Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Lighthouses

I've been traveling a bit again, mostly to visit family.  This time while in New Jersey we continued the lighthouse theme started earlier this summer while at the beach. My brother has been the lighthouse fan but it seems that I may be following his lead.  Perhaps this is a "retirement" thing"?!?  In any case, I visited two lighthouses while on this trip.

East Point Lighthouse:  I found this one interesting because it basically looks like a house with a lighthouse attached to the top.  I've never seen this design before.  You can only go inside this lighthouse one day a year but we were able to walk around the outside.
Cape May Lighthouse:  This lighthouse sites at the very tip of New Jersey where the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet.  We were able to climb this one and got a great view from the top.  The area also has a lot of World War II history associated with it.  There is a lookout tower that was used to keep an eye on any enemy ships approaching as well as a defense bunker on the beach which was camouflaged and manned through the war years.
World War II lookout:  It's right in the center of the picture - a high tower, now dwarfed by the water tower.

World War II bunker:  I kind of wonder why the bunker was never removed after it was no longer needed.  I know it wouldn't have been easy to remove it, but it does take up a lot of real estate.

The rest of my trip was to the midwest to visit son #3 and of course, no lighthouses there.

So, I've just about caught up and am ready to dive back into some new sewing projects!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Tartan Tote: Souvenir of Edinburgh

I think I mentioned that on my trip to Scotland I picked up some fabric remnants at a custom kilt shop.  I thought it would be fun to use them to make a souvenir of the trip.  Well, I've completed this tote:
As with most of my projects, it was a learning experience.  I discovered that this wool twill fabric is not too easy to work with.  It ravels easily and doesn't press well.  In fact, it makes me wonder how they get those sharp pleats in the kilts.  I'm amazingly more pleased with the product than I thought I would be while the project was progressing.  I had the opportunity to use settings on my sewing machine that I had never tried before.  I used this City Zipper pattern by Penny Sturges. It's modified of course since the large pattern tartan would be totally lost in small blocks. As I was sewing this I realized that I was sewing something I've never done before (a tote bag) out of a fabric I've never used before (the wool twill).  Nothing like a challenge!  The pattern was not difficult, it was the characteristics of the wool that made it hard at times.  I'm going to make a second bag and I will be able to use what I learned. This time I can make different mistakes!  I'm also going to try to modify the zipper to close the entire bag rather than just the center section.  I think it makes for a more secure and functional tote.  The most frustrating part was trying to turn the bag right side out at the end.  The instructions call for leaving a 7 inch opening to turn the whole bag right side out.  That is probably plenty when using a cotton fabric but with the wool it was like birthing a baby - getting this large item out of a small space!

Here's a few more pictures:
My mother would have gotten on me for not matching the plaid in the zipper section above.  The truth is, I didn't realize how close I was to being able to match it!  I thought it would turn out totally random.  Had I realized that for a matter of less than an inch I could have matched this piece, I certainly would have tried.

I liked using the light lining.  I think dark linings make it so hard to find things in bags.  It would be nice to add some Velcro to close the larger pockets (which are actually on the side not visible in this picture).  I may consider that in attempt #2.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Bald Headed Friend

I like to feed the birds in our yard.  We have quite a few feeders on several sides of the house as well as two on the second floor.  Even the husband has gotten into the bird watching.  He has a feeder in his office window and enjoys watching the birds during his work day. 

About a month ago an unusual bird showed up at the feeder in my sewing room.  I get a nice close view of birds at this feeder since in sits right on the window ledge.  At first her appearance was alarming!  I thought it was a new type of bird that I had never seen before.  But then, as I looked closer I realized it was a female cardinal.....with NO feathers on her head.  Completely bald.  She looked like a miniature vulture.  I immediately felt sorry for her!  I have no idea why she is bald or if she will always be bald. (Although, thanks to the wonders of internet search I've discovered that it isn't a particularly serious condition)  She seems healthy and I think she had young to feed this year.  And a male cardinal is often around with her, so she isn't shunned by the other birds.  She seems to chirp happily and appears to be a well adjusted, though odd looking creature.  I guess birds don't have self image problems and really don't care much about how they look.  We could learn a lot from that. 

Here's the best picture that I could catch through the window.  It's taken through the slats of the blind, when she was just starting to fly away, but I think you can get an idea of her strange look.
I'm glad that she seems happy and well adjusted but I still find myself wanting to fashion a wig for her.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More Pillows: Pirates and Owls!

I've been working on some non-quilt projects the last few days.  Our weather has been hot, hot, hot making outside activities almost impossible so I've spent more time in the sewing room.  My nephew and his family just moved across the country and I thought his three young children would enjoy something for their new rooms.  I made the backs out of a fuzzy fabric to add a little "comfort" factor if needed.
They were all fun to make....and a good experience in certain techniques.  I especially liked the chance to work in pink and purple - something I don't get to do too often!  And I've had the opportunity to use some features on my machine for the first time.

Our weather is cooling a bit so it's time for me to put some more time into the yard which will probably slow down my sewing output.  We also had a bad storm here last week with some significant property damage creating a parade of contractors and repairmen providing damage assessments and repair estimates all of which has really cut into sewing time!

Monday, July 9, 2012

More Applause for British TV

A while back I wrote a post about British TV.  I just feel the need to give this art form another shout out. The husband and I are become more and more attracted to these shows.  We've followed several through Netflix and are always disappointed when the series is over.  The funny thing is, that after one or two episodes of a particular series, we are often lukewarm about it.  But they grow on us.  We find ourselves choosing the British series over other TV options.  The characters become so well developed over the series and the plots are very carefully laid out.  The filming appears to be done in authentic settings rather than on sets.  If they ARE sets, they are outstandingly done!  And the scenery is beautiful.  Although given my experience recently when visiting London, I DO wonder how they find such nice weather in which to film.  To date we have watched and thouroughly enjoyed:  Downton Abby;  Foyles' War; The Landgirls; and presently, Doc Martin.  We only have one season of Doc Martin left, so I"m open to any suggestions for our next show!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Letters: A Gift that Keeps on Giving

I wrote last year about unexpectedly being reunited with some old letters from my mother.  Well, recently I've been doing some cleaning out and "purging".  I came across a collection of letters that I've saved over the recent past.  Many were some from my sons.  It was SO nice to re-read them and think about them at younger ages.  I could imagine them looking for a card or trying to make a card for me for a particular occasion.  In some of the longer letters son #1 talks about his plans at that time in his life.  Things didn't quite follow that plan but he seems to have dealt well with the twists and turns of life. Those same little boys still live within the men they've become - just buried a bit under their adult lives, responsibilities and concerns.  I'm glad to have those letters to re-read just as I'm glad to have the letters from my parents.  They're truly a gift that gives over and over and over.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dog Quilt

I've finally finished the dog quilt.  I actually had this top done at the end of last year but the completion kept getting put off.  It's a bit larger than most of my recent quilts.  Since it is a quilt that will be living at our house I took a few liberties in trying different quilting techniques.  I've enjoyed finishing this although I was a bit frustrated with how long it has taken.  There have been a lot of things competing for my time lately.  Anyway....here it is:
Two of the blocks (including the one right above) are pictures of Seamus, my Golden.  I printed them on that fabric that goes into your printer.  The rest of the blocks are either from a panel that the husband admired almost a year ago and some paper piecing techniques to add dog houses and bones to keep with the theme.  I did straight diamond quilting over the center of the blocks, stippling on the frames, meandering in the in between spaces and straight lines on the borders.  While I enjoyed the chance to practice the different techniques, I don't think it had that great an impact on the final look and really just made the whole job harder on me.  I discovered a great way to get straight lines when doing a diamond pattern.  Before I had always used the guide on my machine, but somehow when I got to the end I had misshapen diamonds.  Apparently I would stray from the guide just a tiny bit here and there until it added up to some very obvious mis-quilting.  This time I used blue painters tape.  It doesn't have a vary strong adhesive since it's made to peel off a painted surface without damage.  It comes in 1, 1 1/2, and 2 inch widths.  You can use a ruler to get it straight and then quilt down each side.  It pulls off easily.  I used that technique for all the diagonals as well as for marking the miter in the border.   The border quilting turns right at the diagonal and continues around making a sort of frame in itself.   I also decided that quilting over the blocks (as opposed to quilting differently in each element of the quilt as I did here) really adds to the strength of the piece.  It adds strength to the seams holding the blocks together.

So, I'm glad to be done and pleased with the outcome although (as usual) I would have done a few things differently if I did it again.   I'm working on a couple of pirate pillows now and then on to my tartan bag and two other quilts!