Sunday, January 31, 2010

Painting with a Twist

When I received the Groupon offer of the day about a month ago, I had never heard of Painting with a Twist . . . but the concept looked interesting. After I purchased my groupon, I signed up to paint the Dallas Skyline.

You arrive to a space set up with lots of table and easels.

Before we began

The paintings on the walls represent other classes that you can take.

The Food and Drinks tableThere's an area in the corner to set up the food and wine that you're encouraged to bring to class. Here are some of the early arrivals tasting the wine they had just bought around the corner . . . in downtown Grapevine.

Everyone is given a canvas with the outline of that night's painting lightly applied with carbon paper. Then the instructor steps through how to paint it.

Taking a BreakAfter some progress is made, everyone breaks for more food and wine and a walk around.

As you can see, by looking at the handful of canvases in this photo, everyone paints together, painting the same colors in the same places in the same order.  It's a little like Follow-the-Leader. Or Paint by Number with alcohol (and no numbers).

The lady in the foreground is a frequent painter; she had filled up her card (buy 10 classes and earn a free one) and was given her own embroidered Painting with a Twist apron last night. She told me that learning to paint was on her "bucket list." And I could tell that she's having a ball doing it.

Bird's eye viewHere's the artist at work's view . . . or mine, anyway. I never really saw anything the instructor was showing . . . but she did a great job of describing things as she went along.

When we were all done except the "finishing touches," there was another wine and food break.  It was a little surreal to look across the room and see nearly 40 painted canvases that are essentially the same.


Then we add the finishing touches and took a group shot of the 35 painters holding nearly identical "paintings" of the Dallas Skyline.

If you live in Texas, Louisiana or Florida,  it might be a fun way to spend the evening, especially if you (or a friend) "isn't a painter" and wants to feel like one . . .  sort of.  I have had only limited experience with paint and brushes and it made me want to do more.  I also thought this abstract Dallas Skyline would be an interesting QUILT design . . .

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The weather outside is frightful, but . . .

Inside, look what arrived in my mail box today.

prize #1 included 20 light aqua hoffman batik 6" squares,  20 dark aqua hoffman batik 6" squares, a McKenna Ryan pattern and the other things in the photo. 

These were part of Karen's 500th blog post give-away.  I fell in love with the aqua fabrics she used in her Dutch Treat quilt and am excited to have some of those.  After my recent nightmare experience in marking, I'm curious to try the quilt pounce tool and I know I'll use the small rotary ruler and the scissors lariat.  The McKenna Ryan pattern is gorgeous.

Thank you, Karen.

It's cold enough outside that anything that was wet from all the rain is now frozen.  I have to go out in it tonight, but, until I have to go out in it,  I think I'll spend the day inside, admire the gifts in the give-away package and play with fabric. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Double Trouble

I thought myself so clever when I decided on the name Double Trouble for this doll-sized quilt.  it measures 17 x 22 inches and is machine pieced and machine quilted.

Double Trouble

"Double" for the Double Irish Chain pattern, the Civil War Era "double pinks" repro fabric I used,  and the fact that this quilt is one of a pair of twin quilts: one for a friend and it's double for me.

"Trouble" for my personal troubles in facing my fears about quilting those 2" mini-feather wreaths in in the open blocks.

Double Trouble - Quilting Detail

But I ended up wondering if I could have jinxed myself with that clever little name.

Although I have never had problems with it in the past and actually couldn't find any information online other than rave reviews of the Sewline fabric marking pencil ... the pink pencil marks made by the ceramic  lead pencil resisted several efforts to remove them. How frustrating after facing my fears and finally finishing the quilt that it might be ruined. If you look closely at the photo in my earlier blog post about this quilt, you can see those troublesome pink pencil marks. I ended up facing NEW fears that I might ruin the finished quilt with attempts to get the pink pencil marks out ... but I did face them and ultimately triumphed. Only the label show signs of intense cleaning ;-)

Once finished, I was excited to pack it up and send it off to its new home.  Tuesday afternoon, I headed off the post office.  On the way there, I realized I forgot my phone and had nothing else in my bag to pass the time if the line was long–working the NYT crossword puzzle on my iPhone is my default way to amuse myself when waiting in line or in Doctor offices if I have no handwork with me.  Sure enough, when I got to the downtown Dallas post office, the line was really long and there was only one clerk working the counter.   I waited, I waited, I waited, I got to the counter, opened my bag to pull out my wallet and . . . remembered that it was sitting on my desk at home.  When I told the clerk that I'd have to run home and come back, I could tell that she didn't think I'd make it in time.  "We close at five," she reminded me.  I quickly walked back, picked up my wallet, my phone and, on my way out of the building, my mail.  I was anticipating another long wait in line and, the second time around, at least, I would be prepared with stuff to read and do while I waited.  When I got to the counter the second time,  the clerk remembered me and couldn't believe I'd made it in time.  I think the fact that I had sprinted across downtown was obvious–I was out of breath and "glowing."

Double Trouble - 4 blocks

I left the Post Office hoping that the curse of the Trouble name stopped with me . . . and that this little quilt will travel swiftly and safely to my friend.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Want

I want one of these:

My Apple Powerbook is on it's last legs and I think this would be a great replacement. I can't wait to have a look to see if I can do everything I need to do with the new Apple iPad.

I love my iPhone, iPod and every Mac computer I've ever owned. I'm not generally an early-adopter, but ... I want one of these.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Block Lotto Banner

( . . . or why there are so many pets in photos of quilts.)

This afternoon, I attempted to take a better photo of the recently completed banner quilt to add to the top of the Block Lotto blog  . . . and Grace Hopper "helped."

Grace Hopper "Helping"

The plan was that I'd put the long skinny banner on the floor and then use a ladder to get far enough above to take a photo with no distortion. When Grace wandered over and sniffed the freshly laundered quilt spread on the floor I expected her to lay on it and I was thinking I'd take one of those cute quilt photos–you know the ones where you can see the whole quilt and there's a cute animal in there, too. . . instead she pushed the banner  out of the way, stretched out on the bare concrete floor and offered herself up as an alternate model for my photographic effort.

She does add some scale, I suppose. The finished banner is 12-1/4 x 50 inches.

I love how the pets in our lives have an uncanny way of putting themselves wherever they perceive the focus of our attention. I suppose the only real surprise today was that Grace's brother, Johnny, isn't also in the frame . . .

Even if I can't take a decent photo of it, I'm happy with the way this funny little special purpose quiltlet turned out.  It's so soft and has such a nice drape that I could imagine wearing it as the geekiest ever scarf.

I like the look of the plaid binding fabric that I found in my stash and I think it crinkled just enough after it was washed.

Quilting Detail

You can see the slightly distorted photo of the entire little quiltlet at the top of the Block Lotto blog.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Libquilters Virtual Online Retreat

I joined some members of the yahoo Libquilters group in an online retreat for a few hours today.

I had a 26" length of "string" fabric that I made a while back and woke up thinking about cutting it up and making blocks . . . so I did.

It turns out that 26" is exactly what I needed to make the four units that make one of Gwen Marston's Liberated Wedding Ring Blocks. As I pressed the fabric, I started to second guess my plan to use a red paisley background because there were more red fabrics in my strings than I remembered. But, after I pulled some alternative ideas out of my stash and auditioned them, I still liked the red best, even if some of my blocks may be a bit muddled as a result.

I had enough strings to cut fabric for 14 blocks. After I've made them, I'll decide if the quilt needs to be bigger–I had originally been thinking of a big red bed quilt (for me!) but I also thought I had more of the string fabric. Here are the first six blocks.

They'll be set with alternate plain (red paisley) blocks.

This was also on my design "wall" today. It's bound (and even labeled–a promise I made to myself this year was to label every quilt–but I may add just a bit more quilting inside the letters.

Because my design "wall" is actually a curtain, the banner is waving a little. It is, in fact, quite square and flat. I'll have to try to get a better photo tomorrow.

Are you a design wall voyeur? Check out the links at the bottom of Judy's Design Wall Monday post for today for more completed projects and works in progress.

What Type are You?

I am, apparently, Cooper Black Italic.

Working on the letter blocks for the Block Lotto Banner (which is now all bound and just needs a trip through the wash) and some other word blocks (which I'll share in about a week) has made me more aware of rules for typefaces and during my wanderings though things font-related, I found a fun little quiz which answers the question . . .

What type are you? (the password is character)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blue Skies

Blue Skies over Commerce StreetOn days like today, with sunshine, beautiful blue skies–even in the "canyons" of downtown Dallas–and 70 degree temps, I am reminded of how happy I was to be here soon after I arrived from freezing Michigan last January.

I still treasure January days like today.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that a couple of tornadoes came through the area a couple nights ago and that the forecast for tomorrow is more thunderstorms.

But for the moment, everyone seems to be enjoying the sunshine, even these 4 Dallas policemen, patrolling downtown. Notice the short sleeves on the guys on the Sega scooters.

Sega Patrol

Easy Peasy Cheesy Broccoli Soup

Cheesy Broccoli SoupI wanted something quick for lunch, so I made this cream of broccoli soup. Yes, it is easy peasy (and cheesy!)

How easy?

As easy-peasy as one, two threezy:

1. Steam broccoli in vegetable broth–I used my homemade vegetable broth

2. Transfer the broccoli and broth to a blender and blend to your personally preferred level of smoothness

3. Return to the pot on low heat. Taste and season as needed. Add a little cream and some grated cheese. Stir over heat until the cheese has melted.

I used 2 cups of broth, a little over a half-cup of cream and (I'm guessing on these ) 3 cups of broccoli and a cup of grated pecorino-romano cheese. It made enough for 3 generous servings.

If you're a meat eater, you might garnish with a little crumbled bacon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What holds you back from finishing quilts?

Quilting some Mini-WreathsYesterday, Linda commented, "Judging by the stack of quilt tops, actual quilting is definitely not a fav."

Judging from the stack of quilt tops around here, you might think the same is true of me . . . but it isn't, not really. However, I often fear that the quilting design that's probably been in my head since I started putting the blocks together either won't be as wonderful as I imagine it or (more likely) that my lack of skill will prevent me from realizing the design. And that fear, while not an actual quilt making step, is often a big hurdle for me when it comes to turning works-in-progress to finished quilts.

I'm working on the doll quilt in the photo. I feared that the diagonal quilting through the chains would reveal that all those 1/2 inch squares aren't exactly perfect . . . which it does if you look close. And now, I'm facing my fears about the 17 two inch feather wreaths which seemed like the right quilting design for those open spaces . . . with mixed results.

I know I could send out my quilt tops to one of the many talented long-armers, but the artist in me wants to control that design element of my quilts. So here I am, facing my fear and doing it anyway . . . knowing that not doing so holds me back from finishing my quilts.

Does anything hold you back from finishing yours?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Do you have a favorite part of quilt making?

One of my favorite thingsI enjoy almost all of the aspects of quilting, but I was thinking today that I especially enjoy squaring and trimming the quilt, after the quilting is done.

I don't know why I decided to quilt and bind the banner I made for the Block Lotto group blog. The only practical use I can imagine for this quilted object is as a too-long too-skinny table runner to use when friends from the Block Lotto are in town.

I used a 4" border quilting template even though the top border is only 2". Initially, I was only going to use that template on the side and bottom borders, but I ended up fitting and editing the design around the letters at the top. It was actually fun and worked quite well.

Quilt Design DetailI haven't yet chosen a fabric for the binding. My initial feeling is a blue plaid, cut on the bias . . . I wonder if I'll find any among my plaid fabrics?

Here's a detail of the quilting design. I also outlined the letters.

I know I have a quilt top waiting to be quilted for which I planned to use this dogwood flower border. Maybe it's time to put that together?

. . . but back to my question. Do you have a favorite step in quilting? Choosing color palette or fabrics? Designing? Piecing (or appliquéing) the blocks? Assembling the top? Or something else?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Four Years Ago

Four years ago Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, on her blog the Yarn Harlot, organized a great event for knitters–the Knitting Olympics. Knitters across blogland, including me, decided on a project for themselves that they would begin during the opening ceremonies and complete before the end of the 2006 Olympics.

I joined a local team and met a couple of local knitters and enjoyed the real life company of other Olympian bloggers. I completed the cabled shrug on the left and was awarded the medal on the right for my accomplishment.

I woke up this morning wondering if the Knitting Olympics would be revived for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The recent cold weather in Dallas has me wanting to get back to knitting and what could be better than a quick project feverishly knit over a fortnight while watching the Olympics that are just around the corner?

Because I've fallen behind on the knitters' blogs I follow, I was hoping that if I went searching, I'd find it fully launched and lots of buzz . . . but it seems that the knitters on Ravelry have taken the Yarn Harlot's concept and are running with it.

I do have a Ravelry account, but I'm just not (yet?) entrenched enough to join them there. So it seems my own Olympic knitting this year will be a solo event.

I'm thinking my project may be what my hairdresser described as the way to dress in Winter in Dallas: a short-sleeved wool sweater. I have some wool that's been languishing in my yarn stash for far too long . . . now I just need to get busy swatching and decide on a design.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fat Felt Flower Face

Fat Felt flower FaceLook what arrived in the mail today from Kate.

On Christine's blog today, she posted about the difference between admiring photos of quilts and up the up close and personal experience. I have to agree. The lush thick felted flower petals and the shiny ribbons on this little are really wonderful in person . . . looking at the photo, you may have to take my word for it. I've always loved the faces Kate made and adds to some of her pieces and I'm so happy to have one in my collection.

I love it, Kate. Thank you.

No Strings Attached - A Challenge

Lately, I've been working on blocks (and step-by-step directions for making them) for the Block Lotto, thinking about more liberated quilting methods and spending time with some of the Gwen Marston books from my bookshelf. I found myself really wanting to make a couple of string quilts from my "some day" list, so when I read about Stephanie's string quilt challenge, I knew it was for me . . . and luckily I found out about it just in time–today is the last day to sign up.

If you'd like to join me, click here for details.

Yes, this does mean I may FINALLY put together the block lotto blocks that I won 3 years ago. It's about time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fire Drill

Fire Drill When the alarm went off this morning, I didn't think it was our building because I heard it coming from outside (and in the past, the siren and message boomed from inside the loft). It sounded like the PA system at City Hall and I assumed there was some excitement over there today.

As I stuck my head into the hallway to double check that it wasn't my building, my neighbor was doing the same and we agreed, "It must be us." By the time I packed up the cats in their carriers and pulled on a sweater, I thought I smelled smoke. We left the building through the attached parking garage, went around the block and parked at the other end of the block and waited for the Fire truck to leave . . . which it did in pretty quick order.

I'm sure I'll be told by our property management that it was just a kitchen problem in one of the lofts (as usual), but I'm really curious to find out why our alarm system failed and the announcement to vacate immediately was only broadcast OUTSIDE the building. Sigh . . .


I was told that it was it was a smoke alarm in the basement and a false alarm. I rode down in th elevator with the new maintenance guy who said to me, "at least we know the alarm system works" . . . except it didn't. The property manager told me that he didn't see anyone evacuating above the third floor and came to the conclusion that the alarm system isn't work in most of the building. Great news, huh?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Blog as Design Wall

I've thought about piecing a banner for the Block Lotto group blog for at least as long as the blog has existed . . . and actually spent some time over the past few days pulling out some scraps and doing it. When I started thinking about how big the borders should be, I realized that I really needed to see it in its intended destination, so I took an in-progress photo, cropped it to approximate what I was thinking for the borders and uploaded it to the blog. My virtual design wall looked like this.

Today, I added borders . . . now I need to take a better photo than this one and decide if I will be quilting this as a banner–it's approximately 12 x 54 inches now–or using it as part of a larger Block Lotto 2010 Sampler quilt.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Making Soup on Winter Days

The weatherman says these are the coldest days and nights in North Texas in a decade . . . it is cold, but contrary to all those walking around in big fur coats, fur hats and fur-lined boots, compared other parts of the country, it's really not as cold as all that ;-)

Nonetheless, it puts me in the mood for making soup. Yesterday, Melody Johnson blogged about making beef stock, at the bottom of this post. She used the phrase, "looks terrible, tastes delicious."

Today I made my standard vegetable stock using this recipe from the Recipezaar site. I was thinking that it tastes as beautiful as it looks . . . and better than any commercial stock I've ever tried.

I highly recommend the recipe. The most time-consuming part is the first step sautéing the onions until they are brown, almost black. Since those carmelized onions contribute a lot to the color of the final product, as well as the taste, it's well worth it to be patient. The good news is that while the onions are on, you can chop all the vegetables and herbs you'll be using: carrot, leak, parsnip, celery, celery root, parsley.

Cooking the Onion until thet are Brown, almost BLACK The vegetables for the Broth

Unlike Melody's photos of her beef broth in-process, I think this looks quite beautiful in the pot:

Vegetable Broth

Like Melody mentioned about her beef broth, once the stock is made, it's easy-peasy to make French onion soup. Or to roast a butternut squash, sauté some onions and blend it up with some stock and spices to make some sweet (without any sugar added), yummy butternut squash soup. With the 7 pints I now have in the fridge, I'm thinking the future soup possibilities are endless ;-)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Thank you, Michelle

Look what arrived in the mail, today.

Birthday Mini-Quilt

It's an 8 x 11 inch little quilt with birthday wishes from my virtual twin sister, Michelle. (We share a birthday, she's the much YOUNGER twin ;-)

Thanks, Michelle. I love it.

I had to laugh when I opened the package because my sewing table looks a whole lot like this right now. I've been working on some ideas (and block directions) for future months of the Block Lotto which means I can't share any of it right now . . . and I'm really itching to share these blocks. Whether you dream it or just make your best efforts to come up with a colorway, you never really know until you actually make a few blocks that test the limits of the guidelines. I guess it's true that proof is in the pudding (or the quilt). I'm happy with my results so far . . . and anxious to see how well they will be received by the Block Lotto crowd.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

I Didn't Dream This One

Dianah did. Don't you love the way one idea can spark another among quilters?

You can read more about it on her blog, here: X's or O's? I love how she set the blocks slightly off square, used different sizes and created all that great white space for quilting.

My own little spark, sparked a smaller idea . . . to use up the trimmed off bits from my Tic-Tac-Toe blocks to make smaller Tic-Tac-Toes . . . they're post card sized, but the idea of a table runner is also noodling in my head. Maybe I'll sleep on it?

I Know I had a Plan for These

Christmas Star Quilt WIP unpackedI decided to spend the afternoon with an old quilt project and move it forward.

I pulled out the package which had a bunch of blocks, an assortment of Christmas fabrics–the holidays always make me feel like working on Christmas projects in January, an inspiration photo (for the pieced border) and a scribbled layout I had designed.

Now, if only I knew what those letters in the layout stood for . . .

I had a plan . . .

After counting up the numbers of blocks I have and comparing it with letters on this scribble of a plan, my guess is that C is for Checkerboard (16-patch) blocks and R is for the Reverse version of The Dewey's Victory block . . . but what the heck did I mean by "S" and "P"?

I thought I might have blogged by intentions, but only found this In Progress blog post, which talks about an early decision to pull apart some blocks from the swap and turn them all into Dewey's Victory blocks.

It's clear that my project du jour will first mean putting together a Design Wall that I can use in the itty bitty loft–which has neither the space nor suitable walls. I'm going to need that design space to figure out what I intended and move this project forward.

Note to Self: all future notes to self should be a bit more expansive and understandable than that scribble . . . and have a key provided ;-)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...