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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Uncharted Water

Our lives are journeys, sometimes exciting and wonderful, sometimes ugly, always a trip into the unknown. As a child, you don't think about where you are headed. You climb into the front seat of the roller coaster, arms held high above your head and scream with pleasure and fear on the ride!

As a young adult, the journey is an adventure, something to anticipate: moving out of your childhood home, roommates, responsibilities, new jobs, relationships. And don't we always think we have an idea of what is coming? Sometimes we have a plan. Like me, many of us were winging it! No matter our approach, we are all traveling through uncharted water, dealing with life as it comes at us.

Even if we had a plan, our lives often (usually?) take a different course. A sister lost her husband in a climbing accident. Her life today is completely different than what she and Dave planned. She is back in college, navigating uncharted water.

Another friend's divorce moved her away from a job at her husband's company to one working with disabled children. She has embraced the changes in her life and made her journey a positive adventure. Last week at dinner, she talked about her current activities and future plans. Completely different from when we met over 15 years ago!

My friend Kim's life has taken an abrupt turn. Without warning, she is truly navigating uncharted water. This quilt will be along with her on the journey. Hang on, Kim. Remember that you are not alone. I hope that once in a while, you can release your grip on the rail, raise your hands high, and scream with pleasure.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Should Call Them "Marker" Bags

About two weeks ago, Becky H bought a pattern for crayon bags while we were on a shop hop. We got together last week to make the bags as Easter gifts for our grandchildren. I should call them marker bags instead of crayon bags, because I put washable Crayola © Markers in them. Whatever I call them, we had fun making them.

Choose fabrics: Zoe got frogs, Kyra got smiling suns, Cassady got pencils. Linings for all are a cute black bug fabric, which I bought for $2/yard at a quilt shop End of Year sale. That is "I'll take the rest of the bolt" pricing! Pockets and handles are bright checks for the girls and a red/blue plaid for Cassady.

Construction started at my house. We loaded the lining fabric on my Avante, layered batting and outer fabric and quilted. I did simple grids, Becky got fancy with curlicues! It took longer to load the machine than to quilt, but it is SO much faster than quilting on a DSM! (Have I said how much I love my Avante lately?)

We headed to Becky's house, where we cut and sewed. I realized how smart I had inadvertently been when choosing my pocket fabrics. Always choose fabrics with straight lines when you want to sew straight lines on them!! The original design has two rows of pockets on one side, to hold 5" crayons. I modified it for the longer markers and put one row of pockets on each side. And I cut the bag pieces 12" per side instead of 10½ and 11½ like the pattern said. Question: how many times would I have had to measure those pieces if I cut them as directed? Answer: every time I picked them up!! After we sewed the pockets (Becky had to mark hers), we serged each side of the bags. (Sidebar: I AM going to buy a serger soon!). Becky's bags, cut to pattern directions, were just a tad small for the coloring books she had.

We thought we would get them completed in one day, but at quitting time, we still had to make the handles, then attach them to the bags. No problem, just an hour's work tomorrow morning, then off to the post office.

Day 2: Easier said than done! I didn't like the directions given for the handles, but I followed them. I know faster and easier ways for next time! I broke two needles sewing through the thickness of the handles and the bags. Becky broke six. On the 3rd bag, I figured out a better way. When the bags were done, I pulled out the 20 marker sets and loaded up the bags. The plaid fabric pockets were on the small side, which meant the bag was distorted after all the markers were placed in the pockets. Remember to sew at least 3/4" pockets next time.....

Search for the blank books I want to put inside. One hour later, give up on finding the blank books. And I don't have anything else to put in the bags. Darn it. Take pictures. Write each child a quick note, print shipping labels, drop them at post office. (USPS assures me they were delivered on Saturday, BEFORE Easter!!)

Day 3: Printer needs cartridge replaced. Since I'm already down there, pull out everything to dust. Find the blank books. &%#*% Again! *#&($%($!!

Things to modify in pattern:
1. Cut bags square.
2. Choose pocket fabric with straight lines about 1" apart.
3. Make pockets longer for markers.
4. Make handles the simple way.
5. Sew handles onto bag BEFORE hemming top of bag.
6. Keep track of blank books.

I'll have to make more bags so I can use all the things I learned!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day Should Be in April

Friday? March? Really? The season isn't long enough already? Let's not wait for the first Monday in April. Next thing you know, they'll introduce some stupid rule to let another player hit for the pitcher. Oh. Yeah. That stupid DH rule.

Well. At least the Reds are playing at home. Some traditions haven't been throw out. Yet. Versus the Brewers. Not a made-for-tv matchup. I realize that. And the game isn't on ESPN. ESPN, you suck! Who cares about drawing a large audience? I'm a REDS FAN! And like the other five Reds fans in Nebraska, I can't see a Reds game on tv. EXCEPT ON OPENING DAY! Thanks, ESPN, for screwing up the entire start of the season for me. You suck!
I'm going to drown my baseball sorrows by watching a triple-header. And while I watch, I'm going to work on my Baseball Bucket List. The baseball Fan's Bucket List, 162 Things You Must See, Do, Get & Experience Before You Die, by Robert Santelli & Jenna Santelli. I know I can check off a bunch of them. I've seen Major League and The Natural, collected baseball cards, kept score, owned a glove. And more from the list. And today, I'm going to document those. I'm going to remember Pacific Coast League games and learning to keep score in high school. I'm going to make some plans to read some baseball books. I'm going to wallow in baseball, since I can't watch my beloved Reds play.

Play Ball!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On Being Expensive

This past weekend, I spent quite a bit of time preparing a quote for Potential Client. The project was to make and quilt a quilt designed by Potential Client, plus write pattern instructions for said quilt. After I submitted my quote, I was told that it was four times their budgeted amount. There wasn't THAT much wiggle room, so we parted amicably, me thinking Potential Client's budget was unrealistic and Potential Client thinking I was too expensive.

Was I too expensive? I checked in with Experienced Quilter Friend to see if my estimation of time to piece a complicated block were within reason. It was. I reviewed my calculations. My time estimates are reasonable for sewing the quilt blocks. Ditto for assembling the top.

Quilting calculations are easy using my standard charges for custom quilting based on size of Potential Client's design.

Writing instructions for a pattern is HARD and time consuming. Don't think so? Here's what is involved: Write instructions. Edit for clarity and order. Edit for simplicity. Edit for spelling. Add illustrations? Check instructions (best done by someone OTHER than the writer!).

Here's what goes through my head to write instructions for a simple 9-patch: Start by choosing fabric. Nine patch is best with contrast, so a dark & a light. Let's see, I want it to be 9" finished. So each square has to be 3" in the finished block. Add seam allowances, which means they need to be cut 3.5". I need to show a block diagram. How do I draw that? Black & white will be ok. Maybe I can find a color image somewhere online. Ready to write?

1. Choose 2 fabrics, one dark, one light.
2. From dark fabric, cut five 3.5" squares.
3. From light fabric, cut four 3.5" squares.
4. Arrange squares as shown in diagram.
5. Sew, pressing toward dark fabric.

Writing and editing those 5 lines took me about 10 minutes. What you see is the final result, all cleaned up and ready to use. Are you ready to try writing instructions? Try this at home: Write instructions for sewing a Y-seam block. How long did it take you?

I expect to earn a reasonable wage for my time, based on my experience and skill level. I'm willing to ask for it. And I'm willing to walk away from jobs that don't reward me for what I bring.

I'm easy, but I'm not cheap. I don't think that's a bad thing. Rant over.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Big Football Game Mystery/Baby Quilt

A friend's link to a mystery quilt on (dare I use the trade-marked name?) Super Bowl Sunday grabbed my attention. It was supposed to be a table-topper. I decided to make it bigger so it could be a baby quilt and I chose to make it in red, blue and yellow. Red and Blue for the Kansas University parents. Yellow added because red and blue and yellow look really great together! Using just three fabrics is NOT in my comfort zone! Why use three when you have thirty? But I did!

I pieced the mystery on Sunday. If you take off your glasses and squint to blur your vision, can you see the football? The football should be easier to spot - can you see my mistake?

Not a big deal, certainly not worth the frog-stitching fixing the mistake would require!

I like baby quilts to be about 60 x 45". To make the table-topper bigger, piece a few more blocks, presto-chango - baby quilt! Not quite that easy, as the football in the center made that territory un-touchable! So my extra blocks were added to the top and bottom. Presto-chango - baby quilt!

Cute top, quilting to be done at a later time!