Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cutting a quilt and cutting a rug

My husband took off late last week for a few days of R & R at the beach. The kids and I were invited, but we're going on vacation in just a few days ourselves, and it isn't a good time for me to miss work and the kids to miss school. Which means that I had some lonely hours to fill in the evening after the kids went to bed. Thank goodness I'm a quilter!

I finished the hand quilting that I wanted to do in all of the inner borders of the Bright Ideas quilt. Now just two more outer borders that I want to tweak, and then it is DONE. Really, I'm going to put it down and move on.

Lately, I've been intrigued by quilts with some texture and dimension on the front. Remember this experiment?
Well, once washed, the flowers frayed as I had hoped, but now they look puny, and I don't like it, so I'm going to take them off. Oh well, I'll just applique some flowers on and give up on the frayed edge look.

However, a friend of mine lent me some books, one of them being Frayed Edge Fun. There was a quilt in there that caught my eye.
(For some reason, I've really been moved to use my plaids lately.)

I have plenty of large tops to quilt and eventually throw on the beds, so I thought I'd make something baby-sized. After all, I have a ton of juvenile fabric that needs using up. I tweaked the pattern quite a bit and got to cutting, and here's what I've come up with (just cut out, not sewn together yet).

Hopefully I can sew it all together today, then pop it in the wash tonight (I am so much more motivated to do laundry if there is a quilt or some new fabric mixed in there) and see how it turns out.

Then, last night was the annual "Fancy Dress Ball" at the University where I work. Jason has gone with me the last two years, Donald joined us last year. They have been waiting for this day all year! So, we dressed up, and went out to cut a rug.

Now, my children love to dance. I knew this already. They crank up their Michael Jackson or Jason Aldean and have dance parties in their room nearly every night - it sounds like elephants are trying to crash through the ceiling. What I didn't know was that they are GOOD! They have MOVES! I'm almost ashamed to dance near them because I look so stodgy next to them. Photographers stopped to take their pictures. Women flocked to them and asked them to dance. Men gathered around them and cheered them on.

Jason can do a cartwheel and end in a full split on the ground. (That was QUITE the crowd pleaser!) He can also do that breakdance move where you kinda crabwalk around your hands on the ground in a circle, really fast. Both of them have great spin moves, and both of them have rhythm. I had SO MUCH FUN!

Oh, and to make the wonderful day even better, my husband surprised us by coming home a day early. He missed us. I sure do love my family!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My son, the artist

Yesterday evening found me downstairs sewing a couple more rows of my Ribbon quilt together, and Jason upstairs clipping some seams on his rag quilt. I can't wait until he's done and we can wash it and see how it ultimately turns out. I'm so proud of him.

Then, after dinner, we went to the art show at his school. Apparently, he is not just creative with fabric, but with paints as well - he won a 3rd prize ribbon for some beautiful spring wildflowers that he painted. Can't wait for those wildflowers to actually bloom in real life - I am ready!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Can you guess?

I carry my camera around with me nearly everywhere, but I am constantly forgetting to take it out and take photos. Yesterday would have been a good day to remember it. After work, Jason and I went to karate. I was very careful to make sure to bring our karate bags, but I wasn't careful enough to make sure that my uniform was actually in the bag. So picture me yesterday in karate class, barefoot, with my green belt tied around my waist, dressed in cordoroys and a turtleneck. And wouldn't you know it was a day when we did rolls and falls and kicks. The uniform is MUCH more comfortable for such maneuvers.

After karate, cub scouts. We made windlasses out of old milk containers and string and plastic cups and pencils and paper clips, and then we had a male college student come teach us some tumbling moves. The missed photo op came at the end when all of the parents got out on the mats to see if they could do headstands. I haven't done one in at least 25 years, but I'm proud to say I got up there!

I had hoped to have a sketch of my planned quilt for Jason to share by now, but alas, I am realizing my limitations as an artist. I may need to ask one of my more creative co-workers for some help. But here are the fabrics I bought for the project. All fabrics are here except one, purple, which goes in between orange and green. Can you guess what kind of quilt I am making for him?
One final word. You know how if you announce something to the world, you are sometimes more committed to it? Well, our karate school is doing a fitness challenge to lose 500 lbs as a school, both to get fit, but also as a fundraiser to raise money for the PE programs in the local schools which have had their funding slashed. My own personal goal is 10 lbs, and we have until Memorial Day (May 31) to get there. We weighed in for the first time last Monday (I knew there was a reason I don't have a scale in my home! Ugh!), and they require us to weigh in every week. Instead of losing weight, I GAINED a pound this week! So, while I am loathe to change my eating habits or my exercise habits, something must be done. I am too competitive to not rise to this challenge. So today, I donned my sneakers at lunch, and walked about town running some errands. I'm leaving them here under my desk - I'm hoping that walking every day will help at least a little bit.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I can't believe how much I did this weekend. I'm going to need all week to recover!

First, a birthday party at the skating rink. Then shoe shopping for the boys. Then, a wedding. Then, a quick stop at the local quilt shop to pick up fabric for a quilt I am planning for Jason for his birthday in August - he has outgrown his current quilt, and has to stay curled up to stay covered. Oh, wait, did you notice I said I bought fabric for this quilt? Yup, I am not making him a scrap quilt, but rather, a planned quilt. I'll upload a sketch once I have something on paper - I'm pretty excited about this one.

Anyway, I brought my purchases home, changed out of the wedding clothes, and met the family at the skatepark. At this point, I remembered that I had my camera in my purse - yeah, I forgot to take pictures at the skating rink and the wedding. But here are my little daredevils at the skatepark...

Then, dinner at Subway before going to see Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. By the time we got home, we were all exhausted and just went straight to bed. Of course, as soon as Donald woke up this morning, he selected a costume in honor of last night's movie:

So, today would seem like a good day to stay home and rest, right? It was not to be. After Donald mixed up some pancakes for breakfast,

I hit the road to go pick up my mom and drive up to visit the place my sister has selected for her wedding this fall. She hasn't actually seen it yet, except on the internet, so Mom and I were the advance scouts, off to see what it is like. This was an all day adventure - I left the house before 10 and didn't get home until 5:30, but it was fun. I love hanging out with my mom. I surprised her by taking a quick photo of us - she hates having her photo taken. I don't know why - I'm the one who looks awful in this photo!

(It's hard taking those "arm's length" photos when your arms are so darned short!)

And look, she bought me some quilt books!

It was hard driving all day when I knew there were quilt books in the backseat waiting to be read! When we stopped to eat, I took them in the restaurant with us so we could look at pictures.

So, when I finally got home, I played some board games with the boys, but then decided I needed some time in the quilt studio. Remember this disappointment - the Valentine's Day tablerunner with absolutely no personality?

I decided to cut it up and made this:

and this.

That curve between the thumb and the rest of the oven mitt didn't turn out so well, but it is definitely better than this, which is what I usually use.
Sad, and a bit disgusting, I know.

So, the weekend is over, but I made lots of great memories with my family and a couple useful items to boot!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fish and finishing touches

One of my co-workers has a sister who works for the Virginia Aquarium. She drives this big aquarium truck around to schools to make presentations and such. Last night, after work, my kids and I got a private tour of the Aquarium Truck - VERY COOL! Their favorite, of course, was the Puffer Fish.

Since it was 70 degrees and sunny outside, my plan was to sit on the porch and sip lemonade while reading something happy and light when we got home. Instead, I ended up paying bills and cooking dinner and realizing that our tenants didn't pay their rent this month - argh!

Once the kids were in bed, though, I did sit down with my Bright Ideas Quilt to put on some finishing touches. I decided that the inner border needed some quilting, but I wasn't feeling terribly creative, so 1/4" outline quilting it is.

This quilt could be done, but I just enjoy it so much that I keep finding more things to do with it. Does that ever happen to you?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

So much to look forward to!

I started my day with a quick stop at the local coffee shop for a cup of Irish Nut coffee - after all, my name is Erin, so I should at least be an honorary Irishman (well, woman). We also had lots of green food at work today - I contributed green grapes, but there was a veritable green food smorgasborg! Yum! I enjoy celebrating every holiday!

As I mentioned in my last post, my twin sister and I are going on our third annual "Moms Only" retreat in a couple of weeks. We are heading up to Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, hoping to learn more about Amish culture and, of course, quilting! Here's where we'll be staying, The Churchtown Inn.
And check out the fun room we picked out for ourselves - I can't wait to explore all the different fabrics in those whimsical (and not terribly Amish) quilts!

I wanted to be sure to have something small to take along to hand quilt, so I put a quick top together this weekend. My brother-in-law is going to become a father this summer, so I figured that a baby quilt was in order. I pulled out 49 of my brightest 4" squares and sewed them together, then added an off-white border. I've been wanting to try some freehand baptist fan quilting, and I'm thinking this might be the project to start with. I wanted lots of blank space to show off the quilting. I worry that perhaps it is too much white space, though - what do you think? Should I throw some applique on there?

My current "leader and ender" project is my Ribbon Quilt. I now have about 4 rows sewn together, and you can tell which ones they are - right where the pattern seems fractured. I am enjoying this quilt, but I'm ready to have something else on the design wall, so I may need to move this up to my number one priority quilt.

I'm anxiously awaiting some new quilt fiction releases - The Aloha Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini in April, A Thread So Thin by Marie Bostwick in April, and State Fair by Earlene Fowler in May. In the meantime, I went online to see if I could find some other quilt fiction that I don't have yet. It turns out that I missed the release of Arlene Sachitano's Quilt As You Go, so I'll need to order that.

Plus, there are two quilt mysteries out there by Barbara Graham that I've never heard of - Murder by Serpents and Murder by Artifact. I need to order those, too.

I love finding "new-to-me" quilt fiction. Have any of you read these Barbara Graham books?

Well, laundry and dishes and dirty bathrooms and dirty floors are calling to me. I need to go find some earplugs. Then I'll be back to catch up on blogs!

My bad math = giveaway

So much has happened this past week that I'm going to skim through it with bullet points just to get it all down without bogging you down in the details. Keep reading, though, because there is a giveaway in there somewhere.

  • I coordinated, along with my office, a 3-day on-campus scholarship competition for 182 high school seniors. A lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. Now that that is over, my work life should shrink down to a more manageable level.

  • One of my kids' fish died this weekend. It was their first pet to die, and I was dreading telling them, but it worked out OK. Donald perked up once I told him he could use my gardening tools to dig the grave, and Jason, my super-sensitive son, made sure there was a proper ceremony with the singing of the National Anthem (!?!) and Amazing Grace.

  • I fired up my sewing machine this weekend for the first time in what seems like forever. I needed a quick project to get me back into the groove. I started with another house block for BumbleBeans' Gather project - and I put me in the window again.

  • I also decided that this rocking chair needed a chair pad.
    I measured the seat. I sketched a design. I pulled out my plaid and homespun scraps. I got to sewing. And somehow, my math is ALL WRONG! So, while I love the chair pad, it is WAAAY too small for my rocker (even though the ties are in exactly the right location - go figure!). Back to the drawing board for me.

    It fits my kitchen chairs better, but with two of the messiest boys on the planet, there is no way I am putting cushions on my kitchen chairs. So, here's the giveaway: Do you have a chair that is crying out for this chair pad? (It measures about 13" square.) If so, leave a comment, and I'll draw a winner on Friday at 4 PM - something for me to look forward to this week.
  • I also managed to get some more of my scraps cut down to size and out of a baggie and into the tins where they belong. I popped some John Lee Hooker into the CD player, and by the time the disk was done, so was I.

  • I woke up feeling lousy this morning - sore throat, watering eyes, congestion, you name it. I went to work anyway, and ended up having to give an hour long group information session to about 50 visiting students and their parents. I really had to draw on my reserves to stand straight without weaving, clear the cobwebs from my head, and not come across as absolutely miserable. After all, while this may be my 348th group information session, it is probably the first one for them (at my school anyway), so I owed it to them to make it great. Which made it even that much more satisfying when my boss came up to me later to say that a trustee of the University had been in my audience this morning and was raving about how well I did. It was a great reminder to always do your best and treat everyone well. You never know - there could be angels (or trustees) among us!

      • Finally, I am working on another quick and scrappy project which I want to take with me to hand quilt when my twin sister and I do our mini moms-only retreat at the beginning of April. Photos to follow once I get it together.

      • I sure have missed you all - I can't wait to catch up on your blogs and see what you've been up to!

      Tuesday, March 9, 2010

      My life = work

      There is no time for anything except work right now. Please quilt a little for me. Right now, I am keeping myself going with this gift from Em - thanks, Em!

      Sunday, March 7, 2010

      Weekend fun

      Finally, some time to relax! (Well, for the most part - we had a leak in a pipe for which we had to place an emergency call to a plumber because it was flooding our NEW, FINISHED basement, but I'm only focusing on the positive in this post.)

      My mom arrived on Friday evening. We had a lovely candlelit dinner, and then watched Rosemary and Thyme while the kids watched a Mickey Mouse movie downstairs. We went to bed relatively early so we could get up and go to the auction first thing. What fun! We were there from 8:45 AM until 5 PM with a short break to meet the kids at karate to take a class and eat some pizza. Then, the kids came back to the auction with us. While we were in the gym buying things we didn't need, the kids had a ball playing on the playground in the sun. Since they were so good, I had to buy something for them.

      Here they are with their new (old) Lincoln Logs, which they have combined with their 2009 version so they can build even bigger buildings. They played with them for hours when we got home yesterday, and are up there playing with them now as I type. Some toys are classics that hold generations spellbound.

      I also bought some furniture for my quilting studio. I wanted somewhere for visitors (kids) to sit if they wanted to be with me while I'm down there creating, plus a place for me to sit and read, or hand quilt, or dream up new quilts or even nap when my creative activity wears me out. This little set fit the bill nicely, cheap and cheerful.

      I have been wanting a wrought iron cafe set for my porch, but they are so danged expensive. This little set was a steal!

      I have a twin bed that needs a frame. I thought this little wooden frame was too good to pass up. It turns out, it wasn't - the side rails that came with it must have come from a different bed because they don't fit. I've put it aside for now, but I'm determined to find a way to make them work.

      Last year I bought a ceramic salt box to collect my counter-top compost. When I saw this enamel one this year, I had to have it, even though I have no purpose in mind. What do you suppose I could do with it? Any ideas?

      Finally, my mother's birthday was this week, so my hope was to buy something for her at auction. She has everything she needs, so it had to be something whimsical or decorative. Unfortunately, her tastes are expensive, and everything she wanted, all the antique dealers with deep pockets also wanted. They won out on most stuff, but I did hang in there long enough to score this cute little frog and wheelbarrow for one of her flowerbeds. (Ignore the auction stickers on his nose and in his wheelbarrow)

      I felt a little bad about it, because the person I was bidding against was my neighbor/babysitter's grandmother, but I was running out of options for what my mother actually wanted.

      Anyway, it was a fun day, but also tiring, so after dinner and bathtime, I sat with the kids to watch Eddie Murphy's latest family movie, Imagine That, with them. It was cute, but I recognized myself in there a few times when he would only half-listen to his kid or tell her to go play when he was busy working. Gotta be vigilant about not taking my time with them for granted!

      Today, I napped, I cleaned, and Jason and I prepared for his lesson that he is teaching tomorrow for his cub scout den - how to tie your own tie. I have a whole bag of discarded ties that were given to me for quilting that I haven't dismantled yet, so first he taught me how to tie a tie (actually not that hard once you know how to do it!), and then we made an illustrated handout for him to give to his cub scout colleagues after tomorrow's lesson. I'm so proud of him! Of course, Donald was not interested in learning how to tie a tie, but rather spent the time intimidating us with his best Hulk impression.

      Never a dull moment in the Hutchinson household!

      Friday, March 5, 2010

      Reasons to smile

      I'm afraid I don't have any quilty news to share. My life has been consumed by my job lately - I have 184 high school seniors coming to campus for a 3 day scholarship competition next week from all over the country & beyond (AK, Costa Rica and France included!) and the coordination of this effort has eaten up every spare moment. I haven't even been able to go to karate!

      Without quilting and without karate and without getting to spend much time with my family, it can sometimes seem like I have no reason to smile. But I do! First, when I heard the kids' alarm clock this morning, I gave them the usual 10 minutes or so of waking up time, and then went up to make sure they were getting dressed. Not only were they getting dressed, they were getting dressed up - just because!

      I love my kids!

      And then, there's this big, fun auction this Saturday. My mom and I went last year and had a ball, and actually came home with quite a haul.

      I invited her to come with me this year, and not only is she coming, but she's coming tonight for a sleepover, too!

      I love my mom!

      So, even on the days when I don't love my JOB, there are plenty of other things in my life for me to love. Have a happy Friday, everyone, and hopefully, I'll have something quilty to post by the time the weekend is over.

      Monday, March 1, 2010

      Productivity strikes!

      I've been in a bit of a lazy rut lately, not getting much sewing done. Instead, my few waking hours at home have found me with a book in hand and tea by my side, sometimes reading, sometimes dozing. I guess, when your body has reached its limit, it just shuts itself down. My mind, unfortunately, was not on board with this relax and rejuvenate plan, so I've been feeling guilty about not getting anything done.

      The good news is, I am over the hump! My husband's team lost on Friday night, and after going to work on Saturday morning, and then to my son's basketball game, I came home and spent the afternoon in bed reading and napping and snacking and generally just being a bum. But Sunday was a whole different story. I woke up on a mission, and had our taxes filed before 9 AM, and all the bathrooms cleaned before 11. I did dishes, two loads of laundry, swept the entire first floor, put another row of stitches in the border of my Bright Idea quilt while watching another episode of Rosemary and Thyme, helped my sons clean/purge their room while preparing two boxes for Goodwill and one for the dump, and finally, I got my Strips and Scrap-plique top together.

      (ignore the dirty window and dying plant - I told you I've been lazy lately!)

      I am trying for a frayed, dimensional look to the flowers and leaves and vine, so I sewed them all down roughly (very roughly!) one quarter inch in, and am now in the process of snipping the edges of applique pieces (think rag quilt) before I throw it in the wash to see what happens. If it works the way I want, great! I'll sandwich it and hand quilt it. If it doesn't work, I'll pull the applique off and try something else, but that probably means it will get relegated to the dark recesses of my closet for a time while I get over my disappointment and frustration. Let's hope it frays up the way I want.

      All the naps and reading were nice while they lasted, but I'm glad to have my energy back, if for no reason other than to keep up with these two (last weekend they made sock puppets - fun, fun, fun!).