Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year!

Only two more days before we all embark into a brand new year. A new year is just like a brand new journal...exciting, fresh, and so full of wonderful possibilities.

One of my goals for 2015 already has a fixed date.  Beginning Saturday, January 31, I will be teaching an English Paper Piecing Mystery Block of the Month class. After all, who doesn't love a good mystery!

Designing the first two months has been exciting. Initially, my goal was to have the class use the hexagon shape only, but during the designing, I couldn't help but experiment with other shapes as well. After many hours of designing and redesigning, I settled on three shapes we will be using for the year: hexagon, diamond, and triangle. I chose a 3/4 inch size which I think is perfect....not too big and not too small.

The unfinished blocks measure 11 inches, and the class fee includes a choice of either a light or dark monthly background fabric. My first dilemma was that I could not decide on just one design for January. I liked both of them so much that I decided to include them both and allow the student to choose which they prefer. One block has fewer pieces and is lovely. The second choice looks more complicated but it is not. It just has more pieces. Both designs utilize all three shapes so no matter which you choose, you will start getting comfortable with the shapes right away.

The class will be at Pioneer Quilts which is located at 3101 S.E. Courtney Road, Portland, Oregon. This is near the Oak Grove/Milwaukie Area. You can call and sign up for the class if that is more convenient. The phone number is 503.654.1555. The class is scheduled to be the last Saturday of each month and will cost $10 each month. Class fee includes the design/designs for the month, choice of dark or light background fabric, and 'me.' We will go over last month's block, uncover the new block, and I will provide instructions for how I approached the block.  As the year progresses, it will be wonderful to see all of the variations during show 'n tell. I'm so excited for this year-long journey!

I'm still working on the Christmas tablecloth. I'm so close to finishing the quilting that I almost can't stand it. I have incorporated a bit of machine free motion quilting on several areas that needed more quilting. These are areas where the quilting doesn't show up so it was a perfect opportunity to get some more practice improving my free motion. This is another goal for 2015 that must get more work because The Lady 'must' make her entrance.

I have a couple of new tools arriving soon that will enable me to post some short tutorials. In my last class a student mentioned how nice it would be to have handouts of some of the techniques we covered. Showing certain knots and such in paper form is not as easy as it sounds. What looks understandable to me because I know how to do it, looks undecipherable to someone just learning. However, posting a video showing the technique is much more doable and gives you the best of two worlds:

  • You will always have access to the instructions (you don't have to worry about one more piece of paper to keep), 
  • You get to watch my hands and hear me describe the process so it's like having me their right with you at home.
I hope that you will let me know what you think when the videos go live.

And remember to follow Dillan's advice: "dive into the wind face first for the most fun and adventure!"

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Inspired Inspiration

Merry Christmas to All
in·spired  inˈspī(ə)rd/
  1. 1.
    of extraordinary quality, as if arising from some external creative impulse.
  2. 2.  (of air or another substance) that is breathed in.

in·spi·ra·tion  inspəˈrāSH(ə)n/
  1. 1.
    the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

I spent some time working on a welcome gift for our new neighbors this weekend. It's a happy/sad moment for me. I will really miss our former neighbors. They loved their home and their yard. I will miss our yearly tomato contest which Tom always won! This past summer I finally gave in and forfeited. I think he felt pity on me and gifted me with several wonderful tomatoes from his garden...one of which weighed nearly 2 pounds. 

We are excited for our new neighbors and still remember how excited we were when we moved into our home 20 years ago last month.  Wow...how does the time fly by so quickly. I wish them many happy moments and lasting memories and thought it particularly good luck that the year they moved in and their house number are the same.  

My favorite week of the year is coming up. It is a tradition for my husband and I to take time off of work. It allows us to relax and rejuvenate. It also is nice to have some quiet time to slow down from the day-to-day happenings that life throws our way and savor the blessings received throughout the year. It is also a time to let go of anything that pulls me down emotionally or spiritually. I never grow tired of reading about Christ's birth and listening to Christ words while he was on earth. Some of my most amazing designs have come during this time of rest and revival, which brings me to the title of this post "Inspired Inspiration." 

Have you ever been in a creativity rut? This happens to me sometimes when I'm in the midst of creating a digitized file for a customer. Digitizing an actual file uses a lot of both sides of the brain. Left side for process and right side for creativity and how best to uses stitches. The artwork might have some challenging areas that do not translate well into thread or it may be a study on how best to walk through the logo in the most efficient and production friendly way for the fabric it will go on. Both of the preceding processes use the left side of the brain. During these times, it is easy to get caught up in it and sit and spin in circles with no clear answer in sight. When this happens, I stop working and go do something that uses the right side of my brain (time to draw, play with new Spirograph or even mundane things like vacuuming or folding clothes!). 

While I'm doing something different, my brain is still calculating and working on a solution or workaround...just in the background of my mind. I've never been stumped for long as long as I allow myself to get away from the issue at hand.

2015 is only 10 days away and I am inspired to follow Eleanor Roosevelt by "Do(ing) one thing every day that scares you(me)."  That should be inspiration enough to keep 2015 one of the most exciting year's yet!

I already have a list started for a few of those scary things that include:  

  • Designing an English paper piecing mystery block of the month for Pioneer Quilts
  • Submitting an original quilt to a national show
  • Submitting a book idea to a publisher
  • Submitting an original digitized file for judging
Whew...I'd better stop now or I will never enjoy my vacation week.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Spirograph transformations & tablecloth pictures

In case you missed my last post, hubby gave me an early Christmas present -- a 50th anniversary Spirograph. It arrived on Friday but I couldn't play because I was working on customer logos.

I cracked open the box today which really isn't a box per se.  Instead it is more like a briefcase which I really like. It has a flap that folds over and is secured with Velcro. Each section has a plastic covering that keeps each dial safely in its section.

You can start playing immediately because it comes complete with everything you need (paper, pens, dials, instructions, and even some play-dough type substance that is supposed to hold the outer dial to the paper). In the olden days (yes I'm that old), push pins worked just fine thank you. The sticky dough doesn't do a good enough job in my opinion and you will end up messing up your creation right as you near the end of it. It can make a grown child weep I'll tell you!

I was mesmerized as my eyes watched each creation come alive and at the same time my head exploded with thread possibilities. What if....and if I did this...and how cool would this look. I could hardly stand it and immediately had to see how the ink spiros would look in thread and how it would look in different stitches.

Here are 6 different versions of the same simple spiro shown in the above picture. Isn't it incredible how such a simple object transforms into something more when done in thread!
Here are a few more photos of my favorite one. It took a little extra time creating this one but I love the look and yes it is still the same simple shape except that it has an extra twist with long jump stitches.

 And as of last night I am now onto the next border on the Christmas tablecloth. TADA.... isn't it looking great!

I hope I've encouraged you to to breathe new life into one of your cherished linens. If you don't have any linens yet, you can start hunting around locally or head to Ebay and even Itsy. Most are pretty inexpensive. Just read the descriptions well and really look at the pictures looking for stains. A few light stains are fine because your stitches will camouflage a lot of flaws.

Friday, December 12, 2014

I bring you this interruption!

Merry Christmas to me....Merry Christmas to me. This arrived today and I am so darn excited. A big thank you to my hubby for gifting me my early present.

Do any of you remember this incredibly fun art form?  This year is the 50th Anniversary of the original spirograph so Kahootz Toys reintroduced the "SUPER Spirograph."

Notice the age range of:  AGES 8+.  That fits my age range!!!

Don't you think that some of those designs will make great quilting motifs. Shoot, I wish I was off work and could play NOW. For now, it's put away until later, but check out the gold collectible die-cast wheel.

There are only 5 more lines to stitch and the center of the tablecloth will be complete!  Yay!!!  I will make my Christmas deadline for the finish. I'll post a picture as soon as I can.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Lap Quilting & Manic Monday

If days of the week had energy levels, I think Mondays would win hands down. Mondays always seem to bring out the most busy, hectic, frenziness of me and my customers. Everything is always a rush on Mondays!

I made very good progress on the outer most center section this weekend. Here's a view from my lap of how it's coming along. The diagonal quilting stitches looked really nice but adding the other diagonal side takes it from nice to perfect.

On Saturday, I spent the day at Pioneer Quilts where it was Meet the Teachers' Day. They moved into a historic house called the Broetje House in Milwaukie, Oregon, a few months back and are in the process of a lengthy renovation to bring the electricity up to code so that classes can be taught. The house was built by John F. and John H Broetje in 1890, and it really is a special place. I can't wait until summer so that I can tour the gardens, which is complete with a water tower, two garden gazebos and 100 year old Sequoia Redwoods. Linda has already done an amazing job in a short time.

I brought all of my hexagon projects so that prospective students could see and touch the items that I will be teaching at the shop. I positioned myself in the breezeway so I was able to greet each guest as they arrived. The lighting was perfect and allowed for me to quilt the tablecloth while people were coming and going. Little did I know how much interest I would generate by working on the tablecloth. I am pretty sure I made a few linen converts and more than a couple vintage tablecloths will be put back into use soon. For those who think handwork is not their cup of tea, I recommend starting with something small and playing around with big stitches.  You may just surprise yourself with how much you enjoy the process!

My purchase of the day was Sue Spargo's book Creative Stitching.

I've been eyeing this book ever since Sue finished it. I decided a while back though that I would not buy a book that I could not review prior to the purchase. I've never found it locally to look at until this weekend. It is a great size at 7-1/2 inches tall by 6 inches wide and is spiral bound which I really appreciate. The entire book represents 50 of Sue's favorite hand stitches that can easily transform a pretty top into a exquisite top. It includes great pictures and step by step instructions. It will be a book that will get used and loved for years.

How is your Manic Monday coming along? I'd better get back to the two new customer logos that need out the door!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Slow stitching and the mystery of the disappearing needle

I finished big stitching the center of the tablecloth last night, and I must admit to being really pleased with the look and feel of it. The big stitches in red thread have such a nice look to it. The center area is a snowflake which was stitched first and then followed up with the grid stitching. I did have to pick out a few stitched lines of the grid and redo them to ease in a bit of excess fabric but it was worth the extra effort. It lays nice and flat and really calls out to be touched.

To aid my marking, I tried a new-to-me stencil from a company called fulllinestencil and I must admit to being quite stricken in a good way to it. It's similar to screen print where what you want to be inked is open and the rest of it is blacked out. You use a chalk called Quilt Pounce to slide across the stencil to mark your stencil. Don't do an up and down pouncing movement or you will end up with a face full of chalk dust and no nice line on your cloth. Just rub smoothly across the stencil and it works perfectly.

Unfortunately, my tablecloth material did not like holding on to the chalk so any touching of the fabric rubbed the chalk right off and left me with nothing to follow. Disappointed but not daunted, I pulled out my go-to marking product -- Crayola Fine Line Ultra-Clean Washable Markers. I used the orange marker and marked right on top of the chalk line. It didn't take too long and the nice thing is that I was able to mark a very fine line on top of the chalk...finer than I would have marked had I just started off with the marker from the beginning. I'll report on the stencils again once I have more experience using them on 100 percent cotton fabric.

Slow stitching is so therapeutic. I'm pretty sure my heart rate goes down and my breathing slows as I take each stitch into the cloth. My goal was to finish the center so I could share my progress with you, but I did take a wrong turn that stopped everything for about an hour. 

I'll paint a picture of what happened. Here I am happily stitching away in my Lazy Boy chair. Dillan, my baby dog, is situated in between my legs and underneath the tablecloth (it's terrible keeping him off of anything that resembles a quilt because obviously everyone knows that ALL quilts belong to HIM). I had just run out of thread and threaded my needle, which by the way is not a small needle (#20 Tulip Chenille needle). My knot was popped inside of the batting when I did something I should not have and reached for an object. At exactly that same moment my needle magically disappeared into thin air. Now I know what you must be thinking because I have already thought it. The needle must have slipped off and fallen on your lap, chair, tablecloth, floor...yada, yada, yada. 

When a needle is dropped, everything stops until said needle is found and safely back where it needs to be. Dillan was grudgingly and under very loud protest put into his crate. All lights were turned on and with flashlight in hand, I searched and searched and searched for the missing needle. For the first time ever I could not find the needle. I am thinking to myself -- how could such a big needle hide from me. I ran my hand down each side of the chair hoping to actually poke myself and locate it. The floor was scoured back and forth with flashlight hoping to catch a glimmer of the shiny needle. The tablecloth was searched repeatedly and even squeezed multiple times because needles do not just disappear in thin air.

Finally and as a last resort I pulled out the vacuum cleaner. Surely, I would be able to find it now, but to no avail. By the time I was done vacuuming, my eyes were blurry and sleep was calling. As I fell to sleep I just knew that the morning light would bring closure to the hidden needle. 

However, this morning the needle remains a mystery. I even removed the back off my chair thinking it had to...just had to have been wedged there somewhere, but to my disappointment, no needle was found.

Has this ever happened to you? I'm considering all possibilities now!  Could it be that my arm movement last night broke through the space-time continuum! Who knows where it landed but let's hope a quilter finds it and puts it to good use.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Quilted Christmas

Does anyone else do what I do when I look at old linens? There is something about them that makes me want to touch and ooh over them. My mom would always pull out her best tablecloth for the Holidays and maybe that tradition made me appreciate them even more. Do you have any family linens that have been stored away for that perfect setting? Or maybe you are like I once was and believed that they should be admired from afar and never used.

How did I ever get into that silly tradition? Years ago, I would pull out my best dinnerware to use for the holiday and then put them away not to be seen or loved on for months on end. About 10 years ago, I stopped that nonsense, and I am not sure why I did, but it may have been a discussion that my husband and I had about the subject. Since that time we use our best dinnerware everyday! Each meal is special now and not just the few times a year that I made up in my mind.

If old linens could talk, can you only imagine the stories they could tell us. I would like to hear them for sure. I have several old linens that have been given to me and I have a goal of pulling them out and using them or using them to make something new. Is that sacrilege? I don't think so. In fact, I think that the original owners would be happy to know that they are still giving happiness to us.

Check out this tablecloth from the 50's!  I thought it was kind of special because it is on the small side at 50 by 51 inches, but then tables from the 50's weren't huge. I remember my parents had a red melamine table that had chrome legs! We were styling. I'm pretty sure the red seats were a red vinyl. I remember in the summertime, my legs would stick to the seat.  Yep...that must have been a vinyl plastic material.  

It has a few light stains on it, but nothing too noticeable. Our kitchen table is a small 36 x 36 inches so I thought this would look pretty dandy on it. Then I decided that I could add to the charm of the tablecloth by adding a border to it and a backing with batting and make it sing even louder.

Here's the next step.

Pretty sweet looking, huh!  Don't you think the red border really made it pop. Now the thing is with these pre-stamped tablecloths from this age is that the ink may or may not have been stamped square. This one missed the mark on the outside border so there is less cream on certain edges then on the opposing corner. I could have trued it up, but then I would have lost a lot of the cream which I wanted to keep. I figured that if it didn't bother the original owner I wouldn't let it bother me either. 

I did try to square the inside red border as much as possible and then basted it to the batting and backing and am now in the process of hand quilting it using the big stitch method. I'm using red Aurifil thread in size 12 and it is adding a lot of definition. The batting is a new-to-me bamboo batting. It was nice and flat which should lend itself well for a tablecloth. 

More pictures to be posted soon. What are you working on this week? 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

After a long hiatus

Hiatus: 1. a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc. 2. a missing part; gap or an unfilled space or interval.

This blog was dusty and needed the furniture rearranged and spruced up, and the windows opened to let out the stale air. Now, it's pages are clean and fresh and ready to have the pages filled. The only thing missing is the smell of a new book. 

I have never been a journal/diary person.  Growing up I loved to receive a new diary.  The smell of the pages were sweet, the feel of the paper crisp and inviting. Turning it over in my hands brought the simplest of joys. Writing in a diary however was not something I would do because I felt once the thoughts were out of my head and on paper, the closeness/ownership of those thoughts were no longer mine. Subliminally I may have felt that by leaving the paper unblemished left open the possibility of new journeys. It took me a long time to write in them but when I did, story telling was what I wrote instead of daily life happenings.  Since the time I first learned to read, I was hooked on wherever the author took me. There is something magical about becoming completely absorbed in a story that you no longer exist in your current space. I have always loved it and admire writers who can take you wherever they want you to go.  

Journals and sketchbooks are still seriously wonderful. I love to draw in them, and the smell of the paper and feel of the grains in the paper grounds me. This brings me to the reason for the new posting. Did you notice the Bible verse at the top of the blog?  While reading it recently, it made me think about my hands, my work, and my life through my hands. Have you ever really studied your own hands and the hands of a loved one. I love my husband's hands. I love touching/holding them. They give me comfort, strength, and peace. He is the right hand and I am the left. The two of us make a pair and I believe make us complete just as God intended. I like to imagine God's hands. He made all of us and everything in our wonderful world. The Bible mentions hands a lot, and I became so captivated that I've started writing down and studying each passage that I find.

I intend to share my journey here through my hands. I hope you find something entertaining or nourishing to your soul and hopefully spur you on to using your own hands in a creative way.

Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.