Sunday, March 18, 2012

This Durham Town

Last summer I took a walk in my neighborhood and photographed this building that I really liked:
Today I walked by it again and took another picture:

Crazy how things change!
Also last summer, someone painted an unauthorized mural on the side of an old building:
But soon after I took the picture, the artwork was removed.  A month or two later, a new one popped up in a new location:
It's under an overpass and right next to a tattoo parlor, which makes me think one of the tattoo artists is responsible for both of these murals. It's hard to read it from my photo, but the text is 2 Timothy 3:2, about the last days when people will be wicked. I like it, and I think the site is a great place for it, but I think I the first mural was better. On this one, the eyes are too close together. There should always be an eye's width between two eyes.  

Anyway, you gotta love Durham. It's so full of interesting things and places! After C and I looked at this mural on our walk, we crossed the pedestrian bridge that spans the highway, and on the other side of the bridge, at the end of a dead-end street, a woman was teaching about a dozen Hispanic teenagers how to dance formally. Boys and girls were paired up, music blaring from someone's car stereo, and little kids imitating their older brother and sisters.  It was such a sweet and random thing to come across.

On our way home we passed a woman gardening in her front yard, and said hello. She introduced herself, then suddenly gave us a tour of her garden. Then she gave us a tour of her house, which she is practically rebuilding, the same way we need to do ours.  It was so fascinating! She was a very nice person, and has taken on such an enormous task, but it's good to see someone fixing up something in this old neighborhood, in amongst the boarded up houses and scrap yards. Very inspiring. And now we know a neighbor!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


As you may have learned from my recent post, I broke my hand at the end of February.  Three and a half weeks ago.  I was in a car accident, which was horrible and traumatizing.  Luckily I was the only person hurt and the car was also fixable.  The accident was caused when I went to make a left turn at an intersection where I had a stop-sign, but the traffic I was crossing had the right of way.  I didn't see the car that hit me until it was hitting me on my driver's side front wheel, which must have wrenched the steering wheel in my hands and broke the fourth metacarpal in my right hand.  The other driver was fine, but his car may have been totaled.  I'm glad C had collision coverage on his car, but it was awful when I got home and had to tell him what had happened!  He is a very good man and kind, but I would have been upset too!  But things worked out okay.  I got my hand checked out a few days later (it never really hurt so I didn't think it was broken) and it's healing in a brace now.  We bought a really inexpensive used car from a friend of a friend, and we just got the other car back from the shop yesterday, so we've got two cars now, which actually makes me really happy.  Sharing a car is great, and we really made it work for a while, but there are always going to be times when it's just more convenient and safe to have two cars.

Meanwhile, I just can't wait for my hand to fix itself!  I think my knuckle is going to look different on that hand, but I don't care how it looks--I just want to use it!  I'm right-handed, and it's hard to not be able to use that hand fully.  For example, today I was trying to plant things in the garden, but I can only use my left hand to pull the weeds, dig the holes, place the plants, pick up the watering can... everything gets done, just more slowly and awkwardly.  Still, I think I am getting more ambidextrous and am happy that my left arm is getting more of a work-out!  It's good to learn new skills, right?

So, as for the garden: we have peas, lettuce, okra, and squash planted so far, and C is just itching to plant beans.  We'll plant tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons later on, and C is trying to root a fig tree to go in the center of the backyard.  Also, I've put the dahlias back in the ground and planted ranunculus bulbs.  Next on my list is herbs (basil and cilantro), sunflowers, and zinnias.  Also, I am going to plant some daisy seeds from the 60s!  My niece gave me a vintage pink plastic daisy car ornament from when Amoco used them as a promotion item, and they came with actual daisy seeds in the package.  Who knows?  Maybe they will grow?  I will try to blog more about things!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spoonflower QR Code Quilt

I work at a fabric company, and every year we have a staff design challenge contest.  Here is the story of my project this year.  When you get to the end, be sure and vote for me!

A QR code, or Quick Response code is a somewhat new technology that, when scanned by a smart phone or iPad app, takes you to a website or texts you with more information about a product.  You see them everywhere now, from cereal boxes to bus stops.  From the moment Jake got his new phone, he was obsessed with them.  I remember he used to talk about how production at Spoonflower could be more efficient if we could just walk around scanning QR codes to look up orders and find out information about rolls of fabric.  As for me, I just liked how they resembled little patchwork quilts.  So when the staff challenge was announced, the idea of making a QR code quilt seemed perfect.  

Our first step was to pick our QR code.  Every web page has a corresponding code, so we had a lot of silly ideas about what site to choose.  For loyalty’s sake we chose Spoonflower and with a simple free online code generator, Jake was able to print out an image of the QR code for the Spoonflower site.  We used this as a guide for our quilt.

We wanted our quilt to be more than just a black and white grid--no cheater quilt for us!  So we decided to make individual designs that would be cut up and incorporated into the larger QR code pattern.  We each made two designs: one predominantly black, and one mostly white.  Looking back, we realize we could have used any two colors with a high contrast, but the QR codes we are familiar with are black and white, so that’s what we did.  Keeping with the code theme, each one of our designs features a different code of communication, and each one spells--can you guess?--Spoonflower!
Jake chose to use binary code and smoke signals in his designs.  And he wants you to know that you don’t even need a computer to make a fabric design!  He drew his smoke signal design with a stylus on his iPad, using a program that would work on an iPhone too.  (He of course needed a computer to upload the drawing to the website, however.)  I’m pretty sure he became the first smoke-signal-fabric designer that Spoonflower has ever had.  I made designs using Morse code and the semaphore flag alphabet.  The night I made my Morse code design, someone actually ordered a swatch of it about an hour after I uploaded it!  (I wonder if they know it spells Spoonflower?)

We chose Kona cotton for our quilt, because it’s so soft and easy to work with.  The Spoonflower QR code is made of 625 squares (25 rows of 25) so for a roughly queen-size quilt, we printed 3 yards of each design and used 4-inch squares with a half-inch seam allowance.  Jake and I argued about whether or not the quilt should be totally gigantic, but I think he’s glad we kept it somewhat small.

As soon as our fabric was printed and ready to go, however, tragedy struck.  I broke my hand.  If only my car accident had occurred after the Daytona 500, I would have known to let go of the steering wheel on impact!  Sigh.  I broke the fourth metacarpal in my right hand, and I’m right-handed.  Still, I was determined to make this quilt, so I just sewed myself a cute cast cozy and started using the left-handed rotary cutter instead.

The next step was to cut the fabric into squares and plot the chart of how to sew them together.  It seemed right that no adjacent squares should be the same design, so in order to plot the layout of all the squares, I drew a map on graph paper of how to sew the squares together.  It’s like a code all on its own!  It took a long time to make this chart with my left hand, but it was so useful during the sewing process.

Jake and I sewed the squares together into strips and then sewed the strips together.  Jake sewed!  This was the first time he had ever sewed, but it was perfect because what can be easier than sewing squares together?  Turns out that sewing machines aren’t as complicated as they look.  After a few squares he was a natural.  He even learned how to load a bobbin. 

Jake’s dog, Grace, a rescued Boxer, looked on with curiosity.

Grace helped us sort the strips of squares.  A huge thank you also goes out to my mom because during this part of the process, she came to Spoonflower and helped Jake and I sew the rows of squares, trim the seams, and iron them.

My mom joked that the only time she sees me is when I need help with something, but I actually need her help a lot!  My mom is a very talented crafter, and she inspires me in so many ways.  I’m blessed to have her live so near!  In fact, she would not let us give up when it was late and we’d been sewing all day.  “I’m not leaving until I see the finished quilt top!” she said. “We have to scan it and see if it works!”  So Jake and I sewed like the wind and finished the top of the quilt.  Then we held it up and he scanned it with his phone and... it took us to the Spoonflower website!  Despite our sewing imperfections (I think some of the Morse code squares might be upside down) and tons of loose threads, it actually worked!

The next day we spread the quilt top over a backing made of plain Kona, with a layer of batting in between, and my mom helped us pin it all over with safety pins. Pin basting helped us keep it all together so we could sew it without a quilt frame.  The next step was to sew down each seam, through all the layers of the quilt, both vertically and horizontally. 

For all you real quilters, please do not be horrified.  This was a quick quilt, renegade style.  A close inspection of our handiwork is not recommended!  However, this quilt does two things: it takes you to the Spoonflower website and it keeps you warm.  What more could a person want?

The very last step was to fold up the edges of the Kona backing around the sides of the quilt top and sew through all the layers.  Gart saw me doing this part, and it was his first glimpse of the quilt.  “I’m geeking out!” he said, incredulous that it actually was a scannable QR code in quilt form.  Yes, it’s a melding of very old and very new technologies.  We hope you like it!  Meanwhile, Jake will be taking a nap in it.

Now that you know the story, please click here and vote for me!