Friday, November 20, 2015

Secret Agent Spy Stuff

It's been deliciously quiet here, so I have been quiet on the blog. The days have been filled with the satisfyingly mundane chores of everyday life. Nothing to see here. Little things give me ridiculous pleasure, like having a clothes chute from the master bedroom to the basement laundry, but are hardly worth a blog post. (Well, except for this one, I guess.) My days are a lovely mix of quilting, knitting, spinning and cooking. I have finally embraced this gift of unregimented time, this sabbatical from the frantic pace of teaching/travel/publishing of the past decade or so.

The weather has been unseasonably warm, autumn has lingered well into winter. They are predicting some measurable snow for over the weekend, so I'll be hustling to get the last of the tulip and daffodil bulbs into the ground later today. I'm down to the last forty or so, which shouldn't take long. I've already planted nearly a hundred bulbs. This spring there will be color!

A Fine Romance did get put aside for a while. There are other things that I'd like to get cracking on, and there were a couple of deadlines to be met, for projects I can't show you. I've sent off a block to Quiltmaker for their 100 Blocks publication. I really like it and think it needs to be quilt, so I will be fussing around with layouts until I find one I must make.

I've also been messing about with some new machine quilting techniques. I can't show you that either just yet. I can tell you it's been the most fun I've had with my clothes on. After years of swearing that I'd never wear gloves for quilting (when will I learn that "never" usually means "next week"), I've discovered that gloves are just the thing for this new process.

I still hate having to take the gloves off to thread the needles or even work the touch screen on the sewing machine. Until someone makes quilting gloves with the special conducting fibers in the fingertips, I've solved the problem by cutting the tips from the thumb and index fingers on my right hand glove. It also serves up a bit of cooling. Since my inner child is playing with matches again, any cooling I can get is a good thing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What I did on my October vacation

October is a weird month for me. I love everything about autumn. It's been lovely to learn what colors the trees around us will become. On my street, autumn is golden. It's been amusing to see how neighbors deal with falling leaves. I'm not saying it's competitive lawn care, but I will say that I have a few meticulous neighbors. It's been a learning curve for we country bumpkins.

On the first Saturday, we met our son and his family in Milwaukee for a day at the zoo.He was in town to run a marathon. We had a delightful day with our grandchildren, right up to the point when my granddaughter sneezed right in my face. Well, it was still delightful afterward, but I knew what was coming. Sure enough, ten days later I'm out for the count. Children are adorable little germ bombs.

I was invited to offer a little demo of my applique technique during the day meeting of the Evergreen Quilt Guild here in Green Bay. These demos are supposed to be informal little snippets of tips and technique, offered up by members of the guild. Well, of course I went over the top. It's what I do. I made little kits and patterns for everyone. These things are tiny, and heaven knows I have the stash. But I love it when I can be the pied piper for applique. I'm pretty sure they now know that I'm a bit obsessive, but you know, if I'm going to do something, especially any kind of teaching, I just have to do my best.

This. This is freedom. I agonized, agonized, for a week about what to do with the leftover parts. I had bits and pieces of pumpkins and leaves and templates printed on Wash Away Applique Sheets just nagging at me. Perhaps a table runner, but no, I'd want to make the pumpkins larger. Maybe just a little candle mat, no, I'd want to add so much more to it. What I want is to be done with it. So there. The leftovers served their purpose, their job is done, time to go into retirement. Permanently. (Oh, wait. I don't think I've emptied the can yet. There is still time...) In case you want one of your own I've uploaded the pattern (free) to my Craftsy pattern store. LINK

So here's where October gets weird for me. I loathe Halloween. I pretty much hate everything about it. (Am I the only one?) It's become so gory, it seems to celebrate the evil and ugliness around us. I know, it's a thing, but I find myself hunkering down, closing in during the last week or so of October.

I will admit that I got a big kick out of handing out candy this year, something we haven't done in twenty years. The little ones are the best. Still, I'm relieved that November is here and we can celebrate our better natures in Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Danger Zone

 This project is in real trouble. After months and months of work, this quilt is on the verge of becoming a WIP (a Work In Progress, otherwise known as a project laying about that isn't actually being worked on) or, more ominously, a UFO (UnFinished Project).

Half of the center applique is done. The rest is mostly pinned on and will be stitched in place today. All of the parts are sorted and just waiting for their curtain call. But I'm losing steam. I'm losing interest in finishing.

It might be the distractions. I have several projects waiting in the wings, projects that I am itching to get to. The beguiling thing is that the projects are sneaking into brand new processes and I am always enticed by the opportunity to learn something new.

I have this stack of software waiting to be loaded onto my computer. It's embroidery software for my Bernina 880, including the cut work tools. The 880 has a stitch designer function, allowing me to create my own decorative stitches. I want to design new applique edge stitches, I can already see them in my head. I'm anxious to get started, but I have this big project I need to finish first.

And then there's this pile of stuff. Have you seen the quilting they're doing with rulers and domestic sewing machines? Check this out. How did I not know about this? Of course I had to run out and get a sampling of tools and equipment. There just might be an easier way to finish quilting Christmas Yet to Come! Of course I'll need to practice, and for that I'll need practice projects. Oh, but I have this big project I need to finish first.

Of course, none of that even takes into account of all of the other distractions around here. I have this terrific new electric spinning wheel to master. And while it is the coolest thing since forever, I still love spinning on the traditional wheel, so it needs some loving attention.

As for the loom, well, I'm just not sure about that. If it's going to take up prime real estate in the living room it certainly needs to be warped and worked on. It may be looking for a new home shortly. Not sure that the weaving bug has really stuck with me. But for now, I really have to concentrate on this big project.

I worry that if I put A Fine Romance aside it will never be finished, look what's become of Christmas Yet to Come. It is still waiting to be quilted. Or worse, it will lurk in the background, making me feel guilty for not wanting it any more. Oh, wait, it's currently staring me in the face and making me feel guilty for not wanting it any more.

I'm not sure when I gave up multi-tasking projects to become a serial processor. Well, that's not completely true. I think of myself as monogamous within crafts, it's okay to work on more than one project as long as I'm cheating on quilting with knitting, or spinning or weaving. (Lucky for me that gardening, baking, and decorating are chores, not hobbies or I'd really be toast.)

Indecision might turn out to be my best friend. I am making good progress even while I think about setting it aside. What do you do? How do you stay faithful to large projects, or is that just silly? Am I the only quilter in the universe who works on one quilt at a time?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Just a couple of knots

So much has happened since I started this project that I couldn't remember if I had a plan for the center of the flowers. Well, that's not true. I know I had a plan. I always have a plan. Not remembering the plan meant that I needed to come up with one pretty quick.

I was fairly certain that wool was involved, so I started by cutting circles out of different colors of wool. I had to remind myself that testing isn't wasting, that it would be so much better to toss a couple of circles of fabric than regret dozens and hours of work too.

In the end I settled on yellow. I haven't used much yellow in the quilt so far, and it adds a nice sparkle. I tried different sizes, considered cutting star shapes instead of circles. But, in the end, the yellow circle ruled the day.

(I can't believe how much the glue shows in these pictures. I sure was sloppy with it. No worries, though, it will all be gone in the first wash.)

In the end it was really all about the french knots. They make me ridiculously happy. Using #5 perle cotton makes them look like fat and happy seed beads. Some how the plan (see, I did have a plan) changed from a simple circle of knots to a center full of knots.

All that is left for me to do is to make the bias strips and get to stitching all the parts and pieces to the backgrounds. Doesn't seem like much, does it, after coming so far?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

There, now here

We have all this stuff. Too much stuff, depending on who you ask, but I'm not asking today. The trick is making it fit. Not fit, like finding a place for everything, but finding what's right for this house. I'm having trouble using what we brought with us to decorate where we are now.

To be honest, it was all starting to feel a bit stale. A couple of years ago I realized that I hadn't redecorated in a very long time. It was as if I had finally found just the right thing for each space and then left it there. I was happy with it, and then, suddenly, I wasn't. Now I've brought it all here. I'm torn between comforting familiarity and the idea of trying to make this house into the one we left. (I tried to convince Kent that we should just sell all of it and use the moving stipend to start fresh, but he wasn't persuaded.)

This is the kitchen chandelier that came with the house. Meh.

This is the chandelier that we brought with us. It was perfect in the old kitchen. It has a sweet story. My mom found it at a yard sale for a song. Knowing how much I love blue willow, she thought it would be perfect for me and had it in the trunk of her car when we found the Saginaw house. Hanging it was one of the first changes we made when the old house became ours.

I can't decide. Wall color aside (it will be gone as soon as the weather shifts us from garden to indoor work), does it fit? Can I decorate the kitchen around it? (You have no idea how badly I'd love to paint the cabinets white. If they were real wood it would have already been done.) Does it stay, or does it go?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Small victories

It was truly of moment of truth when the sashing strips were sewn together for the quilt borders. These strips were challenging little buggers, with all the angles and matching points. It didn't help things at all that they were constructed in the hotel room, with a jerry-rigged cutting table, mini ironing board and dodgy hotel iron.

There certainly is a lot of "character" in the edges, that's for sure. Truthfully, I spent more time dreading the easing it was sure to require than it actually took to sew everything in place.

Look at it! They match up to the border perfectly. Perfectly. Not a bit of stretch needed! You know this doesn't happen often, so when it does, you'll have to forgive me my little bit of crowing, please.

I'm proud of the quilts I make, but they are far from perfect. There are a lot of secrets tucked between the quilt top and the batting.

But then we're like that too, aren't we. We like to present our best face and keep our failures tucked away. I think we're the most interesting when the facade falls away and we're our truest selves. Feel free to look for the flaws. I think they are the best feature. But, for once, for this part of the quilt, no easing required!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A garden where none was before

It is fair to say that the folks who owned this house before us were not into gardening. They said so themselves. Most of what lives in the ground here has been in place for almost thirty years. Like the evergreen bushes that left the front yard earlier this summer, and the ones blocking most of the sunlight into the studio.

My original plan was to turn this area into a dry river bed, shade garden. It was dark, gloomy and uninviting. But when those nasty bushes (does anybody really like them?) were removed my whole plan changed.

Suddenly we had sunlight! When I say "we" worked in the garden mostly I mean Kent does the hardest, sweatiest parts and I zoom in at the end and make the pretty part happen. I'm also usually the one who thinks up the plan. Luckily, Kent is willing to play along. The walkway stones are leaning on the retaining wall while the sod goes in.

The angel, who has followed us from Wisconsin to Michigan and back to Wisconsin again has finally found just the right spot. Since this corner remains pretty shady, I've planted ferns around her. The birdbath end of the path gets marvelous afternoon light, so it's planted with sunny to partly shady plants that will bloom in the spring. I couldn't resist adding in a couple of mums for fall color. (I just may sneak a few pansies in there before the end of the planting season.)

With the bushes gone I can see the entire garden from my desk. The bench is a wonderful place to be quiet and thoughtful. I think this will be the last big change we'll make to the yard this year, honestly there's not a whole lot left to do. Next spring Kent would like to turn that screen tent into a true gazebo. Slowly we are making this place into our place. It's hard to feel fully invested here, with the ties remaining to the house in Saginaw, but we're coming along. It may take a while to feel truly at home, but we do like it here.