Friday, July 28, 2017

Dream Big

I have loved quilts every since I was a young woman. I even worked in Bonnie Lehman's Quilts and Other Comforts store in Colorado when my health necessitated that I step out of my chosen career of nursing for a time as I wasn't tolerating rotating shift work. I had taken a quilting class at Bonnie's Store before she and her daughter started their quilting magazine, Quilter's Newsletter. Her quilt shop was a very spacious and well-filled store and her daughter had a special office there to design quilt patterns that they sold through their catalog and later in their magazines. That was in the 70's, a good many years ago now. I returned to my career(s) but all the while I still dreamed of sewing and quilting while I worked as both a special education teacher and as a nurse to help support my family! How far my dreams have carried me!
My next-to-new Simply Sixteen Quilting Machine with The Little Foot frame.
My sewing was merely a side-line hobby,  though my real talents were not so much in nursing or teaching but rather in art and home arts. My dad was a practical man and had all of us kids go to college! His choices became my alternatives and included becoming a secretary, teacher or a nurse and somehow I got "programmed into becoming a nurse". I became a Candy Stripe Volunteer first so I could have a sneak peek into the medical world and then off I went to college at the University of Colorado's School of Nursing.

I was anything but a "natural nurse", unless you count "the art of hand-holding" when patients needed a firm hand to grab when hurt or scared! I went onto became a special education teacher, as I had already mastered the art of learning skills and knowledge that were difficult and had to be learned incrementally in tiny steps. My dad taught me that you don't have to be smart, you only have to work hard, and from this I gathered that I wasn't smart and had better work hard! But when you work hard and still aren't "fitting your round peg into a square hole", I came to realize that neither of my careers, were a good fit, especially with my failing health!

Art, my father taught me, was important in making a house a home, but until I married rich, I would need a career like nursing to support myself. I did crafts and held craft shows but it was only a side-line-fun-thing-to-do, more than it was financially lucrative. It did feed my soul and supported my dreams of a nice home and family, and all the usual sorts of things that women wanted in my day, when high tech careers for women weren't so prolific. I never did marry rich, and so I worked to help support my family for a very long time.

Nursing wasn't the same as it is today. It was practical knowledge and skills that would serve me well in what I envisioned women were to be: housewives, mothers, supporters and comforters. Little did I know then that it would lead me into making actual comforters and quilts and other domestic arts to make a creative sort of home with comfort to spare. It would help me take care of myself and my family, though instead of applying bandaids to superficial wounds, I would look for concussions and serious diseases! I am now back to my love of designing and creating pretty and useful home arts, and my nursing is used strictly to take care of myself and my family.

We moved to Vermont when our kids were little.  My husband was seeking better employment and I had become a special education teacher and I figured, I could easily transfer my work to Vermont though I didn't know then, that my career aspirations had peaked and were soon to take a turn for the worse. Vermont seemed to be leading the nation in limiting special ed services and competing with younger and more energetic educators pushed me into doing a refresher course in nursing so I could return to office nursing instead. I tied fishing leaders on the side when work was minimal but one thing remained dreams of being creative and wanting to do it full time.
A magnetic strip attachment makes it so I can stitch
straight lines up and down and horizontal.

It wasn't long after our move that I learned about the The Vermont Quilt Festival...the greatest quilt show in the northeast. It was always in June and for a few years we drove to Norwich, Vermont to see it. The show was not in air conditioned buildings and no matter how hot and humid the weather, I would see all there was to see! My husband took me every year and our daughters eventually joined us. We were delighted when the guild relocated their show to the convention center in Colchester, Vermont where air-conditioning made the shows easier and more comfortable!
Simply attach your quilt with special clamps to attach it to
The Little Foot five foot frame, like you would a quilting hoop.

Attending The Vermont Quilt Festival nurtured my big dreams of creating crafts and quilting. Dreams, I learned, come first and their fulfillment later. When nursing became too much for me physically, I put together a studio in my basement and organized my collection of unfinished projects, materials, notions and machines, started a blog and created designer pincushions. I gathered with other artists for craft shows and little by little, Little House became a reality. I continued to dream big and imagined my little house as a home filled with sewing stations and studio space for creating traditional home arts!

Participating in local craft markets wasn't just about creating, selling and profitting, though that has helped my collection of materials and patterns grow, but it has brought me together with some delightfully creative people. Continuing to dream big has also brought me back to quilting and "magically and miraculously" transformed my life and my home.

Instead of scouting out new fabric, notions, books and patterns at the quilt show this year, I decided to try different longarm quilting machines. I didn't know when or how I would get one, but I thought refining my dream as to which sort I would want would be the first step. I hoped to one day afford a well-loved used machine and low and behold I found one so reasonably priced that my husband agreed that we needed to check it out at a quilt shop about forty minutes from our home. I thought I was wanting a long arm free motion table top quilting machine that I had tried at the quilt show. I called first to be sure that it was still available.

My husband was comparing prices between different machines available and realized sooner than I did that The HQ Simply Sixteen Machine seemed to offer more of what I was looking for in a longarm quilting machine at a similar price to The HQ Sweet Sixteen table model. The Simply Sixteen quilting machine is attached to a five foot frame so instead of moving the quilt,  the machine moves across the quilt. Despite its small size, its frame works much like an old-fashioned quilting hoop. Simple clamps attach the quilt to the frame, allowing you to quilt a large section and then  simply move the quilt  to a different location, reattach it to the frame and quilt another section.

Practicing some free motion designs with variegated quilting thread.

With an added magnetic bar, this machine will do straight line quilting, perpendicular or horizontal, but clamp your quilt at an angle and it offers straight line quilting done at an angle. It is a quilting machine designed to quilt any sized quilt, and like a home machine can use different sized quilting threads, providing you use the right sized needle. Its five-foot frame is designed to be a more convenient size to fit in smaller spaces than the large twelve foot quilting machines that are often featured. It even has a laser attachment that you can use to trace pantograph designs to be stitched where you want such designs.
The laser light will allow me to stitch pantograph designs like these.

The settings are simple and easy to learn.
It has two settings: manual or regulated. I knew that I wanted stitch regulation as that means that the stitch length is not according to the speed at which I sew but rather the setting as to how many stitches per inch, whether I stitch fast or slow. Stitch regulation will give me nice even stitches, despite being a beginner longarm quilter!

How much easier to guide the machine instead of the quilt. Big quilts are not easy to manipulate! The only catch in sewing on this machine is perhaps getting the tension set correctly which they claim isn't so difficult, though I think it an art that may take some time to perfect!

The owners of the shop delivered it to our house, set it up and then gave us all a lesson as to how to operate the machine. We learned that the tension setting is done by adjusting the tension on the bobbin case, which is something I had learned as I quilted on my home domestic machine, and the upper tension is set with a tension setting knob, like on regular home machines of old and all that I learned about adjusting tension when doing quilting with a walking foot is the same. Good stitches are to meet in the middle and not on the top or back of your quilt.

It will take some time to develop "the art of getting the correct tension as well as learning to do free motion designs", but the machine definitely makes it easier to accomplish! Each time I practice it gets easier and I am determined to practice as often as I can to become successful!

...but so much more to learn!
My machine was almost new and had only been gently used and came with nearly a full warranty. The previous owner had traded-up for a bigger quilting machine. I definitely don't have room for a twelve foot longarm quilting machine and so this one I think is quite perfect for me. I am still a hand quilter at heart and intimidate easily by big and complicated machines. This one seems relatively simple and how nice it will be to have a quilting machine that can be easily used to quilt my quilts, without trying to fit an entire quilt under the short arm of a domestic sewing machine.

I know that sometimes dreams take a long time to be realized, but it does seem that my big dream of a little house filled with machines of different sorts, materials, threads, and patterns has in fact come to be. I am truly amazed that little by little hard work and big dreams have paid off, though I give credit to God for all my fabrics, machines and notions for they have all come at the right time and at the right price! I am pinching myself and find it all hard to believe!

I must warn you that even when dreams come true, it is easy to feel some stress. Good stress is called eustress and the excitement of it can wear me out! I am still taking time to adjust to being the proud owner of such an extravagant addition to my Little House studio, like it is too good to be true! Surely there must be a catch..and I have learned that there is: it will take me some time before I master this different-sort-of-machine and stitching! I have been assured that it is simply a matter of practice, and it does seem that what little I have done so far, has confirmed this to be true.

I have pulled fabrics that are not ear-marked for special projects and or quilts and will make many "quilt sandwiches" to practice quilting. We are going to call them "cat and dog quilts", not unlike moving quilts that will provide some comfort to our animals and or stored delicate objects. Their purpose is to help me learn to adjust the thread tension, steer the needle with a handle bar and and use the control buttons until they become automatic and then onto my bucket list of quilt tops to quilt! It is a rather meditative art that requires full concentration. Time passes quickly and for now I am content with learning and having fun with it as I practice and continue to create my pincushions and fleece socks for this coming craft season's sales.

Once again I have learned that God is not to be limited. Dreaming Big is what I did and God has indeed blessed me with all that I need to be a successful machine quilter! I am pleased and grateful!

(My machine was purchased at Adirondack Quilts, a Handi Quilter and Pfaff official retail shop in South Glens Falls, NY,  owned by Bill and Shannon Duell ( They offer a wide variety of sewing and quilting machines, some that are well-loved and gently used, like mine, making their prices even more affordable! They also offer accessories, notions, quilting fabrics and threads, along with classes. They personally delivered my machine, set it up and offered us instruction. Bill comes with "hand-holding support" for people like myself that are nervous about doing good machine work and freely offers his card with his home phone number and his sincere message to call him BEFORE I get frustrated! Service doesn't come better than this!)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The 2017 Vermont Quilt Festival

Best of Show Quilt "Floral Treasures" by Janice Cunningham. .
My oldest daughter and I celebrate our birthdays each year by attending The Vermont Quilt Festival. No need to shop for a gift for either of us as we select our own gift when we shop in the wide variety of vendor booths while there. My husband goes with us each year to photograph the quilts and this year we went on Sunday, June 25th.  It was the last day of the show and is always a shorter day, but often that better matches our energy levels. It is over an hour away from home and so going for about 6 hours, makes for an eight hour day total, by the time we return home and that seems to be sufficient challenge for my body! There is a lot of walking and this is the one time of year that I use a walker, though in truth I take it mostly as it makes a wonderful shopping cart with its large basket!
Detail of the center motif. This is all hand-appliqued,embroidered and quilted.

We are familiar with the lay-out and scope and know how to time ourselves to see all the new quilts, some of the antique ones and visit the vendors' shops.  My husband's pictures give me all the time I want to spend studying the contest quilts at home on my computer while sitting in my comfortable desk chair.  It is my inspiration for the year ahead and we have learned that the many vendors provide a hands-on experience with new fabrics and patterns and though we limit our shopping there, it guides our shopping for the year ahead as most vendors provide shopping on-line as well. For a quilter, one can never have enough fabric, notions or patterns! Need has little to do with our choices!
Check out the quilting, done with silk thread and by hand. Beautiful detail!

I hope you will enjoy but a few of the pictures my husband took. I am not sure if you can enlarge or view these close up on your computer, but if you can, you will find the details simply amazing!) They represent but a few I randomly chose for this blog. Lighting can be difficult in such a setting, but I think my husband does these quilts justice in his photos. All credit goes to the brilliant home fabric artists that live in Vermont and the surrounding states and Canada.  If you like what you see, consider that this is an an annual event held the third weekend in June and plan to come to it next year. Details can be found on-line at The Vermont Quilt Festival web site. It usually lasts three days and they feature guest artists every year that teach special classes.

I have never taken full advantage of all that The Vermont Quilt Festival has to offer. Besides classes, there are wonderful events and drawings for gifts that all quilters and sewers would love. To "do it right" means going all three days and taking advantage of local lodging and transportation for the event, carefully selecting classes and special events to attend all with a three day pass. They have a wonderful display of contest quilts as well as their guild's own collection of antique quilts. Their vendors are specially selected to display the latest in materials, notions, patterns and threads, all related to quilting and fabric arts. I simply love it and can't imagine NOT having such a stimulating event to attend each year to keep me inspired! (Thank you Tom McMillen for the photos!)
"Tribute to Mary Mannakee" by Leslie Cook, Greenfield, MA.
Domestic and Longarm Quilted.
"Metropolis" by Mary Schilke, Wells River, Vt. Longarm Quilted.

"Patience" by Susan Tamulaitis,Winthrop, MA.Domestic and Longarm Quilted.
"Counting Stars" by Susan Rivers, Burlington, Vermont. Longarm quilted.
"Field of Flowers" by Mamie Rabida,Broad Brook,CT.Home Machine Quilted.
"Dahlia, Go Big" by Candi Reed, Douglas, GA. Long-arm quilted.

Friday, July 7, 2017

L'chiam; To Life!

Our new little Addie Rose, a very sweet kitty!
I awoke early and patted Cassie's head on my way back to bed and told her that today's the day that Addie Rose comes home.  My husband, just waking, cautioned me not to wake her and get her going unless I planned to get up with her. Cassie only rolled one eye open, but I let her go back to sleep. She had eyed me with suspicion as I am only her babysitter and not her master/mistress. While out of town for my colonoscopy, she spent a night and part of a day staying at my daughter's house terrorizing her new cat who now needs therapy after a heroic, or was it a suicidal jump to save her life, or kill herself (we will never know)? She landed 12 feet below in their entry doorway, a jump serious enough to break my legs, if I tried it. The cat was still able to seek shelter from Cassie, though there was no need as our dog wasn't really interested in her.  Maybe my daughter will learn to anticipate and plan versus living totally in the spontaneous "now", but she has no time to anticipate, but only to deal with the immediate crisis of the moment these days.  Her new step-mom role in addition to adding a new cat to their busy household has left her a bit ragged!

My colonoscopy is over.  To follow is possible treatment or not?  I will see my primary doctor in July but before I do, my husband and I are going to get our new kitten and several days later go to The Vermont Quilt Festival, our annual birthday celebration for me and my daughter.  Meanwhile I will soon return to my usual diet, abandoned for my colon test.

The dinner to celebrate it all being over wasn't sticking to my diet as it included ketchup and 2 slices of bread which means sugar and yeast! Oh my!! This dinner followed my day and a half fast and drastic colon cleanse. For once I could claim I wasn't full of "BS", but planned to keep my blood sugars from crashing and so we went out to eat on the way home.  I was furious with our young and inexperienced space-cadet waiter who let our meal grow cold under the "warming lights"...It wasn't so tasty after sitting for eight minutes while he lost himself in what was obviously a new summer job. He would never make a good waiter, but clearly he didn't know that about himself yet and my judgement was perhaps too harsh and hasty?

I think he sensed I was hostile and perhaps not so clueless to his spaciness, though he clearly had no idea that I was so ravenously hungry, I could have perhaps gnawed off his arm and eaten it raw on the spot! I tried to appreciate my meal albeit, too cold for ultimate satisfaction.  I ate it like it was delicious, even though it was a disappointment. Food, it seems, these days is a necessity more than the ultimate pleasure it used to be.  I hate being diabetic! Now I consume what I must, when I must and without dessert, instead of waiting for the best restaurant and eating just what I want with a generous slice of cheesecake with sliced strawberries and whipped cream on the side before and during my dinner!

The dreaded test was over and I was hoping it was all the treatment I would need as well. Only one polyp removed and that is likely as good as it gets at my age, and one more "itis" to add to my list of all the others.  I am surprised that my middle name isn't "Itis" for inflammation rules my body. It is part of what goes with chronic Lyme Disease. My husband complained before my test, "If only you didn't get so upset with small things"! Small things, indeed, become big things when there is such a large concentration of them! Life is less than spontaneous these days...too many hard-learned lessons and now I take life in bits and segments. It is easier that way!

Working hard to settle in, make herself comfortable, and pose for a picture!
Today I am biting off more--a new kitty companion...I need one now, a furry friend to replace some of the action that has gone too quiet after my dear Zeldie passed. I need to continue loving and being loved. Why isn't my husband enough for me? He is still working and too busy, and I am only Cassie's babysitter.  She picked her favorites some time ago and I wasn't on the list. I need more love to "keep on keeping-on".  If it is too quiet, I become a diminished version of myself.

Addie Rose is my prize for weathering the loss of my dear Zeldie as well as for continuing to battle my health issues, and create more quilts, along with finishing my bucket list of UFOs.  I am taking on another craft season as well for that is what I do. I get tired of persevering and lose my enthusiasm for tackling my do-list everyday, but know that living life to the full means ever challenging myself! I am aging and slowing down, taking more time for smelling flowers and listening to songbirds outside my patio door and snuggling a kitty is high on my list too, each an important part of loving life. It will soon be time to pick up little Addie Rose at the SPCA shelter and she will remind me every day to pause for love, for that is what life is all about--to love and be loved and share my life with others.
My owners are catching on, pampering me with toys.What I have to smile too?

Zeldie loved my home studio and she even collected some of my smaller projects carrying them off to her little nest spaces not missed much by me, except to wonder why the numbers didn't add up...but at my age, life is an "ever wondrous thing".  I once wished for a Grandma Moses-sort-of-life-style and I have it now! Instead of new paintings, I have new pincushions and quilts to make and Addie Rose will hopefully enjoy Little House with all its bits of sewing clutter!
My own cat perch in the sunshine and what are these silly strips of material?
Life is more than sufficient, but sharing it will make it better. I am excited for this day and the days to follow.  Great expectations? Is there any other way to live? A life with Addie Rose will soon begin and my life will never be the same again. Love changes everything! Here's to life!  L'chiam!
Time to take a serious nap, it's been an intense day!