Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving! (and jeans)

Happy Thanksgiving! It's such a great holiday -- getting together with friends and family, great food, lots of warm feelings all around. And there's a 4-day weekend! When my kids were little, DH and I tried to help them get into the spirit of the holiday by having a Thanksgiving tree (or turkey or cornupia) and for the week or so before the holiday and writing things on construction paper leaves (or feathers or fruit) that we were thankful for. We hung this on the wall and it became the centerpiece of our celebration.

When the kids were little, they dictated what they wanted to say, and then added their own decoration.
It clearly made an impression on the girls. Jocelyn wrote about it in her first grade class.

I'm not sure if her teachers knew what she was talking about -- here's what she wrote:
Hi im Jocelyn and -- I wunt to tel you. about my famli's thanksgiviig evrey year my famliy get's redey For tKanksg we make a tree or a tkey. and if we make a tree -- we Put levs. and if it's a -- trkey we Put fetrs.

We saved all the leaves and feathers and fruit and now our Thanksgiving ritual is to read them all aloud. We laugh and we cry -- they bring back so many memories! All kinds of things show up --
"I'm thankful I'm 5."
"I'm thankful for being able to cut out these feathers." (By Val, who had only just been entrusted with using scissors)
"I'm thankful for all the good things in life and clairanets which are good."
"I'm thankful the pilgrims escaped."
"I'm thankful for no more World Wars...yet anyway."
"I'm thankful I'm tired and sleepy."
Not all grand sentiments, but lessons on the road.

And now for some quilting content. I'm trying to have something to work on when I'm not actually in my sewing space. Just got Bonnie's book, Scraps and Shirttails, and she suggests a great way to cut up jeans. So I got my pile of old jeans and have started ripping as she suggests. So many ideas come when doing stuff like that. How much fun to incorporate this stitched-on stripe into the quilt:

And what if I sewed on the two ends of this waistband and ran a shoelace tie through them?
I think I'm going to embroider some of the pockets and jeans strips as handwork. It should be a fun quilt!

Several of you asked for a binding tutorial to show how to make stitched-in corners and not have to deal with joining the binding on the side. I'll work one up next week after the holiday.

To my American friends, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! And to my international friends, have a great week!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Tis the season

'Tis the season when I can't post photos of what I'm making because everything's a gift! Fortunately, I received a gift myself.
Karol-Ann sent me these luscious African fabrics! Mine was the nearest guess for how many hexagons she showed, so I got first pick. It was a no-brainer -- I love African fabrics and have a tiny little collection of them. I have always admired what Karol-Ann has done with hers, so I grabbed the opportunity to enhance my stash with some of her wonderful fabrics. Thank you, Karol-Ann!

Today I sent off my gift to my Secret Santa Pal in Chookeyblue's swap. I absolutely love what I made! So did my family, and we were all very sorry to send it off. I do hope the recipient likes it as much as we do. As usual, I had wonderful plans for a free-pieced item, but made myself stop since I had vowed not to give away any more free piecing until I had made something free pieced for myself. Instead I chose a pattern I really like that gave me the opportunity to learn some new skills, including piecing a 3-D segment (as opposed to appliqueing something on top). Fun! I'll post the photo on Christmas.

Stitching the binding on my swap quilt reminded me that I don't put the binding on the way most people do. I stitch in the miters as I go. I love the finished look, and it means starting and stopping at a corner, so there are no ends to join on the side of the quilt. My closeups were blurry (I'm asking Santa for a tripod), so here's a shot of a corner on one of my quilts.
I learned this method when I took a class from Sharon Pederson. She has the instructions in both of her reversible quilts books. The only caveat I have is that you need to use a thread in your machine that matches the binding, as sometimes you can see the thread in the corner seams.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gmail inspiration

I sometimes get inspiration from emails, but I never expected it from my email homepage itself. But Gmail has just set up themed pages. I've tried a few, am stopping temporarily at the bus stop page. Look how they write Gmail on it.
And I have the cutest giraffe going up the side, clouds and sunshine at the top, people waiting for the bus across the bottom (don't know how the giraffe will fit in the bus!). Apparently the themed pictures under each topic change depending on the location you enter. I entered my hometown, but I may try to enter another city just for fun.

While I'm at it, I'll put in a plug for Gmail -- best email system ever. It's fabulous! And things like this are just gravy. You get the feeling they love what they do. I love what they do, too!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why is this interesting?

A non-quilty post, so be advised before you read.

There is something going around the internet, though I haven't seen it on a quilt blog yet. It's a "nearest book" game whose rules are:

* Grab the nearest book.
* Open it to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
* Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

(Other versions say open to page 123 and copy the first 3 sentences after the fifth one.)

I was hooked. I read one person's entry, googled to read more, and then decided to participate. My first problem: Although there was a pile of reading material near my chair, it was all magazines. What does that say about me? Hmmm...

Was I interested enough to get up? Frankly, yes. The first book I saw lay behind me on the kitchen table, a book I'm taking to a discussion group I recently joined:
It's The Rejection Collection: Cartoons You Never Saw, and Never Will See, in The New Yorker, edited by Matthew Diffee. I had read the introduction last night but hadn't gotten to page 56 of the text. Despite the fact that the book has teeny-tiny page numbers and I was not wearing my reading glasses, I found page 56. It was a cartoon, the only text its caption: "We had irreconcilable similarities." (If you envisioned two guys talking at a bar, you're exactly right.) Perhaps 123 would prove more fruitful? Nope. It's a photo of the cartoonist Mort Gerberg. So it appears I read magazines and picture books.

It was time to get dressed for the day anyhow, so I trotted upstairs and the first book I cast my eyes on sat on the nightstand, Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
The fifth full sentence on page 56 reads, "Congress, which during Reconstruction had been quick to enact measures of legal, social, and economic freedom for blacks, just as quickly began to roll them back." It's part of an insightful discussion of the Ku Klux Klan. I haven't read as far as page 123 yet, but couldn't resist this excuse for a quick peek ahead. The three sentences starting with the fifth on that page read:

"The total effect was dramatic. By 2000, more than two million people were in prison, roughly four times the number as of 1972. Fully half of that increase took place during the 1990s." Certainly makes me curious, but I didn't read more. The title of the chapter is 'Where Have All the Criminals Gone?'

So now I had it. I found random sentences from my own book, and had read context-less sentences from other people's nearest book, and why do I care at all? Is it voyeurism, seeing a bit of personal detail about someone I don't even know? Is it intellectual, seeing if I can figure out what the book is about from only one (or in some cases, three) sentences? Am I looking for a connection (I've read that book!)? Am I looking to prove myself superior (I would never read such trash!)? Do I want to feed a low sense of self-esteem by unfavorable comparison with others (They read such interesting books, and I'm surrounded by magazines)? Am I just amazed by all the diversity in the world (all of us blog, but we all have different books at our sides)?

I asked my husband, who generally can come up with an insightful comment at times like these, but he doesn't find this particularly interesting and doesn't know why anyone does. I welcome any thoughts you have on the subject. The dozen or so blogs I checked did not really comment on the activity itself, except for one blogger who simply said, "Why not?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Books & More Linus

Yay! The two books I ordered from Gwen Marston finally arrived! It took a very long time, probably because I asked for signed copies. They are wonderful to look through, and I really appreciate the construction tips in the books.

I'm working on a couple things that I can't show photos of yet (gifts), so instead I'll share pics of last Thursday's Project Linus worknight. We made another Heartstrings quilt. (We use the pattern on the Heartstrings Project site, but instead of sending in blocks, we finish the quilts and donate them to our local Project Linus chapter.)
These are fast and fun to make, especially when you have a room full of people whisking those blocks through their machines. Our huge bin of fabric strips is in happy chaos. I had tried to keep the strips organized by color or approximate width, but after every worknight I'd spend hours getting things in order again -- it was so not worth it!

I like to keep our worknight activities varied so we don't get bored. Helen in the UK made a very cute Happy Blocks quilt, which I thought would be another great worknight project. It's a good way to use scraps of novelty fabrics, and it's a simple I Spy for young children.
Our blocks are smaller and we make our quilts a little larger than Helen does, so this is only about half done (and the two blues together will not be together when the blocks are joined!). The blue and yellow border fabrics were donated by the Calico Cat, who very generously sent us a bunch of solids for use in our Project Linus quilts.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Getting fleeced

The Central Illinois chapter of Project Linus has a wonderful project to donate blankets this Christmas to the children of women in prison. And not just any blankets, but blankets made to order. The women provide the first name, age, favorite color, and their child's interests, and PL volunteers made blankets for each child. Many were quilts, a few were knit or crochet, and quite a few were fleece. This week I made these for a boy who likes all kinds of sports, a girl who loves pink, and another girl who loves purple and rainbow colors. (Can you guess who gets which?)
These blankets are quick and easy, but they have a very finished look. The Fringed Fleece pattern is on the Project Linus website. You can buy fleece on sale and make a blanket in just a couple hours for a quick donation quilt. They'd be great holiday gifts, too.

This morning I delivered 10 bags of quilts -- 6 bags for the inmates' children project and 4 for general PL use. And NO, I did not make all those quilts!! Most were made by members of my guild, and some were dropped off by others in the community. Today was our deadline, and I've really been working this week to get everything done. I also finished this quilt, shown here before I quilted and bound it. I'm not crazy about the Yellow Brick Road pattern, but someone donated a kit and the fabrics were perfect for one teenager who likes nature and outdoor activities. The backing is a leafy fern print and there's a row of leftover blocks from the front stitched in, too.

It feels great to have participated in making these blankets, and I know that come Christmas I will feel good every time I think about children clutching the blankets they received with a card from their absent mothers. This donation project is called "Here's A Hug," and I hope the kids feel loving arms around them when they wrap up in their blankets. Quilts can warm our hearts in more than one way.

Still, I'm excited to get back to my own projects that have been on the back burner for awhile. I'm off!