Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's a Green Thang...

I've read on several other blogs about quilters who recyle soft stuff when it is finally, undeniably, too small to sew into anything else by throwing it into an old pillowcase. When the pillowcase is full, it is sewn shut to make a pet bed.

I thought this was a great idea; the only problem being that I never seem to have old pillowcases. This has come up before - at the guild quilt show we are asked to deliver our quilts each in their own pillowcase. Each November my children have been asked, invariably in first grade but also in other years, to send in an old white pillowcase to help recreate the first Thanksgiving. Where these pillowcases are supposed to come from, I do not know.

What I do always have lots of is old towels. Sure, you can cut them up to make rags, but just how many rags does one person need? Maybe if I cleaned more I'd go through them a little faster. But let's not dwell on that. Anyway, I decided to try it with a towel.
First I trimmed away the worst of the frayed edges. Then I matched up the short edges and used a tight zig-zag stitch to sew up the sides. I used a denim needle, but still broke the first one going through the tightly woven strip. After that lesson, I gently "walked" the machine through that part and it was fine. It made a little pouch that looked like this...
...which fit perfectly into an old basket I had on hand. The basket was filled with random odds and ends, and this project motivated me to go through it and pitch at least half the items, and put most of the rest in the GoodWill pile. I also found a small photo album with pictures of me when I was pregnant with my oldest child. Treasure!
I put the basket next to my cutting table to catch those skinny slivers of fabric. It's amazing how quickly it fills up!
When it is nice and fluffy, I will sew it shut. I'm sure it will be a perfect crate cushion for Divot. The best part is that when it gets nasty (he's a beagle!) I can pitch it into the compost heap without a second thought.
I hope you find some project today that gives you a feeling of satisfaction.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Healthy Habits Monday - Week 3

Okay, this paperwork thing still needs work, but I am doing better. Hopefully if I keep working on it a little bit every day, I can tame the beast.

Moving on, football practice started this week for the boys. This involves a meal schedule that challenges everyone. They need to eat early enough that the running and 90+ degree heat doesn't make them sick, but late enough so that they can make it until they get home around 8:30pm. One of the more experienced moms tells me that she makes the more traditional dinner around 4pm, and then they eat a sandwich or smaller meal when they get home. This way they aren't eating a lot right before bed.

Now I don't mind cooking, but I do have a bad habit of wandering into the kitchen around 5:30 wondering aloud what sounds good, so this is going to require a little more advance planning. It's not just temporary, either - the football season and practice 3 nights a week is going to last well into December! So I need to get a grip on this thing.

With all of that in mind, my healthy habit for this week is going to be meal planning/cooking at home. To avoid the lazy cop-out of running by a fast food place (and the calories and cost that entails) I am going to set a goal for myself of planning the week's meals every Monday and planning to eat dinner at home at least 5 nights a week. That leaves a night with the grands and a night to run out for pizza or whatever grabs our fancy.

If I hit any home runs, I'll post recipe links. I'm sure with school starting, at least a few of you are in the same boat. Of course, any money saved can be rerouted to the fabric fund!

I hope you'll share your healthy habits or links to great recipes.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Food, Fun, and Family

What a wonderful weekend! We celebrated my mom's 65th birthday last night with a completely indulgent dinner at EastSide. Bob brought out the most gorgeous platter of antipasti that he created just for her. It had everything from little Caprese bites with fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes to prosciutto wrapped asparagus spears; from the traditional roasted peppers and olives to the inspired fresh blackberries that just looked too perfect to leave out. It was delicious and beautiful and left us almost too full for dinner.

Somehow we managed, though, because he had also made veggie lasagne and chicken florentine and penne with sausage. When it came time for dessert, I took matters into my own hands and brought out this cake that I had found at one of my favorite food blogs, No Fear Entertaining, for July 4th weekend. Mom really loved it, so I recreated it - this time without needing her to rescue me from the whipping cream fiasco!
So all in all it was a very yummy evening! The best part was that my FIL felt up to joining us, so our whole little family was together. I couldn't ask for anything more...unless my brother and his crew could teleport home. Or MOVE! But I digress.

The icing on the cake (I know, I know) was that Jan the Longarmer called to tell me that my Kaleidoscope Dreams quilt is done! It must be record time. She said she just couldn't stand to have it hanging over her head while she was on vacation, so she worked like crazy to finish it. (Why, oh why, couldn't I get just a touch of that work ethic???) I picked it up today and cannot wait to show it to you. I'll wait until it is bound, hopefully very soon. It turned out just lovely with all the swirls and points and swoops.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend as well. Sweet kaleidoscope dreams...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins

My answers are in bold:

1. I believe whatever doesn't kill you teaches you something about yourself.

2. If you're good at something, do it!

3. Why so tired? The girls had a sleepover again and kept me up til 2 with their giggling!

4. Something is out there, it's God.

5. If my life were a sitcom, it would be titled Trouble in Suburbia. [I wonder if anyone will get that.]

6. Sitting on my back porch I see green. Emerald grass, lush trees, and a jungle of kudzu. It's my little slice of heaven right here in the heart of the 'burbs.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to reading by the pool, tomorrow my plans include celebrating Mom's birthday, and Sunday, I want to work on Orange Crush!

Have a great weekend!

Danger Quilt Bloggers!

Okay, you know how this whole blogging thing is supposed to be free? And how a lot of us are pretty focused on a) finishing UFOs, b) busting stash and/or c) making items to sell?

I fell into the danger zone today! In my effort to email back the people who leave comments on my posts and to visit their blogs if they have one, I accidentally (that's the word I'm going to use when I explain it to DH) stumbled across the Fresh Squeezed Fabric shop at Etsy.

It is gorgeous! The Ginger Blossom line makes me grab my graph paper. I don't know what to do with it, but I want it. I want it all. Not in the spirit of using from my stash in any way whatsoever, but I want it.

In the interest of mental health, I think I'm going to allow myself a little bit of it. Denying myself completely would just make me resentful, and more likely to binge at some cheap fabric store later. Don't you agree? Now I just have to define "a little bit" and figure out which ones I can't live without.

Of course, that led me down the treacherous path of what else might be hiding on Etsy that just needed to come live at my house. I'm just warning you right now that you shouldn't have your credit cards anywhere near by while you are looking. You should have them put away somewhere - preferably with a flight of stairs in between - so you can think before you shop. It's really just too tempting.

Hope you find something that inspires you today!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Dreamt it was Finished!

My goal was to get the borders on my Kaleidoscope Dreams quilt today, and here it is. I am so pleased with the pieced border and the illusion of curves. Now the trick will be to see if any of the longarmers I know can get it done in time for our guild's show in September.

My other challenge is that the pattern calls for 6 1/4 yards of fabric for the back, but I cannot for my life figure out how to piece it so it is big enough for a quilt that is 84" by 104". Especially since longarmers tend to be picky about having extra fabric around all of the edges!

What I have learned from piecing this is the absolute critical need for a design wall. I could not have kept the pieces straight any other way. That was the best advice I learned during my class. Also, I truly believe I would have gone completely insane trying to do this pattern without Marti's Kaleido-Ruler. You cut every single piece with it, and they are PERFECT.

As I have mentioned, Bonnie's leaders and enders technique was the perfect companion for this quilt. I would take two pieces off the design wall, sew them, put a leader/ender piece through the machine, snip off the kaleidoscope piece, press it, and put it back on the wall before taking any other pieces down. That was the only way to keep track of where everything went.

The odds of one quilt having Marti Michell and Bonnie Hunter in common must be astronomical, but there you have it. Quilting: the great unifier. Hey, maybe we need a quilter for president!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Healthy Habits Monday - Week 2

So, you wonder how I did last week with my 15 minutes of Paper Chasing.

Not good. Not good at all. I didn't do it one single day.

Of course, I did manage to get the pieced border blocks done on my kaleidoscope quilt, make 10 doll quilts, and throw a fabulous birthday party for my daughter, so there's that.

And I took one step that, although it didn't reduce the paper that is currently living in my house, it will (hopefully) reduce the junk mail (and junk email and telemarketing calls) headed my way in the future. I visited dmachoice.org and went through all of their consumer options to be removed from as many catalog and pre-approved credit card offers as possible. They also have a link to the National Do Not Call Registry and one to be removed from a significant amount of junk email. Let's see if it works.

For this Monday, I'm trying to decide if I should redouble my efforts on the paper front or move on to something else. Since my office is such a disaster, and in the interest of marital harmony, I think I'm going to keep this one on my list for one more week. By next Monday if I can't make it a habit then I'll have to face up to this character flaw.

Honestly, I think I'm more disappointed about the broken promise of a paperless society than I am about the flying cars at this point. Where does it all come from?

Friday, July 18, 2008

An American Girl's Birthday Party

After much delay, we finally got around to hosting Gracie's birthday party. She wanted to take her friends to see Kit Kittredge: An American Girl and then go to EastSide to make our own pizzas. Of course I had to come up with just the right party favor, and there's nothing at the Amercian Girl store that I could afford to give 10 little girls!

My mother had already seen the movie with my niece, so she was a fabulous resource for ideas. The mystery in the movie revolves around a box that Kit's mother hides under the floorboard with her money and some jewelry in it. Mom was able, with the help of a friend (thanks Sharon!), to round up a cigar box for each girl. We decided to add a strand of faux pearls from JoAnn's, Etc.; a ring pop, candy necklace, and some candy (mini boxes of Dots and Tootsie Rolls), all from Dollar Tree. But there was something missing, something to make it unique and special and just from us.

So I decided to make a quilt.

I'm chalking it up to the insomnia I've been suffering lately while my DH has been traveling to be with his dad. Sheer exhaustion made me do it! While he was gone again (this time to bring his parents back home, thank God!) I had no one reminding me of the time or urging me to come to bed. Not only have I made tremendous progress on my Kaleidoscope Dreams, as you can see in the sidebar, but I made ten little cheater cloth quilts for the girls who came to the party.

Of course, they each had to be quilted slightly differently. Heaven forbid the dolls be together with their quilts at a slumber party and get mixed up! (But then, that was before I made the personalized labels for each one. I've gone completely 'round the bend, I tell you.) This actually turned out to be a fun exercise - it was like auditioning different quilting designs on a mini quilt. I found creative ways to change familiar quilting patterns in ways I will definitely use again.

The labels were super easy. I just made 2 little circles with the label info on them and raw-edge appliqued them down. I overlapped them slightly so that the label is reminiscent of the number 8. Fun, yeah? I made you a little slide show so you could see how it turned out. I am so happy with them, and the girls oohed and aahed over them.

The absolute best moment, though, was when we came from the movie to the pizzeria and DH was there waiting for us. He had been fibbing all day about how much progress they had made on the trip home. Gracie was so excited to see him. It had only been a few days, but signalled the end of a long stretch of road. Now his dad is out of the hospital and his parents are home from the longest they've ever gone without seeing the grandkids. The party was a roaring success. My husband is back where he belongs, beside me, under our quilt.

Maybe now I will be able to sleep. At last.

Friday Fill-Ins

A new fun thing for Friday! (my answers are in bold)

1. If I could be a fly on the wall I would peek in on old friends and boyfriends. And not out of regret or jealousy, but because I'm the kind of person who likes to know how things turned out. I like tangents and secondary story lines. At the end of a book that starts with a horrific crash caused by a train engineer who has been drinking, which follows the lives of the victims before and after, I'm the one who turns the last page and wonders if the driver ever went to rehab.
2. Jealousy is a product of insecurity. But sometimes rears its ugly head in the best of relationships anyway.
3. When I see a shooting star my wish would be that I could have the people I love nearby all the time.
4. I'd rather be confident and secure than brave and crazy any day!
5. Certain songs when I hear them make me wanna call someone I haven't heard from in a long time.
6. If time were in a bottle I'd open it.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to a good night's sleep, now that the slumber party is over. Tomorrow my plans include getting the kaleidoscope blocks together and Sunday, I want to see Mamma Mia!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Orange Crush Step 2

So I'm a little behind the times on Orange Crush. What can I say? I've had a lot going on in my life, and a lot going on on my design wall. But I finally finished step 2, a process that seemed eternal!

Part of the reason it took so long is that I was doing it as a leader/ender project with the Kaleidoscope Dreams blocks. It turns out that the kaleidoscope pattern practically screams for another quilt to be made at the same time with this method due to the need for the design wall and the extreme care required to make sure that each piece is in exactly the right spot. The down side is that the leader/ender quilt (in this case, Orange Crush) doesn't really get your full attention or sewing time.

Both quilts are chugging along at a glacier pace. If it weren't for the changing photos of my design wall it would feel like I wasn't making any progress at all! I really like the red border on Kaleidoscope Dreams, and I am thrilled to be moving on to step 3 (of 6) of the mystery. It's not much of a mystery to me anymore since I have been unable to help seeing photos of the finished pattern on other blogs, but I am curiously anticipating my own finished product since no two of us chose the same fabrics.

I have to add that making this quilt for Grace is perfect. The other day she sat on my bed looking through the step 1 blocks and reminiscing about all of the quilts they represented. She remembers - maybe more than I - which fabric went into whose quilt and sometimes even when we bought it. I imagine her lying in bed, covered in memories of all those cousins and friends and times sewing together, like a cozy memory lane. I have discovered a new fondness for scrap quilts that I never appreciated in the first ten years of my art. Bonnie awakened this in me, and for that I am so grateful.

Healthy Habits Monday

In honor of my 39th birthday, I've decided that I'm going to pick a new "Healthy Habit" each week for the next year. By my 40th birthday I hope to be more organized, healthier, and a better person overall. And maybe I'll have fewer UFOs on my list!

They won't necessarily all be related to physical health, since my spiritual and mental well being are just as important to me and, IMHO, interconnected. If you decide to make this journey with me (or even join me for a week) please link up and share your results.

For my inaugural week, I'd like to start with the obvious and choose exercise; however, the next few days are already shaping up to be a nightmare of logistics. I think I'll table that one until next week. If I rotate through a 4 week cycle of body, home, spirit, and mind, then next on the list would be the house. Let's start this week by digging out of the paper mountain that threatens to bury me on a regular basis and commit to 15 minutes every weekday of Paper Tiger Taming. And don't forget to recycle! Being more "green" is definitely on my list.
What are you going to do this week to improve yourself? Leave a comment and let me know.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Chance You'll Live to 100: 68%

100 is looking pretty likely for you right now. You've made your health a priority.
So kick back, keep doing what you're doing, and enjoy the great life you've made for yourself.
And you might get to see what the world is like 70, 80, or even 90 years from now.

We're having a lovely, lazy week. We met Piper and gave her the Circle of Love quilt. Andi loved it and was so appreciative. Monday was guild night, and we had our annual Quilt Olympics. Every year we sew for a charity, and this year we made pillowcases for ConKerr Cancer. By the end of the night the guild had 116 pillowcases, and many more of us brought home kits to finish. Gracie had a great time sewing with Mom and me, another generation of fabric fondlers on the way!

Today DH took the kids out shopping, so I have some quiet time to blog and sew. I'm hoping to get the border blocks cut for Kaleidoscope Dreams, but it will require some concentration and functioning brain cells! I'd love to get it to the longarmer and back in time for our guild show in September.

I hope you can squeeze in some sewing time this weekend.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

At Last (Updated 8/12/11)

I put the finishing touches on our anniversary quilt yesterday and spread it on our bed. My husband was so impressed when he came home and saw it finally finished. I showed him the label with the totally unoriginal name (from the pattern) "Yesterday, Today, and Forever," and he said I should have called it "At Last."

Ha ha ha. What a comedian. I've always said I love him for his sense of humor.

But he's right. It is a major feeling of accomplishment to sleep under a quilt that I made. Not just a nap under a lap quilt, but a real big bed quilt. Unfortunately it is July in Georgia, so it was kind of hot, but that just means we'll be cozy all winter.

I love how the colors turned out; I love how the red center looks like the heart of the quilt; I love looking at all of the different scraps and remembering where some of them came from or what quilt they were left over from or wishing I could find more of that fabric.

Then while we were watching TV last night, I started doing some of the handwork on my Serenity Quilt (from the Fiber on a Whim class). This is what I have so far:

Any suggestions on what more to add or should I stop now before it goes over the top?
Hope everyone has a happy and safe 4th of July!

Update 8/12/11:  after being asked by a reader about the pattern for my king sized quilt.  It is called Yesterday, Today, and Forever by Hazel Metcalf.  I cannot find a website for Hazel, but there is an email address:  hmetcalf AT bellsouth DOT net.  I hope that helps if you are interested.  Also, the pattern calls for 9" finished blocks (3" finished squares) and makes a 90" square quilt.  I wanted king size, so I used 3 1/2" finished squares for 100 10 1/2" blocks.  The finished size was 105" square.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Miles and Miles...

Holy Smokes!

I mentioned that I finally sent my first-ever king sized quilt off to the longarmer (thank you Jan Kramer!). Jan even got it back to me in plenty of time so I could bind and label it in time for my anniversary; but the thought of making that much binding and wrestling the cotton croc through my machine was too overwhelming.

Finally, I decided to cross two things off my "to do" list at once: I made a continuous bias binding for the first time ever (I know, I know) and sewed the binding onto my quilt.

I found some pretty simple directions in a book that look almost exactly like the ones seen here at Quilter's Cache. The only difference is that the directions I had didn't say exactly how much it would make, just that a 36" square made enough "for a large quilt." Well, I have a very large quilt - 105" square - so I decided to use a 40" square of fabric to make my binding.

Can I just say, in my own defense, that geometry was not my best subject? No, the irony is not wasted on me that I took up quilting as a hobby.

The directions worked great. The binding turned out perfectly and quickly, as promised. I am a convert to the method. Sewing it onto the front of my ginormous quilt was not nearly as challenging as I had feared. In fact, I already whipped down 2 of the sides while watching Law & Order reruns that TiVo so kindly recorded for me. The only miscalculation?

This. This is the leftover binding. Yes, the leftover. This is what I have after binding my entire king sized quilt. From a mere 40" square of fabric. How is that even possible? It boggles even the mind of someone less mathematically challenged than I. I haven't measured it yet, but it makes me giggle every time I look at the bundle.

The Quilter's Cache link above has a great formula for calculating the size square you actually need to cut. I needed 420" plus some for my quilt. Let's say 450" for comfort. Multiply that by the width of the binding you are using - in my case 2 1/4". That gives me 1012.5. The square root of that number - 31" - is about the size square I needed. All easy with a basic calculator.

But if you reverse the process and multiply 40" x 40" (the size square I actually used) you get 1600. Divide that by 2 1/4" (width of binding) and you see that I made about 711" of binding. Only about 261" more than I really needed! Luckily it was all out of my stash and I will surely find a use for it.

All in all it was an inexpensive lesson, and one I won't soon forget. I hope you learn something today, too! Drop me a line and share what it was, or link to your blog and tell us all.

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