Friday, January 29, 2010

Excuse me, I think hell just froze over

Yes indeed, there is snow in Southtown. And for once, the "Chicken Little" approach to school schedule management appears to have been justified - the chance of anything frozen falling from the sky triggers a knee-jerk reaction here. The school board not only cancels school on inclement weather, but apparently at the thought of inclement weather. I made a quick run to the grocery this morning and was blocked by a cavalcade of mothers in SUVs picking up their children at the local elementary school. School had been let out at 11:30.

Then, at 1 o'clock, the snow started. And there's actually measurable accumulation - don't expect me to wade out in the cold with a ruler, Dear Reader, but there is enough of the white stuff to measure. So someone in the Administration Building is breathing a sigh of relief because he made the right call. Ok, that's one for you. But don't forget that the last time, you cancelled school for rain.

I put out the last of my sunflower seeds in the feeders scattered around the backyard, which have been mobbed by an unending stream of feathered moochers topping off their tanks with easy to procure sunflower seeds instead of working for their dinner on the bushes around the house, which are laden with berries and other birdie edibles. Little do they know that when these seeds are gone, it will be Monday before I can buy more and refill the feeders. I wish it wasn't so, but there you are.

There is a red winged blackbird working away at the suet feeder, so picturesque in the snow. A single scarlet cardinal sits on the weathered gray fence, and the crape myrtle is filled with mourning doves, their feathers puffed out as big as softballs against the cold. My footprints out to the feeders are obliterated by new snow, which stopped for a bit after I took that picture but has started falling again.

I think I'll make a cup of tea and watch the snow for a while.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The 2010 Golden Globe awards fashion mis-steps

Oh, award show fashion. Sometimes you live for chances like this to say "WHA...?"

Take Tina Fey for example. She was off to such a good start at the Oscars. But alas, maybe she was inspired by her show "30 Rock" and decided to dress as a test pattern. And Tea Leoni, who evidently decided that she wasn't going to play. Please, please, make the effort.
First, why was Sarah Ferguson, ex-royal, even there at all? And why didn't someone tell her the dress was hideous? I hope in this photo she is raising her hands to heaven and praying to disappear immediately from the red carpet before someone sees her.

And you can always depend on Lindsey Lohan for a chuckle. Maybe the hood was practical - it WAS raining, after all.
Some people who normally score well fell off the good taste wagon that night. Kate Hudson's dress only evokes bemusement. It's like a concatenation of several really bad dresses - some of them from Kleinfeld Bridal.

Drew Barrymore usually looks sharp too. But that crystallized parrot on her shoulder (or whatever it is), not to mention the matching one on her hip, are just distracting.

I'm not sure what it was about Diane Kruger's dress that screamed 1980's prom night, but there you are:
And Christine Hendrick's poor dress was being asked to do far too much. Please, someone tell me why designers can't seem to make the bodice of a strapless dress fit anymore. That is Dressmaking 101, for pity's sake. In this case, it's a B taking on a DD task. And losing. I'm not even going to talk about the ruffles for miles, or the fact that someone with hair that red needs to tone down the lipstick.
Cher was up to her usual tricks with this homage to Morticia Addams.

I kept reading compliments for Cameron Diaz' red dress, but I just don't get it. Not sure if it was the puff sleeves, the cheap looking shiny red fabric or the silly cowl neck. Whatever.

Thank goodnes for Penelope Cruz and others who kept to the good taste straight and narrow. This was lovely.

Quick baby quilt

My mother's friend has a new great-grandson. We wanted to make a quick quilt for the new little one, and I had just the ticket. This is a Paddington Bear panel that is supposed to be used to make a soft book. I framed each page in sashing, including the cover and the back page (cropping the image and adding additional sashing to size) and asked a longarmer to quilt it in an allover teddy bear panto. I just finished the binding yesterday, and verified the baby's name for the label, which I made using a fussy cut Paddington Bear from the print on the back with an orange sashing border, which will be sewn on tomorrow.

I'm going to keep on the lookout for these panels for making books. I think it's a cute easy way to pop out a quilt in record time.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yes, I am still here...

... but seriously distracted with some personal issues and out of the blogging loop for weeks. Hopefully, it will be better soon.

In the meantime, this is the foundation pieced small quilt I wrote about. I received a lovely email from the recipient, so I can show the picture. Yes, it's a greyhound, very appropriate for Kathryn of Hound Mistress and Silver Nutmeg Crafts.

Even though I am officially a "cat person" (and I'm not just saying that because Molly is in the room staring at me!) I so enjoy her stories about life with greyhounds, a dog I have always admired and thought beautiful. When I found this pattern, I knew it was just the thing for her.

Isn't this pattern darling, even if I do say so myself?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Carolina Christmas redux

Does this look familiar? A Quiltville group member in Belgium made a version of Carolina Christmas in colors something like these - mine are paler - and varied the blocks by adding the squares of the opposing colors in the centers. Stars get red centers, poinsettia blocks get blue ones. I liked the look so much that I decided to try it and initially was going to make this half scale, but after a test block I decided to do a smaller (3 x 3) quilt in full size instead. I have made and admired miniature quilts before but this one didn't work. The shrunken design was too busy and ditsy and you couldn't see the details on the fabric. This quilt will have the pieced border too and will be 60" x 60". It will grace my back hall wall during the winter. Something about it reminds me of winter, with the frosty blues, and red and green blocks that echo the colors of my holllies and nandinas during the winter.

Now all I have to do is get it finished before spring.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Oh, it's killin' me. . .

. . .but I can't show the little foundation pieced quilt I just made until the recipient gets it. She might be reading this and I can't spoil the surprise. But it's cute. It's very cute. And while I whine and moan while doing foundation piecing you can make some lovely stuff that way and I just ordered a pattern for a foundation pieced cat block.

I'm going to immortalize Molly in cotton.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sometimes you have to waste some fabric

I haven't been blogging much recently and I haven't been keeping up with my blog-reading either. No, I haven't fallen off the edge of the world, I've just been dismantling and storing the Christmas stuff and actually sewing (as opposed to reading about and talking about sewing, I guess).

The Christmas decorations seem to reproduce and multiply while in situ, or at least grow in size. How else to explain why the piles of items won't fit back in the boxes from which they were removed, only 3 weeks ago? It took an entire day to break down the tree (artificial) and box the ornaments, and take down all the outside decorations, and then stuff all this into the closet in the garage. This process involves a ladder, heavy boxes and at least one close call where a box almost falls on my head.

Another whole day was shot tearing down the Christmas village and wrangling all the houses and accoutrements into their boxes. I waited til the next morning to shove all of the village stuff into the top of the guest room closet, which required two or three false starts until I stumbled upon the scheme that allows all the boxes fit on the two shelves. See? The stuff must grow or something.

However, that's all completed and we have our house back. The living room looks so large after the tree is removed. In a few weeks it will feel crowded again, but I can enjoy the apparent roominess for a while.

Christmas trimmings having been properly banished for the year, I decided to start the foundation pieced wall quilt gift I had planned. Sorry to be vague about the design but the recipient might be reading this. So let's just say I'm using the foundation piecing method to make a 16" block depicting X. The free pattern for X was found on the website of a foundation pattern designer. It's really cute, and probably would have been more so in its original size of 8" square, but I decided I wasn't quite crazy enough to try that and enlarged it. It's got 81 pieces, for heaven's sake. I'm not sure how you would squeeze 81 pieces and all those seam allowances into 64 square inches. So it's bigger.

I made it twice today. That doesn't mean that I made two blocks. I made the segments of the first one, tried to join them, screamed, pulled my hair, complained to my husband and threw them away. Then I paced the house, dug through my fabric stash, picked a new background fabric because I had used all of the first one in the block that wouldn't go together right. Finally, I started over, trimmed the seams smaller, pressed more carefully and finally finished it.

There are several things I learned from this attempt. First, and most important, I don't enjoy foundation piecing. I had forgotten that. The last time I tried it was on the fish crib quilts for my friend's grandsons. The fish weren't so bad, but, oh, those seahorses! Tiny, tiny little bits of fabric, and of course I had to make two of them because there were two quilts. I thought they would never be finished.

The second thing I learned was to figure out how large your next fabric patch has to be, and then double the size. This is no time to be worrying about saving fabric. All you scrap-users out there, who cut your stash into the neat little squares and strips and make extra half square triangles out of the waste corners when you sew flying geese blocks - go read another blog because this is going to kill you. To not drive yourself crazy doing foundation piecing you are going to have to waste fabric. And don't throw your trimmed edges in a little pile and tell yourself that you will be able to pick through it and find the exact size you need for a wee little segment. That way lies madness. They will never be the right size, and trying to squeeze them in will only lead to failure. Just slap a big ol' piece of fabric on the paper, sew the seam and trim, trim trim. Give yourself room to move.

The third thing I learned is to handle the squares VERY CAREFULLY. These foundation pieced blocks are probably going to have bias every which way, because you had to sew seams in all directions during the piecing and they are stretchy, folks, which is why my first try was doomed to failure. Press gingerly, handle gently and don't be pushy.

So now I have a completed square (!) block ready for borders. It will have very simple machine quilting, because the design is the primary thing. And it's adorable.