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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Life is never dull

I'm the neighborhood Nanny because I'm the one person who rarely leaves home.  I take in kids getting off the school bus when parents are late getting home.  I accept packages from UPS and USPS when no one is home to accept it.  I go feed fur kids when someones away on a trip.  I get phone calls in the middle of the night when someones house alarm is going off so I can go turn it off.  It happened last night at 2:30 am.  A neighbor's alarm was going off and the alarm company asked me if I would go turn it off or should they call the police?  Aww, come on now, use some common sense.  You're the alarm company, what are you supposed to do?  I'm not about to go see if a burglar is in that house by myself!  Hmm... maybe I can scare the crap out of them....  the way I look when awaken from a good dream..... with a scowl on my face, hair a mess, in raggedy pjs, big puffy coat, fuzzy slippers, and carrying a rotary ruler to smack a burglar with.  Ya think that would work? 

On a different note....

A couple of days ago Ladybug wanted to show NaNa her tooth gap.  This is not normal.  Her teeth are normally straight and even.  She has a bad habit of a thumb or finger constantly in her mouth.  It was so bad she was causing the skin to come off.  Not just her thumb but all of her fingers.  When one got too sore she switched to another.  Well the Mommie had the dentist put in a device to stop the habit.  It was tightened up twice a day until there was a gap in the teeth. 

It looks like this.  It's designed to make it very uncomfortable to have a finger in the mouth.  The device remains there until the habit is broken.  The Mommie was told it might take 3 to 6 months to break the habit.  Then it can be removed and the teeth will go back to normal.  Ladybug keeps saying.... take it out NaNa.  She looks so pitiful.  Now she's figured out she can put a finger into the side of her mouth next to her cheek instead of the center. 

A couple of days ago a package was delivered to my house.  I thought it was for a neighbor until I looked at the mailing label to see who.  It was for me.  Hmm.... I wasn't expecting anything.  Well, just look who came to live with me.  Isn't he cute?  He's a pin cushion.  A customer in SC sent it to me. 

It looks like it was made from a vintage embroidery and crochet piece.  It's one of a kind and is signed.   

I have the current quilt stabilized and ready to start quilting today.  The police figured out the burglar alarm went off for no apparent reason and has been reset.  I down loaded the ebook for my online class and got the right software updates I need.  Today I'll read through the book a little to get familiar with what I'll be learning.   I'm going to do as suggested and make lots of notes I can refer back to if I need it.  Margaret also told me she has a policy that once a person takes the class they are welcome to come back for a refresher course anytime at no charge.  It's right there on her blog and I missed it somehow.  If I get some free time this weekend I'll go check out her free quilting patterns on her other site. 

Time to get my day started.  Make bread first.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Portraits in fabric

I had some time for a ME project so I loaded this cheater panel on the machine yesterday.  It was given to me in a bunch of fabric a couple of years ago.  It's now ready to become a charity quilt for next Christmas. 

A simple feather around the outside.

Meandering stars in the background.

Color threads on the back.

This is the next quilt to go on the machine.  It will just barely fit and has several issues.  The most visual issue is the friendly borders.  You can see in the bottom of the photo that one side is larger than the other.  This is from not measuring and cutting the borders before putting them on.  I do so many quilts like this that it's no longer a problem.  It's just something I must work with carefully to make the quilt come out square.  When this one is finished I'm going to put it on my helpful hints blog as a step by step tutorial.  I already have one or two posts about friendly borders but one more won't hurt.

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a long while will know how much I want to be a portrait artist.  I don't really care if I ever, ever earn money from it.  I simply want to fulfill a lifelong dream of learning how to do people.  For me, art is more about the creation than about the selling.  Learning to do realistic people is on my bucket list.

  I've bought DVDs and taken classes but I still am not doing what I want to do.  I've written about my desire several times but I can't find those posts right now to make links.  I've taken classes at an art school but I wasn't able to continue.  It cost more than I could afford.

About four or five years ago I saw some portraits done with fabric.  Fantastic!  I wouldn't have to learn to draw people.  I could use the computer to help me create portraits using what I have in my stash.  I bought books of several different artists trying to learn the techniques.  I bought DVDs too but found both books and DVDs didn't teach what I needed to know.   

I bought photoshop element software and tried my best to learn it.  I have difficulty with comprehension and remembering.  I often have to do things backward just to learn.  I remember how things are done by repeatedly doing the steps over and over again.  When I stop doing those steps, I forget.  I buy DVDs so that when my memory fades I need only to rewatch them to remember.  With books I can go back and read again.

I took a class at a local fabric store to learn to do a portrait with fabric.  I had to leave before the class was over because I didn't want to be riding a bus home after dark in my neighborhood.  It was a class about using the fabric but not about creating the pattern.  I've long since forgotten what I did learn in that class. 

Then I found Margaret Bucklew of Chiseled in Cloth.  Check out her site.  She's fantastic!  Anyway, she had online classes.  I tried to sign up only to find out my computer couldn't handle the videos.  So I waited until I could get the right stuff for my computer and tried signing up again.  Oops!  Before I could click the "pay" button to confirm.... the empty class suddenly filled up.  A guild someplace had signed up as a group.  I was just seconds away from being in the class.  They clicked pay before I did.  So, I waited again.  Several months.  I tried signing up again and found it full once more.  I waited a few more months.  Next time I wanted to sign up, Margaret was taking a teaching break.  I waited a few more months. 

Well, I finally got signed up for a class yesterday.  It's only taken a little over three years.  What's great about Margaret's class is that she teaches how to create the pattern as well as use the fabric.  This is what I need to learn if I'm going to create grand kid portraits.  The class starts February 5th providing there are two more people to join the class.  If the class is not full she won't teach it.  I'm praying someone signs up because I'm not sure I will try again.  It may be something that will never happen and be time to let go of that dream.

What I'm worried about is.... will I be able to remember what I learn if I'm not able to create portraits regularly.  Will I have a problem remembering how to create the patterns a few weeks, months, or years from now?  As I said, I only remember how to do things by continually doing them over and over again.  I worry that problems such as dealing with my mother or a busy quilting schedule will prevent me from creating regular enough to remember the steps.  I keep asking Margaret if she will be selling the classes on DVD but so far she's not planning on it. 

I guess if I actually do forget the steps later; then, it would be the time finally to let go of that dream..... sigh.  

Even if you aren't interested in doing portraits or want to take a class please go check out Margaret's site.  She has free stuff for quilters and pantograph designs too.  She has really nice video poetry on her site.   The poetry will bring tears to your eyes and provoke you to deep thoughts.  I especially loved a video poem about old falling down barns. 

Ok, time to get started on that quilt.  It's going to take several days to finish it. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Studio changes

I finished the other art quilt.  It had lots of straight lines on it too.  I'll post photos when I'm given permission to do it.

I had a couple of days for ME projects.  I looked around my studio and kept asking myself..... "If I'm supposed to be an artist, where is my art?"  I had all kinds of quilting gadgets hanging on the walls and I had ribbons hanging on the walls.... but no actual art.

So I pulled out a few of my art quilts to hang them.  This one is called "I love you too".

My absolute favorite one is this unicorn.  This one is never leaving me. 

After getting these hung up, I realized it won't work.  The sun shines on the wall and the quilts will be damaged.  The unicorn is on the design wall but I use the design wall all the time.  It would be a hassle to take it down and put it back up constantly.  Everything gets very dusty and I don't want dust on my quilts.  The art quilts have been packed away again until I find a way to hang them without sun damage or getting dusty. 

I thought about working on re organizing the studio and decided a good cleaning is necessary before any organizing.  The dust in there has gotten really out of hand and the floors needed to be mopped.  I'll think about options for hanging art and maybe come up with something eventually.  Hmm... maybe I should make some smaller pieces and frame them with protective glass?  It's an option as well as a really good excuse for creating more art.

Scrappy half squares

This is a reconstructed post of one of my pieced backward designs.  I originally worked this one out in probably 2000 or earlier?  I can't remember for sure.  A few years later I was asked to explain to some internet friends how it was done.  I wanted people to have a visual as well as a type-talked description.  I posted the photos in my webshots albums for easy viewing. I'm lucky I did that because I was able to use the photos from webshots to reconstruct the instructions here.

For this block I start with 24 pieces of scrap fabric which made 24 finished scrappy half square blocks.  Half of the fabrics were dark and half were light.  You can use a variety of different fabrics such as brights and pastels or batiks and solids or whatever.  Whichever combination you choose, just be sure there is good contrast between them.   If you want a really scrappy look it works best if no two fabrics are the same pattern.  .

From the scrap fabrics I cut 24 ten inch squares.  The size I used may not be the size you will choose.  Any size square will work.  I suggest you read through all the instructions before choosing your block size though.  Each cut will take away 1/2 inch of fabric when you sew it back together.  It's not a good idea to start with 3 inch squares unless you want a finished block of 1 1/2 X 1 1/2 inches.

Next you will pair up a light and a dark square right sides together.  Draw a line from one corner to the opposite corner.  Sew a quarter inch seam on both sides of that line. 

Cut the two halves apart..... right smack dab on that drawn line

Open these up and press the seam going toward the dark fabric.  Press it!  Press it! Press it!  I firmly believe in pressing (not ironing) a quilt block at each step.  Pressing in the right direction is important for this block to work.

Now, dividing these half squares by three, cut it into 3 equal strips like this.  Don't use the original measurement for dividing because you have lost 1/2 inch of the size when sewing the first seam.

Take the first strip off the top of the left stack and put it on the bottom.  Take two strips off the stack on the right and put those on the bottom.  This is what will give a scrappy look to the finished block.  Take the center stack and repress the seam going toward the light side.  Yes, it does sort of sound like extra work but it's worth it.  This will help reduce bulk at the intersection as well as help lock the seams together for sewing.

Now pin the strips together and sew them back together.   I usually work from left to right.  Sew the first two sets together then add the last set.  I chain piece for more speed in piecing.

When these are all sewn together they should look like this.  No, it really is not supposed to be an even diagonal line.   This offset is very important for the next step.  The offset should be 1/2 inch.  Press the seams you just sewed toward the center of the block.

Turn the blocks a quarter turn so you can cut through the center of the offsets.  Again, you will be cutting three equal sized strips by making sure you are in the center of each offset.  Can you see this in the photo?  Now take one off the left stack and place it on the bottom.  Remove two from the right stack and place those on the bottom.

Repress the seams of the center stack going toward the outside of the block.  After pressing the blocks the seams should look like this.  (I have these placed in the wrong order but the pressing is right)

Sew these back together and press the last two seams open or do a roseate press.  This reduces bulk at the intersections.  Machine quilters call the bulky intersections "fabric warts" when there is a great deal of fabric there.  Fabric warts can break quilting machine needles and will cause holes in the quilt before the machine stops sewing.  I pressed these seams open but I really prefer making the rosettes.

Your finished blocks should look like these and now you can play around with different placement patterns.   Aren't they sooo cute with all the small half squares?  And you worked so hard at piecing all those really small triangles together didn't you?  Shhh.... you don't need to tell anyone how easy it really was to make them.

Here's another placement possibility.

How about this one?  A scrappy flying geese design.

Hmm.... how about a scrappy Jacob's ladder design? 

This one looks like sail boats or flags.   Once you get the squares pieced, there are many different setting  possibilities.

I've made several of these since I made the first one.  I can't find all the photos but here is one I did with bright and cream color fabrics to show how one looks as finished.  If I ever find the photos of the finished red one I'll update this post.

My posts are printer friendly if you want to print these directions out and take them to your work area.  Just click on the print friendly button.  Let me know if something is not clear and I'll try to explain it better.

UPDATE:  I was at the nursing home visiting my mother yesterday and took this photo of the finished red quilt.  It has been washed several times.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lost posts

Several days ago someone asked me where on my blog they could find the post about how I do t-shirt quilts.  I started looking for that post and realized several of my quilting technique tutorials are not here.  It really had me wondering.... what the heck happened to those posts?  I know I wrote those post but where the heck are they?  I was getting frustrated and wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me.  A senior memory thing.

I started looking through photos and many blog posts on my two quilt related blogs.  I couldn't even find the right photos. Where the heck are they?   (In my mind I sounded like the tv commercial of the guy looking for his car.)  Right about then I started feeling like a really confused senior.  Maybe I might need to look into nursing home care for myself? DUH!  That's when I realized those posts were written before I had to get a new computer a few years ago.  My how time does fly!  The old one crashed and I lost all photos and posts stored on my computer.  That was back when I had dial up internet too.  In order to save time I wrote posts in MS word then copied and pasted them into blogger.  Blogger didn't have draft storage back when I was writing those posts.  Gosh... I've come a long way since then and so has blogger.  That clears up the mystery of knowing I did write the posts but now they are missing.

The whole reason I started this second blog was to publish my unique piecing techniques for toppers; to post my machine quilting tips for fellow machine quilters; and to help beginning professional machine quilters learn a few hints from an experienced person.  My other blog is supposed to be simply a day to day journal for my customers to see that I am working daily and to understand what's taking me so long to finish their quilt

Somewhere along the journey of this blog I started explaining how the day to day living can interfere with keeping on a very busy quilting schedule; but, with careful organizing the impact could be minimal.  I got more and more questions about how I live frugally and I answered with blog posts which changed the intent of this blog.  Gradually my original quilting technique posts were forgotten about and never rewritten. 

 I believe I can rewrite a few of the original quilting posts because I've found some of the pictures stored in other places like my webshots albums. 

I will reconstruct what posts I can and rewrite others.  Now that I'm semi-retired I don't have as much commission work coming in.  Some of the original posts can't be rewritten without taking new photos of each step.  Those will have to wait until I have commission quilts to make. 

Not long ago I also started writing links to posts on this blog and using the "pages" feature at the top.  I became busy with quilting work and have not had a chance to get back to that either.  I sure don't want to let that project fall victim to my senior memory.  I'm going to start writing more links on the pages a little at a time.  Maybe as I work with the link pages I'll find some of the technique posts I remember writing but just don't remember what I called them. 

I hope you enjoy the "backward pieced" designs as I get them remade and posted.  If any steps are unclear please let me know.  One of the backward pieced designs should be ready to post sometime tomorrow.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Art quilt done

 Special message to:  Nancy B. of Louisville.   I tried to reply to your email but it keeps bouncing back to me.  I don't know how to answer your quilting question unless I can get in touch with you.  Please email me your phone number or call any fabric store in this area to ask for mine.  They all know me.

Hmm.... I realized this morning that I can't show pictures of the two art quilts I'm finishing this week.  I'm not allowed as the owner doesn't want them put on the web yet.  I can only give a hint of what's involved with the quilting.  Lots of straight lines. 

I have the other one almost finished.  I should have it finished this morning.  That means I have almost the whole weekend to do some house cleaning or organizing..... OR quilt one of my own. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another finished

I had to work quickly on this one.  The original date for it to be finished was the 28th.  Due to an earlier retirement than expected; I was asked if I could complete it earlier.  So I used some of my quickest freehand techniques and got it done.  Done is good!  The owner picked it up already.

I did a flip flop feather design on the outside border and a ribbon design on the inside border.

Another view of the flip flop feather border.

This is the design on the corner blocks.

Same design on the setting triangles.

It's hard to see the leafy feather design on the star points.  Each triangle of the star got an individual leafy feather instead of one long feather.

So here's what they look like on the back.  The photo looks like the edge of the quilt but it's not.  The white fabric of the back's center didn't show up.

Here is how the center of the back looks.  These leafy feathers are in the center of the star.

I like how they appear to kiss even though I didn't plan it that way.

One other thing about this quilt is that I chose a contrasting thread.  NOT a good thing when speed quilting is required.  Contrasting thread will show up every tiny flaw in the quilting. Never the less, I chose a steel grey thread and just went for it.  My thinking was that the grey thread would look good on both the black & the white fabrics and I wouldn't need to change it half way through the quilting.  I was also thinking I really need practice using contrasting threads.  I don't do this technique often enough to get really good at it.  I would like to do more contrast thread work on some of my art quilts.

I have two more to finish right away.  "With luck" I'll get them both finished by tomorrow night. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Next one done

Have you been wondering where I am?  Well, it just happen that this week is full of quilts that must be done right away.  This is the first of 4.  This quilt just barely fit onto the machine.   It hangs way off the other end of the intake table. 

I did a leafy design on the sashing and line dancing on the pieced squares.

A closer look at the line dancing.

I did an alternating feather design on the border.  It's a feather on one side with curls on the other.  Then the design reverses with the feather on the other side.

I did curls on the inside border. 

Here's a look at the outside border design from the back.

Here is the inside border, the sashing, and some of the line dancing from the back.

Another look at the back.

Instead of sitting at the computer type-talking today, I'm headed back into the studio to work on the other three deadline quilts.