Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mystery Bird Identified

Back during one of the big snows of the past winter, I saw a bird that I had never seen before. It was too fast for me to get more than a glimpse, but I could clearly see that it had a white head.
At first glance, it seemed to be a cockatiel or some other tropical bird that had gotten away from its owner. I was amazed that it was surviving the harsh winter. 
I looked for information on the 'net back when I first saw it, but there were no likely choices for what the species could be. I just waited to see if it would come back.
It did. I saw it in the neighborhood last month and followed it around trying to get a better look. It saw me and flew off. I saw it again yesterday perched in a tree next to my house.
It is a cardinal!  With a totally white head!  It looks like someone upended a cardinal in a bucket of white paint. It is all red except for the head. Too cool.
I looked for confirmation of this crazy phenomenon and found it in several places on the Web. One of the places is the Cornell Ornithology Lab. Apparently, some birds are partially missing the pigment in their feathers. If all the pigment is missing they are albinos.
Since I have not been able to get a picture of this elusive bird of my own, I have used some pictures taken by others.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Improv Nest Quilt Ready to Bind

I got this all quilted and the three panels sewn together this weekend.  I did not get it bound yet or the raw edge from piecing the panels together covered.

I was blissfully quilting along on the Oddysea quilt and my machine froze up. Stopped dead.  I had to dismantle the presser foot and take out the needle to get my quilt out from the machine.  I have done some online troubleshooting, but it is not working again yet.

So now I am on a sewing break. . . . . for a few days.

Spring Thunderstorm

Spring is in full tilt here in Central Virginia! 
Here is a thunderstorm I saw on the way home from work this evening. Well, I saw it from afar and then drove into it.
I love these Flickr mosaics made with the help of BigHugeLabs.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More Progress

Detail of the quilting on the first panel.

The first and second panels are quilted. I laid them out side by side on the bed and they almost cover it.
Now on to the third panel and assembling the whole thing!

Nest Strip Quilt in Progress

Last night after a most wonderful nap, I got my second wind and got busy sewing. I had been surfing Flickr and the various blogs I read and saw a picture of a "stacked books" quilt block that I loved.
I immediately knew that I could make one of these with the left over strips of Nest fabric I had from making this quilt.  Nest is one of Tula Pink's fabulous collections and I love both the birdiness and the vibrant colors.
In addition to the Nest fabrics, I also had some coordinating Kona cotton solids cut to 2.5 inches. I got out some white Kona cotton and started ripping strips of the same width.
At that point I started improvising. I pulled out pieces of Nest and sewed them to a white strip on both ends. Then I cut the white strip in two making sure that there was white on each side of the colored strip. Once I had used up all my white strips, I started sewing them together.  I got a nice wide panel and decided I needed to keep on going from there.
I looked at my shrinking pile of Nest scraps and started to piece them together, coin quilt style. Then I went to bed.
This morning I trimmed those rectangles and sewed them to more white cotton to make another panel for this quilt.  At that point I decided to start making the quilty sandwich in two parts. This would help me do the free motion quilting more easily.
I assembled my sections and pinned them together with batting and backing. On to quilting.
More to come.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Flickr Toys

I have discovered this wonderful toy that takes Flickr photos and creates custom mosaics. Now, I have seen these that other Flickr members have made and just assumed it was a complicated process. Not so.

This crow montage is made with photos that I have marked as favorites (taken by others) and photos of my own.  I am quite fond of crows as a theme in folk art.

Then I had to search for photos of one of my all time favorite musicians-- the largely unknown Lyle Lovett.  I added these photos to my group of favorites and then created this montage. Don't you just love the cloud formation in the center that is so like Lyle's fantastic hair do?  I do.

Visit Flickr and try out the big huge lab's flickr toys.  After making these cool mosaics you can post them to Facebook or Flickr or save them to your computer.  I can see myself wasting a lot of time playing with this application.


Scruffily Quilt in Progress

This quilt is made with Make Life fabric by Sweetwater.  My favorite prints are the ones with the words on them, especially the bright multi-color print. I also love the paisley prints.

The pattern is the Scruffily quilt by Rachel of p.s. i quilt. It was also inspired by this quilt. Of course, I had to change it some to suit what I had on hand in way of materials. (I had no charm pack, so I just cut strips off the jelly roll and stitched them on top of the layer cake pieces.)

I used some Sulky Blendable 12 weight thread in an orangey-yellow combination that looks really nice for the topstitching around the patches. I had no problems with thread breakage this time--woohoo!

It is 42 squares, so that comes out to almost 60 inches by 70 inches. Right now it is in two parts while I decide if I am going to quilt it in sections or in one large piece. This is the largest one I have made so far.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Almost May Flowers

Yesterday my sister and I ran errands in town.  She helped me pick out a few plants to pot up for my porch. She is my gardening go-to girl.

This margaurite daisy is a cheerful flower. I potted it up in my strawberry jar. I have had some trouble in the past keeping plants happy in this container. Hopefully my luck will be better this time.
I bought this calf-nursing bucket at a yard sale for $5. The rubber nipple at the bottom is broken off, but since I have no calves to feed, I do not mind. The best feature of this bucket is that it has a hook for hanging onto a fence.

I envisioned that this would make a good planter for the railing of my porch.  I rounded up an empty flower pot, some potting soil and planted it with these two Bacopas.  They will fill out and creep over the edges of the bucket.

I also got a bag of dahlia roots, but they are not potted up yet. I am still thinking about where I want them.  Now I just have to remember to water these 2 pots and keep them alive.
I sewed these small star blocks together into one big block. I love the way it looks alternating the colors this way. I used the zig-zag stitch and some red Sulky 12 weight thread. Most of the squares are just butted up to each other and the zig-zag catches both edges at once. For some of the edges, I had to overlap layers slightly. This is because those layers of felted wool are different thicknesses and did not want to feed through the machine evenly.  More of these to come.

Hope y'all had a great weekend!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ready for the Weekend

So this week has been pretty stressful.

Due to budget cuts people in my school system are losing jobs and/or being reassigned to different positions. Nobody enjoys the process of change in this scenario. There is a bad atmosphere running amok in the building, and everyone is just waiting for the next piece of bad news to come along.
I should be grateful that I still have a job and have not heard anything about being let go or reassigned to a different position for the next school year.  This is difficult for me.  I try to go to work each day and not get stressed out about things that are beyond my control.  If my job disappears or changes, I will find out when it is time for me to find out.  I just keep telling myself that.

Add this to the fact that high stakes testing is less than one month away. That means a frenzy of reviewing and working non-stop to ensure that every bit of instruction that could happen, does. The admin re-arranged the schedule of the kids affected by testing, which meant parts of my schedule had to be re-arranged. Aaaargh!

It also means that tempers are short and tolerance for BS is at an all time low. I am speaking specifically of my tolerance levels. And I am referring to BS dished out by adults. The students continue to want to do their best to please me and to improve their reading skills.

My wireless computer has been giving me a fit this week. I took it to work on Monday and used it to access the Internet via the wireless network at school. Then when I brought it back home, it would not load any pages in Internet Explorer. Something to do with the network settings and the operating system of Vista. I have been trying all week to figure out how to fix it. Then last night, I managed to get the other computer to stop working in IE, too!

Tonight after work, I installed a new wireless network and changed around some settings. I think it is working okay now. I was able to check my Flickr and now am posting this blog entry. So all is good!
I have not even turned on my sewing machine this week! That is so wrong, people!  I did manage to hand appliqué a few wool star blocks like these. I hope this weekend will provide more opportunities for sewing and fewer instances of techmology failure.

Here's hoping my next blog post is more cheerful!  I hope the weekend brings out some fun news to share.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Won a Prize!

I am on Flickr and one of the many groups in which I take part is Fresh Modern Quilts.  The leader of this group, Rossie, recently announced that the group has over 2000 members.  In order to celebrate this milestone, she organized a large give-away of wonderful quilty prizes.

I was the third person drawn to win a prize. The third!  I got to pick which prize I wanted! (Now there were 2 people who got to choose ahead of me so it was possible that the item I wanted most would not be available.)  So Rossie had us all send her our top three choices. The two people ahead of me did not choose the same prize as me.

My top choice was the book Denyse Schmidt Quilts by Denyse Schmidt.  Signed by the author!

It was waiting for me with today's mail when I came home.  175 pages of quilting techniques, tips, patterns and inspiration. 

Many quilters consider her the leader in the trend toward Modern Quilting, so I am excited to learn more about how she quilts. She has a web page which showcases her gorgeous fabric designs and quilt patterns.

Flickr accounts are free and they allow you to post up to 200 photos. If you want to  post more than that number, you can get a Pro account for $20.00 per year. With either kind of account you can join groups and look at photos from other users. You can comment on other users' photos and get feedback on your own. 
Flickr is a pretty amazing community. I use it to share my photos with family members and friends and also to get inspiration for my sewing and quilting projects. I am a member of a Schnauzer group in addition to various groups related to fabric, sewing, quilting and creating with wool.  There are sew-alongs, contests, give-aways, encouragement, advice and much more.
Thanks, Rossie and thanks, Denyse for the great prize! 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Break Visitors

I had some canine visitors over Spring Break. My sister went to Florida and her precious treasures came to my house. Merle is an Australian Cattle Dog and Kit is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

Conner is crazy about his canine "cousins" and spent most of the week in an over-excited frenzy. He normally is quite the barker, alerting me to the slightest activity in the neighborhood. This week it was amplified because he could get Kit and Merle to bark along with him. (However, my sister has cleverly trained her dogs to stop barking on command!)

In the mornings we lay in my double sized bed and they have a howl fest for a few minutes. Three dogs barking and howling in chorus and then when I say "OK, that's enough!" they stop. 

Luckily, the weather this week was very nice and there was lots of time to spend in the yard, chasing rocks and sticks and running through the grass.  Conner usually could not care less about a stick, but with the peer pressure he had to join in!
Thanks, little honey, for trusting me to care for your babies. I was glad to have them and I will be glad to go back to having a one-dog household. It will be nice to be able to stretch my feet out in the bed again, I'm just saying!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Weekend Update

Here are some updates on projects I shared earlier this week.
The sewing machine table in use It is really helpful to my free motion quilting to have a flush surface on which to move the bulk of my quilt.

The Bluebirds of Happiness Wallhaning is now hanging on my front door.  It looks fabulous with the bright yellow binding.

The pink baby quilt is quilted and bound and ready for the washing machine. I know the recipient will be happy with it.


Baby Boy Quilt

My aunt made this quilt with a panel and some yardage. It is flannel and very soft.  This is meant to be a gift for her friend who has a new great-grandson.

She asked me to quilt it for her using free motion quilting.  Over Spring Break I have managed to resolve some issues with tension and thread breakage and my own projects came out looking pretty good. So I did it.

I am pretty pleased with how it came out. My aunt likes to do her binding by hand, so I am leaving that part to her.  I prefer machine binding myself.

Spring Break is almost over and I am not ready to go back to working for a living.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bluebirds of Happiness & a Baby Quilt Top

Last night I sorted the charm squares and then chose some to cut in half.  This morning I started sewing the top together using these directions from Elizabeth from Oh, Fransson!

There is a mistake and no, I am not taking it apart to fix it I do not look forward to frogging it.  I used Kona cotton for the pink sashing.

This afternoon I used the freezer paper method to cut out these birds and wings from an assortment of fabrics in my stash. I wanted to see if I had any better luck doing machine blanket stitch without using any batting under the fabrics. It worked out pretty well.

                     I will make this into a narrow wall hanging. 

I got a new sewing table last Saturday at the Salvation Army Store. I am not even sure it is really a sewing table, but it has an adjustable shelf in the front that fits my Brother sewing machine perfectly.  It even holds the flat top sewing platform that came with the machine. Now I just need to get one of those Teflon sheets to lay over the sewing area and I am good to go, Leah Day style.

(Did I mention that the price tag said 25 dollars, but they were having a 30 percent off sale?  Oh yeah!  I had just decided which cheapish sewing table I was going to purchase for about 140 dollars this week.  Yes, I am feeling rich!)

Just now I raised up the platform to make it even with the tabletop and am using it with my laptop to write this post.
I am feeling better about Sushi today. Thanks for the kind comments.