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....)


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: .

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

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.

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.


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?"