Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Strange things come to mind when you're reading blogs

A blogger I read frequently just bought a new car with GPS. It reminded me of a radio program I heard on NPR about people relying on GPS for navigation that ended badly.  Myself, I have seen routes proposed by a GPS that truly go "round the barn" when  straighter line routes or easier roads are available.  GPS  proposed to send my doctor onto a two lane toll road trip through eastern  Kentucky on his way from Tennessee to Charleston WV hauling a huge trailer, because that way was a few miles shorter than staying on the interstate.  Not smart.  I'm from there, so I hastened to convince him to stay on  I-75 and I-64, and forget the distance saved.  Maneuvering a trailer through the southern Appalachians wasn't for the novice.   

In the worst case, people have gone out for day trips in the Mohave desert using their GPS to navigate on old mining roads and gotten very lost because the roads are not maintained anymore and some of them on the GPS maps don't even exist. (Why, oh why?  I went through the Mohave once and saw all I will ever need to see of that place!)  Some of these people have DIED.  The radio told a heartbreaking story of a mom and her small son who got lost and were out in the desert for days before being found.  She survived but the little boy died.

My only brush with the desert happened when we drove from Phoenix into Nevada in the mid 1990's.  We had maps but I decided I should check with the hotel concierge before we left to determine the best way to go.  She very sternly lectured me, an Eastern tenderfoot, about driving in the desert.  Be sure there was a full tank of gasoline before you left. Check your car over, even the rental car.  Take water with you, even if you were never planning to get off four lane paved roads.  You never know what the rental car might do and you have to have water with you, either for an overheated car or an overheated person.  If you don't know where you're going, don't drive at night.  Get an early start.  She made me know that this was serious business.  It doesn't sound like the place for day trippers.

We didn't have any problems except for a monumental traffic jam at construction on the Boulder Dam road, which left us sitting in excruciating heat for hours without moving.  Brutal.  And, when we were on the move we were afraid to use the air conditioning too much because the  rental car ran very hot.  So we rolled down the windows and "enjoyed" the 110 degree breeze. 

On the way back to Arizona we saw a tour bus broken down on the side of the road in the Mohave, the driver talking on his radio (probably begging for a replacement bus to be delivered, pronto) and the poor passengers huddled in the shade at the side of the bus, sweating in the heat.  Poor travelers.

On another subject, a Japanese blogger wrote about her school system having a geiger counter to survey the playgrounds for radiation contamination.  The kindergarten wanted to buy a geiger counter of its own to use more frequently.  My, my.  This led me on a search for geiger counters online, where I found a site that sells them exclusively (a sign of the times, indeed).  The big boxy ones I was used to seeing at the nuclear plant where I worked cost $1200.  I thought they would have been much more expensive.  And they were selling like hotcakes, to normal people, not businesses or institutions.   Imagine a situation where having a household geiger counter is normal.  My heart goes out to you, people of Japan, still wrestling with these terrible occurences.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I have GOT to stop looking at quilt patterns online!

This is a Moda pattern for the Barbara Brackman group Morris & Company:
I love it.  Not in those colors, however.  I have a nice indigo print with reds and browns that will go well for the outer border, a dark blue for the rust bits, a darker gold for the inner pinwheels and a collection of blues, reds, browns, tans and golds from my stash for the stars and outer pinwheels that pick up the colors in the indigo print. 

If I've gone to the trouble of pulling the fabrics from the closet you know I'm going to make the quilt soon.  But how many projects in planning does that make?  6?  10? 

I've got to stop looking at patterns.

P.S.  I considered using my other Morris group (the blue/green/purple fat quarters) for this quilt, and they would work beautifully, but husband liked the other design for those fabrics.  So I'm making that one for him.

Ripped off? Maybe - grrrrrrr!

Over 10 years ago I bought my husband a beautiful gold crucifix and chain for Christmas.  He had worn several silver crosses on silver chains throughout the years but the silver turned black and corroded, and the chains broke, so I thought that a nice 14K gold one would be a "keeper" that he could wear forever.  He wore the crucifix on its gold rope chain, but that chain ended up snagging on his shirt collars and breaking several times, so in 2003 I researched chain types and decided that a rolo chain was the best style for him - nice smooth links that would not catch on his clothes, and strong.  His old rope chain was 24 inches long, but he wanted a longer chain to wear under his shirt that would be easier to take on and off over his head, although the only time he took it off was when I cut his hair.  (I was always paranoid I would snip the chain while trimming his hairline).
But, longer rolo chains were hard to find.  Eventually, I located a 14k 30 inch long one on a jeweler's website.  I had not dealt with them before  but I researched the store and couldn't find any complaints.  I ordered it and it was very nice.  He has worn it constantly since then, until last week when a link broke.  No problem, I thought, I'll just take it to the local jeweler that I trust and have it repaired.

Or so I thought.  I went back to pick up the chain only to be told that they couldn't repair it because it wasn't solid gold.  The gentleman informed me that the repairman tried to solder the broken link and it didn't act like it was 14k.  They had sort-of repaired it but thought it wasn't going to hold. 

Not solid gold?  Oh, really?  I asked him for his loupe and took a close look at the repaired link, and it was a mess.  The solder joint was uneven and the little link was half burned through. It surely wouldn't take any stress in that shape.  But the question remained, is it the fault of the chain or the repairman?  Did he just do a lousy solder job and try to make excuses, or was I sold an incorrectly marketed gold chain?  Is it really not solid gold?  I have always trusted this jeweler but now I'm wondering if I should.  Is it just a scam to sell me another chain?

This is a bad time to replace a piece of gold jewelry.  Have you checked on the price of gold lately?  It's astronomical.  I went to a reputable jewelry website that we have used in the past and priced a 30 inch 14 k 2.3 mm rolo chain, nearly identical to his chain.  $350.  And Sarraf's has exceptionally good prices.  Other retailers wanted up to $500 for the same chain. Ouch.  But I want to get his chain fixed or buy him a new one.  He is so used to wearing that crucifix that I'm sure it feels weird to not have the chain around his neck.  I suggested buying a gold-filled chain in the meantime but he has the same problem with electroplated and gold-filled jewelry that I do - body chemistry so acidic that it actually discolors and eats off the plating.  I found that out years ago.  I can't even wear pierced earrings unless they are solid gold - an expensive problem.

I have located a jeweler in town that can test the chain and determine its composition.  We'll run over there tomorrow and find out the news - good or bad.  Or maybe they could repair it even if it's not solid gold.  Husband said it didn't have to be the world's prettiest solder repair, just be strong. 

ADDENDUM:  I just dropped the chain off at another jeweler who says it is indeed 14k and it will be repaired by 4 p.m.  Shortly thereafter an email will be sent to the owner of the first jewelry store who lied to me and messed up the repair informing them that they have lost a long-time customer because of their actions.  Looks like I can't trust them anymore.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fabric or design? (A "the chicken or the egg?" question.)

Which inspires you first - the fabric or the design?  Do you fall in love with a fabric and then have to figure out what to do with it, or do you canvass the shops with a design in hand?

 I just bought a fat quarter collection that prompted me to ponder this thought.  I was prowling Ebay in search of a Moda fabric from a couple of years ago when I came across a 34 piece fat quarter group of Moda's Morris Tapestry by Barbara Brackman.  Now, I haven't been actively looking at the online stores because I was trying to cut down my fabric purchases.  The only reason I was searching for the original Moda piece was because I didn't have enough in my stash to finish a project. But there they were, 34 lovelies just begging me to buy, beautiful blues and purples and greens, accented with a bit of aqua and gold.

But I couldn't splurge without a project in mind.  I simply couldn't let myself buy more fabric to join the already burgeoning shelves in my sewing room without a plan in place.  So I fired up EQ, downloaded the swatches from Moda (by the way, a GREAT thing, to be able to import images of all the fabrics in a collection) and started fiddling around. 

I remembered a design from a Carrie Nelson book I have that I always thought was pretty but didn't like her choice of fabrics.  So I grabbed that book, sketched out the blocks and started coloring in the patches.  It didn't take long before I had a color scheme figured out.  And here it is:

Of course, that necessitated buying more yardage for the border and binding!  The outer border is wonky because I'm trying to decide whether to put the ribbon design fabric lengthwise or crosswise.  Usually I would orient the design along the length of the border but I may get crazy and do it the other way.

All these blues, purples and greens look so fresh after the autumn and Christmas colors in my last projects.  Almost spring-like.  Too bad that it's not spring!  It's a strange combination of summer and early fall outside.  It's still 100 degrees (103 two days ago) but leaves are starting to drop from sheer heat exhaustion and drought.  The word from the weatherman is that our fall won't be as pretty because of the dryness of the summer.  It hasn't rained at my house in 30 days.  But in my sewing room, there will be flowers blooming. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The shadow in my garden

A month or so ago I began to see a black cat around the neighborhood.  At first I thought it was my neighbor Marilyn's cat, but soon realized that this one had shorter hair and was much smaller than her pet.  It slunk around the area, walking up Marilyn's driveway, appearing around the house across the street, sitting by the swimming pool at the house up the hill.  It was never apparent where the little cat belonged.

And then one day, it appeared on my back patio, lying on the top step against the sliding door glass.  It was a brutally hot and dry day, one in a string of them that wilted plants and tired out animals.  I thought it was just enjoying the shade and the coolness under the eaves of my house.  Then my husband and I took a better look at the poor animal.  It was so thin you could count every rib.  Its fur was dry and brittle.  It had a scab on the back of one ear where it had tangled with another cat or animal.  It was in bad shape.

It was starving to death.

When it saw us inside the door, it retreated a little bit, but stood its ground looking at us steadily.  It was asking for help, for even a feral cat knows in direst need to hunt for a sympathetic person.  And we had to try to help it.

I got two disposable plastic dishes and took a scoop of Molly's cat food and a pan of water out to the patio by the steps.  In a few minutes it was back, voraciously eating and drinking.  Molly circled around inside the door, looking at the cat intently.  She probably hadn't seen another kitty since her encounter with the stray cat a few years ago.  Molly didn't know what to make of the new creature out on the patio.  When the stray saw Molly, she arched, puffed and growled.  My timid Molly ran around in circles, hair standing on end and tail out to full bottle brush status, confused and intimidated.  It was like she was saying "What's the matter?  What's the matter?  Why is that cat so RUDE?"  Finally, the stray disappeared and everyone calmed down. 

Since then, we've continued to feed it and see it once or twice a day.  It's a true feral, deathly scared of people and never socialized.  It has filled out and its coat is now shiny black.  It's also grown, because the poor thing was probably only 4 months old or so when we first saw it, just an adolescent, and completely unready to face life on its own.  I have seen it try to hunt and it's an absolute novice.  It had not been able to feed itself, and had probably been on the move for some time, looking for a place to live.  Who knows how far it had traveled or what became of its mother and littermates.

For the last few weeks we have settled into a routine.  Every morning after breakfast I put out water and food.  By 10 o'clock, the stray has had a meal and a drink and wanders around the back yard for a bit.  Sometimes it lies in the shade of the bushes.  Sometimes it makes an unsuccessful attempt at catching a bird.  All the backyard wildlife holds it completely in contempt;  the birds don't even leave when it arrives for a meal.  They know that this cat has no hunting skills and they are probably safe.  Later in the day it will visit again and finish off the food.  Who knows where it goes for the rest of the day.  Some days, it will nap on the porch of the unoccupied house across the street.  Generally, it is invisible as a shadow.

I continue to refer to it as "it" because I don't know its sex.  My husband thinks it's a female, which breaks my heart because soon it will be grown and there will be kittens, which presages a hard life for all concerned.  The life expectancy for feral cats is very short, and the mortality rate for feral kittens is high.  And we can't support a whole colony of feral cats in the neighborhood.

But we weren't going to sit still for any poor animal starving to death at our back door.  We know that it might not even make it through the winter, poor thing.  I have begun to refer to it as Hobo Kitty, or Hobo, after what my husband once called it, but he steadfastly refuses to name it and personalize it because he knows that to get too attached will only lead to heartbreak.

So the little black shadow continues to slink through my garden, watching me with wary golden eyes, and I feed it and worry, and know that there probably won't be a good ending to this.  It is far too wild to be caught, and even if it were apprehended and taken to the shelter, this cat is not pet material because it was never socialized as a kitten.  A trip to the shelter would be a death sentence in my town, because they don't keep unadoptable animals. 

Soon it will start to get colder, and then what will it do?  I am going to make a shelter on the back patio for it to provide soft warm bedding and a windbreak for when winter comes, but I'm not sure it will feel secure enough to use it.  That's all we can do.

The shadow in my garden walks alone and keeps its own counsel.   

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Plaid loveliness

I have to just hope that the recipient of this gift isn't reading my blog!  Didn't the plaid quilt turn out wonderfully?  I'm very pleased with it.

I've been working on some diamond log cabin blocks that I cut out a long time ago and got frustrated with, mostly because they were cut from jelly rolls and the stretchiness of the cross grain strips was making the blocks difficult to assemble without distortion.  I wanted to mock up the design in EQ and decide on borders but can't for the life of me figure out how, or even IF, you can make non-rectangular blocks like these in EQ6.  Does anyone have any idea how to make 60 degree angle diamond blocks in EQ?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kindle-ing my interest in reading

My birthday present is getting a real workout.  Husband bought me a third generation, wi-fi enabled Kindle e-reader, and I just love it.  I have already churned through eight books since my birthday in mid July.  Now, I'm already a heavy reader, but this is exceptional, I think, even for me!

I was worried about the screen on the Kindle;  I can get eyestrain looking at the computer screen for long periods of time and hoped that the e-reader had one that was easy to look at.  I shouldn't have worried.  It's like looking at a page in a book.  The fonts are clear and the display doesn't glare.  You can easily adjust the size of the fonts so I don't have to use my reading glasses.  And, reading is less tiring when the text is displayed in a narrower column like on the screen.   It's wonderful, really.

And I'm pretty happy so far with the availability of books.  I have run into several authors that are not in Kindle format, but there are a good number of public domain books that are, and of course a lot of new books come out in Kindle versions when they're published.  I wish the new books were a bit cheaper;  there is so little cost in making them into the Kindle format they should sell for substantially less than the paper version and they don't.  The newly published books are running about $10 or a little less each.  I need to watch out that I don't overspend.

But I love digging up old free books.  I've downloaded Trollope, Jerome K, Jerome, E. F. Benson, E. M. Delafield, Conan Doyle, and Frances Hodgson Burnett, among others.  I just wish that the novels of Angela Thirkell, Barbara Pym and more by Delafield were available.  ( In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of an Anglophile, at least in my reading.)

The recent newly published books I've read are a history of the British involvement in the Civil War, an account of the lives of Ambassador Dodd and his family in pre-war Nazi Germany (his daughter was a real handful) and a fascinating study of the generation just now hitting the age of employment call "Generation Me";  it's interesting to read a psychologist's take on these kids and compare it with my experiences with the new college grads at work before I retired.  I also got a completely indexed and searchable Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which is very handy.

And not to mention getting my weekly New Yorker magazine in a format that won't clutter up the den.  I'm in reader's heaven.        

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Too much.....

Sometimes you get an idea and get too enthusiastic about it before you think things through.  Or you mock up a design on EQ and it looks fine, so you go ahead and cut out your fabric, but when you make a few blocks it's a disaster.  I'm in trouble here.  The EQ model looked fine.  (Thanks, by the way, to Moda for supplying .jpg files of their collections that can be imported into EQ.  It's a great help, although I don't think anything could have saved me from this mess.)

I had a fat quarter collection of Halloween fabrics that I picked up on sale last year.  At the same time I bought some yardage of one of the light background prints, the only one available.  I thought it would work even though the dots were very contrast-y.  I was going to make a quilt with a simple block.  I liked the double hourglass I used in the small Christmas quilt so I enlarged it, and cut the fabric and the fat quarters into 2 1/2" strips to assemble the blocks. 

Well, here's what I have when I made a few test blocks:
I just don't know.  Is it too much?  The light fabric is sooooo strong.  This would be better with a different light fabric but I already have cut out all this and made 8 blocks, and I don't have extra of the darks to scrap these blocks and start over.  I may have blown it and wasted the fabric. 

I have a bunch of 2 1/2" x 10" and 2 1/2" x 5 1/4" rectangles of lights and darks.  You make the blocks by sewing a light small to the center of one edge of a dark large, and a dark small to the center of one edge of a light large, make two of each and use the Companion Angle ruler to cut out your triangles from these pieces.  If I don't make this I guess I can salvage the unused strips and cut out squares or bricks but there would be so much waste.

Am I in a pickle, or should I just keep sewing?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A few more bowties under my belt

These are adorable, but if I make a king size quilt edge to edge with blocks, I need 576 of them.  Really?  Can I make that many of these little things?  The thought is boggling. 

Maybe a wide border.  Or sashing.  Sashing's nice.  Or alternate plain blocks.  Or.,....

Nope.  Wouldn't be the same.  Just keep on cranking out bows.  After all, you only have 500 or so to go.......

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Finished the fourth binding, and musing on the material requirements of quilting

I just finished putting in the final stitches on the label of the fourth quilt.  It boggles the mind how much sewing goes into a large bed quilt.  On binding alone, in the four I finished there was just shy of 1600 inches of blind hemming!  Astounding. 

And the fabric!  There is about 7 1/2 yard on each backing of these big quilts including margins, and anywhere upwards from 9 yards in a quilt top.  The seams eat up a huge amount, as I discovered when I totaled what went into one of them.  For example, the 100 inch square log cabin quilt I just finished had 64 10" square blocks, and two borders, the first 2" and the second 8".  Each 10" block is 100 square inches but requires 162.5 square inches of fabric.  That's 10,400 square inches for the blocks, 825 square inches for the first border and 3,400 square inches for the outer  border, for a total of 14,625 square inches of fabric.  Using an average usable width of 42" for a bolt of quilting cotton, that's over 9 1/2 yards of fabric and these were simple blocks without a lot of seams.

No wonder quilting is getting so expensive!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Third binding done

Finished another one.  This is a Carrie Nelson design called "Sweet Escape".  It's just Jacob's Ladder blocks recolored and repositioned so as to make vertical chains of squares.  Cute.  I'm happy with it, and I'm happy that another binding is done!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Another binding done

This is the quilt I couldn't bear to call the actual name of the block - Devil's Claw!  It ended up being named Star Flower.

And yes, Molly has moved since yesterday.  She just ended up sleeping in the same spot as her previous after-dinner nap. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

One binding down, three to go

Doesn't match the pillows and bed skirt.  Doesn't match the drapes.  But here is the coffee quilt I made for my husband, bound, labeled and done.

And there's Miss Shiny Eyes, ready for her after dinner nap.

Quiltmaker magazine mystery quilt

Here's a photo of the Quiltmaker mystery quilt.  I added the peach border and changed out the star centers from the fabric used on the points to that of the border.  It's OK, but I wouldn't have set out to make it.

Hand sewing. Boooooring.

Working on hand sewing bindings this weekend.  My fingers hurt.  I'm tired of hunching over the desk squinting at the striped binding. 
I'm whining.  I know.......

On other fronts, I completed the Quiltmaker mystery quilt - sorry, no picture, post one later.  It turned out it wasn't a pattern I would have chosen to make, but oh well, it will be a good gift for someone.  If I had known the color placement, I would have chosen differently.  One danger of mystery quilts.

The binding has to take first place because I let it stack up since the first of the year (blush) except for my niece's quilt.  Now I have to get all this completed before my nephew's gift quilt comes back from the longarm quilter.  After all those gift quilts at Christmas I was totally burned out on hand sewing bindings so now I have four (four!) to finish.  Sigh

Here's a non-whining reason for this post, the center of a little Christmas quilt I need to finish: