Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wow! It's almost December. It's been a busy last few months. Here's a wrap-up of what I've been up to.

First, I finished my quilt book proposal about a month ago and sent it off to the publisher along with a few sample quilts. I hope that by the end of January I'll hear whether they are going to publish it (or not). In the meantime, I'm still working on sewing up the quilts that I designed for the book.

Second, I recently returned from long trip to Asia (nearly four weeks). We started in Singapore and then flew to Cambodia to see the Angkor Wat temples.

Transportation was primarily via tuk tuk. Imagine our shock when the drivers who met us at the airport were there with tuk tuks!

We flew back to Singapore and boarded a cruise ship. What a wonderful surprise when we found our cabin. We had been upgraded from a mini-suite to a full suite. It made the 16-day cruise (7 port days, 7 sea days, plus embarkation and disembarkation days) an even better experience to have the extra space, a huge balcony, as well as the extra perks that they provide to passengers in suites (free laundry, fresh fruit in the cabin, free Internet, a separate dining room for breakfast so we didn't have to fight the buffet lines, and more!)

Our first stop was Thailand. The flooding had pretty much receded in Bangkok (except during high tide) so we were able to see the highlights of the city.

The next port was Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. Great shopping. Great food. Crazy traffic. We even went to a quilt shop (not for selling fabric, but for selling handmade quilts). One of my travel companions knew about this shop because a friend of hers had been to Saigon to teach local women to make quilts to sell.

We visited another port in Vietnam -- Nha Trang. This is a resort area, but we went into the countryside to see how people live in the more rural areas. This included a visit to a kindergarten. It was fun to see the exuberance of the children -- they are same all over the world. We visited a village market and saw how people work in the rice fields.

Next stop: Hong Kong. I LOVED Hong Kong. Beautiful city. Great shopping. (We shopped mostly at the Ladies Market -- buying leather knock-off purses, iPad covers, iPhone cases, and more.)

Went to the top of Victoria Peak on the tram to see the city from above. Also saw the LDS temple.

And spent the evening watching the lights come on the skyscrapers and then the laser show before returning to our ship and departing for our next port (which was Shanghai).

What can I say about Shanghai? Huge city. Our guide said there are 23 million people, although online lists show it with 17 to 19 million (depending on the list). But regardless of who you believe, it is a huge city. We went to the top of the tallest building in the city and got a good view of all of the skyscrapers, but spent most of our time in the old city shopping (and eating).


Our next port was Nagasaki, Japan. Getting around the city was a snap because of its great streetcar system. We went to the Peace Park which was done to commemorate those who died as a result of the atomic bombing that took place to end World War II in the Pacific. Didn't do much shopping because the shopping areas we were at had pretty much the same stuff as we can get at home.

Our next port was Busan, Korea. We only had a half day in Busan, but we were able to go to the city center and saw the amazing (and huge) Jagalchi fish market. We really wanted to find someplace to eat Korean BBQ while in port, but although we found several restaurants, none of them served Korean BBQ beef. So, we ended up eating a late lunch on the ship.

We disembarked in Beijing, China. After checking into our hotel, we headed to the Pearl Market (which has a lot more than pearls -- although I did buy pearl earrings). We had lunch at a hot pot restaurant which was a fun experience.
And we shopped 'til we dropped. The next two days were spent touring the sights of Beijing -- Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, and -- the highlight of it all, the Great Wall of China.

After nearly four weeks of travel, I was ready to go home. I had cashed in all of my frequent flyer miles to do my air travel via Business and First Class -- so even the hours spent at 35K feet weren't too bad.

I've done a lot of international travel in my life, and recovering from jet lag from this trip took more than a week. It was brutal. I'm finally sleeping normal hours again.

It was a great trip, although I'm not sure how many of the places I'm dying to go to again (except perhaps Hong Kong). But it was nice to experience Asia since I'd never been there.

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, are getting ready for Christmas, and finding time to stitch, sew, bake, shop, or whatever you enjoy doing!
Bye for now.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fabric Stash

When I started working on quilts for a possible quilting book, I gave up on keeping track of my fabric stash in and out. I  have a feeling that in spite of making 13 quilts in the past couple months, that the "in" stash still outnumbers the "out" stash.

Here are my latest stash acquisitions. I'm eager to turn them into quilts!

Fuschia and Lime:

Pink and Gray:

Red and Aqua:

Yellow and Black (whatever quilt I make just might be called  "Big Yellow Taxi"):

And this darling fabric called "Early Bird" by Cosmo Cricket:

And guess what I happily discovered this week?  Collecting fabrics and sewing quilts are two separate hobbies!  Who knew?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fabric Basting Glue Tips

I just have to share my latest discoveries about fabric basting glue.

When I began appliqueing about 12 or so years ago, I discovered Roxanne's Glue-Baste-It. And I absolutely fell in love with the fast-drying glue for adhering applique pieces to my projects. They stuck no matter how rough I was on the project. However, I wasn't so in love with the glue tip that always seemed to be clogged.

Then when I took some classes from Kim Diehl, she shared the basting glue she was using -- Quilter's Choice. No problems with dispensing the glue -- but I found that if I didn't use the glue for a few months, it got really thick and started to dry out. Ugh!

This past January I learned that Jill Finley of Jillily Studio Quilting had repackaged the Glue-Baste-It as Appli-Glue and it had a much improved tip. In fact, when I first bought it it was in a very small little bottle (which I couldn't find in order to photograph). It worked great -- although a little on the expensive side. My only complaint was that the bottle didn't have a removeable tip -- so I couldn't re-fill  it with my two bottles of Glue-Baste-It with clogged tips. Jillily Studios now has Appli-Glue with what appears to be a much better tip (and a bigger bottle than what I bought in January). But I haven't used it because I'm now using something different.

Here's the great news! First, I've found the perfect tip and re-fillable bottle. The bottle is identical to the original Glue-Baste-It bottle. Plus, the metal tips screw on to the top of the plastic nozzle for precise, thin drops or lines of glue.  The lid fits perfectly on my Glue-Baste-It bottles that have perfectly good glue in them. Eureka! No more clogged tips.

But guess what else I just learned? You can use Elmer's Washable No-Run School Glue for fabric basting.

Note that the other Elmer's glues won't work. The School Glue is non-toxic and washes out, although it's not clear whether it is pH neutral. I did a fabric basting test comparing the Elmer's School Glue to Roxanne's Glue-Baste-It and the results were identical.  Considering it is less than $3 for 4 ounces, compared to nearly $10 for 2 ounces of the quilt-branded glue, I'll probably use the School Glue once my Glue-Baste-It runs out.

But even if you stick with the proven Glue-Baste-It, I highly recommend getting the metal tips. You'll need to get the plastic bottle too in order to have the lid that the tips fit on. Here's where I got mine online. (Unfortunately the shipping was outrageous -- but I figured it was worth it since I had about $20 worth of basting glue that was going to waste.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Most Useless Sewing Tool?

I’m a gadget junkie. I tend to buy cool tools that are supposed to help with quilting / sewing projects. Some of them actually live up to the hype.

But this is one gizmo that makes no sense – especially for $59.99! It is the Pintastic™ Automatic Pin Dispenser from June Tailor.

You can watch a video of how the Pintastic works here

Now I absolutely love some of the other June Tailor tools (such as my pressing board and Shape Cut ruler). What I’m wondering is whether this is something you would ever invest in? Or, if you have it, please share why it is a “must have” sewing tool!

I picked up the first retirement quilt from the quilter a few weeks ago.

I haven’t yet sent it to my boss who retired in January since I had received e-mail from him saying he was visiting Barcelona, Spain. But I’m going to assume he’s now home and I’ll be sending it to him this week.

Lastly, a quick update on how my efforts towards a quilting book are proceeding. I’ve completed eleven quilt tops since I began this project. I want to do a few more before finalizing my book proposal – although I’ve designed about 30 overall for the book.

Some of the blocks are traditional – but I’ve done them in a unique way, say with a different setting or pieced sashing or borders. Some of the blocks are a twist on a traditional block – where I switched up the values, making the block look very different. And even some of the blocks are original.

I’d love to show you what I’ve been working on, but alas, I think it’s best to keep them a secret for now.

Some of my quilts have been totally scrappy. Some have used fabrics from popular fabric lines. I’ve been challenging myself to go outside my comfort zone and use fabrics in colors and values that I love, but that aren’t what I naturally gravitate to.

For example, one of my favorite original quilt designs was a combination of piecing and simple applique using Amy Butler’s Soul Blossoms fabric mixed with some of her solids and Full Moon polka dot fabrics from the Lotus line.

I’ve also done a quilt using Sandy Gervais’ Lollipop (Moda)

one using American Jane’s Breath of Avignon (Moda)

and one using French General’s Maison de Garance (Moda).

It has been great fun doing my own quilt designs rather than taking advantage of the creativity of others.

Bye for now – and thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What have I been working on?

Wow the past couple weeks have flown by. But they have been productive.

I decided that since I'm not working (and not looking for a job yet), maybe I should see if I could figure out a way to make money from this crazy quilting obsession. Could I design quilts that other equally obsessed fabric-aholics might want to make?

So I decided to begin designing and sewing quilt tops in order to put together a book proposal for one of the quilting book publishers. They have a preferred format for the proposal and like to have samples/drawings, etc. that show what the intended book would include.

So I've designed 5 quilts so far, finished two tops and have two more tops nearly finished.

Of course this could all be an exercise in futility. But even so, there will be finished quilts at the end of the process and the designing efforts have been a fun challenge.

I'll be keeping the quilts a surprise -- as well as the overall premise of the book -- until I know whether my book idea is accepted (or not).

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No Fat Quarters Were Harmed In the Making of This Quilt

This was a total scrap quilt. All 930 pieces!

Every fabric came from miscellaneous strips, squares, triangles and scraps from recent quilts I’ve worked on.

The brown inner border was left over from an old Thimbleberries quilt, and most of the blacks in the outer border were left over from the Gathering Baskets quilt (Primitive Pieces by Lynda) that I finished a few weeks ago.

This is my 9th quilt top finish this year – adding to my list of tops ready to quilt.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Using Up My Scraps

I'm working a fun quilt. It is Lori Smith’s “Pinwheels for Caroline”.

I have finished all of the blocks for the center and am in the process of sewing the blocks into rows.

It hasn’t been a “stash reduction” quilt, but definitely a “scrap reduction” quilt. The pinwheel blocks finish 3 inches, so each of the half-square triangles (HST) are 2 inches before sewing into the pinwheel. The HST alternate blocks also finish 3 inches.

I began by pouring through my scraps looking for strips – 2-1/2 inches to 3-1/2 inches for the pinwheel HSTs and 3-1/2 inches and wider for the alternate HSTs, 3 to 4 inch squares, and miscellaneous triangles.

Then, depending on the size of the strip I used one of three methods to make the HSTs:

Squares with line drawn corner to corner, then stitched scant ¼ inch on each side of the line:

Triangles cut using an Easy Angle ruler:

Or Thangles papers (for the 2-inch HSTs

If you haven’t used Thangles, they are a fast, very accurate way to make HSTs. I typically don’t use them on HSTs that are larger than 3 inches, but if you need a lot of HSTs and don’t want to have to square them up, Thangles are a great tool.

Here’s a link to the Thangles website with detailed instructions.

I ended up using three different sewing machine feet while sewing all these HSTs, and then assembling them into pinwheel blocks. When sewing the Thangles, I used an open-toe zig-zag foot so I could more easily see the lines to sew on.

When sewing the triangles cut with the Easy Angle ruler, I used my ¼-inch quilting foot with the fabric guide.

And when I was sewing the HSTs using the “squares” method, I used my regular ¼-inch quilting foot.

I also had to keep switching my stitch length. When stitching on Thangles paper, I used a smaller stitch – 1.6 on my machine to make sure the HST didn't loosen while removing the paper.

I also found it useful to use a 3.5 basting stitch to make sure all of the points on my pinwheels were aligned, however, after the first several blocks I found that everything was aligned well and I didn’t need to take this extra step.

Once this quilt is quilted and bound, I’m going to overdye it with a tan Rit dye to tone down the lighter cream backgrounds. I want the quilt to have an overall darker look to it without the little pops of “light” from the lighter and brighter colors. (At least, that’s the plan right now. We’ll see what I end up doing when the time comes.)

All in all, I’m loving this scrappy quilt -- and enjoying using up a bunch of scraps..

Thanks for visiting, and have a great weekend!


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