Friday, January 30, 2009

Time to Rearrange and Set Some Quilting Goals

January is typically a time to clean out, clean up, and reorganize for me - this year has been no exception, specifically in the studio. It's taken all month because there hasn't been very much 'spare time' -- mainly late nights and weekends, but it's worth it!

If you've seen the photos of my 'ever changing studio' on webshots you'll see that once again I've made some changes. Minor ones, but very very functional! One I want to point out is my new saddle stool for sewing. I have a higher saddle stool that I use with the longarm and dearly love. I found out about the smaller one to use with the domestic and just had to have one. I'm now a distributor for these fine stools so if you are interested you can visit my website to contact me for details.

In this corner I used to have my great aunts hutch, that has now been moved to the laundry room (photo later on below) and in it's place I purchased a bookcase to hold my new project boxes. The wire drawers were brought out of my laundry room and they hold my notions and my overflow of 'quilts in waiting' in the top drawers.

Yep, I found these really cool stackable plastic boxes that I transferred all my projects that had been in hiding for goodness knows how many years (grin) I can place all the parts and pieces in the box that are needed for the project and when I'm ready to work on one, it just comes off the shelf and onto my sewing station. These are also going to be great when I go on retreat next month -- everythings already packed!!

As you can see, it's easy to see what's inside at a glance.

These are my most current projects, the ones I hope to knock out this year. It's cool that I can get 8 boxes on a shelf -- or four boxes and the fabric on mini bolts that go along with it. I have also converted my stash to the fabric organizer program . It's a wonderful way to know what you have at a glance.

This is my ironing and cutting station with wire drawers below. The drawers on the far left contain 'quilts in waiting' (tops waiting to be quilted, my personal ones as well as my customers) with the remainder obviously housing my stash -- or as my friend Jamie said "my collection" -- he explained that the difference was 'stash is something you are suppose to use, whereas a collection you can just enjoy' in other words it doesn't have the obligation of being used! Good thoughts to ease some guilt, but I really do want to use my stuff since that's why I bought it!

Pixxie was in the other room and saw the camera flash so figured she needed to get in on the deal -- I wonder if she thinks she's union and must get paid (in treats) every time a camera flashes?

This is one of my drawers that uses the smaller fabric organizers -- I use these for fabrics that I don't have a lot of yardage for but I know is enough for a narrow border, binding, or such. Anything smaller than a half yard is folded in another drawer. I also have a drawer for fat quarters and a drawer that houses all my strips and smaller parts and pieces.

This is a drawer mixed with the larger and smaller fabric organizers. I am trying to keep certain collections together so when I am ready to make a quilt (or finish one) with these fabrics they are all together.

I even reorganized my batting. I primarily use batting on a roll but do have a few prepackaged batts available so they are stored on the top shelf in my laundry room. I've had a bad habit of just piling up the cut offs from personal quilts knowing they were big enough to I decided to make these scraps more user friendly. The little papers pined on the rolled scraps have the size written on them..So if I have a small quilt to do for myself or charity I can go into this area and see if I already have a batting scrap that would do instead of cutting off my large roll. Well, it looks good anyway (grin).

This is the old hutch I was speaking about -- it made it's way to the laundry room and the shelves hold yet more project boxes filled with the oldest UFO's and the ones that are unlikely to find their way to my sewing station any time soon. I found a project started in 1995! So at least it's in a project box and IF I ever became inclined I could find it and finish it....By the way, the glass cake dish on the left has my left-over binding scraps rolled up like a cinnamon bun -- I keep telling myself that I'm going to do a scrappy binding one day....mainly I pull from it when a customer comes over and asks for a lesson in attaching binding...oh well, it looks cute don't ya think?

So now that things are organized, and I discovered I have about 30 different projects started and enough fabric to keep me in stitches for quite a while. With this organization I believe that I am more motivated to turn these colorful stacks into empty boxes! (first to go will be the ones on the floor!) And as I mentioned, I'm already packed and ready for my Feb. sewing retreat!! Talk about goals!!

I've placed things in an approximate order that I'd like to finish and hope to turn these UFO's into quilts in waiting. Gosh, that's another story! In my personal Quilts in Waiting I have 4 small ones, 1 lap size and 1 queen. Not to mention there's a wallhanging already quilted that needs binding...and I'm really not sure all my personal quilts have labels (sigh). Just more areas to be better organized in I guess. More goals!

Ah, but if nothing else, I love looking at all the potential in this room! It's still my happy zone and I am more than content just to be in here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bless Her Heart

You do know that in the south you can say anything about anybody if you preference it with "bless his heart" or "bless her heart". Sad but true. It's that unspoken agreement between the speaker and the listener that you both know that the person 'couldn't help it' or 'that's just the way it is' or 'that poor soul" among other things. And that you don't think unkindly of the person, no matter what you are saying sounds like you might, and you aren't really gossiping, you are just sharing....

In this story I mean it will all due respect. Bless her heart, she came to me to help her finish her quilt. After all, that's what I do, right?

Mrs. H. was known for her hand piecing and hand quilting. Back in the day she actually taught a good friend of mine how to quilt, so this friend was my testimony to Mrs. H's previous ability. I say previous, bless her heart, because this quilt didn't showcase her true talents.

Not at all. Bless her heart. A complex sampler, obviously lots of love and time went into this creation. And goodness was it a creation -- huge! 95 x 110, or there 'bouts. Yep, bless her heart, the top wasn't quite square. There were a few blocks that sorta zigged out of line, one that I even called pregnant because it reminded me of a swollen belly from a side profile. Not square is a nice way of putting it. Blocks not laying flat was an issue also, that and numerous uncaught seams. But bless her heart, she'd finished it and wanted it quilted. That's where I came in.

Now before you think I've become the quilt police, please read the rest of the story. I most certainly do not make the squarest quilts in the world, never have more'n likely never will. I just enjoy piecing and quilting - not into the perfection by any means. So there is absolutely no judgment in my ramblings! I'm just sharing a story.

I don't know if Mrs. H was a perfectionist in previous quilts, but bless her heart, in this one I know she struggled. For you see, Mrs. H is 93 years old and, bless her heart, her eye sight has gotten the best of her.

Of course I told her I could finish her quilt (what was I thinking!) Okay, what was I thinking? I was thinking that my "mission" has always been to honor the quilt maker by finishing her quilt. And I was thinking of my own dear grandmother who at 96 would love to have the ability to use her hands to piece. I was thinking I need to show respect to Mrs. H for her obvious love of quilting. So I took in her quilt, telling her that we'd need to use poly batting to help ease in the fullness and charged her my lowest price knowing I was going to be putting in a lot of overtime on this one. A LOT!

I think the hardest part was telling her it would be several months before I would even get to her quilt. Bless her heart, you would have thought she'd understand that being a hand quilter and all, knowing that it takes a long time to hand quilt...but I guess the misconception of machine quilting is everyone thinks its so fast. Well, it can be...or it can't be...just depends! I can only do one quilt at a time and I had several in line before her. A concept I tried to explain several times with those phone calls in that sweet little old lady voice "karen, I'm just wondering how my quilt is coming along" -- so hard to try to explain that I wasn't working on it yet...sigh.

As much as I love and respect Mrs. H (we used to go to church together and she's known my extended family for over 40 years) I have to say that her quilt about robbed me of any and all confidence I had in myself as a longarm quilter. Sigh. I lost my joy on this one. Totally lost it.

Every block was a challenge. There was no way to make the block lay flat without some sort of pucker. I felt totally defeated and actually depressed -- for several days. I was also fearful that she's say "you ruined my quilt" that I took photos of each and every step -- including when my hopping foot got caught up in a loose seam. I was paranoid and not a happy camper. Even dinner out with my fellows did little to lift my spirits. I mean, two layers of poofy poly and there was still fullness. No matter what I did it puckered. I began to focus inward and worried about my reputation as a quilter. I tell you, I was totally stressed over this quilt and felt like giving up quilting for the public. I focused on all the unfinished projects I had that I could work on, or the 'quilts in waiting' in my personal pieced pile. As far as I was concerned I might as well go into hibernation and never show my face around another quilter again. What will people say when they see these puckers? Will I be banished from longarm groups nationwide? The vortex was swallowing me. I tried walking away after a few blocks. I tried listening to uplifting music. I'm embarrassed to say I was totally wiped out by this one. And it went on for days.

I have hesitated to even post the photos or this story as I don't want to offend the quilter or her family, but bless her heart, she gave me the hardest challenge of my new year and I wasn't too happy about it, even when it was complete for I now worried about her seeing it and what she'd think.

I may never know. Her daughter in-law came to pick it up. She of course understood that Mrs. H didn't piece like she used to, she commented on her failing eye sight and how it would be difficult for her to do the binding but that she really wanted to do it, that handwork brought her so much joy. The daughter in-law said that Mrs. H had gone to crocheting because she really couldn't piece any more...bless her heart.

Seems Mrs. H is a lot like me -- likes to be productive, always working on something. Bless her heart. Sigh. Seems now I'm connecting with her and it's no longer about the quilt that almost made me throw in the towel as a longarm quilter -- it's back to honoring the quilt maker by assisting her in finishing her quilt so it can be used as intended. I'm not sure anyone looking at this quilt would say it was a good piecing job or a good quilting job. Probably years down the road someone will determine that this quilt isn't worth anything and just trash it -- unless they knew the quilt maker, knew that "back in the day, bless her heart, she was a mighty fine quilter"

I pray that someday someone will offer me more grace than I extended in the working on this quilt to assist me in my 'bless her heart' days.

There's lots of photos here, really too many, but it documents the story. Please take time to review and echo "bless her heart"...please be kind and know that we both did the best we could.

Busy Weekend

Busy month! Hum, busy season! Feels like I haven't had a breather since pre-Ike when we were boarding up for the first time in August. Just this past week have I felt somewhat 'normal' -- and have been surprised that several of my local friends have felt the same way. I know folks are tired of us whining about Ike, but I tell ya', you survive a major life-changing event like that one and it does take it's toll on you.

But that's not what I wanted to ramble about this morning. Actually I have a couple of things I want to ramble about -- one being the quilt that almost took away all my confidence as a quilter...but that story needs lots of photos to tell so it will have to be delayed until another time.

So about my weekend...while it's fresh on my mind (grin)

Saturday morning I hosted four new students to a Square in A Square Class -- they learned the basic options (techniques) to make half-square triangles and flying geese out of squares and strips. Everyone finished one complete block and parts and pieces for others. The pattern was called Garden Party.

When class was over we all high-tailed it over to Cactus Quilts in Texas City to see what was left from her anniversary sale (it's a wonder we didn't delay the start of class to go shopping first!) We weren't disappointed. And yes, I was tempted. No stashbuster broken promises here, I gave up being a stashbuster (grin). I came home with a cute little panel that was half price, a few cordinating fat quarters that were 40 percent off and a little yardage of this cute matching pink print (that wasn't on sale). Oh, and did I mention that I just had to have a new book - needed some new reading material for the nightstand...25 percent off to boot!

Well, can't let a new project just sit so Sunday after worship I decided that I just needed to do something with that panel. I'm not really a "cheater cloth" sort of gal, but when it's on sale why not break out of my box. A few added SnS and tada....

Seems I didn't guestimate my pretty pink fabric well -- I've got to go back for 5.5 inches x WOF to be able to finish the narrow border on the other three sides (sigh). But! I did get the cordinating backing material on sale - so there.

Once that was complete I wanted to finish out the class demo from Saturday...even though I already had a class sampler made I always demo a block or two for the students to see and understand the instead of having another UFO I worked really hard to get my blocks together. We cut out enough for 5 blocks, and my original sample had 5, but one of the students mentioned that this design would look good set on point, so that's what I did - used four blocks on point and parts of the fifth block in the border.

So that's what I did this weekend.

I've got more to share...that quilt that totally depressed me, and the re-organization in my studio (mainly my UFO section)....but this is all the time I have this morning...Have a customer quilt calling my name and it's a little past my normal time to 'clock in' for work...stay tuned...the rambler isn't out of stories just been a little short on computer time.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Just saying Hi

Golly, the month is half over! Somewhere I lost a few days/weeks/months/years!! I've sooo much to tell, so many things to share, but so little time. And truth be known, I've slept since then so I really don't remember everything I was gonna tell (sigh).

But I did want to mention that I had sympathy pains for my northern friends who have been without power and such due to snow storms. No, no more snow in Texas but I did experience a power outage today.

For over 5 hours!

Did I mention that it was 33 degrees here this morning. Cold for the Texas Gulf Coast. Too cold to get out of bed, so just hit the snooze several times this morning....and then I heard it. POP! and the power went out. Sounded like a transformer blew. Great.

No hot shower. No hot breakfast. No heat.

Finally I decided that I just couldn't face cold cereal so I made it up the road to the local Mickey D's to find that as I walked in their power went off -- shutting down the registers. Well, I was hungry and not above begging -- yep, I asked for a biscuit and the lady was nice enough to give it to me. Free.

I sat in the warmth and ate my biscuit. I learned there had been a wreck on the highway earlier and that their power had gone off and on several times due to this. Strange that a wreck a half a mile away would effect my power....

Finally their power blinked on and I asked if they could warm up some pancakes. They told me that the cash registers weren't working so I offered cash in a larger amount than posted on the menu. Not the best breakfast in the world, but beggars can't be choosers. Hate to admit, I probably wasn't too lady-like in my wolfing down the pancakes (sigh).

I went home fully expecting to find my power back on too.

Nope. Not happening. Not for several more hours. Long day when a quilter can't quilt or even sew....

Seems a dump truck backed into the transformer down the way from my home causing the entire block to be out from 0830 to 1330. Bummer. And no time for a shower before the 2 o'clock customer...

Well, I'm happy to report that it's now almost 5 o'clock and I've had my shower -- feel like a new woman! Still need to dry my hair and doll up...have another customer coming in 30 minutes but the reason for the panic on the shower is IT'S FRIDAY NIGHT! Date night - and tonight it's the whole family plus one. My youngest turns 21 tomorrow and we are celebrating tonight.

So just wanted to say hi and let folks know I'm still breathing. Pixxie is a little less active with the cold, but other than that things are pretty good at the Quilt Rambler's house. Hope all is well with you too.

Stay warm. (makes me glad I'm a quilter!!At least its a good excuse to own so many quilts don't ya think?)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Retreat Anyone - or - Retreat for One

One is the lonely-ish number....or so the old song goes. Yes and no. Sometimes it's good to be alone, other times its great to be surrounded by family and friends. What's better is if your day encompasses both.... that's a good balance in my book.

Well, today it was just one. Four AM came really really early this morning, especially since I stayed up late trying to get 'everything done' -- which I didn't. Still had lots to do with the goal of being on I45 North no later than 6:30 AM to miss the Houston traffic...large goals considering I had to pack! Oh, and did I mention that my destination of Dallas/Fort Worth was expecting freezing rain? Talk about pressure to get on the road early!

Packing isn't that hard when it's just clothing for a week, but when that week will fluctuate from 30 degrees to 70 that adds a tad more weight to the ole' suitcases. Thank goodness I was driving and didn't have to worry about a weight issue (bags not me!) and it's a huge blessing that I have a BIG BIG, did I mention BIG trunk! Clothing didn't take up as much room as all the sewing gear! Machine, extra light, travel iron, cutting mat, ruler, and all the normal gear that I need for my comfort in creating.

What's up you ask? Well, that's my set up above in my hotel suite tonight. Tomorrow I will be involved in several days of workshops with Jodi Barrows, Square in a Square -- I will be working on my "diamond certification" as I am already "square certified". Part of the sewing project on the table is my homework for this week's class -- 50 diamonds. I did half of it last night before I crashed and decided that I'd just have to finish up when I got to the hotel. Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself -- I forgot to tell you about the freezing rain!

Have you ever just had a peace come over you knowing that your prayers (and prayers of others) was being answered? That's how it felt today. I did get on the road by my goal (amazing - but that's only because I figured it was dark and no one would see me until lunchtime so I could shave off a little time by NOT putting on my makeup). I45 had absolutely no accidents on the morning commute, again, amazing! Breezed right through. It wasn't too long in my almost 300 mile journey that I hit rain. Kinda made it hard to concentrate on the audio book I was listening too so I opted for my praise and worship music instead (gotta love those iPods). Very fitting to keep my mind on Jesus as I kept my eyes on the road!

My plans were to meet up with my friend Sue and do a little warehouse shopping at P&B fabrics and Moda fabrics -- unfortunately she lives a little northwest of my hotel and her area was experiencing freezing rain. I drove by a time and tempature sign that said 36 so I was spared (praise God). Sue gave me directions to P&B and despite the rain I just had to take a detour (only 5 miles out of my way and what true blue quilter wouldn't go 5 miles out of their way for a fabric frolic!).

Several bolts later I was back on the freeway to my destination hotel. Have to admit I was a bit tired and frazzled especially after unloading all my gear in the rain. A hot shower and some sewing was just what I needed. Topped off with a pizza delivery and I'm a happy camper!

I was a good girl and finished up my homework...well, almost, I still have to press open sides 3 and 4 on my diamonds -- tomorrow we'll learn how to trim them into wonderful options...once I got those semi-finished I searched my SnS books for a pattern that I could play with tonight with my new fabrics....preferably one that I will be teaching later this year (never too early to work on class samples!) I found the perfect one -- Peddler's Choice from Liz's Mercantile Pattern Book -- commonly known as Cracker Box. I have loved this pattern ever since I found an old 'rescue quilt' made with this design. I kept trying to figure it out and duh-huh it's soooo much easier the Square in a Square way. In fact, I pieced 9 blocks just tonight - which is almost 1/4 of the quilt since it will be a 6 x 7 setting when it's done. How do you like the wild colors? Of course I had to have purple (grin).

Hotel lighting messes up the true colors -- good thing I brought my own light to sew by! It will look better once I finish it and photo it at home in my studio (with Pixxie, did I mention that I miss my pup?)

Well, the alarm clock will be ringing early and I'll have to pack up all my sewing gear and move down to the conference room to join the others...first I need to find the conference room (and the others)....I'm looking forward to a great week -- will try to post as I can, but Jodi works us hard from sun-up till dark-thirty (grin). So much to learn. Sew much fun!!

Good night from the Big D

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Beginning the New Year Right (grin)

Okay, I couldn't help myself. After all, it's still a holiday and technically I'm "off" and can do what I want right? I know, I know, there's dishes that need to be done, the bathroom could use a little attention, not to mention that mound of paperwork I keep ignoring...but what can I say? I was having withdraws!

My longarm needed me. It was calling my name when I woke up this morning. Begging me not to send a 9 patch pieced UNQUILTED top out as a class sample. Pleading with me that surely I could be diligent enough and stay focused long enough on a holiday to quilt a class sample. After all, how long could it take to put on borders and load a quilt?

Well, longer than I thought, but well worth the efforts! Not only did I have a fabulous day just me and my A-1, but I'm sorta proud of the result...and inspired a little too. More on that in a minute.

Thought I'd share the 'funny' photo first...the blooper so to speak....

I think I caught Pixxie thinking of her payday while she was working...but being the professional that she is, she quickly straighten up and took her job seriously.

Ta Da. Here's my little quilt. My class sample for the upcoming "Prairie Claw" Square in a Square class in Feb. at Cactus Quilts in Texas City. I think I'm calling this my "tic tac toe" see if you can see why (smile).

There's O's (triple feather wreath)

and x's (Renae's amazing rays)

The lighting isn't the best this time of night...but I think you can tell that I had fun today....did I mention ALLLLLL day! I did get a movie and a late dinner date - a wonderful way to start of my new year -- I love date nights!

Oh, and of course there's the signature butterfly in the border....

So, here's my "inspiration" and justification to boot. Remember I cut out enough fabric to make this a queen size quilt (sigh) so instead of needing to recut these five blocks I've decided that my goal for this year will be to make 5 identical quilts and quilt them up different ways! Wouldn't that be cool? Show an all-over design, a simple custom, different threads, who knows! But wouldn't that be cool? Maybe someone should take my temperature (grin).

Yes, it's been a Happy New Year. Looking forward to wonderful things in 2009. I'll leave you with a quote sent to me by Nevrdun (my friend on a farm in TN who is 'never done') ...

Advice for the New Year from a 1918 edition of "Successful Farming" . . .

"We are apt to measure a year by what we get out of it. We should, rather, measure it by what we put into it. Move into the New Year as you would into a new house. Carry with you only what is attractive or useful and make a bonfire of the old rubbish . . . chiefly useless memories and regrets."