Thursday, August 31, 2006

busy busy

When I showed you the pic of the entrance to my apartment, you couldn't see the left side of the quilt very well. These are a couple of my evil eye protection charms that hang from the hook on that side.

I spent the last two days helping a friend with her packout. Whew, glad that's over, at least for now. The first day I helped her with the organization and I'm ruthless about throwing out expired foods, meds etc. Yesterday I was there to help keep track of what was going in what box while eight different packers went at it.

One of the men was a sweetie - 85 years old, hard of hearing, one tooth and really good at packing the big furniture items. The men all looked out for him and carried the heavy items for him. I sure hope I don't have to work that hard if I make it to that age. Heck, I don't want to work that hard ever.

And speaking of work, that's actually what I should be doing. Gotta go pack my quilts and fabric, and definitely toss more unneeded items out. So no more procrastinating from me. I'll be scarce online for the next week or so. Ya'all take care.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Naive Embroidery

I know this will get repetitive, but I can't believe how soon I will be leaving Egypt. In some ways I am soooo ready to go already but it's going to be hard to leave the friends I've made, at least the ones that are staying. One of my friends already moved away and two more will be going before my sweetie and I do. Big changes.

One of the things I have loved the most about Egypt is the folk art. This is a piece of naive embroidery done by a craftswoman from the Mottamadaya Women's Association, a fair trade organization. The women were trained in embroidery by a Dutch woman and they depict common Egyptian scenes. When I first moved here three years ago there was a huge selection of these pieces available, but not so much anymore. I hope that's because they're being exported now and making these women some much needed money.

Anyway, this is one I own. The embroidered scene is roughly 15" square.

I bought this particular work because I loved the rooster wearing boots. And hmmm, something interesting going on with the man in the upper right, with the face both looking sideways and straight ahead.

I love this row of buildings. First is a church (crosses on the roof), the middle aqua-colored house has two of the pigeon houses (the domed things with sticks) I told you about in a previous embroidery post, and the building on the far right is a mosque (crescents on the roof). Very integrated.

The only thing the houses are missing is the satellite dishes, which are on every apartment building. This is the view out of my computer room window. There are the dishes and then the dome of the nearby coptic church.

Here's a woman baking bread. Behind her is a water jug, if that's the proper name for it. You see these all over here in Egypt, rather than drinking fountains.

This is what the water vessels look like:

I was a good girl yesterday and got the ginormous backing finished for my bed quilt and the backing for one of the charity quilts. So making some progress, that's good. I desperately wanted to start playing, but managed to hold off.

Sweetie and I started watching the third season of Monk. I'd resisted getting it because of the departure of Sharona, but Laura convinced me the shows are still good.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Batik Backing

I do not understand how some quilters can make huge bed-sized quilts over and over again. I just find it horrendous to work on a large scale. And that was even before I had cats.

I guess I should be glad that Lily was playing in the pool of fabric at my feet as I was at the cutting table (much safer for her, tho still pesty). She then found a comfortable spot as I was sewing the large bits of fabric together for my backing. Turns out her favorite basket was under the pile.

Doesn't she have the daintiest little legs? She was a skinny kitten, we rarely saw her eat and she was (and is) a yacker. (A regurgitator, does that sound better?) We called her The Supermodel. Now she has a thick torso. Not fat, not at all, she's just built solid. Still has the gorgeous gams tho.

So I'm making progress sewing the backing fabric together. Using up the batiks that I still find mostly gorgeous, but am no longer interested in working with on the front of a quilt.

Aussie Lily, I'm not worried about the seams being straight on the back (that doesn't bother me). But I need to be able to join the bits together so I have to cut the fabric relatively straight. My infamous V-cut superpower cutting skills do not help. I end up with waves that I then have to straighten...

I made brownies the other day. I am now officially out of sugar AND corn syrup which I had to use as a substitution (note to self: never do that again). Didn't turn out the greatest and I'm hoping I have the willpower to throw out the rest rather than eating them anyway just cuz they're chocolate.

Another quilt blogger has joined our midst. Say hello to Brigitte in Duesseldorf, Germany. I was telling you about her in my last post and I'm thrilled she's made the jump into bloggerdom.

Creatively Minded Pam has used the wonky letters to great effect with a large piece of fabric. Who'd of thought there'd be so many cats out there who like to sleep in sinks... (That last bit will make sense if you go check out her site)

Jenny at Three Ring Circus Quilting is making a challenge quilt. She's got some great colors and different sizes of Xs and Os - gonna be fun to see how they go together.

KCQuilter Vera has made a great Halloween house (her first wonky house) and explains how she appliqued BOO.

Cats may be missing the charity boxes -- I'm certainly not -- but they're making do. I threw the sheet over these ones so that my little chewers wouldn't destroy the cartons. This is Habibi, King of the Mountain.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cat Antics

Would you look at this? [First few paragraphs are all cat-related. Feel free to skip ahead.]

I thought I'd broken Pokey of the habit of drinking water out of glasses, but she started again recently. She and Habibi are the worst offenders. He laps at it when a glass is full and very rarely I have caught him dunking a paw in (eeeu, why does my water taste like kitty litter? And yes, I know what kitty litter tastes like - it's impossible to keep the dust out of my mouth/nose when I'm pouring the fresh stuff into the litter box). I've never seen Pokey's little head this far down in the glass before.

Uh oh, here comes Lily to investigate. As you can see, this is all taking place on the computer desk. Better get that glass of water before it gets knocked over.

I managed to avert the flood.

My friend Susie has a cat named Sparky, who loves her dearly and vice-versa. He loves to be cradled in her arms and is incredibly sweet. To Susie. As he gets older he's getting more territorial and aggressive to non-family (and even to them when a stranger is in the house). I just figured it was people who don't know how to deal with cats b/c Sparky has always been sweet to me.

Yesterday I was petting him and he was very friendly. Then Susie went into another room and Sparky flipped out when I tried to walk into the kitchen. Ran at me, grabbed my leg with his front paws and laid his teeth on me (not a bite, but I knew his teeth were there). And then he did it again. Doesn't seem like playing and his tail was doing the whippy thing.

Any cat psychologists out there? Susie's been trying to find info but has gotten the sage advice to consult an expert. We're in Egypt, there's no such thing here. He's a sweet cat, but someone is going to get hurt if she can't figure out how to turn him around.

Off the cat topic, it hit me yesterday that we are packing out in two weeks and flying out in a month. Aaaaghhh. It always seems like I have more time than I actually do. I've been puttering around doing fun things I want to do and ignoring the have-tos like insurance inventory.

One thing on my checklist is getting backings sewn up for two charity quilts I'm mailing off to Bonnie, plus I'd love to get a backing pieced for my wordy queen-sized bed quilt top that she's going to do fabulous longarm machine quilting on. I'm using the batiks I don't care for as much for the backing on the latter.

I was telling Cher that I'm challenged by cutting straight lines. I really am. Trying to get these large pieces of fabric sewn together for backings is just nightmarish. That's why I've gone the wonky path. So while some of you are feeling challenged loosening up your style, I'm nearly in tears trying to be precise. Oh, the irony.

Yesterday was the first meeting of the Quilters in DeNile after our summer break. Not everyone is back in town yet, but it was good to catch up with each other and share new books. Everyone seems to be tempting me with Halloween fabric. First Finn with the witches and skulls and then someone at quilting had discovered some great vultures on purple. I'm trying to hold off until I'm actually back in the states.

Some fun links for ya'all: Pat Sloan has an interesting series of posts in her blog about putting words on quilts and how to choose them. (Well, and how to applique them - but ya'all don't need that part, right?) Check out the gallery of quilts with words. I see Brigitte's work in there. She's a German quilter who has worked with the freepieced letters. I've been trying to convince her to start a blog. Brigitte's a bit nervous about her English, but I told her that she speaks quilts, and that's all that's necessary.

Cat lover Nancy made a great quilt with a bright cat fabric and one word ala the penguin quilt I made the other day. Mismatched Katie has done some wonderful Xs and Os. The Os are rounder than mine and wonkier and truly fabulous.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

On a Bag, In a Box

What could be better than sleeping on a bag or sleeping in a box? Sleeping on a bag in a box. Sounds like a Dr Seuss story.

Notice all those little bite marks on the flaps of the box. Pokey loves to chew boxes. At least curled up like this, she doesn't have to stretch far to get a snack...

Today is the day that I finally get to dismantle the kitty charity box playground. It's been hard to keep track of what's in the "giveaway" pile and what's mine, but the items in the middle should be "theirs" at least until we hit the plastic containers full of scraps - mine, mine, mine.

Last night my copy of "Collaborative Quilting" by Marston and Moran arrived. Finally. Hmm, what to think. Gotta say, I don't buy into the "black and white fabrics give your eyes a place to rest" theory. Black would do that. A nice solid. Black and white just contributes to the busy-ness. Really wish they had shown the quilts on nice white pages instead of the strong colors - think that contributed to making my eyes hurt. It is a fun book tho and I do recommend it.

My sweetie was home sick yesterday. In the afternoon we watched "Notorious" - the Alfred Hitchcock movie with my beloved Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman - and I worked on my Halloween thready - it's just about finished so I'll be able to get it framed before we go. This project had stalled out because I wanted to couch more yarn on it and I just didn't have enough in Halloween colors. I still didn't get a really good orange that I liked, but I made do. I'll show you the pic when it's finished. [thready = a piece of fabric or canvas completely covered in stitches]

Monday, August 21, 2006

Welcome to My Apartment

This is the first thing you'll now see when I open up my door to invite you into my apartment:

Terms of Endearment is done and up on the wall. It's too large for me to be able to take a good picture of it all by myself.

Hanging from the rod, up there on the right, is an evil eye protection charm - this one made in the Sinai. Not very attractively placed is the cat carrier with the kitties' dinner bowl inside.

In the lower right is my camel saddle with the purple leather cover (especially dyed for me - guess there isn't too much of a call for this particular color - tho a wild friend has since had several more purple ones made). Camels here are actually dromedaries - they have only one hump. This is a side view of the saddle which is placed over the top of that hump, and then the rider would straddle it. We sit on it sidesaddle in order to put our shoes on.

I'm off to the framers now. Ciao. Whoops, I'm supposed to be learning French. Darnit. Bonjour?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

To Square or Not to Square

I suspect long time readers of this blog can figure out what this lump is under the quilt.

Yes, that would be my darling Lily the Pest. The same little critter who kept me awake last night by scratching and scratching at the closet door. No, she wasn't trapped inside, she wanted to get in there. She never does this during the daytime, only when we're trying to sleep. As I said, the Pest.

Yesterday I got the binding and sleeve machine sewn onto Terms. The top of the sleeve gets sewn right in there at the same time as the binding - that's one less bit of hand sewing I have to do. Anyway, got halfway through finishing off the binding while watching "The Fifth Element" with my sweetie. Goofy movie that both of us disliked in the theater but grew to love just watching bits of it on HBO. Now we thoroughly enjoy it. As Ruby Rhod would say "super green."

While I was trimming the extra batting and backing off of Terms, I thought I'd mention about how I don't square up quilts anymore. I know the Quilt Police are all into that "squared up" thing and once upon a time I tried to follow those rules. This was the last quilt I squared up:

I wrote about this quilt in my very first post. Sorry I don't have a better picture of it - I know this one is tiny. I hand-pieced the top and then quilted very closely - every quarter inch. Love how it came out. But when it came to squaring up the edges before putting on the binding, I finally realized that I was going around and around and around the top and it was never getting any squarer - just smaller. I easily lost an inch of the border, if not more, which saddens me because I adore this Hoffman floral.

So that was it. I don't square any more. I don't care if the quilt has an odd shape. It'll wobble if it's gonna wobble - trimming it down to nothing just isn't going to help. Much less stress my way. I just trim straight, about three inches at a go. Move the ruler, trim a bit, move the ruler, trim, and on and on. That's what I was doing up there in that top picture when Lily jumped in.

Susan asked about Lebanese food. Go here for a description of my favorite dishes, as well as to see Xs and Os in progress on Fruit Punch.

Cotton Pickin' Andi of Phoenix AZ has made some bold Xs and Os for her Take the Leap Challenge quilt.

New blogger Caroline at Quilty Nurse is working on great wonky houses, an alphabet sampler and Judy's Hour a Day Challenge. She's got her hands full - how about giving her some encouragement.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Merry Penguins

I got distracted yesterday. Did I finish my Terms quilt? Nooo, putting on the sleeve and binding is boring. So I made a new quilt top. I have this fear of being without my sewing machine and unable to piece new quilts for an extended period of time, so I need a stockpile of tops. Which is just silliness.

I mail-ordered a half yard of this great Christmasy Penguin fabric a while back. It turned out to be incredibly fun in person. It's a busy fabric and a lot of the detail would be lost and fragmented if I cut it up. Decided to use a big chunk of it instead, like I did with the Halloween Faces quilt which was made with fabric from the same designer, Nancy Wolff.

But only having a half yard made it problematic. Couldn't do a big piece like I did with Faces. So why not add a word to it? So that's what I did. There are two different versions of the quilt pictured here, as I first made it and then with a reduced border. See what you think:

I really like the graphic punch of the first version, but have to admit the border is overwhelming. Husband suggested that I cut the border in half. It brings the focus onto the penguins and is better. My sweetie being right about a quilt design? Aiyee. I absolutely hate admitting that he is right.

So that's a fat quarter of fabric and the letters are 3.5" finished. It's a very easy project to do, and would be another good baby steps project. Not that you should use "Merry" and a christmas fabric - you can do anything. Would be fun to do a child's name this way or I can think of loads of other words that would be great to highlight. Stick with a short word or make the letters narrower.

It took me 3 hours to make the top and of course I did all that sewing in one go, without any breaks, which is stupid stupid stupid. Now my back and neck ache. I know better than to do that, but I get carried away and forget to stop. Need to set a timer to ring loudly when it's time for a break.

In a completely different vein: my sweetie and I had dinner at my favorite Lebanese restaurant. I swear if it was closer I'd probably be eating there 4 times a week. The food is excellent and now I have some yummy leftovers.

Speaking of food, and food movies as we were yesterday, yes, I love the movie "Chocolat" too. Wasn't nearly so keen on "Babette's Feast" but maybe I need to give it another try.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Flag Beady

Woohoo, not only did I finish all the quilting on Terms, but last night I finished the Flag Beady that I've been working on intermittently for the last two years. It measures 6.75" x 5.5"

I learned a lot while doing this and got better as I went along. Would do things differently if I were making it again, but that's life. The framers reopens from their summer holiday so I can take in a bunch of my pieces for framing on Monday.

Learned how to do this type of beadwork from an article Andi Stern did in the Spring 2004 issue of Quilting Arts magazine. I also like the book Beaded Embellishment by Clarke and Atkins.

Some fun bead embroidery blogs are: The Lone Beader and Liz at I Work to Support My Vacation Habits

My sweetie took the day off from work yesterday and we spent several hours organizing. We now have a place to stack items that are going in our airfreight shipment and the boxes for charity donation are out of control. Cats are having fun exploring the new playground.

We watched "The Big Night" - a great movie if you love food. Even if you don't. Highly recommended - has great acting by Stanley Tucci and a pre-Monk Tony Shalhoub.

Our stinking a/c went on the fritz yet again but has been cleaned up. Somehow I expect that we'll be seeing the janitor again for this chore in a week or two.

And last but not least, some X and O action. Check out:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Charity Quilts

I'm happy to report that I haven't gotten too out of control with my exit shopping. Just because we're leaving in five weeks doesn't mean I have to take the entire output of the country with me. I did finally break down and buy one of these new-made-to-look-old coffee urns. I'm guessing that this is meant to be Beduoin, since a lot of their jewelry uses old "coins" in this manner.

Sweetie of course just said you bought this??? and for how much??? Well I love it and I'm sure the cats would too if they could get at it.

Since one of the "suggestions" (I hate the word "rules") of the Take the Leap Challenge is that the quilt be donated to charity, I thought I would post a couple of links to worthwhile causes for you, in case you don't already have something in mind.

First off, Wrap Them in Love, which donates quilts to children in need around the world. They recommend that the quilt be heavily quilted or tied and sturdy, since they're going to get lots of loving and laundering. Their preferred size is 40" x 60".

Another is the U.S. Project Linus. They were the lucky recipient of loads of fabric when I cleaned out my stash before moving overseas. Their mission is to "provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need... Quilts can be as small as 36" X 36". The majority of Project Linus blankets are about 40" X 60", or what is called "crib size." Blankets could be as large as twin size for teens."

Have to admit I never realized that crib size was that big. I've always aimed for 45" squarish when making baby blankets for friends. I don't know what size preemie quilts should be. I'm guessing darn small...

I received an email asking what kind of batting/wadding should be used and does the material need to be 100% cotton. I don't know if there is a preference. I didn't see one when I scanned through these two sites. If anyone out there has some good tips for making baby quilts for charity projects, that would be appreciated.

Links to check out:

Tazzie has absolutely made my day. Way back when, Tazzie commented that she wanted to be more adventurous in her quilting, but was afraid to take the leap. That was how the Take the Leap Challenge got started. So I'm thrilled that she's tried the instructions and learned that it wasn't as scary as she thought it would be. Woohoo!

Quilt Pixie has gone wild, unsurprisingly enough since she used all sorts of wonkier than wonky houses and letters in her home quilt. Now she's making fantastic hugs and kisses to go with her "supernovas" and "sinkholes." I wonder if I can be considered a child in need, heh heh heh.

ClickertyClick Linda in Adelaide is a fairly new blogger - a knitter and quilter. She's making letters and they're looking great and she knitted an a that's very clever.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More Xs and Os

Life is going well. I am almost almost almost finished quilting Terms of Endearment, which is exciting. I really love working on that quilt. Next up will be finishing up my beady project which is hanging over my head, and then back to quilting fans on Cranky Witch. Since Halloween is coming up, that should give me motivation to work on it.

Thought I'd show you some pics from how I originally started working on the Challenge quilt (before realising it was too challenging). I made the X and O blocks in a much wider variety of sizes and with lots of angles.

And then figured they'd go together in a much more liberated, utility style. Adding more fabric where necessary, chopping off bits of extra - including slicing up the letters. Not that I got as far as putting them together - I needed quite a few more blocks.

This is actually still an option for anyone who REALLY wants a challenge. But you'll need to make far more blocks than I originally called for - that or make really big ones. I really struggle trying to make larger letters. For whatever reason, the smaller the better for me.

And here is baby girl Pokey doing what cats do: getting in the middle of whatever is going on.

My friend L. gave me leftover items from her pantry and freezer. What else was I supposed to do with corn syrup, pecans and Cool Whip but make Chocolate Pecan Pie. It was a new recipe and not great, but I still ate waaaay too much of it. I blame her for any extra pounds I acquired.

This is embarassing to admit, but I've been watching Rockstar:Supernova. I know the final band is going to play music that I hate, but I still love watching the competition. And drooling over the mansion they're living in - I so want that view. Love how it's decorated with Persian Carpets, big heavy furniture and middle eastern lanterns, etc. So cool.

Still enjoying Bones. Watched one and only one episode of "The Ghost Whisperer" and absolutely hated it.

Medium just started it's second season and I like that one as well, tho I wish it were scarier or spookier. My hubby gets cranky because they use plots from Sherlock Holmes only instead of using deductive reasoning to solve crimes it's all mumbo-jumbo. I love Jake Weber, the guy playing the husband (completely thankless whinging housewifey role) - he was so great in the "Dawn of the Dead" remake.

For some quilting links, Cher finished her incredible village quilt - go check it out if you haven't already. The longarmer did a great job with the quilting - I love the elephants.

And Passionate Quilter Karen has the top pieced on the very fun Flamingo Lounge. Her group is going to have a great quilt retreat with this as the theme.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Whew, that's done

Okay, I finished the instructions for the Take the Leap Challenge. It's the next entry, but if you click on the link you will just get that post. I've disabled the comments so that you won't get a bunch of those when you try to print it out.

Please, please, please let me know any improvements, suggestions etc that I can make. If you get in a jam, email me or post a pic in your blog and I'll do my best to help.

And somebody please proofread it for me for glaring errors. My eyes have gone numb looking at this too many times.

You can't do this wrong - you really can't. It doesn't matter if you end up with blocks that don't look like the letters you're trying to make. It's all for fun and it's all okay. Don't go trying to practise first - this is the practise. (That's you, Clare.)

I found this more difficult to do than expected. Because I wasn't just showing a technique, I felt like I had to make a quilt that ya'all would want to make. And I got frustrated trying to do the webpage too, so that's something for me to play around with when I'm not feeling time pressures.

Anyway, I ended up using a somewhat traditional setting for my hugs and kisses, but you could put them together like I did in Hugs and Kisses (which I wrote a post about almost a year ago exactly):

and in this quilt, Fruit Punch (which I made in January 2006 - you can read through that month and find several posts about it):

[This is how I finally cut the borders, by the way. Realize it'll look a bit smaller with the binding on, but how do the proportions of the border look with the center? Still maybe a bit too big.]

Of course you would either have to make a smaller quilt, or make a lot more of the blocks.

Or you could put your Xs and Os together in a less traditional 4-patch like I did with my L-O-V-E blocks in Hot Crazy Love (which I began working on in my May 11 post):

This is a much scrappier way to make letters, and you could certainly do your Xs and Os like this.

Take the Leap Challenge Quilt

Here it is - the Take the Leap Challenge quilt. Or at least the middle of it - I still need to decide on a border. [edited 14 August]

This is a baby steps project. It's repetitive so that you can try different ways to make the letters. The Xs and Os, can be put together in 4-patches as I've done for "hugs and kisses" or into 9-patches for tic-tac-toe blocks. [What is that in British English - naughts and crosses?]

I made my blocks 4.5" unfinished so that the 4-patches are 8" finished. At least theoretically - I get my seams too small so mine didn't turn out that exact. And that's 2" finished sashing. This middle bit is 38" finished so it doesn't need much of a border to be a baby blanket. Or you could add another row or row and a half of blocks to make it longer if you're aiming for 40" x 60"

I have 13 each of the Xs and Os, but you can make more or less as you'd like.

I don't know how much fabric you are going to need - it all depends on how you use it. This is a great project for fat quarters.

In the letter fabric, cut 1" and 1.75" and 2.5" strips. They do not have to be perfectly measured and can even slant. This is a good opportunity to use mis-cut strips (the one that you're cutting and then -oops- the ruler slips). You can start with just three (or even two) strips of fabric for your letters and three (or two) strips for the background and then cut more as needed from either the same or different fabrics.

If you have 1.5" and 2" strips use those too or instead of the measurements I gave you. They don't have to be long strips.

For the fabric that will be the background, you will also need some larger squares or rectangles of fabric, about 4.5" maximum.

We're going to start by making some O's, which are made just like Log Cabin blocks. I'm going to tell you the widths of fabric I used to make this O, so you have a starting point.

Take a square of background fabric (1.5" x 1.5") and sew it to a thin strip (1") right sides together.

Once you've done that, slice the tail of the strip off, following the line of the initial square.
Now you're going to sew the unit onto another strip. In my case, this was the 1.75" strip.
Trim the extra off and sew the unit onto another strip to make the third side of the O. I used the 1.75" strip.
Trim even and then sew onto the final strip of letter fabric - I used the widest one. Trim that straight once again and you should have a finished O.

Make some more. Start with a really small square; start with a large one; start with narrow long rectangles and make a tall skinny O and one that's fat. Play.

And now the X.
Start with a "large" square of your background fabric. I chose a bit that measured 4" x 4.25". Slice across the block diagonally.

Now you are going to "insert" a strip. (For your first X block I recommend sticking to the thinner letter fabric strips - I'll explain why later.) I used a 1.5" strip. Don't sew too close to the end of the strip. You want it placed something like this (shown right sides together):

The next step is to trim even. It's the same thing as you did with the O, only there's an angle involved. Just follow the line of the background block.

Okay, now sew the triangle of background fabric on. You can center the triangle and end up with a square shape, but if you slide it a bit either way that's fine too - you'll just end up more rectangley.

Now you're going to slice diagonally again. (sorry the unit isn't placed the same as in the above photo, but I turned it to make my right-handed rotary cut).

And sew to a letter fabric strip - use the thinnest letter fabric you have. Mine was a 1" strip. If you use a wider strip here than the first one you inserted, it becomes harder to make the legs of the X all meet up in the middle.

The last step is to sew the last triangle on. Match up the legs on both sides and sew together.

Experiment making Xs. Make a big one; a small one; tall and skinny; use a really wide strip and then a skinny one and then do the reverse; make your first slice without going into the corners and make one where you don't go into any of the corners. Feeling more confident? Try angled strips.

If you've made one of the legs too short on your X, it's easy enough to add an over-sized triangle to the corner of the block. Don't assume that a block doesn't work - sometimes you just need to play with it.

After you've made several of your Xs and Os, add fabric to them and then cut the blocks down to 4.5" as needed. If you ended up with really big letters, you can make bigger blocks. It's up to you.

Finish the quilt as you'd like.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

If It's Not One Thing

In the immortal words of Roseanne Roseannadanna, "if it's not one thing, it's another thing." Now instead of waiting for the guy to come and fix the air conditioning, I'm waiting for a plumber to come take care of a leak in a sink drain. Sigh. Of course the contact number they have is the home phone and since we have dial-up I really shouldn't be on the internet.

The a/c has been fixed tho. The janitor climbed up a ladder and scrubbed down the coils and other assorted parts with a big brush. I'm sure it will have problems again soon, but hopefully not until after we depart.

When I get stressed out, there is nothing better than quilting. I was stressed out this week big time watching the news about the airline terror plot. Alleged plot. Worrying about Siobhan getting to England safely, worried about me getting home with hubby, assorted felines and documents. It's one thing to be in your home country when there is a big scary event going on, it's another to be really far away. Can't just hop on a plane and get home quickly if there's a problem and driving is certainly out of the question. I wonder if the QE2 allows pets...

As I was writing this post, I received an email from Siobhan (of Scraps and Threadtales fame). She, her hubby, and her pets arrived safely at Heathrow on Thursday. Lots of delays, but no problems.

Anyway, I worry and stress far more than I should. So instead of getting things done, I've been doing my hand quilting. I am almost finished with Terms of Endearment. This is all I've got left:

If you look closely at the bottom of the pic you can see where I quilted in "Cairo, Egypt 2006" with the embroidery floss.

I've finished the fourth round of fan arcs and am halfway through the fifth. Pretty cool.

I took photos again when I was in one of the corners where the stitches show up really well. Here I am on the fifth arc of this set and I'm getting near to running into another set of fans.

In this pic, I've finished that set of six arcs and filled in the gap with partials. And then I just started again on my next set of arcs.

A few fun places to check out on the web: Quilting Rush Laurie Ann has done a couple of name banners using her own version of free-pieced letters. I love the way she made her M and the W is excellent as well. She's given me some ideas to play with.

Actually-living-in-France-now (as compared to a wannabe like me) Clare has constructed her first house block with French doors no less. And Scraps in Progress Fiona has made a couple of great brightly colored houses.

Okay, okay, I'm gonna scoot now. Ya'll take care.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

check this out

Oops, forgot to mention that we now have a place to stay when we get back to the states in September. It's in northern Bethesda in Maryland, and we just have to walk a block to get to a D.C. metro station. I'm really excited about it. Looks like it's going to be a very convenient place to stay with lots to do nearby.

Also, go check out Kristin's incredible Home Sweet Home cross-stitch sampler-inspired wall-hanging. It's a marvelous bit of folk art using the free-pieced letters and I can't believe how quickly she made it.

Darn This Heat

This is the name tag I made when I belonged to the Pieceful Heart Quilters. It's a crusty (heavily encrusted) and measures 4.5" across.

This is a quickie post - our air conditioning has been on the fritz for the last day and a half. Again. Since the computer is in the heat zone, I'm not spending much time on it.

I was actually fairly productive sewing and ironing yesterday - over in the cool side of the apartment. Not stunning amounts done, but progress.

Found out just how skittish the cats still are when I put the boys' canned cat food (a relatively rare treat) down in front of their cages and they hightailed it under the dining room table. I eventually moved it into the kitchen and Bibi finally skulked in and ate both his portion and Howler's.

Back to the previous post about quilting knots on the back of the quilt. No one ever taught me to do it that way, believe me. I was told the "right" way to do it was to pull the knot in through the top but the first real quilt I made (the poly-cotton blend fabrics with polyester batting) ended up with all these little holes that the batting oozes out of from where the knot broke through the surface. That, combined with the snags and runs you can get in fabric convinced me that was a bad way to do it.

Plus I hate being told what to do. If I don't see a good reason to do it, I don't bother. Have to learn some lessons on my own. Anyway, I quite like QuiltPixie's idea of leaving a long tail of thread in the batting and then quilting back over it. I'll have to try that.

Karen, we've lived in Egypt almost 3 years.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Back of the Quilt

You know how I was saying that quilting stitches on the back of my quilts don't look like the ones on the front? Well here's a great example. This is the back of the quilt I showed you yesterday. When I did this, I had ten years of hand quilting experience, so my stitches were going through much better than they did when I first began.

Some stitches are little dots and others are missing entirely. You can see the longer stitches, some of which are backstitches or maybe where I've stabstitched to get through the seams.

The only difference with how I quilt now is the knots. I was determined for many many years that there was no reason to pull the knots through. I've finally realized that it would be too easy for those knots to get worn off after many years, although I've had no problems so far. So I do pull the knots through now, but I do it through the backing, not the top layer of the quilt.

As far as the crease on the quilt goes, I'll wait til we get to Paris to wash it. I'm afraid all of the quilts I've had hanging up here are full of the fine sand/dust of Cairo. I'll cross my fingers that does the trick. I usually have all my quilts laying flat or scrunched, so this is the first time I've had this problem.

I do wash all my quilts after I've finished them. I throw them in the washing machine on the gentle/handwash cycle and then into the dryer on the low setting, taking them out when they're still a bit damp so that I can block them. Not serious blocking with pins and measuring, but I do lay them flat and that does a great job.

On a completely different topic, I've now switched to Bloglines and I do recommend it for reading blogs. I hated waiting for the email from Blogarithm. Bloglines updates all the time, although you can see an occasional glitch where it misses a post or two.

To try and answer some comments. (Okay, these are from way back when, but I explained about the jumbly brain).

Tazzie, I have no idea why the tablecloths smell like gasoline. Something to do with the process of making them - I just know they stink.

Eileen, it's a fairly dry heat generally, at least in the summer. As far as I'm concerned, October is the worst weather month here - it's stickier and they burn the fields so the air pollution is horrendous. I'm thrilled to miss it this year.

The other day the temp was 95 and humidity was 43% and I was whining like crazy. I have the Mozilla Firefox browser and I put the weather plug-in on so now I can find out that kind of info easily. for instance, today's high is supposed to be 95 degrees and euwwww the humidity is expected to hit a high of 53 percent. Gross, I need to go run errands today (since I don't have a car, that means walking) so I've gotta get going now.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pink and Purple Zigzags

We all survived the trip to the vet. It was easier to round up the cats this time. I put out treats in front of the cage and then just pushed Habibi right on in. Howler was more difficult, but we were smart enough to lift the mattress and bed springs up and over so he couldn't hide under the bed. I thought Lily would be hard to catch because she's darn quick, but she went to ground with Pokey under the couch, where it was pretty easy to nab both of them.

Poor Lily had to be stuck with the needle numerous times before the doc could get the blood drawn, but amazingly Howler was the only one of the cats who had to be sedated. Cats are all their normal sweet selves today, if a bit jumpy. I'm amazed that they don't hold more of a grudge. So incredibly relieved this step of the journey is complete, but fingers crossed the testing at a lab in Germany goes smoothly and we get the results back in a timely manner.

Here's a quilt I made back in 1998-99.

I just picked up a bunch of purple and pink 1.5 inch strips and sewed them to same-width black strips. I kept sewing and arranging until I liked what I had. It's 30" x 32" and quilted with black quilting thread in the ditch and then twice through the colored bits and just once through the black. I continued that same pattern out through the border.

No, Pokey hasn't been bitten by a mutant spider and started walking up walls. I photographed the quilt on the floor...

I have a question that I'm afraid of the answer to. You know how you get that crease in a quilt after you've left it folded too long? Is there any way to get rid of that? I unfortunately have one in this quilt, although it isn't all that bad. Please tell me I just need to wash the quilt.

In the mood to see a great liberated quilt in progress? Check out this beautiful top made by Cindra. I love it. And Ragdoll Judy posted a great follow-up on the thimble discussion. (Can it be a discussion when it's all written?)

Saturday, August 05, 2006


I thought of another collection that I have - charms against the evil eye. I purchased this one here in Cairo, but I doubt that it was made here. To see some of my previous posts with these charms go here where you can also see my Trip Around the World quilt, and here and here.

I am a bundle of nerves this morning. Today's the day we have to round up the cats and take them in to the vet for the blood draw. They have to be sedated and blood taken from their necks since the other veins aren't big enough. Then there is all sorts of hassles getting the blood serum sent to the UK for official rabies testing. I'm trying not to think about all that - it happens this evening.

During the day we have some fun stuff planned - first lunch at The Nook which serves british-ish pub food (but no alcohol). My sweetie will be having the full English Breakfast inc beans on toast whereas I will probably have the Bacon, Mushroom, Cheese Buttie (sandwich on a baguette). After lunch, a trip to the carpet shop. I really doubt we'll find what we're looking for, but it's nearby and fun to browse through.

I have been unable to concentrate this week. Sorry, I'm not making progress on the challenge instructions. I will, promise, just not when I'm this discombobulated. Instead I've been doing more hand quilting on Terms, which is so soothing. Well, the quilt itself isn't soothing - rather obnoxious really - but the quilting part is relaxing.

We've been working on getting our place to stay in MD lined up. Still not completely set. We decided to go the honest route and tell them we have four cats, so I'm hoping they don't reject us once my sweetie gets the paperwork faxed to them. And we're doing the mental sorting of what goes with us in which shipment. Aiyee. I hate moving. We have about one month until we (okay, the movers) pack everything up.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

this n that

This is going to be a jumbly post. I have been even more scatterbrained lately than usual. At least I'm not sick, unlike my poor sweetie. He actually missed a day of work this week and didn't work any extra, which is unusual. He's watched the entire series of Harry Potter movies, his comfort viewing. I even let him close the curtains and turn the lights off (which I hate - too hard to quilt).

One big item on my list of things to do before we pack-up in early September was to get our dvd cabinet fixed. It is an incredibly beautiful piece of work custom-made here in Egypt - this picture doesn't do it justice.

The doors were too heavy and were scraping along the bottom of the cabinet. And then one of the knobs came off, which was a real sign there was a problem. I talked to Mr Taha and the very next morning his son, the furniture maker, arrived to fix it. He took the doors off and tried planing them down and when that wasn't enough he took the doors back to his shop and fixed them there. The bottom shelf is rather thin now, but it shouldn't be a problem.

It astounds me how this was made. It's all oak - and darn heavy.

Here's a detail of the mother-of-pearl inlay and the gorgeous carving.

I would love to have more furniture made, but since we do have a weight allowance to worry about I've kept myself under control. For those who haven't seen it, check out the gorgeous hand-made cabinet and my quilt display box here. And the incredible mashrabiya screen can be seen here.

SewPrimitive Quilter Karen asked if I had any other collections after I showed you all my canopic jars and phrenology heads. I have a tacky refridgerator magnet collection. Whenever a friend is going on holiday (or on a business trip) and asks what I'd like, I say "tacky magnet." I've since had to adjust the rule to indicate that they have to be souvenir magnets and clearly show where they are from.

I was so incredibly proud of my sweetie, who doesn't have a tacky bone in his body, when he brought me home the gaudy sandal magnet that is actually filled with sand. Woohoo - he just picked out the most obnoxious magnet that he hated the most, and he had a winner. We both got a magnet from the National Archives in DC. His has the consitution, mine has Elvis shaking hands with Nixon.

For another view of the fridge magnets, you can check out my bad girl Pokey trying to knock some off. I've since moved the more enticing and bulky magnets further out of reach, tho I have a couple that need repairs.

We had a going away get together for my friend L, who's now off enjoying the muggy hot weather in the states. (Ya'all think it's horrible here in Egypt? Ha! It's been worse in many places in the states.) I was surprised to find that it was sort of a going away for my hubby and I as well. We received lovely gifts, including a table with this marble mosaic top. Looks like a cool quilt design, doesn't it.

Before I forget again, the pre-printed tent fabric? 100% polyester - looks better in pics than it does in real life. There are also heavy weight cotton tablecloths that smell strongly of gasoline (which eventually fades) and have to be set with vinegar.