Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Comes to an End

With just one more day to this year, I am looking at all of the great accomplishments of this year and pondering what goals are realistic to set for 2015.  It seems ridiculous to even speculate that 2015 could be anywhere as successful on the show quilt front as this past year.  I still cannot fathom how well many of my quilts did, and how many high awards they brought home.  Afterall, I just had my 5 year anniversary of getting my longarm in October.  It has been a fantastic year at the shows -- My family is going to Europe next summer for 2 weeks; it was THAT good.  The business did well.  No complaints.  Well, not about lack of work anyways.  I guess if there is one thing to want more of in 2015 it is time.  I have too many pans in the fire and just wish to get some things finished.  But then, who doesn't?

Since I haven't quilted in 10 days, and won't for this week, I went thru pics to see what quilts I might not have posted during the year.  I actually have 5 quilts done during the summer for a friend's book that will come out next year, but naturally, you have to wait until next fall to see them.  Bummer! 
But here's a few...

This is a Neimeyer compas quilt...lotsa ditching, and fun, pretty feathers.
 Closeup...I love the curling feathers.

 This little bird quilt was done in the spring or summer, but definitely looks Christmassy.
 Again, lots of feathers and fillers that are fun to quilt.
 This was a sampler quilt that was the client's first quilt... Very nicely pieced!
 Here's a feather quilt with WAY too much white background :-)  Sorry but I can't remember who's pattern this is.  The more modern quilts with an overabundance of background can be scary.  It turned out well though.
Here's a baby quilt, a bit blurry.
It is sweet.  I always love getting baby quilts because they don't require huge amounts of time, regardless how custom they are.
 This was amazingly large...one of 3 Civil War repro quilts that the quilter sent!  I did the clamshells with a Handi Quilter clamshell template.  It gives a representative style quilting for this reproduction.
Here's another very cute baby quilt.  I did a number of these about the time I went to Houston.  I came back from that trip in a black hole and haven't gotten back to things I was doing prior to leaving!  I did intend to take another picture before mailing this home, but never did it.
 It's quilted cutely...I added things into the outer border like a bone and ball and bird.
The fill of each block is slightly different too.  This cat is my favorite...always have had a thing for  orange kitties.

A Christmas wall-hanging...
The owner had several embellishments for the tree and stars, and requested minimal quilting. Minimal doesnt always happen with me, but this is lightly custom quilted.

 The red corners were done with half of a stencil.  It is a nice look, and I wanted to give this a try.
For the past couple weeks, in addition to entertaining kids and all the holiday stuff, I have been binding my small green silk quilt.  It is getting some bling too.  I am also picking out icky things on my hexie silk quilt so it can go onto the frame to be finished next week.  Today, with my boys away at Nana's for 2 days, I loaded my daughter's quilt.  She machine pieced all of this.  All I did was attach the long outer border for her.  It was initially intended for VQF, but after it was nearly done, we learned it exceeded their max size of 40" sq.  In past years there were not size restrictions.  This kind of sucks, but she's doing the quilting so it can be entered at MQX in April.  Another smaller piece will be made for VQF, maybe.  There's 5 weeks to get that pan into my fire.

She's posing with her quilt and my box of Handi Quilter chocolate, an annual goodie they send me.

Have a great New Year, and come visit in 2015.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Quilt of Hearts

So here we are, just a mere 3 days to go.  Kids are officially on a 2 week hiatus.  I have mailed off my last client quilt of the year.  You'd think I'd have plenty of time to do "whatever".  Right?!?

If only.  My mom took them all off yesterday to lunch and a movie and to a couple shops to kill time. I stayed home and wrapped, and wrapped, and then a little more wrapping!  I am slowly plugging forward on two 2015 (hopefully!) show quilts that are silk.  One is oh so close to being ready to block.  Next week I believe, then it can be bound.  My hope is to have a Mid-Atlantic entry so it must be done quickly!  The other quilt is 82" square and is requiring some pick out, some applique after quilting, which is no easy task.  I am trying to be patient with this one, telling myself that having it be good is better than having it done.  Easier said than done though.  I will put it back on the frame for 3-5 days of finish quilting when kids return to school.  Then it is finito.  Promise.   There is an article due in 2 weeks that I finished up this past weekend.  And I am plugging away on literature to pass out at my 4 classes I am teaching at MQX in April.    Here's a glimpse at a couple of the samples I am working on...top one is for a wide borders class and the orange is for Fearless Feathers.  I still have 3 more borders to quilt out at some point!  It is always something, I tell you!...and then there's that "secret" project that I just can't leak anything about yet...good golly do I need a vacation!

So let me show you a few pics of this very sweet hand appliqued 20's-30's replica fabrics quilt.  There were 144 heart blocks if I remember right!  The edge will be trimmed square before binding.
 The squares are 5", so this is a rather large quilt.  My goal was to do something within the blocks to create a secondary pattern.  I also endeavored to use 2 colors of thread - white and some other.  I needed to limit the starts and stops for the integrity of the quilt.  I used Glide threads - white and a medium-toned lavender.  I layed several colors out on the colored blocks, and the lavender blended away with more of them than any other color.  The fly in the ointment were the yellow, red and navy blue squares, as they are such stark opposites in tone.  If a thread blended with one, it stood out like a sore thumb on the other.  I just was NOT using 8 different colors on the colored thread.  I believed that one color would unite the multiple colors better.
 We have a QD wool batting giving these hearts a great loft.  I chose 4-5 different designs, equally spaced throughout the white squares.  Here's a few...feathers, swirls, peacocks, etc.  On the colored squares, I did a meandering ribbon.  It is dense enough to pop the hearts, but not overkill.  Every heart is ditched, and has the swirl on it.  I am a free-hand quilter, and these are not marked.  But I think the swirls look amazing on 144 hearts!
 The quilt is unusual the way the borders are done.  They aren't really defined borders, just solid squares.  And the top and bottom have an additional row of these solid squares.  I chose to create the feeling of a border with the quilting.  There are 1/2" parallel lines and feathers.
 The border shows a little more on this shot of the backside.
It's pretty and I hope Anne likes it when it arrives on Christmas eve!  Until then, I am signing off. Hope you all have a great holiday.  If you have quilting needs in the new year, I'd be happy to take them.  Joy!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Holiday Season (warning NQR)

I have had one heck of a day.  No sewing, quilting or anything remotely close.  The closest encounter I had with stitching was a bad event near the Walmart fabric department today.  I can see eyes rolling now...what is she doing anywhere withing a 1 mile radius of the Walmart fabric department???  Well, I was trying to get some blue washout markers.  They are a useful marker and seriously, Walmart has them cheapest.  I was with my 12 yr old, and we were there for these markers, tape to use wrapping gifts, and the candy for this house.  I left my cart (with tape and markers in it) for a mere 2 minutes to wander down an aisle looking, and came back to discover someone had stolen my cart!  Talk about making me LIVID.  Those were the only 2 markers Walmart had, and now I don't have them.  On top of that, I got home to realize that the tape wasn't purchased either.  45 ridiculous minutes in Wally World for nothing but frustration and candy.  Joy to the World!

So I was recently challenged or asked what would make a perfect Christmas for me, since it is really no secret whatsoever that I just don't like this time of year.  I know I am in the minority since so many people just love the Christmas season.  But I don't like it and haven't for a long time.  It is a kid's holiday to me.  For the adults, it is just trouble and more trouble.  First off, I am not religious.  It is nothing that I regret, or care to alter about myself; just a fact mostly.  My parents never took us kids to church growing up.  I figure they had their reasons, but really I just never thought about it long enough to complain.  In college, I did try out different churches.  Let's face it, most Southerners are regular church-goers.  Some days it seemed right, but mostly I felt like I was trying to conform to someone else's beliefs.  I was married in a church, and it was a beautiful one, and a heartfelt service.  It seemed like the right thing to do since my FIL is a now-retired minister.  Today, though, I would probably have done it on the beach or in the Caribbean.  Anyhow, at a time of year when many are getting to the depth of their religious faith, I am not.  Christmas does not signify the birth of someone key in my life, as it does many.  I love and appreciate and look forward to celebrating my family's birthdays.  They are what matter in my life.  I love that they each get their own special day.  I hate planning for a birthday of a baby without that special meaning to me, and needing to buy EVERYONE but everyone a present.  It lessens the meaning to me, and it decreases the efforts I will put into selecting each gift.  Christmas makes everything I need to do complicated.  The grocery is always busier.  UPS and the post office are just ridiculous to go to, and I have 2 trips a week to each typically.  I dislike having holiday bills clear until February on account of all the extra purchases...tree, special meals, desserts, presents, packing things, shipping, etc.

For several decades, I really took the gift making to heart.  I take pride in making a handmade gift for the most special of my receivers.  To me, this is the most personal thing, and despite the fact that I almost never get anything handmade, I continued to make gifts -- usually stitched, but sometimes knit or crocheted, and more recently, quilted, personalized calendars, and more.  I know that they say it is better to give than to receive, but there comes a time when I have just had enough with receiving things that had little thought.  That is the fault of this holiday, where we have to get something for flipping everybody.  It is too easy to have no personalization.   It is so bad that I hate to even mention if I am looking at something because I know that someone will be waiting to hear that and just go buy it.  I know they don't mean anything bad, but the lack of creativity is hard at an already hard time. This holiday has absolutely NO surprise for me (not counting the year 2 of my 3 mini-monsters unwrapped the tree before xmas morning).  I wish people wouldn't email and ask what to get my kids and I.  If they stopped long enough to think about it, they'd come up with something original.  Gift giving has just become this "gimme your list" kind of event that there is nothing genuine or heart-felt about it.  This year, I have made nothing, except for one small something for each of my kids.

We know that Christmas isn't supposed to be about the presents, but sadly that and eating decadent things are all it seems to be.  Why do I need to have 5 different types of cookies in my kitchen just because it is a week before Christmas?  I don't want sugared-up kids, and I spent too much time working to drop 8 pounds last year to eat them back on this year.  I know that there are some that love food gifts, but not me.  If I want a particular type of food, I will get it.

Most are too quick to call me curmudgeonly or Grinch-like, but they don't stop long enough to assess why I seen this way.  I love the music of the season, so much so that my family now hates to ride in my car because it has been on 24-hour xmas tunes since Thanksgiving.  I don't claim to believe in the words of all of these, as many are traditional religious hymns, but I enjoy the music all the same.  The lighted homes and cities are pretty to see at night.  Is it a joy to do at my house?...heck no....compounded by the fact that there is already icy snow covering all the electrical cords in the yard.  I am typically the only one in my family that does the shopping.  This is because I will do it before expedited shipping is required, and I will go to a different store if a lower price is available. My husband will not.  I generally wrap, but I have been known to give him a pile of our Santa presents and the red paper and let him go to town.  I don't so much mind wrapping, as much as getting gifts and ensuring that things are fairly done for all 3 kids.  I would be much happier if all adults in the family just stopped getting each other gifts.  I have had enough gift cards, and just feel shallow giving them to others.  I do appreciate our simple traditions.  We go as a family and cut down a tree, almost every year.  The boys each get their turn trying with the saw.  My most curmudgeonly year, when I decided we didn't need a tree (we were going to DC on the 26th), they went onto the woods and cut one down.  My daughter enjoys decorating the cookies, so we make a batch of a couple types and every 4-5 days, we bake a few off.  She decorates them.  I try hard not to eat all of them.  The younger two helped make an entire gingerbread house today from scratch.  It took an entire 4-5 hours to make and decorate, but they love it.  I love their concerts at school.  Despite my complete lack of religion, for several years we have taken (aka dragged) them to church on christmas eve.  There is sometimes protest, and usually the "sure am glad we don't have to go here the other 51 weeks of the year" comments.  But it is done anyway.  On Christmas eve, there is ALWAYS the photo of the 5 of us, and the possible cooperative cats, taken in front of the tree.  It is something they know will happen, and in 15 years can tell their kids about.

My perfect Christmas does not exist.  I want these moments with my kids, but the reality is that they happen every day, and don't need a jewish baby's birthday to happen.  I can love and appreciate my family without needing to overspend and overeat to show it.  Reality is, the buying of presents really just cheapens the feeling of the season.

There's my holiday rant...thanks for listening.  I am not seeking suggestions for how to be more content with December each year, but just sharing why I may seem grumpier than usual.  Have a good weekend~

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Holiday Trees

While there is still no holiday tree inside my house, there are some holiday trees that I can show. You know that I write articles for Machine Quilted Unlimited magazine.   I have done several of them - and am contracted through next year's editions too.   November's edition has one on sashing designs that I had to resurrect some old work.  I had participated (may well have even hosted this swap, but the memories are very fuzzy) in this block swap.  There were probably a dozen or more people, and each of us chose the theme of our block.  We even sent a small swatch of fabric used so that the next people could have similar fabrics to incorporate.  I chose these "wonky trees".  I didn't exactly want them all wonky, as much as non-traditional and fun.  I made 4 or 5 of the ones in this quilt, and the rest were by other swappers.  Back in the early summer, I dug out all the aging blocks and put this quilt together (bottom right on article...the one on the left is aonther oldie made from swap blocks which was shown in my HandiQuilter ads a few years ago).  If any readers have been around since these days, please shout out!  I'd love to know who made these.
The main point of the article was about creating stitching designs for sashings that can help to unify quilts, when all blocks seem ununified -- maybe they are all different designs, non-similar fabrics, etc.  This quilt does repeat some of the fabrics, but there is considerable difference in the way some blocks have a frame, while others do not.

Getting the sashings to show was of immense challenge.  I stitched them in a gold Glide thread, but because this was a quilt intended for use, I didn't want double batting.  THAT would have given considerably more relief to the designs.

The tree blocks were fun to quilt, and I let the quilting be as whimsical as the piecing, keeping a scallopy framing and ribbon-like fill consistent from block to block.
 I added large, densely filled baubles onto several of the trees.  Quilting doesn't always have to be dense.  This is a use quilt afterall.
 Another tree with a tan snowflake background.  I remember getting this and wondering what I would do with the busy tan background, but reality is that it blends very nicely in the finished quilt.  There is another tan block too.
 And even a red background...

 This little and very weird tree I made.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I like the apple-green fairy frost fabric, so I kept it.
 There actually were three more blocks.  They didn't play as well together with the group, so they were pieced into the backing, along with nearly every other red and green XMAS fabric I had in my stash!!  No point purchasing more fabric when this entire quilt is a scrap creation.  It has quickly become a favorite couch quilt by my kids because it is larger than the one that they usually use.

The sashings show a little better below.  The dense ribbon-candy filler took a while to stitch, but gives the quilt a fun and festive sheen.  I added 25 red buttons to the squares for a lively look, and to hide any start-stops that were at those points.  Clever cover-ups are always needed.

I want to put a link to the other quilt of mine that I showed in the article - go look here.  It was made at about the same time, same colors, etc.  It stays on my bed.  This quilt is double batted, but more importantly, it has what has probably been one of my most commented quilting designs.  I quilted one for Corey Yoder using this design, and it was published in her book earlier this year.  The quilting of the sashings seemed simple at the time, but the secondary patterns created were wonderful.  This is something I constantly think about.  Just for giggles...here's one look.  Go to the link for more pics.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

What a week

Its been a heck of a week.   I just spent the last 30 minutes driving around, and emailing my 12 yr old, wondering where in the world he was.  He was over 30 minutes late getting home, which isn't normal, since he walks.   It's cold outside and the big buffoon refuses to wear a coat.  Nobody would answer at the school so I finally I called the superintendent's office.  After tracking down my kid, he matter-of-factly tells me he is at steel drum practice (as he should be on a Thursday afternoon!).  A huge sigh of relief for me, and I feel like a fool since my next call was going to be the police dept.  Nerves are on high this week, this day, and as ridiculously simple as this is, I needed it!

I feel like I am massively behind.  I had this same 12 yr old home on Tuesday with an alleged illness. Truth is, he did have a head ache and a sore throat, but the honest reality is that he'd been discovered the day before in a huge school unraveling.  Seems that after 1st quarter ended at the end of October, he decided to quit doing school work for the month of November.  He had 4 in-class quizes in science that I innocently inquired about, as they didn't have grades, and then the shit hit the fan.  How on earth does a kid not turn in an in-class quiz 4 times and why wouldn't a teacher say anything?  That little discovery resulted in emails from 2 other teachers that had similar tales.  The icing on the hellish cake though was that my very disorganized, lovely slob of a son, managed to lose all of his chapter 2 math work, which had to be checked in for a grade this week.  His teacher made him redo it.  She's a bit of a bully he thinks.  I am coming to not really like this lady much, or to respect her ways.  She said he admitted to not ever doing any of this work, but there were several pages he and I both recognized, as I had helped him on them.  So I know well enough he wouldn't admit to that, ever.   So, he was home Tuesday, doing math for 14 hours, some science too.  Oh, and there was a language arts page that has been done too, and another math quiz was made up today for a whopping 100%. Take that you non-believing math teacher.  He brought home a science test from a week or so ago too yesterday, with a big firm A on it.  Ms Lady Science was shocked I suspect, but hey?!?  The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

This same boy of mine needed to have an ear looked at by a doctor today.  Damn I hate the ears.  No self-diagnosis or self-treating of them.  And naturally, he missed his freaking math class.  I only know this because Mr. Language Arts emailed to tell me so.  I'm really not appreciating such a close relationship with these teachers.  They are going to jinx the Gunn name for my next son, who starts at this school, next year -- and this kid is ultra organized, ultra brilliant (not that the oldest isn't smart, he just has other motivations and aspirations) and smart beyond what most boys that age will actually show.

So my weekly sob story is done.  It has been frustrating, and stressful.  My pantry is bare because every time I think I will go shop, someone needs a doctor, or help on the 13th math page of the day, or a dance practice, or a basketball game.  I managed to get 2 very huge client quilts done and binding on this week in between all of the stuff we call "life".  Seems like a small miracle.  I started on one of my MQX class samples today when I had the head to quilt.  Some days it is a losing battle if your  head isn't into it.  I will finish this tomorrow.  I suspect it is about time for things to get back to normal.

I haven't really started shopping for xmas yet.  But I am very soon to sit down to Amazon and pay some exorbitant shipping fees so that I can avoid entering a mall.  It is the small expense I will go to so that my slippers can stay on, and I don't need to find a coat and de-ice my car.  Yes, winter is here already.  I am a cocoon in my own home.  Now, let's get busy and do some quilting.  I'll dig out some pretty pictures for another post soon...but my computer has been acting poorly today too.  Good grief, when it rains, it truly does pour!  Sew on my quilty friends!