Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What have I done for me lately?

I moved to Houston slightly more than 27 years ago, arriving at Intercontinental Airport on a mid-April night so humid that walking to the gate felt like being slapped with a warm, damp towel.

I had just survived the worst midwestern winter of my life. During one January week, the air temperature hovered around 31 BELOW for five days, and when it finally warmed up to 28 below, you could actually feel the difference. (Loosen that scarf! Shed those mittens!) With the windchill, it felt like 90 below most days. We didn't drive our cars that week because the engines would freeze up at stop lights. I didn't mind taking the bus to my office in downtown Rochester, Minnesota, but the night I (and many others) took the wrong route home (I promise: the bus was mislabeled; we couldn't all have been addled from actual brain freeze) and had to walk about 10 frigid blocks was enough to make me happy we would soon be coming to Houston, even though I had told my husband there were only two places in the US I didn't want to live: Gary, Indiana, and Houston, Texas.

I landed a job about a week after arriving here. A few weeks after I started -- say, mid-May -- I asked a co-worker when the "heat wave" would end.

I still don't know if she was serious or being facetious when she asked, "What's a heat wave?"

(On the other hand, there was the department's ditzy blond, who asked me if zero degrees actually felt colder than 32. I suggested she put her head in the refrigerator, then the freezer, and see if she could tell the difference.)

I bring up temperatures and weather because I think this spring's unseasonably hot weather has us all confused about what month it is. Several people I spoke with this week thought that July, not June, begins Friday, and I have to admit I confused two appointments -- one on the same day each of the next two months -- as being on the same day, period.

Friday will be the four-month anniversary of this blog. I thought that it would be a good time, then, to look back on what, if anything, I have accomplished toward my stash-busting goal.

Hmmm. A couple of table runners, the original Kona and batik quilt, a commissioned Hamsa quilt, four Freedom Place quilts, the beginnings of The Wild Things and the striped diamonds, the Kona and batik commission, a wallhanging with an embroidered bee motif ... what else? (I'm doing this from without looking, because jogging my memory is the only exercise I've gotten today.) So, theoretically, my stash should be shrinking. Sure, I was able to consolidate a lot of my colored fabrics, but they're now stuffed into a wicker basket as snug as I am into last season's jean. The biggest problem is that the Hamsa, Freedom Place and Kona/batik commission quilts all required great, glorious fabric purchases. Yes, I've incorporated stash fabrics into all of them, but I'm not making as much progress as I anticipated.

So unless the Mayan calendar predictions are correct, I'll be working on this goal to the end of 2013, not 2012. (You know, when I started this blog, I never specified by the end of WHICH year I wanted to have my stash depleted. My friends are apparently very trusting -- or naive -- souls.)

The good news is, I seem to have broken my ceaseless fabric shopping habit. I've learned to avoid sales and I don't even have that little nervous tic I used to get when I missed out on a bargain. Oh, sure, occasionally I still put something into my shopping cart at -- leaving it there triggers an email offering a 15 percent discount if I complete my transaction but I've resisted the lure.

Although I'll continue to work on the BK commission (do you want fries with that?), I'm going to try to knock out some projects that have a little bit quicker turnaround. Short of spraying Stash-Be-Gone in my fabric closet, it's what I have to do to whittle things down more rapidly.

Instead of sewing, I painted this little table, using a tutorial I found on Pinterest (of course):

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What would Winston do?

If you've been following this blog from the start, you know that my dad was a proud veteran of WWII. He told a lot of war stories, and at least some of them were true.  Among the historically accurate ones was the saga of bringing my cousins each a "little bell of San Michele" in lieu of the Italian baby he had promised.
Today, the daughter of one of my cousins sent me a photo of the bell my dad had given her mom, with a note explaining that she had taken it from her mother's jewelry box when she was little, but had not known the story until she'd read my post about it. My dad's legacy, she said, was alive. I was so happy to see it. I can just imagine him buying it, protecting it and ferrying it home.

This -- and Memorial Day -- got me thinking about WWII. Which got me thinking about Winston Churchill (and wondering who babies were said to look like before him). Which made me consider him saying, Never, never, never, never give up. Which brought me back to my striped diamond quilt.

(I'm reading a book about the brain and creativity -- "Imagine," by Jonah Lehrer -- and without getting into which little brain flaps lit up as that transpired, I am reassured to learn that the somewhat far-fetched connection between WWII and my striped diamond quilt actually reflects the workings of a sane, healthy brain. That should quiet you doubters at least momentarily.)

After posting the striped diamond patches here, I had put them away, sulking about my relative lack of talent. I was listening to NPR while working on The Wild Things and the batik/Kona commission (which I would refer to as BK, except it makes that creepy Burger King king pop into my certified fine mind) when Winston Churchill's name came up. (This kind of thing freaks me out: I'm thinking about Winston Churchill and they start talking about him on the radio. This is how I killed the composer Aaron Copland. I heard it was his 96th birthday and I thought, Wow, I didn't know he was still alive. Three days later: dead.)

Anyway, I had decided to apply the ol' Churchill pep talk to the striped diamond quilt and was just rearranging the pieces when the guest on a panel discussing the Mideast quoted Churchill as saying something to the effect that 'success is the ability to go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.'

Don't give up, even if you fail, and do it cheerfully? Heck, that sounds like me (or a character from "Oklahoma!").

I had wondered here if I should just substitute solids for some of the striped fabrics, and decided to make a few samples. Then I thought about replacing a few more striped fabrics with prints. Finally, I narrowed the color palette. It's no longer a facsimile of the quilt I saw, but it's "me" and I'm a lot happier with it.

The first three photos show the layout.

This is how much I've sewn together. Matching those points is a time-consuming task, but the end product should reflect the effort.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Pattern for Chinese Puzzle available at
Like a Chinese Puzzle quilt, life works in mysterious, intersecting ways.

For example, a postal worker reviewing your passport application notices you're from Wisconsin and asks a question that inspires you to write an article that's published in a magazine with international reach that leads two friends -- one from elementary school and one from high school -- to reconnect with you. And one of them lives in the same sprawling city that you do.

That scenario has played out for me over the past couple of months. Apparently the elementary school pal -- one of my closest friends back then -- had been searching for me for a couple of years and was able to finally locate me because I included my maiden name in the publication. We've been carrying on a lively email correspondence ever since. The high school friend -- the undisputed genius of the Terror class of 1975 (yes, we were the Appleton West Terrors, a self-fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one) -- also recognized my maiden name and found me through our college alum association. We had so much fun catching up over lunch a few weeks ago.

One of the topics both friends and I have discussed, of course, is our teachers. My elementary school girlfriend and I were in the same class from 1st through 6th grades. We were part of an innovative program in which three grade levels were integrated under one teacher. We both still harbor a great affection for Mrs. Bastian (1st-3rd grade), and my friend, who earned her PhD and works for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says it was Mr. Miles (4th-6th) who influenced her toward a career in higher education.

My high school friend -- I want to call him a kid or a guy but I suppose he's more properly addressed as a man now, proving that time can do some crazy things to us -- doesn't share my feelings for our Spanish teacher, Mr. Meredith (you'll recall he referred to me as a high school age scholar; what's not to like?), but he did remember fondly that great Constitutional History class with Mr. Fanning. And he reminded me how cool our newspaper advisor, Mr. Mrotek, was, tooling around in his little Karman Ghia.

I think most everyone has a teacher that he or she will never forget. Among those most memorable teachers, I bet, is a friend of mine who retired today after a long career as an elementary school teacher. I haven't known this woman long, but I can tell she's the type of teacher adults look back on with gratitude.

One of the things she has shared with me is the term, Squaddling. Apparently one of her 5th graders used it to describe the way a penguin walks. Man, I think that kid is destined for literary greatness. I've appropriated Squaddling to mean puttering, but in a slightly purposeful way. I suppose it's in the same neighborhood as "Loafering," which writer Rick Bragg describes as "less active than piddling, more respectable than slacking off."

I Squaddled a fair amount in the sewing room today. Tried some provocative color combinations for The Wild Things, cut some diamonds out of florals to see if I liked them with the stripes. The jury is still out.

I'm sure it's scary to be retiring after a full and busy career, especially when you're younger than I am (but only by a few months). Heck, you have time for a whole 'nother career, if you want one.

But tonight, my friend, I want you to relax and enjoy yourself and not think about the future.

Except for how much fun and exciting Squaddling lies ahead.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Diamond mine

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been inspired by many quilters who post their projects on Pinterest. I've pinned some of mine as well, and it's gratifying when someone repins them. (Unless, of course, they're putting them on a board entitled Quilted Catastrophes or Say it Ain't Sew or something equally disparaging.) The most recent one to wow me featured Kaffe Fasset stripes cut into diamonds.

So today, after working on The Wild Things -- which is turning out so bright it may require the same type of eye protection needed for annular eclipses -- I started cutting diamonds. In order to get nice, consistent 60 degree diamonds, I use a tool called Diamond Cut, A Girl's Best Friend. (Did they need the A Girl's Best Friend tag? Probably not. But I have to give a pass to the poor copywriting schlub like me who came up with it.) Diamond Cut is from June Tailor and, if said copywriter is to be believed,  it allows you to cut 1" to 6" diamonds in 1/4" increments without measuring. Well, you do have to measure and cut a strip of fabric first -- 3" wide if you want 3" diamonds, and so on -- but it's just a simple, single cut after that, with no additional measuring.

I thought I was happy with this arrangement, so I started sewing, but I can see it's not right at all, and it's clear that I'm no Kathy Doughty. (She is probably grateful to be no Barb Adams.) I think the color is off, there are too many strips the same size ... hmmm. Of course, I'm working from fabric in my stash and she's apparently friends with Kaffe Fasset and had access to the best from his collection. And, I will NOT buy more stripes. You read it here first. I might throw in some solids and see if that helps.  I had intended to create a small quilt from the striped diamonds, then stretch it over a canvas, adding buttons, to give it an upholstered look. But without some serious rearranging, I think this is doomed.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Joy of Comparison

Several months ago I saw a pin on Pinterest that said, Comparison is the Thief of Joy. Feeling somewhat defeated by my inner voice that day, I liked and repinned the sentiment.

Then I got thinking: for the most part, comparison has played a positive role in my life. I found it has motivated me and made me more empathetic. Yes, some days it has landed like an anvil on my head, particularly when I think about all the writers who have accomplished what I wish I had (there's still time, right?), but for the most part, I think it's an interesting concept to turn on its ear.

With that in mind, I wrote an article suggesting that teaching children the attributes of comparison can help parents raise kids who have appropriate self-esteem, aren't afraid to try something new and care about others. I sent "The Joy of Comparison" to one local and one national publication, but I haven't heard from either. Probably because they know they are much better and smarter than I am. (Hah!)

It's likely I'm not using Pinterest to its full potential -- that being massive time-suck -- but I'm inspired by the quilts I posted there. It's not always easy to feel competent when you see some of the amazing fiber art that's being generated around the world, but if I'm to live up to my article, I will take away that what's important is to get new ideas. Progress, not perfection, is the goal.

For example, the other day I repinned this image from a pinner named Nancy Arseneault, who'd spotted it on the Waiting for the Muse blog. I found out it's by Australian quilter Kathy Doughty, of Material Obsessions.

Constructed of Kaffe Fasset fabrics, it resonated with me for two reasons.

First, I have a known weakness (no more addiction talk) to stripes. Remember this quilt? It's still available at, although someone at church mentioned she'd like to buy it.

Second, I like diamonds. This quilt is made of batiks that are joined to form stripes. It's available on my etsy, too.

If I put the two together, it's possible I'll get something like the wonderful Kathy Doughty quilt. Or at least, perhaps, a reasonable facsimile. In this case, comparison will have created a sincere form of flattery.

I've been working away on the Kona and batik commission. I have more than 60 of each of the two main blocks sewn, so the end of this portion of the quiltmaking is coming into sight. real. I've been arranging and rearranging blocks in my head (as opposed to on a design wall.) (Have you ever heard someone say she was thinking in her head? Now, I'm no neuroscience student, but even I know that's where thinking takes place. Although I do some of my best thinking in the shower. But I digress.) I am enjoying the process, but I'm really excited to get to the next step.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A weakness, not an addiction

The other day I had the sad duty of attending the memorial service for one of the nicest women I've ever known. She was a guiding light of our church and the kind of person in whose presence you always felt welcome and important. We had been in a sewing group together and she was a member of a committee I chaired, but mostly I knew her as someone with whom I could share a delicious story or slightly ribald joke. I am tremendously grateful that I knew her and that she was given 84 years among us.

Her eulogy exposed many startling facts. For instance, at 15, she did a part-time stint as the town phone operator and one of her responsibilities was to know at all times which bar the town's alcoholic doctor was frequenting, just in case someone was injured or went into labor. Her kind-hearted mother became pals with the local prostitute, and they would swap clothing -- and occasionally some mighty fancy trims festooned my friend's homemade outfits, the result of this unconventional relationship. When she lived in Milwaukee, my friend would attend the garment district's end-of-season sales, dragging home bolts of fabric so she could make her own childrens' wardrobes. Her daughter jokingly said she remembered wearing the same print, in different incarnations, for 15 years when she was young.

One thing that didn't surprise me is that my friend had a big stash of fabric in her sewing room, and that it had taken her and her two daughters four days to clear it out before she moved with her husband to a senior living complex several months ago. When the minister mentioned this, however, I felt a sudden urge to cry out: What did she do with it?!

It turns out much of it went to her then-next door neighbor, who also attends our church and provided the great description of G-d I've shared here before.

Now, what the heck is SHE going to do with it? Her sewing room is similarly packed to the rafters with fabric and every other kind of craft material. She's been known to part happily with stacks of upholstery fabric books she acquired from her daughter, who is an interior designer. Yet, like me, she must have found it difficult to say no to an offer of something she might use some time, some place, some how.

Well, what kind of a friend would I be if I didn't offer to take some off her hands? I have pillowcases and quilts to sew, and I could use yardage, right? Rationalization, thy name is Sewist.

And you know what, if you call it a weakness, not an addiction, it's a lot easier to take.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sweet dreams

There's something snoring in my room right now. I imagine it's one of two cats who snores -- one because he's old, the other because he's overweight. My husband has sleep apnea but refuses to use his CPAP machine, so he's been relegated to the guest room. Even still, he snores so loudly that we can hear him through the walls and closed doors. When we were all staying in a hotel room in Montreal, I asked my son to jiggle Dad to get him to stop snoring. I don't know what he thought jiggle meant (I suppose he was 6 or 7 at the time), but he put a spare pillow over Dad's face instead. I can't imagine too many circumstances where jiggle and smother mean the same thing, unless you're talking about Christina Aguilera's breasts.

I've always been a light sleeper and, as a result, I've been tired most of my life. You know how annoying it is when you go to work and and someone says, You look tired? I never heard that: for me, the odd comment  was more like, Boy, you look refreshed. I can count on one hand the number of sound night's sleeps I get in a year. I marvel at my son, who can fall asleep anywhere, in an instant. When he was little, he'd try to climb into his crib, but never attempted an escape. One page of our cruise scrapbook is dedicated to the various places onboard where he fell asleep. I caught him not too long ago asleep on the glider in the backyard, with the neighborhood stray cat asleep on his lap.

In honor of sleep, I made some pillowcases this weekend. One is for my daughter's cat, who apparently appropriates all of her pillows and is not-so-secretly plotting to overtake her entire bed. Another is for her because, before I started this stash-elimination mission, I found in the remnant pile at JoAnn Fabric some licensed fabric representing her grad school. I donated the rest to the Million Pillowcase Challenge.

Added to last year's donation, I've now made 25 pillowcases for charity. I do hope they'll bring someone sweet dreams.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

That's funny, you don't look Latvian

I'm not particularly good at social networking.

I joined a business networking group and didn't get a lick of writing business from it, although it's where I found the photographer who did my son's graduation pictures and met the acupuncturist who worked on my lower back. Actually, I ran into him the other day at Petsmart. He greeted me first; I almost didn't recognize him wearing casual clothing and I was tempted to ask him how he recognized me with my pants pulled up, but I decided to respect boundaries this one time.

I do participate in a business networking site called LinkedIn, however. The other day I was updating my profile and LinkedIn suggested some possible contacts for me under the title People You May Know. Well, I didn't know the Morgan Stanley managing director they proposed, but his last name had more than a familiar ring to it -- it was the same as my maternal grandmother's. I never knew my mother's parents, who died before she was 25, but I did know some of Grandma's brothers and sisters, my great-aunts and uncles. However, when the last of that generation died, I thought all connections with the family were lost.

Still, what could it hurt to contact this man and ask if we could possibly be related? I thought about it for a day, then decided the risk of being considered a stalker was worth it.

Sure enough -- his grandfather was my beloved great-uncle Izzy. We're cousins. We've been in touch multiple times each day this week, and his sister emailed me, too. He sent me a family genealogy that indicates this branch originated in Latvia (I had thought it was Lithuania or Romania) and he shared a photo from the old country that pictures our mutual great-grandparents, Izzy as a 17-year-old rake, and my great-aunts Bertha, who I remember, and Celia, who I never knew.

Bertha, Celia, their sister, Rose (my Tante Rayzel) and my grandmother were all dressmakers and tailors. It's said that Celia could sew a man's suit when she was just 13. For the last week or so (before my LinkedIn "reunion" with my previously unknown cousin), I've been working on an article that includes my genetic predisposition to sewing, crediting these women as the source for what is more than a hobby to me -- an activity that has brought enormous joy and peace to my life. And here were two of them, at ages 15 and 22, before my very eyes.

Ferklempt much?

So, I've been continuing to work on the Wild Things. I had intended to do two units and make them into a simple wallhanging stretched over canvas -- just a little something to put on my etsy. However, I can't stop sewing them. I'm not sure what the final setting will be -- I may combine them with some New York Beauty variation blocks -- but this will be one colorful quilt!

The pattern doesn't show four units put together like this, but I love what happens in the center.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

You can't handle the truth?

When I was little, my mother told me never to lie to her because she'd always find out. Having all of the characteristics of a type A first child (even though I had an older half-sister, psychology says our age gap of 13 years made us both only children), I took that to be gospel. I can't recall ever lying to her or to my dad, although there may have been times when it would have been easier for him, my surviving parent, if I had glossed over some of my teenage escapades, mild though they were.

Although she seemed to me a truthful person, my mother wasn't beyond some self-delusion. When she stepped on the scale, for example, she would hold onto the towel bar "for support." The fact that the scale reading was five or ten pounds lighter as a result never seemed to register with her. (like mother, like daughter: I insist the nurse is standing on the scale with me when I'm weighed at the doctor's office.

I've been working on some new quilt blocks that I imagined would be good at scrap-eating. The pattern is from a book called Quilt Mavens Perfect Paper Piecing. I really enjoy paper piecing for its precision qualities, which allow me creative exploration I would never attempt otherwise. Remember "Elvis?" He/it was paper-pieced, and inspired by the same book.

(Because this quilt was started the day Maurice Sendak died, it will be called Wild Things. Seems appropriate.)

As I was pulling fabric out of my bins, where the contents are divided by color groups, I realized there was a lot more room in them. So much so, in fact, that I probably could combine the blues and greens with the reds, oranges and yellows, freeing up an entire bin. I told myself, you are doing an amazing job of sewing through your stash! You'll achieve your goal! Pretty soon you'll get to fabric shop again! (Wait. What?)

Except ... I have a 7-pound bag of scraps that will be cat bed stuffing. I have a new bin overflowing with pieces that are large enough to be sewn into something else -- in the old days, I would have crammed those pieces back into the color bins. Oh, and I remembered that I had removed from the bins anything that looked like yardage and put those pieces on one of the closet shelves, separating them for a day of pillowcase sewing.

In short, it was just an optimal illusion.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ice carving for dummies

When I was in the hotel industry, I worked with a chef who was a master ice carver. His specialty was a huge, glorious swan, but he could render just about any figure in ice. Every week, he'd trot out a new example at our Sunday buffet in the Elizabethan Room, where it would be greeted with oohs and ahhs, then unceremoniously drip into an eventual puddle next to the roast beef carving station.

I thought about this chef on Saturday when I was at the used bookstore. I was looking for a royalty-free book of flower art that I can use as inspiration for appliques when I came across this title: "Practical Ice Carving."
In a world beset by poverty, war and famine, I can't think of anything LESS practical than ice carving.

I guess that's one thing I like about quilting: it combines beauty and practicality. Sure, a lot of what I sew is for show, but comfort and warmth are where quilts originated.

Here's the latest Freedom Place quilt, all done and waiting for me to get brave enough to ask for someone to quilt it.

Although I enjoyed trying this pattern, and I'm pleased with how this turned out, I plan to return to the other design for the remaining Freedom Place quilts.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mom always liked you best

I'm working on an essay that I'm planning to pitch to a couple of magazines about this amazing experience I had last summer when I picked cotton at Frogmore Plantation. Located near Ferriday, Louisiana, Frogmore is a working plantation where you can compare modern techniques with those of the slave and sharecropper eras. Thanks to its extensive archives, including handwritten journals, plantation logbooks and slave narratives, Frogmore brings vividly to life cotton’s harvest, slave culture and the plantation system.

I've already sold one article about how my visit to Frogmore changed my relationship with cotton, the material I primarily use. This new piece isn't so much about the plantation as it is about how moved I was to experience so intimately the lives of slaves. And, ultimately, it's about my connection with my mother, our creative lives and my first sewing machine. Like most things I write, it's not a straight line from the start to finish. You've noticed that, right?

So I've been thinking a lot about that first junior size machine and its increasingly sophisiticated successors. I love my current old-school New Home. I bought it, used, probably 15 years ago, and it was already old then; the manual is copyrighted 1976. And to say I "bought" it is actually misleading, although you're right -- it's not easy to sneak out of a store with a sewing machine under your sweater. (Are those your real bobbins?) Instead, my friend and I had intended to divide time on it, so we each paid for half. After it stayed at my house for a year and she never asked to use it, I bought out her share. Best interest-free deal I ever got.

For Christmas last year, my husband green-lighted my purchase of an embroidery machine. I've used it a number of times to embellish quilts or make feature blocks, but every time I have it on my sewing desk, I wonder if my old workhorse machine feels a twinge of jealousy. Maybe I've watched The Brave Little Toaster one time too many (more than one time certainly being too many), but I get a tug, a little sensation, that the New Home is afraid it's being replaced. No, I want to reassure it. Mom loves you, too.

Today I worked on two embroidery projects. First, I embroidered three of the same motif onto the cherry blossom quilt. This is a traditional sashiko pattern that I think enhances the overall Asian character of the piece. I'll stitch in the ditch the rest of the quilt.

There are a lot of good resources for embroidery designs on etsy and the web in general that let you download the designs immediately, which is great for people like me who can't stand to delay gratification and who are serial project-starters. Although I've purchased from several, I have two favorites: Embroitique and Urban Threads.

Urban Threads had a sale recently -- embroidery designs aren't expensive to begin with, although the thread certainly is -- so I downloaded several patterns. I was particularly charmed by their new Parisian collection. Although I'm not sure what I'll do with this block -- a pillow, perhaps? -- I adore the way it turned out. I need to cut the threads that join the areas, but doesn't it look amazing?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pet projects

Except that I thought they were the female version of dogs, I don't think I had a particular interest in cats until I was 6 or so. That's when my dad took me to the farm of one of the milk producers who supplied his cheese business and let me pick out my first kitten.

She was a little yellow fluff ball I named Cookie. Sadly, Cookie didn't last long: she had a habit of crawling into the wheel well of the car and was run over by my dad as he and my mom pulled out of the driveway on their way to see the movie, "How the West Was Won." (I implore you: do not ask if Cookie crumbled.) Usually my mom would get onto her knees to make sure the cat wasn't in the way, but this was the night she was wearing her Schiaparelli silk stockings, which she didn't want to run. At no other time in my life has fashion trumped a pet, and the fur that clings to my clothes every day is proof.

Anyway, Cookie was the first in a long line of pet cats, many of whom met unfortunate ends. My feline fortune seemed to change when, a year after we married, my husband came home with Cocoa, the doyenne of the Adams clowder. Cocoa lived to be 21 and was the most beautiful black cat I've ever seen, although in her waning years she became a literal shadow of herself, rail thin and matted, but still bright-eyed. Her best friend, Penny, died soon after at age 19. We currently have a six pack, including youngsters Thor and Daisy, who are this blog's mascot.

Although I've yet to adopt a cat from Friends for Life in the Houston Heights, I'm a fan of the no-kill shelter for cats and dogs. They're always generous about letting me visit their cats and kittens, all of whom seem so happy and well cared-for. Their facility is clean and bright, their volunteers are warm and welcoming -- it's a happy place. Friend them on Facebook and you'll see.

You might remember that I used a lot of my scraps as filler for bird nesting boxes. Incredibly, I have a ton (well, several pounds) left and I'm going to use them to stuff cat beds for Friends for Life. (OK, this may not look like much, but the bag of scraps is quite heavy. A lot of the new scraps are from the No-Match Star quilt because in the unique construction process you cut off pairs of small triangles. I asked Jane Hardy Miller, the pattern designer, how to best use the leftover triangles. She told me it's ok to throw them away. I'm sure she meant, stuff a cat bed with them, you crazy woman.)

Although I have a lot of cat-themed fabric, I'm going for irony with the first bed and using a leftover from a commission I had last summer. A friend asked me to make quilts for her nieces, each based upon the individual girl's interests. Because one loves dogs, I couldn't resist buying this fabric, which I found online.

Cute, right? Watch dog. Puppy love. Dog gone. You get the motifs.

Unfortunately, it also has this one, which was not shown on the fabric shop previews.
Now, I was not about to be the one to have to explain this to a child -- oh, yes, it means the dog shops at all the best boutiques but be sure to never say anything about that at school because it's a secret -- so I had to do a lot of fussy-cutting to eliminate it.

Friends for Life has assured me that their cats can't read, so I think it will be ok.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Progress is in the stars

Last week and over the weekend, I took a break from charity quilting to work on the Kona and batik commission, which is coming along splendidly even if I did discover that if my sample block unit is approximately 11 x 11 and the total quilt is 90 x 108, I need 90 units, or 90 EACH of two large blocks, three smaller rectangular blocks and separating squares. Please feel free to check my math. I have completed about 30 of each of the two large blocks, which means the light at the end of the tunnel is a dim bulb (not unlike me when I do math).

Today I returned to the latest Freedom Place quilt, which I'm making out of the Fast No-Match Stars. The quilt will require 12 stars and I have seven finished. I'm using some of the fabric that was donated for these quilts and I have dipped into my stash. And -- because my Catholic friends tell me confession is good for the soul -- I'll admit that I even bought a half-yard of a floral that I thought would go nicely with the bright butterfly fabric.

I need to get a little more teal in there, and this isn't the final arrangement, but I think it will be a pretty quilt. I may add sashing between the blocks, although the original pattern doesn't have any.

Unless my eye is poked out by one of Christina (oh, excuse me, Xtina) Aguilera's breasts when I watch The Voice tonight, I should have the rest of the blocks done tomorrow.