Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Child of the King

Do you ever feel discouraged, disillusioned, feeling down but don't really have a good reason cuz in the scope of things there's really nothing wrong that should be causing these feelings?

Maybe it's the weather, ya'know, dark days do tend to be gloomy if we let them.

Maybe it's the let down from a
mountain top experience.

Maybe it's missing someone that has passed from this life.

Maybe it's the empty feeling when everyone else has returned to their normal after a wonderful time together and you're the one left at home. Alone, with only your thoughts.

Ever feel like giving up, lost your hope? Thinking that there's nothing you can do, have done, or will do that has even the potential of greatness? Uninspired? Feeling useless?

You're not alone.

It's been my experience that when these dark days come that I have several choices that not only affect my attitude and therefore my day, but also my outlook for my future. It's a fight between giving into darkness or looking for light.

Seems I've been having a lot of these goofy thoughts lately....that's when God gently reminds me that I'm His kid, and that I need to look for His glory and not my own wants, needs, or aspirations of greatness. I am nothing. He is everything.

It's during these times that I need to refocus, be still, and get my mind off myself and ask to be shown the big picture, to know where He wants me. My place in this world....

I'm reminded of a wonderful passage of scripture assuring me that God is the source of my salvation and my light.

Micah 7:7-8
But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation, My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is light for me.

He is the lifter of my head. I am a Child of the King! Sometimes I need a tangible reminder that this life is just a journey to my real home! Greater things are yet to come! Greater things are still to be done!

"Lift Up Your Head, You Are a Child of the King"
28 x 38
Hand Dyed Fabric
Quilted by Karen E Overton
Christmas 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stash Builders Final Report

Words cannot describe nor photos do justice of the abundant blessings received tonight by members of the Island Quilters Guild, Galveston Texas.

Several months ago on an online forum with fellow longarm quilters nationwide and worldwide, I posted a comment in reply to several ladies describing how they were 'taming their stash' or 'organizing their stash' (for non-quilters, a stash is in reality a collection of fabric that may or may not get used in future projects, sometimes it's just eye candy and comfort, but generally it is used for the making of quilts...) Anyway...I casually replied that if anyone needed to find a good home for their way-ward stash or their overflow stash that I knew several ladies in my guild who lost ALL their stash to Hurricane Ike last year and that I'd be more than willing to be a facilitator to collect and distribute...

Immediately I was contacted by several of the gals who asked for my address and over the past several months boxes have arrived at my humble abode. (if you want more details please check my archives to the right).


The response was indeed an overflow. Not only did several of my longarm buddies respond with boxes of fabulous fabric - fat quarters, yardage, pre-cut squares, notions, thread, patterns - but we were also recipients of generous gifts from area guilds.

The ladies who lost their homes which included their quilting room items were asked to arrive at 4 PM this evening prior to our annual Christmas party.

We told them not to be shy or to think they were taking too much - and to use the boxes that had just been emptied and placed under the table for their treasure hunt. Our only "rule" was to put your name on the outside of the box so we knew that it wasn't one that we'd forgotten to unpack (grin)

Our goal was for all of the fabric to find a good home! The members of the board who had assisted me in storing the boxes these past few months agreed that none of it was coming back to our houses!

One of the 'touching moments' that I'll share was overhearing one of the ladies gently sigh as she picked up this piece of black fabric with little teapots on it..."Oh, I had's almost like it's been given back to me." She later shared that loosing her fabric was one of the hardest things to let go of in the overwhelming reality of loosing so much of her possessions due to the hurricane.

Those of you who donated I can't tell you thank you enough for your generosity. Thank you for your trust in me to receive your unselfish donations and to facilitate it to such a loving group of giving ladies. We have a small guild, about 60 women, who on an average make over 200 charity quilts a year. The stash that you contributed to the Stash Builders project will undoubtedly continue to be unselfishly given away once again, but this time as part of a quilt that will cuddle someone in need. The blessings just continue! And that's the way it's suppose to be!

So, you ask, how did the rest of our evening go? Well, we tried something new this year....typically our tradition has been to play Quilt-O, which is a quilter's version of Bingo...couldn't tell ya' if it's because of the great door prizes that used to be given by our local quilt shop, Quilts By the Bay (which we lost due to Ike) or the fact that we always used Hershey Kisses for our markers, or should I say the wrappers from the kisses and the contents tended to disappear rapidly...Well, this year we decided we needed to do something fresh...something different...and something that sounded a little bold...

Strip Poker! Quilter's Version (grin) We antied up with 2.5 inch holiday fabric strips with the high card taking the first draw, then descending order having their pick...with a final game at each table with 'winner take all' . Oh and yes, we still had our kisses! After all, doesn't quilting and chocolate go hand in hand?!?!

Yep, it was a good night in Galveston.
Bless you my dear online friends who shared with us, and bless each of you for reading this Quilt Rambler's tale.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Play Day

Today was a play day. My "day off".

I've been wanting to test out Fil-Tec's Glisten Metallic thread as well as a new Soy Blend Batting...and since I'm been trying to do some UFO's but not having much time I thought...well...why not do a little bitty quilt...

I dug through my orphan blocks and found a really nice block that I made several years ago in a class at Houston Festival with Nancy Johnson-Srebro called Stars By Magic. I loved her technique and actually made a wall hanging with her designs but my little class sample was still just a block...

Hum, I'm sure I have some fabric that will make a 'border' and backing...yep...P&B's Wild Things to the rescue!

So this is my little quilt, approx 14" once I put a binding on it. I used Glisten Silver Metallic on the top and Glide on the bottom. The batting is Soy Blend and the combination was wonderful.

My plans are to bind it and then wash it to see how the batting as well as the thread hold up.

Since it was a small quilt and I had some backing leftover (grin) I cut another piece of fabric that would help me not waste the already loaded backing. It ended up being about 20 x 15 and I found a couple of Bamboo Blend batting scraps that I puzzle pieced together and decided to continue quilting with the metallic. The photo at the top is my fiddle faddle from this project. I figured one day I'll use this pre-quilted fabric for a little zippered back or something. Who knows.

Now that I think about it, I finished one UFO (orphan block) and created another (prequilted fabric). Don't think that helped the stash/unfinished project pile much, but I certainly had fun!

And that's what Days Off are suppose to be! Fun!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Quilter's Snow

My Professional Quilt Model sometimes has hard assignments, but Pixxie's always willing to accommodate!

Look what came on the freight truck today! Quilter's Snow -- more commonly known as Batting, unless you are from the UK and there it's Wadding...

Okay, okay, bad joke...but all around the Houston area there has been flurry sightings and it hasn't made it all the way south to Galveston County today so I just had to have my own snow story...

So here it is!

Last month we were able to take a tour of a batting manufacturer and up until now I haven't had time to share my story....

This is actually called Snow. It's Hollywood's version of snow, as in snow used for movies. Remember Tim Allen in The Santa Clause -- well, the snow for that movie came from this manufacturer and produced on this machine! How cool is that! Not only does Hollywood use this snow but large corporations such as malls who use indoor snow in their displays. Yep, it's simply made out of the same fibers our quilt batting is made from. And it can be made in different versions such as snow flakes falling, snow drifts or layers of snow on the ground (think thick batting!)

From the Snow Machine we made our way through the working warehouse on our quest to see how batting is made...

The fibers come in large bales such as this. Cotton, Soy, even Bamboo. I was able to hold some bamboo fibers in my hand and oh my goodness is it ever soft!!

Speaking of bamboo - did you know how renewable this stuff is! Take for example those cotton plants I shared yesterday...each year the farmer must plant the cotton seeds, pray for a good crop, harvest, and start over again the next year with new plants. Whereas bamboo keeps growing...the same plant is harvested approx. every 6 to 8 weeks by cutting off about 18 inches from the top growth. The plants remain useful for years, no waiting for it to mature like the full season needed for cotton. This particular manufacture has certified documentation that the plantation where this bamboo is grown has used no chemicals in the ground or pesticides in the growth of the product. In other words, it's good stuff!

Not only that, but I learned that bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial...seems there isn't a bacteria that feeds on this fiber. For example, if cotton gets wet and stays wet then mold and mildew can grow...not so on bamboo! Bamboo breathes and drys well. This manufacturer mixes ultra clean long stable cotton to the bamboo to make a very soft batting that is wonderful to quilt with. I used it in my Dangling Carrot quilt and its been washed several times. I love how it feels. This is my new personal favorite batting!

Okay, back to the story..

This company prides themselves in purchasing quality fibers, extra clean and chemical free. But they give it a good fluffing up and cleaning any way... This gentleman pictured below is actually mixing fibers as they enter the cleaning/fluffy machine (sorry I don't have techie terms, I'm just a former homeschool mom who loved field trips and I get so excited in what I'm seeing that sometimes my listening skills aren't the best, nor my memory!).

On one side he has a bale of bamboo fibers, on the other cotton fibers and they all get mixed up together in this particular machine.

I just loved how fluffy the fibers got as they went through this process. This machine also made sure that there wasn't any seeds or other items in the fibers. Indeed it reminded me of snow! Especially the few fibers that seemed to escape and float around the room. To me, this place was a wonderland.

Next the fibers traveled to another machine. I can't remember what this stage is called but it reminded me of 'carding' - I know my grandmother said they used to card the cotton between boards that had what looked like nails or needles on it. If I'm not mistaken the 'old timey' way was to not only clean out the seeds and any debris but also to elongate the fibers. I was blessed to take home a little wad of the bamboo fibers pictured above and a 'puff' of bamboo fibers from this machine pictured below. It is so soft, like what I imagine touching a cloud would be like. Have I mentioned that I love bamboo?!?!?!

From there the fibers travel through a maze of machinery. How I wish I'd of taken notes, it was sooooo fascinating!

Part of the process of course is to make the batting into rolls that many of us are familiar with. I didn't get a clear picture of the machine rolling it up on the tubing as it added a layer of scrim, but I did question about the ends that were cut off...what did they do with the discard? I was pleased to learn that everything is recycled. The discards are chopped up again and used as stuffing in the upholstery and mattress industry. Pretty cool, huh!

Once the battings are rolled off the presses (or whatever the machinery is called) the large rolls are then taken to quality control where every batch is hand inspected, counted (measured) and packaged, or cut into specialty sizes like crib, twin, queen, or king and packaged.

I so enjoyed the tour. Next I'd love to find a Cotton Gin that would give me a tour - wouldn't it be great to see the total process from field to finished! Come to think of it, I guess you could say I'm a part of that process as I take the batting and use my longarm to actually finish the quilt. Cool. Have to admit I always loved those from this to that (finished) books for kids or the shows on the Discovery channel about how things are made...

Oh, and all the batting that arrived by freight today? Well, that's for distribution as I am now a Longarm Distributor for Legacy by my fellow quilters, if you'd like more details on this fabulous line of batting please send use the contact form on my website and I'll be happy to accommodate.

Hope you enjoyed this little field trip with me...

still holding out for the real snow....which reminds me of a story....if you can indulge me for one more ramble...

When we lived in Tennessee we'd sometimes take the boys to Gatlinburg. There they had a ski slope...well Gatlinburg isn't in the Rockey's but the Smokey's so there's no guarantee of adjust for this they have machine that will make snow or "man made snow" as we explained to our young sons who were observing this process of snow blowing out of a machine.. A little later in our day nice big flakes starting falling from the sky and my son said "look mom, some God Snow not Man Snow!"

So here I wait, enjoying all the Quilter's Snow in the living room and looking out the window wondering if there's going to be any God Snow south of Houston tonight....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Texas Snow

In Texas, Cotton is king....and cattle, and oil, and... and.... and....

Okay, so we are a proud bunch, what can I say...

Hubby and I were traveling home from an A-1 Quilting Machine set up in San Angelo Texas this morning and instead of 'frost on the pumpkin' we saw frost on the cotton!

Burr, 33 degrees! Too cold for this gulf coast gal...but I couldn't resist a photo opt as we drove through miles and miles of cotton fields, many already picked... I guess as a quilter I just am naturally drawn to cotton...or could it be that my grandmother always shared stories of her 'cotton pickin' days' her later years she even grew cotton in her flower bed she loved it so much ..

Like I said, I'm a gulf coast gal and this beautiful field of cotton is about as close as I really want to get to Texas Snow....HOWEVER, it IS in the forecast tomorrow for Houston as well as Galveston county so stay tuned!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Day of Thanks

A day of thankfulness, a day of remembrance... as my mom noted, my house is full of things that remind us of those who have gone on before...the empty seats at our table... dad, my grandmother, my great aunt... We ate at Ma-ma's table, sat in Aunt Luna's chair, were surrounded by things that Dad had made...many things that they had given us...

What they gave us was a rich heritage, a life filled with love and an empty place in our hearts as we miss them so much this time of was called to the Lord's Army December 2003, my last time with him was Thanksgiving Day 2003. My great Aunt Luna joined the heavenly choir the day after Thanksgiving 2007, and recently my grandmother after celebrating her birthday here on earth in September 2009 was reunited with my Papa who preceded her through those pearly gates January 1994....What a reunion they must be having, what a celebration to be in the presence of their Lord and Savior be together forever.

In the meantime, those of us left behind who are trying to remember that it's just a temporary separation, enjoyed the presence of those of us in the present. As hard as it is sometimes to go on without those who are missing from our table, our side, our lives, we know that we must - for we are the present generation making memories that will one day comfort one another as one by one we make our final my pastor says ' the statistics are staggering, one in one dies' - but we do have a choice of living forever if we make the choice for Jesus before we go to the other side...

So we enjoyed our day. Hubby smoked a chicken with Pixxie keeping diligent watch. Mom taught me how to make "potato boats" or what is sometimes referred to as twice baked potatoes. I told everyone to mark this day in history as this instant potato gal made REAL mashed potatoes for the first time in my entire life! And they were great (if I do say so myself)

We enjoyed our meal and then the fellows went to the man cave as the gals gathered in the quilting studio where I showed my sis how to make the fabric bowls.... went to check on the fellows and this is what I discovered!

Yep, a day of memories. A time to reflect on what truly matters in life... the short version: Jesus, family, and a cute puppy!

Happy Thanksgiving my friends. I pray that your day held wonders and memories and gratefulness that our founding fathers had the vision for freedom and creating 'one nation under God'. God bless America! Thank you to our men and women who sacrifice for our freedom and thank you Jesus for your ultimate sacrifice of love that we might indeed be truly free.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What makes me smile

It's been a long couple of weeks since I've last blogged. I've wanted to, really I have...just not enough hours in my day....have had some really cool things going on that I'd love to share about in more detail....touring a batting company (lots of photos), visiting with two of my long distance quilting buds and seeing their studios, going with hubby to the Texas Motor Speedway for a NASCAR race, and working on some incredibly beautiful customer quilts (including some that took an incredible amount of time to complete). But alas, as I posted on my FaceBook status "put a fork in me, I'm done"

Tis the season to be frazzled, worn out, ready to scream, to throw in the towel, to say I'm too tired to even think about the holidays....Tis the season for an attitude check!

Last Sunday we had a special guest speaker who spoke on Jeremiah 18's passage, the Potter and the clay, with a very hands on visual of actually having a potter's wheel and throwing pots as he spoke. There's so much to learn from this passage and from the knowledge shared by our visiting thing that came back to me last night when I was upset over something (and not handling the resulting pressure very well ) was the reality that I was now a cracked pot. I'd messed up. My attitude certainly wasn't something to be proud of....

I was reminded that sometimes it takes brokenness so that the Master Potter can put us back on the wheel and mold us into something useful. I was also reminded that the molding process is caused by pressure on the clay...something we all don't like (or at least I don't) and I'm trying to realize that the pressure and trials I'm going through right now are all working for my good....I just have to stay on The Potter's wheel and trust that He is using these things to shape me into what He wants me to be.

Right now, true confessions, I've jumped off the wheel and said I've had enough, I can't take this, my feelings are hurt, I'm tired, I want to quit, I want to give up, say 'no more!'...thankfully my heavenly Father is patient and merciful. I'm repenting. Ready to rest in Him and trust that He will give me the strength I need for the coming days....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ode to the Unknown Piecer

By definition an ODE is "a lyric poem expressive of exalted or enthusiastic emotion"

I'm not a poet, I'm a rambler...but this post does have what I hope to be enthusiastic emotion.

As a longarm quilter for hire, it's my job (and my joy) to assist piecers (quilters) in the finishing of their masterpieces. Sometimes the owner of the quilt top isn't necessarily the one who pieced it, sometimes it's an inherited top, or even a special purchase from an estate sale or antique market. Sometimes I don't even know the story, as in the case of the quilt I'm working on this week.

One of my faithful customers had a neighbor with a quilt top that needed to be quilted. If I was told the story I have certainly slept since then and don't remember. All I remember is my good customer telling the neighbor that she would show it to her longarm quilter and see if anything could be done with it...for you see, the top had "issues."

I wish I had more of a command of vocabulary because "issues" seems disrespectful, and I certainly don't mean any disrespect to the unknown piecer, but this is another one of those "bless her heart" quilts...

This particular quilt was hand pieced, and judging by the fabrics full of feedsacks and other recognizable designs, was probably pieced in the 30's or 40's when the double wedding ring pattern was very popular. I always love taking a photo of the actual hand piecing before it is covered up forever and ever amen. For a reason unknown to me, the piecing was done in both a black thread and occasionally a white thread - could it be that the unknown quilter was using what was available as far as thread choices were concerned? Could it be that she was a beginner and the black thread was a way for her to see where she was working, or could it be that she was a seasoned saint whose eyesight was aided by this choice of thread color?

The double wedding ring is not a pattern for the faint of heart. Yes, its symbolism is one that will warm your heart - sometimes made in hopes of a future marriage, sometimes made for a wedding, or perhaps even for a special anniversary. Regardless, it's a difficult pattern to piece with it's small ring of colorful scraps and it's odd size melon in between, not to mention the large center piece whose proper geometric name escapes me....

Yes, this quilt had some 'issues' - for one, it didn't want to lay flat when spread out on the floor, and as you can see in the photo above, it didn't end on an even note. The edges looked more like ruffles potato chips with it's ridges than a quilt that would grace a bed ensemble.

Ah, but that's only if you look with your eyes and not your heart!

Not knowing the quilt piecer, the history of the quilt, or anything really except the current owner wanted it finished and was willing to accept puckers in the completed project - I was left up to my imagination as to how to quilt this particular masterpiece.

The design needed to take into consideration that there would be many pleats and puckers along the way, yet I didn't want to just meander or stipple over the entire top. An edge to edge pantograph wouldn't work either, number one simply because it would again be difficult to ease in the fullness and number two (which was really number one in my mind) is it just wasn't befitting to a double wedding ring. Too much time had been invested in the piecing, it would be disrespectful to rush the finishing by just stitching any ole thing to hold in the batting.

For somewhere in time a lovely lady set her mind upon piecing a double wedding ring. Perhaps in hopes of her own marriage, perhaps just because she liked the pattern. Could it have been her first quilt, or even one of her last? After all the careful planning and choosing of the scraps for the rings and the countless hours of piecing did she grow weary and decide not to quilt it? Was she frustrated when she couldn't make the seams obey and lay flat, or was she piecing during a difficult time and the simple motion of needle and thread working in her fingers brought her peace and the end result wasn't the focus? Some thing I'll never know unless the current owner has a story to share - but what I do know is this unknown piecer had the tenancy to finish that which she started - not a ring missing, not an unfinished row, a little uneven and a little full, but a complete top. Bravo!

A top that cried out "finish me". And to the best of my ability that was my goal. In an effort to mask some of the fullness I decided to double layer the batting, with an 80/20 cotton/poly on the back to help shape the quilt and a high loft poly on the top to soften the fullness that was inevitable.

What to stitch? What would work the best considering the obstacles and still honor the piecer's love and attention to the completion of her top? what indeed but hearts! When that thought hit me, the love just flowed out from one quilter to another. The shared passion and perhaps the shared imperfection. Somehow I could relate to this unknown piecer. My designs aren't perfect, I don't make a perfect quarter inch seam in all my quilts, sometimes my blocks are a little wonky, but the love is never less than a perfect love - love for the process, love for the journey, love for the therapy brought about by playing in fabric and thread, and love in hopes that one day this labor of love will warm someone's heart as it warms them from the outside elements. Can the love be felt? I certainly hope so, I tried to match it stitch for stitch with the love I imagined of the unknown piecer.

So yes, it's a little uneven, yes it's a little puckered, and yes it still needs a binding put on to make it complete (tomorrow's task), and yes, it's FINISHED! (almost, except the binding). I hope the recipient will savor the character added to the quilt by it's age spots, creative piecing and beautiful scraps.

And yes, I hope it's loved when it finds it's way home. I hope it will be said that I completed my task of honoring the quilt maker by finishing her quilt so it can be used as intended.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Accessorizing At It's Best

Of course the photo of Pixxie on one of Ma-ma's quilts has nothing to do with the title - but as a certified rambler I'm allowed to jump around with my thoughts! The other day I was really missing my grandmother so decided to cuddle up in one of her quilts while I read my One Year Bible reading for the morning....later I saw that Pixxie was also enjoying good memories...

Okay. On to the real story. Well, one of them at least.

In last week's episode (sound like a bad TV announcer don't I?) if you remember (if not read the post below) I spent my "day off" quilting some yardage...a test of new thread and new batting...well...I had another plan for that project besides just reporting in on my findings...I planned on making a new purse!

So this week I cut up that quilted yardage and put it to good use!

This is the inside zippered pocket of a pursed based on the book Zip Couture by Linda F. McGehee.

I've made good use of my friend Kay's zipper stash that she loaned me several months ago. I like the way this pocket is done, not only is there a secure zippered part, but the top is open so there's actually a pocket behind the zippered pocket.

This is the outside pocket. Somehow I got it a little more 3D than the pattern, but I learned how to use part of a leftover zipper as trim! (Top of pocket) This outer pocket will hold my phone.

Decided to try the cording option around the exterior of the bag. Not bad. And not hard to do.

The hardest part was putting in the separating zipper around the top and then putting binding over that. It wasn't too painful! Can you see that I covered the webbing with fabric that matched the binding and cording? Gave it a fresh look I think.

And of course I had to make a few interior zippered bags to organize the inside. No pattern, just leftovers and a zipper. The tall one on the left holds my calendar, pen, calculator, business cards. I made it a little pleated on the bottom so it would stand up. The smaller one on the right holds my girly stuff such as comb, gum, mirror, small hand sanitizer, etc.

Next I decided that I wanted a new wallet so I used a pattern I found on the internet called Cash Keeper by Studio Kat Desgins.

I changed up the easy pattern just a tad by adding a vinyl sleeve for my driver's license. Of course to protect my identity I covered up the vital statistics (actually I didn't want anyone to know my age!)

This is a cool little wallet, there's a zippered coin purse on the back and in between is where you keep your bills.

I purchased several patterns by Studio Kat Designs and hope to make more of her designs. I was impressed with the ease in following this pattern, so gives me hope for the others! She does have a purse organizer that I hope to make, but in the meantime I think everything is pretty well organized thanks to all my little zippered bags.

Oh, and see the key hanger! I like that feature. All I need now is to make a new eyeglass case to match and a checkbook cover since I changed from a wallet that had one built in to the little cash keeper. Another project for another day!

It's been a busy week and I wish I had more time to fill you in on the details, but did want to let folks know who contributed to Stashbuilders that all the boxes of fabric have been turned over to the guild's board to be distributed among the ladies who lost their stash last year in Hurricane Ike. Thank you for your generosity!

I for one enjoyed the extra hour's sleep this morning that Day Light Savings Time offers - however, I hate that it gets dark so early. I'm not really a cold, dark season sort of gal - really need the blue skies and lots of sunshine to warm my heart and keep my attitude in check. Fortunately today was beautiful outside and I enjoyed my drive to worship services this morning and took a little detour on the way home just to enjoy the drive more. Sigh. Now's it's time to close the shades and hibernate, dark-thirty came early today. Sigh.

Ah! but it's time to pack up the new purse and go out to dinner with hubby, a Sunday night ritual that will certainly brighten any gloom of darkness! Too bad I don't have time to make a matching vest....nah...too much of a good thing is simply too much!

Thanks for stopping by and seeing how I spent my day off this week!