Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Quilty Books

We got home from western North Carolina yesterday evening after a delightful visit with all the McBrayers, and their doggies, both big (Tommy Mac's third dog named Blackie)

and small. This is baby Jasper, Lindsay's chihuahua puppy!

There was still snow on the ground in Rutherford County, so we had a sort of white Christmas...

and we had clear weather, and look at this gorgeous sunset reflected in the backyard pool.

My family has discovered the Amazon Wish List, which is a wonderful thing. You can add items from any website to your wish list. So, among my gifts, I found a subscription to Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine, and two wonderful quilt books.
I am especially thrilled with the first one, Fabric Art Collage- 40+ Mixed Media Techniques, by Rebekah Meier.

I have been collecting lots of tools and materials for painting and stamping fabric, but did not always know what to do with them. I love this book because she names the actual products she uses, where you can get it, and refers back to the page with the instructions when she shows a project with that technique. Finally, I am going to use my Creative Textile Tool for some hot stamping and cutting! I stopped at Mary Jo's Cloth Store, AKA Mecca, on the way home and added lots of nice new things to play with. Will show that stuff in another post.
The other new book is Creative Ways with Fibre & Stitch, by Sue Bleiweiss and Terri Stegmiller.

This book features many surface design techniques, and some awesome projects like a painted canvas tote, some journals, boxes, and art quilts. I took an online class from Sue last year on making fabric journals, and this book will be a lovely addition to my library.
Having been home less than twenty-four hours, I will be heading south this morning to visit my grands for a couple days. We did not get to spend Christmas with them this year, so I am anxious to see what Santa brought them! They both attend a private church preschool/Kindergarten which is closed this week, so I will have some uninterrupted grandma time!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another Christmas Quilt

If you have been reading my blog this month, you may remember my post about the Gingerbread Houses quilt I entered in the Virtual Christmas Quilt Show on SewCalGal's blog.
She has added a new feature which allows viewers to have a chance at winning one of the great prizes! Just visit her blog and leave a comment or send her an e-mail about your favorite quilt in the Virtual Christmas Quilt Show. Drawing will be December 25, so hurry over! There are some lovely quilts to drool over in the show.
In addition to the Gingerbread Houses quilt, I have quite a few Christmas quilts. Today I will show you one that I made from a block exchange with my quilt bee back in the nineties. The bee has changed names from Just Between Friends to the Whacky Ladies, and I think Marilyn and I are the only remaining original members of this group.

We made pine trees from strip pieces of different lengths with two half-square triangles in each strip. I remember this being a complicated pattern to measure and piece, but I like the way it turned out. Since the trees are not embellished, the quilt is not just limited to Christmas decor. It is just big enough for napping on the couch, although it is currently hanging on the wall in my living room.
To have enough blocks for the quilt, I had to make two more of my blocks, featuring the blue-green-violet batik tree fabric. Of course this was long before I had my long-arm machine, and I used one of the decorative stitches on my Bernina to add garlands to each tree with metallic threads.

I have gotten my new machine (Janome 6600) set up, finally, in its table that fits snugly around the machine. I have only spent a short time playing. It is weird to sit down to sew, and not even know how to wind a bobbin or thread the machine without consulting the manual. It feels very strange after so many years of using my very familiar Bernina. But, I think I will like it.

Today's plan: another workout on my Wii Fit, and then make something fattening to take to the Christmas Eve gathering at my son and daughter-in-law's home! I am thinking...Bourbon Balls!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Early Christmas

We had a wonderful weekend with our son Dave and his wife Emily. We went to their home and enjoyed a soak in their new hot tub, which they got just in time for our old age! It is so relaxing. My brother Pat and his wife Alice live only a few blocks away, and they came over to join us. One of these days, we will have one of those lovely spa tubs at our mountain home. The huge snowstorm that blanketed the East Coast on Friday missed our area by only a few miles. We got a trace of snow on the deck, but the rest was rain. But it was still pretty cold, and that tub felt great!
Emily and Dave are hosting her entire family for Christmas, and we will be joining them for Christmas Eve, but we decided to share our Christmas gifts with each other this weekend. These lovely Victorian-style patchwork ornaments were a gift from Emily, made by her mother. I love them!

I finished the satin pillow that I started a long time ago to give it to Emily for Christmas. The white satin is left over from their wedding quilt. I just quilted feathers and flowers all over, but added a border of mixed horizontal and vertical lines. It will go on the leather chaise lounge in their bedroom.

I was very surprised to receive my gift from my hubby while we were there...a Nintendo Wii! He said I had asked for it last Christmas, which I don't recall. I was just thinking how happy our grandkids will be that we have a Wii they can play with...when I opened the accompanying gift from Dave and Em, the Wii Fitness Plus. This has all kinds of games for balance, strength, flexibility, and aerobics. The four of us played Bowling Saturday night, which was lots of fun. When we got home, I fooled around with the program and tried some of the fitness exercises. When you start out, it measures your BMI and compares it to your age, and then you do a balance test. I did not catch on to how to perform the balance exercises. My Wii Fitness Age is 70! Since I am 59, I was not too happy about that! Charlie, who is 60, had a fitness age of 55. I will have to try that balance test again.

This is going to be a fun way to work out without using the same exercise videos I have gotten kind of sick of doing. I sampled the yoga (at one point called YOGO in the instruction manual), hula hoop, step aerobics, and strength exercises.

My five-year old grandson is an expert on his dad's Ipod, clicking away with his little thumbs on video games, and instinctively knowing what to do despite the inability to read the messages. He can even download new apps on his own. Maybe he can teach me to do some of these Wii exercises!

To end on a quilty note, here is my little three-year old granddaughter, Lily, at our house a couple weeks ago. Do you think I have a future quilter in the family?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sewing Space Organization

There are lots of great deals in the stores these days. Here is purchase I am quite proud of: a flexible, clamp-on Ott light for my Gammill. It was on the Clearance shelf at Michael's Craft Store in North Raleigh. I was able to use my 40% off coupon with it, for a grand total of $12.00 for this great light. The only other light in the room is an overhead fan with light fixture, and a floor model Ott light that just did not work out with the Gammill, since I was always knocking it over.

I am continuing to try to organize my sewing space on the third floor. I have just about finished with organization of my "stash." There are two narrow closets in the sewing room. Here is the first one, which holds my fat quarters, hand-dyed fabric in the tall drawers, and pre-cut squares and strips in the shoe-boxes.Bonnie Hunter came to our guild this year and explained how she "tames" her scraps by cutting into strips and squares of 1.5", 2", 2.5", 3.5", etc. I already had a lot of these cut up. I'm not sure I will keep them in these fabric shoe-boxes, because they are collapsible.

Here is the other closet. This one is directly behind the embellisher machine table, so I can just wheel my chair backward and reach for some yummy stuff. Like this basket of hand-dyed cheesecloth, part of my postcard challenge prize from Vicki Welsh.
The two tallest plastic drawers are my scraps, sorted by color.

The two shorter drawers are for ribbons, trims, and other embellishments. I used one of my old organization tools from my elementary school experience: label everything, and include a sample of what's inside on the label.

My larger pieces of fabric (half-yard or more) are sorted by color in these plastic bins on another 9-cubby shelf unit against the wall.

This wall is only about five feet high because of the sloping ceiling of this finished attic space. Looks like I need to use up or get rid of some of these pieces so the tops will actually fit on the plastic tubs. But, it is looking a lot better than the old system. I used to keep the fat quarters in the wooden triple dresser, and the plastic tubs on top. That was not working out too well, was it? Along with my little stereo and talking books and CD collection?

I did not plan to ever show off the wreck that was my old sewing room, but I guess as I get it cleaned out, I will show the old versus new. Can you see why it is taking me so long to shovel out this room?
To try to keep things off the floor, I am using pegboards on the walls. This one, for rulers and rotary cutters, fits on the narrow space between the two closets.

This one is on the wall next to my sewing table. Yesterday I bought some more thread racks at Joann's, so I would not have any plastic drawers and boxes of thread lying around. I have not put those up yet. I have already discovered that I do not like having rotary cutters and scissors stationed directly above my head when I am sewing- those will have to move! I like the little wire baskets that attach to the pegboard. A good place to put sewing machine oil, fray-check, etc.

I still have only one design wall mounted, but will try to get DSH (Dear Sweet Husband) to help me hang the other one this weekend. I have unearthed the basket and boxes of fabric and UFO's that I brought home from our friend Spike's house after his wife passed away two years ago. Pam made these very precise blocks with perfectly mitered frames, and I intend to finish the quilt for Spike. I found an assortment of squares left over from some of her other projects, and auditioned them next to her blocks, which are already sewn together. I don't know why she used so much pink in a quilt for a manly man, but I thought I would try adding more blue-greens and tans for an outer border. I'm not sure about that... but I definitely do not want to make any more of those mitered log cabin blocks. It will have some kind of scrappy border. There are yards of what looks like sashing strips in a lime green...don't think I will be using that for this project. I wish there was a pattern or hint of where she was going with some of her UFO's. Memo to self: store UFO's with a copy of the pattern or book, along with the fabrics selected for that project.

We might have a little snow here this weekend, although there is a much greater chance in the mountains. I'm glad we had our family gathering last weekend, because many of the folks had to travel from Boone and other points west. We are planning to go to try out Dave and Emily's new hot tub on Saturday. Sitting outdoors in a hot tub, watching it snow...sounds delightful!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First Quilt at Age 83

I have a delightful new customer who brought me her first quilt before Thanksgiving, and I delivered it to her this week. Her quilt has a story to tell, as do so many.

Gertrude used to help her mother hand-quilt her embroidered quilt tops, but had never made one of her own. She decided to make a quilt for her son, and one for her daughter-in-law. She was going to machine-quilt them, so she pieced them in long strips.

Life intervened, as it so often does. Gertrude's husband became very ill. She spent the next five years nursing him. He passed away in March of this year.

Gertrude decided she would go back to the projects she started many years before- so she would have something to leave behind. Her hands are now affected by arthritis, so it is not easy for her to do handwork. She has finished the first quilt, a lovely green and pink with a very nice oriental-looking floral fabric accent.

There are many different framed blocks making up this sampler quilt,

and lots of nice green "canvas" to fill with artistic freehand flowers and leaves.

This was a very ambitious project for a first quilt. Not only was it LARGE, but it was set on point. That gives many bias edges and opportunities for stretching and fullness. When I first loaded the quilt, the entire right hand side kind of just sagged, instead of stretching taut.

I moved my extra clamp with the perky little "fishy" to the right side,

and also decided to baste horizontally every ten to twelve inches along the length of the quilt as I went along. But Blogger is turning the picture so it looks vertical!

Even after all the basting, extra pinning, smoothing, and lots of curvy quilting to take up the fullness, there was a lot of "extra" by the time I got to the bottom edge.

So- more pinning, basting, and some tight, tight quilting with one hand

while smoothing with the other, and leaning on the "belly bar" for even more control....and the result was pretty flat, although not exactly even.

I think it is beautiful! Let's hear it for Gertrude's first quilt-at age 83!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Secret Santa Reveal

The other day I posted about the lovely Secret Santa gifts from my friend Jean. I also showed a teaser of the project I was working on. The actual exchange was on Saturday, during my family party, and I can now reveal what I made for Jenny Copeland. It was kind of funny that I was her Secret Santa, because I am one of the more "Artsy" quilters in the CyberBee, and she is probably THE most traditional. She likes country colors, folk art, applique, hand-quilting...and chickens! I decided to make another Great Big Tote Bag, like the two I made last year, except in her preferred color palette.

The instructions for this bag are from the
Selvage Blog. It would take a lot of selvages and sewing to make this MONGO bag!

You start out by making a quilt, complete with binding. I selected most of these fabrics at Loving Stitches quilt shop in Fayetteville, NC, when I was there to buy a roll of batting. But Alert Readers will remember the beautiful green sun-printed pine needle fabric as part of my prize from Vicki Welsh's November Postcard Challenge. I still have some left for other projects! The orange hand-dye and the brown stripe were from my stash.

After constructing the striped top and the pieced lining, I quilted the project on my Gammill, in designs inspired by Nichole Webb's Floribunda Feathers.

At the same time, I quilted two five-inch pieces for the shoulder straps. After doing that, I realized I was supposed to fold the five-inch fabric strip in half over the batting before quilting. So, I cut my quilted straps in half, and then had to make a binding for them. I sewed them to the inside of the bag, reinforcing with X-stitching. The bound edges of the quilt are hand-stitched together.

Since I now had an extra strip of quilted five-inch wide fabric, I decided to make a little pouch that could be used to carry rotary cutters or scissors. It closes with Velcro, and I added a little fiber to the zig-zagged raw edge of the flap.

You can see how big the tote bag is in relation to the approximately eight-inch long pouch.

I also tucked in a pot-holder made by my friend Carolyn Ormond for her church's bazaar, and a coffee mug filled with coordinating fabrics.

If you would like to see another awesome Secret Santa gift from the CyberBee exchange, visit my friend
Janice's blog to see what she created for Jean.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Family Gathering

I spent most of the day yesterday in my jammies after the big family reunion at my house on Saturday. It was lots of work, but so great to see everyone. We ended up with a little over forty people. Here are the two youngest! Both little babies were very friendly and sweet among all the tall relatives.

So, how do you feed a sit-down turkey dinner to forty-something people? The men were in charge of the turkeys. My son Dave cracked me up as he played Massage Therapist while rubbing in the seasonings. "How's your job going?"

He brought his turkey cooker over, so we had twin fryers bubbling away in the driveway...

and two twin turkeys, fried to golden perfection!

The weather was cold and gray, but we had about fourteen kids running in and out of the house and around the yard. Here is my granddaughter Lily in her new fleece toboggan made by my friend Mary Nennstiel. Too cute!
I plan to do as little as possible today, and won't be cooking anything for days...unless heating up leftovers in the "nuker" counts as cooking. Maybe the new sewing machine will get out of the box this week!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gingerbread House Quilt

I decided it was time to take a break from my Christmas party tasks today, and join in the fun of the Virtual Christmas Quilt Show from Sew Cal Gal's blog. I have made quite a few Christmas quilts over the years, but will share a special one for this post.

Back in the nineties, I was the lucky winner of the December Block Party blocks at the Capital Quilters Guild in Raleigh. The pattern was a simple house with a chimney design, that we were encouraged to embellish as desired.

They were all really cute!

If you glance to the left upper sky section, you will see Santa and his sleigh...

How about a candy house? Lots going on here!
One of my favorites...Santa's boot is just disappearing down the chimney. And I love the lace work to make the gingerbread trim!
My own house block was plain and simple...
Not this one...lots going on in this candy house!
I put all the houses in a nine-patch design, and bordered them with Gingerbread Men from a Debbie Mumm design. Many of the ginger people were embellished with trinkets or fused novelty fabrics that represented our hobbies and interests.
I was teaching elementary school at the time...

I love flowers and gardening...

And my husband had just gotten his Private Pilot's license.

There is a little quilter girl holding scissors and a quilt block next to the house block that I made.

This was so much fun to embellish! Now the grandkids want to know which one is "them." Hmm, I need to add one eating fruit loops and another wearing a pink dress. And a few eyes need to be tacked back down. But this little wall quilt still has a strong appeal to me!