Monday, February 27, 2012

Inspiration: Quilts of Gee's Bend

Earlier this month I went to a very unique party.  It was put on by my friend, a woman that is a constant source of creative inspriation and do-it-yourself energy.  Her idea was to host a painting party - so she advanced ordered canvasses, paints, pallattes and brushes.  She turned her living room into a studio and along with about 15 other woman I painted late into the night. 

I am not an accomplished painter, I can't draw for anything, and any project that requires I recreate something on paper (without tracing first) scares me.  In fact, I don't think that I have ever painted except for things with those little plastic paint pots from the cheap-o craft kits you can pick up at the big box stores.  But I jumped in with both feet - firm in my belief that getting out of my comfort zone was going to be fun.  Sure enough, it was.  And while I went to the party with one idea for my paintings, what I came away with was oh-so-different.

I started with some tracings of birds on branches.  And those three paintings (black silouettes against a yellow background) turned out sweet and nice.  Perfect for my daughters' rooms.  But I had three more canvasses left over.  And in a moment of leg stretching/wine sipping/chatting I spied the Gee's Bend book on a nearby bookshelf.  After looking through the book for 10 mintues I sat down again, and started drawing a wonky log cabin on one of my canvasses.  And then another, and then another.  

I left the party with three canvasses of quilt squares.  And when I came home I let them float around the house for a week or so.  Then suddenly it hit me.  I wanted to make an entire painted quilt, inspired by the work of the women of Gee's Bend

I placed my own order for canvasses, paints and brushes and about two weeks later I had what you see pictured above.  I worked on a few squares at a time, until one Saturday I had just the baby with me and I went to town; cranked out 15 squares in a few hours time.  There are 25 painted quilt squares mounted on the dining room wall.  They whole piece measures 26 x 26. 

I like that each square is wonky (just like the squares in the Gee's Bend quilts). This design choice is also a hidden asset because the canvasses aren't exactly square, or exactly the same size, to begin with.  I also painted the sides of each canvass black to give them some dimension and depth.  I used a gold acryllic paint pen to do all the 'seams' and edeges.  That gives the squares some serious glow when the light comes in the room at just the right angle.

I also have to thank my husband for being willing to drill 25 holes into an already beat up old plaster wall to hang these squares.  I know he did it because he loves me - but more likely I know he did it because he secretly wants to take down that wall some day to open the kitchen to the dining room and doesn't care much about the condition of the wall. 

I have two left over blank canvasses.  Not sure what I am going to do with those yet.  Maybe they are the seeds for a family painting party?!  The girls certainly want to try out 'momma's special paints' and my BIL and SIL seem interested in giving painting a try too. 

And if you want some of your own quilt inspriation, check out these two amazing books: The Quilts of Gee's Bend, and Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

FO: Immie Tee, #1 & #2

I can't remember where I first saw this pattern, but I fell in love with it.  And I had just the yarn in my stash to make one - this amazing hand dyed sage green that would look fantastic on my youngest.  So I took measurements, did a swatch, and cast on.  I made it all the way through the sweater, thinking that it would fit - certainly wouldn't be too small - and that I had made the right choice on the yarn/color combination. 

But I made a mistake at the outset.  I didn't trust myself.  Instead of making the size that most closely matched my daughter's measurements, I made the size that most closely matched her age.  Surely at 10 mos., she should be wearing 12 mos. clothing, right?  [Since all my kids mostly wear gently used/thrifted clothes I have not found sizing labels to be very reliable.  There are times when my 4 yo is wearing size 6 pants, and my baby is wearing 2T onesies.]  And since I didn't go with the rational choice, which would have been to knit the sweater that would actually fit her, I wound up with a gorgeous sweater tee, perfectly matching the pattern measurements for 12 mos., but way too big for her little body.  She is a petite one, this last daughter of mine, and at 10 months she has an 18" chest, and more closely matches the 3-6 mos. size of the pattern.

So what did that mean for me after casting off and blocking this most lovely of sweaters?  Only that I had to make a second one of course!

I pulled some more yarn from the stash - a lovely reddish-pink left over from the Norwegian cap I knit late last year.  And the 3-6 mos. size tee fits her perfectly, with the green one waiting in the wings. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

FO: 32,850 stitches

73 rows @ 450 stitches/row = 32,850 stitches.

73 rows @ 35 minutes/row = 42.58 hours.    

finished size (post-blocking): 4.5 ft. W x 6.5 ft. L of loveliness.

1 fabulous pattern + 3 skeins of colorful sock yarn + 1 dedicated knitter = 1 amazing scarf.

I am so happy that I finally picked this project up and finished it.  I did grind through those last long rows, however.  It is good that I am a product knitter - and thus really, really, really wanted this scarf in my knitters wardrobe - or I never would have finished it. 

Some people have written that it is a nice mindless stitch pattern, but damn.  This took forever to knit.  And it was boring.  I find some plain knitting to be relaxing, yet this scarf just felt tedious near the end. 

But now it's done and it won't haunt the bottom of my knitting basket anymore - it is free, out in the world, and just where it's supposed to be.  Around my neck, worn with quiet pride for all those 32,850 stitches.