Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quilting Arts likes us!

I just received the June/July 2011 issue of Quilting Arts, and there's a lovely review of our Twelve by Twelve book!  Thanks, QA!  I am so looking forward to sitting down and reading the rest of the issue.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Elusive but Beautiful

Shhhh.  Keep very still.  There's a smiling teenager nearby. 

This is sort of like spying a gorgeous butterfly in the garden -- if you move toward it too fast, it'll fly away.

I moved cautiously,and after a moment of consternation...

she relaxed and let me take some pictures. 

I think she even liked it.

Such a lovely creature.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Old Things

Here I am!  I've been absent lately due to a host of little things ... you know how there are some days when you set out to do one thing and you never even get to that?  It's been like that around here.  One of my tasks has involved upgrading the operating system on my computer, which has meant a whole lot of little glitchy computer things ... but I think I'm back up and running now.

My mom and dad are in the process of moving out of the house they've lived in for 40 years, and so I've managed to bring home boxes of stuff from my life in that house.  My brain tells me to PURGE PURGE PURGE but there is the sentimentalist in me and, despite the fact that I've not even seen these boxes for 20 years (and I should just chuck them unopened), I can't resist opening the up to dig through some old memories.

So here's what I found this week.  Does anyone remember Marriott's Great America?  I worked at the Great America in Santa Clara, California (right across to the convention center where PIQF is, btw) for a summer and a spring break or two.  It was the perfect college-student job, with a whole lot of fun if you didn't mind the incessant noise and crazy people (we used to swear that they checked their brains at the entrance gate.)  Finding the park's event buttons which we were required to wear brought back a lot of memories.  I worked mostly on the park's flagship attraction, the double decker carousel right at the front of the park.  And yep, from time to time people got sick on that ride, even.

In the same box was my beloved Barbie, who is showing serious signs of aging.  Her mascara sure needs a touch-up, and she's got some serious neck issues.  Note the cracks   wrinkles in her neck.  She needs a good turtleneck ... or any clothes at all, really.  (They'll turn up in some other box, I'm sure.)  But the curl in her hair has held up for 40 years, which is something, and there's not a strand of gray.

And then there's the troll doll.

Strangely, I don't remember naming him... her... well, it.  And my sister and I played with them endlessly, in their shoe-box houses.  This little guy ... girl... thing seems to have aged better than Barbie, I'd say. 

I can't wait until my parents get into the storage area above their garage, where my Barbie dream house and my sister's Barbie's Dress Shop have been hiding all these years. We're already looking forward to a Barbie play day.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Using it Up

 If you've been to a quilt shop, or a quilt guild meeting, or read a sewing or quilting magazine in the last few months, then you might have heard about the American Patchwork and Quilting drive to collect one million pillowcases for charity.  It's an appealing idea: corralling quilters and seamstresses to make a simple item that can be useful to lots of people, and encouraging them to donate them to their local charities.  My local group provides pillowcases to a camp for children whose lives have been touched by cancer -- each kid gets his or her own pillowcase and then takes it home with them.  It's sort of hokey -- and yet, it's a lovely, cheery way to touch someone's life.

Last week, I had another burst of energy in the get-stuff-out-of-the-closet kick I'm on, and I pulled a stack of fabric down from the top shelf to get it out of there.  I had a big stack of bright flannels -- I think I bought them years ago thinking I'd make a few of those rag quilts... or maybe it was for those make-your-own-chenille throws... I don't even remember.  But as I was setting them into a bag to give away, it struck me that they'd make a good bunch of pillowcases.

Using a "roll it up" pattern my friend Pat had given me that makes for a really quick and fun pillowcase (and you can see it demonstrated with instructions here) I started cutting hunks of flannel and next thing you know, I had 11 pillowcases.  AND an empty shelf in my closet.  It felt great.

By the way, is this a middle-aged thing?  That it feels better to get stuff out of the house then it does to go shopping for new stuff and bring it home?!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gotta Share

Improv Everywhere is at it again -- and poking fun at some people sharing everything, every minute...

I keep grinning at "I can't wait to share that with my cat ... Wait, is there an app for that?"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Random Thursday

I'm having one of those random thursdays, where the day ahead promises to have me ricocheting back and forth among all of the little things I have to today.  Nothing horribly pressing, but just a random collection of stuff that needs to be done.  You know -- call the doctor about an appointment.  Pack up some riding pants that I ordered for Miss C online and have to be returned.  Take the load of stuff to the Salvation Army.  Pick up dry cleaning.  Clean the vegetable bins in the fridge.  Exciting stuff like that. 

I tend to get distracted when I'm working down a list like that -- there are other, more fun things to do around here.  Like what's on my design wall, for instance -- I have made big flying geese with a bunch of scraps and I'm assembling them as shown.  It's fun and so pinky which I always want to be sewing with in the spring.  My lovely Bernina (do you all name your sewing machines?  This one seems so grand that she deserves a name but I've not settled on one yet.)  had a thread jam in the bobbin case that I wasn't unable to untangle at home, so she's at the dealer's for a thorough poke through her innards.  I've set up the trusty Juki so I can piece away at remarkably high speeds.

Oh -- one more random thing.  Thanks so much for the suggestions on how to photograph big quilts!  Sadly, Kristin, I don't have an upstairs balcony but I am amused by your bungee cord-rigging suggestion.  I think I'm going to try Terry's method of pinning quilts to the garage door.  I save my old sewing machine needles for tasks like that, as they don't make large holes in the quilts but they work like sturdy push pins.   Hey! Maybe I can do that this afternoon! 

Ta ta!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I should be spending my fabric time figuring out what I am going to do for the upcoming 12x12 challenge which requires that we use a "spice color" palette.  So far I've not had any appealing ideas come to mind, so I'm just letting it be, hoping something good will float to the surface of my distracted mind.

But meanwhile, I've been continuing my mission to use up fabric in the closet.  And that explains this quilt, which I made from a bundle of Moda "layer cake" squares I found on sale a few years ago.  I do love polka dots and these fabrics are so bright and cheerful!  This ended up almost twin-bed sized, to my surprise, but as my goal was just to use up the fabric I'm glad it did.  This is destined for the Valley of the Moon Children's Shelter, my favorite place for donating quilts.

By the way, I always have a hard time figuring out how to photograph large quilts -- my design wall isn't nearly big enough. So this morning I pinned the quilt to a big roller shade that comes off of the patio arbor outside and gave that a try.  Hardly what the Quilt Photography experts would recommend but it got the job done.  (I have heard of people using their garage doors.  Perhaps I'll try that next.) 

Monday, May 09, 2011

Ladies, Start your Machines...

Unless you haven't stepped into a fabric store in the last few years (and I feel sorry for you if you haven't), then you might not know that the tidy roll of fabric above is known as a "jelly roll."  It's made up of 40 strips of fabric 2 1/2" wide, usually some assortment of colors or prints designed to look quite nice together.  It makes for a delicious bundle of color, and it's not surprising that because they've become so popular, bunches of projects that use them have proliferated wildly.

Which leads me to the concept of a "Jelly Roll Race."  I'd read about it on someone's blog some time ago, and it involves using one jelly roll to construct a quick quilt top that measures 48 x 60 inches.  The race aspect just makes it silly and fun -- so when I learned about it, I figured it'd be just the sort of goofy thing that would be a fun retreat game.

The directions for making the quilt top are really easy.  You essentially sew the strips together end to end, so that you have one long strip 1600 inches long (which explains why this is also sometimes called the "Jelly Roll 1600" quilt.  You then fold it in half, sew, cut and fold it in half again, until it is quilt sized.  You don't worry about fabric placement -- the strips themselves make the pattern. And it's a whole lot of straight seam sewing, which even a beginning sewer can do.

You can watch a race here, courtesy of Heirloom Creations:

So that's what we did one evening at the retreat last week. It was loads of fun and led to lots of giggling -- AND a gorgeous bunch of quilt tops:

You can find the detailed directions on making one of these here.  Be careful, I think they might be addictive.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Wanna Play?

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, and to all of the great moms out there -- and of course to the great kids who've made us the mothers we are!

And because I'm celebrating Mother's Day by, among other things, NOT doing the tidying and house stuff I would normally do, I thought I'd share a scene from the dining room yesterday.  When I came home from the quilt retreat, I piled the two quilts I'd machine quilted on the dining room table -- and Willow immediately made herself right at home.

And Willow up on the table meant that Gemma, our black lab mix, was circling the table, thinking that Willow might want to play.  NOT.

"I said, NO."

Wait, where'd she go?

Is she over there?

She's down there again.  NO, I don't want to play.

I think it'll be a stand-off.  Or make that "sleep-off."  (Excuse the blur.)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Back from the Ranch

So remember I told you that I had to use that cowboy fabric in a challenge quilt for my ranch retreat?  Well, here's what I did.  

I started thinking about how, at the Bishop's Ranch site of our retreat, our group is known as the "Ranch Hands."  And that led me to think about what a cowboy would expect if he heard that the female ranch hands were putting on a show, which led me to suspect that he would NOT show up for a quilt show.  So I settled on the idea of putting a confused (and disappointed!) cowboy in the middle of one our show-and-tell shows.

Over the years at ranch retreats, I've taken tons of pictures during our show and tell.  I started working with photos in Photoshop, to scale my friends up to a size that would work in proportion to that rather large cowboy.  Once I had the images scaled, I printed them onto fabric with my inkjet printer.  I still find my inkjet printing results to be pretty muted in color no matter how I boost the saturation before I print, so I took Tsukineko inks to paint fresher, brighter colors onto everyone.  That cowboy is pretty garish (not to mention, ORANGE) so I was trying to make the colors a bit more compatible with his tones.

Then I fused everyone into position -- arranging the quilt show was the most fun part, I think -- and then stitched it all down with monofilament thread.  And yes, I put myself in it:

That's me, holding up the black and white quilt.

I even fired up the embroidery part of my machine and figured out how to add the caption, which reads "Tex heard that the ladies at the ranch were putting on a show... but this wasn't what he imagined."

The quilt was a big hit when we revealed our challenge quilts -- but I'm most pleased that I've created a wonderful souvenir of my great friends and fun times at the retreat.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Happy May Day!

It is May 1st!  There are so many things I could be doing today.  Setting up a May pole, decking the patio in ribbons and decorations, having a May Day luncheon.  Basking in the beautiful sunshine outside, enjoying the flowers blooming in the garden -- well, okay, enjoying the THOUGHT of flowers that WILL be blooming as soon as I weed and sort out the mangy flowerbeds and pull all of those weeds... Or I could do a burst of spring cleaning, clearing out the old clutter to make things organized and tidy.

Yep, I could do those things today.  But I won't.  Instead, I'm packing up my sewing gear to head over to Bishop's Ranch this afternoon for our 2011 spring retreat.  And (although I'll be home to sleep in my own comfy bed each night), I'll be escaping to the retreat for most of the week.

So there is much fun, laughter, activity, production, and good food ahead.  What better way to celebrate spring?!  I'll see you next weekend!  Hope you celebrate May's arrival in with your own fun adventure!