Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pinwheels, interrupted

Just when I think I have myself convinced that I don't need a separate sewing room and I'm getting along just fine sewing in the kitchen, something happens like today and I flip-flop faster than an Olympic gymnast.

I finished all my pinwheel blocks and was joining the rows. I was pinning row 5 of 7 when my husband came in and remarked that if we decided to make more than the planned salad for supper, maybe we should call and invite our friend T. to eat with us. Now, T. is a good friend whose family lives 120 miles away. He works in our town, so he rents an apartment where he lives during the work week, and commutes on the weekends. He also has been sick recently. We try to invite him often for a home cooked meal that he didn't have to fix. Considering how he's been feeling, I thought that asking him over for dinner was a good idea.

So, I folded and put away the quilt in progress, unplugged and removed the sewing machine from the table, put away my ironing board and iron, packed up my sewing tools, swept the threads off the floor and stowed my cutting board and rulers. Then I could set the table and start preparing dinner. My husband and I could not have prepared a meal or eaten in the kitchen with all my sewing stuff spread out everywhere.

Tomorrow, I will bring all the stuff back into the kitchen, set up the sewing machine and ironing board, unpack my tools, get the quilt blocks out of the bag and in order, and start anew where I left off.

How much time I could save if I had a dedicated sewing room where I could leave everything just the way I dropped it and shut the door!


This is why we keep several projects going at one time. I completed all the blocks for the gift baby quilt and started on the pieced border, but got so burned out by the pattern that I needed a break. Luckily, the next Linus quilt was cut out and waiting. It has a "delicious" border fabric printed with cakes and pies and ice cream and goodies, and the pattern is pinwheel blocks made of coordinating fabrics: dots, stripes, prints. Here and there I am interspersing a variable star block or a dutchman's puzzle block for variety.

Compared to what I have been sewing, pinwheels are easy, pinwheels are relaxing -- pinwheels are just what I needed. And they are completed so fast! I'm pinwheelin'!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rotary cutters

Joan commented on my last post about oiling my rotary cutter blades and I want to say thanks and pass that idea on. I never thought about oiling the blades; maybe others hadn't either. I do try to keep my cutters ready for action. Several years ago I bought a whetstone arrangement for taking the burrs off rotary blade edges, although it doesn't really sharpen them. It's like using a steel on your kitchen knives; it straightens the edge and takes out waves and burrs. It's very useful and I find that it extends the life of my blades. Unfortunately, I'm rather cheap on buying blades and continue to use them long after I should have chucked them. I changed the 45 mm cutter blade this morning and tried it out, and it was like, WHOA! That was easy. So I need to take better care of them.

I also remembered that I had a small cutter! I had forgotten about it since I hadn't used it for ages. I bought it to use with Shar Jorgensen's template sets, and it was packed away. I exhumed it and tried out the Winner's Bouquet templates. They are wonderful! Very easy to cut out with the small cutter. One thing I am going to invest in for using templates like this is a rotating cutter mat. I don't have one yet and have relied on using my smallest mat and scooting it around manually.

But, believe the manufacturer when they recommend putting Invisigrip on the back of the templates. They are a bit slippery, especially when compared to the Creative Grid rulers with the non-slip grippy dots. Those rulers, BTW, beat my old Omnigrid rulers hands down. Very stable and not slippery, and no Invisigrip required.

I got out my Meadowbrook scraps and cut out four Winner's Bouquet blocks just to try it out, and the curves go together so smoothly. Don't be leery of the rounded edges. These are very gentle curves that practically fall together. A few pins and you're there.
Don't you love that jump-start you get from a new tool or pattern, when you want to plunge in and sew, sew, sew?

Friday, April 25, 2008

The dangers of a slow, rainy afternoon

This is what happens when you are faced with a boring drizzly afternoon and feel like you deserve a treat after going to the doctor. Yep, a trip to the local quilt shop, and I didn't return home empty-handed.

First, I decided that shirtings were a category that was lacking in my stash, so I picked out eight pieces and bought 1/2 yard lengths. Then, I remembered that I wanted to get some steam-a-seam for the planned cat applique quilt. And, oh yes, I needed new rotary cutter blades. I had been using the sharpener on my last one for too long and it needed to be retired. Before I reached the checkout counter, there on my left were those wonderful Winner's Bouquet templates that Elaine Adair wrote about. I couldn't resist.

And finally, those yummy fat quarters were FREE because this purchase filled up my punchy-card. I especially like the one that looks like old book endpapers.

I've been a bad, bad girl.

Not just a pretty face......

....it's a really nice desk lamp too. I finally got my lamp. Kudos to Bellacor, where I ordered it Tuesday and received it today, with free shipping and the lowest price I found. I even like the brushed nickel finish. Whew, that's over!

On other fronts, I haven't stitched a stitch this week because I have been planting flowers. My hanging baskets are filled with purple scaevola and the flower bed around the birdbath, a mixture of perennials and annuals, is complete. No pictures yet because the annuals are those 4" tall plants from the six-packs and will need a few weeks to look like anything. When they're blooming, I promise I will post a photo. I have tomatoes and bell peppers in pots because I don't have a garden plot anymore, but we have done this for several years and the plants do fine. Two large (large! about 30" diameter) pots will grow all the tomatoes and peppers the two of us need, with plenty to make tomato sauce for the freezer.

The large pots flanking my driveway were planted with the most beautiful coral-y orange new guinea impatiens with varigated foliage. These are shaded most of the day, and it was difficult to find something that was large and bright and showy, but didn't need sun.

My azaleas are fading, but the blooms were outstanding this year. The dogwoods didn't bloom as much as usual, but last summer was very dry and they were stressed. A little TLC and extra watering this year, and they'll do fine.

My back yard makes me happy when I look outside from my office. The white rose bush is covered with buds and will burst forth soon with the loveliest old-fashioned roses. There are hanging pots of lavender African Daisies on the trellis beside the maple tree. Once the white dogwood and hot pink azaleas fade, the color scheme in the back yard becomes blue, purple, orange and yellow, one of my favorites. I'm not much for red and pink flowers, but I love yellow. It also goes nicely with my brown-y tan brick house with blue shutters.

It's been a lot of work getting here, but my yard is ready for summer.

Monday, April 21, 2008

In search of the perfect work light (part 2)

Well, I THOUGHT I found a desk lamp. Today I got an email notice that it is backordered from the manufacturer and won't be available for 3 or 4 weeks. Did I want to wait until they notified me it was back in stock? WEEKS? I pulled up their website and looked at the lamp. There, under the price were the words "In Stock". Yeah, sure.

It didn't take me long to answer. A: No, I wasn't going to wait weeks for a product you said was in stock now. B: This kind of slimy business practice is enough to assure me I never want to do business with you.

Back to the hunt. Someone has to have this stupid lamp in stock without exhorbitant shipping charges.

Project Linus update

I have added the four new Linus quilts to my slideshow in the sidebar. I'm especially happy with the owl quilt, the one I call "Give a Hoot!" The bias striped binding really added a little snap to it. I was also amazed to realize, when I hung up the one I call "Wild Thing" that gave me so much trouble, how nicely it turned out. The dot and dash border is interesting and the teal binding finishes it nicely. What with changing the border and all, I was so tired of it I couldn't really see it. While photographing it today, its beauty came through. The one with the pastel colors and the bunny border still doesn't photograph well, although it looks quite nice in person. When you photograph it, all that comes out is the orange, but it's more balanced in person.

Friday, April 18, 2008

In search of the perfect work light

I am in search of the perfect desk lamp. It has to be bright. Really, really bright. I'm sure that many of you know what I mean by that. Basically, that I turned 50 and my vision went on permanent vacation. In a nutshell, I can't see squat. If you want me to do detailed work like hand sewing or drawing, you have to invoke some serious candle-power. This is the one I use now; it's a cheap short-term solution that came from Target. While it's a fine lamp in that it swivels and tilts effectively and puts out a lot of light (albeit yellow-tinged and not good for color matching), it also uses a halogen bulb and generates a ferocious amount of heat. I have burned myself inadvertently on that conical metal shade more than once, while reaching past it for the calendar or above it to the pigeonholes in the hutch. See that little handle for adjusting the shade? If you're going to use it you better do it before you turn on the lamp. After it's burned more than 15 minutes that handle gets to about 150 degrees and becomes purely ornamental. I don't know about you, but I don't keep a potholder at my desk.

I finally decided, after a prolonged appliqueing stint which left me red-faced and sweating from the tropical micro climate the halogen bulb creates around my desktop, that I had to get another lamp. I surfed all the lamp manufacturer's websites and compared all the full spectrum lamps. The problem with them is that most were kind of ugly -- think gray plastic case. (I'm sure you know which ones I'm talking about and they cost way too much for a plastic lamp!). I'm trying not to be a decorating snob, but they just don't go with my cherry desk that I have tried so hard to maintain and keep nicely accessorized. I did find another reason not to choose them, which I'll discuss later.

Many of the more decorative full spectrum lamps were either too tall or bulky to fit on my desk under the hutch, or were shaped like a banker's light and didn't swivel and tilt to focus the light. I discovered several possible candidates made by Verilux that were metal and stylish, but most were nickel or bronze finish. The hardware on my desk is antiqued brass and I'm trying to match finishes for consistency. I can be the queen of matchy-matchy, but that's another story. One was antique brass but it had a paddle shaped head fitted with one of the four-tube bulbs that was way too large; the whole lamp took up too much valuable desk real estate. There was another that looked interesting because it was an articulated pharmacy lamp with a round shade, that used a full spectrum twist bulb instead of the long bulbs like in the Ott lights. It came in brushed nickel and bronze. Well, I told myself, I could live with bronze. So I was narrowing it down to the pharmacy lamp (if I went for classy) and the Verilux standard plastic desk lamp with the woodgrain finish (if I cheap-ed out at the last minute - it was better than gray).

There is a lighting specialty store in town which carries Verilux and a lot of other really nice lamps. I love decorating with interesting lamps and have drooled all over this store's front windows on more than one occasion. I've even bought a small blue and white porcelain lamp there, which is one of my favorites. They're nice to work with but can be pricey. I headed over there after running a few errands this morning to scope out my possibilities.

That's when I found out that the standard gooseneck desk lamps with the paddle heads won't work. They just don't extend far enough from their base to center the light over the workspace on my desk. The desk is 30" deep, and the gooseneck wasn't long enough. Surprisingly, the woodgrain plastic casing wasn't that bad, and if my desk wasn't so deep, it would have worked well. The light was wonderful - bright, clean white and non-glare-y.

Then I looked at the articulated pharmacy lamp. Here's a manufacturer's picture of it.
The engineer in me went gaga for the articulated arm which raises and lowers the shade, keeping it parallel with the desk at all times. It's a great design and it works so smoothly. It also extends a good distance from the base, so it would sit on the back of the desktop and still light the middle of the desk.

I swallowed my cheapness and took it. Now this store has a 48 hour in-home trial, which is a great thing for lamps, since sometimes you won't know if the proportions and appearance of the lamp will work until you take it home. As soon as I got home, I cleared off my desktop and put the lamp in place. I switched it on. Ahhhhh! Clear, bright, white, glare-free light. I pushed the little handle. The lamp shade swung up and down, up out out of the way, and then down over the center of the desk. Heaven.

Then, I noticed something. Where the moving parts came together at the small rod pinned to a collar on the vertical rod of the base, the finish was being rubbed off as I moved the lamp up and down. It flaked off in chips like paint. It wasn't a plated finish at all, just a painted one. It appeared that any little knocks and dings were going to make this lamp look bad quickly. It was a condition I simply couldn't overlook. But I loved the lamp. What to do?

If I bought the brushed nickel finish, it would not have a painted treatment and would be more durable. It also wouldn't match the knobs on my desk, but would that be so bad? Brushed nickel is a very common finish for desk lamps; could I live with it? I decided that I could.

Reluctantly, I packed up the lamp and headed back to the store. Not for me, I said. They didn't have one with the other finish in stock, so I headed home. An Internet search found the nickel finish lamp with free shipping. (I hate to pay shipping.) So in 3 or 4 days I'll have my lamp. I would have loved to have bought it locally, but it wasn't to be. I'll be glad to move my desk out of the tropics!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"You're giving those away???!!!"

That's what I keep getting from people when I show them my teacup swap applique blocks. They can't believe that I hand appliqued those blocks and am going to blithely stuff them in an envelope and mail them away for strangers. I keep explaining that I will get an equal number of blocks back, but that doesn't seem to mitigate their reaction. It's something about the applique, I guess. I've given away any number of pieced quilts without this much outcry. I admit that doing them by hand makes it more, shall we say, personal? It's easy to get attached to something you've handled, pored over and examined like hand applique. Right now, they're safely bundled in their mailer waiting for next month to fly to Texas. But, I swear, if one more person says it, it's going to make me rethink the whole thing!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Catching up on April projects, looking ahead to summer

Yesterday was productive, BOM-wise. I finished the April blocks for the Debbie Mum and BlockCentral BOMs (three in all) and cut out and prepped both Hearts A Flutter block applique pieces. If the week stays quiet, I can finish both by Friday and get back to the Linus quilt that is waiting. It should be done by the beginning of next week. That will make ten for the year in the first four months, so I can take a breather and still be on track for my goal.

Whew! After all that, I can start on the gift baby quilt that I need by August. My longarm quilter's workload is never predictable, so it's wise to budget in about two months for them to turn around a job. So I really need to get my quilt top in the queue by the end of May.

You know what all this means? It means it will be June before I can work on any of my projects! I want to see the Diamond Log Cabin come together! I want to piece the Boston Common quilt from SuzGuz Designs! I want to quilt the Thimbleberries Lazy Crazy quilt! And make my new sewing machine cover! And my new summer purse! Waaaaa!

(OK, I'm calmer now.) Summer is difficult for the quilter. We have flowers to attend to and weeds to pull and landscaping to maintain. Vacations, houseguests (oh, yeah, my sister-in-law is coming to stay on May 9th), home repair, gardening, reunions. Summer's loaded up before you factor in the quilting.

What's the solution? Don't look at me -- I'm too busy!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Teacup swap blocks are done!

I have finally been let out of teacup limbo. All twelve blocks are done, pressed, trimmed and ready to mail. I have posted photos of individual blocks as they were completed, but here's a look at all twelve together.

I'm kind of psyched. I love them all. It's hard to give them away! That's about 50 hours of work hanging there. All are hand appliqued using freezer paper templates, and it was more work than I anticipated. I am eager to send them off and see what comes back to me. It will be a while, though, because the swap doesn't end until June.

Now there's time to work on the BOM blocks, the gift baby quilt and of course my own diamond log cabin. It's supposed to be chilly and rainy here tomorrow, so it will be a sewing day.

Throwing money at the problem

A few days ago I talked about weeding the azalea border and how I was going to have to dig out all the weeds around my birdbath. In the spirit of "good fences make good neighbors" I decided that the short plastic border edging I was using just wasn't doing the trick and I needed to install a more substantial boundary between those things flowery and those things yard-y. So I did. OK, grass on one side, flowers on the other, everybody play nice!

You can still see weeds around the birdbath - haven't gotten to pulling them yet and the weather turned cooler so I will have to wait to plant anyway - but I defy any weedy, creeping thing to jump over those landscape timbers and infiltrate my azalea border!

However, this is truly an example of throwing money at the problem. I hired my lawnmowing guy and his son to install these things yesterday. I haven't gotten the bill yet, but I am steeling myself for the blow. The darned landscaping timbers are around $3.75 each and a metal stake to pin them into the ground costs more than a dollar. Plus labor, I'm thinking it's going to be a big ouch when I get the bill. But if it will save me from constant weeding, I'm willing to take the hit.

Quilt giveaway

Ok, people this is good: JulieKQuilts is giving away a quilt! Go take a peek and definitely comment to register. It's a bright and lovely little thing, and anyone would be very pleased to win. Now, shoo -- go look!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Eight free quilt books left for the taking

I've had a good response to my free book offering. These eight are left for the claiming. Drop me an email and make arrangements to send me just $3.50 each to cover the cost of mailing it to you, and any book of your choice will be on its way to your home. I thought I'd describe the remaining books to help you make your selection.This book is by Diana McClun an Laura Nownes. What more do I need to say? It's a lovely big book with gorgeous photos and detailed patterns.
Another beauty by Diana and Laura. These books have everything: inspiration, patterns, instructions. They are both wonderful additions to your crafting library.
This book has a good selection of patchwork patterns and quilting designs, as well as guidelines for estimating fabric requirements and instructions for drafting patterns. It's good for the beginner. This is a lovely hardbound book full of traditional patterns, both pieced and appliqued. If your tastes run to traditional quilts, this is the book for you.
Are you new at quilting? Are you trying to build a fabric stash? Or are you an old hand who is overwhelmed by the bounty in your local fabric store? This book covers color theory, fabric combination and fabric selection. It's a workbook to help you manage your fabric collection.
If you have ever wondered how to cut large patterned fabrics to create those kaleidoscope effects we all ooh and aah over at quilt shows, here is all you need to know to get started.
Jinny Beyer is one of our "founding mothers" in modern quilting. This takes her work in a whole new direction, combining piecing and applique in the same block to create soft-edged designs. It's brilliant.
I'm sure that Georgia Bonesteel's quilting program on PBS was the first exposure to the craft for many people. Her book is a great reference for the beginner.

Friday, April 11, 2008

My little visitor

Look who came to visit today. He's just a baby. He wasn't even leery of people; I got within three feet of him, crouched down and took this picture. It doesn't convey just how tiny he is. I don't think he was more than 3 1/2" from the ground to the top of his ears. I had to crop out half of the picture taken with full zoom to get this image.

He may have been small but he wasn't stupid: he didn't get more than 6 or 8 feet from his burrow, and when he moved around he stayed hunkered down, as if he was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. I didn't see Mama anywhere but he's probably too small to be on his own. This might be his first foray into the big wide world. Soon, he'll be raiding my bird feeders and living under my heat pump. Oh, they grow up so fast!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

(A wee little bit of) the fruits of my labors

Here's one corner of my back patio. See the azalea border? See the lack of weeds in the azalea border? That's part of what I did today. Over the course of winter it can get almost completely covered by tiny, invasive weedy things that I don't even know the name of. But they sure love to grow in mulch. Their roots don't even make it into the soil beneath. They just burrow into the pine bark nuggets and start growing.

If it's been rainy, the weeds come up by the roots fairly easily. It's just a matter of kneeling on the concrete patio, inching down its sixty foot length, pulling weeds. Yes 60, six-zero, feet. The patio runs 3/4 of the length of the house. You can get a lot of weeds in 60 feet of border.

Of course, there was also the mulch under the trees out front, which had grass incursions to defeat and red oak leaves to rake out of the pine nuggets. FYI, red oak leaves don't all fall in the autumn, like the rest of the sensible leaves. No, some of them hang on all through the winter and let go around the middle of March. I like to think of them holding on for dear life while the new sprouts push them into the oblivion below. "NO, NO, I'M NOT FALLING!"

So, when you clean up in the spring, you have to dig all the oak leaves out of the mulch and from under the bushes, where the winter winds blew them. The leaves are smaller than an English oak, leathery, and don't seem to decompose at all. Why the south isn't knee deep in southern red oak leaves is beyond me.

I also had a robust patch of turnips under my crape myrtle to pull up. No, I didn't plant them. I think they were a gift from the birds that visited the sunflower seed feeder in that corner of the yard. Someone nearby must have planted turnips last year, and the friendly neighborhood sparrows feasted on the seed tops, came to my yard, and -- well, you know. The seeds sprouted and were well on their way to turnip-ness by the time I wrestled them out of the landscaping.

Everything is looking pretty good now. I only have to weed the flowerbed around the birdbath, and I'll be ready to plant annuals in two or three weeks. A very strange ground cover-looking weed has completely covered the semi-circle bed. There are perennials in there, so I have to be a little careful what I uproot until they are recognizable.

Oh, is anybody going to ask about the wagon wheel in the picture? It was here when I arrived, and my husband kind of likes it. Me, I'm neutral -- it IS a pretty unusual decoration, but it's a real, honest-to-goodness wooden wagon wheel and it's starting to show its age.

It coordinated with the wagon wheel chandelier that hung in the den when we bought the house. Honest - I'm not kidding. A round wooden wagon wheel shaped light fixture about 30 inches in diameter with four lightbulbs covered in frosted glass chimneys and perky little scalloped brass shades. It was UUUUUUUGLY! I replaced it with a reasonable fixture when I bought my desk and bookcase for the den. I had never in all my life seen a chandelier like that thing, until I walked into the local Russell Stover candy store last Easter and about fell over in the floor. In the center of the store hung the big daddy to my little bitty wagon wheel light. It was about six feet in diameter. They even had matching wagon wheel wall sconces. Now, if I had had the matching sconces in the den too, maybe that would have.......nope.

ADDENDUM: I grabbed this photo off Ebay. This light only has three bulbs. Imagine it larger with four bulbs and you'll have what I removed from my den. Yipes, how many of these things were sold?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Free book list

As I discussed yesterday, here's the list of available books. If you want any of them, comment or email me and let me know. I will reserve it for you. All I ask is you pay for the cost of sending it to you, which will be $3.50, to cover the Media Mail postage and a bubble mailing envelope. I'll tag each one as they are claimed by a requester.

These are all really nice books in excellent shape, about 9" x 12" format; I just got realistic about how much space I have and how much time I have to make all the projects I've already planned! If you're a history buff, I recommend the book "Quilted All Day", which is the life story of a prairie settler, her family and her quilts.
  1. --CLAIMED!--Little Quilts: All Through the House by A. Berg, M. von Holt and S. Johnson, That Patchwork Place, Softcover
  2. --CLAIMED!--Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer, EPM Publications, Inc, Softcover
  3. Soft-edge Piecing by Jinny Beyer, C&T Publishing, Softcover
  4. --CLAIMED!--Color Confidence for Quilters by Jinny Beyer, Quilt Digest Press, Softcover
  5. --CLAIMED!--The Quilter’s Album of Blocks and Borders by Jinny Beyer, EMP Publications, Inc, Softcover
  6. --CLAIMED!--The Romance of Double Wedding Ring Quilts by Robert Bishop, E. P. Dutton, Softcover
  7. East Does It Quilts by Georgia Bonesteel, Oxmor House, Hardcover
  8. Tricks with Chintz by Nancy Breland, American Quilter’s Society, Softcover
  9. --CLAIMED!--A Thread Runs Through It by Barbara Dieges, American Quilter’s Society, Softcover
  10. --CLAIMED!--Quilts from America’s Heartland by Marianne Fons and Liz Porter, Rodale Press, Hardcover
  11. --CLAIMED!--Quick Quilts from the Heart by Marianne Fons and Liz Porter, Oxmoor House, Hardcover
  12. Quilting from the Heartland by Sharlene Jorgenson, Softcover
  13. Quilts Galore! by Diana McClun, Laura Nownes, Quilt Digest Press, Softcover
  14. Quilts, Quilt, and More Quilts! by Diana McClun, Laura Nownes, C&T Publishing, Softcover
  15. Quilting Shortcuts by Maggie Malone, Sterling Publishing, Hardcover
  16. --CLAIMED!--Sets and Borders by Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham, American Quilter’s Society, Softcover
  17. --CLAIMED!--Quilted All Day: The Prairie Journals of Ida Chambers Melugin by Carolyn O’Bagy Davis, Sanpete Publications, Softcover
  18. Color and Cloth by Mary Penders, Quilt Digest Press, Softcover
  19. --CLAIMED!--The Quilter’s Kitchen by Darlene Zimmerman and Joy Hoffman, EZ International, Softcover
  20. America’s Heritage Quilts edited by Patricia Wilens, Better Homes and Gardens, Hardcover
  21. --CLAIMED!--Scrap Quilts: Fast and Fun editd by Patricia Wilens, Oxmoor House, Softcover

Well, folks, what do you think? I'll hold onto the books for a few months and see if I have any takers.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Quilt books overload: I thin, you win!

Last month I cleaned out my quilt books and gathered a stack to donate to the local library. Between finishing my brother's quilt, finishing my brother-in-law's quilt, my visit with mom, my brother-in-law's visit, Easter --- well, you get the picture! -- I haven't taken the books to the library yet. They were sitting on the workbench in the garage this afternoon when we went out to cut cut some lumber.

I looked over the books again, and fought off the temptation to keep them. I weeded them out once, but if they don't leave quickly, I'll have second thoughts. Then, I decided I would try a novel approach to finding these books a home.

Would any of you be interested in receiving a quilting book for just the cost of the postage to mail it to you? Here's how I thought I'd do this: I will post a list of the book title, author, publisher, and binding (hardcover or softcover). If you want any of these books, you email me and reserve it, and make arrangements to pay me the cost of mailing it to you. (I'll take checks: hey, I trust you.) For convenience, let's come up with a standard price. I weighed the books and checked the USPS website. The price using Media Mail for up to 1 pound is $2.18 (8 of them), for 1 to 2 pounds is $2.47 (11 of them), and for 2 to 3 pounds is $2.81 (2 of them). I'll have to buy Tyvek mailing envelopes too, which will cost about 75 cents each, so let's say $3.50 per book. That ought to average out.

I checked Amazon and could find nearly all of these books for sale by Amazon or a used book reseller, so you can read about them and decide if a book is for you. If someone wanted to see it, I could post a copy of a cover.

I don't want to make any money on these books, just find someone who really wants them. I'm not the garage sale type, and going through the trouble of posting them on Ebay or Quiltsy? UGH, no thanks. So give me some feedback: are you interested?

I've been busy

Here's four more teacup blocks. Twelve were planned, so there's four to go, but I'm almost at the point where I want to curl up in a ball and whimper "Make it stop! Make it stop!" I'm hitting the wall teacupwise. I just have to perservere.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Thread storage

I've tried everything imaginable to store thread in a way that's visible, handy and orderly. A few weeks ago I was walking through a Lowe's hardware with my mother and saw these boxes. They have turned out to be the best option I have ever tried. You can see that the large spools fit perfectly into the molded tray. The smaller spools look sloppier but the box still functions well for them.

This isn't all my thread. The large cones are in a box along with ziploc bags of specialty thread like heavy duty rug thread and jeans thread (yes, J. P. Coats markets that weird orange thread used on jeans). I have another bag of hand quilting thread, which I don't have very much of - that will probably change as I try my hand at it more.

Some of this thread must date from the late 1970's. See that teal thread on the small gold-colored spool? That was from a suit I made for my mother. The large spools of pale yellow and pale green are from chintz drapes made for my bedroom and the guest room about 15 years ago. The little gray spools of Molnlycke thread were bought to match colors used in my in-process Baltimore Album blocks. It's fine for hand sewing but I've never owned a sewing machine that could tolerate it. There's a lot of pinks because I went through a Moda/Robyn Pandolph phase, and a lot of different beiges and taupes. There's almost no red, or orange, but there is a spool of peach. (Yikes, what did I make that was peach?)

There are so many kinds and weight of thread out there, and I really don't know anything about them. I have three kinds of thread - Coats, Molnlycke and the large cones (forgotten the brand name). Someday I need to catch up my education on thread.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Neatness counts

I had a funny thought this evening, sitting here appliqueing teacups. I can't wait to receive my swap blocks because I am dying to see the reverse side of the applique! I've seen plenty of pictures of applique posted on blogs, most of it better than mine, and now I'm curious about how the reverse sides look. Do you hide your starting knots? Do you tuck in your thread tails and bury your end knots? These blocks can be done many ways, and I'm sure many will be machine appliqued, but I hope I see a few hand stitched blocks to compare.

I once knew a woman who belonged to a needlework guild. She did blackwork embroidery and, honest to goodness, the back side of the work was as neat as the front side! It was absolutely incredible. The fact that she made the back look that good was a sign of her dedication to her craft.

I've been a solitary quilter all my sewing life. I've not had the opportunity for much constructive criticism. I have given quilts to family and friends, but most of the recipients were not quilters themselves and, while they appreciated the gift and the work that went into it, they certainly did not have the technical knowledge to evaluate the quality of my piecing or quilting. (Now, when I gave a bed quilt and a lap quilt to Mom, it made me a little nervous because I knew that she knew what she was looking at!) Nonetheless, I don't get sloppy just because the people who will get the quilt wouldn't notice if the pieced corners met exactly or not.

The instructions for this block swap specify that the maker tag the blocks with name, email address, city and state. I don't know if those tags will stay with the blocks, but I hope that they do. This is an open invitation to anyone who receives my blocks to email me and give me an honest critique of my work.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A cat history

So much for that little flash of summer we saw a few days ago. It's back to 60 degrees and raining. Can't gripe about the rain, being in a drought and all, but it sure is dreary today.

But looky what I got in the mail:
I figure that anyone who has had as many cats as I have should make a cat quilt. So, when I am finished with the teacup appliques I am going to start doing cats. Black cats, tiger cats, calico cats, gray cats, siamese cats, any kind of cat that has been in my life will be immortalized in fabric. Let's see, starting with the strays when I was a kid, that would be:
Black, black, gray, orange tiger (Punkin), siamese (Lady Day), gray tiger (Uma), orange tiger (Zack), black, gray and white, black (Uncle), gray (Charlie), tuxedo (Peep), orange tiger (George), white (Spike), black (Sasha), calico (Molly). Whew!

Actually, the first three were a stray mother cat and her two kittens which didn't stay long - Dad found a home for them. Punkin was an adult stray who adopted our neighbor and us, and lived for years around our houses. In the winter he slept in the garage, but in the summer he lived outside and roamed where he wished. He liked us, but he liked his freedom, too. We fed him, and he wasn't averse to a little extra treat from the fridge. Bologna was a favorite. Punkin would go to the front door and meow. After Mom let him in, he would follow her to the refrigerator, where he got his bologna treat, and then carry it daintily to the back door to be let out again. He never ate indoors. He wore a collar and tag and was vaccinated, but in the end he was his own cat. One of his rear feet had been broken sometime in his life before he came to us, and had healed crookedly. When he wanted to cover ground quickly, he picked it up and ran three-legged. Sadly, he was hit by a car when I was in college.

After I got an apartment in college, I kept two cats for a while that weren't mine. The siamese (I called her Lady Day for her attitude, I've even forgotten what her real name was) was a cat I fostered for my sister-in-law's brother, while he was was relocating and in an apartment that didn't allow pets. Uma was a kitten of my brother's cat, but didn't like living in an apartment and went back to my brother's house, where she was renamed Fluffy!

I moved next door to my brother and adopted Zack about the time I started dating my now-husband. Zack didn't like him at all. This cat was so dutiful about his litter box habits that he didn't know he could "go" outside. He would meow at the door to be let in to use the litterbox! He was only with me for about six months, and then accidentally hitched a ride in the loaded bed of a pickup truck when my brother moved, and was forcible relocated! He was adopted by the lady who found him in my brother's new town.

The black and the gray and white kittens weren't even with us long enough to get properly named. The black, who came from the shelter, ran off and took up with some people down the street. Such cheek! At least, they kept him. Sadly, the gray and white kitten, a stray my husband found in the rain, was killed by a dog after only a few days.

Uncle was adopted from a college student and stayed with us through the last part of our college years. He was an independent sort too but loved us both. His former owner had left a window open so he could come and go as he pleased, so when I kept him in for the first few days to get acclimated to his new home, he took a claw and can-opener'ed my window screen! He disappeared one day just before my husband graduated. I think he must have gotten sick and gone off to die. It saddened me that I never knew what happened. I looked and looked, but no luck.

After I bought a house I got Charlie from a shelter. She had seizures and probably was epileptic. She only lived a year. Then, we got Peep, a tuxedo cat named for his tiny meow. He was with us for years. He disappeared one day and we found his body the next, beneath the bushes next door. I never knew what happened. He may have been accidentally poisoned or became ill from something he caught.

George was my first indoor only cat, and a rousing failure. He disliked my husband and me from the day we brought him home from the shelter, and it never changed. Fortunately, he did like a friend of mine, so George went to live with Cliff. I got Spike to be George's companion, but Spike, who came from the shelter full-grown, was nothing but an old tough tom, and had no patience with George, who didn't know how to behave around another cat and constantly picked fights. To keep the peace, Spike went outside more, which he loved. Spike's tail was injured during one of his jaunts in the woods behind my house (cat fight? animal bite? I never knew), and infection spread to his spine. He died in surgery.

After that, my luck in cats turned. Sasha came from the shelter. She actually chose us. We went to the adoption center run by the county Humane Society and entered the kitten room. Kittens were everywhere, running amok. They started climbing my husband like a ladder. I was picking kittens off his jacket and pants legs as we tried to dodge stepping on the little furballs. Over at the side of the room was a stack of cages about four feet tall. On the top stood a small black kitten. As we walked past, she reached out and grabbed his jacket, as if to say "Come here! You're my people!" We were charmed and took her home. Sasha kept me company when my husband worked out of town, staked out a nap spot on my husband's stereo receiver, and brought me mice during her hunting days. She was my big buddy and companion for sixteen years. I still miss her.

And that brings us to the resident Queen of All She Surveys, Molly, my calico. What can I say? She rules our life, but she's a benevolent despot!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Spring? What spring?

It's April 1st and it's 80 degrees outside. I have the windows open but all I'm letting in is humid warm air and pollen. That's spring in the southeast for you.

Another Teacup

Before I turn in for the night with a stack of quilting magazines and a Sudoko puzzle, I wanted to show the latest teacup block. It looks better in person than in the photo, because the colors are soft, but I like it.

I completed about half of another block before my eyes said "Enough". I was sewing at the work table in my husband's computer room while he was online with his cousin playing out some sort of quest on Guild Wars. Don't ask me. I don't know.