Blogger's Quilt Festival Entry

/ Friday 29 October 2010 /
Love Birds
I had hoped to have a new quilt to show for the Blogger's Quilt Festival, but it wasn't in the stars.  Instead, I will show Love Birds, which is my most recent completed quilt (excepting the Quilt Only a Father Could Love, which is named that for a good reason).  I made Love Birds for a friend's wedding, and the original post is linked here.  In this post, I'll just show the photos.  Have a look at these, and then go back and look at all the other amazing quilts in the Festival.  Amy has done another amazing job bringing bloggers together from around the world!
quilt top detail
Love Birds, centre panel
Love Birds, detail
quilted linen birdsHappy wedding day, Denys and NinaLove Birds back and labelquilt in a tree
Nina and Denys get married

Okay, who's the wise guy?

/ Thursday 28 October 2010 /
I survived my birthday yesterday, but not without some practical jokes at my expense. This is what my office door looked like when I came back from teaching. I normally do have a "Where's Lesly" sign on my door, but the options are "teaching", "in a meeting", "out of town", etc. So this is pretty funny, I must say. Ah well, when you hit the mid-century mark, you either laugh or cry - I know which one I'd rather do! If you are looking for the giveaway, it's here.
On my office door today

Oh! Do not attack me with your watch!

/ Tuesday 26 October 2010 /

Jane Austen, originally uploaded by tartx.
If you recognized the source of the title of this post, you will be very interested to learn about this.

"Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch." 
 Jane Austen, Mansfield Park.

Jane Austen's original manuscripts were put online last night. In these manuscripts you can see her fabulous novels written in her own hand. The ink is faded, so parts are hard to read, but the Oxford scholars and their research team who have worked on this project have included a printed version that accompanies each page, where you can follow Jane Austen's changes of wording, strike-throughs, and other minute edits. You can access them here.  What a treat!

(If you are looking for the giveaway post, go here.)

Random Distribution of Goods (aka Giveaway)!

/ Monday 25 October 2010 /
As I mentioned, I went to the Creativ Festival in Toronto on Friday.  It was a big show, and it included all kinds of crafty things, from scrapbooking to bra-making, from garment sewing to beading, knitting, and quilting.  There was an awful lot to see!  I was looking for new and interesting things that I couldn't live without, and I was also looking for giveaway items, as I mentioned in my last post, to mark a number of exciting events.  The quilt booths seemed to carry predominantly traditional fabric and lots of kits, which I wasn't really in the mood for, so I didn't load up on fabric.  I did get a bunch of random FQs and a few notions, but let me show you the three things that are absolutely droolworthy, that I haven't been able to stop petting.  The first is this load of gorgeous Japanese cottons.  The packs are fat eighths, and the rolls are FQs.  I also picked up some Echino FQs.  These came from Kallisti Quilts, who had the smallest booth in the joint - it was about the size of my bathroom - but it was packed!  Everyone loved the gorgeous fabrics, and the stunning sample quilts they had made up. They also carried African and Indian printed cotton, which was spectacular.  It wasn't cheap, as you can imagine, but I had such a craving - I bought as much as I could load up into my arms.  Go and look at their website and see what they carry - it is wonderful!
magnasplendent Japanese cottons + Echino FQs
The second thing I want to show is this small collection of Marcia Derse FQs from Quilters' Palette.
Awesome Marcia Derse FQs!
You are probably familiar with Marcia Derse's fabric, but I had never heard of her.  It looks hand-dyed, but it's not.  I think it's spectacular, and when I went home I combed the internet to find more.  I found some here, but it doesn't seem to be wildly available.  And if you go to Marcia Derse's webpage and click on Art, you can see the forthcoming line, Third in Line, which is giving me pains, I want it so bad. I'll show you some closer shots to increase your envy.
Marcia Derse FQs
Marcia Derse FQs
Marcia Derse FQs
Lastly, I picked up this pack of 20 FQs of Kona cotton solids in assorted cool colours.  Love!
Kona solids pack of 20 FQs
So, I'm sorry, but all of that stuff that I showed you is mine, all mine [insert maniacal chortle here].  But I was on the lookout for goodies to give away, and here's what I came up with.  I was motivated largely by the comments that you all left for me on my post asking for suggestions.
1.  Pack of 60 Quilt Patis 1.5 diamond templates for English paper piecing.  These are the same ones I use for the diamond hand-piecing project I have on the go.
Quilt Patis 1.5" diamond templates
2.  A wool pincushion kit.  This measures 6" square.  Pretty cute, I think.  I was reading a blog yesterday and the writer had bought the same kit.  She was starting to work on it and it looks great!
Wool pincushion kit
3.  Two Oh Cherry Oh by Me and My Sister for Moda charm packs.  These are OOP.
Oh Cherry Oh charm packs
4.  Five half-yard cuts of a range of purple Kona cotton solids.  So that makes 2.5 yards - actually meters, which is 39" - of fabric in total.
5 x 1/2 yards of Kona purples
I hope you like the swag!  I'm going to draw four winners, one for each piece of loot.  In order to have a chance, please do TWO THINGS:
(1) take a look at the quilts listed on my sidebar and I've made and tell me which one is your favourite (you can include the WIPs).  Have a look around, and if you would like what you see, feel free to become a follower, but this is not required.
(2) make sure you have a way for me to contact you if you are the winner.  In other words, make sure you are not a no-reply blogger.
The comments will remain open until November 5.  Good luck!

A Weekend of HIgher Education

/ /
The last few days have been action-packed!  On the weekend just past, we indulged ourselves in an orgy of higher education!  You may know that my daughter is a senior in high school, and is therefore planning her university applications.  So this weekend, her two top choices both held their open houses.  On Saturday, we attended the open house for the University of Toronto.
University College, University of Toronto
Founded in 1827, U of T is Canada's largest university, with 55,000 undergraduates.  It is a beautiful campus, located right downtown.  The student body is wonderfully diverse.
University of Toronto
The Arts and Science Faculty follows the British model, and is composed of seven colleges within the FAculty, each with its own set of residences and particular character.  
Eve at Hart House, University of Toronto
We liked how this building was dressed up for Halloween.
University of Toronto dresses for Halloween
University College, University of Toronto
University College, U of Toronto
I did my PhD here, but as a married graduate student I was never really involved in student life activities.  It's certainly a different prospect when you are a parent with a university-age child!  We both liked what we heard and saw here.  Toronto is 250 km west of us, an easy 2.5 hour train ride.  I would be okay if she chose this university.  She loves life in a big city, drinking lattes and riding on the subway!
Caffe latte
King Tut and Eve
We scooted home on the train in time to make it to a friend's surprise fiftieth birthday party Saturday night, and before dawn on Sunday, all three of us were on the road to Montreal, to visit McGill University, our daughter's top choice.
McGill Open House
The Arts Building, the central focus of the campus, is currently having some restoration done, but you can still see how it dominates the campus.  You can also see Mount Royal in the background, dressed in  glorious autumn colours.
McGill University - Arts Bldg under repair
My husband and I are both alumni of McGill, and, in addition to our own individual fond feelings for the university, we share a soft spot for it because this is where we met.  I came here from Tennessee in 1983 to do my MA in linguistics.  My husband was working on campus at the time.  
James McGill on a windy day
Founded in 1821, McGill has 28,000 undergraduates.  Like U of T, McGill is also a downtown campus.  Some of the university residences are converted hotels. If you have ever been to Montreal, you know that there are few North American cities to equal its beauty, charm and joie de vivre.
Eve and Stuart on Sherbrooke St.
Montreal is 300 km east of where we live.  The train takes a little more than two and half hours and drops you right downtown.  We would be happy if she chose to go to McGill, as well.  My mother-in-law is there, so she would have somewhere to go for Friday night dinner.
It was after 8pm when we got home, and we were utterly exhausted from all the presentations and tours of campus buildings and residences.  It's a stressful but exciting time for our family!  University choice is a big decision, with so many factors to consider.  As parents of an only child, we are thrilled that her preferences are relatively close to home.  An empty nest is a bit more bearable if the chick isn't too far away!
P.S.  I also attended the Creativ Festival in Toronto on Friday, and I have another blog post coming about all my goodies, not to mention my giveaway - I promise you won't be disappointed!

The Rule of Three

/ Thursday 21 October 2010 /
According to the principles of rhetoric, ideas that are presented in groups of three are somehow inherently more satisfying or have a bigger impact than when they appear singly or in other combinations.  Therefore, take note of these three momentous events:
Last month marked one year that I have been blogging.
Today I welcomed my 100th follower.
Next Wednesday I turn 50.
If you suspect that each of these big deals are magnified in the presence of the other, you would be correct. Tomorrow I am going to the Creativ Festival in Toronto, and I will be looking for some significant swag to give away.  Please leave a comment about what I should look for, if I want to tickle your fancy (keep it clean, ladies!)

Smart Plate kaleidoscope ruler demo

/ Tuesday 19 October 2010 /
If you have been reading lately, you will know I have kaleidoscope blocks on the brain.  Kaleidos can be made using paper foundations or by cutting templates, or by the use of specialty rulers.  I recently bought two different rulers, and I am using one of them, the Smart Plate, to make the quilt I am currently grappling with.  I thought I would show you how the ruler works to make the blocks.  Sharon Sebrow's book is not required to use the ruler, which comes with pretty good directions on its own, but there are some nice examples of how versatile this block is and how they can be combined to make fabulous patterns.
Smart Plate and Sharon Sebrow's book
This is the Smart Plate ruler.  It allows you to make kaleidos from 2 to 6 inches (finished) in size.  The blocks for my quilt are 6" blocks.  This ruler lets you make 12-piece blocks and 8-piece kaleido blocks.  I'll show you a 12-piece block, since that is what is required for my current project.   If you are looking at the writing right side up on the ruler, you can see it has a flat top (see the pencil), flat sides, and three angled sides on the bottom.
Flat side
There are two straight lines on the ruler that are used to place the ruler properly (see the pencils).
First straight line
Second straight line
The construction of the kaleido block using this ruler requires that you begin by making a pinwheel block out of HSTs.  There is a chart with the ruler that tells you the size of the HSTs that you need to make, in order to end up with the right-sized kaleido block.  In my case, I began with 4 7/8" squares, made HSTs out of them, and then joined them to make a pinwheel.  To turn the pinwheel into a kaleido, I place the ruler on the pinwheel block, aligning the straight lines on the ruler with the seams of the pinwheel.  The flat side of the ruler is nearest to me.
Initial placement - flat side nearest you
Since I am right-handed, I use the rotary cutter to begin cutting away the fabric from the right, cutting as far as I can around the ruler.
Start cutting (right handed)
Not being Elasti-Girl,  I won't be able to cut all the around the ruler without turning the block.  In the photo below, the pencil is pointing to the fabric segment that will be closest to me when I rotate the block.
Preparing to rotate the block.
Now I have rotated the block, with the tan fabric segment nearest me.  The ruler is placed again with the flat side nearest me, and the flat edge of the ruler is aligned with the edge of the fabric.  The straight lines on the ruler are again over the seams of the pinwheel block.
Block has been rotated - flat side of the ruler  is still nearest you
This lets you finish trimming the fabric around the ruler.
Finish cutting
Ready to attach the corners
You are now ready to add the corners.  For a block that finishes at 6", the chart says to use 2 5/8" squares cut on the diagonal.
Sew triangles to the corners to complete the 12-piece kaleidoscope block
Press and trim.
12-piece kaleidscope block
Whew!  If you stuck with me through all that, you might want to know what I think of the Smart Plate.  The verdict is positive.  There's no way to make the kaleidoscope block a fast sew-up, no matter which technique you use.  There are twelve pieces in each block, for goodness' sake!  For me, the most aggravating part is trimming those HSTs to make the pinwheels - that takes forever, as you know.  It's mindless and time-consuming, and you don't feel like you have very much to show for all your time.  But that is a feature of HSTs, not this ruler, which I find quite effective.  There is a larger size available that allows you to make blocks up to 12", but it wasn't carried by my LQS.  I think I would have bought that one if I had had the opportunity.  The other ruler that I have is one that allows you to cut fabric strips without trimming inherent in making HSTs.  However, if you are a cutter who doesn't always manage to get things absolutely square all the time (like me), the Smart Plate may be the kaleido ruler for you.  Nevertheless, I will be using the other ruler for my next project, and I will be able to make a comparison of the pros and cons of each.
EDITED to add:  Some of the comments about wasted fabric made me go back to the chart of sizes to double-check, and I found that I was indeed making my HSTs too big - in fact, I was using the size needed for an 8-piece rather than a 12-piece kaleido block (fewer pieces mean each piece has to be bigger).  So I should be using 3 3/4" squares to make my HSTs, rather than the 4 7/8" size I have been using.  Doh!

October half done already?

/ Friday 15 October 2010 /

How on earth can it be possible that October is half finished already?  Yikes!  Gosh, time is passing so quickly I better not waste another minute before sharing some updates.  So, first, I want to show you the luscious set of five Kaffe Fassett FQs that I won from Krista over at Poppyprint.  Are these not just perfect for the season?  I have been petting them ever since I opened the package this afternoon.  And how do you like my photostyling skills, with these fake but artistic leaves?  Move over, Annie Leibowitz!
I've been working on my kaleidoscope quilt, and I thought I'd show you how it's going.
More kaleidos
First, I need to express how much more difficult it is than I thought it was going to be!  The block isn't too hard, but placing the colours is awesomely difficult.  Well, it's making the blocks with the right colours that is challenging, and having to plan and piece at the same time.  Because you probably know that fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and since I am no angel, you know what that makes me.  If I had installed EQ7, which is sitting patiently in its box, I could have printed off all the info about how many blocks of this and that description I needed before I started cutting and making HSTs.  But no - I was so proud of figuring out that the blocks are simply setting squares and 12-piece kaleidos, that I jumped right in the deep end and started sewing away.

Thing is, it's actually pretty complicated (for my poor, aging noggin, at any rate), since the primary pattern that emerges is a ring of four star points, while each point is made up of one half of a kaleido block.  In the picture below you can see how this works.  My table isn't big enough to show many blocks, but you can get the idea.  You can see that the other half of a kaleido is part of the ring of star points for an adjacent block.

This means that you need to know what fabric the adjacent stars are going to be made of before you commit to making the kaleidos for any given block.  Of course, those adjacent stars are also made of blocks that are part of adjacent blocks, and so on.  I resorted to old-fashioned paper and coloured pencils to work it out.  Of course I don't have pencil colours that resemble the ones that I'm using in the quilt, so I have an elaborate system of notes and numbers.
Head breaking design sheet
The downside to this, besides being time-consuming, is that there's limited opportunity for auditioning different layouts of the colours for the star points.  I try to keep clear in my mind what fabrics are next to what while I am piecing the blocks, but it's not easy.  Never mind, I don't think it's possible for these fabrics to fight with each other, and I'll be happy however it falls out.   One thing I can change is the setting blocks. I have opted to use both off-whites and light tans from the French General lines, and I'm happy with that.  There are, however, some patterns that might turn out to be too busy for the setting squares, like the one below.  I may go a little more restrained here - but this can wait until I get my vinyl tablecloth design wall up to get a larger perspective.
Print too big?
Finally, I don't only quilt and teach prospective teachers.  I also read books.  And I picked up some new reads today that I thought I would share.  I got this great-looking book, Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz,  a cognitive psychologist, who writes about "what dogs see, smell and know".  I think I am going to like this author, because the flyleaf says that before she became a psychologist, she worked as a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster (awesome word nerd), and the title of the book is taken from my favourite Groucho Marx quote, which has been in my email .sig for ten years:  "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.  Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."  So you know she's gotta be funny.
Book shopping 2
I also got Homer and Langley, by E.L. Doctorow.  I've been waiting for it to come out in paper.  It's about the Collyer brothers, who were compulsive hoarders who died in 1947 amid tons of refuse. I can't stand the lurid reality shows about hoarders, but I am looking forward to Doctorow's usual nuanced treatment of historical characters.
Book shopping 1
And because I am a quilter, I couldn't pass up this great book by Boo Davis, Dare to Be Square.  Owls and skulls!  Great fun!
Book shopping 3
Finally, since I was taking pictures of books, I thought I would show you this one.  I didn't get it today, but it was lying around on the table, and I thought it was worth making a recommendation. Just forget about the "Jewish" part of this title.  If you are a slow-cooker fan, there are some really stellar recipes inside the Jewish Slow Cooker.
Worth it.
And, last but not least, how about a little song?  I was knocked out by this series of music videos - a Symphony of Science - by John Boswell.  I saw one of these first on Grey Cat Quilts the other day, and found them all so inspiring.  I hope you do, too!

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