Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pansies & Violas

I loaded my pictures in reverse order again. Oh well. Most of them you won't really need to see any larger anyway. I'll leave the quilts blocks for last and that way you should be able to click on that picture to get a better look if you are so inclined.

I've shown you the bird bath I have in the backyard a time or two. A couple of years ago I planted some violas at its' base. In case you don't know, violas are very much like pansies. I bought them because this variety has the same name as my DD. I've always loved pansies but have learned from hard experience that they are pure candy for slugs and so avoided putting them in the ground for a long time. I try not to encourage the local vermin. This time I couldn't resist.

The violas (and the dandelions) are blooming now. This is the single bloom I could find that was still mostly intact. The 'vase' it's in was once a salt or pepper shaker.

This is how the rest of them look.

Some of the poor blossoms never even have a chance to open. The slugs eat them right out of their cap! (Yes, we use slug bait, just not as often as maybe we should. Even though we use the safest stuff available I still can't be around it so I have to rely on others to do my dirty work for me.)

When I saw this print at the thrift shop for only $3.00 I had to have it. I figured it would keep me happy even when the slugs were winning the war.

So far it's working pretty well.

Finally, here's an0ther batch of scrappy blocks:

My favorite is the Shoo Fly in the lower left corner. There aren't two patches in that block that are from the same piece of fabric!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Blocks Happen

Okay, enough with the chemical issues. (For now anyway.) Let's move on!

Over the weekend I decided I would make a pair of quilts out of my stash of batik fabrics, one for me and one for my husband. This would satisfy my need to build quilts a block at a time and give me the chance to finally use some of those luscious fabrics I've collected over the years. His would use the darker, muted colors and be very clean-lined and elegant. Mine would be tropical colors and probably very busy. Like I've said before, we're Jack Spratt and his wife all over again. We are constantly marveling that we have been successfully married for so long when our tastes are polar opposite so much of the time. Guess that just proves the "opposites attract" maxim.

Anyway, I spent hours going over magazine clippings from years ago and my favorite block pattern book (which was printed on safe paper with safe ink apparently - I had the spine removed and replaced with the spiral coil to allow the book to stay open to the page I wanted) until I had a pretty good idea of what blocks I would use for each quilt.

By the way, I wouldn't recommend this book for beginning quilters. You have to have some experience with drafting blocks to be able to use it to its' fullest potential. And there are errors - at least in the version I own - that you have to be wise enough to recognize.

Before I pulled fabric for either of those quilts, however, I had to put away the scraps and patches I'd been playing with. One thing led to another and this is what happened:

(The Bow Tie blocks were created as I pieced all these other blocks.)

There's no guarantee the batik fabrics will come out today either. I still have some HST's and larger scraps on the sewing and cutting tables. This may turn out to be another fungly quilt. (Or more than one.) I sure had fun pairing up unlikely prints and messing with color and value combinations. Turned up some more old prints that need to go away too, so I may as well let the fun continue!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Party Hangover

You know, the worst part of this MCS thing is that I just don't learn.

The sun is shining and I was finally feeling really good again this morning. Our local bead shop sent out an email yesterday telling us all about a sale that just started. The temptation was too great. I succumbed and drove over a little while ago. {sigh} I don't need beads for any particular project at the moment. My bead drawers are so full I can barely open a couple of them. Why did I go over there???!!!

After thinking about it for a bit I realize that it wasn't that I needed or wanted to shop for beads. I just wanted to browse. I wanted to luxuriate in the rainbows of color. I wanted to dream about potential projects. It was to be a well-filling experience. Oh well. Back to the blueberries. (At least I like blueberries.)

I have been playing around with pieces I've cut for the Priority Quilt I'm making to honor Terry Pratchett but haven't yet figured out how to put it together. While that's simmering on a back burner I sewed up these Churn Dash blocks from scraps:

I've about run out of the patches I pre-cut for these blocks. I had to restrain myself to keep from using up the patches I'd cut for Bow Tie blocks. I want those to be available for leaders and enders. It would appear that I need to create a new project for myself that involves making blocks one at a time. That seems to be the way I like to work when I don't have the energy to make a lot of design decisions.

In the meantime, my friend C~ was over recently and shared a couple of things with me. This is another quilt she found in a local thrift shop. The front is made entirely of polyester double knit. I think she said that part of the back was a juvenile print flannel.

She finds the best quilts at the thrift shops! She has a yellow and white antique quilt she found once too. It only cost her $3.00 and was not damaged or soiled or anything. I'll have to get a picture of it for you.

And here's what C~ herself is working on:

She's knitting a log cabin blanket! How cool is that? :- )

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pity Party

Let me warn you that this post is about my recent adventures with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.

On the whole I try to keep a positive outlook in spite of my affliction. Every once in a while, though, one needs to let off some steam, let her guard down, be open and honest. Today is that day. It's sort of appropriate because my last post was my 300th, and MCS is one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place.

I went to the local discount department/grocery store yesterday to stock up on some essentials (Green & Black's dark - 85% - organic chocolate, sparkling water, organic beef broth, organic unsweetened soy milk, frozen organic blueberries... none of which is cheap!). I was in that store for only 10 minutes. I know because I looked at the clock on the dashboard of my car as I was getting out of the car and then looked at it again when I got back in. Not on purpose, mind you, I just did. I couldn't believe it had only been 10 minutes, but that's all it took to ruin my day and likely a lot of today as well. I suspect the store had just had its' floors buffed or polished. Having worked in such an environment back in the day I know this happens from time to time. The front of the store wasn't too bad because the doors open and let in "fresh" air from outside, but back in the back where the frozen foods are kept it was potent. At least for me. And then at the checkout stand there was another customer and her son nearby who smelled of laundry detergent. The overly fragrant kind. (In my personal opinion the makers of Gain are poisoning people with every box they make and sell. Tide is another culprit.)

I made a point of going to the store early in the day so I could avoid as many people - and their fragrances - as possible. What I ended up doing was destroying the rest of my day. From that point on I was a zombie. I put my Priority Quilt in the envelope for shipping (and now I have to find someone who can take it to the Post Office for me), and the rest of the day was spent mostly losing solitaire games on the computer. Oh, I did order four paperback books to read but they won't be here for another week at least. I wanted to order Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran's new book but I don't dare. There's no way I'll be able to read or even look at it without getting sick. Not unless I have someone take it all apart and put each page in a page protector. And then the whole lot will have to go into an old, already off-gassed, three-ring binder, probably 3" thick. {deep sigh} But at least I could look at the pretty pictures and read what they have to say. Oh well. I can, in fact, live without it. I'd just rather not have to.

My local quilt guild is having their annual spring retreat this week. The last couple of years I've made a point of driving over to poke my head in to see everyone again and see what they're making. I doubt I will go this year. Two exposure episodes in one week is enough (the art show and then yesterday's trip). In the past the building where they hold the retreat has been safe enough for me but I learned, the hard way, that there are hand lotions out there that are dangerous. Hand lotion! While I was visiting last year (the year before?) someone in my vicinity casually applied lotion to her hands. I had to leave immediately or I wouldn't have been able to get myself home at all.

So what, you ask, are the symptoms I experience after an exposure? The list is quite lengthy. And not every chemical creates the same reactions. Generally I know I've run into something toxic from the way my sinus cavities feel. That's the first alarm bell. Sometimes I can actually detect a fragrance or odor but that has become unreliable. My olfactory senses have been burned out in some cases and I can no longer smell certain smells. I may feel lightheaded or woozy. I may just have an overall feeling of nausea. I may notice that suddenly I can't keep a thought in my head or find the words I want. I turn into a stammering idiot (no offense to those who suffer from speech impediments) - or at least that's how it feels.

I confess to driving my car when it probably wasn't safe for me to do so. My judgement becomes impaired in subtle ways. Often it's not until I get home or run over a curb that I realize I probably shouldn't have been driving. However, it's usually the only way I can get home.

I have discovered that if I eat a custard cup of frozen organic blueberries as soon as possible after I've run into something toxic it mitigates the reaction. Not always, and not very much sometimes, but it does sometimes help. The headache that develops after exposure will not be as severe for example. Headaches are the big kahuna of reactions. For me anyway. They do not respond to aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen or any other over the counter analgesic. The only thing that removes a headache is something that puts me to sleep (and I don't think the headache actually goes away in those circumstances!). I have a very intense, dull headache this morning after yesterday's escapade. That's almost 24 hours after the event.

I also suffer from chills after an exposure to toxic fumes. Nothing I can do will warm me up. I get grouchy and short tempered. I'm restless but can't think well enough to sew or read or do anything. Or I can't stay awake at all and sleep for 12 hours straight. I engage in retail therpay online. I play countless games of solitaire. I overeat the few things I'm allowed to eat. It's just a spinning wheel of pain and discomfort everytime I try to go out and be a normal person, and then I come home and try to cope.

The tail end of the cycle is depression. At least I've learned to recognize that that's what it is. When I start to feel depressed I know it's almost over. And I remind myself that the thoughts going through my head are not true, not real. They are the result of the toxins I was exposed to 12 or 24 or 36 hours ago. It still amazes me that mere fumes can make a person react on an emotional, sub-conscious level. That is perhaps the most frightening reason to demand that manufacturers remove toxic chemicals from the products most people use every day. Never mind that there are known carcinogens in those products as well and that people are dying from more kinds of cancer than ever before. Honest to Pete, people, prevention is the cure. For everything.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Priority Quilt Number 2

We are having a lovely spring morning here. The sky is blue, the birds are singing, the ranunculus have come up and are about to bloom in my flower bed. This is the kind of morning I'd like to bottle or preserve in some way. Maybe now that everyone in the neighborhood has gone back to work I can safely go outside and take a few pictures. Yesterday was lovely too, and everyone was out working in their yards, running combustion engines of one kind or another. Those are just some of the fumes that make me ill.

In fact, it dawned on me that when I lost a few days last week (not posting between Tuesday and Saturday) one of the reasons was that I went to an art show Wednesday. I knew it was a risky thing to do, in spite of all the precautions I take, and I was right. I didn't realize how badly I had been affected until later in the day. Of course by then it was too late. Oh well - all better now.

The other thing that apparently kept me from posting was work on this:

My second quilt for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. I had just begun to embellish it the last time I showed it, here. It's a good thing these are small quilts (9" x 12" in this case) because once I had all the star sequins sewn in place I realized that they were overpowering the quilt. I really didn't want to do it but I went back and took most of them out, replacing them with a single seed bead. There are abalone chips thrown in there too to give visual balance to the embellishments.

The spider web was already in the scrap of fabric; I simply enhanced it with a bit of embroidery. The Victorians considered spiders a symbol of good luck and I have adopted that for my own work. That pieced "butterfly" was another stumbling block. Everytime I thought I was done with it I'd step back, have a look, and decide it wasn't right. What you see here is probably the third version. I originally outlined it with a red perle cotton that blended in so much it made next to no difference. The first yellow I whipped the outline stitching with was too bright. Now I'm happy with it. Well, happy enough to call it done ;- )

While we're waiting for the registration number for "Guardian Angel" to come in I am thinking about what to do for Terry Pratchett's quilt. I have pulled a couple of fabrics that I might use... but you never know what will end up in the final quilt.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blogger's Quilt Festival

I can't believe I haven't posted since Tuesday! It's not like I've been all that busy. sheesh

Cruising Blogland I've discovered the Blogger's Quilt Festival hosted by Amy at Park City Girl. I've been debating about which quilt to post as my favorite. It's not an easy decision! Finally I've chosen this quilt because it has been one of my favorites for a long time.

I wish I had a better quality photo of it. At least there are a couple of detail shots...

What I love about this quilt is the liberated or maverick quality of the piecing. It's a free-wheeling quilt that has obviously been used and repaired and used some more. It's slightly less than twin size.

The top was machine pieced but the quilt is hand quilted. I bought it from an antique shop when we were living in Texas. I can detect debris in the carded cotton through the muslin backing. This quilt just speaks to me of home-grown and make-do with a sparkling result.

*Edited to add: There are now over 300 quilters participating in this Bloggers Quilt Festival! If you click on the link in this post or on the badge in my sidebar you will be taken to the master list of links to everyone's quilts. This event officially runs for a full week but the links will be up forever, I imagine, so you can peruse the wide variety of styles anytime you want :- )

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Backs and Fronts

I dug deep into my closet and actually found a piece of chambray from way-back-when that was long enough to back the Foodie Quilt. It was also 60" wide, but of course it needed to be wider. I thought about using the leftovers of the food prints to make up the difference in width but I think I have enough to make another whole set of blocks. And I'm trying to save as much of the blue kitchen print as possible to use for binding this quilt. So I dug some more...

And found this mustard and red plaid. (Mustard and ketchup?) Apparently it used to be a skirt at one time. I have no recollection of when or where I acquired this piece of fabric. I took off what remained of the placket and opened up the hem. Then I washed it with some other new yardage that recently arrived from Good as new! All it needed was this little bit of the blue to make it long enough and now the top and the back can go to the longarm quilter who has volunteered to work her magic to turn it into a quilt. Hurray!

Now it's time to turn my attention to other projects. A few days ago I learned that one of my favorite authors of all time, Terry Pratchett, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. What a crime! Of course the first thing that popped into my head was to make a quilt in his honor to donate to Ami Simms' Alzheimer Art Quilt Initiative. Then I remembered that I had yet to finish this little quilt:

You may or may not recall that these are the bits leftover from the first quilt I made for this cause (as a result of Tonya's call for Priority Hope quilts). That first quilt was made with my MIL in mind. I thought it would be appropriate to make this one in honor of my own mother. She was never diagnosed with Alzheimer's but suffered from at least a mild form of dementia in her last years. This is what I have done with it thus far:

The light yellows on the left side are not as light in reality as they appear in this photo. Trust me, they look much better in person! I have done a bit of embroidery to enhance the butterfly in the lower left. The top will be quilted to the batt as I sew on star sequins and beads and whatever other embellishments seem appropriate as I go along. When I have completed this quilt I will begin one for Sir Terry. {sigh}

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I finally managed to get the border on the Foodie Quilt:

After all that stewing about the directional print I'd chosen for the sashing I ended up just cutting across the width of the fabric as usual. Since the sashing strips are only 2" wide (finished) I figured any discrepancy in the print would be minimal.

The border print is something I had planned to make curtains out of for our kitchen ~ two houses ago. The selvage was dated 1993. 'Nuff said ;- ) Now the challenge is to see whether I have anything that will be big enough to back this 70" x 84" top!

I sewed up a few more blocks out of scraps too:

Here's wishing everyone a lovely Easter...

from my nest to yours!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


We have been blessed with some beautiful spring weather the last few days. Sunshine, warmer temperatures... it's been heavenly :- )

I broke down and bought a pot of blooming tulips. I figure I'll enjoy them on the back deck until I can make a place for them in my flower bed. According to the tag these are 'Triumph Type' tulips.

They're sort of short, like a dwarf tulip, and so far are not standing up very straight. It was their color that sucked me in. Love it!

I couldn't bring myself to work with the borders on the Foodie Quilt yesterday. Instead I played with the patches I've been cutting. I put together these Bow Tie blocks...

and these Churn Dash blocks:

I am determined to discipline myself to get those borders cut and applied before I make any more of these scrappy blocks. They are calling me like a new toy does a child. But the idea was to use them as leaders and enders between other sewing so if I sew them all up now what will I use for leaders and enders?!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cutting Marathon

Last week I played with the food blocks and came up with an arrangement I liked. It was more than I could do to get a decent picture of the layout though so you'll have to wait to see how it's coming together. In the end I decided to sash the blocks, and there were about 5 blocks that did not make it into the quilt top. They will go into the orphan block box for future use.

The next step was to buy yardage to make the sashing. I found a print I really liked at the first shop I went to but it cost more than I was willing to spend. All the others were too busy or the wrong color or had a definite stripe to them, which I didn't want to have to cope with in terms of keeping it all going the same direction over the surface of the quilt.

Finally, because I was out of options and rapidly losing mental function, I bought a yard and a half of a texture print that is the perfect blend of colors without being too light or too dark. Unfortunately it has a distinct direction to it, running parallel to the selvage edges. I washed and pressed it and then turned my attention to other things to let my subconscious dwell on the issue of whether to worry about how that print was going to look as sashing.

In order to cut that yardage into strips for sashing I knew I would have to clear off my cutting surface. I do not have a 'before' picture for you. Suffice to say that I had scraps of varying sizes left over from my Fungly Quilt stacked with leftovers from more recent projects, all piled around my little 24" x 36" mat. Those scraps had been on my mind for some time. It was either cut them up into usable bits or put them away somewhere, somehow. I really didn't want to have to find another place to store something so I decided the time had come to cut them up.

I made a plan. I decided to make six inch Bow Tie blocks and Churn Dash blocks. That would allow me to cut pieces as big as 3.5" square all the way down to 1.5" strips.

I had enough of a few fabrics to cut 3.5" squares for backgrounds for Wonky Stars too. There were even a couple of novelty prints I managed to get 4.5" squares out of for future 12" blocks. What you see above is what I had done by day's end Saturday.

Last evening I allowed myself the pleasure of pairing up squares for the Bow Tie blocks. They are now ready to be used as leaders and enders (a la Bonnie Hunter, here). I think there will be 24 blocks made from the stack of patches you see on the left in the upper part of this picture:

I have not yet paired up the prints for the Churn Dash blocks, although I have separated out the prints I want to keep for myself and those I'm willing to part with. I suspect there might be another 24 blocks in those patches!

I have background squares for maybe 12 Wonky Stars (9"). They are not going to get made very soon, I don't think. At least not until after I get this Foodie Quilt top together. I intend to cut up more of my older fabrics into squares for Wonky Stars, so maybe when that happens I can begin to think about what the stars themselves might be made from. Today I need to bag up these patches (to keep them together and safely out of the way) and get on with cutting those sashing strips...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Back to Blocks

...If I can remember where we left off!

I don't think you've seen these yet. The one on the top right is per Carol's request ;- )

The two on the bottom of this set (below) are made from prints I bought while DH and I were celebrating our anniversary. No holiday is complete without new fabric!

I think I'm ready to set these blocks together now. My original plan was to make 20 blocks and set them 4 across by 5 down with sashing and a border. While I was making the blocks I thought about making 30 blocks instead and just mashing them together. If I added a border the top would end up being about the same size. Stay tuned to see what happens!

And now, in honor of the special day that it is I offer you this link to a news report I can only hope is true :- )