Monday, January 31, 2011

Design Wall Monday--Jan 31, 2011

I made it for this week's Design Wall by the skin of my teeth!  The entire weekend was taken up by the #6 UFO Challenge project's quilting and binding.  I'm thrilled to say I've finished it and will be posting pics on my page and linking to Judy's blog directly.  Yay!  Anticpation now for the next number drawn...

Yesterday I showed this photo of the Brown Bag Quilt Contest fabrics I got from my swap partner along with the pattern I've chosen and a blue dot I pulled for sashing:
Then I re-read the contest rules and it said I could add whatever percentage I wanted to these fabrics.  I decided this grouping has a garden/flower theme and pulled some like fabrics from my stash to add punches of color and contrast to the soft blues. 

I love the stripe and it will make a nice bias binding, just as Heather Mulder Peterson (the pattern designer) uses so often.  I think a black sashing will be better over the blue dot.  Now I'll have more direction for my search for a large scale print for the border and block center squares--always a plus!  See more Design Walls on Judy's Patchwork Times blog. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Brown Bag Quilt Contest

A few months ago I joined the Brown Bag Quilt Contest.  There were some administrative problems and some delay in matching up swap partners, but I was so happy to finally receive notification that a match had been made.  Though I picked my fabric to swap out, getting to the post office seemed to be a big problem for me between the holidays, my two jobs and getting ready for Erica's move this month.  However, I got a big kick in the pants last week when a package arrived from my swap partner.  Inside were these soft blue lovelies.  The rules of the contest are that you are to use 90% of the Brown Bag contents and can add any percentage you like of fabric from your own stash, as well as one newly purchased fabric. 


I like this quilt on the left from the book I just got called Livin Large, by Heather Mulder Peterson.  It is called Sunday Picnic.  The book is based on precuts such as layer cakes, so the blocks start as 9 3/4" squares cut into triangles and sashing added.  It is a nice sized throw. 

Blues are very scarce in my stash although I think this dot will work well for the sashing. It is a bit of a sedate grouping so far and I will be looking for a lovely large scale print for the border and sashing squares.  Perhaps I'll throw in some pink and green to liven it up.  You like so far?   

Friday, January 28, 2011

NQR

We took my mother in law out to dinner the other night for a birthday celebration--she will be 92 on Saturday.  Frances is very mobile and though she is getting forgetful about some things, she says she only noticed that "since she's been 91".  We ran into an old friend of ours at the restaurant, who met Frances and told her that her own granny had lived to be 99 and 1/2, and was healthy up until the end.  Frances said, "Well, I only have eight more years to go!"  Too funny. 

Here's Grant with his mom last August.

On another note, DD Elaine, who reads my blog regularly, complained that "there were never any fun facts about her in Tuesday's Orts".  So, look for something special next week, my dear!

There has been no crafting this week due to late nights at work and just being too tired, and I'm beginning to get a bit cranky.  Last night I required retail therapy on the way home from work and found Kohl's to be nearly deserted, so there was lots of room to roam for bargain shopping.  Gotta love 50% off clearance racks!   I gravitated to my favorite colors and came home with two green shirts and a teal embellished sweater.  I was dismayed by the return of a fashion item--the cropped sweater, as well as by the very loose, long and shapeless sweaters that don't have a front closure.  I don't think these flatter anyone but the very thin.  I'm already a bit loose and shapeless and need to counteract that, not emphasize it!  Give me more structured jackets and sweaters that create the illusion of a waist, please.  

Lastly, DD Erica called late last night with the news that she has a job interview tomorrow with a bank.  Arizona is a right-to-work state so the pay will be less than she's used to, most likely, but she's excited about finding a job so fast.  She says every Starbucks in town is looking for help so she may take a second job for some extra cash.  Excellent news! 

Okay, off to work at Job #2...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday's Orts--Jan 25, 2011

Today's orts will be short and sweet--I'm late to work at Job #2!
  • It was fun to read all the responses to my Bullseye bargain shopping post.  I wonder how many quilters I have just infected with that new source of fabric hunting sickness?
  • A neighbor of ours went to a taping of the Jay Leno show recently and the new American Idol judges were the guests.  She reported that Steven Tyler had about four assistants rush out at every break to fluff up his hair.  Too funny!
  • My sister was going through the drive-thru line at a fast food restaurant that was being remodeled and  noticed a handwritten sign posted to apologize for the hassle.  It read: "Sorry for the Unconvince".  Yeah, my sister was unconvinced that anyone literate wrote the sign.
  • Traffic rant:  Oh, the fun of driving behind someone unflappably keeping their speed 10-15 miles an hour below the speed limit, totally oblivious to the 4 or 5 irritated people behind them.  Even worse: Then turning onto a two lane road and the slow driver's twin occupying the other lane just slightly ahead by a car length, but not enough to let anyone pass these two jokers.
  • My mom and I saw the movie The King's Speech on Sunday.  We arrived 10 minutes late on purpose so that we could miss the first half of the previews/ads, which seem to run about 20-25 minutes these days.  That worked out quite well and we enjoyed the movie a lot.  Colin Firth was really great. 
  • Finally, I received some photos from my sister in law of the throw-sized quilt I made for her son and his bride for their wedding gift, six years ago.  They are Romanian and I wanted to incorporate something of their ancestry.  In my research, I learned the Romanian flag is red, blue, and yellow. 
  • The simple design was done with strip piecing--I think there were six or seven different strip sets!
    Being me, it had to be scrappy, of course. 
    Here is the lovely couple, Vlad and Mara, with the quilt. I'm very pleased they love and use the quilt, as I did not get to see them open the gift and they immediately left for school in San Francisco following the wedding and have been in school nearly the whole time since.  When writing to give me permission to use their photos, Vlad said that he currently "is an assistant researcher on a schistosomiasis project funded by the Bill Gates foundation and NSF, which he will be able to use towards his master's thesis. Mara is studying for her Certified Nurse Midwife California Board exam. Once she passes it she will prepare for the board exam in women's health."  My sister in law is thrilled to have her only child and his lovely wife back living in L.A. finally.  I'm happy to have photos as my camera had failed to save the pictures I took before delivering the quilt.  I congratulate Vlad and Mara on all their long and hard work studying and their goals of helping others in their work.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Design Wall Monday--Jan 24, 2011

Not much to show on my Design Wall but there is something this week, as opposed to last!
The first few rows of the Kitchen Sink quilt.  It is coming together nicely.

Saturday I pinned the Comfort Zone quilt with my mom's help.  It is great to have a quilting assistant.  Thanks, Mom!  Now I have to come up with a quilting plan and get this finished in the next week.  I already know I have no appropriate thread to use so it's back to the fabric store for me. Oh darn.

This time when we set up the folding tables we propped them up with two pavers under each leg, raising the level of the tables by about 5 inches to a height of 34 inches, which is standard kitchen countertop height.  Working on a table instead of the living room floor required about the same amount of setup time (i.e., getting the tables/pavers from the backyard shed versus moving furniture and rolling up a big rug) and was so much easier on backs, knees and necks!  Go to Judy's Patchwork Times blog to see other Design Walls.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bullseye

I love a bargain, and that store with the red bullseye as its logo is one of my favorites to find them in.  Being a textile lover, the towels and linens section always beckons.  All those yummy textures and colors and prints.  Like an addict needing a fix, I can't resist the fabric in those aisles that stretch from kitchen towels to embroidered pillows, cotton sheets, quilted throws, and even shower curtains.  Yes, shower curtains.  I came home with three of those tonight for the miserly sum of less than $15.00  Check it out:

Won't this make a great quilt backing?

At 72" x 72", that is four yards of nice quality 100% cotton fabric for $3.74. 

This one with the letters was definitely irresistible to me, a WORD girl.  Did I ever mention before that I was on Wheel of Fortune years ago?

Four yards of modern looking printed 100% cotton fabric for $4.24. 

This is the only shower curtain that is actually going to be used for that.

Originally $25, I paid $6.24.  Amazing!   My husband just laughed and shook his head when I told him two would be used for quilting.  You can't take a quilter anywhere without them looking for fabric.  I was even eyeing some flannel shirts on the clearance racks.  Those XXXLs are generous with the yardage...So if you love a fabric bargain, get thee to Target!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

UFO and Other Progress

I'm all ready to put together the quilt sandwich for #6 on the UFO Challenge list, my Comfort Zone quilt:

That striped fabric is the backing, pieced and trimmed to size.  The binding is made and I've got batting too.  Now to rent time in my mom's studio and her tables so I don't have to crawl around on the floor while pinning.

Other progress was the completion of one of the embroideries for the pillow fronts for Erica, and starting the second.  Two more to do after that. The printed fabric will be the back of the pillows so they will be reversible.

I love all the colors in this fabric Erica picked out.  My brother and SIL generously left two couches in the guest house for Erica to use and the pillows will look nice against the creamy off white slipcovers.

Crate and Barrel had reasonably priced feather/down pillow inserts.  I ordered six and they came in a huge box with all this bubble wrap, cushioning PILLOWS.  Pretty funny!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday's Orts--Jan 18, 2011

January is speeding by awfully fast!  Today's orts are quite a mix...
  • Human beings are not made to sit for excessively long periods.  So says my tailbone, which is sore from intensive sewing/quilting sessions and two 8 hour road trips in two days.
  • Erica's heavy social calendar, especially the last few weeks before her move, will probably be the hardest adjustment for her to make.  Next will be getting a job, as she has been unemployed for several weeks, having quit her jobs in preparation for the move.  Her dad was casually mentioning to the clerk at the hotel upon checking out that we just moved our daughter to AZ and she needed to find a job.  The clerk said they needed help there, immediately, as two people had recently left and a third had given two weeks notice, and handed Grant a business card.  You never know what a little idle conversation can turn up. 
  • What is it about traveling that tires you out?  You are often just sitting but as soon as you get to your destination, it seems all you want to do is sit or lie down.
  • Driving on a two lane highway is an exercise in lane changing.  Pass a truck, move back over for a speeder.  Pass a truck, move back over for a speeder.  We must have done that 200 times each way.  This was one of the trucks we passed:
This frightening sight out the front window was actually a Wal Mart truck cab being towed.
  • Traffic rant:  L.A. freeway drivers.  I told Grant that the HOV lane must stand for High On Velocity.  So many terrifyingly fast drivers changing lanes and zooming by.  It was totally nerve wracking for over two hours until we got out of the county. 
  • My eldest nephew made the front page of our newspaper today.  It was for a good deed and, being Matt, involved animals.  Read all about it here.
  • It was good to get back to my sewing machine and work on something easy for a change.  Last night I pieced the back to my UFO Challenge quilt of the month, and also a few rows of the Kitchen Sink Quilt.  Very satisfying!
  • Finally, another photo.   
Any ideas for a caption?

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Finish for Erica

My first finish of 2011!  Stitching the binding down took a great deal of time, mostly because of the polyester suede-like material being very bulky and thick and certainly not taking a crease.  It was cut 4 inches wide per the pattern instructions, so that was a lot more fabric to deal with.  I started out with a bigger hand needle but was glad I had run back in the house at the last minute and grabbed my pincushion, as I found a smaller needle in it that worked with much more ease.  Wish I'd had a thimble too!  Stitching took place in the van, in the hotel room after dinner until I could not keep my eyes open by 10:45, and then again for a couple of hours the next morning, and continued after checkout and breakfast at my brother's.   While stitching, my SIL Laura and I talked quilting.  I love that!  Her most recent finish was this cross quilt:
Laura saw a similar cross quilt on Sew Mama Sews blog and dug in her stash to make her version.  She just made blocks until she thought she had enough and then set them together. 

Love the pieced backing.  It is a nice large throw size.

She had this professionally quilted, and it was bound with a striped fabric.  Just terrific variety of all the crosses.  Love it!

It took hours longer than expected and I put the final stitch in the binding about 2 PM. I got the two tallest quilt holders I could find (Grant and my brother Ted) and posed Erica's quilt in it's new desert environment.  After spending so many hours working close up on the quilt, it was a lovely surprise to see how good it looked held up (even if I do say so myself!).  Click on the photo for a closer view.

I like the shadow of the saguaro cactus hitting the quilt.  You can see how thick the binding is.

The quilting shows up nicely on the back over Erica's initials.

And here it is covering the top of the king sized bed in Erica's little guest house.  You can see the crosshatching in the border.  That suede really feels luxurious.

She and her friend Christy (on the right) obliged me with a first tryout of the quilt.  Erica said it made her want to put on her pajamas and go to sleep right then.  She was very happy, and so was I, to finally have it finished!

After a few tears at our goodbyes with Erica, Grant and I finally headed home many hours after our original intent.  We were treated to a lovely sunset as we crossed back into California and the worst part of the drive, the L.A. Freeways.  After 16 hours of being in the car over two days we finally made it home at 10:00 PM, exhausted and bleary eyed, especially Grant, who did all the driving.  My sore finger was nothing compared to that!  We will miss Erica bunches but she is sure to be well looked after by my brother and sister in law.  She will miss all her friends and busy social life, but it is a great opportunity for her and we know she will make the most of it--starting a new life in Arizona as a young adult!   

Speed Trip

We have returned, tired and bleary eyed, and me with a sore stitching finger...

Friday night found me sewing late into the night by machine, finishing up the last of the border work.  I scrapped the stencil/free motion quilting for something much simpler but still time consuming, cross hatching.
After repeated thread breakage, lumps on the back, more skipped stitches and frustration, I determined the cause of all my problems was cheap needles.  Months ago I found packs of EZ Quilting machine needles for a song at Tuesday Morning.  Though they were the same length as my other machine needles, the eye of the needle was lower on some and this caused my bobbin thread to be pulled up incorrectly.  I threw all of them away after switching to my only "good" needle in the house!  The binding got machine sewn on before I crashed for the night at 1:00 AM with a wake up call set for 5:30 AM.

We headed out by 6:30 and had an easy drive through L.A. 
Spotted some lovely snow capped mountains in San Bernardino...

and masses of wind turbines on the way to Palm Springs.

We led most of the way.

The mountains are all volcanic in nature, with some strange formations just plopped down, seemingly.  I took occasional photos in between stitching the binding down. 

Dunno what was wrong with these palms.  Fire, maybe, in the past?


Grant giving the thumbs up as he crossed the Colorado River into Arizona for the first time in his life.

The white is the tops of cacti.  The black is big basalt rocks thrown out of the earth by volcanic action.  Some were a foot or more in diameter.

We arrived in Scottsdale about 4 PM and got the van all emptied in short order.  My brother Ted, SIL Laura and my nieces came over to help.  We checked into our hotel and left Erica (who had had 1.5 hours of sleep the night before) to acclimate her cat and get a bit settled.  The above is the view from our hotel.

And looking across the valley floor towards Phoenix.

Grant really loved the Southwest style furniture.

We also loved the fireplace and the great view from the little balcony.


The little casitas were about six or eight units and really nice, overlooking a golf course.

Arizona sunset, Erica's first as a new resident!  Next post, the finished quilt!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Off to Arizona

The time has come--too early, but we're heading out the door.  The cargo van is packed and the cat has been sedated.  I'll be stitching the binding down on the quilt on the way!  More soon...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sick

So a couple of nights ago son Nick complained of feeling warm.  He did have a hot forehead and sore throat.  I told him to take Advil and drink fluids and go to bed, thinking it was a viral thing.  We made a trip to the Urgent Care on the following evening, however, as he was boiling hot, had slept all day with nothing to eat, and the back of his throat was a mess by my flashlight inspection.  He could hardly swallow from the pain. Luckily, with the new laws, we were able to put both our older kids back on Grant's company insurance plan so it was only $40 copay at the Urgent Care.  We were also fortunate to have missed the backlog of patients that had just cleared, it being 9:00 PM at that point.

I spotted the doctor on duty from the front counter--lo and behold, my old family physician since I was a new baby!  He had taken care of my own family, including Nick.  Dr. P recognized me too.  He said he loved to work in reply to my question as to why he hadn't retired, and the receptionist said "he has more energy than all of us". 

I told Dr. P the last time he probably saw Nick was probably when he was about 3-4 years old and needed his ears washed out from too much wax.  On the way to the doctor's office Nick had tied closed the hood of his jacket around his face and head, knowing what was coming.  I managed to get the hood off his head in the office with some coercion, but when it came time to lie still and have his ears cleaned, the doctor, his nurse and I were having to hold him down.  Dr. P did get a bit of the wax out but gave up after about five minutes of this and said there was no need to traumatize the kid!  After that I think we changed insurance companies and Dr. P was not on our plan. 

This time it was a lot easier for the Dr. to see in Nick's ear, as he said to me as he grinned.  Then when he shone his light on Nick's throat, he exclaimed "Oh, did you see that?" and called me over to take a look.  It was pretty spectacularly dotted with white yuck.  However, the swab came back as negative for strep.  Dr. P said the in-clinic tester was supposed to be 85% accurate, but he thought it was strep, and sent off the swab to the lab for the remaining 15%.  Some penicillin and throat spray and a couple days of rest later, Nick is feeling a bit better.  Good enough to go to a job interview this afternoon!  Luckily he is no longer contagious since he has been taking the antibiotic for more than 24 hours.  Still waiting to hear the lab results, though! 

It's nice to have stayed in my hometown and have this connection for so long.  Dr. P travels to other countries to provide free medical care, and has for decades.  He went to Haiti after last year's earthquake, the receptionist told me.  Good work, Dr. P!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday's Orts--Jan 11, 2011

1/11/11, another fun calendar date!  Today's orts are accompanied by windy, wintry weather...
  • The national weather extremes listed in my local paper had Mammoth Lakes, California at minus 22 degrees as the lowest low one morning last week.  The next morning the national low was in Minnesota at minus 23 degrees, back where it belongs, as I told my husband!
  • I bought some blueberry bagels at the grocery store last Friday and put them in the pantry with the loaves of sourdough and wheat I also purchased.  I could smell them every time I opened up the pantry door and even when I didn't.  On Sunday when Grant was making a sandwich with the wheat bread, he said it tasted like blueberry, which didn't go very well with his tuna.  Looking at the package, it read "naturally and ARTIFICIALLY flavored".  Ahh, mystery solved.  The bagels were pulled out of the pantry and relegated to the top of the fridge.  Much better.
  • Son Nick calls his dad the Grant Mouse.  Being very polite and thinking only of his family, the Grant Mouse never polishes off the last of anything.  So when you want a sweet and the package is very light, you can always find a half a cookie.  Same with crackers, chips, ice cream, tortillas, and the sliced cheese.  There is always a gift from the Grant Mouse of the last morsel, half slice, or spoonful.
  • Erica is making the rounds of her friends' houses and getting her car checked over.  It sure is great to have an Uncle as your mechanic as he always has loaner cars at his shop.
  • Working in a doctor's office, we of course have policies.  As the office manager, it is my job to update these.  Once a year we ask patients to fill out a basic info sheet for name, address, insurance company, etc (1 page) and give them the updated policies (1 page).  People want to just put "same" in all the sections but frequently forget to tell us that their "same" is a new address they moved to six months ago or a new insurance card that we don't have.  Many people don't even look at the policies before they ask "if there is anything they should know about".   YES, people, a document which gives clear instructions and requires your signature should be READ, completely filled out, and signed!  Really, not kidding. 
  • Traffic rant:  Again with the bicycles!  Stop at stop signs and red lights, just like a car must.  Ride WITH traffic, not against it.  Don't ride on the sidewalk.  Ride tandem not side by side.  Pedestrians have the right of way, especially on the sidewalk.  And please, don't talk on your cell phone while riding on a busy street. 
  • Making throw pillows is not cheap. Erica wants piping around the pillows but the packaged stuff is not 100% cotton and does not match the Indigo Kona cotton.  So I bought more fabric to make my own.  However, I neglected to buy cording.  So back to the store I will go again.  Zippers have stayed relatively cheap but thread is getting very expensive.  An economy sized spool of Guterman thread cost me $5.39 at the local fabric store.  It is really a tossup to me to shop local and pay more rather than drive 10-15 extra miles round trip to use a coupon at JoAnn's in the next city over...Time is money! 
  • About 4-5 years ago DMC came out with a bunch of embroidery products using stencils and pearl cotton.  Remember Linea?  For some reason it wasn't very popular and Michael's and JoAnn's had them on clearance.  I bought them up and started one project on linen which I never finished.  But I thought some embroidery would be great for Erica's pillows.  Plus I get to try out the Precensia perle cotton I paid dearly for at a quilt show earlier this year:

This design is called Lotus Leaf.  I centered it on the pillow front.

This design is symmetrical all around no matter which way the pillow will land.  Hand work  like this I really enjoy but of course it is time-consuming!  The Presencia is size 8 and has a beautiful feel and sheen but shorter lengths of the thread work best on this woven cotton.  I'm off to stitch for a bit before work.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Design Wall Monday--Jan 10, 2011

There's again nothing on my design wall, as I have spent the weekend wrestling with Erica's quilt, trying to get it finished by the 14th. Saturday's job was to stitch arcs around each of the large triangles on the border's inner side:




That part did not go too badly.  I used the walking foot and just marked the center of the arc with a pin, aiming to curve at midpoint.  There was quilt pushing and shoving required but since the stitching was all at the edge, it was not too much of an upper body workout.

Sunday's job was much harder--completing all the stippling in the white sections.  Nightmare!  The top thread must have broken at least 40 times, I ran out of bobbin thread multiple other times, broke a needle once, and changed the needle size once.   About three times I had to stop and clean the bobbin case of fuzz.  Skipped stitches were occurring repeatedly until I removed the Supreme Slider.  Not sure why that was a problem, maybe I was just trying to move too fast, plus I was using a 40 weight thread that was 100% cotton and not very tightly wound.  It was a Mettler thread, which I have used before without these issues. All in all it was a terrifically frustrating day at the sewing machine, requiring multiple rest periods, chocolate, Advil, and the distraction of the LA Times Sunday Crossword puzzle (which I finished).

Finally it was all completed at 9:45 PM.  The back looks pretty good.

Thankfully I didn't run out of thread, though it was pretty close!  See more Design Walls on Judy's blog.