Thursday, December 31, 2009

New for 2010

Visit Cloth and Clay Dolls
I was browsing the internet over the weekend. This was fun to do as I randomly followed blog links from one interesting site to another. I came upon this Cloth & Clay Doll website and fell in love with the unique, hand made dolls. So many of them have an aged, antique appearance. But there are also many with a fun and funky modern tone to them as well. Each one is hand made, one at a time and unique. If you are interested in dolls, cloth dolls, and hand painted dolls you will have fun browsing through those posted here.

I signed up for one of the on-line classes to learn some new techniques on doll making. This would be a paper-clay over cloth technique. I've been aware of this type of doll for a long time, but never took the time to learn to make them. It is one of my New Year's desires (no resolution here - just a desire) to learn to make this type of doll. I'll keep you posted on the results by uploading some photos of my progress. Right now I'm partially through the series of video lessons I signed up for the Cloth & Clay Doll class from the website. I'm watching through all the videos first to get the general ideas expressed, then will re-watch as I work my way through the process of my first doll. I'm looking forward to getting started with this.

Tonight I was browsing through some of the blogs I periodically check on when I saw this project proposal for 2010. Terri Stegmiller lives across the river in Mandan. She is actually located nearby although I have not met her before. Isn't that funny that you can run across someone over the internet and discover they are living so close. You would think with such similar interests we would have run across each other and had the opportunity to meet one another by now. Strange.

Anyway, this proposal to use a word cue once a week to inspire an art project sounds interesting. I know there are several other projects similar to this on-line. I even have a few posted in my side bar. But given the fact that Terri is located so close to me I've decided to participate in her on-line activity this next year. I'll see how long I stay active in this project. I supposed that depends on how busy I get with other things and how inspiring the word cues are. Stay tuned on this project.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year Anticipations

I found out a few days ago that my uber favorite TV program - did I mention my very mostest favorite TV program - Chuck will be coming back on the air. It will be starting off its 3rd season on January 10th with a special premiere opening program at 8pm central time on Sunday. Yeah!! And the regualarly scheduled Monday show starts the next day -- the NEXT DAY!! -- on their regularly scheduled Monday air time. We cannot wait. We LOVE Chuck. It's the ONLY really GOOD program out there on TV now. After a fall and winter of reruns of watching NCIS (we love the crew here at NCIS also!) and CSI we're so looking forward to some new material.

I purchased the first season of Chuck on DVD when it first hit the stores. We've watched those episodes several times. I know there are some season two episodes available to watch on-line, but that is just not the same. I'm looking forward to the release of the season two episodes to DVD in January, also. But the big kicker is that the new shows will be airing soon. You can watch a trailer for the Jan. 10 2 hr premiere here.

My hubby had signed up to play tennis in the past on Mondays, but will be holding off with that now that NBC is advertising the new season of Chuck. We'll be setting up the TV and snacks, snuggled under a warm blankie, ready and waiting for season three to begin.

Oh, Joy! Did I mention I love the show Chuck? We've been discussing it amongst ourselves the last few days since we saw the new trailers. Hoping 'they' (the NBC executives) don't ruin the charm of Chuck this season. It appears as though they'll be giving him more of a secret spy persona. We just don't want to lose our Buy More nerd as we've come to know him. We see they've spun off the 'Bryce' character (Matthew Bomer) into his own TV series (White Collar). That show doesn't carry the same charm as Chuck. So we are hoping 'they' don't veer off from the loveable Chuck character we've enjoyed in the past. It would be so disappointing if 'they' made Chuck's character just like every other spy show character out there. I'm hoping he won't be all 'super-hero spy guy' and lose the charm of the funny, quirky, nerd-herd Chuck character of the first two seasons.

So . . . waiting . . . with anticipation for season three to begin. It you haven't watched it yet, you'll want to go peek at some episodes available on line then tune in to see the new ones. Chuck is charming, loveable and funny, clever with it's turn of events and humorous/playful banter between the characters without all the overly used gratuitous sex and violence shown so much these days to get viewers. That kind of programming has become so trite - it's why so many people are disappointed that there are hundreds of channels now available on TV, but nothing good on. We're looking forward to seeing if season three is as good as the first two seasons.

In more local news, I get to sew with my friend tomorrow. Sweet!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Things We Eat

crab legs thawing for dinnerNow that we've got lots of snow (12-14 inches) my hubby has been spending lots of time outdoors with the snow blower. He is good about helping out others on our street when it comes to dealing with the snow. One of the neighbors down the street is a chef at a local restaurant. You know they have to eat well with an expert in the house like that. My hubby came home with a surprise box from them as a thank you for helping with the snow so often. It was a box of big, giant crab legs!

crab legs up close - they look kind of freakyMy hubby has ordered crab legs at restaurants before, but we don't get them often. This was something new for us to try to cook for ourselves. What to do? He got on-line and looked up instructions on preparing them. First off he had to break their legs so they would fit in our pot. Then my hubby cooked them, along with a second pot of rice. It was good, but I have to say I'm not a big fan of crab legs myself. I told my hubby he could eat more of them than me since he was the one doing all the work to receive them. He had a whole bunch compared to what I took. It was a good surprise.

Yum! Home made bread!This weekend I baked home made bread. I used the recipe from the book that came with my Kitchen-aid mixer. It makes two loaves. I decided I wanted some buns, so I formed a half dozen of them before I made the rest into the two loaves. That made the loaves a bit smaller than they would have been. No big deal. Our slices are just a tish smaller, and the buns were good.

Mmmm good, potato soup and home made bread toasted with cinnamon and sugarI had a craving for some yummy potato soup this weekend, too. I've made the Gooseberry Patch recipe before and we loved it. This soup recipe was a free download in early October from the 'Taste of Autumn' cookbook called 'Corn & Potato Chowder'. I leave the corn out since my hubby doesn't eat corn. This time I loosely followed the recipe, but made the batch a bit larger with more carrots and potatoes. This is what I had on my desk yesterday . . . potato soup and cinnamon toast made from homemade bread. And of course a nice warm cup of tea - I love tea. Yum! I divied up the pot of soup to individual bowls so they would be easy to reheat in the microwave. There are still several bowls with soup in the fridge right now. That'll make a great lunch for us today. Home made fast food.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Ornaments

New and old pull-toy christmas ornamentsMy sewing friend gave me the snowman ornament seen here on the left. Isn't it so cute!?! I told her it reminded me of some of the German ornaments we saw at kiosks years ago when we were in Germany. The little painted wooden sheep ornament at the right is one of those from Germany. Pull the string and the arms and legs move. The snowman functions this same way by pulling the string. I love it.

New and old pull-toy ornaments without flashI had to try another frame without the camera flash. It was washing out all the detail. This one is photoshopped a bit to help with visability of details. Sometimes I wish I had better lights and equipment to get better photos. At this point I'm limited to shooting either with the flash, delayed flash, or no flash. I do my best with what I have. Funny how the green wires of the Christmas tree lights appears similar to the color of our artificial tree, but once they are illuminated by the flash they appear to be so different. I like leaving the lights on all the time - day time and night time. The colorful lights are pretty.

Pheasant feather ornament - handmade, purchased at craft fair about 10 years agoThis is another of my favorite ornaments. I found a booth at a craft fair about ten years ago with these home-made pheasant feather ornaments. The woman who made them did a beautiful job. She said her husband and sons did a lot of pheasant hunting. Said she loved the colorful feathers and hated to just discard them after the birds were put up in the freezer. When she came up with this idea for ornaments she thought it was a better use of the feathers than just throwing them away. She used a styrofoam ball, glue, a long decorative stick-pin and ribbon along with the feathers to create them. They were hot sellers that year.

Vintage Christmas ornaments - circa mid 1950s?The last of the ornaments I'll comment on are not on my tree this year. I actually have not used these vintage ornaments for a long, long time. They are very delicate, paper-thin blown glass. I used them a couple years after they were given to me, but if they got bumped off the tree they broke immediately. I haven't hung them up since. These old vintage ornaments were a gift from an older couple I knew 18-20 years ago. She said she got them during the first years they were married. They have lost most of their shiny quality and now have that patina that only comes with age. To me that is part of their charm. They remind me of the old fashioned ornaments I saw as a child at my grandma's house and on our family tree in the late fifies and early sixties. The fact that they bring back memories is another reason I like to hang onto them even though I don't use them on the tree any more. Considering the age of this older couple, I would guess these vintage ornaments were made in the early to mid 50s. Some of them have those indented sides that were popular back then. They are all hand painted, some have glitter applied. The boxes don't reveal any further information.

Digitizing Machine Embroidery Fun

Heart River Homebrewers Logo I digitized for machine embroideryJust thought I would share with you an embroidery project I worked on recently. One of my son's friends wanted to get some personalized embroidery designs sewn onto some things for his dad's Christmas gift. I digitized the logo shown here on my Husqvarna Viking 4D Professional software program then sewed the designs onto garments for him. They turned out great. The garments should make a good surprise for his dad. Apparently he's involved in a club/group that likes to brew their own beer. This logo design was drawn/created by another club member. His dad should have fun showing off in his fancy new threads next time the group gets together. It was a fun project to work on.

Close-up view of serger stitching around the test badges.I've been embroidering and digitizing for quite some time, but I learned a few things doing this project. One of those things is that you don't always need to have all the automatic features of the program turned on. In fact, it would have been better on this project to click onto the Preferences icon and uncheck the 'Remove Overlap When Combining Embroideries' option. Had I done this earlier on in my test sewing I could have alieviated a bit of aggravation on my part. You'll notice the narrow black outline surrounding the red fill of the lettering. I wanted a slight overlap so the pull (compensation) of the fabric while it was being stitched didn't cause any gaps between the red fill area and the black outline. I went into the design manually several times to move the wire frames in the .can files in order to reduce a few small gaps that kept showing up. Then when I clicked the icon to 'Create Stitches' this automatic overlap feature kept undoing what I was trying to accomplish. So just a heads up to any other home-based digitizers out there: You might want to uncheck this automatic feature of the program at certain times.

You will notice I also changed the thickness on the black outline bordering the red letters. When I digitized this I did these letters manually. After the first test sew-out I decided to increase the black outline from 1mm to 1.5mm to see if a slightly wider border would solve the gap problem. Until I turned the aforementioned auto feature off I still had a gap because the program was eliminating the overlapping areas. It was pulling back the stitches from the red fill area underneath the outline to do this and I still had some gaps. Plus I didn't like the way the thicker black border was muddying up the look of the overall design. It was excessive. I scaled back on the border to 1.3mm and liked it better when I test sewed the sample. The other new thing I realized playing with those border widths was that even though I digitized each letter individually I only needed to reset the border parameter as it was a global setting and affected all the borders of each letter. At first I thought it would take a long time to change all the borders manually on every letter. I was excited to find the global setting are useful to make these changes very quickly. You will find this feature when working with the .can file in 4D Design Creator - under the Preferences icon, click onto the Border tab then change the 'width' setting in milimeters.

I ended up sewing several test sew-outs before I was satisfied with the design. That's okay though. I decided to play around with testing out some patch making techniques. I've heard there is a specialized machine used in industry to stitch around patches to create that narrow rolled-hem type stitch around the perimeter of patches. I used some of those test sew-outs with my serger to try to duplicate that look. I set it up for a two thread folded rolled hem and got a pretty good result. I might play around a bit more with the serger and do a few other stitches to try for better results. I threw in some buckrum as a base material under the fabric to create a stiffer patch with some of the test sew-outs. That material doesn't fold over with the rolled hem since it is so stiff. I want to try just a standard rolled hem to see how it compares. And I might even try a three-thread rolled hem. I know the edge won't really 'roll' either, but replicating the way the thread wraps around the edge of the badge is the effect I'm going for. On another project I already tried just incorporating a satin stitch edge as part of the embroidery design when making badges. You can see that previous badge project on these chicken bages. The edge treatment wasn't quite the look I was going for. And the satin stitch width was harder to control compared to just running the badges through the serger once the embroidery was sewn.

Today I got together with my sewing friend and did some more work on the Rattlesnake quilt. I've now got only four more paper piecing sheets left to sew. It will be nice to move on to the next stage of this quilt project. I'll need to peruse my stash to find the fabric colors I want to use for the corners on this quilt . . . soon, very soon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sewing, Sorting, Speaking in Tongues

I recently got a 'blue screen' on my Creative Vision.I had a 'blue screen' show up on my Pfaff Creative Vision embroidery machine a few days ago. As I recall this was the second time ever in two years that one of these showed up. To resolve this I just shut off the machine and rebooted it. When the screen came back up things were back to normal . . . no residual effects. The machine works fine.

The most recent things I've been embroidering were some garments for someone who wanted to give them as Christmas gifts. I digitized a logo using my Pfaff 4D Suite software program then sewed it out on some garments. Prior to this assignment I was busy working on some quilting projects. I've been back to work on the Rattlesnake Quilt among others. There are only about a half dozen more paper piecing wedges to complete. Then I can move on to sewing on the corner pieces to finish off the quilt top. It's coming along - slowly.

Yes, I've been away from blogging for nearly a month. I've been busy with holiday events and spending time here at home doing a variety of things. It has been a pleasant month. Lots of things keeping me busy.

During this past month I also worked on re-purposing some of the spaces in our home. I've learned I'm very good at packing away LOTS OF STUFF in nooks and crannies around here. Actually I've known that for a long time, it's just that the point has been driven home really well for me lately. I've been tossing stuff that has been collecting dust and no longer serving any purpose for me. Hauling out stuff has been great for freeing up more usable space. I find myself sometimes getting bored with going through it all. Yet it has been a process to work my way through it all, remembering when I got some of it. There is still quite a bit to go through . . . lots of it is old paperwork right now. So I've been sorting through files and containers. I need to shred most of this stuff before it leaves the house. Sometimes I think I should just light a bon-fire in the fire-place and burn it. Then I wouldn't have to listen to the shredder mutilating all that paper. There's also stuff for give-away. I've got a box of stuff and some winter coats already in the trunk of the car to drop off for charity donation.

Lately though, the last several days, I've been procrastinating with sorting my way through all the paperwork. I've got it consolidated into some bins so it doesn't take up quite so much space, but am getting to the point I hate to sit down and deal with it . . . I know, just buckle down and get it done. The more I procrastinate with it, the longer I will have to look at this pile. Anyone else find themselves procrastinating with something? I read something recently that procrastination is a form of passive-agressive behavior - it is being passive-agressive against yourself. I never thought of it like that before. What do you think?

So, a few more days till Christmas. We are looking forward to spending time with some of our family. It will be fun.

My hubby and I are looking forward to the New Year as well. We've been talking about things we'd like to do differently next year. We had a conversation the other day about doing some things together as a couple. My hubby suggested we learn another language together. Deep down I think he'll probably be a lot better at it than me. I told him so and he balked at that idea. I told him I was up for it though. He has been talking about getting a Rosetta Stone language course for quite some time but put it off because they are so pricey. Plus he said it would be easier to learn a language if a person can make use of it in everyday life with conversations to others. He already knows Spanish - and enough French to communicate a bit with some of the Canadians who come down to the states. I suggested we learn French then we could take a trip to Quebec next year to celebrate. He suggested something completely different like Russian. Then I suggested why not Arabic since that's so much in the news these days with what's going on in the world. He's pushing for Russian at the moment. I'm open.

I took two years of Spanish in High School, but am certainly not fluent in it. I never got to the point where I could think in Spanish. In fact, I don't remember much of it from so long ago. I think my mind works more on a visual level, being interested in art and all, not so much on a verbal level. It might be fun to work at learning a new language together. We talked about setting aside certain times of the day or week as language day. Then only speak that language during those times. That way we could get more of an immersion effect. So what do you think? If you were to learn another language what would you choose to learn? And how would you make it easier to accomplish?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Studio Re-Organization Nearly Done

A stack of fabric from my stash.Here's a view from the studio. Yep, a stack of fabric.

Sorry it has taken me so long to submit a blog entry. Hey, what can I say? I've been busy working on the re-organization of my studio and enjoying my Thanksgiving holiday with the family. Okay . . . no apologies for that. Everyone deserves to take time some time with their family.

Yeah . . . but I've been really E - n - j - o - y - i - n- g it. For the last several days I've been a big bundle of lazy bones, doing some sorting, organizing, re-arranging to be sure, but also just enjoying some time off to goof off and do N O T H I N G ! I've been enjoying myself.

Another stack of fabric from my stash.Today I went to sew with a friend. It's fun to take some time off, but equally fun to get back into the swing of things.

I worked on paper piecing my rattlesnake quilt. Yes, this is the one I made the big OOPS on and cut off the tip of my finger. But now that I'm working on it again (with those cool plastic guards on my ruler) to prevent further accidents, I've gotten past the queasy feeling I felt when I first picked up the rotary cutter and ruler (after the accident) and started working on this quilt again. I'm now being more careful and aware of those kinds of quilting accidents.

It's going well. I got three more of those paper pieced football shaped segments completed today -- while we quilted and chatted the afternoon away. It was a good day. I rather enjoyed sending the month of November off with a good day of sewing and socializing with my friend. This evening I've enjoyed watching tv and relaxing with my hubby. Bye-bye November . . . hello December. I hear on the news tonight we've got wind heading our way tomorrow -- 50 mile per hour wind. Hold onto your hat!

Oh, and just for gee-wiz . . . in other North Dakota news . . . this past week the Police and the Game and Fish Department killed a mountain lion IN TOWN, on the north side of town, (and I emphasize -- IN TOWN) as it was passing near the Home Depot store and the vicinity of the north Walmart store. In the recent past several years some people had made complaints about cougars around here (example: scratches from large animal attacks found on horses) and received rebuffs that lions don't attack that way and how they wouldn't come this far, and not so close to town. Well . . . lo and behold . . . how interesting.

Now, here I sit at the computer watching the colorful lights twinkle away on my partially decorated Christmas tree while I type. My son and his new wife had an opportunity to look through the Christmas ornaments and take what they wanted from our collection of ornaments to add to their holiday tree decorations when they were here for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile our tree is up, lighted with twinkly lights and awaiting the rest of whatever decorations I decide to finish it up with. Some years I've done a themed Christmas tree and other years I just throw on a variety of stuff. I'm thinking this might be a year for a theme, but just not sure how I want to go with it. I'm thinking red and gold perhaps, but not entirely commited to that yet. Meanwhile we've been enjoying the room lights dimmed while we watch tv and have the twinkly lights going off and on. It's pleasant now even in its simplicity with just the light. Perhaps it's time for a humble tree this year with only home-made decorations. The beauty of the lights -- it is pretty on its own. A selection of hand-made designs might be just the thing. How are you choosing to decorate your Christmas tree this year?