Thank You

I am feeling a little like ranting and raving today.  I am annoyed at the lack of respect the Thank You Note is receiving.  Don't get me wrong, I am not looking for praise or fishing for complements. Just the acknowledgement that the gift was received would be awesome.  Here it is the end of January and I still have not heard from a few of the people I sent Christmas gifts.  The saddest part, most are family members.

I really don't care if I get a voicemail, email, hand written letter, even a passenger pigeon would be nice. (oh, except they are extinct.) maybe an owl.  Just some sort of "hey, got your present. Thanks!"  How hard is that.  Even the automated gas pump down at Piggly Wiggly says,"Thank You" after I hand over my life savings.   As technology continues to advance and accelerate the novelty of a hand written letter is bound to fade. I am not expecting even that much of a response, but it is nice when those do arrive. I for one prefer them over bills.  One would think a present, especially a handmade gift would be worthy of at least a Facebook posts.

I once spent a knitting group session discussing, with other knitters, the honor of receiving a handmade gift.   One knitter stated, 'Receiving a hand made gift is a true testament of your love for the other person.'  Think of the hours upon hours spent just preparing to make the gift. This preparation solely spent in devotion to that one recipient.  Then the gift is lovingly assembled, expertly or not.  That entire time, the crafter was devoting to you, the recipient.  Time is a precious commodity these days particularly to those of us with children, husbands, jobs, Lives, yet we chose to spend our free time thinking, praying, working for you.  Our time is just as valuable.  Yet, ask most knitters who they are making "that" for and I bet you don't get many who say, "Oh, it's for me."

When I was little my grandmothers, both, impressed upon me the importance of a simple Thank You.  Back then, B.C.  (before computers)  you could call or Write.  Even if the person who gave you the gift was sitting next to you when you opened it, it was still proper etiquette to write a note of Thanks.  Several times over the course of my childhood I remember being badgered, reprimanded and drilled into writing a Thank You note.  Still to this day I sit down, my children sit down and write a note to the giver.

I don't mean to go all "Miss Manners" on you, just remember, to take the time to sit down, write a note or and email and say. "Thanks." the next time you get a gift.


Knitting Review

I have been spending more time knitting recently.  I guess I needed a break from quilting, well that and it is hard to lug my sewing machine around to doctors offices and sports practices.  :)  Over Christmas break I knitted up this warm and snuggly ribbon scarf for my sisters birthday.

The yarn is a wonderful blend of mohair and silk.  The scarf is nice and warm as well as soft.  I would have kept it for myself had it not made me itch.  (wool allergy)  . I used the pattern Ruffled Lace Scarf  from Suzie Blackman.  This was a nice manageable pattern, paired with this yarn, I was reminded of the joys of knitting.

I purchased yarn for these ski head-wraps back in, oh I guess it was September, and just recently got around to stitching them up.  I thought they would make nice Christmas gifts for friends/family in the cooler climates.

The method used for the head-wraps is called Double knitting. Double knitting is just what it sounds like, you knit the front and the back at the same time.  This gives you a reversible image on the opposite side. I had never heard of double knitting before so I decided to give it a whirl.  The book Knit Hats! 15 cool patterns to keep you warm was a impulse purchase.  I believe I have acquired most of my patterns that way.  The most challenging thing with this type of knitting was the Gauge.  I am typically a loose knitter.  With this new method I wasn't sure, sometimes with a new process I knit tighter.  I went with the needles that were recommended.  Guess what?  Yep, still a loose knitter.  Apparently the method of knitting, for me anyway, does not make my stitches tighter.

Both of these head-wraps were knit with the same number of stitches.  The larger one was knit on a size 6 needle and the smaller on a size 4.  What a difference!  The wrap knit on a size 4 is 2 inches smaller than the other.  The wrap knitted on the size 6 is Okay. I just wasn't as impressed with the end result as I wanted to be, hence the remake.  The larger wrap still works fine, better actually for larger heads.  Double knitting tends to S-T-R-E-T-C-H!  a ton.  The fact that the larger wrap is, well larger, coupled with the extra stretch give the wearer a looser garment.  The smaller wrap still stretches definitely looks better to me and it wears tighter.  I guess it just depends on your preference.


Custom Machine quilting

This past weekend I was working feverishly on this quilt for a client.  The long holiday weekend I had made me tired but a deadline is most certainly a deadline.

 This client wanted custom quilting over parts of this quilt.

I came up with these free hand shamrocks and added the leaves to suround the blocks.  After all what could be more Irish.?

 I am happy to report that the quilt was received safely and she loved it!  Yay!


A lesson in a,b,c's and 1, 2, 3's

This past holiday weekend the Family and I set out for the city of New York.  I had been there once before, about 15 years ago, to watch my brother graduate from college.  Since he still resides in Brooklyn, although now with a wife and child, I decided it was about time to revisit.
Empire State Building viewed from Bryant Park
Now the first time I went, I went with my parents, my sister and a baby.  I didn't drive, ride the subway, bus or  do any type of sight seeing.  We were there strictly for one purpose...graduation.   This time our intention was to visit and to get out and see the sights. Boy was I in for a surprise.

My brother and his wife live in Brooklyn in 2nd story apartment.  To get anywhere in New York or any of the 5 boroughs the subway is your best bet.  Our first day we slept in, had a late breakfast and started out late morning.  Our destination... The Museum of Natural History, which I would learn later was at the corner of 79th and Central Park West.  Maggi and my new nephews had every intention of accompanying us, of course that was before the temperature dropped and the wind picked up to 45 mph.  Being only 3 months old my nephew decided there was no way he was going anywhere in those conditions and promptly let us all know it!  We were on our own, no map, no knowledge of the city or it's transportation. As she headed back  Maggi yelled, "Go 2 blocks to the 86th street platform, Get on the D train, change to B train at Grand St., get off at the national history museum. It's Easy."  Easy?.  HA!

Okay, step 1. find subway station
step 2. pay for metro pass
step 3. find map
step 4.  find D and B train.

Fortunately, we were able to find the subway station.  The large street sign that read "SUBWAY--->"  helped.  Once there, we had to use our higher math skills to figure out how many metropasses we needed and how much we needed on each pass.  We had 5 people, each way was $2.25,  no charge for transfer unless it is outside the 2 hour window, each metropass can only be swiped 4 times at one stop and one credit card can only be swiped 2 times before you are locked out.  (Got it?)  I remember why my son hates algebra.

We were able to find the D train, board and it transfer to the B train.  Having only 3 days in New York City we decided to get off at Central Park and walk the 5 blocks through the park to the museum.  We followed the people out of the subway tunnel to 72nd street and entered Central Park.  The wind was cold and the temperature had plummeted far from our 70 degrees in South Carolina.  We didn't so much as walk through Central Park as R.U.N  because no sooner did we enter the park than it started snowing!  Totally a tourist mistake.  Had we taken the subway to 81st we would have entered directly into the warm Museum.
Central Park in the Snow.

After we had eaten lunch and warmed up we had a wonderful time at the museum.  The place is HUGE.  4 floors and hundreds of exhibits, we hardly scratched the surface.  The kids loved it.  The life size Blue Whale was Amazing.  Then as we started to get tired we realized that we had to find our way back to Brooklyn.  Okay, we got here didn't we.  We spread out the subway map and planned our attack.

1. take elevator to floor 1 entering the subway inside and avoiding the cold.
2. take B train to D
3. exit at their stop.
Wait their stop closed for construction.
3. reviesed. take train to end of route.
4. get off D train.
5.  get back on D train going other direction.

Our first mistake, The elevator we choose exited no where near the subway entrance.  We were herded out into the cold, where we had to walk around the museum to enter the subway.  Now the train was packed.  Right. Rush hour.  We crammed ourselves onto the subway,  got nasty looks as we blocked traffic while we studied our map.  Made it to B train back to D train.  Their stop fortunately was not closed.  Okay back to back to plan A or was that step 3.  No I think it was Train D.
Time Square

We did indeed make it back safe and sound.  Saturday, Maggi and Dom gave us a guided tour of Grand Central Station where we had lunch, yummy.  Time Square which the kids thought was and I quote, "Totally Wicked!"  We walked through the giant Toys R Us, an experience I will never repeat.  Saw lots of tall buildings, including, the Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall, The Chrysler  Building and Rockafeller Plaza.  With them leading the way it seemed easy. It was easy.  We had no problems making the 1 hour and 10 min subway ride.  Even the baby was happy. Well, as happy as you can be at 3 months when you are not at home and are forced to be out in the cold.

Sunday Maggi and Dom decided to stay home.  The windchill was 8 degrees, who could blame them.  With all 8 of us in a tiny apartment we decided to take the kids to the Aquarium at Coney Island.  After a hardy lunch we planed our attack.

Yes, we drove.


Quick Yoga Mat

Last week I had a Yoga Retreat.  I realized at the last minute that I still had yet to purchase a yoga mat.  Ugh. Not wanting to go out for one more thing, I searched the web for a yoga mat pattern.  There were very few patterns, actually I only found one post.  The basic formula seemed simple enough, Fabric, batting, thread and non-slip rug mat.  Imagine my surprise when I realized I actually had all of the supplies in my sewing room.  Not only that but I had a practice quilt that had been lying around for years. 
Believe it or not I quilted this quilt before I ever had a machine.  This was a practice quilt I had used when borrowing a Long-arm machine from a friend.  I love the colors and the fabric, but the quilting was AWFUL.  It is a mis-match of practice patterns.  Everything from stippling to Halloween to echoing.  Being one of the first quilts I ever quilted I had a slight attachment to it and had been toting it around for 4 or 5 years.  This was the perfect opportunity to use it for something I love.
I cut the excess batting and backing away.  I trimmed the quilt down to 24"X68".  Added a few circular pieces of non-skid rug padding to the back side.  I just top stitched the circles directly to the quilt. I figured the quilting couldn't get that much worse. Right? I used my walking foot to ease the non-skid pieces through the machine.  (they were totally not kidding when they say non-skid).  I pinned the the circles down using the pins as a guideline for turning as I stitched.

After a quick binding.  Voila! I had a Yoga mat for class.



Is it hot is in here?

I was up early with the dog, who just had to go out at 6:50 on Sunday morning.  Not surprisingly, she is now fast asleep on the floor beside me and I am wide awake.  While reading through some email this morning I stumbled upon this website called.... Handmade Ryan Gosling!  I just had to share some craft inspired Ryan love.

Smile and Keep Quilting!


Baggin' it!

I know. I know. One of my resolutions was to start backwards at the Christmas holiday and work towards January.  However, I got distracted.  It can happen to anyone.  Really.  No Wait.  Hear me out.  Okay..(deep breath).

This past summer I purchased a groupon for the Creative Sewing Center.  It is a wonderful shop here in Columbia.  It is one of those shops that you walk into and say, "I'll take one of everything!"  Seriously, it would be easy to drop several hundred dollars.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to get a groupon and save some dollars!  Regrettably, I did not pay attention to the expiration date on the groupon. Thankfully, the wonderful people at the sewing center honored my certificate for the amount I payed for it.

I walked around the store for at least an hour, trying not to drool on the beautiful fabrics they have there.  I am quite certain I picked up materials for 10 different projects over the course of that hour.  I stumbled upon Amy Butler's book In Stitches:More than 25 Simple and Stylish Sewing Projects.  Why settle for just 10 projects when you could have 25?  The book was a must.

Within the book there are, as it says in the title 25 projects, which are organized by rooms in your house.  The pattern that really caught my eye was the Laundry Bag.  When ever we travel my husband insists on having a bag for is dirty laundry.  While I don't necessarily see the need,  I pick my battles, this is not one of them.  We drag along a plastic garbage bag, or when I forget, we use the dry cleaning bags offered in the hotel, to hold our dirties.  Since I know several people who also sort laundry while on vacation, having a pretty bag to use seemed like a great idea for Christmas gifts.  (See I told you I would get to Christmas,)

Well, the holidays were hectic and I started second guessing myself.  Dirty Laundry and what you do with it can be, for some people, a highly sensitive topic.  While I would love a hand made laundry bag, I thought perhaps others might find it intrusive, a bit too personal.  So I "bagged" the idea (sorry I couldn't resist)

That beautiful fabric just sat there looking longingly at me, until I just couldn't take it.  This weekend I broke down and stitched it up.  I thought about stashing it for a gift for next Christmas, but that would mean it would sit unused for 12 months.  I couldn't do that.  Consider it a very early on very late Christmas present to myself.

It is a huge bag, with lots of room.  Look at it!  You could stuff a kindergartner in it! I love it!  The pattern called for lining the bag with canvas which makes it a nice heavy duty bag.

I knew I had sewn up a great bag when my high schooler said, "Is that going to be our new dirty laundry bag for travel?  Good because the trash bag is incredibly tacky."  We have a winner.


Blasting off into the New Year

This Christmas Mark and Jack asked for a rocket.  Being unfamiliar with rockets, I had to take John along on this particular shopping excursion.  Once in the store, I stood for a while in the rocket isle listening (or pretending to listen) as he rattled off all of the things we needed.  He compared this and that, picket them up, read the directions, on and on for 30 minutes until the store manager announced that the store was closing.  Finally, being forced to choose, he chose a multi-stage rocket with C class engines.  (I know. This means nothing to me either.)  The boys, however, were very impressed.

Jack and John carefully assembled the rocket.  Jack read the directions and let John know when he was mounting a piece incorrectly or placing something improperly.  Only once the assembled rocket was dry was Mark allowed to help.  They let him put on the decals.  Mark has a curious habit of breaking things, quite by accident, or so he says.  After the rocket was complete, decals and all, the excitement for lift off was palpable.  John had thought we would have time to launch on Saturday.  Our "to do" list however proved to be too long and we soon ran out of day light.  Sunday John was determined to launch.  We went to the local soccer park after lunch.  John brought an assortment of "launch" required items. To me it looked like a battery, some wire and tools.   I am sure they all had a purpose, even if I failed to see it.

The launch pad was assembled, The rocket loaded onto the "launch thingy" Once the engine was inserted into the rocket. the wires and ignitor were connected, the count down began.

10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,...2,...1, and Nothing.  John went over ever piece to make sure the connections were not loose and we tried again. 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,..2...1. still nothing.  At this point Mark was sent to the truck for tools.  The rocket was taken off the launch pad.  The ignitor replaced and the wire, I don't know what he did with the wire but it was looked at closely. Again we tried the launch, and Nothing.  Eventually I was sent home for materials wire, a pocket knife, a nine-volt battery and meter. Again, I just followed orders having no clue what any of these things were for.  Fortunately the kids had the foresight to bring things to do at the park.  When I left Jack and Emma were making up their own game of rocket and Mark was juggling a soccer ball.

Once I returned, John tested the battery with the voltage meter.  Replaced a few things and got ready for launch.  Another, slightly less enthusiastic countdown was started.  Again nothing.  Now our relatively clear day had turned cloudy, and the wind was picking up.  The kids were clearly lost in play, having gotten over the disappointment of a failed launch and I was cold.  John however, was not going to give up.  He was determined to launch this rocket!  So when he said, ready for launch, we all said, "okay, go ahead."  No countdown was started.  No one was looking.  No one thought it would work.  When it took off we were all, Surprised.   The kids dropped their toys and took off to retrieve the rocket.

They chased the rocket.  I looked at the rocket dubiously, as it plummeted to earth.  The parachute was not deploying.  Par for the course.  This day was not going as planned.  I was just starting to imagine what I was going to say to the ER doctor when I brought Mark in with a rocket impalement, when the parachute deployed.  I took a deep breath and let it out.  Just then the wind picked up and the rocket took off propelled by the wind.   Mark ran after it, jumped a fence or two while the others gathered up the launch material.  I jumped into the car and trying to keep up with the rocket, and Mark. Mark lost sight of the rocket as it dipped down behind a building.  And that is the last we saw of it!  We searched everywhere, high and low and found no trace of it. For 45 minutes we searched, trees, drainage ditches, bushes, and found no trace of the rocket.  The search was abandoned.  We all piled into the truck, the disappointment on John's face mirrored in the kid's faces.  As we traveled home Mark says, "We didn't even get to deploy the rocket in 2 stages."  What?  Yes, that is right after all that, they decided to deploy only one stage.  Apparently with 2 stages the rocket is supposed to reach a final height of 1800 feet!  Not to worry Jack assures me this is still within the troposphere.


New Year

Happy New Year Everyone!
What a wonderful year 2011 was for me.  I thought I would take a look back at some of the happenings of this last year.

As always I ventured away from quilting briefly to whip up several other sewing projects. I made 8 pillows, 4 bags, 6 baskets and 1 ball.  All sold or given away.  All very satisfying projects

This year I made and quilted 14 quilts.  About half of those being commissioned work.  I made 2 new quilt patterns for my website Spooky Halloween and Jean's Diamonds.  I also joined a new group, South Carolina Binky Patrol, and made 2 charity quilts, a goal I plan to continue into the new year,

This year I quilted 12 quilts for others.  I learned a few new long arm patterns and quilted with flannel and minky for the first time. 

This year I was a finalist for The Transformation Challenge with my quilt, A moment of time.  This was my second entry into a judged competition.  It was very difficult for me to undertake but gave me some confidence for the next time.
I participated in 2 blog fabric swaps.  Increasing my scrap stash which will soon overtake my quilting table.

This leads me to my first resolution, re-organize my sewing room.  Nothing drastic.  Just a few new containers, a shelf and a couple of wash bins for batting storage.
I would like to visit a national quilt show this year.  This is not technically a resolution.  However, it has been 4 years since my last quilt show.
I am attempting a backwards approach to this years quilting.  What I mean to say is that I plan to do my holiday quilting in reverse order.  Starting with Christmas quilting in January, them moving to fall and so on.  We shall see if I stick to this.  I already have ideas for the first few months.  I am quite sure they will evolve, change as the year progresses.

I hope everyone has a great New Year and that 2012 leads to many happy quilt experiences.