Thursday, July 29, 2010

What would YOU do?

Early in February 2010, I sent this quilt off to a long-arm quilter that I "met" online, with assurances that the quilt would be back to me in time for me to bind it for an early March birthday when I had hoped to give it away as a gift.

Unfortunately, the quilter's life was in turmoil, and the quilt didn't make it back to me in time. The quilter let me know it would be late, and I said, "no problem" and went to plan B for the gift. However, I waited and waited and waited, and the quilt never came.

So, swallowing my distaste of confrontation of any sort, I called the quilter at home in early June to inquire as to the status of my quilt. It turns out, it was done, but that she had been very ill, so it had been forgotten and never mailed to me. I understood, gave her my get well wishes, and received assurances that her husband would pop it in the mail to me.

Another month went by, and in mid July, I sent her a get well card that included an inquiry as to the status of my quilt. I rush to my mailbox every day hoping it is there, but alas, only bills and invitations to protect my family with more life insurance. (sigh) I don't want to pester someone who is ill, but I'd really like my quilt back. Is it shallow of me to be concerned with some scraps of fabric when someone is facing a debilitating illness? I don't want to be aggressive or confrontational, but if the quilt is done, it seems like someone should be able to pop it in the mail for me, right? And I pre-paid, so I can't even use payment as an incentive for getting the quilt back to me.

What would YOU do?

I know one thing I should do is learn how to machine quilt my own quilts. Last night, Curt and I mitered the borders on my little orphan 4-patch mini, sandwiched and basted it, took a long swig from my drink (iced tea - caffeine is about as strong as I go), and sat down at the machine to teach myself to machine quilt.

The road to H*** is paved with good intentions. The floor of my sewing room is paved with the thread that I pulled out of that aborted attempt. Apparently, to free-motion quilt, you need not just feed dogs that drop, but also the "optional" quilting foot. I'll be heading off in search of that optional foot tonight. Oh well. In the meantime, I started hand quilting my red, white and blue tablerunner. Learning new things is great, but sticking with what you know is nice, too.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Finish!!!

Two episodes of Monarch of the Glen, and the binding for my Bright Future quilt is all sewn on! All that remains is to wash the quilt and find a new baby to bestow it upon.

This is a quilt that just kinda happened. My precut squares were overflowing their tin, so I stitched some together. I'd been wanting to try my hand at Freehand Baptist Fans, so I gave it a try.
You know, a quilt that wasn't planned, but just evolved on its own. I have come to love it, despite my initial misgivings.

Now it is time to move on to something new. Remember this tablerunner? It is sandwiched and ready to hand quilt.

But there's Jason's karate quilt that needs making.

And my Great-Grandmother's quilt that I started resurrecting and then got derailed.

And despite all the great ideas I've gotten from Bonnie Hunter's latest book, I still haven't finished my version of Virginia Bound from her first book.

Or the mini that I started this weekend - borders are on except for the mitering, which I will admit, scares me just a bit. But that's why I chose to miter the borders, right? Learn how to do something new, conquer my fears, etc.?

Just a few more rows to sew together of the Ribbon Quilt, and then it can come down off my design wall, making room for something else.

There are easily 10 quilt tops in my armoire awaiting either my tiny needle or the longarm quilters.
And then, of course, there are all the other ideas floating around in my head. How to ever find the time to do all the quilting that I want?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Introducing my Brother

Apparently, when you buy a new sewing machine, even if it is off the shelf at Wal-Mart, you are supposed to take pictures, give it a name and share. OK, I can do that.

Blogland, meet my new Brother, Curt.

Curt is named after my old (younger) brother, Curtis.
(this photo was taken at Xmas 2009 - he doesn't always wear a Philadelphia Eagles Santa hat)

Why would I name my sewing machine after my brother, you ask? Well, first of all, Curtis, my flesh-and-blood brother, is one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. He is loyal, hard-working, no-frills, efficient, steady, and creative. He can always be counted on to do what is asked of him. It takes quite a bit of effort to fluster him. In short, he is awesome.

In naming my machine after my brother, I am hoping to imbue many of those same qualities into my sewing partner. Let's hope it works.

Last night, I took Curt for a test drive. First, we sewed the binding onto my Bright Futures quilt, which I finished hand quilting over the weekend. I'll post pics once I finish sewing the binding down by hand. Then, we played with some of the available stitches. All I'm used to having is a straight stitch, so this was fun! I picked five stitches to highlight, and used them to quilt up this cozy for a plastic takeout container (I think it once held Green Chicken Curry - YUM!) to hold my sharp things in.

Here's hoping that Curt and I have a long, fruitful, creative, no-hassle future together!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Frugal, not cheap

I'm trying to train myself to think of myself as "frugal" not "cheap." Somehow, "cheap" carries more negative connotations, and "frugal" indicates a certain level of intelligence that accompanies my thrifty ways. Do you agree, or am I splitting hairs? To-may-to, to-mah-to.

Anyway, do you remember when my sewing machine broke down back in April? And how I've been borrowing machines ever since because I don't think I have enough money to afford a new one? I've decided, sewing is an important enough part of my life that I should go ahead and invest. Of course, I still couldn't find it in myself to invest in something EXPENSIVE, but I did impress myself by not pulling the absolute cheapest machine off the shelf - I actually picked one with feed-dogs that can drop - maybe I can try some machine quilting!

I brought it home last night, and haven't had much time to play with it yet, but I am already tickled beyond belief. Guess what? It doesn't thump and nearly shimmy itself off the table when you are winding the bobbin! It just makes a lovely purring sound, music to my ears after all the clunking and growling and whining my old machine did. And the stitches are so even and lovely! And it does more than just sew a straight stitch! I've been denying myself for way too long!

But, in order to justify the expense, you know I'll be denying myself in other ways. For example, I love sending cards to people, good old-fashioned postal carrier delivered mail. But, gosh, aren't greeting cards expensive! So I've been buying my cards at the thrift store; the selection isn't that great, but the price can't be beat. Or so I thought. My latest epiphany is that I receive LOTS of cards at work from prospective students that I have interviewed. Many of them are absolutely gorgeous! It turns out, most folks just write on one flap on the inside of a card, the flap that doesn't have the beautiful photo or design on the front. So last week, I started cutting the cards apart, saving the front and its pristine backside, and throwing away (well, recycling) the part that has been written on (after I've acknowleged its receipt, of course). Then, I can send the beautiful card front, and write on the back. I tried this for the first time yesterday when I mailed an orphan block to V at BumbleBeans. Tell me V, is it tacky, or am I onto something to satisfy my frugal soul?

And remember when I painted my bathroom with that mis-tinted blue that Lowe's was selling for $5.00? I submitted my receipt for the $5 rebate, and lo and behold, it was honored! The check arrived this weekend, so the paint was actually free! Yay, me!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Yesterday, I very nearly melted. Today, the heat and humidity are supposed to be even worse. I finally broke down and closed up my house and turned on the central air. I prefer fresh air and tiny electric bills, but the super-heated air coming in my windows was anything but refreshing, and what am I working for if not to pay my bills.

But before the sun broke over the mountain to drench my yard in heat and light, I went outside to get a few things done. I whacked some weeks around the house - the yard is finally starting to green up after the weeks of dry weather we had, and all around the patio and walkways, the weeds have gotten to the point where they grab at your ankles as you walk by. Then, I went out to pick blackberries. I got away with very little injury, just a few pricks here and there, and lots of yummy berries, some to eat, and some to freeze for smoothie making out of season. I consider myself lucky. After all, I received the following email from my neighbor last week:

TO: Erin
FROM: Carla
While driving past your house, I just saw a bear cross your back yard and go into the woods. Cute little fella.

What do you think she means by "cute little fella". Cute like a pit bull is cute? (sorry all you pit bull lovers out there, but I'm not a fan)

Or maybe she meant cute like this,

in which case there is probably one of these following close behind.

Either way, I've been on the lookout when I am out there collecting berries lately, just in case there's a 300 lb black furry critter with a hankering for fresh fruit.

But like I said, I made back inside without incident, and the berries went great with my eggs, bacon, grits, cinnamon raisin toast and OJ. I love weekend breakfasts!

(Don't you love my apron? A Christmas gift from my brother. But why do you suppose my son chose to cut off my head in this photo? Hmmm....)
Anyway, I see lots of quilting in my future today, provided the children continue to entertain themselves. While I was making breakfast, they were working on my house,

and they are currently singing karaoke to every Michael Jackson song ever made and accompanying each other on their out of tune guitars.

Is it called hibernation when you are hiding out from the warm, or only from the cold? Either way, I don't plan on emerging again until the air temperature is at least 10 degrees cooler than my body temperature.

Friday, July 23, 2010

On a roll!

I finished my orphan block, drive-in movie/picnic quilt! Well, kinda. While sewing on the last edge of binding (which I just flipped over from the backing - after all, this is a drive-in movie and picnic blanket), my bobbin thread got all loopy on me, so I'll need to pick it out and redo, but it is good enough for now. Plus, I need to snip all the ties. But all that is something I can do while watching a movie or something, and in the meantime, it is usable! In fact, I put it on my bed last night, hoping to sleep under it, but it was too darned hot.

Isn't the backing fabric yummy? And perfect for hiding dirt?

Remember the little 2.5" unfinished 4-patch orphan blocks that I picked up at the thrift store earlier this week? I sewed them together with some 2.5" neutrals that were already cut and in my scrap tins, and voila! A mini in the making. Come to find out, I had some yardage of the lighter fabric in the 4-patches, so I am using that as an inner border, and then I've picked out a striped fabric for the outer border (which I would like to miter), but I can't decide if I want the stripes parallel to the borders or perpendicular. Opinions, anyone?

And finally, here I am sitting at work and I get an email from Laurie Wisbrun, pattern and textile designer, letting me know that I won her giveaway and I get to pick 2 FQ packs. Can you believe it? I chose the two Urban Circus colorways, Spring and Earth - I can't wait to see what fun I can rustle up with those fabrics! Aren't they fresh and delicious? I'm particularly excited about the Earth colorway (bottom one).

If things continue like this, I'm going to have a FABULOUS weekend!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Red and Green: A Winning Combination!

Second Place in the Youth Division of the Quilt Show at the 2010 Rockbridge County Fair goes to...JASON HUTCHINSON!!!

Honorable Mention in the Hand Quilting Division of the Quilt Show at the 2010 Rockbridge County Fair goes to...ERIN HUTCHINSON

First Place in Hand Quilting and BEST IN SHOW went to this beauty...

Look at the hand quilting on this! (Caution - your arthritis might flare up just looking at this.)

Second Place in Hand Quilting went to this one by the same woman who won first place (she sweeps prizes with her quilts every year - she is SO talented!)...

I love the variegated thread she used to quilt it! Genius!

It was a happy night at the fair last night. Not only did we visit the quilts, but we rode the rides for 3 hours straight! The kids helped me swallow my fear of heights and ride the Ferris Wheel and all the other high, spinning (SCARY) rides. They are finally tall enough that they can basically ride anything they wanted (translate - EVERYTHING!). Donald and I were whirling dervishes in the Bumper Cars (might as well let him steer - I can never make those things go the way I want to go).

And guess what? The heavier you are, the faster you go on the slide (never mind that the woman managing the ride gave me a little push to give me a head start). Jason and Donald, eat my dust! (No, I didn't spend the entire evening with my arms flung up in the air.)

And now, some recent acquisitions. I stopped at the Habitat Resale Store yesterday when I had half an hour to spare, and look at these cuties that I found in a sandwich bag for a quarter. There are eleven of them, and I think they will find themselves in a mini strip quilt very soon.

And two "just because" gifts from my mother-in-law to decorate my quilt studio, framed prints of some neat, scrappy mini quilts.

I'm wishing it were the weekend so I could be finishing up the tying of my orphan picnic quilt. I am determined to take it to the drive-in with us next weekend for Marmaduke and Grown-Ups. (I need a real name for this quilt. Any ideas, anyone?)
In the meantime, I'm going to hit up the coffeepot and get back to work. Happy Thursday, everyone!

Monday, July 19, 2010


After consulting with the Brit in my office, I've determined that "knackered" is the correct term to describe the sheer and utter exhaustion I feel this dreary Monday morning. I'm not fit for work, yet here I sit. Good thing I don't operate heavy machinery. I already flooded the coffeepot area, trying to get that first pot brewing. Luckily, I get to work before nearly everyone else, so I got it cleaned up before anyone else noticed.

Sadly, I left my camera at home, with all the photos I wanted to share today. So here's the Cliff Notes version of my weekend.

Friday after work - thrift store, pool with the kids, family movie night watching Young Frankenstein (Frau Blucher - neigh!)

Saturday - blackberry harvesting, last-minute shopping for a bridal shower, bridal shower, 3 loads of laundry, prep meals for the rest of the weekend (chickpea salad - yum, and homemade chicken pot pie - double yum!), volunteer at the Drive-In and then stay for the double feature of Toy Story 3 and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, to bed at 2:15 AM(!)

Sunday - big yummy Sunday breakfast, porch sitting with my coffee and my latest read, Cold Sassy Tree, 1 more load of laundry, porch play with the kids in their tent, sandwich and start tying the orphan picnic quilt, take the kids to the pool, grocery shopping, adult supervision of volcano model eruption with the kids, dinner and bedtime with the kids, continue tying the orphan picnic quilt, stagger off to bed at 1 AM with the quilt STILL not finished

I'm interviewing two prospective students this morning. All I can say is, they better be interesting or I might just hurt their feelings and fall asleep. Happy Monday!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Off my rocker?

After work yesterday, I loaded the kids in the car and we headed over the mountain to my mom's house. I love this drive, curving up and down the hills with a canopy of leaves overhead.

And along this drive, there is an old abandoned storefront that I fantasize about buying and fixing up and turning into a quilt shop of some sort.

Don't you just love the name?

A crazy idea, I know. For many reasons, a few being...
1) It is 45 minutes and one (small) mountain range away from my house
2) It needs A LOT of work and I have NO money
3) It is in the middle of nowhere - who would come there?
4) It is tiny!

But I can still dream, right?

I had a great visit with mom. We caught up, chatting on her bed while I mended a place in her quilt where the binding was coming loose - her quilt is still one of my favorites I've ever made.
I also finished putting the sleeves on Jason and my quilt for the fair. Yeah, that was a sickening moment two days ago when I realized that all fair entries needed hanging sleeves and I hadn't done that yet. I hope they don't judge on sleeve contruction because I just basted a strip of fabric on the back of both of our quilts, in part because I didn't have time for more, and in part because I am planning to take them off again as soon as the fair is over - these are both quilts to be used. I just turned them in this morning. Keep your fingers crossed that Jason wins a ribbon again this year. His quilt is not perfect, but he worked SO hard on it, and is understandably proud.

Then we all journeyed to my brother's girlfriend's house for a cookout. My brother is a GRILLMASTER!

and so darned cute!

So is my mom, although she hates having her picture taken so you have to sneak up on her or take photos from afar.

The kids had a great time running around with the other kids and the dog

But by the end of the night...

(they did this to themselves, it was not me, I swear!)
I was seriously happy but dragging by the time we made it home last night, but I perked up when I saw that my husband had surprised us by coming home early from his recruiting trip. Gotta love family time!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Honoring a friend

I already mentioned that I've had a particular friend on my mind a lot lately. She's kind, funny, generous, intelligent, creative and always, always, ALWAYS has a wise and supporting word when I am down. Sounds amazing, doesn't she? What's really amazing is that I've never met her in person, yet she has affected my life more than many of the people who walk in and out of my life every day.

So when I found myself making this little FRIEND quilt, she was my inspiration.

I even found some fabric to include me and her on the quilt - I'm the one with the "tan", she's the one with pigtails and crazy glasses.

Have you figured out yet who it is? If you don't yet know her, I encourage you to get to know EM at Em Celebrates, and if you already know her, then I know I am preaching to the choir.

So, Em, thanks for being a friend! There is squishy mail headed your way!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The colors of my life

RED - Jason and I earned our Red Belts in American Freestyle Karate this weekend. If we stay on track, we should be Black Belts sometime next summer or fall. Woo hoo!

BLUE - The kids and I went to a birthday party for one of their friends this weekend, and the kids had a ball playing in the blue water of their backyard pool.

PURPLE - The color our hands were stained after picking blackberries in our yard on Sunday. Yum!

MULTICOLORED - After a busy day on Saturday (karate testing, an auction, a bday party and a baseball game), I was determined to stay home on Sunday. While putzing around my house, I found my way down to the sewing studio where I putzed around with some 1.5" scraps. Originally, I was going to make my name, but then I realized that the letters in ERIN are all in the word FRIEND, and I was moved to create that word instead. I've since added a border and hand-quilted it, and I hope to get a binding on tonight and send this off to one of my special friends who has been on my mind a lot lately. More photos when it is done. This could possibly be one of my fastest start --> finish projects EVER! Cool!