Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We Interrupt the Vacation Narration for a Brief Lesson on "How to Come Back From Vacation Gracefully"

I’m sooo easily distracted! While on my “mountain top” vacation I decided that it would be fun to start a blog – so that’s the first thing I did when I got home. Little did I realize how addicting this is! And how time consuming

I’m already being convicted that I have to focus and reflect on TODAY - which means “going back to work”. For most folks, that’s a dreaded sentence, but for me, it’s a joy. Ya’see, I’m a longarm quilter and my work is fun – but it is easy to get distracted from it.

Ah, but I can’t get visions of beautiful Idaho out of my mind. The cool mornings, the no humidity, no clocks, no appointments, just rest and relaxation. Even though that was so yesterday I will still write about it, but just not today.

Today I’m trying to focus. Trying to go back to work gracefully. Hum…how does one do that? Well, perhaps by setting small goals that are easily accomplished.

First challenge was how to multi-task the dirty laundry from the suitcases and the double-knit polyester quilt that needed to be loaded on my frame. That wasn’t easy. About the time I got really going good on the freehand all-over swirls the dryer buzzer would go off and demand my attention. That’s okay; it was a good compromise of working and working Working at household tasks and working at business obligations. Day one back to reality accomplished – well, at least I was working – I didn’t say everything was finished. I sorta got interrupted when hubby suggested an afternoon movie – who could resist such a hot date ~ and a chick flick at that – Momma Mia!

Day two in coming back to reality. It was still hard not to get distracted, but the customer quilt was completed, so I felt better. Today, however, is a little harder…

I just finished loading a quilt on the machine…but an unfinished class project is calling my name….the last class is tomorrow night and it’s “show and tell”….oh my…so here I am back to the task of coming off vacation gracefully – key word – compromise.

I try to be good to myself and go to the chiropractor about once every 4 to 6 weeks – working on a longarm is very very physical so this is actually a necessary part of my business. When I go, I then “rest” for the rest of the day as to not mess up my dear Doc’s work. In the past I had morning appointments, but that meant resting all day from the longarm…I finally got smart and today I have an afternoon appointment. SO! Here’s my compromise! I’m fixing to get off the computer (which technically has been my morning break time) go back and work on the quilt on the frame, have a nice lunch, and then after my chiropractor appointment work on my class project before going to mid-week worship services this evening. How’s that for a good compromise! All work and no play makes the Quilt Rambler a dull person

In the meantime, I’m composing my thoughts to share about the Idaho Experience…and sooo many other things. There’s so much to tell, to share, to catch up on, to journal. Amazing.

But the lesson for the day – reality hits, back to work usually follows vacation - but its okay to ease back into the flow gracefully with small compromises. Besides, distractions have always made me smile! And here's a photo of my favorite distraction! Momma Mia!

Hope you are smiling today too!


Monday, July 28, 2008

That Getting Out of Town Syndrome

So much to do…and I’m not even talking about packing … just so much to do before I could even think of that!! One week away from my husband’s family reunion trip to Idaho I was teaching a Square in a Square (SnS) class in my studio – 5 delightful ladies and 5 almost finished Christmas Star quilts by the end of the day…Worship and rest on Sunday (actually, if you read the first post this was the Sunday 7/13 that I finished quilting my own quilt on my day off) and then round two of teaching on Monday– a different group of 6 delightful ladies who also went home with the SnS Christmas Star almost complete…I love teaching…but that’s another story for another time.

Count down ‘til departure… four more working days….oh why oh why do I try to squeeze in so many things when I know I really need to pack! No regrets on the time allotted to my ladies Bible study at church on Monday night, but gosh, everything else?? I have this standing 5 week appointment to get my hair done (couldn’t go on vacation looking like a shaggy ole’skunk now could I?) that just happened to be Tuesday morning before our Saturday main event. And then there’s the appointments squeezed in throughout the remaining days with customers who need to pick up their quilts (so I can have spending money on vacation – or more correctly, so I can pay the bills that are due before I can come home and quilt some more)…and don’t forget, there are two shop samples that I promised the local quilt shop would be done before I went outta town. Too bad, I’ll have to miss guild meetings this month (two of them scheduled on Thursday, one in the morning, one in the evening) – but yes, I can “run” a few items to morning guild on my way to deliver the shop samples, and yes, I’ll be home in the afternoon in time to greet two of my fellow SnS certified teachers who are making a quick road trip to Texas from Louisiana (they made their visit way too short but promised to come back through another time when we could really sit to chat and chew –ya’ll come back now, ya’ hear?) Then there’s the trip to the bank, the post office, and a last minute visit to another local quilt shop (I’m blessed with several in the area) in search of Mettler thread for the appliqué project I want to take (again, stay tuned for this tangent of the story) Goodness, what else can I attempt to accomplish before packing? The dishes? Did someone say dishes???

Okay, the Quilt Rambler will digress – doing the dishes in my household is a marathon event not for the faint of heart. Let me explain. First of all we don’t have a dishwasher – or at least not the automatic kind. The dish washer is moi and the official dish dryer ‘n put’er upper is my husband. And yes, we sometimes don’t have a lot of time to get around to doing ALL those dishes due to our work schedules or outside obligations, but at least we are trying to eat at home more (another story for another time, this Quilt Rambler isn’t known for her culinary skills) – which just means more dishes waiting to be washed! For the record, after a meal the dishes are scrapped – no garbage disposal here, mind you, just good old trash can or occasional treat for Pixxie – then rinsed and neatly stacked on the cabinet awaiting THE event. Oh, and did I mention this is my hubby’s contribution – he’s sooo good to me! He makes the sweet tea too – and is quite famous for it. Anyway….We’ve been known to wait to do dishes until the very last spoon has been used, or there are no more glasses for sweet tea (even though I have LOTS of glasses being the true Southerners that we are, we drink a LOT of sweet tea). I guess you could say we consider doing the dishes our bonding time. It’s one of those rare moments in our busy week (or sometimes week and a half) that we actually have uninterrupted quality time to talk – since doing the dishes takes a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour, it’s really a nice couples time and I highly recommend it – just not the night before a big vacation, especially when it’s already 9:30 PM and you haven’t packed for your 3:30 AM departure for a week long vacation with extended family…

So where was I? Ah yes…count down ‘til departure…did I mention we were going to Idaho? A ranch somewhere in the Sawtooth Mountains. Did I mention I learned on Sunday (the same Sunday that I finished quilting my personal quilt which undoubtedly I am very proud of because I keep mentioning it) at the family clan lunch from my brother-in-law, Billy, (who prefers to be called Bill now that he is an adult but I haven’t been able to do that for some reason so he’s still Billy to me) that Stanley Idaho (near our ranch) was 32 degrees the night before? THIRTY TWO DEGREES! Did I mention that I live near hot humid Houston and it was ONLY 105 this past week with 90 percent humidity??? Talk about throwing a curve ball in my packing – or should I say my planning for packing….as I tend not to pack until the night before…but who would’a thought to pack a sweatshirt for a July vacation! Certainly not this lady who lives for summer and avoids cold, freezing rain, snow and such at all costs (give me a tropical vacation ANY time).

So here it is, midnight on Friday night. The dishes are done, all the quilts that are going to get quilted this week have been picked up or delivered (we won’t talk about the one that was quilted and just needed 280 liner inches of binding put on – machine attached one side, hand sewn the other, it’s still a quilt in waiting – BUT I did manage to attach the binding to one side of my quilt “A Few of My Favorite Things” so I could take it with me to finish the hand binding while vacating – priorities ya’know!). The paperwork has been cleared from the computer desk, all computer related tasks are done, including that last minute email instruction to my eldest son who would be taking care of Pixxie. (Oh how hard it was to leave my pup – again, more on this tangent later). Can’t tell you how strange it was that the quilting machine frame looks sorta naked without the next quilt loaded, but I soon got over that – I had other distractions in the other rooms to busy myself with.

Finally! I’m ready to pack as much as I can get into my limit one - 50 pound suitcase prior to my goal to catch a few snoozes before the alarm goes off at 2:30 AM when I need to be bright-eyed and bushy tailed enough to shower, tame the new do and pack those last minute items such as hairdryer and makeup.

What a night! What a week! Countdown to green is now complete! And so is this post for today ~ stay tuned to the Kronicles of Karen the Quilter (AKA The Quilt Rambler) and my side kick Pixxie the Professional Quilt Model (whose story will be told in future chronicles I promise!) Look out Idaho – here comes the Overton clan!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My newest personal quilt

My chosen profession is "quilter for hire" - which simply means that I assist others in finishing their quilt tops by utilizing my A-1 Elite Professional Longarm Quilting Machine. All my quilting is hand guided, which by definition means I don't have a computer hooked up to the machine to quilt hands free. My hands are very busy! Either following a designer pattern with the laser light (called a pantograph or panto for short) or being creative with my own combination of designs. It's all fun. With the end goal of "finished is good."

I have been quilting on longarm machines since my hands-on three day workshop with Linda Taylor (national longarm quilting teacher and award winning quilter) in September 2003. I later rented a longarm at a "not so local" dealer's establishment (I drove 60+ miles one way) during the summer of 2004 until the summer of 2005. It was October 2005 before I was blessed with my own machine in my own little studio. The rest, they say, is history!

Have I mentioned that I love quilting? It's my passion - well, next to my relationship with Jesus Christ, my husband, my two adult sons and my forever puppy Pixxie - and in that order! I truly do loving quilting. Every aspect. From the searching for just the right pattern, to the selection of the fabric, to the cutting out of the block elements (well, that's not exactly my favorite part, but it's a necessity), to the piecing together of the blocks, to the ah-ha moment when the blocks come together as the body of the quilt, oh and then it's time to add borders and next is my all time favorite part - loading it on my quilting machine to add the fancy stitchin'

As a "quilter for hire" I don't have a lot of time for personal quilts, but I DO make time! I try to set aside Sunday afternoons, after my time of worship and occasional extended family dinner, to piece or quilt for myself. Sometimes I just need to take a nap -- but if at all possible I try to quilt.

By the way, "quilt" has lots of meanings. Sorta like "love". I love pizza, I love Pixxie, and I love my husband Johnny. The word quilt can refer to piecing a top, adding the stitches that hold it together, or to the completed three layer masterpiece destined to be an heirloom. Some people call quilts blankets, but that's only because they don't know any better. A blanket is something you purchase at Walmart for $39. A quilt is a work of art. A one of a kind creation, created totally out of love and generally designed with a person or particular sentiment in mind. But back to my ramblings on my personal time to quilt....

As a gift to myself on Mother's Day, after my husband and the boys grilled out juicy hamburgers and assisted me in the clean up, I decided it was my day to quilt! I had chosen a new pattern from Jodi Barrow's Square in a Square pattern book "Abby's Schoolhouse". It was perfect to utilize the 2.5 inch strips I had been collecting from previous quilting projects and my addiction to fat quarters (by the way, a fat quarter is sometimes called quilter's candy - it's a small 18 x 22 cutting from a larger bolt of fabric, enabling the addicted quilter to purchase a variety of fabric designs in smaller doses at a smaller price - depending of course on how disciplined you are in just getting a few at a time, similar to enjoying a handful of colorful M & M's instead of just one solid single colored bar of dark chocolate, somehow you just don't think you've eaten as much!)

So here I was on Mother's Day with a fabulous pattern in mind (in her book it's called Bachelor's Puzzle), armed and dangerous with my rotary cutter (ask me how dangerous this fabulous tool can be!), with my collection of fabric strips, a smokin' needle in the sewing machine and I was off! It took several Sundays to piece and trim the 100 SnS (Square in a Square) diamond blocks - not because they were hard, but because my time was limited. How hard it is to sew 2.5 inch strips to the sides of a diamond? NOT! Just mindless chain piecing bee-boppin' away with the iPod and my favorite tunes. Then with the assistance of my official Square in a Square ruler and my instructions for Option 33, I trimmed up those basic blocks to what is sometimes called a snowball diamond block - all the while I never cut or sewed a triangle! Did I mention that I'm hooked on Square in a Square hooked, as a matter of fact, that I'm a certified instructor - but that's another rambling for a future visit...

I do believe that I used over 300 fabrics. Actually I KNOW I used over 300 fabrics! The 100 blocks had the opportunity to use 5 different fabrics. I kept the centers a neutral "background tone on tone" but even these weren't all the same, making it scrappy too. Taking out the consideration of center fabric that leaves 400 opportunities to use a different print. I lost count at 300 and somewhere in between 300 and 400 I started repeating prints. GASP! Oh well, somewhere the "they sayers" have declared that a scrap quilt isn't a scrap quilt unless it has at least 75 prints, so I guess I was safe! Repeats are allowed I do believe.

Finally it came time to piece the partial piano key border and add it to the body of the quilt. My first "ah-ha" moment. I was soooo pleased. It was indeed colorful and full of "a few of my favorite things" - for in this quilt I have scraps from some of my first quilts, from quilts I made as prayer quilts for friends going through difficult times, there was scraps from the tissue cover holders I made as a thank you for the leaders in my church's women's ministry (since women seem to cry a lot at retreats and such I thought that an appropriate gift), there were fabrics from the quilt I made my mother on her 70th birthday, scraps from a quilt my youngest son (then 19) made himself (complete with quilting it I might add), scraps from fat quarter sales at the local quilt shop....can ya'see where this is going? Memories. Quilts are full of memories!

A few Sundays later it's time to put my quilt on the frame. Mind you, a custom quilt can't be quilted in a single day, or at least this quilter doesn't do that, can't rush the artist at her to allow for the creative flow my machine is equipped with what is called "zippered leaders". Simply put, I can pin my quilt backing to these leaders, layer and baste my batting along with my pieced top, begin quilting and at any given moment for any reason I can unzip the quilt in progress and load a different quilt. This comes in handy when I need to "punch in" and go back to work on Monday mornings with customer quilts. Next Sunday (my day off) I just zip it back on and go to town!

So progressed the quilting of "A Few of My Favorite Things". A Sunday here, a Sunday there. A slow, but joyful process. The quilting is all free-hand - no stencil, no pattern, just from memory and free flowing creativity based on a fabulous workshop I had with Jamie Wallen, a national longarm quilting teacher (mentor and friend). He calls the design 'flurry feathers' and I just love reproducing them. Feathers, feathers, feathers, all over my quilt of memories. What joy. what bliss. I love my Sunday afternoons. (Actually I love every day that I'm quilting...but for now we're talking about Sunday afternoons).

Finally, on Sunday July 13th my beautiful quilt (beautiful to me that is) had completed the "quilting" process. All three layers (did I mention that I dearly love wool batting! more on this another time) were securely held together with the stitching from my A-1 and all that was left was to trim and add the binding. Which by the way, adds a whole new dimension to the quilt.

If you are keeping track, that's a whole lot of Sunday afternoon quilting for this latest creation. But it's worth it! In between are countless hours of customer quilts, attending quilt guilds, getting my hair done, going to the chiropractor...oh..I'm sorry, I'm suppose to be rambling about my newest personal quilt, not my busy life between Mother's Day and July 13th..As I was saying, all that needed to be done was the binding.

Somewhere during the following week of busyness I managed to trim the quilt and machine attach to one side the purple binding that matched the purple in the border. My plans were to finish the hand stitching on the final side by my birthday, 7/23, to continue in the tradition I started in 2005 -- to make a birthday quilt each year. Since we were going on vacation with extended family (7/19-7/26) to the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho in celebration of my birthday as well as my mother-in-law's and my nephew's birthdays, I knew I just had to take this quilt with me in order to finish it on time! Besides, I learned on 7/13 that the Stanley Idaho had a low of 32 degrees and I'm used to 105 in the shade - I think I needed my birthday quilt on my vacation!

And that, my new hopefully soon to be faithful readers, is where The Quilt Rambler will pick up next time, blogging about my mountain top experiences - so stay tuned! There will be more to ramble about!! Including finding an arts and craft fair AND a quilt shop in the middle of no-where - the most beautiful no-where that I've been to in a long time!

more later
karen O in Texas