Monday, July 23, 2012

Creativity through photography

The photography bug has bit me this summer (along with several hundred mosquitos). Here are a few pictures I'm quite proud of:

Goldfinches at the Feeder

Sunflower with Cicada

Pollinators at Work
There's a lot to learn with photography. While I understand the concepts of aperture and shutter speed, I'm still refining my working knowledge how to use them to get the effects I want. I enjoy doing pictures of nature and quilts. Pictures of people tend to draw you in more and tell a story.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Little Whimsy

Whimsy is the Moda fabric line I used in this quilt top. It is from a few years ago, not easy to find these days. I discovered the layer cake precut set at a garage sale a little over a year ago. It's a children's print, really, and since I don't have kids, I didn't know what I'd do with it. But I was drawn to the soft colors, the delightful collection of images and words, the rick-rack design and the dainty check pattern on some of the fabrics squares....oh, I don't know, I just liked it.

The pattern is from a book called Quilt Boutique, by Suzanne McNeill. The pattern is simply called 10 Minute Blocks Quilt. The blocks do go together quickly.

This quilt will be a silent auction quilt for a fundraiser at my church in September. I'm really going to have to put my nose to the grindstone to get it done on time.

Here's a block close up. You can see the child-friendly words on the square with the circles if you zoom in on it. It's quaint - all kinds of everyday things a child might know. The other shot is my attempt to be an "art photographer." Ha ha ha ha ha!

The sandwich is pin-basted and the quilting plan is nearly finalized (in my mind). Then the quilting work begins!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Melting in Kansas City

It is dreadfully hot here (100 degrees F) and there's no end in sight! the heat wave is supposed to be here for around 10-12 days total. Whew!

Sounds like a good day to:

  • Go hide down the basement where my sewing room is conveniently located
  • Sew - both mending (my serger is back from repair!) and quilting
  • Install Aperture on my computer
  • Play with Aperture and the pictures I took this morning at the garden
  • Post to my blogs.
I usually get my best sewing done in January and July, when it's just dreadful outside. July is just around the corner. My current quilting project is to finish a quilt I'm making for a charity silent auction. Hopefully I will have a photo of the top for you today!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Camera is back!

My camera is back from Best Buy! Well, not exactly - they decided to replace the whole thing. That's fine, but it seems silly when the problem was a scratch on the lens. DH thinks they may have dropped it.

This evening, I practiced on a bloom in my garden:  a "Peace and Love" rose that started opening yesterday. The color is so vibrant! This is pretty darn close to actual color.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fret, fret!

My camera's out getting repaired and I'm fretting about not being able to take pictures. Everyone says the best blogs are all about pictures. I don't have any new ones to share!

Early summer time is a time of gardening, yard work, outdoor festivals and travel.

Needless to say, my quilting and stitching are not progressing quickly. I continue to progress on the cross stitch fingertip towel which I showed a few posts ago, and at the same time I completed a monogrammed tea towel from a Martha Stewart kit. Michael's had the kit on clearance so I grabbed it right up. I'm not super-experienced at embroidery, but this design only required a few of the easier embroidery stitches: stem stitch, french knot and backstitch.

Heh! No camera.....but I still have a scanner!  Here's the monogram on the tea towel. Rather sweet, wouldn't you say? It was easy and a lot of fun to do. I found the bird design very finely detailed on the pattern and it was a little difficult to follow when stitching. Unless you compare it to the original, though, you really don't notice any difference.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Small Blog Meet

I'm participating in Lily's Quilts Small blog meet.

Lily's Quilts

I am the definition of small. I have three followers that I know of, and a few lurkers that stop by now and again.  I am hoping to meet other fiber-crafters who blog about their projects, their crafting life, their inspirations, and their creativity. Blogging and crafting is fun, and although I know many people make businesses out of these things, I'm on the hobby side. I do it for love and I never want it to become work for me.

Although, it would be fun to do some of the things the businesses get to do...publish a pattern, give a talk, win a prize, inspire others, and become delirious from the beauty of it all.

Are you like-minded? Drop a comment....maybe we can form our own little network.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More Cross Stitch

Here's something else I'm stitching:

This is the 4th in a fingertip towel set Mom had started. Each one is a design for the seasons, and Mom had finished Summer, Fall and Winter. Spring wasn't even started! I wonder why? I found the set among her crafting supplies when I was working on the house last month, and I'm terribly sentimental about craft projects. I don't know why, exactly - they seem so personal to me, I guess, and people intend to finish them.

It'll be more defined when it's finished. It's two bunnies sitting in a thicket of springtime flowers.

Mom had a boatload of embroidery/cross stitch floss, and I took it all. I have no idea what I'll do with all the floss, but there may be embroidered quilt blocks in my future.

As I was getting ready to start this project, I thought I'd try to find the right colors among my vast collection. The floss colors are numbered, and the project was only a design sheet with the numbers. I wonder if I have them all.

As luck would have it, I had all but one! And I had a color close enough for the one I could not find exactly. What a collection!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cross Stitch for Geeks

Lately I've been cross stitching. I've enjoyed doing hand work while watching TV, and I haven't had any quilt work suitable for stitching in front of the TV.

My conscience is nagging me, "Lauren, you certainly do have quilting projects needing hand work. What about those applique blocks you've been working on for....I dunno... 3 or 4 years??"  Uh, hmmm, yeah, I do have those. You're right, Ms. Conscience. But, I do so much better with good lighting when applique-ing! The lighting in the house by the TV is just terrible. I don't need such bright lighting for cross stitch.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Here's my first project, completed and framed. I posted about this a few months ago, but had no pictures then.

I love it! Totally medical nerd. Since I used to be a cardiology nurse, it's so cool for my office, now. (I'm an informatics nurse now.) For those that don't read heart rhythms, this is accurate, and it reflects a stepwise degradation of rhythm. The last one's fatal. Kinda gruesome, in a scholarly way.

I'd repost a link to the pattern, which I had found on Etsy, but I think the seller shut down the shop.  :-(

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Springtime: Lots of Work to be Done!

It has been a warm spring and that means we're out in the garden early this year.

I have been lax in taking pictures of my crafts for posting. Here's one thing I have been doing instead of crafting: working our plot at the Overland Park Community Garden.

Looking West on Our Plot 4/28/12

Last year I'd planted half a plot and donated all of the produce to the local food bank. This year, I invited others from my church to help with the garden, and I reserved a whole plot. Two weeks after our first workday this is the result. Onions in the foreground, then two rows of beets. Down at the other end, we planted lettuce, spinach, and carrots.

Yesterday, two of my teammates and I went out and put in most of the warm season vegetables: tomatoes, parsley, basil, peppers, and marigolds. I didn't feel like bringing the camera, though I really should have.

We're calling the project "Grace Garden." This is a specific project of the KAIROS group at my church, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. KAIROS is a ministry (i.e. a subgroup) of church members who believe in social justice, peace, and environmental responsibility as essential values of Christian living. This translates into environmental, justice-oriented, and anti-war projects.

Our goal for the garden is 100 lbs of food. If things grow well, I don't think we'll have a problem reaching that goal, at all.

The group of volunteers wanted to coordinate our efforts online. I found this site: Cozi. It's designed for multiple users to work with a calendar and manage tasks together - really, it's for a family. We're kinda like that, so we're giving it a try. Best of all it's free. We just have to tolerate ads that are rather family oriented (diapers or minivans, anyone??).  We'll see how it goes.

So I've been working on the Grace Garden for 3 months now. I haven't done much to plan my own garden - isn't that always the way? I bought some tomatoes, pulled out my seeds and threw them in yesterday.

God is helping out both Grace Garden and my garden, though. We're having a beautiful rain this morning.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fab Shop Hop, again

I got a little addicted to the FabShopHop and hopped around in March, qualifying for the first prize contest. And, OMG, I won a promotional prize! I got a $10 gift certificate to one of the shops, and coincidentally, it's a shop I visited in person last November, in Albuquerque!

So, check it out: Southwest Decoratives and Kokopelli Quilt Company

If you want anything for your quilts that is:

  • Native American in theme
  • Mexican culture
  • Dia de los Muertos
  • Catholic themes (our lady of Guadalupe, crosses, saints, etc.)

This is the shop for you. I have never seen such a selection chili pepper fabrics. Need tortilla chip fabric? They've got it. They have patterns for southwestern themed quilts, too.

I don't win Internet stuff very often. I'm kinda excited!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Once again, real life interferes with my sewing

Darn this real life. These things get in the way of my crafting.

Which is intended to be light hearted and sometimes tosses in some difficult situations.  Here I am, in the middle of one.

My father, a widower less than a year, has deteriorating health. He has some neurological dysfunction and I am steeling myself for a disappointing diagnosis. The fact is we don't have a clear diagnosis, and this is common for neurological problems ("Parkinsonian symptoms and possibly early dementia"). There is another test to be done and this tests may show that a (relatively) simple surgery can help his situation, maybe even reverse some of the symptoms! On the other hand, the test may show that surgery would not help. In that case, we will have to get through one day at a time.

My Dad lives in Virginia. There is no family nearby. His neurological dysfunction is physical and mental - he is increasingly forgetful and I question his judgment at times. He is stiff, slow, arthritic. The neurologist said he shouldn't drive, but of course, he lives alone in a house at the end of a long semi-country street. Not being able to drive would almost completely isolate him, and as an introvert with neurological dysfunction, he is not gregarious. That means, few friends (yes, a few good ones), and he wouldn't dream of asking anyone to help. In his mind, there is no need to ask for help, anyway.

So....what to do?

I am here in Virginia for the weekend. Two days ago, I went to the neurologist with Dad - to hear the results from some recent testing was the motivation for coming here. I am also working on the house and yard. It's in decent shape but there are signs of neglect here and there. Dad does not like to do yard work, so the yard is rather sloppy. Thankfully, he has a yard service to mow the lawn, trim, and edge. The house is fairly clean, and thankfully, he has a maid service to come in and clean up.  There is (mostly) fresh food in the house and Dad's eating well.

It is not a crisis yet. Now is the time to set a direction and some goals, including selling the house, moving Dad to a retirement community, and reducing the driving. Hence, I'm here to clean out part of the house, clean up the yard and look for home maintenance things that will prep the house for sale.

Getting Dad to understand and agree will be the harder challenge.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Baby Birds

One by one the baby Robins are hatching! Right on schedule!

There are two in the photo - they're wrapped around each other, undoubtedly conserving their body heat. The first one emerged on Easter, yesterday, and the second one must have come out today.

Just as I started shooting, Mama, who was procuring insects from the front yard below, saw movement in the window. She made a beeline for the sill - funny to see a bird aimed straight for your head - right between the eyes!

"Just what do you think you're doing??"

Now, waiting on the last two.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Blocks of the Month: I forget which months

I promised some pictures....and I'm good for it!  Here's one of the Starry Night Blocks of the Month. (See my previous post about the BOM from last year.)

The upheaval in my personal life last summer, when my mom died, put everything on hold for a while, including this BOM. I collected the block kits as they arrived in the mail and completed a couple of them by the end of the year. I found I had 3 left to do when I was packing up for the retreat last weekend.  I brought them along. I hoped to get all three done, but only managed to finish 2 of them.

Here they are:

I also received the instructions for setting the blocks to complete the top. I tell you what - I just don't like the setting at all. Boring. The blocks are traditional in a contemporary fabric, and I would like to do a more modern setting. Ideas are are three thoughts: a wonky setting on a black background so the "stars" are floating in the night sky; vertical rows of 6 with black sashing and background fabric; something with solids in the predominant color of the block.

The thing that puzzles me is that the instructions said to keep the extra fabric for the top completion, but the setting they sent didn't use very much of that extra fabric. Weird.

In all, I'm glad I did a block of the month, but I'm not sure I'll do it again. Maybe it's a control thing - I didn't like not having control and when I didn't like the end result, it was really unsatisfying.

All is not lost - I have approximately 24 pieces of Kaffe Fassett in my stash now! Woo!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Inspiration comes from everywhere

First, let me say Wow! I got a few comments on my last post! What a real treat!

And, just to follow up the previous post (for posterity). The Jayhawks won on Saturday, and three of us quilters went down to Mass St (the main college street in Lawrence, home of KU) to check out the revelry. It was a phenomenon to see!

So, the KU men's basketball team played in the final game on Monday (last night), but lost to University of Kentucky. Still, it was a great run for the Jayhawks. I'm so proud to be associated with KU, however tangientially (I work for the University of Kansas Hospital).

At the retreat...

I finished my Whimsy quilt top and it turned out so very nice. Again, I gotta take a picture for my blog, here!  I did not finish all of the Starry Night block of the month blocks, but cut out the pieces for the last block. I kept getting distracted with making improvisational blocks from my scraps and snippings, for the block give-away. And, since I contributed the most blocks (only 4!) I won the prize: a sample pack of Oakshott cottons from the UK. Oakshott is not widely available in the US. I have not tried shott cotton fabric yet, so I'm eager to see for myself what all the excitement is about.

After the retreat I was so energized and inspired! I subscribed to at least 4 more blogs by my fellow guild members. Now I'm catching up on all of these creative blogs. I chatted with several people about what blogs they liked, but I didn't write any of them down, darnit. I also found out one of the guild members is planning to offer a photography class later in the summer. I could sure use tips and instruction on being a better photographer.

Now, onto today's topic: Inspiration in the Every Day

A robin has chosen our windowsill for a nest. It's just beautiful. Over the last week, a new egg would appear every other day or so. Sometimes I see mama sitting on the eggs, and this morning, she let me peek at her. She fits snugly in the nest and looks serious about her work.

The color: four perfectly formed, brilliant blue eggs. The nest: made with care using grasses, sticks, and a bit of polyester fiber fill procured from the neighborhood. Smooth inside. Rough outside.

Ah, spring! The earth is ready for renewal.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


Today I'm at the Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild retreat in sunny Lawrence KS. Who knew when we signed up 5 months ago that it would be a final four basketball weekend starring The University of Kansas? If they win, the main drag in town is going to be a crazy-full with rowdy college kids. We're staying within walking distance of Massachusetts St.

The game is starting soon, so who knows how the Jayhawks will fare. They say they're the underdogs. If they do win, I think I'll check out the crowd for a few minutes, then return to my safe hotel. I hope there aren't too many crazy fans staying here!

At the same time, here I am at a local hotel, and I spent most of they day using my sewing machine in a ballroom. It's been a beautiful day....and other than an outing to Sarah's Fabrics, I've been holed up here.

I have gotten so much done! My "whimsy" quilt should be pieced by the end of the evening. I did some more quilting on Hexagon Park (it's a Moda Bake Shop pattern). I completed 2 more blocks in  my Starry Night block-of-the-month (by Swirly Girl designs) - only one left!  It's a nice retreat. I have been getting to know my fellow guild members better and I've learned a few things. There are some neat prizes - I won a book that I've had my eye on for a while: Vintage Notions by Amy Barickman.

So, back to work, soon. I'm taking a little break at the computer, a chance to have some quiet time to myself. I've been eating way too much of all kinds of delicious snacks and goodies.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I've been in the mood to stitch lately - that is, hand work. I have been working on a piece of embroidery on linen - need to photograph it for you. It's a funny southern saying and it needs some embellishment around it to make it cute.

My other project is too funny. I found ucladoc's Etsy store while searching for a birthday gift for my sister. This crafter makes original and unique counted cross stitch patterns, and what hooked me was the anatomy and medical humor designs. I mean, who would think to make a cross stitch pattern out of an x-ray or a hand? Or an MRI of a brain?  Check these patterns out:

Wouldn't these make an awesome gift for your sister the physician or your brother the chiropractor?

I can't wait to hang mine in my office!!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Fab Shop Hop

Click to sign up!
In February, I completed the Fab Shop Hop. It's a virtual "shop hop" where you have to go to various fabric/quilt shop websites, find a special icon (the "bunny") and register that you found it. It's a month long hop, and you really need a whole month. There are over 150 shops on the list! That's a lot of hopping!

You don't have to find all of the bunnies. There are prize levels for 75 shops, 110 shops, and 140 shops.  Still, getting even 75 shops takes some diligence. But, it's fun - sometimes there are special promotions as a part of the hop - sales at the shops, patterns that you build (randomly you find a block pattern when you register a find), and sometimes bonus bunnies for extra giveaways.  Sometimes you come upon a shop you know in the real world - like someplace you visited on vacation or where you used to live.

The point of all this hopping is to generate sales for the shops. It worked for me, this time.

I have a quilt top created from a "Layer Cake" precut pack of a Moda line called "Whimsy," a style from few years ago. I can't find it in shops any more, and I'd like to make the back out of the same line. It has a specific color palette I'd like to match. Sure enough, a few of the shops in the hop had some left over Moda Whimsy!  Better yet, since its an old design, these shops had it on clearance! Bonus!

I found my backing fabric at The Quilted B from Washington state. The shop owner sent the fabric promptly, wrapped with a pretty printed ribbon from their shop, with a handwritten note of thanks. Excellent customer service. I hope to shop there again!

You can download all these images from the Moda website!!

I investigated several of the shops while hopping, if the style of the shop appealed to me. I bookmarked several as favorite shops

Well, yeah, you do have to exercise restraint and not overspend! Don't go crazy.

I also signed up for a newsletter at Stitchin' Heaven in Texas - they organize quilting vacations, like cruises and bus tours! I think that would be crazy fun to do. And their newsletter is called Hot Flashes - too funny. Sign me up!!

I hope you try the virtual shop hop. Maybe you'll win something. At the least, you'll have some fun and maybe even find a unique gift at a shop

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bev's Garden Quilt: Final

Today, I finally gave Bev her quilt. Yes, it's 2 months late for Christmas, but take a look!

I attempted and artsy casual picture above. The glare from the sun was a bit too bright. Here's a more typical quilt picture, the quilt on the bed.

This is a queen-size bed, so the quilt itself is roughly twin size.  It's a good size for curling up with on the sofa, or a nice picnic quilt.

Here's a close up of one of the quilted areas. I had a lot of fun quilting this one. I did a blocked loopy pattern in the moss-green negative space, and at the intersections of negative space, I improvised. There are 24 different designs in those spaces. Some of them turned out better than others, but it's interesting to look at, nevertheless. Here's a close-up of one such intersection that I thought turned out well.

I used variegated green 100% cotton thread (Gutermann) and I think it worked well on the plain fabric. I washed the quilt before giving it to Bev and the washing make the surface have a delightful crinkly texture. In the squares, I started doing a straight-line design, but it was taking way too long to do. I can't improvise straight lines in free-motion quilting - they need to be really straight! I used the feed dogs and my integrated dual feed (on the Pfaff machine), but then I had a lot of stopping and starting. Bleh.

I switched to a medium size stipple pattern within the blocks. Fortunately, I could alternate the blocks like I intended to use the two motifs!

The batting was a sustainable organic bamboo-cotton blend batting (Bev is an environmentalist, among other things). It quilted nicely and gave a nice drape and heft to the quilt.

So...what's my next big project???

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Art of Vacation

My husband and I are members of Disney's Vacation Club, and we go to a Disney resort about once a year. We are celebrating our 15 yr wedding anniversary this week at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Other than the nerve-wracking journey to the Kansas City Airport amidst the first significant snow storm of the winter, it has been a lovely vacation so far.

Why did bad weather hit the one day I needed good weather for flying? Murphy's Law, I guess. Nevertheless, we both made it here in one piece.

We are focusing on relaxing and pampering, this time.

Usually, I bring some hand sewing with me when I travel. It's a great way to pass time quickly on planes. I also like to work on projects while lounging by the pool. This year, I did not bring a project - I don't have anything I wanted to work on. I have been in the mood to do embroidery, but I don't have a project in the works and I didn't have time to pull one together.

It's easy to be inspired at Disney World. Things are very colorful and artful here. When browsing the stores of Downtown Disney Marketplace, I found the books shown above. Flipping through The Imagineering Workout, I was intrigued - it contains "exercises" for your creativity, collected from the imagineers at Disney.  We all experience creative doldrums from time to time, and creativity exercises would sure help find a way through it.

I could sure use this kind of help for the KC Modern Quilt Guild's latest challenge to make a wall quilt inspired by one of Kandinsky's abstract paintings. I need all the creativity I can get.

As usual, on vacation, I forget to bring one thing or another. I forgot the card reader to download digital pictures from my camera to my computer. Of course, Disney has one for sale - they have nearly anything you could need in their stores. Since many people take lots of pictures while vacationing here, they do offer a nice selection of photo equipment. This is the cutest little card reader ever!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cheap & Easy Way to Hang a Quilt

It's Christmas and you want to hang up your special Christmas wall hangings and quilts, but darn it! The quilt doesn't have a hanging sleeve and it's such a pain to drill into the wall, put up a rod, yadda yadda yadda. Here's a clever way to hang your quilt quickly and easily without wall damage and without damaging your quilt.

Hanging is achieved using 3-M Command Strip hooks and office binder clips.  Each hook cannot hold very much weight, but all together, they distribute the weight and can hold up something as big as a quilt.

  1. Figure out where you will want to hang your quilt.
  2. Figure out how many hooks and clips you'll need. You want the clip every 6 to 8 inches. The hooks look better if they are roughly evenly distributed across the quilt.  You want to use a good number of them because it will keep the floppy fabric straight.
  3. Get your level out and lightly mark a straight line. You could just make small marks where the hooks will go.
  4. Clean the areas and affix the hooks to the wall per the directions on the package. Make sure you line them up with your marked line the same way on each one (e.g. match up the top of the hook backing with the line, etc).

  5. After the waiting period (usually an hour), hook your binder clips to the hooks.

  6. Hold your quilt up to the wall, and clip go down the line one by one attaching the clips.
    • You should hold most of the weight while you're hanging it - one or two hooks will probably not be able to hold the whole thing, and it will tear off the wall (potentially damaging your wall!)
    • If your quilt is large, you might want to have someone help you with this step.
  7. You can adjust the hooks where they clip onto the quilt to make it straight.

When you're ready to take it down, remember not to let only one or two hooks hold the weight of the quilt, and remove the Command hooks according to package directions to avoid damaging your wall.

Even cheaper - you can use pushpins instead of the Command hooks. They will leave a small hole in the wall, of course.

I borrowed this idea from a gift shop in North Carolina, back when I lived there. It is a nice technique for apartments, where you may not be able to drill into a wall.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bev's Quilt: Coming Together

I'm quilting like mad on Bev's quilt. I came up with a little design for the "negative space" which has turned out to be really fun to quilt. It's easy to do and it is a forgiving pattern - does not have to be precise to look good.

Bev's Garden Quilt

The design was inspired by Leah Day's many free motion quilting project designs. I had a perception that free motion quilting had to be feathers, large designs, etc. but her work has been inspirational to see quilting designs differently.

Here's a closer look.

Close Up of Quilting

I'm intrigued by giving pattern to a blank space through the quilting. Remember that charity quilt I did a year ago? I basically superimposed a nine-patch pattern on the quilt top through the quilting. That one was crazy fun to do.

For Bev's quilt, I am using variegated thread (Gutterman 100% cotton), not something I use very often. It looks good on the plain green background. 

In the center of the "plus mark" shape,  I'll put a center design (flower, spiral, or something).  Within each vegetable pattern square, I'll quilt a design (so it doesn't puff up) but it's less important because the fabric pattern will obscure the quilting. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New in 2012

I'm evolving again...

Thinking about this blog and what I want to do with it, what I want to give to the world through this blog,  I am getting ready to change things up. I still like its name, and I'm sticking with the artsy theme - but now, I want to broaden it. The Etsy shop is closed, selling my handiwork is over. What's next?


What's it mean to live creatively? I think all people have an inborn need to create, and we express it in diverse ways. Some paint pictures. Many build families. Some write books or poetry, or build websites, or decorate rooms. I sew, knit, quilt, write essays (here in my blogs), garden, cook, perform music, and take pictures. Every once in a while I branch off into a totally new creative outlet, like writing a story, scrapbooking, terrarium building, crochet, or paper arts. It exercises a different part of my brain.

So let's explore the theme of creativity this year. What can I make? What can I share with you? What can I teach you?