Friday, December 24, 2010

Quilts for Christmas

I heard from the recipients of these quilts that they were opened yesterday - to provide warmth during this wintry cold - so now I can blog about them. These are the two quilts I've been working on recently. Thankfully I was able to finish them in time for Christmas. This quilt is for one of my sons. The other one is for his wife. And just so you know, Josh . . . I did finish yours first, before I finished Sam's quilt! He saw this quilt top and made a comment once that given all the time I've had to make quilts during the time the boys were growing up, it wouldn't be fair to make one to give to Samantha before I made one for him. So, there you have it. I'm a terrible mother! (Just kidding! If you know me, and could see me, you'd see I'm laughing as I say this!) I've been sewing on quilt tops all these many years. And finally after all these many years I get some finished - after the kids have grown up and left home! How horrible I've been. And yes, I have one waiting in the wings for my other son. One that was intended to be for a high school graduation gift, but it never got finished. My goal is to get that one done before the new year. But that's another story for another day. Here's the rest of this story . . .

Here's another view of the front of Josh's quilt. I laid them across our bed to get the photo. There's not too many places in our house to lay out something this large. Josh's quilt measures approximately 81" square. I'll have to think of something else to photograph the quilts I work on. Those quilts shown in magazines seem to be so nicely and artfully displayed. Yes, I realize they are made that way by "professionals", but I should be able to do that! But I was trying to hurry to get them done and wrapped. Will have to attempt better quality photos and proper lighting when I photograph future quilts. If I keep working on my stack of quilt tops I should be a professional at it too, by the time I finish them all.

Flip it over, and here's what the reverse side looks like. I wanted them to be reversible. And these five inch charm squares were cut out already and waiting in my stash. Another of my goals with these, and future quilt projects, is to get busy using up stuff in my stash . . . so I can buy more! Just kidding really. I've got such a large collection of fabric it only makes sense to use it up. I figure with all the quilt tops I've got there in my Sewing Studio I can go through a large chunk of my stash just finishing them all up.

And another view of the back from a slightly different angle. I like the way it turned out. I look at the front and really like the color combinations of those 2 1/2" strips. Then when I flip it over, I think maybe this side is the best side. Actually, I like both sides. Depends on if you want to see more brighter colors, or the darker subtle shades of a more woodsy nature look. I guess you do see all the bright colors in nature, too. Often have the brights in the colors of flowers and even some of the colors of animals such as birds and such. Don't you just love color!?!

Here we go - all folded up and ready to wrap up in Christmas paper.

This one is Sam's quilt. One time she came over to our house and looked through some of my quilting books. She flagged the pattern of this quilt, and a few others, with sticky notes indicating the ones she liked best. When I saw her choices I selected this one as a great pattern to sew. Later on I ran into a conundrum. She was going to come over because we talked about sewing together and again she looked through the book and navigated right to the page with this quilt pattern. Problem was, about a week or two prior to this I had shown this quilt top, which I was working on, to Josh. But I told him not to say anything to Sam about having made it. At the time, I wanted to double check with him that he thought she would like the colors of the fabrics I put into it. The fabrics were based loosely on the colors Sam said she liked, and had selected for their wedding. Having asked a number of times if Sam might ever want to sew with me, and being told she doesn't really sew (she enjoys scrap booking a lot), I one day got a positive response. Sam and Josh were going to come over for a visit. She would sew with me and Josh would hang out with his dad. So we head downstairs to sew and right off Sam picks this pattern from the book again to work on that afternoon. Well . . . what to do? Tell her she cannot sew that one? Tell her I already made that one for her? Just let her go ahead and sew it and then she winds up getting two quilts the same in the end? Give the one I made to someone else? or keep it myself? Hmmm . . . what would you do? I told her to wait, just a minute, and went to get the quilt top. Come clean, that's my motto . . . just can't keep it a secret. I told her I already did that quilt for her, she could go ahead and sew one herself if she wanted, but let me show what I already did. She said she liked the quilt top I made and we worked on something else that day.

And a closer look at this quilt - and the quilting of it. This stitching is called stippling. It's fairly closely stitched loops, swirls and random jig-saw puzzle like shapes. Sam's quilt measures approximately 74"x86" in size.

Here's another view of it from the back. I was being kind of a slow poke about getting the quilts done . . . huh? what? me? no way! LOL! me slow? I had already told my friend Deb during our sewing and quilting sessions that I was planning to finish up these quilts as gifts this year. Then Josh and Sam dropped big hints, "We want our quilts for Christmas." Now, wait a minute . . . you'll ruin the surprise! Ha, ha! I don't think it was really that much a big secret in the end.

I saw a quilt in one of my recent quilt magazines that showed this pattern for a quilt. I thought it would make the perfect back for Sam's quilt. That pattern was somewhat the inspiration for the back of Josh's quilt, but I decided to use the charm squares I had on hand because the colors were right rather than cutting the 13 1/2" random width fabric strips. I liked the idea of filling up along the sides with the larger fabric yardage. It made the backs go together much more quickly.

And here's the quilt all folded up waiting to be wrapped. Sam actually saw her quilt before I got it wrapped. Yep, I was a slow-poke and still hand stitching the binding in place when she came over to pick up their packages to take home to Josh. Sorry, I had to make her wait and get the packages the next day. So they were late - long, long hours working on them - but they made it in time for Christmas.

Next up on the agenda . . . finish up Ben's quilt and get that mailed off to him. Then I have some other recipients in mind for quilts I want to get done. That's right . . . quilting is going to continue on for some time. Check back occasionally for progress updates! Ha, ha, but don't hold your breath . . . you already know I'm a slow-poke . . . a slow-poke with a plan . . . am I describing a turtle quilter? Hmmm . . . it brings forth ideas for a drawing, but then I distract myself. LOL! Focus now, focus . . . work on quilts . . . forget about drawing and other artistic distractions! Forget about all those other things in life that are fun! Quilting is fun! Ha, ha, ha!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Got Oranges?

I had a craving for oranges to go along with my tea today. They were yummy! Have you had your vitamin C yet today? Have to admit I've strayed from taking daily vitamins. No reason, just have been neglecting to do that. My body must have been telling me, "Eat more fresh fruit!" We did enchiladas last night for supper. Hadn't made those for a while. Mmmmm . . . good! I ate some for lunch, too. Still have one left for a snack later tonight if I stay up to work on stuff. It's likely I will, I've been staying up late into the night working on various projects. Some of these projects need to get done within the next few days to make it in time for some body's Christmas. Not telling, but if they're reading this, I think they know already what's coming to them. The view you're seeing on my computer screen is from Lucy Knisley's site - a photo of her studio work area in her apartment. Here's a link to her on-line journal. I just love to look at photos of other people's studios and work spaces. To me it's fun to see what others place around their environment where they spend time being creative. It's also fun to see what inspires artists and creative types. That must be why I enjoy reading blogs. It's fun to glimpse a peek of their world from time to time.

I took some time for photos and to make a post about my December Daily progress. This is an image of one of my recent pages I posted about here , along with the snowflake paper punch I used on this page. I found blogger has changed the parameters for posting photos here on the blogs. It used to be you could go back after post some photos and add more later after uploading those. Now when I try to do that the program doesn't work the same way. I think I could publish the post then go back and edit it and add more photos, but am not really sure as I didn't try that. The improvement is better in some ways, but not in others. I had wanted to upload this photo showing the snowflake paper punch, but it would have meant starting again all over with the post or trying to work it as a edit after publishing. What a headache. This is like the third time I've run into this issue with the new blogger change. Kind of irritating since it looks like I have a tendency to do this same thing over again. And you may, or may not, have noticed I no longer am putting photo tags that show up when hovering over the photos. That's something they taught us we should do when I took those web design classes. Getting lazy with it I guess.

This is progress on one soon-to-be Christmas gift for someone. I will blog more about it later . . . after the 25th. It's coming along well. The thing should be done in time unless something drastic happens between now and next Tuesday. That's my final deadline to have it finished and wrapped so it can be hand delivered to the recipient.

And here is the progress of some hand work (yes, that's two four letter words - hand work!) that is showing progress. Doing this part by hand gives me an opportunity to sit back and kind of relax. The only problem I've encountered is I tend to do this later in the evening when my eyes are protesting. They seem to be telling me to let it go and do it another time - they must be tired and lose focus - or I need stronger glasses!

Well, I guess I cannot say too much more than this, or the whole surprise of the gift will be thrown out the window. So until a later date . . . Oh, and if you are a member of the 'Quilt Police' please avert your eyes. Sorry I don't pay bribes!  Just asking for leniency as I already know the quilting on this is not perfect. Just look at all those jerky, un-even quilting lines. LOL! It is what it is, though . . . a gift meant to be given with all my best intentions!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Festivus!

I spent some time today playing with my Photoshop Elements program. I wanted to make some goofy postcards to celebrate December - and gain more experience playing with software. I'll be sending out Christmas cards tomorrow, but wanted to just surprise everyone this year with something out of the ordinary, too. This idea of making the Festivus postcards came about from hearing on the news that a man in prison (death row?) was trying to get the authorities there to feed him kosher meals. Apparently he started a lawsuit and it went to court. When the judge asked what religion he was, I assume to establish the need for 'kosher' meals, the inmate said he celebrated Festivus. It struck me as funny - in an idiotic way. This led me to do a quick look on-line to read more about it. I remembered this episode of Seinfeld, but not all the details of it. One thing leads to another and I decide it would make a goofy card to post in the mail.

Here's the back of my postcard with the explanation of what this is all about. I left just a little room at the bottom to write a few short lines of text. I'm mainly just being goofy in doing this. Hoping all the recipients won't think I've given up on Christmas . . . that is not the case at all. It just struck me as funny and I wanted to share some quirkiness this winter. After all, we all could use some extra levity in our lives in the middle of a cold winter with white, snow-covered winter wonderland out there!

The photos are of the kids. Ben on the left in the green shirt was from this summer. It was the 30th? 31st? of May - Pat and I drove to Minnesota to help Ben move from one apartment to another place. It gave us an opportunity to visit with him for a short while before we headed back home the next day. Thankfully we were able to make a stop, a very short stop, to visit my Grandma C. in Minnesota on the way back. We were in a hurry to get back home because of our three dogs. There ended up being a snafu with the arrangements we made for someone to come into our house to feed and care for the dogs. They were having none of it and barked and were ferocious with our dog-sitter. Aaahhh, the interesting times one experiences with pet ownership.

Josh and his wife, Samantha, are in the winter coats to the right of Ben. This was a photo taken just a few weeks ago here in December. And I think most people know the other 'characters' in the photo. I pulled it from a publicity shot posted on the internet. The background history of the Festivus holiday was taken from Wikipedia. If you want, you can read more about this Seinfeld episode and the origin of the Festivus holiday. You can click onto each of the images to see them larger.

I had picked up the book 'Good Mail Day' some time ago. I have always enjoyed receiving mail, and this book advocates making and mailing mail art on a regular basis. At the time I got the book I thought, "What fun!" and fully intended to jump in and get started right away with making/mailing more mail art. I've been slow, just signing up with a few postcard swaps via some groups on-line. But this activity is something I think would be fun to do more of. Does that saying, "If you build it they will come" translate to "If you make & mail our mail art some will come back to in return"??? Maybe . . . Okay, these postcards are going out into the mail tomorrow, then it will be Christmas cards and a few packages I still need to get sent out of here. Hope every one of you are enjoying your holiday activities.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Snow Games and Warming Up with Hot Tea

I went outside yesterday to take some photos of the new layer of snow we received. The day before, on Monday, I wanted to go out and get photos of the lovely frost on the trees. I missed my chance because the sun melted off the frost before I went outdoors. Thankfully we got the same fluffy frost the next day, on Tuesday. I hopped on the opportunity to get outside and snap some digital photos. This shot looks kind of misty and foggy. It wasn't really like that. It's an illusion caused by the moisture built up in the camera before it equalized to the outdoor level. Ooooooh, it's eerie . . . ghosts in the garden.

I like the way the dogs, and maybe the rabbit, have created trails around my raised garden beds. It made me smile. When I look at it the thought that comes to mind is a snow game we used to play as kids. We called it Fox and Geese. The way you play is to run through the snow to trample down a circular path. Then trample down the snow across the center of the circle in the shape of a big cross. The whole thing kind of looks like a wheel with four spokes. One person is the fox who has to chase, and tag, the others who are the geese. All players must stay in the trampled down paths or you're out of bounds. When a player is tagged, that player becomes the fox. It was a fun game for playing outdoors on a snowy winter day. Hehehe . . . looks like the dogs enjoy playing it, too!

Here's a view of the garden swing and our stacked patio chair frames. We tucked them up under the lilacs to get them out of the way, and to offer some protections under the limbs of those bushes. I see there is a trail leading under the chairs. I believe those are the tracks from our neighborhood rabbit. It seems to have its preferred paths to make the rounds of our yard and other areas of the neighborhood. By the way, it finished off the remainder of the parsley and other garden vegetation a couple weeks ago. I'm not sure what it finds to eat through the winter, but likely gnaws on bushes and other underbrush. I'd throw some kitchen scraps outside for it (ends of carrots and apples), but I really don't want to encourage it or make it more able to breed and produce more rabbits in the spring. It took out too many of the garden plants that I would have preferred keeping for us.

Ginger was excited to go outdoors with me. Here you see she's checking out where I've been with the car. I'm sure there are lots of areas to sniff out front. We don't usually let her wander there. She's got all the free reign she wants in the back where it is fenced. She was funny . . . got to the sidewalk edge and plunged her snout into a deep snowbank surrounding the trees on the boulevard. She walked around with snow on her face, then when we came inside, had melted snow - turned to water droplets - on her face. She makes me laugh. Apparently it doesn't faze her in the least! She would rather spend time outdoors, regardless of the cold, so she can go around exploring and tracking down all those intriguing scents.

And yes, the car is plugged in. For those of you who might be reading here, but do not live in a cold, northern climate . . . we have to plug in our vehicles in the winter-time. No it's nothing to do with electric cars, it's to power the block heater so on those really cold days your car will start. We certainly don't want our engine blocks frozen up or cracking on us. At the time I got my car they weren't selling the car starters with them. By the time I ever considered I might want a car starter I figured I was already going out in the icy cold to start my car and let it idle enough to warm the engine for driving. Now all these many years later I still don't have one. I figure it's an older car now, so what's the point of putting an engine starter in now. I'm used to going out there 4-5 minutes prior to taking off in it to let it warm up. Next car though will definitely have one on it as long as we're staying here in North Dakota. My friend even has seat warmers in her vehicle, and they keep theirs in a garage, not out in the open like we do. Now that's luxury!

I love the look of all this frost on the trees. This is a close-up of the lilac bush. It was so beautiful the way the sunlight came streaming through the branches. It's too bad photos don't reveal the true, awesome 3-D beauty of seeing it in person. It was a sparkly, glittery wonderland!

Another view of the swing through the lilac branches. So peaceful . . .

When I came back inside I couldn't see a thing. I experienced immediate fogging of my glasses.

Here's some of my stash of cold weather drink choices. I have them handy - sitting on top of the microwave. They'll likely go back into the cupboard soon. I filled my pottery containers with a bunch of tea flavors. See them peeking out from behind the boxes? One says tea, the other says coffee. I like to keep them stocked during winter weather.

This is one of my favorite activities when it is cold outside, and sometimes chilly in the house. Yum! I love a nice warm cup of tea. Lately I've been warming up with those fruit flavored teas. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy iced teas, but sometimes a warm cup hits the spot better. And actually, right now I have a cup of each on my desk as I'm blogging. A touch of the iced when those 'personal summers' present themselves, and a cup of the warm version when I feel a chill. Warm makes me sleepy, so can only do so much of that. After all, I've got to stay awake so I can get some stuff done.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Playing with Photoshop and Other Gadgets

I played with photoshop earlier this week, and again tonight, to make up some badges advertising my new blogs. Here's a pic of the link to my scrapbooking blog. Pretty exciting to start working on some pages for my mini Christmas album. If you're interested in scrapbooking, and want to see how I am progressing with this hobby, click on the badge in the sidebar and go take a peek.

Just now, looking at this one from a fresh perspective . . . I'm thinking I ought to increase the size of the text here. This one may be photoshopped some more in the near future. That lettering is looking kind of puny to me.

This is my new badge for my doodling and drawing blog. I wanted to get more into hobbies that I can partake in while watching tv with my hubby. The act of drawing is something I can do that doesn't involve a noisy sewing machine, a noisy cricket or other gadgets. There's a time for gadgets . . . after all, I'm a "gadget girl" . . . but there are also times for doing things by hand - the old fashioned way. I love finding out about new gadgets that make hobbies (and life) easier. But when it comes to just relaxing and watching tv in the evenings with my hubby, I want to keep in mine that "relax" is the principle word. Sometimes that means doing things by hand one stitch, or one pen mark, at a time.

It has been a little while since I did some playing around with my Photoshop program. It gets easier the more I do it. Actions necessary to get the program to do the things I want it to do are easier to pull from my memory banks when I keep at it. This photoshop program is the "baby" one - Photoshop Elements 6 - not the full-fledged program. It would be fun to have the big master program, but for the present time I am doing just fine with this one. Some day when I've got lots of money burning a hole in my pocket I might think about upgrading. For now this works for my needs. They do have an updated version of this Elements program.
But even getting that update can wait for another day. I think I spend so much of my time doing so many different things it doesn't make sense to spend money getting an upgrade when I wouldn't use the program on a routine basis. When the time comes that I do more digital scrapbooking, digital drawing or altering digital photography more I'll give it further consideration. Splitting my time right now between so many different things keeps me moving between many machines and software programs. Currently my time is spent between sewing, quilting, machine embroidery, computing, building websites, and now scrapbooking and drawing. See what I mean about liking gadgets? I have gadgets, machines and programs for all these activities. I just love to learn new things . . . and learn to use new gadgets.