Monday, May 31, 2010

Clearing the Decks

Once again I'm in the process of clearing the decks so I can finish my little cherry quilt.  It's nearly there....but, there are a few things I have to take care of before I can finish it.  Isn't that just the way it goes!

First of all, I needed to send my Mojo Doll to Quilter's Home Magazine to arrive before June 5th.  Fortunately, I'm in California so it shouldn't take long to get there, but I'm always one for giving things plenty of time.  So, yesterday afternoon I decided to package her up for her trip.

Now, those of you who don't know me well would assume that I'd just put her in a box with some tissue and send her on her way.  Not!

No, I'm too out-there insane to do that.  My years of working in the event industry doing presentations have made it impossible for me to do things the normal way.  At least this time I didn't do any pop-ups!
So above is the cover of the box with my cute label.  When you open it you see a piece of printed foamcore that looks like a suitcase, (at least that's the plan), along with Mojo Marge's passport.  Now this does sound like it would take forever but I did a suitcase lid with labels for a Ratatouille presentation a few years ago so I already had done some research on backgrounds and such.  I also did a world traveler presentation about a year ago in which the entire proposal was put into a giant "passport."  So, I already had the backgrounds, and the passport stamps for the interior.  Half the work in this presentation biz is research!

When you lift the lid there's Marge in all her glory!  At least the Graphic Design Side.  I put it forward because she has her eyes wide open.  The quilting side is a lot mellower, and when I tried her both ways I liked this one better.  Besides, it works well since I tied her into the box with some "create" printed ribbon.

Her space is split in half design wise because that's me, trying to do at least two things at once!  The underside of the lid has the info they asked me to send along.  All in all I'm pleased with the result, at least I know Marge will arrive in style!

Whew!  That's one thing off my list!  Now I need to finish 13 DVDs for the baseball party, which isn't until the 12th, (yippee!).  However, as usual, I made more work for myself because I decided to take the photos of each boy I was going to burn on a disc for the parents and make it into a slideshow with music.  So, now I'm doing 13 separate 4 minute shows.  I just had to do it when I discovered the Marc Cohn song, "The Things We've Handed Down."  It was so perfect for how we all feel about our 12 year old boys.  I know the moms will love it but the dads will probably roll their eyes.  All I have to say is that I've made 10 of the thirteen and cried through everyone, and these aren't even my kids!

Oh, and a quick injury update.  I think I may have mentioned that my son got the cast off his wrist.  Typical kid, healed in a couple of weeks!  Geez, if it was me....I don't even want to think about it!  Of course I've had my own traumas.  Last Sunday I was stung twice by an African Honey Bee.  It hurt like crazy but I thought it was fine until Thursday night when it started to itch and by Friday night I had a full blown infection.  I'm OK now, but what a pain, (in more ways than one!).

Enough whining, I've got to finish putting the beads on the cherry quilt.  I'll try to post tomorrow. 

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mojo Marge Goes on a Trip

Ok, here I go again!  Making apologies for not posting more often.  As I said before it's right before the end of school and everything is crazy.  Baseball is finally over, (we lost our first playoff game), and today was the last final.  We're coming up on a 4 day weekend so that should be fun, and hopefully not so hectic so I can get more posts done!  Whenever I suspect things spinning out of control I try to set up a few posts in advance, but I wasn't able to this time around, what with broken hands, baseball games, and car crashes.  I really need to get a less exciting life!

Anyway, today I got an email from Melissa at Quilter's Home that they received so many great pictures of Mojo dolls that they want everyone to send theirs in to be checked out in person.  I got the impression that if you send yours in it will probably be published.  We'll see!

Also, remember my last post.....oh, so very long ago?  Well, I did get inspired and over the weekend was able to put together a small quilt with the cherry squares.  I'm in the process of burning all of the DVDs for the baseball team so while they're burning, I've been stitching.  I hope to finish it soon so I can post pictures. 

Well, that's it for tonight.  I just printed the medical forms for my son's football team, (yes, it never ends!), so I have to fill them out before my husband takes him to get his physical.  More fun for me!  Woo Hoo!

I'll post soon, I promise!  (yeah, really...)

Happy Stitching!


Friday, May 21, 2010

Be There and Be Square!

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days.  It's those last couple of weeks of school and you Moms know how that goes.  Everything is crammed into a short period of time, and with band concerts, open houses, and baseball's just a little crazy around here!

My son had his hard cast put on on Wednesday and was happily surprised to discover that they'd moved his fingers just enough that he was able to hold his trumpet and play in the Spring band concert.  He stood out with his bright green cast, but they were glad to have him as he's the loudest and most on-key trumpet player they have in the 6th grade band.  It was huge for him as he's been feeling down about not being able to play in the baseball playoffs, although he does help out in the dugout and does what he can for the team.

Getting back to quilting.  I've been in a bit of a quandry as to what topics to discuss.  Lately I've been in major menopausal cranky mode, (there is a reason this blog is called "The Cranky Quilter"!), so every idea I come up with I'm able to discount for one reason or another.  Today I decided to go online and reconnect with other quilters in the various forums.  Sometimes I need a jolt of inspiration and I got one!

On someone was wondering how to use the preprinted squares she had.  I'm assuming they were the kind of panel where the squares are sooooo cute, but have no seam allowance to speak of.  This is a a real pain in the you know what!

I decided to do a quick tutorial on how I handle the issue of using those squares and keeping them "square."  In this case since it's cherry season out here I decided to make a quilt square out of the cherry block.  Now, I could very easily have just cut a larger seam allowance by cutting into the other motifs on this fabric.  However, I wanted to show how to get maximum usage out of all the squares, particularly in a preprinted panel.

I cut out the motif as if it were part of a panel.  My next step is to attach it to a piece of thin cotton fabric.  I usually do this with lightweight fusible web, although you can baste it if you want to.  The fabric piece should be at least 1" wider than you want the finished piece to be.  So, if you want a 6" square your fabric piece should be at least 7" square.  There's no need to cut this piece perfectly. This technique is very similar to foundation paper piecing but I don't recommend trying to do this on paper.  The main thing is that the center square needs to be stable, if there's any shifting it won't work.

Now you need to "square" your piece so you can apply sashing.   In this case I decided to do a 1/4 inch seam.  So I put the 1/4 line on the inside of the checkerboard border and marked the outside seam with a pencil.  You need to do this on all four sides, making sure that you are square all the way around.  You may have to fudge it a little but make sure that any fudging you do is going to be on the inside of the cherry image not on the checkerboard area.  You won't notice a slight deviation in the interior but you will notice little rectangles of white around the edges.

This is what your finished marked piece should look like.  Notice that the outside markings don't always look parallel to the checkerboard border, that's because the checkerboard border wasn't square!  Now you can add the sashing.  In this case I decided I wanted 1" sashing around the outside so I cut strips 1.5" wide and the width of the finished piece. 

I doesn't matter which side you start on, just make sure you're consistent with all of your pieces.  I trim the first piece so it hangs over a little at the top and bottom of my marked square.  A good rule is that if you have to overlap, do it on the edge that will be outside, not on the edge that will be hidden by a seam.  You're always better off to have your excess where you might need it later!

The first piece has been stitched on.  First I press then I take out my ruler and extend the line I already drew.  This way I can be sure that I continue to be square.  If you'd like you can trim off the excess fabric using your rotary cutter.  For a finished piece I would probably take that step but I'm not worrying about it here.

Continue adding your sashing strips, pressing, and extending your markings.  Double check that you are square after each seam and press.  If you have a problem you want to solve it before you stitch any more.

Here's the piece before trimming.  See how the center is squared and not showing any white checkerboard pieces around the edges.  When you have a motif that goes almost to the edge or overlaps the borders as this one does you're going to have some of the pattern cut off.  You can only minimize this problem so much, however, I like how it looks.

If I'm making multiple square I wait until I'm completely finished before trimming them.  The fabric on the bottom stablizes them and keeps them from fraying or getting out of shape.  When I trim I measure from the inside of each sashing piece, making sure that in this case I have 1 1/4" all the way around.  I also double check again for square.  If you have a minor deviation you can probably resolve it with a little pressing.  I've found that if I take the time to do each step correctly I rarely ever have a problem.

If you are going to be doing a bunch of these I recommend doing them assembly line style.  You can apply your fusible web to the entire piece and cut them out.  Then apply them all to the background fabric, do the marking, and sew the strips, press, then sew and press until you're finished.  I've made little quilts like this in an afternoon.  They're a simple project and once you get the hang of it you'll be more prone to pick up those panels and have some fun.

I'm really liking how this turned out, maybe I'll make a little quilt myself!

Happy Stitching!


Monday, May 17, 2010

The Genesis of an Idea

I love to find quilting ideas in unexpected places.  I don't usually make all of the quilts I see but it's a great exercise for the old brain cells to see how a quilt block might be made out of a "found' image.

This particular image I found around the Holidays when I was making a birthday gift for a friend of ours.  He loves Genesis and Phil Collins, (there's a story there but we don't need to go into it here....).  Anyway, the last two years I've given him a gift of a Genesis album cover that looks like the real thing but is changed up in a way that reflects his interests.  This year I had the lady in front holding a baseball bat, and the lady behind kicking a soccer ball, (he's a youth sports coach). 

Anyway, while going through some images in my computer I came across this Genesis cover.  If you look at it kind of squinty eyed, (or in my case, without my glasses), you can see the basic geometric images.  I decided to play aound with it and see what I could come up with.

Now, I have a Photoshop Elements which is a great program for many uses.  It's actually pretty easy to use and you can pick up an older version for under $40 bucks online.  What I love about it is that it gives me a quick and easy way to see if an image will work as a quilt block.

The first thing I did was manipulate the image on a larger page. I discovered that if you lay it out this way the pattern was kind of interesting.  So, I merged the layers and converted the image to black and white with lots of contrast.

When you do this you see the image a little more clearly in terms of what the quilt block might actually look like.  I like the way the black "squares" show up on each block, I'm picturing making those "squares" a contrasting color for a bold look.

By taking the image and roughly coloring in the shapes I can get a good idea of how this quilt would look in a color combo I'm considering.  In this case, yellow, with green and purple.


It looks pretty good doesn't it?  I can imagine this pattern done in solids like what i see here, or as a scrap quilt with lights and darks and bright flashes of color in the squares.  Of course I realize that the shape of the "rays" might be difficult to piece as all the seams would end up in the same spot so I would probably make the rays larger and have fewer of them in the final pattern.  I'll have to play with this pattern in my EQ software to see what I can come up with.

Now for those of you who don't have a computer, you can do the same thing by roughly tracing your image and creating a block on some graph paper.  Then you can make copies of the block and lay them out to see which way works best.  I've drawn up many a block on graph paper with colored pencils before we even had home computers.

I'd love to see if you can come up with some cool quilt designs in your day-to-day life.  It's a great exercise to try to train your eye to spot them.  As I waited with my son at the doctor's office I noticed a great pattern in the ceiling tiles, I wish I'd had my notebook with me to record it.  I need to make sure I have it with me all the time.  Oh well, I'll be there again on Wednesday for the hard cast so I can draw it out then!

Happy Stitching, and Designing!


Sunday, May 16, 2010

She's Back....well, kind of...

Another one of "those" weeks!  Isn't it amazing how these things come in bunches?  Those of you who read my blog regularly know that my husband was in a car accident a couple of weeks ago.  He's doing much better now, we have a new car, and things were getting back to normal. son broke his pinkie finger!

Now, this doesn't seem like a big deal but it's the pinkie on his right hand so it has to be bound to the finger next to it and they both have to be in a cast midway to his elbow.  He's not in a lot of pain, (thank God!), but this injury has put quite a few kinks in our works around here!

It happened when he was playing field hockey at school.  He was tripped by another player and in breaking his fall he jammed his finger into the turf.  It caused a small split right at the base of the finger bone.  Because of this little accident he is going to miss the last two games of the baseball season and the playoffs.  Which did not make his coach happy as he's their main catcher and was just coming on as a pitcher.  Not to mention he finally started hitting again after a slump.  Bummer!

He was also supposed to play in the Spring Band Concert at his school on Wednesday, which won't be happening.  It's kind of hard to play a trumpet with half your hand in a cast.  Of course he's  most upset because his cast might not be off until after the big baseball end of season pool party.  The fact that he won't be able to write well on his finals hasn't fazed him!

I'm also discouraged because I recently realized that my son has a special talent.  He draws great quilt block designs!  I came upon a stash of house and car drawings at his school's open house last Thursday.  All I could see was quilts, quilts, quilts!  I just scanned the above image and will be converting it into a quilt block soon.  I love the quirky nature of the house, and the great trees!  They look like the Giant Sequoias we see when we go camping at Big Trees State Park.  Love them!

Of course, he thinks his drawing skills stink because he can't draw things realistically.  I'm actually jealous because I think his simpler designs are better suited to quilting then the over complicated designs I usually come up with.  This could be the Mother-Son design team match made in heaven. 

It got me thinking about how many other images I've seen lately that might make great quilt designs.  Tomorrow I'll show you a way to turn an unexpected image into a quilt block design.

Unfortunately, my hubby took my digital camera with him on his fishing trip, (got to have proof of those huge trout he's bound to catch!).  So, I'm going to have to figure out a way to do some interesting posts without up-to-date photos. It's a challenge!

Happy Stitching!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Readymade Redo

Like most Moms I carry around a ton of stuff.  I thought it would get easier when he got out of diapers, but even at twelve Mom is still the go-to sherpa at our house.  There are times when I realize that I've got bags over both shoulders, my hands are full and I have something tucked under my shoulder . . . and then I see my healthy hearty son carrying a water bottle.  It makes me crazy!  (And you can bet there's some burden redistribution happening real fast....)

Because I must be ready to carry at all times I love a soft sided oversized bag with wide straps and inside pockets. I suppose I could make quilted handbags for myself, and I have many, but I can't bear to give them the beating that my everyday bag takes.  It spends loads of time on dirty car floors, on the sidelines at various sporting events, not to mention the usual sunscreen, lip balm, and sticky snack messes that seem to always happen when I finally get a bag well broken in.

So, I like to buy inexpensive bags at the chain stores.  I've had great luck with Target as I can usually buy a bag that will get me through a few months for $15 or less.  I'd had my eye on this "pleather" strapped hobo bag for a couple of weeks. It was above my price limit at $19.95 but Mother's Day brought me a bounty of gift cards so I thought, why not splurge?

Of course I couldn't leave well enough alone and remembered some "molas" that I had buried in my applique drawer.  I thought they'd be a perfect and simple embellishment, and it would be easy enough for me to remove them when the bag met it's inevitable end.

The patch on the left is a machine embroidered patch I picked up sometime in the late 80's or early 90's.  The round patch actually dates back to a high school trip to Mexico City in 1976.  It's already seen life on a few different jackets and bags.

Looking at the bag I decided to applique the square piece on the side that had stitching down the middle.  This was because I figured it would be easier to place it squarely as I'd have the center line to work from.  I decided to applique the round piece to the lower right hand of the other side that didn't have the stitching.  I still can't figure out why there was stitching on one side and not the other. . . oh well, works for me!

Of course I blanket stitched these puppies on with contrasting thread and added some beaded embellishment.  Here are the details from the finished bag:

You can see that in this case I decided to run the beads into the center of the design.  I also did some contrasting running stitches around the outside of the bird.  I thought it made it look more "mola" like.
The round real mola looked great with the variegated orange blanket stitching and the beading around the red circle.  I think this looks so cheerful and fun!

Here's one side of the bag finished.  As you can see it's already full of stuff.  I couldn't wait to start using it.

The other side shows the mola in the corner.  I debated over where to put it but decided that I wanted it closer to the edge so it could be easily seen when it's hanging over my shoulder.

I'm so excited about my new bag.  It didn't take long to embellish and now I have something unique.  This is a great way to use quilt squares or pieces of patchwork that you have left over from projects.  A couple of years ago I purchased a great denim bag with leather handles and appliqued a piece of one of my unfinished projects on it as a gift for my mother.  She loved it!  It's like carrying around a piece of art but not so much that you have to be worrying about it all the time.

Next time you're in a discount store take a look at the inexpensive totes and bags with a new eye.  There might just be something you can snazz up for yourself or a friend.

In the meantime,

Happy Stitching!


Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Myth of the "Perfect" Studio

Can you imagine actually living in a place like this?  Whenever I see these kinds of spaces the first thing that comes to my mind is that there's no way someone can live like that.  It takes my family all of 1/2 a second to mess up a room, just by walking into it. 

I can't tell you how many times we've walked into a perfectly neat hotel room or rental home and by the time I've gone from one room to the next I turn around to see chaos.  It just follows me wherever I go! 

The reason I'm writing about this is that I look upon the "perfect" quilting studio the way I look at these rooms.  The ones you see in magazines like "Studios" and "Where Women Create" are so artfully done.  Few piles of papers that need to be gone through, no stray threads on the carpet, no scattering of scraps or piles of uncut fabrics, or, well, just anything that makes you think that real art goes on there.

I'm not disparaging these "studios" at all, just like I don't disparage the beautiful models in the magazines.  They are both victims of "retouching" so that what we think is real isn't really real.  It's discouraging that even the models don't look as good in real life as they do in the magazines, just as I'm sure the studios we see don't look as good when they're being used.

I redid my space a couple of months ago and it's working well for me in some ways but not in others.  It is a lot less messy because I have a place to put everything.  The problem is that my memory's not what it used to be and now I can't remember where I put half of my stuff.  And I thought I was well organized!

My husband and son do use the space now, which is great.  We often spend evenings after dinner up here, hanging out and listening to music or chatting and playing with the dog, (who has 2 beds here, one on the floor and one by the window).  So, from a social standpoint it's been a hit. 

However, I'm not sure how well it's working for me creatively.  As I said, I'm having a hard time remembering where I put things.  The worst is that I have a hesitancy to really get going on creative work because I don't want to mess it up. 

How silly is that?  You create a workspace that intimidates you from working......duh!

I bet that most of the artists whose studios you've seen don't keep them looking like they do in the magazines.  There's no way they could and still do any worthwhile work.  I'm not saying we should be like those poor peole on "Hoarders" but at the same time a little mess can't hurt too much, it's the price we pay for being creative people.

So, on this Mother's Day I'm going to spend a little time creating some artful clutter.  I really need to trash this place!

Happy Stitching!


Friday, May 7, 2010

Quilts Are Like Onions

Sorry I haven't posted in a while.  It's been one of "those" weeks where things have not gone according to plan, and chaos has reigned supreme!  (Not as if any of you know what that's like....)

So, quilting and blogging have taken a third or fourth seat to everything else that's been going on.  My poor hubby is in a lot of pain from his auto accident.  At first they didn't think it was serious but now we're beginning to wonder.  He's one of those "I'm OK" kind of guys but when he allows a couple of women to carry an empty cooler....well, there's something wrong!

So, I was at the doctor's office again this morning and now he's feeling no pain but feeling very fuzzy as the doctor prescribed Vicodin.  Now, I've taken vicodin before when I had a tooth abcess and it does take away pain, but it also made me feel very sleepy, to the point that I couldn't function at all.  He's doing better than I did but he's pretty much confined to quarters, at least until the baseball game tomorrow.

Which is another story altogether!  I volunteered to make a DVD of the team for the boys. Now, I've done this before and I was prepared for it to take some time, but this is insane!  It's so different from the basketball ones I've done.  In the basketball photos there were several kids in each picture so I could get a fairly even distribution easily.  Baseball is so totally different!  Unless they're in the dugout they aren't together and the long shots just aren't very exciting for the parents or the boys.  My husband is the photographer and does a fantastic job, (when he's not on Vicodin!), but it's extremely difficult to get all 13 boys represented equally.  I finally came to the conclusion that all I could do was my best, so I made sure each boy is featured in each section and then just filled in with good photos, regardless of who's in them.  I have the structure of the DVD built and now I'm just filling in placeholders with better pictures.  I can't tell you how many hours I spent working on this thing!  Just a word of warning, don't volunteer for this job unless you have unlimited time and patience.  The photos are great though....

We also found out that the insurance company has decided to "total" our car.  It stinks!  We'd babied that car along for years in hopes of getting at least 200,000 miles out of it and now we have to take the pitiful payout and try to find another car without taking out a huge car loan.  I'm so not happy about this.

Oh, and my son was bullied at school by a kid who used racial slurs.  Just goes to show you how uneducated some people are, he used a slur that didn't even coincide with my son's race.  Go figure!  Anyway, the school was on it immediately and the kid was suspended.  Fortunately, there were witnesses and the school has this zero tolerance policy.  I hope he learned his lesson and won't do that again.  I suppose the only positive thing is that we'd never even heard of the term he used, it's good to be out of touch on what the current racial slurs are!  Yikes!

So, now I can get back to quilting.  I have tons of things in the works but have spent what little time I've had finishing up the quilt I've showed you in recent posts.  Today when I was sitting in the waiting room I was looking at a book I'd pulled off my shelf.  It's called Women of Taste and was published about 10 years ago.

It's a collaboration between women chefs and quilters and was the subject of an exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California in 2000, (see link:  I've been involved in the food industry out here for years and strangely enough knew more of the chefs than the quilters!  It's a great book for inspiration and is still available on Amazon.

While perusing the book it occurred to me that I build quilts in a similar way to the way chefs cook.  There's creating the recipe, selecting the ingredients, prep, then combining everything in a particular sequence.  It made me think of the line from "Shrek" when he says that "Ogres are like Onions, we have layers."

The type of quilting I do requires keeping a layer map in my head.  I think it's why it was so easy for me to get the Photoshop program, I'm used to thinking in layers.

For me to get the effect I want I need to make sure that I don't rush things and that I do them in the proper sequence.  Now I'm just finishing up the first round of quilting.  I call it "stabilizing the sandwich."  It's what I do before I can move on to more intricate applique, and then it's on to the larger embellishments, and then the smaller ones, and then the beading, (unless of course I need to do one of those steps first depending on the design). 

It's crazy but if it isn't done in the proper sequence it won't work out right.  Just like a recipe, or a DVD with 13 players that have to be evenly distributed throughout....

I think you get it!  Anyway, I urge all of you to become aware of your process, of how you work whenever you do anything from changing a diaper to making a souffle.  There's a method to the madness, just as there is in your quilting.

Hope your weekend is great and I have a better week next week!

Oh, and Happy Mother's Day Moms!

Happy Stitching,


Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Great Bead Box!

I'm always looking for great bead/embellishment boxes.  Since I do most of my work while sitting in my recliner I need something that's sturdy and that won't pop open unexpectedly.

I'm a big fan of pill boxes because they have individual lids that pop open and close shut.  However, one problem with most of these is that they can be difficult to open and close easily, especially if you suffer from arthritis or in my case carpal tunnel syndrome.  I find I can still sew with it but opening and closing a lot of my bead boxes can sometimes be a problem.  And let me tell you, the worst thing ever is to open one and have everything fly all over the place.  You'll be finding beads in strange places for years!

The other night I was in Target getting some Motrin for my poor hubby, (the before mentioned "meat" in a car sandwich).  While there I noticed some new pill boxes.  These are called easy open ones and although they are a little pricier than my usual dollar store finds at $3.99 I think this box will be well worth the price for my chair side sewing kit.

What I love about it is that all you have to do is push down on the green edge and the individual box pops open.  It's so much better than having to lift the box and deal with the latch, or in the case of other boxes, hold down a latch on one end to unlock the lids for the whole box.  The box also has more heft than other boxes and has great little latex buttons on the bottom that help hold it in place on a desk or table.  It might be a problem to put in a bag that you're going to be lugging around as other objects near by might open the latches, but for a stationary box I can't think of one that beats it.

I saw online that there's an even larger box with 28 sections which is supposed to be available in the stores.  I didn't see it in my local Target but I'm going to have to keep my eye out for that one! 

I will still continue to use my dollar store finds for my travelling boxes and my long term storage, but this little box has found a permanent home next to my chair!

Oh, and by the way, my hubby's doing fine.  Today has been his worst day yet but it hasn't been as bad as we thought it would be.  Major hassle with rental car, (but that's a post in itself!), and we still haven't found out what's going to happen with our car....but, we're so blessed that he's OK, it's hard to be upset about the rest of it.

Happy Stitching!