Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I've Been Better . . .

Boy, you get a year older and stuff starts falling apart. Okay, to be honest, stuff started falling apart years ago.

This time, though, it's my neck/upper back/right shoulder and arm. It started stiffening up and aching last Friday when I took a break from jury duty and went into the office. Can I really have gotten out of prime typing shape in just a few days?

Well, I DID work late on Friday, so I put in something like a ten-hour typing day, but there have been plenty of times when I didn't type for a few days and then DID--and typed overtime too--and lived to tell about it. So I don't know if it's THAT--the typing--or not.

Then, I thought it might be starting to feel a little better this afternoon, but I had to go spoil it all by going back into the office to type for another three hours.

Seriously, it may just be my imagination. No, not the pain; just the idea that it's caused by typing/work. Maybe it's just that the typing/work makes me notice the pain more. Anyway, I think I might not write a blog for a couple days if it keeps hurting.

I suspect muscle relaxants and jury duty wouldn't pair well. That's probably just as well, since I'd have to find time to get away from jury duty to see the doctor to get the muscle relaxants. In the meantime, I'll try heat, ice, and ibuprofen and see if that helps. I'll be back when I can.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sometimes It's Hard

Sometimes it's hard to get in some quality sewing time. Hubby's been awfully sick this weekend--I think it's the flu--and that means I've had to take on a few nursing duties. Poor guy--I hope he's feeling better soon!

Then, too, the excitement of some of the Olympics events makes it difficult to concentrate on sewing. But really, all of those distractions pale in comparison to having someone lay on your arm while you're trying to sew.

Nevertheless, I've finished the latest Harrington and Hannah block. Cute, isn't it?

And I've begun the next project--but I can see it might take awhile at this rate.

Some cats like to lay on the quilts. My cat likes to lay on the quilter.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Day Late . . .

That saying concludes with "and a dollar short," but I don't think it applies here, does it? If one was to say that quilting costs money--and it does, of course--it would be much more than a dollar, but then the satisfaction is so great, it's completely worth the money.

So, anyway, here's my Comfort & Joy block--a day late.

Have you been watching the Olympics? I was thinking that with the Olympics on, I'll get a lot of quilting done, because I'll be completely happy sitting in front of the TV as much as possible. But then it occurred to me that I'll probably be distracted by the events, sitting on the edge of my seat to see who'll win each one, so all in all, I'm not sure whether the Olympics will spur me on or sidetrack me! How about you? Are you watching?

P.S.: Santa is still eyeless because I'm leaning toward giving him button eyes which will have to be added after the quilting. Just thought you'd want to know.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Close, But No Cigar!

July 28th. Time to reveal the fourth block of the Comfort & Joy quilt. You'll likely recall that I've been playing catch up on this one because I waffled for a couple months before deciding to take the plunge.

I THOUGHT I'd have it done. Of course, I didn't think I'd work late tonight and then be so tired I can barely keep my eyes open--sometimes Friday nights are like that, aren't they? So I didn't finish. So close, but yet so far. I still have a small applique block to make--just a bird with an embroidered sign; probably about two hours worth of work.

I DID get the main part of the block done, except for Santa's eyes, and I haven't quite decided on those yet. At least I can show you this:

I'll probably have the block finished this weekend and I'll show you the entire block four when I finish. In the meantime, you can visit Anne's blog, Cottons 'n Wool, and click to view the blocks by the other participants from there. (As I write this, she hasn't posted yet, but I know she will, so if you arrive a bit early for the reveal, check back with her a little later in the day.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Week Two Over

Week two of jury duty is over--tomorrow (today, really, by the time you read this) I go back to work for a day, and then I return to the courthouse on Monday. It's actually kind of interesting, so I can't complain.

I can't tell you about the trial I'm on, but I can tell you about other courthouse happenings.

Most of the time, I've had lunch in the court cafeteria, and there are several attorneys I see there every day who are from out of town. The senior attorney looks familiar to me, but I don't know why--I have no idea even if they are involved in a civil case or not, but I think they are. Anyway, there's this senior male attorney who I'd guess is probably in his 50s; he's a big powerful guy with a commanding presence and gray hair. Then there's a female attorney, probably in her late 30s or early 40s, who seems to be a stereotypical east coast (i.e., New York or New Jersey) personality. Finally, there's an older guy who doesn't wear a suit and seems more like either the client or an investigator.

The first day, I overheard the female attorney telling someone that as she was leaving the courtroom, she fell down and banged her knee. She denied the fall had anything to do with the high heels she was wearing, but today, a week and a half later, I noticed she was wearing flats. Also today, she was trying to find her missing cell phone--she last remembered having it in the ladies bathroom because she set it down to wash her hands. I always have to wonder about people taking their cell phones into the bathroom, but she's very attached to hers. The other day, she put her phone on speaker and played back all of her messages rather audibly until the senior male attorney walked over and suggested it wasn't appropriate in a crowded cafeteria. Seriously, she seems like a really ditzy redhead to me.

And the senior attorney? He often sits at a separate table, going through a binder of documents, preparing for the afternoon trial session. That first day, he got up and walked over to the female attorney and directed her to get him a cup of coffee. Seriously?!! I thought that kind of thing ended a couple decades ago! Today they were all sitting together but had to move to a different table, and the female attorney carried the male attorney's suit jacket. I've developed a pretty strong dislike of these people.

For their sake, and the sake of their client, I sure hope there aren't any jurors from THEIR trial observing what I have. I wonder if the arrogance of the male attorney and the idiocy of the female attorney comes across in the courtroom?

Speaking of idiocy, the first or second day I was down there, we were all waiting in the hallway after lunch when the bailiff from another courtroom called his prospective jurors back into court. A little while later, he came back out and called a specific name--the name of a woman. Ten minutes later, he came out and called again. Up until that point, we weren't paying too much attention, but about ten minutes after that, we couldn't help but notice--and overhear--the same bailiff talking to a panicked and flustered woman outside the doors to the courtroom. We rather shamelessly tuned into the conversation and heard the woman explain that she'd gone down to the jury room during lunch and somehow became so engrossed in a jigsaw puzzle, she completely forgot to pay attention to the time! Consequently, she was 45 minutes late--and we jurors already get a 90 minute lunch break each day! Isn't that crazy? I just can't imagine forgetting to pay attention to the time like that, can you?!

As I've found, the courthouse is an interesting place to people watch. I'm sure I'll have a couple more stories to share by the time this is done.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Deep Fried Cheese Curds

Yep, you're right--it's state fair time again! Every year, there are two things I absolutely have to include in my state fair visit: Fair food and quilts. And most of the time, for whatever reason, I pass up the fried foods on a stick, but my blood pressure was a little on the low side a couple weeks ago, so I figured I should "fix" it with some deep fried fair food.

Hubby and I started out with sandwiches--me with a pulled pork and him with a pastrami. As we sat and ate, we surveyed the other food choices. I seriously was thinking: "Hey, what food here sounds interesting and absolutely cannot be bought at any other place, at any other time," and the deep fried cheese curds pretty much raised their greasy little hands and said eat me.

And we did. They were pretty good too!

Here's the other thing we went for. Rabbit Transit was on display with an honorable mention.

But besides that, I took a few photos so I could share them with you. First are a couple overviews so you can see how the displays were set up. And, of course, there are some beautiful quilts to be seen in these as well.

Hubby didn't really "get" the cow quilt but I thought it was funny. Besides that, I thought it was so similar to the cow quilt I took a photo of at the Verna Mosquera retreat that the two quilters must have taken the same class from Mary Lou Weidman.

I loved this rabbit quilt--of course, I DO like some nice rabbits! Do any of you recognize the pattern, perhaps? I think it would be great fun to make.

Hubby and I found ourselves looking at this display and commenting on how much we liked the piece, what the artist had done, and the number of awards. The funny thing is that after a couple minutes, we realized we were each talking about a different piece! I liked the small footstool on the right and Hubby was awed by the horn table on the left.

How could he like a horn table so much but dis a cow quilt? Men! Who can understand them? It almost made me not want to share my deep fried cheese curds with him!

By the way, what's your favorite fair food?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Merry Again!

As I was finishing the embroidery tonight on the latest Merry, Merry Snowmen block, I was thinking that considering I have so much time for sewing while on jury duty, I don't seem to be accomplishing anything as quickly as I thought I would. I know--I still manage to get a lot done. I agree. But I really thought I'd get more done with an hour or two of dedicated sewing time at the courthouse each day. AND I get home from work earlier too! What's going on?

I think it's been a few things. My birthday for one. I love celebrating and we've been doing just that for the past week. A day out with a friend last Saturday. Shopping for a few new things to wear on Sunday. Dinner out on Monday. Then the Wild Child came through on Tuesday night. (She had been in the Boston area for a friend's wedding, flew back into Reno, and was driving back up to Humboldt when she stopped in here to join us for dinner out and to load up a few more of her things.)

Then there's the fact that there's a lot of down time in jury duty that's still not very good for applique--like when we're waiting on the chairs in the hallway outside the courtroom; not knowing when we'll be called back in makes it harder to pull out the stitching supplies. Also, there's no surface to work on and the lighting is a little iffy.

I think I'll try to make a little more effort though. And, of course, things will calm down a bit now, I suspect. But probably not tomorrow--I'm still celebrating, and tomorrow I'm going out to lunch with a friend. And after I'm done at court, Hubby and I are going to the fair.

Oh, well. Now that I think about it, there are things that are a lot more fun AND a bit more important than getting applique blocks done quickly.

Here's the latest Merry, Merry Snowmen block. Without all the button and ribbon embellishments that will be added after quilting, it looks a little plain for now, but it's going to be a cute one when the quilt's done.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Rest of the Story

Sometimes stuff happens and I think, "Oh, I have to tell this story on the blog!" And then I don't. Something else comes up, time passes, and I forget. This is one of those stories I meant to tell you about before.

Back when I was at the Verna Mosquera retreat and blogging from the hotel's business center, I wrote this in one of my posts: "It's a little after 9 p.m. on Saturday night and I'm ready to take a shower and turn in a little early. (Besides, I have a little chocolatty goodness waiting for me on my nightstand alongside my book--some English toffee I picked up at a sweet shop today.)"

After I returned to my hotel room, I took a bath, put my jammies on, and got into bed with my book. After reading for about ten minutes, I reached into the little white paper bag from the sweet shop and broke off a small chunk of English toffee. Yummy! My favorite! Except that when I chewed, I bit down on what I thought was a fragment of walnut shell. I removed it from my mouth and discarded it; I thought, "It's a darn good thing I didn't bite down harder and break a tooth!"

Guess what? No, I didn't break a tooth; not exactly. Not as I thought, anyway. Because what I bit down on wasn't a walnut shell either--it was either a piece of filling or a piece of tooth. I didn't notice it at first, but a little while later, my tongue discovered a hole where there used to be tooth. ARGH!

The damaged tooth was an upper molar--the second one in from the back. I planned to call my dentist that Monday and have it fixed, but when I returned to work after a two-day vacation, my desk was buried, so I thought I'd see the dentist on Tuesday instead. Except I was called in for jury duty on Tuesday. And you know how that went, right? So on Wednesday, I called the dentist and arranged to see him on Friday, when I knew I wouldn't be in court. In the meantime, I ate only fairly soft food and chewed everything on the other side so I didn't further damage the tooth.

It all worked out okay in the end. I'll probably need a crown someday, but for now, my dentist thought a filling would do.

Do you ever have those dreams where your teeth start to disintegrate into chalky dust? Yes, I had at least one of those dreams last week. I asked the dentist, and he said it's a fairly common dream. Pretty disturbing, really. But probably not quite disturbing enough to make me pass up the English toffee the next time I wander into a sweet shop.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Border Tutorial

A couple people asked me how to make the border I added to this Schnibbles quilt:

Remember that? It's a border treatment that I think can add a lot to the look of a quilt--and can also be used as sashing--so I thought I'd take a few minutes to show you how I do it.

The sample I'm going to demonstrate has the colors reversed, with the black fabric as the backgrounds/setting triangles. First, you'll sew the squares together, background fabrics on either side of the fabrics that will form the diamond centers. Press the seams toward the darker fabric.

Here I have the three sections lined up in the positions they'll be sewn--see how they're offset from one another?

Next, sew them together, matching up the seams. If you've pressed your fabric to the darker fabric in each group of three squares, then the seams will be pressed in opposite directions, allowing the strips to snug up against one another at the seam lines.

I've done these steps out of order a bit, but let me show you my photos and then I'll tell you what I should have done differently. In this next photo, I've lined up my ruler so that the tips of the colored squares are at the quarter inch mark on the ruler, so I can cut off the excess and leave a quarter inch seam allowance. Then I trimmed away that excess black fabric.

Now, here's what I should have done before trimming--sewn background squares to each end of the colored center square. Because I forgot, I had to trim those separately, so it was an extra step.

Finally, after trimming and leaving a quarter inch all the way around, this is the section I ended up with:

Now, you may well want to know how to calculate how long your border section will turn out so you know how many squares to cut. I'm pretty good with math, but even so, I find it difficult to calculate more than just a guesstimate of the length. It's the old A squared plus B squared equals C squared that makes my head want to explode. So what I do is to start sewing the border and when it looks like it might be getting long enough, I'll take some measurements and figure out how many more squares I'll need to add. (Just to give you a rough idea of what you'll be working with, the original squares were cut at 2-1/2" to finish at 2"; the three square section above now measures 8-3/4" not including the two quarter inch seam allowances on each end.) We would always want to make the border section the same or slightly longer than the center of the quilt. Once we know how much longer the border is, we can add more background strips around the outside of the center of the quilt to bring it up to the size of the borders. The first couple times you try this, I'd recommend adding wider background strips to make the center a little bigger than you'll need and then trimming off what you don't need once you have a final measurement--it's much easier than finding you're still too short if you forget to take into consideration things like seam allowances.

I hope this gives you a new idea to play around with.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I'm always on the look out for attractive things I can use in different ways in the Sweat Shop, and I found something today I thought I'd show you. One of my friends invited me out to lunch and to do a little shopping--there was a "garage sale" at one of the quilt shops and they rented out tables where customers could sell their unwanted stash and craft items. We also stopped at a couple "vintage/second hand" shops, and we found two plate stands, one for each of us. I thought they'd make cute fabric "shelves"; in particular, I had a big stack of fat quarters and a few half yard cuts that I'd set aside for the Pumpkinville quilt. My friend suggested she might use hers to stack charm packs.

I think this makes for an attractive way to keep a "kit" instead of putting all the fabrics in a plastic bag or box, don't you?

Of course, I COULD use it to hold plates and cups and/or serve food for a party if the need arises, but in the meantime, it's functional as a fabric stand and doesn't take up more kitchen space.

Every now and then, the clutter in the Sweat Shop starts to take over, and my new purchase motivated me to spend the evening rolling fat quarters and tidying up the rest of the clutter. No sewing was done today, but I know I'll be happier spending time in the Sweat Shop again since everything's in its proper place.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tip Two, Through the Tulips . . .

Remember Tiny Tim strumming his ukelele and singing Tip Toe, Through the Tulips? By today's standards, he wouldn't have been nearly as odd as we thought him then, would he? Anyway, when I was thinking about "tip two," my mind traveled back in time, and I couldn't resist bringing you along with me on my trip down memory lane.

When I was at the retreat last weekend, I blogged that I'd gotten a couple applique tips, but I only told you about one of them, and my friend Sandy kept asking me when I was going to talk about the other tips. So I guess this is as good a time as any.

This tip is about those points again. Like when you're appliqueing stars and such. After you prep your piece, the points have a little flag flying out the back, like you see here on this star AND on the pieces you can see on the left side of the photo:

The way Heidi--the woman who appliques for Verna and who gave us an applique lesson--treats those little flags is to trim them just slightly and then tuck them into the point. The first step is to sneak up on the flag from the opposite side of the point, as you can see here, keeping your stitches closer together as you approach the point. Then make sure you take one or two stitches right at the point.

Around now, or maybe a little before you reach the point, you can trim the flag a little bit at the tip, but don't cut too close. Now, carefully push the flag under the applique piece.

In experimenting with this, I found that sometimes using the eye of a larger needle helped to push the flag under, and then I held it under with my thumbnail while I took the first couple stitches coming back down away from the point. And sometimes it helped to come up with my needle through the background fabric first and then come up with my needle separately through the applique piece, so the thread wouldn't catch on the flag but it would keep it trapped underneath the applique.

I can see this will take a little practice, but I've been pretty happy with the way it preserves those points so far.

And now that I've passed this tip on, I'm going to expect some really wonderful points from my friend Sandy! THAT should make her think twice about being too persistent!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Courthouse Blocks

No, it's probably not what you think. You know the block pattern called Courthouse Steps? Kind of like a log cabin but different? Well, these aren't like that. I'm unofficially calling them Courthouse Blocks, though, because that's where I made them--in the courthouse.

These two blocks are for my quilt guild's opportunity quilt for next year. I made one earlier in the year and agreed to make two more when the opportunity quilt people asked. And then I just held onto them for two months without doing anything. Speaking of packing for retreats--I took these with me to Verna's retreat but I didn't work on them there either. Since our guild meeting was on Tuesday night, I was getting a little worried about how I was going to get them done in time. As it turned out, jury duty was a life saver.

Yep, jury duty time again. I've written about it before. Once again, I was on call this week and was called into the courthouse on Tuesday. From there, I was sent up to a courtroom with the first group called. After that, there was a lot of time spent sitting around in the hallway, waiting for things to happen, so I was able to stitch and finished the two blocks in time to turn them in on Tuesday night.

I'm not allowed to tell you much, but I WAS selected to serve on this jury, so I'll be hanging around the courthouse for the next couple of weeks, except on Fridays when I get to go to my regular job. How did I get so lucky, right? Ha! Actually, though, I think it's kind of interesting. This is the first time I've served on a jury, and I'm enjoying it well enough. I HAVE learned, though, that drinking a can of Go Girl during the afternoon break to ensure alertness isn't a very good idea, given the regimented nature of jury service and the lack of bathroom breaks.

Have you served on a jury? What did you think of the experience? Do you have a story to tell?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Other Thing I Did . . .

Did I mention that at the retreat, I didn't work on a retreat project? Not at all? I planned to purchase the Abundance pattern and start making it in darker colors than the original, but I also brought a couple prepared blocks with me "just in case." So I DID purchase the pattern and I have it tucked away with the mostly Thimbleberries fabric I brought, but instead of working on that, I made the second Comfort & Joy block I showed you a couple days ago and I also finished the latest Autumn House block--I think this is number 7 for our little group.

We'll be cutting the fabric for block 8 during the first week in August, and finishing up by cutting block 9 and the borders near the end of August. I'm so pleased that we're getting near the end with this one because I'll be getting the kits for Sew Spooky and Sweetheart Houses sometime next week.

As it turns out, I've had a little extra time to stitch this week. I'll have to tell you more about that tomorrow. In the meantime, tell us about your packing personality when you go away on a retreat or vacation where you take things with you to work on: Do you overpack "just in case," do you underpack and find you've forgotten important stuff, or do you pack just what you need and work on all of it?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Quilt Show and Tell

On Saturday at the retreat, we had a bit of show and tell and I thought I'd share with you some of the photos I took. There were a lot of stunning quilts and some less than stunning photography, so what's here isn't nearly all of what was shown. Another problem the photographer (me!) ran into was quilts being held up at such odd angles because of the disparate heights of the quilt holders, that some of those photos just didn't make the cut.

The first pattern Verna designed that really brought her a lot of attention and is still a top seller today is Vintage Valentines. Here's one of the quilts made from that pattern:

According to Verna, she was teaching at Thimblecreek when she came up with a vague idea for Vintage Valentines and asked some of her drop in students if they'd be interested in joining her for a block of the month quilt. The catch was that she didn't really know what it was going to look like or how much fabric everyone would need. Her students had such an appreciation of her abilities that they all joined in. Eventually that quilt turned into the Vintage Valentines pattern.

When I began quilting, back around 1999, Thimblecreek was located in Walnut Creek and was a larger store than it is today. Part of the store was devoted to gift items and the rest contained so much fabric it didn't even fit on their many, many rows of shelves. There was a huge variety of styles, patterns, and fabric--definitely something for everyone! My quilt friends and I would make the treck to Walnut Creek--about an hour or so away--a couple times a year. It was fairly normal for us to shop for an hour and make our purchases, walk down the row of shops to the Gourmet Burrito restaurant for lunch, and then return to Thimblecreek to buy all the things we passed up the first time but had been thinking about throughout lunch.

Out of that Thimblecreek environment came a TON of talented designers, including Verna Mosquera (The Vintage Spool), Anne Sutton (Bunny Hill), and Joanna Figueroa (Fig Tree). I'm sure there were more--I just can't think of them right now.

So, anyway . . . back to show and tell.

Several quilters brought "first applique quilts" with them to share. I believe this was one of them.

Although you can't really see it in this photo, this quilt was machine appliqued, and the quilter who made it did a terrific job. Each piece is stitched down with a small machine satin stitch.

Another beauty! The woman on the left holding the quilt demonstrated the starch method of applique. She does work for Verna, which probably tells you she's a darn good appliquer!

The next two quilts fall into the art quilt category. The first one was done, I believe, in a class with Mary Lou Weidman. (Click on her name to check out her website and designs if you're not familiar with her.) Mary Lou specializes in quilts that tell the quilter's story. I didn't hear the explanation of the cow quilt but it has something to do with a hot cow and "Cowliente" (from the word "caliente").

I read somewhere about this chair quilt design--I kind of think it was a class offered at Sisters but I might be wrong. It seems to me that from what I read, the quilter takes the basic chair pattern and designs a quilt that's personal to her--her life story. This chair quilt was pretty cool. They are a bit cut off in my photo, but there are broiderie perse African animals in the border/corner areas and tropical flowers everywhere.

What do you think YOUR chair would look like?

The woman who made the chair quilt brought several others--a photographic quilt depicting the face of a child of a coworker was especially sweet, but I didn't get a photo of it--she was the first quilter to show her things and I wasn't quite prepared.

Are you interested in attending one of Verna's retreats? If so, you might be in luck: Registration for her Halloween retreat opens on July 18th, the date of this post. Just click HERE to read about the retreat and register. Good luck!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

So Happy to Meet You!

Friday morning at 8:15 a.m., a line began to form outside the Alamo Women's Club, despite the fact that the attendees had been asked not to arrive until 8:45 a.m. for Verna Mosquera's retreat. But none of us could wait any longer, so we jockeyed for position to be among the first to claim our tables. Finally the doors opened and there, dressed in a white eyelet dress, a little pink sweater, and killer cute wedge shoes, stood Verna with a warm welcoming smile. The retreat had officially begun!

The room was decorated in pinks and greens--it felt a little like we mostly middle aged quilters had stepped right into a princess birthday party. I took a few photos of the room. In the first photo, Verna is still at the door greeting new arrivals, on the far right side of the photo.

Pam and her daughter, Verna's helpers, appear in the back of the crowd, behind the pink tulle "rope" separating off the mini shop until it was officially open for business a little later, after everyone had checked in.

The next photo is looking down the length of the room toward the table where Verna was set up and where demonstrations were held throughout the retreat.

I took two candid photos of Verna. One turned out blurry and in the other, she's pointing and looking at this woman's chest for some reason. Not my finest photography efforts. All I can say is it's a good thing I never aspired to become a wedding photographer. Can you imagine how many lives I could have messed up?

Besides all the creative inspiration around us, we were also surrounded by delicious foods. The next two photos are of the table that was kept supplied with beverages and treats. These are our morning snacks; we were also given ice cream on Friday, tea on Saturday, and all of the other snacks and leftovers throughout the day on Sunday.

Finally, right next to our table, atop a cloth covered piano, was the candy bar, stocked with a tempting array of sweet treats.

I took all these photos on the first day of the retreat, and at the time, I didn't know any of the women in the photos. Now, looking back at these images, I realize that during the retreat, I got to meet and talk with many of them. I know I've said it before, but I really DO believe that quilters are the nicest, warmest, friendliest people you could ever hope to spend time with!

Monday, July 16, 2012

So, I Lied

If you didn't stop by since last Wednesday or Thursday because you believed me when I said I'd be away and not blogging . . . we'll, you'll see I lied. But it was only half a lie, because I WAS away at a retreat. Staying in a hotel with a business center and computers. So I blogged. It's an addiction! What can I say?

Want to see one of the projects I worked on while I was at the retreat? It's the second block of Comfort & Joy, the block of the month that Anne Bryson of Cottons 'n Wool is making us work on hosting.

By the way, I met a few of Anne Bryson's and Anne Sutton's friends at the retreat. Unfortunately, they made me promise that what happens at the retreat, stays at the retreat so I can't say more right now. (Call me.)

And here's a recap of the first three blocks of Comfort & Joy. The fourth block will be due in a couple weeks, so I can't sit back and rest just yet.

Now that I have some photos to share, let's backtrack a little. Remember the really yummy chai latte I mentioned? Here it is:

Sitting right next to Gran's tea goodies. Beautiful, right? But innocently lurking on the top tray--at an angle I don't think you can see very well--is a dainty tea sandwich filled with beef tongue. I know--tongue is supposed to be good, but I don't know--it just doesn't SOUND like it would be. But Gran was brave and ate it. I really wish I'd gotten a photo of her face as she took the first bite--priceless! Seriously, though, there's something wrong with removing the crusts but leaving the tongue, you know? Anyway, Gran and I will be going away on another little retreat with our stitchery friends later in the summer and we're supposed to make one of the meals while we're away. We're considering tongue. It should be good for a laugh if nothing else.

At any rate, no tongue for me, thank you very much! Just a nice tomato bisque and a shrimp salad that I forgot to photograph, darn it!

The other stop we made on that first day that I forgot to tell you about? Paris Flea Market in Livermore. The shop is open one weekend a month, and our retreat coincided with the shop's open weekend. After we checked into our hotel, we headed back out. The one drawback? No air conditioning in the shop and it was a very warm evening. On the positive side of the scale, though, was that there were "gold" coins hidden throughout the store, and I was lucky enough to find one that gave me a $25 gift certificate toward my purchases. Yeah!!! I found a few things here and there--an old, small (child size) wooden bench or stair painted blue sometime in antiquity, a covered basket to keep a quilt "kit" in (I'm thinking I'll put the fabric I've set aside for Pumpkinville in it), a couple little decorative watermelon ceramic pieces for the hutch in my kitchen, and a few little gift items for a couple friends.

I kind of wanted to go back again during the weekend because I "remembered" that I'd like to look for some decorative picture frames, but we never made it back. Actually, Gran said we could go but I'd have to drive, and there was a long, VERY, VERY high and narrow overpass between the retreat location and the shop, and driving on those things (and bridges) panics me no end, so I decided it was better to just stay put. Better for my bank account too. Maybe next time.

I have more "stuff" to tell you about and show you, but it will have to wait, because I have to go back to work tomorrow and it's time for bed. Come on back then. Oh, it will be nice to sleep in my own bed again!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

That's how quickly the retreat is passing! Saturday was another fun day with excursions to two gift shops (both with heavy Paris and vintage influences) and In Between Stitches quilt shop in Livermore. We also had a lovely tea with Verna and show and tell. The exciting news is that Verna's working on a book, and we got a sneak peek at a few of the projects that she plans to include, although we didn't take photos--you'll just have to be patient and wait until the book comes out next Spring. You should also know that she's hoping to have a retreat around the time of the book release, so if you're interested in her designs and the new book, keep an eye on her website, The Vintage Spool. Her retreats are really marvelous!

I don't think any of that is a secret, but if it is, don't tell anyone you heard it from me, okay?

I've been surprised to find a few quilters here have read my blog. It's been fun meeting such nice people "in real life." I just love quilters, don't you?

Isn't it funny how tired a person can get from just playing around with fabric, needles, and thread, and doing a little shopping? It's a little after 9 p.m. on Saturday night and I'm ready to take a shower and turn in a little early. (Besides, I have a little chocolatty goodness waiting for me on my nightstand alongside my book--some English toffee I picked up at a sweet shop today.) We have to check out of the hotel in the morning, so I guess we'd better get a little organized tonight too.

I'll be back tomorrow--and I hope to at least have a few photos to share. See you then!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Greetings from Quilting Nirvana!

I'm checking in from lovely San Ramon/Alamo, where the weather is MUCH cooler than it has been in Sacramento. In fact, on Friday morning, we thought we should have brought sweaters with us. That's a big change from Sacramento where it's been over 100 degrees all week!

I've taken a few photos, but I'm blogging from the hotel's business center, so I can't upload anything until I get home again Sunday night. In the meantime, words alone will have to suffice.

Gran is on this retreat with me, and she picked me up on Thursday around noon. We stopped on the way to the Bay Area in Benicia at a tea room for lunch--lovely! With my lunch, I had the most delicious and beautiful blended chai tea--that's one of the photos I'll show you later.

We settled into our hotel early, both of us exhausted from day-to-day life, overtime work, and everything else, only to find our room was located below a herd of elephants and next door to a herd of rhinos--or at least that's what it sounded like. As it turned out, it was just a high school boys' baseball team in town for a tournament. If you've ever been involved with teenage sports, you probably already know how bored a group of teenagers can get cooped up in a hotel for the duration. Happily, this group of kids quieted down quickly when asked, and Gran and I got a great night's sleep.

At the retreat today (Friday), I sat in on a lecture and demonstration of the starch and glue method of applique--what I've shown you recently on my blog. Most of what was taught was the same thing I've been passing on--which was tremendously reassuring to me!--but there were a couple good tips that were new to me, and I thought I'd tell you about one of them.

There's a glue product on the market and I think it's by Aleen's called Ok to Wash it. When you are going to applique into a valley, dab just a bit on the fabric at the spot where you're going to cut into the valley, wrong side of the fabric, and then wipe it off. Wait a minute or so for it to dry just a little and then make the cut into the fabric. That little dab of glue will keep the fabric from fraying and you should end up with a nicer "V."

I haven't tried this yet, and I left my glue at home, but I'll try it soon and see how it works. The woman who demonstrated it does applique for Verna Mosquera, so you know whatever she does turns out wonderfully!

Tomorrow (Saturday) we have a couple of shopping excursions and a tea party in the afternoon, besides all the applique fun. I'll tell you about it when I can. In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying your weekend too!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Deep Valley Days

My bags are packed, and I'm ready to go . . . . But my companion called and said she was running behind schedule, so I have time to do that valley applique post I was hoping I'd get to.

Again, I'm starting this with all the prep having been done and the applique piece affixed by a bit of glue to the background (but I don't glue where the valley is). I will have ironed back the raw edges of the valley as best as I am able. Sometimes I'll use a toothpick dipped in starch to smooth the edges a bit if there are stray threads poking out, but most of the time, I just know I'll tuck them under with my needle.

As I get close to a valley, I take a stitch a little further away from the edge of the applique piece than I normally would. This will give me a little room to coax the edge under just a bit further.

There's really no photo of this, but after my stitch, I run the needle under the edge of the applique piece, pushing it under just a bit more to ensure there isn't a raw edge.

When I get to the very deepest point of the valley, I often take a couple of small stitches to make sure that if there's a tiny bit of raw edge, it's covered with my stitches, although I'm careful to make sure those stitches aren't so large that they show up much against the applique fabric.

After that, I just continue on to the next tip. It takes a little practice and a bit of patience, but I'm sure you can get it right. Remember, though, just like with the points, it may never be absolutely perfect; it's just important to get a result that looks reasonably good and won't come apart or fray with a couple washes.

Here's a photo of the back of the tree, so you can see the stitches.

And here's the front--done!