Tuesday, December 30, 2008

To darn or not to darn, it's never a question

It looks like my last post was truncated -- most disconcerting (a good time to exclaim... well, what can I exclaim?) since no copy of it exists. And of course I had spent a long time crafting it and have to redo it all.

As I was saying...

Darning is something one does to repair holes in socks and clothing, laying down close (but loose, if that seems possible) rows of stitches going across one way and then another, filling the hole. When I've tried it, which is to say never again will I, it ends up as a hideous wad of thread.

When I spied a hole in Lee's shirt, I realized that:
a) it wouldn't bother him much, and
b) it would bother me.

But I asked him, the experienced bachelor, what he did to fix a hole. "Plug it," he said.

So I did. I plugged it with a worm (pictured in previous post, I think; please excuse cell phone fuzziness). He seemed somewhat charmed with my mending surprise, and attempted to pull the worm out, only to find it firmly attached.

He wore the worm-decorated shirt out for the evening, as we attempted to dine out for a late dessert. We wanted something warm, maybe a pie The first restaurant we went to had cakes and cheesecakes, all made in Indiana, said the clerk, who gave us the impression that Indiana cakes were the best.

The window also contained what she claimed was an apple tart. This item was four or five inches across, an inch and a half high, and just visible in the bottom of the crust were scattered a few dessicated carcasses of apple slices, perhaps a quarter inch deep.

We discussed this pitiful item with the clerk.

"Do you fill it with something?" I asked.

"If you want," she said, looking puzzled.

"Whipped cream?" I asked.

"If you want," she said.

"I'd say it needs apples," said Lee (oh, for the logic of an engineer).

The next place we tried had bready stuff, donut cousins such as cream-filled danish and the like.

The next place we tried was Walmart, where we bought a cherry pie in a box, took it to the condo, microwaved it, and topped it with ice cream. Most satisfying.

It is disappointing, however, to reflect that no one seemed to notice the worm perched on the shoulder of Lee's shirt. Maybe next time.


Never say darn

Photo: The hole in this shirt had to be fixed, so I fixed it.

I was raised to refrain from saying "darn," since it was deemed to be the same as saying "damn." It's close, has been laundered of its worst aspects, but still if someone says "darn," everyone knows what he really means.

In the absence of strong words to express strong feelings, if one were to get really upset in my household, exclaiming "nuts!" was acceptable. I never did. It somehow just didn't seem any better to me than saying "darn," and actually a bit worse in some ways.

All this has nothing to do with the "darn" that I do say but never do.

Darning is something one does to repair holes in socks and clothing, laying down close (but loose, if that seems possible) rows of stitches going across one way and then another, filling the hole. When I've tried it, which is

(oops, internet connection glitch; see next post)


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Flying with a sewing machine

I know, most creatures fly with wings, heh heh.

Photo: Earlier this year, all these Alabamian pots were filled with growing things and sitting on the rail (from whence the weather sometimes knocked them off).

have been immensely enjoying myself reading the Quiltart mailing list on my cell phone via the online archives. It's the best thing to occupy one's mind when beset by the odd hours of jetlag and overabundance of leisure.

I brought my 17-year-old Kenmore sewing machine here, lugged it onto the plane where my cartable sewing machine case, just purchased cheap at Joann's, was just slightly too big for even Southwest's generous allowances, but fortunately the plane was half full, so cramming it into the bin did not raise too many eyebrows. BTW, did not remove the needle in the machine or the tools from the toolbox, and nothing was confiscated, though my carry-on luggage was flagged for manual inspection after going through the scanner.

I expect to be able to sew tomorrow, as soon as I get a table. I should have brought along one of my antique quilts and started work on remaking or restoring. Handwork for a "lady of leisure!"

For awhile, my motto regarding sewing has been, "If I have to sew it by hand, it doesn't get done." I used to love handwork, but the coincidence of eyes needing bifocals and 9-11 put that travel passtime (sp?) to rest. No more crosstitching on #18 or higher count Aida!

But now that I have these two old quilts, each of which have disintegrating red and black fabrics (what causes that in those older quilts? - other colors seem to hold up just fine), I am thinking a little handwork might be fun. I wish I had the quilts with me, because there is a farmhouse quilt shop up in TN that carries a whole roomful of vintage fabrics.

Tonight: Christmas concert.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Unboxed Valentines quilt

Today I finished binding this quilt, "Unboxed Valentines." I had originally planned on sending it out for quilting and binding, but had a sudden attack of frugality and did it myself on my DSM. With these 31 mitered corners now in my past, done completely by machine, I now proclaim myself princess of mitered corners! See previous post for how I do it. I am always open to suggestions for making any process simpler.

Pinless machine-finished binding

As anyone acquainted with my quilting knows, my motto is, “If it can be sewn by machine, it will be.” I used to love hand sewing, and spent hours doing tiny cross stitch while playing Scrabble with my mother and grandmother, traveling on the plane, or cozied next to my husband as he watched sports on TV, but now my hand is subject to fatigue from more than 30 minutes or so of needle-holding, and sewing with a machine is ever so much faster.

I’ve been doing my bindings completely by machine for almost four years, and let’s see, I’ve been quilting for almost four years, so you see how biased I am about using my machine for binding. Last year I went to a workshop where I learned about binding using fusible thread. The teacher said that she has submitted her quilts to shows and won prizes, so she feels the judges have no bias against bindings finished by machine. Her technique was much like mine, but since I see no need to use fu$ible thread, I haven’t tried it.

Here is what I do for no-pin, machine-finished, double-fold binding:

1. Cut the binding 1/8” wider than the usual recommendation.

2. Cut the binding on the straight of the grain – eliminates stretching the binding that creates waves of fabric ahead of the foot.

3. Sew the binding to the BACK of the quilt.

4. On the back side, press binding toward edge with hot dry iron (don’t want steam or spray since wetness lets the fabric stretch).

5. On the front side, fold the binding so the overlaps the sewn line and press.

6. Press the mitered corners in the direction I will be sewing – second side overlaps first side, etc.

7. Find a stitching pattern and width that pleases me. I have a little stack of experiments I’ve done that I can easily refer to. When I find a combination I like, I write the stitch width and length with ballpoint pen right on the sample fabric. I’ve used the herringbone pattern the most.

8. Stitch away, a scant 1/8” from the edge of the fold so that any little wanderings I do will not run off the binding and into the border in back.

9. The foot tends to push the binding fabric slightly to my right, so I use the tip of my seam ripper (not sharp) to keep the binding where it is supposed to be. I think Eleanor Burns has a little pointy thing she uses for such tasks.

10. The biggest hurdle, and it’s not that much of one, is turning the mitered corner. As I approach the corner, I try to make sure the fabric for the next side is overlapping and ready to be sewn. But if I don’t do it soon enough, no biggie. In that case, I stop the machine, lift the foot, and fold in the overlapping corner, lower the needle into the overlapped fabric and turn the corner.

11. Most of the time the next side is not lined up exactly where I want it, so I adjust the needle so that it’s barely into the binding fabric, and (foot still up) move the fabric so that the needle pulls the binding into place. Lower the needle and take one manual stitch. Then I continue on peacefully in the zone until the next corner.

Do you finish your bindings by machine? Do you do anything differently? Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

If you are new to this technique, I recommend trying it on smaller projects first – potholders and placemats, for example. My earlier pieces didn’t look very good on the back because some of my stitches wandered into the border, but with practice and experimentation, the bindings look just as good on the back as on the front.

Here are some bindings that I have done by machine:

1. Blind hem stitch done on the edge of the binding with monofilament. I didn’t like the puckery look on the front or the way most of the stitching on the back was into the border instead of on the binding. All this is caused by sewing on the very edge of the binding.

2. Herringbone stitch pattern done on plain fabric. The stitching is very obvious, which means if (if, what do I mean, IF?) I make a mistake, the mistake will be obvious.

3. Herringbone stitch on patterned fabric. Mistakes are disguised.

4. 3-step zigzag.

5. Triple zigzag showing a mitered corner.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nascar quilt in the works

After delivering my donated quilt yesterday, I went through the donated fabric box and found four different Nascar fabrics and fussy cut pieces to make four-patch blocks. I am not particularly a Nascar fan, finding most any spectator sport a general yawner. However, watching those races is a good opportunity to get some ironing done - hey, if I am going to suffer, might as well be completely miserable while I'm at it.

The hospital gets plenty of quilts for babies, and lots of cute ones for girls, but not so many for older boys -- so that'll be my contribution, quilts for teen boys.

Tried using sizing to iron quilt fabric. It does make ironing easier, as claimed, and brings body to limp fabrics. I don't know the difference between sizing and starch; they have the same effect. Faultless brand sizing smells like B.O. while being ironed, to me anyway. They should do something about that. I will not use it on anything I am going to wear, that's for sure.


My interpretation, on thinking about it, of yesterday's quote: "We should be eternally vigilant against [our own] attempts to check the expression of [other's] opinions that we loathe." Do you think I have it right? I'm afraid I've done that - check the expression of other's opinions - but it's part of my job. What else does a teacher do when a student says, "Hey you, shithead, you're stupid." I'll bet Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., wasn't considering those kinds of loathesome opinions when he made his statement.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Persimmons and a quilt

If you read today's tweet (right column), you may have noticed that my dial-up was acting up. Again. It does this after a rain. I went out to the phone box, unplugged it, blew kisses on the connection, replugged it, and now it's working fine. Don't you wish all repairs could be accomplished with a kiss?

Persimmons picked Sunday ^. I left a dozen on the two trees for the birds. Most of these are looking for a good home.

---> This should be the last you will see of this, my "Friendship Garden" quilt, as it is finally finished. It looks like it is slightly bulging in the middle, because it was hung in front of the shelves holding the Christmas decoration stash.

I made the second block in column 1, and the second and third blocks in column 2. My guild friends made all the rest. I think they did a lovely job.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fun fence

Photo: Taken at the top of Green Mountain near Huntsville, AL, earlier this year. I love the quirkiness of these rusty old implements hanging on the fence. The above is three shots "stitched" together - that is why the fence looks curved.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Interview with my sewing self

Mrs. Noodles, I understand you've been sewing for awhile.

That's right. My first sewing machine was battery operated, a Christmas gift when I was in second grade. It came with a little instruction manual that said on the cover, "Read this first." Because I then was of the mistaken notion that I had to read every page of any instruction manual, and because I always got bogged down on about page three of the tiny type in the booklet, I never did get to use that cute little sewing machine.

A few years later I started doing some hand sewing for my dolls, simple skirts and capes for my Barbies. I also loved to create sock dolls, sew on strips of colorful knit fabric for hair, and cloth them in hastily put-together scraps for dresses, skirts, pants, etc.

When did you start sewing for yourself? Was learning to sew difficult for you?

The first thing I made was a gathered blue gingham skirt when I was 12. Bought the pattern and fabric, pinned on the pattern pieces, cut it out, followed the instructions. This was the mid 60s, so imagine, the Beatles have come to town (I saw them from a distance), Twiggy has made the mini-skirt popular, and here I am, proudly wearing my homemade gathered gingham skirt. It came to the middle of my knees, of course, because that was the rule at my school.

My mother was absolutely the best sewing instructor. She said, "Read the first sentence of the instructions. Do what it says. Then read the next sentence and do what that says. If you need help, let me know, and I'll show you what to do." So that's what I did, and that's how I've come to believe that I can do anything, as long as there are good instructions.

Didn't you ever get frustrated with sewing while you were learning?

But of course! I remember having the urge, especially early on, to rip up the fabric and throw the sewing machine out the window. I hated it when something went wrong and I had to rip it out and do it over. Especially when the same thing went wrong several times in a row. But I loved the mystery of how my project might turn out, and the feeling of accomplishment when I was finished.

Did clothing styles have influence on your future sewing projects?

Absolutely. Because I was 5'9" at age 14 and weighed 110 lbs, the combination of the skirt-to-the-knee rule, my skinny frame fitting only items that were extremely short, and the mini-skirt being in style, I ended up needing to sew for myself. After the gingham skirt, I branched out into jumpers, A-line skirts, and dresses that were a little more in touch with times. Looking back, some of them weren't too bad. I tended to like bright colors and remember one of the guys in high school calling me "Jungle girl" because of a bright jungle print dress I wore.

What was your first sewing machine?

My parents bought me a little black Singer Featherweight when I was 14. It's a valuable part of my sewing "staff" staff to this day. It's a great little workhorse.

Do you still sew for yourself?

I haven't made my own clothing for about 20 years. There used to be three reasons for me to sew: 1) Save money, 2) Save time (I could sew faster than I could find something I liked and that fit me), and 3) Wear something unique. During the past couple of decades, fabric became more and more expensive, while the cost of clothing did not increase that much. It became more economical to buy ready-made, and once I started teaching school and had much less time, I gradually stopped sewing for myself.

I understand that you are now a quilter.

The first quilted item I made was in 1974, when I made leaf-shaped hot pads as a gift for my mother. I watched other people quilting during those years, cutting out dozens of pieces of fabric with little cardboard templates. It didn't look like fun.

Then the rotary cutter came along. Now this was more like it! I loved the tools. I made three Amish shadows wall quilts that I thought were lovely at the time, about 1990. Now I think they would make a good blanky for someone's dog.

Then I finally finished college, became a special ed teacher, and didn't do much sewing until 2005. Some dear friends, who knew I needed to occupy myself after my husband's unexpected death, encouraged me to go with them to a quilting class where we learned how to do paper piecing. We all made table runners, and they all look great.

How many quilts have you made since then?

I would need to count, but at least a couple dozen. Many for beds, more for the walls. I love making one-of-a-kind quilts, so though I appreciate traditional styles, I love contemporary quilts -- at least some of them. Some are esthetically hideous in my opinion, but those are usually making some kind of statement and I can appreciate them on that basis; there are many more that are so intriguing and inspiring that I can't wait to get started on my next idea -- once I get the four I'm currently working on completed.

Do you think you'll go back to making clothing?

Quilting is really my passion right now, and I don't plan to stop. But I am also interested in making some of own clothes again. I just came back from a shopping trip, and it appears the pendulum has swung back to where it again makes sense to make your own clothing. The last time I shopped for a white shirt, the average price was around $35. I don't think that was more than a couple of years ago. Now it's $65. I looked at just about every white blouse/shirt in the mall today, and the only one I really liked was $78, the rest being either too short in the body and/or sleeves or too transparent. I looked at the $78 shirt and said, "I could make that myself," so I stopped at the fabric store and spent $5.00 on fabric (sale! sale! sale!) and am ready to make the attempt.

What I really want is a dress form. I found out how you can make one: Make your own dress form. All I need is a good friend to tape me up!


Saturday, October 25, 2008

My visit to PIQF last Sunday

PIQF is the Pacific International Quilt Festival, for those of you non-quilters.

I had originally planned to make the approximately two-hour drive with members of my quilt guild, but it didn't work out due to my Alaska-bound daughter's visit and the happy necessity of driving her over to spend the weekend with my Napa Valley daughter.

On Sunday I left the girls to their own devices so that they could do sisterly things, and drove through the mess of Oakland traffic (some event was taking place there) to Santa Clara.

The layout of the quilt festival, being in a huge L-shape, was a bit confusing to me. Rows of quilts were interspersed with rows of vendors, some rows perpendicular to other rows It was my goal to walk every row so as not to miss a thing, but after an hour I began to forget from whence I had come and which direction to turn at the end of a row; I may have missed entire sections. I wished for a big arrow on the ceiling pointing north or something. Maybe next time I will take a compass!

I saw Tammie Bowser (of Mosaic Photo Quilt fame - google her website for free software to make a fun and amazing photo quilt). She had been at the Nashville AQS, where I went to her lecture and bought the "deluxe" version of her software. She was busy with customers at her booth so I didn't stop to say, "remember me?"

As usual, there were vendors who didn't seem to be drawing the interest of those attending, so I stopped at a couple of places where the booth hosts were looking deadly bored and struck up a conversation about their product. My presence, as usual, attracted other potential customers (I should try getting paid for this!), and I slid off to go see what I had really come to see: the quilts.

The quilts were fabulous, some so unusual, so many fascinating evidences of creativity in the innovative category. I was inspired with at least two dosen quilt ideas, even though I already know that I can't live long enough, even if I live to 93, to create the ideas already lodged in my head.

Interesting contrast between AQS and PIQF:
At AQS, there was so much interest in the vendor section that one could scarcely move in the aisles, and not as many people eyeing the lovely, more traditional quilts.
At PIQF, many more were looking at the unusual quilts than perusing the vendors.

Of course, I went every day to AQS, while I was only able to be at PIQF during the last hours on Sunday, therefore my commentary above may not be an accurate contrast.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Enough already with the picnic quilt

Photo: Here is the "picnic quilt" I previously showed draped over a chair; this gives a better idea of it, since that cell phone pic was fuzzy and orangish.

To take the photo, I laid the quilt on the floor, stood on a chair to take the picture, but still had a keyhole effect that I had to skew into squareness with Photoshop. I normally take pictures of my quilts by hanging them up on my shelves; that way the only photoshopping needed is to delete the background.

I am amazed at how OK the quilt looks, considering that I chose the fabrics in about ten minutes, and decided the layout without the aid of a design wall.

Since my new machine hasn't made it here yet (being shipped from 'Bama), I am holding off on quilting some of my finished quilt tops because my new machine will do it much better -- and because both the older machines I have at home need physical help. I took the Kenmore to the shop today for an overhaul. The very nice repair guy told me it was made by Janome. Janome is the hidden manufacturer behind a number of sewing machine brands, I understand.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A day in Amish country, continued

I see that my last emailed post was too long to get here in one piece, so here is the rest of it:

We had time to stop at Kings Korner, a favorite shop I have visited several times over the years, in addition to the quilt museum and store (also a favorite stop and where I have purchased quilt fabric in the past), and the main tourist location at the shopping center in Intercourse where even in the heart of do-it-yourself Amish country one finds most souvenirs are crafted in China. If I were purchasing, which I wasn't doing this trip, I'd make sure what I bought was locally made.

We stopped at a couple of the farms boasting "home made root beer" signs, hoping for root beer that was made from genuine sassafras, but it appears that such is not available these days.

Lunch was at Dienner's Restaurant/Buffet, a large and busy establishment a few miles from King's Korner. The selections were numerous and delicious, and I really don't need to eat again for three and a half days (she says as she tries to fasten the snap on her jeans).

A day in Amish country

Photo: Horses waiting to serve customers in Intercourse, PA.

Driving around Lancaster and Chester Counties, PA, is always an edifying adventure with sis-in-law Linda, because though she knows her starting point and destination, she makes the intervening turns purely on gut instinct, with an eye on the directional compass rather than a map. There are enough winding crossroads and between-farm breaks to make such a trip successful, and no big rivers to impede progress. I love these little driving adventures we have in that beautiful area of the country.

Some of the leaves are just beginning to turn, but we will miss the height of the color season by several weeks. The countryside is beautiful and green, with the multicropped Amish farms creating a huge quilt across the rolling land, much of the beans, corn, and alfafa ready for harvest.

Amish farmers guided their teams through the fields, standing on their harvest wagons or machinery. No sitting for them. As Linda says, these are Real Men; they've raised and trained the horses, planted and grown the crops, and have their teams of sometimes six horses under perfect control.

We saw numerous enclosed black buggies, each drawn by a single horse, scurrying along the two-lane highway, buffeted by passing traffic. A group of children played games in an Amish schoolyard, the little boys picturesque in their straw hats. An Amish or Mennonite woman made her way along the highway on a scooter that looked like it had been fashioned from a bicycle, one foot on the running board between the wheels, the other propelling her along. She carried a bag that appeared to contain goodies from a shopping trip.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My dream studio

Photo (nostalgic shot): This is The Hideaway, my studio, which I am missing greatly while on my travels. 40x40 feet of luxurious space. What looks like artificial lighting is just the sun shining through the skylights.

My quilting friends in the Friendship Garden Guild meet here weekly to stitch and bitch (Jane will be happy that I mentioned that). Having been sewing for the last couple of weeks in a hotel room here in Rocket City, USA, I find that what I miss most is my cutting table, my pingpong table (for layout), my ironing table - and my friends!

To the left, out of the picture, are my pingpong table (good for fabric layouts), my ironing table (batting and a sheet on a home-made wooden table), and my layout wall (backside of a flannel-backed vinyl table cloth pinned to the wall. The five white tables in the shot are where our quilting guild sits and sews weekly. The taller white table behind it is the cutting table. Also in the background is the kitchen area, from which we gain our sustenance both during our quilting and Bible study nights.

To the right, also out of the picture, is a 24-foot wall of shelves (I know, I'm still drooling). About ten quilts (five of them finished) adorn the walls and/or hang in front of the shelves.

Back to binding the picnic quilt...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paint buckets

Photo (another fuzzy cell phone pic): When we stopped by Frank's place of business, I was amazed and intrigued by his dozens of open paint buckets. Frank is from Sierra Leone, and his business is silk screening. He primarily produces silk screened T-shirts. I was relieved to learn that all this paint is still good, that being open to the air does not make the paint useless.


I am sitting here at the Datatek print shop, wrapped in my picnic quilt. Also wearing socks on my formerly sandaled feet. This place is kept cooled to an unnatural degree.

Gasoline is still in short supply in Alabama and Georgia, and maybe other places. I understand Atlanta is completely out and some schools are closed because of it. The usual gas price for the lowest octane is $3.99 here, but many of the stations have their gas pump handles bagged, indicating they are either out or are not selling that day. Diesel has not gone up as much, and is now lower than regular. Compressed natural gas is looking gooder and gooder, folks.

On Wednesday we fly to Philadelphia and will stay there for the weekend, then it's home to California on the 8th.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Picnic quilt pic

Photo (cell phone pic, which makes indoor shots look too yellow, and, Hmm... is also why this is slightly out of focus): The 60" x 60" picnic quilt is all done except for the binding (have to shop for that). It took about 12 hours to sew.

Next time I try a similar project, (i.e. use fleece for the backing), which may be soon, I will do a few things differently. At first I was quite pleased with myself for having used a plaid backing so that I could use the lines for squaring up. However, no matter how perfectly I lined up each round of fabric, the next round would need easing. I never did figure out why, because I'm pretty sure the plaid is straight with the weave (isn't it?). Next time I do this, I will use a gridded fusible as a stabilizer on the fleece, and NOT use plaid, so that any out-of-squareness isn't obvious. This is the least perfect quilt I have ever made. It looks good on the front, but the back has issues.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Picnic quilt

My picnic quilt is coming along. I have about three more rounds to go, then all I have to do is bind it.

The inspiration for this quilt is from the Brick Brack Medallion quilt in Kaffe Fassett's book, Quilts in the Sun. I was starting to collect fabrics to make that quilt, but did not bring them on my trip, so decided to build the quilt with the fruit-and-veggie fabrics I bought a couple days ago.

Other than the inevitable changes to the design due to using different fabrics, and a faulty memory (my excuse - it was two months ago that I saw that photo), this quilt is not technically a quilt (shhh! Don't let the quilt police know!) because it is not a "sandwich." Instead, the backing (fleece) provides both the filling and the backing in one step; i.e. there are only two layers. I am sewing the strips onto the fleece backing as one would do foundation piecing, so the necessary quilting is all being done automatically as I go. This is a functional picnic quilt, so I don't plan to do a lot of (or maybe not any) decorative quilting.

The fleece backing is green plaid, and when I bought it, I didn't realize how helpful the lines of the plaid would be. Without the lines, the stretchiness of the fleece would make it very difficult to apply the strips and keep things straight. I would have no idea if my quilt were square or not, and even then it is a bit iffy, since I am using crossgrain cuts of fabric for my strips. I think I'm a little off, which bugs me, because I aim for close to perfection when it comes to side measurements matching - just never thought about both the top and bottom fabrics being stretchy.

When it comes to picnicking, I plan to devise a removable bottom layer of something like ripstop nylon, to keep the quilt from getting damp and full of grass pieces. A few pieces of velcro is the first method of attachment that comes to mind.

This 60" quilt should be finished today. Will post a photo when I can, the camera being uncooperative these days.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Driving a Cessna

This is my last full week in Huntsville. As I drove around this morning in my borrowed car, the best way to describe Lee's driving suddenly came to me: he drives like he's on a Sunday drive in a Cessna (that's a small plane, Mom). Lanes? Don't need 'em. Stop signs? Optional. Surrounding drivers irritated or confused? Their problem!

So far today:
* Exercised at Curves, left feeling great
* Drove to Patches and Stitches, the only quilt fabric store in town
* Bought what turns out to be not enough fabric for a picnic quilt
* Stopped at Hancocks where I bought fleece for backing the picnic quilt, cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter, all for 50% off (great week to need these expensive items)
* Now sitting at the coin laundry shrinking my fabrics.

I will go back to Patches and Stitches and get more fabric, once I've drafted a more detailed idea of my basic quilt design idea.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Playing with my Janome 6600

Photo: Huge bales of hay stored in an open shed at A&M - an inspiration for a quilt?

I played with my new toy -- Janome 6600 sewing machine -- all evening, tried out all the stitches, but not the Accufeed system yet. What I like about the machine so far:
  1. Up-down needle option (don't have to constantly be reaching for the flywheel),
  2. All the stitches (including alphabet and numbers)
  3. The memory (though I wish it were more and had a USB port)
  4. The button that makes the machine stop automatically at the end of a stitch pattern
  5. Two lights
  6. Needle threader
  7. The screen that shows what stitch I'm currently using and the settings that work best for that stitch - with setting ranges displayed for each (don't have to look it up in the book - whoopee!)
This morning I fixed my PJs so that the waistband wouldn't be tight: Removed the old elastic (took forever), put on new (5 minutes). The machine worked great.

I also started working on the purse I started by hand several weeks ago but had stopped because the fabric was so hard to sew by hand. I finished the lining with the two pockets and started on the outside, which is upholstery fabric, and made a big thread jam at the beginning of the seam due to the ravelling of the fabric. I will fix that as soon as the hotel maid is finished with my room.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sewing without studio

I've finally brought my new sewing machine into my hotel room, and have fabric and thread, but find myself short of scissors and pins -- not having brought those with me since I hadn't planned to be using a machine while away from home. Will go out and see what I can do about that.

Withdrawal going on over here. Severe.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Yumberries - Move over, way over

Today while shopping for juice at Costco, after successfully staving off the urge to buy a Janome sewing machine at the local Sew & Vac, I spied a bottle containing Yumberry juice. What is a yumberry? I had to look it up.

On return to my room, I put the bottle in the bottom of the fridge to cool off while I did a little googling. "Move over for yumberries" was the general consensus as article after article announced the juice's availability in the U.S. this year.

Yumberries are yangmei, or Chinese bayberries, also known as the waxberry. They have miraculous powers, to read the reviews. The juice bottle I purchased says it is "packed with antioxidants to help you FIGHT FREE RADICALS®," and advises you to "LIVE. DRINK. REPEAT." (phrase trademarked by Frutzzo. May I say "argh?" What happened to freedom of speech? You get too many phrases registered and trademarked, and no one will be able to way a word without someone having a reason to file suit).

The juice is not 100% yumberry but is a mixture of water, yumberry, pineapple, cranberry, and black current juices from concentrate, maintaining it's healthy profile by not adding any sweeteners.

My first reaction on tasting it was not positive. I like pineapple and cranberry juices, so can only guess that yumberries have a rather odd flavor that I am not used to, tasting something like pomegranate juice - not a juice one usually chooses to drink by itself. After my tastebuds got used to it, however, it was passable, just not delicious. "This is good for me," I kept telling myself.


MY EARLIER PROCLAMATION: "I successfully staved off the urge to buy a Janome" was premature. This afternoon I bought a Janome Memory Craft 6600P (wheeee!), a sewing machine made especially with quilters in mind. Lee helped me bargain them out of having to pay sales tax.

WEATHER FORECAST: Warm, partly cloudy, dry. It absolutely poured about an hour before the sun set. Beautiful gold-lined billows of clouds in the west afterwards.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

AQS Nashville

Photo: This posted speed limit at one of the entrances to Opryland is probably meant to catch one's attention.
"But it's a dry climate," I always say, in defense of the 100+ degrees often experienced in California's Central Valley. Southerners are skeptical. "Oh, you poor thing. 100°? How can you stand it?" By experiencing it in California, that's how. I can tell you for a fact that 87° in Nashville feels like 100° in Sacramento.

My hotel room is across the street from the Opryland Convention Center, so Wednesday morning I walked the couple blocks to the huge complex, found some very nice AQS (American Quilting Society) ladies who led me to the event, since the building is a maze (love the huge greenhouse conservatory), paid my multiday entry fee, and waited for Lee to join me.

When he arrived, he was most interested in the long arm quilting machines. Over the next five hours we talked to several vendors, and I was frequently amazed at the knowledge, creativity, and genius of his engineering mind. One vendor was the developer of a well-known and well-supported computer program for long arm quilting machines, and Lee described to them in detail several ideas he had for solving a longstanding problem they have had with the program. They were pleased with the suggestions and sounded like they would be implementing corresponding changes in an upcoming upgrade.

By 3 pm we were starved, went to the mall for something to eat, and I rushed to attend an evening lecture that turned out not to be worth the effort or the $15 I paid to enter. The speaker's topic was to be a sharing of what she had learned since she started quilting. Instead, she talked about her house, her view (somewhat quilt related, because a good view sooths and inspires the creative soul), her cats, cows, brother, his cars, etc. She finally got to the quilt tips, ideas one could get by reading the equipment-needed page of just about any recent book on quilting for beginners, finished that bit in a few minutes, and ran out of things to talk about 45 minutes before the seminar was to end.

Today I mentioned my disappointment to one of the AQS workers, and she completely understood, because she had been there.

The following is an addendum that didn't post with the above, though I sent it at the same time as one post. Perhaps there is a size limitation for emailed posts. Will have to check.

Today I attended two more lectures, both inspiring, strolled the vendors' aisles at least twice, Lee having returned to work. I was tempted to buy a great dyeing kit but was put off by color limitations and was also tempted to buy a computer program for designing quilts. I bought a cold turkey sandwich for lunch, from which I removed most of the turkey, and got a good look at all the displayed quilts.

This is my first experience at a really big quilt show. I'm sure the competition is stiffer for a show like this than for the less well-known events I have attended in California, but every past show I've been to has also had beautiful quilts, many just as interesting as those I saw today. The AQS show had entries from all over the world, and many were interesting and lovely, with just a bit more Wow factor among the winners than in quilt shows I've seen before.

The first group of quilts I saw were all traditional, and while I admire the workmanship and exactness required for a traditional quilt, I find a whole collection of them just a bit boring. Fortunately, there was a good variety of intriguing and beautifully executed innovative contemporary art quilts. The judges were good choices for their winners.

I am now back in my room, catching up on Shear Genius and Project Runway episodes, enjoying watching what creative people do while under stress.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Froggy quilt exericse

Photos: An exercise in machine piecing, about 14" wide inside the border. This is from the photo below (taken from Rainforest by Thomas Marent – love the photos in that book).

I see that I over simplified the froggie’s tummy in addition to making it look too skinny, and I could have made a few other adjustments. The mouth, for instance, is not obvious enough. I’m tempted to take out my paintbrush and add a bit of shading (will do). This was a lot of fun, though. I loved the challenge, though sewing the little toes just about wore me out.


We are currently driving down the Price Canyon in Utah (if all goes according to plan), nearing our destination, Grand Junction, Colorado.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Days in limbo

Photo: I enjoy this refreshing view of my garden out the double doors of my studio each morning. On first awakening, I go out to the Hideaway and sew for a couple hours before breakfast. Since the garden bunny is now mostly discouraged from destruction by the chicken-wire fencing put up by Dad, her presence as she hops lazily by the doorway seems sort of comfortable and right.

Week's items:
  • Zucchini plants beautiful, waist-high, producing 6-8 squashes per day. I eliminated three of the plants, leaving me with six.
  • Corn ten feet tall, ears sizing up and almost ready to eat.
  • Redwood camp meeting starts next week. This will be my first experience there. I think most of the corn will be eaten by someone else while we're gone.
  • Mom and Dad move the following week. It's still hard to imagine what it will be like without them here.
  • I feel like I'm in limbo; as someone said - stuck between what has gone before and what is yet ahead.
  • Limbo isn't all bad, though. My days are glorious. I revel in my schedule, doing what I want (gardening, quilting) in the morning hours when I feel fresh and energized.
  • Note: If you have Ticketless Travel Funds held by Southwest Airlines (that's the airline that lets you have two pieces of checked luggage and a carry-on, all for free), don't lose the confirmation number from your canceled flight. I wanted to apply funds from a flight I canceled in April, but not finding the number as fast as I wanted, I called Southwest, thinking they'd easily find my excess funds and apply them to my new flight. No deal. The rather unhelpful telephone person had no record of my canceling any flight since 2001, though it was only last April we were talking about. Hung up and searched, and sure enough, I had the number after all and was able to use the $ for one of my August flights.
  • I read somewhere that if you use a photo taken by someone else as inspiration for a quilt, you should ask the photographer for permission. It seems that would apply if you use the photo with hardly any changes, but what if you make significant alterations so that even the photographer would have difficulty recognizing the source?
  • My goal of completing my current works in progress will not be realized, so my downsized goal before the summer's travel begins -- because I don't want a stray breeze or child making any changes to the block order while I'm gone -- is to finish putting together the loose tumbling block blocks that are on the ping pong table. The design wall is not wide enough for this one - and that's a whole 'nuther problem to consider, what with the window in the way. I think a hinge is in my future.

Monday, July 14, 2008

African Safari

I named the finished one-block wonder quilt "African Safari," because the original fabric includes prints of lion, giraffe, gazelle, zebra and hippo in a variety of unnatural colors (green, salmon, gold, black). It took awhile to figure out how to do the hollow cube blocks the right size, but the basic concept of how to create them is simple.

I am having troubles with my camera making rectangular objects look rounded.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Week's quilting progress

Photo #1: "Benediction" is almost completed. This week I did the quilting and binding. It is unique in that the background strips are lapped like roof shingles. I spent a bit of time unraveling the raw edges of the overlapped ends. The three tree trunks are primarily fused, but their edges are likewise fringed by my spending some time pulling threads, unraveling. The glittery falling leaves are fused to the edges and not raveled. All the quilt needs now is a hanging sleeve and some final finessing, leaf stems, for instance. Approximately 45" x 70".

P.S. Raveled and unraveled mean the same thing. Ain't English interestin'?

Photo #2: Next week I plan to border and bind this practice block (currently stuck on my shop wall with blue painter's tape) I made from Ruth B. McDowell's Piecing Workshop . I loved working through the exercises in this book -- excellent practice for what I want to do. Every bit of the piecing is done by machine - right up my alley, because my mantra is, "If it can't be done by machine, it doesn't get done." I think this is about 15" x 15".

Photo #3: Great-grandma's block: My mother is going through her things, getting ready to move back to Colorado. She gave me this block (approximately 17" by 17"), explaining that her mother remembered sitting and watching her mother stitch this block. Every stitch has been done by hand. The block doesn't lie flat, but is rather mounded in the middle. I am trying to figure out what to do about that.

One of my friends wants me to make two quilts for her, bed quilts, I assume. I have no idea what to charge. Does one charge differently for bed quilts than for art quilts? I've been working at quilting as if I were getting paid for it, so I might as well go the next step!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Works in progress

Photo #1: Starting playing around with the layout of tumbling blocks on my design wall. Sewing these together will be similar to sewing the One Block Wonder quilt, i.e. very repetitive.

Photo #2: Block of the Month blocks from Beverly's. The color combinations are becoming interesting.

Photo #3: One Block Wonder. I added the border yesterday; it took five hours, due mostly to the addition of the hollow block cubes in the left border.

Photo #4: "Benediction" - I designed this one myself, and sewing it has been more rewarding for me than sewing the traditional blocks above. I like the freedom of inexactness, I guess. Today I added the dark border and painted some of the dark markings on the aspen trunks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

624 triangles!

Photo: The back of my One Block Wonder quilt, lying over my ironing table (take old wooden table, cover with a mattress pad, silvered ironing board cloth, and a stretchy fitted sheet, and there's your ironing table).

Last Tuesday I did the majority of the cutting (648 triangles, but I didn't use them all); Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I sewed them together in sets of three, played around on the design wall with layout, then sewed in strips. Once the strips were finished, I noticed I had to have another row (originally had thought I'd leave the hexagon points on), so added that, though it throws off my color design a bit, since I had to make do with the sets that were left. By then I was so zonked that I didn't want to pick anything apart, so I didn't.

Today I sewed the strips together, then spent two hours ironing them open. Now I've decided I will cut off the hexagon points.

The original fabric, which I should have taken a picture of, was a print containing black and orange zebras, gold elephants, green giraffes, and rectangles containing leaves and various gold, black, green, gray, orange, and fuschia-pink geometrics.

I love the results so far, but must admit that I have hated the construction process. It is too repetitive for me. Not to mention that I've been pushing myself so hard to get this done (no reason, just want to get on with the next quilt) that no wonder I'm tired!

A quilter learns...

A quilter's stash never shrinks.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hollow cube block

Photo: My trial-and-error hollow cube blocks, pinned to my draperies.

I'm working on my One Block Wonder quilt, and since I am so anxious to get started on this right away, I don't at the moment have patience to order and wait for the second book (OBW Encore) that tells the details of how to make the hollow cube. I played around with my scraps for a few hours (actually a lot of hours - buying the book would have been better, but I would have either had to take a trip into town or wait almost a week for it to arrive in the mail) -- and I finally solved most of the issues. Hurrah!

I made three trial blocks. The very first one, not pictured, was so bad that it now resides in my wastebasket. The one on the above left, which I thought I had so carefully measured, was too large, but the last one was just right. It basically involves cutting an inch off one side of the triangles and sewing inch strips back on. However, I plan to get the book anyway, because it has lots of variations, and probably has streamlined the process better than I've been able to figure out.

One thing I learned about sewing the OBW strips together is that the little eartags of fabric are wonderful for matching up seams. Match the ears, and voila! the seams are matched. No pinning required -- a good thing, since all my quilt pins disappeared when I mopped and shined my floor. That little mystery has lasted five days so far.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

9 little projects, all in a row

I have made excellent progress on my quilts, partially due to the fact that school is out, and in great measure due to my lovely Hideaway. Mmmm... love that place!

Here's the line-up of unfinished quilts (it seems I already posted this, but I can't find it) that I have promised myself will be mostly done before I let my brain wander too far into new ideas:
  1. Valentine quilt: top finished, will be professional quilted
  2. Friendship garden quilt: top finished except for border
  3. Aspen quilt: top finished except for border
  4. Time out for fun quiltlet (from Ruth B. McDowell's Piecing Workshop): top finished
  5. One Block Wonder: all 624 triangles cut and sewn into strips; currently devising how to make hollow cube blocks to put into the border
  6. Tumbling blocks quilt: still gathering more black/white fabric to make additional blocks
  7. Antique doily quilt: Will get to when the others are done
  8. Labels for all quilts I have made.
  9. Add photos and details to my quilt scrapbook.
  10. (OK, so I flunked math) Block-of-the-Month - from Beverly's. They are various stars, made of batiks. I am learning that though I love the look of the finished blocks, I hate the process. I want to be more loose and free with my creativity.
My goal is to finish all of these, except #7 and #10, by the end of July, since after that I will be traveling for a few weeks and I don't know when I can get back to it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Flagged Fence

Photo: "Flagged Fence" - a lap quilt I finished this week. It was quick and easy and will be going to the children's hospital, where I've been told they have a plethora of cute baby quilts, but not much for teen boys. I had some patriotic fabric on hand, so I'm hoping this will be enjoyed by someone. If not, I know one of their puppies would love it. Dimensions: 53x71.

I learn a little bit about design and construction with every quilt I make. If I keep this up, I will be an expert in, say, about thirty years. I've given myself a score on Flagged Fence on a scale of 1-10, 1 being blah, and 10 being fabulous: 2.

The plan was to finish two other quilts this week, but searching my stash reveals that I need to shop for border and binding fabrics. Therefore, I am now working on my One Block Wonder quilt. I am finding the stitching of the triangles quite tedious and can't wait to get to another project that doesn't require doing the same thing over and over again!

Taking a break from stitching, I am polishing my Hideaway (studio) floor. This job requires a lot of furniture moving, a lot of sweeping, a lot of mopping, and a lot of polish.

Taking a break from stitching and mopping, I am also spraying for spiders inside (guild members take note) , and dusting for spiders outside. This is supposed to take care of black widows, too. The grocery store had no snake repellant that I could see.

Taking a break from stitching, mopping, and spider extermination, I dug up a section of my garden, preparing for a replanting of cilantro and possibly some butternut or acorn squash. Did you know that winter squash improves in sugar and fat content after being picked? I learned today that if you put them in a dark room for two weeks after picking, they will reach their maximum levels and therefore be more tasty.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Quiz for Quilters

By Carol Bruce, Needlesongs

See Carol's patterns and tips , quilting wallpaper and screensavers at www.needlesongs.com

You will want to write down your answers in order to score them.

1. If your house is taken over by UFOs, you-
a. Call the Air Force and request help from scientists at Area 51.
b. Call the local quilt guild for sewing assistance.
c. Ignore them and start a new quilting project.

2. Prairie points are
a. Squares of cotton folded into triangles.
b. Sewing secrets passed down by pioneer quilters.
c. Arrowheads plowed up in prairie farmland.

3. Stitch in the Ditch is
a. What you do on the side of the road while waiting for your husband to change a flat tire.
b. The name of a new music group.
c. Quilting on a seam line.

4. Binding is
a. Finishing the edge of a quilt.
b. Tying up all of the loose, left-over fabric scraps in neat bundles to give to the thrift shop.
c. The best way to tie up the kids and keep them quiet while you quilt.

5. Batting is
a. One of your child's practice activities in gym class.
b. Pounding on the cotton layer to flatten it before sandwiching it into the quilt, before quilting.
c. The inside squishy layer of the quilt.

6. A Fabric Stash is
a. A rectangular plastic tub used for storing all of the fabrics for one quilt project.
b. A special closet outfitted to hold quilt fabric.
c. Quilt fabric that fills all available space in the house and garage.

7. Strip piecing is
a. Trying to quilt at odd times, even while changing clothes.
b. Sewing long strips of fabric together.
c. Strip mining on small pieces of land.

8. If, Heaven forbid! You prick your finger and bleed on the quilt, you should
a. Give it up as a lost cause and throw away the quilt because it isn't perfect.
b. Ignore it and keep quilting.
c. Spit on a scrap of cotton or wad of thread and use that to scrub the blood out immediately.

9. Yo Yo
a. An old-fashioned child's toy, often used as a template for drawing circles on fabric.
b. A special hello greeting among quilters.
c. A fabric circle with the outer edge folded and gathered.

10. Backing is
a. When a quilt is finished and won't lie flat, you cover it with a sheet and a large piece of plywood, and have your spouse back the car over it a few times.
b. The underneath layer of the quilt sandwich.
c. When you find "backers" to finance the fabric for the next quilt project.


1. a. 0 points b. 2 points c. 3 points
2. a. 3 points b. 1 point c. 0 points
3. a. 2 points b. 0 points c. 3 points
4. a. 3 points b. 2 points c. 1 point
5. a. 0 points b. 1 point c. 3 points
6. a. 1 point b. 3 points c. 10 points
7. a. 1 point b. 3 points c. 0 points
8. a. - 3 points b. 1 point c. 3 points
9. a. 1 point b. 0 points c. 3 points
10. a. 1 point b. 3 points c. 0 points
There is no pass or fail, but a score of

-3 to 8 suggests that either you are a raw beginner or perhaps you are more suited to bowling.
9 to 19 says there's hope, but you need to work on it!
20 to 29 says you're on your way to a blue ribbon.
30 to 36 tells the world you're definitely a pro!
37 is a perfect score! Why are you wasting time taking this quiz? You should be quilting!

Friday, June 20, 2008


Things I accomplished this week:
  1. De-spidered the Hideaway (studio). Things the spiders accomplished this week: Re-spidered the Hideaway.
  2. Picked zucchini daily. Things the zucchini plants accomplished this week: Produced more zucchini.
  3. Pulled and hoed weeds. Things the growing system accomplished this week: Grew more weeds.
  4. Watered the garden. Things the solar system accomplished this week: Dried out the garden.
  5. Dusted the house. Things California accomplished this week: Reapplied dust to the house.
  6. Washed the car. I haven't yet driven it since its bath, so it is still clean.
  7. Worked on the patriotic quilt for the children's hospital. All that's left is the binding. Multiple mistakes were made all through this one, including losing a block that could not be replaced and so forced the quilt to be smaller than originally planned. The block was only found today, too late. The mistakes forced me to change my original plan, and, as usual, ended up with a better product than I had originally envisioned -- although I usually don't have a concrete idea in my mind of what I will do. I just dive in and see what inspirations strike as I go along.
  8. Pruned some volunteer shrubbery around the house preparatory to pulling them out altogether.
  9. Planted the second crop of corn in the garden. They peeked out of the soil yesterday.
  10. Tried to flood out the garden gopher. Did not succeed.
  11. Picked and ate zucchini, chard, green beans, beets, onions, mulberries, apricots.
  12. Practiced all of Ruth B. McDowells' quilting techniques in her Piecing Studio book. I can't wait to try those techniques on a design of my own, but I have about four quilts still to go in my unfinished projects pile. I shall refrain from major fabric shopping for now.
  13. Repaired my crashing computer by removing Trend Micro Antivirus and reinstalling Norton Internet security. Five hours to download the updates.
  14. Avoided driving to town as much as was possible. $aving ga$...
Now that I'm out of school, I love getting up early, about 6 a.m. and working outside for an hour or two in the cool of the day, followed by breakfast and quilting (or etc.) in the Hideaway until I start perspiring, usually about 11 am.

When it gets too warm in the Hideaway for comfort (and I being too thrifty to run the A/C in a 1600 sq/ft room for just one person), I come into the house to do housework and cook (yes, I actually do those things), eat lunch with my parents who live next door (for now), have a nice siesta (to make up for my early mornings and late nights), and work on my scrapbooks until it's cool enough to go back out to the Hideaway, about 7 pm, where I have a great time stitching away until about 10 pm .

I don't know when I've had such a satisfying week, satisfaction gained primarily from items 3, 4, 6-9, 11-13. It's a good mix of physical activity and creativity, interspersed with my much-loved weekly guild get-together to provide social interaction.

Now I need to work on a to-do list for all the things I want to add to the mix.

Tonight: Sixth grade graduation.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friendship Garden Quilt (top is done)

Photo: This is progress as of about noon today. Much better without the white sashing, don't you think?

I am thinking of not doing a border on this one, so all I need to do is to make the quilt sandwich, quilt, and add the binding.

Looking at this quilt just makes me feel happy. My two blocks in the middle are surrounded by the blocks of my friends, who have surrounded me with love and support during the past several years, just when I needed it most.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Friendship Garden Quilt (continuing evolution)

Photo: The next stage, separated blocks on my new "design wall."

As per my plan, I made a simple design wall by nailing the right side of a discarded flannel-backed plastic table cloth to the plywood wall in my studio. The blocks cling to the flannel back of the tablecloth just fine, but I do need something I can stick pins into.

In my vast three years of quilting experience, such vawst experience, m'dear, I have never ripped apart so many seams, not so much because of a technical mistake (unless you count ugliness as a technical mistake), but because I didn't like the sashing colors I had used. I did not photograph the second version, that with the dark-blue shadow frames with the almost-dark-blue sashing. There was just not enough contrast between the two colors to make the shadows effective. After stitching just a few rows, I ripped them apart, picked all the thread pieces off the fabric with blue painters' tape, and replaced the almost dark-blue with a lighter fabric. You can see pieces of it here in the upper left and lower right corners of each block.

Close inspection of this photo will reveal, besides the shadow-frame changes (burgundy to dark blue, white to my new fabric (which I can't describe and wish I hadn't thrown the selvage away), narrow 1/4" borders around each block.

Now that I think of it, I wonder if making a scrapbook of selvages and fabric samples would be helpful. Hmmm...

I just noticed that the signature block, lower left, looks like a face with blue lips. Ha!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Friendship Garden Quilt (more)

Photo: The next step on this quilt was to sew on the sashing, and here is the result. I don't like it. I think the white sashing detracts from the overall effect. (I took this photo with my cell phone, just cuz it was handy.)

The guild made suggestions on rearrangement of the blocks, which I did, and I removed the little blue squares (see previous photo), moved the blocks closer together, and sewed it together with the aforesaid hated white sashing.

I pulled it all apart yesterday, stitch by stitch. As long as it was in pieces, I had noticed how well the narrow border looked around the two too-small blocks, so I decided to border all of the blocks in the same way. For the needed fabrics, I went to the new local Beehive Quilt store (nice, friendly place, with great fabric choices) to add a different narrow border around each block, and dark blue marbled fabric for the shadow frames, less dark-blue for the sashing.

What I really need is a design wall. I think I will make one this week.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Friendship Garden Quilt

Photo: Rough layout of my current project on my design wall.

This is not the traditional "friendship garden" quilt. I am calling this "Friendship Garden" because it is being made from blocks created by the five members of the Friendship Garden quilt guild that meets weekly at my place. Someone, I won't say who, calls us the "guilty girls."

We each made five sets of two 12.5" blocks and one 4.5" signature block, and swapped them around, giving us ten blocks each. The 4.5" signature blocks go together to make an additional 9-patch, and each of us made an additional block for ourselves. My quilting friends are quite talented, don't you think?

You can see that two of the blocks (top right, middle bottom) have a very narrow border around them. That is because they turned out slightly smaller than the rest, and adding the border made them all the same size, or close enough to it to trim the shadow frame to make them all exactly the same.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Time to create

Photo: Look at this 15-foot long table runner I made for my studio/entertainment area in May. Ain't it wunnaful? Anyone want a tie to match? :)
  • I'm always excited when I can make something out of scraps on hand. I still need to quilt down the center. My idea is to apply some micro-Velcro every couple of feet down the middle, then make seasonal patches to apply to the runner. With the colors I have in the border, any seasonal theme should fit just right.
  • School is over, and I have retired. Woohoo! My students wrote me some sweet good-bye notes, and they all seem to wish I were coming back next year.
  • A rabbit crept under my garden fence and ate ALL my soybean plants.
  • The mulberry tree is still producing yummy, sticky fruits for me to munch on.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Valentine quilt

Photo: During May I finished the top from the Valentine charm swap I participated in last January.

This one is a color combination I wouldn't naturally choose, but I got all the five-inch charms from an internet swap, and it was fun to put together, using the similar techniques to those that I used on my quilt, "Lost in the Woods," from the book, Thinking Outside the Block. Though I had originally planned to cut the edges straight, all viewers have voted for me to keep them as is (see above). I whined about the amount of time it would take to put on the binding, but I must admit I like it that way, too.

I think I will look for a long-arm quilter to do the quilting on this one. It will be a new experience for me, to have someone else put their mitts on my work. I hope it will be a positive experience!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

School,Snakes, & spiders

That last question is going to be ignored for now, what with the madness of what hits the public schools every year about this time -- testing. Testing scores have become all important during these No Child Left Behind (i.e. no child left without being squeezed through the mold) years, more important than creativity, process of problem solving, discovery, and individuality.

I am with 21 fifth graders, almost all of whom are second language learners. In addition to, or rather, instead of some of the other regular curriculum, they receive 35 minutes of English Language Development education each day. That's a side issue. There are too many "mandated" items in the curriculum to fit into a given school day.

One of my students was very tired yesterday, the first day of testing. He laid his head on his desk, and after 20 minutes had not answered one question on the test. Then he claimed had to go to the bathroom. I walked him out and took the opportunity to ask what was up.

"What's up, Lucas?" I asked.

"I'm sleepy."

"Yeah, I can tell. Why are you so sleepy?"

"My mom couldn't get someone to watch me last night, so I had to go to WalMart with her when she went to work. I got tired of looking at all the stuff in WalMart, so I had to find a place where I could sit and wait until she got off work."

"When does she get off work?"

"Eleven o'clock."

Since WalMart is about 20 minutes from their home, this child did not get sleep until nearly midnight.

Today Lucas was still sleepy.

"Did you go to WalMart again last night, Lucas?" I asked.

"No, my cousin came over and I watched TV until midnight."

"What do you watch that late at night?" I asked. "I can't ever find anything interesting to watch that late."

He couldn't answer me.

This is one of the children for whom the test will tell us nothing except how poorly he does on tests when he is so tired he can't focus. He is supposed to have a learning disability, but some of it may be due to a parenting disability.

And then there is Miguel. He just moved here from Mexico, doesn't speak a word of English except for those words that sound like Spanish words. He was given the test, all in English, and carefully looked over each question and bubbled in his answers. He might as well have emulated Joe,who didn't bother to look at the reading passages or the questions. He just filled in his bubbles randomly, and finished the test in 10 minutes (why so long, is my only thought), while many of the others took 90 minutes or more.

The state must get its scores, no matter how tough it is on the child, no matter how invalid they are. No child left untortured.

Two days of testing done; three to go.

As to the snakes and spiders, I'm taking care of those things myself these days. There we were, our Friendship Garden Quilting guild, stitching and bitching away this evening (so one of us loves to say, enjoying feeling boldly risqué), when one of us announces with a bit of excitement, "Is that a snake?"

Yeah, right. This girl is the one who sees a black widow spider behind every web.

I look, and sure enough, there is a snake crawling brazenly across my green Jackson Pollock workshop floor. I do a swift mental calculation. Nope, these ladies will not do anything about the snake that is barring their way from the exit, and if I do nothing, I will be stuck with them all night - not to mention the fact that I'd have to check under the cushions of my sofa every time I wanted to sit down. Not that I mind about my friends staying all night, but after a day of torturing students, I will enjoy some quiet time alone, without a loose snake to become paranoid about. So I go over and pick up the yard-long garden snake behind the head, something I've never done before. All my other snake handling experiences have been when some snake lover handed me his pet to hold, and they were all much smaller. This one immediately coiled around my hand like a boa constrictor and squeezed. Rather unsettling. I took it out and flung it onto the lawn where it bounced and disappeared in the darkness.

I wonder if it will wander back inside again. I hope not.

Earlier one of the ladies had, with great vigor, announced the presence of one of my regular companions, "Spider! Right over here!"

Now this one I believe. "It's one of my pets," I say. Spiders abound in my rural location.

After the snake incident which had forced me away from sewing on my 15-foot long table runner, I thought I might as well deal with the spider while away from my sewing machine.

I looked in the indicated spot. Web of the black widow sort, but no spider. I moved a box, and Mrs. Black Widow crawled up the wall into a corner. Not having the same appreciation for black widows as I do snakes, I smashed her with the corner of a CD case.

Now my quilting guild is thinking of sewing elsewhere.