Posts Tagged ‘Challenge’

After The End

June 12, 2013

The Progressive Party finished another project round this month. We made a fabric challenge for ourselves. Each of us put in a square of fabric and the challenge was to use as much of it as possible in the quilt top. Since we have very different styles, even when we tried to keep the tastes of the rest of the group in mind we didn’t exactly come up with a complementary collection. That was all part of the fun – what’s the use of a challenge if it isn’t hard?


My approach to the project was determined by one fabric (not mine) that had PARTY written on it. I took out a scrap of cow fabric and instructed the group to make a quilt that said “Party ’til the cows come home.”


Party cows

Party cows


They listened, and I love the result. There was just one teensy problem – the top wasn’t finished. There is so much going on in this piece that it needed a border to give the eye a place to rest. I auditioned several different fabrics, trying to find something that said “I end here.”


Party with accessories

Party with accessories


After staring at the wall long enough that my eyeballs were spinning, I decided I couldn’t decide. I used the fabrics by size. I had enough of one fabric for the side borders, enough of two others for top and bottom borders. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s party time.

Lani Longshore Party 'Til The Cows Come Home final




The Surface of Infinity, Wired

May 29, 2013

The most amazing thing happened to my Challenge Project – it told me it didn’t want beads. I’ve never had a project that refused beads before. Perhaps it was tired of being fussed over. First I had to wire its tail to make a Mobius strip.

Beading wire works well

Beading wire works well


I had considered satin stitching the edges in lieu of binding, but that didn’t seem enough when I finished the wiring, so I bound the quilt with a sheer ribbon.

Gauze ribbon is a great binding for small projects

Gauze ribbon is a great binding for small projects



The result was exactly what I wanted. You really can travel both sides of the loop without crossing the edges.

The finished project

The finished project



Since I was in the mood for handwork, I finished my cross-stitch kit. Well, I say finished but what I really mean is I adapted the pattern (because I can never quite count right) and kept adding embroidery and beads until it seemed like a good place to end.

Spider and bat button

Spider and bat button


I managed to get one more project off the pile, which was a pillow made from elephant fabric for my daughter.

Lani Longshore elephant pillow

It seems an appropriate comment on my life in the studio – never forgetting that my goal is to reduce the piles before they start creating their own gravity wells.




March 20, 2013

The challenge project this time is glass. I thought about the fabric I have that looks like glass, wondered if I could find it, and only then thought about what I would do. My sewing room is stuffed with wonderful fabrics, and notes about projects for those wonderful fabrics. They are all in safe places – safe even from me.

The fabric fairies were kind to me, and I unearthed a few pieces that fit with my evolving plans. The first piece was one I had planned to make into a fabric postcard (my friend TheaM does beautiful cards). It was quilted and bound, but not embellished. In the right light, it looked like a pane of glass at sunrise. I thought about what happens to panes of glass, and decided it would look fabulous with a bullet hole.

fabric bullet hole

Since I’ve never actually seen a bullet hole in a pane of glass, this may just be a 4″ x 6″ piece of pink lame with open work.

The next thing I wanted to make was a glass house. I thought about frosted glass blocks, and what they would look like from the outside and the inside. This is what I started with:


Well-rounded glass bricks

Well-rounded glass bricks

I figured if you were inside you would see landscaping, so here’s my panoramic view:

fabric glass house interior

The loops of ribbon are to anchor future embellishments.

The roof was a puzzle, until I noticed a square of screening and decided my glass house would be part of a hothouse:

fabric glass house

There may be beads in the future for each of these projects, but that’s going to have to go on the to-do list for another day.




Add Feathers

January 10, 2013

The Challenge Group project is “It’s for the birds.” Around this time of year, that is my opinion of life, the universe and everything. My diet is for the birds, my exercise program is for the birds, my to-do list is for the birds. Even a hummingbird couldn’t keep up with all the things I have written down, so how can I? The answer is obvious – item by item. I started with the bird challenge.

Luckily for me, the Challenge Group encourages a loose interpretation of any assignment, so I focused on feathers. I had already added some piping to the bit of screening I discovered on the sewing table. It was a simple matter to turn that into a vase. The final step – add feathers.

The base vase, with piping

The base vase, with piping

Feathering my vase

Feathering my vase

A feathery finish

A feathery finish

Now, if only I could use “add feathers” as the answer to all my problems.

A Sense of Place

November 21, 2012

The Challenge project for December is to represent a real place in fabric – city, country, whatever. I thought I would use the assignment to finally make a quilt about our family reunion in Alaska. I brought out the fabrics:

and the embellishments:

Then I found the notes I made from the book Maphead by Ken Jennings. The book is great, with lovely maps that could become quilts, and terms that could become quilt titles (“wanderwhim” as opposed to “wanderlust” – is that great or what). I stared at the first strip of my Alaska quilt –

– and realized that I have no sense of place (or direction – I still get lost in Livermore, and I’ve lived here almost thirty years). Home is where I am, wherever that may be. I’ve moved around enough that I don’t get attached to any particular location. So I sliced up the strip and will make small projects.

These small projects will represent my approach to place. I look for one familiar thing to make sense of all the unfamiliar things. If I’m very lucky, I’ll interpret my environment correctly, although I have been known to find the worst part of any town purely by accident when left to my own wanderings.

These projects will also give me a chance to play with embellishments:

Those are fireflies on the ribbon – they glow in the dark

and technique:

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Although I don’t have a sense of place, I do have a good sense of where I like to be, and right now, that’s my studio.

The Year So Far

September 5, 2012

In case you forgot, my year starts with Labor Day. The year so far is three days old, so don’t laugh at my prideful happy dance. After weeks of accomplishing basically nothing, I managed to get something done. I don’t even mind that what I finished wasn’t on my to-do list.

Making something from this was on my to-do list.

Fabric from Africa

This is the fabric from the latest Challenge project. We’re to make something lovely from it, which will go to an auction to raise money for Alliance for Smiles (and thank you, Shari Wentz, for coming up with the idea).

I’ve been wanting to make fabric vases ever since I received some of Lori Vogel’s treasures when she moved:

There are some great ideas in Linda Johansen‘s book Fast, Fun & Easy Fabric Vases, and I was ready to do my usual leap feet-first into a project. Then I noticed a scrap of pre-quilted fabric and some left-over piping.

“Self,” I said, “the technique for these vases requires an awful lot of satin stitching. Why don’t you practice on something else before you cut into the fabric you can’t replace?”

I started by making a cuff and inserting piping, and I’m glad I did. My long absence from sewing did not improve my skills, and trying to get the cuff and piping straight was more interesting than you might imagine.

Once I relearned straight stitching, I started satin stitching the seams:

My original plan was to make a round base and sew the top to that. I decided that would be more fun than I wanted right then, so I used the quilter’s go-to technique for making a tote bottom.

The vase-cum-lidless box stands on its own, although I suspect I will need to insert a base (or maybe a soup can) if I want to stand pencils or tools or even silk flowers in it. But that is a project for another day.

Finished with fish

May 31, 2012

I only accomplished one thing in the sewing room this week, but that’s enough. Here is my Progressive fish quilt:


I might call this Fish ‘N Cat

The binding was chosen from fabric I could reach, but I think it works well.

I haven’t found my notes on the quilt yet, but it is possible that the top was started twenty years ago. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I was waiting for the perfect quilting pattern to come along. In the last two decades I’ve finally learned that perfect doesn’t exist. I’ve also learned enough about machine quilting that I’m pleased with the outcome.

Here is a detail:

I still have the label and sleeve to make, but since I’ve got to show it at Challenge next week, I know the quilt won’t be waiting another twenty years to be called done. Time now for my happy dance.


April 18, 2012

The latest Challenge assignment will again give me a chance to finish a UFO, and again it is a Progressive Party project.

The quilt began its journey as a bordered rectangle of fish fabric. By the end it had blossomed into a fish tank on a book shelf. I was so pleased with it that I set it aside until I had the perfect quilting design for it.

Finished laughing, have you? Of course the perfect quilting pattern never revealed itself, and the darling little fish tank languished in one corner or another for more years than I care to admit. Then came the Challenge assignment – Fish. That’s all, just Fish. I can do anything I want as long as I can somehow relate it to the word Fish. I decided it was time to finish this quilt.

Which isn’t to say I couldn’t have done a brand new fish quilt. I have a sewing room full of fishy things.

One might ask why I have so many fish-related items. I can’t honestly tell you. I don’t eat fish and I prefer dogs as pets, but show me some fish fabric and it’s like putting a 5-lb box of chocolates in front of me. I start drooling, and before you know it my little hand is reaching out to snatch something. Occasionally I make something from my fish fabric –

– but for the most part I just keep adding to the collection. I can only hope that the integrity of the space-time continuum won’t be compromised if I actually use up my pile of fish fabrics.

The Revenge of Unintended Consequences – Again

February 15, 2012

The theme for the next Challenge is “batik” so I thought I would unearth my Mosaic Tile top and quilt it. Then I thought, “Self, if you assemble the blocks from the last Progressive Project, which uses some batiks, and quilt both tops – they are small, after all – you could have two projects to show at the next Challenge meeting.” The prideful pull of being in the Over-achievers Club was too strong. I yanked the blocks out of the tote bag and put them on the design wall.

You may notice that the pieced blocks won’t go around the butterfly block in a calm and orderly fashion. For one thing, they aren’t the right size – which is my fault, since I gave the dimensions to the group. They would probably blend if I forced the issue, but I like the blocks as they are. I thought about using sashing, which reminded me that I bought a pile of batik fat quarters that would work well.

Then I remembered that I had put them away.

“But that’s good,” you say. “Just open the drawers and find them.” Well, first I have to get to the drawers. Was it Joe Cunningham whose lecture is called She Did the Best She Could with What She Had? In my case it should be called She Did the Best She Could with What She Could Reach.

At this point I could see the irony gods doing their in-your-face victory dance.

I shimmied around the boxes in front of the drawers and reached into the two I could open. The batiks had wadded themselves into the front corner, so I took out what I could and started auditioning.

These are the others that I could reach:

Sometimes my life is less about me and more about being a horrible object lesson for the benefit of others. This may be one of those times. Still, I will soldier on, and create my own in-your-face victory dance that I probably will never get to use against the irony gods but which will make me feel better knowing it exists.

Project Challenge

June 22, 2011

Happy solstice! Yes, it was yesterday, but I like holidays. I’ll celebrate anything, including the anniversaries of obscure natural disasters and made-up food holidays (by the way, today is chocolate ├ęclair day – enjoy). Still, solstice marks the beginning of the end for the light. The days will be getting shorter, and before you can remember the order of the reindeer it’s Christmas again.

Which is why, as I was scanning the sewing room, my eyes fell on the bin containing the ghosts of Christmas presents past.

I buy presents, props and fabric on speculation. You never know when something that whispers “take me home, take me home” will become the emergency gift, the perfect centerpiece, or the beginning of an award-winning quilt.

When you have an entire sewing room full of these treasures-in-waiting, however, some of them fall off the radar. That’s what happened with most of the stuff in the bin. And, of course, there are always more treasures begging to come home –

– to say nothing of the scraps of all those scrumptious Christmas fabrics we buy year after year after year:

So, this year, I decided to use the summer solstice to make plans for the winter solstice. Specifically, I need to come up with projects that I will actually complete to use up most of the stuff in the bin and the tote bag. The only caveat is that I must avoid ornaments. I’ve made so many for the kids already they could open their own shop, and since they are still in the moving-apartments-every-year phase, that means the inventory is in my garage. No, these projects have to be ones that will walk out the front door on their own. Here’s a prop to get you started:

Suggestions, anyone?