Friday, November 30, 2007

Projects, Projects

I finally finished the two Civil War quilts recently for my old college friend, Karen, who showed up at my door as a new customer. What fun it has been to catch up with each other! She looks great! We have led somewhat parallel lives as moms, grandmothers, and schoolteachers. Anyway, she loved her quilts. Here are some pictures:
I also am working hard to finish some of my own projects. Can't reveal pictures yet, but yesterday I used Tsukineko inks, Steam-A-Seam Lite fusible, Sulky Tear-Away stabilizer, and a number 8 machine needle with invisible thread on my Bernina. And some embroidery floss. Okay, I was doing raw-edge machine applique. It worked great with the tiny needle and a blind hem stitch. All I can say for now!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trying out some new toys

I have spent the last couple of days working on things for Christmas. I'm not sure how to feature them on my blog when the recipients may be reading this, so I will try not to give away any secrets.

I am always one to see a new technique on Simply Quilts or in a magazine, buy all the necessary tools and supplies, and then let them sit for a while before ever breaking them out of the package. Such was the case when I saw Patricia Bolton of Quilting Arts Magazine on Simply Quilts. She was demonstrating how to make Artists Trading Cards in large numbers. The newer episodes of Simply Quilts have step-by-step tutorials, so I was able to find them on the website and print.

Yesterday I painted my fabric with lots of shiny Lumiere and Shiva paints, and even added a little foil. The foil adhered rather well to the thicker areas of paint.

The next step was to adhere a fusible web to the back of the fabric. After that, you cut it up into shapes and adhere to a felt base. I used green felt since this will be for a Christmas ornament. Then, add lots of other delicious goodies on top, like shiny threads and Angelina fibers. Add a little Bo-Nash powder sprinkled over all.

After your painted fabric shapes are adhered to the felt and you have added the goodies, place a piece of sheer fabric over the top, and free-motion quilt with a shiny thread. The directions call for a chiffon scarf, but I used a piece of silvery organza.

Then, the part that was new: I got out my never-used heat gun and proceeded to melt away some of the organza. You will reveal the shiny stuff lurking underneath.

I drew a simple Christmas tree shape and cut it out. Then I either just zig-zagged around the edge, or stitched down a shiny trim on the outside of the tree. Add a hanger and voila!

The heat gun thing was a revelation in that you are producing some noxious fumes when you melt your sheer fabric. Stinko! I held my breath and had the fan on. If you hold the heat gun in one place too long, you get holes in the felt base. This would be a good project to do on the screen porch. But it was cool watching the organza shrivel up!

In retrospect, I wish I had used a more sheer cover fabric, because I think that some of my shiny paints and fibers are still hidden under the sheer fabric. But this was a really fun process!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gingerbread Houses

As promised, here are a few pictures of some of the gingerbread houses from the annual competition at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. Okay, they do not have to be made of gingerbread, but have to be constructed of edible products.

My daughter-in-law grew up with Strawberry Shortcake and was all over this doll house!

My personal favorite- a log cabin, of course!
This one is from the youth division.
How about Cinderella's coach?
Or a tree house?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Recovery Day

It was a bountiful Thanksgiving for my family. Didn't I do a great job carving up the fruit and veggies for the salad course? How about the ice sculpture?

Well, of course, I cannot take credit for these beautiful tables full of culinary creations. We visited my husband's sister and her family in lovely Asheville, North Carolina, and dined at the Grove Park Inn. This renowned resort is just a mile or two away from her home. A delightful afternoon, which included a visit to see the Gingerbread House competition. I will share some of those photos tomorrow. While we were dining, the weather took a plunge from the balmy seventies to the forties. The next day we saw snow flurries!

There are so many unique shops in Asheville. SIL Lee is wonderful about scouting out locations she knows I would like. My two SIL's and my DIL Emily had a ball going to see artsy things. I scooped up a few Christmas gifts to bring home.

My last stop was at the fabulous Waechter's Silk Shop, which is right on the way home, just a couple miles from Lee's house. I stayed for forty-five minutes of fabric petting and getting to know the owners, from whom I have purchased patterns and a few other items in the past. Since I was from out of town, they let me shop the 50% fabrics in the back room which go on sale December 1. I came home with several yards of lovely silk for a quilted jacket, and some hand-dyed silk ribbon that I could not resist. I certainly recommend this shop if you are looking for couture fabric or garment patterns.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What's on Your Bed?

One of the blogs I read is by Suzanne Earley, a quilting book author and head of the Machine Quilters Resource webring. She encouraged other quilting bloggers to post photographs of the quilts that are on our beds. I happen to have some photographs handy of our bed at home and also in the mountain cabin. So, here goes:

The quilt on our bed at home is a blue and white sampler. I got twelve of the blocks on an Internet swap way back when Al Gore first invented the Internet! I saved them for years trying to think of what to do with them. Finally I arranged them so that the quilt would work as a topper across our king-sized bed. In other words, wider than it is tall. I made some more of the twelve-inch blocks, then created lots of eight-point stars for the sides and a narrow border for the top and bottom. Notice I left lots of white space for when I became confident with my new Gammill Classic longarm quilting machine! I finally got it quilted in 2005. You can see more pictures of it in my Webshots album.

The funny thing about this quilt is the fact that it is blue and white. My husband and I both attended North Carolina State University, whose colors are red and white. The two schools which are the arch enemies are University of North Carolina (light blue and white) and Duke (royal blue and white.) So, to make this quilt acceptable, I put the NCSU wolf logo in the window of the house block, and named the quilt Go Wolfpack!

The piece de resistance of this room, however, is not the bed quilt, but the mountain mural above the bed which serves as our headboard. My father, artist Pete Turner, painted this tranquil scene to hang over the kitchen dining nook in our home in Cary when there were nine of us gathered around. I guess anything that created a sense of serenity was welcome in that household! When Dad moved out of the family home two years ago, I spent weeks helping him pack and get settled in his new place. One of my rewards was this painting, which I adore. It reminds me so much of the farmland in Ashe County, where we have our cabin. Actually, it was based on a landscape featured in a Vermont magazine. Every night we can dream that we are in the mountains!

And, when we actually are in the mountains, this is our little nest. I made the quilt, called Olde is New, at a Capital Quilters Guild workshop by the same name. I can't remember the instructor's name, but we swapped repro-style fabrics and made nine-patch squares. This quilt was on one of our guest beds at home for years, but when we finished the cabin this summer, it found a new home. I like the subtle soft tones against the wood of the room.

Let me just say, I love both of our beds. You cannot spend any better money than to purchase the finest mattress and box springs that you can possibly afford. Then, get a padded mattress cover and some high-thread count satiny sheets, a down comforter, down pillows, and a lovely quilt to go on top.

"Oh bed, oh bed,

Oh delicious bed,

That heaven on earth

To the weary head!"

-Thomas Hood

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why I Make Quilts, Part 2

My last post featured my two grandchildren with quilts I made for them. Here are a few more of my nieces and nephews with their baby quilts. Move over, Anne Geddes, here come the quilt babies!

The first quilt I ever made, with original applique designs and rickrack. This was made for Dave, my younger son, who is featured on the left next to his cousin, Jessie. Dave is now 6"5" or thereabouts and still likes my quilts!

A colorful one-patch made for my niece Laura. One of my last experiences in hand quilting...

Jewel Box quilt made for my nephew Andrew.Very early quilt made for great-niece Taylor.

A Bow Ties quilt made for nephew Ryan (a younger me on the left, his mom Patti on right)

Quilt with family photos made for great-nephew Briar. My sister Katy is on the right, and his mom Mika on the left.

And one more with a grandchild again. This one is Avery when he was an infant.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why I Make Quilts

Perhaps you can surmise that I just came back from a visit with my grandchildren?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Going to get my "fix" (seeing grandbabies, that is!)

Today I am heading south to stay with my son's family for a few days. Bry will be there tonight, but then he is leaving to join his father, uncle, cousins, and other manly types in the mountains for deer camp. For the last few years, I have stayed with his wife and kids while he goes hunting. Haven't seen the babies since about the third week in September. I know I'm lucky that they are only three hours away, but wish I could see them more frequently. They change so much each time I see them, especially Lily who is only seventeen months old. Chances are you will see new pictures on the blog this weekend! Maybe of Lily on her new quilt, which I am delivering today.

Here is how I did on my "To-Do" List yesterday.

1. Take dog to vet for shots-Done!

2. Take down Halloween lights-Done! Bonus- also took down, cleaned, and boxed up hummingbird feeders, filled bird feeders, and removed flowering plants bitten by killing frost from planters

3. Continue to search cell phone which has been missing two weeks (anyone out there seen it?)

Gave up. DSH says to replace it at Verizon store today would be $149, but if we wait until my contract expires in January I can get a new Razr for $9.99. That does not seem right! So I ordered a cheaper replacement from e-Bay yesterday, and hope it will work until January. Meanwhile I will be on the highway with no cell phone on this trip. Hope Sweet Sue the Suburu behaves! So far, she always has!

4. Finish two Civil War repro customer quilts- thought that was completed last night, but when I looked at the back, I was not happy with the tension on one row and ripped it out last night

Update- when I put the quilt back on the machine (Grendel the Gammill) I found more areas where the thread looked loose, and spent a few more hours picking out last night (also known as frogging-rippit, rippit!) This has happened to me before, where the top stitches look good while I am quilting. Then on the back, the thread just kind of lays there. It makes it easy to come out, but is irritating to have to do over. I know this happens when the thread jumps out of the intermittent tensioner, but this time I don't think that happened. There was a LOT of lint produced while quilting with cotton top, cotton batting, cotton back, and cotton Signature thread. Maybe there was a lint ball hiding somewhere and causing the problem.

5. Finish painting bathrooms and put away paint supplies- HA HA HA HA HA!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Autumn in the Mountains

For those who are wishing they could be somewhere beautiful to view autumn foliage, I have embedded a slide show of photographs from the northern North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. This could be a real procrastination aid- there are one hundred! All are in my Webshots album Autumn in North Carolina Mountains, or scroll to the bottom of the blog page to see the slide show.

Today is the last day before DSH goes to the mountains for a week of deer camp. I am going to spend a few days in South Carolina with my son's family while the guys are up in the woods. So, today I am going to follow my blog friend Vicki W's example and make a to-do list.

1. Take dog to vet for shots-Done

2. Take down Halloween lights

3. Continue to search cell phone which has been missing two weeks (anyone out there seen it?)

4. Finish two Civil War repro customer quilts- thought that was completed last night, but when I looked at the back, I was not happy with the tension on one row and ripped it out last night

5. Finish painting bathrooms and put away paint supplies

Better get going! If I get finished I will post pics of the two Civil War quilts tomorrow. They are looking good!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Meandering on the Railroad

Thought you might enjoy seeing the progress on another of Karen's Civil War quilts, the Underground Railroad. She chose a ferny meander from Suzanne Earley's first Meandering Magic book. It is going very well so far, and the quilting gives a lovely sculptured texture to the quilt. She chose Mother Goose thread for this one, too. When you use Suzanne's method, you first create a very large meander across the quilt to form the stem for an overall feather design. Then you go back down the vine and add feathers, leaves, hearts, or whatever to fill in an overall design. Suzanne writes that she meanders the whole quilt first, then stitches the feathers on each side of the vine as she progresses down the stem. I prefer to do just two passes of meander across each row, then add the feathers before rolling. Sometimes I just have room to do the "upper feathers" on the second spine before rolling. It is nice to have the next meander spine in place so you can judge how far down to extend your feathers. I really recommend this book and have used several of her designs on quilts, including Forest Floor and one with hearts.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fighting the Civil War (Quilt)

I had a lovely surprise a couple of weeks ago when a new customer called me to do some quilting. Wonderful long-arm quilter Joanne Mengwasser has referred several clients to me when she is too busy to get quilts done by a deadline, so I had a nice chat with Karen over the phone, found out we were both teachers, etc. When she showed up at my door, I did a double-take. This was Karen that I knew from North Carolina State University back in the late sixties-early seventies! (By the way, that was a very interesting time to be in college!) We had not seen each other in over thirty years, and I didn't know she was back in Raleigh. Anyway, she brought me two quilts made with Civil War reproduction fabrics. One is an Underground Railroad, and the other features an on-point diamond block design.

Yesterday I decided that with DSH (Dear Sweet Husband) out of town, I needed to do something useful or I would spend the day lolling around watching Violette videos and eating That Pumpkin Stuff right out of the pan. And I am really sick of painting, so I left the mess in the upstairs bathrooms and headed for my idle Gammill. I decided to start with the diamond quilt since it is smaller and might be a one-day project. I knew there were some bias issues from the diamond blocks and pointed this out to Karen, saying I would do my best to "quilt them out." (Ha ha, we've all come to love that term!)

All was going fabulously with an overall leafy meander, except that Mother Goose thread blends so well with these fabrics that I sometimes got lost in my designs. Then I got to the bottom row- OH OH! Those borders had so much fullness. I worked hard to baste and pin the borders to tame them into submission. Here is how they looked after pinning:

And here is the last border after quilting the H*## out of it! I was dodging pins and mashing down puckers while making all kinds of curly-Q's. I don't think it shows too bad in this dark print and after washing, will hardly be noticeable. (I hope.

Funny story about these two quilts. Karen's two sons-in-law both participate in Civil War re-enactments, where they dress in historical costumes and camp out at battle sites. But, one re-enacts for the Union and one for the Confederacy!

I may have mentioned that I was brought up in the New York City area and moved to North Carolina when I was in high school. At the time, there were not very many Nawtheners living in Cary. That is now changed drastically, and Cary is known by some as Containment Area for Relocated Yankees. When Charlie and I got engaged and told his North Carolina mountain grandparents that I was from New York and New Jersey, they sighed and told him that it was okay with them if he married a Yankee as long as I loved him. The Catholic part threw them a bit, but they were okay with that after I convinced them that all the wild stories Charlie teasingly told them about Catholics were a figment of his imagination.

Anyway, my parents were both from Washington, DC, and most of my relatives lived in Virginia, so I was not the typical IBM transplant from upstate New York who happened to be moving to North Carolina in droves at the time. In fact, one relative still lives on a family plantation in Virginia! But I did not know until I helped my father move out of his home two years ago that I have a real claim on being a Southerner. I cleaned out a closet that had all of my grandmother's scrapbooks and boxes of memorabilia. I found out that one of her relatives was the first Confederate general to die in the Civil War, in a prisoner of war camp. And I also found another document showing that one of Dad's relatives had paid thirty dollars to be free of his obligation to serve for the Union Army. I didn't know you could buy your way out of the draft way back then.

I've got the Underground Railroad quilt pinned and ready to go, but I am hearing the Call of the Shopper today- a fabulous craft fair at a local high school. Have a great Saturday!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Bee Buzz

We had a great time last night at the Whacky Ladies bee meeting! Pretty good turnout, although two members were out of town. Mother-of-the -bride Marilyn brought pictures of her daughter's wedding last Saturday. Also an autumn quilt which someone gave as a gift at the wedding, along with a journal to record wishes for the bride and groom. Each guest was also supposed to tie a knot in the quilt, but that did not work out too well, so Mom will do that for the wedding couple.

Carolyn brought us prints from her Hudson River cruise in October, which she had made into greeting cards. We each got to select a card. Mine is awesome- Tres Monet! I have never personally seen anything like this along the Hudson River.

Janice is already partly prepared for Christmas. She made up calendars with pictures of her two adorable little boys and scrapbook-type layouts. She also had a very cool Christmas wreath quilt for her mom (who is also very cool- an Irish lady who visited our bee once when she was in town.)

Cathie Recca is turning into a fabulous fiber and multi-media artist. She brought us some new books on landscape quilts and embellishments, and also her fabulous Autumn Leaf Challenge. That squirrel is her first-ever attempt at thread painting. We refrained from slapping her!

The leaves are dryer sheets painted with Lumiere and stitched down on top of artificial leaves. What a great idea!

I showed off my assorted gifts from Violette's blogiversary prize- and this is so funny. Remember the "Gratitude" altered CD case? One of the girls actually opened the case last night- and inside was a DVD with lots of Violette's videos, including her TV appearance on Weird Homes! I never even thought to look inside. There are over sixty minutes of videos! Fun!

Speaking of videos, I showed my Slideshow Movie of my recent trip to New York. I love making these. I used Windows Movie Maker, which comes with Windows XP. You can add songs and make the lyrics fit certain pictures by moving the photos around. I used this software to create Dave and Emily's rehearsal dinner show. My daughter-in-law Miranda showed me how to use this software. It is a lot more entertaining to look at photos with a music soundtrack!

Then Carolyn showed us a DVD she had purchased on how to do applique. Our resident Applique Queen, Jean Houghtby, was vacationing in Florida, but we all had comments about the techniques in this video. The results were perfection, but the preparation looked like torture to me. I don't like to have to work with so much precision and so many pre-sewing steps.

Finally- what you have been waiting for. The Food! I decided to make "That Pumpkin Stuff That Dorothy Makes" from The Sweet Potato Queens Big-Ass Cookbook. Nobody gnawed their neighbor's arm off to get to it, but it was a fine fattening dessert. You can feel your arteries clogging just reading the ingredients. I also made Armadillo Dip, which actually uses ground beef, not armadillo meat, which is a good thing since it is difficult to find armadillos around here. This was very spicy and salty and definitely would go well with frozen margaritas. By the way, I have an excellent recipe for these which made me world famous at all the public schools in which I taught. (At teacher get-togethers, not actually in school.) I will share that one in a future post if my adoring public demands.

Charlie has just left for the mountain cabin Without Me. It is time for serious deer hunting, and is getting frigidly cold up there. Time for me to quit painting bathrooms and get back to some serious quilting.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I am the (Sweet Potato) Queen Bee tonight

It is my turn to host my quilt bee tonight! I have belonged to this group of quilters for about ten years, although the membership has turned over quite a bit in that time. We are a very informal group called The Whacky Ladies. Our skills range from beginner to professional. We have such a good time, even if only three members can attend. All we have to do as hostess is have a room available and fix a snack of some sort. Being the overachievers that many quilters are, it often goes way beyond that with seasonally decorated homes and to-die-for desserts. If you remember, I hosted a big outdoor party here in October, the client pig-picking. So, I still have my outdoor decorations and Halloween lights. Unfortunately, my painting projects upstairs have taken WAY longer than anticipated. My downstairs is OK, but the upstairs will be off limits unless I can somehow manage to work on putting it back together today. So, notice, I am blogging instead of moving furniture and scraping windows!

Anyway, I am a big fan of the Sweet Potato Queen books by Jill Conner Browne. She is a hoot! The last one that I purchased was The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook. I am not a big foodie or much of a cook, so you know that when I am entertained by a cookbook, it is something special! I think Jill must be a fabulous Southern hostess despite all her self-deprecating humor. So, I have bought ingredients for three of her recipes, and may just make all three because I can't decide.

The first is Linda's Killer Cake with No Apples. It reminds Jill of an apple cake, but the secret ingredient is a full can of Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy Coconut Pecan Frosting- which actually goes into the cake batter before baking.

The next one sounded just right for an autumn get-together: That Pumpkin Stuff That Dorothy Makes. Sort of like the Better Than Sex dessert that everyone was wild about ten years ago.

For a hearty appetizer, I will try Armadillo Dip, even though we don't serve alcohol at bee meetings, and this one is recommended to go with Knock You Naked margaritas.

If you are thinking that this does not sound like your usual cookbook, you are right!

Let me tell you how I originally learned about her first book, The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love. Charlie and I had boarded the plane for a wonderful business trip to Palm Beach, Florida. We did not have seats together. I sat next to a boring sort, and he was in a row behind me that was populated all the way across with women bound for a girl-getaway on a friend's yacht in Palm Beach. Man, they were revved for this trip. They all had handfuls of dollar bills when they sat down, which I did not understand until the beverage service began. Every one of them ordered a straight vodka. Then, their head Queen reached into her carry-on and pulled out a jug of Bloody Mary mix! Of course, this was pre-airline restrictions for carrying on liquids and gels. So, here was my husband on the aisle seat of this row of party girls who were getting blasted on their trip to get blasted. I was reading my boring Book Club assignment for the month, which was Galileo's Daughter. Now, I enjoy all kinds of books, but this one just dragged and bogged down, in my opinion. Guess what the party girls were reading aloud behind me- to my Own Personal Husband? The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love! They were dying laughing, and passing the book back and forth to read a certain page, containing the now-infamous Promise. Can't tell you what it is, you have to read it! Charlie was passing out business cards and getting invited to Happy Hour on the yacht, which as I recall was named Amazing Grace, or something like that. When we got to Florida, I headed straight for the airport bookstore and purchased-you guessed it- The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love. No, I don't dress up in tiara, green sequined body suit, and majorette boots, but these books are a lot of fun. I'll let you know how the recipes work out.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gifts from Violette

I mentioned in a post last week that I was the lucky winner of the three year "blogiversary" prize from Violette Clark, a free spirit of the art world whose blog I enjoy. Yesterday, my prize package arrived, and I had fun looking through all the whimsical artsy gifts she sent to me.

Some of the prints are posted online: Creative Wings, and Blurt Factor.

Gratitude is an altered CD cover with fun fur, glitter, and some Violette artwork.
Imagine is so cool- a sort of motivational scrapbook page.

Thanks, Violette, for all your inspiration!