Thursday, May 24, 2007

Red Letter Diet Day

It's finally happened- after six months, I have met my weight loss goal of fifteen pounds! Yippee! Not to mention 14.5 inches here and there. I intend to keep going. I also dropped 50 points from my cholesterol level. I've been eating cooked oatmeal with fruit and walnuts every morning, walking my dog every day, and then putting on some kind of exercise video. My favorite is 1 Minute Workout with Minna Lessig. You decide how long you want to work out, and what parts of the body to concentrate on. You never know which one-minute exercises you will be doing. There are also three warm-ups and three cool-downs. This is the first video that I have not gotten sick of after watching a few times, because it's always different. You use light or heavy (in my case, 3 pounds!) weights as instructed in some of the exercises.

It is the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, and we are off to the mountains of North Carolina again to try to finish the cabin, at least enough to pass inspection on Tuesday. That would be a fine present to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary! The weather is supposed to be perfect every day. I have watered the gardens, filled the bird feeders, checked out new library books, and am ready to go! Back next Tuesday!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Few More Postcards and a Sunflower House

Yesterday the weather was so beautiful that I spent most of the day outside working in the yard. My big project was planting a "Sunflower House" for my grandbabies. I decided to locate it along the back of my deck, which is high off the ground and has brick columns. I figured that if the sunflowers grew tall enough, I could support them with string attached to the deck. Ulterior motive: the sunflowers will hide the space under the deck, since we have never put up the lattice screening that we "always intended to." Since the grandchildren are small (3 and 1), I only made the space about 5' x 6'. Also- I pulled out my trusty Mantis tiller, and discovered the start switch was missing/broken, so double digging with a shovel limited the size of the space! Then I washed the dog- dog kennel- and Sweet Sue, my trusty Suburu, all of whom were very dusty and dirty after their weekend in the mountains. After that- I was too tired to deal with the Gammill, so I went upstairs and finished up a few more fabric postcards. Here they are:

Desert Jewels

This one is probably the most vivid. The yellow and orange fabric is silk. The sun design was stamped, then outlined with red glitter paint and outlined in black marker. The red things on the side are beads pressed into dots of the red glitter paint. I quilted the card with a gold rayon thread and added a ribbon for the edge. I found out that you cannot stitch over the globs of paint with beads- the presser foot won't clear them!

Great Balls of Fire

Okay, I was not too sure what these gold blobby things were. The centers are fused Angelina fibers. The background is created with Shiva Paintstiks over a rubbing. I fooled around with a gold cording that I had, just couching it down. Then I quilted with gold metallic thread, using some of the special stitches on my trusty Bernina 1260. I think they look kind of organic- maybe some kind of mutant jellyfish? The fiber edge is silk sari ribbon with a silver center. Shiny!

Twilight Rose

This one is really pretty! The background is another one of my blot sheets from Tsukineko ink painting. I stamped it with ink and added some fused Angelina fibers. The three-dimensional flower is created with
Bella Nonna petals that I machine stitched to secure. The center of the rose is just some ribbon trim that I balled up and stitched down. I love the fiber border- what do you call this stuff? Eyelash yarn? I have lots of fun fibers that I hang on hooks on the door of my sewing room. It's pretty to look at and easy to grab when the mood hits!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tension Headaches- the Sewing Machine Kind

It seems that the last few projects that I have quilted on my Gammill have taken longer to complete than they should have...all because of tension problems. Not mine, the machine's! Although when it has problems making a good stitch, it does put me in a rather foul mood. It's a good thing these machines are so big and heavy, because a lot of them may have been tossed out the window when they started acting up. My problems usually occur after I have been quilting for awhile, concentrating hard and making the top look great. Then I roll up the quilt for the next pass and AAARGGGHHH! The back stitches do not look right. Usually the back thread is not tight, or sometimes it has those "eyelashes" around the curves. Sometimes I notice this before I roll up. What happens is that the top thread pops out of the intermittent tension, and I don't notice as I am stitching along. I have done a little research over the last few days. The newer Gammills with the stitch regulator do not appear to have this problem, since the thread wraps around the intermittent tension instead of just riding between the disks. I have tried wrapping my thread around it, but that makes the tension too tight. I finally got improvement after loosening the bobbin thread WAY more than usual, and loosening both tensions on top. While I was looking around on the Gammill site and several dealer sites, I saw that Gammill now recommends cleaning the motor brushes every four months. What? What are the motor brushes? Mine had not been cleaned in four years, wherever they are! So, I followed instructions and dabbed the area out with a Q-tip dipped in alcohol. Yuck! There was a ton of black sooty stuff in there. It took about ten Q-tips for each side before they were no longer black. And I did get the brushes inserted back in. Who knew you had to be a mechanic and carry a screwdriver in your pocket to run these monsters. I also performed another maintenance task recommended in Unlimited Possibilities magazine: changing the felt pads in the rotary tensioner. Another little job that I had never done! The article was very helpful, with step-by-step instructions and photographs. The normally white felt pads were also covered with yucky black stuff. Anyway, I shall try to finish the little customer quilt I am working on and also a table runner that she asked me to quilt before we leave for the mountains for a long holiday weekend. We are getting so close to moving in...have scheduled a final inspection for next Tuesday! Assuming it passes, we will be able to put a bed in the cabin and have the hot water hooked up for showers! Yippee! My sister's brother-in-law Ricky put in the toilets, bathroom sinks, and hooked up the tankless hot water heater last weekend. Wonderful! We will be painting sheet rock again this weekend. Son Dave promises to come up and help. Good- he is six feet five and can do the ceilings! We are so thankful for all the help we have gotten from friends and family. It warms the heart!

One final note for today- my dad called me and thanked me for the blog post devoted to him. And he announced that he had indeed finished a large painting this weekend! Deadlines have always driven his work. I can remember many times when the car was packed and the family vacation delayed while Dad finished up a painting for an advertising client, often after pulling an all-nighter. This time the deadline was the Four-County Senior Games, and he wanted to put a new painting in the exhibit. Last year he won the Gold Medal for both painting and horseshoes, of all things! This year he came in second in horseshoes, but I have confidence he will score the gold for painting. No ones paints like my daddy! I can't wait to see it- a mountain scene at sunrise, with poppies in the foreground.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Tribute to my Artistic Father

In previous posts, I have shared some fabric postcards. This time, I would like to show off some watercolor note cards created by my father, Peter C. Turner. It is always a delight to receive something from him in the mail. My father spent his life as a commercial artist, both in New York and in the Raleigh area. He was talented enough to support his wife and seven children through his art, and that is not easy to do in the competitive world of art! Later in life, he had more time to devote to fine art. His portraits and paintings hang in many homes and offices, and he also has done a series of prints on tobacco farm heritage, mountain scenes, and others. He is now retired and living in the North Carolina mountains, not far from where we are building our cabin. Although he is still technically at the top of his skills, big paintings seem a bit daunting to him as far as time management. However, he is enjoying painting small watercolors just for fun- and I love to be the recipient of them! The Beautiful Blue Ridge is an original painting, and the card with th colored horses is a print that he made into a card for Mother's Day. Thank you, Dad, for your love, for all the great Halloween costumes you designed, prize-winning science projects and spirit week displays you helped us create even when you were swamped with deadlines for your own projects! And how fortunate we are to have all the original art that beautifies my home and others'. One painting I found when I was helping him to move out of his big house in Cary after forty years. It was under a bed in the guest room, being flattened out under some big books. I had to claim that forgotten treasure immediately- a lovely scene of a shrimp boat in Calabash, NC. Another favorite is a painting of the marsh and dunes from the deck of the house we rent every summer in Sunset Beach, NC. Dad, you are not only a wonderful artist, but an amazing person, with knowledge and interest in so many things- planes, sailing ships, wildlife, you name it! And keeper of so many wonderful and humorous stories. I just want to tell the world how much I love and admire you! And thanks for any smidge of artistic talent I may have inherited from you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My new book arrived yesterday- and what a treasure! Quilting by Improvisation: Exploring Curves, Openwork and Dimension by Vikki Pignatelli. In addition to instruction on curved piecing, there are lessons about color, use of sheer overlays, fabric manipulation, making lace and latticework, border options, and lots of finishing options for irregular-shape quilts. Oh, boy, can't wait to get started! Vikki autographed my book with the comment, "May these pages feed the fire of your creativity and stretch your imagination to the limit."

Yesterday I decided to do a little maintenance on my Gammill. I got a whole bird's nest of threads that were stuck between my front wheels and the track. The last issue of Unlimited Possibilities had a very helpful article about maintenance on the rotary tensioner. Using the instructions in UP, I changed the felt pads in my tension, which had not been changed in four years. Guess what- they looked just like the ones in the photo captioned "Need to be changed." Black gunk all around the edges of the white felt pads. I hope they will do more articles like this one with step-by-step photos and instructions.

I started working on a customer quilt that is done in the Harvest Spice fabrics. She wanted Pine green thread, which contrasts greatly with the tan and beige backing fabric. She picked out a Line Dancing pattern that I had not used before. I love all these Diana Phillips designs, but this one did not look pretty on the back. Instead of curving around the seams, you had to backtrack along the seam lines. I ripped out the ones I did, and will use a more forgiving design since it shows so much on the back. The customer is traveling in India or somewhere, so I hope this is the right decision.

I hope everyone had a pleasant mother's day. I spent most of the day painting in the mountain cabin, but we got home in time for a LOVELY dinner out at Carabba's with son Dave and DIL Emily. They got me a sun hat that reminds me of one that I wore when Charlie and I were dating- big floppy brim. I am looking forward to wearing that at Sunset Beach next month! My other son sent the perfect card. They will be joining us at the beach in June with the grandchildren- can't wait!

Let me tell you about the wonderful ride through the mountain trails on our Gator Saturday night. We are so fortunate that my sister Katy and her husband have about sixty acres of mountain land, and have permission from neighboring land owners to ride on the roads through their Christmas tree farms. A trip "to the top" is always the highlight of our mountain weekends. This time we got to the top and a big deer was right in the road. We sat there and watched a spectacular sunset, then rode to the next scenic spot which we call "Katy's favorite place." From there we can see a beautiful vista. To our surprise, someone was putting on a fireworks display! So we enjoyed that as the darkness fell, then drove down along the creek. Katy and I both were looking at the brilliant planet shining above us, when to our surprise, it looked like a piece of the planet broke off and flew across the sky! What in the world??? Then the light appeared to be a weird triangular-shaped plane. It had appeared out of darkness like it came from nowhere. We both thought the same thing...Stealth bomber! But why would a Stealth be doing its thing over the northwestern mountains of North Carolina? It did not occur to me until the next morning...there was a race in Darlington, SC this weekend. They usually have a Stealth do a flyover at the opening ceremonies. It would be a hop, skip, and a jump for a Stealth! Very cool! We hear the race was delayed Saturday due to rain, but we had a beautiful clear night for the pilot to soar through.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I just bought ANOTHER quilt book!

Have you become a member of The Quilt Show yet? I joined as a Gold Star member, but really have not browsed the site much until the last few days. I have uploaded four of my quilts to the picture gallery. When you do that, your quilt images are shown at the very beginning of the gallery pages. Yesterday, I got a nice note from a quilter who had seen my pictures. After a few e-mails back and forth, she sent me a picture of a postcard she made with silhouettes of her grandchildren. It is stunning- and she kindly sent me the instructions for her process. She used black Ultrasuede for the silhouettes. Next time I am around Avery and Lily, I will be trying to get them to hold still long enough to take their portraits for silhouettes. Thanks, Margo!

I actually watched one of the shows with Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson this morning. It featured quilter Vikki Pignatelli, who is best known for quilting with curves. She demonstrated her techniques and showed some of her stunning quilts. They are very organic, with lots of trees, leaves, water lilies...she must be a fellow nature lover. So, I ordered her book Quilting By Improvisation, and now must visit a fabric store not only for Ultrasuede, but also interfacing for her techniques.
I actually am trying not to purchase so many books with quilt patterns, but I think that one that teaches the process to make original quilts is going to be valuable.

Do you like Ricky Tims? I have quilting friends who are wild about his quilts and techniques, and others who don't care for him. I took a daylong workshop with him several years ago, and I thought he could not have been any nicer. He explained things well and gave you time to work on them before going on to the next step. I have two of his DVD's, which are also very good instructional videos. His hand-dyed fabric is gloriously rich and colorful, although pricey at $25.00 per yard. Sometimes he has specials and you can get it for $20.00 and hoard it for a very special project. Ricky lectured and played piano at the guild meeting the night before the workshop on Harmonic Convergence. He also played for us during the workshop. Oh, did I mention I purchased one of his music CD's? I guess you could say I am a fan. In fact, before he became famous, I clipped a photo of one of his quilts from a magazine, and it has been on my inspiration wall (meaning, thumb tacked behind my sewing machine table) ever since. At the workshop, he used MY sewing machine to demonstrate, and he took a photo of one of MY quilts that I brought for show and tell! How cool is that?

Okay, I know you are looking for the latest nature photographs from my North Carolina home. The baby bluebird is now displaying blue feathers, and the other egg was a dud- never hatched. The north side of my house is looking splendid with the viburnum, rhododendron, and pyracantha in bloom against the backdrop of a lovely hemlock.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Three New Postcards

I had a group of my teacher friends over for supper a couple weeks ago, and they were all abuzz about the idea of fabric postcards. None of them are quilters, although one's mom used to do traditional quilts. Anyway, they were all interested in purchasing a fabric postcard or two! I did have one on hand to show them, the peacock feather that my friend Michelle sent to me. No way I'm selling that one! I finished up three new ones and have several others under way. These little guys are fun to make. I used various combinations of Paintstix, Angelina, inks, and assorted trims. My favorite of these is "Undersea Garden." The pink flowers and the fish are Angelina.

I also finished quilting a wall-hanging that will be donated by the customer to a church in Raleigh to hang in its foyer. I spent a long time on this one since it is for a church, but the fabrics are so busy that the quilting really does not show. Here is a picture:

Monday, May 7, 2007

Quilting Gardeners

Have you ever noticed how many quilters are also gardeners, or at least flower lovers? Perhaps we just like pretty things! My roses started blooming on Thursday last week. It is a fine time to work in the yard, before it gets too hot! And the roses have yet to develop black spot or attract aphids or Japanese beetles.

The mountains were starting to really turn green as the leaves have emerged. The ferns are up and the wild azalea has started to bloom.

Of course, in the mountains, the rhododendrun or "laurel" as the natives call it, won't bloom for at least another month. It is breathtaking when the entire creek bank is covered with tall flowering shrubs. We spent the weekend up there again, working on the cabin. OK, so I did the shopping and cooking and watched the men mud the sheetrock and install the garage door openers.

At home I have two bluebird boxes, one of which is now occupied by an infant bluebird and his unhatched sibling in the egg. At least I think there is only one baby- when I checked the box this morning, the mama was sitting on the nest and didn't budge when I opened the door.

Time for me to quit fooling with pictures and finish the quilting on the Three Crosses wallhanging. I should have it finished in the next day or so.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Check out all the Round Robins on Webshots

Today I added photographs of all the Round Robin quilts from the recent CyberBee exchange to my Webshots album. Thanks to Holly Sweet for allowing me to use some of her photographs that recorded each round of the exchange. Since Webshots now enables posting of video photography, I was able to add the moving lights on the Elvis Jukebox quilt. That was so much fun! My husband and I went to a disco party last fall, and they gave us necklaces that light up via watch batteries. I added these to the "jukebox" quilt by inserting them into organza pockets which I attached with velcro to the quilt. I would recommend viewing the album as a Slideshow. Sit back with your cuppa or glass of wine and enjoy the work of these talented and creative quilters!

Lighting up the jukebox

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Bonnie McCaffery Pod-casts

This morning I enjoyed spending some time on Bonnie McCaffery's website. She has been posting videos or podcasts of interviews with quilters and artists from around the world. I have found them to be very inspiring and done well- no shaky camera, audio drifting in and out of range. The latest vid-cast is with fiber artist Melinda Schwakhofer. Wow, she made me want to grab my Angelina fibers, beads, and wires, pen some lines of poetry, and create something fabulous! I have so many neat materials upstairs in my messy studio that I have never even tried, like Lutradur, Misty Fuse, and Lumiere paints. I better get going! By the way, I saw Bonnie once when I was in Richmond at the charming Quilting Adventures store. She was just coming in to teach a class on Portrait Quilts- another project I want to do some day! I have the book, the paints...

In case anyone wants to see the picture of the full quilt that I just finished for my sister-in-law Debbie, here is a picture. I added more to my Webshots site in the album 2007 Longarm Quilting. The quilt top was made by her late grandmother in the 1970's.

I also made the discovery that now Webshots is allowing the posting of videos! Great!