Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quick vacation update

I love vacation! I have taken two naps in two days - unheard of! The kids and I had a great time exploring Yale once I had finished what I had to do for work. Here they are on the steps of the Yale Law School, armed with paper airplanes that they charmed out of the security guard.

By the time we were ready to take the train to Massachusetts, they were wiped out.

Staying with my sister and her family is always fun. We took a bike ride (8 of us). How neat to have kids who can begin to do for themselves.

I finished the binding on her quilt on the way here. I am still hand quilting it, though. I also read Shadows in the Night by Janet Babin. I hope she writes more - there wasn't as much quilting as I had hoped, but the story was fun.
Well, gotta run. Literally. My sister is a runner, so I get exercise when I am here. It takes all year to recover from visiting her.

Friday, June 26, 2009

On the road

We hit the road after work yesterday. We spent the night at my mother-in-laws last night. For those of you who followed my old blog, she is looking and feeling MUCH better. I'm so glad I prepared all this handwork to do on this trip. I've been working on securing the scrappy blue binding on the Crumb Cake Stand quilt for my sister, and I like how it is looking. I hope to have it done by the time we get to her house tomorrow afternoon.

Well, the road is calling! I'll check in again at a later stop.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I came to my senses

Yup, I was definitely biting off more than I can chew when I started dreaming about making a lampshade BEFORE I head out on vacation tomorrow. You know all those details that need to be dealt with before a vacation? They were really stressing me out last night. I was snapping at the kids (poor things!), going about my household and motherly duties as if I held a grudge. Finally, my husband, who deserves to be named a saint, told the kids I needed some alone time and took them into another room until bedtime, at which point he put them to bed. Meanwhile, I read. I mean, I have 3 million things to do, and what do I do, but sit there with a book. Are you ever so overwhelmed with a to-do that you can't even get started? That was me last night.

Finally, I said to myself, at least get ONE thing done. The sleeves for my niece's and nephew's quilts should be quick and easy, right?

As usually happens when I begin to sew, I found my groove. From there, I created a sleeve for my Guild challenge quilt from last year.

I sewed on the last binding edge for the quilt I am finishing up for a generous woman that I met in Atlanta this April. She had a quilt that needed just a bit more hand quilting and then binding, and for that she sent me all of her quilting notions, books and fabric since she wasn't going to quilt anymore (WHAT!?!) and wanted to free up space in her house.

I whipped up a scrappy blue binding for my sister's Crumb Cake Stand quilt and sewed it on, so all I have left to do on that quilt is finish the hand quilting and sew the other side of the binding down, all of which can be done by hand. I went to bed feeling pretty good about myself, although I am bleary eyed this morning because I was up until 1:30 AM! Tonight, I just need to was one more load of laundry (I got one done last night), pack for me and the kids, and get Jason's quilt done with him. Then, I can go on vacation with a lighthearted, self-satisfied step!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The quilter's version of cramming!

I leave for a week's vacation this Thursday after work. I'll be traveling first to Yale to attend a program for work, and then on to Amherst, Massachusetts to stay with my twin sister and her family. With all the preparation that goes into taking a trip, that means not much sewing is going to be happening in the next few days. Before I leave, though, I need to make sleeves for my niece's and nephew's baby quilts - my sister wants to hang them on their walls now that they are older. I also need to finish hand quilting her quilt and at least attach the binding and sleeve so I can finish it while I am up there visiting her. I also need to help Jason finish his quilt so that he can enter it in the County Fair. I had hoped to have several finishes done to enter in the fair myself, but I may just have to put my sister's quilt in. I sure am good at starting things - it is the finishes I struggle with.

But perhaps I can tackle just a little project before I go. The kids destroyed a lamp shade in their room. I'm not mad, it is just an opportunity for me to try something I've been wanting to try - making a fabric lamp shade! How about something like this?

(photo from Moda Bake Shop)
It seems quick and easy, especially since I already have so many strips cut. Plus, I could use those tiny bias tapes for the top and bottom edges, right? Hmmm... If I can make the time before Thursday (notice I said make, not FIND), I just may have to give this a try.

While on vacation, my goal is to finish taking apart my grandmother's quilt. I'll bring along a rotary cutter, 6" ruler and my mini foldaway Omnigrid to see if I can get everything ready for sewing it back together when I return.

(do you have one of these? If so, don't you love it!?!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I miss you, Dad!

I got off work at 1 PM, and rushed home to change clothes and drive over the mountain to have a joint Father's Day celebration and 4th birthday party for my youngest son at my mom's house. I hadn't seen my kids since Thursday, so I was pretty anxious to see them. As I was getting dressed, I pulled out one of my father's old t-shirts to wear. My father died in a car accident on May 28, 2005, three weeks before my youngest son was born. I wasn't ready for him to go - he was only 63 years old, and we were in the midst of reconnecting and getting to know one another again after some challenging years when my parents divorced. At least I had the foresight, through my grief, to ask for his clothing. There wasn't much, but I was able to find two t-shirts, one long sleeved and one short sleeved, that weren't too terribly big on me and that were in decent shape that I kept to wear on days like today. The rest of the t-shirts, I cut apart to make a memory quilt for me and my family.

I completed it a year and a half ago, and presented it to my mother for Christmas - even though they had divorced and both remarried, they remained best of friends. The plan was to allow the quilt to rotate among members of the family - we are so widespread - so that we all have a chance to use it and honor him. It hasn't made it back to me yet, but my turn will come soon. For today, I was happy just to wear his shirt. I couldn't help but laugh when I arrived at my mother's and realized she was unwittingly wearing a pair of his old athletic shorts. His spirit is with us still today, I believe.

Once at my mother's, we had a great time with tacos and cake and ice cream

and presents

and badminton (perhaps the long skirt and floppy hat were a bad idea - I was terrible!).

Seeing my brother on Father's Day, though, is a surreal experience for me. He doesn't really look like my father,

but his mannerisms, his walk, his gestures, his laugh, they are identical. It is like seeing a 30 year old version of my father, and I spent a lot of time today choking back tears. I miss you, Dad. Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stealing time to stitch

Today was the second 13-hour work day in a row for me (yes, it is SATURDAY, and yes, I have to work again TOMORROW!). It hasn't been as bad as I had anticipated. The kids are having a ball spending the weekend at my mom's ("They haven't even asked about you," my mom says. Thanks. I didn't need to know that!), and I have met some really fascinating people. But fascinating people aside, time at work means time that I am not quilting. Luckily, I have found little windows of time today to get some stitching done. First, I had the foresight to bring my hand quilting with me to work. In between sessions, I found a quiet corner to put a few stitches in. Then, after the session I led in the early afternoon but before the reception and dinner, I raced home to check on my dog, put in two loads of laundry, sweep the floors (I had no idea a short haired dog - lab - could shed SO MUCH!), and sew. I got two more Pick and Choose blocks done - I'm up to 20 of the 25 done.
One of these blocks I think is beautiful, the other, hideous. I'm sure you can tell which is which. No matter, once it is set into the quilt, it will work.
With Father's Day and Donald's 4th birthday tomorrow, plus work in the morning, I am sure I won't have a chance to sew tomorrow. Why aren't there more hours in the day?

Friday, June 19, 2009

WIPs and UFOs

To me, there is a difference between Works in Progress (WIPs) and Unfinished Objects (UFOs). For WIPs, I have a plan. They aren't done because I got distracted with the next "must-do!" project, and when I return to them, I know exactly how and where to start up again. For example, I know where I am going with this Bonnie Hunter pattern, Virginia Bound.
I just needed more neutral scraps to continue. Of course, while waiting to get the scraps, I got sidetracked by some other projects, but I WILL go back to this one. Or my Grandmother's Flower Garden.

I mainly work on this during the summers when I am on vacation since it travels well, and I hate to be too far away from a quilting project, even if I am on vacation. Before I continue with this flannel buzz saw quilt, I am waiting for more flannel scraps that someone in the guild has promised me.

So again, there is a plan.

UFOs are different. Since I make most of my quilts from ideas in my head instead of patterns on a page, I often get stuck. I don't necessarily have an idea for the whole quilt before I begin, so I often reach a point where I can't figure out what to do next. Take this UFO for example. Originally, this was to be for my mother.

I wanted to do a medallion on point, then make it square, which I did. Then, I thought it would be fun to put it on point again. OK, but now, I don't know what to do to make it square again. This UFO is about 4 1/2 years in the making. I have since made my mother another quilt, a Delectable Mountains which both she and I love. But what to do with this forgotten stepchild of a quilt?

About 4 years ago, I made this quilt for a friend (she is in the AKA sorority, and their colors are pink and green).

I had some scraps left over, so I started piecing this together.
Yet again, I got to a place where I wasn't sure what to do next. In fact, I had added a white border with 3-dimensional prarie points on each side, but it was just too busy, so I took them off again. Hmmm, what next?

My first completed quilt was a baby quilt for my nephew.
I had a couple of these fussy cut bathing ducks left over, so I made them the centers for these log cabin blocks.

But now what? This has been languishing for quite some time in the UFO pile, too.

There are others, but you get the idea. Does anyone else experience this? Just getting stuck? Of course, one way to avoid this would be to make all my quilts from a pattern, but that just isn't how I operate. Even the quilts I make from patterns are mine in some way, usually with different borders, perhaps with an altered placement. I guess I do this to myself, but it is so frustrating to me to leave something unfinished with no plan to finish it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reconstruction begins

Since I have to work ALL weekend (ugh!), and my hubby will be out of town recruiting, I'm taking my kids to my mom's house for the weekend. While there, I want her to see and know that I've been working on her mom's/grandmom's quilt. However, I didn't want her to freak out when she saw all the bits and pieces of quilt that remain as I rip seams, so I starting sewing some of the trimmed down pieces back together last night. I find it really hard to work with fabrics with so little contrast. I keep telling myself that 70 or so years ago when this quilt was constructed, it DID have contrast. It was pretty obvious from the wear (holes!) and the much darker fabrics in the seam allowances that this quilt had been put to hard and frequent use. Luckily, the quilt was scrappy to begin with, so I don't need to be particular about how I put it back together. You'll notice that I am putting like-fabric triangles together to make diamonds in each block, though.

The finished square size is 1.5", so each of these blocks is 6" finished (6.5" as you see them). One thing I noticed is that the fabrics are VERY stretchy and hard to work with. I don't know if she cut things on the bias or if older fabrics tend to not hold their shape well, but I am already preparing myself for a quilt that is not quite square. (Who am I kidding, none of my quilts are quite square! At least I have an excuse this time.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ready, set, cut!

I stayed up WAAAY too late last night cutting fabric. I couldn't resist seeing what was in the scrap bag I was given yesterday, and I found quite a few scraps big enough to cut additional pieces for my Pick and Choose quilt. While cutting those out, I also did some "scrap management" cutting. You can see here the scraps I cut for my project in the back, and my scrap management piles in the front, with sizes ranging from 1.5" to 5" squares. I have tins of all different sizes that I collect to keep my scraps in. Then when I need some, they are already pre-cut. Of course, that only works because most of what I make is so scrappy.
In the photo, it doesn't look like much, but believe me, that is hours of ironing and cutting you see before you. Well, hours interrupted by kids and husband and pets and calls of nature, but you get the picture.

Another thing I found in the scrap bag was bias tape. What is this for? Anyone? Do I keep it or pass it along? I don't know how it is used.

It just ocurred to me last night that I will see my twin sister in a mere week and a half, and the plan was to have my Crumb Cake Stand quilt finished for her.
I haven't quilted on it in quite some time. Gotta hop to it. I am stippling (by hand) the background in the center CakeStand block, and it is slow going.

Oh well, I work better with looming deadlines anyway.

And once that is done, I need to start hand quilting something else. My kids, my mom, my younger sister, my niece and nephew, even some strangers who received my comfort quilts - they all get to sleep under a quilt. Me, I have an ancient comforter from a department store with the stitching coming out. It is time to put one on MY bed! I started quilting this one for my bed a couple years ago when I held an old fashioned quilting bee at my house - what fun!

(Sorry, I guess I never took a picture of the whole quilt) But in the meantime, I've pieced others that I also wouldn't mind having on my bed, particularly this one

I wouldn't mind this cozy flannel one on my bed, either, but I think my husband might protest.

This one would be welcome on my bed, but it is SO LARGE it would take me forever to quilt it.

By the way, someone asked about the pattern for the Pick and Choose quilt that I am making. I got it from the June 2009 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting. If you want a copy of the pattern, I'd be happy to photocopy it for you and pop it in the mail - send me an email with your mailing address. Here's what it is supposed to look like when finished (draped over an antique bench that you just happen to have in your home).

And finally, I apologize to those of you trying to view this with dial-up if all the pictures are slowing you down; I just love posts with lots to look at! Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Home away from home

I'm at work. It is raining (AGAIN!). I have to work all weekend. By all indications, I should be down in the dumps, but I'm not. First of all, I like my office. I've worked hard to make it my home away from home. There are quilts, plants and table lamps, and the big windows and fireplace don't hurt. Take a peek.

Here's the view when you walk in the door. I made scrappy pillow from a pattern I found in a magazine about 4 years ago. The quilt on the back of the chair was my grandmother's. She kept it on the rocking chair in her bedroom. It has a label that says "The Comfort Project from the Lighthouse Network." I imagine it was given to her when my aunt passed away, but I can't be sure. I tried googling it some time ago, but nothing came up. I use the quilt quite often because my building was built in the 1840s and it is pretty drafty - charming, but drafty. The painting over the fireplace is one that my younger sister did of herself - she is so talented. The hands in the frame on the mantel are the first project that my oldest son did in preschool. The little painting on the wall next to the window is one my mother brought me back from her trip on the Amazon a couple years ago, our (her kids) Christmas or birthday present to her one year.

Here's the view from my desk over to the other side of the room. I made this quilt out of leftover blocks from the Delectable Mountains quilt I made for my mother.

Here's the little quilt I won a ribbon with at the county fair last year (or the year before). It was just green, Honorable Mention, but a ribbon nonetheless. I hung it with a beaded necklace from WalMart. Here's a closer look...

It isn't home, but when I can't be at home, at least I am comfortable here.

Now, another reason I am not down today is that I received a bag full of scraps from my Guild, delivered to my office this morning. Woo hoo! I closed the door and dumped them out on the floor to take a look. Lots of different sized scraps,

plus some orphan blocks. I can't wait to start using this stuff in my current projects.

Speaking of current projects, I fired up the sewing machine last night and made a couple more blocks for my Pick and Choose quilt - I have 18 of the 25 blocks done at this point. Here they are on my design wall along with some of the sashing and pieced border - none of it is sewn together yet.

And here's a closer view - I am loving this quilt so far!

Feeling pretty good for a Tuesday!

Monday, June 15, 2009

No time for actual sewing

I had company over the weekend, and while we had a fantastic time, that means not much happened on the quilting front. I managed to do a bit more seam ripping on my grandmother's quilt while sitting and talking on the front porch, and a bit more squaring up after everyone left on Sunday evening, but that is it. I need to start sewing so I feel like I have made some progress. Especially since I was traveling the weekend before, and I haven't used my sewing machine in several weeks.

While I was traveling, however, I stopped by a quilt shop to try to find some brown fabric to finish the binding on a quilt that I am finishing for a woman who started quilting about 10 years ago but then got distracted, decided she wasn't going to do it anymore, and sent me all of her books and notions to clear space in her house. As payment, I finished the hand quilting on her tablerunner, and put on the binding. I am binding with the leftover backing fabric, but I was just a bit shy of enough. I have been stopping in every quilt shop I pass to find matching fabric, and I finally got lucky. Jason was with me, so he picked out some backing fabric for his Halloween quilt that he is entering in the fair this year.

And I couldn't resist picking up a few fabrics for myself - I did a great job of not buying any fabric last year, but I have fallen off the "no-buy" wagon. I need some new stuff in the stash because I am getting tired of making quilts out of the same old fabrics. (At least, that is how I am justifying my last couple of purchases to myself.)

I also stopped by my mother-in-law's, the one who introduced me to quilting in the first place. She does everything by hand, including the piecing. She showed me the quilt she is currently hand quilting, and then gave me an extra block from that quilt. (It is square, really. It was just kinda balled up and I didn't press it before taking the picture.)
Cool! I plan to make an orphan block quilt one day, and this will definitely make it in there.

And then, I just stopped by the library during late lunch to find something to read. One of the employees there saw me and said, "Hey, I've got something for you! Well, not here with me at work, but I've got something for you!" I missed the Guild meeting this weekend, but it turns out that some scraps were collected and earmaked for ME! Gotta love being known as the scrap gal!

Friday, June 12, 2009


I worked some more on my grandmom's quilt last night, ripping seams, squaring up the squares, and playing around a bit with placement. (I should have been CLEANING since I have company coming for the weekend, but it is my sister/friend and her kids, and she is the kind of friend who loves me for me, dirty house and all, so I didn't bother with the panicky last-minute house cleaning that I usually do when I have company. Besides, with 4 kids, ages 7 and under, the house is going to be be a sticky mess by the end of the visit.)

Anyway, back on topic. As I was playing around with placement, I was thinking that what I'd really like to do is add some color. Since the fabric is old (at least 70-75 years, by my guess), and since the quilt was very well worn, all the fabrics are washed out. No matter how I arrange them, they are still going to look washed out. Therefore, any designs that I might make with the half-square triangles are going to be very hard to distinguish from the muddled background squares. HOWEVER, this is not MY quilt. It seems almost sacriligeous to add too much to this quilt - I want to honor and celebrate the original quilter, not drown her out with my own ideas and preferences. New border fabric seems the least intrusive - basically a frame for the "old quilt". But somehow, I just don't think that is going to satisfy me. Oh, what to do...

Kid update - I was listening in on a conversation between the boys this morning. Apparently, there is a bully in the Pre-K classroom who not only pushes, scratches, kicks and throws dirt at Donald, but also calls him "Donald Duck". I knew that was coming, I just didn't realize that it would happen this young. Anyway, Jason, the big (6 year old) brother, was telling Donald that he needed to tell this bully that if he didn't leave him alone, he was going to have to deal with his big brother. Donald's eyes got round and he asked breathlessly, "What are you going to do to him? Are you going to GET HIM?" Jason said, "No, I am going to have a serious talk with him in a FIRM VOICE!" I nearly drove off the road, laughing! I've been telling him that he needs to be firm with our puppy to make him behave. Apparently, that works for bullies, too! (I'm just relieved that he wasn't planning to "get him!")

I sure do love my kids!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Three strikes - you're OUT!

I've been maintaining a quilting blog at www.myquiltblog.com for nearly 3 years now. I loved it there. It was easy to manage, it was a small, close community of bloggers with similar interests, and I made some great online friends that I hope to continue to know. But for the third time, the site has crashed and I have lost everything. I hate to be a rat, abandoning a sinking ship, but I started blogging to chronicle my quilting adventures, and I tire of starting over again and again. I know that I should backup my work somehow, perhaps even print it out, but I really thought that the blog host would be backing everything up. Oh well.

So, a fresh start - that can be fun! I've moved nearly 40 times in my nearly 38 years, and I like change. I am a restless sort, which is glaringly obvious when you follow my quilting pursuits - starts and stops, bursts of activity on one project, and then it languishes forgotten on a shelf for months while I work on my next "must-do". Somehow, there are many projects in the "must-do" category, but not many projects make it into the "must-finish" category.

Here's one that tops the "must-finish" pile, though. While visiting my mother on Mother's Day, she pulled out some quilts that had been her mother's, made by her grandmother. They're beyond well worn, falling to pieces with gaping holes that you can put your torso through. My mom is not a quilter (I was introduced to quilting by my mother-in-law; that's a story for another day), but she really wants to be able to display, if not use, these pieces of her family's history. Being the dutiful daughter and adventuresome quilter that I am, I volunteered to try to salvage one. Note that I have absolutely no experience with quilt restoration, and am, in truth, still a novice quilter myself. However, I can't resist a good challenge!
As soon as I brought this quilt home, thoughts of it pushed all the other quilts-in-progress aside and demanded attention. After mulling over my options, I decided that it would have to be taken apart and put back together again in order to be saved. And since so much of the fabric is no longer useable, new fabric will need to be added.

Taking apart the layers was a cinch - it had been tied, and I had the top separated from the batting and backing within a day. Then, I started taking apart the blocks themselves. At first, I thought I could just separate them into useable sections to put back together, but I soon realized that I would have to actually take it apart piece by piece. The original fabric squares were 2 3/4" each, but because of wear on the seams, most of them only have about 2 1/4" of useable fabric in them. So, I am now in the process of completely disassembling the top and cutting each square down to 2". The half-square triangles I am leaving intact and cutting down to 2" also. When I put it all back together, I think I am going to have fun with the layout, maybe adding a pinwheel here and a star there whereas before the layout seemed completely random.

When finished, I would also like to quilt it, rather than tie it, so that it will hold up better over time. It is an ambitious project, I know, but I'm feeling really energized by it. And since I work best with deadlines, let me just put this out there - wouldn't it be great if I could have this ready for my mother at Christmas? Even with the job, the kids, the house renovations, the cub scout den leader responsibilities, and the things that come up every day that cut into my quilting time, I think I can do this. And I think I can do this without sacrificing spending some time on my other quilting projects. Being able to post my progress will help keep me motivated. Let's see if Blogger is better to me that MyQuiltBlog.com.