Monday, April 23, 2018

Happy Birthday My Sweet Boy!

It's my son's birthday today. Here he is at the beach with my granddaughter.

Happy Birthday honey!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Featherweight Heaven

I had a small problem with my new sewing machine. Every time I would use the thread cutter, the tension in the thread made it unthread the needle.  I figure I had done something wrong, so I brought the machine back to the shop. It took Dave about five seconds to spot the problem and then while he tested the machine to make sure the problem was solved, I took a quick look around the shop.


Shelves went all around the perimeter of the room, and on the shelves were sewing machines.

"He collects Featherweights" I was told when I asked.

I should say so!

You can watch a video about Dave and his shop here.



I hit the big box hardware store and bought a couple of big plastic bins to carry my quilts around on my cart. I got smart and brought some quilts with me so I could determine the correct size. I bought two of these bins. They held two of my scrap slabs quilt and one smaller wall quilt without smashing the quilts together. I picked up a few other things, (nothing to do with the kit: I bought basil, parsley, cilantro, dill and rosemary plants for my garden) and I finally ordered a portfolio to carry around my spare mats and portable design wall. Now I just have to wait until everything arrives.

Mary asked how I would make sure everything stayed on the cart.

Bungee cords, I replied, and yes, I already have them.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Kit and Cart

OMG!!! The cart arrived yesterday and it is totally To-Die-For! It is a Magna Cart Flat Platform Truck and I got it at Amazon (where else?)

 Here it is all opened up. It can carry 300 pounds. (The handle can go up higher.)

Here is the "top" when it is all folded up.

Here is the underside.  The darn thing is so easy to use it's positively embarrassing. And it weighs less than the portable ironing table I bought last week.


Thank you Barbara and Jackie. I ordered the 6" x 24" Karen Kay Buckley travel ruler and found the nifty 2-1/2" x 6" Creative Grids ruler from the Fat Quarter Shop. Both are on their way to my house.
Chatting with Julie later, I wondered what I would use to safely carry my collection of rulers back and forth, without breaking them. I was thinking of putting the rulers inside clear pages and storing them in a loose leaf binder, but Julie suggested a metal clipboard like contractors use.  BRILLIANT!

My friend Mary suggested keeping a Master List of everything that goes in the kit so when I pack it up I'll know instantly if anything is missing. Sounds like a good thing to laminate and keep in the kit somewhere for easy reference.


I love tins. Sometimes I'll buys something in a tin just because I want the tin, not because I want what's in it.  Although this tin of Milk Chocolate Drops was irresistible.

I converted it into a mending kit by adding a magnetic business card holder on the cover, adding some steel pins and a needle, then filling the tin with scissors, thread, a seam ripper and a thimble. A needle threader is also nice. It may not be practical for carting around every day, but something like this would be good to keep in a desk drawer at work (with maybe some extra buttons and safety pins.)

I've got to get a small spray bottle to use when I iron (a very easy thing to get)

A few more items (portfolio and cutting mat) and my kit will be complete.



Friday, April 20, 2018

The Kit Develops

Everybody wants to know what kind of iron I like. I got it on Amazon.


It's this one, a Shark Lightweight Professional Steam Iron, 1500 watts. It was less than $25 USD.

I bought some foam core at Staples, then I went to the hardware store to buy some spray adhesive and some blue painter's tape.  After dinner last night I cut the foam core down to 18 x 24" (same size as a cutting mat I will use) and then stuck a layer of quilt batting to one side. I trimmed it down, then put some flannel on top, folded the edges to the back and used the adhesive to stick them down.

 Now I have a portable design wall to show students the correct way to do something. (And note to self, make these samples BIG enough so folks across the room can clearly see what I mean.)

The tools for my kit arrived the other day. Last night I labelled all of them. The tools themselves fit nicely into my little boxed bag on the right. And notice I keep small band-aids in my toolkit.  I cut myself at the MQX class last week. I indicated the bag on the far table and calmly asked a student to get a band-aid for me. I put it on myself, because blood-borne pathogens are no laughing matter.

My favorite ruler is the 2-1/2" x 12-1/2" one on the lower left, except I'd like it better if it were 2-1/2" x 6". I broke one of these by accident, and find that, at least for the bird class, the broken pieces are the perfect size to work with. I'm worried I might have to break this one on purpose.





**The new switches are on order and should arrive at my VAR (value added reseller, for the curious amongst you) on Tuesday. They will do the initial configuration there (because switches are "smart" and really nothing more than a specialized computer) and then they'll be installed at the office next Wednesday. Lest anybody think this is trivial matter, the switches, their support fees, configuration and installation costs hover around $15k.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Reality Bites

The big device with all the cables plugged into it is a 48 port switch.  All computers on a network "talk" to the server through a switch like this. This switch connects 48 computers or other network devices (like printers or scanners) to the server. Actually it's more complicated than that, but that's enough for now.

At 5:50 on Tuesday morning my cell phone rang. It was "the guys" who remotely support and manage the network at the company where I work. I was lying in bed, awake, but my alarm had not yet rung.

"Hi Lynne, how are you today?"

I laughed, "If you guys are calling me at not-quite-six in the morning, my day has just gone to hell, and I'm not even out of bed yet!"

Turns out several users out in the factory had no network connection. Problem was, SOME of them did, and SOME of them didn't. There's nothing harder to troubleshoot than something that is intermittent.

The folks at the far end of the factory connect to the network through two smaller switches hung up in the rafters of the building. It was clear that one of them wasn't working.  Except when I rode up the lift truck to look at them (about twenty feet above the factory floor) they were lit up and seemed to be working.

I went back out to the front office and since it was barely 8:30 AM, I went to the front to turn on the lights and was stopped by the VP of Manufacturing. "I can't get on the network" he told me.

WELL! That meant my problem was not one of the small switches out in the factory, but hey, the users who complained were all out there when I arrived at 7 AM, so I had to start there.

As soon as I opened the door to the server room, I could see one switch that didn't have any lights blinking. Obviously that was the source of the trouble. I called "the guys" and while I was talking I unplugged the switch and plugged it back in, hoping to jump start it. Nope. So I unplugged it again and tried another UPS (uninterruptible power supply) because sometimes outlets die, and we had had a ton of rain the day before that leaked into the first aid room next door. The switch came to life, lighting up like a Christmas tree, and then running through a series of tests where the lights blinked on every port.

AND THEN I HEARD A BIG BANG AND SMELLED ELECTRICAL BURNING.  OH CRAP!

I yanked out the cord and made sure nothing was on fire.

By the time I reached the phone to tell "the guy" at the other end of the line that the switch was well and truly dead and we needed a replacement ASAP two of my colleagues were standing at the door asking if I was OK. Apparently I either squeaked or screamed. I was certainly shaking.

So that was how my day started. A little while later one of "the guys" showed up in person and we painstakingly identified connections that weren't working and moved those cables to other switches, thus bringing everything important back on line. We knew we'd miss some (like the 3-D printer, but we fixed that the next day) but by and large everybody was working, the UPS computer was up so we could ship product, the computer that connected the two CNC machines was working so that computer could transmit jobs to the CNC machines (thus keeping production going. Being "dead in the water" is a real risk, an EXTREMELY big deal, and should be avoided at all costs), and the guys in the stockroom could pull raw materials to fill shop orders, and receive orders into the system, bar code labels could be printed and the big laser printer out there could print.

Later as a colleague and I reviewed the quotes for a new switch, and as we debated getting one or two (since we'd had planned to replace the one that died and one other eventually, but not quite yet) he mentioned that the other big switch was almost 10 years old and the estimated life cycle of a switch is 10 years. "Then we should replace both of them" I said, "because if the other one goes, then everything in the front office goes down with it - sales, engineering, purchasing, accounting, HR and payroll."

He stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes widening.

"OK, so we replace both of them."

So that's the next trick.

In case you all wondered what I did in my day job.  Trust me, figuring out how to put a quilt together is a hell of a lot less stressful.



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What Did I Learn?

I always tell people that I learn so much from the students I teach, and they don't always get it. Sometimes it's as simple as this:

These bed risers underneath a work table to make it easier to work on.

My friend Mary, a former schoolteacher, sent me this email last night:

Hi Lynne,
How did it go?  I'm assuming you've been evaluating the experience...what went well, what you'd change, if anything, etc.  
Did anyone approach you with a new idea...perhaps something you'd never considered doing...a new adventure?
I'm going to be interested in how you like your new Elna.

 After typing my reply for about half an hour it occurred to me that you all might like to know just what I did learn. So here it is:

Hi Mary,
Well, the biggest thing I learned was that I had to find a better way of carting my stuff back and forth. When I was in St Louis with Julie and she had this nifty little folding cart. So I have to get (and in fact have already ordered) one of them.

With all this packing and unpacking of my tools every time I teach a class, I finally got smart and decided to get extras of all my nifty tools and keep them packed and ready, so I ordered those from Amazon. (Rotary cutter, spare blades, various rulers, blue painter's tape, seam ripper, pins... stuff like that.)
The room was a typical conference room. It was smallish with a sewing machine and about twelve inches of desk space for each user. Not much. I like to have a central place where the students can work on the bird legs and I can give demos.  The  Center of NH set up a worktable for me just outside the room. I had brought a cutting mat and big ruler, so we used that.

I am so accustomed to classes providing ironing boards it never occurred to me to ask for one. There were two outside the room, but the irons weren't hot and there were always lines. So one of the things I bought at the show was a portable ironing board for the students to press the bird legs. I probably should have bought one that sits on a table, but I got one that has legs and can stand by itself.  Anyway, problem solved.

I love steam irons. So I try to have an extra one on hand. The one I have been using just died, so I pulled out it's trusty twin and didn't miss a beat. So I just ordered two more. One to keep as a spare (kinda line a spare sewing machine) and the other to go in my [new] travel kit, which is my least favorite suitcase on wheels.

When I was at the Bedford Quilt Guild, they put a table up on bed risers and OMG!!! Was it awesome to work on. So I ordered a set of those for my trusty travel kit.
And oh yes... luggage tags to identify what bag, cart, quilt stand is MINE!

I will make a portable design wall. I am so used to being at Quilted Threads where I have a place to pin stuff up, but I need something to show everybody... So I will get a piece of foam core and make a small design wall (18 x 24", same size as a cutting mat I bring to my classes now.) Of course I will order another one of those some time. I will wait until JoAnn's has a sale because I hate paying full price for anything if I can get it on sale. I'd get a portable easel, but places like the Center of NH often have those for the asking. I'll see how that goes. I don't really need to lug more stuff around.

An inexpensive portfolio for carrying artwork will carry my mat and portable design wall very easily.  It will also be a good place to store that extra 6-1/2" x 24" ruler I need to bring to classes. 

I usually keep a ruler in one back pants pocket and a rotary cutter in the other. My cell phone lives in my front pocket. I use it for taking pictures. I'm always putting something down and then walking away. It happened so many times that the students told me I should get an apron with pockets. Damn! Why didn't I think of it? I can make one of those... and OH, can I have some fun with THAT!!!

In a big class (like one with 20 students) it's easy for students to miss out on part of a demo. Very often students sew the head triangle to the bird the wrong way (they sew the long side of the HST to the body. Wrong, wrong, wrong.) I often have examples pinned up on a wall for reference, but this class didn't have walls for that and I didn't have a portable design wall. So I need to make samples, but they need to be BIG, so I students can just look up and see the CORRECT way to sew these pieces together.  So that's something I have to do.

Years ago Julie told me to make a bunch of birds and hand them out to each student before they get to work on their own birds. They can't keep them, but they can turn them over and see how I put them together, how I pressed them, etc. Several students told me this was VERY helpful, especially if I was across the room.

This tip I learned a long time ago. It's almost simplistic, but when I park my car in a parking garage, I always take a picture of the nearest location sign. After a long and stressful day of teaching, I can barely figure out what to do next, let alone remember where I put the car. Something like this helps me remember and keeps me from losing my cookies while dragging stuff all over hell just to find my car.



Another tip: Decide where I am going to treat myself for dinner after class BEFORE I leave in the morning. Along with trying to remember where I parked the car, knowing I won't have to go home and make dinner (translation: macaroni and cheese out of a box, eaten with a soup spoon directly from the pan as I sack out on the couch...) but still get a good meal really works wonders. Sometimes it's fish tacos from Shorty's, sometimes it's pizza at 900 Degrees, sometimes it's a steak and cheese sub at Nadeau's or fish and chips at Daniel's. Sometimes it's pasta at Johnny Troy's and sometimes it's a steak at Longhorn, the deal is, I don't cook. It's amazing how a good meal rejuvenates me.


So that's it Mary. This class taught me about working in a tight space, and lugging my stuff long distances and how to avoid making several long trips to the parking garage and packing my things better.

Monday, April 16, 2018

It Followed Me Home...

If you looked at the picture of the class I taught at MQX last week, you probably noticed these sewing machines. MQX provided new sewing machines for all classes which were provided by vendors. There were twenty of these Elna Excellence 680's in my classroom.

Elna's rep, Russ, called me two hours before the class started, asking me how to set up the machines. Many of the classes were about machine quilting. "My class is all patchwork, we need a quarter inch foot." He asked about the color of thread the students would need. "It doesn't matter," I told him.

"Oh that'll be easy."

He was there when I got to my classroom, and he stuck around for the whole class answering any questions the students had, but I don't remember anybody asking anything.

Later (as part of an agreement between MQX and the vendors), Russ told the class about the Elnas. He felt they were the best of Elna's line, talked about some of the features and said they were for sale for [he gave a number] 48% off. I barely paid attention.

But later that night, after having had dinner and read a bit, I was talking to Julie about the class and the show. I don't really know where it came from, but I said to her. "I think I'm going to buy one of those sewing machines." Which was really weird, because I didn't touch one of them. "Why do you say that," Julie asked.



"It was the way they sounded," I replied. "I had twenty students in a smallish conference room. The students were in four rows of five, and they were practically climbing over each other to get around (a large cutting mat and the ironing boards were just outside.) I didn't hear a sewing machine all afternoon. They were so damn quiet. And not one student had a problem."

At 10:40 PM I texted Russ, told him my name and which class I taught, and that I was interested in buying one of the machines in the room. When I woke up the next morning I had a reply from Russ (that he sent at 5:50 AM) telling me which booth to visit.



Well, long story short the damn thing followed me home. (They actually had it packed and ready for me when I got there.) It has every bell and whistle I could ask for, sews like a dream and is incredibly quiet. I haven't had a new sewing machine since 1977 when I got a Kenmore for college graduation. (It ran for 33 years until it died around 2010.)

"You'll be doing your own free motion quilting with this pretty soon," Russ teased as he loaded the box into my car.

Oh no I won't.

"Oh, yes you will."

Oh HELL no I won't.

We both laughed.

I'm old enough to know to never set yourself up for something you can't or won't do, so, I guess we'll find out next year!

       

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Birds at MQX Manchester

We had a good time making birds at the MQX show in Manchester yesterday.

 The place was really hopping.

I thought to myself, "wow, I've arrived!"

More on the birds later!


Thursday, April 12, 2018

3, 2, 1... GLORIOUS!

Here I was pinning the last seam.

Here it is.. Glorious, a collaboration quilt between Julie Sefton and me.

The lighting may not be the greatest, but this quilt is really pretty.

The last two pictures are really big, so you can click and then double click to see all the details about all the fabrics.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

All I Have To Do...

All I have to do to finish the Glorious flimsy is sew these pieces together (five seams),

And then sew these two big chunks (the one on the left is ready to go)

to this. Seven seams. Woo hoo!

It is SO much prettier in real life.

(Reminder: you can click the pictures, and then click them again to enlarge so you can see lots of detail.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Diamond Construction

When I've sewn the Diamonds quilts together I've sewn the blogs into diagonal rows, but they are awkward to work with.

My design wall isn't quite big enough for the side edges, so I laid them out on the floor.


This gave me the idea of assembling a large central diamond, and then sewing the corner sections around it.

These six rows will form the center of the big diamond once I sew them together. It isn't a typical square in square, so it's a bit finicky, but I think it'll be a bit easier to sew together this way.

Monday, April 9, 2018

A Detour

I finished sewing the binding to the Tickled Pink quilt. Now I just have to fold it over and hand sew it down on the front. Yes, I do my final stitching on the front. I was taught how to do it so it doesn't show. If you want to know more about how I do it, click here.

It will be nice just to sit and do some hand sewing.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Two Hours Thirty-Seven Minutes and 32 Pictures

It's no secret I wasn't happy with the latest iteration of the diamonds quilt for Julie. At first I thought it needed more darks. After I got out of the shower on Friday morning I went over to look at it while I dried my hair. A big pink print sitting in my stash taunted me. So I put my towel down and cut a big diamond and stuck it on the wall. 

Then I spied a big orange and yellow print. It was a fat quarter. I cut two diamonds and put them up on the wall.  It was a light bulb moment. The big diamonds demand LARGE SCALE prints. These make up the backbone of the quilt, and they need to be strong enough to do that. A busy print won't work.

After dinner that night I called Julie. About half an hour into our conversation I drifted into the studio and we talked about the quilt. Suddenly this large print (the backing for Ola Pola) caught my attention.  "Oh Julie, look at THIS!" I snapped a photo and sent it to her.

I put the phone on speaker, set it down and cut a big diamond. Then another...

We both loved it.

Over the next hour I cut diamonds, moved them around on the design wall, and took pictures to send to Julie.

The only things we moved around were the large diamonds.

We talked for two hours and thirty seven minutes and I sent 32 pictures. We decided what to move, made suggestions, and changed our minds over and over.

An hour later, we were happy with it. "Now I'll have to take the medium diamonds and the four patches down so I can put them back up properly," I told Julie.

 "Show me!" Julie said.

 We spent the better part of the next forty minutes fine tuning them. Making sure there weren't too many darks in one spot. Making sure the colors weren't clumped together. Making sure the same fabric wasn't duplicated in the same row or column (like a Sudoku puzzle). Making sure the flowers weren't all facing the same direction.

This is the final layout, and both Julie and I are happy with it. We started with 13 prints, and six of the original 13 remained. We added seven more from my stash. We had not originally included much orange or yellow in our selection. We had also avoided pink. As you can see, all three of those are in this final version.

"This isn't the kind of quilt you can make just from your stash," Julie observed, "and you can't plan it out on paper either."

You have to have a design wall to work this out, and you have to be willing to sacrifice what isn't working, no matter how much you love it.

"So," I asked Julie as we were saying our good byes. "Is it still Glorious?"

"Oh, absolutely!" she replied.


(A reminder that you can click the photos, and then double click to see lots more detail.)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Hindsight

They say that hindsight is always 20/20 vision. Looking backwards, it was obvious the yellow plaid wasn't "bringing anything to the party." Julie and I both knew the quilt needed something.


I have written here often that "I do my best thinking when I'm not thinking."  The other night. I was up late for whatever reason. It was past 11 PM when I decided to walk into the sewing studio to look at the quilt on the design wall. Julie was going to send me more of the light orange and green big print, but I didn't know where I would put it. 



I rummaged through my stash and found this large print. I had rejected it earlier because I felt the yellow was too harsh.  But in the you-never-know-till-you-try mode, I cut a large diamond and put it up over one of the plaids. As soon as I stepped back, I knew I had it.

It was 11:45 PM.

I cut three more diamonds, set them in place, took pictures and sent them to Julie, but I knew I didn't need her answer.

I know why you all didn't like the yellow "plaid," and this large scale yellow print is better, but I don't think this is the final answer. I am going to have to ponder.

In the meantime I have three diamond quilts to bind, a class and a lecture to prepare for. Like I said at the top, I do my best thinking when I am not thinking, and this is a perfect time to put that to the test.

As Cherie said in a comment yesterday, "I am always amazed at the work it takes to bring beauty from a jumble of color and patterns."  Hear hear.