Saturday, May 24, 2008


How do you combat a nasty little realization you've come to? For me...I go out and do things to my hair. Or, well, pay to have them done anyway. After a lovely 2 hours at the salon today, this is what I came home with.

What do you think? You can be honest here.

And a better view of the colors. Yes, colors. There are three in there. Hey -- if only one color is not enough for a quilt, why in the world should I limit my hair color?

As a comparison -- this is what I'm changing from. Picture from the visit to the lilacs -- though, well, it was looking pretty scary in this photo. We won't mention the inch or so of grey that was showing at the roots either. I know this doesn't show how long the old cut was -- but, um, I looked while they were sweeping up after my cut. They filled a dustpan with the hair. And then some. I think she said I had about 6" cut off. Wow -- my neck feels so breezy.

Oh, and side note -- do you have any idea how hard it is to take a picture of yourself? Yeah -- most of them ended up with me looking really surprised. Or ticked off. Or just otherwise strange. Though, looking at these photos -- I REALLY need to get my eyebrows done. EEEK. Now that's scary. (and Mom -- here you go, photos of the new hair as promised, and Elaine -- challenge of posting a photo of myself met!)

And yep, this is the only "cutting" that has been going on around here this week as well. Though, I am hoping to try and get that changed this weekend. Fingers crossed for some quality time with my rotary cutter and sewing machine.

As for the realization that sent me running for the drastic cut and color? Um, yeah -- I finally got around to doing some cleaning and organizing. I put away my fabrics (well most of them) that I've been collecting over the past six months. When I finished cramming stuffing shoving placing them in my fabric bins, I realized I have NO ROOM LEFT in my fabric storage area for any more fabric. Not even for a fat quarter or two. And, well, I may still have fabrics that need to be put away. So -- the quandary -- do I stop buying fabrics and use what I have to make room for new things (the prudent, adult, responsible thing to do) or do I figure out somewhere else to store my fabrics? I mean, Miss Tinkerbell is only three right? She can't possibly need a WHOLE closet to herself. Her clothes are SMALL right?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tools of the Trade

So, here I was saying I was going to post more often and a week goes by. Well, I'd love to say I've been busy, busy, busy so I have tons to share today. I'd love to say it. I just, well, can't. I haven't finished a darned thing since last week. I haven't even really worked on much. Of course, it could be because I've been working (YEAH!!!) and trying to figure out a furniture move because of a birthday gift that will be arriving next week (we won't mention the quilt that supposed to go with this one -- um, it's still in the same state as it was here. Don't ask).

Honestly? The only creative cutting I've done in the past week was with this guy. One of the local Lutheran (I think?) churches has an annual lobster boil as a fund raiser. It's become a tradition to pick up lobsters and have a family meal with my in-laws and grandparents-in law. She was yummy by the way.

So, since I have a lack of anything new to post -- how about a post I've been meaning to do for, oh, let's say the past 7 months or so. While working on some projects, I realized just how many of my favorite quilting/sewing notions did not start out having anything to do with quilting.

These for instance. Yes, they are nothing more than strips of cardboard (in this case from a saltines box I think) that have been cut down to a specific width. I think these are 1/2" and 3/4" in the photo. So why have them around? They are my secret to pressing an accurate seam allowance when necessary. For most piecing this isn't a problem, but for making bags, etc. they always have instructions for pressing an edge. Fold the fabric over my strip, press, and move on. No muss, no fuss. And yes, I know there is actually a sewing notion you can use for this -- but let me just say those little metal seam gauges? with the little plastic slide thing? Yeah, I've toasted more than one with my iron. Not to mention toasting my fingers. Ick. These are long enough that my fingers stay OUT of the way and gives a longer surface area to iron. Plus, if I ruin one (or lose it) -- replacements are just a breakfast cereal box away. I have a whole set of these on hand for seam allowance of every size. I would love to take credit for this idea -- but, well, it was in a pattern for a bag I made awhile ago. A shame I can't claim it -- but, there you go.

And this, one of my favorite tools of all time, the humble chopstick. More importantly the humble, wooden, take out chopstick. I have several sets of very nice chopsticks here at the house. They are NOT the sort that you throw away at the end of the meal. We like using them and pretending that we are civilized. So, what to do with the throwaways that come home? Well -- they make GREAT turning and stuffing tools. Why spend lots of money when I've got a drawer full of these suckers? And honestly? If it's a good quality take away chopstick -- it lasts forever.

Another favorite, though this one IS actually intended for fabric, my Downey Wrinkle Release spray. I LOVE this stuff. Yes, it is meant for ironing and clothing. I don't really iron clothing. Not if I can help it that is. But, for fabrics that have been folded and stored for a bit -- those stubborn wrinkles that WILL NOT come out? A spray or two of this, a quick pass of the iron -- voila! They are gone, baby, gone! And, since I'm of the "I'm not washing it until I absolutely have to" school of thought when it comes to my fabrics -- that crease line from the fold on the bolt? It gets rid of those too :0).

My final favorite non-quilting, quilting notion? No, this isn't a mistake -- bottled water. You see -- I love me some steam when I'm pressing my seams. Oh, who am I kidding -- seams, fabric, anything really. I almost always use steam (exceptions here for use of fusibles that say NO STEAM). However, my favorite Rowenta iron does NOT like my tap water. While modern irons are designed to use water that has SOME particulates -- the stuff that comes out of my tap has a few too many for mine. Tap water around here = spitting, lime/calcium build up, etc. Add in the radon warnings we keep getting about our local water supply in the mail -- um, yeah, not so much a fan of my tap water. I mean, I do drink the stuff from the tap -- but, well, my iron gets treated a bit better than I do :0).

So there you have it -- my favorite non-quilting (or at least non-quilting in their first life) quilting notions. What are some of your favorites?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Under the Lilacs

The title of today's post pretty much describes how I spent part of my weekend (thank you Louisa May Alcott for the lovely title as well). Spring seems to finally have come to Northern Illinois and the lilacs are in full bloom. While I don't have any planted near my house, there is a park in the suburbs where I can go and be in absolute lilac heaven.

The park has literally hundreds (if not thousands) of lilac bushes along winding paths. The number of varieties of lilacs are amazing as well. It's enough to make me wish I had a place where I could plant dozens of bushes. The scent is just heavenly. We could smell the fragrance a block and 1/2 away from the park entrance. Mmmmnnn.

The trip to the park for the day was my Mother's Day gift from my husband and daughter. (though my daughter also brought home a plaster of paris hand print she made at daycare -- I always wondered if the stuff I made for my Mom was appreciated. Being on the receiving end now -- oh yeah, it was. The darned thing had me tearing up) It's all I asked for and it was just perfect. Because of the weather forecast we went on Saturday and had a great time playing in the park and looking at the flowers.

As you can see from the photos, Lilacs are not the only attraction -- there are tons and tons of tulips as well. When I've gone in the past the tulips were pretty much gone before the lilacs were ready. This year? Oh my!

And the varieties of tulips were amazing as well. I mean, look at this one -- yes, it is a tulip. And in the patch you see above? With pinks and light pinks that all have those multiple petals? Amazing.

One of my favorites was this grouping. There has to be a quilt in this somehow. The orange with the white and deep purple against the spring green? Oh my, oh my.

One of the nicest parts of the park is the fact that they clearly label all of the varieties of lilacs and tulips. That orange tulip that I fell in love with? Imagine my surprise when I found out its name. I KNEW there was a reason I fell in love with it. It shares a name with one of my favorite quilt blogs. (Hi Clare!) And if any of you think I've been googling tulip bulb suppliers and dreaming of planting some of these beauties in the fall? would be absolutely correct.

All in all it was a perfect way for me to spend my Mother's Day celebration. Add in the fact that I got a wonderful package in the mail last week with my Spring Four Seasons quilt in it? Oh yeah, what more could I ask for? Gwen of Scrappy Angel Quilts was my partner and I LOVE my spring baskets. I can't wait to hang it up in my office.

In addition to the wonderful quilt, she also sent some yummy sock yarns for me to play with. This should be some serious inspiration to actually FINISH the purple socks that have been languishing around here (yes, they are still in the same state as they are in that post -- ugh). I know what pattern I want to try next and now I have the yarn to play with. I just have to decide on whether to use the green or the purple/blue/yellow/green combo. Decisions, decisions. Either way THANK YOU GWEN!!!!

And speaking of knitting...I did manage to get something finished this weekend! The sweater I started for my daughter way back in February, the one I confidently claimed would be ready for Easter?, I finally got around to finishing it this weekend. Finally. And it fits!

Mostly. It seems in the 2+ months since I started this one my little one has gotten taller. Not any heavier, but taller. The sleeves fit perfectly. It fits around her waist with room to spare. But, um the length?!? Yeah, it's a bolero sweater. This is fine -- it's for spring so it's cool. I'm thinking she may need a little empire waist dress to go under it though. At the time I started this (and finished knitting the front and back sections) the measurements worked with a bit of room to spare. Now?? Yeah. Oh well -- such is life when making things for children. :0). And since I stole took the yarn from my Mom's stash with permission, you can't beat the price :0).

So, that's it from the cornfields for today. I'm trying to finish up a few projects so hopefully I will have more to report soon!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's ALIVE...

Or, rather, I am. Really. I seriously can't believe it's been over a month since I posted to my blog, but I am still alive and kicking. As for what's been keeping me away from my blog (and most of the blogs I regularly read too -- we won't even go into how many posts bloglines says I haven't read) take your pick from the following:
  • Sick husband

  • Sick child

  • Child deciding to learn how to slide head first into home plate but using a steel door frame as her target

  • The blahs (probably the biggest reason folks -- I was having a major tail end of winter funk that just would not go away)

  • Getting some substitute teaching jobs (love the money, teaching, etc. but you usually don't find out whether or not you are working the next day until sometime between 6 and 9 pm)

  • Scratching an eye because of something getting in my contact lens which made light painful and meant I had to wear my soooo out of date glasses for two weeks (um, yeah, I actually had to try and thread a quilting between during that period -- luckily Tink was asleep or she would have had way too many new words to add to her vocabulary. This was also another major reason for not posting -- when it hurts to look at a computer screen, um, yeah.)

And -- just because I'm in the mood for lists here are some sure signs you haven't posted to your blog in much too long:

  • You get wonderful emails from blog friends asking if you are ok. (thank you everyone who wrote -- I'm catching up on my email so if you haven't heard from me yet -- you will soon!)

  • You get a call from one of your favorite quilt shop owners saying you haven't written on the blog lately and she and the staff are wondering if you are ok. (thank you for calling -- it means a whole lot to me -- I'll be in soon!)

  • Every conversation with your mother includes a reminder that you need to post to your blog.

Soooo -- what have I been up to in the past month? Well...I did hold the drawing for my 1 year/100th + post giveaway. Tink decided when I asked her to "mix" the slips of paper that she absolutely needed to use a spoon to do it. Hey, who am I to argue? She also decided that "one" was not enough -- so she chose two names: Gwen of Scrappy Angel Quilts and Lisa of Upstatelisa. I DID notify the winners via email. Now to just get their packages in the mail (it isn't just the blog that I'm behind on folks...).

I also managed to finish a gift for a coworker of my mother's who retired in April. This is someone who has been a great help to my mother and who has been generous in her praise of my humble efforts at crafting. I just HAD to make her something. After seeing a book that had some wonderful Japanese designs I decided to use a sashiko/applique design of a cherry blossom (a sakura) but instead of the sashiko technique use western embroidery. I then turned it into a decorative pillow with some pretty spring colored fabrics. I LOVE how this piece turned out. It's hard to tell from the photo (click to make it bigger) but the embroidery is done in pale pinks that shade out to almost white. I think I'm going to have to try this one again -- maybe with one of the other traditional Japanese designs.

I also finished my Four Seasons Spring piece!!! Wooo Hoooo! I'm kind of conflicted about this one. One the one hand, I put a lot of myself into it. It represents a lot of hours and a lot of things I haven't experimented with before. It's the first piece I've ever hand quilted that had seams. (check another thing off of my new year's list). It's the first piece I've ever done that has incorporated both knitting and quilting. Yes, call me an over achiever -- but that lace edging is the one I was working on here.

And, yes, the base of this piece is the trip around the world I talked about here. I took some of the suggestions and added embroidery to try and make it pop a bit more. There's a bit in the upper right hand corner.

And a bigger section in the lower left. I also added in some knit flowers to add some dimension. So why the conflict? Well -- I love the individual elements, but, somehow, I'm just not sure about the finished piece. This one is also just, well, despite the fact that I designed most of it -- just so not ME. Maybe because of it, it was really hard to let this one go. I think I may have to repeat this one again. It is on its way to its new owner and I hope she enjoys it. I really did have fun making it, even if I am a bit unsure about how it turned out. Maybe it's just nerves.

Yikes -- I don't post for over a month and then I end up going on and on. I do have more to say (so since when is that a surprise) and show (you should see the lovely swap piece I received -- and you will, I promise!) but I think this one is getting a bit long! I'll post more soon. I won't promise tomorrow, but hopefully this weekend!