Are you reading this through Google Reader?

Google just announced it's plans to shut down Google Reader in July. I'm not panicking. That's plenty of time and, given the backlash, they may have been surprised by the number of people actually using Reader and may extend it. Still, it's a good time to explore how you follow blogs and perhaps make some changes.

Just don't change that you're reading this blog. :-)

I've been doing some research for my own use, so I thought I'd pass along some links to articles for you for now--these may help you check out some alternatives. Everyone has different needs and likes/dislikes so what works beautifully for someone else may not work for you. For example, when I first got my iPad, a friend told me I should use FlipBook because she just adored it, best thing since sliced bread, etc. I didn't like it at all. That doesn't mean she's wrong, just means we have different needs and tastes. So, test them out, play around a bit, see which one you like best.

(These are just a few articles--more will likely be coming out every day.)

These are simply the articles I've come across today--more will be written in the future so keep checking the web. It does seem like Feedly is coming out strong in terms of top recommendation, but as I'm writing this on vacation I can't test anything out until I'm home this weekend. By the way, as Google continues to tighten it's offerings-belt, I had already started the process of moving this blog from Blogger to Wordpress. Blogger has begun to annoy me, for one, but I'm seeing the writing on the wall. I'll give y'all fair warning when it happens so we can make sure we don't lose any of you! Meanwhile, have fun looking at your other Reader possibilities. Find what works for you.

Posted with Blogsy

Posted with Blogsy

30 Questions Thursday, Part 3

(For previous 30 Questions Thursdays, use the tags at the right or the little search bar on the upper left.)

10. Describe your most embarrassing moment.

Strangely, the first one that comes to mind is when I was in first grade. Back then, wrap-around clothes were all the rage: wrap-around skirts, culottes, etc. I was wearing a pair of wrap-around shorts/skort that my mother had made me. To put these on, there were two pairs of strings. You held it up to your front and tied around the back, then pulled it between your legs and to the back, then wrapped it over your backside back around to the front and secured it in the front with another set of ties. It ended up looking like shorts in the back and a little bit of a skirt thing in the front. 

We'd been playing on the playground for recess and I came running in when the bell rang. Somehow I didn't notice that the ties on the front of my skorts or whatever they were called had come undone, and I raced into the classroom with the back of my outfit dragging on the floor, my little undies visible for all to see. My teacher had to come over and help me get everything put back together. 

Fortunately, time has dulled the memory of the humiliation. However, I don't think I ever wore those shorts again. And when wrap-around skirts came back into fashion when I was in late-high-school/early college, I hated wearing them because they tended to blow open and be a bit...revealing...shall we say, and brought back that first-grade memory.

11. Describe 10 pet peeves you have.

  • Ignorance. Not people who haven't had a chance to learn, but people who refuse to.
  • Arrogance. Those who think they're all that and a bag of chips work my very last nerve. A little humility works wonders.
  • Taking up space. I hate going to the grocery store and getting stuck behind people who park their carts in the middle of the aisle when they could easily pull to one side or the other, or people who walk two or three abreast very slowly down the middle of the sidewalk forcing me to duck and dodge, or sitting next to guys (strangers) on airplanes who spread their legs out so I'm crammed into a corner to keep from getting too intimate with my knees.
  • People invading my personal bubble, as my daughter would say. This is similar to the above--but people who put their face too close to mine when talking really wig me out. This doesn't happen as much now but when I was a kid and adults would lean down and get really close to me to talk to me just made me feel like shrinking into the floor.
  • My kids leaving "floaters" all over the house. This may just be a family name for this, but when someone drinks half a can of pop (soda) and walks away, that's a floater. When my kids were home, I'd find floaters in the family room, the basement, the computer room...drove me nuts. Trying to get them to take their cans to the sink and rinse them out was a never-ending battle. I still end up picking up floaters now after they've gone back to their dorms/apartments. 
  • Commercials. Thank God for DVRs and the fact I can buzz through them now. 
  • People who get onto airplanes smelling like a bar floor. Yes, I've sat next to a few of them on long flights and had had to work hard not to get sick. (I don't mean someone who's had a drink or two in the airport; I mean people who were clearly up drinking all night and poured themselves onto the early flight the next morning--smelling like stale beer, sweat, and lord knows what else. Stomach-turning.)
  • Those who act like technology is the devil's tool. I'm tired of having conversations about whether or not computers have killed face-to-face relationships. My social circle has greatly expanded plus I'm able to be so much more closely in touch with my kids and sibs via texting, social networking, videocalls, and so forth, than I would have back when all we had was the phone. And it's not just a generational thing: When my mother was alive, she and I would talk on the phone, but we'd also text and chat. She had a Facebook account. (Still does, in fact--did you know you have to send Facebook a copy of the death certificate to get a Facebook profile removed? We still haven't gotten around to that four years later.) She was a gadget girl and enjoyed learning new technologies. Go, Mom.
  • Not sure I can come up with two more. I had to really think about it to get the eight I've already listed. I'm not sure I'd call all of those "pet peeves" but more, "occasional annoyances." I try to be a pretty zen person most of the time.

12. Describe a typical day in your current life.
Wake up; have a lot of coffee while doing some professional, spiritual, creativity-motivating, or quilty reading; finally eat breakfast (my stomach has to wake up first); take the rest of my coffee and go upstairs to my home office to work thinking I'll just check email and then grab a shower; hours later realize what time it's gotten to be and stop for lunch--usually not until early afternoon--then take a shower and get dressed during my lunch break since I'd lost track of needing to do that earlier; finish work; and (if I'm being healthy) go to the gym or (more usually, when I'm not being as healthy) work on some quilting project while waiting for my husband to get home; sometimes start getting dinner ready before he gets home but usually wait until after I see him walk in the door because after he's called me to tell me he's leaving his office as often as not he gets stopped in the hallway by someone and it's another half hour before he actually heads for the parking lot; have dinner; watch TV with husband but read magazines or play games with daughter on my iPad while she's away at school or some sort of hand-quilting project or whatever because I'm constitutionally unable to simply sit and watch TV without doing something else at the same time; go to bed far too late and read for awhile. 

If husband is out of town, which happens a lot, scratch everything after work from "getting dinner ready" through "watch TV" and change it to "work on quilting project, grab leftovers for dinner, quilt some more, go to bed far too late." I'm also usually out at least one night a week for something or other.

13. Describe 5 weaknesses you have.

  • Math. I hate math--I actually believe in "math trauma." I have terrible memories of a math teacher in early elementary school who was very "old school" in her approach to teaching and would highlight kids who weren't doing as well in front of their peers by saying things like, "Because Sandy didn't get this, we're all going to do it again." My husband doesn't get why I don't get math because my brain is, in so many ways, very systematic and logical and math should come easily, but my brain just has a block. And it makes my stomach hurt to do it.
  • I can get very task-oriented when I'm overly stressed, which usually doesn't help the people around me. I can quickly go into "heads-down, blinders-on, let's get 'er done" mode while some people are still struggling to catch up with what the issue is in the first place. I really have to watch myself and take a deep breath, then wait for awhile for things to play out a bit to see what actually needs to happen.
  • I can tend to avoid conflict, although it depends on the kind of conflict. If it only affects me, I usually avoid it. If it affects others--depending on the situation--I am more willing to confront it. If it affects a project I'm working on or a group dynamic or a process, I'm perfectly comfortable dealing with it. 
  • As my husband says, I can sometimes sound more intense than I really am. I have a naturally deadpan expression and a tone of voice that can come across as being intense when the reality is, I can just as easily go one way or the other on the given question. I've really had to learn how to say things like, "I don't really have an opinion on this but I'd probably want to think through X," or "I'm thinking out loud here" (and have had to teach myself to think out loud, see below). I've also had to teach myself to laugh out loud at my own jokes when speaking publicly--the deadpan thing mixed with a very dry humor means a lot of times people don't know when I'm being funny versus serious. It's genetic. My oldest sister, also a pastor and with about 10 years of experience on me, was the one that coached me to do this when I first started preaching. "People don't always know when we DeMotts are joking, so we have to cue them. 'See, I'm laughing--that means you can laugh now too!'"
  • Because I'm an introvert, there are a lot of people who have used words like "arrogant," "aloof," "disinterested," "unemotional" and the like to describe me. That's not at all true. I'm extremely interested in you and very, very curious about the world. I won't necessarily ask you about your life, not because I'm not interested in knowing, but simply because I have a very high sense of privacy and always assume that if you wanted me to know, you'd tell me. I'm being quiet because I'm observing, not because I'm judging or aloof. I like to formulate what I'm going to say before saying it; I do have emotions but don't choose to share them unless I've known you for a very long time. (All the extraverts reading this are thinking, "But you should get over that!" All the introverts reading this are nodding their heads and saying, "Yep, people have said those things about me too." LOL) I don't view my introvert nature as a weakness--indeed, there are a lot of strengths to it. However, I do view some of how it comes across in group settings, some of the "symptoms," as it were, as something I've really had to become highly aware of, and learn to compensate for, in order to be more effective in my vocation and in social terms. Hence, I'm always exhausted after being around people for awhile--I've had to spend most of that time working against nature. No matter how much I'm enjoying you and how much fun I'm having, you're wearing me out. So please don't get offended if I disappear into a quiet room or take a walk by myself for half an hour to regroup. :-) 
    •  By the way, one of the outcomes of my specific Myers-Briggs personality type (and yes--I found this listed in a book as common with folks like me!) is that I'm terrible at remembering names. That IS a weakness. My BIL is fantastic at remembering names of people he only met once years ago, and I've always been super-envious of that ability!

14. Describe 5 strengths you have.
  • See some of the paragraph above: I keep things confidential and have a very high sense of ethics, professionally and personally. I may not always ask you what's wrong, but if you tell me, it'll stay with me. 
  • I'm intensely curious and love to learn new things. Learning about people, places, techniques, history, science.... It doesn't entirely matter what I'm learning, I'm just enjoying the process of learning. (Well, except math!) 
  • I'm very organized and systematic. I can easily see how to set up a process for just about anything that needs to get done. I can change the process on the fly if it needs to be changed, but I like to start somewhere. 
  • I'm very loyal. I'm not blind to faults--but I'm loyal anyway. When we watched Law and Order together my kids always joked that I wouldn't be the mother who was trying to conceal her kids' crimes--that I'd turn them in on a dime. I always said, "Yes, I would, because you need to be held accountable--but I would love you regardless and stay with you through whatever came after!" I'm loyal to the organization I work for, my quilt guild, my friends, and my family. And my listeners!
  • I love being a part of helping to provide opportunities for people to grow. I absolutely love watching someone discover things they didn't know they knew how to do, or gain new confidence, or whatever. That's my favorite part of my job and, as I've discovered, my favorite part of doing my podcast. I love challenging people to move beyond what they think they're capable of and whatever little boxes they've put themselves in (or others have put them in). That just jazzes me no end. I get a little thrill just thinking about it.
Wow--this week was hard!

15. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
16. What are your 5 greatest accomplishments?
17. What is the thing you most wish you were great at?
18. What has been the most difficult thing you have had to forgive?
19. If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
20. Describe 3 significant memories from your childhood.
21. If you could have one superpower, what would it be and what would you do with it first?
22. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?
23. List your top 5 hobbies and why you love them.
24. Describe your family dynamic of your childhood vs. your family dynamic now.
25. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat?
26. What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?
27. What is your favorite part of your body and why?
28. What is your love language?
29. What do you think people misunderstand most about you?
30. List 10 things you would hope to be remembered for.

Wedding Pictures for My Tweeps

Several months ago, a few of my tweeps posted pictures of their wedding days just for fun. Those wedding days ranged from having been just a handful of years ago to, oh, let's just say, a lot longer. I raced through my house to find my wedding album so I could play along...only to discover my wedding album was nowhere to be found. I blamed my daughter--it was, after all, only a few weeks away from our 25th anniversary so I suspected she had made off with it to do some sort of scrapbook or something.

Nope. It was just buried in our basement. My husband found it tonight. Yay! So, here's a sampling of my wedding pictures--which are, actually, of interest for a quilt blog. You'll see why in a minute.

October 17, 1987

Me and my husband following the ceremony. I know he looks 15, but he was quite legal,, honest. (I was 22, he was almost 25.)

Me and my mom. Yes, that's the mom to whom my podcast is dedicated: Shirley, the one who taught me (a decade or so after these pictures) to quilt.

She made my dress, my veil, and all of my bridesmaids' dresses. I had drawn out on a napkin what I wanted them all to look like, and she figured it out from there.

If you look closely, you may be able to see that the bodice of my dress is hand-quilted. By Mom. (She also used scraps from my dress and made a crazy-quilt-style cover for our card box at the wedding reception--also hand-quilted. I kept that box for years until it got water-damaged and had to be tossed. It was beautiful.)

When I say Mom made all of my bridesmaids' dresses, I mean ALL OF MY BRIDESMAIDS. Yes, I had a boatload of them.

The three on my right in the picture are my sisters. The three on the left are friends. My fourth sister officiated the wedding and isn't in this picture.

I still remember hitting several Joanns in a row with Mom to find enough of the pink fabric for all the dresses. It was quite a search.

And here's proof that Mom did, indeed, make the dresses. Still making alterations 10 minutes before we were about to walk down the aisle.

I think she was only smiling for the camera. I don't recall that much hilarity about it at the time. But still, she was a trooper, and very patient with young adult women who wanted everything to be skin tight.

So here's the funny thing: after Mom had the dresses all made, she said, "You realize, don't you, that your gown is almost a dead ringer for my wedding gown?" She'd worn a very similar wedding gown herself, 30-some-odd years prior. I had seen her gown at some point in my childhood when we were playing dress-up but I'd forgotten that completely; apparently the image stuck in my head as being what wedding gowns are supposed to be.

Thanks, Mom, for everything. I certainly appreciated it then, but I don't think I appreciated it as much as I do now that I know what hard work that is!

Starting to Plan for #BFSI

Friday is my now-annual Black Friday Sew-In, or #BFSI. (Last year I named it the Anti-Black Friday Sew-In which more completely captures my feelings about the day but I'm trying to minimize character count for Twitter purposes.) I'll be doing some fun giveaways and I've invited other podcasters and bloggers to join in as well--I've been hearing rumors of plans so I think it'll be a great day!

But the purpose of the day is really to stay in and sew, so I'm starting to make plans for what I might do. Part of me wants to work on current projects or UFOs, of course, but part of me also really loves the thought of finishing an entire top, beginning to end, in one day, for a donation quilt. I did that last year (mostly in one day) for Boxing Day Sew In (#BDSI). It was a hoot.

If that's what I do, I'm thinking I may play with the disappearing 9-patch design. It's been around awhile. If you're not familiar with it, Missouri Star Quilt Company has a nice, brief tutorial on it.

I've got charm packs galore, plus lots of my own charm squares I've cut from scraps, although no baby-style so I'd be making a lap quilt for an adult. Maybe most appropriate for a wheelchair quilt? Our guild collects a variety of sizes for a variety of places so I'm sure I could find a willing taker. Anyway, that's a thought.

Another thought is, truly, to knock out some UFOs. Here's my current UFO list:
1. Poppies--needs borders, backing, quilting, binding
2. Momufo Flower quilt--needs borders and backing (sending out for quilting)--I've not posted about this one yet because I'm waiting for the "big reveal." I worked on it during my vacation at the family cottage last August. The whole story will come out when it's done.
3. Vickie's Peacock--needs backing, quilting, binding
4. Guild Medallion Challenge--needs backing, quilting, binding
5. Stash Mystery Challenge quilt--needs a whole lot!
6. Hexies--so far, only cut and marked. Needs even more than #5
7. Jelly Roll Sampler--still in piecing phase
8. Guild BOM--still in piecing phase
and now I've added 9. Stack the Deck for niece and 10. Something for nephew--still just in my head, though, so not sure it counts as a UFO. Is there an IOUF category? Intended Objects UnFinished? (Pronounce it like "OOF!" and you're not too far off the mark.)

I guess I should start paying attention to my UFO list. I'd gotten it way down to only having two or three UFOs but now I've been doing more experimental things and my UFOs have been multiplying while my back was turned. They have a way of doing that, you know--sneaky boogers.

Oh, and I'll have some blocks to do for the Easy Street Mystery Quilt. Woot! (Check out pics as we go at the Flickr group.)

So, if you're planning on getting something done over the coming holiday weekend here in the U.S., or the regular weekend everywhere else in the world, what's on your list to do? Let us know your plans!

Slow Quilt Monday--and a Few Other Items

I finally broke down and bought some Bobbin Mates so that I could stop guessing at which bobbin in my little bobbin holder actually matched the thread I wanted to use. They mostly work pretty well--and you'll see in a couple of cases you can pop two bobbins onto it if, like me, you realized that for some unknown reason you never finished one bobbin before loading a second.

The only thread I own that they don't fit well is my Aurifil which, as you know, is a significant proportion of my thread stash. But balancing it on one edge and propping it up on my thread holder on the wall just so actually isn't too bad. I haven't had any fall off yet. Workable, anyway. Now my thread stash feels just a little bit more organized.

In terms of works in progress, now that I finished Joy I'm feeling the need to finish the gift for my pregnant friend and get the baby quilt done this week, if possible. So I've started making all the required half-square triangles.

This is the method I'm using: Cut two squares an inch bigger than desired finished unit; draw quarter inch seam lines on either side of the center line; sew down each drawn line; cut in half. Press the triangles open, square up/trim down to necessary size. Easy schmeasy, and you can easily chain piece a bunch of them. (By the way, I cut my squares 1" larger than my desired finished unit because I wanted some wiggle room. The standard formula is 7/8" larger but, really, who is that 1/8" going to kill? I like nice round numbers in my math whenever possible. My brain hurts less that way.)

This method is even easier when you use a tool like the Fons & Porter Quarter Inch Seam Marker. Yes, I could line up a regular ruler to draw the line on one side and flip it to draw the line on the other, but there's always the chance for variation based on exactly where you line the ruler up along that center line each time. As we all know, 1/16" here and there can make a whole big difference when multiplied by lots of blocks. I prefer to use this ruler. It comes in a package of two sizes for the one price.

Where is my slow quilting this week in all my talk about chain piecing and efficiency-building rulers? It's in my head. While I'm going through the rater mundane, rote motions of drawing lines and cutting in half, I'm designing my next quilt in my head. I'm also finding that my Total Color Tuesdays are already influencing what my plans are for that next project. (Be sure to check out the linkies on those posts! Folks are playing along!)

Also, this weekend my husband and I went hiking. How can one not be inspired to quilt?

(Taughannock Falls State Park, near Ithaca, New York.)

Retreat Report

...And a good time was had by all.

Actually, a fabulous time was had by all! Have I mentioned before how much I enjoy my guild peeps? And there's a handful of women who aren't members of our guild but are linked through friends and such, so they come to our retreats on a pretty regular basis as well. Might I say, they fit right in. Very, very entertaining women.

I didn't bring the kitchen sink.

However, after a few years of going on retreat, the furniture I pack seems to grow each time. I just get a lot more done if I have a decent set-up. My Sew-Ezi table (somewhere under the bins on the left, there) is a godsend. Love that thing. I also have a lightweight, foldable craft table that's only an inch or so shorter than the Sew-Ezi. I brought that this time and mostly used it as a small pressing station with my travel iron, but sometimes moved it over to sit next to the Sew-Ezi to hold the extra bulk of larger projects while I worked. Also extremely useful, so that's now made it to my list of "always pack" items.

This time I'd also volunteered to bring my ironing board and iron as one of our four communal pressing stations, so that added just a bit to the stacks. Everything else pictured here are projects. My clothes? Last packed, least planned, lightest weight.

Sadly, the one project I really wanted to work on--a baby quilt for a friend--I stymied myself by packing all the fabric but forgetting to print off my EQ7 design and cutting instructions. Dang. Couldn't touch it. But I got a lot else done!

First, the setting...

A nice Methodist church camp/conference center on Silver Lake in Western New York. It was about 85 degrees most of the weekend. Gorgeous!

(Forgot to take a picture before I left so this one was shot out my car window as I was driving away--sorry about the rotten composition.)

This was the building we pretty much lived in for the weekend, although our bedrooms were in another building. The lower floor was our sewing room, the upper floor the dining room. There were a couple of other groups there that weekend but we only saw them briefly during meals. It's a nice space, although we can't plug too many irons in at once or we blow a fuse. Hence the communal pressing stations. However, we've also got fewer women going these days than a few years ago so we've been able to loosen up the restrictions on small travel irons. The conference center cook, Becky, is excellent. I probably gained five pounds.

Ah, but on to the quilting! What did I get done?

I got the binding put together and sewed onto the front of Fortune. All I have to do now is the hand-sewing on the back, a good TV project. (Planning on doing that tonight after I get this blog posted.)

And yes, our tradition is to tape our finishes to the wall as we go. Wall space gets slim by the end of the weekend!

(That's my little craft table with my pressing station on the left, btw, if you're curious. And our retreat schedule taped above it so I could keep track of when we were going to have our ice cream social so I didn't disappear at the wrong time. Priorities.)

I also finally found fabric (more about shopping trips below) for the third border on my medallion challenge quilt and was able to get that done. The colors are a complete departure from what I'd initially imagined, but the store didn't have what I'd thought I'd wanted and at this point, frankly, I was tired of trying to figure this out. So with guild-mate Florence consulting, I decided to go with this set of a light gray-with-blue/green speckles background, and a green and blue deconstructed star. The blue fabric is the same as the lighter blue fabric in the center block, so that was a happy find. Now I just have to do the last border, which will be that same black/gray as the other narrower border--if I still have enough! (I designed the border as paper pieced blocks in EQ7.)

...and I put borders on Paintstik Peacock. I'd made borders with blue/green/turquoise fat quarters using the stack n' slash method. I wasn't sure I wanted those borders all the way around because I was afraid they'd overwhelm the peacock. I had it all laid out on one of our communal cutting tables and a few folks walked over to see what I was doing and offer their two cents--as we quilters like to do. It was Vicki that hit on exactly the right idea--offset the borders. Only use the blue on two sides. Finish the third border with black, and leave the top alone.

Absolutely perfect.

Peacock has now been renamed Vicki's Peacock, although I told her that didn't imply she was going to get him!

I also started some receiving blankets but didn't get far on them, so more on that later.

Onto the shopping! Of course, any good quilter's gathering always includes some visits to local shops. A few of us went to Mt. Pleasant Quilt Company on Friday, and a couple of us went to Material Rewards on Saturday. Both great shops!

Got some fat quarters, just 'cause.

Some end-of-bolt stash fabric--pretty decently discounted so, why not?

Now, for just a minute, feast your eyes on this one. Mmmm.

A white batik.

Does anyone else love some fabrics so much you just want to ingest them?


So I had to find something to go with it.

Found these to start. Very pretty.

But it needed something.

Decided it needed more contrast. So I found the dark teal (bottom of picture) to add to the stack.

Still not quite enough.

There it is. Purple.


So that's my retreat report. Guild-mate Lori will be posting pics of everyone's projects on our guild blog, so as soon as that's up, I'll post a link. There was a lot of eye-candy going on!

Sew-Day Tomorrow

It's like bunnies, the way guilds are multiplying in my life these days.

Y'all know how much I love my usual guild-that-is-not-a-guild. I've been with that one for about six years now. Actually started talking to people about four years ago. (That's the "i" word thing that we won't talk about at the moment.) Now they're my peeps. My main quilty squeezes. No one will ever replace them.

But a few months ago, I decided to go ahead and join a second guild. The second one is the big guild in the region--maybe something like 400 members? They've been around since the dawn of time, too--they're one of the oldest/longest running guilds in the country. However, they meet on a weekday. In the morning. Urgh. So really, I can pretty much never make meetings. But they do have good speakers and classes and such, so being a member means that if I can plan far enough in advance, I might be able to periodically take a vacation day and attend something. Meanwhile, I keep up through the newsletter and news groups. While I'm technically a member of that one, it's hard to feel like a member when I'll probably only be physically present maybe once or twice a year.

This week, a bit on a whim, I joined a third guild. This one doesn't have meetings, from what I've been told. They just do sew-days on a Friday and Saturday once a month. And, as it turns out, of the 30-ish people in that guild, about 10 of them are also in my Main Quilty Squeeze Guild. Always a bit easier for this i-word-person to join a group where I already know a third of the people. My thought process is that when I'm back to work in a few weeks, between my MQS Guild's sew days and this new one's sew days (never scheduled on the same weekend), I should be able to make one or the other every month. All the more opportunity to "go get my quilty on" on a regular basis.

New Guild has their sew days tomorrow and Saturday, so I'm getting my thoughts and supplies together about what I'll be bringing with me to do. Hence, this:

Remember the self-mitered receiving blanket from yesterday's post? I went back to the sale at Joann's this afternoon to pick up a bunch more fabrics and will be cutting the sets of 30" and 40" squares tomorrow. I'm planning on using this as a project to teach some of the women I've been volunteering with how to use a sewing machine. It's really perfect. All they have to learn to do is find the middle, pin, sew in a straight line,  mark a line, cut on that line, then sew a zig-zag stitch. Easy Peasy. And, what's more important, they end up with usable receiving blankets for all the many babies being born into their community!

I lost track. I think those three hangers of fabrics add up to about 15 receiving blankets or so. I had them all sorted out as to which ones were pairs when I was stacking the bolts in my cart, but then the woman doing the cutting kept flipping my piles back and forth, mixing the sets up. I decided I'd better take care of sorting them back out again as soon as I got home before I completely forgot what my original intentions were. There are a couple that I'm questioning, but ultimately I ended up with even sets so it's good enough for horseshoes.

I haven't decided yet what else I'll work on tomorrow. Here is my usual criteria for a sew-day (different from a retreat since I'm there for shorter periods of time):
  • No machine quilting. I only do that on my regular set-up at home.
  • Nothing that requires intense concentration. Who can concentrate with a cast of thousands?
  • Nothing that requires a lot of parts. Hate packing it all just for a few hours.
I still have some hexies to mark, so those will probably come with me, then I may just bring my scrap bins and work on cutting everything to usable sizes. That's the kind of tedious work that's nice to do while I can be entertained by everyone else!

A Little Bit about a Lot of Nothing

Random thoughts on a Sunday.

Here's what I'm reading:

The Brutal Telling, by Louise Penny. This is #5 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series. I just started them a few months ago and am trying to slow myself down--she's just started work on book #9, if I recall (I follow her blog), so I'm pacing myself. Love these books. I enjoy the characters, the storylines, the writing. Best mysteries I've read in a long time.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I'm finding this book entertaining. Cain's a good writer--you have to love nonfiction that keeps you coming back for more as much as a good story does.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. I read this book several years ago and got a lot out of it the first time. I'm getting as much out of it, if not more, the second time around. I've read several of Anne Lamott's books, although none of her fiction. She's earthy, funny, and wise. This book of advice for writers is full of her typical self-deprecating humor and sometimes pointed jabs; note that it's not about being published--it's about writing for the sake of writing. Great stuff.

And get ready for an upcoming episode on my podcast about some quilt design books I've been reading: A Fabric Journey: An Inside Look at the Quilts of Ruth McDowell; Transitions: Unlocking the Creative Quilter Within, by Andrea Balosky; Journey of an Art Quilter: Creative Strategies and Techniques, by Barbara Olson; and probably others by the time I get around to recording that episode. I'll also be talking at more length about my experience with The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.

What I'm watching:
Modern Family, The Amazing Race, The Voice, American Idol (although I could skip that one pretty easily), The Bob Newhart Show (the original one, being shown on Hallmark Channel); just started watching Cranford on DVD from Netflix, but not sure it's grabbing me yet. Have some Masterpiece Classic DVDs of the Jane Austen persuasion that I'll be watching this week too, as my husband has a lot of evening commitments for work. And yes, I confess to watching Hoarding: Buried Alive. I don't understand why or try to explain it, but there it is. On the Great Courses front, I've finished Museum Masterpieces: the Louvre--which was wonderful, by the way. Now I'm working on From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism. I hit a great sale in their catalogue a couple of weeks ago and picked up three new lecture series so I'm ready to go. Now that my daughter has gone back to college after her spring break, I get a lot more control over the TV again.

What I'm working on this week:

My still-unnamed funky landscape

The next border on my medallion challenge--it's supposed to be 6" finished, and somehow involve stars and/or pinwheels. I'm still pondering.

Remember "Fortune?" I'd intended to do the quilting myself but have decided I really want to move onto other projects now, so Fortune is making it's way to my wonderful long-arm quilter tomorrow. I'm sure it won't take long--just a basic overall pantograph, since this is a donation quilt. Not sure where I'm donating it yet, although I have an idea. I just need to do some asking first.

And it's time for me to start working on my paint chip challenge for my guild. It's due next month. Not that I'm waiting until the last minute or anything...

So that's where we're at as we look at the week ahead. What are you planning on reading, watching, or working on this week?

Meet at the Waterfall! Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

You've been hearing us talk about it--the details have finally been worked out! Join me (Quilting...for the Rest of Us), Pam of Hip to Be a Square, Frances of Off-Kilter Quilt, AJ of The Quilting Pot, and Tanesha of Crafty Garden Mom podcasts, and a whole bunch of our listeners at the Waterfall Meet-up at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, Virginia!

Make your way to the indoor waterfall in the main lobby of the convention center starting around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 25th. We'll gather there, wait until a few minutes after noon in case there are folks in morning classes, and then possibly move to another nearby location depending on how many people we have with us and what's available. (We've got some tentative locations on hold but it's hard to know what will work best until we see how many people we're talking about.)

I know all of us podcasters are anxious to meet each other and our listeners face-to-face! So, meet at the waterfall! Hope you can join us...leave a comment if you plan to be there! (Leave a comment even if you don't--and we'll wave to you from afar!)


OK, so with all my themed blogging days I may have been able to sneak it by you that I haven't actually done any quiltmaking of my own lately. I could say it was because I was spending all my free time experimenting with oatmeal, but that's not exactly true. Well, a little true. But not that true.

I've just not been motivated...which led me to the realization today that yes, indeed, despite the unseasonably warm winter we've been having and a slightly higher-than-usual number of days with actual, real live sunshine, I'm still in my usual winter funk. It's not quite as bad this year as it's been in years past, which is why it took me awhile to catch onto it. Still, there it is. It has lumbered into my life and shoved everything else aside for a bit.

I learned long ago not to fight it. If I were to try to force myself to my sewing machine at the moment, likely I'd make a mess of it and get highly irritated to boot, and that's not the quilting Zen I like to achieve. So meanwhile, I'm taking advantage of the time to live out some of my slow quilting tenets--I'm playing with color, I'm petting my fabric, I'm spending time nose-deep in books (quilt design and otherwise), and I'm just riding out the quiet period.

I do actually think these quiet periods are a gestation of sorts. I could get all pastor-y about it and compare it to the ebbs and flows of spiritual experience, but I do believe I have another blog for that sort of thing now. For the purposes of this blog, suffice it to say that one shouldn't be afraid of the quiet periods. I don't worry that I've lost my quilting mojo by any means. I know that it's just gone into a short period of hibernation--a sleepy time necessary to regroup and allow the snoring subconscious to mull over all sorts of wonderful possibilities of color and setting.

My mojo will come back, presumably when it's about 5o degrees out and there's a break in the clouds. Well, since that doesn't happen until sometime in mid-March, hopefully it'll decide to poke its nose out of the cave sometime before that. Whenever. I'll be ready.

(Photo note: don't recall what critter that is sleeping in a cave in Disney's Animal Kingdom; surely not a hibernating kind. But he was the only thing close in my photo files so you'll need to allow me some mammalian metaphor license.)

In case you're other blog

 I don't recall now if I've mentioned yet that I've been granted a sabbatical by my organization. From mid-February to early May, 2012, I'll be on sabbatical to gain a greater understanding of issues facing women and girls; partly through study, but mostly through relationship. I'm just letting you know briefly here because how I'm going about it has a whole lot to do with textile arts and quilting. If you're interested in following along, I've started a blog dedicated to my sabbatical time, named "Fabri-Sabbatical." (Get it? Ar ar ar.)

It'll generally have a more serious, thoughtful bent than this one does, and it will be more focused on my experiences than it will be on quilting. But I'll be using my quiltmaking as a way to express what I'm experiencing as well, so there's overlap. I doubt I'll be posting in that one as often--I'm thinking I'll shoot for once a week during the 12 weeks, and maybe just a couple of posts before and/or after. It's not going to become a permanent part of my life--when sabbatical is over, the blog will also end. However, this blog (Quilting...for the Rest of Us) will continue as it has been--no changes here. 

I've decided to do two separate blogs because there are some folks from my organization who are interested in following along with my experiences on sabbatical, but who are probably not particularly interested in the finer points of quiltmaking. Not that my quiltmaking points are particularly fine. Ar ar ar too.

So, if you're interested in also following the other one, you can find it here: There's one post up that explains more about the sabbatical now. 

Otherwise, just stay here! I do plan on getting lots of fabric-play-time in, just for fun, and will still be podcasting n' all, as usual. 

And now, back to our usual programming...

Extreme Blog Makeover

Well, not really. I'm just trying to help myself be a more regular blogger in 2012.

I've decided I'm going to try some "theme days" to help spur my ideas for writing, which may help me write more frequently. I'll still have times when I'm on the road or so bowled over with other responsibilities that I miss something, but this should at least help me move it along a bit. Plus, I really want to follow through with a couple of things I've posted about recently, and theme days will help me do that.

So, for at least the next little while:

Slow Quilt Mondays--I'll post here some inspiration or thoughts about a Slow Quilt Movement. If you feel like you need the reminder to slow down, these posts will hopefully help in that regard.

Donation Project Wednesday--Updates on donation projects I've got going, highlighting projects I've found in other places that may be of inspiration, lifting up donation projects of listeners/readers. The emphasis will be on "attractive!"

Food Fridays--see previous blog post on this one.

The rest of the time is an all-out free-for-all, blogwise.

What do you think? 

In Defense of Good China

When my husband and I were engaged, our mothers told us we had to go register for our china pattern.

We stood in the department store, in front of the display of china patterns, and giggled. Really? China? We weren't old enough for good china!

Eventually, a few weeks later, our heads more firmly wrapped around growing up, we returned and chose our china pattern.

We received a total of 8 place settings as wedding gifts.

Moving from apartment to apartment (6 times in our first 7 years of marriage), and then eventually into our first house--overwhelming jobs, two little bitty kids, no room to entertain, the china stayed in a box for most of its early years.

Once every two or three years, I'd pull it out for a holiday dinner, just us four. My little kids would help set the table, their eyes wide, their hands unusually careful.

The china is out. This must be a special meal.

Five years ago, we moved into our new house. New construction--we could choose the floor plan. I was adamant: I wanted a separate dining room.

"Really? The trend is towards open floor plans and no formal dining rooms. No one ever uses them anymore!" I was advised. As I read in magazines that mix-matched china from garage sales and using your casual everyday plates was now the modern trend, I kept picturing my china in a falling-apart box under a kitchen cabinet. "No. I want a formal dining room. I want to use my china."

Now we have a formal dining room, a dining room set that I love. We have now become one of the regular host homes for extended families at holidays. And, approaching our 25th anniversary in 2012, I just bought the remaining four place settings to fill out a complete set of 12.

My daughter still asks if she can be the one to set the table. At 18, her eyes are still just a little bit wide. She's still a little extra-careful.

The china is out. This must be a special meal.

Post-ABFSI Breather

This is it. The last official hoorah of Thanksgiving dinner at my house. My first ever homemade Turkey Pot Pie. Leftover turkey, leftover peas, leftover corn. I was going to use the turkey stock I made on Friday but forgot to take it out of the freezer and since I still had gallons of chicken broth in my pantry I went the store-bought route on that instead. (Also store-bought crusts. I'm basically pasty-lazy.)

I don't own ramekins. They'd have made this so much easier. The crust is all ugly because the innards were spilling out all over the counter and I was trying to clamp it's escape route down, aesthetics be darned.  I'll also adjust the recipe next time and play more with seasonings. My nephew (who always knows just when to call and get invited over for dinner!) loved it. I thought it needed more something. Not sure what something yet. Just more of it. And, apparently, ramekins. But still, good way to clean out the fridge. No more Thanksgiving in the Kenmore!

And this is as close as I got to fabric tonight. One of the things I had taken from Mom's stash as we were cleaning out her studio after her passing was a full-size, Cotton Theory quilt kit from The Quilt Yard. Something like $140 worth of fabric. The pattern had gotten separated, although I have a vague tickling memory that I did eventually track it down and it's lurking in my pattern files somewhere. I had kept it together for nearly three years because I had originally thought, "Sure, I'll make that." That eventually morphed into, "Well, I don't think I'll make that, but Mom would probably have a fit if I separated everything," But I don't have much interest in doing a full-sized Cotton Theory quilt, so tonight I decided I really ought to break down the kit and let the fabric pieces go live with the rest of my fabric in one big happy family, rather than sequestered off in their own little gated (or tied-with-twine) community. Mom was all about family. She'd like to see her fabric making new friends. And by now, she's probably tapping her foot in mild annoyance and saying, "Oh, would you just get on with it already? Just use the dang fabric!"

Lots of fabric, by the way. More than I'd thought when it was all tightly folded and bound. Most of the ones on the upper left are 5/8 yard pieces, some a little bigger. Most of the near stack are a yard and more--one 2 1/2 yards. That one in the middle? Well, that's a wierd one. Something like 82" long by 22" wide. Basically, slightly over two yards of fabric, cut in half lengthwise. Maybe meant for borders? Not sure. Odd, but then, all families have that eccentric aunt or uncle. She fits right in.

There's something so very relaxing about folding fabric, isn't there? I love it.

I've got a fairly open weekend coming up, so I'll get back to my sewing machine then. Apparently after my super-productive mode of last weekend, I just needed a breather. So I spent an hour petting fabric. Mmm.

A Little Perfume Behind Each Ear...

Fair warning: This blog post has nothing whatsoever to do with quilting.

I tend to be, oh, how would I say it, "reactive?", "sensitive?", "especially tuned in?" to smells. Sometimes that's not altogether a good thing--it's not unusual for me to be with my family and find my stomach suddenly turning from something I'm smelling...and no one else even notices. But usually it's a nice thing; I enjoy nice smells, and smells have strong memory associations. Certain twists of the wind and suddenly I'm a little kid back on the rock beach at my family's cottage on the lake growing up; another twist and it's a flashback to playing frisbee on the green between two dorms at college. I can't grind my coffee at the grocery store without burying my nose in the bag when I'm done and taking a good, deep, inhale. ("Yes, judge, that's right--I inhaled. Deeply and with great pleasure.") My husband sent me flowers for my birthday last week and every time I pass them on the kitchen counter I bury my nose in them again. OK, so a couple of them make me sneeze but it's worth the deep sniff.

I don't think I'm particularly unique in this--I think lots of us respond strongly to smells in one way or another. After all, it's instinctive. Our little animal selves aren't that far removed from those who rely on a sense of smell to tell them whether the one approaching is friend or foe. But what about how smells make us feel about ourselves?

I really enjoy wearing a nice perfume. I don't have many--just three or four (and a couple of random samples still sitting on my vanity as I milk them for all they're worth). I tend to swap out which I'm wearing by season. But those perfumes have lasted me an insanely long time because, sadly enough, I don't wear them out much anymore.

I work for a religious organization with boards and committees--when I travel, I'm usually traveling to be at meetings in stuffy conference rooms with said boards and committees. Over the last several years, we've inevitably had at least one, if not two, people on the board with severe allergies, for whom the slightest scent can send them into asthma attacks or severe migraines. I've seen it in action--I fully believe this is an issue for some. So we now use unscented candles in all of our worship times; we've stopped wearing perfume to meetings; we're careful about our hand creams and our hair sprays. It's all about avoiding the scents.

I've become so used to it, in fact, that I rarely wear perfume out at all anymore--somewhere in the back of my mind is always the caution: What if the person sitting in the airplane seat next to me is allergic? What about that person at the next table over in the restaurant? In church on a Sunday? At my quilt guild meeting?

A few weeks ago, I found myself looking at the perfume on my bathroom vanity with a little sadness and (admittedly) just a touch of resentment. "Shoot," I thought. "I miss wearing perfume." Suddenly I realized, well, duh. Just because I work from home and the only other ones who will smell it are my dogs doesn't mean I can't wear perfume every day! No more keeping the expensive stuff for special occasions. No more thinking perfume is for others to enjoy. I love the way my perfume smells, so why not enjoy it every day for myself? So for the last couple of weeks, every morning after I take my shower and get dressed, I put on my perfume.

I might be sitting here in shorts and a tank top, and haven't laid eyes on another human being since 8a when my husband walked out the door this morning, but dang it, I smell good. Wearing perfume somehow makes me feel just a little better about myself--a little more special or something. Like I'm doing something just for me, my own little quiet enjoyment in a day. Funny--my dogs haven't even noticed. Or maybe that's why they're laying especially close to my feet at my desk these days. Maybe they think I'm getting dressed-up-in-doggie-terms just for them. After all, their little black noses are all about the smells.

Regardless, I'm feeling just a little bit more special these days. So what do you do to help yourself feel just a little bit more special?

(Image by misteraitch through Creative Commons:

Happy birthday to me--a mini-quilt-retreat

I took this afternoon as a half day vacation for my birthday, and am celebrating in my sewing room. My first task of the afternoon: Finish getting the Jelly Roll Sampler strips sorted for blocks.

If you buy this book, do pay attention when the authors say to sort all your strips first, before you start cutting the strips for blocks. I did fine for the first 6 or 7 blocks; the last 5 got a little trickier and I had to start doing some swapping off with earlier blocks to get better contrast. Although my jelly roll had the same number of overall strips as the one in the pattern I'm using, it has a different proportion of darks, mediums, and lights. And although I was quite freely recategorizing strips based on how they related to other strips in the set, there are some combos that just don't work as well. So by the time I got down to the last two blocks, I was digging into my 2 1/2" strip stash to find some alternatives.

Let me just say--if you're a jelly roll fan, be sure you buy the Moda Marbles jelly rolls. The link happens to go to the one I used today; but there are a couple other colorways available. I also own the Brights roll. These help support your other jelly rolls by providing a wide selection of solids or marbles to fill in gaps of whatever jelly roll you're using. At a quilt show recently, I also picked up a couple of rolls of 20 strips each of lights (made up by the quilt shop); I've found that often jelly rolls don't have enough lights or darks--they're heavy on the mediums. Makes sense, since they're strips from a collection of fabric and most collections produce mostly mediums with just a few darks and lights tossed in. Anyway, in today's case, I could've used a few more darks but was able to fill in with one strip from my Moda Marbles roll, plus a strip from my stash, and then just went with a more muted look on the final block than I would've normally. I think it could actually be kind of pretty. It'll be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Enjoying my quiet afternoon catching up on some other quilty podcasts, finishing up cataloguing my quilt books on GoodReads, and moving forward on another quilt project. My son, nephew, niece, and nephew-in-law (said niece's husband), are taking me out for a birthday dinner tonight as my husband's out of town today--that'll be fun, but I've got about 3 hours left of mini-quilt-retreat before that happens!