Friday, August 28, 2009

I Heart Organization...

I heart organized Thread
Originally uploaded by Little Gray Dog

Organized thread is organization right? Here's a photo of my new thread holder, color coded of course, neutrals then brights. This is only half of my thread (the 100% cotton quilting), the rest is on the other side of the organizer. The best part is the little box snaps closed and has a handle so I can take it with me if I'm traveling somewhere to quilt and can't decide which color I want to use.

I also finished the quilting on Ziggy (unoriginal name for a zig zag quilt, I know). It's just basic shadowing of the pattern a quarter inch inside the brown zig zags. I used my walking foot and the whole process only took about 2 hours. This is the second quilt I've done using my new walking foot and I have to say the process is getting much quicker and much easier. My only complaint is I wish my machine had a setting that would automatically stop the needle in the down position. All those stops and starts and having to manually put the needle down was a huge pain in the butt. I also machine sewed on the front of the binding and have been hand sewing the back while watching TV. Photos to come tomorrow if the sun ever comes out. I'm afraid Hurricane Danny has ruined my hopes for a sunny beach weekend.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Social Justice is Still Alive

"Every American should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, a job that respects their dignity and protects their safety, and health care that does not condemn those whose health is impaired to a lifetime of poverty and lost opportunity."

Sometimes it's easy to get discouraged and wonder why I do the work that I do. Being a social worker isn't glamorous, it isn't wealth building, and it isn't always gratifying. During graduate school I constantly debated whether I had made the right decision. Two years of an ivy league graduate program certainly puts a dent in your wallet and makes you a little cynical, "why am I paying thousands of dollars to an already wealthy institution, to surface in a horrible economy in a field that pays less then most entry level administrative assistant positions?", I should have just gone to law school I thought to myself.

But when we lose a true social justice icon, like Ted Kennedy, I remember why I do what I do. Because I too believe that every child should receive an excellent public education that sets them up for success in whatever profession they choose, that the color of one's skin shouldn't determine the opportunities that are available for him/her, and that every individual should receive high quality low cost healthcare, regardless of ability to pay.

Ted Kennedy got me my first paid job (well sort of). In 2002, an ear mark grant brought back to Massachusetts by senator Kennedy was given to the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. That grant funded my job and allowed the League to train entry level workers (those re-entering the workforce from welfare, layoffs, extended leaves from the workforce etc.) to work in administrative positions at health centers.

Fast Facts... (courtesy of the League's website)
  • The first health center was established in 1965 at Columbia Point in Dorchester, MA (now Geiger Gibson Community Health Center) and was/is the model of care that Sen. Kennedy supported from the start.
  • Ninety percent of health center patients have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level or $41,300 in annual income for a family of four.
  • Nationally, health centers total more than 1,000 and serve 16 million people.
So a big thank you to Sen. Kennedy, not only for my job, but for your passion to social justice and the confidence to believe that the American dream can and does still exist, we just have to continue fighting for it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Remember those Floral Blocks from a month ago?

Well here they are (some of them at least). Today I worked on piecing them together into these blocks. They are just half square triangles arranged to make zig zags. Inspired by the plethora of zig zag quilts on flickr I decided to give this one a try.
Right now they are just strips but hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to finish the top. It will probably end up being a twin size, or maybe a little bigger depending on if I add borders or not. For now I like it without borders, but we'll see.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thunderstorms=Neurotic Puppy

All of this hot sweaty weather combined with hurricane winds and intense thunderstorms has made my furry babies a little crazy lately.

I was sewing in my studio (i.e. the dining room table) yesterday afternoon when a massive thunderstorm rolled in. The wind was whipping, trees were bending and for a few minutes I thought the power might go out (which is really unusual here since all the powerlines are underground). Normally the dog shakes and tries to get into my lap, but I was being an inattentive mother because I was trying to finish up the 3rd Halloween runner's quilting. I only had about three lines left to quilt when...(The plaid fabric is my table cloth and the brown wood is the seat of my chair)
"Umm...hi it's me your baby, and and normally you hold me when it thunders because I'm scared". So of course I stopped what I was doing for 2 hours to hold the little gray dog until the rain stopped. He shook and panted and even refused his all time favorite treat, dingo rawhide bones.

Not a lot of crafting progress, but I was able to make a super yummy dinner including fresh corn on the cob and fennel from the farmer's market. My good friend Zack made a tasty fennel dish the last time I was in Boston and when I bought a bulb this week I begged him for the recipe. He laughed and me and said "cut it cup, drizzle with olive oil and lemon and put some shaved Parmesan cheese over the top when it's close to done". So I did... and 25 minutes later (in a 425 degree oven) it was done. I typically don't like anise or anything flavored like black licorice, but I promise you the baking, lemon and cheese totally tone down the anise flavor and the end result is caramelized and toasty, delish! A big thanks to Zack for sharing his secret recipe with me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Halloween is Right Around the Corner

Scary to think isn't it? It's hard to believe that it's almost September already. Fall is my favorite season and even though I love the cool crisp weather, brightly colored changing leaves, and sheep and wool festivals, it's hard to think that the warm lazy days of summer are almost over.

So in the spirit of the upcoming fall...Halloween table runners

The orange, white and black moons and stars fabric is Halloween Night by RJR and the green and black fabric with Owls is Halloween's Party by Thimbleberries. I used a disappearing nine patch pattern I found here. The backing is a solid orange batik-ish cotton that I got for $2.49 a yard on sale. I bought a half yard of each fabric and have made three of these so far. This is the first one that is complete, the other two need to be quilted and bound. I quilted the first one using diagonal lines across the top with my walking foot.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Home Sweet Home

After a relaxing/chaotic week at home in Maine, I'm back to the "big city". Things I've learned over the past week

A-never underestimate a 1-year old, Man my sisters have a lot of energy. I guess I'm definitely not ready to have children, because I can't imagine having the patience and energy that having a one year old involves. (photos coming soon)

B-If I say I'm only going to use fabric from my stash and stop buying fabric...I'm only lying to myself. I had to stop at Mardens not once, but 3 times to buy more designer fabric at $2.99 a yard. In fact, knowing that I can purchase high quality quilting fabric for so cheap makes me want to stop buying from anywhere else. I mean why would you buy a hyundai when you could get a BMW for the same price?

C-Although I loved spending several days working on a funky halloween table runner with my grandmum, I'm glad to be back to having my own "tools". A vintage iron with no steam function is virtually useless to me. But on the upside my grammy showed me all of her stash including two huge old cookie tins completely filled with 100% cotton rick rack and trimmings in a rainbow of colors. She also has tins and tins of vintage buttons and two really old singers (like the ones that come in their own cabinets), so COOL!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Cleaning

Scrap Quilt Blocks WIP
Originally uploaded by Little Gray Dog

The past couple of days I have been on a cleaning tear. That includes reorganizing all of my fabric and craft supplies and making sure all of my scraps are sorted and ironed. Is this normal quilter behavior, probably not, but I've never been accused of being "normal".

While sorting I found a bunch of Heather Bailey and Amy Butler scraps. To make good use of them and clear out my stash a little I made up 6 12"by12" blocks. What I will do with them...not sure yet, but I'm thinking maybe add a thin green border around each of the blocks then line them up horizontally (across what would be the lower middle of my bed when the quilt is finished) and add solid cream above and below the row of scrappy blocks. I've seen a couple of these quilts and it really gives a chance for the quilting to shine. I wish I could find a photo because I just re-read that description and I'm not even sure I know what I'm taking about.

E, little gray dog and I are headed up to Maine for the weekend/week. Both of my sisters will be visiting and it will be the first time I've seen my one year old nephews since Christmas. I'm looking forward to a little relaxation, some tasty scallops and perhaps a few Sea Dog Blue Paw Wheat Ales.

Until next week (or access to the Internet, which is doubtful in DownEast Maine)!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Baby Coin Quilt Finished

Today I finally finished the baby coin quilt I started last summer. This quilt was made with scraps of amy butler's lotus collection that I had left over from the Brick Path Quilts that I made last Spring. The cream colored sashing is quilter's only cotton from Jo-Anns. The blue binding is also quilter's cotton. I really like quilter's cotton because it is reasonable priced and good quality. It washes well and holds up to lots of wear and tear. I wash and dry all of my quilts in my home machine so good quality cotton is key.
This is the first quilt I have quilted myself. I used masking tape to mark diagonal lines and quilting down both sides of the tape using a walking foot. I purchased the walking foot from a seller on e-bay before my old machine broke, and fortunately it also fits my new machine. The stitching was a little uneven but I think that was because I was fidgeting with the fabric too much. If I had just let the foot pull the fabric through without applying any resistance I think I would have had more even stitches, but live and learn right? I also wish I had remembered to back stitch a few stitches at the end and beginning of each quilting section. I'm a little worried that the stitches might pull out, but am hoping the binding will prevent that from happening. Overall, I'm pleased with this little quilt for a first go around at home quilting.

Back story for the Brick path quilts...One was for my grandmum before her heart surgery (which went perfectly) and one for me. Unfortunately she wasn't allowed to bring hers to the hospital (which was probably a good thing given all potential quilt spoilers at a hospital), but she uses it now around the house. Grandmum is a beautiful quilter and talented artist, and was thrilled to see and feel my craftiness while she was recovering. Ironically, she didn't quilt much while I was growing up so I never really learned any techniques from her, but I do have several of her beautiful quilts and a couple of antique quilts from her aunt that are some of my most prized possessions.

Feels good to finally finish a project, hopefully many more will follow (as long as the sewing machine gods cooperate).


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The sun is finally out

Who knew that it would just be starting to feel like summer in August? Finally it is warm and sunny here and the little gray dog has stopped fighting me when I try to take him out. Feels like it rained everyday for a year.

Unfortunately, the company I purchased my 7470 from e-mailed me on Monday and let me know that they will not give me my money back. I can return the machine but have to pay for the original shipping because it was free shipping on my end and they have to cover their costs. I understand that they had to pay to ship it to me, but it's not my fault they sent me a broken machine.

They will issue me a store credit (gee thanks, that's just what I want, another broken machine from you that I have to pay to ship). The store credit will be good for one year. I have to admit I'm a little pissed. I purchased from them because they had the best price on the machine ($299) and they offered free shipping.

Unfortunately I failed to read their return policy which says they will NOT offer ANY refunds, even for defective merchandise. They also stated that refurbished machines are a better deal because they come directly from the factory and are more likely to be in working order since they have been thoroughly checked by a technician (yeah right!). I've never purchased anything that I could not return and I feel tricked. Yes I should have read the policy, but who doesn't allow you to return something and get your money back if you're unsatisfied?

What ever happened to "the customer is always right"? or even "if you're unsatisfied for any reason we will return your purchased price"? You sent me a broken machine I don't want to take my chances with you again, why is that unreasonable? That's why I'm a tried and true L.L Bean shopper. If at anytime (even 20 years later) you're ever unsatisfied you get your money back no questions asked. They have the best customer service I've ever experienced and I will be a loyal customer for life. When it comes to customer service, they really "get it"

Sometimes there are some major benefits to purchasing from a local dealer, unfortunately I learned that the hard way.

In more happy news I did purchase another singer locally. It's a precision 7444 and works like a charm. Quick bobbin winding, see through bobbin case so I can tell when I'm going to run out of bottom thread, and fast straight stitches. Everything worked so well I was able to sew together all of my blocks for the old red barn quilt in about 3 hours. It's slightly smaller then a queen size and I'm debating whether I want to add borders to make it big enough to go on a queen bed.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Country Club Weddings

E, the little gray dog and I just returned from my friend Maureen's Wedding and wow was it a busy weekend. Thursday afternoon we drove to MA for the rehersal dinner. Maureen's husband loves dirt bikes so his groom's cake had to have a dirt bike theme. When we returned to our hotel Maureen dropped of a cute little "welcome box" with snacks, tissues, aspirin, a cd, and a bottle of wine. It of course was tied with a pink ribbon since pink and green were her wedding colors.Friday we ran some errands and I got to relax a little and visit with Aidan before the big day. Saturday was crazy busy. I met Maureen and the bridesmaids at the salon for hair, then we went back to Maureen's mom's house for makeup, mimosas and a ton of photos. I swear my mouth ached at the end of the day from all the smiling. I didn't catch any of all of us as a group because I was in them, but I'm hoping Mo's mom took some. Then we drove to the church (where the bride's grandparents married almost 60 years ago!) for the ceremony. The ceremony was short and sweet (for a catholic wedding) and Mo and Josh looked really handsome together.

The reception was in the ballroom of the Quidnessett Country Club overlooking Narragansett Bay. The ballroom was beautiful and the photos should be really nice since it was a beautiful sunny day. E and I swapped meat at dinner since I don't eat red meat. He was pleased to have two filet mignons and I was just as happy with my chicken. The cake was a delicious chocolate tuxedo cake and Mo's signature strawberry margharitas weren't too shabby either.
All and all a happy and fun weekend. We even stopped in Mystic, Connecticut to have a seafood lunch at a cute little seafood shack right on the water.
Hopefully I'll be able to get my sewing machine drama straightened out this week. I'm sending the machine back, but it's still unclear whether I will get money back, or have to take store credit. I'm crossing my fingers for a refund, I e-mailed the owner, so we'll see how receptive he is.