Thursday, December 31, 2009

Home again, home again, bloggety blog

We made it back from our Sojourn to the South late Monday afternoon, tired, sore, cranky, and overwhelmed by a carful of crap that had to be unloaded, sorted, and hopefully put away. We made it to unloaded. I'm still stepping on doll shoes and magnetic mosaic squares, and dozens of other toy parts that I will probably never identify properly.

By Christmas Eve, everybody seemed to be feeling pretty good. I had managed to get Devon off to daycare for two days, thus obtaining 12 hours in which to organize and pack and quietly panic for the trip ahead. We rousted everyone at 3:30 am Christmas Eve morn, and in remarkably good spirits we headed for Tennessee.

The girls slept for the first few hours while we maneuvered the dense fog in northern and central Virginia. When daylight finally appeared, we stopped for breakfast and then fired up the new dual-screen, portable DVD player that I got just for this trip. By the end of the day (about 13 hours from when we started) there was a whole lotta whining coming from that backseat, but there was just as much coming from mine. Midway through the day, my head started to feel as though someone had shoved a couple balloons up my nose and had started to blow. Did we bring anything that contained decongestant? No, we did not. Did my parents possess anything in their pharmacopeia that contained decongestant? No, they did not. Why my head did not spectacularly explode that afternoon, I am not sure, but I managed until the next day, when my beloved and allergy-ridden sister arrived with several medications in hand.

I was sure that I was on the path to a horrible, wasting illness that would render me immobile for the duration of the trip, but by the end of the second day, I was doing pretty well. Between my sister's decongestants and the AMAZING showers at my parents' house, I was feeling pretty good.

But let me digress for a moment. My parents' house. I have never spoken about it here, and am somewhat reluctant to now because they just might read this humble blog from time to time (Hi, Dad!), but this house. Is freaking huge. You would think that I would have pictures to show you, but - and I am quite serious - I do not have a lens wide enough to capture the hugeness. Every shot I try to take, I am jammed up in a far corner of the room, trying to get as much in the frame as possible, and I still just get a fraction of it, and it looks like a normal room, but IT'S NOT. Square footage? I dunno. Several million, considering how tired I am from just going from the kitchen to the living room over and over. Huge.

Why do two retirees have such a huge house? Ah, well, ask my Dad and he says it's all Mom's fault. Though he was the one who consulted with an architect and helped draw up the plans, and showed up those plans every time we visited their PERFECTLY REASONABLE HOME WHICH WAS ONLY THREE HOURS AWAY IN PENNSYLVANIA. They felt that house was "too big" and "too much work." Because they were getting older. And needed to simplify. So they built a freakin' mansion in the middle of Nowhere, Tennessee.

Really, I could go on and on about this. But I'll move on.

I really wish I was a better photographer, so I could have taken pictures of the insane meals my Dad prepared. I have no idea what gets into this man's head when people come to visit his house. Apparently, he thinks we need to be bludgeoned with cheese and starch in order to have a pleasant visit. Here is what we ate:

Thursday dinner: chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes, green beans. My dad asked if we wanted bread as well. I opted to be able to poop the next day.

Friday Breakfast: Breakfast Strata. This is a concoction, made the night before in a casserole dish, comprised of layers of cheese, english muffins, cheese, ham, and more cheese, with an egg/milk mixture poured over the top, and a final layer of...wait for it...CHEESE. The most artery-clogging, acid-reflux-inducing, gastrointestinal crisis in a Pyrex dish I have ever eaten. Good? Well, shit, yes, it's good. It's also disgusting. In a good way. But the CHEESE!

Friday Lunch: Make your own paninis. And what did we have available to put on our sandwiches? Turkey, salami, proscuitto. Cheddar, provolone, American, fontina, swiss, mozarella, Colby, CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE.

Friday Dinner (Christmas dinner was on Sunday, when the whole family could be together): Leftovers (Dad was going to attempt something else this night, but had a brief moment of clarity and went for leftovers instead. I'm sure it would have involved CHEESE.).

Saturday breakfast: Sausage gravy and biscuits, eggs, bacon, leftover Breakfast Strata (Or there would have been leftover strata, except the dish exploded in the microwave! And it was Mom's fault, according to Dad.) My dad makes excellent sausage gravy, but by this point, my gut was so bloated, I looked pregnant. Kinda felt like it, too.

Saturday lunch: I don;t remember this meal at all, so I think we all just ate whatever. I'm pretty sure my survival instincts kicked in and I skipped this meal altogether.

Saturday dinner: Mexican Night. CHEESE enchiladas, tamales, tacos, burritos. WAY too much food. This was the point where it was very clear that Devon was sick again, and I couldn't eat much because I was upset. But even if I had, Dad, it wouldn't have made a dent in all that FOOD.

Sunday breakfast: French toast, eggs, bacon. Miraculously, no cheese.

Sunday lunch. Since dinner would be early, only snacks. Which were sausage balls (loaded with CHEESE), crackers with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and caviar, and pigs in blankets.

Sunday dinner: Standing rib roast, turkey breast, mashed potatoes, brioche rolls, yorkshire pudding, AND MACARONI AND CHEESE. I am not kidding. Macaroni. And CHEESE. Again, my dad makes the most amazing mac and cheese known to man, but GODDAMN. THE CHEESE.

Seriously, I will smack a bitch who tries to feed me cheese right now.

All in all, it was a good visit, just exhausting trying to keep two kids happy in a strange, HUGE house. Devon wanted to stay downstairs most of the time, which is where the guest bedrooms (yes, plural, but only two) are as well as a big TV, a bar, snacks, a fireplace, foosball table. I'm not kidding. The place is HUGE. Fortunately, David was well enough to look after her much of the time, so I could spend some quality time with my mom. My dad was too damn busy cooking, and then recovering from cooking, to spend much time with anybody. I know it's his way of showing love, but I cannot emphasize the words "gastrointestinal crisis" enough here.

Did I get ANY pictures? Yes, a few:

My Dad, reading to Devon. She wore that dress for the entire visit.


Harper, with Mom and Dad's dog, Tessie


Harper and her beloved cousin, Erin. Erin is my sister's daughter.


Harper and Erin's daughter, Sophie.


The Smith Women. My mom likes to segregate everyone for family photos, for some reason. I never did get a shot of the menz.


Somewhere, on another camera, I guess, I do have a picture of the bar downstairs. If you're a drinker, this bar is probably where you'd like to spend the rest of your life. Me, I was too worn out all the time to risk any of the after-effects of alcohol, which for me range from massive headache to vomiting and wishing for death, and that's after ONE BEER. I'm kind of a lightweight.

There is much more I could tell you, but I've talked your ear off (written your eyes off?) already. I'm very glad to be home, even more glad that David is off until Monday, glad that Devon is back on major antibiotics, even if she is MUCH nicer to be around when she's really sick and doesn't have the energy to yell at us.

I can't believe that tomorrow is the start of a new year. Perhaps I'll have some thoughts on that then. Right now, I'm going to take a bath in Pepto Bismol while sipping on a Maalox milkshake.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

despair

devon is sick again. it looks as though her ear/sinus/eye infection has returned.

i give up

Friday, December 25, 2009

I KNEW it!

Halfway between Maryland and Tennessee: fever, congestion, body aches. Perhaps I'm being punished for saying "fuck" too much.

Still, it's good to be in the bosom of my family again. Can't wait to tell you all about it, if I live.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sucking up means more at Christmas

I am taking a brief break from cleaning and packing and obsessing over whether I have forgotten to pack something vital, like tampons or pants, and am taking to my trusty laptop to once again say, Thank You.

Thank you so much to every one of you who comes by to read this humble blog on a semi-regular basis. All 6 or 7 of you. Every single person who has ever commented here deserves a personal response, but I'm afraid if I started down that path, I'd never have time to sew and thus nothing to blog about, and THAT would suck. But I hope you know how much all your comments mean to me. You have buoyed me up when I felt utterly low, have celebrated my successes with me. It is no exaggeration to say that I love you all. Really. If you ever need blood, or a kidney, give me a holler. I'm oh-poz.

I hope you all have the happiest of holidays, and that 2010 brings you fabric, fun, and frivolity.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Free Motion Follies

Would you believe that in the midst of all the insanity of the last 3 weeks, I actually managed to do some sewing? Of course, I had to sneak it it when the kids weren't aware of it, because whenever they notice that I am trying to do something that doesn't involve watching them, sitting on the floor next to them, or aimlessly going from room to room with them, they tend to attack me with their tiny little fingernails until I submit.

Harper found a punching bag in a toy catalog and it was one of the things she put on her Master List to Santa this year. So sure is she that Santa will come through that she asked me if I would take two of my fat quarters and make her a mat for standing on while she is throwing punches. She chose the two fabrics she wanted, and I cut, basted, stippled and bound it over the weekend.





The best part was binding it, because I could carry it with me from room to room, as the munchkins demanded it, and work on it while I claimed to be watching every move they made. It occurred to me that it would be nice to have something like that to work on while we're in Tennessee, so I dug out some of the old sushi fabric I had bought way back when I was going to make a Bento Box quilt with it, and cut placemats!

I took the opportunity I had today (with Devon finally back at daycare for a couple days) to experiment with some free motion quilting other than stippling. It looks like hell on the solid side, but over the pattern, it ain't too bad.





I'm making 4 altogether, and if I can get binding cut and machine stitched in the next 24 hours, I'll have a handy tool for ignoring my children while we're away! Sweet!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Things are looking up

I awoke Sunday morning to more snow than I've ever seen in my life. In 1996, we had a snowstorm that dumped about 17 inches and another one in 2003, but this was at least 22 inches, which I say I am allowed to call "2 feet" even if it is an inch or two shy. Needless to say, our cars were hardly visible under the mess, not to mention the driveway, the sidewalks,and, well, everything else. While Harper was beside herself with joy, I found myself in despair again: how would I dig us out? I blew out a disc in my lower back while shoveling out the car in the '96 storm, and I couldn't risk doing it again. David is forbidden to exert himself in any way, and certainly not in below freezing temperatures. I prayed that some enterprising kid would come along and offer to do it for only 22 bucks - the amount of cash on hand that David and I had between us.

And indeed one did. But before he showed up, I looked out my kitchen window, and there were my next door neighbors, shoveling the walks, the driveway, and clearing off both our cars. I shouted out the window that I sure as hell hoped they liked pecan pie, because I was making them one right then. They refused the pie, so I gave my 22 bucks to the neighborhood kid and had him help them out. Before we leave for Tennessee, I will leave a six-pack of some yummy microbrew on their doorstep. If they refuse that, I'll just have to egg their house.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What War on Christmas? Christmas is waging a war on ME

So, hey! How are ya! Good? That's great! I'm so glad to hear that. Me? Oh, you know. Just hanging out. Chillin'. While the frozen wrath of God buries us all and we smother underneath several tons of cold, wet, white HELL.







There's 14 or 15 inches out there already, and it's supposed to continue for the rest of the day and into the night. I have been stuck inside for the last week with a sick kid, and now I am stuck inside with a sick kid who is getting better, so she's back to being her cranky, bossy, rude, irascible self. AND. MY. HUSBAND. HAS. PNEUMONIA.

This was Devon last week:



This is my husband today:



And this is me. For the foreseeable future.



Seriously. I'm at the end of my rope. It's Devon's 3rd birthday today, and I ruined her cake, and I can't get out of the house to go buy more eggs or milk, and I'm just on the verge of tears all the time. I have 3 days left to prepare for our drive to Tennessee for Christmas, and there is every possibility that my husband will not be well enough to come, and I don't think I can drive all that way with two kids all by myself. But if we don't go, my parents will be heartbroken; they live for seeing these kids, and have been counting down the days to Christmas, so I guess even if David bows out - WHICH I GUARANTEE YOU HE WILL - I have to do it. But with the girls home, I can't get anything done, and now I can't even CLEAN OUT THE CAR because I can't even GET TO THE CAR.

And. If we all don't go? ALL THE GIRLS' PRESENTS ARE IN TENNESSEE.

Worst. Christmas. Ever.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My demise is imminent

It is 3:17 a.m. Devon awoke at 1:30 with a massive coughing fit. Apparently, she is done sleeping. This is the same thing that happened last night.

I am so not going to survive this week.

UPDATE: Ear infections. I predict that tomorrow will bring either ringworm or headlice. Or alien facehuggers. Or gout.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So the last seven days have been...interesting, to say the least.

Last Tuesday, both my girls had dentist appointments; Devon would be seeing the dentist for the first time, so Harper was scheduled to go right before her, thus providing the example of how utterly fun getting your teeth cleaned can be that would compel her to open her own mouth nice and wide when asked to do so. And, in spite of my prediction that she would lose her shit the second anyone tried to pry open her lips, she was quite the trooper:











However, the dentist informed me that her upper jaw is malformed because of how hard she sucks on her pacifiers, and so now it is time for her to give them up. When he saw my look of despair, he said that cold turkey is the best way, and the Binky Fairy should come and take them one night and leave her a nice prize in return.

Riiiiight.

Next day was one of the marathon meeting my boss likes to have with me. I'm sorry, but in general, I have no desire to be in anyone's company for more than 2 hours, and 1 hour to discuss work seems ample to me, but she likes to have meetings of three or four hours, or more.

The following day, my older daughter, Harper, had an appointment with her pediatric opthalmologist. Harper has strabismus, which is a muscle imbalance, and Brown's syndrome, which has to do with tendon sheaths, or something, and her eyes are crooked and she could lose vision in one eye if we can't get her to start using them together. The doctor said that it is now time to try surgery, and so we scheduled her to go into the hospital on January 20. Since I have had the same surgery for the same condition 4 times in my life, I was able to tell her a lot about what it would be like, and this was the sole topic of conversation for the rest of the day.

Friday, among approximately 874 other things that HAD to be done that day, I attempted to prepare for the arrival of the Binky Fairy. I tore through the house, looking for every errant silicone nipple, then drove to several toy stores to find a toy makeup kit to give as her "prize". We attended her daycare provider's holiday party that evening, then went home and took away her only comfort object.

That night there was only 10 minutes of screaming before she fell asleep, but that was becasue she was tired. The rest of the weekend was unadulterated hell, made worse by the fact that my husband was sick AGAIN, and was just too, too frail to be of any damn use. I'm not saying he does it on purpose, but I will say that my husband always manages to get sick at the MOST INCONVENIENT TIMES, times when we have extra kid considerations, like a 4-day weekend where both girls are home from school and daycare or GIVE UP THE BINKY WEEKEND, which he had admitted was too scary for him to even think about beforehand.

I'm not going to go into details, but I am going to admit - because we have that kind of relationship here - that on Sunday afternoon, I caved. I gave in. I folded. She found a binky that I missed, and I let her have it. I am the worst of all possible mothers: The Mother Who Couldn't Take The Binky Away. My heart was never in the process to begin with. I never felt that just taking them all away and forcing her to deal with it was the best method for her, but with everything else going on, I had no time to think about it. Had I been able to, I would have realized that I needed to find a way to make giving them up seem like her decision, even if it is really mine. I don't know how I will manage to do this yet, but I can tell you it won't be until after Christmas. I don't have the heart to do this to her again this calendar year.

And now? She is sick. Up all night last night with a fever, chills, and a horrible cough.

How is it possible that she and David have gotten sick twice in two weeks, Harper once, and I have yet to have even a sniffle? It's coming, I have no doubt. Just in time for the drive to Tennessee on Christmas Eve.

So if I ever manage to post here again, it will be proof of the afterlife, because I will surely be dead within the next week.

Monday, December 7, 2009

We have a half-assed, crappy winner!

Wait. that didn't come out right.

Giveaway Day has been so much fun, and I truly enjoyed reading the reasons that you all wanted me to send you my crap (and by "crap" I mean "extra fabric," Mom). I truly wish I could have picked several winners, because everyone who said that they would use them for charity quilts or other noble and worthy causes deserves to have lots of free fabrics rolling their way.

But I am very pleased to announce that Corvus has won this year's Half-Assed, Crappy Giveaway! Corvus commented:

I like to work with scraps and unknowns. The more crappy and halfassed my supplies are, the more I display my awesomeness by creating something mindblowingly amazing.


So, Corvus, I hereby challenge you to make something mindblowingly amazing and send me pictures, which I shall post here in order to inspire the masses with your awesomeness.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Table Runner that Ate Cleveland

For the last couple weeks, my mom's table runner has been sitting idle while I mulled over how to quilt it. I finally decided that I would create a sort of flower design in each square and quilt that, following the lines that I would draw with chalk or some other fabric marking device. The fact that I haven't done any free motion quilting in weeks and weeks was clearly not a deterrent when I decided to start in on this little plan.

I completely choked on the first attempt, creating what looked like an amoeba or a puddle of vomit in the center of the first square. That I managed to rip out, but the second time, I had the machine running so fast, and I was moving the fabric so slowly, that I actually created sub-atomic particles with my stitches. It may, in fact, be a portal to another dimension now.

So now I have a vague circle-type thing and three petals that look like ass and I can't rip them out. So, what do I come up with as my solution? STIPPLE OVER IT.





I then stippled every square, and then stitched in the ditch (sorry, Leah) around the squares and around the main border. When I got to the border, one of those demons I clearly loosed from hell with my portal lodged in my walking foot and every 20 inches or so, I ended up with a gi-freaking-normous rat's nest. This happened over and over, but I didn't get any photos for you, because every time it occurred, I ripped the threads out with my teeth and spat them out with all the bile and hatred I could muster.

Well, I was mad.

Now I have a quilted table runner that looks acceptable, save for the errant circle and petals in the middle square. Which probably aren't that noticeable. I should just leave well enough alone, right?

WRONG!



I'M GONNA APPLIQUE OVER IT. SOMEBODY PLEASE STOP ME. THE DEMONS ARE TAKING OVER!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Half-Assed Crappy Giveaway!


Husband is back at work and kids are at daycare/school, and I am relatively awake, if not completely caught up with everything that went to HELL while I was playing nursemaid. The windows still rattle all through the night from the percussion of three nasty coughs, and the toddler has decided she doesn't feel like falling asleep until 10 p.m. or so, but the snot wave has receded somewhat and I'm all about finding that ol' silver lining.

Since I beat the seriously astronomical odds and won a layer cake over at Confounded By Quilting, I realized I hadn't done a giveaway in a long time. Then I discovered that Sew Mama Sew is sponsoring a Giveaway Day, and I thought that would be a cool way to unload some of my crap - I mean, bestow upon my beloved readers some quilty goodness. Aw, hell - I'm unloading crap.

When my mom broke down her sewing room, she gave me what was left of her fabric. Unfortunately, my taste and my mother's do not exactly coincide. I tend to use a lot of bold colors and jewel tones, and I prefer large scale or modern, stylized prints. I've been hanging onto these for 8 months or so, and haven't touched a one, so I thought perhaps someone out there would like to have them.





Now here's where the half-assed and crappy part comes in: I have no idea how many fabrics there are, nor how big they are. I am assuming that most are at least the size of a fat quarter, but I think many are bigger. I do not know if they are "quilt shop quality." I am, however, certain that there are no hidden hypodermic needles or poisonous snakes. Hey, there's that silver lining again!

Deadline for entry is December 6 at midnight, EST. To win, leave a comment to this post, explaining why you want to win my crappy, half-assed giveaway, and the winner will be chosen at random and announced on December 7.

Good luck!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Please Stand By

There is so much that I need to address here, but my family - that is, everyone but me - has been contaminated with a horrible cold, and they are all unable to fend for themselves. Thus, I am fending. The house is a mess, I haven't had a shower in days, nor much sleep, and I won't be able to do anything the justice it deserves.
So, let me at least say some things quickly:

Erin: Thank you. You are awesome. Go read her blog, y'all.

Anonymous: Please take my post in the spirit it was intended: the joke was that of all the comments I have ever received, that was the harshest. See, it's funny, 'cuz it wasn't harsh at all, really. Does that make sense? I wasn't really offended or hurt by it AT ALL. (Oh, and I wish I could post every day, hon, I really, really do. Maybe in 20 years when the kids are out of the house)

Leah: I AM going to get to it, I swear. God, I suck.

Sorry. It's hard to type when I am crusty with kid snot.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The consequences of freedom

My improv blocks thus far:



And this is what the process has done to my cutting table:



Now, in the picture, my pins and rotary cutter are out in the open, but that has been a relative rarity in this process. I have nearly severed a digit countless times just today, so chances are I may qualify for our accidental dismemberment insurance policy soon!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Commedia dell'quilte

Ever since I realized that a few people were actually reading this blog, some on a semi-regular basis, I have been anticipating the arrival of my insane, hateful blog stalker. Not because I assume that I will achieve such heights of notoriety that I will inspire obsession the way Justin Timberlake and oh, I don't know, Charo do. But those of us who troll the net often enough know that it is a magnet for the, um, socially impaired. Not having to actually face the individuals with whom they wish to interact allows them a certain freedom of expression they might not otherwise indulge, and because they are also cracked out, this expressiveness tends to be somewhat hostile.

So, of course, I post pictures of myself giving the camera the finger. It's like I'm trying to coax my insane blog stalker out of hiding. But I suspect that "Anonymous," who commented, "Nice thimble - time to move on," is probably the closest I'll get. Sorry, Anonymous, I'm just a crazy rebel! You never know what profane, sacrilegious shit I'll come up with next! Like this:



Okay. It's not exactly profane or sacrilegious. But it is ugly! My oldest daughter likes to design quilts with me using markers or colored pencils and graph paper, and most of the time I can pretend that we just don't have enough fabric on hand to make it, but this time we did, and she knew it. it's not very big, maybe 30x30 or so, and will make a nice quilt for her stuffed animals or something. But, man, was it a bitch to make. I've decided that I just fucking hate triangles. I wanted to make a pinwheel quilt, and even cut all the pieces for it, but when I started making the pinwheel blocks, realized that each block was going to have a rock hard lump in the center. I tried pressing the seams every way to Sunday, but nothing made much of a difference. How would I quilt that? With a jackhammer?

So, still bored with the square and rectangle constraints of my usual quilts, I decided to go improv:



A perfect 6x6 square, all in yummy batiks, all sewn slapdash and hodgepodge and lackadaisical. I LOVE IT. I can't wait to make a whole quilt this way; it's so freeing and fun and fast, and that was too many f-words, but you get it. Fucking fabulous.

MOVING ON, INDEED.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

From the inaugural issue of Table Runner Times

Big thanks to everyone who voted in the last post, as well as to all those who have joined in over on Facebook. I'm sure most of the people who have become fans on FB have commented here before, and I know you only as QuiltFreak298 or BitsyPookums or something, only now I'm seeing your real names and thinking, "Who the hell are you?"

My second article, entitled "How to Make a Simple Tote bag...Not!" (and the "...Not!" was an addition by the editors, I must inform you) is in the current issue of Quilter's Home, for those of you who haven't sworn to never pick up another copy so long as you live so help you GOD. AND I have just been told that they are printing a third piece in the February issue! I'm very excited about that one, because I had a blast writing it. I just hope somebody is still reading the mag by that point. I also hope that they'll get my goddamn name right by then as well. If I could ever learn to applique, I'd put it on a pillow for them.

This weekend, I decided to tackle the table runners my mom requested that I make for her. She only expected me to use a single fabric for the front and back, but I really wanted to piece it; otherwise, where's the fun? I searched for a table runner pattern that would be simple enough for me to handle and would be easy to increase to the size she needed (72 inches!). Finally, I just got out my graph paper and made a pattern myself.



Now, it's a damn good thing I work with words and didn't become an accountant or an architect or something, because it's not 72 inches; it's 76. Still, I'm pleased with myself for having come up with the pattern on my own. And I'm well aware that there is nothing even remotely difficult or even original about what I came up with - the miracle is that I managed to concentrate long enough to work out the details. Considering the number of toddler tantrums I have endured over the last three days, it's a wonder I have managed to dress myself properly and maintain a modicum of personal hygiene.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wherein I reveal just how bored I am today

I can't quite believe I'm about to just blurt this out, but it's been killing me for weeks, and I really need you all to weigh in. And I mean ALL of you: lurkers, time to man up and leave just one eensy post. NO WAIT. I'll make it even easier. Just click a button at the end of this post. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, as my girls like to say.

I want to start a quilting magazine.

NOT a print mag, not yet, anyway. I don't have that kind of cash laying around, and if I did, I certainly wouldn't be here on this ratty-ass couch blogging about it. No, an online magazine, with articles, interviews, tutorials, videos — the kind of content I always wish I could find, but never do. I want to have a repository of the best instructions to be found online for beginning quilters. I want to have ideas and patterns for quilts that people can actually make. Sometimes I look at quilt mags and think, "This is just quilt porn." All pretty and airbrushed and alluring, but not real.

I want it to have a sense of humor and a sense of style. I want it to celebrate imperfection and encourage experimentation. Mostly, I want it to be a good read.

I have a long way to go before I will get to where I want to be with this project. I will need to save (or raise?) some serious cash to pay someone to help me design and set it up. I will need to get lots of fellow bloggers on board to help me with content (and those same bloggers will have to be willing to work for free). I will need my children to become more self-sufficient and less likely to demand that I watch intently while they pick their noses.

But I also need to know if such an effort would be worthwhile. So I am begging you, even if you have never commented here and have no intention of ever doing so, even if, like me, you are generally an anti-social semi-hermit who hates participating in ANYTHING, please answer the poll question below anyway. One click is all I am asking.

Thank you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Call it anti-social networking

I'm embarking on a little experiment, and I'd like you to join me. I've been on Facebook as just plain old me since earlier this year, but I just recently started a Bitchy Stitcher Facebook page. If you are currently on Facebook, please consider becoming a fan of The Bitchy Stitcher and leaving a comment.



Back to bitching soon!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My day -in poor photography

Amy over at A Commonplace Life had an exquisitely beautiful rant the other day about hating Martha Stewart and her bland, unreasonable perfectionism. This also led her to think about the people who write to her, convinced that she is also some sort of uber-martha type, making every little thing that goes into her kids' mouths from scratch while looking gorgeous in her perfect house.

Ain't none of us perfect. I'm willing to bet even Martha walks around with a booger on the end of her nose every once in a while.

So, Amy has started a blog-ring type thing called Moments. It's just about keeping real life in mind when you post, but for me it's kind of a way to try to document and maybe even celebrate some of the chaos in my life. And also, since I am spending most of my time editing and not sewing, it gives me something to blog about for the next week.

Behold, my work space:

From The Bitchy Stitcher


From The Bitchy Stitcher


Yep, I work in the kitchen. What was intended to be my "office," part of the basement, has been taken over by sewing. We put another desk in the bedroom where my husband keeps his office, but I can't look out a window there, and what good is an office without a distracting view?

There are always wadded up tissues near me because I have a perpetual runny nose. Though the girls have an "art table" downstairs next to my sewing area, they prefer to use the kitchen table as well, so the markers and crayons and Play-Doh all migrates up here. Always a plastic cup with Dr. Pepper. Always a empty container of something unhealthy to eat. A dying plant. And my stippled table runner hidden under it all.

I sit here and hack away at other people's writing, wishing I was quilting, wishing I had the capacity to deal with all this clutter, wishing I was Martha Stewart. But also, being glad to be doing work that I love, to be raising two strong, healthy girls, to have a husband who gets me and loves me.

I guess that's why I'm posting this today. Sometimes, even a bitch needs to remind herself that her life is really pretty good.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

For sale - cheap

For sale: one small demon. Answers to the name of Devon, as well as BooBoo (when she's being a baby), FiFi (when she's in the form of a kitty cat), Movie Stah (and yes, its "Stah," not "Star"), and Peerpipe (when she's a doggie. I have no idea.). Excels at screeching, screaming, throwing things, and saying, "No." Will deny the sun is shining on a beautiful day or that it is raining during a downpour. Refuses to change clothes, wear a jacket, eat food, take a nap, go to bed, take a bath, or sit on a potty. Impervious to all forms of bribery, cajoling, tricks and any parenting "techniques" you might read about online or in a book. Survives on milk and Goldfish crackers. Occasionally will smile or sit in your lap to read "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus." Ten cents or best offer.

She's the one one the left.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Or take away his barbeque sauce

I was just showing my husband the stippling I've completed on my daughter's quilt (1/4 of the way done!) and he was marveling at all the work I had done, or so I thought. He finally sat back and said, "Shit, if you just put all that energy into something like programming, you'd be making a mint right now."

Should I smack him upside the head or just withhold sex indefinitely?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Free motion flower

Remember this quilt?

From The Bitchy Stitcher


One of the reasons I've been pursuing machine quilting is that I really wanted to quilt the insides of the solid squares with a flower that echoed the flower motif in the black and white fabric. Today I got out a scrap piece of that fabric and first traced one of the flowers, then drew one freehand.



I suppose it would have been smart to keep drawing it over and over until I wanted to stab myself in the head, because that usually seems to be the smart thing to do, but I went ahead and tried it out on one of my practice quilts sandwiches.



Not bad for a first attempt, huh? I can't believe I'm saying that - I usually think that everything I do is so ugly it needs to be quarantined, but I'm actually quite happy with this. Obviously, it needs some work, but if I put that on my quilt, I wouldn't feel bad about it at all.

Now that's an odd feeling.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stippling strikes again

Hey, y'all. Since our last Bitch Session (patent pending), I caught what I believe to be the Swine Cold and spent several days languishing on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. Once the Porcine Malaise had passed, I decided to finally bind the dreaded Ikea quilt. Remember how much I used to hate binding quilts? Now I love it, and find myself itching to get back to it when I have to stop. I wonder if that will ever happen with pin basting?

Also, while I was in the throes of the Porky Punk, my new Arrow 601 sewing table arrived. Yep, that is the absolute cheapest model of sewing table available. My machine just fits inside the opening, with a little coaxing, and now gives me something approximating a flat surface for my mad experiments in machine quilting.

Last night I happened to check in with my Virtual Quilting Mentor, and found that she has been musing on my remarks about stippling from this post. I was wondering about the pattern that seems to emerge in pictures of stippling that I've seen, and saying that without knowing ahead of time what you are supposed to be creating, just diving in and trying to sew some squiggles and see what happens seems daunting. Leah decided to create some meandering designs with a motif in mind, so that you have something to think about as you stitch. Two that she came up with were "Little Hands and Fingers" and "Alien Fingers."

I decided to give this approach a shot today, with some interesting results. Here is my attempt at making a hand:



Which quickly devolved as I went along:



After that, I just went back to trying to meander with style (which is what I've decided stippling actually is). And, I started doing a LOT better than any of my previous attempts:



Leah was also wondering why everyone wants to start with stippling, and I think it is because there is something appealing about a stitch that is seemingly random. Since we don't have to make regular shapes, it seems that we have more freedom to fuck up and still be pleased with what we've done. It was pretty sad when I couldn't seem to make more than one hand, but after several attempts, I had a better feel for how to move the quilt to make the kinds of curves I've been wanting.

So, the best advice I can give, if you've been wanting to try stippling and haven't been brave enough or if you tried it and gave up: make yourself a big stack of 10x10 or 12x12 quilt sandwiches out of some scraps, and just experiment. Give yourself permission to screw up. But do it over and over and over and over until you figure out what works for you.

And if you do try it, send me a picture. I promise not to laugh or throw fruit.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I TOLD you all to talk me out of it.

First, doesn't it look pretty on the table?





I certainly needed something bright and cheery, since it RAINED FOR 5 DAYS. Seriously, there is not enough Prozac in the world to combat that, especially when the smallest member of your household asks you every five minutes to take her to the playground. Sorry, honey. We have to stay inside all day because GOD HATES US ALL.

So, it was clearly a fit of weather-induced depression that I decided to make good on my threat to try to make a Lone Star out of a Moda jelly roll.

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I honestly thought that, having worked with diamonds before, that the strip piecing method would actually be easier. I also thought that I had somehow figured out how to arrange the strips in some magic moment of clarity that didn't involve actually reading anything or even, apparently, looking at a picture of one of these quilts. Once I realized that I was TOTALLY wrong, I decided to forge ahead, since I had already sewn 3 strip sets together.

I was pretty confident that I was cutting on a good 45-degree angle, and I was careful to recalibrate every few cuts. But then came sewing the cut strip sets together.

Obviously there were several false starts as I realized that you can't match up the seams at the edge and still have them line up at the seam line itself. I managed to figure that out, but nothing lined up properly at all, as though everything had been cut and sewn inaccurately. WHICH IT HAD NOT.

Consequently, my diamond was sort of...curvy.



It was supposed to be 5 rows, but after I realized I was making something from another dimension, I said screw it and scrapped the project. I mean, I do have a certain stock in trade with bad sewing, but even I have limits.

Next: pinwheels!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stippling!

Or, a rough approximation of it. The pictures kinda suck, as my subterranean lair has no natural light.







Now, about an hour into this project this afternoon, I get a comment on my last post from my virtual machine quilting mentor, who said, "The aim is just not to cross your lines." And I thought, "TOO LATE, EGON SPENGLER!"



I crossed the streams; I looped; I made points instead of humps. I did everything wrong and and it was really hard, and it took up a whole spool of thread, almost. The back looks like shit up close, since there are several places where the thread looks strained, as though just the motion of pulling the quilt around was messing with the thread tension. At one point, the needle just plopped right out of the machine as I was sewing!

And I loved every minute of it. It was actually kind of exhilarating, especially as I realized that, as badly as I was doing, it was still okay. I get that baby bound and on the table and it will do just fine. A whole quilt done like that certainly won't win any awards, but my girls will love it anyway.

And if learning quilting has taught me anything, it is that no matter how much I suck now, if I keep at it I am bound to get better. How fun is it to know that not only do you have a ton left to learn, but that it is all perfectly accessible, given time and practice? You'd think I'd have made it to 40 having learned that already.

I did have fun, O Virtual Machine Quilting Mentor. I really did!

All apologies

My quest to stipple a quilt continues, and I thank you all for your assistance along the way as I pick your collective brains for advice. However, I need to publicly apologize because in my feeble attempt to praise and publicize the amazing Leah Day, I mentioned that I thought her filler designs for quilting were for more arty quilts.

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Leah pointed out that in order to use them for "regular" (for lack of a better word) they just need to be made larger and looser. Mea maxima culpa, Leah.

ANYWAY. All I am trying to figure out is some goddamn stippling. The thing about stippling is that there seems to be a rhythm to it, a pattern within the randomness. There must be a way to know when to curve back, how far to go, when to run off the edge and start again in a new spot. Fuck if I know, man. I'm told that after doing it for an entire quilt, that I will get it by the end. Somehow, I doubt that.

But to distract myself, I started thinking about borders and how it would be neat to have a separate border design, and I began rooting around in a box of stencils that my mom gave me when, in a moment of insanity, I mentioned that I might be interested in learning to hand quilt. And looky what I found in there:



Stippling stencils!!! Naturally, I tried to make use of them, but all I have are some chalk pencils, and that is WAY too boring, trying to fill in those little holes with a piece of chalk that is just a bit too big for the purpose. So I went back to just flailing blindly, like I always do. It works for me.

I have decided to go with a soft lavender, same color front and back, and to just say "fuckit" to the bobbin tension. At the same time that I made the quilt, I made a table runner out of the same material, so I pin basted it this morning and, after a hearty lunch, I plan to attack it with thread and turn it into something unholy and thoroughly offensive. Pictures soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Next question!

I have decided to go with either a pale green or a soft lavender for the quilting on my purple/yellow flowery quilt, but I am NOT keen on having my stitches show since I suck, so I'd like to do a dark purple on the back, to match the backing. I'll use the same color to do to the borders, which will (I hope) have some sort of pattern and will not just be stippling like the rest of the quilt.

But I'm having a problem, and perhaps you have some insight into this as well?

No matter what I do, the top thread shows through the bottom of the quilt. Now, the manual says that this is because of the thread tension, but changing the thread tension doesn't help or creates the opposite problem. There appears to be no balance. So I did some reading and concluded that perhaps it is the tension of the bobbin thread, which I am told is adjusted using a small screw on the side of the bobbin case. Now, I can barely get that screw to move at all, and what little I did move it made no discernible difference. I changed to a finer needle, and that seemed to help a wee bit, but the problem remains.

What do you do to achieve thread parity on your sewing machine? Please note that I am not into voodoo or any other kind of spooky ritual and will not sacrifice a goat, but I am willing to consider explosives and the judicious use of baseball bats.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On to better things

Last month I received two "fan emails" from readers who had seen my article in QH and then came to read my blog. The second email was from Leah Day, and at the time, that meant nothing to me other than a pretty name. She mentioned that she had an email newsletter and would be linking to me in the next one, and, of course mentioned her own blog, which I dutifully checked out.

Ho. Ly. Shit.

Stop everything that you are doing and please go to Leah's insanely fantastic blog, 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs.

Now, I have just quilted my first quilt, not in free motion, just in the ditch with a walking foot, but I have been practicing my free motion anti-skills on some blocks that didn;t make it into the final quilt:





(If your eyes are bleeding or you feel like vomiting, go look at this for a while and you'll feel better.)

Obviously, I have a lot of work to do, just to get stippling down. Now, Leah's blog is mainly about filler designs, and I believe that these are intended for more arty quilts rather than ones the kids will be throwing up on. Nevertheless, her work is truly inspiring, not just because she is indeed creating a new design every day for a year, but each design HAS AN ACCOMPANYING VIDEO SHOWING HOW SHE DOES IT.

I know.

So then, I see that she has links in every post to her online shop where you can buy some of the supplies she uses, such as quilting gloves and slick Teflon surfaces for your sewing machine, and what not, and there I find, MORE VIDEOS. And these are geared towards morons like me. Check out this one on stippling. In it, she says those magic words that make a quilter like me get all tingly: Give yourself permission to mess up.

I think I'm in love. (Sorry, David.)

Seriously. Please go check it out. If, like me, you have never machine quilted but you have always wanted to, you'll find help and inspiration here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go sit by the mailbox and wait for my gloves to arrive.