Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Doing the Happy Star Dance

This afternoon I followed the directions in Quilting By Improvisation to make this curved star with flames, called "My Star Dances" in the book. Vikki Pignatelli's instructions are very clear, with lots of photos and step-by-steps. I was fairly satisfied with my results, although I had a bit of fullness in the red part of the star. I will quilt it, probably on the Gammill, then add a faced backing in a curvy shape. My biggest problem today was that I burned my left ring finger on the steam iron when I was turning one of the seams under. Nice blister! HMMN, maybe the messy glue stick is not such a bad alternative.

What to do with old quilt magazines?

Yesterday I went upstairs to sew the binding on Lily's quilt, but was stopped by the pile of old quilt magazines that I had pulled out last Thursday for the guild's silent auction. I decided not to haul any mags in for the auction, but did clear out about eight books that I never refer to. The mags were from 2000-2002. I went through all the Quilters' Newsletters and pulled out articles to keep, and actually filed them alphabetically in folders. I still have a pile a foot high to deal with.

Then, I decided to start a different project that I got excited about after watching her on The Quilt Show. I bought Vikki Pignatelli's book, Quilting by Improvisation, and have now created the freezer paper pattern for "My Star Dances." This project introduces her method of piecing with curves. I am excited to try it, because she does not use any glue stick or glue like other methods I have tried and don't like. I end up with glue all over my hands, table, tools, you name it! Vicki uses a lightweight stabilizer and freezer paper. Usually Vikki just irons down the fabric to the stabilizer, using the freezer paper pattern on top as a guide. She recommends using Stitch Witchery on the narrow roll when it is necessary to fix the seam allowance in place. We will see how successful I am with this method. The possiblilities for artistic quilting are endless if you can sew anything you can draw! In fact, I hope to take this book and go through it step by step to learn all her methods. One of my quilting groups has issued a challenge to make a leaf art quilt by our fall quarterly meeting. Maybe I will come up with something original by then!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What Mother Nature is up to in my yard

No new progress on any quilting projects so far today. I have been working on the cabinet under the kitchen sink, which had to be emptied out yesterday when the dishwasher installers were here. Yuck- not my most immaculate area of the house. Anyway, there had been a leak at some point, and everything had to come out, the caulking around the main water pipe was cracked and dried, and there is a hole in the cabinet floor. Time-consuming to fix, but I am on my way to Wally-World for some of that expanding foam to apply around the pipe.

Meanwhile, got caught up in a little yard work, and was astonished to see a nest of bluebird babies almost ready to fledge in one of my boxes! I had been surprised to see on my fellow fiber blogger Vicki W's post that she had a second batch of bluebirds in her yard. My thinking was, it's too d___ hot for that sort of foolishness in the south! Mine look just like the one in her most recent photo.

I was watering the azaleas and camellias near the woods when out shot a little baby bunny, probably only about five inches long, wondering why he was getting a shower! There was another one near the pond on my street when I walked the dog this morning. It was so inexperienced, it did not even try to run away from large-jawed Maggy. I threw a pebble near it to get it to scamper, but it was in the same spot when we walked back. Maggy is doing better about denying herself a delightful chase when she is on the leash. In her younger days she sent me airborne a few times when she saw a squirrel or a deer.

My front yard is in full sun, and once a plant gets established there, they tend to grow well beyond their expected size. I have a weigela and a viburnum that are about twelve feet tall and ten feet wide, and I need to move all the other stuff in the perennial beds that are being crowded out. Well, that's a job for the cooler fall months.

Here is a lavender and a viburnum that have gone crazy in my front garden beds.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mountain home update

A lovely birthday weekend in the mountains! Got a lot done on the cabin. Kitchen cabinets are installed, exhaust fans vented out, washer/dryer installed, some new landscape grading improvements. We are so thankful to the friends and relatives who have been helping us finish up. The goal is to spend the night in the cabin by July 4 weekend, when gobs of people will be coming to the mountains for our annual tube float down the New River.

Gave the new camera a is great to have one again! Here is one of my projects, a stairwell to my bench on the fern bank above the creek. I was proud of my manual labor on this one!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Got New Camera...It's My Birthday...

Does the title of this post immediately make you think of that ridiculous Geico commercial with Mini-Me dancing on the table singing, "Got my car fixed, it's my birthday?"

I did the happy dance myself yesterday about an hour after my sad post about ruining my new digital camera. My wonderful husband, Charlie, called me from work and asked me to meet him for lunch at Best Buy to pick out my birthday present- a replacement camera! I had intended to punish myself for my carelessness by doing without a new camera for awhile, especially with our cabin nearing completion. We have many items to purchase in the next few months.

Anyway, we got the same camera, which in four months has been upgraded to a model with more mega pixels and some improved buttons. I feel so fortunate! And yes, this time we got the four-year warranty that will cover anything except loss or theft.

What a great start to my birthday!
Actually, I got a wonderful gift from son and daughter-in-law on Wednesday. My husband and his partners hosted a client appreciation dinner at a fabulous, unique restaurant in Raleigh called Bloomsbury Bistro, and Dave and Emily attended as guests. Look at the house sign they gave me! It will proudly be displayed in our mountain home. It even smells like Christmas trees! Thanks, guys! We are leaving for Laurel Springs in a couple hours, and nephew Jason plans to be there to help us with installing our new cabinets, and finish up some of the construction areas that the inspector wants us to re-do. I am looking forward to the cooler temps of the higher elevation, since the highs will be in the nineties here in the Piedmont this weekend.

Last night I went to my quilt guild meeting and showed off "Cute As a Lily-bug," the name I have chosen for my granddaughter's quilt. It was most gratifying to hear oohs-and-aahs during show-and-tell. I did not have the binding on yet, but I did finish adding some hot-fix crystals to the dragonfly wings, to make them shine, and to the heart appliques.

And finally, here is a joyful picture for my birthday of a ladder I painted last summer, which is now a plant-stand on my back deck. I love looking out the window from my kitchen and seeing the bright colors of this "patchwork" ladder and all the bright flowers.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Curious Incident of My Camera in the Night-Time

Perhaps you recognize the title of this post as a paraphrase of Mark Haddon's wonderful novel. What happened to my beloved little Canon digital is a sad event with a sad outcome, as I discovered yesterday. Although when you read what happened, you may be ROFLYAO.

I bought the camera in February, mainly in anticipation of taking it with me to MQX and other quilt shows. It is small, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, but with a nice big LCD screen of about three inches. In addition to quilt shows, I used it to take pictures of my finished quilts, my grandchildren, my flowers, the was so handy to carry around. My husband has a wonderful Sony with a large zoom lens that is much larger and about twice as expensive, but I hated to borrow his to take to quilt meetings or shows. Besides, mine took better videos!

So, one night in the mountains, I took it with us when we went on a Gator ride up to the top to view the sunset and the mountain valleys. I got some great shots of the mist and fog shrouding the lower areas. A little wine, beautiful scenery...
and when we got back to the cabin, I ran in to make a pit stop, and received a phone call on my cell, which I carry clipped to my waistband when we are in the mountains. Everyone else has a Nextel phone, but unfortunately their service area has not reached out remote little mountain home yet. Anyone that wants to reach us calls my cell phone number. So, here is the curious (or sad or embarrassing) part. I stood up in order to get to my cell phone off my waistband, said hello, and my actions caused my poor little Canon to flip out of the pocket of my jacket and splash into-GASP- the great new porcelain Toto fixture we had recently installed. OH NO! I immediately tried to turn it on, and nothing happened. I took it apart and dried it overnight. It came back on, and I was able to view my pictures just fine. Happy dance! Then I tried to take a picture, and got nothing but wavy lines. UH OH. So I let it dry out several more days. More bad a Lens Error message. The lens is frozen and won't go in or out at all. Not looking good, but I took it to the store where I purchased it. They sent it off for repair. Got a phone call yesterday...the repair shop says that when they took the camera apart, they found CORROSION! That VOIDED MY WARRANTY! It CANNOT BE REPAIRED! And of course, I had not purchased the insurance or extra warranty that would have covered damages due to any reason.

So, it's Requiem for a Camera, and a bit of advice.

Buy the warranty.

Buy a waterproof case.

Use the camera case you purchased with the long strap instead of sticking the oh-so-convenient camera in your pocket.

Bye-Bye little camera. :(

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Quilted and Yo-Yo'ed

Yesterday, Lily's quilt had its turn on the Gammill. Just like Lily herself, the quilt was no trouble, and hopefully, full of personality! I did my favorite kind of quilting, free-motion swirls and flowers, with outlining around the appliques. I did not do any quilting inside the leaves, flowers, or letters, thinking that these might be embellished. Hmm, maybe I should have done a little.

The next step was to add fabric yo-yo's, buttons, and beads to make dragonfly eyes and flower centers, as well as spots on the ladybug.

I am thinking that I will add a few more beads or crystals here and there. Melody Crust mentioned at her workshop that her students often ask, "How do I know when I have enough embellishments?" Her reply: "If you have to ask, you're probably not done." Will try to add the binding and sleeve today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lily's Quilt Top is Done!

Okay, here it is- Lily's quilt top, ready to go on the Gammill today! The flowers, letters, bugs, and even the bias tape are fused on and then applied with invisible thread and a tiny zigzag stitch. Can't wait to start quilting, then embellishing!

Originally, I was just going to spell out her nice, short, four-letter name. But at the beach, I noticed that her family all called her Lily-bug, even three-year-old brother Avery . That nickname works perfectly with all the dragonflies and the ladybug- not to mention the extra space at the bottom of the center block! Hope she does not mind when she gets older. When I was little my mother often called me Jeannie- Bean, which I did not like, and my dad called me Jeannie-Bird, which I loved. Lily has actually been called Bugs or Bugsy since she was born, because of her GREAT BIG EYES. Cute as a bug?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Back to Reality

It was a wonderful week at Sunset Beach. On Wednesday, the birthday girl arrived with her mom, dad, and brother! Lily loved the water, taking to it like a little otter. Sunset Beach has tidal pools that remain in the sand at low tide, just perfect for little ones to play in without worry of waves knocking them off balance. We loved watching them! Friday was a little cool and rainy in the morning, so we took a little trip to North Myrtle Beach to see Alligator Adventure. Grandson Avery is crazy about alligators, mostly thanks to a kid video with the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. I was surprised that they also had two Siberian tigers, a bear, some beautiful macaws, lemurs, and a large reptile exhibit.

Yesterday I went back to the store to refill our larder, and then invited our son and his wife who live in Raleigh to come to dinner for Fathers' Day. Usually my husband takes charge of these Sunday dinners by grilling something yummy, but I wanted to make a special supper for him all by myself. So what did he do? Washed my car for me. What a nice man! He enjoyed his chicken pie, salad, corn on the cob, fruit salad, croissants, and strawberry shortcake. I tried something new that I loved when we ate at The Boundary House in Calabash last week. They used sugared pecans in the green salad. I did not know how to make them, so I did a quick search on the Internet. They are so sweet and crunchy and added a very different taste to the salad. I have a wonderful husband who is a great father and grandfather. I had to make do with wishing my own dad a happy Fathers' Day on Saturday at the beach before we left. He is such a unique dad with time and love to devote to his seven children and their spouses, fourteen grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Love you, Daddy!

I have just finished doing last night's dishes by hand, since the dishwasher chose an inopportune time to conk out. Made myself do my exercise video for the first time in ten days. Now on to working on little Lily's quilt!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Beach Blanket Bloggo

Checking in midweek from Sunset Beach, NC! We have found several wireless connections available, so I thought I would post a few pictures. We are having such a restful but fun time here. One day was slightly cloudy and it has rained twice, both times after a full day on the beach. The only bad thing is that son Dave threw his back out trying to hoist the cooler up the steps of the walkway to the beach. That has put a slight damper on the fun. Today our other son Bryson and his family should be arriving. Their little boy Avery had to get stitches in his chin on Saturday after falling on their concrete driveway, so hopefully he will get the doctor's OK to come to the beach today after they are removed. Today is granddaughter Lily's first birthday- can't wait to see her!

Hat night was the first night, as always. Here are a few of us trying to figure out how to have fun.

Me, hubby Charlie, brother John, sister Katy

Daughter-in-law Emily and me

Son Dave and Em

Friday, June 8, 2007

Trying out watercolor pencils

I have recently begun carrying a small sketchbook and watercolor paper book along with some watercolor pencils when we travel. I really know nothing about the pencils, except that they are handy to use, easy to manipulate, and you do not need a water supply while you are applying color. Here is a drawing that I did with the pencils on dry paper while sitting on my bench overlooking the creek in the mountains

Here is the same drawing after I added water with a brush. It softened the colors and blended the lines a bit. A photograph of the same view is below:

Here is a little sketch of some of the wildflowers near my bench, done "dry."

And this is the same sketch after using the brush with water. I also added some outlining with a fine-point black marker.

Just playing around...guess I should get on the Web and see if there are instructions out there for using this medium! Meanwhile, it never hurts to try to improve drawing skills. (Mine could use a lot of work.) Maybe my dad will feel like providing some lessons while we are at the beach next week.

We are so excited about our upcoming beach vacation! We have been going to the same beach in North Carolina for over twenty years, and have been renting the same cottage for at least fifteen years. Sunset Beach is the southern-most beach in North Carolina, on a barrier island that is reached by a one-lane swinging drawbridge. The cottage we rent is nothing to brag about, but the location is fantastic. It is on what we call "second row," meaning there is one other row of houses between it and the beach. However, it is located on the very southern end of the island, facing "Madd Inlet." There is water in the inlet at high tide, but at low tide it is a sandy marsh replete with seabirds and crabs. One year a dolphin was trapped in a small pool of water at low tide right next to our cottage. A concerned crowd gathered, wondering how to help him, but about six hours later he happily skipped out of there when the tide turned. From our deck we can see the ocean peeking over the dunes, the high-rise motels of South Carolina beaches in the distance, and boats on the Intercoastal Waterway. Lots of fine porch sitting, especially for morning coffee or evening Margaritas! And at sunset, the beach earns its name by offering unobstructed views of the western sky, often reflected in the waters below.
At night, after eating seafood at one of the fine restaurants in Sunset Beach, Calabash,or Little River, we usually just sit on the deck, listening to music, observing the constellations and planets, and talking to family and friends. This year my family will have three cottages. We all do our own thing, occasionally getting together to eat out or celebrate a birthday or Fathers' Day. We all sit in a long line at the beach, with the hardy ones playing horseshoes, boccie ball, or volleyball. Those more inclined to relax (me) have a beach chair and a good book and a cooler nearby.
At our cottage, the first night is always "Hat Party." The owners keep a supply of straw hats on a hook near the door, and we all choose a hat to wear on the deck to kick off the week of vacation. Too bad we never have any fun!
This year I hope to spend some time chasing my two grandbabies around and playing with them in the tidal pools that form at low tide. We are bringing the laptop, but may not have an Internet service available. So...if you do not hear from me for a week, tune in after June 17! Have a great week!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

How to Embellish Lily's Quilt

Here is the top of Lily's quilt without any embellishments. What to do in the big blank in the square?

Here is my original idea- spell out her name in yo-yo's and buttons. These are just placed on here to see how they look. Typically, I embellish AFTER quilting. I also want to add some beads on the insects, and maybe more yo-yo's on the flowers.

Here is a closer look at the yo-yo's and buttons. I'm thinking of first appliqueing cloth letters, then embellishing. I think that would make the center complete better with the strong outer border.

The flowers, dragonflies, hearts, and ladybug are from the book Bugs, Blooms, and Bullfrogs by Pat Sloan. I used a fused 1/4" bias tape in a marbled green for the vines.

I am so ready to quilt this and get it done, but we are leaving on vacation Saturday, and I really need to do some preparations! I'll take it to my bee meeting tonight and see what the ladies think.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Quilt for Lily

I did work on Lily's quilt yesterday. For some reason, I have had a hard time figuring out what to do for this quilt. I have made many blocks, put on borders, and ripped apart because it was not the look I wanted. My daughter-in-law asked me to make a wall quilt for the nursery. She and her mother made the curtains, bed quilt, sheet and bumpers from coordinating fabrics in deep reds, olive greens, browns, and tans. Not traditional baby colors! I began by making a North Carolina Lily center medallion. What could be better? Her father is from North Carolina and her name is Lily. Then I was going for a sort of round-robin series of borders. However, I have abandoned all those and will be using in another project that I am making as a surprise. I bought a little book of patterns for quilt projects with frogs, lily pads, dragonflies, ladybugs and flowers. I am putting some of the flowers in an outer border with dragonflies. The center will have Lily spelled out in yo-yo's and buttons and beads, with a ladybug and flower beneath the name. I made the yo-yo's last weekend on the way to and from the mountains. I have used some of the fabrics that Miranda used for the nursery, but could not refrain from adding some bright hand-dyed fabric for the flowers. Will post more when I get more of the fusibles stitched down.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Getting it done

Yesterday I knuckled down and finished quilting two customer quilts. I've heard of Christmas in July, but how about June? This quilt is a table runner. I had fun doing freehand poinsettias, holly, and pine tips in Rose Petals variegated thread. I decided to use a gray Bottom Line thread in the bobbin to minimize any "pokies" in the stitching as this top thread ranges from a deep burgundy to a light pink. It does not do anything for the pieced back in red and green, but who will see the back on a table runner?

The same customer brought me a small quilt in lovely fall fabrics that I call Harvest Spice, because the colors in the fabrics look like those in the Harvest Spice quilt pattern. She chose pine green cotton thread, which does not show up in the borders, but is strongly contrasting on the beige backing fabric. That lends a little extra pressure not to show any bobbles or knots on the back. The triangles were done in Line Dancing with a leaf design, and I used various leafy feathers and leaf vines in the border stripes.There are more photographs of both of these quilts on my Webshots site.
Today I want to work on the wall-hanging quilt for granddaughter Lily. She will be one year old on June 13 while we are at the beach. I doubt her quilt will be finished by then, but I will try to have it done by the following week when the guild meets. At the June meeting, there is a big show-and-tell of all the workshop projects that have been completed over the year. It would be nice to have something to show for my two days with Melody Crust! I don't really have anything from the Shiva Paintstix/foil workshop since I sold the postcards I made there. But this little wallhanging will have buttons, beads, embroidery and yo-yo's that can represent the Embellishments workshop.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Almost a Mountain Mama

Sorry for no posts for over a week. We have spent eight of the last eleven days in the mountains, working on our little cabin and enjoying the warming weather of spring. Even though we have been working hard, it is always inspiring to be in the mountains. We sleep in a camper at the edge of our property, which is above a trout stream, an old dam with a spillover, and adjacent to farmland. In the morning we wake to the sounds of a pileated woodpecker, a kingfisher, calves moaning, frogs, you name it! In fact, one morning Charlie said it was like sleeping with the "Farmer See-and-Say" toy that our boys played with as toddlers, where you pull the string and hear animal sounds. I will miss the sounds of nature when we move indoors, but will probably sleep better! Saturday night Tropical Storm Barrie brought some much-needed relief from the drought our whole region has been experiencing. It started raining overnight and continued throughout Sunday. In fact, as we arrived back home in Wake Forest the skies darkened and a severe thunderstorm unloaded buckets of rain right over our neighborhood.

Anyway, our house did not pass inspection yet. Some of the changes must be made by our builder, and several were electrical in nature. We worked on some of the problems this weekend, but we need our posse of volunteer carpenter relatives to do things like add vents for the exhaust fans. Charlie and I are not too eager to cut holes in the side of the log cabin by ourselves! So, we took a Gator ride over the Christmas tree farms on the top, drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway which is just a few miles away, and even threw some tubes in the COLD creek for a little refreshing float.

One of my projects was to hack out a stairway to the bench Charlie placed for me in a fern bank above the creek. That is my morning perch where I drink my coffee and watch the beavers, hummingbirds, and other wildlife. A photo from my bench is posted below. I was afraid I was going to bust my tail walking up there in the morning dew. I am very proud of the fact that I built a stairway all by myself, using leftover pieces of logs from the cabin that I buried into the ground using a mattock and shovel. I even used a level, and drove around in the Gator picking up large flat rocks. Even after it rained hard Saturday night, my nice stair path was tight with no logs rolling around uncooperatively. I have been taking a sketch book and some watercolor pencils in an attempt to improve my drawing skills and record some of my views.

On Saturday of this week, we are heading in the opposite direction to go to the beach for a week of rest and relaxation. It could not come at a better time! No painting, sanding, shopping at the home improvement warehouse, or any other manual exertion except carrying our chairs to the beach and lifting cold drinks to our mouths. I can't wait!