Monday, June 30, 2008

New purchases

When we got back from the NC mountains on Sunday, there was my package of new fabric from Wish Upon a Quilt. This Raleigh fabric store is also an online store, and I had ordered my additional binding fabric from them for the butterflies quilt. Great, fast service! It is not washed yet, but I believe it will be just fine for finishing this binding

I also ordered two new batiks from them on sale. Aren't they pretty?

And last week I received a package with a back order from Quilting Arts with this neat product called Mawata Hankies. Each hankie is made from one silk cocoon, carefully opened at one end and stretched over the hand. Not sure what I will do with these. They say they are suitable for silk paper. I will probably use them on an art quilt. My colors are Chagall and Van Gogh. Artsy, huh?

Here is a look at my weekend: relaxing on the pond below our cabin. We did not get in it and float this time, partly because evening thunderstorms caused both the pond and creek to look very muddy. Also, Charlie and I viewed a monster snapping turtle in the pond!
Here are some views from the top of the mountain: a dirt road, a fern bank highlighted by sun, a Christmas tree farm with daisy ornaments.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Murphy's Law: If something can go wrong, it will.

Not only did I lack enough fabric to complete the binding on Debbie's quilt, the local quilt shop where I purchased it just last Friday was sold out.

I was able to find it on the Internet, and hope the dye lots will match. Probably close enough for this scrappy quilt! So that quilt will not be finished this week.

I have the piano/guitar quilt ready to pin on the machine, so wish me luck!

Tonight we head to the mountains to visit our cabin for the first time in a month. Perfect- the temps and humidity are rising here in the North Carolina Piedmont! We may indulge in a little creek-floating with an adult beverage in the cup-holder! We are taking a nice big picture of a mountain scene up with us to hang in our little one-room cabin. We have been very slow to put any nails in our lovely wood walls, and only have one other piece on the wall.

Here is another blog referral for today: an unbelievable Bernina sewing machine that has been "blinged" by art quilter Laura Cater-Woods. I had seen photos of a long-arm machine that was decorated and "quilted" by Nichole Webb. Apparently, Laura's is a new machine that is being offered in a fundraiser. Check it out!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yesterday, I made the hanging sleeve and binding for the butterflies quilt, applied the binding to the front by machine- and discovered that I lacked about 15 inches of binding to finish the job. Not happy! Back to the quilt shop today to buy, what, one fourth of a yard? I also cut the muslin strips to apply to JoAnn's art quilt that has no extra batting and backing. That will be the next project on the long-arm.

A much younger Avery next to my kitchen houseplants.

I also sprayed my schefflera, which has developed a sticky coating on the leaves called "honeydew." Even Avery noticed it when he was here before the beach trip. He has always loved this tree, and can never resist giving it a tap to bounce the branches. This time his hand practically stuck to the plant. It has an insect problem called "scale." Then some ants moved in to eat the honeydew. It now resides out on the screen porch instead of the kitchen. Hopefully, after another spray in two weeks, the problem will be solved and "Betty Lou" will be bug-free.

Here is another blog referral: I spent WAY too much time fascinated by the photographs and posting from the San Francisco whale watch company. I have never seen a whale except at Sea World, and if we ever go to San Francisco again, I'm going to sign up for this adventure!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lovely Surprise

My husband is often full of surprises. He surprised me two Christmases ago by giving me the book Monet in Normandy, which describes the paintings that were in a special exhibit at our North Carolina Museum of Art during the fall of 2006When I asked where he had found it, he casually replied that he had been to the museum to see the paintings on his lunch hour one day by himself, and had purchased the book for me in the gift shop. I was rather astounded to hear that he had done such a thing. Although he willingly accompanied me once to the MOMA in New York, he is not generally a culture vulture when it comes to art. Well, many people went to see that astounding Monet collection that do not normally visit art museums, including son Dave and his wife and friends. They made an evening out of it, enjoying wine in the museum's Monet Cafe while waiting for their turn. Oh, yes, you had to have admission tickets and were given an entry time to see the Monets. I saw the exhibit with my quilting friend Jean from Arkansas, who cracked me up with some of her observations.

Anyway, I loved my book and his thoughtfulness.

Fast forward a year and six months to my birthday yesterday. One of my gifts from Charlie was a matted print of my favorite piece from the exhibit, The Garden at Sainte-Adresse. (1867, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.)

He bought it at the same time as the book, hid it in his closet, and forgot about it. Hey, that's usually my trick!

Actually, my print would still be among the missing, except that when we returned from the beach last week, the wire shelving in Charlie's closet had collapsed, dumping all this clothing on the floor. He had to clean out his closet (possibly for the first time in fourteen years). Bad luck for him, good luck for me, for voila! There was my gift. So this time he only had to hide it for another week, and I got it for my birthday.

Love it!

Perhaps one reason I loved the jewel tones on cool blues of this delightful seaside view is that is reminds me of a painting hanging in my living room. It is actually a print of my father's painting, Wildflowers on the Blue Ridge.

I am off to my favorite frame shop!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Few Blog Referrals

My blogworld friend Vicki Welsh of Field Trips in Fiber has discontinued the blog roll on her sidebar in favor of Web Field Trips of interesting blog posts. The first two have been very enjoyable to explore, and I am pleased as punch to be included on Issue 2 about my work on the antique quilt tops.

I still like my list of favorite blogs, although I now use Google Reader to update me when there are new posts online. I would like to share a few interesting posts I have recently enjoyed.

One is from the delightful Aussie embroidery and pattern designer, Natalie Lyiner of Cinderberry Stitches. In addition to providing tutorials and sneak previews of new patterns, Natalie is one of the most talented photographers I have found in the fiber blogging world. Some people just know how to arrange elements in a photo to make it mouth-watering and charming. In June she devoted her column to "5 colors in 5 days," a fabric artist's enviable tour of jellyroll collections, ribbons, dishes, colored pencils, and other objects in her studio, with each day devoted to a specific color. I am already thinking of starting a similar color-themed series of posts. Well, mine won't be selecting charming objects from my sewing studio, the previously self-described "wreck." But I have quilts, pottery, fibers, flowers, plants, and artwork that could easily fill a post on a day when there is not much quilty going on at Chez McBrayer.

Another blog that I also enjoy is named "Spool." It is written by the owners of a new Philadelphia fabric shop by the same name. I like the look of this blog, its clean lines and lovely photographs of featured fabrics and projects. Okay, so they are trying to sell fabric, but they often give instructions for projects that have been made with some of the new fabric lines. They seem particularly partial to Amy Butler and Kaffe Fassett, who admittedly are not my two favs, but their projects look very inviting. Check out the bird mobile project with free instructions. Would have been a good addition to my All Things Birdy post!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Happy Friday

I decided yesterday that Fridays would be days for my own pleasure and projects. Why not? The joy of being retired once again!

I started the day with a nice e-mail from a high school friend. I found out that her daughter lives only four miles from me. We are looking forward to getting together soon when she comes down here from Virginia Beach to visit her new grand baby.

Shopping was next. First, The Cotton Company. No, quilters, it is not a fabric shop! It is one of those shopping emporiums in an old cotton exchange warehouse building. It contains lots of vendor booths with numerous decorative items for home and garden, jewelry, toys, and so forth. What is unique is that there are artists' studios in one wing of the building, where they can also sell their creations. After browsing the galleries, I had a nice chat with artist Dick Larsen and toured his workspace. It featured animal portraits in oil paints, mostly dogs full of personality.

One of the vendor booths is a fair trade market with products from Peru and other countries. I picked up a birthday gift for my husband's sister that I hope she will like. I also found several other goodies while wandering through the vendor areas. And decided to buy myself an early birthday gift (my b-day is tomorrow) of a pretty beaded necklace with shell pendant. Very inexpensive but in colors I love.
Then, on to the local quilt shop, Quilts Like Crazy. Here I had a nice chance to catch up with my friend Nancy Pease, long-arm quilter extraordinaire and former shop owner. She still owns the knitting part of the store, which will be renamed Yarn Birds. I met the new QLK owner, Betsy Jobe, and her husband. I toted along the butterflies quilt I am finishing, and was pleased at the oohs and ahhs from several folks in the store who loved the quilt. I chose a chocolate brown Moda Marbles fabric for the binding. I also bought just half a yard each of a fabric called Samba in two bright, happy colorways. No plans for these yet, they just called my name.

When I got home and checked the mail, I got a wonderful surprise: my MQX photo DVD! I ordered this since I did not get to attend Machine Quilters Exposition in New Hampshire this year, but two of my quilts were juried in. Photographer Jeffrey Lomicka took a full photo and several detail photos of each quilt and garment. I was pleased with the pictures of my quilts, and drooled all over the keyboard at the images of the quilts that were on display at the show.

DH and I decided to go to an excellent cafeteria in downtown Wake Forest for supper. We almost always select their Brunswick stew, a yummy homemade chicken stew with vegetables and potatoes in a tomato base. This must have been my day to re-connect with old friends, for there was my friend Cathy G. from the Wake Forest Middle School. She was the media assistant during my last few years there. She came over and sat with us for a nice little visit.

After supper it started to rain. This is always a good thing here in drought-stricken North Carolina. It was a gentle but steady rain, so we headed out to the front porch rockers to enjoy the cool weather and a glass of wine. Eventually there was a fiery sunset against the dark storm clouds. Maggy was sitting there with us, very bored that she had to stay on the porch and watch it rain. We were enjoying the sunset and the hummingbird who was buzzing us, chatting on the phone with Charlie's sister, when suddenly two deer appeared as if by magic on the lawn right in front of us. I bet they were not ten feet away. Suddenly Maggy sprang to life and took off after them across the yard. She was back shortly having successfully chased them off.

Both Charlie and I got wind chimes while we were at the beach last week. Mine were an early birthday present from my in-laws. Charlie's were a Father's Day gift from Dave and Emily. We hung them both on the front porch. Charlie's are an amusing set of fake beer bottles that contain tea candles. They looked nice all lit up in the darkness.

Here is my funny flamingo. Well, that's enough posting for one day!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Yesterday I trimmed Debbie's butterflies quilt- losing some of the quilting in the process. The floral fabric used by her grandmother for the sashing is a rather loosely woven cotton that has frayed badly at the edges over the forty years or so since she started this project. I had to trim a quarter to a half inch off the edge to get to the intact border fabric. One strip had frayed at least an inch, so I made an applique "band-aid" from a strip of folded muslin. Then I did a very tight stitch around the whole outer edge to keep "our" quilting stitches from unsewing themselves.

I went up to my sewing room to audition binding fabrics. I liked both a sage green and a rich brown that matches the butterfly torsos, but don't have enough of either. Getting ready to go shopping! Always a good thing.
Here is a heart-warming note from my sister-in-law Debbie: "When I see (my quilt), I'm reminded of pajamas, dresses, shirts and stuff my Grandma used to sew for us. She always saved every scrap and used them in her quilts.I like the idea of "kisses from Grandma" too." This is what it's all about!

I also rummaged around and found a perfect already-made hanging sleeve for niece Amy's butterfly quilt. I had made a white-on-white sleeve to hang one of my quilts in a show, and then took it off later. Last night I got the top half of it sewn on while we watched an old movie on TV called Bridge to the Sun, about an American woman married to a Japanese man who was deported with him to Japan at the outbreak of the war. Quite a good flick.

Unfortunately, my sewing room is such a wreck that I spent at least two hours putting things away so I could find my cutting table. (LOL) I started a studio transformation last February that got stalled when I went back to work teaching school from February to June. I need to get rid of lots of stuff that I don't use or need. Yesterday I went through ONE of my scrap drawers and cut triangles and squares for scrap quilts. These were just the dark blue ones. I actually threw out a LOT of little scrap pieces. Now on to the rest of the color wheel. This could take awhile!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's getting better!

Yesterday, I got the OK from my SIL Debbie to add more quilting to her grandmother's butterfly quilt. So I spent a couple of hours doing some "Jeannie" flowers on the sashings. There is not a noticeable difference on the front since the thread blends in to the flowery sashing fabric. (Except that the sashings don't pouf out like they did before.)

But, oh, the back! I am so much happier with it now. Once I work on some of the stains and sew down some of the pleats, this could almost be a reversible quilt with a beautiful white backing!

The sashings are not any straighter, but they sure are prettier!

Now I must go shopping either in my stash or at the quilt store for a binding fabric. I am thinking of the light mossy green in the sashing leaves, but will audition several possibilities.

I have a new project for a customer who is a member of the Cyberbee, a local quilt group to which I have belonged for about fifteen years. I am not ready to post photos of this art quilt yet, but I hope to once she has given the quilt to her son for his (late) birthday present. This lady is a quilt artist, but due to getting on in years, she was having trouble maneuvering the quilt under her sewing machine for free-motion quilting. Here is what she wants me to do: quilt music notes in plain white areas, put wood grain on a guitar, and write the names of both rock musicians and classic composers around the border! How fun to add "Van Halen" and "Rochmaninov" on the same quilt!

Challenges: this quilt is partially quilted and has practically no extra backing or batting on the borders. Does this sound familiar? This is the second quilt in a row with those problems. However, JoAnn's quilt is lovely and flat and even so I am not expecting the pucker problem. I will have to sew some muslin strips to the borders in order to write the names.

By the way, in yesterday's comments, my friend Cathie (Cleveland Girlie) referred to those puckers on the back as "kisses from Grandma." I love that image!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Turning an old quilt top into a quilt

It has felt good this week to be back at work on my Gammill long-arm quilting machine. Sad to say, it had not been used since about March or April, when I quilted the Green Man. Between teaching school and traveling quite a bit on weekends, I just could not find the time or energy. But I kept giving Grendel (the Gammill) some long drinks of oil and an occasional warm-up, and she has performed admirably for the past two days.
I decided to do something about the partially quilted butterflies quilt that my sister-in-law Debbie asked me to finish for her. It is one that was started by her late grandmother, Helen Stewart of Indiana. Here is a picture of Debbie's daughter with Helen, which must have been around 1977. I have already done two others for her, the stars pictured yesterday and a basket quilt that I really liked. It had lots of white space to show off some feathery quilting.
The challenge this time is that she had hand-quilted about two thirds of the blocks. The whole thing has been sitting in a bag for about forty years or more. I originally thought I would hand-quilt the remaining blocks, but after more than a year decided I would never get around to it. So, I mounted it on the Gammill and had a go at it.

You might notice that the sashing just does not match up, and there is a lot of fullness in the seams. Debbie says that in her grandma's later years, her eyesight was not that great. Or maybe this is one of Grandma's UFO's that got put away because it just didn't come out quite right!

I made a couple of templates by tracing the quilting motifs, then marked the designs with a blue washable marker. Helen had used pencil for her markings, which is still showing behind her quilting. Basically there is outline around each butterfly, a big cross through the center, and a fan design in the plain corners of each block. She also did a quarter-inch quilting line inside each square. Below is a block quilted by hand by Helen.

Here is one that I machine-quilted. Here are hand-quilted blocks next to machine-quilted ones.

Now, I hate to mark quilts, hate to use rulers, and don't have a stitch regulator. And this quilt only had about a half inch of extra backing and batting on the sides. When you have to clamp the sides, that leaves no room for using a ruler.

But I have done the best I could. One of the problems of putting a partially quilted piece on the long-arm is that you might get puckers on the back. Oh yeah, that has happened here, too. The backing is white muslin, or perhaps an old white sheet. It has lots of fullness, and a few puckers and pleats.

But you know what? This is not going to any quilt show. It will be going to one of Helen's grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or possibly even great-great grandchildren. How lovely that they will now have a finished quilt to inherit, instead of a project in a plastic bag?

I have emailed some pics to Debbie to show how it looks with just her grandma's quilting motifs, and suggested that I add some quilting to the sashing to get it to lie down a little flatter. Then I need to decide what binding to use. And the whole thing needs washing very badly, as you can imagine. But doesn't this old project have a little charm?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Butterflies and Bees

Yesterday we drove my father to my niece's house in Durham, NC, to meet up with my brother for the drive back to Boone. My niece and her family live in a former boarding house in an older section of Durham. It was originally from 1926, with a new wing added a few decades later. It has eleven bedrooms, most of which have been converted to office space, exercise room, and toddler play areas. Anyway, while on the tour, I saw this scrappy star quilt that I finished for my sister-in-law. It was hanging in an upstairs hallway, and looked great. Debbie had brought me three quilt tops that her grandmother had started back in the 70's or earlier. This was one of them that she had given to her daughter Amy. This one had very poor piecing (done in Grandma's later years) and took a lot of quilting to get it to lay flat.

Then, Amy showed me another quilt she inherited that was in a plastic bag waiting to be hung. This one was finished, but had no hanging sleeve. Since she has two babies and no sewing machine, I brought it home with me to add a sleeve. It smelled musty and moth-bally, so it is airing out on the lawn between two freshly laundered sheets. This one has very graphically pleasing bright butterflies on a white and mint green background. Check out the calico and some wild old prints.The butterflies have blanket-stitch around the edges, and black stem stitch antennae. Here and there are little embroidered yellow circles.

Upon closer inspection of the hand quilting, I thought at first that she used variegated thread. Then, I realized that she used white thread, but never removed the blue markings from the quilting motif.

It is nice that Debbie and her family value her grandmother's creations. I have one more to do for her that is partially quilted by hand. I think I am going to attempt it on the Gammill and pray to St. Quilta the Comforter to make it smooth and pucker-free. Debbie says there are many more still back in Indiana, sitting in bags and waiting to be quilted. I told her to bring 'em on!

While I was outside to air the quilt, I noticed a lot of activity on my giant lavender plant near my garden pond. If anyone is wondering where the honeybees have gone, they are in my yard! Some of these little guys had so much pollen in their pouches, I don't see how they can fly. Notice the huge yellow spot on the leg.

And here are some Shasta daisies that decided to bloom while I was on vacation.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Checking back in from Beach Week

The marsh and Bird Island from our deck on Sunset Beach, NC
Another family beach week has come and gone. This has to be one of the best ever, weather-wise and other-wise! Both of my sons and their wives and our two grandchildren were with us all week. Charlie's two brothers were also at the beach with their families, and two of my brothers' and families also rented houses on our street. And we had a surprise visit from two of my other brothers who drove down on Friday and spent the night. All I can say is, it all went by too fast.

This is the row of cottages on the inlet side of 40th Street at Sunset Beach. At low tide, the inlet is rather murky-looking, but very attractive to the herons and gulls searching for crabs in the sand. One morning we saw a deer calmly walking up the inlet past all the cottages.

Here is a nice oleander shrub at the edge of our lot. They have glorious tropical color. Granddaughter Lily turned two years old during our week at the beach. She loved the surf and having so many relatives to play with this week!

Grandson Avery was lots of fun to play with at the beach and in the cottage. He actually caught some silvery little fish in this butterfly net.

Here are some of the older McBrayer Girls on Sunset Beach- my sister-in-law Phylis, DIL Miranda, DIL Emily, and moi, with sunburned feet hidden in a t-shirt. Three of us had polka-dot bathing suits this year!

One tradition at our cottage is "Hat Night," when we all choose a straw hat or other cap from the cottage collection. Here is son Dave with Avery in their chapeaux.

And here is my dad and DIL Emily on Hat Night.
And the littlest one chose the biggest sombrero for the party. Lily is under there somewhere!

Sunset Beach can only be reached via a one-lane swinging drawbridge. It opens at any time for commercial boat traffic on the Intercoastal Waterway, and on the hour for waiting pleasure boats. We seem to get caught by the bridge opening every time we go anywhere. Two days in a row, we saw this heron sitting near the bridge. He looked so funny, like a little penguin.

That's it for now. Today we have to put away all the beach stuff. We drove my dad to Durham to my niece's house to meet up with my brother for the drive back to the mountains.

Now that I am no longer employed and back from the beach, I will try to make All Things Quilty actually have more posts about actual quilts!