"...for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make" ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Plugging Away!

September has been such a busy month for me- I'm just now catching up on so many things. Including swaps. I feel really bad that I go so far behind, and people are going to be getting stuff a little late. All I can say is, I tried my best! And I'm not going to flake on anyone. You'll get your swap- soon, I swear!!

I did get some done and ready to go. These are blocks for the "A Piece Of Work B" quilting bee on Flickr:

For Burntfingers: A Piece Of Work B

Block For AnnaWillett: A Piece Of Work B

It's my month to send out for the bee. I'll be headed to the post office tomorrow morning with those fabric packets!

We leave for vacation in one week! I have a list about 50 miles long of stuff that needs to be done before we leave, but I'm slowly working my way through it. I can't wait to hit the road! The biggest thing on the list was getting someone to watch the cat and the house. Our neighbor (the retired state trooper) is going to do it for us. I like having a police officer next door- it makes me feel so safe!

The one thing making these preparations a little icky: I have a head cold. I think I need to have a little tete-a-tete with ye olde physician about why I am sick ALL THE TIME. I don't have time to be sick and tired, and I haven't really felt perfectly healthy since I had strep in June.

The check engine light came on in my Jetta, so we took it in. A new thermostat, ignition coil and catalytic converter later, we're ready to roll! Thank goodness the catalytic converter was still covered under warranty- that alone would have been $1200! I think in the future we won't be buying another Volkswagen. LOVE the car, but it's really expensive to maintain.

Both of Dad's eyes are doing very well, and he is able to drive and do all sorts of stuff without glasses! It's a bit weird to look at him, though. I've never really seen him without glasses in my whole life :)

Off to finish up some more of the to-do list!

Friday, September 25, 2009

No Time!

WOW- it's been over a week! SO much has gone on I feel like I've hardly had time to breath, let alone blog!!

I finished up a couple quilts in the last week... they just needed the binding sewn down.

Peace On Earth

This one has flannel on the back- it will be so cozy to cuddle with in the wintertime!

Illinois In Springtime

And this one just looks like sunshine! I had it over a chair in the living room today and it almost shone- it will be so nice to look at on dreary winter days!

I had a really good time at my quilt retreat! I finished Mom's grocery bags and put together 2 quilt tops. I didn't get as much done as I wanted to, I was fighting a bladder/kidney infection the whole time and the antibiotic made me tired.

I intended to do some more sewing when I was at Mom and Dad's Tuesday-Thursday, but I forgot my cutting mat and pretty much couldn't do anything! I did knit some hats for them to take to work- they are collecting winter gear for needy children, so I whipped up a couple of baby hats.

Koats For Kids Baby Hats

My Mommy made me this GORGEOUS crocheted shawl for winter- isn't it just amazing? It's so warm and soft and cuddly and wonderful! My Mommy is so good to me :) It's made with this amazing superwash wool yarn that's nice and springy and keeps it's shape. I love it!!

My Gorgeous New Shawl!

Now I'm working on getting some swap stuff done before we leave on vacation in 2 weeks!

I haven't forgotten about my giveaway- but it's going to be a little while longer. I really need to slow down and take time for myself, my hubby and my home. I've been getting sick and not eating well because I'm too busy, and that's just not good at all!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's Retreat Time!!

For the third year in a row, my quilt guild is hosting a retreat at a local hotel. It starts tomorrow- and I am so excited!! This retreat is SO MUCH FUN! Lots of sewing, and good friends, and up till 3am... it's just the best- even with my snoring roomate... (just teasing you, Cathy :) )

Vicki already came by to pick up my ironing table for the retreat- she has a minivan, and I can't fit it in my itty bitty Jetta :) I've just about finished packing all my projects and accessories... there is now quite the pile on the sewing room floor!!

I've packed every ruler I own, my design wall, and about 25 projects- quilts and bags and a laptop case for my sister. They are all at various stages of completion, and I am really hoping to come home Sunday night with most, if not all, of them done ("done" for the quilts being completed tops). I am going to go to the quilt shop that's giving us a discount early tomorrow, before the retreat starts. I just need some thread for a couple of the projects. Then I'll be ready to seriously sew!!

I'll send some pictures to my Flickr page along the way- but you probably won't hear from me again here until Monday :)

Oh, yes. This is post #224... I am making something at the retreat that I will be giving away next week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Five Years

Five very long years ago today my best friend Marie died from Ovarian cancer.

I still miss her every moment of every day.

Ovarian cancer has signs, but most women disregard them, and most doctors mis-diagnose them. Please visit the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition for more information about ovarian cancer, the signs and symptoms, and how you can help in the fight against this deadly cancer.

Friday, September 11, 2009

One Sock...

This past Wednesday my dad had a cataract removed. He's a bit young for a cataract, but it was unquestionably there. I went up to Madison to help out and lend moral support. Everything went just perfect!

I also knitted! I made this sock from start to finish on 9/9/09- I wonder if it will be a lucky sock?

It's a bit big for me, and it's made from superwash wool, which means it's not going to shrink. I blocked it then put it on again last night so I could figure out where I need to make adjustments to the pattern so it fits me perfectly. I think I have those figured out, and I cast on another (not matching) sock last night. We'll see how it turns out before I knit mates for them!

I've got some errands to run this morning, and then the rest of the day will be dedicated to finishing up my DQS7 quilt and getting it mailed off to- ??? :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Checking In

I've been in Madison WI for the past few days- my dad had a cataract removed and I came up to drive and lend moral support!

I knitted a sock from start to finish yesterday. That was fun! I'm heading home today. Then I can finish up some swaps before Dad has the second eye done in 2 weeks!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Happy Place

I spent some time today finishing up the organization of my actual sewing area- the place where my machine is. I have been SO happy with this new arrangement... it's so open and bright! I have not been able to quilt fast enough to keep up with everything I want to do :)

Here's where the action takes place! My little sewing "L" has everything I need right at hand to make sewing a breeze!

My trusty Pfaff- I sincerely love this machine and would not give it up for anything- not even a fancy new Pfaff! I have lots of lighting, and a $1 tray I found on clearance just fits under my extension table and holds my needles, bobbins and feet.

I have a ton of little notions all right at my fingertips! I also set up a little cutting mat/ironing surface and a mini iron right by my machine, so I'm not popping up and down every 10 seconds to go to the big ironing table.

My notions pantry! My mother-in-law used to have a huge garden, and she canned a lot. She doesn't do any of that anymore, so she gave all her canning jars to me! These are ones that have flaws or surface cracks and can't really be used for canning anymore. But they can hold my purse feet, magnetic snaps, D-rings, and snaps! The other containers hold the little snaps I use for my flannel "mama cloth" pads, pins and polyester boning.

My "Tub-O'-Heather"... these are my Heather Bailey strips for the wonky log cabin quilt along.

I had intended to to a giveaway for my 200th post, but, um, I kinda wasn't watching the post numbers... at all. This is post #220! So be on the lookout for post #225... more details to come!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Something New And Something Exciting!

I spent some time this afternoon making a new header for my blog, and changing the format a little. I like it so much better now! I thought it was a little blah before. But all this blogging and Flickr-ing and Facebooking and Twittering has helped me become a little more computer savvy :)

A while ago I ordered a custom stamp from Stampin'Up with my name and blog address on it. I sat down with it tonight and made a little card I can include with swaps and things like that. I think it turned out cute!

Tomorrow morning I am going to have breakfast with Vicki at a place in Sycamore, IL called "Eggsclusive Cafe". This place is absolutely phenomenal!! They have the best food ever!

After that, Vicki will be headed to work at Tammy Tadd Designs- and I'll be following her, because they are having a HUGE party to celebrate being one of the Top Ten shops in the new Quilt Sampler magazine!! It's super amazingly awesome, and they totally deserve it. As an added bonus, Terry Atkinson is going to be there!! She's designed some of my most favorite patterns and books, and I am really looking forward to her trunk show!

The rest of the weekend will be spent sewing- I really, really need to get my DQS7 top quilted, bound and on it's way to... well, you'll just have to wait to see who it's going to! :) :) :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Going Wonky!

John over at QuiltDad is leading the way for the third quilt along in the Old Red Barn Co. group on Flickr! I wasn't going to join, but I couldn't resist a wonky log cabin!! A quick trip through my {neatly organized and beautifully displayed} stash produced these Heather Bailey fabrics, and I jumped in!

Here's my first block! I like it, but I think it's too "mushy". I want more definition between the fabrics. I'll probably use this one as a pillow or something.

So I tried using more of a "courthouse steps" approach... but I got a little *too* wonky, and ended up cutting off some seam allowances! Still, I like this block MUCH better, and plan to make the rest of my blocks more along this model. But I intend to leave seam allowances on the rest of the blocks :)

I also finished making the last block for the "Birdie" quilt, and put together most of my blocks for the Oh Fransson Mod Sampler Quilt Along that was back in the spring. There are a couple more quilts I plan to make the blocks for, including the Zig-Zag quilt-along, which was the last ORBC quilt. Altogether I have 5 quilts that I am making blocks for at the moment.

Why am I making all these blocks instead of piecing the quilts together? Because I have a quilt retreat coming up in a couple weeks with my quilt guild!! Three fabulous days of sewing, laughing, eating, and staying up until 3am sewing! My plan is to have all the blocks for several quilts done before it starts, and then get the tops pieced together at the retreat. I did this last year and it was really fun!

Stretching The Fabric Budget

I was reading Crazy Mom Quilts post about fabric, and all the comments (more that 225 of them!) and I wanted to share the ways I buy my fabric.

I have to admit it- I only use top-quality fabrics in my quilts. I know that our foremothers made quilts out of whatever they had, and they were gorgeous. And that's great! If scrap quilting is what makes you happy, then go for it.

I love the high quality and lovely feel of quilt-shop quality fabrics. I have had heartbreaking results with fabrics from places like Joann's and Wal-Mart. The quilts on my bed tell the story- one of them, made with all fabric from Joann's, has fabric shredding, the binding is falling apart, and it's faded terribly. The other, made around the same time, is all quilt-shop quality fabrics. It's in beautiful condition. It looks like I just made it, even though it's 5 years old!

I am fortunate enough to be able to afford the quality fabrics. But even though Hubby and I have a more than adequate income, we are still careful with our money- we do want to be able to retire someday! Every purchase, every shopping trip is considered before it's made, to make sure we are not being foolish with our money.

Here are some ways I stretch my fabric budget:

1. Check out clearance sections in quilt shops for backings. Most of my quilts are backed with top-quality fabric that I got for $4/yard.

2. Shop online. I'm sorry to say it, because I'm usually all about supporting the local businesses, but I can usually find fabric online for 1$-3$ less per yard than in the quilt shop. Etsy is a fantastic resource for fabrics. Some of my other favorites are quilthome.com, fabric.com, and besewhappy.com. These websites offer free shipping over a certain dollar amount, and coupons off your whole order or a specific fabric collection are frequent (especially at QuiltHome!).

3. Buy small pieces! I used to buy yards and yards and yards. However, I have found that I can do just as much with fat quarters! This is especially true when you combine them with a solid, and solid fabrics, even the good quality ones like Kona or Moda, are usually cheaper.

Charm squares and layer cakes can also be stretched pretty far! I have made several quilts out of 4 charm packs and some yardage, and they are among my favorites! And the total cost of fabric, batting and everything ends up less than $100.

4. Trade! That fat quarter of whatever in your stash that you don't really want anymore? I bet there's someone who wants it. There are several fabric trading groups on Flickr, and they are a great way to get fabrics you want using fabrics you already have!

5. If it's possible for you, work in a quilt shop!! I worked in two, and it was so much fun helping people pick out fabrics, cutting and playing with fabric- and getting an employee discount :)

6. Think about it first!! I have a "2 week" rule that I apply to most new fabric collections- there have been exceptions, like the "Deer Valley" line from Joel Dewberry. I ordered that the day it came out! But for most fabric lines, I look at it, ooh and aah over it, and then sit for 2 weeks. I think about what I might make with it, and look at the prints, and consider it. Usually, by the end of 2 weeks, I really don't want yards and yards of each print anymore. I'll pick out the ones I really, really like, buy fat quarters of them, and stash them.

7. I buy all my notions, rulers, rotary cutter blades, pins, and most of my batting at Joann's when it's 50% off. Don't buy notions in a quilt shop. Joann's has the same stuff, and you can get it at a MUCH better price. That gives you more money for fabric!!

There are lots of ways to be frugal, and still quilt with the best! You just have to be creative about it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tweet Tweet!

Yesterday I spent the whole day working on a quilt- it's been a LONG time since I indulged in doing this, and it was wonderful!! My new sewing space is definitely inspiring me. I LOVE the openness of everything!

I picked up these "Birdie" charm packs last week when Kris was here. I had intended to make a disappearing nine-patch with them, but I decided I wanted something more from them!

So I started playing with them! I discovered that I could make some really cute pinwheel blocks with them. I only used two of the packs for this, so I still have two to do something else with :)

Here are the pinwheel blocks quarters all ready to be sewn together!
And here they all are in halves...

And here is the quilt laid out on my design wall! I think I will move them around a bit- there's too much blue towards the bottom middle. I also need to make one more block. I made 48 blocks, but the layout needs 49. The blocks are made two at a time, but I can use the extra block for a label.

I had so much fun working on this all day yesterday! I have some cleaning to do this morning, but then I plan to make the last block and get the blocks sewn together into a top!