Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vacation Day 7 Report


Sneak peek 12-30-10
Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
7? Am I really on day 7?

I'd hoped to get a little further today but to be honest, knew I probably wouldn't. My daughter had a friend over to spend the night last night so today's schedule included driving said friend home; then meeting up with some cousins at the planetarium for a show, then all the cousins and my sister coming back to our house for a little XBox Kinect action and dinner. I did a slow-cooker hot beef sandwich thing (with potato chips and baby carrots on the side) so getting dinner for everyone took a grand total of about 20 minutes all in. So no hard work involved, no stress, just most of the day spent with other people. Which is what the holidays are about, after all.

So, all that taken into consideration, the hour and a half I got to work on quilting projects this morning while the girls were sleeping in actually felt like a bonus.

The picture is my current Work In Progress--WIP--or Quilt in Progress--QUIP. I'm doing a wallhanging of my own design for my 10-year-old niece at her request. My design includes a paper-pieced shape on a pieced background of 6" squares. The paper-pieced shape (can you guess what it is from the picture?) is paper-pieced because I want to do 2" strips of fabric throughout.

I had to blow up the image and have it done on a large-format printer at a copy center. Then this morning I taped it to my sewing room window which faces east so it gets great morning light. Perfect lightbox, although I have to reach a little to trace up high. Didn't do a bad job, though. Then I had to figure out how to break the shape down into sections to trace onto the foundation paper--sections that not only fit on the size of foundation paper I was using, but also make sense once I start piecing them.

My next step is to mark the sections with sewing lines for the strips to make sure I get everything to fit the way I imagine it to fit.

Mind you, I've only done paper piecing a couple of times before and always with patterns. And although I tried using EQ7 to do this, my learning curve was far too steep for the time I had. I ended up just using EQ for my math (figuring out the dimensions of the quilt, etc.), and then I'm figuring out the rest as I go.

This will either be the best work I've done so far, or it'll be a hot mess. I alternate between the two thoughts almost by the minute.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vacation Day 6 Report

Ah....much better. Day 6 was the vacation day I've been hoping to have since the beginning of the week!

The thread still broke...but much less often. Moving up to a honking big needle really helped. (But I'm still not a big fan of YLI now. I'm more sold on my faithful Aurifil every day.) I ran out of my variegated thread on the last stretch of border, and switched to a plain fuschia thread. I don't think anyone would notice unless I pointed it out.

I'm still no great shakes at machine quilting, but at least I can call it done. This is one of those times when I rest in the arms of the quilter's saying that, "Done is better than perfect." This is so not perfect.

Technically, not done yet either. Tomorrow is Binding Day. I know lots of quiltmakers hate the binding step but I find that I like it. First of all, it's something I've gotten pretty good at in the last couple of years since many of Mom's UFOs only needed binding done. I think I spent about 6 months just doing bindings. So it's nice to come to a step in quiltmaking that I actually have some confidence in. But I also find it meditative, and I know it's the home stretch.So Binding Day is exciting. But hey, I did remember to fuse the label on there before I started the quilting so it's already labeled. Yay for me!

I can't do anything with my other niece's quilt yet--I'm still waiting for the fabric I had to order online because I couldn't find anything suitable in my LQS and not-so-LQS's. I ordered 2d day shipping to get it this week so I'd have time to tackle it while still on vacation. I thought that would mean I would get it today, but I think that would've only been if they'd rushed to put it in the mail the second I clicked "submit." Tomorrow's good enough. I'll get the binding put on the one quilt in the morning and then start working on the other as I can until I get the fabric. I'm hoping to use mostly stash fabric but had to order the border fabric so I need to get that first to make sure what I have in my stash will work for the rest of it. Keep your fingers crossed for me--I don't really have time to do any more fabric shopping for it.

I'll post a picture of this week's completed quilt once I have the binding on there. It looks pretty good...from the front.

Belated Vacation Day 5 Report


Sneak Peek--Current UFO
Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
Someone commented that I hadn't posted a sneak peek yet, so here it is. Sorry--I was so frustrated that I didn't even think about showing off what I was working on! Today is going much better, though. But I get ahead of myself.

Yesterday (Vacation Day 5) I was still feeling really wrung out and overly tired, even though I'd gotten a good night sleep. I think it was just my usual "Get Sick on Vacation" routine--you know how you're stressing to get everything done for work before being gone and then running around at home getting everything ready for the holidays....and then you're finally done and your body takes over. I didn't feel overly stressed about anything but I guess I just wore myself out. So I sort of gave myself yesterday as a vacation from vacation plans! I tried quilting for about 15 minutes and messed it all up (including two more thread breaks) so I bagged it for the day. My husband took me to a movie ("The King's Speech"--loved it!) and out to dinner. I spent the rest of my free time during the day playing mindless computer games.

And today I'm feeling much better. So, after dropping my car off at the shop this morning--my son followed me and brought me back home--I decided to once again tackle the quilting. I changed needles once again (went up to a jeans needle this time), and messed with the tension some more, and things seem to be working a lot better now. Knock on wood, no thread breaks so far and I've been at it about an hour.

So hopefully later tonight I'll have a much more positive Vacation Day 6 report to make!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Vacation Day 4 Report

5 a.m. Wide awake. Why, oh why?

7 a.m. Nursing second cup of coffee,  planning my day, watching Bourdain's "No Reservations" season 1 on Netflix and trying not to get too grossed out by the cow stomach being served on TV to be able to eat my own very reserved cinnamon raisin bagel for breakfast.

Catch up on blogs, watch a little instructional quilt DVD, call to make an appointment to bring my car in for an oil change and tire rotation to see if that fixes a slight wobble in my steering wheel (7-year-old car with 139k miles on it--I take slight wobbles very seriously these days). Told I can bring it in Wednesday. Super.

9:30 a.m. Call Staples copy center to pose the quilter-specific problem to them of having to expand an image 385% so I can use it as a paper-piecing template. Answer all sorts of questions. We decide my best bet is to size the image at home and save it to a flash drive--they'll print it on their wide format printer. I decide I'll figure out how to deal with the fact that I wanted it 27" in diameter and they can only print 24". This is after several days of trying to figure out how to get my home printer to print the image using several sheets of paper. Apparently my model doesn't want to play in that sandbox.

10:00 a.m. Head out the door to run errands, studiously ignoring aforementioned wobble in the steering wheel.

10:15 a.m. At the camera shop with my digital camera to find out if there's any hope. It stopped working with no warning right before Christmas. Go figure.

10:30 a.m. Find out it will cost more to repair than the camera is worth.

10:45 a.m. Leave the store with prices and features of several new cameras in my head, but am not quite ready to make the financial commitment yet. Interested to see that the smaller pocket-sized cameras have about the same abilities as my cell phone camera. Love the progress of technology.

11:00 a.m. At Staples copy center, explaining my needs to a clerk who looks mostly disinterested. She prints off my image on wide format and sure enough, it clips two sides. I say, "I'll figure it out--good enough." Then I smile sadly and say, "And I'm sure I'm going to kick myself for having said that when I get to that point." But it should be an easy fix. Should. Be.

11:15 a.m. Decide to treat myself to spending a gift certificate from my Secret Santa and using a coupon I've had for awhile at my LQS. My car has the route memorized. I almost don't even have to have my hands on the wobbly steering wheel.

11:30 a.m. Wandering aimlessly through the shop. Finally settle on some "stash fabric"--half yards of blenders in various colors. At the last minute, I tossed on the stack a bolt of a great, springy/summery floral that will make a fantastic border. Find out everything in the store is 30% off. "3 yards!" I exclaim, throwing caution to the wind. Can't use the coupon since there's a sale, but the coupon was only for 20% off anyway. Why is it, though, I can never actually use a dang coupon when I try? Crumple up the coupon and toss it in my purse--it expires before the sale is ended.

1:00. Home, leftovers for lunch, excitedly head upstairs to my sewing room to tackle the machine quilting on my niece's quilt.

1:02. Interrupted by daughter with several questions.

1:03. Interrupted by husband with a few more questions.

1:05. Almost interrupted by son--told him he was old enough to find the cold medicine in the bathroom on his own (I treat his colds differently now that he's 20 than I did when he was 10) and closed myself in my sewing room.

1:15. Have my machine set up for free-motion quilting, and am practicing on my "practice sandwich" I have on stand-by. Fiddle with tension, speed, rhythm, until I get the results I want.

1:20. Start in on the quilt.

1:27. Thread breaks. Shoot.

1:40. Thread breaks. For pity's sake.

1:45. Thread breaks. Oh. Come. On!

1:50. Thread breaks. (Censored.)

1:51. Sitting on computer reading blogs.

We all went to a  matinee movie after that--I realized in the car on the way over I was really tired, and I almost fell asleep twice despite it being a really good movie. By the time we made a quick stop at a grocery store on the way home, I was bone-numbingly exhausted. My husband is making dinner while I took a hot bath and I'm am now trying to wake up enough to get through until a reasonable time to go to bed. I'm hoping this is just my early rising and not coming down with something. I'm the only one in my house that didn't get the cold/flu that made the rounds a couple of weeks ago, and now my son is going into round 2 with it. I think I'll have orange juice with dinner.

Here's to Day 5 being more successful all around.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Vacation Day 3 Report

OK, so I skipped Vacation Days 1 and 2--but sort of the normal, expected stuff happened on both those days. Groceries, a little cooking, wrapping presents, then Christmas Eve and Christmas celebrations. Very nice, very relaxed--my fave way to spend the holidays.

So, today is my first official Vacation Day where I can decide what I do. My original plan was to have a pajama day. DH is at a football game, so my kids and I were just going to hang and I was going to spend copious amounts of time at my sewing machine. But while I was cleaning the kitchen yesterday morning I got thinking about other parts of the house that were bugging me. I have definite tendencies towards being a "work first, play later" kind of girl--I knew I'd be a lot more relaxed about spending time at my sewing machine if other more homely tasks had been taken care of first. I ended up working a deal with my daughter in which we spent today tackling her bedroom. Long overdue. I've been telling her that if she didn't get it hauled out before she left for college, DH and I would go in there with garbage bags and make the decisions for her! She's a bit of a pack-rat *. Her door is the first one that gets closed when we have guests over.

I allowed us a couple of hours of slow-wake-up time, then we got to work.  I instituted the "Clean Sweep" method--ever see that TV show on TLC a few years back? It's a great method for cleaning out clutter; I learned a lot from it. I've used their "Keep/Sell/Toss" method several times, although we substitute "Donate" for "Sell" because I refuse to do a garage sale ever again (but that's a blog entry for another time). I designated three areas in the hallway outside her room and set up garbage bags in appropriate places, then laundry baskets in the "keep" area. I then planted myself in her room and I'd hand her something--she'd have to make a split-second decision which category it fell into and place it accordingly.

There were two rules: 1) She couldn't snark at me at all during the process (and she did great--we actually had a good time!); 2) the "Keep" side could only end up as large as the "Donate/Toss" sides combined. She did pretty well at that, too, although I left her with instructions to see if she couldn't downsize her Keep pile by about another 25%. Then, after vacuuming and dusting, we tried a new arrangement of her furniture, got rid of one set of shelves that never worked well, and repurporsed a table from the basement to hold her guinea pig cage and accoutrements. Personally, I love the new room arrangement--she looks like she's got so much more space. But my girl is not a huge fan of change so she's got an expression that's alternating regularly between a pout and a smile--she can't entirely decide what she wants to feel. I told her if she wants to move it back again later, we can do that. She just has to give it a fair shot.

Now my part of the job is done, so I'm taking a few minutes of recuperation time and watching one of my quilt instructional videos, then I'll get to my sewing machine. Meanwhile, she's finding a new home for all the stuff still in the "Keep" pile in the hallway. I told her my only remaining rule is that nothing end up in stacks on her floor. We probably will go out later this week and get her one more set of shelves--she could use them. One thing I don't mind very much? Most of the stacks on her floor were books, notebooks for writing short stories, or sketchbooks and drawing utensils for her artwork. I can't really argue with those habits too much!

(*gross understatement)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Startled...But Resigned...

I officially begin my Christmas vacation today. We are dismissed just a bit early from work, and I now have just about two weeks off. Yay! Visions of quality time with family, thread and fabric dance in my head. However, yesterday I received a bit of startling news that has changed my impressions of what the next few weeks will bring to my quilty schedule.

Remember those five charity quilts that I was so thrilled to be done with and move out of my life? Ahem.

There's apparently a sixth.

My friend emailed me yesterday to tell me that she was surprised when her friend--the one who had helped piece the other tops--met her at an event and handed over yet another pieced top, apologizing that she hadn't gotten it done with the other ones. The friend also handed over some leftovers of the original fabric patchwork pieces.

My last email about the charity quilts to my friend had been, "Let's not ever do this again." Well, apparently, we're doing it one more time. She's handing over the pieced top to me on Christmas Eve at our service--presumably when I'm at my most-filled with charitable thoughts. I'll have to be, when this thing comes into my life. However, she did us both the favor of quietly disposing of the remainder of the patchwork pieces.

I'm trying to get over feelings of being haunted. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gift bag


Gift bag
Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
My sewing abilities today are limited by a rather annoying sinus headache and related puffy eyes. Ick. I was planning on scooting out after work to do what little Christmas shopping I have left to do (not much gifting this year--more hanging together and playing games)...but I'm so wiped I decided to brave the crowds another day. We're decorating our tree tonight so I have to conserve my strength!

Meanwhile, our guild-that-is-not-a-guild is having its Christmas party tomorrow night, rescheduled from last week when we got snowed out. Sadly, I have another commitment tomorrow night I can't get out of, so I'll be missing my Christmas party. We do a Secret Santa gift exchange so I've gotten permission to drop my gift off at my LQS tomorrow morning and someone there will bring it to the guild meeting for me. How nice! And yes, I'm cognizant of the fact that means I'll be at my LQS at some point tomorrow. And they're having a sale. Hmmm....

In any case, I saw this gift bag tutorial on Alamosa Quilter's blog awhile back and printed it off--and tonight I decided to use it to wrap my Secret Santa gift. It worked well--thanks, Lynn! Much nicer than the gift bag I tried to make myself last year with no real idea of what I was doing. Finishing an edge? Really? Anyway--I like the results so I'll definitely be using the tutorial again.

By the way, the rather unusual shape isn't Lynn's directions. I chose to use a Christmassy fat quarter I had and didn't trim it up to be narrower. To tell the truth, I kind of like the sort of clutch-pursey look it ends up with. And who knows--my recipient may have some oblong gift she wants to give someday and it'll be the perfect shape. I can always hope, anyway.

In any case, I'm not going to tell you what's inside the bag--not that I think my Secret Santa recipient reads my blog. But just to be on the safe side, I'll keep it hush-hush for the time being. But isn't that bag just the cutest thing?

Here's the link to Lynn's tutorial.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

International Quilt Festival Houston 2010 Pics--Finally!

So I ended up only posting about 30 of my 200 or some pictures from Houston partly because I'd been about halfway through getting all the citations put in when I lost the work I'd done...which sort of took the wind out of my sails to sit and do it all again. But I've uploaded ones that I found particularly interesting, inspiring, or just plain pretty.

Click on the photo to get to the album in Flickr. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's done!


Stack n slash
Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
Here's my most recent UFO finish. This is a quilt for one of my nieces--it's a stack n' slash that started with a layer cake of batiks. (For my followers who aren't die-hard quilty-types--at least, yet--a "layer cake" is a stack of 10" squares, typically around 40 of them although that varies.)

You may also recognize it as the header for my podcast show notes page. :-)

I started this on a quilt retreat in May 2008, and I'm thrilled to finally have it finished. I love doing the stack n' slash technique--it's wonderfully random and I need a little random in my life. This was the first time I ever used the technique. I had so much fun with it that I've now done four total. The first one I finished was the flannel quilt I made for myself. After I made this batik one, I bought a second layer cake of batiks from the same shop and made another one for my other niece in this family (sisters). The batiks were completely different so that one came out a lot brighter. That's the next UFO I'll be finishing so you should be seeing pics of that one soon, I hope! The fourth stack n' slash I'm working on is another flannel one--this one I'm doing in Manly Colors and will give it to my husband. The blocks have been made--I'll get it put together sometime after the holidays.

I've seen several quilts lately that have used stack n' slash blocks as a border treatment, which I think is way cool.

This being made out of batiks, it's not as soft and cozy as it would be in cotton, but it's funky cool, which is what my niece is all about anyway. And it'll be relatively sturdy, which for a transitional-young-adult is just about perfect. I messed up some of the quilting but good, but she'll love me anyway.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Another finish! Woohoo!

Yippee! Well, with a slight twinge that I really should have been working on a UFO instead, but completely happy with the end results anyway, I now have a Christmas tablerunner to grace my coffee table for our upcoming holiday party next weekend. Yay me! That's two finishes right in time for the holidays. I'm not sure I've managed to pull that off before.

I just love this pattern ("Little Charmers II" by Heather Mulder Petersen of Anka's Treasures) and just love this fabric ("12 Days of Christmas" by Kate Spain for Moda). And my meander actually turned out pretty dang well! Must have been all that practice on my niece's quilt. So I'm very pleased with this one, all around. Simple, fast, and dang cute.

Even the back is cute. Not quite enough leftover charms for the back so I had to fill in with some red from my stash. I cut off one end in the picture but it's close to the same width on either end--I figured that would be less noticeable than a big chunk of red all in one place.

My stitches are much more even in length and there's only a couple of places where it got a little hitchy because my acu-feed foot--which is supposed to be up and out of the way when I'm not using it--kept catching on the edge of the fabric. Normally it is out of the way; that's not a real problem. I had just decided to quilt this sideways so the edge of the table runner was frequently up near that acu-feed and as I quilted it, the edge got a little poofy and poked up higher than it normally does. But all things considered, it went fine. As they say, "You can quilt that out."

Ok, it's back to the UFOs now. I promise.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A "Found" Day for Quilting

I work from home, so most times the weather doesn't affect my ability to commute to the office. However, when the rest of the office can't be in the office, it's a snow day for me too!

I worked half the day and then got a call that the building was closing down so I may as well take the rest of the day as well. Yippee! Let's see...what should I do...clean the mudroom or sew? Ahem.

Mudroom is still a mess.

The UFO I was working on is now at the point of hand-sewing the binding onto the back, so that's already moved out of my sewing room. I probably should have started the next UFO that needs to be finished, but I needed to do something fast and fun. I have some charm packs burning a hole in my pocket, so to speak, so I pulled out a pattern I'd used a couple of times last year as gifts and decided to make one for me this time. It goes together pretty quickly--within a couple of hours I had the front done and the backing pieced (the leftover charms from the pack that didn't get used in the front). So now I'm just debating how I'll quilt it. I imagine I'll just end up stippling, but I'm still pondering.

However, now it's garbage night and I need to get the kitchen cleaned up after dinner so I think my "found time" has officially been used up and now it's back to the workaday world.

Mudroom is still a mess. Maybe this weekend. Unless I find something else to sew.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Conversation with Hollis Chatelaine

I am still so excited about the fact that I was able to sit and talk with one of my "quilt heroes," Hollis Chatelaine, when in Houston. I have long admired her work and was especially pleased to be able to talk with her one-on-one about her initiative, "Imagine Hope," raising awareness of global issues through art. Check out the conversation in Episode 31, "In Which We Talk with Hollis Chatelaine." Quilting…for the Rest of Us » Episode 031 In Which We Talk with Hollis Chatelaine Nov 28 2010 - http://bit.ly/h2zLFs

Friday, November 26, 2010

Another sneak peek...the next UFO in progress

This will go to one of my nieces. Actually, it already went to her about three years ago. She got the pieced top wrapped up for Christmas but after she gave the appropriate happy comments I snatched it back. I'm hoping to give her the finished product this year for Christmas. The gift that keeps on giving. Surely I'm not the only quilter who's done that.

Pic 1 is the backing. Yep, it's batiks. And it's stack n' slash. I used a layer cake of batiks and loved the way it turned out. Just wait 'till you see the finished product!

I got it basted today and let me just say for the record, in answer to the perennial question, "What's your least favorite part of the quiltmaking process?", that would be basting. Hate it. In my opinion, it's a necessary evil. Necessary, but evil.

In any case, got it basted, did some practice free-motioning again to warm up, then decided to just start having at it. (Pic 2) My comforting theory is that my niece won't know the difference between good free-motion skills and almost-but-not-quite-functional ones. Thank God for small favors.

I did some stabilizing "stitch in the ditch" lengthwise, and now I'm meandering. But after a day on my feet cooking yesterday, I only got about a fifth of the way done before hitting a wall. It's going relatively well, all things considered. Now I'm going to crash and read or watch TV for awhile or something equally couch-potato-ish. I'll hit it fresh again tomorrow--if I pace myself, I have hopes of getting the top quilted by tomorrow night. Yippee! Wouldn't it be just wonderful if I could manage to get another UFO done before the weekend is out?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

UFO Finish--yay!


UFO Finish--yay!
Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
No more peeks....It's DONE! I had an unexpected marathon session last night: got the border quilted and the binding finished. I sat up past midnight hand-stitching the binding to the back--I was on a roll and didn't want to quit.

I'm so glad to have this wallhanging done. I was really looking forward to having it hang on my wall and then it just sat for a couple of years while I attended to other quilty matters, like my Mom's UFOs. But it's finally done and tomorrow will get hung on my living room where I've been picturing it ever since I first decided I was going to make it. I'm a happy camper tonight!

And on such a roll that after I stopped tonight to pick up the last few groceries I needed for tomorrow's feast, I made sure I picked up other supplies to get me ready for some serious quilty time on Friday and Saturday. I don't do the retail thing--I do the "hole up and regroup" thing. No better way to hole up and regroup than at my sewing machine. I already have the next UFO pulled off the shelf and sitting next to my machine ready to rock n' roll.

BTW, appropriate citations: Pattern is "Triple Rail on Point" from M'Liss Rae Hawley's "More Fat Quarter Quilts" (Martingale 2001). I love it and highly recommend it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mental Barriers

I put the "border on a roll" on my wallhanging tonight--all pinned, connecting lines sketched out (where I had to stretch a corner to get it to fit correctly). I've even done a little practice machine quilting since it's been awhile since I did free-hand.

Now I just need to get over myself and start quilting. Maybe tomorrow night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Look, Ma--I'm Sewing!

I finally got some quality time with my machine tonight. Yay! I listened to a couple episodes of "This American Life" and a little bit of my son's radio show (college DJ donchaknow), and made significant progress on the quilting of my triple-rail-on-point. I'm not showing you the top just yet--you'll have to wait until it's done. The backing doesn't quite match the front color-wise--which you can't see in this photo since the lighting is hinky anyway--but it was inherited fabric and I had four yards of it so this was a good way to use half of it up. And it's a wallhanging, so no one will ever see the back anyway.

I'm stitching in the ditch but since it's a triple rail and I'm stitching every dang brick (or fence post?) it's a little bit on the pokey side. Mostly, after spending the day on the computer and then heading almost immediately to my sewing machine my hands and shoulders were getting a little achy so I'm calling it quits for the night.

Now I'm moving my center of operations to the family room couch where I'll watch TV, work on my newsletter, and sort through some more Houston photos. Good stuff is on its way, folks, but I decided to prioritize sewing tonight. I always figure it's good for a podcaster who talks about quilting to actually have some quilting to talk about.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Quilt Song" by Connie Deming

The lighting isn't great but otherwise this is nice to watch.

Episode 29--In Which We Meet BabaBlankets posted

It's not too often that you can shop fabricy-goodness to your heart's content without feeling terribly guilty at the end of it. In the case of BabaBlankets, your spending supports an excellent cause! BabaBlankets is a social enterprise that sells hand-dyed, hand-crafted goods made in Ghana to help empower women and girls. The women learn marketable skills and are able to support themselves through their craft, and they develop a business acumen which serves them the rest of their lives. Additionally, BabaBlankets has the "Sistah Scholars" program to provide educational opportunity to girls in Ghana--when a girl is educated, she will then tend emphasize the need for education for her children in the future, thus raising up an entire community.

And no--BabaBlankets hasn't paid me to say any of this!

My work life is heavily invested in global issues facing women and girls, so meeting up with a social entrepreneur like Aminata Brown, founder of BabaBlankets, brings the many threads of my world together. Supporting opportunity for women and girls, addressing issues of poverty and access to education...and pretty pretty fabric...all in one place. Can't get much better than that.

Episode 29 of my podcast series is my interview with Aminata Brown in her vendor booth at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. We didn't have long, but we made great use of the time we had right as the exhibition hall opened and before she was flooded with customers. I hope you'll enjoy the interview and then hurry scurry to their website and support a great cause while feeding your fabric needs! (They've got lots of other great stuff, too.)

 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Show n' Tell of my Houston Haul

OK, so when it's all laid out on my cutting table, it looks like a lot. But I'm very, very excited about what I bought in Houston. Some fabric, some patterns, a kit or two, some sewing machine feet, a couple of books.... Mmmm. Presents for me.

I only looked for things I couldn't easily get at home or hadn't seen on the Internet before--anything very different, or new. I didn't buy a single swatch of Moda. Instead, I sought out new designers, ethnic fabrics, and simply stuff I hadn't seen before.

I've posted pictures and given websites and such in my flickr album--the photo here is just a taste!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sorting through photos...

I have over 200 pics of quilts that impressed me in some way or 'tother in Houston. Since it would be overwhelming and take days to post them all, I'm now facing the onerous task of choosing just those that particularly speak to me. Too hard! Too hard! I'll get something posted by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to formulate my thoughts into something that make sense for podcast episodes--I'll probably be posting a couple this week while everything's fresh in my mind, then go back to my weekly schedule.

Anyone else go to Houston? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Heading to Houston

I'm almost done packing and tieing up loose ends so I can be footloose and fancy free at the International Quilt Festival in Houston the rest of the week. Woohoo! Me and my BFF/BQF Kate board a plane at an almost ungodly hour tomorrow morning--at least, early enough that I won't sleep a wink all night for fear I'll sleep through my alarm.

I'm packing as light as possible so I have room for goodies! I'm also packing a totebag to use during the event and to bring any overflow home as a carry-on. I'm ready.

Not doing any classes this year but am doing a lot of the lectures and a couple of the banquets. I can get emails on my cell phone so send me an email if you want to try to connect while we're there. I'd love to meet you!

I'm also going to pin my logo to my nametag (somehow) so be on the lookout. It'll be sort of like Where's Waldo, without the funny red and white striped shirt. I'm not going quite that far, although it would be a fashion statement...of a sort.

For anyone not there, I'm going to try to remember to do a lot of tweeting, so get yourself a Twitter account and follow me: sandyquiltz. I'm going to try to do my quilty journalist best to report on my experience.

OK--time to go haul my jeans out of the dryer so I can pack them too. What--you don't leave your laundry until the last minute? Where's your sense of fun and adventure, timing the last ding of the dryer cycle to make sure you hit your plane on time....

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The light at the end of the tunnel

Finally, at long last, my computer seems to be healed. My deep, but uneducated, suspicion was right--it was actually a virus affecting the wireless router causing the problems. We have several computers that all use the same router when they're in the house. Every computer had issues here in the house, but when the laptops left the house, they were fine. I kept googling "virus in wireless router" and coming up blank because routers don't actually get viruses themselves.

However, this virus gets on your computer and then changes the settings to your router and redirects it to another server...or something like that. So any of the computers could've gotten the virus in the first place and it changed the router, and then we all had problems. Can't recall all the details because I'm not an IT person myself but it has to do with DNS and other geeky acronyms. In any case, I did yet another search, but this time on the Dell tech support forum which I hadn't checked before, and there it was.

So I was right--it was the router all along. My nephew (who is an IT guy) and I took the steps suggested in the forum to fix my router and I haven't had a problem since.

Sadly, that means the second reformatting was completely pointless. Dang. Two days I could've been happily sewing and instead I was babysitting my computer for hours on end while reinstalling. "Enter." (Wait.) "Enter." (Wait.) "Yes." "Accept." "Enter." (W...a...i...t....)

Sigh.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One step forward and two steps back

Well, at least, a step forward in the quilting world. Two back in the computer world. Pshaw.

I finally got my wallhanging basted tonight. I had the brilliant idea to clear everything off my cutting table and haul it away from the wall so I could walk all the way around all four sides. The wallhanging and backing were only a few inches wider than the table, so although I couldn't tape anything down I could keep it pretty smooth while I was working. No crawling around on my knees! Yeehaw!

The downside was my doofus Golden who insisted on always flopping down right where I needed to stand next, so I was shoving him progressively around all four sides as I worked my way around. And he kept licking my toes. Blockhead.

Anyway, the wallhanging is pin-basted and ready to go--and nothing on my calendar tomorrow night after work so I should make good progress.

On the computer side, I'm about ready to throw mine out the window. But 'nuff said about that. I'm trying not to think about it anymore for the night.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Episode 26 "In Which We Get Ancestral" is posted!


Bethlehem Star quilt
Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
In this episode, I describe the experience of finding antique family quilts in my Mom's house as we were cleaning it out after she passed away. The journey of trying to figure out the family history of these quilts has taught me a lot about fabrics, heritage, and my own attitude towards quilting.

The photos are posted in Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39296555@N06/sets/72157625099928783/with/5108190746/ .

Leave me your own stories about your family quilting heritage (even if you're starting it!)-- the episode is at www.quiltingfortherestofus.com.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A little bit of fall beauty


Fall 2010 f
Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
I haven't been at my sewing machine much but I've spent some quality time with my camera! One of my recent business trips was to a camp & conference center in rural Connecticut. It was a gorgeous weekend and (gasp!) I actually got a random hour off here and there in the afternoons to wander through the woods and scramble about on rocks.

I love fall.

Here's the link to the whole set of pics in Flickr. Maybe you'll find some quilty inspiration there.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/39296555@N06/sets/72157625219575602/

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Early Taste of Halloween

Remember Jan, the "quilters like the rest of us" interviewee in episode 22 "In Which We Teach the Children"? Well, she just had a quilt featured in the Embroidery Library Stitcher's Showcase. Check it out! It's always fun to watch someone's quilt come together--I didn't participate in this round robin (I never do--don't want others to have to deal with my errors!) but I do remember enjoying show n' tell for each round, as everyone displayed what blocks they'd made for their turn in the round-robin. Even having seen all the blocks while the round-robin was in progress, seeing the finished product is still, somehow, a surprise. Individual blocks are fun, but seeing it all come together with the final flair provided by the quilt owner herself? Priceless.

On the electronic front, I've gotten all the major software reinstalled and am at least functional at this point. Now I'm just putting together all the little bits and pieces, re-setting all my preferences, creating shortcuts in all the places my mouse just naturally seems to head to, and trying to get my laptop to remember the docking station is a happy place and not something that should make it scream "ERROR! ERROR! GET ME OFF THIS THING!" every time I try to plop it on its little widgets. So far this afternoon it's behaving itself. Here's hoping a good night's sleep will make us all have a sunnier outlook by morning.

Tonight's the only night I have home this week until Friday. I'm hoping for some quality time with my sewing machine while I ponder possible topics for a podcast episode. I have about four in the works--just have to decide which one would fall together with the least sweat in a week I'm almost never home. I plan to record and post either Friday night or Saturday. I think I might be feeling antique-y. That's just a clue, and I reserve the right to change my mind. :-)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Construction always takes awhile

Reformat hard drive. Check.
Reinstall OS. Check.
Reinstall drivers. Check.
Update OS and drivers from websites. Check and check.
Restore files. Check. (Phew--that's always a nail-biter.)
Reinstall software. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.....

I'm always surprised by the amount of software I use on a weekly basis. I had made a list of everything on my laptop before reformatting, thinking that this would be a good opportunity to get rid of stuff I don't use anymore, or trial versions, whatever. But actually, I'm pretty good at staying on top of that normally. So when I looked at the list at the beginning of the weekend, there was very little on it that I didn't need to reload.

It takes forever. Yiminies.

I've got most of the major software reloaded--just one more biggie to go. Then lots of little softwares that take care of all sorts of little tasks, or support the big software programs. At least I should be able to be productive tomorrow while I'm still loading the rest of it. That's something, anyway. And yes, my little hard-working laptop is running just a bit more smoothly in general. So that's something else.

Then I just have to get all the settings back to the way I like them. Ever thought about how much personalization you've given everything you work with? Let me just say it again.

Yiminies.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cleaning House Against My Will

So the virus/trojan horse did more damage than I'd predicted and I'm now going through the process of reformatting. That means this is probably my last public appearance for several days until I get everything up and running again

Fortunately, I have everything pretty well backed up already, so although it'll be a pokey process it shouldn't be a nail-biting one. There are a couple of things that are still areas of concern for me but none of it would be catastrophic, just annoying. So I can deal.

I do have to say, though, that the upside to all this is having a "clean" laptop once again. My husband works with engineers who routinely wipe their hard drives annually just to get rid of all the technological detritus that accumulates. I've always thought that wouldn't be a bad idea--I just never bother to do it. Until my hand is forced. But I'm choosing to focus on that silver lining of a clean slate.

BTW, a few folks have asked if I have this or that protection software. Yep. Have lots of it of various well-known and highly-regarded types. All of them were on, completely updated, and functioning. The virus disabled most of them. Hackers are smart.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just a warning about memory cards

So it finally happened--something I didn't even know could happen. I have a memory card reader in my laptop and frequently at events that I'm staffing, I'm offloading photos from a variety of memory cards as participants choose to share their photos with our organization. It never even crossed my mind that memory cards could carry viruses on them.

However, this weekend, I popped someone's memory card into my laptop and suddenly got messages I shouldn't have been getting and all sorts of random things happening. Fortunately, I have a boatload of virus protection, anti-spyware, and other protective programs loaded and after running a few scans, was able (I hope) to nip the problem in the bud.

This morning, I put my own camera memory card into my laptop to finish offloading my own photos from the weekend and there, lo and behold, was the file name of the thing that I think had caused the problems in the first place. I had used my own memory card after I'd used hers--so it looks like the virus hopped from her card onto my laptop and back onto my card. Fortunately, scans had already taken care of it and I was able to delete it--but I'm thinking it's time to get a new memory card. And I'm going to do another complete virus scan again today just to be sure.

So, fair warning: be careful of camera memory cards from other people. They're basically mini-flash drives and I'm surprised I'd never thought of that before. I did a little googling and it's reportedly quite rare that memory cards cause problems, but they obviously can! From now on, I'm not accepting anyone's memory cards anymore. There are other, safer ways for folks to send us photos so I'll just have to rely on their memories to do so!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some Pics to Go with Episode 25 "In Which We Consider Thimbles"

If only Podbean would play nicely with multiple photos, I wouldn't have to send people all over the place to check out pictures that go with one of my podcast episodes. Sigh. Sorry about that.

This week's episode is all about thimbles. My sudden interest in thimbles  stems from having inherited about 30-some-odd thimbles used by various relatives reaching back at least three generations, if not further. Pretty nifty keen. As I was doing a little research trying to figure out if I could place any of these thimbles in a particular point in our space-time-continuum, I picked up a little information along the way and decided to share it in an episode.

This is my family tree in thimble form. There are definitely thimbles from my paternal grandmother and maternal grandmother, as well as a maternal great-aunt or two. There are a few that probably go back to a great grandmother, and one set that I suspect may go back even a little futher.

BTW, the classic display case is an antique printers' drawer that used to store letters for printing presses. It was a gift from BFF/BQF Kate--she found it during one of her estate sale haunts and picked it up with an eye towards me being able to display my heirlooms. Thanks, Kate--works beautifully!

Close-up of some of the thimbles, along with my Mom's notes on the back of the box as to who most likely used the thimbles that had been stored within (the two sitting to its left).

The thimbles on the bottom shelf are all advertising thimbles--Prudential, a flour company...a little piece of capitalist history.

These are two of my faves. First off, really nice decorations. Second, the box. I tracked down the name on the box to a jeweler shop in a little town in France. The town and street are still there, but the jeweler's shop is long gone.

We have a French-Canadian branch to our family--they emigrated from Canada in the mid to late 1800s, I believe. Not sure when they went to Canada in the first place, though. So I'm not sure how old these thimbles might be. Also, only one probably was originally in that box--I don't think it would fit two; but the three items were all in one zip-loc bag. They're the ones I'm trying to get some information on from an appraiser just to see how far back in my family these may go.

It's a little bit of a rush to put these on my fingers and imagine my great-great-greats working their own stitchery magic with them. Maybe the thimbles would magically pass their skill along to me...?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Log Cabin--Good Enough for Horseshoes

I got the log cabin pieced today, vertigo be darned. Actually, it wasn't too bad--just a couple of hairy moments here and there when I turned from my ironing board back to my sewing machine too fast. Anyway, the "Use It or Lose It Challenge" is now officially done and I can go back to finishing up UFOs.

Here 'tis, with the help of my lovely assistant daughter. Still not keen on the final results due to value issues I already discussed, but it's not bad. It'll make a nice lap quilt for someone, or baby quilt.

So, my assessment of the Marti Michell log cabin rulers may not be entirely fair as I was also testing out pressing all my seams open instead of to one side. So it's hard to tell what caused what.

Here's what I think I can fairly say:

The rulers didn't speed up the process any.

The rulers didn't add to my accuracy. I think that was for two reasons:  (1) because I'd decided to follow the directions in the pattern book exactly as part of the test, and because I didn't want to spend a long time on this, I was cutting 8 layers at once as per the directions, which is always a little dangerous. If I did it again, I'd only do 4 layers, at most. (2) The way you have to hold the rulers to cut the strips into sections is awkward and I never felt confident I was holding them exactly straight and still because of that.

The rulers saved me from having to do math. That's always a bonus.

Michell (among others) is a huge advocate of cutting on the lengthwise grain--IOW, length of fabric, not WOF. I tried it, although I was using fat quarters so I wasn't dealing with bulk of fabric, which I'd think would be tricky. I know logically it should make a difference but, frankly, it really didn't feel like it did in this case. I've made log cabins before and I don't think I had any better or worse results this time because of using the lengthwise grain. I'm not ready to make a judgment call on this one because I've only really done it this once. Jury is still out.

So, my final verdict on the rulers? I'll hang onto them and try them again at a later point. I'm not 100% sold, but I'm also not ready to give up on them.

In terms of pressing seams open? I am so NOT doing that again. I've read several articles lately extolling the wonders of pressing open rather than to one side. I do press my binding seams open since it makes them lay more evenly around the quilt, but I haven't done a whole block that way. I did this entire log cabin open and found it more frustrating than useful.
1.) It takes a heck of a lot longer. A LOT longer.
2.) I suspect my need to finger-press the seams first stretched things just a hair.
3.) It was alot harder to get my seams to match when putting block to block. I like being able to nest seams more.

There are some circumstances in which pressing open is definitely the way to go, but I'm not going to adopt it as my general operating procedure. I just found it annoying and not particularly useful in the long run.



BTW, here's the "behind the scenes" picture with my other lovely, albeit doofussy, assistant.

"Hey, where'd you go?"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Episode 24 In Which We Get Historical

Just posted this week's episode! It's another "quilters like the rest of us" interview--this time with Pat Smith, a member of my guild, all-around history buff, and Dear Jane afficionado. Have fun listening!

Episode 24 In Which We Get Historical

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Near finish on a UFO

To all intents and purposes, I finished a UFO tonight. In order for it to count as a finish in my guild's UFO challenge, I still need to get a label on it. But I'll easily get that done next week when I'm back from my work trip. So, drum roll please....the square-in-a-square quilt is done! This is the quilt featured in episode 17, "In Which I Save a Quilt from Almost Certain Destruction."

All sorts of pictures were posted for the blog entry related to that episode, and the only difference now is that the binding is on. Still n' all, I'll probably post another pic next week just to make the finish feel more official!

That puts me up at about the halfway point on my challenge list, I think. Not much of the year left, but I still might have a shot!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Log Cabin Under Construction

It hit the design wall tonight!

So, one problem with my quilting room set-up is that I can only get about 5 or 6 feet back from my design wall. That makes taking pictures a bit of an acrobatic venture: back up as far as I can against the opposite wall, wedge myself into the corner between my shelves holding fabric and my bookshelves on the adjoining wall, hold my camera over my head, aim the LCD screen down so I can see it if I tip my head back in just the right way, flip the flash up, and hope for the best. It's relatively straight, anyway. Usually when I have to get into that position for pictures the quilt looks like it's at sea, all sort of tipsy-topsy.

The picture is of the center of the quilt. I decided to go with the arrangement that creates four light diamonds surrounded by the darks. This de-emphasized a little bit the fact that a lot of my lights--well, aren't so light--and my darks are all over the place. I know, I could've fixed that if I'd been willing to go into my main stash for blues and neutrals--but I decided to take what I could get in my fat quarter collection. And actually, with this arrangement, I think I'll be able to mostly get away with it.

BTdubs, as my kids say, you'd not believe how long I stood there moving and flipping blocks to try to avoid having the same fabric butting up against itself or create a line down the center of the quilt. I'm walking away and looking at it in the fresh light of day tomorrow to make sure I didn't miss something.

I hope to get the top pieced tomorrow, and then it gets put away until I can get my remaining five UFOs done. ("Remaining five" referring to the remaining five on my list for the challenge. I have more than five UFOs in my sewing room although--I'm happy to report--not too many more!)

I'll give my findings on the rulers after I'm done with the top.

Sending you to another blog...

Just had to make sure everyone saw this blog post. Amazing!
http://marystori.blogspot.com/2010/09/small-enough.html

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Progress on the Log Cabin Front

I ended up with an evening almost totally devoted to sewing. Very unusual circumstances, actually. Normally I don't expect to get much sewing done during the weekdays. But tonight, my husband was out at a meeting, and my daughter decided to make dinner for the two of us, so after I was done with work I moved straight over to my sewing machine and got busy. I got a great dinner for only the price of having to do a few dishes afterwards. I could deal!

I'm still working on the Use It or Lose It Challenge log cabin rulers. Technically, I could now say I've used them and move on, but I would like to at least get the whole center top pieced before I walk away from this project and go back to UFOs. I know--the irony. Creating a UFO and leaving it just so I can finish other UFOs. Only another quilter would understand.

In the name of posting process rather than product pictures, here's what I got done tonight.

I finished cutting all the pieces for the cabin blocks. The log cabin rulers don't mean you don't still have to use your regular rulers. You "true up" your fabric, then lay the log cabin ruler along the edge, line your ruler up next to it, move the log cabin ruler out of the way, and cut.

Nope, this step really isn't a time saver. I could've sliced these strips a lot faster just using my regular method.

The next step is where the rulers do come in sort of handy--not so much from a time perspective, but from a math perspective. I forgot to take a picture of it, but you use the ruler to cut your strips to size. You lay the ruler along the strip and cut to the line marked "A," "B," C," and so forth, to get the bricks of the appropriate size. You'd just need to determine what width of strip you wanted to use in the first place (choosing from a width available on the rulers), and from there it's just a matter of following the letters. Pretty easy. Not necessarily any faster than the usual way, really, just no-math, which for me is a good thing! Whether or not its more accurate is still out to jury--I won't be able to determine that until the blocks are done and I'm putting them together.

From there, though, the process is normal.

Lay the bricks in the order you're going to sew them. Looking at this, though, I realized I'd be sewing blocks with all the same fabrics, so I had to do some randomizing first.



That's better. Messier, but better. I'd already sewn the center together when I remembered to take this picture--but you get the idea.







Partially constructed block. In this one "randomization" worked against me. I ended up with two identical fabrics right next to each other. I have another one with the same problem. I didn't catch them in time. If I were truly randomizing, I'd just let that happen and roll with it. But after those two blocks, I'm starting to watch now and flip fabrics around in the stack to prevent this from happening again.

And this is as far as I got before I decided to call it quits for the night.

It's taking a little longer than usual because--in the name of using this as a learning experience--I also decided to take a shot at pressing all my seams flat this time. Normally I do press to one side, but I've been reading more about pressing flat and thought it was worth a try. I like the final effect (the whole block lays really nicely) but it takes a lot longer as you're in the process.

Also, I was going entirely from fat quarters in my stash--didn't want to buy anything and didn't want to cut into any larger yardage. I thought I had a lot of fat quarters until I was trying to find eight darks in blues and eight lights in neutrals. So not all the darks are as dark as I'd like, and the lights aren't all as light. But I think the end result will still work. Might even be more interesting--who's to say?

I'll post pictures of the finished blocks--won't be for a couple more days. Tomorrow night's my turn for having a meeting.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I'm in Love and Suddenly Have Mad Skillz

Recently, I heard that Janome had put out a new bobbin case and foot specifically for free-motion quilting. I'd had another free-motion foot that worked pretty well but when I heard about the new one...especially paired with the new bobbin case...I thought it would be worth a shot.

Boy, howdy.

I just took it for a spin and suddenly, it's like I actually know what I'm doing!

After a few minor tension adjustments as I first got going, everything settled into a very zen pattern and it was like my years of struggling suddenly clicked. I didn't even realize how much I'd really been fighting the machine. I know--it's a poor work-person who blames her tools and I'm not, entirely. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to machine quilting. But there truly is something to be said for having the right tools for the job.

See my little owl? Isn't he cute? Purely free-form celebration of how smoothly everything was going! (He started out as practicing clamshells but I realized I'd made owl eyes so I just ran with it.)

So Janome owners, give ear. Check out the new free-motion quilting foot--it's metal and has a pretty small hole so fabric flows like silk under it and you can see everything you're doing. Plus you can adjust the pressure of the foot on the fabric with a little screw--boy, did that help! And make sure you've got that new free-motion bobbin case to go with it. The thread just jumps into your quilt!

And I'm not getting paid by Janome to write this. (Dang.)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Prizes for a Campus Visit

I had already warned my daughter: "I get a prize for taking you on another campus visit. We're stopping at a quilt shop on the way home." She rolled her eyes, then packed her e-reader so she could entertain herself in the car rather than have to bear with Mom in a fabric store.

There's a quilt shop, Calico Gals, halfway between where we live and the campus we visited, so I decided today would be a good day to check it out. I'd heard good things about it but never got there before. Other than having some problems in the two traffic circles and one really oddly laid out intersection near the shop, I found it all right. Mind you, I'd only had a bag of peanut M&Ms for lunch due to our travel schedule so I may just have been synapse-deficient at the moment. In any case, it was worth the two trips around one of the traffic circles....

I got myself a cute little Christmas charm pack: Moda's 12 Days of Christmas. I made a few other people charm pack tablerunners last year as gifts--now I'm determined to make one for myself. I also picked up a little pocket guide to embroidery stitches so maybe I won't have to guess how to do my next backstitch or french knot. (Cute little book, btw. Handy.) And finally, I treated myself to an add-on for EQ, Sue Spargo's Folk-Art Dreams. I want to get back into doing wool felt projects again--did a few several years ago, haven't gotten back to it. Love doing those!

I also had the chance to sit down at some Baby-Locs and take them for a spin. It was helpful--now I know what model I'm shooting for. Still pretty sure it's not in the immediate cards. Or, at least, maybe I just need to wait a few weeks for the whole college-tuition-heart-attack thing to abate.

Got home too late and too tired tonight to try to record a podcast. Tomorrow. I promise!

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's Not a Good Sign When...

...you're halfway through recording a podcast episode and realize you never put your headset on.

Oops.

Dang, and it was a good half an episode, too!

Oh well--now I have to run out to a thing at my daughter's school, then take her on a college visit tomorrow, so chances are I won't have another shot at this week's episode until tomorrow night. Keep your fingers crossed that I stay in good voice after being out tonight and all day tomorrow!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

...and a new project begun!

In the interest of "the process pledge," I thought it was time for another post about a project in process rather than just pics of a finish. So here 'tis--the very early stages.

I've mentioned the UFO Challenge that I'm co-facilitating in my guild a few times over the last few months. The other challenge I'm co-facilitating is our "Use It or Lose It Challenge." Participants list three items (or books) they've had on their shelves for a year or more and have never used. We are to use each item for its originally-intended purpose before the end of the challenge, or any items we haven't used will go in our guild silent auction. We don't actually have to create a finished product--we just have to show proof that we've used the tool in some way. (Yep--this was another idea of mine because I inherited a boatload of stuff from my Mom that I knew I needed motivation to try out or it'll still be sitting on my shelves 10 years from now. Not a surprise that several women in my guild were happy to join me in the challenge--apparently buying things and not *ahem* using them right away is a common ailment.)

I only have one item to go, so since the deadline is coming up (November), I decided I should take advantage of the break in action between one UFO and the next and, well, create another UFO for myself. So tonight I pulled out my last tool on my list and started to play.

My final tool is Marti Michell's Log Cabin rulers and the accompanying book. I inherited these from Mom. I think she'd only bought them about 6 months before she passed away. She and I had talked about these rulers a lot--we're both huge fans of log cabin quilts. The first quilt Mom made me when I was a kid was a log cabin, in fact, and I still have it today.

That being said, I'm not waxing particularly sentimental about these rulers. If they work for me, I'll be jazzed. If not, I'll be willing to put them in the silent auction.

I was just going to make a single block to test the rulers, and decided that might actually take almost as long as just having at it. I chose the first pattern in her book--not so much that I needed a pattern but just to have the fabric quantities and instructions for cutting easily laid out in front of me. The fabrics I have laid out are all from my stash: fat quarters and one strip. (The red on the top will eventually just be the little center square--it's a little dominating in this picture.) It'll make up to be about 54" square. If it turns out at all nice, I have a someone in mind who might enjoy a cuddle quilt. Meanwhile, a great way to use up 17 fat quarters!

I may get some sewing time in this weekend so I'll try to remember to post more pics as I go. It's fun to do a project that I'm not emotionally invested in--if it turns out, it turns out. Otherwise, I've just created space in my fat quarter drawer for the future!

Finished My Souvenir from Hawaii!


hibiscus
Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
Well, one of the souvenirs, anyway. The really super-easy-beginner-type souvenir. I've got to work my way up to the other ones.

This is the hibiscus applique piece I started working on when my son was in the hospital at the end of August. I've only ever done one other hand applique project in my life, for a class, that ended up getting tossed at the end. The applique on this one ain't no great shakes, either, but it was still such a cute project I ploughed on through and finished it. I've since gotten some tips from listeners that should make my next attempt at needle-turn applique more successful, I hope.

This marks my first shot at hand embroidery, too--you can tell my stem stitch isn't exactly straight, but take a look at those french knots! Beauty, baby! And it's with thanks to this tutorial: http://www.needlenthread.com/2006/11/french-knot-video-tutorial.html.

The kit included the cute little frame. All the better, since it meant I didn't actually have to do any finishing techniques on the project. Just trim it to size and slap it in the frame. Done!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Charity Quilts Revealed


charity-quilts-Sept-2010
Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
OK, so I know I was pretty cagey about not posting any pictures of these while they were in progress, but really, they're nothing to crow about. Or write home about. Or whatever other cliche you want to fill in that particular blank.

But I figured since they were such a topic of [my] conversation for so many months I may as well post a picture--albeit showing as little of each of them as possible.

To recap: someone donated a plethora of 5x7" rectangles to our church--that's not as random as it might seem but it's a long, uninteresting story that I don't want to bother going into. Suffice it to say, we hadn't asked for them. But we wanted to honor the intentions of the donor so I asked another woman (poor thing, she's a brand new quilter) if she'd be willing to piece the tops and I'd finish them off. She got a friend or two of hers to help her do it, and they managed to figure out how to put this very odd conglomeration of fabrics into sets that were something approaching coordinating. I believe they added in some of their own fabrics here and there as necessary. They pieced the tops and then handed them over to me. I then did the backing, quilting, and binding.

Some fast facts: the one on the bottom was Evil. With a capital E. It was the first one and just about made me want to go home and throw out the rest before even starting on them. However, it's malevolence was most likely due to the fact that the fabric I used for the backing (inherited from Mom) was actually sort of a heavy brushed cotton--almost flannel--that seemed all warm and cozy but made it insanely heavy to work with on my sewing machine. Also, I was working on it at a quilt retreat so was using my plexiglass table extender for the machine rather than my usual recessed sewing cabinet, so it kept dragging and catching on the edge of the plexiglass. In short, it was a major pain in my...well...you know.

The flip side of all that grief was I was pathetically glad about how quickly the rest went in comparison. All the backing fabrics I used were inherited fabrics; numbers two and three from the top have the same backing, that doesn't match the front at all but again is a fairly soft cotton that should be comfy. Numbers two and four are the ones that share the same binding (the "extra 198 inches" inexplicable math error). The one on top is the only one I actually like--it's kinda cute!

I bled on the back of one of them. The stain came out, but it seemed somehow fitting.

I just finished dropping them off at the donation site. I'm not sure the volunteers there understood why I gleefully skipped back out the door to my car. "Buh-bye!"

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I got the bindings on both of the last two charity quilts today--wheee! Now I'm going to spend the rest of the day in front of the TV watching some "Great Courses" lectures on DVD, old TV shows on Netflix, and movies, and work on getting the binding hand-sewn to the back as long as my hand will hold out. I'm motivated! I'm committed! I'm determined! I will get those two quilts done by the end of the week--and then I can get all five of them to the donation recipient organization and they'll be OUT OF MY LIFE!

Can you feel my excitement?

Then I can get back to my own UFOs. First up, the binding on my square-in-a-square quilt. I'm hoping that maybe I can get the binding put on that before a road trip next weekend to take my daughter on another campus tour for a late addition to her potential college list. I'd like to have something to work on in the hotel. Sadly, I get carsick if I try to sew in the car so the eight hour round trip drive won't be particularly productive. The other UFOs I still need to finish all need to be machine quilted so I'll try to stay on a schedule of having one project at the machine while I'm doing the hand-sewing on the other. If I can stay consistent, I should be able to make some significant process this fall.

But for the moment, I'm just going to wallow in the Almost-Doneness on the charity quilts. Wheeee.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting Jazzed for Houston!

I finally had the time this afternoon to sit down and sort through my catalogue for the International Quilt Festival in Houston this November and get myself registered for my classes. Woohoo!

This is the second time I'll be going; the first time was with Mom several years ago. Mom really enjoyed the round-table style of classes they offer so she and I both signed up for one focused on applique, and I could see what she meant. It's a great way to be exposed to several teachers and their techniques in a short period of time, although Karen Buckley particularly stands out in my memory. I enjoyed watching her presentation and later being at her table for her demonstration. She does great work. And I believe I bought stuff from her. So we both benefitted from the experience.

To the same end, this year I'm taking another round-table style class (on mixed-media in quilting), and then focusing mostly on lectures. I like the idea that I can explore a whole wide range of things and then delve deeper into ones that intrigue me later on with books, DVDs, and the like. I looked at several of the classes, too--there were two offered at the same time that I was debating between, only to find out they were both already closed anyway. Problem solved! Nicely, my schedule ended up in neat little bunches so I'll still have plenty of time for the show and vendors and all the other fun stuff they have going on in the show hall.

Registering was the last step I had to take care of...now it's just packing and going! Well, OK, there's a couple of months between now and then, but still...a girl can dream.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Back in the saddle again...

Just to let y'all know, I did post episode 20, "In Which We Are Relieved," this afternoon (www.quiltingfortherestofus.com). It's a response to listener comments over the last couple of weeks and a little bit of update about what I have going on in my quilty life these days--admittedly, not much, but some new projects started and older ones moved along. Altogether not bad, considering. I also talk a little bit about the international quilting scene as I've experienced it through magazines--while sitting in hospitals--and wonder what folks who actually live in the countries from whence those magazines come would say. So chime in!

I am very pleased to report that my son is doing well. He even made a short trip to the mall today with his sister and cousin to pick up my birthday gift (an expansion pack for Settlers of Catan, our families' current fave game). He was a little tired when he got back, but other than that, none the worse for wear. His follow-up appointment with his surgeon is Monday--keep your fingers crossed or send up prayers that he gets released to move back on campus in another few days. He was getting texts all evening from his BFF/roommate who moved back today about the other folks on the hall and so forth. He's missing being part of the haps.

Tomorrow is scheduled to be a low-key day at the homestead so I'm hoping to get more sewing time in. I got the fourth charity quilt all ready to be quilted; the fifth one has the backing ready and I just have to spray baste it all together and I'll be ready to let that one rock n' roll too. It'll feel amazingly good to have those five monkeys off my back!

Thanks, again, for all your well wishes and support and encouragement over these last couple of weeks. It meant a lot. I'm looking forward to life returning to normal, however we define "normal" these days.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New QFTRU Flickr Group

Finally--I'm getting more organized! I cordially invite you to join the new Quilting...for the Rest of Us group in Flickr. No longer do you have to wait on my schedule to share your pics with other listeners. Which is a good thing, given what my schedule is going to be for the next few months....

Often listeners will send me photos--which I love!--and I want to share them with everyone else but if I'm on the road I get way delayed in being able to post them to my blog. So from now on, just add them to the Flickr group. It'll be our own QFTRU Show n' Tell--woohoo!

Here's the direct link:  http://www.flickr.com/groups/quiltingfortherestofus. Can't wait to see your photos!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The dust is settling...mostly

My son came home from the hospital last night and in about an hour he has an appointment with the surgical practice to check the fact that his incision seems to have re-opened. Bully. We'd originally been told that they weren't going to take all the staples out until next week, then the PA took all the staples out last night before discharging him. And now it looks like he could've still used a few staples in there. Don't know for sure--they'll tell us what's what when we get to the office. Fortunately, he's not in pain--just a little uncomfortable (some of which is psychological--it's a little disturbing to think your insides are open to the outsides).

I took today as a vacation day because I knew it would take us awhile to get into the swing of things with him being home. Sure enough, one trip out to the drug store to pick up some bandages and medical tape so we could rebandage his body parts. And making him his fave homemade soup to try to stimulate his appetite a bit. Washing the blanket we'd brought from home for him to have in the hospital room for warmth and emotional comfort. And now the doctor's appointment. I may take tomorrow off too, so I can rest from today!

Meanwhile, I did treat myself to an early birthday present, my birthday being Thursday. I received a little financial birthday gift early so I just bought myself the EQ7 Upgrade, after checking with my husband that the thought hadn't crossed anyone else's mind. I knew it wouldn't have--that's the kind of thing only my Mom would have ever thought about doing for me, since she had also been an EQ user. I ordered it online so I won't have it for another week or so but at least I know it's on its way. And gee, here I just finally figured out how to use EQ6! I can see another Quilt University class in my future....

I also had plans to put the binding on my square-in-a-square quilt today (see the posting from the podcast episode "In Which I Saved a Quilt from Almost Certain Destruction"), but then decided I really didn't like the fabric I had set aside awhile back as potential binding. That precipitated a dig through my scraps bin to find the scraps from the fabric I'd used for the sashing strips, and fortunately I had a couple of scraps that still had the selvege with the fabric name and maker. I found it online and ordered a yard, so when that comes I'll finally be ready to do the binding.

So my quilty activity today primarily consisted of shopping. Best kind of retail therapy involves fabric.

Wait--I did also prep the Hawaiian applique kit for the next step. I don't recall where I posted about what, now, while I was in the hospital, but I had been working on the smallest/easiest applique kit I'd bought in Hawaii during the hours I was hanging out in my son's room. I finished the applique part and am now onto the quilting and embellishing but decided I needed to press it all out again before I did any of that since it had gotten a bit wrinkled in its travels back and forth from home to hospital. So it's now neatly pressed and pin-basted together so I can take it with me to the doctor later this afternoon and work on it in the waiting room. This poor little applique hibiscus is doomed to a life of reminding me of a not-very-fun time in my life. Hopefully, the memories of having bought it in Hawaii will outweigh the memories of where I actually worked on it!

I'd post a picture of the hibiscus but it's not very good applique so I think I'll wait until it's all done, then do a photo from more of a distance to bring the whole "galloping horses" theory into play. Then you can all think that maybe I actually know what I'm doing, applique-wise. I'm not adverse to using a little photographic trickery.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Radio Silence

I realized I'd posted some info in a couple of other places but never left a blog entry about why there's been radio silence from me the last little while.

My son (19) had a ruptured appendix and emergency appendectomy last Sunday---after a couple of days of thinking he had food poisoning after a rather unfortunate lunch at a buffet restaurant. Seems we can't blame the restaurant after all.

In any case, what's usually a 90 minute surgery was almost 4 hours and then he went straight into ICU following. He was just moved from ICU to a regular surgical floor last night, and will likely be in the hospital for several more days before he's well enough to continue his recuperation at home.

So no podcast episodes or blogs from me recently. At the moment, signs point to him being home by next week and at that point, although we'll still be doing some caretaking, at least I won't be spending most of my waking moments in a hospital--I'll be able to return to some of my usual activities.

I'll be back in touch when the dust settles.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Going Hawaiian

I got episode 19 "In Which We Go Hawaiian" tonight--yay! It took two recording sessions because I'm still struggling with time zone issues and the first time through just didn't ... well... it just didn't. So I re-recorded tonight and decided to just forge ahead. (If you're not a subscriber, use the embedded player on the left to listen to the episode.)

It's a little longer than my usual episodes, although not too far off, but that's what I get for skipping a week and having to play catch-up. The real star of the episode, though, is Anne Fujiwara, quilt designer and teacher of the traditional Hawaiian style. Great interview--I'm very appreciative of her for taking the time to sit with me and talk!

I posted a photo of her in her shop in the show notes to the episode, so be sure to check that out. Meanwhile, here's my other quilty-pics from the trip.

Anne's Hawaiian Quilts, Honolulu. (Listed in the Shops page at http://www.quiltingfortherestofus.com/.)

Beautiful sampler quilt designed by Anne.

The subject matter of the blocks is traditional Hawaiian style, but the sampler nature and the use of multiple colors is more modern.
Traditional Hawaiian quilts are two color--usually a white background with navy blue or red single-piece, symmetrical applique on the top. The traditional quilting pattern is echo-quilting.


Anne's student working on her quilt. You hear about this quilt, and this student, in the interview as well.

Her quilting was beautiful, by the way. Very nicely done!









I bought the kit for this cute little hibiscus applique piece as my "starter kit" for traditional Hawaiian quilts. It comes pre-basted with the quilting lines marked. The frame also comes with the kit. A good way to get my feet wet!

In traditional Hawaiian quilting, everything is done by hand, and it's needle-turn applique.

I don't have photos of one of the patterns I bought which was slightly more complicated than this, but a very traditional Hawaiian block pattern. I believe it's pillow-sized. The third pattern I purchased is the pattern for the center medallion block in the sampler quilt in the first picture above. That one will take me awhile, but I couldn't resist!

On to Maui, and Sew Simple. (Information listed on the Shops page at http://www.quiltingfortherestofus.com/.)

Some of the samples on their wall. (I asked for permission to take the photos. May not be exactly correct in terms of copyright but I'm not claiming this as my work and I'm basically advertising the store and showing what great patterns are available--I didn't write down the names of the patterns these quilts are made from but I'm sure you can contact the store and ask.) I love the fabrics used in the one on the right, particularly.

Look way to the right--the bird of paradise applique by Nancy Chong. That's the one I bought. Beautiful! Two pieces of fabric, one on top of the other.

I'm also fond of the pineapples on the left, but didn't write down the name of the pattern. I need to dig that one up and buy it at some point!


Here she's preparing the thread from the sashiko kit for me. Her tip, if you buy one of these kits. Tie off the thread shank roughly in thirds, then cut both ends. That makes it really easy to pull out a length of thread for stitching without tangling up the whole shank, and the lengths are perfect for stitching. I gotta say, it really does work! I haven't had a single tangle. I hold onto the far end of it and pull from the near end, holding the whole shank as straight as possible while I do it. It works like a charm.


She also let me snap a picture of the back of the sample piece hanging behind the register so I could see how to tie off the end of the thread. You just go backwards through three or four loops on the back and snip it off. Very simple. I love simple.


And now, for some general Hawaiian eye-candy.



Waikiki/Honolulu from the top of Diamond Head Crater












The "Shower Tree," rainbow variety. (I have a kazillion pictures of these--I loved the meld of pink and yellow on each flower.)











There he is, the bird of paradise! He amuses me.












Gorgeous coastal views along the infamous "Road to Hana."











Waves against lava rock along the shores of Maui. (Also taken along the Road to Hana trek.)