Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Meet My New Best Friend

We've spent some quality time together the past day, and we've made plans for the next few as well, though hopefully we won't be spending as many hours together as we did last night. I wouldn't want the hubs to get jealous about all the time Mr. Ripper and I are spending in the studio locked in embrace.

After four hours of cutting, I got the 63 8.5" squares and the 63 10" squares cut for both rag quilts, and the 8.5" squares cut into pieces for one quilt. Tired of cutting, I decided to piece the wonky shapes together.

Easier said than done. While they may look like they fit together, it's an entirely different  story when you seam them together with a half inch seam. They don't exactly line up.

And it doesn't make It any easier when you've got printed instructions that say to trim them to a size that is larger than they actually sewed together. We rip, we sew, we rip, we sew.

Did I mention that this is a RAG quilt? Well that implies that the pieces have been sewn together wrong sides together, with the seams out (to be fringed later). Have you ever made a rag quilt? If so, then you have some idea of how hard it is to sew seams with wrong sides together. Most of my ripping wasn't the result of pieces that just didn't fit together properly, no, most of the ripping out was because I kept sewing with the right sides together. So hard a concept this is for me to grasp that even after I ripped out the seam, I actually put right sides together and stitched it wrong once again.

By 2 a.m. I had enough. The one page instructions just weren't cutting it, my blocks were half an inch short of the trim size before I even trimmed.  Reading the instructions for the forty seventh time, I noticed that it referred to laying the pieced blocks on top of the 9" solid blocks.....WAIT A MINUTE.....the instructions called for me to cut  8.5" solid blocks.Where did 9" come from?  Now I was on to something.

A web search turned up Sandy Brawner,  the pattern designer's email and I sent off a desperate plea for help. By 9 a.m. she sent me an email telling me she was going to investigate, and by 3 pm I had a revised pdf file instructing me to trim my blocks to 8.5", and were a little clearer on how to piece the three parts together. Do we love quilters, or what?!  I've gotta believe that if I were making a sequined evening gown and ran into a little snag that Bob Macke wouldn't be so accessible. The community of quilters is amazingly helpful to those of us trying to learn. Special thanks to Sandy Brawner.

After a little last minute shopping run to the Gangs R Us Mall on the way home from work, I headed up to the studio and  gave the wonky piecing another go. Success!

Have Mercy! the blocks even TRIMMED out to 8.5". Of course, I still had to do a little (okay, a lot of) ripping-- it is just not in my genetic profile to seam wrong sides together.. But I was able to knock out 10 blocks until I fell under the grip of the Hallmark Channel's sappy Christmas movies..

Only 53 more blocks to piece and trim.

Here's hoping that the 2 a.m. Christmas movies coming up are all ones I've seen before. I really can't spend another day on 4 hours sleep.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Little Miss Motivation Finds Her Mojo

I have been to the gym two days in a row, thanks to my neighbor. I've set up a challenging regimen for myself: 8 minutes on the elliptical torture device, 12 minutes on the recumbent bike, and 10 minutes on the treadmill...all at LEVEL 1 (ha ha ha).
Seriously...I'm moving into this at a slow and steady pace. (Plus, my office is on the third floor of a 100-year old house, and I need to be able to walk up stairs without moaning, and stopping to sob in pain on the 2nd floor).

Today it was nice to see the guy next to me almost fly off the treadmill (not to worry, he recovered and regained his balance), because if anyone was going to do that, I was sure it was going to be me, in front of a full-house. (There's always tomorrow).

On our way out we looked at the big white board full of classes, and I discovered that I could take any class as part of my membership....pilates...yoga...spinning (hysterical laughter)...Zumba --- wait....Zumba? Haven't I heard of that? Isn't that the new fitness flavor of the month? Well, there's a Zumba class at 8:30 on Saturday morning, and gosh darn, we are so there. We may not know what it is (we're thinking Jazzercise on amphetamines), but we are certainly going to find out. And if I was worried about embarrassing myself in front of a room full of people...well, we've pretty much decided that we're just going to station ourselves at the back of the room and spend a lot of time giggling like little schoolgirls.

So, with this new found motivation (obviously caused by two days of adrenaline fueled exercise), I headed up to the studio and commenced to cutting 20 yards of flannel into 8.5 and 10" strips.
Next we cut each set into 126 squares, which will then be cut into some crazy patches. And before we can sew we need to cut another 63 squares of batting for each set.

The finished products will be twin-size flannel rag quilts.

Since my new motto is 'all things in moderation', we shall resume our cutting tomorrow night....after the gym.

In the meantime, here's a few shots of this year's Christmas decorating

The top of the Mardi Gras tree.

Closeup of the MG tree

Fairies swinging on the chandelier....it's always a party around here.

The sugar plum fairy holds court on top of our refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beelzebub, Quick! Go Get the Ice Pick!

Because clearly, Hell has frozen over. (And the Sugar Zombie Elves are not happy.)

I JOINED A GYM TODAY (hysterical laughter).

And if that wasn't enough...the hubs wrote out 4 Christmas cards. In the 29 years we have been sending out cards, I cannot recall that he has ever wrote a card (though when confronted with this fact he will tell you  that back in Year 4, he's pretty sure he may have written one or two (hysterical laughter)).

Finally....in the 29 years we have been sending a Christmas card to his HS friend Rick, we have never received a card from Rick. Guess what came in the mail today?

I stood frozen in the kitchen, envelope in hand, waiting for the magnitude 9.4 tremors to begin....but they did not....so there must be more surprises to come (like a Lexus with a big red bow on top in my driveway Christmas morning....or I wake up tomorrow morning and all the jeans in my drawer are a size 6 AND THEY ALL FIT (hysterical laughter).  Or, more likely, I actually go to the gym tomorrow (wink).

For the rest of the night I shall enjoy my tea,
in my great green room,

and place a few orders at various online fabric shops for

Quilting Treasures' Goodnight Moon fabric line. This is my first foray into 'investment fabric' (which is what I am calling this purchase for the hubs' benefit). I don't have a grandchild, but should we be blessed with one in the future, the quilt I would want to make would be with this fabric. This was one of our favorite books to read to our daughter.

Now, all I need is for Quilting Treasures to come out with fabric from our second favorite book and we can invest in a second future grandchild (I'm sure my daughter is thinking 'good thing there's only two books' on our favorites list)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Where Has the Month Gone?

I can't believe I've been gone this long. Goes to show how disorganized I've been (or possibly lazy?).

It's not like I've been totally absorbed in Christmas decorating...I'm still not done...there will not be 15 trees this year....and I'm fine with that. Seems the older I get, the less trouble I want to go to, not to mention the more practical I get...practical as in everything I take out will have to be put away again, so I find myself asking myself 'is it worth it?' many times over.

What's totally out of character is that when I got back from Florida I went and picked up my sewing machine, and it's now been 3 weeks and I've yet to use it. (GASP!!) I was hoping to spend some quality time in the studio today, but alas, Mrs. There Will Be No Outside Christmas Lights This Year caved at approximately 3 p.m. and spent the rest of the evening setting up outdoor extension cords, cursing strands of LEDs that were supposed to live forever that no longer work after 3 years, and untangling and hanging lights.

While I've self imposed the 'no trees upstairs' rule this year, I did decide to put the little sewing tree in my studio. It's one of my favorites because I made everything on it.  It's supposed to sit inside a sewing basket, but I just haven't found one large enough yet. One day.

I went to Ladies Night at a local garden center a couple of weeks ago and bought two Cyclamen to keep the Christmas Cactus company.  (Gotta have flowers in the studio)  I'm as surprised as anyone that the cactus is flowering this year. I'm also surprised that I haven't killed the Cyclamen yet (Shh!, don't ask the red one how long it went without water this week. If it complains just tell it to buck up, and be happy it's alive.

I pulled out my little shabby chic pinecone gnomes and trees I made. I like them, and I'm glad they didn't sell on etsy.

This is the newest addition to my pincushion collection. He's not really a pincushion, but when I saw him at the garden center on a snowman tree I had to have him. It's woolfelt and he makes the prefect pincushion. This one is definitely my new favorite.

After the Ladies Night things got crazy. I had a week to clean/decorate and bake cookies for my annual Cookie Exchange.
Friday we had friends for dinner, so no work then. And Saturday was out, as the Happy Hour crew had plans for lunch (3 course) at Volt (yes, that would be Brian Voltaggio's restaurant),

This is my appetizer, it's a yellowfin tuna tartare with two kinds of roe on top and a little drizzle of wasabi on the plate. (I sent this photo to the hubs, and his first comment was 'ewww, who spit on your food'.)  I never really did get the full explanation of the foam, but it's some kind of soy foam that they used to use nitrous oxide to make but it made it too sweet so now they use something else ( more likely, the nitrous was running out a little too frequently).

And this is a triple chocolate dessert, and that is egg-shaped chocolate ice cream (well, not exactly ice cream, something more pretentious-sounding).

After our $55 per person lunch, we popped into some of the shops and then went on a tour of some of the homes that were decorated for the holiday.

With the Cookie Exchange party looming, I had to bake Sunday if I expected to have any cookies for Wednesday. And of course I  HAD to take on an all-day Bakerella project.

 (My neighbor took this photo with her iPhone the night of the party). We had a lot of fun (and a lot more wine), I've gained 3 pounds eating cookies for the past 4 days. 

Two more neighborhood shindigs this week and then things hopefully die down. I still need to put out a few more decorations, light one more tree outside, finish shopping, and wrap.

I don't think I'm going to get to that paper pieced Christmas tree quilt this year. Right now, I'm thinking more along the lines of the flannel rag quilt. It's freezing in here!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some November Finishes

The one thing I love about flying is that it's a great way to knock out hand sewing (what else are you gonna do at 37,000 feet trapped in a steel can seated in 2 cubic feet of space?)

On the flight down to Orlando I finished this one

And then I got a good start on this one (which I finished while sitting at the hubs' softball games....which explains why my face is not sunburned--I was always looking down, and that my arm is not sunburned in a diamond shape on the inside of my elbow--my arm was bent while I was stitching)

These are patterns from Piece O'Cake Designs Aunt Millie's Flower Garden, and the fabric is also from Piece O'Cake designs. The finished piece will be a four block wall hanging with an appliqued border. The blocks all have a 2-color wheel of fortune in the center that I'll do when all the blocks are complete.  It's hand applique and I'm using DMC Broder single ply cotton thread, which I was loving until I started using Superior Kimono Silk on my Baltimore Blocks. There is seriously nothing that compares to silk thread for hand applique.

Speaking of finishes, Peg Coen from OPAM (One Project a Month) pulled my name as one of the monthly winners for September. She's in Australia so I told her that it was okay to pull another winner and save the postage to the US--I'm in the whole OPAM thing for the motivation--whcih is prize enough for me, but she insisted on sending a prize. I received two adorable patterns...one is an embroidery project, the other a wool felt/applique/embroidery...both of which I've recently 'dabbled' in and enjoy. Peg also included a sweet little pair of Embroidery Angel scissors in my most favorite color, that matches my studio walls (green). Thanks Peg!

Finally, you are looking at yet another project. At the moment, I haven't a clue what it will be. This is one of our Guild challenges, which is sponsored by Quilters' Confectionery. You get a fat quarter of each of the three fabrics on the right and you've got to use them in a quilt/wallhanging/wearable in a recognizable amount. Quilt/wallhangings have a limit of 160" around the perimeter, wearables can be any size. I bought extra yardage of each, along with the orange/red batik (which makes me think 'Tequila Sunrise' when I look at it) because I actually like all of the fabrics. There is a remote possibility I could make a wearable or a bag or a doll.

The challenge is called 'Orange Blossoms'. Totally subjective. You aren't going to get that from any of those three fabrics on the right. In fact none of those colors appear in an actual orange blossom.  You're judged on use of fabric, creativity, and workmanship. This one's gonna require some serious creativity.

We've also got the 'Big League' challenge...the one that could possibly wind up in an AQS show. This is the Ultimate Guild Challenge. You might remember I wasted a lot of time on 'Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend'  last year only to trash my efforts. I'm not sure I'm in the league to tackle a challenge of this caliber, but I do think about it. This year's theme is to interpret the title of a Beatles song, or a line of a Beatles song in a quilt.(Damn.....I could have saved all those black diamonds from last year's failed effort and done a 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' thing)  It's a great theme, I've just got to figure out a song or a line and how I'd execute it and then assess whether or not I'm skilled enough to compete.

Can I order up 4-day weekends for the rest of this year and the first quarter of next?

Oooh...John Fogarty's on Letterman. Gonna sign off now and rock out. Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back from the Beach / Show and Tell

Got back last night (cue sad music). It was lovely to be in Florida in November, even if I did get a bit of a sunburn on Day 2. (I forgot the sunscreen). By the time we got back from the Gulf Coast to SIL's beach house on the Atlantic,I was quite uncomfortably crispy, and  I didn't leave the house without SPF50 on for the rest of the trip.

I tried to blog, but it just wasn't working on the iPhone. I think when I star-2-2-8'd (to update my roaming capability) I screwed things up. Back in the day, you needed to do that with your Verizon cellphone to alert it to the local towers. It seems every time I went somewhere and did that, my signal just got worse (or maybe it was because there aren't any cell towers out in the ocean, which was on one side of me...or maybe because I'm in a concrete house.....). So, I amused myself by doing lots of Facebook posts with photos...sometimes every 5 minutes on a road trip, just so I could see all the places I was posting from be listed on my posts. (I'm easily amused)

I spared the hubs the usual quilt shop hop in Ft. Meyers Beach and Cape Coral area. Dragged him into Michaels for some Christmas stuff...I know, how is it I'm on vacation 1100 miles from home, and I'm shopping in Michaels? They had a great coupon for Fri and Sat, and I didn't want to miss out. He was a trooper about it, and it was his idea to go back on Saturday in between games (I suspect he was sulking over sending a runner in who was tagged out, and just wanted to get away, and the only place he knew how to get to was the shopping center with Michaels in it).

We did our usual Polish Pottery visit to pick up a couple replacement pieces (casualties of the hubs' occasional campaign to be relieved of emptying dishwasher duty...which isn't going to happen) and add a few more pieces (I can't resist, and I've still got a tiny bit of space in my cabinets).

I got to go to a really expensive decorator's warehouse in Orlando (where I spent a whopping $4.00). It cost us at least $25 which is what we'll be fined from the car rental agency once they get the photo ticket of us running through the toll booth without paying. Florida is sneaky like that....they put 2 toll booths on the on and exit ramps...one is EZ Pass, the other is exact COIN. Who knew???? I've got 20 one dollar bills, but no quarters, and the toll is a buck and you have to pay with coin. And there's 12 cars behind us. What are we suppoed to do? We had to drive through without paying. Of course, the minute we do that, it then occurs to us that now we've got to get off this road and we're looking at doing this again. I find two quarters in my purse...cool, we're passing exits that are 50 cents. We're set. Then we get off at our exit and it's 75 cents. Seriously!? Fortunately I also had some nickels and dimes to total the toll, otherwise, we would have driven until we found a 50c exit. The place (Margie's Interiors) had some really great decorated trees, and some excellent accessories, but the prices were seriously out of control, and I'm not sure the trip was worthy of the price of admission..

We stopped at The Quilt Place in Rockledge, FL which advertises having 11,000 bolts of fabric. It's a big shop, and they have a lot of fabric, but I just can't buy into 11,000 bolts. Who counted them? How long does it take to count to 11,000? (Sorry, I'm way too math challenged to figure that out). I suspect that someone counted  the number of bolts in some set length of space and then made some math mistakes when trying to compute how many bolts of fabric went into the length and width of the place.  Most shops advertise having 2000 or 2500 bolts of fabric, and this place just wasn't 4-5 times the size of those shops. They are a large building, but they've also got 3 or 4 Gammil long-arms in the place.

They did have a lot of Christmas fabric, so I decided to add a Christmas quilt to this year's ever increasing To Do List.

We drove to Vero Beach Monday and the hubs found a basket of Australian FQs, so I had to come home with a handful.

And this martini fabric just screamed my name.

Just because the vacation is over doesn't mean the fabric fun is. Today, my prize for winning the weekly quilt contest arrived...40 lovely batiks from Moda's Paridise Batiks line. Courtesy of Jojo's Quilt Shop in Elk Grove, CA. (Thanks again everyone who voted for me)the

All that remains is for me to drive up to Frederick this weekend and pick up my sewing machine (which has been enjoying a lovely spa visit while I've been beach bumming it), and I can get to work.

Yeah, I should be able to fit some sewing in between the treck up to pick up the Aurora,  painting the living room, taking the kids to the airport (Jamaican honeymoon), going to the Sugarloaf Craft Festival, making and delivering cookie exchange invites, and cleaning the house....this is a 4-day weekend coming up, right? (I wish!)

Tomorrow it's back to work for me, and after that it's back to other work as well. Welcome home!

I got a lot of stitching done on the trip, and I'll post those photos tomorrow. For now...goodnight, and have a great tomorrow!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I had to leave the house this morning at 9 to drive to Great Falls, VA to meet someone (who never showed up), so since I was in the neighborhood.....

Let's see what she bought that got her that bonus shopper bag...

Oooh.....aaahhh.....I couldn't resist her new line, Kashmir. I bought enough of one fabric from the line to back something, but I may wind up using it in a One Block Wonder/Kaleidoscope.  I almost bought it in shades of turquoise, but that's kind of my summer go-to colorway, so I opted for the more winterish fuschia, orange, red.

This is the main snag...this week's 'Web Special'....I just love it when someone figures out all the colors you need and you can pick up the project fabric in 5 seconds instead of obsessing over dozens of bolts for an hour (or two).

And this is what the end result will look like. This is a project for after the holidays.

Since I was in Virginia, and it was snowing back in Maryland, and there wasn't any heat back home, I decided to visit one of the Virginia G Street Fabrics. I have vouchers burning a hole in my wallet.

Well, no impressive fabric that I had to have...not even wool, but I did find a nifty gadget.

It shows you that you can get this

From this.

Or, you can piece together this

 From this. (Makes you wanna run out and pick up a Kaleidoscope book now, doesn't it?)

 It's just two little mirrors taped together, and they're plastic, so you can carry them around when fabric shopping and not worry about breaking them. Pretty cool.

By the time I got home from my Virginia excursion, it was snowing pretty steady so I went rooting in my workroom closet for some kind of Christmas project to work on. Look what I found. It's actually a pretty decent tinsel tree on a metal base. Lots of branches, definitely full. Don't know when I bought it or for what, it just sort of fell off a shelf while I was looking for something to do. I've fluffed it out and set it on the sewing desk in the studio to think about what the heck to do with it.

This is the craft project for tomorrow. Can you guess what it's going to be? I can tell you, the Hubs was not thrilled when he called while he was out (he called from Walmart to ask if we needed any goat's milk, and to inform me that it would be a shame if we did, because they were sold out ??!! I think his point was that they even sell goats' milk in Walmart is a bit unbelievable) anyway, I sent him into the Nether Region of the craft department at Wally World in search of a 4" styrofoam ball.He whined, but he did bring one home (good boy), so this will turn into something tomorrow (after I make a mess of the packed away Barbie stuff in the basement rooting around  for a plastic Barbie hairbrush to use on this yarn). Stay tuned.

And since it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...what is this? Hmmm....4 squares of blue, 4 squares of red, 8 different white on white prints, 4 tan prints and 4 green prints. This one is going to be an applique project...fusible with some blanket stitching. It's from an Art to Heart book (I love their projects). Let's see if I can knock this out tomorrow and show you a finish.

After that, I've got a Jinny Beyer table runner I started last year and didn't finish (gasp!----I got blindsided by mitered borders I decided to add to it...call me Ms. Miterklutz). But as a vote of confidence and a shot of incentive, I picked up a 12 wt. Sulky variegated cotton thread to do some decorative stitching on it.

I'm going to need to replace those fall and Halloween quilts in the family room and still do not have a Christmas quilt, so I'm going to knock out a flannel rag quilt for the hubs. I was going to make a quilt for a gift, but I'm no longer feeling the love for this idea, so this will likely not happen.  So many quilts, so little time. Sigh.

Speaking of time...9 days until I'm soaking up the sun and surf in Florida. Tick tock.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Blogger's Quilt Festival - Fall 2011

Updated to add some photos on 10/29.
I saw this quilt in the August/September issue of The Quilter magazine, and for some reason, it just grabbed me. I'm not normally a Halloween decorating kind of person...I kind of prefer Fall decorating because you can put it out in September and leave it out for 3 months before you have to start putting up 15 Christmas trees, assembling an army of gingerbread, and baking 47 dozen Christmas cookies, so I didn't quite understand my fascination and drive to make a quilt that I could display/use for a couple of weeks. Not to mention, I'm not really a 'panel' kind of gal.

Nonetheless, I had this unexplainably, almost rabid urge to make this quilt, so I set about finding all the necessary fabrics, and a coordinating back (we all know I'm a bit OCD when it comes to things matching...I'm just now starting to get over that need to have every fabric used come from the same line/manufacturer). I had to order from three separate shops...a valuable lesson learned....

Lesson 1: By the time you see the quilt in the magazine, the fabric has already been out for months (if not longer), so good luck wrangling it up...AND...Most online quilt shops do not carry the full line of fabric...in fact most brick and mortar shops do not carry full lines...they pick and choose from within the line and colorways, so never think that putting together a project like this will be a one-stop shop.

It didn't take long to piece this together. I was quite proud of my perfect points and alignment in the star blocks. The little cornerstones were fussy cut so that a spider appeared on each one...tedious, but necessary to the design. The problem came when I got to the backing and discovered that....horrors....I hadn't ordered enough fabric. Great. So, I pieced together border fabric, extra panels, and what I had purchased and with a little 'cut this strip off the border fabric and add it to this piece' magic, I wound up with just enough to leave an inch all around.

Lesson 2: An inch overhang on a backing is not enough to allow your quilt to be long-armed, when it occurs to you that you should send it out because you're going crazy with the October 8th wedding details and worried that this quilt won't see Halloween 2012.

Sucking it up, I decided to lock myself in the studio one weekend and machine quilt this baby on the Bernina. My current fascination is teeny, tiny stippling (thank you Sharon Schamber!), so that's what I did around the star blocks...well actually, teeny, tiny switched to just plain small after the first block when I realized how much time that was going to take, but it's all good.

 The pieced blocks were stippled around the points.

The center of the stars got a spiderweb pattern quilted in.

Not the greatest stippling, but it it is small....the area pictured above is just about 2.5". MQP have a field day.

Then I had this great idea to pull out a metallic thread (which I have NEVER quilted with) to use on the spiderwebs that I was quilting over. Thankfully, my metallic thread was Superior thread, so I never had an issue with a thread break, or tension, though it didn't seem to quilt as smoothly and evenly as I had wanted it to. Fits and starts, a bit of ripping, and it really bothered me that I only used it on the 2 blocks with spiderwebs. Even after the quilt was bound I considered ripping it out again and going over it with cotton thread, but really....it's a Halloween quilt, it's for me, it'll be out 2 weeks a year and repeat after me....."FINISHED IS WAY BETTER THAN PERFECT".


Not sure you can tell there's metallic thread along the web lines.

They aren't the straightest or the greatest or the most even stitches. But it was my first experience with metallic, so I'll need to practice. Maybe I'll pull it out and use it on the Christmas quilt.

Lesson 3: Test out quilting with metallic thread BEFORE you put a needle-full into your real quilt project.

In the end my quilting isn't perfect...there's some microscopic stitching going on that would resonate like fingernails on a chalkboard with the MPQ (Machine Quilting Police)--I just didn't feel like using my stitch regulator on this one, it gets in the way when stippling. I'm not thrilled with the corner blocks, though they are what the pattern called for. I did play with some other ideas, but in the end I was lazy and just said screw it, go with the pattern. But I do have a colorful, fun Halloween quilt to snuggle under in the family room for the next week or so, so I'm happy!

Thanks for looking, and be sure to check out the other quilts in the Festival. You can link to the Festival page and navigate the entries by clicking on the icon on my sidebar, or you can click the title of this blog entry. Big thanks to Amy's Creative Side for hosting this Festival twice a year. Love you Amy!