Thursday, May 31, 2007

200th Post Party!

This marks my 200th post on my blog... and like other bloggers have been doing, I'm gonna offer a little prize. :)

Up for "comments" is this 1 yard of hand dyed fabric. It's probably a little more green looking in person though.

To get your name in the drawing, all you gotta do is leave a comment and a way to contact you (email address). I will mail it anywhere in the world, so non-USA gals, feel free to drop your name in. :)

I will draw on Friday night, in about 30 hours.

Good luck! :D


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Once upon a time...

...oh so long ago, I did my first mystery top. It was back in July 2005. We had just celebrated our first anniversary a couple days ago. Then as any (deaf) loving wife would do, she insisted that her husband wake her up at 5am so she could play with the others. :)

Just in case I didn't like the finished results, I did the mystery in the smallest size offered, twin sized. Then the blocks sat. And sat. And sat. I might have moved them around a time or two, but I had no motivation to piece it into a top.

Then a few days ago, I realized I didn't like it because it was twin sized. Who uses twin size these days? Seems like everybody I know of uses queen or bigger. I thought about splitting the 24 blocks into 2 baby quilts. But I wasn't happy with the prospect of losing some of the design. Then duuuuuh! I'll make another block, set it 5x5 and have a lap quilt.

So last night I laid out the blocks in my best ability to make sure that larger pieces of the same fabric were not touching. My stash was so much smaller back then, so I "zested" it up with a slightly maverick looking 25th block. I bet you can find it, smack dab in the center. ;)

My first picture was this very blurry shot, because I had forgotten to reset my camera settings after trying to take pictures of the quilting I did.

It looks like some cool light/steam/magical thing going on. :)

And just now, I finished piecing it into a top. I'm planning for a small purple border and then a green border. It'll probably finish about 70" square. I think it'll look good with my green handdyed backing and be happy to sit on my dark green couch.

In case you didn't know, I love green. :D

I can't wait to see what I do tonight! I'm surprising myself with my full quilting force these days. Well... I do have a few things I "need" to do before saying hello to my machine again. Like, taking a shower and paying the rent and mailing some bills (need the new stamps, darn)... oops! And put away the laundry. Told hubby I would. :)


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Yellow & Baby quilt done

The good news, my husband's computer is restored back to order! The fan fell off of it's mounting brackets and we were having trouble finding anybody who carried it in stock. He found a guy, got the fan back in place for $50 and the processor wasn't damaged, so everything is happy again in our little over-hot apartment. ;)

After pinning the quilt last night, I fooled around on the computer and then at midnight I asked my husband if he was gonna go to bed any time soon. Said he didn't think so... ok! Might as well start quilting it too. :)

I finished at 1:30am, non-stop quilting, only needing to replace the bobbin thread once. I was originally planning peacock feathering design, but I just couldn't get it to flow for me on pen and paper. So I made a similar design, by simply not closing the "feathers".

I'm also loving my Essential Threads as much as anything for free-motioning. All I had to do was adjust the top tension a bit to avoid pokies and I was happily sailing through the spool. It's ok for piecing, but absolutely fantastic for quilting!! (I used color "Butter" for this quilt).

And I had fun!! My biggest problem was trying not to move the quilt too fast. I was flooring the pedal the whole time. I need a faster machine. :)

The binding was put on this morning and finished a couple hours ago.

And I like the pattern. Hopefully it'll encourage me to continue to "explore" new designs. Well, I'm interested in learning how to free-hand regular feathers, I just haven't gotten the knack for it on paper yet. They look like leaves and vines. :P

It's only 6:40pm... wonder what else I can whip up before going to bed! :D


Monday, May 28, 2007

Must be Monday

This Monday has had a bit of a rough start - my husband was up late last night playing on his computer, and his fan fell off of his processor. Computer died. So he took it to Best Buy this morning and they were super helpful, but they didn't have the parts he needs. Now he needs to take it to some other computer guy, but of course he's closed, as today is a holiday. It'll be about $100 to see if the processor survived, and whether he still has a computer or a $2,500 hunk of metal. :P

It's a little frustrating having computer woes. Especially since his computer is only 1.5 years old, and this is the second time it's died. Mine is approaching 4 years old this fall and I really haven't had any trouble with it. Couple viruses a while back... but it's not like I've ever seen the blue screen or anything scary like that. Thank God. :)

So I'm bracing myself for a dead computer and being forced to buy a laptop several months sooner than I ever wanted to. Let's hope it doesn't happen...


No pictures today, but I'll link you up to some goodies!

Like... my aunt posted about dyeing with me. :)

Yesterday I washed the heart quilt because I finished the binding on Saturday. So happy it didn't bleed red!!!!!!!!!

And today I pinned this quilt and hope to do some peacock feathering on it.

Let's hope tomorrow brings better news! :)


Saturday, May 26, 2007

The dye results and food

I think May became a slow-poke blogging month for me. I'll get back on track in June. :)

Anyhow... the dyeing results. We did some things differently this year, the biggest being we put them out in the sun after we put the soda ash fixer in.

They spent at least 4 hours in the sun, and I tried to turn them over half way through. The colors are so much more intense this time!!

But there might be another factor - we used higher quality materials this time. Kona White and P&B Dyer's Fabric. This is mercerized, so that does help. At $2.50/yard (by the bolt), it produces quilt-shop worthy dyed fabrics. I even did a test with the Kona and the P&B fabrics. Used exactly 3 tablespoons of green dye in each container, same amount of sun time and the P&B was much more attractive. Kona makes it look a little more muted and dull.

So next time, at least 3 bolts of P&B! Dyeing is starting to get expensive. ;) But we're both loving it and I'll get to have fun through the year with my dyed fabrics.

The night before I left, my mom and I slapped together a quick bargello quilt. I wanted her to understand the basic method of HOW it's made.

Looks yummy! And the top left corner fabric is not one of our dyes, but a piece that I bought for her birthday last year.

The dyeing all in all took us 3 days - there were some distractions. :) On the last day, my aunt joined us. I showed her the basics of dyeing the fabric and she left with about 10 colorful yards. Perhaps she'll post them on her blog soon, she had to leave in a hurry and we didn't even get time to iron them out. :P

I ended up with over 30 yards of fabric and one BIG 108"x5.5yards piece, for backings of course. :)

It's hard to see, but this batch is much more "alive" than my previous two! Oh, and one important tip I want to share, don't get black dye. We thought it'd make the dyes darker, but no, it just created "muddy" spots on our fabrics that we didn't really enjoy. So, no more black. :)

They're fun to pet! We have lots of greens because this year I bought red, blue, yellow and green dye. Why waste blue and yellow for green when we can get it straight up? Plus, I love green, I'm not gonna complain! :)

My favorite piece is this blue and yellow one. I had a rectangle plastic box and I dyed the ends yellow and the middle blue. They blended in some areas and created the green.

And I'm thinking about making a drunkard's path with all my dyes. Let's just say by the end of that quilt, curves shouldn't scare me at all! ;)

Summer is around the corner... and while I dislike the heat, I love the yummy fruits that go on sale! :)

And yes, I used my favorite dyed piece as a backdrop.

It's nice to be back home and into the routine of things. I made some bread earlier this week with my new stoneware bread pan. I misjudged the dough size and it overflowed after half an hour of rising.

I frantically pinched off balls of the overflowing dough and made "rolls". Perfectly edible, and best of all, it got eaten up. :)

And this post should get me all caught up, and hopefully I'll be back to a daily posting with the normal stuff going on. :)


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Where's... Leah?

Whew! I think I'm back. Ugh, speaking of back, I've hurt mine. And I hurt it worse last night by BENDING instead of squatting to pick up some trash I knocked over. It's something that you don't even think twice about...

Here's how to fly with quilts:

I really don't trust airlines enough to put a quilt in the luggage, it has to go on my carry-on or not at all! So I did some super tight bed-rolling. I wasn't worried about wrinkles cuz both of them would be getting washed before being used.

Saturday I landed in San Jose, California. My dad was a few minutes late, but we played a joke on my mom and he was calling her up, telling her that he was late. (Yes, I was sitting in the car trying not to laugh!) Then he told her that he couldn't find me. Then I was found, but my luggage was missing. Finally the last call about 5 minutes before the house was "well, we finally got Leah and her luggage, we're on our way home." And so when I went upstairs to find my mom, she was snoozing, not expecting me for another 20 minutes! :D

Sunday and Monday were lots of shopping. And a little pestering for grandkids from my dad. ;) I got some great shoes at REI after trying on at least a dozen pairs. 2 new capri's. A new shirt and pair of shorts. Now I could go to Washington DC and not worry about clothes!

Tuesday night we flew out for a red-eye flight. This is how my baby sister and brother entertained themselves:

I tried to nap as much as possible! I think I got 2-3 hours that night. Cuz once we landed in DC, we hit the road running!

Speaking of running, I brought my new tennis with me and they did great! My feet never hurt (only fell asleep on the plane) and I didn't get any sore spots or blisters.

And I put my shoes through a lot! Like 5+ miles of walking in DC, a couple miles of biking and general all day wear.

Wednesday was spent mostly in the car. We did stop by Gettysburg for a bit before picking up Pops from the train station. Then we had the pleasure (not!) of trying to get out of DC and down to Virginia to pick up my other sister at another train station, not far from our hotel.

Thursday we did a walking tour of DC, starting with the Washington Memorial. When we were trying to leave the train station in DC on Wednesday, we saw the WM, and I was so tired and confused I couldn't remember what it was called, so I just said "hey! Look, it's the tall building." :D

Here's everybody but me. My parents went off to rent a scooter for Pops, so us kids and Pops hung around the WM while we waited for the scooter. Surprisingly, somebody handed Pops a ticket for free to go to the top of the WM! He tried to pawn it off to one of us kids, but we were like nope! It's yours. He went. :)

While waiting, both for the scooter and Pops to finish his ride, I had my sister take my picture of me with the White House on the right of my shoulder. Sis said it's a lot smaller than most people realize.

Wished I had sunglasses! Sometimes my eyes were so bothered by the sun as I posed for pictures that they'd water up and run down my cheeks.

Here's Pops scooting along. He can go as fast or a slow as he wanted. Dad ran ahead to take Pops' picture in the scooter and Pops started to seriously speed up. We were like "run, Dad! Run!" :)

But actually, he was pretty good about staying with us, usually in the back. I'm really glad we got the scooter for him though, with his heart complications, he just wouldn't have been able to keep up.

The rest of Thursday was spent checking out other famous places, pictures taken and finally lunch. I was starving! Then afterwards my baby sister and brother took off on a tandem bike. Sarah said she was very happy to be in the back, it was scary trying to bike in DC with all the buses pulling in and out everywhere. Andrea went to the Native American Museum, Dad and Pops went to the Air and Space Museum and Mom and I wanted to go to the American History Museum, that's where we figured the quilts would be. Alas, it was closed for renovations. So we checked out the Natural History Museum, mostly the gemstone stuff.

Then we all met at the Air and Space Museum to see a movie. I'm afraid all three girls fell asleep. We might have been up a little late chatting the night before. :D

Friday we went back to Gettysburg for a "real" tour, instead of a quick peek like on Wednesday. Here I am with the rifles.

I almost got to go to Intercourse, PA! See, Dad, Pops and Andrea went on a bus tour of Gettysburg, and the rest of us went biking around GB. Seeing that we were only 1.5 hours away from the famous Zooks quilt shop, I was going to try to see if we could go after the bus tour ended at 4:30. So I had my sister call, but turns out that they close at 5pm. Oops! Not gonna happen. But I was THIS close. ;)

Saturday we went to see Thomas Jefferson's house, Monticello.

I really liked the pond and gardens. We didn't have too much time to explore though, and Sarah actually ended up missing the shuttle and we had to wait another 15 minutes to meet up with her.

We had dinner that night with Andrea and her friend Jeremy. Yup, 8 full grown ups in a 7-seater van. We put my brother on the floor. ;)

Sunday (yes, mother's day!) was the graduation. My camera really didn't like the lighting, but I managed to get this fairly good shot of my sister as she was walking to get her diploma.

Here's all of the family in front of Andrea's dorm. I'm short in this picture! I'm happy. :D

Really, I'm the third shortest. Only Mom and Sarah are shorter, the rest are all over 6 feet tall. :) We went to a really cool Japanese steakhouse where they cooked in front of you and gave you a nice show. Not to mention it was good food too. :)

Here's Andrea checking out the quilt, given the night before I left. Yes, we're a little slow on celebrating stuff sometimes. Like... we did Mother's Day on the 16th instead of the 13th. But Mom got a 5-spool serger! She's thrilled. :)

Dad really likes this quilt, he ranks it up with Pops' dog quilt. Hopefully she'll use it and it'll provide some warmth as Andrea gets her Masters in New York.

I'll have to continue later, I haven't even got to the dyeing or the quilt we started! :)


Friday, May 04, 2007

On a roll!

I finished the heart quilting yesterday afternoon. Whew... I was sure getting tired of all those thread breaks. I'm just glad the backing is so scrappy, harder to find those stops and starts. :)

A little action shot from the back view, I never realized how good I can be at cramming quilts! :P

I ran a bunch of errands in the afternoon and finished grading a couple month's worth of articles for my husband. So late evening, I started to pin the Star Struck quilt. Took about an hour.

Who needs yoga when they have to reach around in weird positions to get one certain spot pinned? :P

Then at 10am today, I started the quilting. My very first time with using the Essential thread for free-motioning.

I want to do a big happy dance and a couple of flips... I am LOVING the Essential thread for free-motioning!! Wonderful... absolutely wonderful. It took me 4 bobbins to meander the entire quilt in 2 hours (I did have a break half way through). Not ONCE did the thread break!!! I did have minor tension issues (pokies on the back) but then I remembered I had adjusted the bobbin casein tension for the Robinson-Anton thread for the heart quilt. After some tweaking, I got a happy tension, no pokies. :)

But really, I'm so thrilled with how well the Essential thread free-motions. It's not the best piecing thread (Aurifil does somewhat better), but it definitely outweighs Aurifil thread by a mile in free-motioning. It made free-motioning the Star Struck quilt so easy and enjoyable. I still can't believe that it only took me 2 hours!

Cuz I didn't exactly sew every 10 inches or anything. A nice dense medium meander all over.

Now need to get the binding on both quilts before I leave at the crack of dawn tomorrow. :) I'll do the hand sewing down the binding when I'm at my parents!

Speaking of my parents... I need to get started on packing!! :P And do a back up of my computer, haven't done one since December. :( It's already 4 years old from it's factory install date, but I didn't actually buy the computer until August 2003. It's done me well, but I know better than to trust it to last forever. I wish! :)

And likely, my posting is going to get a little sporadic over the next 2 weeks as I visit my parents. Just depends on who's laptop or computer I'll be able to use! :)


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Needle nightmare and decision made

A peek of the back - the quilting shows up nicely... and no puckers! :D

I had nightmarish needle problems this afternoon. After I put in last night's needle, about every inch of so the thread kept breaking. The tension was correct, so I figured that somehow the needle point must have chipped. Put in a new "Schmetz Quilting 90/14" needle (what I was using all along) and still kept running into the problem. I finally figured out that it was breaking wherever there was more than 2 layers of fabric/seams. I took a guess that the needle might actually be too thick, and switched to a normal piecing needle of 80/12. That did the trick! :)

Which I find a little odd, in almost everything I've read, if you're having problems with the thread breaking, go UP the next needle size, so the thread eye is bigger. But by going down, my needle was smaller, and it didn't feel like the needle was trying to push the quilt down the needle hole, but actually piercing the fabric. Just happy that it's not giving me trouble anymore.

And I've decided about the quilt retreat... I'm not gonna go. :) I don't have many strong friendships with the ladies in the guild. And when groups tend to get bigger and noisier and chattier... I tend to pull back and corner myself, because the noise is too much for ME to be talking in. So I would just sew, exactly what I could be doing at home. Since I don't have kids, dogs or a pesky husband, I could easily make every weekend "retreats" if I wanted.

The other thing is that I enjoy smaller groups or even just two people, like my mom and I. I realized that I'm actually looking faaaaaaaaaar more forward to quilting with my mom next week instead of going to a retreat. So, I don't mind sew-a-thons at other people's houses and having a simple gathering, but retreats aren't for me right now, I have nothing to retreat from. ;)

Plus, I think my time at my parents house is going to feel "retreatish" enough... not to mention that their house is BIG enough for a retreat! If they wanted, they could fit in 13 long arm machines (including the garage) and sleep 24 ladies if they put 2 bunkbeds in each room. Too bad I can't pack some of that space in my suitcase and make my long arm dream come true a little sooner. ;)


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Close up and a question for you

Here's a close up of the quilting. I'm doing meandering all around the hearts, and then both red and white hearts get the treatment you see below. :)

I have 7 out of 35 hearts done, but the hardest is over, the center row where you really have to cram the quilt in. :) Just as I was starting to do the 8th heart, my thread broke. I figured I needed a new needle, I was already on my 4th bobbin. Well, I must have threaded the top thread wrong and it gave me some VERY bad tension stitching. Oh so fun to rip out. :P I rethreaded, tested on a scrap and everything was fine, except my patience. It was shot. ;)

Now I have a question for the quilters who read my blog... my quilt guild is arranging for a local retreat - just 16 miles from where I live. It's in November, between my birthday and thanksgiving. It starts on Friday afternoon and ends on Sunday morning. You have to bring everything - bedding, towels, clothes, etc. They just said that the rooms are heated and that they will be providing 5 meals. All this for $95. I'm sure most of you are going to say "grab it! it's a great deal!" But I'm a bit of a chicken... I've never done a retreat before. I'm sure I could accomplish a lot of things at the machine... but do you find retreats worth it? And I'm almost not sure if $95 is a good deal either. Cluck!

Ooooh. And we just got some surprising news tonight, my husband's only brother is engaged. Well, congrats to him and his girl. :)