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!  :)

Friday, September 13, 2013

September is National Sewing Month

I remember seeing posts on various Facebook groups about September being National Sewing Month, but didn't think too much about it. I've been sewing more lately, so didn't need additional reasons to do it. However, after a discussion at work, I decided to look into it a bit more.

 Internaional Sewing Month

Did you know that National Sewing Month started with a declaration by Ronald Reagan in 1982? I didn't, until I found the site at Click on the link for "History of National Sewing Month" to find the previous years' themes. There are a few free patterns and articles on this page, but there are many more at I plan on exploring their "Charitable Sewing Projects" section when I have more time.

Personally, I like this year's theme, "Take your skills to a higher level," as that is what I've been tackling in my own sewing life. I recently completed a machine applique wall hanging, with machine quilting and a totally-machine-sewn binding (well, except for the one little bit that got missed on the back and needed a needle and thread to attach), all learning projects for me. I have only done one applique before, a small dove for a small flag, so this multi-part fused applique was something new for me. The pattern was free from Fons & Porter's website, and seemed appropriate after my experience with my own seam ripper a week ago. (I needed to take apart 24 blocks that had been put together in the wrong direction.) The Grim Ripper:

At work, circulation desk staff were looking for something "exciting" that they could use as a theme for a new display. Before they could reach for Chase's Calendar of Events, I suggested the sewing theme, and they were thrilled. Off to find sewing books to display to our patrons! If you are trying to find new patterns, you might check your own local public library and see what they have to offer. You might be surprised!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Same Questions, Same Answers; Same Time Next Month?

I find it interesting that, no matter which Facebook quilting group it is, the same questions keep getting asked: Which sewing machine should I buy? Which iron should I buy? What do you all think?

And the same answers keep getting posted: I love my [Pfaff, Janome, Bernina, etc.], I've been using it for years. I have a cheaper machine from a big box store and it's been a workhorse. I love my Rowenta iron, I wouldn't trade it. I hated my Rowenta, I went out and bought a cheaper brand iron and love it.

The people posting the questions don't know that the question has already been asked 10 times this year in this group. The groups are so prolific that it's almost impossible to go back to view previous posts. 

It reminds me of doing any research on the internet before buying anything. "X worked really well for the first two weeks, then it stopped. Returned it, bought Y, and never looked back." "X is amazing, much better than Y." "Only newbies even think about buying X or Y; true users will go with Z."

Conflicting answers, from so many unknown backgrounds that it seems we can hardly compare anything now. Perhaps the best advice I've seen (and have started giving) is, try them out if you can. What dealer is closer to you? Service is important, regardless of what you are buying. And remember, a company's reputation from 10 years ago doesn't always translate to rock solid manufactured items now.

So, what do I use? I have two sewing machines. The first, a Singer I bought from Hills when it was going out of business, worked great for many years. Until it started eating fabric in October 2011, when I was trying to make a quilt top for my brother-in-law's upcoming wedding. Ack! It got stowed until I could take it for repair (the repair place is at least an hour away, I don't get to that city very often), and I ran out to WallyWorld to buy a Brother sewing machine. I bought it because it was in my price range and it emphasized quilting on the box. And now I love that machine, even when my Singer was repaired, refreshed, and returned to me. The Singer is sitting sadly in the corner, waiting for the day the Brother gets hauled in for a tune up and it can come out to play again.

My Singer requires me to play with discs in order to change the stitches; my Brother lets me hit a button to do the same thing. The ease of use of my Brother machine has encouraged me to try applique (I've done it once, now, a dove for a flag for the "To Boston With Love" project) and machine quilting. 

And now I think I'm really happy with where I'm at, machine-wise. I have no Janome-lust (or Bernina-lust, etc.). I'm not planning on doing king-sized quilts on a machine, so there's no need to look longingly at the long-arm or mid-arm machines out there. I'll keep playing with my Brother sewing machine, which is easy enough for my 11 year old sewing student to use. 

And I'll probably give the same answer next time someone asks, what machine should I buy?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Glad to be Where I'm At

Watching the US Open semi-finals, I am reminded how glad I am that my paycheck does not depend on me facing Serena Williams. Her serve is terrifying, and her dominating play right now is just plain fierce. 

I am one of those quilters who has to have something playing in the background as I work. My preference is for sports, almost any sport. Baseball, softball, tennis, football (college or pro), ice hockey, college basketball (women or men), Olympics, ... even golf if I have no other choice. If there are no sports on, I'll find some kind of music, but sports is better. I played field hockey, basketball, and volleyball in high school, and field hockey in college, but I have never considered myself an athlete. I played for fun, and happily now watch true professionals show their grace and talent and hard work. With sports on, I can sit and hand quilt or piece for hours on end.

I also am in awe of those quilters who do their work so precisely, so flawlessly, that their quilts are true works of art. I'm looking forward to going to the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza in a couple of weeks. I'll take my camera, and look in wonder at all the gorgeous quilts on display, and make note of a number of patterns that will go on my "I'll make one of those someday" list.

But make no mistake, I am quite happy to be the quilter I am. Oh, sure, I would like to learn new techniques; someday I'll tackle a Bargello, someday I hope to try sewing curved seams, and my triangles are still works in progress. I make cozy quilts that will never be considered works of art, and that's okay. I recently made a baby blanket (only two layers, so not a quilt) for a friend's niece. She thanked me for it and said it was so pretty she'd hang it in the nursery. My immediate reaction was, okay, but it was constructed to take the beating that children's blankets tend to get. Only wall hangings get sleeves; everything else I make I expect to be used, frequently. It's okay to throw my quilts in the washing machine and dryer, because that means the quilt is being used and loved. That's the biggest compliment someone can give me for a quilt I've made.

So my latest project has been preemie quilts: tiny quilts, 20" on a side, intended for incubators and take-home. I have four done so far:

They are so addictive, as they take so little time to construct the top. And now that I have a walking foot for my sewing machine, I can machine quilt them pretty quickly, too. (The blue one above is hand quilted, as it was originally just a project to practice my running stitches.) It's so very tempting to keep making more, especially as the group is trying to collect 150 by December to distribute to hospitals for Christmas. (Hence the Christmas theme on some.) So this afternoon I started piecing yet another, and have fun Christmas fabric picked out to make more as the Fall goes on. It's nice to have so many finished projects!

All these little projects are done while I work on bigger ones. I am in the middle of piecing a scrappy quilt top, throw size, no specific recipient, based on the cover quilt of the August 2011 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting:


I grabbed all the less-than-one-eighth-yard scraps from my scrap pile, started cutting them into 1.5" x 5.5" strips, and sorted them into 'light' and 'dark' piles. I'm aiming for 12 blocks wide by 15 blocks long, which will make it slightly smaller than the twin size directions in the magazine.

I'm adding in my own touches, however. The butterflies were made after a discussion in one of the Facebook quilting groups about simple patterns for butterfly blocks. I kind of created a simplified block of my own, had so much fun I made several, then realized they were the exact size to add to this scrappy quilt. I'm also including several 5.5" squares of fabric that have fun prints, like the books and the parasols. Then there are the "baked goods" squares that are also thrown in occasionally. This is one five-row section of the quilt that's done so far:

Okay, enough of a break; back to sewing!  :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Who Inspires You?

As I'm sitting at my sewing machine, working on the binding for a 20" preemie quilt, I was thinking about those who have inspired me in my quilty life.

I started making my first quilt in high school, after visiting my grandmother one weekend. She took me to visit my step-great-grandmother, who lived nearby. This old woman seemed about a foot shorter than I was (and I was tall for my age then), hunched over because of osteoporosis, and yet she had this large quilt frame filling up her living room with a quilt she was working on. In my arrogance as a teen, I thought, "If this little old woman can make a quilt, why can't I?" And so I started. And found out quickly it wasn't as easy as it looked! I still have that first quilt, even if I still haven't finished quilting it yet:

I suspect this is my personal quilt-that-will-never-ever-die. The construction is bad, the binding is awful, and the blue on one end is faded from sunlight (it was on my bed in grad school, and I left my curtains open a lot). But the dang thing has survived any number of washing machines, not always on the gentle setting, and it has not yet come apart in the more than 20 years since it was made.

Just recently I had short discussions with two bloggers I've been following. I started following Erin's My Patchwork Life last fall, when I found out she was making quilts for victims of Superstorm Sandy. I joined in the project, ended up putting some of the quilt tops together for her because she was overwhelmed with donated blocks, and made a great new friend. Her blog has partially been my inspiration for my own. (My discussion with her today was about how she was having trouble making updates, so the posts there right now might seem a bit old. Give her a chance to get back on again, it's worth it!)

More recently I've been following Eric's Eric The Quilter blog. He is a fairly new quilter, but has been extremely prolific in the short time he's been quilting. He's also honest about his struggles with depression, and how quilting has helped some with that. He's also created some funny e-cards and shared some great memes. Nothing like quilting with a smile on your face.  :)

And then there is my mom. She is more of an artist than I am: she can draw things that look like they are supposed to (I can't, unless you want a hand or an electrical outlet; long story), she does beautiful picture quilts with applique and a wonderful family quilt that she finished for her 50th wedding anniversary. We talk quilting often, and she sometimes sends me fun fabric for my birthday (this year it was the official Wisconsin fabrics from a particular shop hop near her home).

My husband deserves lots of credit. He is creative in his own ways (see my previous post about Mazz Press!), and has never had a problem with me buying fabric, or making quilts to give away, and he quickly learned to compliment me on my matching points.  ;)  I made a scrap quilt for him early in our marriage, but it really wasn't him; too floral.  So, I'm now working on one that is very definitely him:

You can tell I'm still hand quilting this one! I've finished the first row (right of the hoop), and am on the 3rd block on the second row. Six rows total, so not too bad, but it's flannel-backed so the AC really needs to be cranked for me to work on this in the summer.  :)

Oh, and here's a shot of that preemie quilt I'm trying to finish:

The binding is really the backing fabric folded over to the front; it's pinned right now, just needs to be stitched. I bought this wholecloth square from a vendor at a quilt fest a few years ago, and decided it would be a good project to practice my quilting running stitches. (Normally when I hand quilt it's using stab stitching, but occasionally I try to do it "correctly".) Finished the hand quilting this weekend, and realized it's the perfect size to send with the other preemie quilts I have ready to contribute to a Facebook group. 

Back to finishing that small quilt. Have a great day!  :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Not Just a Librarian, Also a Publisher

I have the unique chance to see books from 3 different perspectives: as a librarian, I help people find the book they are seeking or need to answer a question; as a reader, I have my own favorite genres and authors; and, as a publisher, I help to create books for others. Wait, you didn't know I'm a publisher? Let me introduce you to Mazz Press.

My husband spends his days as a newspaper reporter writing stories to inform people, and his spare time is spent creating fictional tales to entertain people. Early on he got really frustrated with the whole 'find an agent and get published through a traditional publisher' thing, and after much discussion we decided that, between the two of us, we had the skills to publish his books ourselves. Enter Mazz Press, the name of the publishing company he created to publish his own books. We bought the ISBNs, set up a business relationship with a printer (360 Digital, in Michigan), and set up a routine for editing his works.

It seems there are almost as many ways to self-publish now as there are self-publishing authors, and that's kind of cool. You can choose to print paperback books to sell at author events or at local bookstores (if you can set up that arrangement). You can choose to go just with ebooks and save yourself the costs of printing anything. Or you can go with both options, as we have done. 

I am never shy about telling others how we do things, and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask! But I'll spare everyone else my thoughts on it, and just tell you about our books instead.  :)

The series we publish is called "The .40 Caliber Mouse". The logo is above. We put this on t-shirts, too, and it's been a big seller! Note that we do not make children's sizes, however, because it bothers us to see kids wearing shirts with guns on them. That little guy is nicknamed "Lucky the Vicious", and his eyes are usually red. All of the books fall under the 'action/thriller' genre, with a fair amount of violence (hey, there is a gun in our logo!).

Book One in the series is also called "The .40 Caliber Mouse". It's about a low-priced mercenary with an agenda, who hires an angry webmaster and a seriously scary sidekick. There is no mystery about who is doing what, but you'll need to keep reading to find out why the mercenary does what he does. (Available from Amazon and from Smashwords, as well as most other ebook retailers.)

Book Two is "The .40 Caliber Mousehunt", and the title doesn't lie. Those involved with the online mercenary project are hunted by more than one group, for more reasons than you might think. (Ebook versions: Amazon and Smashwords.)

For Book Three, we take a side trip to a different story, in the same universe as "The .40 Caliber Mouse" stories and involving some of the same people. "The Wild Damned" looks at three people who qualify for that description... or is it four people? This book edges more into the horror genre than the previous books, with a higher body count. It even has its own logo:

This is the Mark of the Carrion Crow, one of the three main characters. Scary dude. (Amazon and Smashwords ebooks.)

Book Four just came out in May of 2013, and continues the story of the main character from books one and two, Corinn Michaels. "Katerina Blues" is a story about Corinn trying to track down (and eliminate) her personal demons. Probably the most adult in nature of all the books, I'm told it's not as bad as "Fifty Shades of Grey" (which I did not read). So if you could handle that story, and you like a bit of a thrill, why not give Katerina a try? (Amazon and Smashwords ebooks.)

Of course, all four are also available from our website at I'll post links to some of the reviews we've received in another blog post. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

More Sewing Lesson Projects

The first two projects with my sewing student were fairly small but both were quilted. I decided the next projects should be more basic sewing projects and asked her mom to bring with them either one yard of fabric or an old sheet for the next session.

What the mom brought was a new flat sheet she had in the house. High thread count. Kind of sateen finish. Hmm, can we work with this? Fortunately I had an extra week to prepare for this session. I was planning on making pillowcases, and wanted to be sure that my student could work with such a fabric without a) getting really frustrated and b) having the whole thing unravel the first time it was washed (or even whilst being sewn!).

I used the basic pillowcase pattern from AllPeopleQuilt's page for the 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge. I've made this pattern before, so was familiar with the technique and knew in general my student could do it. However, the fine sheet fabric might make things more difficult. My solution was to stitch the seams as directed, then zigzag stitch every edge. (I don't own a serger, so zigzag on my basic sewing machine was the next best thing.) Threw my sample in the wash and closely inspected what came out of the dryer. Success! I had a plan, and was ready for my student.

Funny enough, she asked me if we would be zigzagging (she had a few sessions of sewing in her middle school home ec class, just enough to know she wanted to learn more). Hey, this girl's brain is working, yay!!  :)  So much easier to have a thinking student. Anyway, mom decided to join us for this session, too. 

These are the pillowcases made by me (blue) and the mom (purple-ish):

The student kept hers, but the mom and I decided to donate our pillowcases to charity. So, if you know of a group that is collecting pillowcases, please let me know! I haven't had a chance to start my search yet, so I'm open to ideas. Note that the main fabric is a cream color, so maybe not appropriate for kids.  :)

The zigzagging was good practice for all of us. Now it was time to find a project that was more age appropriate for an 11 year old girl. I decided to try making a drawstring bag, and found a great pattern at Christina Sherrod's Craft and Fabric Links site. The pattern called for nylon waterproof fabric, but my mom (who was visiting at the time and has much more fabric know-how than I do) and I agreed that might be a bit tough for a beginning sewist. We also thought we needed something that wasn't prone to ripping, as there are two corners that may or may not get stitched and could be weak points in the construction. So I ended up buying pants-weight cotton twill, plus some interfacing that could reinforce those weak spots. For the drawstrings, I bought half inch cotton twill tape by the spool (basically, one spool per bag!).

My student loved this project, until we got to feeding the drawstring through the top. First, I found out she had never seen or used a safety pin before. Huh? Is that possible? Her mom confirmed later that she didn't use them, but assumed her daughter knew what they were. So, I'm learning to check my assumptions at the door about what is "basic knowledge", as it may not be for everyone! Second, I found out that feeding a drawstring through a one-inch sleeve isn't as easy as it looks when you have never done it before. My student struggled at first to understand what I was describing, and once she did it took her a long time to get the tape through. However, she did it all by herself, not asking me once to help her. Good girl! 

She was asking questions about the project near the end, concerned we were going to sew it shut. I promised her it would make more sense when we were done. And when we sewed those last seams across the bottom, and I showed her how to turn it right side out, her eyes lit up. A big smile crossed her face, as if she had performed magic. Maybe, in her opinion, she did. But that moment was priceless for me.

Here's the bag I made:

The finished bags were about 13" wide by 18" long.

Our next project is to learn hand quilting. I may not be able to work with her for a month and a half, and I wanted to come up with something she could do during that time without a sewing machine. So, I have a couple of 20" square pieces that are perfect for practicing hand quilting. I'll probably have her do stab-stitch, rather than running stitch, for dexterity reasons. We'll see how that goes!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Teaching More Than Myself

While I've been quilting for many years (I think I made my first real, normal-sized quilt around 1995 or so), I'm still learning. I tried applique for the first time earlier this year for a flag for Boston, and it was good enough to send in with the others I had made. I tried machine quilting for the first time earlier this year, too, to finish a baby quilt made from blocks left over from a Hurricane Sandy quilt. Straight lines are my friends, and triangles are still a slight challenge (although I'm getting better!). But I can look at a pattern and immediately figure out how it was put together, even if it's something I'm not sure I personally can put together well.

So, when my neighbor asked me if I'd be willing to teach her daughter how to sew, I thought it would be pretty easy. I could teach her how to sew straight lines, we'd have lots of practice... Oh. Wait. What kinds of projects would an 11-year-old girl enjoy working on? Probably not a great big quilt with big blocks, at least not at first. Okay, then, let's think about what we can do to keep her interested, help her learn, and have some fun?

I started simple, with hot pads. Even easier than a great pattern I found online, it was just two pieces of cotton fabric and two pieces of cotton batting. Nice and puffy, colorful, and fairly forgiving. Her mom even joined us for that session, and made her own hot pad. Everyone was happy after the first day, so I figured I was on the right track. I learned something, too: my sewing machine's presser foot was not good for machine quilting, as the top and bottom fabrics were moving at different speeds. This was made worse by the extra thickness of the additional layer of batting. Oh, well, mom and daughter didn't notice, so that's something I can fix in the future.  Here's the hot pad I made that day:

Next session, we did mug rugs. I figured the student could use lots of practice sewing straight lines, so we pieced some strips together, put borders on them, quilted on the back, and folded the back over to create the binding. The pattern came from the In Color Order blog (thanks, Jeni!). These took longer, even without her mom with us, but I think she got a lot of good practice.  Here's my mug rug:

Okay, so that is a few mug rugs. :)  The first one I made is the top left; I had so many strips left over that I made four more, and the other two here show the back folded over ready to finish the binding (bottom left), and the one on the right is just quilted and trimmed. I gave all five mug rugs to my parents when they visited, as hostess gifts for one or more of the people they were going to be staying with later in their trip.

What's a mug rug? Best description I've found/come up with is, a quilted fabric coaster that is big enough for a mug (cup of coffee, stein of cocoa, tea cup, etc.) and a muffin (or cookie or apple or...). These ended up being about 10" long by 6" wide.

This post is getting long, so I'll save some for next time.  :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Don't let them go dark!

A friend is trying to save his drive-in theater. Can you help? 

Mike needs to install a digital projector at the Mahoning Drive In, Lehighton, PA. Why? Because the movie industry is switching from film to digital, and those theaters that don't have digital will go dark for good. At $80,000 to $85,000, this isn't a cheap project! But he's entered his drive-in theater to a contest run by Honda, and you can vote once every day at for his theater. Or text VOTE21 to 444-999 (your usual message rates apply). 

The contest site has short videos about all the theaters taking part in the contest, so you can learn more about the Mahoning Drive In by watching the video.

Thank you!

Greetings from the Caffeinated & Quilted Librarian!

Greetings, and let me introduce myself!

I am a reference librarian at a small public library in eastern Pennsylvania. Outside of work I have a number of interests, including quilting (hand quilter learning how to machine quilt), reading, baking, and helping my husband with his novels, songs and films.

So, why do I think the world needs another blog?

Partially it's to get me in the habit. I need to do more blogging for work (, in case you are curious; I'm just getting it started again so there isn't much there right now), and I thought blogging from home would help me think more about blogging from work.

Partially it's because I'd like to share what I do with more than just my friends on Facebook. I'd like to tell more people about our work as Mazz Press (my husband's publishing company), and share the projects I'm working on, and communicate with others with similar interests. 

Partially it's because I wanted a challenge. I've read good blogs and bad blogs, bloggers who post 10 times a day and bloggers who haven't posted in months. I'd like to see what kind of blogger and communicator I can be.

Oh, and that caffeinated part? My day doesn't start until I get that first ice cold coffee in the morning. Yes, I'm an iced coffee drinker, even when it's 10 below outside. I make my own strong-brewed coffee at home, keep it in the fridge, add unsweetened almond milk and coffee syrup (or just chocolate almond milk), and I'm a happy camper. Iced lattes will do if I'm away from home.

So, welcome to all who are curious about what I might say, and welcome to those who are waiting for a trainwreck (I hope I disappoint you).