Friday, March 25, 2011

Moving on

In the interest of getting past this hellish week, I'll show you the completed Hoar Frost quilt top. I actually finished it last week, but was distracted by my own whininess and forgot to tell you about it.

The only place I have to hang quilts to photograph them is on a wall in my sewing room, and I have hooks placed there for the purpose, but this quilt was just a bit too big and draped across the floor at the bottom. I really wanted a good, well-lit shot of the whole thing, so I scouted around outside for a likely place. I found an area of our fence that was tall enough to hold an 80x80 quilt and so I grabbed some 3M hooks and mounted them and waited for the next sunny day.

I wish I could describe to you the comic scene that took place as I attempted to hang a quilt on a tall fence, in the wind, standing on a small step ladder on uneven, muddy ground. Lets just say that when the one leg of the ladder suddenly sank about six inches into the ground, sending me flying into some rather prickly bushes, I managed - quite heroically - to not say anything vulgar. One never knows if the neighbors are watching.

This was my first quilt on point. I've been wanting to do one for some time, but just hadn't yet worked up the courage. It was probably all those damn Modern Quilters being all discouraging and whatnot. But the instructions for how to cut and sew the setting triangles were pretty straightforward so I jumped in.

Question: shouldn't the setting triangles have an overlap of at least a quarter-inch at the edges? So that when you add a border or sew on the binding you still have points? Or am I living in some sort of fantasy world? That is not unlikely, as I am still reading those damn J.D. Robb books, and they may have unleashed some sort of virus into my brain.

I will, of course, put the quilt top away now and will probably not quilt it until someone puts a weapon to my head or threatens to take away my J.D. Robb books. ("Please, no! Just leave me the one where Eve and Roarke fight all the time and have great makeup sex and Eve has bad dreams and...okay, just leave one. Your pick.")

But now I need color. So I am going to attempt to make this:
with these:

Yes, I am serious, and no, I don't know what the hell's gotten into me. But if I lose a digit or my sanity while attempting this, I am suing Nora Roberts for every damn cent she's got, since it's most likely her fault. Those books are so bloody fun and so bloody awful at the same time, they are now going to be my excuse for EVERYTHING. What's that smell? IT'S THOSE GODDAMN J.D. ROBB BOOKS.

On a final note, an old friend of mine from college has gone missing in New Orleans. He was last seen on Tuesday. He has a young daughter and a lot of friends who are very worried and scared. If you have any inclinations toward prayer or any other method of asking the infinite for assistance, I'd be grateful if you sent one up for Jim Dugan. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two conversations

Conversation #1

Setting: in front of the house of one of my neighbors. This neighbor I actually like, and I am amused by how she brings me quilt-related things like a page from Country Living magazine that claims art quilts are the newest decorating trend. Our youngest kids are coloring on a table she has set up outside.

Neighbor (grinning): So, what did you blog about today?

Me: (How the hell does she know I have a blog?) Um...what?

Neighbor (still grinning): Did you blog today?

Me: (FUCK!) Yes...I did.

Neighbor: So, what did you blog about?

Me: Um...just the usual...quilting stuff.

Conversation #2

Setting: my kitchen, about an hour later.


David: Well, I might have mentioned it...


David: Well, I might have...


Thus the removal of yesterdays's post.

You know, this blog started out as a place where I could vent and work out problems and just be honest about things that were bothering me. Being able to put those things out into the world and have people respond with, "Yep, I get it," or "No, that's not a good way to look at it," has always helped me keep things in perspective, and I have a greater incentive to write about them here than I would in a private journal. But then Quilter's Home came along, and the blog address was published therein, and I had to hold back on a lot of things, specifically anything about my family or my in-laws that wasn't highly complimentary and/or affectionate. David assumed that because I had begun being more careful about that, that I was also censoring myself in all personal matters and that he was thus allowed to tell all and sundry the name of my blog.

I can't blame David. I should know better. When I write about things like a neighbor saying "Drinking is the only way you could get me to START quilting!" I write in a way that lets all my emotion out onto the page. I had hoped that that woman might become a friend, and I did things when she moved in that I thought might facilitate that. We had some common attitudes and it seemed like she had a good sense of humor. I know she thought the quilting comment was funny, and I know she thought it was self-deprecating. But the more afternoons I spend outside watching the other moms interact, I know I will never be friends with any of them, not in anything other than a passing hello and a superficial chat kind of way. I'm not like other people. I never have been. Most of the time I'm okay with that, but sometimes it makes me feel lonely and sad. And when someone I had thought might be a kindred spirit takes glee in pointing out that she would never do what I do unless she was drunk, it stings - even if she didn't mean for it to.

I could have written about it like that, but it wouldn't have been as freeing, and it probably wouldn't have touched a nerve in so many people. I discovered that, as I suspected, I am not alone - and more than fifty people left a comment to say so.

I have no way of knowing for sure if the neighbor above actually read my blog that day, or was just making conversation. She didn't pursue it and didn't act as though she knew something juicy. Still, I have to watch my words - again.

As always, thanks for reading, and commenting.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Here, in no particular order, are all the entries in the Name That Quilt Contest (minus the winner):

The Caves
Against The Greyn
Having a Greyt Time
Gray Skies Through the Windows
Fiddly Fart Gray Quilt
Damn, Me Knees Hurt
Against the Gray’n
Earl Grey’s Penis
Gray Day
Pigeon Shit Sieve
The Old Gray Mare
Tongue of the Anteater
Exponential Replication
Man the Battleship
Lord Thorneycroft
No Grey Hairs
Rainy Days in Portland
That’s A Gray Area
Something Dirty
Macy Gray’s Anatomy On Point
Ag e Moon (Silvery Moon)
Silver Threads…among the gray
The Whippletree
Smoke on the Water
Grey’s Anatomy
Beating My Head Against the Wall
Skid Row
Concrete Jungle
Drag Over the Coals
Tarred and Feathered
Highway to Hell
Hoary Trellis
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
Beam Me Up, Scottie
Gray Matter
Crimson and Clover
Midnight Lattice
Lattice Gray.
Beyond the Gray Gate.
Gray Gateway.
Gate O'Gray.
Given to Gray (or Giving in to Gray)
Vader Beckons
Point Bitch Noir
Moody Grey
Rainy Days and Sundays Always Get Me Down
Orange You Glad?
The Old Gray Mare Ain’t What She Used To Be
Grey Gardens
criss cross aspens
Grey Goosed
Holy Shit Batman…she did it!!
Shades of Grey
Grey't Scot!
good god its grey
4 points + grey
Grey Pooped On or Grey (Rats) Poop(ed) On (It)
Concrete Tangle
They Zig When I Zag
Guano Lattice
No Weenies
Gothic Trellis
Gothic Wedding
Pointedly Grey
Dirty Dancing
Grey-Stoked Square Balls
George Clooney, Sean Connery, or James Gray
Who hid my crayons?
Black and White, and Shades of Grey,
Who needs color anyway?
It's my mood, and I'll quilt it if I want too!

There were some really good ones in here. I was very tempted to go with Earl, as in Earl Grey, and start a tradition of giving my quilts men's names (for newbies, my last major quilt was named George, Jr.). "Grey-Stoked Square Balls" gets mad points for creativity and for ensuring that I will now sing those words every time Spongebob comes on TV. There were a couple Grey's Anatomy entries and a few references to bats and guano. I thought "Lord Thorneycroft" was awesome and it tuns out he's a real dude who said something marginally famous about politics and shades of grey. "Ag e Moon" gets style points for knowing the atomic symbol for silver.

But the winner I have chosen is: Hoar Frost. For one thing, I think it describes the quilt nicely. Here's hoar frost on a fence:

Original photo can be found here

And for another, it sounds like "Whore Frost." Can't beat that.

Now I miscounted my quarter yards and it turns out I only have seven, but there will be a few other things in the box as well to make up for it. So, congratulations, Lisa! An email is incoming.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Contest time!

Despite the fact that I have several other projects in progress, I started a new quilt over the weekend. I realize that this is something everybody does, and I shouldn't act like I'm the only one, but it still feels like a character flaw. I have the same problem with books. I start one, and it's really good, but that next one on the stack looks good, too, and I've been looking forward to that one, and oh, I'll just glance at the first page - and next thing you know I have a stack of 10 books on the nightstand, all partially read. Having a Kindle has helped with that somewhat, as well as reading the most sinfully cheesy books ever written, any one of which I can polish off in 24 hours - and that's in between writing, cooking, eating, and shoving the kids into a closet so Mommy can have some "quiet time."

I had seen this tutorial on the Fabricworm blog, and having never done anything on point before, I thought this might be a good one to start with. The instructions didn't seem too obtuse (though I admit I only ever skim instructions until I get to the point where I actually need them, which is why I so often get halfway through a project and suddenly find out I was supposed to capture a live marmoset and hold it over my head while standing naked under a full moon and chanting the lyrics to Crimson and Clover) so I thought I'd give it a go. I had purchased a bunch of some nice dark grey Kona fabric and I thought I'd work around that. I kept trying to imagine what various color combos would look like matched with dark grey. Maybe a yellow/orange/red or various shades of green. Probably anything would have worked, grey being pretty much a neutral after all, but I am simply not clever enough or daring enough to try to make it work.

So I went for more grey.

I cut everything over the weekend and today I laid it all out on my sewing room floor, even though the floor was filthy. I vacuumed after I was done and had picked up all the pieces. If I had done it before, I would have been too tired to crawl around on my hands and knees laying out blocks, so I was willing to endure the dirt. As it was, I was almost too tired to vacuum after crawling around on my hands and knees to lay out blocks, but it really was pretty gross, so I persevered.

Here's how it looks laid out (minus the setting triangles):

I think it will do. If I can manage to keep everything straight while I sew it. It would have been better to keep it laid out on the floor and just pick up what I need as I sew, but there's no way I can do that in the child-free time I have allotted to me. And I also need to come up with a good name for it. It's not a sexy quilt, like George was. Grey Eminence or (Eminence Grise if I'm feeling Gallic)? The Grey Lady? Grey Poupon?

Hey, let's have a contest. I have 8 quarter-yards of the sashing and cornerstones fabrics left over (these are quarter yards - not fat quarters). The one who comes up with the best name gets 'em, plus maybe a few extra goodies. You have until Thursday, March 17th at midnight Eastern Standard Time to come up with the best name for this quilt. I will ship internationally, so even the visitors from Clackamannanshire and Hojbjerg can enter, but not in Gaelic or Danish, please. And remember, I'm a humor writer, so entries that make me laugh will have a better chance of winning (but there's a chance none of them will so enter anyway, even if yours isn't a gut-buster). Profanity is allowed, but not required. Winner will be announced sometime on Friday.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

And yes, the vampire will be a Scot

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I have been occasionally sewing these last few weeks. One weekend the girls decided that it was time their mother got off her fat butt and made them their own purses already. Even Harper, she of the I-will-never-allow-anything-girly-anywhere-near-me-except-of-course-my-sister-but-I-expect-extra-dessert-for-doing-that mentality. If it meant she could A) choose fabric, and B) stand around asking me every three minutes if it was done yet, then by God, she was IN. She chose a lovely series of green batiks, and Devon went for all the pink she could find.


I made them from the same pattern as the one I made for our neighbor's daughter, which is small enough for them to use, but big enough that they can keep using it for several years. These purses now accompany us on any outing to a restaurant, as they contain strategic supplies for surviving the eternal wait for food that they are forced to endure any time their parents want to eat a meal they don't have to clean up after.

Then, of course, I was jealous and decided that I needed a new purse too. I've been hoarding some Jane Sassaman fabric and finally decided to cut into it. I used the same pattern that I had used to make this bag:

From The Bitchy Stitcher

Only, I modified it, because in that version there is a seam that runs directly down the middle of each side and it was gonna mess up my beautiful fabric. So I made it like this:

Apparently, I have a thing for spiders. Or, at least stylized depictions of them. And I loved the way it turned out so much, I also decided I needed a new Kindle cover to match. I have a feeling that matching one's handbag and Kindle cover is a major fashion faux pas, but since my stained t-shirt, ratty yoga pants, butch haircut and general body shape are all pretty much in the DON'T category as well, I guess it doesn't really matter much.

Then Harper came home with a school assignment to make an animal. Any animal, but they have to make it out of things they have around the house. Or in this case, things their mother has. Naturally, Harper wanted to make a snake (we got lucky - it could have been a tarantula) and we immediately started brainstorming how we could sew one. We decided that we could draw a pattern and cut out the fabric, stuff it with Kleenex, and even fashion a rattle out of a bit of plastic tubing and some beads.

Of course, this meant that Devon needed to have a stuffed creature of her own, and she wanted a butterfly, which has no end of logistical problems. How the hell was I going to join wings to a body? I got started by making a wing pattern and cutting out 4 pieces, and a body pattern. The wings were sewn together with fusible fleece and quilted a bit, then I ended up just sewing them together with a zigzag stitch (though I realized later that one wing was upside down). Then we made a body out of two pieces and I essentially appliqued them on, leaving an opening for stuffing and then slip stitching it closed.

Not gonna win any ribbons at the fair, but the kids are happy.

Oh, and now Someone Who Shall Not Be Named (Jake) has gotten me to start reading the J.D. Robb series of books, and if you don't hear from me for several weeks that is why. Now, I am enjoying them, obviously, but I have to say this, even though I know no one but me gives a shit. WHERE IS THIS WOMAN'S EDITOR? Seriously, you could make a drinking game out of how much she repeats herself. The worst is when she wants to let you, the ignorant reader, know something someone is saying is supposed to be facetious. "He put his tongue in his cheek." "She placed her tongue in her cheek." "...he said, with his tongue planted in his cheek." She does this like eighteen times in the same book! NORA. We get it. We can figure out that when Eve says to Roarke, "I only pretended to enjoy that," that she is NOT SERIOUS. Oh, and how many times does Eve say, "I only pretended to enjoy that"? At some point, Roarke better say, "If I had a dime for every time you said that..." or I'm gonna have to make some calls.

Sigh. I guess I'm just going to have to finally start writing that vampire-romance-quilting-mystery novel I've been planning for the last couple of months. Someone's gotta show Nora how it's done.

(Oh, and P.S. I have a new comment system, which will allow people (and me) to respond to comments individually. To comment, just click on the place below where it says "0 comments" (or whatever the number is) and then after the jump, scroll down to the end of the post, and there you will see the new form. It's a little different, but I'm hoping it will work out well.)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Insert bat pun here

I promised you bats, and bats you shall have, though I have been up to some actual sewing the last couple of weekends. But I'll save that for another time since I know you're all practically falling all over yourselves with anticipation.

I was reminded of this story when someone posted a comment about a rat getting into her sewing room. In general, I have not had too much trouble with varmints invading my personal spaces. We did discover a couple mice in the apartment we lived in the year we got married, but that was right before we moved, so we didn't really care that much. Also the landlady of that apartment lived directly above us and she and her two teenage sons were the absolute craziest human beings I have ever met. And they had us totally fooled when we leased the place. She was so nice and gave us cookies and tea and and then the first week we lived there I had my hand on the phone to call the cops every ten minutes. The two sons beat the living shit out of each other on a regular basis. And they would scream and howl like they had each been stabbed in the eyeballs while they were doing it. One had a girlfriend he was always fighting with, and his end of the fight was always "BUT I LOOOOOOVE YOUUUUUUU!" But the best one was one morning, when I had a day off and was praying for a few hours of peace, I hear the mom vacuuming. She hoovers up and down the hall for a few minutes, then turns it off and starts banging on a door. "I KNOW SHE'S IN THERE, YOU LITTLE SHIT! YOU GET HER OUT OF MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW! YOU GET THAT DIRTY, DISGUSTING WHORE OUT OF MY HOUSE!" Then she turns the vacuum back on and hoovers some more for about three minutes. Then back to the door. "WHORE! WHORE! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE YOU FUCKING WHORE!" (Oh, and to the latest Anonymous - it's not really cursing here. It's reporting.) And back to the vacuum. This went on for over an hour. I have never been so entertained by people I hated. Anyway, I figured I'd let her discover all the mouse poop on her own, after we made our escape.

But that's not the bat story. The bat story is one that took place the summer after my sophomore year in college. (And this happens to be one of Harper's favorite stories; she asks me to tell it all the time.) That was the summer I finally convinced my parents to let me stay in my college town for the summer after the school year had ended. I have never been one of those kids who ever wanted to move back home. No, once I got the taste of freedom, I was hooked, and once they let me spend a summer in Annapolis, I never went back. I had joined in with a bunch of other students to rent an apartment, and we slept four or five to a room. I can't even remember the names of everyone who lived there. It was awesome.

A friend had gotten me a job with a local home security company, run by a very magnanimous guy named John. John ran the business with his son-in-law, who, rumor had it, was a disgraced ex-midshipman who was kicked out of the Naval Academy in one of its umpteen cheating scandals. There were two or three other regular daytime employees and there was us: the Alarm System Monitors. Initially, I worked a 4 to midnight shift, but then the guy who worked midnight to eight became ill, and with no one else willing to take that shift, I ended up with it.

An Alarm System Monitor's job was to sit near a computer and printer system that would beep loudly whenever a customer's home alarm system was set off. The printer would jump to life and print out a small series of codes, which the Monitor would then look up in a handy book. The codes told whose alarm was going off, what type of alarm it was, and the book would tell what to do. In general, you would have to call the home and if the homeowner answered, get them to tell you a specific code so that you know they're okay and help them reset the system. If no one answers, call the cops. If there were no alarms, your time was your own. They even provided a TV and VCR.

Shortly after I had to start the graveyard shift, I began noticing noises. Scratchy noises. It wasn't terribly often, but it was enough to get me wondering, and after a few nights it was often enough that I began to get a wee bit concerned. I got a couple of my roommates to come with me one night, and they agreed that it definitely sounded like claws skrootching around in the walls and the ceiling. They even pushed up some of the acoustic tiles to see if they could see anything. Nope. Nothing. We figured a squirrel had gotten in somewhere, and went back to watching something French and pretentious on the VCR (we were like that).

The next night, however, it was like the squirrel had multiplied. By a hundred. The scratching sound was coming from everywhere, all around me, and now I was too freaked out to stay in the room, but too brave (or dumb) to call anyone. I went into the next room, where I could still hear the monitor, and where I couldn't hear the scratching at all. I had a long sheet of dot-matrix printer paper from previous nights to go through and reconcile so I hunched over that and tried not to think about the hundreds of demon babies in the walls who would appear at any moment en masse to eat my face.


Then I heard a new sound.


I looked up from my print out and there was a bat, swooping around the room. I screeched like a, well, like a girl, but that seemed to get its attention and as it came around it decided to fly straight at me. All I had to defend myself was...the end of the long, long sheet of printer paper in my hand. I launched it as hard as I could, but only succeeded in making the bat even more curious (and a long ribbon of paper across the floor).  I frantically looked around for something else to defend myself with.

I had been sitting at the desk of the son-in-law who was, apparently, really into badminton. And hanging on the wall, crossed like swords, were two badminton rackets. For all I knew, these were the precious rackets that brought the Naval Academy its grand victory against the Sunshine Meadows Nursing Home back in '82.  But I did not care. They were now - and yes, I'm going to say it - BATminton rackets.

I have never managed to hit any object that was hurled at me, because I have strabismus and no depth perception. I cannot hit a baseball or a softball. Even kickball is iffy. So I figured I had a one in 1000 chance of hitting a pissed off bat. But maybe I could wear it out; I mean, who knows, maybe bats tire easily. Maybe it hadn't eaten in a while and was weak from hunger. It was trapped in an office after all.

But somehow, I managed to become the Babe Ruth of BATminton, and on my first try I brained that sucker. And when you hit a flying bat with a BATminton racket, it makes a little squeaky noise that sounds remarkably like "ow!" and crumples up and falls to the floor, where it appears to be dead.

I tiptoed over to the little gray-brown heap on the floor, not knowing what I intended to do. I don't think I would have actually poked it, but I did have that stupid need to somehow check and make sure it was really dead. Which was just inviting it to come back to life and fly at my face again. But before I could get close enough...


I turned around and looked toward the doorway that led to the monitor room. The system was going off. Someone was maybe being held at knifepoint or a house was on fire. Screw that. There were bats in that room.

Lots and lots of bats.

And they were headed my way.

I had two options: stay and fight or run like hell. I couldn't just leave the building—I did have alarms to monitor, after all (though I was patently ignoring one right at that moment). And I was seriously outnumbered at this point. So I ran to the end of the hall and barricaded myself in John's office. Then I called John. It was about 3 a.m.

"John. Get out of bed and get down here. There are bats everywhere." To John's great credit, that was all I had to say. He didn't live far and he came down right away.

Immediately, I told him that I had whacked one with the BATminton racket and he picked up the one that was still on the wall and started in on whacking the airborne ones himself. "Get in here, Meg! This is fun!"

"Kiss my ass, John," I yelled from down the hall.

After he had dealt with the alarm, which was a false one - thank goodness - he proceeded to confess that he knew about the bat infestation. The entire floor above us was unused and was home to god only knows how many of the infernal creatures. Up until that point, they had not been much of a nuisance, only on a rare occasion making their way into the office below, and John, being a thrifty man, wasn't going to spend a whole lot of money trying to get rid of them if they weren't actively causing an immediate problem. However, my screaming that I would not set foot in that office again until ALL and I mean ALL the bats were gone presented a more immediate problem than he had encountered thus far.

So he pulled out the vacuum cleaner and said, oh so authoritatively, that any other bats that had come in and were hiding would be drawn out by the high-pitched whine of the motor. At this point, all of the airborne bats had been whacked, so I was back in the monitor room with him and I asked him what he had done with the bodies. "Well, first, I was tossing them out the front door," he said. "But I realized they weren't dead - just stunned. So I flushed 'em!"

"You flushed them. Down the toilet?"

"Yup!" He sounded absurdly pleased by this. I watched as he turned on the vacuum and rolled it around the floor. Nothing emerged from anywhere, but John wasn't taking chances, so he started looking in the small spaces behind file cabinets and under the baseboard heaters. "Get the racket, Meg! The little buggers are wedged in everywhere!" Again, he sounded like he was finding gold nuggets or naked girls, not demon babies with wings.

I tossed him a racket, and before I could run, a few more started flying around again. John was blocking my path to the outer room and the hall, so the only place I had to run was...the bathroom. I stood in there, cowering, while John waged his BATminton battle. Eventually he scored a casualty, which he then brought into the bathroom on the strings of the racket, dumped in the toilet, and flushed. I stayed as far in my corner of the bathroom as I could and prayed for the whole thing to be over.

John brought in bat after bat after bat. Finally, as was inevitable I suppose, he brought in two too close together and the tank hadn't refilled enough for a second flush. Even though I was as far away as I could get, it was still an office bathroom and thus quite small, so I could easily see that last bat, still spinning in the bowl, unflushed. John was now preoccupied with an alarm, and I was once again seized with that inexplicable need to check out the bat. I needed to know - had to see - whether it was truly unconscious. Or dead. Hopefully dead. Unconscious would be fine, though. But for some reason, I had to know, even though the only way I would know one way or the other would be by peering into the bowl at a stupidly close range.

I decided that I would attempt to flush it, since that would get me close enough to see it and solve the problem of its presence at the same time. I inched closer. Closer. It was probably all of two and a half feet away. Took me five minutes. Closer. Closer. I reached out towards the handle...leaned over...closer...

You know what happened next. I don't even have to tell you, I'm sure. Let me just say that a bat that suddenly comes to life inside the bowl of a toilet is not so much like a demon baby with wings - it's more like a demon turd with wings. You know how sometimes you approach a toilet, like in a public restroom, and you can just see the dark shape of someone's unflushed business, and you have to kind of rush over with your eyes averted so you can flush without having to actually look at it? Imagine if you also held a deep-seated fear, born of experience, that the dark shape might suddenly animate and try to escape. That is what I now deal with on a daily basis. And I have kids who never remember to flush.

Once the zombie bat turd happened, I finally got the hell out of there. I announced to John that I would not be returning to work until I was assured that no bats remained in the building. And he did end up springing for some sort of system that would, at least on the outside of the building, allow the bats to get out but not back in. The ones still trapped inside and making their way into the office...well, there was a prize system set up for the employee who whacked the most bats every week. Apparently, I was the only one who objected to sharing my work space with demon turds, but perhaps that was because the rest of them weren't working during the hours when bats like to fly around. I went back after two weeks, because I needed the money. But I never saw another bat.

And that, my friends,  is why I ALWAYS prewash my fabric.