Wednesday, November 30, 2005


I was just looking through photos to see if I could find some which had the Christmas decorations that my Mom made in the 1970s (or probably even earlier). We had a countdown to Christmas felt wallhanging with an empty Christmas tree at the top and numbered pockets that held the ornaments which my brother and I took turns pulling out and decorating the tree with (and sometimes there was even a piece of candy - woohoo).

We had lime green felt stockings with pom-pom animals on them that I remember vividly. They were so incredibly hideous, but now would be so retro. Wish we (or I) still had them, but they got tossed when my Mom knitted new stockings in classy white and red. I love the new ones, of course, but miss the old ones of my childhood.

Here's a wallhanging my Mom made which I still have and display every year. When I moved away from home, I took it with me (with permission of course).

I told you ages ago about how my Mom learned to hand piece (with templates of course) and hand quilt in the mid 70s. Well this is one of her projects from back then. It's made in bright green and red in about the only 100% cotton available. The large green pieces are actually from a fabric that had Holly Hobby all over it (kind of like a Sunbonnet Sue). The only bit of fabric that is Christmasy is the corner squares which have holly and berries. The quilt is very thin - I think she used flannel as the batting. And the binding is piping.

I can't even describe how much I love this little wallhanging: my Mom made it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

rollercoaster gift bag

Can't show ya'all what I've been working on, cuz it's a secret. But here's a gift bag that I made last year using a fab rollercoaster fabric.

My hubby gets intimidated using it with this gift tag. "But this isn't a thrilling present..." That's not the point. It's the rollercoasters that are thrilling... I was just having fun. Too bad you can't see the bugle beads sparkle.

And here's the bracelet (along with the earrings) I mentioned in yesterday's post. All the beads came from the states - you could never get lampworked beads like this here. Gold and silver we got lots and lots of. Semi-precious rocks - some prices better than the states. But bead beads? Eeeh not so much. I made this with my friend Siobhan, who had been playing around with jewelry so she knew what she was doing.

I haven't bought any jewelry here. Gold, silver, precious stones, whatever, don't excite me. I like funky stuff like dichroic glass and these lampworked beads. Better for my wallet that way.
Did I tell ya'all that my sweetie and I watched "While You Were Sleeping" this last weekend? It's one of my favorite movies ever. Sweet, funny, and full of holiday spirit. We watched "Notting Hill" not too long ago as well, another one of my favorite romantic comedies. I love Hugh Grant with the floppy hair and the stumbling speech patterns (tho I liked him as the cad Cleaver in "Bridget Jone's Diary" too). But mostly that one is fun for his friends in it. I just want to have dinner with them (only not with burned food).
Oh, and no, I'm not smiling in my self-portrait cuz it was actually harder to take than I thought it would be. I couldn't tell if I had it framed properly and had I pushed the button down enough to focus but not enough to take the photo and okay now I wanted to take the photo, but had it taken? I didn't like the pics with that horrible "I've been smiling too long" grimace, so that's why I have the serious looking photo...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Hey, that's me. I want to change out the pic in my profile (get rid of evil twin) so I tried taking some self portraits the other day. Let's see if I can get this done. By the way, I strung the earrings together myself. You can't see the fancy schmancy bracelet that goes with them and that is strung so tightly I can't even get it on by myself...

Wow, you'd think I'd been offline for weeks instead of a few days, with the amount of posting my fellow bloggers have been doing. I'll try and catch up.

Thanksgiving was incredible. My husband's generous, fun boss had us and a few singles/bad cooks over to her house for turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Dinner was delicious and even better we got to bring leftovers home, which have been a treat. I was even good and declined the pie leftovers (since I knew I had one waiting for us in the freezer and what were the odds I wasn't going to have that one too?).

I'm the bad cook, at least when it comes to a big dinner. Hubby is much better at it than I am, but spends too much time at work for me to want him spending time in the kitchen. The last time I tried making a Thanksgiving dinner was 1992 or 1993 (either the first or second Thanksgiving with my sweetie). I waaaay overcooked the turkey breast, so it was terrible. But the good thing was, I knew there was no way I'd given us some kind of under-cooked poultry food-poisoning when we both spent the night running to the porcelain pedestal to yack. (That and the friend who ate dinner with us didn't get sick.) Just a very poorly timed stomach flu. Put hubby and I off of turkey for a few years tho.

I spent Friday putting Halloween in and Christmas out of boxes. Looks nice and festive in here, which is good cuz it looks disgusting outside. Something horrible with the air the last few days - makes everything hazy and gray and you know you're in trouble when you can barely make out the building next door. Eyes burning and just general unpleasantness. It's not helping much to take photos in here either.

I spent Saturday trying to finish up a prezzie frenzy - I'm usually not at that point until Dec 23rd so I feel good that I'm worried about it this early - it means someone might actually get a gift on Christmas Day. My folks had Christmas in February last year, or was it March. I've got lots still to accomplish, so gonna sign off now. Later...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Jill's Coffee Quilt

This is a quilt that goes along really well with the last one I posted. I made this one for Jill. It says: you are a fabulous friend - come over for a cup of coffee anytime. (Yes, Darcie, I have been known to drink coffee, so long as there is lots of cream and sugar.)

I really enjoyed making this one, using colors I don't normally use and raiding a friend's stash to get the koi fabric for the one pot. I free-pieced the whole thing and played around with making the coffee mug handles in different ways. I don't have a better picture of this one unfortunately and no pics of the quilting. I used black perle cotton for most of it, making swirls of steam rising from the cups and doing the 1/16" in outline of all the images, finishing it off with a wonky cross-hatch in the border.

Sewcatherine mentioned a book in a recent comment and the truth is I did actually start one a few years ago. I even sent a proposal to one of the publishers, but they wanted to do a project book, not what I had in mind at all (which was an explanation of the technique and many examples and inspirations, kinda exactly what I do on this blog). I knew it would destroy my soul to try and precisely make and describe cookie-cutter projects with exact measurements and yardage. Couldn't do it.

Plus, my life kinda got topsy-turvy with my hubby changing jobs and us moving overseas. So for now, I'm content putting this all out on the blog and maybe one of these days I'll get my act together and do a webpage. Actually received an html book the other day as a gift - maybe it was a sign.

Wherever ya'all are, Happy Thanksgiving. Eat well and travel safely.

P.S. speaking of inspiration, take a look at what And Sew It Is Holly is doing with the free-pieced letters

Monday, November 21, 2005

sewing gift bags

I'm finally feeling better - good enough to spend some time at the sewing machine even. On Saturday I sewed up four gift bags (I use the pillowcase method to turn these inside out - that finishes the edges off nicely). I almost finished this red heart one today. The only thing I haven't done yet is added the velcro to close the flap. That chore is much easier now that I've learned I can glue the velcro on rather than sewing it.

This is what the red heart bag looked like after I got all the quilting done on it today:

I hand stitched it up the sides to get the proper shape and added a decorative button:

This is a detail of the quilting. I did my usual fans with red perle cotton. I was afraid it was going to look too busy, but I think it turned out fine. This fabric is certainly busy enough all on its lonesome - there's a reason I never got it worked into a quilt. It kept screaming "me, me, me" which isn't desirable when the fabrics are supposed to be playing well with one another.

Yes, I did just spend the last day and a half quilting this (maybe 10 hours?) . I know it's a time waster, but I soooo love the finished product. I love how the bags feel, love it even better when there's a present in them. I started making these because my husband HATES wrapping presents. The first bags I made (years ago) were just fabric - didn't even put drawstrings in them - they had to be tied with ribbons. I used fabric I didn't like any more, and sometimes even hated, and was then surprised when I wasn't happy with the finished product.

These quilty ones are much better. I use up odd-shaped bits of batting, which helps pad things out so you can't tell so easily what's in the bag. I have to get cracking sewing more cuz if my hubby runs out of them I don't get any more presents. Tho maybe if I make an endless supply of gift bags there will be an endless supply of prezzies - mwa ha ha ha ha.

I have of course created a HUGE mess in my sewing room (aka the dining room, which is part of the living room - I have a very tolerant hubby) with stacks of fabric and lots of batting piled up. Here's my baby Pokey enjoying the mess.

Friday, November 18, 2005

a love quilt

This is as close to a Thanksgiving quilt as you're going to get from me. It's about love (something to be very thankful for) and it's in autumnal colors - lots of browns, golds, crimson and greens. It's not for me (could you guess?).

This is the third quilt I made after my Alphabet Sampler. I've just been rereading my quilt journal from that time period and I'd forgotten that this quilt had popped into my head almost fully formed. It went together easily and I still love it, even tho I'd make it a bit differently now.

Here's the quilt:

I know it's almost impossible to read so this is what it says:

  • Chloe loves dress up
  • Jasmine loves pink
  • Anthony loves trains
  • Jill loves to talk
  • Dan loves movies
  • But mostly they real
  • ly love each other
  • The Schreibers Feb 2001

I called Jill and had her play fill-in-the-blank for me with what I should say about the kids; I already knew what I wanted to say for her and Dan. I wasn't looking for anything profound, just quick and fun. I think of this as a family snapshot, capturing a sliver of time. The kids are older now (they ranged from 6 to 2 at this time) and would have different interests if this were made today.

I did play around with the idea of putting the kids' ages in: Chloe, 6, loves dress up. Chloe (age 6)... but none of the options I thought of thrilled me.

I love all the fabrics in this quilt, but there is one I wouldn't use for letters if I had it to do over. This particular fabric is very assymetrical and blotchy, with black bits in it that make it hard to figure out what the letter is against the black background. Yes, the entire background is black, just doesn't come out very well in the photo.

Other than that, I'd still choose to do the letters this way again. I know they're hard to read, but I kinda like that. I could have made it easier by putting small strips of the black background inbetween each letter and then a bigger space between words. But I like the fact that it's difficult to interpret: it's like a puzzle. One woman who knows the family well came over and was able to read it write off the bat, she had the clues to figure out the puzzle.

I would make the overall quilt bigger - it looks a bit cramped in that border when I look at it now. Initially I'd planned on doing some kind of log cabin blocks all the way around as the border, but instead I had fun just doing string piecing.

This is one of the few quilts I've machine quilted. Not very impressive straightish line quilting. That I'd do over again for sure, either quilting by hand or getting it done professionally. But this was a quickie "I love you all" quilt and I was so excited about it and just wanted to give it to them. See, it's a utility quilt of sorts. This would have been a great quilt to put words into the quilting, then I could have added in the kids ages and more about all of them.

I still like the concept of this quilt and expect to make more of them. Used to be my hubby and I were so boring, only having the two of us, but now I could add the cats in too. Habibi loves to sleep, Howler loves to eat... hmm we're still boring :)

There are other ways a quilt like this could have gone. Could have used pink fabrics for the line (or block) about Jasmine, fashion fabrics for Chloe and train fabrics for Anthony. It would give it a completely different look.

I encourage you to play around with this idea if it appeals to you. I know I had a great time making it.

I look at my pic of the quilt and it makes me miss my friends. We haven't lived nearby one another since 1989. But I'm thinking about them now. Wish I could sit and drink coffee and talk to Jill while Dan takes the kids to see the Harry Potter movie, and then compare movie notes with the latter afterwards. (Not that we're going to have a chance yet to see the movie - I'm not sure when Harry is getting here, but it's not today.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Playing with Shells

Shells without borders - simple, straightforward. But I had it like this for months and wasn't happy with it.. it didn't seem finished. Kinda liking this better now than I do how it looks finished.

I've been playing with Picasa, cropping and recropping the photo of my quilt Shells. Trying it with different borders. Don't know why I didn't think of doing this before, like before I actually quilted this puppy. No, that would have been too smart.

Sharon had a good suggestion of adding something to the dark fishy border to lighten it up. Believe it or not, that actually sounds like a harder job to me than just whacking off and rebinding. I'd put the quilted border bit to good use - adapt it/them into gift bags or something. If and when I do it. But what do you think:

Without the top border - seems bottom heavy to me:

Without top or right side - I like the way the turquoise fish on the left balance out the same fabric rectangles that are in the middle and right side. The brightness over there seems to help with that heavy bit of dark on the bottom:

Got a nasty old headache - the story of my year. Tylenol just isn't doing the job of kicking it. I've been able to do a bit of hand quilting despite all that. My fans are edging up the border nearing the top of the Cranky Witch quilt.

Been watching tv like crazy. My wonderful sweet friend who loaned me her DVDs gets back today. That's great, cuz I've been missing her, but gotta have this stuff watched and returned. Hubby and I finished Stargate SG-1 Season 8 and now I'm going to pout for a year until we get the next season. Already seen too many spoilers on it, despite saying "la la la" and covering my ears whenever I read my Entertainment Weekly.

I finished Season 1 of Desperate Housewives today. Definitely a twisted fun show. I like my comedy dark but what a bunch of dysfunctional people. All of them, except maybe Julie.

Hubby and I have been enjoying Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel - they're now showing it five nights a week. How can you not love a show with exploding stuff and walrus mustaches?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Maverick Webring

You're going to be seeing some changes in the Quilt Maverick Webring in the coming days. We've had some growing pains (again) and are trying to focus the ring on our core goal, which is to be a home for those who are neither art quilters nor traditional quilters. We're better defined by what we are not than what we are - makes it difficult to explain.

We're not art quilters. I'm not saying there is anything wrong or bad about them. It's just not what we do. Art Quilters have a great webring of their own as well as websites and mail lists that serve them. They've got at least one major show all to themselves and certainly spots in others. They have a place.

We're not traditional quilters who follow the rules set down by the Quilt Police. You know those rules: seams must match, everything must be perfectly aligned, no chopping off the points of the triangles, quilts must lay flat. Perfection, perfection, perfection. Unfortunately, the traditionalists don't have a webring (that I'm aware of) but they do have an awful lot of publications and a stranglehold on quilt show judging. They have lots of places.

So we're not artists, we're not perfectionists. We are quilters. Quilters who quilt for the love of quilts, for the comfort that they give, and the love that they contain. We quilt because it makes us happy and not to meet overly-high standards that others set. We cut off the points of our triangles and match our seams however we want to. We have no quilt shows and very few books.

I'm not saying that every Quilt Maverick fits into my description. They don't - we're a diverse group. Not every quilt we make fits this little cubbyhole either.

I think the most important function that we provide is a home for like-minded quilters who don't fit in to either of those big groups previously mentioned. Nor some of the ones that I haven't mentioned like the crazy quilters. We provide support to one another and interact - we're a community.

Kinda like the island of misfit toys in the Rudolf Christmas special (the name of which completely escapes me). This is our place.

We recently decided to make changes in our membership so that it would better reflect who we are. We had some people on our ring whose blogs focused on art, art quilts, and crazy embellishing - there's nothing wrong with that, but they each already have a webring that better suits them.

This is the best I can do at explaining this. My head hurts now. I'm going to go and pay attention to my kittens now before they break something roughhousing.


This is a quilt I finished last year, tho it had been in progress for a long time. I started off with a batik print of shells, cutting around just the ones that I liked the color of (surprise), ending up with different sizes of rectangles. My strips were of different widths. I sorta added them on log cabin style, but not really. First I added logs to the center until it reached a certain width (or height) and then added logs on the other sides to get it the finished block size. Sewed the blocks into vertical rows.

Some things I LOVE about this quilt: the colors shine and I love all the fabrics.

What I don't like about the quilt: the border. I was trying to finish it off kinda reminiscent of the block itself. Didn't have enough of either fish batik to go all the way around. Now I wish I hadn't done it like this. Think it's the top border that doesn't work. But I sooooo love the purple fishies. Maybe I could just whack off that top border and rebind it...

Here's a quilting detail. I used 8 perle cotton and quilted freehand fans going around and around the quilt in the spiral fan. This is where they all bash together in the middle:

I actually started this quilt for my Mom, who is a fiend for shells and likes these colors. But then I got it done and couldn't quite part with it. Who knows, maybe it'll make it's way to Colorado for "storage" when we're ready for the next move.

Now I really gotta stop playing - I'm supposed to be doing insurance paperwork. yick.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

desert island quilt books

In my case it's not so much a matter of desert island, as desert country...

What are my five most important quilt books? I used one criteria to start with - I had to actually have the book here with me. If I put it in storage, it couldn't have been that desperately needed, right? (Unfortunately I chose my heaviest books to leave behind, cuz we have weight restrictions on shipping our belongings, and those are the ones with the most photos.)

Now it gets hard because I've narrowed the field down to six and I'm having problems letting go of one more. Ack. Okay, here it is in alphabetical order:

The Amish Quilt by Eve Granick
I have six books on just Amish quilts so it was extremely hard to narrow the field down to just one. I finally went with this one, which is pretty funny considering that the first time I bought it (1991?) I wasn't that interested in it and sold it to a friend. I already had pictures of Amish quilts. I had to buy it again when I realized it had pics of Amish cotton crazies and utility quilts that I didn't have in my other books. Those are the big draw now for me.

Liberated Quiltmaking by Gwen Marston
Not a shock that it's here, is it. Maybe it will surprise you to know I actually considered leaving it off the list because I've already read it cover to cover probably 20 times and just looked at certain sections countless more. This is the one that set me free.

Liberated String Quilts by Gwen Marston
I'm not nearly as passionate about this one as I am about the previous one. I hate the exact yardage amounts and precise instruction to make it the same way Gwen did. The Quiltmaking book has more of Gwen's spirit in it. BUT it has great photos of string quilts and so it's still inspirational.

Scrap Quilts by Roberta Horton
I like this one for its improvisational style and focus on folk art. I love that it encourages people to design their own applique - no templates. The antique quilts are excellent as well - the Sunburst quilt on page 49 is my fave.

Signs and Symbols by Maude Southwell Wahlman
Admittedly, I'm not interested in the text for this one - I just love all the pictures of the rural African-American quilts. If I had my Gee's Bend book it might very well take its place.

Close runner-up:

Wild by Design by Janet Catherine Berlo and Patricia Cox Crews
Has lots of antique quilts that were considered wild or innovative for their time. Maybe I shouldn't say lots - I think there's only 48 color photos and not all of those are quilts that I like. Still, this is probably the book I'd take if I couldn't have any of the others. There's a little bit of this and a little bit of that, whereas the others are more specialized.

Friday, November 11, 2005

partial arc

While I've been cranky lately, that hasn't stopped my quilting. Got a bunch done yesterday. My sweetie was off work and we watched a Robert Culp baddie episode of Columbo and three eps of Stargate SG-1. Yes, my hubby can be something of a tv addict too.

[diversion: ooh, Claudia Black was excellent on Stargate as Varla (sp?). I know her from "Pitch Black" but I know she was a Farscaper. Have to admit, that's a show I never managed to get into. Kept getting hung up on the giant muppets. I'll give it a try one of these days, when I can start at the beginning.]

The other day I was telling you I'd missed a couple of arcs while I was quilting my fans. Here's how it looks after I've gone back in and filled them in after.

I managed to make six arcs instead of seven yesterday. I think my lack of attention to detail is showing. Good thing it doesn't matter.

Last look at Halloween

Sorry I've been MIA. I should change my blog title to Cranky Gal Quilting and then I could post every day. Ba ha ha ha. Sorry, had the PMS blues. I always have a day or two where the world is tragic, no one loves me and everything sucks. I know this about myself. My hubby has been warned and is allowed to ignore me (well, ignore my whining).

Got the update from my rheumatologist. Definitely have the evil PVNS. As far as I know, can wait a while for that surgery and have it while we're in the states inbetween tours next summer. (No one has said, get it NOW before your leg falls off.) On the good side, got the doc to admit that I may just have the A.S. as well - he's not ruling it out. So that's a small victory. As such.

Yesterday I went for my first real walk since the arthroscopy. Alone, tho hubby was on standby to drive over and pick me up if needed. Wasn't a huge walk, but I did go to the framer's and pick up my Web thready which has been languishing at the shop for ages and then made it over to a cafe to pick up lunch. Even better, my knee didn't blow up.

Decided to show you the finished thready in place. I know, I know, I should be done with Halloween already, but there's so much to see. On the top shelf is my purple cat embroidery, which I'll talk about another time. I bought the papier-mache headed devil and witch, which are loads of fun. The middle shelf has three of my threadies that are done on pre-printed fabric. On the left are three skeletons, in the middle the green monster ya'll watched me do (doesn't he look good framed?), and candy corn, which I made several holes in so you can see the red-orange "velvet" backing through. On the lower shelf is a Halloween sampler a wonderful friend made for me this year.

Yes, it is actually still Halloween at my house and will be another two weeks. Mwa ha ha ha.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I've been quilting

I've been quilting on Cranky. I'm still not sure how I want the fans to go. Whenever I think "witch" I think "Wizard of Oz" and the tornado. So the spiral design, the wind blowing around and around and around, is kind of appealing. Finally decided I would go once around the border. I can then revisit and go anyway I want. When I showed you three different ways of having the fans go, that doesn't mean you can't combine them. I've reached the edge of the quilt now and am soon going to be going up the left side.

I wanted to show you a detail of what I've been doing so far. It illustrates two points. First, I forgot what I was doing and only made 5 fans instead of 7. You can see where it dips lower in the middle there. Not a problem - I'm just going to add a couple of shorter arcs. Secondly, look at the difference in the heights of the fan units. The one on the left is a good quarter inch below the border and the other goes above. That's how it goes. If you're interested, click on the photo and you should get a bigger shot of it.

This other picture belonged in the post where I was showing how to draw the fans. Of course I couldn't find it that day. Here it is tho.
Everything is going okay. I've been watching some "Stargate" and Season One "Desperate Housewives" while I'm quilting. Been reading Jim Butcher, who's main character is a wizard fighting the bad critters (vampires, werewolves, the usual suspects). Like it okay, don't LOVE it as much as I'd like to. I'm on the third one now, "Grave Peril."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bummed Out

I'm feeling a bit bummed out at the moment. The biopsy results came in for my knee and they show that I probably have the icky form of arthritis (Pigmented Villonodular Synovitis - PVNS), the kind that has to be surgically removed.

I wouldn't mind that so much (well, I'd still mind - now I have to have knee surgery again) except that means the docs are saying I don't have Ankylosing Spondylitis (A.S.), which I've whined to you before I'm absolutely convinced I have and want to treat. The reason they say I can't have both, is b/c each are exceedingly rare and so the odds of me having BOTH are almost zero. Like getting hit by lightening twice (tho my doc then admitted he knows someone who's gotten hit by lightening seven times...).

So not going to treat with meds. Gonna repeat some blood tests in a couple of months. From now on I'm going to obsessively keep track of the state of my health in a notebook so that I can have better proof of the A.S. flaring up. Drat, drat, drat.

While I'm in a whiny, complainy mood, let me just add how much I hate Cairo traffic. There are way too many cars on the roads, there are way too many cars on the road that shouldn't be on the road period, there are no emissions controls here and the car exhaust is just terrible, poor donkeys should not be pulling carts in city traffic, and families are not meant to ride motorbikes together.

The latter is not nearly as rare an occurence as it should be. Today I saw Mom on the back sitting sidesaddle holding the baby, Dad upfrom driving with a 3-yr-old sitting between his legs. The worst I've ever seen is five - with a kid crammed on the seat inbetween mom and dad. And it goes without saying that none of them are wearing helmets or any kind of protective clothing, not to mention flip-flops are not good motorcycle shoes.

Okay, got all that out of my system.

Tonight we have Lebanese food for dinner. I made a special trip to my favorite restaurant which happens to be right near my doctor. We'll probably watch some season 8 "Stargate SG-1" which will cheer me up, esp if Jack O'Neil is in it a whole lot. That character just makes me laugh, not to mention I have a crush on him. Not on Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver did nothing for me) but on Jack. I do hate the fact that he's been promoted now - he can't get into nearly as much trouble. And, unless the episode is really exciting, I should be able to get some more quilting done.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Fan Direction

I took off the sticky bandages this morning (it's been 10 days since the arthroscopic surgery). Was surprised to discover that the two stitches I have in look like they were made with blue dental floss. The little ends hang up in the air - just like quilt ties. Tomorrow they come out.

I wanted to give ya'all an idea of what direction you could go with the fans. I used the paint program on my computer for the first time and was pleased with how wobbly my results look. Cuz I look at it and think it looks really fun. See how different all the fans look, yet the overall appearance is pleasing. It'll be that way with your quilt too.

I did find out that I couldn't upload the paint images to Blogger tho, so I had to print them and scan 'em back in. More work than I was expecting. That's the reason for the black bars on the middle pic - don't know how to get rid of those. sorry.

This first pattern is my favorite (Bonnie left a comment that she finds it boring). Okay, it's boring, but it's also - soothing. No surprises, just keep making one after another. It'll also probably draw less attn to the quilting than the other two methods I've illustrated. Notice in all the examples how some of the fans are incomplete. They hit the end of the quilt and just stop. They run into another fan unit and stop. That's how it works. All examples start in the lower right corner.

1. Fans going up Start in a lower corner and go across. The next row is worked right on top of that going in the same direction. Etc. Not recommended for a large quilt - you get too much bulk.

2. Spiral fans Start in the lower corner and work your way around and around and around and around. In other words, go all the way around the outside. Once you've done that you do another go round starting in the same corner as the first time thru (in this case, the right).

3. Diagonal fans In this one you work in from two opposite directions - in this picture the lower right and the upper left. You essentially go over and up, over and up.

Friday, November 04, 2005

my friend Rachael

I'm always very conscious as I write my blog about other people's privacy. Just because they know me doesn't mean I can write anything and everything about them all over the web. So I had to decide whether or not to tell ya'all about my field trip yesterday. I went with a couple of friends to the island of Zamalek to visit a well-known quilter. Do I tell you about it?

Well, since Jenny Bowker has her own blog (Postcards from Cairo - it's one of my links) she's not a privacy fiend. And since I'm only going to say really wonderful things about her, that can only be good publicity for her teaching, right? So, yes, here we go. (And as for my friend, who we'll call S, who figures in the story, well that's the price she pays for knowing me. ba ha ha.)

Got a call yesterday from S, who recently returned from the states with a new Bernina sewing machine. She was having some difficulty with it and here in the wilds of Egypt, there are not many technical advisors. Jenny stepped immediately into the breach and offered help so three of us made the trip up yesterday. Jenny was sweet and wonderful and got the problem sorted in no time.

The cool thing tho was getting to see the Australian Ambassador's residence with high, high, white walls and gorgeous quilts on them. Jenny does a lot of art quilting and her machine quilting is fabulous. I'm very jealous - but I know it would take me 20 years to get that good (not to mention the fancy sewing machine that would make the task so much easier...). Her quilts all hang flat and smooth - so different from mine. I'm not feeling intimidated tho - my quilts don't HAVE to hang that well, they don't have to be so smoothly professional. I can appreciate it, without needing to do it myself.

Speaking of quilting, I've been working on Cranky Witch again. I'm now quilting on my third fan unit. Pretty soon (NOW) I'm going to have to decide how I want to make the fans go. All the same direction, round and around colliding in the middle, or maybe moving in diagonally... Decisions, decisions. I'll try to explain that better in a future post, for anyone who is trying the fans themselves.

Anyway, now we get to the fun part of the post. Pictures of my friend Rachael Thomas' work. I was telling you about her the other day - she's the one I made a Devil Bob and Monster Bag for. She is incredibly talented and I'm trying to coerce her into starting her own blog. So hopefully this will be some positive encouragement in that direction. I have her permission to do this, so here we go.

I'm not even going to begin to describe all her work (I want her to do that), we're just going to look at some of my favorites. These are quiltlets using her version of Susan Shie's techniques (which I call crusties).

First off is Happy Boo Day. I am so incredibly jealous of its recipient (who is not me, but is another October baby) for getting this wonderful guy. I often get that acquisitive urge looking at Rach's work. Mine, mine, mine (like the gulls in "Finding Nemo"), pretty shiny, mine. My favorite bit is those eyes. No need to wonder why clowns give some people nightmares.

I LOVE this devil. I'm amazed at how similarly Rach's and my minds work - devils just gotta have that evil whispy mustache and spikey beard. The ears are perfectly pointed and I love how she did the nose. Doesn't this look incredibly firey?

And Rachael's recent entry into her quilt guild's "Charm and Grace" competition, in which everybody had to use a piece of fabric with very old fashioned, sweet looking gloves on it. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this quilt. I guess the end product is sweet in a way, sorta, as sweet as black magic love can be. You can tell these two are ga-ga for each other. The details: the warts, the bloodshot eyes, the beady spider. Fabulous. Well-deserving of the ribbon Rach won for Viewers' Choice.

Ya'all can tell why I'm so fond of her work, right? Definitely our senses of fun and humor match.

This is hardly the only kind of quilting that Rach does and barely touches the surface of her crafting. No, she probably isn't right for the Quilt Mavericks (altho she's certainly got an "in"), but blogs, just like people, don't all have to match. Blog and they will come. Start putting really great work out there and others who share your interest will find you. She's a great writer as well, and I enjoy every single email I get from her. Now she's gonna feel the pressure of high expectations that I'm putting on her, but its all TRUE.

And some of the rest of you out there - who aren't already blogging - you start too. Blogging is an incredible way to make contact with other people you didn't even know where out there but who you will become incredibly emotionally attached to. At least I am, to all of you.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Freeform Fan Quilting

I'm very gradually getting back into the swing of things here. Still not feeling real good - leftover remnants of anesthesia or the sinus infection I may have caught flying with a cold then walking around in wet weather? Or could it be that I have continued to brush my teeth with tap water, even tho I'm back in Cairo...

I'm always complaining about my health, sorry about that. I haven't felt like picking up my quilting or anything else, so I guess that's why I bring my ooginess up. Knee is doing well, so there is that. While I haven't been quilting, I have been reading blogs, of course, and waging warfare on the hordes of tiny ants that I can no longer ignore. I tried to live and let live, but now they're getting into the cereal (and I don't know what else - I'm afraid to look) so that's it. No more mister nice guy.

Before I departed home, I started quilting and documenting my freeform fan process. I don't want to freak anyone out who wants to try this, so we're going to take it easy. We'll be doing a bit of marking. That's how I started out way back when. When I talk about how I used to mark my fans, believe me, they weren't pretty. You could call them half-assed or call them folky. I never used a pre-made template or precise home-made templates. I always winged the marking. So that's what we're going to begin with.

So you remember my cranky witch? Here she is again, auditioning the quilting thread. That's size 8 perle cotton on the left, regular quilting thread on the right. I don't like how her face is obscured with the thicker thread, so going with regular.

My next step was to find something circular to use as a template for the smallest arc. I tried demitasse cups, the bottom of drinking glasses, plastic lids from various containers, and finally settled on this little jam jar. All my various arcs which I soaped on as I decided which size I liked best are still showing. Don't stress about this too much. Really.

Sometimes the arc will be flat, sometimes it will bubble up funny on the top or bottom. It's ALL alright. Just do it.

By the way, I am a rightie, so I always start in the lower right hand corner. I suspect that lefties would want to reverse that and start in the lower left.

I decided to make my arcs as wide as the first joint on my pinkie. It's just easy to use a "tool" that you always have with you. So here I am making marks.

And here are the marks. I was trying to make mine big enough so that you could see them. You can either quilt using just the marks themselves OR you can draw each arc out, then quilt it. You can quilt an arc, mark the next one, quilt it, mark, etc OR Draw them all out first. Your choice.

As far as how much space to leave between arcs? That's up to you. You can do big arcs or small. Have to admit the ones that I have done with a half-inch gap between them have worked out "smoother" than the one I did with an inch and a half between.

How many arcs to make in each fan unit? That's up to you. I often like five - it's just a good number of them. But with Halloween Faces I decided I had to make more than that otherwise it would be too clunky and too much the same size as each face - so I did seven. Plus, the more arcs you do in a unit, the easier they are - you can pick up more stitches each time on your needle.

Oh, and as I do them, I usually alternate where I start quilting the arc. First from the top, then from the bottom. For some reason my arcs usually start out wider and get narrower and by alternating it keeps it a bit under control. Oh, and I travel thru the batting to get to my next arc (rather than knotting and starting over), which wouldn't work if I always started at the top.

You can keep marking for awhile, we won't worry about eyeballing it just yet if you don't want to. Please please please keep in mind what our goal is. NOT perfection. Fun. Each arc is going to be different. Don't strive for that, but it will happen naturally.

Unfortunately my choice of black fabric and black quilting thread makes it hard for me to show you how my arcs are turning out as I quilt them. I decided once again on seven.

I have a secret to tell you. As I was quilting them, I decided I didn't like using my pinkie measurement - the arcs were a bit farther apart than I wanted them to be. When I get to the end of an arc, I do a backstitch and then travel through the batting to my next beginning. So I started making the arcs whereever the needle naturally popped back up. Guess what, I can do that. All of these arcs are going to be unevenly spaced. That's okay.

It's also okay if you forget to make five arcs and only do four. You can either leave it be or the next time you're in that area you can make six arcs to make that spot tall again.

I hope you're getting my (overbearing) message. Don't stress. Have fun. Start going. By the time you've made a few units it'll be easier, trust me.

Any questions? I know this is probably only semi-coherent. I do, really.

Ghosts - whooooooooo

I know this post is ghosts, but I decided I had to include a detail from Boolicious and I'm too tired to play around to get this in the right spot...

Here are a couple of ghosts I made out of my husband's old oxford cloth shirt. I cut out large circles, stuck a ball of stuffing in the middle and loosely gathered around it. Well, sorta. I flattened it out first I guess. Then I applied the faces.

"Boolicious" is one of my early crusties. I hope when you click on the picture you can see this much larger - looks kinda small to me. I'd make it differently now, but that's the learning process, right? You learn what works by doing it.

Bonnie recently mentioned that when one of her quilts was hung for a show they found a pin quilted into the middle of it. D'oh. I've had that happen too. I managed to applique the ghost on the left right over a safety pin. The difference is, I made a hole through all three layers and got it all out. Ba ha ha ha. Yeah, not a technique I'd do on a real quilt either.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween Bobs

In the ongoing saga of Tonya being unable to let go of Halloween...

Here are some Halloween Bobs. That's just my name for these simple little folkarty creations. I just completely wing them - cut right out of fabric (well, okay sometimes I chalk an outline first). You've seen these eyes before - way back in August when Finn was wondering what kind of eyes to give her Frankenstein (hmm.. don't think we ever saw that project again, Finn). This is my Witch Bob, completed last year.

I start by cutting out the face in a vaguely face-shaped shape. Then comes the nose: this was the first time I made one with separate fabric - in a cone shape that I stuffed with batting. After the face comes together, I lay it on top of a double-layered fabric I want for the body and then roughly cut out the body shape. For the witch that included the pointy hat. I attach the face with a straight stitch to one layer of the body, adding some batting for emphasis under the cheekbones perhaps - I like how that gives it a lumpy effect tho I figure over the years it'll slide around to some other part of the face.

Once the face is attached, I sew the body up right-sides-together on the sewing machine and stuff. I actually use all the leftover bits of batting from around the edges of my quilts as well as all the selvages and trimmings from fabric - there's all kinds of junk in there.

The hair is a piece of purple fabric that I doubled up then roughly rotary-cuttered "hair" leaving half an inch at the fold uncut. Got it wet and threw it in the dryer to fray. Then I roughly hand-stitched that down on either side of the face (too lazy to make it big enough to go all the way around the back of the head. Here's a photo of the work in progress - you can get a good look at the nose as well as how the hair went on. I almost left the witch like this, but decided to sew a hat brim on, which was a pain in the ass. The brim is another double layer of fabric, surrounding a layer of batting, that I very roughly attached around the head.

Next up is a Devil Bob. Made very similarly to the witch, but this time the face is all one fabric. I actually liked this guy so much I made another one like it for my friend Rachael.

Last up is a picture from my folks' house. I showed you this quilt before, but boy, you can actually see the quilting detail in this picture. Plus, here's a Ghost Bob I made for them this year. Actually, he's not a true bob because he has arms, but that's neither here nor there. The copper jack-o-lantern was actually made here in Cairo, a gift from last year as well.

Cat Bobs

More of the Bobs. I went on a spree last year making black cats. I used a pair of my husband's worn out wool trousers, so there are funky seams to add detail. I tried to make each of the cats different, using embroidery for details on the large one. For the bodies on these, I roughly stitched by hand with embroidery thread, to add additional color.

Monster Gift Bag

I went nuts last year making gift bags. Elaborate gift bags. Kind of like funny shaped quilts (they have three layers). Don't ask me why, but I love them. I love how the Christmas ones all looked under the tree - long after Christmas in fact because I just stuffed them with used wrapping paper and they still looked fun.

My friend Rachael made fun of me for wasting time on making the bags. (Which is completely fair, cuz I did the same to her (first even) for spending her time knitting wash rags.) Anyway, I decided to show her. She loves Halloween too, so I made her a special gift bag to send her Devil Bob in.

I made special three dimensional teeth (the other half of the mouth is on the inside of the bag, so you can't see those teeth). I spent far too much time tying this thing with different colors of embroidery floss, to give the skin a funky texture. I then gunked it up (and probably shouldn't have) with glow-in-the-dark puffy paint.

I really like the tag. I loosely stuffed a white cotton glove. Then I embroidered her name, the nails. and joint details and finally added the french knots. All of this went thru all the layers (there are lots of knots on the back). I used a safety pin to attach the tag, so it comes off.

And I think it's fair to say Rach liked her bag, and maybe doesn't think they're a COMPLETE waste of time...

That's it for me, I've written enough today. Have to say the knee doesn't like sitting at the computer much. I've been bad today anyway. Can you believe I slept until 11 this morning? I couldn't get to sleep last night, but still. And I haven't done any of my physical therapy. D'oh, better have done it a couple of times before my husband gets home so he doesn't yell at me.