fridge, I was a bit worn out. So I took a picnic to the park and lolled in the dappled sunlight near the fountain with my sweetie. Feeling a bit peckish, we stopped for poutine on the way home. In the evening, I finished reading Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's collection of articles, titled "Hugh Fearlessly Eats-it-all". All in all, a very lovely weekend. (And now, I just have to make a strawberry tart, strawberry purée, and maybe some strawberry frozen yogourt.)

06 July 2008

Summer hols

dusk in the country
Originally uploaded by allisongryski

I recently had a short holiday in the country. It was glorious and relaxing.

I spent almost all of one day in various places on the dock reading decorating magazines, paddling my feet in the water, and eating fresh strawberries.

I did some painting.

I read three books (Gifts by Ursula K. LeGuin, Thornyhold by Mary Stewart, and Od Magic by Patricia McKillip). I saw my sister's new house and got bitten by the mosquitoes in her backyard. I walked along a beach and sat on the rocks by a lighthouse. I went to the farmer's market and flea market in town and even found some vintage sheet additions for my picnic quilt at a thrift shop.

I watched sunsets.

02 July 2008

How to get inspired

Originally uploaded by allisongryski

A friend asked for some ideas and strategies for getting inspired. I thought that my response might be useful to others too.

This list is always good for a start: 100 ideas.

Go for a walk with a camera in your neighbourhood and really SEE things. Find details that you don't normally notice.

Choose a theme and create things in different mediums that fit with the theme. Themes can be as simple as colours, words, things, emotions, events. The ECIAD portfolio requirements has some interesting theme suggestions.

Try a new medium or a new method that you haven't used before.

Try drawing with your non-dominant hand.

Do art projects that you did as a kid and see where it takes you (e.g. blowing paint with a straw, potato stamping, macaroni art, paper dolls, snowflakes, etc).

Sometimes getting inspired just requires looking at things a little differently from normal.