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.