Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let's try that color selection again...

Quiltville mystery quilt. I loved the look of Bonnie's selected fabrics. Indigo? Check. Shirtings? Love it. Cheddar/gold accent? Perfect. Chocolate brown? Right-o.

Then I realized that I was going along on the pinks because her palette looked so well assembled and balanced, but I wasn't really feeling it. The more I looked at the blue centers and gold accent corner on those square in a square blocks, the more I didn't want to invite pink to the party. So.......
It's green! All these lovely yellow-y greens. Just the ticket to jazz up this design - whatever the heck it is. Thank goodness pink wasn't in the first set of blocks.

Happy Anniversary to my brother and sister-in-law

Now that I know they have opened the gift and I won't spoil the surprise, I can show what I made for my brother and sister-in-law for their 38th anniversary.

Please forgive the terrible picture. This quilt was a little too large to hang from my closet door rod, and it sagged. It was made from my second set of Hearts A-Flutter BOM blocks. I love how it turned out, and I love the quilting job that June Adkins did for me. There's outline stitching and meandering around the applique motifs that let them stand out, and a lovely vine in the sashing.

Quiltville mystery part 1

The first instructions for the mystery quilt have been published, and I'm cutting out patches right now. We will be making 120 square in a square blocks. 120 3 1/2" square in a square blocks. Boy, this Bonnie person likes to work small!

When I make these blocks, I usually cut squares for the corners, sew on the diagonal, and then trim and flip the corners. It wastes a little material, but you can recycle the cut pieces into half square triangles. Bonnie is using the method where you sew slightly oversized triangles on the sides, and then trim the block to size. I balked, because I hate the trim-to-size-later approach. Why don't you just make it the right size to start with? But then I decided to follow her instructions and go with it. Maybe I'll learn something. I'm just hoping I don't regret this. Trimming 120 squares is not my idea of a fun afternoon.

The second thing that bugged me is she is using an Easy Angle and an Easy Square Jr. ruler. I almost never buy a specialty ruler. I have a set of Creative Grids rulers which I adore, because they have the non-slip grip dots on the back and because the marks are thinner, which I think makes cutting more accurate. The 6 1/2" x 6 1/2" is my workhorse. I can use it to square up small blocks, I can use it to cut the diagonal when making triangles from squares. I recently replaced mine because I had used it so much the side of the rotary cutter blade had started to erode the edge of the ruler.

When I finish these segments, I'll add a photo to this post. Back to the cutting board!

Oh, yes, one more thing that cutting out this quilt reinforced for me, something I already knew. When you're doing scrappy, you have to go big or go home. I had pulled 5 different shirtings to use, but when I started cutting out all the triangles, I went back to the stash and got 5 more. The same with the blue center squares. I cut from 7 different blues, but I may go get a few more. If it isn't really scrappy, it just looks paltry and mishmash.

Here's the test block. Yep, it's little.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The best laid plans of mice and men. . .

. . .often get completely obliterated. I had the whole month planned out. I would finish binding the three backlogged quilts, quilting the Linus quilts, starting the mystery quilt and the new BOM. Well, flush that. Flush it all.

My brother-in-law (you know, the one I made a quilt for last spring) is getting married the first weekend in April. This afternoon, my husband said "I guess we need to think about what to get them for a wedding present." The twist is, they're both in their fifties, have worked all their lives, owned houses, and generally bought everything they want or need. So what to get them?

"You could make them a quilt," he continued. Wait, I gave his brother a quilt last spring. "Well, that was for him, not them." I'm not sure I like the way this is going. "I guess a double wedding ring quilt would be traditional."

SCREECH went the brakes in my brain. I have 90 days to design a double wedding ring quilt, buy fabrics, make it, hire it quilted and bind it. A DOUBLE WEDDING RING QUILT. Curved seams, people. And oh, it gets better. "He says no quilts are ever long enough since he's so tall. I suppose he's still got the king size bed."

So I have to make a HUMONGOUS double wedding ring quilt.

I remembered my Shar Jorgensen rotary templates for a double wedding ring. Whew, at least the cutting out won't be hard. I pulled the template set out of the cabinet. Wait, it looks a little bit....small. I consulted the instructions. The rings measure 15 inches in diameter? The arcs are 1 1/2" wide?? The center section is 6 inches across???

I call my mom, who has made several double wedding rings, and read off the dimensions. I can hear her gritting her teeth. "Well," she asks finally, "how many rings will you have to make?" I was hoping she wouldn't ask. "At least 60." She has the grace not to laugh.

Basically, she says what I already know. The small curved seams will be a total and complete pain to sew, it will take forever, and by the time I finish it I will be a raving lunatic. So, I ask her if she still has the pattern she used for mine. It's queen size and contains 30 rings. 30 rings I can do.

She isn't sure because it was in a magazine, but she'll look. In the meantime, I'm doing an internet search and come up with a free double wedding ring pattern from McCall's Quilting Magazine. I check out the dimensions. The rings are 23 inches in diameter. Now you're talking!

So, I'm making a quilt for my brother-in-law. Again.

(But I'm still starting the mystery quilt tomorrow. Shhh, don't tell.)

I decided for the sake of my sanity and respect for the timeframe I decided to do a variation of the wedding ring that my mom once made. The centers and "melons" between the rings are a floral focus fabric and the rings are alternating solids or "sorta solids", as I call them. The corner blocks are darker shades of the ring colors. The solid color one-piece ring arcs gives great quilting space, and the floral makes the quilt detailed enough to be visually interesting. Not to mention that using one-piece rings will save a lot of time.

The lure of the BOM

"Hello, I'm the Calico Quilter and I'm addicted to Block of the Month quilts."

"Hello, Calico."

That's what should be happening right now, if there were a twelve step program for overcommitted quilters. Here I am trying to clean up unfinished projects, and what do I do this morning? Innocently, I start a search for free block of the month projects. (How's that for delusion?) What do I find? This.
It's cute and it's free and it would look great made in my collection of batiks. (What else am I going to do with them? Stare at them? Build a shrine for them? I have been too leery of cutting into them. This will force me to look at them as just another fabric - another, gulp, expensive fabric.).

So off I go to the printer for a copy of the fabric requirements, and to the stash closet, to pull the yardage and create a project box, all the while mentally kicking myself and saying "You have no business committing to another BOM. You know how much time it ended up taking last year."

"But," I answered myself sweetly, "that was because I made two of each of them and I'm only going to make one of this one."

"Yes, but this is not the only one you're going to make, I just know it. You've already been skulking around BlockCentral to see if they've posted their 2009 BOM. Besides, you're going to do Quiltville's mystery quilt, and that starts tomorrow."

"This BOM doesn't start until January 15th."

"Completely beside the point. And, didn't I see you printing out the fabric requirements for that other mystery quilt?"

"But it's a small quilt, it will be quick to complete. They said one day if you're a fast sewer. That's for January 1st."

"What about taking the Christmas tree down on January 1st?"

"But it's so pretty. Can't we enjoy it for a while longer?"

"You're hopeless, completely hopeless."

You see? I need to be rescued from myself.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cleaning up for the new year

No, not the house.

I'm cleaning up all the half-done projects, the BOMs ready to be assembled, the stacked up quilt tops needing to be quilted, the bindings ready to be applied. They're hanging on me like the chains on Marley's ghost. To be able to start the Quiltville mystery quilt with a clear conscience, I have to get these things off the worktable.

1. Anniversary gift quilt for my brother bound, wrapped and ready to mail.
2. Hearts A-Flutter BOM blocks completed and applique border designed.
3. BlockCentral BOM black/white/tan top assembled and awaiting shipment to the quilter.
4. Teacup and saucer quilt boxed and ready to send to Deb for fancy quilting.
5. Four additional blocks for BlockCentral blue/rust quilt designed to make the top large enough for a queen bed.
6. All blocks for the Debbie Mumm Christmas sampler completed and awaiting additional green fabric to assemble top. I could not make the specified amount of fabric stretch to cut the large setting triangles for the center medallion. I have no idea if it was me or them, but I bought what the pattern specified. The extra fabric is ordered.
7. Two wall quilts sent to the longarmer.

But there's more: two wall quilts and two bed quilts to bind, four Linus quilts to quilt and bind, diagonal log cabin top to complete, Hearts A-Flutter, BlockCentral and Debbie Mumm BOMs to complete. I don't expect to get all this done before I start the Mystery quilt, but I'm making a good faith effort to at least work on them. After I get back from running errands tomorrow, I'm hopping on the binding train again. Please, no more small checks or stripes.

Hand made Christmas card

Isn't this Christmas card lovely? Kathryn of Silver Nutmeg Crafts and Hound Mistress made it and sent it all the way from Wales. (That little "Royal Mail" sticker on the envelope gives me the giggles. Mail - for me! - from the British Isles!)

Can you see the little beading on the cross stitch? I can't imagine how long it took to make. And free for the asking - "if you would like a card, email me and I'll send you one". Just like that - how generous!

I need to find a special frame tomorrow when I'm out on errands. This one's a keeper.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Select your fabrics carefully!

Here's something I bet you don't think of when picking your quilt fabrics. I'm in the process of binding this gift quilt. Staring at the small bias check of the binding next to the striae fabric of the backing is about to drive me stone blind. After a while the little checks start to move in my vision and I have to step away for a while. It's hard to see the edge where the needle goes into the backing fabric due to all those little lines. I will be very glad when this one is done!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lead us not into temptation (Quiltville) - oops, too late!

I have waaaaaay too many projects to complete. That's common knowledge. I also have way too many designs in my head to make this year. And too many Linus projects to quilt. And binding to do. So what am I going to do about it?

Start a Quiltville mystery quilt, that's what.

Check out her blog for the new mystery starting New Year's Eve. It's called Double Delight, and well, it's hard to pass up something called that. It's also hard to pass up the lovely pile of colors she has selected. Pinks, indigos, shirtings, chocolate brown and a hint of cheddar? Yum.

I'm using her selection of pink, blue, chocolate, shirtings and a little gold. Bonnie's not scrapping up the browns, but I don't have a lot of any one piece so I'm going scrappy on it too. That's my fabric selection above. As soon as I read the email notice, I tore into the fabric closet and starting selecting colors. I love scrap quilts, the scrappier the better. It may not look as organized and "planned" as her quilt, but I promised that it would all come from the stash. I may also make it bigger than hers, so I can use it on our queen size bed. Of course, I haven't seen the design yet, so that may be hard. Oh, this jumping into a project without even knowing what the design is -- it's heady, folks. I've never done a mystery quilt before. (Remember - solitary quilter. No guilds. Not even blogs until last year.)

I'm pumped!

So the plan is, before New Year's Eve, I applique the last of the Hearts A-Flutter blocks and piece the last of the Debbie Mumm Christmas Sampler blocks. If I get really ambitious, I'll assemble that sampler quilt too, and design the swag border for the Hearts BOM. The BlockCentral black and white blocks are ready to assemble too, but the blue and rust version needs four more blocks to make it queen size, which I have to design in the same vein as the others.

It's the same this time every year. I'm starved for sewing due to abstinence between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and raring to go.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

For unto us a child is born,.....

.....unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

A blessed Christmas to everyone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yes, this is still a blog about quilts

And here's the picture to prove it:

I had a little free time to applique the November block on my Hearts A-Flutter quilt. December's block is prepped but not finished yet. Don't look too closely at the bottom right corner block - it's only basted.

Still, it gives me a bit of an idea what the quilt will look like. The setup and border have me stumped. I haven't found a fabric that speaks to me yet for the border, and don't know whether to sash, or to plain set, or to alternate set or what. I guess it'll come to me. Any suggestions?

I thought that when this BOM was initiated the designer mentioned an appliqued border design which would be available for purchase at the end. Maybe that was just wishful thinking. An appliqued border will make this quilt stretch into next year, for sure, but would be beautiful. If the designer doesn't offer it, I may invent one using motifs from the blocks.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas to all, and to all - please recycle

I was wondering if everyone else's garage looks like mine: piled high with cardboard boxes from mail order Christmas shopping. I don't want to get rid of them just yet in case anything has to be returned, so they are all stacked on my lawn mower, about six feet high. After we are sure that everything is staying, I will attack the cardboard mountain with a box cutter and bag them for the curbside recycling pickup in January.

I shop online. I was always a big catalog shopper; a trip to the mall never enticed me. Add my husband to that, who would rather be flogged than go into a store during the holiday season, and faster than you can say "Internet!" we let our fingers do the walking (and mousing). We are both big on the online shopping, and have never had a bad experience. We've bought everything from clothes to tires to electronics. And fabric, don't forget the fabric. If you are careful who you deal with, it's no more risky than going shopping in person and as handy as buying locally. Well, better actually, 'cause they won't let me in Dillard's in my pajamas.

Just be sure to recycle the boxes. And, in my case, the Christmas wrapping paper too (which irritates the living daylights out of my husband when I'm scurrying around snatching up the gift wrap as soon as it is removed from the package).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A new dress for my blog

Well, I bought a new dress recently, so I thought my blog would like one too! Paula had done a little redecorating and pointed me to a great collection of free blog backgrounds, so I browsed and found this one. It didn't even need alterations! What do you think?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The checkered tale of a quilting book

Some of you might remember several days ago I posted a request to find a book of Christmas applique patterns. Through the inter-library loan program, my local library finally located a copy and I picked it up today. As it turns out, kind offers to copy pages from the book wouldn't have helped because the patterns were on large pull-out sheets in the back (which, wonder of wonders, were still with the library book. What are the odds of that?)

The pages I thought I needed, which I had determined applied to the patterns I wanted from looking at the Table of Contents on Amazon, would only have given me fabric requirements and a layout for the borders (I wasn't even going to use the borders). So, when I finally got the book in my hands I hied myself to the Kinko's and copied the 22" x 31" pattern sheets. Now, I can cut them apart for each block and scan them, and probably enlarge them - there are some teeny tiny applique pieces on these things.

Thanks to the people who looked for the book for me. No people are more helpful than the quilting community.

I don't think anyone should be holding their breath waiting to see results. This is going to be a queen size quilt, all hand appliqued. It might take years.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rain rain go away!

Man, I need a change in the weather. We've had over 7 inches of rain in the last two weeks or so. The sun just came out a little. I hardly recognized it.

The cookie distribution is completed. I didn't post a picture of ALL the cookies and fudge we made and gave away. The photo posted a few days ago of choc chip and spritz was made in the middle of the spritz baking and didn't include several flavors, as well as the oatmeal scotchies. And the fudge picture was after some had been removed from the containers for packing. Trust me, there was a LOT of cookies and candy passing through the house. We ate almost none of it. After candy-making and baking for three days straight I couldn't even look at it. This morning I ate a couple of chocolate chips for breakfast, and a piece of peanut butter fudge last night as I watched tv.

I feel like all I have done in the last week is package and mail presents, bake, and chase around on errands. I was out and about twice today just getting my hair cut (my stylist had a time mix-up and I had to go back later in the day) and mailing boxes. Two trips to the post office in one day. Also two trips to the Ace Hardware, where I found the most adorable Christmas tree ornaments in the shape of power tools - drill and circular saw and router - for my woodworking brother.

Of course my husband loved them so I had to go buy a second set for us.

They joined the antique radio, and Santa's pipe, and the kitten asleep in the Christmas stocking....

...and the snowman with the huge pipe, and our latest acquisition, the Sock Monkey... call our tree eclectic is an understatement.

Still, it looks beautiful when the lights are on and the room is dim...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cookies are packaged and ready to deliver

This has been one long day. I started baking all the spritz cookies at 9 a.m. After all 30 dozen were out of the oven, I mixed up a batch of oatmeal scotchies and then took a moment to run to the bank. Then, I baked the oatmeal cookies, figured out dinner, and then completed packaging the cookies at 9 pm.

This is while I was in process; see some of the boxes standing ready and the cookies that will be in them? It's the only way to make sure I have enough of each kind - lay out the contents of each box first before packing all of them.
And here are some boxes ready to be delivered.
Oh, yes, there was fudge too.

And it was all VERY GOOD!

It's cookie time!

After we cranked out about 20 lb. of fudge this weekend, yesterday I turned to cookies. 15 dozen chocolate chip down, about 30 dozen spritz to go (in five flavors, no less!). Then the oatmeal scotchies, and then boxing and wrapping all the cookie bundles for neighbors, friends, and those who help during the year (I have mentioned the vast benefits of schmoozing the trash truck guys and the mailman).

This is actually a light year for cookies - I'm not making fudge crackles, peanut butter or thumbprints. Last year I sort of overloaded myself, and so I promised that I would only do the essentials - everybody loves chocolate chip and the little buttery goodness of a spritz cookie. The kids like oatmeal cookies, and no one will turn down fudge.

Food is a big thing for me this time of year. I love to make Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and bake for everyone, and have nice things to offer company. When I was working, I would bring cookies into the office several times between Thanksgiving and Christmas, just because, and I made a chocolate chip banana bread that had become famous on the third floor.

And what about my other big passion - quilting? Well, it's on hiatus this time of year. I appliqued the last block for the Hearts A-Flutter Civil War repro quilt and sent it off to the longarmer, but other than that haven't picked up a needle. My own BOM's are languishing. What with the cooking, and the company, and the decorations it's a little hard to tie up the kitchen now. And since that's the only place I have to sew..... After Jan. 1st, I'll get back to the remaining blocks and ship off those BOM quilts to be done.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas village is done!

It took over three hours last night to put everything together, but the village is now safely installed on my foyer shelves. The time included bundling up my husband's antique radios and safely storing them in the guest room closet shelves. That meant that the boxes from the village stuff couldn't go back in there, so I loaded them into three large trash bags and stuffed them into the closet in the garage. Just don't open that door.

Here is this year's village:

which looks suspiciously like last year's village. That's part of the trouble of using these foamcore bases to assemble the display. It's hard to vary the look. I'm thinking of making some more after Christmas, with wider bases for the shelves so there is more room. As I box each item, I'll trace its footprint onto a big roll of paper and use them to plan the layout. It'll give me a project for the winter that I can trade off with sewing. These new bases will have white fleece for snow instead of batting. I think it will glue down easier and not be as fragile. The only way to store these without the batting tearing and the whole thing disintegrating is to wrap each foamcore board in saran wrap, which feels too wasteful. I can make bags for the new ones out of tablecloth vinyl. Anyway, from my village to your home, Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The (Christmas) Village People

They're all milling around on my dining room table waiting for me to erect their town. Meanwhile, the village structures are here:
On the guest room bed. It's going to be a long evening.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas decorations

Everyone is posting such nice pictures of their Christmas decorations, so I will show a little bit of mine:

Yep - Three Stooges. They grace my TV console every year. We're connoisseurs around here. Last year my husband received the entire Three Stooges oeuvre on DVD for Christmas. And they say we aren't cultured in Tennessee!

Does anyone have this book?

OK, here's the deal: My husband wants me to make a Christmas quilt. I want to make one too. A bed-sized, applique, Santas and everything quilt. I have been looking for patterns but couldn't find anything I liked. Then I stumbled upon reviews for this book:It's "A Slice of Christmas by Piece O'Cake Designs". One look on Amazon convinced me that it has the patterns I'm looking for. (If I'm going to hand applique this quilt, I have to love it.) The thing is, it's out of print.

So I went looking for it on Amazon Marketplace and Alibris. I'll just find a secondhand copy, I think. Well, they both had it. For $99.00 and $122.00, respectively. Being as I am what is commonly referred to as NOT CRAZY, I will not be buying the book there.

So I put it to the quilting bloggers out there: Does anyone have this book? Are you willing to sell it? (For a price that's somewhat less than my first-born child? Just kidding.) Are you willing to loan it? Could you copy pages for me? If there's anyone out there that can lend a hand to a frustrated quilter, drop me a note. Thanks in advance!

Steinway pianos

This evening, NPR reported that the University of Cincinnati's Conservatory of Music is buying 165 new Steinway pianos, more than four million dollars' worth. This includes the venerable Steinway Model D nine foot long grand, one of the best pianos on earth. I know, because I once played one.

I studied piano when I was a child, and have played on and off most of my life. I don't play much anymore, but really should get back into practice now that I'm retired - but that's another story. When I was in high school, I attended Kentucky Girls' State, a kind of week long seminar on government and civics for high-ranked high school juniors. (There was a Boy's State too.) It was held at various universities around the state right after the end of spring semester, so we had the campus to ourselves. Ten girls went from my high school, a usual number for most, so there was quite a crowd in attendance - hundreds. The year I was selected, it was at Transylvania University at Lexington, Ky. (OK, don't laugh. That's the name of this small private university. And it's very well regarded.)

The last evening of the seminar, there was a voluntary talent show. Now, while I had been playing piano for some time, I was terribly shy and very nervous, but I decided that it would be good to participate. So I signed up. Then, I had to decide what to play. Classical? Good in theory, but my selection should be entertaining, and Bach or Debussy might not be everyone's cup of tea. Also, there were a number of pianists and classically trained singers on the bill and I wanted to stand out a little.

I decided on a wonderful piano transcription of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" I had learned earlier in the year. Think what you want about Simon and Garfunkel, that was a beautiful song, and this arrangement was stunning. And that year it was THE song. So I was all set.

The day before the show, I slipped into the auditorium to practice at lunch break. The Steinway sat on the side of the stage, ignored, in the hall where we had been holding mock caucuses and elections, and creating a model state government. The piano was black and shiny. It was big. REALLY big. I sat down, folded back the fall and played a few cords.

Holy Moses. Now THIS was a piano. I warmed up and played through the song. The instrument was stunning. Responsive didn't describe it. It purred, it roared, it sang. The touch was flawless, and the tone. . .I had a nice studio piano at home, and I had played on some good instruments, but this was amazing. It boosted my confidence. It made even an average pianist sound good.

The night of the concert, I was shaky but marched out there in front of hundreds of people and performed. I like to think that marvelous piano helped my nerves. Close your eyes and remember the song - delete the vocals and just think about that lyrical piano line in the background. Now add the melody over it and imagine that ascending crescendo of chords at the end. Imagine it performed live on a nine foot mammoth of a piano, thundering into the auditorium, filling the air above the audience with an expanding wave of music. When I finished, there was dead silence. Then the auditorium erupted in applause. They were on their feet!

I took a flustered bow and bolted for the wings, blushing bright scarlet. Thank you, Steinway.

Getting dressed up

I don't have a life any more that requires anything more dressy than a nice pair of gabardine slacks and a sweater set. I have even given up on jackets. However, sometimes an event comes up in your life that requires you to buy - gasp - a dressy dress. Not as fancy as an evening dress, more festive than a church dress. Specifically, a guest-at-the-wedding dress.

This is something that I haven't had to do for a while. Sadly, I needed to pull out my going-to-a-funeral dress this summer when my neighbor passed away. But wedding guest dress? I haven't been there since my sister-in-law got married. That dress was stuck squarely in 1985, and has since been re-homed. (It was a really nice dress, but the shoulder pads and all dated it badly. Wearing it, you expected to turn around and see Joan Collins.)

After my brother-in-law announced that he was getting married in April, I decided to face up squarely to the challenge, and not wait until March and panic. A good starting place was online shopping. I perused a few stores that had served me in the past, and then turned to the old faithful, J. C. Penney. (I know, there's a Penney store at the mall not 3 miles as the crow flies from my house, but it's the holiday season, people, I wouldn't go there if they were giving out gold bricks. I have experienced that mall at Christmas shopping season and lived through it - no good pressing my luck.)

I went to the site and pulled up the page of dresses. Idly scrolling down the column of photos, I was stopped dead in my tracks. There it was. There it was. The dress I had in the back of my mind but hadn't even verbalized. A medium rose colored crepe faux two piece column dress with embroidery at the neck and waist. It was dignified. It was festive without trying too hard. It was on sale.

I filled out the order so quickly it heated up the keys on my laptop.

It was delivered today and fits perfectly. And it's beautifully made, fully lined, hidden zipper, lovely embroidery with tiny little sequins at the neck and waist. The only thing I have to work on is the back slit. It's a straight skirt so you need some walking ease, but the slit goes a little too high for my taste. I will either just lengthen the back seam or, if I can find some rose crepe to match, turn the slit into a placketed vent. It would be an easy sewing job.

Pearl necklace - check. Gold dress watch - check. Beige pumps - check. I'm ready.

Now, the question is - does my husband's suit still look good? He's the best man.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jacob's Ladder for Jacob

Now I can show what I was making last week - for Calico Cat's new baby Jacob, a Jacob's Ladder wall quilt for his nursery. I had made the Jacob's Ladder for the giveaway, so the pattern was in mind when I read the baby's name. I decided it was the perfect quilt, and I had a new selection of blues from Connecting Threads to use. It's 21" x 27", a bit larger than the giveaway quilt, and uses seven different fabrics.

The back is pieced of 6" squares of leftover cream, brown, blue and navy fabric, which makes the perfect base for the label. There's a hanging sleeve, too, in case she needs it. I did straight diagonal quilted lines through the pieced center and outlined around the border. I didn't think this small quilt needed any more embellishment.

All in all, it turned out as cute as I had imagined, and I hope it brings a spot of brightness to his room. Welcome to the world, Jacob Henry!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I've been sewing, but it's a secret

I just completed the most adorable small quilt, but I can't post a picture because it's a gift and the recipient might see it. ARRRRRGH!


Now that Thanksgiving is over and my houseguests are gone, I have reflected on my last post and decided it was a bit strident for the holidays. (Oh, I still believe what I wrote, but maybe I can soft-pedal the grouchiness a little!) I decided to think about gratitude, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Where does someone begin to list things they are grateful for? The obvious answers, of course - health, happiness, family. But let's get more specific and a little bit more personal.

I'm grateful for my grandmother who pieced quilt tops, even though she wasn't all that domestic by nature. And grateful that those tops were quilted by a good country woman named Mrs. Abshire, so that I could spend my childhood snuggled under them - especially my favorite, a red and white turkey tracks design.

I'm grateful for my mother who taught me to sew. This skill helped me make all my clothes in high school (and spend one of the most boring semesters in my life in home economics class, watching other freshman girls struggling over the construction of the simplest shift dress in history) and for many years after. Sewing has been a life skill, a hobby, a comfort, a creative outlet, a money-saver. It gives my nervous hands something to do. It has decorated my home and warmed my bed. I don't feel right unless I have a quilt top at some stage of construction.

I'm grateful for a husband who doesn't begrudge the money I spend on my hobby and appreciates and compliments my creations, who overlooks the threads that sometimes festoon the carpet when I'm on a sewing jag and finds the pins I drop on the kitchen floor before the cat does.

I'm grateful for all the cats who have paraded through my life, each distinctly different in personality and each giving me company and pleasure in his or her own way, even the ones who weren't the best pets in the world (an orange tabby named George comes to mind). You can learn a lot from a cat if you pay attention. If you earn their trust and affection, it's a big accomplishment. You can't bully or domineer a cat. You can't buy their love. A cat will never kowtow to you.

I'm grateful for all the tools the quilting industry has developed since I began this hobby. Rotary cutters, cutting mats and rulers that beat cardboard templates any day. Corrosion-proof basting safety pins for the times when a project gets sidelined, so you don't have to fight rust stains on your work when you return to the task. Easy-thread needles (now, there's a brilliant idea) for catching and hiding thread tails. I'm grateful for the vast array of fabrics available, almost any color or design you could want. And for quilt shops with their helpful, enthusiastic employees, usually quilters themselves, who will trudge the aisles to help you find just the right fabrics, even when you don't know what they are yourself.

I'm grateful, oh so grateful, for retirement so I can sew to my heart's delight, and for a retirement system at my former employer, so I could retire when I needed to and didn't have to work until I was decrepit. That's a big one nowadays. I watch with pain while people who never expected to be on the street lose their jobs (including my own niece, who is currently job-searching). I watch people try to live on Social Security and pitiful small pensions and give a prayer of thanks for my husband's and my circumstances.

I'm grateful for this house, even though I might grumble sometimes and would definitely like a dedicated sewing room. I understand what a good house it is, especially after I have company like last weekend, and have plenty of room for them - and multiple bathrooms to accommodate everyone in comfort! (That's a biggie - I grew up in a one bathroom house.) I'm especially grateful for my renovated kitchen, which serves me so well when I cook for company.

And I'm grateful for the blogging quilters of the world who let me have a peek into their creative and personal lives, who inspire, entertain and inform me. I want to wish them all a wonderful, happy, blessed holiday season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Busy busy busy

Tanya was blogging about how busy everyone seems to be nowadays. I felt like putting my two cents in on that subject.

Everyone in the United States complains about how busy they are nowadays. Some people are truly stretched too thin, especially in bad economic times, working two jobs, trying to keep their house in order. However too much of the time it seems to be middle-class whining. When you ask them what is taking up all their time, you find that it's arbitrary stuff they've committed to do, not responsibilities like jobs or special needs care for their families that they don't have control over. They're booked 24 hours a day because they want to be. It makes them feel important. It distracts them from pesky things like thinking. It makes raising their children easier because they shuttle them from activity to activity instead of dealing with them personally.

I know, that's a little harsh. But it is what I see all around me. People chauffeuring their kids from music lessons to ball practice to church functions to dance class to who knows what. I haven't seen anyone's kids who just go outside and play and amuse themselves in 20 years. I'm not sure they can anymore. It's just run run run from one place to another. So they learn that's how you live. And their parents become a 24 hour taxi service.

And speaking of parents, they're not any better. No one stays home. They run the highways every chance they get, going to the mall, going to the movies, to restaurants, clubs, concerts, classes, here, there and everywhere.

You want to know busy? I can tell you about busy. When I was a little kid, my mom was a whirling dervish of activity. They had one car and no public transporation in their little town, so she drove Dad to work, my brother to school, my grandmother to work, brought Dad home for lunch and took him back to work, picked up my brother from school, my Dad from work, my grandmother from work. All these things happened at different times, you see, so she was constantly zipping back and forth from home to somewhere. It was only a few miles from home to town, but all those trips added up. And on top of that she was taking care of me at home, and doing all the cooking, laundry, ironing, cleaning. No dishwasher, no permanent press, a clothes line to dry the laundry. She made all our clothes at home. They were constantly in the middle of a remodeling project on their old house. She bought antiques when they were still called junk to strip and refinish, to furnish the house.

I was a sickly little kid that caught every germ. I had allergy tests, doctor appointments and weekly shots.

And then my grandmother's cancer recurred, and Mom took care of her too, until she passed away, which encompassed taking her to doctors, and treatments, and hospital stays, and waiting on her at home because she was bedridden.

Now, THAT'S busy.

She scurried through life busier than a one-armed paperhanger, to use an old-fashioned expression. And her life wasn't that different from a lot of women then. None of this stuff was under her control. She couldn't say "I don't want to do that, I don't have time." It was just life, and you didn't have a choice. You coped with it. And people who lived out in the country added gardening and canning and taking care of farm animals to an already full day.

When I hear some people now whining about how busy they are, I have to laugh. Most of them have multiple cars, modern conveniences, and jobs that don't take 12 hours a day/6 days a week from their lives. They can save their complaints for some other audience. It's not going to impress me or get much sympathy.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

And the winner is........

Good morning! Time to announce the winners in my giveaway. I took great pains to assure that the drawing was fair. Being the low-tech gal that I am, it consisted of a glass ice bucket and small numbered squares of paper! After I had folded the squares in fourths, I dropped them in the bucket and stirred vigorously.

Then I called my husband to do the drawings while I photographed the evidence. He gave the bucket a good stirring before each drawing too, so I have done everything I could to randomize the numbers.

So, on to the results.....

The winner of the book is robin_titan, who says she loves books, so isn't that appropriate! I hope she enjoys this one. I will be sending it out as soon as I receive your address. Please comment to contact me and I will email you about mailing instructions. Congratulations!

The winner of the batiks is Tanya, and this is exciting to me both because I am a loyal reader of her blog, and because she is in Japan. I have an international winner! She is a very talented quilter, and I can't wait to see how she uses the batiks. Congratulations, Tanya! Leave me a comment and we can exchange emails about your address.

......And (drum roll, please!) the winner of the quilt is Greenmare! I hope she enjoys the quilt as much as I enjoyed making it. Please leave me a comment soon so I can send this little beauty winging its way to your home.

I have enjoyed hosting the giveaway, and hope it has brought some fun to all the participants. Please post about your winnings when you receive them; I would love to see how they contribute to your quilting life. I'll be looking in on the blogs of those who entered; so happy to meet new people and see a little more of the blogging quilting community.

Thanks again for participating, it was great fun!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Entry for the giveaway is closed

As of 7 p.m. the entry period for the giveaway is closed. Thanks for the great response. I'll see you at noon tomorrow with the winners.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

There's still time to enter the giveaway

My giveaway doesn't close until tomorrow at 7 p.m. Eastern time, so there's still time to leave a comment and enter. Go here to see the prizes and rules, and comment. Turnout has been good, but --- the more, the merrier!

This morning, I'm getting the materials ready for the drawing:
Oh yeah, I'm so high tech!

Every entry will get a number. I will fold all those little slips of paper and drop them in the ice bucket. My dear, helpful husband is going to draw three as I take pictures for you to see your beautiful winning numbers emerge to say "Congrats! You won!" It's going to be great -- check back Saturday for the winners.

One final warning: I have been vetting the entries (checking to see if there is an email address, or an accessible blog). If your email isn't visible, and I can't get word to you via your blog because your profile isn't available or there are no posts on which to add a comment - sorry, I can't include you. I have to be able to reach you in some fashion to notify you. I'm trying to be fair; I've said this before. So, if you put in an entry and this is the case, it's OK to comment again and list your email address. Still only one entry per person, but I want everyone to be able to play.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's giveaway fever!

Giveaways are everywhere! If you're looking for my giveaway, go here.

Simpify has a great one going on now, through the 23rd of November. Comment and pick your favorite pattern from her designs and she will actually make your prize to order from your favorite design. How cool is that?

I wanted to talk about this because it's such a generous offer. Well, that and the fact that I get extra chances in the drawing. Trying to be honest here, people.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I'm having a giveaway!

I recently realized that I have been blogging for over a year and have already reached the amazing number of 250 posts! So, in celebration of this feat, I have decided to host a giveaway.

There will be three drawings. The third prize will be this book:
If you make Project Linus quilts or seem to always have a friend/relative who is expecting, this is a great one. Cute, easy, quick quilt designs.

Second prize is five fat quarters of lovely batiks:
If you do landscape quilts, if you just love batiks, these are a great selection from Lavender Lime Quilting in Chattanooga, TN.

And, the Big Kahuna:

.......which is a mini Kahuna, actually. It's a Jacob's Ladder mini-quilt, measuring 14" x 18", made with Connecting Threads' Jacobean Garden fabrics. I think it's adorable, but, hey, every baby is cute to its momma!

If you would like to enter to win one of these prizes, leave a comment on this post by 7 p.m. Eastern time, Friday November 21. International entries are welcome. One entry per person. The selection will be by random drawing on Saturday November 22, at noon, and the winners will be notified and posted soon afterward. Winners will be selected for the book, the fat quarters, and the quilt, in that order.

Be sure that if I can't reach you on a blog, your email address is included in the entry comment. Good luck!

Addendum: Please be sure that I have your email address. I have all comments routed to my email account, and if the sender's email address shows up as I can't reach you if your name is drawn. This has already happened on one comment. Please, if you have already left a comment to enter the contest and this is the case, comment again and add your email address. I'm sorry, but I will have to disallow any entries where I can't reach you by your blog or email address.

Mommy, can I have it?

I was sitting at my desk, reading email and snacking on some Danish Wedding cookies, which are the "crack" of confections, by the way. I seldom buy them because I end up clutching the box to my chest whispering, "My precious, my precious" - a little "Lord of the Rings" humor there. But those darned cookies could inspire a 12 step program.

Anyway, I noticed that the cat was awfully quiet at the sliding door, so I got my camera and crept up to see. Check out what was perched on the planter at the bottom of the stairs:
Sorry, baby, I can't get you the chipmunk.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Coffee pots

I found from Joan's blog that she collects coffee pots, so I had to show this photo. The shelf is in my back hallway next to the door to the garage. My husband has a collection of these vacuum coffee pots (anybody remember those?) that all actually work. He used this one until he found a new Black and Decker vacuum pot, which we also use to make iced tea. It works the same way but isn't pretty and cool and chrome. This one is special because we found the matching creamer, sugar bowl and serving tray, all engraved with the same motif as the coffee pot.

This pot is probably from the 1950's. He has several, some of which are older. There are both electric models and those you put on the stove. Do you remember how they work? There is a filter screen and a rubber gasket between the top and bottom "bubbles", and a tube attaching to the top one that extends into the bottom. You put the coffee grounds in the top and the water in the bottom. As the water begins to simmer, the increased vapor pressure pushes the water up the tube into the top chamber. A little bit of water remains in the bottom, simmering and keeping up the pressure to let the coffee steep in the top. The water in the top never gets to the boiling point, which is supposedly the best way to make coffee because it keeps the right temperature range to extract all the good stuff from the coffee but not the bitter extracts, which come out nearer to 212 degrees.

Then, the electric element cuts off and the bottom cools until the pressure drops enough that, with a whoosh!, the water flows down the tube again into the bottom. Kind of sounds like it's flushing! It's both a coffee pot and a floor show!

My husband swears that these make the best coffee of any pot. He doesn't drink a lot of coffee, so he sort of goes the "gourmet" route and buys Kona beans to grind himself. My sister-in-law, the "gotta have coffee in the morning" type, has a regular Bunn pot, but she says his Black and Decker pot makes very good coffee too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The woods are full of giveaways

ANOTHER fabulous giveaway at Old Red Barn Company. Three quilts, count 'em, three. All gorgeous, all desirable. I want one! WHAAAAA!

Do you want a little teaser?She's killin' me, I tell you. Now go, shoo, register for the giveaway. You've got until 7 p.m. on November 17th. You'll kick yourself if you miss it!

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm a winner!

Thanks to G'G'ma I'm winner! She had a drawing last week, and the prize arrived today:It's an intriguing a concept, folding and manipulating the fabric to add texture and dimension to quilts. Look at these folded roses; aren't they great?
This is the second giveaway I've won in two years on blogs; wonder why my luck has turned? Used to be, I couldn't win a cakewalk or a bingo game!

Being retired

You know why I love being retired? Because this morning I flipped over my calendar page to the new week and there was nothing more pressing on my schedule than remembering to put out the recycling on Wednesday. Ah, the joys and possibilities of a clean slate. THAT'S why I love being retired!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I love has to be my favorite quilting supply site right now, because of their great kits and even greater prices. I'm not usually a kit buyer, but I have been known to browse the kits for sale on many websites to get inspiration. Well, recently it's been "Inspiration nothing, I want THAT kit!" The price doesn't hurt either --- and if you can get them on closeout, well, that's a deal too good to pass up.

This is my latest. It's a small wall quilt, 24" square. I love the colors, and have decided that once I quilt it, this beauty will grace my coffee table. The fabrics are just wonderful, that feather print especially so.
The 6 inch blocks are a challenge to your piecing accuracy. I found that I was measuring and trimming each unit, especially the half square triangles, because even 1/32" adds up if you're working small. But, challenging or not, you have to love the instant gratification that a small quilt brings.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cables in danger

No visitors to the live trap in my crawlspace yet, but I know that I have at least one chipmunk still under the house. More wire chewing, although this time I caught it before more than the insulation was damaged. Drastic actions might be called for.
This is all happening because at that one vent, the flap inside it couldn't be closed fully due to wires entering the crawlspace. The poor rodent can see daylight around the edges, prompting him to try to chew his way out. If the live trap is not successful, I might have to resort to more lethal methods.

In the meantime, I made the miserable crawl-and-slither under the house all the way to the far end (and that's about 80 feet) to put electrical tape on the telephone wire, DSL wire and cable coax that had been nibbled, and notched the vent flap so it would close completely around the wires. Then I packed the corners of the vent full of steel wool (chew that, you little varmint!) and taped the dickens out of the wires. If he can't see a possible exit path around the wire he should leave them alone.

I just hope he gets hungry enough to check out the peanut butter and gets caught in the live trap. I really don't want to kill him, just boot him out of the crawlspace. Once they're all out, I think they can't get back inside. Just to head off any habitual behavior, I wrapped the wires outside the vent in steel wool too. What a mess this has been!

Friday, November 7, 2008

College dorms

Man, I just got my eyes opened as to the conditions on campus nowadays. Look at this Time photo essay on the evolution of college dormitories. To say I was amazed at college housing conditions today is an understatement.

Yes, this is a dorm.

I was in college in the 70's. We didn't have pool tables, rock climbing walls, weight rooms or fireplaces. I had a 11' x 18' room, laid out in a bilaterally symmetrical format. Along each opposing long wall (all built-in, no moving the furniture), was a closet, a set of drawers with a mirror over it, a twin bed and a desk with a bookshelf over it. Two people co-existed in that 198 sq. ft. box, with a shared bathroom down the hall. The rooms ran around the outside edges of the building (you got one window per room) and there was a 15'x 15' common area in the center of each floor of the building with a couple of couches. Laundry was in the basement. That was it. The cafeteria was two buildings away in the center of the complex, and there wasn't much pampering happening there either. You got what was on the line, no special orders. There was a TV room in the cafeteria building, but this was 1971, remember, so the television pickings were slim. About once a month, the dorm manager hauled out a projector and showed a movie on a screen.

And, oh yes, freshmen and sophomores weren't allowed to keep a car on campus. My big luxury was a small refrigerator in the room.

And you know what? It worked just fine. I am from Eastern Kentucky, as were many kids at that college. I dare say that for some people who moved into that dorm, the conditions were probably as good, and maybe even better, than their room at home. I'd guess the food wasn't as good, but in every other aspect it was a functional, no-frills home away from home. We were there for the purpose of studying, and other than a pretty good basketball team, there weren't many distractions from that task.

In contrast, if you came from a home where your parents gave you every little thing your heart desired (and that they didn't have at your age), and then you went off to a college that coddled and pampered you, what are you going to do when you hit the big, bad world and have to provide for yourself in the manner in which you have become accustomed? Well, a lot of them can't. I hear of more and more parents still keeping the kids financially afloat as they reach 25, 30, 35 and beyond.

I think about this in comparison to the first house my parents lived in when Dad came home from the Army. It had three rooms. Dad built it himself. And, at first, it didn't have indoor plumbing. They survived. And as they could afford it, they moved up in the world.

I am afraid in this economy a lot of people will be having to relearn what are the minimum requirements to live. And that doesn't include rock climbing walls.