Friday, August 29, 2008

Can't get much better than this!

No, it's not your eyes--it's my lousy photography that's responsible for the blurry pics. HUGELY exciting day yesterday--it was an Outing Day for Pam and me, but we had an extra special guest along (insert drumroll here)...MONICA!!!

Even the up to 110 degree heat could not deter us from our fun--starting with the always wonderful Thimble Creek.
Monica hadn't been there in years and I hadn't been there in DAYS, so there was lots of shopping to be done.

Here's Monica showing Roxie where her projects are in the latest Quilts and More's a must read, btw.

Here's Pam getting ready to take a bloggable photo...

Here's our pile(s) of necessities. Always a little confusing when we have to keep "borrowing" from each other's piles! Pam and I both needed a little more Minny Muu and I found some lovely greens for still another upcoming project--Lecien fabrics are so wonderful. By the way, Thimble Creek has a terrific assortment of Lecien--including Minny Muu, so give them a call if you need some.

After lunch we headed out to Union City to the Daiso store there. Pam and Monica were already big fans of Daiso, but it was a new experience for me. I wouldn't consider myself a big fan of dollar stores, but a Japanese dollar store? Now that's something else entirely.

Practically everything in the place is $1.50. There are entire aisles devoted to plastic storage containers, clothespins of every conceivable shape and color, baking items, garden items...the list goes on and on. Just don't get me started on the WALL OF SPONGES. I got some pretty pink and white ones, an "It's Pretty Cleaner" pig sponge, and my very favorites--they have smiley faces embroidered on them.

I wasn't the only one who found goodies--Pam is always the very picture of self-control, but she's got some new stuff now but Monica wins the prize for finding the most essentials. She did pass on the mayonnaise rack I spotted (she has a love for mayonnaise that is downright disturbing) but I'm thinking it was just too small for her needs.

So today it's back to the reality of having way too many quilt projects going on than could ever be considered reasonable, bracing myself for another day of crazy heat, and missing Monica already!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


It's a real treat when your friend knows how much you adore her TOP SECRET RECIPE orange cake so she brings you some...

It's a treat when your messes are pretty when they're piled up in a bowl...

It's a treat when you find a new roll of fabric...

wait, WHAT???

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bias basket tutorial

No we're not done with our trip, we've still got one stop to go. For various mundane and vaguely unpleasant reasons I've been MIA for the last couple of weeks.
I noticed that Pam posted her Flight of Fancy basket block, and remembered that I'd planned on doing a tutorial on the basket since all those little strips can be intimidating.

So what follows are what I hope to be some helpful hints...

First of all, make sure you'll be working with metal bias bars, not the plastic ones. Yes, the metal bars do get quite hot, but we're all big girls here and can handle being extra careful in order to get the best possible bias strips, right?

Secondly, if the thought of making 1/8" strips is off-putting, don't worry if you can't get your strips that small. The key is consistency--if your strips are a little fatter than 1/8", just be sure they're all that size.

Promise you won't be horrified by my condition of my ironing board cover, OK?

Here we go.

I like to work with fat quarters for making my bias--you can cut a lot of nice long strips from one piece. Cut your bias strips to the width indicated in the bias bar instructions.

Fold each strip in half wrong sides together and finger press. Do not iron a crease.

Place the bias strip under your presser foot and begin to stitch. If you are making bias strips 1/4" or wider, you'll be stitching with a 1/4" seam allowance. However with an 1/8" bias strip, the seam allowance is smaller than that. It can be tricky to start each strip accurately, but don't worry if the first little bit you stitch looks wonky. Keep the metal bar handy so that as the bias gets stitched you can lay the bar on top to make sure you're making your strip the right width. The strip should be just a smidge wider than the bar so that you'll be able to insert the bar into the strip easily.

Continue stitching your pile of strips.

Next step is the pressing. Insert the bias bar into a strip. With your fingers, adjust the bias strip so that the seam is centered along a flat side of the bar. It doesn't have to be precisely centered, you just want to make sure your seam won't show on the finished bias strip.

When you have the bias bar completely covered with fabric, steam press it in place. Continue to move the bias strip up the bias bar until the entire strip has been pressed.

Remove the bias bar from the fabric strip and steam press it nice and flat.

If the beginning or end of a strip looks wider than it should, cut that part off.

Repeat until you have what appears to be miles of bias.

Now let's make a basket!

Start by taping your master pattern onto a table. This should work as long as your background fabric isn't too dark or too heavy. Otherwise you'll need a lightbox to see your design.

Line up the background seam with the line marked on the pattern. I like to add a couple of bits of tape to help hold my fabric in place.

The Flight of Fancy basket is not really woven, so we'll start with one side and then do the other.

Before you start cutting strips, locate your two best long strips and set them aside for the basket sides.

Put some dots of glue along one of the pattern lines. Cut your strip a bit longer than you'll need and lay it in place.
Repeat with each strip.

Do the other side the same way...again, making sure your strips are a bit longer than necessary.

For Flight of Fancy, the basket needs to be made in two stages. You will now need to stitch the strips you have glued. Pam stitched hers by machine and I found it easier to hand applique my strips, so whichever method you prefer will work fine.

For demonstration purposes I used a washable marker to indicate where the sides of the basket will go. Before stitching any strips, trim any long ends as needed so that you won't have any basket bits extending beyond the sides of the basket when they are applied later.

After the remaining applique pieces are applied to the block, go back and add the sides to the basket in the same manner. Go slowly when gluing the curves.

I think Pam's basket is beautiful! I always enjoy other quilter's versions of my designs better than my own.

See? Not hard at all--just time consuming.
Are you all tired out?
Presley feels your pain.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Just a couple more stops...

I have to hurry and get this post finished because in real time, today is my 25th wedding anniversary and we're getting ready to take off for a couple of days.

This was my second time in Ireland...and like Scotland, there's just something about that place that makes it very hard to leave.
We did tour Belfast and the surrounding areas and while it has some beautiful scenery, it's the area around Dublin that I really love.

I did have to take a picture of this little house along the road outside Belfast...we were told that it's for sale and needs someone to clean it up a bit. Don't you think it would make a great sewing cottage?

When we were in Dublin 2 years ago, my dad and I chose the tour that's called "Powerscourt Gardens and Shopping" because the name has two of my favorite words. I loved it so much that this time I promised him he could pick all of the other tours as long as we could do that one again. Not a hard sell.

Here's what you see if you glance up when you first walk in...if there was any way to carry that home on my lap I'd have done it.

They've got some roses...

And fountains...and hey,what's that through the gate over there? I think we should go see...

It's a great place if you have hydrangea-love...

And what about the shopping?

If the girl on the left looks a little chilly, that's because the sweater she was wearing now belongs to me. And yes, it was on sale.

Avoca is an amazing, beautiful Irish wool...darling clothes...and even a touch of Cath Kidston and Greengate.
And if you noticed on my sweater's tag, Avoca has been around awhile.

Well, sadly I did have to leave Ireland. But how's this for cool? I've got a quilt top that is getting ready to head on over there! (more on that later!)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Where shall we go today?

How about the Isle of Man?

I've really got to speed up these posts--I've been home for 2 weeks now.

Like everywhere else, the Isle of Man was totally charming. AND they have great shopping. If you ignore the exchange rate and pretend that the dollar is worth more than virtually nothing, you'll have a wonderful time. I know I did!

First stop was a totally touristy one. This is the biggest water wheel in the world (I think). It was quite a hike up to the top, I can tell you that. But I preferred spotting the foxgloves that grow wild pretty much everywhere...

admiring the sheep...

and my favorite part was the lovely walk back to the bus.

Hey, Pam! You need a set up like this for Binnie.

Finally got inside a Marks & Spencer. Our tour guide said he really doesn't understand the American fascination with the store, and after shopping there, I'd have to agree. It's kinda like a JC Penney, don't you think? I did get a cute bowl that I'll be turning into a pot for some ivy (once I gather the courage to drill a hole in the bottom) and for reasons I cannot explain I bought a couple of pillow cases.

Next was Thornton's for some Special Toffee. And yes, it is indeed SPECIAL. It'll stick to your teeth but boy, is it worth it.

Stopped by the bookstore to gather up a crazy quantity of magazines--both home dec and car magazines for my guys.

Popped into River Island...a shop I sure wish would come to Livermore! Darling clothes and really reasonably priced--again, if you ignore the exchange rate.

And everyone was SO NICE.

Check out this garden we passed on the way back to the ship...sigh...

Here's the only tourist I'll allow in a pic--why is he so happy? He's got the bag with the toffee in it.

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