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.