Sunday, July 31, 2016

Product Review: Needle Beetle

 A product review of one of those cute, goofy things on display by the check-out counter at my LQS. I found it kind of irresistible since I have always liked ladybugs. But as much as I like ladybugs, I did wonder why it isn't a lightning bug? I suppose they're not as cute except for the lighting-up part. Threading needles is one of my least favorite things about hand-sewing, and that was before I started getting old-lady eyes. So this looked like it could be a good solution for me.
First the pluses on using the Needle Beetle, this thing lights up so bright. It was almost a surprise that it was *that* bright which is actually really great when you're using it during the daytime. The sliding button to turn the light on is ridged so your finger can move it easily and the underside of the device is similarly ridged. Good for gripping. I really liked that the button clicks and locks leaving the light on so you don't have to keep your finger down on it. It's lightweight and nicely shaped and fits in the hand nicely. It's a good thing that the needle threader retracts so that it won't get bent or ruined while it's getting bumped around in my hand-sewing kit. The thread cutter works very well, it's placed on the side and is easy to use.

Now the minuses, the wire threader is very very fine and thus very very flexible, but unfortunately it is also quite long which makes it hard to fit back through onto the opening of very fine needles as it bends instead of compressing down. On larger-eyed needles it's not a problem, though. The battery isn't something you can replace, but then I suppose a replacement battery might cost the same as this whole thing did and I'm betting the battery or light bulb will burn out any time soon.

I'd give it a thumbs-up if you're looking for a new needle threader with a light or something cute to have in your hand-sewing kit.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Summer Flowers

 Flowers. I love growing them. And taking pictures of them. So here's a recent selection from my garden. Except for the very last one.

This passionflower was in Santa Cruz, and it reminded me I need to try growing this plant again.

Friday, July 29, 2016


 I finished the Tumbler finally! It's a charm quilt, and hopefully there are no repeats in the 1,710 tumbler shapes.

This thing was started way-back-when with the purchase of a Come Quilt With Me plexiglass template that I bought at PIQF at the same time my friend Jaye bought her hexagon template. She made an awesome Eye Spy quilt.

We decided to do a casual sort of joint project, so I also bought a hexagon and she bought a tumbler. Our plan was to cut shapes for each other out of our fabric stashes or new fabric purchases. It worked out pretty well, there's a huge variety in this quilt.
 This is for our California King bed, and it is quite frankly, the biggest thing I've ever made. I was really surprised at how BIG it is. It's a lot of work just handling the thing, ironing, moving it through the machine while I added on the last row.
These leftovers from when I evened-up the length of the rows ended up as part of the pieced back. It was kind of sad to see this project come to an end. I've been working on it for a very long time! I bought the template in October 2004. So much has happened in those years...
And yes, I realize it's not really done, once it's back from the quilter I'll have to sew down the binding, and add a label, but compared to the rest of the time I've spent on this project, it's pretty much done in my mind.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Blue Tape Reminder

 Blue painter's tape is handy for a lot of things in the studio. I'll share one of the ways I use it with you right here, when I'm piecing with a 1/4" seam, I use my 1/4" foot (a Little Foot specifically) and it has only enough space for the needle to go through in one small circular spot. So that means No Zig-Zag allowed. Thus the tape over the stitch-width button. I've learned my lesson after hitting the foot with the needle, yikes!
Here's the Little Foot in action, sewing together the last of the tumbler rows. One little zig or zag and pow, broken needle which is scary. The blue tape visual and physical reminder to not adjust the stitch width unless I change the presser foot works for me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tahoe for Former Skiers

Bringing back the old label I used to use, Wandering Wednesday so I can go back in time and share some of the things I've seen in various places I've been lucky enough to travel to.
Here's some snow and ice pictures to help cool you off in July. Early last December for my birthday we took a short weekend trip to Lake Tahoe with my parents.
 None of us ski any longer, but a lot of Fun (note the capital F) was had. I hadn't walked on a frozen lake in quite a while.
 For some reason I thought it'd be scenic to take a cruise across the part of the Lake that wasn't frozen. It was just on the edge of snowing the whole time so it was quite chilly. But was it ever scenic!
 I was mesmerized by the ripples in the shallow bay near the dock, the sun was hitting them just right.
 The clouds were very dramatic.
 The color of the lake changed from one second to the other as the cloud cover shifted.
 The wake we left behind was pretty.
 Did you know you can take the gondola ride up to the top of Heavenly round-trip?
 I appreciated my husband going on yet another gondola even though he hates them.
It was so beautiful up at the top, sunny and warm, we sat out and watched the snow tubing hill for a while.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuffet Happy Ending

 So, yes, the tuffet story ends happily ever after.

Spike sits on it whenever I'm not in the studio.
But when I am working in the studio, Meg usually is in there too, so she gets to sit on it.
And my feet go up on it when I'm hand sewing, just as planned.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Weekly Study Square

I've been casting about for a new weekly project that I could attempt, because I've found that I've been missing having a small regular goal for motivation. Over the years I've done a few of these projects, the six word memoir, the 8" abstract challenge - eight inch squares inspired by one abstract concept, a few years worth of journal quilts - 8.5 x 11", daily paper/mixed-media collages, etc. All of these projects gave me a deadline (which I find I need) as well as some rules and limits (but not too many.)  I learned how to work smaller and faster with an emphasis on improvisation.

The above is a 5x5" piece I made at a CQFA retreat out of my table scraps at the end of the weekend. I can look at this little thing and remember what pieces I was working on that weekend even though it was four years ago, just from these little bits of fabric. And I like that, it's a journal of sorts, a very personal one that would probably not interest anyone else, but I find it valuable.

So, as I'm trying to control the amount of scrap-page that's accumulating around here (I literally have boxes full) my new project will be a weekly one, with these rules:

  • At the beginning of each week, I'll use the scraps that have accumulated on my work table from the previous week to make one Study Square Quiltlet
  • The study doesn't have to use up 100% of the scraps, but I'll try to use as much of them as possible.
  • If I don't have enough scraps to make anything, I'll use the leftovers from the previous weeks.
  • I won't purchase anything new to make my weekly study.
  • My prompt will be drawn from here. Any combination of the random 8 words generated.
  • I  can make more than one thing per week if I find it necessary.
  • Other things besides fabric scraps are allowed to be incorporated, but I can't buy anything new specifically for this project.
  • The size of each piece will be 8.5 x 8.5" (to fit this box I've had for ages.)
  • I will make a blog post with a picture of the weekly study sometime in the following week.
Weekly Study Square Project is beginning today!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

What's on the Wall

 The design wall that I have in my workroom is pretty big, so it takes up a lot of visual space in my working realm. I tend to keep things up there for longer than I maybe should. Even when they're done like the quilt on the left, False Flag Sorbet. In theory I'm supposed to be using the design wall more for the recently Sizzixed (yes that's a word as of now) Wavy Scales and the Pies & Points pieces.
Part of it is that i like looking at something that's done when I'm working on the next thing, like a reminder that I can do it. I can actually finish something. I find it encouraging, which I need sometimes. All the positive self-talk in the world doesn't hold a candle to looking with your own eyes at something that you've recently completed (and that you hopefully still like.)
So for the big switcher-oo, I pinned up most of the smallish quilts that are close to being done. And it's like I'm having my own private art show. I haven't looked at many of these in months, so I'm finding all sorts of details I've forgotten. A list has been made of what I'm calling each of these things, where I'm going with them and what's left to do. I'm happy to say that I can see that they were made by the same person, there's that at the very least.

I'm thinking of making this a regularly scheduled blog post, maybe weekly or bi-weekly, just so I can look back over a year's worth of how this visible component of my artistic output changes over time.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Neither a Big Shot nor a Pro

 New machinery in the studio to learn, after waiting for a good sale price, the Sizzix Big Shot Pro arrived a few weeks ago. Without the screw to attach the handle, but that was quickly handled by good customer service at . That was a hard couple of days to wait when I wanted to play with my new toy.
It is a pretty big machine, quite heavy so not something to put away and bring out again, it needs a dedicated spot. I'm still rearranging stuff in my studio, so for now it's on one of the reinforced Gorilla Rack shelves. But it may end up on the top of a short bookshelf that I have.
 I have my Pies and Points die from the class I wrote about a few days ago and I also purchased two small dies that were on sale. This is the small Wave, also from Victoria Findlay Wolfe. Here's a stack of six piece of fabric run through the machine all at once. That's why I bought this thing, the convenience, accuracy and saving the wear and tear on my hands. If I'd cut all these out with a rotary cutter...oh I don't want to really think about it. Let's leave it at there would have been a few days of consequences. As well as the pieces wouldn't have all ended up being the same size and shape.

 I chose this wave die because I wanted to try to refine my curve-sewing skills with this gentle curve shape. I really love the clamshell look to this, a bit like scales or something similar. I started out cutting fat quarters that had been washed but not ironed, but then remembered that ironing was recommended.

Color corrected so the fabrics look a little closer to reality. So, looking at this picture this shows me right away that I need to pay attention to which way directional prints are placed on the die. "We learn by doing," is echoing in my ears. Something to remember to use intentionally, I really like how the zig-zags look in the two orientations.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sewing at QuiltCon

One of the fun things at QuiltCon was getting to hang out in the Marcus booth and hand-sew some blocks with Victoria Findlay Wolfe's new fabric line, Mostly Manor for a fund-raising ALS quilt.
 After all the walking around I was really excited to sit down, what a great picture of Jaye though.
 I managed to only finish one, Jaye did two, I know I'm usually the slowest hand-sewer around since I don't do much of it. But luckily the block went together easily with the great curve-sewing instruction we'd gotten the day before from Victoria Findlay Wolfe.

 There wasn't any yardage available but we managed to find a layer cake of the new VFW fabric line in another booth, so that was cool. I like these fabrics, lots of color/pattern energy and variation in design scale.
 Were we fan-girling VFW by then just a teeny little bit? Yeah probably, she's pretty charismatic and we'd had an all-day class with her, plus she had this awesome quilt hanging in the booth too. So pow!

There were so many buttons being given away, it was hard not to take every single one on offer, but it got rather heavy and clanky towards the end. Some of them are funny, 'Fee, Fiber, Fo, Fun!', Quilt Like You Mean It, No You Couldn't Make That.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

QuiltCon West

Way back in February, friend Jaye and I road-tripped to Pasadena for the Modern Quilt Guild annual convention, QuiltCon West. Up until that point, I hadn't been a part of the Modern Quilt movement, but I had been interested in it, so why not, it's alway fun to see more quilts! (and to go places with Jaye) 

The quilts themselves were very much worth the trip. I'm not sure what I expected, because the definition of a 'Modern Quilt' is rather amorphous, so it was fun to look at all of them and try to figure it all out. 

I think my favorite thing at the show was a special exhibit from a quilt artist from 1970's, Molly Upton. She'd been an inspiration of mine when I began studying the art quilt movement, especially because of the range of quilting materials that she used. It's very interesting to me that the Modern Quilters are also using her as inspiration. Here's a video slide show of all the quilts that were presented.
 We arrived in Pasadena and tried to take a selfie with the official street QuiltCon banners with about 40% success. Also shows the great mosaics on the outside of the one of the convention center buildings.
 This speed control button on the classroom Juki sewing machine cracked me up. I stayed on turtle most of the time.
 When we entered the building where our class was we looked over the railing onto the bottom floor and I was really struck by the great design of the carpet. Wouldn't this make a great modern quilt?
 I like this street sticker art modification, robots with heart, awww.
 When you go to a quilt show, everything looks like a quilt block at some point.

 I look like I'm up to something don't I? I was trying to win some fabric from this booth by posting on Instagram!
 From inside the convention center looking out at the palm tree shadows. I like how the almost-grid contains the trees.
 This was taken from an outdoor cafe across the street from the convention center, I like all the textures in this one picture, I was mainly taking it for the quilt block on the truck sign, but ended up with all this other great stuff too. All the letters, different fonts, some window reflections, natural tree/leaf shapes, industrial-ness of the truck. Good representation of Pasadena really.
I was taken with the street sticker art at the crosswalks.