Sunday, December 31, 2006

The end of 2006. Welcome 2007!

Only another 8 hours or so until the end of 2006 and the beginning of a new year. Hurray! This is the first year in my life when I can honestly say that I am eager to see the old year go. I had some wonderful experiences, including two trips to Haifa, Israel to the Baha'i World Center. It seems quite unreasonable to say so, but despite those trips and a wonderful family, on the whole, UGH! I think I will have to do all the various folk ceremonies to send the bad spirits away so that 2007 is better! Here in Macau, at Chinese New Year (not until February this year) we have 3 days of fireworks to scare off evil spirits and bad luck. In Japan, on Setsubun you throw dried beans while calling out, "Happiness inside, demons out!" Unfortunately that one is also not until around February. I remember being in New Mexico once for the new year and seeing the burning of the Zozobra (the accumulated misery of the year, in the form of a wood and paper mache sculpture of a pretty scary giant man). However, DH may not appreciate me burning one in the apartment. Anyone know any good ways to make sure 2007 is not like 2006? Any I can use in the next couple of hours?

On the quilting front, I think I was pretty productive in 2006. I finished
  • Autumn Roads
  • A wallhanging using leftover Autumn Roads blocks
  • A table topper using more leftover Autumn Roads blocks
  • Butterfly Dreams, for a friend's daughter
  • Spring Stars, for the family
  • Two Kimono wallhangings
  • A landscape, Hanging Garden
  • Once Upon A Time, a story telling quilt for a friend's son
  • Almost Amish, for the family
  • Still Not Amish, for the family
  • Two wall-hanging/table toppers from leftover blocks from Almost Amish.
Not too shabby! I hope I can do as well in the coming year. I am also determined to begin exercising again and get myself into shape. Five years ago, before I was appointed to a position I currently hold, I was in great shape and exercised regularly. Over the five years, exercise has completely fallen by the wayside. Although my weight is still fine, I am definitely out of shape. Exercise is coming back on my schedule this year! Welcome 2007!

Since I have no quilty pictures, here are some from one of my trips to the Baha'i World Center. I plan to use the one of the open gates as the basis for a wallhanging someday in the future.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

It's here! Umm. No it's not.

Yesterday I was very excited to find a package waiting for me at home -- a fabric package! When there was a sale on at Hancock's of Paducah, I ordered Kona Snow for the Blue Marquee quilt and the Single Wedding Ring, and some Kona black just to have on hand. It has taken a long time to get here because of the Christmas season,and I thought it was rather a coincidence that just after posting about Blue Marquee, the fabric I needed to finish it would come. Because of the cost of international shipping, I always ask the store to fill the shipping envelope to the full with fabric remnants so that I get my money's worth. However, when I opened the package, only the remnants were there. By themselves. Huh???

I wrote to Hancock's and there was a glitch putting together the order because of the backlogging of some fabrics. They will make up the shipping cost on the other part of my order that was backlogged. But, unfortunately, I am still not able to work on the Blue Marquee. Instead I am doing more half square triangles for the Single Wedding Ring Quilt. Since my piecing is not always accurate, I have cut the strips a bit bigger than required and have been cutting the finished HSTs down to correct size. I do love the quilt, but the extra trimming step is getting quite old! I have taken to leaving a pile of pieced but not trimmed fabrics on the kitchen table with my cutting mat. Every time I pass by I trim one or two. My poor family. I am sure that DH thought that giving me the dining room table for my sewing table would mean the rest of the apartment was free of quilting gear.

On a happy note, my family is now using my quilts! I love to see them curled up under the quilts. When I first started quilting, I basically made wall hangings. Then I took a long break from quilting while DS was young (about7 years!), and about 1 1/2 years ago was bitten by the quilt bug again. Since then I have been making lap quilts and throws. The first few turned out too small. Even DS wanted more quilt to cover himself up with!

The last 3 have been just about twin size, but I faced a new problem. My quilts were a bit on the stiff side, so DS preferred his store-bought comforter. :((. I finally figured out that the stiffness was partially because of a stiff fabric I had used, partially because of the combination of the batting and the quilting itself, but mainly because I had never gotten around to washing the quilts! You can tell laundry is high on my priority list, LOL. Now that they have been washed with fabric softener, they are getting full use. Yesterday, DS and DH both brought them to bed to sleep under after using them while watching tv. Unfortunately, I have no pictures. They are probably both grateful.

I also recently got another picture of a quilt in use. I made a pair of wall hanging for my mom and one of her friends, and mom sent a picture of it in its new home. I have only recently begun giving quilts away because I didn't think they were ready for 'prime time' as it were. They still aren't but I am now giving them away anyway. It is fun to see others enjoying the quilts. I made the pattern for this one myself based on pictures I had seen in Hancock's catalog and one the web. Here it is hanging up:

And some details of the quilting from the back and from the front before binding:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

WIP Wednesday

It is WIP Wednesday, and luckily I can take part of the day off for quilting and posting. I have a number of works in progress, but I think I will post about the one that is closest to being a finished top - My "Blue Marquee" quilt. I saw this quilt in The Modern Quilt Workshop and just loved it. It is a great stash buster. Since I have so many blue scaps and because I want a set of blue or green spring-like quilts (I have one at this point), I decided to make this one in blue and white.

It was also a great contrast to the Rattlesnake quilt, which requires concentration. This one is pretty mindless to put together! All you have to do is sew your strips together, cut them up, mix them up, and sew into long strips again. Then it is just chain piecing the blocks together. It went really quickly, and it will have lots of room for fancy quilting. In fact this could aready be a finished top. I have finished all the blocks I need. All I am missing is the alternating plain blocks. I orderd the plain white fabric from the US, and it has shipped, but it has not yet arrived :( . When I was getting to the last few blocks, I was running of leftover strips, so I ended up piecing together very small scraps that were at least 2 1/2" wide. I just barely had enough for the last block. Then last night, when I was cleaning up my sewing area and sorting scraps, I found a whole set of strip sets I had made and put away to use with this quilt. I hope there are enough for an inner border!

Today has been quite a fight with the computer. Due to the earthquake in Taiwan, I cannot access many of the websites I usually use or visit. Sites from Hong Kong and Macau are okay, Taiwan sites are out, and sites from other parts of the world vary. Some sites are totally impossible to access, while others are okay for a while then fail to load. Hope everyone in Taiwan is okay. I got a bunch of messages from one good friend I work with, so he seems to be okay.

On the web front, I did finally figure out how to get the Quilt Studio link on my blog, though. For some reason for the past several days, blogger would not accept it when I tried to post it as HTML coding in the widget box, but when I added it as if it were text, blogger decided it liked it. I think this means I will soon officially be part of the Quilt Studio Ring.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all! I hope everyone has had good holidays. Today we had Chinese Dim Sum for the Christmas brunch. Not too traditional for most parts of the world, I would think, but quite enjoyable. After brunch with friends, we went downtown for a bit. Here is a view of the neighborhood.

I got a bit of time for quilting in. It looks like I now have two very slow projects going! I worked on my single wedding ring quilt first. Each block has 16 half-square triangles, so I will need 320 in all. After getting all, or almost all the regular squares cut out and pieced, I started working on half-square triangles. I only did one strip's worth, but I am already getting very tired of half-square triangles! This is a time that I wish I had Thangles to try out. After making one strip's worth of half square triangles, I started piecing, but I only ended up with enough HST to make about 2 full blocks. Unfortunately, the way I put things together, I ended up with 1 full block and 2 that are about 2/3's done. I wasn't up for any more half square triangles.

I then went to work on my second WIP -- a Rattlesnake quilt based on Karen K. Stone's pattern. It is my first attempt at paper piecing. I love how sharp the points turn out and how flat everything lays. I do find that it requires a lot of concentration to get everything right, so I can't do too many blocks at once. After piecing one curved and pointy section, I think I am done for the night!

Friday, December 22, 2006

It's Done!

I got back last night from an extremely busy trip to Beijing, so there has been no quilting going on here for the last week. It was a very productive trip, though, and I got to see lots of good friends. I brought DS with me, even though all his friends would be in school. Luckily, he made some new friends, got to see some of the old ones, and had a good time until the second to the last day, when he got sick. He was okay for traveling last night, though, and we are both happy to be relaxing at home today.

This morning I was ready to get quilting, and I finished up the edges on Not Quite Amish that needed some extra quilting. I am not all that pleased with how the borders turned out, but it is done! I am sure my family won't mind. Here is its:

The full quilt.
I love how the "block" sections turned out. They are actually four blocks set together. It is a great quilt to make because it has so few pieces in the blocks and they come together really quickly. You could also set the blocks like pinwheels. Someday I will make one like that, too, but I am out of many of the fabrics I used, now.

The block detail and the quilting from the back. It seems the quilting always photographs better from the back! I actually like to use the back of the quilt to see how my quilting designs are evolving and to figure out where I will need more quilting or which motif will work best.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Binding Finished

I finished sewing on the binding on Not Quite Amish last night, and this morning i have been trying to fix the gaps that I left at the outside of the border. On the short border gaps I have tried two things. I just got Diane Gaudinsky's machine quilting book -- it is fantastic -- and on one end I decided to try her "bouncing banana motif" after outlining the design a couple of times. I love the motif, but the end result is too dense. I probably could have made the bananas bigger, but that didn't occur to me until it was too late. It did flatten out that end of the quilt, though!

On the other short end of the quilt I did some looser outlining of the motif and then did a loose McTavishing. I am happier with that result, so I will do it on the remaining two borders. That does mean that one border will look quite different from the others, but my feeling at the moment is that this a quilt for the family, and they will not care that it is not perfect! It is a bit disappointing because I really love how the top turned out, but I feel I have not enhanced it with the quilting. I love how I did the blocks, but a better and quieter choice for the sashing and border would have turned out much better, I think. A learning experience, I guess. If this quilt lasts a hundred years, people will either look at it and say, "What was she thinking?", or they will find the eccentric choices charming. It certainly has the "Dorky Homemade Quilt Look"!

My realizations about my choice of quilting motifs has made me really admire the author of "The Quilting Makes the Quilt." This quilt was actually really easy to put together, so it would not be difficult to make another one just like it and quilt it differently. But as much as I love the design, I cannot imagine making another, much less five like in "The Quilting Makes the Quilt."

I won't have quilt pictures to post today, so I will add some dog pictures and some links to my favorite dog-related web sites. The first is Goodpaws, a wonderful community where one can find dog lovers who have faced any problems you may be facing with your pets, both furry and non-furry, and are more than happy to share experiences and make suggestions. I usually only pay attention to the dog related sections, but there are sections for cats, reptiles, rodents and so forth. The people are friendly and love to share stories about their pets. It is a great place for pet lovers to hang out. The same can be said of the second site, The Family Dog, Inc. , and in fact there is a lot of overlap in the communities. Run by Sarah Wilson and Brian Kilcommons, both outstanding dog trainers, it is also a site where you can get practical guidance from a renowned dog trainer as well as find friends who share your enthusiasm for dogs. I found the site when I was having a lot of problems with our dog, and Sarah's willingness to guide us over the Internet was invaluable. I also had the privilege to take two classes with her (too bad I couldn't bring our dog!) and they were fantastic. I only wish I lived near them and could participate in more classes. The links are to the main pages of the sites so you can see all the resources available, but the message boards are wonderful.

Here is Sally helping pick up laundry around the house. It is easier training her to help pick it up then training the family to put it in the basket! She does sometimes get creative and pull things out of the basket, bring them you and put them in the basket again, just so you will give her a treat.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hmmm...This is going to take longer than I had thought.

I am about half way through binding my "Not Quite Amish" quilt (Or, "Still Not Amish" or another variation as I can't decide on the name). I had hoped I would be able to share a picture soon, but it looks like that is not to be. When I decided on the quilting motif for the sashing, I didn't think things through properly, and when I got to the borders I realized the motif isn't wide enough for the border. Originally I thought it would be relatively easy to extend it to fill the area, but in practice, it didn't work at all. The resulting space is too narrow to add another half motif and have it still look good, but too wide to leave unquilted. No matter, I thought, I'll just quilt some parallel lines to fill in that area. Oops, big mistake. After finishing the quilting and squaring up the quilt, those parallel lines seem to wander to and away from the binding like nobody's business. They are a disaster. Luckily, I only did one or two lines, thinking I would fill in more if needed. I am either going to have to pick them all out or come up with a fill design that will cover them up! Argh! A dense filler design would probably work, but it will tend to make the quilt stiff, at least until it is well washed. I am using Warm and Natural batting, which I like, and which is the only one I can get (a topic for another post, I think), but I need something more drapable. Or else I have to wash my quilts about 5 times each to get them softened up, and I am not that fond of laundry.

Since I can't share pictures of Not Quite Amish, I will share the small wall hangings made with the leftover blocks from my Not Amish quilts. For the Almost Amish Quilt I used a lot of (to my mind) less traditional filler motifs and practiced my McTavishing. This was all done before getting the book and video, so it is just a rough approximation of McTavishing at best. For this wallhanging, I used a very lacy design in the block and McTavishing in the background.

Unfortunately, the lacy design is totally lost in the batiks. It was good practice, though. For the seco
nd one, I went the other direction and did feathers in the block and left the background empty. Looks like it could use some more quilting in the background from the photo, though! Too late, it has already been given away.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I have been browsing various quilt blogs for a while now, and I thought it was about time to try my own hand. I just came back from a work related trip that allowed me to visit the family of the woman that taught me to quilt. She has since passed away, but she was a wonderful, creative person who gave me a great gift with quilting. Though I took a rather long break from quilting when my son was young, I have recently come back to it with a vengence. Now, thanks to her generosity and kindness, I have a hobby that allows me to use my hands and my creativity, and that helps me to keep some balance in my life.

In starting this blog, I began to make a list of all the works I have in progress, and I found there is quite a collection! I am almost done with one quilt that I am calling "Not Quite Amish" or something like that. It is just lacking the binding, and possibly a bit more quilting, but I hope to post some pictures of it soon. What I can post now, though, is its sister quilt, "Almost Amish." I acquired some wonderful batiks and very bright prints that I wanted to find a use for, and this was the result. Fortunately or unfortunately, I accidently cut twice the number of patches I needed (I forgot the fabric was folded!). Not Quite Amish is the second quilt from that project, using the leftover blocks. There area also two very small wall hangings I have been able to make, still using the leftover blocks. Both these quilts have large open spaces for me to play with my machine quilting, my latest obsession.