Friday, February 17, 2006


Sorry gang, the day got away from me. I meant to post, but have been running around like an idiot trying to get ready for Florida. We have to leave the house at 5:00am for more than 24 hrs of travelling. I so hate flying, and yet I seem to do more than my fair share. I expect I'll be able to check into blogland once in awhile, but no guarantees. I'll be back in mid-March tho. Ya'all take care.

To Joyce in the USA: I enjoyed reading your comment. Please send me an email if you'd care to. The address is available in the left-hand column of my profile.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lily Investigations

My friend brought back the beautiful silk for me from Dubai. I got these half yards for what a third of this much silk would cost in the states. Woohoo. Only problem was that they didn't have any turquoise or teal, so I'll have to supplement - oh darn, more shopping.

Lily is inspecting the silk, making sure it's alright to bring into the house. One of these fabrics is a gorgeous royal purple and that just isn't coming across - looks like dark blue. But I love how the shot silk looks completely different depending on what angle you're at. The fourth fabric from the left looks turquoise-ish above, but gorgeous pink from the side.

The silks are fraying like crazy. I'm not worrying about it much since I can use the frayed bits on threadies. Definitely have to fuse on some kind of lightweight interfacing-something-or-other to keep the pieces from fraying as I sew with them.

And of course Lily had to jump up onto the cabinet to look at the new statue I bought today. It's supposedly a representation of the ancient Egyptian goddess Bastet, altho usually she's depicted with a cat's head and a human body. Bastet was the goddess of joy, music, and dancing and cats were honored for that reason. That's why a whole lot of kitties ended up mummified - after a long, happy life of course. This statue is a solid piece of rock - weighs 14 lbs. Guess that's not going in the luggage.

Behind Lily you can see one of my experiments. Sort of a threadie/beadie. It's a combination of yarns, floss, buttons and beads, including scarabs. I love how it looks close up - lots of fascinating detail, which is why I enjoyed working on it. But as soon as I got it framed and looked at it from a distance - yick!!! One big globby mess. I learned my lesson. I need to have some kind of overall design with an area of white here and dark blue there - something that holds up from farther away. Live and learn.

We finished watching "House" - did like the series overall, but was disappointed when Dr Cameron got re-hired. Bleck. Actually, I still don't like any of the crew that work for him. And someone explain to me why they're the ones doing so many of the procedures. Who would you rather have - the specialist who's done thousands of whatever procedure or the dude who does one a month, if that. (It's like the crime scene techs interviewing suspects on CSI and deciding who gets arrested. I don't think so.)

House, Wilson and Cutty are excellent. And I know Stacy the ex will be on the next season (which you all already have in the states) but I haven't seen any of those yet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Not My Punny Valentines

Wow, it's raining like crazy outside - an incredibly rare event here. But instead of a cleansing refreshing rain, we get mud. It's all that dirt, sand, and dust in the air and all over the trees. Plus there's a lot of dirt/sand in the roads and that turns into mud puddles. There are no drainage ditches so it all just sits there. It'll cause havoc with the commuters as well. My sweetie is gonna be an unhappy camper when he gets home - the drive is bad enough during good weather.

Remember I told you before about my fabulously creative friend Rachael Thomas? Well she has graciously agreed to letting me post pics of her Valentine crusties. First is "Honey Bee Mine" one of her early pieces, which she made while I was still living nearby so I actually got to see all of the beautiful embroidery in person. I so loved this Valentine I wanted to steal it from her husband, which is hardly an appropriate gesture for the holiday.

Next up is the Valentine Rachael made for her son this year. The alphabet beads at the top say "yo ho ho" and the stem-stitched embroidery says "AAARRR you my Valentine?" My favorite touch is the plastic skulls dangling from the bottom. Looks like french knots texturing the face.

And this is the gift for her daughter. "Do you 'carrot' all for me?" and the alphabet beads across the bottom say "I dig you." Look at that great expression on the carrot's face and I love all the tiny quilting stitches.

Thank you, Rach, for letting me share these.

Happy Valentine's Day one and all. I made a batch of Pecan Chocolate Chip Shortbread last night and at the rate I'm eating it there won't be any left by tomorrow. But it's yummy while it lasts.

Well now I know why I don't get to see the cool olympic sports - they're on past my bedtime. I stayed up until 11:00pm last night watching figure skating and even then I had to give in to sleep before the final four pairs skated. Drat. Probably why I hardly saw any gymnastics from Athens either.

Last night I quilted turquoise spiders into my Space 4 Rent block with the googly eyes. Decided that the eyes looked kinda nervous and since lots of people get nervous around spiders, why not throw them in there. I liked the idea of trying to do Jetson style pets - maybe a cat with a bubble over its head, but there just wasn't enough room in that particular space, so that might pop up later on.

Today, instead of working on any of my many current projects, or starting the new patriotic quilt that I actually auditioned fabric for, I got out an old Halloween beading project and started working on it. See, I thought I'd look and see if I needed to buy any beads for it, but kinda got sucked into working on it. Discovered I need orange sequins - mmm sparkly and yet so hideous at the same time. Anything goes for Halloween.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Gwen Marston's website has a new message saying that her upcoming book with Freddy Moran, Collaborative Quilting, is going to be published THIS month. Amazon's webpage for the book says it will be out July 28th. Let's hope Gwen's homepage is correct. I'm going to have to pre-order that baby, and maybe it will be here when I get back from vacation. Woohoo!

I can't believe me. Am I studying French? Non. Am I quilting? No. Watching Olympics? No, but it's pretty boring at the moment. Curling. My hubby would actually enjoy it - he started watching curling during the Salt Lake City games.

There's a fly in the house that's driving me nuts. Me and Lily. Every once in a while she spots it and gives chase (as well as she can) all over the house. The other cats don't even seem to notice it. All right, I need to stop goofing off and get some work done. Really.

Blue and White Houses

I haven't seen anything exciting in the Olympics so far. I'm not sure if that's because our channel only shows the odd events (for the last summer olympics we got a lot of shot-putting and women weightlifters) or the events I want to see just haven't been on yet.

I just sent an email to Bonnie yesterday telling her I couldn't focus my brain on any more lessons, but I surprised myself this morning with a bit of energy and focus. Focus has been difficult lately - I'm ready for vacation.

I figured I'd better give ya'all some basic instructions on what to do with your houses after you have them made. Not that I don't think you could have figured it out on your own, cuz of course you could have. Putting it all together uses the exact same technique as you used making the houses (or any other bit of improvisational piecing):
  • If it's too long, cut it off
  • If it's too short, sew something on
You could add over-sized sashing to the blocks, and then cut them all down to the same size. You could make blocks the same height, so you that you could sew them in rows; or the same width so you could sew the blocks in columns.

Another way is to sew the blocks together however they fit best. Two blocks the same height? They can go together. Start arranging your blocks that way. You can make a rectangle here, a row there... Add fabric where you want and need it.

As an example, here's my Blue and White Houses quilt. I've actually posted it before, way back in my very first post in June. This was the second house quilt I made using Gwen's liberated method.

If you look closely you'll see larger chunks of some of my prized batik fabric. It's in there just because it's gorgeous and I love it. And it works well, if it hadn't it wouldn't be there. You'll see smaller chunks of fabric here and there too, some because I wanted them there and others were there just so the quilt would fit together.

Here's a detail of the quilt (look in the lower left of the quilt). Some of the houses in this quilt have very few details. You'll notice a tiny one here that isn't anything more than a 1" rectangle with a roof.

The house on the left is on the river. That fish batik is one that I knew I wanted a chunk of and that was sewn on before I started worrying about how these blocks would go together.

The house in the upper right is caught in a whirlwind. I sewed on oversize strips, then angled my ruler and cut the block so that the house was spinning. The two little houses were sewn together and then added to the bottom of the whirlwind block. They needed a strip of fabric at the bottom so that this three-house unit could then be sewn on to the fish river house. Any bit of fabric left hanging off the unit was whacked straight off.

This is what the larger seams of the Blue and White Houses quilt look like. The shorter seams would have been sewn first. The last seam would have been to add the row along the bottom.

And here is a more detailed shot showing all the seams joining the blocks together.

Does this help? Any questions? Ask now or you may not get an answer until March...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Button Heart

Another gray day here in Cairo. Sky is white, but I don't see the trees blowing so I don't think it's another khamseen.

Here's a little bit of color. This is one of my little pieces. It's not a thready since it has two layers of fabric with batting in the middle. Not really a crusty either tho. Anyway, this is a small piece - 5" square, if I can call it a square since it's definitely skewed. It's stitched with embroidery floss, inc rayon floss, and has a bugle bead border and lots of buttons sewn in the middle.

I've told you our building has been getting a makeover. Lots of new plaster and paint and marble trim on the balconies. Well they finally finished with our hallway, putting the vent covers back up (some of which will undoubtedly get removed during the summer when the heat build-up for the a/c's is too much).

Yesterday I kept hearing a loud cat meow and I knew it wasn't one of ours. Sounded like the cat was in our a/c. Turns out that when the vent covers went back up on Thursday, one of the building's stray cats was hiding in there. D'oh. Luckily it was the friendliest, most trusting of the strays and after the workmen took the cover back off (along with some of the new plaster) I managed to lure it out and into a cage - poor thing was hungry after two days. Boy was she mad about the cage, but it really was for the best and now she's back in the garden where she belongs.

You'll appreciate this, Siobhan. The stray's name is Brownie. Yup the same name (which I've resisted calling her) as your troublesome sweetie cat. Maybe the name fits her after all.

Besides cat rescue, grocery shopping, and making an excellent beef and barley soup, I spent most of yesterday surfing the internet prepping for our trip. Have to say the weather in Florida is a bit colder than I was expecting, but I guess it's a whole lot better than snow. Least this way my hubby won't spend all his time at the beach so I'll actually get to see him.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The neighbors are watching

Amazingly, this looks like a house that could live over at Finn's - what with the eyes peering out at you. I haven't yet decided what, or if, I'm going to quilt something in the grass. The eyes should be looking at something, but don't know what. I keep wanting to do spiders, but this isn't supposed to be a Halloween quilt...

Speaking of houses, Sandra did a bunch of fun ones and since she now has a digital camera, we get to see them as well as some of her other quilts.

Lily was on a tear last night. She wouldn't settle down and go to sleep. She was darting in and out of the bedroom eeping (that's the screechy sound she makes). She was keeping Pokey awake as well, so she had to come in the bedroom and start rustling around. I finally picked Lily up and tossed her out; Pokey went voluntarily. I closed the door and fell right to sleep. Slept thru Lily scratching at the door and hollering at us, but it kept my sweetie up for another half hour.

Hope we don't have to go through that again. I mean look at this, the kittens can be so sweet:

The two darling girls all curled up in the bathrobe box from a couple of weeks ago.

I haven't been getting much sewing done lately. I've been playing with my fabric, sorting it, deciding what I still like and what I need. I was amazed at some of my great fabric that I'd completely forgotten I had. Oops.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Home Sweet Home

I made Home Sweet Home back in April 2002 when I was going through a monochromatic period. This is red, white and pink tho I have to admit one of the pinks has a bit too much purple in it... You'll notice some familiar Tonya elements: houses, words, piano key border.

I did a really great job (if I don't say so myself) quilting on this one, but of course this is the only photo I have of it and it's a lousy photo and so you'll just have to take my word for it. I quilted the word "love" on it in many places and there are hearts and curls of smoke coming out of chimneys.

I actually quite like this quilt - not quite so bland as the picture would have you believe. I made three quilts in this color scheme and almost made another, so obviously it appeals to me.

Yesterday we had a khamseen - a sandstorm. It sounds much worse than it actually is, at least if you're thinking of "The English Patient" and the dunes that get shifted during the sandstorm and people having to be dug out from underneath of 8 feet of sand. It's not like that in the city. The sand is so fine it's more like dust - it gets all gritty in your eyes but you're not getting pelted in the face. The sky was a weird white color with a tinge of reddish brown; couldn't see the sun - just a brighter white circle. A friend said if we were in Houston we'd be running for a tornado shelter - it was that kind of an ominous sky.

I'd heard about the khamseens, a spring phenomenon, before we moved here and I thought they'd be far more common than they actually have been (knock on wood). So the nasty headache I had yesterday was either due to barometric pressure or just all the dust whipping around. Either way, it's gone and I'm feeling much better.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

bit of a tall house

Quilt Pixie is just making me laugh with her outlandish houses. Monday was a very pointy house and Tuesday a very wobbly, wiggly tall apartment building (how does the elevator get to the top? Think you'd have to take lots of stairs).

Here's one of the houses I made last year, but it wouldn't be nearly so scary for the occupants. Yeah, kind of hard to look at with the obnoxious sky - hope it doesn't hurt your eyes, Finn. I pieced the roof on this one. Don't remember why, but it gives a nice shaded look.

I'm back to being a big cry baby - woke up with a headache that just won't quit. Again. My sweetie and I are heading to Florida on the 18th for three weeks of R&R. I'm definitely hoping that being near the beach will be a nice refreshing change for me. Not that I'll be on the beach - that's hubby's job. I get bored way too fast. I'm going to be doing some shopping. Unfortunately I only found a tiny little quilt shop during our last visit, but there was definitely a great bead shop. Uh oh.

I also need to decide what projects to take with me. Nothing too bulky, cuz I've got to have room in the suitcase to bring stuff home. I'm pondering taking Blooming Horrors even tho I haven't finished designing it yet. Maybe I can cut out lots of flowers and stems and just take all the potential bits with me.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

flying saucer on the roof

I've had a semi-productive day today. First off, no headache! Woohoo, shouts of joy. Got my haircut, this time without the phone call reminding me I was supposed to have been there five minutes ago. Washed a load of fabric and ironed it all out. Read blogs... Okay, kinda pathetic as a list of productivity but what can ya do? That is really boring. I will try to do better.

Bonnie, one of the new fabrics I got is a pretty good match to my purple pin sheet (Bonnie loves that color with the reds, yellows, pinks, and oranges I've been working on lately). Maybe I'll add some of the new purple into my Terms of Endearment. Assuming I ever get back to sewing on it again.

Laura (who I hope likes my alien house block) has been playing with houses recently. New blogger, Barb, has got a pic of a finished liberated house quilt and several mentions of Gwen Marston... Hmm, I'm intrigued. If I haven't mentioned it lately, I should say that I learned how to make houses from Gwen's book "Liberated Quiltmaking" which very sadly is now out of print but remains my all-time favorite quilt book.

You know how I love to play with threads, making a picture with my quilting? (If you don't, you can go take a look here). Well I thought I'd show you how I doodle a picture, before I draw it onto the quilt.

One of the houses on my current project Space 4 Rent has a nice big roof suitable for something fun. Since the theme of the quilt is aliens and houses, I could have one of the aliens coming to visit, and what a great landing pad there on the roof. These are my doodles of an alien in a flying saucer. Please notice this takes no drawing skill whatsover. We're talking stick figures here.

I doodled until I had an idea of what I wanted and then I drew a similar doodle onto the fabric with a purple disappearing pen. Didn't like it, made it disappear with water, and redrew it the next day. And this is what the little guy looks like quilted:

Down in the purple ground I have the word "Greetings" quilted. By the way, I've decided that I prefer using chalk to the disappearing pen. I can rub it off and immediately get to work without having to fool around with it. Plus, the chalk line is so big and squishy - it gives me more room to manuever.

So if you like this technique, try it. Seriously. Doesn't take drawing skill and it is so easy to undo. Even if you quilt it and decide you hate it, it can be ripped out. Don't be afraid of trying something new. Play. Pretend you're 8 years-old and a great artist.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Across Australia

Hey ya'all. Hope everyone is doing well. I've got yet another headache (big cry baby, that's me) but went to the doc today, so hopefully a change in my allergy meds will do wonders. I was almost very foolish this morning - I considered backing out of an expedition cuz I wasn't feeling great. What a mistake that would have been.

Two friends and I went up to Zamalek to see an art quilt show called "Across Australia." Not only did we get to see beautiful quilts, but the curator Dijanne Cevaal (who is visiting from Australia and has some gorgeous photos of Egypt on her blog) and Jenny Bowker even came over to walk through the exhibit with us and talk about it. I don't know about the rest of you, but I've certainly never been so lucky to have this kind of an experience before.

Here are a couple of quilts that really caught my eye. This first one is "Dreaming" by Beth and Trevor Reid of Gowrie:

This landscape is inspired by the Australian outback, but it makes me think of Mars. I love the colors in it. Jenny pointed out that several of the Australian art quilters do their quilting first and then put the applique over the top of it. Makes it easier (to not have to stop and start), but it also gives an incredible ghost impression. On this quilt, the appliqued areas were then quilted again.

And this one is "Corrugated" by Helen Gray of Mawson:

I bet you're surprised that I picked this one - certainly not the colors you usually see on my blog. But the material is a gorgeous hand-dyed silk and then Helen hand quilted with large stitches that are incredibly textural.

After the quilt tour my friends and I had lunch at my favorite Lebanese restaurant (woohoo) and now I'm back home again with my sick husband. I know he's really sick when he stays home from work. Poor guy. I just hope I don't get whatever it is he has.

Thought I'd show you a peek at the new fabric I got in the mail:

I bought them for different projects, but I'm actually scaring myself with how much I like how they go together. No, no, I refuse to leave my comfortable little box - I don't want to explore new color combinations.

Friday, February 03, 2006

more houses

I started making a house quilt last spring. I wanted it to be pink and chartruese green, but soon discovered that just wasn't going to work - I needed a third color. So yellow was it. I only made a few houses before getting distracted and moving along to some other project. That happens to me a lot. I don't stress about it and go back to projects when I'm ready to work on them again (or recycle parts or give blocks away, depending on how I feel).

This next house is fairly boring, even tho it has a slanted roof and an angled door and window. I like the chimney - I angled that one well.

This next house is one of my favorites, even if it is a bit hard to look at with the wild sky. The best part? The extra long chimney that's sliding off the roof.

My husband sometimes looks at these houses and says, seriously, "you know that's not structurally sound." Uh, yeah.

By the way, if you're looking at these pics and thinking, hey in the house tutorial Tonya put the chimney in the big sky piece, you are right. I was experimenting with these blocks to see if it worked better to put the chimney on the smaller sky. It doesn't - it's worse.

Got a nasty headache this morning which I am not at all happy about. I'm afraid it's spring already starting to attack me. It's time to change my allergy meds - think the ones I'm on just aren't working anymore.

My sweetie and I watched "L.A. Confidential" yesterday and I managed to get some quilting done. Slowly, slowly.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Alien House with Saturn

Wow, found some more groovy houses to share with you all. It's a blast to see what kinds of houses people are building. Make sure you check out: Kathie and Nancy (who also created a tree) and Carolyn. Quilt Pixie has now added a great free-pieced wonky car to her village.

And on the theme of improvisational piecing, Kate has created some awesome ladybugs.

This is the first block that I've completely quilted from Spaces 4 Rent. It's slow going, esp since I'm doing stupid stab stitch quilting. Don't ask me why, I know it's not the lazy option. I just love how it looks when I quilt 1/8" from the edge of the seam, even when it's thru multiple layers of fabric so I can't do a running stitch. This block (and the entire quilt) is being done with size 8 perle cotton or 3 strands of embroidery floss.

I went out to lunch today with friends. Wow, that's three days in a row - what a social animal I am. Gray and nasty again outside and a bit chilly, but at least it didn't spit rain drops at me like it did yesterday. I ordered some more furniture from the amazing craftsmen who made my mashrabiya screen. These won't be mashrabiya and won't be nearly that elaborate tho.

I have gotten very little done lately, what with the socializing online and in person. And being lazy...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

flat roof

I've really been enjoying wandering around the blogs and seeing some houses under construction. I know Finn and Cher have posted one each and Quilt Pixie has done a couple. Pixie accidentally sewed the sky sections on in the wrong order and ended up insetting a seam. Aaaghhh.

Let me tell ya, this lazy gal ain't gonna inset no seam. So here's a solution to that problem: whack off the top of the house. I just cropped on Picasa, so I have a straight line across the top, but it could certainly be more angular.

You could also take it even further down for an even flatter roof:

Here are some of my flat top houses. Did I make them deliberately or were they "accidents" - there's no way to know.

And Finn has been yearning for tall houses, so here's one for her: