Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Blog By Any Other name.......

I think it's time to change the name of my blog.  I started blogging as some accountability in my efforts to lose weight.  But then came quilting, and other quilting bloggers and that has now become the main focus of my posts.  I also feel like I've developed a community of other quilting bloggers and it seems like it's time to make my blog name reflect this.

So, now, welcome to Quilts, Life and Balance.  I just couldn't let the balance thing go.  Everything in life seems to demand balance.  In dieting, balance is everything.  Most foods can be OK if eaten in a small portion and any food can be bad if you eat too much of it.  And the same is true of time spent sewing, or on the computer or cleaning my house.  And since not all my posts are sewing related I opted for the name you see today.  I've kept the URL the same so that links to my blog will still work.

And, to go along with the new name I decided on a new picture:
Yup, that's me at about seven years old.  I can tell that by the gap in the front of my mouth.  I loved that Mickey Mouse dress with the Peter Pan collar.  Get a look at the vintage print on those curtains!  That was taken in our kitchen.  My mother made those curtains and after they were curtains they were a table cloth.  We were strong proponents of "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Do without." 

So, if my blogging skill is adequate, once I hit the right buttons my changes will be seen.  If your reading this and the name and picture haven't changed...well....I'm working on it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blocks for Quilts of Valor

Alycia of Alycia Quilts is having a block drive for Quilts of Valor.  This group provides quilts to wounded soldiers.  What better way to say "thank you for keeping us free and safe" than a quilt.  It represents hours of work by one or many.  It's individual in design and keeps the solder wrapped in warmth.   So I felt privileged to be able to donate ten blocks.  Ten is a bit of a significant number.  That is the number of my family members who have served.  Here's a sampling (I have GOT to learn a bit of photography):

The drive continues until March 8 and if you want to participate you can find the pattern and information on her post here.  Every five blocks earns a giveaway entry also for added incentive.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Saga of The Girl Quilt

I feel like I've been working on this quilt forever!  And, it's still not done...just the top is finished.  But since it's been such a journey I thought it deserved it's own post. 
It started one day, several weeks ago, inspired by several circumstances.  I wanted to make something with these pink and purple pieces.  I've admired the use of grey in the quilts I've seen lately and thought it would go well with the pink and purple.  I wanted to use my new Accuquilt that I received for Christmas.  I was thinking: small, simple, fast.  Things started out well.  The Accuquilt is a great toy. It was fast and accurate and I could see that it could become an addictive tool especially if the additional dies weren't so pricey.   Then came the "mistakes"....

Once I got the center part together (I used a disappearing nine patch pattern) I realized that the solid grey I had chosen was too dark.  I thought it made the piece less cheery than I wanted.  My picture taking isn't too good, but you can see in the photo that the center grey is sort of dark. So....I decided to embellish the grey with one of the 100's of decorative stitches on my new machine.  Of course, since this is a new machine, I'm unfamiliar with all the stitches so it takes quite awhile to find just the right one. Half way through I ran out of pink thread.  But, I"m resourseful, so I switch to purple and actually like having the decorative stitching in two colors. Mistake number one neutralized.

Step back, look at the quilt, place the border fabric around....not happy.  It needed more pink.  So I made the scrappy border.  I thought I was being smart and kept the border at two inches to play well with the four inch blocks. Step back, evaluate: better.

Then.....mistake number two....I decide to piece the outside border and bring in yet more pink.  At this point I'm running very low on pink and purple so some of the triangles had to be pieced.  I decide to make half square triangles and then settled on this pointed arrangement after laying out several different ones.  But why can't I get the math to work out???  Isn't everything two and four inches??  No matter what I do it seems like the pieced border won't fit correctly. After much pencil and head scratching it hits me.  When you take a nine patch block and cut it up and sew it together again to make it "disappear" you lose a half an inch on each block!  So instead of three 12 inch blocks across I had three 11 1/2 inch blocks.  So.....I add a skinny border to make the math work, but because the center is 3 blocks by 4 blocks, the border is slightly bigger on one side than the other.  Mistake number two neutralized.

Sewing along merrily again and then it hits me - mistake number 3....because my border pattern puts two 4 inch blocks together I need something divisible by eight, not four to make it all come out even.  Now I'm about to scream and throw things.  And then I remember.....flying geese.  They carry the same feel as the border, so each of the long sides has a goose to even things out. Mistake number three neutralized:
And then....for some reason I still can't figure, one of the side borders comes up short.  Like almost an inch short!  Mistake number four.  I pin and repin and repin and can't get it to work.  So out comes the seam ripper (oh wait, I was going to "unsew" not "seam rip").  I skinny up on three of the seams and liberate enough fabric to make it fit.  Mistake number four neutralized.

But, how am I going to make the corners work?  I had several ideas, but by now I'm looking for the easy way out of this mess and there in front of me were a few extra half square blocks, so the corners turned out to be:

Finally I get to add my pretty grey flowery fabric around the outside. Done. For now anyway.  Because since this quilt is much larger than I anticipated  I'm beginning to wonder if the nice fleecy pink fabric I have set aside for the backing will be big enough.

And this, my friends, is how UFOs are born.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Liebster Award!

During this season of Grammys and Oscars, I have been awarded the Liebster by Nancy, at Joy for Grace.  Thank you, Nancy!  The Liebster is a fun award by bloggers to bloggers.  To qualify the blog must have less than 200 followers or must be less than six months old.  Once the award is received you are to write a post and:
  1. List 11 random things about yourself.
  2. Answer 11 questions posed by the nominator.
  3. Choose 11 blogs to pass the award on to and link them to your post.
  4. Create 11 questions for those 11 people to answer.
So here goes....................

11 Random Things About Myself:
  1. I love black licorice and dark chocolate - not together, though.
  2. I like to send and receive letters.
  3. My favorite coffee is from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. It has chicory mixed with the coffee and strangely enough is sold in a local Asian market near me.
  4. My sister, the family genealogist, tells me that several of our ancestors made their living by sewing in the "old" country.
  5. I love to swim.
  6. I'm an alum of West Virginia University.  Let's go Mountaineers!
  7. I hate to grocery shop.  It's almost a phobia.
  8. I homeschooled my 3 boys for grades 1-4.
  9. I like to skeet shoot and horse back ride, although I seldom get to do either.
  10. I've always been a breakfast eater.
  11. I didn't get chicken pox until I was 30 and then managed to infect an entire church nursery of children and my own, of course.
Answers to Nancy's Questions:

1.  What is your favorite kind of cheese?
I like Gouda for snacking and Parmesan for adding flavor to dishes.

2.  Do you prefer wearing pants or dresses/skirts?

I prefer dresses and skirts, but I'm most often in pants....jeans.   

3.  How long have you been involved in the topic(s) you blog about?
I blog about most everything I guess.  I've sewed since I was very young, but only    dusted off my hobby two years ago when I retired. 

4.  Do you have a pet and if so, write something about him/her.

I have a beloved 11 year old male golden retriever whom I love dearly. He is the first and only dog I have ever owned. I take him with me whenever I can and miss him when I can't.

5.  What is your favorite season and why?
I like spring for it's promise and hopefulness and autumn for it's calm and rest.

6.  What color are your living room walls?

My living room walls are a creamy white.  I think the paint chip was "Calla Lily". The woodwork is a putty color.

7.  Are you an early bird or night owl?

I have been both at different times in my life, but presently I'm neither.  Winter makes me a bit of a black bear - I hibernate and like to be away when the sun is out.

8.  How did you choose your blog's title?

Life is all about balance and that's never truer than with dieting.  My blog started out as a way to help me stay on track with my weight loss.... and then came quilting.  I decided to keep the name.  Even quilting is about balance of color, size of the pieces, value.

9.  What one thing can you not live without?

This is a hard question!  I'm going to limit the field of answers to "things" (as opposed to people) and say my toothbrush.

10.  What is your favorite color and color combinations and have they changed over time?

They certainly have changed!  Years ago I had a chair recovered in a blue fabric because I thought I would always have blue in my most of the home is green and brown and the chair is again in need of recovering!  And, I still like blue.

11.  What is your favorite movie and how many times have you watched it?

My lifelong favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz.  I've watched it at least 30 times, probably many more.  I started watching very young and have never tired of it.

Blog Nominations:

The Lazy Quilter
Amanda's Musings
Quilts in the Queue
Heart of Charnwood
Hello Quilty Lady
Red Letter Quilts
Kevin the Quilter
A Smidgen of Joy
My Quilts and Other Stories
Naahien sewing nahen
Walking Life's Path Again

Questions for Nominees:
  1. Are you a coffee or tea drinker?
  2. Name one quilt or pattern that is on your "some day" list.
  3. Do you live in the city or the country?
  4. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of blogging?
  5. Where (sewing room, dining room, etc.) do you sew?
  6. When you are not sewing or working, what activity do you do?
  7. Do you sew in the quiet or is a radio or TV playing?  What is it playing?
  8. Have you ever been to a quilt convention or retreat and if so, what did you like most about it?
  9. Name a historical figure that you admire.
  10. Would you rather spend a day at a spa or a day at a fabric store?
  11. Do you like to ride roller coasters?
So, there you have it.  I hope my nominees have fun with this. I enjoy all of your blogs so much and love to see what you've been doing both sewing and otherwise.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

There's No Place Like Home

When I retired, I thought that travel would be a large part of new life.  But it turns out that although travel is exciting it is also tiresome.  I enjoy seeing new things and visiting family, but I also enjoy the familiar.  It's nice to step away from the everyday for awhile and break out of routine and sameness; but it's also nice to return to the comfort and security afforded by sameness and predictability.

We traveled north this weekend to visit family.  Some of you who are reading this may live in the Midwest or near the Great Lakes.  Please don't take offense at this.  It is darn COLD up there!!  The husband and I spent some days wearing as many layers as we had with us and still found it cold.  The wind was bitter, the sun went into hiding and it seemed that even indoors people tended to keep the temperature lower than we were accustomed.  One of our activities was a visit to see The Hobbit movie in 3D.  It was great.  The special effects in 3D were really entertaining, but the theater was COLD.  I wish I had brought a blanket with me to wrap up in.

Travel itself can by weary.  We drove to our destination(about an 8 hour trip), then I flew home while the husband went on for some more business travel.  Both methods (flying and driving) require quite a bit of sitting.  Air travel has it's share of walking, but it's usually more like rushing, afraid you won't find the proper gate or be late for boarding.  But, everything went well and I arrived home just before the weather turned bad.  Unfortunately, my DH is still in the Midwest and dealing with some snow.

When I arrived at the airport I was treated to a surprise - one of those unexpected things that travel offers.  The airport had a display of Lego buildings.  Lego has received many of my dollars buying sets for the Sons throughout the years and I've joined the Sons in building Lego creations through the years  So I'm very familiar with the medium. It was great to see the display.  I immediately took pictures of each building and marveled at the work that went into them.  Here are some examples: 
 Travel is still something I like and hope to do more of, although Alaska may be scratched off my list of places to visit.  (Again, apologies to those of you who live there.  If you can warm the place up a bit I might reconsider.)

But I understand why Dorothy wanted so much to leave the splendor and wonder of  the colorful Land of Oz to return to dreary predicable Kansas.  When it comes right down to it, there's no place like home.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Socks, and Catalogs and Bags, Oh MY!

January is moving along and it will soon be time to consider how those New Year's resolutions are progressing.  Some have been easier than others, as expected.  But today, I gathered my courage and de-cluttered my "widowed sock" basket.  Widowed socks are those without mates.  As they would emerge in the laundry over the years, I would set them aside because often the mate would show up a week or more later.  And, usually the socks were bought in large packs so they could be repaired with similar socks whose mates left them.  Logical and economical, right?  But at some point all frugality can blur into obsession.  Many of these socks have been around for 20 years and I bet I even moved them during the last change of residence.  (I see your smiles, hear your gasps and believe me, I'm practically blushing with embarrassment. But they say that the first step is admitting you have a problem.)  I know that old socks make great rags sometimes and as a youth I made many potholders out of cut up old socks.  But, alas, there are way too many rags and pot holders also in my house.  So, finding an immense amount of will power I managed to throw this all away:

OK, so that's not totally true.  I saved two socks that are still current in the husband's wardrobe.  But, the rest are in the trash.  And, if I'm smart I will put that trash bag at the curb before I change my mind.

But I didn't stop with socks! Stopping clutter is often a matter of slowing the tide of stuff coming into the house to start with.  We get an enormous amount of catalogs in the mail.  We order a lot online and then I'm sure the address is passed around to other companies.  Some catalogs I enjoy but some sell merchandise we would never need. There is a great site called Catalog Choice.  By signing up and following their directions you can tell the company, "No, thanks. Please don't send me anymore." It's free.  You have to have the catalog in front of you because they ask for the exact name it is addressed to and some numbers on the back to help you be accurately removed from the mailing list.  It doesn't always work, but every little bit helps! 

Secondly, I'm on a "no more bags" campaign.  I try to remember to bring those reusable shopping bags with me to every store.  I do reuse the disposable bags to line trash cans and other household chores, but I have plenty for at least a year!  And, of course since I"m not 100% in remembering sometimes I do add to the collection.

And, lastly, in the virtual world, I've unsubscribed from many retail emails that I have no interest in.  Occasionally I will agree to a once a month email from the company, but honestly, some badger on a daily basis.

I'd better go,  There is trash to dump before I come up with a new use for old socks.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Giveaway to Enter

Rebecca at Our Busy Little Bunch is having a birthday fabric giveaway today.  You can enter here.  Her blog has a new look and the fabric she is giving away match the new color scheme on the blog.  Hop on over and check it out. 

Happy Birthday, Rebecca!
                                                      Our Busy Little Bunch

Friday, January 11, 2013

Attention Retail Stores: Please Bring Back the Man Chair!

You remember the man chair.  It used to be available in every department store or woman's clothing store .   To quote the Urban Dictionary

A man chair is the chair that men sit in while their partner is shopping for long periods of time. They can be found in almost any clothing or shoe store. What can we, as men do while our gf's or wives are shopping, we can sit in a man chair.
I shopped longer and bought more in stores with a man chair.  My husband was happier and more comfortable and even glad to visit these stores with me.  One of my favorite little clothing stores once had a comfortable upholstered man chair.  Then one day I visited and it was removed and then latter replaced....but with a metal folding chair; better than nothing but not exactly inviting.
Two of my local fabric stores have nice comfortable man chairs and one even stocks magazines near the chairs.  While I often go to such stores alone it's nice to have the option of going with the husband and the chair makes ALL the difference in the world.
So, attention retail stores:  Here's one giant vote for a man chair in every store.  It sure helps me spend more time in your store, it helps my husband like your store more and in the end, I buy more.  And isn't that what it's all about?                                                                                                                                       

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Country Threads Block of the Month: January

I've always been attracted to the idea of a block of the month, although I've never participated in one.  In fact, Easy Street was my first group participation of any sort.  My blog travels brought me in touch with Country Threads and they are sponsoring a block of the month sampler.  Each month you make two blocks: one large (12 inches) and one small (6 inches).  Here's my first installment:

Unlike the mystery quilt, you get to see an example of the finished product up front.  They're are several alternative finishes though.

In the meantime I'll enjoy hanging them around my sewing room...I mean studio.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Book Review: Scrap House Quilt

Several weeks ago I was fortunate enough to win a giveaway at Lily's Quilts!  My prize was a copy of the book Scrap House Quilt by Katharine Guerrier.

This is a great book with directions on piecing houses and other "neighborhood" blocks into a delightful quilt.  You could even customize the blocks to tell a particular story.  The e-book is well done and includes links within the book to help with navigation as well as videos highlighting certain techniques.

Definitely worth a look!   Thanks again, Lily!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Easy Street - City Center

I've finished the center of the Easy Street mystery quilt.  As usual there were a lot of lessons learned in this project. This was my first mystery quilt, my first quilt with the blocks placed on point, my first time making flying geese and maybe the most complicated patterning I've attempted.  There are some areas where the seams don't line up nicely and a few geese without beaks.  Some spots were sewn and resewn several times.  After three tries in the same spot I decided to settle for less than perfect. Each time I redid the same area the fabric, especially if a triangle was involved seem to just get more out of shape. 

My plan is to add a narrow gold border and a wider (maybe 3 inches) blue border.  I've tried just a blue border and really thought it needed something else. And between now and when I actually sew the border on I might change my mind yet again.  I was aiming at a quilt for a child so I chose primary colors and cream for the black and white print with gold/yellow for the grey.  One of the hardest decisions was what size to make.  At first I tried a square quilt with four of the main blocks and one alternate in the center.  It would have finished at a crib size once the border was done and I could have done two in this size.  I even planned on some embroidery embellishment.  But when I looked at it again I wasn't happy so I unsewed (I like that word SO much better than "ripped out") and sewed some more until I got what you see.  There are quite a few blocks left over which will probably become another project but not right away.  I'm ready to move on to something different.  Quilting on this will wait until the new table is delivered for my Baby Lock so that I can sew flat. I'm short, so sewing in my present set up usually leaves me with my shoulders sore.

I really enjoyed the whole mystery quilt thing.  It makes you just sit back and enjoy the ride without focusing on the destination.  You can bet that I'll be on the lookout for another mystery quilt experience should one come my way.  You can view other Easy Street finishes here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Look at 2012

I think I'm finally catching up after the holidays.  Not quite there yet, but well on my way.  I continued a "tradition" (if two years makes a tradition) that I started last year.  Throughout the year I made a block from the leftover scraps of each of the quilts I made and then put them together into a wall hanging for the wall of my sewing room. (I really need to get into the habit of calling it my sewing studio.  That sounds much grander!)  So, here is the 2012 edition:
Sorry for the bad picture.  I guess that's the "not quite caught up" part of the post holiday season.  Anyway, in addition to a representation of each quilt, a few blocks are reminders of projects, like my tartan tote bag and some pillows and cloth books.  I got to quilt this on my new Baby Lock using a decorative stitch and some embroidery at the bottom.  As usual, I wasn't pleased with the binding application.  I need to just admit that I like the look of a hand finished binding even if I don't like the time it takes to bind it that way.  I've tried several methods of machine sewing the binding and haven't found one that I really like.

I've realized that a summary quilt will get harder as the years go on since some fabrics are used in several quilts or scrappy quilts are made making it more difficult to separate everything out.   But for now, this little project makes a nice post to link with the Small Blog Meet at Lilly's Quilts.