Sunday, February 28, 2010

T for Texas, T for Tennessee, T for Time to Rearrange and Reflect


Just the mention of the state brings thoughts of grandeur, pride, cowboys, oil, slogans like "bigger in Texas," "don't mess with Texas," home.

I wasn't born in Texas, but both of my parents were. I'm a navy-brat, born on a naval base, so I reckon I'm still a Texan - my reasoning, if I'd been born on a naval base in another country I'd still be an American (grin) so I'm a Texan by proxy!

I'm also half Tennessean. We'd been married 3 months when we got transplanted to upper East Tennessee, lived there almost 20 years, our two sons were born in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains, hillbillies! Or as my youngest likes to say "Appalachian American." When we moved to Tennessee we found that we fit in really well - as my husband's barber told him - "Texas is just a big annex of Tennessee, if it weren't for Tennesseans there wouldn't be a Texas"

I think pride runs deep in both these states, and I'm proud to be associated with both!

So, what's a cut out state map of Texas doing on my cutting table? Glad you asked!

I'm working on a Texas sized project...Seems in a couple of weeks I'll be at the Dallas Quilt Show with the 'smoothest quilting machine' on the market, the A-1 Longarm Quilting Machine and I decided that I needed a new quilt to hang in the booth ... one that would let folks know that even though the home office is in Springfield MO that there's a Texas Dealer - me!

So the idea came to me as I was deep cleaning this weekend to do a wall hanging for the booth. I had just the fabric for it! Hand dyed from one of my workshops here in my studio with my friend Jamie Wallen - naturally it's purple!

So I cut up one of my state maps to be able to trace around the state for the center of my wholecloth.

I've got grand plans.....even though all I accomplished this afternoon was quilting the outline of the state and the boundaries of the outer's a work in progress!

And I want it to be colorful. This is the outer border, quilted in Superior Threads Rainbow. This little 20 inch section took me almost 2 hours to stitch out. First the curly Amish feather design and then the over stitching. You can see the two steps above - the feather and then the added stitching that really shows off the variegated thread.

When I first thought of the idea I figured I could just whip it out on my "afternoon off" and have it all ready for the show in a couple of weeks ... funny how I under estimate the time involved in a project.

That happened to me earlier this weekend when I woke up on Friday and decided that today was the day I needed to clear all the batting out of my living room and find an organized way to store it in my laundry room off the studio. Little did I know that pulling everything out and reorganizing would take two days! But the end results are worth it!

Life is kinda that way. Little tangents or distractions that send me in different directions than what perhaps I'd planned for the day. Keeps things interesting I think (grin). Keyword, flexible! Like living in two different states - bloom where you are planted and remember to enjoy the journey!

So for the next day or so I'll see where the creative bug leads me as I fill in around my Texas state whole cloth...have an idea of what I want to do, but more than likely I'll just do what inspires me at the moment - I love being spontaneous and somewhat impulsive - like throwing caution to the wind. For all I know, the idea will flop and I'll be embarrassed that I even mentioned it - but who knows! It could end up being one of my favorite pieces. Only time will tell.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chillin and Cruisin

Nothing like a tropical vacation to reduce stress (grin) Only negative, it was COLD and not so tropical.

Never-the-less, we packed up our bags last Monday with high expectations. Six days and five nights away from it all (sounds like the title to one of my favorite movies). Even though we were wearing sweatshirts, the sun WAS shining and nothing was going to dampen my spirits. We work hard, we play hard. Carnival Ecstasy here we come!

As we checked in our luggage and credentials we were ushered into a photo trap, one of many we would experience this week, those wonderful professional photos that are oh so tempting to purchase to 'remember your cruise' I'm proud of myself for only purchasing one! But wanted to document the date and the fact that we were wearing sweatshirts to head to the Caribbean ...

As we walked the gangway to board our ship we noticed the luggage being loaded - see the purple bag? guess who that belongs to?

Naturally it takes a while to board all the passengers, our luggage, and the supplies needed to sustain us for the duration of our trip so it lends plenty of deck time to overlook our favorite home port of Galveston. As you can tell, it was windy and cold!

I just wanted to document that I am truly a dedicated quilter! See, I even brought my own pillows with home made pillow cases and my newest quilt with high hopes of finding time to finish hand sewing the binding (got about half of it done). I love the 'touch of home' and I was very thankful for the added warmth!

After unpacking it was time again to visit the upper deck to watch the longshoremen undo the ropes and release our vessel for our magical week at sea.

One of the wonderful things about crusin' is the pampering. Each night the bed it turned down with chocolates on the pillow and a cute little towel critter for your enjoyment. There is also a FunShip Guide that tells of the following day's activities - everything from what time you eat, to entertainment on board, to information about the ports of call.

This is our 4th cruise in 15 years, the most recent being this same ship 8 months ago. One of my favorite things to do is take photos of the sunsets and sunrises. This is the first evening with the sun setting over the Houston ship channel.

Tuesday was our day at sea. And it promised to be a beautiful day. There was plenty to do aboard the ship, or the choice to do nothing at all. Since we were traveling with a large group from our church there was the opportunity to get to know the other couples better as we ate, went to shows, or just visited in the many gathering areas on board.

Tuesday night was "formal night" and we decided to be Island Casual instead of formal - this is the Lobster night and to be served in the fine dining room the basic requirements were "no jeans" so that's what we opted for. Again, one of the wonderful things about cruising is the food - you can literally eat 24/7 on board. Everything from fine dining to buffets to pizza, and it's all good!

The weather remained cool for our trip limiting some of our outdoor activities. Never did break out the new bathing suit to sit by the pool, and it did hamper my desire to get up early to be on deck for the 'crack of dawn' - however, I did manage to snap this photo out the porthole window in our stateroom. Small disappointments but I was determined that nothing was going to wreck havoc with my need to get away from it all!

Wednesday our destination was Progreso, Yucatan Mexico. Again, we were wearing sweatshirts and sweaters, but it wasn't as cold as when we left Galveston!

Just inland from Progreso is Merida. Our church Calvary Chapel Houston supports a mission there and as a group we had made previous arrangements to be able to go visit the church and school. So we loaded up 4 large vans and had a road trip!

The mission church was beautiful, just like the children in the school. It was a blessing to see the facilities and the smiling faces.

After our tour we headed downtown Merida for a little shopping....

....and outdoor dining. We really appreciated the leaders of our group who had been to the area multiple times on mission trips as they were able to suggest places to eat.

Those of you that have followed my blog for any length of time know that I'm a "bag lady" - I just love bags, love making bags, and in Mexico, loved the treasure hunt of shopping for bags!

I wasn't disappointed! The one on the upper left is a glasses case so that gives you a little size perspective of my acquisitions from Merida.

All too soon it was time to return to our ship and once again watch the process of disembarking from the pier at Progreso.

The next morning, Thursday, we arrived in Cozumel Mexico. Finally a day that was considerably warmer and very promising of adventure!

Cozumel has the bluest water and is known for it's beautiful coral reefs full of tropical fish. In years past we have enjoyed the beach as well as snorkeling. This year we opted for something different.

We joined two other couples and spent a wonderful day shopping and exploring the downtown section of Cozumel.

The three amigos would line up together outside the shops on the sidewalk and patiently wait while us gals did our thing. Naturally, they did their own shopping, and we would call them in when it was time to barter for our treasures. It was a wonderful day of laughter and enjoyment.
And a little embarrassment as "one of us" was a little uncomfortable with the serenading of the band at lunch...
Again, I was known as the Bag Lady and it became quite a joke among the fellows "don't look now Karen, that store has bags!" I added a few to my collection and feel like I've come home with some wonderful memories.

I love the bright colors of Mexico. There were so many things to see and enjoy. And for once I think I was really practicing "be where you are" as evidenced in my neglect to take a lot of photos opting instead to just soak up the memories and enjoy the moment.

It was so refreshing to get away and take time to relax and leave the cares and pressures at home. Everyone needs an escape from reality once in a while, but not everyone can escape to a tropical island. I am reminded that we really don't have to runaway to find refreshment. God says to 'be still and know that He is God' and He promises to never leave us or forsake us. Life can be difficult at times, sometimes seeming like everything is crashing at once and that we've been forgotten or abandoned. It's during these tough times that we just need to take a deep breath and realize that we are loved. Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Flowers, Quilts, and Pixxie

I was awakened this morning to a bouquet of purple flowers, my husband said when he saw these he knew it was the right bunch. In honor of this being "Daytona Sunday" (as in THE Daytona 500 NASCAR event) I clipped the stems and arranged the beautiful flowers in our pop corn bucket to be enjoyed in the man cave as the race was run. Yes, while the rest of the world celebrates Valentine's, in our household it's NASCAR all the way (grin). Of course I've taken a little time out to work in the studio, after all, Sundays are my afternoons off.

So here's what has been going on since I last posted....

First of all, thank you for all the feedback (positive and negative) about my first You Tube. I know the quality and contrast were not good, but the video was made by a special request to "watch me while I work" and that was what I was working on at the time. I may consider doing more videos in the future, but that's not my primary focus, just a pleasant distraction.

Once the quilt on the frame was finished I decided I wanted to continue playing around with these feather puffs - this time on a larger scale and as an all over design. I really needed to work on a personal project as part of my play, and my therapy. Sometimes a girl just has to do what a girl has to do - me time is a part of a balanced quilter don't you think?

Sometimes on my Sundays off I work on piecing, and more times than not it's what I call a "throw down quilt" - just something simple to satisfy my urges to play with fabric. Last spring I pieced a top from a pattern on the internet called Wickedly Easy My goal was to use up fabric scraps from quilts made several years ago, you know the fabrics that bring back wonderful memories? Like the fabric from a quilt finished at a beach retreat, or fabric from a prayer quilt or two, or just fun prints that I've woven into several scrap quilts...

Well, I pieced the blocks and somehow it just didn't look right. Son #2 loves to call it "fabric throw up", he's rather descriptive sometimes, but in this case he was absolutely right. I didn't want to waste the day or my fabrics so I figured out a way to fix it by replacing a center piece in each block with lime fabric to give the quilt some continuity as well as a place to rest the eye. I called it When Only Lime Will Do, and placed it in the Quilts in Waiting guessed it, the perfect personal project to practice more feather puffs.

When I place a personal quilt in the Quilts In Waiting drawer it could be months, even years before I get around to quilting it. Because of that I always prepare the back and the binding to store with the project, that way any leftover fabrics that 'match' can be recycled back into the scrap drawer to find their way into another project. As you can see behind Pixxie, I ran out of binding fabric. Sigh. I'll be digging in drawers later to find more, or using the trim from the backing to finish it off. Sometimes things like that happen in life, connections are missed, but life goes on.

These two photos show a close up of the all over quilting, of course I had to use lime thread! The orange scrap is from a quilt I made Son #2 when he graduated from 6th or 8th grade, I can't remember which as he did graduate from both. He's now 21 so it's been a while. The tropical flowers are from a quilt that he and I did together as a mother son project. His was from a pattern called Turning Twenty (as he was 19 at the time it was appropriate) and I used the same prints in the pattern called Turning Twenty Again (yep, I'd done that twice). We had them on display at a local quilt show that year and I couldn't have been prouder. In the photo below is a strip of blue floral that once graced my living room. I've redecorated since then. Things have a way of changing over the years, yet somehow remain the same. Yes, fabric holds memories...

As much as I love the wild assortment of scraps on the front, I have to say that I love the back of this quilt as much or more - when the light hits it just right you see all this beautiful texture of the quilt designs.....Ta Da....All Over Feather Puffs! The quilt only measures 68 x 84, the perfect topper for a queen bed, or a cuddle quilt for the couch, or a nice beach blanket or picnic quilt for that walk in the park. I used almost 4,000 yards of thread! If I were charging for this it wouldn't be at my all-over price that's for sure! Lots of dense quilting and many hours of deep thinking.

So, what else have I been doing with my time? How 'bout an 80 mile road trip (one way) to a local quilt show? Yes, 80 miles IS local if you live in the Houston area (grin). I had two main purposes for the 160 mile round trip (not to mention the toll fare) One - I had a customer quilt that would be in the show....

And I couldn't be more pleased. I told her when she picked it up last month that it would be a ribbon winner. Her colors in this quilt are stunning. And this was actually my first attempt at Feather Puffs, or rather a variation. For the complete story and more close ups click here to check back in the archives

The second reason for the road trip was to visit with my friend Tom Russell who was the featured artist at the show. Many of you may know Tom's quilts from Alex Anderson's Simply Quilts TV program or may have viewed some of his quilts on exhibit at national shows. The photos don't do the masterpieces justice.

Tom has spoken at several local guilds in the Houston/Galveston area and he keeps the ladies entertained with his stories of how he became a quilter and how he comes up with his designs and unique style. Everyone that has heard Tom agrees that he inspires them to try new things and loves that they have learned that it's okay to make little quilts!

Quilting is best shared among friends. Sometimes it's with fellow quilters as we learn together and discover new things or enjoy a quilt show together; sometimes it's with non-quilting friends who just appreciate the warmth and beauty in the creative process of quilting; and sometimes its just sharing with a cute puppy who very well may be my biggest fan - that or it's just all about the treats that is her payment for being my professional quilt model!

So, that about catches me up on the quilting side of my life....thanks for spending some time with the Quilt Rambler! to be continued (grin)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Spend a Moment Looking Over My Shoulder

I'm trying something new - took this video with my Verizon Wireless Droid and trying to figure out how to get it's not the best quality or content, just my first attempt at Rambling while I quilt.. this was the quilt on the frame today and I was in the mood to play (grin).

Let me know if this sort of post is interesting or beneficial and I'll do my best to learn more about this media - and quilt with darker thread and better light (grin) so you can actually see what I'm doing!

Please give me feedback as to if this is working or not - I'm clueless (grin)