Sunday, February 24, 2013

Important, Once or Twice Removed

My sweet neighbor, Andrea, has a catering business and has been generous to Joe and to me. She also loves Blackberry and he adores her. Andrea's a fabulous cook and an excellent neighbor. She's important to me.

Someone important to Andrea is Kelly, one of her long-time employees. I've met Kelly, and she's mighty cute.

Last week, Kelly had a baby boy. Needless to say, he's important to her.

And to Andrea.This little guy is the closest thing to a grandbaby that Andrea is going to have. So I think he's quiltworthy. I made this baby quilt for him using part of a jelly roll of Westminster fabrics and robin's egg kona left over from my granny squares. I tied it using DMC that matches the Kona.

Welcome to the world,Collin! Sleep warm!

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Last Runaway

I had so liked Girl with a Pearl Earring, both the book and the movie, that I have read most of Tracy Chevalier's other books. They are diverse!

Most recently I read The Last Runaway  and it did not disappoint. Oddly, the book about a young immigrant woman was built around two Q-motifs that have been important in my own life: Quilts and Quakerism.

Set prior to the Civil War, The Last Runaway is the story of Honor Bright, who leaves England for America, accompanying her sister Grace who is to be married in Ohio; once there Honor becomes aware of American slavery and runaway slaves. The Quaker context is important; Honor and most of those around her are Friends, but their Quaker ethics are complicated by personal circumstances. Honor is an avid quilter and there is a lot in the book about the differences in quilting styles between England and America, and also a reference to a Gees Bend type of quilt that catches her eye.

A few of the characters are well-developed, but not all. Interspersed among the chapters are letters Honor has written back to England; they add to the details of life in that time and place. I liked the details about the millinery shop.

This was a good book, not a great book, a couple of notches above Jennifer Chiaverini's efforts. There might be interesting discussion about runaways, living one's ethics when one's wellbeing is at risk, things that begin and end in cornfields, and whether there is symbolism in the quilts. I believe I would give it a "B."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Consultation, Anyone?

As I continue to try to cope with the Lemons I was gifted a few weeks ago, i.e., the unwelcome news that my job will end in June of this year, I have good days and bad days. I've not yet found a Lemonade recipe to suit, but perhaps that is as it should be. These things take time.

One of the things I think about is the direction my sewing and quilting will take. I reached the conclusion a short time ago that as wonderful as it is to see the finished quilts when the machinist does them, I simply can't spend the money to get every quilt professionally machined. So I've been doing a little more tying of quilts. And attempting to do some machine quilting myself. Which is where this post is going.

I have a Bernina 1031 and I am very fond of this machine. True, she lacks a buttonhole stitch which I would like to have. But she has been reliable and can do nearly everything I would like her to do. Nearly. If I'm going to do more machine quilting myself, I have been thinking that I would like to get another sewing machine, one that has dual-feed (IDT? Accufeed?) -- because I find the use of the walking foot for 1031 to be awkward. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to machine quilt and have clear vision of where I am sewing? To not have to struggle with putting that foot on? To have fabric line up beautifully when piecing?

Marsha has sworn by her Pfaff(s) which have IDT (integrated dual transportation, or "built in walking foot"). Now I've learned that some other makers have the same feature and call it Accufeed. And Bernina herself has "dual feed." So I spent some time recently looking at the Berninas with "built-in walking foot" and it appears that their 750QE would meet my wish list. But, golly, is she pricey! She lists at over $5,000! Which may or may not be a horrific price to pay for a machine since I bought my 1031 more than fifteen years ago.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? Any recommendations? Essentially, I want a good quality machine with a "built-in walking foot," buttonhole stitch would be nice, and I don't need embroidery function.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Move Over, Baby Jesus!

One of the things I like about the new guild that Judy and I have joined is that there are frequent challenges. I decided that I would attempt each challenge that came along unless there was Good Reason not to. Judy (more about whom shortly) has been far more picky.  The challenge for January (remember, we are new members) was to participate in a Secret Angel swap. I had a wonderful time with that and was pleased with how the gifts for my recipient turned out (and equally delighted with what I received). Judy thought she would perhaps participate in this next year. The challenge for the February meeting involved free fabric. Was this a no-brainer or what? Of course I was going to participate. When they said it had to be paper piecing, something I had never done, I hesitated only for a second. Free fabric. After all. Judy thought she'd pass. I came home with a handful of F8s of Madrona Road and immediately procrastinated.  The other night it dawned on me that the guild meeting is coming up soon, and it was prolly time to get piecing.

Back to Judy for a minute here. She's a dear and wise person, a teacher of children with special needs and I imagine that she's damn good at it. Her venue is a Roman Catholic parochial school and her classic story is about the time she was in a faculty meeting and didn't understand something that was being discussed -- something that the rest of the crew seemed to find perfectly obvious -- and one of the nuns said to her, "What? Are you in the Baby Jesus Group?" When she didn't understand that, they explained to her that the various reading groups have names (like we would have had the Red Birds and the Green Birds and the Blue Birds and not know any more than that because we were eight) like the Saint Joseph Group, the Holy Spirit Group, and the Baby Jesus Group. The nuns all knew that the Baby Jesus Group was for the very slowest learners of all.

So whenever one of us has a "d-uh" moment, the others very gently allow for that, explaining that the person who didn't quite catch on is in the Baby Jesus Group. The concept has served us well.

So, back to the other night. Although you can already see where this is going. For my challenge piece, I chose a very nice design where one makes four identical paper pieced six inch blocks and then assembles them into a masterpiece that finishes at twelve inches.

Suffice it to say that I haven't ruined all of the fabric.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Retreat, Part Two

After I finished putting the borders on the Malaria quilt, I looked at the other unfinished projects I had brought along. I had stopped at Burkholder's on my way West, using their very generous 20% off coupon, and had made some very deliberate purchases. One such purchase was the stopper and outer borders for this batik baby quilt. The borders went on quickly and easily. I don't generally hand quilt batiks, but I just might try machine quilting this one.

Also at Burkholders, I found the yardage of Baba Ganoush that I wanted for the outer border on the Kaffe granny squares.

I can't tell you how much I love this quilt.

I am going to take it to Mary Ellen next week and have her machine quilt it.

I had bought a jelly roll of Kaffe in mostly blues and greens, and had about a yard and a half of that robin's egg Kona left over, and began making HSTs, pretty much aimlessly.
There was a request a couple of months ago for people to make specific blocks for Hurricane Sandy Relief quilts and also for people to turn the blocks into quilts. My friend Bobbi and I decided to partner as one of the latter. I received the blocks, trimmed them to wonky, and had them all lined up. The big floor there at White Oak was a perfect place to lay them out, and Saturday night I got them all put together and put on the borders. The green was in my tub of left-overs and the outer border is Italian stamps; I had picked up several yards of it on the flat-fold table at Sauder's ages ago, thinking it would come in handy someday. And so it has. I bought some plain extra wide black for the back and am about ready to turn it over to Bobbi to machine quilt. We haven't talked about who will bind it . . . .

And that, friends, is what I have to show for my accomplishments of the weekend. I can't give you pictures of the naps, the fellowship, the laughing and the scheming, and it is prolly better than I don't have pictures of the wine. The weekend was just what I needed.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Therapeutic Weekend

I was fortunate to have been able to go away this weekend, to have time to relax and reflect, to spend time with good friends amidst abundant fabric and several bottles of fine wine. Judy, Turbo, Helen and I had spent a February weekend together at White Oak several years ago and were longing to repeat the experience. At this time of year, if the place isn't booked for a full getaway, the innkeeper offers what he calls "Y'all Come!" and the customary minimum of nine participants is not in effect. There could be other quilters from other places, but this time there were not.

The first thing I did after we got set up was to make an infinity scarf for each of my friends. They liked them.

Those being completed and given and it still being relatively early in the evening, I laid out the Malaria Quilt -- this was the one where I had bought "scraps" from Wanda and put them together in rows of bricks. I was thoroughly pleased with how the top turned out and by the time I got to White Oak, all I needed to do was put the stopper and outer border on.

The stopper was some terrific intense turquoise that I'd bought for another project and hadn't used. The outer border came from Gaffney's -- it is Timeless Treasures Fabric and I thought it was absolutely perfect for a quilt that will be raffled to raise money to eradicate malaria in Africa and, hopefully, worldwide.  Photography indoors at White Oak is less than optimal and it wasn't a fit weekend to take photos outdoors. I'm including a close-up so you can see some of the wonderful African prints and how nicely the border complements them.

I did a couple of other projects, but I'll save them for another post. We had such a good time together, talking seriously as well as laughing, planning and sewing. I had ample time to rest and to reflect. All of us shopped on Friday afternoon, and once we had checked in, we never left, not for a minute. Judy was working on the sweetest 30s baby quilt once we convinced her that this was not the time of year to be sewing the Christmas fabric she had started with. Helen had a baby quilt in the works and kind of went back and forth between it and her Rubick's Rings. Turbo, as usual, had beaucoups projects. At some point on Saturday, each of them made a great big tote bag:

"Okay, everybody! Hold up your bag and say 'George Clooney'!"

Friday, February 08, 2013

Candy Sticks for the Lemons

This week I received some candy sticks to make the lemons a bit more palatable. The candy sticks were in the form of messages of love and support from those who knew about the lemons.

A week and a half ago I received the unwelcome news that my job comes to an end on June 30. My position is to be combined with another; she gets to stay and I get to leave. This sad news was complicated by my close friendship with the lucky lady. Neither of us would have wanted this to happen; neither would want to be let go and neither would want to stay at the cost of the other. Some things are not our choice.

I believed I shouldn't go public with my news until the school community knew of it, and that happened yesterday afternoon. I had shared with my family, of course, and with some close friends and colleagues. Now that the school community knows, it seems okay to share it more widely.

We don't know yet what this will mean for us. At the very least, it will mean not laughing every day at a job that I have come to love; not doing informal pastoral care at the work place; no longer being in a wonderful Quaker environment or at a school where milestone celebrations come around each year. It will mean no more visits from the tiny people and no more rewarding adults for turning things in by giving them stickers (you'd be amazed how many grown-ups are sticker-deprived).

It will certainly mean financial loss, and we have a meeting in the coming week to learn how much devastation that will cause. I may have to seek another full-time position, I may need to find a part-time job, I may look into the world of temping, or [perhaps] I may be able to be a retired person with all kinds of opportunities.

I haven't found the lemonade recipe yet, and that is understandable. But yesterday, after the announcement of my loss -- and I am far from the only one -- my Facebook page began to blossom with messages of love and encouragement, and it seemed as though I had some received some candy sticks to help me suck up that lemon juice.