Monday, December 10, 2012

Warning: Rant Ahead

My husband and I have a Christmas party to go to this coming weekend.  Last Thursday I realized that, just to be sure, I'd better try on my party pants (denim trousers to be exact, not too dressy, not too casual, just right) and... wait for it... they didn't fit.  I could get them on and do up the zipper, but the end result was less than desirable.  Obviously one week is not enough time to whip myself into shape; so I decided it was time to invest in a new pair of party pants.  On Friday I packed the kids off to school, dropped Casey at doggy day care and headed for the mall, spirits high, feeling optimistic.

15 stores and 5 hours later I was back on the highway headed home in tears with staticky hair, sore feet, and hips rubbed raw from peeling myself out of skinny jeans.  All I had to show for my efforts was yet another cardigan and a pair of velveteen, side-zip ankle pants.  I'm ashamed to admit that I bought the velveteen, side-zip ankle pants in a panicked last minute frenzy when I succumbed to the sales clerk's insistence that they would be fantastic with a pair of cowboy boots or kitten heels, neither of which I own -- and by the way, what is a kitten heel?  I had an hour in the car to bemoan the loss of my waistline, my muscle tone, and my youth.  And it got me thinking about how much better fabric shopping is than clothing shopping:

  • Fabric is much more affordable.  For $2.50 I can buy a fat quarter that will make me happy for literally years.  The velveteen, side-zip ankle pants -- $90. 
  • When fabric shopping, you don't have to undress in front of a full-length mirror, under fluorescent lights, only to find that you may have made some questionable undergarment decisions.
  • Fabric always fits.  When buying fabric you never have to feel inadequate if your legs are too short, or your hips are too generous, or your breasts aren't generous enough, or your roots are showing, or there's a new wrinkle on your face, or... oops, sorry, but I did say this would be a rant.
  • With fabric you don't have to worry about pancake-butt or muffin-top or other carb-related fashion faux pas.
  • Quilt shop sales ladies never hound you in the dressing room and follow you around forcing you to make hasty decisions (say it with me... "velveteen, side-zip ankle pants") that you then have to spend more time and gas money to rectify.
  • Fabric is always age-appropriate.  You never have to worry that a certain fabric will make you look frumpy, stuck in the 80's, or worse, like you're trying to dress like your 14-year-old daughter.
  • When fabric shopping, you don't accidentally stray into dark stores, with pounding music, and beefcakey guys lurking in the shadows, where you feel like you should have to show your ID to get in.  Although I must say, I didn't actually mind the beefcakey guy.  Wonder what it would do to fabric sales to have a token beefcakey guy in quilt shops.  Sigh, I think that makes me a cougar.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, fabric doesn't make your butt look big.
I still don't have anything to wear to the party this weekend, but I do feel a bit better now.  Which is good because I have to venture back into the clothing stores and I have to return those d@#* velveteen, side-zip ankle pants.  This time I'm building in time to hit the quilt shop on the way home.  Wish me luck!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Recovery

I love Thanksgiving -- delicious food, time spent with family, and it's the kick-off of the holiday season.  Thanksgiving is fun and festive without the pressures of Christmas.  But today is the Monday after and with a sick child at home, there is no way for me to escape the aftermath.  I just strolled around my house to assess the damage.  Here's my Thanksgiving recovery by the numbers:

1 is the number of turkey carcasses waiting to be taken to the dump -- love living in the country.
2 is the number of pounds I gained over the holiday thanks to the...
3 pies I consumed -- with help, of course.
4 weeks until Christmas -- ARGH!!  Nothing to do with Thanksgiving recovery, just a moment of panic.
5 is the number of days it's been since I've done more than the bare minimum of housework; therefore...
6 is the number of hours of bed-making, dusting, vacuuming, mopping and, best of all, bathroom cleaning I estimate I have ahead of me.
7 loads of laundry await me on the laundry room floor.
8 is the number of hours of sleep I desperately need to compensate for my Thanksgiving average of 6 thanks to turkey gravy performance anxiety and early morning hockey.
9 is the number of plastic containers of leftovers in our refrigerator that I have to deal with -- somehow pureed vegetables have lost their appeal.


10 is the number of new Christmas fabrics sitting on my cutting table, calling my name, waiting for me to play with after I recover from Thanksgiving. 

Bring it on!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rosebud - Free Pattern

Just in time for the weekend I'd like to share a link for a free pattern for my quick and easy "Rosebud" table runner.  The pattern is currently a "Web Extra" for Quilters Newsletter's December/January 2013 issue. 

I originally designed this quilt with fat quarters in mind, but it can be made with standard 1/4 yard cuts of fabric or scraps you have on hand at home.  If you'd like to make it with fat quarters, you'll need 5 -- 2 cream and 1 each of a rose, medium red, and dark red.  Two yards of green fabric will be enough for the blocks, borders, backing, and binding.

The "rosebud" blocks are a variation on a log cabin block.  They are simple and so much fun to make.  And with only 12 blocks and a quick strip-pieced checkerboard border, you can easily knock this table runner off in a weekend -- that is if your husband agrees to cook dinner and do the laundry and drive the kids to their activities and do the housework and...  Ok, it might take a couple of weekends, but it is a piece of cake. 

Red not your thing?  Try this quilt in different shades of plum or periwinkle or go crazy and make a garden of many colors of rosebud blocks.  Whatever you decide, have fun and happy quilting!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Ok, so this post has nothing to do with quilting, but I can't help myself.  To celebrate Halloween and with a nod to next week's election, may I present to you the candidates...

Yes, my boys decided to dress up as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and I can't remember the last time I've laughed this much.

Here's Mitt borrowing a page from Nixon...

And here's Barack showing off his dance moves...

Here are the candidates at the Halloween costume parade last Saturday...

The boys were clearly hamming it up and did their best to field some tricky questions parents had about the economy and foreign policy.  To their delight they took home the prize for "Funniest Costume," and they managed to divide up the prize without any arguments in a wonderful display of bipartisanship. 
I won't tell you who was more popular at the party.  Lucky for me I'm an independent and I love them both equally!!
Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Charmed, I'm Sure

I love charm packs!  For $10 you can own an entire fabric collection and play with fabric that you wouldn't normally buy.  I can actually remember my first charm pack.  I bought it in Ohio in 2006 and it was from Kansas Troubles' Bound to the Prairie collection.  I loved to look through those beautiful squares of fabric and imagine the possibilities.  The only problem was that I could never actually decide what to make with the charm pack.  With only 5" of each fabric I was afraid that I would choose the wrong pattern or make a mistake cutting and then the pretty stack of perfectly coordinated fabrics would be gone.  Performance anxiety kept me from using the charm pack for 6 years.  But last summer I started designing projects for charm packs and I finally used my Bound to the Prairie charm pack and guess what, the world didn't end.  Now instead of hiding away in my fabric closet collecting dust, I have a little quilt that I can enjoy every day.

If you're like me and you love to collect charm packs but you're unsure what to do with them, I've got a great pattern for you.  I've made it twice, once as a gift for one of my kids' favorite teachers.  She is a Civil War buff so I made the quilt using reproduction fabrics.  I loved it so much that after I gave the quilt away I immediately made one for me.  This quilt is 15 1/2" x 15 1/2".

I actually didn't use a charm pack to make this quilt.  I used scraps from my stash.  But I know it works for charm packs because the second time I made it I used a charm pack from the Meadow fabric collection by Blackbird Designs for Moda.  I changed the borders to show off more fabrics from the charm pack.  This one is a bit bigger, 17 1/2" x 17 1/2"

Don't you just love star blocks!  And even though these stars are only 3" finished, they are really easy to make...

From 16 background colored squares cut:

4 - 1 1/4" x 2" rectangles
4 - 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" squares
(save the leftover  1 3/4" x 5" piece for use in inner border)

From 16 star colored squares cut:

1 - 2" x 2" square
8 - 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" squares
(save the leftover 2 1/2" x 3" piece for use in outer border)

Instructions for one star block:

On the back of each of the 8 - 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" squares draw a diagonal line from corner to corner.  Place one square on one background 1 1/4" x 2" rectangle with right sides together like this:

Stitch on the drawn line, press the seam, press the seam open and trim leaving a scant 1/4" seam allowance.

Repeat on the other side of the rectangle as shown below:

The final star point unit should look like this:

Repeat to make 4 star point units.

Then assemble the 4 star point units, 4 - 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" background squares, and 2" x 2" center square one row at a time as follows:

To ease assembly, for the top and bottom rows, press towards the corner background squares and for the center row, press towards the center square.

The quilt takes 16 star blocks.  Once the center of the quilt is assembled you can use an extra fabric for an unpieced border as in the Civil War version of this quilt -- I cut the border fabric 2" wide.  But here are the cutting instructions if you like the look of the Meadow version of this quilt and you'd like to use more of your charm pack fabrics:

For the inner border...
From reserved background 1 3/4" x 5" pieces and 1 additional light charm pack square cut:

52 - 1 1/2" x  1 1/2" squares

For the outer border...
From reserved star 2 1/2" x 3" pieces and 4 additional darker charm pack squares cut:

32 - 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" squares

Refer to the photo above for the border assembly.  I machine quilted this quilt by stitching in the ditch between each star and along both sides of the inner border.

So there you have it, the perfect little quilt to showcase your favorite fabrics from that charm pack you just don't know what to do with.  You can make this quilt in weekend as a gift or, better yet, for yourself!  Just don't wait 6 years to do it!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Buyer Beware

I love buying fabric on-line.  Beautiful photos, unlimited selection, no lines or traffic, and I can shop in my pajamas.  What could be better?  Buyer beware -- there is a dark side to internet fabric shopping.

As you know, my computer was recently on the fritz, but what I didn't mention is that while it was in the shop I was working on submissions for a weekend quilts magazine.  Fabulous timing.  Two weeks before the deadline I discovered that I didn't have enough border/binding fabric for one of my submissions.  I wasn't sure I remembered where or when I bought it (one of the hazards of a growing stash), but I was able to find a scrap of selvage with the manufacturer's name on it.  It was a blender type of fabric, so I decided to check out the manufacturer's website to try to find the name for the exact color. 

I borrowed my husband's iPad and through the screen protector film and fingerprints (the kids love the iPad), I was able to discern 8 different green fabrics.  After consulting with my daughter, I was pretty sure that the color that I was looking for was "Bright Lime Green."  So I found an on-line store that carried "Bright Lime Green" and ordered a yard.  I also decided to order a half-yard of a darker "Medium Green" from a second store that I had never used before just in case I decided to go a different route with my outer border.  Shopping finished, I happily moved on to another project.

4 days later, the "Bright Lime Green" arrived and it was decidedly not the right color.  I still had 10 days before the deadline, so back to the iPad I went.  I tried a third store this time that had helpful descriptions next to the fabric photos.  I was certain that "Mojito" had to be the right color, but to be on the safe side, and because the price was right, I added a half-yard of "Envy" to my cart too.  While shopping, I found a fourth store that had some "Bright Green" and because I was still convinced that I was working with a bright green fabric (it looks much brighter in my sewing room) I rolled the dice and bought some of that one too.

Another 4 days passed and "Mojito" and "Envy" arrived.  Close, but no cigar.  One was too light and the other too gray.  "Bright Green" came on the same day and I discovered that I was not, in fact, using a bright green on my quilt.  Now I was panicked.  6 days until the deadline and it was a Saturday, which meant that anything I ordered that day would not ship until at least Monday.  I grabbed the iPad and pulled up the website for a store that I knew shipped quickly.  They had two greens that I hadn't tried yet:  "Sea Green" and "Light Yellow Lime."  I seriously doubted whether either would be the green I was looking for, but I was beyond reason now and bought a half-yard of each anyway.

The anticipated delivery for my latest purchase was Thursday, one day before my deadline and just enough time to wash the fabric and slap on a border, IF I had the right fabric.  But Wednesday I opened the mailbox to discover an envelope from the store that I had never ordered from.  Remember the "Medium Green" that I ordered on my first go around - 12 days before?  I had given up on the order because I hadn't received any sort of confirmation or tracking number, and in any event I had only ordered the darker green on a lark.  I carried the envelope into the house, tore it open, and lo and behold, it was the right fabric.  I laughed out loud (to Casey's delight) and couldn't decide if I was more relieved that I finally had the right fabric or exasperated because tomorrow's mail would bring two more half-yards of the wrong green.

I finally finished the quilt top and sent it off to the magazine on time.  But now I've got 3 1/2 yards of random green fabrics (actually the entire line of greens, with the exception of "Forest" which I'm actually thinking of buying to round out my collection) and a whopping credit card bill.  One half yard of "Medium Green" cost me approximately $55.  That is, hands down, the most expensive fabric I've ever purchased.

Top:  Medium Green
From Left:  Bright Lime Green, Mojito, Envy, Bright Green, Sea Green, Light Yellow Lime

And the moral of the story?  Beware of on-line fabric shopping. 

I guess it could also be:  Know your color before you buy.
or maybe:  Don't shop using your husband's iPad.
or better yet:  Buy bigger cuts of fabric. 

Take your pick.  I'm going with "Buy bigger cuts of fabric!"

Happy Quilting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Technical Difficulties

My apologies for not posting for so long, but almost two weeks ago my computer decided to implode and I just got it back from the Geek Squad last night after 12 days - 12!  Not sure what they do in the back room at Best Buy, but I suspect it has more to do with playing computer games and less to do with actually repairing computers.  Although I must say I am delighted that so far my computer has not decided to spontaneously restart itself and it is remarkably quiet... maybe too quiet.

I may not have been blogging, but I have been sewing and now it's time for show and tell.

Remember this adorable Christmas present from my mother?

It's a miniature quilt rack that holds 6 inch quilts.  So cute!  After Christmas I didn't want to pack it away so I made this as a Valentine's Day gift for myself...

And then there was the miniature tree that I made for spring...

It seemed to work pretty well for summer so I left it out, but now that fall is here I thought it was time for a change.  So...

Ta da!  2 inch maple leaf blocks!  I paper pieced the blocks for accuracy and this time I got smart and used a knife edge for the little quilt instead of struggling to bind something so small.  This little quilt makes me think of blowing leaves and clear blue skies and crisp apples and spicy pumpkin pie.  All that from a 6" quilt...

Happy Fall!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It's a Good Thing

First day of school tomorrow (sigh) and we're busy buying last minute school supplies, hunting down new sneakers, and filling out paperwork.  Not much time for quilting, but I do have a good idea to share.

A few years ago, my husband was nice enough to bring home from work a table that was headed for the garbage.  It's pretty beat up and the top of the table is a bit sketchy, but it's big and solid and has adjustable legs - perfect for quilting.  I've had it pushed up against the wall in my sewing room all this time, but recently decided to try it in the center of my room and I love it.  We even added a shelf across the bottom of the table that's big enough to hold my batting, several bins of fabric, and my lap quilting frame.  It works really well, but it doesn't look that great.

Another problem in my sewing room is that my overworked quilt rack can't hold any more pressed quilt tops, quilt backs, or binding strips.  I'd hang curtain rods or towel bars to use for storage, but I don't have any available wall space.

But the other day, my daughter and I were in Home Depot and in a moment of DIY clarity, inspiration struck.  Why not use the edge of my table to hang fabric and quilts in progress, keeping them flat while simultaneously hiding the storage shelf.  Ta-da! 

Here's what we came up with:

We bought two screw eyes and a 36" long - 3/4" diameter dowel rod.  We pre-drilled holes (34" apart) in the edge of the table before screwing in the screw eyes to prevent the wood from splitting.  The screw eyes are pretty heavy duty, so it was a bit hard to screw them into pre-drilled holes, but once we got them started, we were able to use a screw driver inserted into the screw eye hole as a handle for turning - much easier.  We inserted the dowel rod through both screw eyes and presto! 

Now I have a curtain around the table and hanging storage that acts as a visual reminder of what I'm working on.  And it's pretty!  I liked it so much that I added two more.  As a final touch my husband added a few screws to one end of the table so I can hang my quilting rulers.  Perfect!  And to think it only took four years!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Quilters Newsletter's Best Christmas Quilts Blog Tour

Welcome fellow quilters!

"On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me, three french hens..."

Ok, so it's not the 3rd day of Christmas, but it is the 3rd day of QN's 12 Days of Best Christmas Quilts blog tour and while I don't have french hens, I do have calling birds! 

And they are sew sweet - perfect for adorning your Christmas tree or to add a little something extra to a beautifully wrapped package!  The pattern for my quick and easy ornaments can be found on page 24 of Quilters Newsletter's special issue Best Christmas Quilts 2012.  Best Christmas Quilts 2012 is available now on newsstands and in bookstores and quilts shops.  It's also available through in both hardcopy and digital editions.

Also featured in Best Christmas Quilts 2012 are my Let it Snow table runner and pillow.

I actually made the pillow version of Let it Snow first as a Christmas gift for my mother.  When she opened her gift and started to laugh, I looked at the pillow and realized that I'd forgotten to give the snowmen arms.  I was horrified, but it turns out that she was laughing because she had also made a snowman pillow for me - go figure.  She didn't even notice that the snowmen didn't have arms!  Needless to say, they have arms now!

I loved making the snowman panels for the pillows (yes, I made one for me!) so much that I decided to adapt the pattern into a table runner, something that I could keep out not just for Christmas, but for the rest of winter as well.  Because of the hand work in the snowman panels, I decided to keep the patchwork in the center of the table runner simple.  I chose homespuns because I think they instantly convey warmth, but these projects would be equally charming in any fabric that suits your taste or decor.

Here's a close-up of one of the snowmen.  Isn't he cute!  I made him out of felted wool and appliquéd him to the background using a whipstitch.  Super simple and fast.  But you can use whatever material and appliqué method you prefer.  Change up the color of the hats, add whatever embellishments speak to you, and have fun -- just don't forget the arms!!

And now, the moment you've been waiting for (and thank you for your patience), your chance to win a fat quarter bundle and two panels from the Too Many Men collection from Red Rooster Fabrics.

Look close... closer... closer still... yes, that's right, snowman fabric!  If only I knew of a pattern for say a table runner or even a pillow to make with snowman fabric, hmmm. 

If you'd like a chance to win this adorable fabric and a copy of Best Christmas Quilts 2012 leave a comment on this post before 11:59 p.m. MDT tonight (8/22/2012) by clicking on the word "comments" in the blue box below.  I will draw one name at random (just please make sure I have your email address).  Only one comment per person, please, and the contest is only open to those who haven't won something from Quilters Newsletter in the last 90 days.

Enjoy the rest of the blog tour and good luck!

Thank you for all of your comments.  This contest is now closed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Why haven't I posted on my blog for the past two weeks?

Why is my husband afraid to come home from work?

Why has my well of quilting ideas temporarily dried up?

Why do my children run in the other direction when I come up from the basement?

Why am I now answering the phone:  "Jen's house of anger, how may I help you?" (but only when my sister calls)

One word.  Drywall.

A month ago, my husband and I decided to remodel and add a bathroom to our basement.  He worked on framing and hanging sheetrock and then passed the drywall finishing torch to me.  After all, I'm a quilter and therefore have a good attention to detail and passable motor skills and I'm a mild perfectionist (ok, mild to moderate).  Who better to tape and mud (yes, that's right, I wrote "mud" like a real drywaller, trust me, I've earned it) the corners, seams and screws?  How hard could it be to achieve smooth walls?  I had no idea. 

Every day I descend to the basement to spread on another coat of joint compound and my blood pressure begins to rise.  And every day after 4 hours spent struggling to smooth joints, and slopping mud all over myself and the floor, and using language that I dare not speak of here, I climb back up the basement stairs and call my husband and vow that I will never, ever attempt to finish drywall again no matter what.

My sister said I should abandon the project and get someone in to finish it, but as my husband says "I'm in it now."  God willing, tomorrow I will apply the final coat.  Then I'm hanging up my taping knives for good.  Sanding, priming and painting should be a walk in the park.  I'm almost there.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Oh, did I mention I'm also supposed to install a ceramic tile floor.  Shudder.

I realize this may have been a somewhat gloomy post (welcome to my pain), so I've decided to include a gratuitous shot of our puppy Casey.  I take no responsibility for doing this to Casey -- it was my kids -- I'm just the photographer.  Although I must say, she doesn't look too worked up about her new look.

And by the way...

Check back here next week (the 22nd to be exact) for a chance to win a prize.  I'm participating in a Quilters Newsletter blog tour to promote their Best Christmas Quilts 2012 special issue.  I'll be writing about the projects that I designed for the special issue and picking one lucky reader to win a fabric bundle!  Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Juicy Rationalization

I started the day off feeling a little guilty today.  I haven't exactly been a prolific blogger lately and between the trip to Florida and our camping trip to Maine (aah, Maine -- I love Maine), I haven't been quilting as much as I'd like.   But then it occurred to me -- my productivity may have gone downhill, but I have been busy -- gathering inspiration!

Our annual camping trip to Maine is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  I love being at the beach watching the kids body surf and make sand castles.  I love eating sandy picnic lunches and beachcombing for sea glass, sea pottery, and other treasures.  And when we've finally had enough sun, I love roaming the little shops searching for a trinket to take home to remind me of Maine.  Did I mention that I love Maine?

This year I saw colorful pottery, crocheted earrings, and glass bauble sun catchers.  I saw beautiful handmade bags, countless paintings and, believe it or not, squirrel underwear (briefs, not boxers).  But these were my favorite finds...

I saw these whimsical fish painted on repurposed fence boards at L.L. Bean's Home Store.  My souvenir budget didn't allow me to take one home, but I snuck a couple of pictures for my inspiration file.  Who knows, my mom and sister may get fish for Christmas this year instead of quilts.

I found this carved wooden bird at a store in Freeport called The Mangy Moose.  When I walked by it, it called out to me and I had to pick it up.  It fit perfectly in the palm of my hand and I had to make it mine.  Now it (he? she?) is perched on my kitchen windowsill awaiting the perfect name.

Here's a photo of the shells, pottery, and sea glass I collected this year.  I even found a shard of elusive red glass and a baby sand dollar.  I had an amazing moment of elation when I found a tarnished spoon and imagined it to be a silver spoon lost at sea long ago; but, alas, when I cleaned it up a bit, I discovered the words "Stainless - China" on the back.  Sigh.

My final prize is this 5" x 5" signed print of a painting by Maine artist Catherine Breer (  I bought a calendar of hers a couple of years ago and couldn't resist this little print this year.  I love the color palette that she uses -- so bright and cheerful.  If I could paint, and I think I've firmly established that I can not (see my posts Be Not Afraid parts 1 and 2) this is how I would want to paint.  I'm going to frame this print and hang it in my sewing room to remind me of Maine until I get to go back next year.

I'm not sure if I will try to make a fish or carve a bird or paint a landscape, but my little treasures definitely got my juices flowing and they make me happy.  I'm always amazed and inspired by what other creative types are making.  Glad somebody is getting some work done!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dream a Little Dream

One last post on the wonders of long arm quilting.  At the end of last week, Quilters Newsletter contacted me about using one of my proposed table runners for their website (hurrah!!!).  I'd already pieced the quilt top, but it's been awaiting quilting for longer than I care to admit.  The kicker was that QN wanted to have the quilt finished and in their hands by the end of July.  Not much time.  And to complicate matters, I'm scheduled to go on a family camping trip the last week of July.  Really not much time.

After much internal debate (and some external -- to the chagrin of my husband, my kids, my sister, my mom, and the dog) about whether to attempt to quilt it by hand or seek help, I finally gave in and decided to call Joyce, the long arm quilter who has done a few quilts for me lately.  When she didn't answer, I left a message and waited to hear back from her.  I figured that if she wasn't available, I would just have to drop everything and hand quilt around the clock to finish the quilt.  Actually the thought of having to abandon housework, meal prep, and exercise for a major quilt-a-thon sounded pretty appealing.  But alas, ahem -- luckily, Joyce actually called me from her vacation (amazing woman!) to let me know that she would be able to meet the deadline.

And so Monday morning I delivered the quilt to Joyce.  After an hour of deliberating over designs and thread colors, we parted ways.  "I'll try to give you a call tomorrow afternoon," she assured me.  Surprised and somewhat dubious I said "Wow, that would be great!", but in my mind I was prepared to wait until the end of the week.

Not 6 hours later -- NO EXAGGERATION -- the phone rang.  I picked it up, said "Hello" and Joyce responded, "Jen, it's done."  Alleluia!!

And now it's Wednesday and I'm almost finished binding the quilt and on schedule to ship it by the end of the week.

There are three things I know to be true:

1.  Joyce is a wonder.

2.  If I'd tried to hand quilt the runner, I'd be unshowered, wild-eyed, and listening to Under the Tuscan Sun for the 10th time, while swimming in filth and preparing to eat take-out pizza for the 5th night in a row.  (Instead I'm clean, the house is passable, and we're having pasta for dinner.)

3.  It's time for me to dust off the dream of having a long arm quilting machine of my own!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Drinking the Kool-Aid

My apologies for letting so much time elapse since my last post, but alas, I've been on vacation.  Not just any vacation, but a Disney World vacation.  It was our first trip to Disney and really our first big family trip.  In the past our vacations have consisted of visits to family, the odd weekend in Boston and one in NYC, and camping, lots of camping.  And as anyone who has camped will attest, camping isn't really a "vacation."

With my daughter about to enter high school and my youngest finally tall enough to go on all of the rides, my husband and I decided that this summer was the time to make good on our promise to take the kids to Disney.  We tried to go into the vacation with realistic expectations--after all, this trip was about the kids, not us, and even though theme parks weren't really our thing, we thought it might be nice just to get away.  After waiting for 45 minutes for our first ride in the blazing 95 degree sun, my husband and I were both secretly hoping that we hadn't made a serious mistake.  But six days later we were converts.  Disney World was amazing!

One week of dry, sunny days and balmy, mosquito-free nights.  One week of no cooking, no housework, and, believe it or not, no bickering.  One week of playing with the kids, floating in the pool, and being spoiled by Disney employees.  The kids were happy, my husband was silly, and my biggest decision was which ride to try next.  The occasional long wait, the big crowds, and finding a lizard in the shower one morning did nothing to diminish the experience--granted it wasn't me in the shower with the lizard.

Forgive me if I'm waxing rhapsodic, but I had no idea a real vacation could be so much fun.  Between the unpacking, the laundry, and the kids arguing in the kitchen as I write, I'm sure I'll come down to earth soon.  And next week I'll most likely have something quilty to say.  But for now let me leave you with the wish that I heard countless times at Disney:  "Have a magical day!"

By the way, here's a pic of my Disney souvenir:

Yes, it's a patchwork hat made with Mickey Mouse fabrics!  You can take the girl away from quilting, but you can't take the quilting out of the girl.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Constant Quilting

Well, today is the last day of school and instead of making me excited for summer, it always makes me melancholy.  The kids are another year older; we've had to say "goodbye" to teachers, classmates, and friends; and our nine-month routine is about to go out the window.  It's an inescapable reminder of the steady march of time.  Clearly I'm not good with change.

But because change is inevitable and, try as I might, I can't stop time, I've had to find a way to slow time down... yes, it's quilting.  Planning, cutting, and piecing while listening to music or with Pride and Prejudice playing in the background (for the 20th time) I'm able to forget.  For a few stolen moments I don't have to think about the fact that my daughter will enter high school next year or that my son will have to face junior high without his best friend.  With my mind on the quilt taking shape before me I can set aside my sadness that I have only one child remaining in the village school that has been at the center of our lives for 9 years and I can ignore the nagging worries about how I'm going to entertain 3 kids and a dog for 2 months.

In quilting, as in life, the colors and fabric, the patterns and textures are ever changing.  But unlike life, the process of quilting remains constant -- always rhythmic, soothing, and familiar.  And so for the past few days, instead of singing the blues, I've been working on a small quilt for a favorite teacher.  Call it avoidance, call it escapism... I call it healthy.

For Mrs. Johnson - 14" x 14"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

And the Verdict is...

I recently decided to have some of my quilts quilted by a long arm quilter.  As a dedicated hand quilter, this was not an easy decision to make, but a huge backlog of quilts awaiting quilting was enough to finally put me over the edge and give it a try.  Remember this block of the month quilt? 

It's the first one back from the long arm quilters' and the verdict is... I love it!

Here's a look at the finished product:

Actually I've had the quilt for a couple of weeks, but between baseball and lacrosse games, puppy school and a submission deadline, I didn't get around to starting the binding until yesterday. 

I'd like to say that I'm finished with the binding, but in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that I'm still working on sewing it down on the back.  Sigh...

But back to the quilting.  I love how the stippling in the inner border makes the appliqué pop...

I think the pattern on the setting triangles is really pretty...

And I especially like the "piano key" pattern in the outer border...

The drape is a bit stiffer than with a hand-quilted quilt, but my mom assures me that it will soften with use.  And it is a very different look than hand-quilting -- although no less pretty.  In retrospect, I might have chosen a less visible thread color for the blocks and setting triangles, but short of changing the thread color to match every block (and probably driving up the cost) I'm not sure what would have looked better.

But all in all I'm very happy with the finished quilt -- the operative word being "finished."  Let's be honest, it would probably have taken me a year to finish by hand (IF I finished it at all) and I would never have attempted that outer border.  Quilted and bound in less than 2 months (well, almost bound) all while working on other projects and without sore fingers.  I'm sold!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Quilting Hangover

Today I have the worst quilting hangover. 

Yesterday was the deadline for submissions for Quilters Newsletter's Best Fat Quarter Quilts special issue and for the past couple of weeks I've been spending every spare moment in my sewing room designing and constructing quilts--hence the dirth of blog posts.  If I had to leave my sewing room for yet another baseball or lacrosse game or school event, I made sure to bring graph paper with me just in case I was struck with inspiration.  I've subjected my poor daughter to countless "design consultations" and my husband, sons, and even my parents have had to endure my pleas for advice.  I've been distracted, disorganized, and perhaps mildly obsessed.  The house is a wreck, I've abandoned my poor sister, and the puppy is jonesing for a walk that lasts longer than 10 minutes.  To top it all off, I stayed up until past midnight for the past couple of nights frantically piecing blocks and trying not to accidentally do myself harm with my rotary cutter.

Aren't they pretty!

So now I'm tired, out of shape, and addicted to Diet Coke again, but (fingers crossed) it was worth it.  At 12:15 am Eastern Time, but 10:15 pm Mountain Daylight Time at the QN offices in Golden, Colorado, and therefore on time, I submitted designs for one lap quilt, one table runner, and four (yes, four!) small quilts for charm packs.  Now the waiting (and the clean-up) begins...

In other news, check out pages 50 and 51 of the June/July issue of Quilter's Newsletter.  There you will find my article "Make Peace with Your UFOs".  It's about coming to terms with both my 40th birthday and my large number of unfinished quilts.  And no, I won't be sharing how long ago I wrote this article!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mod? Me?

This is the quilt that my daughter Grayson used to sleep under:

I made it as a Christmas present for her when she was 7 and in 2nd grade.  It was strictly a utility quilt -- basic patchwork and quilted on my machine.  At the time my daughter loved anything bright and colorful.  I had so much fun collecting the fabrics for this quilt because they were totally different than the muted colors that I usually used.  I couldn't stop smiling while making this happy quilt and I've loved it ever since.  It suited my daughter and her colorful personality to a "t."

But my daughter just turned 14 (argh) and this year the only present she wanted was a redecorated bedroom.  Needless to say, the patchwork quilt did not make the cut.  I guess my vision of her marching off to college with her cherished childhood quilt in tow isn't going to come to pass.  And to make matters worse, she decided that she doesn't want to sleep under a quilt anymore.  She wants a duvet. 

After the initial shock and feelings of betrayal subsided, I was able to pull myself together enough to help her shop for a duvet cover.  This is what she chose:

It's from IKEA and has some Swedish name that I can't pronounce, but she loves it.  The new bedding looks nice against her yellow walls (thank God, no painting!), but we took down the pink curtains and replaced them with white linen.  We also took away the white headboard that I had stencilled with pink flowers when she was 2, painted the matching dresser blue, and dispensed with the pink table scarf that has covered her dresser for years.  The final touch was replacing her wooden lamps and pleated shades with ultra-cool glass lamps and barrel shades.

Basically we eradicated any shred of my influence and/or taste from the room and made it utterly her own.  She's thrilled with the new space and that makes me happy, but I'm also a bit sad to say goodbye to the touches of little girl that I spent so much time creating.

BUT she still needed a table scarf for her dresser to protect it from her fish bowl AND she couldn't find any that she liked in time for her birthday slumber party.  I saw an opportunity and I decided to take it.  Unbeknownst to my daughter I bought a 1/4 yard each of 8 solid blues that matched her duvet cover, cut them into 1 1/2" strips, and sewed them together to make this table scarf:

This quilt is like nothing I've ever made before.  I'm a pretty traditional quilter; I favor muted colors, small scale prints, and traditional patterns.  But once in a while it's so much fun to step out of your comfort zone and make something different, especially when you are creating with someone else's tastes in mind.  And I have to say, I love the result.  I even got carried away and made this pillow with 2 1/2" strips of the remaining fabric:

Now everybody is happy.  Grayson loves the table scarf and pillow because there's nothing girlie or traditional about them.  I may have made them, but they are totally her.  And I'm happy because once again my daughter has inspired me to stretch my boundaries and try something new AND I managed to get a quilt (and a little piece of me) back into my daughter's bedroom.  Shhh...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Vacation by the Numbers

Last week was my kids' spring vacation.  My husband could only take one day off, we have a trip planned for June, and the weather was supposed to be beautiful, so the kids and I decided to spend the week at home.  I imagined a week of relaxation and play, interspersed with a bit of spring cleaning, a touch of gardening, and a lot of quilting.  Needless to say, the vacation didn't exactly go as planned.  Let me give it to you by the numbers:

Baseball/lacrosse practices:  7
Orthodontist/hair appointments:  4
Tacos consumed by 9 12-year old boys at son's birthday party:  60
Playoff games watched by the hockey obsessed men in my life:  10
Hours spent redecorating 13-year old daughter's room:  5
Hours spent looking for the perfect lampshades for 13-year old daughter's room:  6
Trips to hardware and craft stores for supplies for redecoration of 13-year old daughter's room:  7
Windows washed by me:  25
Fingers somehow injured during washing of 25 windows:  1
Hours spent icing finger injured during washing of 25 windows:  2
Pairs of shorts tried on by sons during a "quick" shopping trip:  19
Pairs of shorts tried on by daughter during said shopping trip:  5 (go figure!)
Pairs of shorts tried on by me during shopping trip:  0
Pies baked for cookout with friends:  2
Hours spent cleaning for cookout with friends:  4
Hours it took for the house to go back to normal after cookout with friends:  1
Articles of husband's clothing ironed:  15
Loads of laundry washed:  11
Loads of laundry folded and put away:  3
Baths for our puppy Casey due to mud season:  8
Times Casey ran away to the neighbors' houses:  6
Branch arbors built with husband:  1
Nails bent during construction of branch arbor with husband:  78
Colorful expletives used by husband during construction of branch arbor:  153
And finally, hours spent quilting:  0

BUT today my husband is back at work, the kids are back at school, Casey is napping, and it's raining outside.  At long last, time to quilt...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Yesterday I finally had my appointment with the long arm quilter who is going to be doing a couple of my lap quilts--one is the tessellating leaves quilt that was pictured on my last post; the other is this block-of-the-month quilt:

The quilt is done in Kansas Troubles' Garden Inspirations fabrics.  It's a project that I did with my mom a couple of years ago.  I was good about keeping up with the blocks and I managed to piece the top up to the tan inner border, but when faced with doing machine appliqué for the first time, I put the quilt aside and there it sat.  For two years.  But last week I finally sat down and faced the appliqué...

If you don't look too closely it actually came out pretty good.  And the bottom line is that the top is now finished and hopefully being quilted as we speak!!

During the drive home from the long arm quilters' house I started to get fired up to finish more of my unquilted quilts (4 being quilted, 7 to go); and I was thinking that I might try a bit of machine quilting of my own.  I knew just the quilt I wanted to start with...

It's a simple pattern but to give it something special I made it out of fine-wale corduroy.  Yes, corduroy.  I thought it was an inspired choice, but unfortunately the magazine I submitted it to didn't agree.  Sigh.  Anyway, in person this quilt looks velvety soft and I've been thinking that machine quilting in the ditch might get the job done without detracting from the impact of the fabric.

So when I arrived home yesterday I got busy.  I cut a back and batting for the quilt, taped them down to my table, and smoothed the runner over the top to begin pin-basting.  I was humming along, happy to be making progress and already thinking of other quilts that I might be able to machine quilt.  And then, horror of horrors, I noticed that one of the star centers looked a bit different.  "No," I thought, "that can't be."  But sure enough, it was.  The center was wrong side up and because it's corduroy you can't miss it.  To fix it I would have to take off the border and the sashing and the star points.  And just like that the bubble burst.

For a couple of minutes I actually thought about leaving the center and moving on with the quilting.  After all, I've heard the myth of Amish quilters intentionally adding a mistake to their quilts for the sake of humility.  But alas I'm not Amish and my quilts are already far from perfect, so I picked up the seam ripper and removed the center.

so sad...

Now I have to decide if I'm going to rip the quilt apart to repair the center or if I can try to fix it with some hand-stitching.  But first I've got to decide if I'm going to push on, fix the mistake, and try to regain my motivation; or if I'm going to admit defeat, pack the quilt away, and move on with another project.  Hmmm... seems like the perfect time to write a blog post!