Sunday, March 30, 2008

Teacup number three

Here's where my afternoon went. Now I really need to start dinner!

Hearts A Flutter BOM

Oh, aren't I talkative today! Can't help it, I have to show and tell these before I go. I asked JulieK how her Hearts A Flutter BOM was going, and wanted to show mine.

Here's a set in 30's fabrics:

And, here's a set in Civil War Reproduction prints:

Yeah, you didn't know you were talking to crazy woman, did ya? I started the first set using stash fabrics to match my guest room, but I just wasn't happy with how they looked. The arrow shafts are too thick in the February block and the fabrics weren't working for me. I'm going to make another February block before I'm done to replace it. When I found a fat quarter set of the bottom fabrics, I thought I'd try the pattern in another colorway, and give it as a gift when completed. I like the second set much more, but it doesn't match my house. It does, however, match several relatives' living rooms. Wonder who will get the wall hanging?

And BTW, I have to credit Tanya's blog for inspiring me to practice hand quilting. Remember the Thimbleberries Lazy Crazy Quilt lap quilt I made? I'm going to hand quilt it - have already started, in fact. Nothing elaborate, just in the ditch around the blocks, and outlining the printed faux-applique designs. Probably also draw a stencil of one of the small leaf applique designs and put that in the plain blocks. Don't expect to see it done anytime soon, OK?

Scary stories

I thought I'd better tell these tales before April 1st, in case you thought I was making them up! But they're true.

Two weeks ago when I was home visiting Mom, when I got up on Tuesday morning she had two incidents to tell me about. She woke up in the middle of the night, which was not unusual. She turned on her bedroom television with the sound muted to see the weather report. Suddenly, she heard her doorknob turn and by the light of the television saw the door swing open about a quarter of the way. She thought I'd gotten up and was coming into her bedroom. But, no one came through the door. She got up and looked into the guest room, where I was sleeping soundly. I must add that there was no one else in the house.

That morning, she walked through the kitchen to the breakfast room to find one of the windows raised and tilted in, as for cleaning. The window blind was still down and the drapes closed, bulging into the room over the dangling window sash. These windows have double latches at the top of the lower pane. They have to be raised several inches to be able to tilt them inside. You also have to depress the release pins on either side of the sash to tilt them. This window is over the cellar steps and is fairly inaccessible from the outside. It also has a screen, which was in place, undisturbed. At this point, I was suggesting we relocate to the Best Western in town!

There have been many weird goings-on in this house. About fifteen years ago, Mom had her quilting frame set up in the kitchen working on a quilt. Quilting is the only kind of sewing she does in the kitchen. She appliques and does hand sewing sitting in her bedroom or uses one of the sewing machine upstairs. She was quilting with white thread, which she what she usually uses. While she was threading her needle she dropped it on the white vinyl floor. Now, Mom never lets a lost needle go without finding it. This was drummed into me from an early age. Never lose a needle.

As she was looking for the needle, her aunt and aunt's husband dropped by for a visit. Her aunt's husband offered to look for the needle, but she said she would find it after they left. They sat in the living room talking for an hour or so, and then the couple left. Mom returned to the kitchen to look for the needle but couldn't find it. She stopped her search for a minute and walked into the other end of the house. When she returned to the kitchen a short time later, there in the middle of the floor in plain sight under her quilting frame lay a needle threaded with black thread.

This freaks me out because she never uses black thread. She doesn't sew or quilt with black and doesn't even wear black (she says it washes her out with her gray hair).

Oh, there are more stories. When I was in high school, Mom and I left town one evening as usual to go home and cook dinner. We always left about half an hour before dad closed the business and followed us. Mom and Dad were at their business and I was in school, so the house had been empty all day. We put away our coats and went into the kitchen to cook. Mom started to fill a pan with water. The sink was dry; no one had used the kitchen since breakfast. However, the faucet was hot to the touch and when she turned on the hot water it was scalding, as if the tap had been running long enough for the hot water to reach the kitchen. (It takes a while for hot water to get to the kitchen and bathroom from the water heater in the laundry room. I joke that when I shower I could get hot water from the neighbor's house faster than from her water heater.) We had no explanation for this.

There are more stories, like the glass pedestal cake plate that shattered and flung three large glass pieces across the kitchen, without disturbing the cake and dome on the cake plate! About a third of the cake had been eaten; the three pieces of glass were broken out of the area of the plate not covered by the cake. This happened when I was little - it was after Sunday dinner and we were all in the living room. We heard a noise in the kitchen, and she found one of the pieces of glass at the doorway when she went to investigate. The remaining two pieces were on the other side of the room.

I have no idea what all of this means, but it's true.

Happy Birthday!

Wake up, sleepyhead -
it's your birthday!
How old are you?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Another teacup block completed

Here's another teacup swap block completed. It somehow looks better in person than in the picture, which is a little washed out. I took it on the corner of my desk and the overhead light was on. I also thought I'd like that green cup better with the saucer but now that it's done, I'm not sure.

Those little triangle plate holder pieces are making me crazy. It's hard to get them really pointy on the ends due to their size. The first block I did was better. This is just passable.

Ugh, it's midnight, time to turn it. Two hours of applique and my eyes are just shot.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Copyright conundrum

Here's one I haven't figured out yet. Anytime I have cited a recipe in this blog I try to credit the developer, and make sure it is freely available on a website or such. I'd like to give you the recipe for the potato soup I made for dinner, but there's an issue.

I made a pot of soup from a recipe titled "The Best Potato Soup in the World", from in a fundraiser cookbook sold by my mother's church. The title's pretty grandiose, but I have to give it to Mr. Dawson, it's probably the best potato soup I've ever eaten. I think he may have invented the recipe. I haven't seen it elsewhere.

But it's published in this fundraiser cookbook printed by Morris Press, which has the "All rights reserved, reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited" statement on the title page. Does this mean that Mr. Dawson does not own the rights to his own recipe any more? If, for example, someone asked him for the recipe at a potluck supper, he would not be legally able to give it to them?

And how about the other recipes in the book? Were they all developed by the contributors? Were they checked out for originality and authenticity? Is Betty Ball's five bean salad recipe a possible copyright infringement?

All this gives me a headache.

Scrabble-holics, take note

OK, all you Scrabble-addicted people (and I know you're out there), check out Yahoo games for their downloadable Scrabble computer version. It's $19.99 and worth every penny. It has multiple skill levels and a built-in official Scrabble dictionary, and it's great. I've been looking for a computer Scrabble game for ages, so I pounced on the free trial to try it out. After the free hour of testing I was hooked and gladly forked over the money for the full game. And, don't worry if your computer crashes. It keeps a registry so if you lose your hard drive or it gets corrupted, you can download it again.

I am SO hooked on this it isn't funny. Even if the official Scrabble dictionary says "qi" and "aa" are words and I don't believe them! (Doesn't mean I don't use them - hey, "qi" can get you 11 points, minimum!)

Not affiliated with Yahoo, Yahoo games, or any development groups, yada yada yada!

It just figures

I just finished machine quilting the one I call "Wild Thing" (see the post here) and wouldn't you know - the ugly ducking that fought me all through construction slid through the machine like butter, without a pucker or an argument. Since it had already caused me so much angst, I wasn't eager to invest much time on the quilting. I just did a geometric pattern all over in the ditch, and it looks pretty good, actually. Quilting improves even so-so design.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My pride and joy

I thought you'd like to see a picture of my sewing machine. It's a Juki TL98E that my husband bought for our anniversary seven years ago.

Juki makes great sturdy sewing machines. It doesn't have any fancy stitches; it doesn't have a computer; it doesn't do embroidery. It goes forward, it goes backward, it does it very, very well. And very, very quickly - 1500 stitches per minute.

Juki and I have gone through the wars together. We've made countless quilts and drapes, sewed pillows, sewed clothes, done it all. Without a problem without a skipped stitch, without one trip to the repair shop. Just a little oil, and off you go. It's built like a tank.

It has an extension table attachment so machine quilting is easier. And it has one invaluable option: it cuts your thread! Just a tap on the red button beside the foot pedal or a push of the gray button below the stitch length dial, and no more thread snipping. You don't know how wonderful it is when you're chain piecing. This one little function is worth the cost of admission.

The new model TL98Q also has a needle threader. When my Juki goes to that big sewing machine shop in the sky, I know what I want for Christmas!

Oh, yes. That's a little view of my kitchen where I sew. I had the cabinet installer make a table height eating area with the same countertop as the cabinets. It has turned legs I ordered to match the cabinets. The layout is great because it's accessible from both sides, wide enough to do rotary cutting and pinning, and the top is more durable than a wood table.

You can also see my little splurge LCD tv on the corner of the cabinet. When we redid the kitchen in 2003 my husband bought me the television so I could have entertainment while I sewed and cooked. A lot of the time it's just background noise but I enjoy the option. I think McCain is blathering on there right now. The sound is muted. (Probably the best way to get through this election season.)

How much house do you really need?

I started thinking this morning about how much of our houses we really use and what is actually needed to live. I spend 90% of my waking hours in 360 square feet of my house. My den/office is 180 square feet and contains my computer, desk, bookcase, reading chair, radio and telephone. My kitchen/laundry is anther 180 square feet, and it contains a television and large work surface at the table with good lighting where I machine and hand sew, and where I cook, bake, wash up and do laundry. Between these areas, most of my day is covered.

I very seldom sit down in the living room and watch tv unless we're watching a DVD or the news. After I get up I hardly ever go back to the bedroom except to check on the cat, who loves to sleep on our bed. The dining room? Do you actually eat in your formal dining room? We don't; we eat in the kitchen. There's a guest room, but the door's almost always shut and I seldom even go in. There's a third bedroom my husband uses for a computer room and work room. I did sit at the work table in his computer room last night and applique, but that was rare. I have my Ott light at the table, so it's a good sewing spot, but if he's at the computer with his headphones on talking to someone, I can't talk to him and one-sided chatting is kind of distracting.

So, I end up at the kitchen table, where there's good light and I can spread out my sewing. He sits at his computer, talks to people, reads, works on stuff. We have our routines. We could probably do those routines in a much smaller area.

Two houses ago, I had a large back yard. The only time I ever set foot in it was when it needed to be mowed because the layout of the house made access inconvenient. Same with the side yard next to the street at this house.

We have three bathrooms for two people; you do the math. It's things like this that get me thinking. What do we actually need? Versus want? I can lust after a sewing room, but I'm doing just fine with what I have. I have a closet in his computer room to hold all my fabrics and stuff, and the kitchen table is 30 x 60 and above it is a good bright pendant light (it adjusts from 100 to 300 watts, so if I'm having a gee-I'm-old-and-blind day, I can just click the light brighter. Don't laugh, I know there's age 50+ people out there who know exactly what I'm talking about!).

The sewing room organizing blogs I've been reading resurrected pangs of envy about my situation. But, I took some hand sewing home with me last week and struggled to find a spot in mom's house where the light was good and the layout convenient for how I work. The best hand sewing spot is in the sitting area of her bedroom; that's where she sews and watches tv and does crossword puzzles and such, but I couldn't use it in the evening because she was in bed. Her sewing machine is upstairs in the attic bedroom, but there's not even a radio up there to keep you company.

I guess she makes do, also. When she hand quilted a full size nine patch quilt this month, she erected her quilting frame in the middle of her kitchen. She lives alone, and I guess she's so quick at hand quilting it doesn't inconvenience her to walk around the frame for a week.

Nobody's got it perfect.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One down, eleven to go

Here's block number one for the teacup block swap. I'm planning to do twelve of them, but as the deadline looms I may cut that number back. It took about three hours to do the freezer paper applique prep for the cup and plate stands (the plate circles were already prepared) and applique it all by hand. Optimist that I am, I really did not think how long these would take!

It's pretty, though. Hope someone likes it as much as I do.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Impatience and overload

Finally, I found the tan fabric for Debbie Mumm's Christmas wall hanging BOM and finished the February and March blocks. Between the Hearts A Flutter, Christmas Wishes and Somewhere in Time BOMs, I have discovered an essential fact about my character. I'm WAY too impatient to do BOMs! I sew up one little block and am raring to go, but no instructions for the rest! It's going to make me a little crazy. Not to mention trying to store all these WIPs. The bottom drawer of my bookcase is completely full.

Part of the problem is that I'm doing two BOMs in duplicate. Hearts A Flutter in pink and green 30's fabrics for my guest room and in pink and brown Civil War Repro for a gift wall hanging for Christmas; Somewhere in Time in the tan/gray fabrics as a lap quilt for me and in blue/rust/green in full size, probably to be a gift also. Thankfully, I'm only doing one of Christmas Wishes!

What I really need to work on is the tea cup swap blocks. I took the Hearts A Flutter blocks home with me and completed two while I was there, instead of the tea cup blocks. So now I have eight weeks to complete the twelve blocks and send them off to swap.

Until I complete the swap blocks, my diamond log cabin will have to wait. It's for me, so there's no timetable, but I can hear it calling to me from the drawer. I've never done a log cabin construction in anything other than square blocks, and it's intriguing.

Oh, yes, there are three Linus quilts to finish. One is pinned and ready to quilt. And there's that baby quilt for the friend due in August. I think I need a spreadsheet to track all of this!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I'm baaaaaaack!

Over 1000 miles of round trip driving later, I'm back home, with a stack of mail as big as me to weed through.

It includes the Windham Fabrics "A Little Bird Told Me" fat quarter collection I bought on Ebay and Lisa Boyer's package from her giveaway.

The hawaiian floral fabrics are gorgeous, but I'll have to introduce them carefully to my timid little mainland stash. All those Thimbleberries and Civil War repro fabrics might be startled!

I did some great shopping while out and about with my mom. I found Cotton Classics' Exclusively Quilters collection fabric for $2.oo a yard at, of all places, Walmart! Now, I don't normally buy fabrics at Walmart. I'm not a fabric snob, it's just that my local Walmarts don't carry very good quality yard goods and I have never found much that I wanted. But this was a treat! I got one yard lengths of nine fabrics - nine yards for just about what I would have paid for two yards at a fabric shop here at home. I have to add that the Walmart near where mom lives has always had more and better fabric than the ones in my city. Who knows why.

I also found two partitioned boxes with lids for storing thread in a single layer, at Lowe's. They're for holding hardware but the partitioned areas are just right for spools of all sizes laid on their sides so I can see all the colors at a glance.

And, on top of that, we went to an antiques mall and I found a Noritake Art Deco style sugar bowl and creamer in blue and gold to coordinate with a tea set of post-war Japanese porcelain that I display in my dining room. What luck!

Of course, mom and I had a good time visiting. I helped her with a few tasks around the yard and we did a lot of goofing off, driving around going to places neither of us had been to in years and years, and of course shopping. I gave the early birthday present quilt to my brother, who was bowled over and loved it. My sister-in-law gave me a watercolor of dragonflies she did in her art class, which I will hang proudly in my dining room (I have dragonfly tapestry on the dining table chair seats), and a cute hummingbird and dragonfly garden whirligig which is animated by the wind to flap the dragonfly's wings and dip the hummingbird's beak into a flower.

All in all, it was a good trip but I'm so glad to be home!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

One last word before I go.........

Before I vanish for a week into the vast, un-plugged-in, no-internet world that is my mom's house, just a reminder of the really cool quilt giveaway at Old Red Barn Co. Go, look, lust, register. But do it before Wednesday, March 19th, at 7:00 p.m. EDT, 'cause after that you're out of luck.

I'm really going to spend a week without internet access? This ain't gonna be pretty.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Overly analytical, that's me!

It takes a special gift to be presented with an easy task and make it hard. I am starting to work on the teacup block swap and got all the saucers cut out and pressed yesterday evening. Today as I was packing up everything I would need to work on it at Mom's house, I thought I would take the templates and create a scale drawing to make placement on the background faster and easier.

Off I go for the graph paper to mark out a 10 1/2" square and dash in the stitching line for the finished block size. Then, using the cardboard circle that was my pressing template, I draw in the saucer size. Something looks a little wonky to me, but I continue. I add the inner circle on the saucer, the little plate stand triangles, and then choose a cup pattern to judge where the base should fall with respect to the saucer. When the sketch made to scale is complete, I stand back and realize that the applique pieces look WAAAAY bigger than those in the illustration of the block. In fact, they're almost covering the whole background.

OK, now here's where I get overly analytical. I get my ruler and measure the block illustration border and the saucer diameter. Sure enough, if the illustration is to scale, the saucer should be 7 1/4" in diameter. Mine is 8 1/4". Brain promptly goes into overdrive.

I have already had a situation where I had to juggle the scale of one of the Hearts A Flutter patterns printed by Adobe Acrobat because it wasn't coming out the proper size. I don't know if that's what's going on or if the pattern is too large - at which end does the problem lie?

At this point I should add that - she's a pattern designer, for crying out loud, she knows what she's doing and I know she knows what she's doing but the button has already been pushed and I have questions, so I can't stop now. So I shoot off an email to the designer Sindy Rodenmayer, and one to a blogger who had written about making these blocks (you know who you are and thanks for answering my question, but wasn't sure I should cite you without permission). Turns out, the blogger was making the blocks but for a friend, not for the swap, and had adjusted the saucer size because she thought it looked too big also.

Now, I'm worrying. Will I have to trim and press all those darned circles again for all twelve blocks? Rats. An evening's work down the tubes. Since it's a block swap, and I'm a neophyte at it, I want to be sure I'm doing them right.

Sindy answers my email today (thanks again) and reassures me that she drew up the illustration quickly for us to work from and it's not to scale, so the saucers are right and should fill up most of the block. She modified the block drawing to scale, so anyone who has the same question can go here and see the changes in the illustration.

In other words, I went off on a tangent for nothing.

Chicken Little here, glad I could help!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I just never could understand the Sudoku bug that seems to have bitten everyone. I worked a few and thought, "This is about as much fun as taking a math test in school." Then, when my brother-in-law was visiting last week, he explained how he approached solving them, and they seemed simpler, somehow. He also figured that I was starting out with puzzles that were waaaaaaay too hard since I was getting them online from a puzzle site. We picked up a book that had a series of puzzles, easy to hard, and I worked a few. He was right, I needed to work my way up to the real tuffies. When I was sick yesterday and couldn't sleep anymore but didn't feel like getting up, I worked Sudoku puzzles in bed all evening. Maybe I see the appeal, but it's still like taking a math test. I'll stick to crosswords.

One for the road

Planning for my participation in the tea cup block swap is well underway, and I have assembled a kit of fabrics, freezer paper patterns and thread to take with me next week. It's my sewing for the road. Now, when I am up alone in the evenings, I will have a project to occupy my time.

Pressing the large circles for the saucers is going swimmingly thanks to a new method I found in McCall's Quilting, April 2008. The instructions for the Fairy Rings quilt show an easier way to prep circles, and you don't have to sew a gathering thread around each one. This is one of those brilliant ideas that are so obvious when you see it. Check it out.

Teacup Block Swap and chitchat

Fat Cat Patterns has a new tea cup block swap starting that I found out about from Joan's blog. I decided to join in even though I'm mostly a solitary quilter and have been for, oh, thirty years. I don't belong to any guilds or groups, and have never done a block swap, a round robin or a mystery quilt (didn't even know what these things were until a few years ago. I just sewed!). And, it's applique, so I can keep practicing.

Slowly but surely, I'm getting happier about the concept of applique, but still wish that I could do needle turning like Mom. I have to cut out all the freezer paper patterns, fuse and baste before I am even ready to start the applique process. I'm still all about the speed! Mom just draws the shape on the fabric, snips it out, and away she goes. You don't want to know what my points and curves look like when I do that.

Synchronicity was in play again this week. I spent Sunday folding and sorting all my stash just in time to pillage through it to select fabrics for twelve teacup blocks, three pieces plus background for each. If I hadn't done all that sorting it would have been a chore, but now it was just pull down a box, pick, pick, pick, match, match, match, done. It would have been even easier if the fabric were folded on shelves like so many pictures I have seen in other blogs like Morah's and that to-die-for room from "Creating Your Perfect Quilting Space" that Joan has posted on her organizing blog. However, I have lots more small pieces than large cuts and the stacks don't stay neatly stacked. Tried it and discarded the idea. I'll stay with my big plastic boxes, although it's like weightlifting each time I rummage for a new project!

Limiting the selection to just twelve blocks is difficult. There are all those colorful pieces, fairly begging to be included! A good thing about the project is that the teacups will use up small pieces that I couldn't bring myself to throw out but weren't enough for more than a couple of pieces in a scrap quilt.

This is a good take-with-me-while-visiting project, because I can cut out three or four and pack them for my trip to Mom's next week (weather permitting - you just don't know anymore. I've driven I-75 over Jellico Mountain in the snow once too often). She turns in for the night early, really early, so I'm left sitting there alone until I can get to bed. Not criticism, she's in her 80's, she can sleep when she wants to. But she also gets up way earlier than I have been since I retired, and I can almost hear her in my sleep pacing around the kitchen waiting for me to get up. Having a sewing project will be just the ticket to fill the evenings. Turn on HGTV in the morning room and sit at the table and stitch. (FYI - I call it a morning room, but don't know what else to label it. It's a room that was a former porch off the kitchen with a dining table, couch, television and her desk. There's a real dining room, so this is like a breakfast room with extras. Thus, morning room.)

I also get to take my brother's quilt to him because they live in the same town. It's an early birthday present - very early, about 3 months, but I want to go ahead and deliver it. I'm kind of pumped about it. It's his favorite color and I haven't given them a quilt since Christmas 1992.

Oh, and, my brother-in-law seemed to be absolutely gobsmacked that I would make the red quilt for him. That's why I do this. The enjoyment of seeing someone examine a quilt I have made and marvel at all the fabrics and the patterns and the stitching. It's such a cool feeling to please a loved one so much!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Boy, today was miserable. I've caught some sort of stomach bug, and it ain't good. I finally could manage to eat something and just had a can of soda and a few crackers. The worst may be over, but oh, man. I stayed in bed until 3:30 p.m., and only got up then to check the mailbox, contemplate (and reject) eating supper and check my email. I'm still feeling shiver-y, so I'm going back to bed. See you later, folks.

Am I going nuts?

OK, you know those round plastic quilt clamps that look like a hoop with a split in it? That you use to hold the rolled-up part of the quilt that you're not working on? Mine are purple plastic and I have a large and a small set of four each size. I was using the small ones this morning, working on a Linus quilt. I had four this morning, I have TWO this evening.

I have no idea where the other two went. I have crawled around the den, looking under furniture, I have checked all around the kitchen where I was sewing, I even looked under the refrigerator, for goodness sake. Sometime around mid-afternoon, I started safety pinning the rolled up side, because the clamps were slipping. I spread the quilt out on the den floor, took the clamps off, rolled and pinned the quilt, and took everything back into the kitchen. And this evening when I cleaned up the mess, there were only two clamps lying on the countertop.

This is absolutely making me crazy. The cat doesn't look guilty, and my husband swears he isn't gaslighting me. Where the **** did those clamps go? I don't believe the cat was playing with them. She spent the day on the chair beside me, napping and watching me wrestle the quilt in the sewing machine. The only thing in the sewing process that interests her is trying to eat thread.

I could have possibly carried them out of the kitchen but why would I? I looked around the house, anyway. No clamps.
OK, I actually stopped in the middle of this post and started looking again. It was seriously freaking me out that I couldn't find the clamps. Besides it being creepy, I need them.

So, I get the flashlight and start looking under the refrigerator, in the corner of the room under the table, around the toe-kick of the base cabinets, behind the canisters on the countertop, and then, for some reason, I pick up my Emerson antique reproduction table radio that sits on the end of the counter and look under it. And there, under the radio, are the clamps.

Either I am cracking up, or the best poker face in the house is furry. She must have pushed them under the radio when I wasn't looking.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Did somebody say quilt giveaway?

Ooh, ooh, ooh, what a great idea! The Old Red Barn Company is going to give away a quilt in honor of 200 posts on her blog. Visit it here.
Instructions for entering will be in her 200th post, sometime next week. Give the lady some applause!
And thank you, Joan, for telling us about this great giveaway!

Yay! I'm a runner-up.....

and many thanks to Lisa Boyer for selecting me to receive a free pattern and four fat eighths of gorgeous Hawaiian fabric in her giveaway! I better prepare my poor timid mainland stash for the riot of color that will soon come its way. (It's a little meek, and it doesn't get out much.)

A little cruise to Hawaii via Lisa's entertaining blog has become a weekly event in my blogosphere. She posts the most beautiful pictures of that wonderland she calls home, tells you all about life on the tropical side of the world, and on top of it all, the girl can quilt!

And, she can write! I devoured both her books, emitting the most unlady-like snorty laughs the whole way. Anyone who's been around the quilting world will empathize with her topics: color anxiety, design decision-phobia, the panic and second-guessing that sets in halfway through a project, and who-used-my-good-scissors?

You know those books of 365 snippets of wisdom that everyone publishes, to be read and pondered one snippet a day for your personal edification? Lisa Boyer should write one for quilters. Because, to me, it's just a quilt. Not a cure for the ills of the world. We're making quilts because we love them, we love making them, and we love making people happy when we give them away. I have never in my life pondered making an "art quilt" or seeing anything I made impaled on a gallery wall; you sleep under my quilts, you curl up with them watching television, the cat naps on them, in all states - finished and under construction, and babies drool on them.

There are many talented artists out there, some of whom use quilting as their medium, and I enjoy seeing the things they create that I could never do. The others out there like me, who just call themselves quilters, could learn a lot from Lisa: lighten up, love what you do, do it the way you please, and stop obsessing. So what if it's not perfect, if it makes you smile?

Friday, March 7, 2008

A "Calico" Quilt

Do the blocks in progress on the last post remind you of anything? Let your eyes travel left on the blog page. Does it look like, say, the picture of Queen-of-All-She-Surveys beside my name? Yes I'm making a "calico" quilt. It's the same colors as my cat! Black, tan, cream, gray.

The color choice was entirely subconscious, but you could say it proves just how much of my life she rules!

The perils of miniaturization

Sometimes when you have an idea, the full ramifications aren't initially clear. The "Somewhere in Time" BOM from BlockCentral is really pretty and each block has a fair share of intricacy. The 9" center of each block is different, with a built-in sashing and corner squares to bring it to 13 inches. The block is originally 18", but I am sewing each block 2/3 size of the original to make a lap quilt. Shrinking the block was not a problem. I drew a scale diagram of the small block and figured all the cuts required. But, on the paper, it just didn't hit me how small some of the little pieces would be and how many there would be in a 9" x 9" square finished area. The February block had 57 pieces just in the center design. There's enough fabric tucked into the 1/4" seam allowances to cut an entire other block! It makes for a bulky little thing to work on.

All in all, though, I'm happy with my fabric choices and smaller blocks. I am working on the gray/tan/black color version, and while I admit to some trepidation at first, by the time the second block was completed, I was hooked. It is soooo different from what I usually do.

However, I decided to make a full-size version in a blue color scheme instead of the rust/green one that I showed in the previous post. This apple can't fall too far from the tree, and I love blue.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Keeping my Block of the Month projects organized

Last month, I sorted and stored my quilt patterns, ideas, and quilt magazine clippings into notebooks classified by block style. I bought extra three ring binders and also created notebooks to keep my Block of the Month projects organized. I purchased heavy clear plastic sheet protectors at the office supply store, one per block for each project, and stored them into the notebooks. As I receive each new month's instructions, I will print the pages and insert them in a sheet protector in that project's notebook. After the block is sewn, I will fold it neatly and insert it into the sheet protector with the block istructions. When all the blocks are completed, they will be protected, clean and all in one place, ready for assembly.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Houseguests are exhausting

Even good ones. Even the ones who aren't demanding, who eat anything you cook, who don't make a mess for you to clean up, who are agreeable about how to spend the day. Even those. If there's someone living in the house for ten days who normally isn't there, it's exhausting. The guest never has the same schedule you do, and you have to modify yours to mesh with his. If you're an early riser and he's not, you have to be quiet in the morning so as not to wake him. You end up staying up later and never get enough sleep. The guest makes more cooking, more clean-up, more doing, because you are trying to entertain him. Even if it's a person whom you are glad to see, whom you want to visit, by the time they leave, it's "Thank heavens".

I have spent the day catching up on ten days' worth of our laundry, because I only washed the guest's stuff last week. Straightening and cleaning the guest room, so it will be ready for the next visitor. Cleaning up the kitchen, cleaning up the house, changing beds, basically doing all the stuff I would have been doing during those ten days. And I'm not done yet. I still have to go to the grocery tomorrow, because there's not a particle of fresh food left in the kitchen. I made mac and cheese for dinner, because I had macaroni in the pantry and milk and cheese were the only staples left over in the refrigerator. I even used the last of the butter. And, besides, I couldn't face cooking another big meal.

After I fold a pile of laundry as big as me, I think I'll collapse in bed.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My home office

I included some pictures of my den furniture from the manufacturer's catalog a few days ago to illustrate a post, so thought I might show my actual home office. I love this room (well, maybe I don't love the paneling, but I don't hate it enough to try to take it down!).
The desk is great. I finally have a place to organize all bill paying, reference books, stationery, laptop and everything office. It has worked out so well I wonder why I didn't do this earlier.
The bookcase is both gorgeous and roomy. The drawer is a wonderful addition. Also, it has lights inside that turn on with a tap of the top right door hinge. How cool is that!
Finally, finally I have a large enough file cabinet to store all my home stuff and receipts and important papers. It doesn't hurt that it doesn't look like a file cabinet. And it gives me a spot for a picture of Queen-Of-All-She-Surveys and a calico cat pen holder next to the note pad.
There is also a fireplace with a built-in bookcase, my piano and my reading chair.
The room's finishes are unchanged from when we bought the home- brick, paneling, carpet - and while it's a little eccentric in layout to be a family room, it works as an office. This room is long and skinny with a door to the center hallway at one end and a door to the kitchen at the other. On one of the long walls is a sliding glass door and a large brick fireplace, so that wall isn't open for furniture and it is hard to organize a seating group so that you can actually sit and see the fireplace. For years we used it as the world's widest hallway. We just walked through it and no one ever sat down. When we decided to buy home office furniture, I never imagined that it would be used so much. I live in here.

Keepsake Quilting bugs me

You know why Keepsake Quilting bugs me? I love their catalogs - they're a great quilter's wish book - but they don't list the designer and manufacturer of the fabric lines, and may even change the name of the fabric groups in their "medley" collections.

That's just tacky. Give the designers their due. And identify the fabric line by using its' real name, not the one Keepsake makes up.

I want to know who makes the fabric. I prefer some manufacturers' products over others. The weave is tighter, the hand is better, it sews and launders better. You know that even among premium quilters' cottons there are differences. One of the reasons I buy Moda's collections again and again, for example, apart from the beauty of the designers' creations, is that their fabrics are dependable quality and a dream to work with.

Case in point: I was looking through the latest catalog and came upon something they called "Tranquil Garden". Blues and greens and tans - very, very pretty. But they only showed six swatches of fabric and I just knew that the collection contained more than that. I wanted to see all of them. But what was it really called, and who made it? No way to know.

It happened that as I was fab shop hopping today I came across the same goods at Quilt Expressions (btw, kudos to their site - good selection). It's actually "Serenity" and it's by Heather Mulder Peterson for Henry Glass Fabrics.

It's beautiful fabric and I just might buy some. But not from Keepsake Quilting.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Stainless steel cookware

Talking about making peanut butter fudge got me thinking about cookware. Good cookware isn't easy to find and usually costs a mint (has anyone priced All-Clad?) We had Calphalon anodized for years and I liked it, but my husband wanted to try a set from Sam's Club that his friend thought was better.

Now, I have ethical issues with a lot of Sam Walton's legacy, but occasionally I end up buying at Sam's or Walmart. Sam's, because they have the best beef in town and I got tired of buying tough steaks. I also buy food monthly to take to the food pantry and I can just make my dollar go farther buying the canned goods at Walmart.

So, we trooped to the Sam's Club and looked at the cookware. It was their store brand and made like the All-Clad triple ply stuff - a layer of aluminum clad on either side with stainless steel. The set had two skillets, two saucepans, dutch oven, shallow saute pan, steamer insert, and lids. I forget what it cost, but it was around $130.00.

It only took cooking with this new set for a couple of days before I was hooked. It heats evenly, cleans like a breeze, and is heavy sturdy stuff - no warping here. I love it. But, I wanted a little 8" skillet and a middle size saucepan, and Sam's only sold the sets. So I went online and started searching for "Tri-ply Clad".

And, I found the Tramontina brand at the webstore for a California kitchen supply company called Kitchen Fantasy. It looked absolutely the same as the Sam's product. Everything but the brand mark was identical. I ordered the pieces and love them too.

Sam's doesn't carry this line anymore, and it's a shame. By far, it performs better than any cookware I have owned in 35 years of cooking for myself. If you want the Tramontina, you will have to pay more, but it will last forever and is work the investment.

Oh, and one more thing: Barkeeper's Friend is the best cleaning/scouring powder I have ever used and is great for keeping the water spots off the shiny stainless.

Peanut Butter Fudge

My brother-in-law is visiting, and before he arrived last Monday I made a batch of peanut butter fudge, his favorite. Well, in the past week, we've eaten the whole batch, so I got up early to make up another one he can take with him when he leaves tomorrow or Wednesday. It's the best peanut butter fudge recipe I know, and it's no-fail. I got the recipe from Mom, and I don't know where she got it, so I can't properly credit it.

Combine in heavy pan (I use a 3 quart pan):
1 cup milk
2 cups sugar

Boil without stirring until it reaches 234 degrees F. I recommend buying a digital thermometer with a long probe and a timer/temperature alarm. We got ours from Amazon and it's great. You just clip the probe onto the side of the pan, with the tip positioned a little bit above the bottom, and wait until it beeps. I use a binder clip to hold the probe in the pan.

1 1/2 cups peanut butter
7 ounces marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir until completely combined. Turn into a wax paper lined 8 x 8 inch pan and let it cool. That's it. No beating, no inadvertent spoon candy (you know, when you eat fudge that didn't set up by the teaspoon when you were a kid). I usually cut it into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch squares. It's pretty rich.

The wax paper lining for the pan is handy because no sticking and you can haul the cooled fudge out by the paper and cut it on a board instead of in the pan.

Now, I have to add that there's two schools of fudge making. Those that use marshmallow creme and those that don't. The marshmallow creme fudge is more predictable but more foamy. The other kind is creamier and more sugary textured. But about half the time it doesn't act right for me. I don't seem to have the candy-making gene like my Mom. So, marshmallow creme it is.

Also, note the 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter. Seriously peanutty stuff. Try the Skippy Natural Creamy. It doesn't separate like the old natural peanut butter and has a better flavor than other peanut butter brands.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

My WIPs aren't homeless any more

As soon as I could move around the house without waking my husband or the houseguest, I gathered up some empty cardboard boxes from the garage and emptied all the envelopes of photos and the photo albums from the drawer on the bottom of my bookcase in the den/office, and stored them in a closet. Now that drawer is the home of all works in process. It also has a self-limiting function: as soon as the drawer is full, no more starting new projects until a few are finished!

(This isn't my den - just a picture of the bookcase from the manufacturer. But isn't it cool!)
While I'm at it, I'll add the manufacturer's picture of my desk. I LOVE this desk. My sewing machine is stored in the computer compartment on the lower left side. When I got this office furniture, my husband suggested sewing on the desk, but I'm too scared of scratching it up. I display my Coimbra pottery on the shelves inside the upper glass doors, and the top is large enough for my laptop, my gemstone globe that my husband got me for Christmas last year, my Tivoli radio (another big fav of mine) and a quilt-of-the-week desk calendar. The only thing that isn't perfect is the desk light. I really need to buy an Ott-lite desk lamp. The one I have now is halogen, and while it really puts out the light, you can pratically get a sunburn from the heat coming off it!

What web surfing in the middle of the night gets you

Well, this is what happens when you can't sleep and start surfing quilting sites. I have wanted to do a Christmas wall hanging for some time but hadn't found one I liked. I was reading blogs and one person listed the Debbie Mumm 2008 BOM as one of her projects (OK, I admit I was trying to see if others were as overloaded as I have made myself).

I followed her link to the Debbie Mumm website and really liked the red and green wall hanging. So this project gets added to the list. The blocks are small and simple so it won't be any trouble to catch up to the March block when it's posted.

You know what this necessitated? I have three BOMs going now, so I made up a notebook with three sections and added page protectors to hold the instructions I print and save for each one as they become available. And, I'm cleaning out the bottom drawer on my office bookcase to use as a "holding pen" for WIPs. I think the phrase we're all searching for right now to describe this is "seriously overcommitted".

Oh, yeah, I ordered some red and green fabric online too.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

And the answer is......

I'm doing both! Although three people have voiced the opinion that the gray scheme is better, and I'm starting to believe it is, I still like the other focus fabric, so I'm doing both. It's just one block a month. Surely I have time.

Boy, is that ingenuous. Let me list everything I'm working on (only the ACTIVE list!):
Quilt 4 crib quilts for Project Linus
Quilt 1 lap quilt for myself
Bind my brother's full size gift quilt
Piece the queen size log cabin top for myself
Start new gift crib quilt, due August
BOM Hearts A-Flutter applique
Promised 24 quilts to Linus this year (6 done, 4 pieced, 14 to be started)

SURE, I can take on two more BOMs!

I am off in the head, and I need to quit looking at BlockCentral.

Somewhere in Time BOM on BlockCentral

Is anyone doing this BOM? I would like to see what anyone else used as their palette. Trying to stash-bust, I raided the fabric closet this morning, but I usually don't have over a yard of any one fabric, unless it just sung to me at the store. I make really scrappy designs anyway so I want a lot of choices. Today, this wasn't working.

I have three yards of a Brackman & Thompson 1800's print that I can use for the block focus fabric and borders, but I was having trouble coordinating with the odd reddish-rust and green in the print, and I didn't have enough of any one fabric. I would have to make it scrappy, and the design just didn't want to be scrappy. It was too planned.

Then, I decided that I don't need another bed size quilt, anyway, and since this one is 76" x 96", it would be too small for either my bed or the guest room. If I shrank the patterns to 2/3 size (that's not hard, I never buy patterns, I just look at the photo and draft them myself) I would have a lap size quilt, there would be enough fabric, and I could quilt it myself. Decision!

Then, as I returned the fabric boxes to the closet, another 3 yard length just kept calling to me. I've had it for years, there's no writing on the selvege to identify the maker, and all I know is it's 100% cotton. It's also gray/beige/tan/black. SOOOO not me. I remember when I bought it, but not why. It's quite pretty for the subdued color scheme, though, and might make a good focus fabric for this pattern. I raided my boxes and in two minutes had a coordinated stack.

So, here's my dilemma: Do I do the predictable or do I make a gray/beige/tan/black quilt? Have any of you made a gray quilt? Does this mean I'm depressed (just joking!). It might be interesting. Or boring.

I need a vote. Here are the pictures; chime in with your opinions. Traditional (1)
or monochrome (2)?