Monday, December 17, 2012

Ready for Christmas!! (tree skirt is done!)

It's done, it's done!!!

Finally this weekend I had time to sit down and finish putting the binding together and get it on the tree skirt. I had to sew lots of long strips of green fabric together in order to make one really super long strip, then cut the slit & circle in the tree skirt so it would fit around the tree, then sew the really super long strip to all the outside edges (and the edges of the slit and around the circle in the middle). Whew!  But, I got up early on Sunday and finished it while everyone slept. Took me about an hour, including making the ties and putting those on. That circle was a little difficult!!

Since this is just a tree skirt, I did cheat and just pin/clip it in place and sew one time by machine. None of that "sew onto the front, then fold and fold again so it wraps around, then hand sew with invisible stitches on the back so it doesn't show up at all...." stuff. Not for something that will only ever live on the floor below the tree, covered in presents.  I am just not that into the finishing details, and the little stitches that show on the binding (that wrapped edge) don't bother me anyway. If I ever want to enter a quilt into a quilt show, I'm in trouble....

While I was making the tree skirt, it reached a size I felt was good so I decided to skip adding the called-for borders. Seeing it under the tree, with plenty of room for gifts and all but not sticking out far enough that we are stepping on it, I'm glad I made that call. That's what freed up extra fabric for the stockings, too, so definitely a win-win.
in place under the tree....(lights are turned off)
(the kids decorate the tree.....)

And, bonus -- this is the same pattern as Dad & Kim's tree skirt (which she made several years ago) and was a gift from them, so every time I pull this out in years to come, I'll have a sweet reminder of some very special people in my life. Thanks again, you guys!! I absolutely love it!!

plenty big enough for gifts without 4" more on every side!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Stockings are hung....

I did it! I made homemade stockings for us this year!! I've wanted to do this for some time, since I first started sewing by hand. Actually, before that, when my sister made awesome stockings for her family using recycled (or upcycled, I should say...) men's dress shirts. Oh my word, those were darling!!! I don't have a picture, but trust me --- a more gorgeous, sweet, vintage-feel Christmas stocking you have never seen. -sigh-

Alas, at the time, I had zero sewing skills, and she and I lived too far apart for it to be practical of me to demand she make stockings for us, too. Drat those miles!!! But, inspired it left me, and now I've done it! And these say "our family" so much more even than my sister's adorable stockings would have (though her version says "her family" perfectly...).

It all started with a tree skirt, actually. A gorgeous fabric for the back of the tree skirt, to be precise. A fabric I couldn't bear to waste on something that would never see anything but the floor. So I decided it had to be in stockings, too. I left the borders off the tree skirt, and then gave the boys a choice of fabric (gulp!) and so I had enough. I now have enough left over to make a table runner or Christmas place mats or something, too. Woot!!

front of the tree skirt;
I still need to make and apply the binding...(and cut the center hole)

Isn't this fabric beautiful?!

the back
isn't that just way too pretty to only ever see the floor????

The stockings came about slowly. I let each boy choose what I would applique to the front of the stocking. I wasn't planning to let them choose their fabric, but one boy just matter-of-factly asked for a specific fabric and I couldn't say no. I had several scraps (all from the tree skirt, so they all coordinate nicely) and one blue Christmas fat quarter I bought a while ago. The blue doesn't coordinate as perfectly, but it works. So I set about taking orders.

The Artist was most definite about what he wanted --- a present on the front. A blue present, with a white ribbon. And a cat popping out. And the cuff should be candy cane striped. No problem, right? Right. Or, well, it wasn't easy, and it took forever, but I did it, because how could I not?

The stripes, by the way, are made from half-square triangle scraps left over from the tree skirt cutting. I joined the triangles into squares, then carefully arranged them to make the diagonal stripes. Then added more when I realized that the rows shrank (darn seam allowances!). He loves it, that's all that matters.

the Artist's cat stocking
and The Adventurer's santa stocking

The Adventurer was set on one thing and one thing only; Santa Claus. Oye. Not complicated at all, dear, no. Sure I can applique a Santa for you! Totally!! Oye. I am so glad that over on The Quilt Show forums they mentioned using washable glue stick to hold down seams, applique, etc. Lifesaver!! I cut and glued all the pieces and then just did a raw-edge applique with the machine. Whew! Felt for the cuffs and beard and such.

The Writer wanted a cross, to show the real meaning of Christmas. Yes, normally symbolized by a manger at this time of year, but the message is the same. Easy, and not bad looking, I hope. Whew!

Mr. Snowman and The Writer's cross

The Chemist really had no preference except he wanted the blue fabric. Of course. I came up with the idea to do a Mr. and Mrs. Snowman on his and mine, used the gorgeous fabric for each of our cuffs, and used some of the red for mine since no one else had picked red yet. By the time I got to mine, I finally had down exactly how to attach those darn cuffs! I really should have found a good pattern to use.....

The nativities that line the mantel come from around Brazil. I've decided I'm collecting them. It started with the plain white one, which was a gift from my mom one year ages ago. Then here the first one I added was the tree with the manger scene inside it; that's by the same artist who did the world tree that heads up the blog. Love his stuff. Love the juxtaposition of a secular symbol and a Christian symbol. Sweet! The next I got was the little 2 story one with doors that open; that came from the local craft fair.  Then I added the colorful clay one with the flying doves overhead (anyone know why the doves???) which came from an art gallery in Paraty.  After that I got the glass one at a nearby city that specializes in blown glass, and the 2 little tiny ones on the end are from our US trip this summer, from the Mt. Rushmore area. I still want to return to Natal and add one from there, although we mostly saw sets of the 3 wise men there. I didn't snag one on our first trip up there.....

nativities and mantel
and the tree, waiting for the tree skirt....

How do you decorate for Christmas? 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Distracted by a Fun Opportunity

So, just as I posted yesterday about having too many quilt projects in the wings, my dad emailed me with another one. Thanks a lot, Dad.  (kidding; I really am excited about this mini-distraction)

Some years ago (I won't say, since that would give away info on my dad's age, which he might not appreciate....), my dad was one of several children to create a Storybook Tile for  a tile wall display at his then-local library. Children were asked to illustrate their favorite storybook, and the library turned these tiles into a permanent display.

Now, as the anniversary approaches in the not too far future, they are asking descendants of the original artists to do the same, but in fabric! The library is hoping to put together a storybook quilt, using illustrated blocks done by the children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. of the original artists. Participants will make a quilt block and send it to the library, where someone there will put together the full quilt to be dedicated early next year.

My dad, rightly so, thought I might be interested in creating a block, and also thought maybe The Artist, who enjoys quilting as well, might like to do one. We readily agreed, and The Writer said he'd like to make one, too. We're awaiting our instructions and will get started soon. The Adventurer has declined, claiming not to have a favorite story.

Which leads me to my dilemma ---- I have to choose one single favorite story. If you recall my "Books" post when I described my "books" block for the diary quilt, you'll know that is no small feat. I really kind of can't pick one favorite book; it's like picking one favorite child, or one favorite relative, or one favorite kind of chocolate.....or, well, honestly, all of that would be easier than choosing one single favorite book of all time. How on earth am I going to do that????

On the other hand, a full fledged storybook quilt is one of my "to do someday" projects, an idea floating around, not really gelled yet, way way down on the list of projects because it's such a vague idea. Except now I have a good idea --- individual blocks, each one representing a beloved book. It can go with my songs blocks, and maybe fill out the border on the diary quilt, or maybe become it's own quilt, depending on how many books I wind up listing. But now I know how to proceed with that project, so this is good.

Except now I want to work on this right away (I don't even have the instructions yet, so I won't...) instead of keep working on the tree skirt, and the diary quilt, and the comic strip quilt, and all the other stuff waiting for my attention.

This is such a fun distraction, though, that I totally don't care. Most sincere thanks, Dad, for letting us in on the fun!

Now, what on earth is my favorite book????  Better yet, what's yours?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Practically picture-less project update, and requesting your input...

I have an insanely long list of projects that I'm either working on, thinking about working on, planning to work on, or just plain dreaming about doing "One Day."  It gets overwhelming, to the point I've made a list and try to add dates of ideal completion so that I don't get overwhelmed with all I want to do. Which is silly, because most of what's on the list is put there by myself, as something I want to do, not something I'm being told or asked to do by someone else. Crazy. It should be a no-pressure thing, then, right?

The problem is I keep thinking up new ideas before the old ones are done. I can't be the only one with that problem, right??? Please tell me you do that too......

As I work through my current "what I really need to be working on soon" list, I thought I'd come to you for some help.  The current "actively being worked on" list includes:

  1. The Diary Quilt
  2. The Comic Strip Quilt
  3. The Christmas Tree Skirt
Plus I'm in the active-thinking stage of the Radiant Suns/Sun Moon Star Quilt(s). 

Here's where I need your help, quilter or not, please weigh in. Really. 

I showed you earlier the Radiant Suns quilt kit that I bought, and then a while later the Sun Moon Star fabric that The Chemist got me for my birthday and the quilt I designed to showcase the new fabric. I finally worked out a border idea for that quilt, with some help from some on-line friends, but now I'm rethinking the whole thing. 

For starters, the blocks I picked to use are pretty complicated. Then, it still requires buying a bit more fabric. And time. And is yet another quilt in my ever growing list. And I wondered, maybe the fabric will be good as the back of the Radiant Suns quilt instead? And I can use the blue-on-blue tonal fabric in that quilt, and just as a general blue to have around whenever I need touches of blue suns, moons & stars? Or maybe even as border or binding for the Radiant Suns quilt? 

Saves me one quilt off my list, easier piecing so will get done faster, still showcases my awesome fabric, and doesn't leave me with two celestial themed, similar (but yet very different) quilts in my house. What do you think; scrap the second Sun Moon Stars quilt and just use the new fabric for the already-planned Radiant Suns (which I'm making suns and moons and at least one or two stars anyway, remember....) Quilt? 

Or do both, and have two? Which means buying a different backing fabric for the Radiant Suns quilt, and other filler fabrics for the Sun Moon Stars quilt I drew up? Thoughts??? 

The second thing I need help with is the Diary Quilt. I have the squares done to make the top, I just need to add sashing strips, which have to just be cut and then I can sew them on and assemble the top. Then it needs a border, which is where I'm stumped. 

My original plan was just a plain border (or a few borders) so it can be on my bed. The top is, or will be, big enough to lay centered on my bed and the whole thing show, and the borders would be the part that hangs over the edges. 

current, plain borders idea

But I also have this sort of vague idea to make a wall hanging or lap quilt or something, depending on how many songs I decide to include, depicting particularly meaningful songs in fabric. I already made one, and gave it away, but will make another of that song for myself. And the water pitcher block I won represents another song. And I have a list of songs a mile or so long that I would love to include, if I can only figure out how to depict them in fabric. Which brings me to my idea ---- would it be crazy to make a border out of the songs blocks???? and use that as the border on the diary quilt??? Maybe interspersed with song lyrics somehow (printed? embroidered? stenciled with fabric pens?).....and probably some antique/family heritage blocks I have included as well...? 

Instead of a plain border, can you picture pieced blocks making up the border instead? 

The drawback is, it delays the completion of the Diary Quilt. The plus side is, I could probably do most of those blocks from my current stash and not have to buy yardage to use for a border. The alternative is, I'll do the songs blocks later as a lap quilt or something. What do you think??? Border, or separate project? 

While you guys figure out what I should do about those projects, I'll keep working on the Christmas Tree Skirt and the Comic Strip Quilt.......

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Won a Prize!!

Various cyber-friends have turned me on to a few new quilting blogs, one of which is the fun & informative & inspiring blog Gen X Quilters.

The blog author, AnneMarie, recently had a give-away for a block pattern she designed (one of a 4-part series), and I was one of the lucky winners! I couldn't believe it!! Since it is a PDF file, there were no restrictions on location of the entrant/winner -- a mighty big plus for me!

This is the block I won --- Water Pitcher #4 --- and I plan to make it soon. Like it? You can buy her patterns at GenXQuilters Pattern Store on Craftsy or at her own GenXQuilters Pattern Shop on her blog.

Before we moved to Brazil, I had an actual water pitcher that looked just like the one in the quilt block; I've always loved the antique pitcher/basin combos and long hoped to own one. Mine wasn't an antique, but I loved it. I had it on display along with the lyrics to a favorite and inspiring song, The Basin & The Towel by Michael Card. The song, and the visual display, reminded me to make hospitality a reality in my home, to treat my guests with a humble attitude, a servant's heart, to make sure my guests feel honored in my home.

When we moved, the basin & pitcher stayed in Texas. With this quilt block, when I make it, I can once again have that visual display, that reminder to be hospitable, to be kind, to make people feel welcome, to treat others better than I would like to be treated myself.

I can't wait to try my hand at paper piecing, and show you my finished quilt block! Meanwhile, go check out the originals at Gen X Quilters --- if you are crafty at all, or even just appreciate pretty things, you'll love her blog! If you are new to quilting, she even has a wonderful Quilt Block Library --- pictures of blocks, with links to the free tutorial on how to make the block. Tons of great stuff for anyone just starting out!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Getting Ready For Halloween

When we were in the US this summer, we made sure to stop at Halloween stores and stock up on treats to pass out, costumes for our boys, and all other Halloween type stuff that we just can't get here. Brazil does not officially celebrate Halloween, but some neighborhoods are jumping on the bandwagon and participating in a Brazilianized version of this fun candy-grabbing holiday.

In our neighborhood, the houses who agree to hand out candy notify the administration in advance; the administration compiles a map of said houses and gives that to the playground attendants who work here. Then, on the day of (in our place, that's this coming Saturday, the 27th), the children of the neighborhood meet at the playground at a designated time and playground attendants (plus any parents who wish to) take the group of kids around the neighborhood, following the map, to collect as much candy as possible.

Not exactly the typical North American Trick or Treating experience, but we'll take it.

We love to participate in this, because it is such a taste of home for the boys. Such a simple way to help them feel connected to the land they left behind when we moved here -- the small amount we spend on treats to give out doesn't come close to equaling the value our boys gain in feeling American for one night each year.

We discovered early on that for some reason, the unique little trinkets are the most sought after treat by kids in our area. In the four years we've been doing this, kid after kid has come back begging for one more spider or bat ring, or another pencil, or whatever. The US chocolate candies, our favorite, are not a huge hit with the local children -- partly because they arrive here somewhat soft from the heat. This doesn't matter to us, but I had more than one child tell me last year that my candies were melted.  This year, then, we did not bring back any chocolate to hand out (we did of course bring some to enjoy ourselves; it is long since gone). We instead stocked up on rings, pencils, temporary tattoos, a few US non-chocolate candies, and a handful of other random items. Later this week I'll assemble treat bags, as last year we had a mob of kids all swarming the bowl and trying to pick & choose. This way, I can be sure each child gets one bag and the treats get evenly distributed.

Of course, we didn't just buy treats, we also bought costumes. Or at least, as much of a costume as we could put together. We were there just a bit too early for the big Halloween stores to have their gear out, so our options were limited. Luckily, the Dollar General (an "Everything's $1" store in our area) had costume items, Halloween trinkets, etc. already stocked and ready for purchase. The Artist and The Adventurer each found a set of armor -- one in bronze/gold and the other in silver/pewter -- and decided on the spot to be a King and a Knight.  The King needed a crown, which we were able to find elsewhere, but The Knight was able to use the small helmet he found at the Dollar General. Shields, swords, gauntlets, a battle ax, a helmet, a crown -- two costumes, ready to go.

Or, almost. The Artist, who is going to be a King, needed a king's robe. Which we could not find, neither there nor here. Which meant I had to make one. And when I shopped for fabric for the robe, I found metallic mesh fabric, perfect for making fake chain mail tunics for the boys. Sweet!

I sewed all weekend, and finished a very nice king's robe (picture coming soon; my model is still asleep...) and two chain mail tunics. Luckily for The Boys and I, The Chemist found a picture on-line of a sleeveless tunic -- so much easier than trying to figure out sleeves!!

my littlest Knight in Shining Armour 
Isn't my Knight adorable??? I feel so much safer having him around to protect me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

This weekend was my birthday, and what a time it was! We had a three day weekend because my birthday also happens to be a national holiday here, which means The Chemist is always home on my birthday. Such a nice treat, and something I will definitely miss when we return to the US!

The Boys surprised me with a lovely brunch -- chocolate chip pancakes (they crushed a candy bar for the chocolate chips), thick sliced ham, cheddar eggs (yum!) (technically, queijo reino, not cheddar...) and coffee, of course! The pancakes even had whipped cream & strawberries on top --- what a treat!! I love that The Chemist once upon a time started this tradition, originally for Mother's Day, of cooking and serving a special breakfast  on someone's special day. Such a great way to show the boys that acts of kindness & service can be a great way to honor someone, without spending much. That love and gifts and cherishing someone doesn't have to be shown with expensive presents, but that giving of ourselves for the ones we love is what matters.

Not that I didn't also get presents! I do love presents, and the boys picked out some of my favorite treats for me --- cheese Pringles and a Hershey's White Chocolate bar! Both are "splurge" items here and not something I buy on a regular basis, at all. So fun to be treated to those! I only had to share a little bit.....

The Chemist pleasantly agreed to buy some wonderful "out of print" fabric for me, once I discovered it was out of print/production and next-to-impossible to find now. I first saw this fabric perhaps a year or eighteen months ago when it debuted on-line and I knew right then and there, as a "Coming Soon!" ad, that I needed some of it. It's a celestial themed fabric, full of suns, moons & stars. Even purple stars! And turquoise suns!! And dark blue moons!! Absolutely perfect portrayal of the symbols I use for the boys here at home; my moonbeam, my sunshine & my starlight. It is surprisingly rare to find all three symbols in one item; there are many combinations of moons & stars, or moons & suns, but not often do you find all three. So this fabric....delightful! Perfect!! A must-have!! And, sadly, no longer in production -- yikes!! The Chemist tracked it down on the web, though, and bought me some of the last remaining bits of it (per my careful suggestion....). 

Sew Heavenly by Dan Morris for RJR Fabrics
note the purple stars!!!
another fabric in the same line
note the turquoise suns!! and blue moons!!
can you believe one fabric line has the exact symbols, in the exact colors, that I use for my boys?!
It isn't here yet, of course, but he gave me the print outs of the orders/shipping confirmation, and I spent all day Friday "Digital Quilting" -- aka, playing with a quilt design program I have, trying to come up with a perfect quilt to utilize this coveted fabric. I've got it just about right, though I need to add a border of some sort to make it large enough for a throw for the couch. Or accept it as a wall hanging instead....not sure. What do you think? Anything you'd change or add?

Sun Moon Stars Quilt drawing
the background is the blue-on-blue fabric as shown above
the suns/moons/stars will not be solids, those are just rough colorings
(click on photo to see it larger)
Saturday we went hiking with friends, and Sunday I got to do some real sewing. I'm making good progress on The Writer's Comic Strip Quilt -- check back soon for pictures of that!

 What did you do this weekend? 

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Argyle Baby Quilt, Finished!

If you've been around a while, you've seen my posts over the past several months (since about March-ish) about the Argyle Baby Quilt I've been working on. Well, today I am very proud to announce --- it's done!!

Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend, 2012
Original Design by The Reader

Just to catch you up, in case you've missed any of this along the way, it all started with a baby quilt contest and a pair of socks. I have a pair of socks that has three large argyle diamonds with faint criss-cross lines over it, in pink, gray and black. The quilt I originally designed was to be in those colors --- pale pink background, hot pink diamonds on the outside, black in the center and silver trim for the criss-cross. But the recipient of the quilt registered for baby girl gear in lavenders, purples, and soft pastels, not brights. So I changed it up, after much angst at finding just the right fabric for that center diamond.

I thought long and hard about how to do this quilt and eventually settled on piecing together lots and lots and lots of triangles (480, to be exact). I found a tutorial on-line (thanks to Pinterest!), although I changed the size of the triangles, and then pieced mine sideways from how the one in the tutorial is pieced. Plus doing it in all one color with the three accent diamonds, which is uniquely my own design. Still, I did follow her directions on how to not line up the triangles (they have to overlap a bit so that they are right when you open them). 

And then I pieced and I pieced and I pieced, 80 triangle pairs per section x 3 sections. I was frantically trying to get this done before our US trip in August, but hand sewing takes time, which I simply ran out of before we arrived in the US. With The Chemist's blessing, and that of the recipient as well, I brought the not-quite-finished quilt back home with me to Brazil and finished it by machine. Which is, perhaps not surprisingly, much faster!

Wow. Done. The top finished up in found moments here and there through one weekend. Then I sandwiched it with batting and the backing fabric and hand basted it. And then....then, I quilted. I used masking tape to mark the quilting lines, and I did diagonal quilting in two colors (lavender and peach), in both directions. The peach lines are centered in between the lavender lines (more or less) so that there is diagonal quilting over the entire quilt no more than 2.5" apart.

I used the edges of the diamond, and the lines of criss-cross,
as the starting point for where to put the diagonal lines.
Then I kept that spacing throughout the quilt. 

For one final touch, I did decorative quilting inside each of the small triangles that make up the large purple diamonds. Scrolly hearts, facing each other so that they echo the shape of the diamond. This was only a little more ambitious an idea than my current skill level matches, but it turned out okay in the end, thank goodness.
close-up of one of the scrolly hearts.
"with character" because it's the first time I've ever free motion quilted on a machine.

As I hate (despise, detest, abhor) making bias binding, I bought satin ribbon that is already finished on the edges so that I could just fold it over and sew it down. So much easier! My friend Jules gave me some amazing binding clips, too, so that I didn't have to pin and instead could just clip the binding in place. Worked beautifully!! I watched a tutorial on mitering corners, and off I went. It did take a certain level of concentration.....

me, sewing on binding
isn't my sewing nook in the living room fantastic?? LOL!

hey, it was hard work!

.....okay, maybe a huge amount of keep the edge of the ribbon lined up *just right* as I fed it through the machine.

I was using a zig-zag stitch so that it would be a little more secure than a straight stitch, and also I folded the ribbon just a little "off" from half, so that the back side was a smidge wider than the front side, this way I was sure to catch the back in the stitching from the front. Then because I had my "smidge" just a little too big, I flipped it over and followed that edge in a 2nd zig-zag stitch so that the binding doesn't have any loose edges.

I added the custom label, ordered from Embroidery by Shawna, and now it's washing and drying to get all nice and puckery, and with that -- it's done!

names removed, with a bad "Paint" job, for privacy
and let's pretend it doesn't say "hand-quilted", okay?
I was a bit over-confident when I ordered the label.....

The quilt has been officially christened "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" and will be sent to the lucky recipient soon. The very first quilt I've ever completed, start to finish, all by myself. I am so very proud of this quilt, imperfections (character) and all!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

And now, the fabric....

If you are not a crafter, quilter, fabric-lover, you have my permission to skip over this post. 'Cause it is all about the fabric. The finds. The projects. Color and texture and awesomeness.

If you are a crafter or quilter or fabric lover, enjoy the color parade.

To get you started, here is a look at my stash cabinet "before" --

My stash cabinet, without the current Works in Progress or any new fabric.
And here is the massive pile of stuff after I gathered it all from the various nooks & crannies of luggage space and dumped it on my cutting counter --

all the stuff

And here is my stash cabinet "after," once I'd organized and arranged all of the new fabric and returned the various "works in progress" to their rightful places (remember, I took all my WIP home with me to show Jules & R) --

all filled up.
Works in Progress returned to their shelves,
and all the new fabric sorted, folded, stacked & put away neatly. 

So, what is all of that stuff? Let's have a little show & tell....

Up first, some cat-themed fabric for a quilt that The Artist wants for his bed. He's requested that the center medallion of the quilt feature the full Tri-Force Emblem from the Hyrule Shield from the Legend of Zelda games. Luckily for me, he was able to find a color image of this symbol so I can try and convert the image into a quilt pattern.

He wants the border to be cat fabrics, and he wants a cat face in the center of the back of the quilt, pieced from fabric. As the pieced portions will be made from solids  or tone-on-tones, which I can easily and inexpensively find here, I only bought the cat fabrics for his quilt. I had to keep in mind the colors used in the images he wants (a lot of blue, red and green) and so choose cats that would play nicely with the rest of the quilt. I had to leave behind some adorable beach cats, because the colors were just way off from everything else, and the scale of the print was far too large. Luckily, The Artist is happy with these.

I'm planning a simple 4-patch for the border blocks, alternating the small all-over print with the other two prints. Jules and I did some serious math to figure out how much yardage of each I will need; I was very grateful to have her along, because I usually just pick a random number and buy. I would be devastated to run out of these fabrics half way through the project, so I'm very glad she was along to calculate for me! I've got to learn how to do that.....
Cat Themed Fabric
 Next we have some additional prints I needed for The Writer's quilt. I designed the border to be gray with red, and so I needed a few more grays to manage that as well as a few more solid reds. The diagonal stripe (black with white) that is shown will be the binding fabric, and then the red and the grays will be used in the border. He was thrilled with all the prints I found, which is a relief.

for the Comic Strip Quilt
 I found this wonderful clay tile fabric at the shop in South Dakota, after I relented and bought the Radiant Suns pattern and fabrics. I plan to use this primarily as a vertical (or horizontal, not sure yet) stripe down the back of the Brazil quilt, and will use some as one of the "terra cotta" colored fabrics in the front. I bought enough that I will have some left over for future projects as well; it was just too perfect to pass up.

Clay Roof Tiles, a Michael Miller fabric

I also found a few "just because" pieces. The gold fall leaves (top left) and the purple (also leaves), as well as the assorted red & black florals (bottom/front right) are things I found at the first S. Dakota shop, before we took The Adventurer for ice cream and when I was still saving my fabric budget for Texas. I thought the leaves, in particular, would be sort of reminiscent of the scenery we saw on our trip. If I'd stumbled across these after buying the other stuff, I would probably have passed. I'm not sure what I'll ever do with them, but I think some fall placemats (for the gold), and perhaps some valentines, or Christmas, from the red/black floral. I have a vague plan to make seasonal/holiday placemats for each season, so these will work into that somehow. 

The gray swirl (front/bottom left) is just absolutely gorgeous and I couldn't leave it behind. I forget which shop it came from, but it's scrumptious. The gray with words printed on it, and the wrapped stack of little squares, are both from a line called Mama Said Sew; more on that below. The red solid (which really has small dots) and the gray swirl will likely be used in whatever project I dream up to utilize the Mama Said Sew line. 
all the little extras
 Here is the full contents of the Mama Said Sew "Charm Pack" (set of 40 five-inch squares). On closer inspection, perhaps the large gray with black lettering is not directly from this line, but it coordinates (in color and theme of the words) well regardless. I am not sure yet what I'll do with this little pack, but it was simply too precious. You can just see the large gray piece spread out beneath all the small squares. I would love to get more of this fabric line in larger pieces; the graphics have just the right touch of whimsy to be classy and fun all at the same time.  Now I just have to decide what to do with this....
Mama Said Sew! (by Moda) Charm Pack and coordinating Fat Quarter
 Also in South Dakota, I found these celestial/space/astronaut themed fat quarters. The Artist once upon a time requested "planet fabric" and so I thought I'd pick this up for him. Then I thought maybe I'd use some of it in the Radiant Suns quilt, and then I thought I would use it to make a gift for The Artist rather than just giving him the fabric to use himself. Now I'm not entirely sure, but he & I will sort it out soon.

We visited Johnson Space Center & Space Center Houston while in Texas, and of course were there when we heard Neil Armstrong had passed away, though I bought this fabric before that. I'm glad we had that experience though, as the boys learned a bit about Neil Armstrong, the space program, NASA, etc. and so now this fabric becomes even more meaningful, which is nice.  Especially nice is the second photo -- a gray with all-over print, talking about none other than the first moon walk, space exploration, etc. The perfect thing to pair with this moon landing fabric and make....I don't know what, but I'll think of something appropriate.
moon, stars, planets & astronauts

all about space,
and a gorgeous sunset
 And, just for reminders, the fabrics I bought for the Radiant Sun quilt. The medium-tone blue that is beneath everything else will be the border, then the silvers (top) and dark blues will be for the night sky/moon sections, the bright yellows and bright blues for the daytime/sun sections, and I'll work in the gray/gold (whch has a star print and a luminescense) into some star blocks, somehow. I haven't figured that out exacty, but it will be beautiful when it's done. Just need to get the idea from my head onto paper....

One Giant Leap....
Two states. Three quilt shops. And a whole lot of fabric. What sort of shopping makes you happy?  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meeting My BFF....

I've talked before, often, about my quilting mentor & dear friend, Jules, over at And Sew On... She is the friend for whom I did my first ever quilt block, a true Labor of Love (and worth lots of laughs, now...), when she needed a few more signature blocks done so she could complete her President's Quilt (she was president of her quilt guild one year). 

She is the friend who encouraged me to go ahead and try quilting. The friend who didn't laugh, too much, when I called or emailed with mistakes and silly questions. The friend who I sent all my quilting questions to, knowing she'd have the answers. She has been my long-distance, via email & you-tube videos (that she has made just for me), quilting mentor.

But even before that, she was my friend. And over the past however many years (neither one of us can quite pinpoint when, exactly, our friendship started) she has gone from "on-line acquaintance" to "email/blog buddy" to "dear, dear friend." I rather dislike using the term Best Friend, because I feel badly for the other good friends I have -- there are about three ladies in my life who I would love to claim as my Best Friend. I feel pretty equally attached to all three of them, I think/hope they all three feel the same way, and so I hesitate to say "Jules is my best/dearest friend" because even though she is, so are these other two women.

But. Hopefully these other two women know that they are also loved & cherished, and won't be jealous when I say, Jules really, truly has become a very dear friend over the past few years. She and I email daily. We talk on the phone sometimes, though not often, due to conflicting schedules. We know each others' secrets, for the most part, and keep them. And yet, until this trip to Texas, we'd never met in real life.

Jules was brave enough to get on a plane and fly from Illinois to Texas, just to meet me in person. We were both rather giddy over the prospect. To have a several-years-long connection with someone, and finally meet in was a dream come true for both of us. She prepped by sewing a tote bag to serve as her carry-on/personal item on the flight. I prepped by packing up all of my "works in progress" quilt stuff, plus my red white & blue quilt, so she could see these things in person. And in case we had time to sew. (we didn't, but it was important to me that she see my projects in person, so she could give me her honest opinion, not just thoughts based on photos).  I was the eager student, proud & nervous about showing my teacher what I'd done. It was a little bit hilarious as I kept her up late the first night she was in Texas --- I kept pulling out fabric and half-done projects and just babbling on and on and on until I finally realized she was maybe a little bit tired. Oops. What can I say, I was excited!! My mentor, the person who taught me everything I know about quilting (even if it's all been via email) was finally there, right in front of me!! Of course I had to show her what I'd accomplished!! Right??? Right.

me, showing the partly finished Argyle quilt top to R;
this is pretty much what it looked like when I showed it to Jules, but a repeat the next day ;)

I picked her up at the airport, waiting patiently at the bottom of the escalator I thought she'd come down. She did, we saw each other at exactly the same moment and I'm pretty sure there were tears in 2 sets of eyes right then. It was surreal. Out to the car we went, she met The Chemist and The Boys, we went and dropped them at my mom-in-law's house and wound up eating dinner there and then.....Jules & I went off to our hotel! Yes, not only did I get to meet my BFF in person, finally, but I got a few nights away as well. Sweet!!

Our first morning together we got up early, ate breakfast and took the boys to see my other very good friend who happens also to be mom to my boys' best friends. She reads Jules' blog and also quilts (she is the one who encouraged me to start with a jelly roll & jelly roll pattern, as it would minimize the cutting I'd need to do) and was delighted to meet Jules as well. So fun, colliding worlds on purpose like that. We had a blast together! For dinner that night my Mom met us for Mexican food, which was a treat. Love introducing my favorite people to each other!

R, me, Jules

The next day we did some touring around --- I took Jules to Galveston Beach, as she's rarely been and wanted to dip her toes in the ocean. I did clarify that it's just the Gulf of Mexico, not the actual Ocean, and that was fine.

umbrellas at Stewart Beach

Jules & me at the beach!

Then she came with me to the Lego Store with The Boys -- what a friend to tag along on that! From there, we went by NASA. I forget that NASA is a big deal, but our hotel was on the same road as the Space Center, and we passed the outdoor rockets on display. Jules wanted a photo, so I turned into a driveway/street that led to a parking lot and asked the security guard if we could just park and take photos. He directed me to Rocket Park, a small parking lot that lets the public access, free, the building where the Saturn 5 Rocket is kept as well as a few other rockets. Sweet! We wandered around, took photos, read the signs that tell about the Apollo missions, and just enjoyed the day.

Jules' first visit to NASA

one of the outdoor rockets that prompted us to stop in the first place

For dinner that day I dragged Jules to a local legend burger joint, Tookie's. Originally opened in 1975, then closed for a few years after Hurricane Ike, Tookie's reopened in 2011 (I think). Best burgers in the area, if not the entire state. As Jules' husband is a pig (and corn) farmer, she was delighted to try The Squealer (my favorite as well) which has bacon mixed into the ground beef before the patty is formed. YUM.

The Squealer, a Tookie's Special
plus their world-famous onion rings
for perspective -- the burger is 1/2 pound of beef.

On Jules' last day, we picked up my sewing machine! She took a few photos of me having my lesson, wandered the quilt shop while I played, then we shopped some before heading out for lunch, a stop at the local park and I took her to meet my grandparents. I had to show her all the things, places & people I'm most proud of, and the Gallery is one of those places; my grandparents, some of those people. I was thrilled to introduce my dear friend to some of my dearest family; sadly, we both forgot to take pictures of that.

me & my new machine :-)

getting my lesson

Galveston Bay, as seen from the park near where I grew up

From there, the long sad drive to the airport. Boo. That was not fun, and there were tears again. Not the happy kind this time, either. I do not enjoy goodbyes. At all. BUT. It was amazingly wonderful to finally meet my dear friend in person, and I am so so so so glad we got to have those few days together! What a treat!!! Cherished memories, for sure.

Houston skyline

Tomorrow, I'll back-track and show off more pics of our visit to see 3M and their mom and then...finally...the rest of the fabric finds! Stay tuned!

Monday, September 17, 2012

One Giant Leap....

As I mentioned in my last post, while the boys went on to the second cave tour, Kim & I took The Adventurer, who was surprisingly all "adventured out" by then, to get ice cream. We stopped at a small quilt shop on the way, where we browsed a bit and I bought a little fabric. Not a ton, not at this shop. Some fun fat quarters (quarter yards of fabric, cut differently than a normal quarter-yard) and that was all.

From there, Dairy Queen for an ice cream treat for my patient sweet boy. Grandma Kim is pure genius when it comes to kid-appeal. She has set the bar high for birthdays; already my Artist is lamenting the fact we won't be at her house for his birthday this year, and wants to know can't I make a cake as good as hers rather than buy one from the store. Sadly, no; pretty sure if I tried to bake and make my own frosting it would still not turn out quite that well.

Back to the ice cream, this was Kim's genius idea. She very stealthily told my sweet boy that if he'd sit quietly in the quilt shop, we'd get ice cream after. This was announced to me somewhere around the time we walked out to the parking area when we were finished shopping. Here I'd thought my plan (let him take his hand-held video game in the store) was the reason he'd stayed so quiet; nope. It was all for the ice cream. Does she know how to "Grandma" or what?? (yes, yes she does.)

After our ice cream break we headed back to the campsite. Only, we got detoured past a 2nd quilt shop (HeartSong, in S. Dakota). And that.....that was a little stroke of destiny, or fate, or serendipity, or something. Because I wasn't planning to buy stuff. I knew that once we got over to Texas, I had a very large purchase to make (a new machine, already reserved for me) and that I had very little room in my budget to actually buy fabric. Plus I knew that once I got to the TX shop, I'd surely find fabric I needed to buy; that store is huge and amazing. So, I wasn't planning to buy very much at all.

Until I walked in and saw this:

This quilt stopped me in my tracks. Jaw dropped. Mouth, hanging open. One syllable escaped my lips -- Wow. Actually, I think I actually said "Holy Cow....." and then just stood there. Gazing. Van Gogh's "Starry Night" -- in fabric. Wow. Even now, I can stare at the photo and just be mesmerized. This quilt....this stunning beauty....would not let me out of its grip.

Starry Night Quilt -- HeartSong Quilts, Hot Springs S. Dakota
I glanced at the pattern package; pattern and the templates for cutting those curved bits. Not a bad price, $30 or so, but more than I wanted to spend. Add in the 16 fat quarters needed, plus the border fabric....this would eat up my entire fabric budget for the trip. Only, I knew I'd still buy fabric in Texas, so what this really meant was it would put me over budget by a significant amount.

See, per my request, The Chemist gives me an allowance. This is really just a line in the budget that designates how much I can spend freely each month without worrying I'm impacting the need portion of things, and is an easy way for me to be sure I'm not overspending. The Chemist, being the generous guy he is, gives me a pretty good amount. And, being the understanding guy he is, he accepts and allows the boys and I to overspend on our US trips; i.e, he gives us an advance on our allowances. Still, I didn't want to go too far into the future. He wouldn't care, this was my own personal limit.

So, I tried to ignore the quilt. I wandered the store several times. I probably walked the perimeter, staring at bolts of fabric, three or more times. Without truly seeing a thing. I sat with The Adventurer who was getting a little bored. I watched Kim shop. I looked at all the other quilt samples on the walls, which I'm pretty sure were beautiful as well, but I don't remember. I didn't really see anything. I begged for something, anything, to grab my attention away from the quilt, which was money I didn't want to spend. And on a kit. A kit of all things!

Now, my friends assure me that this was not truly a kit. The fabric was not pre-packaged with the pattern and templates. It wasn't. I got to choose my very own fabric. But. Something in me -- perhaps the artist or designer side of me, perhaps just the part of me that has always rebelled at being the same as everyone else -- really rebelled at the idea that I was going to buy a pattern, and make it in the same colors as the quilt on display. I was going to copy a quilt. A quilt that, so prominently displayed, probably a lot of other people were copying as well. I was going to make something just like everyone else. I shuddered, cringed, and figuratively ran from that idea. It was this, even more than the money, that I fought against as I walked through the shop, trying so hard to find inspiration somewhere else, anywhere else.

Eventually, as The Adventurer's patience wore thin, I gave in. I picked up the pattern. I shopped for the fat quarters. I decided I would do some moons and some suns, so I chose half of my blues as daytime sky colors and half as nighttime sky colors, and half of my yellows as bright noonday suns and the other half as silvery midnight moons. I assured myself that this was enough of a tweak so as to not be doing the exact same quilt. I browsed the dark blues looking for a border fabric, and while the helpful attendant cut my fabric for the border, I gave one last glance around the room.

the pattern, and the fabrics I chose
the border fabric is on the bottom

And then I saw it. Clay roof tile fabric, perfect for my Brazil quilt. I had walked past that fabric at least 10 times and yet I never saw it; that is how distracted, how hypnotized I was by the Radiant Suns pattern, the Starry Night quilt. I quickly requested a yard or yard & a half, I forget which, of the clay tiles fabric as well. And then I stopped looking and paid. Even more than I thought it would be, but I knew if I left that store without that pattern and fabric, I'd spend the rest of my life trying to recreate it anyway. I knew that I'd regret not buying it way more than any regret about over spending, and I was right. Even as I came home and entered my purchases into our budget program, even as I calculated when I will next actually get an allowance, I sighed a happy sigh that I did, in fact, bring home my Radiant Suns/Starry Night non-kit.

It was a small step; something most quilters wouldn't bat an eye over. And some quilting friends have assured me that there is much to be gained from following a pattern -- knowledge. Tricks. Tips. Skill-building. And I know they are right. They've shown me photos of block-of-the-month and quilt-along projects, where everyone really is doing the same thing and yet the finished projects all still show the mark of their maker in their uniqueness, whether subtle or bold differences. And I am reassured, even though for me, it was a giant leap.

Have you ever experienced a "must-have" situation like this? What gripped you so hard you had to buy it?

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Argyle Quilt Gets Its Argyle Trim...

I've hit a point in the Argyle Baby Quilt that I wanted to update and post pictures. I have finally finished the 2nd of the three panels, including adding the trim that  makes the "argyle" look, and with that addition I now, finally, love the way this quilt looks.

Since my original design had been inspired by totally different colors, I was slow to warm up to the lavender & purple of  this quilt. I still really want to do the pink & black version, I just need a good excuse, but meanwhile I've added the sweet floral criss-cross and this quilt sings to me.

As I still have one more panel to go --- eighty more pair of triangles to cut, pair up, sew into rows of 20 pair each, join those 4 rows into a panel, add the trim and, finally, join that 3rd panel to these 2 panels --- it's good I'm loving the quilt so I stay motivated to finish. I am WAY past my self-set deadline, which means I am going to have to fly on the quilting portion, but so be it. Either that, or the recipient will get it at the end of my US visit instead of the beginning. Time, and my ability to focus and get to work, will tell. Wish me luck; I am going to need it!

Oh, and cheer me on, 'kay? Isn't it looking lovely???

the 2 panels all laid out on the dining table.
No, I have not squared it up yet. Yes, I will before I add binding. 

close-up of it all laid out, before the 2 panels were sewn together

and a closer close-up of the focal section, once the 2 panels were sewn together.
the 3rd panel will be identical to the one on the left, completing the argyle look.