Saturday, March 29, 2008

Down Time

First of all, run over to Tonya's blog and have a look at the carving of Medusa on the Grand Palais in Paris. That's pretty much how I feel today. I went over to Darling Daughter's yesterday to watch the baby while big sister went for a healthy child check-up. All went well until DD and Miss M got home. Miss M decided that she wanted Gramma Sue to play with her before I headed for home. I was happy to comply except that Miss M brought down a brand new vinyl ball for us to play with. (At least, I think that was the culprit.) We played for a short while but then I could feel I was in trouble and needed to get out of there. I made it home safely enough, even through falling snow! and a stop for organic foods to replenish my dwindling supplies, but by bedtime I was beginning to feel the effects of the exposure. This morning I felt really pukey. It's beginning to wear off finally so hopefully I'll be more myself this evening for some quality time with my Dear Husband.

Speaking of which, we noted our 24th wedding anniversary this week. Since it fell smack in the middle of the work week we didn't really do anything to celebrate. Not that I could go any of the places most people go to celebrate things like anniversaries anyway. But we did talk about what we might do next year for the big quarter-century mark. Again, no cruises or anything like that. We have come up with some ideas about how we can mark the occasion in a meaningful way though.

I have done very little sewing this week. A tiny bit of intuitive piecing, but nothing else. March's journal quilt has not been started and it's almost April. {sigh} I still have two journal quilts waiting to be embellished too. And we won't even talk about all the other projects on my To Do list!

I decided that I just needed a break after a prolonged period of concentration and productivity. Down time. So I picked up Book 2 of a trilogy I had begun last year. Now I'm more than half way through Book 3. Thank Heaven I can still read paperback books! I suspect that when I've finally finished this 915 page adventure I'll be ready to focus on creative endeavors once again. At least, I hope so :- )

Monday, March 24, 2008

Belated Easter Tidings

It's hard to believe it's been nearly a week since my last post. It's also been longer than usual since I've made the rounds to visit my blog friends. So if any of you have come to check in on me, Happy Easter a little late! And thank you to those who stopped by to wish me a happy Easter :- )

We were expecting DD and the granddaughters here for Saturday night and Sunday morning but plans changed and they arrived earlier. Okay by me! I had some one-on-one time with the littlest one and then we celebrated Miss M's third birthday (even though it's not until later this week).

This little girl's favorite item of clothing is a swimsuit. Any swimsuit. I think she has more in her possession right now than I've had in my whole life! And I was quite a swimmer back in the day!

I have been on something of a buying spree lately. I have not taken pictures of all my purchases but I did want to share these with you just because they are so spring-like and happy:

I'm don't practice the 'paper arts' but I do enjoy brightening up my outgoing mail and the pages of my journals. I've had a package of these sequins before and have used them so often that when I saw these I snatched them off the peg without a second thought. This was one of those rare occasions when I was actually in a store. (I don't spend a lot of time in stores. I can't. There are too many fumes and fragrances. It's not worth the price I have to pay in terms of the effects on my body. I hurry in, grab what I need, and hurry out. I miss browsing.) The rest of my purchases have been made online. Fabric, overstocked calendars at a huge discount (which I bought mostly for the pictures), and a couple of paperback novels to read. It seems like it's been a long time since I've lost myself in a book. I'm looking forward to that. But first I have a quilt to make...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Can You Say Avoidance?

So after that burst of energy at the end of the quilt retreat I haven't really done anything creative. I put a sleeve on a swap quilt (hi Angela!) and put away leftover fabrics and abandonded projects that had accumulated since oh, last fall or so. This is what my work area looked like before I tidied up:

Now keep in mind that this picture was taken while I am between projects. It usually looks much worse! And since the picture was taken I've managed to clutter up the cutting mat with papers and other non-sewing related stuff.

As you look at the picture, there are three piles of assorted fabrics and projects beyond the cutting mat on the left side, before your eyes get to the ironing board and then the closet. Also notice the two smaller piles of fabric on the right side of the picture. The three piles are now more like one and a half and the two little piles are gone altogether. Most of the rest of that stuff lives there permanently (or semi-permanently).

Yesterday was also one of those gray days when it looks for all the world like there was no sky at all. Today we've had a couple of sunbreaks. This little quilt was inspired by days like today. I call it "Ray of Sunshine." It was intuitively pieced and measures about 10" wide by 8" high.

Here's a little closer look:

That bit of shine in the lower right corner is a triangular abalone button and a few abalone chips. The background around the birdbath and yellow bird is all seed stitched in ivory embroidery floss. I had to rework the bead and button embellishments to the left of the birdbath base a couple of times before I could live with it. There's a pewter rabbit running off to the left too but he's pretty hard to see in these pictures.

Today I have a headache again for some reason. {sigh} I have made a list of all the projects I either have in the works or want to start. It's not as long or as intimidating a list as I feared it might be. In spite of that I still can't seem to generate the energy necessary to start working on any of them. Maybe if I do some laundry...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tired But Happy

I'm delighted to report that my teaching gig went very well :- )

This teaching opportunity is a sort of combination retreat/quilt class for a group of ladies who either work at a local hospital or are related to someone who works at that hospital. One of the ER nurses is the organizer of this event every year. (She's one of those petite women who have more energy than a pro football player!) Last month I wasn't feeling well even before I arrived at the retreat. One of the ladies had stopped at the mall earlier in the day, tried out a new hand lotion in the department store there, and then came to the retreat. There were other scents in the room too, and between them all I was useless in less than an hour. Fortunately I had chosen a very simple pattern for them to make and was able to give the more experineced quilters directions as to how they should proceed. I prayed myself home, went to bed, and checked in with them about noon the next day. They had done fine without me. (I'm not sure whether that's good or bad!)

I was concerned this month because I felt I really needed to be there to guide them through the project this time. We made sure to remind them of my chemical issues on the supply list; that was something I'd forgotten to do last time. Overall I felt stronger this time too. There was one farily significant hitch though: a first-time quilter brought in a big, brand new, cutting mat. Of course no-one else could smell anything but I could feel the fumes off-gassing from the mat going up my nose and into my sinus cavities right through two layers of carbon filters. I had to work very hard to give coherent directions as they began cutting into their fabric. I also made a poor choice when it came to doing my demonstration of the technique we were using. Nothinig insurmountable, but not what I would have done had I been unaffected by fumes.

Once they got started on their projects things went well and I was able to go home and go to bed early. When I arrived the next morning I found they had removed the new cutting mat from the building- hurray! There were still other fragrances in the air but nothing so bad that I couldn't stick around and see them to the completion of their quilt tops. I did not haul the camera to the retreat with me - although I did think of it! - so you won't get to see pictures of the tops they created but, trust me, they were wonderful. One was all in green and black and shamrock prints. Another was done in lovely spring colors. One was blue and yellow florals, one in very 'country' colors and prints. Let's see... there was also a cat theme and one in bright clear colors for a baby.

The blocks you see below that have the patches of yellow in them are the ones I made at the retreat. I was so happy to have made it through the retreat successfully that when I got home yesterday I cut and sewed up a second batch of blocks.

My original intention was to use the demonstration blocks to make another preemie quilt. Now I have a toddler size quilt to donate instead!

This top is actually very bright in person. I don't seem to have adjusted the colors correctly when I cropped the photo. The stripe I used for the border was one of the fabrics the newest quilter was using in her quilt. I just fell in love with it (with a lot of her choices actually!) when I saw it. At one point on Saturday two of the ladies made a run to the nearest quilt shop for more fabric so I had them bring some back for me too ;- ) Then I had to send my Dear Husband out later in the day for even more of the stripe so I would have enough to go around this quilt in the direction I wanted it to go!

I have very little energy today but I couldn't be happier with the way the weekend went. Well, I'd be happier if I didn't have to cope with these chemical issues but you know what I mean. I have a fabric picked out to back this top; it's one my mother bought and gave me years ago. I was surprised at how well it coordinates with the colors in the blocks. Mom is no longer with us so it means a lot to me to be able to include her in this project. Because she was a knitter I didn't often have a chance to 'collaborate' with her!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bead Journal Project for March

I've been so involved in other projects this month that I've hardly given the journal quilt for March a thought. We're rapidly approaching the half-way point of the month, however, and those other projects are either done or very close to being done. It's time to think about the BJP for March!

One of the things my friend C~ shared with me when she was here recently were some fat quarters of African prints she'd picked up for a quilt she wants to make. I have two stacks of African prints on my shelves, also collected for at least one quilt sometime in the future. Her fabrics got my juices flowing so I pawed through mine to reacquaint myself with them. The ones that caught my eye as I fondled them all featured birds. I pulled them out and thought some more...

They all seem to be variations on a theme: chickens.

Hmm. Easter falls on March 23 this year. Chickens, eggs, Easter... hmm...

Spring arrives officially on the 20th of this month according to the calendar. Well, I'm no spring chicken anymore... By jove, I think I've got it! Now all I have to do is "make it work!"

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Back in Business - Yippee!

So let's see... where was I?

Oh yes; remember that preemie quilt I made out of the orphan crazy patch blocks? (If not, it's at the bottom of this post.) Well, I saved one of the patches from the block I took completely apart because it was so cool I wanted to play with it myself! I slapped it down on a 4 x 6" piece of Warm & Natural and then went looking for some other fabrics that would complement it. Since the starter patch featured a parrot on a purple background I went with a sort of jungle theme. Once it was pieced I had to add some beads and sequins ;- ) I also added a bit of embroidery to give the parrot something to perch on. Anyway, it's done now, except for applying a back and finishing the edges.

This was a lot of fun to do. You can understand my frustration at not being able to share it with you!

I lost another day yesterday. Can't say exactly what the problem was but I have my suspicions. Today I have been hand sewing on a secret project. It's made entirely of batiks, including this one:

I have a teaching gig this weekend. Hold a good thought for me will you? I'm down to two teaching opportunities a year and last month I all but bailed out because of my health issues. Fortunately the ladies were able to carry on without me once I got them started but I need to be present this time. I also need to pull a palette of fabrics to use for my demo so maybe I should get busy with that...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dear Blogger

There doesn't seem to be a way to tell you that I'm having problems with your program. 'Help' is not helpful. There isn't even a place for me to state that I'm having a problem. Oh yes, I can put words in the 'search' box but I don't seem to know the magic words that will take me to the information I need.

Searching through old posts about someone else's old problems with Blogger is not helpful, especially when there apparently has not been an answer or response to those problems.

I don't want to join another internet group just to get answers (if I'm lucky).

I want to know that you know the problem exists, and I want to know that you're working on it. Or I want a clear direction as to what I might be able to do about the problem myself. Just make a checklist for common issues; I'll swing by and click on the box for the issue I'm having. You can then send me to the page where the answer is posted clearly and without a lot of other garbage on the page. At the same time I'm sure your super computer can make a note that I've checked off that box and ping the appropriate engineer to let them know it needs to be fixed (assuming it's not something I can fix myself or just have to wait out).

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

No Pictures Today :- (

Apparently Blogger is having issues again and can't or won't load pictures. Let's see if I can even do a post...

I had a couple of 'lost' days this week, recovering from exposures to chemicals. One day I knowingly exposed myself (that sounds more provocative than it was, I assure you!) and the next was unavoidable. Such is my life. So it seems like there is very little progress to report. But! Yesterday I surprised myself by doing some unexpected sewing.

You remember those orphan crazy-patch blocks I made into this preemie quilt? Well, in the block that I took apart was this cool purple patch with a parrot on it. I saved that patch for my own selfish purposes ;- ) And yesterday, in my mindless state, I put that patch on a postcard-size piece of batting and started adding to it. I even got it halfway embellished before I had to quit for the day. I may be able to finish embellishing it today before the rugrats return from their adventures - if I don't spend too much time on this computer! Maybe I'll be able to show you pictures tomorrow when the Blogger people are done partyin' in Austin. ('Course then they'll all be hungover but maybe they'll at least be able to plug the server back in.)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Check This Out!

Here is a woman who is not afraid to play with her food!
Specifically, her desserts.
See what she did for Valentine's Day here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

TIF - March - Done!

I have been working on a project that I'm not ready to show you yet. But when I reached a point where I needed a break I started thinking about the Take It Further challenge for this month:

This month's challenge is to pay attention to the tiny details.

You can read about my initial response to this challenge here. I thought about doing a postcard quilt that would convey an impression of sunlight shining through a glass window/door like this:

Apparently that required too much mental effort on my part. Or it just wasn't interesting enough to me to follow through on it.

I got to thinking about the details in my life.

Too many details can become chaos...

But some details are essential:

Thread, a knot, stitches. Buttons can be a decorative detail. Guess the only thing I left out was the needle!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Friends and Neighbors

My friend C~ came by again the other day. This time she left me with a pile of orphan blocks culled from her neighbor's bulging sewing room:

About half of them were crazy pieced blocks, the other half an assortment of various pieced patterns. It looked like the crazy blocks had been received in an internet swap, judging by signatures on a few of the blocks. There's a seasonal feel to most of the other blocks. You can see the Santa star in the picture above, and maybe you can also make out that those are chicks in the pastel block next to the star. Yup, there's also a Halloween block at the bottom of the pile! Right now I'm tempted to take each of these seasonal/holiday blocks and use it as a jumping off point for a preemie quilt. That would be half a dozen preemie quilts right there. Or maybe I'll combine them with some blocks of my own for a calendar quilt an older child could use and enjoy. We'll see.

In the meantime, I went through the crazy blocks to see what I could do with them. I think there were 9 when I started. I took one block apart completely. Whoever had tried to piece that one just didn't understand the sew-and-flip process. She had several pieces with loose edges and at least one that was sewn on wrong side up. Sometimes that is a viable option but not in this case! Another block had some great big patches in it but I couldn't make the colors/values work in combination with any of the other blocks. So I cut out the bigger pieces to re-use. I made a new block using some of my own fabrics and the patches from the two blocks I took apart. Then, to get the prescribed size for preemie quilts, I also pieced two smaller blocks.

Played around with the arrangement, sewed them together, backed it with flannel, turned it, topstitched it, and then used my machine to do a little feather stitching in strategic places. I love how quickly a preemie quilt goes together!

There are four crazy blocks left over. I'd like to whip out another preemie quilt but I still have the liberated stars and bits and pieces of bright batiks on my design wall, just waiting for someone to brush by and knock them off...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

First Thoughts: TIF - March

Sharon has posted the Take It Further challenge for March:

Do you ever notice the little things, the small moments, the details in life? This months challenge is to do just that, pay attention to the tiny details. Sometimes the small things become emblematic for something larger.

My initial reaction was a rant of sorts. I am one of the people who does notice the small things, the details in life and the world around me. I notice things that other people don't even know exist! I notice so many things, in fact, that it drives me nuts sometimes. It's hard for me to see the big picture. As a perfectionist, it's the tiny details that I obsess over. And I'm supposed to do a piece of artwork about this?! Ack!

Once I got that out of my system other ideas came to me. For example, this would be an opportunity to do a journal quilt for the Bead Journal Project about a "big picture" something and then the TIF piece about a detail of that bigger picture. I probably won't do that though, as I'm afraid I would get bored with the subject matter (no matter what it was) and have a hard time finishing either piece. We Geminis get bored easily ;- )

After stewing over this for a while I went back and reread Sharon's words. This time it was the phrase "the small moments" that jumped out at me. I haven't read Elizabeth Berg's book Eat, Pray, Love, but I did see the Oprah show about it. Briefly mentioned was Elizabeth's practice of writing down the happiest moment of each day. I started doing that and, not surprisingly, have confirmed that it is the small moments that tend to be the happiest ones. This may become the theme for my Take It Further piece this month. It's still early yet; stay tuned for further updates...