Saturday, July 6, 2013

Longhorns on the Bed

A couple of years ago I participated in the first Quilt Shop Hop Across Texas.  I made it to about ten shops and thoroughly enjoyed myself in seeing parts of Texas that I hadn't seen before.  During that two day drive I picked up a couple of kits with Texas Longhorn themes.  One I put together and hated.  Fortunately it was very small and when I knew I was hating it, I chucked it in the garbage.

Fast Forward to this past November.  While packing for the quilting cruise I took I threw in a partially finished kit that I had started at the KAQG quilting retreat in September and finished most of the piecing on the cruise.  I was feeling pretty good about piecing something that had only aged a couple of years. It took until a couple of months ago for me to get it ready for quilting and (FINALLY), last week I got it quilted.  During the recent Walking Dead marathon I completed the binding.

For once, I am completely happy with the way a quilt turned out.  (Crappy picture below)

The original pattern was based on a Thimbleberries design called Christmas Tree farm which does not seem to be on the web.  The basic concept was to use related fabrics including one large print (the Longhorn center panel) as the focus to create a very simple quilt with a lot of pizazz. My version turned out to be about 50" x 70" which, from past experience, is the perfect size for one human and a Doxie or three to use for a cozy winter's  nap.

Lessons learned ... actually there is only one lesson I learned with this quilt.  The lesson is that for every quilt it is good idea to cut your final border fabric an inch or so wider than the final measurement.  This allows you to square up the quilt without losing any of the final width so that the proportions remain the same as what you had planned.  I must remember this because even long arm quilters appreciate that little extra wiggle room if needed.

Now back to The Walking Dead! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Triangle Bag

Somewhere out there there is a leather handbag, lined with an exterior pocket and magnetic closure.  It is a great looking but simple bag and is produced by Maison Martin Mergiela. 

Go take a look at it here, I'll wait for you.

Fast forward several months, maybe years, and a sewer got a hold of the design and simplified it.  They produced a stunned looking canvas bag with a leather handle made out of cotton canvas.  It is not as fancy as the original bag but it is doable by the home sewer looking for a unique accessory.  A tutorial was produced and I had to try it.  My results were not as elegant but satisfactory.  I have used it a lot as a knitting bag and I am happy with that use. 

Here is the tutorial I used.

Then the other day, I saw, on Mark Lapinski's Facebook page, that someone else had come up with another tutorial for this bag...this time called the Origami Tote Bag.  it is a great tutorial but it essentially repeats the original one that I had used. The fancier tutorial is here and it inspired me to try this bag again.

Here is my latest effort:

It is looking a little bulky because I stuffed it with a quilt I just finished.

The fabric is heavy weight cotton, (almost canvas but not) that I purchased on a bolt from Danny Nyguyen's fabirc sale last week.  I like the polka dots and the heftiness of the fabric.  Doesn't it just cry out for some Zentangling or other little drawings in the circles?  I already have another bag that I color, when I remember to take markers with me, on long appointments so this a natural for me.

My bag turned out to hang about 22", about 15" across at the bottom and I boxed the bottom so it is about 4" deep.  I don't think that matches exactly the original bag but it's pretty darn close..

BUT I so would like one of the original bags just to have and use...and to figure out how they do the exterior zippered pocket and the actual sizes.

That will be for another day.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Coffee Breeze

I just finished another top from the Saturday Strippers group.  I think it is the first time I have actually finished the project, in the stated size, before a new project starts.  The project is from this book and is called Summer Breeze by Kim Brackett.  Except for one quilt, all of the projects in her books are easy to put together and are designed to use just one Jelly Roll and some background fabric.  Kim is great designer and writes great instructions.

( a Jelly roll is a collection of 21/2" by Width Of Fabric (WOF) strips of coordinating fabric sold by the manufacturer to quilt stores for fabric junkies like myself)

Here is my rendition of Summer Breeze:

The fabric I used was from a Jelly Roll by Timeless Treasures' Tonga batiks called something like Coffee Break.  The background fabric is a fake batik of gold, beige and pink.  I think it went together well, and, since my colors were not summery, I have called my quilt top Coffee Breeze.

I did make one adjustment to the pattern in that I used only one border and not two as shown in the pattern.  The reason for this is that I did not cut my fabrics efficiently and ended up with a lot of little bits that would have been a pain to piece for a I didn't.

I love the top....about 60" by 44"...and I learned a lot about my piecing style during this process.  I noticed during our session that each person has a very distinct style for putting a quilt together when there is a clear plan from the designer. 

Some people cut out all the fabric required then piece each little bit separately.  For instance, in this quilt that meant making all the pinwheels first, then bordering each pinwheel, then making the striped blocks then sewing the pinwheel blocks to the striped blocks.  Then assembling each row then sewing each row together then adding the borders.  All of this activity is interspersed with many stops to iron their work and square up any anomalies.

My style is cut out some of the fabric, make a few blocks (usually about four), putting those four together, admiring my progress then repeating that until I have it ready for borders.  I finger press only when I need to and squaring up only occurs by ripping out the errant stitches and resewing.

I'm not sure which is the more effcient method but there is no difference in the outcome.

Kelis approves of my efforts and I can't ask for much more than that.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Alex, the wonder dog ? - May 17, 2013

Alex, my beautiful red haired boy dachshund, died suddenly today after being hit by a school bus.  I was away at the time but Paul told me that he did not suffer.  After losing Kimora last summer and now with Alex gone, Kelis is is a very lonely girl while Paul and I have spent hours just sitting close together, with her in the middle, trying to make sense of it all and not succeeding.

Six years and ten days ago Alex came to me from Dachshund Rescue of Houston.  He had been found with a harness grown into his back and, after about four months at the vet's and another month with a wonderful foster family, he came to live with me and The Girls - aka Kelis and Kimora. His rescue name was Lance but I soon changed it to Alex because I had an old boss that was called Lance and my Alex was nothing like him.

From then on he was my boy and we had a lot of ups and downs.  He never really got house trained properly.  Just when I thought things were going well he would 'mark' the big comfy chair.  Every meal was his last and every treat was the last one in the world.  Every meal time, walk, car ride, cuddle time, nap or outdoor trek was enthusiastically approached with lots of tail wagging, dancing and barking.  He was my shadow and I have composed many a Facebook post, blog entry or e-mail with him on my lap or snugged up behind my back.   

I have become that crazy dog lady I described in this post and have finally admitted that a home without a dog is not my home. There are many posts in this blog about all his antics but there are three that truly make me  chuckle.  Here's the one where he talks about getting all his bandages off after the dog attack surgery  Then there is the one about dog walking which I really like.  And for a bit of comic relief, this post shows five mangled dog toys that I sewed together so Alex could tear them apart again.

He was a good dog and will be sorely missed.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dog Crate Cover

While browsing Facebook today someone posted a beautiful dog crate cover.  Immediately there was an outcry about how expensive they were.  Someone wished they had instructions to make one.  I offered to put instructions together....

  How to Make a Basic Dog Crate Cover

This cover will have a roll-up door covering and a side viewing roll-up window cover.  For the bed inside, I would just cover a pre-purchased bed in your chosen fabric.  A basic envelope style pillow/bed cover can be seen here -

Suggested fabrics –
Exterior - I believe that the best fabric is a cotton, light to medium weight upholstery fabric.
Lining - some contrasting cotton fabric in the same or lighter weight fabric.

Note:  Cotton upholstery fabrics seem to wash very well and hold a press for a long time.

Measurements –

Top – A Length ___________, B Width  ___________.

Side - A Length __________ (as above) , C Height ___________.


1. For the top - Cut two A + 1” by B + 1”– One of lining fabric, plus one of the exterior fabric. (I am suggesting a two layer top to make the ‘roof’ a little more light proof.)

2. For the front door side - Cut two – B + 1” by C +1 ” – One of lining fabric, plus one of the exterior.
-          Cut four – 6” by C + 3” – straps – lining fabric

3. For the plain side – Cut one – A + 1” by C + 3” – exterior fabric

4. For the back – Cut one – B + 1” by C + 3” – exterior fabric

5. For the side with the window - Cut 2 – A/3 + 3” by C + 3” – exterior fabric
-          Cut  2– A/3 +2” by C + 3”  - one of exterior and one of lining
-          Cut four – 6” by C + 3” – straps – lining fabric
6. Label all the pieces.

Sewing – assumes ½” seam allowances and 2” hems

  1. Layer the top pieces together wrong sides together.  And a layer of batting or interfacing if you wish.  Press, pin and set aside.
  2. Take the plain side exterior fabric and join into one long strip with the rear fabric and one of the window side fabrics.  Join using ½ “seam allowances.  Serge the seam allowances to tidy them up or use some other durable seam finish – fold over and top stitch, cover with bias binding etc.
  3. Fold the bottom up 1” inch, press, then fold up 2” and press again.  Sew the hem up
  4. Fold the sides in ¼” twice.  Press and sew down these side seams.
  5. Pin the raw, unfinished edge to the prepared top carefully matching the joining seams to the top corners.  Join together using ½’seam allowances.  Leave the seam finishing until the end.
  6. Prepare the front roll-up door by completing the straps first.  Right sides together lengthwise sew the long edge together.  Turn right side out and press with the seam to the middle of one side.  Fold one short end ¼” twice and sew down.  Do this twice.
  7. For the door, layer the exterior fabric right sides together with the lining fabric and sew three sides together – two sides and the bottom using a ½”seam allowance.  Turn right side out and press well.
  8. Pin the two of the straps to the top, each ¼ of B in from the side, then the raw edge of the door pocket then the final two straps even with the first two straps.  Sew together using a ½”inch seam allowance.  Finish off the seam later.
  9. Right now you have the door flap, the back and the right end of the window side attached to the top.   An appropriate adult beverage seems appropriate now.
  10.  For the left end of the window side, fold up the bottom ½” and press.  Fold up again by 2”, press.  Sew the hem up.  Fold in the sides ¼”twice, press and sew down.
  11. Pin the piece from step 10 to the top and attach to the top using a ½”seam allowance.
  12. The sides for the window side of the cage cover are about 2” wider than one third the total length of the side so that the window side should not leak light.
  13. Prepare the side window the same as the front door – steps 6, 7 and 8.
  14. Finish the seam allowances at the top by serging or binding with bias tape or a French seam or a fake flat felled seam….your choice.

Place over your cage.  Roll up the windows and see if your pup likes their new home.

Note – This is all very basic and can be changed in a zillion different ways.  Add trims around the top, add an overlap on the front door side, add fusible appliques to the outside, add a lining to all the bits without it…and on and on and on.

I wish I could show you one all made up but I don't have a wire crate right now but I do have some great fabric!

BTW - share often but please give credit for the basic design where possible.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Place For Everything

My organizing philosophy has always been centered around the maxim that every room needs a junk drawer.  When that drawer gets full then you must organize the contents to either get rid of useless junk (like the bread bag ties in the kitchen junk drawer that I will never use) or to find a new home for things that can logically go together.

Everything and anything can go in a junk drawer but groups of like things need their own space.

The same goes for things needed for specific activities.  Your purse (if you use one) is like a portable junk drawer.  It usually includes individual items that are needed while out and about but it also accumulates lots of things that have no place else to live.   My check book lives in my purse but I have rarely written a check outside the house in years. Lip balm is used at home, most of the time, but my purse attracts them lie flies to honey.

I have specific tote bags for my library books, my swimming stuff, my knitting projects (multiple bags!), the Quilt Guild Library records, the Quilt Show Garage Sale records and even a special bag for the dogs' medicines.

What I did not have, until the other day, was a specific tote bag for the Knitting in Kingwood records. I had been using one that was too big for amount of stuff I needed to take to each meeting and it was very awkward to use.

Determined to fix this lack, and armed with my knowledge from a class with Gilbert Muniz a few years ago, I created this bag that exactly fits all the stuff I cart around for Knitting in Kingwood.

What do you think?

For the big bag, I used my embroidery machine for the label, some outdoor fabric from JoAnn's for the exterior, some buckram to stiffen it up a little, some leftover cotton fabric for the lining and some fabulous leather handles I have been hanging onto for many years. The little white bag, which fits nicely into the bigger bag, is made from some felted wool and holds the little bits and pieces I seem to need at the meetings like membership cards, pens and others bits.

Best part is, is that I can pass on this bag to the next leader and they will have everything they need in one place and won't have to go searching for membership lists, the copier card or organizational rules.

While the rest of my life may be spiraling into chaos at least my KIK materials are organized.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Most Expensive Quilt Ever

Just after the Houston International Quilt Festival in early November Martha and I went on a quilting cruise to the western Caribbean.  A quilting cruise usually entails an up charge on your cabin rate to cover the cruising expenses of several quilting teachers, the use of cruise organizers sewing machines, the use of the conference center for classes and sewing and lots of little extras like an opening cocktail party and lots of door prizes.  Our cruise included only one teacher, Deb Tucker and only one quilt.  This suited me just fine as I didn't want to end up with a bunch of small quilts, I did want to learn a new technique or two, I did want to work on a couple of UFO's and I did want to get in some serious sun bathing.

This is the quilt we worked on for the majority of our cruise:

It is about 42" square and it will reside on one of my walls once I get a curtain rod set up for it.

The special technique taught was the use of Deb Tucker's special ruler for the stars and another ruler for the little squares and triangles in the border.  Basically the technique is to create oversize blocks that are trimmed down to the right size.  The rulers really did help but it was very time consuming.

Why is this the world's most expensive quilt ever?   Along with base cabin charges at ~$1,300.00 I also was charged about ~$500.00 for the teacher and other extras and charged about ~$65.00 for the quilt kit.  I got one UFO top ~90% finished and one ~50% finished as well.  We did spend most one day playing with Bernina sewing machine accessories woth a great little kit included.

I figure this quilt, which is too small to snuggle up in, cost over $2,000.00.

Any every penny was well spent.

And I would even do it again.

And I even got to spend a few hours sun bathing.

While the Northeast gets hammered by a huge blizzard I hope this remembrance of my cruise will warm you up a little.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Goodbye to 2012

2012 was a pretty crappy year in so many ways but there were a few bright spots that I hope will carry on into 2013.  Here is my perspective on 2012 and some notes for 2013.

Stupid things I heard in 2012

  1. Guns don't kill people, people kill people as an argument against gun control.  Who came up with this stupidity?  Does anyone remember MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction when major international powers had so many nuclear weapons that if anyone started to use them life on this planet would cease to exist?  About 99% of all the guns out there were purchased legally by someone at some point in time.  Yet there are many in the hands of criminals.  Wonder where they came from?  The guns used at Sandy Hook, the West Webster shootings and, locally, in Bellaire last week, were all purchased legally so please stop the empty rhetoric....or are we already in a state of of MAD?    
  2. This won't hurt a bit.  Mammograms, injections, tooth pulling and exercises have occured with this assurance and it was wrong!  I have finally figured out that when someone says it won't hurt I am now prepared for torture.
  3. This will look great on you.  No it doesn't!  It's too short, the wrong color, the hem is uneven and it shows off the bits I don't want people to know about. 
Smart things I heard in 2013

  1. When in doubt, iron.  Don't know where I heard this but it is so true.  If you ask yourself if you can get away with not ironing something then you need to iron.  This applies to not only to the wrinkly shirt you left in the dryer overnight but to even more critical issues like your health.  If a doctor says you really need to take this pill get all the facts before blindly taking the 'required' pill. You could save your life.
  2. I can't think of anything else smart.  I guess 2012 was pretty crappy.

Notes for 2013

  1. From Couch to 5k.  Yet again I am going to eat less and move more.  I can walk a 5k in about one hour but this year I would like to do it with some jogging included.  The couch to 5k program looks pretty straight forward and, as an added incentive, I have already registered for an official 5k in early February.  When money is on the line I tend to do better.  Next goal is to figure out if my sneakers will work for this energized Alice.
  2. Money in will equal money out.  My income has continued to be modest but my out flow is a little less modest. I might actually have to write out a budget and follow it.  A new experience for someone who wrote and managed multi-billion dollar budgets in a former life.
  3. My mouth will finally heal correctly.  I have not written about this earlier but I had a tooth pulled eight months ago and my jaw does not want to close up the hole.  The hole goes into my sinuses,and even though every thing heals nicely, my body seems to like having a hole into my sinuses.  January 11 is another surgery to seal the hole.  It better work this time.
  4. Google will finally let me post more than one picture a month.  I really like writing with pictures but Google has messed up big time.  When have I ever posted one picture that was half a gigabyte large?  half a megabyte maybe, but half a gig?  Never.  Grrrr.
No creativity goals, no sewing UFOs to complete, no clutter to organize although all are needed, but I better find some smart things in 2013 that don't key off house work!

Happy New Year!

Oops! Shawl

This tale began on my birthday when the Jaunty Janetta gave me a hand-spun, hand-dyed lace weight skein of yarn.  It came from the FJCruiser shop on Etsy, and although there does not appear to be any lace weight yarn in the shop currently, the other yarns are gorgeous, reasonably priced, in a variety of weights and the colors are exquisite.

Such a wonderful yarn deserves a wonderful bit of knitting and I found the perfect pattern on Ravelry called the Monica Shawl.  Here is the link and I really want you to skip over for a moment to get a gander at this great shawl.

Notice the large size, the variety of stitches and that lovely spiky outer edge.  Gorgeous, right?

Although the pattern is written for sock weight yarn, I decided to use my lovely lace weight present.  I knew it would be a little smaller than the original but it seemed like a challenge I could successfully meet.

Here is mine in the colorway Flipper:

Beautiful effort with lots of pattern changes BUT what happened to the nice spiky outer edge?  It seems that I finished off the outer edge with a too tight bind off thus the spikes could not be stretched out to make the lovely spikes.


I wear this a lot now that the days are cooled but I am still disappointed with my effort.  Maybe I should try it again?

Yeah, in another life!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Lush and Plush

There are a whole series of fancy ribbon yarns out there that are meant to be joined together  into a lush boa-type scarf.  I made a white one a couple of  years ago and posted it here.  I wasn't happy with the white and thought I would dye it only to discover that a mostly polyester fiber really doesn't take dye very well.  I still have it in my scarf drawer and someday I will were it out.

But I digress.

The white scarf was made out of a yarn called Flamenco by Trendsetter Yarns and retails for about $17.00 a skein.  Not a bad price for a whole scarf  but a lot if you aren't happy with it.  Imagine my surprise when I was in Jo-Ann's the other day and saw a whole box of similar styled ribbon yarns price at $4.99 each.  Less than five bucks , especially after using a coupon, seemed like a great yarn for this type of scarf.  Here's how mine came out:

 The yarn is by Red Heart and is called Boutique Sashay.  The scarf is only six stitches wide and came out to about five feet long.  The color way is Tango and I am very pleased with the little bit of glitz in the yarn.  This one will definitely be worn..

I am glad that I did not read any reviews before I bought it though as there are lots of complaints about the quality of the yarn .. lots of complaints about breaks and worn areas.  Then again, this is not an heirloom piece so I don't expect to shed any tears if it falls apart after a few wearings.

This is great project to work on while riding in a car or watching kids' sports as there really is very little skill or ability to the knitting to get an acceptable product.

I did learn one thing while photographing this scarf.  I learned that the prickly vines really do hurt for a long time when they rub against your legs.  OUCH!  I will try to watch my step next time.