Random thoughts …

I haven’t posted in a week or so because I’ve been so busy, and I feel really bad about that. The not posting thing, not the being busy thing … anyway, I don’t have anything in particular I want to talk about right now, so I’m just going to tell you the random stuff that’s been floating around in my head lately. A lot of people I know tend to live life linearly, but not me. I live life in many directions; this post may frighten you, but I promise you that I’m mostly sane. 🙂

Last weekend, we went to Fry’s so that Travis could look for some anime – Dragonball Z, to be exact. While we were wondering around in there (NEVER a good idea for me or Chris) waiting on him to find what he wanted, I found a new copy of Family Tree Maker. At one time I was really hot into genealogy and I still have all my files. I’d heard rumors that now you can save digital images with your family tree in this software and it wasn’t terribly expensive, so I bought it. Chris, who has never known his own father, asked if I could find the man using the online capabilities of ancestry.com, and I told him I’d try. After a couple of phone calls to his mother, some creative searching and two days, I think I located not only his father, but his grandparents and a portion of his grandmother’s line on that side of his tree. I am amazed that what used to take weeks and months of research and trips to the genealogy library now can be done in minutes and hours online. I am blown away.

I have been planning a patriotic quilt for the last two weeks, and now I think I might be ready to start working on it. I’ll get started this weekend … my older sewing machine was in the shop for a cleaning and at first they thought it needed some repairs, but it turns out that they just had it together wrong. I picked it up on Tuesday but it’s still sitting down at the front door, waiting for a strong male to bring it up (it must weigh 40 lbs). I used to have my machines cleaned annually, but at a cost of $162, I think in the future I will have them cleaned every three years or so. I think the last time that one was cleaned was about five years ago and I never had a problem with it till just before I dropped it off this time.

I’ve been playing EverQuest II quite bit more than usual lately because I haven’t really wanted to start a new quilt. I rolled a new toon and started to level her in the new zone that recently opened up, which has housing and everything. I love the new housing; it’s much more cheerful than anything they’ve ever had before. I could stand in the house and just look around and be happy there. 😉

Travis asked me at 10 pm last night if I could take him to meet his dad this afternoon. I wasn’t expecting it and I was a little annoyed that he waited till practically the last minute to ask, but it means that Chris and I will have a weekend entirely to ourselves. I cannot wait.

I need to spend a little more time organizing my studio because I now have my genealogy stuff in here. And my photography stuff. And of course, my quilting & sewing stuff. It’s amazing how much you can get into a room that’s not much bigger than 12×12 if you work really hard to make it all fit.

I’m working at home today, in my pj’s, so I guess I’d best get back to it. I have a ton of contracts to read – I started last night so I’m not terribly concerned that I just took 15 minutes to jot this down. And I’ve already put in about three hours more than required this week. But I can’t lie – I’m glad it’s Friday and I have two days to recover!

See, I told you this would be random!

OMG, I almost forgot! Today is my parents’ 43rd wedding anniversary. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO THEM!!

Happy anniversary!
Happy anniversary!
Happy anniversary!
Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaappy anniversary!

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Was it worth the effort?

OK, so I have mentioned that I made a quilt for my husband Chris – which neither of us liked once it was together. Well, the quilt pattern itself isn’t bad, but the fabrics are totally NOT him, so I decided to start over with the same pattern, different fabric. Here is the top of the one we didn’t care for much …

Coffee Shop

I made it on the suggestion of the owner of QuiltWorks, a local quilt shop close to home. She told me it was easy to put together and that it turns out beautifully – she even had two in the shop to prove what she said. What she failed to tell me was just how ridiculous the instructions are in the book, and how much I’d have to figure out on my own. It is indeed a simple quilt, but it’s NOT for the faint hearted nor the uninitiated quilter.

Written by Suzanne McNeill, the book is called Batiks Inspired by Bali. The quilts in the book are beautiful and I’d been wanting to make something using batiks, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I bought a “Bali Pop” – 40 fabric strips that measure 2.5″ by 44″, made by Hoffman Fabrics, one of my favorite companies. So I figured, good fabric, high recommendation from the LQS owner … what could possibly go wrong??

How about nearly everything? The instructions are horrible. It took me AGES to figure out McNeill’s “system” to sort the fabrics. Her quilt was made using the Bali Pop called Mint Chip. I used one called Cappuccino. I anticipated small issues based on this, but I’m not a new quilter; I thought I had this firmly in hand, NO PROBLEM! There were problems. Lots of problems. But once I got the sorting done, and started piecing the quilt, it went by quickly. And then I started to lay out the quilt. The instructions told me to cut six of the 14.5″ blocks into two pieces – one that was 7.25″ long and one that was 5.25″ long. But the layout diagram didn’t state which block was to go in what position. These “half” blocks were to go at the end of rows, and I couldn’t figure out why they should be different lengths when every other block was 14.5″ long and the rows were made of three full blocks and one abbreviated block. So I decided (wisely, I think) to cut the blocks in half. I could trim them if needed once I started sewing rows together but you certainly can’t add back fabric you’ve already chopped off.

I still don’t know why the cut blocks were to be two different lengths, because I saw no need for it. My blocks and rows went together very well and required no trimming. Eh … who knows?

So then I decided to make a second quilt using the pattern, thinking that I already had tackled the toughest part and I understood what I needed to do. This time, I thought (not so wisely), I’ll use yardage and cut my own strips! But I stood at my cutting tables for what seemed like days trying to figure out what to cut. As the minutes dragged by and nothing was being cut, the idea flitted through my head that I was losing my mind. I went to sit down and try to figure out what I needed to do. It took me some time but finally I figured it out and I started cutting. But again, I wasn’t using the exact fabric she did – this time I decided to use Moda marbles – one of my favorite fabric lines of all time. I did pretty well till I hit the “brown/green” print that she never called for in the yardage instructions. I have NO idea what fabric that should be … so now I’m stuck putting together all of the other color blocks until I figure out which one of these should be “brown/green” because “brown/green” is NEVER mentioned in the yardage requirements.

My head swims just thinking about it. And this is all from just ONE of the fifteen quilting patterns. I am terrified to look at any of the others for fear of what might happen next!

My suggestion to Ms. McNeill is to fire her proofreader/pattern testers and start over with someone who actually understands quilting. My suggestion to my readers is this – if you intend to make this quilt, I suggest you either be a strong quilter or else you find someone who can help you that is a strong quilter. This one could reduce even the stoutest quilter to tears …

I have a confession

I am not much of a sewer. I am a quilter, but not really a sewer. I don’t make my own clothing, I don’t have items throughout the house that I myself have made. I can sew, I have just chosen not to up till this point. Well, that’s not really true. I do not really understand fashion sewing, even though I’ve done some of it myself. The truth is, it never really appealed to me …

See, my mother made all of our clothing. And it drove me NUTS, because the other girls were wearing “designer” clothes when I was in middle & high school, and … who wants to stand out when they’re in middle & high school? I wanted to be like everyone else … buy my clothes at the store. So, one year my mother finally capitulated and told me that she would allow me to spend my “back to school” money she would normally use to make my clothes on ready-to-wear clothing from the store. I was thrilled. With the money, I think I got two or three tops and a pair of jeans. Yep, that’s about all I got. Whereas, in the past, I would start the school year with practically an entire new wardrobe, that year, I had almost nothing. My mom loves this story, but it always ends with me coming to her, shamefaced, asking her to make me some clothes. As badly as I wanted to fit in, I didn’t want to have to wear the same three tops to school all year. I never really had to learn how to sew because … well, because Mom did it for me!

Now, a couple years after high school is over and Mom has stopped making my clothes, I have begun to realize that ready-to-wear doesn’t really satisfy me anymore. Once accustomed to the perfect fit and the one-of-a-kind aspect of the clothes Mom used to make, it’s been a rough transition to ready-to-wear clothes. And wow, are off-the-rack clothes expensive to buy or what?! I was appalled to find that suits cost upwards of $400 … and even on sale they are still well over $100-200 in many cases. Back when I first got out of high school, I could buy suits all day long for less than $75 (ok, so maybe it’s been longer than a couple years since I got out of high school). And those were NOT on sale! When we recently looked at shorts for my husband (who is admittedly a large man, and whose clothes cost more as a result) and found that the average price of shorts for him was $45-50, I lost it. I mean, how hard is it to make shorts?? What to do, what to do?

Well, the answer seems obvious, doesn’t it? At least, it does to me. I have one of the better equipped studios of anyone I know. Maybe it’s time to put the studio to use for something other than quilt construction. I even have many of the tools of fashion sewing. But … there are a couple of problems with this. First of all, I haven’t done any real fashion sewing since my daughter “graduated” from the fifth grade. Seriously, she was in the fifth grade! I made her dress for the ceremony, and it turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. I’ll have to see if I can dig up some pictures of it; I know I took some because I was seriously proud of the outfit. So, it’s been a while since I have done any fashion sewing. And frankly, I was never really “into” fashion sewing, so I never really learned a lot … like how to set buttonholes and buttons to match up, how to put in a zipper, and I never really understood how to set sleeves. I NEVER learned to alter patterns, and I certainly have no idea how to make my own pattern.

That’s a lot to overcome just to make some shorts and stuff, huh? But I am determined. I bought a Threads magazine last night, and in this issue, they have a sidebar about a new online video series they have called Teach Yourself to Sew. This morning, I logged into the site and watched the first few videos. These covered basics such as the purpose for the course, what equipment you will need to sew (a sewing machine is necessary, a serger, not so much), and the notions you will need. It then moves on to patterns and buying fabrics. Then there is a project on how to make a jewelry bag. I haven’t made it that far, yet, but I intend to follow along and make every project they give … I think it will be a great way to learn, and they are still adding episodes. Later episodes include things like how to make darts and how to hem (I cannot do a proper hem, I’m sad to say; I never learned).

If you’re new to sewing, or if you’re self-taught, or if you’ve forgotten more than you know, check it out. So far I’ve really enjoyed it!