Friday, November 11, 2011

my biggest quilt yet...and it's for a Christmas gift!

This is the project that I'm currently working on, it is one of three quilts that I am giving as Christmas gifts this year.  One quilt is complete and ready to send, but it is going to someone who might read this blog or see my FB page, so I haven't posted any pictures or information about it because I want it to be a surprise.  :)  This one, however is for my 4.5yo "niece" Averie who lives in New Jersey, and I am also making a similar quilt in reds and oranges for her 6yo brother Aidan.  As you can see in this picture, it's a twin-size quilt and it's much bigger than anything else I've made, including the coffee quilt that I made for Chris around this time last year.  It takes up nearly the entire ping-pong table when I laid it out for basting - so if I ever make a bigger one, I'm going to have to come up with some other solution for the basting step!
Of course, this quilt didn't just spring into being fully formed over the last week!  I've been collecting fabrics for it and its companion for over a year now, and cut the squares and strips in September.  I kept with a single color theme of pink and purple since those are Averie's favorite colors, but I also wanted it to be sophisticated enough that she will continue to like the quilt as she gets older, so not everything is bubble-gum pink and there's a bit of coral included as well.  There's quite a lot of the recent Lizzy House collection "1001 Peeps" in this quilt, along with various fat quarters and yard cuts, and even some pink jelly roll strips left over from the boy baby quilt I made earlier this year.  There's even several fabrics that I got from two "Blog Destashing" boxes that I purchased this summer from quilt bloggers!  The border is from the Silent Cinema collection in the pink/coral colorway, and the quilt will be bound in the dark purple kaleidoscope print from 1001 Peeps.
My design board was barely big enough to hold all of the panels as I made them!  I made the three block panels (6" finished blocks, 3 high by 8 wide) first, carefully mixing up the prints for color and type.  Originally I was going to do three strip pieced sections (2" finished height, set of 4), but the Towers print from 1001 Peeps seemed to be a much better idea, so I used that on the top and bottom of the pieced section in place of more strip panels.  The strip panels were made last, using a variety of widths and colors with diagonal seaming (like when making a binding) to add additional interest.
I'm particularly proud of the last piecing seam I did, putting the top section (2 block panels, 1 strip panel, and the tower panel) together with the bottom section (1 strip panel, 1 block panel, 1 tower panel), where the widths of the fabrics ended up perfectly matched.  Of course, as it turned out the width of the quilt was beautifully consistent between the top and the bottom, but there was one section of strips that was a little short on one I did have to trim the quilt a bit to account for that.  My final quilt size when completely pieced and laid out on the ping pong table had a variance of 1/8" across the width of the quilt and no variance across the length, so overall I'm quite pleased!  I've learned that pushing that big of a quilt (especially one with a flannel backing!) through my sewing machine for quilting is very tiring, however - it's a lot of weight!  So again, if I make something larger than a queen not only will I need a different way to baste it together, but I think I might send it to a longarm quilter to finish up for me!
Back in August before PAX, I made another bag to use for collecting my buttons during the Buttoneering community event, similar to last year.  This time I made the bag with some incredibly awesome heavy fabric printed with Viewmaster reels, which just makes me insanely happy.  The fabric unfortunately did not stand up as well to the buttons as the plain cotton fabric I used last year, however, so I won't be using it again for next year's collection so as not to permanently damage it.  I'm pretty proud of how this one came out, especially since I measured/designed my own pockets on the inside that include gathers for the different sizes.
One pocket is for my wallet, and the pocket on the other side had a space for pens (regular, sharpie, and my tablet stylus) and a space for my iPhone.  The pockets fit perfectly and worked great, I'm very pleased with how I did them!  I think this is the last bag I'm making for a long time, however, as I'm pretty much tired of making them and I now have two to use as needed, having given away three and sold (for the cost of materials only, since it's a pattern not to be used for profit) one more.
So instead of making bags, I've bought two from a awesome lady from Spokane who makes bags of all types, Borsa Bella.  I first saw her stuff at the Bellevue Arts Festival with Christy, and we both hemmed and hawed all the rest of the day before giving in and going back to get bags.  I got a Moxie in a lovely neutral black/chocolate/white print, which is a nice travel bag for flat stuff.  Once I saw the giant bee print by the same designer (Melody Miller) who did the viewmaster print, I knew I *had* to have a bag made from it.  So I picked up the fabric, handed it off to Borsa Bella at the Issaquah Salmon Days, and just a week later had the most amazing BEE BAG in the Hobo style.  :)  I love it and have been carrying it everywhere outside of work since I got it!

Next post will be (hopefully) about what I saw and did at PAX during the last weekend of August.  Alternatively, it will be about flyball or starting up Aidan's quilt!

Monday, November 7, 2011

a quick post...

I haven't forgotten about my blog, far from problem is that I start writing these awesome blog posts in my head, and then I need to find time to type them for real, and track down the pictures, and and and....then before I know it, it's been two months.  So today I am starting back by posting a beautiful short writing that is circulating amongst my flyball friends this morning, which really explains why we do our dog sports.

What is a Title Really? 
by Sandy Mowery

Not just a brag, not just a stepping stone to a higher Title, not just an adjunct to competitive scores.

A Title is a tribute to the dog that bears it, a way to honor the dog, an ultimate memorial.

It will remain in the record and in the memory for about as long as anything in this world can remain.

Few humans will do as well or better in that regard. And though the dog himself doesn't know or care that his achievements have been noted, a Title says many things in the world of humans, where such things count.

A Title says your dog was intelligent, and adaptable and good natured. It says that your dog loved you enough to do the things that please you, however crazy they may have sometimes seemed.

And a Title says that you loved your dog, that you love to spend time with him because he was a good dog, and that you believe in him enough to give him yet another chance when he failed and that in the end your fatith was justified.

A Title proves that your dog inspired you to have the special relationship enjoyed by so few; that in a world of disposable creatures, this dog with a Title was greatly loved and loved greatly in return.

And when that dear short life is over, the Title remains as a memorial of the finest kind, the best you can give to a deserving friend, volumes of praise in one small set of initials before or after the name.

A Title is nothing less than love and respect, given and received permanently.
Posted today in honor of my four wonderful dogs...
Phoebe FGDCh50k TFE-III

Sunday, September 11, 2011

today I choose to remember happiness...

There are many things to remember today, and the media would have us all spend the day in fear, misery, and drama.  Instead, I choose to ignore the media today, and I choose to remember life, love, and happiness.

Three years ago today, I flew to Chicago and brought home Ignited's Ezri Dax.  It was a very long day, as I took flights that left Seattle at 6am and returned back at 11pm, but it was worth it to bring home my wonderful little girl.  I was able to spend a couple hours (and lunch!) with Mike and Sharon at their home, including time playing with the puppies from the two litters (Race x Dazzle and Race x Prancer) that were there waiting to go home.  I met Brita, Dazzle, Prancer, Corrie, Singed, Hex, and Sprint there, and had a great time.

Ezri was not so thrilled with the trip home, especially in the airplane - why was she in a bag?  Why was it dark and noisy?  Where were her siblings and mama?  Why wouldn't I take her out?  Toys, chews, food, pets, nothing was enough.  She cried so loudly during the ascent to cruising altitude that the flight attendant came over to me once we were safely enroute and had me take her out of the carrier and keep her on my lap.  She promptly passed out and slept the remainder of the flight home!

Chris was still working graveyard shift at the time, so I raced home after landing and he was a little late to work so he could see her before he left.  The new person in the weird motorcycle gear didn't faze little Ezri at all - she happily accepted his attention, then turned to devour a chicken wing as her first meal that day before going to bed in her crate.  It had been a long stressful day for such a little puppy, after all!

Three years, and it's been wonderful to have Ezri in my life.  I'm looking forward to many more years to come!

Friday, September 2, 2011

the post that was meant for last week...

I got a little caught up prepping for PAX last week, so the post I had on deck never actually got written. Today I'm still dealing with the end of (thankfully minor) con crud, so here's the post that was meant for last week...

Probably unsurprisingly, I read a lot of blogs and a large proportion of them are quilting/sewing blogs - on a quick glance through my Google Reader list, over 100 blogs and probably about 60-70 of them are quilting or sewing blogs. The rest are comprised of funny things (Wootube, Hyperbole and a Half, Dr Grumpy), fun with food (KAF Blog, Gluten-Free Girl), and general random stuff (Dear Photograph, Cold Antler Farm, Mad Hattery!). The beauty of Google Reader is that it collects all new posts for me via RSS feeds, and I can catch up whenever I want to without missing anything. I even have an app on my iPad that uses it, so that I never have to remember which blogs I've read or not recently.

Over the past few months, a quilting tool called the Accuquilt Go! has been making the rounds of a lot of quilting blogs, with plenty of projects shown and Go! Baby units given away as prizes. The premise is very simple - the Go! is a fabric cutter that uses pressure with die cutters and cutting mats to cut shapes out of fabric with very little effort. I've been sort of intrigued by the concept, enough to put entries in for the raffled items but not to purchase one for myself, until very recently. Two weeks ago while cruising Craigslist, I found not the little version (the Go! Baby), but the bigger version (the Go!), along with 10 dies and a bunch of cutting mats, for just $305 - which would cost over $850 new from Accuquilt, and still well north of $600 new if bought from Amazon sellers. So I jumped all over that, drove to Renton on a Friday afternoon, and brought it home with me.

The cutter is extremely simple to use - you just layer the die, your fabric, and a cutting mat to make a sandwich, and crank it through the cutter. Boom, 24 perfect half-square triangles from a piece of fabric folded 4 layers thick. I've been considering trying out some triangle and tumbler quilt design elements recently, but didn't want to do all the templating and cutting required - but the Go! takes care of that for me! There is some fabric waste, but the dies are laid out intelligently to minimize that, and if you are careful with how you align your fabric on the die it's probably less than it would be to cut them all out by hand.

Two fat quarters and some solid grey fabric produced these piles of half-square triangles in less than 20 minutes. It takes longer to iron the fabric and fold it than it does to do the actual cutting - it's amazing! Now, I don't think I would use this cutter for strip cutting or for square cuts, as those are just too easy for me to do on my own with my rotary cutter, but for the HST pieces and the tumbler pieces, this will be excellent. I am also seeing where these dies would be great for chewing through scraps - just run everything through to a standard piece size (2" square or 2" HST, for example) and toss them in a bin and they're ready to use, no hassle. Finally, I've seen a lot of people comment on how they allow those with hand issues (arthritis, scars, mobility, etc.) to be able to cut fabric again, and that is definitely a great thing. So in conclusion, I really like my Accuquilt Go! cutter so far and am glad that I purchased it, and I'm looking forward to making some tumbler quilts this fall. However, do shop around should you want one of your own - Amazon has them for about half of what Accuquilt charges, and many of the dies and other items are slightly cheaper and eligible for Amazon Prime.

The same night I got the Go! cutter, I hit up the Target in Renton and got some more fabric bins and reorganized my stash cabinet. I now have bins for larger yardage and collections, and I broke up all my 1/2 - 2 yard pieces by color family, and split the fat quarter and smaller size pieces into lights/darks. I'm quite pleased with the results!

And just because, here's a picture of an unhappy Ezri getting a bath. It's hard to be a border collie some days!

Monday, August 22, 2011


This morning on my commute to work, specifically at the intersection of 522 and 405, my bike turned over 33,333 on the odometer. This isn't particularly significant for any reason, but it is a pleasing number sequence that amused me. Since I began the year at an odometer reading of 26,383 this puts me at just under 7,000 miles ridden in not quite 8 months of riding, leaving me well on track to clear 10,000 miles for the year. Additionally, since I purchased the bike with about 2,700 miles on it, I just recently turned the milestone of putting 30,000 miles of my own on the bike, which is also exciting. Of course, I am still commuting full time, and here are my stats for that so far this year.

Days Worked: 146
Days Ridden: 138
Bad Weather Days: 8
Absolute Percentage: 94.5%
Adjusted Percentage: 100%
Temp Min/Max: 25F / 82F

A few weeks ago I got a new back tire, and I chose a Pilot Road 3 based on the recommendations from some of my online riding friends. The difference from my old worn tire to the new PR3 was just stunning, and not only due to the difference in age/wear. The back end of my bike "sticks" like it never did before, giving me way more margin for safety and improved cornering, and I am super pleased with it. Chris just had to replace both tires on his bike, and he went with Pilot Road 2's, and I think he's happy with them as well although he hasn't had them for very long. I'm hoping we can do a ride for fun over Labor Day weekend, though I haven't actually tried to plan anything so who knows if that will work out. We still haven't visited Mt. St. Helens, and that's something I would very much like to do, so maybe I'll try to make that happen.

I'm currently reading a very interesting book, New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherford. The novel is (clearly) set in the city of New York, and each section follows a few people through a pivotal point in history for the city. I'm just over a third through the book, and so far have read the sections covering the change of New Amsterdam to New York, as well as the American Revolution and the surprise choice of a new American capitol rather than the city of New York. It's very well done and I'm really enjoying it, as not only the major issues of each time period but also the minor issues are illustrated by the characters living in that time, from slavery to interactions with Indians to war profiteering. I had originally heard of this author by an Amazon recommendation for another novel of his based on London, but that one wasn't available for Kindle at the time so I eventually picked up this one when it went on summer sale a few months ago.

I think I've posted about it before, but if you love reading then you really should check out GoodReads. It is an amazing resource where you can list books you've read, review books simply (by 1-5 stars) as well as by written review, and additionally list books to read and further categorize your lists. So in addition to the standard lists, I also have one for my book club where I've tagged each book we've read, as well as a smaller list of books I might not finish for various reasons. The "to-read" list is amazingly helpful - any time I see a blogger, news story, or friend mention a book that sounds good, I'll just hop over to GoodReads and toss it into my to-read pile. Combined with the app for my iPhone, I'm always ready with something else I wanted to read when I finish what I'm working on for my Kindle! So far this year I've read 43 new books, although my total-read is higher as I'm not counting rereads (about 19 so far this year) and truly trashy novels (probably at least 10).

Finally, my friend who is a writer requested that her friends post books that "would make them miss their bus stop" for her birthday, and a few days later she collated all of the recommendations into a single Amazon list. It's a great list of fun reads, and I will definitely be perusing it further soon to add more books to my ever-growing to-read pile!

The Kindle is probably one of the best things I've ever this point I can't imagine bringing home so many paper books as are on my to-read list. I'm still buying books in physical format, of course, especially quilting books and those for my "apocalypse" library which are useful information on homesteading and other topics that would be useful when the internet is no more. But for the vast majority of books, I much prefer to buy them for my Kindle and not have to deal with the physical paper copy, to the point that I will just move on to the next book on my list if I can't find a Kindle version. It's going to be very interesting to see how the eBook market shakes out over the next few years, with publishers fighting a losing battle to keep eBook prices high ($15 for an eBook? not even!) combined with the different standards in place. We shall see...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

project completion roundup

I've finally gifted several of my completed recent projects, so it's roundup time! First up is a small placemat / "mug rug" quilt that I made my grandmother for her birthday in June. I used a charm pack for the brightly colored squares, which were cut in half and then put together at an angle to form the points. The border is leftover fabric from a baby quilt I made earlier this year, and the binding is from fabric in my stash that wasn't used in a quilt I made last year. The back (not shown) is made of charm squares in pastel shades of the colors shown here, with a strip of a red dot fabric. The inspiration for this piece was from something I saw on Quilt Dad a few months ago, and the color choices were based on my Nana's love of bright colors.

Next up are a pair of Nintendo DS cases, which I originally made for my new DS since it didn't come with a case that I approved of using (far too big and bulky). I made it from scratch, using measurements of the DS itself along with some math, and it's basically made of two strips of fabric that are individually quilted and then stitched together. There is a lining as well - and putting the layers together was REALLY hard on even my freearm machine, if I wanted to make many more of these I would really need a Featherweight 222k or similar tiny freearm to make it work.
Mine is made of some black and lime green Spirograph print material I got on shop hop this year, lined with some bright lime green abstract flowers (not pictured), and bound with some Kona teal fabric leftover from binding the baby quilt discussed later in this post. And since my mother's birthday happened around the time I made this one, I decided to make her one too using fabric scraps left over from the bag I made her for Mother's Day earlier this year.

Free motion quilting still isn't coming very easily to me - I need much more practice!

The lining is a fun purple/teal butterfly print that I picked up on shop hop - it adds a bit of whimsy to this piece, I think! The binding is leftover binding from the quilt I made myself as part of the first three I ever made just two years ago.

And of course, the label!

The next project is a bit bigger - it's a baby carrier quilt that I've made for my friend's second son who was born in June. I didn't quite get this made in time for his birth, but I hope he will get plenty of use out of it anyway! The fabric is from a fat-quarter pack of Sandy Gervais "Lollipop" collection that I got at the sewing expo, the backing is from a sock monkey fabric collection that I found online, and the binding is a teal Kona cotton. I went with a psuedo-log cabin layout for this one, adding strips in pairs around the central fussy-cut square with monkeys. I like how it turned out, though it is just a little off from being perfectly square - I think I need more practice or pinning with longer seams.

The quilting was done with my Accufeed foot, just following the line of each strip/log in the pattern. It worked out pretty well, but there was some pulling as I got to the end of each of the longer strips, so I need to figure out what caused that - stitches were balanced on shorter logs, so something's up with the longer stitch lines or the corners turned in the logs.

I actually took this one outside yesterday to take some pictures of it. The sun wasn't terribly cooperative, but I think they came out well enough. I like this one with the flipped-over back which shows the fun banana-print flannel and the label.

I even did a "rolled up quilt" photo with this one! The final size of the quilt is about 34" square, which should be great for covering the baby carrier for now and maybe as a lovey or snuggle blanket later on.

The last project I'm posting today was finished just yesterday evening, a new iPad sleeve to replace the first one I made earlier this year. I already posted about the fabrics I picked, and while I used the same general technique as on the first one, I went with my previously mentioned plan of "measure the item" to select the sizes. It turned out to be a bit smaller than I had meant, so the iPad fits in it perfectly but not with its smart-cover on, the edge on the smart cover protrudes a bit much for the iPad to slide in easily. I expect it to stretch out over time, however, so that shouldn't be much of a problem after a few weeks. I'm pretty proud of how this one came out and have already gotten several compliments on it - color me happy!

Front of the case - Shades of Grey, 1001 Peeps, Silent Cinema, and a Japanese import fabric. I'm very pleased with how the angles came out as well as how nicely the purple/black mixer stripes look. I wish the photo wasn't quite as washed out, it's hard to see the contrast between the purple and black here.

Back of the sleeve, same fabrics but a different order. The binding is more of the black mixer fabric, I got it at The Quilting Loft in Ballard as part of a fat quarter pack, and I may need to put more of it in more colors in my stash.

Perfect fit! I will try to remember and post the dimensions I used, which are written down in a notebook on my cutting table - they really did work out perfectly for a non-covered iPad. The only flaw I can find is apparently my lining isn't quiiiite all the way down - there's about a quarter-inch of "padding" at the bottom edge when the iPad is tucked all the way down.

Surprise! Border collies on the inside! I'm just tickled about this fabric, and so glad that I found some to use here. It made the construction one additional step, so that I wouldn't have upside-down border collies on one side, but that's not a big deal. And of course, my label!

And in conclusion, my real-life border collies enjoying some (limited) swimming at Marymoor Park yesterday. They've already fenced off most of the river for the salmon run, which was very disappointing to me, but the dogs still had a ball and it was just deep enough for them to alternate between swimming and jumping through the water. It's very hard to get a photo of all three of them in the water at the same time when I'm there by myself, however!

Ezri and Curzon racing out of the water together, trying to be the first back to get the ball thrown again! Poor Jadzia just can't compete...she comes out shivering long before these two are willing to consider leaving the water!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

new recipe for me, conditioning for the border collies

At both the Maple Ridge and Salem tournaments in July, Ezri was running a bit slower than I expected, more in the 4.0's instead of the 3.8's / 3.9's that she was putting down in May and June. I figure this is because of the crummy weather we've had most of the spring and early summer, which has limited my desire to actually exercise the dogs on a regular basis. So beginning the Monday after Maple Ridge, I started a conditioning program for miss Ezri consisting of exercise every day. After all, we're going all the way to Gridley, CA in September and this will be our one shot at trying to break 16, and darn it I won't let her be the weak link! I've been primarily running the dogs in the backyard, which for Ezri means a hard sprint across the yard, a leap over the dry water right-of-way, and a hard sprint up the hill to wait for her tennis ball. I keep her moving constantly, while throwing for the other three in between her runs, and after ten minutes I end up with flat melty dog, as seen at left. It's been almost three weeks of this workout program, and Ezri is definitely improving in the stamina department, so hopefully this will pay off in the way that I want next month! It's also helped keep the other dogs calm, as tired dogs are good dogs, and even Phoebe has been almost reasonable around the house the past two weeks.

Unfortunately, running in the yard is really our main option right now. The park nearby that has a creek is running strangely this summer and has no space for swimming, just a long run through about 6" of water that's no challenge at all. The park with actual swimming is a 20-minute drive away, so that's not an option for most evenings after work. I hope to take Ezri out this weekend for swimming, and next weekend I'm taking her to an agility fun match just to play on our own on the equipment.

On the flip side, I've picked up a new recipe for my repertoire - spoonbread. It falls in the same category as the frittata / egg pie recipe that I posted back in May, being that it can be a side dish or a main course depending on what you put into it. The original recipe that I have modified slightly to post below was originally posted on the King Arthur Flour blog a few weeks ago, and that's definitely worth a read as well.

Cornmeal Spoonbread Recipe
serves 4-6

Basic Ingredients
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups 2% milk
2 eggs
Splash of heavy cream or half-and-half
1 cup shredded cheese, plus extra for the top
Butter (for buttering the baking dish)

1) Preheat the oven to 400F, and heavily butter your baking dish or pan. The original recipe calls for a 9" square baking dish, but I've used an 8" square baking pan and a 10.5" x 7" baking dish, both with good results.
2) In a skillet/saucepan (I used a 12" nonstick skillet) over medium heat, combine the cornmeal, milk, and salt. Keep stirring the mixture as it cooks up in order to keep it from sticking or burning on the bottom, I find that a silicone spatula works really well for this.
3) When the cornmeal mush is cooked all the way through, which can be tested by moving the spatula around and seeing if the mixture fills back in the space left by the spatula, take the pan off the heat and let it rest for about five minutes.
4) While the mush is resting, beat your two eggs well with some heavy cream (or half and half, or milk, any would work fine), and measure out your shredded or chopped cheese. Prepare any additional add-ins at this time - chop up some bacon, shred some spinach, mix up some spices, and so on.
5) In the skillet with the cornmeal mush, combine the eggs, cheese, and additional add-ins and mix it up thoroughly with your spatula. Once the mixture is homogeneous, pour it into your buttered baking dish and smooth out the top. Sprinkle the top with additional shredded cheese if you prefer.
6) Bake at 400F for about 40 minutes, or until you can insert a knife into the spoonbread and pull it out again cleanly. It won't "set up" like baked cornbread, but it will cook up thoroughly.
7) Serve warm and enjoy! The spoonbread stays well in the fridge, and reheats nicely both in the microwave or in the oven at 250F.

Now, for my pictures of this process!!

First, I mixed blue cornmeal, milk, and salt in the skillet for cooking.

I keep the burner set to just below middle for this process. In this picture, the cornmeal is cooking along nicely but isn't quite done yet - you can see trails left by the spatula, but they are still filling in and the cooked mush is still very soft and squishy.

Completed mixture put into pan, and halfway covered with additional cheese. For this version, I used some chopped spinach and medium Tillamook cheddar (with a bit of leftover Tillamook mozzarella) for the mix-ins, and topped it off with the remainder of the sharp shredded Tillamook cheddar that I had on hand. I really like putting a bit of sharp cheddar on top of these sorts of dishes - it gives a nice crust and bite on top.

My new Le Crueset baking dish, in purple of course! I got this yesterday as a second choice to the covered 8" square baker that I originally wanted to buy, and this turned out really well for this purpose. I'm pleased. :)

And in closing for today, a picture of the new iPad sleeve that I'm making for myself to replace my first version made in March. It's going along pretty well, although I am getting some non-straight seams somehow (and no, the strips are not cut on the bias), so I may need to do some pinning to fix that. It looks pretty good, however, and it's reasonably non-obvious until you put a ruler onto the seams to check for linearity. I am especially pleased with the sashing I put in of purple and black stripes, set so the purple frames the grey/white fabric and the black frames the purple fabric. I'm hopefully going to finish the strip stitching on this tonight, and then I'll cut it down and assemble it tomorrow - with border collie fabric for the lining!

I have also finally finished the mini baby quilt that I was working on for a friend whose son was born in early June, and it's even labeled, washed, and ready to go! As soon as I've given that to my friend I will be posting pictures of it - I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!

Monday, August 8, 2011

the bikes, the sewing, and the border collies

Yesterday instead of practice, we performed at a demo for a brand new dog park out in Snoqualmie, WA, which is near North Bend and in the shadow of Mt. Si as seen in the photo above. It was a beautiful afternoon, with sunshine and mid-70s, and although we had a lot of effort to go through to set up for such a short time, the event went very well. We had sixteen trained dogs participate in the two 15-minute demo shows that we did, and several of our dogs-in-training got some valuable experience in a new situation. The organizers of the event did a very nice job, with some of the best snow fencing for a flyball demo that I've ever seen, and it was a very nice way to spend part of our Sunday afternoon.

My bike turned over 32,700 miles last week, meaning that I have now put on 30,000 miles since I purchased it in February of 2008. I got a new back tire last month and on the recommendation of my riding friends at Ars Technica I got a Pilot Road 3, and it's amazing - I had no idea how much of a difference a really great tire could make! I definitely have a larger safety margin (which I'm trying to not eat away by riding like a hooligan), and overall feel much more stable on the bike. Chris' bike just went in for its 36,000 mile service on Saturday, and it came home with a new full set of Pilot Road 2 tires, and hopefully he will end up with a favorable opinion of them as well. Both of our bikes are paid off now, and they are certainly racking up the miles to earn their keep as we both continue to commute by motorcycle every day. The Subaru is used mainly for running errands these days, although I will be taking it to Bellingham in two weeks, and of course the truck is our vehicle of choice for flyball and dog-related trips. So every time I want to scream at the expense of maintaining the bikes, I try to remember how much it costs for new tires on the Subaru or the upcoming 20,000 mile service on the truck, and that makes it more bearable!

On the sewing front, I can rack up two completions for this weekend. One of them is a gift so I won't post about it until it's been received, but the other is this simple slipcase that I made for my Nintendo DS Lite system. I pretty much winged it to make this, by measuring the DS itself and then cutting fabric to match, and it ended up turning out reasonably well. I selected a black fabric with white and lime green spirograph designs on it (one of the half-yards I picked up on shop hop in June), and cut a long strip for the case and two shorter pieces for the sides. Each piece was put onto a strip of batting and free-motion quilted in loops and swirls as best as I could (I need more practice!), then put together to form the case. I made a lining from a bright green abstract flower print, and used a bit of teal fabric binding left over from my most recent baby quilt. The only real problem I ran into making this was getting the lining attached to the outer sleeve, and then getting the binding tacked down - I need a much smaller freearm than even my Janome L-108 can manage! A Featherweight 222 freearm would be great for this...but I don't have and certainly can't justify the thousand dollars it would take to buy one these days! I hand-stitched the binding down yesterday, and just need to use the mini-iron that I have on loan from a friend to put the label in today and it's done.

And of course, what else have I done? I've cut fabric strips for my new iPad sleeve, and picked up a heavy twill fabric that is printed with Viewmaster slides to make a bag for PAX...and haven't actually worked on any of the quilts that are planned out in my head! I really need a few weekend days where I don't have anything else that needs attention, like the house, or the yard, or the border collies....but that doesn't seem to be in the cards, so I'll just have to deal. The picture on the right shows the fabrics I've cut for the iPad sleeve, although I'm not sure that is the final layout. The final layout will definitely be diagonal, however, no matter what fabric order I end up going with. And I just checked and my order of FABULOUS border-collie print fabric is due for delivery today, so that might end up being the lining!

Restraint with regards to fabric...what's that? :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

what I did on my summer vacation

This is a very picture-heavy post, in case you hadn't noticed already. Which is actually kind of a pain in the butt to put together, since Blogger doesn't have a good way to handle mass uploading of photos. It can only handle five at a time, individually chosen, and all five have to have the same alignment (left/center/right) and that alignment cannot be changed after they've been uploaded. It's really quite annoying, although to be fair it is a free service so I suppose I can't complain too much.

Anyway, on with the pictures! The last week of June and first week of July were spent with our friends from New Jersey, including a week on the Olympic Peninsula. We had a really great time and got to visit a lot of neat stuff that we hadn't yet seen despite living here for ten years now.

The Hoh Rain Forest was very impressive, even for just the small hikes we enjoyed around the ranger station. The trees are enormous, as can be seen from this fallen tree that is several hundred feet long with the trail built right next to it. The park has done a great job with informational signs about nurse logs and how the trees grow, and it was very neat to see the differences between the trees as they grew.

Told you there were some big trees!

Our next excursion was to Cape Flattery, which is the most northwestern point in the continental United States. It's a very long and windy drive to get there, with the roads not in the best condition, so I am rather glad we did not ride our motorcycles out there in May like we had originally considered. The Cape itself is on tribal land, and there is a very nice but steep hike from the parking lot down to the edge of the cliff with several lookouts built into the land. The colors of the water as the tide rolled in and out were just amazing...teals, greens, blues, whites, all on the moss green and stone gray of the rocks. Beautiful!

More lovely water colors, swirling in the tide.

Since this was tribal land and not a state park, dogs were allowed on the trail. We left Phoebe in the truck since it was crowded, but the three border collies came along with us. I even got Ezri to scramble up the ladder to the biggest lookout platform with me!

They were less than impressed as they waited for all six of us to take a group picture on another lookout.

We took a whale watching trip out of Port Townsend which had a lunchtime layover in Friday Harbor, both places we had never been. Unfortunately we did not see any whales, as all three local pods were hanging out closer to Canada that day, but we really enjoyed the boat ride and our lunch at a great restaurant. I'd like to go back to Friday Harbor with more time to walk around and explore, as our short two hour layover wasn't long enough to do much.

Harbor seals out sunning themselves, including a few baby seal pups!

Bald eagle hanging out on driftwood and looking for his own lunch. I took this photo with the biggest zoom my little camera could manage, and I'm pretty pleased with it!

On the Fourth of July we drove to the top of Hurricane Ridge and did a hike along the main hiking trail at the top. It was much improved from our motorcycle visit on Memorial Day, when we couldn't even get out of the main parking lot due to snow, but the highest parking lot was still snowed in and some of our hike was on packed snow. That's quite late for even the Olympic peninsula! The views were absolutely stunning, as shown above, and we had a very good time walking around and looking at all the different alpine plants and rock structures.

Our last outing was to the Sol Duc Hot Springs, including a hike just a few miles from the resort up to a gorgeous waterfall. The hike out to the waterfall was covered with these amazing little ground cover plants, which are related to the dogwood tree and look just like little tiny dogwood branches. The hot springs were very nice and I highly recommend a visit there - the hottest one, straight out of the spring, was at about 106F - heaven on a chilly 65F day!

Tiny waterfall on our way up to the bigger waterfall. Very picturesque with the moss and the cascading water.

The main waterfall, framed between a split tree truck. I am very proud of this picture and the composition that I achieved with the tree.

It was cool for summer but brilliantly sunny, with sunlight peeking down through the trees throughout our hike. Again, I'm pretty proud of my composition in this shot and pleased that the sun flare worked out so well!

We really enjoyed our trip, and I'd like to go out to the peninsula again at some point. The only thing I found to complain about was the restrictions on dogs in national parks, which includes most of the parks and hikes on the Olympic peninsula. I understand why the restrictions are in place, but I also wish there was a way to take a "Responsible Dog Hiker" test so that my dogs could hike along with me and enjoy the days that we did.

On to our next adventure - PAX!! Just three weeks away now!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

my first quilt shop hop

About two months ago, I discovered the existence of something called a "quilt shop hop," and it turns out there is one in western Washington each June. The point of the event is to raise awareness/interest in supporting local quilt shops, by encouraging quilters and sewers to visit many of them during a specific weekend. The shop hop organizers (at least here in Washington) work with local fabric designers to make a set of fabrics just for shop hop, then each participating quilt shop uses those fabrics (along with one of their choice, if desired) to design a quilt block. Each shop then creates small kits including the shop hop fabric and instructions needed to complete their block, which are given away for free to each shop hop patron who visits their store. Many stores also make "finishing kits" using their chosen fabric and any embellishments, and sell those for $1 to $4 apiece. Furthermore, there is a paper passport that each quilt shop hop participant gets stamped at each shop that they visit, and once they have obtained a certain number of stamps, they can turn it in for a chance in a raffle with some serious prizes (this year included two high-end sewing machines, several goody boxes, and lots of gift certificates).

The shop hop runs from Wednesday through Sunday, and I decided to give it a shot and see how many of the shops I could visit during that time. Of the 54 participating shops (one of the original 55 closed before shop hop began), most are along the I-5 corridor between Vancouver WA (near Portland OR) and Bellingham (up near the Canadian border), a highway stretch of over 250 miles. There are even more out on the Olympic peninsula and on the various islands, but I put those out of the running since I only had one full day and couldn't spend time on the ferries. Thus I focused on the general Seattle metro area, and managed to visit a total of 18 shops between Wednesday and Saturday, with 11 of them visited during a marathon day off on Friday between 9am and 3pm. I went on Wednesday at lunch to visit the two shops closest to work with my best friend and another coworker, hit the shop near my house on Thursday after work, and had extra time appear on Saturday so hit two shops up north that morning plus one near the airport that evening. Friday I began in Lakewood and ended in Arlington, with a total driving distance of about 250 miles! All of the shop hop block kits and finishing kits that I picked up are shown in the picture to the left...there are a lot of them! It was a very long day, but I had a lot of fun.

Many of the shops had additional fun things going on, with several offering bottles of water or pieces of fruit, others offering special bundles of items or "pick a prize" drawings, and plenty with raffles hosted by the shop or a local quilt guild. I'm all about supporting quilt guilds and other worthy causes, especially for just $1 a ticket, so I bought a raffle ticket for everything that I came across - quite a few tickets, as you can see! Most are for quilts, but one is a drawing for two Featherweight sewing machines instead of a quilt. Yes, I need another sewing machine like I need a hole in the head, but for $1 who can pass that up? This is one of several reasons why it's a good idea to take a lot of one dollar bills with you on quilt shop hop, even if it made me feel a little odd to be asking for $30 in $1's at the bank on Thursday afternoon. Now I just need to organize my tickets so I can keep an eye out when the dates for the drawings come around - I left my email and phone number with all ticket stubs, of course, but best to have an idea of what gets drawn when just in case.

And of course, I visited 18 quilt there were purchases. Just a few, nothing too crazy, although a small purchase at nearly every quilt shop does add up quickly! I wanted to support the shops for participating in this event (which was a lot of fun for me), so I tried to buy something at nearly every one. I saved up a few essentials that I needed on purpose to buy at some shops, and then of course found quite a bit of fabric here and there that needed to come home with me! My total haul is in the photo below...

Lots of fabric, including a roll of 3 yards of rock/stone pattern flannel (on clearance!) and a half-yard of laminated fabric for making a new bag. Everything else is fat quarters, 1/2 yard, or 1 yard cuts of things that caught my eye. I also picked up more basting pins, some hand-sewing needles, a spool of teal thread for finishing my current quilt project, a shop hop pin, and a super cute little zippered bag that says "Shop Hop Queen" for keeping my hand-sewing items in when I travel.

There is also a neat handmade large wood button, which are sold at a quilt shop in Tacoma and which I just adored. I bought some green embroidery floss to use as the "thread" in the button and it will be hanging up in my quilt room shortly. This picture also shows some of the fun butterfly fat quarters I picked up, as well as another photo of the laminated raindrop fabric.

I also picked up one pattern book, and of course some lovely items from Shibori Dragon in Lakewood (my favorite stop at the Sewing Expo, and their shop is even better - I got a dragon to add to my collection!). At two different shops I picked up two different fabrics that have a long repeating print that is flowers with insects growing across the width of fabric - one in purple with lilies and one in blue with dragonflies - that I'm going to interweave to form a simple pattern that should be quite striking. All in all, I'm thrilled that I got to do shop hop this year, and hopefully next year I'll be able to do it again, this time with a friend!

And of course lest this post be solely about quilting, here's what I received at the tournament last weekend - the FMCh pin for Ezri, and the FGDCh50k pins for Phoebe and Jadzia. All three girls titled at the March 26/27 tournament, which is probably the only time that will happen in my life, and I am so proud of all of them and thrilled to have the pins to show for it.

I also got the 50k point plates to put on Jadzia and Phoebe's plaques, which will be done this week or this weekend. We have also been on vacation for the past two weeks (and then rolled right into a tournament in Oregon last weekend!), so I have a lot to share from that as well but will have to wait until I can get the photos off the camera. Sometimes it's much easier to make blog posts from iPhone photos...oh well!