Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 List...

It is that time of year that all the magazines and news show start making their lists...the best shows of 2008, the worst dressed, the best book, the worst movie....So I thought I'd make my list of what I am thankful for in the "Quilting World" in the past year. These are in no particular order and if you want to add to the list please do....

1. International Quilt Study Center and Museum
In March of 2008 they opened the museum and study center at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. My goal is to get there in 2009. What is really great though is you don't have to physically visit to benefit from this great collection of quilts. They are a wonderful on-line resource. If you don't get their "Quilt of the Month" email you should sign up immediately. It is like getting a little gift in your email each month!

2. QG Newsletter This comes to my email each month and provides links to many interesting quilting blogs and sites. I have made several fun projects and found blog sites that I return to often.

3. Scraps and Shirttails, by Bonnie Hunter
To see a friend archive something they have wanted to do for so long is really inspiring. Bonnie is also one of the most hardworking women I know and is so generous with her time and talents that to see her name on the cover of a book was a real rush. Sometimes good things do happen to good people! (The photo below is a block I made from her Carolina Crossroads online mystery...)

4. Expansion of the Quilt Index
Before you go to this site get a really big cup of coffee, tea or heck a good red wine. The number of quilts on this site went over 18,000 this year. The index allows you to search through them quickly...ok, it finds them quickly though I guarantee you will spend hours going through the photos and reading the histories. (maybe keep the pot of coffee or bottle of wine close at hand) Even if you are not a quilt history fanatic you will find this indes useful. The other day a blogger was asking for ideas on how to finish a hexegon quilt. I typed hexegon into the index and it came back with 134 examples...that was a two cuppa visit!

5. Local Quilt Shops
I am lucky to live in an area with two very different quilt shops within a few miles of my house (with a new artsey one opening next month!) I tell my Dh it is my patriotic duty to support them! On the serious side however Jeff's fixes my 12 year old Viking and makes it run like new again. (I once got a note that read, "this is a sewing machine not a cat bed!"...Brownie would dissagree.) The shops are where I go when I need a some thread and a bit of inspiration. After a couple years of living overseas and doing the majority of my shopping online it is really nice to touch the fabric again...

6. Eco-consciousness/Quilters are going green
I got my first piece of bamboo batting this month. My first quilt, circa 1972, has a thick polyester batting that is sneaking through the seams...I worry that in a fire the quilt would melt! Natural fibers, cotton, wool, or now bamboo, have to be better for the earh and for the users! The growing number of patterns for shopping bags ment to replace your plastic is a long way from the bags we used to make to hold our plastic bags! And finely, quilters are looking at their "stashes" as things to be used and less as things to hoard. Some of my favorite antique quilts show how frugal a quilter can be when they need to be! (Scrap quilts rule!)

7. Tutorial Explosion
Between bloogers posting instructions and quilting web sites you can find directions on just about anything to do with quilting. I am amazed at the generosity of those who put their ideas out there to share with us. In some ways it is like a online quilt guild. (without all the cookies and chocolate....)

8. Reproduction Fabrics
Those of us who love the look of a vinatage quilt in our own quilts are lucky to have so many choices right now. I can remember buying my first bundle of Aunt Gracie's fabrics back in the early 1990's and being afraid to cut into them...what if they don't ever print anything like them again! (I never did use the pink rabbit flying the airplane...) It was about that time I was making my first Baltimore Album quilt and I bought a piece of every reproduction fabric that came into Seminole Sampler...Now there are dozens of collections to choose from! (If they would just reprint that madder stripe from the mid-1990's that I only have a small 10x10 piece left)

9. Quilting Bloggers
The past couple of years blogging has become a major contributor to how I look at quilting. It is not only the physical act of quilting but the talking about fabrics, about families, sharing ideas, and events in our lives. That is quilting. That is can be done with women (and a few men!) from all around the world is a bit overwhelming...but overwhelming in a good way.

10. Fill in the blank....what do you think was an important event, product or service in the world of quilting in 2008? (Allright, I couldn't think of another thing to me out!)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chocolate Mug and coffee keyboard

We start with the keyboard - I cannot believe what a difference a new keyboard makes! I am not the type of person to go out and get the newest computers live very long (some may say pro-longed) lives. Today however I had to make a few upgrades. My DH dumped...I mean entire travel mug of hot coffee onto the keyboard. (Actually onto the keyboard, mouse pad, open drawer with printer paper, and MacBeth's head....Interestingly DH did not get any coffee on himself...ummmmmm) Anyway, I dried it out but the keyboard didn't work at all...I took it apart and cleaned it (big, big yuck...have the cats been sleeping here?) After a good cleaning I got all the keys to work...well sort of...they didn't always send the right signal which made for intersting typing (so much bleeping you'd think I was governor of Illinois!)

So off the the Office Depot I went. This is one of those things that makes not sense to me at was less expensive to buy a keyboard with a new mouse than the same brand keyboard with fewer features by itself. I know...quite complaining! The bottom line...the new keyboard and mouse is so much easier for me to use. Maybe I will break down and replace the monitor with a larger screen for when my eyes go wonky...

Next the chocolate mug - maybe you have seen the recipe for a Chocolate Mug Cake in blogland. I think it was on Paula's but also saw it on the Quilt Gallery Newsletter. It really peaked my interest...chocolate cake for one "baked" in the microwave? I had to try it.

My first one wasn't a big success. I don't think I got it all mixed together enought. So on my second try I put all the dry ingredients in the mug then in a seperate bowl broke the egg and mixed in the oil and vanilla. Then I used a tiny whisk from the liquor cabinet to mix the cake...much better. The recipe says the cake will rise above the rim of the mug...they are not kidding! It almost touched the ceiling of the microwave! (I think I may make this with my nephew at Christmas...sort of looks like it is going to grow so tall it will topple over.) The consistancy is more like a teacake or bread than cake but it is good all the same (particularly with a bit of butter pecan icecream on top!) A warning...tip the cake out onto a plate while it is still hot and immediately fill the mug with water. Cleaning the mug was a bit of a challenge...I wouldn't use a mug you are too attached to....
I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer. She is one of my favorite writers so I am not sure how I missed this one! Anyway, I would definately reccomend it.

Wow...I've written this much and nothing about quilts yet...or unpacking! You didn't think that would last did you! Last night I spent a lot of time photographing the breakage...not a fun night. Anyways I also slipped in some of the vintage quilt blocks I had packed away. This idigo and gingham 9-patch in a is one of those blocks. I'll be posting photos of others during the next couple of weeks...I have to dig out my encyclopedia of quilt blocks first!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A little bit of Christmas

I extended my unpacking break to put out some Christmas decorations and make cookies. Doesn't take much these days to convince me to take a break from those #$&** boxes.

The little wallhanging was made by Tonya for me and includes: my Macbeth calmly watching Santa; Goldie on the mantlepiece being good; and brownie about to tear an ornament off the tree (if not knock down the tree alltogether!) That pretty much sums up our house.
The santa is at least a dozen years old and was purchased at a flea market in Maryland. It was made by a woman from Florida. He stands...oh, rather sits over a foot tall. I've been known to leave him sitting on the bookcase past St. Patrick's Day....(My DH claims I made him grow a beard because I have a thing for Santa...could be....) Not too much else made it out... a little tree, a couple of small snowpeople and a nativity set.

I tried a new biscotti recipe..lemon ginger. The flavor is great but they came out flat! Hard to cut it and make it again when it is a pancake. I followed the recipe exactly. The baking powder and the eggs were fresh. Guess I'll go back to my old standby...wonder if I could just take my apricot and lemon recipie and add the diced ginger in place of some of the apricot....Maybe I should have done that first...Duhhhhh.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Perfect Fabric

Unpacking is a good time to reevaluate some of my unfinished projects. There are those I just lost interest in (a Christmas table runner that just needs a binding but Christmas was over soooo....this may be a good one to resurrect!). There are others that I made for a specific class or workshop that came home in a plastic bag never to leave the back of a closet again (there are quiet a few of these.) And then there are projects that I needed just the right "something" to finish it...this photo is one of those projects.

I think I bought the Dresden plates at an antique show...though it may have been ebay. It was at least 12 years ago. Since they are from the 1930's what is an extra decade or so...) Anyway, I used ecology cloth which is a medium weight muslin that plays well with feedsack. I have a couple of feedsacks to use for the borders but I just don't like the flimsey yellow fabric in the center that is machine hemstitched appliqued. The rest of the block is hand done and to be honest I'm not sure the centers that don't have a seam allowance would make it for another dozen years. So way back when I went in search of the "perfect" yellow fabric to applique over the nasty center...perfect is hard to find.

So this project has spent many many years in a shoebox. It has traveled with me from Maryland to South Carolina, South Carolina to Georgia, Georgia to Massachusetts, Massachusetts to Gloustershire England, and England back to to Georgia again. If these blocks could get frequent flyer miles we could go to Houston next year for free!

Well hang onto your seat...I found the perfect yellow fabric in one of the most unlikely of places. My husband's closet. OK, it wasn't really his closet. It was a box of his clothes I was unpacking from the move. An old yellow cotton shirt. (Thank you Bonnie Hunter for this inspiration!) I thought about it for a minute - I hadn't seen him wear it in is pretty worn around the collar...there is a button missinng...RIPPPPPP. This shirt is now fabric!!!! The perfect fabric!

So now I have another hand sewing project that should take me through until my sewing room is up and "fully operational" again. (fully operational is to be spoken like the emperor in Star Wars when he boasts about the "death star" - this is a wierd thing my DH has started doing when talking about my sewing room....)


Monday, December 08, 2008

I'm not sure if we are making progress on the unpacking or it just isn't bothering me as much. Either way things are better. Oh, I still can't walk into my sewing room but I do have a plan. Friends are coming over and moving the boxes out into the garage so we can put in the new (unbroken) bookcases and gradually move the fabric into place. If I am lucky this will happen before the end of the year....

Another reason for needing more bookcases for fabric (other than still having more fabric than I need!) is the number of books that find their way into out house. I must have given away a carload of books before I left England and still we have them piled in corners, on crowding counter-tops, double stacked on shelves and lined up on the bedroom windowsill.
Last night I finished "Ice Road" in the photo above. It is a historical novel based in St. Petersburg at the start of WWII. If you like historical novels or this period in history I would definitely recommend it. It is a fairly complex group of characters and it takes a good hundred or so pages before the plot gels...stick with it though. (I don't know if you could write a novel set in Russia and it not be a bit complicated!)

So it was a fairly lazy weekend. My DH did most of the heavy lifting when it came to the boxes. Did a bit of Christmas shopping, a bit of baking, and a lot of looking through recipes.

A question...a couple of years ago a quilter posted a "baked oatmeal" recipe. I made it a dozen times or so then lost the recipe. Does anyone have it or know who posted it?

Friday, December 05, 2008

The things you find

Today I am taking a day off from the move...not a day off however. My Dh offered my services to help bake for a party our friends are having tonight. Now normally this would not be a problem but when most of your things are still in cardboard boxes it is a bit of a challenge. I ended up making Cream cheese brownies, lemon bars, and pumpkin bars. They are all baked in 9x13 pans so I can put out one tray with three different bars on them and they fit well. I also made a try of pralines this morning. I had to put them in the car already so I can't "graze" on them.

I'm going over their house later to work on the appitizers...tzatziki, fresh hummus, stuffed grape leaves, grilled halloumi, spanakopita, bruscetta on garlic toast, and grilled marinated shrimp. Most of these are already put together and just need to be thrown on the grill or plated. The house smells good at least.

People react to moving...differently. When stressed I cook. This has been a stressful move. First the movers thought they lost our main ended being a data input error but made for a couple of anxious days. Then our cat Goldie got out and somehow injured her back leg. Now of course this happens lat at night so she has to go to the late night vet causing us to have a late, late night while she gets it cleaned and stapled shut.So they finally find our shipment but by then they can't deliver until after Thanksgiving. No problem...I can sleep another two weeks on an airmattress. The morning before the shipment arrives worry that I may have pulled a musle cleaning the noon I was in the emergency room diagnosed with a kidney stone! Fortunately about midnight it passed but it left me really, really out of it for when the movers showed up at 7:30 the next morning.

The movers told us they were going to deliver 7 crates Monday and 7 more the next day. This sounded like a good plan until the first day was over. They delivered the frame and box spring for the king size bed and only the mattress for the queen size guest room bed. Still not a real bed in the house... Also, the first day was primarily bookcases, dressers, or cabinets. Hard to put stuff away like that! Try as you can the boxes end up blocking spaces you want to put the cabinet that the stuff in the boxes go in! Duhhhhhh!!!! It was so nice when my quilting room was empty like the photo I can't even get in to take a photo (all you see is the side of a box!)Then comes the damages part....The packers were incentivized to get the containers as densely packed as possible. The packed out the drawers of dressers and the inside of the cabinets for my sewing room...I'm not sure they realized how heavy fabric is...the three cabinets are all broken in one way or another and the fabric all has to be refolded. We are talking three 6-foot by 3 foot cabinets of fabric...I'll be folding for weeks! And instead of a sewing desk for Christmas I guess I will be replacing my cabinets (I lost one in the trip over to England...though that one was empty.)

Anyway, I am thankful it is almost over. I am unpacking 5 boxes a day (no more!) and have even put up a couple of Christmas decorations. Optimisticly it will at least be St Patrick's day before I am in my sewing room doing anything but organizing again. The quilt at the top of this post is one of my oldest projects...about 1997. It is from one of Mimi Dietrich's Smithsonian quilt books and is called the Cobb Quilt. I am hand quilting it so for the next month or so it will be about the only quilting/sewing I see myself doing.

I just reread this...what a whiney post! I'll do much better next time....