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!