Thursday, August 18, 2016

ANOTHER YEAR OLDER, BUT A LIFETIME WISER...





I have been doing a lot of thinking over the past several days...some good, some bad...but all, for me, life-changing.  Turning 56 this week was a startling wake-up call.  It suddenly dawned on me that I am closer to death than I am to birth...at least statistically.  However, in spite of my age...or maybe partially because of it...I've never, EVER, been closer to LIFE.  Counting the years left in my "average life span", I realized I no longer have the luxury of postponing the life I want for lack of time, money, dedication or stamina.  Even if my age was of no consequence, the reality is that no one knows how much "time" he or she has left to do the really important things and BE the person they truly are deep inside.  We all waste SO. MUCH. TIME. 

I have not been doing as well physically since the middle of June.  I awoke in the wee hours, knowing immediately that something was very wrong.  I called for an ambulance while my dear, sweet, wonderful Hubby hobbled downstairs to open the front door.  In his panic he had forgotten to grab his cane, but the look of fear on his face told me it was of little importance.  In his heart and in his mind I have always come first...even when I have failed to notice.  I do not know what happened to me, nor do any of the doctors I have seen thus far.  I see my neurologist next week, and if she is clueless...then there IS no answer to be found at this time.  Maybe no answer means no improvement.  Maybe it doesn't.  Maybe this is my new normal but, amazingly, that's okay too.  After two months it is high time for me to get back to life.  Denying that my condition is worse, stomping my feet, ranting and raving, “vegging” while waiting for an improvement, or “negotiating” with God isn’t helping me.  Swimming up stream is only good for salmon! It is time to accept and move on.   

Most importantly, it is time to truly LIVE.  It's time to tell the love of my life ALL of the wonderful things he means to me.  The things I longed to say to him on that early morning in June when I thought our time together was over.  It is time to tell him that I am better for sharing my life with him and that my love is eternal.  It is time to tell my sweet boy how much love, laughter and hope he has brought into this world...for us, his parents, and for those he touches every day.  It's time to tell the wonderful woman he loves how she and her child have brought laughter, love and peace into our hearts and our home.  It's time to tell my parents how much I appreciate the love and sacrifices they have made for me.  For it is they who taught me of love and commitment and gave me the courage to bring a tiny life into this world.  It is time to tell my Dear Aunt that she will always be my best friend and confidant...the sister I never had.  It's time to tell my dear brother in law and sister in law how much I cherish them in my life.  My friends, both old and new, near and far need to know that my life is much richer because of their love and support.  It's time to tell them all...NOW. 

My recent health scare and birthday have brought into focus that which I wish I had seen sooner...we ALL need to be closer to LIFE.  I don't know what tomorrow will bring.  Maybe I will live to be 132!  Maybe not.  But I DO know that I will try my damnedest to live every second of every minute.  People are all that matter.  People, love, laughter and light are what life is all about.  It's time to really live.    





Sunday, August 14, 2016

FIVE MINUTES TO MAKE DO...


A few weeks ago my Dear Aunt was heading away for two weeks of vacation bliss.  She was trying to reduce the weight of her purse and didn't want to carry the heavy leather cover on her tablet.  But since the tablet would be in her purse, she needed something to protect the screen from the myriad stuff that fills every woman's purse!

She stopped by my house to see if any of my miscellaneous fabric bags could work.  Nope.  Not a one would fit.  I knew I had to have SOMETHING in my sewing room that could be pressed into service...in a matter of FIVE MINUTES!

Back in 2010-2011 when I rethreaded my old sewing machine for the first time in YEARS, I used some miscellaneous charm squares I had purchased on ebay to begin making a sewing machine cover.  If my machine was going to be set up all the time, it needed to be protected!  Fast forward six months or so and I traded my old sewing machine in for my new Ellure Plus.  I was thrilled with my new machine, but saddened that my sewing machine cover was way too small.  I kept the partially completed cover hoping that some day I would find a use for the now "scrap" partially quilted fabric. 

In those five minutes of forced creativity I pulled out the cover, used one of the finished edges for the top of the bag and with two swipes of the rotary cutter and two seams the bag was finished.  There wasn't even enough time for me to press out the wrinkles or add a velcro closure to the top.  Even so, my Dear Aunt was thrilled and the bag worked PERFECTLY to protect her tablet for travel.  She promised that one day she will bring it over for me to make a closure and give it a good pressing.   Even wrinkled, though, we are both thrilled with the outcome of a 5 minute "make do".

Toodles...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

MURPHY IS AT IT AGAIN...


Yesterday evening we had a really bad storm.  First it was a downpour and then we began to hear what we thought was hail.  We ran to the front door.  Yup...HAIL!  I asked J if he saw any green looking sky but he said he didn't.  His dear girlfriend and he went out to turn over the porch furniture before it was blown through the porch railing, again.  Suddenly, and I do mean SUDDENLY, the wind started coming from the complete opposite direction.  J screamed for his girlfriend to get in the house and for us to run to the basement.  He was FIGHTING to hold onto the storm door while his girlfriend took the 10 steps to reach the door...and J is a big guy with shoulders like a football player!  I looked at his face and he was PETRIFIED!  About 6-8 years ago we were struck by lightning and he was no more than 20 feet from where it struck our house.  I saw that look again! 

This is the result of the 5 minute wind...



The damage was caused by this...


My next door neighbor's shutter...from the FAR side of the front of her house! 


If you look at this picture of a car accident in front of our houses that occurred last year, my house is the gray house with the porch and the open garage.  Note, the big bushes next to my garage had to be taken out to put the siding on the house.  They probably would have stopped the damage, :o(  The shutter came off of my neighbor's bottom window all the way to the right. 

So this shutter was torn off of her house on the point furthest from my house and then circled BACK AROUND to blow in between our two houses and hit the window and downspout on the side of my garage, about 3 to 6 feet off of the ground...with enough force to cause this damage!    J was right...the wind was going in a circle when he screamed for us to get to the basement!  And I don't even think my new siding and gutters are three months old yet!!!!  I can't even cry...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

FREE MOTION QUILTING MY CHARITY QUILT...


After I had completed all of the "stabilizing" quilting in the ditch with gray thread, it was time to bring a bit of color into the 5 columns of gray tumblers that comprise the very center of the quilt. 


While at a recent quilt show I was intrigued by the idea of using a variegated thread, and this beauty fit the bill perfectly!


It is a thread made by Superior Threads... SO FINE #733.  Please excuse the blurry photos, my tremor has been in all of its glory recently.  I really do need a camera with image stabilization!


My machine is not able to utilize cone thread, so I purchased a free standing thread holder to go along with my thread purchase.  It is working wonderfully!  First, using my walking foot, I quilted vertical lines inside of the center tumbler column to mimic the scrappy colored columns.  Then I decided it was time to add a little bit of free motion quilting. 

While my quilt is very "scrappy", many of the scraps have a decidedly "girlish" vibe to them.  I did not want whoever was responsible for dispensing the charity quilts to look at the overall coloration and deem it "unisex".  I was afraid that some poor little tyke would suffer ridicule when his quilt was found to contain floral fabrics.  Children can sometimes be cruel, even without intention.  So I decided that flowers were definitely in order, making the decision of a female recipient indisputable.   Again, to echo the scrappy strips, they would be quilted vertically in the center of the first/second gray tumbler seam and third/fourth gray tumbler seam.


After a bit of time "playing" on Pinterest, I came across the perfect design.  It was posted to Pinterest by coisasdaprofessoraerica.blogspot.com.  After printing it out and enlarging it by over 300%, I had a design that was the right size and overall vertical flow for my quilt.



Several years ago I had learned of the technique of placing several sheets of this thin paper beneath your design and sewing through the design sheet (without thread) to make "copies" of the design on the tissue paper below.  I had tried the technique and it had not worked as well as I would have hoped.  More than likely it was user error!  Now, however, I decided to utilize my quilting paper in an alternate way.


I placed a sheet of the paper over the design and traced it with a thin Sharpie marker.  Over and over I repeated this process.  Then I pinned the designs onto my quilt, using the registration marks (the tiny "z")  to assure proper vertical continuation of the design.


I reduced the stitch length to 1.2 on my machine to make it easier to remove the tissue paper and tried free motion quilting just one section of the design.  If I didn't like the way it looked, or if it didn't work the way I had hoped, I would only have to use my seam ripper on a tiny area.  After tearing off the paper, I found that I really LOVE it and will continue with the quilting on another day when my tremor has quieted and my quilting is a little less jerky.

When I am done the two vertical columns of flowers I will continue with straight line quilting using my walking foot and then some filler quilting with my FMQ foot.  For me quilt design is always a "process", completing one step at a time...with each subsequent step determined by the "look" of the quilt after each completion.  I can't WAIT until I'm more steady and I can continue the fun!  More to come!

Toodles...

Friday, July 15, 2016

MAKING MY SCRAPS USEABLE...


These are the scraps that were left over after I finished the crazy strip part of my charity quilt.  The bin is stuffed to oveflowing and every time I wanted a different color my "digging" in the bin resulted in fabric toppling everywhere. 



I have decided to start my organizing by cutting the smallest scraps into 1.5" squares (for a postage stamp quilt some day) and 2.5" squares (perfect for leaders and enders).  I will deal with the larger pieces of fabric once all of the tiny bits are out of the bin. 


I have chosen to store my 2.5" squares in one of the canvas boxes that line the bottom shelf of my bookcases.  I can see myself cutting more 2.5" squares than 1.5" squares as you can always cut down the larger square to "make" the smaller square, should the need arise.


I don't have many squares cut, and not being a very prolific quilter I can see this taking a while to fill.


If 2.5" squares will take a while to fill a canvas box, the 1.5" squares would take an eternity!  So I am storing them in an empty cardboard photo box. 

I have even fewer postage stamp size, but I am sure as I work through my scrap bin they will continue to grow.

Today is not a good day, physically, but being able to still "make progress" in my sewing room adds a spark to my day. 

Toodles...

Thursday, July 14, 2016

QUILTING ON MY DOMESTIC MACHINE...WHAT I LEARNED...


Quilting on a domestic machine for anything bigger than a table runner or wall hanging was not always easy.  Well, at least for me it wasn't.  Maybe that is because my underlying medical condition causes muscle weakness, but hefting around a big quilt wore me out!  However with some trial and error I have discovered that it IS possible!


"Squishing" and "Supporting" are the keys to taming your quilt.

SQUISHING...When I first tried quilting this project, I rolled the right half of the quilt and slid it into the throat of my machine...with the right side of the middle block under my needle.  Had I been quilting a totally straight line, I probably would have been okay.  However, I was quilting tumblers.  Changing the angle at every row was darn near impossible with the rolled up quilt in the throat of the machine.  It was too solid, too rigid, and absolutely REFUSED to cooperate!  I pulled the quilt out of the machine and reinserted its middle under my needle...while squishing all of the fabric to my right.  EUREKA!

SUPPORTING...Supporting your quilt is just as important to your overall success.  It is amazing how much a little "drag" contributes to the "quilt wrestle".  You should not have to fight to move forward in your stitching.  Ideally, your quilt should be SO supported that you are able to move the quilt sandwich under your presser foot or FMQ foot using only the pressure of your fingertips.  You will learn that quilting like that is NOT possible if there is any drag on your quilt.


When I set up my new sewing room I placed two bookcases along the back of my sewing table, specifically to support my quilt sandwich.  A lot of people place a table behind their machines.  However, I was not willing to give up the open space in the middle of my room.  So I added these bookcases.  They are 12" deep and combined with the approximate 11" of room on the sewing table behind my machine, I have almost 2 feet of support. 




Bunching the fabric to the left and back of the machine helps to keep ALL of the weight at virtually the same height as the sewing surface.  As a result there is virtually no "drag" and less wrestling!


Bunching also refers to the quilt in front of the machine bed.  Notice that none of the fabric is below the level of my sewing table.


 I try really hard to keep any of the fabric from lying on my lap as even the few inches between my lap and the top of the sewing table is enough to pull and create drag.  I tend to reposition this fabric every time I reposition my hands. 



Now you are probably saying...how can I quilt with everything bunched up all over the place?  Won't I have folds in my backing and fabric caught under the needle that never should have been there?  Nope.  Not if you have basted your sandwich properly and "squished" your fabric properly in the throat of the machine.  As an added precaution, every time I reposition my sandwich, I feel the fabric on the bed of my machine for any folds in the backing, wayward fabric and PINS!  I prefer to pin baste my quilts and I use a fairly good number of pins, about every 3-4 inches for a "small to medium" quilt.  The bigger the quilt, the more pins I use.  My method of sandwiching involves pinning the batting to the backing and then slowly positioning the flimsy and moving the pins to the top.  It may seem like a lot of extra work, but it is what works for me and I have yet to have a problem with wrinkles on my backing.  Occasionally, I will miss moving a pin.  Feeling the sandwich that is on your machine bed will help you find those pins BEFORE your needle finds them.  This time I did find a pin!  However, if you start quilting in the middle of your project and squish to the right, moving your line of quilting to the right with each new line, you still have an unquilted access to the wayward pin!


As I move down the seam I "pay attention" to a very small area.  The rest of the quilt can be as "bunchy" as I need it to be.  I make a triangle with my hands (imagine my right thumb touching my left thumb and my right fingers just on the other side of the presser foot).  I make sure that the area within that triangle is flat with the quilt to the left, flat with the quilt to the right and free of pins, folds in the backing and stowaway fabric.  When I have sewn down to my thumbs, its time to reposition my hands.  This may seem like a lot of repositioning, but quilting a small area at a time has saved me and my seam ripper on many occasions!

When I have reached the right side of my sandwich, quilting from the top down, it is time to begin the left side.  Rotate the quilt and quilt from the bottom to the top, beginning in the middle once again with the unquilted sandwich bunched in the throat of the machine.  


Last, but not least, set up a tracking system that works for you...and use it every time!  If you look at the right and left borders you will see a row of pins along the fabric edge.  These pins tell me that I have completed all of the vertical "in the ditch" quilting.  For any newcomers in the audience, in the ditch quilting refers to stitching inside the seam where two fabrics meet.  According to Cindy Needham (an incredible quilter and teacher) before we begin the "fun" quilting, we should always secure our quilt by stitching in the ditch on ESS (every stinkin' seam)!  I have done the ESS quilting on all of the vertical seams EXCEPT the crazy strip piecing between the black borders.  There are still pins located in those sections to remind me that I have yet to finish the ESS in those areas.  Quite honestly, there is NO way I am going to quilt in every strip seam (sorry Cindy).  I intend to ESS quilt on the inside of the black borders and the crazy colored area with a different colored thread...so those areas will be addressed once I am done all of the horizontal ESS quilting. As you can see by the random pinning of the top and bottom border, I have yet to begin any of the horizontal quilting...my arms are pooped out for today!

While I have yet to try a king sized quilt on my domestic machine (and doubt I ever will as my arms are too weak to heft around a king sized quilt)...there are many articles and classes available on the internet to help you learn to quilt a large project on your DM (domestic machine).  What I have described above is what works for me.  It is NOT the end-all and be-all of quilting on a domestic machine.  Each of us has a different furniture layout in our sewing rooms and different physical abilities.  My goal is to offer ONE method for you to try.  It may work, it may not.  Part of the fun of being a quilter is "making it your own"...and that includes the quilting!  Have fun!

Toodles...







Tuesday, July 12, 2016

MY FIRST CHARITY QUILT...UPDATE...


Today I am working on quilting my charity quilt!  I am totally loving this quilt.  I am SO excited to be finally quilting.  However, I have to quilt for a few minutes and then rest as my arms give out from wrestling with this medium sized quilt.  Guess I will NEVER make a king size, LOL.

Toodles...