Saturday, December 31, 2005

end of the year

My last post was not so much to say look at how shoddy the workmanship is on this applique, but to say "look at how fabulous and wonderful something can be that isn't precise and perfect." You can see that in the beautiful tentmaker applique but can you see it in your own work?

There is one shop down in the Khan that turns out stunningly beautiful applique that you can't see any stitches on and is very precise and smooth and flat. The price is also much, much higher. And believe me when I say there is much much shoddier work out there than the one I showed yesterday. It's actually well made, otherwise I wouldn't have been encouraging my friend to buy it. The only thing that matters is how much you enjoy it.

Here's a bit more Christmas for you and yes, my decorations are all still out.
I made this little piece out of wool, which I am fiercely allergic to, so I had to take breaks from it. I know there isn't the best contrast on this piece, but the rich red wool is some that my Mom bought way back in the 1980's to make a coat out of. She hated how the coat was turning out and took it all apart. After her death, her sister and I each kept some of the wool. I thought this was a fitting use for some of it.

There's a fun little purple christmas tree in the center that I blanket stitched on first. The words Merry Christmas string across the top, and then gathered around the tree are the names of all our immediate family: me, my hubby and the cats. I drew out the design on paper first as a guide, and then just stem-stitched all the lettering in without marking (six strands of embroidery floss for the Merry Christmas and three strands for all the rest). The not marking wasn't by choice at first - I couldn't figure out how to mark the wool. I like the way the letters scrawl anyway and I think it looks better than if I had written it out carefully first.

I'd originally intended my name to be above the tree, but it leaned enough that the name fit better underneath. And that made a great spot for the year on the left side.

I really like how this turned out. I think I'm going to have it framed very simply.

I like the idea of this little family quilt. It could be done very easily with cotton as well. Free-piecing letters for the names or adding them in - after all the layers are put together - with stem stitching or quilting.

And it certainly wouldn't have to be just for christmas. Maybe a heart in the middle for your special valentine?

Changing the subject, my sweetie and are are very low-key, or boring in fact :) We have a very quiet celebration planned for New Year's Eve tonight. Some champagne and probably the usual bedtime of about 9 o'clock. It's good that we're compatible that way and neither one of us wants to go out to a party and stay out late.

Wishing you all the best for 2006. Cheers, everybody.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

How's this for gorgeous?

This is an applique that a friend of mine bought downtown on Tentmaker Street. Isn't it smashing?

I love the colors: cheddary yellow, red, two shades of green, and three shades of blue. The color is truer in the top photo. Almost looks Pennsylvania Dutch to me - like a hex sign.

I don't know the details of how it was made, but I can tell there is a foundation of heavy canvas and then I suspect the cheddar was basted over the top of it and all of the work was then stitched to the cheddar, with only a few stitches going all the way to the back of the work. The narrow bias is maybe a quarter of an inch thick, if that.

This work is a perfect example of "don't sweat the small stuff." When I look at it up close I kind of freak out - the applique stitches are large and the thread doesn't always match the fabric. Some of the fabrics are really poor quality and gauzy. It's definitely not square and I had a hell of a time sewing on the sleeve (I only volunteered so that I'd get to take photos for ya'all, so I hope you appreciate it). There are stray threads everywhere that need to be clipped: so tempting to just tug at them, but who knows where that would lead.

But as soon as I step away from it and just LOOK at it, ah, I LOVE it and wonder why I was ever concerned about the workmanship. I wonder why I didn't buy it myself (okay, other than it not being my colors, tho I do love them). I've got it hanging up in my hallway right now and it's gonna stay there until my friend visits.

On the personal front, nothing new going on with me. My next task is to sew together a backing for my lettered bed quilt (see my July archive if you've never seen a pic of it and want to). Initially I was planning on handquilting it, but I've come to my senses. I don't want to spend the next ten years quilting it myself. So one of these days it'll go off in the mail to Bonnie. The only thing that's holding me up is that backing. Oh, and I decided it just wasn't long enough, so one strippy row at the top. Won't be much work, I just have to DO it.

quilting on Noel

p.s. I forgot to mention in yesterday's post that I handquilted around each of the letters and numbers. I quilted wherever there was the least amount of bulk, whether it was the letter fabric or the background - it didn't matter. Looks the same and it's easier that way.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Noel Sampler

Woohoo, I finished my Noel Sampler today. I don't think the green is really quite this dark, but still a pretty good likeness. This is a pic from before I washed it. Why is that important? Read on...

Here are some freehand fan details. The quilting shows up really well on this mottled background. This is the lower right corner where I started and ended the border fan quilting. I didn't want an empty space, so I continued to quilt two partial fans where they would have been if I was still going around.

Uh oh, is that red bleeding into the white? At first I just thought it was because the quilt wasn't completely dry yet and so the red was just wet and showing through. Then when I put the quilt on the scanner I noticed the red all over the white backing fabric. D'oh, definitely some bleeding.

Next corner. Are you noticing how each of the first arcs in each unit varies widely? Some are really small and flat and others a bit tall.

Third corner. Notice where I started the next unit after turning that corner.

And the final corner. I love how every one of them is a bit different.

So yeah, I had some bleeding. I rerinsed the quilt in the sink with multiple changes of really hot water and lots and lots of Color Catchers and Dye Magnets (I just kept throwing more in) - I thought it was interesting to see how much dye they really did pick up.

Hurrah - this actually worked - the quilt looks great. Rather a weird coincidence after Bonnie had some red bleed in her fabulous The Best Things in Life are Quilted. And my quilt too has its eccentricities - a bit wobbly and the fabric all gathered up around the quilting - the effect of pre-washing the fabric but not the mostly cotton batting.

Didn't get much done today besides finish the quilt, wash it a couple of times and of course take numerous pics, and read what everybody else is doing. Am I spending too much time blogging? Have to wonder sometimes. By the way, yesterday I played with my new program and did three hours of French language lessons - I now know how to describe five different colored cars.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

purple cat returns

Way back in October I gave you a glimpse of my purple cat embroidery. Well, I did a second embroidery, again with a purple cat, that a friend fell in love with. So this was my gift to her for Christmas. Hope she really does love it and wasn't just being nice. I gave it to her unfinished like this so that if she wants to block it straight she can - I'd probably let it stay a bit skeewampus. As in, yes, this picture is true to life - it really is all crooked like this.

I learned the technique from Sue Dove's "Painting with Stitches" which I highly recommend. Very simple to do - it's just 6-strands of embroidery floss over needlepoint canvas. She gives you ideas on how to design your own (as I did) or you can use her patterns.

Today I finished the quilting on Noel and got the binding machined on. Should have it finished tomorrow. I was all set to watch an old Joan Crawford movie on TCM when I got a call from my hairdresser. D'oh - I made it only ten minutes late.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Thank you, Santa

Well, Santa has been and gone. Just to give you an idea of how amazingly different my husband and I are here's a sampling from Santa's bag: the DVD of "A Gathering Storm" about Winston Churchill before WWII and a book on the Enlightenment for him and "Decorating with Funky Shui" (thanks for the recommendation, Samantha, it really is fun - loved the Pez dispenser collections) and the DVDs "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" for me. Really sums it up right there.

My Gilmore Girls season 5 is ordered - whoohoo. I got a rain check for the new book by Nancy Crow - it's not out yet. The other big gift of the year was a French language program so I can parlay voos me some fransays. So far I've learned that "un homme" sounds an awful lot like "a gnome."

On the 24th, I spent much of the morning going from store to store searching for Carr's biscuits (ie crackers), a staple of our Christmas Eve snacking tradition. Not to be found anywhere. Hubby and I then watched "A Christmas Story" -- you'll shoot your eye out -- or at least my sweetie did - I fell asleep sometime after the triple dog dare. Then we watched "Elf" for the first time - the first couple minutes explaining the three jobs elves can have is absolutely priceless.

I spent much of Christmas day laboriously making biscotti with pistachios, anise, and fennel seeds. It's truly heavenly but an amazing amount of work. I sooo now appreciate my friend who used to make it not only for me but my hubby too. Not that I didn't appreciate it then, but now I realllllly appreciate it.

Spent some of today quilting fans on the Noel sampler. I now have three of the borders done - I'm in the home stretch. I watched "Being Julia" while quilting. I enjoyed it well enough, but wouldn't need to see it again. On the subject of movies, a friend who just got back from the states watched the new "Pride and Prejudice" five times. Wow, can't wait to see that one.

Oh, and the pic is of some of my Santa collection. Two carved cyprus knees, a couple of other carved pieces, a handpainted gourd, and the metal guy I just bought in London this year. I love the faces on all these guys - none of them are overly cutesy or big-eyed.

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday or at least time off from work.

Friday, December 23, 2005

more Christmas

Hey, how about that, we've got sunshine today and blue sky and puffy clouds - a real rarity here. It's finally gotten cold here, cold being a relative term. But our apartment's concrete block construction that is so good at keeping the heat out in summer is also excellent at keeping the cold in in winter. Chilly.

I've been good, tho scattered. I have three different projects I'm trying to finish up soon, inc one present that I've got to give away that I forgot still needed a bit of work. I hate it when that happens. I did a manic Gilmore Girls viewing and have now, unfortunately, finished season four. Boy I'm hoping there's a gift certificate under the Christmas tree so that I can get season five, which is already out. That's about all that's been going on here.

Just for kicks, here's a pic of some of our seasonal decorating. You'll notice our little tree is up high on a cabinet, out of kitty reach. I have fake holly branches scattered beneath so there is no place for a kitty to jump to - that's done an excellent job at keeping everything safe. The other kitty deterents are the soda cans that you can barely see mixed in with the glass xmas trees there on the right of the buffet. The cats hate it when they knock the cans down - ah the scary noise they're coming to get me - so that keeps them away from the tree as well. Yes, it's unsightly but you have to have priorities.

I was smarter this year and have the gift bags propped up against the wall. Last year I had them flat and Pokey insisted on jumping up there and sleeping on one large soft one in particular. She was small enough to jump up around all the "traps" I had set up.

Up next is a close-up of the Christmas tree skirt one of the Tentmakers appliqued for me. I sent one of these to my mom and dad this year to decorate their christmas cactus with.

And a couple of Santa Bobs to say hello. The short, tipsy one on the right is new this year. I was making him to send to my folks but fell in love with him instead. They got an upright, more traditional looking Santa that I made a few years ago (he's not used - he's been soaking up the atmosphere of love and giving...)

Tonight is a small dinner with a few friends. Woohoo. I was supposed to be making jambalaya, which I love but is a lot of work. Now I can put that off a few days and get back to my stitching instead. Ya'all take care and if I don't write before then: Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays to you all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

more gift bags

I've hit the wall. If I haven't gotten it done yet, then it's not gonna get done in time for Christmas. In a way, that's a relief because it means I can just stop worrying and work on what I want to work on. Didn't get any Christmas cards done - no real surprise there since I haven't managed for several years running. I need to just buy Valentines and give up pretending.

All the presents are done and wrapped for hubby. I decided there was no point in stressing out making more gift bags of the appropriate size since I don't mind wrapping (he's the one who does) so I can go ahead and use paper. Didn't end up having to wrap many, so there won't be nearly as much garbage after this year's festivities. That'll be a disappointment for the cats. Pokey did enjoy "helping" me put ribbons and bows on packages today.

It's overcast and nasty today. Feels all gray and dreary like there should be snow - which would make everything so beautiful - but of course there won't be. I hate having the workmen clanking around in the corridors - they can't be done soon enough.

Watched some Gilmore Girls season 4 while I wrapped today. I had started this season a while back but found the first episode so annoying I couldn't continue. Everyone unwilling to just TALK to each other, which I know would spoil all the comedic effect but it would be so much better for them. And less annoying. Anyway, got over all that and enjoyed the eps I watched.

Just to have some pics to post, here are some gift bags I've made. The first one is from last year and is a white fabric with red spots that I decided needed to have red perle cotton ties tied in every spot. Oh bother, what a pain that was. A pain, but worth it - I love how it looks and it's always going to hold prezzies for me, me, me.

This is the one I just finished. This is one of the bags where the ends of the long rectangle end at the same place (I didn't do any kind of cutting at one of the ends if that makes sense) and I glue some ribbon at the top so it looks purdy.

The snowmen and the next gifty gift bag were both quilted the same way with a utility stitch. I made little X's all over the place with my perle cotton, going from one spot to the next through the layers. It's a fast way to utility quilt.

I made this one last year - it's the right size to hold a CD. It's a solid blue fabric that I quilted with white perle cotton snowflakes. Just in case you are wondering, the tag isn't misspelled - Ton is my nickname.

What I didn't realize until my hubby pointed it out is that this looks like the painted night sky in some of the Egyptian tombs we saw in the Valley of the Kings.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Blogger won't let me post photos today, or maybe that's just my brain having problems. Either way you're getting pictureless babble from me today.

Thursday night (our equivalent of Friday), my sweetie and I went out to dinner to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. Lucky thirteen - ooh boy. We went to the new Four Seasons Hotel which is pretty darn swanky in and of itself, but we had a stunning view of the Nile and the opposite bank. The air was so nice and clear that day, so everything looked sparkly. A couple of felucas (local sailboats) had Christmas lights in their rigging and were tacking back and forth.

Friday I went down to the Khan al Khalili (the big souk or marketplace) with a friend to wander around and get a few last minute gifts. The weather has cooled down and there weren't many tourists jammed in, which was good for us, but not so good for the merchants. I feel pretty proud of myself - after two years of living here I can now navigate the Khan pretty well (down the stairs before the Crazy Brothers and thru the alleyway until you get to the camel bone guy, go right, go right, up the narrow stairway, turn left and up more stairs to the left to get to the alabaster shop...) I've been here long enough too that I know what reasonable prices are for things so I paid 10 pounds instead of the 45 the tourist next to me was. I'm still paying a resident rate, not an Egyptian rate, but I can live with that. At least it's not extortionate.

Hubby and I watched "Bell, Book, and Candle" last night which starts out on Christmas Eve, so sorta counts as a Christmas movie. Kim Novak's character asks the question, wouldn't you rather for once spend Christmas Eve in a little church somewhere listening to carols rather than sitting at the Zodiac Club listening to the bongo drums? Me, I'd rather be at home with family but if I had to choose I'd go with Jack Lemmon on the bongos.

And we've also watched "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" so I could get my fix of lights on a house. Wish we could drive around and see them for real.

We started the first season DVD of "Stargate Atlantis" and have gone thru two episodes. I miss Jack like crazy, but am thrilled to see Sam's nemesis Rodney is on the show. We'll keep watching. Meanwhile, I wish our satellite would start showing some of the recent scifi tv that ya'all have been getting, like "Invasion" and "Threshold."

Dawn made a comment yesterday about me not being shy. Ha! I'm actually a true introvert. My quilts aren't shy, but I am. I can open up on blogger cuz I'm here typing away by myself, I'm not in a crowd.

Sylvie, I enjoyed your blog and esp the picture of your kitty and the Christmas tree, but where's the pic of the wallhanging you made? My brain is fried enough at the moment I can't think of any weird quirky habits I have, so maybe I'll play another time. I do love some of the movies you love too, that's for sure. "Bringing up Baby" - classic.

Sewing Room's JoAnn asked how I came across her blog. I found it by searching on Technorati, a blog search engine. You get all sorts of advertising pretending to be blogs, but eventually can find real human quilters.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

over the top?

Nines asked some interesting questions in a comment yesterday. How do I decide when enough is enough while embellishing? First off, I have a very high tolerance for over-the-top. I love the shiny pretty things and the buttons. I have been known to tone myself down when I'm making gifts for other people tho.

Are there any general rules about these things? Not that I know of - it's going to be different for every person and for every project. And if there were rules, I'd probably just have to ignore them anyway.

I do a lot of experimenting - laying my piece down and putting the buttons (or whatever) all over it and seeing how I like it this way or that. Then I'll sew them down. Then if I don't like them, I take them back off. Thats the important thing to remember (and with the quilting stitch too) - you can always undo it unless you're talking about puffy paint, glue, or something else that really can't be undone.

Sometimes you can't learn what is "too much" until you do it.

Don't play it safe, push it. If you've gone too far and don't like it anymore, take it back off. Or, to be completely contrary, keep going on and on. Sometimes you can get over the "ugly" phase and back into liking it again.

I finish off the quilt sandwich (inc binding if I'm using it) before I embellish. So, Nines, you're not doing it "wrong." I like that it makes a dent in the quilt where I sew a button or bead on and that my embroidery stitch has depth. I have all those little knots all over the backs of my embellished quilts and that's okay.

And here's a thought. Nines, how about working with your daughter on the embellishment? You don't want to detract from her artwork, but if the choices of embellishment are hers, then it's still her artwork. You don't necessarily have to do everything she wants, but at least get an idea of what she'd like.

You know you can always get opinions from the gang by posting pics. We're not a shy crowd...

And because it's worth repeating: you only learn by doing. That goes for all of us.

Nines, I hope this answered your questions. If not, give me more details on your project and we can work thru it bit by bit. Feel free to email me if you don't want to post to your blog.


Wow, today is a bright, beautiful, sunny day. Still not coat weather, but I did have long sleeves on. I walked over to my friend S's house and took this photo of the poinsettas that grow in front of her hedge. Aren't they marvelous. We apparently have the perfect growing conditions for them to color properly and they get BIG here (compared to seeing little ones for sale in the states). These ones are as tall as I am. You don't see poinsettas everywhere - just once in awhile here in Ma'adi - but it always makes for a nice holiday surprise to come across them.

While we were out today, we stumbled across a new store selling lamps and lighting fixtures. They have these lamps here in Egypt that are metalwork bases and then handmade glass is wired together to form the "shades" for the bulbs. They sell extra "shades" and I immediately saw Christmas trees.

I got one that's purple with green "ornaments" but it wasn't photogenic. I think these are great, but wish I had a better place to display them - like a windowsill where the sunlight would brighten them up. There's enough room to put tea lights in to get a bit of a glow.

Right now I have these set up on the buffet and I'm hoping they're heavy enough the cats aren't going to knock them off. My cats (well, three out of four) like to go up on the top of the china cabinet to observe and sleep. Unfortunately their "landing pad" is the top of the buffet. I think I've got enough stuff on there to deter them from that - otherwise there could be a disaster.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Santa Stars

I keep thinking I should actually set foot outside my apartment today. There is some sun out there - even tho it's awfully hazy and gray. I need to go buy a new phone card so I don't lose my cell service. Maybe get a couple of last minute (they're getting shipped) gifts to send to the states...

I'd so much rather sit and quilt. I've done several of the border fan units on the Noel sampler. I'm actually just following along on the needle holes from my previous attempt at quilting it.

I decided to use one of my Santa Stars to make the name tag to go on the green and red button bag. He's attached thru the loop at the top so he can swing free and not hide all my work.

One christmas several years ago I combined a few different Santas I'd seen and came up with the little Santa Stars. I made loads of them that year and the next. Most of them are in storage, but I did bring a few along - they usually hang on the tree and I've considered making some kind of garland with them, along with buttons and selvage.

And here's another one turned into gift tag - I do so adore those letter beads.

And here is one actually hanging on the tree where he belongs.

This last one actually has the kind of beard I adore - it's some kind of boucle-type wool that I bought at Houston Quilt Fest one year and have never found again since. The top two guys are muslin-bearded. I generally use cotton batting for the trim on the hat (and mittens and boots as on the top two).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dear Santa

Oh no, not another wonky houses quilt. Yes it is, and too late, you've already looked at it. Mwa ha ha ha. This is about the last one. Really. This is Dear Santa, made in August thru December of 2001.

I really liked the curvy stripe fabric, plus a snowman fabric that I thought would be part of the border too, but simply looked awful and didn't. I cut the fabric so that the stripes all ran up and down in the borders.

The free-pieced letters say "Dear Santa, we've been good" and the quilting in the red areas says "hint, hint."

This next house shows you a detail of the presents fabric that surrounds the words.

Trees are even easier to make than houses.

I'm showing this next one to encourage ya'all to just draw something out and quilt it. I think people sometimes have a tendency to say "oh, I can't draw" and not even try. Well look at this sleigh being pulled by one reindeer. That's a stick figure reindeer alright, but you knew what it was, right? You just have to TRY and practise a few times. Draw it on paper until you get comfortable and then use something temporary to draw on the fabric.

here are words quilted in with all six strands of embroidery floss so that they're thicker and bolder.

I've gotten a lot of quilting done on Noel - I'm all the way into the border. I'd have gotten more done today except that I had to read a book for awhile so that Pokey could lie on my lap. I'm trying to plow through Sandra Mackey's "The Iranians" - a country and people I'm fascinated by, but this is a bit more detail than I need. Sixth century poetry, bleck.

Did I tell ya'all that we watched a couple more of our Christmas movies on Saturday? "Desk Set" - the best movie Tracey and Hepburn ever made together - the two of them are so magnetic and funny. The ability of the 1957 computer to directly answer questions is a laugh. Can't even really do that now. The other film was "Catch Me If You Can" - one of Steven Spielberg's best (nothing too treacly and sweet) plus some of the funnest retro credits ever.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Gift Bag How-To

I had a request for making gift bags, so here's a quick and dirty.

First, determine what size you want to make it. For something like a DVD, I figure that the material needs to be an inch larger on the sides and then quite a bit extra at the top. (For something thicker, you'd need more width and length.) The fabric is shown here doubled over with the fold at the bottom. I cut through both layers along the selvage at the right and then at the crease there at the top.

Unfold the fabric and you're going to have a looong rectangle. I like the top of my gift bag to come to a point, so I trim the corners at ONE end of the gift bag. Layer this fabric right sides together with the material that is going to be on the inside of the bag (note that you will actually see this material so use something matchy or at the very least that you don't hate) and cut it to the same size. Then layer these on top of the batting and cut to size again. [Note: you can actually cut all three of these layers at the same time, but I make fewer mistakes doing it singly.]

Pin the three layers together. Personally, I like sewing with the batting on top. You will be leaving a gap that is large enough for you to fit your hand through. Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of your seam. I use a seam allowance a bit bigger than 1/4" but you can do bigger. This is called the pillowcase method.

After you've finished stitching, stick your hand through the gap between the two fabrics and pull the insides of this sandwich to the outside. You might have to fuss with it a bit to get all the corners poked out, but they can be curvy rather than crisp. Fold the loose material down and sew the hole closed with a whipstitch.

Do whatever quilting, tacking, tieing, or buttoning you would like to hold the three layers together. If you're using polyester batting you may not need to do any of that at all.

Sew the sides of the bag up, leaving enough of your cornered flap at the top so that it can comfortably fold down. You can use embroidery floss or perle cotton and take big bites of the outer material so that the stitches really show up or you can do it almost invisibly using quilting thread and a blind hem or a whipstitch.

I like to sew a decorative button on just for interest, but tassels are fun too. The last step is to glue velcro on the flap and the bag so that it will stay closed. Use fabric glue - plain old white schoolroom glue just won't hold, tho I imagine hot glue gun glue would. Try saying that fast.

I started this project today thinking I would just make a quick bag and then somehow I got sucked into doing all the quilting with green embroidery floss. The bag needed it.

I'm really sleepy at the moment, so I hope this makes some sense at all. If not, just ask.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Mashrabiya Screen

Darcie asked about the mashrabiya screen. Here's a picture of the whole thing. We use it for decoration, but the original intent of mashrabiya was to allow the women of the house to have open windows, yet hide them from outside eyes.

This is a beautiful piece of work - each one of these pieces was lathed by hand and then set together without any glue.

Snowman and the kitties

They're in the process of painting the apartment building I live in so there's been lots of noise out in the hallways, completely unsettling the cats. I think the paint cans have actually been opened now and the fumes are coming in. Yuck. Hope this whole thing doesn't last long. The worst bit will be the guys on scaffolding right outside the windows - I'm going to have to keep all the curtains closed. I hate living in the dark.

Completely unsurprisingly, my hubby hates the Jacks quilt I started. I expected that. I'm not that attached to the quilt, so it doesn't bother me much. Besides that quilt might just morph into something with hearts...

Here's another bit of my Christmas for you. This is a large snowman I made last year.
Before you ask, no I haven't shown you the quilt that you can see behind his head. That'll be posted in a few days.

I made this snowman out of a sweater my Mom knit many years ago. She wore it for years and then I did. It was stained, some of the yarns were pulled and unravelling and it just wasn't in good shape (not to mention my hips had outgrown it...).

I made the carrot nose doing my "thready" thing with embroidery floss on a triangle of canvas which I then turned into a cone shape. The snowman is wearing a magic hat to keep him from melting: a tarboush (called a "fez" in other North African countries) as well as a scarf proclaiming him to be a supporter of the Zamalek football team.

I'm sure my Mom wouldn't have minded that I recycled the sweater she knit. Believe me, it's getting more use and love this way than sitting in the closet. Here's Pokey checking out the Snowman, who actually sits in the glassed-in china cabinet so that the cats can't play with him (he was just out to get his portrait taken).

And while I'm boring you with cat pictures, here's Lily trying to get ahold of one of the Christmas stockings. The stockings are hanging from our locally-made mashrabeya screen.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I got no class

I'm done with class. (Some would say I never had any class at all - ha ha ha.) Actually had a really good time. Jenny had us making half-square triangles (8 at a time out of each set of 2 fabrics) and then showed us examples of what we could do with them, as well as providing a hand-out with even more options. Cool, I love having choices.

I decided on a block called Jacks on Six. Here's one put together, along with a sampling of my liberated triangles.

I made the units an inch bigger than my desired finished size (2 1/2") and then twisted and sliced. Not worrying about the silly stuff like tips of triangles and matching seams makes life so much easier - lots of folks in class were on very familiar terms with their seam rippers. I only did it once, cuz I wasn't paying enough attn and got one whole side of the block turned around.

I really like how it's come together (except for maybe the triangles with the dark reddish purple in the lower right corner). Now you're going to think I'm an idiot (after all, I chose the fabrics and the wonkiness) but I didn't realize quite how juvenile this was going to turn out. I'm hoping my hubby isn't going to hate it, but he really dislikes bright colors and assymetry and prob everything about this one (he hasn't seen it yet). Maybe it'll eventually end up on the wall in the guestroom/fabric storage room. Or it could be my new lap quilt so that my Halloween lap quilt doesn't get used year round.

Don't know when I'm going to work on the Jacks tho - have loads of Christmasy things yet to do. My bleached white cotton-poly batting arrived in the mail, so I can finally get back to work on my Noel Sampler after that yucky attempt at using a poly batting. Basting sounds like a quick job to do today. I can handle that.

Here's a gift bag I finished before going off to class. Yes, I'm kinda button obsessed. But look at how much fun this is. The hard part will be to make a gift tag that will work well with it and not just hide all the buttons. I was more frugal with this project - there are only buttons on the front of the bag - the back is quilted 2 stitches to the inch in red embroidery floss.

Here's one I made last year, where I wasn't so cautious with my button hoard - this one is covered front and back in buttons.

I can't believe what a homebody I am - feels so good to not have to leave the apartment today. And it's not even like I'm being a sissy cuz it's too cold out there (like it is in the States) - it's been warm in the mid-70's here, tho it's only supposed to get to 70 degrees today. Bet you don't feel sorry for me.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Santa on a Flamingo

Mad Fabri-holic Samantha keeps taunting me - telling me she's gonna post a pic of her "cheesy" flamingo Christmas fabric and then not doing it. Well, I'll show her, here's my Santa riding a Flamingo. I commissioned my favorite Tentmaker last year to create this wallhanging for a friend who is insane about flamingos. And then I had to get one for myself of course. The hangings did turn out different tho: she ended up with a golden flamingo.

I'm not going to write much - I'm in the middle of a two-day quilting class. We're learning an accurate way to piece half-square triangles. Ha ha ha, I laugh at your accuracy. I, of course, am making the units oversized and then recutting them smaller to make them wonky (and very biasy). So far I have a few of the half square triangle units done, but no bigger blocks sewn together. Not sure how I'm going to do them - I love the Hovering Hawks block, but than means more work.

Now don't faint dead away, but I'm actually using a bunch of YELLOW and ORANGE and RED along with my pinks and purples. Bah ha ha ha - gotta keep ya'all guessing. The colors are still all brights, so that's not as scary as me using Williamsburg Blue and peach or something country like that.

Of course my camera battery was dead this morning, so hopefully tomorrow I'll have it all charged up and can take some photos. Prob won't post tomorrow tho, so see ya on Friday.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Great Christmasy Gifts

These are a couple of my favorite Christmasy things in the whole world. Take a look at the Pouty Girl (who almost looks like my evil twin) made by my incredibly talented, wonderful friend Rachael Thomas.

I can't believe all the work Rach put into this - those are french knots on the lime green background and some kind of embroidery stitch for the hair - very textural. I don't know what happened between last year and this to the two bottom Christmas tree light embellishments. Don't remember the bulbs falling off and I can't find them anywhere. I hope the cats didn't eat them. At least they'll be easy enough to replace someday.

And look at this incredible Santa face jug my friend Siobhan gave me. Face jugs are a Georgia/So Carolina area folk art and the ones I've seen are usually glazed instead of painted like this.

Isn't he the greatest? What's extra special about him is that he was the only one available and Sio gave him to me anyway, instead of keeping him even tho she really liked him too. She's also the greatest.

I've been continuing work on gift bags. I know, I know, one of these days I'll get bored and quit, but right now I'm still having fun. I started re-re-rewatching the BBC miniseries of "Pride and Prejudice," one of my favorites. If I had it available, Jane Austen is definitely an author I'd love to hear narrated on a Books on CD (like lucky Bonnie gets). While I love Austen's books, they're a bit too tedious for me to read thru if I can't do something else. I was thrilled tho to see an Austen manuscript at the British Library tho (much more interesting than that old Magna Carta or the Shakespeare).

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Red Christmas Trees

I'm going to show you a picture of my Red Christmas Tree quilt and you are going to look at it and say that is soooo Tonya. At least I look at it and think it's so me. But the truth is, this one was someone else first.

I've only ever made two quilts exactly to someone else's pattern. One I at least changed from really sweet white and pastel pinks to black and hot pinks, but this quilt is almost exactly like the original, and that includes the colors. Gwen Marston published the pattern in a magazine in November 1993 and I so fell in love with it that I copied it, finishing in May '94.

I'm ashamed to say that I even traced the pattern of the Christmas tree, rather than drawing out my own which would have been easy easy easy. Twelve years later, I can wing stuff like that without worrying.

What do I love about this quilt? The colors and their placement. OOh purple mismatched width borders and a RED tree on a green background. And look at the beautiful quilting design. That was easy enough to draw freehand with chalk - it's not supposed to look precise so that makes it much easier to just DO.

You start by making the curvy double line around the border and then go back in and fill in spirals. I've used this design a couple of times since.

So I copied and I learned. I still love the idea of a red christmas tree and after I'd learned Susan Shie's technique I used it to make this little guy back in 2001. Doesn't look like anything she'd make, but it does look like me.

I actually got the idea of doing all those buttons from a wool crazy quilt that some creative quilter had embroidered a giant chicken outline on and then filled with buttons. (Sorry I don't have a copy of the pic, for all you chicken lovers out there - believe me, it was fun.) I glued rhinestones on there and am thrilled they've stayed on.

By the way, I've been having an ongoing discussion lately about "name-dropping" in blogs. I happen to like knowing where people got their ideas and inspirations from. I'm not saying "ooh, I'm special I know who this person is" I'm saying "Wow, this person really influenced me and if you don't know who they are, then you should check them out because you really might like them too."

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Christmas Houses

So this is it - the very first liberated, wonky house quilt I ever made, way back in 1996. I started out using Christmas fabric that I no longer liked or even hated. Hey, I was trying out a new technique, didn't want to use fabric I'd hate to waste... As I grew more confident I started throwing in purples and fabrics that I actually loved. So for me this is a weird combination of good and bad. Does make me realize that if you only use fabric you like, you have a much better chance of liking the finished product.

I was proud of myself for figuring out how to make the snowman. Easy but complicated all at the same time. I started out with three squares in graduated sizes and added background fabric to each of the corners to make "circles." He's a little pointy - but he works. This is the first quilt I ever decided to not worry about squaring up and making the edges all straight. I used a ruler and rotary cutter, but only straighted it about 2" at a time. It looks good that way.

I've been sewing up gift bags. Here's one that can be used for any occasion. Well, okay hubby wouldn't be too thrilled to see it for his birthday, but you know what I mean. It's a batik fabric and I fan quilted (spiral pattern) using a variegated pinks n whites perle cotton. In the end, you can barely see the quilting, which was hard enough to do through the batik. I guess the fabric is still the star, and that's not a bad thing.

We actually had a few days of good clear skies here, but it's back to eye-burning today. Yesterday my sweetie (who works Sunday thru Thursday - the standard work week here) and I went to the 10:30 am showing of the new Harry Potter film. Oh boy. Dark, dark movie and not just the lighting. I forgot about that.

I was rather amazed at the number of small kids in the audience. One I'd have thought it was a bit too much for them and two, they were Egyptian. Unless they spend a whole lot of time watching tv, how much English do they really know? They're not old enough to read the arabic subtitles. There was definitely some talking (translating?) throughout the film but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, plus it wasn't as hard for me to tune out as speaking in English would have been.

Boy did my knees (both of 'em) object to being cramped up in the theater. I had to lean on hubby to get out of there. Am I 80-yrs old or what? In general tho, my problem knee is doing really well - definitely much better than it was pre-surgery.

Last night we watched "Christmas in Connecticut" in which Barbara Stanwyck plays a WWII era Martha Stewart - the best homemaker in the world. Or is she? We followed that with "Shop Around the Corner" a Christmas movie with Jimmy Stewart that was the inspiration for "You've Got Mail. " Yes, we were movie bingeing yesterday.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Santa Riding a Camel

In July 2003, my sweetie and I packed up practically all our belongings and proceeded to live out of suitcases for the next six months. Lots of fun for so many reasons.

Here we were in Egypt and it was much colder than we were expecting, setting aside the fact that we'd expected our belongings to arrive earlier. So besides not having the proper attire or blankets, the biggest problem for me was not having any of my Christmas stuff. You know me, I LOVE decorating for the holidays, especially when they're spent far from home. Makes me feel settled. Like where I am IS home.

Luckily I discovered that some of the enterprising Tentmaker Appliquers here have made all sorts of creative things for the expat/tourist market. I went on a bit of a buying binge. First off is a wallhanging with Santa riding a camel:

Isn't this great? Notice the itty bitty pyramids there on the bottom right. This really appeals to me cuz I try to collect Santa travelling in unusual ways. (Still trying for that sleigh drawn by kangaroos, but I'm definitely on the wrong continent for that.) I love Santa's face - very simple and folk-arty.

Muhammad was sweet and made up stockings really quickly for my sweetie and I.
That's my name in arabic at the bottom (so they tell me). I love the scale of this one better than the one above - all crowded in and more details in the sky. And of course the sky is BLUE not neutral. Just so you can get a really good look at it:

By the way, these stockings are HUGE.