Friday, June 27, 2008

Listening to the Inner Voice

I finished my class today, by which I mean I finished the part where I had to sit IN the class for four hours each morning and read the articles and chapters and take notes and all that. (Actually that part isn't too bad. I like the articles and the lectures. The four hours each morning? Not so much.) The next part is where I have to prepare a 10-15 page presentation with Power Point and notes and hand-outs. So I'm only mostly done.

And I'm really, really hoping that Power Point will be as intuitively obvious to use as it was the last time I had to prepare a presentation or else I will be really, really sunk.

Anyway, after spending all week in the class (and fretting about Power Point presentations) and the afternoons dealing with Large Government Bureaucracies I was feeling a bit stressed out. So today at lunch time while I was contemplating yet another round of phone calls, I made an executive decision--and gave myself the afternoon off. My inner taskmaster said, "No, no, you shirker! Get to work." But another, gentler voice said, "You need it. I give you permission to take the rest of the day off. The Large Government Bureaucracy will still be there on Monday." I listened to the nice one. For once.

Almost instantaneously the knot in my stomach dissolved.

I grabbed the car keys before the taskmaster could reassert itself and jumped in the car.

I stopped by the gently used bookstore and had a great time browsing, first in the crafty section and then through the history section and on into fiction. I found a wonderful mitten book by Charlene Schurch. I love her sock book and the mitten book looks equally good. Long ago when my kids were little I did a bit of stranded knitting and really loved it. I would like to get back to it and mittens seem like a good place to begin. Incidentally, does anyone know how to pronounce her last name? She says she's of Czech heritage. I hate mispronouncing people's names.

Down the road I stopped at a little pizza place and had a wonderful sausage sub sandwich. I know! I know! But I haven't had any junky food for weeks! I needed a break, I tell you. I took my books in with me and had a lovely time looking through them in between bites. Bliss.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. Wish me luck on the Power Point; I'm going to need it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No Rants for Me!

I spotted this little guy in the next door neighbor's yard a couple of days ago. Can you see him? At first I thought it was just an oddly shaped tuft of grass, but those seldom twitch their ears.

Very little quilting is happening around here this week. I'm taking a week-long class in the mornings and I'm spending my afternoons helping my dad take care of some family business.

This is the place where I could put a rant, but I'll skip it, okay?

But, if I did put a rant I would complain about how Large Government Bureaucracies that deal with senior citizens might somehow cater to their constituents by having a phone system that takes into account that said senior citizens are often hard of hearing and may become confused by rapidly recited phone answering menus. The rant might suggest that they include a menu choice such as, "Are you 65 or older? Would you like to talk to a human being? Press 1 now."

You can see where this is going. Luckily for us, this particular office of the Large Government Bureaucracy was close by and so it was easier (and probably took less time, though certainly more gas) to drive on over there and take care of the problem in person.

Unfortunately, the next Large Government Bureaucracy to be dealt with is in another state and so we must persevere with the menus and the button pressing and get through the experience somehow. That will be tomorrow.

But I definitely won't rant about it. Definitely.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Beautiful Day

Today was a glorious day. Sunny, 82 degrees, low humidity, a little bit of a breeze. Just glorious. If I were going to order up a perfect day, today would be it. And the good news is that it looks like it might stay this way for the rest of the week.

And what did I do on such a beautiful day?

I worked on the buttoniere quilt top and got all the block strips sewn together. I'm under a deadline of sorts here, because I'm supposed to have it together before tomorrow's quilt guild meeting. It's my UFO finish for the month. You can see the raggedy bottom where I will be adding another row or two of blocks, but my UFO challenge was to sew the strips together, and I'm sticking to the letter of the law. I really love the way it is coming together. (I also love that I found more blocks that I had already made for this thing so that I don't have to cut and sew too many more.)

Yesterday I stopped by the LQS to drop off the Thangles quilt and I found some nice cozy flannel to use as the backing for the baby quilt. It is going through the wash now hopefully shrinking as much as possible before I use it in the quilt.

I also stopped by the yarn store because, well, I hadn't been for a while. I found some beautiful merino wool blend (on sale!) to, something. Not telling on that one. Not socks, though!

My daughter and her boyfriend are coming down to visit this weekend and the big news is that they are engaged! No date yet, but we're going to be planning a wedding around here. What is blogese for fiance?

My husband's sister and brother-in-law are also flying into town this weekend, so it looks like we're going to be pretty busy.

But all that is later. Right now the windows are open, letting in the breeze and the sounds of the neighborhood around us. Down the street some kids are practicing what sounds like their rebel yell. Somebody is mowing their lawn. The big, black dog two doors down is barking at my next door neighbor. A car drives by occasionally. The curtains sway in the breeze. I love this weather.

Monday, June 16, 2008


This beast is done! Beast, as in LARGE, unwieldy thing. This is the Thangles project I've been working on as a shop sample. It finished out at about 90 x 110", by far the largest thing I have ever put together.

Of course, I didn't sew the blocks, all I had to do was assemble the top and then sew on the borders. As you can see below the Thangles make for nice accurate HST's.

I had to drape it over a chair to show you because I don't have any flat space in my house that is big enough to lay the whole thing out. It is huge. And heavy. Trying to get that last border sewn on this morning was like wrestling with an octopus.

After I conquered the beast, I started working on my poor neglected nine-patch baby quilt. I had all sorts of plans for a fancy border, but I decided to just go ahead and get it done.

I made another row of nine patches, added two borders, and called it a day.

Got anything you want finished up?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wednesday Discovery

Before my chicks left the roost, I stored all my quilting supplies in a large Rubbermaid bin which I moved from room to room as needed. Since I have set up in my daughter's old bedroom the bin has become home to larger pieces of fabric I rescued from remnant tables and other odds and ends.

This morning I was searching for some white to use to make those extra 16 blocks and I just dumped the whole thing out on the floor. Oh my gosh. I found another 9 pieced blocks. Why in the world did I abandon this? I can't even remember.

P.S. I found the white I was looking for, too.

Is anyone else going through tomato withdrawal? I threw away four perfectly beautiful tomatoes yesterday after we saw the news about the salmonella outbreak. Our tomato plants went in a couple of weeks late this year and so far this is all we've gotten.

Grow, little fellow, grow!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Another UFO

We seem to have jumped from late May to late July weather here. Temperatures have been in the mid to upper 90's here for the past few days. The word sweltering has been used around here a lot during the past few days.

Have I mentioned that my sewing room is NOT air conditioned? I can work in there in the morning, but by 1:00 or so the sun has moved over to that side of the house and it becomes too uncomfortable. I guess I could move the sewing machine downstairs, but instead I decided to work on some hand sewing this afternoon.

This hand piecing project is on my guild "Get it Finished" list and its number came up at our last meeting. I began it about two years ago when I first fell in love with hexagons, diamonds, and all the 60 degree shapes. It is actually farther a long than I thought. (Isn't that always the case with UFO's?) I remember at the time that I just wanted to make an old fashioned all over scrappy quilt not using any particular style of fabric.

I actually have eight rows of eight blocks. Already sewn together. Why, oh why, did I abandon this? Sixteen more blocks would make a twin size bed quilt. So, my goal for the next couple of weeks is to sew all the rows together and see about adding just 16 more blocks.

I had run dangerously low on the blue and bought more--it took me the best part of an hour to find it buried in one of the piles of stuff I've got laying all over the place up there. I really should take a day and try to organize things...but not today!

Over the weekend I got the inner border put on the Thangle quilt and got one side of the second (Thangle) border finished. Luckily for me, the Thangle border fit! That says a lot for accuracy with the Thangles, because my seams always seem to run a little wide. Tomorrow morning I plan to piece the rest of the Thangle borders.

We'll see how much of this I can actually accomplish!

Friday, June 6, 2008

It's amazing how a good night's sleep can change your outlook on life. I woke up this morning feeling as though I could conquer anything.

I got a good start on the Thangles this morning. They really are easy; I don't know why I haven't tried them before. I am the world's slowest at machine piecing, but I got 4o HST's done in about a half hour. That's about a third of the way done. The directions say to leave the paper on until after pressing them in order to prevent stretching. I took one apart just to check accuracy and it was right on the mark. I would definitely use these again if I had another project with eleventy million HST's.


A couple of housekeeping items:

**Last night I was looking at my old posts and saw that the line spacing was really messed up, sort of super single spaced. I found it hard to read, and I imagine anyone else trying to read this would too. I checked around and found a fix on a couple of blogger help sites. With great trepidation I changed the code in the template (after saving the template to my hard drive) and fixed it. Yes, me, the original technophone fixed it! Hopefully the fix will take and it will be easier to read from now on.

**I have a new button from Quilting Bloggers. Mishka is organizing a list of quilting blogs on her blog. You can check out blogs from all over the U.S. and the world. She has everything organized by country or state. On her Quilting Gallery blog you can check out all the free pattern links she has organized. She has a lot a really good stuff over there--it's worth checking out.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend--I'm off to sew up some Thangles!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lack of Zzzzzzz's

Two nights with little sleep have left me in a fog today. My head feels as though it is wrapped in white wool. It's very annoying because I wanted to try these:

out today. I'm supposed to be putting together a shop sample for the upcoming shop hop. The actual blocks had been done a while ago (not by me!), but no one has had the time to finish the sashing and borders. And truthfully, sashing and borders didn't sound so bad until I had a look at the pattern. It calls for about a million half-square triangles dancing around the whole quilt, made with these Thangles.

They are popular around here right now; everyone raves about how accurately you can sew HST's with them. I am looking forward to giving them a try, but not today. I think I'm going to need a clearer head to try a new technique.

Meanwhile I think I'll just pop in a movie and veg out. We got a couple of Val Lewton DVD's from Netflix that are calling my name...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Support Your Local Quilt Shop

Today was my first day of summer vacation. I just love writing that!

Report cards filled out, all materials safely tucked away in whatever spaces I can cram them, my desk cleared off (for the first time since last August), plan book and grade book turned in, various and sundry paperwork filled out, keys returned, goodbyes to the retirees said.

And so what did I do on my first day of freedom? Sleep in? Begin a new fitness program? Sew until my sewing machine started to smoke? No, no, and no.

I ran errands.

Unfortunately, my eyelids are programmed to pop open at 5:45 a.m. Actually they pop open when my alarm clock says it's 5:45, but the real time is more like 5:30. I keep the clock set 15-20 minutes ahead in order to avoid oversleeping, but that's a story for another day. So basically, I got up at the regular time, because by the time I remembered that I didn't have to get up I was already up, if you follow me.

First I had to go to the dentist. Yuck. Then I had to gas up the car. Double yuck! Then I realized that I better plan my errands rather carefully because I don't want to have to gas up the car again for a long, long time. So I made a massive loop around the city and managed to get everything done.

And you know what? One of my favorite quilt stores is on the way to the drugstore on the other side of the city where my father gets his prescriptions filled. So it wasn't really out of my way to stop by there to see if they had the perfect fabric I need for setting squares on a project I'm about to start sewing together. And the fish market is near the drug store, so that worked out okay. Grilled salmon for dinner tonight--great! After I dropped the prescriptions off at my dad's my next stop was my very favorite local quilt shop.

My LQS is kind of like my Cheers. (Where everybody knows your name.) When you walk in, the owner just kind of involves you in whatever is going on at the time. Today was the big spring cleaning in preparation for the shop hop coming up in a couple of weeks. The shop hop is a very big deal for the LQS because it brings in shoppers from all over the area.

The preparations for the hop take weeks. New store samples need to be made. Kits for quilts need to be cut. Many, many fat quarters need to be cut and bundled. The Big Quilt needs to be made. (The big draw for the shop hop is a special quilt. Individual kits for the blocks are available at each of the participating shops. If you visit each shop you will be able to buy the kits to make the entire quilt.) Store displays need to be planned and set up. This is a lot for the owner of a small shop to do on her own, so she has solicited help from all her friends.

I'm glad to help out because I know how difficult it is to run a small business, especially a niche business like a quilt shop. Margins are razor thin. Competition from big box stores can kill you.
I want her store to succeed because I like being able to go into a friendly, welcoming place to do my shopping.

I have friends who talk about the bargains they can get at the big box store. Sure, you may be able to save a few dollars, but what kind of service do you get? Does the girl behind the counter help you find that one certain fabric that will add zing to your quilt? Does she sit down with a calculator and pencil and help you figure out just how much material you're going to need for the borders? Does she know anything about the right kind of thread to use for your quilting? Will she special order books and patterns for you? Will she troubleshoot problems you have with a pattern?

If you are lucky enough to have a friendly LQS, remember to support it. A small locally owned business gives back to the community in ways that big box stores won't.

I will now climb down from my soapbox.

Thank you very much for all the kind comments on my last post. I've got about half of the first border done--hopefully tomorrow will be a sewing day around here!