A Couple of Finishes and a WIP

scarves.jpg

Yep, got those purple scarves done. The ones on the bottom are those I had leftover from the summer events. And yes, they are darker. I must have used a slightly different concentration for this newest batch. Which tends to happen when you don't write things down. Which is the beauty of handmade--the individual uniqueness. Which I'm going to say is my reason rather than just "I didn't bother to take the time to write the darn proportions down."

These will be gifts to women I meet on my trip. I have 25 altogether--no idea how many women I'll actually be meeting.

I'd also mentioned on somewhere along the way that I made a last-minute decision to make something for a special visit I'm hoping to make. This will be for the man who in the 1990s invited my father to work with him on peace-making. I thought a peace dove would be a suitable recognition of their shared work and token of my great appreciation for him and all he's done. 

It's roughly 9" square. Commercial fabric for the dove, my hand-dye for background, backing, and binding--all the same piece. The dove is fused to the background, and I did a hand blanket-stitch around the outside with a variegated perle cotton (I don't recall where I got it--I think from a vendor at Lancaster). Even though I've done blanket-stitches a whole lot, I had difficulty keeping my stitch even because I'm too used to doing it on felted wool, not fabric, and I was struggling to hold the piece comfortably in my hand. For some reason it was all kinds of awkward. But overall it looks okay.

I then hand-embroidered the olive branch with a variegated hand-dyed perle cotton from Artfabrik. Love those perle cottons--very tasty.

As opposed to the blanket stitch, I'm really pleased with the way the olive branch turned out. First time ever doing a stem stitch, first time ever doing a herringbone stitch for the leaves. It looks a little more pine-y than olive-y but hey, you know what it's supposed to be so it's all good. 

It's possible I should've done the quilting first and then done the olive branch. Oh well.

I really enjoyed doing hand embroidery. I may do more free-form embroidery of my own designs in 2015. And yep, I've already got Craftsy classes on my wish list to help me out with that! BTW, I also talked about this on my last podcast episode and mentioned the book I used as reference. Oh, and yes, I did remember to put a label on the back of this too. Cookin' with gas.

And then, also on a whim but with far less purpose than the dove... Remember that Jenny Doan trunk show I went to? Ever since, I've been jonesing to dig into my pre-cut stash and whip something up. Last weekend, when I'd gotten all my scarves pressed and done as much work on the dove as I felt up to doing that day, I pulled out a charm pack, consulted a Missouri Star Quilt Company tutorial, and started cutting.

Introducing: My Disappearing 4-Patch Work in Progress As-Yet-To-Be-Named

I'm hoping to get the blocks done before I leave; I'll not worry about getting it put together into a top until I'm back. I only had one charm pack of this fabric (Good Morning by Moda, an older collection) so it'll be a baby-sized quilt. At the moment, this quilt has no purpose--no one in mind. I don't think I'll donate it, though. I'm starting to realize it may be helpful for me to have a certain number of finished quilts on hand for those last-minute gifts (illness, shower gifts, etc.). And, if truth be told, every other time I've started a quilt without a designated recipient, it seems the designated recipient appears before the quilt is done anyway. So who knows?

Here's the tutorial!


Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

"And it ain't a fit night out for man nor beast!" (With thanks to W.C. Fields.)

"And it ain't a fit night out for man nor beast!" (With thanks to W.C. Fields.)

  • About whether I have everything I need for my trip, since I'm at the point-of-no-return for ordering things online.
  • How much computers work my very last nerve at times.
  • That I'm glad I don't live in Buffalo--and thinking of all who do!
  • That the normal snow we've gotten this week of 4-6" feels like enough. Seasonal, even.
  • How I'm ready for the snow, but not quite ready for the below-zero wind-chills.
  • That even the dogs weren't too keen on the cold.
  • How good it's felt to be back at my sewing machine for a little bit.
  • That I need to get my head wrapped around a menu for Thanksgiving.
  • That I also need to, once and for all, sort out the various seasonal wardrobes in my closet and get some things in storage and other things packed.
  • That we really should have gotten the carpets cleaned before Thanksgiving but I couldn't squeeze one more thing in.
  • That I should have gotten it done over the summer when I first started thinking about it.
  • How procrastination is rarely useful.
  • That a sunlight lamp is a wonderful thing, especially when one is weaning oneself off coffee at the same time as the days are getting darker and shorter.

Craftsy Class Review: Strip Your Stash with Nancy Smith

I've owned this class for awhile. A l-o-n-g while. I waffled frequently about whether or not I was going to use it to actually make a quilt. I've ultimately decided that this kind of quilt is a fantastic retreat project, and since I'm not likely going on retreat anytime soon due to scheduling issues, I may as well go ahead and review it in concept, because I know it's a concept that works. (I've done similar in the past.) So, unfortunately, no photos of my own work based on the class!

Strip Your Stash with Nancy Smith shows how to cut your stash fabrics into strips of varying sizes, sew them back together to make a new "fabric," then cut different types of shapes out of that fabric to create some really fun quilts. It's more or less string quilting, although with bigger and, in her examples, more color-coordinated "strings."

Why would it make a great retreat project? Because part of the process is extremely repetitive--cut, cut, cut, cut...sew, sew, sew, sew. Once you've got your new fabric made, of course, then it gets really interesting again. So I need the kind of setting in which I can have all sorts of other things going on to entertain me while I'm cutting, cutting, cutting, and sewing, sewing, sewing. 

In the class, Nancy walks you through how to choose effective color combinations, and then walks you through the cutting, sewing, and pressing of the strips. This is the lesson you'll really want to pay attention to as she gives good advice for how to keep those strips from going all whacked when you're sewing them together. (Never sewn a bunch of long strips together side-to-side? It's not as easy as it feels like it should be!)

After the fabric is created, the remainder of the lessons go through several possible block variations cut from this stripped yardage, including very helpful tips relevant to each one. And let me tell you, the quilts are all just so much fun. I do really like the designs and could easily see myself designating one of them as a retreat project in the future.

The last lesson, entitled "Good to the Last Scrap,' gives several examples of how to use up the progressively-smaller pieces of scrap stripped-fabric you'll have left from doing any of the previous quilts. There are some cute ideas here!

Want to see some pictures of projects based on the class? Check out the class project page here. (You may have to be a member of Craftsy for that link to work--apologies if that's true!)

The Basics

  • 8 lessons, ranging from 8 to 35 minutes, though most are in the 20 minute range.
  • Lesson 1 is Nancy's introduction, as well as a really good discussion of color choices.
  • Lesson 2 is making the stripped yardage. She really takes her time with this and offers a lot of tips along the way, so it's worth paying attention to even if you already know the concept.
  • Lesson 3 starts the block designs with Carnival Squares in two variations--I love this block; Lesson 4 is Candy Strips; lesson 4 is Paint Box--another of my favorites; lesson 5 is Kaleidoscope with some great information about putting the rows together; and lesson 7 is Curved Play, which introduces curved piecing. '
  • Finally, as mentioned above, Lesson 8 gives several great ideas for using up the scraps. 

I did enjoy watching Nancy Martin and I really do like several of the block designs. As I said above, I could see myself doing this sometime in the future--just not right now. So, with apologies for a photo-free-post, I'm giving Strip Your Stash with Nancy Smith two thumbs up.

Craftsy Class Review: Travel Photography: The Essential Guide with Jad Davenport

Gee, have you heard? I'm about to take a trip. A *Big* Trip. Therefore, I've been brushing up on my photography skills, and Jad Davenport's Travel Photography: The Essential Guide seemed just the ticket. 

His main theme of the class is to take your time. Get to know the area. Get to know the lighting. Think through themes you want to convey in your photos of the trip. He states at the outset: You're not just taking photos, you're making pictures. 

As I was watching these lessons, I realized that, for the most part, I have been working on everything in this class for many years. Not only do I enjoy photography myself, but as I do most of the marketing and all of the resources for my organization, I'm also consistently trying to improve my photography so we can use my photos rather than having to pay for stock--as well as the fact that when I take photos at an event to use in publicity for future events, I know exactly what photos I want to have. I did pick up a couple of tips and the conversation with the teacher available on the Craftsy platform is quite helpful. 

Boy behind wire fence at refugee camp in Thailand

Boy behind wire fence at refugee camp in Thailand

I've always known that I want to take pictures that "tell a story." Jad's discussions of making pictures with intention (lesson 2) are exactly that. Think through what story you want to tell--what theme you want to explore with your photos. He discusses the theme "edges" that he often uses--where are the edges between things? As I was listening to him talk about that I immediately recalled one of my favorite photos I took during my 2008 trip to Thailand, of a man carrying a basket on his back walking down the side of a road with a motorcycle going by (included in this post). I took it because it represented to me the strange blend of ancient and modern I saw all around me in Thailand. I also have several photos of people standing behind the fences on the edge of the refugee camp, representing their lack of freedom. Apparently I also explore the theme "edges" without realizing it!

Juxtaposition of ancient and modern in Thailand

Juxtaposition of ancient and modern in Thailand

That being said, with apologies to Jad and his emphasis on taking your time to find the best photos, usually when I'm traveling I'm not able to just wander about at will, going back to places at different times of day, waiting in one location for half an hour to get the perfect shot, asking people to pose for a series of 25 shots to make sure I get one good one. Few of us have the luxury of time; rather, we generally have to grab photos on the fly. This means training our eyes to know immediately what will likely make a good photo; being willing to get into a different position to capture just a particular angle; knowing ahead of time what story we want to tell. And, of course, taking thousands of pictures so we'll get a handful of good ones. Thank you, digital technology.

This class will help you train your eye. Jad discusses issues of composition, getting unique perspectives, using available light, and the importance of "moments." For someone new to photography or someone who is trying to improve upon the shots she normally takes, I would recommend this class. For me, while I enjoyed Jad as a teacher and loved seeing his photos as examples (beautiful stuff!), I didn't learn as much from this class as I'd have liked; but then, I've been working on these concepts already. Sometimes I just don't give myself enough credit for what I already know. However, it did put some ideas back in the forefront of my mind for when I'm traveling. And I picked up a great tip for a portable tripod-hack that he learned from the Navy Seals. I have to get myself to Home Depot this week to pick up the parts to make it for myself! 

"Joy"--of girls playing on the beach in Oregon when we finally let them out of meetings.

"Joy"--of girls playing on the beach in Oregon when we finally let them out of meetings.

The Basics

  • 7 lessons, ranging from 17 to 32 minutes in length.
  • Lesson 1 includes the usual teacher introduction (and he's got some serious street cred), but also addresses planning ahead, travel gear, and basic camera techniques to set yourself up for success.
  • Lesson 2 lays the foundation, including how to assess the location for possibilities, four elements of a good photo, and "building" a photograph.
  • Lessons 3-6 then each explicate one of those four elements of a good photo in more detail. There are some great tips here in things to be paying attention to as you line up for a shot. Even if you don't have a lot of time or if you have a point-and-shoot with no manual controls, you can still usually take just a minute or two to think through where to stand, where to aim, how close to be, how to compose the best possible photograph.
  • Lesson 7 talks about putting together an "artful presentation," rather than just showing people pictures willy-nilly. How do you put your photos together to tell a story or create a mood?

For me, I gave Jad Davenport's Travel Photography: The Essential Guide one thumb up. (Although that might go to two thumbs if this tripod hack thing works for me!) For anyone who is newer or less confident in their photography, it's two-thumbs up. Great guidance, helpful tips, and it's almost worth it just to see his photos!

Craftsy Class Review: Continuous Line Quilting with Ann Petersen

Online Quilting Class

This class has been in my queue for some time now, but I moved it up to the top of the pack this month because I have several UFOs all in the same stage: They need to be quilted. I've been working my way through all my free-motion quilting (FMQ) classes most, to be honest, to get inspiration for designs. I feel like at this stage I know how to do FMQ--it's just a matter of a lot more practice and better thoughts about design patterns. 

And this class immediately paid off.

And so, my review of Continuous Line Quilting with Ann Petersen

I'd already taken another of her Craftsy classes--check out my review of Beyond Basic Machine Quilting. I liked her then, and I still like her now. I won't take time here to talk about her teaching style and such as I've already covered that in my previous review.

Just for a quick definition, if this is an unfamiliar term for you: "Continuous line quilting" is doing a quilt design in a single pass, without cutting thread and restarting somewhere else. It's the best way to make FMQ fast and simpler, rather than having to keep stopping at the end of one line, locking the stitch in some way, breaking thread, moving to another section, and starting all over again. 

practicing

practicing

This class is very helpful (1) if you're looking for more quilt design ideas (most in this class were not ones I've already found in other classes, or she brings a new twist to the design); or (2) if you've been trying to figure out how to use some of the standard (traditional) quilt designs in a continuous-line way. For me, with all the studying-up I've been doing on FMQ for the last couple of years, I found that aspect of the class (especially lesson 8) the most useful for what I needed; that's where she walks you through the process of how to take a standard traditional quilt design--often those developed with hand-quilting in mind--and make it work better for FMQ by figuring out where the continuous lines could be. Now-a-days, more and more designs made with FMQ in mind are being published and produced as stencils. However, there are still a lot of great quilt designs out there that need some slight adjustments to make them easier to do FMQ-style, and this class is really helpful in teaching you how to look at designs differently, break them into component parts, and think through your quilting plan.

Signature as seen from the front

Signature as seen from the front

I chose not to do the class project and, rather, look at how I might use any of the designs on current projects I need to finish. As it turned out, it was the very last few moments of the very last lesson in the class that inspired me. I'd just finished the baby quilt for my great-niece earlier this week but was realizing, over my morning coffee today, that I hadn't put a label on it. Since it is for her first birthday, a very momentous occasion in any person's life, I felt badly that I hadn't put something on there marking that.

And then I watched the last class while I was eating breakfast. And there, at the very end, Ann FMQ'd her name onto the corner of the quilt as her label. Well, of course! I've done words on quilts once or twice before but it rarely comes to mind as a first option. I was pleased to be reminded. 

Signature from the back

Signature from the back

From the pictures on this blog you can see the results. I practiced with a sharpie on paper first because, face it, it's been awhile since I've written in cursive--or, at least, a cursive that would work in FMQ. Then I practiced on a quilt sandwich to make sure I had the tension right--it took a few passes. But then I was ready to do it on the quilt.

It's a secret message, to be sure--I intentionally chose thread that would blend on both sides. It says, "To [name] for her first birthday" in one border, then "Love Great Aunt Sandy"; no comma because it wouldn't have been visible anyway, but it has the nice grammatical effect of commanding her to love her great-aunt so I'm okay with that. Then the other two borders include words that come from the meaning of her name, almost as sort of a blessing. I was very pleased with the way it turned out. So, thanks for the idea, Ann!

The Basics

  • 8 Lessons, ranging from 36 1/2 minutes to 8 minutes, although the 8 minute one is an outlier--they're mostly 20-30 minutes long, so you really get your bang for your buck in this class.
  • The introduction talks about fabrics and tools, tracing the stitch path, transferring the design, and some basics about FMQ and troubleshooting.
  • Lessons 2 and 3 present several motifs and variations on them
  • Lessons 4 and 5 address ways to travel from one part of the design to another, some of which help make simple designs appear even more complex
  • Lesson 7 walks through the process of breaking a design down into component parts to make it easier to quilt in a continuous line
  • Lesson 8, as mentioned above, addressed converting a non-continuous line design into continuous line. As always, she gives several options here for you to consider.

When I'm back in the saddle after the holidays, I plan on practicing some of the designs from her class a little bit to get myself back in the habit of FMQ after a bit of an absence from my sewing machine. But mostly I'm looking over my UFOs to see if any of the motifs or suggestions from her class will inspire me to finish one or two of them!

Once again, that's Continuous Line Quilting with Ann PetersenTwo thumbs up!

(Usual transparency statement: Using Craftsy links or banners on this post help supports this podcast and blog. Thanks!)

A (Belated) Postcard Reveal

Once again, I participated in a postcard swap hosted by Sandi of Quilt Cabana Corner podcast. This time our theme was "fall," and the deadline was Halloween, if I recall. I don't remember for sure because (ahem) I actually had mine done a few weeks early. Cookin' with gas.

My partner this time was Glenna, aka @gfcsailor (and here's her website).  I love the postcard she sent me! 

She says it started life as a pumpkin, so I call it "Funky Punkin'." It's hanging in my postcard gallery, one of the favorite spots in my office. I really love the abstract and jazzy nature of it. Very fun.

And here's the one I sent her. I don't really have a name for it. "Leaves" seems a bit prosaic. 

I have a package of die-cut leaves of various shapes I inherited out of Mom's stash. I've been using a leaf here, a leaf there, and still have a lot left. I decided to play a little with the dimensionality thing again, so I used two leaves wrong sides together with a lightweight stabilizer in between, then FMQd the veins on and did a loose satin-stitch around the outside with one of the variegated threads I've picked up from Superior along the way. I then tacked the leaves onto the background (already fused to the heavyweight Pellon I use in postcards), hiding the tacking stitches in the veins. I fused the backing on last to cover all the tacking stitches. It's possible I ended up using two layers of fabric on the back because the tacking stitches were in black thread; I don't really remember now, but that's sort of ringing a bell. Then I fused on a binding to cover up all those raw edges. The mitered edges were just trimmed before fusing to look mitered. Shhh. Don't tell Glenna. 

I couldn't mail it by itself because it was all hanging off all over the place, so I used an envelope. 

If I do the die-cut/satin-stitch combination again, I may try hitting the edge with some Fray-Check first. I was gritting my teeth over the fuzz that was going on.  

I really enjoyed doing these postcard swaps this year--it was a great way to play around with different techniques. I'm glad all my swap partners were game to get my experiments! I've heard rumor that Sandi will be doing swaps again in 2015 but may change the format--mug rugs, perhaps, or something else small and fun. Make sure you're watching her blog or following her on Twitter to find out what she decides to do! 


A Finish!

And finally I'm able to officially present the completed Rapid Fire Hunter's Star project, which I have named after its recipient so I can't share the actual name here. In any case, for those of you who may have just arrived at the party...

Let's get into our Wayback machines to the day I won the Deb Tucker Rapid Fire Hunter's Star (Petite) ruler from AJ of The Quilting Pot podcast. "Woohoo," I thought. "That's the one I wanted to win!" She had a couple of things it was possible to win and I actually got the one I was hoping for--I rarely win in the first place, and to win the one I wanted, well...gravy! 

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I was so jazzed that I set right to putting a top together, using scraps from the baby quilt I'd made for this same recipient. I have to say, the ruler is a beaut. It really was fast. It really was pretty straightforward. It really was pretty dang accurate. I'd have been pleased had I spent money on it. But to get it for free and still be that happy for it? Join me in a jig, will you?

It only took me a weekend to get the top together, as I recall--and that was with a whole lotta breaks to do other things. But then it sat, and sat, and sat. The recipient chose it for herself when it was hanging on my design wall (she was a wee little baby at the time and its colors attracted her--I've told the story on my podcast a couple of times, I think, so I won't go into it again here). 

Finally, a few weeks ago the date for the recipient's first birthday party was chosen and I had a deadline. I always work better to a deadline. I used Angela Walter's "Dot to Dot Quilting" class on Craftsy for quilt design inspiration, and you can read that story here. It took me awhile to have enough energy to finish getting the binding on, but it was done and through the wash earlier this week. With a whole week plus to spare before the deadline. Aren't I good?

I'm glad it's done, and I hope the recipient is still as into the colors now that she's a Big Girl One-Year-Old as she did back before she knew how to crawl. 

Fight the Funk (Fitness) Friday

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot to report on the fitness side of things. I was way busy over the weekend and through Tuesday--and then I completely crashed. Plus I forgot to wear my FitBit on occasion.

So, this week, I thought I'd give you this. My Fight the Funk efforts from May through October. Enjoy.


Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

  • What a relief it is to have my travel visa in hand.
  • That Jenny Doan is one fun chick.
  • How, on the other hand, she's now added several quilts to my "wish-to-make" list.
  • That if I do get around to making even a couple of those quilts, though, it'll make a nice dent in my pre-cut stash.
  • How that would make me feel good, using those dang pre-cuts that have been hanging around for years.
  • That sleep is just such a good thing.
  • That my "Fitness Friday" post this week won't be any great shakes.
  • How I need just a few more super-productive, heads-down days in my office with no distractions to actually have a hope of getting everything done that I need to get done to be out of the office in December.
Empty lot next door

Empty lot next door

  • How sad I am to see the empty lot next door rock-hounded, and how I'm wondering if that means it has actually, really truly sold this time.
  • That we're going to need to fence in our back yard now because the doggies have gotten way too used to nearly ten years of wandering as they will.
  • How I doubt new neighbors will appreciate that.
  • That new neighbors may move in with dogs of their own, and I'm praying they're not bark-y ones like the one on the street next to us that you can hear for miles...
  • How I'm building up all sorts of ideas for quilt projects I want to get rolling on when I get back home.
  • That it may take awhile before I'm awake enough to trust myself near my sewing machine or rotary cutter.
  • That, if it weren't for being in Burma the month of December, I'd already have my lightbox out and running as we've truly entered Dark Gray Season around here.
  • How being in Burma might buy me some wiggle room on my usual S.A.D. schedule as I'll be in full sun while I'm there.
  • How I've got to dig my sunscreen out of storage and make sure it gets packed.
  • That November is just flying by...

Woot! Charlotte's in the Blog-o-Sphere!

ScrapitBonzaTude--my version of Charlotte's 2013 Scrapitude mystery quilt.

ScrapitBonzaTude--my version of Charlotte's 2013 Scrapitude mystery quilt.

You've been waiting and waiting...and your patience has been awarded. Our talented Charlotte of Scrapitude Fame now has her blog up and running!

http://scrapitudequilts.com/

Go add her to your feeds and give her some commenty-love! 

She's got the cutting instructions for Scrap-in-a-Box posted (but I'll still be leaving them on my blog here as well). She'll be starting to post the mystery clues in January--and I won't be posting them here so make sure you're following her blog to get them as soon as they go live!

Fight the Funk Friday (Fitness Friday)

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I've finally gotten back into a groove this week. I've had several really good sessions at the gym, I was planning out meals and tracking them far better than I'd been, I've been sleeping better and in general in a better mental place (well, mostly, but more about that in a minute).

Friday, Oct 31: Gym. Weights (Legs/Core) and cardio (35 mins elliptical). 8940 steps

Saturday, Nov 1: Not a great day steps-wise. Ran errands (forgot to wear my FitBit grocery shopping), then went straight out to meet up with family members for a beer tasting and then dinner out (not great on the calorie side of things)--no time for gym or a walk or anything. 1979 steps, ahem.  Probably would've been more like 3300 had I been wearing my FitBit at the grocery store given my usual averages.

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Sunday, Nov 2: Canal walk with the Sam, 7511 steps. Pretty day, though very windy and a little nippy. Still, he and I both enjoyed being out!

Monday, Nov 3: Gym. Cardio only (45 mins elliptical). 9690 steps. Couldn't quite get in those last few hundred as, post-time-change, it's too dark when I get home from the gym to do laps around the back yard, and the dogs were driving me nuts when I was walking around the house, so I bagged it. 

Tuesday, Nov 4: Gym. Weights (Legs/Core)  and cardio (35 mins elliptical). 7963 steps.

Wednesday, Nov 5: Gym. Weights (Arms/Core) and cardio (35 mins elliptical). 8295 steps. 

Thursday, Nov 6: Not impressive. Couldn't get to the gym or a walk--pouring rain all day, Weight Watchers meeting right after work and from there directly to meeting my husband, son, and son's roommate for dinner (yes, some irony there, but it is what it is--that was the only night my son was available). 2320 steps.  

Planning on some serious gym time this afternoon, though--should be good. Now that I'm doing weights I have less time for cardio and building up steps at the gym. I need to get better about moving during the day again--I've been so "head-down" on deadlines that I'm reverting to old habits of hunching over my keyboard for hours on end, shutting down Stretchclock the second it pops up (or turning it off the day entirely). I've got to stop doing that. The stretching feels so good and does help keep my mind more alert.

From the "good mood" perspective, my anxiety levels are all over the place these days. One day I'll be feeling great, peaceful, centered; the next day my stomach is churning (see above comments about deadlines) and my focus is shot. Yesterday I finally started back to using my meditation apps on my iPhone, another habit I'd gotten out of. I used iSleep Easy last night and it helped me slow my brain down and be ready for sleep. I also like Mindfulness, and Simply Being. Simply Being is part of a "family" of meditation apps, so I'm testing out several in the family and am trying to get in the habit of doing short 2-3 minute moments throughout the day. Breathing is key when you're going into anxiety mode, so it helps! (I'm not adding links to the apps because they'd all be to iTunes--easier for you to just go to your app store and search by name. I don't know if they're available in Droid but if not, I imagine there are other meditation apps that are.)

I don't have many pretty pictures of exotic places the way ozzypip does, but I'm linking up with her Fitness Friday Linky Party. Be sure you check her blog out and travel around Australia with her and her husband on their extended camping trip! 

Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

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  • that hand-dyeing purple scarves just seems to keep coming back into my life.
  • how it just makes much more sense to buy a large volume of purple dye concentrate at this point.
  • that it's a good thing I like the color purple.
  • that weaning myself off coffee before traveling to Burma is probably the safest bet.
  • that Burma is much more of a tea-drinking country anyway. 
  • that I do love me some good tea, so there is that.
  • that it's hard to believe that what essentially comes down to a hand-held blue flashlight can actually kill bacteria when I stick it in a bottle of water.
  • that science rocks.
  • that our votes do count, especially when it comes down to the count of the absentee ballots to figure out who won the election. 
  • that I owe a lot to the suffragettes.
  • that, on the other hand, I'm so glad my phone has stopped ringing.
  • how a week without any evening conference calls nearly feels like I'm on vacation.
  • how good it is to be back in the gym consistently.
  • how lifting weights, while important, isn't a whole lot of fun. 
  • that it's true--you discover muscles you never know you had when you wake up and get out of bed the next morning. Ouch.
  • how the second day muscle-ache is always worse than the first, and that's just kind of weird.
  • that finding a good app for my phone to track my weight lifting and help me set goals has been more of a pain than it should be.
  • how hopeful I am that the one I'm using now will really work out for me. (And how I'll do a review at some point if it does work well.)
  • that I like just having to toss my phone, earbuds, and water bottle in my purse and I'm ready for a solid session at the gym. No notebooks and pens to keep track of. Yay. I hope.
  • that the time change and earlier nightfall really does change my whole sense of time.
  • how, when it's still light out, 7p feels early and I think of all the things I can still do before going to bed, but when it's dark, I find myself thinking, "Sheesh, it's already 7? Where did the day go?"
  • how that means it's probably time to pull out the sun-lamp.

10 Things Every Serious Quilter Has...

Shout out to KQuilt for starting me down this path. Her recent blog post on "10 Things Every Serious Quilter Has" gave me a giggle tonight and so I asked her permission (we're #twilter buds, donchaknow) to do my own version, which she's graciously given. And so, here's...

10 Things Every Serious Quilter Has (Sandy's Remix)

10 curse words for every time the thread breaks.

9 seam rippers strategically placed throughout the house.

8 fat quarters...times 8...times 8...

7 lint brushes for removing dog or cat or gerbil hair before gifting the completed quilt.

6 quilt books purchased but not read yet.

5 specialty rulers still in their original packaging.

4 pins that have fallen invisibly onto the floor or couch to be found in a fairly painful way by an unsuspecting family member.

3 quilt besties to call when the Quilt Shop Hop Urge hits.

2 glasses of wine at the ready for the next free motion quilting session.

1 constant thought: "When can I get at my sewing machine again?"

October Craftsy Class Update

Online Quilting Class

Time for my October update!

I recently realized that I've got one less month to hit my 2014 quilty resolution goal of getting my to-be-completed-classes down to a single digit count, as I'll be out of the country for most of December. Unlike other recent trips, I won't have access to WiFi to watch classes while I'm gone, either. So my overall goal has been adjusted some. I'd like to get at least two more classes done in November--which means I'll miss the single-digit goal by a couple of classes. But I'll still have made fantastic progress! (The upside to this is that once I get back from said overseas trip, I'm unlikely to feel up to much else besides sitting and watching Craftsy lesson videos for several days, so I may make great progress on classes then!)

New Completions

(+3)

Dot-to-Dot Quilting results

Dot-to-Dot Quilting results

Classes in Progress

(3)

Classes added this month

(+3)

  • Machine Quilting: Small Changes, Big Variety with Angela Walters: This was on sale mid-month and I thought it would make yet another good addition to my collection of machine quilting classes and, perhaps, even my collection of Angela Walters classes. I may not get to focusing on these until the new year (I'm running out of 2014!) but I'm looking forward to some really intentional work time on my machine quilting skills. 
  • Dot-to-Dot Quilting with Angela Walters: Okay, may as well make the collection complete. I bought this one because one of my UFOs seems like it will lend itself perfectly to this technique. I've been stumped as to quilting designs for it, so I finally went ahead and bought this class that I've been looking at for awhile. But I also finished it right off the bat! (See the full story in my review.)
  • Travel Photography with Jad Davenport: I got to the end of the month with no plans to purchase any more Craftsy classes this year when I got an email from Craftsy that told me I'd bought so many classes at this point I'm now considered a "top student" and they were gifting me a free class. That's one of those "good news/bad news" moments: Bad news that I've earned top ranking with Craftsy on the number of classes I've bought (sigh) but good news that yay! I've now got a free class! I perused for awhile and decided that this photography class would be the best purchase as I'm about to, you know, travel...and take pictures...and such. I watched the first couple of lessons right off, so I'm already on the way to finishing this one quickly. I picked up an excellent tip about travel tripods in the very first lesson so it's already been a worthwhile investment!

Classes To Be Completed

Current count:  16 (-1 from last month)

Completed Classes (all topics)

Current count: 39  (+3)

(Usual transparency statement: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thanks for supporting this podcast and blog!)

Fight the Funk Friday

It's Friday, and time to check in on my overall health and fitness goals.

Umm...suffice it to say that I took a stab at getting back into some healthier habits earlier this week after a Traveling October (yikes). But today is really the official restart, I guess.

I went back to my Weight Watchers meeting last night--I'd missed a couple due to travels over the last couple of weeks. And it's true--although I know what I should be doing and I have all the tools (internal and external) to do it, when I'm not attending those meetings I tend to slack off. It's not so much the accountability as it is the mental refocusing. For 45 minutes I'm sitting there thinking about nothing other than my health, so it helps get healthier thoughts back in the forefront of my brain, and carries me through the week until that next refocusing meeting. In the past, I've been most successful at weight loss when I consistently attend those meetings. I've done WW online for years--and I still use the website and app on my phone--but I've found in-person meetings to be more helpful to my focus, and I use a paper journal tracker thingie for planning ahead, then actually track after-the-fact on my phone. It involves time, but it keeps me in the zone.

Last night as I was creating my skeleton sketch of meals for the week, I decided that it was time to  make my first slow-cooker oatmeal of the season. I only rarely eat oatmeal in warmer months--it's definitely a cool weather meal for me. So I prepped it last night and had a lovely, tasty bowl of oatmeal for breakfast this morning. I diced up an apple and threw some cinnamon in there last night, then added just a titch of brown sugar this morning. Yum.

Admittedly, it's hard to take a picture of oatmeal that looks appetizing, though.

As for exercise, not so much. I got to the gym for a great workout on Monday. Then I was out Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings too early in the evening to be able to get any exercise in after work. I've been trying to walk a bit here and there during the days but it wasn't enough to build up significant steps. I participated in a FitBit "Workweek Hustle" challenge and did wonderful early in the week, but got quickly bypassed by most other people in the challenge by the end of the week.

Next week, though, watch out! I'm really going to work hard to flip my schedule around and get to the gym in the mornings, even though I'm so NOT a morning person. But then I'll know it's done.

Craftsy Class Review: Roasting Techniques Every Cook Should Know with Molly Stevens

It's the time of year when we go from grilling on the back patio to roasting in our kitchen oven. Cool nights are just made for a nice, comforting roast-of-whatever, so it was time for me to finish up a Craftsy class I'd started awhile back, Roasting Techniques Every Cook Should Know with Molly Stevens.

I really like Molly Stevens as a teacher. I took one of her other Craftsy classes, Secrets of Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise last winter (see my review here)--I'm thinking I may watch a couple of the episodes for refreshers now that we're back into slow-cooker weather as well. In any case, I knew I liked her style from the braise class so I figured the roasting class was a safe bet.

And sure enough, I still like her style. She's very no-nonsense but very friendly. She explains things clearly, and gives a couple of science lessons in the middle of certain parts so you can better understand what's actually happening when your meat or your produce is in the oven at different temperatures. The class materials are extensive and, in addition to 13 recipes (by my count), include very helpful temperature charts, information about dry brine and wet brine techniques (plus ingredient lists), and at-a-glance instructions for which cuts of meat work best in each technique.

I haven't yet worked my way through all the various roasting techniques. Indeed, at this point I've only been home one night in which I had enough time to roast anything, so I did a high-heat roast on a roast beef. The roast was done perfectly using her techniques, although next time I'll probably use a different technique for that particular cut of beef, or a different cut of beef for that particular technique. It was just a titch (a very little titch, really) on the dry side, but it was incredibly tender and exactly the right amount of pink that my husband and I prefer. 

Tomorrow night (Friday), I'll have a little more time I think, so I'm planning to use her technique for roasting a whole chicken. I really like the usual way I do chicken so we'll see if her technique beats it. 

That being said, there are several other techniques and recipes she demonstrates in the class that sound mighty tasty to me, so I'll be heading back to these class materials a few more times in the weeks to come, I'm sure. Those sear-roasted steaks and the Maple-Glazed Rack of Pork are just calling to me. Really, just about every lesson had my mouth watering as I watched it. Yum.

And for the non-carnivores out there, she does have a segment on roasting vegetables--potatoes, a vegetable medley, and green vegetables. I've done some vegetables in the past but haven't had consistent results so I'm looking forward to trying out her techniques for that as well. (That being said, the bulk of the class is about meat so vegetarians may want to check out other Craftsy classes, such as Love Your Vegetables with Anna Bullet or Big Bowls: Hearty Vegetarian Meals with Martha Rose Shulman. I'll probably pick those up next spring when my vegetarian daughter moves back home from college.)

I really enjoyed this class and I think I'll keep learning from it as time goes on. I'm really looking forward to some wonderful weekend meals!

The Basics

  • 7 lessons, ranging from nearly 10 minutes to almost 30 minutes.
  • Lesson 1 goes into the science of roasting, which actually really does help to know.
  • Lessons 2-5 cover different types of roasting: high-heat, combination-heat, sear roasting, slow-and-steady roasting. In these lessons she also offers bonus information such as a pan sauce, pre-salting, carving, a compound butter recipe, flavor boosters and glaze. 
  • Lesson 6 is roasting vegetables, already mentioned above. She has good tips here that will make your vegetable roasting efforts successful.
  • Lesson 7 is about stuffed roasts--pork loin and beef tenderloin. 

Again, that's Roasting Techniques Every Cook Should Know with Molly Stevens. Two big thumbs up--especially if it's a cold, rainy or wintery day!

(Usual transparency statement: Using Craftsy links provided in this post helps support this podcast and blog. Thank you!)

Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

  • That some shots really hurt {{whine}}.
  • How I really need to figure out how I'll be able to drink coffee safely in Burma. (Coffee doesn't come to a boiling point.)
  • That I still need to pick up a couple of travel-appropriate articles of clothing--durable, lightweight, easy to wash in a sink...
  • How good it feels to finally get some quilting done.
  • How fall really, truly, is my favorite time of year.
  • That it'll be awhile before the dogs are ready to let me out of their sight again.
    • Can you say, "Pied Piper?"
  •  About whether or not I want to get that new camera and try to sell off my old one.
  • That it's both a good thing and a bad thing that I've bought so many Craftsy classes they just gave me a free one. 
  • That it's strangely harder to decide what class to use as a freebie than it is to spend my own money for one. 
  • That Food Truck Rodeos are a whole lot of fun.
  • What great "next generation" folk we have in our family and how much I enjoy hanging out with my now-adult-kids and nieces and nephews and such.
  • How I really, truly, need to work out a better gym schedule.
  • That experiencing all four seasons in the space of a single week makes it really hard to decide which seasonal wardrobe I should be keeping in my closet. 

Craftsy Class Review: Dot-to-Dot Quilting with Angela Walters

Online Quilting Class

So this one had been in my wish list for a few days, and I had no intention of purchasing it until I'd knocked a few other quilting classes out of my queue. And then I realized I had a UFO I really needed to finish before the end of November. And then I realized it was quite possible that this class would have the perfect solution to my "How to quilt this thing" dilemma. And then it went on sale. So I bit.

Here is my review of Dot-to-Dot Quilting with Angela Walters.

 I'll start by saying Angela Walters is an excellent teacher and very easy to watch. Her classes are much like her books (which I have reviewed before)--step-by-step, clear instructions, with good diagrams as well as her demonstrations. 

Using Golden Threads quilting paper to test out my design plan.

Using Golden Threads quilting paper to test out my design plan.

Here's one caveat: If you've never machine quilted before, you should consult other resources or classes first. This is a class about quilt designs: She doesn't talk about making your quilt sandwich, basting, or stabilizing the quilt. She assumes you are already at least that far in your experience. Indeed, I was wondering for several lessons whether she did any stabilizing (stitch-in-the-ditch) at all and finally found reference to it in the discussion threads on the side. As I watched the next lesson, I could finally see some evidence of stabilizing stitching.

Closer view of my quilt design sketch, marking what points I'd be using as my "dots". I then free-handed the actual quilting.

Closer view of my quilt design sketch, marking what points I'd be using as my "dots". I then free-handed the actual quilting.

That being said, once you know how to prep your quilt for quilting and are ready to start doing some designs, this would be a good starting point. These designs are very simple, but have lots of possibilities for making them more complex. They're good no-mark designs, but if you're more comfortable marking, there are some very fast and easy ways to do that. On the other hand, most of the designs she shows in this class involve straight lines, which can be remarkably difficult to do with a free motion foot. (Although you can use a walking foot if you want, that requires a lot of twisting and turning of the quilt so it's far simpler to become competent at doing straight lines free-motion.) 

I was able to immediately put the class techniques to use on a wallhanging/baby quilt I'm trying to finish for my great-niece's first birthday at the end of the month. I made it a long time ago and it's languished from inattention but then, I always work better to a deadline. I'd been waffling on how to quilt it but found the dot-to-dot technique the perfect solution. 

Quilted--you can see the chalk lines and stitching on the black but the thread blends on the white and red.

Quilted--you can see the chalk lines and stitching on the black but the thread blends on the white and red.

The pictures embedded in this post show my testing process as I tried to figure out what design would work well on this top--I sketched it out on Golden Threads quilting paper first (the most sheer paper I had in my cabinet), but I didn't use the paper when I did my quilting. I just wanted to see how my design thoughts would help those black and white background squares feel like a single block. For the first few blocks, I did sketch out in chalk on the black fabric where my lines should be and based on that, was able to then keep track through the whole block of where I was headed. By the end of it, I no longer had to sketch anything out; I'd gotten into a rhythm of knowing where to aim next. (The last picture is quilted--you can see the chalk lines on that block, but you can't really see the thread in the white or red.)

My need to continue practicing free-motioning straight lines aside, this was a great way to figure out a nice quilting design quickly, and execute it almost as quickly. I'm glad I bought this class!

The Basics

  • 9 lessons, ranging from 3 minutes (the intro lesson) to 10 1/2 minutes. Although the lessons are quite short, she gives good information in a very concise manner. I still felt like I'd gotten my money's worth from this class.
  • The lessons include quilting starbursts, starburst variations, diamonds, diamond variations, lattices, lattice variations, and borders. The final lesson is a gallery that shows all of the designs used in a variety of ways. 
  • The class materials include the pattern for a quilt if you'd like to use that to do the class project; it then includes diagrams of all the designs she shows in class, and three examples of how the designs could be used in the class project quilt.

Again, I do recommend Dot-to-Dot Quilting with Angela Walters. It really helped me in figuring out possible quilt designs more easily. And now I've got a UFO nearly complete!

(Using Craftsy links in this post help support this podcast and blog. Thank you!)

 

Some promised pictures of pretty fibers

How was that for alliteration?

I'd talked in a recent podcast episode about the fibers I'd bought at the Fibre Garden in Jordan Village, Ontario (Canada). I'd said then that I'd post pictures...and then I got distracted by, oh, you know, work and life and such. 

So, belatedly but nonetheless still pretty...

Two bags of pulled sari silk*--one group is called "Paint Box" and the other is "Warm Tones." I can't wait to play with these. I'm not good enough at spinning yet to be able to spin slippery and shorter fibers, so I will be using these as embellishments somehow. (Oops--just realized one of the bags was upside down when I took the picture. Sorry if I'm messing with your perspective, there!)

The long tube of dyed roving is named "Sorbet." I'm not normally a pastelly-kind of girl but this one grabbed me for some reason. I imagine it'll spin beautifully.

 

 

I have already started spinning the other tube of dyed roving that I bought. I was anxious to test out the new, slightly heavier top-whorl spindle I bought at the shop. The new spindle does work better with the thickness of yarn I'm able to spin at this stage. The more I practice, the thinner yarn I can manage. For now, though, my yarn is still thick enough that it needs a spindle that'll stand up to it. 

This spindle also has a notch carved into the side of the whorl which has been tremendously helpful in holding the yarn in place as I'm spinning. (I tried to carve a notch into one of my other spindles but couldn't make a dent in the darn thing.) This spindle is also able to be used either as top or bottom whorl, which may come in handy, although I've not tried to use it as a bottom whorl yet so I don't know how well it works that way.

And that's it! Not a big quantity of stuff, but the roving allows for plenty of spinning play time so I'm definitely getting a lot of bang for my buck!

*If you've not heard of it before: "sari silk" is recycled silk fibers from old saris. They're all the rage now in the fiber arts world because they're just so darn yummy! I think this link will take you to some Google images of saris, and this link should take you to images of recycled sari silk fibers.

Thinkin' About It Thursday and Halloween Project

This week, I'm thinking...

  • How I'm unexpectedly filling in this weekend for a guest speaker who came down with a virulent flu this week and so today had to cancel her presence at the engagement.
  • That if it doesn't rain it'll be a nice drive tomorrow downstate to where the speaking engagement is being held, a drive through all sorts of fall color.
  • How I am looking forward to being with the group and I do always enjoy doing these kinds of engagements.
  • That I'm now doubly-glad I got a little sewing done yesterday during my comp day off after being gone for work last weekend too.
  • That I'm feeling good about using my Alexander Henry Ghastlies collection finally, even if I'm not using it the way I'd originally intended.
  • That my daughter will get a kick out of having Halloween pillowcases in her dorm room.
  • That I'm pretty sure my daughter doesn't read my blog. And if she does, well, oops--happy surprise Halloween gifty, baby girl.
  • That tonight I'm going to celebrate my son's birthday by dinner out with him, my husband, my son's roommate, my nephew, and my mother-in-law.
  • That it'll be a nice time even if at this point I'm pretty much heartily sick of restaurant meals.
  • How I'm going to make something homemade for dinner on Sunday to detox.
  • That after some last minute panic-fixes today to my visa application for my trip to Burma, I'm hoping that's now been settled too.
  • That I won't really relax about that until my passport and visa are back in my hands again.
  • That there's nothing I like better than the smell of leaves on the ground as I kick through them while walking the doggies, so I'm reminding myself to "just breathe."

By the way, just a brief mention that Craftsy is having a Halloween Flash Sale from Wed, 9/22 at 7p MT to Friday, Oct 24 at 11:59p MT. Fabric, yarn, and kits are on sale for up to 70% off. Use this link or click on the banner in this blog on the right to get to Craftsy to check it out. Using these links helps support this blog and podcast--thanks!