Saturday, October 12, 2013

Leaving This Neighborhood

Friends, I'm not real happy with Google. They recently announced a new policy, which will affect every site they control. You can read more about it from the Washington Post (, but the gist of it is:

"After the policy takes effect Nov. 11, users who review a video on YouTube or a restaurant on could see their name, photo and comments show up in ads on any of the 2 million Web sites that are part of the company’s display advertising network."

I'm not comfortable with making my blog a source of advertising for companies I may like. Me saying on my blog that I like a company is one thing; having my photo, my name, and my quote floated around the interwebs promoting the company is quite another. I know that Google says people can opt out of it, but I just don't trust them. Sorry.

So, I'm moving neighborhoods. Once I have finally decided which blog host I'll be using, I'll post the new link here. For now I'm trying WordPress, and the new blog site is here: Feel free to visit, leave a comment about what you think, and we'll go from there. WordPress does say that there may sometimes be an ad on my blog post, but that's the price for me using their free option. I have to decide if I want to put up with it, pay to get rid of the ads, or switch blog hosts (although any blog host I use will want some kind of reimbursement for letting me share my thoughts with the world, so there will be trade-offs no matter which one I choose).

I hope those that have already chosen to follow my blog will also follow me to my new location. Thank you for giving me your time, I really do appreciate it, and I hope I've at least entertained you a little!  :)


Friday, October 11, 2013

Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

So much is going on, sometimes I forget that I have a blog that needs attention, too! I figured I'd share some of what I've been working on this week.

Earlier this week, I found a whole bunch of scraps in my scrap bin. Most had been assembled into 3.5" squares, but some were just cut and clumped together. So I finished assembling the squares. 

Okay, now what do I do with them? Not enough of them to do anything just with them (10 of each color). So I raided my stash and found a nice dark blue half yard that might work.

Yep, that'll look better.

My husband said it looks like a building with a funky curtain color scheme. I think the white strips really pop compared to the darker colors. 

And now it goes back into the UFO pile until I figure out how to finish it! My guess is it will become a kids' quilt for Project Linus. I have two others in various stages for that group. 

Today I visited a certain big box fabric store, and stocked up on a few things. The nice clerk had an extra coupon at the register, so I got 50% off of things that weren't already on sale. Yay!

First up, zippers. I agreed to repair my neighbor's winter coat, which has a broken zipper. This is my third attempt to get something that will work for it. A week ago I thought I had found the perfect zipper, right color, etc., only to find it was one inch too short. Bah! So, one of these purchased today should work. I also picked up another box of interfacing, to experiment with it and make sure it will work for a t-shirt quilt I'm helping a friend make. I'll dig out one of my old t-shirts to test it on, maybe I'll make a pillow out of it? Plus more machine quilting thread, because I have a feeling I will be doing more of that in the future.

Next up, a bag of cotton batting specifically for microwaveable quilted items. I thought I would try those microwaveable bowls I've seen others making. It sounded like an easy project to make with my sewing student. I didn't even know Pellon made batting, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Batting, batting, batting! Does any quilter ever think he/she has enough? And at half price, it seemed like a good time to buy some that would be the right size for Project Linus kids' quilts. (See, the top and bottom of this post really are connected!)

Tonight I'll work a bit more on my husband's quilt. I'm hand quilting it, which means it progresses slowly, but that's okay. There's a baseball playoff game, and it's chilly out, which means it's perfect weather right now!  :)  


Friday, October 4, 2013

Sports and the Solitary Quilter

I found the following article as I was cleaning up a room this morning. I wrote this bit several years ago, after reading an article in a quilting magazine. I was going to send it in to the magazine, but obviously never got around to it (or got up the nerve to send it in). Seems like the perfect thing for a blog post, though, as it is all still true today.

I am probably an oddity in the quilting world in more ways than one. I was inspired to start quilting by a woman who was not a quilter. I have never taken a quilting class. My work schedule does not permit me to join the local quilt guild. But while I am a self-proclaimed solitary quilter, I am not alone. There is always some kind of sports on the TV or radio while I quilt or sew, and the fan cheers and commentators keep me company.

Sports are the perfect companion for me because TV always replays the really good action, giving you a chance to park your needle before looking up at the screen. Baseball is the ultimate quilting sport, with long periods when I don't have to look up at all, but Summer can be a hot time to quilt. Ice hockey and college basketball have lots of action, but the commentators usually keep me up to speed so I don't have to look up as much. Football provides a good balance and the season is the perfect time to snuggle under a quilt while I'm working on it. Which makes me wonder: do I prefer football to other sports because it's played during quilting season?

I recently realized how important it is that I do something while watching sports. In September 2006 I was diagnosed with tennis elbow and was unable to work on any of my projects until January 2007. I simply didn't know what to do with myself. What's the point of watching TV if I'm not working on my next quilting project? How can people just sit on a couch and watch TV, doing nothing? I climbed the walls for months until at last my elbow healed and I could return to my normal activities. I could sympathize with the athletes who were unable to play because of a seemingly minor injury or who were going through rehab. 

Many people think of quilting as a very social activity, imagining or remembering quilting bees of old and thinking of quilting guilds today. But many of us are not able to join with others, either because of our work schedules, the location of our homes, or other isolating circumstances. I am probably not as unusual as I may think, either in my work habits or in the path I have taken to quilting. But in one way I am like many a quilter on the planet: I make my quilts to give to others, to give them more color in their lives or a warm, comforting hug anytime they need it. This is the social extension of my solitary, sporting, quilting world.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

PA Quilt Show, Part Two: Quilts That Made Me Laugh

I started working on this post several days ago, the second of the photos I took at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza. There are so many photos to go through, decide which fit the theme, upload them, then give them some description.

If you missed my previous post with photos from the quilt show, go back and read it. Those quilts made such strong statements, as only quilts can. 

But quilts can also be humorous. There was one quilt I didn't photograph, that featured a fat-faced toddler with a sock coming out of her mouth (the sock was a real sock, within the appliqued mouth). The quilter described it as a portrait of her granddaughter who liked to carry her sock in her mouth. All I could think of when viewing this quilt was, "this is the ultimate blackmail piece when this girl is a teenager and brings a date to meet grandma. Grandma will pull out this quilt to show boyfriend, and teen will 'die' in agony and embarrassment." I'm sure that wasn't what the quilter intended, but that was my reaction. The quilt still made me laugh, though, because it was so well done.

"William", by Sheila Kramer, Jackson, NJ, for the Hoffman Challenge. This is a beautiful quilt that just made me giggle, because hippos affect me that way. I primarily took the photo to share with a friend who loves hippos, but thought I'd share it here, too. As my mom said, a quilt can make "even the less-than-glamorous very beautiful."

By Kathy James, Fort Washington, PA. The Philadelphia Modern Quilt Guild's challenge was to create a quilt that fit a stool cushion; no embellishment, as that would hurt to sit on. Ms. James stated in her quilt's description, "I thought it would be funny, no, hysterical, to sit on a blueberry pie." I agree with her, and this is one reason why I love reading the descriptions that go with the quilts on display at shows. She did such a good job of weaving the crust strips over or around the blueberries!

Apparently, bikinis were a big deal this year. Especially yellow polka dot bikinis. This was the first one I saw there. "Bikini Body" by Lee Anna Paylor, of Severna Park, MD. But my camera can't quite catch the really amazing thing about this quilt: parts of it are 3D. Like the bikini babe's chest and belly, her tote bag, and her towel. Maybe this second photo will show it better:

But also notice, in the first photo, that all the other women are wearing one piece bathing suits. Anyway, this quilt gave me a good laugh. The quilter's description read in part, "This feisty bikini wearer is a self-portrait of how I'd look back in Florida today." I can only imagine the personality of this quilter, but she seems like a lot of fun!

Polka dot bikini number two was not worn by a feisty self-portrait, but by something else:

Yes, that's a bear, wearing a yellow polka dot bikini. (Can there be any other kind?) "Dancing Bear" was made by Ginny Rippe, of Woodbridge, VA, for the 2013 Hampton Challenge issued by Cabin Branch Quilters. They all made quilts based on a song with a color in the title. ("Purple Rain" was a popular choice, plus at least one Elvis song and several Christmas songs.) You already know the song, right? The combination of bikini-wearing and surfing bear is just too funny, don't you think?

Owls were apparently a thing this year: they were everywhere, on quilts, on fabric, as felting projects, etc. These owls were just so cute I had to take a photo.  "Friends in High Places", by Jean Roesler, Grand Junction, Colorado, for the Art Quilt Association. Again, these little critters were kind of 3D: 

Their 'ear' tufts are just the cutest things, and their expressions are priceless. I did note that at the bottom of the description it said this quilt was available for sale. Hmmm...

Staying with the animal theme...

"Wave Goodbye", by Ruth Wilcox. Her description said that there were joints and seagrass weights, so if I wanted to I could have asked one of the white gloved assistants to pull the seagrass to see the claws move. I didn't. But, I think it's a funny idea. I remember one year, a quilt said "TOUCH ME" and had specific instructions to let anyone feel it. I loved that quilt, as it is so much about what quilts are to me: textures to be felt and experienced and loved. Still, these fiddler crabs were so colorful I had to share them.

"Eloise Joins The Circus", by Janet Fogg, Milwaukie, OR. Um, why is there an eiffel tower on that elephant's head? Anyway, this is still a beautiful quilt, and it did make me laugh in surprise when I realized it wasn't a typical party hat. 

"Gossip Girls" by Sandy Curran, Newport News, VA. I love these birds, I love how Ms. Curran pieced the top and bottom sections. And I love the description: "Can't you just hear them chatting together. I hear them saying, 'She didn't!'" Just brings a smile to my face reading that and looking at the busy bodies.

"Making Her Exit" by Pamela Allen, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Ms. Allen stated this is kind of her life, going from a "sameness of my former career" to a "life of infinite choices" as an artist. I just love the exuberance of the artist side, all the color, and check out the roller skates on her feet.  

This is someone who seems to be living a second life, and I can only wish her well on her travels, with a smile.

Somehow, I failed to make a note of who made this quilt. Someone obviously had fun fussy-cutting women for this one! Check out the close-up of a few of them:

The little head in the jar ("Getting a head") and on the platter ("Head waitress") caught me totally off guard! And, taking this quilter's advice, I'm going to "quilt while I'm ahead."  :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Affordable Care Act and How You Already Benefit

I'm going to do some cross-blogging today, because I think the topic is that important. There is too much misinformation (and, to be honest, straight out lies) being thrown around, discussed, and shared about the Affordable Care Act. 

I'm not trying to be political here; I don't care if the law was passed by a Democrat or a Republican. What I DO care about, as a reference librarian who believes in finding legitimate, authoritative, accurate information, is trying to make sure people understand what they are actually talking about. You know those people whose careers kind of define their personality (or vice versa)? Yeah, that's me all over. Even on Facebook I can't pass up the opportunity to find an answer for someone or help them out. (Example A: helping Erin get access to her My Patchwork Life blog again.)

I also really care about how screwed up the health care industry and health insurance industry are. I'm hoping that there are more changes going on than we really know about; I read an article recently about how the ACA is already reducing some costs that many aren't aware of, I think involving the insurance companies and hospitals working to improve quality of care over quantity of care. (And I can't find that article again; dang, I hate when that happens! But I'll keep looking for it. I am a reference librarian, after all!) I have health problems, as does my husband, and even though we both get insurance through our employers the law will still help us out. It will do even more for those who do not have insurance for one reason or another. 

UPDATE: This article is along the lines of the one I read earlier.

But rather than re-post everything here that I've already said once, I'm just going to put up a link to the blog I write for the Pottsville Free Public Library Reference Department:

If you don't want to visit my other blog, I encourage you to learn more for yourself from an unpolitical source, the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Reform site.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

So, I Made a Trip to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza Today..., Part One, The Serious Stuff

The Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza is one of my favorite events of the year. It's only about an hour and a half away from where I live, the displays are always incredible, and, well, there are more quilt-related vendors than you can shake a stick at. I took lots of photos, some because the quilts reminded me of friends and family, some because I really liked the pattern and want to add them to my "someday" list of quilts to make, and some because they made me feel something. The latter are what I'll post here. Quilts can make such a powerful statement, both in looking at them and in reading the descriptions included by the quilters. I love reading the descriptions and learning more about the quilter and the quilt's story.

Forgive me, this is going to be a really long post, because there is just so much I want to share. And these are just the quilts that had a message; next time I'll post the quilts that made me laugh. All photos were taken by me today (Sep. 22, 2013) at the quilt fest, but obviously the quilts are property of their makers. I am truly awed by the talents of the women and men who contribute quilts to these shows.

"Echoes of the Past", by Sandy Curran, Newport News, VA. I just thought this portrait of Harriet Tubman was incredibly well done. The quilter even added a railroad track in the quilting (close-up), along with three words that describe Ms. Tubman so well: courage, sacrifice, freedom. 

"Brother Against Brother", by Bonita Cantrell, Vernon, AL. This was one of the first quilts I saw when I walked into the quilt show, and it hit me hard. Mostly because, in many ways, for many reasons, we are still a fractured nation with deep divides and much hatred. 

"Symbols of Peace", by Zahra Golami and her nephew, Karajh, Iran. Simple, but still gut-wrenching. Part of the "Quilt for Change, Inspiring Social Change Through the Art of Quilting" exhibit. Their theme was "Women, Peace and Security". 

I didn't take photos of all of the quilts in this category, but there was one more that I want to share here:

"The Mending", by Lea McComas, Superior, Colorado. This was constructed from photos that were printed on fabric, ripped apart, shot at (those little red circles at the top), and burned (see red amoeba shape on left side). The red yarn is stitching together the life again. (Don't those arms look incredibly realistic? I keep thinking someone stuck their arms in front of my camera.) You can see fuller descriptions of this and the other challenge quilt at the Quilt for Change web site. 

"Gone", by Laura Bisagna, Winchester, CA. This woman found out her house was destroyed by a fire from an online photo, while she was still evacuated. The plaid "houses" are from pajamas she packed in her evacuation suitcase. The black plots are actually holes in the quilt; the black is really the divider behind the quilt. Obviously, there were a lot of others who also lost their house in that fire.

"Come Hell or High Water", by Brenda Zangre, West Hempstead, NY. This portrays the heights of the tsunami after the earthquake that hit Japan in 2011; the long orange 'finger' pointing toward the right reached the US coast. And I didn't notice until I read the description, but the photos are loosely arranged like a 'cause' ribbon. Her description ended, "Sadly, sometimes you just can't go home."

From too much water to too little:

"Nature's Beauty", by Shoshi Rimer, Bat Yam, Israel. This quilter portrayed a waterfall as being made of gold, illustrating the value of the water after a drought. 

All of these focus on serious topics, showing how much can be said with a quilted image. Quilts have historically been used to encourage social change, and the artists today continue to push boundaries to grab you by throat. 

Peace, friends.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What Am I Doing Here?

Ever start doing something new, and suddenly wonder what the heck you were thinking? I'm sure we've all been there at some point, some of us repeatedly.

Tonight I headed over to the gym after I did some hand quilting. (Sewing student hurt her wrist playing soccer so our lessons have paused until she heals, poor girl.) When I started there at the end of July, my goal was simply to use the treadmills. I knew I needed to get moving to keep weight and blood sugar under control, and walking at home or in the neighborhood was fraught with problems (which I won't go into now). I also knew I loved using the treadmills whenever I stayed at a motel. So I decided to take the plunge and join Anytime Fitness, so I could use the treadmills any time I wanted to. (Seriously, if I feel the need to walk at 3 a.m., I could go over there.) It was just within my budget, but health-wise I figured it was more than worth it.

So, I just planned on using the treadmill. I was building up my time on it, as well as my speed (still just walking, never been a decent runner in my life), and I was feeling pretty good. Then I had to have a session with the personal trainer. And, as personal trainers do, she challenged me to do more than just walk. "Muscle memory," she said sorrowfully, shaking her head. "Don't keep doing the same thing. You'll get bored, and you won't get much out of it."

Okay, fine, I'm willing to try new things. Oh, you want me to learn to use those torture machines??? At least, that's what all those weight machines look like, just with more padding. I lost count tonight how many different machines there are in that small space. I've also decided, for now, which I'm willing to risk using (and risk looking like a fool using -- there are some serious muscle people who go to that gym). 

I discovered I really like the twister. No idea what the real name is, but you kneel on padding, hold on to handles, and then twist your lower body. I was a bit concerned about my back, but figured anything that can improve my abs will most likely help my back, too. Some days I do the exercises gingerly, and my back feels better after I'm done. Excellent, that's probably worth my monthly membership fee right there!

I've started using a device that you can use backward or forward, working the front or back of the shoulders. With all the tension I store in my shoulders, I thought that might help a bit. I haven't been using it long enough to really notice a difference yet, but I feel like I'm actually working shoulder and arm muscles when I use it.

And this week, I've started using this bar that you pull down toward your chest. (Don't you love how I know all the technical terms here? Ha!) Again, aiming at my shoulders and back. 

Oh, yeah, and I've figured out which settings I really like on the treadmill. Love the "hill" setting, which randomly throws in different inclines between level stretches. Think that's my favorite one. Occasionally I'll keep it flat and go for speed for as long as I can handle it.

I've even tried the elliptical machines, aka crosstrainers, and they are just tough on the body. My record length of time on those things is about 17 minutes. The athletes who go to town on them for long periods of time have my complete respect. I keep trying them, though, along with the exercise bikes, just to change things up a bit.

To get back to the beginning of this meandering, tonight I was using the front shoulder machine, and another person came over to start using free weights. She looked like she really knew what she was doing. I glanced to my left, where another serious fitness person was using another machine. And then I looked around at all the other machines in the area, and thought "what the heck am I doing here??!?" I felt like that game, "which one is not like the others." What was worse, there was a mirror directly in front of where I was sitting, so I had to watch myself work out. Sheesh. I was really tempted to close my eyes, but figured that would look even goofier than I already did. 

So, I finished up with that weight machine, wiped it down (considering how many people I heard coughing and sniffling at work today, I'm tempted to wipe down everything I touch everywhere), and went to a machine I knew I could use without feeling silly. Treadmill, here I come. Let's rock that hill setting and get my confidence back on track!  :)