Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Flaunt - Another Quilt for Austin

I've been making quilts for 34 years. After such a long time, I've learned two things about myself: 1) I can't get enough of making quilts! I don't do well with just one or two WIPs going at a time. By today's count, I am "simultaneously" working on six different projects.

And, 2) I have made so many quilts that I'm sometimes able to look at one I like and figure out how to make it. Of course, there are exceptions for intricate quilts, but simpler designs suit me best anyway.

This week has been one of those when I thought, "I'm tired of working on the same, long term quilts, and I'd like to 'whip-up' something just because I can."

So after seeing a particularly nice quilt on the Internet, I whipped it up. On Wednesday I cut out, pieced, layered and pin-basted. Thursday I machine-quilted, and finished with binding. Well hey. Why not have a personal quilt retreat in my basement sewing room? With our unseasonably hot weather, reaching 90F (32C) this week, it was the coolest place to be (pun intended!).
The quilt is 41" X 52". The focus fabric is a monster - or dinosaurs? - print selected by my DDIL Lyn for their baby, Austin. I had only to raid my stash for 20 different bright tone-on-tone prints and white sashing fabric. (Click to enlarge.)This white bulls-eye print - which a few of you may remember seeing on another WIP, my Snowflake Medallion quilt - is a favorite that's made by Timeless Treasures. The last time I found it at Prairie Star Quilts in Elkhorn, Iowa, I bought five yards. I also have it in black.

You observant Aussies might notice the orange starburst print that's from an Australian fabric designing team, Prints Charming.

The quilt back is pieced from my stash too.
The rainbow print binding fabric is a design that's printed on the bias. When strips are cut on the cross-grain, they look spiral on the quilt. I love that candy-cane effect.
Though I've already made a baby quilt for new grandson Austin, this quilt is also his, for "tummy time" when he's a little older. The bright colors should attract his attention.

And here's three week-old Austin, who I have yet to meet. In a couple weeks, I will go (big gulp, I'm flying again) to Tampa, Florida, to help take care of him. I can't wait!
While I'm blustering about grandsons, here's the latest photo of eight month-old Tay, in Sydney. I adore his curly-top head, and just want to nuzzle those chubby cheeks!

As long as I'm yammering about family, let me share this photo of two new Australians. Last week, our SIL and granddaughter, Celina, were officially sworn in as citizens of Australia. Good on ya, mates!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Perfectly Portable Project Roll-up Tutorial

When I was in Australia, I had the pleasure of making a returning for the May get-together of the Sydney Southern Cross Quilters. On the first Saturday of each month they meet in Waitara.

Sitting next to Loz, I got to see this cute roll-up in which she carried her hand-piecing.

She was working on a block from her "Farmer's Wife" quilt.
And what a clever way to transport her project!

It's a wonderful thing, made from just a heavy cardboard tube (like a mailing tube), a couple pieces of fabric, some batting, and a piece of ribbon.

After much scrutiny, a couple measurements, and some note-taking, I vowed I'd return home and make one for myself.

And voila! I now have my own project roll-up!
I chose to make mine with fabric "born" in Australia. This print from Marcus Brothers is from the "Rainbow Garden" collection by Prints Charming. Prints Charming is a shop in Annandale, New South Wales, Australia, where I visited last November!

Here's my finished 14"-long roll-up with my project laying inside. It's another Joseph's Coat block that I'm hand-appliquing following Kellie's ( Joseph's Coat Quilt Along.
I intentionally left a plastic cap on one end of the 1-1/2" diameter mailing tube so I could fill it with the tools I will use when working on this block. Pretty cool, huh? The project and storage all in one little roll-up!

The roll-up is not my own idea, but I thought you might like it as much as I do. So, I offer you my tutorial.

The tute includes a supply list and step-by-step instructions with 18 photos. I hope you like it. Send me a picture after you've made yours!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Flaunt - Under the Sea

You know... I'm so enjoying stitchery! After digging into Australians' perspectives on stitcheries, and writing the article about it for "Quilters Newsletter" magazine, I've gotten hooked on it.

I've always liked looking at the close-up photos designers take of their stitches, admiring the way the threads seem to lay like uniform beads across the surface of the fabric - linen, cotton, or whatever it may be.

That prompted me to photograph my own stitches in the same manner, and I have to say that surprisingly, I like what I see! This is the waterline along the top of the May block for "Under the Sea," by Cheryl Goss of Willowberry Designs.
These sea snakes make the fifth block in the series.
The June block of a seahorse has already been released.
And just how quickly did I get this piece stitched-up? In less than one week. Ya gotta love jet lag for gettin' stuff done. How 'bout that 15 hour time difference!? (Australia to Iowa)

Now I need another good bout of jet lag to get going on the next block!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Making Quilt Labels

It's been a week for making quilt labels, and what a good, completely-finished feeling that is!

Most often I make my quilts with sew-on Printed Treasures, a densely woven fabric backed by paper. I purchase mine from my LQS (local quilt shop); $18 for five 8-1/2" X 11" sheets. Not inexpensive, but it produces a quality result.

I begin by designing the label in my computer. My old PC with Microsoft Publisher software gives me the most options for making a snazzy label. The program includes numerous decorative borders that I can change in size and color.

This quilt label for the Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp auction coming up August 7, was designed with Publisher. The border is pine trees, suiting the front of this quilt.

With my new MacBook, I'm limited in the designs I can make because I'm using Pages software that came with my computer. The program has no border options except for lines, like this label made for Addison's quilt. But I like that I could include our church logo in the design.

Pages software also allows me to include logos and photos in label designs. This is the label for my newest grandson's quilt. Remember, Austin's the baby I'd nicknamed "Eric" before he was born.

This label made with Pages software finishes the requirements for the Embroidery Mini Quilt Swap I'm participating in. See how I included the swap logo in the label design?
This is a sneak peek of the quilt. I can't yet reveal it, nor what country it's going to, but it is winging its way to the recipient!

Whether I use Publisher or Pages software, I print the label on paper first. That's where to check spelling, layout, and the actual size of the label. My tendency is to design a label that's too large! Taking a look at it first on regular printer paper saves on wasted Printed Treasures.

I've also learned that it's best to design and print several labels at a time, to fill up the 8-1/2" X 11" page if possible. If you design and print just one or two labels, you end up with an odd-size page of Printed Treasures that may not feed easily into the printer a second time.

After cutting out each label, about 3/8" from the outside edge of the border, remove the paper backing. Don't be silly and forget to do this, as I have! A crinkly-sounding label is not what we're looking for here. Turn under and press about 1/4" on all four sides. Then use an applique stitch (blind stitch) to hand-sew the label to the quilt back on the bottom right corner. That's my favorite spot. When stitching, I try to use a heavier-than-usual white thread, or double the strands so the label stays on good and tight. With Printed Treasure - it being a much denser fabric than normal - you'll need a thimble too. It isn't always easy to get your sewing needle through the folded edge of the label.

I hope this information is helpful to those of you who haven't been labeling your quilts. You know who you are!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Addison's Quilt, Finished

In April I blogged about a group of us, Hope Quilters, making a quilt for Addison. She's a 2-1/2 year-old who's been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

To show their support and give Addison something to wrap up in during her hospital stays, family and friends donated fabrics that we used to assembly this 44" X 49" Attic Windows quilt, using this free pattern. To make the quilt larger, we simply added more rows/columns of 4" window blocks.
Isn't it a cute girly-girl quilt?

We hope the large variety of novelty prints will give Addison lots of hours of looking and chatter that will distract her from her illness and treatment.

Some of Addison's friends made blocks that we used to sew the quilt back.

Together, we're praying that Addison "will gain new strength."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Aussie Fabric

Now that I've been home for a week, and have had a chance - but haven't yet! - returned to Iowa time, I thought I'd show you some of the Aussie fabrics I brought home with me. They've been washed and are ready to be sewn into something, but I don't yet know what.

These are some fat quarters (AUD$5.50) from the "Emperor's Garden" collection by "A Day in the Country," Sue Ross. I absolutely adore this color combination - buttery yellow and turquoise.I have Doris to thank for bringing this "Emperor's Garden" collection to my attention. I found it in two colorways at the Remnant Warehouse. Some of these fqs actually belong to Doris.
These mini pin dots are also from Sue Ross' "A Day in the Country." I've never seen pin dots this teeny.

And I couldn't resist a couple pieces of Lecien fabrics that I've read so much about on Aussie blogs. It's fabric made in Japan that I haven't seen in my neck of the woods. Lecien also makes the Cosmo embroidery floss I love so much.
It's a treat to find a few fabrics that are different than what we have at home... even if they cost twice as much! Some things are just worth it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Friday Flaunt - Stitchery Article

I'm quite chuffed! This Quilters Newsletter arrived in the mail. On page 28 begins the five-page article I wrote about stitchery quilts (quilters) in Australia!

It was so interesting and enjoyable to interview the stitchers for this article.
Stitchers and quiltmakers are:
Gosh, nearly everyone in Oz is a blogger too!

American Carrie Pippin stitched Cheryl Goss' "Verandah Views" BOM, and that quilt is featured too. Part of it is the stitched trellis and vines on the left-hand side.

One of Gail Pan's designs, "Little House" is included with the article. So, if you haven't tried stitchery, it's a great beginner project. Click here to see it on-line.
It's exciting to see one's articles in print. I'm hoping for the opportunity to write more about what stitchers and quilters are doing in Australia. Trends are different there, and it's great fun to share them with American quilters.

Since just returning from Sydney, I found that it's hexagons that seem to be dominating the scene. Everyone's working on some sort of hexie quilt. They're even offering programs on "Hexagon Madness." Now wouldn't you like to read a story about that?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sounds Like Home - Not!

When I wake up in the morning, during those moments when I ask myself, "Where am I?", the most tangible way of knowing - whether in Australia or at home - is by the bird calls. At home I wake to light chirup-ping of sparrows, or the mournful coo of mourning doves. Occasionally, there's the clear short call of a cardinal or the waa-ck of a blue jay. These are the sounds of home.

In Australia, morning wake-up sounds are much different! Oftentimes the calls are magpies or noisy miners. A few times I heard kookaburras - most often very early in the morning. But the most obnoxious sounds came from the beautiful yellow-crested cockatoos. They're the prettiest large birds, but they sound awful. It made my grand-daughter and I come to the conclusion that pretty birds make ugly sounds; ugly birds make pretty sounds. See if you don't agree.
What sounds do you wake up to?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Home Again, Safely... whew!

Well, I made it home. Safely, yes. But not without some anxious, prayful moments. Given the experience I had last Friday, I was assured that the odds of getting home without incident were good, but that didn't mean there wouldn't be turbulence during any of my three flights. We had some pretty good jounces over the Pacific. So much so that I thought I was reciting the Lord's Prayer for the last time!

And the flight between Denver and Des Moines was rough too. We flew into Des Moines at 8:30 p.m. Monday as it looked like this - rainy, foggy, windy, and only 48 degrees F (8C). This is when I really miss Sydney! That city doesn't see much, if any, weather like this.
However, this is something I will miss about Sydney even more. Tay, at seven months, is a charmer. See, he's on the Aussie Animals quilt I made for him?By mid-November, Tay and Celina will have a new little brother or sister too! Yes, Jill and Maher are expecting again. That means another baby quilt! I'm getting to be a pro at this!

Now there are even more reasons to have this Sydney family move to the US. Plans are being made to do so by the end of July because that's the latest Jill can safely fly. First, a job needs to be nailed down, then we'll know where they'll live. The only thing I know for sure is that I'll be making myself available to help wherever and whenever possible.

Let me introduce you to the newest member of our family who was due May 1.

Austin Ericson Hxxxxxxxxx
(See, I wasn't far off when I named him "Eric.")
He arrived by c-section last Thursday, May 6 at 3:19 a.m. weighing in at 7 pounds 13 ounces (3.54 kg). They're having somewhat of a rough go of life as Austin had some difficulties with excessive fluid in his lungs, and mom is having nausea and headaches associated with either pain meds, or loss of spinal fluid with an epidural. Though the new little family is at home now, dad (our son) is bearing the burden because mom has to stay flat on her back for 48 hours, and Austin is demanding... and what new baby isn't? Prayers are being sent their way. I am looking forward to meeting this little fella sometime in June, and will be delivering his quilt.

Gosh, life can be pretty full sometimes. But thank God. It's all good!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sewing Saturday with Friends

I made the most of extra days in Sydney! Visit my Stitchin' Mission blog to see what I did with these two special friends - Di J. and Di B. - on Saturday, May 8. We made quilts! What else!?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Some Things Were Never Meant to Fly

Since posting this, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the plane's tail clipped the runway during take-off. That explains the loud ka-thunk I heard!
Today it was ME. I was never meant to fly on May 7.
On Friday, May 7, I said my tearful good-byes to family and at 2:00 p.m. boarded my United flight to San Francisco.
In my window seat I took these last looks at Sydney, and Australia's beautiful coastline.
Within 15 minutes of taking off, it was apparent there was a mechanical problem. Not only did I hear a loud ka-thunk, but my ears were continually plugging up. I couldn't swallow fast enough. The captain let us know that the tower in Sydney had seen smoke from our plane during take-off and the problem had something to do with the air pressure system. Continuing to stay in communication with the tower, we were told a decision would be made about completing the flight.

After another 15 minutes or so, we learned we would be returning to Sydney, but all the fuel had to be released first, so our landing would be lighter. For the next half hour, I watched this out my window. Fuel being dumped...

After our 90 minute flight, we returned to Sydney, coming in on a little-used runway, with ground crews ready to assess the plane's need for repair.We waited in the hot plane for an hour before we learned we would be disembarking. But the most frustrating aspect of it all was that we had to go back through customs, queuing-up in the same long lines as the other three flights that arrived when we did! Argh. Everyone on our flight was offered a ride to a motel for an overnight stay and $35 for dinner. Fortunately for me, my family came to my rescue, picking me up and giving me a place to stay. Well, I have mentioned how much I like it here, haven't I?

At 1:00 a.m., United phoned to let me know they could return me home on Saturday via Hong Kong with an eight-hour layover, and a connection to Chicago with only one hour to go through US customs. I declined. Instead, I will be returning home Monday, May 10, on the same combination of flights I first planned - Sydney to San Francisco to Denver to Des Moines.

Whew! Friday was sure a long day. I'd left my daughter's home at 11:30 a.m. and by 6:30 p.m. I was back. God sure had me to praying mightily, and I am grateful that the pilots made the wise decision to return us to Sydney.

The morals of this story? 1) Never stop praying; 2) God hears our prayers and protects us; and, 3) Some things, like Linda, were never meant to fly.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Not Like Home

One of many features that make Australia special is its fauna and fauna. Each time I've visited, it's what captures my interest because it's dramatically different than what we see in Iowa.

If you're the least bit interested in Australia, and you've never read Bill Bryson's book In a Sunburned Country - Bill's a native of Des Moines, Iowa, by the way - you simply must take the time to read it. In addition to being humorous (I laughed all the way through this book), it's an excellent inside look at the natural beauty and creatures in this part of the world.
I'd love to be able to capture on camera all the birds I've seen - ibis, kookaburra, cockatoos, to name a few- but I've had to settle for a not-too-clear picture of this five inch long Fairy Wren. It's such a distinctive-looking bird with it's long blue tail standing nearly perpendicular to its body.
This wren was amongst the grasses along The Gap, a gorgeous ocean-viewing place in Watson's Bay. Sadly, the area has been stigmatized due to the number of suicides that have occurred along the cliff walk. Fences, lights and security cameras have been installed in attempts to prevent people from doing just that. It was the lovely Di B. who took me to see this spectacular view. She's alongside the anchor from the ship Dunbar, that smashed on these rocks in 1857, and left only one survivor.
At Di's house, these gorgeous Bird of Paradise were happily blooming in her garden, along the nature rock sea wall.
And can you guess what this tree is? I'd never seen one. It's a pawpaw tree, and those fruit, when they're ripe, are edible!
At the local produce stand we bought this odd-looking fruit. Then we had to do an Internet search to learn the name of it! It's a kiwano. It's also known as a horned melon. Most often it's used as a decorative fruit. To give you a perspective on its size, it's next to a yellow pepper.

Interesting, isn't it? Sorta pretty. The peel is edible too.
We read that the fruit is good sprinkled with either salt or sugar, but truthfully, I was completely put off by the slimy texture in my mouth.

More new to see in Australia.


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