Monday, March 29, 2010

Knock, knock

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Ima who?

Ima bad blogger who hasn't posted in, well, longer-than-expected and hasn't produced a lot either... at least not much that's easy to show.  No exciting reason... heavy on work, light on energy. 

Let's skip the stuff that's not as "show-able"... practicing hand quilting, playing with expanding a design of a table runner* into a larger size.  (* Sweet Escape pattern from the book "On the Run" by Heather of Anka's Treasures, pic here.) 

Yesterday I gave in to this temptation. 

Little 3" hand-pieced Klosjes (which translates to spools).  Very cute. 

Take a few hundred and .......... what, did I lose some of you?  a few hundred sounds too daunting? .......... maybe you need to see how neat it looks.  Check this out.  Pretty, isn't it? 

I liked a slightly larger middle square than you get with a 9 square layout, so I drafted my own pattern.  I think I know how I can share it and will let you know in a couple days. 

Sensible-me was asking impulsive-me to explain why we were taking on another project.  Why?  It's one of those take anywhere projects... very portable.  Requires templates for only 2 shapes.  It will improve my hand-piecing speed and skill, including y-seams.   

Yes, but what about the time it will take?  If you stop yourself because how long something might take, it's important to remember that time will move on anyhow... and rather than having something wonderful in 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, or even 10 years, there will be nothing except the passing of years. 

Plus, I get to play with lots of fabric.  I switched my rotary blade, and wavy-cut the edges and washed and pressed some new additions.

A few weeks back, I made some other purchases. 

I bought a honey bun of Patisserie and a pattern.  The pattern is made up of three simple blocks: a rail fence, a 9-patch and setting squares.  That'll be my next machine-stitched project. 

I also gave in to another temptation.  I'd seen such beautiful cross stitch on blogs, especially the Quaker samplers.  I visited a wonderful shop, Stitchville USA, and ended up with the following pattern.  It's not a Quaker sampler, but once I saw it I had to have it.

I'm enjoying my first time using linen and silk floss.  The linen is 32 count... requiring great light and my cheaters. 

Originally I only stitched guidelines on the outside edge and center lines.  I knew better, but was anxious to start.  I added the red guidelines after I discovered that the top row is off by one thread (which will be redone). 

I've wanted to use variegated thread for a project, and chose some lovely floss. But some of the light shades are too similar to the color of the linen and aren't showing well. If I'm going to do that much stitching, it needs to be seen! I'll be making another trip to Stitchville soon. :-)

Yesterday was a gorgeous, sunny day.  It is the first ever March that there hasn't been snow.  EVER! ... or at least in the 100 plus years they've been keeping records.  These little guys are starting to poke up and it won't be long till they bloom.

Officially, there is no snow on the ground.  My yard has always been a straggler and hangs on to snow longer.  I resisted taking the shovel and tossing it all in the street, lol.  (Yes, I've done it in previous years.)

My blog reading is soooo behind and I'm slowly working on making my visits and seeing what everyone else has been doing.  I need to be strong and resist any more temptations.  :-)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My first quilt - chapter 7

We left off on the quest to replace the cheddar.  Aww come on, you knew I'd be visiting my local quilt shops!  Let's just say I did a fine job growing my stash.  It came down to these last 6, and any one of them would have worked.  (Yes, I really did pin the blocks to these candidates and lay it on my couch in this struggle to decide.)  But in the end, there was one that spoke to me. 

Ta da!  Did you guess right? 

There was more drama as I finished piecing the top.  My faithful friend - my seam ripper - helped me out of a few "accidents", without judgement.  My other faithful friend - Bella, our dog - caused a real accident.  See? 

Fortunately, neither the dog nor the machine were hurt.  Bella is a Newfoundland.  She caught the cord with her leg, and luckily the machine didn't fall on her.  It emphasized the need to find a permanent spot to set up my sewing.  The dining table won't work for what's clearly more than a passing interest (as in, I'm loving quilting!!). 

The machine?  It's built like a tank... all metal and nothing broke. 

Here's a couple more shots.  I worked on it last night.

It's been a good test of my sewing skills.  There are a few points that got chopped off and it's about a 1/4" bigger than it's supposed to be.  But none of that bothers this perfectionist. 

Here's a full shot.  The top is done!!  I love to run my hands over it and feel all those seams. 

Oh yeah, I'm hooked!

I've selected the next pattern and purchased fabric.  It's 51" x 51", so I'm moving up in size, but it does seem a bit small for a lap quilt.  I've been doing the math on increasing it to 51" x 59 1/2" or 59 1/2" x 68".  (If you have advice on the best size, let me know.)  I need to get more fabric if I increase the size, and because the fabric line was released nearly a year ago it's getting tougher locating it, but I think I found a source today. 

(I also purchased a beautiful, cross stitch sampler, linen and silk thread.  I'll share that soon.) 

Of course the little top isn't a quilt until it's quilted.  I'm going to give hand quilting a whirl.  Wish me luck and I'll let you know how it goes.  Thanks for everyone's encouragement and words of wisdom!!!!  You're the best!


As promised, here's a couple neat winter shots.

The snow on the railing slid off, but it was solid enough that it stayed this way all day!  Pretty wild!

Winter is quiet.  The snow muffles and absorbs all noise. 

Winter is clear.  The air and sky are so clear this time of year. 

Winter is white.  That's obvious. 

But winter is also blue.  The whole world turns beautiful shades of blue at dawn and dusk.  I took this shot early one morning.  It really was that color. 

Enjoy your weather wherever you live!  And may your hands stay busy and happy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sign language

See my hand waving to you?  That's my first "sign language", letting you know I'm still here.  I know I've been "gone" for awhile.  Lately sewing, and blogging, has come in fits and spurts.  I'd love it if it were more even and steady, bu reality is that my job can have demanding stretches, and combined with life's obligations, sometimes I'm left with little time - or energy - for those pleasures.  

I have managed to make progress on my little quilt, but I've been trying to hold off showing it until it's together.  I'm "this" close!  See my hand with my finger and thumb nearly touching?

I've joined tonight's Friday Night Sew In again.  Fingers-crossed that the top gets finished tonight.  I think it's doable.

Here's some visual shots of the word accumulate.  My thumb is pointing down.  I don't hate winter, but at this point I'm looking forward to it going away.

All the lovely evergreens that were in the pot are buried. 

That's a 48" metal ruler shoved into the snow pile near the door. 

Looking out the front to the left down the street. 

Looking up the street.  The sun came out!

You can almost make out the steps leading up the back yard from the house. 

These icicles are a big thumbs down.  When I was little, I thought they were so cool looking.  Now I know that the damage they can cause to a house.  (Ice forms along the roof edge, called ice dams, and when the snow melts, the ice can block the water from running off the roof.  With no where to go, the water can leak into the roof.  The ice was removed shortly after these pics.)

(I've got a couple other shots to share next time, showing a couple neat things about winter and snow.) 

For those of you who stopped by, a high five to you for paying me a visit.  I will try my best to post more regularly, and I hope you'll be understanding if I fall off course from time to time. 

These fingers are ready to sew, click and type.  TGIF! 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My first quilt - chapter 6

Chapter 6

The plot thickens. 

(This is the point of tension in the story, where something happens to throw everything off balance.) 

As the pieces were laid out, there was a problem. 

The cheddar-y blocks just weren't working for me. It looked promising when it was a pile of uncut fat quarters, but now... not so much.

I can't explain it. There may be some of you who don't see a problem. I don't mean to offend anyone. But it's got to feel right.  And it didn't.

There's also the pressure of the being the "first quilt".  (Picture those words in blinking lights, recited by a deep, reverberating voice... firrrssstt quillllttt....  lol.) 

Rise to the challenge!  I can overcome. 

I think I can... fix it with a different color for the blocks.

I think I can... try a different layout.

No, no, no, stick to the original design, missy! 

I think I can.... keep pulling out the stash.

That's only some of the things I tried.  Through the process I took the pics for my benefit, as a way to step back. Of course there's also the squint-your-eyes technique.  Do the beginning quilting classes teach that one?  :-)

I have one more idea I'm picturing in my head.  If I'm lucky, it's waiting for me on the shelf of my local quilt shop. 

If not, I'm going to go with one of the above and call it good enough.  (If I told you which one, that would be cheating, now wouldn't it?!)


Thanks for sashaying with me down the square dance memory lane yesterday.  Wow, what fun memories that brings back.

Writing this little story reminded me of other things I learned long ago, like plot and climax and resolution.  Remember protagonist and antagonist?  (Oooo, found those words in a dusty back corner of my brain!)

Of course, I'm the protagonist. 

My son has taken an interest in this quilt, which is surprising and sweet.  He's 17, that age when male communication is often scattered words and gutteral sounds that require an interpreter.  (He's used to me teasing him about it.)  Anyhow... he looked at some of the ideas and asked questions.  So, what did he think?  When he found out this was only going to be a little quilt, he said I should keep going and make it into a big quilt.  You know what that makes him? 

The antagonist.  (LOL.)

(No siding with him!  I'm tryng to get this done!) 

Meanwhile, I saw this quilt on the cover and had to buy the magazine.

Makes my heart beat faster.  Me and complicated quilts... moth to a light, like moth to a light.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My first quilt - chapter 5

Chapter 5

370 became 144.  (On their way to become one.)   

In every moment of free time, I'd stitch some more. I was on a roll. Took about 3 days. Excitement was building. No seam ripper. Yay!

(This is the happy part of the story where you get to know the characters and things are going along so well.)

I kept thinking about doing square dance back in grade school while doing these guys. 

Grab your partner................ and bow to the ladies..............  and promenade right....

Okay, maybe it's just me. lol.


Next chapter, rising tension and crisis.  :-)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My first quilt - a story in progress

The story of my first quilt... in reverse order. 

Chapter 4

The day ended with 36 little four patches,

and 16 little triangle segments.

Chapter 3

How many times do you think I managed to match the right side to the wrong side? 

Answer:  4. 

(I mean, really, how could I forget one of the first rules of sewing... right sides together... right sides together... say it with me, right sides together!  LOL.) 

(The picture has unplanned irony... notice the word on the iron?  Precision.)

Chapter 2

The old lady managed to do better than I expected. 

Hey now... I'm talking about the sewing machine... not me!

(Did you notice that the thread isn't going through that little loop?  Give yourself bonus points for observation.  I didn't notice it till I took the pic.  I could swear it was there before!)

Chapter 1

Not new, but it works.

It took MANY tries to get the tension adjusted.  After a point, I called it good enough... and it was.


.... story to be continued........................


Here's a pretty pic I took a couple days ago. 

The tulips are now gone.

The snow is not. 

I need more tulips.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sew what?

Show and tell time.  I signed up for the Friday night sew-in.  One minor problem... I didn't sew. 

I cut.  (You need pieces cut before you can sew.  If you know another way, tell me. Grin.)

I'm slow, since I haven't done much rotary cutting before. This is still a fairly new process for me. And I love it.

When the fabric is cut it takes on a different look. I was trying to think how to describe it. Well... it's like a photo that's been cropped.

The change surprised me. And delighted me. I didn't expect it. I've never heard anyone mention it before. 

I probably only cut about a quarter of the strips that I needed yesterday and continued today. I had a light fabric picked out, but I'm not settled on it yet. I need to decide soon because I want to get to the sewing part.

It's really neat seeing all these little pieces lining up. Waiting for the party to begin.

I've also been making progress on prepping my applique pieces for the next two CWBQ blocks. 

Oh!  I was so excited today because I received my first gift from blogging!  Crispy offered to send me a few needles to try and I've been watching the mail for the last couple days.  When I opened the package I was so surprised to see that she sent me a fat quarter of this gorgeous fabric too!  Thank you Crispy!!!  It's so pretty.  And I can't wait to try the needles. 

One last thing... I'll share something that made me laugh the other day.  On the wrapper on a feminine hygiene product it had words.  It said Never Give Up.  Then I looked at another and it said Enjoy Life! (complete with the exclamation point).  What marketing genius decided this product needed motivational phrases?  Funny.   

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Put up or shut up

A while back I mentioned that the I'd finished the cross stitch that's in my header (actually, a few months ago). 

It is one of the first things I decided to finish after my needlework "hiatus".  Out of curiosity I looked for a date on the pattern.  Wow... 1983.  (Thankfully it wasn't dusty blue and pink ducks! lol)  Here's the full shot. 

I'm going to frame it myself, venturing into new territory.  Thanks to the internet, I found lots of info on ways to tackle it.  I think I'll document what I do and share it here.  Call it a tutorial if you must.  If nothing else, it'll be a good reference for me.  It's on this weekend's to-do list. 

Speaking of lists, I have my goals for 2010. 
  • First quilt finish - #1 goal for the year
  • 2 wall hangings - got the bare walls in place
  • 1 lap quilt -  a must when you live with snow 1/3 of the year
  • 2 table runners - so my furniture doesn't feel left out
  • A few small, fun things - such as a pincushions & a bag 
  • Wool penny rug - yeah, I'm on that bandwagon too
  • 12 blocks of the Civil War Bride Quilt - towards a 2011 finish
  • 30 Nearly Insane blocks - I'm afraid a higher goal would be crazy (get it? crazy?... never mind)
  • Hand quilt something - this will be a new skill
  • Something out of Kaffe - I love what I see & it pushes me out of my normal range
  • Finish the "this-is-not-my-burial-shroud" project - a secret, revealed in due time
  • Carve out a spot at my home for my sewing - versus borrowing the dining table
  • Stitchery time > (greater than) time spent blog reading & surfing the net - Last, but definitely not least... can you relate?
As for that first goal, I know, I know... I've said it before. Time to shut up and - to use a popular phrase - JUST DO IT

Number one, I knew this would not be done by hand.  I think my old machine and my old skills are up to the task. 

Number two, needed to pick a design.  I poured through my inspiration books. 

Oh for goodness sakes, the pressure I gave this poor quilt.  Because I kept thinking, this will always be known as my "FIRST Quilt".  When people say, show me your first quilt, this will be "The ONE".

You should be rolling your eyes by now.

At least I found one rational brain cell in all of this... I shouldn't pick something too big or difficult... kind of interferes with the goal. 

Remember the goal?  A finished quilt.

Meanwhile, I was checking out my favorite blogs and spied something.  I really liked the design.

Photo courtesy of Lori

Lori (of Humble Quilts) showed this vintage quilt and offered a quilt-along with the cute name of Cheddar and Crackers.  The catch?  The quilt-a-long is for a little quilt, 24" x 24". 

Does a little quilt count as my first finished quilt?  It felt like I was cheating.  But I don't care.  ;-) 

I think it may be perfect for one of my other goals, hand quilt something.  !

I've signed up for tomorrow's Friday Night Sew In.  Time to put up or shut up.  Just do it.

Show and tell on Saturday.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Return to reality

How I spent my Christmas vacation.

Christmas was very nice. This is the quiet Christmas period of our lives. There's a different tempo between the kids-are-little phase and the grandkids phase. (DD is 19 and DS is 17.) It's softer and slower and sweet in its own way.

Christmas dinner turned out good. I learned a few things. They will make the first holiday in years "memorable". 

Homes have an evil sense of humor... and timing.

(The bathroom sink plugged... and the kitchen sink too... DH plunge plunge plunge...more plunging, bringing up water that looks like black dirt... broken sewer pipe?... visions of tearing up the front yard and $$$... DH thinks sewer vent could be blocked with snow... he climbs up on snowy roof (yipes)... not blocked... plunge PLUNGE PLUNGE... may need to haul everything to inlaws... more PLUNGING... until it FINALLY released. Followed by MUCH cleaning.  Eeeew. Dinner was not harmed in the incident. Later, my FIL said this happened every few years when they lived here... a kinked spot where the pipes meet which can create a slow build up... apparently timed to release at Christmas 2009. LOL)

A bare hand isn't a potholder.

(I was making gravy... needed the measuring cup... where did I put it?... counter? dishwasher?... shoot, the gravy is boiling, so hold pan off stove with one hand... now where is the cup?... needed to transfer pan to other hand, so I set it ONTO fingers of right hand. Oh yes I did. Shivery, make-me-nearly-cry pain. My hand spent the rest of Christmas in cold water and ice. And recovered amazingly well within a few days, I might add.)

I don't know turkey anatomy... and neither does my DH.

(Recipe says to check temp in breast... except I don't know where it is... ask DH to do it... oh oh it's too done... seems a little early, but thermometers don't lie... after it rested and DH was carving, it was clear that it needed more time... I will tell you that DH did raise chickens when we lived in the country... and he seeems to know everything... he will tell you that I had the bird upside down... recovery involved slices of nearly-done turkey being microwaved... and it turned out fine.)

Watching a friend disappear in front of you is heartbreaking.

(There is a dear couple that spends many holidays and birthdays with our family. She was lively and talkative and funny. Now, Alzheimers. She's only 62. She is mostly quiet now, and it is deafening.)

I had intended on doing lots of stitching between Christmas and New Years. But it felt like pressure, not fun.  I listened to my heart and relaxed and unwound. Enjoyed taking things slow.  

I did finish the September redwork snowman block, and transferred and began stitching the January block.

I looked at my inspiration books to see what quilt I want to make with machine piecing, and drafted a few possibilities.  I bought fabric.

I went to the framers and they're making a frame for the cross stitch that's in my header.

I started prepping pieces for the next two blocks of my CWBQ.

Like many of you, I have goals for 2010.  I'll list them this week.

It's time to return to reality. I'm ready. It was a good vacation.