Monday, March 31, 2008

The Promise of Flowers

Spring is here! The flowers declare it to all with eyes to see. :)

I walk out my front door and am greeted by all of these bobbing iris buds, full of promise. I've put out snail bait, so I expect full blooms soon rather than snacked-on remnants this year. Can you see? In the background, by the left birch tree, there is a purple blur - one iris is already in full bloom.

In front of the iris bed, I spy the first rose. This is a beautiful miniature rosebush, that LOVES where it is planted. It does not realize it is a miniature. It wants to be BIG. Just look at all of these buds, reaching up to the sun. They are almost as tall as the iris, and the iris are on a raised bed!
As I look at this picture, I realize that once again the neighbor's house is featured prominently. It shows up in so many of my photos, people might begin to think we live in a similar place. :) Let me assure you, we don't. We may see Tara out our window, but this is what they see from theirs.
See the window between the lollipop trees? That's the window to my sewing room. My machine faces it, so that I can look out and see green and flowers and birds (these days it's crows) and whatever else happens to be out front. It is definitely inspirational.

So. Did I make those of you with snow a tad jealous? Don't worry, by June or July, we'll be roasting in more that 100 degree heat, so you will be able to laugh the longest. Spring usually lasts about 2 weeks in the Valley, so we have to enjoy it while we can. It won't be long before we see Isaiah 40:8 in action "The grass withers, the flower fades..." and then, I'm sure to be found working on my "Flower Fades" quilt in earnest...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Time Capsule - Broken Dishes


I'm not sure what I was looking for, but this is what I found. It was in a small rubbermaid container, under a stack of containers, under some binders, not in my sewing room. I had completely forgotten about this project, which must have taken some willpower. It is so thoroughly hideous, it's hard to believe it's mine. Believe it. It's mine.

When I joined our local guild in the late 80's, one of the "fun" things we did was host a 5" square exchange. Each month we'd bring in a stack of squares and swap with other quilters for an equal number of their squares. The goal was for each of us to eventually have enough different fabrics for a charm quilt. Dare I say it? Most of the fabrics were anything but charming. According to my notes (on the lip paper) I was planning to make a twin-sized quilt out of these. ugh.

(I do think the above surfer block is pretty cute. Six of those fabrics were mine, I'd made clothing out of each piece in either the late 70's or early 80's.)

Apparently I started this "quilt" after I'd taken my first quilting class. In that class, we were told that true quilters did everything by hand, including piecing. Our teacher frowned upon those who were so low as to resort to machine piecing.

Since I wanted to be a GOOD quilter (I'd already been a bad self-taught quilter for 5 years), I soaked up everything taught by those more knowledgeable than I.

After 25 years, I can truly say that sometimes a gut instinct is better than a score of opinions passed along by others. Done correctly, machine piecing can be as much or MORE satisfying than doing it by hand.

Don't ask me why, but I had 20 minutes to kill this morning so I sewed together these already cut triangles, then squared the block with my ruler and rotary cutter.

I pulled out the rest of the "charming" fabrics from the box, and pressed them. The ones that melted (synthetic fibers - hiss!) and the ones that had stinky dye when hit with heat all went into the garbage.

There are enough left to assemble into a baby quilt for charity. But do it by hand? I think NOT!!! My machine is my bestest sewing buddy, and if it were not for machine-piecing, I'd have more than two of these hand-pieced nightmare projects in my UFO pile.

You caught that, huh? Yes, there is a second hand-pieced UFO in another box. But it's going to stay in that box for at least another day.

Today is the day to liberate this box. I need it for something else. :)

Happy quilting to you, and if you feel like using your machine? Forget the quilt snobs. JUST DO IT!!! :)

Sense of Style?


That's what he asked, when I saw him preparing to leave yesterday. He started adding clothes, and I ran to get my camera. He wondered what was so special? I've got to say it is his truly unique sense of style. Is it a gift? An eye for the unusual? Or does he just pull from the top of the clean pile and put it on?

He wanted to be sure that you got the entire effect, so you don't want to miss the shoes. It doesn't show up too well in this picture, but one has a black sole and the other blue...

He definitely is colorful, you've got to give him that!!! :) xxoo Mom

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Extraordinary Messmaking


That was my immediate reaction when I wandered out of my bedroom this morning. I didn't think, "How wonderful! The boys are home!" No, I thought, "How am I going to get this clean by Sunday?" There was no love in that initial reaction, just frustration.

I know they're not individually responsible. It's the cumulative result of their being together. Put three engineers under one roof, and you'll find a collection of "broken" items suddenly being dismantled and (eventually) reassembled into something that works.

I have to admit, they are industrious. Last night Andrew replaced the power source of the monitor that went bad last month, and now it works just fine.

But the messes!! Where do they get it from? Surely it must come from their father? yes? Maybe not.

This is a wee corner of my sewing area, just to the right of my machine. To me, it is totally organized, but to the average viewer? Probably not so organized. (Notice the embroidery machine to the right of the frame. This is why embroidering is an all-day event when I choose to do it. I have to unearth the machine beforehand, then bury it again when I am done.) ;)

And if it's time for true confessions, well, I confess. This is my desk.

I intentionally aimed the camera so that you could not see the open cabinet doors above. But I will tell you, almost ALL of my closets and cupboards (well, the sewing room is the exception), but almost ALL of them have been recently organized, and look better than what is out front for all to see.

So, I guess I can't blame the boys for making messes. It seems to be genetic, and I seem to be the carrier. sigh. Time to stop pointing fingers and go clean up!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Every Quilter's Nightmare

There are some quilters, an entire army of them, who never prewash their fabrics. I will never, ever be able to understand how they can so blithely work with fabrics that just might betray them.

After too many bleeding incidents - 2 MAJOR ones in particular - I have been diligent to the point of obsession, when it comes to prewashing fabric. Fabric is not allowed out of its bag, until it has gone through the washer.

And it goes through the washer on warm, with at least 2 color-catcher sheets in attendance. If those little sheets catch any color, BACK into the wash it goes, this time with either Retayne or Synthrapol. I ALWAYS wash batiks with Synthrapol, and to date, it has always done me well.

And then there was yesterday.

I also wash my quilts when I finish them. It's another quirk of mine. But apparently I missed one? I was certain I'd washed Queen of the Garden, but apparently not. A friend at church wants to hang it in the sanctuary a week from Sunday, so I thought I'd block it a little, to make it look its best.

The quilt had other ideas.

spritz. spritz. spritz. I'd pinned the quilt to the board and was merrily spritzing my way around it. Suddenly the edge of the orange flower caught my eye. NO. I looked elsewhere.
That is most definitely migrating color, color that has NO BUSINESS in the pale blue of the sky. Sure enough, the entire interior edge of the quilt was changing color, as the water soaked into the fabric and the dye soaked out of the dark blue batik.

I did what any sane blogger would do. I grabbed the camera. Then I headed to the bathtub.
I started running the water, and realized I had a problem. I had a BIG problem. I added a generous amount of Oxyclean to the water, because in a lecture Sharon Schamber assured us that "Oxyclean kills excess dye."

This is the color of the water, on the first treatment. That looks like a TON of excess dye, and it doesn't look at all dead to me.

I emptied the tub, filled it again, and added a like amount of Oxyclean. This purple is paler, but it is still purple.
On the third go-round, I ran clear water, with no Oxyclean. There's still some excess color, but not as much.
And by the fifth or sixth rinse, it was clear enough to drink.

Did all of the wandering dye come out of the quilt?

I confess, I don't really want to look at it too closely. It is currently pinned on the blocking board, blocking and drying. Most of the migratory color came out of the sky fabrics, and most of it came out of the yellow flowers. But the orange flowers, that I showed you at the top of the post? They still have dye at their base.

And if this can happen to me, a religious pre-washer, I just can't begin to imagine what pain might be in store for those of you who shrug and say, "Well, mine won't bleed!" or "It's not that big a deal." For me? It's a VERY big deal. In fact it's an ORdeal. And I, for one, am glad this chapter is behind me!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Another River Quilt

I think this one is finished. It gave me a rough go around, in the square-this-quilt competition, but in the end, I think I won.

Rather than my usual, square, bind, block progression, this time I blocked first, then squared and bound it. This is what I ended up with.

To say that I was not happy is an understatement. Every edge woobled, particularly the left. I believe I may have had a bit of a hissy when I saw it hanging. A large groan immediately escaped my lips. I took the picture so I would have a before/after comparison, because there was no question about it, I was going to have to block the thing again.

"Sierra Snow Melt"
29" x 29"
Suzanne Kistler 2008

There! It's not perfect, but it is much, much better! I can live with this. Now all I have to do is label it and see if I can get it submitted before I miss the deadline.

Here is a close-up, if you'd like to see my water quilting. The trees are a print, I did not piece that forest, as one friend thought. Really, would ANYONE piece this, when there's a perfectly lovely fabric available? I think not.

I have to share with you my favorite comment about this quilt. I actually asked the woman to repeat herself, because I could not believe my ears. She said something like, "You've taken art quilting to a whole new level!" hahahahaha!!!! I never, ever, consider myself an "art quilter." But apparently she's tagged me as such, and I find that to be delightful. Will wonders never cease?!!!

P.S. And if Cynthia Corbin sees this post, she'll probably be thrilled. I got it, I finally got it!! THIS should have been my final project in her class, not the one I am STILL working on. It took 2 full years for her teaching to sink in, but there you go. Good things come to those who persevere!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Blessings!

For the most part, this has been a very unconventional Easter in our household. We don't have all of our children here today, and two of them arrived at 2am this morning. My hubby is sick, so I ventured out alone to Discipleship class and then was joined by the middle boy for church.

Like I said, not our typical Easter.

But some things stay the same, no matter how much they change. Witness the pre-egg hunt photo. Smile for the camera boys!! Okay, we have to take another one because someone was making faces! :)

Here's the after shot. I know, it looks like a lot of eggs, but when you have big boys, the competition gets fierce. :)

Adam was the first one to realize that some of the eggs had dinero in them. (The other boys suspected they were empty.) When Dad asked if all of the eggs had been found, they shrugged. But Adam picked up on it. As Dad walked through the yard spotting more eggs, Adam pounced on them.
He matched him step for step and watched which way his eyes focused.

So much for taking the challenge out of it. :) But that's okay. Making them take finals on the day/night before Easter (can you believe he had one from 6-8pm last night?!!) was enough of a challenge to last a weekend.

And now, they have their well-earned Spring break. Talk about blessings! All of the boys for a week? I love it!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Flowers

sigh. Daylight Savings Time. What are we saving, really? I'm not saving time, I'm losing time. I sleep later than I would, if the time were what it used to be. If the sun's not up, then neither am I!

This is a most peculiar year. It doesn't feel like Spring, it doesn't feel like Easter. This morning I decided to take my camera into the yard with me, to see if I could find something to change this lack of feeling.

Well, here's something. I spy primroses.

I'm not sure where these came from, but there are yellow and pink primroses all through my "secret" garden. It's been years since I've planted primroses, and surely I didn't plant so many. If they are thriving, winter must be just a memory for them. They look so happy! (Except where the snails have been snacking.)

The next display I see are dianthus. In my mind, dianthus are definitely summer flowers. But they are blooming pretty vigorously right now. Maybe no one told them it is March? I'm not complaining. I LOVE the color, they cheer me right up! :)

And on the backside of the same plot, here come the Johnny Jump-ups. They don't want as much sun as the dianthus, yet they look just as happy. I'm glad that they popped up before Pete spread the stuff that keeps seeds from germinating. Germinate away, little poppets!

Now these are totally unexpected. I usually don't see Dutch iris until the end of the Spring blooming cycle. These came out of nowhere. I'm not complaining, I'm surprised. Another happy reminder that perhaps it IS spring. All of the flowers seem to know it.

And finally, many of the geraniums are blooming. I think of them as summer bloomers as well. Does this mean we're going to have a long summer? Or are they celebrating all of the extra rain they got this year? Or do they know it's Easter, so they've dressed in their finest to celebrate? Whatever the reason, I am thankful for flowers. They add beauty to my world when I least expect it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cute Shoes?

Well, what do you think? Are they cute? Or are they just functional? They are solid black - the rust highlights are courtesy of the camera's flash.

I think the only thing I dislike more than shopping for clothes is shopping for shoes. It's the bane of big feet. Everything looks like it's designed for a clown, and there is very little selection. In this respect, I am NOT my mother's daughter. My mother was California's version of Imelda Marcos, when it came to shoes. When we went through her closet after she passed away, I was astounded. Exactly how many pairs of black heels does a woman need? I think she had more than 2 dozen, she was ready for any occasion. And that didn't count any of the other colors she also had in stock.

But I digress.

I was looking for something flat and comfortable. Other than sandals, the last pair of shoes I bought was a pair of tennies for exercise in November of '06, the pair before that was clogs, back in December '05.

I guess it's all about balance. I skimp in the shoe department and splurge on quilt supplies. My mom had more shoes than anyone I've ever met, but quilt stuff or a stash? zilch, zip, nada. We all have our weaknesses, and I know mine.

Anyway, I was told these shoes are "very European," and they are hip-n-with-it. Mother would be proud. :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Thingies

See the beautiful orchids, bursting into bloom? I spy them in multiple places around the yard. Despite the 34 degree record lows on Sunday and Monday, today it looks like Spring. Little Johnny Jump-ups are jumping up by the score. I love their perky little faces, smiling at me as I go out to get the mail. They are a definite distraction.

Oh, I don't believe it. I made a few Easter cards, and thought I took a picture of all of them together. But I didn't. Good intentions, poor follow through. Instead, I have a single card to share, to wish you Easter blessings.

Isn't it a cute little quiltie? It measures 5" x 7", and it occurs to me that perhaps it is reminiscent of Be Still? Or perhaps it is an echo of the photo of the orchids. My eye seems to place things in a predictable manner, whether they be fabric or photos. I find that most curious.

And finally, here is another little quiltie that I recently put together. I like making the quilt longer and leaner - it gives a better sense of river, at least it does to me.

And now you know what I've been up to. I haven't meant to overlook the blog, but Spring fever seems to be taking hold and daydreaming is at its peak. I'll try to be more faithful, really I will. :)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Locks of Love

Well, I did it.

For years I've heard about "Locks of Love," a program that takes 10" cuttings of human hair and makes them into wigs for cancer patients. Twice I've had my length cut off, both times by stylists who were unfamiliar with the program. It kind of hurts to have inches fall to the ground knowing someone somewhere might have a use for them.

When my mom lost her hair during chemo, she often said, "I wish I could have some of your hair." I wished I could have given it to her. I've often been told that I have enough hair for three people...why did it all grow on my head? Many have asked me to share. But how?

Last week, (or was it the week before?), a friend took me aside and said that if I'd ever consider donating my hair to Locks of Love, she'd be willing to cut it for me. hmmm. Someone with that much confidence MUST know her stuff. I saw her again on Monday, and told her that I was willing. "Let's just do it."

She had an opening this morning, and gave it to me. You've seen the "before." Here is the "after."

Well, what do you think?

I'm not sure what I think, but if I decide I don't like it, it will always grow out again. :) So far it hasn't been in my face - it's been all of 2 hours - so that's good. And it's even better to know that I am able to at least make the effort to share my hair. If it helps one person deal with the effects of chemo, it is worth it!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"It Is Well"

Last month I heard of a local call for entries for a "peace art" show, here in town. A "spiritual awareness center," that sponsors an art gallery, is inviting local artists to enter their representation of peace, and how it begins with them. or something like that. I heard a verbal explanation last month. The entry form has very few details and even less direction.

But they invite fiber art, along with traditional art practices, to be part of the exhibit.

Sometimes I struggle with "inter-denominational, inter-faith" labels, but that's my personal struggle. I won't make it yours. And then I think, "If I don't add a Christian message to the collection, will anyone?"

In addition to my blog, I write a daily (6x week) letter to friends and family. Yesterday I mentioned this exhibit, and that what immediately sprang to mind was the first stanza of a hymn.

I was taken by surprise by the responses from my friends. They usually don't say much, but three of them responded to the hymn, and two insisted that I HAD to make a quilt for the exhibit.

The art needs to have an artist's statement, consisting of "35 words or less." There are 33 words in the first stanza, add two for the name of the author, and it's a sign. ;)

Yesterday I made a quilt.

It is currently pinned to my blocking board, all finished except for the sleeve and labels.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-billows roll -
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Horatio G. Spafford, 1828-1888

"It Is Well"
19" x 24"
Suzanne Kistler 2008

I believe that we can also offer our work for sale, which I intend to do.

All of those river quilts have paid off. But I should have added some rocks. And maybe used a different green. Or...lots of ideas are rolling around in my head. I might just have to keep going with this and see where it takes me. It is well!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Quilt Labels

I think I mentioned that I was at a meeting last night, with a group of art quilters. Someone asked me about the "unique" way I label my quilts. hmmm. I thought everyone did this? But apparently not.

When you quilt for as long as I have, and you enter as many shows as I do, it can become a challenge to keep track of what quilt went where and when. The easiest way for me to document this is to let the quilt keep its own history.

Here is a picture of the back of "More Glorious Than Solomon."

The first label in the bottom corner tells you about the quilt. The rest of the labels identify the various venues it has visited. This week it travels to PA, and then I think it's about ready to retire.

I also have a basic name/address/phone number label on the bottom righthand corner, which is the absolute minimum for any quilt that you ever submit to a show. Yes, I do label ALL of my quilts in a similar manner.

And I think that's about all I have to say about labels.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Elaine!!!

A Matter of Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, I posted this exercise that I'd just finished quilting. It was based on a photo of a tree, that I pieced in a class taught by Cynthia Corbin.

I thought it was finished, until I saw the quilt next to the photo. The emptiness at the top of the quilt made it feel as though something were missing. But the quilt is so small, adding anything would make it crowded. I put it aside, to deal with it later.

Last night, I was at a meeting of Art Quilters. I passed it around the group. I noticed one woman holding it sideways. I think she was trying to make heads or tails of it. Since I was talking about something else, I didn't tell her which way it went.

This morning, I held it up from her perspective.

Hmmm. That actually does look pretty good.

In fact, it looks finished. I think I'm ready to put the label on it, and indicate that it hangs horizontally.

And hey, this is now ART, because it is nothing like the tree that I started with. It is its own image.

Sometimes all it takes to see things at their best is a matter of perspective. Looking at this one from a different angle was all that it took to "fix" it.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Sure Signs of Spring

The first sign is the sunshine. Blue skies and no fog? Winter is a mere wisp of a memory on days like this.
I walk out the front door and see leaf buds on the Rose of Sharon. It won't be long before it's all green, with flowers and bumblebees rolling around in their pollen. A blooming Rose of Sharon also means hummingbirds and the faint "peep! peep!" of their protests as they fight over the best looking blooms. :)

A lone ranunculus is also blooming. I used to have dozens of them, but one particularly wet winter drowned all but this single survivor. This same plant returns year after year. I think it's 5 or 6 years old by now. Now that's what I call determination! :)

Finally, I spy orchids, also beginning to push up buds. One day soon this will be a mass of red violet, all courtesy of my friend Bette Beebe. Years ago - 15 or more years ago - she gave me 2 or 3 starters. I now have them planted in multiple locations, but this is the first and the best. Every year, the orchids and the iris remind me of Bette. She was the first to donate to my garden, and her donations are often the first signs of Spring. Thank you Bette. I miss you.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Quilted Cards

Happy Birthday, Jan Krentz!!! This little 6" quilted greeting card is in the mail to my friend Jan, the Star Quilter. :)

For the past year, when time allows, I've tried to make little quilted cards - aka "quilt-lets" - for friends and family. Some months I'm right on top of it, others I miss out altogether. I am very unpredictable.

But so far, the two birthdays this month have been celebrated by me with card making. Unfortunately the first birthday card went awry. FedEx says they left it on the doorstep, but when the boys got home, there was no package. Live and learn. Require a signature. :(

My usual MO is to send the cards via USPS, in the transparent envelope seen behind Jan's star. Believe it or not, it only takes one first class stamp. Tried and true, I'm going to stick with this method of delivery. As far as I know, every one of these has made it to its destination.

And on that, I'm off to sew. Happy Jan's birthday, one and all!!! ;)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

GREAT news!!!

Can you stand yet another picture of the "Be Still" quilt?!!! I haven't seen it since early February, so I'm starting to forget what it looks like. Not really, but almost.

Yesterday I got the most fantastic email from Cathy at AQS. I was initially bummed, because the subject heading was "2008 Paducah entry." The last couple of years her emails have been titled, "CONGRATULATIONS!" But when I read the first sentence, and the first word was "Congratulations!" it took my breath away. They like my quilts. They really like my quilts. :) I feel like Sally Fields. :)

For years my personal goal was to get a quilt into the show at Paducah. To me, this show is legendary, and to be accepted is the greatest honor. I've never been to Houston. But after years of rejection letters, my first faith quilt was accepted into the AQS show in Paducah in 2001.

"Think Before You Speak"
40" x 40"
Suzanne Kistler 2000

This was the quilt that opened the door for me into the world of the national quilt scene. oooh aaah. We went to the show, and I was hooked. When they say it is an honor to hang there, they are right. I've been to the show 3 times, the most recent being the 2007 show. I have no idea how the judges made their choices last year, because every quilt was top-notch. They were all SO GOOD, I was VERY glad I wasn't a judge. It was completely overwhelming just to be a spectator.

This year I had decided not to go. And then the email arrived. And then I checked the list of semi-finalists. Folks, this reads like the Who's Who of the quilt world. I recognize more than a half dozen names of quilters whose quilts have won Best of Show and are now hanging in the Museum of the American Quilter's Society. All of this talent in one place? I may have to rethink my "I'm not going" attitude.

I hear the siren's call, and I just might have to follow it to Kentucky. I'll keep you posted. :)

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Very Good Day

Today has been a very good day in my quilting life. yay!

For months I have been stressing about a wallhanging that I've been ready to quilt. I'd finished it, or so I thought, but too many people had difficulty reading the script. I decided to "fix" the background fabric with paint, to make the words more legible, but instead, I ruined it. You read my lament back when? Maybe in January?

Since then, I have been trying to come up with alternative solutions. Most of these involved purchasing different border fabric, which I actually did FOUR times. But none of the replacements were as pleasing to my eye as the original fabric choice. And I still have a hard time believing that I used 3 yards of fabric to make 4 - 5" x 45" borders! But I did. I mis-cut more than once, and did not have enough left over to cut them yet again.

But last night, an amazing thing happened.

I picked up a basket, and underneath, I found an already stenciled border. I measured it. It was the right size. I removed the one I'd painted, and replaced it. Isn't this much better?!!!

You may not see much of a difference, but to me, it's HUGE. Now all I needed was a single piece, large enough for one border. I pulled out my scraps once again. I was amazed. There was a single strip that was 5.5" x 45" long...and the blotches were at the edge, not in the middle. I don't remember this piece, but wow. perfect. I sewed a tiny triangle to the corner to make it large enough. I stenciled it, and just now finished replacing it. Take a look. What do you think? Better?

I say it's better. I say it's GREAT. I say it's a go. I'm going to re-baste it and begin quilting. yay!!!

And then, to make a great day even better, I was flipping through a binder and found all of the verse notes that I'd made for another quilt I've been dreaming of for 6 years. It was right there all the time. (My friends know that I have been turning my sewing room upside down for the past week, trying to find these notes.) :)

See, here they are. They are real! They weren't imaginary!! :)

And finally, I thought I'd give you a peek of the new, improved Malcolm. Silly kitty.

He now feels so good that he's into EVERYTHING. The other morning I was typing, and I heard a noise. I looked up, and he'd poked his nose over the monitor. He saw me and ducked. The next thing I knew, he was peeking out from UNDER the monitor. What a goof! I ran for the camera, he watched over the top of the monitor. But when it was time for the picture, he decided he preferred to come around front. I got this shot just before he planted himself between the keyboard and the monitor.

We had a bit of a disagreement as to who's the master, but in the end, I won. He got huffy and took a nap.

Yes, this has been a VERY good day. :)