Friday, May 30, 2008
The reason I had Blue Willow to begin with is that I adore blue and white china. In the past several years I have begun to pick up Spode Blue Room pieces whenever I find them at a reasonable price. (Thank you, T. J. Maxx!). I like to do holiday dinners on the Zoological Series, although I feel guilty giving someone the rhinoceros plate! I have serving pieces and teapots and cookie jars and all sorts of blue and white ware.
My serious china is a pink rose pattern. It's gorgeous, delicate stuff, the thickness of a sheet of parchment, and I always panic when hand washing them, for fear that I'll break a piece. The funny part is where they came from. They're gasoline purchase china. (You know, 99 cents with a fill-up.)
My father was a Standard Oil dealer. In the 60's, the company ran a number of dishware promotions. Each piece was available for a week or two, except for the plates, which you could buy all during the promotion. The pieces were about a dollar each when you filled up your car. The pattern is called Island Rose, and the promotion was announced during a dinner meeting of Standard Oil dealers with the theme "Come to the Chevron Island." Island - you know, pump island. Think gas station. I remember this because Mom and Dad came home with silk flower leis and we thought it was so funny.
Anyway, when the dishes arrived, Mom started putting away a set for me. I was in high school at the time. She was forward-looking enough to know that when I was out on my own I would want china, and good china is expensive. I think it is beautiful and I have always enjoyed using it. I love telling dinner guests that the dishes came from a service station!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
And, the quilted cover fits. Thank goodness!
I also completed the prototype purse for the one I'm going to make for Mom's birthday. Dear Reader, it was not fun. It looks great, but the darned thing almost killed me. Lessons learned:
a. Use thinner fusible interfacing.
b. Make it larger so you're not wrestling with tight areas.
c. Cut the lining side panel a full 1/2" narrower than the outside side panel, or the lining bunches up.
Be that as it may, it did turn out sort of cute:
No, the pattern on the front above and below the zipper doesn't match. I didn't have the fabric to make it match. Don't worry, Mom's is solid tan linen; no matching required. Here's a close-up of the front. The zipper pocket will be handy for keys and cell phone.
The inside has three pockets. I didn't do an inside zipper pocket because frankly it was making me a little crazy. I'll bite the bullet and add one to Mom's purse. There's also a pocket in the bottom of the lining to insert a plastic base so it's more rigid. I sacrificed an old flexible cutting board.
I like the top zipper and the D-rings holding the shoulder strap better than the integral strap on the other purse. I'm sure I'll use this one; it's a very practical size and shape.
After Mom's gift is completed, I doubt I'll ever make another purse. I do, however, have the pre-quilted fabric to make a laptop case since my Toshiba didn't come with one. It will be much less complicated. It's a big rectangle with a zipper. No lining. No pockets. Web strap handles. (Sigh of relief.)
Have you ever noticed that when you make something like this purse, everyone oohs and aahs and says, "You ought to make these and sell them!" This is usually uttered by someone who doesn't sew.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
And the inside, with pockets:
I can't say I enjoyed the daylights out of sewing this, but it was different. I'm making one for Mom in solid tan, with three inner pockets, a zippered outside pocket and top zipper closure. The shoulder strap will be thinner and attach to the body of the purse with D rings. I think I have it figured out how to sew the thing together at the top edge and turn it through an open seam in the lining.
I like the color and print of this purse, but am not sure how much I will carry it: it's kind of loud! And, to use this one, I would have to put away my favorite-of-all-time cream colored leather purse from Banana Republic, which I carried all last summer and has become my go-to bag for summer weather. I got it out yesterday after Memorial Day (Hey, I'm a southern girl from the 50's: No white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day!).
Monday, May 26, 2008
I had a few scraps left over, so I decided that my itty-bitty pink Fuji camera needed a case so when I carried it the camera wouldn't get scratched up in my purse. Why did I think that bias binding was a good idea to finish this tiny thing? It took me forever. The only velcro in the house was self-adhesive dots, which were the right size for the flap closure, but a mess to sew on. Have you ever tried to put a needle through that gluey backing?
After all that, I was feeling inspired to try the purse pattern I bought. The outside was ready to go - pre-quilted fabric - but the insides needed constructing, with fusible interfacing and elastic edged pockets on both sides. I'll show and tell when it's done, but it's quite spiffy. The six pockets will catch all the small items that are rattling around in my purse -- keys, cell phone, sunglasses, camera, MP3 player, hand disinfectant bottle (I'm sold on the stuff - not one cold in more than a year). I'm wishing the shoulder strap was thinner, but that's my only criticism of the pattern. Easy-peasy to put together, just bulky seams with all that interfacing and padding. This is really a trial run before I try to make my Mom one for her birthday. Hers gets a zipper closure and double shoulder straps
I have to finish that purse tomorrow and mark up the pattern changes. I've got less than a month to find the fabric and get it done.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
I'm getting a new sewing machine! My husband decided that the Brother general sewing machine he bought for me several years ago wasn't good enough, and since we'd had such good luck with my Juki quilter's machine, he would investigate the regular multi-stitch machines they made. Here it is!
We ordered it yesterday and I will probably have it by the end of next week. It's a Juki HZL-E70 with 50 stitches, automatic buttonholes and all kinds of things, like automatic stitch locking at the beginning and end of a seam. I'm calling it an early birthday present, because it seems extravagant to up and buy something like this without an occasion.
It's a little intimidating to learn how to use a new sewing machine. Before that Brother model, the most complicated machine I owned had four stitches! That was my beloved White machine that I simply wore out with all the quilts and clothes I made. It's still in the closet because I can't bear to part with it, but haven't used it for years. Before that -- a 1950 Free Westinghouse with straight stitch only. When I bought the White and it had a zigzag stitch, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!
The Brother machine is fine, but never seemed as robust as the Juki. I also got spoiled with the 1500 stitches per minute on the Juki. I am pleased to note that the new machine will sew 900 stitches per minute, so it won't feel like I'm poking along. I also hope that machine applique will be easier with this new sewing machine.
Here's the funny part: Allbrands.com includes a free Barbie II sewing machine with the order! It's somewhere between a toy sewing machine (it does have a bobbin) and a real one. I have no idea what I will do with it. Maybe my great-nieces would like it. The only problem is, it's only worth $40 and it would cost more than that to mail it to Germany where they live.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Also, I splurged this morning on a rolling case for my Juki sewing machine. The case was on sale at Hancock's for 40% off, making it what I considered a reasonable price. This machine doesn't have a hard case, just a soft cover, and I hated to try to take it somewhere because it was unprotected, and pretty heavy too. There were several tapestry patterns, but I just had to pick the one with ladybugs.
I was at Hancock's looking for a fabric printed with old radios, that Jacquie used in a mini quilt. She was kind enough to answer my question about where she found it. It came from her local Hancock Fabrics store, but unfortunately, it looks like Hancock's here never had it. I'm disappointed because one of my husband's hobbies is restoring old radios and I have tried to find radio fabric for a long time. If anyone ever sees quilting cottons printed with antique or old radios, please let me know.
Oh, yes. An update on the Laurel Burch kitty print quilt. I completed the top and pieced a backing - using the orange and green fabrics I couldn't seem to use on the front! With the print on the back, they work fine. No use letting some good fat quarters go to waste.
That means I have four small tops waiting to be quilted. And I'm cutting out a new one anyway!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
When I started cutting out the quilt at home I held every piece of fabric up to the print, and except for purple and pink they all shouted "NO, NO, NO!" The purple and pink cozied up to the print and purred "Oh, yes, just imagine us as a cute little girl's quilt."
"But I didn't want to make a gender specific quilt this time. This bright fabric will be OK for any little kid."
"Nope," the focus fabric replied coyly. "This is a little girl's quilt, and you can't make me be anything else."
Chastened, I used the purples and the hot pinks in the blocks. Then came time to pick sashing. Again, I tried the greens.
'You're not listening," the fabric protested. "I said pink." And it wouldn't be argued with.
So to the stash closet I went and pulled out a few softer pinks. And, just like the three bears, one of them was JUST right. So I'm not making the quilt I envisioned at all.
The moral of this story is that sometimes even the best planned color schemes fall apart, and we need to be open to see other possibilities. We stack the bolts up in the quilt shop and squint at the colors, trying to imagine them blended together in blocks. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. I figure that it's hard to hear the fabric talking to you in that visually busy environment. At home, lay it all out and let the color story it tells best come to you. Trust your gut feelings, and be open to change.
If you're a controlling sort of personality, this is hard. But I know every one of you has completed a quilt top that was 90% there design-wise, and just couldn't figure out where that last 10% went. Something just wasn't right. Often you try to convince yourself it is OK as it is. Sometimes you start ripping out seams and doing a little cosmetic surgery.
Projects that fall a little short of the mark are learning experiences, I tell myself every time. It's true. But while I'm wielding the seam ripper, that seems a dear price to pay!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
See the flower pots on either side? Tomatoes and bell peppers. And look what I found this morning:'Maters! I'll be making fresh pasta sauce in July.
And, because I have waxed poetic about flowers in this post:Torenia - isn't it grand? Ah, summer is near!
I don't do comment screening and I don't block anonymous comments because I like to read a variety of opinions and until now have not had any bad experiences with advertising, sleaze or spam-like comments. Anonymous comments are ok because I understand some people want to limit their web presence - I was that way for a long time. But I know bloggers that have had to invoke comment moderation to protect themselves and their web persona.
In short -- in my opinion, that advertisement masquerading as a comment was tacky.
Anyway, since I'm making this BOM in two sizes and two colors, by the time the first block is finished I have studied the design and sometimes make improvements on the construction of the second. Here is the first block I made, by their instructions (please ignore the creases, the blocks were folded up in storage):
Concentrate on the middle inside the green sashing. Note that it's built around the center blue square. The rust triangles are added, then the beige triangles, and then strips are added to the four sides consisting of half square triangles, squares and flying geese. I looked at it and decided that it's really a fancy nine patch block. So I broke up the design differently and made the second blocks this way:
Now it's just an augmented nine patch, consisting of one solid square, four double flying geese squares, and four half square triangles with an additional square inset in the corner. The same look, but it was much faster to put together and you stitch fewer bias edges.
I'm curious if others do the same thing: rethink the construction to simplify your sewing. Comments? Let me know, please.
While we're talking about pattern instructions, let me air a pet peeve. I just ran into this particular one on my Christmas BOM. I hate, hate, hate it when they tell you to cut certain size pieces to sew together, and then instruct you to square up the resulting patch to a specified size! In this case, the directions said to cut out two squares, sew through the diagonal twice and cut apart to make two HSTs, and then to trim them to a 3 1/2" square. What a waste of time. Why not just tell just us to cut the pieces the correct size to begin with? We can sew an accurate 1/4" seam. Stuff like this is why I don't read instructions and I make my own patterns.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I like striped borders and usually use the stripes crosswise. That means stretchy borders and mitered corners, two possible areas fraught with difficulties. Once I get the striped mitered border attached, I usually use lapped corners on the outer border, if there is one. I know that if you have several borders, it may be faster to sew them together and apply as one mitered piece but the lapped corners seem to add stability to the quilt shape.
I also like to cut the borders length of grain if possible to add more stability, but if I get cheap I'll just cut them cross-grain to save fabric. I like the look of a fairly wide border in the focus fabric (from 3/4 of a block to a full block wide), to tie all the colors of the pieced top together. This works better on larger quilts.
But best of all, adding the first border strips lets you get a glimpse of the finished design and gives you a final chance to make design changes. I, however, once famously did not pay attention at this point and had to hang the finished top up for photography before it hit me that the border was wrong, wrong, wrong.
The picture is just a teaser: you'll see the completed quilt top later. Two more border segments and my butterfly nap quilt top will be completed, and I wouldn't change a thing. But -- I'm piecing the backing, so I am far from done!
I don't know about you, but the color is often very low on my list of priorities when buying a new or used car. I'm far more worried about how dependable a vehicle it is, whether it has been wrecked, whether it has the features I need, how good is its gas mileage. Color doesn't even make the top four. Anyway, we've bought our share of used cars, where finding a specific color is highly improbable.
My car right now is a red Subaru. According to the article, you should be scared -- very, very scared. Aggressive, moody, high-speed driver with low self-esteem and confidence, that's what the color supposedly says. I was going for cheery, fun, upbeat and visible, but what do I know? I'm not a psychologist. Also, my very first car was a red VW beetle (my dad's pick, not mine), and I had not owned a red car since I was seventeen. I bought this one when I was turning 50. It seemed like a suitable gesture -- I joked that when a boring person has a mid-life crisis, they buy a red station wagon!
Anyway, if this color stuff has any credibility, a review of my car colors starts to look like multiple personality disorder -- red, blue, yellow, gray, blue, green, red. My husband's choices? White, white, maroon, white, green. (Hey, maybe he is more stable than me! LOL) I think it just says that I drove more on average to work than he did and wore out cars quicker, and that we bought what was on the dealers' lots. That was definitely the case with the yellow El Camino and the gray Sentra, although I did like the yellow El Camino because I like yellow. (The gray Sentra -- not so much. The color choices were dark gray and dirt brown. Ugh.)
My husband also buys bigger cars than I do and they seem to come in more sedate colors than my compact cars. My green Mazda was definitely a more exuberant green than his Q45, which is so dark it's almost black.
Anyway, most people buy what's available, and that's usually a pretty limited choice. The dealer isn't going to fill his lot full of red or bright yellow cars; he'll buy white, black, gray and other subtle colors likely to appeal to the most people. It also depends on the colors in vogue at the time. The powder blue VW and the yellow El Camino were from the 70's. The maroon and gray cars we bought in the late 80's, when those colors were fashionable. The blue and green Mazdas were from the 90's.
If you need a better predictor of driving style and personality, go with the vehicle model criterion. Personally, if I see a Hummer appear in my rear view mirror, I wince. Maybe it's only a local phenomenon, but my experience with Hummer drivers is that they are the most arrogant, pushy people on the road. And if the driver of a vehicle so big that my roof cargo rack is even with his door handles wants to drive aggressively -- well, I get out of his way and give him the road. Which is what he wanted, all along.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
My bathroom. Nice prints to be hanging in a steamy bathroom, you say. Well, they would be if they were the real prints. I looked all over for dragonfly prints but could only find really nice ones that were, gulp, $75 each unframed. Not me. So I grabbed some images from the internet and printed them on photo paper. Maybe not as sharp and crisp as real prints, but for a bathroom? Just fine.
I fell in love with this lamp on Ebay and had to have it. I graces my living room now and I think it's my absolute favorite lamp ever.
A. It's dragonflies.
B. It's stained glass.
C. It's enameled.
D. It's blue.
All bases covered.
Pillow from my living room. Starting to see a trend? I found this fabric when we redecorated and even though it was obscenely expensive even for decorating fabric, at $40 a yard, it didn't take much for 6 chair bottoms and two pillows. So I splurged. The dragonflies are embroidered in three colors. It is exquisite.
Ditto for the dining room chair.
No dragonflies in the bedroom or den yet, but I'm working on it!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Needless to say, I won't be sewing this week. But Saturday ..... Saturday is MINE!
Sunday, May 11, 2008
My sister-in-law and her husband and my brother-in-law were visiting. It was her birthday Friday so we made her a cake and a pretty fancy dinner. The cake was the Hershey's "Chocolate Town Special Cake" from the recipe that used to be on the cocoa can. It is hands-down the best chocolate cake ever. The texture is more like a lighter brownie than a fluffy cake. It's dense and moist and deeply chocolate. The prefect frosting to complement this, and the one my mother-in-law always used, is boiled like making chocolate fudge. It hardens into a candy-like shell on the cake. Very delicious, very rich - and probably should only be eaten once a year!
Her birthday dinner was roast turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy and rolls and veggies (kind of like a mini Thanksgiving!). Five people are hard to feed with roast chicken. You have to make two of them, so I though, Why not a turkey? Well, I found out that turkeys are difficult to find in the grocery in May. I had to get a Butterball, which is not my favorite brand. We brined it overnight and it was much improved. If you're not brining poultry, look it up and try it. The meat is infused with the moisture and doesn't dry out while roasting, and the seasoning penetrates throughout the bird. It also works well for pork.
We also made stuffed pasta shells, which are delicious, but take a while to put together. And sauteed herbed green beans, another winner. I was basically in the kitchen the whole time, what with breakfast and dinners and washing-up and all. It gave my husband time to visit with his siblings.
When they visit, we don't go gallivanting all over town to the attractions and shopping. We sit in the living room and talk, watch movies, talk some more, walk around the yard, etc. Didn't even leave the property the entire time. When my other sister-in-law visits, we end up taking her and her family around to local places, like the aquarium or the Civil War battlefield parks or the state parks, and it seems like there is never time to just visit and catch up on our lives.
Tonight, I'm eating leftover turkey and gravy and relaxing. Tomorrow will be soon enough to put the house back together.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
I found the large cat and bluebird print first, on the sale rack of my local quilt shop. I loved it, so I picked up 2 yards, figuring it would be a good backing for a child's quilt. A few months later I ran into the panel print of the same cat, also on sale, so that was added to the stack. Then, last week, I found the blue and purple bird footprints fabric on sale at an online store. I pulled out some purple and yellow, and a plaid for the binding, and there's the collection. But I still don't know what pattern to use. Any suggestions?
I was thinking of cutting the panel print into strips and using them for the border, but it would only make four strips, and that's 148 inches. I would need about 200 inches to circle a crib size quilt. Or, I could cut out the panels and use them as the centers for pieced blocks, but they're rectangular, so that's awkward. I'm just stumped.
On to the real cat: Molly saw a tuxedo cat outside on the patio last night. I was at my desk and she was lying in the hall doorway. Suddenly she rushed through the den and charged up to the door, chittering and twitching all over! Her tail was about six inches in diameter and every bit of the fur on her back was up. She kept pacing in front of the sliding door, making those weird chittery noises, so I got up to see what she was so upset about. The cat was standing at the bottom of the stairs, calmly watching Molly go to pieces. It seemed to think that Molly's antics were amusing - certainly not scary.
It was a good-sized tuxedo cat, very cute, that I've seen once before outside. I have no idea where it belongs. When I came up to the glass, it got nervous and left, but not in a scared way, it just sauntered off. Definitely not a basket case like my Molly. She didn't calm down for a while, just kept looking out the door trying to spot the interloper.
I'm not sure when she last saw another cat - it might have been years. I tried to tell her that her three sisters and mom live together in harmony, so other cats are OK, but she seemed to respond, "Harmony, schmarmony, that guy's in MY YARD!"
Sunday, May 4, 2008
I won't be able to quilt this until next week after my houseguests leave.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
I bought the butterfly fabric yesterday and I was so psyched about making the butterfly blocks that I had to try it out. I traced each butterfly design (there were 14 different butterflies) on parchment paper and figured out how much space to add around each one. Then, I added seam allowances. Using the templates, I could map how many of each design I could cut out in an area. I marked the corners of the template on the reverse side and used a ruler to draw the template boundaries. This method allowed me to make the best use of the fabric, since cutting out one of the shapes often would impact using the adjacent butterfly. Maximizing the number of patches I could generate from my yardage, I cut out 50 butterfly patches, ranging in size from 2 1/2" x 3" to 6 1/2" x 7". All are rectangular but vary in size proportionate to the butterfly design. Each will be sashed on all four sides using one of five coordinating fabrics and trimmed to 8 1/2". The completed blocks will be randomly interspersed with solid 8 1/2" square blocks of the coordinating fabrics. The border will consist of a 2" strip of crosswise stripes and a 6" strip of coordinating blue floral print. The binding will be the stripe, cut on the bias. The quilt will be 64" x 72", with a strip of patchwork design on the back as well.
So far, 10 blocks are completed. I will use anywhere from 25 to 30 on the quilt depending on what it looks like when assembled on my "horizontal design wall" --- i.e., the guest bed! The remaining butterfly patches will probably find their way into a Linus quilt.
This is a very vibrant, visually interesting design which is also very easy to do and quick to make. I'm certain I didn't invent it but I can't for the life of me remember where I saw it.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
So, there I was wandering around the shop, swooning over the new fabrics. Arranged artfully on a park bench (did I say that their shop is so yummy and tempting?) were bolts of Robert Kaufman's "Metamorphosis" line. Now, I'm not generally a butterfly person (I lean toward dragonflies, which fascinate me). But these matched the colors in my living room so perfectly I had to take a look. And of course my brain spun off a design suggestion. Remember my Project Linus owl quilt, where I alternated plain blocks with sashed "fussy-cut" owl patches? The butterflies would be perfect for this treatment. So of course I had to get some. See for yourself, isn't it wonderful?
Then, the owner called my attention to the new batiks. Batiks were something I had never used, or even bought. But, standing before that glowing shelf of beautiful batiks, I realized that they were the perfect fabric to use with the Winner's Bouquet templates. So I bought some.I know, I know. I have a problem.