Sunday, February 28, 2010


I hated Sundays when I was growing up.  It should have been the best day of the week.  Sunday was my Dad's only day off.  Occasionally, we would have a family outing which was always fun.  But the typical Sunday was boring, boring, boring for a kid. 

My sister and I went to Sunday School until reaching the age where we rebelled and said "no more."  Dad caught up on household fix-it chores in the morning.  Mom made a big Sunday dinner which was served promptly at 2 p.m.  Most weeks, she made a beef roast or baked chicken, mashed potatoes, a fresh veggie, and lots and lots and lots of thick delicious gravy loaded with fat - the kind of gravy no one makes any more because we know better.  If we were truly lucky and Mom was feeling ambitious, she would make her fabulous rice pudding.  It baked in the oven for hours driving us nuts with the aromas of lovely cream, sugar, and cinnamon.  Every half hour, Mom opened the oven door and stirred the pudding so that the thickening layer on the top mixed in with the rest of the pudding.

So why was I so bored?  After dinner, Dad retired to the living room floor to "watch" sports on tv - the only tv in the house.  Within 10 minutes, he would be sound asleep for the remainder of the afternoon.  We weren't allowed to change the channel, though, because Mom reminded us that it was Dad's only day off and he wanted to "watch" sports!  Kids in our neighborhood didn't play together on Sundays; it was considered a family day.  So we were left with homework (yuck), playing together (yuck), reading or listening to 45s.  I love to read, but not for hour after hour after hour!  To a kid, the afternoon seemed endless until 7 p.m. when Lassie came on and we could have a Sunday night snicky snack in front of the tv - a special treat.

Today, I had a great Sunday.  Since DH is off to Carlsbad to work on his dad's house, I had the whole day to myself - to sew, watch the Olympics, read the paper leisurely, and enjoy the quiet!  Well, except for the chatter of the Bernina happily embroidering along ....

Here's what I see when I look up from the Bernina to see the outside world.  It rained all day yesterday, again, but this morning was bright and crisp and clear.  There were birds all over this tree singing merrily.  Spring must be near!  I can't remember the name of this tree (I am among the worst gardeners in the world), but it will soon be covered in pink blooms followed by deep burgundy leaves.  We usually have at least one nest in this tree per season - nothing yet.

I spent the morning finishing up another block for the Darci's Dresses quilt then started on an embroidery project.  Pictures to come!  I have a tv in the sewing room right next to the Bernina, so I've been watching the hockey game since noon.  We're in overtime!  What a great finish to a wonderful Olympics.  You couldn't write a better script.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A good week for UFOs

While waiting for my Bernina to come back from repair, I picked up a hand sewing project that had been idle for awhile.  Have you seen the candle mat patterns from Bareroots?  They are fun to do - good tv projects, perfect for car trips or being without a sewing machine.  One of the patterns (Firecrackers) was supposed to be my vacation project for last summer's vacation.  Hmmmm .... as usual, something got in the way of finishing the project!

So far, I have made the pumpkin, fall leaves, bunnies, and hearts & flowers mats.  My arthritic hands keep me from doing handwork for any length of time, but I enjoy fitting a few minutes in occasionally.  You can make these from wool or wool felt.  I prefer working with the wool (easier on the hands) although it is more expensive.  Many quilt stores carry the patterns and some even have a selection of wool or wool felt.  I stumbled across a website, Woolfelt Central, that carries lots of patterns and gorgeous colors of wool felt.  This could become an obsession!  Or should I say, another obsession?  I haven't bought anything from them yet, but I'm tempted.

With the Bernina out of commission, I spent lots of time finishing up the hearts & flowers mat and getting back to the firecrackers.  Hopefully, I'll finish the firecrackers mat in time for 4th of July 2010.

I also spent some Bernina-less time cutting out dresses for Miss T., the elder, and Miss T., the younger, for Easter gifts.  I just love the Sister Smocks pattern from Indygo Junction and couldn't wait for Tasha to reach a size 1 so I could make matching dresses for the girls.  I bought the pink and green ladybug fabric last year in Utah and picked up a couple of fat quarters at Road to California to complete the outfit.

I found the ladybug fabric in a cute quilt shop in a wonderful little town near St. George, Utah.  It was the end of our vacation, and I had gone just a tad overboard buying fabric and reached the point where the guilt starts to creep in.  That is inevitably the same point when you find fabric that just cannot be passed up.  This little shop had a full bolt of the pink and another full bolt of the same fabric in lime green with pink ladybugs!  Sadly, I walked out of the store without buying any.  Off and on throughout the night, I awoke thinking about how damned cute that fabric was and how perfect it would be for Talia whose favorite color is, of course, PINK!

I convinced my DH to go back to that little town because we missed seeing the bakery (good line, huh?) and rushed back to the quilt shop.  The green bolt was gone - all of it! - but I walked out with 2 yards of the pink.

I had so much fabric left over that I'm making Tasha a coloring bag tote.  I can just imagine Miss T., the elder's, reaction when she realizes that little sister has a PINK coloring bag!  It might get ugly.

And don't you think these outfits must have matching hairbows?  Time to search the web for a good tutorial on making hairbows .....

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Okay - I need to vent a little!

On February 6, I brought my beloved Bernina 640 in for service.  It's really painful to be without a sewing machine when you sew as much as I do - daily.  Of course, I can always get the Featherweight out (and I love her, too), but the Bernina is such a quality machine and has so much going for her .... well, it's a little like taking the Mercedes in for an oil change and driving the '65 Beetle home.  Nothing wrong with the reliable Beetle - it's a great little car - but it doesn't purr like a Mercedes, does it?

I wasn't having any trouble at all with the 640 until I finished an embroidery and noticed that the buttons on the front plate were "recessed" into the machine.  My first thought was, "What the hell have I done?"  But I'm really careful with this machine (it's destined to be the last sewing machine that I own).  I took her in for a checkup right away and was told that I needed a new face plate.  Part ordered - given the ok to keep sewing - waited 3 weeks for the part - then took her in for her repair.

Apparently, once the tech got to see her insides, he decided that I also needed an "S board."  I don't know a lot about what is inside these machines, but I guess an S board is pretty significant.  Interesting that I did not notice any problem at all other than the recessed buttons.  But a new S board was ordered and duly installed - without a phone call to me.

I received a call late Thursday afternoon that my machine was ready to be picked up.  Those of you who are avid sewers will understand .... I dropped everything, bid DH a fond goodbye, and headed out to the dealer to pick up the 640.  So what if dinner is late?  It's all about priorities, isn't it?

Our Oasis Quilt Guild had our first Sew-In on Friday.  I was anxious to participate and to get the 640 up and running again.  As soon as I turned her on, I noticed a problem - the welcome message no longer said, "Hi, Oma" - it had reverted back to the default message!  All stitches saved to my personal program had vanished.  The designs in my embroidery folder were gone.  It all made sense, of course.  If you replace the board, the memory is kaput.  I kept my anger in check with my guild friends, but I was not a happy camper.  Why had no one called from my dealer to tell me that my memory was about to be wiped out?

Now, if the memory/board had failed causing the trip to the tech, I could understand this.  But I took a machine in for what appeared to be a "mechanical" failure.  I was not having a bit of trouble with the computer/board component of the machine.  I really think they should have called me to tell me that (1) the board needed to be replaced and (2) I was going to lose everything saved to the machine - designs and personal stitches.  I would have willingly gone to the shop and written down the specifications of the stitches in order to recreate them on a new board.

Lesson learned.  When next the 640 needs service, I will ask (instruct?) the service technician to alert me to any and all needed repairs, modifications, parts, etc.  I have a personal relationship with this sewing machine - it is part of my daily life.  Now I need to figure out what is missing from this relationship .....

I've already changed the message so it once again says "Hi, Oma."  Makes me feel a bit better already.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Small but impressive

The Valley Quilters Guild of Hemet, California, held their annual quilt show last Friday and Saturday.  I love this show!  It was the first quilt show that I ever attended, and it renewed my interest in quilting after a lull of about 25 years so it has a special place in my heart.  The show is held in the local community center.  The quilts were lovely this year, and there were more vendors than I remember in the past.

I went with several of the gals from my Oasis Quilt Guild.  We had lots of fun, bought a few things (surprise, surprise) and even treated ourselves to lunch on the way home.

My camera batteries died after only a few pictures, unfortunately.  I missed capturing the ribbon winners.  (I think it's time to give up on rechargeable batteries.  They just don't seem to hold a charge very long.)  At least I have a couple to share with you:

I've seen this quilt pattern done a lot, but I really like the way that Marvel Dorf took some of the fish from the border print and appliqued them in the sashing.  Adds just a touch of whimsy!  Must try to remember this in my continuing effort to think outside the box and be more abstract.

I loved this quilt.  My heart is pushing me towards a bargello quilt as well as a landscape quilt, and this one fed my yearning.  The quilter, Marcia Monroe, claimed it was easy.  Hmmmm .... easy enough for me?  Looks like the first challenge is finding the right fabric.  There are oodles of lovely landscape prints around.  I see multiple shopping trips in my future.

The last one I'd like to share with you is entitled "Love This Star" and was made by Gloria McKeehan and machine quilted by January Shaffer.  The picture I took of the whole quilt is pretty awful, but take a look at the stippling done by January.  She must have incredible eyesight!  When I grow up, I want to quilt like this (without 1000 hours of practice ..... hee, hee, hee).

To see more wonderful quilts from this show, visit the SewCalGal blog.  Enjoy!

Oh, yes ... I remember it well!

My daughter took her 3 kids to the pediatrician last Friday.  The girls had regularly scheduled well-baby appointments - a 4-year-old checkup for Talia, and a 1-year-old checkup for Tasha.  DD decided she could handle this appointment on her own including towing almost-3-year-old Jackson along!

Unfortunately, the appointments were running one hour late.  Oh, my.  Remember trying to keep the kids entertained in a doctor's office?  Ain't easy, McGee.  Kudos for DD for even attempting this.

On top of the delay, the 4-year-old was aware that she was having two shots.  When they finally got to see the doctor, she discovered that Tasha may have an eye problem and recommended a visit to a pediatric ophthalmologist.  So, anxiety and anticipation at a 4-year-old level plus a one-hour appointment delay plus a very bored 3-year-old plus a possible eye problem for the 1-year-old (who was definitely ready for a meal, by the way) = phone call to Oma!

The kids will recover from their shots, Tasha's eye problem will most likely be minimal, and my DD will recover from the trauma of holding her oldest daughter down so the nurse could give the second shot.  I wonder, however, if I'll recover from hearing the emotion in my daughter's voice as she described the appointment to me?  Not likely.  Maternal instinct moves through the generations at lightning speed.  My mom used to say, "When your child is hurt, you do the bleeding."  My baby was hurting last Friday, and I got to sing the blues.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It really wasn't about lemonade after all

Had a great weekend with the family.  The Super Bowl game really was "super!"  For a football fan, that is really special.  I was lucky this year.  Even though I wanted the Colts to win (I adore Peyton Manning), who could possibly not be excited about the Saints winning the championship for New Orleans?  Who dat?

Best of all, we celebrated birthdays for our 4-year-old granddaughter, Talia, and our 1-year-old granddaughter, Tasha.  We sang Happy Birthday over and over, we ate until we were stuffed, we opened lots and lots of presents, we ate princess cake and warmed to the excitement of watching Tasha stand on her own!

I gave the paper doll book to Tasha and Talia yesterday morning.  Guess what?  Neither one of them noticed that it wasn't put together exactly according to plan.  Talia played with all the dresses trying different combinations - dresses, hats, shoes.  Tasha put at least a dozen dresses in her mouth!  They loved every minute of it.

Their mom liked it, too.  Pretty special moment watching my daughter play paper dolls with her daughters.  It doesn't get any better than this ....

Friday, February 5, 2010

How to make lemonade!

You know the old saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?"  Well, today was a perfect day for making lemonade.

I was so excited about the paper doll book for my granddaughters (see this post).  I read the directions twice, carefully cut out all the fabric for the pages and for the dolls.  According to the directions, you need at least 13 paper dolls.  If you are lucky (and I wasn't), the fabric in the kit will be cut so that you can get even more paper dolls out of it.  If you get more dolls, you can put more than one doll on a page.

Another timeless saying comes to mind:  Plan ahead!

The cute, cute, cute picture on the kit label shows two dolls on the cover of the fabric book.  I think, "Perfect!"  The gift is for both of my granddaughters, who are sisters, so two dolls makes sense.  I happily start fusing the dolls onto the fabric and get to my Bernina right away to start stitching the buttonhole applique.

The cover came out great, and my machine buttonhole stitching was the best I had ever done.  Wouldn't it be nice to have another page with two girls on it?  They could be sisters, they could be friends, schoolmates or playmates.  Adorable!

You know where this is going, don't you?

I don't have enough dolls for every page in the bookStupid with a capital "S."  How do I keep doing these things?  Arghghghghgh .....  I'm not particularly fast when I sew.  I take my time.  In fact, I think it takes me lots longer to complete projects than the average sewer.  I still make dumb mistakes.  I've been sewing for over 50 years - I shouldn't make these kinds of mistakes!

Thought process on the road to making lemonade:
  1. Run out and try to find some more of this fabric.  Nope - not enough time and it's raining in Southern California.  Don't want to be on the freeways in the rain unless you're going to the hospital to have a baby.
  2. Cut out the remaining pieces of the dolls from the fabric and piece them together trying to match head to body to feet.  Nope - would look horrible!
  3. Wait - there are a few "bodies" left on the fabric!  I could cut out those bodies, print a picture of the grandbabies on printable fabric, cut out their heads, and stitch them to the doll bodies!  Last night, I really liked this idea.  This morning, I said to myself "no, no, no, no - too much like a Grade B horror movie!"  My daughter would kill me .....
  4. Go with two blank pages in the middle of the book.  Who would know it wasn't in the original plan?  Hmmmmm ... nope, that's like a flashing arrow saying, "Look here to see the mistake!"
  5. Cut out all the little flowers on the doll fabric and fuse them to the blank pages in the book.  Tell Talia and Tasha that the paper doll friends are playing in the garden together looking for lemons to make lemonade!
Interestingly enough, I was watching an episode of Fons and Porter's Love of Quilting tv show and they were talking about how many mistakes they make.  They said they think one of the reasons they rose to prominence is because they made more mistakes on camera than anyone else!  These things do happen.

Okay, I'll stop beating myself up.  The goal is not perfection.  The goal is for two little girls to have a special gift from their Oma who loves them best in all the world!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dear Talia ......

Our oldest granddaughter turned 4 today.  Quite a big day for a toddler.  Early this morning, DH and I called her to sing a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday."  She was quite excited to tell us that she was having cake for dinner!

It wasn't too long ago, Christmas actually, that we were told she was "3 and 3/4."  Remember when counting half years, quarter years, and months was terribly important?  Now I'm happy to count in decades and forget the years and months in between ....

Her younger sister, Tasha, will be 1 on February 9.  We'll be going to see the family for Super Bowl Sunday and to have birthday celebrations for the girls.  I started a cute gift today, which I hope to finish in time for the big celebration (that would be birthday cake and candles, not the Vince Lombardi trophy).  It's the paper doll playbook kit from Creating Keepsakes.  So cute!  It took me awhile to understand the directions, but I did manage to get the fabric cut and the fusible fleece fused to the doll clothes.  Tonight I will cut out the doll clothes.  I have every hope of finishing this project between tomorrow and Friday so that I can give it to the birthday girls on Sunday.  I think Talia is the perfect age for paper dolls.  Tasha will most likely just get some fun out of touching and feeling and putting dresses in her mouth!

I remember playing with paper dolls for hours when I was growing up.  The fad then, in the 50s, was to have paper doll kits for the stars of the silver screen.  I had Piper Laurie, June Allyson, Betty Hutton, and a bride set of course.  Inevitably, the tags ripped off the clothes and the cardboard dolls bent at the ankle or the neck making them a bit less fashionable.  But what fun we had!

I hope my granddaughters have as much fun with this doll kit.  At least they won't have to cut out all those paper tags!

Monday, February 1, 2010

And, I actually had fun!

One of my goals for 2010 is to practice free-motion quilting.  My resolution was actually to practice every day.  Gotta fess up - that is not happening.  But I am putting in more practice time than last year, and I think it is paying off.  I'm not getting better yet; I'm just not scared to death to try!  That's progress, don't you agree?

I have about a dozen gorgeous batik panels that I inherited from my MIL.  These panels were among the boxes and boxes of batik clothing that she bought in the 80s.  I'm slowly selling off the clothing in my Etsy shop, but I just can't part with the panels.  The grade of cotton is high, the designs so unusual, and the colors are brilliant.  My heart says that these panels deserve to be worked on by a true artist.  There is such potential to create a beautiful piece when you start with such a unique foundation.  I've been tempted to try my hand at some kind of art quilt, but always turn away at the last minute.  In most areas of my life, I'm a pretty confident gal.  I just don't think of myself as artistic or creative.  The left side of my brain is too dang strong, I guess.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take the smallest panel and make a pillow out of it.  I found a new batik fabric that coordinates fairly well for the back of the pillow.  With trepidation, I got the BSR out of its cocoon, lowered the feed dogs on the old 640, and went full speed ahead.  Well, maybe I got to second gear a couple of times, but mostly I ambled along in first learning more and more with every inch I covered.  And ..... it was a blast!  My poor sister was visiting the weekend I worked on this project, and I kept slipping into the other room to do "just one more row" of outline quilting.

No closeups this time - too embarrassing!  But I'm pretty proud of the result.  I took it to my quilt guild meeting this morning and got a few compliments, so I'm more determined now to get back to regular practicing.