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.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Phillipa Naylor

While at the Quilt Festival I took a Sunday Morning class with Phillipa Naylor on 'Precision Piecing'. This may seem like an odd choice for me but once in a while I would like to make a block or two that is not completely wonky. Here is the block I produced while in her class:
As you may be able to see, this block has many challenges - lots of points to match up, lots of sizes of pieces and a couple of tricky piecing techniques. I thoroughly enjoyed her class as most of her advice reiterated things I already knew but rarey practice. Things like:

  • Bear down hard on the rotary cutter when cutting out your pieces. You will not get a clean cut without significant pressure.

  • Never let your rotary cutter get ahead of the hand holding down the ruler. If your rotary cutter gets ahead of your hand, the ruler will wobble.

  • Press seams open when it will help your later piece work. When constructing squares from triangles, press the seams open to help match up points later on.

  • Use your pins to help match points. I hate pinning but it really does help.

  • Press, press, and press again. Boring yes, but pressing after each step does help with future work.

Just to show you how much I succeedded in my my block check out these matching points....

Now all I need is an idea on how to use this 'orphan' block. Any ideas?

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nap Time

When I am working at the sewing machine or on the laptop, I really, really hate the puppies trying to get into my lap to lick my face or curl up in my crotch. I really, really like when they find a place to curl up nearby that does not mean I have to watch where I am rolling/stepping. I have come up with one solution for when I am working on the laptop.

Instead of hoping they will find a place to perch I gave them a place to perch near the desk. I took about half a towel from a previous project, serged the open ends closed except for about four inches on one side. Filled the whole thing with scraps I was saving for shelter dog beds, sewed up the gap and Volia! my puppies have a place to hang out when I am on the laptop. Check it out:
There is just one problem, there is a period of about twenty mintues of 'king of the mountain' type activity before they settle down. In the picture above I have no idea who won the battle as they kept changing places every half hour or so.
I must apologize to the shelter dogs, but I need my scraps for my own use right now. Next batch is yours - promise!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Charity Sewing

Recently the American Sewing Guild chose their national charity sewing project to be completed by the conference in 2009. The project for 2009 is pillowcases for Ronald McDonald House. I thought this was a great idea as they are easy to make and can use up a lot of stash fabrics. I figured that I would wait until next year before starting on them BUT Stitchin' Heaven had a sale of their pillowcase kits (buy 6 get six free) so I had to get them and, being an over-achiever on some things, I made up all twelve of them a couple of weeks ago. Here's what they look like:

For each pillowcase in the picture... the larger fabric is actually the cuff, the strip is an accent and the smaller piece that you see is actually the body of the pillowcase. They were made with 3/4 of a yard for the body, 1/3 of a yard for the cuff and and 1/8 of a yard for the accent. They are a little larger than the required size but I did not want to cut them down and generate scraps. If you would like to join the adventure here are a couple of sites with directions on how to make them. In addition, most quilt shops have kits with their version of the instructions for people who don't want to disturb their stash.

I must confess that I used none of these instructions to make mine as I sort of made it up as I went along and each pillowcase is a little different. The variations I tried included serging the seams, french seaming the seams, tubing the cuff and sewing the seams last and first. Make up your own technique as it seems that nothing is wrong as long as you get a good product. In addition, wouldn't these be a nice add-on for any quilts you are making for this year's round of holidays? Its a good way to use up any leftovers for making the quilt and especially great if the person receiving the quilt likes things that match.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Kristal Wick

I took a class from Kristal Wick at the Quilt Festival and thoroughly enjoyed myself. She is known for her silk tube beads and has recently published a book on her techniques called 'Fabulous Fabric Beads'.

This was great class as we spent most of our time making the fabric for the beads. We painted, crinkled, stenciled and about a hundred other things to our silk and cotton fabrics. The last hour or so of class was spent actually making the beads. It some ways this was play time for me as I have already done most of the techniques but it was extremely educational to spend time with someone who really knew her stuff. I bought the book after lunch and spent most of the afternoon trying to make beads rather than practise techniques I am well familiar with. I won't show you the beads I made because, quite frankly, I can't find them in all the stuff I brought home from Festival. I wonder if Alex has found them yet?

If you get chance to take a class with Kristal, I highly recommend you try her out for a relaxing class that you can leave with real live beads to use in your work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Jenny vs. Jennie

At Quilt Festival this past week there were classes by two of the quilt world's quilting divas Jenny Raymond and Jennie Rayment. Both taught bag making classes and a friend took classes from both of them. I have taken classes from both of them in the past but I keep getting their names mixed up.

I took a Jenny Raymond class a couple of years ago that concentrated on machine applique and thread painting. I don't remember most of the class work as it seems we spent a lot of time hearing about her study trip to Holland that inspired the quilt we were going to learn. In addition, she showed off her ribbon scarf made with ribbon and water souble stabilizer. I believe I bagged the class.

My friend took a class from her on the Easy on the Back Pack. I had made this pattern a couple of times in the past and had judged it the worst pattern I had ever worked with except for Amy Butler's patterns. Instead of too much information like Amy, Jenny left out a pattern piece and her instructions made no sense to me. My friend bagged the class as well after Jenny spent a lot of time showing everyone photos of her studio and a DVD that confused them even more. I believe the comment that really made her leave was ' I don't understand why you don't get this when its perfectly clear to me.'. Never take a class from her.

On the other hand, Jennie Rayment is a wonderful teacher. She is mainly known for her manipulated muslin items. The bag she taught was incredibly simple but incredibly useful. The class was laughing out loud most fo the time and most of them walked out with a finished project. Unlike most of her projects, this one did not include any twiddles, fiddles, folds or tucks just simple thread embellishment and a novel construction technique. I took one of the fabric manipulation classes in the past and also thoroughly enjoyed myself. Do not be confused, if Jennie Rayment is offering a class in your area, take it.

To be perfectly honest, Jenny Raymond is a multipule year entrant in the fashion show at the Quilt Festival and made a beautiful garment this year that won the viewers' choice award. It was truly lovely. Once again a wonderful designer/sewer does not always make a good teacher/pattern maker.

Fore-warned is fore-armed.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Gaveston, Oh, Galveston...

Tuesday my Northern Friend and I took a road trip that included a stop over to see Glaveston after Ike.

Let me set the scene... in the past, when I entered Galveston, I drove down I-45 admiring all the lovely homes on stilts and the boats bobbing in the water. I-45 ends on Broadway which was a beautiful street full of older homes with a wonderful bouelvard down the middle of the street full of huge Live Oaks and Royal Palms. It made me feel like I was in a different time all together and that Scarlett O'Hara would come bounding down the steps of the Bishop's Palace at any moment. Eating lunch on one of the piers over the water and visiting Quilts by the Bay were just the icing on the cake.

The homes on stilts are mostly there, just empty. The boats are lying on the side of the road. The houses and businesses on Braodway are still there but very little is left of the beautiful street. Not that there is a lot missing but it is hard to overlook the mounds of rubbish on the side of the road. It looks like many of the homes and businesses lost everything on their lower floors and it was now all on the street. In addition, the boulevard has been devastated. The Royal Palms have lost most of the bark on their trunks and are covered with a muddy brown residue. The Live Oaks did not have one green leaf left on them. In addition, athough the street along the gulf has been cleared of debris there is nothing in tact of all the piers that used to jut into the Gulf of Mexico. We found where we had had lunch in the past and it was just a shell on a crumpled pier.

My friend and I next found Quilts by the Bay - a wonderful quilt shop that catered to area residents as well as visiting tourists. The building will not be rebuilt and they are tryng to decide where they will go and how they will recover. Here is a shot of the front of the building:

That broken sign says it all. Here is a shot of the interior:
So sad to see such a vibrant shop devastated. The shop did come to the International Quilt Festival with any stock they had saved. Their booths were packed every time I went by there. I don't know if it was because of the deals on Ike damaged fabric, the 3 for 2 sale of Jim Shore items or the fact that Jacqueline DeJonge was there but pople were buying like there was no tomorrow.

I hope Quilts by the Bay will reopen soon and, despite the threat of future hurricanes, I hope they find space on the island for this venerable Galveson institution. Besides, on a selfish note, I loved visiting the island and spending time (and money) there. Here's hoping!