Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mastering the art of avoidance behavior (and Happy New Year!)

The end of the year is here. Time to rejoice that you made it through another productive year, and look forward to the "opportunities" that lie ahead - and the quilts we will complete and cherish! Unfortunately, it is also time to start thinking about taxes and year-end reports, bringing the books up to date, and finding all the documents you need that are buried in the piles at the office. Today, I started that process and haven't made any progress to speak of.

Instead I am fully engaged in honing my skills in avoidance behavior. You know - you start one thing, get distracted from that to dig into something else, then something else, until you have no idea how you got to where you are. But you managed to avoid real work!

I did not keep track of what led to what, but here's what I am sure is an incomplete list of things I have done: Put away, filed, and stashed clutter in the office (which has now been replaced by other clutter); ordered stuff from jjill (30% off sale!!); opened a box from Amazon; put 2 sweaters in a dryel bag (for dry cleaning in the dryer) and they are now done; entered some expenses into my business software; watched some stuff on the dvr; sent a quilt picture to Urban Elementz for their suggestions for a pantograph for it; re-watched some of a Craftsy class: Piece Like a Pro, and asked 3 questions; went and got the mail (1 piece of junk mail - ugh); changed my clothes twice (but I'm still wearing bed-hair and no makeup); mailed a name badge to a new guild member; and I am actively ignoring anything that smacks of "chore". By the end of the day, I will be a whiz in the fine art of avoidance behavior!

I wound up trying to create a list of all of the quilts I have completed or which are under construction. It is overwhelming me at the moment. (So I'm avoiding it to write this post.) I found a file I had started in 2010 or something, and a printout of it that I made in 2015 with some hand-written additions at the bottom. And, there are SO many more that need to be added to the list.

My "project" will be to compile an up-to-date list, complete with pictures. Although, today it feels overwhelming, it will be a blessing to work on. With each quilt I will think about where I was in my quilting journey, why I made the quilt, who I made it for, what I had learned during the process, etc. It will be an opportunity to review my quilty life and discover just how full it really is.
Oh, please pray for us -- we are going to be ringing in the new year with friends over a rousing game of Mexican Train Dominoes. It has probably been 40 years since I stayed up until midnight on new year's eve!

News from the Studio

Promenade Home

Promenade Home
I finished this quilt top yesterday. Now that I see it - it needs a new name. It will come to me. This one started with my tinkering with a hunter's star block. What was I thinking!! About half-way through making the blocks, I took Donna Lynn Thomas' Craftsy class: Piece Like a Pro. Wow, what a difference a few simple "habits" can make!

Here's the list of "habit" adjustments I made or improved during the rest of construction: lighten up with the iron (even more), make sure the edges of the fabric line up exactly as you stitch the seam, press in the direction of the GRAIN to avoid distortion, and always use a "stylus" or seam-ripper to guide your pieces under the needle. (I use a crafter's awl.) If you would like to be able to just sew your seam and have the points just automatically line up perfectly - I can highly recommend Donna's class.

Tips and Techniques

For nice flat borders, it is necessary to measure your quilt, and cut the borders accordingly. We've talked about this before, I'm sure. But with Promenade Home, I had a duh! moment (one, I'm sure, most of you had years ago). I measured the quilt with the border itself! Easy. I draped the quilt over one of my longarm rollers, but,  I'm thinking you could spread it on the floor, or across a bed, or any flat surface that is large enough for the dimension you need to measure. Try not to stretch the top, just lay it nice and smooth. Lay your border across the middle of your quilt and mark the border at the edges of the quilt top. (The border should be parallel to the side you will apply it to.) Cut it to length. Make 2 exactly alike. Sew them on, press, and repeat for the next border. Golly, this is easy.

So, let's raise our ruler's high! Here's to a Very Quilty 2017!!

Now, let's go quilt something!

Monday, December 12, 2016

And, he licked the bowl clean!

It's a little late for a Thanksgiving story, but it's the one I "enjoyed" the most. I spent the morning making my family's famous (scratch) chocolate pie. The crust was ready, I had everything I needed (I always do), so I jumped right in.

Now, the magic of this recipe is that you don't put meringue on top. You fold it into the pudding! So, once the pudding thickens, you just stir it occasionally while you make the meringue. No sweat. I put 1 egg white in the bowl of my (new) mixer, and was dismayed to discover that the whisk DIDN'T EVEN TOUCH THE EGG WHITE!! And it's a Kitchen Aid! I tried whipping the egg white by hand – but that, clearly, wasn’t going to work. I finally added a second egg white and that did the trick. Once the whites were frothy, I grabbed the little jar of cream of tartar - yup, it still had the seal on it. That thing must have been attached with super-glue. I couldn't pull it off, and had a terrible time finding something that would penetrate it enough to be able to pry it off! Grrrr.

Finally, I got the egg whites the way I wanted them, and turned my attention back to the pudding. I yanked it off of the stove in the nick of time. The final preparation for the pudding is to add some butter and vanilla. Guess what I discovered about the vanilla. Yup, it too, had an in penetrable seal! But, ultimately, stronger wills prevailed and the pie was cooling on the counter.

The trick with this pie is to stop whipping the meringue just short of "firm peak". All of the delicious goodness will fold into the pudding smoothly and lump-less. Anyway, the good news is with 2 whites, there was lots of meringue, and I was quick to put extra in the pudding. Amazing stuff. Listen, when made right, this pie is so good, your eyes roll back in your head, your heart will leap with joy, and drool will cause you great embarrassment. Of course, the DH made sure the pudding pot and the meringue bowl were "clean" before they went in the dishwasher! 

Oh, the crust. You need to make 2 crusts for my chocolate pie. The crust is simple, easy, and wonderful. The secret? It has an egg and sugar in it! Why 2 crusts? Well, how else are you going to have enough left over dough for cinnamon and sugar pie crust cookies?

News from the Studio

Dawn's Quilt 

Don't you just love Arlene's quilt? It is so  beachy and happy! The Wave on Wave pantograph worked beautifully on it! I hope Dawn loves it as much as I do!
Wave on Wave Panto

 Christmas Heart Song

Here is Joyce's version of the Christmas Heart Song quilt. So bold and happy. It just makes your heart sing. Again, the Trumpet Vine pantograph looks great on this quilt, and the shiny gold thread pulled it all together. Great job, Joyce!
Trumpet Vine Panto

Piano Key Heart Song

Trumpet Vine Panto
This is the 4th Heart Song quilt I've made this year! SO easy and quick. I had enough left over fabric for the star and first border, but not for the outer border. So I cut up all of the leftovers I could find and made a piano key border. I used the ever popular Trumpet Vine panto. The pattern for the version with a standard outside border is now available on Craftsy. Just click here: Christmas Heart Song Pattern.

AHQ Opportunity Quilt

The Appalachian Heritage Quilter's "opportunity" quilt which will be given away at the April quilt show, is a "pinwheel chain". What a sweet and gentle quilt. Save up your money! Soon you will be able to purchase Hershey Kisses and be given tickets to enter the drawing!
Wave on Wave Pantograph

The Wave on Wave panto  adds a little bit of "whimsical" to it, don't you think?

Heart Song Workshop

I mentioned in the last post, that I was preparing for a Heart Song Workshop. Well, we had a great time. Everyone made great progress on their quilt tops. It's amazing to see how different they are!


Great job, everyone!

Have a blessed and joyful Christmas! And, here's to a happy and prosperous New Year!

Now, let's go quilt something!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Smoke gets in your eyes

Other than the election, the news this week around here is the smoke that fills the atmosphere and my sinuses! There are a number of forest fires in progress in NE Tennessee, SW Virginia, and Kentucky. Yesterday, the skies were filled with an acrid smoky haze. There are actually mountains in the distance that should be visible, but as you can see - not so. I had to go out twice yesterday - and paid the high price of raging sinus and stinging eyes for it.

Today, the winds have changed and the smoke is not as bad as it has been for the last few days.

News from the studio

Brick Town

This is Kay's latest creation. I love the way she uses color and her free-spirit approach to design. We used the Bauhaus pantograph:

 Maple Leaf Quilt

Isn't this a wonderful celebration of Fall? It was created by Linda, from Catskill, NY. I love her joyful use of color. We used the Poplar pantograph.


New pantograph 

There is a new pantograph on the shelf just waiting for the right quilt. I sized it down, some, so it will be fairly dense for lots of leafy texture. It's called Greenhouse.

Tips and Techniques

Securing those seams for longarming

Both the backing and the top are placed under tension when loaded onto the frame for longarming. That's in order to keep the quilt stable and avoid accidental tucks and shifting.With all of the seams under some sort of tension, there is the possibility that unsecured seams can un-sew themselves. If the seams in the top have inadvertently missed the mark or are even slightly open, the machine can catch itself in the opening and cause damage to the top or backing.

Here are a few common methods of securing seams during the construction process:


Most of us have used this technique at sometime or other. It definitely will keep the seam secure at the ends.

Tiny stitches at the ends

This one is my go-to method of securing seams, especially when sewing longer seams and backing seams. Just change the stitch length to a 1.0 or 1.5 to stitch the beginning and ending 3/8" of each seam. None of the seams will separate themselves at the ends.

Reduce your piecing stitch length

This is the fastest method. It is a little less secure than the other two, but definitely reduces seam separation. Just shorten your stitch .5 or more from your usual stitch length and go for it. A little trial and testing will lead you to a stitch length that is fairly secure but doesn't slow you down to much.


Some of you may be wondering what the pink square of fabric is all about in the "backstitch" picture. Well, do you ever get a bird's nest of thread develop as you start a line of quilting? To avoid that, just start your seam using a thread "leader". A thread nest will show up on the leader and not your piecing. When you come to the end of the seam, keep sewing onto another thread leader and you'll be ready for the next seam! If you are chain-piecing, start with a thread leader, and end the last seam with a thread leader. No more thread nests!

Learning for the week

Before you call your cell phone to find out where it is, ... check your pocket.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A mountain top experience!

A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend from Colorado Springs, my sister from  upstate NY, and I, took a few days off and spent some time together on top of about a 3,000 ft mountain near Winchester, VA. Of course, we had lots of fun, and thoroughly enjoyed our little reunion.  Very quiet, not many houses around - a great place for a personal retreat.
HOWEVER. getting to the little cabin was a big challenge. First, the path up the mountain had 9 turns off of the main highway to get there, and all of it significantly uphill. All of the roads were narrow 2 lane residential roads EXCEPT the road that took you to the top of the mountain. It was not only very steep, but it was only about 1.5 lanes, with 4 blind switch-backs. It looked more like a paved goat path than a road. Sorry, we didn't get any pictures of it - but we were all hanging on for dear life and praying like mad that we wouldn't meet another car!

Isolated! We were the only house on the road.
We were so intimidated by our ascent, that we stayed up there all the next day, and only came down the third day because we were running out of food. Thankfully, that trip down the mountain and up again after lunch wasn't quite as intimidating as the first time. We did meet a pickup when we were headed back up the road - not at a switch-back - and both vehicles had to hang off the road to get by each other.

I can't recommend the place for anyone with a weak heart.

News from the Studio

AQS Chattanooga Quilt Show

A friend and I went to the AQS quilt show in Chattanooga, TN in September. It wasn't as large a show as I had expected, but inspiring! So many amazing quilts. Here is one of my favorites. It won Best Hand Workmanship!

Of course, I always save time for all of the vendors. My favorite was my delightful APQS dealer, Sheridan Carter!  Sheridan Kay Quilting.

My very favorite quilt was in the "unusual" category: the duct tape quilt. Yes, it was all made out of duct tape, decorative plastic tape, and plastic stick-on applique!


Christmas Heart Song 

Since the last post, I've made 2 Christmas versions of the Heart Song quilt I showed you in the previous post. One is for sale at a local interior design store, and here is the other one. The guild will be doing the Christmas Heart Song wall-hanging in a workshop in November. Guess I'd better get busy on my handouts and demo stuff! I used the Trumpet Vine panto on this one.

Tips and Techniques


Press backing seams open

 Always press all backing seams open. I probably mentioned this in a previous post, but it is important for longarming. Vertical seams pile on top of each other as the backing is wound onto the rollers, causing the fabric between the piles to bag. Think unavoidable tucks. Another issue is that bulky seam "intersections" on the top might wind up aligning with bulky seams on the bottom. If a high speed needle tries to pierce lots of layers of seams and thread, serious damage to the machine or the quilt can happen. Not a happy thought.

Learning for the week

Stink bugs are annoying when you are on vacation - especially when you find them in the bed! Just ask my sister!

Have a wonderful week! Now, let's go quilt something!

Monday, September 12, 2016

How to enjoy perfectionism

Headed Home
Over the summer, I decided to take a more laid-back attitude about life. You know, not take things so seriously. As a perfectionist, I tend to be very critical of my own work, and it just got out of hand. Last year about this time, I finished a quilt top that I fell in love with. I wanted to custom quilt it, and of course, pressured myself to do a "perfect" job. (...And me without a computer on my machine.)

My DH, had some sage advice for me: "You need to demote this quilt." I took that to mean take it off of its pedestal, and think of it as just another quilt. I agreed!

Then I journeyed to my APQS dealer's studio a couple of hours away. She is a coach and counselor to me sometimes - I really appreciate her. Her comment to my situation was to "See perfectionism as a good thing. It mans you always want to improve, to try new things, to increase your skills." Well DUH! So I have relaxed about the quilt, and have removed all deadlines about it. Quilting has begun, but I have no goal about finishing it. I now enjoy the process of just moving forward with skill building and quilting it as I have time between jobs.

What a relief!!

News from the Studio


Heart Song

Heart Song
This is a commissioned quilt for a customer. She fell in love with the Headed Home quilt above, and wanted a smaller one as a wall hanging. Both quilts are made using a ruler designed for binding, a technique I saw online. I am working on a pattern for it, with the name Heart Song. I used that great Trumpet Vine pantograph.

Mystery Quilt

Finally, the mystery quilt from the guild's May workshop is finished! I love the colors! Great job Sue Jones. I used a giant swirl pantograph which goes well with the tropical turquoise colors.

Fat Quarter Auditioning

There is an class called "If you can feather you can free-motion" taught by Bethanne Nemesh. She uses fat quarters gleaned from her stash for practice. Later, they make a great reference tool. 
General template on fat quarter
Doodling on newsprint
Quilting area on fat quarter

I'm using the fat quarters as a way to audition various quilting designs on the Headed Home quilt. I've marked each of the quilting areas, actual size, on a fat quarter. When I am ready to work on an area, I play with designs on some newsprint, then draw the area on a fat quarter or two and audition the designs I think will look best. Ok, so I'm a bit anal about the whole process. But, it suits me.

Learning for the Week

The new blood pressure medicine that doc prescribed improves regularity!

Have a wonderful week,
Now let's go quilt something!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lost in Time

First, a bird update. Ms. Robin built a nest in the small Japanese maple in the front yard - and at eye level. It's located not too far from both the driveway and the side walk to the front door. She has two babies who are about ready to fledge. The nest is certainly crowded. Recently, we had a big wind storm and that little tree got whipped all over the place. As you can see, Ms. Robin, her kids, and her nest weathered the ordeal with flying colors.

Here is my lovely birthday flower. The DH fought his way through a jungle of day lilies and weeds to retrieve this delight for me. Ain't he sweet?

Now for the main story. Last weekend I got lost in time. It was Saturday, 7/16. The guild had just finished up a 3-day Quilter's Day Camp. 3 days of fun, hilarity, and sewing - so, of course, I was completely exhausted by the time I got home at 2:30 pm. I donned my pj's and made myself comfortable in front of the tv. Watched something on the DVR, then loaded a movie - Deja Vu, I think.

I watched it intently. When something loud and exciting was happening, I turned the volume down so I wouldn't disturb the DH. I get up really early, and he usually sleeps in. The movie was over around 5:30 or so, and I found myself profoundly confused about what day it was and what time of day it was. I knew the day camp was over, but I thought the it ended the previous day to the one I was in. I thought it was 5:30 Sunday morning.

But the tv, my watch, and my phone said it was Saturday July 16. What? I was so confused. I still thought it was morning, but knew it couldn't be Saturday morning, because the day camp was already over - and it was over on a Saturday. I even looked at the day and time on my computer, and brought up my Outlook calendar, which said it was Saturday. Finally, around 5:50, I believed my Outlook calendar and the time stamp on my computer and realized it was Saturday, 7/16, at 5:50 PM. I thought I had just lost it. If you are now so confused you don't know what I am talking about - you actually know what I am talking about. The DH said the same thing sometimes happens to him when he's really concentrating. I just wish it didn't take me 15 minutes to figure it out!

News From the Studio


Legend of the Spinning Top

I worked on the Sue Jones mystery quilt from the May guild workshop. Although I went to the workshop, I didn't work on my quilt. I just didn't want to lug my machine and all of the gear. As you can see, I don't have the borders on yet.

Snail Mail

Trumpet Vine
I started this quilt in the Spring of 2014, and got it put together except for the final border. It languished on the shelf for 2 full years! So, one day early in May, in a fit of productivity, I finished up the top, and got 'er quilted. I used the Trumpet Vine pantograph.

Learning for the Week

Time travel is very disorienting.

Have a delightful week! Not let's go quilt something!