Monday, June 28, 2010

A Little Me Time

So this weekend, and for the past at least two weeks, every day has been 98 to 100 degrees or more.  Did I go outside?  Are you nuts!?  Of course not.  Not even with the lake beckoning me.  No, I stayed indoors and took a little "me" time to do some quilting of my own projects.  This little number above is for a not-yet-born baby girl, due September 1, daughter of some young friends in our tiny town.   If you click on the picture, you can see it in a much larger size.

This one is for Kelsey.  Kelsey is the youngest daughter of my former secretary, Maria, and she graduated from high school this month.  When her older sister, Jesyka, graduated, I made her a quilt, too, but it took me years to quilt it since I had to wait to be able to buy my professional quilting machine.  I had quilted Jesyka's quilt freehand, and soon realized that I do not have alot of creativity in me as far as coming up with interesting patterns for the quilting part.  Neither do I have the gross motor control that it takes to move that heavy longarm up and down and across the quilt and have it look like I know what I'm doing.  So now I use mainly robotics (Intelliquilter) to make the patterns look consistent.  Here's a closeup of the kind of thing I can do with the Intelliquilter that I could never do freehand:

Now I have a large customer quilt to work on this week.  It's called "Creation", and I'm waiting for some special thread and two special patterns before I get started on it.  The thread didn't come in today's mail, so maybe I can squeeze in one more of my own quilts before I can put the customer's on the frame.  Hmmmm..

Last, but not least, we have a rapidly ripening tomato! Another few days, and it will grace a master chef salad at our house.  I can almost taste the sun warmed flavor....

Monday, June 21, 2010


Yesterday Myrt from my guild came by with bags of donated cotton fabric from an elderly lady who was going into a nursing home.  Among the various treaures were five pastel 15"  Dresden Plate blocks, which I combined with some of my fabric stash to create this small throw for the chemo patients at our local hospital.  Now to quilt it -- I have selected an off white flannel for the backing because I heard that chemo patients often feel chilled as if they can't regulate their temperature at times.  I hope this quilt is a comfort to someone.

This is Sue Bennett's quilt that she was gracious enough to give to me to quilt for her.  Isn't it beautiful?

In the middle of the quilt is a flag.  I quilted the Pledge of Allegiance in the red stripes. 

The tan borders have individual blue stars in them, which I quilted with echoes and then copied and stitched the outlines into the free spaces as my quilting pattern.  Inside that border was a smaller blue one that has tumbling leaves. Part of the setting of the flag is alternating red and cream squares, which lent themselves nicely to this continuous curve quilting.

In the next picture you can see a side view of the quilt showing one of the outer borders with feathered half circles in them.  These feathered triangles alternate with busy print triangles in which I placed an orange skin (continuous curve) pattern.

Hopefully you can see the pattern in this picture.

Lastly, Sue used piano keys for her final border.  I did a diagonal cross hatching over the keys to further stabilize them, and voila!  C'est fini!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Russell Samson sits by Gloria's quilt

I had an interesting occurrence last year.  I got a call from a lady named Gloria Samson, asking me if I would do the quilting for her on a quilt top that she had finished but did not have enough time to quilt.  She was referring to the fact that she had terminal lung cancer and despite chemo and radiation, she now had less than 6 months to live.  The quilt was for a Christmas present for her daughter.

I accepted the job, which was a double wedding ring quilt.  When I brought it back to her, she wanted it bound as well -- not my favorite thing to do, so I asked my quilt guild if they would like to participate in the binding as a charity for Gloria.  They would, and they did, and when she saw it, she cried. 

She tried to press upon me the quilt you see above as a thank you.  She had already paid me for the quilting on the DWR, and when I saw how unusual this one was, I knew I could not accept it as a gift.  I have never seen one like this before or since!  The baskets are scrappy, and the handles are pointed at the tops.  I told her that it needed to stay in her family.  She had hand quilted 3/4 of it herself, but her failing health made this a project destined to remain unfinished, since I prefer not to do hand quilting.  However, I told her that I would ask the women in my guild if anyone was interested in completing the quilting for her.

Til Tremper, a diminutive, energetic lady in the guild, had a special interest in hand quilting, and she organized a group of women who took turns doing this labor intensive work.  Till did not want remuneration for her effort.  She regarded it as a labor of love and a chance to hone her skills and those of the other budding hand quilters. 

Over several months (October to May), these ladies gave of their time and efforts when they could, and finally the quilt was finished, including the binding.  Yesterday I took it to Gloria's husband, Russell, who was overwhelmed by the workmanship.  He smoothed the quilt lovingly as he took in the beautiful stitching and then was lost in reverie for a moment. 

He says he is going to use it on his bed.  They had been married over 40 years. I know he must miss her. I think he likes the idea that through the quilt, Gloria is with him, enfolding him and continuing to give him comfort in this way. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Green Thumb

Do you recall that some time ago I planted one tomato plant and one basil plant?  It was an act of faith.  I believed that they would live, despite my reputation for having the blackest thumb around.  Slowly and carefully, watered and semi-shaded, the plants have grown.  Here are some pictures of them:

The tomato plant actually has some tomatoes on it!   These are Better Boys. I couldn't find any Beefsteak tomatoes.  I pinched a few flowers off initially, hoping to get larger tomatoes. We'll see how that goes.
Below is a picture of the basil plant.  It is quite prolific, and I can see that I'm going to have to make some pesto from scratch to keep up with it.  Meanwhile, we enjoy bruschetta (pronounced broos ketta, for those of you who do not speak Italian -- not brooshetta) slathered with Balsamic glaze -- scrumptious!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Encouraged by the intense sunlight and occasional sprinkles we have been having recently, the avocado seed that I sprouted after three months of keeping it in a glass jar with water, has grown up big and strong.  I fed it with Miracle Grow when I put it outside, and it has gone from four inches to nearly two feet in the space of a month!
Last, but not least, here is the newest addition to our little garden.  Hubby and I went strawberry picking at the end of May, but the strawberries were gone.  Instead, there were a variety of plants, so we chose four watermelon plants and put them in the garden that will someday become a waterfall -- you remember -- the one that the dogs keep digging up.  Well, all four have lived, and one even has a flower on it, so it looks like we will have a watermelon of some kind sometime this summer.  Oh frabjous day!  Callooh!  Callay!                                      (Can any of you tell me where that expression comes from?)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two down...

It seems once you get the hang of one thing, that others seem to fall into place as well.  Thus it goes with my curtains, the Singer 221, a piece of electronic equipment and the dog!  To start, thanks to helpful hubby, the curtains are up in the study.  I don't like the fabric on the loveseat and plan to have it reupholstered in the next year.  It's far too fine a piece of furniture to discard.  So now I have two rooms with curtains up, four to go.

Did you notice the quilt on the cabinet?  Mary made it for me and gave it to me when we moved into this new home three years ago.  It says "A quilt stitched with the threads of love is a comforter for the soul."  This lovely and homey touch in an otherwise masculine study is balanced by the Harley Davidson lamp on top of the cabinet.  There's alot of yin and yang in our house.

So that brings me to this wondrous piece of electronic machinery --  a nice, new, up to date HP Officejet 6500 that can do everything but cook dinner (drat!).  It fell to me to install the thing, first on my computer via the wired and wireless router, and then on the wireless laptops we have in the house, and then on hubby's computer.  Well, glitch!  Hubby has Vista, so I had to uninstall the printer from his computer (just his, thank Heaven!) and then go to the web site and download all the tweaks that HP had done between XP and Vista and then reinstall.  When it comes to problems with electronics, I have a tendency to throw up my hands and run around the house saying, " (Oh, Miss Scarlett) I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' these things!"  But no one in the house knows how to do it, either, so I'm on my own.  Hubby can build a car from the ground up, but opts out when it comes to anything that's plugged in inside the house.  I am proud to say that all systems work perfectly, both hardwired and wireless, so we're good to go.

The Singer 221 quarter inch foot arrived in the mail today, so I dug out my little newly oiled featherweight and sewed some borders onto a quilt that wasn't finished yet -- and now it is.  Or should I say, it's now ready to be quilted. 

And lastly, our male dog, Jet, who had been having seizures.  Last week he started having them every day, so we skedaddled to the vet who did blood work and found that he is metabolically well. That means that the seizures are either idiopathic (read that to mean that no one knows why they're happening ) or he has a brain tumor.  He doesn't have any indications of loss of neurological functioning, so for now it's unlikely that he has a brain tumor.  So the vet put him on phenobarbitol twice a day.  He's doing well -- no more seizures, but he's a little wobbly on his legs and seems a little sleepy on the phenobarbitol.  I called the vet, and she decreased his PM dose.  Otherwise, he's in good shape.

What a productive day!

Friday, June 11, 2010

This and that

Today I decided to get out my Singer 221 featherweight, which I have had for years but have never actually used for a project, and oil and lubricate it.  What a charming piece of machinery, and it's in nearly perfect shape!  Simple but precise.  So easy to care for.  And it stitches beautifully.  It's all ready for my next quilting effort, whenever that may be.  This little Singer is sitting behind her gigandamundo Husqvarna Viking Designer Diamond big sister, but what she lacks in size, she makes up for in beauty.

I tried her out and was very pleased with her performance, but it seemed a bit tedious to have to refer to the markings on the needle plate to gauge the quarter inch, so I rummaged around on ebay and found a good quarter inch foot for her that doesn't have that doggone flange on the side as a  guide.  I hate these when I'm doing half square triangles and the like, but they're good if you're just sewing along a raw edge. 

Another thing I finally finished was hanging curtains in my studio.  We have lived in this house now for three years, and I don't have curtains up anywhere but in the bathrooms and the guest bedrooms.  Our bedroom looks out on the lake and is on the main floor, which reads as the second floor if you look at the house from the lake.  So we don't have communication with any other public rooms or windows that could look in on us, and we just haven't bothered to figure out what we want yet.  But here's a shot of the couch and curtains in the studio now.  One room down, five to go.

This weekend I hope to tackle the curtains in the study, but we're having company again.  Fortunately, it's a single fellow, a friend of hubby's, and they're going to spend the afternoon and evening at the go cart races, so I will have some free time after they leave, which I probably will use on my very patient customer's huge and gorgeous quilt first, and then if there's time left over (hah!) I'll get to those other curtains.

And so the weekend begins....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Catch up time!

So let's see -- where was I when I was interrupted by surgery.  Yes, surgery.  I had the remaining (left) side of my thyroid removed on the 21st.  I certainly wasn't anticipating that this would happen so quickly when I saw the oncology surgeon on the 18th, and she told me it would be 4 - 6 weeks before I could get on the schedule.  I had been following a nodule on that left side for about 8 years, and over the last 6 months it started to grow and get calcifications and look a little suspicious.  I live in East Podunk, USA, where the shopping is nonexistent, not to mention the medical expertise for something like this, but I happen to have an internist who is also an endocrinologist, and she knew just whom to send me to, just in case it was malignant.
And then there was that unexpected phone call on the 20th from the surgeon saying that she had a cancellation for the 21st and our mad scramble to take care of the dogs and hubby's job and special foods for me when I got home and couldn't swallow very well (like last time) and all, but we made it up to Richmond that night and stayed in the hospital's hospitality house.  If you've never done this, consider taking advantage of these arrangements if you live far from definitive care, like we do.  It was clean and comfortable and very basic. 

I have to say that the suddenness of this "cancellation" in her schedule made me just a tiny bit paranoid:  did she really have a cancellation, or was she so worried about my thyroid's changes that she moved me up on the schedule?  Even though I didn't expect these nodules to be malignant -- after all, the last time they weren't, and I thought it would be the same this time -- what if she had seen something on my DVD (that's what they use now instead of films), and now she was worried enough to get me in quickly and was trying to do so without alarming me?

The next morning at 6 AM we were bright eyed and  bushy-tailed (well, not really) and off to the operating suite we went, with a tiny bit of trepidation.  I have to say that I have had many surgeries, but they were all at hospitals where I had actually practiced  in the past, so I knew the surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists and was completely relaxed about having the right people work on me.  This time, although it was at MCV, a fine teaching hospital, I didn't know anyone.  I just had to trust that my surgeon would oversee my care and that the outcome would be equivalent to what I had had in the past.

I shouldn't have worried at all.  I stayed overnight afterwards because they had to follow my serum calcium levels to make sure that the parathyroids had not been compromised by the surgery.  Those four tiny glands are only the size of a grain of rice, so this was a very good move on the part of the docs to make sure I didn't have any problems during recuperation (tetany).

  You have almost no pain with thyroid surgery.  It feels sort of like you have a whiplash, but that's minimal compared to, for instance, abdominal surgery where you feel like a truck hit you and then rolled back over you to see what they had done the first time.  But I digress.

I didn't exactly get back to quilting very quickly, but I did manage to finish two projects by the end of May.  The first is a Nook book bag, created by my friend, Mary Nielsen, of whom I have spoken glowingly many times.  Mary and her mom both got Nooks for mother's day, and Mary fashioned this adorable carrying bag for it, going through two prototypes before she was satisfied with the design.  Then she let me try to make one, too, since I had gotten one a week later, and here's the front.

And here's the back.  It has a zippered pocket on it, which I use to carry the USB connection and the AC plug for the Nook, but you could also put your cell phone in there.

Here it is opened up.  Under the left flap are pockets for credit cards and the like.  This little Nook book bag was so useful this past Tuesday when I went for my post op check up.   It held everything I needed.  

And the best news was that the thyroid nodules were not malignant! 

One of my guild buddies, Myrt, asked me to quilt one of her personal quilts, so here's her wonderful log cabin with lovely diagonal stripes from the lighter fabrics.  I decided to use one of my favorite patterns for these log cabin blocks, which is placing feathers in the lighter areas and bars in the darker ones.

This closeup shows how lovely that pattern looks in the lighter areas.  I'm happy to say she was every bit as pleased as I had hoped she would be.

I'll have some nice pictures to show you when I get a little farther along on Sue's stunning quilt.  Sue does lots of QOV's (Quilts of Valor) for our wounded troops, but this time she sent me one of her own works of art.  But more about that next time.