Monday, January 30, 2012

Unfinished Objects

Quilters call projects that they started and haven't finished UFOs.  I usually try to keep ahead of them and not have many waiting but this one hung in my sewing room a year and a half because I really didn't want to finish it.  I took a class in October 2010 and the bottom picture is kind of how it looked when I finished the class.  I wasn't very happy with the outcome but had spent a lot of money for the class.  I love irises and so still wanted to find some use for it.  I finally learned how to do 'free motion quilting' in the class I took with Jessica earlier this month.  I decided to give this piece a try.  Maybe you won't be able to tell the difference between the two but it looks a lot better in person. 
 For those of you that don't know what 'free motion quilting' is I will try to explain.  When you sew the machine has little 'feeder teeth' on the bottom that move the fabric along at a regular pace.  This makes the stitches the same length.  When you do free motion quilting, you lower those teeth and you must move the fabric to create the stitch length.  It is quite difficult to get all you stitches the same length, make a pattern and keep the fabric moving.  I suppose that this is really the 'quilting' part of a quilt.  I love to piece quilts together but I take them to my quilter and she has a 'long arm' quilting machine that stitches through the front, batting in the middle and the back of the quilt.  I don't usually do that part because I am not good at making those stitches the same length and moving the fabric in a smooth manner to create a pattern.  She has a whole room devoted to stretching out the fabric and a large machine that does the stitching.  Her machine also has a 'stitch regulator' on it that makes the stitches the same length.  She is very talented at moving the machine in a nice even manner that creates its own pattern. 
Since the last two 'art quilts' that I have made have been small, I decided I needed to learn this skill for smaller pieces.  It is OK and I liked doing the two smaller pieces of my 'art quilts'  but I am NEVER going to do a large one because I don't have the big machine.  I am glad that I have learned the technique though and will use it when needed.  I will try to practice it now and then too since like everything else, practice makes perfect. 
If you look closely at this piece before I quilted it you can see that the quilting adds more 'dimension' to the work.  I like how the one at the top turned out and am planning to hang it in my kitchen.

SO, one more UFO finished.  I found two other projects in my sewing room this past week so I may tackle them too.  I have a table runner that my friend gave me to piece together several years ago and it is all ready for the free motion quilting.  I think I will get it done first and then work on the other 'art quilt' with applique that is leftover from another class. 

Winter is a good time to find UFOs in your life.  So if you have any, take them out and give them a new look.  They may be better than you thought. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Quiet week

I was told by my father, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."  Well, I DID have a quiet week here and I DID have a nice time, but I really didn't have any profound things to say so I guess I was kind of following my dad's advice.  (He would possibly be surprised since I really wasn't that good at following his advice when he gave it 'in person')  The blog has been quiet but not me.  I have been working on finishing up Matt's projects.  You might have seen the apron earlier.  This is the canoe paddle bag he asked for.  It was quite easy.  I just used some nylon cloth and put a few seams in it.  I put a drawstring in the top and 'canablolized' a suitcase strap for the strap to carry his paddles.  I will send it out in the mail today.  I hope it fits the bill.  I will go back to my ongoing list of sewing projects today.  It was nice to take a little time and make something that Matt needed. 
On the subject of not saying anything if you really don't have something to say (I am paraphrasing my father here)  I sure am getting tired of the Republican primary race.  They have been doing a GREAT job of beating each other up.  It makes me question their long term goals of trying to be elected.  I am not a fan of the Republican party of late but still try to maintain my standing as an 'Independant'.  I know that some of you that know me might not think that I really am an independent but I have voted for both parties.  I do find it puzzling that one of the candidates really isn't getting much support from the 'mainstream' party.  Usually it is the Democrats that 'beat each other up' before the election.  It seems that everything has become so mean spirited. I listen to NPR a lot and Diane Rheme just said, "I am not sure that this is good for America"  and I agree.  I am glad that I haven't been watching the debates. 

Just in case you think that I only sit around and listen to NPR and sew, I do still make it out to Kingsley twice a week.  I often teach part of the time that I am there.  Last week I taught from 10:00 -3:00 most of the time on Friday.  It is report marking time and Molly was doing some individual testing so I just took over.  She and I do a good job of team-teaching.  We have similar styles and she is an excellent teacher.  I always go early enough to have lunch in the lunchroom with the teachers and catch up on the gossip.  That way I can work in the classroom without using that time to find out what everyone is doing.  I like that arrangement.  I am not a morning person in my retirement so I can take my time getting there. 

WELL, for not having much to say I sure have rambled on and on.  I am done for the day.  You should win a prize if you made it all the way to the end today. 
Enjoy the weekend.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend activities.

It has been a fairly busy weekend for a retired woman.  Saturday I went to a baby shower for the daughter-in-law of a friend.  I had made a quilt and a teddy bear for the new baby, Sophia.  She was a cute little baby, only 3 weeks old.  They waited until after the baby was born to have the shower and that was nice.  We were all able to see the new baby. 
In the evening we had decided to go to the movies.  The movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was opening in the local 'art theater'.  I read the book a couple of weeks ago and was very interested in seeing the movie.  When we arrived downtown the line for the movie was way down the block.  We were afraid that there wouldn't be very good seats left by the time we were able to get in so we went to the nearby bookstore and checked out the new arrivals.  Then we bought tickets for the 1:00 movie today.  As a conciliation prize we went to the ice cream store across the street and then came back home for the evening.  Today we did make it to the movie.  It is an incredibly good movie.  I strongly encourage everyone to see it.  The story/stories were moving and well acted.  They stayed fairly close to the book with a little deviation at the end.  I can say that the movie did justice to the book and the acting was fantastic.  The little boy in the movie is an 'unknown' and I heard somewhere that the producers saw him on Jeopardy and called him in for an audition.  I was very impressed with his acting for someone so young and such a difficult topic.  Go see it if you have a chance and read the book too.  You won't be disappointed. 
Today I finally finished my art work from my quilting class that I took last weekend with Jessica.  I just finished the hand stitching on the border this evening.  It is hard to see all the details in the piece but try clicking on the picture and enlarging it to check out the detail. I love it and I am very proud of the way it turned out.  I haven't heard if Jessica has finished hers yet but will post a picture of hers when she sends it to me.  I have a few other projects to work on but I will get back to this technique again.  It is a fun way to combine fabric and art.  I think it is easier to 'paint' with fabric than I ever thought it would be and possibly easier for me to 'paint' this way than to actually use paint.  It is a very creative approach to art. 

That is about all of my activities for this weekend.  Just enough to keep me busy but not too much to make me stressed.  It's a wonderful life.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New apron and 'purse' for Matthew

Matt called me a week or so ago with some 'projects' to work on.  I gladly accepted the projects (Jessica told me she was relieved because she could take them off her list of things to do).  I have lots of time to do little projects like this.  Anyway he wanted an apron to wear while working on his bike so his clothes didn't get dirty.  I found just the nice heavy fabric yesterday and started it.  I felt it needed to be reversible so he can use one side and then turn it over and use the other side before washing it if he chooses.  I also thought it needed some pockets so I bought this nice outdoors fabric to make the pockets.  I would have used something with bicycles but they didn't have anything so I settled for the tree look. 
 I patterned it after one that Bud has and it really worked quite well to make it without buying a pattern.  You can kind of see it here with the 'bag' I made to go along with it. 
I had some leftover fabric so I thought a nice 'purse/bag' would be a useful thing for the extra fabric.  He can carry parts of tools in the bag.  (I was just kidding about the purse part')  I won't send it out right away because I still have another bag to make for him.  He wants a bag to put his canoe paddles in so that will be my next project. 
It is fun to do little projects like this. Just easy one day projects that make someone happy.  I hope Matt is happy with his new apron and bag. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Still have those winter driving skills.

Today is Tuesday and one of my days to volunteer in Kingsley.  There was a 'winter storm advisory' but that didn't stop me from my job for the day.  I did make sure that I had warm boots, a warm coat and hat and took off to help Molly.  The drive down was SLOW but only because I was following people driving 25 miles an hour.  I think that if you are too nervous to drive any faster than 25 miles an hour you should stay home but I patiently followed them until I could pass.  I spent my afternoon working with children, teaching a couple classes and running some copies.  I was really needed since they are finishing their marking period and testing children. 
The snow continued to fall and blow around but I continued to work.  I did leave about 3:15 and headed home.  For the first time in a long time I had to clean off my car.  Fortunately I was able to use my remote starter and get the car warmed up before heading out.  It was a snowy drive back home but I made it just fine. 
SO, I still have my winter driving skills and am very glad that I don't have to use them every morning but just when I want to get out.  I don't miss that drive to Kingsley but can still make it in nasty weather. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Exciting and creative weekend

In my last posting I was worrying about Jessica arriving safely.  Yes she did.  She said the drive on the highway wasn't bad and the off highway roads were just a little slippery.  Anyway, I was happy when she knocked on the door and announced her arrival.  Friday evening we went out to dinner at one of our favorite places here in TC.  The old State Hospital has a great restaurant in the lower level and the food is terrific. 
 Saturday morning we had a leisurely breakfast because the class didn't start until 10:00.  Here we are all ready to go.  We had lots of things to take along because the class materials list was quite long.  The artist and teacher is Ann Loveless.  She lives in Frankfort which is only an hour away.  He technique is to make landscape art quilts with small pieces of fabric fused to a backing and then quilted to secure the pieces of work.  If you are interested in checking out her work more you can go to and see her work.  She was a terrific teacher and if you are a quilter and can ever go to one of her classes you should take the opportunity.  Both Jessica and I hadn't ever done any 'free motion' quilting which is the technique that you use to secure the pieces on the backing.  We picked it up quite quickly and our work isn't as good as the artist but I do think we did a pretty good job. 
 You can see all the pieces of fabric that Jessica has scattered around her work area.  Here she is cutting and placing her small pieces of fabric on the 'sticky surface' of her backing to create her picture. 
 We shared our fabric and had quite a mess between our two tables but it was fun and exciting to see the work unfold. 
 Jessica has finished the sky and sunset and is working on the water here.  She is a much more 'maticulus' worker than me.  I tend to cut, place and just go on.  She was working harder to make hers look more realistic.  She was working from a sunset picture as a guide.  She has also put hers in the 'landscape' position.  I did my in the 'portrait' position.  I loved that each person in the class was able to express their own style and creativity with this technique.  It was not a 'cookie cutter' class where everyone ended with the same piece. 
 This is our teacher working on her piece. She did one while we were working, stopping every now and then to give us more directions.  She almost completed her piece that day but she is the expert.
 This is the example that we were working off.  The sky and sunset, the water and then the beach/shore.  She put a lot of different colors in the sky and sunset.  I liked that look.  Jessica was doing the same thing but she was looking at a different sunset picture and was making hers more realistic. 
 This is another example of the artists work.  She sure is a great artist. 
 This is Jessica's piece at the end of the day.  I think it is fantastic.  She did some of her free motion quilting to secure the little pieces but had some trouble with her thread breaking and didn't finish it.  She will finish it at home.  She did a great job with the sunset and if you make the picture bigger on your computer, you can see the reflection of the sun in the water on the right side.  It is subtle but a very good touch.  The artist in her emerged with this work. 
 This is my piece at the end of the day.  I was able to get all my free motion quilting done and start to put my trees on.  I still have a lot of work to do to put on the finishing touches of leaves and grass but it is looking good so far.  You can see that my sunset is more abstract.  I liked that look too.  I put a lot more little pieces in the sky and then I used some bigger pieces to finish it up with the water and the ground.  The leaves and grasses will improve the overall look so I will post a complete picture when I finish.  I will make sure that Jessica sends me one so I can post hers too when she finishes. 
 We came home from our class exhausted from the mental challenge of working on something new.  We relaxed for a short time, Jessica enjoyed a beer and then we were off again.  Jessica and I made a brief stop at the Gap Outlet store to look for some new jeans.  She successfully found a new pair of jeans and a dress.  The day was complete and now on to the evening activities. 

The next set of pictures is in reverse order.  I didn't realize it until I had uploaded a couple of pictures and am unable to know how to fix it so this is a backwards story of pictures.
Jessica and I drove down to Big Rapids together. Bud drove down on his own.  Eva drove up from Grand Rapids and Leo drove over from Clare. I am so glad that after all these years we have figured how to meet somewhere in between for everyone and have a dinner together now and then.  It is about an hour drive for everyone.
Eva had a picture made for Leo.  This is like the one that she had made for me at Christmas, a painting on canvas.  This is a picture of Garrick on a motorcycle. It is so cute.  Josh sent her the picture and she had it put on the canvas.  I think this is such a creative and lasting gift.  Leo loved it. 
This is a little better picture of the picture.  Cute little guy and he looks a lot like Josh when he was young.  
My gifts were all food.  That's what happens when you get old and we can't think of anything to buy for you.  I'm not as creative as Eva in thinking up gifts so I gave him some famous TC beef jerky, a loaf of his favorite bread from our bakery, some pasties from a shop up here and some homemade soup.
Jessica gave him some of her jam.  He returned the jars at Christmas so she figured that he might want more.  I hope he had toast and jam for breakfast today. 
This is a great shot of Eva and Leo.  I just had to include it.  Aren't they cute.
Here we have the whole gang. It was a great way to end a great day.  I LOVE spending time with my family. It was SO,  SO,  SO , much fun to take the class with Jessica.  I loved sharing that experience with her.  It was also great to see Eva and Leo and help him celebrate his birthday.  I am blessed to have such a wonderful family and to be able to spend time with them. 
For those of you in my family that weren't able to join us, I hope you enjoyed a walk through my weekend and sharing the family time with me. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter has arrived in Northern Michigan

     Well, it is a little late in the season but we did get some snow last night.  The schools were closed today in most areas of N. Michigan although I do think that in the 'old days' of working in Kingsley this wouldn't have been a snow day.  I have driven to work MANY days in weather worse than this but you know that young kids now days are a little softer and the administrators are reluctant to stick their neck out like the one I had for many years.
     The snow is pretty on the trees although I wish that it had waited a few days.  This afternoon/evening Jessica is driving up from Grand Rapids to join me taking a quilting class.  I am really looking forward to learning this technique.  The lady that is teaching the class (Ann Loveless) is quite famous in the quilting world with her landscape wall hangings that are made from many small pieces of fabric stitched on a backing.  I posted a picture a while ago of the wall hanging that Jessica and I hope to reproduce along with learning the technique.  This is the first "official' class that Jessica has taken.  She is a 'self-taught' artist.  I think it will be GREAT fun to do this together so keep her in your thoughts this afternoon as she travels north.  May the travel Gods be with her and keep me from worrying too much.  It stopped snowing here a while ago so we aren't getting any new snow.  I really think that we only got about 3-4 inches last night anyway.  Bud said that it was a little slippery under the snow but the plows are out and they are putting salt on the highways.  Most of her travels are on the highway so she should be fine.  You can tell that I am trying to talk myself into not worrying.  I hope it works.  I am also trying not to think that today is Friday the 13th.
     Jessica's visit will be a bit short because we have arranged to meet Leo in Big Rapids tomorrow night for his birthday dinner.  He is  turning 56 today.  See, he was born on Friday the 13th and that wasn't unlucky for me so my luck should hold out. 
     Enough rambling and worrying.  I hope you have a great weekend and you can look forward to LOTS of pictures of Jessica and me working tomorrow.  I am excited to spend this time with her and produce a beautiful picture.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I live for great literature

I have been extremely blessed these past few months.  I have been reading some very good literature.  I read mostly current literature so the bookstore loves me. I know that it is an expensive habit and I should try the library more but I seem to have difficulty finding books that move me in the library.  Anyway, here is my latest list:
  •  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern- a mystical book full of surprises
  •   Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks- I love her writing and this is a great book about the early history of Cape Cod. It was a gift from Sara. 
  •  The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh- A touching story about trust and love from the point of view of a former foster child that has 'aged out' of the system.
  • Major Pittegrew's Last Stand- I don't have my book right now so don't know author but it is a great funny book about love and growing older.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog, again I lent out my book but it is a terrific story of a young girl in Paris. 
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer-this is my latest and I am not done with it yet but it is a very powerful story about a boy whose father died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. It has just been made into a movie staring Tom Hanks. I want to read more books by this author. 
So that is my latest list of recommendations.  I have a few books left on my shelf to read yet.  My next one is called Still Alice which Sara and Leo also gave me for Christmas.  I feel blessed with so much good literature in my life, the opportunity to read when ever I wish and the joy of exploring the world of good books.  That is a lot to be thankful for.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A quiet week here in N. Michigan

     You would think that if I couldn't think of something to blog about I would just keep quiet but not so.  I just feel compelled to write and tell you the drivel in my life so if you don't want to know the mundane things in my life, just close this out and go do something useful. 
     The new year has arrived and I am full of resolutions to break.  My first one is to drink less Ruby Red Diet Squirt.  Notice that I didn't decide to go 'cold turkey'.  I don't think I have the will power for that move.  SO, I decided to take it slowly.  I drink water until lunch time.  I am sitting here at my computer with a large glass of ice water.  It is hard to wait until noon but so far I have managed a few days. 
     My second resolution is to stay away from sugar as much as possible.  I love sweets and again I didn't say that I would completely go off all 'carbs' and sugars.  I am just resisting more.  That one is actually easier to accomplish than the Diet Squirt.
     Finally, I am continuing something that I started before the New Year, I am trying to walk about a mile or two at least 4 days a week.  That one is hard too but Bud has joined me with that resolution so that makes it easier.  We walk in the evening if he gets home early enough and he has been making an effort to get home before dark. 
    All of my resolutions are health related with the hope that combined I will lose some 20-30 pounds that seemed to have accumulated 'post-menapause'.  I am thinking of trying to eat vegetarian at least one night a week too.   I think that would be healthy for me and good for the world. 
     I am back volunteering at the school twice a week although they didn't have school on Tuesday because of the snow.  I really enjoy working with Molly and the children in her room.  They made me cards before Christmas and I just received them yesterday.  It is cute to read them and enjoy their little notes.  I know that Molly probably 'prompted' them on what to say but they are still cute. She has a nice class and they have come to depend on me being there twice a week. 
    Yes, we did get some snow this past week. (You know I am running out of things to blog about when I start giving the weather report.) It was a nice snow but it has been in the low 40s yesterday and today so it is melting fast.  This is the winter that didn't happen.
     I am continuing to work on my sewing room.  Jessica and I talked about that last night. She is attempting to reorganize too.  I bought a large clear tub yesterday so some things will go in there.  I can only work on the reorganizing for so long and then I must get out a project.  Right now I am making a quilt to send to the family that bought the farm.  They had a new baby girl in November, the day before Eva's birthday.  I think that is kind of unusual, the first baby in that family is a girl and she was born close to Eva's birthday.  Do you think they will go on to have 4 kids just like Mom and Dad?  Probably not but I thought I would make a little quilt and send it to them  I am using up some of those famous scraps that I have in my sewing room so it is serving two purposes. 
   Well, I have managed to ramble on quite a bit about myself.  If you made it this far, I commend you.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My 'Handyman' helped me with my craft room

OK,OK, This does look a bit corney.  Bud was looking around in his closet and found several pairs of suspenders.  I really don't know why he has 3 pairs of suspenders but they sure do look strange.  I put this picture up, hoping to shame him into throwing them away.  If anyone needs a pair of red suspenders, please let me know.  I would be GLAD to send a pair to you.  First come, first serve though so get your order in soon.  You too can look this cool while helping someone with their construction chorese or for what ever activity you wish.  Maybe someone will even find them sexy, but not me. 

 In my previous post I said that I needed to get to organizing my craft room.  I had all the materials, I just needed to paint and get help putting some things up.  I painted the supports last week with some flat black paint and yesterday Bud offered to help me put the shelves up.  I even had the shelves from Bud's mother's place so nothing to buy here.  I agonized a bit over the arrangement of the shelves but decided to put them one above the other right behind my sewing desk.  As you can see, "I" didn't actually put them up.  It is a good to have a man with suspenders around to help.  (He told me later that he had the suspenders on under the shirt but that he needs them to hold up that pair of pants.  The belt doesn't do the job.)
 Two shelves are now installed.  They look pretty good.
I put a few things on the shelves and they look better.  I think it looks a little cluttered but I will work on it after I get other things up. 

Today I went back to the sewing room to work on the hard stuff, cleaning and sorting and arranging my VAST supply of fabric.  I don't know how it grows in that room.  I really tried this past year to make a couple of projects from things in my 'stash' and I thought I had decreased my unused fabric supply by quite a bit but NOT SO.  Of course I remember that as soon as I decreased my stash, I went out and picked up a few more choice pieces.  I am available to make things for family and friends as long as you come over and check out my stash.  It is an addiction and I don't know how to curb it.  Do you think there is a 12 step program for quilters?

I still have a lot more work to do in that room but I need to go out and buy some storage tubs for somethings so I will continue to work and update you on my progress.