Monday, February 28, 2011

the cowboys ride again!

I was oh-so-relieved last night when my cowboys pulled themselves together and made up some ground on The Amazing Race. They avoided elimination, so I won't have to boycott the show!

I am sharing a couple of good reference sites with you today. Things I find as I read blogs, etc.

First, for anyone who ever wants to make purses and totes, there is a wealth of information on the U-Handbag. The newest helpful post demystifies interfacings. The site is written by Lisa from England, and she has recently authored The Bag Making Bible, a book I probably need to add to my collection. She also sells many of the products needed to make professionally finished bags. Bags that will make you the envy of all your friends! Bags that are almost as nice as my Kristina Koffee Bean Bag!

Next, a good site to try out if you are figuring out your own quilt designs or trying to modify one you already have. This quilt calculator site will help you with computing how much fabric is required for making multiples of several basic shapes. Also calculates yardage needed for backing a quilt of your dimensions, with explanation of how to sew the backing. I have always been familiar with making these calculations for myself, but after working in a quilt shop I am aware that most people would rather have someone else do that for them. If that includes you, I highly recommend that you try this site, at least for backing yardage, so you are comfortable with what you are purchasing. Then you won't have to rely on someone who might be a complete stranger to run through those numbers for you. I guess it is just a part of my nature to be self-sufficient as much as possible, and that leaves no one to blame but myself if there is an error!

And a quilting finish last night, my first collaboration with my own sister, Jan.

This is her own design and her idea to use complementary thread colors on the color blocks, which turned out well even though it is not so visible in these pictures. I used some geometric designs in the color blocks and then white thread in echoed arcs throughout the white area. I like the result, and it was fun to work on something that she made. Now to get it back to her in CA! I think she should come pick it up so we can have a little visit!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Several new things to report to you tonight. Just a potpourri of fun!

1. What I am reading--slowly.

2. A finished knitting project, another version of the already discussed 22.5 degree scarf, this time in Paton's Silk Bamboo color 85219. This took 3 balls on sz. 6 needles. It is very soft and drapey. This yarn was purchased at Joanne's, if you watch for it on sale it is very economical.

3. I have finished sewing the blocks for Civil War March from YellowCreek Quilt Designs, started back in January.
Now that I have all of the blocks made, I can begin putting them together in rows. They are set "on point", which in quilt speak means they are rotated 90 degrees off square. They are joined with triangles to make them into a square edged row. If that is as clear as mud, just stay tuned, I will post further pictures of the construction process.

4. I have reached the end of the fabric sorting and reorganizing, and amazingly, I have some empty spaces! Now if I can just keep it that way, it feels like I just took a cleansing breath. No, wait, that's childbirth I was thinking of!

5. New book that I am strangely fascinated with, trying to figure out if this is something I really want to take on, or whether it will just be another addition to the Library of Pam's Future Projects. The diagrams and instructions make it seem very detailed, and since I am seriously starting a new hand applique project, this may be relegated for another year.
But always good to have on-hand in case.

6. The new season of The Amazing Race started last Sunday, and I am worried. My all-time favorite racers, the cowboys, are back, and they are in trouble. At the end of the first episode, they were in last place and burning daylight. Good gravy, boys, it's time to saddle up! I think that they remind me of my college days at South Dakota State University. A very fun place with a cowboy subculture. A place where cattle lived next to the dorm and the big spring event was the rodeo. My most unforgettable character was Max, a fellow student, bull rider, and a great date! Go cowboys!

7. I saw this purse in a magazine, and realized that I must be missing the purse gene because there is no part of me that thinks that it is necessary or even OK to pay $3940 for something to carry around my dirty kleenex and crumbling altoids.
What are they thinking??!!

8. Instead of a new handbag, I splurged on more plastic shoeboxes to store my growing collection of squares and strips from my reprioritized fabric stash.
I get some kind of weird enjoyment out of admiring this collection and dreaming about making a pile of charity quilts from it.

9. I started a new scarf from this yummy yarn that was a Christmas gift from Debbie--
Mushishi from Plymouth Yarn, a wool and silk blend.

10. If you haven't used this soap before, you need to. I love it for everything I knit, it smells so fresh, not perfumey. There are several scents, this one is called Scent of Celebration.

This one's for you, Carol!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

on safari

Last Wednesday we spent the day on a safari adventure in Sedona, AZ. I say this because our destination was the Safari Shoppe in the Tlaquepaque center. This is the fine establishment of our niece, Ali, and her husband, Eben. This is the first time we were able to visit them since their move back to the US from Eben's homeland of South Africa. We are super happy to have them living within a more reachable distance. Art, Sharon, Ava, Tre, Bob and I made the trip from Phoenix to Sedona in the morning, then we enjoyed a tasty lunch with Ali and Eben before visiting their place of business.

Miracle of miracles, Bob picked out a new hat! I think Ali is fighting with him over his plastic!
No big deal, you might say. Until you see this--
the lucky fishing hat, stomped on, soaked, windblown, spat upon, well aged. And maybe retired? I will believe that when I see it!
Here you will see Eben and Art explaining the virtues of a good hat to little Tre--

I would love to return to Sedona for a longer visit when I am feeling up to some hiking and exploring. We were all suffering the effects of a nasty virus, which kind of slowed us down. But
that didn't detract from the beautiful views all around us. They say there are mystical forces in those hills, I wish we had found the ones that cure the common cold!

Ava was not deterred by any old bug, in fact, she was able to wrestle this bear for a ride!
We made it back home in one piece, ears plugged and popping for long after we touched down. We hope to return to the southwest again, with plans for even more fun!

Friday, February 18, 2011

design in nature

I try to take some pictures of natural designs that might later inspire me to put something together in a quilt. It might be shapes, angles, structure, colors, etc. I don't have any kind of special camera, just a handy little point-and-shoot, but I still try to capture some images. Occasionally I go back through pictures and find something that triggers a new direction. Here are some random pictures that I took with the thought "I wonder what that would look like in a quilt?"

I was really fascinated by the symmetry of the cacti that abound in Arizona. Very intriguing to this prairie girl's mind!

Back home now in MN, still on the mend from the virus that was an unwelcome guest on our vacation! Nasty head cold, driving to higher elevations and flying half way across the country do not make a good combination! I thought my head would nearly explode a couple times, and Bob is still popping his ears, but we are back on solid ground for awhile!

I'm itchin' for some stitchin' in my sewing room after a hiatus for reorganization and vacation, so after work today I'm am making a beeline for the Bernina! Hooray!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

the Arizona dessert

Some fun things we have been doing on our wonderful winter vacation in Arizona:
wandering around old Scottsdale, listening to musicians while enjoying a little green, green grass--

hiking up to these ancient ruins in the Tonto National Monument--

touring around the Theodore Roosevelt Lake and dam, although I thought this bridge was much prettier than any old dam!

driving (actually riding while Art was driving) over the Apache Trail, a long, winding, bumpy gravel road through the Mazatza Mountains east of Phoenix. This was a beautiful and rugged area of mountains, I suggest you try to get there, but only if you have a really good driver or enjoy maneuvering steep switchbacks!

cheering for Ava's soccer team (Ava is the daughter of our niece, Laura, and Rommel)

celebrating little brother Tre's first birthday!--

admiring the beauty of nature in this part of the world--

and getting to spend time with little Tre. Also visiting Pete in Tucson and dinner with Angie and Jake in Scottsdale. It has been so, so enjoyable, and so nice and warm!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

a change of scenery

Yesterday morning (Thursday) Bob and I loaded up our bags and headed south. This is what our thermometer said when we left the house:

Yes, -18.4! So it was with much joy that we stepped into the sunshine in Phoenix later in the morning. Brother-in-law Art picked us up and shuttled us to his home in Ahwatukee, an area of the city where he and his wife, Sharon, have lived for about 7 years. We have not visited here before, so we were overdue to see where this branch of the family migrated to. Their home is near the South Mt. park where we went for a hike in the late afternoon. It was a beautiful spot, so different in look and feel from our own home.
Today we drove further south to Tucson. We visited the Desert Museum, a very nice nature center that taught us everything we ever wanted to know about the plants and animals of this area. We are impressed with the cacti and long vistas all around. It has been a beautiful and sunny day, jeans and t-shirt weather. We also visited a huge open pit copper mine, and then explored a bit of the University of Arizona with our friend, Pete, who is a friend from back home and attends school here. The campus is beautiful, I wouldn't mind going back to school if I could do it under palm trees!
Pete directed us to a local favorite Mexican food spot for some delicious and authentic cuisine. It has been a very fun day, now ready for a good rest and more fun tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

and sew it begins

Just getting going on Jan's quilt, this is her own design and an exercise in colorplay. It took me awhile to get it all loaded up on the frame, mostly because I realized that I needed white batting instead of my usual natural unbleached shade. So I had to track that down, of course, it was right there at Bear Patch but I had a few days off from the store so I don't drive the 55 miles to go there unnecessarily without a bigger reason than to pick up one package of batting. And finally I have it all together and a chance to start stitching this morning. Threads are all picked out and lined up--
I am putting complementary colors on each color block, so there is a bit of color juggling going on. I actually got to use my color wheel for this, to make sure I had it right. So the colors are paired up--
red and green
blue and orange
purple and yellow
All of the white outside area will be stitched in white. I have done one of the red areas with green thread--
Without the benefit of natural lighting this is as good as the photo gets! My longarm is in the basement without windows, which doesn't really bother me unless I want a better photo! Funny, though, that I just realized how much I love my upstairs sewing room because of the great windows and views, but I also love going down to the basement for the other part of my quilting. Must be a split personality!
Prior to quilting this red block I had started with the orange thread on the blue block, and really liked that color combo. But I encountered technical difficulties so it had to be ripped out. It is a brand of thread that I have not used before, and I just couldn't get the tension adjustments balanced and the stitches were nasty. I will be changing to another thread, I think.

Lots of talk around here about how cold it is again, no big surprise, it is winter, after all! I luckily don't have a job that requires me to be outdoors a lot, and on a day like today I am very lucky to be working at home, fire burning, machine humming, sun shining, it's 10:00 in the morning and already warmed up to 4 degrees (that's above zero!). And day after tomorrow I will be flying off to Phoenix for a vacation, yahoo!! So no complaints from here.

The key to successful aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible. --Judith Regan

Sunday, February 6, 2011


A few more finishes to note:
Two matching Christmas quilts for a customer are done and ready to be delivered:
I used a new pantogram design for these called Poinsettia by Patricia Ritter. This design looked to me like it needed to be stitched in vertical rows on the quilt instead of the usual horizontal. That simply meant that I needed to mount the quilt "sideways" on the frame, which normally is fine and something I often do. But this backing fabric was directional with cardinals perched on branches, so they needed to go "sideways", too. And that meant the seam in the backing was also "sideways", meaning parallel to the rollers, and centering it in the middle of the quilt top was a new thing for me. It took several extra steps, but it got done!

When I was gone in January on my little quilting journey, I sewedup 4 little quilts to be donated to Quilts For Kids.
First thing I did when I got home was quilt them up, now the bindings are cut and ready. It is fun to be able to do those. The 2 on the bottom of the stack are just simple panels of fabric and small enough for a little baby. The other 2 are a bit bigger and made with a 4-patch pattern from the QFK website. I just put a large all-over meander on them and call it good.

Now here's a chocolate cake that I did not personally finish, but I can vouch for its yumminess! It was served yesterday at a baby shower I attended at Brita's house, she and Molly put together a fun celebration for Sara's upcoming first baby. Thanks for inviting me, girls!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

treasure hunt

I was thinking some more about traveling with my sewing stuff, and wanted to share a couple more things. Something new that I just tried out and liked was this gadget holder from Cocoon Innovations. It is called the Grid-It.
This is the small size, I picked it up at Office Max because the idea interested me. I am perpetually on the hunt for better ways to keep my stuff organized and easy to take with me. I had kept all these chargers, cords, etc., in a zipped bag in my laptop case, which worked pretty well. I tried out this Grid-It on my last trip and found it worked just fine, and kept everything tangle-free. It is covered with interwoven grippy elastic straps and can be used in many different ways. I have even thought about using it for some of my sewing machine accessories.

Also very useful not only for travel but also for day-to-day use is this mini-ironing board. I bought it several years ago from a gentleman who made and sold them (his wife was a quilter,of course) and I don't think he is still doing that. But there are other sources, or you can make a similar one from a wooden folding TV table.
It is just the right height when I am seated, and sometimes serves as a spot for my small cutting mat. Then, of course, we must have a travel iron, of which there are many brands. If you are going to be sewing with a group, please do not use your standard iron because you just might be the one responsible for tripping the breaker and shutting it all down. This makes for unhappy campers, who you might have to pay off in fat quarters to restore peace! My little iron is from Black and Decker and has been a reliable product. They have changed the design since the time I bought this. And why, you might ask, are there 2 irons on my little ironing board? Good question, which brings me to explain what I did for fun this afternoon!

I went to Savers to drop off some items that I wanted to donate. If you don't have a Savers in your area, it is sort of like Goodwill. Their website says they have 220 stores, so they are more widespread than I thought. While I was at the drop off, I decided to take a look inside and see if I could discover any treasures. What I really had in mind was to find organizational/storage items to use in my sewing room, plus browsing the book section. Well, I didn't pick up any books, but I did score the little iron that is very similar to the one I had, it will be my back-up. For $5, I just couldn't pass it up! Plus, I found a plastic organizer rack for $2 that I am pretty excited about (sad, I know!). I have used a couple things for keeping my rulers sorted and handy, one was a wire file sorting rack that worked pretty good, but had a problem with smaller stuff dropping through the bottom.
This rack is doing a much better job of holding everything. You just never know what you might find at the thrift store!

As I am sorting and organizing my stash to put it back onto my shelving, I am actually taking the time to do something that I have long hoped to do. The pieces that I am "editing out" are being cut into strips and squares for future use. The 4 plastic shoeboxes here contain stacks of 2 1/2" strips and 5" squares.
I cut a bit from most of the fabrics and then put the rest into sacks that are passed on to a friend. She is one of the most resourceful people I know, and can use up most of these scraps. What she doesn't use goes on to a church group, so there is a good cycle going here!

Had another knitting finish just recently, a variation of the 22.5 degree scarf that I wrote about previously. This one was made from Moda Dea Washable Wool color 4418 Real Teal. I gave it to Brita because it matches a hat and ear warmer that I made for her this winter.
I changed up the pattern a little by putting in some bands of stockinette stitch with a yarn over/knit 2 together row to make the holes. And yes, that scalloped edge is knitted, not crocheted, and you can learn how to do it here.

And to leave you with a quote:
"I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." Anna Quindlen

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

sewing machine saga

If you are not a Bernina lover, you might want to skip ahead! This might be sounding like a commercial sortof. If you use a sewing machine regularly, you know how important it is to have a machine that works well for what you like to do, and some machines might be much better for different types of sewing. Making quilts is very different from making clothing, or draperies, or backpacks. So, of course, there are reasons to have a different machine. People who don't sew usually don't get this, unless you compare it to something like a woodworker and an arsenal of power tools. You have to have the right tool for the job, right? And then there are the multiple brands of machines to consider, each proclaiming to be the best. And probably each is the best in some facet of the overall picture. My first machine was some unknown brand, complete with cams, purchased about 1971 in Spencer, IA.It was a thrill! Then after college and getting married, I was able to buy a nice little Kenmore and learned how to use that for many household purposes. Even learned to sew knits for tshirts! Much later, maybe around 1998, I was becoming more and more drawn to quilting and shopped for a newer machine, ending up with a Viking Lily 550, which has been my constant companion ever since. It is similar to this machine--
and is going to live with my daughter soon. It has been a fine machine and seldom disappointed me. We have gone many places together and turned out some fabulous (and some not so fabulous!) projects. But I have been working at a quilt shop that is also a Bernina dealer for over 10 years now, and decided that my next machine would be a Bernina. I was never involved in the details of the machines, did not go to the training needed to be able to work with customers looking at the machines, but I did use one occasionally and fielded generic questions from customers. Since we also do machine service and repair, I often talked to people about that aspect, also. And probably 99 out of 100 wouldundoubtedly say "There's nothing wrong with my machine, it is the best machine Ihave ever had, I just want to get it cleaned and checked out, yada, yada, yada." Recently I was finally able to buy my own new machine, the 730 Artista, like this--
This is a super machine in so many ways, and during my recent sewing getaway I took it along on its maiden voyage. I am even happier with it now than before! Here's some of the things that I discovered:
I love the knee-lift feature that raises the presser foot with a little sideways motion of my right leg. Reminds me of my mom's old machine that was powered by a knee bar instead of a foot pedal. This is a really nice feature when I am doing a whole string of short seams (chain stitching is what we quilters call it, a healthier habit than chain smoking) because I can just partially lift the foot to get the fabric edges fed under.
I love the thread cutter, I learned to use it a lot rather than grabbing for my scissors after each seam. Just touch that little blue button and snip snip!
I love the needle threader, my old machine didn't have this and I was never really troubled by vision problems that would make it hard to thread the needle, but the convenience of this threader is wonderful! And it works every time!
I love the touch screen for all the stitch controls, and the fact that it says "Hi Pam" on the screen when it turns on! Corny, I know!
I have had a couple lessons from the store (thank you Sharon, Beth, and Anne) and have just scratched the surface of what this machine will do. So far I have not only sewn some quilts, but also a pair of pajama pants and mended jeans. Good to know that I can patch up those jeans to make it all worthwhile! This machine is a keeper!