Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sewing with Elanor...

A few weeks ago Celia, my almost daughter-in-law, downloaded this pillow pattern from Amy Butler. Scroll way down the page to find this one. Celia made a couple of them. You know how little girls are... Elanor saw them and wanted to make one herself. I said "later". She remembers these things so later turned into today!

I didn't keep the pattern so we drew a similar one. Elanor and I picked out fabric. She especially wanted to use some big dots for the eyes. Notice that one eye is bigger than the other? That's Elanor. I was skeptical but it looks way better than if she had made both eyes the same. The girl is good!

I got the mini Boden catalog in the mail recently. It has the cutest kids clothes you've ever seen! We bought some for Elanor, but couldn't buy them all. However, Lorna was inspired to add some fused applique to some of Elanor's plainer t-shirts. 

Lorna had not fused before but, as many of you know, it's an easily acquirable skill. We both spent some time sewing around the edges of the applique with a straight stitch to ensure that everything stays stuck. I didn't get a picture of Elanor modeling, but I will soon. The shirts turned out very well!

While we girls were working, Jack was doing what babies do. He napped a bit, he ate, he drooled like a fountain. We were in my studio and when he wasn't playing with the cat toys or trying to get into the electronics, he played with spools of thread. I had to keep an eye on him to be sure the thread stayed locked on the spools. Didn't want him to eat a bunch of un-spooled thread.

Eventually he settled on this one big spool of blue thread. By the time I got it back the thread was more than damp. I won't be sewing with this. This is now Jack's spool.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Making your table slippery...

Some of you may remember that my wonderful husband, Steve, made me a new sewing table this summer. The top is smooth, the front edges rounded and also smooth. He sanded it, painted it, sanded it, polyurethaned it, and buffed it with steel wool. It felt perfectly smooth. 

Until I tried to sew on it. The fabric did not glide across the surface of the table. This is not a good thing when you are trying to sew. And I knew it was going to be particularly awful for machine quilting.

I remembered hearing about silicone spray. You spray it on your surface to make it slippery. But 1) I couldn't find any and 2) everything I read about it said the vapors were bad for the environment. And it's not cheap. I procrastinated until I really had to do something (which was sew my chair cushions, see below).

I went to Lowe's in search of silicone spray and thankfully I couldn't find it. I asked a man working at the paint counter and he said, no don't use that... use floor wax! 

He took me to the SC Johnson Paste Wax, said that's what they used in the military (and on the counters at Lowe's), and it would work for me.  He knew more about it than I did so I bought a can and waxed my table. Darned if he wasn't exactly right!

I have no memory of waxing furniture or floors. I do have memories of commercials going on about the scourge of cloudy wax build up so this is not a product that I ever would have considered. But I'm here to tell you, if you find yourself with a not-so-slippery sewing surface, keep the paste wax in mind.

Making chair cushions...

We bought two of these Danish-modern teak chairs for our living room last year from Century Modern, a store that specializes in mid-century modern  furniture. 

I love these chairs but was never crazy about the neutral upholstery on the cushions. I'm a quilter, not an upholsterer but I looked at those cushions and figured that I could make new ones.
I found the perfect fabric for the chairs Saturday when I was shopping with my sister-in-law, Deborah. 

The large circles on the brown print are 4" in diameter. It's perfect for the room color-wise — and it has dots! 

I chose the other fabric for the piping cord for each cushion. This fabric is really pretty ugly (it was way back in the sale room) but it was the only thing in the store that had colors that worked with the both the brown print and the rest of the stuff in my living room.

Here are some of the cushion parts in progress....

...and here is a finished chair! It took me about 7 hours yesterday to make the cushions and get them on the chairs. I had the original covers in hand to use as a guide which helped a lot. So, quilters, let me tell you that this was not hard and you, too, can recover cushions! You will, however, need to locate the 1/2" seam guide on your machine. I never did get used to using it.

The chairs really do need to be stripped and teak oiled but we are saving that for another day. for now, they are just fine.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Design blogs...

There are some wonderful "design" blogs out there. I have posted links to my current favorites on this very blog. (Look over there on the right, under "Design Blogs.")

What can a quilter find on these non-quilty blogs? I find a lot! For instance on Design Sponge I enjoyed looking at the way the photos were cropped in the "in the kitchen with: fred flare {red devil’s food cake}" post. The photo at left came from this post. The photos are great and the cake recipe looks good too. You know we love cake!

I enjoy seeing what other people think is good design. I very much enjoy seeing the hand-made projects that are featured on design blogs. 

We quilters are constantly making decisions about what colors to use, what kinds of patterns make us happy. You never know when you might be inspired by what others have made. Blogs are a great way to keep us all current. Now I just need more time to read them all! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who is that?

OK - one more shot from the ship. After I got done looking at the container ship I switched to the other side of the boat. It took me a while to see the lady peeking over the top of the building in the distance. I didn't have my glasses on (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it) and I could not for the life of me figure out where I had see that image before.

I asked Steve, who looked at me as if he thought my mind might be slipping, and he said "Starbucks". How could I not have put that together?

How we get "stuff"...

I had a chance to really look at a container ship while we were docked in Seattle waiting to disembark our cruise ship. 

This ginormous container ship was being unloaded and loaded at the same time. When one stack of containers is removed, another stack of containers replaces it (one at a time). The crane moves and the process continues.

The stacks of containers go down into the hold of the ship. Each container is packed full. Just imagine all the stuff that this one ship carries! Multiply that by all the container ships that are out there. I find it to be both amazing and scary. 

I live in the middle of the country and a very large part of what I consume comes to me in containers, via truck. As energy gets more expensive this stream of goods is bound to be effected. I can't help but wonder how that is going to change all of our lives. It's not hard to imagine buying less of the stuff I don't really need. It's harder to imagine having trouble finding things (like food and fabric) that I really do need.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Quilt Camp at Sea Alaskan Cruise was wonderful!

The seas were a little bouncy and there was a lot of fog on our last day at sea. But it was relaxing to have no where to go and nothing much planned. I don't relax much when I'm home because there is always something that needs doing!

The most formal formal dinner was Friday night. Even the chairs dressed up! FYI - the food on the cruise was really good. The fish was just about the best I've ever tasted. I'm going to miss having dessert after every meal but my pants were getting tight so it's good that that part is over.

We docked for a few hours Saturday evening in Victoria B.C. We got off the ship and walked around a bit. We bought a CD (Gungwa - Bridging the Waters) from a band playing on the street. It's Zimbabwean Roots Music which sounds sort of Jamaican to me. It's good! 

Steve bought a stuffed giardia at a shop... he's a biologist you know. Giardia is a protozoan that you can get if you drink un-purified water. His is blue. Steve has had giardia before so he felt a special bond with this fellow.

Friday evening the sky was clear and Steve took this lovely photo.

We got home last night. I couldn't post to the blog while I was on the ship so I've posted everything today. If you want to read about the cruise in order, go down a few posts and read up.

Here is what I've learned:

Quilting cruises are great fun! Quilters are good travel companions. Holland America is a fine cruise line. For more info, go to the the Quilt Camp at Sea website.

Dramamine (the less-drowsy version) works. I liked it better than the patch.

Cruising is a good way to see a very scenic part of Alaska.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ketchican, Alaska

We docked in Ketchican early Friday morning – 7:00 AM. Steve and I got off the boat and walked around town in the rain. We shopped a little and watched salmon valiantly swimming up a roaring stream. I’m so glad I’m not driven to swim upstream! 

We had to be back on the boat by 12:30 so we didn’t go off on any excursions. As it turned out, there were 2 people were either late and/or didn't check in when they came back to the ship. We didn't sail away on time. I heard later that they (probably) made it back on board before we sailed. Missing the boat would be an adventure that I don't really want to ever have.

All of us quilters got together for a photo on the bow of the ship yesterday. That’s me sitting in front in the green top. There are more of us quilters on board than I realized!

As I write this we are sailing south and the sun is shining. We are sitting up on top of the ship. Life is good!

Sitka, Alaska - my favorite port!

We visited Sitka on Thursday. I love Sitka! The town is small with a population of about 8,000. The harbor is small, so we had to take tenders to shore. Deciding whether to make it possible for more ships to dock is apparently a hot topic in town. I hope they keep it the way it is.

Steve contacted Deborah Lyons from Sitka Trail Works before we left home and set up a day hike. Sitka Trailworks is a non-profit organization that works with state, federal, and private agencies to build public trails. They do a terrific job and you can read more about it on their website. If you like to walk or hike and find yourself in Sitka be sure to look them up! You won’t find out about them from the cruise lines because cruise lines don’t promote local businesses that do not pay them a percentage of their fees.

Deborah is a Sitka Trailworks board member and her husband is a commercial fisherman. When I eat salmon and halibut at home, I can connect a face and story to that fish now.

Deborah and Max, her Australian Shepard, took us on a hike up to and around Beaver Lake. Those big rocks by the shore are part of the trail. Deborah told us that the rocks, gravel, logs, etc. that go into making the trails have to be brought in by helicopter.

It was a moderately strenuous hike and we were the only 3 people in sight. It was a lovely day… it didn’t rain on us and the clouds lifted some. We almost saw blue sky! We tasted blueberries and huckleberries growing by the trail. The salmonberries (salmon-colored raspberries) were almost ripe enough to eat, but not quite.
On the way back to town we stopped for chocolate at the Theobroma chocolate factory. It’s a small operation and they make wonderful chocolate! They are situated in what used to be a logging facility. When the logging operation shut down, small businesses moved in.

Back in town we visited the quilt shop (there is one at nearly every stop!) as well as the local book shop, an art glass shop, and a variety of other artists venues. I have to say that it felt good to help support the local economy.

We walked to the cultural center in the National Historic Park on the south side of Sitka. This park is devoted to totems. We happened to walk up as one of the rangers, who grew up in Sitka, was about to go out and she took us on a guided tour of the park. I am particularly fond of the raven images in the totems.

On the walk between town and the cultural we came upon these two girls selling homemade jams, jellies, and kelp pickles. It’s a family business (Simple Pleasures) and they are saving the money for a big trip to the lower 48 states. We helped by buying 2 jars of salmonberry jam. These girls are sure to be selling a lot of jelly – who could resist?

Juneau, Alaska

Wednesday we sailed into Juneau harbor. Steve had booked a rental car online before we left home. It turned out that we needed to take a taxi to the rental car place, but that turned out to be a good thing. Allen, the taxi driver told us how to get to the Mendenhall glacier and he told us some about what it’s like living in Juneau.
Juneau is not very big. The population is about 30,000. There is one main road that goes though town, up to the glacier, and then around and back to town. This is the state capitol so there are often politicians in town. There is a college campus. The town is spread out for several miles along the waterfront, which moderates the temperatures somewhat. 

Here, and in the other towns we visited, the structures are brightly painted. With the weather often gray and rainy, or gray and snowy, I’m sure the color is good see.

We got off the ship early and drove up to the glacier for a 3-plus mile hike. The Mendenhall glacier feeds into a beautiful, placid lake. There were two raucous waterfalls falling into the lake near the visitor center. In fact, there are waterfalls all over the place. You can see long, skinny ones running off the mountains from pretty far away.

We hiked up a trail that went along fast-flowing streams, through rainforest trees. I was surprised at the diversity of plant life – the ferns were huge. There is a spiky plant called Devils Club that, as it turns out, is prized for its medicinal uses by the native Alaskans. The plant is insanely thorny (being pricked by it is apparently a very bad thing) and the berries are poisonous. The natives use the root and bark – they probably use the leaves too.

I bought some Devil’s Club soap from the Winter Song Soap Company in Sitka the next day. It’s supposed to have anti-inflammatory properties and be good for rosacea and other skin problems. I think I like it!

There were several glacier overlooks and photo ops on our hike. It is hard to take a bad photograph here. I liked this shot because you can see how river-like a glacier is. We didn’t get a chance to walk out onto one. There’s just not time to do it all!

We were cold and damp and a little sore when we got back to the ship so we went to the hydro spa! I had bought a pass on the first day that was good for the entire cruise. Our pass got us into the big fancy whirlpool hydro spa, the lovely sauna and steam rooms, and the room with the six heated recliners that are covered with aqua-blue glass tiles and that sit in front of a picture big window. I knew I would like the hydro spa but I was surprised at how much Steve has enjoyed it. We have visited the spa every day.

Day Two - Glacier Bay

Tuesday we sailed into Glacier Bay. The weather is gray and rainy with temperatures in the 40s F. I wondered if the glaciers would look blue under gray skies and I’m happy to report that glacier ice is blue whether the sky is blue or not!

We spent a good part of the day looking at the Lamplugh (above) and Margorie (below) glaciers. We watched ice fall off into the water… it was cool to watch but I couldn’t help but wish it would stay put. The glaciers are melting so quickly these days.

The food onboard is good. The fish (mostly salmon and halibut) is terrific! It’s hard to resist dessert when it is offered at every meal so I gave up and have not been resisting.

The one mishap that we’ve had this trip happened as I was glacier-watching. As I said, it was rainy. I had my new iPhone in my jacket pocket. My hands were in and out of my pockets and I didn’t think it was happening, but a tiny bit of water got in there with my iPhone. Oh my. I killed it. I have to go home and hook it up to my computer to verify it, but I truly think my iPhone is dead. I have apple-care, but it doesn’t cover water damage.

My dear husband said not to worry, it wasn’t as if he’d never made a costly mistake so I should just treat this as a learning experience and move on. So – let me share with you all that even a few drops of water in the right place can wick into an iPhone. I will carry a baggie from now on to put my new phone in at the slightest hint of water. FYI – being too hot or too cold can kill one too.

Setting sail and our first day at sea....

As I wrote earlier, Steve and I have been on an Alaska cruise! I taught 2 classes on the Alaska Quilt Camp at Sea. There are lots of quilters onboard. So many, in fact, that I haven’t gotten to visit with everyone. But I think it’s safe to say that we are all having a good time.

We sailed out of Seattle on Sunday. Steve and I opted to spend a little more and stay in a cabin with a veranda. It’s worth the extra expense! We spotted our room as we were boarding – I’ve marked it with the red dot in the photo. And that’s what our room looks like (from the veranda, looking in). And that’s me on the veranda with Seattle in the background.

We got some good shots of Seattle from our veranda on the way out of port. There was a great deal of horn blowing on the way out of port.
Not long after we got underway, there was a mandatory lifeboat drill. I only heard of one lady who skipped it and she apparently had a stern talking-to later. For my part, I was happy to know what to do in case of emergency.

The first day, Monday, was spent at sea. Both of my classes were on Monday. The seas were a bit rough, but that didn’t seem to bother any of us appliquers too much. I have taken non-sleepy Dramamine on this trip and it has worked very well for me. I would recommend it over the patch (which I have taken in the past).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

This is for you, Jeff and Elanor!

As I just wrote, we are in Seattle. As we were waiting for the bus back to the hotel from the Seattle Public Library, we did some people watching. People are really fascinating! We spotted these two fellows across the street and I managed to get an almost good photo of them.

I should tell you that my granddaughter, Elanor, who is 5 and our son, Jeff, who is 23 have been calling each other spiky-heads a lot lately. Who knows where that came from, but it makes them both laugh like crazy.

So, when I spotted these guys it was all I could do not not to holler "spiky-heads" and commence to giggling! I'm not sure they would have thought it was funny but, seriously, they can't imagine that people won't notice their hair-dos! Personally, I''m sort of fascinated by their hair. It's not just that they got it to stick up - it's that the spikes are so precisely placed. 

I'm in Seattle!

I am teaching on an Alaskan cruise... we sail tomorrow. My husband, Steve, is with me on this trip. He enjoys accompanying me to scenic places :-).

We got to Seattle this afternoon and 
had time to take the bus to the Seattle Public Library. Rem Koolhaas designed this building 
and I have only seen it in pictures until today. My oh my - what a place!

The outside is glass and steel... gray and yet very reflective. Inside there are gray areas — and areas that are just saturated in color. We came into these very simple, gray stacks of books. The light permeates every space. Even where ceilings are low, you don't feel closed in.

The escalators are intense shades of yellow and yellow-green. 

The photo below is at the bottom of a double-escalator. The insides of the elevators are similar in color, but I couldn't get a good photo of  one. 

There is one floor in the library that is all in glossy red - except for one wall that is intensely fuscia. The walls undulate. Majorly cool. 

If you find yourself in Seattle, it's definitely worth a visit.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

How to applique the circles in the center of the Aunt Millie blocks.

Several of you have emailed asking how we stitched the circles in the center of the Aunt Millie blocks. FYI - Those instructions were in the original pattern, but somewhere along the way they got deleted. We're sorry about that. However, not to worry, we can tell you how we did the circles.

The circles with wedges are appliqued, not pieced. Sew them off-the-block. Start with a 4"-6" square of fabric for the large circle. Draw the circle on it. Applique each wedge onto the circle. Applique the small center circle. Then cut the unit out as a whole, finger press it, and applique it to the block.

These instructions are also posted on our website, on the Aunt Mille page in the left-hand sidebar.

Happy stitching!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The new fabric is here!

I'm old enough that even as I wrote the title to this post I could hear Steve Martin in my head saying "the new phone book's here, the new phone book's here!" I think I watch too many movies :-). But enough of that.

Our new fabric, Elanor's Picnic, has indeed arrived. Linda and Paul have been busily cutting and preparing kits and fat quarters. I got the web pages built. We are ready to ship! Click to go to the first of the fabric pages or go to our home page which has also changed. We hope you like this fabric as much as we do. We think that it may be our best fabric yet!

I could write a lot more about the fabric here, but it's all on the web pages. FYI - We're not going to send out an eNewsletter about the new fabric until late August or early September. P&B is in the middle of re-printing more fabric and we want to be able to re-stock before we send the eNewsletter. What this means is that you who read our blog are being notified first! 

Let me revise that... Since I posted this entry earlier today we have been notified by P&B that the next group of fabric is here. So the eNewsletter is going out tomorrow. But you did hear about it here first! 

Happy quilting!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Can you believe it?

I found yet another photo of Steve taking a picture. This one was on the way home from Grand Junction. We were close to Monarch Pass, CO, I think. He's way over there on the left, at the side of the road.

I also got a photo of this Holiday Inn sign. I love the pointy ball at the top. I wonder what it looks like with the neon lit? We couldn't spend that day waiting to see it. Oh well.

There are two photos that I didn't get to take that I still regret. The highway was too narrow and there was enough traffic to make it dangerous. Steve spotted a hawk nest on top of a power pole. There were two hawks, and presumably babies, in the nest. Pretty cool. And there was an alligator farm out there on the high plains (which seemed weird enough) that had alligator-shaped signs. I wish I could show you the pictures...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I've been going through my pictures...

I take pictures of my husband, Steve, taking pictures. Does anyone else do this? I started taking these pictures a few years ago and now I have a lot of them. It's interesting to me that Steve assumes almost the same stance every time he takes a photo. I'll bet everyone does. 

I mostly take these pictures when we're on vacation (otherwise I'm not there to capture these moments). These are the pictures of Steve taking pictures that I took when we were at the Colorado National Monument, on the mesa near Linda and Paul's house. Steve is waving in the 2nd photo. I missed him taking the picture, but I thought the wave was nice :-).