Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Road trip from afar

I'm enjoying a day at home today, nearly finished with a big quilt on the frame and then moving upstairs to work on blocks for a new pattern in the works. Meanwhile, checking Facebook for updates from Danny on the road trip that he and Bob are enjoying. They departed here last night about 6 in Dan's newly purchased pickup. There was a picture of sunset in Mankato last night, and then when I woke up this morning there was a sunrise in Rapid City! They called me during breakfast in Custer, SD, after trading off driving all night long. Heading across Wyoming with the plan to camp tonight near Jackson Hole. I'm so jealous! I love that feeling of energy and anticipation that I get when the road stretches out ahead. And I do love the mountains, but I also get a thrill out of wide open spaces, where it seems like I can see forever. So, driving across South Dakota or Nebraska has never been a hardship for me! Just a prairie girl at heart!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Home from the Loonie Binnie

We just returned home from our annual Hansen family fishing trip and reunion held at McArdle's Resort on Lake Winnibigoshish. The title of this post is derived from the very entertaining and original theme song that Bob has created. Part of it goes like this: "The Hansens they went fishing, up on big Lake Winnie. The stories make you think they all belong in the Loonie Binnie." This year we had several first-timers, plus all the regulars (or irregulars, depending on your perspective), and were missing a few so we had some holes to fill, but all in all, a great turnout of approximately 45. 2 superb days of fishing in the sun, 1 day in the rain, 3 excellent meals of fresh fish, too many leeches and minnows to count, 10 states represented, 7 kids under 15, 4 wise elders, and many blessings!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Clean sweep

Tuesday night our plans to go to the Twins game were changed when rush hour rain caused a big delay in Bob getting home. So we stayed home and tackled the clean-up job that we had started in the basement. Bob put up floor to ceiling shelves in a little room that had become overwhelmed with stuff. I guess this is what happens when both your kids move far away with somewhat uncertain plans for living arrangements so many things get left behind. But we did a bunch of sorting and arranging and it is so much better! But I think you can see a theme here with the labels on the boxes!
It feels so much better to get it sorta organized and ready for adult kids to reclaim!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Emma Nems

So a little explanation of how this gorgeous machine works!  My machine is a longarm quilting machine from A-1, purchased about 1 1/2 yrs ago and working like a charm ever since.  If you are familiar with a regular sewing machine, it is the same basic structure but stretched out in the open throat area of the machine to accomodate the bulk of the quilt.  The needle and bobbin are on the left in this picture.

And instead of sitting on a tabletop and moving the fabric through the machine, the longarm machine sits on wheels and the fabric sits still.  The wheels are on a carriage that rides 2 sets of rails, enabling a full circular motion of the machine.  The fabric is pinned onto long rollers so it can be held flat and smooth.  As one area is stitched, the rollers can be turned to advance the fabric to a new area.
There are 2 ways to run the machine.  One is from the "front" of the machine, closest to the needle, as this picture shows.  I am seated on a rolling stool and holding onto the handlebars.  There is a start/stop button on the handle.  When I start the machine, it starts stitching at a speed of my choice, and I move the machine in a freehand design of my choice.  Here I am working on a leafy vine in the border of the quilt.

An alternative way to run the machine is from the "back" of the machine, using a pantogram.  A pantogram (or pantograph) is a printed paper pattern of a quilting design.  It is laid on the tabletop underneath a plastic cover.  A little stylus on the side of the machine projects a red laser dot onto the pattern, and I move the machine to follow the printed design.  As I am moving the machine, looking at the paper, the needle is sewing the same design on the quilt top.  The design is worked in horizontal rows, at the end of a row the quilt top is advanced on the rollers, the machine is realigned to sew the next row in the proper place, and away we go!  Here you can see the paper pattern on the tabletop, stretching the length of the quilt.

My table height is adjustable with a hydraulic lift, so I can stand to do this type of quilting and work at a comfortable height.  There are handlebars on this side of the machine just like the front.  Now before you get really confused, this picture is for demonstration only--I am not doing pantogram quilting on the same quilt as freehand--I'm just trying to show how I would stand on the other side.

This is the laser light shining on the pantogram. 
Lest you think that this would be the easy way to stitch a quilt, let me assure you it is not easy to stay on track and keep a smooth movement and be aware of where the needle is and whether you have spaced your design correctly and whether the bobbin has run out and try to take a step all at the same time!  There are pantograms of varying degrees of difficulty, and this is one I have worked up to.  Not one I started out on!
This shows the gears on the roller bars on one end, they have little teeth and latches so they lock into place and keep the quilt taut.

This is the simple explanation--there are a lot more modifications than what I have.  The biggest being a computerized feature that controls the movement of the carriage to stitch the design on the computer screen.  Maybe someday.....
A girl can dream!


Another tree harvesting project has concluded without mishap!  Yeah!  Sunday morning Bob invited 2 friends, Dana and Phil, to give him a hand in bringing down some dead trees.  They waited for a semi-decent hour to start in with the chainsaws, no repercussions from the neighbors yet!  Bob ascends the ladder with a rope (one of Dana's really strong climbing ropes) and ties it on as high as he dares go.

Phil and Dana pull the rope in the direction they want the tree to fall, with plenty of leeway, and tie it to another strong tree.  As Bob goes at the trunk with the chainsaw, Phil and Dana keep the rope taut until the tree starts to give.  Really worked pretty slick.  4 trees were down in no time, then it was all the cleanup of limbs and brush.  And trying to avoid wallowing in the poison ivy!

And the landscape is forever changed!  The guys worked hard, it was pretty warm, and I made sure they stayed hydrated.  Also cooked up some burgers and brats.  Following that, Dana and Deb took us along on a pontoon cruise for a couple hours to really cool off.  What a great end to a great weekend!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

sunny Saturday

What a glorious day!  Not only do Bob and I have the day off, with no appointments, events, obligations, but it also is just about perfect weather.  Sunshine and 70's, just what I like!  I admit that I do have kind of a narrow range of tolerance when it comes to temperature, only worsened by my "maturity", but this day hits the nail on the head!  I did finish a quilt first thing this morning, it is destined for a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen via Bear Patch Quilting Co.  The blocks were made by volunteers, fabric donated by BP, sewn together and bordered by Leisl and Maggie, and my next task is to find a volunteer for the binding, which is cut and ready to go.  I'm pretty sure if I send out a message to my guild members, the Ham Lake Piecemakers, I will find a volunteer for that.  I used a new pantogram on this, it is called Splash and is from Willow Leaf Studio.  I saw it on a quilt displayed in a booth at the Paducah quilt show, and tracked it down so I could buy it and use it.  As pantograms go, it is a good one.  Kind of medium in skill level and density of quilting.  One lesson learned in this project--it has a narrow flange sewn between the blocks and the border.  This can be a problem for quilting if not handled correctly, which I didn't realize at first.  The flange is actually a narrow folded strip inserted into the seamline, so the folded edge is free.  The flange is dark pink and shows up in one of the photos below, sewn between the pieced blocks and the floral border.  It's very narrow, but when quilting back and forth, it can easily flip backwards and, well, that's just not right!  If I were doing freehand quilting on this, I could watch the strip all the time and avoid the flippage.  But when doing a panto, my eyes are on the paper diagram on the tabletop, away from the needle, so I don't see the flippage until it already happens.  So after ripping out a few stitches, I thought I better find a better solution.  First, I experimented with a little 1/4" masking tape to hold down the flange, and that works, but I didn't like picking the tape off the fabric.  Funny how it doesn't seem so sticky when I put it on, in fact, low on the stickometer, but after sewing across it, becomes ultra sticky!  So then I had a brainstorm and realized I just had to run a basting stitch along the flange as I advanced the quilt, and that worked great.  Should pull out easily (I hope) while sitting on the patio sipping fine wine!  The backing is black, so the white basting stitch will be easy to spot, no matter how much of the wine is consumed!
Bob just got back from the Green Barn Garden Center with the news that we have pine sawflies.  They are nasty caterpillars/wormy menaces that have infested one of our pine trees for the second year.  Just the really long needled pine.  They eat off a bunch of needles, leaving a stripped branch, but not killing the tree, then they go through their life cycle, I guess.  So now he has something to spray on the tree, no, we are not organic when it comes to this, we will use what it takes to kill these nasty suckers, short of a shotgun.
Bob has relocated the garden this spring, and got a bit of a late start with his planting because of that.  The spot it used to be has become progressively more shady, so that is not back to being part of the lawn and the garden is on the south side of the house where it gets a lot of sun.  It is right next to the little waterpond, which has a bit of an algae growth at the moment, but I am sure Bob has something to treat that, too.  The lawn looks pretty brown out there, due to a dry spell, but it might green up now that we had rain earlier in the week.  Squash, cantaloupe (muskmelon), green beans and spinach are starting to show.  A few tomato plants are taking root, although they could have been planted deeper to give them more root power, but I can't really complain since I was not a participant in the planting!  My sewing and quilting have knocked gardening down on my list of interests, so mostly Bob does it now, and I am thankful for that.

A few years ago, he built a pergola over one end of the patio ( I think this was done when Brita graduated from HS, so that was 10 or so years ago) and transplanted some of the wild grapevines from our wooded area to grow up the posts.  It took them awhile to get established, but now they make a lovely cover over the beams, and cast a good bit of shadow on the blocks of the patio.  The 2 chairs in the picture belonged to my Grandpa and Grandma Irvine and we repainted them over the rust and light green peeling paint, but I would kind of like to go back to the green, I think.  They are great old chairs. 

Just one more thing to share at the moment--I am finished with this striped scarf, I wrote something about it awhile back, and it is washed and laying on the table outside to dry.  

Thinking of my kids today, too, this would be a great day to go out in the boat with them.  Brita and Ben are in the windy city, having great fun with friends and Cubs, I'm sure.  And Dan is in Sioux Falls, the place of his birth, to celebrate a friend's wedding.  Strange to think they are all in the midwest but not here!  
So that sums up my Saturday so far!  Hope yours is just as much fun!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

MN Rocks!

Finished up a customer's quilt this morning, it is designed by Terri Atkinson and the fabric is from last year's Quilt MN event.  It's a very good pattern to feature some small motif fabric.  The squares in the center of the block are 3".  Sorry, the fabric is no longer available.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Extreme Makeover Crown Royal Edition

We love a challenge!  This came our way after Nancy was at the Hub (local hangout) and informed those present that her quiltie friends were coming for a visit.  This materialized into a challenge to use the lovely purple and gold embroidered Crown Royal bags in quilt blocks. 

Yes, there was alcohol involved.  But no, we did not have to drink 4 bottles!  So this morning we sobered up and put on our thinking caps, and this is what developed:

There is just no limit to what we can create!  We are thinking this might be the start of a new treatment program for quilters in detox!

the Posse retreat at Big Swan Lake

Life is good!  3 days away from home, except Nancy is at home sweet home, doing what we enjoy in a beautiful setting.  Not far from Grey Eagle, near Long Prairie, northeast of Osakis and Alexandria--put that in your GPS!  Nancy invited our posse gang for a long weekend and we managed to work it into the calendars with very little hesitation.  Drove up here Thursday, it's about 2 hours from home, on a great day for a drive in the country.  One thing I always get a charge out of is getting in the car and heading out, especially when I haven't even picked a destination, but even with a spot in mind, for a break from the everyday life.  We have invaded Nancy's sewing room, luckily she designed it with plenty of space for all 4 of us with machines and chairs.  Here's our setup--

design wall and ironing table on the left wall, Maggie in the far left corner in the easy chair for hand sewing, cutting table in the far right back corner, Nancy at her machine table on the right, my chair and sewing table on the right foreground.  And where's Leisl???

Breakfast is waiting for her at her machine, she's enjoying her beauty sleep, which she is very prone to do!  Also, a little clucker is perched nearby, it lays gumball eggs which should also be good for breakfast, don't you think?
And here's what I have accomplished!!  I am happy to have all the rows together, ready to move on to the next step to make a duvet for Brita and Ben.  These are a collection of fabrics that I have been gathering for a couple years with the thought that I would use them for something special.  Some of them are Daiwabo, some are Lecien, and there are a few others thrown in for good measure to give me enough to work with.  I am very happy with the overall look.

Depending on what else gets done here today, I will put up another post showing our Crown Royal challenge.  Bet you can't wait!