Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mysterious motivation

I bit the bullet and went out to buy more green center fabric for the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt. I knew there was zero chance of me finding the exact same fabric purchased so many years ago, so I tried to shop with an open mind. Imagine my surprise though when I found nearly the perfect color match at Keepsake Cottage Fabrics! It's a Michael Miller Krystal print. Yay! So, another 2 yards into the stash.

It occurs to me to wonder why, exactly, am I suddenly so hyped-up about this project that I started so many years ago (and really, that I'm nowhere near completing). I wish I knew. Part of it, I think, is just the satisfaction and joy I'm experiencing as I build each block. Part of it is the relatively steady progress I seem to be making each week (it's so cool to see my stack of blocks growing!). There's also a really gratifying sense of connectedness as I work on this one. There is truly an inspiration behind it—my quilt from Great Aunt Gertie. This connection really is setting this quilt apart from my other projects at the moment. Why now? No idea. I just hope it lasts and will really keep me going so that I finish this project sooner rather than later!

Yay for mysterious motivation!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The magic of Electric Quilt

Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt in EQ5Electric Quilt (EQ) is a great (and handy) tool. Especially when you have a funky block and aren't sure how many are needed. After much frustration and mathematical hijinks, I finally gave up and used EQ5 to figure stuff out for my Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt. Why not do this in the first place? Frankly, it just didn't occur to me. Last year, after a virus, my computer was wiped—including EQ5. I just hadn't installed it on my computer post-virus (maybe the near complete lack of quilting time last year contributed to this oversight).

The class I took on making this quilt has a worksheet that I've been using as a guide. But it occurred to me that nowhere within the handout is it indicated what size blocks are actually being referenced in all of the yardage and block/size requirements. I had been working under the assumption that I'd need 7 flowers across and 9 down to make a queen size quilt. But with a completed block in my hand, that just didn't seem right—but I just could not figure out what I did need, what with the funky block shape and all.

EQ to the rescue! I went into EQ and then created a quilt (pictured above) to figure out sizing.

As it turns out, I don't actually have enough of my green center fabric to make as many blocks as I'd need for a true queen. Poop! But, it looks like I might be able to get pretty close to a 80x97 quilt. Kind of full-queen-ish. Meh. It's not like it needs to be a specific size anyway. It will take 102 whole flowers, and 12 half-flowers. (Whoa! Good thing I second-guessed the handout, eh?) I might need to fudge with a different fabric center for a few of the blocks though. Of course, if I do that, then maybe I should just go for the 98x97 king-ish size (which would require 126 whole and 12 half flowers)? But then I'd need to buy more path fabric too. No matter what, it seems I'll have to buy more fabric! :P

I guess my next step (apart from continuing to make flowers) is to determine exactly how much green center fabric I actually have. Meanwhile, my garden continues to grow... I now have 67 flowers!

ETA: Eeep! Only enough green for a total of 105 blocks...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More fabric-liciousness

Fabric purchased 2-20-2008Sigh. I'm hopeless, I think. Curbing my enthusiasm for purchasing new fabrics is proving to be difficult. I try to console myself in that at least the fabric is being purchased for specific, current projects. That's something, right?

Pacific Fabrics & Crafts had a spiffy President's Day sale with all fabric 25% off. Crazy! I showed admirable self-restraint and managed to get away with just 3 yards, both earmarked for a specific project. It was hard though. I really wanted to buy more (that leopard sweater knit is still calling to me... even at $29.99 a yard). But the really awesome thing about the experience is that I was sans boy! I got to spend two-and-a-half hours fabric shopping while papa watched the boy. Woo hoo!

Having a little time on my hands, I took the opportunity to go across the street and visit Bernina Northwest and continue on my "World Sewing Tour." Every month they "visit" a different country and offer brief demonstrations on a technique. This month, I visited Italy and learned about a method of machine trapunto that utilizes the embroidery unit. As always, it was both educational and fun. I'm sad that March is the last month they'll be offering this program.

I also had a birthday gift certificate (thank you Keith!) for Keepsake Cottage Fabrics burning a hole in my pocket. So today, I went on a fat quarter binge (18!) to further my Grandmother's Flower Garden endeavors. I tried to do some calculations to determine sizing, and it seems I'll need at least 81 blocks (and probably a few half-blocks) to get to a queen-king size. Sigh. I'm further away than I thought. On the bright side, however, is that I had a reason to buy more fabulous Asian prints!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Gah! Basting.

Though I have been procrastinating on basting "Fairy Flight," I have not been completely idle. I did attempt to mark the top, but the fabric was just too busy. So I've prepped my Golden Threads paper with my motifs (we'll see how it works... I tried it one other time, and seem to recall being annoyed with it, but it can't hurt to try again), and have chosen a border design that I think I can "free-hand" (since I couldn't mark it). Now I just need to get going and baste it. Ugh. It's small, and so should be relatively quick. Even so, I just haven't managed to get myself motivated. Maybe tonight?

Mr. Darcy, courtesy of, as I procrastinated on one project, I worked on another. I've been very productive making flowers for my Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt. I counted, and this week I've made 10 flowers! Many of these were stitched as I viewed the BBC production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. No matter how many times I see the film (or read the book)(one of the few books that I have read more than once, and would happily read again), I never tire of it. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth are wonderful as Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy (mmm... Mr. Darcy). And what better Valentine's movie-watching fare? (Keith and I will be able to celebrate "for real" next weekend as the grandparents babysit!)

57 flowers made so far! Only 11 full, and 8 half-flowers to go! Then I'll begin work on the "path" connecting them all together. Or maybe more? I'll have to do some math because I'm using 2" hexagons and the pattern is either referencing 1" or 3" hexagons. I can't tell. Hmmm... maybe I should have calculated this sooner. :P

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cinnamon goodness

Last week I hosted my PEPS group's weekly meet-up. Usually, when I host, I bake. This time was no exception. But the item was definitely exceptional: Cinnamon Chip Scones.

For years, my favorite baked treat at Starbucks was their cinnamon chip scone. I bought one nearly every day with my daily mocha (one of the dangers of working next door to a Starbucks). I have always wanted to try making my own cinnamon scones. I think I even tried once, but they just couldn't hold a candle to the "real" thing.

This last holiday season, I was at the store and saw some Hershey's Cinnamon Chips on sale in a baking display. I snatched them up in an impulse buy, not really sure what I would do with them. On a whim, I tried searching for a recipe. Google worked its magic and found a recipe that caught my attention. But the referenced page no longer existed. Thank goodness for the Google cache! The recipe came from a bed and breakfast in Arkansas, the 1884 Bridgeford House. I swear, if ever I visit Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I am sooo staying there! Why? Because I am crazy in love with these scones. Tender, sweet, full of cinnamon spice— and better than Starbucks.

Unfortunately, the recipe seems to be gone into the ether, not even available via Google cache anymore. So I can't link to it. I can only expound upon its goodness. Yum.

The funny thing about it is that I don't think any of my guests tried one. It worked out though, because if they had tried them, I would not have had the same amount of happy goodness later. More for me! Mmmm... Now I just need to find a store that sells the chips year-round so that I can make more.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another year...

...another year older. Thirty-four! Eeep! But I received some wonderful well-wishes and some amazing gifts. Yay! I also got a chance to work on the fat quarter quilt and have completed the top:

Fairy Flight quilt top
I'm calling it "Fairy Flight."

Fairy Flight blockIn the pattern, the blocks are actually is laid out 4 x 8. But there was a sample in the book that showed a quilt laid out 5 x 7, and I liked the size of it a little better. It just seemed more pleasingly proportioned to me. So I carefully cut my fat quarters and was able to squeeze out 35 blocks, allowing me to do the larger layout. The downside is that the symmetry is lost. But I like the overall proportion better, so I think it's a fair trade-off.

Next up: marking and basting. I've decided I'm going to practice my quilting on this one by doing some patterns. This quilt seems like a good opportunity because the prints are so busy that if the quilting sucks, no one will really notice! :P I'm planning on doing a design in the open center areas (between the chains) where the blocks join together as well as some border quilting. We'll just have to see how the plan actually unfolds.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Shopping the stash

the stashSaturday night, after my last post, I decided to go ahead and start on a small quilt. So I went shopping... in my stash! I think I spent two or three hours auditioning potential fabric combos before making a decision. And that's not even including the time I spent trying to find a pattern to use. :P

Shopping the stash is really kind of a milestone for me. I do use my stash, but typically I pick one fabric and then take it to the fabric store and find additional fabric to coordinate with it. Oftentimes, the end result of this is that the stash actually increases rather than diminishes. Trying to pull all of the fabrics for a quilt in its entirety from my stash is no easy task. The main challenge is that my stash consists of lots of cool prints, and not very many "helper" prints (you know, like those tone-on-tones, Moda marble-types, or simple, small scale prints that could compliment a variety of different big/bold/conversational prints). The lesser challenge is that, though (mostly) organized by color, my stash is kind of a mess. This means I have to pull out an entire stack and look through it all, because who knows what cute little fat quarter might be buried between the giant 2 yard cuts?

However, I met the challenge and found 6 fat quarters (which happen to be coordinates from the same collection), a coordinate, and a border fabric. I even think I've got the perfect fabric for the backing (though I haven't measured to see if I have enough... but, I can always piece it if need be). Woot!

At this point, all of the blocks are pieced and I have begun to put the top together. I'm using a pattern from M'Liss Rae Hawley's book, Fat Quarter Quilts. It's an Irish chain design she calls "Road to Ireland." It makes me think of my friend Mikki because it's the same pattern she used to make her very first quilt. :) So far, it is very girly—very different from my usual style. Makes putting it together even more fun!

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Journey to Light, Block 4Tonight I worked on block four of A Journey to Light. I think it turned out pretty well. But, for whatever reason, while putting it together I just felt blah. I really have a yearning to start a new quilt— something small... a baby quilt, maybe. But I have this guilt about all of the unfinished projects I have. Thffpt! Stupid guilt.

I suspect part of the reason I really have this urge is so that i can actually finish something. JtL is coming together really quickly, but I know that the quilting part of the project is going to be an endurance test. It will involve stitching down all of the applique as well as using monofilament thread (always an adventure for me).

What's wrong with something small, really? So long as I don't buy any new fabric for it.

Speaking of buying fabric... I seriously fell off the wagon this week. I bought 12 fat quarters (2 fun colorful children's prints, 10 Asian prints for my Grandmother's Flower Garden project) and 4.5 yards of a wonderful white-on-white gingko leaf print to use as my path for the flower garden. I know, I have another 30 blocks or so still to go, but I'm feeling close enough that I just wanted to be ready (and it was really, really cool). :P The current tally:

Fabric In: 22.125
Fabric Used: 15.875

I'd better get sewing!

Friday, February 8, 2008

On handwork

The other day, Sew, Mama, Sew! featured a post by Jennifer of Moving Hands about hand-piecing and it's place in today's quilting world. It was a wonderful impetus for me to revisit my current hand-piecing project, a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.

Aunt Gertie's Grandmother's Flower GardenThis project was inspired by the quilt pictured at left. It was made by my Great Aunt Gertie (my grandfather's sister). It was given to me after my grandfather died, and is a beautiful display of handwork. It was pieced and quilted by hand. The main colors are orange (faded to a soft peach color) and off-white (which may have begun as white in some distant past), and features wonderful feedsack prints as well as what were probably pieces of old shirts and whatnot. After using it non-stop for years, I realized the quilt was wearing out. Some fabrics were disintegrating, others beginning to fray. If you look, you can see that the block with the red center is surrounded by bare batting now... all of the fabric in the inner ring just wore away. That's the worst one, but not the only one that has worn. It has become too fragile to use.

So I decided to take a class taught by Donna Poster at the Houston International Quilt Festival on making a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt. I think it was in 2002, but it may have been 2003. (I need to start writing dates down...) Anyway, that's when I began. I knew I wanted a queen size quilt. I knew I wanted to use Asian themed fabrics. And I've been working on it since then.... very, very slowly. I think I actually completed more blocks in 2007 than I had in all of the previous years combined. I think I have about 30 blocks to go at this point. It's a slow process, but there is just something about the handwork that is so relaxing. It's deliberate, it's more thoughtful, more quiet. I don't know. But it's different than doing it on a machine; different in a good way.

Tonight, I got out some of those flower garden blocks, ironed them, took a picture, and then made my new blog banner. I'm feeling pretty proud of it right now. I love that it showcases some of the blocks I've made. It's definitely me. :)

And now I'm going to go do a little handwork.

Yummy Cupcake!

This week the boy and I received an invitation to the birthday party of one of the babies in our playgroup. She's going to be turning ONE (yay, Katie!) and the theme of her party: cupcakes! Her mom is all excited because she found a cupcake-shaped cake pan— and now she can make a cake-sized cupcake. It's funny how sometimes it's those strange little things that can make us happy.

Anyway, inspired by the theme of the party, I decided to make a cupcake pillow for Katie. I thought about making a sort of tuffet-like pillow (as in actually 3-D cupcake-shaped), but then realized that would require a little too much mathematical effort for me (and probably more fabric than I wanted to use). So, I went with just a flat pillow in a cupcake shape. I knew I wanted to use fleece (so soft, so washable, and no fraying!). I didn't exactly have a plan, but on Tuesday, I went to Hancock Fabrics. I found a pink remnant for the frosting, a colorful pastel stripe to cut up for different colored sprinkles, and then a yellow ribbed fleece that was absolutely perfect for the cupcake base. Then I went home and actually designed the pillow. Gah! One day, I'll get my order of operations correct.

Tonight, I got to work and made my pattern. I decided it would be fun to have Katie's name on the pillow, and embroidered it in the frosting area. I did a practice one using tear-away stabilizer on the bottom and wash away on top (because of the heavy nap of the fleece, I didn't want my threads sinking down). On try two, I used a cut-away and was a little happier with the result. The third try, I used the same color in the bobbin as in the top. That did the trick. Except I kept having a problem with some of the upper threads getting a little loopy on top (only in a couple of places though). I never managed to figure that one out, but there were only a couple, so I was just able to pull the extra to the back side. I'm wondering if maybe I enlarged the lettering to the point where the satin stitch was just too wide... maybe should have adjusted to a step stitch? Anyway, it looks alright and I'm pretty happy with it. Finally, I got down to actually putting it all together.

Here are the front and back views:
Katie's Cupcake, front viewKatie's Cupcake, back view

Overall, I'm really happy with it. So cute! I hope Katie likes it... and I can't wait for the party to give it to her. :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pumpkin pie all year long!

pumpkin shake goodness, courtesy of Cooking Light magazineYesterday, as I was making my menu/grocery list for the week, I was thumbing through one of my Cooking Light annual editions (2007 to be precise) looking for tasty stuff to make. And there it was, in January-February: the Pumpkin Pie Shake! We tried it tonight, and it was delicious. Of course, I cheated and used full-on tasty, fatty ice cream and heavy whipping cream (and I used rather more than 2 teaspoons), so it wasn't exactly "light"— but that really wasn't the point. It was dessert, in all of its fatty, calorie-laden glory. Sometimes, that's what you need.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I'm not usually much into the New Year's resolutions thing, because frankly, I don't keep them. But yet, somehow I still made a couple for this year. Well, three, really-- but I already broke one. :P

1. Go to Atomic Java no more than three times a week. Ha! That one didn't last long. Caffeine addiction is a powerful anti-resolution agent.

2.Use more fabric than I buy. I'm doing better on this one. I've actually started a spreadsheet and have been tracking the fabric I purchase and the amount of fabric I actually use. I'm ahead at this point. I've bought 11.5 yards, but I've used 13.75 yards. Wait! I've used 14.25 if you include the pants I made for the boy today. Yay!

3. Don't buy any books; read the books I have. Really, I should specify "leisure reading" types of books (e.g., trashy romance, mystery, adventure, et. al.). I don't include parenting or children's books in this resolution. The goal is that I read the books I've got sitting on my bookcase (some of which have been there for 10 years or more). This one I'm doing well on. But it's hard. I can't tell you how bad I've been a hankerin' to buy some trashy new fiction.

Well, one month in, and I'm still going strong on two of the three. Go, me!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Excess foam

After I completed the windowseat cushion, I found myself with a number of leftover chunks of foam. None of the pieces were particularly large. Just small blocks.

Hmmmm.... blocks, eh?

So I made myself a bunch of colorful blocks! I shopped my stash. I used cotton primarily, but I was also able to integrate some different textures on a few of them (minkee, flannel, fleece, and organza). They were really simple to make too. Yay!

I think they're really fun looking, and that the boy will enjoy them (or, if nothing else, he will enjoy throwing them). I was even thinking it might be fun to go out and buy foam so that I can make a few baby gifts. There are just so many options. Alphabet, animals, colors, numbers... and one could integrate embroidery designs too. Fun stuff. :)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Reading is good

One thing I've done in recent years is keep a reading log. As I complete books, I just write a little blurb about them. The blurb might include how I found the book, a little on plot and or characters, and my impressions—good, bad, or indifferent.

This has actually been a really helpful exercise for me. Back when I had time/energy to read, I would plow through books very quickly. This is fine, except that retention for any length of time after reading so fast is an issue for me. If I want to really retain a connection to a book, I need to:
  • Read it more than once. Generally just not going to happen with me—way too many books and too little time.
  • Talk about it. This is the most effective way. I soooo miss my book group in Austin. I really hope I find one here.
  • Think on it and write about it. And so my reading log came to be.
It's kind of cool to look back and see what I've read. I've even received a couple of emails from random people who stumbled across it and found it helpful in some way.

My major downfall in all this is that I'm truly neglectful in updating it. I'm hoping that by adding a link to What I'm Reading in the sidebar here will help motivate me to update more than twice a year (which is what I managed last year). My goal is to update after reading a couple of books, so that I can actually remember more than just generalities.

Here's hoping!