Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hey - what's this?A finished quilt! After I showed it earlier in the week, I trimmed the borders to be scalloped and have been occupying my time with stitching down the binding.
This is a nice finishing technique for me. I often use quilts on my dining table which is round. I've no intention of getting into the round quilt business, so the scallop is a pleasant way for the edges to hang down without long, pointy corners hanging at the legs of the table. I learned this in class at the local quilt shop. It was a little scary to cut the edges of the first quilt I did this way, but this is my third time and I can just march right in there with my scissors like a brave girl.
I do mark it first. I use Terri Thompson's Vine Line Ruler to mark the scallops and then just trim with scissors. If you don't have the ruler - a plate (dinner, paper, decorative . . . whatever) will do the trick very nicely.
One important factor is to use bias binding. The first time I used straight grain binding and it was quite a wrestling match. I won - but it was not an easy nor a happy victory. The bias just curves right along with quilt and everyone is satisfied.
On weather - we seem to be on an even/odd system. Yesterday was cold and dreary. I even turned on the heater briefly to take off the chill. Today is gorgeous, warm and sunny. I wonder if it's called spring because you must be flexible?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The first block is all done. I think I really can get this one done by Christmas - heck maybe even by Christmas in July.The pattern for this quilt is in the book Small Favorites. This block is a 16" block and there are 9 of them in the quilt. I guess 'small' is a relative term. I must say that I enjoyed the applique - nice, big, chunky pieces. Just what I was in the mood for.

I had a lot of comments on my collection of black fabrics. I try to pick them up whenever I see any that catch my eye. Until I started thinking about it last evening, I never realized how often I use black . . . a lot. It's not always easy to find a wide variety and I am picky - I don't care for black/white combo's. Also a lot of blacks have an Asian theme that doesn't really work in my mainly primitive realm.

It's kind of funny how I will come across the same fabric a few times in my stash. I'll find a fat quarter, a half yard cut and even a larger piece of yardage all of the same fabric. I guess my eye knows what I like. The amount I buy often depends on the store's supply or the contents of my wallet, but I do always check for blacks whenever I'm in a shop. My best tip is to always check the sale area - particularly in a shop that doesn't really carry the things you like. All shops make mistakes in buying - and I have found some of the best bargains in shops that are my 'least' favorite, making them my new favorite place to shop.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Okay - it's a compromise. I spent the morning finishing up the quilting on this top. Now I can move on to a new project . . . completely guilt free.I pulled out this book by Blackbird Designs last week and leafed through all the projects. There are several in here that I really like, but this Christmas one is the one I think I favor the most. Okay, I know I'm probably rushing the season just a tad. But honestly, I have been thinking about an Easter quilt project for some time now. That's right, thinking about it. With two weeks to go, it's still in the thinking stage. Time to move on.
The thing that I really like is I can make this quilt completely from my stash. There are plenty of blacks in this little pile and the reds and greens will be even easier to find - they are in abundance around here.
Okay, I'm off to press and cut. If I start now I might have it done by Christmas . . . of this year.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday - again. We had a wonderful weekend of birthday celebrating. The actual day was Saturday, but we like to stretch things out as long as possible - it's a long time until the next birthday rolls around. On Friday evening we had birthday cake and the singing of Happy Birthday. As I was a soloist this year, I was unable to accompany myself on the kazoo. The cake was angel food with white chocolate whipped cream for topping. How many ways can you say -deelish?
Saturday began with opening some gifts, breakfast and some of that cream for the cake in our coffee. Also a nice phone call from The Princess and more gift opening over the web cam. (It's just so fun to see her - and sometimes catch her rolling her eyes at us. We are still parents after all.) Then a few required Saturday errands before we got in the car and headed north.
We went straight up the 101 to that famous intersection Hollywood and Vine. The actual destination was the Hollywood Pantages Theater to see Wicked.
First we had dinner at Musso and Frank's. It is exactly as described - the ultimate film noir setting. You surely got the feeling that your booth once occupied by Bogart. Places such as this that have stood the test of time and few and far between, especially in a place like Hollywood.
The show was wonderful - we knew it would be. If you get the chance to see it - I highly recommend it. The Pantages is a wonderful venue - our first visit since the renovations were made in '02. I thought it was wonderful before and I still do now. I could go back again and again just to look at the building.
Now we've left 'Tinseltown' behind and are back to the daily routine. I've been looking through books, magazines and patterns - staking out my next project. I feel like some applique is in order. I have a neglected BOM that is all applique - but I think I just want to start something new. I'll see what strikes my fancy and let you know.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What is she trying to tell me?A flurry of activity is about to begin. Hubby's birthday is Saturday but festivities begin tomorrow. This means preparations begin today. I slept later than planned, I'm really behind reading blogs, even further behind writing emails. I'll catch up with myself eventually. In the meantime, like Harper - try to hang in there.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This morning Hubby invited me on a lunch date. We try to meet for lunch on Wednesday each week that his work schedule allows. I'm at quilt class on Wednesday evening, so it's a way for us to share a meal and blab a little on a day we wouldn't normally have the chance.
One of our favorite places to meet is here. It it conveniently located about halfway from his office and home making it an easy place for both of us to get to. They have great food- yes, the fish tacos are outstanding - good service and this location is at the beach.
Usually the water is dotted with surfers. There are joggers, Frisbee players, dog walkers, all the usual beach activities. Today was a little different. We had a rain storm come through overnight. The wind kicked up and the water was really choppy - not the best day for Frisbee or surfing.
Instead we got to watch the kite boarders. They practically had the beach to themselves. It's just amazing to me how they hold on, flip around and stay in control - directing themselves on a path to where they want to go. As soon as I turned on to the Coast Highway, I was sorry I didn't have my camera with me. Thank goodness for the cell phone camera - no zoom, but if you look closely you can see the surfer out in the water.
On Saturday I got the chance to go to my favorite quilt shop, Country Loft. Among the many treasures, I found this terrific little kit tucked into one of the cabinets. The sample had a tag that said it could be used as a rotary cutter case or ???. Well, I already have a cute wool rotary cutter case, but I didn't have a case for my sunglasses. I pulled them off the top of my head and popped them into the sample . . . a perfect fit. The kit came home with me.It took only a little bit of time yesterday afternoon to do the applique and stitch up the sides. Wool is so fun to work with. I think I will add a little piece of hook and loop tape to the flap to secure it closed and prevent the glasses from falling out.

A very quick, satisfying and useful project. Can a girl ask for anything more?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Finished just in the nick 'o time. This top has been laying around for quite some time waiting to be quilted. Early in the week I started working on piecing together a back - it's another (and last for awhile) really big quilt. All of a sudden, it occurred to me that it's a triple Irish chain. Okay - game on. It had to be done by today. I finished the quilting (an overall meander - my favorite) late yesterday afternoon and started stitching down the binding last night. I was up early this morning and got some more stitches in first thing. Finally a few minutes ago, I rounded that last corner, snapped a couple of pictures and put it in the washing machine. Tonight it will be on our bed - warm and crinkly, fresh from the dryer . . . just in time for St. Patricks Day. The luck of the Irish was with me in order to finish it up . . . I hope it was with you today, too.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Well, that took a long time . . . back at the beginning of the year, I began trying to organize my quilting supplies to have a neater appearance and to find out just exactly what projects were lingering and lurking about. I am pretty good, as quilters go, about finishing what I start. But could I honestly call myself a quilter if I didn't have a UFO or two tucked away somewhere?
This quilt is one of those UFOs . I think that I pieced the top in early 2001. At one time I had plans to applique in the plain squares. It was a nice plan. But look at the size of this quilt. It is hanging over the fence. There are two rows you cannot see in the photo. From post to post the fence is 8 feet per section and the quilt is drifting into a second section. No wonder no applique got done on this quilt.
For a while I thought about turning it into two quilts - they would still be generously sized. If not, I have plenty of the plain fabric . I could add borders. Okay that was the wrong direction. I didn't want to make 2 giant quilts out of it.
So it has been hanging neatly folded on a hanger waiting to become a quilt. I just put the last stitch in the binding a few minutes ago. It will be going to the Wounded Warrior Center. It took a long time to become a quilt, but I think it was worth the wait.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

So much promise. These three little plants along with three more just like it will shape our August menus - sliced tomato and cottage cheese, gazpacho, tomato pie, roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce.Last year I put in about a dozen plants with disappointing results. I understand it was a 'bad tomato year' for others as well. But I did put in varieties that are new to me. This year, back to the tried and true - Beefsteak tomato. Hubby's paternal grandpa planted a tomato garden every spring. Each time we would visit, he would take me by the hand to show me his garden. Without fail he would say, 'These are Beefsteak tomatoes. They are a high acid tomato. I like a high acid tomato.'
Having been born after my own grandfathers had passed away, this was the most delightful Papa moment for me. It didn't matter if I had heard it just the day before and knew I would hear it again and again. My garden wouldn't be complete without them.
Check out this fun basket. I picked it up at the quilt shop after class this week. It really 'needed' to come home with me. Later this summer, I can use it to bring in my tomato harvest. In the meantime, I can use it to carry dishes out to the picnic table for a sunny breakfast outside, carry quilt projects from place to place, fill it with books are magazines. The possibilities are fun and practically endless.
Lunch today was another trip down memory lane. Pimento cheese sandwiches. Mom used to make up a batch of this sandwich spread large enough to last a week. She had a food grinder attachment for this hulk of an electric can opener that lived on the counter top. The assembly and clean up of which was no small feat. She would cut chunks of cheddar cheese and run them through the grinder and finish by pushing throughthe contents of a jar of pimento, stir in some mayonnaise. Voila - a week's worth of lunches for the family.

These sandwiches were always served on soft white bread with gherkin sweet pickles on the side. If you want to make it an extra refreshing meal, add a glass of lemonade. Since I don't make it in large batches(and I hated having to clean that grinder), I just use a grater for the cheese and have switched to a nice whole wheat bread. It's still just as deelish as I remember.

With a predicted high of 81 today, thoughts turn to being out in the yard. Not much on the quilting front - I am stitching happily on the whole cloth in the evenings, a quilt is ready for binding, borders for another and cutting a new class project this week. Lots to do . . . better get busy.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I'm going to have to mark this day - it is the day I knew that I would have a fruit crop this year! Silly sounding, I know, but my excitement knows no bounds. We had a fruit tree orchard when I was a girl. My most favorite tree was an apricot that was perfect for climbing. The limbs were strong and formed a nice place to sit and read. But the best part was to climb up, get settled and have a delicious snack of apricots - fresh and still warm from the sun. Yummy!
It took many, many years of disappointments to finally learn that the apricots sold in the supermarket were never going to measure up to those of my childhood. Still each year, I get a little start when I see them for sale, then remind myself, 'it won't be worth it.'
I realized the only way to cure the problem was to plant a tree of my very own. We planted this little fella at the very end of bare root season two years ago. At the nursery, it was the most 'Charlie Brown' apricot tree there. It needed a home and a lot of hope. Once carefully planted, it's top didn't even reach the height of our 3' fence. That fall, the leaves turned golden and dropped to the ground - I feared that would be the end of my little tree. But by the next spring it was almost taller than the fence and new leaves formed - but not a single blossom to be seen. All the rest of the year, it worked on growing a little taller, dropped it's leaves and napped through the winter.
Then this morning, while making the coffee I thought I spotted some color. Could it be? One tiny little flower. I grabbed Hubby by the arm and dragged him out to have a look at the triumph. But wait - there must be half dozen blossoms and many more just waiting to burst forth. We are going to have a apricots!
Today is also Harper's birthday - 10 years old. We are celebrating by going out to lunch. One plain burger from the nearest drive-thru. It is the closest thing to puppy nirvana you will ever see. Happy Birthday Big Girl. You are the best puppy pal I could ever have.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Recently Finn asked us to share vintage sewing items we have and she shared a wonderful needle packet from her collection. I can remember so many things that were in my grandma and mom's sewing baskets - old spools of thread, needles, pincushions, a ceramic bowling pin used for darning socks. All long gone now. What I do have is this little collection of thimbles. Mom and Grandma both were obsessive about using a thimble and tried valiantly to get me to do the same. Always stubborn, I refused. They felt 'funny' on my finger and the needle always slipped around. While I can manage a thimble these days, I will still wait until my fingers are so sore that I have not choice but to get one out if I want to continue sewing.The shiniest one belonged to Mom. She used it every time she picked up a needle and thread. whether she was mending, sewing a hem or making garments for everyday, Halloween costumes of all varieties, my wedding dress; they all felt the touch of that thimble.

The others belonged to Grandma. They are all so tiny - they fit on my pinkie. Grandma made her living with needle and thread during the Great Depression and WWII years. She lived in a town near an Army training base and made alterations to the soldiers' uniforms in a space above a little dress shop. She was expert at making the Eisenhower jacket that was very popular at that time. I wonder how many of those alterations she did over the years?

It's starting to feel spring like here at home. It got the better of me yesterday and we went and bought a few new plants and a bunch of seed packets. Probably a little ambitious, but the day was warm and I felt like I could get anything to grow. I put in the plants, but I'll save the seeds for another day. First I have to come up with a way to protect them from the birds my neighbor attracts with her feeders. They cannot satisfy themselves with her generosity - they come over and snack on my plantings as well -- then . . . it's WAR!

Friday, March 02, 2007

More dye. The walnut dye that I shared the last couple of days is a new technique to be added to the arsenal. While I have never used a real, honest-to-goodness dye (for some reason they scare me) I am willing to be pretty free and easy with things found around the kitchen. When I saw my first piece of tea-dyed fabric, I knew that was for me. I quickly learned that I could buy fabrics that I didn't much care for, soak it in some tea, set it outside to dry and - voila- something new for me to love and enjoy in my stash.
Next I saw something that had been aged using coffee. Be still my heart. The extra dark spots that come up randomly. I had to give that a try, too. Then I began mixing tea and coffee - brewed tea, brewed coffee, instant tea, instant coffee. I was like a highly caffeinated mad scientist.
I have a friend (and just about anyone at the local guild) who doesn't understand this at all. I am often told I only work with brown fabric. She will see a top in progress, grimace and ask if I'm going to put tea all over it. Of course - I am. My motto has become: My personality is sunshiny - my quilts don't have to be.
This little quilt was inspired from some embroidery patterns in a Brannock/Patek book. The muslin was tea dyed before I pieced it and did the embroidery - brown work(?). After it was done, I applied coffee to make the dark splotches . When The Princess saw it she asked, "Are you going to be able to get those stains out?" It's not a look for everyone, but it sure is for me.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Today was 'basting day'. A lot - an awful lot of crawling around on the floor to smooth everything just so. After getting the batt stretched out on the floor and an initial spreading of the top , I stepped away to take a look (and a picture) to see if there were any problem areas before I moved on.Here's what Harper thinks of the whole process. She can get a little pouty when her movements are restricted. I strongly frown upon her stomping across my work and she just doesn't understand why. A nice puppy treat fixes all the grumpiness when I'm done.
Here is where you'll find me a good part of the time now. I'm so anxious to take my first stitches. A few chores and errands this morning and I'll be ready to begin. I feel like a kid on Christmas - I can hardly wait.
Several asked for further information on the walnut crystals. My knowledge is limited at best. . . walnut ink crystals can be found at most places where you find scrap booking supplies. It seems that it can be used to achieve the same look as coffee and tea dye while using less liquid - important in scrap booking (no one wants wrinkly, crinkly paper). I found a booth at a quilt show that was selling a spray bottle with a premixed solution to age punch needle pieces. That is what I used on my piece (no mixing mess or staining up my kitchen - at least on the first outing). I don't know if it's permanent or if it causes the fabrics to deteriorate more rapidly. My guess? Probably not permanent - because I would like it to be. Like a coffee stain that will stay forever on my t-shirt, but wash right out of a quilt. Probably somewhat damaging - just like the natural dyes of our foremothers, it's a technique to achieve a particular color now - not to hold up or preserve for 100 or more years.
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.