Great Giveaway

Annemarie from Gen X quilters currently has an amazing giveaway going on right now for the EQ7 software.  http://www.genxquilters.com/2011/11/electric-quilt-7-review-and-software.html?showComment=1322425878215#c7777702639946613356

Rebecca from “Our Busy Little Bunch” also has a great giveaway for the pink bundle of the new Pear Tree line.  So pretty!  It would be perfect for the girl baby blanket I need to make!  http://www.ourbusylittlebunch.com/2011/11/friday-fun-giveaway-sponsored-by.html

One of those weeks

Ever have one of those weeks?  This was mine… I had a sick puppy (luckily temporary and she is now feeling better, but it was pretty bad for a couple days).  I also accidentally deleted the entire contents of my DVR.  Two months of fall shows that I was saving to watch after Christmas are gone.  My advice…never delete a group!  I thought I was deleting 4 shows, not the entire contents of the DVR. 

To cheer me up this morning, I was able to purchase my fabric for the “Yellow, Aqua, Gray” swap.  Based on the fabrics linked up so far, I think this should be pretty good.  Based on the colors shown on the screen, I think I managed to hit all three colors! 



Play Dot – Sea, by Michael Miller



In the meantime, I have started my stack of fabrics for my Christmas quilt.  It’s a crummy, rainy day today so I should be able to make some progress. 
Countdown to Christmas by Sweetwater
I have wanted to find a quilt guild to participate in for awhile.  I live in the middle of several, but there is not one that will be the most convenient.  I also have some trepidation concerning how I will fit in.  I work full time and am younger.  Therefore, any group that meets on a Tuesday afternoon (as an example) will not work for me.  The guild in the town just north of me had a quilt show last weekend, and I attended hoping to meet some people from the guild in order to learn if it would be a good fit.  I was disappointed that I didn’t get to talk to anyone from the guild.  I’m not sure if it is because I am younger, so they didn’t think I would be interested, but I was definitely out of place at the show and wasn’t being dragged by anyone, so I think it was pretty obvious I went out of my way to go there.  Looking at the quilts, I’m not sure it was for me either way.  I love traditional and modern, but didn’t really have strong feelings for most of the quilts there.  At least it wasn’t a total waste… I did see some interesting quilts, and picked up a few fat quarters I want to turn into a bag. 
Top: Luna by Gail Fountain and Maywood Studio, Right & Bottom: no selvage, Left: Acorn Chain by Joel Dewberry 
I think I am going to head further toward the larger cities I live near to see if their guilds may be a better fit.  I am planning on trying the Modern Quilt Guild’s November meeting.  Looking at their flikr feed, I think my style may fit in there.  I just wish it wasn’t a 1.5 hour drive both ways on a Sunday evening!  They are holding a homemade ornament swap, so I’ve been playing with the scraps from my quilt and have an idea in my mind of what I want to do.  I think it will be pretty fun. 
 Once the little girl goes to sleep, I will be able to make some progress on my WIPs. 

Fabric as Motivation

The little girl is keeping quilting at an all-time low.  I sewed more than this when I was working insane hours in Afghanistan and didn’t have weekends!  Then again, in Afghanistan I didn’t have to take out the trash, cook dinner, do dishes, laundry, mow the lawn, or commute.  I also didn’t have cable, and I admit to sitting in front of the TV to relax at night.  
Tessa, 4 months

My first full quilt since getting back is for “Quilts for Kids”.  I highly recommend it as a great program that distributes quilts to kids that are hospitalized around the world.  Another bonus for this program is that they have kits that you can request.  I did that for the quilt below.  The fabric arrived at my house, partially precut and ready to be sewn.  All they ask in return is that as the quilter you provide the manpower, the batting, and pay the postage to mail it back within 4-6 weeks of receiving the kit.  I admit that I will be closer to 8 weeks by the time they receive it, but as I mentioned before the puppy demands more time than I had initially expected.  The link to request a quilt follows: http://www.quiltsforkids.org/patterns/request/

This is actually the first quilt I have made 100% on my home sewing machine.  Before I moved, I used to rent the long arm from the LQS for a reasonable price so there was no reason to wrestle with a quilt on my personal machine.  I don’t know if it gets easier with time, but I didn’t really enjoy my first attempt.  I enjoy the freedom and convenience of the long arm.  I will have to do more research to see if there is one I can rent in this area.   
I actually had this quilt sitting, waiting for the binding for about two weeks before I finally finished it.  What motivated me to finally finish it?  Fabric!  Sweetwater’s new lines are gorgeous, and I ordered some, but I made myself wait to cut into it until I finished the “Quilt for Kids” project.  Now I am debating between starting the Christmas quilt from their “Countdown to Christmas” collection or to do the more practical year-round quilt I need for the guest bedroom…


Back home

And I’m back!!  I have to admit that the first month back, I was in a total lazy mode.  I am working my way back into regular life and back into creativity and sewing.  Part of the challenge is that it’s no longer just me… I also have a little puppy to keep me busy. 



Meet Tessa!
To ease back into it, I’ve decided to make some placemats.  Normally, I’m a tablecloth girl.  However, tablecloths fall to eye level for the puppy, so they are now safely out of reach until she gets a little older.  I’m using the “Lines in the Sand” placemat tutorial from “Handmade by Alissa” http://www.handmadebyalissa.com/placemat-pattern/
This was a great way to break back in to sewing… it hits up fabric selection, piecing, quilting, and binding.  I used four different techniques on the four placemats.  And, because I bought too much fabric, I still have enough to make six more.  The first four are birthday presents for my mom, and the next six will be for me J

Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day, I’ve decided to share a little bit of my life in Afghanistan. I live in a trailer. It is about 8 feet wide by 20 feet long.

I share with a roommate. She has the front half of the room and I have the back half of the room. The picture below is from when I had the room to myself. My belongings have multiplied since then, and my area condensed. It’s not quite this spartan now.

I live a little under a half mile from where I work. My office is in an improved tent. It started out as a tent, but was sprayed with foam and painted pink. The foam helps to insulate it and keep it cooler during the hot summers. Inside the tent, at some point it was divided up into offices with plywood. It has a concrete floor. My desk is homemade plywood, and scattered across my desk are all of my documents and multiple computers for the varying levels of classification that our work is done on.

 
Everything we need is here. We eat in the DFAC, or dining facility, which looks very similar to the tent above. There is a wide variety of food available. It’s not quite as good as homemade, but considering it is Afghanistan, it is completely acceptable. We have a laundry service that does laundry with a 48 hour turn-around. It doesn’t come out quite as nice as home laundry, but it is nice to be able to drop it off and pick it up considering we don’t have weekends to do the laundry on. We also have a gym, small store, post office and internet provider. The internet is at slower than dial-up speed, but it is nice to be able to check email and use skype in the rooms.

Overall, my area looks a lot like the Barstow, California area or the area around Las Vegas. It is a desert with mountains in the distance. Below are a few photos of the area.

 
This is my little corner of Afghanistan. Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

Bacci

Metti il cuore in tutto ciò che fai.  It translates to “Put your heart in everything you do”.  I think that is a great message for today. 
I received my friendly reminder in a Bacci candy.  Now, if you’ve never heard of this, they are an amazing chocolate hazelnut candy from Italy.  I made the somewhat unfortunate decision to buy them in the Milan airport on my way back from Italy.  I had left when it was starting to get warm in Afghanistan, and if I had thought about it, I would have realized that meant that two plus weeks later, it was going to be hot. 
I protected those chocolates, but there were still some too melted to even salvage.  Luckily, there were still some that I am now enjoying.  And in one of those candies, was the message above.  So, the decision to buy chocolate and bring it to the middle east in May was not a complete failure like it very easily could have been.  I think I may have another Bacci right now.  Yum.

Starry Log Cabin

I am beginning my next attempt at scrappy.  I chose to go with a log cabin quilt using tans, browns and reds from Maison de Garance of French General.  The design is “Log Cabin Hidden Stars” from “Jelly Roll Quilts.”
Chain Piecing in progress
I admit I still can’t give up complete control.  I admit that I had the entire quilt laid out on my design wall to ensure that clashing and duplication was kept to a minimum.  This is the first time I’ve ever had a design wall.  I bought a vinyl one and attached it to the wall with magnets.  (I live in a metal container, thus why magnets work on the walls) I got it because I don’t have a horizontal surface to lay things on, and now I think I need one of these at home.  It is so amazing to hang stuff up on it and step back to see how it all looks together. 

I absolutely love how this quilt turned out.  I almost don’t want to start another quilt, because it will mean that I will have to take this one off the design wall.  Having this on my wall makes my tiny trailer a home. 
Completed Quilt

This pattern was once again well written, and easy to follow.  The plain log cabin inside of each block goes very quickly.  The star section bogged me down, but part of that was due to my insistence on planning out all the fabrics.  If I had continued to chain piece and done less planning, it would have gone much faster.  This quilt ends up being 60”x60”.  Mine is not quite that large because I don’t have the outside border on it yet.  I think it will be a great size to curl up with on the couch. 

Persevere

Persevere. 
Definition:  To persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement
Synonyms: Persist, Continue, Keep at it, Keep on, Carry on, Keep trying, Stick with
Antonym: Give up
I was inspired by the “Word Up” effort going around.  Trying to define my year with one word was initially difficult.  I liked the idea of striving toward an idea as opposed to a long list of unattainable resolutions that get broken by mid-January.  Liking the concept did not make choosing the goal any easier, however. 
At first I was leaning toward something like “believe” or “faith”, but they were narrower than what I was trying to accomplish.  Faith and belief are definitely part of what I am aiming for with ‘persevere”, but they were not the sole ends I was aiming for.  It is a long, tiring year ahead of me and I think persevere defines what I am trying to accomplish exactly. 
I am trying to work 7 days a week for the next six months.  I am trying to endure not seeing my husband for the next year.  I am trying to not let myself get lost in my work.  I am trying to remember that I exist as a person and that I am more than my job.  I am trying to remember that I am working in a stressful situation, and that is why some of the people I work with act the way they do.  I am trying to go to church every week.  I am trying to be grateful.  I am trying to keep sewing.  I am trying to finish my photo book from last summer.  I am trying to work out and get enough sleep, even though one is usually at the expense of the other.  I am also trying to think of something other than my vacation in April, even though it’s all I dream of.  I am trying to live as regular of a life as I can despite being in Afghanistan.  Quilting and my sweat suit help with this.  I am trying to create moments of peace so that I can refresh my soul, even though my body is continuously exhausted and my spirit gets tired sometimes.  But, in this case, it’s all about trying.  And that is what I am going to keep doing, every day, every minute, until this year ends and my regular life can start again. 
In the meantime, I am trying to find joy in what I do and make the best of the circumstances.  Thus, why I made a Christmas tree from a sheet and Eddie Bauer Christmas catalog and hung it above my desk at work.  Merry Christmas J

Broadening my horizon with Jelly Rolls

Jelly Rolls.  I have always admired these small bundles of fabric set in small stack around the local quilt shop.  However, they have also always scared me. 
I am a control freak when it comes to colors, patterns and textures.  That’s why I have issues with the scrappy look.  I admire scrappy looks created by others, but have difficult letting go to accomplish it myself. 

My first quilts have all been very carefully planned and executed.  The idea of letting go of that control is scary!  What if I don’t like one of the strips?  What if I need one more strip than came with the roll? 
Then, I deployed to Afghanistan.  My regular stash is on a bookshelf in the US.  I needed a new way to sew that required minimal cutting because my big, beautiful self-healing mat is also in the US.  That is when I discovered jelly rolls – the pre-coordinated, pre-cuts that I now adore.  They force me to leave my tightly controlled comfort zone.  They force me to attempt the scrappy look, to give up control. 
I admit my first effort was a blue and brown baby blanket, so I didn’t go too far out of my comfort zone.  It’s a start though.  This is my first little push in a new color direction.  The fabric is the blue version of Lilly and Will. 

This quilt is “Pandora’s Box” from “Jelly Roll Quilts.”  I only made it half size because I wanted to use it as a baby blanket.  It assembles super fast, and is a quick and easy project that would look good in a wide variety of fabric choices.  The directions were very easy to follow, and even included instructions on which direction to press the seams.  Little things like that make this quilt a no-brainer to piece.  I would recommend this as a good beginner quilt pattern. 

Beginnings…

I first started quilting this summer while I was finishing up my grad school classes.  I was fortunate enough to have some time off that I could use to attend beginning quilt classes at my (not so) local quilt store.  I calculate that I saved about 2 years of frustration and hard lessons by starting out with good habits learned, and soon made rapid progress.  In that first summer I made a large sampler quilt from the beginner class, two baby quilts, two quilts for “Quilts for Kids” and another large quilt for my husband.  I was in love with quilting.  I had finally found “my” craft. 
Fast forward to October 2010.  I was about to deploy to Afghanistan.  I was not about to bring my sewing machine, so I got the bright idea that it would be a great time to make a quilt completely by hand.  Looking back, this was never going to work, but at the time it seemed doable.  I cut out all the pieces and brought needles, thread and instructions.  This attempt to hand piece lasted approximately two long and frustrating hours. 

I began to research sewing machines that were small, portable, and most importantly – would be able to stand up to Middle East dust and dirt.  I found the Singer Featherweight 221 to be the answer to my problems.  I ordered one, and had it shipped to Southern Afghanistan.  I’m pretty sure I have one of the few, if not only, Featherweights in this entire country.  It is the perfect solution.  It is small, has a case, and is entirely mechanical.  I can oil and grease it myself.  When I get back home, I will be able to give it a thorough cleaning on my own and have a great little machine to travel with.  Mine is a 1948, and it runs amazingly well.  I recommend this little machine to anyone looking for a travel machine. 
Now, I am attempting to quilt in an area that is about 18”x30”.  It requires some creative maneuvering.  It has also led me to discover the world of pre-cut fabrics.  I don’t have enough space to really deal with yardage.  My introduction to pre-cut fabrics is in the form of the book “Jelly Roll Quilts” by Pam & Nicky Lintott. 

I’m working my way through this book in 20 minute increments.  I work 7 days a week, so I sneak sewing in before work, during lunch, late at night … whenever I get a chance.  This is the story of my attempt to keep my sanity and keep a piece of myself no matter what else is going on in the world. 

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