Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Time's flying and so are my fingers!

I've been neglecting my blogging, but not my needlework! Between my applique and sock knitting, my fingers are seldom still.

Was lucky to go on a road trip with a three of my good friends a few weeks ago. We went to Crown Point, Indiana, to a shop called, "Bits and Pieces". Really nice shop that was discovered last summer on the Illiana Shop Hop. I found a wonderful pattern for lots of Santas. I have an addiction to Christmas quilts. Just love them! Next stop was the Fabric Center in Morris, Illinois. They have such a wonderful selection of batiks . . . if the perfect one isn't in their offerings, it hasn't been made!

I've continued to work on my shop hop block inventory. I just finished the last two blocks from the First Annual Illiana Shop Hop, titled, "Leave Summer Behind". That leaves two more sets, but they are both all pieced.

I've been neglecting my blogging, but not my needlework! Between my applique and sock knitting, my fingers are seldom still.

Was lucky to go on a road trip with a three of my good friends a few weeks ago. We went to Crown Point, Indiana, to a shop called, "Bits and Pieces". Really nice shop that was discovered last summer on the Illiana Shop Hop. I found a wonderful pattern for lots of Santas. I have an addiction to Christmas quilts. Just love them! Next stop was the Fabric Center in Morris, Illinois. They have such a wonderful selection of batiks . . . if the perfect one isn't in their offerings, it hasn't been made!

I've continued to work on my shop hop block inventory. I just finished the last two blocks from the First Annual Illiana Shop Hop, titled, "Leave Summer Behind". That leaves two more sets, but they are both all pieced.

I was supposed to complete my Artist's Trading Cards by our group's Christmas exchange. I found a mini-teapot pattern from a number of years ago, and launched the first one using that pattern. The pattern had three pieces, the top, the body of the teapot, and the base, and there was "daylight" between the three pieces. I just didn't like it, so I ditched it, and decided I would postpone my distribution to our January retreat. I didn't want to feel rushed and exasperated, but would rather enjoy the project, and think of my friends while creating the ATC's. I started over, and altered the pattern to have the pieces joined together. I made a contrast base, and instead of having the gap between the top and the pot, I repeated the base fabric as a very narrow trim . . . probably about 1/16th of an inch wide. I'm delighted with the result, and anxious to move onto the next ones. I just grabbed the stack of scraps from making perfume bottles, so my choices all have gold or silver on them. It's tempting to launch another giant quilt, with lots of exotic teapots! But, I'll just keep repeating . . . finish some UFO's!

We didn't leave home for the Holidays, but I seemed to spend quite a bit of time in the car. I hauled out my knitting for the road trip above, since I wanted to avoide being car sick doing any applique in the backseat! I managed to finish a sock, to complete another pair on that trip. I always take a project to auctions with me, too, so that gives me the benefit of unrestricted knitting time. The biggest problem I have at an auction is getting carried along with the cadence of the auctioneer's calls. The faster they sell, the faster I knit. Once, I knitted seven inches past where I was supposed to make a pattern change!

DH and I did a little bit of shopping together, and he drove, so I carried along my knitting. I've been using some self-striping yarns for the socks. They are great fun to make, and feel wonderful to wear with the crisp weather. The self-striping yarns make it go quickly, as the color changes come up, and one wants to "continue the thread" to see the next color change. I actually made some "dorm socks" for my daughter-in-law on Friday and Saturday, and wrapped them for her for Christmas. She put them on immediately, and loves them. The pattern was a freebie, written for a specific yarn, but it seemed harsh and scratchy to me when I felt it. So, I chose another that was much softer. I have a basket full of sock yarns next to my "nest" in the living room. I'm hoping for a blizzard . . . or at least unlimited time to devote to my handwork. Aren't we all?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Piecing Paradise!

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed my Thanksgiving long weekend. My husband had to do a rush paint job for one of the Purdue sororities that he usually paints for in the summer. He was so concerned that he wouldn't be able to complete it in the alloted 4 1/2 days, that on Thursday morning, he went over and worked four hours in the morning, while I was cooking. His progress was somewhat impeded on Saturday, when he arrived to find water running down a previously painted wall. Investigation revealed it wasn't bath plumbing. It turned out that in one of the rooms, the occupants had forced a bunch of things into the corner near the radiator, and snapped the valve off. So, if he had not been in the house, the resulting leak would have continued without any attention until late Sunday afternoon. The house mother was really glad he was there! He called the house maintenance man, who came immediately, and called the plumbers to take care of that problem while Norm repainted the wall that was damaged. He worked until 6:30PM on Sunday evening determined to finish.

The net result was that I had all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, to do anything I wished. I prepared applique templates for blocks in progress, pieced the last two Block of the Month kits from my LQS, washed some fabrics, knitted a bit, watched movies, and did some other piecing, too. When the "sameness" of some of my piecing began to be monotonous, I decided I would drag out the first of four shop hop block collections, and begin to piece those. It was so satisfying to pick up a kit, make a few cuts, and have a completed block in short order. I made five of the nine kits from my first Florida shop hop last year on Sunday afternoon, and two more last night. The two kits remaining are a mindbender for me, since their construction is based in some of the popular "short cuts". Since I don't suffer math anxiety, and don't use those techniques, I'm finding them difficult to assemble. In one of the kits, there are lots of seams that I would have eliminated, but the fabric provided is configured such that it isn't possible to make a straight-forward cutting of the pieces for assembly. In the other, a bias edge is placed on the outside edge of the block intentionally. I suppose it doesn't make much difference for only one block, but it goes against my "grain"! EQ5 to the rescue . . . I'll redraft it to eliminate that bias edge, if I can do it within the pieces provided! Fortunately, I collected fat quarters of some of the fabrics used in the blocks; so, perhaps I can re-cut from those to make assembly easier.

Seeing the end of that project in view, I grabbed my other kits to review. Only one of the other shop hop projects has any applique, and those suggest fusing. I love doing applique so much, I have no interest in using that technique. I think of John Flynn's comment on fusing in a class that I took from him at Quilt America. He said, "If you are going to hot glue your quilts, you might just as well use duct tape!" All in all, one must consider the use (and abuse) the finished project will receive, but I find handwork so relaxing, I can't picture fusing becoming a technique of choice for me.

Friday was a really good day. I went to my LQS to pick up a Block of the Month kit. I always check the sale fabrics, and in this case, the grab bag bin. I scored some greens in one grab bag, some brights in another, and some extra blocks for the previous BOM called Monday Madness. In that project, an 8-inch classic block was made in greens and neutral framed with a red sawtooth border. The applique blocks are Old World Santas. Those extra BOM kits will make a few more blocks if I need them, and permit me to create an original set for my quilt.

Then, the really special purchase of the day . . . for the holiday weekend, of course, they had many items in the shop on sale. That included some floor samples of their Pfaff and Bernina machines. I kept looking at the selection, and one of my friends who works there, suggested that I test drive them. She set up a couple, and I fiddled around with them, and they were all lovely. I couldn't make up my mind, so I asked her which she would buy from those offered. I knew I did not want a machine with computer add-ons . . . been there, done that . . . and spent more in repairs than I paid for that machine in the first place. She put her choice machine on the table for me, and I played with it for a few minutes. Then, I turned around and said, "I'm taking this one home with me." It's a Pfaff 1529; has plenty of bells and whistles, and does everything I want it to do. It is capable of machine quilting, if I ever decide I really want to pursue that. Sewing with that was an added attraction for the balance of the weekend.

Finally, we have a Featherweight acquired at auction that we took for service. There was short in the foot control, and the tension needed correction. Fortunately, there is a wonderful sewing machine service shop in nearby Lebanon, Indiana, owned by Gary Sink. The man is a magician with a sewing machine. He worked his magic on this latest acquisition, and we are keeping it for our grand-daughter. Sews like a dream, of course!

Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend as much as I did!

Friday, November 17, 2006

More fun for button collectors!

Looking around at a couple other blogs, and I noticed some wonderful vintage buttons at Scraps and Threadtales. If you love vintage buttons, be sure to take a look.

I'm trying to get myself organized, so I can accomplish something. Our small quilt group is exchanging Artist's Trading Cards. They are to finish the approximate size of a baseball card. With only about a month to go, and ten or twelve to make, I thought today, I better get started. One nice thing is that they can be made completely from scraps! I'm trying to decide if I additionally want to make mine with seasonal fabrics. I'm doing applique, and my "icon" has only three pieces . . . it's a tiny tea pot. Next question is if they should be all one fabric, or two! I tend to think they will be more interesting with two fabrics, so the lid and base have a little more contrast. The rules are that embellishments cannot contribute to the thickness of the ATC more than the depth of a dime. That eliminates lots of beads, or anything of that sort. I'm looking forward to getting started this evening.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Florida Fabrics for Fun!

The tea pot fabric I couldn't resist is shown here with the fabrics selected to make a rose, as well as the pattern I found later! I'm certain that I need to add a couple fabrics to the rose choices, and probably delete one or two, also. That mauve one is really screaming at me in this photo . . . saying, "Get me out of here!" Not sure what color I will use for a background. Perhaps a very pale sage, if I can find one.

Here are my shop hop fabrics selected to accompany the block kits acquired from each shop along our path. The theme fabric for Flamingo Trot, of course, was the flamingo fabric in the center. I don't know if I will use all of these in the quilt, but at least I have a number of candidates! Don't really have any setting in mind. Thought I would decide after I make the blocks! Since I just love applique, I may have to make a center medallion, and use the blocks to border it. I've got a couple interesting flamino applique candidates in my library. I'll just let my imagination stew on this subject for a while. I'm sure something will come to me!

Needless to say, I bought more than I could EASILY carry with me on the plane. Fortunately, Melanie had an extra suitcase that she needed to send back to Indiana. Being the generally good-hearted soul I am, I volunteered to put my fabric choices in it, and check it through. Laura helped me, too. And, we included the purchases we made to bring back for the other gals in our group who weren't able to make the trip. Amazingly enough, we filled the extra suitcase up, but didn't go over the weight limit . . . that was what I was afraid would happen!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

From cheery to dreary!

Who could resist traveling with such a great crew? (From the left, Laura, Kathy, Patti, Marguerite, Jan, and our hostess, Melanie.) Picture was taken on the lanai at Melanie's home in Florida. We all flew in to participate in a shop hop called, "The Flamingo Trot". Needless to say, a great time was had by all. Now, we are all back in our appointed locations, and I don't know about Kathy or Jan's locations, but it is dark and dreary and raining here for me!

Because I was afraid there might be a worldwide shortage of cotton fabrics, which might limit my ability to create the quilts running around my brain cells, I was a good participant. I purchased the shop hop blocks at each location, and sufficient fabrics to create a lovely remembrance of the trip. Might be enough in that stack to cover my mini-van.

Being the great American that I am, I contributed to the economy by selecting additional fabrics for some other projects. In one case, I found a fabric that I couldn't live without, and thought how lovely it would be to pick up the rose trim on tea pots and tea cups in the print for applique. I selected some fabrics in a color run of reds, and a couple sage greens, light and dark, for stems and leaves. I reasoned that I probably have suitable patterns in my collection to follow through with the project in my imagination. At the next shop, I found an applique pattern that I walked by and examined at least six times. Finally, I was compelled to purchase it, because, of course, I already have the fabrics for it! Am I lucky, or what?

Next post, I'll make you drool with a display of my fabrics, and some additional snapshots, "on location."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Borders on a stalled project

Tired of spinning in circles, I decided to attack those UFO's that required the shortest amount of attention to enable moving them to my "quilt top collection". Here's the first one. It started as a "cheater" panel . . . also known as "ready to quilt". While they serve the purpose of a quick gift quite nicely, I like to think I have more imagination than just "slapping on some borders, and calling it a quilt". This was a sample for a class called, "Everybody loves a cheater!". The focus was to use the panel as a starting point, but create something more personal. As can be seen, I framed the large portion of the panel to bring it out to an even measurement. Then surrounded it with blocks. The star blocks feature the remaining portions of the panel at the center. I had some orphan maple leaf blocks that were not used in my Maple Leaf quilt. I made a few more using the same neutral as the star blocks, and framed them with flying geese, four patches, and even an hour glass, or two. If I were to make this top again, I would omit the hour glass blocks, because the flying geese, and four-patches provide more interest. (The photo is taken with the top draped over the quilt I posted previously . . . the blue isn't part of the Sweet Potatoes plus quilt top.)

Just a few days until some of my quilting friends and I head for Florida for a quilt shop hop . . . second annual event, even. We had such a wonderful time last year, we decided to do it again. Most of us will fly to Atlanta where we connect with Jan, coming in from Texas, and Patti, who will board at Atlanta. We have our meeting point selected, we'll have lunch, and then all will board the flight to Tampa. From then on, it's party hearty!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Heap of "Square Ones"

First, the picture is of probably my all time favorite quilt I ever made. It's from Judy Martin's early book, Scrap Quilts, published back in the 1980's. (The book is such a favorite, it started to disassemble, and I had to have it spiral bound to keep it together!) DH and I were going to New Mexico and Texas, and I needed a small project to take on the plane, and to last the duration of the trip. I prepared all the star block corners, the bias binding, and lots of scrappy leaves . . . packed them in a little pink tool box, and away I went! Now, I wouldn't be able to carry all my little tools on in that fashion, so I travel with knitting on a plastic circular needle, and a novel to read.

Since I had done so well, keeping to my quota of six perfume bottle blocks, and was actually ahead of my target by Friday, I decided to take the evening off. Saturday morning, I started out fresh, made my 6 Friday blocks, and plowed on through to finish the full complement of perfume bottles. Thinking of names certainly made that go quickly. I almost couldn't wait to see what the next fabric in line was, to start pondering a name for its "fragrance". Another decision made . . . the fabrics that qualified by having gold on theme, but didn't seem to fit a flowery, or romantic theme, will be given "dime store perfume" names. First one up . . . Odie Coloney!

Next matter at hand is the skewed set. I launched EQ5 to work up a template. I wasn't happy with the result. The piece is too narrow to really show off my setting fabric. So, then I calculated the size of the finished blocks if I enlarge the half-rectangle to a more suitable width. Of course, the quilt size increased exponentially. With my planned set, the blocks would finish at 90 X 105", with no border. And, I want to have a border . . . that's where I plan to include the title of the quilt, "Eau de Parfum". I need to contemplate this a bit longer. Maybe I have two quilt tops . . . it's happened before!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Endless imagination

Trying to get my studio back to being more than just one giant heap of stuff, I started by grabbing my perfume bottle quilt "kit", and dedicated myself to cutting the fabrics I selected for bottles, and the background pieces. Without the bulk of extra yardage in the box, the blocks already made almost fit, and the lid can go on it! Tuesday, I set a goal of making 6 blocks every day until I have them all done. At that point, the count to be completed was 48. The first day, over lunch, before quilt group, and after I got home, I managed to finish 9 blocks. Wednesday evening, I sat down and started working on my quota of six. I don't know what stimulated my imagination, but as I was sewing, I started thinking of perfume names inspired by each fabric. Since then, it's been a game that is hard to give up and go to bed. Usually, though, when I start making mistakes, like wrong side of the background down, or seam a bit too wide, I know progress has met the law of diminishing returns.

All the fabrics used in the perfume bottles have gold on them, with a few silver, and even a copper or two. A couple prints that have an Asian look inspired the titles, "Chrysanthemum Empress" and "The Emporer's Garden". The print with pine cones and gold needles had me stumped for a bit . . . I didn't think "Pinesol" sounded too enchanting or would inspire a woman to wear it. Finally, the muse struck, and that became "Passion in the Pines". The most difficult part is refraining from using the words "passion" and "garden" too often.

Of course, now I'm starting to think it would be fun to embroider these names onto each block. Only 168 of them. Yup . . . I'm wound too tight!

The thoughts of fragrance do remind me of a funny story, however. Several years ago, at a Quilt America conference in Indianapolis (wish we still had that one to attend), I took a class on care and cleaning of the Featherweight. I was planning to have lunch that day with a friend who is a land surveyor, and at the time, we worked together frequently. I was sitting next to a gal I knew from our Guild, and I told her, "Sherry, when we break for lunch, you have to tell me if I have grease on my face or anything." She agreed, and when the appointed hour came, she checked me over, and said, "You don't have any grease or dirt on you, but you smell like WD-40". I thought about it a minute and said, "Maybe that's a good thing!"

P.S. In the three days of my quota plan, I have completed 28 blocks!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Florida Fun!

Two years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to St. Petersburg, Florida, by my friend, Melanie. We managed to visit a few quilt shops, and learned that we missed a shop hop by just one week. But, that didn't mean we would miss the next one! Last year, eight of us flew into Tampa-St. Pete, and participated in the shop hop. We rented a mini-van, and hit the quilt shops during the day, had appetizers and Margaritas on the deck in the evening, before going out to dinner. We had such a good time, we decided it should be an annual event.

Just two weeks away now, and there will be six or seven of us on this excursion. Last year, we decided to do a block swap, and each of us made a Margarita block. Those blocks were given to my sister-in-law, Jan, somewhat as a repayment for a practical joke . . . and also, as another practical joke, since it meant she then had several projects going at once. Jan is a project person, and works through start to finish. Just hates to have more than one thing going at once. Her quilt turned out just wonderfully, and a picture of it appears in March 3, 2006, posting to Laura's blog. It shows all of us with the quilt on the front porch at one of our retreats, pointing to the block we made.

This year's block is flip flops. I made mine Friday evening, and completed it Saturday. It was great fun. We are using Pat Sloan's flip flop pattern (www.quiltershome.com) from her free pattern, titled, "Where are your shoes and socks?". I chose to put mine on a white background that has brightly colored little stars. The soles are pink with multi-colored, multi-sized polka dots. For the thong portion, I used a piece of trim that looks like flowers, and embellished the toe with a ribbon rose. Every time I look at it, it makes me giggle. It's not only frilly, it's silly! I just love whimsical quilts.

I'm looking forward, too, to collecting the blocks from the shop hop. Since going to Florida last year, I have participated in one among vendors at the AQS show in Paducah, which featured Judy Martin's fabric line released last spring. I've not made any decisions on how I will assemble it yet. Just a few weeks ago, Marguerite and I made the rounds of the First Annual Illiana Shop Hop. I was pleased that the fabrics in those blocks include some in my stash already, and the blocks will make a great border to a plan I have to use them. And, of course, I have the blocks I collected in Florida last year, with a more than adequate quantity of additional fabrics to make a great quilt. If there is ever a cotton shortage, I've laid aside a good supply of fabrics and projects to get me through the "drought"!

Reminds me of the time I came home from a little trip with two books of 1001 embroidery transfer patterns. I told my DH they would provide inspiration for quilt making. He responded, "Oh, heart be still . . . that's what you need . . . 2002 more ideas for quilts!"

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Well, duh!!!

Since DH changed his mind about four times before we actually left on vacation, and we actually departed the evening before our original plan, I left many things that I wanted to take behind . . . including the camera. I even thought about it as I drove home from the office, and that might be forgiven if I didn't have a four-minute commute!

I also forgot to grab some different jewelry, so I wore pearl earrings the entire trip . . . they look great with jeans and a sweatshirt!

Here's the worst part . . . I packed my wonderful sewing case made for me by Dawn. But I left the fold up sandpaper/cutting board my sister-in-law, Jan, made for me . . . and what's worse is that my current applique projects were tucked inside. So, I busied myself on the drive with reading and working on my "Nana of the Year" title by knitting sweaters, and doing the hand-work on clothes for my DGD's American Girl dolls.

We stopped in Lexington, Virginia, on the way east, and visited an antique gallery, primarily to walk and stretch a bit. I found a neat small sewing box, with a roll-top lid, similar in construction to the larger one on legs acquired last trip. An antique shop in Charlottesville yielded a neat English thimble with "critters" . . . I think they look like foxes, but friends have voted for cats or dogs, too. This has been a good year for thimble acquisitions! I scored three at auctions the weekend before we left town, all from the late 1800's.

The grand-kids are growing like weeds, as one would expect. Ben is the youngest, and he's a match for Grandpa. He loves all the super heroes, with Batman as a particular favorite. He launched a conversation about what character Grandpa should be for Halloween. Ben's recommendation was Darth Vader. Grandpa asked for hints on his portrayal, and Ben put those cute baby hands over his mouth and said, "Luke . . . I am your fah-der".

Grandpa has always teased the kids by corrupting the names of television and movie characters. So, when Ben was showing his Yoda, Grandpa kept referring to him as yogurt. At one point, Ben disappeared and came back from the kitchen, where he had removed a container of yogurt from the fridge. He held it up in a perfect "Vanna White" type display, and announced, "Grandpa . . . dis is yogurt . . . we eat dis. That is Yoda." At dinner, we were recounting this conversation to his Daddy, as Ben sat on his lap. Daddy asked, "Well, Ben . . . did you get Grandpa straightened out?" Ben held up his hands in a gesture of frustration and said, "He was annoying me!" I laughed so hard, I couldn't breathe.

We went to pre-school, two soccer games, and the bookstore on our visit. The kids love books, and I'm always willing to buy them. My husband is always grateful that Barnes and Noble doesn't have shopping carts, so I can't buy more than I can carry!

One afternoon, I got to sew with my granddaughter. I brought along my Featherweight, and a few patterns. We went through them, and made a list of garments for me to make. The first five she picked out for her friends! I managed to make three dresses, a romper, and a pair of pajamas, along with three sweaters for delivery this trip. I'm going to see how many I can make before its time to send off the Christmas box. I have two more sweaters I knitted on the way home . . . Nana of the Year is my target you know!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Needles flying . . .

We're getting ready to go to see our son and his family, so I am frantically grabbing at things I need to finish and pack, or at least get to the point where I can complete them during the 12 hour drive. I have three doll sweaters knitted, ready to assemble, and dragged out the clothes I've started for my grand-daughters American Girl dolls. I think she knows that Nana is a sure thing on that subject because she parlayed a birthday gift certificate to the American Girl store with a discount coupon and bought a third doll, instead of clothes for the two she already has.

The clothes aren't difficult, but there are parts that are awkward to assemble, for example, puffed sleeves in a 5-inch armhole, complicated by elastic. I've made wedding gowns in my time that were more easily manipulated. The pay-off, of course, is the smile on my grand-daughter's face. Or, even on the phone, when she calls to report a package has arrived, one can hear the smile in her voice.

Our grandson has invited us to his pre-school. He's pretty excited about that. And, I remember the older two were so proud to have us there, too.

I know I'll have an opportunity to go to the quilt shop, Cottonwood, in Charlottesville, Virginia. But, I keep telling myself I should stay away to save my mad money for a shop hop in Florida in one month. This has been a good year for "excellent adventures"!

I'll try to take lots of pictures in Virginia, and post them when I return.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

New Project "Blues"!

Like everyone else, I have a number of unfinished projects. And, I have been dedicating myself to completing them, too, with the possible exception of launching those which were to be samples for our Guild Retreat.

Of course, one never stops looking at new possibilities. Dawn displayed her cute quilt top made from an adorable print featuring Gingerbread men, and embellished with letters a'la' Tonya spelling out "Gingerbread". I've always wanted to do Gingerbread Men, and found an adorable pattern at www.fourtwinsisters.com. I thought it would be perfect to use lots of different Christmas prints to create the little vests. I picked out and laid aside background and "Gingerbread" fabrics, along with sufficient yardage of the same Gingerbread print Dawn used to make the border. I made notes of my plan in a journal, made a few templates, and put it all together to be ready to launch, once I cleared away a few of the unfinished predecessors. I included the companion Gingerbread House pattern, having thought of a way to add it to the project. I nearly hurt my arm, patting myself on the back for being so good, and not cutting into the fabrics immediately, to just make one block. (Betcha' can't make just one!)

Tuesday evening, I went to Quilt Guild. Wouldn't you know they sabotaged my good efforts? On the agenda was the distribution of rules for the 2008 Challenge. It's a house challenge. And there I sat, with an idea completely assembled in my mind, fabrics chosen and set aside, and even templates made. I think I've shown remarkable restraint, because here it is Thursday, and I still haven't cut into the fabrics! In the meantime, however, I figured out a cute way to make both Gingerbread boys, and Gingerbread Girls.

The voice of my conscience, also known as my sister-in-law, Jan, probably is shaking her head. She tries to curb my enthusiasm, always encouraging to finish one before starting another. That's where the differences show up . . . she's a project person . . . I'm a process person. She plans her project and follows through to the end. I always have to let things stew a bit along the way, and move back and forth through a variety of projects. But, I never get bored!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sewing collectibles

One of my other interesting collections consists of little sewing rocking chairs, and birds. These have been gifts and auction finds, and it is really amazing the variety of "critters" available. The majority of the collection is of the rocking chair variety, where the seat is a pincushion, and there are spindles for spools on each side of the chair. Frequently, there is a slot in the back to hold scissors, too, and some have a little tiny drawer under the seat. The birds are always interesting because they usually rely on scissors to create the beak. Changing the scissors completely changes the "personality" of the bird. I also have a cobbler's bench, a squirrel, some hats, and a rocking horse in my collection.

I finally had to confess to my husband that there was another collection which I managed to conceal from him for some time. He thought my auction purchases of small wooden sewing boxes were to provide some winter re-finishing projects for him. These come in lots of sizes and shapes. In the 1920's, a popular style was shaped from one piece of wood, creating a rounded barrel shaped bottom, with hinged lids on top. There are some shaped like maple sugar buckets on legs. My most recent acquisition has a rounded bottom with a roll top that is seated in a channel that goes completely around the barrel of the bottom. My husband spotted it in an antique shop on our last trip to Virginia. He let me choose between it, and another that had been hand made. The other one was huge, first of all, and in a familiar style, but it also was so heavy, I could hardly lift it while it was empty! So, I went for the unique one. He has one for this winter's projects that looks like a pie-carrier, complete with a scalloped edge. It has a handle and center hinges for the two sides of the lid.

DH has a few collections of his own. He likes to collect old kitchen tools, and they are displayed on a wall in the kitchen. It's a feast for the eyes for guests . . . if the tool is recognized, the comment is frequently, "my grandma had one of those." One thing that throws us into a panic is when someone comments, "I love your decor." We don't think of it as decorating . . . we just put up stuff we like!

Well, I didn't get the pictures where I wanted them, but at least they all made it!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Warm bread and hearty soup.

Laura mentions making vegetable soup and fresh bread. It's cool in the evenings now, and the trees are just starting to turn, which means we also change our diet. I love the smell of a crockpot full of soup, and fresh baked bread. My mother always made wonderful soups, and I have a few up my sleeve that are long-time favorites.

My husband's mother didn't make soup . . . well, she opened canned soups . . . so, he had never accepted that a soup could be a meal. The first winter we were in our home (and we've been there 29 years now), there was a blizzard a couple days before Christmas. I had planned to do my grocery shopping for Christmas dinner the morning of Christmas eve. The roads were so bad, that even "townies" were being instructed to stay home by the police. So, I announced to my DH and sons that we would have Christmas dinner prepared from stocks in the freezer and canned goods. My husband voted for spaghetti, and my two sons wanted to have tacos. I said no to both. The menu actually included baked steak, green beans, fresh rolls, and was pretty tasty, even though it wasn't the turkey and trimmings that I envisioned.

The evening of Christmas Eve, the wind was howling, and snow was blowing, and I thought a pot of chili was so appealing. I browned some burger, and went to the pantry to get the rest of my ingredients. Big problem . . . no chili beans. So, I stood looking at the supplies, trying to figure out what I would make. With thoughts of my mother in my mind, I grabbed potatoes, carrots, a can of stewed tomatoes, some smoked sausage, oregano, water, and stirred all in with the browned beef. DH came into the kitchen, and looked in the pot. He asked, "what is that, and why aren't we having chili?"

I responded that this was heartier than mere chili, and that it is a "burgoo". Of course, he asked, "What's a burgoo?"

"A burgoo is a stew that has two kinds of meat . . . this has beef and smoked sausage."

He was skeptical, and asked, "how do we eat it." I said just like chili. He "harumphed" and went back to the living room. A short time later when I served the meal, he came to the table equipped with his pout. He put a small quantity of the burgoo in his bowl, and tasted it. Three bowls later, he was full!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Collections are fun.

I confess to being a collector. A fairly recent compulsion is antique needle books. Some have all their needles, but many have lost some. I used to have them tucked in drawers, but my DH found the fan-style photo display piece, and it is just perfect for the needlebooks. I have the balance of the collection stored in photo boxes. One of the boxes is new, containing, for example, the Mary Engelbreit series.

Two boxes are just about full of antique needle books. I have two or three from the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago. Several are from grocery store chains, and insurance companies; one from an exterminator, and a couple interesting ones from paint companies, shaped like paint cans. It's interesting to note the clothing and hairstyles on those featuring people which is helpful in dating them. Another indicator of age is the country of origin. For example, an old one with "Germany" is certainly pre-World War II.

In the photo, the oldest one is probably the small one on the lower left, probably dating from the 19-teens. Then, the horseshoe in the top row from the 1920's. The small white one on the lower row was a premium when one purchased a Kenmore sewing machine at Sears. The Sewing Susan at the lower right has appeared in several generations.

Fortunately, this isn't an expensive hobby . . . and it's small enough to transport easily. Not always a regular condition of my collections!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Tiny treasures, too!

The top of my lovely sewing cabinet has some interesting treasures, too. There is a unique spool holder of colored aluminum, probably from the time frame of the aluminum pitchers and glasses. This one is pink.

The cradle pincushion is one I made from a planter. I made a tube of cotton batting, about the size of a soup can; then stuffed it with polyester fiberfill, closing it in with circular "lids" of batting at top and bottom. Next I made a little quilt with a heart in the center. Once that was complete, I decided it needed an embroidered pillow with matching "sheets". It turned out so cute, I can hardly pass up interesting planters at flea markets. I have a couple prospects stashed on a shelf in the basement, including a "wheelbarrow" with roses vining over the edge, some baby blocks, and baby carriage.

There are two additional vintage pincushions. One features a little poodle sitting up on his haunches, holding a hoop in his mouth. The hoop supports a thimble. I saw one on E-bay, and the price put it way out of my ballpark. I was delighted to find this one in a little shop in Charlottesville, Virginia, at a price that was only about 7.5% of the E-bay cost. The other pincushion is a vintage Disney piece sporting a dainty little Tinkerbelle in the center, holding a tiny bell. That one relates to a funny family story, the reason that inspired my DH to purchase it at auction.

When our eldest son, Kyle, was about 2 1/2 years old, we went to see Peter Pan at the movies. He loved it, and thereafter, he would announce, "I'll be Peter Pan . . . you be 'Windy'". Dad would ask who he could be, and for the first few weeks, before he settled into the more permanent character of Captain Hook, Kyle would respond, "You be Tinkerbell." Of course, we had to call each other these names until Kyle decided the game was over.

All those memories came flooding back as history repeated itself, when our granddaughter (Kyle's daughter) at about the same age began portraying many of the Disney characters . . . . my personal favorite sounded as though she said, "Fee-fee footy". That translated to Sleeping Beauty. She also did a performance of Belle from Beauty and the Beast in the scene where Belle is crying softly missing her father. DGD would lie on the floor with a wan expression on her face for a minute or two, then sit up and say, "I need a tissue." She completed her scene by dabbing at her eyes with the tissue. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Now, DGD is a 9-year old, with two younger brothers. The youngest turned 3 in August, and he's all boy. DGD had a sleep-over with friends for her 9th birthday. When my DIL went to take cake to the neighbor, DGS started chasing the screaming girls through the house, waving a box of powdered laundry detergent, which scattered everywhere. When my son told me about it, I laughed very hard and then confessed to having trouble hiding my amusement in the presence of the kids. He said their method is to look at the floor intensely, but if that doesn't work, they get up and leave the room very quickly.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Birthday surprises!

I've got a big birthday coming up. Launching into the next decade of my life. Since I turned 59 last year, I've thought of nothing but the fact that I will be 60 on my next birthday. I was so preoccupied with that thought, I just let the year blow right by me!

So, over the past weekend, we went to our usual entertainment . . . an auction. One of our favorite auctioneers, Larry Scherer, had listed an oak sewing cabinet. I loved it the minute I saw it, but saw many people examine it, so I didn't presume that I would be the one bringing it home. I was standing on the opposite side of the auction building when it was brought up for sale. I was waiting for a box that was half full with 1940's and 1950's Workbasket magazines, while the other half of the box was vintage embroidery patterns from about the same era.

When a bidding war starts on an unusual item, auction crowd noises change. Chatter drops, and people begin to turning to look at what is being sold, and who the bidders are. In pretty short order, the only sounds are the auctioneer calling out the current bid, and the staff yelling, "YUP!" when that bid is accepted. I turned with the rest of the crowd to watch, and started looking for my DH. Finally, I saw him, standing with his hands in his pockets, kind of looking down at the floor and smiling . . . nodding his head. My legs turned to jelly when I heard the bid, and I started for that side of the building. Before I could reach him, the auctioneer called "Sold" and the crowd around DH was clapping him on the back. One of my friends, squealing and jumping up and down, grabbed me, before I could reach him, and hugged the breath out of me. When I got over to him, he just smiled, and said, "You only turn 60 once . . . Happy Birthday!"

A few minutes later, they sold the items that had been inside the sewing cabinet and placed in flat boxes. One box was full of thread, but it also had a silver tatting shuttle. They were sold by choice, meaning one placed a bid, and the highest bidder got to select the boxes they wanted. Another friend of ours wanted a couple little things from those boxes, so we didn't bid against each other, and selected 5 flats. As we were cooing and giggling over those items, they sold the remaining three flats for one price. I hadn't paid much attention, but the clerk, Eddie, made a bid for me. He's done that once or twice before, with the excuse that he knew I wanted them! In those cases, they were not getting any other bids, and his excuse this time was that everything came out of the sewing cabinet, so I should have it all! Needless to say, I have more change in the bottom of my purse than the bid that Eddie submitted for me! So, I trust his good judgment. In the additional boxes were tons of buttons and several vintage needle books.

The cabinet itself is oak. It appears that several of the drawers were salvaged from an old sewing machine cabinet, but faced with oak. The top drawer has rounded slots for spools, and when we removed it from the cabinet, we found the back of it has a slight angle, an oval opening, and glass in that opening, so we are sure it was originally part of a spool cabinet. The four sewing machine cabinet drawers are in a row underneath the top drawer. Then there is a large deep drawer the width of three of the drawers above, and to the right of the large drawer are two small drawers, which also appear to have had the oak facing attached to salvaged drawers. The lower front has a gentle scalloped skirt, and the legs are about 8 inches tall. I moved some other things from in front of the living room windows to make it a focal point in the room. When I got home from work, DH had swept the drawers, and moved the cabinet into place, and lined the drawers with the spools of thread that had resided there in its previous home. I just keep looking at it . . . can't believe it's mine! DH does have a knack for big gifts on big birthdays. My Featherweight was my gift for the last decade marker I passed.

Dh has acquired a reputation for being knowledgeable about Featherweights because we have purchased so many. There's always someone looking for one, and we sort of think of ourselves as being foster parents for Featherweights. We only purchase very clean ones, oil and grease them up gently, and take them for service if they show signs of needing it. We've found homes for at least a dozen machines. Have two orphans in our possession now that we are seeking homes for!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This little light!

Here's a picture of my DH with one of his creations, once again well-received at Camp. He always spends a lot of time fussing with the items he places in the old Mason jars, using an old knitting needle to prod and arrange the "treasures" he includes in the jar. He gets a big bang out of it.

I'm in that post-camp blah period, where I can't decide what to work on next. I'm thinking I will go back to my two hand quilting projects. One is a wall-quilt based on an Ocean Wave pattern called Peppermint Pinwheels. The other is a variation on a 9-patch that I made years ago. I've only got about two rows left to quilt, and the borders, but I just can't get moving on that one. I keep telling myself that I will be able to put something different in the frame once that one is removed. (I don't want to admit how many anniversaries that quilt has had of being in the frame.) It's single bed sized, if that is any excuse.

I've decided to add my picture to my blog. This snapshot is one that my 6-year old grandson, Drew, snapped of me one day . . . of course, it was a bad hair day, but I don't have too many good ones, so I'll overlook that. He's got a natural eye for composition, and does a very good job of centering his subject. He loves to take pictures. The digital camera is certainly good for that . . . no wasted film! Now if I can just get Blogger to cooperate . . . maybe my hair looks worse than I thought!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Home from Camp

We had a great time, as usual. Our theme was "snowbound", and the focus was making scrap quilts. We had a gallery in our classroom for inspiration that included finished quilts, quilt tops, and even some blocks. My sister-in-law, Jan, finished her Kissin' Cousins quilt top. She had all the blocks made when she arrived from Texas, so she assembled that, added the borders, and made four-patches to frame the whole thing. It is stunnning.

The "Garage Sale" area had a couple tables full of free scraps of all sizes. No one could resist "grazing" now and then. In another area, Jackie Conaway (half of the Whimsicals team) brought fat quarters from the Whimsicals fabric line that she was clearing from her stash. As you can imagine, those went pretty quickly.

Friday evening, we had "Make it - Take it" class. The offerings were a mini-sewing kit made from an Altoids candy tin, a pet-screen gadget bag, and fast four-patch coasters. All were well received and many were made.

Saturday morning was a discussion of cutting half-square and quarter-square triangles, and Garnet Roesel talked about "crumb piecing" on a foundation, and displayed her "crouton" quilt top . . . small squares reminiscent of a postage stamp quilt. Garnet explained that she didn't want to work in the usual "round the world" set of a postage stamp quilt, so she began by making two-inch four-patches, and built those into larger squares.

Saturday evening brought a challenge to the 44 participants to each make two 9-patches for a charity quilt. Ninety-seven blocks were turned in, with more promised. Since we were "snowbound", we had a pajama party, with cocoa and popcorn, and shared blizzard stories. Most everyone said they would welcome a blizzard, provided they were home and had food and heat, because they had fond memories of previous blizzards!

Before leaving on Sunday after lunch, we put next year's theme proposals to a vote. The offerings were: The Hen House, with Hen and Chicks as the theme block, Down on the Farm, with Corn and Beans as the theme block, Fowl Play, with Birds in the Air as the theme block, and Run for the Border, with border and finishing techniques as the focus. Run for the Border was the overwhelming choice.

With the work of this year's Retreat behind me, I'm recharged and anxious to work on my own projects. But, now my job is interfering with my chosen activity!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Count Down is in Single Digits!

Gee Whiz . . . the blog ate my "homework". I was just ready to post, picture and all, and it vanished into cyberspace. Guess I'll have to try it again! Before I was so rudely interrupted, I had commented that the picture is something unusual . . . a finished quilt which I plan to take to our Retreat as a sample to inspire participants. This one happens to be the very first quilt that graced my quilt frame.

Retreat commences just one week from tomorrow, and I'm wound up tighter than a $2 watch, as my mother used to say. I can't decide if I should panic over little things that need to be completed, or jump and scream with excitement that its so near. My sister-in-law will be arriving from Texas. I need to get out her Featherweight and make sure it is well lubricated and ready to sew, since it has been "resting" since January.

The corner of my dining room is the "staging area" for items which must make their way to Camp. So far, there's not too much located there, but this weekend will see the quantity grow. I have a blanket bag full of quilt tops from my collection which will serve as scrap quilt inspirations. I just love scrap quilts . . . the more fabrics, the better! I need to make banners with scrap quilt quotes . . . some of the most memorable. Such as Bonnie Hunter's comment, "if the fabric is still ugly, you haven't cut it small enough!" Who can argue with that?

One of the key ingredients that make our Retreat go smoothly is the effort of the Director of the YMCA Leadership Center, Neil Morehead. He's very enthusiastic, and welcomes everyone. The most fun is when we draw for door prizes after each meal. He starts clapping and yelling, "Big Money!! Big Money!!" So, the last couple years, we've made sure we have a door prize for him, too. This year, he will find a Hallmark ornament depicting a snowman, since our theme is Snowbound. I also knitted mittens for him, as well as his wife. His pair have a long crocheted chain linking the two mittens together, like we all had in grade school. It will just be pinned inside, but should be funny when he looks at them!

I'm looking forward to seeing some of the "characters" who come each year. This year we have a few rookies, and some returning that have missed a year or two. It's always such great fun . . . takes too long to get here, and is over too quickly. It's such a pleasure to renew those friendships, and make some new friends, too. It's just a great time, and I offer this advice. Participate in the offerings of your Guild . . . you will enrich your life with wonderful friendships of creative and warm-hearted people who share your interests.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More memories!

Here's a picture of my mother's buttons. I'm very selective about using any of them for any garments. I have used some on clothing for my granddaughter. With my DH's interest in buttons now, I don't often have to buy any.

He's busy assembling two Mason jar lamps for door prizes at the Guild Retreat in 2 weeks and 2 days . . . but who's counting. He fills one jar with old wooden spools, and the other with all kinds of old sewing notions and tools, and some buttons scattered in for more color. So far, everyone who has won a lamp at Camp has been delighted with it. We just get a kit from the hardware store with the lamp fixture pieces completely contained. He fills the jar with goodies, and drills the lid, and I wire the lamp. It's not difficult . . . learned to do it in seventh grade science class.

Had lots of fun at the auction on Sunday. I scored a Boye Needlemaster knitting needle collection. There was just one set of points missing. A few weeks ago at a different sale, different auctioneer, I bought a bag of odd lot yarns. There were just one or two skeins of many different designer yarns . . . perfect for someone in the running for Nana of the Year by making sweaters for my grand-daughter's American Girl doll. In the bottom, there was a circular needle made from the components of a Needlemaster kit. I looked high and low at that auction, and couldn't find the kit anywhere. So, this week, they had a kit but it had one set of points missing . . . guess what . . . they were the size 8's which I got in the bag of yarn!

When my DH was ready to leave the auction, I told him I was going to leave an absentee bid on a Lowrey organ. Since I was just leaving a $10 bid, he thought it was safe. About five o'clock, the phone rang, and it was the auctioneer, reporting I was the winning bidder. DH couldn't believe it, and has grumbled ever since, but he can't say too much . . . he spent $14 on kitchen plunder and old milk bottles!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Button memories

Several blogs, including Dawn's (dquilts.blogspot.com) and Laura's (pineridgequilter.blogspot.com) have memories of grandparents, and button boxes.

When my DH and I were first married, he was a football coach (also track, and athletic director in a middle school). You know the type . . . jock, very macho kind of guy. When he finally retired from those responsibilities, I wondered what he would do with his time. We go to auctions often, and on occasion, when I'm working, he might attend a week-day auction. Several years ago, he acquired a Coats and Clark's metal spool cabinet with sliding glass doors as a Christmas gift for me. It had no spools in it at all. So, his subsequent purchases included sewing boxes containing wooden spools of thread, and he began to fill the spool cabinet. He would go through the sewing box looking for the thread before giving me the remainders, but I didn't know that at the time. The spool cabinet now boasts four or five or every color except two, which have been difficult to find.

My mother did tailoring when I was a girl, and she bought lots of buttons. There was a department store in downtown Indianapolis (now a parking lot) that had bins with manufacturer's button cards. They were large cards, probably 9 X 12 inches, and had one of each size and color of a particular design, usually four or five designs, so 20 to 40 buttons to a card. Mom would purchase 10 or 12 matching cards at the magnificent sum of 10 cards for a dollar. If we proclaimed boredom when it was raining, Mom would have us string the buttons into sets, which were stored in Monarch and Richelieu tea tins labeled and sorted by colors. When I began making my own clothes, I just pulled out the tea tin of the appropriate color to select buttons for it.

When my mother passed away, my brother called to ask if I would like to have her tea pots. I said, "I thought you wanted the tea pots . . . I want the buttons". His response was, "You can have those d--- buttons . . . I want her chickens." I guess my brother didn't enjoy sorting the buttons as much as I did!

After I left home, Mom's buttons out grew the tea tins, and she moved to shoe boxes for storage. The manufacturer's cards were no longer available, so, buttons acquired later came on the same type cards we see today. She would trim the cards down to just the area containing the buttons, and put them into the shoe boxes by colors. Since we were grown, there wasn't anyone to string them into sets for her! After her death, my youngest brother moved them to the barn, and they were rather dirty when I finally received them. At some point, my DH decided to clean them up and put them in old Mason jars. He removed them from the cards, washed them, sorted them into a couple muffin tins, and just like when I was a kid, I took crochet cotton and strung them into sets. The Mason jars are lined up on a shelf in our foyer, sorted still by colors, and are a lovely reminder of my mother.

DH has continued to enjoy sorting buttons. He often buys jars at auction, and on a snowy or rainy evening, dumps them into a large plastic tray, and sorts them into sets which he puts in small zip-loc bags. I just know Mom is looking down from Heaven with a silly grin on her face watching her football coach/son-in-law fool with buttons.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Getting organized

I struck carpet in my studio. That's real progress. I've sorted my projects into various plastic boxes. My husband says I must have been deprived of containers as a child. I can't go through the discount store without looking over the plastic containers. They provide a kind of filing system for some projects in progress. My friend, Susan, uses what she calls, "The Tote Bag Filing System". She says one should not miss going to any quilt conference where a tote bag is available. There's always a project to be stored in one. But, I still prefer plastic containers which are stackable. I do enjoy a nice latching lid, and handle for easy transport.

I also like to change my sewing kit from time to time, dependent upon what sort of project I'm working on. The all time best container for applique supplies has been a make-up bag from the luggage department of J.C. Penney. It zips closed on three sides on the outside, with an additional zippered pocket on the outside, suitable for holding a 5 X 8" pad of paper, and a mini cutting mat. Unzipped, and lying flat on the table, it has another zipper on one side, and tucked into that compartment, I have a plastic box with marking pens, scissors, thimble, a small woolen pin cushion, some clippies . . . not for my hair, but for holding binding in place as I stitch it down. In case of emergency, I have a few band-aids, and a sqeeze packet of anti-biotic ointment. A travel pack of hand wipes is indispensable, too. The other side of the bag has another zippered pocket which flips back to reveal several tubes designed for toothepaste, shampoo, etc. They are perfect for storing my silk thread for applique. My current favorite was made for me by Dawn; it has zippered pockets with an ultra-suede strip to draw the thread through. It's an adorable sewing print on the outside, trimmed with blue binding. Just love it!

The picture is another from my quilt top collection. This one is comprised of paper-pieced stars won at a Guild meeting. One star deserves another, so the blocks are set and sashed with star fabrics, too. I had an epiphany the other day when sorting through my quilt top collection. I realized that I haven't done much hand quilting since becoming theme chair for the Guild Retreats about five years ago. I make lots of tops, but that is a contributing factor for not getting them quilted. Maybe I should turn my list of themes for the next 10 or 15 years over to someone else and work with more dedication toward turning my quilt top collection into a quilt collection!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Fits and Starts!

The dates of the Old Tippecanoe Quilt Guild Retreat are rapidly approaching, which is good because we are all wound up tighter than two dollar watches waiting for it to get here. On the other hand, the early panic is starting to set in, as I try to make sure all the hand-outs are written. Demonstrations will be relatively brief. The focus is the components to make one's own scrap quilts using squares, rectangles, half-square triangles and quarter square triangles. I make a constant effort to overcome the phobia that seems to be part of today's quilt making against bias seam lines. As my friend, Marguerite, often says, "It isn't rocket surgery."

My studio shows the effects. I started "plowing" yesterday, to get a larger path to all important areas. Then, of course, proud of my effort, I sat down to the machine to sew, reasoning that I would be a bit more relaxed. It was just so pleasant that I didn't make much more progress in the balance of the room. I have the incentive of my sister-in-law, Jan's pending arrival from Texas. Although, I'm sure she's very used to how I work, I still get qualms about the mess now and then. I try to sit down until the feeling passes!

I went through my quilt top collection to select some for the Retreat gallery of quilts and tops, designed to inspire our Retreat participants. That included revisiting some that don't fit the scrap criteria, but are lovely just the same. The picture is my interpretation of Lisa Schiller's Christmas Album. I enjoyed the process, but I remember being ecstatic when all those berries were done!

Here's another self imposed reason to tidy my studio . . . I promise to share some pictures.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Stitching is so relaxing

I've got one of those nasty summer colds. For a couple days, I felt so rotten, I just sat with my sewing in my lap, never taking a stitch. It's just comforting to have it near me. I remember several years ago, I was hospitalized with a bad reaction to a medication. My husband told me on the phone that the new Quilters' Newsletter had arrived. I asked him to bring it to me, and he asked, "Why? You can't read it!" I just pleaded with him, and he was right, but I just held the magazine and looked at the cover. It was certainly encouraging when I felt well enough to start turning the pages.

I feel this cold letting up somewhat and with that my interest is recharging. I was asked to post the pictures of my project in progress. This is a Blackbird Farms design, as interpreted by Labors of Love. I'm just thrilled with how it is coming along.

We're to the real countdown for Guild Retreat now. I have a number of hand-outs written, and a few more to prepare. We'll all be shifting into high gear, soon. I'm going to go through my "quilt top collection" for examples of scrap quilts to display. Our "lessons" will cover rotary cutting various components. Primarily, we are looking at the snowball block because our theme is "Snowbound", but will hit on half-square and quarter-square cutting techniques, trying to encourage just cutting them, and not mess with the so-called short cuts which make one prisoner to a singular pattern. I find those so frustrating. In trying to draft a pattern for my sister-in-law, I can't find a resource which gives the math formula to even introduce them into use! And, though I don't think I would suffer in the event of a cotton shortage, most of those techniques waste so much fabric . . . up to 42 percent according to Judy Martin in one of her past newsletters. She has a great website, and her books are the best!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Back from vacation!

I managed to whittle my projects for the road down to a reasonable quantity . . . I could carry them myself in one trip! While traveling, I worked on tea cups, a Lori Smith applique in progress, and I finished the applique of some berries on the center of a Blackbird Designs Christmas quilt. I thought it was finished previously, but reconsidered, thinking it needed many more berries on the holly. This was a quilt that I wouldn't have looked at twice in the original pattern because it was done in tans and reds to replicate a vintage look. Then, about three years ago, my friends and I were on our annual December "Oh-hi-ho-ho-ho Tour" to Waynesville, and Fairborn, Ohio. In the Daisy Barrel, we saw a display of the quilt in brighter colors that was more inspiring to me, but I still didn't buy the patterns. Laura mentioned that Labors of Love had executed it on dark fabrics, and had a kit available. When I saw the picture, I thought I would faint! I ordered it on the spot. Of course, I have so many other things going, that I have yet to complete it. Periodically, I pull a kit out, and assemble all those components, and then move on to another UFO. One of these days!

We had a great vacation . . . the grandkids are growing like proverbial weeds. My grand-daughter, Lisey, has mastered knitting, and goes like a house afire! She wants to make a quilt, and I was trying to think of something to be used as a template for her, and it struck me . . . her brother's blocks! So, we picked out one that was about 3" square, and I showed her how to trace around it to mark a sewing line. She has a little fabric stash already, so she began marking squares, and hand sewing them together. Now, her brother, Addison, wants to learn, too.

I managed to visit five quilt shops on the trip! I always go to Cottonwood on Barracks Road in Charlottesville, Virginia. As we started for home, I got to Rachel's Quilt Patch in Staunton, Virginia, two shops in Chillicothe, Ohio, and polished off the trip at The Fabric Shack in Waynesville, Ohio. I found two fabrics suitable for settings and borders for my perfume bottles, a black with some gold on it, and a very heavily gold fabric that is sort of a window pane plaid with black. Also, picked up several white with red prints for a Kansas Troubles; then, once home, I pulled out the drawer of red strips and scraps from other projects to launch a sample for Camp.

Yesterday, my husband said he was suffering from auction withdrawal, so off we went to an auction. There was a box with one piece of white with red print in it, and the box sold for much more than I wanted to pay for one piece of fabric. So, I approached the winning bidder, and offered her $1 for the piece I wanted, and she accepted, so we were both happy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Applique' is calling me.

I don't really think there is any aspect of quilt making that I don't enjoy. I love the geometry of piecing and working with fabrics and colors. My absolute favorite is applique'. It's so "painterly". Another quilt top in my "quilt top collection" is blocks from a Brandywine Design book. I enlarged the blocks to 125%, and executed the patterns on black with brights. I had a great time with these blocks, making an effort to use as many fabrics as possible. The only block that I wasn't delighted with is the sunflowers with a bluebird; I think the bird doesn't have enough contrast to the rest of the block.

We're going to see my son and his family in Virginia for a few days, and I'm trying to get my "toys" ready for the trip. I'm not real worried about clothes; I can pack those in about ten minutes, and you can always buy more clothes if you need them. But getting the right mix of hand work to last for the duration of the trip is sometimes a challenge. I have to have a little bit of knitting for the highway, while DH drives. Usually, some cotton dishcloths are included, just because they don't require any thought, and they are so appreciated. The forecast is for lots of heat, so that will probably constitute all the knitting this trip. In cooler weather, I always take a good project, such as a sweater. Of course, I am vying for "Nana of the Year", so some small amounts of fancy yarns to make sweaters for American Girl dolls would be an option.

A few years ago, our granddaughter was talking to her cousins who were going to Boston to visit their paternal grandparents. Lisey thought about that for a little while, and then announced, "I have grandparents, too. They live in Indiana . . . my Grandpa can ride a bike." I congratulated DH on being entered in the "My Grandpa is better than your Grandpa sweepstakes"! He had apparently planted that thought in her mind in all those moments when he teased her about letting him ride her tricycle. He said he hadn't been on a bike in years, and I told him he'd better practice, because her reputation was at stake.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Not the result I was looking for!

I just can't stay away from my little two-inch squares for the Kissing Cousins quilt top. Sunday, I set up a Featherweight in the living room to sew while watching an old Columbo movie. I think I buzzed through about 3/4ths of the stacks into pairs, through a Matlock movie, time out for dinner, and through a Mystery Woman. Then, there were back to back Diagnosis Murder . . . loved Dick Van Dyke, but that series just stinks. (I think he did that series just so his son could work as an actor. It makes Murder She Wrote look like Academy Award material.) Unfortunately, it seemed to be the best thing on, so I just kept chugging away at my squares. By the time my Guild Retreat comes up, I might be ready to assemble the whole top.

In the meantime, I've been looking through other scrap quilt books in my library for more inspiration. Nancy Martin had one that came out last year, "A Treasury of Scrap Quilts". On the cover is a red and white Kansas Troubles. There are 18 projects in the book, and I'm only enthralled by 10 of them. I know, of course, that making lots of scrap quilts doesn't necessarily diminish one's scraps. I learned this from my first scrap quilt class. I went to the class confident that I would use up my three boxes of scraps. By the time the class was over a month later, I had about half a dozen quilt tops, and five boxes of scraps!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Thanks, Henry!

Henry Ford is credited with the development of a production line. I personally suspect that he witnessed his wife or his mother using such a technique for quilt making, canning or laundry, or something similar.

My rotary cutter has kept my "production line" going the last few days. Counting the color 2-inch squares for Kissing Cousins revealed I'm close to the 1020 requirement, greatly assisted by approximately 400 Benartex Quilter's Candies. Last night, I cut most of the strips comprising the background, and I assembled my nine-block sample. I just love it! I hope to finish cutting the background into squares today, completing the "kit", ready to take to Camp in September, but in the interim, I may just assemble a few more blocks on those days when I don't want to think so much, but enjoy the rhythm of piecing at the machine, while I watch a movie.

I need to make some other samples for our Retreat. Next in my plan are some blocks which utilize nine-patches in some fashion. Sister's Choice and Weathervane are the first examples which come to mind. Also, merely pairing a 9-patch with a snowball block creates an interesting diagonal interest.

Our little group is launching a project of exchange to be completed in December at our Christmas party. Marguerite told us about seeing "trading cards" in Chicago, as well as a magazine story. They are to be approximately 2" by 4", with no embellishments deeper than a dime. My first thought was little tea pots, but, this morning, I was thinking about how I'm always accused of being a "digit head", and the idea of a credit card sized calculator made me sit back down on the bed and start laughing. I'll have to let the idea stew for a bit to see if I can actually implement it. It certainly would be funny!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Am I blue?

The Goose in the Pond quilt I saw at auction on Saturday is haunting me. I've been telling myself I don't need another blue and white quilt top in my "quilt top collection." (There doesn't have to be any guilt because its not quilted, if it is part of a quilt top collection.) I am particularly fond of two color quilts, especially when they have lots of variety within the two colors. In sorting through my scraps, its heavy in reds and blues, accounted for by the Cake Stand and Ocean Wave quilt tops. Greens are overflowing their drawer, but inspiration for a Tree of Life has not yet struck. There is a tidy little box of Christmas greens intended for an Ocean Wave variation with red pinwheels at the intersections . . . Peppermint Pinwheel. That's another "leaders and enders" possibility.

I failed to mention in my post including the picture of the Star quilt that several of the blocks were found at Marcia Hohn's Quilter's Cache website (www.quilterscache.com). They were perfect to illustrate how changing one element can change the look of the same block. Her website is always inspiring.

Last night, I laid out all my little Christmas basket blocks, in anticipation of setting them together. They are just so cute, it's hard not to go to the machine and start making more.

For a couple years, I have been planning to make Linda Franz's Quilted Diamonds. I even selected the fabrics in Paducah two years ago. Part of the delay was promising myself I wouldn't start until my Dear Jane top was completely assembled. I used the Dear Jane software to generate freezer paper patterns, and hand-pieced all the outside triangle blocks. I enjoyed it so much, that I thought I could do the same with Quilted Diamonds, since I have the software for those as well. Saturday, while at the auction, I finished some other handwork, and had the pieces for the first block in my kit. So, naturally, I couldn't just sit there when I wasn't bidding . . . so I started to assemble it. I've just got six more pieces to put together, and it looks lovely. With a little trip to Virginia to see my son in the planning, I think I'd better assemble a few more kits for the road trip!

My job interferes with my chosen lifestyle, which would be to sew all day, evening, and into the night!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Who needs a Vega-matic?

I've been faithfully cutting 2-inch squares from my sorted scraps. In my studio, I have drawers labeled in colors, and in each of those drawers are strips, squares, and a zip-loc of small scraps. When working on an applique project, I generally grab the scraps and pull from those first. My present project of the Kitty Corner blocks from Fons & Porter's magazine, seemed made to order to whittle those bags down a bit. I emptied each bag, and sorted out anything large enough to yield a 2-inch square. Then, sitting in front of the television at my little wooden sewing table, I rotary cut them, while simultaneously packing ice on my bursitis plagued hip. (This is a new treatment, along with some strengthening exercises, and it seems to be helping.) I'm not very good at just sitting and staring at the idiot box, so this seemed perfect to me. I was tempted to try to count my resulting bounty, but have so far refrained. I'm down to greens, the last color, so maybe I'll start counting when I finish those, knowing that I need 1020 for the 510 four-patch units of the block. I'll bet I'm pretty close to being there. The sample block I made looks exactly as I imagined it would . . . which always makes me giggle.

Several years ago, I decided I was going to make a Stacked Bricks quilt top from my scraps. Each day on my lunch hour, I happily cut 2 1/2 X 6 1/2" strips, and stowed them in a box. Finally, having accumulated a healthy looking stack, I decided I should count them. I reviewed the pattern, from Judy Martin's 1985 classic, "Scrap Quilts", and learned that I needed 232 strips. I counted the results of my labor, and found I had closer to 600! Undaunted, I made two quilt tops, and donated one to the Quilt America "Yes M'am" auction. Needless to say, even after making two complete quilt tops, there was still a healthy supply of strips, so I decided to improvise a border. I tried to get a surveyor friend to do the math for me, and he said he would look at it, but he didn't know what he could do that I couldn't. It made me mad, and so I attacked it myself, and found out he was right. I finished the top two days later!

DH and I went to an auction yesterday at a local retirement home. This is a very nice retirement home, and the pieces being auctioned were donated by residents, or left to the Foundation which operates the home. Among the treasures of beautiful furniture and glassware, were three quilts, a sewing box, a Singer Featherweight, and a couple thimbles. I was a bit surprised that there was minimal bidding on the Featherweight, and even more surprised when DH bought it! It's in great condition, but I oiled it all up last night, and test drove it on some of my squares. Makes a wonderful stitch, as they all do. Now, to find a home for this little honey . . . since I have one, and my sister-in-law keeps one at my house for some of our Retreat adventures . . . and there are two more in the basement . . . you can see why I was surprised that DH bid!

The quilts went for nice prices. Two were kit quilts; one an applique kit from the 30's for certain, with large sunflower type blocks. The other was a stamped applique kit of dogwood blossoms on a peach background from about the 1950's, as revealed by the blue markings still showing in places on the quilt. The third was a 1930's blue and white "Goose in the Pond" block. I managed to refrain from coming home and dragging out blues and whites to make one, but it's still echoing in my brain!

DH asked the ringman to sell one of the thimbles. It is a size 9, slightly out of round, and quite tarnished, but no holes in it. I was the successful bidder, and I happily put it in my sewing kit. Later, the other thimble, a small tailor's thimble, was sold and I got that one, too, for only $2. When we got home, I got out my silver polish, and started working on them. The tailor's thimble is clearly silver, but without much detail, so it only took a couple minutes to polish it. The other thimble is probably an 1880's or so, with several panels, some flat, and the others with designs engraved. But most surprising is that removing the grime revealed that the bottom half of that thimble is gold! I have certainly been lucky in finding lovely thimbles lately. DH thinks that I should cease looking, but I'll do that when he quits buying old canning jars, his passion, which require much more storage space.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Energizer

Just finished the quilt top sample of Ohio Stars for our Retreat. My objective was to show how changing the center or the corners of a simple block can completely change the look. I have a few blocks that I made but didn't use. This will serve it's purpose quite well.

Then I hit my usual slump that always follows completing any project. I always rather stumble around for a period of time trying to decide what I will work on next. I generally, begrudgingly, drag out a UFO, and try to inspire myself to work on it. Usually, something will stimulate my imagination shortly, and I'm off and running again.

Last night, my quilt group got together, and Roseanna brought along a bunch of old quilting magazines she had been given. We were browsing through them, and BINGO!! I found a "buzzer". It's from the J/F 2000 Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting, called, "Kitty Corner". It's just four patches assembled with plain squares in a 9-patch set to create a block. The blocks in the sample are set to create a diagonal reminiscent of an Irish chain. I thought about it the rest of the evening, thinking of my scrap drawers, and what type color theme to use. The quilt pictured in the article made one think of 30's reproductions. I had gone to bed, and was just about to drift off, when a neutral fabric in my stash popped into my mind as the perfect complement to my stash of scraps. I should probably have just gone downstairs and pulled the fabric to start cutting. I didn't sleep very well . . . every time I turned over, I saw that fabric in a finished quilt top. I went to the office, and when I came home for lunch, I made a bee-line for the basement and grabbed the fabric working on my mind so intently. I cut a couple strips, and started pulling scraps to cut into 2" squares. Whittled down a zip-loc of pinks in fairly short order. Then, it was time to return to work. I was about 2 blocks from the parking garage, and I thought about my stash of Benartex squares, including some "quilter's candies" that they gave out in Paducah for several years. Couldn't remember if they were two-inches or less, so my mind was once again obsessed until I could get home and check on those. Lucky me . . . they are precisely two-inches, so I have probably 200 two-inch squares ready to start making blocks. Because it is so simply pieced, it is a wonderful candidate for Bonnie Hunter's leaders and enders technique . . . if I can keep myself from just sewing madly on only it.

I've asked my friends who wanted to make a scrap quilt sample for Camp to make at least nine blocks so one can see the interaction of the blocks together. (So far, none of them have been able to stop at 9 blocks!) I see 9 blocks . . . at least . . . in my immediate future!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Maple Leaf Rag

One of the tops in my "quilt top collection" is a queen-sized Maple Leaf. I plan to dub it "The Charm of Autumn", because no two leaves are the same. I used the EZ Angle to cut each block, including a bias stem. And, don't ask me why, but I hand appliqued each bias stem before assembling the block. I do like how it turned out. It has a tiny yellow piping betwen the blocks and the border, which doesn't show well in the picture. And, it is so large, I can only show a quarter of it here. I have a lovely yellow fabric to back it, and a nice wool batting for it, too. I'm determined to finish a quilt that has been in my frame long enough to have had anniversaries . . . we won't say how many! Perhaps this one will be the next one up for attention. It would be nice to get it into the frame early this fall, and work on it through the winter.

Perhaps I shall inventory my collection here, if you all promise not to count! I used to be able to trim the stash down annually, when I took something to the Quilt America Yes M'am auction. Since the demise of that show, I haven't diminished the stack one bit.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More than meets the eye

Looking over my postings, one would think that I do nothing but work on designs and patterns for my Guild Retreat. Since I have been quilt making since 1977, that's not an accurate viewpoint.

My very first bed-sized quilt was a Sampler, which my DS took to college and on to grad school, and loved it to shreds. The second, made from a Quilters Newsletter pattern in 1981, called, "Buds and Blossoms", resides on my guest room bed. My, what I have learned since those efforts!

I'm definitely addicted to applique, although my favorite pieces are combinations of piecing with applique. Hanging behind my DH's chair in the living room is a quilt I made for him several years ago called, "Calendar for a Hoosier Teacher". It features an Apple a month. One can tell it is a Hoosier calendar because the May apple is made from brick fabric, and the leaf from black and white checks to represent the Indianapolis 500.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sputter, Gasp, Whizz, Whir . . . Hummmmm!

I don't know if I should love it, or hate it when my mind kicks out an idea. It seems to be rather like the sounds of the machine in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the classic with Gene Wilder) that belches out the Everlasting Gobstopper. There it is on "the plate", and I can't wait to try it.

One of the ideas stewing in the back of my head for Guild Retreat is an Ohio Star block as a base, and to reflect the many ways a simple alteration can change the original block. I wasn't quite looking forward, however, to making multiple quilt tops to illustrate this factor. I was just about to settle for a few plain blocks on a fleece wall, with many alternate loose corner and center pieces. I'm still inclined to do that to encourage "hands-on" play. But my ultimate sample will be "The Star Family Album". Top row will have Mom and Pop Star in each corner, with the title in the center (fun lettering, like the many examples that Laura uses). The next row will represent the "kiddies". One will have a snowball center; the next a four-patch center; the next a half-square triangle center, and so on. Successive rows will have both center and four corners with alternate piecing in those positions. Maybe it should be "multi-generational" to effect these changes!

I have also been playing with a simple piecing method for another fun scrap block. I've seen a couple different patterns for a taffy block. Both had very awkward piecing. So, I just made up my own, using the hour glass block for the twisties on each end. The center of the block can be scaled to fit the scrap available. In honor of our Guild Retreat, it has been dubbed, "Old Tippe Taffy". And, to reinforce the concept of the snowball block, the theme block for our "snowbound" retreat, there is a companion candy, "Hoosier Hard Candy".

To some, it may appear that I have launched more projects, but really, these are just class samples for Retreat. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Quilt Blocks and Quilt Shows

Test "drove" my four-patch grid based Nosegay block. The tulips are real easy to piece, but I haven't come up with an easy way to rotary cut the vase. I thought perhaps the Tri-Recs ruler would work; it's great for the background pieces, but the angle isn't right for the vase. (I tried to upload my drawing from EQ5, but it vanished into cyberspace.) My next approach will be to mark the center of two sides, and angle a ruler from a corner to a point 1/4 inch from the marked center. One advantage would be there is only one vase for each complete block. With an 8-inch block, that wouldn't be too encouraging if a king-sized quilt were the objective. I will include a rotary cutting table for at least three sizes in the hand-outs for Guild Retreat.

Went to Columbus, Ohio, to the NQA show. It has a completely different atmosphere from the AQS show. It is not a juried show, so that is a contributing factor. I'm always amazed at the number of quilts made identical to commercial patterns, or straight out of a book. I might display my effort at the local Guild show, but it would never occur to me to enter a national competition with someone else's design. There was an exact duplicate of one of Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville postings. I think half the hall would have been emptied, if all the duplicates were removed.

There were some great vendors, and I collected a few fabrics for a couple projects. Planning a pineapple star for my granddaughter and a "Surveyor's" Compass for one of the land surveyors that I work with on a regular basis. He's an avid hunter and outdoorsman, and I found a Moda "cheater" panel, Northwoods Crossing, to incorporate, probably as corners in the borders. I picked out earth tones, a rich dark red, deep blue, and dark green for points of the compass. It's hard to refrain from rushing into new projects. I have so many others going that I'm trying to be "good"!

While I was gone, my DH went to an auction. He found a neat maple sugar bucket style sewing box on three legs. I've got a similar one in my studio. Actually, I have wooden sewing boxes all over the house. For a long time, he was convinced that I was acquiring them for refinishing projects for him. It's only recently that I have admitted to collecting them! For several summers, when Quilt America was still being held in Indianapolis each summer, he would refinish one that was in good condition, and donate it to the auction to raise funds for mammograms for low-income women at Indiana University Medical Center. They always brought more than $100 each time. Sure miss that show, and more than that, the class opportunities it brought. I participated in some wonderful classes by some wonderful instructors . . . Elly Sienkiewicz, Nancy Pearson, Pat Campbell, Jeanna Kimball, Philomena Duncan, John Flynn, Doreen Speckman, Marianne Fons, Nancy Johnson Srebro, Anita Shackelford, Susan Cleveland . . . a regular who's who in quiltmaking.

Now I'm inspired to go finish my postage stamp baskets, and cut the neutral I need to finish my perfume bottles. Then on to nosegays! All are projects for Retreat samples.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Brain in Overdrive!

Working away on block choices and themes for Guild Retreat. I always have more material than there is time for . . . unless we can work out a three-week event. Probably cost prohibitive, and would require rental of a trailer to haul supplies.

The title of this year's event is "Snowbound", with a focus on scrap quilts . . . what one might make using only the fabrics on hand. An expanded focus will be making a larger quilt with a minimum number of blocks by the addition of the snowball block, and it's lesser known "cousin", the flowering snowball. Humor always makes a subject more memorable, so the blocks introduced will be separated into "strippers" and "squares", followed by "crumb piecing".

I recruited the gals in my group to make at least nine blocks of a scrap pattern, so we will have more to display. At first, they thought they would be assigned a pattern that I selected. But, there wouldn't be any fun in that. I encouraged them to select something that each found intriquing, and interesting to make by their own choices. I think we will get a better mix that way.

For my own contribution, I've got some variations on variable stars planned. Illustrating the different looks by adding simple piecing in the corner squares or center square is the focus. A four-patch in each corner can create a diagonal interest, emphasized by a square-in-a-square in the center block. Half-squares in the center and two corners can create a very dramatic split color block. Chevron style piecing in gradated colors in each corner make another look entirely. A fleece board with many option squares will give Campers an opportunity to play at arrangements, until a design emerges that will send them running to get started. This approach will be for the "explorers" in the group.

For those who prefer to operate with a complete plan in mind at the outset will have plenty of classic choices. My sister-in-law, Jan, works from this focus, and always requires plenty of "visuals". She's a tough critic, so if a plan is functional for her, it will work for others, too.

EQ5 is a wonderful tool in generating some of the necessary information. A drafted or selected block can be colored, and a snapshot lifted to Word, to create a cutting table in multiple sizes. I've always wanted to make a Nosegay quilt, but dreaded the odd-shaped pieces, and inset seams. So, I drafted a modified version with pieced tulips based in a four-patch grid. The set-up is three tulips, and the last quadrant is the green kite-shaped piece. I think it can be easily rotary cut with the Tri-Recs ruler. I've got to practice cutting the shape before making the final decision to include it in Retreat options.