Monday, March 30, 2009

Margarita Quilt Underway

Sorry it's been so long since my last post. In that time I finished off the quilting/tacking of Joy and have started handquilting the Margarita Quilt. Here it is getting ready for basting with Pokey's help (if you can call it that). Look, I went with the blue border.

I've got the Quilter's Dream Request loft batting in and it's quilting up a dream. In fact it's even easier than the previous times I've used it. Maybe because the backing fabric itself is so soft? I dunno, but it's going well.

I have been incredibly wiped out. Think it's too much thyroid medication now, which I would have thought would make me hyper, but no such luck. It almost aches to even move instead. Stupid (missing) thyroid. So be patient with me, I'll get back to posting one of these days.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Impressionist Pokey

I am having too much fun with one of the new computer programs that came with my Wacom Bamboo Fun Tablet (a belated Christmas present to help me do the illustrations for quilting instructions). Anyway, Corel Painter Essentials is included in the package and you can use it to turn your photos into paintings. Here's an Impressionist take on Pokey. (I had to degrade the pic to turn it into a useable Blogger image - the original looks better than this)

I am having a blast. Think I've figured out how to make some nice artwork for the walls. And maybe once the novelty wears off I'll actually settle in and use the tablet...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More Pokey, More Names

My cats Pokey and Lily often wait for me to sit in the recliner and lean backwards - that way they have a launchpad to the upper shelves of the bookcase.  [On a complete sidenote, Blogger is irritating the heck out of me - I want this underlining to go away!!!]

I wouldn't have thought Pokey would have enough room there to sit on the stack of fabric, but apparently she does. As you can see, my organizational skills are lacking. However, I have got a set of drawers that I'm very carefully putting donated blocks into so that I can keep them straight.

Speaking of which, Brenda sent me a few more orphan blocks. Look at those itty bitty letters; I'm going to have to be careful not to lose those. By the way, Brenda is having solo show of her wordy quilts (woohoo!!!!) and will be holding an open house on 28 March. I just wished I lived a lot closer to Winnipeg so that I could go. If you're able, please go and say hi for me.

Chris B in North Carolina made this wonderful name block for me - feels very beachy. I know Chris is working on a great family quilt using the free-pieced letters. Woohoo.

Nancy made her name for me and she put a lot of thought into the fabrics she chose. It's marvelous. And wheee, some more orphan words. Nancy came up with her own way of making M's - can you see the seam down through the middle?

Sharon found her own way to make an S and an a. I love seeing how ya'all come up with your own fonts. I love the fabrics she chose - very fitting for someone whose blog is titled Indigo Threads. I think most of these letters and definitely the jars are from Sharon's really fun ongoing Witch's Pantry quilt. 

Let's see, how about some other places to go visit. 

Have you seen Lynda's incredibly fun free-pieced dogs

How about Bebe's wonderful name/word quilt for her daughter? I'm loving that - check out the March 16th post.

Susan used Guatemalan fabric  in her free-pieced lettered Ohio banner, made for an NQA challenge. Check out her blog MY2K for more Guatemalan fabric and Mayan history. I'd love to see her free-piece some of those Mayan heiroglyphs - that could be a hoot.

I thought I'd provided a link to show you new blogger Quilt Messing Around Valerie's really fun alphabet sampler that she's working on, but couldn't find it in my blog. So better late than never, check out this fun free-pieced sampler in progress.

I have to undergo more testing on my thyroid. Or lack thereof. For those who are newer to my blog, I had my thyroid removed a bit over two years ago and there was a bit of cancer in there. So now the doc has to check and make sure that the thyroid hasn't grown back and that nothing spread way back when. I'm on a low iodine diet and it sucks. I have a list of things I can't eat or drink and that includes dairy. So no milk for tea or cream for coffee. I've been cranky and finally bought loads of Diet Doctor Pepper. I'm trying to limit the amount of artificial sweetener I eat, but forget it - I can't handle all this dietary restriction stuff all at once. 

Okay the rest of the post will be about tv. 

Wow, Dollhouse has really improved. That's the show where "dolls" have their memories blanked out so that they can be overwritten with different, skilled personalities and are then rented out to rich people. Or in the most recent episode, the government. My favorite parts of the episode were the Topher "man reaction" bits. I know lots of people hate that character, but I really enjoy him. Sure he's amoral and kind of a creep, but still entertaining.

Dollhouse took a while to find its rhythm, but now I'm really enjoying it. I wonder how much of that has to do with the network meddling with Joss' show and reworking and rearranging the episodes. I'll blame them. Anyway, I've read rumors that the 6th episode is where it all comes together, that's this friday. So if you haven't already, give the show a try. Catch up on a couple (or all) of the older ones and have fun.

I'm looking forward to Better Off Ted which premiers tonight. To quote ABC, the show is a "satirical office comedy featuring a morally conscious man, Ted, who runs an R&D department at a morally questionable corporation." The executive producer created Andy Richter Controls the Universe - one of my favorite "brilliant but cancelled" shows, thankfully coming out on DVD soon. Anyway, one of my favorite actors from ARCU is in this new one too. And Portia de Rossi (fabulous in Arrested Development)... Just the bits I've seen look fun, so my fingers are crossed for this one.

The second episode of Castle was better than the first. There were  few moments when it really came together (Castle talking about the creepy guy in 8B and interacting with his family), just wish they'd lose the cop he's supposed to be interested in. That's not even remotely working for me.

Meanwhile I'm taking another look at Lost. I'd quit after the first few episodes of season two, but I'm hearing good things about the current season, so decided to jump back in. Just finished season two and while some things do bug me, I'm eager to start the next season. I'm going to be highly irate though if all of this is never explained. And c'mon, what about that huge monster that was out there in the jungle in the first season. What the heck has happened to that? If you know, don't tell me - I'm trying to catch up.

Man, blogger hates me today - why are my letters all grey? It's a mystery....

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Another Name, Some Houses

My incredibly talented, blogless friend Rachael is crazy for Halloween (check out some of her great crusties in this post)  not that that's the only holiday she's made fun little quilts for (here and here). She sent me this fabulous name block:

This little free-pieced witch finished at 6" high. wow, the details:

I've actually been doing some sewing myself. Zipped out some Wonky Houses:

Until I ended up with this many:

The first few are always so straight - it takes a while to get back into the rhythm of it and make them looser and crazier.

I suspect I'll be making even more. I'm teaching a class on the houses in April, so I need some samples to take with me. I only have one house quilt here with me and right now it's hanging up at the shop, the JaMPatch in Stuart. You can read a bit more about that here. My sweet husband just threw a few more house quilts in the mail for me so fingers crossed they get here before the class.

I hope some of you live close enough that you can come take the class. It should be a lot of fun and we're having it over two days so that we can throw a few free-pieced letters in as well.

We figured the houses would be a good place to start teaching because of the great article in Quiltmaker. By the way, that issue of the magazine is available for purchase from the publisher if you can't find it at your local quiltshop or bookstore.

I've got to get running, so ya'll take care.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Market Inspiration

This is another blast from the past. I took these photos while wandering through Amsterdam with my friend Will back in December. She was always such a good sport, waiting while I took seemingly endless amounts of photos.

I loved this fruit and vegetable display set up in front of a little grocery store. I get such inspiration from the colors and shapes, though I have to admit if I were making a quilt out of this, I'd leave out the avocado. Or at least make them unripe so they aren't such a dark blot in the upper right corner.

Pitaya, one of the most gorgeous fruits ever. I've never actually eaten one though.

Kiwano. I only know what these are because of the stickers.

This is so my color palette right now. The only thing missing is lemons.

Well, Castle was disappointing last night. I hope they don't keep pushing the romantic angle between Castle and the cop, because there was just no chemistry there. I did like the poker game though - that was fun.

I keep watching Medium even though it's so predictable. C'mon, I don't have psychic powers OR real detective skills, but I figured this out - again - way before any of the tv characters. sigh. I also hate how inconsistent it is with Alison's powers. What, now she tells Ariel they can't read anything about those close to them? Since when? She used to know everything and couldn't be surprised by parties. And first she can't go into a hospital without an iPod to try and block all the ghosts harassing her and in later episodes she can spend hours at the hospital and she doesn't see a single one? I know, turn off brain to watch....

Monday, March 09, 2009

Bad Batting, Bad

I had a hard time choosing what kind of quilting pattern to do for Joy. My initial thought was to mimic all the plaid lines and do some kind of straight lines on the quilt. You can see the problems I ran into trying to mark lines. Pokey, Pokey, Pokey.

I quilted a partial line and realized that no, that just wasn't going to work - too many straight lines. Maybe a crosshatch would be better, but since I want to minimize crossing seams that wasn't going to help much. So then I tried my old standby of freehand fans. Quickly realized that wasn't doing anything since most of the fans would disappear amidst all the busy fabric.

In the purple border I decided to do a fun spirally pattern that I learned from Gwen Marston. I've never seen it in one of her books, but she used it on the adorable purple Christmas Tree quilt in Ladies' Circle Patchwork and Quilting sometime in the early '90s. There are spirals growing out of a center vine - I like how it looks. This is 3 strands of embroidery floss and a honking big needle:

Now one thing complicating matters is that I bought a quilting batt that I'd never used before. My LQS had run out of Quilter's Dream Request so I thought, could the Quilter's Dream Select be all that different? It's a 70% cotton blend rather than pure cotton but shouldn't that make it even easier to quilt through? HA!

For hand quilting, the Select is horrific. Never, ever will I do this again. It hurts to pull the needle through and I'm too stubborn to just stab stitch. I was having such a hard time pulling the needle through that I bought balloons to help grab onto the needle. I just cut one in half and stuck the top end on my thumb. Homemade finger cot. 

It's actually very hard to take a photo one-handed esp when using your non-dominant hand. 

Anyway, you can also use a whole balloon as a needle grabber. Putting it on my thumb just saves effort. I'm also wearing one of my beloved Handeze gloves, which work great at reducing wrist fatigue. You can get them at JoAnn's and Michaels over with the embroidery floss.

I'm going to tack the rest of the quilt, haven't decided exactly how yet. 

Pokey and Bibi were both making me nuts this morning while I was trying to quilt. It's hard to be a single catmom.

Switching over to geekiness. Did ya'all watch the 4th episode of Dollhouse? I thought it was a big improvement and the series has gotten much more interesting. Though of course there are those niggling questions. Why would you ever get a Doll to be a midwife? Unless there was some kind of unmentioned skullduggery, it seems rather pointless not to mention overly expensive. So I'd rather that episode a B. Maybe with a minus. Really looking forward to the next couple of episodes.

I really need to stop reading TV By the Numbers. It depresses the hell out of me. Dollhouse may make it through one season but is doubtful for pickup next year, Terminator: Sarah Connor is doing terribly in the ratings and is likely to be cancelled. And why is it that Chuck is even in danger of not getting renewed? That is such a fun show, why would the network cancel it?

So speaking of tv, I am going to give Castle a try tonight. It sounds completely unoriginal, but hey, I do love mysteries and Nathan Fillion (Firefly's Capt Mal Reynolds) is a hoot, so what the heck. Here's a review of the first episode by Televisionary.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

What's in a Name?

Another wonderful mail day yesterday. Kathie B sent me her name (which she fears is huge, but it really isn't) and a leftover wish plus some other goodies. Mary C from Spokane sent me these wonderful free-pieced candy jars (I love the red M&M jar) and some orphan squares. Thank you both so much.

I decided to lay out all your names together to see how they look. I know this is a wonky picture, but I idiotically put the blocks directly in front of a down staircase, so not only could I not get up high, I was in peril of tumbling. I stood on the couch and leaned way over to get this:

Isn't it fabulous? Your personalities really come out - I LOVE the variations in size and fabrics. All of it. This is going to be such a fun quilt. I do so love free-pieced letters - if everyone was using the same measurement to make their names it would be a much less interesting quilt.

Pokey joined the fun - this gives you a chance to see how Kathie B pieced the background together for her name - very fun. All of these pics should blow up bigger when you click on them so you can see details.

Too bad you can't actually see Pokey rolling and squirming, begging for a belly rub:

I finished hand quilting Raspberry Rumspringa yesterday, woohoo! I can't believe how freaked out I get when I don't have a project ready for quilting - it really makes me nuts. Luckily Joy is now basted - I think I'm going with big green fans for the quilting on it. I'll use 3-strands of embroidery floss. I'd prefer to use perle cotton size 8 but don't have any here and I refuse to buy any. My sweet husband is throwing perles into the mail for me though - what a sweetie he is. 

Friday, March 06, 2009

Amsterdam Flower Market

I'm digging into the archives to bring you unblogged photos from my trip to Amsterdam back in December. I'm having a hard time remember what I've blogged and what I haven't - so much for my memory.

So you read Flower Market and think there will be lots of photos of flowers. No, sorry, this is the only one. That just isn't what interests me...

Tacky souvenirs? Now that's more like it. Lots of miniature wooden shoes:

Wooden shoe magnets. I can see great quilt inspiration here:

Canal house magnets:

Seriously tacky tacky souvenir magnets, featuring the red light district and cannabis:

Speaking of cannabis, I did find it surprising to see it so publicly available even though I know it's legal there:

Love the shutters on this house:

And even the mailboxes are beautiful:

Not much to tell about goings on here. I've been hand quilting like crazy and am almost done with my current project - woohoo. I keep running into difficulties with Pokey and Habibi wanting to be on my lap and spending time with me. Sigh. I know, cute sweet loving cats, what a rough problem. Speaking of which, go check out the darling in Kate's life.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Album Quilts of Ohio's Miami Valley

I have a book to recommend to you: Album Quilts of Ohio's Miami Valley by Sue C. Cummings. "From 1888 to 1918, a community of Miami Valley farm families who were neighbors and relatives made album presentation quilts to celebrate life passages. Their sharing of designs and construction techniques led to the development of a distinctive regional quilt style that has never been duplicated in any other region of the state or country." 

This is one of the liveliest, most wonderful quilts I've ever seen pictured here on the cover. It's the Jesse Arnett Quilt, dated February 4, 1912.

The blocks were made in different sizes. To put them together, blocks were either cut down (look in the bottom left corner - the Pineapple block and whatever that one is beneath it were just whacked off - no splitting it in half or trying to make it look symmetrical) or spacer bars were added when needed.

Can you imagine how hard that would be to do without the rotary cutter and ruler? Now it's relatively easy...

Admittedly, not all the quilts featured in the book were made exactly like that, but my favorites definitely were. If you go to the publisher's website and look at the image gallery here, you can see more examples.

When Gwen Marston says that Liberated Quiltmaking is nothing new - she gets so many ideas from antique quilts - she's not kidding. Inaccurate wonky piecing is just ANOTHER way to make quilts.

The book is told as a detective story as Sue Cummings finds her first quilt with the Miami Eagle and then begins to track down more of them. There's admittedly more genealogy than I needed, but I can certainly see its value to historians.

There are loads of wonderful quilts pictured and the photos are fabulous. The publisher got a grant from Robert and Ardis James to help cover the cost. So the price is actually very slim for all that you get in the book. 

There are other bloggers out there who love this book, check out reviews by: Craft Lust, and Inspired by Antique Quilts.

One other thing you may discover in this book is how horrible polyester batting is. Truly. Compare the barely quilted quilts that have the dreaded poly with the heavily quilted beauties from years earlier. They're just sad - the poly quilts. Oh, that's another thing to recommend this book - the beautiful hand quilting. In many of the quilts it was done block by block so there's a fun variety of motifs.

So get the book, it's fabulous.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Green Spaces

While out walking yesterday I discovered a publicly accessible green space. It's a combination of pine flats and swampy bits.

I didn't see a single person while I was there and that was heaven. But what disturbed me was the lack of wildlife. I didn't see any birds, no fish in the water, none of the gopher tortoises that are supposed to inhabit the area. While I think it's wonderful that this area has been set up as a haven, seems like making the greenway long and narrow, divided by highways and allowing people in rather ruin it for that purpose.

The mail brought me more presents yesterday. Heidi doesn't have a blog, but she's participated in several of my online classes. Check out the wonderful house quilt she's working on right now. I love the way she made the dots of the i smaller than the rest of the letter.

Joyce sent me the letters, word and her name there on the bottom row. That "purple" looks like it fell out of Cheri's Stroop Quilt - it will be really fun for me to use. I like that chunk out of the top of the M - gives it quite the rakish air.