Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Official I-Don't-Get-To-Go-To-Paducah-So-I'll-Have-My-Own-Damn-Show Slideshow

I know you have all been anxiously awaiting this post! Here is a lovely little slideshow of most of the quilts that currently live in my house (and a few works in progress, because, well, it's my show). If you are using a blog reader you will have to click through, the cool little pictobrowser I used doesn't show up in a reader. On the bottom right of the pictobrowser is a little "Notes" area, if you hover over that you will get my descriptions of each quilt.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Virtual Quilt Show Anyone?

My dear mother is jaunting off to Paducah tomorrow (with my aunt!) to attend the AQS Quilt Show, also known as quilt mecca. I'm not bitter or anything. Well, maybe just a tad jealous. However, I have decided to host my own virtual quilt show. Tomorrow I will be snapping pics of the quilts that live in my house and posting them for a I-Don't-Get-To-Go-To-Paducah-So-I'll-Have-My-Own-Damn-Show type of event. Anyone want to join me? Surely at least one of my loyal fifteen readers has a quilt to show off? Doesn't even have to be made by you (even though some credit would probably be appreciated by the person that did make it). I plan on posting my little show oh, about Thursday, so leave me a comment if you want to play and I will link to you.

Unintentionally Synchronized Quilt Tops

My friend Melissa and I have been partners in crime in quilting since the beginning, we gravitate toward a lot of the same fabrics, belong to the same quilt guild and often use the same patterns/ideas in our quilts. We have been to Nashville together a couple of times and have shopped fabric together many times. So, from time to time we end up purchasing the same things. This past winter when we were at our favorite Atlanta quilt shop, Intown Quilters, we both picked up a jelly roll of Jane Sassaman fabrics. I looooooove her wild and crazy fabrics and have bought quite a lot of them, but finding something to actually do with them is a whole different story. Really, the hardest thing about them is cutting into them. The patterns are so big and bold that it is hard to get your brain around how to best whack them into little pieces and sew them back together again. That is part of what makes buying a pack of pre-cut fabrics so great, someone already went through and cut them up willy-nilly for you, you just have to focus on the putting them together in some kind of pleasing way. I've been thinking about what to do with my strips for a few weeks, as I was finishing up my last quilt. I was really inspired by this post of ideas for a jelly roll, especially when I remembered I had a ton of 5 inch white squares from a guild fabric swap a while back and decided the white squares bordered by my strips would work perfectly. These are the blocks that I have finished the last couple of days, and it just so happens Melissa has been busily working on her set of the same strips too (we didn't plan it or anything, for once). Aren't they fantastically crazy?!

Be sure to check out her post to see how her strips are getting along with much wilder fabric. Not sure yet how big I'm going to make this one, guess I will just keep making blocks until I get tired of them. Oh, and I'm going to do something in those white squares, just haven't decided which something yet.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

3 Books And A Blog

There are three books that I have been wanting to write about but have been daunted by the prospect of finding the time to sit down and write three different blog posts. Well, haha! Enter lightbulb moment, something along the lines of "just put all three in one post you big dummy". So, please settle in for a little chit chat about 3 completely unrelated but totally fabulous books...

First up, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Before buying this book I did my usual amazon comments research, and opinions ranged from best book ever written to completely droll and boring. What really pushed me towards reading this bohemoth (it's 846 pages and not large type) was the fact that it has won so many literary awards and yet I had somehow never heard of it. Well, I finished it last night and that was because I completely forced myself to. Not because I had to force my way through it, but because I absolutely did not want it to end! After 846 pages I was totally not ready for her to wrap it up! If you found this book dull, I feel so sorry for you. What isn't to love about dry British humor, magicians, and totally nefarious, deliciously wicked fairies? So much fun, so hoping for a sequel where Arabella gets some kickass revenge.

Next up, the lovely and very popular new release by Amanda Soule, The Creative Family. I have been reading her blog, Soule Mama, all winter and I look forward to her posts everyday. They are always beautiful and inspiring, and so is her book. It has a lot of fun ideas for activities to do with children, but mostly it is about really connecting with your kids and family through creative projects, and how to incorporate small connections into your everyday life. I highly recommend the book and her blog (and when Soule Papa takes over and writes an occasional guest post, watch out, he can take your breath away). We recently picked up a how to draw birds book at the library after being inspired by Amanda and the drawings that the girls have done have been so darn entertaining! The book really makes you think about things you can do to expand on interests your children already have.

The third book is not a new release, it is one I have had for many years and is my absolute favorite gardening book, A Way to Garden by Margaret Roach. Margaret started out as the Gardening Editor at Martha Stewart Living magazine and has since moved up to Editorial Director. I think she has a major talent for seeming really "down to earth" and she obviously has a very deep love for everything that grows. This certainly comes across in her book, which has suggestions for things to grow but is really just a gorgeous look at nature and the cycles of the garden. She describes it best in her own words:

"You will not find chapters on spring, summer, fall and winter here, or any named for the calendar months, either... I imagine that the garden's year is roughly parallel to the six seasons of life, from conception through birth and on to youth, adulthood, senescence, and death/afterlife. For people moving from phase to phase takes years (if all goes well) and there is only one guaranteed chance at each; in the garden, the life cycle is packed into a single year, and then the next, over and over, even long after the gardener is gone... The medium is alive and always changing and, no, you are never really in charge for a second, no matter how straight your rows or how sturdy your stakes. Something larger is always at work, something no mere gardener can control."

This is the book I pull out every year at the end of winter and that constantly inspires me in my outside endeavors. It is no longer in print, but it is really pretty easy to find used (there are several copies for sale on Amazon). However, the main reason I mention it is because (squeal!) Margaret has just recently started a blog: A Way to Garden. And it is really not a I-am-the-hotshot-editor-of-Martha-Stewart-Living kind of blog, it's just Margaret talking about what she knows best. It was such a treat to find that I just had to share.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nature Impressions

While following random links in blogland yesterday I came across some fun ideas for things to do with the shrimp and decided it was a good day to take on this project. I originally got the idea from a blog called What Knot (love the name, you really appreciate clever craft blog names after you try to think of one for yourself!) She has a lot of ideas for great kid activities. Finding things to do that get the girls outside and away from the Wii are especially appealing at this time of year, time to break the winter video game habits and get out in the fresh air. The directions I read said to use Sculpey Clay, but our local Michael's did not have any, or any kind of make and bake clay for that matter. So we decided to experiment with two of Crayola's clays, the Model Magic and their Air Dry Clay, and of course they both have their pros and cons. But first some pictures,

Hunting for "nature" is always full of discoveries, one being this super lucky four leaf clover:

Our collection for the first round of impressions, two more rounds of collecting eventually ensued:

The Crayola Model Magic is a lightweight, almost foamy textured product. The pros of using it are mainly that it is not the least bit messy and it is also really easy for smaller children to make into a ball and smush flat. It did very nice impressions and comes in lots of different colors. The texture was actually a con for me though, I was looking for something that had more heft to it, I wanted the disks to have a bit of weight in my hand like normal clay. Also, I think this stuff remains kind of foamy even when its dry, they seem pretty dry this morning and I would still be able to press a fingernail into it and leave a mark. I definitely have doubts as to how long the finished craft would hold up to any type of vigorous play. Also, Model Magic is expensive, as most Crayola products are, definitely something to use a coupon on.

The Crayola Air-Dry Clay was more of what I was looking for. It has the weight and texture of normal clay and made really nice impressions. It is also a good deal less expensive. I would say the only drawbacks are that it is messy (gets all over your hands), which isn't really a drawback when you are supposed to be communing with nature, but could be a pain on other projects and that it does take a while to dry. When I checked our finished discs this morning I had to flip these ones over to let the back side get some air and dry some more.

Air-Dry Clay on the left, Model Magic on the right:

In summary, the 4 year old really liked the Model Magic, the 6 year old and her mom and her mom's wallet really liked the Air-Dry Clay. I will be taking some of the clay with us to the beach in a couple months to do this project again there, it really was a lot of fun for everyone.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Canadian Adventures

Most people head someplace warm for spring break to help banish the winter blues, but this week we headed far, far north to Canada. I have been saying for years that I would go visit my high school friend and college roommate Jenna in Toronto and this year we finally made it. My oldest daughter became fixated on Canada after finding out that not only did my friend live there but that they have REAL snow, and she started our vacation in motion by asking Santa for ice skates to go skating in Canada for Christmas. Well, she did not receive ice skates (we live in Atlanta) but her obsession did get us seriously thinking about heading north. Then Jenna had a new baby and we had to go to make sure she had things under control. Baby quality control, its a tough job but someone has to do it. Who knew Toronto was such a cool city? There was plenty to keep us entertained. Actually, we probably saw about a tenth of the stuff we wanted to see since we were herding 4 children from six years down to 3 months.

Our first day was of course taken over by travel; the Atlanta airport was a nightmare of long lines. The flight into Buffalo wasn't bad though and Jenna's husband, Len, was nice enough to come pick us up at the airport and drive the hour and a half to their house in Oakville, a suburb of Toronto. We got settled and did introductions and such, then Jenna brought out the yummiest cheese plate I think I have ever experienced and I knew it was going to be a great trip. Oh, you didn't know that cheese can set the whole tone for a vacation? Well, shows what you know. Len cooked us a fantastic pasta dinner and after some wine and conversation we hit their hot tub, which became the girls' favorite thing about Canada, they have hot tubs there. Next time I guess we can just go stay at the Hilton down the road and they'll be just as pleased.

Sunday was filled by our trip into the city to go up into the CN Tower, which has the highest observation deck in the world (second highest building). This was the day we wanted to do tons of things, but after getting 4 kids and 4 adults out of the house, lugging said people through the city, scaling a million stairs (with stroller) and elevators and checking out the views we were all exhausted and ready for a very late lunch. The weather was gorgeous, the city was packed with people since it was the first really pretty day they had had all winter and we had a great time catching the sights.

Monday the boys set off to the Hockey Hall of Fame while Jenna and I took the kids to an indoor fair type thing that they loved. It is actually an area in a mall that is filled with rides and activities for the kids, from a ferris wheel to bumper cars and boats to the obligatory carousel, but I can't remember what it was called. Since it was a Monday, we practically had the place to ourselves and the girls could ride whatever they wanted over and over again. That night Jenna's mom and aunt came for kid patrol while the adults all went out to dinner at Sotto Sotto and absolutely gorged ourselves on Italian food. When we sat down there was a young lady at the table next to us dining with her dad who was terribly disappointed because they had been told that Mark Wahlberg would be at our table that night. In the course of conversation Jay mentioned that he once ate next to Rob Lowe and she had no idea who that was until we said he was in Austin Powers. Ah, youth. It was great to get out and be grownups and we unknowingly (at least I didn't realize, a little too much wine perhaps?) lingered an hour past the restaurant closing. Ugh, I hated those people when I waited tables, but it was such fun to be those people.

Tuesday was our big excursion to Niagara falls. We once again had a gorgeous day, which I could really see making a huge difference in the enjoyment of the falls since they are already terribly windy and misty to start with. The falls are truly mesmerizing and the Canadians definitely have a better chunk on their side, so if you are going to see them make sure you cross the border, which is still easy breezy by car. Niagara was an all day adventure and a great way to end up our trip. Also, the flight home the next day was so much easier with leaving out of the Buffalo airport instead of Atlanta, and we somehow managed to time it where we didn't even hit rush hour traffic. I can definitely see us returning to Toronto in the future.

Jenna has always loved to point out the things that are different in Canada than the States, and there are just enough little things to provide entertainment to us Americans. I tried to document a few to share. For example, if you go to the fridge looking for the jug of milk you will stand there for a very long time because their milk is in bags. Bags I tell you! For some reason I found this endlessly entertaining. Jenna made a whole collection of snacks and candy you can't get down here, the Kinder eggs (which are chocolate eggs that have toys in the middle) and "All Dressed" chips (which are a combination of all chip flavors smushed into one bag) were our favorites. Also, those Canadians loooove to put their maple leaf all over things, such as the golden arches a Mickey D's. Don't plan on doing a lot of shopping if you visit Toronto, things are crazy expensive even though our dollars are now about equal, but we did manage to do some damage at a store there called Roots and are now all stocked up with t-shirts that have beavers on them. Now that we are back maybe I'll be inspired to finally finish the quilts for Jenna's girls, it is completely shameful that I started one of them 3 years ago and have yet to quilt it. Aboot time to get to it, eh?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ugly Duckling to Beautiful Swan

We returned from our big spring break adventures in Toronto to find Atlanta full of bright green leaves, flowers, and pollen. Or maybe everything just looked really, really green after a few days in Canada where everything is still really, really brown. Our trip was tons of fun, but more about that in my next post. I finished my couch quilt before I left, but it was cloudy and gray and I couldn't get a good picture. So, just a couple hours off the plane and I was tromping around in the back yard trying to get a shot that accurately represents the colors of the quilt.

This one was specifically made to bring together the colors in my living room and I am completely in love with it. Amy Butler fabrics from her Belle collection (I bought these as a fat quarter stack originally to challenge myself because I was in a batik rut) and a Yellow Brick Road pattern. The pattern is one I have made before with my friend Melissa for a charity auction, that time we made it up in batik-ish fabrics in purples and blues. This is a totally different look and the pattern is actually fantastic for showing off large print fabrics. This quilt held quite a few exasperating moments for me (as most of my quilting does), but more about that in a minute. It was originally dubbed "The Ugly Quilt" by me and everyone that helped me in its construction (complementary fabric choices, block placement, quilting suggestions) because after opening up the fat quarter pack of fabrics and laying them out they could best be described as an insane combination, it was really hard to imagine anything cohesive ever being made from them, hence the challenge. The fabrics were so crazy that piecing them together and placing the blocks gave me headaches, but once border fabrics were chosen and the eye was given somewhere to rest, those same fabrics became quite a sassy combination. And then there is the backing fabric. Love, Love, Love this fabric. (click on the picture to get a better look) Admittedly, I had to be talked into it at the quilt shop by my mom and aunt, but they definitely saw something that I did not. It is beautiful and brought the whole quilt together, from the back!

Now for the frustrations, pretty much all of them brought on by myself. First, I dutifully sandwiched the quilt (that is when you lay down the backing, put on the batting, and top it off with your quilt top for my non-quilty readers) and pinned the hell out of it to prep it for quilting. Well, usually you quilt on the front of a quilt, but my mom had convinced me to follow the fabric design on the backing fabric, from the back of the quilt. Pretty hard to take safety pins out of a quilt as you come to them when you can't even see them. So, lots of broken needles and unstitching sewn on safety pins. Yes, I should have redone the whole thing at the beginning, but I was too stubborn and too anxious to get to the quilting part. Secondly, did you happen to take a look at the backing fabric?!!! Following this as my guide for my quilting took WAAAAAY more patience than I had on most days. And if I had happened to drink too much coffee on a morning I wanted to get some quilting done? Forget about it. I'm very happy with the end result, but getting there sucked. This was also the largest quilt I had ever tried to quilt by machine, which meant a lot of quilt wrestling. So, a challenging quilt in more ways than one. Usually when I finish a quilt I don't want to look at it for a few weeks, but I can't get enough of this one.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Putting the binding on a quilt is really one of my favorite parts of the process. Quilters are always trying to find ways to do it faster, but I like the slowness of it. The feel of the fabric in your hand, that has now been given the nice weight of a quilt, a last chance to get up close and personal with your fabric choices and the design you chose. Because lets face it, once it's really done it becomes something that is woven into the every day, which is fabulous in and of itself, but you will never again be as closely connected to something you have put so much time and energy into. Slowly putting a stitch around every inch of the perimeter, for me, is meditative, reflective, soothing. Even with the girls asking every five minutes "aren't you done yet?!!".