Saturday, May 26, 2012

Learning Curves and Quilting Challenges

I've learned over and over again since starting quilting that nothing as easy as it looks.

See this interesting little pile of trimmings? This is what we amateurs have to do if we don't sew with adequate precision. That would be me. I put this soft, little pile of trimmings on a stump in our backyard hoping the birds night use the bits to feather their nests. Wouldn't that be cool? And pretty?

After putting together all those squares with the diagonal strips of print fabric and the neutral corners, I noticed that despite the care I took to sew with accuracy (which was apparently not accurate enough), my squares weren't quite square. After much deliberating, I decided I would have to trim them ... "square them up" ... which would not only take a long time doing diddly work but was also challenging me mathematically. You see, with trimming all four sides and with each square being just slightly wonky in a different way, I knew that increasingly the odds of my seams meeting up properly were decreasing. Natch! So I trimmed minimally - just one quarter of an inch smaller so when my seams are off, it will be not quite so noticeable.

And then I took all those neatly trimmed squares and sewed them together into 4-somes as best as I could into these X-squares. The seams don't quite match up very often but it's not TOO bad and once the whole thing is quilted and scrunchy, I'm hoping it won't be too obvious. And if it is, well, what the heck. It will show that it's been handmade by an amateur and will be a reminder to someone that it could only have made with great love because who else would carry on making such a beautiful mess?!

So now I have to sew all my X-squares together knowing full well that things are only going to get wonkier as I go. C'est la vie!  I undoubtedly have some creative bridges to cross still but ... all in good time.

I also took the advice of a quilting friend and sewed all those little triangle trimmings together while they were neatly stacked. This photo only shows some of them. Sewing them together involved a lot of very satisfying chain piecing using my new quarter-inch sewing foot (with the little guide), which I just LOVE! It is so helpful in the accuracy department!  Now I just have to open them all up and press them into little half square triangles, which I will probably have to trim. Another diddly project. I don't yet know what I'll do with them but I know they'll come in handy for either this quilt or for another project.

So, this Sunday will be sewing day. I'll sew all my X-squares together to form X's and O'x (Hugs and Kisses) ... wonky be damned!
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Friday, May 25, 2012

The Best of Times / The Worst of Times

The traditional Acton family tequila and lime shot!

Hannah and Dani

Hannah Matt Dani

Some Ford Tough Babes with my new-to-me Explorer.

Matt making provolone cheese taco shells!

I will make these for sure!

Welcome Home Cake for Hannah and Luke

Myles, Evan, Luke - Moustache Party

Just 2 Wild and Crazy Guys!

Hannah concocting in the kitchen!
Okay. "Worst" might be a bit of an exaggeration but May 2012 turned out to be a month full of wonderful events, as anticipated, but what was unanticipated and pretty sucky is that Kevin and I had such nasty colds for almost the whole month!  I had 11 days of feeling really bloody awful before finally resorting to antibiotics and slowly, slowly feeling some improvements. Kevin, too. We got sick just before Hannah got home and despite her efforts to avoid it, she caught our cold though was able to prevent it from getting so bad as ours. We all lost our voices. right at the beginning of May and even now Kevin's still sounds off and mine is just starting to sound normal. TOTAL DRAG!  It meant we weren't able to do many of the things we'd hoped to do while Hannah was here for just over 2 weeks.

So, to keep things concise, the disappointments in May were:
  1. Our nasty colds
  2. Hannah catching our nasty cold - though a less severe version
  3. Having to cancel the big multi-generational party we had planned
  4. Having to cancel the Acton family event planned for Mother's Day
  5. Not seeing Jim, Graham, and Allan while Hannah was home
  6. Not seeing Gillian, Marissa, Tarah, Katelyn, Mike ... though we did get to see Kayla (bonus)
  7. Not seeing Matty while he was here from Calgary
  8. Only one dining out experience
  9. Our fridge having "technical issues"
  10. Feeling too crappy to do much of anything
The great things about May were:
  1. Hannah coming home from her 5 months of travels (Paris, Berlin, Scotland, Uruguay, Buenos Ares)
  2. Luke coming home for the summer
  3. Matt, Hannah's boyfriend, driving here from Vancouver to stay for a while and then road trip back with Hannah
  4. Dani, Hannah's good friend, surprising Hannah with her first visit to Saskatoon. They met in Vancouver but Dani moved to New York about 4 years ago.
  5. A whirlwind family trip (Matt and Dani included) that, in less than 24 hours, took in Clearwater Lake, Kyle, the farm, dinner at White Bear bar, the drive-in, a traditional Kerr family game of hand and foot (canasta), and a jigsaw puzzle ... all with Mom, Gary, Darrel, Lynn, Jack, Jodi, Meghan, and Dawson. Awesome!
  6. We drove home from Kyle just in time to change our clothes and get to a proper Acton family gathering at Don and Syl's to celebrate a multitude of things over one of Don and Syl's famous meals. Cheryl, RJ, and Mikael were there, too. We missed seeing Alexa, who was on her way home from a school trip to New York.
  7. Hannah and Matt's cooking. Guinness Stew. Soups. Matt's cheese taco shells and apple and ginger parmesan empanadas. Hannah's many interesting salads and sides and cooking lessons. Hannah and Matt taught me how to take the bite out of over-powered red onions (chop, sprinkle with sea salt, and let sit in boiling water for a little while ... great tip!).
  8. Dani's treats - Our favourite New York artisan chocolate - the salted one, chocolate covered salted caramels, rugelah from "THE PLACE" to get rugelah in New York, and ... olive oil from Frankie's - our favourite.
  9. Hannah's concoctions and cures - medicinal teas, which I've learned to enjoy and a mix of apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper, and a bit of honey which magically provides some relief from laryngitis.
  10. We had a small barbeque event when Luke got home. A bunch of his friends and Kayla were here. So nice to see them all!  We had planned on another bigger event but couldn't pull that off with our STUPID COLDS!
  11. Phillip Phillips winning American Idol. I picked him out from those first auditions. It's the first time I've ever picked the winner so early. 
So yes, the best and the worst. All in May. The best outshines the worst, though. It was so wonderful to have both Hannah and Luke here at the same time in summer ... something that rarely happens.

Dani left Tuesday this week and Hannah and Matt left Wednesday. We get to keep Luke for the summer. And now I need to get some quilting done. And maybe I should do something with our house, which looks like a bomb went off in it!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Latest Quilt Project

I'm still quite new to this quilting business and it's a good thing I don't have any real sense of how long the steps take. If I did, I might never have started!

After fabric selection I pressed everything. That took a long time.

Then I cut. And cut. And cut. In addition to these 200 6" squares I cut 400 3.5" tan squares. That took a long time.

The next step was to draw a diagonal line on each of the 400 tan squares. That took a long time.

Then I pinned two tan squared onto each of the 200 print squares. That took a long time.

Then, after a bit of a Sunday melt down when I couldn't get my bobbin winder to work, I eventually got all the tan squares sewed to the print squares.  Thank you, Jo, for coming to my rescue!  I bought this machine from Jo and so, in desperation I called her for help and she came right over. She saved the day. This was the first time I'd used my machine since having it serviced and I was afraid something had gone horribly wrong. It was just a little glitch and Jo the Pro knew what to do.

The sewing was the fastest part.

After that, I spent quite a bit of time trimming all the corners and more time pressing seams open. I still have a lot of pressing to do. It takes a long time.

Then I'll have to play with the layout and see if I have enough squares for what I want to do. I still have other squares in reserve and ready for sewing if I decide I want more.

I wonder what to do with all those little triangles I made by trimming the corners? There's a lot of them ...   an equal mix of tan and pink/orange/purple prints.  Do people really throw those away?  I see them being made into little half square triangles. Pretty diddly stuff for a beginner like me and I have so many other projects to finish (who am I kidding ... projects to START). Wouldn't a border of little half square triangles be cute?  Maaan. That would take me a LOT of time.  Just watch. I'll do something with them. Eventually. Any ideas are welcome!

So, after I get a satisfactory layout, it will be time to sew all the squares together and try to match points as much as possible. That will take a long time.

Did I mention that this quilting stuff takes a LONG time?!  Good thing I enjoy it!

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Hand Quilting - Slow Progress

But it looks so pretty!  This is going to take me a while. I've finished hand quilting the hankie that's mostly in the middle of the hoop and have started on the grey/mauve one above it. I'm just using a regular weight thread and little stitches and since none of what I'm doing is in a straight line, it's rather slow going. That's okay, though. I like it.

In this photo you can kind of tell where I've stitched along the outer white line framing the hankie. Since this picture was taken, I've quilted around the pink flowers, too.

There are 12 hankies. I think I should be able to get one done in a week. Maybe. It's good to have a goal.

Quilting and work aside, I'm feeling good. Not fantastic, like I did all through March, but good, which is still GREAT in my world. I'm still taking greens and I have a protein shake every week-day to up my protein intake. I bought a Brita water filter jug for the office - I can't remember who suggested it, but thank you whoever you are - and now I'm drinking more water during the day. We don't have filtered water at work and even though I drank some water during the day it bothered me because I'm used to filtered water at home and, of course, I'm too lazy to take water from home every day. The Brita is an easy answer. I wish I would have thought of it myself a lot earlier. I feel so much better about drinking water at work now.

So, I don't have quite the abundance of energy and light that I was feeling before but I still feel so much better than I was before that. Before greens. I'm still very aware of how much better my brain feels. Even when I'm tired, my mind is still noticeably more alert, more agile ... concentration comes easier. Multitasking is much easier. It makes such a difference to my days and to what I'm able to accomplish.

Also still better and what makes me grin is having feeling in my feet and toes again. Every day I wiggle my toes just to make sure the feeling is still there. And it is. Yeah!  My joints, too, are so much better. I wonder if that's just improvement with time or whether it's from the greens, too?  I think it's the greens. Several of the improvements I've experienced, I think, might be because whatever is in the greens perhaps reduces inner inflammation and improves circulation and the flow of oxygen, etc. Just my guess. Whatever it is, I'm very happy. I walk faster and with more ease. I know it's not just in my mind because a few people have commented. I used to be the last to leave a room. I would stand slowly and give myself time to let my joints settle by gathering my belongings, putting on jacket. And then taking slow steps, letting everyone else go first. I don't think anyone would have noticed that my joints were a problem for me. I'd learned to hide it. I'd adapted. Now I notice that I don't frankenwalk for the first 12 feet of the hall at work when I get up from sitting. I can usually go easily from sitting to walking now.

A friend I met for lunch and who hadn't seen me for a while commented that I'm so much more animated than I had been. She said I was a bit "frozen" before - I didn't move much and when I did I moved slowly. That's because I'm a hummingbird now!

For some reason unknown to me I've had especially bad hot flashes the past few days. I don't know why. It can't be the weather because I had fewer hot flashes when it was warmer. Hot flashes are draining. I know I'm supposed to be happy to have them because it means the Tamoxifen is working, but still. 

It will be so great to feel better for when our kids get home -- Hannah this Sunday and Luke next Sunday. I'm giddy with excitement. And I have much to do!
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