Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Inside Jokes

How many of you found the fox yesterday?

Did you notice the exhausted A in SALAD?

Now that you can see it, do you understand why a casual glance misses it?

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Got Chicken?

I'm toying with the arrangement of the words for the Chicken quilt. I think it needs more chicken and possibly more flying geese.

Can you spot the new jokes? One should be fairly obvious. Another, not so much.

In every quilt I put in a few jokes, and a few surprises. If you remember this post, and read all the way to the end, you'll see I had some fun with the word SALAD.  To wit: I turned the second A on it's side. (Remember, we're getting TIRED of chicken.)

In this photo, I've done the same kind of somersault with another letter. Which is it?  If you click the photo, then click again, you can enlarge it and that may help you to find it, although you don't need to do that to find the funny letter.

The object directly above the K in chicken isn't the other joke, although I do plan to use that little guy (hint: it's a fox) someplace else.

The forks are part of the joke, but I haven't really figured out the best way to use them yet.

Happy hunting, and keep checking back. I plan to have a lot more fun with letters before I'm through.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happiness is...

Happiness is a bowl full of bobbins.

One of the things that makes me happy is NOT to have to stop sewing to wind a bobbin, so having what... eighteen bobbins filled and ready to go really floats my boat big-time. The only reason I have only 18 is that is how many empty bobbins I have. If I had more (note to self, buy more bobbins), I would have filled them all.

I do all my piecing with this medium gray thread. (ALL!) I feel it disappears equally well on lights as on darks (a medium beige is another option).

So when I'm watching something particularly boring on TV, I'll set myself up and wind all the empty bobbins I can find, because there's not much more boring than having to wind 18 bobbins in one sitting.

See that big cone of grey thread over on the side... it takes me a little over a year to use up one of those. I find it amusing as I read the blogs to see how many empty spools of thread other quilters collect in the course of a year.

Me, just one.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


When I was working on the Sunburst Rainbow Quilt, my Mom saw the pictures.  "You have to give that quilt to me. Only I can appreciate that bright color."

When your Mom is 80 years old, an Artist and lover of the unconventional and the unusual, you say yes. So it was that my Mom unwrapped this quilt as a Christmas present yesterday. As you can see, she and her dog Missy are very happy.

Equally happy are my son and future DIL who received the Spools Quilt for Christmas.

Their cats love the quilt too.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Rippers

I love gadgets. My brother calls me the Gadget Queen. Over the last few years, I've bought several different seam rippers.

 This is the seam ripper I've had for years. It works fine, but the cover keeps falling off.

This engineered beauty fits nicely in the hand, but the tip of the blade is hard to use.

This one is easy to hold, and the tip is better than the one above it.

 This handmade gem is beautiful, and it has a chain so I can loop it around my neck so I won't lose it, but the tip is very wide and blunt. Hard to use to get into the stitches.

This one has a tip that makes it easy to remove the excess threads. I'd like it better if the the cover fit on the other end when I'm using the ripper itself.

These are all very nice, but I found myself struggling to get the pointy ends into my tiny stitches.

Then I found this little gem. It works like a charm.

See how much finer the tip is?

It has two distinct disadvantages. One, it's very small and easy to get lost. Secondly, is the cover is clear, so it's easy to misplace on my worktable. Ask me how I know this.

However it has become my favorite seam ripper, so when it went missing a couple of weeks ago I practically tore my studio apart looking for it. I didn't hold out much hope. The thing is so tiny and light I could have easily thrown it away the last time I cleaned.

This past weekend I went to the lqs, but they didn't have it. So when I was ordering something from Amazon, I decided to see if they sold it, and they did. The price was more than reasonable, so I ordered two. When I woke up on Sunday, I received an email telling me my order has been shipped.

So what did I find when I opened the tool drawer yesterday?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunburst Rainbow Finish!

 After making the binding, sewing it to the quilt, flipping it over and pinning it again..

 I machine sewed the binding down, then ran it through the washing machine to get it nice and soft.

Millie, in her own inimitable fashion, let me know exactly what she felt it was good for.


Friday, December 20, 2013

The REAL Studio

The REAL Studio Tour

This is what my studio looks like when it's clean. Which is hardly ever and only lasts a few hours. I find I am reluctant to enter my studio when it's clean, because I don't want to mess it up. So I tend to NOT clean it until I finish a project or it reaches a state I am sure you all know as "Critical Mess."

My studio is smallish, (about 11' by 12') poorly lit, doesn't have very much wall space and has no closet. It connects to my living room by a pair of French doors. They are a royal PITA because I am always opening and closing them to get at what's behind them. The biggest advantage the studio has is a design wall. The second biggest advantage is that I can see into the living room and the TV. (See yesterday's post.) I usually have it on when I work in the sewing studio. I love to watch tennis on the TV. I don't really WATCH, I just listen. Remember, I live alone, so the TV provides background noise.

This is what my studio looks like most of the time. Stuff thrown all over the place. You can see a pair of jeans I have to shorten, and a quilt I have to bind as well as some bins of quilts-in-progress.

When you walk into the studio and turn to the left, you see the thread racks on the backs of the French doors, and the bulletin board where I hang my most used cutting rulers and the design wall. I'm only five feet tall, so I need the small step stool to reach high up on the design wall. To the right of the design wall is my sewing machine.

 My sewing machine sits on an old student desk. Inside the desk are a couple of bowls with sewing machine tools and a bowl of prewound bobbins. I use grey thread for all my piecing, so when I get down to my last full bobbin or two, I wind about a dozen more. The plastic bin on the floor is for all the pieces to fall into when I'm chain-sewing. 

 This drawer in the taboret next to my sewing machine holds my most commonly used tools, my rotary cutters, seam rippers, rulers, blades, and other stuff. I always put these things away, because it makes it easier to find these when I am ready to work. I also put them away because I use tilted work tables and stuff falls off, and because I have a cat. 

Need I say more?

This is my small work table. It is a drafting table, and set at an angle. The sewing machine is behind me, and I set up a small portable ironing board so I never have to get up. It makes for a very efficient work triangle. I use a small decorative box as a tabletop wastebasket for threads and tiny scraps. My pins are in the large tin, and I keep a lint roller handy for when I need to rip out a seam.

 This is my big cutting/work table. Before the arthritis in my back flared up, I did all my work here (and I did it standing up). Now I use it for cutting large pieces and straightening up my long free pieced word blocks.

This is my large (24" x 48") ironing table. You can see it also stores plastic bins full of fabrics that are larger than scraps, but too small to be folded and stored in my stash. Above the ironing table is the magnetic rack for my scissors. Above the scissors are some of my favorite photos and photos of my quilts.

To the right of the ironing table is what I call my "inspiration" wall,  but really it's letters and emails from friends for whom I've made quilts. Whenever I'm feeling lost, I look up at the wall and read the letters of joy, and it gives me the courage to keep going. The house quilt was made by my Aussie friend, Helen. The blue ribbon was given to me by my friend Julie for encouraging her to get way way out of the box when she was making her See Rock City quilt. She's since won a Best in Show award for it.

Across from the large work table I have some of my favorite things on display. The large quilt of color names is my Nine x Nine surrounded by one of my paintings and some other quilts by friends and photos of things I like.

On that far wall you can see bindings waiting for their quilts, and a shelf bracket that holds several rolls of blue painter's tape (dead useful for all kinds of things). There's a bureau back there full of stuff I never use, with all the notes of the book I am writing, a small desk (can you see the Digital Pinwheel blocks on the chair?) and the sock kitty Millies that travel with me...

See? I told you she was famous!

Then there's a small desk and a bookcase with a collection of quilt books, some books on Art, Color and Creativity, coffee mugs filled with pencils, pens, markers, notebook and other tools.

 Then there's the bookcase with my fabric stash. And since this is the REAL studio tour, you can see the pile of leftover backing from the Spools quilt I sent to my son and his fiancee for Christmas. Yeah, I know I should pick it up, and separate the fabric from the batting and fold it and put it away...

On top of the bookcase are plastic bins filled with leftover bits and oddballs. All my fabric is stored where I can see it, and all the bins are clear because I'm the kind of person where if I can't see it, it doesn't exist. So everything is out in the open. In a way it's all inspiration.

Now we are back where we started, by the French doors. The plastic cutting rulers on the board are specialty ones I don't use often.

Way at the far end of the studio, beyond the big work table is a special spot for my cat, Millie, She can lie there undisturbed, and she has a perfect view out the window. Millie does all the Quality Assurance work on my quilts. She checks them for softness, kindness, love and warmth.

Every quilting studio needs a cat.

Update: Because everybody wanted to know how I fit it all in... Here is the plan I made when I first decided to put the sewing studio in this room three years ago. I've moved a few things around, but you get the idea.

The solution: graph paper. One square = one foot. I measured everything I wanted to put in the room, measured the doors, and windows, and located the electrical outlets.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Getting Ready for the Studio Tour

I'm getting ready for the Full Real Studio Tour tomorrow. This is the view into the living room from my sewing machine. You'll understand more tomorrow. In this photo you can see a painting by my mother, Jeanne Lachance, a quilt by the amazing Wanda Hanson, my Red Sticks quilt, Millie's kitty condo, and just above the door to the studio, the clock I embellished several years ago.

Amongst the items is a 5th Anniversary pin from Quilt Market in Houston Texas.

See the entire studio tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

1,183 and counting

During the long drive from Memphis to St Louis last October, Julie and I talked about a lot of things. We were talking about the class I was about to give on free-pieced letters. "Well, you've made about a thousand letters..." she started.

"No WAY," I objected, "I haven't made that many!"

"Sure you have. Haven't you ever counted?"

"Well no, I'm not a numbers kinda person. I never list things quantitatively like that. Lots of my bean-counting co-workers do, but I never have a numbered list."

So we thought about it, driving along. We did a rough count, and sure enough, the number got pretty high, but didn't quite reach 1,000.

"You're not including your duds," Julie said.

Oh.  "OK, you're right, I guess I have done a thousand letters. That's amazing."

I didn't think of it much after that, but when I was making all the letters for the chicken quilt, I got to wondering. After all, up until the chicken quilt, the quilt with the most letters was Nine x Nine, with 81.

So I made a list. Wow. The total is 1,183.

One thousand one hundred eighty-three.

And that still doesn't include the duds.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Here are a few of the chicken leftover words I have been sewing up:

I don't know what Chicken Divan really is, but the first DIVAN needed a little TLC, ergo the touch of color in the finished version.

Chicken A La King, again, needed a lighter touch.

 When I made the letters for PIZZA and GUMBO I wanted them to be hard to see (like you were getting REALLY TIRED of CHICKEN and didn't want to see any more of it.)  Great idea, tricky concept to execute.  So I had to shake things up a bit.

Now there's a big surprise. NOT!

Of course, the Leftover dinners can't have all the fun.

There are times when you get SO TIRED of leftovers that things just go all to hell.

I am having GREAT fun with this.  Can you tell?