Sunday, July 31, 2011

~ Just call me Joe ~

Over the years, I have been called many things, some of which I prefer not to repeat J
Growing up; my dad would call me “Sweet Pea.” My husband lovingly refers to me as “Peety Swie” ~ a variation of “sweetie pie.” My youngest son often calls me “George” ~ as in Curious George ~ whenever I dare to ask him anything about what’s going on in his life. But the name that has seemed to really stick with my family is “Joe” ~ as in, “Go ask Joe,” as in “Go ask ‘jo mamma.”
Well, today, “Joe” is officially off duty!!!!
I am spending Sunday frantically working on my husband’s birthday quilt. Never mind that his birthday was July 26th…haha. I told him that if I did not get busy on it, his birthday quilt would become his Christmas quilt!!! Today is my last day of freedom before returning to school/work. I need to get in some major quilting while I have the time.
I am really excited about this quilt. The pattern is Autumn Stretched Star from the Nickel Quilts book given to me by my sister.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am using the Arnold's Attic collection by Barbara Brackman for Moda. The colors and prints are beautiful…an earthy look that I really love.

And, as always, Devlin is with me every step of the way ;-)

Have a great Sunday!
~ Michelle ~

Friday, July 29, 2011

~ The Summer of Michelle ~

I love the sitcom Seinfeld. Maybe that is why, as I was thinking back over the summer, the episode “The Summer of George” came to mind. For many of us who work in the schools, we do have summers off, as did George in this particular episode. Each summer, I tend to make lofty plans of what I will accomplish during the break. My plans usually revolve around the deep cleaning and organizing of my house. Hmmm…not this summer J
For me, this was the summer of “firsts.” Several of them in fact…
I have the ultimate blended family. My husband blessed with me wonderful step daughters, who in turn, blessed me with wonderful step grandchildren. I actually became a MeMe at the ripe age of 31, two years after my youngest son was born. This summer, we all spent five glorious days at the beach…minus my oldest son (working) and a couple of grandkids (church camp). This was the first vacation we took together since the girls were grown. What a wonderful time we had. Below is the view of our “backyard.”

Despite the near drowning of my husband (God is good, and my son-in-law will forever be a hero in my eyes) and the blistering my son and I received the first day at the beach, our week was perfect. We laughed, played, relaxed, ate, and enjoyed the grandkids. On our last night, we went to my favorite restaurant at PCB…Dirty Dick’s…and celebrated my birthday.

My second “first” was a girls only trip with my sister to a quilt retreat at Gruber’s. It’s hard to believe, that at my age, I have never had a girls weekend, not even with my sister. Boy, have I been missing out!!! I cannot begin to describe (although I tried in an earlier posting) what a special time this was for me. Rene’ and I had almost four days of togetherness to visit, quilt, and just enjoy being with each other. One of the most special relationships is that of sisters. Once again, I am so blessed… God is good!!

And my third “first” was meeting a group of special ladies at the retreat, who after only a few days together, I feel such a friendship with. I can’t wait until next year’s retreat, but in the meantime, I enjoy keeping in touch through blogs, email, and Facebook!

So…The Summer of Michelle draws to an end, as I return to school Monday. But I have so many special memories to draw from during this upcoming year to hold me over until May. God bless my wonderful family and friends!!
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


While finishing my granddaughter’s birthday quilt, I began a birthday quilt for my husband. With my Christmas gift certificate from the Fat Quarter Shop, I purchased three charm packs of Arnold’s Attic by Barbara Brackman for Moda.

I had a specific quilt in mind, but at the time, did not know who would be the recipient. As my husband has been dropping some not so subtle hints that he would like a quilt, I figured I'd better whip one out for him. I knew the colors and prints would be perfect for him.
So, I got busy Tuesday sewing my 2 ½ inch squares to the charms. I was so proud of how quickly I pinned and pieced!! That evening as I was looking at the pattern, I realized that (once again) I failed to follow the instructions correctly. UGH!!! I spent the rest of the evening stewing over what to do. I was not about to rip the seams out of about 70 charms!!! As I whined said to my sister, a quarter of an inch shouldn’t matter that much, right?
I stewed about this most of Wednesday, and then realized that I would never evolve as a quilter until I quit taking the easy way out, accepting my errors without correcting them. I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to rip out the stitches, re-pin, etc. Well, I stewed about this for several hours. I would do it, but I did not have to be happy about it! Fortunately, during all of this "stewing," I realized that even though I had messed up, it really wasn't that bad after all. I used the incorrect seam lines as my 1/4 inch "guide"and then  sewed another seam on each block. Easy, peasy :) Then, I took my rotary cutter and cut along the first seam. All is as it should be!! 

My Devlin, helpful as always

Perhaps, I am evolving as a quilter. I did not take the easy way out, although correcting my error ended up being quite easy.

 Have a happy day!

Monday, July 25, 2011

~ Busy Week ~

I spent most of last week and the weekend finishing a quilt for my granddaughter’s 13th birthday.  I decided to make another Strip Search using the Margarita Mango Bali Pops. It is such a fun pattern, and I thought the vibrant colors would be perfect for a teenager!

Several weeks ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried FMQ on a table runner for my sister. As it was somewhat successful, I decided to try my hand at stippling a lap size quilt. Well…my trusty sewing machine was going to have nothing to do with that!! I’m not sure what the “malfunction” was, but my thread kept breaking. Being the tenacious quilter that I am, I was determined to make this work!! I changed my needle (several times), checked my tension setting, called my sister…you name it, I tried it. I did a Google search on FMQ with Batiks and found several websites with suggestions on what type of needle should be used. Apparently, others have experienced these problems as well. So, after purchasing a ton of different needles, I tried once more…no luck. I had made my way through 2 of the blocks and finally gave up. I pulled out my frequently used seam ripper and started ripping…

So, once again, I got busy doing some straight line quilting, randomly shadowing the seams throughout the quilt, then adding some diamonds. I figured if one can have wonky blocks, then I can have wonky quilting, right?  

I spent a lazy Sunday hand sewing the binding to the quilt.

The box was a gift from my mother...

...the band-aids a gift from my son ;-)
I even had Devlin (who has been “confined” after surgery) check out my work…

I’ll share a picture of the completed quilt (with my granddaughter) later this week. Hopefully, my readers will be distracted by her beauty and not notice my little “oops.” J

Have a great Monday!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Differentiated Instruction

In the world of education, two terms are frequently used: differentiated instruction and making modifications. Wikipedia defines Differentiated Instruction asproviding students with different avenues to acquiring content; to processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas; and to developing teaching materials so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability.” For me, I need a multi-modality learning environment to include both visual and auditory materials, especially when quilting. Once information is presented to me, however, I tend to make modifications which fit my ability, learning patterns, and resources.
I frequently visit Blogland to find tutorials to help me along my quilting journey. Many tutorials have visual aids (pictures) as well as auditory and visual aids (videos). The other day, I found a spray basting tutorial.   In the tutorial, the quilt top was basted first. Instead of using tape to secure the batting, Kristie used dumbbells. How clever!!

Usually, I baste the backing fabric first, and for whatever reason prefer that method (probably because that's what I'm used to doing). Which method is better...basting the quilt top first or the back? Perhaps with the next quilt I'll try basting the quilt top first.  Also, as I don't have any dumbbells, I used my sons' weights.
I loved how she used pins to mark key spots on her quilt top. I used pins on the side to mark the center of the backing fabric.

I found this method so much easier than taping. My sandwich was completely aligned, and I finished basting the quilt quicker than usual.
Now, off to finish my quilt, which BTW I need to finish quickly for my granddaughter’s birthday next week…YIKES!!!

Have a great day!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Does Size Really Matter?

How many times in life has this question been asked? Well, in quilting, size definitely does matter…especially the size of your blocks! I learned this the hard way when making my first quilt. I am a VERY literal person. When following a recipe, I don’t do well with “season to taste.” Tell me exactly how much seasoning to add. If I need to preheat the oven, tell me. Don’t assume I know to do this. The same applies with quilting. Not once have I ever read the words “square the block” when following a quilt pattern. My theory was that if I followed the directions of the pattern, then of course my blocks would be the size indicated. Wrong!!
It wasn’t until my third quilt that I heard the phrase “squaring the block.” I was at my LQS, and I was talking about my first quilt and how my seams wouldn’t line up. I didn’t know how on earth that could have happened! The owner asked if I had squared my blocks. I’m sure I must have had the blankest look on my face! Okay, so obviously this is a very basic step in quilting that every quilter should know, as evident by the look I received when I shook my head no. Well, she patiently walked me through the process, carefully explaining and demonstrating each step along the way. I just smiled and nodded my head at the appropriate times. Once I got home, I quickly went to my trusted computer and looked up “How to square a block.” After looking at lots of blogs and You Tube videos, I finally found a method that worked for me. I have to admit though, that squaring the blocks has become one of my least favorite parts in making a quilt. However, I remind myself, it must be done. Because, as I have learned... size does matter.

Have a great day!
 J Michelle

Friday, July 15, 2011

~ Life is a highway...and I need a Garmin ~

I am known by family and friends for my unbelievable inability to follow directions.  I simple cannot do it. I can’t even give directions to my house because I can’t remember street names. Out of desperation, my husband got me a Garmin for Christmas last year. I asked, “But, why??? We never go on trips!” His response, “This is so you never again get lost going to my brother’s house.” His brother, by the way, lives in the same small town in which we live!!
While thinking about/preparing for my “retreat” quilt, I realized how great it would be if I had an internal Garmin for quilting. I am unable to remember street names (fabric lines), and I have a hard time reading/following a map (quilting instructions). Yep, I definitely need an internal, quilting Garmin.
Like taking a road trip, I thought it best to plan out my new quilt ahead of time. I decided to try a new route (pattern) with wide open spaces…no driving in the city (fussy, tiny cutting/piecing) for me just yet. So I found a pattern for big pinwheels (Pinwheels in the Park, designed by Rachel Measham-Pywell from Four Wise Monkeys). I first made a practice run by piecing a sample block.  I carefully read the instructions and began cutting. The instructions called for me to cut “12 x 8 1/4 inch squares.” I began cutting squares that were 12 inches by 8 ¼ inches … RECALCULATING!! Fortunately, I quickly realized my mistake, finished cutting, and pieced together my practice block.

As usual, I don’t know what line of fabric this is. If any of you recognize the print, please let me know. I LOVE it and want more! J
I got all of my fabric cut without anymore mishaps and packed them for my trip to MN. Once there, my quilting started out great, with me carefully sewing my pieces right side together (something I tend to get backwards), then laying out my blocks on my design wall, um, bed. I even took a picture to ensure I remained on the right path.

I carefully began to sew the sashing strips between the blocks, then...RECALCULATING... I had pieced the short sashing strips to the blocks going across the rows instead of going down the columns. Okay, no worries I’m thinking. I’ll just sew the long sashing strips between the rows instead of the columns, even though it pained me to do this. I was not ABOUT to rip out all of the seams and start over!!!  Unfortunately, at some point during the piecing of my quilt top, I missed a few RECALCULATING’s and ended up with this (notice that it does NOT look like the layout on my "design wall") :

Completely lost and frustrated at this point, I decided to retire for the evening and figure out where and how I made the wrong turns once I returned home.  I had had a great trip, bumps and all, and was not going to let getting a little “lost” ruin my good time. I knew once I got home, my “frustration” (Devlin) would be there to help me figure out where I had gone wrong.

Sure enough, Devlin and I found the mistakes, ripped seams, re-pinned, sewed, then got the top and bottom borders placed…without hearing RECALCULATING once!! Below is my completed quilt top.

Have a super weekend!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

First Quilt

Last year, I completed my Education Specialist degree (YAY!!). By the end of my program; however, I was absolutely, totally, without a doubt, sick and tired of “reflecting.” After each assignment, reading, etc. I would have to reflect on what I read/learned, how it applied to me, how it applied to my students, my cohorts, my learning community…UGH!!! I really hated the word, and could not say "reflect" without sarcasm in my voice.
Well…fast forward to the present.  When I returned home from last weekend’s retreat, I had a Happy waiting for me. My sister, Beverly, had sent me some quilting magazines, beautiful summer, beachy fabric, and a …

So, once again, I find myself…yep…reflecting.
I began my journey into the world of quilting almost a year ago, thanks to the encouragement of my sister Rene’. Last July, she came to visit and to give me my first lesson in quilting. The weekend didn’t quite turn out as we had planned. If you have a moment, take a look at Rene’s blog post of the quilting lesson that never was J.
What Rene’ didn’t mention in her posting was that, at the time,…AT ALL. If my husband needed a button sewn on a shirt, he did it. If he needed his pants hemmed, he did it. In fact, the only 9th grade home economics unit I failed was, you guessed it, sewing! Needless to say, I wasn’t quite sure how long this journey would last. I wasn’t very optimistic.
However, with lots of encouragement from my sister, as well as links to YouTube videos and the blogs of experienced quilters, and many, many phone calls to my sister, I found myself quilting…about a month later, with a passion!!
My first quilt was, of course, for Rene’. The pattern was Yellow Brick Road, which I understand is a great first quilt to make. I quite honestly can’t remember anything about the fabric other than it was the softest material I have ever felt.

Rene’s quilt was the first, and only, one in which I basted with safety pins. Whew!!! You talk about lots of pins, an aching back, and bruised knees. I never realized just how hard a tiled floor was.

After pinning it, I used masking tape to mark the lines for quilting. I wasn’t about to even think about trying FMQ!! My lines ended up pretty straight, considering it was my first effort.
 I spent quite a bit of time in front of the computer while learning how to hand stitch the binding.

Somehow I missed getting a full shot of the completed quilt, but maybe that's for the best ;)
Well, judging by the length of this post, I guess reflecting on my quilting journey is much more enjoyable than reflecting on school work!
As always, thanks for taking the time to visit my blog.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Weekend full of “happies”

We have a tradition in my family of giving friends and loved ones “happies.” A happy is a little something, something given to someone for no other reason than to make him or her happy. This weekend, I was the recipient of several happies.
I spent this past weekend at Gruber’s Retreat Center. Technically, this was not a happy, as it was a gift from my sister, Rene’, for my/our birthdays (and, oh did it make me so very happy). The weekend was filled with quilting, fellowship, shopping, eating, and….HAPPIES!!!

I met a wonderful group of ladies that many of you probably “know” ~
Rene' Amanda , Mary , Shelly , Toni, Terri , Doris,  Cindy,  and Stephanie.
As a new quilter, and even newer blogger, I was quite in awe of the talent that surrounded me!! However, it did not take long (hmmm…about two-dee-two seconds) to feel right at home among friends J What a great group of ladies!! And what an awesome learning experience for me!!
Have a happy day!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Trying my hand at blogging

After visiting a multitude of blogs, I found myself with "Blogger Envy." Actually, I have decided that my many non quilting Face Book friends are tired of my statuses revolving around quilting :-) So, here I am trying my hand with my own blog. Exciting, but scary. Hope that my blogging skills improve along with my quilting skills. Until then, I think I'll just relax and enjoy the ride.

Recently, my son Kyle brought home a sweet little kitten. We named her Devlin, only later finding out that she was a he. The name stuck, however, he has become my "frustration." Hence, the name "Frustrated Quilter."

I am sure I'll be sharing many more pics of him (just can't resist).

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. Hope to see you all here often.