Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mighty Clouds of Joy

Let me begin by saying that these photos just cannot capture what I witnessed late yesterday afternoon. I'm going to try to tweak them at work tomorrow to see if I can get closer to what I actually saw.

Just before sunset a huge mountain range of clouds rolled through here. They glowed from within as if out of a Maxfield Parrish painting. Truly, that is what they looked like. They were big and billowing and the sun bounced off the tops making them even more impressive.

As the sun sank in the sky, you could see them releasing their inner fire in the form of lightning. If you have never seen dry lightning, it is a spectacular phenomenon. No sound, just hot streaks of light racing from cloud to cloud-a marvel of nature's power.

In between shuffling papers, I did play with my floral diamonds on the design wall. In one of my earliest posts, these were arranged in rows. I have decided that they should now become a round tablecloth for my patio table. I have a top made from strips of these same fabrics and it will be a companion to use on one of my rectangular tables when I entertain a crowd.

Maisy's little booda buddy needed some surgery to close an open chest wound. It's been awhile since she's been that rough on a toy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March Bee Block

Spring break is over and I did absolutely no sewing at all last week. A whole week at home and nothing. But that's o.k. If I can alleviate some stress by organizing the paperwork and preparing for taxes, the quilting will be more fun in the long run.

Before spring break, I made this month's bee block. It's for Judy W. She loves dogs and has several, so I had to use the cute little doggie fabric in the upper left.

Our guild email person sent around a message today saying that my favorite new quilt shop in Jackson, Mississippi, is closing. The fat quarters I got for Christmas came from that shop. I am so sad.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Ain't Sprung Yet...

Today was the first official day of spring. We have had some gorgeous days this past week. But the nighttime temps are in the 40's and tonight in the high 30's. It may say so on the calendar, but I'll believe it's spring when I don't have to put the coat on to take the pup out at night.

This time last year was Easter week and I was in Sweden. I had walking pneumonia, but I was still in Sweden. And every morning during my stay I treated myself to some hot chocolate made with O'Boy. It's made by Kraft and we don't have it here at home. I still have about half a bag left.

So with the air still chilly, I fixed myself some tonight and added a little marshmallow creme and served it up in this pretty little cup I purchased as a souvenir.

It's made by Laila Bülow Mattson. I spotted her shop on a side street in Tranås and guessed that the word "Hantverk" in the window meant handmade. I was right. She had lots of lovely things including textiles she had designed. I explained that I wanted something I could use regularly to remind me of my trip to Sweden and she seemed very pleased.

Later I found her bio sheet slipped into my bag and read that her wishes and hopes "are to find my pieces of work being used in daily life, showing their unique character, bringing beauty and pleasure."

I believe she has accomplished that at my house.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Cleaning

I am on spring break from work this week. Quilting is on my list of things to do, but it is not the first thing on the list. I have been cleaning my house for several days now. If only I had company coming, it would make it go faster. My files are a wreck and must be tackled before anything else is allowed. The shredder has already been hard at work and I will start creating new file folders this evening. I'm looking forward to the end result.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Retreat Postscript

Some of us come just for the fun of it and some of us with serious goals.

Some labor over tedious projects while others crank out lots and lots.

Miniatures, quick & cute cuddle quilts, wildly creative art pieces, tried & true traditional quilts - you can find them all at retreat.

Our tastes in fabrics run the gamut from feedsacks, Kaffe Fassett, Civil War, bright batiks, to good 'ol scraps. And a good pattern can be translated by any of these.

We learn new tips and tricks from each other and have impromptu demonstrations and classes. Everyone has an opinion and offers advice solicited or not. We deal with our share of unsewing, broken needles, and mis-cut fabric, but we survive.

The quilts we inherit from family and the ones we receive and give as gifts are made with lots of love. Each stitch, worked out by hand or machine, is in spite of the demands of life and is a testament to perseverance and patience, qualities that characterize quilters so well.

The past few retreats I've tended to get a little melancholy at some point. When I returned home from my first retreat seven years ago I learned that a dear friend's wife had died unexpectedly. In 2005, my mother passed away and even though I had been away from work for weeks, my co-workers insisted that I go on retreat. In 2007, I left for retreat after finding out that the woman who had helped raise me and my sister had just passed away back in my hometown.

As I looked around the room on Saturday afternoon at these women who have come to mean so much in my life, I wondered what my mother would think of so many friends she never had the opportunity to meet - these friends who sat with me and fed me after my car accident and helped me pack for a move to a house she would never see. Each of these women have their own stories of loss and difficulty. And yet it is quilting that has brought us here and that brings us balance in a chaotic world. It grounds us.

From my very first retreat, I knew I had become part of something that would be with me for the rest of my life. I had found my tribe.

I can't wait for next year's retreat. I'll drag out the same projects in hopes that time will expand for those four days and I will accomplish super-human feats of quilting. We'll share some late night laughs and meet more new friends. And for a few days, all will be right with the world.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Retreat - Last Day

By the end of the weekend, everyone is eager to show off their accomplishments. When I get home, I am always amused by how many pictures I have of people's feet showing below their show-and-tell.

The last picture of the quilt on the right is actually of the back of the quilt. It's one of those One Block Wonder quilts, but the seams on the back were just as impressive as the front.

Virginia W was working on an Irish chain in 30's. I had to take a picture of her work station. Who wouldn't be attracted to such an organized array of all those little pieces.

Virginia B made these two holiday wall hangings for her mother who lives in a retirement community. But she didn't make just these two. She made two more for her mother-in-law who lives NEXT DOOR to her mother at the same facility. And they can't be kinda alike, they have to be EXACTLY alike to keep the peace. She's making a set for the entire year. What a good daughter-in-law.

Here are the few border blocks I actually made.

By noon, our room had cleared out quite a bit. We would all stay longer if we could, but reality calls us home. Projects completed or projects begun, we are likely to see some of them again next year.

Retreat - Good Things Come in Three's

Several people were working on string quilts this year and they were strikingly similar. These bright blocks were made with random scraps by Norma Gene.

This lovely quilt was done by Becky J in 30's prints. She was working on her border during the weekend.

And this spiderweb was made by Joie out of the most scrumptious authentic feedsacks. This picture does not do these blocks justice.

And here is Joie answering a flurry of questions about her project from a bevy of ladies who came over from the other sewing room en mass. I got tickled at how she had attracted so much attention all at once.

At past retreats, I have been known to do some dumpster diving late in the evening. I didn't do so much this year, but I did raid this trash can that was near my station. Got some long 6-8" wide strips of pink with frogs, some bright green strips, a few bits of a black and white, and some white on white chunks. I resisted the temptation to dig any further.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Retreat - Day 3

Usually by Saturday of retreat, I'm sailing through projects or my brain is stuck. Plans were to use the morning to work out and cut the pieces for the bee block I'm responsible for this month. It's a Carol Doak paper pieced pattern with four sections.

Since I am the first one to make this block for the bee, I decided I would do the math and make templates for cutting. Then everyone else could use what I figured out if they so choose. And it would make it easier on me, too. It just took me forever.

I never got to making the block at retreat, but I did finish it last night in time for bee tomorrow.

One of the projects I took to work on was my first-year president's blocks quilt border. I had designed a paper-pieced pattern based on the cover quilt of a book I bought in Japan a few years ago. Members were to use Asian fabric in the block and also turn in a 9" block of the same fabric for me to use in the border. I put the blocks together last year at retreat.

I found the perfect pattern for the border blocks in this book and found a great technique in this book. The trick was figuring out how to cut my 9-inch blocks of matching Asian fabrics so the resulting border piece would equal the width of one of the blocks. And I couldn't cut anything until I was sure because I really didn't have any squares to spare.

My first calculation had me using a 1.6666...." cut. I don't have a ruler that has markings in thirds (as if one existed,) so my math next yielded the measurement of 1 and 13.3/16". How's that for a measurement? By this time, people were looking at me as if I had lost my mind. I heard "Just use 0.75" and call it a day," more than once.
But I was not convinced. So next I borrowed what I call "junk" fabric to make some samples before I cut (no insult intended toward the friend who loaned me the fabric.) The final cut was 1.875" strips and I would have to watch my seam allowance.

I barely scraped by with the black fabric I bought a few years ago and got all the Asian bits cut and sewn to the black. All I have to show for the entire day and evening are two blocks.

I got the biggest chuckle late in the day listening to my friend Gail sitting in front of me quilting on a beach themed quilt. As she worked out shapes of sea life and shells, I heard her say, "Ah, it's the newly discovered bulbous nosed dolphin only seen at Camp McDowell." "What animal do I want to screw up now?" and "This shell looks like a hamburger bun." She wasn't really talking to anyone but herself and maybe you had to be there, but I found it really funny.

Retreat chairmen Ruth Ann and Jan got enough really fun door prizes for everyone this year. I usually come away with a new rotary blade or a tape measure or the like which is fine. But this year I have to say I scored big. Look at the jelly roll I won - Cotton Blossoms by Moda.

Retreat - Day 2

And now back to reporting on quilt retreat... Friday morning we had the good folks from Cahawba Quilt Shop in Centreville come set up shop for us. I won't say how affordable the fabric was, but it was cheap enough that I broke my no-buy rule just a little. They had lots and lots of 30's reproduction prints that they were clearing out of their inventory. Who doesn't love 30's? I did buy for specific current projects. It was hard not to pass up the opportunity to buy yardage for backs at such great prices.

Decisions, decisions. A great time to pick out cuddle quilt fabrics.

It was so busy, our folks even had to help cut.

So, the morning was pretty much consumed with shopping.
Here's what I bought.

And I had fun helping my friend Joie create a 30's stash.
Nothing like helping someone else spend money!

In the afternoon I worked on my patriotic diamond stars from Aunt Donna scraps. I had previously cut these out and arranged them at home. I can't believe I got them all sewn together. I used a Billie Lauder trick to sew them for Y seams. Made them go so much faster.

Snow Dogs

Here are a few more snow pictures for you. In the South we get significant snow so seldom that it truly is an event worth recording. At one point in the day Saturday, it was coming down so fast that it reminded me of my visit to Sweden last March.

This lamp is a bit reminiscent of Narnia.

The view from the driveway shows early accumulation.

I hate to show my ignorance as to what this lovely
pink flower is, but it was extra pretty with snow on it.
I have since had it identified as quince.

This is my sister's puppy Lola. If she didn't have the pink collar on,
it might be harder to find her in the snow. I think Dalmatians
were invented to flush out Arctic hares or foxes, or at least
they are perfectly camouflaged for such endeavors.

Maisy spent most of the weekend on the sofa or under
a chair hiding from an energetic Lola. She's sneaking
a sniff while Lola's not looking.

After only a few minutes outside, Maisy was covered with snow.

After shaking it all off, someone was ready to go in for the night.

Snow falling after dark.

Maisy decided the best vantage point for looking at
the snow was from the comfort of a warm, dry sofa.