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!