The Cutting Table

IMG_0773This post is more for quilters or quilters-to-be.

I have a quilting room.  At times, it’s the designated second guest room, but most of the time, it’s just for quilting and it’s mine.

Among the quilting bloggers, the where and how to manage the fabric storage and cutting of said fabric seems to be a topic of much discussion and consternation. 

I thought men stressed over their garage workrooms. They have nothing on quilters.

Given that I was a novice, I read quite a bit about how others set up their rooms, especially as I had never sewn before, much less quilted.  I needed to learn from others who were more experience than I.  That meant I read a lot.

My quilting room, an office in a previous life, came with a closet that is actually a wall of built-in shelves hidden behind folding doors.  Not so good as a bedroom closet, but perfect for fabric storage.  A match made in quilting heaven!

Finding the perfect cutting table was a different story.  Dining room tables apparently have a corner on fabric cutting.  It seems no one eats in dining rooms any longer and, as they’re a wasted room, why not turn them into cutting rooms?

My dining room was once a family room/kitchen.  It’s now a dining room/kitchen, not that it makes any difference.  I seldom eat in there.  But, as it’s in the heart of the house, I didn’t want it cluttered with fabric, scraps and threads.

Besides, the table height would break my back bending over to cut, and my back is already old and broken.

Scratch the dining room.  And find a designated cutting table.

I first looked at the standard cutting tables made for home use and quickly discovered that they are (1) not that stable, (2) relatively expensive for what you get, and (3), being perfectly candid, ugly.  Not as in ugly like a lovable ugly dog contest ugly, but ugly as in old Formica white ugly.  Scratch them.

Then I looked at the hacks. Ikea has the market on cutting table hacks, with hollow core doors balanced on cubed bookcases a close second. All workable and all solid and presentable, but the cost for delivery far outweighed any potential benefits. I needed a truck to make that one work. The hacks hit the dust.

That left me searching for a reasonably priced counter height dining table, preferably in a dark wood that would blend with the rest of the furniture in my quilting room.  Yep, picky, but it’s a room that needed “sing” to set the stage for comfort and creativity. 

It was an adventure, so to speak, searching for the perfect cutting table that was really a counter height dining table.  Months passed, and then finally, there it was:  a 36″ deep X 60″ long x 36″ tall counter height table.  Dark wood.  Solid wood.  Free delivery and a very reasonable price. A steal when compared to the advertised cutting tables, even if those do fold up when not being used.

The box holding the table top and four legs arrived at my front door, free shipping included, and it took me all of ten minutes to drag it inside and attach the legs.  My neighbor helped me turn the table right side up. It took longer to cut the box into pieces for recycling.

The quilting room is finished. I’m happy, my back is happy and my quilts are happy…it’s all good! 

 

YouTube, CoolTube

IMG_0736A few months back, I finally joined the Lady 9ers, as in golf and not the 49er football team.  It took me a while to figure out that probably half, if not more, of the ladies are neither very good golfers nor especially athletic, and are out there for a good time.  Admittedly, we all do have a good time, laughing at our shots and scores, enjoying each other’s company and the lunches that follow our Tuesday morning games.

I’m still working on getting a handicap as I am a fair weather golfer, which means I don’t play if it’s too hot or too cold.  Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the weather has to be just right, which is asking a lot of the Sierra foothills.  It may be years before I actually accumulate ten completed scorecards within a twelve month period so I am truly legitimate.  I keep telling the powers-that-be to just give me a handicap in the neighborhood of 2,358, but evidently the highest I can get is 36.  Like that will help.

I don’t feel especially bad about my lack of golfing skills as I am passably good at a couple other things, so when an email came out asking for support for an upcoming Team Play, I volunteered for table decorations.  I have my mother’s gene; I decorate in my dreams.  A dear friend once told me You are the only person I know who can grab a old scorched pot out of a cabinet, toss a few twigs into it and have a stunning table centerpiece.  If I tried that, it’d look like a burnt pot with dead branches. In all fairness to the pot, it was a scorched antique copper pot.

Regardless, the 9ers’ team leader grabbed me and a fellow-creative-golfer-volunteer, and took us to the decorations shed that held — well, being very kind — dusty, bug infested decorations that had seen better days.  And those days were no doubt decades ago.  Then she announced, No budget and we don’t know how many attendees so we don’t know how many tables.  Co-decorator and I looked at one another and in unison said No problem.  We are both retired teachers.

Any educator will understand that dark humor.  Most years, we had no clue which classes we were going to teach, much less how many students might show up or if we’d have sufficient desks for said students. 

I remember one year when our department chair announced we actually had a budget, a real live budget.  Holy mackerel!  Then we found out each of us were getting $50.  That was fifty dollars for 150 students for the entire year.  Sigh. 

Given that background, no budget for decorations?  No sweat…a little of this, a little of that, a little hot glue, and the decorations turned out cheery and colorful.  So good in fact, that one of the officers called me shortly thereafter.

Do you sew?

I quilt. 

In my mind, there’s a world of difference. A seamstress intuitively knows how to mend a torn hem.  I reach for the duct tape.

But I do have a sewing machine and I do know how to turn it on, which meant I was qualified to be drafted for a new 9er project:  Cool Tubes to wrap around our necks and keep us cool while playing at golf.  uh huh.

She sent me a link to a YouTube demonstration.  Not so difficult. 

I called her back. 

I can handle this.

Do you have fabric?  We have no budget.

Yep, I have tons of fabric. No problem there.  um, how many do you need?

Fifty two.

oh.

Fifty-two tubes, 4 1/2 inches by 43 inches, right sides stitched together and then turned right-side out.  If you ever want to keep younger ones busy and frustrated, give them a few long skinny tubes and have them figure out how to turn the suckers right side out.  (if anyone is really desperate to know, I’ll share). 

Each tube then gets stitched into four segments, with each of those getting a quarter teaspoon of water absorbing polymer crystals, many of which evidently did not want to end up hanging around someone’s neck in a cool tube.  They are all over my quilting room carpet, just waiting for a bit of water so they can plump up and keep my toes cool.

At any rate, the 52 Cool Tubes are now completed and look pretty good for a non-seamstress.

Just don’t say anything, because she’s using these to surprise the members at some event or another down the road…

Regardless, I can get back to the fun stuff.  Like quilting. Bridge. And maybe a little golf if the weather cooperates.

 

 

The Footnote

bookSomewhere this side of a hundred years ago, I was a young college coed doing anything and everything I could to avoid taking a foreign language.  Evidently that gene, the foreign language gene, also skipped my children and grandchildren, all of whom struggled through the minimum number of required foreign language units to graduate from high school and college.

I tried to circumvent the entire issue by changing majors five or six hundred times, although eventually I succumbed to the inevitable and took the mandated two semesters of French, which was essentially the same course I had taken in high school, just at warp speed.

Parlez-vous français?  Anyone?  Anyone?

The upshot, however, was that all my maneuvering to avoid the language requirement meant that I had almost sufficient units to graduate with any combination of four majors:  English, History, Political Science, Philosophy.  While I love them all, I opted for the first two and barely graduated, given the foreign language albatross, with a double major.

I was pretty sure I’d never use philosophy for any credible activity in life, but I was very wrong.  As a young, newly married wife, my now ex, an engineer in both career and mentality, was caught in the same foreign language conundrum, except he had to take an Intro to Philosophy class. 

He came home after the first class, weighted down with volumes of Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer, FORTRAN (remember those days?) and a slim volume of Plato’s Republic.  He could handle the engineering, even the FORTRAN, but write a paper on the Introduction to the Republic? A fate worse than French, evidently.

I jumped on it. I can do this.  I love Plato.  He looked at me like he had just discovered something new and unique about his bride.  It wasn’t a good unique and, in retrospect, probably a precursor of things to come.

Long story short, I threw myself into the paper, analyzing every nuance and waxing and waning Plato.  The soon-to-be ex turned in the paper without a second look and was horrified to later learn that out of the intro class of a few hundred students, he was one of five — count ’em, five — students who were now honor students and would meet individually on a weekly basis with the professor to chat about philosophy.  He did make it through the class, and if I remember correctly, we did get an A.

But I digress.  This is really about a footnote in a college history text.  I recently recalled reading about the horrific journey of a young wife making her way with husband and young children across this nation’s lands to settle in some godforsaken place.

The author had quoted her, no doubt from some long-saved letter to relatives back home. Thank goodness for my quilting. I don’t know how I would have survived without it.

At the time, I remember thinking, good grief, that woman needs a life.

Of course, she had a life, much more challenging than ours, but I just couldn’t get my head around the comment about quilting.  In my mind’s eye, quilting was nothing more than a tedious chore.

I’m here to tell you, I was wrong on that one, too.

There’s the design part of quilting that is so creative, placing and playing with fabrics until the design comes together and dances.  It’s pure magic when that happens, regardless of the century.

And then, once you know where you’re hopefully headed, comes a quiet meditation in sewing the pieces.  The mind quiets and the process that I once thought so tedious is actually a much welcomed escape from this era’s frenetic chaos and threats, perceived or real.

Interesting, isn’t it, that the more things change, the more we stay the same?

Where there’s smoke…

…there’s usually fire.

I could well be talking politics.

Hillary, the server, the emails, the FBI, the DOJ and the GOP.  If the GOP is so adamant that her actions constituted criminal behavior, I wonder if they will also include former Secretaries of State Powell and Rice for identical indiscretions.

The Donald, white supremacists and the relatively few GOP members willing to say “The Trump has no clothes.” I sent an email to thank Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina) for his critical words. I also need to thank Gov. Romney. 

But, it’s still all a worry.  Fire, smoke or as an old friend noted, I’m beginning to worry that we won’t pass our national IQ test in November.

Today, however, I’m really writing about fire.  Actual fire. Forest fire. Thousands of acres in flames and thick dark smoke in the middle of a very oppressive June heatwave.

It made for a lot of indoor time, if only to protect one’s lungs.

The options for entertainment were relatively few, after rejecting cable news or house cleaning.  The resident cat wasn’t even much of a distraction, given that he spent most of his time sprawled on his back atop of his favorite bed and under the breeze of a spinning ceiling fan.

Left to my own devices, I pulled out the sewing machine and began piecing new quilts for our local Linus group.

The quilts are actually getting better — although an experienced eye will note there are no triangles, circles, hexagons or other assorted geometric shapes showing up.  But, the squares and rectangles are getting straighter and better aligned and I’m growing more confident with color and design.

Regardless of the quality of my work, I figure the teens and preteens who will be receiving these quilts won’t be that critical…

which might well say something about the differing outlooks of youth and adults…

and that gives me reason to smile, despite the heat, the fire and the smoke, all of which are now fading into a June memory, and the politics, which are just now heating up for an anticipated autumn inferno.

 

 

 

Recipes for a Summer’s Day Re-Post

IMG_0811

Mixed Bricks Quilt

Mix together one summer afternoon with an old rocking chair and one well-worn quilt.  Add a breezy summer novel, a lazy overhead fan and tall chilled glass of freshly squeezed lemonade. Enjoy!

IMG_0814

Basket Weave Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Gently scatter two or three teenage girls (or women who are young at heart) over one  well-loved quilt. Place at  the base of a meandering moss-covered stone staircase. Mix in blue skies, a couple wispy clouds and one large shade tree.  Marinate well.  Watch dreams take flight.

IMG_0804

Scrappy Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Add one large friendly quilt to a park bench at the edge of a well worn path. Settle in one retired gentleman with his morning cup of coffee. Newspaper optional. A perfect start to any new day!

IMG_0800

Nine Patch Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Begin with one vintage quilt. Add deep plum colored geraniums.  Top with a trotting horse weather-vane.  Allow to simmer until one large black cat settles in for an afternoon nap.  Yawn…

IMG_0799

Disappearing Nine Square Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Mix one well-tended herb garden, one clay pot overflowing with hot pink geraniums and a bird bath filled with sparkling clear water.  Add a dash of a bright charm pack quilt to spice a lazy summer morning.  Yummy!

IMG_0819

Disappearing Nine Square Baby Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Carefully stir one child’s antique red rocking chair with a well-traveled carousel horse and slowly add baby’s first quilt. Season sweetly to create wonder-filled memories.

IMG_0822

Log Cabin Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Gently blend two little girls, one small tea set and a rag doll with a country quilt. Slowly simmer for an afternoon filled with make-believe delight.

IMG_0820 (2)

Block Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Thoroughly mix one lake, three teenage boys and their tube floats.  Carefully spread over a quilt of Hawaiian surfboard and outrigger prints. Marinate well so plans will season. 

IMG_0816 (1)

Sixteen Patch Quilt

Gather one warm summer evening, a lake, a picnic table and large quilt.  Top with a basket of cold crispy chicken, green salad and crusty sour dough french bread. Serve with chilled white wine, ice tea or lemonade. Homemade apple pie or strawberry shortcake optional.

 

* The Project Linus Quilts were all made from donated scrap fabric provided through the Auburn CA/Whistle Stop Project Linus group.  The handmade quilts are being donated to the Sacramento Chapter of Project Linus, a member of the national non-profit, and will be distributed, along with other homemade blankets, to children in need ~ in hospitals, in foster care, homeless, or just going through a difficult time. 

See www.sacprojectlinus.org and projectlinus.org for more information.

Recipes for a Summer’s Day

IMG_0811

Mixed Bricks Quilt

Mix together one summer afternoon with an old rocking chair and a well-worn quilt.  Add one breezy summer novel, a lazy overhead fan and tall chilled glass of freshly squeezed lemonade. Enjoy!

 

IMG_0814

Basket Weave Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Gently scatter two or three teenage girls (or women who are young at heart) on one  well-loved quilt. Place at  the base of a meandering moss-covered stone staircase. Mix in blue skies, a couple wispy clouds and one large shade tree.  Marinate well.  Watch dreams take flight.

 

IMG_0804

Scrappy Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Add one large friendly quilt to a park bench at the edge of a well worn path. Settle in one retired gentleman with his morning cup of coffee.  Newspaper optional. What better way to begin a new day?

 

IMG_0800

Nine Patch Quilt (a Project Linus donation*)

Begin with one vintage quilt. Add deep plum colored geraniums.  Top with a trotting horse weather-vane.  Allow to simmer until one large black cat settles in for an afternoon nap.  Yawn…

 

IMG_0799

Disappearing Nine Square Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Mix one well-tended herb garden, one clay pot overflowing with hot pink geraniums and one bird bath filled with sparkling clear water.  Add a dash of bright charm pack quilt to spice a lazy summer morning.

 

IMG_0819

Disappearing Nine Square Baby Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Carefully mix one child’s antique red rocking chair with a well-traveled carousel horse and slowly add baby’s first quilt. Season sweetly to create wonder-filled memories.

 

IMG_0822

Log Cabin Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Gently blend two little girls, one small tea set and a rag doll with a country quilt. Slowly simmer for an afternoon filled with make-believe delight.

 

IMG_0820 (2)

Block Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Thoroughly mix one lake, three teenage boys and their tube floats.  Carefully spread over a quilt of Hawaiian surfboard and outrigger prints. Wait for plans to season. 

 

IMG_0816 (1)

Sixteen Patch Quilt

Gather one warm summer evening, a lake, a picnic table and large quilt.  Top with a basket of cold crispy chicken, green salad and crusty sour dough french bread. Serve with chilled white wine, ice tea or lemonade. Homemade apple pie or strawberry shortcake optional.

 

* The Project Linus Quilts were all made from donated scrap fabric provided through the Auburn CA/Whistle Stop Project Linus group.  The handmade quilts are being donated to the Sacramento Chapter of Project Linus, a member of the national non-profit, and will be distributed, along with other homemade blankets, to children in need ~ in hospitals, in foster care, homeless, or just going through a difficult time. 

See www.sacprojectlinus.org and projectlinus.org for more information.


 

 

 

The Logs and the Cabin

There’s a plaque in my home office, given to me by a friend who knows me perhaps a tad too well:

IMG_0795

Katharine Hepburn is a lot classier than my mantra:  I’ve never met a rule I didn’t want to break.

All of which brings me to the subject my current passion: quilting.

Let me begin by saying there is evidently a long, long list of quilting rules …measure twice, cut once (fabric, not wood); sew a scant quarter inch (which begs the question:  what is the difference between a scant and true quarter inch??), the way to perfectly mitered corners, perfect bindings, etc., etc., ad nauseum…

It’s enough to make me rethink this adventure, except that I’m enjoying the challenge, learning curve and creativity.  Besides, I am only one month into paying off my snazzy new sewing machine.

This morning, at approximately 2:36 AM, I awoke with a start.  I realized I had totally flubbed my newest attempt:  a simple, straight-forward Log Cabin pattern. What could possibly go wrong with a Log Cabin?  If this were real life, my Log Cabin would have tilted and collapsed. In Quilt Land, my logs, such as they were, were all over the place and the colors clashed.

This would have been perfectly fine if I had wanted a wonky quilt, but this was a traditional pattern with straight lines. So, by 2:38 AM, I was back at the sewing machine, ripping out seams, and preparing to replace wonky strips with ones that blended in and had straight lines.  That meant re-sewing the whole lot with an eye to the perfect scant quarter inch. 

At 2:43 AM, the cat stumbled, half asleep, into the room.  BlackJack’s not a particularly nocturnal animal.  He looked at me with his What are you doing? glare, upchucked a hairball and scooted back to my room, and my still warm bed, to resume his slumber.

And people wonder why I’m not in a relationship.

All these quilting rules remind me of a time, way back when I was taking a zillion classes in order to move over on the teacher salary schedule and increase my income following the split with the ex.

While most of the classes were pretty much worthless and added nothing to a professional knowledge bank, I did take one class that has proven time and again to be of such great value, in life, the classroom and perhaps, even quilting. With credit to True Colors, a simplified approach to personality identification, a list of traits was read to the very large class of adult teacher attendees and we all separated into one of four groups based on our answers.  

I should note that while we each have the capacity to utilize all four quadrants, most of us settle on one or two as our primary go-to personality.

The overwhelmingly largest group was Gold, the people who valued tradition, rules, family and structure. They immediately organized themselves into very straight rows and, with folded hands, waited silently for the assignment.

The smallest group was Green, the people who preferred observation, problem solving and engineering/science/math. Those individuals sat as close to the farthest wall as possible, trying to disappear into the wall while not making eye contact with each other or anyone else as they silently observed the rest of the goings-on.

Blue, the second largest group, was the polar opposite of Green, and a group that immediately embraced every other person’s emotions.  They loved nature, peace, poetry, hearts and flowers. They formed a circle of chairs so that everyone in their group would feel included before quietly introducing themselves and making certain everyone felt comfortable.

That left the final group, Red, a small, motley group that formed the opposition to the orderly Gold contingent. We — ahem — immediately sprawled out on the carpet, sharing stories and laughter with our new-found comrades while communally doodling on the provided large poster board paper without waiting for any directions. We were oblivious to the rest of the room, which was probably good as the Golds began focusing scowls and disapproving tsks at our evidently unacceptable behavior.

The assignment:  list all the things that bring you joy; then all the things that drive you nuts.

In hindsight, it was all pretty predictable: 

Blue: harmony, romance, making love, candles, empathy, creativity, sharing emotions, touching, nature vs. conflict, rational reasoning and stark environments. Their poster board was decorated with very sweet pictures and happy/sad faces.  Blues ask Why and they make certain everyone feels good about any solution at hand.

Green: reason, time to process, solitude vs. too many people, touch, emotions, romance, and being asked to express emotions. Their poster board was virtually blank as they were still thinking.  Greens ask How and they design solutions.

Blues and Greens tend to marry each other and drive one another nuts.

Gold: order, predictability, rules, family, tradition vs. chaos, the unknown, people who are late, break rules and are loud and obnoxious. Their poster board was neat and tidy with very straight columns.  The drive-you-nuts list was very long.  Golds ask What and then put the solution to work.

Red: great sex, new adventures, amazing sex, being in “flow” with whatever you’re doing, parties, fun, great sex vs. just ordinary sex, rules, structure, deadlines, no sex, rigid authority.  No one could read our poster board; it was a total mess, but it didn’t matter because we were still coming up with ideas.  Reds ask What if and, out of the chaos, come up with the idea for the required solution.

And, you guessed it… Golds and Reds also tend to marry and also drive one another nuts.

So, you might be asking, what does all this have to do with making traditional log cabin quilts? 

Probably not a whole lot, except that a little wonkiness here and there really doesn’t matter all that much…