Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year Day sale alert!

One of my favorite eBay fabric-by-the-yard sellers is offering a great sale today - nearly her entire store is 50% off, and she offers free US shipping on cotton quilting fabric by the yard.  It's a great chance to stock up - I just bought a bunch of different 1-yard cuts for various projects, including some Moda Spring Magic fabric to go with a honey bun I recently bought on sale, some fabric for a couple of pillowcases, and fabric for our monthly themed 2.5" strip exchanges at quilt guild ... as well as a stashbuilder or two.

So head on over to The Fabric Palette on eBay and take a look.  She's got lots of lovely fabrics from name brand designers, and proceeds from sales today help her longtime assistant with some car troubles.  You really can't beat these prices and free shipping, but I think it's today, February 29, only.

Thanks to everyone for their comments on blog comment etiquette, and to Leanne at Daisy and Jack for sending a link to a blog with an entire article on the topic.  I don't agree 100% with every one of her suggestions - as you know from my word verification procedure since I have been SLAMMED with spambots on past blogs - but it's a good and thorough starting point.

Last night I finished the quilting on Gothic Windows and it's ready for label and sleeve.  I didn't take a photo because 1) I didn't anticipate that I'd be blogging today until that sale came up, and 2) Verizon pushed a software update to my phone last week that screwed it up so bad that I had to uninstall and reinstall everything, so it's been a bit of a headache.  I will blog again with photos sometime within a week.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Spanish Treasure

First, I finished up my fourth and last Gothic Windows block on Tuesday night and last night I got them put together and basted (so easy and simple with a scrap of batting and a fat quarter as backing!) to be quilted.  I thought I'd use a red thread to do some hand quilting on the purple background, so we'll see how that turns out.  I'm on the road this weekend so I should be able to make considerable progress on this when I'm not near a machine.

I also got out my other new-to-the-blog project last night.  I began working on it around the holidays when I was too busy to do much blogging.  It's from the book "Nickel Quilts" by Pat Speth and the design is called "Tillie's Treasure." 
(This is just the picture of the cover from - I don't think clicking here will help you see inside!)

Well, I chose to use all Kate Spain fabrics from both her Terrain and Good Fortune lines, so I'm calling it "Spanish Treasure."  I just love working with these fabrics, and there are SO many of them with such gorgeous color and variety that it was a joy to cut and to piece.

At first I thought some of the prints would be too large scale for this design, but I stood on my chair and took this photo of the blocks laid out on my folding table, and I love the way it looks.  I know the colors will blend and soften a lot when it's all pieced, quilted and washed.

It's been a long time since I made a quilt purely for the joy of the process.  There's something about Kate Spain's fabric that makes that possible for me.

There's a lot of chatter in the blogosphere lately about housekeeping items like what people like to see on a blog and technical items like word verification.  I have a blogiquette question ... what is the proper way to deal with comments?  When I began with blogger almost nine years ago - although it was not a quilt-related blog - it was commonplace to reply to comments with your own comment and continue the post discussion with readers in the comment area.  These days, I see many more bloggers hit reply to comments I leave and take the discussion offline ... which is good, because I rarely go back to read other comments after I've left one.  Is there a proper blogging comment etiquette?  Do you expect a reply when you leave a comment, or feel disappointed if you don't get one?  If you keep a blog, do you reply to every comment?  Do you ever return to the post to see if a reply was posted there, or reply if it's at your own blog?  I'm curious about whether I'm doing this "right" so thanks in advance for answering!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My latest projects

I've been remiss with blogging about what I've been working on for some time, beyond the Jacob's Ladder UFO I had prioritized for the Quilting is Murder challenge.  However, I've been hinting about this for ages ... as long ago as Christmas, when I wrote about one of them, "It occurs to me that it's one of those things that happens when you give a gift and find that you've inadvertently received one in return."  Let me explain ...

... in December, I participated in the Quilting Gallery Blog Hop Party and gave away a jelly roll of Moda's Fruitcake line.  Well, Fruitcake had pretty much been retired by that point and it wasn't easy to find images of the fabrics which I could post on the blog, so I went to Moda's website.  Which reminds me, if you have not spent a good deal of time at Moda's fabric collections website, you should.  They list EVERY one of their fabric lines and then what freebies they offer for each: 

  Swatch Page
Print out for an instant Shopping List to take into your favorite quilt or specialty store.
  JPG Images
Upload our images into your
favorite quilt program.
  Group Description
Learn more about the collection and include in your newsletters, blog posts, and more!
  Marketing Tools
Print on cardstock and tag your fabrics and gifts to identify the collection.
  Free Pattern
Download a free pattern to use with the selected collection.

The "Free Pattern" is a goldmine since these patterns are designed to work with ONE fabric line and often using one form of precuts (from fat quarters to charm squares).    When I was looking up Fruitcake, I clicked on the "Free Pattern" link for the line and found just what I had been looking for.

I'll back up a bit.  Last summer, we took the kids tubing down the New River in Radford, and we all had a great time.  It was a gorgeous morning and there were dragonflies everywhere, landing on us and the tubes.  I wanted to try to capture that memory with a quilt, and I ordered a fat eighth bundle of Moda's line, "Dragonfly Summer." 
I didn't know what to do with it, but the free pattern for Fruitcake was a pattern which looked just like the innertubes, and called for a collection of fat eighths ... how perfect!  I cut and pieced all of the circles in one long night, and since then have been working on appliqueing them to sand-colored backgrounds.  Contrary to the instructions, I am not doing raw-edge applique but needle-turn applique.  Each evening I have some handwork to do on the sofa now.  Here are a couple of the blocks:

They actually work out to be pretty large - about 20" background squares.  But they go fast.

I have another project that I worked on a bit last night but couldn't take pictures before my phone battery died.  However, between working on all these other projects, I squeezed in one more.  I was so inspired by Pat at Color me Quilty and her Gothic Windows tutorial posted at Happy Quilting that I had to find a way to work a few of those into my quilting queue.  Coincidentally enough, I had also recently received email from the guild asking for donations of small quilts for the Virginia Quilt Museum's silent auction fundraiser.  I put two and two together and rifled through my stash of 2.5" strips for some arresting colors.  I have three of the four finished and the fourth, in the bottom right, ready to be tacked down:

The only deviation I have made from Pat's instructions is that I am sewing down the windows by hand rather than machine.  I love Cathedral windows squares - I have made three various CW projects so far, including one in silk - and I love the handwork.  I like the striking contrast of the deep purple and bright red with white accents, and luckily I don't need a border since there is a size limit of 72" perimeter on submissions.  Keep an eye on the auction - it could be yours!  But if you don't want to bid, it is easy enough to make your own from Pat's great instructions.  Go check it out!

So these are just a few of the projects I've been working on now that I've let the Jacob's Ladder rest a bit.  There is one more as well - a biggish one - that I'll blog about another time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jacob's Ladder - first finishing point

Tomorrow is the deadline for the Quilting is Murder UFO challenge, and I have worked on nothing else since learning of it early last month.  Well, nothing else in my sewing room - of course there was plenty to distract me, like the kind of work I get paid for doing 40+ hours/week, working out, cleaning the house, and so on.  But my spare time all went into this quilt.

Remember, I started with a box full of blocks and a quilting stencil that I had put away in 2001:
And then I decided on a double sawtooth border using some thangles:
Finally I got the top put together and basted last weekend, and tried a new marking technique with a pouncing spray:
Now the deadline arrives and my goal was to have the bulk of the quilting done on the center of the top.  I have quilted all the center blocks with the sheaf of wheat template, and the ladder sections to look like ladders.  There are some open squares still that I'm thinking about another stencil in, and I have the edge sections and borders still to do (no idea what to do in the 4.5" wide white border!) but it is finished to the point that it is being submitted to the judges for the challenge today on the Flickr group

First, the "completed" top:
And I have to choose one of these detail photos to submit:

It feels really strange to submit a quilt for "judging" with pins still in the borders and markings still all over the fabric.  This is not a quilt I'd ever be submitting for real judging.  The seam quality on the swap blocks made it very challenging to put them together well, and my machine quilting definitely shows signs of improvement from rocky beginning to smoother finish.  I'm not going to ask for any votes, and am not even posting this to my Facebook page, because I really only want people interested in the contest itself to participate in the voting.  I like the way they've organized it with the shop owners getting 100 votes each to balance out the ballot-box-stuffing that happens.  I trust that the judges know what they're doing with the rules they created for this challenge!

Still, I didn't participate in this to win (yet) another sewing machine.  I wanted to get this UFO finished, and I wanted some practice at building my machine-quilting skills, and I wanted to try out some new-to-me techniques, and I've accomplished all that (or am on my way to doing so).  I plan to continue with this past tomorrow's deadline to get it DONE done before I turn to working on any of my other projects. So regardless of how the contest turns out, I consider myself a winner.  ;-)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jacob's Ladder Progress

Thanks all for your comments about guild guilt - as I commented on the post myself, I ended up agreeing to do the newsletter.  I see now that it includes publicity, which I will probably reinterpret in my own way, delegate, or else drop the ball on entirely.  Well, this is what they get with a technologically inclined, busy woman!  Print media?  What's print media??  Incidentally, if anyone uses a freeware/shareware desktop publishing program they love, please feel free to share in the comments.

Guild ended early last night and I had some time to sew.  I've tried several new (to me) techniques on this UFO.  Over the weekend I finished with my double sawtooth border (made with Thangles; new technique #1) and got the quilt pin basted.

Last night I finished running some straight lines in the ditch over the quilt using my walking foot, which I've never attempted before (new technique #2).

My third new technique is something I came across at JoAnn's while shopping for batting and backing fabric for this quilt.  I was browsing the quilt stencils area for something to do in that 4.5" wide white border area and came across a stencil marking spray.  I'd never used it before but thought it was worth a try, since pounces make a mess and don't leave enough of a mark on the quilt, and I can never use marking pens or pencils on stencils reliably.
The instructions said to cover the area around the quilt to protect from overspray, so I took the lid of a copy paper box, cut a hole in it slightly smaller than the stencil, and taped the stencil into it.

Surprisingly to me, this does not spray a blue line similar to the marking pen, but a chalky substance similar to a pounce.  It works pretty effectively.  I used it on a scrap piece and rinsed it all out much more easily than the water-soluble pen.  It leaves a little chalky dust on my free-motion quilting foot that I blow off after I take the quilt out to mark the next square, but it works very well.
The only challenge is placing it correctly on the square to quilt since you have to cover up so much around it.  I think I have a system down for peering through it enough to get it right but it's a little tricky.  I'll also have to wipe off the excess spray from the stencil before I use it again tonight - the photo above is after four uses.

Additionally, when I pin-basted this top, I did NOT use any basting spray since I'd been reading that it might have been the culprit behind a lot of my tension and broken thread issues on the Hoopla baby quilts last year.  Sure enough, I have not had any issues so far.  I also have to say that the time I've spent reading Leah Day's and Judi Madsen's blogs, between their machine quilting and top marking tips, have really been helpful to me in undertaking this project.  I might end up machine quilting myself more after this!

I'm happy with the way this is quilting and I hope that I can get a lot done before this weekend's challenge "completion" deadline.  I know it doesn't have to be finished, bound and laundered but I'd at least like to finish the quilting in the center of the quilt.

Monday, February 6, 2012

guild guilt

Quilt guild is tonight, which reminds me that I have four voicemail messages on my home machine, two or three of which are about taking an office with the guild for the next two years.  One of those people called back and actually caught me at home and I guiltily managed to decline the treasurer position, but then someone else called back and asked me about taking a less demanding role like vice president.  I never called her back.  We were away seeing the kids all last weekend, and between getting married and that cold I had last week that put me in bed early every night except for Friday, when I finally managed to work out and spend some quality time with my new husband, I had no time.  This weekend was all errands, laundry, trying to do some cleaning and straightening (including the cat's overdue litter box), and, I admit, working on the Jacob's Ladder quilt so I could stay on schedule for the challenge deadline.  I finally thought to return calls right before the Super Bowl started and thought better of it.

Why is there so much guilt associated with just saying no to people who ask for your time commitment?  Am I the only person who wonders, "why me?"  I don't want to discount other people's lives and activities, but at least half of the guild is made up of retired people who don't have young children.  I work at least 40 hours a week to earn a salary, I volunteer as a court appointed special advocate and also have continuing education requirements to meet as part of that in addition to court time and meetings with the child, family members, social services, school officials, legal counsel, and writing reports.  I handle all my great aunt's legal and financial matters as her power of attorney.  Although our kids don't live with us, we are with them every other weekend and they spend summers with us, so I don't even make it to guild meetings then.  I try to work out twice a week, get a decent meal on the table at least a few nights a week, pay some attention to the animal members of our household, do the laundry and some basic cleaning, and honestly, it's not easy to do in the ~3 hours I have at home each day when I'm not sleeping.  Fortunately I have most of my bills automatically paid and I can handle some things from my office, but I fail miserably at anything that needs to be done during daylight hours beyond a phone call.  Going to any government agency to get my name officially changed, getting the dog the surgery on his leg, participating in my son's school teacher conferences, having a contractor come to the house to do some work, meeting with professionals about our investments, taxes, or wills ... all falling hard by the wayside right now.  I hide in my quilting at night to give me some sort of solace that I can accomplish SOMETHING for ME, but taking on one more thing for someone else would mean giving that up.

My mother was one of the original superwomen.  She held down a full-time job, volunteered at school for my brother and me, led my girl scout troop, served on the PTA, timed our swim competitions, got an advanced degree at night (with all straight As), entertained the neighbors as hostess for various things, sewed my clothes, cooked dinner every night, and then did this also for various exchange students, distant cousins, and others living as part of our household over about a ten year period.  I don't ever remember her saying no to anyone for anything, but I do remember her frazzled, frustrated, and snapping often at home, at my brother and me who kept the machine running.  I did all the family laundry by the age of 12; my brother and I were in charge of all housecleaning during our after-school times.  TV was off-limits except for one half hour while mom made dinner if we had no homework, and if I missed a bus, I walked to or from school (1.6 miles to the high school).  I don't know how to say no without guilt, but I don't have a model for saying yes without resentment and forcing others to spread as thin as you are.

Adult life is a very carefully crafted balance between doing things for yourself and doing things for others.  I think that I have found that balance for me right now (even though it means I get together with friends only about twice a year), but whenever I get a call like these, I think I'm not doing enough to pull my weight for the organization, and consider resigning my membership.  For a long time, I avoided participating in any of my sorority's regional alumnae organizations because I could not take on another leadership role.  I was burned out after taking on several after college, and  I would only join organizations that were big enough to run smoothly without me.  I thought that the quilt guild - with about 150 members - was one of them.  I love being an AOII, I am proud to be a University of Delaware alumna, and I get such creative stimulation by being in a quilt guild.  But I cannot take on one more obligation to someone else, and so we do not have a local UD alumnae chapter (I turned down the request from the alumni office to start one), I am not part of an AOII alumnae chapter, and I wonder if I should leave the guild.  It's not that I wouldn't love to help out, but I can't quit my job, I need to take care of my body (sleep and exercise), I already spend too little time with my son for my taste, my great aunt would be in deep doo-doo if no one acted on her behalf, and there are abused children in the system who need my help.  The quilting can fall by the wayside, but honestly, if I don't have time to quilt because I'm part of a quilt guild, what's the point?

I used to suck it up and say yes and deal with it because, let's face it, everyone else is busy too.  But then I saw the People I Want To Punch In The Throat post today about people who are busy who aren't really busy (not that this describes any of the women in the guild because I don't think it does) and I wonder, why am I considering giving up my few moments of peace and sanity in my day to day world when people like this are out there claiming to be too busy also?  Why can't I just say NO and be okay with it?

How do you handle another "can you please consider committing your time to ... " request?