Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I truly used to hate New Year's resolutions. It seemed so lame to start the New Year with new goals each year. It seemed like I was always trying to quit bad habits and lose wieght. It usually took about 48 hours for me to break them all and give up on them by the end of January. Now that I am a lot older I find New Year resolutions a good way to make simple promises to myself. Here is what I think I will be able to do this year:
  1. Eat Less, Move More - stop buying snacks so much and walk the BIG block with the dogs at least once a week. When its very cold or very hot here our walks can be quite short but one big walk a week should work well for us My ultimae goal is to do this more than once a week but let's see how I dowith once a week for a while.
  2. Finish UFOs - okay, this was on the list for this year with a goal of one a month. I found myself catching up every few months or so this year no numbers. The definition is being refined to included projects where I have all the bits and not started on them as well things I have started and not finished. As I sit here I see at least three projects that fit into the new definition so I think I will not be at a loss for old projects to complete.
  3. Make a weekly collage - My concept is that every week I will sit down and play with all the stuff that comes into the house on a weekly basis. Add to that the little bits of stuff that I generate plus all the little bits of stuff that are collecting in the corners and I should have enough materials to last a long time. I have a bunch of 6" x 6" primed canvasses that would work great for a weekly little project. I could practice new techniques on a small scale and maybe get the creative juices running again. The real bonus to all of this is that I will keep track of my sales taxes for the tax man on the back of the canvasses so I will not have to spend a couple of days running the ten key to add them all up at the end of the year. So, a little creative but way practical for me as well. Definitely speaks to my acocuntants soul and my wanna be artistic self!

So that's it - three simple resolutions. None seem particularly onerous and all are pretty open as to what it would take to keep them. I'll see how it goes and I am actually looking forward to the third one as I think it will help give me a boost.

Are you making any resolutions for 2009?

PS - The big doggie quilt from a couple of posts ago will be going to the Vet that looks after Alex and the girls. She is a great Vet and did not charge me for some fo the many check-ups he had while he was recovering from t he dog attack in the Spring. She is very pregnant and I think this quilt will work well for late night feedings and is varied enough in its fabrics to hide any little stains the new one baby may generate. It's in the dryer right now so as soon as its done I will be off to the Vet to pick up more heart worm pills and drop off the quilt.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

So Long 2008...

and good ridddance to you!

2008 was a crappy year in many ways for me.

Most of the year seemed to center on my Father's deteriorating health, and his eventual death in September. Since then I seem to be spending a lot of time focusing on his estate. Although I thought I was well prepared for all of the issues surrounding his care I was really just figuring it all out when he passed away. I try to forget about his weird mood swings and infantile behavior but it is hard to remember the articulate and loving Father he could be. I am also trying to forget all the unhappy stories I have heard over the last year from my brothers and others. I really do miss talking to him about the stock market or the latest proclamations from the Roman Catholic Church. Those were lively discussions and we agreed to disagree on many issues.

Financially, 2008 really ended on a down note. It's kind of scary when I hear that my retirement savings will be earning 4.5% in 2009 only because that is the lowest rate allowed in the retirement plan. When 4.5% is considered an excellent rate and money market accounts run at about 1.0% I really begin to wonder if the magic of compound interest will ever come back.

Creatively 2008 also sucked. I tried a lot of new things but I find myself going back to tried and true when I am asked to teach at an ASG group meeting. Maybe its because I have been using my stash more than in the past but I really think that I was too distracted to really spend time on learning anything new.

2008 was also a lousy year for Alex. His battering back in April has left permanent scars on his body and on his temperment. He continues to be hyper-alert when we are out for our walks. We still can't walk past where he was attacked without him tugging to go back home. Carefree wacky walks will return with more time but I'm getting a little tired of the power walks home.

There were some high points but they seem hard to quantify right now. One thing about being a gloomy gus is that I have started to work on my 2009 New Year Resolutions. 2008's were, generally, to eat less, move more and complete UFO's. I did complete about 15 UFOs (including the Doggie Quuilt from last time) and I am still lighter than this time last year but I think I need to work on other things next year.

Until I figure it out, have a great end of year celebration. The pack and I will be celebrating with some BIG doggie cookies and a lovely bottle of wine.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Two for the Price of One

Last year some time I was at Quilts by the Bay and saw some cute fabirc designed by Loralie Harris. You know her stuff ... cute line drawings of women , a little naughty, a little nice. Well the Doggie Delight fabric is just as cute and it had been put into a kit called 'How Much is That Doggie in the Window?'. It was darling and had these incredibly neat paw print blocks to outline the central panel of fabric. I took it out the other day, intending to make it into a wndow shade for a window that the dogs like to sit in and bark at everyone. My hopes were dashed when I realised that the panel would not make a great window shade and that the paw print blocks required a zillion bitty pieces of fabric to complete.

On to Plan B. I added a few borders and added a bunch of 3" inch blocks as the exterior borders. Here's what I came up with using the fabric in the kit:
It came out to about 54" x 71".... a good size for a twin size bed of some dog lover OR a great size for my three to lie under during this cold weather. I haven't bound the edges yet but I intend to do them all by machine... double stitching wherever I can in case the crew decides to chew on the edges... they seem to do that a lot with my quilts.

While I was sorting the scraps I realised I had a lot of strips about 22" long and various widths. Instead of putting them into the scrap bin I sewed them together, added some black fabric and ended up with this Chinese Coins design quilt top.
Its about 40" by 54" and I don't know what I will do with it. Heck, you can never have too many quilts when it gets close to freezing here! And, does anyone know why this design is called Chinese Coins? It certainly doesn't look like any coins I have ever seen.

So that's one project almost completed and another I need to finish up. The larger one I will probably finish tomorrow. The smaller one will probably need to wait until I can find a black batt before it can be quilted. Even though I am hibernating like a bear these days, its nice to know I can get something done.

I hope your Christmas went well and that the coming New Year brings lots of good things to you and yours.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fabric Sorting

A local group that works with young women had gathered fabric to teach the women to sew. They have abandoned thier sewing program and were about about to throw out three huge boxes of fabric. The incredible Ms. L. was visiting them, saw the fabric and decided that I would be the best person to sort through it and find fabrics for the Once Upon a Time Bee of the local quilt guild.

I took me about two hours to burn test each piece and divide the results into five piles. The piles I sorted things into were quilting cotton, polyester, polyester blend, knit (for cancer caps), felt (for kid crafts) and miscelleaneous real fabric (wool, deco cottons, linen etc.). The largest pile was for the polyester, the next was for the knits, then the blends, the miscellaneous, the felt and the quilting cotton.

Yup - the quilting cotton was the smallest pile and consisted of just one piece of fabric.

There were two funny finds in all this fabric. One was a huge piece of fake brown sheep skin. It's huge so I am hoping to find someone who makes stuffed anmals to take it off my hands. The other odd find was a very scrappy, twin-sized quilt top. It is machine pieced and seems to include about 100 different fabrics. It had been washed in the past and is falling apart in some places but that does not take away from the excellent workmanship of the many complex seams.
Here's what it looks like:

Can you believe that red plaid?

I don't know what to do with it. Right now I have it gently soaking in a mild soap to remove some funky smells. I think I will repair the blocks but then I am at loss as to what to do with it. I know people collect these little wonders but I am not sure if anyone would want one in this condition. Is it worth money? Should the proceeds go to the Bee for more fabirc purchases or back to the for-profit group that threw it out in the first place?

Is there a gem like this hidden in all those 60's polyesters you inherited from a relative? Have you looked?

I'll let you know what happens to it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Best Darn Glue

The other day when I was in Texas Art Supply I was looking for a great glue to repair a paper fan that had ripped. Yes, I have lots of glue in the house but I think what I had would have changed the look of the paper. I did not want it to wrinkle the paper, make it shiny or add any lumps. I saw Nori glue and thought to give it a try. What a revelation! It dried invisibly and did not change the look of the fan at all. Of course it could not replace the paper that had come off but it did a nice job.

Here are the results:

The other thing that is great about this glue is that Alex decided that it would be a great toy. Even though his jaws were completely locked on the bottle it did not break. That is a great bottle of glue.

The fan, you ask? It was part of a grab bag exchange at one of the sewing guild parties I went to in th last couple of weeks. It was created by the incredible Carol Watson and came with a dozen Japanese head wraps. The ones I received are about 14" wide and 36" long, white cotton with script or figures printed on them. I still don't know if I will just make them into tea towels or use them in some project. The possibilities are endless!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Growth Sector

I saw in the New York Times today that handmade gifts/crafts are a growth sector in the economy these days. I guess that means my recent stash additions have really been helping! Check out the article here for more information.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Quick gift Idea

Kumihimo is a Japanese style of braiding. In general you take a circle or rectangle of some rigid material, with a hole in the middle and weave thread through the middle to make a cord. For about $100.00 you get a fancy set-up and create beautiful braids. OR for about $4.00 you can buy a kit for kids and get a similar result. I took the cheap way out when I saw the kits at Texas Art Supply the other day. In about an hour and a half I produced this:
I did make an error at some point so my yellow diamonds became a little wonky but misson accomplished. I now understand, at least a little, why this is such a mezmerising activity. I also think this is a great kit for a gift that can be used for many months by a young crafter. Now that I have the basic technique down I know I am going to try other colors in this pattern and other weaving patterns. Maybe use more strings, different kinds of string, different weaves .. the possibilities seem endless.

UFO #14

As part of my effort to end the year with a burst of finishing I finally finished up the quilt originally talked about in my 'Tale of Two Quilt Kits' posting just over a month ago. Then I was loving the cheater cloth quilt and hating the Infinity Blocks quilt. I decided last night that I just had to get the Infinity Blocks quilt off the floor and into a finished quilt.

Here's how it came out:
Weirdly enough I am now almost in love with the Inifity Blocks quilt. It's very lightly quilted and I pretty successfully machine sewed on the binding without any hand work. It came out to about 60" x 60" ... agood size for three puppies to suggIe up with their favroite human. must admit though that what really makes me smile with this project is the back of the quilt. I originally planned on just using plain muslin for the back but ended up using a lot of dribs and drabs of sample dyes to produce this:
This has even been through the washing machine and dryer and the gold dye/paint stayed put. I did the dying with the fabric hanging off the metal gazebo in the back yard on one of those windy, sunny days we have a Texas. I guess the sun really can set al kinds of dyes without all that heat setting by an iron.
This project took about four hours to get done. How do I know? I watched two very different movies while quilting it and doing the binding. I watched 27 Dresses for the first half and Rendition for the second half. 27 Dresses is definitely good for this kind of work and is a nice light romantic comedy. Rendition is just too scary and I had to pause my work several times to replay key scenes. Rendition also plays with your sense of time with past and present intertwined seamlessly until near the end when the whole thing straightens out. I had to replay the last half hour before I got it all straight.
Have a great week!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Today I had the distinct pleasure of delivering a wole trunk load of kid suitable craft supplies to Sew Crafty Houston so that the Mothers and Daughters Craft Club could create craft kits for the Star of Hope Mission. Sarah, the owner, thinks the stuff I brought doubled what they had already collected. The kits are being made up on Monday and I am sure the kits will be much used by the kids.

The neatest part about all this is that this project was dreamed up by the kids in the club. They wanted to do something for the homeless kids and, since they are way too young to volunteer their services (aged 6 - 8 years old) the kits were what they decided to do.

What a great idea! I am scheming with some folk out here in Kingwood to provide a similar service to the kids at the battered women's shelter or to other organizations helping displaced families locally. If we can properly assess the need I hope we can make this a regular project. My concept is to take orphan quilt blocks and/or other stash fabrics and make tote bags for the kids, fill them up with craft supplies and a quilt. I think most kids would enjoy having such stuff during a dificult time.

I'll let you know if this all works out. Wish me luck!

And for those of my friends up North... so sorry about the snow but you can be a little grateful that its a weekend so you can fully enjoy it!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Doggie Cam

As I mentioned yesterday a friend got me a Pet Cam for Christmas and I just had to try it out immeadiately. Here is what Alex saw today:

A pile of fabric scraps:
Ginger out the bathroom window:
More ginger outside the bathroom window:
Ceiling watching:
Most of the pictures were of the wall of the bathtub while he was sleeping while I was out.
So this is Alex's exciting life - staring at things we never pause to see. I think I should tidy up my quilt scraps before I let hm have it again.
Have a good weekend!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Duds

I try to walk the dogs at least twice a day when they are here. Sometimes that may mean just making it to the end of the driveway, other times we explore the whole neighborhood. One thing that can make these walks unpleasant is when one of the dogs slips his or her collar. This drives me nuts as I try to keep the collars snug enough that they won't slip them BUT my darling son insists on keeping the collars loose enough that you can pass a small Mac truck between the collar and their neck without any constriction. Instead of continuing to grumble I decided to buy them all harnesses for their walks.

I was hesitant to do this as when Alex was rescued the vet reported that he was in a harness and it had grown into his skin. YUCK! I tried him on one earlier and although he tolerated it quite well it just didn't fit right. This time I decided to go to some experts. The staff at Pampered Paws in Kingwood were absolutely terrific with the three terrors. Kimora slipped her collar immeadiately on entering the store while Alex became completely attached to a fuzzy pink pillow. Kelis just wanted to go home.

Here they are in the front hall with their new Dogo brand harnesses:
By the way... their leashes are hanging off the top hinge of my front door.... a great place to store their leashes and a great way to corral them in until I get everyone ready for a walk.

These are great accessories and do not restrict their movement in any way. I also like the idea that there is a quick release clasp so its relatively easy to get the harnesses on and off. The added bonus is that this is a better way for them to walk without damaging their backs. I am particularly pleased that these appear to be easy to repair if they become damaged. And, as if this is not enough, the harnesses work perfectly with thier winter coats.

By the way - if you have a dog and want a wierd gift... more for yourself than them... then check this out. A dear friend gave me one of these for Christmas and Alex is trying it out right now. I hope I get some fun shots!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry-Go-Round - complete

I finally finished the Merry Go Round Quilt that I started a few weeks ago at an impromptu piecing class. I think it came out well despite a ton of design issues discussed a couple of days ago. Here it is in all its glory:
Some of the patterns seem to have gotten washed out in the picture so in reality there is quite a bit more color.

The longest dimension, through the middle, is about 48 inches which is the exact size of my dining room table. It just fits but I really should have made it a tad bigger so there would be some drop over the edges of the table. Of course that is impossible as I barely have a square inch of fabric left! A couple of notes on the finishing: I quilted the top to the batting then I added the backing by joining it to the front of the quilt then turning the whole thing right side out. This solved a couple of issues for me. I avoided binding all those wonky edges and, for once, I do not have a wrinkled back. Both are bonuses in my mind.

That's it I'm done... no more christmas themed sewing. For the rest of the year I am gong on a finishing binge. Last year it worked well for me. I ended the year with about half a dozen things off my to do pile whch was more satisfying than going on a diet.

I hope you're close to the finish line for your own holiday sewing. Stay tuned for some finishing fun!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Middle School Knitting - Update

As you may remember, I volunteered recently to help out at a local middle school with their knitting club. We meet twice a week for just over an hour each time and I have been having a blast. There is a core group of about 5 and a seemingly endless supply of those that show up for only a time or two. Here are some photos of the kids at work:

Today was our last meeting until after the holidays and I made up seven little knitting cases for the core group. Each of the core group got a a needle/project case, a pair of needles, a yarn needle, kid friendly scissors and some stitch markers. I asked each of them to choose a project to work on during the holidays and that if they completed them, I would give them a scissor charm. Here are the cases:
These just took two fat quarters each and some ribbon. What a quick great gift idea for your kntting friends! I know a wanna be knitter who will be getting one in a few days as encouragment to continue to learn to knit. With all I have learned about teaching knitting over the past few weeks, I may actually be able to help her out. I can only hope!
One sour note occured today that is still bugging me. One of the boys is a truly excellent knitter. He learned in grade school and every week comes and works on his scarf (our first project). I couldn't figure out why such an enthusiatic knitter wasn't getting further along. Today it was revealed that his father won't let him knit at home. I don't know the reason and can only speculate on the father's parentling skills but I would like to meet this guy and give him a piece of my mind. His A+ student son who is handsome, witty, creative and incredibly verbose is forbidden from doing something he loves. What a jerk!!!!!
Now I better finish my own project that I began when the club began before we get back together in January or I won't get a scissor charm!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Quilt Truths

I went to bed last evening quite late... about 2:00 am . Why was I up so late? I was trying to sew together the Merry-Go-Round quilt top that I began a few weeks ago and blogged about here. I got all the blocks I could get peiced together a while ago and was quite pleased with my arrangement. Putting it together was another story and I learned a lot of lessons. Here is a sample of what kept me up so late.


I had a few scraps left over from my original layout and made this:
Cute but when I came to the final assembly I found that I needed a few more triangles to complete the quilt as originally planned. I came up with a new configuration but it was not fun.


except when the fabrics of the points are exactly the same. I spent a lot of time re-sewing the seams with a lot of points until I realized that mismatched points got hidden in the fabric. Perfect points look just the same as mis-matched points if you t see the points because there are buried in the fabric .... especially if you squint!


Well, maybe not a matter of taste but everyone has a different quarter inch seam allowance. Consistency is what is required. Mine tend to be a bit smaller so my 6 1/2 sqare blocks usually come out a hair larger. It doesn't make a difference as long as you consistent.


Quilters are all taught to press our seam allowances to the darker fabric where possible. In some cases this creates a lot of bulk when you go to join the pieced units. In those cases, pressing seams open is perfectly acceptable. The only problem with pressing in either direction is if by doing so you lose little guidlines that help you to piece the blocks together. I started out pressing the seam allowancesopen until I realized I got better results (for me) by pressing them to one side. I found that by pressing to one side I got a lot of little sign posts in the previous stitchng which I lost when the seams were pressed open.


This particular quilt was designed so that all sewing could done in long straight lines. I found that I had trouble doing that given the first step was of joining slanty edges together. I, instead, completed each Hexagon completely and joined them one by one into the quilt instead of joining half blocks then sewing the long sides together. I did have some trouble with some of the blocks but, in general, it went quickly.


I laid out this quilt completely on my guest room bed and was quite happy with the arrangement. By the time I actually started assembling the quilt Alex and the Girls had been playing with the pieces so the arrangement was all bunged up. Design walls are very good things. You can lay out a whole quilt and the dogs won't mess it up. Of course, Alex could raise his leg on one but that's a chance I'm willing to take... if I ever get a design wall!


My Hexagons should have been made into a rectangular lap size quilt BUT after Alex and the girls re-arranged everything for me and after I decided that Y seams are my friends, then the notion of a circular quilt became a natural. Since my dining and kitchen tables are both circular, this quilt will probably become a topper rathen than a lap quilt.


This quilt will have a lovely red fabric as the backing so I can use the back side as the right side the rest of the year ... if I want. Heck, at a distance you can't tell the front side is for Christmas. On the other hand, I remember when my Dad didn't take down the Christmas lights for a few years and how others mocked him for it. Could I take the mocking If my friends did the same? Not sure but why add to my eccentric reputation?

So those were my lessons learned. This is not a Quilt Show quality quilt or one that I would enter into a prestigious show. It was made as a lesson in hexagons and I learned a lot. Tonight I will finish it up and post the results tomorrow.

I hope your weekend is going well and that you are getting lots of time to enjoy your holiday sewing. Have a great Sunday!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A winter walk

I got them all dressed up this morning for their walk although, I must admit, that I waited until the sun was up before venturing out. The Girls were not hindered by their coats and performed admirably. Alex, on the other hand, decided that wearing a sweater was just not manly enough for him and finally refused to move until I removed the offending garment.

Winter cuteness -
Winter misery -
The Girls in their Sunday Best - And although Ike was over three months ago this sight is not uncommon in my area.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Time Waster

Why your dog really goes outside - your dog, not mine! Courtesy of Bits and Pieces.

OMG! It's snowing!

I've been visiting or living in Houston for almost a decade and have never seen or heard of it snowing here before BUT tonight all bets are off. It's snowing and bridges are icing over. Schools may be closing in the morning and dogs definitely do not want to go walking.

I know, I know... my northern friends think this is a little bit dramatic for an inch or less of snow but there are certain home truths here that make the area incredibly unprepared for freezing temperatures and snow.

First of all, no community around here has salt to combat ice on the roads. They use sand for traction. Although most of the major bridges here are already iced over, sand will not be applied until 3 or 4 am in preparation for the morning drive time.

Secondly, no-one has the proper clothing unless they have been north recently or have recently arrived from the north. Boots are fashion statements, not for traction, and long wool coats are practically unheard of in the stores. I was at a meeting this morning when it just sleeting out and I felt very odd wearing a long coat while everyone else was in waterproof jackets.

Thirdly, some homes here don't have central heating. There has already been one fatal house fire from someone using their oven for heat. Eighteen month old twins died and I fear there will be more deaths before this cold snap is over.

Fourthly, the dogs have never seen snow. They were completely flabbergasted when I took them out for a walk before bed this evening. Even though the girls had on their coats and Alex had on a sweater the girls would not squat and Alex would not lift his leg.....not to put too fine a point on it. I have been patrolling the house looking for evidence of ....let's just say that I have found some and have carefully cleaned it all up.

I hope it melts quickly in the morning as I have a lot driving to do.

Here are a few pictures of what it looks like here:
Now stop laughing at us unprepared Southerners and our cowardly dogs. Please note that it was colder in Houston this evening than it was in New York City.

Quick gift Idea

I have a quick gift idea that you can complete in an hour or so. It is a snowflake Crhistmas ornament that you can add lavender to so it can be a year round sachet. Download a pattern from any of the embroidery sites. Stitch it up on heavy duty water soluable stabilizer. Wash out the stabilizer and add two layers of organza to the back leaving a little bit open on one side. Load Lavender to the organza pouch. Stitch up the opening and Voila another nice little gift for someone or a stocking stuffer or a wrapping embellishment. Heck, it might be the first time you use your embroidery machine functions! Here's how mine came out - front first, back second:

Handmade Toy Legislation

I picked this up from the Doll Quilt Swap Flickr page. I looked in and it seems that this is not a hoax and therefore is even more disturbing. Even if you do not make a living selling things for kids, it appears that this act will make it impossible to buy anything made by small crafters for children.

Thanks Themad1s!

I think this is really important to read and know about. I don't have kids, but the effect of this kind of thing is devastating to everyone; parents, children, artisans, small businesses, etc. I read this online today and felt it was very important to share. We need your help to save handmade toys in the US, Europe and Canada from the CPSIA. We interrupt the tidings of comfort and joy to bring you some heartbreaking news.Of course we're all for strengthening the safety standards of mass-produced toys made in China, and banning toxins like phthalates and lead.

But this year, the CPSC passed the ill-conceived Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act which goes into effect in two months and will absolutely decimate the small toy manufacturers, independent artisans, and crafters who have already earned the public trust.They will all go out of business. Period.

Moms who sew beautiful handmade waldorf dolls out of home, artists who have spent decades hand-carving trucks and cars out of natural woods, that guy at the craft show who sold you the cute handmade puzzle--even larger US companies who employ local workers and have not once had any sort of safety issue will no longer be able to sell their toys. Not without investing tens of thousands of dollars into third-party testing and labeling, just to prove that toys that never had a single chemical in them still don't have a single chemical in them.

In other words, handmade toys will now be illegal.

Here's what you can do:-Find your congress person and senators and write a letter like the sample here - , particularly if they serve on the consumer protection subcommittee.

Send a letter directly to the CPSC (

Join the Handmade Toy Alliance and check out their proposed changes to the act which make a whole lot of sense.

Spread the word to everyone you know who cares about helping the little guy, particular in today's economy.Thanks mamas. We know we can help make a difference and preserve this important cottage industry, keep good honest people in business, and protect the playthings we all love best of all.

Edited to add: It would seem this act impacts not just toys, but all children's products including clothing, hair accessories, shoes. Please please, if you do one thing today, shoot off an email or two, will you?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sharing the Love Locally

At this time of year I always have a lot of fun shopping for gifts for myself and others. I love the decorations in the stores and the sometime frantic searching for just the right present for a certain somebody. I also love shopping for things to donate to the Marines' Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army's Angel Tree. There are lots of national programs that provide opportunities to make someone's holiday a bit brighter. Two local programs have captured my attention this year and I would like to share them with you. I am sure there are other programs here and elsewhere but these two make me smile ... a lot!

One Yard Hugs

My favorite quilt shop, Sun Flower Quilts, has partnered with one of their customers to provide blankets to infants at the local charity hospital. A One Yard Hug is one yard of cotton flannel with the edges finished. While Jo-Ann's had their flannels on sale I picked up a bunch and finished them up the other day. Here is the stack that I will be delivering this week (including two from a friend who found some cute flannels while cleaning out her sewing room):
One a side note, when I make these I tend to have a pile of unfinished ones on one side of my sewing chair and a pile of finished ones on the other side. As I was finishing up I noticed I couldn't find the ones with the purses printed on them (on the upper right in the picture). I searched around and found that Kimora had taken those and made a bed out of them for herself. Girls and purses... who knew that need occured in all species?
Donations of one yard hugs are due by December 20th.

Homeless Kid Art Supplies

Sew Crafty Houston is gathering kid freindly art supplies for the Mother/Daughter Craft Club to package for kids at the Star of Hope Mission. They are looking for glue, scissors, felt, markers, colored pencils, paper, cotton balls, pipe cleaners and anything else you think a kid would like to use in making something. I think this is a terrific idea and have begun to gather a few things here that I know I won't be using like acrylic felt squares and some kid themed fabrics... all bought ages ago and never used up in other projects. One of my best memories of my son when he was much younger was how he could lose himself in little art projects. How much better it would be for a homeless kid to have that same experience rather than worrying about such adult concerns as food, clothing and shelter? Donations are due before December 21st.
These are just two ideas for sharing the love locally. I am sure there are more but these are the ones I am supporting this year. How about you?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In the Mail

The fifth round of the Doll Quilt Swap is over for me. I received a beautiful New York Beauty quilt that was the first attempt by my partner at doing paper piecing. I don't think I would have the patience to paper piece this type of intricate block. Isn't it neat?
I sent off my quilt the other day and it is going far away to where snow is a four letter word. The quilt was based on a snowball block and is called Twisted Rope. What do you think?
I had a lot of fun this time making my quilt as I used a new book that I got through as the basis for my quilt. The book is called Patchwork 1030 and has 1,030 quilt blocks in it. The layout is terrific and you don't need to know Japanese to get acceptable results. Each block is illustrated in line drawings four times. The first is illustrated in grey scale so you have an idea of how many values of fabric you need. Beside the drawing of each block is a slightly exploded view showing you how to assemble the block, then another view showing the back of the block so you can see how to iron the seams and the final illustration shows you the size relationships of each of the pieces. Here is a pretty crappy picture of one page.
This is a great book for bathroom reading as it requires no concentration but gives you plenty ideas for future quilting adventures and we all need more ideas for quilts... right?

I hope your weekend is going well. I am off to my last annual meeting of the Houston Chapter of the American Sewing Guild as their Treasurer. Although the chapter has over 400 members the treasurer's job is very straight forward. I will not miss the job but I will miss the board meetings and all the friendships I have made with other board members over the past four years. I know the new treasurer will enjoy the job and I intend to leave her a clean set of books.

Enough nostalgia... onto my annual report!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why I have a Big Car

In this era of global warming and wacky gas prices, I have tried to reduce my carbon footprint. I think I mentioned here earlier my efforts to use less electricity, make fewer car trips and, in general, reduce, reuse and recycle. One thing I have not given up is my big car. Yep, I drive a big old 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis. It was passed on to me by my Dad and has a lot of dings and dents in it. It may not be pretty or energy efficient but it has a HUGE trunk. My son jokes that I could hold a few dead bodies in it without anyone knowing the difference.

Yesterday, my need for a big trunk was definitely justified. Here's how my day went...

I left the house at 9:00 am with a purse, a tote bag of knitting books for the middle schoolers and a pair of scissors for a holiday gift swap. By the time I got home the car was stuffed with:
  • two large bags of yarn donated for the middle school knitting club,
  • a grocery bag of yarn and needles donated for the middle schoolers,
  • another grocery bag with prescription refills,
  • two more grocery bags with loot from Kohl's,
  • two large white poinsettia plants,
  • a Side Winder bobbin filling gadget from the gift swap,
  • two fat quarters of fabric, a small recipe book, a candy cane, and three (!) door prizes (3 Daiwoo Fat quarters, a fusible wall quilt kit and a set of fusible stained glass fabric windows) from the Quilt Guild holiday party,
  • a piece of jewellry bling as a holiday gift to myself
  • three half empty bottled beverages,
  • and a bulliten board and easel for the Quilt Guild meeting.

I got home at about 9:30 pm last night and spent at least another half hour unloading and semi-organizing everthing before dropping into bed to seep the sleep of the just.

So next time I start wondering aloud about a new, more efficient car just knock me upside the head and remind me that nothing that could carry yesterday's haul could possibly be considered energy efficient.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Four Seasons Quilt Swap 5

The Four Seasons Quilt Swap 5 is off and running and looking for a few good quilters who can accept the challenge. The new swap is very different from what I have participated in before but I am looking forward to the challenge. This time each of the swappers is asked for their favroite colors and their favorite season. Your partner will take your likes and dislikes and create a special doll size wall quilt for you.


If you would like a quilting challenge check out this link for the rules and how to sign up for this swap. If you are curious about the kind of work done check out this Flickr site.


I have a dilemma I am struggling with today. I am a semi-active member of four different neighborhood groups within the local Houston Chapter of the American Sewing Guild. As part of our holiday cheer we gather around a potluck meal and then we trade gifts. The gifts are modest and the stealing that goes on during these swaps can get hilarious. In general I shop in my stash for appropriate items like unusual fabric or excess notions or trims. That has worked out well and my gifts have been stolen a lot.

Here is my dilemma. With all the great sales going on right now I have picked up a couple of super notions. I really don't NEED them so I have wrapped them up for the gift swaps BUT I WANT them.

Does this happen to you? You shop for others and end up envyng what you are giving away? Am I a truly bad person for yearning for these gifts?

My solution is slightly wishy-washy.

I am keeping a couple of them and giving away a couple.

I still envy what I am giving away but my notions supply has increased as well.

Win - Win or Lose - Lose.... Such is life!

Monday, December 1, 2008

I'm Back

Laptop has been returned and is working correctly. I am now going to back it up so I won't have another panic attack if it misbehaves again. I have been making lots of stuff and will post those after the back-up.

Later Dudes and Dudettes!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tragedy All Around

Okay, maybe that is a little dramatic but my laptop has bit the dust, is not working, is busted, dead and bruised and definitely rode hard and put away wet. I don't know what I will do without it for a week or so. Yes, I could buy another cheaper, fatser version of what I have but anything new would be using Visa and I'm just not ready to make the jump to another front end.

How did it happen you ask?

Well, I was on the phone the other day with a friend and in a moment of 'cleanliness is next to godliness' I decided to clean out the return key just below the touch pad. There were some crumbs in the grooves so I took a piece of paper to tease out the leaftovers from some long past meal.

BIG mistake!

Now I cannot hit the enter key there or on the mouse or on the keyboard without the laptop trying to obey my input 300 to 400 (that's right HUNDRED) times before it will let me do anything. I've tried all sorts of manipulations but nothing seems to work. I can't even restore the system to an earlier date, (just in case it is a system problem and not a stupid hardware problem), because I can't hit the enter key. So it appears to be a hardware problem rather than a software one and it is off to the great repair shop down the road.

I am actually writing from the local library. (Kiss your librarian for having these resources available to dim wits like me).

I have now accepted that unless I want to come here every day, I will probably not be keeping up on this blog or my e-mail for a week or so. Maybe this is a good thing.....being unconnected to the world wide web should make me appreciate something - right?

So I am now signing off until the little beastie gets repaired or I can't take it anymore.

Happy whatever holiday you celebrate to bring back the light of spring!

BTW - there is even more tragedy in my life. All three dogs have some sort of intestinal bug that produces copious amounts of liquid feces. They are being treated but I may have to buy a gas mask just to clean up after them.

No computer and my life is full of shit - seems just about right to me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday Sharing

Although it is just a few days until Thanksgiving a group of us decided to forego the pre-holiday grocery shopping by getting together to try out an interesting and easy quilt block design. Seven of us gathered at the Elmgrove Community Room and worked on a hexagon shaped block from a pattern called Merry-Go-Round in McCall's Quilting Magazine.

A hexagon shaped block is based on a six-sided motif rather than the traditional four sided block. For a traditional look at this design see here. For a more modern (read fast and easy) take on the hexagon the Merry-Go-Round is made using two, two and a half inch strips of fabric sewn together longways, then sub-cut into equilateral triangles. If you use strips of fabric cut from one selvage to the other selvage of typical quilting cottons, you will get two blocks out of each strip - one with, as a for instance, red in the middle and black on the outside, while the other would be black on the inside and red on the outside. The easy piecing comes when you assemble the hexagons... just sew units of three like triangles at a time and combine into rows like a traditional quilt.

Even though I had sewn the strips together before we got together I did not complete all the blocks needed for even a lap size quilt in the time we had. Here's just a sample of what I got done:

I used a strip set (also called a Jelly Roll) from Moda called Winter so my fabrics are fairly coordinated. Others in the group went for a completely scrappy look while one was thinking of making her's completely out of blue fabrics. I think all of these combinations work though I must admit that I was a little surprised that my Winter Jelly Roll included lots of strips with candy canes on them rather than a more generic look.

BTW - if you have seen the 'One Block Wonder' books or quilts.. this is a similar technique and you can mix and match construction techniques between the two patterns with good results.

I hope we do this again. It was a no fuss, no muss kind of day. There was no pressure to complete anything in the time we had at the facility. We learned a new block, solved some of the problems in the world and had some great pizza for lunch. Heck, I even got to change the battery in the smoke alarm at the building and Ms. M. vaccumed after we were done so we left the place in better shape than we found it in. Thanks to the Misses L., J., F., C., M. and R. for making this a great day.

Oh, one other thing... Thanks to the person who found this pattern and actually made one that got everyone jazzed up on learning this block. To me, you are a quilting rock star. Thank you!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Quilters Newsletter

Quilters Newsletter is a magazine that has been around since dirt was created. It covers all types of quilting and gives a great overview of what's going on n the quilting world. A couple of features that I like are their 'Sewing Bee' which features quilts by readers and the lessons. The first is usually very charming stories about multiple generation quilts or quilts by groups of friends. The other always has a technique I have never heard of or tried in the past.

This month they have added a new feature with an ad search for a fake ad. I used to love finding the fake ad in Games magazine and this ad search was just as fun. The fake ad was for Green Piece Foundation Paper. At first glance this is an ad for standard paper piecing paper with a 'green' twist. You print a pattern on the paper, sew on the lines, tear off the paper and you have a perfect quilt block. The fake part of this ad is that you end up with no trash because you eat the paper after you have torn it from the back of the block. That's right ... you eat it! The paper is made of seaweed and comes in various flavors like chocolate, sugar cookie and saltand-vinegar. I nearly fell off my chair when I saw it.

I won't tell you what page it is on but if you get this magazine or see it on the newstand, you can do your own search. My only problem with this ad is that I know someone is thinking this is a great idea. Would I buy chocolate flavored paper? Some days the answer is definitely yes but mostly I don't think this is a good idea... chocolate flavored seaweed paper ... yuck!

Have a good weekend!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Quilt Kits

I tend to be a little eclectic in what I enjoy in quilts. I love wild, free form design but also enjoy a perfectly pieced vintage style quilt. I also have wide likes when it comes to quilting cottons....from traditional calicos to more graphic designs. In the past couple of weeks I have had a chance to indulge in both desires and thus 'A Tale of Two Quilts Kits' is born.

A while back I was in Sunflower Quilts and saw the cutest wall hangings. Each had a large picture of kids doing typical kid things like sailing a boat on a pond or walking to school. The style was very 40's looking and I thought they were quite charming. Come to find out most of the quilt was pre-printed with not only the central picture but several borders as well. Among quilters, this is called cheater cloth as the only thing you need to do is quilt it without the hours of piecing little bits of fabric.

A couple of weeks ago I saw that the kits were on sale for half off and I picked up a basic one, without additional borders. Hey, half price and cute... how could I go wrong? Well, I didn't go wrong. What do you think?
I think its really quite cute when finished and, although you can't see it in the photo, I got a chance to quilt with a shimmering metallic on the water part. I have sent it off to a friend for her grandson. At only 36" x 36", its more of a nap or drag-around quilt than a bed quilt. I hope he enjoys it even if it doesn't go with his contemporary themed room.

That was quilt kit number one. Simple, to the point and actually looks good. Quilt kit number two is a whole other story.

After working on the first one I remembered that I had another quilt kit in the house that I had bought several years ago to go with my living room couch. Not a cheater quilt but pretty simple piecing. Here is the cover sheet:
And here is what I produced:

Pretty different right? I learned a couple of lessons on this kit. First of all, when the packaging says similar fabrics to the photo, check carefully that they are even close. Do you see any red in my quilt? Also, don't assume that you can actually produce the picture on the cover when what you are given can't produce the number and type of blocks required. In this case, the cover picture had 49 blocks, 24 of one style of block and 25 of another. The fabric given would only make 18 of one and 30 of another. Such a pain! I have not quilted it yet and that might take a while as I need to find some backing that won't feel like I am wasting it on a mediocre project.

So that's my tale - one cheater quilt that worked that I thought was cute but not in love with, one I thought was a little edgy and I was in love with... now the reverse - the cheater I am in love with and the edgy one is now on my hate list.

Lesson learned - Love and hate are two sides of the same coin, its the flip that can change it ... or the kit makers.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Finny & Donk's Sewing Adventure Oct/Nov

The final challenge of this year's Finny and Donk's Sewing Adventure was to sew a greeting card. I needed to write a thank you note so I took this opportunity to try sewing on card stock. Although I have free motion quilted many times before, sewing on card stock is very different. Here's what I came up with - Front and interior shots:

Not the most beautiful project - I might need to do a little painting on it to hide my sewing troubles because the stitches kept falling into the card stock. As I am cheap, I will probably use it no matter what. The book we used this year - Jocelyn Worrall's 'Simple Gifts to Stitch' - still has a couple of projects I would try for gifts but quilte frankly I am glad this year's adventure is over. Of the projects completed, I believe there were a couple I loved (the three pocket tote and bias apron) and several that seemed pretty lame (the button scarf and the card and kid stuff) and one that still challenges me (the skirt).

I wonder what will be the adventure next year?

Whatever it is, I will probably participate again as it is all about trying new things. In a rut or feeling down? Try the FADSW. It will distract you from your troubles and you might actually learn something. Until then... keep sewing!

I'm Not Ready

I'm not ready for Christmas. Not that I don't like the holiday but it is way too early for me to start thinking about gifts for others or preparing a meal of some sort. I'm just not there yet. Yes, the temperature this morning was in the 30's, trees are loosing their leaves, the Salvation Bell ringers are out and I have to wear socks all the time but, for heaven's sake, its only November 16th. Thanksgiving for us Americans is not for anther 10 days or so and, although I don't celebrate Thanksgiving in a big way, that's when you are supposed to start working on Christmas. Call me a tradtionalist but the season doesn't start until the big newspaper arrives on Thanksgiving morning with all the ads for sales on the next day.

Having said that, there is one activity that I can embrace before Thanksgiving Day. That is the projects my favroite quilt shop sponsors at this time of year. Sunflower Quilts, in the past, has sponsored a project called 'One Yard Hugs'. Basically you get one yard of flannel fabric, finish the edges in whatever way you like, take your output to the shop and in late December they are taken to Ben Taub, a local hosipital with a large numberof charity admissions. I found some bright plaid flannel at another store and serged the edges with colorful thread. I dropped them off a while ago and on Saturday they were already buried uner a hundred or more donations. The shop expects to be able to donate over 500 Hugs this year. I wish I could see all the babies wrapped in these colorful and lovingly made blankets.

The shop is also sponsoring an ornament challenge this year. I can't remember who will be getting the ornaments but I believe its an Alzheimer's residential facility. Jill, at Sunflower, has asked her customers to make an ornament, hang it on her tree and be in a drawing for a gft certificate to the shop. I was in the shop on Saturday and was amazed at all the ornaments that had been donated already. Although it wasn't ready yesterday morning, here is my contribution that I will get to them as soon as possible:

The hand-painted canvas was purchased by me many years ago and I am really glad that I finally got it made. I finished it off very simply by gluing the edges and backing it with a piece of white felt. I quilted it all together to additionally secure the front to the back. The canvas came with a little resin Santa Claus but it just didn't seem to go with my white and gold stitching. I hope they like it!

Okay, so I am not ready for Christmas stuff but I am ready, willing and able to help others get in the mood for others. Now, if I could only stop cringing every time I see the Salvation Army bell ringers outside one of the local grocery stores.
BTW - Did you notice.... this is UFO #14 for 2008. My goal for this year was to complete at least one UFO every month this year so now I guess I have to go to my strecth goal... that is an average of two UFOs a month. Looks like I have some catching up to do if I want to be boastful on New Year's Eve.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Knitting Joy

At a quilt guild meeting the other day one of our members mentioned that she was starting a knitting club at one of the local middle schools. In a moment of complete insanity I volunteered to help her out. I went through my yarn stash for balls that I could donate to the cause and I stopped at Nancy's Knits to pick up some inexpensive knitting needles for the kids. Nancy generously offered our guild member some modest quality but strong needles for $2.00 a pair so I had to scoop up a few sets knowing that I don't any regular needles to spare. Unfortunately I have a zillion needles for socks from beloved, but deceased, female relatives and no-one seems to want those.

Anyway I went to the Humble (pronounced with a silent H) Middle School on Tuesday for our first session. We got ten kids including one boy. The kids ranged from special needs students to overachieving straight A students. With only two of us, it was difficult to give everyone the attention they needed however the spectacular Ms. L. promised to spend time with each of them before our meeting next week. I am so inspired by their high spirits and sweaty determination. I had almost forgotten what is was like to be in grades sixth through eighth when your body seems to be betraying you every day with new growth. I think I taught a couple of them how to get started. I think next week, we will work the students on getting even stitches and starting out any others that show up. Another guild member is also coming to help and I think we will need her.

I gave myself some homework... to knit with two sticks and some string to show the kids that you do not need fancy supplies for a good product. A couple complained that the needles we provided were not 'real' knitting needles because they weren't metal. I have the sticks (cheapo chopsticks) and some kitchen string so I will try to make a couple of bracelets or even a small scarf before next week with these materials.

Wish me luck and if you are in my area and would like to join in the fun, please let me know. The more the merrier should be our motto for this project!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative

One of the more unique shopping opportunities at the Quilt Festival was the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. Ami Sims started this group and has made a big difference in the funds available for Alzheimer's research. The display at Quilt Festival was amazing. They had over one thousand quilts available for purchase that ranged all the way from $10.00 for a simple nine patch quit all the way to about $200.00 for a quilt by a nationally known quilter. Here is a small selection of what was available: (if you click on the pictures you should get a lrger one to view)

What a great place to get inspired to try a new technique!

The ASG booth was right across from them and I spent an hour or so in the ASG booth looking at the quilts in between answering questions about ASG. I finally saw one that captured my attention. Here is what I bought:
Despite the crappy picture it is truly wonderful. There are five different fabrics used in its construction and the quilting and beads really add to its charm. It was made by someone in Oregan and I paid about $45.00 for it. It even came ready to hang with little corner holders on the back.

There are two ways to particicpate - buy one from their website or you can make a quilt for them. If you create a quilt it will need fit into a USPS prority mail cardboard mailer (about 9" x 12"). Any theme, any style, any materials can be used. What a great opportunity to stretch those quilting skills for a good cause. The website has more information on how to purchase and send quilts to them.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday Sharing

I went to the Saturday monring ASG neigborhood group yesterday and now feel completly re-energized to tackle some of the projects I should be doing around here. Not just sewing projects but some nesting rpojects as well... like finishing some wall painting, sorting through my junk drawers, re-energizing my knitting and on and on and on. The theme of the meeting was finds at the Quilt Festival and it was fun to see what each of us just 'had to have' at the show. Some of the things people picked up were:
  • a neat little gadget for transferring things from one bottle to another without losing a drop,

  • Batiked quilt backing fabric to be used in a garment,

  • Paper piecing book for a new garment,

  • a cheap Quilt-in-a-cup substitute from Hobby Lobby,

  • patterns and fabric I never even noticed at the Festival and

  • a cute book from Japan using orphan socks in projects.

I was also given a chance to show of my latest Bog Coat creation. While I was in Toronto recently I got the chance to go to the Creativity Festival. It was a shadow of its former self and I was thoroughly dissappointed by the show. I even left before it closed for the night,.... something that was unthinkable when I used to go many years ago. Anyway, I stopped at a booth called Mac Fabrics which I believe is used in Canada's version of Project Runway. I noticed a very distressed fabric and immeadiately realized that it would make a great Bog Coat. Check this out..

And here's a close-up of the fabric...

It really did come off the bolt that way! For one yard of fabric I can't believe how well this turned out. I've already worn it a few times and the combination of the silk (I think) underfabric and the funky denim overlay makes for a very comfortable garment. I really must try to make it to their store the next time I am up North.

I hope your weekend is going well. Although I do enjoy the bright sunny days we have been having I am so looking forward to the rain predicted for next week.