Tuesday, November 14, 2017

More Designs, Dreams, Doodles and Practice Panels

I found some fantastic limited edition panels for machine quilting practice from Liuxin Newman, the Thimble Lady that I just had to share with you.  Liuxin is a renowned author and teacher of hand quilting, hand piecing, and hand applique, and her new digitally printed whole cloth kits would be perfect for hand stitched finishing.  But I'm envisioning using these for practice like I did with my Dresden plate cheater cloth -- except that these are so much prettier to look at, and much more useful sizes.  These would be practice quilts with a purpose, otherwise known as REAL QUILTS!

This Fish O'Rainbow quilt measures 52" x 72" and, with the addition of a simple border or two, it would make a fabulous children's quilt.  You could practice stitching straight lines where you wanted them OR use the lines as markings to evenly space some free motion squiggles.  I especially like all the pearl strings printed on this panel, because I definitely need practice making ROUND pearls instead of SQUARE pearls on my longarm machine!

52 x 72 Fish O'Rainbow Whole Cloth Quilt
See how they've machine quilted the sample?

One Way to Quilt This
I'm sure that, after tracing around all of the circles on this panel with my long arm machine, my ability to quilt rounder circles freehand will have improved tremendously.  This fabric would also be fantastic for embellishing with those bazillion decorative stitches that come with our modern sewing machines, wouldn't it?

This is the other "Just Quilting Kit" from Thimble Lady that intrigued me:

18 Inch Flying Feathers Block
Flying Feathers is an 18" block that you can purchase individually or in sets of 8 blocks, available in the mauve pink colorway or in dusty blue.  Although I'm not as in love with the colors of this one as I am with the happy fishies, I do like that this is all feathers and pearls.  Like round pearls, smooth, graceful feathers that don't look like ogre toes are a challenge, and tracing printed feathers with my quilting machine over and over would probably be a good way to improve my feathers, too.  

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to practice developing muscle memory for quilting designs on my iPad during church sermons:

My "Sermon Notes"
Of course this doodling doesn't translate perfectly at the machine because the Apple Pencil moves smoothly across the surface of the iPad in all directions.  Because of the way a longarm quilting machine carriage rides on horizontal and vertical wheels, there is more drag resistance on diagonal quilting motions than there is on true vertical or horizontal stitching lines.  That's why it's easier to draw reasonably round circles on the iPad than it is to actually quilt round circles on a longarm machine -- they come out square until you learn to compensate for the additional drag at the "corners" of the circle, and the extra momentum you pick up at the top, bottom, right and left points where the machine wants to keep going straight.  

Would you like to know how much actual sewing in real life I have accomplished since my last post?  I sewed ONE WHOLE SEAM yesterday.  I did laundry, got clean sheets on the beds, went for a walk with my sweetie, and had a VOX choir rehearsal starting in on the Christmas Lessons and Carols music.  But I managed to seam two lengths of backing fabric together and trim away the selvages before I left for choir.  That's the nice thing about having a dedicated studio.  If I only have a few minutes, I can sneak off to my studio and just sew for a few minutes.  If I was working on my dining room table, by the time I got the sewing machine out and set up it would be time to put everything away again!

I have high hopes for today, though.  I've got a bit of work piled up that needs my attention, but I hope I'm also able to get that backing pressed and cut down to the right size, AND get that math quilt loaded on the frame today.  I still don't know how I'm quilting it yet, but I'll feel better once it's on the frame and ready to go!

Have a great day, and happy stitching!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Of Capitulation, Resignation, and Thanksgiving Mules

Well, folks, I tried to reason with him.  In vain I sought dialogue and dreamed of a compromise that might streamline this year's production of Thanksgiving Chez Moi.  I ransacked my trove of cookbooks for simpler recipes, considered paring down the list of side dishes, and reducing quantities.  Then I sat down with my obstinate German husband and proffered my suggestions one by one, summoning forth all of my patience and carefully laying out reasonable arguments in favor of small changes, just this once, just this year...

And he shot down EVERY SINGLE ONE of my ideas.  He will not give up his buttercup squash soup.  He will not agree to a smaller turkey (and he is already scheming to safeguard the leftovers lest his mother-in-law attempts to run off with all the turkey again).  He will not permit Thanksgiving to be hosted at anyone else's home, and he is vehemently opposed to disposable plates in lieu of fine china.  After an exhausting morning of negotiations with my mule of a man, I am now committed to doing everything exactly like we've done it every other year.  

Me and Bernie, Discussing Changes to Our Thanksgiving Menu
Ah, well.  At least there is no stress of the unknown, since we've been making these recipes for nearly 20 years now.  And the one concession I got is that Bernie is going to do the work of prepping the stuffing on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so that I can concentrate on pumpkin pies that day.  (Now it's in writing, Bernie, and the whole Internet has witnessed it.  No backing out!)  The stuffing is pretty elaborate and takes a couple of hours what with cooking the wild rice, chopping and browning the apples and vegetables, etc. Last year I ran out of time and had to buy pies from Dean & DeLuca on the way home from church on Wednesday night.  They were nowhere near as delicious as my recipe.  The molasses pumpkin pie is MY favorite part of Thanksgiving, and I'd just as soon serve everyone popcorn, jelly beans and toast for dinner as long as we have my pumpkin pies for dessert!

Popcorn, Pretzels, Jelly Beans and Toast
So far today I've reserved my fresh 22-24 pound organic turkey from Whole Foods and placed a Harris Teeter order for all of my non-perishables and wine, and I'll pick up the groceries later this afternoon.  Hopefully Harris Teeter will have that buttercup squash for Bernie's soup and we won't need to waste time enjoy the hunt of visiting every grocery store in Charlotte looking for it this year.  Because squash soup, herb butter, and spiced pecans all need to get made and frozen this weekend.


Ah, my husband is so lucky he's cute!  It will all be fine, though.  It will be even better than fine -- it's going to be great.  My mom is bringing her green bean casserole and an apple pie, because she is NOT fond of my molasses pumpkin pie (more for me!).  My friend Lisa is bringing a yummy apple salad and I think maybe something with sweet potatoes, too.  And, as I said, I've already selected and ordered plenty of wine.  With the year we've been through, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for.  When all is said and done, gathering friends and family together over good food and good wine is EXACTLY what we all need this year for Thanksgiving.

Let the Culinary Games begin!
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