Saturday, November 29, 2008

Making Progress

Wow. Everywhichwaybutright. Blogger was certainly flip-happy this evening. Hopefully you will get the general idea of what I've been up to.

First, the penguin baby quilt is bound and finished. yay. It just needs to be assigned to a baby.

Once that was out of the way, I thought I ought to look at another UFO. This one is definitely a UFO, although I truly wish it were a WIP. I started it in the late 90's, and left it for a long time. Eventually I decided to machine quilt it (it's hand appliqued) as well as add trapunto. That's where the biggest hang-up occurred.

Let me say up front, I LOVE this quilt. Here is a picture of the back, so you can have an idea of what's going on with the quilting. This quilt is destined to go to my daughter and her husband, should I be able to figure out how to fix what is currently wrong with it.

Here's a sideways picture of one of the blocks. They are heavily quilted, and lie very flat. The center is flat as a board, I tell you, despite the trapunto.

Here's a sideways picture of some of that trapunto. The trapunto in the gold fabric looks mahvelous, dahling, and I love it. So does the shadow trapunto (done in red and green) in the white. This isn't the problem.

The problem comes in the outer border. I haven't stuffed much of the feather yet - I'm doing this the old-fashioned way, by hand - but I think I've overstuffed it. a lot. See how wavy the border is? It was beautifully flat before I began stuffing the feathers.

Then again, maybe it's not the trapunto's fault. Maybe it's the green setting triangles. I've been going in circles, trying to decide what to put in them. The quilt says "more trapunto!" but my mind and hands say, "No way! Don't you know how much trapunto you still have to finish? You don't want to add more! It's already taking you forever. And a day." And so, the poor beautiful quilt lies there, looking forlorn and abandoned.

I'm going to have to suck it up and deal with it. As I said, it's a beautiful quilt, and I love it. It doesn't deserve to be set aside for so long, especially as it has such a precious destination. I do intend for this quilt to be one that actually gets finished in 2009. Goals are good.

Finally, we had reindeer on the roof all afternoon. It's true, I heard them. Noisy things, tromp, tromp, tromp. I think they even had a leaf-blower up there. Okay, so maybe it was Dad and #1 son...but it sure sounded like reindeer to me!!

And the noise was enough to set me to work. I finished another Christmas present, here it is, all folded and ready to ship. Hey, don't peek! It might be for you! ;) No, I'm pretty sure that the recipient does not follow this blog...

And there you go. That's what I've been up to today. I'm trying to do something tangible each day between now and Christmas. The stitched stocking hasn't been turned into an ornament yet, but there's always tomorrow. It shouldn't take all THAT long, and I won't have much time tomorrow. ttfn...

Friday, November 28, 2008

WIPs vs. UFOs

Okay, so I'm captivated by the idea of this 12-step program. For me, it's only going to work if I use it to work on UFO's. For the uninitiated, that would be UnFinished Objects.

I've heard others refer to these as WIP's, which means Works In Progress.

For me, there is a huge difference. A quilt that I'm actively thinking about, whether it is being worked on or not, is a WIP. But a UFO? That would be a project that has been assigned a box and stacked aside or put safely somewhere, hopefully to reappear fully finished without any more attention from me. It's not finished now, and it's not even on the "wish it were active list." It's only in the "maybe I'll finish it, it's too good to give away" pile. (If I were going to give it away, I would have already done so.)

See this pile? This is a WIP pile. These three quilts are basted, ready to be machine quilted. Two are baby quilts, one is a future show quilt. I've had high hopes for the future show quilt, for almost a year now. It's been basted for what? Six months? (Don't say anything about pins rusting or anything like that. I already cringe when I think about it.) Goals are good, and although I consider the bottom quilt to be at the top of the list, I'll put money on it that the other two will be finished first.

This is my current hand-quilted WIP. My goal for this one is to finish by January 1, 2009. Goals are good. uh huh.

Now this pile? This is a pile of official UFO's. Big time UFO's. The top quilt is pansy blocks, made when I was Block-of-the-Month chairman back in 1997. I started hand-quilting it with a Baptist Fan pattern. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it's really, really boring. It's more than halfway quilted. I worked on it in Germany, in August 2008, the first time I'd touched it in a year or two. (I brought it along, because it was a quilt that I wouldn't cry over, if it got lost in transit.)

The middle quilt is from a class I took from Kathy Sandbach in...are you sitting down?...probably in 1989...or maybe 1990, but I don't think so. It's also hand-quilted. The back is better than the front, and it's about a third of the way quilted. The piecework is AWFUL, but I like the colors and the design is OK. (It was a stretch for me.)

The final quilt was begun some time in the early 90's, and the top was finished in the late 90's. I started hand quilting it when? 98? 99? Then, in 2006, I decided that I should machine quilt it instead of hand quilt it. I spent 2 or 3 hours pulling OUT a lot of the hand quilting. But then I decided that was stupid. It's a quilt that calls out for hand-quilting. It's very traditional, and I love it. I need to go back and put in the stitches that I took out - it will probably require 10-20 hours for every hour I spent pulling them out. oh well. Of the three official UFOs in the quilting stage, this is my favorite. Should I finish it first? Or should I finish the ones that are closer to completion?

Knowing my tendencies, I'd guess that I'll finish the pansies, then the big one, and save the Kathy Sandbach 2 block quilt for last. or not. Stay-tuned. Maybe one of these will be finished in 2009. That would be a BIG step for a month, but with the pansies, it's one that I could realistically accomplish.

And the WIP's? Those will be worked on, hopefully, on a regular basis. There's no time like the present to finish them, right? Right!

And on that, I'll finish sewing the binding on the penguin baby quilt. I had the chance to work on it on this morning, and while I waited at the dentist with my youngest, I sewed down half the binding. woohoo. It will probably be finished for photography and posting by morning. Goals are good!

Thanksgiving Pictures

The boys made it home, and the house came back to life. Such a difference from what has now become "normal." I like this better. This is the current view from our front door, it will only be like this for at most another 24 hours. We'll take what we can get.

While dinner was cooking, Pete found something to do with himself. He's not used to having free time. I was surprised (and excited) to see what he chose...

Malcolm liked it comes the engine...

And there it goes...

Finally, dinner was ready. ooh! Look at the bird. This baby was 23 lbs...quite the feast for five!

After much fiddling, the boys figured out the timer, and we got the first family shot in a LONG time...

It took less time to stuff the people than it took to stuff the bird...

Ahh, tryptophane. It hits the old guys first...

And the younger? Boys will be boys, and brothers will be brothers... "Let me show you this cool new move..." "No wait, let me show you mine..." Kempo meets jujitsu, in the middle of the living room...

And there you go. A happy Thanksgiving. It's a wrap.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Oops! I Did It Again!

Yesterday was a busy day, and my tentative plan to work on a quilt-for-hire fell through. I had less than 2 hours, give or take, to putter in the quilt cave. Some of the time was spent reorganizing, but the majority was spent quilting this baby quilt. (This is one that I pieced at retreat, back on 11/1.)

It's now quilted and ready for binding. As I was quilting it - I was almost done, for heaven's sake! - I saw my boo-boo. Good grief! Do you see it? Look carefully...

Here, does this help?

With all of the Double 4 patch quilts that I've made, I don't remember doing this before. If I have, I've caught it right away, dismantled the block and reassembled it. But not this time. sigh. This time, it's going to be identified as "a design choice" (albeit an unconscious design choice), and will be left in place, to give the quilt "character."

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

See Pat? I TOLD you I don't do perfect!!!

SAQA Auction

For the past few weeks I've been monitoring a couple of on-line auctions, biding my time and bidding conservatively, hoping to call myself a winner at the end of the week. Actually, the biggest winners are the two groups who have held/are holding the auctions. The Alliance for American Quilts auctions ended on eBay, with the six quilts I bid on (over the course of 3 weeks) each selling to someone else, most for close to or in excess of $300.

Yesterday, the SAQA auction reduced their 12" squares to $75. You'll have to go there to see what is left. I'd had my eye on a few, and yesterday, I successfully became the owner of two. Apparently, I also now have a collection. ;) At least that's what the site says. "Suzanne Kistler Collection." Imagine that. But when I think about it, I DO have a number of small quilts made by quiltmakers other than myself...perhaps it does qualify as a "collection."

The first 12" square that I purchased was this one:

"Joy Cometh in the Morning"
Margaret Blank

Now I don't know anything about Margaret Blank, but I am familiar with Psalm 30.

"Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones,
And give thanks to His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:4,5

I've known the weeping that lasts for the night, and I've also know the joy that comes in the morning. I look forward to receiving the piece, and examining its every detail.

The other 12" square that I purchased is this:

"Save Some Space"
Phyllis Cullen

I don't know what it is about this piece, but it caught my eye again and again. Maybe it was the pumpkins, they are so dramatic against the black. Or maybe it was the city in the background. Each time I look at it, I immediately think of Cinderella, her pumpkin, and the Ball. That may have nothing to do with the artist's thoughts, but I also live in an agricultural community. It's our job to feed the world. Without our abundance, those in the city would be very, very hungry...

Anyway, I'm excited to know that these two little art quilts are headed my way. Just wanted to share the news...and for those of you interested, the last lot of quilts will be posted on the SAQA website on Friday, beginning at 2pm Eastern and $750...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stepping Up

WOW. As of this posting, I've had FOUR, count them, four! comments on the 12 Step Program for Quilters. I feel loved. I admit that I've been jealous of other bloggers - they get frequent comments from all kinds of readers. My readers tend to be the silent type, readers with few things to say...sometimes I've wondered if I'm writing to myself. But if I am, what's the harm in that? No harm, really, it's just an ego thing. ;) (stroke, stroke) ;)

Anyway, back to the Program.

Yesterday I stood in the middle of my sewing mess and thought, "Where do I start?"

In 2007, I set aside all hours before noon as hours to do computer work, errands and housework. Once noon arrived, I was free to quilt to my heart's content. It worked really well, until I hit a major road bump, and unfortunately I never got back with the program. I've been rethinking that strategy, which was a good one, and have decided that maybe noon was a bit extreme. I am usually up before 7am, and often I'm up before 6am. Six hours of housework doesn't excite me, and that's probably why I'm so good at putting it off. But 5 hours? If you throw in breakfast and computer time, that shaves it to 4 or even 3.5. That's a do-able number.

So anyway, that is what was running through my mind as I looked around my sewing mess. I decided that I should really focus on some serious sorting and putting away, before beginning to work on a specific project. The piles are still high and deep, but not quite as high, and not quite as deep.

This is what I have to show for yesterday's efforts:

First, I had a pile of fabrics that I'd pulled to cut three more baby quilts. Here they are, all cut and ready for sewing, whenever I get a round tuit. The leftover fabric has been filed back in my stash. It is no longer sitting on my table, waiting to be cut.

Each little bundle will make a 40" x 48" baby quilt. Each bundle contains 8 light 2.5" strips, 8 darker 2.5" strips, and 8 4.5" strips cut into 4.5" squares. The strips get sewn together in pairs, which are then cut cross-ways into 2.5" slices. The slices are paired and sewn into 4.5" 4-patch blocks. Two of these are then sewn with 2 of the pre-cut 4.5" squares to make Double 4-patch blocks. The yield is 32 blocks, and it takes 30 blocks to make a quilt. Simple as pie. I've done it dozens of times, and these quilts have become my signature baby gift. Love them, love them!

I found a box under my ironing board, that had curious contents. What is all this stuff, and why is it in here? hmmm. It was an "I'll go through this when I have time" collection. At the bottom was a stack of needlepoint blocks that I'd purchased at a guild Silent Auction in 2007 or 2006. hmmm. At the very bottom was this beautiful little stocking. Step 1 was to block it.

Now suppose you were embarking upon the 2009 12 step program - would blocking a quilt constitute a step? Indeed it would! By taking the time to block this little puppy, I'm one step closer to making it into something useful. I expect it to be an ornament before the end of the week.

See? This program is quick and painless. I think the most painful part, at least for me, will be going through my STUFF and listing out exactly how many unfinished projects I have. There are a ridiculous number of them. Ridiculous. Can you say, "Someone give this woman some self-control!" ? ;) I mean, let's face it. Yesterday I actually CREATED three more UFO's, because I don't intend to finish those baby quilts before I go back to working on Quilts of Primary Importance. The new baby bundles were put aside with two others, along with the three baby quilts that are currently basted and waiting for quilting.

The other thing that I did earlier this week was make two more little cards. I had leftovers from the "Cry to the Lord" quilt-let, and I didn't want to put them in my scrap box. They already matched these verses, so I sewed them up and here they are:

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them, but they're here, in case I need them...

ooh, I can't wait to see what I work on today. Having to be accountable to someone - that would be you - is VERY good incentive to actually get something done. hip, hip, hooray!!! Thank you!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A 12 Step Program for Quilters

I know, I'm posting a lot today. I meant to do this yesterday, "but a brown bird sang in the apple tree, and all the leaves were calling me..." no wait. Those are words from a song from the movie "Friends." Very obscure, very 70's. Sorry about that...

Anyhoo, last night I swung by Thimble Towne, the local quilt store. A dedicated group of quilters was there, as they are every Monday night, making furious progress on their projects. I wasn't quilting or making progress of any sort, unless you call catching up with friends progress.

But I digress.

Beth and Pat were lamenting the fact that they have SO many projects waiting for attention that it's hard to make a dent in them. yep. me too. It seems like a common issue among quilters. "Goals are good." That's been my motto for YEARS in regards to quilting. I set (and reset) goals frequently, so at least I have something to shoot for. But the goals I set usually only involve one or two quilts, and do nothing about the multitude of UFO's that I've accumulated over the years.

Beth and Pat are also in my little Art Group, so I feel like I'm getting to know them pretty well, and we can keep tabs on one another. "Okay, so let's challenge each other. In 2009, we'll finish one UFO each month, and by the end of the year, just think what we'll accomplish!" Beth immediately declared that goal to be too ambitious. "But some of my projects are just fabrics and patterns put aside in bags! No way could I finish one in a single month!"

Ahhh. Good point. Any UFO's that I had that simply needed binding to finish are LONG gone. Most of my UFO's are in the 15-30% completed category, not 90% done...

"I've got it!! We'll make a pact to finish a STEP on at least one UFO each month! That way, you don't have to finish it, but you can have the satisfaction of making progress. You can cut something out, or add a border, or whatever. As long as you complete one step each month, you're successfully tackling your UFO pile. With 12 months in the year, well, let's call it a '12 step program for quilters!' "

The suggestion was an instant hit, and I can't think of any way to improve upon it, other than to challenge you readers out there to do the same.

Sometime between now and January 1, 2009, I'll post a list of ALL known UFO's in my possession. wow. That's quite a goal. The last time I listed my UFO's, I had 53, and those were only the ones I intended to finish. I have no idea how many I have now, especially if I include those that are merely "possibly in my lifetime" candidates for finishing. The number could be worthy of Guinness Book...yep, I'm fairly confident of that possibility.

And so, silent readers, would you like to join me? I'll even offer an incentive...Anyone who responds to this particular post by commenting will have his/her name put into a hat. On December 2 - that's one week from today - I'll draw a name out of a hat. Whoever I draw will receive a handmade quilted Christmas card. (That means you have to COMMENT, AND you'll have to be willing to give me your real name and address at some point in time...)

Let me know if you intend to take this challenge seriously. I'm here to help you. :) I'm thinking that in 2009, I'll identify each monthly step I'm hoping to tackle, and by the end of that month, I'll give you my progress report. Sound good? Sounds good. Goals are good, and all that...

You don't have to participate in the Program to leave a comment and be added to the list. Anyone and everyone is invited to comment...

Inside and Outside

The carpet cleaner came yesterday, and I asked him to clean the living room, the hall, a bedroom and a bathroom. To stay out of his way, I assigned myself a task. It was time to assemble the last piece of furniture that I purchased last week. wow. It was a bigger chore than I'd envisioned.

This is what I bought. I know, it says it's a wine hutch. But I had a different plan for it. I am extremely partial to shelving units with glass doors. Not only can you see what the shelves hold, but the doors keep out the majority of the dust. In my world, that is HUGE. (The only drawback was my discovery at the end of assembly that there is no base to this piece. arg! I'm not happy about that, but this is still infinitely better than my previous nightstand...)

Here is the "before" picture. Yeah, I know, I groan too. It's worse that my "studio." Things have a tendency to pile up, and before long, I no longer see them. It's a gift...or a Curse (with a capital C).

Wow! When I started unloading the books, I found treasures galore. No wonder they were all shoved in the nightstand. I want to read all of them...

hahaha!!! Well maybe not this one. It was WAY in the back, covered with dust and completely forgotten...

I intentionally put everything on my bed, so that I was forced to find a place for it before I could go to sleep. It was a good thought, and that corner is now clean, but unfortunately much of the pile has been relocated to my sewing room. (You knew that was coming, didn't you?) I'll have to go through it again, at another time...What do you think? Is this an improvement?

Meanwhile, outside, the seasons are changing in their peculiar California way. There are some beautiful trees turning yellow at the park. I do hope I remember to take my camera with me today, to capture some of their beauty. It's supposed to rain, and if that happens, it will be too late for a good picture.

I found these paperwhites in the backyard...

And these yellow narcissus were very near them. It's so exciting to find them before the snails did!!!

But typical of California, it's hard to tell exactly what season it is. The narcissus are blooming in the same patch as some gerberas. And the gerberas are still green and healthy. While they think it's still summer, the narcissus declare that winter is coming...

I guess we'd better ask the oranges. The navels are almost ripe, so it must be getting colder...

But the mandarins are still pretty green, so it's not cold enough...

And that about sums it up around here. There is PLENTY of quilting still to be done. Today, the house and the yard can take care of themselves...

Quilt Pictures

I mentioned that I'd spent Saturday working on a quiltlet for a friend who has been recently diagnosed with cancer. Last night I heard that she receives her first chemo treatment today. This is the little quilt I made for her. The picture looks better with correct orientation, but I guess Blogger does not agree. sigh...

I also had a request to show Pat's entire Christmas quilt. Here she is, I think she likes it. :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

No and No

wow. The carpet cleaner arrived 2 hours early, and I didn't get the post written that I'd planned. You'll have to wait for it. Instead, once he'd finished, I headed out to run errands. I came back to find the mailman delivering today's mail. Usually he is my friend. But not today.

Today's mail contained a thin envelope from Road to CA. Thin is usually bad. It was doubly bad. Both of my quilts, "Cascading Crystal Kaweah" and "Psalm 46:10 Be Still" were rejected. No and no. Wow.

Since 1995, (or was it 96?) I've had quilts almost every year in that show. Back then it was known as "Crossroads" and was held in a hotel lobby. Over the past three years, they rejected my two best quilts, but each got in the following year. These two latest rejected quilts are infinitely better than the previous two. I'm improving, but the competition is improving more than I am.

And so, I will reconsider the stack of entry forms in my binder. Is it worth the $$ to enter, when all I've received lately are reject letters? Or should I hang my quilts at home, hide my light under a bushel and keep on keeping on? 'Tis something to consider. And I'm considering. I'll let you know what I decide...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another One Done

It feels good to have another quilt-for-hire finished. Hopefully I will be able to deliver it today. This was a fun one, all done in bright Christmas-y colors. I didn't take a picture of the entire quilt, because it was difficult enough to get the quilting to show on the close-ups.

This red poinsettia was quilted on a shiny gold fabric. It was so busy reflecting (despite the lack of flash) that it didn't focus well. But you get the idea...

It took me a long time to come up with something for this long red strip. I finally wrapped it up with a flourish.

And this dotty area - there were four spaces like this - what to fill them with, to keep with the theme?

This was one of those quilts that allowed the quilting to show better on the back. Here is a poinsettia chain. Not half bad, eh?

I've got one last quilt-for-hire awaiting my attention, and then I think I'm done between now and Christmas. I've got two of my own quilts that I fantasize about completing by January 1. Goals are good and all that...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh So Busy

I've been in the sewing room, working on a quilt-for-hire. This morning I hit a point where I needed a break. I don't know what goes in the next area. The quilt is not talking. So I shifted gears, and decided to tackle Piece #2 of furniture from yesterday's shopping expedition to World Market.

I started with an unassembled file cabinet in the box, and this mess...

When I took over the chairmanship of the Best of the Valley quilt show, I inherited boxes and boxes of files and records. The "important" ones are strewn all over the bed and table top, the rest are still in the box on the table. And in another box on the floor. And in boxes in my garage.

Anyway, I got the file cabinet together, and cleared off the bed. My quilt show desk now looks like this...

The distance shot of the room looks like this...(better?)

But then I turn around and find this. sigh. I think the stuff is multiplying behind my back...

Oh well. I may not look any more organized than I was 6 hours ago, but I sure FEEL like I am. And now that I've got that off my chest, it's back to that quilt. I've got 6 more unquilted spaces to fill - WHAT am I going to fill them with?!!!

Gone Shopping

Greetings! I spent some hours quilting yesterday, and today looks to be another perfect day for it. This is what I saw, when I looked outside this morning.

It's only a very light fog, but it feels like quilting weather. Ignore the cans - it's also greenwaste pick-up day. ;)

But that's not why I wrote this post. Instead, I wanted to show you this nifty chair I bought at World Market. We've sent most of our beds hither and yon as the kids have grown, and now, when they come home to visit, we are short sleeping facilities. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of buying yet another bed, but a chair? Now that might work. This is called a Parker chair.

It has secret compartments, that hide legs. First, there is the leg in the chair back...

And then, there are the legs in the seat. Sorry about the angle. Blogger tipped the picture. sigh.

Once the legs have been extended, you unfold it, and voila! It's a bed!

I hope it's comfy!

Finally, it's getting to be that time again. Costco had their fresh wreaths available, and so, I availed myself.

And with that, I'm ready to jump into Holiday Spirit Mode with both feet. Hang on, it's going to be a fast and furious ride to the end of December...wheeeeee!!!!