Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Home again

Don't you just hate it when you spend a lot of time on a quilt then discover an error after it's finished and delivered? I just discovered a goof on my Shakespeare in the Park. I was all ready to post how happy I was that it's finished and delivered – and my parents like it – when I pulled up the picture I took and discovered a goof.

I put a dark star on a light background in the place where a light star on a purple background should have been. This is what happens when you are trying to lay out a queen-size quilt on a table that's not big enough.

Aggravating, but I didn't notice it until I looked at the picture. I wonder if I should tell my parents or just see if they notice it?

Oh, well, we had a nice visit and I am glad to be home now. I spent the afternoon yesterday puttering around my studio, putting new toys away, trying things out, and figuring out what I want to do to reorganize (can you reorganize if some of it was never organized to start with?) my studio, and playing with some fabric.

Now that Christmas is over I can also show the wall hanging I made for my sister. It was pieced with scraps left from SITP, echo quilted using several different threads, painted a bit with gold ink and then finished with rhinestones. I tried out Mistyfuse for the first time to apply the gold mesh over the letters, and was really impressed. I couldn't have applied that with any other fusible I have.

 It looks like today will be a catch up with work day, then back to the studio I hope. More later.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays

I had thought I'd make a fabric Christmas card to share with all my friends online, but time has run away with me. So here is a Christmas card I created from a photo I took on Tybee Island yesterday.

Wishing the best of holidays to all my friends.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mmm... cookies

I just finished making about a bazillion cookies and since this is my favorite chocolate chip cookie in the world, I thought I'd share the recipe. I found this in a newspaper many, many years ago.

$250 Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups all purpose flour
5 cups oatmeal, ground (see note)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
24 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 8-ounce chocolate bar, grated
3 cups chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla and mix with flour, oatmeal, sale, baking powder and baking soda. Add chips, grated chocolate and nuts. Roll into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 10 to 12 dozen cookies.
Note: To grind oatmeal, place in blender or food processor. Measure before grinding.

A couple of notes. Make sure you have a really big bowl for this! I put the dry ingredients into my monster bowl, and use my food processor to cream the butter, sugars and eggs, then add the sugar mix to the big bowl. Also, be sure to make the dough balls one-inch. That way you end up with the perfect crisp bottom and chewy center. I usually divide out about one-third of the dough before putting the nuts in, for the people in my family who don't eat nuts.

Now that the cookies are finished, it's back to the studio. More later.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Where does your fabric come from?

I had a good weekend sewing, but it was mostly Christmas related stuff, and someone might peek, so I'll post on that later. My other effort over the past few days has been to create a new work station in my studio for sketching/painting/glueing and other non-sewing activities. There's some progress there, and more to come, I hope.

One of the hot topics of conversation on most of my quilting lists has been the expected increase in price for cotton, for fabric, for batting and everything made with cotton. Some people plan to restock before the price goes up, some work from their stash. And on the QuiltArt list, the discussion turned to repurposing fabric.

It was nice to see that so many talented quilters and artists see the value in repurposing, as I've been a fabric scavenger for a long time.

I love fabric stores, don't get me wrong. Let me loose in Mary Jo's, or a quilt shop with a good sale, and watch out! But I'm not a fabric snob, I'll buy fabric anywhere if I like the fabric and it fits my purpose. WalMart, JoAnn's, Hobby Lobby, quilt shops, you name it.

And thinking about my stash, a lot of it comes from non-traditional sources. There's quite a bit I've found at thrift stores and estate sales, there's fabric I've bought from quilting friends, there's clothing that's been cut apart for fabric, there's fabric I've gotten from people on FreeCycle,  and there's even fabric scavenged from the side of the road!

One of my favorite estate sale finds came years ago. The lady had made the most amazing jackets and blouses, using Seminole patchwork style piecing and mostly polished cottons. She had almost every color imaginable. The woman had moved into assisted living of some sort and her daughter was handling the sale. The daughter sewed too, and we had a great conversation as I picked out stacks of fabric to bring home. The next day I went back for even more. My only regret was that I didn't buy one of the Pfaff sewing machines she had for sale. I was new at sewing machine collecting then and didn't know what a treasure they were.

Points in this star came from fabric in a wreath.
Thrift stores are great, of course, and when you work in the same building with a thrift store you get plenty of chances to find treasures. Once the ladies who ran our store knew that I sewed, they often let me know when fabric or supplies came in.

One of the best finds was a fabric wreath. It was a cutesy country wreath on a foam form, but the fabric was a really nice turquoise and pink print. They were going to toss the wreath, but gave it to me. I took it apart and got over a yard of fabric from it. A little bit of that fabric went into the Shakespeare in the Park quilt I'm working on.

Fabric from clothes is another great source. I don't remember if I had been reading Bonnie Hunter's discussions of using men's shirts as fabric (I don't think so) when I first noticed that there were some really pretty men's shirts coming in to the thrift store. I started by picking up one or two with really nice fabrics that I revamped as shirts for myself.

Then I started buying shirts just for fabric. The thrift store does an end of season sale each summer and winter and clears out the old season's clothing. I started cotton shirts, skirts, sundresses, anything that had nice fabric. And I started picking up some silks and blends that I could use for other sewing. By the time I left the job in that building, I had stacks of shirts, and spent most of last winter cutting them up as I watched television.

This treasure trove of decorator fabrics came from
someone on FreeCycle
Another treasure trove came through FreeCycle. A lady who has an upholstery and home decor shop listed that she had scraps. I ended up visiting her and bringing back several huge bags of scraps and yardage. Not quilting cotton, but I've used it for tote bags, table covers, re-covering cushions and all types of things.

Okay, I'll admit now to picking up fabric on the side of the road. In the town where I live there used to be a small plant that made uniforms. About 10 years ago the plant had closed down and they were clearing out the building and literally dumped stuff on the side of the road. Fabric, tables, chairs, all kinds of stuff. It had been sitting out a while by the time I discovered it, so who knows what treasures I missed. But I brought home several metal chairs and a couple of work tables (that I'm still using). And I dug through the piles of fabric – it had rained by then – and brought home piles of fabric. Most of it was synthetics or blends that had been used for pants, and some lighter blends for shirts. But I did find a big pile of prints, mostly in bold prints. I spent the next couple of days washing all the damp fabric and folding it up.

I've used that fabric for everything from shorts to laundry bags to pet beds and there's still plenty left. The prints are still waiting for an inspiration to use them in a quilt.

So, am I worried about cotton prices going up? Not really. I don't like it, because I always enjoy getting new fabric. But it won't keep me from my quilting. With the exception of batting, I could probably sew/quilt/create for the next five years without buying any materials. I hope I don't have to, though.

Time to change gears and run to the store to pick up baking supplies. This afternoon I'm baking cookies  for a Christmas party. Yum.

More later.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sending warm thoughts

Think warm!
Beach towels and flip-flops. A finished batch of cards.
It's miserably cold here (another night in the 'teens) but I know many of my friends have it much worse, with all the snow and ice. At least we can get outside to get our firewood!

So I'm sending warm thoughts! Here's a picture of Tybee Island beach July 4th weekend, and the beach theme postcards I've been working on. Think warm!

I started quilting Shakespeare in the Park Monday evening and am making pretty good progress. The quilt has 41 large blocks, plus the border blocks, so I've set a goal of seven to eight large blocks quilted each evening. That should get me though the body of the quilt by this weekend and I'll have all weekend to finish up. I've found that I can quilt for hours on small pieces without getting tired, but wrestling the large quilt does get to me after a while. When I start getting tired, my stitches get very irregular, so I have to pace myself.

Stay warm! More later.

A grove of palm cards in progress.

Quilitng in progress

Monday, December 13, 2010

A little of this, a little of that

I'm going to have to find some occasion to wear these!
You know you have too much stuff when you go into a closet you seldom use and find, not one, not two, but three pairs of gorgeous sequined pumps. One is multi-colored, one black and one pearl. Gorgeous! From the masking tape price tags on the boxes, it's clear that I bought them from the thrift store in the building where I used to work. I used to find the best treasures there, and when I was working away from home practically my entire wardrobe came from the store.

As a bonus, at the end of the season, they cleared everything out. That's when I collected dozens of men's cotton shirts, and other cotton items, for future quilts. I think I spent most of last winter disassembling about two year's worth.

Test block
Back to sewing. I finished pinning the SITP yesterday and quilted one of the leftovers as a test block. I like the spirals, but think maybe they should be larger, maybe with a large spiral ending up in the center four-patch. Any thoughts? suggestions? I do like the variegated blue I used for the test and will stick with it.

I didn't want to start the quilting last night, so got back to my fabric postcards for a while. Since my free-motion machine is set up for the quilt, I just used my Singer 500, and tried out some new ideas. I'd been having problems getting it to do some of the decorative stitches, but I discovered that it works fine with the cams, so I used some of them. The water in all three of these cards was done using cams. I also tried sewing with a double needle. One of the nice things about the 500 is that you can actually use two needles, you don't have to have a special twin needle. The sand in the foreground of the right postcard was done with a double needle, one with variegated thread, the other a tan color.  I'll have to do some more experimenting with that.

Finally, last night I was reading through some blogs and ran across a mention of Zentangling, or Zendoodling. I'd heard the term and seen a couple of examples, but didn't really know what it was, so I looked it up. I've been a doodler forever, so I had to try it out. This one doesn't exactly follow the rules, as it is all pencil and fills the box, but it's a kind of cool first try. I have the feeling it won't be the last.

Lots to do today, so more later.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pinning away

I made good progress pinning SITP yesterday, got the top and backing pressed ( a huge job in itself) and about two-thirds pinned. It turned out my queen-sized batting wasn't quite large enough, so today's first task will be whip-stitching some extra batting at the end to give me enough for the quilt. Then I can finish pinning and start quilting.

I like this picture of the pinned section. The pins sparkle from reflecting the flash.

While I was pressing, my Pepper cat came to help. He's indoor only now because he doesn't like other cats, except his "sister" Phantom (Squirrel). My two outside cats, Shadow and Pixel, have been staying in the spare bathroom at night, because of this weather, which annoys him totally. He's even more annoyed when he can see them outside. His grumblings when Shadow climbed up the window screen were great, too bad I didn't shoot video.

Back to pinning, more later.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

SITP top done!

Just a quick update. Last night I finished assembling the SITP top. I had just enough of the blocks I was worried about, and extras of some others. I had some wide backing fabric I've been saving for this quilt, and I dug it out of my storage room last night. Batting is about to go in the dryer for fluffing and I'll be ready to start the pinning process in just a few minutes.

I just have one big decision to make, what design should I use to quilt it? I'm thinking softly curving lines that will emphasis the movement in the design. I'll let you know what I decide!

More later.

Friday, December 10, 2010


To my Canadian friends, your misplaced weather is down here in South Georgia. Please send someone to collect it!

Wow, we were wearing shorts on Thanksgiving and two weeks later we have near record lows (21F Tuesday night, the record was 20) and more to come – and it's not even officially winter yet!

South Georgia is known for hot, humid summers and I try very hard not to complain about the heat, because I know I will complain about the cold. When you live in a 100-year-old house without central heat or air, you have a much closer relationship with the weather than if you can close up in a climate-controlled house.

Some things I've learned living in a series of old houses.

1. They are designed wonderfully to handle the heat.
2. It's pretty easy to cool a room or two to comfortable levels with a window a/c. It's much more difficult to warm a room, even with decent heaters, the cold just creeps back in.
3. Our predecessors were much tougher than I am, having lived in this house with only small fireplaces for heat.
4. Wood stoves, electric blankets and flannel sheets are wonderful!

Okay, gripe over, now back to art.

One of the things I forgot to mention during the whirlwind of our quilt show was the ribbons. After we decided on the name of the show, High Cotton Quilt Show, I designed a logo, which we used on all our materials. Some of the talented ladies of our guild took it a step further and digitized the logo, and embroidered it on all the ribbons for our show. Not only did they embroider about a zillion ribbons and put them together, they changed the colors for each color ribbon, so blue ribbons were primarily blue, second place primarily red, and so on. Since our benefit quilt was done in 30s repros, they used 30s repros for the outside and ribbon part, using commercial printed ribbons only for the section that identified the award. I have to say they are the most beautiful ribbons I've ever seen at a quilt show.

Last night I continued assembling the Shakespeare in the Park quilt and am nearly done. Around the outside it uses 6.5 inch star blocks, some light on dark and some dark on light. For my dark on light I did some with blue on cream and some with pink on cream. I'm afraid I may be a couple blocks short of blue on cream, so I may have to make a couple more to finish. With any luck I'll have the top done tonight and be able to start pinning first thing tomorrow.

Lately one of my cats, Squirrel (Phantom) has decided that the coffin-top of my Singer VS2 treadle is a great place to watch the world. I just missed catching her in profile, but thought she made a nice picture with my quilt from the Treadle On winter holiday block exchange over the chair in front of her.

More later.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A good day of creating

I had a great day in the studio Sunday. After being on the road all day Saturday (including yet another stop at JoAnn's) I decided I'd better settle down and get busy on my Shakespeare in the Park. With so much going on in November, I hadn't gotten back to it since finishing the blocks. The big issue with putting it together is that it is queen sized and my work table is a relatively small dining room table. I finally decided to put it together in sections, then I'll assemble the sections. There's just no way to assemble rows of an on-point quilt on that small table. I don't want to even think about pinning it for quilting.

Between Sunday and yesterday I have it about half assembled. I'm hoping to finish in the evenings this week and be ready to pin and start quilting Saturday.

In breaks from SITP, I worked on more postcards. I got a batch of beach towel design cards finished, except for the final edging, and started another batch of palm trees.

And I pulled out some of the zillion acrylic paints I bought last week and painted some fabric for backgrounds for another batch of cards. The paints are regular acrylic craft paints, which I mix with fabric medium. I bought some cheap plastic tablecloths on clearance after Halloween and use one of them to protect my work table from paint spills. This batch was pretty simple, just random colors to suggest a sky at sunrise.

No sewing today, since I'm going to our guild's Christmas party. More later.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Creative chaos

Space and time (and money), there's never quite enough and you always have to juggle them to allow for whatever is the priority at the moment.

Time has been a priority lately, as I have been traveling cross-state to be with my mom during some health issues. Yesterday we got some very good news on that subject, so I'm both happy and relieved. But back at home, I have to work, I need to do some work around the house and I want to do a little Christmas decorating. And I want to play in my studio!

I got into the studio last night to finish a batch of fabric postcards to deliver to our business today. I'm hoping I'll get a few holiday sales. The hardest part about making these postcards is deciding when they are finished. I can always think of something else to do. A little more stitching on this one, add some beads on that one, stamp on another one. Finally I just had to say, enough, and finish them up.

By the time I did, my cutting table looked like a notions store had exploded. I set up my studio for sewing, and it still works pretty well for that (though too crowded), but other stuff is a challenge. The only space I have to work is my cutting table. Last weekend I was drooling over the artist's work table Michael's (hobby and crafts) had on sale – drafting table style table with side storage and even a stool. But I have absolutely no place to put it right now. (If I ever get my dream studio there will be space.....)

But somehow, I "make it work" because I want to create! Here are a few finished postcards. More later.