Friday, February 18, 2011

The Bitchy Stitcher's Top 10 Quilting Tips

Since I am a marginally famous quilt writer (I am less famous than your local TV news weatherman, but more famous than the Justin Bieber cover band that’s playing at that dive bar off the interstate where you hooked up with that sailor one time), people are always emailing me, asking for quilting advice. And not even specific quilting advice, something I could perhaps go look up in a book and then pass off as my own. No, it’s all vague, like “Do you have any tips for a newbie quilter?” And that’s when I say, “Why, yes! Click here!”

Clearly, that’s not endearing me to anyone (especially my dad, who I think has finally given up on reading this. Took you long enough, Dad). And then today I picked up the new issue of American Patchwork and Quilting, one of my favorite quilting mags. And oh, joy of joys, it was their annual “101 Top Tips: Experts Share Their Secrets” issue. Sprinkled amongst the patterns and articles are various helpful hints from almost nobody I’ve ever heard of. But they are clearly more famous than me, because they’re getting their quilting advice printed up in a magazine, with their pictures and everything. And while most of the advice is actually quite good, some of it is just BRILLIANT. Like, “Relax and enjoy it.” That’s a tip? Did you get paid for that? That’s what I tell my husband when I get out the handcuffs, but nobody forks over a twenty.

So I’ve decided to stop being such a tip hog and share with you, my seven or eight loyal readers, my very own Top Quilting Tips. Yes, I have scoured the recesses of my brain and come up with those little tricks and techniques that make my quilting so uniquely my own. Instead of yours, or that guy’s over there.

The Bitchy Stitcher’s Top 10 Quilting Tips

1. Try to use both fabric and thread for your quilting projects. You’ll find they come together much easier and you won’t run out of staples so fast.

2. When free motion quilting, ignore the oft-heard advice to have a glass of wine to loosen you up before you start. Valium’s way better.

3. Do not attempt to rotary cut while drunk, stoned, sleeping, playing Wii games, or having sex with large, redheaded Scotsmen. You can rotary cut while having sex with small, normal-haired Americans since it’ll be over pretty quick anyway.

4. Do not curse, flip off, threaten, insult, or otherwise taunt your sewing machine. Not because anything bad will happen; it just makes you look like a douche.

5. Always use a firm, flat surface when fusing appliqué pieces. But if that doesn’t work for you, try ironing on a series of spiked, rotating cubes or the back of a panicked hedgehog.

6. Some people get inspiration from nature, from cityscapes, from the laughter of a small child. I spin around really, really fast until I fall down and whack my head on something.

7. Don’t worry about Cheeto crumbs, chocolate smears, blood spots, or red wine stains. Just add some more, call it an “art quilt,” and tell everyone it’s a statement about child labor or vaginas. Then sit back and watch the show ribbons roll in!

8. Store absolutely everything in empty cardboard tubes from toilet paper and paper towels. Yes, even your sewing machine. You figure it out.

9. For machine appliqué that looks like hand stitching, simply pull a length of thread off the machine spool and thread it through a separate needle. Then get your mom to do it.

10. Relax and enjoy it. It won’t hurt at all. You can trust me, baby. Now where’s my twenty?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Some of you may recall a post from a while back where you could see the silver ring I wear on my right hand. Here it is in close up:

My mother gave me that ring and it is probably my favorite piece of jewelry. I used to be really into wearing earrings, and I had a huge collection of unusual pieces, mostly sterling silver. I had ones that were shaped like big spiderwebs, with a little spider hanging from a separate chain. I had cloisonne snakes. I had Calder mobiles. Others were mostly non-representative of the animal kingdom or works of modern art, though they were were still pretty funky, but after the kids came along, I couldn't wear them, or necklaces, because little monsters kept trying to rip my earlobes apart to get them and possibly eat them. Now the kids are big enough to not want to ingest my jewelry (or anything else, damn picky eaters) but I haven't been able to get back into wearing anything, mainly because I cannot stand to look at myself in the mirror anymore and I certainly don't want any attention drawn to my facial and neckological areas.

Still, I have this innate need to adorn myself, and since tattoos are expensive and I refuse to pierce any part of my body other than my earlobes, I have been collecting rings.

Some of these are from college, most I got in the last few years. I like big and silver and I like gemstones like garnets and amethysts. But that silver scroll thing has been my favorite and I wear it most of the time now, even though it will, I am convinced, eventually kill me.

I say this because it has already tried to on a number of occasions. If you notice, the bottom of the ring is basically a hook, which can get caught on just about anything. Usually, I get hung up in plastic shopping bags, sometimes in my own clothing, particularly sweaters. And the only way to untangle it is to wrench off the ring so I can see what I'm doing. Once, I had an, um, personal adjustment to make, and it somehow got caught up on my underwear. That was a lovely sight - me with both hands down my pants, one attached to my froot-a-da-looms and the other trying to reach it to get the ring off. And yes I was at home - alone.

When I drove back to Kentucky from visiting my brother in Nashville, I had an eight-pack (minus two cans) of Dr. Pepper on the passenger seat next to me, along with my purse and other necessities for a road trip.  At some point, driving 70 mph along a stretch of country highway, I reached over to the seat to grab something, my phone maybe, and I got caught on the plastic rings that held the cans. Not only could I not extricate myself with the other hand on the wheel, but I also had approximately four pounds of soda cans attached to my finger. It's not like you can just put your hand in your lap and wait for a good place to pull over. And forget about scratching your nose. Thank god I wasn't driving the stick shift. I had to drive several miles leaning towards the passenger seat, my hand trapped by my own soda vice, until I could pull into a parking lot and free myself.

So last night, I'm taking a shower, and even though I should remove my rings when I do, I do not. Because I am lazy and also because I am afraid I will misplace them. And as I am going about my usual ablutions, the hook on that goddamn ring somehow got caught on my other ring, my wedding ring. So not only is my hand trapped AGAIN but now it has immobilized the other hand, the hand which I would normally use to get the trapped ring off but I can't BECAUSE IT'S ATTACHED TO THE RING.

I figure maybe I can get my hands soapy enough to work one or both rings free, but all of my soap bottles are the squeezy kind, and I could maybe get one hand around it to pick it up, but I need the other hand to squeeze the soap into and oh, fuck me. So I remember that there's hand-pump soap on the sink, but now I have to get my clumsy ass out of the shower without pulling down the curtain or falling on my face, and then I have to hold my hands under the soap dispenser WHILE PRESSING IT DOWN WITH MY CHIN to get the soap out.

Eventually the ring came free, none the worse for wear. That damn ring has never bent or been damaged by any of the things it has reached out and grabbed, and so I am fairly sure it is a demon ring, forged in the fires of hell, ever seeking to destroy its wearer, first through inconvenience and humiliation and eventually through somehow getting itself attached to a large piece of construction machinery or a pissed off bear. If I were smart, if I had any sense of self-preservation, I would take the damn ring and hurl it into a volcano or pass it off onto someone I dislike. Because it will be the end of me, I am sure of it.

But it's just so pretty.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Not dead, just semi-employed (temporarily)

No, I have not succumbed to any diseases, nor hurled myself off a tall building. For the last couple of weeks, I have actually been working - a nice change of pace from my normal sitting and staring into the middle distance. First I had to finish my humor column for the June/July issue of Quilter's Home, no small task in itself since I have now written a good number of these things and coming up with new material is getting harder. Then I got word that one of my QH editors was having a rather harrowing family emergency, and I offered to help out with any editorial tasks she might not be able to handle until things calmed down. My offer was absolutely sincere, but I never in a million years thought they'd take me up on it. They did, though, and for the last week I have been happily immersed in proofreading and copyediting and remembering why I love doing that kind of work so much. I'm grateful to them that they trusted me enough to let me help out, even though they really had no way of knowing whether I'd be any good at it, and if they have in the meantime decided that allowing me near their precious publication was a stupid call, I hope they'll be kind enough to not tell me.

When I haven't been contemplating dangling modifiers and serial commas, I have been working on my cross stitch project, which, thanks to several readers, has vastly improved, since I can now separate my threads without causing Armageddon and only occasionally get knots while I stitch, instead of all the time. The girls have been fascinated with the process, and I get a kick out of how sincerely they say, "You're doing a great job, Mom! Keep it up!" Thank you, Tony Robbins.

There's a whole lot that I am doing wrong, but I can't bring myself to care. There are places in the pattern where I'm just not sure what kind of stitch I am being asked to make, so I just make up something. It seems to be working out okay so far. When I'm all done, I'll show you a picture of the back, so that you can all laugh at me and feel superior. Don't say I never give you anything.

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day. V-Day is a big bust around this house, as I have enough of a challenge getting my husband to give a shit about Christmas and birthdays. The girls get big to-dos at school and daycare, so I don't knock myself out like I would on Easter. But I may just spend my day reading trashy romance novels and eating chocolate so that Eros gets his due from the Dougherty household. I'm sure David will say there's another way we could give Eros his due - the obvious way - and frankly if I keep reading all this trashy literature I suppose we'll have to. Fortunately, David is of the "it's-all-right-to-get-your-appetite-walking-around-town-as-long-as-you-eat-supper-at-home" school of thought, so he'll be happy no matter what. It's good to be married to a man who's easy to please and isn't having a mid-life crisis.

So, what are you doing for Valentine's Day?