Sunday, November 25, 2007

On the Road

Later today or tomorrow morning, depending on the weather, I will begin my trek to New Port Richey, Florida, to clear out my father's apartment there. This trip is very bitter sweet for me as it marks the end of era for my family. For about 30 years my father, and my mother, (before she died), spent half of the year in Florida and half in Canada. From the reports I am getting from Canada, my father will not be visiting Florida again as his physical condition has not materially improved, and his mental condition continues to deteriorate, since his stroke back in August.

Many of our family heirlooms are in Florida and it will be my job, and my brothers when they get there, to weed out what needs to be kept and what needs to be tossed/donated/given away.

There are a couple of weird little chairs that have seats upholstered with needlepoint, the backgrounds worked by my grandmother. And the silver tea set that I only remember being used once but is quite lovely. Then there are the soup tureens and crystal that my father collected that do not fit into the lifestyles of this generation. And there are the shoe boxes full of undocumented photographs and the bookcases full of books that will need to sorted. What about the tea cup collection, the battered 78's or the evening gowns my mother wore on the cruises they took together? All will need to be evaluated and disposed of in some manner.

Although I have known for a few years that I would need to do this, I hate it. I feel like I am wiping out part of my father's life and, at the same time, closing out a chapter of my own. To add insult to injury, I will need to travel to Canada after I return to Texas to officially be told the dismal prognosis for his future health and, probably, begin the process to have him transferred to a long term care facility. I know it has to be done but I hate it, hate it, hate it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ultimate Shopping Bag Update

I thought you might enjoy seeing the bag as a doggy carrier -

I won't say he enjoyed it but he endured it quite well. Sorry for the devil dog eyes!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ultimate Shopping Bag

With Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, upon us, I thought I would share another project from the Quilt Festival. It is called the Japanese Market Bag and was presented on Bag Lady Day by a very nce woman with a name I just can't come up with right now.

It is incredibly simple and will hold a days worth of frantic shopping or a wiggly Dachshund or maybe an infant but I haven't tried the latter.

You start with two 30" x 40" rectangles of fabric. Serge them together, wrong sides together. An inner layer, like batting, is not recommended as it may make the bag too bulky. On the 40" sides create two button holes about 1" long on each side of the bag, about 10" from each end. Fold the button hole sides into the interior about 1 1/2" and sew down creating a casing. Thread a cord about 30" long into the side casings through the buttonholes and tie securely. At the top of the bag, create two other casings about 2" wide. Thread two more cords or straps through the casings to make handles. The cords/straps should be about 50" long. My directions may seem odd but here is the one I made the other day. The embroidery was a test for an embroidery pattern I like. The exterior is a rough brown cotton homespun. The interior is a commercailly available orange batik. I think it is best worn acroos the body rather than hanging from a shoulder.
Happy shopping!
PS. The pattern also included a pocket but I did not add one. The recomended size is 4" x 8".

Happy Thanksgiving!

While the rest of you Americans are cooking like mad people in the kitchen, I had plans today to do some house cleaning before Paul and I sit down to a very non-traditional steak and salad meal. My house cleaning hasn't gone very far because AMC is having a Hitchcock festival and I can't resist watching every minute of it. Earlier I saw The Man Who Knew Too Much, now Vertigo is showing with Dial M fo Murder and Rear Window following. Better than Football!

Before anyone gets all outraged at my non-traditional celebration or all sad that I won't be at a big meal please remember that I was originally Canadian. Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, on Columbus Day Weekend. Those festivities were spoiled for me many years ago because of the job I had that had a huge deadline every year on the day after Columbus Day. With a four hour drive each way to my parent's home and the huge deadline the next day I rarely enjoyed myself. Many years I would be at work that Tuesday until mid-night (when the system closed) trying to blance the Bank's budget submissions. Not conducive to a relaxing Thanksgiving meal! American Thanksgiving, while I was married, always meant another long drive each way to my in-law's home and spending four days with them. They are very nice people but there is only so much I can take of whiny sisters-in-law and long discussions about people I knew nothing about.

Be that as it may, please accept my best wishes for a healthy and happy Thanksgiving day for everyone and a calm and joyful holiday season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sleep of the Innocents

So sweet after a day spent destroying 4 pairs of shoes, one doggie bed and peeing all over the kitchen. Not Alex - the girls!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Carter Smith Bias Top

Suzy Seed has allowed me to publish her instructions for the Carter Smith bias top I talked about the other day. Here they are (with additions by me):
Take your full bust measurement and subtract 4- 6 inches from that amount. If you are working with really stretchy fabric on the bias, subtract 6", very firm 4". The answer is the length of one side of a square of your fabric. If possible, rip your fabric into a square. Rip/cut another square with each side equally one half of the first square.
For our example: Full bust measurement equals 44", thus each side of the large square will be 40", the small sqare will have 20" sides. For you techie types, the small square will have one quarter the area of the larger square.

Attach the smaller square to the larger one at one corner by serging. The blue masking tape represents ther serged seams.

Pull the unstitched corner of the small square to the opposite corner of the larger square and serge along this edge making a funny looking box. Stop serging a bit from the end for your hand to go through - try your hand in the opening to see ifs the right size.

This is a little tricky but just follow along. Hold two opposite corners of the small square away from each other and smooth into place. Cut a slit along this edge to just before the serged corners. This slit is for your waist.
Hold the two corners of the large square away from each other and measure a slit eight inches long at the middle. Cut out this slit about 2 1/2 inches down form the edge for your neck.

Serge around all the openings... wrists, waist and neck. Turn the serged edges to the inside and top stitch down.

You now have a fabulous top or slit the front down the middle and make it a jacket. Use the top as is if you are using your final fabric or how about using the top/jacket as a canvas for your best embellishments?

Here is the one I made... please note that the wrist openings were cut incorrectly by me as I forget to leave an opening. You will do better with yours.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Site Update

I think its time that I give you some more sites that are a lot of fun.

First up - Perpetual Kid at some of the items offered for sale are bandaids with fake tattoos on them, fake tattoos for the eldery and gingerbread men cookie cutters wth parts missing. A little twisted, I admit, but a lot of fun none the less.

Sew, Mama, Sew is posting tutorials available on the web all this month. There really is a lot of stuff out there ... even things that I have no interest in ever making like felt donuts or recycling a bath mat. Check it out at

Another site, by a fellow Kngwood resident, has the most beautiful and simple things for making or just admiring. Check out A Little Hut at

And have you seen the latest Penguin pictures at Antarctic diary (

Don't forget the funniest blog in the internet - just remember that it is not for kids as some of the material is definitely for adults only.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Another DIY Bias Top

Yesterday I attended a wearables neighborhood group of the Houston chapter of ASG. The agenda included a topic called 'Carter Smith's Bias Cut Blouse or Jacket'. I thought it would be a presentation on the one bias cut blouse I already had information on as I had no idea who Carter Smith was or why I would care about his garments.

Did I get an education!

Carter Smith is an incredibly talented shibori dying artist who creates high end garments and beautiful silk banners. His website ( shows some of his garments and other work and it is awsome. Check out the K dress and see if you can figure out how he constructs it from squares of fabric with little or no scraps. It's a bit of a mind bender.

Cut to the meeting yesterday. The talented Suzy Seed took a class with Carter Smith at the Surface Design conference this summer and came back with a top that is constructed with a large square of fabric and a small square of fabric. The only leftover fabric comes from an oval cut out of the top for a neck hole plus two scraps from cutting out holes for your wrists. It is a very clever design that anyone can do if they read and follow Suzy's instructions. I failed to follow her directions and made a couple of mistakes this evening when I tried out the design. I've asked Suzy if I can publish her instructions so that we can all enjoy this design. I'll post a photo of how mine came out when I post the instructions.

If you are intrigued by this design idea, experiment with paper first. Take a large square of paper at 8" x 8" plus a small square at 4" x 4". Sew/Tape up the edges. Cut a slit at the waist then cut out an oval for the neckline and two chunks for wrists. It will definitely make you beieve in a fourth dimension or alternative universes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trade A Craft

Several months ago I read about a site called 'Leahpeah's Trade A Craft'. The concept is that people who make stuff usually have some things they have made for no purpose other than they liked the process. In my case it seems to be that I make little funky purses to try out a process but never seem to use them. I do admire them on my mantle but I never seem to go to the places where funky little purses would be useful. I joined the group and for my first trade I put up a crocheted and felted purse that I had made. I traded it for a large color photograoh of a dragonfly scuplture. Remember this bag?... actually I can't find a photo of it but it was brown, pretty free form, lined with linen camo fabric and closed with a wooden leaf button.

This time Leah organized a Christmas themed trade. A few of us signed up and were paired with each other for a more directed trade. I offered to trade with two others and gave them both a choice of a funky little purse or a more Christmasy item. They both opted for funky little purses. If they hadn't I would have traded them one of the embroidered poinsetta wall hangings I have been trying, unsuccessfully (so far) to complete. Here are the purses I mailed out today..
That green felted purse ended up with a large felted flower on it centered with a wonderfully large glass bead that reflected all the colors in the wool.

I hope they both enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed making them and admiring them as mantle decorations... and that they get used!

On a lighter note... The girls and Alex have been showering me with a lot of attention the past few days. In the evening I have ended up with all three of them curled up next to and on top of eah other on the couch. As I was trying to take a picture of the doggie pyramid, Alex decided that he had had enough of that and slipped off the couch to the doggie bed pile under the TV to get a nap.
That's me on the left, working on my lap top with my mouse on its mouse pad to the right of the girls. It's sometimes quite a stretch over their sleeping forms to get to the mouse but they don't seem to mind getting pushed out of the way every once in a while... they just crawl back to their former position regardless of my wishes. With Alex in the pie with them I have to really stretch to reach the mouse.
Ah.. the little prince wondering why the wacky lady with the big lap is flashing lights at him again.

Are they cute or what?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dark Fairy Swap

The clothing company, Free People, sponsors swaps every once in a while for readers of their blog. I participated in the Travel Swap earlier this year and ended up with a custom made silver pendant presented in an embellished box with several other goodies. When I read that they were having another swap based on their new clothing theme of Dark Fairy I just had to participate. Then I took a big gulp and thought 'What the heck's a Dark Fairy?'. I came up with the idea that a Dark Fairy is a creature of the night and therefore needs accessories that will reflect the night.

Here is what I came up with:

I started with a fabric box covered in black fabric embellished with copper and gold threads and copper ribbon. That led to a covered journal, a beaded pen in a fabric slip case, a zippered purse with copper sequins and copper and gold thread, a ribbon covered magic card case, a baggie of extra copper bits, a copper brushed woven belt, a hand dyed silk scarf and some stinky candles. The icing on the cake was a pattern I found at the Quilt Festival for a Fairy House. It makes up into a 20" tall house... perfect as a house for a small pet... like my guys or (heaven forbid!) a cat. I may have gone a bit crazy with the volume of stuff but once I got started, I had a great time figuring out what else I could do with the fabric I was using for the box.
I hope my swap partner will enjoy all the goodies!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Handbags

While my friend was visiting during the Quilt Festival she brought a pattern to show me of a bag she had seen in Virginnia Beach. I liked the style and the fabric choices on the pattern. She loved the actual bags that she had seen made-up in the store offering the patterns. She showed me the pattern within an hour of her getting here and we never saw it again until a couple of hours before she left.

Fast forward to the night before my surgery. I was sorting through the loot I had picked up from the Quilt Festival and found the two bag patterns I had purchased. Lo and behold but they were from the same designer as the pattern my friend had shown me when she first arrived. The company is called Quilts Illustrated ( The bag she loved was the Bow Tucks Tote. I picked up the Weekender Tote and the The Desk Deli. All the samples at Festival had fabric kits available for them in fully co-ordinated color ways. They were also selling Pellon's fusible fleece, which they recommend as the inter-facing for these bags, which made me ask Paul to pick up some from WalMart so I could try these bags.

The Weekender uses fabric for the exterior that I received from my Fall Swap partner in Florida. I had just enough for the exterior and the handles so I don't have enough for the luggage tag that the designer included in the pattern. I used some fabric I bought a while ago for another project for the lining and added a small zippered pouch and an attached change purse to round out the tote. I used the fusible fleece to interface the interior and exterior but I did not use it to interface the pockets... that just seemed like over kill to me. The button is really fabulous but I think I need to move it up a little on the bag so that it fits better with the tote. I added, as suggested by the designer, a purse bottom made out of two layers of mat board and covered it with the lining fabric.

The Desk Deli uses the fabric from the weekender tote lining for most of the tote. I added another fabric cut on the bias for the trim. I admit that I misread the pattern (or maybe I just skipped over this instruction) but the tote is supposed to have a bottom that is two inches smaller than the top of the tote. Ths means mine does not have the nice slanted sides of the pattern. I also eliminated the fleece interfacing for the exterior and for the pockets to reduce the number of layers my machine would have to plow through. The pattern includes instructions for a two layered napkin and the suggestion that you make up five of them if you are giving this bag to a daily user. The interior pockets are set-up to hold disposable silver ware, the napkin, a blue ice freezer pack, snack bars and other condiments. The interior is large enough to hold a water bottle, a microwave meal and anything else you might want to take with you for an office lunch. I have not made a bag bottom but may in the the future.

These patterns are very well written but do require that you read each instruction in order. If I had, I would have made the adjustment required to the sides of the Desk Deli. Be aware that if you follow all the instructions that your sewing machine will be sewing through up to six layers of fleece so plan accordingly.

Watch out for these patterns if you are interested in well thought out instructions that return good results.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Do You Wanna See My Scars?

Since surgery on Monday I have spent most my days in a Vicoden fog. Its a great drug but it makes a normal life almost impossible. On the TV show House, the lead character uses Vicoden like candy to combat his pain and still manages to solve great medical mysteries. I, on the other hand, couldn't seem to get the energy to shower or even change clothes without a huge effort. My days have been running like this:

  • wake up
  • check the time
  • is it AM or PM?
  • look at wounds
  • wiggle out of bed or off couch
  • feed the dogs (scatter required amount of dry food around each of their bowls)
  • water the dogs (pour water from a pitcher at the bowl and hope it makes it)
  • drink something
  • take a pill if tummy is sore from getting up and feeding and watering the dogs
  • turn on TV/PC/radio
  • snuggle down to watch movie/read e-mails/listen to NPR
  • fall alsleep
  • repeat

Paul has been a bit of a saint through all this. Although he is working extended hours, he has been here in the evening to make sure I eat something, giving the dogs some much needed loving and running errands. I sent him out on Tuesday to buy some fusible fleece for me so I could try out a couple of patterns I picked up at the Quilt Festival. I don't know what I was thinking as I didn't use it until today.

Today, I decided to stop the pain meds as this morning I actually got out of bed without yelling out in pain. As long as I don't do anything crazy, such as bend over to pick up the dogs or run the lawn mower, I can handle the occasional twinge. I actually did some sewing today and completed a swap package.

Things are returning to normal but I think I will still be taking a couple of naps every day for another week or so until my system returns to normal. I missed the neighborhood group meeting that meets the second Saturday of the month as I napped through the time I should have been showering and getting ready to go there. I had already sent my regrets and I know I couldn't have stayed awake long enough to drive to the meeting but I really missed being there.

I hope everyone is having a good weekend. I will post my swap package and what I have been working on today on Sunday... if I stay awake long enough :-).

Monday, November 5, 2007

Medical Update

I'm back from surgery and all went well. I do feel like someone with very pointy toed cowboy boots had their way with my ribs but the pain medication seems to be taking the edge off of it. I am to avoid lifting anything that weighs over ten pounds for the next week which will make it tough on me when I am trying to get the dogs to bed at night as only Kelis weighs under that magic number. Paul and his girlfriend were here last night and all day today to fetch and carry for me. They went home this evening but Paul has promised to return tomorrow to help out around here. I hope that the pain goes away soon so I can stop taking the pain meds and get on with the projects I want to begin.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

International Quilt Festival - Part B

The Quilt Festival continued on Thursday but I didn't really do much. My friend from up north had an all day class while I browsed the sales floor. I was continually amazed by the great number of products offered for sale plus the variety... fabric, kits, antique quilts, beads, crystals, jewellry, clothing, knitting wool, shoes, furniture, dinnerware and the list goes on and on and on.
Friday was a different story. Besides more shopping, the Wearables Walk About Luncheon was held. This is where Quilts, Inc. gets a chance to get an up close and personal look at potential participants for the Bernina Fashion Show. Most of the participants were showing individual jackets that didn't fit very well but were embellished to within an inch of their lives. A couple of examples of some of the embellished garments are shown below : a magnificantly embroidered crazy quilt jacket, a jacket with many examples of using bleach as a discharge on black fabric and a lovely felted wool jacket.

A couple of the more amazing garments were the jacket made out of pin-tucked dupioni silk constructed by a member of the Houston ASG chapter and a beautiful suit embellished with metal key rings from an Ace Hardware store. Another suit by a local ASG member made from felted wool made me want to move back north so I could wear something like this.

After the fashion show I got a chance to view some more of the quilts. I seemed to be attracted to those with more linear details. But check out that Moon over Snow one. It makes me cold just to look at it.

I also checked out some of the garments from the Bernina Fashion Show from the evening before. Here are two examples of great concepts gone a little wrong. The gorgeous dress on the left (and sideways... sorry!) did not have a lining and the model apparently showed almost everything on the runway when she adjusted the skirt. The dress was a very impressive garment, totaly wearable and beautifully made.. too bad about the side show. The other one below featured a huge knitted collar on a short jacket. The model wearing it at an informal modelling event mentioned that it was very heavy and itchy but you would never know that from the big smile on her face.

Later I helped to man the ASG booth, looking for new members. The location of the booth stunk and by Friday Evening we had processed only two renewals. If we can't get back on the sales floor, our participation should be limited to a table with brochures rather than tying up so many people's time manning the booth.
Saturday began with a new event - Bag Lady Day. Eight of the faculty presented eight different bags or techniques for constructing purses. This event was a lot of fun for me but some of the projects presented were pretty lame. Linda McGehee of Ghee's, was there and presented a very professional little seminar on inserting zippers. Quilters are very skilled sewers but zippers sometimes defeat their formidable skills. I know that everyone who heard her information came away with the confidence to make more bags with zippers.

We attended the luncheon on Saturday where Charlotte Angotti presented an hour long talk called... 'Why don't you make more quilts?'. My friend is part of Charlotte's posse which meant I got to sit with some of the group at a table right at the front of the hall. Charlotte has a wonderfully easy going style and, although able to complete the most complex patterns, she prefers to work on quilts with simple elements but great results due to creative fabric selection and unique block placement. If you ever get a chance to participate in one of Charlotte's mystery classes you will not be disappointed.
Sunday I was paranoid about the time change and ended up waking up my friend for her plane an hour before she needed to get up to head for the airport. Was my face red! I had a class on using Shiva Paint Stix which was a bit of a bore but I did get a chance to try out various techniques for using them. I plan to use them in a future project that I will share on this site.

With that class, and a further browse through the sales floor, the International Quilt Festival ended for me for this year. I am incredibly weary and my head is spinning with all sorts of new ideas. I will sleep well tonight before my surgery tomorrow. I hope my recovery is swift as there are so many things I want to get going on. I'm just glad I'm not working these days or I would not have any time to accomplish any of the projects I want to complete.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

International Quilt Festival - Part A

Wednesday, my first day at the International Quilt Festival this year, was a lot of fun. I took a class with Traci Bautisti, of Collage Unleashed fame, for a day of playing with fabric to create a wacky, large tote bag. Mine is not finished, actually not even half finished, but I see possibilities. The day began with us painting, stenciling, scraping and using Traci's full repetoire of fabric altering techniques. This took most of the morning. She brought an incredible amount of materials for us to use and was very generous in distirbuting them among the 20 or so stidents in he class. The afternoon was devoted to taking the manipulated fabric, adhering it to fusible web and adding them to our fabric scraps to create quilted exterior for our bags. Here is a look at some of the work done that day.

One woman in the class is someone I think any of us would like to spend some time with as she seemed to be very creative and wore it on her sleeve! She wore a wonderful fabric collaged jacket, pictured below, and, not pictured, is the bottom edge which was cut to echo the flowers ... a really beautiful treatment. In addition, she had painted her shoes to look like bare feet with painted toe nails. Her fabric choices were just as wild. I wish I had had a chance to spend some non-class time with her to hear about her creative process.

Wednesday evening was when the non-winners and the rest of us learned about the winners in all the quilt competitions. One of the quilts really impressed me for its originality. This quilt was created by piecing four large triangles of hand-dyed shaded fabric that was quilted into a one inch grid. The corners were appliqued with wonderful flowers and corner lace details. The applique was particularly spectacular as they were all created out of double layers of white fabric so that the base of dark gray fabric would not show through the designs. Here is a picture that I took trying to capture the beauty of this wonderful quilt. More winners can be seen at .

Today, Thursday, was the first full day of shopping and, surprisingly I did not over indulge. One of the highlights of my day was meeting Mark Lipinsky of Quilter's Home fame. He autographed a copy of the magazine for me with the comment 'Quilt Nude Dude'. What a guy! If you are looking for a different kind of quilting magazine, check out Quilter's Home. I don't think you will be disappointed.