Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Giveaway: Day Number Two

Since my first book giveaway blog title was so....unequivocal, I decided to continue the trend.

Today, I bring you, Customize Your Sewing Patterns for a Perfect Fit by Mary Morris and Sally McCann.  From the back cover:  Say good-by to skirts that sag, pants that bind, and necklines that gap!  Never again will you lavish time and money on sewing beautiful clothes that don't flatter your figure because they just don't fit.

This book has very detailed instructions for altering every aspect of a pattern to tailor it for your individual needs.  Why am I not keeping it?  Because no matter how much I want to sew my own beautiful clothes, I just can't ever seem to make myself take time away from quilting to do it. Sigh.  Such is the nature of a quilting addiction.

If you're interested in winning this book leave a comment.  (Or if you're not interested, but want to comment anyway, just leave a note in your message saying you're not interested.)

And if you're just now coming to the eight days of book giveaways, it's not too late to check out the book from Day Number One and comment to win.  The giveaways will close at noon on September 7th and winners will be announced September 8th.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Giveaway: Day Number One

Snappy blog title eh?  Oh well, no one will mistake what's going on here.

For today's feature presentation, I give you Free Style Quilts, A "No Rules" Approach by Susan Carlson.  From the back cover:  Discover fun, creative fabric collage.  Susan Carlson's incredible quilts of underwater landscapes, floral designs, fish and portraits come to life as she shares her easy, "no rules" fabric collage technique and shows you how to create your own beautiful free-style quilt designs.

I'll tell you, the art quilts in this book are fantastic!  Awesome!  Beautiful!  What I discovered about myself in relation to this book is that when it comes to quilting (and most things in life), I'm more like Mr. Monk.  Traditional, orderly; definitely not "no rules" nor "free-style". 

For the more artistic and adventurous quilter, this would be a fantastic book--or for anyone who just wants to look at the pictures.  I've had this book for years, enjoyed the pictures, and never attempted one project in it.

If you're interested leave a comment.  (Or if you're not interested, but want to comment anyway, just leave a note in your message saying you're not interested.)

Good luck!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

From the Desert to the Prairie

A move is in the works in the Desert Quilter household.  In eight weeks, we'll be leaving Nevada for Kansas.  (Hopefully, the moving gods will smile on us and we can get everything done!)  Actually, it's a return to Kansas.  We've lived there before.  At this point in our lives, my mom and I feel it necessary to return to where we have family.  My grandparents are happy to be returning home.

We originally moved to Nevada to escape our allergies.  As you can see the landscape is quite barren compared to most places.  In regard to allergies, the move was a mixed a success.  With the dry climate there is almost no mold here.  That was wonderful!  But all those weeds you see still produce pollen and over time I've become allergic to it, along with the trees planted around houses for shade.  The experts said that moving wouldn't solve the allergy problem, but for several years, I was in pure heaven.  That said, I've reached the place where allergy shots are again in my future, so the original reason for the move to Nevada is moot.

I know many of you are looking at the sparse desert landscape and are finding it rather ugly.  I did too at first.  However, the colors of the desert are subtle and it takes time to see their beauty.  It doesn't hurt that the surrounding mountains change colors with the sunlight and are decorated with snow in winter.

So the clean out has already begun.  Guess what I found?  Eight, yep I count eight, books on quilting, sewing, crocheting, and knitting that will not be making the trip to Kansas with us.  They're all nice books.  Some we bought hoping to learn new techniques--but found ourselves sticking to our old familiar techniques instead--and others we've enjoyed and are ready to pass along.  What that means to all of you is eight days of book giveaways!

Each day for the next eight days starting tomorrow, I'll be featuring one of the books I'm giving away.  All you have to do to win is comment.  It's that simple.

On Wednesday, September 8th, I will announce the winners.  Please be sure to provide your email address so that I can get your contact information should you be one of the winners.  Good luck everyone!  And please wish us luck too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The March of the New York Beauties

I know all you quilters know that New York Beauties are quilt blocks. For any other readers, we're not talking about parading women!

Right at the moment, I'm basically working on two projects: doing the free motion quilting on the pansy quilt, and hand-piecing these New York Beauties. This makes 111 out of 196. So the process is marching along. Only 85 blocks to do until I can start driving myself crazy with the arrangement. What fun!

(Looks like I got on a pink kick, doesn't it?)

Although it's not much to brag about, I'll be linking up with one or more of the linky parties in my left sidebar. There's lots of cool stuff to be seen at these locations, so be sure to give them a look.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Grief and a Return to Free Motion Quilting

Some of you are probably asking, did she "leave" free motion quilting?  One would have to leave in order to return, right?  It's a good question.  Since my dad's sudden and unexpected death on August 2nd, I tend to think of everything in terms of "before" and "after".  My parents, paternal grandparents, and I all lived on the same piece of property (the rest of us still do) and my dad's sudden departure was a devastating blow to all of us.

Quilting has always been my refuge; my escape from the stress and annoyances of life.  This time quilting really couldn't be a refuge for me, at least not at first.  There were two reasons for this.

The first was an unwillingness to let go of the intense pain, as if keeping the wound fresh would somehow keep me better connected to my dad.  Through research on grief and eventually through my own experience, I learned that although this is a common reaction, it is a misconception.  Living in the desolation only keeps a person tied to her loved one's death; not his life.  In fact, intense grief actually interferes with the brain's ability to call forth memories about the departed person's life.

The second issue was the association between our quilting machine and my dad.  It was my dad who encouraged my mom and me to splurge and buy the Juki.  (The Juki isn't the most expensive on the market by far, however it was a huge step up from our Wal-mart Brother sewing machine.)  I'd been enjoying showing my dad what I'd been able to learn and do with free motion quilting "before".  I finally had the realization that if I waited to feel truly good before I tackled free motion quilting again, I could be waiting for a very long time.  I decided if I was going to feel miserable, it was better to feel miserable and do something productive rather than feel miserable and do nothing.

I tried doing some free motion quilting, and to my surprise (although in hindsight it makes sense), I found I felt a greater connection to my dad than when I'd been shunning the machine.  I'd been doing a disservice to his memory.  Grief is complicated.

So with the preamble out of the way, on to the free motion quilting itself.  Since I last blogged about my FMQ endeavors, I've finished 3 more blocks.

The stippling you see on the block below is the first I've ever done.  Yep, I sometimes tend to do things backwards, like learning to make feathers before learning to stipple.  In some ways stippling wasn't as easy for me as the feathers.  While it's true that it's not necessary to be too exact when stippling, having to think where I'm going next while paying attention to my stitches took a different kind of concentration.  With the feathers once the spine is stitched, the path is pretty well set.

The next issue I found myself faced with was my purple frames.  I'd thought I would leave them un-quilted, hoping they'd "pop".  Instead, unless the quilt is laying perfectly flat, they just wrinkle.  So I decided I needed to quilt something in the frames too.  They are only one inch wide.  I ran across these free motion leaves and decided to give them a try.  I'm pretty pleased with the result.

Each block seems to present new challenges.  I love the plaid fabric the quilter used in this block.  It was a perfect mix of colors to match the pansy focus fabric.  But how to quilt it?  I finally decided on feathers because I've been getting a lot practice since I'm using them in the sashing.  However, the feathers are buried in the plaid and really aren't noticeable.  Perhaps a more experienced quilter would have come up with something better for the plaid.

I mentioned in my last blog on free motion quilting, that quilting the pansy focus fabric was giving me trouble.  The vibrant pattern does weird things to my brain and the curved pansies mess up the curves I'm trying to quilt.  However, I decided to give it another shot, because these corner squares are not very big and I thought maybe I'd do better working in a smaller space.  HA!  As you can see below, that's not true.  My "petals" are pretty warped.

I was whining  discussing the issue with my mom, and she suggested I just outline the pansies themselves.  This worked much better.  (If you make the photo bigger, I think you'll be able to see the stitching.)  The focus fabric is quilted, and the pansies kind of "pop".  Moral of the story--work with the fabric.

Progress is being made on all fronts, and at this point, it's all anyone can ask for.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Delayed Luck

I won!  I won!  Woo-hoo!  It's my first giveaway win ever.

Some of you may remember Kristen's July giveway.  I entered, but at the time of the original drawing my number didn't come up.  Okay, so while I had been imagining fondling the fabrics and squeezing the pincushion, I knew some other quilter would enjoy them as much as I would have, so I wasn't totally disappointed when I didn't win.  Luck of the draw, right?

I guess my luck was merely delayed.  One of Kristen's winners failed to contact Kristen and give her her contact information.  Bad for her and good for me.  When Kristen ran the random generator doohicky again, my number came up!  Yippee!  (I certainly hope that for the quilter who missed out, it was because she was on a cruise or a trip to Hawaii, or something fun like that.)

Anyway, the giveaway stuff is so cool!  Included is a generous piece of fabric with kitchen motifs--cups, pears, toasters--and cute little sayings like, "Hey good lookin', what you got cookin?".  Kristen included one of the pincushions she made.  This one has strawberries in the center and is simply adorable.  Finally, there were 42 five inch squares from Moda's 12 Days of Christmas collection.  Wow!  I feel like I made out like a bandit.

Thanks Kristen!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Follow Up on Fluorescent Lights and Mood

Last Friday I blogged about my suspicion that the fluorescent lights in our sewing room were causing me to feel a bit depressed.  The subject brought on a couple interesting topics above and beyond the fluorescent lights:  Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the need to get plenty of sun for Vitamin D production.  Both important topics in their own rights. 

Marg noted that different type of fluorescent bulbs are available.  So that got me to thinking if there are different types of fluorescent bulbs available, there must be some information on the subject.  I Googled.  Sure enough, there has been some research done on the subject of fluorescent tube bulbs. 

The Consumer Health Organization of Canada has an interesting article about all types of light, including fluorescent lights.  Apparently, there are some significant physiological changes that occur in the presence of standard fluorescent lighting.  Much of the light research work was pioneered by Dr. John Ott.  His research, and subsequent research revealed that school children suffered more stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and irritability under standard fluorescent lights, than under full spectrum lights.  Changing to full spectrum lights actually improved academic performance.  Other research has shown that office workers are similarly affected.

After reading these articles, I knew my hypothesis about my adverse reaction to the standard fluorescent tube lights wasn't totally nuts.  Unfortunately, a trip to Home Depot revealed that they carried no full spectrum tube lights that would fit our ballast.  So it was back to the research to study light bulb frequencies called "color temperature".  Apparently standard fluorescents, called cool-white have a color temperature of 4200 K; full spectrum lights have color temperature of 5,000-5,500 K; and Daylight bulbs--which were available at our local Home Depot--have a color-temperature of 6,500 K.   (Are your eyes crossing from reading this article yet?  Well, I'm just trying to earn the Versatile Blogger award that P. gave me!)  Apparently, there is another parameter to take into account called color-rendering, but by the time my mom and I got this far in our research our eyes were beginning to cross. 

My mom and I decided to try the fluorescent bulbs called "Daylight".  We replaced two of the four fluorescent tubes with the Daylight bulbs to see if it improved our mood.  I'm pleased to say that the two new bulbs really helped, and I see no reason to replace the remaining standard fluorescent bulbs.

Now, I've probably told you way more than you ever wanted to know on the subject, and I really didn't even begin to do the science justice.  In any case, I think the moral of this story is not to ignore your hunches no matter how bizarre they may seem.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award update

One of my nominees, Valentina from Valentina's Corner, had decided her blog would be "award-free" from the time she first began blogging.  So she caressed the Versatile Blogger Award and asked me to pass it along to yet another deserving recipient.  It's a win-win for me because Valentina now knows how much I appreciate her blog, and yet I get to pass it along to someone else who is also deserving that I'd left out.  I tend to be a rule-follower and the directions said 15 recipients not 16.  What a dilemma!

Okay, so I'm awarding Wendy at Ivory Spring.  A talented quilter and a new mom.  Personally, I think anyone who has children deserves an award for versatility.  That's the name of the game, isn't it? 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Such a Sweet Surprise

This afternoon, I found a note in my inbox from P. over at The Way I Sew It.  She had awarded me The Versatile Blogger award!  I was totally surprised and honored.  Thanks P.!  I'm not sure I've reached the level of versatility implied by the award, but I am working on it.  This is certainly encouraging.

The award comes with a few easy rules, and I am more than pleased to adhere to them.
  • Thank the person who gave you the award.  (Yep, got that one covered.)
  • Tell 7 things about yourself.
  • Award 15 other bloggers that you enjoy reading.
7 Things About Me:
  1. I'm an only child (and I did learn to share).
  2. I love to read science fiction and mysteries, and all genres in between.  
  3. I am both a liberal and a conservative--it depends on the issue.  Consequently, I have no representatives in the Congress or the Senate since they are so polarized.
  4. I have no phobias about insects or spiders in general, but maggots really give me the willies.
  5. I loved watching B movies with my dad.  He gave a running commentary that was just hysterical.
  6. My favorite subject in college was chemistry.
  7. My favorite TV show at the moment is Memphis Beat.
15 Bloggers who are receiving the Versatile Blogger Award from me (in no particular order):
  1. Astrid at Grandma's Red Needle
  2. Elaazan at Huisvlyt
  3. ThreeUnderTwo at Lit and Laundry
  4. Eric at The Empirical Manifesto
  5. Valentina at Valentina's Corner
  6. Marg at Sunshine? Paradise?
  7. Roslyn at Ros-the-Quilter
  8. Suzanne at Coloradolady
  9. Cynthia at Home Matters 1st
  10. Rita at Quiltpiecer
  11. Andrea at Lush Stuff
  12. Liz at Brambleberry Cottage
  13. Nima at Made to Treasure
  14. Carrie at A Passion for Applique
  15. Erica at Scrappy Threads
Now if P. hadn't just given the award to Mrs. Pyjamas at Quilting in My Pyjamas, Joy at Taradiddle and Malarky, Carla at Sew It Up Baby, Kristen at So Happy, Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and Elizabeth at Such a Sew and Sew, I would have given them the Versatile Blogger award too.  But I didn't want any of them to get too full of themselves.  ;-)  (Just kidding Ladies!).  Seriously, this way, I get to spread the admiration a bit further.  There are so many wonderful bloggers, and I feel blessed to be part of a really special group in the blogging community.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fluorescent lighting

My mom and I are very fortunate to have overhead fluorescent lighting in our sewing room. You really can't beat it for being able to see well.

However, I've come to the realization that if I spend a big chunk of time in under the lights in one sitting, I get to feeling a little depressed. Initially, I thought it was because I usually do my quilting toward the end of the day and so I am likely to be tired. However, this seems like more than just tiredness. In looking back, I realize that any time fluorescent lighting has been the only light source in a room, I feel that way. Now, if there is a window with sunshine in addition to the fluorescent lights, I'm good; if there is another type of light in the room too, well that helps. My mother is wondering if she's being similarly affected, although her feelings have been more subtle.

Have any of you experienced anything like this?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Embroidered Summer Bed Spread

I was rummaging through the linen closet this past week and came across this summer bed spread made by great grandmother. I'm not sure of its age, but I remember seeing it on her bed when we visited her in 1978. I was fourteen years old. 

It appears to be made from a high thread count sheet, that she divided into on-point squares using a fancy stitch on her sewing machine. Then she embroidered the names of the states with the state flower that she had visited. The "states" include "Old Mexico", "Canada", and "Santa Catalina".

It is a perfect weight for a humid, summer Kansas night.  She slept with her windows open.  

Here are close-ups of some of the blocks:

My great grandmother was an incredibly talented woman. She quilted, knitted, crocheted, and embroidered. It is she who inspired me to quilt. I've shown her work on Vintage Thingy Thursday before~a Dresden Plate quilt.

I'm linking up at Suzanne's site, The Colorado Lady, for Vintage Thingy Thursday. Go check out the other cool vintage items people are sharing this week.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Week Ago Today

It was a week ago today that my dad died.  It is impossible to explain just how much that sucks.  I know some of you already know, and for those who don't, I hope you don't have to find out for a long time.

My dad's death was sudden and unexpected.  However, having also witnessed the slow, lingering, die-by-inches type of death, I can honestly say that for the person who must leave us, the quick death is better.  I am thankful he did not suffer long.  The sense of disbelief and surreality that the unexpected death leaves in its wake takes some time to fade, but after a week's time it is mostly gone.

My dad would want my mother and me to get back on life's horse and ride, so that is what we will try to do.  I will return to blogging on my topic theme--quilting--as soon as I can, and I'm already finding times I can concentrate enough to comment on my fellow bloggers blogs.  If I fail to comment on someone's blog, it's not because I'm not interested; I just don't always have my act together.  Please bear with me.