Monday, December 27, 2010


I got an awesome opportunity this past week, and I had to choose between giving myself a gift, or passing it along to you, my wonderful readers.  Honestly, it didn't take much thinking, because you all make this whole blogging thing worthwhile.

So without further ado...

You have a chance to win a $30 Gift Code for any CSN Online Store!!

Now, in my searching about while trying to decide if I'd keep this $30 Gift Code for myself or share it, I did some poking around, and I think I know where a good chunk of my tax refund is going ;)  I saw so many great offerings, but I really loved the modern décor that was available.

Check out my absolute favorite picks from my browsing this evening:

So - the nitty gritty, right?  I mean, who wouldn't want to pick up something so cute?

This one is simple!  Just leave me a comment that you've become a follower, or if you're already a follower, leave a comment to that effect.  However, this drawing is only open to my readers in the United States and Canada.  CSN only ships to the US and Canada.  So sorry to my international readers, but I promise, I won't exclude you next time around!

I'll close the drawing Sunday, January 2, 2011 at 10 a.m CST and have the winner drawn and posted the same day.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

To Fusible or Not To Fusible?

I keep an eye on a number of online quilting communities, and this blog post was referenced today, which is accompanied by a link to an article by by Janet Evenson & Patricia Cox Crews of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Now, I've never actually used any of the products mentioned in the article, but this is something I will definitely reference should I ever choose to make a more ambitious, art-type quilt.  However, there's a lot of good information about textiles in general here, things that we should all probably know if we're into making heirlooms.

Oh, and keep an eye out here...  I've a give-away starting on Monday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ready to Start Quilting

I spent an absurd amount of time pin-basting the Christmas Cactus Quilt top Wednesday night.  My knees are still not happy with me at the moment.

However, I'm super thrilled with myself.

I had stockpiled a couple of queen-sized battings this month while Joann's had their 80/20 batting on sale for 50%.  I used one of them for the CCQ top last night.

This means that 100% of this quilt will have been produced from my stash!!

Ok, so really, like, 99% because Thursday night I had to buy matching thread for quilting it.  I'm hoping to be able to get a start on it this weekend, but we'll see.  I'm off Christmas Day, but I think Zeb will want to spend time with the Momma he hasn't seen much of since the holiday season started in earnest.  Then I work Sunday through Friday.

I'm still debating the name for this quilt, though I am leaning toward Sandi's idea of including 'reflection' in the title somehow.

However, I am reminded ever so slightly, of the image that you see to the left, of that vibrantly colored orchid.

"Mutant Orchid Reflected"?

Too weird?

I think I like it. I'll have to mull over it for a day or two...

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Bit of Reflection

I pushed hard to finish the Christmas Cactus top, mostly because I wanted to have something finished (finally!) for Show and Tell, but also because I needed something to ground me after working so much each day.

Thankfully, in this last week before Christmas, my work schedule eases up a bit, if only in the number of hours worked each day.  This is because the number of orders to ship out start to dwindle, as transit times for packages become less negotiable.

Still, even as I sewed my brain into calming down each day, it was still awake enough to do some thinking...

I realized that I really need to just take my time and enjoy the journey while I'm piecing a top.  I find myself rushing a lot, and rushing causes mistakes.  So, even though I put some marathon sessions in on the top, I made a concentrated effort to drop the stitch speed and pay more attention to what I was doing.  This came hot on the heels of the realization that I wasn't maintaining an accurate 1/4" seam, most likely due to the speeding problem.

It's a marathon, not a race.

So, I slowed down and re-measured.  My seams were better, but not great.

Putting a well-pieced top together is comprised mainly of two things: accurate cutting and accurate piecing.

I took a look at how I cut, and couldn't spot any problems there (though I want to replace my rulers), so I went back to the sewing machine.  My problem: my quarter-inch foot.

Now, I love this foot...  That guide on the far right is great... in theory.  You just run the fabric against the inside of that guide.

It just seams (ha! I'm punny) to me that if you're accurately cutting, you're almost consigning yourself to using a scant quarter inch seam.  Several test blocks, lots of ironing and measuring later, that looked to be my solution.

However this foot isn't intended for scant quarter inch seams.  It's meant for regular ol' quarter inch seams.

I was not going to admit defeat and give up on this foot!  Realizing that I needed to move the guide just a bit in, I hunted for a thin piece of cardboard and cut it to size.  Then I wrapped a couple of layers of invisible tape around it and tested again.


So, now, between slowing down and the 'fixed' foot, I'm quite a bit more accurate.  It's kind of funny.  If you look closely at the detail shot of the upper right quadrant of my Christmas Cactus top, you can kind of see where I had my epiphany in how well the seams match up.  Or, maybe not, and I'm just sensitive to my mistakes, honing in on them like a heat-seeking missile.

*grins*  I love the eight pointed star that emerges at the center of this top when it's completed.  I didn't see it when i was referencing Sandi's images to piece the nine-patches, but I was very focused on the individual blocks.  Of course, that it's in screaming orange helps.

Oh, and hey...  This top needs a name.  Any suggestions?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Cactus Quilt Top... FINISHED

Pardon the general awfulness of the photograph.  I think Zebediah got fingerprints all over the left side of the camera lens.

However, crappy photo or not...

It's DONE!

This project has been such a sanity saver for me.  Sure, I'd been burning the candle at both ends to get this thing finished in time for Stitch N' Bitch, but it's done!  Ok, so I got the entire center pieced in time for Stitch N' Bitch, but didn't have time for the borders before we took a break for lunch and show and tell.

Even better, I'm actually really pleased with how it's turned out so far.  I have to decide on how I want to back this baby, and then I'm going to get started quilting it.

And you all will probably think I'm completely nuts...  I start my fabric selections with my border print, and then build around that.  You'll notice that the border print has no orange...

I put together the light blue polka dot, the chocolate polka dot, the white on white and that magenta, and said, "It's pretty, but boring."

It needed something more...


I am a big proponent of the 'zinger' fabric in most quilts.  Something to draw the eye and to help harmonize the rest of the top, while making a statement all its own.  That's what that orange print was:  something completely different, yet just what this top needed to be unique.

And yes, that is a design wall!!

Run, don't walk, to your nearest Joann's, and make sure you're armed with a 40% off coupon.  Fons and Porter have released a 68" X 72" design wall that has eight grommets at the top, and is printed with a two-inch grid all over the back.  The design wall is basically table cloth material.. shiny on one side, felted on the other.

It works perfectly!  I've had the Christmas Cactus Quilt Top on the design wall for a week with no drooping at all!

Even better?  The design wall is only $24.99.  It's also light enough to use those 3M Command Strip hooks with!  I'll be moving the design wall soon, preferably into my sewing room, but I'll settle for a wall that isn't around a corner that forces me to take photos of my tops at a weird angle.

However, that's a rearranging project that is going to wait until after the holidays.  I'm working straight through until Christmas, so I pretty much just want to come home, sew a little and then pass out.  I can't do that tonight though :(  Laundry calls, and I really need those clean clothes for work, and I'm already behind on this evening's events thanks to a marathon shopping expedition for the perfect outfit to wear on a date with the hubby.

I kid you not...  It took a full circuit of the depressingly crappy selection of stores in the Janesville mall for me to find a single outfit, and even then I bought the shirt last, from the store that I started shopping in.  *grumble*  At least I have a good pair of dressy pants now...

Anyway, I digress in an effort to avoid laundry, but I need clean socks...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Because It Wouldn't Get Out of My Brain...

I give you:

I was going to draw little cloven hooves, and even include a poor, hapless elf being dragged along in the hand not holding the pitchfork, but I ran out of space in my tiny little sketch pad (5"X7").

I know.  I'm a total whack job.

Merry Christmas, everyone ;)

Like the cartoon?  Oddly, I have several ideas for humorous, quilting oriented cartoons... I'm thinking I might add them to the weekly roster when the holidays are over.  Not now..  Egads, not now.  I headed into work at 7 in the morning, just like I did yesterd...  as I will probably be doing every day until the 25th if things keep up the way they are now (*sob*).  My paychecks are great, but I'm not having much of a life.  In fact, I can kiss days off goodbye the last two weeks before Christmas.  Stitch N' Bitch is sort of my last hurrah for the holiday season.  (So I'm making dessert, dammit!!)

On the upside, this is forcing me to diet...  I estimate that my daily caloric intake has dropped to 1000 calories per day.  I tend to skip breakfast, have a single microwave meal touting itself as 'lean' for lunch, and then one serving of whatever I make for dinner, and that portion is generally split between myself and Zebediah because he likes to steal from my plate eat with me.  I then have a bowl of cereal as a snack between dinner and bedtime.  Too bad I don't have this 'discipline' throughout the rest of the year.

Have I lost any weight?  Not a clue.  I don't own a scale!  However, my pants are significantly bigger and I have a waist again! Okay, let me rephrase that... There is once again a difference between my hips and lovehandles! Heehee \o/

In other news, I have completed Block 20 of the Christmas Cactus Quilt-Along.  I WILL have that top done in time for Show and Tell at Stitch and Bitch.  Between work, the kiddo and the sewing machine, I'm not seeing much of the outside world.

At least I'm sewing.  Thank goodness.  I think it's keeping my sanity together!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Food For Thought...

This is probably just a reflection of my current attitude toward the holiday, but I should probably be worried that every time I type the word 'Santa' when updating inventory for work, it actually comes out 'SATAN'.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Zebediah!

Today Zebediah, my little boy, turned three.

I gave birth to him three years ago today, at 11:50 PM.  He weight 7 pounds, 11 ounces.  His first act upon entering the world was to pee on all three of the nurses who were attending to him while I expelled the afterbirth and was stitched up.  I got to see him for all of thirty seconds that night - he had trouble transitioning and couldn't maintain his own body temperature.

I've never seen anything so beautiful in my life.

Things haven't been easy with him...

He was born with torticollis, which wasn't diagnosed right away.  Eventually, this led to Zeb having to wear a DOC Band to correct the flattened areas of his skull.

Wearing the DOC band has corrected his cranial flat spots for the most part.  I can still see it, but then I know what I'm looking for.  It also helped strengthen his shoulder and neck muscles, which helped to correct the torticollis.

Unfortunately, the torticollis and the DOC band weren't the end of my son's problems.  Last summer he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  He was seeing therapists several times a week to work on his gross motor, fine motor, and speech skills.  That ended last week, since that program ends with a child's third birthday.

We are extremely fortunate that there is another stepping stone for Zebediah: the Early Childhood Classes offered through the Janesville Public School System.  Due to the severity of his developmental lag - Zeb performs on the level of a 22-month-old in most skill groups, except for his cognitive skills - Zebediah qualified for this program.  The goal is to develop his physical and social skills so that he can function on the same level as children who have developed age appropriate skills in time for his entry into traditional kindergarden.

He attended his first day of school yesterday.  I missed out on being able to take him to school - I had to work.  Daddy got a couple of pictures for me though.  I've met his teacher, a wonderful caring woman, and all of the therapists he'll be working with in the Early Childhood Classes.  I'm so excited and happy for him.  The structure and extended personal attention can only help him further.

Today was another school day, but it was also an awesome birthday.  A friend of the family met us at Toys 'R' Us, and bought Zebediah several new additions to his Thomas the Train collection.  Zebediah is train-crazy at the moment, and is obsessed with Thomas and Friends!  Afterwards, Zeb got to play in the tubes at the McDonald's Play Area.  
Now, he's passed out next to me, bundled up in a quilt of mine.  I can't believe it's been three years!  And, you know, despite the difficulties we've had, I wouldn't trade them for anything.  Zebediah is who is he is, and I think he's an amazing child.  He's so friendly, caring, curious, and happy.  


I look forward to every birthday that I am privileged enough to share with you.

Because I'm Impatient...

I've finished through Block 10, and have all four quadrants sewn together.  I got through Eureka Season 3.5, then ran out of viewing material for the moment.  I was streaming Eureka via Netflix, watching it over the top of my sewing machine.  Netflix doesn't have Season 4 on streaming, so now I've got to figure out what I want to watch next, cause I've got squares coming out my ears, and I'm ready to piece Block 11.

I'm getting there.  Slowly but surely, I'm getting there.  I'd really like to have this ready for next Stitch N' Bitch, but with so many work hours through the holidays, who knows?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sewing at Last!!

After working 51.5 hours this week, with my first day off in nearly two weeks going to be Thanksgiving, I finally broke my no-sew streak.


I always forget how much sewing clears my mind and makes me feel better. It's so cathartic and freeing. I really need to remember to schedule some time each day to just do this.

Anyway, what did I break my no-sew-streak with? The Christmas Cactus Quilt Along! But not in either of the color ways I had originally decided on...

I know.  Pretty boring so far, right?  Just the brown and white...  But throw in some pink and orange.

Oh, but then there's a light blue fabric with brown micro dots!

Two days, four copies of six blocks.  I'm taking the tact of piecing my HSTs as I need to.  That's because I just KNOW that I'll end up missing a bunch.  But I do have a bunch of 2" and 3" squares stuffed in a baggie that I can pull out and sew when I'm ready to.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Missing a Sewing Day

My mother-in-law isn't feeling so hot today, so I'll be missing Stitch'N'Bitch today.  :(

So sad, 'cause I was looking forward to getting my sew on!

I decided on two color ways for Sandi's Christmas Cactus and I was hoping to get started cutting at least one of those today.  I still have birthday blocks to make, and I'd love to get started on a couple of other things too.

Ah, well.  I guess this gives me time to get my sewing room back in order.  Hubby did some rearranging in the apartment, and one of my bookshelves now resides in the living room.  I might have gained a cutting table out of the ordeal, but we'll see if it works out.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bamboo Fun

I know.  This one is a weird title.

Back when I thought that I could manage to get my degree in Graphic Design, work full-time, maintain a household, and be a mother, I bought a Wacom Bamboo tablet.

It's been sitting in a box, gathering dust pretty much ever since its purchase, because I dropped out of my classes shortly after it arrived.  At the time, something had to give or my brain was going to break.  Considering the state of the economy, and the likelihood that I would have just been putting us several thousand dollars in debt for basically nothing (other than my pride, just for having been able to get that degree), I'm mostly okay with the fact that I elected to put my degree on hold.

I'd still love to go and complete out a Bachelor's in Graphic Design, particular since I really, really loved the structure of online classes and I'm very drawn to the field.  I'm very much a self-starter, and work great under deadlines, but I'm not especially desirous of the actual, physical classroom.

But I digress.  Back to the Bamboo Tablet.

I started off posting for National Blog Posting Month (thanks, Karrie!).  Then I realized that I just didn't have that sort of "oomph", particularly since most of my writing is done late at night, just like my sewing.  THEN, characters and a plot for an original, high-fantasy novel hatched in my brain and began demanding attention.  So I joined NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again this year.  For those not familiar, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write a novel (technically a novella) of at least 50,000 words.

Last year, I failed NaNoWriMo because I got involved in several other writing projects and just didn't have the plot or characters nailed down.  This year, I've got the plot and a good number of the main characters figured out.  The problem?  This world is twisty and turny and full of subterfuge and hidden motives and deep end-games that are only revealing themselves as I meet the characters.

This led to me realizing that I needed an intense note taking session with lots of diagrams like this:

and timelines, and outlines, and lots and lots of family trees.

I grabbed my trusty little notebook and a pen and wrote one characters name down.  Then I looked at the page and went, "F---, I have big handwriting."  I'd be using up the entire notebook just to chart out one character and their development!

Then, like that stereotypical light bulb moment, the forgotten tablet rose in my mind.  Eureka!

We found it, with a minimum of searching.  We even found the pen that matches the tablet, and an appropriate cable to hook it up to my Netbook.  Now the problem is to find someone who vends AAAA batteries after nine in the evening in this city.  That's right.  QUADRUPLE A batteries.

I'm so screwed.  I know it.  I may yet be driven to take notes the old-fashioned way, but how amazingly cool would it be to be able to have all of my world-building notes in OneNote (which is proving to be an awesomely useful program for me), and right there on my Netbook??

Away I go.  I must put on pants that aren't my comfy and holey sweats and a bra, lest I be counted amongst the People of Walmart.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Psyching Up to Clean..

My sewing room is a disaster.  Thanks to not having done much sewing over the last couple of months, it's once again become a dumping ground.  The things that have come to live in here:
  • several plastic musical instruments for Rock Band
  • a booster seat for Zeb to eat at a table
  • the chair from a table/chair set for Zeb
  • a puppy dog costume that was too large for Zeb to wear this year
  • a bucket (why? I don't know!)
  • several toys (Thanks, Zeb)
  • a broom that is broken into two pieces
  • a pair of my husband's Converse shoes
  • some cardboard that never made it to the recycling bin
  • several reusable shopping bags

I can't take it.  I can't create in a setting like this.  Hell, I can't even cook if I have dirty dishes in the sink.  How can I make pretties when I keep looking around and thinking that my sewing room is a crying shame?  I have scraps all over the floor, because Zeb likes to roll in them, but why is so much of my stash living on the floor too?

I'd share pictures, but I'm so ashamed.  

Again, UGH.

I'll be back once I've restored order.

A Quilt Along!

My friend, Sandi, of Piecemeal Quilts, is doing a quilt along!  She's a great quilt designer, and she's offering up her Christmas Cactus Quilt through the end of the year.  Sandi will begin posting blocks on Saturday, and then do one per day!  The fabric requirements are here.

Join in on the fun!  If we follow along with Sandi, then we'll have a Christmas-themed top by the end of the month!  I haven't decided on fabrics yet, but I'm leaning toward purples, oranges, and aquas.  Big surprise, huh?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another Little Quilt Swap Round 5

KarrieLynne, of Freckled Whimsy, introduced me to Another Little Quilt Swap at one of our Stitch 'N' Bitch sessions.  She made a wonderful quilt for it, and got an equally wonderful quilt back.

A new round of ALQS is starting up, Round 5.  You can find the full rules here.  I'm personally attracted to ALQS because I'm pretty much guaranteed to get a quilt that I love.  

While I enjoy the process of producing a quilt for a swap, I often end up feeling like I put way too much effort into the product than I've sent out, particularly when I've gotten my squishie in the mail.  I'm not knocking anyone's talent - this is mostly my fault.  I keep under-estimating my level of expertise and willingness to try new techniques, and almost always list myself as an intermediate quilter.  This means that I send out quilts that take upwards of 40-60 hours, and get fairly simple quilts back. They're sweet and I appreciate the effort that went into them, but I always feel like I shouldn't have tried so hard...  Not to mention, they're almost always not my taste...  (The exception to this was my quilt from the Modify Tradition swap - far and away my favorite swap quilt.)

Well, anyway, ALQS promises to circumvent that disappointment.  If I manage to participate, I'll get to submit a list of my top 10 to 12 choices.  This means that I'll get something that I like, no matter what.  Also, this round will allow each participant to produce two quilts.

I'm excited!  Super excited!


This round of ALQS is limiting the size of the mini-quilts to that of a standard size sheet of paper in your country of origin.  I've never made a quilt that small, and I'm seriously tempted to challenge myself to two! I have ideas, and have begun searching for base images to work off of.  One idea is to take an extreme close-up of a flower, and abstract it.  The other idea is to paper piece a human figure.

I'm very sure about doing the close-up of a flower, but I'm not so sure about doing a portrait in fabric.  That's pretty intense, and I'm going to be stupid busy through the end of the year.  Admittedly, I'll have until January 31 to get something done, but...

Anyway, join in on the fun!

Halloween Hilarity

Be warned...  The second video is long.  The first one clocks in at 4:45, but the second comes in at 13:02.

I know I just posted about being very done with the holiday season already...  Well, I'm determined not to give up (just yet anyway).  I want my son to get a chance to enjoy the holidays, and that pretty much means that I have to be in the spirit, since Zebediah is a mama's boy, through and through.

Well, to that end, I decided that carving a pumpkin would be a great introduction to Halloween.  I mean, you've got to have a Jack O'Lantern, right?

This was only the beginning... I really, honestly thought Zeb would be thoroughly disgusted by the idea of having pumpkin guts all over his hands.  He's very particular about gooey stuff on his hands, so much so that he refuses to finger paint or to use Play-Doh.

All I have to say, is thank goodness I put down that old bed sheet before starting the process!  As it was, I had to clean pumpkin membrane and seeds off of the cabinets directly behind Zeb.  He kept losing grip on the stuff as he brought his hand back to fling the pumpkin goop at me.  I'm also very glad I stripped him down to the diaper before starting this endeavor.  He went straight from pumpkin flinging to the bathtub.

We never did end up carving the pumpkin...  I started drawing in the cutting lines on the pumpkin, and Zeb decided he wanted in on the act.  So, he took the Sharpie and began drawing on the pumpkin.  My response to this was, "Do you want to paint the pumpkin instead, Zeb?"

His response was an enthusiastic "Ya!"

So, we got out the paints, and started painting the pumpkin.  Things sort of... degenerated from there.  Long story short, Zeb and I ended up painting only one-third of the pumpkin, but 75% of the kitchen floor (yay linoleum!).  There are pictures of this, but they're on the other memory card apparently, and I'm much too warm and comfortable to budge out of my cocoon on the couch.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Holiday Humdrum

Ugh.  I can't wait for the holidays to be over.

I know!  I know!  It's not even November.  Heck, it's not even Halloween!

But I can't wait.

You see, I work in retail.  This means that since the beginning of October, I've been working 45 or more hours a week.  Which, if it would stay that way, I might be okay.  But now, we're opening up a satellite location in the mall, and my job duties just keep expanding.  I think I'll be lucky if I work less than 50 hours a week in November, and I won't be surprised by 60 hour work weeks in December.


And people wonder why I get so down about the holidays.  The extra pay is nice, but I don't really get to enjoy it.  It's all going toward getting a little bit ahead on the bills, and then Christmas gifts for those nearest and dearest to me.

I haven't even been in my sewing room since packing for my Stitch 'n' Bitch in early October.  *sighs*  I just want to lock myself in with my stash and get some progress made.  I only have two people left to make blocks for the Birthday Block Swap, and then I'm done with that for the year.  And I would love to quilt my baskets top.

I guess what makes it harder for me, is that Zeb turns three at the end of November, and this is the first year that he's going to really 'get' the holidays.  He's dressing up for Halloween, seeing Grandpa for the first time this year over Thanksgiving (if things work out well), and will finally understand what those pretty packages under the tree are for.

I want to be excited about the holidays, but I can't work up the energy.  Who came up with the bright idea to pack three major holidays into the last quarter of the year?!?

So anyway, obviously blogging has taken a back seat, since I haven't done any sewing.  Maybe I can sneak some in tonight.  We'll see how Zeb is...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Exuberant Winner! (and other stuff)

I am so sorry for the delay in posting this!  My desktop computer has decided to die, a horrible, slow death, and then I lost internet for a few hours today.  And, of course, I got focused on cleaning.  My carpet is steamed, and Zeb's toys are all put away.

Anyway...  The random number generator gave me this:

...which means that the winning comment was:

Congratulations, Brooke!  And to answer your question, this is actually a fairly easy quilt to make.  The curves are very gentle, so it's just a matter of finding your centers (easy with the notches from you GO! die) and taking your time.  Keep your eye on this blog.  Somewhere in the last couple of weeks in January, I'll be starting a Double Wedding Ring Quilt-Along.  

E-mail me at gyrmalcyn [dot] go [dot] pop {at} gmail [dot] com with your shipping information, and I'll get this quilt by the end of the week.  I still have to wash and photograph the final product, but I should be doing that tomorrow evening.

Actually, working on finishing up the binding was part of my Friday Night Sew-in project.  I did a lot of "unsewing" taking the binding off, and then figuring out where I'd gone wrong.  

And, for those of you who are curious, the batik that was used just once:

Now, I'm absolutely psyched to see that I've reached 89 followers (for whatever reason, Blogger keeps showing one more than I actually have)!  So, I plan on celebrating when I reach 100, so spread the word.

When I get to 100, I'll be giving away my Mary's Fan quilt top, and the fabric I'd planned on using for the binding:

This top measures 92" X 92", and contains 384 fabrics in the fan blades.  Yes, that means that each fan blade is unique.  

I had a lot of fun making this top, but I'm not in love with it anymore, and it's so not my style anymore.  My tastes have changed so much in the two or three years since putting the last stitch in.  I'd much rather that this top go to someone who will give it the love it deserves.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sharing Some Science Geekiness

I'm a total dweeb.  I love science.  I love learning more about the world around us.  I love even more when the scientists doing the research can articulate their own love of learning and science with an eloquence rivaling poets'.

An incredibly talented gentleman by the name of John Boswell is heading up a project called Symphony of Science.  I strongly encourage you to investigate the website and watch the rest of the videos.  And be sure to read the lyrics, especially if, like me, you're a little hard of hearing and the auto-tuned voices make distinguishing individuals words difficult.

However, for now, I'll leave you with a little bit of inspiration:

If you are here for my Fall into Fall Give-away, click here to see the give-away post. I will be locking the post to comments at 12 AM CST, so be sure to get your entries in!  

Speaking of give-aways, be sure to check out Alderwood Quilts for Sue's GO! Giveaway.  Sue is giving folks FOUR chances to enter, and it doesn't end until November 1st.  GO! Enter!!

Think Modern Thursday #7 - The Square Family Reunion.

And I'm finally back with Think Modern Thursday!  And I'm even trying to work ahead and get next week's TMT ready to go.  Oi vey...  I've been working too much.  As I typed TMT, I wanted to type TMNT, which is the acronym for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I typed several times today while updating our inventory system.

But anyway!  I'm caffeinated and ready to go!

This week I bring you The Square Family Reunion by Linda Miller.  Check out her flickr!  Linda is awesomely prolific and has tried several different techniques and styles.  One of her tops, Pure Color, has even warmed my opinion on the whole Stack'N'Whack thing.  But that's a top for another discussion!  For a more in depth look at Linda's body of work, check out her web page.

T-The Square Family Reunion
Linda said, "I always enjoy making the boxes - scrappy ones are really fun! The name came from the fact that the little boxes, which finish at two and a half inches, made me think of a bunch of little kids running around:) For the other boxes, I just made up sizes that would work with the little boxes and also that used the sizes of strips and squares that I have."

I love the way this went together!  It's actually serving as the inspiration for the backing for one of my quilts.  I like that there's a huge variety of prints, and that not all of them are 'modern'.  It's the fearless throwing together of so many prints that really wins this one over for me, since I started my quilting life as a scrap quilter.

And you know what I thought of first when I saw the preview image for this top? 

Klimt.  Gustav Klimt. 
Do you see it?

The incredible, and deceptive, texture Klimt gave to his textiles by using repeated, slightly warped geometric shapes?  

Are you getting the sense of motion?  That the subject could move off the canvas at any moment?

That's what I felt when I saw The Square Family Reunion for the first time.  Like the squares could dance right out of their border, and do so gleefully.  While Linda's squares aren't warped, they have a delightful sense of movement to them.

Tee-hee.  It's a square dance.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WTF Wednesday #4 - WTF Happened to My Sewing Mojo?!?

WTF Wednesday is my day to sound off on the various things that irk me.  I try to keep these quilting-related, since this is a quilting blog.  These are my opinions and I don't expect anyone else to share them, or even agree with them.  This is my day to turn my internal censors off, and just vent.  

Having said this, this Wednesday I get to poke fun at myself.

Work life has started to intrude on real life, and my sewing time.

It shows.  Oh, dear god, does it ever show.

Unfortunately, it's not just a general lack of time.  Working between 40 and 50 hours a week means I basically get to come home, make dinner, and keep the kiddo entertained until bedtime.  Normally, I'd spend the hours between 11 P.M. and 2 A.M. (after getting Zebediah to finally pass out somewhere around 10 P.M.) sewing myself to sleep.  Right now, with my work hours so extended, I'm lucky to not just fall asleep with Zeb, so I'm missing out on two to four hours of sewing time.

Anyway, yeah, not just the general lack of time.

Apparently, I'm just doomed to fail right now.

Thank goodness I'm not trying to do anything more complicated than put together some blocks for the birthday block swap.

Or not.  *facepalm*  This was supposed to be a simple Crown of Thorns block, with some differences in color for some variation.

What on earth was I doing??  That photo...  That was after "unsewing" three times and fixing errors in placement.

Not kidding.

I totally thought the block was done, and was getting ready to give it to Sandi to include in a hug quilt for a dear friend.  Then I looked at it again.  I actually did a double take.  *sigh*  I am clearly not meant to chain piece and chat at the same time.

This was the worst offender.  The Sawblades blocks I made the other day (and have yet to show off) suffered from similar problems.   Soon, I have to make Spinner blocks.  I shudder to think about the damage I can do to such simple blocks.

If I wasn't such an addict, I might actually think about quitting.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Catching Up

Life has a been a little on the hectic side.  Work just slide into the "OMG! HOLIDAYS ARE A-COMING!!!"-phase, and I am now working between 40 and 50 hours a week.  I haven't seen much of my sewing machine, which bites hard.

On that note, I have read all of the lovely comments everyone has left on my give-away post.  Thank you all so much!  I'd respond to all of them, if I could find that thing called 'time' again.

I promise, however, that I will be getting back with the program.  WTF Wednesday and Think Modern Thursday should make their reappearances this week.  I'm looking forward to it :)

I'm also looking forward to the new year already.  I know, I know!  We're not even done with Christmas yet.  Well, okay, the rest of you aren't.  Working retail has burned me out on the last quarter of the year, so I'm finding things to keep me upbeat and looking forward to having my life back.

For those of you who stick with me through the holidays, I'll be adding new content toward the end of January.  I'll be beginning a new weekly segment called "Skill Building Saturdays".  My goal there is to help newer quilters tackle all aspects of quilting, from color and fabric selection to quilting to bias binding.  Also, I'm planning a Double Wedding Ring Quilt-Along for this blog.  And, for those of you who love traditional quilts, I'm planning on tackling a Dear Jane quilt with a couple of real life friends.  I've already decided to call mine "Jane's Walk on the Wild Side" and to use super-bright, modern prints.

The biggest news, quilting-wise, in my life at the moment is that there is a new branch of the Modern Quilt Guild, the Rock River Modern Quilt Guild.  It's being co-organized by myself, Sandi of Piecemeal Quilts and Karrie of Freckled Whimsy.  Feel free to click on over and join us at our new online meeting place.  Currently, the plan is to keep things very informal, and dues-free until the group reaches a point that it's necessary.  The point of the whole thing is to build a community and have fun.  We've already scheduled our first, "formal" meeting for November 6, at 2 P.M.  We'd love to see you if Janesville, WI, is a reasonable drive for you, and don't forget to bring something for Show and Tell!

That does it for today...  I'm going to take advantage of Zebediah being with Grandma for the night and finish up at least one quilt block today.  I'll be super happy if I can get the pieces cut for another two, but I know better than to expect too much.  I gave up a day off today, and worked my (not-so) little tush off to get us a little more caught up at work, so I'm pretty beat.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

#100 - It's Give-Away Time!!

(This would have been up first thing this morning, but I failed at finding my camera, and then failed at finding the memory card for it.  Hubby had it, of course.  So then, I had to borrow a memory card from my mother-in-law.  Anyway..)


I made it!


And I didn't even have to come up with filler content.  Who knew I was so verbose?  (Well, maybe my husband, lol!)

To commemorate the occasion, I've spruced up my blog.  You guys can finally see the logo that's been decorating my buttons.  In addition, there's a give-away!

Drumroll, please...

You, yes, YOU, have the chance to win this mini-quilt made by yours truly.  I call it "Exuberance".

A close-up of the metallic thread quilting:

I love it!  I loved it back when I came up with the idea, and started buying fabrics over a year ago.  I'm still collecting batiks, actually, because I want to do a bed-sized one for myself, just without the metallic thread.  Methinks that would be a little scratchy for sleeping.

But I digress, again.  I'm good at that.

This is the classic and ever popular Double Wedding Ring, done up almost entirely in batiks.  The solid is Kona Charcoal.  I've quilted it with a combination of black silk thread and a multicolored metallic.  It will all be done on my trusty Bessie, a Brother PC-210.

I'm attempting my first pieced binding, as you can see from the pictures.  I promise, I will totally have this done by the time I send this off to the lucky winner.  (Another batch of firsts for me:  first use of  metallic thread, first use of silk thread, first double layer of batting, first pieced binding, first give-away...)  Work kept getting in the way of my self-imposed deadline... Darn that having to pay the bills thing!

A small warning for those of you wanting to win this quilt...  If you are allergic to cats, you may want to reconsider entering.  I have three cats, and, well, they're magnetically attracted to my quilts.  I will wash this quilt, and once done with being photographed, it will be put into a large Ziploc bag.  Still, I feel I should warn you.

You have several ways to enter:

1.) Become a follower of my blog, and leave a comment.  For the purposes of this contest, adding me to your Google reader does not count.  Use the Followers widget in the sidebar on the right.

2.) If you are already a follower, leave a comment to that effect.

3.) Blog about this give-away on your own blog, and leave a comment with a link to your post about it.

4.) Post about this give-away on your facebook page, and leave a comment with a link to it.

5.) Put my blog in your blogroll or blog list on your sidebar, and leave a comment linking to your blog.

6.) And for a bit of impishness on my part, your last chance for an entry is to email me privately at greycatgiveaways [at] hotmail [dot] com, and tell me which batik was used a grand total of ONCE in the top of this mini-quilt.  Leave a comment saying that you've e-mailed me.  (This one I will be verifying against my e-mail account, so be sure to use the same e-mail address linked to your comment.)

Here are pictures of each individual quadrant, to give everyone a fighting chance at finding that one batik:

That's five chances to enter!  FIVE!  Please ensure that each entry is a separate comment.  I'll be choosing a winner via random number generator, so if you follow that simple guideline, you'll have a better chance at winning.  (**DISCLAIMER -  Due to the manner in which blogger displays comments, which is 200 to a page, the coding for the numbering system restarts the numbering with each page.  So, if your comment is on page 2, add 200 to the number shown by your comment, or 400 if you're on page three, and so on and so forth.)

Here's a picture of my son giving the quilt the sweetheart seal of approval before it's even done:

I will be posting the winner on October 15, 2010, along with the rest of the bloggers participating in the Fall into Fall Quilter's Blog Give-Away.  I will give the winner one week to contact me with their mailing information.  If contact is not made, a new winner will be selected via random number generator, and the cycle will begin anew.

And, just to share a little something else...  Today is my husband's and my sixth wedding anniversary.  That's right.  Six years ago today, the poor man got stuck with me permanently.  I love you, JohnPaul, and I look forward to many more anniversaries to come!


Anyway...  The random number generator gave me this:

...which means that the winning comment was:
Congratulations, Brooke!  And to answer your question, this actually a fairly easy quilt to make.  The curves are actually very gentle, so it's just a matter of finding your centers (easy with the notches from you GO! die) and taking your time.  Keep your eye on this blog.  Somewhere in the last couple of weeks in January, I'll be starting a Double Wedding Ring Quilt-Along.  

E-mail me at gyrmalcyn [dot] go [go] pop {at} gmail [dot] com with your shipping information, and I'll get this quilt by the end of the week.  I still have to wash and photograph the final product, but I should be doing that tomorrow evening.

Actually, working on finishing up the binding was part of my Friday Night Sew-in project.  I did a lot of "unsewing" taking the binding off, and then figuring out where I'd gone wrong.  

And, for those of you who are curious, the batik that was used just once:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WTF Wednesday #3 - There's Seriously a Pattern for THAT??

As I wander through various quilting stores and different quilting-related websites, I am constantly amazed at the sheer number of patterns out there for quilts.

I am further amazed by the number of patterns that make me exclaim, "They seriously bothered to write up a pattern for this?!?"

Now, I'm not adverse to patterns.  I've actually purchased a grand total of two, and they were appliqué patterns.  I simply don't have the ability to draw a smooth line to end up with a nice looking templates that niche nicely together to create a cohesive image.

However, as a quilter who knows how to plan out my quilts, and can do basic math, I'm horrified by some of the patterns out there!  Worst of all, it's not just free patterns that probably didn't need a write-up, but there are folks making money on this stuff.

And, yes, I am totally aware that there are individuals out there who would prefer to simply pick up a pattern, and not have to think about what their quilt will look like at the end.  Seriously, though?  Why are there instructions for this??

To the right is a freebie from Fat Quarter Shop.  Baby Four Patch Free Crib Quilt Pattern  Yeah, it's free.  But really?  It's a bunch of four patch squares mixed with squares of an equal size into larger four patch units, with the orientation of the squares alternating by rows.

Not hard, and easily worked out just by looking at this a little more closely.  And why go with a pattern at all?  Once you've seen the basic breakdown of this pattern, it's so simple to make this one a cute, scrappy quilt and make it as large or small as you want.

To the left is another freebie, this time from Amy Butler.  Nora's Mid Mod 2 Quilt

Another one that's not hard to work out, sans pattern.  The pieced strips are just a variation on Stacked Coins, or Chinese Coins as I always think of them...  Each piece is a different width, but they're all the same height.

Pair with stripes of solid that are the same height and length, and, bam!, super simple utility quilt.  I'd personally go with fabrics that stand out from the solid more, go with some contrast, but easy peasy.

Now, lest you think I'm picking fun only at the free patterns:  Denyse Schmidt's Stacking the Odds.  Purchasable all over the net, and possibly at your LQS.

Done with Schmidt's usual flair for the off-kilter, the pattern's description even baldly admits that it draws from Chinese Coins:
"Denyse Schmidt Quilts Stacking The Odds Pattern- Fresh, modern, and yet timeless, this quilt's inspiration is drawn from Chinese Coin quilts."

She just cut them at slight angles, made sure that no seams directly matched up and slapped some wide, white borders on it and called it a day.  Average cost for this one?  About $15.

You know what?  I'd rather buy the two yards of fabric that I could get with that $15.

These next two, you can get directly from Elizabeth Hartman herself.  Elizabeth is the Elizabeth of Oh, Fransson! fame.

I haven't purchased either of these patterns, so I don't know what else is included in the "More Simple Modern Baby Quilts" pattern bundle, other than the one pictured.  But really, it's just framed squares.  That's it.

Pick a size for your center square - heck, use your favorite square ruler to cut around, add borders, and be done with it.

Mixtape Quilts II actually caught my eye, and made me think, for a moment, that I might actually buy this one.  It's cute, has a lot of solid sashing, and is really colorful.

Unfortunately, it's a just variation of rail fence quilts.  That basic block is just comprised of strips of varying widths cut into equal-sized squares and then sashed.  For me, this would be another scrap buster.

Cute, but not worth the $10 price tag for either of them.

So, thanks, folks, for taking the time to write up directions.  Me?  I'll be sticking with my trusty graph paper and colored pencils, if I even bothered to break them out for a quilt top like this..  Heck, if I feel the need to be super techy about it, I'll re-install EQ5, or even just draw it up in Photoshop.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Knee Issues... And an Apology

I have to apologize for the delay of this week's edition of Think Modern Thursday...

I worked open to close on Wednesday, which is when I would normally write this segment, so that I can hit the "post" button just a few minutes after midnight, so that it's ready as soon as it's actually Thursday.

Well, this past Wednesday, I did... something to my left knee.  Now, I've had knee problems since playing tennis in high school.  But whatever I did Wednesday night, which was no different from any other work day, stressed my knee out.

A lot.

By the time we were done picking up a friend at the mall, my knee did not want to support my weight.  I spent the evening keeping my knee elevated and resting.  It didn't hurt, just ached dully.

When I woke up Thursday, the whole middle of my leg encompassing the knee and about four inches above and below it, were freakily numb.  I persevered, though, put on my knee brace and went to work.

My knee buckled every fifteen to twenty minutes as I worked.  I kid you not.  I finally got worried enough that I left work early, and headed to Dean Urgent Care to have someone take a look-see.

One exam and three x-rays later, I still don't know anything.  The PA who examined me noted the buckling, could actually feel something popping when she maneuvered my leg around.  However, she said the x-rays looked fine.  Yet, she gave me a referral for orthopedics, and I have an appointment on Tuesday morning to see what is actually up.


So anyway, that's why Think Modern Thursday #7 is late.  I know what I want to post, but I think I'll leave it until next week.  That way I have a little wiggle room before post #100 comes up.

Meanwhile, I'm working another open to close today.  (My poor knee!) A fellow employee had a tooth pulled, so isn't really able to effectively communicate, which is kind of a necessity in the retail world.  Thank goodness, I thought ahead and wore my brace today, because I'm feeling the strain.  Hopefully this weekend will be a little more restful.

So, again...  I'm sorry about missing this week's Think Modern Thursday.  I'll be back on the horse next week!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WTF Wednesday #2 - Material Obsession

Way, way back in July of 2009 I posted about wanting to pick up Material Obsession.  Well, I did, eventually, and it's been sitting on my shelf for about six months.  I took a brief look at the pictures, and put it back down.  This happened several times.

This past weekend, I actually sat down and gave it a good look through.

I really, really wish I hadn't purchased it.

First of all, six of the twenty-three quilts in it were so basic in their construction, that I seriously questioned their inclusion in a book.  Those six quilts would be Avalon, Gypsy Squares, Candy Store, Corner Store, Three Ring Circus, Ginger Snap.  

Avalon is probably the worst offender of the bunch.  It's just a bunch of 18" X 18" squares with a 3" sashing between them.  I really didn't need two pages of instructions, along with drawings showing me construction sequence.  Sure, the fabric is pretty, but this would have held a lot more visual interest if they'd just sewn sashing onto the fat quarters the authors would have the reader start off with.

And then there's Gyspy Squares.  Comprised only of 8" squares (finished), I couldn't believe its inclusion in a book touting "Modern Quilts with Traditional Roots".  What on earth is modern about this quilt?  It's as basic a utility quilt as you can get, and the fabrics aren't particularly modern.

Actually, I could say that for a large number the quilts in this books.  I was not especially struck by any of the fabric selections.  In fact, I found myself more and more irritated by the constant use of busy prints as background fabrics, when a solid would have been far more visually effective.  Furthermore, most of the fabrics were pretty hum-drum, and looked more like '30s reproduction prints than modern prints.

I was irked that the templates and the construction guides were hand-drawn.  It was probably done to make everything feel more approachable, but it feels condescending to me.  I'm quite sure that the majority of people who bought this book were already comfortable with quilting, and didn't need that faux touchy-feely addition.

And, I know this makes me the lone nut in a box of bolts, but I really dislike styled photos of quilts.  I much prefer the head-on images of full quilts, rather than those of quilts artfully draped here and there.  While Material Obsession includes the former, there are far too many of the latter.  And honestly, I just don't care how pretty a quilt looks against the backdrop of the Australian landscape, as beautiful as it is.  If I want to see the Australian landscape, I'll get a book on the Australian landscape.

Then I hit the end of the book... Twenty-one pages dedicated to a "Quilting Basics" section.  Which wouldn't have really bothered me so much, but I'm just really tired of these sections in books.  There are several, better, whole books dedicated that exact subject that contain a lot more detail and and answer more questions than these sections that get tacked on to a book's end to plump up the page count.

I want to say that I'm done buying quilting books entirely, but there have got to be some gems out there.