Thursday, November 13, 2008

IQF - Part 3

My posts on IQF to date have focused on the workshops I took. Obviously, the show is about a lot more than that, including a huge show of quilts. Today I thought I'd write about some of them and share photos with you. The winners were amazing, as usual, but none of them were really my cup of tea.

One of the more interesting sections was one of quilts focused on politics, especially given that the election here in the States was the following Tuesday. This one showing now President-Elect Obama was pretty impressive:

From IQF 2008 - Quilts

and there were quite a number done over the years by Fran Soika, with quite a distinctive style:

From IQF 2008 - Quilts

The Texas DAR had an excellent exhibition of 20 quilts from the organization's Washington, D.C. collection, titled The DAR Museum Collection: Quilts of a Young Country. The quilts dated from the 1750s to 1850s and were real treasures. Unfortunately, I was unable to take pictures, but after asking a couple of docents, I did learn that you can view the images on The Quilt Index by searching for the DAR Museum as a contributing institution. The search turns up 360 quilts, well more than those in this exhibit. While the quilts in that section were beautiful, I have to admit that I thought the docents treated me rather rudely. Apparently, if you look young, you couldn't possibly know anything about quilts. I'd asked a question of the one docent and she answered it and then grabbed another visitor and told her, "Oh, you know about quilts... Look at this one. Can you imagine she did all of that applique using the straight of grain rather than the bias?" as if I couldn't possibly understand what that might have meant. Well, there's nothing that turns me off more. In close to 9 years of quilting, I've picked up a few things, including an understanding of what the bias can do and just because someone looks like they have more experience doesn't mean that they know one iota more (some people don't even start quilting until they're older). Is it any wonder that young people might be turned off by women like this? I'll step off my soapbox now.

I think it is interesting to see what I end up taking photos of at each show I attend, as the photos seem to show trends over time. At some shows, I seem to take photos of bright quilts, at others, floral quilts. I'm not sure there was really a theme this time, and I think that many more of my favorites this time around were in portions of the exhibition where photography was not allowed. Nonetheless, here are some of my favorites:

From IQF 2008 - Quilts

From IQF 2008 - Quilts

Many more photos are available in my Picasa album. Ben also took some with his camera; I'll let you know when and where they become available.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

IQF - Part 2

Yes, I know it's taken me a while to get to writing my second update about the quilt festival in Houston. But my delay doesn't indicate in any way a lack of interest or enjoyment. Life gets busy sometimes...

Today I thought I'd write about the second class that I took while I was in Houston. This class was with instructor Melinda Bula, to make a new daisy project based on the techniques and style of her book, Cutting Garden Quilts. I'd purchased the book a while back because I thought her flowers were amazing, and I probably could have made the quilt on my own without taking the class. But you know how it is: sometimes you need a class to give yourself the opportunity to set aside time to actually work on something.

I love the cover quilt on the book. It's a coneflower. And as many of you know, that's my absolute favorite flower. Unfortunately, her one-day workshop for that quilt was already filled, so I "settled" for the daisy class. After 6 hours of class time, here's how far I got.

And here's the finished project:

As you can see, I am nowhere close to being finished. And I was probably one of the people who got the most done. It's not a difficult technique, but it is time-consuming. You have to trace the patterns onto Steam a Seam 2 (her preference), fuse that to your fabric, cut out your pieces, and then position them on your background. I'll admit that I wasn't too exacting about the process and if I went off the lines when tracing or cutting, so be it. It's organic, right? (Some people were simply unable to break from the need to draw exactly on the line and cut exactly on the line, which is why their progress was much slower).

She had a beautiful grouping of her quilts there for us to see. Here's that cover one that I said I really loved (I bought a fabric kit so I can make it myself).

More images are available on my Picasa album.

What did I think of the class? My major complaint is that there weren't enough irons for a class based on fusing, and those that were provided were absolutely crummy. The Teacher's Pet for the class was able to secure additional irons for the afternoon, but it's amazing to me that the IQF staff people didn't understand that a fusing class would require more than 2 irons for 22 people! Given that this was the first time Melinda had taught this pattern (it'll be published soon), we were the guinea pigs for it and we did find a few minor errors. Hopefully she'll be able to take that feedback and incorporate it into her published product. I think it must have been a difficult class to teach because people worked a very different paces and she attempted to allow those who work quickly to continue to move along, rather than waiting for others to catch up. But I think that led to her forgetting to point out some important details along the way because she had to repeat herself to different people at different points in time and she probably couldn't remember whom she'd told what.

Overall, it was an enjoyable day spent looking at pretty quilts and making progress toward one that I'd had on my to-do list for some time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I'm putting in the mail tomorrow this little quilt I made for my partner in the Another Little Quilt Swap. I'm sad to see this one go as I really love it and especially the buttons. (Random aside: did you know you can sew buttons on with your sewing machine? I had no idea. But Sandi and Mary assured me on retreat this weekend that it can be done; if I'd had my sewing machine manual with me, I would have given it a try. These 20 buttons were sewn on by hand!)

The quilt pattern is called Box of Chocolates and it's done up in pinks, creams, and browns in the book Bits and Pieces by Karen Costello Soltys. A great little quilt and it makes up quickly at about 16"x20". Makes me think that I actually could make a few more gifts in time for Christmas, but I'm going to stick with a plan to avoid extra stress this holiday season (Hah! Is that ever possible?).

I'm not going to mention the recipient's name quite yet, as she doesn't know who has her name and she may read my blog. I'll reveal once I've heard she's received it. Wonder if she'll like it...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Willkommen! Quilt from Germany

I arrived home yesterday to a package from Germany, which I knew could mean only one thing - I'd received my quilt from my ALQS partner. How exciting to be matched with someone internationally!!!

I opened the package and was pleased to find this beautiful Log Cabin star quilt made by Gabriele of Waghaeusel (sorry, I don't know how to do the umlaut in Blogger), outside of Heidelberg.

It's done in lovely blue batiks and white tone-on-tones with quilting in the ditch. I feel lucky to have received such a fine piece of work. The only thing I have to decide is whether to hang it here at home or take it in to work and hang it in my cubicle. It'll look great either place. Decisions, decisions!

Vielen Dank, Gabriele! Der Quilt gefaellt mich! (Apologies for my poor German.)

Watch soon for pictures of the quilt I'll be sending off on Monday (I finally began tonight!).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

IQF - Part 1

I had the privilege to attend the International Quilt Festival in Houston last week!  It's not the first time - I've been twice before - but my last visit was in 2005.  Even though I've been a couple of times, I still find the experience to be exciting and full of inspiration and fun.  I've tons of news and pictures to share so will update you on my time there in a couple of posts over the coming days.  I have much to do this week, so please bear with me as I write the posts in my spare time.

One of Ricky's quilts from the workshop quilt show
From Ricky Tims' Super Quilt Seminar

We flew to Houston last Wednesday afternoon so that I could take workshops Thursday through Saturday.  I started off with a 2-day workshop Thursday and Friday with Ricky Tims, Alex Anderson and Libby Lehman.  I was certainly looking forward to time with some of the bigwigs in the quilting world and assumed it would be a pretty small class.  WRONG.  I think there were close to 100 people in the room.  However, it was actually really well-organized so that everyone could see. They had the speakers on a raised platform, had a videographer and a projector and screen so that you could really see the demos that the instructors were doing, etc.  I was fortunate enough to get there early enough on both days to get a seat in the third row.

While we didn't do any actual sewing over the course of the two days, we did receive a 120+ page "syllabus" (not available for sale) that described how to do all of the things that they showed us.  And we covered a lot of ground, including Ricky's Caveman, Convergence, Kaleidoscope, and Rhapsody Quilts; Libby's applique and sheer ribbon illusions techniques; Alex's hand quilting, color and fabric shopping tips; as well as techniques for flip 'n sew, paper piecing, curved piecing, set-in corners and circles, and piped bindings.  Whew! That's a lot!

At the back of the room, there was a small "show" of Ricky and Libby's quilts hung just for us to look at, and they had two tables with samples that we could touch, feel, and inspect.  If you'd like to see images from this private quilt show, you can check out my album from the workshop.

While I have a lot going on right now and won't have time to start any of the projects covered in the seminar, I really, really, really want to make one of the kaleidoscope quilts. It's way easier than it looks, and you can see Ricky putting one together on a design wall here.
Ricky shows the Kaleidoscope Quilt Process
From Ricky Tims' Super Quilt Seminar

All of the instructors were good and put a lot of humor into their presentation.  I was also impressed with how well they managed time and the transition from slides to live action and back.  And the PowerPoint slides, while duplicating some of the material in the "syllabus," weren't copied exactly word for word, so it was entertaining and you felt like you really got something out of being there, as opposed to having gotten the same thing out of simply reading the syllabus.  I especially liked the personal stories that the instructors told about how they got into quilting, what their sewing space looked like, mishaps in design and sewing processes, etc. All that being said, there were a few times where I felt like we were in church and the seminar was being run with call and response tactics to "make us converts."    

It was also quite interesting to see the demographic represented.  At one point, Ricky determined the age of the oldest person in the group.  Would you believe that one woman was 81? And another was 80! Good for them!  The next day, he did the opposite process and had people stand by decades of age ranges, moving downwards to see how many people were in each group.  There was one woman in her 20s, and two of us in our 30s!  Being amongst the youngest was enough to score me a free DVD.  Isn't that cool?
Libby Lehman Quilt From Ricky Tims' Super Quilt Seminar

More about other aspects of the show soon.  But most importantly, don't forget to exercise your civic duty today: get out and vote!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Modern Quilt

Yesterday I took a workshop through my quilt guild with the quilt artist Norma DeHaven. She was the lecturer at our last guild meeting and does some impressive stuff using freezer paper templates.

I'll admit that I wasn't so sure about the particular design we were going to make (a bit too abstract for my tastes), but was interested in the process and in supporting the guild's efforts, so I signed up to take the workshop. It was nice that the instructor provided a diagram in advance so that we could plan ahead and color in what fabrics we wanted to use where, etc. Of course, I did very little of that. Plan ahead? Color in a diagram? That requires too much work.

I did go to my fabric stash on Thursday night and pulled the suggested fabrics: three colors with a light, medium and dark value of each. I opted to work entirely within my existing stash (I had no time to go to the quilt shop for more fabric anyways) and took some other fabrics along with me as well, as I wasn't a true believer in the notion that this pattern required three different colors or that there had to be hard and fast distinctions between the values. I'm glad that I took those extra fabrics, as I did dig in and use some. Do you notice that one of the biggest areas - in the bottom right - is made from fabric I used as the backing to Russ and Shannon's quilt?

Preparing the template and cutting out the pieces was pretty easy, although I think we devoted way more class time to this task than was necessary. The afternoon portion of the workshop was devoted to sewing and if you pay close attention, you might realize why. See those rectangles on my finished top: they are all sewn in. Yes, sewn in, as in around a "u" to do those corners, etc. The ladies at my table - Caren, Sandi, and Diane - we all had issues with the technique taught to do this and experimented with our own. Caren came up with a pretty good one, although after I fought and fought and fought with my first seam sewn in this manner, the others flowed much more smoothly.

See the big circle inset at the right? She showed us a really cool technique for that requiring no pinning or matching registration marks. But it does involve a glue stick. It was pretty slick, other than I managed to catch fabric from the other side when sewing mine in and had to rip it out. Sigh. It was probably because I was in a hurry at the end of the workshop, attempting to sew it so that I wouldn't forget the process, which I think they'd showed us at Bigsby's a while back, but I'd forgotten, of course (really, how often do you inset a full circle into something else?). I'll probably forget again, and I'm sure that I can't explain the process well enough here for you (or for me). I tried Googling for other instructions to point you to, but to no avail. Just know that there is a really sweet technique out there...

I was impressed at how flat my finished project laid, given the number of curved seams and the fact that I cut it out of my fabric pretty haphazardly, with absolutely no attention to grain. Did I get lucky? Or is paying attention to all of that just overrated?

Now I have to think about how I want to quilt this... any ideas?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My parents visited last week and Mom and I squeezed in a little bit of time for sewing.  It's hard when we have so many other things planned and only a few days to do it all! In addition to sewing, we hit Goodwill (where, yes, we managed to spend a full 3 hours!), DSW, Christopher & Banks, a baby clothing resale shop, the quilt store, Bigsby's, the farmer's market, a craft show in Menomonee Falls, etc., while also canning up 42 quarts of apple-pie-in-a-jar and just having time to chat, play cards, fix meals, etc.  

We went to Patched Works on Saturday and picked out some fabrics so Mom could make a new tree skirt.  She decided to go with a beautiful range of blues and use Linda Marcou's pattern based on Marilyn Doheny's 9-degree circle wedge.  Let's just say that it probably would have been easier if I'd had the correct length version of the circle wedge. I had the three smaller versions, but not quite the right one.  Ever the creative bunch, we just added an extension onto the wedge using another ruler and followed the same cutting line.  Mom got the entire top pieced in the afternoon!  Doesn't it look great?  Perhaps I can help her with quilting it at Thanksgiving time.

I chose to work on yet another new project (it's no wonder I haven't gotten anything finished lately - I keep starting new things!): this batik table runner kit featuring some drunkard's path variation (anyone know the actual name of this block?).

 Now I know the layout doesn't look like a runner, but I ran out of room on the design wall (the top three rows represent exactly half of the runner) ... and I'm kinda liking the possibility of making it into a wall hanging rather than a runner.  We'll see, however.  I bought this as a kit from Keepsake Quilting. I ordered it in May and it just arrived about three weeks ago! (Not sure what the delay was, but I had to confirm once or twice that I did in fact still want it.  At least they threw in for free the backing fabric to make up for the delay.)  I'd also purchased one for Mom as a Mother's Day present and thought I'd work on it so I'd be able to help her out with suggestions when she gets to working on hers. 

More quilting posts in the near future; I guarantee!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Works in Progress

While I've been busy with fall activities, baseball, and homework for my class at MATC, I have found a bit of time to work on a few sewing projects. I finally put the last border on my Suffragette quilt, but I'm going to make you wait to see a photo of the finished project until I have it quilted.

I did use charm packs from the same fabric line - Minick & Simpson's Prairie Paisley - to make a small wall hanging - Decoy, a Schnibbles pattern by Miss Rosie's Quilt Co. I love this line and this pattern and can't wait to quilt it, although I suspect it may be a while until I am able to get to it.

I also sewed the guild's block of the month. I haven't done this in a couple of years because I would always leave it to the last minute and it was one more stressor to add to the mix on the night before a guild meeting. But I've vowed to be better this time around, and it probably didn't hurt the the first block is literally one of the ones from Suffragette, and it uses the Prairie Paisley fabric. It turns out I was about to follow-through and I actually had this done EARLY. Unfortunately, I didn't win any of the blocks in the drawing last night, but there's always next month!

Finally, I decided to pick up the Moda U. Postcard quilt that I began in the Moda U. club at Patched Works two years ago. I had three more of the feature blocks to finish (there are 13 total), and here are the ones I recently finished. I'm hoping I can pull this off as a Christmas gift for a special someone.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fall Weekend, Birthday & Brew Crew

It's been a fun and exciting weekend here in Wisconsin. I'd purposefully scheduled some relaxing and fun activities, because when one turns another year older, I think it makes it a bit easier to forget that fact.

Yesterday, Ben and I started the day off by going to Barthel Fruit Farm to pick apples. We picked three bushels of Cortland in practically no time at all. I'm going to make some into sauce and perhaps a cranberry/apple crisp or two, but most are slated to be turned into "Apple Pie in a Jar," when Mom comes out in two weeks. While at Barthel's, we also picked up a few pears to eat, a package of Galas, a package of ginormous Pippins to turn into a fresh baked pie, plus four nice-sized pumpkins for seasonal decorating.

We headed from the orchard to Azana salon in Brookfield where I treated myself to a 50-minute massage with the gift certificate Ben gave me last Christmas. It was wonderful; I have some money left on the gift card and should schedule another soon before the holidays come around again. The two of us followed this up with lunch at Le Cakery in Elm Grove, where I had my favorite: BLT salad and we split a tasty Turtle Brownie.

Then it was off to the farmer's market in West Allis where I snapped up two huge and beautiful mums before they were gone. We also bought some Roma tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, basil, lettuce, mixed sweet peppers, potatoes, two more bunches of Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena) for drying, and I think probably some other things that I've forgotten. I have to admit that I love the farmer's market and am sad that it will soon be dying down. I'll definitely be heading there next weekend and every weekend I can because I know the end is near. I was seriously tempted by the beautiful squashes but am waiting another week or two because I know they'll have a deal soon where I can mix/match in a basket for a really good price.

We came home and I took a few minutes to arrange the decorating purchases in front of the house. Here's a photo taken this morning. The straw came from the farmer's market last week. Good thing I got it then: I didn't see any this week. And it won't totally go to waste; I figure I can put it on the garden before the first snow (which I won't even want to think about).

Then it was off to the Brewers game at Miller Park. They made it to the postseason for the first time since 1982 and everyone here was really pumped up about it. The atmosphere in the park was electric and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to experience it. We had amazing seats in the Terrace Box level, pretty much right at third base. (Unfortunately, my camera died so I got only a few few photos - including the one above of the lineup for both teams.) I was crossing my fingers for a Brewers win because it would mean another game - one on my birthday - and I've always wanted to go to one on my birthday (the only way for this to happen, however, is for the team I follow to make it to the postseason). Yesterday's game was nerve-wracking, but they pulled it off, and it was just amazing to be a part of the crowd afterwards. People were making tons of noise, waving the free towels they provided at the door, high-fiving, chanting, etc. all the way to the parking lots.

Tam and Steve came to the ball game with us today (here I am with Tam). We got pastries on the way to the stadium from Cranky Al's (and a hazelnut latte that will beat Starbucks any day). It was great to go with our friends and spend time catching up with them. While the end result was unfortunate (the Brewers lost 6-2 and have been eliminated), it was awesome to be able to go and to experience the crowd and baseball again for one more day. And I can now say I've gone to a baseball game on my birthday!

Post-game, I opened some generous gifts from family members. Ben and I played a game of cribbage (he didn't even let me win on my birthday!) and finished reading the Sunday paper that we couldn't read this morning because we left for the ballpark so early to get parking (it's also raining outside, so no more outdoor activities today).

Tonight holds in store some pasta with fresh sauce and, I believe, just a wee bit of sewing.

What a wonderful weekend!

Friday, September 26, 2008


A small group from my quilt guild was inspired after a workshop with Amy Climer last winter to form our own group to encourage (force) ourselves to work toward creating our own designs and making art quilts. We first met in July and decided that we would meet once a month (to hold ourselves accountable) and work through the Art Quilt Workbook, by Jane Davila and Elin Waterston. The book is nice in that it breaks the world of art quilting up into workable chapters, each of which focuses on a different technique.

We decided we would all make quilts with the same theme so that we wouldn't have to come up with our own and so that we could compare experiences. The quilts are small: 9x12 inches, with an orientation of our choosing. We'll work in series of 3 before switching themes. The first theme selected was "birds."

I missed last month's meeting because I was in San Francisco for my conference and I had no time prior to that due to work on Russ & Shannon's quilt. This month, I combined ideas from the chapter on collage and the chapter on photos on fabric to create my first quilt (above). Everything came from my stash, which was nice. I purchased the hummingbird photo from iStockphoto and printed it onto fabric. The horizontal trim is from an "Adornments" pack I bought ages ago, intended for use on purses or fabric bowls, or who knows what. I like the overall effect, but it strikes me as something a third grader could do. Hopefully I can challenge myself a bit more for next month's meeting.

More images of my quilt are on my Picasa album. You can see pictures of last month's quilts on the group blog.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A New PR and Fabric Shopping!

Today Ben and I ran for the third time the U.S. Cellular Half Marathon in the Fox Cities (Appleton, Menasha, Neenah, Kaukauna, Kimberly, etc.). We typically drive up on Saturday and spend the night in a hotel before the 8 a.m. race start on Sunday morning. It's not too far up there - about 90 miles - and spending the night in a hotel means one less thing to worry about on race day.

This morning was chilly (especially a 6 a.m., when the shuttle bus picked us up), but gorgeous, and I regretted the fact that I decided to keep on my long-sleeved running shirt for the race about 5 miles in. But really, you couldn't have asked for a nicer day. We weren't really expecting to have a great race - most of our longer runs this summer haven't been particularly good, and even our shorter runs have been frustrated by pain. We went out planning to finish and just enjoy ourselves. Well... when we were still running sub 8:45s six miles in, I realized we might be better off than we thought.

We were running really well until about mile 10, when I started to have some issues, but I hung in there and we were able to finish in a new PR: 1:56:45, shaving about a minute off last season's PR and averaging 8:55s throughout! Woo hoo! While our official places were 770 and 771 (edited 9/25: they just changed it to the chip times, and our places moved up to 764 and 765... the right direction, in my opinion), I'm still thrilled. You can see more placement information for me here. (Note: the difference between the reported time and our chip time was a minute and a half. It always amazes me how long it takes from the start gun going off until you actually get to the starting line in these fields!)

An added benefit of driving up on Saturday is the opportunity to visit Primitive Gatherings in Menasha. I certainly found lots of things to love, and if I did more applique, I'm sure it would be an even more costly visit. Here's photos of my purchases:

Several Christmas prints from the Whimsicals line Snow Wonderful:

Several lovely teal-y blues and coordinates from Brannock and Patek's Hemming House and the Collections for a Cause Heritage lines:

And finally, a number of cream and brown fat quarters for use in the Going in Circles quilt pattern by Buggy Barn (in the book Certifiably Crazy):

These creams and browns will join a variety of browns I'd already collected over the past year:

Finally, I finished shopping early enough on Saturday to work on cutting out some Christmas quilting projects while sitting in the hotel watching the Brewers game (unfortunately, they lost...).

What a great weekend!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Russ and Shannon's Wedding Quilt

Some of you might have guessed that the quilt I was madly sewing together last month was the one I was creating for Russ and Shannon's wedding this past weekend (my brother-in-law and new sister-in-law). I hadn't wanted to post too much information earlier because I'm not sure if they read the blog. But the wedding's over and they've seen the quilt, so, without further ado, here it is!

Ben picked the pattern from Successful Scrap Quilts from Simple Rectangles by Judy Turner and Margaret Rolfe. This particular quilt was called Flush of Spring and in the book was done in greens and pinks, designed to finish at 63" x 81". I wanted to make it larger to fit a queen sized bed, and this design was easy enough to resize, featuring a 9" finished block size. My version finished at 91" x 109" (yes, my seam allowance must be slightly off, but given the large number of seams in this quilt, I am not terribly worried about it). Ben and I picked out 26 different fabrics for the top at Fabric Fusion before they went out of business, placing each fabric roughly in the light or dark pile (although there are a few that could go either way). All but one of the fabrics is a batik (challenge: find the one that is not).

Sandi turned the quilt around amazingly quickly. Ben dropped it off for her on a Thursday night, and it was waiting for me when I got home from San Francisco two nights later. She did a great job, as usual. The quilting pattern is called "too much bubbly" and the curves go nicely in contrast to all the rectangles of the top.

Ben drew a lovely label for the back (his contribution, in addition to ironing the batting, dropping off the quilt to Sandi and picking out the quilting pattern), using Pigma pens on muslin.

Here are Russ and Shannon opening the quilt at the rehearsal dinner last Friday night. I felt badly because everyone at the dinner stopped to watch them open it; Ben and I just wanted to see them open it and weren't sure when would be a good time and the rehearsal had seemed easiest, given everyone's hectic schedules. Everyone seemed to like it and I had a good number of people interested in purchasing quilts if I ever go into business, recommendations on using Etsy to sell my work, etc. If only I had more time!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Been Busy

I know it's been a couple of weeks since I posted, but it's been a busy couple of weeks. For those of you wondering, I did finish the quilt last pictured (sewed the label on last night) and I'll post pictures of that this weekend. As for other things I've been up to...

I was in San Francisco for a week for a conference for work. Didn't really see a whole lot other than what I could see from several early-morning runs from the conference hotel, along the Embarcadero and to Fort Mason. I did go to two Giants games, so added another baseball park to the list of those visited (that's two this summer!). Amazingly, in what little time I did have to shop in the Union Square area, I happened to run into Britex Fabrics - four floors of fabric bliss (and located where I never would have expected to find a fabric store, amidst high-end retail icons like Prada, Burberry, Barney's, Sak's, etc. ). My roommate and I discovered it about 10 minutes prior to close, so there was no real time for dawdling. Clearly the focus is on fabric for decorating and clothing rather than quilting, but there were beautiful fabrics there and I'm sure I could have spent a bundle had I time and a bit of a plan. I still managed to buy one item in my quick visit: the Bendable Bright Light, which everyone seems to be raving about of late. Ann Fahl was selling them at her presentation and workshop with our guild in May but I thought I'd be smart and that Jo-Ann's or some such store would have them and I could get a better deal by using a coupon. Well, I've yet to see them at Jo-Ann's and figure that was the time, so I picked it up. I've not yet installed it on my machine because I really haven't had time for sewing, but I hope it'll give me some good light so that I can turn off my floor lamp and thus reduce some of the heat Ben complains about.

Last weekend, we packed up the car early on Saturday morning and drove half an hour to Jackson, WI, where we picked 36 pints of beautiful raspberries at Henke's, the most wonderful raspberry place I've ever been. Probably 6 acres of raspberries, and only raspberries. The bushes were loaded, the weather was gorgeous, and we heard and saw cranes and geese flying above us. How long does it take two people to pick 36 pints, you might ask? Well, about 3 hours. We used about 17 pints to make two double-batches of jam - 36 jars - and most of the rest went into the freezer. Of course I had to put raspberries on everything for a few days - waffles, yogurt, ice cream (vanilla with chocolate chips, yummy!), etc. I don't know how many we picked last year, but I was pretty much out of them and was thinking I might have to resort to desperate measures to get my raspberry fix.

Finally, I decided to take a class this fall at a local technical college, so on top of all of this, I had a bit of homework to do. Nothing terribly major, but finding the time had me just a bit stressed out. It should be better from here on out (knock on wood).

Quilting-related posts will come again soon.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Piecing Away!

I know I've been quiet for the past week, but the good news is that I've gotten in a significant amount of sewing. As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm working on a quilt with a September deadline and am up against the fact that I will be away from home for an entire week at a conference and pre-conference workshop (hooray, San Francisco, here I come!).

Here are quick photos of some of the 120 blocks that make up this quilt - 60 light and 60 dark. I now have 115 of the 120 blocks totally done and the remaining 5 are about 2/3 pieced. One third of the quilt is totally pieced together, the remaining blocks are sewn in pairs, and the backing is in the dryer (I got smart and had the quilt shop cut it into three three yard segments to make it easier for me to manage).

Do you think I can finish in time? I'm pretty much down to tonight and tomorrow morning. I think I can... I think I can!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

iPods and Podcasts

I cashed in on my credit card points to purchase a refurbished iPod Nano, as my old iPod was no longer holding the charge well. Quite an adventure: the first shipment arrived from the vendor and the box was completely empty. Nothing inside. No inner box with the iPod, no invoice, no air-filled pouches to keep things from rattling. (Ben called me crazy when I picked up the shipment and told him I thought there was nothing inside: he reminded me that they're much smaller nowadays than back when my first one was made, so of course the box should have been light.) But I was right: no iPod. Bummer. After some waiting, the vendor did come through and shipped another iPod, thankfully.

But look at that difference in size: at left is my first iPod, purchased for my birthday in October 2002. 10 gigabytes of storage. At right, the Nano, 8 gigabytes of storage. It is SO tiny in comparison! Don't you love the case? I picked it up at the local Apple Store; made by Agent18. Brown and blue with lovely little flowers (look at the vendor site for a picture of the back of the case.) I don't think Ben will run off with mine by accident. Do you?

The first thing that I was sure to do was to download via iTunes some quilting-related podcasts to my iPod - Alex Anderson's Quilt Connection and Annie Smith's Quilting Stash. Then I had to get NPR's Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!, This American Life, and a new one Back Story with the American History Guys (I'm still not sure how I feel about the last one). Do you listen to any good podcasts, quilting-related or not? If so, what are they?

I've been madly sewing blocks and will share some photos with you soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quilt Exhibit - MSU

Journey to Freedom Memory Quilt, Close-Up
Boitumelo Quilting Group
South Africa
Made for an event at the University of South Africa reflecting on the demise of apartheid. Each square represents one woman's memories.

We drove to Lansing two weekends ago to visit our college friends Erica and Mark. Had a great time catching up with them and found time to fit in a few quilting-related activities, including a visit to local shop Country Stitches. I'd never been to the shop in Lansing, but had driven to their store in Jackson a number of times when we were living in Ann Arbor. Found a few more Christmas-related projects (I need more of those like I need a hole in the head) and helped Erica with some quilting questions (I hope she'll share photos when she's made headway).

We were lucky enough to catch the free exhibit Quilts and Human Rights, which is at the Michigan State University Museum, just minutes from their house. According to the museum's website, the "exhibition [explores] the role that quiltmakers have played in raising awareness of human rights issues around the world and the power of textiles to communicate important ideas and information... [featuring] inspiring and often provocative quilts made to document and express transgressions of human rights, to educate others about human rights issues, and to pay tribute to leaders of human rights movements."

Southern Heritage, Southern Shame
Gwendolyn Magee
Jackson, MS
Response to the failure of a 2001 referendum within the state of Mississippi to adopt a flag without the Confederate battle emblem.

The quilts really were inspiring and touched on a wide range of human rights issues, including apartheid, U.S. bombings abroad, lynchings in the United States, incarceration rates, AIDS, etc. In all, a nice exhibition for a museum on a college campus (although personally, I was a bit concerned about the environmental conditions in the building - it was horrendously hot and humid inside the day that we were there; certainly not good for collections).

The other images I took are available in my Picasa album.
Quilts & Human Rights

The exhibit runs through the 24th, so you still have time to check it out, if you're in the area.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Four Seasons Quilt Swap - Received

I've been monitoring the mail ever since the mailing deadline for the Four Seasons Quilt Swap, and Ben surprised me when he picked my up yesterday by bringing along a package that looked like it might be my quilt. Sure enough, it was.

Isn't this quilt absolutely gorgeous? It was made by Jeanne Mitchell of Perry, Oklahoma. Inspired by what she says are the only flowers she can get to grow: her purple coneflowers. It's almost as if she knew that purple coneflowers are my favorite flower and if I could, I'd have a whole field full of them.

I love the colors and they definitely make me think of summer. And it's handquilted. Some day I might get brave enough to try that.

I've hung the quilt in a place where I can see it regularly, and where I often find that I could use a bit of an uplift: in my cubicle at work. Jeanne also included a CD of summer songs to which I look forward to listening.

Really, this swap was a ton of fun and I would definitely do another one. I heard from Margaret, who organized this one, that she won't be doing one in the fall (I can totally understand how life gets busy), so I'll have to look for another option.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Four Seasons Swap - Finished

My quilt is now in the mail to Oregon and seeing as I don't think my recipient reads my blog, I thought I'd share with you photos of my finished project. As you might recall, the swap rules are pretty simple: a quilt between 16 and 20 inches square, with a "summer" theme. You can pretty much go anywhere you might like with it.

I settled on ice cream, as you probably already knew. Here's the finished view:

I'd originally wanted to do an ice cream truck and some music like Pop, Goes the Weasel!, but when I realized the actual size I'd be working in, I didn't think I had the skill to pull off something that detailed in the relatively limited amount of space. So, I went pretty basic.

I'm not sure how I feel about it; it's really my first original design effort, other than a small quilt I made for the guild's coffee cup challenge a few years ago. I was inspired by advertising for ice cream in general (do a Google image search on some particular products, like "ice cream sandwich" or "ice cream bar" and you'll see what I mean) and wanted to make it fun and bright.

Now, I don't generally do a lot of applique, so this is a bit of a departure and a challenge. I did my best - downloaded a fun font from online called Heartbreaker (I think this is the one!), used it to type out the words for the quilt at the right size, printed it out, cut the letters apart and taped them back together so I could get the desired level of "overlappingness."

I had fun quilting the cone to really look like a cone. And I sewed bugle beads on the top scoop to look like sprinkles. Not being experienced in beading, I hope that they stay on. Had a few miscues with beading needles and such, but they do seem to be well affixed. Ben helped me a bit with drawings of ice cream sandwiches and cones. Thanks a million, honey!

This was a fun challenge, but I must say I'm relieved to have it finished and in the mail. I waited to the last minute yet again, and this caused more than a bit of stress. I'll certainly be checking my own mail in the coming days to see what fun quilt I might receive. I still need to upload my images to Flickr with tags for the group, but will do so soon. You can search on the "4sqssum08" tag to find those images already there. Quite an inspiring group; very interesting to see how many directions the theme can lead.

Now it's time to get started on a major project that has a mid-September deadline.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

St. Louis, Baseball, and Hogwarts

Since we moved to Milwaukee 4+ years ago, we’ve been talking about going to St. Louis to add a Busch Stadium to the list of those we have visited. But we just never seemed to get around to it. We finally got around to it this year! Unfortunately the Brewers were not in town for a weekend series at all this year, so we settled for seeing the cellar-dwelling Padres in a weekend series July 19 and 20.

Boy, did we pick the wrong weekend to go: we had bleacher seats for Saturday afternoon’s game at 94 degrees and in the sun the entire time. Thankfully we enjoyed Sunday’s 96 degree heat in the shade along the first base line. It’s a nice park for the most part: check out the view of the Arch from behind the plate! We have some cool panoramas as well, but I don’t know how well you'll be able to view it. (The one I have included here isn't sewn together too well because I really want to get this up and done with, so my apologies. At least you get the idea.) While it’s a nice park, I also have to say that it is an expensive park. SRO tickets are $21 if that gives you any indication. A bottle of water or soda: $5. You can bring things in with you, but keep in mind that in 90+ heat, you need to find it somewhere close by if you’re from out of town. And there really is NOTHING close to the park where you can find such amenities. No Walgreen’s. No CVS. No convenience stores. No gas stations. Thankfully there was one street vendor and we were able to purchase a couple of bottles of water for $2 each. After draining them, we refilled the bottles from lukewarm drinking fountains spread throughout the park. At least it was wet! Cardinals won both games, with come-from-behind wins, and we saw Yadier Molina win Sunday’s game with a 9th inning walk-off grand slam!

We stayed at a B&B a couple of miles from the park in the Lafayette Park neighborhood. The private drive on which the B&B was located had a number of really cool houses built between 1860 and 1890. Apparently, at that time, it would have been a gated drive with a keeper at the end of the street. The houses don’t look all that big from the street, but looks can be deceiving: they extend back from the road in really deep lots.

We didn’t really check out Lafayette Park, which was right at the end of the street, but we did have an opportunity to run the 6-mile route around the outside Forest Park, which wasn’t too far away. The B&B owner gave us the low-down on where to park and what to expect; loads of people were out in the morning, when it was still relatively cool and there was a more than welcome light rain. Would love to go back to check out the history and art museums and it seems like there’d be lots of opportunity to develop longish running routes through the central portions of the park (if we'd had more time, running along the Mississippi would also have been fun).

In addition to the baseball games, we did take the trip up into Gateway Arch. Ben hadn't been up before and wanted to check it out; I'd been up with my parents in December 1994 when we made a college visit to Wash U. (I'm dating myself now). We learned the hard way that times are different post-9/11 and in the summer vacation period. If you go: buy your tickets in advance online!! If you do not, you will have to wait outside to get through the security checkpoint so that you can wait in line downstairs under the Arch to buy tickets so that you can wait until your appointed time to go up, which can be hours later. Because the next available time was in the middle of the ball game, we opted to purchase tickets for a trip up the next day, which meant we had to wait in line again for the security checkpoint. Arg! We did check out the late 1960s/early 1970s-era film that they made about the construction of the arch, and it's worth it if you have time.

We also found our way to Platform 9-3/4. Here's Ben awaiting the Hogwarts Express. Actually, this is portion of wall within Union Station painted to invoke Harry Potter. Do you think they had to put the stanchion up because too many kids had a run at the wall trying to find the train? The Whispering Wall in the station really does work (if you follow the instructions, unlike the people who tried ahead of us), and the central portion of the station is absolutely gorgeous. This photo really doesn't do it justice.

Last stop before we headed for home: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on the Old Route 66. We're a bit mystified as to why they call their flurry-type product a "concrete," as it exhibits none of the properties of concrete (if it were frozen solid, ok, I'd get it), but it was a welcome reprieve, nonetheless. Ben says Kopp's is better. I say that any frozen treat on a 96 degree day is more than welcome! (Well, maybe not sherbet. Or orange dreamsicles.)

A quilting-related post soon, I promise!