Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm Melting. . . .

It's waaaayy too hot here! I feel just like the Wicked Witch. Except with more whining, if possible.

Yesterday it hit 104.4*F here, according to my fancy-pants wireless digital thermometer (which I LOVE). Fortunately, DH insisted on dragging me to the river to cool off, with tons of other people. It was quite pleasant sitting on a rock, with my feet in the river, looking at all the beautiful trees, the totally blue sky and watching the bald eagle flying above. The best of the Northwest. Until I got out of the river! Yesterday was the hottest day. Today our high seems to be 95*. Not great, but definitely better. If only the humidity was lower. In the evenings, when it should be cooling off, the humidity skyrockets to 80 - 90%. Not so much fun.

My hanging basket is totally fried, and my hydrangeas are wilting badly in the heat. I totally relate.

The poor kitties are miserable. They keep coming to me and, essentially, whining. "Fix it, Mom!" Dunkel is currently flanged out on the stone entryway, and Shade is up on the bed, with the fan blowing directly on him. It's pretty funny. We had A/C in California, so they've never had to deal with this bad of heat. Poor babies!

There is no actual sewing or quilting here, until the heat subsides. (Maybe October??) But just so this isn't a quilting-less post, I thought I'd show you my string blocks.

Remember these string blocks? I started them back in April when I had to wear the brace on my thumb, due to tendonitis. Well, I've gotten quite a lot of them done. That was pretty much all my sewing in April, and I've also been working on them since then. Just sewing 4 at a time, when I wanted to sew but was stalling on the Color Challenge quilt, or couldn't think of what else to do. I now have 66 of these blocks sewn. It appears that I have enough for two quilts!

This is the first layout I tried. The blocks will be 4" x 10" finished. These blocks aren't running up and down the quilt, but sideways. Of course, that is subject to change. I haven't measured anything exactly, just trying to get an idea of the approximate size.

I found this great black & white fabric on sale, so thought I'd try it. It's pretty "Freddy", isn't it? It may be too much, but thought I'd see what it looks like, just for fun.

Here is Dunkel, helping me with a second layout, using the rest of the blocks. He was holding the blocks in place for me. Again, this is approximate. I still have more foundations and lots more strings, if I need more blocks.

This is fabric test #1. This is black dots on white ground. I found this good quality VIP fabric at W*lm*rt, for $4 a yard! I couldn't leave it there for that price.

Fabric #2, same great deal. Small white dots on black ground, but it's hard to see here.

And last, white dots on black ground, large version. Same $ deal. I'm kind of leaning towards either this or #1.

When it cools off, I'm going to start sewing these together. But since that will be awhile, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks for any input!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

First Place, Pieced Catagory
They liked it, they really liked it! (with apologies to Sally Field)

The Challenge Quilt reveal went really well. There were more challenge quilts this year than last year, which was good. Many quilters didn't like their crayon color, but still did wonderful quilts. I heard one lady say she was never going to even look at peach ever again! We had a great potluck and beautiful weather. A little too warm, but no rain!

At the end of the meeting, we could draw our colors for next year's challenge. This time we were drawing paint chips, and we got two draws. The first was our main color, either a dark or a light/bright. We got one pick for that, and had to keep our draw. The 2nd draw was from the other catagory than our first draw (dark or light/bright), and we got 3 tries to pick one we liked. Everyone seemed to like this! The main color I drew was eggplant and the accent color is a light purple. So, I guess I'm not done with purple!

DH and I went to the Scottish Highland Games yesterday. It was pretty darned hot, but we had a good time. Listened to lots of good music, did a little shopping, and ate some good food. I didn't get my usual Scottish meat pie while there - they were out of them when I was at the booth - but I brought home 1/2 dozen of them (frozen) to enjoy later. The best part is at the end of the day when there's a Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee). All the professional performers get 15 minutes each on stage, then there's the local talent contest. That's always lots of fun. The winner is determined by audience applause, and it's always a tough call. But everyone has a grand time!

We're having extremely hot weather this week. I don't do well in the heat and we have no A/C. It could be a long week around here! Maybe I'll go play in the sprinkler!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Big Reveal

Ta Da! Presenting. . . . "Stars Over the Mountain"!

It's finally all done, and ready for it's unveiling. Tomorrow is the big day for the guild. We're having a potluck and then everybody votes for best in catagory. (I understand there's even some money involved in the awards.)

Here's the pieced back. I also included two stars that were too low in contrast to work on the front. You can see that they're really low contrast! You can also see the quilting a little better.

Here's the crayon I had to work with. "Purple Mountain's Majesty" (hence the name for the quilt). So, how'd I do? Really, it's hard to tell on the computer. Purple is so hard to capture on "film" (digital?) We have to display the challenge crayon with the quilt for judging. This should be fun to see.

Earlier this week, I decided to make my granddaughters some dresses. They're really "into" dresses right now, and I found some cute fabric at W*lm*rt. It comes pre-shirred and pre-hemmed. So, I measured the girls on July 4th, and bought fabric this week. The smallest one is 23" around her chest, and the bigger one is a little bigger. So I got 3/4 yard for each, figuring I'd have enough to make some straps with. Brought the fabric home and pre-washed it.

Guess what? That fabric shrunk like nobody's business! The smallest piece is probably just big enough for the 2 yo next door, and the largest came out 23" exactly. So, back to W*lm*rt for another piece of fabric. This time I got a whole yard. And there was no pink left, darn it. (Needless to say, they both adore pink)

This time after pre-washing, that 36" piece shrunk down to 31". *sigh* I guess I should know better. This fabric is so thin, you could read through it. I'm used to quilt shop quality, I guess. Anyway, they came out fine and the girls both like them. So, all is good.

Here is the youngest with her frog print dress.

I attached the straps with frog buttons, which I also found @ W*lm*rt. They're a very soft plastic. I left lots of strap, so when she gets taller, we just have to move two buttons.

Here's the oldest, with her watermelon dress.

She has cute watermelon buttons.

I've done some more free-pieced stars. I've started some words, but I'm not going to show them yet, because I haven't decided what I'm doing yet. More later. . . .

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Almost Done

Well, after all that whining, I finally got the color challenge quilt quilted. Whew! That was tough. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. I was torn between meandering all over the background or straight lines diagonally across the quilt. I really wanted to do the lines, to emphasize the diagonal chains, but I was afraid that would obscure the stars. I was also afraid that my meander quilting wasn't good enough to do a whole quilt. So, I practiced a lot and finally "meandered" the quilt. (Is that a verb??) I think it looks alright, but don't look too closely. I crossed some lines here and there, and did a few sudden turns, but all in all, I'm pretty happy with it. I also ended up quilting a square in the middle of the stars, as they looked too "poofy" to me. I quilted straight lines in the border area, just to differentiate the border from the body of the quilt.

But, I had a "Doh!" moment. I practiced so much with the "good" thread that I only got about 1/2 way done and I ran out of thread. I was using the Mettler silk-finish thread, and didn't realize how little thread is on there compared to the spools I'm used to using. So, I had to go back to the fabric store for more thread. Needless to say, I bought two spools the 2nd time! And I hope I remember this the next time I'm buying this thread for quilting! I really like this thread. It works in my machine beautifully, and it shows up nicely. Kind of sits on top of the fabric instead of sinking in too much. So I will be buying more of it.

I think I need to do more quilting more often, so that it's not so stressful and I can be more comfortable with it. I'm planning on quilting a few small items around here that are waiting for quilting, now that I'm "warmed up". I was hoping to get one thing quilted every month this year, but so far that hasn't happened. My big quilts will still be going to my long-arm quilter. I just can't handle a big quilt, and she does such a wonderful job for me. (Hi, Shari!) But there's really no reason to dawdle on my small projects. We'll see how well I do at this. *grin*

I got about 3/4 of the binding sewn down the other evening sitting in a lovely air conditioned room at the local library, but now am waiting for the weather to cool off some before I work on it again. Yesterday it was at least 91* and the day before it was 89*! Way too hot to sit under a quilt stitching. The color challenge reveal is next Friday, so I have a few days to get it done.

After all that precision and exactitude, I HAD to do some liberated piecing! I'm using mostly dark blue for the backgrounds - don't know if you can tell that in the picture. And I'm using my hand-dyed fabrics for the points on the stars. I got 2 more done last night, but no photo yet. I'm not entirely certain where this is going - I'm just playing and letting it tell me where it wants to go. Much more fun than those little 4 inch stars in the color challenge!

The other day DH and I made this little woodland garden (and I use the term loosely). It's on a stump in the backyard. These are all little plants that we found in our yard: a small fern, a tiny hosta, a little violet or two. So far, it's staying alive. That's a foxglove flower in the foreground that's growing by the stump. They're wildflowers here. About a month or so ago, they were absolutely everywhere. I used to struggle to grow them in California!

Yesterday we went to the county fair. That was fun, in spite of it being hot enough to melt metal. I really enjoyed seeing all the animals - that's my favorite part of the fair! The quilt display was disappointing - not very many quilts there, and the lighting was poor. But we had a good time.
On the way home, we took a side trip to investigate a road we've never gone down. (You can see we live out in the country, as this is about 5 miles from where we live.) We found this great shot of Mount Rainier. The mountian is starting to lose its snow, but there's also glaciers there, so parts of it are white all year round. You can see there's still some snow on the shorter mountains - that fell the last time we had rain, over a month ago!

It's California weather here this summer - hot and dry. There was a grass fire near here the other evening. And no rain predicted for the next 10 days at least. My DH is very happy with the weather, but I could do with it being cooler and damper, at least once in a while! But, I've got a tan (without trying) for the first time in 3 years!

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Well, progress is being made! I got the color challenge top together after much auditioning. I think I stress too much over the balance of things. I was trying to spread out the floral stars so they weren't clumped in one spot. I decided that one star wasn't working, and made another one. I tried some things with the borders. Finally, got everything decided and started putting it all together. The actual construction went pretty quickly. . . faster than the decisions!

I decided to piece the backing, using up the left-over fabric. That took some time. It's like putting a puzzle together. My DH thinks I'm crazy. Maybe he's right?? But I used the two stars that didn't work for the front, and also incorporated a label. This post on La Vie en Rosie blog inspired me to do that.

Time to pin-baste. I stalled some over that too. But it wasn't bad at all. I did it on my kitchen counter, which is actually a peninsula. I can walk around 3 sides of it, and drape the quilt all over to reach the middle. And it's the right height to not strain my back. I put on some music, and it was done before I knew it! Sweet.

Last night after dinner, we went to the fabric store so I could purchase the right thread. That was fun. I was very restrained, due to having DH with me! I bought two spools of thread, and some fusible for another project. We also bought some denim so I can make DH a new pottery apron. The one he's using is pretty shot. We had priced an apron at the pottery supply store, and the price they wanted was outrageous! Something like $24! We bought enough fabric for $4.99 and I already have a pattern and thread. Am I cheap? I like to think I'm thrifty! But now, of course, I do have to do the work of making the thing. AFTER the challenge quilt is done.

Then we went to the Dollar Tree, and spent too much money on stuff. I never did find the one thing I went in there for. After that, I had to go to Borders as I had a 25% coupon burning a hole in my pocket. I found a book on folk art applique that intrigues me - not that I do applique exactly. I'll share that with you another time. That was our Friday night. Pretty exciting, huh?

I'm finding that I really am not that drawn to most quilt books anymore. I find I get my "pretty pictures" fix from the Internet now. And I'm not likely to need a pattern anymore. Kind of takes the fun out of the quilt books/magazines. So, I'm saving some money there that I can spend on more fabric! (not that I need that either!)

So, today I got down to the actual quilting. . . . eventually. That was a process too. I had to watch my Patsy Thompson DVD for inspiration. I had to find more batting and make a practice swatch to warm up. I was also trying to get some laundry done. Then I had to clean off the desk so I wasn't "dusting" with the quilt. I oiled the machine, wound bobbins, got myself all set up. . .music, fan, drink, cat/supervisor.

Finally, I started quilting. I straight-line quilted all the chains. Easy-peasy. Humming along.

Then I got stuck.

I can't decide how I want to quilt the rest of it. I outlined the two stars in the corners, and decided that I wouldn't be doing that on all of the stars. What a pain - remember, these are 4 inch stars. Way too much quilt wrestling! Especially considering that it was 84 degrees today! I also tried some straight lines in the background of the border, and ended up ripping that out. That's not the look I want either. So, I did more free-motion on my practice swatch and used that all up. I wasn't happy with the F-M either. I'm rusty, and it shows.

So, I'm taking a break. I need to make another practice swatch. And maybe tomorrow will go better. At least the weather will be cooperating. . . it's supposed to be a high in the low 70's and rainy. Sounds perfect to me! At least for quilt wrestling!

Thursday, we had an invasion. You can see the thundering herd here. I'm not sure why they did this. Maybe they saw us on the deck and were hoping for food. This the first time they've done this this summer. Eventually they swarmed the huckleberry bush, which has berries on it. I've even seen the robins going into the bush too, even though they usually ground feed. (Just not at the same time as the duck herd.)

And look! Two little baby ducks came along! Sorry these pictures are fuzzy - those ducks were moving fast!

Here's a fuzzy yet closer picture of the two babies, thanks to my DH. Don't they look like they have blue beaks? They had a hard time getting to the berries on the bush, and no one was sharing.

And here's a better photo. The flower in the foreground is lavender - it really brings out the color in his/her beak, doesn't it? I never would have guessed that their beaks would be that color. I don't think the adult ducks have that. Or are these mutant ducklings?? Whatever - he's really cute! You should have seen when he stretched out his little stubby wings - so cute.

So, that's it for around here. Stayed tuned for further whining about the quilting. . .maybe it will be all over next time you visit!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Happy Fourth of July, USA!

This little patriotic quilt was made way back in 1989. My quilt guild was having a "patriotic"-themed quilt retreat that year. The organizers wanted everyone to bring a little wallhanging, so I came up with this. Quick and easy! This isn't the greatest photo (it's a little unfocused) and some of these fabrics have faded some - the lower left square with the plaid background is the worst - but you can see the quilting here better than in "real life". I used a cookie cutter for my star pattern, both the applique (machine) and the quilting (also machine). This one was fun to do. This little quilt is about 16 inches square.

This is the back of the little quilt, and you can clearly see my quilting. I've always liked putting unused blocks and/or piecing on the back of quilts - something that relates to the front of the quilt. In this case, I had to "stretch" my backing fabric to make it fit. I think it makes the quilt more fun.

When I went to the quilt show in Issaquah (see previous post), I found a wallhanging in the "boutique" there that had to come home with me. I love bunnies, and I love embroidery. This little cutie was marked at only $7.50! I talked to the quilter that made this, and she said she'd had it for sale for a couple of years previously, for more money, but it never sold. I told her it was going to a good home! I think this is done on osnaburg, and it's 29 inches wide by 19 inches high.

A closeup, so you can see all the bunny/embroidery goodness.

Our pottery sale last weekend went very well. We had a lot of fun, and did well. We met lots of nice people, who really liked the pottery. The Potter even did a throwing demo, which was enjoyed by everyone.

It was good to see my sister again too. The show she was at was a great venue, with beautiful weather, but not many were purchasing. That seems to be the case all over lately.

Anywho, my DD has requested photos of some of the leaf dishes I made. I used leaves found in our yard. The technique is really easy. I roll out the clay, like doing cookie dough. Then I put the leaves on top of the clay and roll them into the clay with the rolling pin, which leaves the impression of the leaf. Then I cut out the shape with a knife and voila, it's pottery. The one above is from my hydrangea plant. I've made these previously, but this time I used a green stain before I put on the glaze, and it really made the veins of the leaf show up well.

These leaves are kind of little. I figured these little dishes would be good for putting a used teabag in, or your spoon after stirring your tea/coffee. I use these "tidbits" quite a bit, for lots of things. And I even sold a few! I have an order for more, but the leaves have to grow some yet, as the lady wants them big enough for small plates. I need to go fertilize!

This is also a hydrangea leaf, but without a shiny glaze. I used a clear glaze, but I don't think it was thick enough. It doesn't feel like it has any glaze on it.

This was done with a maple leaf, and is big enough for a cooking spoon rest. It's about 6 inches across.

This one is done with a leaf from a small tree in our yard. We don't know what it is. Anybody know this one? Maybe a cottonwood?, although it's different from the cottonwoods I saw in California. It's a little bigger than the hydrangea leaves, maybe 4 inches long.

I hope everyone has a bang-up 4th of July - sorry, had to go for the pun! People around here are already "practicing" their fireworks, which is making the cats pretty skittish! We're off to DS's house tomorrow for barbeque and fireworks. Sounds like a good day to me! Hooray for the USA!