Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Desktop Calendar

This has been the strangest winter I can remember in our nearly 40 years in Houston. We had lows in the low 30's this week, and that should have been all over with 2 weeks ago. Winter has never come and gone and come and gone and come again like this. But, as I suspected last month, a freeze did indeed turn a good many of my camellias brown. But new ones are opening so there's that. And one lonely pink azalea blossom showed up. And a few daffodils. But that's it.
I'd like to have a word with Algore about that global warming thing. I'd probably have to get in line behind the entire eastern seaboard, though.
I may have painted myself into a corner with this 12-months of one-patch calendars idea...don't know if I'll actually see this through. After 3 months of individually clicking on and coloring all those hundreds of little patches, and changing every little patch again cuz the colors are hideous, and again cuz MJ says they're uglier than sin, (and we all know that a 23 year old young man is all about critiquing my calendars - or he may just have gotten tired of all that stupid clicking), I'm ready for a nice 9-patch and snowball quilt. But for now, you can have this one. It may still be ugly, but I can't tell anymore, since my eyeballs are numb. You have been warned.

Click to expand image to full size, right-click and choose Set as Wallpaper or Background.
To really make the calendar "pop" right-click on your background and choose black.
And if anyone asks where you got this calendar, point them in my direction!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February Desktop Calendar

I don't know if y'all are familiar with how the seasons work here in Houston, but last week it was so cold in my kitchen, I was warming my hands over the stovetop to keep my fingers from turning blue. That was winter. Just the 3 days. Right now, it's drizzly and dreary but look! Spring has sprung! 

These gorgeous camellias are weighing down the branches of the giant 8' tall bush/tree in my front yard. It is absolutely filled with hundreds of pink, ruffly blooms. That can only mean one thing: we'll have one more hard freeze so they all turn brown and fall off. Then we'll have the 3 weeks or so of spring, followed by 7 months of summer. Yeah. That's how it works in Houston.
Anyway - here's your special Valentine's Edition of your desktop calendar - a one patch of "kites." Jarringly, blindingly bright. Hope you don't mind!

Click to expand image to full size, right-click and choose Set as Wallpaper or Background.
To really make the calendar "pop" right-click on your background and choose black.
And if anyone asks where you got this awesom-o calendar, point them in my direction!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

January Desktop Calendar

 So 2014 is over, and I, for one, am looking forward to 2015...not necessarily anxiously, but more like guardedly optimistic about the year ahead. (Attention Grammarians - please don't start my new year off with correcting that sentence. Have pity on me and 1) my cold, 2) my 3rd glass of champagne, 3) my lack of sleep, or 4) my total disinterest in language arts at the moment. Or all of the above. Except for the 3rd glass of champagne. It's my 4th. And it's Moscato Asti. Happy New Year to me! And to you!

Lately, I'm kinda into hexagon and other one-patch quilts, so I'm thinking that this year's calendars should all be some sort of charm-type quilt. We'll see. I might get bored in a few months and change my mind. But my New Year's resolution is to stick with my commitments - for at least January. Wish me luck. My other New Year's resolution is not to be too hard on myself when I blow it. I think we could all use a little more 'grace' in our lives. We're all going to fall and fail. Leave the judging to outside observers and be gentle on ourselves. We need it and deserve it.
Here's to new starts, halting steps, perseverance, and getting up to try again.

Click to expand image to full size, right-click and choose Set as Wallpaper or Background.
To really make the calendar "pop" right-click on your background and choose black.
I'll be back in a few - in the meantime, enjoy your desktop calendar, and accept my best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Don't Get Your Bindings in a Twist!

Have y'all heard the latest on Facebook about the Easy Binding Winder?
It's a quilter and sewist's must-have gizmo being developed by a two-person team of a quilt designer/online shop owner and entrepreneur/inventor.

The Easy Binding Winder is a tool designed to help the quilter or sewer keep their miles of quilt binding, bias tape, piping, etc., under control. In a nutshell, as you iron your strips of  fabric in half, you thread it onto the EBW and use the handcrank to wind it up. (Just like we used to do with car windows before they became electric!) Then, after your lo-o-o-ng strip (as much as 40 feet for a king size quilt!) is totally wound up on the reel, you can take it over to your sewing machine and sew it onto your quilt (for instance) while it stays perfectly in control, slowly unwinding without twisting, tangling, knotting, or getting caught under your feet or sewing chair. Bonus: your miles o' binding are now kitty and puppy proof!

I was asked to put the prototype through its paces recently so I gave it a whirl.

This is the 3D-printed prototype of the future Easy Binding Winder. I had no idea what a 3D-printer was or that it could produce something that was, know...3D!
There's one part missing from the photo - the little clamp to attach it to your ironing board. Since I was just testing this on my cutting table, I didn't need it. But the clamp keeps the Easy Binding Winder steady while you're ironing with one hand and winding with the other.

So here's the deal. This is how my binding looks as I get ready to press it. This was actually for a wallhanging, so it's only about 12' long. 

I conscripted Gillian and Laura to help me - they were the hand models, and I was the photographer. This is how they looked when I explained what they were going to have to do: press/manage binding the old fashioned way. The outlook was bleak and drab. 
They so didn't want to make binding.

And can you blame them? As they pressed the binding strip in half it piled up in a wad, then started to cascade over the edge of the cutting table and ended up a tangled mass on the floor. 

I mercifully let them stop before they'd gone too far, but already you can see that the binding is starting to tangle. Imagine the pile that 40' of binding would make!

Easy Binding Winder to the rescue!
If you're right-handed, you'll place the EBW to your left on the ironing board and attach it with the clamp, not shown here, cuz I didn't need it! Press just the first couple of inches of your fabric in half, and feed it under the rod at the bottom, and slide it under the clip on the actual spool.

Once threaded, you can lay your iron down on the fabric close to the EBW, and begin to turn the handle which pulls the binding under the iron and winds it up neatly onto the spool. With the right hand, you can direct the fabric as it goes under the iron. Or you can do it the regular way, pressing a bit, then winding a bit. Think of that song from The Music Man: Press a little, wind a little, press a little, wind a little; press, press, press, wind it up, wind it up a little. 
LOL. I crack myself up. For real.

Sorry - back to business - pressing, winding...

All 12' feet of the binding is wound neatly on the spool at this point and can now be removed from the Easy Binding Winder. 

You can either set the smoothly wound spool of binding aside to keep with your project until you're ready to attach it, or you can take the whole thing over to your sewing machine and set it to the side and begin attaching the binding to your quilt. It will unwind smoothly as you sew it on. No tangles, no twists, no wadded balls of binding in your lap, on the floor, under your chair, or being dragged through a maze of table and chair legs by your 4-legged friends!
And when you're through, you'll have a whole new outlook just like these two:

Check out the video demo on their 

And be sure to Like them on Facebook so you don't miss out on any of the action!
Super Secret News Flash!
My sources have told me that they're also developing an adapter for the yarn-o-philes out there - perfect for winding your skeins of yarn into beautiful, perfect orbs! 
Ssshhhhh - keep it on the down-low!

Monday, December 1, 2014

December Desktop Calendar

With all five of our children grown and, for the most part, out of the nest, I'm not really feeling the need to go all out with the decorating this year. I used to go a little crazy with the greenery, candles, Father Christmases, vignettes and creche's. (I have my grandmother's old figures that set in a wooden manger made by Kevin Manning, a highschool friend, a Precious Moments one, complete with kings, camels, and stable walls, an Amish one with quilts but without faces, a miniature one, a handpainted wooden one that fits like a puzzle into the stable, 2 different Hallmark get the idea.) I should pull them out so you can see. But that would take effort, so you know that's not going to happen any time soon.

Anyway, just like I used to go overboard with the decorating, Andy and I used to pile presents under the tree for the kids til they wouldn't fit under the tree, or even inside an 8' circle around the tree! Then, one year, embarrassed and dismayed by the Gift Gluttony that our kids began to exhibit, we came up with a solution to limit the gifts without making the kids pout and feel neglected.

We decided that since Jesus only received three gifts (remember the 3 wise men?), the kids shouldn't receive more than Him. We explained it to the kids, and they seemed ok with that.
The real trick was how to make the present-opening last longer than 30 seconds per!

So, we made the kids work for their gifts. Don't freak.
After they all went to bed on Christmas Eve, Andy and I (ok, not so much Andy) stayed up late writing rhyming clues. One for each set of gifts. We'd put them in envelopes numbered 1, 2, and 3 and placed them on the tree. Christmas morning, the kids were allowed to get up however early they wanted, but they could only open whatever little gifts were in their stockings. At 7, they were allowed to wake us up. (Of course, wanting to make their Christmas morning all beautiful and magical for them, I'd get up at 5, light a fire in the fireplace, and put on soft Christmas music. Then I'd go back to bed.)

Andy and I would come out at the appointed hour and I'd make a pot of coffee while the kids would begin to hand out the decent amount of presents under the tree - from and to each other, from relatives and friends, and to Andy & me. When all had been dispatched, the kids would begin on the clues. There were three rules: they all had to sit on the couch while someone read the clue; they all had to agree on the solution before they could run to see if they were right, and if they were wrong, they couldn't look anywhere else. They had to come back to the couch and re-read it and try to solve it again.

At this point, I'll say that at 2am on Christmas Eve, the clues seemed extremely clever and poetic, and I was so proud of my ability to cloak an obvious hiding place inside an obtuse reference. Come the harsh light of day, however, more often than not, it became an incomprehensible and unsolvable riddle. Probably due in part to the mugs of homemade egg nog heavily laced with rum consumed whilst composing.

The really cool part of this exercise was that I could sit back and have another cup of coffee or egg nog (shhhhh....with rum!) without all the hectic wrapping paper and ribbon explosions as in the past. And the kids really enjoyed the hunt. It extended present-opening from 5 minutes to about 2 hours! Bonus: since each of the kids were only allowed three presents, Andy and I became much more selective in our present shopping, which, lo and behold, saved us a ton of money! Win/win!

Feel free to use this idea (if you didn't already shop your brains out on Black Friday)!

Finally, here's your calendar - Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Click to expand the image to full size, right-click and choose Set as Wallpaper or Background.
To really make the calendar "pop" right-click on your background and choose black. Your family and co-workers will be jealous of your awesome wallpaper! Be sure to tell them where you found it!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November Desktop Calendar

How about a little reminder to count your blessings - no matter what your circumstances...

Click to expand the image to full size, right-click and choose Set as Wallpaper or Background.
To really make the calendar "pop" right-click on your background and choose black. Your family and co-workers will be jealous of your awesome wallpaper! Be sure to tell them where you found it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Desktop Calendar

Remember last month when I said Fall was here? Yeah. I was wrong. Again. For tomorrow, the 1st of October, we're going to have a high of 90* and a low of 79* - not what I was hoping for. Better luck next month... In the meantime, get to work on those Halloween costumes!

Click to expand the image to full size, right-click and choose Set as Wallpaper or Background.
To really make the calendar "pop" right-click on your background and choose black. Your family and co-workers will be jealous of your awesome wallpaper! Be sure to tell them where you found it!

Monday, September 1, 2014

September Desktop Calendar

Looks like fall is here: had a high of only 85 today and it's going to get down to 79 tonight! Woohoo!! It's almost chilly! Fall in Texas is a little different than Fall in the rest of the country. Leaves are sprinkling down like the rain we haven't had in 2 months. Not pretty, colorful leaves. Just crunchy dead ones.
I've tried watering the lawns at both retreats, and even did an unheard of hour of hand-watering at my house the past two days. I even washed my car. Still no rain - and we had a 60% chance!
I really needed to work on a calendar that was a little more cooling, so I focused on blues - like the water I hear falls from the sky...everywhere but here.
Click to expand the image to full size, right-click and choose Set as Wallpaper or Background.
To really make the calendar "pop" right-click on your background and choose black. Your family and co-workers will be jealous of your awesome wallpaper! Be sure to tell them where you found it!

Friday, August 1, 2014

August Desktop Calendar

Too hot and too tired. I knew I should have gotten this out of the way a couple of days ago, but as usual, I put it off, and now, on the most hectic day this week, I remember that it's also the last day of July. And August starts in less than two hours. Ugh. Why do I procrastinate?! And the two glasses of wine I had with dinner aren't helping. Pardon me while I doze of for a minute. Or ten.
Just in the nick of time - here's the new calendar, with a semblance of a sunflower on it - that always reminds me of August.

Click to expand the image to full size, right-click and choose Set as Wallpaper or Background.
To really make the calendar "pop" right-click on your background and choose black. Your family and co-workers will be jealous of your awesome wallpaper! Be sure to tell them where you found it!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Desktop Calendar

This month, as we celebrate the 238th birthday of our nation, we should all reflect on this statement made by one of our Founding Fathers:

"My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!"Thomas Jefferson

Remember how our nation came to be and at what cost and know that it can all be gone in a generation if we don't pass on its truths to our children and grandchildren.

May God Bless America

Thursday, June 5, 2014

CabinQuilter - a Decade Later

I just realized that today is June 5, 2014 - ten years to the day of two memorable happenings:
The death of my hero
Rest in Peace, Mr. President, and thank you.

And that was also the day my Nolting Pro 24 longarm was delivered. I didn't really feel like dealing with it, but I had to. After it was set up, and with about 30 minutes of introductions, we got acquainted with each other. And one of my first practice pieces that day was an homage to President Reagan. I stitched his name, birthdate, death date, his years as president - everything I could think of. I threw that practice piece away many years ago, but not before I cut out that section. I looked for it today, and found all kinds of stuff I haven't seen in years, but alas, that piece wasn't one of them. It'll pop up tomorrow, I'm sure.
I spent the next month quilting about 10 hours every day - when I decide to do something, I do it! I quilted up all my quilt tops that had been patiently waiting their turn, and this was the first one:
I ditched the border and freehanded it. Don't remember what I quilted in the body of the quilt, and it's in South Carolina right now, so I can't take a peek. The photo quality is pretty poor, too. But that's because I'm a quilter, not a photographer!
A month later, right after I finished up my own tops, I had my first customer. Peggy and I knew each other from an online quilting group, and were surprised that we lived so close to each other. (Only in Texas is 1+ hrs away "close.") She brought me one of her quilts and trusted it to me. I was petrified of working on someone else's quilt, but Peggy trusted me and I turned out this:
I used variegated thread and a panto called Wildflower. We both breathed a sigh of relief when it was finished without any disasters. Well, I don't know if Peggy was worried, but I sure was!
Peggy and I have both grown in our quilt-related expertise, and she now owns Connect the Blocks an online quilt shop based in Ohio. (Yes, she left Texas about 4 years ago :sniff:)

Since then, I've quilted hundreds of quilts, broken a dozen or so needles, thrown my machine out of time twice, soldered a new switch and adjusted the motor myself, gone through miles and miles of thread, cleaned out enough lint to stuff a mattress, ripped out yards of stitching that took 5 minutes to put in (and 13 hours to take out), pulled many an all-nighter, and stormed out of my studio in disgust too many times to remember. Some days you're dancing with a best friend, and some days you're fighting with the devil.
And sometimes, when you think you've done a decent job with a new border idea for a Texas A&M grad's quilt, your 10 year old comes in and says, "Momma, did you mean to make it say that??"
Note to self: a Greek Key design needs to have three legs not two. Otherwise it ends up saying FU FU FU. That one took many long, angry, tearful hours to rip out. 
Since that time, I've done work for several famous quilters and been featured in a few books! The first one was Broken Rainbows, made for a special exhibit during the International Quilt Festival in 2001.
The exhibit was in response to the attacks of September 11th - we only had a few weeks to get our quilts made and delivered to the Quilts, Inc offices in Houston. Later, the quilts were the basis of the book, "America: From the Heart" by Karey Bresenham.
I've done several quilts for two of RaNae Merrill's books, "Simply Amazing Spiral Quilts" and "Magnificent Mandala Spiral Quilts." Both of these were on the covers, with more inside.

I would have to say that the most fun I've had quilting for a book would have to be the two quilts I did from start to finish for Irena Bluhm's book, "Quilts of a Different Color." 
"Bluhm Where You Are Planted"
"Shades of Tiffany"
"Tiffany" was quilted on white sateen (same for back) and has an inner layer of a very bright multicolored batik fabric that shows when the quilt is back lit. It's awesomely gorgeous, if I do say so myself!
The quilt really is square, but the wind was blowing and I took what I could get. See the dead grass at the bottom? It's all about priorities!
From the first quilt to the most recent:
"Strawberry Baskets" won 1st Place, Applique in our guild's show, and was also chosen for the Judge's Choice award. I was going to see if I could get it juried into Houston this year, but I missed the deadline. That's me - a day late and a dollar short. :^/

My life has become more complicated these past few years and I've had to cut way back on my customer quilts, but I still manage to hammer a few out a year. I do want to thank my family for their love, support, and patience with me over the years, and to my friends for their encouragement when I was tearing my hair out over a glass (or two) of wine. And to my customers who've entrusted their precious creations to me.
Thank you all for an incredible ten years!
(I'll have yours!)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June Desktop Calendar

I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, and I hate to be the one to tell you: 2014 is half over! Have you made half the progress on your UFO's that you thought you would? Well, I have! I learned early on to set very modest goals. Then, when you meet them (or even exceed them!) it's a pleasant surprise! And that's exactly what I did this year! I aimed for 4 personal quilts done and I'm halfway there! (No, Carla, I'm NOT lying!)
Ok, I'm almost there...but legally I have til the end of June, so if you're going to get technical, I may have jumped the gun on the bragging aspect...

I've had an awesome May, though, with lots of traveling. I drove up to Lubbock with Stephen to pack up Jill and bring her home from Texas Tech for the summer. Smart girl made the Dean's List again, so our homeschooling career has been officially vindicated!
Laura, Holly, Morgan and my JillyBean

Then, a week later, Jill and I flew to South Carolina to A) see Megan, Alex and the grandkiddos, and B) pick up my new Mini Cooper! This is how I spent my time on the flight:
Those are ultra-tiny 1/4" hexies that I'm English paper-piecing, and as you can see, they've already driven me to drink. The entire (mini)quilt will be the size of a piece of printer paper, and I'm hoping to have it done by the guild's 2016 quilt show. But since I only seem to work on it on the plane, I may have to schedule monthly trips to SC - in the interest of my art, of course!
While my girls spent one afternoon shopping, I got to babysit the kiddos. That's Jack, Sofie & Owen. Had all three of them happy and smiling at the same time.  Short-lived though. After the requisite four bedtime stories, as I was tucking Sofie into the bottom bunk in Jack's room (we were all going to camp out), Jack leaned over the top bunk to make sure I was doing it right, and thunk-thunk-thunk - scream!
Head met ceiling fan. Just like his uncle Merritt did about 16 years ago. To the day.
Then Jack wanted to sleep on the bottom and Sofie wouldn't sleep on the top, so she ran out crying, and when I took Jack down to find his Mr. Bump coldpack, I found Jill at her wits end with Owen, who wouldn't stop crying cuz Mommy wasn't there to put him to bed. All 3 hysterical at once. Haven't hit that trifecta since my own kids were little. My work here is finished.

The saving grace for me was my new car! Alex is the Sales Manager at Century Mini in Greenville, SC, and he ordered me my new 2014 Clubman. Got it all decked out for me, too. He's the best son-in-law ever!

Runs like a dream, handles like a sports car, and hits 90 with no effort whatsoever!
(Not that I have any actual personal knowledge of that.)
Which brings me to the point of this post: the June calendar! Unfortunately for you, it doesn't bring us to the point just yet. First, I have to tell you how I came up with this month's quilt calendar. A few weeks ago I took a workshop with Elsie Campbell who taught us the meaning of "precision piecing."

The little 24" project took me almost 4 weeks to finish. Well, not finished exactly, but it's all in one piece, anyway, waiting for 2 more borders to bring it up to about 32" sq. Anyway - I do like how it's turning out. And I won't mention anything about mis-cutting the mitered bordered sections six (6) times. Don't ask. 
Don't ask.
Anyway - I brought the photo into EQ7/Stitch and played with some borders and while I was doing that, I thought, "Shoot - I'm halfway to a calendar! I can kill two birds with one stone!" So here's the calendar, as well as the soon-to-be-finished wallhanging. Assuming I can find a Jinny Beyer border print that'll work with it...

Click to expand the image to full size, right-click and choose Set as Wallpaper or Background.
To really make the calendar "pop" right-click on your background and choose black. Your family and co-workers will be jealous of your awesome wallpaper! Be sure to tell them where you found it!