Sunday, February 28, 2010

QOV mystery

Here's a look at my last finish - it's the Quilts of Valor mystery #10. Pardon the terrible picture - the quilt's wider than my curtain rod display system so I thumbtacked it to the door facings.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A fabric misadventure

I need your opinion, please.

I just finished the top for a batik kaleidoscope quilt (by the way, the Marti Michell ruler is fabulous!). Here is the sample from "American Patchwork and Quilting": And here's mine: I wanted to a) make it in softer colors, because I don't really like dark red; b) use fabric I already had; c) try a new technique.

The question is: is it a complete failure? Is the contrast so low the pattern doesn't show up at all? I'm rather disappointed, and once I had made a few blocks I realized the fabric selections were not optimal. But, I had cut out all that batik and it went together in five or six hours so I completed the top to get some kaleidoscope practice.

I suppose I can use it for quilting practice. But that raises another question: what color thread?

Friday, February 26, 2010


Well, this wasn't expected.

I got my my second Carolina Christmas back from the longarmer, and it's quilted with the most wonderful pattern of snowflakes and swirls. But, as you can see in this picture, something isn't quite right. (Back of quilt is photographed for clarity.) She and I both looked at the quilt when I picked it up. Neither of us saw it. I didn't find it until I was trimming the edges. Of course, this was the middle of the last edge to be trimmed. There it was, a spot about as large as my hand with fingers outstretched, completely void of quilting.

How did it happen? We aren't quite sure, but this is our best guess: This is a very wide panto pattern, almost 18", and the computer controls make the quilting machine loop back on itself to fill in parts of the pattern as it goes instead of sewing the pattern completely, left to right. We assume that her computerized machine ran off the edge of the quilt and shut down rather than looping back to fill in this gap. She didn't see it and advanced the quilt on the roller.

She gave me some matching thread and I will locate a repeat in another area and trace the missing piece of the pattern onto some acetate, so I can make a stencil to mark the area before quilting it myself. Since the quilt had been trimmed it would have been hard to reload it on the longarm and adjust so that the pattern would match up. It is a lot easier if I fix it.

I don't blame her. She's a great quilter and I love her work. This is just one of those things that happen when you automate the process - once the machine ran off the side of the quilt it didn't go back on this pass. Just one of those things.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's in a name?

I heard something on the radio yesterday that was both funny and pitiful. The local talk station morning guy was riffing on the silly names he hears anymore, and a caller chimed in with a story that was a doozy. It seems this guy and his wife volunteered with the local YMCA sports teams, and they were at the ball field conducting sign-ups last year. One name on the list caught his wife's eye and she tracked down the parent in the bleachers to be sure it was right.

"Is your daughter's name spelled correctly?" she asked. "Why, yes," the mother replied. It was spelled F-E-M-A-L-E, pronounced "Fee-mall'-ee". The lady tried to keep her composure, said thanks, and turned to go back to the registration area. But she couldn't resist asking why the girl was named that. "The hospital named her," the mother replied seriously. "When they brought the baby to me, that was on her ID bracelet."

O-kay. . .

Once back at the sign-up table, they practically had resuscitate the poor lady, she was laughing so hard.

I could never understand why people don't think a little when naming their kids. There's the ones who pick a cute name for a baby, but never think about someday their little pink bundle of joy will be a 40 year old employed woman named "Dawn" or "Tiffani". Then there are the girls with boy's names, like Morgan, Madison and Sydney. (Well, actually those are last names used as first names, if you want to be exact about it.) What happened to Mary, Deborah, Susan, Carolyn? When was the last time you met a child named Edith?

But the corkers are the totally made-up names that aren't even spelled by the rules of the English language. Project Runway last year had a contestant names Qristyl. Forgot that U after Q thing, did you? (It's pronounced "Crystal", by the way.) When I worked at a hospital 35 years ago, I ran into some real jewels, but it's gotten a hundred times worse. Even back then, you had to patiently explain to the parents that you only had 20 letters in the name field, or only three slots for names - first, middle, last - and if they had four names, well, one was just going to have to go. Or the computer didn't like just initials - there had to be an actual name typed in. (I went to high school with someone named E. L. - no name, just E. L.)

Another all-too-typical case is where the parents pick a first and middle name, and then every person in the family completely disregards the first name. The child is called by their middle name from birth. Of course, the family is the only one who does that, so at school, church, sports, clubs, work, etc. the organizers are going to look at the sign-up card or attendance roster and call the child by his first name. Usually to be met with glazed-over eyes. "Huh? I'm not James, I'm Robert." The kid faces the prospect of correcting people for the next seventy years, or just giving up and letting the outside world call him what they want.

I have to admit this exists in my brother's family, where one nephew has always been called by his middle name (and another nephew's son is continuing the tradition) and with my brother-in-law himself, who has an uncommon first name that no one in the family uses, but was known by it at work until he retired. And probably called that by every person he met in Seattle - doctors, lawyers, church workers, everyone.

My own mother's birth certificate says "Margaret", but no one ever used her first name, in or outside of the family. The same thing with her sister, who was never called her first name "Olive" either. Her youngest brother was always referred to as Jack, although that had absolutely nothing to do with his real name. But they called her other brother by both his names, so go figure. (When I was a child I never heard my middle name unless it boded ill for me. They trot that middle name out and it's head for the hills, somebody is MAD.)

Mom finally got her social security info, her bank accounts and her insurance changed so that her birth middle name is her legal first name, but that first name didn't disappear. About 45 years ago, my dad bought her a dress form for Christmas, those adjustable mannequins used for fitting clothing when you sew. After it was unwrapped, we unanimously christened it "Margaret", and so it has been known since 1965.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Quilt tour

I changed out some quilt displays in the house today. Here's a tour:

This is my back hallway; the door leads to the garage. I finished binding this quilt last November but never got around to hanging it until today. I am using a 1" x 2" cut to length, with wire loops attached at the ends to hang the quilt flat against the wall. Much better than dowels or rods. This is a quilt that I am giving to my friend's daughter as a wedding present. And yes, it's hanging on my treadmill. . .which I use, thank you.
There was a Christmas quilt here in my hallway during December, and then a "Windmills and Pinwheels" (I think that was its name in the Thimbleberries book) after the new year. I decided to display this quilt made from fabrics from Connecting Threads. Ooh, it's wrinkly from being folded. Oh, well - it will straighten out after hanging for a bit.
The cherry quilt hanging shelf is made by a company called G-Wiz. I love the craftsmanship.

The quilt on my bed right now is the 2008 BlockCentral BOM sampler, "Somewhere in Time". I designed four additional blocks to make it square. It doesn't exactly match the bedroom but it got the job because it's big enough for two people and a fat cat.
Finally, here's my husband's radio quilt, hanging above the former TV cabinet in his computer room (third bedroom). You can see some of his radios in this photo and on the picture above of the quilt hanger in the hall.
My father-in-law built the TV cabinet and a matching tower for holding stereo components (you can see the edge of it to the right - one of the stereo speakers my husband designed and they built is to the left), but this cabinet was dwarfed by the the new humongous 50" flat screen, necessitating the purchase of a new console for it. So this one holds quilts now. The stereo cabinet beside it has thread and tools stored in scrapbooking boxes, which are the perfect size for most templates and tools and stack neatly. The quilts are folded in the TV cabinet behind a Thimbleberries tablerunner which I suspended from a tension rod to protect them from direct sunlight. I'm going to make a small quilt to fit there someday, probably radio-themed like the wall hanging.

Paul Bunyan has evidently come to Tennessee...

...or at least his tree-trimming cousin.

It was that time again when all the trees needed to be trimmed. When you own a house with a lot of landscaping, it can get expensive, never more so than when the large stuff needs a haircut.

First, the big maples. These trees grow looooong branches from a central trunk, and get very spingly (is that a word? Well, it's my word.) and susceptible to wind damage. Old Grandfather Maple in my side yard was first:
Believe it or not, they took at least 15 feet off the top of those branches. Now it will grow more side branches and be a much better shape - and not in danger of dropping something onto my roof.

Then they tackled the trees in the front and street-side yard. They look terrible now, but by the end of the summer they will have grown a lot of small branches at the cuts and look more like a tree than a sculpture.
My neighbor got a package deal with me and had her two large maples trimmed too.:
They look better than my trees because they were trimmed more recently and have more side branches. With a little time, mine will branch out into a better tree shape too.

Even the little maple that's struggling to grow in the shade of the oak was shaped up. I know this isn't a good spot for it but I have a soft spot for this little tree that was only a sapling when I moved here:
The tree trimmers will scare you to death if you watch them. They strap on climbing spikes and scamper up the trunk like spider monkeys, and then rig lines to swing between the branches in the crown, wielding a small chain saw. I finally had to go in the house because it was too much. "Bonded and insured, bonded and insured," I kept muttering to myself.

Then, today the lawn guy trimmed the crape myrtles, which truthfully should be more bush than tree but had reached nearly twenty feet. And that's since the last heavy trimming three years ago. These things love the weather in the south and can give my maples a run for their money.
The results are pretty awful looking, but that's what you do to crape myrtles. I had them trimmed to six feet at the center of the cluster, tapering on all sides. Come March or April, sprouts will start to form at the cut ends and fan out into pom-poms of green branches. I think of them as "poodle trees". In July and August, the ends of the new growth will be covered in hot pink flowers. Some people trim off the new growth every year. I usually do it every two or three years. The trees lining the streets downtown are trimmed every February and right now look like sticks planted in the ground. But that way they don't overgrow the sidewalk and get into the power lines.

This one is beside an eight foot fence, so you can see the "after".
Here's some of the "before". Over half of the height has been trimmed off.
It looks pretty drastic but won't hurt them. See that point where all the branches fan out from a central point? That was where they were trimmed the last time. I decided to start out a little lower this year - it might buy me a year or so before they are into the telephone lines again.

Some more trimmed branches. They are a good twelve feet long. The lawn guy had to whack them into three pieces to fit them on his trailer. These are seriously growing bushes. Bushes that want to be trees.
I still have more trimming to do myself - Rose of Sharon to shape up, volunteer hedge sprouts to clip out of the center of the flowering quince, and pyrocanthus to trim away from my windows. For that job, I'll need my leather gloves. Pyrocanthus have some wicked thorns!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can't we all just get along?

If you look past the terrible photo quality (I had to shoot through the screen on the sliding door), you will find the two craziest mockingbirds in the southeast. These two have been sparring over who gets my yard as their territory for at least a year. They often use my patio as their boxing ring, and the fights can get pretty vicious. Sooner or later one will run the other one off, to sulk in the trees in the side yard and make a racket. But, before you know it they'll be at it again. They even fight on the wing in midair.

This fascinates me because I have 3/8 acre with many bushes and trees, edible berries and fruit, and full bird feeders. However, they don't think this town's big enough for the both of them, and they are committed to fighting it out. The strange thing is the mockingbirds will band together to run off other encroaching birds like grackles. And then take after each other like nothing happened.

Meanwhile, every spring they nest in the bushes and try to scare away any people that come near. Given the ferocity of their squawking dive-bombs, I have gladly yielded the yard to them on many occasions. Mockingbirds are MEAN. They ganged up on my cat Sasha once and badgered her to the point that they had her begging at the door to be let in. Another cat from the past, Peep, wouldn't walk outside without looking over his shoulder for them, afraid they would launch a sneak attack.

Crazy, crazy birds.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bias nightmares

Here is the EQ representation of a quilt I am making. I mentioned it before Christmas, I think. It came from a Marsha McCloskey book "Quick Classic Quilts". Classic I will give her, but quick? I think not. I am quite frankly in bias hell. And with all those triangles to join, I find myself marking the intersections at each and every corner. Oh, it's not pretty, people.

And there's no love around here for this little beauty. My husband pronounced it "another brown quilt". Au contraire, my dear, it is tan with a rose trumpet vine design, and 30 different rose colored Ohio star blocks. Brown it ain't. And I think it's cute as a button. Stand by for more later.

On another front, I delivered my second (see, I told you I was crazy) Quiltville Carolina Christmas mystery quilt to the longarm quilter last Wednesday. This one was arranged per Bonnie Hunter's original plan, and frankly copied from the color choices of one Ms. Caroline Van Maele of Belgium, who posted such luscious pictures I had to make one. The first was bed size (gigantic bed size) but this is a smaller version. I was going to make a half-scale version but the small blocks looked too busy and overwhelmed the design. So, I just made fewer blocks in the original size, which is frankly small enough.
It's being panto quilted with snowflakes, and will be called "Christmas in America". (I'm really getting into this quilt naming thing!)

What else is going on? Well, I made a small mystery quilt (59" x 59") from Quiltbug's site for Superbowl Sunday and I won a $25 gift certificate for being one of the first to finish. The generous site owner gave directions for a 42" square and a 59" square design, and awarded a gift certificate to two people, the first ones who sent her a photo of a finished quilt for each size. Yay me!
I probably should have used a more interesting background than the Moda Marbles ivory, but that's part of the danger of mystery quilts - by the time you realize you should have made other fabric choices, it's usually too late. But it will make a great larger quilt for Project Linus.

ADDENDUM: In case you are wondering why the quilt is hanging so funny in the picture, I thumbtacked it to the tops of the closet door facings to take a picture at midnight on Sunday. I had just finished it and was trying to get the photo quickly, and no way was I going to get out the tension rods I put on the closet jambs to hang up this quilt! And it's wider than the one closet door so it extends across the wall onto the other closet's door frame. That's what the weird wrinkle on the bottom right is; I can confirm the quilt is square. And I don't know if it's visible in the picture, but I put a "peeper" in the borders between the green and rust, and I swear to you I'm never doing one of those again! All that trouble and you can't even see it!

Well, back to the triangles. . .