Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Resolution - A Lovely Year of Finishes

Happy New Year everyone!  Hope you all had a relaxing and fun new year!

Every year, I always make the typical resolutions - lose weight, exercise more, etc., and never do anything about them.  As a result, the resolutions only last for about a week and then I forget about them.

This year, I decided to actually try to achieve my resolutions, so I'm challenging myself with three quilting-related goals:
  1. Use at least 90% stash fabrics to make blocks and quilts.  My sister tells me that I'm becoming a borderline hoarder with my stash, though it's very organized of course. :)
  2. Improve my free-motion quilting skills.  Quilting? Eeek!
  3. Finish as many UFOs as possible.  I'm counting by 5's now!
To work on the third goal, I've joined A Lovely Year of Finishes group.  The purpose of this group is to declare a project (can be anything) at the beginning of a month and finish it by the end of that month.  If all goes well, I will finish 12 projects by the end of the year, probably 9 more than I usually do.  LOL.

So for the January project, I'm working on completing my Sew Sew Modern projects.  I made the blocks for the miniquilt months ago, but they have to be sewn together and the finished quilt and a small handmade item have to be sent out by the end of January. 

I love this quilt pattern.  Each block is 4" finished size, and is a small version of the Flower Basket pattern from the book, Scrap Basket Sensations.  I can't wait to see how the quilt comes out!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Decorating

I love decorating for Christmas, and look forward to it every year.  For the past few years, though, we haven't made much of a deal of it for a variety of reasons.  We were going to do the same this year, until I got a call from my sister asking if her daughters could help me trim the tree.  I was a little surprised since her children are being raised Jewish, but apparently they love ornaments and Christmas trees.  But, could I please have a real tree (we always had artificial ones), and could the ornaments also not be too Christmas-y.  Ummm...okay?  Can you tell that my family is a little demanding?

Since I used to make such a big deal out of Christmas decorating, I had enough ornaments for 3 large trees.  So these "requests" were easily granted, and my nieces had a large selection of ornaments to choose from.  I decided to make this a family event and had my brother's children join the fun.  I figured, let's celebrate early with the kids and then have a quiet, peaceful Christmas week with the rest of my family.

Some lessons I quickly learned when decorating with 2 six-year old girls and 1 independent toddler:
  • Give kids under the age of 10 shatterproof ornaments only.  Most of my ornaments are glass and very delicate.  I thought that the six year olds could handle them carefully, which they tried their best to, but they're also a little uncoordinated and like to cluster a bunch of ornaments on one branch until all the ornaments fall.  My toddler niece was the only one who didn't break anything because she was given shatterproof ornaments that I purchased just for her.
  • Have a nice glass of wine before decorating a tree with kids. I can't tell you how traumatic it was to listen repeatedly to shattering glass, particularly since some of the ornaments broken were those that I had collected during my travels.  I had to take deep breaths constantly.  
  • What you give to one, you must give to the other.  If the broken ornaments weren't enough, try listening to two girls arguing over who got to put up what.  I had to separate the ornaments into two equal piles to get a little peace.
  • Take a nice, long nap to recover.  Who knew decorating a tree could be so exhausting?
When the tree was done, I really earned the title of Awesome Aunt!

The finished tree:

The other tree:

The Christmas quilts I made for the occasion:

Hope your holiday season is fun and stress-free! :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What is this? An actual post?

It's been a while, over 5 months since the last time I posted.  I tried to keep it up, but my father had died on Father's Day, and July was a blur of making arrangements so that we could take his ashes back to Vietnam as he had wished.

I was born in Vietnam, but left when I was very young in 1975. We left on the same day that Saigon fell, not intentionally, our plans just happened to coincide with that event on that day.  I don't remember any of it, not even the family members that I was very close to when I was young.  Going to Vietnam was scary for me, made even more so since I don't read or write the language, and speak very little of it.  I understand a bit of it since my parents always spoke to me in Vietnamese, but my understanding is far from fluent.

The trip was also scary because the flight time was 23 hours, and I'm a horrible traveler.  I can't read, watch movies or do anything on any flight.  I just sit there, squished by the people next to me, feeling miserable and looking like the walking dead.  It's not an attractive picture.  But since I hadn't been back to Vietnam in over 30 years, we decided to splurge on the travel plans.  We flew with one of the most comfortable airlines and booked a room during our layover in Singapore's airport while we waited for our connecting flight.  Did you know that you can rent a hotel room in this airport by a block of hours?  Get your mind out of the gutter! LOL! It made our trip much more comfortable because I was able to catch up on some sleep that I didn't get on the flight.  Overall, the trip wasn't bad, especially since Singapore's airport has the most awesome shopping - 3 terminals full.  And no one wanted to touch the ashes, not even the bag they were in, so we went through customs at warp speed (of course we had all the proper documentation!).

Vietnam was an explosion of the senses.  It was really hot and humid because August is in their wet season, but thankfully, we had beautiful, sunny weather for most of the trip.  I was stressed before even leaving because since I started working after college, I had never taken a full month off to go on vacation.  So I had to condense 2 months of prep for the new school year (I'm a principal at a high school) into one month and trust that all would be well and ready to go when I returned.  Needless to say, another reason why I was a wreck.

The first thing that blew my mind was the traffic.  Apparently, there are no traffic laws and with the amount of motorcyles on the road, I am surprised that there aren't more accidents.  Crossing the street is terrifying.  You have to look for a break in the traffic and begin walking and not stop.  The motorcyles will swerve around you, but if you stop, you will get hit by one.  It took a while to get used to, but my relatives usually had to tell me when it was safe to begin crossing.

My father's memorial was beautiful; he would have been very happy to see all his family together.  His ashes were placed in the family's tomb, next to the church that he attended when he was young.  After the memorial, my sister and I traveled to Cambodia and then back to Vietnam, beginning in the north and traveling south to all the places that my father described to us when we were growing up.  It was an amazing, unforgettable trip.

I have a very stressful job, but spending time exploring two beautiful countries and learning more about my heritage was incredibly special and relaxing.  I felt comfortable, which was surprising.  In Cambodia, we had a guide and driver as we explored Ankor Wat, and everyone spoke English.  In Vietnam, people had a good laugh when I spoke, but I still felt comfortable.  I didn't even have the initial anxiety that I normally do when I travel to another country where I don't speak the language.  It just felt comfortable, aided by the fact that the hotel staff in the various places we stayed at were very helpful and accommodating. 

When I returned to New York, family and friends and co-workers joked that in addition to the nice tan I acquired, I also had a very nice Zen buzz from Vietnam.  It was an unforgetable trip, and one that I want to repeat.  I'm thinking of returning to Vietnam next August, not only to visit my father's ashes but also to explore some more places. 

Here are some of the highlights from the trip:

Ben Thanh Market, Vietnam: the place to shop for tourists!

An open market in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam:  No supermarkets in Vietnam, so people generally go the markets daily to buy their food.  Better to buy earlier in the day because there's no refrigeration in these markets!

Halong Bay in Vietnam: One of the seven wonders of the world and the most beautiful, serene place. The cruise on Halong Bay was my favorite part of the trip.


Angkor Wat in Cambodia:  Where all the famous temples are; some are in amazing shape, while others are in disrepair.  Countries all over the world are helping the Cambodians restore the broken temples.
The Floating Village in Cambodia: The village consists of houseboats which are moved based on weather conditions and height of the water.

I took tons of pictures, but I figured that showing a few was way better than showing a lot since many of them don't have much meaning to others.

Well, I'm back and have been sewing furiously to catch up, which I finally am.  Got lots to share, but will do so in other posts ....

So happy to be back!

Monday, July 16, 2012

My problem child!

Whenever I'm quilting, I constantly have to move Lola around because she likes to sit on top of wherever I'm working, which causes a lot of problems.  Once I was cutting fabric and she swished her tail at me, almost making me cut her tail.  I nearly had a heart attack.  Another time, she sat on top of my sewing machine and jumped down unexpectedly, nearly getting her tail sewn in the process. 

Lola has decided that the sewing room is her domain and that she has to keep an eye on me, at the same time keeping the other cats out.  You can often hear me yell, "LOLA!!!!" at her antics whenever I'm sewing.  She probably thinks it's a term of endearment, she hears it so frequently!


But it's hard work trying to disrupt the sewing process.  Sometimes Lola has to rest, right in the middle of my ironing table!  LOLA!!!!

But no matter what trouble she causes, I adore this little girl and her brand of wreaking havoc! :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's been a while ...

Happy 4th everyone!

It's been a while since I've posted anything.  June is always one of the worst months for me at work, so there hasn't been much free time.  Whatever time I had, I worked on all the swap blocks that I committed to and for the first time, I was late on a couple of blocks.  It was not a good feeling!

You can check out my Flickr photostream to see the recent blocks that I've made.  I made over 60 blocks for the various swaps because for some of them, I had to make multiple blocks.

When I played hooky from making the blocks, I've been trying out a new technique with dyeing.  I saw a quilt in which the quilter used washable Elmer's glue gel as a resist for the dye, and it was beautiful!  A resist keeps the dye out of wherever it is applied so that you can apply different color dyes in the same area.  Once you wash out the glue, anywhere where it is applied stays the color of the original fabric. 

I tried to find a tutorial, but couldn't find anything that was detailed.  So I tried out what I thought was the process and tweaked it until I got the results I wanted.  Here is the most successful of my attempts:

I used Kona White as the base and applied the glue in a wavy grid pattern.  Once the glue dried, I painted each section with Dye-na-flow silk paint, which works like dye.  Some of the paint flowed into other sections, so I have to figure out how to fix that, but I really liked the white outline caused by the glue.  I want to try a drawing next to see how it goes. 

First, though, I need to get all the June swap blocks out of the way ... :)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sewing Room - Finished!

My sewing room has been almost finished for a while, but it is only recently that all the finishing touches like painting, organizing supplies, etc. have been completed.  Here it is, small but packed!

View from the stairs:

The industrial serger that we have had for over 30 years.  This machine is sturdy!  It can serge any number of fabric layers easily, which is why we haven't replaced it.

I love peg boards, so I had a small one put in for the scissors and square rulers.  On the left is the magnetic bulletin board.

Wall shelving that holds my favorite quilt books, supplies, and sound system:

Since I'm involved in many bees/swaps, every month I write the name of each bee on a post-it.  The little post-its are individual blocks, and the larger ones are for the 3X6 quilting bee.  When I'm done with the block and it's packaged to go, I remove the post-it.  I love it when all the post-its are gone - it means that I finished the blocks for the month.  Now, if only I can stop signing up for new ones ...

My ironing table, which used to be one of my dad's work tables. It's not in the best condition, but has a strip of outlets in the back and is just the right size to hold the TV that I got for Christmas.

The smaller design board:

The pegboard that contains the majority of my tools and threads:

My two favorite sewing machines:

My scrap containers:

The shelf that contains my craft magazines and dyeing supplies.  It's also great for hanging smaller quilts:

The fabric closet that contains my current fabrics.  The shelves are 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep and fabrics are sorted in two rows on each shelf.  The containers have fabrics that are sorted by color and/or type and are 1/2 yards or less.

I love this space and try to spend as much time as I can in it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vote for me!

I've participated in Sew Happy Geek's Play Competition, and the voting has just started.  It's my Ghastlie Queen of Spades quilt (see post).  If you like the quilt, please vote for me!  I know that I'm shamelessly lobbying for votes, but it's my competitive nature. LOL. 

Actually, all the quilts are great, so visit the site to check them out anyway.  The link is: