Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Charitable Giving

The earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan have brought up the age old problem of how to make things better for the victims.

There are three sides to this dilemma:

  1. make a monetary donation to a big reputable charity,
  2. send a virtual message of support, or
  3. make something and send it on to the victims via some large organization.
If you make a monetary donation through a large reputable group you know your money will be put to good economic use.  Sending a quart of milk to a disaster area is way more expensive that have a large group buying gallons of milk to be distributed through proven distribution channels.  Yes, there have been charity scams but, in general, your money makes it to people who can efficiently use it.  I have given money for many charitable uses and I have received items from large charities.  Both have done the job of giving aid but feel/felt very impersonal. 

The second option of sending messages of support in  a virtual way is slightly more personal but, in many cases your efforts are integrated into a much larger project.  I love the 100,000 cranes project (see here for more info) and so far have made seven myself.  So I will make my cranes, send them on and much money will be donated to Japan relief and the cranes will be incorporated into some large installation.  Yes, it can be fun to anonymously contribute a large project but the personal touch is missing.

The third option appeals to me on a much more basic level.  I can make something and have it delivered into deserving hands.  When I cleared out the house of spare blankets, pillows and quilts for Katrina victims at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston and later saw them in use when I volunteered  there I was moved beyond belief that something form my hands went to someone in need.  For Japan relief, I will be sending quilts to Mission of Love for their distribution (more here). They may not be my best work but they should bring someone comfort.  I am now looking for a group to take knitted items and, if I can't find a reputable group to take them, then I will seek out individuals to receive these items.

So I'll write a check, fold some cranes and send some handmade items.

I may feel better but I know it will never be enough to comfort those who have lost their friends, family and homes during this disaster.

I so hope that it will be a quiet hurricane season for those of us on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fair Weather Friends

A couple of decades ago I discovered that I liked making quilts.  My first quilt was for my son and I made it in a class at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.  It does not exist any more because someone, who shall remain nameless, left it outside in the Texas sun so the dogs would not have to lay on the grass.  For a navy blue quilt strong sunshine is not a good thing.

But I digress.

This post is about my fourth quilt that I just finished piecing today.  

Yup, I think this is the fourth quilt I ever started and I finished it today... in other words, about twelve years after I started it!

The quilt pattern is called 'Fair Weather Friends' and it was a mystery quilt program run by Material Rewards in Dansville, NY.

In a mystery quilt, the participants get fabric and instructions for pieces of a quilt on a monthly basis with the resulting pattern unknown until the very last set of instructions.

What made this a good program was that Material Rewards would design your monthly packages based on your fabric choices rather than everyone using the same fabrics. I chose, I think, spring colors and this is how the quilt top looks this evening:

This project took so many years because I started receiving the monthly packages while in the process of moving to Texas. Hheck, for the first couple of months I didn't have a place for my sewing machine to sit.  In addition, I never married all the monthly packages together into one package but I did work on the different monthly bits every once in a while when I came across them.

With the great sewing space hose out I finally got all the pieces together in one place and stared the process of putting it together.  Let me re-phrase that, I think I found all the pieces of fabric but I only found two of the of the five sets of monthly instructions.  

As I began to work on this quilt I noticed that my early piecing was highly variable in its quality.  Seam allowances varied from about 1/16" to about 1/2" versus the standard 1/4".  My thread tails were four or five inches long per seam versus the inch or less in my current work.  In addition, I obviously had terrible cutting skills as my three inch squares were cut anywhere from 2 1/2" to 3 1/2".

All of which contributed to some of the blocks being joined very, very poorly.

Like this:

rather than like this:

In the end I had to make the top smaller than the original instructions as I had run out of some of the fabrics while having too much of others.  Instead of a quilt top with 35 blocks, I have one of 20 blocks.

I might be donating this quilt, when I get it quilted, to one of the local charities or I might keep it as a humorous remembrance of all that has gone in my life on since I started this quilt.

Thank you, Material Rewards, for a real learning experience! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Workshop Houston Update

Workshop Houston is having an Open House on April 2 and some of the kids I have been working with printed and made tote bags that will be for sale.  I am so impressed with their skills and energy on this project!

Check it out here!

I am a Dog, Not a Thing

By Peggy Ems at the  Not for the faint of heart..
I am a dog, not a thing.
I am a dog. I am a living, breathing animal. I feel pain, joy, love, fear and pleasure.
I am not a thing. If I am hit - I will bruise, I will bleed, I will break. I will feel pain. I am not a thing.
I am a dog. I enjoy playtime, walk time, but more than anything, I enjoy time with my pack - my family - my people. I want nothing more than to be by the side of my human. I want to sleep where you sleep and walk where you walk. I am a dog and I feel love...I crave companionship.
I enjoy the touch of a kind hand and the softness of a good bed. I want to be inside of the home with my family, not stuck on the end of a chain or alone in a kennel or fenced yard for hours on end. I was born to be a companion, not to live a life of solitude.
I get too cold and I get too hot. I experience hunger and thirst. I am a living creature, not a thing.
When you leave, I want to go with you. If I stay behind, I will eagerly await your return. I long for the sound of your voice. I will do most anything to please you. I live to be your treasured companion.
I am a dog. My actions are not dictated by money, greed, or hatred. I do not know prejudice. I live in the moment and am ruled by love and loyalty.
Do not mistake me for a mindless object. I can feel and I can think. I can experience more than physical pain, I can feel fear and joy. I can feel love and confusion. I have emotions. I understand perhaps more than you do. I am able to comprehend the words you speak to me, but you are not always able to understand me.
I am a dog. I am not able to care for myself without your help. If you choose to tie me up and refuse to feed me, I will starve. If you abandon me on a rural road, I will experience fear and loneliness. I will search for you and wonder why I have been left behind. I am not a piece of property to be dumped and forgotten.
If you choose to leave me at a shelter, I will be frightened and bewildered. I will watch for your return with every footfall that approaches my kennel run.
I am a dog - a living, breathing creature. If you choose to take me home, please provide me with the things that I need to keep me healthy and happy.
Provide me with good food, clean water, warm shelter and your love. Do not abandon me. Do not kick me. Do not dump me when your life gets too busy. Make a commitment to me for the entirety of my life, or do not take me home in the first place.
If you desert me, I do not have the means to care for myself. I am at the mercy of the kindness of people - if I fall into the wrong hands, my life will be ruined.
I will experience pain, fear and loneliness. If I wind up in an animal shelter, I have only my eyes to implore someone to save me, and my tail to show you that I am a friend. If that is not good enough, I will die.
I am a dog. I want to give and receive love. I want to live. I am not a thing. I am not a piece of property. Please do not discard me. Please treat me with kindness, love and respect. I promise to repay you with unconditional love for as long as I live.

Thank you Peggy Ems for a great editorial.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Women on a Mission

The Once Upon a Time Bee met today in the final chapter of our three month journey of making baby related items..

In January we worked on diaper covers for the Cloth Diaper Foundation.  In February it was one yard hugs and this month we made baby hats, both for the local charity hospital.

And, oh baby, did we make hats!

Almost 150 in one marathon session this afternoon.

Two people cut them out from donated t-shirts and scraps from the making of t-shirt quilts.

I serged a lot of them together and our final participant used her brand new, never out of the box, several years' old, cover stitch machine to hem those hats that needed a hem added.

Here is a shot of just some of what we accomplished today:

Don't they look fabulous?

There were about 50 cut out that we never got a chance to finish and our new cover stitch expert and I will finish them up this weekend so I can deliver them with the one yard hugs on Monday.

I am so pleased that we can help with making sure that some of the babies born at this fabulous hospital will be going home with a hat and a blanket.  We can't fill the need completely but we can make a dent in it.

April will not have a project as the quilt show and auction will occur on our regular date.  I have put out the word to the membership of the quilt guild that we are looking for new local partners in the community so that we can have a recipient before we begin a project rather than searching for one after we finish the project.

I hope you have a pleasant weekend coming up for you and yours.  I have most of the weekend mapped out to include creative sewing and income taxes.

Yeah and Yuck!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fat Quarter Challenge

The Fat Quarter Challenge for March was even harder to deal with than the February one.

In February it was to take a pretty bland fabric and use it into something hot.  I made a zipper bag with a little hot pink fabric flower.  (You can see it here.)

The March Challenge is even weirder.

The fabric looks like a representation of something that is grown in a petri dish.

Okay, so it is not so bad but the challenge was to use it in a project with the theme of Thanksgiving.


Little yellow flowers with green leaves and navy blue dots in a project for Thanksgiving?

I was at a loss as to what I could make for this challenge so I tried a little free association.

Thanksgiving, grateful, gathering, food, family, football, stress, headache.

Let's try again.

Thanksgiving, November, October, driving, family, sisters-in-law, know-it-alls, stress, headache.

Once more with feeling - 

Thanksgiving, holiday, merry making, family, friends, gathering, cooking, dirty dishes, stress, headache.

Dang!  Every time I tried to get to an inspiring word it always ended up in a headache.

What's a girl to do?

Well, this girl gathered her supplies....

 and made an aromatherapy headache remedy in the form of a lavender scented rice pillow.

The concept is to warm the pillow in the microwave for a minute or so, place it on your face and just breath deeply.

It really works!  I feel so much better now.

Want to make one for yourself that is similar to this one?

Basically I made two 6 1/2" dimensional  bow tie quilt blocks, joined them to make a 6" x 12" pillow with a separate muslin pillow inside stuffed lightly with rice and lavender buds.  I had originally intended to use lavender oil but buds seem like a better choice.  

Apparently there are several aromas that are good for headaches, either alone or in combination.  I prefer lavender but the others are : peppermint, sandalwood, eucalyptus and rosemary.

And, for those perfectionists, yes, I tried to insert piping into the seam and yes, I did a crappy job BUT I need some practice doing this so that when I get to my big pillow I will have some practice pieces behind me.

Happy St. Patrick's Day... especially to my buddy Suzy who is now the proud great-grandmother of a new little boy in the Patrick family. And no, they did not name him Patrick!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saturday Strippers 02/26/2011

The Saturday Strippers meet once a month to make quilt tops from pre-cut bits of fabric.  I have written about this group before and love the eclectic way we all approach this day of stress free sewing.

Some people come to do the specified project and are ready to sew as soon as I get the doors open.

Some people come to work on their own projects either by sewing up a UFO or by cutting and sorting fabrics for other projects.

Some just drop in to eat some snacks and admire our industriousness.

I tend to made the intended project, usually on a small scale.  

Our February project was one that I had found at Sunflower Quilts.   It is a pattern by Jamie Mueller and is also available in the Moda Bakeshop here.

I had found a jelly roll of pastel florals while doing the great sewing room hose out and used that to make this:

It is about 50" x 50" and bound and backed with white Moda basic white fabric I scored at Sew Crafty Houston's going out of business sale for a net cost of about $0.25 a yard.

Other projects worked on at the February Strip Club meeting were:

An 'Awesome' quilt for a precious grandson,

The 2009 KAQG Board quilt was worked on by two people for the Quilt Show and Auction in April,
One of us worked on her hand bag made from old jeans and
one of us presented a beautiful quilt, hand quilted for the Quilt Auction.  The top of this quilt was donated anonymously and is beautifully hand appliqu├ęd.  There is a faint stain on it but it will be on the online auction site in a few days.

All in all it was successful day of sewing, eating and conversation.  

We will, however, use Moda Bakeshop projects with a grain of salt next time.  Some of us had downloaded or bought the original pattern for the Awesome quilt several weeks before our gathering and the instructions were wrong.  If you download a pattern from the Moda Bakeshop be aware that the instructions are rarely independently vetted.  That is, the designer puts their quilt instructions out there and there is no-one at Moda who has actually made up the quilt based on those instructions.   Jamie's instructions were good but a slight miscalculation in the measurements made the original yardages a little off.

The next gathering will not have a project as some of us have a few UFO's screaming for attention.. at 20 in my case!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Simple Baby Hats

Once a month some of my friends and I get together to make projects for charity.

Last month we made almost 100 one yard hugs... those one yard pieces of kid friendly flannel fabric that we clean finished the edges of for the local charity hospital.

This month we will be making baby hats for the same hospital.

This is the ultimate in recycling as we will be using old t-shirts as the base fabric.

How easy is this:  cut out  two pieces approximately 7" square from an old t-shirt.  If possible, make one edge of each piece the hem of the t-shirt.  Sew/serge up the seams for the sides and top.  Hem the bottom if necessary.  

I'm not enamored with the helmet look as I also rounded the top seam from about two inches down from the top edge to about mid-way along the top seam.

There are a thousand variations but they all start with the same components.

From one ladies t-shirt I was able to get six baby hats constructed this afternoon.

One important construction note:  If you are serging your seams test your stitch carefully to ensure that you don't end up with a rippled edge.  This is particularly important if you have to hem your hat.

Let me say it again....test your stitch!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hoop Hanger

The other day I dropped into Humble Sewing Center with my aging serger and noticed that a local sewing group was meeting.  They are a group that I do not attend, as the timing is usually inconvenient, BUT the project they were reviewing was fabulous.

It was a neat package to hold and transport all the hoops used with an embroidery machine. The holder had a lot of fancy embroidery on it and each hoop had its own covered pocket.  Very nice but a bit over the top for me.

Here's the back story. 

When you get a fancy embroidery machine you usually get a huge suitcase full of hoops, templates and other accessories.  Great for carrying everything around but not so convenient when you are actively using your machine at home.

My case has been sitting in my sewing area, empty, for ages.  The embroidery add-on thingy sits tucked under my sewing table and the hoops and templates are in a pile next to my thread cabinet.  Despite my best efforts, I can rarely put my hand on the hoop I need when I need it.

The one positive note is that I only use the embroidery stuff at home so I don't need something portable just something to keep the bits organized.

This is what I came up with:

It will hang on the side of my thread cabinet, close at hand but not in the way.  The hoops and coordinating placement templates will be kept clean and tidy and I will never have to crawl around on the floor again trying to find the smallest one that had fallen under the thread cabinet.

Keep your eyes open for those projects that seem silly but can be adapted to your own needs.

Glad I had my eyes open on Monday!

I wonder if there are other things I can hang up on the wall (and use up more of that orange fabric)?