Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Storm Update

Today is sunny and cool - a big change from the past few days.  The storm didn't hit my area as hard as expected.  Somehow we escaped both the high winds to the east of us and the blizzard snow 20 miles to the west of us.  Schools have been closed for two days but today things are back to normal.  Son #1 escaped any flooding damage to his basement apartment.  Even though all goverment offices were closed his workload required him to go into work.  Without any mass transit running, that required a long soggy walk in the cold rain.  One sister had to postpone her moving plans for a few days.  New Jersey had restricitions on traffic on the road - hence no moving van and now they have a ban on house closings to allow for damage assessments.  My other sister is not quite accounted for, but we are trusting that "no news is good news".   And.......Lucy still stands although there is not yet any access to the island she is on.  This picture is on her website (link above) and was taken several hours before landfall.  Lucy used to stand where the large building in the upper left of the picture is now.  The aspect of this picture is a bit skewed and makes it look like she is much farther from the water than she is.  It's as though the sides of the picture have been curved around.  In fact, there is a beach access point right at her base.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Preparations

Well, the east coast is getting set for a huge storm.  We are on the edge of the projected area of damage but well within the "get ready" area.  So, the cars are gassed up, the flashlights have new batteries, the cell phones are charged.  There is food in the house - dog and human, books to read (real books, since electronic books eventually run out of power), hand sewing projects and lots of blankets.

I have two sisters right in the path of the storm and son #1 lives in a basement apartment in Washington, DC - also expected to get hit badly.   So, there is concern for all of them as well as my favorite elephant, Lucy.  She stands within sight of the Jersey shore.  I'm hoping Hurricane Sandy is polite when they meet.
She has weathered many storms, but at 131 years old, I'm sure she is getting tired.  Hang on, Lucy!  We need you. You make us smile.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New Fabric Stores Near Me

When I first posted about fabric stores in my area I never exactly mentioned where "my area" was.  So, just to set the facts straight, I'm talking about stores in and around the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  I have two additions to my list:

Sew Classic Fabrics - They are located inside the Shenandoah Heritage Farmers Market.  They have a Facebook page, but I can't view it since I'm one of last few people who is NOT on Facebook.  They sell both quilting fabric and garment fabric.  I visited before their official grand opening and really liked the variety that they had.  My only problem was that some of the fabrics were shelved too high for me to see.  I'm sure I'll be back to visit.

Walmart - I'm not a big fan of Walmart and I visit very seldom.  We have two Walmarts in this area but only one has a fabric section.  They have a good selection of various stabilizers and muslin and a fair amount of prints.  The quality isn't as good as quilt stores, but the price is great.  They often have a sale area with fabrics for $1.50 and $2.50 a yard.  And, they're always open so if I have need of something basic on a's off to Walmart I go.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Scrap Quilt Top

I've finally finished the top of my "scrap quilt".  This is the quilt I got distracted by while I was organizing my scraps.  I'm not going to quilt it for awhile so I thought I would post the top.  It's made entirely of scraps or leftovers from other quilts.  Some of the border and black sashing was fabric cut for a border on another quilt until I changed my I often do!
This quilt top was started before I had my revelation about color value.  There are a few pieces that I should have not used.  I think the biggest offender is the light colored print near the top right of the red block.  And that brings me to one of the big lessons that I'm taking away from this project: not all scraps can be used successfully in a scrap quilt!  Again, perhaps it's obvious, but I had to learn it.  The light colored areas are a combination of greys and white fabrics from recent projects.

I wanted this to be made entirely from fabric that I had on hand, but I also wanted to start using soft backings like flannel and fleece for a warm cozy feel.  While shopping recently I found an excellent buy on some wide white fleece, so that will become the back.  I'm thinking about using a rainbow thread to quilt it with a free motion pattern.  Since I only feel confident about two patterns that I know it will either be stippled or looped.

So I still have some fabric to cut up but little by little I'm getting there.  I do some until I'm tired of it and then move on to something else.  I'm not sure how I'll use the scraps, but they're easier to store and should be more useful cut up into predetermined shapes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book #6: The Best of Me

Well, with the reading of this book I've reached by goal of reading six books in 2012.  I finished The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks about a week ago but our beautiful autumn weather has made for busy days.  This was the perfect beach book and I did indeed start it while on vacation.  The plot involves a couple who dated in high school but life took them in separate directions after that.  They reunite years later with the usual life complications that the years tend to bring.  The beginning of the book was a bit slow with the final 100 pages being the most engaging.

So, with my 2012 goal complete, I hope to continue reading.  In fact I have the next two books already picked out.  I'm thinking of setting the same goal for next year and continuing to keep track here just as added motivation.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Color Value: Maybe I Didn't Want to Know

I sort of jumped into quilting with both feet relying mostly on  garment sewing knowledge from my younger years and a perhaps over zealous feeling that I could pretty much do anything if I just put my mind to it.  During my first quilting experience I discovered the rotary cutter (yup....didn't even know there was such a thing) and the acrylic ruler - which I thought worked like a template.  And with each quilt I learned a bit more.

So, I've been quilting along for just short of two years now and in general have been pleased with the results.  Sure, there were things on most of the quilts that I would have done differently, but overall I was happy.  Whenever I came across something I didn't understand I would look it up online. You Tube became a great source as did Google and Bing.  Now I have a fair knowledge of most of the basics and Ive been studying on the particulars.  My Internet browsing took me to a study of "color value".  Prior to this I would have described color value as the "lightness or darkness" of a fabric.  As I read about how to arrange fabrics with color value in mind and as I looked through a site of quilter self proclaimed "ugly quilts" I began to think through my past creations and found that I was less satisfied.  The good part is that I could now identify why I thought a certain fabric didn't work.  The bad part is that now when I look at some of the quilts all I see is the piece with the "wrong" value.

To be fair, I don't think it's ALL about color value.  But something needs to tie a quilt design together.  Perhaps it's the theme like my pirate or tee shirt quilt or perhaps it's the pattern of the New Wave or Take Five quilts.  Color value does explain why some scrap quilts appeal to me and others seem too busy.  I think even with random pieces there needs to be something that draws the design together or else it just looks way too busy.  So feel free to browse my quilt gallery.  Comments are welcome.  I know that I will be keeping an eye on color value next time I have the opportunity to buy fabric or try to make something out of existing fabric.  I may even treat myself to one of those ruby value finders on one of my next shopping trips.

I guess I'm glad to know about color value.  I honestly don't think I could have absorbed the knowledge much earlier in my quilting journey.  And honestly some quilts like the fractal quilt and New Wave
 I think did well on color value.  But then there's the BACK of the fractal quilt. 
Oh well.  Live and learn.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Scrap Update

Recently, just before my beach trip,  I mentioned that I needed to get a handle on my scraps.  Well, I've been working toward that end, but have got a bit sidelined.  In general, I'm not attracted to totally random quilts.  I like there to be something that ties the elements together - some sort of organization or direction, I guess.  So as I was sorting through my scraps I began to separate them by color and also noticed that many of them were in stripes.  So, I'm trying my hand at a scrap quilt.  I only have the start of a plan and here's what I have so far:
Clearly, blue wins out so far as my most abundant scrap color.  So my thought is to finish my color blocks and then set them in a neutral background with a border made with a few other multicolored scraps.  I'm hoping not to buy any fabric for this project.  We'll see how my creative endeavor turns out.  This is NOT all my scraps mind you.  Some are being cut into blocks as I originally planned.  And from here on out I hope to always cut my scraps into planned sizes to be stored for future projects.  I promise. Honest. I mean it.  Without a doubt!  For real.  No kidding.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Celebrating "Not Dead Day"

Today is my day for reflection about the gift of life.  31 years ago today while newly pregnant with son #1 we (unborn "he" and I) were in a horrific auto accident.  We have both lived to tell the tale despite my serious injuries and his precarious reliance on my well being. But each year the anniversary of that day is very sobering.  Son #1 named it "not dead day" and we usually exchange text messages or emails in a sort of virtual "high five".  I was 24 years old at the time, newly graduated from college and working my first job.  I had longed to be a mother and was thrilled to be pregnant.  In short,   I felt like my life was getting underway.  Oddly, at that time in my life I didn't expect to live long.  I was well acquainted with the passing of various aunts, uncles and more distant relations.  In addition to the relatives I didn't know well, my nephew died when I was only six and he was 3 years old  and my father passed away when I was 19.  So all in all I grew up feeling that life was short - especially in my family.  And if you had asked me about longevity then I would have told you that I didn't want to live long in part because it was so hard to see others go before you and to miss them so much (I know, this is sort of a depressing post, but I don't mean it to be that way.  It's just a very sobering topic, I guess) But here's the strange thing.  The older I get, the more that I realize that I would be glad for a long life.  In fact if you could buy a ticket for life to 100 years old with a guarantee of a modest amount of well being, I would be the first in line.  I think being retired is responsible for much of this attitude change.  This might be the most stressfree time in my entire life.  My responsibilities are minimal and I am free to pretty much do as I please more or less. And despite the sadness of saying good bye to those we love, there is so much still to enjoy - places to go, people to see, things to do....and, of course, quilting!

So, I raise a glass to "Not Dead Day" and all those who played a part in our survival.  I'm thankful for the many many experiences, aquaintances and accomplishments that surviving that day has allowed me to experience.  I'm glad for the perspective that it has provided for the rest of my years and I pray for the opportunity to celebrate many, many more "Not Dead Day"s in the years to come.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Llama Pillows for the Pirate

We have an 11 year old grandson - recipient of the pirate quilt who, for some reason decided to like llamas.  I know...huh?  Anyway, llama themed fabric, appliques, etc. are not that easy to come by.  Trust me, I've searched!  And don't try to sneak an alpaca in and call it a llama.  He knows the differences better than me. His interest in pirates continues, but llamas have taken center stage.  In addition he likes to share a pig interest with his Granddad.  Okay, let's make this a bit more complicated and add that he has taken a liking to the llama-duck song.  Curious minds can click here for the video of the song.  So, putting this all together I came up with this:

Pillow one front-
and back-
Pillow two front -
and back -

The red stripe reads, "quack, quack, quack, quack, oink."  After deciding that any llama applique pattern that I found was beyond my abilities, I chose to print the llama pictures on printable fabric, bond them to the pillow fabric and machine blanket stitch around the edges. So, we have all the themes of the moment (Which I'm sure will change in a matter of months!) - llamas, pigs, pirates and the llama-duck song! 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Two New Lighthouses and a Revisit

While we were at the beach, we added to my lighthouse visits.  First, we revisited Currituck Lighthouse to show it to my brother and his wife.  We climbed to the top again and I took the same pictures that I took in June.  It is still probably my favorite lighthouse trip on the Outer Banks.

Then in the middle of the week we decided to visit some of the lighthouses south of our location.  First we stopped at Hatteras Lighthouse.  This one was moved several years ago to protect it from falling into the ocean.  It is a VERY impressive sight.  Unlike the other lighthouses, this one is nationally owned and part of the National Park Services.  It is the tallest lighthouse on the east coast.  We made the climb, giving us a little cardio workout for the day.

There was a ranger stationed at the top to answer all of our questions.  He commented that the remoteness of the location added some challenges to family life, but admitted that this was a pretty sweet place to be stationed.  The view from the top was, of course, awesome:

Next we decided to take the ferry to Ocracoke Island and visit the lighthouse there.  This is where we met our only "low point" of the week.  The ferry is supposed to run every 1/2 hour but we had to wait 1 1/2 hours for our turn to cross!  When we got there we didn't realize how the system worked or we might have rethought our plans and done some other activity rather than try to cross to the next island.  But by the time you invest an hour in line that decision becomes more difficult.  Basically you cue up in a line in the hot sun and wait...and wait...and wait for your turn on one of the ferries.  The schedule is really of no account.

Once on the island it is another 20 miles to the fishing village.  We got hungry and crabby and finally found somewhere to eat.  That was a good stop.  The seafood was about as fresh as it comes and the barbecue and coleslaw were excellent.  So, with our tummys filled, we went on to find the lighthouse.  It was a total disappointment.  When you see pictures of lighthouses on the Outer Banks, apparently they are not in scale to each other.  This lighthouse is TINY and you can't go inside.  The parking is limited to five spaces and 15 minutes in parking time, but that doesn't really matter since you would be challenged to spend a full 15 minutes there.  There isn't even a gift shop.  But it is the oldest operating lighthouse on the east coast.  For me, this lighthouse gets filed under, "been there, done that, no need to return."

Then of course we had to drive back to the ferry, wait in line again (only about half an hour this time) and take the 45 minute ferry ride back to the other island.  We got home about dark, tired, but glad for the adventure.  I had never ridden on a car ferry before, so that was a first for me.  Seamus handled the day well, but even he seemed glad to be home.
So, next year there is one more lighthouse to see - Bodie Island Lighthouse.  It is under renovation at the moment.  We're hoping that it will be open for climbing when we go back. 

Lesson of the day:  Ocracoke is only worth considering if you are really looking for a way to waste the day.  Bring a book to read while you wait for the ferry.  Don't even consider the trip if you have small (or even older!) kids in the group.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Seneca Rocks Hike

The day before leaving for the beach I met my brother and his wife at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia for a hike.  This rock formation is well known to rock climbers and considered one of the best climbs on the east coast.  It was used during WW II to train soldiers in climbing techniques.  Although I lived in West Virginia for many years I've never climbed to the top.  My last attempt was over 20 years ago when I was very pregnant with son #2.  I didn't make it very far before I decided to turn back and wait in the car.  So when my brother suggested that I meet them there to join the hike I decided it was time to check off another item on my bucket list.

The hike is short at about 1 1/4 miles, but you climb 1000 feet in elevation.  I'm a very slow hiker on the uphill.  In fact, on the way up I usually feel like I'm going to die and begin to wonder why I didn't just look at pictures of the view from the top.  But then you get to the top and are rewarded with this beautiful view:

We rested awhile, had a snack and then walked down.  The way down is always easier on me.  And at the end I felt rather accomplished!  Seamus came with me, although I was concerned that the uphill might be a bit much for my 11 year old Golden Retriever.  He carried his own pack with his water and bowl in it.  I was also glad that I had brought my hiking stick.  It was particularly helpful for balance on the down hill climb.

Seneca Rocks has a lot of legends associated with it, some of which are mentioned in the link above.  But, for me, one of the fascinations has to do with the change in it's looks.  There used to be a large center formation called "The Gendarme".  You can see pictures in the link above also.  I thought it really made the formation distinctive.  Then in 1987 the rocks made headline news in West Virginia when the Gendarme fell off!  In a natural event of some sort, the center rock lost hold and tumbled to the bottom.  Fortunately no one was hurt in that event.  But every year rock climbers get hurt and many killed trying to scale the face.  They've put a helipad at the bottom to facilitate transportation to medical services since the location is rather remote.  There is a sign at the bottom warning about the dangers and stating that 15 people have died since the 60's making the climb.

We, of course, took the tame trail up the side of the rocks to the safe overlook.  So, I've conquered Seneca Rocks and although I share this distinction with many, many others, I'm still left feeling a bit like Sir Edmund Hillary!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Beach: Once More in 2012

I've been busy having fun for the past week.  We returned to our favorite beach in Duck, North Carolina and were joined this time by my brother and his wife.  The weather was near perfect and it seemed like we were trying to squeeze in all the activities that we haven't been able to do during our last few beach trips.  Here are a few pictures:

The sea oats were beautiful:

As were the sunrises:

We flew the pig flag (which is a great way to tell which house is yours when you are walking on the beach):

did a little puzzling....this one turned out to be super difficult.  The pieces were so similar that we spent a lot of time reworking areas we had already done.  We never did get it finished.  It didn't help that the box contained pieces from some other puzzle and a few pieces were missing completely.

and discovered the beauty of the sound side of the island....

It was nice to spend extended time with my brother and sister-in-law talking about old times and making new memories.  We love the little house that we rent and the area. And it was nice to introduce others to a place we enjoy so much.  So, we bid the beach a warm farewell.......until next year.