Almost like old times

Quilters love quilt shows, don't we?  Rob and I haven't been to a show since 2018, the year our quilt show buddy Linda passed away.  We took her to the Georgetown quilt show in March and by the Austin show in September, she had passed.  We didn't want to go to the Georgetown show in the next year and then neither group had a show in 2020.  I think we were both excited to go this year.  As men who are interested in and know something about quilts, we get lots of attention at shows.  Here are a few favorites. It's so hard to pick a few for the blog, I'd love to show them all!  

Love the colors in this one.  

And, in this one.  I'm getting very partial to blue and yellow.

Probably partial to flower appliqué because I'm making a flower appliqué quilt.  This one was beautiful.  I love how it's not on a grid and uses different backgrounds in each block. 

Beautiful swan appliqué!  This is from a first time exhibitor.

More bold colors.  I love paper pieced quilts.  

This is a stunning pattern!  I know lots of people have made it, and that just proves that it's a great pattern!

I loved this quilt.  It's a Dios de los Muertos celebration of the quilters friend and is named Rita Dance Broadway.  A lot of love went into that quilt by another first time exhibitor.  

And, of course, my loot from the vendor mall.  The vendor mall at a show must be very lucrative.  We're there, we're inspired, we're saturated in color and we want to take some of it home.  So, while Rob had pie, I spent money.  The little fan of fabric at the bottom is what I collected "in a theme" from this show.  I love to pick a set of fabrics and keep them together to make make a commemorative project.  I used a lot of my event selections in the feathered star quilt I assembled last year.  They're great reminders of an event.  

I'm going to be controversial about quilting for a minute.  When I started quilting 20 years ago, there were still rumblings from a battle between quilters about whether machine quilted quilts even counted as quilts for shows.  I know this because my favorite work was very dense quilting that needed to be done by machine or would have taken forever, and the books I read and teachers I studied talked about this "revolution" in the quilting world when more modern quilters were starting to quilt by machine and traditional quilters thought of that as "cheating".  To resolve that, machine quilted categories had to be added to shows.  It feels like something similar is happening today between quilts made by one person and quilts being quilted by professional long arm quilters.  The work I do on my domestic machine is quite different than what a professional can do on a computerized long arm machine.  Don't get me wrong.  Professionals are doing beautiful work on these quilts, things that would be very hard to do on a domestic.  But, machine quilted categories need to be subdivided so that those of us who are doing this work on our domestic machines can compete separately from quilters using a very different tool to add that beautiful quilting.

(steps down from soapbox).

Other than the quilt show, it was a busy week at work and I spent as much time in the garden as I could.  The iris have started to bloom and that means there should be something in bloom in my garden from now until New Year's.  I hope the hot weather we're having isn't indicative of what the rest of the year is going to be like.  90* in March is not normal or welcome.  

Quilters don't mend, but I had a shirt that needed mending.  I'd split out the underarm somehow and one night at dinner, I raised my arm while telling a story and Rob saw it.  The shirt has hung in the studio since last summer, waiting for me to get around to repairing it and I finally got to that this weekend.  I decided I needed to finish something before I think about starting a new project with those fabrics I collected at the show.  ll fixed now and you can't even tell there was a problem.  A stitch, in time, saves nine, right?


I want to share something I saw on Facebook.  It's never a surprise that someone else is feeling the same thing I'm feeling.  I was taught that actions speak louder than words and that's never been more true than it is today.  I observe, and my observations affect how I feel about and interact with those around me.  I may not give voice to it.  But it does affect me.   

Everybody have a great week!  I'll be working away and thinking about fabric and trying to make time for a new project.  I think something mini.  I've pulled out my books by Susan Collins, the master of precision piecing but just can't settle on anything and don't want to pick the wrong project for those beautiful fabrics.  



Finally some rain

 There were other things to do this weekend and I didn't get to spend as much time in the yard as I would have liked.  I'm starting to see a few small flowers here and there and lots of stuff is coming up.  I took the opportunity to pull up some "weeds", otherwise known as plants that don't understand boundaries.  I have a beautiful blue salvia that spreads by seeds and underground runners and I'm constantly fighting with it for control of the yard.  This year I took out about half of it because later, when it's harder to get to the back of the flowerbed, it will spread again and I didn't want the space it occupies to get bigger.  But, the garden needs rain and it's supposed to rain for the next two days and that makes me happy.  Soon there will be flowers.

I remade the four pointed American Stars March block.  This time I got good contrast.  But, it took 3 hours and a fair amount of swearing.  I'm surprised at how out of practice I am at paper piecing.  Out of practice enough to make mistakes in the paper templates (shaved down the side of a template without realizing it) and in cutting the fabrics (cut too precisely).   But, that's okay because it all came out fine in the end.  the block came out 12.5 inches overall, but the four seams that join the four quadrants are not all quarter inch seams.  I had to compensate a little, which makes it sort of a miracle that the points came together in the center.  I did some hand piecing there with a contrasting thread, got everything to match up, machine pieced the seam using the contrasting thread as a guide and then removed the contrasting thread.  

More and more, I'm honing the skill of walking away from something that's causing me stress and when I come back to it, it generally works like a charm.  It's hard to walk away from the need to "make things work" tho.  It feels like a failure.  But, when I can do it, I come back relaxed and calm and able to think through the problem and end with a solution...most of the time.  😊 

I did a Linus drop off.  It's always good to drop off work there.  I had 5 afghans and 2 quilts (can't find a pic of one).  Now, I'm nearly out of yarn and plan to focus on making quilts to donate.  I would like to work through some of my scrap collection, and at this point, that's the only word for it.  It's a collection and for some reason, I can't throw it away, so I spend time maintaining it, but not using it.  I need to get better at that.  I'm thinking of cutting it into bricks and making simple quilts from those.  That will take care of most of the larger pieces, with less cutting and then I can decide what to do with the small scraps some other time.  My scraps are mostly mediums and darks and I need to buy a bolt of off-white or something like that to make it easier to use them up.

Took Bella to the vet on Saturday.  She knew something was up and I had a hard time getting her in the room, but she came out with a clean bill of health and has an appointment to have her teeth cleaned.  

We had a neighbor that I suspect passed away and I think the children had the house updated and have put it on the market.  They packed everything into the garage and now they're cleaning that out.  Every day last week, there were new treasures out on the street with a free sign.  And, I took full advantage of it.  I estimate that I brought home about $350 worth of well cared for tools.  There must have been a wood worker there and I got electric saws, blades, hand tools, a socket set, a sander, the list goes on.  I tried to pick through and only take what I would use, but there was one box and as I picked through it, I realized I was taking more than I was leaving, so I just brought the whole thing home.  There was only one thing in the box that I didn't know what to do with and Rob knew exactly what it was, so it got a new home, too.  I'm so weird.  I won't dig through the neighbor's trash in the daylight, so I've been going over there early in the morning, before the sun comes up.  Pride is truly a sin.

Yesterday, I made hummus with black eyed peas instead of garbanzo beans.  I'd read about it online and decided to give it a try.  And, it's really, really good.  Definitely something I'll do again and I can't wait to try other types of beans.  

I took on a project a couple weeks ago for a different manager.  I had no business doing it because I was already very busy and I wasn't entirely convinced I had the skills for it.   To make time for it, I was working on it on personal time, early in the morning before I took my shower and had breakfast.  I was allotted 6 weeks, but wanted to finish earlier so they would have time to digest and tweak my work a little before they needed to implement and because I wasn't entirely sure I had the skills to complete it and wanted to leave someone else time to give it a try.  I met with the manager weekly for updates and brainstorming and in our second meeting, I had finished the work and we realized the project was not going to accomplish what she wanted it to accomplish (hey, you win some, you lose some).  But, it gave me the opportunity to work on something that was very satisfying.  And, it's going to be talked about and will show my boss I can do more complicated (and satisfying) tasks than he's assigning me.  That feels like a major win.

Everybody have a great week!  If you have to do things more than once to get joy from them, like my star block, then do them more than once.  It's the joy that's important, not the finished product.  



Spring is in the air

We celebrated our 22nd year together last week.  A couple times.  I missed the date, but in the right direction this year.  Usually, I think it's later in the month and this year, I was early by 4 days.  We don't really remember what day we met, so maybe it was 4 days earlier...or maybe it doesn't really matter and still being together is all the counts.  Anyway, on Saturday, we went out to our favorite Mexican restaurant and had a big meal and a margarita to celebrate.  We laugh and we argue and at least once a day I think he's lost his damn mind.  But we've held hands to face death and rushed together into danger and he can find anything I lose within minutes.  It's not easy to share a life but I picked a good one.  

Last night, despite the best efforts of the cat to distract me, I finished the geranium block for the Flower Garden quilt.  I knew I wouldn't be able to use just one red on this block or it would have turned into a blob, so I cut flowers out of several shades of red to give it some depth and I'm so glad I did.  I used the geraniums in the greenhouse as inspiration, but I didn't take a pic when I started and all the blooms had faded by the time I finished and new ones hadn't started to open, so I couldn't get a picture.  Some of the flowers in a flower head are dark and aging out and others are bright and just opened and I wanted to capture that in the block.  I keep walking around singing 'looks like a geranium' to the tune of 'Walk Like an Egyptian'.  (Sorry, hope I didn't get that stuck in your head.)  

I also made the third American Stars block.  I spent hours...like 4 hours on this block, redrafting the pattern and picking the fabrics, marking the match points and carefully machine piecing it.  And, I'm so disappointed and plan to make it again.  I am having trouble selecting fabrics lately.  I'm not getting the contrasts I need between fabrics so the star doesn't stand out.  In all fairness, I'm just out of practice.  I haven't done this kind of piecing work in a couple years.  The closest I got was the maple leaf quilt I made for Rob to give his niece as a wedding gift and that was much easier for me because I only needed light and dark, no medium.  Choosing a medium is where I generally run into trouble.  

When I make it next time, I'm going to paper piece it.  I thought 'it's only three fabrics per square, how hard can it be?'  Well, it was damn hard.  And, my points in the center still don't meet quite right.  I'm going to use one of the fabric groupings that I discarded when I chose these three.  I can see plenty of contrast there this morning.  This morning I looked at the pictures I took of fabric groups and what I should have chosen was obvious, but I got in too much hurry and didn't fade the pictures to black and white.  If I had, I think I would have seen the mistake before I spent FOUR HOURS making the block...live and learn...or don't, I guess.

I thought I'd share a couple pics of quilts no the wall right now.  This one was a BOM from the local quilt shop that's closing.  I didn't shop there much but hate to see them go.  They went in a different quilting direction than I did, and over time had less and less of the fabrics and tools I was looking for.  I think the owner backed herself into a niche and when that trend lost popularity, the shop suffered and the pandemic was the final straw.  There's also a trend of less interest in quilting, so there will be fewer quilt shops to compete with the big box craft stores that cater to multiple hobbies.  That will lead to lower quality, less expensive fabrics as they try to cater to the masses and we will all be the worse for it.  Good thing I have a big stash.

This one I made on vacation when we used to go to Arkansas.  I cut it at home, then pieced it on vacation and the next year, I sandwiched it at home and quilted most of it on vacation.  You may have to blow it up to see all those tiny clamshells I quilted in it.  It obviously took more than a week to quilt and when we were on vacation, I only got to quilt in the mornings, when Syd was horseback riding.  After she'd come back and showered, we did family activities, which she always hated.  Except the time we toured the cave, which Rob hated and Syd loved.  (I would not go back and do those years again for all the money in Fort Knox.)

Saw this sign.  Love it!  Had to share it.

This lone violet blooming in the yard tells me spring it on the way.  I can't wait!  We had a freeze Friday night and I had to move all the tender plants back in the greenhouse.  Yesterday, I hauled it all back out so I could water.  Soon, it's going to start raining and I'm going to wish it would stop and let me get in the yard for a day, but for now, the air is dry and I'm having to hose water the flower pots and the new plants I've put in and I'm getting a little bored with that.  Soldier on, little violet!

Okay, that's it for me today.  I'd say something political, but calling idiots idiots is boring.  If we could bottle up the meanness in Texas government and package it with the meanness in Florida government and tie it up with a bow made of Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, we could power the earth with their evil energy and something good would finally come from them.  But, we can't and we are all the worse for it.  Time to breed more lions.

Everybody have a great week!  I'll be paper piecing a new star block.  



Because I was in the yard

Rob's been out of town the last three days, visiting family.  That left me here with all my chores and all his chores and the dogs and the cat.  When he's away, I stay busy by choosing a project and then throwing myself into it.  This time, it was working in the garden.  I took Friday off because I needed a "me day" and over the three days, I worked out a lot of frustration and stress.  

I've been growing strawberries for about 4 years.  At the end of the first year, all my plants had died.  This year, over winter, I was eating occasional strawberries that had been grown in the greenhouse, so my skills have improved a lot.  I'd been growing them in large hanging baskets but we cut all our trees last year and I lost my hanging spots.  This year decided I wanted to try something different.  I'd seen this idea on a TV gardening program, probably Central Texas Gardener.  They made theirs out of a pallet.  I didn't need something as big as a pallet and couldn't find a good one anyway, so I took some scrap lumber from Rob's stash and built my own.  It's made of cedar and hardware cloth and a lot of staples.  Rob could probably have made it in a couple hours, but it took me most of Friday.  The gaps and spaces you see are where I've put new root stock I picked up a couple weeks ago.  So far, they haven't made any pretense of growth and I really should learn my lesson about buying bagged root stock...guaranteed to grow means something different to the company that sells them than it does to me...in two weeks,  not one of them has even a hint of green.  I'll gladly eat my words if any of them come up but I'm pretty sure I won't need to.  I get caught up in the excitement of gardening and I keep giving it a try.  I may end up having to buy potted plants, but I couldn't find any the other day.  The recent freeze must have bitten them back at the garden centers.  Anyway, I think I'm going to like this.  It lets me grow a lot of plants and can be leaned back at any angle to catch the best sun and yesterday was a VERY windy day and it didn't fall over, so I'm feeling pretty good about my construction.      

I put together a bowl of herbs.  This is going to sit on the table on the deck where it will get good morning and late afternoon sun and I think it will do great.  Parsley, sage, thyme and basil.  20 years ago, I didn't have good luck with herbs and I gave up trying, but my skills have gotten better and I think I can do it this year.  

And, a bowl of succulents.

I spent most of Saturday continuing to clean up the flower beds and planting some plants I'd been saving.  The thing about gardening is that it's never finished.  I could work out there all week long and there would still be things I wouldn't get to.  And, I'm okay with that.  The more I do, the more I want to do and the more perfect it gets...well, it's not perfect and doesn't need to be and that's half the pleasure of working out there.  It's a reflection of me and my chaotic brain and the battle between impulse and restraint.

Sunday was about clearing out the greenhouse and planting what I'd been saving and tossing things that didn't survive winter.  It was so crowded that I couldn't walk around without taking plants out, so a lot of tools and pots got stuck in wherever I could find a little space.  But, it's all cleared out now and the big pots are out in the yard where I'll spend the week watering and getting the soil saturated again. 

This is what it looked like before.

I also cleaned out my garage storage.  The garage is mostly Rob's domain, but I keep my tools and larger kitchen countertop appliances out there and I'd made a mess.  I believe in everything in it's place, but I'm not a practitioner.  I would dig for an infrequently used tool and when I put it away, I just put it on top of the pile so when I went after a frequently used tool, I had to dig it out too.  (I'm typing this in my studio and just looked up and that's exactly what's happened in here, too so I guess I'll be "spring cleaning" in here soon too.)  Anyway, I should be able to find things again...and I filled up the trash can and the recycling bin and turned our small goodwill pile into a small mountain.  

I feel very peaceful today.  


I wanted to share a couple thoughts.  I stole them from people that think like I do but express themselves better.  

Everybody have a great week!  Despite being busier than heck, I volunteered for a project at work.  I don't know why.  I saw that none of my peers was going to step up and help, and I guess I wanted to set a good example.  They don't volunteer and then when it's time to discuss who gets a raise, they complain that they don't get a chance because I take on all the projects.  But, I keep telling the new kids that they need to build their brand and they are figuring it out.  My last mentee just moved on to a new role at the company and she gave me big credit for inspiring her to do more and grow.  That's what makes the extra work worth it.