Friday, August 31, 2007

Necessary Repairs

Oh my gosh! It worked! I have pictures!!!

It occurred to me that Blogger may be having issues because of the brownouts in southern California. They've been suffering a heat wave and demand for power is high. Who needs to blog when people need air conditioning?! "Not I!" said the Sewing Magpie. So I put the final beads on my Tree of Life journal quilt, backed and bound it, and it's DONE. All I have to do now is get a decent picture of it for you.

In the meantime, let me show you another slice of my studio. This is the spot - literally, just a spot - where I do most of my work. My sewing machine is just to the right. The area you see here is where I do my handwork.

And what you see below is some hand work that needed to be done because of the Vicious Reilly Dog. The awful mad kitty is losing it's tail and the poor chipmunk has lost a paw. The kitty was just poorly sewn at the factory. Hopefully the repair I've done will hold. The chipmunk will forever be a gimp now though. Reilly has a thing for polyfil. Once he gets a plush toy open it's only a matter of time before it's been reduced to a mere shell of it's former self. So I figure the chipmunk got off easy.

Another thing I should get a picture of is the sign I have that says

"Creative Minds are Rarely Tidy."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Third Time Wasn't the Charm

I have been trying to post my progress of the last few days.

Blogger is not co-operating.

I will keep trying.

Maybe I'll find that magic window of time when all the forces will work for good instead of evil!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Scattergories (or, How to Avoid Doing What You Really Should Be Doing!)

So Lora at Lora's Keyhole has started a game for us. I came across it on Beading at the Beach and thought I'd play along since I'm avoiding the sewing table for some reason. The game is SCATTERGORIES. I figured I'd better jump in early as the answers using my letter could get used up in a hurry!

Here are the rules:

~ Use the 1st letter of your name to answer each of the questions.
~They MUST be real places, names, things ... NOTHING made up!
~ If you can't think of anything, skip it.
~ You CAN'T use your name for the boy/girl name question.
~ If your name happens to start with the same letter as mine, sorry, but you can't use my answers!

My name is Sue:
1. Famous Singer/Band: Springsteen
2. Four letter word: S**t!
3. Street: Salem Ave.
4. Color: Scarlet
5. Gifts/Presents: Skeins of yarn/thread
6. Vehicle: Saturn Ion
7. Things in a Souvenir Shop: Souvenirs - duh! (Oh okay, Stickers)
8. Boy Name: Sean
9. Girl Name: Shaunna
10. Movie Title: Serendipity
11. Drink: Sparkling mineral water
12. Occupation: Sales
13. Celebrity: Susan Sarandon
14. Magazine: Scenic Byways
15. U.S. City: Saugatuk, MI
16. Pro Sports Teams: Steelers
17. Fruit: Seedless watermelon
18. Reason for Being Late for Work: Stuck in traffic
19. Something You Throw Away: Soiled disposable diapers
20. Things You Shout: So long!
21. Cartoon Character: Snagglepuss

And now maybe I can settle down to sew...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thank You, One and All!

Thanks for the suggestions for dealing with my action papers. Every last one of them is a good and workable solution. I think we even have a clear acrylic wall pocket around here somewhere that I could use (I used to use it, in fact, but had forgotten that we had it). I'm going to wait just a bit before I install anything though because I want to also raise the monitor off the surface of the desk a little and that may affect where or what I can put on the wall over the desk. There's still a pile of stuff I need to go through but I moved some books and things around the other day and the improvement is noticeable:

Once I got the most essential items dealt with I had to do something creative and fun. Remember those log cabin blocks I'd pulled out? There was another block in that pile that I didn't share with you then:

I had it off to one side on the design wall and was contemplating using it as a starting point for my August journal quilt. Do you see the little purple house in the center of the block? Earlier in the week I built a composition around it, with the house block dead center. At the time I was content with it but I didn't have time to sew it together. The more I looked at it over the course of the next few days the less happy I was with it. Finally I took the house block out of the center, moved it to another spot on my design wall, and started over. This time I moved the house to the upper right hand corner of the journal page. Then I put a leftover 'X' block in the upper left corner. In my mind it could serve as a "sun" shining down on whatever picture I was creating. Next I found a couple of those orphan log cabin blocks that featured greens. I used them in the foreground of my picture. To me they were fields of crops. Without being consciously aware of it I was creating a scene from my youth: My folks had a cottage on a lake in the middle of farmlands in western Michigan. All I lacked was the lake. Granted, mine is orange, but that's what works. ;- )

I am much happier with this composition than the first one. (I meant to get a shot of the first one to share with you but got so engrossed in creating the new version that I missed my opportunity.) I have basted the top to a piece of batting but couldn't decide right away whether I wanted to do any machine quilting on this one or not. Overnight I decided to just do handwork to quilt and embellish it. I have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to do with the "sun." Not as sure about the house or the fields but we'll see what develops as I work on it...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I Have A Question

This past weekend DH installed a computer in my studio on what used to be my sewing desk (before this room became my studio). This is how I was using my desk:

This is how it looks now (sort of; I have already made a few changes):

With the monitor and keyboard and speakers there's no longer room for a lot of the trinkets and stuff that I had on the desktop. I'll eventually find a place for them. My biggest challenge at this point is coming up with a new, better, system for dealing with the papers that come in. Most of them get filed or dealt with fairly quickly (There are hanging folders in the blue crate on top of the desk.). But there are always those papers that I either don't know what to do with or that will require action on my part eventually. Being a visual person, I want some way to keep them out where I can see them and be reminded of the need to act on them. But I don't have room on the desk now for a tray or basket (or the cardboard box I was using!). I'm thinking of using a clipboard that I could hang on the wall. I expect to be rearranging the books in the bookcase to the right of the desk, moving some out in favor of others. I've thought about using a bit of that shelf space for my papers requiring action but that idea doesn't "feel right." So my question is, Do you have any suggestions? How do you cope with the papers you don't want to deal with (or don't have time to deal with) right away?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New Quilts, Old Quilts, and Soon-to-be-Quilts

I would have been on the computer yesterday, reveling in the fact that I'd finished the orphan house crib quilt, except that we went to the local multi-plex cinema to see "Stardust" in honor of my youngest son's birthday. I was excited because there were only a handful of people in the theater when we got there for the first showing. Unfortunately, someone in that handful was wearing one of the fragrances that is most toxic to my system. I had to get up and leave before the trailers even came on. Got a refund on my ticket, drove home, and all but collapsed. I couldn't do anything but I wasn't interested in taking a nap either (it was only 10:30 for goodness sakes!). Turned on NPR and listened to Bob Edwards interview an author and Peter Yarrow (from Peter, Paul, and Mary). Peter sang bits of "Puff the Magic Dragon" and other songs and I bawled like a baby. By the time "Car Talk" came on I was ready to at least play in my orphan bits and scraps.

I threw some of the blocks on the wall - all variations of Log Cabin - with the intention of making a doll quilt out of them just for fun. (Have you checked out the doll quilt swaps that are going on elsewhere? I'll have to find the link for you...) That's about as far as I got before I had to go pick the guys up again from the theater. Didn't get back to the studio the rest of the day. At least, not to sew.

In the evening I found I couldn't settle to anything so I started inventorying the quilts in my possession. I'd been wanting to do this for some time as I have quilts strewn and stored all over the place and I wanted someplace, some format, where I could easily see what I've got and where it is. I went around the house with a stack of index cards, putting pertinent information about each quilt on its' own card. In the beginning, for the little quilts, I included the dimensions of the piece. By the time I got to the bigger, bed size quilts I was too hot and tired to bother. I was surprised at how many quilts there are! At the very end I also made cards for the quilts/tops that I couldn't physically lay my hands on but that I know are here in storage. I intend to flesh out the data on each of these quilts for future reference but for the time being I just made note of its' existance. This morning I came across a piece I'd overlooked last night, a piece I had to call my aunt to get the details on.

Most of the heirloom quilts/tops I have in my collection were made by one great-grandmother, Eva Eliza Everett Smith. This little top, which would measure about 20" x 23" if someone hadn't taken a chunk out of it, was reportedly made when she was 6 years old. That means it dates from about 1870!

If you look very closely (maybe you'll get a bigger image if you click on the picture) you might be able to see where she pieced a tiny triangle onto what once was a square but is now a rectangle to make that square big enough to use with the rest of her patches. Look at the bottom row where the cut was made, the third patch in from the left side. The added triangle is in the upper right corner of the rectangle. (Someday I will learn how to use the macro feature of this camera, I promise!)

I've also photographed the back for you so you can see the hand piecing.

Part of me wants to finish this up into a little doll quilt, to preserve it if for no other reason. But then you wouldn't be able to see the hand piecing. And I'd have to make a decision about how to handle the section that's been cut off. And there are a few small holes in the fabric in the middle of the top. So I probably won't do anything with it for now. Maybe when I'm rich and famous and can afford it I will have it mounted and framed appropriately.

Oh yes, and here's the finished crib quilt:

Now DD can have that baby!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bet You're Tired of Looking at this Almost-Quilt!

It feels sooo good to be productive again. I have been working on the baby quilt; it is ready to baste and quilt. I even have the backing ready. As I'm looking at it I'm thinking, "That's a lot of houses to go around!" I'm not comfortable with my free motion quilting skills yet. It may be time consuming and a bit tedious, but I think it might actually be quicker for me to just stitch in the ditch around the houses and their windows and doors. We'll see. Once I get started I may change my mind and figure out some other, easier/quicker quilting pattern!

The sashing strips ended up being less involved than I originaly planned. I was going to try to include some more of the cats (which you can see running vertically between two houses in the second row from the top) lower in the quilt and maybe horizontally again. In my haste to just get this thing together I completely forgot about that idea. I wanted to include some more of the balloons lower in the quilt too, but the scale of the print was too big for the spaces I had left. This will do. It wasn't meant to be a masterpiece after all!

DD has an appointment with the ultrasound folks on Monday. Doctor is concerned that the baby may be small for this stage of the game. Baby doesn't feel small to Momma! DD is a very petite woman with a very petite frame. Most people who see her don't believe she is about two weeks away from delivering (she's getting very tired of, "There's no way you could be 9 months pregnant!"). Suffice to say that those of us in the know expect the baby to be just the right size. At least this way we get another picture and can check again to see whether the baby still looks like a girl!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's Been a Week...

And not one of my better ones. But it wasn't all bad and it wasn't all chemical related. Two of the days were spent reading the last Harry Potter novel. I've read Bad Prince Charlie by John Moore and dipped into some vintage Terry Pratchett (Wyrd Sisters). And now I'm reading Jo Dereske's lastest, Catalogue of Death. The "new" computer has been brought home, files transferred, etc. but it has yet to be completely debugged and set up in its permanent home. I have barely touched a needle and thread since the little cat postcard quilt. The crib quilt is still on the design wall, waiting to be sashed, and my August journal quilt is nonexistant. Hopefully I will soon be out of this rough patch. Going 'round and reading other blogs will no doubt be helpful and/or inspiring. But I've got to find out what happened to poor Mr. Harrington first...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Let me just start off by saying that our temps have dropped and the sky is an all-too-familiar gray. I am not complaining however. I've heard about the heat and the humidity the rest of you (in the US) are suffering. I know what that kind of weather is like and will contentedly sit back and enjoy what looks like November here in August!

A couple of posts back I showed a picture of two stacks of batting pieces: one for journal quilts, the other for postcard-size quilts. I have not yet begun my journal quilt for this month (hanging my head in shame) but I did allow myself the pleasure of making a postcard quilt today just for the fun of it. This is something of an accomplishment for me. In the past I've always felt that any project I undertook had to have a purpose, even if I wasn't exactly sure what that purpose would be. Granted, this postcard quilt could be sent to someone someday, but the point is that I made it just to give myself the opportunity to have fun with needle and thread. To play. So I got into my scraps and found this print of a Jim Shore cat who turned out to be almost exactly the right size. And then I embellished it/her:

First I seed stitched (or chicken scratched, depending on who you learn it from) around the cat. The background right around the cat was a slightly different color than the area closer to the edges so I used two strands of rayon floss, one blue and one purple, close to the cat and two strands of blue only around the perimeter. Then I did giant cross stitches in yellow - freehand - at the top and the bottom. There are just-barely-green plastic flower beads along the top border. The giant hot pink and lime green flower appliques along the bottom are held on with a sprinkling of seed beads in their centers. (If I eventually decided to mail this I will have to go back in and stitch those flowers down more securely.)

There's no back on the postcard yet, just the fabric and the batting with my stitches going through those two layers. I'll figure out how I want to finish the edges and cover the back if and when I decide to do something more with it. But, as far as I'm concerned, this is not a UFO. The state it's in now is precisely what I was aiming for when I began work on it so it is finished. Anything beyond this is gravy. My intention is to do one of these once a week or twice a month, depending on my health and other projects, and just sort of let them pile up so I can observe my progress overall at some point down the road. This is a learning experience for me, nothing more. I have to say that I'm really pleased with how this one turned out though! ;- )

By the way, Reilly sends his regards:

(Got any treats?)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Did You Hear...?

There's a rumor in the air around here that I may be getting my own pc this week. It's used, which is essential because that means it has off-gassed already and should be safe for me to use, but I have no idea how long it will take DH to get it ready for me to use. When it shows up I will also have to clear some space on my desk to accomodate the monitor, keyboard, etc. That should be an interesting process!

I have no pictures to show you today because I got to spend most of the day with my DGD and DD. I'm pooped! DD has approved the new house quilt, and we discussed options for backing it. DGD had me outside (something I normally try to avoid because I never know what's in the air that might be problematic for me) and I pulled a few of the weeds. The thistles are taller than DGD. If I'd had my gloves with me I'd have pulled them too. Fortunately they were not on her path around the front yard. We have one of those little wooden bridges spanning absolutley nothing in our yard and she likes to start on top of it and make her way around the perimeter of the yard, picking the creeping succulent "flowers," dodging the dandelions, and forging her way through the dense undergrowth where there used to be a "streambed." (I'm sure all this landscaping was very artistic at one time. I'd prefer to have a patch of grass and a nice perennial bed. Well, since we're daydreaming here, I'd prefer to have a gardener to take care of it all too! One of those nice muscular young men...)

About the issue with the magazines: the paint respirator mask didn't work out. The mask itself was too toxic for me to wear. It occurred to me this morning that maybe I could enlist the aid of one of the Boy Scouts at our church to build me a safe box for reading material for a merit badge or something. So I made a couple of phone calls only to learn that our Boy Scout troop is at Scout Camp all this week. Figures! Oh well, I'll just have to call the troop leader next week. And try to avoid looking at those magazines in the meantime!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Welcome to the Neighborhood

I promised an interim picture of the new baby/crib quilt and here it is:

I only have to add some sashing to make it the length we're shooting for. I expect to be piecing the sashings a bit to add additional interest to the composition. (The bright white strips you see between the horizontal rows are where the sashings are most likely to go.) At this point I'm too cranky to do more work on it. I made the mistake of opening the new Fiberarts magazine that came in yesterday's mail and now I'm suffering the consequences. {sigh} I didn't even READ any of it! I just paged through real quickly to see what it contained! Guess I'll get out the paint respirator and see if that will protect me from the fumes... If that works then maybe I can also read the last two Quilting Arts magazines and not have to cancel my subscription.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Another Orphan Quilt

Well, it's been an interesting morning here already. I tried to do this post earlier but Blogger wasn't up to it. Then our power went out and stayed off for a little over two hours. Thank heaven for good books and sunshine!

While the power was out I suppose I could have finished the beading on my journal quilt ; I just wasn't in the mood for it. What I wanted to do was continue working on the new baby/crib quilt I'm creating from some of my orphan house blocks. I pulled them out the other day and put the happiest blocks on the wall. This is what I came up with:

The smallest houses that you see in two groups of four were actually individual blocks that I went ahead and sewed together. There are a couple of those leftover, and maybe 10 or so other blocks that could have gone into this composition. There was one unfinished house - it ony lacked its' chimney and some surrounding sky - so I put it together and then swapped it for the 9-Patch house in the lower righthand corner. I see now why it was unfinished* but I'm going to leave it the way it is in the spirit of free-pieced houses and orphan blocks. ;- )

*The base of the chimney doesn't match up with the roof of the house; it sort of hangs out in mid-air!

I spent yesterday auditioning fabrics for sashing and filler bits. I'm happy with the progress so far but do not yet have a picture to show you. It's kind of a mess at the moment. When I get it a little further along I'll take its' picture again.

This quilt may be a bit busy for some folks when it's all done but I like it much better than the first orphan baby quilt I made (which is still waiting to be sandwiched and quilted):

I may let DD choose which one she'd like to have first for the new baby. I'm sure she will eventually end up with both of them. And now that the power is back on I can go back to ironing and cutting and sewing!