Sunday, August 31, 2008

The status of the dragonfly

Here is the new picture as promised. You can see two small patches basted in place above the left wing. I've been sewing this morning but decided to stop for a while and thought I'd go ahead and photograph it anyway. I have around 20 background patches basted to the freezer paper foundations and awaiting applique, which will cover about a third of the remaining left side, wrapping around the top dragonfly wing.

I keep thinking I've made great progress, then unfold the piece and go, "Well, uh, not exactly." This piece swallows great hunks of time effortlessly. In case you, dear reader, have forgotten how far I have left to go, here is the illustration of the completed picture:

When you start something like this, you are either optimistic or crazy in the head. Haven't decided which yet.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dragaonfly applique

Just a quick update - I've completed the first dragonfly and have cut out and basted (frezer paper applique prepped) about 15 green segments above it. I'm halfway done! WOO HOO!

Pictures later.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Car (money pit) - redux

News flash after my oil change and service check - I need to buy a new battery too. And flush the coolant system. Money pit - oh, yeah.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cars - money pits on wheels

Even if you have a good car, the ones that don't break down and strand you, that aren't always in the shop, cars cost money - big money - to keep up. This is in spite of attempting to be an conscientious car owner who sticks to the schedules, maintains the vehicle as recommended, watches out for problems.

I just dropped over $600.00 for tires. I can't type the number without wincing. I had to buy new tires just two years into the life of the Dunlops I last installed because the car is out of alignment and ate them. What I had was rough ride and enough road noise to make it hard to hear the radio! It's caused by the tires not being oriented perfectly parallel to the axis of the car, causing the tire to go down the highway slightly skewed relative to the track of the car. It does nasty things to the tread, and drastically reduces the tire life.

Now, the question is: why is a car that is only driven in a moderate manner on well-paved roads that badly out of alignment just two years after the alignment was supposed checked and corrected? I haven't hit potholes, I haven't bumped curbs, I haven't driven on gravel or dirt. Well, if I had that answer, I would be one of the "Car Talk" guys. I suspect that it wasn't correctly aligned in 2006 when the rear differential was replaced under warranty. (Names are withheld to protect me from accusations of slander - but the work was done by a place that should really know Subarus - clear enough?) I'm not bouncing around on dirt roads and climbing over rocks. This problem shouldn't have occurred.

So, in addition to the cost of the tires, I have to take it to a frame shop and get it aligned and the suspension checked tomorrow. I also need to get the oil changed. There's another $125 gone.

And, oh, yes - I started hearing a noise when the air conditioner was running, and it wasn't a belt, pully or bearing - it's the sound of the compressor slowly going south. I'm going to run it until the a/c dies - this is enough money for one month.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How time flies!

Was my last post really August 14th? Wow, the last nine days just flew by! A lot of stuff going on here, not much of it sewing until yesterday, unfortunately. The cat went through another bout of stomach problems, like she has twice before. A vet visit ($264.00!!!!) and ten days of medication later, she's like new, but mercy, she's well on her way to becoming the six million dollar kitty! We, including the vet, don't know what brings this on, but it's like little kitty gastritis, and if you catch it early enough while she's in the merely thowing up stage (you can imagine what comes after that but you really don't want a description, trust me on that) and dose her with steriods and ten days of Flagyl, she straightens up and doesn't get dehydrated. If it goes too long, there sub-cutaneous rehydration and anti-nausea medication and lots and lots of misery for everyone.

She has had the sub-q hydration twice before, in which they inject saline beneath the skin where it's absorbed into her system, in lieu of putting in an IV. Much easier on the kitty, but she looks like a fur-covered hot water bottle. I'm sure it's not painful or perhaps even uncomfortable, but she acts so put-upon that I can't tell how bad it really is. Luckily we caught her condition before she got to that point.

I saw a couple more houses, and the short answer is - no, nothing will work for us. One broke my heart: it was advertised as 2138 sq. ft., so we drove by to take a look; it had only one short step at the entrance, a beautifully landscaped yard, and it was gorgeous. So far, so good. I called my realtor on the quick and set up a showing. Unfortunately, the listing agent not only fibbed about how big the house was, her listing information gave me the ability to look up the house plan on the Frank Betz design firm website and find out that it's only 1750 sq. ft. Hey, what's almost 400 sq. ft. between friends???!!!!!!! Makes me so mad I could spit.

This was a killer because in all other aspects it was perfect, a beautiful house, and if it were just a little larger, I would have made an offer. The finishes were top drawer, the layout was good, it was just wonderful. Thanks to the Frank Betz website, I copied the floor plan into a drawing program and arranged and rearranged scale models of our furniture, but it wouldn't work. What with his home theater (as my mother once commented, "Why is your living room all about the electronics?") and his computer room and my home office (which I am not willing to part with!), and all the furniture his father built that we don't want to get rid of, there simply wasn't enough house.

We saw another house under construction in a small town about 15 miles away that was still small but closer to the right size; however, we didn't want to move that far out of the city and give up the conveniences to which we have grown accustomed. I may have some problems about where our house is located, but you can't beat it for proximity to everything you need.

And, the builder who wanted so much for his house (the barrier-free design that fit us to a tee....except for outrageous price) keeps calling and calling, even after we told him it was just too expensive and we couldn't go that high. I don't know exactly what's going on with that, but I have an idea.

His houses were fairly unique in the area, on flat lots and without steps, and because barrier-free design is so rare here he was able to charge a premium and get it. Then the housing market slowed down, and his new subdivision isn't taking off the way he expected. He doesn't build on speculation; most of the houses are contracted before they're started. Without a ready market of people lining up to pay oodles and oodles of money, the subdivision is languishing, and that doesn't look good. He may not be hurting for money yet. But he wants the front of that development filled up and successful looking to lure more buyers. He has figured out we are a prime candidate for his houses and keeps pursuing us.

Of course, if he were to lower the price to a reasonable cost per square foot comparable to the rest of the builders, he might well make a sale - and to us, too. As it is, he continues to try to charge the premium amount in a slow market, and it's not working. It seems like he's willing to do anything except bring his price more in line with the local market. Oh, well.

I also saw a terrible townhouse which was in such bad shape it immediately sent a prospective buyer scurrying right back out the door. It had a pot-sized burned spot on the laminate kitchen countertop that the seller hadn't even had bothered to fix. When I say burned spot, I mean a 10 inch circle of laminate melted all the way through to the particle board! Combined with the scratches and dings on the cabinets, the state of the walls, the cheap carpet, the laminate flooring where there should be hardwood at that price, it was a horror.

So.......we have pretty much suspended the house search. It ain't gonna happen. At least not this year. Rats.

One the quilty front, I completed a little more of the dragonfly applique. One body and one wing done and part of the second wing in process. It's slow, but nice to be back on track.

And I bought a quilt kit. Now, that is so NOT ME. But I saw this design in the July Fons and Porter magazine and had to have it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

To stash or not to stash?

That's a question indeed! I know most of us have a bunch of fabric in some state of organization in a closet, box, bag, or pile somewhere. And we probably add to it regularly. But when you pull out this stash of fabric to select pieces for a project, does it have what you need?

Sadly, I must say mine doesn't always. Through the years I have collected both large and small cuts of many fabrics, as leftovers from former projects or purchased to augment my selection. I seldom buy large portions of any one fabric unless it is for a specific purpose. Money and storage capacity are the limiting factors. So, when a pattern requires more than a yard or so cut, I may not have enough of any one fabric to fulfill the demand.

I also seem to never have exactly the colors in need. Tonight I pulled fabrics for the Golden Autumn pattern from the current issue of McCall's Quilting magazine. The border and blocks called for 1 7/8 yards of a green texture print. Unfortunately, the only green I had in near that quantity is rather too light a shade to complement the remaining selections. So, I will probably visit my local quilt shop with fabric samples in hand to select a better option.

If I were to start a truly scrappy quilt design I would probably have many, many possible fabrics to use. However, when I approach my stash closet with a particular planned design in mind, almost always I find that I am lacking in at least one of the required colors or patterns. This is true whether I've been frequenting the shops or not. I find that when faced with the bounty in the average quilt shop, I can never remember the particular weaknesses in my collection to supplement the selection so this doesn't happen. I may be seduced by a new fabric line, but I can't guarantee that my reaction may be subconsciously provoked by its similarity to other fabrics that I have known and favored in the past - maybe I just repeat my selections without expanding the options. No matter how imaginative I am in selecting augmentations for my stash they always fall short.

So, is it even wise to keep a stash at all? Why not purchase fabric as required - it would certainly save closet space! That's a question I don't have an answer for. For every project that began with a design idea or a store display quilt or a magazine photograph, there is the quilt that came into being because a fabric called to you to be coordinated and cut and combined into a thing of beauty. And sometimes those very vocal fabrics have been living in your stash closet, waiting patiently until they spoke just the right words to your creative side.

So I put it to you - to stash or not to stash?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Delectable whirligig quilt

Well, that's what I'm calling it. It's a delectable mountain quilt block with an added triangle to make a pinwheel, so It's a delectable whirligig block! I have no idea with the designer of the block actually called it.

It's midnight and I'm so tired I could fall over but I wanted to post this picture because I love this little top. I have sewed about 6 hours today completing this one. It ended up taking a lot longer than I expected; not having to cut the strips didn't save a lot of time.

It's a terrible picture because the curtain rod isn't long enough for the whole width. I had to tape the corners to the wall to keep them hanging semi-straight. Some day I'm going to have to get a design wall. Right after I get a sewing room.

Anyway, there's my latest. What do you think?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ode to the zip lock bag

All quilters love cheap, easy to find, effective tools. And when one of the best is no farther than your kitchen drawer, that's even better.

Yes, I'm talking about the humble zip lock bag. With or without a slider, cheap or expensive, double zipper, color change seal, lightweight or freezer, I love 'em all. From organizing your tools, sorting your patches or protecting the completed blocks, they do it all.

There's a stash of zipper bags in my sewing closet that have seen heavy service. I use the small sandwich size to sort and hold cut patches, one per block. When I'm making a very scrappy design it's helpful to distribute all the pieces throughout all the blocks at the outset to be sure your fabrics and colors are scattered evenly. Each block goes into its own bag, and if order is important, I number them with a Post-it.

After the blocks are sewn, they go into a larger bag for protection while the quilt is in progress. Rows are pinned together using my system - number of pins equals row number, points facing the direction the seams need to be pressed. If there are a very large number of rows, I have used the pins to form roman numerals! X is a lot easier to do than 10 pins in a row.

A zipper bag keeps my magnetic pin cushion away from kitty feet when I leave my sewing machine, and spools of thread out of kitty mouths. They hold my supplies for sewing on the go, and keep my applique tools at the ready. Larger bags hold entire projects and the humongous ones carry work to the quilter and finished quilts home and to the Project Linus coordinator.

Pretty good for a little piece of plastic!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Yesterday, I made a stop at my local quilt shop after taking my bungled quilting job back to the longarmer and stating my complaint. In summary, she refunded 1/3 of the cost of the quilting and apologized - a lot. Since it wasn't a top that I had a lot of hopes for in the beginning, I considered it a good resolution. (I made critical errors in selecting fabrics too close to the same value and by the time I realized it, too many log cabin blocks were made to just throw it out or modify it. So I completed it with a piano key border and had it quilted allover with a clamshell panto. It makes a good bedspread and I think I will alternate it with my white wholecloth quilted bedspread now and then. But I'm still incredibly embarassed by my goof.)

But, I was driving very close to my favorite quilt shop and thought I'd just drop in to see what was new. I DID NOT WANT TO BUY ANYTHING! Boy, famous last words. They have a little quilt in the window that I have been eyeing for months. It's made using the Moda Shangri La jelly rolls, and is just adorable. Well, yesterday it got to me. I had to make this pattern. It's basically a Delectable Mountains block with an added triangle at the corner that forms whirligigs when the blocks are set this way. I poked around and found a jelly roll of Moda "Folklorique", a yard of the large red print from that line, and an orange-y apricot small print also from Folklorique for the backing. Folklorique screams "summer" to me with the reds, apricots, lime greens and bright sky blues. I have been wanting to make a series of small quilts to hang in the hallway and change by the season. I think I have the start here.

Of course I didn't have my camera with me, so I rushed home and sketched the pattern as quickly as I could so I wouldn't forget how the blocks were set together. (My first try was a little messed up. I just now realized what I did and fixed it.) One of the best things about this little jewel is it's all strips and there's almost no bias! (The diamond log cabin made me slightly crazy so I had to put it away for a while. All those 60 degrees angles.......)

The jelly roll will make this go soooooo fast! As soon as I cut the strips to length and add white strips from some stash fabric , I will lay all the fixings on the table in the bedroom/computer room beside my new sewing machine and be ready to sew at a moment's notice. This is such a small project I can work on it in a small space and not make a dreadful mess. And I can join all the color strips/white strips at once and press en masse. It will be fun to have a simple project.

I know I said I was cutting out the splurges since we were talking about another house, but........I just had to!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Another house whine!

We got the analysis of our house value from the realtor yesterday, and it was just what I expected. His estimate of its selling price was about $30K higher than the realtor who works with the expensive builder. However, that increased number is scant comfort compared to how much it would cost to build a new house. We're no closer to a decision (and I've still got a stomach ache - this whole thing is going to give me ulcers).

Butterfly Boxes quilt

Here are the pictures I promised yesterday of my butterfly quilt. I am so pleased with it - the colors match my living room perfectly, and it's just the right size to cuddle up on the couch.

It's also the first quilt I have done with a pieced design on the back, which gave me some trepidation. Since I use a longarm quilter, I was afraid it wouldn't turn out straight, but she did a wonderful job.

Whenever I photograph quilts hanging on my closet door, they never hang smoothly and end up looking like they are not straight and square at the corners. I swear that the opposing sides are the same length and it is a rectangle!
And here it is in place. P.S., I made the drapes. And the fabric skirt on the sofa below the seat cushions was an anti-cat measure - she would lie on the floor and pull herself along the length of the couch by digging her back claws into leather on the front. Yipes!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A little quilty progress

I did accomplish some sewing yesterday. I completed binding my butterfly lap quilt; it's lying on the end of the couch now. I'll make a photo tomorrow and post it. I used a new longarmer for it and she did a nice job. Maybe that will be my new quilting source. As I am about to tell, the other one I have has disappointed me once too often.

Some time ago I started a failed log cabin - not enough contrast. It wasn't going to be a prize winner but it was bright and the fabrics were pretty, so I put a piano key border around it and sent it to be quilted at the local longarmer shop. I provide my own batting and backing because they use polyester batting which I think is too thick and only have white backing. Their quoted price includes their batting and backing, and I used to get a credit since I supplied my own. Well, surprise, today when I picked up the quilt, they raised their prices and don't give me that credit anymore, so I'm in effect paying for materials I'm not getting. Great, just great.

Smarting from that indignity (what are you going to do, not pay them and not get your quilt back?) I brought it home and started to trim the edges. That's when I found that they weren't very careful loading the batting on the roller and got a big old pleat in it that extends about half the length of the quilt! It overlaps on itself by a good two inches, so it's not just a small bobble. They just went on and quilted it with that lump of batting running down the center! And there's nothing you can do about it now. This wasn't a "good" quilt or anything, but that kind of sloppiness is inexcusible.

In the past, they had been good at their job. But, several years ago, they screwed up a couple of quilts of mine, and I had stopped using them. The business changed hands last year and their quality had returned. Evidently, not anymore. Well, strike them from the list. I'm calling the owner and he's getting a piece of my mind tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Still not sewing

Not one stitch. No use posting a photo of the dragonfly project because it hasn't progressed an iota. Someday........

In the meantime, house stuff still occupies my mind. We have been driving some more, evaluating new developments and existing houses on the market - and haven't seen any possibilities. You can modify any house for barrier-free accessibiliy, but that has unwanted side effects, like losing the use of one garage stall for a ramp, or uprooting all the landscaping to add a ramp at the front door. It's better to start with a house that has few barriers, a seemingly impossible proposition here.

We are still toying with the idea of building to suit, and found a second possible location. There's a beautiful new subdivision being put in north of the city, on a side road that's just about two miles from a major intersection, but secluded enough so that you feel like you're in the country. It's in a little valley snuggled up against Walden Ridge and used to be a big pasture, I'm sure. The ground is flat enough to build a slab construction house, and the lots are large enough to use for a one level home. There's barely a dozen houses in various stages of construction, probably less than 10% of the lots, so building will go on for years in there (a minus, in my book). It's a lovely spot, and would be a peaceful place to live without getting too far out of town. But I keep hearing horror stories about working with builders. Everytime I think about contracting to build a house, my stomach hurts.

I got a few estimates on the changes we would have to do to the house we have if we stayed. Just about exactly what I figured they would be. Just once I wish I would get a surprise - "Oh, no, ma'am, it won't cost NEARLY that much for windows" - but no such luck. Too well informed. I know the bad news before they say it!

On Thursday we will have a second meeting with a trusted realtor, who is working up an appraisal of our house. He walked through last Saturday and looked at the property, and is doing the comps now. I trust his opinion, so what he comes up with for a sale price for this place is a number I can use in my decision making. We already got a low-ball number from the realtor who works with the builder we met last week (Mr. "My Houses Cost the Sun and Moon"). I knew when she said it that it was a price at which she could unload the place quickly, but not its true value. Even so, the difference between the two estimates won't be more than $30K or so. That's beans compared to new construction cost.

I know, I'm whining. Dear readers, you may have to put up with it for a little while longer. A blog is a great place to "think out loud".