Friday, May 28, 2010

One thoughtful moment

DH and I are heading north tomorrow morning - early - to attend the wedding on Sunday of a dear friend's son.  It's an outdoor wedding somewhere nestled in the Sonoma Wine Country.  Should be lovely.

I'm not crazy about traveling on Memorial Day weekend, but there was never a doubt that we would attend this wedding.  Jonny, the groom, has been a part of our lives since the day his sister and our daughter were born within hours of one another.  Our families and our lives have been intertwined ever since.  We look forward to meeting Amy, the girl Jonny has chosen to share his life.  She must be extra special to have stolen Jonny's heart!

As we head off to this most happy occasion, I promise myself that I will take at least one thoughtful moment to say a silent "thank you" to the men and women who have fought and died over the years to protect our country, our freedoms, and our future.  This is not a time to be partisan.  This is simply a time to be grateful for their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their families.

As you watch parades, hang the flag, start the barbecue, I hope you, too, will take one thoughtful moment to remember those whose lives were shortened by the anguish of war.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I had to hear it to believe it

Today was errand day for me so I spent lots of time in the car listening to NPR this afternoon.  On one of the afternoon shows, The World (which is actually produced as part of the PRI network - Public Radio International), I heard a story that made me laugh so hard I almost pulled off the road!  Did you know that there is a United States Lawn Mower Racing Association?  Otherwise known as, Let's Mow.  Before this afternoon, I did not know it either.

If you have the ability to download podcasts in MP3 format, give this one a try.  I guarantee that it'll give you a few laughs and lighten your day.

I hope Bob Cleveland gets to defend his title.  His sense of humor, delightful accent, and playfulness demand it.

Have fun!

An "ah-ha" moment

I belong to several Yahoo groups about sewing, quilting, machine embroidery, Bernina sewing machines, etc.  They are a great resource.  The members are generous with their time as well as with their knowledge.  Someone is always posting a hint, a new must-have notion, best prices on supplies, etc.  What I like best about belonging to these groups is the response I get when I have a problem.  Simply post your question or problem or dilemma, click the send button, and voilá - your question has bounced around the world in record time.  I usually hear from someone within minutes.  Answers come from Australia, Texas, the United Kingdom, Georgia - you never know!  Fun, fun, fun.

A few weeks ago, a member of one of my groups posted about using her Bernina walking foot in a surefire way for stitching in the ditch.  Here's a link to her blog post where she describes this method.  Susan posts often on our Bernina group and has lots of great information on her blog.  Worth a bit of your time to scan through her older posts.

I tried this method over the weekend on Jack's birthday present, a tablerunner.  Wow!  It worked perfectly.  I quickly e-mailed Susan my gratitude for her post.  Now the trick is to remember this the next time I need to stitch in the ditch!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hang up and govern!

Have you noticed the seasons changing in the last few days?  Yup.  We are officially in the 5th season of the year - the political season!  Tuesday was election day in a handful of states and June 8th is the primary election in California.  Time to stop answering the phone, toss the daily flyers in the trash, and hit the mute button during tv commercials.

Robocalls - sounds like a 4-letter-word to me.  The first time Arnold S. left a voice message on my phone during his campaign eight years ago, I thought it was really cool.  I also loved hearing Bill Clinton's voice - then Hillary's.  The glamour has worn off, however, and I now dread answering the phone during the days leading up to next month's primary election.

I've had calls from Steve Poizner, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Dick Cheney, and countless lesser known politicians hoping to garner my vote.  Then there are the local school board members, judges, firefighters, policemen.  Now, I am very interested in how local school board members, judges, firefighters, and policemen do their jobs.  I am not, however, interested in their politics.

I am also not interested in voting for someone who could not take the time to vote during the last few decades, i.e., both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina.  You can vote by mail, ladies.  It doesn't take a lot of time.  I'm pretty sure these corporate giants had a handful of personal assistants during their years at Ebay and Hewlett-Packard respectively.  I'm also pretty confident that these PAs prepared issue papers for the boss.  How about an issue paper on elections?  Then the boss would only have to read the paper, reach for the mail-in ballot, fill it in over the daily cup of Starbucks, and give it back to the PA to mail.  This process, of course, assumes interest in the political system and the future of our state and country.

Apparently, Ms. Whitman and Ms. Fiorina believe voters will overlook their voting "history" because of their corporate "history."  Not this voter.

Steve Poizner has reportedly spent $22 million of his own money on the campaign - so far.  Meg Whitman's total is reported to be $68 million.  That is not a typo - $68 million.  That is an obscene amount of money to spend on robocalls!

There are countless more worthwhile ways that money such as that could be spent.

Here's a scenario for you.  Imagine gathering 6 petroleum engineers and telling them they have 6 months to design a failsafe mechanism for off-shore drilling platforms that would eliminate the possibility of a disaster such as we are seeing today in the Gulf of Mexico.  We give them $10 million for expenses during the 6 months, probably more than they would need.  Then we tell them that we will pay them each $13.33 million dollars at the end of the 6 months if they are successful.  I think we have a winning proposition here!

Don't insult me by running for office just because you can afford to run.  Don't ask for my vote in your re-election campaign unless you have earned my respect by actually doing your job, doing it well, and have only been in the headlines for your accomplishments, not your misdeeds.

Don't call me.  I really don't want to listen to you.  I want you to do your job.  I'll read about your successes and failures in the newspaper, online, or hear about it on NPR.

Hang up and govern!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Darci's Dress Up Quilt - Doll #10

I had great plans for this dress but some of them did not turn out exactly as I had hoped.  I love the soft pink fabric with the red roses which went very well with the blue fabric from a previous month.  I've had the strung pearls around for awhile just waiting for the right fabric to show up.  I decided to use the pearls on this block as a necklace.  I planned to couch the pearls, but I couldn't get the Bernina to cooperate with the feet that I own.  I thought my #12 foot would work, but apparently the diameter of the pearls was too large.

Someone on my trusty Bernina yahoo group came through and suggested that I try the 59C or 60C foot.  Another foot (or feet) to put on my "must have" list!

There's always another way to do things, right?  I just took a few hand stitches at the first pearl on either side of the necklace to hold it in place.  I'm a bit concerned how this is going to work when I get to the quilting part - but that's months away!  Lots of time to think about it.

If I'm counting right, we have 5 more blocks for this project.  Hope my creativity holds out!  I still want to try one block with pintucking and I might give ruching a try.  Even though I swore I would not do another apron, I'll have to tackle it if I'm going to make both wallhangings somewhat equal for the girls.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Worth every boring minute

In a carefree moment when I first bought my Bernina 640E, I decided to stitch out all the decorative stitches so that I would be able to see an actual stitchout before choosing a stitch.  Sounds like a great idea, right?  It is a great idea.  The only problem is that my implementation was less than satisfactory.  I just grabbed whatever fabric was available, added a bit of spare batting in irregular pieces, and went to town.  I stitched out all the stitches in random lengths paying absolutely no attention to the defaults.  Not a pretty sight.  Although I did refer to them from time to time, they proved less useful than I expected.

One of our LQG members suggested a better approach a couple of months ago.  Here's a picture of one of my sample pages:

This approach is so much more useful and well worth the time and effort (and thread!) that it took.  Here's a mini-tutorial on how to do this:
  • Using a neutral-colored duckcloth, cut rectangles 8 1/2 x 11 inches.
  • If you are lucky enough to own a serger, serge the edges.  Otherwise, finish edges with an overlock stitch.
  • Using an indelible marker, draw a line down the vertical center of the duckcloth.  Draw parallel lines about 1/2 inch on either side of this line.
  • Draw horizontal lines approximately 1/2 inch apart from the top to the bottom of the piece.  (I ended up with 19 rows on my samples, although you might be able to squeeze in 20 rows.)
  • Thread your machine with machine embroidery thread (I used 40wt. rayon) in the top and bobbin weight thread in the bottom.  (I used Superior Thread's The Bottom Line by LIbby Lehman which I absolutely love.)  Tip:  Use a color that you really, really, really like because you will be looking at it for hours!
  • Starting from the very first numbered stitch on your machine, stitch sample stitches from the top row on the left down to the bottom row on the left then from the top row on the righthand column down to the bottom.
  • Number the stitches in the little boxes in the middle after you have stitched each row not before!  I learned this the hard way.  My manual said I had a certain stitch.  However, when I went to stitch it out, it was not on my machine.  I assume that, for some reason, Bernina deleted it from later editions of the 640 and did not reprint the manual.
  • You will not need to stabilize this project since the duckcloth is pretty solid.  If you choose to use a lighter weight fabric, use stabilizer!
  • I chose to stitch out each group of stitches separately.  In other words, I started a new piece of duckcloth for the 400s, another for the 600s, the quilting stitches are on a separate piece, the practical stitches on another, etc.  You'll use up more sheets this way, but it seemed to make better sense to me.
  • Place each individual sheet of duckcloth into a plastic page protector and put in 3-ring binder.  Voila!  You have instant access to the way your decorative stitches really look when stitched out.
If you are like me, you will be amazed at how some of these stitches look when actually stitched out.  They bear no resemblance to the black and white photos in your manual!  They also bear no resemblance to the graphics on your sewing machine screen.  Also, size does matter.  Some stitches that looked small in my manual actually stitched out much larger than I would have guessed.  Stitches that I thought I would never use caught my eye and are destined for future projects.

So, get something good on the tv in your sewing room, listen to a book on tape, or put a couple of CDs in and stitch away!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Why me?

Woke up this morning to DH's announcement that there were stains on the carpet in his office!  We have no idea how the stains got there (hmmmm ....), but there are definitely 4 nice round stains that look very much like blood.  We've done a full body check on DH and cannot find evidence.  No doubt, though, that HE DID IT!

Fortunately, I was able to get the stains out.  Whew!  After the expense and ruckus of the carpet cleaning, I sure didn't want to call those guys back.

Hope the rest of the day proves more positive.  I think I'll sew!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Disarray - once again!

We had the carpets cleaned this morning.  It was way overdue .... when I still see coffee stains on the carpet after the vacuuming and spot cleaning, I know it is time to bite the bullet and call the professionals in.

Unfortunately, this means moving everything out of the bedroom and guest room, which also doubles as DH's office.  So the other rooms in the house are chock full of furniture that shouldn't be there and we do not have access to all of our STUFF!  We tried to anticipate needs, but you can't think of everything.  So DH went to the pool this afternoon, came home and took a shower in the guest bathroom, then realized he would have to walk across the "damp" carpet to get to his toiletries!  I decided to research European temperatures in September in anticipation of our big trip then realized that all the travel books were in the "damp" guest room!  Ah, ha!  I still had access to the Internet even if DH did not have access to his deodorant.

Hopefully, we will put the house back in order tomorrow and both of us will feel more relaxed.  What is it about firstborns?  We don't take to change or disorder very easily.

The good news is that September temperatures in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Switzerland do not invite swimming.  Yippee!  No bathing suit is going into the luggage .... doing the Happy Dance!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Darci's Dress Up Quilt - Doll #9

I'm still working diligently on the doll dresses.  I really do not want to fall behind on this project because I know I will never, ever, ever catch up!  So, here's the latest and greatest from my designer brain.  I do like the contrast between the green floral print (great choice, Ildiko) and the graphic yellow and white.  But what really makes this dress special is the little bug pin!  I found this pin in a new shop in Old Town Temecula called The Wool Lady.  She specializes in hand embroidery, ribbon embroidery, and wonderful yarns and threads, and also has an artist who designs and makes one-of-a-kind ceramic buttons.  When I saw this bee button a couple of weeks ago, I knew it had to be part of the doll dress quilt.  Don't you agree that this is just perfect on the yellow?
I just realized that with the closeup you can see my machine buttonhole stitches.  I'm getting better, don't you think?  Today, I have been working on a birthday project for Jackson, my soon-to-be-three-year-old grandson.  Hmmmmm .... my satin stitch applique is not looking good on his present!  I wish I had started this newest project with the machine buttonhole stitch that (1) I enjoy doing and (2) I seem to do well.  I doubt if Jackson will realize that my satin stitching isn't quite perfect. As long as we have cake and candles and singing and presents, Jackson will have a great time at the party!  I'm not even sure that I'll be able to finish his project before his birthday.  So, it might be a present for his 3rd birthday, or his 4th, or definitely by his 5th!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

We spent the day yesterday with our family at National Train Day in Los Angeles.  The grandkids had a great time exploring Union Station and Olvera Street.  All 3 of them were so well behaved that we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at a Mexican restaurant on Olvera Street.

So, today, it's just me and DH.  We've decided to spruce up our two outside benches.  They are in need of some TLC to get ready for the summer season.

Give yourself a treat today and listen to an NPR story that I heard on Weekend Edition Sunday.  Some of NPR's broadcasters speak about their moms as only great broadcasters can do.  You will laugh, you will cry, and you will feel some heartfelt moments on this special day.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Darci's Dress Up Quilt - Doll #8

After a few weeks of tearing my hair out trying to be creative with this project, I've managed to finish 3 blocks in one week!  Whoo hoo!!  I still haven't tackled the one idea that's been rummaging around in my brain - using pintucks down the front of the bodice.  Maybe when I get June's fabric selections I'll finally get over my fear and give it a go.  My hesitance is that I am using the fusible web technique for putting the appliques down and then doing machine blanket stitching.  I'm concerned about what might happen to the pintucks once the dress piece is ironed onto the block background.  I could, of course, do the prudent thing and cut out the center of the fusible so the dress is not actually fused in the midsection where the pintucks would be.  More thought, obviously, is needed here!

I plan to make two wallhangings from these blocks, one for each of my two granddaughters.  I needed another sleeveless dress so that there would be at least one for each quilt.  I might do more in this style depending on the fabric that is yet to come.

One of our local quilt stores is selling off their heirloom fabric and trims; I bought the trim at 30% off.  I don't really know what it is called (heirloom sewing is somewhere in my future - maybe), but I could weave small ribbon through the openings to get this effect.  I found a matching embellishment in my stash of rubber stamping goodies.  Perfect match!

Monday, May 3, 2010

My small window into a stranger's life

DH and I love antiques and antique shopping.  Although we sometimes have a goal in mind, it is the unexpected treasure that really fills us with joy.  I have long lusted after a wooden spool chest but the price always seems ridiculously high for a decorative item.  I rarely see them under $500 and most are much more than that.  While rummaging through one of our local antique markets last week, I noticed a metal spool chest and zoomed in like a torpedoe.  The price wasn't out of reach ($249), I had the money squirreled away from my Etsy sales, and I thought I could bargain for a better price since it was the last day of the month.

The prudent part of me took hold, so I slept on the idea.  Or, I should say, I tossed and turned on the idea for the night!  By morning, I had convinced myself to go for it.  I called the shop and asked them to contact the dealer to see if he would accept $200.  Whoo hoo!!  Price accepted, and I was off to bring back my new treasure.

I was so excited when I first saw this piece that I did not really appreciate the contents.  It has four glass-fronted drawers; each drawer was chock full of goodies.  I soon realized that this piece was used as someone's sewing box.  I love that idea!  Then and there I decided that I, too, was going to use this lovely piece as part of my daily sewing life.

It's hard to tell when this was actually last used by the owner, but it was pretty dirty.  I doubt that a seamstress would allow her possessions to get in such a state.  I surmised that this chest has been in someone's garage or someone's antique store for quite awhile.  As I carefully removed all of the items from the drawers so that my wonderful DH could clean this baby, I realized that I was uncovering pieces of another person's life.

The top drawer held only thread - silk thread!  Manufacturers I've never heard of:  Champion, Belding Hemingway, Corticelli.  Silk thread is expensive, so I decided that the seamstress was not just mending and making doll blankets!  This was a person who loved quality in her craft.  Did she do alterations on expensive clothing?  Did she make designer fashions for herself?  Did she create beautiful appliqued quilts with tiny, tiny stitches?

As I worked down into the next drawer, I found crochet needles, zippers, several hemmer feet, hat pins!  A bobby pin - that reminded me instantly of my own mom who thought bobby pins were the best invention since the wheel.  What would I find next?

Scattered throughout the 3rd and 4th drawers were plastic pill bottles (snap on caps - nothing childproof back then) from a Rexall drugstore filled with various items.  Fabric-covered buttons, small white buttons, pink sequins, pearls, small metal "coins" with a punched hole for sewing.  Costumes!  Maybe my seamstress worked on costumes!

Eureka!  Tucked at the back of the third drawer were two more pill bottles.  This time, however, the prescription paper was still in the bottle.  Lydia Nicklesen had a prescription filled at the Rexall Drugstore in Montebello, California in November 1959.  The second bottle was for Aron Nicklesen in 1966.  If Mrs. Nicklesen was sewing in 1959, she would most likely be in my parents' generation - the Greatest Generation - those who lived through the depression and were in the prime of life during World War II.  No wonder all the bits and pieces from her sewing life were saved in these little bottles.  No one from the depression era ever throws out a single thing without a fight!

More odds and ends:
  • A sewing machine lightbulb
  • A penny
  • Tailor's chalk kept in a small box marked "Helena Rubinstein, Apple Blossom Time Perfume Purse Flacon"
  • Two small boxes of matches carefully covered in yellow and green felt and decorated with tiny metal shells - perhaps a gift from a child?
  • A bandaid marked Long John No. 100 Adhesive Bandage
  • A box of glass head pins from K-Mart - 61cents!!!!
  • A receipt from the Montebello Sewing Center (a Singer approved dealer)
  • A tiny plastic camel - did a grandchild come to play in grandma's sewing room?
I'm going to keep some of Mrs. Nicklesen's things in her sewing kit along with mine.  I want to remember that someone else used this chest as part of her creative life.  Glass head pins have been on my "to buy" list for quite awhile.  I'm going to use the ones from K-Mart.  Thank you, Mrs. Nicklesen, for your pins -- and for sharing a bit of your life with me.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Getting ready for next Easter - Take Two!

Why do we crafters always think we can get more done than is humanly possible?  We set deadlines for ourselves that are far from reasonable and then stress out trying to meet them.  I wonder if male crafters do the same thing to themselves?  Maybe it's more gender related than hobby related.  Women just think they can do the impossible on a regular basis.

About a month before Easter, this Easter, I came across an adorable pattern on the Internet for Easter placemats.  No question about it - these just had to be made for my 3 grandchildren.  How much time could 3 placemats take?  A few days later, some friends and I were quilt shop hopping and the perfect fabric appeared.  Destiny was at work, I was certain.  These placemats would go together in a jiffy and be part of the Easter gift for the kidlets.

I should know myself by now.  I am not a speed sewer!  I like to take my time, enjoy the process, and refrain from making mistakes that cannot be rectified.  (That last part is really why I go so slow; inevitably, I make HUGE mistakes if I take shortcuts or rush the process.)  Among other things going on which were important last month, but which I can't remember now, I washed and ironed the fabric and proceeded to cut out the pattern pieces and start sewing.  I noticed right away that I wasn't going to have enough fabric for binding.  Not an insurmountable problem.  These are for kids, right?  They wouldn't care if the binding was different on each placemat.  In fact, my DD would probably just use the different binding to identify whose placemat was whose.  And, after DD throws the placemats into the wash along with towels, sheets, sweatshirts, and sox, they'll all look the same anyway!

Got them put together, machine blanket stitched the appliques, made my quilt sandwiches, then the panic set in.  How to quilt?  Looking at the calendar and the number of days left until Easter should have told me to just channel or grid quilt these babies.  Being the obsessive-compulsive-Virgo-perfectionist that I am, I of course decided to free-motion quilt!  Ta da - more stress!

I marked my chosen design on the first two placemats and did fairly well.  So well, in fact, that I decided to just wing it for the last two placemats.  I really felt comfortable by that time doing the quilting.  I think I'm going to enjoy free motion quilting more and more.  I do much better with some kind of markings, but progress was made.  Guess all those who advise you to "practice, practice, practice" really know what they are talking about.

Love the bunny faces, don't you?  I used fabric markers to color in the details rather than hand embroidery.  The carrot is open at the top so that silverware can be slipped in or a napkin.

By the time I was ready to figure out how to bind all four placemats, I realized these were never going to make it to the Easter 2010 table.  Sigh.

You can see a little bit of my quilting on this closeup.  Not ready for prime time, yet, but at least I can tell that it's a flower!

Now if I can just find a place to store these so that I'll remember them for Easter 2011!