Friday, January 20, 2017

A Little Housekeeping...

You know, sometimes stuff just has to be taken care of.

I picked up my prescription on the way home from work last night. Went to the mail house to pick up the mail, then home. I fed Millie, changed my clothes and put the towels in the washing machine.

Then I picked up the mail and paid the bills. I have a credit card with a big box hardware store. I have a hard time with their website. I registered so I could pay my bill online, but when I paid the bill the web page just shut down. So I had to call tech support. Blah blah. Got that fixed.

Fortunately I was able to pay all the other bills I had to pay. Got that paperwork all squared away.

Made my dinner and did the dishes. Put the towels in the dryer.

Sat down with the laptop and the calendar to work out a time to visit my son and his family. Found some good times and prices. Texted my son. Went back and forth and finally on the third date combination found a time that worked for all of us.  Booked that ticket, signed up for flight alerts, blah blah.

Entered everything in the checkbook. Woo Hoo. Don't have to worry about another bill until the first of next month.

Then all of a sudden it was time for bed.

Oh well! At least with all this stuff done I can work in the studio this weekend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


When I started teaching free pieced letters back in 2010, I wanted to also teach my students to look at their fabrics more closely so they could use them more effectively.

I wrote a power point presentation for the class, and up until now I've only used it for teaching, but since using my fabrics differently than anybody else is my trademark, I think it's time to share it.

So I'm adding to it, and modifying and expanding the commentary and otherwise getting it ready to be my next Tutorial.

So I have taken a slight detour from the scrappy slab triangles to work on the new tutorial.
(And I am watching the tennis in Australia!)

I'll let you know when it's finished, and it will be for sale on Etsy as an instant download when it is ready.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Old Switcheroo

Check out these two photos. Same blocks. Same layout. Different color placement. What do you notice?  What pops out, and what doesn't? What does your eye see? (Or rather, notice what contrast attracts your eye.)

 1. Blue Diamonds

2. Colored Diamonds

Here I've tried to place them side by side so you can compare the two. Neither is RIGHT or WRONG, they are DIFFERENT, and show you how color (and value placement) can change the whole thing. Which one you might use depends entirely on what you want to emphasize.

Since the design with the colored diamonds (2) remind me of Treasure Trove, I probably won't make that one. But I am not quite sure I want the blue diamonds in (1) to be so wimpy and disappear.

I think I'll try to make some other lighter triangle blocks and use them also, and just keep the darker colors for the triangles that complete the star pattern, because it would be a nice thing to have two ideas working together. Here the dark shapes that make the star tend to pop forward. That's fine with me, but it would be fun to get another set of lighter colors to sink backward (like the light blue) to make that "layer" more interesting than just being one color. It'll be a fine balancing act and until I actually put blocks on the design wall, I'm not sure it will "work" the way I want it too.

It's going to be fun to find out.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

X's and O's

I added black and white side triangles to the blocks and put them back up on the design wall. This layout is interesting, but the blue is too light (too close in value to the black and whites) to make the design of the triangles really stand out. It needs more stronger colors. That's fine. I have a lot of scraps to play with. So things are progressing.

Friday, January 13, 2017

When Your Brain Isn't Working...

I told one of my bosses once, "I do my best thinking when I'm not thinking." Being a left-brained kind of guy, he looked at me cross-eyed. I'd worked for him for a few years, so he knew I was good at what I did, and he didn't press further.

But I digress. Generally ideas come to us when we've got stuff floating around in our heads and some part of our brain makes a connection. It's like being in the shower, doing the dishes, or driving. You're doing something that occupies your conscious brain, freeing your unconscious brain to connect the things that might not normally have been put together, or that slip by your inner critic because that guy is otherwise occupied.

Or sometimes it's just because you're too tired to concentrate fully, and some other part of you just keeps on going. I've got some of my best ideas this way. The many hidden FUNs in Julie's quilt came about because I was looking at the quilt on the design wall WAY PAST MY BEDTIME and ideas were bouncing around unobstructed in my brain.

It was a long day at work yesterday. The big fancy new storage device (many many many "green papers" worth) arrived and was installed. I stayed after hours while that was done, and after doing two errands, didn't get home until almost 8:00 PM. I watched Father Brown while I ate my dinner and then did the dishes, and a load of laundry before I floated into the studio about 9:45 PM. 

I started arranging the light blue triangles, but then I decided to add the leftover triangles from the other quilts. I did two or three arrangements that left me bored. I had alternating vertical rows of diamonts, blue, colored, blue... and it was just dull. So I started moving the colored ones horizontally. But that didn't do anything to connect visually to the blue ones. So I decided to break the design even more. I find that if what I am working on isn't working, breaking it worse often triggers other things I might not otherwise have thought of, and very often produces good ideas.

Then something kind of interesting started to happen, so I took a photo (above.) The idea isn't complete, but it has potential and I want to play with it some more.

And break it again.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Light Blue

I sewed up some slabs last night and cut them into triangles. It was fun seeing fabrics in the little scrap bin that were used in quilts I made five or more years ago.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

No More Same Old


Looking at that wall of black and white triangles just reminded me of the black and white triangle quilts I made last year. I thought, Damn it! Been There. Done That.  No More.

So I dug out the light blue accessory bin and ironed everything in it.

One of the things that came to me as I was working on the layout for Treasure Trove, with the long horizontal diamonds, was that if I swapped the values (light diamonds, dark background) I could get clouds.

Except that isn't what it ends up looking like. Any time you use a pair of colors with strong contrast (and black and white is the strongest contrast you can get), what happens is the two create a strong pattern that stays flat on the picture plane. It means you get a strong pattern where both the light and dark are right up front. One value does not sink backward into the distance, especially if the shapes are visually the same size. They fight. Actually they dance, but they dance TOGETHER. Both are stars. Both are equals.

I remember being at a quilt shop once where a woman was buying fabric for her first quilt. She picked a simple design, a square with two opposing triangles, so four blocks put together would make an X shape. She picked a very wimpy pale fabric for the triangles in the corners, and a darker subdued purple for the big diagonal strip. But she had colored out her pattern, and said to the shop owner, "I don't want this purple to take over. I want this pale fabric to be the focus."

I had to walk away to prevent myself from saying aloud "Well, that will never happen. If you want a wimpy fabric to be the star of the show, you have to make everything else around it a lot wimpier. Your purple commands a lot more attention than your pale print." It didn't help that she wanted to make the blocks 12" square.

So if I want to have long horizontal diamonds look like clouds floating, I have to make the background seem to float backward. I have to pick something that doesn't fight as much. So, duh, white clouds, blue sky... light blue scraps.

In drawing or painting, there are techniques, or tricks, to use to make things sink backward and other things pop forward. Generally it is how you handle your edges, but you have to pay attention to everything so that what's close is more in focus (or sharper) than what is farther away.

I'm not really interested in making my diamonds literally float forward and create a 3-D picture space. If I wanted to do that I'd make a painting, which I am perfectly capable of doing. What I like best about quilts is their very strong graphic quality, where the design is very much on a flat plane. I want to create a LITTLE push pull forward backward space. Not a big one. Yes, I do want to play with your head, making you see one thing while I am doing something else.

So I will experiment and see where it leads me. Because I am all about seeing what happens in front of me as I work, not replicating anything I've seen someplace else, because that would be, like, boring.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Time to Pick Up the Pencil

This is my granddaughter in a photo taken yesterday. (Yes, that is the Deco Rose quilt.) OMG! Is she adorable!  My Mother is now in Baja Mexico for a weeklong visit with my brother. My nephew is proving indispensable around the house, lugging baby stuff and getting things off the top shelf that is too high for my DIL to reach.

I'm back at work, and we're in the process of replacing a big piece of very specialized equipment that's been giving us fits for the last month or so. That and the normal "year end" processes are keeping us really busy.

It's time for me to get back into the sewing studio and pick up the proverbial pencil. You can read that post here. It's about NOT waiting for inspiration to hit, to just get to work.

Maybe I'll make some birds. A reminder that the bird tutorial is available here, at my Etsy shop. It's forty pages of photographs, detailed how to's, examples and suggestions to make your own unique free-pieced birds. (Free-pieced means improvisationally pieced. There is no "pattern" because a pattern isn't necessary.) The tutorial is an instant download, so you get it right away.

Wouldn't you know it, but the damn sewing machine has cut each and every thread since it got back from the tech. Go figure!

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Bit of Sewing...

I am taking it easy because I don't want to get sicker. I took the weekend chores slowly, and by Sunday afternoon, I felt good enough to do some sewing on the new tent for Millie.

I used two different greens on the tube pieces because the project was to be made with what was in my stash. I need to make a cover for the pillow, but there's no rush for that.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

It's the Little Things

This is the cheap humidifier I bought at the drugstore last week. It's fabulous. It's made my breathing a lot more comfortable. I spent four days sacked out on the couch last week. Made it to work on Friday (brought the humidifier with me). I'm not 100%, but I feel a lot better. The weather report says we should expect 1-3 inches of snow this afternoon. I've already done the groceries so I'm set.

My pal Julie wrote about this next gizmo in early December, and I thought it was terrific for use with the Christmas decorations, but wait! Now I've set it up in my sewing studio and instead of going in there and turning on:
1. The iron
2. The light behind the ironing table
3. The light behind my cutting table
4. The floor lamp next to my sewing machine
5. The task lamp next to my sewing machine
6. The little light ON the sewing machine
7. The floor lamp near the small cutting table (that lights up the whole room)
8. The task light on the small cutting table

I just walk in, pick up the little remote, press three buttons and BINGO! Everything is on and ready. (I have some things plugged into power strips, which are then plugged into these special outlets.)

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! You can get this gizmo here.

When I visited my Maryland family last June, Tracey handed me a sweater and asked if it fit. I tried it on, and it did. "It's yours." So I tucked it into my suitcase. It's damn perfect. Fits like a dream, zips up, isn't picky. It's been keeping me warm since the weather got colder. Turns out it's 100% Merino wool, made in Ireland. Fabulous color, goes with everything, and I get compliments on it whenever I wear it. Dunno how Tracey got it (I think she picked it up second hand) but I love it.

My Mother has laid claim to this quilt. She and my son made the decision this past week while she is visiting California. THEY decided! Not me. Made me laugh.

My Nephew, Mother, Granddaughter & Daughter-in-Law.
 It's nice to see them all having fun.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

I'm still feeling under the weather and have been sacked out on the couch, napping.  My Mother, however, is out in California visiting my son and DIL and getting to know her great-granddaughter.

My Mom is 83. I hope I look as good at her age.

My DIL and granddaughter. Two happy smiling faces!

Apparently Little Miss has begun to notice the two cats. When one strolls by her face lights up, and if she happens to touch one, she gets all excited.

Actually, I do have some quilty news. I received a notice today that my quilt, Too Much Chicken, has been accepted into the AQS show in Lancaster PA, March 29 - April 1, 2017.

Monday, January 2, 2017

She's Back!

The sewing machine repair guy called me this morning and said he could not get the thread cutter to fail. Apparently it cut threads every single time no matter what stitch or stitch length. Wow. So he said I could come and get it.

Problem is, I am sick, sick sick. I have been sleeping on the couch all day long. I even slept through the Tournament of Roses parade, which I like to watch every year. I started feeling it New Year's Eve Day, when I woke up with my throat was so dry it hurt. Last night I had to make a trip to the drugstore to get some cold medicine, throat lozenges and a vaporizer. Then I went next door to the grocery store to get orange juice, popsicles, and tea. I slept better last night, but when I slept through the parade I knew I wasn't going anywhere.

The sewing machine repair shop closes at 5:30, just far enough away that I can't get there before they close if I leave work at 5:00. If I couldn't get my machine today, I'd have to wait until Saturday.


The dawn broke over Marble head. (There really is a town called Marblehead about an hour's drive away, it really does face east on the coastline, and dawn really does break over it. In addition to being a terribly wonderful bad pun on several levels, it is the equivalent of "D'oh.")

The sewing machine repair shop is in Hooksett. My dad lives in Hooksett. My dad is 84, retired, and loves to help me out. I called him, and an hour later my sewing machine was back where it belonged.

Thanks Dad.

So when I'm feeling better, I can get back to work.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Another Tent for Millie

My sewing machine is in the shop because the tech wants to test it with a new bobbin race. The thread cutter works intermittently, and when it doesn't it's the bottom thread that doesn't cut. A new bobbin race may resolve the problem. Intermittent problems are the hardest to troubleshoot, so I'm fine with it.

While I can't sew I'll do stuff that doesn't need my machine. I have had this fabric for several months and I think it will make a terrific tent for Millie. Now is a good time to cut it out.

I'll also tidy up the studio a bit and press fabrics for the next scrap slabs.

To those who are wondering, yes, I do plan a tutorial on the scrap slab quilts I've been making - Fruit Loops and Treasure Trove along with any other variations. I'll let you all know when it's ready.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

No Pinwheels

This won't be it either. I don't like the regular pinwheels. I want something a bit more scattered and unpredictable.

I've got to bring my sewing machine back to the shop today, so I won't be sewing for a few days. Which is a bummer, but I have a lot of other things to do, so it will be fine.

I've added a new Page to the blog, it's going to show all the quilt tops I have made that are not yet quilted. You can find it here.

Happy New Year!