Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Just a few more of my decorations... I think the rest of them will have to wait until next year!

Moda witches ~ some of my favorite of all time :- ) These were cut from a border print stripe and backed with an appropriate print of another cotton. Then I filled them with polyfil and plastic pellets to give them weight and make them free-standing.

An addition to the entrance of our home:

And a close-up so you can really appreciate the sentiment:
The hallway in its' almost-complete state:
Not a great picture, but the best I could get under the circumstances. The beaded curtain is made up of little glow-in-the-dark skulls and bone shaped black beads. Love it! The black fabric on the wall is covered in green skeletons. You may be able to see the broom I've left in the corner. I've also hung a (small) witch's hat on one of the hooks on the right wall. (Unfortunately, behind my rain hat and umbrella. I might have to move that.) There's a glow-in-the-dark skeleton hanging from a noose back in the corner too. And there are a couple of soft-sculpture ghosts hanging around. (What appears to be a light fixture overhead is actually a sort of sky light.)

And now, for the next holiday...

Buenos Dias de los Muertos!

(forgive my Spanish - I really have none!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

There's Nothing Like Friends

These three amigos are made of the semi-squishy foam that allows them to be crushed and then regain their original shape. We've had them for several years and they've been through the mill as you can see: the guy on the left has lost an eye!

My friends are much better looking ;- ) Over the course of the last decade or so I've been gifted with three batches of friendship blocks, none of which have been made into a finished quilt. Yet.
The problem with the first two sets was my own fault. I ambitiously asked for blocks made any size as long as they would finish in some increment of 2". I thought it would be fun to put such a puzzle together. Someday it will be! I have had neither the space nor the energy to do much more than get them pinned to a sheet. The first set are all buildings. Houses, shops, barns, even an outhouse! I want to landscape that town properly, and someday I will. I've shown the second set, the black and white and hot pink blocks. I'll get to them too, but that's more of a spring or summer project. In the meantime, I have just received the last blocks from my most recent friendship block request. This time I wised up and asked for a specific block in a specific size (which, of course, they will not all be!). I even provided some of the fabric for the blocks.

My request was for Lincoln Logs blocks in flannel. I thought it would make a lovely, cozy, snuggle-up quilt and be fairly quick to put together. When I counted up the blocks I was given and did some math I realized I could easily make a quilt for my double bed rather than just a couch throw. So yesterday I made seven additional blocks:

Today I have been playing with the blocks on the living room floor to get a pleasing arrangement. In spite of the fact that I gave out two of the fabrics for each block I have a few blocks that are quite unique! Most of the blocks have a "country" flavor to them. Dark colors, floral prints or plaids... you know. The ringer blocks have bright hues in them or obviously juvenile prints. Making them fit in is a fun challenge. (It looks better in person, believe me. The white bits you see on the blocks here are little slips of paper with the name of the block maker on it.)

I think I have an arrangement I can live with. I made detailed notes as to what goes where so I can just sit at the sewing machine and assembly-line sew them together. The real trick will be to create a back for this top once it's complete. I am seriously running out of flannel! One of my goals is to use up old stock; this just might do it.

And now, some more of our old friends...

Dracula is a candy dish. I don't dare put candy in it until Halloween night because, as you can see, the rats might get it! (This is a very special rat. He's from NIMH and wears a beaded necklace.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Some Good, Some Not So Good...

I'm happy to report that I've been doing some sewing. Just not on either of my journal quilts! In this case I've used a charity as an avoidance technique. (Can a person be both bad and good at the same time?!) These red and white blocks are for Quilts 4 Leukaemia. I'd been wanting to make some blocks for that worthwhile cause ever since I first read about it on Clare's blog.

My son kindly pointed out that one block on my design wall was not like the others. How perceptive of him (heavy sarcasm). As you can see, I worked my way all around the skull journal quilt. What remains to be seen is whether I'll make one more block for a nicely balanced 9-patch set (not that the blocks will end up in the same quilt anyway) or whether this lot of 8 will go as is. They were just easier to make in sets of two. What surprised me was how little I had in the way of red scraps! And how hard I found it to work in only two colors: red and white. Especially for the free-pieced blocks. Traditional blocks often were made in only two colors. I just haven't had the desire to make any traditional blocks lately.

Yesterday morning while I was journaling I had an idea for using the recycled silk ties I collect. Since I had the opportunity to act on that inspiration I pulled out the boxes in which I keep the colors separated and had at it.

My original idea did not pan out. This is what I ended up with.

I can't say that I'm thrilled with it either. (The top row in the picture is not actually sewn in place at this point.) I have an idea for a variation on what I was trying to do but I'm not sure I'll be following up on it today. The pain of failure is a little too fresh. Not that I see this as a complete failure; it just didn't work out the way I had envisioned. And every "failure" serves to help me see more clearly what works for me. So it's not a failure, merely a method that didn't work. Who knows, maybe this will send me to my beads and threads and get me started embellishing that journal quilt!

And now, a little bit of Halloween:

The potholders on either side of the ghost oven mitt were made by a friend of mine, not me (although I have almost every fabric in them in my stash!). My DD has a couple of Halloween potholders that I made last year and saw again for the first time last week. They were cute! Who knew?! I have a couple more Halloween decorations I want to show you so I guess I'll have to get busy and get them photographed in the next couple of days :- )

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oh No Mr. Tangelo!

Look what I scored from Calamity Kim! He is the honorable Timothy T. Tangelo whom she "found" one day in her backyard. You can read his story in full here. It's totally worth the sidetrip, I assure you :- ) Timothy is currently keeping me company here at the computer. So far he has been traveling from one site to another here in the studio, checking out his new digs. I'm keeping him well away from Reilly though, as Timothy has a justifiable fear of dogs and squirrels and other live animals.

I have actually tried to post a couple of times since my last entry but Blogger was having difficulty uploading pictures. I find it interesting that without pictures it seems pointless to me to make a post and yet I am not much of a photographer. Go figure!

There hasn't been much sewing going on around here lately. I had the opportunity to spend time with the grandchildren unexpectedly. That will probably always take precedence over sewing! And I have the closet mostly put back together. There are still a couple of boxes whose contents I will have to deal with but I just couldn't put off sewing any longer. When I start to get depressed I know it's time to sew! And what better to cheer myself up than a bunch of skulls?

I pulled about a dozen prospective fabrics from my stash. Then, as I worked with those, I needed others to provide contrast, etc. Basically I started with the large skull and bones print, isolating bits I wanted to highlight. In the end I only used a grand total of five fabrics. Most of the rest were never even unfolded and will go back onto my shelves essentially untouched. (The black is a tone-on-tone print.) The whole top was pieced intuitively, just adding strips or chunks as it seemed appropriate. I do not hesitate to 'reverse sew' seams (i.e.: rip out stitches) if I decide I don't like the way something looks. In spite of how slow this process can be it is my favorite way to work these days.

This will be my next embellished journal quilt. I've only finished the piecing this morning so I don't know yet how it's going to be embellished, but it should be fun. I'd like to get it done quickly just so I can feel like I'm back "on schedule" for the Bead Journal Project. We'll see!

It's raining here today. How I wish I could send some of this moisture down to California!

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Very Goth Post

Here's one of the little vignettes DD created for Halloween. The vase is out year 'round (but not always with purple-black roses!). It's one of my treasures, handmade by local artist Marissa Motto.

When DD was here to help put out Halloween decorations she also did some reorganizing for me. Unfortunately that created new organizing issues. As a result I spent the entire day yesterday coping with a double closet that regurgitated! I hope to get some shelves installed today so that I can put it all back and be able to access things more easily. And then I can get back to sewing! In the meantime I present for your viewing pleasure my "Quilt for Goth Barbie."

Mattel has not made a Goth Barbie but I know there are one-of-a-kind artists out there who have transformed your average white-bread Barbie dolls into Goths. (Remember my love of the macabre?) What kind of quilt would a Goth Barbie want or make for herself? I began by collecting a variety of black fabrics, from velvet to sparkly knits to quilter's cottons. These were machine pieced them onto muslin, in strips. Three strips were sewn together to create the top. (If I were to do this quilt over again I would piece all the fabrics onto one large piece of muslin instead of doing the narrow strips. It got rather bulky in places.) Then I went nuts embellishing it. I embroidered, I beaded, I sequined, I pinned. You should be able to click on the image above to get a really close look at the quilt but here are a couple of detail shots as well:

The skeleton head in the upper left corner of this shot is one of my favorite elements. There are also a cat button and mouse/rat charms on this quilt. The whole quilt measures about 11 x 14"

It was a unique experience to shop in the hardware store for quilt embellishments! I have ball chain on it, and washers and some other kind of chain. And of course no crazy quilt would be complete without a spiderweb and resident spider! I backed the quilt with a skeleton print (there's no batting) and tied the layers together with black cotton floss. This was a very fun quilt to make and came together fairly quickly (because I was having so much fun with it!).

And now for those shelves...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

7 True Things

I've been tagged by Melzie to do the 7 True Things meme. This should be an interesting exercise! (At least for me. I hope you'll find it interesting too!)

The rules are:

1. Link the person who has tagged you.
2. Tell seven true things about yourself.
3. Tag seven new people.
4. Leave a message with the person you have tagged so they know about it.

Here we go...

1. As we get closer to Halloween you will see how much I enjoy the macabre. I have cute witches but I also have a ceramic pile of skulls that are decidedly not cute. (I was going to put in a photo here but Blogger is having problems so we'll try again later.)

2. When I was in high school I ran hurdles in track and field. I placed second in our regional race, up against a girl whose legs were almost longer than I am tall! (I'm only 5'3".)

3. My two favorite shows on TV at the moment are "Ace of Cakes" and "Dancing With the Stars." (I could give you a lengthy list of television shows I enjoy!)

4. I was widowed at age 27 when my first husband died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

5. I journal for half an hour every morning.

6. I used to enjoy baking but have never enjoyed cooking. (Since I can't eat baked goods anymore I don't make them.)

7. I have always found it fascinating that I was born under Gemini (the twins) and have felt like two completely different people coexist in this body.

And now for the really hard part: tagging seven other bloggers! How about...

1. Clare at Dordogne Quilter

2. Erin at Go Doodles N Quilt

3. Yankee Quilter at Scraps and Threadtales

4. Holly at And Sew It Is

5. Lin at Purple Fan

6. Sammy at Sammy Stuff

7. Corry at Dutch Blue

And now for that picture I promised you. This is one of the things I've been playing with lately. It may or may not become an official journal quilt but it is that size (8.5" x 11").

This goes back to my love of the macabre. I've had the skeleton print in my stash for at least a year, well before the movie "Ghost Rider" came out. We enjoyed the movie enough to buy it on dvd when it became available. After watching it again recently I was going through my two stacks of Halloween prints and found this print and immediately thought of the movie. I see it as the ghost rider passing by a graffiti-painted wall in an alley. Not quite sure how I'm going to embellish this one but it's tempting to highlight the flames under the bike with beads... After that I don't have a clue!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It's Beginning to Look A Little Like Halloween Around Here

The menfolk finally got our Halloween decorations out of storage in the garage. (The garage is where all the toxic stuff goes to live or air out so I avoid going in there as much as I possibly can.) DD is coming over tomorrow so between the two of us we ought to be able to get the main rooms decorated and alternately watch or play with the grandchildren. Maybe I'll even dust before she gets here! In the meantime, this is what you'd see today if you were coming to my house for a visit...

This metal jack o'lantern is one of my more recent acquisitions. I bought it last year so I wouldn't feel obligated to carve a pumpkin anymore. I can put a light in it from the backside on the night and it's much easier to clean up when the holiday is over!

Yes, we have lovely 1970's -style orange carpeting in the entryway. The house is not that old. It must have been something the previous owner had on hand when she enclosed the space between the house and the garage. (I did not do a very good job getting the bits of debris off the mat before I photographed it!)

Cue the ominous music ~ The Front Door:

What are those dark blobs on the door?

Door knockers of course!

Any other fans of the movie "The Labyrinth" out there?!

It's always fun when people actually try to use these knockers. They don't bang very loudly. Usually Reilly is the one who hears it first and then, of course, his barking alerts us that someone is at the door.

There are other things that get hung here in the entryway. For example, there's a piece of fabric - black, with glow-in-the-dark skeletons on it. I also have a very special beaded curtain that I put out there. But you'll just have to wait and see that another time ;- )

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Welcome to Punkin Corners, Texas

But be careful on Halloween!

I made this quilt in 2000, I think for a specific event but I don't remember what it was now. It was a lot of fun to make and still makes me smile. It was one of those quilts that almost made itself. (Wish they would happen a little more frequently, don't you?)

The sign in the yard says, "Wanted Sweet & Young Trick or Treaters." The sign on the door is a brass charm that reads "Dead End." That's a black cat button to the right of the door.

If you look closely at this detail shot you'll see that the armadillo has been hit by lightning. I lived in Texas for almost 15 years and saw only one live armadillo that whole time. And that was in a state park. I don't know how the species survives!

My boxes of Halloween decorations are still out in the garage. If we don't get them in the house soon it will be too late!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Back to Work

I feel like it's been forever since I've posted but I think I have some pretty good excuses for being away from the computer...

My sister came up from Portland for the weekend and we went out to see Darling Daughter and the Delightful Granddaughters. I played with Miss Margaret in ways my body is not accustomed to anymore and I'm paying for it now! I can hardly stand up straight today ;- )

"I wonder if I can get Grandma to swing me one more time?"

Before my sister arrived I had a brainstorm for the Fabric of Life challenge quilt. I had to go out and buy some beads for it (oh darn!) but then got right to work yesterday and finished it up. (I don't seem to be able to take a straight picture of it however. I am just not a photographer.)

I bought what I know as antique African trade beads. The label on the strand calls them "Venetian Bead Mix, 150-200 Yrs." They are a mix of sizes and colors and even shapes. I had to supplement them with a few new seed beads to make the more expensive beads extend all the way across the width of the quilt twice. I also picked up four cowrie shells to accent the center of the quilt. I ended up doing more machine quilting than I had intended, but it's all in the ditch so it's not really visible.

Overall I'm happy with the finished product. The only change I would make if I could would be to make that slant of the striped print along the bottom edge of the center medallion more pronounced. Tonya recommended leaving that bit alone when I originally showed it but it had such a curve to it I wasn't comfortable working with it so I whacked some of it off. As it turns out, I whacked off a little too much. In a perfect world I would have had more of that stripe to play with! Oh well; live and learn. All it lacks at this point is the sleeve and label. I could have turned it in on the original deadline afterall! It sure feels good to get things done. Now I have to be careful not to lose my momentum and get back to my monthly journal quilts...

By the way, thank you for all the positive comments lately. I've been a little lazy about responding personally but I do appreciate every one of them. Keep up the good work! I enjoy hearing from y'all :- )

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Danger Will Robinson!

This is my PMS Banner. I made it almost ten years ago to hang as a warning to family members, sort of like the gale warning flags that are flown on the coast during stormy weather.

The blocks are, from top to bottom, Shoo Fly (as in, "Get away from me!"), Broken Dishes, and Crosses & Losses. I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put Hourglass blocks in the corners of the border. You can't see them in this picture, but there are tiny blue seed beads sewn randomly all over the borders and in the sashing strips. One of the first quilts on which I used that technique. It's also been hand quilted with yellow embroidery floss in the background areas of the blocks. It may be the only quilt on which I've ever done that technique! I backed the quilt with a print of ice cream sundaes, at the time one of my favorite comfort foods. (I must not have had a print featuring chocolate.) I have to grudgingly admit that since I quit dairy foods altogether my PMS symptoms have subsided somewhat. Increasing other foods in my diet has also helped. Still waiting for it all to go away though!

I had a minor emotional meltdown Saturday morning just before my DH went off to see a movie. To his credit, after the movie he went into one of my favorite stores in the mall and bought me a couple of trinkets to cheer me up. He also brought me these:

I knew there was a reason I married that man!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Let's Try That Again...

I had my DH (the photographer) reshoot "Summer Love," my latest journal page. He even did a detail shot of my sun:

After I made my last post I still had flannel scraps out so I started playing around to see if I could create yet another preemie quilt. I found a couple of four patch blocks I must have made some time ago and added a few more. There was enough of the tiny heart print flannel to make alternate squares, and enough of the odd shade of green to do both borders and backing. Unfortunately, I burned the inside of my forearm on the edge of the iron (reaching across to straighten the fabric if I remember correctly) before I got the borders sewn on. It has taken me until today to get back to the project and finish it up.

It feels good to get some of these old fabrics and blocks used up. I have several more tops and collections of blocks to turn into quilts someday but I'm finding that I'm not that interested in making new, or more, traditional pieced blocks. (I don't do applique, except under duress.) All I want to do these days is piece improvisationally. The nice thing about working with the orphan blocks is that I already have a starting point. That seems to be the hardest part for me: getting started. I need a theme or a challenge fabric or something to get the juices flowing. And I don't seem to be that adept at coming up with ideas on my own. At least, not consciously. When I work intuitively, improvisationally, my sub-conscious seems to have no trouble at all! I was astonished at how Summer Love (see above) developed.

I also marvel at the people who are able to make something just because they want to. I've always needed a reason to make something: a bed to cover, a child to comfort, a gift to give, etc. This business of making something because the making of it gives me pleasure is a foreign concept. One of the reasons I undertook the journal quilt project was to help me overcome that stumbling block. Progress is being made, as evidenced by the Halloween doll quilt I started a couple of weeks ago. (And one of these days I'll actually get it quilted!) Having said that, I now need to get started on the next journal quilt...!