Friday, September 30, 2011

Project Quilty

I have an idea for a new reality show - Project Quilty.  Here's how it goes:

Gather about 100 quilters and choose the flashiest, easiest to cry, most likely to stab someone with a needle and other Drama Quilting queens.  Send the other 80 normal ones home.  Put the remaining Quilting nutcases in a house with 20 machines, rotary cutters, thread, etc.  Only supply 10 cutting tables that are the right height.  Put out 10 good pairs of Gingher scissors, the rest steal from kindergartens.  Supply ten Horn sewing chairs and ten folding chairs.  Sprinkle this stuff around the house.

Week One:  Pass out 20 fat quarters to each contestant and have each quilter design and execute a top for a baby quilt.  Cut out the electricity randomly.  Serve a really good breakfast but take away all the leftovers.  Serve a late lunch from a Jack in the Box.  Serve it cold.  Don't serve any dinner and collect the tops from the 15 contestants still there by bedtime.

Week Two:  Show gorgeous batiks in generous quantities.  Give them to the quilter who complained the least about the mattresses.  Give the rest skimpy amounts of Walmart fabric but lots of chocolate.  Allow them to bargain and trade as they design and construct a Sewing machine cover.  Jack the heat up about 4:00 pm.  Collect the covers from the 8 contestants still alive.

Week Three:  Take away half of the good tables, chairs and scissors.  Do this with an armed guard.  Pass out brightly colored jelly rolls of fabric. The project is a quilted bag with unlimited food and fabric. Play rap music really loudly.  Turn it up.  Pass out kleenex to those quilters who leave, sobbing, strips stuffed in their ears.  Sell the 5 completed bags to pay for therapy for the remaining contestants.

Week Four:  Pass out hand quilted heirloom quilts in museum quality condition.  Everyone has the right tables, chairs, scissors and supplies.  Food, temperature, music and lighting are ideal.  This week's challenge is to cut up the quilt and create an item for a designer boutique.  Smile when all 5 quilters run out the door protecting the quilts and losing rather than defiling another quilter's work.

Week Five:  Name yourself the winner

It could be a hit, I know it!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Top Ten Things you will never hear a quilter say

10.  Oh just drive on by, I don't need any fabric.

9.  Sure, you can eat buttered popcorn while huddled in my quilt.

8.  Those store bought quilts made in China are just as good as mine.

7.  Bring your husband along on the shop hop.

6.  Fabric for everyone, I'm buying.

5.  That's fine dear, use the quilt to catch the oil spill from the car.

4.  No problem, I can have it hand quilted in a jiffy.

3.  Use my quilting money to buy Nascar tickets, good idea.

2.  Turn the light down, I like it better when I can barely see the fabric.

1.  Quilting, I can take it or leave it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quilting like watching sports on TV

My husband claims to love watching his favorite sports on TV yet he yells a the players, the refs and the coaches constantly.  This is a fun hobby?

What would it be like if quilters enjoyed their hobby this same way?  What would you hear coming out of the sewing room?

"Great job, you thread, way to knot up."  (Sarcasm font on last comment)
"Come on fabric, what are you, blind?  How can the right sides not be together?"
"What kind of stitch is that?  Who makes a stitch like that?"
"Way to go, needle, just break because you hit a lousy button."
"Sew like a champion today."
"Who runs out of thread in the middle of the project?  Lousy quiter."
"Gimme a Q, q.  Gimme a U, u.  Gimme an I, i.  Gimme an L, l.  Gimme a T, t.  What's that spell?  Quilt.  Louder.  QUILT!  LOUDER.  QUILT!!!
"Throw the fabric out, get rid of it!  Send it back to the factory."
"Seamed, YES!"

Instead you hear the whirling and humming of the machines, maybe an occasional sigh followed by a chocolate break.  I think we are better off that quilting is not like sports.  On the other hand, some of our favorite quilters would then be multimillionaires.

Sew!  Quilt!  Thread that needle!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hand quilting

I am home from one trip and about to leave on another.  I have been knitting in the car like crazy.  But today, I got to work in my sewing room.  I am starting on maybe one more project for book club this Sunday and the machine quilting on the t-shirt quilt.  I used to not like machine quilting, then I had my first one done.  Oh, not bad, not bad at all!  In fact I like it and I want to do it at my own house, in my own sewing room.

I love my sewing room, it is my refuge.  My newest addition is my Gammill Longarm that I got about a year ago.  It is 12 feet wide so it can accommodate any future king sized quilts that need quilting.  I have hand quilted two king sized quilts in my life and I am hoping I am not foolish enough to ever do another.

I remarried in 2000 and of course, a new quilt was more important than the wedding ceremony.  Naturally I missed the wedding date.  By 10 months, but hey, that clearance comforter looked really good and the scratchy 100 thread count matching sheets were pretty nifty.  I just kept quilting and quilting.  When I thought I was done, nope, there was a whole new section that was not yet quilted.  Finally it was on the bed and I hated it.  What a disappointment, I was just sick.  I looked at it and decided the pillow shams were so 80's - who was I, Mrs. Roeper?  (That's a Three's Company reference for you young readers.)  I updated the pillows and I have updated them since then.  What I discovered was that quilts only look old fashioned if what you have around them is out dated, quilts never go out of style.

My oldest daughter married in October of 2008, announcing her engagement in that January.  10 months?  I can do it.  First just let me make shower gifts for all three of your showers (plus a few copies for me to eliminate quilt envy) oh and some hand made gifts for the daughter of a dear friend.  OK, the top is done and I am ready to start quilting.  How much time is left?  6 days?   Well, I can at least have it done by Christmas.  Well, how about her birthday in April?  For sure, it will be done by their first anniversary.  Or the second.  Or perhaps the January after?  Hey, don't judge me, that quilt was 12 feet by 12 feet and I hand quilted every freaking inch of it! 

For those of you who have been paying attention, yes, I do have another daughter and she will probably get married one day and want her own hand quilted quilt.  King sized.  But until then, I will purr at my Longarm and make more deadlines.  Well, I'll be at least closer to the deadline.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quilt stores on the road

I love my local quilt store, it is my true and trusted friend.  It is located on my same block which may or may not be a good thing!  I have run up there for advice, a spool of thread as well all the fabric for an entire quilt.  It was my first source for long arm quilting before I got my own.  I love it, I really do but when I go on vacation there is nothing I enjoy more than discovering a new place to indulge my fabric habit.

"Hello gorgeous" was my enthusiastic response to the store I happened upon in Hannibal, MO.  My next response was:  I. WANT. IT. ALL.  There were four rooms and I could barely breathe by the time I got to the last one.  Plus, my husband was napping in the car.  Be still my heart and focus, Kathy.  But the new fabrics!  The bright fabrics!  The new kits!  I was debating, did we really need to buy groceries this fall, could we skip paying for the utilities?  Breathe, Kathy, breathe!  You may get a few treats, put those bolts down.  No, you may NOT buy one whole room.

Luckily, I had remembered my blood pressure medicine that morning so the only serious damage was to the credit card.  One kit, 3 yards, one fat quarter bundle, two books, a couple of panels and one or two other trinkets made it into a bag and then the back of our car.  I climbed in the car, had a sip of water and fought the urge to go back a second time.

Someone recently asked me what my favorite quilt store was and I truthfully answered I don't have one.  I find a quilt store on every trip and all my souvenirs are gathered from these treasure troves.  I've bought fabric in Leadville, CO, Aix-en-Provence, France and Paducah, KY.  For fabric, I am the equivalent of the bad girlfriend.  I am always flirting with a new store, calling out "Hey there sailor, show me what you've got."  Sometimes I remember where I got all the lovelies in my stash and other times I have no idea.  I am lucky to have Quilt stores to channel my fickle side, my wandering eye and my untrue heart.

Then I get in the car to the true love of my life who takes me to all these stores and pretends to believe me when I answer his query, "What you'd get?"  with "Oh, nothing much."  Now that's worth my unwavering loyalty, plus... he's really good at driving me places!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sewing metaphors #4

This is the final installment in this series.  (Stop that clapping!)

A quilt by any other name is still a quilt!

Those wall street bankers just bought out a few too many quilt stores.

Poor Aunt Clara, she's stitched her final quilt.

She is one quilting hot babe!

That guy can snuggle under my quilt any day!

She's a regular gal, a real Josephine the Quilter.

Wow, she's the rising Quilter of the Democratic Party!

Sewing metaphors #3

That is great!  You really quilted it out of the frame.

That Romeo, he really threaded his needle.

You are so close, just bind it!

She's not the sharpest needle in the quilt.

She had a lot of beer, she really sewed on one!

Are you leaving yours in the comments?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sewing metaphors #2

Here are some more:

Helen's a good friend but if she asks to borrow some thread, she'll take a couple of yards of fabric.

Roberta will sew with you but you have to pick out all her work.

That Denise?  She's 35 inches short of a yard.

Et tu, Doris?  Is that your knitting needle in my back?

Are you thinking of your own?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sewing metaphors #1

Why are all the metaphors sports metaphors?  The whole nine yards, playing for the same team and being a team player, phooey.  Let's come up with some quilting or sewing metaphors.

My friend Sally?  She's sewing away but there's no thread in her needle.

At work we decided to all quilt on the same frame.

Susie?  She's got all the right fabric but her seams don't match.

This is fun!

More tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Longarms on vacation

Why do vacations sound fabulous when they are months or weeks away but when they are tomorrow, I go into hyper mode?  We will be away on two different trips for the rest of the month.  So I decide not only laundry and bill paying is in order but heck finish a major sewing project.

The t-shirt top is done and I decided I hate the back.  Quilt store visit!  Got a new one, washed it, sewed it together and ironed the life out of me, I mean it.  Got in on the longarm and wound those rails back and forth to make sure that puppy was on there tight and straight.  Then I laid the batting on followed by pinning the top.  Did I mention it was hot and I had been ironing?  Oh baby, good thing I have a couple of fans up there.  Ran the top back and forth and ta-da, it's straight.  (I hope!)  Now it's all set for when I get back.

Which leaves in the car needling.  I have been working overtime on the weekends building up "comp" time for this trip but I want to still knit.  But what if I don't want to work on just one project?  Back to the yarn store!  Plus a little dip into the stash.  Now I think I am set.

Oops, better pack some clothes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paris - a moveable quilt

Paris, France

What picture, feeling or scene just came to mind when you read those two words?  I taught French for 16 years so I love it and I have millions of memories.  I brought a couple of hundred students there over those 16 years so I also have lots of goofy memories.  I love reading about France, books set in France or French cookbooks.  I was thrilled when my local quilt store featured a line of fabric entitled Paris Flea Market.  I made the 12 blocks month by month, put the quilt together and then hand quilted it.  I finished quilting it the night before I shattered my elbow and it sat waiting for the binding for 13 months.  I gave it to my youngest daughter but then we got nervous about a hand quilted favorite going to her Senior year apartment and I made a quick quilt that I had machine quilted.  Shelby took the precious Paris Flea Market quilt and then it disappeared.

I was hysterical when I disovered it was missing a week ago.  Tense texts have been exchanged.  Terse emails have been sent and ignored.  I have torn her room apart and my sewing room.  I looked where the Christmas quilts are stored.  I cried.  I wept.  I ate chocolate.  I snapped at my husband when he would hold up some other quilt and ask hopefully, "Is this it?"

I looked up that quilt in my quilt journal.  Oh you didn't know I am a slightly OCD record keeper?  I keep records of what quilts I make when and take a picture.  I have filled two books so far and smile happily whenever I open them up.  I looked at the dates and reconstructed what when on in that child's life.  Hmmm, bins had come home in December of '09 and repacked for the coming summer in Champaign while giant suitcases were packed for her  Spring semester in Spain.  In between, she went skiing in Colorado.  (Yeah, I want her life also.)  Stuff was flying around here, stored here and there.  I sent a few queries via email that were ignored.

I talked my husband into going  with me to the attic above the garage.  We looked through bins and marveled at the number of pink towels that have been accumulated and left behind.  And we found a hand quilted Paris Flea Market quilt.  Sigh of contentment.

OK, ready for the next crisis.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Marathon knitting session with the Emmy awards.  I watch them and the Oscars and they make me laugh.  Whatever other profession self congratulates more than actors?

What about teachers?  What would that award show look like?  Would we tune in to see who wrote the best tests, graded the most homework or had the best eyes in the back of her head?  How about waitresses?  Where is their show for most meals delivered, least dropped and most gracious when abused by irate customers?  These shows could be sponsored by comfort shoes and pain killers.

I want award shoes for parents, police and secretaries!  I would love to see people in jobs which didn't involve fat paychecks strolling around in flashy dresses, teary eyed about their parents and asserting that it's all about the the integrity of the work.   I could be the host, it would be lots of fun.  Maybe they could have a quilters' show which was nationally televised and everyone in the audience could be doing handwork.   In the meantime did you see the revealing dress on that one winner!  Whoa!

At any rate, it was fun; I finished my dish rag and started another!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The noble dishrag

Knitting on the weekend, am I dedicated or what?

I am almost half way done with a dish rag.  Yes, I do realize that they sell them in stores and yes, it is kindof goofy to spend this amount of time on something that you use to get nasty bits off dirty dishes.  Washing dishes is not my favorite and here's my washing the dishes quickly tip:  go out to a restaurant. 

However, you can't eat every meal at a restaurant (although that is a really good idea for a blog.)  Sometimes you are just going to have to break dishes.  If the dish rag is hand made, I just like it better.  I have been buying crocheted dish rags at my local tea room but I hope to be my main provider soon.  I think I am getting the hang of them.  I've been making them in Pink breast cancer cotton yarn.  Next month is Breast Cancer awareness month so it would be good to have them done.  Just writing about it reminds me that I need to schedule my mammogram.  I am hoping using them will make the people I give mine to look at the pink and be reminded to schedule theirs.

Improving the dish washing experience and a mammogram reminder certainly merits knitting on the weekend. 

How about you, have you had your yearly mammogram?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

If at first you don't succed, unravel!

Yesterday I knit and the day before I knit and for all that knitting I have about 1 inch to show for it!  And I am just fine with that.

Most of the time in life, when you make a mistake it costs you one way or the other.  Drive too fast?  Hello 120.00 ticket plus a visit to Traffic Court.  Spend time on Facebook while you are cooking dinner?  What's that burning smell..."Hello Pizza Hut, do you deliver?"   Inadvertently include a red camisole in a load of white wash?  Hello pinkie tydies! 

But in life, when you make a mistake in knitting, the yarn is so forgiving.  And it's super fun and fast to unravel the offensive item.  Zip, zip, roll, roll and your yarn is in a tidy ball once again and none the worse for the experience.  It is like a rewind button, no harm, no foul.  You may have wasted some time which I did and did and did.  At one point yesterday I was so happy to have an apron to make as a Hostess present so I could make something that I actually finished.  

Finally, I figured out knit under.  I knew it before and even made two of these dish rags.  But I could not click again with it and I ripped and started over 4 times before I finally just got it right.  Now I have about an inch of good knitting and I will build on that today in the car.

If only I could unravel all of my mistakes in life so easily!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ahh, the memories

We got new furniture today for the bedroom and the kitchen.  It's terrific to get new things but it's also a lot of work and somewhat embarrassing.  Do you have any idea what I had socked away in my dresser?

The highlights (lowlights?) included a lace mantilla (OK, two), white gloves, black & white checked sunglasses from '64, lovebeads, a woven Vietnam headband and my collection of pins.  In my jewelry box I had every pin or necklace that I ever proudly wore on my jumpers when I taught school in the 80's.  Why do we hang onto stuff when we have the memories?  I can remember wearing those sunglasses with my pastel colored Wrangler cut off denim shorts and feeling like the coolest (actually nerdiest) person ever!  I made lovebeads to match my dresses because in High School we couldn't wear pants so I sewed dresses and made matching beads, natch!

The sunglasses and beads made it into the new dresser but everything from the 80's will find new owners at a thrift store. All the jewelry I got from my Mom I kept, even though I don't wear it much any more.  Some memories are too embedded in the item to ever let it go.  I guess the 80's don't have that same tug on my heart!

In the kitchen, the new piece is completely filled with table runners, dish towels and cloth napkins.  It is so organized it makes me weep with joy.  It is also a Paula Deen piece - that lady likes butter and makes some fun furniture.  I figure this is our last redo and I didn't want to march into the sunset with our old bedroom set and table linens that were smashed into drawers. 

But we're pooped from moving and organizing. OK, maybe I didn't like the first place I put the dresser.  Or the kitchen organizer.  But I know my husband secretly loves moving furniture multiple times.  Thanks, honey!  I didn't get any sewing done today, I am going to do my four hours knitting dish rags while watching TV.  I will get it figured out.

But the black hooded Niagara Falls sweatshirt? I will never figure out why I bought that!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Working on the t-shirt quilt reminded me of the first one I made for Shelby.  I like t-shirts because I am old enough to remember when we didn't have them to commemorate each event in our lives.

One summer, my family traveled East and we stopped in Boston and then visited Cambridge so we could all buy Harvard sweatshirts.  Back when I was young (pre civil war days) colleges were one of the few places that stamped their name on clothes.  To buy them, you had to visit there or know someone who did.  Then you wore that sweatshirt for a nice warm covering for the first year.  By about the third, it had been handed down or relegated to yard work.  (Unless you were me, I always wiggled out of manual labor claiming "homework."  Now you might think this was tricky to pull off in the summer but nope, then it was "summer homework.")  After the yard work stage, that sweatshirt could end up in the rag bag.  The best rags were diapers - heck I bought cloth diapers just for the rags even though my girls wore Pampers. 

This cycle of life (cue The Lion King sound track) does not extend to the t-shirt.  They make lousy rags.  The average child receives about 237 of them.  And that's by Kindergarten.  Some t-shirts are worn once (Kristin's sleep over!!!!) and then never worn again.  Goodwill takes them off your hand and sells them in other parts of the country or overseas.  I smile thinking of people in other continents wearing used American clothing.  (Eat at Barney's!!!)  But those few t-shirts that stay in the drawer, are worn repeatedly or are too special to give away are made into quilts.

Back when quilting was a life skill, all clothing went through a progression and often ended up in a quilt.  Modern day quilters buy brand new fabric and cut it up to make quilts for it, very few would use old clothing.  Except for the lowly t-shirt, this modest garment is preserved more than any other type of clothing.  You can make them in various ways and many quilt shops have names of people who will make them for you.  If you want to make your own, I have a page on this blog with the directions for the type that I like to make.  This might not be useful for you but it is for me as the next time I make one I will probably scratch my head and say, didn't I have directions for one of those around here somewhere?

T-shirt quilts are fun to make but none is sweeter than the end of College creation.  I am almost ready to quilt mine and somewhere on it I plan to embroider, no more tuition payments.

Hey, maybe I will get a t-shirt to commemorate that!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Never again

Today I thought (hoped?) I was on a sitcom.  Remember some of those I love Lucy episodes where she messes up the chocolates in the factory?  That was me, but with fabric.

A year ago, I joined a Quilt guild.  They gave me the pattern for the name tag and said, oh this works better if you paper piece it.  Paper piece it?  I would rather piece it with my feet!  I would rather sew it in a darkened room...I would rather...  You get the idea.

6 years ago my oldest daughter fell in LOVE with a paper pieced heart quilt she saw in a catalog I had laying around.  (I now hide all Quilt print materials when she comes over.  For real.)  I ordered the pattern, bought the fabric and then entered my own version of Quilting Hell.  I watched videos on paper piecing, I went up to my local store, I looked it up on Quilt blogs and when all was said and done, I just hated it.  People gush about paper piecing - you get such sharp points.  So?  The back is a mess and it's not sewing.  Everything is done backwards and you are sewing on paper with the fabric upside down and underneath.  Then what do you cut it all off with?  Obviously your least favorite scissors and then all the other scissors bully that pair.  The nightmare just never ends. 

I got the quilt done and had it machine quilted.  I vowed I would never paper piece again.  Then I joined the Quilt guild.  So I put it off for a month...or twelve.  If I went back tomorrow without a name tag it would make an entire year that I had sashayed in as Ms. Anonymous.

I bit the bullet and started on the cursed project.  I made mistakes, I changed fabrics, I ripped, I sewed, I swore and I nibbled just a bit on chocolate.  It took me the entire afternoon and I cut the final square away from the paper and realized the pattern did not include seam allowances.  So now I had to applique this sucker onto another piece of fabric.  One corner got all screwed up.  I now detested all names, all name tags and all fabrics used to make name tags.  Got the applique done and if I squinted and sortof closed my eyes, it looked mediocre.   Then I knew I had to stitch my name on this spawn of Satan.  Years ago when I bought my machine I opted not to get the one that would spell out words.  I cursed this decision and using stitch number 97, somehow got my name stitched on it.  I realized I would have to claim that a not very clever 6 year old wrote my name on it and, further awesomeness, it was not centered.  Stitch number 23 was a flower so I added that to the left side.  Have I mentioned how much I am hating this annoying little name tag?

How to wear the name tag?  Clenched between my teeth?  Pinned to my hair?  Obviously, I had to make a strap.  Shockingly that went well, I added it to the top, pinned on the back and sewed them together.  To close up the seam I decided to use the flower stitch but I cleverly punched in stitch number 28 and got some rolling decoration.  Whatever.

At this point my husband came home.  I was covered, and I mean covered, in threads.  I was wild eyed and had chocolate smears around my mouth.  I was also wearing my name tag.  I asked him,  "Guess what I spent 4 hours making?"  "Um, want to go OUT to dinner?" was his response.  Smart man.

What's my name?

Done with the freaking name tag, that's my name.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gifts from my hands and heart

At night isn't it fun to knit or sew while you watch TV?  I love it, it must be the puritan ethic in me but I feel slightly guilty if I am just watching a show.  We've been finishing up a program on HBO, Entourage.  It's a male fantasy kind of show with a movie star who takes care of his friends and family.  Wouldn't that be terrific, to be able to take care of everyone who is important to you?

I can only offer my friends and family a shoulder to cry on, a few curses on their enemies and some homemade gifts every once in a while.  Do you ever worry that people get your presents and internally are rolling their eyes?  They get home and say, "Oh boy, another dorky homemade present from Kathy.  Yipppee."  I stopped making clothes for my kids when I overhead my first husband telling my daughter, "You WILL wear this, your Mother worked hard on it, now put it ON!"  That same child begged me for a black and white room without a quilt, she just wanted a comforter like everyone else had.  She got the room...but not the comforter.  Now that same child's mantra is "All the quilts should be for me" whenever she sees me making one for someone else.  When she got married, I made her gifts for every shower and a wedding quilt.  OK, maybe the wedding quilt didn't arrive until after the second anniversary but I was working on it!  Most of the time.

Handmade gifts are useful in the fall - the nights get cooler and what is better than a handmade quilt to snuggle up under?  Some of the quilts I have made the girls have a "lived in look".  That's why I love being able to machine quilt now.  Those college quilts - you know they are going to get beer spilled on them and yikes, not on a hand quilted quilt, please!  I spent my four hours today in the sewing room working on the top for the latest college t-shirt quilt. One more row to go and then the borders/back.  It will be the first t-shirt quilt I will be able to do on my own Longarm.  If I can keep at it, I will have it pinned on within the week.  Will I be able to wait for her birthday or just give it to her when I finish?  I am terrible about waiting on gifts - I am so excited I can't wait until the holiday.

I give gifts of quilts, table runners and quilted bags.  Not quite the luxury cars, movie deals and tropical vacations that the Entourage boys get from their friend.  On the other hand, my quilts are for real, not just a fantasy on a show.  Here's an idea - the kids can make it big in Hollywood and give me the luxurious perks.

You can have all kinds of dreams sleeping under a quilt!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Knitting and winning

I put in some overtime this weekend, yep that's the kind of dedicated worker I am.  On Saturday, we drove to the Illini football game, 2 hours of knitting there and back plus more at home.  (And yes, our team did win, thanks for asking.)  Sunday, my knitting group met here - 3 hours of blissful knitting chez moi.  Sunday night I knitted about 2 more hours.  I am officially a knitting fool!

Knitting with my group brings knitting to a whole new level.  It takes it from a solitary task to a shared activity of women where knitting is on the official agenda but not necessarily the goal. We help each other out.  OK, fine, they help ME out as I am the novice.  Figuring out patterns takes place while we try to figure out children.  Dropped stitches we can repair, what about dropped loves?  We knit, we chat, we share and we see our projects grow and our lives intertwine.  We've admired our work, encouraged each other and admonished ourselves with equal parts love and sarcasm. 

Did I mention the snacks?  Well, heck, a girl has to have nourishment, n'est-ce pas?  Oh yes, we have our own French Chef and have noshed on all kind of gourmet treats at her house.  I hosted this past meeting so there was freshly baked apple bread - just not baked by me.  Hey, the people at the Farmer's Market need customers and Honey Crisp apples were finally in season as well.  We knit, we purl, we crunch, we talk and in the process we create more than scarves to encircle the necks of our families.  We create a community of support.

And that's a win as important as one on any field.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I will pause my blog and remember and honor all those who lost their lives on this date.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Learning curves

Adventure Friday with my sister and daughter - yay!  But how to manage my 4 hours of needling?  Ha!  This is why I knit.

Emily drove and I got in over 2 hours of knitting.  I like just knitting away, no fancy patterns, nothing to count, just establishing the muscle memory of knitting.  It was one of my new projects after I retired - I started knitting lessons, golf lessons and Longarm machine quilting class.  These are my favorite comments from my classes.

Golf instructor to another student:  Wow!  Really good, you've obviously golfed before.
Golf instructor to me:  Well....that was close.

Knitting teacher to all the other students:  Great job, you're making wonderful progress, beautiful!
Knitting teacher to me:  That's not knitting.

Longarm teacher to other students:  Great progress!  You've got talent!  Nice job!
Longarm teacher to me:  Hmmm, let's try that again.

I am finally improving after a year of practice on everything but the golf.  We aren't going to talk about the golf, this is a NEEDLING blog after all.  No such problems on Adventure Fridays - I can knit and go to fun restaurants and sample new dishes.  Finish with a new bakery and head home to sewing.  Yes! 

Imaginary Adventure Friday/eating teacher to me:  Perfect!  I can tell you are a professional.
Me:  Thanks! (smothering burp)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Forgetting to remember

I love the picking out of the fabrics stage of a quilt and picking out the sashing and borders for the college t-shirt quilt was no exception.  It's when the quilt is still perfect - all the edges and corners match, yes!  Each block is perfectly sized and nothing was cut out incorrectly.  My love of this stage just might explain why I have so much fabric socked away in the sewing room.  Someday I will show you pictures of my stash.  Someday.  I am not sure we know each other well enough yet.

Once I had picked out all the sumptuous fabrics, I had to do the math to figure out how much I needed of each gorgeous color.  Smoke was coming out of my ears as I did all the ciphering on paper in the shop.  Sometimes I just buy gobs of all of the fabrics which might explain the math struggles.  Bad at math = lots of fabric.  Hmmm, I am liking this deficiency.  After I was home and the fabrics were washed/ironed I began to cut the strips.  I couldn't decide on the width so I finished up the cherry table runner.  When my mind was free to deal with the cherries, it suddenly hit me that I had written out all the directions for the Camp Pride t-shirt quilt I had made when my youngest finished high school.

Camp Pride was a volunteer run camp for children adopted from Korea.  We went there every summer and Shelby just adored it.  I loved talking with the other arts and crafts Moms.  I loved swapping stories and advice plus not being able to find my kid.  Usually, I looked at a crowd of children and I could pick out Shelby in an instant - look for black hair running around feverishly.  Here that described about 80% of the under 18 population.  It was a magical time for both of us - Moms I could talk with and kids just like Shelby, her experiences, her life.    Plus, we got to eat the Korean food the church ladies made for the camp.  I love Korean food almost as much as I love quilting.  When Shelby's tenure at the camp was over, I took her t-shirts and made it into a memory quilt and brought the quilt and the directions to camp.  It was a hit and if I wanted to sew for money (which I most definitely do not) I could have gotten lots of orders.  Instead, I gave them the directions and wished them well.

Would have been grand if I had remembered that I had that sheet with all the math done along with directions.  I found it on the computer and copied my own guidelines and cut out the borders.  I may forget too many things - words, where my car is and directions for a quilt.  (In fact, who are YOU and why am I writing this?)  But I never forget to celebrate my children and when they end or begin important times in their lives.  Then, I celebrated her years at Korean camp and her entry into college.  Today, I celebrate her college graduation and her impending departure to teach English in Korea. 

Loving my girls, that's something I never forget to remember.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Juggling cherries

Yesterday afternoon I had four continuous hours to spend by myself in my sewing loft with the choice of various projects I could work on.  I love those kinds of choices because I usually elect to work on all of them; why settle for one task when you can rotate between three and keep things more lively?

I had the last of the t-shirts going on the cutting board and ironing board.  When I ironed on the interfacing I was supposed to use a damp pressing cloth but I figured I could kill two birds with one stone and use steam and one of the dozen cloth napkins that needed to be pressed.  At the end, 12 t-shirt squares nicely interfaced and twelve ironed napkins.  In between each t-shirt I had a cherry table runner going on the longarm.  I had previously stitched in the ditch to stabilize it and now I was trying my new clam shell template for the very first time.  I would focus on it so fiercely that it felt like I was holding my breath, I needed breaks from all that intensity.   Next to my sewing machine I had a whole bunch of cherry fabric kleenex covers waiting to be sewn together.  When I wanted to get off my feet, I would sit down and sew a string of those.  This was my kind of day, flitting about and not getting a lot finished right away but at some point I would complete a various tasks together.

You are probably thinking, why all the cherry fabric?  It was an attempt at doing two things at once that went a bit awry.  We were on vacation in Door County last July which is known for, wait for it...CHERRIES!  I visited two different quilt stores and had to come up with a reason that I needed yards of all this delicious cherry fabric.  I knew I was hosting book club in October for the discussion of Huckleberry Finn, surely there must be a cherry reference in that book?  (Note to self: read book before picking book club theme next time.)  As I am picking out fabrics I googled cherries/Huck Finn on my phone and thought I saw that this divine fruit played a part in the ending of the book.  SCORE!  I bought dried cherries, cherry dish cloths, cherry tea and yards after yard of cherry fabric.  A month later, I finished the book and discovered that there was not a single freaking cherry mentioned anywhere in the book.  Hmmmm.  Until NOW that is when I discovered the secret ending of Huck and Jim enjoying a bowl of bright red cherries.  Done.

This less than stellar example of doing two things at once will not dissuade me from continuing on this way, whether I am trying to complete three different projects, knit while I watch TV or eat my cereal while writing a blog entry life has too much fun in it to limit yourself to enjoying each aspect singularly.  I like seeing how many things I can juggle at once and doing it successfully, now that's the cherry on the sundae of life.

Just ask Huck, he loves cherries.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Ripping is part of sewing; that's an adage I murmur to myself whenever I have to rip out slowly what my machine just zipped into my fabric.  I have two really terrific good looking seam rippers but it doesn't make the process any more pleasant.  There are just times when what you've done is wrong and it's time to rip it out and start all over again.  Sometimes you just have to try and redo and repair.

I am working on a t-shirt quilt for my youngest daughter who just graduated from college.  Easy-peasy, right?  I have made t-shirt quilts before I could make this with my eyes closed!  Wrong!  Or maybe it just depends on when you are sewing.

I didn't make it up to my sewing room until 6:00 pm yesterday.  Wow, you are thinking, that's pretty late for a woman who doesn't work!  I know but my day got hijacked, apparently I needed to see a video of my nose hairs!  Something, by the way, that I really didn't need to see.  Ever.  After my laps I started on a three doctor day to staunch a runaway nose bleed that included the above video.   I am not one of the medically curious, I really don't want to see video of the insides of my body, heck I am not sure I want to see video of the outside of my body.  After the cauterization, I was in the grips of a pity trip that only chocolate could solve.  Yes, thanks for asking,  I did go buy some.  Well, if by "some" you are thinking massive amounts in all kinds of varieties.  I finally got home, self medicated with pasta and dark chocolate.  For maximum favorable results, I repeated the chocolate dosage.   As all of this was going on I kept thinking but I have to sew 4 hours today! 

Hence the late in the day sewing involving the t-shirt quilt.  I started quickly cutting up the t-shirts and the interfacing.  I got about half done when I realized that A.  I didn't have enough interfacing due to my lovely lack of math skills and 2.  I had cut a pink shirt too small.  Time to redo, rethink and repair.  I chased away the chocolate cobwebs and figured out a way to get an extra set of interfacing by cutting off the sides of the existing pieces.  Then I took a piece of cut away pink shirt and make a cute little header on that now 12 ½" t-shirt square.  Time to change direction, 6 squares was enough for this night.

I spend my final two hours finishing the binding on the poppy quilt and knitting while rewatching Easy A.   I like sewing or knitting to movies I have already seen.  I can pay less attention to the screen and more to my project.  Some video screens just don't need your full focus, especially if you are at the ENT Doctor.  And some days just involve more repair than others - a t-shirt quilt square or a nose, just be glad it all worked out in the end.

I would write more but I happen to know where I hid the leftover chocolate.  Happy needling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dribs, drabs and spills of life

Day three of needling 4 hours a day, this is usually the day the diets die.  My sewing room was thrilled to welcome me back up and into its thready sanctuary.

Fall is here in the Midwest, without warning the temperatures went from 93 to 65.  I love it, I will finally be able to distinguish my hot flashes from merely walking outside.  Another fun aspect, it's time to change to the autumnal door quilt, the fall table linens and the warm browns, golds and oranges of my latest table runner.  But not that tired apron - it is time for a fresh one sans gravy & cranberry stains of feasts long forgotten, well except in my rubenesque rear.  I get to dive into the stash and drag out my apron pattern.

My apron pattern dates from my Junior High Home Ec days, it's a classic chef style that I have made 37,659 times.  I choose a yard of two fabrics that twinkle when placed together and cut out both at the same time.  I cut two 5 inches strips of a third fabric that sets off both the apron fabrics for the neck strap and ties.  If I only make one apron, I am left with an extra neck strap which I put away in case I ever repeat that strap fabric choice.  This is why quilters and sewers need sewing rooms.  You can sew anywhere but housing the stash, the bits of fabric and the extra neck straps?  Now you're talking studio, cabinets and storage systems.  Because you never know when you will need this.  I think the show Hoarders deals with this very topic.  Should I keep or should I throw?  Is it fabric?  Keep, duh!  Anything else, throw!  Seriously, do you want your sister in law to see you on Hoarders?

Yesterday's apron reinforced my holding onto neck straps.  My new apron has a brown fall theme in coffee fabrics and yes, I already had a neck strap made of coffee bean fabric.  An hour later I had a crisp new apron to absorb the grease and tomato sauce that life would throw at it.  I never cook without an apron and quite frankly, I don't understand people who don't wear one.  My life has been one unexpected drip and spill after another and I wish all of life's overflowing moments could be caught on an apron.  Here's my additional secret reason for always cooking in an apron - you can "forget" to take it off and voilĂ , adult bib. You're welcome ladies with little stains all over your tops.

Time to clean up the sewing room and I had an odd scrap leftover.  I used to keep those semi curved pieces but now any fabric that I can't be cut into usable strips, I cut into 5" by 7" and 5" by 7¾" rectangles.  Take one of each fabric and stitch ¼ seam at the short ends, right sides together while you still have the machine in the apron thread.  Turn it inside out and press it so you have a little bit of the lining fabric peeking out at each end.  Fold the long rectangle with the two peeking sides inside and  overlapping at the center.  The short folded together end should measures 3", now stitch it together.  Turn it inside out and you have a cute little pocket Kleenex cover plus an awkward scrap eliminated from your stash.  Throw out the other little crumbs unless you are saving misc pieces for a miniature quilt destined for Thumbelina.  Put a Kleenex purse pack in there and give it as a hostess gift, a happy to see you present or just a small gesture for no reason.

I wish that all the other dribs and drabs of my life could be neatly cut up, recombined and turned into something useful.  From the one yard pieces you've got protection from grease, gravy and great soups gone rogue.  As a bonus, you've created a way to say I care about you and your drippy nose to people in your life. Not bad for a couple of hours in the sewing room.

I know you're counting, and yes, I did my other two hours, by hand.  And no, I am not going to write about them.  Hey, I need to blog tomorrow also!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Zebras and surprises

I love my new job!

Yesterday I finally sewed the binding on a sumptuous Poppy quilt I am making for my older daughter.  It has great splashes of orange and red nestled amongst a zebra border and back.  It was a kit I bought last year with some of my gift certificates I got at my SURPRISE retirement party.

Some surprises are better than others - surprise, the toilet's backed up is the type of surprise I normally have in my life.  Or surprise, your jeans fit a bit snug.  Or more than a bit!  I had told my daughter I didn't want a party; I just wanted the family to go out to eat at a Rick Bayless restaurant in the city.  I even bought a new Zebra print dress for the event.  (Zebra prints seem to be another recurring theme around here.)  I was completely convinced that was where we were going until my husband made me go inside my daughter's house when we picked her up.  When I walked into her back room my whole life was there yelling SURPRISE and I was overwhelmed, my brain couldn't handle it.   As the evening wore on I actually realized what had happened and I didn't have to feel guilty.  I think retirement parties are mean - hey, I don't have to come to work anymore why don't you give me a present.  Huh?  Now that's just rubbing their noses in your good fortune.  But now the guilt was on Emily and I got the presents.  Pretty cool!  Many people gave me gift cards to my local quilt store where I purchased a variety of kits so I could make up some projects fairly quickly and use my new Longarm.

Today's binding project was the first of those kits to be completed.  (Now you see why I had to put myself on a regimen complete with blogging to keep me honest.)  I sewed the top part of the binding on by machine, I had also pieced and quilted it by machine.  I looked at that binding and decided to sew the back part on by hand.  I know some quilters are opposed to this and sometimes I am one of them.  Once I made the leap to machine quilting, I did both sides of the binding by machine as well.  But today, I decided to finish the very last step by hand.  Why?  Because, it really looks a lot better.  I can get the front to look great on a machine binding but that back is never completely lined up the way I want it.  That is fine for wall quilts or table runners but for this bright and zebra-y lap quilt, I wanted that back to look great.  So my final two hours of sewing yesterday were hand stitching the back of the binding and I finished half of it last night.  I will complete it tonight.

Sometimes it is worth it to do it by hand the slow way so there are no surprises.  Most surprises aren't the zebra-y kind so it's reassuring to take your own hands and control the ending, a surprise free smooth binding.  No retirement from that, if I could hire smooth endings it would have a job for life.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

One year is enough

Last June I made it to the promised land - retirement!  I was going to exercise every day, get in the shape of my life, eat healthy, read a book every week, keep up with all my friends, become a pro on my longarm, knit like a fiend, volunteer and teach part time.  And this was just my plan for the first day!

Instead, I have lots of fun on Facebook, joined Yelp and had a grand time doing a whole lot of nothing.  I have seen all kinds of friends and had lots of fun but now it's been a year.  I need a focus to my life which I hope will stop my clothes from shrinking.  (Shockingly, I have not gotten in the shape of my life.)

What gave me focus for 35 years?  My children and my job, yes?  At 58 I sure don't need any new children and teaching part time just didn't give me the buzz I was hoping for.  What would be the ideal job?  For me, it would be 4 hours a day, easy commute, make you feel good about yourself and have the federal holidays off.  (Amazing pay and really cute shoes would be great also but I can't be too greedy.)

I have created the ideal job for myself - I, Kathy, am going to use needles for at least 4 hours every business day except for Federal holidays which I will define as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Easter.   My commute is going upstairs to my sewing loft or sitting in my knitting chair.  I will sew and knit like it's my job because it will be however imaginary the pay might be.

No more putting off sewing.  No more fiddling around all day long, hey, pay attention I am talking to YOU, Kathy!  This new focus will make me feel a bit better about myself, with more of a direction.  I will have to figure out how I will fit in these four hours of Kathy needling every day.  To kick it off, I already put in a hour in my sewing room so I better get busy and do the rest of my hours.  I will keep posting on how the previous day went.  Next labor day weekend we will see if I get to enjoy Labor day off.

Feel free to join me in my quest - I am going up to my sewing room, you go do what you want to do every day and we will talk tomorrow.