Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book #4: Pukka's Promise

I haven't done too well on my book reading goal this year.  I took a long time on this book: Pukka's Promise: The Quest for Longer Lived Dogs by Ted Kerasote.  I enjoyed this book and it was pretty thought provoking in many ways, but being a non-fiction book with a lot of detail, parts were hard for me to get through.  The book explores and questions a lot of dog ownership practices and their effect on dog longevity including the practice of pure breeding, commercial dog food, and spaying and neutering.  My main "take away" is that each of these decisions have pros and cons and the list of pros and cons will vary depending on your particular life circumstances.  But regardless, it would be good to consider the options.  For example, the author questions why male dogs are routinely neutered when this absence of male hormone makes them more susceptible to certain types of cancers.  The arguments for behavior control have been shown to be false and if what we are trying to control is reproduction why not perform vasectomies on the dogs instead of castration?  That retains the hormones, eliminates the extra cancer risk and still controls the puppy birth rate.  Like I said...just something to consider.  The chapters on dog shelters are really hard to get through and not for the faint hearted.

So, good book, but now I'm ready for something much lighter.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Two Color Category

The Blogger's Quilt Festival at Amy's Creative Side is growing by the hour!  Each person can enter up to two quilts in different categories.  I decided to enter this one in the Two Color category:
I made this for my sister and her husband.  It's an Elizabeth Hartman pattern.  I added extra rows to make it longer.  When I made this quilt I didn't really grasp the whole idea of "color value" so I just kind of stumbled into this arrangement because I liked it.

I think this is one of my favorite quilt categories.  With the colors limited the patterns really take the show.

Wonky Log Cabins - My Blogger's Quilt Festival Entry

I shared this top a month or so ago and I was able to get it finished this week!  I also learned about the Blogger's Quilt Festival over at Amy's Creative Side and decided to enter this in the Baby Quilt category.

The basic inspiration came from the Inspired Modern Quilt class by Elizabeth Hartman on Craftsy  and these cute animal prints that found their way into my stash via some fabric exchange over the past year.  I added the top and bottom borders to make the quilt a bit bigger and to bring in the elephants.  I free motion quilted it and was really pleased with the texture it gave the quilt.
The corners are rounded:
And the back is a nice cozy flannel chevron pattern:
This quilt is staying here at my house to welcome our first grandbaby expected to show up at the end of January.
There are so many creative entries in the different categories.  It's a nice to have a quilt show available at your computer - no lines, no tickets needed, no driving necessary.  Check it out.
Two more facts on this quilt festival:  you can vote starting November 1 for favorites in each category (there are lots of categories!)  and....there is drawing for a Baby Lock sewing machine which asks me to post about why I want to win one.  My current machine is a Baby Lock and I've really bonded with it.  Who wouldn't want to add another baby to their family?!?


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's Time for a Mystery Again

Last year I participated in Bonnie Hunter's Mystery Quilt.  It was fun although the timing with holiday family time was a bit busy and I've yet to actually quilt the top, so it was basically the start to my year of UFO creations.
When I was finished I told myself that I wouldn't do another one, but I find myself drawn again to this challenge.  This year is titled "Celtic Solstice" and I'm hoping that means that the design has a Celtic feel to it.  I also "met" a lot of my blog friends through the activity last year and that part was a lot of fun.

So....anyone out there participating this year?  KevinNancy? anybody?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Good-bye Knitting; Hello Crochet

I'm ready to move on from knitting.  I've made an amazing amount of dish cloths in a variety of patterns which will probably be distributed around the holidays and after I go back and hide all those start and stop strings.

So now I'm moving on to crochet.  The learning curve is steep here.  Reading written crochet directions is like learning a foreign language!  I've been watching YouTube videos which are immensely helpful and then also downloading different patterns to try.  As you can see, I have nothing to show even after several nights of "practice".  But, I'm now ready to go buy some yarn and start on a small baby blanket.  I've figured out two different patterns enough to give it a go.  And just in time too....The Walking Dead has started a new season and I'm in serious need of a TV distraction!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Train Art

The other day I was stopped at a train crossing, and as I watched the freight train go by I saw this through the drops on my rain soaked windshield:

I kind of like the impromptu artwork.  Train cars are a bit drab and ugly.  We don't have any passenger trains that run through my town so I don't know how common a practice this is on passenger trains or how I would feel about artwork on them.  And I don't get around all that much.  The first time I traveled somewhere that required a passport was two years ago.  So I'm asking my readers to help broaden my horizons.  I have two silly questions:
1.  Do passenger trains get tagged also?
2.  Is this a worldwide practice or more of an American culture thing?

My inquiring mind wants to know. 


Friday, October 18, 2013

Maybe My Fabric is Alive?!?

I guess I just need to accept the fact that things move.  Just when you thought you knew where the grocery store stocks toothpicks....they move them.  Just when you thought you knew where the remote to the TV's not there anymore.  One day you take a good look in the mirror and realize that certain parts that used to be one place have, umm...shifted - usually south.  And just when I thought I had two pieces of fabric lined up exactly, well, I don't.  Somewhere along the line things move, fabric shifts, the sewing machine feeds a bit unevenly.  It just doesn't cooperate or behave.  So I've decided to try to compensate for my active fabric by measuring and remeasuring and trimming as needed.  It helped some on this last project, as did a new technique for making the quilt sandwich.  I can't show you the whole quilt yet, but here's a peek:
I may be late to the party on this one, but here's how I did the sandwich:  I took some kabob skewers, cut off the pointy ends and taped them to the center of my table making a cross.  Then I found the very center of my backing, lined it up with the cross and secured it tightly all around using binder clips and tape.  I did the same with the batting and the top, got it all smooth and pinned the layers together.  I found this suggestion online at several places.  My apologies for not remembering where so that I could give credit. The main difference from my previous sort of haphazard technique is that I started in the center.  Before this I would try to start from one corner working out in two directions.  It never seemed like I had everything square and even.  I like this a lot better.  There was still some fabric movement, but it was a lot less than my last few quilting attempts.  I also became very generous with the size of batting and backing taking advice from Elizabeth Hartman in her Craftsy class on quilt backs.  She recommends adding two inches to the size of the top all around for the batting and then another two inches on all sides for the back.  So the backing ends up being four inches larger than the top on all sides.  The nice thing about this is that you have a lot of coverage if the fabric shifts.

This was also my first experience working with precuts.  I used a charm pack and some 1 1/2 inch strips (honey bun, maybe....I mix up all those names).  In general I like the idea of pre-cuts since I'm a bit rotary cutter challenged. With precuts you know that everything is the same size.  The pinked edges took some getting used to.  And my take away is this:  Not every piece in the charm pack will work with your design so even if you only need one pack, you might want to get two since you might not be able to use the really low volume or high volume pieces.  I ended up utilizing the last few blocks on the back of my quilt for that very reason.

So this is my Iron Quilt for Jenny Doan's Iron Quilter II challenge at Missouri Star Quilting Company.  Once it gets closer and I've entered the photos I'll post it here and probably suggest that you consider voting, particularly if you like the quilt.  I was encouraged by the husband's reaction to this one.  I think he really likes this effort.   

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Prove You're a Quilter

There is a fun contest/challenge over at Lilypad Quilting.  If someone came into your house, would it be obvious that you are a quilter?  Besides your sewing room, are there quilty things being used throughout the house?  I decided to play along.  But first I had to figure out how to make a collage of photos.  I know some of you have generously given me advise on this, but until now I wasn't able to face the challenge.  I'm happy to report that I've succeeded!  It took a bit of focus and concentration, but look what I made happen!!

After deciding that I did not have a program that made collages and after getting frustrated on the Flickr site trying to make a collage, I downloaded a Picasa program (Thanks, Nancy)  It works like a charm!  In fact, I can make those pictures come out in a variety of cool arrangements.

So...about quilts in my home.  My first thought was that more than half of what I've made has been given away.  But then I remembered that basically we are nesters.  The husband and I both like to snuggle under a quilt when we're watching TV, reading the paper, going through the mail...any quiet sitting activity and I've managed to keep plenty of quilts for nesting.  What you see above is a few of our "nests" with the quilts obviously in use.  From the top left:  the Dog Quilt on our bed; My Mother's Garden in "my" chair; a wall hanging of quilts I made throughout the year; the Cuddle Quilt on the husbands chair (it's folded only because I caught this picture after a clean up session); a quilt made from his childhood bedspread on the "TV spot" (the only one I haven't ever blogged on because I made it years ago); a quilt table topper (Random Squares) and a small wall hanging in the laundry room.

So....would I be convicted of being a quilter? 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Country Threads Block of the Month: October

I feel like I'm sewing a lot but finishing little.  In fact, this may be my year for creating UFOs.  I'm plugging along on my block of the month projects.  Of the two that I'm doing, I think this one (from Country Threads) is my favorite.  The blocks and construction techniques are very traditional and I've used some traditional fabrics.  I like modern compositions also - maybe more, but there is something soothing and comforting about working on these blocks with their simple shapes and creating such a variety of different looks.
This month I learned about starch.  Now, I always knew about starch, but up until now I had only used the commercial type.  I wasn't too keen on it.  But recently I made some out of cornstarch and water (1Tablespoon cornstarch to 2 cups of water) and I really like how it helps to keep the seams flat.

I didn't have much time this month to play with the arrangement of these blocks or to audition different sashing colors, but I did take two pictures of all the blocks together.  The first is the recommended arrangement and the second is just an alternate arrangement.  The blank areas are for blocks that are yet to be made.  The colors are softer than they appear here.  We've had several days of clouds and rain and my camera insisted on using the flash.

I still find the whole thing a bit crazy without sashing.  It just seems like it needs something to draw it all together. I also think that I'm over the whole block of the month thing now....or for awhile at least.  It's been a great way to learn and practice different techniques, though.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Visit to Oz

This weekend the husband (for the purpose of this post, he is now "my Wizard") and I packed the car, traveled the twists of turns of the tornado road and landed in the Land of Oz.  You can find the Land of Oz on your Google Map by searching for Beech Mountain, North Carolina.

From 1970 to 1980 there was a fully operational park at the top of Emerald Mountain known as the Land of Oz.  It was much loved my many people but the advent of parks such as Disney World put an end to many of the smaller, less spectacular attractions like this one.  Several years ago some people who were fans of both the movie and the park decided to try to restore it to be able to share with another generation.  Each year the park is opened up to the public and admission fees help to pay for additional restoration.
My Wizard wore a tee-shirt that said, "I am the man behind the curtain." and countless people stopped to comment on it!  I know he is a Wizard because he makes things happen that I once thought weren't possible.  He and I had a great time meeting all the characters who were not only dressed in costume but who spoke and acted totally in character.  Dorothy's house was great...and just so you don't think that sewing was completely out of my mind - Auntie Em had an old Singer machine in one of the bedrooms.  There was also a museum filled with original props from the movie, the theme park and a set of first edition books.

I am a well established fan of the Wizard of Oz as is my blogging friend, Jen of Glinda Quilts.  Several months ago I won a giveaway on her blog and she made me a great pants bag to use when traveling. I not only used it for packing, but brought it with me to the park (absent my pants) so that I could have Glinda the Good Witch pose with the pants bag:
My Wizard and I are already planning on going back again next year.  We might upgrade from tee-shirts to costumes.  May I never again make fun of the Star Trek conventions!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Quiet Water, a Dog Party and a Lighthouse.

It's pretty clear that the ocean holds a special place in my heart.  But I'm also fond of more still water.  Our vacation place (We don't own this place.  We just think of it as ours since we go there so often.) is on a barrier island so there is a large shallow sound on one side and the Atlantic ocean on the other.  The ocean side was pretty wild during our visit and while we were on the beach everyday it wasn't they type of place where you wanted to just sit and read a book.  The wind was strong for most of the week.

But over on the sound side (and, in fact throughout the town itself) the weather was very pleasant.  So we made several visits to the sound side beach located within Jockey's Ridge State Park.  The sound is so shallow that you can walk out for at a long long way and never get in water over your thigh.  The bottom is sandy and the water clear.  Seamus likes this place a lot also since he can get wet without being ambushed by the waves.  Here he is "retrieving" a tennis ball:

There is a special dog store at the beach called Outer Barks.  Once a week these nice folks host a get together for vacationing dogs and their people.  They call it "Yappy Hour".  There are treats for the dogs and things for them to play in and with.  The people usually talk about the dogs and maybe the dogs are talking to each other about their people. Who knows? My favorite activity is paw painting.  The dogs are assisted by one of the owners and they "paint" a picture.  Here is Seamus' creation:

And, finally in my continuing fascination with lighthouses, we visited Bodie Island Lighthouse.  It was just opened this spring to visitors.  This lighthouse was built three times.  The first one was poorly engineered (early 1800s) and tilted beyond repair in just two years.  The second one was destroyed by Confederate troops to keep it from providing navigation aide to the Union Army.  And the third still stands and was recently renovated.
And as an added bonus, there was a bird blind near the lighthouse with quite an assortment of water birds to watch and photo: herons, a variety of ducks, geese, and more.

Next we take a special trip to the mountains for an even more special event.  The fall colors should be beautiful.  And hopefully there will be fun things to tell about.  And then, I promise, no more vacation photos for a long time!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Must Go Down to the Sea

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

- John Masefield

This says it all.  I love the ocean.  I NEED the ocean.  It grounds me.  It's vast, wild and untamable, especially at the Outer Banks - graveyard of thousands of shipwrecks over the years.  The ocean is always there, it never stops; it feeds every sense: the sound of the waves, the smell of the salt and sea life, the beautiful views of water, sunrises and birds, the touch of the warm sand, the cold waves and sea spray and the salty taste of the water.  I love this place. 

Seamus agrees, but for other reasons: