Friday, May 30, 2008

Lovely in Lilac

Lilacs have been my favorite flower for a long, long time. I had them at my wedding. I love the color of them and the smell of them. I have wanted a lilac tree of my very own for so long, but due to the fact that my husband had an entire hedge of lilacs to clean out as a child, he has a hatred for the lilac bush, and so I have never had one. Luckily for me, my neighbor has a beautiful lilac that spills over into our yard, and she does not care how many I pick on my side of the fence. Thank you, Eileen.

I have seen a lot of lilac fabric, and you'd think I would love it, but normally I do not. I don't know what it is about it. It doesn't look real enough, or the color is not just right, or something. I continue the quest for the perfect lilac fabric, though. I think what I really want is fabric that smells like lilac. Hm, there's an idea. I could invent scented fabric and make a fortune!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I spent the early morning checking up on the garden after all the rain. Today the sun in shining, and it's simply breathtaking. All plants seemed to have survived unscathed. I moved the roses from the back yard to the front yard before all the rain, but this morning they all seem to be pretty happy in their new home. There's buds on the daisies and the irises and the columbine is blooming. I love spring!

I was looking through my fat quarters yesterday, trying to decide on some I might use for the Sisters Quilt Retreat when I came across a forgotten package of fat quarters from Keepsake Quilting called Promise of Spring. They are positively mouthwatering. Today if I get my work done (cross your fingers) I am going to whip up a spring wallhanging out of some of these fabrics, something simple that will show off the tulip fabric. Here's a picture of the fabrics. Hopefully a picture of at least the quilt top will show up here soon.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It's been raining for a week here in generally sunny southern Alberta. We're all getting cranky from too little sun and no outdoor time. When I was a kid, like most kids, I was afraid of thunder, but my mom loved a good thunderstorm, and we would sit on our front porch and watch the storms roll in across the Great Salt Lake, and she would tell us that thunder was a giant rolling potatoes down the mountain. I was still afraid, but not as much. She taught me to see the beauty in all parts of nature.

My house here in Lethbridge has its own issues with rain. We have a deceptive and particularly stubborn leak somewhere by an air vent on our roof. We have tried numerous times to fix it. We always think we have until the next big rainstorm, when the leak comes back, sometimes very sneakily and sometimes with great abandon. This week so far it has leaked on the days with little rain and not leaked at all on some days with vast amounts of rain. It must have a sense of humor.

If I could be indoors quilting during a week of rain, I might not mind it so much, but it hasn't been a quilty week at all, and I'm feeling the need for some "sunshine on my shoulders", to quote John Denver. So consider this an invitation, sun. Wherever you have gone to, come back. We miss you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What's in Your Stash?

Today I thought it might be fun to show you a bit of what I have in my fabric stash. When I say, "Bit," you'll know what I mean. We're all in the race for the biggest stash, and I'm no exception. So far my mom is winning, though.

First of all, I love fat quarters. Who doesn't? I have a whole cabinet full of them, and I just keep collecting more. If I walk by a stack of fat quarters, all tied up so pretty, some arranged like little stars or flowers, well, I must buy some. It's a sickness, really, but one I'm sure a lot of you share with me. Here's a picture of my chest of fat quarters. The small chest on top has thread and notions, and the stack of fabric on the top of that is WIP's.

Here is a picture of one of the drawers in my chest opened. I try to sort them by color, but they do get mixed up sometimes as I use them.

Here's a picture of some of my favorite fat quarter bundles or collections. Going around the circle clockwise from the tied bundle, the tied bundle is Japanese fabrics from the local shop, Fabric Addict. Don't you love that name? Next, some really pretty flannel fat quarters that I actually used most of making a quilt. I'll post the quilt sometime. Next, some 30's fat quarters bought to make a Dear Jane quilt, but I've been using them for other things, so if I want to make a Dear Jane quilt, I'll need to buy more fabric. Oh, boo hoo! Next, some Keepsake Quilting fat quarters, all in a birthday party theme. I think it would be fun to make a wallhanging to put up when it's somebody's birthday, and last, some hand-dyed fat quarters from Starr Fabrics.

This last picture is some fabric I bought nearly a year ago in Montana to make a quilt for my bedroom. Sorry about the blurry picture. I took it several times. It's pouring rain here today, so it's dark outside, and my house faces north, so even darker. I just couldn't hold the camera still for long enough. Oh well, I'm a quilter not a photographer. Hope you enjoyed the peek at my stash!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Finding Time to Quilt

Today I would like to do something quilty, anything quilty. I would like to quilt on the quilt I have on the machine downstairs, or work on one of my patterns, or finish one of the projects I have half-completed. Why am I doing none of these things? Because I have to work. I am typing a sentencing hearing today, and then a long civil trial, and then a series of small transcripts about who knows what. I see no break.

It's one of the great frustrations of my life (and I'm sure many others) that I don't have much time in which to be creative. Living, working, eating, cleaning, sleeping, those seem to take up vast amounts of time, leaving me with crumbs, some of which I'm too tired to enjoy fully, and so I end up watching TV or doing some other mindless activity, wasting yet more of the precious little time I have.

I have tried various methods to squeeze quilting into my day. I have tried setting aside a specific time each day. I have tried working like a dog, day and night, so I can have a whole day off. I have my sewing machine right next to my computer, hoping that maybe I'll get five minutes here and there in which to sew a block or draw something in EQ 6. They are none of them very satisfactory. If I work hard to get a whole day, I'm so tired by the time that day comes that I often don't quilt much. If I take five minutes here and there, I don't get anything really accomplished because it takes three of those five minutes to figure out where I left off.

So what is my solution? Well, this summer my sisters and I are having a quilt retreat at my home. We are taking a week and quilting. My sister, Gayle, is not quite the avid quilter that Lori and I are, but she likes to putter around with it some, and the three of us just like to be together, so she'll quilt with us to get some sister time. We are each taking one day of the week and teaching something, a new technique, a new project, whatever each of us wants. I have something fabulous and very sister-esque for my day, and I am counting down the days until July 19, 2008.

The great thing about this retreat is that not only does it involve a whole week of quilting with no guilt feelings, but it involves quilting with my two best friends, the ones who understand me better than anyone else. We never run out of things to talk about, laugh about, maybe cry about. We are sisters in every sense of the word, and I often whisper a thank you to heaven for allowing me that privilege.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Puppy, Old Quilt

We went to visit my son and his wife and the new puppy yesterday. She's definitely a cutie, although still a little nervous around all of us. She'd only been away from her mommy for less than 24 hours when we saw her. Tawny (that's her name) enjoys being cuddled, and she plays, but always very nicely. She's going to be a perfect addition to their home.

While there I also saw the very first real quilt I ever made, the one made for my son after his return from South Africa. It's made of out very African-looking fabrics in shades of green, yellow, and tan, with just a bit of red thrown in the mix. It's made of pieced churn dash blocks with sashing between the blocks and hand-quilted. I must say that I still like it, even after all these years. Considering I didn't really know what I was doing at the time, I did pretty well in choosing both color and scale of fabrics.

I had large prints and small prints, good contrast between the various elements, a splash of an unexpected color to add some sparkle, and a fun giraffe print for the back. It's stood the test of time, and I'm proud of it. So you'd think I would have had the intelligence to take a picture of it. I mean, I had the camera right there, taking pictures of Tawny, but, nope, I did not do it. So I guess you'll have to be satisfied with my description of it, and maybe I can get a picture next time I'm there.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Victoria Day, or An Excuse to Have a Three-Day Weekend

This weekend in Canada is the May Long Weekend, much anticipated by all, especially campers and gardeners. It's the traditional first weekend for both here, so in the spirit of the weekend, this morning I mowed my lawn. Quite enjoyable, really, as it always is after a winter off. I also saw my first robin today. He was enjoying my sprinker, and I said, Welcome back, buddy, and he gave me a bit of a song.

This week I also shook myself out of my quilting doldrums, removed the quilt from my quilter and unsewed all the quilting. It didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would, and I watched the BBC version of Sense and Sensibility while I did it. It's lovely. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

So today I'm trying to decide how to requilt the quilt. If I was proficient (see post number 7) I would quilt a rose on each of the plain blocks, since most of the fabric has roses in it. However, I am not going to do that as I foresee that would involve much of the dreaded unsewing again. Instead, I'm going to do something flower-esque in them and hope for the best. I have Pam Clarke's book, Quilting Inside the Lines, and I have confidence that will help me do a pretty basic design. The rest of the blocks are paper-pieced pineapple blocks, so I'm not going to do anything too fancy there as I don't think it would show up anyway. If the quilt turns out halfway decent. I'll put a picture up.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hello Doggy!

My son and his wife are getting a puppy this weekend, a purebred airedale terrior. Oh, she is so very cute, and I can't wait! I had several dogs as a child and always expected I would own dogs all my life, but my husband is not a pet person, so no dogs for us. I miss the joy of doggies, and I think my husband would love one if he ever gave it a chance.

So welcome, New Puppy, (name to be determined later) to our family! I predict you and I will become good friends. I have a real rapport with dogs. They usually like me, and I always like them, no matter the breed, size, age, or temperament. There's something so special about an animal who will love you totally without conditions but with such abandon and enthusiasm. You can never feel lonely with a dog as your friend.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Feeling Sluggish

For some reason I can't explain spring is slow in coming this year, both generally and personally. Usually spring gives me a giant burst of energy, a longing to be outside working in the garden or even doing some spring cleaning. This year the leaves are at least two weeks behind where they would normally be, and I am feeling pretty blah about the whole spring thing.

I feel a bit of a bottleneck in my quilting life as well, and I have figured out what it is. It's the quilting. I can piece quilts and applique quilts. I can design quilts and plan quilts. Goodness knows I can buy stuff for quilts, but I can't quilt them. I used to think it was because I didn't have a quilting machine. It's hard to wrestle a queen-size quilt through my sewing machine, so I didn't do it very often. I thought if I got a quilter, all my problems would be solved. As is so often the case in life, one problem solved brings other unforeseen problems to light. My problem now is not a lack of a machine with which to quilt, or even that the machine doesn't do a good job. The problem, I hestitate to admit, is me.

I am paralyzed. I have no idea how to quilt my quilts. Or if I have an idea, I can't execute it because my machine quilting skills are, well, pathetic. I have a quilt on the quilter right now. It's been there for a month with about 20 square inches quilted. I don't like how it looks, and I haven't gotten around to ripping out the stitches, so there it sits.

I know the answer to this dilemma is to practice, practice, practice, but I just can't seem to make the time or find the time to do it. What I want is to be able to quilt like Linda Taylor or Diane Gaudynski with no practice. Don't we all? What I need to remember is that they quilt like the quilting angels they are because they paid the price for it. They WORKED at it. I think because I can imagine beautiful quilting in my head that I should just be able to do it without training any of my muscles to know how to do it. Bad thinking.

So I vow today that I will begin to take my quilting seriously. I will put on a practice piece and PPP. I will not despair when my feathers look like unintelligible blobs. I will just keep trying when my stitch length varies from 1/4 inch long to infinitesimal. I will actually quilt something besides loops and stars, which I can do pretty well and therefore do way too much. I will not expect perfection or even proficiency or even passability for quite some time.

Ah, I feel better already! So let's go mow the lawn, maybe wash some windows, and how about some McTavishing?

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Sad Love Story

I hope all you mothers had a lovely Mother's Day. I know I did. All my children were home except my oldest son and his wife, who were with her family, but he did send me flowers earlier in the week, so that was thoughtful. I also got to talk to my mom on the phone and catch up on the news, which is always a pleasure.

So on to the story that explains my title. We have had a birdhouse in our backyard since we moved to this house four years ago. Every spring I wait to see if any birds will adopt it as their own, which has never happened until this spring. We had two little sparrows who decided it would make a fine spot for their nest, and what fun we had watching them fly back and forth with grass stems and weed stems to build a nest inside. The male would often perch on the fence just above the birdhouse and sing his little heart out. When he brought material for the nest, it was often as big as he was, and it was quite entertaining to watch him stuff it in the hole, sometimes having to take two or three stabs at it.

Well, sadly, last Thursday I found a dead female sparrow in my carport. I think she had flown into the glass sliding door we have at the back. I usually like to leave it open a bit for that very reason, but we had closed it all the way because it was raining, and she flew into it. The poor male sparrow has been hanging around the backyard since then trying to find her. He still sits on the fence and sings, but it's pathetic little chirping now, to my mind always with a question mark at the end. Where are you? Where are you? He probably doesn't even realize he's a widower. He might think she coldly abandoned him for some handsomer sparrow. It just breaks my heart to watch him fly from house to fence to tree and back again.

I know one day he will just quit coming back to the birdhouse, and I hope if he does he will have found a new lady bird and moved on with his life. Who would have guessed I would become so attached to a little, common, brown sparrow? It's probably a good thing I don't have a dog or a cat or anything. I'd be a basket case if something happened to an actual pet. I think I'll have to do some quilting today to cheer myself up. Maybe something with a birdhouse ...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Everything is a Quilt

Have you noticed that if you are a quilter everything you look at is a quilt? Last summer I took some pictures in Glacier National Park, and I was looking through them a couple weeks ago trying to pick one for the background screen of my new iTouch. I found one that just took my breath away, and I said to my husband, Ooh, look how pretty this picture is. He glanced at it and said, What? I don't think it's that great. Everything is the same color. I looked again, still loved it, and wondered why he couldn't see the beauty in it.

Then I realized, oh, wait a minute, he's not a quilter. I was very, very sad for him. He never looks at anything with a view to quilting it, and I look at everything that way. He misses out on a lot of nuances in the world around him because he's not trying to figure out how to make it work in a quilt design. Maybe I miss out on some things because I always am looking at things with a quilter's eye, but it's too late now. It's deeply engrained, imbedded, ground in, fused with (good quilty term) who I am as a person. I quilt, therefore I am.

So here is the picture in question. Do you see a quilt too? Maybe get your husband or your son or daughter or any non-quilter to look at it and see what they see. Could be a fun little experiment for you.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hooray for Rain!

Last night it rained, which is very exciting. Normally I'm not that thrilled about rain, but winter in Canada is very, very long, and so the first night when it doesn't get cold enough for the precipitation to turn into snow is very much anticipated by me, and that was last night. So hooray for rain and welcome spring at last! Unfortunately, it still could snow again. I think the only month of the year I haven't seen snow since I moved to Canada is July.

There's good news on the quilting front as well. The design for the table runner I was having so many problems with yesterday is finished. I'll post a picture here so can see it. I call this quilt Table Runners, which I'm sure you understand now that you see the quilt. FYI, sneakers in Canada are called runners, so the name is a shout out to all my Canadian quilting buddies. This quilt is perfect for the fusible-web applique method, and would look so cute with all those wild and crazy fabrics you couldn't resist but didn't know how you would actually ever use. It would be darling on a dresser or on the wall in a child's room or even on the kitchen table, and it would make a great gift for someone you know who is a runner.

So I hope you enjoy the sneak (get it?) preview. I hope to have this and other quilt patterns for sale online ASAP.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Be Kind to Your Computer

Today was a frustrating design day. I tried all day to design an applique block in EQ6, and at the end of the day, literally (It's nearly 10 p.m.) I have absolutely nothing to show for it. Let me say first of all that it's not the fault of EQ6. My computer kept freezing up, and when I would restart it and reopen EQ6, my block would be gone, vanished into cyberspace despite my valiant attempts to save it.

Now, all these problems might -- just might -- have something to do with the fact that my computer is pre-Y2K, and while trying to design the aforesaid applique, I was also downloading court audio for a typing job, listening to iTunes, chatting with my son on Google Talk, checking email, and reading some blogs. Perhaps a bit too much to ask my relic of a computer to do.

While the technology side of designing was frustrating beyond belief, the actual design was, if I say so myself, amazingly cute. So tomorrow I plan to try again, this time with a few less peripheral tasks running at the same time, and hopefully I will have my mojo working and the planets will be in alignment and the force will be with me and I can get the entire table runner designed, not just the applique. It's going to be a fun little pattern. I'll post a picture from EQ6 tomorrow if I get it done.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Shouldn't It Be Patchwork?

When Lori and I were trying to decide on a name for our business, we had a brainstorming session with the two of us and our mom. The first thing we agreed on is that we quilt because it's fun, and we never want to lose the joy we find in quilting. With that in mind, we set about trying to find the perfect name for our business, and it was hard! We didn't want to sound too cutesy, and we didn't want to sound too boring. We wanted it to be short and easy to remember but also have some oomph to it. I still remember the goosebumps when we came up with our name, Patchplay! It says everything you need to know about us. We love quilting. It's never work for us. It's absolutely, 100 percent F-U-N. Plus, we like to think we are two fun girls that you would love to play with.

Once we had the name, Patchplay, the ideas for quilts just flowed. We filled page after page after page with ideas for quilt designs, which we want to be, first and foremost, fun to make. We have no desire to reinvent the quilting world with some new, amazing, never-before-seen pattern. I don't know if that's even possible. What we want is to make quilt patterns that will inspire you to quilt and have fun in the process, and that will hopefully bring a smile to the face of whoever receives the quilt. We want them to be easy enough for beginners to tackle and challenging enough for seasoned quilters looking for a good time. That's a goal that's plenty lofty for us.

I must say that taking our ideas from that first giddy moment where we couldn't write fast enough to actually designing the quilts, then making our designs in fabric, working out the bugs, writing instructions, debugging the instructions, blah, blah, blah, well, that's been a challenge. It's still fun, mind you, but it's a different kind of fun than simply whipping up a quilt from someone else's pattern. And it takes a long time! Even longer because we both still have fulltime jobs and families and other responsibilities.

So, the patterns are coming soon-ish. I can't be more specific than that, but to whet your appetite just a little bit, here's a first draft of our pattern logo. Tell us what you think! And keep on Patchplaying!

Monday, May 5, 2008

And So the Story Begins ...

Welcome to the first post of my new quilting blog, Patchplay with Me! First, a little about my quilting self. The first quilt I ever made was when I was 18 and a freshman in college. My mom helped me make a twin-sized quilt made of four-inch squares from fabric scraps. It was a cute quilt, hand-quilted, and full of memories, and I used it so much it wore out, but it didn't infect me with the quilting bug. The next quilt I made was 26 years later, a queen-sized quilt made for my oldest son, who was returning home after two years in South Africa. I don't know if it was the fabrics or the sense of accomplishment or the right time in my life, but, man, I was hooked!

Since then I have made many quilts and started or bought patterns or fabric for many more (WIP, UFO, round tuits, whatever you call them, you know we all have them). I love the feel and smell and look of fabric. I love quilt magazines, calendars, gadgets, tools, shows, blogs, podcasts, stores, all things quilty. I currently use a Brother ULT-2002D as my sewing/embroidery machine, which has worked quite well for me, and I bought a Voyager 17 with a Hinterberg stretch frame about 9 months ago. I'm not very proficient with it yet, but I'm learning, and for the money I think it's the best quilting machine out there.

My current sewing room is also my office (I work at home typing court transcripts, a good job, but not very creative) and it's also the laundry room. Yep, the laundry room. The one good thing about it is that it's totally my room because nobody else wants to do laundry. I have my quilting frame and machine downstairs in my daughter's former bedroom. It's a nice big room, sort of chilly in the winter, sometimes floods during a particularly wet spring, but again not one anyone else is fighting over, so I win again.

My sister, Lori, and I would like to start a quilt design business. In fact, this blog is our first step. We live in two different countries, nearly 800 miles apart, and that has made trying to start a business together challenging to say the least, but quilting is also one of the things that keeps us connected. Please look for her blog, Patchplay with Me Too! coming soon. And soon after that you can start looking for our patterns online. To be honest, it's frightening for me just to put these words out there in the quilting world, let alone my designs. I have that same feeling I have just before I cut into a lovely, pristine, expensive piece of fabric. I hestitate, rotary cutter in hand, take a deep breath, straighten my ruler one last time, and go for it. Before I know it's three hours later, I'm knee-deep in fabric scraps and blissfully content. One, two, three .... jump!