Monday, October 31, 2005

A quilt top from 1945...
Just finished this quilt for a client. She made this top about 50 years ago and is just now getting it quilted. Made me feel better about the quilt tops I have only had around for 10 years or so... (She wanted a pantograph. It must be the age. I think that when you grow up in the Depression, anything that looks like it came off an assembly-line must look fancy and store-bought and expensive. I did a good job on it, but I would have enjoyed free-handing it. But it does get the job done faster, so I won't complain too loudly. I really think that it is a shame to machine quilt a hand-pieced quilt. Blasphemous, I know. But while I haven't the time or the inclination to hand-quilt, myself, it doesn't mean I don't appreciate the real stuff.) This client's son had a very kind comment about my work. When my husband called him to verify her address, he said he was sorry to hear that I was quitting the quilting business. He said he knew several quilters but that I was the only one he'd trust with the old quilts. Now I thought that was nice. Not so nice I'm tempted to reconsider, but it does make a difference doing quilts for folks that are appreciative. I just really want to do quilts that I want to do- not just quilts that I have to do and sometimes it seems like I get all used up on the "have-to" quilts and I don't have much to offer to the "want-to" quilts. Does that make sense? Sometimes you just have to be a brat and do what you want to do!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Have a seat...

Take a seat... Be seated... Pull up a chair... Take a load off...

I found this beautiful chair at a thrift store for only $2.99! I love it and it was just what I needed for my quilting room- a padded seat! Oh, ok, maybe a padded room, too. But how nice it is to sit on a cushy seat, instead of the old hard kitchen chair I was using. Ahhh... and I can sit more comfortably for even longer periods of time now! Just what I need. It is a wonderfully-made chair- mahogany, and not a nail or a screw in it. Some company in Connecticut. It doesn't take much to make me happy.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Meditation.... for Mom...

During my morning meditation, I spent a moment in contemplation of the accumulation of aggravation I felt over the escalation in my expectation stemming from the miscalculation of the expiration of consolation I found in the domination of my mind over my heart... resulting in the constipation of useless information in my meditation.
Now, as a child, I would sometimes say, "But it's not fair!" And my mother would shrug her shoulders and respond with, "Life's not fair." splutter, splutter, uh, uh... Oh for cryin' out loud, what kind of answer is that? It was the truth. Life isn't fair. Isn't that crummy? It really stinks. I've been giving a lot of thought to Debra's (Spincic) assertion that our work spaces tell others a lot about us. Maybe I've been giving it too much thought. But I come from a large and illustrious family of obsessive compulsives and that's what we do. We compulsively obsess. We roll things around in our minds- some of us whistling the whole while. We pick it apart- we're not to be trusted around anything mechanical, unless you're looking for a complete overhaul. We poke, we prod, we pinch- some harder than others. If you have any extra flesh on the back of your arm (and who doesn't?) you better make sure ya stay a good couple feet away from my Dad. We research- how does that really work? We accumulate seemingly useless bits of information. I am absolutely certain that there is not one single question out there that somebody in my family doesn't know the accurate answer to. But of course, when we share our knowledge, the rest of us feel compelled to say, "Naw. You're kidding?!" Really. So after carefully considering the question of whether my work space tells others a lot about me... ah nuts. It does. They might see that I'm creative and that my mind is busy. They may see that I'm sentimental and silly. They might see that I'm passsionate about my family and quilts. But they'd see a lot of other things, too. Things I can't explain. Or don't want to explain. I'm a disaster, of sorts. And when you're that disaster that others see- well, the least of your problems is that others will notice! But it's not fair! What's that line from, "Cold Mountain?" "Ruby Thues, you are a K-tastrophy." That about sums it up. But you know? I don't want to be a K-tastrophy. So, I cleaned my quilting room- "I'd never, NEVER call it a "studio." That implies that an artist creates here- whoa whoa whoa! Way too high expectations...just the resident disaster at work. So I call it my "shop." My shop has been pristinely orderly and clean for several days now and yet... it doesn't seem to be having a positive influence on the mess within. My Mom said, yesterday, that I'm chained down and that while it seems like I'm moving... I'm really only going in circles. Could that be true? Well, she was right about the whole, "Life isn't fair" business. Anybody got a pair of boltcutters? "Cause I might be forced to gnaw off my own leg!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ott-Lite Days....
or a more reasonably priced fascimile. It has been gloomy and drear and cold here for the past few days, and I am tired of feeling dreary, gloomy and coldy. I don't know how those who live even more North than me can stay cheerful all the long winter when I am suffering through a rainy October. I first think that I need to eat something fattening to cheer me, but then I check myself and say, "Stop trying to fix a problem that food wasn't intended to fix." Sometimes that works. But what I find works better is listing some of my favorite, everyday, things. My list is getting pretty long these days. Hmmm...there's stainless steel pots, Fiskars scissors that spring back, those little facial towlettes, Dark chocolate Lindor truffles- buy only one, purple flowers with plum-colored flowers, chenille bedspreads, clean wooden floors, Tide laundry detergent and Downey softener- just the April-fresh scent, Irish breakfast tea, new rotary cutter blades, the smell of woodsmoke on a chilly evening, varigated threads, velour lounge pants, Mia Bella candles, 60* triangles, and romantic movies. Well, I do feel a little better. Now, I'm gonna fix me a cup of that Irish breakfast tea and try to get something done.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Chahmed, Ahm Shuh."

This is a picture of my "Charmed, I'm sure," quilt. My Honey was working late, last night, and I was trying to find something quiet and constructive to do at 2:30am. So I filed away some old pictures that I had found on cd's. This quilt is a snow ball pattern, but with alternate-color corner triangles. I think it gives it a little more interest. The fabrics are all vintage and 80% of them were in a friend's grandmother's stash. Just bits and pieces. So I added some of my own and came up with this quilt. There were a few lone blocks in the bag of scraps, so I just sewed them into the backing, before I quilted it. She was very pleased with her gift "from Grandma."

I just absolutely love and adore old vintage fabrics. The colors are so happy and the patterns are often witty and wild. I get all sentimental and mushy just looking at them. Sarah gave me a big pile of old stuff that her Grandma had aquired over the years at auctions and estate sales. She had worked with some of them- with wonderful results, but then she declared that, "Life is too short to make ugly quilts!" And I see her point. With all the quilts that we want to make in our lifetime, it might leave us in a pinch to just work with all the hand-me-down fabrics that come our way. And it can be les than inspiring to work with fabric that isn't to your taste. But on the other hand... You knew that was coming, didn't you? There is something very liberating about cutting into fabric that didn't cost you $9 a yard. Ahh... no pressure. If you mess up, no screams reverberating through the sewing room. Just an, "Oh well," shrug the shoulders and move on. And it is a challenge I enjoy to make something, if not beautiful, at least appealing from aqua and orange Taj Mahal fabric. (I'll show that one, sometime.) And if I don't like the end results, that's ok, too. Since the fabric is obviously old, folks automatically assume some poor, distant relative made the quilt 50 years ago- how could they be critical of that really, really ugly mottled puke green and burgundy fabric that they made it from? It was probably the best they could do...(I'll show that one sometime, too.) So, again, I'm off the hook.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Nobody home but us chickens...

Austrolorps, Black-laced Wyandottes, and Golden Comets... Aren't those cool names? I also have Aracanas and Buff Orpingtons. Now you know, the reason I have them is because the names are so much fun to say. Go ahead, "Buff Orpington, Austrolorp." Now wasn't that fun? Chickens are neat critters and the eggs can't be beat. I was getting 200 eggs a week, but it has slowed down considerably. What did I do with all those eggs? Well, I gave away about 8 dozen a week to friends and relatives. And my DH bought me a pasta maker- the most incredible gadget ever invented. Home-made pasta is fast, fun, and I feel immensely clever when I cook up a batch. I highly recommend you get one if you have a chance. We got mine on ebay. They actually work just like those TV chefs say they will. Shocking, I know.

I have spent the better part of the evening at Bonnie's amazing quiltville. She has some of the greatest ideas and patterns there. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. Maybe the stars. Or the scrappy Bargello. I tried to do some quilting, myself, today, but my allergies got the better of me and I had to call it quits. Continuous sneezing can be quite prohibiting. I think it is a physical impossibility to sneeze with your eyes open. I can't do it. Try quilting with your eyes involuntarily closing every 3 seconds. It's like quilting with a strobe light on. Kinda scary. "Tis the season, I suppose, for strobe lights and scary. I have found that I sneeze in sets of 7. I have always been an overachiever. The thing is this... I am very pleased to let clients know that I work in a smoke-free, pet-free, food-free shop. Alas, all quilts don't have that advantage. I love cats, but I am so allergic that it is difficult not to flinch when I see cat hairs clinging to a quilt. And you know, I've always had the tendency to lean into my work. Can't tell you how many times I have caught my hair in the sewing machine. My mom always pokes me in the back when she catches me slouching- but it is just to get closer to the work. Nothing wrong with my eyes, I just get intensely focused. So here I am, nose about a foot from the quilt from kitty heaven. Hopping foot hoppin'. Stirring up cat dander. I can go about one pass. By then, I am blinded by tears, and my nose is threatening to drip on the quilt. It makes for slow going. I tried some Claritin. Note to self: it doesn't seem to work if you are already symptomatic. So what, exactly, is the point? Back to the Benadryl. But you are not supposed to operate heavy equipment when taking it. Does a long-arm qualify? I have put the needle straight through my finger before, but I haven't the excuse that I was on any medication. Just happened. But you know? Didn't hurt a lick. I must have flinched, 'cause I broke the needle, but I didn't consciously feel a thing. Ached a little afterwards. Now that the Benadryl is taking affect, my eyelids feel as if they weigh about 5 lbs- each. And my head feels like a tightly inflated balloon. No doubt, when I check my blog tomorrow, I'll be wondering exactly who has been posting such pathetic drivel. Drivel. An appropriate word. Who cares about chickens, eggs, noodles, and sneezing in sets of seven? But such are the things of life. my life. and that's ok.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Mostly, I just want to be inspired...

And I found inspiration, here. I have never made any kind of any seasonal quilt. But looking at all of your creations got me itchy to try something of my own. When I want to try some new method, I make table runners for my friend, Teresa. I figure, this way I get to experiment and play and she gets a little something out of it, too. This table runner was my first try at pieced letters- I have done applique. I think it was Tonya who had made a really cool quilt with a quilted message on it and I decided to try it. I found this pattern for a full quilt in an old magazine, and loved it. I just pulled some of the elements out and combined it for a much smaller project. Teresa is more conservative than I am, colorwise, so I tamed it down. (Although I did sneak in some of my hand dyes.) The original was in bright purples and such- called, "Funky Pumpkin Patch." The letters went together much more quickly than I imagined. I finished it in one morning. There did seem to be a lot of bulk in some of the seams, and I don't know how you can avoid that. You can't see the quilting, but I quilted a vine with pumpkin leaves in the black and then just embellished the pumpkins. All in all, it was a lot of fun and I am considering making one in funky batiks for me. Thank you all so much for your inspiration!

Friday, October 14, 2005


That is the only way to describe this quilt. Can you see the amount of...wumpus hanging off the roller? As I was putting the quilt onto the frame, I was feeling a little annoyed as the backing was the exact same size as the top. A big no-no. I specifically told her that I needed 10 extra inches in length and width. But- and I am trying very hard not to whine here- just state facts, but why oh why, is this a difficult concept? I can't tell you how often this happens and it is one of the reasons I am headed into semi-retirement come Xmas. That, and the jigger-woggy-wumpus quilts. I am sure you have met a few of their relatives. They are for sale all over the country- quilt tops who look innocent enough, but I feel it is my duty to warn you that the jigger-woggy-wumpus quilt is anything but innocent. Why do you think it is in a flea market? Shall I tell you? Because somebody who has no business behind the needle of a sewing machine made a quilt top and then found out that, oh my, block sizes and seam allowances should be consistent? WHAT are seam allowances? Anyway, they usually sell for under 30 bucks and if you purchase one, you have just overpaid by about 30 bucks! Another clue is the liberal use of gauze that is impersonating actual fabric. Now the real danger of the jigger-woggy-wumpus quilt is that there are authentic quilt tops out there that go for a steeper price, but don't think that the JWW is a bargain, sister, 'cause you gotta hear the rest of my story. I decide to put the quilt on and quilt it even though I am in doubt, serious doubt, that there will be enough backing. But I told her the correct amount, and I am in no mood to suffer fools lightly. Lo, and behold, she did measure and there is enough backing for the quilt- on one side!! Yes the jigger-woggy-wumpus quilt is 10" longer on one side than on the other- oh, and 8" wider at the top than on the bottom. Now how in this everlovin' world am I to make a rectangle out of a trapezoid??!! Focus, Nina, focus. I don't have the time or the inclination to stop and cry over it. Why should this be my problem? So I pick out a nice dense pantograph- 'cause even though I say I am gonna be cold and heartless, there is way too much of the recovering perfectionist in me to actually watch while I put more tucks in that quilt than a Calista Flockhart ballgown. I console myself that the dear friend who, poor dear, bought this mess is nearly blind. I don't mean to sound cold, but it is a sort of consolation. But my pride tries to get in the way and now I am wondering how to deliver it without anyone else seeing it. From a distance- of about 100 yards!!- it doesn't look too bad. And the back-plain muslin, looks real nice. Oh brother! Down with all jigger-woggy-wumpus quilts! They gotta die.

Happy Birthday to John!!

John Abishai is 9 years old, today. He is a sweet and happy boy. I love you Jak!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

My nemesis has been conquered.

Have you ever been so exhausted that you can't sleep? This past week, I have been working on this Thimbleberry- Pansy Park- and it just about got the better of me. It is ginormous! It is a client's quilt and she did a great job on it. But with 12 individual blocks and 8 borders... ugh. I was tempted to take a picture of the end of the quilt as it rolled up over the last of the leader- you have no idea what a wonderful sight that was- but seeing as how that would have involved stopping quilting, I stuck to the task at hand. If my knees weren't threatening to buckle under me, I would have danced a jig. It has been gloomy here and I think that this dark and somewhat sober quilt got me a little bit down. I need to make it clear that I believe it is a beautiful quilt,but... I just wasn't feelin' it. I was so tired last night that I couldn't sleep so I thought I'd slip out to my quilting room and read a novel. (I didn't want to wake the whole house.) But you know, I don't think I have ever been in that room where I wasn't sewing, quilting or scrapbooking. I found it almost impossible to unwind. I kept looking up from my book to consider working on the quilt, but there was no way! I was just too exhausted. Finally, I went back to bed at about 3am. Tossed and turned for what was left of the night. I'm wondering if I won't sleep better, tonight, knowing that the quilt is done and delivered to the quilt shop. Surely.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bleach Resist 101

I taught a class, yesterday, on the bleach resist method. We had a great time and I really enjoyed working with these super ladies. I learned to bleach resist a couple years ago and made the above quilt. The ladies that I taught the method to were as different as night and day, but they both had some great results. Shirley was extremely adventurous and just flung things all over the place and her resists were very, very artsy and full of her peppy personality. Janice was more reserved and orderly and her resists showed her more structured personality. But they both did great and their combined results were awesome. Teaching is one of my most favorite things to do- especially when we get to actually put into practice what we are teaching and learning. It's not nebulous or abstract. It's concrete- and that's where we did most of our work- on concrete!

Directions (in a nutshell): Fill a spray bottle half full of bleach and the rest with water. Kona cottons work great and it is the only fabric I reccommend to stand up the the caustic nature of bleach. I work with 1/2 a fat quarter at a time. Lay your 18"x11" fabric on a solid surface-like a driveway. Place barrier objects on the fabric (think two deminsional here-cheerios, salt, leaves, grass, things with an interesting silhouette. Or you can fold your fabric.) Lightly spray with the bleach solution. It doesn't need to be saturated. Varying the density of spray makes things interesting. Wait a few seconds to maybe one minute-depends on the color you are using and the effect you are going for. Remove the barriers-fast- and dunk your fabric into a bucket of cold water in which one cup of vinegar has been added. Hold the fabric up and say ahhhh! ohhh! How simple is that!? Wash them soon so that you can be sure you got any residual bleach out. Have fun!

Some samples of our day bleach resisting...

This is sample that was folded like a fan and the creases sprayed with the bleach solution. It is one of my favorite effects. Notice the variation in colors.

This next sample was made using some maple leaves. The original color of the fabric was a bright turquoise.

These last pictures are of my brilliant students and just a few of their incredible bleach resists. Didn't they do great? I am so proud of them! And I think they were pretty pleased with themselves!

Friday, October 07, 2005

156 quilt blocks on the floor...

156 blocks, ya take one down and pass it around, 155 blocks on the floor!

Shew! I just finished all of my blocks for a king-sized yellow brick road. The blocks are very simple, but the quantity is vast. Then I got to thinking... "a dangerous pastime, I know." (ala Beauty and the Beast.) And of course, this doesn't occur to me until I am finished with the blocks. But I told DH that I wanted to downsize from a king-sized bed to a queen the next time we purchase a mattress. I hate groping around in the middle of the night... let me rephrase that... I hate not being able to reach him when I when I want... uh... the bed is just too big! I feel like we need seperate time zones! And when both of us are relatively small people, it just doesn't seem to be an efficient use of space. And I am nothing if not practical. Back to the quilt blocks. Figure I can make the queen-size quilt and use the extra blocks as Sarah does for a baby quilt or two. Do you think the fabric is too bright and not baby-ish enough?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Ode to Orange...
I tease Sarah about not using orange, so I thought I'd share some orange. I loved this quilt when I unfolded it in my shop. A client pieced the top and I quilted it. I had been waiting to use my orange thread. Surprising that the opportunity hadn't arisen before, huh? I quilted about 12 concentric circles(off center) and then pulled "flames" off around it. This looked like an easy quilt to piece, and the orange gives the simple lines a little umph. I'm hoping to make one myself, soon. Ah, so many quilts, so little time.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

My Crazy Twisted Sister...

I hope my sister doesn't see this post as she would say that it takes one to know one. But I'm talking about the quilt. My Aunt Isabel and her daughter-in-law gave me a couple boxes of fabric and this is what became of some of it. Most of these fabrics were not even a fat quarter and I wasn't sure what to do with them. Many of them were juvenile in nature and very bright. They were a good quality, just not something I would typically work with and I didn' feel as if I would purchase matching fabrics to make a complete project. My four-year-old daughter thought they were just beautiful. Of course. You know the age- the brighter the better. So out came this quilt, with a tye-dyed batik border to make it big enough for her queen bed. It might keep her up at nights!
Autumn Has Come To the Prairie....

The fields have turned to copper and it reminds me that the cool days and long nights of autumn are upon us here in the midwest. I love this time of the year. I enjoy the ever changing scene out my quilting room window and it pushes me to finish the jobs that are hanging over my head. Lots of quilts for clients that need to be done for the holidays. Less than 12 left and I can feel the load lightening. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm praying it ain't a train!
I worked at the quilt shop, today. I really enjoy my Tuesdays. I have the chance to spend all day looking at and feeling beautiful new fabrics and quilts. Sometimes, Tanya has me cut out a quilt for her and she, amazingly, will have it done by the following Tuesday. How does she do that? Sometimes I help her draft the instructions for the block-of-the-month pattern. It is always a challenge describing in two deminsional words a three deminsional concept. I have nothing but the greatest respect for those people that write books and directions for quilt patterns. Sometimes I help Tanya gather up what she needs for a quilt show. You can't imagine the amount of thought and work involved in a two or three day quilt show. And she has four this month. When I describe what I do at the quilt shop, I usually just say I am the grunt. I may not know what the answers to the questions are, but I am willing to help push, pull, or tug it wherever it needs to be! And now I'm tired and I'm headed to beddy bye!