30 Nov

Owlz

Tada! I’m doing a happy dance! I just finished the owl quilt :-)
We’re calling it Katja’s Owlz — goofy, but so’s the quilt. For anyone new to my blog, it is based on a drawing my daughter made. It is all silk fabrics, some hand dyed (by our favorite, Mrs. Mel), some painted, and some marbled by yours truly. I had a machine quilting breakthrough, and I finished it off with a little pearl cotton hand work. And, following the advice of my classmates at AQT, I decided that, since I like, no love, this quilt, I should enter it in a show. The AQS deadline is a month away, but darn, the quilt doesn’t meet their size requirements. I’ll keep looking.

Katja's Owlz

And, just because everyone loves a blog with pictures, here’s me multi-tasking: Talking on the phone, enlisting the help of my daughter, letting the cat know he’s in the center of my attention, AND working on my next project (while learning the newest upgrades to my favorite program).

26 Nov

My Stitch Regulator is NOT an art quilter

So, I think I’ve figured it out. My Stitch Regulator is NOT an art quilter! I quilted a table runner this morning and figured out a few things. I found out that I like bobbin thread, but granite stitch still uses up a full bobbin awefully quick. I changed the orientation of my spool so thread doesn’t snag. I’m watching where I’m going, not where I am. I’ve decided to stick to motifs that are intentionally wonky. I don’t like quilting fused quilts with fused backs, because they’re too stiff to work with. And I found out that the stitch regulator works GREAT on plain fabrics! Flash back to my frustrations in the last days and I realized that the BSR (stitch regulator) doesn’t like lots of contrasty fabrics. It really likes shiny rayon thread and silky fabric. It’s a classy lady :-)

Me quilting

Yippee! Thank you every one for your tips and encouragement!!!!!! I got into a groove and couldn’t stop. I spent all day on the owl quilt and am quite pleased with the results. It’s not completely finished, so no big pic yet. But here’s a detail:

Owl detail

24 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving

As everyone Stateside is gearing up for the big turkey fest, we are winding down. This year we shared dinner with one of the families who live in our row. The hubbies have known each other for about 9 years now, having gone to “How to be a lieutenant school” and “Jumping out of airplanes school” together. Our kids are also close in age and have participated in many of the same after-school activities together. My friend’s parents live a few hours away, so they joined us for dinner too. As usual, it was a wonderful mix of family, friends, and cultural exchange, just how we imagine the first Thanksgiving to have been. This was the first year that we have had the right combination for a Kid’s Table. Yup, that icon of Thanksgiving; and the kids played it perfectly. They were in their own world, goofing off, singing songs and hardly eating a bit — just as I remember it when I was a kid. Ahh, to be at the kid’s table again :-)

Mine are the two loonies in the background:
Kid's Table

22 Nov

Is it me or what?

Here’s my next finished project from AQT:

Curvilinear Exercise

I’m not wild about this piece, but I appreciate it as a chance to practice my machine quilting. Problem is, no matter what I do, my quilting seems to just plain suck. I have a Bernina 440 sewing machine with a stitch regulator. I love, love, love 99% of this machine, but the stitch regulator is not what I had hoped it would be. At first I thought it was just me. My lines are shakey and I figured that my speed must also be. But I’ve been practicing, practicing, practicing (like 17 small projects in the last three months), and although my line is still wobbly, especially when I have to cram a lot of fabric in the throat of the machine, I feel like my speed is pretty smooth. There are areas where I was cruising along and without me perceptively changing a thing, the machine either sped up or slowed down on it’s own. I had been assuming it was my imagination, but tonight I’m just not so sure. So here’s a detail of quilting using the BSR (stitch regulator):

With stitch regulator

And here’s a detail of the quilting not using the BSR, just me controlling the speed of the machine and the movement of the fabric all by myself:

Unaided

I don’t see much improvement with the use of the BSR. I was also working on one of my landscapes today, and had marked a simple grid with chalk. It seemed that as the chalk dust built up, the BSR would slow the machine down, but randomly, not in a cumulative manner. And it doesn’t seem to take much dust either, just crossing six or so lines.

Has anyone else had these kinds of problems? Do I possibly suck that much at machine quilting, or could I have some extenuating circumstances here? I am probably going to take the machine to the dealer on Friday and see what they think about it. I should probably take the Owl quilt to demonstrate on since you know the machine will behave absolutely perfectly under the eyes of the repair guy!

21 Nov

Quick, do this:

Quick, before he tires of it and removes it, everyone must visit TS&WGH’s site and have a good, cheap laugh at POTUS. Just click on “For What It’s Worth” at the right under “Other Sites.”

21 Nov

Advent, Advent

I’m baking cookies for the Advent Markt at my daughter’s kindergarten this weekend and it has me thinking yummy thoughts about this time of year. One of the things I love about Germany is the way they celebrate the passage of the year, be it through crops (raps in spring, wheat in summer, sugar beets in fall), food (every restaurant has white asparagus dishes in spring; and what’s harvest without new wine and onion tart?), decor and seasonal flowers (balconies burst with geraniums all summer long, and fall brings out all that is pumpkin and autumnal shades), and of course, the holidays. I don’t let my lack of religious beliefs stand in the way of enjoying the zaniness of Fasching, the profusion of eggs hanging on trees at easter time, the beauty of flickering candles and singing children at a St Martin’s Day parade, or the Christmas to end all Christmas celebration of a german Weinachtsmarkt.

But wait, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! Thanksgiving is in a whole ‘nother catergory for me. It is a purely American holiday and comes with it’s own introspection. I actually love Thanksgiving. Growing up, it was always a big extended-family affair, and now that we live so far away from family, it is an opportunity to celebrate whatever extended family we have found or made wherever we are. As a military family overseas, Thanksgiving is always a time when we Americans reach out to each other to share this holiday that is uniquely ours. It’s also great fun to share our traditions with our german, or swedish, or french, or swiss, friends. Pot luck can become very interesting–and educational. This year I look forward to the possibility of having spaetzle (thick bavarian noodles) with our turkey!

But I digress. These days, Thanksgiving also means that the next Sunday is the begining of Advent, and the opening of the german Christmas markets! Though they are markets, these are not the all-out shopping frenzy that is the American Christmas experience. This is ages old tradition. This is tiny towns getting together to showcase local talent and share good food and drink for one weekend, and big cities creating a central hub for the season. Booths are set up to sell local crafts, home made preserves, ginsu knives, bratwursts and pork steaks grilled to perfection, gluehwein (mulled wine), candies, flowers and of course, gingerbread. There is music and ambiance to one extent or another. One year, we made it our goal to try the gluehwein at as many markets as we possibly could. I think we went to almost a dozen markets in the four week period, and I’m proud to say that Stuttgart had the best gluewein that year, not to mention very nice toyland decorations atop the booths. We plan to check up on that fair city this year. More recently, TS&WGH and I went out on a date and wandered the market in Wiesbaden. It was a crisp, but clear night and the little white lights and stars on all the booths twinkled romanticly. The booths glowed from within with their wares bathed in golden light. The intoxicating smell of gluehwein and roasted chestnuts wafted through the air and a small band wandered though the little alleys creating a joyous noise which couldn’t help but move anyone in it’s vicinity to dance or sing. To me, THAT was what Christmas is all about–a warm, embracing celebration of friends and family and LIFE.

And lucky me, I get to experience it once again starting next weekend!

20 Nov

Owls Progress

Lucky me! I had most of the day to myself today. I finished couching black chenille around the owls and pressed the quilt top flat. When I had originally fused the shapes to the batting, I did it on my ironing board. When I hung it on the wall, it had a little wave here and there from where it had hung off the edge of the board. I chalked that one up as experience and decided to move on, crossing my fingers that it will all work out in the end. Today, I pinned the top to the floor and pressed the bejesus out of it. Yippee! It’s looking great!

Owl quilt in progress

Check out my helpers. Madison the cat helps to keep yarns and sketches from defying gravity and flying out of the basket. My daughter is making sure I stay true to her original drawing. Now, I’ve pinned the backing on. Again, I hold my breath as I’ve chosen a black backing with turquoise and pink dots on it. It will hide the ends of the black chenille, and doesn’t seem to show through the lighter areas of the quilt on the front. Oh, I hope I’m right.

After sewing on the backing, using Mrs. Mel’s escape hatch method. my next task is to quilt it. Gulp. I’m not sure I’m up for the task. I am sooooo nervous that I will ruin this quilt, which I love so far, with shoddy machine quilting. I take solace in knowing that I have 3 more fused pieces from Sue Benner’s class at Art Quilt Tahoe to practice on. Hmmmmmmmm.

17 Nov

I’m an Old Dog

I guess you could call me an old dog because I can’t seem to learn new tricks. I used to be pretty conversant with computers, but not any more.

When we decided (OK, TS&WGH decided, I concurred) that I needed my own web site, we discovered that my beloved 5 year old iMac was just a little too behind the times. We upgraded to a new one with a big screen, lots of memory, and OS X. Yikes, I can’t seem to get my head wrapped around this operating system. OS 9 organized things in heirarchal forms so if I wanted to find a photo of a baby quilt I made for a friend, I could go to the desktop, then into the folder of Kristin’s Projects, then to the quilt folder and into the Baby Quilts folder–easy.

We now have photos in iPhoto that were imported from the digital camera and from a backup CD, and it seems to have been put in these strangely numbered folders. Plus we have the stuff that was stored on the old iMac, but it’s still in it’s original folders. So. last night I put ALL the photos, organized by year, into the Photos folder on the desktop. I deleted the duplicates and triplicates and organized them so that I could find them later, i.e: photos from a trip to Schwetzingen in a folder marked Schwetzingen. After this 2 hour process I opened iPhotos, and lo and behold ALL the photos were gone! I tried to re-import them in their newly organized form, but the program wouldn’t recognize them. So, I had to spend another hour importing them from the backup CD so that iPhoto could make duplicates in it’s oddly numbered little folders in folders.

So I now have a folder of all our photos which I can manually search and open in Photoshop to edit PLUS I have duplicates of many of the photos which are embedded in iPhoto’s system and can be viewed in it’s slideshow. The worst part is that I wasted 3 hours trying to organize the photos the way I wanted, and ended up with it the way Apple wanted. (That seems too much like Microsoft to me.) I could have been quilting!

Just to compound things, our fire alarm decided that it needs a new lithium battery–at 4:30 in the afternoon. Too late to call the housing office to arrange for a service call to replace it (we live in government leased housing and all repairs go through their office). I called the service company and they can come in the morning, and hopefully, the housing office can fax the approval when they get in at oh-dark-thirty, but in the mean time, I have to sleep through the night with the alarm chirping at 2 minute intervals. Needless to say, jetlag woke me early and I have been unable to go back to sleep due to chirping. Why doesn’t anything break at 8:00 am?

The good news is that TS&WGH replaced my old Palm Pilot, inherited from my SIL, with a new one that will sync with the new iMac! Here’s me actually beaming the info from the old Palm to the new one. This I like.
K using Palms