Friday, July 29, 2011

Blue person, hand quilter

Eleven hours from the door of my home in Rolla, Missouri, to our hotel in Snowmass Village, Colorado—tiring, especially for my husband, who did the driving legs from home to Lambert Airport in St. Louis, then Denver to Snowmass. The views along I-70 in Colorado are spectacular, but the traffic is definitely not! Anyway, I’m finally here for a week with my walking shoes and hand sewing projects. First, the view from our hotel room balcony:

Yes, we did pay a little extra to be on the mountainside of the hotel, but I don’t come to Colorado that often, so who wants to look out of the window at a parking lot? We ate at a delicious Italian restaurant, Il Poggio, last night. I had very tender veal with gnocchi and Jim had duck. The pizzas there looked good, too, and I may go back for lunch one day. A good night’s sleep was a lot harder to come by than a good meal, though. The altitude here is 8,000 feet, and I tossed and turned for hours. My task today is to walk around and try to acclimate. I know that really getting used to the altitude takes months, but I have to try, and I want to explore the village.

When I need a break from walking at 8,000 feet (and I will), I will be quilting. I brought with me three hand-quilting projects. The first is my abstract “Roman Ruins on Lake Garda,” which is blue, blue, blue:

The next is “Water Wheels, No. 3,” which is also blue, but darker. This is the third in a series of Water Wheels quilts I’ve made. The first two are owned by my daughter Anne, and the fourth is the largest and has yet to be quilted.

Finally, here is a “Postage Stamp” in reproduction fabrics, which always make me happy:

As you can see from two of these quilts, I may be in a blue phase right now. This morning I was reading one of the blogs I follow, Forty-Two Quilts at, and Jenifer asked, “What’s your favorite color?” From childhood, my favorite has always been red, and I do use it frequently in my quilts. However, I would never buy a red car (too much of a radar target), and I wear red clothing sparingly (too tomato-like). I never thought I was “a blue person,” but now I’m sort of craving blue. Maybe it’s the influence of all the travel I’ve been doing—blue sky, blue water—or maybe I’m seeking the calming, soothing feeling that a beautiful blue always brings.

Hand quilting is calming, too. I never thought I would be one of those, either, but here I am, blue person and hand quilter, down to the borders on these three quilts. First, I need to get my mountain legs, so I’m off to explore with my camera. At 9 a.m., Snowmass Village is still silent and the intense mountain sun beats down. Covered in sun screen, mountains, here I come!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Christmas in July

While I was in Tennessee with my daughter, I went to a “Christmas in July” weekend retreat at The Stitchery Quilt Shoppe in Dyersburg. See What fun! There were only 5 quilters, plus Linda and Danny, the shop owners. Everyone brought great pot-luck dishes to share, and Danny made a beef brisket. Heaven forbid that quilters should get hungry! We stitched and ate our way through a Christmas project, listened to oldies on the radio, and talked and enjoyed all the customers who came into the shop. I came home with all my blocks sewn and trimmed, and I just finished putting them together yesterday.

I chose this pattern called “Tree’s Up! Lights On!” by Pieces from my Heart:
This is an easy “stack and slice” pattern. You copy the pattern onto freezer paper, iron it to a fat quarter of fabric, then stack under it as many layers as you think you can slice with your rotary cutter. The pattern said to slice 10 layers at a time, but I only cut 5, like this:

You need 30 fat quarters—10 in each of three colors. I chose red, off-white, and black/green, and all my fabrics were purchased at The Stitchery. After you slice the pattern, you rearrange the pieces so that the prints are mixed up, and you sew them together in the order indicated on the pattern.

My finished blocks were very uneven, but they are supposed to be, since you are creating your own seam allowances, in effect, with this type of pattern. When the blocks are done, you trim them all to the same size. I managed to get a 10” x 14” block, but some quilters trimmed to 9½” x 13”.

I can never leave well enough alone, so after I got home, I drew some wacky stars—to go with the wacky trees—and appliqued them to the leftover scraps. I inserted some stars with the blocks, and used others in the border.

The border is scrappy out of necessity. I only bought 1 extra yard of 1 black fabric, so I had to add in pieces of other black and red leftovers. The end result is a happy quilt, as a Christmas quilt should be.

I thought that surely I would be able not only to finish the top, but quilt it by today, but life and laundry happens, you know, and I feel lucky to get the top finished. It's pretty big--68" x 78". I’ll have plenty of time to think about how I want to quilt it, because I am off on another road trip, which you all know I love. Woo-hoooo!!--to Colorado this time, for 2½ weeks. First to a conference with my husband (he’s conferencing, I’m hiking) in Snowmass, where we will find a nice restaurant and celebrate his 60th birthday, which was yesterday. Happy birthday, honey! In the picture above, on the left, you see some spare bicycle tires and other equipment he is packing with his bicycle so he can ride in the mountains.

Then I’m off to Longmont to visit my youngest daughter, Libby, and to my sister’s ranch near Wetmore to cook for Libby’s wedding in September. I’m taking three hand quilting projects with me to finish. Libby has my old Bernina, so I can even sew on the binding if I finish the quilting. And do you think there are any quilt shops in Colorado? I’m flying there, but driving back, so that means … I better take an extra tote bag!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Going gets tough

One of the best things about sewing, I think, is that I have quiet time to think. Some people like to have the television on somewhere in the background, or music, both of which I do occasionally, but usually it’s just silence. Just me, my thoughts, and the hum of my machine. And man, have I had plenty to think about. Worry, actually, since there hasn’t been much I can do about anything.

It all happened at once: On July 1, my future son-in-law was “furloughed” from his job (a lay-off), along with 18 other engineers at the same firm. My daughter has a job, but who knew a job as a writer/editor would be more secure than an engineering job? In this economy, I guess no job is secure.

Then on Sunday, July 3, my brother-in-law Robert Hamilton survived a small plane crash near his ranch in Colorado. He went up in a 1941 bi-plane piloted by his friend, flying over the ranch and seeing the local sights. The plane crashed in a ravine on national forest land, for no apparent reason. The pilot died. Robert was injured, but tried to get his friend out of the plane. He had to run as the plane caught fire and exploded. Here are a couple of news reports, with pictures:

A short video, showing the burned terrain (the crash started a forest fire):

My sister had gone shopping with the wife of the pilot and several other women. There was a short time when she didn’t know exactly what had happened and believed that Robert had also died in the crash. She didn’t let him out of her sight for the next week.

The third thing: My daughter Genevieve (liver transplant girl) discovered a lump in her breast. What else could happen to her? The radiologist in Tennessee told her to get to a surgeon immediately. On July 5, the surgeon at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis said the lump couldn’t be identified for sure and would have to come out.

In the midst of this, I took my granddaughter to our local 4th of July carnival:

And when the going gets tough—and there is nothing else I can do—I turn to sewing. The thinking time helps me come to terms with what is happening, I suppose. I pulled out a small UFO, quilted it by machine, and gave it to my quilt guild for a silent auction at our quilt show in October:

I called this “Raining Color,” 18 inches by 20 inches. The pattern is Exquisite, from Gwen Marston’s 1996 book Liberated Quiltmaking. I should say non-pattern, because there is no pattern or template. You just make it with scraps, piecing corners of various sizes onto squares. I’ve made several versions of this, and it’s one of my favorite creative exercises. (I just looked up this book on Amazon, and it’s $90, for heaven’s sake!! Must be out of print. I see my book collection is becoming valuable.) Liberated Quiltmaking is perhaps my favorite quilting book EVER. Seriously. Liberated Quiltmaking II is a recent version, much more affordable.

Anyway, I finished a little quilt and gave it away. Then I made aprons for Genevieve and Danica out of the butterfly fabric that they both liked:

This is the Four Corners Apron from Vanilla House Designs:
I guessed at the measurements for a child, but I see on the Vanilla House website that there is also a child-size pattern for this same apron. These aprons made me happy as I sewed them, and Genevieve and Danica liked them.

Then I bought fabric to make a jacket for myself for my youngest daughter’s wedding, and it’s about half done already. I am making the Chinese jacket from Folkwear patterns, a jacket I love and have made several times before:

The fabric is a brown embroidered silk, with the lining in orange silk flecked with brown. The jacket is actually reversible. I also bought two skirts to go with it, so I’ll have a choice. I hope the whole outfit looks good with my new cowgirl boots! I got the jacket to the half-way point, then I had to leave it and head for Tennessee so I could stay with Danica during Genevieve’s lump surgery on Monday.

Hard to believe she only had a 1-inch incision and she came home that afternoon. The results were positive—the surgeon said it looked like “dense tissue,” meaning a fibrous lump. She got the lab report yesterday, and all was benign. Hurray!

Now I am back home in Missouri with my sewing machine. Genevieve, another surgery behind her, is living life with a 5-year-old. My sister and her husband are still recovering from the shock of the plane crash, of course, which will take some time. And my future son-in-law has a job interview today. Hurray! Positive vibes running from Missouri to Colorado right now ….

Things have calmed down for the time being, but there’s my daughter’s ranch wedding coming up, and I already had a crazy dream about it. I still have tons to think about while I sew.