Tuesday, March 31, 2009

...Or, I could just give them a nice vase.

I have written about the wedding ring quilt I was making for my brother-in-law's wedding present. Plans for that are officially now on hold.

The longarmer just brought it back; well, it didn't stay, it went back with her to be finished. I am not happy, to say the least. The plan was to stitch in the ditch around the inside and outside of the rings, and do a motif in the center area and the melon shaped wedge between the rings, and then to do a meandering vine with leaves inside each ring. She forgot (!) to do the vine in the rings or the motif in the melon shapes. The motifs in the centers of the circles were ok, but the stitching in the ditch looked sloppy. I wanted to cry, but I just pointed out the rest of the quilting that needed to be done as specified, and she folded it up and took it back.

In fairness, she has had family health issues to contend with, but I would rather she had just said "Sorry, I can't" than how it has turned out. There are other things, too. The quilt has a scalloped edge, and she sewed a straight piece on the sides to hold it in the frame (although my mother has hand quilted scalloped designs and didn't see where it was necessary) so I will have to pick out all of that stitching and remove the stabilizing piece before I bind it. After all the holdups, I didn't expect to get it done by the wedding this Saturday, but now, I'm not sure what I will do.

The quilt just doesn't look good enough. I have a couple of quilts that I made in the past I am considering giving them instead of this one. I have several quilts that aren't bound because there are areas of quilting that the thread tension messed up and caused globs of thread on the top of the quilt. I never knew what was going on, exactly, because it was totally unlike the work of the longarmer I used then. That lady lives in Kentucky near my mom, and had done some lovely panto quilting for me before. Then, I gave her several tops at one time and this happened on all of them. I think they were really quilted by her daughter, who wasn't as experienced, but she didn't admit it. My plan was to pick out the bad stitching and redo it (free motion) on my sewing machine. In actuality, they were folded up and stored in the bottom of a chest because I was so disgusted.

One of the quilts doesn't have a large area to be fixed, and is a nice mixture of masculine and feminine. It is teal, gold, ecru and brown, and I posted a photo once (eleventh photo, second quilt from the left). It's not a wedding ring quilt, but it's pretty and well made and otherwise well quilted. I had almost decided to mail them the quilt after they get home from the honeymoon for security reasons, anyway, so I would have time to fix this one and bind it. It made me nervous to think about leaving the quilt in a package on the gift table. (Once you've had a quilt stolen, you get skittish about these things. And, anyway, I wasn't sure when they would get around to opening gifts taken to the reception.)

Right now I'm so aggravated I can't think straight. Please, readers, look at that photo and tell me if it's good enough for a wedding present. The other possibility is to give them the quilt in the 9th picture on that post; it's never been used, just sits in my display cabinet. I admit to selfishness; it's one of my favorite quilts.

I need to go walk around the block or something and clear my head.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It's always something

I mentioned that we went to the dentist yesterday. My dentist is in the town where we used to live, about 2 hours' drive away. I never changed dentists since I liked him, and finally my husband started going there too after he became exasperated with finding one here that was any good.

About two weeks ago my husband started having a mild pain when he chewed. It wasn't much, and seemed to be localized around an older filling. He figured it might have developed a crack or had been chipped. He called the dentist for an appointment last week, and was told that they were swamped since it was spring break and all the kids were coming in for checkups. If it wasn't bad, they asked, could he wait until this week?

Sure, he said, and made an appointment for the 25th. On Monday they called and said they had an opening on the 24th if he wanted it. We changed the appointment mostly because it was forecast to rain on Wednesday, and we didn't want drive for 2 hours in the rain. Well, that might have been the only good thing about Tuesday.

After we arrived, they took him back and did enough x-rays to make him glow like a lightening bug. They still weren't sure what the issue was, but were pretty certain it wasn't the tooth with the filling, but the molar behind it that had a root canal and was crowned about seven years ago. The dentist poked and prodded and looked at the films some more. It looked like the crowned tooth had a cracked root, and was infected to boot. The only thing was to pull it.

Now, this was the back molar on the side where he had had an abscess in the wisdom tooth next to it about a year before the crown was applied. That tooth had been pulled with a minimum of muss and fuss. In fact, I had just settled into the waiting room at the oral surgeon's office with my book when he came walking out. I thought there was something wrong and they couldn't pull the tooth. No, it was so easy, it took about 5 minutes, and 4 minutes 30 seconds of that was letting the anesthetic take effect. The oral surgeon cut his fee in half, it was so easy.

Boy, that was NOT what happened this time. There were tooth fragments involved. There were stitches. It wasn't pretty. About half the way home the anesthetic wore off and the throbbing began. He felt just terrible. He's not a whole lot better now, with his jaw swollen and still aching.

At least they let him keep the gold crown.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The quilting gods are not on my side

I was all set to go to the local Project Linus chapter meeting today, when my husband's dentist called and moved his appointment from Wednesday to Tuesday. The dentist's office is about a 2 hour drive from us, so that kills my plans for this afternoon. By the time we get back it will be too late to go. Oh, well. Maybe next month.

My local chapter has not had regular meetings. There were two last year (one of which she forgot to invite me!) and then nothing. This year, she is trying to be more organized and has set up a standing meeting for the last Tuesday of every month. She has an activity room at a local retirement center reserved (that seemed funny, but maybe an active member lives there) so that we can meet and work together. I am looking forward to the next one, even though I am not a group person. I don't think I will try to take my sewing machine, perhaps just my rotary mat and and supplies to cut out a simple pattern, or some fleece for blankets to fringe or edge.

On other fronts, I completed the Debbie Mumm Christmas Sampler from last year's BOM. When I started to assemble the final block, I found there was not enough of one fabric, necessitating a web search. I finally found it and finished the sampler top. I'll post a picture tomorrow when I can get it up on the design board. It's pretty cute and will be a good holiday decoration for the hall quilt hanger.

I am also trying to figure out how to hang the teacup applique quilt, now that it's back from Deb. I never posted a picture, did I? (Just realized that!) As soon as possible, that will go up too. I'm trying to find a quilt hanging rod with brackets that don't project too far from the wall, since it will be on the back hall near the door. I haven't bound the quilt yet and want to attache the top of the hanging sleeve into the binding with one seam. Without the rod, I don't know how big to make the sleeve. Any suggestions on quilt hanging systems for a 60" wide quilt?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Sisterhood Award

Once again, I am reminded of the generosity and kindness of the quilting blogging community. Paula, The Quilter, has nominated me for the Sisterhood Award.

Until this happened, I was unaware of what it was. Then I did some research. It is a blogger's recognition of, in the words of the award, great attitude and/or gratitude.

The Sisterhood award rules are as follows:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog

That got me to thinking. All the bloggers I regularly read show so many positive characteristics. They are talented, funny, generous, humble, and most of all, helpful and caring. They represent a great group of women. I would have considered myself lucky if I had met a couple of them in offline life. Here, I get to read about and communicate with an interesting and far-flung bunch of wonderful people. It's one of the most appealing aspects of blogging

It also makes it hard to choose just a few to recognize with the award. So, I'm going to diverge from the rules just a little. To all the bloggers with whom I regularly interact: You are all winners of the Sisterhood Award. A good place to start identifying them is the Blogs of Note list on the left margin. But there's more, many more. And I hope you know who you are.

Everyone's blog enriches me in some way, different from each other. Some of you are remarkable writers, who share stories from their lives and transport me to different states and different countries. Some are inspiring quilters, stretching my imagination and creativity. Some are tremendous wits, whose daily recountings enliven my mornings and make me giggle over my cereal bowl. Some are talented photographers, posting photos that enthrall. Many are all of the above. And all of you are great people, always willing to offer information and instruction, advice and comments.

Here's to you, all of you.

Finishing the Double Delight

After retrieving my scraps from constructing the Double Delight quilt, I realized that I did not remember what I planned for the border. So, I had to put everything out on the guest bed and start over.
After pondering the design, I finally came up with this simple solution. I was limited by two things: I had almost used up all of the fabric selections pieced into the center, and while I still had a large piece of green fabric, the quilt contained so much green that using it for the border completely drowned the whole thing. I wanted to bring some of the blue out of the center into the border, and divide it from the green triangles with a narrow yellow strip. There was barely enough of this blue left. Adding a nine patch block at the corners enlivened it. Then, using the remains of one of the brown fabrics for the binding brought out the rest of the block colors to the edge.

I would have liked to add a second 3" strip of blue with another nine patch corner block as Bonnie Hunter did on the Quiltville quilt, but I didn't have enough of any of the blues I used in the blocks. I considered a border of green, but that didn't improve the quilt. At last, I decided to leave it with this narrow border since the center is so busy. It isn't a large quilt, just 72" x 84", but it is for a full size bed, and it will be all right.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

National Quilting Day

According to my AQS calendar, it's National Quilting Day. I don't know what that will mean to me, exactly, except that I'm going to start applying the borders to the Quiltville Double Delight today after I run a few errands.
It's going to be a birthday present for my mother (although that's kind of like bringing coals to Newcastle. We both have so many quilts we can't close the linen closet door).

I had two choices - make more of these blocks until the quilt is queen size, or finish it as is for a full size bed.
It was a pretty easy choice.

The errands are the usual, with a twist. I need to run by the Rite Aid to drop off some film for developing. The two canisters are probably the last film photos I shot before going digital, and I had put them in my jewelry drawer to hold until I could get to the drug store - and promptly forgotten them. For YEARS. I don't even know what's on them, so we'll all be surprised.

I also need to mail my federal income tax return. Certified Mail. With Return Receipt. If I'm gonna pay them, the IRS is gonna work for it.

Well, now that my sneezing fit has finally stopped, I can take a shower and get ready to go. Sneezing fit, you say? Well, that's what my family calls it, we the Sisterhood of Terrible Sinuses. A sneezing fit is when you go "AH" but not "CHOO" - repeatedly, in close succession, until you think you're going to suffocate, and then sneeze hard enough to knock you off your slippers, and then you do it again. Dozens of times. Oh, dear readers, you don't want to experience it. And you don't have to be sick to do it. Any normal spring morning will suffice to set off the chain reaction. Zyrtek doesn't completely suppress it either. So some lovely mornings you sneeze and sneeze and sneeze and sneeze. . .

Friday, March 20, 2009

New books

I am feeling the urge to read novels again, after a long stretch where only non-fiction kept my interest. I came home with four books today and am looking forward to digging into them. The first is "March" by Geraldine Brooks. I had never heard of this book until Morah blogged about it. Since it concerns the father of the "Little Women" brood, one of my favorite books as a child, I thought I would give it a try. After one chapter, I am hooked by Brooks' prose, although I know this is a book that will make me cry.
For relief, I picked up "Round Robin" by Jennifer Chiaverini. I have only read one of her series, "The Runaway Quilt", and that one quite a few years ago, so I will be eager to find out if the others in the series are as good as I remember the first being. Why did I pick this one instead of the others she has written? I think I liked the quilt on the cover!
Tracy Chevalier's book "Burning Bright" was added to the stack, even though my opinion of her books has been mixed. I loved "Girl with a Pearl Earring" (so much so that I have never seen the movie - I don't want my memories tainted) and also "The Lady and the Unicorn". My views of her other books are mixed. I frankly thought "Falling Angels" was a mess; the plot was sloppy and far-fetched, and relied too much on heavy contrivances. "The Virgin Blue" just didn't make much of an impression on me at all; I can hardly remember reading it. We'll see what the latest one is like.
Finally, I picked up "Portrait of an Unknown Woman" by Vanora Bennett, although I'm not familiar with her. It concerns the household of Sir Thomas More, one of my big heroes, during the throes of the Protestant Reformation. It is woven around the two paintings of the More household that were commissioned of Hans Holbein, and the subtle differences between them that may conceal a mystery. I've already started "March", so I'll read it first, but this one will be the next.

These will get me through the spring, but I have to reserve some sewing time too!

First day of spring

For the first day of spring, some outdoor pictures:

First, the japonica (flowering quince) and forsythia on the back corner of my lot. As you can see, they are almost completely finished blooming, although these are what you think of as spring flowering bushes. Here in the southeast, everything starts so early. One state north, my mother's forsythia is just now hitting its peak, and her japonica is nowhere near blooming. It seems spring rushes through so fast here, and before you know it we are in the dog days of summer.This is the patch by the side fence that I had almost completely dug out last fall. It's uphill from the street side where the japonica/forsythia bushes grow, on the left side yard (I'm on a corner). There was an assortment of nondescript bushes and clumps of jonquils and daylilies around the red old-fashioned roses, so much so that you could hardly see the rosebushes, which were the best thing in the bed. You can see them leafing out in a row at the back near the fence. The nandina was there so I saved it and planted another at the far end (cut off the photo, sorry). The rest, except for the roses, were yanked out (thank you, lawn guy! I don't know what I would do without the man who mows and does yard work) and replaced by a row of Japanese hollies for all-year green. Since all the spring bulbs were dormant, I didn't know where they were and figured I'd correct their placement this year. The jonquils and iris were in just the right spot, between the roses and behind the new bushes, but there was a patch of daylilies that was threatening to completely take over a holly and a rose bush. So, I crawled in amongst the mulch yesterday (the DAMP mulch!) and grubbed them out, mostly, leaving a little in the back near the fence to bloom with the iris later.

There were so many daylily bulbs? rhizomes? tubers? whatever they are! that I completed filled a paper grocery sack with the ones I removed. I didn't want them because they can be so invasive and I couldn't find a spot with enough sun that they would bloom well. The ones I left may be removed later if they don't perform. I know that next year I will have to grub out another batch because they spread so quickly. In the fall, I will buy a bucket-o-bulbs and add to the plantings between the roses. Maybe some grape hyacinth and different jonquils. It's nice to have some spring color. They would be good between the bushes in the front also.

Luckily, the daylilies I removed won't go to waste because my neighbor across the stress (a retired gentleman and avid yard-putterer) took them to add to his garden. He asked me what color they were. Who knows, since they would never bloom for me!

And, my little evergreen patch in the front corner of the fence that the lawn guy planted last fall. I may add some spring bulbs here too, if there's enough room. I think they will fit around the arbovitae.This spot was a tangle of japonica and forsythia, always overgrown and overtaken with weeds. Since lawn guy is getting up in years, he pulled in his son do to the digging. It took them several hours to extract all the roots and detritus from the bushes. There were iris that never bloomed for lack of sun, which I transplanted to the side yard, jonquil and some blue bell-shaped flowers given to me by my neighbor, which I saved; they are now coming up on the right side near the fence. The clump on the right edge obscuring the bush is more jonquils which will be moved in the fall.

I also added more azalea in the corner of the back yard under the crape myrtle. This is all such work (and expense)! However, I think my yard looks better than it ever has.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Maternity ward

For several years now, in the time period between the Christmas wreath and the hanging flower basket, I have adorned the hook on the wall outside my den sliding door with a basket containing red silk geraniums, if for no other reason that the weather is dull and dreary and I wanted a spot of color outside I could see from my desk. And, every year I remind myself I must remove the basket before nesting season begins and some opportunistic bird in passing remarks that the basket would be a cracking good place for a home.

Of course, every year I forget.

Almost every spring the occupant has been a mourning dove, for several reasons. First, they have an abnormally low fear of humans. Well, you would have to, to construct your nursery 18 inches from my back door. Then, there is the matter of the sloppy, slap-dash nests they make. In those conditions, the confining shape of the basket has been a definite plus in the construction stability department. And, it's under the eaves, so none of that distracting drip-drip on your head during spring rains while you're trying to incubate your clutch of eggs. Kind of makes my silk flower arrangement look like prime real estate, doesn't it?

So, here's what we have this year:In this photo I've circled the nest area. Enlarged, you can see the mother bird's tail against the left side of the thermometer and her head just peaking over the geraniums, wondering what the blazes crazy thing the humans are doing now.
Since I refuse to live with the den drapes closed for months during the prettiest time of the year, I've taken to slinking through the den past the door very quickly, eyes downcast and not looking her in the face. If you happen to glance up and are nose to beak with her at the glass, she takes on the most alarmed look, and once was reduced to evacuating the nest in a panic. She only went as far as the dogwood tree at the end of the patio, and then dropped down to stand on the concrete with the most pitiful expression (yes, birds do have expressions) until she was sure it was safe enough to go back. It made me feel rather like one of those home invasion criminals you read about in the papers. I am not going to be the cause of a failed incubation, so I make sure not to disturb her enough to leave again.

If I stand quietly in the kitchen doorway, I am far enough away from the glass for her to be comfortable, even though she seldom takes her eyes off me. I can then watch her arrange and rearrange herself on the nest, shifting every few hours to face outward or inward, but always keeping the humans in her sight.

One hardly has the heart to remind her that it's my house, for pity's sake, and the yard is full of trees and bushes which would have worked admirably for setting up housekeeping. It's bad for the nerves to camp on your enemy's doorstep. Nevertheless, there she is and there she will stay until the family takes wing and I can watch them grow up in my yard.

It's still better than the robin who built on the front door wreath, causing me to give up use of the main door to the house for two months.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You know more than you think you know

People's minds are amazing. We have enormous storage capacity but not necessarily a good indexing and retrieval system. I was reminded of this while talking to my sister-in-law, a beginning quilter.

As she showed me some of her first projects, I gave her tips and recommendations on planning, calculating, cutting, designing and sewing. At one point, she said "How do you know all this?"

I don't know. . . I just, well, do.

Every time we read a quilting magazine or book, watch a television show or video, every time we look at a quilt display or cruise through our local quilt shop, we are gathering information. Some of it, we're maybe not even consciously aware of. Because we're interested in the subject, our brains grab onto new things and tuck them away for future reference.

It's the getting these facts back out to use that's the problem.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Glorified nine patch

Here's a peek at my next project, a glorified nine patch in blue, green, brown and plum. I might be just a bit nuts to start into a new quilt with curved seams after practically killing myself on the double wedding ring (can't wait to get it back from the quilter's!). This one, however, is quite a bit easier because of the construction.

At first, I assumed that I would sew together the half-melons and then add them to the nine patch centers, much like you add the rings to the center of a double wedding ring. I quickly found out that it was much harder. All those seam allowances at the points got in the way. So -- rip, rip, rip, let's start over. I had been concentrating so hard on the curves that I didn't think about sewing the half-melons onto the centers. Then, voila, you just have 11" square blocks to join in the regular way. Much easier.

After I completed three blocks, I had to document my progress. The colors are lovely, and the design interesting enough even though it's simple. The only thing that may be harder assembling it this way is accurately joining the points. But, you know what? I'm not going to sweat it like I did on the wedding ring quilt. I will pin and be as accurate as I can, but if a point gets a little snipped off, it's not going to make me crazy. With all those seams coming together at the points, you won't see it.

(Wow, who was that person? It didn't sound like the normal obsessive-compulsive me!)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cat proofing

Tanya blogged about buying new slipcovers and a commenter noted that it was a good way to disguise cat-attacked furniture. I've had a little experience with that myself.
This is my living room couch. It's leather. We bought it about seven years ago, right about the same time we got our cat Molly. See that skirt under the seat cushions? It's not original.

I was at work one Saturday when my husband called me. "You won't believe what Molly is doing." Well, I've had a lot of cats in my life. I knew she could be doing just about anything. "What?" I asked with some trepidation.

"She's digging her back claws into the sofa and pulling herself along the front of it. I can't make her stop!"

I could just visualize what the cat was up to. And I could visualize what it would do to the leather sofa. The nearly new leather sofa.

"Distract her," I replied. Hah.

Over the next week she continued to play her new fun game. Dig those back claws into the front of the sofa, scoot along the rug the length of the furniture. Turn. Repeat.

Next Saturday, I was at the fabric store, a swatch of leather in my hand that we received when we ordered the couch. I was looking for any upholstery fabric that wasn't too stiff to sew on my DSW. I found a piece that was fairly close to the couch color. At home, I cut a pattern from the couch that would follow the lines of the pillows and make a faux skirt on the front.

It's attached by large safety pins to the seat bed under the cushions and to the cambric dust cover under the couch. It sticks out in these pictures because the leather is more reflective and photographs lighter than the actual color, but behind the coffee table you barely notice it.

After I spent an entire afternoon constructing and installing this cat proofing, she never tried to claw the sofa again. Figures.

A surprise in my mailbox

I found the loveliest surprise in my mail today. As I was walking back to the front door, I shuffled through the stack of mail and found this envelope. The stamps were Japanese. It could only be from one person - Tanya!

All the bills and bank statements and magazines were forgotten as I hurried to open it. Yes, there was her name on the return address label. What could it be?

Inside, I found a beautiful little postcard, a sashiko sampler and thread, and some darling stickers. The sashiko looks so intriguing. I think that you do the stab stitch design printed on the sampler, then wash out the ink, much like printed cross stitch patterns here in the U.S. It will make a lovely little pillow for my den. I think I will border it with patchwork, and find a Japanese design fabric for the back.
Thank you so much, Tanya! What a wonderful gift!