Monday, January 31, 2011


Sometimes I ask myself  'how can I be a quilter when I'm sooo bad at math?'

I like to believe I'm a reasonably educated woman yet put rotary cutting instructions for a quilt block in front of me and I'll stare at you in fear like a deer in the car headlights.  I'm completely hopeless. I blame my 7th grade math teacher, Sister Champlain, for scaring me for the rest of my life when faced with a mathematical question. Sister Champlain was a force to recon with.   She stood all of 5 foot 2 and in her habit (yes, I went to an old school Catholic school) yet to me she was a 10 foot tall monster.  Sister C liked to use intimidation and embarrassment as a motivator to insure her students studied the math formulas she taught.  Which, if after you studied the math and understood it (this is key here) might be ok.   But if, as in my case, no matter how much studying I would do it just didn't sink in, this was not an effective teaching method.  After a lot of tears and parent/teacher conferences I was transferred out of her class. But the damage was already done.  Which brings me to now.....

In an attempt to finally get that monkey off my back, I read and re-read the rotary cutting instructions for Barbara Brackman's Civil War block of the week determined to figure out how to use that ever elusive ruler. I'd like to report that I met the challenge successfully - but no.  After an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure out where exactly 7/8th is on the ruler, I gave up before my head exploded.

In summary, I recognize my limitations and have found every math struggling quilters savior - Electric Quilt!  I just draw in the quilt block and print the template. The program does all the math for me.

I LOVE modern technology.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Do Fat Quarters Spontaneously Multiple?

I have a ridiculous amount of fabric in my stash. Of course I know I can't be alone in asking the question 'do fat quarters spontaneously multiple?'  Because honestly I don't remember buying THAT MUCH fabric.   Obviously magazine publishers have realized this affliction among their readers as well since five out of the six quilter magazines I've read lately discuss methodology to organize the ever multiplying stash.

You know I'm all for organizing my fabric.  The problem I'm having is in the folding of it all. I mean I can fold all the fat quarters the same since they're all roughly the same size (I say roughly because I've discovered there's a serious difference in one quilt shops fat quarter size to another quilt shops).  The problem comes to the bigger fabric cuts. It's really hard to get them folded so that they're all sized correctly when stacked on top of or beside each other. I'm thinking the solution to this could be to have a folding board.  Years ago while attending grad school I worked at the retail clothing store Eddie Bauer.  All the sales staff were taught that polo shirts and t-shirts had to look uniform when folded on the display table. To achieve this we were given an MDF board about the length and width of a folded shirt and were taught to fold the clothing around it in such a way that it could be pulled out after the shirt was made into a presentable package. They looked great after this exercise. I'm thinking I might need to coerce DH into making one of these gadgets for my ever growing and unruly fabric collection.  Not only would having a nice tidy fabric stash look great, but I'd probably save myself heaps of money the next time I start a project. If I can see what I already have at home before being tempted to buy more at the quilt shop maybe I'll start reducing a bit of that spontaneously multiplying fabric.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

iPad Love

I have an iPad.  Yes I am 100% into technology and couldn't wait to get my hands on this amazing adult toy. It's funny when you think about it because the kind of sewing I most enjoy, by hand with simple needle and thread, is about as basic as you can get. Yet when it comes to designing, sharing and exploring my simple art form, I'm full speed ahead with anything modern and the iPad is the ultimate gadget to quilting geekdom.

Not only do I write this blog 99% of the time on it, but I also draw quilt blocks with a vector based drawing app, figure out fabric yardage with another app and even watch The Quilt Show on the go with it. I love my iPad so much I've named it My Precious.

So for all you fellow quilting geeks out there heres a list of apps I've discovered that are specifically designed for quilters or can be adapted to be useful to a quilter:

• Awesome Note -  I use this to write my blog and keep a daily diary.
• Freeform -  this is a vector based drawing program that is useful in making quilt blocks.
•  Noteshelf and Studio Art -  both of these are great drawing programs that use natural handwriting to draw and write notes to yourself for quilt ideas.
• Quilt Fab, Block Tool and Easy Quilt are all apps created specifically for quilters that assist in most things quilty.
• Quilt Project is a one- stop- shopping app that appears to do it all. Though I must admit I haven't drove into it well enough yet to give you a thumbs up or down on it -  but I have it anyway.
• Kaleidoscope is just that -  a kaleidoscope program that makes beautiful kaleidoscopes that you can print and use if you need inspiration to create a kaleidoscope quilt. It's very cool.
• And finally, Quilt Index.  This app connects to the Internet to bring you a quilt a day from the collections of numerous textile museums all over the world.  If you're a quilt history fan, this is a great app to have.

Ok, that's my list. Have I missed anything?

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Friday, January 28, 2011

It's all Women's Work

For the past 14 years I've been collecting books about Women's domestic life.  I like anything as it applies to cooking, decorating, and my favorite category, domestic housework prior to 1970.  In a collection of roughly 40 books my oldest dates back to 1890.

I love these books because it's fascinating to read about the world in which generations of women before me lived.  Of course you have to keep in mind that these are basically 'how to' books and not autobiographies so everything you read is a suggestion from the author and not necessarily taken from real life. You should keep in mind that the how to being spoke of is idealized to a certain degree.  Just because a book says to greet your husband at the door when he comes home from a hard day at the office with his slippers ready in one hand a cocktail for him in the other, doesn't mean Mrs. Average Housewife 1950 did just that.  But still reading this and knowing someone would even fathom it being a possibility is amazing to me - Ms 21st Century.

Along with all the interesting historical reading I glean lots of great sewing tips to use today.
As an example I took a clothes sewing class about 10 years ago and decided to make a skirt and jacket combo. While working on the skirt our teacher, who was probably in her 60s, showed us the usual way of achieving our objectives and sent us home with our projects with homework. At the time I had just gotten a 'new' sewing book discovered at a used bookstore on home dressmaking. After reading a few sections I decided to duplicate a technique described in the book of putting an embroidered triangular dart on the top of a pleat that would serve as both decoration and it would also strengthen the pleat and make it less likely to separate on the top.

When I returned to class with my homework done and my nifty pleat work in place, my teacher flipped at seeing it. She said in all the years she's been teaching a dressmaking class I was her first pupil to use this technique - one she had learned eons before when she was taught to sew in home economic in the 1940s. She was so thrilled and excited to see such detailed work she showed my humble skirt to the whole class and decided she was going to teach it to all her future students.

Of course I was pretty happy myself. Not just because of the fuss she made over my tailoring attempt but because I learned something really special from what could have been a forgotten book. It was exciting to see that information found in its 45+ years old pages turned out to be just as relevant and useful today as when it was written. That's the kind of pure enjoyment I get from collecting and reading these books. I love to discover something new within something old.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

In the Beginning......

Ok.  This is my very first blog.  I'm still getting used to the process of setting up how this page is going to look so please be patient and stick with me.  I will evolve....

I'm writing a blog mainly about my quilt life but I'm sure at some point it will incorporate other parts of my life as well.  I decided to start a blog about quilting because its an important part of who am I.  I sew and create textile art (I hate the word craft...) because it makes me feel fulfilled as a woman.  In the creation of a quilt I feel connected to all the women who have gone before me.  They spoke with their needles and thread at a time when they had little voice outside of the home.  And in that way I speak the same today in my creative life (though I have a very strong voice at home and in public - ask my husband).  My quilts speak volumes about who am I as a woman and what kind of legacy I hope to leave behind.

So stayed tuned.  I plan to talk and talk and talk about quilting, sewing, being creative and everything else that happens run from my head to my fingers and onto the blog.