Monday, June 30, 2008

The Magic of Lightning Bugs

Friday night the sky was overcast, so no moonlight relieved the darkness. Lynnie and I went into the backyard where no artificial lights shown. And there we lived the magic of the lightning bugs--the sky was full of the little flashing lights. Some were so close you could catch them (I leave them alone) and some darted here and there. It was like a personal light show--mini fireworks. It's just so incredible to stand in the dark and be surrounded by tiny flashing lights that extend as far as the eye can see in any direction. I remember reading that lightning bugs are only in certain parts of the country--what a shame that so many will never experience them.

I thought you might enjoy seeing some of my treasures. Below is my roll top desk topped with crystal candle holders, candles, a pink Santa, and various other pretties. There is a string of white lights intertwined through the items and it is an especially impressive show at night. The painting is an original by Kay Stash. I leave up the things I like year-round. Why hide them and enjoy them only at certain times of the year?

Here is the display on the top of my refrigerator. The church was made by Kay's late husband, Andy, and is surrounded by pieces of white china and two handmade candlesticks. The swan sitting in the dish had originally been a swan planter. Unfortunately, it got dropped right after I bought it, but I couldn't bear to just throw the head/neck/front part away. The dish was a perfect was to display what was left, and it adds a bit of uniqueness to the display. For the record, my refrigerator is covered with family pictures and interesting bits and pieces. Most would think it a bit messy-looking, but I like having my favorite things in plain site.

Yesterday I taught 10 ladies how to hand piece little Thimble quilts. They are so cute and easy to make. For one of the ladies, it was her very first quilting class ever--she did so well that you would think she'd been quilting forever! A wide range of fabrics were used; some concentrating on themes (Christmas, florals, etc.) and some taking a more random approach. It was a great time and a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I have bound another 5-pointed star quilt, have the binding almost hand sewn down on another Dresden Plate. At the moment I am hard at work getting ready for my teaching trip to Florida next week. New handouts, samples, stuff for the trunk show--trying to figure out what I can fit into my carry on in case my check through bag doesn't get there--ah, the joys of being a traveling quilt teacher. And you thought it was all glamour!

A beautiful doe not far from my window--do you ever wonder if the animals/birds are as interested in watching us as we are in them? Did the turtle from a few posts ago go home and say "Some crazy lady with a black thing in her hand kept talking to me and clicking the black thing--what a weirdo-I was lucky to escape unscathed!"

Remember to practice safe rotary cutting--always cut away from yourself and to keep the guard on when you are not actually cutting. You offenders already know who you are--but, I will be the first to say "I told you so!" when you cut yourself! Don't make me go there.

Happy Monday--and sew something, already! It'll make you feel better!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday, Monday Redux

For your viewing pleasure--here are two pictures of my first pair of socks! Yes, I know each sock starts at a different place in the yarn. But, being a newbie to sock knitting, I wasn't sure if I'd have enough yarn to finish the second sock if I started them the same. I would have lost quite a large repeat and figured it wasn't worth taking a chance. The yarn is Plymouth Sockotta (knit on size 1 needles) and makes the patterns itself--see, I could have taken credit for all those fabulous stripes, but I didn't!
I have the first sock done in a pair for my mom and the second one cast on and a bit of ribbing done. These are in a superwash wool (worsted weight) on size 5 needles. Needless to say, the thicker yarn and bigger needles makes for much faster sock knitting!

The event at Calico Gals yesterday was fun and quite a few people got to see me on Simply Quilts and to see and touch the actual quilts. And a lucky few got a sneak peak at my Snake in the Grass quilt, which I am in the process of hand quilting. People were sort of taken aback by it, but it is my brainchild from start to finish. (I don't know what that says about me!)

On the right side of the blog is a new box--this is an entry port to the Quilt Teacher Blog Ring, where you can read quilting blogs from the likes of the Piece O'Cake gals, John Flynn, Karen Combs, Mary Stori and more. Check it out--it's fun to get a different perspective on our most favorite of activities--yes, that would be quilting!!!

Housework may never have killed anyone, but why take the chance? Quilting forever, housework.........only when you absolutely have to!

Hasta la vista, fellow quilters!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Little Bit of Stuff

Well, we are almost back to Thump Day. Where do the weeks go?

A few weeks ago, I taught the 5 pointed star class in Ithaca. Marion, a first-time hand piecer, made two versions (see pictures). Then, she turned them into a Tooth Fairy Pillow for her grandson! The star with the orange center has a pocket to hold the tooth--and the loot! What a wonderful idea for a non-frilly boy's pillow! Check out those sharp points! Way to go, Marion! (Marion is also a first-class embroiderer and has just lately come to quilting. She is currently working her way through Bea Oglesby's Wildflower book--and the blocks are truly a sight to behold. And the wildflower blocks were her first applique attempts!)

On Sunday, June 22, I will be at Calico Gals in Fayetteville, New York, from noon until 3 p.m. to promote the release of "Dresden Plates of Distinction" in CD format. The book has been out of print for over a year, so this is big news! No one will have to pay almost $300 on the internet to own a copy of the book! (That's how much the paper copies are selling for in one place; almost $80 on Amazon!) If you are in the area, stop in and say hey.

On June 14, I did a short labeling lecture at the Consortium show in Cicero. 27 women, who all swore they could not draw, left with a small inked wreath that looked like a million bucks! After the lecture I went down to the vendor area, where some of the students were showing off their handiwork. Their "friends" said that they must have traced the design, or done something else--it could not possibly have been "drawn" by the students. Luckily, I was able to assure everyone that indeed each student had drawn their own wreath--and there were 27 samples to prove it! Empowerment at its finest! Each woman went home knowing that she could draw and with proof in hand!

I'm always amazed at how quickly time passes. Each year in September I start a new hand pieced block of the month series. And each year, June seems like an eternity away. Yet, here it is June again and yesterday was the last class for this session. For any of you Bliss-ters reading this, thank you for a fabulous year! It is so rewarding to form friendships with so many wonderful women. The best part of a long-term class is that everyone has a chance to bond, to form a support group, to get to know each other.

I remember about a year ago I was getting ready to go to lunch with four other ladies. And in an existential moment was wondering if I was really making a difference--I am after all teaching quilting--it's not like I'm a brain surgeon! It was then that I realized that the four women I was meeting for lunch did not know each other before taking classes with me--and WE are now all friends--through thick and thin, quilting or not quilting. So the answer to my question was Yes, I do make a difference. We ALL make a difference--for good or bad--we may just not see it. Let's use our power for good.

I'll leave you this time with this thought:

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone is fighting some kind of battle." I don't know who said it, but truer words were never spoken. Good night...or...good morning!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's an Absolute Zoo!

A couple days after I posted the picture of Mama Woodchuck and her baby, I looked out my sewing room window and saw this! Yes,that is a small woodchuck up the tree! The birdhouse is over five feet from the ground (you cannot see the base of the tree in the picture), so you can judge how far up s/he is!

I guess it looked like so much fun that another one had to try it--they both went up to about the same height, then turned around and scampered back down. Has anyone else seen woodchucks in trees? (I promise I am not on drugs and I don't drink--I also figured no one would believe me without pictures!)
The next day--just in case you thought this was a fluke--another woodchuck climbed into the spruce tree, also behind my house. While you can't see the bottom of the tree, s/he is sitting about 2 feet off the ground. After venturing further from the trunk, s/he decided that that might not be such a good idea and leapt to the ground. (I have a vivid imagination, but even I couldn't have made this stuff up!) I'd love to hear if any one else has had similar behavior in their woodchucks....

Today we had a severe thunderstorm, with high winds, heavy rain, hail...the works. After the storm passed, I again looked out my sewing room window and saw a turtle hightailing it across the backyard. Off I go, camera in hand.... I think it's a box turtle (it's definitely not a snapping turtle). I managed to get a dozen good pics before s/he returned to the weeds. There is no standing water within hundreds of feet of my yard, so I'm not sure if it was a female laying her eggs and departing, or what the story was. Don't you wish they could talk? Yes, okay, I did ask--but got just the hairy eyeball stare in answer.

In answer to one of the comments: Yes, I will announce my new batting choice--when I make one. I'm still testing!

I finished my first pair of socks! I'll post a picture another day, since this really is the Z00 day! I am quite taken with them. I have not cast on a new pair--trying to finish the two things I still have on needles.

My phone line (and only my phone line) was hit by lightning on Sunday afternoon and it was not fixed until this morning. I put the time to good use by adding borders, marking for quilting and quilting (hand) a new Thimbles sample. It's ready for binding. I also started hand quilting my next 5-pointed Star Hand Piecing sample--it's done in fabrics I don't care for and had almost decided to (gasp!) machine quilt it. It's about 1/3 done and looks good. The quilting is making a big difference.

Will stop running on and on for this time. Did you thread you needle today? Or better yet, thread it and sew with it? Come know you want to... ;-)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Batting in My Belfry

Although this is a picture of my soon-to-open poppies, it is what my brain probably looks like as I try to find a new batting. (The opinions expressed below are mine and are MY OPINIONS--remember I officially stated that I am "one very opinionated quilter". Continue reading at your own risk--or just look at the pics.)
After using the same batting for over 13 years, I found that the manufacturer changed the way it was making my favorite batting. I am almost at the end of my private stock and haven't wanted to order more because the newly-minted stuff has been so inconsistent. So I decided that I had better start doing some testing. I tried the bamboo/cotton mix--without presoaking it since that involved the use of a laundry basket and the bathtub (please don't ask) and laying it flat to dry. (I am a big fan of flat quilts--while making them and after they are washed.) But I felt that might be surmountable if I liked it enough. I made a 10 inch sample, black on one side, muslin on the other, using a 30 wt. thread. I must admit that the more I worked on the sample, the more my hands hurt--it was very hard to manipulate for those smaller stitches. I'll let you know how it washes after I bind it. (Supposedly once the piece is quilted, it can be machine washed and dried, but not in its "naked" state. You must contact the manufacturer to get washing instructions.)

Then, with the push to be "green", I tried the cotton/PLA blend and the 100 percent PLA. Unfortunately, the washing instructions were rolled up in the batting, so I didn't see them until I had purchased and opened the packaging. Here are the instructions: "Machine wash cold, gentle cycle. Lay flat to dry. Do not dry clean. Do not iron." Because inquiring minds want to know--they really do mean DO NOT IRON. I put a sample of each between fabric squares and pressed them on cotton--one melted into a dense mass and the other became rather brittle. Yes, I know the packaging said DO NOT IRON. But I wanted to know what would happen--worst case scenario--and now I do.

The search is not over yet--I'll keep you posted on my progress. Any suggestions? Remember it's for hand quilting and I use it for classes in fine hand quilting as well as for my personal pieces.

Good news: I heard today from AQS that my book will be out on CD in about three weeks! I googled the book (which has been out of print for almost a year) and one site had two copies--one for $277 and one for $287! Yikes!

The heel is turned on my second sock--pics when the PAIR is finished.

I'll leave you tonight with what I think is a delightful picture--my backporch woodchucks--mother and baby. Check out those teeth!

Did you remember to do something nice for yourself today?