Monday, July 23, 2007

A Great Little Trip

Last week we flew down to Austin, Texas to visit our son who is in grad school there. We hadn't seen him since Christmas time, and he seems well and happy. He managed to give us a very quick tour of Austin and the university since we were only there for two and a half days.

One thing I can tell you is that Austin takes two things very seriously: live music and food. We had a great time exploring some of our son's favorite restaurants and sampling just a bit of the nightlife.

One of the places he took us to is the Elephant Room, a jazz club. It looks a lot like one of those clubs you see in the movies--down a flight of stairs, dark, mysterious. The only thing missing was the smoky atmosphere--apparently Austin has banned smoking in bars and restaurants. We heard a good jazz group the night we were there: the Elias Haslanger Quintet.

Both my husband and son love jazz, so they had a great time. Me? I'm a notch above neutral about jazz, but I had fun just drinking in the atmosphere. And a beer or two. And I was a little bemused to be clubbing with my son. He was, by the way, very polite and patient with us and didn't roll his eyes when we decided to call it a night about 12:30.

On our last day we had a few hours to kill before our flight out and it just so happened that I had the directions to a quilting shop not too far away (care of my delightful, thoughtful son). The Quilt Store is a great place to browse. They offered help but let me just wander around and browse.

They had a good selection of Kaffe Fassett fabric. Around here just a few stores are starting to carry it. I bought some fat quarters--actually more than you see here....

to make this....

I had ordered the pattern just before we left for Austin and it arrived a day after we got back. And me with a bag full of Kaffe Fassett fat quarters. What to do?

This bag calls for 7 fat quarters. It's called the Cross Town Carry-Regan's Bag by Marlous Designs. What I love about it are the pockets--there are three on the outside and three more inside. Plenty of places to stow stuff. The directions left just a little too much to imagination as far as I'm concerned. But, I haven't sewn many of these bag patterns before, so maybe it's just me.

It also gave me a chance to practice quilting using the stitch regulator on the machine. I'm going to need more practice, but making small projects like this will help.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I didn't really mean to take a three week hiatus from blogging. Things around here just got a little overwhelming for a couple of weeks. The good news is that the bookcase looks good. The contractor primed it before he built it, but it still needed quite a bit of sanding before we could give it a final coat of paint. Here it is with most of the books put back on it.

For some reason the picture makes it look like it bows out somehow, but trust me, the shelves are straight and true. Actually, this is with ALL of the living room books, which means that we were able to get rid of two other shelf units. Hooray! The old shelf units were very big (as in massive) so getting rid of them gives us a lot more space. And you see those two empty bottom shelves? I have empty book shelves!

The store where I bought the new sewing machine offered two morning classes on all the bells and whistles this machine has. So far, with the little I have been able to use it, I am loving it. It's going to take me a while to get used to all the fancy features, something I am really going to enjoy. The store also offers a set of informal classes called Club Bernina with extra projects to make which take advantage of the features on the machine. I'm going to sign up for these in the fall.

In between, I am still plugging along on the Serendipity blocks and have completed seven of them so far.

I'm starting to put them together now with some Jinny Beyer black and dark purple fabric I found. I wanted to use black at first, but the black and purple has a little bit of texture to it that looks much better, I think. This is still a hand sewing project so it's coming along, but slowly. I love the way all the pieces fit together. It's very satisfying.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Home Improvement

Do you remember that old game with the sliding number tiles? The tiles were set in a small tray and you were supposed to slide them around until you had them in order. There was only one open space, though, so sliding one tile to its destination meant that you had to move all the rest of the tiles around to get them out of the way. (I think I'm showing my age here. This was pre-Sudoku, pre-Playstation, pre-electronics...we're going way back.)

This has been my house for the past few days. On Tuesday my daughter e-mailed to say that she would come down this weekend to paint the new guest bedroom. Just as an aside, my daughter worked on the painting crew for the school system for two summers in high school. She knows how to paint. She loves to paint. Really. And, no, we don't hire her out--although I've often thought painting would be a good sideline for her if times get really tough in the publishing biz.

Not an hour had passed after her e-mail when we got a call from Daniel saying that THIS week would be good for him to build the bookcases I have been wanting for years in the living room. Daniel is the son of a friend of ours who does home remodeling and carpentry work. He is very good and very hard to get. If he says THIS week you grab him because otherwise we'll be waiting for months and months to get him back. So of course we said yes.

Now the problem is that we had moved most of the stuff from my son's old bedroom into the living room, my sewing room, the basement, etc., etc. in order to prepare the bedroom for painting. This is a small house. There isn't a lot of extra space to move things around. But when Daniel said he'd come, we moved most of the living room stuff along with all the other stuff BACK into the bedroom to leave Daniel plenty of room to work and to preserve the few nice pieces of furniture I do have.

These are the bookcases he built yesterday. The shelves will go up today.

In the course of our conversation about home remodeling Daniel mentioned that he knew how to texture the ceiling (which the back bedroom needed) and he would be only too happy to do that for us. (For a small extra fee.) Which is good, because that should be done before the room is painted. But it also meant moving everything out of the bedroom again, because the texturing is a messy affair. Sigh.

So this morning we moved everything out of the bedroom and BACK into the living room. Most of it anyway. I have a three foot stereo speaker (on a wheel cart) in my dining room and an office chair in my kitchen. I THINK the other speaker is under a sheet against the wall in the living room, but who knows? It could be anywhere in the house by now.

Despite the fact that I now have a couple of extra tables sitting in the middle of my sewing room, I did finally manage to finish the border on the last round of our guild's round robin. This looks a little wrinkly, but I don't at the moment have anywhere to set up the ironing board. It's nothing fancy, I know, but I tried a variety of pieced borders and just couldn't get anything that looked good next to that last sawtooth border. The owner of this is a very talented hand quilter, so maybe she can use this plain border to show off some quilting.

Someone from the guild has suggested one more round in which we make a label for the quilts and document who worked on the borders. I thought that was an inspired idea.

I also worked on another Serendipity block last night. I needed some hand sewing to de-stress after a day of sawing, hammering, and the compressor for the nail gun coming on at irregular intervals. Not to mention dealing with our dog who doesn't like loud noises and gets a little nervous about all the people tramping in and out of the back door. I'm going to make the purple surrounding the center hexagon and the green polka dot fabric the same in each block to give a little internal consistency. It's hard to see in this picture, but the batik fabric is a little darker than the polka dot, so there is some contrast there. So far this is my favorite one--I like how the outer blue pulls out the blue in the center.

Thank you to everyone who commented about the great sewing machine dilemma of the last post. I really appreciated that so many people were willing to share their opinions. I did go back and buy it after trying to talk myself out of it. It is now resting on one of those tables in the middle of my sewing room because I'm afraid to take it out of the box until the dust settles around here. Every so often, I go in and give it a pat. Just to reassure it (and myself) that things will settle down soon.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Help, Please

Most of you who have read this blog for a while know that I am primarily a hand sewing and hand quilter. I do own a Singer Featherweight, and for the past year or so I have been using it more often for piecing. But for some time I have been looking for a machine that I could use for quilting as well. (The pile of finished tops in my sewing room is currently at about a dozen and growing fast. )

This afternoon I looked at the Bernina Aurora 440 QE. It was all I could do to walk out of the store without whipping out my credit card and buying it on the spot. This is the one with the stitch regulator that is supposed to help you create consistent stitch lengths when free motion quilting. I tried it out and it really seems to work--the stitches weren't all exactly the same length, but they were pretty close, especially considering that I have never done free motion quilting on anything before.

The main reason I would be buying it is for the stitch regulator, but it has loads of other features that just seem fantastic to me.

* 379 different stitches
* 32 quilting stitches
* 11 needle positions
* knee operated thingamajig that lowers the feed dogs and raises the presser foot
* separate bobbin winder

etc., etc. etc.

It certainly comes with enough bells and whistles to keep me occupied for a long time to come.

Does anyone out there own this machine? Or know anyone who does? Do you like it? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Have you had any problems with it?


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Too Much Fun

So now you can see what I have been playing with. It's a variation on the pattern Watercrystal from the Serendipity book. There are only three shapes--the triangle, diamond, and what the author calls a flat pyramid. All the individual pieces are the same size, so you can mix and match as you want. That's what makes it like a pattern block set. Most of these pieces aren't sewn together yet. I've got it set up on the design wall just to see how the colors are going to play with each other. I'm having a lot of fun with this!

We're having some much needed rain today so we're enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon here. This is the first weekend in several weeks that I haven't had guests or been on my way out of town to visit someone. I'm hoping to catch up on my bloglines feeds and see what everyone else is up to.

Just a note--I've changed my e-mail address because of the problems I've had with my previous e-mail provider. It is very tantalizing to SEE the list of mail in the in-box but not be able to READ the mail when I want to. It also had me confused with someone named Jenny Bolton and I've been getting a lot of her junk mail. It's bad enough getting junk mail addressed to me, never mind getting stuff for someone else too.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 22, 2007

More Time?

And here I was thinking that I'd have more time to post this summer.

Not that I've just been completely idle, mind you. I've managed to visit a book store or two. I've cleaned the house better than it has been done in months. I've worked on the back bedroom getting it ready for painting. Dull, dull, dull!

The quilting front has been a little bit more interesting. I've been playing with the kaleidescope blocks I made last summer from some Laurel Burch fabric. I'm not usually attracted to bright colors, but something about this fabric really spoke to me. The blocks had been sitting around these many months waiting for some sort of inspiration to hit me. Luckily, I happened across Kathie at Threadlines.

She has been working on Serendipity blocks. As soon as I saw those I ordered the book and I have had such fun this week trying out different combinations of colors and shapes. When I actually have something sewn together I'll post the pictures, but right now I'm playing with the pieces as though they are a large pattern block set.

It didn't hurt that I spent all day Wednesday at the LQS helping out for the shop hop. The shop owner is very fond of bright colors and has a LARGE selection to choose from. Which I did. It's kind of fun to work with brights for a change.

I'd also like to say a big thank you for all the comments about the Dear Jane blocks--and the encouragement about applique techniques. I've got a couple more blocks cut out and I'll probably be working on them this weekend. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Five More Dear Janes

I've got five more completed DJ blocks to show. There are two more applique blocks in the set, but they're not exactly finished. Forcing challenging myself to learn how to applique was one of the reasons I decided to start this project, but I'm afraid the learning curve is going to be rather steep.

Since we missed last month's meeting, this month we have 14 (!) blocks to work on. Several more have applique so I'm going to be pushing myself to get them done. It's a good thing it's summer when I have the time to spend on this. Wish me luck!

Next week should be really fun because the Southern Indiana Shop Hop is beginning. My participation will be limited to helping out at the LQS for a day or two. Our LQS is a single woman operation, so several of us pitch in and help her out for events like the hop. It is always fun to meet other quilters from all over the area and hear about what they are working on. Not to mention all the fabric fondling that goes on in between customers!

Monday, June 11, 2007

In which we discover a new use for an old room...

I thought I'd get a picture of my front garden while it is still looking pretty good. As the summer gets hotter and dryer, these hostas and ferns begin to look a little worse for wear. I haven't had much time this year to get out and weed or mulch--indoor things seem to be taking precedence.

Have I mentioned before that we live in a very small house? It was built in the housing boom just after WWII and was meant to be a "starter house," by which I mean a young couple with a baby might start their journey through home ownership here, then move on as their family expanded. There are three basic models in our neighborhood. What's interesting is the way in the past sixty-odd years that people who live in these cookie cutter homes have managed to personalize them for their particular needs. (I say cookie cutter because I was told by one of the men who laid flooring in a lot of these houses that when the workers went to lunch they would tie a bandana on the door of the house they were working in order to be able to find it again when they came back!)

For the last few weeks my husband and I have been talking about what to do with the tiny little room that used to be our son's bedroom. When he graduated from college last year and headed off to graduate school in Texas he left quite a bit in his old room. To wit: a trombone, a guitar, 2 turntables, a keyboard, a hockey stick, a miniature trampoline, several LARGE boxes filled with various electronic gear, a printer, and a large box of LP's. This was in addition to the other things in the room like the bed, dresser, bookcase, desk, chair, other printer, printer table, computer, etc., etc. His bed had also become my de facto linen closet since our real linen closet is not big enough to hold more than a couple of towels and wash cloth or two.

So anyway, over the weekend we finally got moving and got most of the stuff cleared out of there and into storage. Now our big project will be to repaint the room and convert it into a spare bedroom. We're thinking that with a futon, a couple of end tables, and a lamp or two it won't be quite the eyesore it has been. At least I won't have to hurry and close the door if anyone drops by.

I finally got a start on two of the Dear Jane blocks this weekend between cleaning and moving furniture. I'm not too happy with the one on the left, I-1. It's been a while since I worked with such tiny pieces and there are a few puckers here and there. But finished is better than perfect, right? I really need to get going on this since our group is meeting again this week and I'll have another seven blocks to work on. I'm going to cut more out this afternoon and try to get at least three or four more done.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

I'm Back (Sort of)*

I made it back in one piece.

I had a great visit with my parents and my sister over the weekend. We got caught up on all the family stuff and made some plans for the future that I dearly hope will work out.

My sister, bless her heart, gave me this book.

At first, I thought it was one of those books containing BLOCK designs, but I was very excited to see that it has QUILTING designs. My repertoire of quilting designs is very poor, so this is a very welcome addition to my library.

From what I see, it has directions for enlarging the designs using the copying machine's percentage enlarger to make the designs the size you want. Very, very nifty. And it couldn't come at a better time, since I am now ready to begin the border quilting for the mystery quilt.

Now all I have to do is choose something I'd like to try...

I've finished all the blocks for the turning twenty quilt, but I'm disappointed in how they turned out. I loved all the fabrics I used for it, but the blocks themselves seem really dull. One voice (the voice of reason, probably) says "Just sew them together and get it finished, already!" The other voice says, "Hmmm, what if you cut them diagonally into quarter-square triangles and then recombined them?" I'm not sure yet which one I'm going to listen to.

There won't be much time to play for the rest of this week or next because my sister and brother-in-law are coming for a visit this weekend and my parents are coming next weekend. Here at Chez Dented Thimble a very late, but very necessary spring cleaning is going to be taking place.

*The "Sort of" refers to the fact that my e-mail provider seems to be acting up. I am receiving e-mail, but at the moment I am unable to reply. Hopefully this little snafu will right itself pretty quickly.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Slow Start

I really wanted to hit the ground running, but I got stuck catching up with all the little things that kept getting put off for the last few weeks. Like the mountain of laundry piled up in the basement. And the kitchen floor which hasn't felt a mop for a few weeks. And the inch-thick dust in the living room. And stocking up on such things as, well, butter, bread, and milk. That, and spending half a day on the phone with the Large Health Insurance company that doesn't seem to feel the need to employ humans to deal with customers' phone calls has kept me busy for the past few days.

But I did manage to take a side trip to the yarn store--it was only a little out of my way! The Tofutsie yarn is so soft. The package says it contains Chitin, a fiber from shrimp and crab shells, which is supposed to be naturally antibacterial. Okay. It is knitting up just wonderfully however. I am trying the Jaywalker pattern from Grumperina. So far, so good.

I have no immediate plans for the Panda Wool, but it is so soft I may just keep it around to stroke once in a while. The label says it is bamboo and wool.

And these socks have been patiently biding their time in the work basket, waiting for the final toe grafting. Knitters always claim that the reason they put off doing the dreaded Kitchener stitch is because it is sewing, rather than knitting. But I'm a sewer, right? I have absolutely no excuse. And the Kitchener stitch isn't really THAT bad. I finally got around to these yesterday because I needed the needles to begin the new sock.

I am driving up to visit my parents this weekend. My sister is flying down from New Hampshire at the same time, so we'll all be together for a nice visit. No kids, no husbands! My sister and I haven't seen each other for a couple of years, so we'll have a lovely time getting caught up. Somehow, just talking on the phone and e-mailing doesn't feel as real as BEING there, if you know what I mean.

I've got the new socks to work on and I'm taking lots of hexagons, just in case there is sewing time. The posy quilt just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend

We are having a beautiful Memorial Day weekend here. The weather is warm and hazy here in southern Indiana, but it rained in Indianapolis (the capital) where they are trying to run the Indianapolis 500. The race is supposed to resume in about 20 minutes, so I'm posting quickly here.

Libby provided a link to explain what Memorial Day is all about if you're not familiar with it. Usually volunteer groups decorate the graves of U.S. service people. These pictures are from a veteran's cemetery near here. It is a beautiful, restful spot located in an old residential neighborhood. There are graves from the civil war, Spanish American war, World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam.

Visiting the veteran's cemetery this morning got me thinking about a small cemetery that I often pass on the way to the grocery store. It is located on a small hill next to a strip mall. Long ago this was probably a quiet spot on someone's farm land, but now cars whiz by all day long. Some of the grave stones have been overturned, but this one still stands erect in the center.

She was only twenty-six, but evidently much loved. I think the picture is clickable if you want to see the details of the carving.

Over the years people began using Memorial Day to decorate the graves of loved ones, not just veterans. This little cemetery is not decorated, but the grass has been cut recently. Maybe someone from a nearby church is watching out for these old graves.

Thank you for all the kind comments on my last post. I was a little er, giddy, shall we say, after getting the room all packed up for the summer. I've been making more posies while watching the race. The little quilt keeps growing and growing.

I hope everyone has a restful weekend!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Schooooool's Out For Summer!

Remember that song?

Grades averaged.
Running records recorded and analyzed.
End of year assessments graded and recorded.
Report cards filled out.
Books shelved.
All materials removed from walls and bulletin boards.
All living materials and food removed from school premises.
Closets stuffed to overflowing.
Keys turned in.

Yes, yes, and yes!

I spent today cleaning up my classroom and putting things where I can (hopefully) find them again in two months.

I have a question, though. I have something like 37 red pens, three E-Z graders, and 19,000 paper clips. (I know this because I personally put each pen, E-Z grader, and paper clip back into its proper place as I cleaned off my desk this afternoon.) How come I CAN NEVER FIND ONE OF THESE OBJECTS DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR?

Also, rubber bands. I can remember searching for one, just one, rubber band earlier this month. I just needed a rubber band to keep a set of books together. Also, I wanted to go home. It was late. I needed to find a rubber band so that I could put the books together and go home.

I looked in my desk, my storage cabinet, under my desk, in the closet. I looked everywhere in that room. No rubber bands. Not one.

Today? After I discarded old papers, put away books, packed up hundreds of little plastic bins, and stuffed the closets full--there were rubber bands everywhere.

Suffice it to say I now have a jar dedicated to rubber bands. No more rubber band crises for me. No sir.

Do you see why teachers NEED the summer?


We had quilt guild last night and I won the fat quarter pot. Each month our LQS owner donates a yard of fabric, and if you want to participate you can add a coordinating fat quarter to the basket. We draw a name and winner takes all. I got this group of goodies:

...which I am thinking of using in this pattern:

It is a Judy Martin pattern from a Quilter's Newsletter issue a year or two ago. I love the ways she uses stars. I'm going to have to go dig out my copy eventually, but right now I'm enjoying the birds singing, the kids playing in the wading pool in the house behind us, and the beautiful holiday weekend just starting...

BTW: for those not in the teaching biz an E-Z grader is like a cardboard slide rule. You find the number of problems in the little window at the top and you can read down a list to find the percentage grade for the number of problems missed. No teacher's desk is complete without one. Without one she can FIND, that is.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Almost There!

One more day with students. Then another day to pack things away for the summer. We are almost there!

Weekend before last, I had to go to the fabric store for more thread and I found these luscious prints on sale 40% off. Before I knew it they had jumped into a bag and I was bringing them home. I started a Turning Twenty quilt just as soon as I had the round robin completed. Mine is really a turning ten, because I bought half-yards of 10 fabrics. I'm already about half done with the blocks even though I haven't been sewing much this week. I'm thinking I might just tie it and try to get it on a bed as a summer cover.


Lori (A.K.A. Elkhoundmom) at Quilt Musings tagged me for the seven random things meme long, long ago. With so much going on around here lately I hadn't had a chance to even think about it, but here goes:

1. This coming July my husband and I will have been married for 29 years. It doesn't seem that long, but there it is. We've grown and changed over the years, but we still seem to find safe harbor with each other.

2. I am totally inept technologically. The fact that I can have this blog is a testament to how easy Blogger is. Everyone else in my family is at ease with all things electronic. Me? I can push the wrong button on the television remote and lock myself out of the DVD player just in the course of dusting.

3. I am a NASCAR fan. For those of you outside the U.S. that stands for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. I don't even know why I enjoy watching the car races--I don't particularly like cars, even. But somehow the combination of craftiness, skill, bravado, strategy, and sheer excitement draws me back every week.

4. I HATE shopping.* The whole mall experience--going from store to store, trying things on, comparison shopping, looking for bargains, etc. etc. just leaves me cold. I do a lot of my shopping on-line and if something fits I tend to buy it in multiple colors, which is why my wardrobe runs mainly to casual slacks, turtlenecks, and tee-shirts.

*On the other hand, drop me off at a bookstore and I can browse for hours. I'm the same way about quilt stores. There is always a fat quarter calling my name.

5. I avoid driving on interstate highways in the city whenever I can. When I do use the highways it is a white knuckle experience. There is a really good quilt store in the big city near here that I only visit a couple of times a year because it is almost inaccessible except by interstate. I do find that I get to visit interesting (!) parts of the city by using surface streets.

6. I am not a morning person. I really dislike having to get up before dawn to get to work. Teaching would be just about perfect if school started at 9:30 or so. Unfortunately, most other elementary school teachers seem to love the morning--in my building people start arriving at 7:00 or earlier.

7. I have an internal clock that keeps pretty good time. Most of the time I can tell you what time it is within fifteen minutes or so without looking at a watch. It usually takes me a couple of weeks after the switch to daylight savings time to reacclimate myself, so maybe it has something to do with the look of the sunlight. This is a completely useless talent, by the way.

Well, there you go. Seven random things about me. If anyone else hasn't been tagged yet, please use this as your invitation. I always enjoy reading about everyone else's.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another Crazy Week

Just another crazy week.

School has about wound down. Life, as always, is full of surprises. Situation normal, I guess.

In between the craziness, I did manage to finish the border for Pam's round robin. I ran out of the red print I was using for the chained border and ran back to the LQS to get some more. Easy, right? Only there wasn't any left. After a frantic search through every depression print fat quarter and every even remotely red-looking bolt of fabric, I was nearly in despair. Luckily, though, someone thought to go through the bags of scraps and found me a 4 x 20 piece which was big enough to make the final square. Et voila!

I'm pretty pleased with the way it turned out. These are not my colors, but I think the border looks right with the rest of the quilt. I hope Pam is happy with it!

Part of what has kept me sane this week is this book--The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth Von Arnim. I saw the movie on video several years ago and loved it. I think it starred Miranda Richardson and Joan Plowright. It's one of those "little" movies that never got much attention, at least around here. I searched for the book at the time but it was out of print. Amazon. com must have been reading my mind, or at least my secret longing, because a month or so ago it let me know the book had been republished. (Kind of scary, the way it knows me, isn't it?) I haven't gotten very far into it because 10 pages a night is about all I can handle before I fall asleep, but it is definitely worth reading if you can find it.

It's about a group of four British women in the 1920's who answer this ad in The Times agony column:
To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times.

Imagine reading THAT on a cold, wet February day in London.

Von Armin's writing is knife-sharp. How come I've never heard of her before?

What with everything that has been going on around here, I haven't had a chance to do much blog reading this week, nor have I replied to the really nice comments people left on my last post. Thank you for those, by the way! Tomorrow I'm going to catch up on what everybody has been up to this week.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Remember these? The pieces have been sitting in a little plastic bag on the stairs for weeks, gently accusing me of abandoning them. And yes, it's been that long since I actually did anything but sweep around them with a lick and a promise.

This week has just been a full out marathon of work, meetings, planning, and more meetings. End of the school year stuff mostly. We have nine more school days left. Not that I'm counting it down or anything...

Anyway, I finally picked up the bag halfway through the week and have spent a few minutes here and there sewing posies, trying to preserve my sanity. And that's about all the sewing I have accomplished this week.

I've got two sides for the border on Pam's round robin quilt finished--exactly where I was last Sunday. Most of the remaining pieces are cut and just waiting for me to get busy at the sewing machine. That is my plan for this afternoon.


Happy Mother's Day to all of you out there in blogland!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

It's Sunday Already!

It has been a beautiful weekend. Not too warm, not too cool--just about perfect weatherwise. Not that it would matter to me one way or the other because I have been inside sewing for most of it.

I got quite a bit done. I have finished two sides of the border for the round robin. It's going together really nicely; all those straight lines make matching seams a breeze.

I wanted to get a good head start on it this weekend because we are moving into the really busy part of the school year. As things begin to wind down for the kids, everything starts to rev up for the teachers. Year end assessments, dividing classes, working on report cards, forms, forms, and more forms--the beginning of May is also the beginning of a giant marathon for teachers that won't end until school is over at the end of the month. Our school year ends in May--but we begin the new school year the second week of August. That is something that I can never get used to here in Indiana. And it seems like each year they move the beginning up a few days. At this rate we'll be doing year-round school in a few years.

The other reason I want to get the border out of the way is that I am SUPPOSED to be working on Dear Jane blocks. Have I worked on any yet? Noooooooooo. I would like to have at least ONE of them done before the next class. Just. One.

Oh well, maybe this week sometime....

Friday, May 4, 2007

I've Been Working on the Round Robin...

I spent the day (most of it anyway) working on Pam's round robin quilt. Thank you for all the comments about the border. It helped me decide to go ahead with the chain.

I love the pattern at Quilt Blocks Galore, but I couldn't see myself cutting all those little triangles apart and then sewing them together again, so I simplified the pattern a bit. It may be a little hard to see in the picture, but each corner is the same--a little red and white two-patch piece sewn to a 3.5 inch piece to make a square. I cut all the fabric in 2-inch strips. The fourth corner is just two 2 x 3.5 inch strips which will be sewn together to make the fourth part of the square.

I've got all the little 3 patches assembled. The next step will be to sew the 2 x 3.5 strips together and then figure out how big to cut the setting triangles.

This is how it will look:

One side of it anyway.

Setting triangles...ugh! The idea of trying to do any math at this point in the day just makes my eyes want to roll back in my head. I think I'll just leave it until tomorrow.

Right now I think I'll jump in the shower and then figure out what to do for dinner tonight.

Monday, April 30, 2007


Okay, folks. I need big-time help here. This is the round robin block I am going to be working on this month. It's got a few problems. Notice the notch in the lower left corner and its mate in the upper right corner? Those are fixable, I think, with a scrap or two of left-over fabric that came in the box with the quilt. But, what about the next border????

Here is what I am thinking about doing. It is a border pattern from Quilter's Cache. I think I can make it without all those little triangles because it is basically just a four patch variation. I am thinking about using some of the Depression solids: greens, yellows, oranges, yellows, and maybe some more of the red so that there would be more contrast and that red and white part there in the middle wouldn't stand out quite so much. What do you think? Should it go all the way around? Just frame two sides?

Got a better idea? I'd love to hear it. All suggestions will be eagerly read and considered!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday Stuff

From time to time, every few months or so, I suffer from insomnia. I try not to panic when this happens, I guess because I'm afraid I'll turn it into something more serious than it really is. It usually passes after a night or two, but it makes the following days uncomfortable because I do not function well without sleep. Napping is not really an option during these times because it seems to lead to more problems sleeping at night, and, well, there really isn't a lot of time to nap during most days anyway.

So this week I didn't get much done except put one foot in front of the other and plod on. Luckily the spell was broken on Friday night; today I woke up feeling just wonderful.

My husband and I ran some errands this morning together. We stopped by the post office to pick up a package from that I ordered last week. The Annotated Pride and Prejudice is one I ordered just on the strength of the book review. I love Jane Austen, but I know that I miss a lot of references she makes, not to mention the historical background of what she writes about. This book has the text on the left hand page, and the annotation on the right side, saving the flipping back and forth to the end notes. It looks pretty good.

The two Margery Allingham's are Albert Campion mysteries, just reissued. I've read them before--I am a huge fan of the so-called golden age of British mysteries. Give me the dark and brooding manor house, the weekend shooting party, Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick, and I'm in heaven.

Our next stop was my in-law's house where I got this picture of an azalea bush in her front yard. It seems to be late in blooming, but it was absolutely beautiful. After seeing that all was well there, we headed out for the main objective: food!

Once a month or so we travel over to the big city to visit our favorite deli and our favorite grocery store, Wild Oats. It might be fortunate that our little town doesn't have either of these places, otherwise we'd be seriously in debt. Wild Oats is the only place around here that still carries wild caught salmon. This time of year it has been frozen, but it is still delicious. My husband cooks it on the grill with just a sprinkling of herbs and a little lemon juice.

Wild Oats also carries Greek style yoghurt and kefir. Greek style yoghurt is a thicker, creamier, and much richer than regular yoghurt (it has the fat grams to prove it, too) and is a real treat with fresh berries.

Kefir is a yoghurt-like product that I have grown to love. When we visited Sweden last summer, our hosts served what they called "sour milk" each morning for breakfast with their cereal. It was like yoghurt, but thicker and the taste is a little tarter. The only similar thing that I could find around here is kefir. It contains cultures like yoghurt, just different ones, I imagine. The flavored kinds taste like a smoothie.

The deli is a fun place to visit. They have a lot of prepared salads, about 20 varieties of olives, all kinds of cheeses, fresh bread, and they make their own pasta and humus. You never know what you'll find there, but it's fun to poke around and see what they have. We usually split up here, me with the shopping basket on my arm, and my husband dropping things in from time to time until the basket is too heavy to carry any more.

So tonight we had a great dinner of grilled salmon, brown rice, cucumber salad, grilled red and yellow peppers, steamed broccoli, and strawberries with Greek yoghurt. A lovely finish for a not-so-great week.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Blogger Ate My Pictures, Part Deux

I just checked yesterday's post and discovered that my pictures had disappeared again. They are on there now; I just reloaded (or whatever the term is) them. When I check the HTML code in the blogger "edit html box", the code was right where it needed to be, but the pictures were not displayed on the blog. Does anyone have any idea why this happens?

I took this picture this afternoon when I came home from work. The bird house is supposed to be for bluebirds, I think, but there won't be any takers with this little guy using it as a resting spot. A couple of years ago a very over-achieving house wren started a nest in this box and another nest somewhere in my neighbor's yard. She (he?) decided on the neighbor's yard for residence that year and this box has been empty ever since.

The squirrel may be contemplating the eighty quadrillion maple whirlybirds which are covering our yard and our driveway right now. There is feasting aplenty here.

BTW, Wendy asked what yarn I used for the socks. It is Lorna's Laces and the color is Baltic Sea.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

One Sock Done

I haven't felt much like blogging this week. The news from Virginia was awful. My heart goes out to the relatives of the killed and wounded. What is wrong with our country when a mentally unbalanced young man can purchase guns legally and wreak such havoc on innocent lives?

I have managed to finish one sock and begin another. Samantha asked in the comments about the pattern. I got it from the website. The pattern is called "Mock My Socks Off." Oops! I think I said the other day that the pattern was from Sorry about that! The pattern looks complicated, but it is only a four row repeat so it's relatively easy to do.
Very satisfying too. I love a chunky, textured sock.

I also took the plunge and decided to join the Dear Jane group at my LQS. The "plan" is to complete seven to eight blocks a month and have a finished top in two years. Well, I can tell you right now THAT'S not going to happen.

I joined in because I felt like challenging myself. As I paged through the book I saw all kinds of blocks I would normally take a pass on because I don't have the skills to make them. But I'm never going to get the skills unless I push myself to learn them.

Take applique. I admire applique. I admire the people who do applique. But my one foray into applique last summer was not, shall we say, a happy experience. I'm willing to give it another try, though, because I would love to be able to do it.

This is Maria's square in round two of the guild round robin. I've never tried a checkerboard border before. Once I got started it went along pretty easily. I hope Maria likes it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Morning Sounds

Morning Sound I Hate:

loud, obnoxious, stupid, blaring alarm clock

Morning Sounds I Love:

ground coffee pouring into the new, dry coffee filter
hissing and spitting of coffee brewing
slap of newspaper hitting the kitchen table
the dog's contented sigh as she begins her 6 a.m. nap under the kitchen table
rustle of newspaper pages turning
bare feet on a wooden floor
"good morning" from someone who is glad you're there
shaking up of orange juice container
jingle of keys in purse
Mozart's 40th symphony on car radio
"Acuna Matata" blaring over school's P.A. system
"good morning" from someone else who is glad you're there

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Trip to the Big City

We drove up to Indianapolis on Friday afternoon so that we could be there for the start of our daughter's race early Saturday morning. She was running a 15K. The picture above shows what downtown Indy looked like at mid-morning. Gray, rainy, and generally yucky!

I need to explain that runners like my daughter find racing conditions like these pretty good, although I imagine they could have done without the rain. Her times were pretty good, so she was fairly pleased with herself. We were able to watch the start of the race from our warm, dry hotel across the street--so mom and dad were also fairly pleased with themselves!

We spent the rest of the day visiting the Indiana State Museum, which was pretty interesting. You start in the basement looking at rocks and fossils and end up on the third floor looking at artifacts from the recent past. We were accompanied by seemingly thousands of boy scouts who enthusiastically toured all the exhibits with many harried looking scout leaders and moms in tow. They really got into the rocks and fossils and the interactive exhibits.

We walked just a few blocks downtown for dinner and then checked out a blues club called the Slippery Noodle, an Indianapolis landmark. The building dates from 1850 (really, really ancient in Indiana), and it is the oldest bar continually in operation in the state. If you are interested, you can read more about it here. My husband and I both love listening to the blues, but we don't have much opportunity to see live music so we had a great time.

Um, yes, I do realize that this is supposed to be a QUILT blog, so there will be a little bit of quilting content.

I looked all over, but I couldn't find any explanation of this quilt other than a tag calling it a baby quilt. It looked to be in excellent condition, so it couldn't have been used too much. I was struck by the vibrant colors--pink, orange, and red. They wouldn't have been my first choice (and I wonder if the lady who sewed it back in the 1800's even had a choice), but they really work, don't they? The stuff in front is pottery shards from a dig somewhere in the state.

This last picture is of a stained glass window hanging in the restaurant of the museum. I seem to take a lot of pictures like this--call it inspiration. I wouldn't think of copying this design (there was no sign or explanation of the artist), but I like the way the colors work and I like the graphics.

I find myself taking lots of pictures of doorways, woodwork, and wall friezes, looking for quilting ideas. It's the geometry, I guess.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Five Great Things About This Friday

1. The creeping crud I had all week seems to have gone on its merry way. I'm feeling good--and with all the rest I've had this week I'm positively energetic.

2. The sock above is half-way done. It's made from Lorna's Laces, which is expensive, so I wanted to do something more special than my usual K2, P2 stuff. The lace sock pattern I got from my yarn lady was IMPOSSIBLE. Maybe I'm not cut out for the really fancy stuff yet. Anyway, after knitting and frogging, knitting and frogging, and so on, I found this simpler pattern on and I'm down to the heel flap and haven't had to pull it back once.

3. I'm off from school today! Our school district builds three snow make-up days into the school calendar. Since we had only one snow day this year, we have two Fridays off this month. So here I am, feeling good, with the day off. (The irony, if that's what I may call it, is that snow is predicted for tomorrow. What is up with that? Snow in April?)

4. Although I haven't really done much quilting this week (see creeping crud above) the quilting has been going really well. I'm using Quilter's Dream batting for the first time and I am loving it. The needle just glides through the fabric so I can really get a good rhythm going.

5. And last, but definitely the best--we're going up to visit our daughter today!

I appreciate all the nice comments and well-wishes. It makes me feel good that so many of you took the time to show your concern.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

And So It Goes...

Rest in peace, Mr. Vonnegut.

Kurt Vonnegut
November 11, 1922-April 11, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Just a quick post to say that I'm still here--but not feeling too good this week. Spring fever? A little virus? Who's to say? I'm just hunkered down until it goes away.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Back to Work

It is back to work for me this week. The lovely warm spring weather lasted through Monday. Tuesday we had big storms and now we are back to the cool, gray weather we expect in April. The storms yesterday made everyone kind of jittery because April 3 is the anniversary of one of the worst tornado outbreaks ever. You can read more about it here.

I was in college up north of the storms, but I came through southern Indiana on a weekend visit to my then boyfriend. In those days you could take a Greyhound bus from my college town to southern Indiana pretty cheaply. I came through the devastated area a day or two after the storms. It is something that I will never forget. In one area, there was a beautiful old Victorian farmhouse on a hill above the road. A tornado had come through there, and the house was just gone. There was shredded lumber, insulation, roof shingles, parts of machinery, bits of furniture, clothes, just anything you could name all over the countryside. The little house trailers that lined the road below the house were ripped apart, and sheet metal from their sidings were wrapped around the trees off in the distance.

The devastation in Louisville, Kentucky, was awful. One tornado ripped through a park, taking all the trees with it. Another, or maybe the same one, came through part of the east side of the city, tearing up buildings, houses, whatever was in its path.

It is difficult to describe the incredible destruction, never mind the aftermath of injuries and death.

Needless to say, most people who can remember that day get a little antsy when they see big, black thunderclouds on the horizon in the spring.

Fortunately, yesterday's storm went through with little destruction other than some trees and power lines.

There is very little quilty stuff going on around here this week while I adjust to the routine of getting up and going to work again. (I know, poor, poor me!) The mystery quilt is in the hoop. I am quilting in the ditch, just to get everything kind of set, then I plan to do some kind of design in the open patches and the border. No pictures yet--I still want to wait until the guild members have their big reveal.

I started back in on the Brave New World blocks because I really, really want to get this thing together before I get distracted with another project. It's a great work-in-front-of-the-TV project because it is so mindless. Comfort piecing. I'm going to keep going until I just get tired of piecing the individual blocks, because I CAN'T seem to get to the bottom of the bin I keep all the scraps in. I actually thought I was beginning to run low on the light background fabrics--then I discovered a whole grocery sack stuffed with MORE scraps, all lights.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


Thank you for all the comments on my last post. Many of you were curious to know how the marble under the backing worked. I couldn't actually find a marble--I used a golf ball instead. It worked great, except for close to the edges, where it pushed the material up too far. As I crawled around on the floor I was thinking that the perfect size would be a glass eyeball, but I didn't have one of those either. Ewww, on second thought, not!

It just goes to show what a different household this is without kids around. Ten years ago I could have found any number of suitable sized objects just by raiding the top bureau drawers of either of my kids. There they kept all the little stuff that kids seem to accumulate--wiffle balls, lego pieces, Happy Meal toys, and other kid junk.

Actually, even a small spool would have worked--just something to push up the material enough to be able to get the needle through all three layers of the quilt without it pushing through and scratching the floor. It's definitely worth trying.

I am not showing off the quilt just yet because it is the mystery quilt for my guild and there is just a chance that someone may see it. I'll wait until we have our big reveal sometime this summer.

We had a lovely weekend here, a perfect ending for spring break. My daughter and her boyfriend came down to run yet another race. She is training for a marathon and she uses these weekend races as training runs. We're not sure just where her athletic ability came from; neither one of us has the slightest athletic ability. Running makes her happy, though. And that makes me happy, too.