Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The itch

Having made significant progress on the quilt for my bed (second large project this year!), I am off into day-dreaming about the next quilt.  I have the itch: something new, something shiny, something to stroke my tender ego and make my creative juices sing.

Three main quilt project ideas are pitter-pattering around.  They each have an intended recipient, and I am excited about each possibility.

Number 1: Quilt for my son's bed.  The daughters each have gotten a quilt, but son has not.  He has a black-and-white duvet cover that he loves, and seemed excited about this pattern when I showed it to him.  I would like to feature Asian prints in either the white or black-and-red areas.
The pattern is from a block-a-day quilt calendar from Debby Kratovil.
Fascinating that this design is based entirely on a single block, delectable mountains, in 10" finished size.

Number 2: Queen-size quilt for youngest daughter's bed.  She has graduated away from twin-size, meaning the quilt I made her years ago is too small.  She actually asked me to make her a new quilt, knowing it might take three years to see the finished product.
Star Crazy, designed by Lynn Lister
This photo (that I found in McCall's Quilting magazine, September/October 2008) is what she has in mind: something scrappy, made with variations on the same block.  Notice how the exact same block can look so different when the colors and values change.  It keeps your eye moving over the entire quilt.  Wonder what colors she has in mind; I don't happen to love this Thimbleberries palette at all.

Number 3: T-shirt quilt.  Sweetie confessed this summer that she has no need to actually make the t-shirt quilt we have been prepping.  So I am free to finish it!  The shirts are stabilized and one accent fabric has been chosen.  It's blue. 
I have this book, which has awesome ideas in it for quilts that are more than the simple-bordered-matrix style.  And, since I am one who loves to complicate just about any fabric project, this seems up my alley.  I had such a hard time keeping my hands off when Sweetie was musing about what she would do with her college t-shirts--"Oh, what about the numbers off some of your old jerseys?"  "Don't you need your college mascot in here somewhere?"  "How about unifying the colors in some way?"  Now that I can dream about it, oh the fantasies that come to mind...

Which project?  Have I completed "enough" from the WIP/UFO pile to start a new project like this?  Or will I just happily day-dream my way through the fall, as I work on completing some older, smaller projects?

Friday, August 24, 2012

_Time_ Management?

Project Runway.  Big fan.  Every season.  (Even when the judges seem to be out of their minds with whose design is a standout.)  So, today's "AHA!" moment comes courtesy of episode 4 of season 10.  (I am a couple weeks behind with my dvr watching.)

Tim Gunn: "You need to really nail--soon--what it is you want to do."
Raul:  "I think my biggest problem is time management.  It's very hard because I keep getting all these ideas and then I end up going in multiple directions."

Ah, Raul, you said it so well.  Except the problem isn't really managing the time, it's managing the ideas, and focusing the actions that flow from those ideas.  We all have the same amount of time to work in.  I just struggle with focus--I could make so much more progress on Plan A, if I didn't keep second guessing myself, backtracking to re-plan, or staging tiny forays into Plans B, C and D "just in case" or "because they were calling to me".

Wasn't I reading a book on this topic recently?  Oh yeah, Eat That Frog.  Well, I guess I'm still learning the lessons of focus.  Always.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Irony in ADD-land

I love me some irony.  First, you have to read the cartoon, then I can share the ironic story.
Stone Soup, by Jan Eliot
Ha-ha, someone besides me succumbs to the ADD tendency to get totally sidetracked and forget the point of going on the computer in the first place.  (It's why I don't open Facebook very often.  Just nod, you know what I mean.)

I found this comic when I was going through a stack of papers in my classroom.  It was in with several other comics, so I assumed there were things in the pile that I had wanted to save for classroom use (mostly nerdy math stuff, especially the fabulous Foxtrot).  I liked this one well enough to share with students (I publicly discuss my ADD issues), so I walked across the classroom to get scissors to cut it out.

Over at my desk, I noticed the top was off my teacup, so I replaced it.  I was thirsty for more than tea, so I poured myself some water.  I changed the station on the radio, as the npr program I was listening to had ended.  And I walked back across the classroom to finish sorting that pile of papers...

...only to realize I had gotten sidetracked and forgotten to get the scissors to cut out the cartoon that makes fun of people who get easily sidetracked.

Ah, me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Inspiring Sign

Saw this sign in a hallway, had my camera with me, and had to take a picture.
Anybody besides me want the or you can shine statement to be much bolder and more eye-catching?  Great, inspiring text, lovely font, and something so tasty about the progression of ever-lighter gray backgrounds (the picture doesn't do justice to the gray tones).

I so want to make a quilt with WORDS in it!  (Oh wait, I have a UFO wall-hanging with words.  Maybe I should go back to working on that...)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Tidy Fairy

I watched the Tidy Fairy come visit my kitchen last evening, and it was an inspiring sight, so I thought I'd share.  Maybe your untidy spaces could use some of the motivation that I received by being in Her Highness' presence for a few moments.

First of all, you must know that there is a Mess Fairy.  Of course you know this--things just tend to get messy over time, especially if children or hobbies are involved.  We have always blamed this on the Mess Fairy.  Many a time I have wished for the Tidy Fairy to come along (preferably overnight) and straighten things up.  Well... I just didn't know about the Tidy Fairy's habits.

Sweetie was cooking dinner last night.  One of those Rachel-Ray-30-minutes-or-less gourmet concoctions of hers, so she was efficiently zipping around the kitchen.  She went to reach for a baking sheet, opened the cupboard and said, "Oh my!  What happened here?"  Well, you know how it is when multiple people use a kitchen--things tend to get put away a bit willy-nilly.  And over time, that develops into an untidy cupboard.  I would have seen the mess and told myself, "I've got to set aside some time to get that straightened up."  It would have gone on my endless mental list of tidying tasks.  End of story.  But NO.  Here's where the wings and wand appeared: she bent over--with tofu still frying on the stove, mind you--and straightened up that cupboard in less than 60 seconds.  
Really.  60 seconds is all it took to put the muffin pans over there, place the strainers on the top shelf, banish the bundt pan to the back row, etc.

I never think that way.  It takes me 60 seconds to look at a "mess", do some deep breathing, chastise myself for being messy in the first place, and add that mess to my mental housecleaning burden.  I just don't think of, "Hey, let's just zip in there and tidy a bit."  (Of course, my ADD nature usually succumbs to mission-creep, and I am elbow deep in a major-strip-down-kitchen-overhaul when the smoke detector screams to let me know the tofu for dinner is burning on the stove.)

So I got to thinking about some areas the Mess Fairy has visited, and how I, being a person who tends to think in black-or-white, all-or-nothing terms, have avoided the small steps (baby steps, really) that could keep this mess under control.  Or at least put the muffin pans over there, metaphorically speaking.
The kitchen island: a mess that has been stubbornly persistent and slowly growing in this location.
And on the floor below in the corner: its sister mess.  The last two times the pile on the counter got too big (or company was coming over), I shoveled it into this bin on the floor, saying, "I need to get organized."  Which translates roughly to, "I'll need most of an afternoon to take care of this mess."  So there it sits, waiting for an empty afternoon.

Some optimism, please

Let's not be pessimistic.  There are areas of my life where I am the Tidy Fairy.  I keep on top of my messes in certain areas.  I have to remember to celebrate these.  And, in my uber-analytic way, look for patterns in the things that are working, so I can do more of that.

1.  I am the Laundry Fairy.  At my house, laundry is a source of pride for me.  It is one of those neverending chores that I think I do well at.  And enjoy.

2.  My bathroom sink (is cleaner than Sweetie's on most days). 
The between-cleanings tidying is taken care of thusly: when I am fixing my hair with appliances (about every other day), I end up with hair in the sink (horrors!)  When I am done, I use two squares of toilet paper to mop this hair out of the sink and go on to use the same tissue to wipe around the remaining sink and faucet surfaces.  See??  That tiny extra step of going beyond the task at hand of removing stray hairs and wiping a nearly-clean surface keeps it from getting lint, or dust, or glop.  Yes, the bathroom sink still needs regular cleaning, but it is more Tidy on a daily basis because the Tidy Fairy was involved on a small scale (baby steps).

3.  The bed gets made by one or two Tidy Fairies pretty much every day.
To me, this is the difference between just pulling the covers up, and the small extra step of adjusting the mattress pad, straightening the pillow cases, re-tucking the sheets, removing stray items from the bedside table, and dusting the table top with the pajamas that are on their way to the laundry hamper.

Gotta remember: it's the little things that build up over time to create "mess".  But it's also the little things I can do every day to keep that mess at bay.  Way to go, Tidy Fairy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Buck-a-block: month 12 (already?)

When I arrived at buck-a-block, there was no new block posted.  Instead, a quilt top had been fashioned from 12 blocks.  OMG, are we already done?  I didn't know we had made all the blocks.

Turns out, we had only made 11 blocks, but I looked carefully at each one, and I was sure I remembered making them all.  So what was I missing?

Well, sneaky quilt shop, they decided that month 12 would be a repeat of April's block, Cups and Saucers.
Here is the pattern sheet.  But if you recall, this block can be made so many different ways.  I photographed ten possible combinations in a blog post in MayTwo versions are in the finished quilt top above: second row center block, and bottom right corner block.  One of those versions has the center block made from a different fabric than the outside corners, so that adds another calculation to the math in my Quilter's Choice posting (for those keeping count, we're up to 64 variations so far).

But then Kennette, using a mini design board, showed us even more variations.
I hadn't thought of turning the flying geese units so they are going around the block.  This adds so many more possibilities--maybe 8?  (I don't think I want to continue the math further on this.  We're already up to 64-times-8: 512 possible block variations.  Or so...)


Well, if we're making block 12 this month, that must mean I have six blocks completed in one colorway.  Time to start thinking about setting things together into a baby quilt!
Here they are: six blocks in navy and turquoise, with a star theme and a clouds-on-cream background fabric by Thimbleberries.  I kinda like the star (Ohio Star? not quite sure) used as cornerstones in the finished top above, but I'm not sure, as the pop-of-color red might be part of what makes it attractive to me.  And if I'm wanting to stick with blues, what sort of *pop-of-color* might that imply?  I have a "baby quilt" size piece of batting, so I'm size-restricted to about 36" by 48" if I want to use that.  Which further restricts my creativity.  Or not.

And, six blocks in one colorway means there are 5 blocks awaiting a final playmate!  Baby quilt number two is close at hand.
 This helps me think about fabric choices for the endless-choice 12th month block.  It looks like red would be the better choice for the center and corners, leaving black alone (or black-and-pink) for the flying geese.  I'm liking the geese flying around the center block formation (shown in blue & yellow in a previous photo), but who knows what will be the final outcome.

Oh my gosh!!!  So excited about this new thinking on Buck-a-block.  I have two WIPs to start day-dreaming about.

P.S. to Cassie and Rhonda: I signed up for next year's Buck-a-block already!  (I like the direction they are going with more individual color choices at the end.  A no-brainer given my eschewing of most of this year's fabrics.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

July buck-a-block complete

Wouldn't you know, on the day our monthly block is due, there I am still a-sewin away.  But I got it done.
Here are the two colors I was auditioning (mere hours before the scheduled unveiling!) for the "frame" portion of the block.
Choice 1: light, powdery blue. It lets turquoise be the star.
Choice 2: darker, navy blue.  More powerful contrast in the block.

I went with the darker choice, after glancing at the other blocks I have made in this colorway to see if I could figure out which configuration "fit" better with the others.
Ta-da!  I really like how it turned out.  Not too bad on the "matching points" skill, but I did have to re-do two seams that weren't close enough--the turquoise half-square triangles had a hard time meeting up with the turquoise squares and the lighter blue accent trapezoids (which were actually sewn as folded corners--a la flying geese--on both ends of lighter blue accent rectangles--very clever construction).

Quick comparison of this block, Silver Lane, with Four Winds, the January block pattern.  I saw similar "tulip" shapes between them.
Don't know why, but I find that shape very appealing.  That and the pinwheels...  Done for this month.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Belated project report for July

Quilter's Yard Sale was yesterday.  I took 5 bins with me and returned with only 1!  Doesn't mean I sold a whole heck of a lot: made a whopping $27, after paying for the table space.  But, I only bought one item (a booklet to make *adorable* pincushions), and I was willing to take almost everything else to Goodwill or M.E.C.C.A. (a nonprofit for exchanging arts-and-crafts materials).

I feel lighter.  Free of fabric that whispered to me about things I "should" be working on, given how long said fabric had been in the attic.  Yay.

Project report
Finished the Oakie wardrobe in July, made a 4th of July block for my friend Kennette, and let go of one more UFO.  (I sold a partially completed cloche hat at the quilter's yard sale!)  I think that makes great progress on the overall "have less stuff" adventure.  Especially since I am noticing that many of my sewing friends seem to take it easy in the summer--vacations, longer days and the great outdoors compete for our attentions.

Monthly project count...
Completed projects this Month:  5
Completed projects Year to Date:  12
New projects this Month:  1
New projects Year to Date: 11
Discarded/donated projects (farewell!): 8
Net Project Count for 2012: -9

Only a couple more weeks until school is back in session.  I am trying to stay stress-free as my summer break winds to a close.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Well-attired in Alaska

Readjusting to the lower 48 after two weeks in Alaska.  Oakie had a lovely time and saw many sights and was handsome and dashing in all his different outfits.  He is so famous now around the quilt shop that I felt I must post some photos of him on vacation.
First event aboard ship: go to your lifeboat gathering point.  Oakie is ready, wearing his blaze orange life vest.  Other shipboard guests were not required to don their life jackets at this time, but penguins were free to take every precaution.
Oakie in Ketchikan, making friends with local wildlife, while wearing his new raincoat.  This raincoat was the original impetus for Oakie to acquire a wardrobe, and was the last item I finished sewing.  Damn that pleather fabric!  Oh, it was a pain to sew, and I cursed up a mighty storm.  I tried several tips and techniques, including using my roller foot (not a good choice at all) and matte transparent (scotch) tape (this ended up being the best for topstitching, but the thinness of my particular pleather meant that sometimes removing the tape also removed some of the top layer of vinyl--sad face).  Surprisingly, the best sewing advice came from a thread on cosplay.com.  (Okay, maybe not surprising if you know the elaborate costumes people create for their cosplay hobby--but it was news to me.)

All worked out in the end though: Oakie had a raincoat to keep his fur feathers dry in the very damp Alaskan inside passage.  (I just kept reminding myself as I sewed: it's a costume for a stuffed penguin.  That kept the obsessive perfectionist voices at bay.)

A better view of Oakie's raincoat (indoors recovering from the chill with hot cocoa).  The hood has a little bill on it (a modification of the brim pattern from the visor) and is lined with a striped lining material, but the rest of the raincoat is not lined.  Nor is it hemmed.  I decided simpler is better--why topstitich tricky hems when the pleather won't run or ravel anyway?  Still not sure what to use as a closure for the front of the raincoat--hook-and-loop (velcro) seems like overkill--so it is just open for now.  Good rain coverage on the sleeves and length of the coat itself.

The surprise outfit was Oakie's formal wear.  Sweetie hadn't seen me working on this outfit at all, so when he wore it to our formal dinner night on the cruise, it was a bit hit.  It is a sailor-style white shirt (same basic collar pattern as for the life vest) with gray fabric-paint stripes front and back.  It closes with a single neck button and embroidered loop.  There is even interfacing in the collar and front facing areas!  (No, I don't know how to make something uncomplicated.  Simplify is not in my vocabulary.)

Flying home on Alaska airlines, we finally got a sunny day, so Oakie had to bust out his rainbow visor.  He was a big hit on our vacation, and managed to get his fuzzy self into several photos, whether he was invited or not.

Thanks for playing along with my crazy posts about Oakie's wardrobe.  Back to more regular-type sewing now that vacation is over.  Have fun out there!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

No County Fair for me

I have been using the County Fair as a deadline for finishing a sewing project for years and years.  But alas, not this year.  The timing just wasn't right, even though I had a new quilt all ready to enter.

And, along with letting go of the dream of this year's County Fair, I am letting go of yet another UFO.
Here she is: a porcelain doll that once belonged to my oldest daughter, but who I corralled to make costumes for.  I completed an old-fashioned white nurse's outfit, and began work on an Elizabethan gown (shown in the picture).  The top is completed, beaded, golden-ribbon-cris-crossed, and accented with a string of "pearls".  The skirt is similarly embellished with leather bows and lace at the hem.  The only problem is the waistband--which didn't fit the doll, so I ripped it out.  So close to being done.  So much tiny hand work went into this outfit. (Can you see why I wanted to enter it into the fair?)  But so *not* what I want to work on.  Can't even imagine a willing recipient for the completed doll-with-outfits.

Gotta let her go.  She is the epitome of UFO-ness: lots of work already done, not that much more to do, but no love left for the act of finishing this project.  Thank goodness there's a quilter's yard sale coming up!  I have hope that she will find a happy home elsewhere.  Farewell, sweet maiden.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The view from my sewing room

Open the blinds to this: makes me smile!
I love the view from my sewing room this time of year.  The south side of the house is planted with grape vines, to cut down on home overheating in the summer, and to provide a little bit of grape goodness to eat.
Nothing profound to say, just how the very green light entering the sewing space in the afternoon makes me happy in a way I can't explain.
Ahh...  Ok, what was I working on again?