Thursday, December 30, 2010

This-n-That & a Christmas Finish

My week has been fairly uneventful, bordering on kind of boring. Just the way I like it - no huge surprises unless you count the 12" of snow that arrived Sunday & Monday. My kids have all been home, driving me nuts some of the time, but the boys are off to my mom's tomorrow for 2 nights so I have lofty hopes of actually making some headway on a client's quilt.

This client is from Sacramento, CA and located me from my quilting of the Folsom Quilt & Fiber guild's raffle quilt. Photos of this quilt were recently uploaded to their site here. I started on this quilt yesterday, but have been severely lacking the creative mojo so I have been poking around with other things so as to minimize how much pickout I will have to do!

My Italian floor quilt, as you know, is off the frame and is undergoing some pick out and marking for a final quilting that will happen in a week or 2. You might think I love the seam ripper considering I have spent 8-10 hours this week picking out sections!

I'll leave you with pictures of a quilt I did for my mom. The fabric is a Stephanie Brandenburg panel. I just had fun with it, using nearly a dozen colors, and a variety of fillers.
The view from the back is my favorite!
Have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting Past that post-Christmas Funk

Usually I have the funk in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but this year is different. Since Christmas, I have hardly been able to do anything. I am over-tired, my body aches and is sore. My mind is kind of numb. It's just not like me, and I don't like it. Today I didn't even get dressed. Mind you, we had a blizzard roaring outside, and we were all couped up inside anyhow, but still.
The days leading up to Christmas were really busy. I was getting less and less time to sew, which is my natural mind-vent. It is what rejuvenates me when I am tired. Last Thursday, we spent the day at my inlaws. Celebrating with them is always an anticlimactic event, bordering on underwhelming. I know my MIL means well, but she just never gets her shit together before Christmas, and that just bugs me. Planning and being ontime are not her forte. Come to think of it, they are not something she does at all. She more or less bought the kid's gifts right off of my "do not buy" list for her. I had these already wrapped from Santa. One gift got unwrapped before I knew what she'd bought, but one for my son I made her keep. So that left him only getting a really dorky pad of drawing paper for Christmas. She'd allegedly knit him a scarf that says "Star Wars" too, which he'd love but she wouldn't give it to him because she didn't have the same thing finished for my other son. I hate that she has to give each one the same thing. If she gives us one thing, she makes a point to tell us that she sent the same damn thing to the cousin in CA, who we never see! Seriously, who cares?? We go from completely underwhelming to total excess. My family gives a multitude of gifts to each person. It would be a happy amount if it were less than half as many, but that will never change. My brother's family has been out of the country the last 2 Christmasses and they brought a ton of goodies from Europe. I felt cheap this year, but I will get over it. I did relatively little quilting for anyone, and chose to give size appropriate gifts. Go figure that this is the year that nobody else did!
My middle kid had been a total pill all week long. We had an incident with his school early on, and his behavior and attitude just left us both exhausted and frustrated. My SIL came over on the 24th with her girls for a few hours and the kids just argued constantly. It was, sadly, a relief when they left. I just hate this. They used to be all so sweet together, but that day was awful. We were kind of tense and stressed, just wishing that Christmas would be over once and for all. The thought of taking them to Christmas Eve church was just plain scarry! Plus, we normally go to a 5pm service, which is mostly kids, but this year I wanted to do a candlelight service at 7pm -- kind of clost to bedtime! We were left with no choice since my husband was out all afternoon returning a gift for Sophie that my MIL gave her the day before, and buying a new damn fish. You see, the week before I got my boys 2 Betta fish (male & female), and attempted to hide them in the basement for a week. Apparently, we have a very aggressive male, and he either ate all the food, or ate part of the female. On the 24th, I discovered her dead. Dandy! If that wasn't a sign, what was??! Anyhow, long ranting here...The XMAS eve church service was delightful. My oldest learned to read the verses of the hymns, sang and liked it. He was entertained getting to hold the candle. My middle son fidgetted, but stayed quiet. And Sophie sang her own little version of the carols "Farmer in that dell, farmer in that dell, hi-ho and a jingle bell..." - you get the idea, mostly sung when there was no other music playing ! The older couple behind us were amused. I miss going to this service because there is something very serene when the church is illuminated only by candles, and we are doing the unaccompanied "Silent Night". Something came back to us in that hour that had been missing all week. Hope. Baby steps for now. Christmas was nice. The kids were good, happy, etc. Slowly I will try to regain the sense of clean around here. And maybe contemplate a mini-diet. Too many cookies and fudge!
17 days after starting this, I took the quilt off the frame. It's not done, but I have been puttering with it minimally the last several days so I figured I'd put the machine to better use. I have a customer quilt needing doing. I suspect in a few days I will feel motivated to conquer it creatively. I like how the quilt above looks more off the frame than I did on. That is often the case. This is the backside - it looks kind of like leather. I sat and picked out things I don't like for nearly 4 hours today. Pebbling is such a pain to have to remove! Seeing it down, though, gives me ideas of areas that need modifying.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

T minus 3

The Christmas preparations are about as much done as they are going to be. My husband and I went into my 6 year old's class yesterday to assist with a gingerbread house making activity. There was SO much candy it was insane. Even I ate too much of it. I can only imagine how much the kids ate, despite the instruction to only have 4 pieces. These houses were made with graham crackers royal iced (aka glued) to milk cartons, then decorated to death, as you can see!
Today I continued my cooking, just a little bit. I secretly really hate to cook. And I hate to do dishes more than that. But above all, I do love a good dessert, so here's what was made...
And the photos were not doctored!...The red velvet cake is so freaking delicious I can hardly wait. It's got 1 entire bottle of red food coloring in it to make it that deep color! Yesterday I struggled with my caramel corn. I had to remake the caramel once after having one batch crystallize (and then sending hubby to fetch me some more sugar). I have used a ghastly 6 lb of sugar this week between my caramel corn, these cakes and peanut butter fudge (double yum!). Yikes! I hear a diet in my January future...
I hate to admit that I have been quilting on this quilt 2 weeks now. That's not off & on for 2 weeks, that is about 45 hours of my life. I reached the bottom today, and breathed a huge sigh of relief, knowing that it can now be taken off the frame if need be, and put back on without causing any risk of creasing the backside. While I have a little time still, I am chipping away at little undone areas of it before I decide it is time to put on a customer quilt and get to business. When it is off, I will unpick any areas I am redoing, and do all of the marking necessary to finish it.
This afternoon, I quilted about 75 straight minutes of those straight lines in the black. They are 1/4" spaced. I've heard this type quilting called pinstriping or piano-keys, but this really is more like corduroy when it is this dense. It has tremendous texture. There's a good bit of ditch quilting to be done along those stripes, and I have not decided if I want to do it on the longarm or put it on my domestic, since they are so close to the edge.
It has challenged me every day, and despite feeling some days like I wanted to toss it overboard, I am starting to think it will be OK when it is finished. Only the good Lord really knows when that might be though!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

T minus 6

Christmas is less than a week away. My kids are wicked excited. Guess they think Santa has deep pockets and an amazing nack of bringing everything that they want and then some. I honestly hope that they are not disappointed! I sat Miss S down with a pan full of premade cookies the other day so I could get some house work done (gasp...I did not make them from scrap!). She added sprinkles and sweets for a good 20 minutes. Unlike her brothers, she didn't just eat the sugars! My mother came over later that day and made a gingerbread house with her. That girl does love to cook! Her letter to Santa has been mailed, and she even received a delightful letter in return. Talk about being something surprised to get a note from Santa. She's convinced he's definitely going to bring her every possible princess!
I've been nursing a cold for nearly a week now, and as of last night I have 2 kids with it too. I took Sophie to the doctor this morning for an ear infection. Between her and Bryce I was up 4 times last night for either aching ears, stomach ache, peed bed or puking. Pure delight. At 5am, I gave in and climbed into bed with her because I knew I wouldn't have to leave my nice warm bed again if I just stayed there!
So now I get to the nitty gritty of my life. I've been stitching away on this darn quilt for 10 days now. I have lost count how many hours I have spent on it, but it is way too many. And there are far too many ahead of me to count. At present, I am happily past the halfway point, but I know it will go back on the frame and get more work. So merely reaching the end of the quilt is definitely nowhere near the end.
I have 8 or 9 different threads in this one - as you can plainly see from the massive thread pile! It has made quilting this in a timely manner impossible. I am sort of at the point where I would be cursing the customer if it were not my own blasted quilt. I am feeling tired of it, defeated in how I am quilting it and just plain frustrated. The fabrics are impossible to see the quilting on and I am discovering after I free-quilt areas (when I look at the back), that they look sub-par. Rip, rip. I also marked this stupid rosette completely before quilting it, then after I removed the marking pen, I was horrified how crooked some of the lines looked. I could just cry. I think that this was the point where I just wanted to toss the entire quilt. I am mad at myself for making it so freaking microscopic, so that every area to quilt is tiny, requiring ultra-careful control.
I have areas where I have more or less experimented on how I want to quilt them, so there are sections requiring removing to make things similar! I want to infuse more gold metallic thread, and tried it on the gray squares/diamonds. Not sure if it will stay or be changed to a more visible color. My middle initial "E" seems to be for "experimental" lately. Ouch. Perhaps you have a suggestion for me...(hint!) That just reminds me that I discovered a section of gold quilting that has ticking on the backside. Oh boy, do I have a lot of picking out!
For the longest time I really did not want the computerized gizmos for my machine. I take pride in stitching freely and nicely, but it surely would make stitching look perfect in areas with horrific visibility. My little rows of pebbling could look flawless, rather than rows of poorly traced fresh water pearls.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesdays are Just For Me

OK, a few more peekeroos...

AHA, I finally devised a manner in which to take a few pictures so that there is visibility of the stitching. My clip lamp is low to the quilt and angled back at the area. Plus it is wet (sprayed to remove marking pen), which may make it easier to see. Not sure.
As I said before, these are AWFUL fabrics to quilt. I like my threads to blend, and because the fabrics are all mottled, the visibility is terrible. It's not so bad with the ruler work (which about 85% of the quilt is!), but those freehanded feathers are not nearly as cleanly stitched as they would be if I could see the threads!
I hope to actually claim being half done by end of tomorrow. I am just about ready to do the rosette. I just have a couple of small borders down each side and a couple cathedral windows to do first.
I am in the middle of a love-hate relationship. I don't usually get this technical unless they are for me. I have always said that I'd make my own worst customer. Perhaps that actually makes a better quilter for others. Who knows. Right now though, I question every section I stitch. Is that how I really want it to look? Is that really as good as I can sew those darn feathers? You catch my drift. I have committed to ripping out a section I did a few days ago - decided it wasn't my "vision" afterall, but mostly I am just hoping that this quilt is like most others, in that when it is off and I see it all out, laying flat, I will be pleased. After today's sewing, I am hopeful. I love the NYB sections, even if they did take 4 hours!
I am moving on slow this week, despite having all the time in the world (which I should be using to get things done that really need to be done!). My class finished last Friday, but except for the final exam, I am done until the kids are out next Wed. I threatened them that they'd be in trouble if anyone got sick and messed up "mama's week" (jokingly, ya know). It did happen last March when I had a week off from school, and one of the three was home with me every single day! What I never anticipated was that I'd be the one sick. Kinda sucks. I have a head cold, nothing major, but it is playing havoc with my ability to quilt all day! Guess I could have it worse (and well may next week if I pass this to anybody else!).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hard to Photograph

Holy crap!...photographing these mottled fabrics is nearly as hard as decorating a Christmas tree with six extra hands (always grabbing at the glass ornaments like they are juggling balls). It should come as absolutely no surprise that they are hard to photograph, since they are equally as hard just to see to stitch on. I find that I am going over stitching lines with a marking pen just so I know where they are when I am stitching another section!

I have quilted about 16" of the quilt, with a section in that still undone. Indecision :-((() I have known that these fabrics are screaming for the gold metallic thread, but until today I had never done much with it mostly out of fear. It was a notorious pain on my home machine so I just assumed it'd be worse on the longarm. Despite the dense pebble/mosaic section being the most time consuming to piece, it quilted up rather quickly this afternoon, and in metallic thread too.

So far, my biggest regret is with my backing fabric/color. It is a brown adobe colored fabric. I got it because it was 108", and was an easy choice. I really wanted the black/charcoal fabric, but settled on brown instead. It's just not quite as pretty. Looks like a big dirt clump rather than granite. Live-n-learn. First instincts...

I'm at a point where I need to design those next 2 solid borders. Then I suspect it's time to go pray that the center medallion comes on relatively flat (ha!~).

Hope your weekend was good. I quilted for four and a half hours since the hubby took the kids shopping - mine was pretty good!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Despite being massive excited about Santa coming to her preschool next week, Sophie more or less wanted absolutely nothing to do with the fat man in red today. That is my lap beneath her - she needed some reassurance. The boys, on the other hand were very excited to rattle off their Christmas wishes for Santa - all 30 or 4o of them! We also went and cut down a tree. Today was the first day in nearly 2 weeks that was tollerable to go outside. We've had dreadfully cold weather lately, unseasonably cold for December. And tomorrow they are predicting 2-3" of rain! Sounds like a good tree decorating (and sewing!) day.
I snapped this only because it's a little humor of our times. Who'd ever think that Santa Claus would use a cell phone??!
I have finally started quilting this quilt. I put it on the frame yesterday and have no idea how long it will take. I am allocating next week and 1-2 days the next week for it. After Christmas, I have a few customer quilts I'll need to attend to. I am 6 hours into it now, and have done parts of the outermost 3 borders. Nothing is completed on account of my inability to decide fully what to do. I like the cathedral-style windows done with the curved cross-hatching, but I am stymied as to how to quilt the area with the checkerboard (in the center of them). Ideas??? Should I continue the cathedral windows right over the checkerboard, or change pattern?
I am also basting a bit more than usual in case I need to take it off the frame and finish areas later. These Northcott Stonehenge fabrics are really pretty, but are proving to be hugely difficult to quilt because my threads are mostly coordinating (since the quilt is very busy itself), and it is impossible to see where I have stitched. The curved cross-hatching around the squares on point in the brown is done with a 1.5" circle template. It is tiny, and the edges of the template are not as smooth as I'd like. My fingers are wicked sore after 2 hours of manipulating that. I know, I know, you cannot really see that from the picture -- Another hazzard of coordinating threads! Eventually, the stitching will be visible (it will won't it??!).
I played with a metallic gold thread today that I ended up ripping out. I thought it might be a good thread to stitch in the area that is gray and brown. It was too tricky to feather with so I am guessing I will select a more muted tone, perhaps a softer brown or who knows. I have left areas unquilted that I just cannot quite figure out what to do with or cannot see well enough to stitch!
Stay tuned, I will periodically post pictures of this quilt's progress the next couple weeks. Hopefully it will progress quickly and without incident!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Pre-Christmas Quilting

I cut way back on the customer work I accepted to be completed before Christmas. I was feeling tired, and busy with finishing up my last class for a while, and just need a break to work on my own quilting things. Vanessa sent me this last month, and I agreed to quilt it for her so she can give it to her son for Christmas. Vanessa has done a couple of the swaps I did previously, so I could hardly not do this!!
It is very nicely pieced, rather simple, and a perfect canvas to do some creative quilting. The only glitch is that it is for a male, and boys and men are SO much harder to quilt for. I like to look for blank spaces when I get a quilt - spaces that can represent something. As an example, this quilt just screams with those square-on-point or diamond areas.
I did throw in a very little bit of feathering just to add variety to the quilting. The beadboard striped outer border is a simple type of quilting (simple to see, not to be confused with simple to quilt since it is timeconsuming ruler work), that seems suited for the busier fabric and males. I also did the freehanded curved-crosshatching as the background of the quilt to help the diamonds to show. The stars are all quilted the same with curves.
There was a lot of ruler work in this quilt, but it does look masculine. The backing of this quilt is also a CW repro print. It has to be the roughest quality Marcus fabric I have ever seen. It reminds me more of a civil war tent material than a quilting fabric!
I am embarking on my last Thermo class tomorrow before next week's finals. Do I hear "Yea!!"??/ You betcha! I am on course to do much quilting next week while all kids are still in school - nobody is allowed to be sick before Christmas!! I have my Italian floor quilt nearly on the frame. I have the backing, batting, and the pre-quilting jitters. It's just like the night before getting married. Oh, boy the nerves :-)) It's not perfect, but I have kept telling myself that I can quilt it despite it's small imperfections (like the fact that the center does not lay perfectly flat...DOH!). Hopefully I am right- I have about 50-60 hours invested or more in the piecing alone!
I ordered backing for this quilt too which arrived today. Too bad I made a calculation mistake. Sigh,....I ordered about a half yard too little. Rather than ordering more and having a solid beige backing, I am doing as Tim Gunn would. Make it work! Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Merry Christmas to Me

My house is not in the least decorated yet for Christmas. No tree yet. No outside lights. No stockings. My husband's too quick to remind me that the wreath that hangs outside the front door, which had Easter eggs on it (gasp!) was only taken down 3 weeks ago. I am vowing to make after Christmas easier by not over-decorating this year. But I have pulled out a mini quilt I made 1-2 years ago which I really like -- my Kaffe version of a partridge & a pear tree. And I have done the almost unthinkable at this time of year. I have decided to keep a table runner that I actually made for someone as a gift! Oh, Eeee Gads - this is awful, isn't it??! I just got it almost finished, and decided it was time for the quiltmaker to actually have a nice quilt too.
All the fabrics were bought (well, selected - Handi Quilter actually did the buying!) in Utah on my Handi Quilter retreat. They are all Asian prints with a gilding. Generally this type fabric does not appeal to me a whole lot, but when I finished the runner, I decided it looked holiday-formal, and that it should stay right here in my home. Afterall, next year we will have that nice, new dining room table to put it on. Plus it reminds me of that fantastic & magical trip. This year it is on my smaller buffet because the dang table is covered with Thermodynamics crap (and the usual fabrics!).
The quilting is simple, so as to let the fabrics be the focal. I copied part of the design I used for the mini wall quilt to use on this runner. I love the minimalist look which does not just scream Christmas. That's handy since I'm not diligent about removing those pesky holiday decorations right after the holiday!
I still have a pear stem, a bird's beek & eye to applique on, but it is mostly finished.
Here's a peek at the back. I couldn't bring myself to using the gorgeous Asian print for the backing, where the quilting wouldn't really show. It's just a brown Bella solid I had.
Now, this is causing quite a stir because I now have another person that I will have to shop for, and we all know how much I HATE to shop, especially now that winter is really here.
Another of Santa's offerings have come a little early this year too. OK, "he knows when you've been bad or good" no lies. I went shopping and opted to stock my stocking early myself (a wise woman never leaves this job to her husband or she'll get only kitchen gadgets and underwear!). There. I have purchased a few new templates. There are 2 rulers for making the cathedral windows for my Italian floor quilt (and just because I have really wanted some of these !!), and the other one is also for the same quilt, and to make insanely little circles...or curved cross-hatching that actually results in perfect little circles!

After not receiving any comments a few posts ago when I said I was adding yellow and orange flowers to this quilt, I assumed that the rest of the quilty world thought I was just nuts, and that you were too polite to say so. As you can see, I have mostly finished the addition of these flowers, and have done some pencil coloring on them to add lighter areas to the petals to give the flowers some dimension. I will shade the darker areas, and make petal definition with stitching.
I plan to add a few tendrils in a brighter green for the flowers, and perhaps add a flower bud or two on each corner. But you get the general idea...
My initial thoughts are mixed. I definitely love the added flowers, but know that this will be a total pain in the ass to quilt! The best things in life are always a double-edged sword.
Now I need to investigate whether I can still scallop the edge of this quilt, or if I have appliqued too close to make this feasible.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Word of the Day: Minky

A week ago, I knew I had 2 quilts coming to me in the mail. It was a bit of a shock when they arrived without normal cotton backings. "Ew!" I told myself, "slinky material". I had visions of when I did my last T-shirt quilt, which was kind of like quilting a spring. This fabric sent was minky. Now minky is very soft, and snuggly. I do understand why people like it. It also has a ton of static. It would be finthy in my house with the cat and my long hair. After a little research, I learned that minky really is not that hard to work with, but the quilting scheme had to be simplified somewhat so as not to overquilt or matt down the minky.

This is really the 2nd quilt I did, but booger blogger put them out of order. These are supposed to be little candies. Yes, those wrapper flaps were a pain in the you know where to be constantly pinning out of the way, etc. Plus, the gathered area which did need to be stitched down was like sewing through rawhide. I mean, what are there?? - 8 layers of fabric, batting, minky and then the additional layers due to the gathers.
I hope all quilters out there know to run fast when they see polka dotted white fabric like this one. Albeit, it is sweet and feminine, but OMG, how much paint (yes, I said paint) does a rightful fabric need ot have on it?? Surely the fabric manufacturers know what PAINT does to sewing machines??!! Anyway, drama aside, I hate this stuff, and you should too. It was almost like stitching through tee-shirt decals.
It is most definitely destined for a little girl. It's a cute idea for a quilt.
My outer border is more or less lost on the top of the quilt due to the busyness of the fabric, but it does show on the back. Ah, nice minky texture.
My client's other minky-backed quilt is fun. It too has rather busy fabrics -- a custom quilting in the center would have been totally lost. The feathering around the black border is nice though.
Another peek...
And 2 hearts on the long sides-
So now you too can go forth knowing that longarm quilting minky is possible without disaster. Juat a couple rules of thumb. Pin the minky onto the leaders using the selvage edges. Don't over tension. Don't over quilt it. And use a nice thin thread on the back like So Fine or Bottomline (I used this).
Then snuggle warmly!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

More Design Doodling

I have been thinking about what to quilt at the center of the rosette. It is the center focal and needs to ground the eyes. I think I may have gotten a little carried away though, as this is only just under 6" in diameter! Plus, I think the center design looks a tad like a swastica -- not good.
I have tried to simplify it a little. It would all be done in dark charcoal thread so no green stitches would show. The pebbling is only to make the feathering pop. As long as I have templates of the right size, I'd likely even do a double line spine so that it shows that much more.
Or, is the simpler approach better. You know KISS it...Keep it Simple Stupid. Guess I better see what circles I have in my template box. Something tells me I have a 4" and a 6" and a few real tiny ones.

Keep thinking! Keep dreaming. Keep quilting.