Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Can Fall be far behind?

There was a difference in the air when I went out this morning to put the outgoing mail in the box. It was cooler than it had been for weeks, and the humidity was far less than had plagued us all through August. The change was refreshing.

At the end of the driveway I found this: a sure harbinger that fall is approaching. It doesn't seem possible that August is over; the summer flew by so quickly, and the weather was so oppressive that we hardly went outside for the last six weeks. We were imprisoned inside the climate-controlled house as surely as during the winter. It was such a disappointment. Perhaps fall will be temperate and we can make up the time we would have spent outdoors during the summer.

In other parts of the yard, the leaves on the bushes and trees are droopy and yellow-edged. The weather has been hard on everything in the landscaping despite my constant watering. From the looks of things, we might have an early fall since the plants are exhausted from coping with the heat and are ready to go dormant. It happens often here. Last year the fall color was sporadic and muted. I doubt it will be very nice this year either.

I listened to the rooster crowing next door this morning and when I went to the mailbox I walked round to the back yard to check on the neighbor's poultry. I was surprised to find not the small red Bantam rooster and speckled hens that were there before but a large black rooster and his two black hens. I am at a loss why the change, unless my neighbors are buying their entrees "on the hoof", as it were, and the other chickens became dinner.

On other fronts, I finished shopping for winter clothes. After my weight loss I needed a new coat and other cold weather gear, and made two trips to shop for long sleeved tees, sweaters and dress pants. After I alter some skirts I made two years ago, I'll be ready for a closet change-over, which is a sure sign of fall for me. It's a holdover from school days, but September 1st seems more like the first of the year than January 1st.

I think the coat is particularly nice:

I realized I hadn't owned a wool coat for 20 years or more because of my career; like most people, my closet primarily reflected where I worked more than my off-duty time. After I transferred from the downtown engineering office and took the job at the utility plant site, my clothes became a lot more casual. Khakis, tees, sweaters and parkas in the winter. The engineering staff dressed down because we were constantly going out in the plant to check on the design modifications and inspections. You never saw a coat or tie on the managers (yes, mostly men) unless the central office big-wigs were coming for a meeting.

I would like to find a comfortable "dress-it-up" or "dress-it-down" black dress too. Any suggestions?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Trapped in hand-sewing Purgatory

What is this, you ask? It's nine, count 'em nine, quilts that need hand sewing on the bindings. I just picked up the latest from the longarm quilter today and applied the binding. Six of these quilts are gifts and two of the other three might also be given away, leaving me with this one, which I love for the colors. It's not that I don't love the other two also, but I have to be reasonable (or buy a bigger house). Probably shouldn't have done it but I totalled up the dimensions of all nine quilts, and I have 2780 inches of blind hemming to be done. Mercy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Early morning sewing

I was up early this morning so I spent the time joining blocks into rows on this project which has been languishing without attention for a while. Six long seams and the rows will become a completed quilt top. But it won't happen soon because I HAVE to get some housecleaning done. And a backing made for the Whirligig quilt. And bindings on the wedding present quilt for my husband's cousin's daughter. And bindings hand sewn on my nephew's family's gift quilts. . .Whew! Someone needs to hide my projects in progress so I can stay focused.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another one done

The border is completed on my Miss Rosie design "Whirligig" quilt, and I'm pleased with how it turned out. It's hard to get a good photo of the finished top because this one is BIG. 92" square big. Here's a close-up of the corner showing the borders. I added the solid border; the design stopped with the hourglass blocks. Without the addition, the quilt was only 80" square, so I had to make it larger and this was the best way. Goodness knows it didn't need another pieced border! (Or maybe I just couldn't face making another one.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What I'm making with what I found

I found a stack of fat quarters and yardage of Pat Sloan's line "Old Blooms" from 2003 when I straightened the stash closet. I had a plan how to use it but just couldn't commit. It remained in my "someday" pile until a few days ago, when I decided that the Miss Rosie pattern "Whirligig" would suit it far better. This is rather daunting design at first glance but it goes together like a snap. Just lots and lots of flying geese and hourglass blocks. The progress so far: It will have a border of hourglass blocks and an outer 6" border of a large green print from the collection, making it a huge 92" square, just right for two people and a fat cat. Quiltshops.com helped me find some of a purple print from this line at a great $5.00 a yard to make the backing, relieving me of the problem of searching for a coordinating backing. See the purple print with stars and oval gold shapes with maroon edges that sort of look either like buttons or pizzas? LOL That's it. I also have a stripe (the green and maroon one used as background in some of the blocks) for the binding - just love striped or plaid bias binding.

Meanwhile, the pattern that was going to be made from this fabric, "Uptown Girl", is now on the back burner. I auditioned the "Silk Road" line from Benartex in it using EQ but I'm not convinced. Some fat quarters and yardage of "Silk Road" came home with me from the LQS last month, and it is almost too luxurious to cut into. It has the most fabulous silky feel and the colors and designs are luscious. Sometimes you run into fabric that you just want to fondle! I have another idea brewing in EQ that might be good for the "Silk Road" fabric, but I need to find a coordinating ivory tone-on-tone that is worthy of being mixed with the Benartex. It might be hard!

I've been joining the rows this morning while my husband rests up from his dentist trip yesterday. He had a molar pulled which was a real trial. One of the roots was curved and needed excavating from the bone to be extracted. It was bad. I'm sure he feels like a mule kicked him in the jaw, and he had stitches in his gums which are still aching. Hopefully it will be better soon.

But now, I need to put down the sewing and starting cooking, some nice soft chicken and noodles that will be easy for him to eat at dinner.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A finish, including a little backtracking

Just finished putting the last side of the border on this one this morning. If you wake up at 5:30 and can't go back to sleep, you can get SO much done! LOL

It is "Opening Day" designed by Carrie Nelson. The backtracking reference was due to the fact that I sewed one outer border on upside down and had to rip it out and fix it today. The hourglass blocks at the ends were supposed to be oriented pointing toward the corner and I reversed them on one side. Can't figure out why I didn't see it at the time. Brilliant, just brilliant.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A quilter's thought process

I'm almost finished piecing a new quilt top, so it's time to think about my next project. There are seven candidates. Oh, the possibilities. . .

I have started using the "stack" method of collecting and evaluating fabrics for possible projects. The stacks reside in my guest room, mainly because I don't want to clutter up the third bedroom where the "stash" closet is located due to the fact that it's also my husband's computer room. So I have started piles of possible fabrics and patterns by the guest room closet.The first thing I do is print out my EQ design or scan the pattern from whatever book or magazine it came from. That way, I have a copy I can scrawl on and check off patches during the cutting. I used to write in my books - bad, bad.

Then I visit the stash closet and start pulling possible fabrics. You can make a lot of discoveries that way. There were only six projects in contention until I stumbled on a fat quarter collection of Pat Sloan's "Old Blooms" from 2003 that will be perfect in Carrie Nelson's pattern "Uptown Girl". (Did I mention I have a serious Carrie Nelson design fixation at the moment?) I had forgotten what they looked like and only became reacquainted when I pulled some burgundy pieces for Ms. Nelson's "Six Degrees" pattern (the pile in the green storage box). I'm not sure I ever had a plan for the "Old Blooms" fabric; I probably just saw it in my local quilt shop and fell in love with the moody saturated colors - burgundy, deep blue, olive, gold, tan. Guess it's too much to ask for fabric to improve with age like old wine.

So six became seven, and I cleared out a box to store my black and white scraps. How many classifications does that make now? Neutrals, reds and pinks, purples, blues, greens, browns, orange and rust, yellow and gold, blacks, 30's, juveniles, batik, black and white, Jinny Beyer and tone on tone, plaids, aboriginal and tribal, architectural, wild prints (!). I can't subdivide any more because I'm out of shelf space. It's a blessing that so many of my projects this summer used up stash, but I swear it doesn't seem diminished!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Uhhhh, maybe not as easy as I said. . .

You know what I said yesterday about loving Carrie Nelson's patterns because they look intricate without being killer to make? I just read through the instructions for my next project. I need to make 522 three inch four-patch blocks. I have no idea how long it will take to make that many, but it's not gonna be quick. Sorta sounds like a Bonnie Hunter pattern. . .But the colors I picked from the stash are fab. Purples and rusts, browns and greens and golds. Very autumnal, and I figure we will be well into fall before I see the end of those four-patches.

You know one of the things I like the best about this design? It doesn't have a border. I get kind of tired of adding borders, and thinking up ways for them to be different. Mom has a bunch of quilts my grandmother pieced and they don't have borders. The design just continues to the edge and ends. And they look good. Kind of more casual. So, this time I picked something that is similar. This is why I like the piano key borders I have been doing on some of the gift quilts recently. It's a border but it's sort of not - just more design. And why my blue and yellow basket quilt (if I ever get back to it) will have a scalloped border - not more same-old, same-old. Just have to keep the corners in the scallops shallow enough to bind easily.

Speaking of those, am I finishing the star quilt that needs only a few blocks or putting borders on the basket quilt or, oh, I don't know, quilting the Project Linus stuff in my drawer? NOOOOOOO. I'm contemplating starting a new quilt. And enjoying it! I love bouncing around between projects nowadays. It's kind of liberating.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The next gift quilt, and others

My husband's first cousin's daughter is getting married next month. I have a quilt that I made some time ago that will be completed and sent as a wedding gift. It's one of five that were quilted with sporadic bobbin tension issues by a longarm quilter I formerly used. The problem areas aren't large, and I can pick out the quilting and redo it myself on my DSM. At the time, they disappointed me so much that I put them in the bottom of the chest and never finished the binding. Then life intervened and for the next ten (yes, ten!) years they lay there incomplete. One of them was finished a few months ago as a wedding gift for a friend. Now this one will find a home too. Here's a shot of it folded in half on the floor. I'll post a picture when the binding is done. I made it simply because I had never made a purple quilt before. I thought at the time it was fairly interesting, but now, hmmm, maybe not. Purple is good as an accent in a quilt but as the basis? Maybe not for me. It doesn't make it ugly though, and I hope Katie likes it. Many people, including my niece, like purple.

Kind of nice to have things in hand for this kind of quick gift.

On other fronts, I scanned some patterns from my Carrie Nelson quilt books and made up home-grown kits from my stash for a few projects I have planned. So much easier to have the pattern and the fabric bundled together without the bulk of the whole book. Here is where it gets embarrassing. I have two quilts in progress - the batik "Little Red" and a scrap "Opening Day" from her designs - and there are six - yes, I shudder to admit it, six - that I want to make for which I have pulled and bundled fabric from the stash closet. Her designs are exactly what I love to do for fun. They are scrappy, traditional, detailed but not too busy and interesting but not onerous to make. As much as I love Bonnie Hunter's quilts, and I truly do, they can sometimes be killers to finish. Carolina Christmas was a real bear. Ms. Nelson's quilts are a bit smaller usually and don't typically have pieces that are so tiny or numerous.

Some people might think I am not a very adventurous quilter, and maybe they are right. I find that I gravitate toward things that are traditional and pretty, and won't take a year to complete. I piece quilts for relaxation and enjoyment. If I'm not pushing myself into new territories, so be it. I've made all kinds of quilts in my life, I've done patchwork and I've done applique, big and small, planned and scrappy, intricate and simple. I'm at a point where I love to sew but don't necessarily want to get into very complicated projects.

There are two large applique projects I will probably make next year, but they aren't quilts that are tempting me right now because to make any progress you're tied down for many many hours, and I feel the need to skip around between designs right now. Never let your hobby feel like a job.

There is a member of Quiltville chat that recently posted asking for opinions whether she should go back to school or try to make a living from quilting. She is young, and has time to sample different possibilities but I admit I winced when I read her post. I know several people who longarm quilt for a living and it seems that they are busier than the proverbial one-armed paperhanger. (Oh, dear, that probably isn't politically correct to say anymore, but if you've ever hung wallpaper it's a potent image.) And if you want to piece and sell merchandise too. . .

I feel that it would be hard to make any kind of living at all from this. The general public is conditioned from seeing Chinese made quilts in JCPenney's and Walmart to think that $49.00 is an absolutely fair price for a quilt. I know people that receive my gift quilts would gasp if they knew how much the fabric and quilting cost even if you're trying to be frugal, and wouldn't believe the time that went into it. If you don't sew you may not understand the difference in quality between a quilt made by your family for you, and those for sale at that cheap price. I would hope that anyone would be able to see it, but you never know. So pricing a quilt is problematical, especially if you're not a "name" quilter.

It would also be very easy for this pleasurable activity to become a chore and lose all its' appeal. It would be a shame if 10 years down the road this young woman found that she had grown to dislike what once gave her so much pleasure. Maybe she thinks that a home-based business like quilting would give her more family time, but I don't think it would, because if you were going to prosper you would have to put in the hours just like at an office and that's time away from your family.

The best thing about my education is that it allowed me to find a well paying job that had longevity and a modicum of security. That, coupled with a fairly frugal style of living, allowed us to retire earlier than many people when we faced health issues that required it. So now I'm not even 60 and I have the time and finances to leave work behind and do what I love while I take care of people who need me. Well, unless the economy totally goes down the tubes, but that applies to everyone. . .

The young women on Quiltville Chat spoke about putting off continuing her education, and many commenters responded "You can always go back to school." Well, yes, but---it gets harder and harder. After you have a family the juggling of responsibilities gets worse, I've seen it in people close to me. I also took classes toward a master's degree while working full time and it was awfully hard. Not to mention the "old dog new tricks" angle! I firmly believe that. It was a lot harder being in school in my thirties than in my twenties. I can't imagine taking classes in my fifties!

Well, that's my soapbox speech for today.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A little too bucolic for me

This is my neighbor's vegetable garden. These are my neighbor's chickens. FYI, I don't live in the country. I'm inside the city limits with a population of about 175,000, and nearly half a million in the metro area. He has rabbits, too. I'm not thrilled about this.

And as I was picking tomatoes I was stung twice on the forehead by a wasp. My day has not been good.

ADDENDUM: There is at least one rooster in the bunch that I didn't see before. He was crowing this morning. Oh, drat. And this is what the city says about it:

"It shall be unlawful for any person to keep or possess swine, goats, chickens or roosters within the City on property other than agriculturally zoned land, unless such animals are kept on a track of land containing five or more contiguous acres." This is happening on a 3/8 acre lot zoned single family residential.

The only question is, do I want to cause a stink about this? Stuff like this between neighbors is a minefield. I guess I'll listen to the rooster for a while. I don't think the old lady next door is going to be as restrained if she hears them, so this might be interesting. Hopefully, they'll get tired of the chickens soon. They've had the rabbits for years, though, and I can't for the life of me see why. They just sit in their pen and the children don't even pet them. Poor bunnies.