Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Surely God Must Have Laughed!

This morning brought snow with it!  A beautiful dousing right after dawn that covered my porch with a light blanket of fresh white.  Our cars, the driveway - all a pristine white, marred only by doggie paw prints and hubby's boot prints. 

We both got ready for work, even though hubby's commute is almost an hour, across the mountains, and mine is about 30 minutes.  We were honor bound to go ahead and prepare for the day.  After all, who knew if the snow would last or not.  Here in Georgia the snow can be inches deep and then disappear just as quickly as it arrived. 

And then, joy of joys!  Work was delayed for two hours.  An extra cup of coffee while surfing the web!  I decided that I needed to look at shoes - did I really say that when fabric is the only thing worth surfing the web for these days?  Well, yes.  I looked at Amazon, Zappos, Famous Footwear - it was glorious!  I put shoes into my shopping cart for at least an hour and then decided that I really had better start getting ready for work.  But it really was a luxurious start to the morning.

I dressed, put on my face, gathered my things together and walked out into the kitchen.  Having already had a second cup of coffee, I decided that I really didn't need to fill my travel mug.  And since lately I've been using one of my favorite pottery mugs as the travel mug of choice, it would be much safer on my counter than being transported through the doggie minefield that is my front porch and walkway, where I waltz with Lacy every morning while trying not to fall or spill my coffee.  So I turned the coffee pot off and prepared myself to go out into the snow.

Imagine my shock when I looked out and realized that it had started raining and that beautiful pristine snow on my porch was now a slushy mess!  A slick, slushy mess that had to be crossed while battling 100 pounds of leaping, nipping, pushing, smelly, wet Great Dane.  That's when I realized that God truly does have a sense of humor. 

He's been watching me in the evenings, as I waltz down the road with Lacy on my back, gyrating to the beat of a band only that goofy dog hears.  I imagine Him smiling while I'm waving my arms wildly, trying to keep her big nose out of my treat pocket, losing my balance and wobbling all over the place as she pushes and shoves, intent on getting her way yet again.  So He must have REALLY been laughing at the sight of me standing there in my kitchen, staring in horror at that wet wintery mess I had to walk through to get to my car and trying to figure out how in the world it could be done without falling down and getting soaked.

I looked out the windows to the driveway - no sight of Lacy or her smaller sidekick, Zoey.  They weren't on the porch either.  Had they followed the school bus up the mountain?  I hadn't heard it go by and surely school was cancelled for the day or delayed.  Were they in the front yard slipping and sliding in the snow and having a great time?  Or had they gone out to my cousin's for breakfast since her husband loves to feed them? 

And here's where I figure God began howling with laughter.  I started wondering if I could sneak out of the house and make it to the car before the doggies realized I was OUTSIDE.  Surely God and all His angels must have been holding their sides at the sight of me when I left the house.  Purse and umbrella tucked close, I very quickly shot out the door and duck walked as carefully and quickly as I could across the porch and up the walkway; carefully but rapidly went up the two flights of steps, clinging to the railing.  I paused at the landing, looking both ways for signs of the thundering herd, and seeing nothing, quick-walked through the slush in the driveway to the car.  What a huge sense of accomplishment when I made it to the car without a single nudge, shove, lick, nibble, or slap on the back!  Could it be?  Would I actually make it into the car quickly and cleanly?  Hurry!  Hurry!  I opened the door and then managed to fumble throwing my purse and umbrella into the passenger seat.  They landed in my seat instead and I had to start over.  Panic set in and I couldn't get into the seat. 

My legs wouldn't work.  Could I remember how to sit down?  My brain stopped working.  And then...I KNEW I could hear Lacy running down the driveway.  Looked over my shoulder - nothing was there.  Could she be that sneaky?  Could she actually run without making a sound?  Could I get in the car and get the door closed before she pounced on me?  Was I fixing to get a lapful of wet dog?Would she get hit by the door?  I looked behind me again.  Still no dogs.  I was going to make a quick and righteous exit!  It was going to happen!  I dove into that car and slammed the door like my life depended on it.  Cranked it up, let my windshield wipers knock the snow off, and turned the car around, headed down the driveway and off to work. 

And that's when I knew that God really DOES have a sense of humor, because I could swear I heard Him laughing!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Living with Lacy

What's pudgy, irritated but almost laughing, and pressed up against the front door every morning?  ME!  Clutching my purse and cup of coffee, yelling "Settle, Lacy, Settle!" just before being joyously run into and jumped on by an almost 100 pound Great Dane!

One of our son's friends somehow managed to gift us with a year-old Great Dane who has had absolutely no training what-so-ever.  And of course I oh so willingly gave my heart away to this huge, overgrown, smelly, jumping bag of doggie drool and pungent halitosis without really considering just what I was taking on.  What else is new, huh?  Now DS and BFF have moved away to a haven of post-teen apartment living, no curfews, and no noise limitations, leaving me and Hubby with this overgrown baby that doesn't know the meaning of less is more.  But seriously, who couldn't love this huge face - at least when it isn't at eye-level?

We're on a training regime, but I'm not really sure who is actually getting trained here.  We've got "Touch," "Eyes on Me," and the clicker sound down really pat.  This is a smart dog, mind you.  She can show you just where the UPS man left the packages, guards me against the cat and roaming dogs by pushing me into something and holding me there with her body until the threat is gone, and knows if I'm sick.  Why oh Why won't she learn "Settle?"

One thing that I am totally certain of is the fact that we are the evening entertainment for the entire valley, me hollering, "Settle," and Lacy planting her front paws firmly in the middle of my shoulderblades, and the two of us dancing around the porch or down the road while I try to dislodge her from my back.  It's no wonder the chiropracter can't keep me in adjustment!  Watching me try to walk down the road with this dog must be like watching someone with some strange uncontrollable illenss - my arms flail around as I try to keep them from being nipped, I'm being pushed and shoved and jumped on, and I'm twisting and gyrating around, all the while attempting to keep walking forward, but basically we cover no great distances at all on these walks!  And we haven't even BEGUN leash training yet!  It will be like being put on one of those torturous stretching machines with me being drug from pillar to post all over the mountain! 

How do they make it look so easy on the dog training shows?  A few gentle words, a few treats, and Fido is behaving as if he's been an A+ training student all his life.  And all within 30 minutes, I might add. 

Tonight we worked on all of our commands and things went fairly well.  Meaning I didn't come back in the house bleeding.  (I say this pseudo tongue in cheek!).  But I smell, I've got slobber all over my hands, I'm cold cuz I've been out there for what seems like forever, trapped on the road that goes past my house by this huge dog because she knows if I get to the porch, I'm retreating into the house and the fun is over.  We met the neighbor and behaved very well, which pleased me, until she got bored with the human noises.  Then it was time to jump some more cuz she REALLY like this dancing thing! 

I've worked the "Lacy, Come!" command in on our severly disjointed walks and she is actually doing very well with that one.  She calmly walks back to me to get a treat.  Good thing, because there is no safety in being out in the open - nothing to flatten up against in preparation for being squashed with love!  She's getting better at "Follow" but my fingers are experiencing extreme distress from being nibbled.

This business of being owned by a huge dog is sometimes not all it's cracked up to be!  But then there are the OTHER times.  Like when DS moved out and I went out on the porch and hugged a Great Dane while I cried.  Or when Hubby had to let her in after I got sick, to show her that I was ok.  She checked out the entire length of my body while I was lying on the couch by snuffling all over me, then laid down in the floor beside the couch.  And how could one fail to mention that she is so smart that when she wants a treat that she KNOWS is in your pocket, she goes instead for the other pocket where the clicker resides, clicks it, and then gives you "THE LOOK" that says, "Ok, there's the noise.  Now where's my treat?"

Probably by this time next year she will be a very well-behaved middle-schooler.  I on the other hand, may never get to go to work with a clean outfit ever again!  Paw prints on my shoulders and drool marks on the hems of my blouses are the norm these days, along with accessories such as dog hair and assorted leaves, dirt, and things that I probably don't want to recognize.  Can't say life isn't exciting!

Such things as leash training, riding in a car, going to the vet - these are the milestones that mark our lives.  But I can't say that it isn't worth it.  Like the nursery rhyme, when she is good, she is very very good!  And we love each other so!  I'se her person and she be my dawg!  And together we provide great comic relief to the neighborhood.  Maybe we should start charging a viewing fee - Ooh!  Fabric Money!  There ya go!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Sunday Afternoon Venture into the Sewing Room

I've been bending my brain for the past two weekends, working on something for the Southern Appalachian Modern Quilt Guild where I'm a member.  The guild, by the way, is in its infancy, and welcomes all those interested in the art of quilting who live in the Tri-States areas of North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, as well as anyone else who might like to see what it's all about!  Very exciting!  The guild currently meets once a month on the second Thursday at 6:00 p.m. at Bless My Stitches in Murphy, NC.  It's going to be fun getting to know these ladies and gentlemen as well as learn to stretch my quilting imagination. 

Now that I've spent the last two weekends working on a project for next month's meeting, I am not really sure if I'm on the right track or not.  I don't think that my piece is "Modern" by any wild stretch of the imagination, but at least I got started on it...Seems like I remember someone saying that since March has St. Patrick's Day that we should work with green, and I remember someone saying something about frames.  Why don't I ever think to write things down?!? 

At first I was going to make a fancy little mug rug like I made for my student workers, but decided at the last minute to try something a little different.  Ain't telling how I'm going to use green, but suffice it to say that it was fun and a true learning experience.  So much so that I've got to get some new supplies and re-do a little.  Using an iron is NOT always the best thing to do, even if the directions say that you can.  That's all I'm saying!  LOL!

I made most of the weird and wacky components last weekend, got the rest of the fabrics selected this weekend, and and then of course totally changed my mind about some of my wacky components and basically started over.  And then of course I changed my mind about the basic fabrics.  For a while I was really frustrated until I realized that the changes were actually good decisions for the quilt that I see in my mind.  What I always have to learn, time after time, is that what I see in my mind is usually NOT what becomes reality, nor is it the easiest to put together. 

Now that it is headed toward midnight on the eve before the work week begins again, my back and neck are killing me and my shoulders ache because I've been in the sewing room since 9:00 this morning, putting things together, ripping them out, putting other pieces together, ripping them out, and digging through my fabric stash like a mad woman.  I've ruined a brand new ironing board cover AND my pressing sheet, killed the tv remote by knocking it into the floor, and generally created a huge mess, BUT - I have a new mini-design wall to prop up behind Marie AND the beginnings of my wallhanging to show for it!  Hip Hip Hoorah!  The wallhanging start has gotten the Hubby Seal of Approval!  It's all wrinkly right now, but I'm still pretty proud of how it's shaping up.  Not "Modern" Quilting, but I've had fun.

Here's what I accomplished on Feb 3rd (I Think!  Or maybe it was Feb 10 - can't really remember)  I made so many of the Craftsy 2012 Block of the Month squares that I just had to join in for 2013.  Well, ok...if I'm really telling the truth, I haven't made ANY of the 2012 blocks!  But I figured, what the hay...it's free and I can access it any time that I want, even if it's in 2020...and since it's February, maybe it would be a good time to make - you guessed it - January's blocks!

I actually even ordered the fabric pack for the blocks.  We're talking TOTALLY out of my color comfort range here.  But I need to experiment and try something new, and with that in mind, I have decided this will be fun even if it kills me!  Orange, yellow, polka dots.  It's a far cry from purples, florals, and batiks.  See what I mean?

Sunday afternoon is one of my favorite times to sew.  Hubby is usually ensconced on the couch snoozing, Shih Tzus lovingly tucked in beside him, and I can watch Foyle's War and stitch away.  But first things first.  One MUST clean and oil the sewing machine.  This picture is of the lint that had accumulated in Marie during a weekend sewing spree.

YUCK!  I try to clean Marie every week and oil her.  Hopefully that will keep her stitching fine for years to come!

Once I got her all cleaned up and purring, I commenced to making the log cabin-esque block from the Craftsy 2013 BOM.  Here are the colors that I chose - they are pretty much the same ones as in the course, mostly because there were no details on which fabrics to use out the kit for which blocks and I'm scared that I will run out of all these crazy polka dots.

Anyway, these colors are pretty lively, huh?  Alright, they're lively for me!  Here's the first segment of making the block.  The instructor, Laura Nownes, put them together in a chain piecing style and then trimmed them up, so that's that I did as well.

Now you keep adding strips, chain piecing, trimming, until you get finished.  I played around with placement and found several interesting ways to put these blocks together. 

All in all, a fun set of blocks to make!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Block Three - Jelly Roll Sampler Quilt

Well, I've finished Block Three of the first Jelly Roll Sampler quilts.  Three more classes and nine more blocks to go.

I learned a couple of things "over again" on the first block.  Do NOT use two different rulers to make your cuts.  Especially when you are cutting from strips, the pieces are so small that any deviation at all will play havoc with the finished product.  When I was at the Stripping class, I forgot/couldn't find my triangle ruler, and so Karen showed me how to use my 6" square ruler to cut triangles from my strips.  Then halfway through the class, I discovered that I had not cut enough triangles, and borrowed Lisa's triangle ruler.  Naturally nothing fit because my triangle ruler cuts were more precise than my block ruler cuts.  I found this out last weekend when I was trying to put block one together.  Bummer!  I had to cut new triangle segments to get the blasted thing put together.  And wouldn't you know it, my triangle ruler was in my sewing tote all along!

The next thing that I learned was that whatever ruler I was using tended to slip as I was cutting from the strips.  This was on Block Two.  So before I began cutting Block Three, I remembered that sometime last year I purchased a roll of InvisiGrip, made by OmniGrid.  But where in the world did I put it and would I be able to actually find it without completely tearing my sewing room apart?  Only a search and destroy would tell!  So I searched.  Didn't find it.  Took a frustration break, then went back into the sewing room and Lo and Behold, opened a drawer and there it was!  Now I can't even remember where I found it.  Actually followed the directions and put that clingy stuff on the back of my Fons and Porter Half & Quarter Ruler and my 6" Creative Grids square ruler before I made ANY cuts.  Guess what?!?  It actually DID help my rulers from slipping!  Still have to be careful, of course, but it did help.

Next, I needed to choose three colors from my Double Chocolate jelly roll.  Got a tad frustrated there because one of the colors needed two strips and there aren't any doubles in the roll that I can see.  So I chose a fourth strip that coordinated.  Yipee!  On to cutting!

Got all of my pieces cut and then discovered that I mistakenly put the wrong strips together to cut my triangles.  Where I was supposed to be using brown, per my strip choices, I used blue.  And where I was supposed to be using blue, now had to use brown.  Ok.  We can make that work, as Tim Gunn says. 

I didn't take any pictures of my triangle chain piecing, but here is a picture of the center of the block:

 You can see the fabric substitutions in the rectangle pieces and the beige triangle pieces.  In a perfect world, I would have had two strips of the triangle fabric.  Now it should also be said that I got in a hurry and forgot to look at the diagram for putting this block together, and so had to improvise yet again!  The block should have been put together in rows, rather than building from the center out.  Maybe I was a little dyslexic yesterday!  But I forged on and made it work!

Here are portions of the side rows and a completed top row:

Again, I got a little ahead of myself and pressed the side units before I got through with them and matched them up to the center square, so I had to unpress and set the seams in the opposite direction so that I could lock seams.  You can see here that I haven't yet pressed the top row.  Usually what I do is put the units together on the ironing board so that I can look at what I'm attaching to and iron appropriately.  I'm not sure how others do this, but this method works for me - yes, when I remember!  I also ironed the seams open on all of my triangle units because my Marie hates bulky seams and I thought this would help me put everything together (lesson learned from block 1!).
For part of this block, I cheated and used glue to make my seams stay put when going under the needle.  This method of using Elmer's School Glue has really helped me in getting my seams to match and not shift while I'm sewing.  BUT...I do feel like I'm cheating, because I'm not really learning how to get matched seams all on my own.  Last night, after the great Marshall Chili Fest, I watched one of my Craftsy courses, the 2013 Mystery Quilt, and the instructor showed how she locks her seams together and then pins on both sides.  So this morning I decided to give that a try on the final two rows of this block.  It worked!  It took a lot less time than locking the seam, adding a dot of glue, ironing it to dry the glue, and moving on to the next seam, and repeating, before sewing.  I also used another tip that I learned from My Civil War Block Craftsy course, because I discovered that the center triangle units had just a little more fabric than the rectangle unit.  There I learned to place the strip with the extra fabric on the bottom when putting it through the machine, to let the feed dogs do the work of making everything fit.  It also worked.
So all in all, I'm pleased with the end result of this block.  Considering all the blunders I made in cutting, it turned out ok.  Nine more blocks to go.  Maybe this will become Jordan's bed quilt since he's moving and needs blankets.

Now...what to sew for the rest of the day?  Well, I could work on quilting my New York Roundabout wallhanging, work on January and February's Craftsy Mystery Blocks, or start something new!  Decisions, decisions!  LOL!  It will keep my mind off Jordan's impending departure.  I've already cried buckets.  Can I have a do-over on raising my kids?  Please?


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Snowy Saturday Musings

Here it is, the year 2013, and I've been REALLY bad about blogging ever since I started this blog.  Because it's February 2, I can't even pretend that I made a New Year's resolution to be more dedicated about posting here!  Ha! 

So what have I been doing all these months that I haven't been blogging?  Well - work, of course - and sewing pretty much every Saturday, or visiting my LQS.  Bless My Stitches did a Block of the Month last year and I've actually got all of the blocks done, but haven't yet cut out the setting pieces.  Need to get on that - if the top turns out well, I plan to put it on our bed as a comforter.  I've made some wallhangings, put together another top that I pieced during the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012, made some purses, and actually finished lap quilt for my son and gave it to him right before New Year's.

Today I'm working on blocks for a Second Saturday Strip class and watching Foyle's War on Netflicks.  I've discovered that I really like British tv series shows and especially like the cop shows.  Foyle's War is set during World War Two. 

The blocks that I'm working on for the Strip Club are from a book called Jelly Roll Sampler Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott.  There are some very pretty quilts that can be made from this book.  Still can't decide whether or not I like working with precut strips though.  But I'm learning quite a bit and that's a good thing.  While I was pressing some of my triangle units, the thought struck me that this would be a great time to start charting my progress via this blog.  IF I remember to keep it up, huh?

I'm also a little bit in mourning.  Our son will be moving to Athens tomorrow.  He graduated from college December 2011, so I suppose that it really is time for him to move out and begin his adult journey, but it's also very sad to me that he won't be here at home.  I'm going to miss him so bad that I don't know if my heart can stand it.  He's the last little birdie to leave the nest.  Our daughter got married two years ago.  Now it will just be me, hubby, and the doggies.

Speaking of doggies, we have managed to inherit a Great Dane from our son's best friend, who has also moved to Athens.  Her name is Lacy.  It didn't take very long for me to get attached to this huge, slobbery, boisterous dog.  She has claimed me as her person and I'm trying, without much success, to teach her some manners.  Most mornings I get to work with paw prints between my shoulder blades and doggie spit all over my chest.  But I suppose that's half the fun of belonging to a Great Dane!

Here is the book that the Stripping Club is working from, and pictures of the first two blocks that I've made from it.  I'm a little dissatisfied with the first block and may sew a do-over after I finish the rest of the blocks.  The second block turned out a little better.     

Block One - it is actually MUCH more square than it looks in this picture - I take crappy photos

Block Two went together easier - I pressed the triangle square seams open - may do this for each block

Here is the beginning of Block Three.  There are some more pieces but I haven't started putting it all together yet.  Just finished pressing seams open on no less that 20 - yes, that's right, 20 - triangle units.  That's when I decided I needed to take a break and blog!  LOL

Today is a REALLY good day to have a neat hobby!  Here's what it looks like at my house at about 4:15 - it's been doing this for a while, I guess.  I didn't really realize that it was snowing until about 2pm when I came out of the sewing room for a cup of Java.

The picture above is two hours more snow than what I saw when I went into the kitchen for that cuppa Joe.  Boy, was I surprised!
And this is the view from my front porch looking down the pasture.  I just love snow, especially if the power stays on!  If the power goes off, I like it for about a day and then I'm ready for it to disappear.  Ha!
Hubby has made it back across the mountain from Cleveland so I'm relieved, but won't totally relax until he pulls into the driveway.  Driving in this can be SO dangerous.  The mountain was closed to traffic when he first got into Helen, due to a wreck.  I'm glad that he called to let me know he was on this side and safe!  He's going to try to go to the store for the makings of chili - that seems very suitable for a snowy Saturday, doesn't it?  Yum!  I'm hungry just thinking about it.  Oh Wait!  I'm hungry because I lost track of time in the sewing zone!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Latest Craftsy Course

Recently I took a Craftsy.com course called Stitch and Slash, taught by Carol Ann Waugh.  The technique of stitching and slashing involves stitching four layers of fabric together in patterns, then tearing away various widths of the layers.  I'm not explaining it too well, but it was fun!  Once you get all of your layers slashed, then you go back and play by adding yarn and decorative stitching.  I had a lot of fun with this project and really like Carol's motto - "There are no mistakes!" 

So I won't tell you how many times that I managed to sew my free-motion foot to layers of the project, because - oh yeah - there are no mistakes!

Now, because I took the process challenge, I've actually got a picture of the unfinished piece, as I was beginning the process of slashing away the layers.  In this picture, you can see the front of the project, with the lines stitched down.  I used four batik fat quarters.  And I've slashed away the first layer of fabric in one section.

And here is a closer shot...

I did lots and lots of slashing.  And naturally forgot to take more pictures.  BUT...once I got through with all the slashing, the next thing was to add yarn over my stitching lines, and then add some decorative stitching around the circles.  Once that was done, it was time to make the quilt sandwich, and do some stitching underneath the slashed areas.  Then I added some free-motion loopty loops (some of which are not very good at all), and then bound the piece with yarn.  Ta Da!  It's actually finished, although I might still add some beads.  This was a fun project and turned out better than I thought that it would, especially since I was using some really cheap fabric. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Civil War Blocks - A Craftsy Course

So...I've taken the Process Pledge and I am going to apply it to the blocks that I produce from my Civil War Blocks Craftsy course.  If you have never signed up for a Craftsy course, let me tell you - they are Tons of fun! 

Anyway...Kaye England is teaching a Civil War Block course that will yield 12 blocks, a plan very similar to the Block of the Month that I participate in at Bless My Stitches Quilt Shop.  The price was right, and I thought it would be fun, so I signed up for it.

The first block that Kaye has us make is the Remember Me block.  It's a two color, basic block.  So I'm thinking, yeah, I can probably do this, seeing as how I jumped into quilting learning to do more advanced blocks (the jury is still out on whether or not I've mastered THOSE techniques!  LOL)  Anyway, she recommends using some rulers that I discovered she designed.  I checked them out on the web and they do look to be interesting and useful, so I might splurge and purchase a couple of them.  When she demos them during the course, it does appear to make cutting much easier.

Kaye uses a method in her piecing that is new to me.  She doesn't iron between each stage of piecing!  Yes, you heard me.  She doesn't iron until the block is complete!  This is SO foreign to anything that I've learned so far in my quilting journey.  But I decided that I would try her method for the entirety of the course, to see if it actually helps my blocks be more precise.

Using this method on the Remember Me block, I felt like everything was out of control.  But, wonder of wonders, my seams did pretty much line up - usually my Seam Ripper is my best friend!  It just felt really weird, though.  I finger pressed, like she did in the video, so my pieces were basically flat, but it just wasn't as crisp as when you press. 

Since I hadn't heard of the Process Challenge when I started this journey, I don't have step by step pictures, but I can show you my finished blocks.  I made two of the Remember Me just to see if the process felt better to me with practice.  The second block does not have the border on it, but you can still see that everything went together pretty well.  Now in the first block, there is a mistake that I will need to correct.  Didn't see that until I had it up on the design board for picture-taking.  LOL!  You'll have to see if you can find it.  When I did, I wondered why in the world I hadn't noticed it before! 

So...here are my first no-press results: