Friday, February 26, 2010

River quilt

I posted a picture of my river quilt from my phone, then realized that I hadn't posted about it before, even though I have pictures I took of it earlier.

The pattern that I based this quilt off of is from the Better Homes and Gardens American Patchwork and Quilting magazine (August, 2007). I bought it for $.50 at the thrift store down the street. The original quilt is called "paint by number" and is made out of rainbow batik fabrics. It really caught my eye, since I love bright colors and batik fabrics. The style is called a bargello quilt.

I decided that it would be easy to do with pre-cut strips, so I bought two pre-cut rolls of batik fabrics on sale at Fabric Depot.
I didn't end up using any strips from the round roll at the top, and I used slightly more than half of the strips from the bottom roll.

The basic idea of this type of quilt is that you sew strips together, then you cut them the other direction into strips of various widths. After rearranging them, a wave sort of pattern emerges, which is pretty cool. I arranged the blue and green strips from this roll from light blue to dark blue then merging into dark green and back to light green. Here's a picture of the strips getting sewn together.
This quilt wasn't particularly challenging to put together, but it got a little tedious because it's a lot of really long straight seams. However, it looked awesome once I got the top put together.
The narrow pink border was a fat quarter that I just happened to pick up because it was on sale and I thought it was a cool color. The greenish border is from a piece of fabric that I got as a remnant a couple months ago.

I just picked up the backing fabric yesterday at Fabric Depot, which is currently having a 50% off sale on selected bali batik fabrics. Seemed like the perfect time. I also got fabric for the twiddletails quilt-a-long pinwheel quilt that I'll be starting soon.

I decided to quilt it by sewing through each diagonal set of squares. I thought the flowing lines of quilting would emphasize the "rivery" look of the quilt. Here's a close-up of what I mean:

I am currently in the process of deciding how I'm going to quilt the border. I considered doing feathers, but I'm not sure that I'm good enough at free motion quilting yet to have them come out nicely. I'm very happy with the rest of the quilt and I don't want to be disappointed with the border.

Construction details:
Piecing thread: mostly Gutermann 100% polyester thread, but switched to 100% cotton
Piecing needle: size 75 quilting needle, which worked great on the batiks
Batting: warm&white cotton
Quilting needle: same as above
Quilting thread: blue variegated Signature size 40 cotton thread
Tension: increased to close to 7 based on a practice sandwich I made up. I've never moved my tension that much before; normally I'm afraid to touch it!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

No shampoo

Grapefruit juice was a total failure. I don't think it took any oil out of my hair at all and TD said it smelled funny. By today (day 2 after washing), it was intolerable looking and I had to wash again.

I gave the BS/ACV another try, washing my hair separately to try to minimize allergic reactions. I used Ivory soap. After showering, I put on clothes that had previously not made me itch. I'm now awaiting any itching data.

River quilt

I got backing fabric (on sale) and started quilting this one today.
It's going to look awesome!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No shampoo

This post is entirely about my attempts to stop using shampoo. If you're not interested, stop reading now.

I stumbled upon this blog one day while looking for... something.

The idea of not using shampoo seemed like an interesting concept for several reasons. First, I have very oily hair. In the couple of weeks prior to me discovering that blog, several people had made comments to me about how washing your hair all the time would make it more oily. Apparently those comments had seeped into my brain somewhere. Second, I'm trying to cut down on random potentially-toxic chemicals applied to my body. For example, we don't use fabric softener any more; I bought these static-reducing dryer balls (which work pretty darn well, really). Third, it sounded like an interesting science experiment and I am, to the depths of my soul, a scientist.

My previous hair care routine had been to wash my hair in the morning with shampoo and (most of the time) conditioner. By the second morning, it is usually looking a little oily. When I was working full-time, I washed it every morning because by the end of the second day, it's pretty limp and nasty looking.

The most basic "recipe" for no 'poo use calls for a baking soda wash with a vinegar rinse. Often apple cider vinegar is recommended because it's less harsh than regular white vinegar. I decided I would start with this. Being scientific, I actually measured out 1 tablespoon of BS and mixed it with a measured cup of water. It's always best to start with known quantities. I was quite impressed with the results of the first wash. My hair looked clean, it felt clean, and it smelled very slightly, but interestingly of ACV. I felt like my hair looked better on the second day post-wash compared to washing with shampoo, however it was a subtle change.

Unfortunately, I started getting itchy after a few days or a week (or possibly slightly longer - this is why I should blog about things AS they are happening, rather than after the fact). At the time, I blamed this on some antibiotics I was taking. However, after I finished the antibiotics, the itchiness didn't seem to totally go away. It's very sporadic and I'm not sure what's causing it. My top two culprits are BS/ACV or the laundry detergent we're using. My head gets itchy, which is likely caused by my hair-cleansing regime, but my body also gets itchy particularly where the waistband of my pants sits.

I tried an experiment to determine if it was the BS/ACV. I washed my hair only using the shower sprayer (that we normally use to wash the dog - but I'm sure he doesn't mind). I didn't get body-itchies, but my neck and shoulders, where my wet braid touched, seemed more itchy than they should have. However, we have to account for a 30% placebo effect here (but in reverse). Because I went into this experiment thinking that it could be the BS, did that make it more likely that I would be itchy in only those areas?

A piece of evidence refuting the BS/ACV = itchy hypothesis: I came home and changed my clothes and immediately became quite itchy over most of my upper body. Was it because the shirt and pants that I put on had been in a load of laundry that hadn't rinsed completely? We have a very small washing machine and sometimes I think all the soap doesn't get rinsed out completely.

So now, with one supporting and one refuting piece of evidence, I'm back where I started. I've decided to change BOTH of my potential variables (bad science, I know) and see if the itchiness goes away. We got environmentally-safe, hypo-allergenic laundry detergent that I'm going to start using. I am also going to try alternatives to BS/ACV for hair washing. If it's the BS, then the itchiness should go away immediately upon ceasing its use. If it's the laundry detergent, then I may have flare-ups while I wait for all my clothes to cycle through a round of washing with the new detergent. A third variable is the mystery bar of greenish soap that we started using. I'm going to use only Ivory soap to remove that as a variable. I'm a bit more concerned with eliminating the itchies than with carrying out a well-designed experiment.

One consequence of this whole itchy drama is that I need to find alternatives for BS/ACV hair care. Here's what I've tried so far:

-conditioner only: made my hair very flat and heavy, probably because it was a fairly heavy conditioner. I should try this again with a different conditioner, but I don't want to buy anything for this project yet. Cutting down costs is part of the fun.

-lemon juice rinse: left hair fairly flat and limp. Also, it was hard to keep out of my eyes. Maybe fresh lemon juice would work differently (I used the kind you buy in a bottle).

-applesauce: didn't work at all. Apples are acidic (which I didn't know until I started canning), which makes them useful as a shampoo. However, this didn't work for me: my hair was very greasy-looking and heavy as soon as it dried. Also, applesauce makes a terrific mess in the shower and is really hard to rinse out.

-soap: this is supposed to strip less oils from the hair, so it's not quite as bad as shampoo. However, it's fairly harsh at oil removal. It worked ok, but I probably didn't use enough. It was sort of challenging to work up a lather in my hands, then try to apply it evenly to my head - it didn't seem like I had enough.

Today, I'm going to try grapefruit juice (fresh-squeezed). Mostly this is because we have two elderly grapefruits that need to be used up. The one grapefruit I tried from that group wasn't particularly tasty, so the rest haven't been eaten. Now, one of them gets to be used for this cause.

Things that I'm going to try in the future:
-coffee: it's quite acidic and has the side effect of darkening hair (and maybe covering grey hairs??)
-rosemary: boil a bunch of it in water, then use it as a rinse once it's cooled.
-yogurt: sounds gross and like it'll make a terrible mess.
-beer: seems like a waste of perfectly good beer, but if it works I could buy a really cheap kind.
-tomato sauce: I canned plain tomato sauce last summer (tomatoes boiled, then run through the food mill). It's also an acid and should work like lemon juice

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What does "modern quilting" mean to me?

Members of the Modern Quilt Guild are discussing this question on their blogs. Apparently it's quite a heated issue, which I was previously entirely unaware of. Admittedly, I've only been quilting since the summer so I'm probably not up on quilting controversies. I mean, who outside the quilting community would even think there was such a thing as a quilting controversy?

I believe that I am a modern quilter because I am a member of a modern society. As such, everything that I engage in is a modern activity. I don't harvest my own cotton, weave cloth, then stitch it together. I don't make quilts using scraps of fabric that I have saved from sewing my own clothes, or cut from those clothes when they've worn out. I don't hand sew by candle light after I've finished cooking dinner on my wood-burning stove and washing dishes in a dishpan.

However, everything that I do as a quilter builds on things that my quilting ancestors did. I cut out pieces of cotton fabric and sew it together with thread. At a very basic level, that's what quilting is, so that makes me a traditional quilter. I use a rotary cutter, mat, an iron that produces its own steam, and an electricity-powered sewing machine. That makes me a modern quilter.

I think the choice to see oneself as a "modern quilter" is just that - a choice. If you want to believe that you are a modern vs a traditional quilter, go ahead. But I firmly believe that these aren't two separate categories, they're just aspects of the same whole. Sir Isaac Newton said, "If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." Whatever personal twists I bring to the art of quilting makes my quilting modern, but my modern quilting is founded on the work of generations of traditional quilters, who were also "modern quilters" in their time.

Produce Rug

I bought a Farmer John's Market fat quarter pack from Fabric Depot on sale before Christmas. They were either on sale already or I used a 40% off coupon, so they weren't too expensive. I made a set of produce napkins by cutting each fat quarter into a 17" square, then following this pattern to finish the edges and make mitered corners. I love the finished napkins; they're bright and cheerful and match our food.

Since I started with fat quarters, I ended up with a strip about 5" wide cut off one end after making the napkins. I stored these for a while, then decided I was going to make them into a rug for the kitchen. I trimmed all the strips to 4.5", then tried a couple of different arrangements until I found one I liked.

I added the dark green from my stash (I had made some poinsettia pillows using it). The backing is a weird green print that looks sort of like a random mottle or a batik from far away, but if you look at it closely you notice that it's evergreen trees. I bought it as a remnant and it just exactly fit my rug as backing.

I wanted a very simple quilting pattern because the focus is entirely on the fabrics. I sewed together a few left-over strips of a bamboo batting that I used for a quilt for my mother. It only needs to be quilted every 8", so I decided on a crosshatch pattern of parallel lines. I drew the lines on with chalk using my rotary cutting ruler.

Ignore the dog hair in this picture. He's decided that I made the rug so that the kitchen floor is more comfortable for him to lay on.

I'm not sure how well this rug will wear, but it should wash up fine and at least last for longer than the cheap IKEA woven rug that was in there.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Projects in Process

Here's my second set of blocks for the paintbox quilt-a-long. The colors look slightly off in the picture because there's no sun today, so I took the picture using my camera flash. It seems to have bleached some parts out and made other parts look odd.

For instance, the solid color in the first two blocks in the second row is actually brown, not red. Admittedly, it's a reddish brown, but it's not nearly as red as it looks in the picture. The green in the bottom row is also much brighter - almost a neon color. It reminds me of the 80's.

I finished my first knitting project! It was with Vanna's Choice yarn in a sort of mottled purple color. I bought it because it looked easy to use. I can't find the label anymore.

It's knit on size 9 needles with a k2p2 pattern. I didn't realize that this was going to be quite so firm when I made it. The scarf is slightly stiff because I think I should have used larger needles. It's like a scarf made out of the ribbing of an extremely thick sweater.

I went to Twisted and bought yarn the other day. I hadn't been in the store before and I had a little extra time before my Thai cooking class. There were TONS of different sock yarns, which is very exciting.

I bought this lovely rainbow yarn and am knitting my second scarf ever. It's slightly odd looking because I was trying a sort of checkerboard pattern (k4p4 for 10 rows, then reverse). TD says it looks like the edges have points. I'll have to see how I feel about it once it's done.

I believe I ordered this yarn from Joann online at the same time I ordered something else. Maybe it was on sale.

The colors are really nice, but the yarn seems slightly itchy. I'm not sure I'm going to like the socks when they're done. I'll have to try this toe on without anything under it and see if it's tolerable.