Texas Tornado?

What a fight it has been to reach the end of a project that is “The Persian Plum” originally an undertaking my husband was so passionate about in the beginning. For all those who have ever purchased a Block-of-the-Month or a jelly roll, you might have come to the same conclusion that not all the pieces that come with your purchase is cut to the exact size needed. On several occasions when in the piece making process, I found pre-cut fabric not square as it should have been or shy a quarter of an inch here and there. Nothing is more frustrating than blocks that don’t meet the finished size requirements. After making 9 of the 12 featured blocks my husband did the only thing that would make him feel better, which was to start another quilt. Due to my tenacious nature, I volunteered to wrestle the quilt into submission and after a very painstaking process, it is finally complete. Image

During this process my husband began a very lovely Ohio Star quilt, a Christmas quilt and I had just completed yet another Sage Garden pattern using Heidi Grace inspired prints. Last weekend I started a Christmas inspired panel quilt with fabric I purchased from a Moda warehouse sale, purchased 8 bolts of fabric from a Joann’s close out sale for quilts I plan to make for family members; all of which are vying for top position and this morning Michael announced that I wont be able to make any progress this weekend because he is overhauling the sewing room. 

In the beginning it was nice just to have a sewing room put together using an old dining room table, mismatched chairs and even a love seat to plop down on to read or sit and talk but as time has marched on we have both come to the realization that the room itself is not as user friendly as it could be. In his excitement, Michael has been talking at me a hundred miles an hour this morning. He has been sharing pictures of sewing tables, cutting tables and storage units to transform the room in such a way that might actually work for us instead of against us. Not quite the weekend I was planning but I certainly cant complain. 

The long road to an idea

For my readers, this was a draft I saved with the intention of posting later with a picture of the mini quilt for swapping. I never did complete it which is probably why I never posted this, however it is reminiscent of the nonsense that is the Lawrence household and because I mentioned my cat (of whom is no longer with us) I thought I would post this for my husband and all of those who have/had quilt loving cats that think everyone you make is theirs.

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Draft Date 6-16-2012

I was just about to sleep last night when I heard a rustling sound. It was faint at first and barely audible over the sound of the fan on high speed. It got a little bit louder and more frequent as the seconds passed. I thought of dismissing it when I remembered I had left a plastic shopping bag on the floor. As much as I wanted to roll my eyes in disgust; having been well on my way to the land of nod, my mind took over and was imagining this plastic bag gracefully being swept a little here and  moving slightly there due to the amount of air being pushed around the room. It was kind of a peaceful thought really and I was enjoying the sweeping motions until I heard something else. It became a little more frequent and not more than a foot away from where I was trying to sleep. It got a little louder or maybe it was just getting closer and you better believe it was freaking me out, right up to the point where I fully recognized what “IT” was.  That oh so familiar ring of the tiny little bell that hangs from the collar on my cat. I don’t know how many of you have cats but mine is not allowed in our room at night because is a down right disturber of the peace. Knowing full well that I am not going to get to sleep now until I investigate, I get out of bed, trying to decide which was more annoying, the dancing bag or the bell.  I couldn’t see anything at first. My dark vision hadn’t kicked in yet and the glow from the clock wasn’t really at the right angle to make out anything. Of course the hunt for the bag has now become a challenge and since I’m wide awake now I am making quite the game out of it.  I  meander in the direction of the dancing bag and bend over to  pick it up. After feeling around and finding the bag I go to snatch  it up and found that I couldn’t. It took  me a minute but I soon realized this was no mere plastic bag, as it had been transformed into a tent, complete with occupant. Ollie had climbed in all the way, turned about in it and was using it as a windbreaker. You know I don’t normally like to spoil one’s fun but the mere thought of hearing the bag crinkle every time he moved was already driving me out of my tree. I threw him out of the room, bag and all.  I climbed back into bed where Michael and I proceeded to discuss what a big weirdo our cat is and waited for sleep to come.

I thought about my clothes in the dryer, birthday cards I hadn’t sent, my UFO’s, my 5 minute project I hadn’t managed to get to in the last 5 days, etc….I was lying there disgusted at myself because I had been uninspired enough to come up with a mini quilt to swap. But today, I did. And though today is full of starts and stops, my mini will consist of a back drop scene of tea time. Complete with wallpaper and wood  wall, with a window to the outside (adorned with curtains) a winged back chair in front of a table set for two. I have 9 days for it to be together, quilted and bound.

As I said, I never did finish but I did root around for it in the nooks and cranny’s of my sewing room. I am having quite the time getting the picture from my phone to my computer so I guess its going to be a little while longer and I will try again when its finished.  As for Ollie… we miss him and hope that if there is a cat heaven; it’s filled with warm, soft quilts.

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A 4 month hiatus…what have I been doing?

First let me start out by saying Happy New Year to everyone and apologize for dropping off the face for five months without warning. It was quite unexpected (my leave of absence) though in my defense, Christmas was rapidly approaching. I was finishing projects and I was trying out this thing called going to the gym? Last summer I was making an attempt to lose some weight and get into shape that wasn’t round. I hit my first milestone in the month of September.  On the 11th (my birthday) I decided I was going to run my first 5k and I did without dropping dead at the end like I was so sure I would. Since then, I’ve been running 2 to 3 5k’s a week, depending on how many visits to the gym I make. Of course I can never do anything without an accomplice and since I became my husbands partner on his Weight Watchers endeavor, he too goes to the gym. Our cardio/weight lifting regimen has taken the place of our free time after work and making healthy breakfast & lunches at night to take to work the next day consumes the very last of our efforts before passing out. I’d like to say that we are starting to balance out free time with getting healthy and doing all that it takes to stay that way but to be honest it is work and we are still trying to find a happy medium that will allow us to get back to the other things we enjoy so much. On the brighter side of things, I have lost 28 pounds and my husband has lost about 30. So for not having had time to make a few quilts and mini’s I would say that was a fair trade off. Not to mention, all those projects we were trying to finish by the end of the year came to a grand total of 7 quilts and $800 in long arm fees (which isn’t bad at all for the custom work) Thanks Linda, you’re wonderful! We have a few quilts that are waiting to go out but since I haven’t gotten around to taking any pictures of them, I will have to make an effort to post those later.

Michael came across a few quilts that he decided our home couldn’t do without and one of them is in the piecing process. It’s a maroon and white Ohio Star that is coming along beautifully. But since its Michael’s project, I wont steal his thunder by posting a pic. You will all have to visit his site to get a look at it sometime soon. Like me though he took  a little break and they are awaiting to be finished along with his Persian Plum. I’m told he is going to be starting it back up and have it finished by next weekend, so…I’m thinking that along with my latest nine-patch project for my son Justin, I will be helping out my handsome husband to complete a few his.

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Volunteer Work

As we are approaching the end of the year at a break neck pace I have been bracing myself for the impact for such a time when all my projects come to an end. The company I work for has an incentive program that has certain requirements and percentages per, to acquire what any other company would call a bonus. One requirement worth 25% of our incentive (should we choose) is community service. Isn’t it sad, how much we aspire to give back or volunteer to the community but in reality find that there just aren’t enough hours in the day?  This 25% for community service breaks down to 12 hours of volunteer work for the whole year. 365 days a year and  I barely managed to eek out my community service in the last two weeks in order to obtain 100% of my incentive. Pathetic, I know. And if that didn’t prove just how much I suck, let me just bear the rest of the whole ugly truth in saying that it only took me two days of focus to whip out a project that had been under my nose the whole stinking time.

In my growing library of quilting books there is one among them called “Quilting for Peace.” If ever there was a book that was responsible for coining the phrase, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” this small on the outside but  huge inspirational compilation, saved my collective…you know; with it’s quick yet mesmerizing quilting pattern called the fence rail. I later learned from my long arm quilter that this pattern also goes by the name, triple rail.  Upon reading the text for this particular pattern, I learned that a woman in Colorado along with a small group, made several of these fence rail quilts as Emergency Snuggle Blankets for firefighters to carry on their trucks. The pattern is so very simple to read, understand and put together. With a group, I’m certain with an assembly line of sorts, could whip out quite a few of these. By myself I was able to piece two quilts in about a 48 hour period. My long arm quilter mentioned that she and her guild apparently made these 49 inch squared blankets for charity and that she charges around $20 a quilt. I cannot even begin to tell you how happy that made me.

 

Today I turned in all my paperwork for my yearly incentive and the one thing I am most proud to have accomplished was the community service project. When these two little gems come back from the quilter and are bound, they will find their new homes in the Shady Dale Firehouse in Oklahoma.

I have been following Texana’s Kitchen for a little while now and I just love her. Mostly in part, due to her recipes but also because she is real, hilarious, poignant witty and just my kind of girl. I am re-posting her last for all of those who are looking for something new, some good advice or maybe a few minutes of pure entertainment. BTW people, I met my husband at the “Saddle Rack” in San Jose CA. We have a wonderful blended family of 7 children/ 4 grandchildren and have been married for 16 wonderful years. Congratulations on your success Texana!
I appreciate your shared lively topics.

Texana's Kitchen

Today is my husband’s birthday.  Forty four years ago today, his mother was having her own Labor Day, of sorts.

On his birthday, as I celebrate with him, I also pause to remember how we met, why we married each other, and how we stay together.  It isn’t something we take for granted, and we talk about it often, as we see other marriages that take the path of least resistance.  Friends that haven’t been so fortunate will ask for advise on “how do you deal with….” or “how could I have avoided…..”, or any number of retrospective questions after the dissolution of their marriage.  I am no expert, and certainly not qualified to hand out marital advise, but I can tell you from my own perspective what has worked for us.

Where is the best place to meet someone?

I know I have heard people answer this with “church”…

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Letters to friends

About eight years ago, my husband introduced me to Sendsomething.net. A place online in which you can preview the profiles of others; where they come from, their likes and dislikes etc…and you can choose to send something to a person (a post card, a letter, maybe something artistic or homemade.)  Its been a wonderful place over the years to send something to someone at random and though everyone there would agree that receiving something at random is 100 times better than anything else a person usually gets in the mail except for maybe frequent random receipts from someone who has become a familiar pen.

I believe I have been sending/receiving post from fellow Sendsomething.net participants for about 8 years now. Over the years I have made quite a few regular pen friends which I may have mentioned previously. I have one pen friend in particular who lives in New Brunswick, Canada of whom I have gotten to know pretty well. I often imagine her in her favorite coffee shop, writing to me as she has in the past. Telling me all about the latest in her life, the natural going on of things and people she has mentioned and have come to grow familiar.  Once she wrote to me on the back of eight post cards and numbered them for me. Much to my shock and surprise, I received all eight on the same day. The post office employees went to a great deal of trouble I’m sure, to get all of them to me at once. Thanks postal workers! Speaking of the United States postal workers, one of my favorite pen friends is a postal worker who wrote to me after having found out about Sendsomething.net by carrying the mail. Hows that for influence, huh?

Anyway, even after 8 years of unique, homemade, hard-to-find and holiday letters and care packages, I still feel the need to send them all  something I haven’t yet. Last Wednesday, my husband and I took a vacation day off from work and headed to Moda for a warehouse sale. After the fact I regretted not having taken more pictures with all its neat and wonderful’s of the fabric world. But now that I really think about it, the one thing I really wanted to share were these beautifully stitched, fabric cards I mean to send to my pen pals before my post goes all holiday decor again.  So here you are, stitched cards so pretty it inspired me to make one of my own. I’m not a cross stitch person and I am just learning how to use the embroidery functions on my machine but it doesn’t take but a little imagination and know how to create a beautiful card from fabric and stock. Not too bad for my first time.

For the love of Moleskines

When I was a kid, I never kept a diary. I tried once but with an older brother who constantly made it his mission in life to know any secret or tidbit of information that he might use to get something over on me; let me just say that it was not in my best interest. My husband, when we first got together had journals of all types, sizes and thicknesses and the timeline between his first journals to the last spanned for years. I have to admit it was a little intimidating but the concept of capturing time and even freezing it between pages turned walking down memory lane into a time capsule opening event.

A page about special things and moments to remember. The pocket on the right page holds a hand made envelope sealed with ticket stubs, ribbon left over from Christmas and a secret wish known only unto me.

Another writer that I follow who indelibly epitomizes any good parent in the struggle of getting their child to eat something new; posts mealtime reruns in reel time fashion to give the reader more scope for the imagination. This parent/author who celebrates the triumphs of successful food introduction can be found here on wordpress under 17 Bites. Incidentally, it is called 17 Bites because that is the magic number supposedly, that it takes to get someone used to the idea of eating a new food. Like 17 bites, it takes 14 to form a habit. 14 days that is.  I have to admit that I still to this day, do not write consistently but I do carry my journal with me everywhere and have the ability to write or doodle it in whenever it pleases me.

A small collection of finished moleskines

My husband introduced me to Moleskine journals because they are perfectly sized, bound in leather, stays shut with a built in rubber band and wears really well. Moleskine  also makes  bound journals with graph paper for doodle bugs,  blank pages for the artists and journals with maps for the traveler. There is quite a history about the moleskine and for a time my favorite was no longer being produced. But in recent years moleskines, like so many other things have made a popular resurgence. There is quite a following or fan club if you will, of moleskine users and unlike the days of old when a person would never dare share anything from their personal diary or journal, moleskines are put on internet display by their owners to share their unique work and artistic talent.

Covered in a photocopy picture of architecture from a coffee table art book by Leonardo da Vinci.

What I love about mine is that I found a way to better protect them from the elements. As a paper crafter with a black belt in pasting anything together at any angle, I have been waterproofing my journals with decorative paper stock and deco podge. This glue like lacquer repels water, coffee, coolaide or anything else in liquid form that could possibly be spilled on, splattered or accidentally placed into. You simply use a glue stick to place each piece of paper where you want it on the outside cover and allow it to dry for an hour or two.  Afterwards apply a coat of deco podge with a paint brush (try not to go over the same areas repeatedly before it has a chance to dry or the paper will eventually tear.) I usually apply one coat, allow it to dry then apply a second coat and call it done. Shampoo, rinse, repeat…just kidding. After a day or two of drying and hardening, you have a journal that can really stand the test of time.

Japanese paper piecing copied from an artist off Deviantart.

My quest for perfect applique

Earlier this year I finished my first block of the month quilt, purchased from Joann’s Fabric. It would be the second quilt I ever made solely on my own and my first attempt at applique. I have to say the undertaking was quite ambitious on my part and at the time I had no idea that this type of quilt would be my Whale but since the finishing of that first quilt, a secondary BOTM (Natures Garden) and the third Albatross called Petal Power Duo, I have indeed come a long way in a short amount of time.

In the beginning I knew absolutely nothing about applique, except for that one piece of fabric would sit atop of another and be stitched down. I hadn’t looked at any stabilizer products much less used any on my first quilt. And one would think that in this day in age, something that sounds so simple would be simple. Maybe it was before the days of the interfacing and stabilizer revolution. I have talked to several people now about their preferences in products and  applique techniques, and though it seems that they have their favorites due to finding something that worked the first time out or an old stand by because their mother used it, it almost seems as though they have a limited opinion or next to none about the wide variety of products and how to utilize them to their advantage. A friend of mine (who has been quilting for 20+ years) confided in me last week that she didn’t know how to do applique and could I show her? Of course you know this just spurred me on to try every product within reason, test it on different type, size fabric pieces and this is what I came up with.

Pellon makes great stabilizer products. There are several types to choose from and each one has a specific purpose for which it is made.

Pellon Wash-N-Gone

Pellon Wash-N-Gone is a magical little number if you are working on a quilt with applique  that seems to have a million little pieces made up of circles, leaves, petals, stems and/or your doing embroidery/monogramming work. Wash-N-Gone stabilizes your product and at that same time, save’s you the trouble of trimming or removing the excess as it dissolves in any temperature of water. FYI, don’t handle with wet hands, it works that good.

Heat’n Gone

Pellon Wonder Under or Heat’n Bond Fusible Web is fantastic as it is an iron on product. This is great for a medium size applique projects or to use on any one individual cut out. To keep your applique from being stiff on your quilt, you would have to use the webbing on the outside edges of your cut though. Trying to remove the inner excess afterwords is hard work and risky.

Pellon Stitch’n Tear

Pellon Stitch’n Tear is fabulous to use for large applique in size and quantity. It’s thicker and stiffer than other stabilizers, which makes it easier for pinning and leaves your finished product laying flatter than others that might come out with a little poof.  Especially if you satin stitch your applique. Stitch’n Tear is cheap, so you don’t feel bad about anything you waste and the time you save for not having to cut  the excess away with scissors is, well… you cant put a price that.

And finally, a word on  “fabric glue stick.” Use it. It’s simple, cheap and it works. I rubbed it on the backside of the flower petals and stuck it to the block where I wanted it. I ran an iron over it and it stayed for days before I got around to sewing it together. I haven’t had the opportunity yet, to try any of  the spray on adhesives other interfacing/stabilizer brands like Peltex or Sulky but I imagine they all work pretty well and much the same.

As I always, I hope you found this topic interesting if not useful. If there is anyone out there who has a testimonial on this subject, I would be very interested in hearing it. Have a great day and happy stitching.

How does your Garden Grow?

Apartment living doesn’t really provide space enough for anyone to plant and enjoy pretty flowers, ferns or any other leafy green one might find in a garden or patio display. I’ve taken to making paper flowers recently, so that I might enjoy the loveliness of such things indoors for longer than a week. and I know it’s hardly the same but I’ve found that quilts do provide a happy ever after place for flowers and other garden life.

Yesterday, I finished the top of my Natures Garden quilt and as I mentioned in my last post “Heirloom Projects” I was as good as my word, changing the design to suit my fancy and making it entirely my own. I think I actually like it better the way I made it versus the way the picture displayed it as far as the sashing framework goes. I cut and sewed the vine work in a reverse fashion because that’s what rebels do and because I’m me, there are quite a few more embellishments (flowers, vines & leaves) than the pattern called for. I love taking creative license with my own things. I was never one to color outside the lines as a child and to make something different other than what the directions called for would have been inconceivable to me before. I don’t exactly know when my ability to make changes on the fly occurred, I only know that I’m quite okay with it now and I’m having great fun with my new-found artistic freedom.

As I’m getting ready to send this quilt off and am in the home stretch with my third rag blanket for my grand daughter Lily, I am about to ramp up a long awaited project. My next quilt is going to go to Michael, who has been patiently waiting for me to make something just for him. I will no doubt be posting a little something about it soon. Until then, have a happy creative day.

Heirloom Projects

Michael and I have been thinking greatly upon the number of quilts we have managed to make recently and how many we will have in the home at our disposal in a month or two. It has been our desire for the love of fabric shopping, designing, sewing and the art of quilting that sent us into quilt making motion. And as you know, things in motion have a tendency to stay in motion.

In the most recent past, Michael went on a quilt book buying spree in the which spurred on many an idea for upcoming quilt projects. Inside Thimbleberries “Quilting a Patchwork Garden” we found a very simple pattern (block within a block) in green with a clean white background. The pattern is called Sage Garden and is every bit as lovely as the book depicted. Micheal made one for a friend of mine in the green and white, then we proceeded to make a few in other colors that we wouldn’t mind having about the house. Though they are newly made and are awaiting the long-arm quilters touch, we decided to have them custom stitched to give them an heirloom appeal.

Speaking of Heirlooms, I happened to actually look the word up to see what qualifies as an heirloom by definition. This is what the Encarta Dictionary had to offer: 1. Something Handed Down -something valuable that has been in the family for a  very long time and has been passed down from one generation to the next. 2. Something Inherited by Law-An item of personal property attached to the estate that a legal heir will inherit.

After 40+ years of purchasing/collecting material things, a person would certainly have an item or two to pass down. In our family, as money will probably be the least of these things inherited, it has become apparent that our quilts will most likely be our legacy to our children. I love putting together blocks of the month because for the most part all the pieces are already cut out and the predetermined fabric colors all compliment each other. Each one has a theme befitting a season and you can put it together as quickly or as leisurely as you like.  There was a run on the Persian Plum block of the month (due to it’s popularity) and many people were frantic on how to get the rest of the blocks to make the whole quilt. Luckily for me, I went for Nature’s Garden instead and left the Persian Plum to my husband to make.  When we find that blocks are sparse we make an effort to get all the ones we need so that we can at the very least get all the blocks for the top put together. Of course, when you make a block of the month, there are many a cookie cutter quilt out there that looks just like yours. To make it my own and special to me and/or my family I have decided to give my BOTM my own personal spin. Whether I go off pattern just a touch or add something that wasn’t there before, I can forever take pleasure in knowing that even though many people may make the same quilt as mine, mine will be different.

Block 8 of Nature’s Garden sold at Joann’s Fabric