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.