Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Lightbulb Moment

As this year draws to a close I find myself thinking about next year and the things I want to accomplish.

I know I've mentioned that this may turn out to be the Year of the Scrap here in the Magpie's Nest. There's also the Bead Journal Project, and I will continue to build and donate quilts for children in need. Creating documentation for the quilts I've made, as well as those I've collected or inherited, has also been on my mind. To that end I ordered and downloaded a copy of the QuiltAlbum program, which I learned about from Julie. Yesterday I spent some time experimenting with the program and entering a few of my quilts. I'm not set up to print anything in color at the moment so I don't have any results to share. You can see what Julie produced here. My intention is to be able to provide documentation for every quilt in my possession so that when the time comes my children and grandchildren will know who made what and any history that goes with each quilt. Obviously this will be a long-term effort!

So my four main goals for 2010 are:

  • to establish a system for collecting, sorting, storing, and using the scraps that are created while I'm working on a major project,
  • use those scraps to create quilts for children in need,
  • explore and expand my bead embroidery repertoire through participation in the BJP,
  • and document my quilt collection.

Now about that lightbulb moment. When I was able to be in the world I worked at a variety of jobs. One of the blessings of this affliction is that I am home nearly every day, all day, and can use that time (as long as I feel well) to pursue my artistic endeavors. I've read that artists who wish to sustain themselves by making art need to establish regular hours and patterns of behavior so they don't end up frittering their time away. Easier said than done, but I have tried to follow that advice to the best of my abilities.

What I realized this morning was that when you enter a business as a new employee there are already policies and procedures in place that allow the business to run smoothly and efficiently. What you don't see as a new employee is the time that it took and the obstacles that had to be overcome before those policies and procedures could be established. Since I have been home full time I have often felt that I was floundering and unsuccessful in my efforts to be efficient and productive. Now I see that I have been trying to work without the benefit of previously established procedures. It's up to me to create those policies and procedures for myself. Ta daa!

This knowledge will make it easier for me to be patient and to keep making the effort to move forward. Creating a system for collecting, storing, and using my scraps will be the first step. Now I just have to do it!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Christmas

Doesn't that face just say it all?

We had a lovely time at DD's on Christmas Eve. Her house was much less toxic than the last time. Along with other gifts I presented DD with this stack of receiving blankets. I made four of them and the other two were made by my son who sews.

I also managed to include two preemie size onesies. They're not easy to find! (Especially when you have to rely on the shopping abilities of a young man.) Of course there was also the piece de resistance, the preemie quilts:

I think both of these pictures were taken before I backed and quilted the tops but they look essentially the same. I just turned them pillowcase style so there's no binding or anything. You may notice that I managed to include those animal panels DD had given me to incorporate into Sunflower's quilt. Ta daa! There are more panels left over so there may be additional linens for the twins that feature the jungle animals. I have no specific plans at the moment.

DD seems to be holding her own. She's still having contractions periodically, and they're more intense, but so far there's been no reason to make an emergency trip to the doctor or the hospital. Tuesday will mark 31 weeks.

Meanwhile, I think I had the least toxic Christmas I've had in years. Gifts were purchased early enough, for the most part, so that they could off-gas before being presented on Christmas morning. The worst offenders were the items of clothing. Those that are not going back to the stores have been laundered and now are fine. The biggest surprise I had was the pocket size digital camera my DH gave me. We've been jointly using his digital SLR but it's really more camera than I want to cope with. I will probably continue to use it for my quilt photography but now I feel like I have more freedom of movement (such as it ever is) with the smaller, lighter equipment. Woohoo!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Ha! Both preemie quilts are done! I amazed myself yesterday by getting the blocks for the second quilt sewn into a top and then backing and quilting both little blankets. Woohoo!

Technically I could now return to work on Sunflower's quilt but I doubt that will happen right away. There are a couple of major distractions coming up in the next day or two after all. ;- )

Another event to celebrate is that DD has made it to the 30 week mark. whew! She has an ultrasound scheduled for her 32nd week so she and I are counting that as her next big goal. Her doctor would like to see her make it to 35 weeks. We'll see. The prayers and medication are working though so maybe it will be possible.

The current plan is for us to drive over to DD's house for Christmas Eve. We'll get to see the granddaughters (and DD) open a few gifts and then we'll head back home to have a quiet Christmas day here. I say quiet because this will be the first year we will have so few of our family members in our home for the holiday. It's going to be a different sort of day for me, that's for sure. At my age and stage of life most of the fun is in watching the little ones experience all that Christmas encompasses. Unfortunately most of their new treasures will be toxic for me to be around. {sigh} Oh well. It will still be a warm, special day with loved ones. There are an awful lot of people who don't have the blessings I enjoy every day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Weekend Recap

It's been a few days, hasn't it?! I've lost some time due to chemical exposures - unavoidable at this season of the year. I'm in recovery from one right now. It happened here in my own home too. DH brought home a frozen lasagna the last time he went grocery shopping, thinking it would make good lunches at work for several days. It will. But the directions said to leave the plastic film in place while it baked. The heat of the oven caused the plastic to release fumes that then took me down. So here we are.

I managed to participate in the Toy Society's annual Christmas Drop on Saturday. It wasn't easy, let me tell you! To begin with it was raining. Not heavily, but enough to make everything wet. I wanted to drop my dog outside the public library. Turns out there's no cover to speak of outside the library. Everything is out in the weather! I had no idea how busy the library might be on the Saturday before Christmas either. It would have been ideal to get there before the library opened for the day but I couldn't make it that early. I got over there within the first hour of their opening but even then they were pretty busy. I drove around the block a couple of times in hopes of catching a quiet moment to execute my mission but it never happened. Finally I headed back home with the dog still in my possession. I had inhaled enough exhaust fumes at that point to set me back for the day.

At home I tried to work on the preemie quilts for my daughter's babies. I had decided to try something a little different for this pair of quilts. It's a technique I've used before, so not something completely foreign to me, but I wasn't having fun. I wasn't enjoying the process and I didn't like what was developing. So I took all that off the design wall and wrapped some gifts instead.

Late in the afternoon I remembered that I still had the doggie to drop off for the Toy Society. It had stopped raining for the time being and there was about an hour before they closed up for the day. To my dismay I discovered that the library was just as busy in the afternoon as it had been in the morning. Once again I drove around the block a few times and then finally parked in the small parking lot to just wait it out. Eventually there was enough of a break in the traffic that I felt I could stash the dog under my coat, walk towards the front door, squat down next to the big metal box for overnight deposits as if to tend to my shoe, slide the dog out from under my coat, straighten up again, turn around and go back to my car. I did not get a photograph of the drop site this time. I felt fortunate to have merely made the drop as inconspicuously as possible! Of course I have no idea how inconspicuous I really was. And I didn't hang around to see whether the dog was found right away or not. I figured if no one claimed him by closing time certainly one of the librarians would find him. And in that particular spot he was out of the weather as much as he could be.

Yesterday morning I journaled on paper a bit about my frustrations with the preemie quilts. That seemed to clear the pipes enough for me to begin again, working the way that comes naturally for me. By the end of the day I had one top complete (it still needs to be backed and quilted) and patches for most of the second one on the wall. There are still Christmas gifts to be wrapped, and no one has had a Christmas card from me yet, but what do you want to bet that that preemie quilt gets sewn up before anything else gets done? ;- )

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ho Hum

I've had a string of unproductive days. You know how you have all this creative energy for a while and then suddenly it's all gone and even the things you normally enjoy are just too demanding to be fun? That's where I am. I did manage to get that stack of packages in the mail - at horrendous expense. As a result I sent out emails to family members who live in other states suggesting that we donate to our favorite charities rather than exchanging gifts from now on. So far two families have responded with enthusiasm for this plan.

I haven't felt the need for flowers in the studio for months. Yesterday I bought a bunch of mini carnations. I added a few sprigs cut from our Christmas tree and some rosemary from my garden. It smells lovely.

The Toy Society's annual Christmas Drop is coming up this weekend. Remember this little guy?

I found the perfect ribbon to finish him off. It's printed with the words "Merry Christmas" and some holly leaves.

All I have to do now is print out the letter and tags and get him bagged up. I also have to figure out where to drop him...

Here's another sneak peek at one of the blocks going into the preemie quilts for DD's babies:

DD is holding steady. She sees her doctor again on Monday. Hopefully by then these quilts will be well on their way to being finished!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stars & Sparkle

I don't think I've shown you the last of the blocks for Sunflower's quilt yet. I have a total of 25 now, plus two from the first set of blocks that I might be able to use. Right now the plan is to only use 24 but you know how things can change.

The aliens dropped into another block...

And you can't make a quilt for a young child anymore without including a clown fish because at some point they are going to be in love with Nemo and Dora!

Meanwhile, I have begun assembling blocks for the preemie quilts. I'd like to keep the quilts a surprise for their mom, my DD, so I'm only going to show snippets for the time being. Here's today's clue:

DD seems to be holding steady at the moment, thank goodness. Her doctor was hoping to get her to 35 weeks before delivering the babies but I don't see that happening. She'll be at 29 weeks on Tuesday and she's already talking about "full-body epidurals." This is the girl who has delivered twice naturally and wanted to do the same with these twins.

Oh, and over the weekend I put together another Christmas tree. It's a little bland, but at least the topper sparkles in the light. ;- )

This one is going to the Post Office where it will be disassembled and redistributed to various parts of the country. We'll keep the prettier one here to enjoy through Christmas. :- )

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two Special Preemies

It looks like I'm going to have to put Sunflower's quilt on the back burner for a bit while I create two special preemie quilts. There is a distinct possibility that the twins DD is carrying will make their appearance between now and Christmas. In this case, not a happy thought. DD is all of 28 weeks along. It would be so much better for everyone involved if those babies could just stay where they are for another month. At this point every day, every hour, becomes precious. I will gratefully and happily accept any and all prayers on our behalf. And I thank you for the support you've already expressed.

Inbetween phone calls and emails yesterday I managed to get more blocks made for Sunflower's quilt. I don't even know how many I made. I do know that I'm very close to having enough for the bulk of the quilt top.

First we have a quartet of blue blocks. Sunflower was born in Washington State so of course I had to use a patch of this print that commemorates the western side of the state. And it only made sense to surround it with a raindrop print!

There were some other folks who dropped in to keep the fairies company too:

I think the spaceship print and the aliens are actually from two different lines of fabric. The blue is from a fat quarter I just picked up the other day; I had the white in my stash from a sale some months ago. When I remembered the white alien print I couldn't resist trying them out as background patches. ;- )

And four more blocks:

I think that's the third block I've made from a fat quarter of the 1960's psychadelic print. There are scraps enough left for at least one more I bet.

I have a few more blocks in pieces at the sewing machine. I'll probably get them assembled and then turn my attention to the preemie quilts for DD's babies. I never expected to be making preemie quilts for my own children's children.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Waiting Game

This ought to be interesting. DD called maybe an hour ago to say she was having contractions and needed to go to the hospital. Her babies are not due until at least mid-February. It takes us 45 minutes to get to where she lives. My husband and son left about half an hour ago for the hospital so they can collect the two granddaughters and take them home and put them back to bed if possible. DH has been up since four this morning and now will be up at least half of this night too.

My body won't tolerate DD's house. I can't go and be Grandma for the two older girls. I have to sit by the phone and wait for news. {sigh} This is not fun.

At this point I don't know how long DD will be in the hospital. I'm counting on the physicians to be able to stop the contractions. It's too soon for those babies to be born! And I want to be there when they are!

I have made progress on the blocks for Sunflower's quilt:

Had to go back to the stores for more of the fairies, and on this trip I found another print I thought would work as background. Little tiny roses that look like dots from a distance. You can see them in two of the corners of the block in the upper left of the picture below.

As you can see, I'm still mixing up the background patches. It remains to be seen whether that is a good idea or not.

No phone call yet. Guess I'll go snuggle under the quilt with Mr. Reilly and wait...

Thursday morning update: DD is home from the hospital with drugs in her system to help control the contractions. Apparently her muscles have simply been stretched as far as they will go and the contractions are what happens in that event. She has not officially been put on bed rest but I expect that may happen this afternoon when she sees her OB. Her MIL and FIL are coming up to live with her for the duration. That has obvious benefits but there are significant drawbacks as well. At least we know she's not in imminent danger of delivering those babies too early.
And now I'm off to see what troops I can rally to come to her aid...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

DGD Quilt, Take Two

After the false start last week with the big girl quilt for DGD #2, hereinafter referred to as Sunflower, it took me a few days to get my courage up enough to try again. I really wanted to stick with the liberated stars (and you guys seem to like them!) so I figured I'd start with some 12" blocks and sort out the format of the quilt later.

I believe I mentioned in the last post that I found a couple of prints I thought might work as backgrounds when I went to the local quilt shops the other day. One is the stick fairies you see on the left in the picture below and the other is a pink micro-dot on the right end of the spread. The blue fairy print is something I picked up online recently and the bigger pink dotted fabric is yardage I had in my stash. It was one of those pieces I bought with the Black & White & Pink friendship quilt in mind but ended up not using.

In DD's family you can't go wrong with pink and fairies. This is what I have so far:

At this point I haven't entirely decided whether to keep the background patches consistent or not. The micro-dot drops out pretty significantly next to the other two prints. I kind of like hit-and-miss but it may create problems later on when I'm trying to set the blocks together. It would help if I could make up my mind about a layout. Part of me wants to do a strippy set, just for the heck of it. That raises the issue of fabric for the long sashing strips. Of course the simplest thing to do, since I'm under the gun in terms of a Christmas or New Year's deadline, would be to just crank out blocks all the same size and then set them together, side by side. And that may very well be what happens. ;- )

In non-quilty news, we brought home a Christmas tree last Saturday and only just got it decorated today:

Each year we seem to be more selective about which ornaments make it onto the tree. However, as I look at the picture I see a bare spot or two that may need to be filled!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Next Chapter

I'm back already because there has been a new development in the saga of the "big girl" quilt for DGD #2. But first let me show you how the preemie top came together:

"Teddy Bears in the Park." You should be able to click on the picture to get a better look. I really like the way the border print echoes both the burgundies and the pinks in the crumb blocks. It still needs to be backed and quilted but that will have to wait for another day.

Now, back to the saga of the quilt for DGD. (I really need to figure out how to refer to each of my grandchildren individually since there will be four of them in a few months.) The butterfly print was just too overwhelming as a background fabric as you can see in the lower left block below.

I went to two shops yesterday, looking for suitable background options, and struck out on both counts. Which is not to imply that I bought no fabric at all (perish the thought!). I brought home two pieces that I thought I might be able to make work... and some other stuff that was just too fun to leave in the store. ;- ) (Sorry, no pictures.)

Hours later I was able to have a nice long conversation with my daughter, mother to all of the children in this story. She reminded me that the animal panels she provided...

...had been purchased when DGD #2 was a baby. Which may be why she thought it would be appropriate to include them in her big girl quilt. But it was the infantile quality of the artwork that made it so hard for me to include it in a big girl quilt for this child. She's not a baby anymore!

DD had told me more than once that I didn't have to use the animal panels in DGD's quilt but I felt compelled to do so. Until we came to the conclusion yesterday afternoon that I could use the animals in a pair of baby quilts for the twins that are now on their way. Perfect! DD gets to have the cute animals in quilts and I get to make a quilt that I feel is more appropriate for a toddler growing rapidly into a preschooler and beyond. The question now is, what in the world am I going to make for her?!

Oh, and in a happy aside, I took a container of frozen blueberries with me when I went shopping so I could consume them immediately after running into toxic vapors. I've learned that, for whatever reason, frozen blueberries have the power to mitigate the severity of my reactions. It worked pretty well yesterday. I still had symptoms of exposure afterward but it could have been so much worse.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Up & Down

I made a few more crumb blocks yesterday. Then I remembered some patches I'd cut from a cute teddy bear print decades ago... Sure enough, the patches and the rest of the fabric were right where I thought they'd be. And voila, a new preemie quilt-to-be!

These blocks will finish at 5". That makes this layout 25" square when I fill in those corner spots. My plan is to find something to use as a border at the top and bottom and also use that to fill in the corners. That may change. I don't have enough of the teddy bears to cut four more 5.5" patches so the corners will have to be something different.

At first I had all the bears with their feet pointing south as it were. But I've come to realize that for some quilts it's better to have the pattern of the quilt top look good from any direction, not just one way. I decided this was one of those cases and I think it worked out pretty well!

What I am less happy with is the way the blocks are turning out for DGD's quilt. You may (or may not) recall that I had to hunt for appropriate background fabric for this project. I had some pieces in my stash that I really liked as background but there wasn't enough for a twin size quilt. So I shopped around a bit and brought home the butterfly print you see in the block below, on the left.

I thought that very colorful, busy retro print would be strong enough to stand up to the butterflies. Now I don't think so. I much prefer the look of the block on the right (above).

Granted, those are 9" blocks. The butterflies aren't quite so overwhelming in these 12" blocks with good strong colors for the star points. It's still busier than I want however. So I am planning to go out today, to a couple of different stores in the area, to see what I can find. If I don't come home with a new potential background print maybe I'll at least come home with a possible solution for this dilemma. Let's just hope I don't also come home with a crippling reaction to toxic fumes!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Baker's Dozen

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. I made a point of putting the camera out in the living room where I expected I would be spending the most time with the granddaughters. The intention was to get pictures of them and their mother 'cause, you know, they're so cute and we don't get to see them that often. It didn't happen. I was so busy actually playing with the girls that it never occurred to me to use the camera. Duh!

By yesterday everyone was gone and most of the mess in the kitchen had been dealt with. Like Sharon over at Indigo Threads I needed to sew. I wasn't in the right frame of mind to begin making blocks for my granddaughter's new quilt so I dumped out my bag of pink-to-burgundy scraps.

I sorted them roughly by size and shape and started sewing the smallest bits together. Much later I had ten 4.5" crumb blocks:

And two 5.5" blocks:

And this one 6.5" block:

Now my sewing table looks like this:

The piles are smaller but far from being gone altogether. ;- )

This has me thinking about better ways to collect and store my littlest scraps. I don't expect to tackle this job until after the holidays but there are definitely some ideas percolating. For the last few years I've had sort of an overarching theme or goal for each year. One year was dealing with my UFO's, deciding which ones I wanted to finish and how soon. 2008 was a year of learning and experimentation. I think my theme for next year is going to be scraps. It's time to get that beast under control. I don't intend to use them all up or anything drastic like that. I just want to get to a place where I feel like I have a system that works for me for collecting and storing and using them.

Now I have to clean up the sewing table once again so I can finally get started on that DGD quilt!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Warmest wishes

From the Magpie's Nest

to all my blogger friends

for a warm and cozy

Thanksgiving day.


Monday, November 23, 2009

A Finish and A Question

Woohoo! The binding on the Lincoln Logs quilt is all sewn down. I even slept under the quilt last night. Slept real well too. :- )

The official title for this quilt will be "The Comfort of Friends" because most of the blocks were made at my request by members of my quilt guild. And because it's tied, technically it's a comforter, not a quilt. But I'm trying to get beyond those technicalities.

Why is it, I'd like to know, that I can find more threads that need to be cut and removed after I've photographed the quilt than before? I had to re-take this picture about three times and there's still a thread on one of the blocks!

Before I fell asleep under my newly finished quit last night I got to thinking about the fact that I rarely label my quilts. I sign them, but I don't label them. The thought of trying to put all the pertinent information about the origins of the quilt on a label just makes me shudder. But I think it's important that that information be recorded somewhere.

Sure, it's all in my studio notebooks and project notebooks, but I'm the only one who could decipher those notes and scribbles. Even I can't figure it out sometimes. And then what about the quilts I've not made but have inherited or collected in some other way?

I've written the history of the oldest quilt in my possession but I have several other quilts and tops that my kids might want to know about some day. So now I'm thinking about creating a new book or journal. One in which I can record the story of how each quilt came to be or how it came to be in my possession. I know there are blank quilt journals on the market but I think I'm going to want to create my own. I think it's going to be an actual book too, not merely a spreadsheet in the computer. The question is how to build it. What format, what information, how will I add to it as I make or acquire more quilts?

I welcome any suggestions you may have.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Since Last We Met...

It's been kind of a scattered week here in the Magpie's Nest. I was out and about a bit more than usual. Some fabric was purchased locally and some that had been purchased online was delivered:

I saw this batik print during one of my online shopping trips and thought it might make the perfect pillowcase to go with my Black&White&Pink Friendship quilt (when I get around to finishing it!). I also finally found these Metro Market prints that I've been lusting after (the egg beaters). I don't have a clue what I'm going to do with them yet but I had to have them. :- )

There were even more fabric purchases but I'll save those for another time.

I've also been thinking more about what I want to do for the Bead Journal Project next year. I'm just not satisfied with the idea of making more postcards. I want something else, something different. In the process of thinking about that unexpected insight came to me. The quilts I embellished with beads for the first BJP mostly began with an idea I wanted to express. (You can see them here.) Then I chose the fabrics to use, and the bead selection came last. What I realized the other day was that this time around I really want to practice improvisational bead embroidery. I did that to a limited extent the first time, but this time I want it to be the raison d'etre for each piece. That helped me realize that I need to start with a palette of beads, not with an idea or a selection of fabrics. The beads will come first. And rather than piecing fabrics together as I usually do, this time I believe I'm going to stick to a whole cloth ground for my beadwork. Finally, I'm going to use Robin Atkins' latest book as my guide, my touchstone.

The BJP is a perfect opporutnity to fully explore the techniques she presents within its' pages. All I need now is a shape that's not too big or too small and that does not require extraordinary efforts to make it look finished.

The other thing I accomplished this week was to apply the binding to my Lincoln Logs quilt. Today I stitched down some of the binding while listening to this week's edition of Car Talk. It's a long way between corners on this quilt! Turns out Mr. Reilly loves flannel. He has his own blankets to lay on but everytime I left the Lincoln Logs quilt in an accessible place I would come back to find him snuggled into it.

He's no dummy!