Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

I've been trying to post some images all day, but Blogger hasn't been cooperating. I'm afraid I'm not done with Halloween - ya'all are gonna get at least another week of it from me. I feel like I've been deprived of two weeks of my favorite holiday, so there's no way I'm quitting yet.

It was nice being in England tho - some of the pubs and bookstores had Halloween decorations up. Of course there were far more stores with Christmas decorations in the front displays, but I enjoyed seeing that enough that I forgive it for being up TOO early.

I did some chores today, read my current book, "The Closers" by Michael Connelly (a last minute airport buy when I realized I was going to finish the one I was reading. Somebody tell my why it's already out in the UK in paperback, but won't be in the states until February.), and gave lots of attn to the kitties.

Sweetie and I watched "An American Werewolf in London" tonight. Just kinda had to, what with today being Hallowe'en and us having just visited London and several locations that the movie filmed in. Tottenham Court Road tube station certainly looks much nicer now with it's glass tile mosaic. It's a fun movie, just wish the director hadn't lost his mind and gone for the ultra-violent ending. It was great up until then...

I'm baaaack

Hello my friends, I have MISSED you. I have had a bit of access to the internet over the last couple of weeks and I've tried to check in and see how ya'all are doing, but I'm waaay behind.

I love England. What a beautiful country, even when the weather is grayer and wetter than I care for. The air was so clean and I could read all the street signs and the advertising. It was so easy to get around by walking and taking the underground. People watching was a great activity - fashion victims left and right. Looked like the return of Abba with pleather and fake fur. Lots of pointy toes and spike heels. And knitted boob holders? Can't believe women do this to themselves voluntarily.

I saw several doctors and while waiting for various test results to come in had free time to go visiting museums (my favorite far and away - the British Library) and see movies ("Serenity," which just made me overwhelmingly sad that it went by so quickly - this should have been hours and hours of quality tv - and "Wallace and Gromit - Curse of the Were-Rabbit" which was fun, but "Wrong Trousers" is still my favorite) and eat some excellent food. I loaded up on the salads, which have come a long way since my first trip to England in 1982 when all you could get was iceberg lettuce with something called "salad creme" but which seemed to be mayo.

I didn't work on any of the needlework I took with me, but I did read a lot. I finished Ian Rankin's "Fleshmarket Close," another excellent Inspector Rebus mystery set in Edinburgh Scotland, and "Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell" about 19th century English magicians. The writing style fits the period and I expected it to be a harder read than it actually was; I wouldn't say I loved it, but it was enjoyable.

We were all set to come back home last week but then the radiologist giving a second opinion on my MRIs said he thought I had a certain kind of arthritis that can only be taken care of surgically. D'oh. I ended up having arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday. They did some biopsies as well as scraping out some of that pesky synovium (the knee lining that is causing me all the trouble). The results haven't come back in. Here's hoping I do have Ankylosing Spondylitis (the tentative diagnosis the rheumatologist gave me and which is treated with meds) and not the icky kind of arthritis that has to be removed surgically over and over again. Anyway, the doctors and nurses took excellent care of me and I'm recovering much quicker than I expected to. I managed to get around the airport just fine yesterday tho I was thankful my sweetie was there to help me.

Now I have loads and loads of laundry to do and kitties to be loved on. And lots of blogging to catch up on.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Off to London

Hey guys, sorry I haven't posted in awhile. Life got hectic on me. My sweetie pie made it home safely Wednesday night, I still have a bit of a cold, and we're leaving in the morning for London.

I have no idea how long I'm going to be gone or whether or not I'll be able to check in while I'm away. Wish I could write a longer post, but the packing has yet to be done and there are chores that need to be finished up. Ya'll take care and I'm going to miss you. Cheers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Cranky Witch Top

I'm feeling better today. Not well, but better.

I got a fun package in the mail last night from my Mom and Dad. As well as birthday and Halloween cards, they sent me a bunch of tiny "bones" - which should be fun to embellish something with. I gifted myself with the book "The Quilt that Walked to Golden" by Sandra Dallas. I love reading stories about pioneer quilters. This particular book is frustrating me by talking about historically significant quilts and NOT showing pictures of them AND by just having small pictures of quilts that they do have. The other book I got is about Haitian Voudou flags, which are all sequined and have fabulous imagery. I'll talk more about that another day.

Today I had enough energy to piece my quilt top. It's roughly 47" x 48". The main fabric is by Alexander Henry and is called "Witchy Woman" which doesn't fit at all. I mean, it is a witch, but that is a song title by the Eagles and doesn't work for Halloween for me.

I love the fabric tho. I bought a yard of it awhile back and haven't been willing to cut it up. Very graphic, the red background is gorgeous and intense. Anytime I started thinking about what size block I could fancy cut, I would realize how few images I would actually get. So I showed them, I'm using it all. Almost. I took the yard of fabric and lopped off some of it to make it generally square. Then I added the orangeish-yellow inner border (1" finished on the sides and 1 1/4" finished on the top and bottom, just because I felt like it). The outer border - Jan Mullen starz - will be 4 1/2" wide finished. I liked the way the stars echoed the witches' pointy hats.

My job now is to get it basted. I started watching Desperate Housewives Season One yesterday, so maybe I'll put that disc back in and get going with those safety pins.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Trio of Halloween Crusties

I am the Queen of Snot, a title I will happily relinquish. Think I am over the worst of it now, which is none too soon.

Had myself a bit of a pity party earlier today. I have a cold, I don't feel well, it's my birthday and my hubbie doesn't get back from the U.S. until tomorrow night. To paraphrase The Sopranos, "pooooor me." Don't worry, I'm feeling better now. Have gotten some sweet messages from friends and family and that has helped. That and I broke into my birthday presents.

Anyway, I tried to do a bit of piecing today, but didn't get more than two seams done when I had to quit. Just a bit too woozy from the Sudafed and the stupid itty-bitty fever to do a good job. Now you might be saying, why is she starting ANOTHER project. And you'd be right. Why am I? I just want something to quilt on. I want to do my fans and not think about it. I am having massive fan-quilting cravings. I'm taking another piece of fabric that I love and instead of chopping it up, I'm going to throw a couple of borders on it and voila, quilt top. I hope to get it done tomorrow.

Anyone who is interested in trying the unmarked fans should do the same (I'm looking at you, Dawn). Take a piece of fabric that you love or hate, I don't care. You can consider it a doll quilt or a baby blanket or a practise piece. Whatever will allow you to relax and ENJOY trying this method. Doesn't have to be huge, 20" x 20" should give you plenty of room to practise. The central piece of fabric in Halloween Faces is 20 1/2" by 21 1/2". You could do something that size and not even put borders on it if you don't want to. Baste it up with your backing (no seams will be easier) and batting (I love 80% cotton 20% poly) and we'll meet back here to get started.

In the meantime, here are three crusties to show you. You already saw them from far off in my last post. Anyway, made these in the Fall of 2002 after reading a Quilting Arts article by Susan Shie (Turtle Moon Quilting - there's a link on the right). Not that these ended up looking like her work at all - which is the fun of it. That and they're glitzy, wild, and over the top.

I just realized I didn't post them in the order I made them, but that's okay. I completed the Jack O'Lantern after the other two. I now know I should have done the quilting stitches in the pumpkin in straight lines (rather than chicken scratch all over the place stitches) which would have emphasized the pumpkin shape. I do love the little plastic spiders. Unfortunately the bugle bead outlines don't show up very well.

I really love this one. I made holes through all the quilt layers for the eyes and nose and then used a specialty Halloween fabric (sheer with spider webs) across the back. I probably should have done straight (well, curved) lines for the skull to emphasis its shape. At least I did that in the teeth.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Halloween kitties

Now I have a cold. I'm not real thrilled about this development. My true fear is that it will stick around and fester in my head and cause problems when I fly out in a week. Sigh.

Last night I had the vaporizer turned on and wanted to sleep with the door closed to keep all the steam in. Lily tho was determined she had to sleep with me anyway, even w/o acces to a litter box. I let her stay for awhile, but eventually had to get up and boot her out of the room. She scratched forlornly on the door for awhile, but I wouldn't let her back in. I'm mean.

Don't ask me why, but Lily LOVES to sleep right next to me. Preferably when I'm lying on my side with my arm out and she stretches out next to me with her head and front paws on my arm and I rub her belly. She purrs and purrs and purrs. Don't think she'd ever get tired of it - I'm always the one that quits first. If I roll over she gets up and moves next to me - she wants contact.

She's incredibly sweet for wanting to sleep with me. I'm a horrible person, but I hate it. It makes me feel constricted - I'm a tosser and a turner. I need my space to sleep in. At least while my sweetie is gone there's more space for the two of us. I'll often wake up in the morning on the far side of the bed from where I started - she chases me off the edge.

Since I'm talking about kitties, decide to post a couple of recent pics of my babies. They aren't really babies - they're a year and a half old now. But they've stayed small and heck, they'll always be my babies. Here's Pokey as part of the Halloween display:

I wasn't going to post overall pics of my Halloween extravaganza until I'd done all the individual parts, but what the heck. You'll see close-ups of my work later. Assuming you come back, of course.

And here are Lily and Pokey all cuddled up together. I thought it was really cute the way Pokey's back leg was thrown over her sister. They're on top of my Halloween lap quilt that gets used year round.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Dear Mummy

My stepmom loves Halloween too. I made a smallwallhanging in colors I thought she and my dad would like - crimson and dark green with gold. Then to my surprise even my dad really liked the colors I was using for Happy Howloween. My dad? My everything-is-supposed-to-just-be-brown-or-beige dad? So back to the drawing board.

I started over. This time I decided to make them a whacky Halloween quilt.

It reads:

Dear Mummy and Baddy
Happy Halloween
Best Witches
Your Little Ghoul

I actually told you a bit about this quilt way back when I was doing the sampler. I said, don't use different fabric for both the letters and the background or else it will come out looking like a ransom note. At least that's what it reminds me of. I kind of like the effect here, but have never made another letters quilt in this way. I pieced over paper to get the spiky edges.

I first stabilized the quilt by going around a 1/8" around the inside of each letter with three strands of embroidery floss. Just like with Halloween Houses, I had a great time with the quilting. I played around with chalk until I had a design I liked and quilted it in perle cotton. I was convinced to stop before I had every bit of background covered, which I think I would have done if it were for me. You know me, I like over the top.

Anyway, Mom and Dad have the quilt and assure me it's already hanging up for the season.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Happy Howloween

Let me start off by saying, yes this is a lousy photo - all the sides got cut off so there are only half spiders along the top row and half a zombie hand on the right side. And the year I pieced it got cut off too - 2001. Gotta make do with what I got. This quilt is in storage, so no close-ups or better pics available. Sorry.

This is the quilt that Bad to the Bone fell out of. You'll see I made another skeleton to replace him, altho I didn't go so far as to repeat the words.

On this quilt I wanted to practise making figures (my witch turned out much better this time) as well as play more with the letters. I practised making heads, hands, and eyes. It was lot of fun. I like how the eyes turned out, with the creepy slit pupils.

I got this longarm machine quilted by someone other than Bonnie. Wasn't thrilled with the results - there were rather large areas left unquilted. Sigh. I went back in with floss and did some handquilting so that there wouldn't be big puffy spots.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

bad to the bone

Why do I love making Halloween quilts? I mean besides the fact that they are so much fun and make me smile everytime I see them? I like making them because they allow me to experiment more and I'm almost guaranteed to have good color contrast. The fabrics are wild and I know that the quilts can be wild and I will only have to look at them for 6 weeks of the year (even less if I really don't like it - but that hasn't happened yet).

If there is a technique that you are dieing to try but feel nervous about, then make it in Halloween fabrics. If you hate the outcome, you can make it into a kid's quilt - they aren't nearly as fussy as adults are. They'll love the ghosts and spiders and whatever other creepy-crawlies you end up with. Try something new. Explore this month. Sorry for the lecture - I'll stop now.

After I made my Halloween Houses quilt I went off on a letter making tangent. After several more quilts, I decided I wanted to explore free-piecing some more. I wanted to make a large Halloween quilt to hang behind our sofa. As I was making blocks for it, I made this skeleton with the words "Bad to the bone" and decided that I loved how it turned out SO MUCH there was no way I could just let it be swallowed up by a bigger quilt. So I sewed on a bit more black fabric on the top and right side and then the black and white batik on the other sides and I had a wallhanging.

Meet my skeleton. I hope you can see how he's constructed (if you're interested) by double-clicking on the image and going to the close-up. He's basically sewn in rows - the skull, the torso, the pelvis, the legs. I made the head first and then figured out how big to make the next row and so on. He's certainly not well-proportioned - but that's his charm, for me anyway.

I quilted black perle cotton unmarked fans everywhere but on the skeleton. I used perle cotton to outline each of the shapes on the little dude so that he'd stand out.

I finished this quilt in May 2001. It's 16 1/2" x 20".

skull detail

Here's the skull in close-up. I hope you can see that his forehead is a rectangle with two triangles of background at the top. Then there is a row with the eyes and a row with the nose.

Had to piece the jaw section separately so that it would be narrower than the rest of the head and I took two eensy-weensy triangles of background to round it out a bit at the bottom. I then put background on both sides of the jaw section and sewed all that to the top of the skull. Then added some background to both sides so that it would be wide enough to start adding the lower sections to.

It really isn't that hard - you just have to work your way through it step by step, just like with the letters.

Halloween quilters?

So are Halloween quilts really that rare? They seem to be scarce in blogger land.

I was browsing thru blogs and discovered Artful Quilters' Diane has made a Halloween quilt with houses built in the Gwen Marston and Jan Mullen's tradition. Diane has a great Halloween cotton crazy she's just finishing up too. I love looking at the fabrics and seeing which ones I have.

So how about the rest of you?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Deep Rising

I'm in a good mood today, despite a visit to the dentist who tells me my bridge is going to have to be replaced one of these days, entailing two root canals and five visits. Oh and buckets of money. sigh.

A very good quilting friend is back in town again after a loooong summer away in the states. I'm sure she was having fun where she was, but I sure missed her. So having lunch with her offset the dentist-badness of the day.

Last night I watched one of my favorite bad movies "Deep Rising." It's not bad really, at least I don't think so. But lots of other people think it's atrocious so this probably goes in my fun cheesy sci-fi category. It has some of my favorite elements: the mercenary ship captain who asks no questions about cargo, the evil beasties intent on wiping out everyone one by one, and some great funny character acting by Kevin J O'Conner, who played much the same role in another favorite, "The Mummy, " also directed by Stephen Sommers.

While watching my show, I worked on the little devil thready. Just posting it so anyone who is interested can see how it goes together. This is another couple of hours more work since the last time I posted a pic of the little dude. I did fit a bit of red for a tongue in his mouth and I have most of his eyes filled in so that they stay large. Otherwise I'm trying to distribute the stitches fairly evenly.

Halloween Houses

I don't know if the rest of you have had the experience of making a quilt that forever changes how you approach making quilts. I have. Making liberated houses a la Gwen Marston really changed everything. I was never much of a template fan, but after "Liberated Quiltmaking" I've never used them again.

The first houses quilt I made was for Christmas in 1996, and I haven't posted that one yet. Sometime after that I made the blue and white liberated houses quilt that I posted in my very first blog entry.

In September 2000, I pieced this quilt Halloween Houses and it loosened me up that much more. I mainly pieced houses but you'll see a witch there in the top line. I wasn't paying enough attn when I sewed on her head, so it's a bit out of whack, but I refused to redo it. She's a witch, not a beauty queen.

But the biggest step forward for me was realizing that I could piece letters. Letters without templates or a systematic approach with squares and rectangles... Just letters. The kind that I showed you all how to make back in August. This was the beginning. I've been on a quilt lettering kick ever since.

I love the quilting on this quilt, if I may say so myself. This detail shot is all perle cotton, but I also used embroidery floss in other areas. All the quilting motifs are out of my little head, I didn't use any templates. Most of the fun was deciding what went where. In this shot you have the old tree and bats flying in the air, a visiting alien, half of a spider web and a big fat spider.

Halloween Houses quilt details

I'm in a particularly expansive mood today, so here are some more quilting details, whether you want them or not. I had no idea of how to make a pelvis for the skeleton, so I winged it. That is the essence of folk art, as far as I'm concerned. You all know that's a skeleton whether it's pelvically-challenged or not.

The words "Best Witches" were quilted with all six strands of orange embroidery floss so that they would really stand out. Otherwise I used three strands for the quilting. I figured you'd like to see a better shot of my poor mutant witch. I tried to embroider a face on her, and it just looked terrible. So I gave her some hair and a waving stick arm and left it at that. Bet you knew that was a witch - she has the appropriate headgear. And it does say witch right below her...

Some mummy loves you, of course.

Monday, October 03, 2005

london trip and a bit of geekiness

My trip to London is now going to take place on the 16th with my sweetie pie accompanying me. I feel sorry for him since he will have just flown all the way back from the states a few days previously, but he really did volunteer to come with. Unfortunately this does give me a few more days to think about the trip and the knee scraping before it happens. I'm a worrier, so that's not necessarily a good thing.

My sweetie was sick the last time we were in London. I went out and did stuff and brought him back Marks and Spencers sandwiches. This time the tables will be turned - he gets to go exploring while I lie around in bed reading and complaining about how little is on tv. Hope to catch a Changing Rooms or two, the British version of Trading Spaces.

For any fellow geeks out there, Time magazine online has a fabulous interview with Neil Gaiman ("Sandman" and current movie "Mirrormask") as well as my beloved Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy, Angel and of course "Firefly".

You can find the article here here assuming that this html code works (my first time trying to do it this way).

Halloween thready in progress

I have different kinds of threadies. Some, like the little devil, I'm trying to duplicate an image in stitches. Others are more abstract. I'm doing this thready on a base so that I don't have to maniacally cover up all the white background AND to roughly follow the contours of the print, putting darker threads where the fabric is dark and vice-versa.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

another quilting close-up

Finn, you wanted a close-up on the black cat. Is this close enough or do you want to see a REALLY close one of the cat without any quilting on it? you can have it. your wish is my command.

little devil thready

In the ongoing saga of my trip to London, turns out my sweetie works for an incredible person who is going to allow him to have the time off to go with me. Gonna be a pain for him since he'll get back from the states and then have to leave for London. He's my sweetie tho and he wants to go. That's already making me feel better. So I'll be around a bit longer to post Halloweeniness for you.

Here's the little devil thready I was talking about in my 30 Sept post. I haven't done any work on it since then, but will get back to it now that I've finished "Lost." I had to watch the screen whenever that show was on so it was a very bad one to work to. Now I have to wait another whole year to see more?

ignore my previous post...

After a minor freakout and consultation with friends smarter than I, have decided to delay my departure for a week and try to get my sweetie to go with me. Why am I rushing this? Will have more time to get appointments made, have someone to help me get around... I'm still not sure he'll be able to go with me, but at least I won't be stumbling all over myself trying to do it so quickly. Ignore me while I run around like a chicken with my head cut off...

Cross Your Fingers

Well, if all goes well, I'm going to London on Tuesday for further medical experimentation. Gonna see a Rheumatologist and an Orthopedist. That's assuming all the appointments get made in time. If they don't then my trip will get pushed back. I'm ready to do it tho. I want some answers and I want this knee scraped out already - tho that turns out to be a bigger deal than I expected. General anesthesia. Geez louise, I thought it would just be a local.

I should arrive Tuesday afternoon, get myself checked into the hotel and have the afternoon free before starting appointments the next day. In theory. I'm hoping I can sneak in a trip to see "Serenity" and maybe do a little shopping. I know I won't be gamboling about after the knee job - elevation, ice packs, that sort of thing. Maybe this means I get to ride thru the airport in one of those little carts for the first time ever. Woohoo.

I've been to London before - most recently in May 2004 - so I'm familiar with the citiy's layout, I know how to use the tube, and I know the language which will be a pleasant change.

Don't have a return date set, will all depend on how things go. So expect me to be an erratic (and probably whiny) poster in the near future.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Halloween Faces complete

Well, here ya go. Halloween Faces is complete. I even scanned a detail so that you could get a better look at my unmarked fans. They aren't smooth and pretty - they have flat bits and they get wide here and narrow there. It's part of their charm.

My Halloween decorations are almost all up. I still have some ornaments to put on my Halloween tree and then I'll be done, except for the items at the framer's which won't be ready for weeks.

How's everybody else's Halloween decorating coming along? I want to see photos.

Spent quite a bit of today playing with my scanner, trying to get the best possible image of some of my crusties. Not quite sure how well it turned out - gonna have to play with the photostitch program to jam several pics into one.

I'm on disc five now of Lost. Probably watching it too fast, then I'm gonna whine cuz I'm done. But I love to immerse myself this way and on second viewing I can take it slow and pay attn to the details. And I do plan on watching it again - it's my evil plan to trick my sweetie into watching it with me. He thinks it sounds stupid, but what does he know. It's certainly easier to follow than all that Rambaldi silliness on Alias.

Have you gone to see "Serenity" yet for me? Go, go on now.