Sunday, September 16, 2012

How I Spent My Summer Vacation....and My First Quilt Progress

Yes, I am sewing a quilt.  That fact is a definite surprise to many of my dear sewing friends.  I have tremendous respect for quilters....all those small seams to sew precisely, all those small seams having to meet squarely at some point, all those choices to make regarding color, tone, scale of prints.  Years ago I thought that I would join the quilting world but (after buying more fabric first) I decided it really wasn't for me.  That has stayed true for the past decade.  But then the modern quilt movement began.  Just as I am cleaning out my home and working on a more streamlined, simpler style, the quilting world has a new branch doing the same.  I love the freshness of lots of white or solid color, more geometric designs and a relaxed, improvisational attitude.  This summer I decided to take the plunge and sew my first official quilt. (I don't count my charity rag quilts for the dog shelter...easy way to use up excess flannel and no judegment from grateful puppies)  
Here's the inspiration.  
Lucky the rescue dog needs a quilt if he's going to nap on the new couch.
We bought a new family room sofa last summer from JC Penney and decided no dogs on the couch, unlike the old rule for the 20 year old Ikea sofa.  But you know what?  We like having Lucky the rescue dog cuddle with us....Sam the basenji not being much of a long term cuddler in the evening.  So we amended the can snuggle on the couch on a towel...well, he doesn't always understand "towel" as you can see above.  For the last year there's been an old beach towel there and now I want a more stylish replacement.
Here's the plan: 

  • Roughly beach towel size quilt
  • Easy beginner design
  • Fun graphic colors
Here's the backing fabric....the wonderful New York City print I found in Amish country in June.  

Here are the 1 1/4" strips for the front.  

The pattern is Pick Up Stix from the June/July 2011 issue of Quilter's Home Magazine   magazine article and was designed and sewn by Ali Winston of asquaredw

Why is this a good design for new quilters like me?  Well, you start by cutting out 10" squares of a solid background fabric, white in my case.  

Then you randomly add 1 1/4" strips by cutting diagonally and horizontally and stitch them into the square.  The most matching that has to occur is making a strip continue at the correct angle when you add a piece crossing over it.  
Back side of one of my less than perfect squares

Then you take an 8 1/2" square ruler and trim the whole block down to size to sew into the final number of vertical and horizontal rows you want.  
The goal is to make it look "deliberately spontaneous" just like the children's game of pick up sticks all piled on top of one another randomly.   

Here's a better explanation from a much more experienced quilter than I am...he used larger block sizes but same idea Paul's Block Party

I've sewn 35 squares so far and now will trim them and decide if I want to make it any bigger.  Boring at times since I had nothing to try on and get excited about along the way but as one quilting friend assured me, "You know it will fit when you're done."

Now for those promised vacation pictures.  Normally Mr. Lucky and I do not travel during the summer.  We have so many fun things to do here in the Baltimore area that we don"t like to leave and miss any of them.  But this year we took up the invitations from several Florida dogpark friends to visit them in their midwest home towns.  We put 13 1/2 year old Sam the basenji in the kennel since he's not a people friendly visitor, packed up Lucky and set out to drive 1900 miles in nine days.  What a fantastic trip!!
 We set the GPS west for Ohio.  Warm sunny day and thanks to the internet we made our first stop for a late breakfast at the Summit Diner outside of Pittsburgh.  Honey, I did pack my cholesterol medicine, didn't I? 
Continued westward well-fueled and got to Sandusky Point, Ohio in time to take the 4:30 ferry to Put-In- Bay, Ohio, on Small Bass Island in Lake Erie.
 No, we had never heard of this place either (apologies to my midwest USA readers who may be familiar.)  Put-In-Bay info
Terrific family vacation place, low key and relaxing and with great historical importance.  The third tallest US National Monument is on the island and honors both Admiral Perry's victory in the Lake Erie battle with the British but more importantly, the peace treaty of 1815 which resulted in the long-standing peace between the US, England and Canada.  Perry's Monument
Photo by NPS-Jon Wright

Town view from the top of the monument
Our wonderful hostess, June, provided us with convenient island transportation.  Since many visitors take an alternative passenger only high speed ferry, golf carts are readily available and perfect for traveling around a 2 mile by 4 mile island.  Here are the two lucky men in my life and a few more local pictures.

After a few lovely days, we left the island and headed further west.  Lunch with my aunt, uncle, cousin and his wife in Adrian, Michigan then onward to stop for a day and night in South Bend, Indiana.  We toured the Notre Dame campus, (yes, saw "touchdown Jesus in person  view from Notre Dame stadium ) and enjoyed the very interesting Studebaker Museum.  I'm not a car person but I enjoyed the historic perspective and design process of this now defunct line of American cars and Mr. Lucky was totally enthralled.  Women and their sewing machines, guys and their cars, I guess.
After South Bend we headed to our western most destination and another Florida winter friend, this time from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Lake Michigan.  Lucky loved seeing his dogpark pal, Riley, and we fell in love with Milwaukee.  Our friend, Ginny, took us to the terrific Irish Festival downtown.  I was amazed at the size of their festival grounds and the huge number of music venues within....then I realized why their festivals are so popular.  Since Milwaukee is a town founded by brewers, their liquor laws are far more lenient than any we have in Maryland.  Once inside the festival grounds you could purchase wine or beer and drink it anywhere....definitely not how things work at our Baltimore ethnic festivals.  
I sat and watched the building's "wings" move from this....
On Saturday Ginny and Mr. Lucky played golf and I explored more of downtown Milwaukee.  I loved the public parks and beaches lining the lakeside for miles, the downtown riverwalk with its tour boats and rising bridges, the fresh food at Milwaukee Public Market and the stunningly beautiful and dramatic Milwaukee Art Museum. It was designed by Santiago Calatrava who has designed soaring bridges and railway stations around the world. this, and back, in under 10 minutes.

But now the fabricholics reading this will understand what happened next.  It wasn't intentional, I promise. When I drove back to the house that afternoon, I took a little drive further into the small village main street where our friend lives, Elm Grove. I didn't get one block into town before I saw this sign....
Bigsby's Sewing Center, Elm Grove WI
Yes, a fabric store not a mile from her home.  And a lovely fabric store, with Japanese quilting fabrics, wool flet and wool rovings and a terrific independent pattern selection. Bigsby Tour on YouTube Did I tell you that I loved the Milwaukee area?  Since I always want to support a terrific independent fabric store like this one, I just had to buy a piece....and since this trip was dogpark inspired, I bought another piece for the new quilt.

Thanks for sticking through the vacation pics.  Who knew that sewing could crop up even on a trip like this.  Hope your summers were adventurous 
and your sewing is teaching you new tricks as well. 

Morning explorations
Four legged friends enjoying each other's company once again.

Two legged friends doing the same.


  1. Sounds like such a fun trip. I like road trips, and seeing the sights along the way. I grew up on Lake Erie, and since we sold our little summer place a few years ago, we just don't get up there much. Lake Erie summers were a great break from Florida summers!

    1. We did have lovely weather which was a treat since the midwest really suffered from heat and drought this summer. Sounds like you have happy Lake Erie memories also.

  2. I haven't been to this part of the country. How fun to see your pictures. It looks like it was a wonderful trip.

    1. It was new to us, too. The US is so big and diverse. I hope we get to take more trips like this in the future and do more exploring.


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