Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bought a Present for My Kindle!

I love my Kindle e-book reader and take it everywhere with me. Weighing a touch over 10 ounces, about the same as a paperback book, I can stick it in my purse so that I can read during dead time. Since it can hold a few hundred books in its memory, it is invaluable for airports, airplanes and other places where you are just stuck and reading is a perfect way to pass the time. The only drawback I have encountered while traveling is that you are required to turn them off for several minutes during landing and takeoff, so a magazine in one's carryon takes care of that.

I used to leave on each business trip with 4-6 paperback books in my luggage; I would throw them away as the trip progressed, flinging myself into a Barnes & Noble (needed a Starbucks stop anyway, right?) to replenish as needed. Then my father-in-law bought me the Kindle as a birthday gift in late 2008 and my travel life got noticeably better!

So when I recently ran into an on-line ad for, I had to check it out. On this website, you can find skins for many styles of phones, netbooks, Kindles, playstations -- you name it, if it's a piece of what my husband calls "electronica", they probably have a skin for it. The one I picked for my Kindle 1 (first generation) is called Cora.

It arrived within a few days via USPS; basically, it's a set of decals that you lift off the backing and press to the device. They adhere easily and you can lift and re-position them until you have them placed perfectly. It was pretty easy to do. The back is all in one piece; the front in several that you lift and place separately. There's even a "bonus" skin for the charger...

I have a PINK zippered case with an additional outside zip pocket for the charger; I think the whole deal looks pretty cool! So now I am going back to to look at skins for my BlackBerry (I'm not really a red person) and my Samsung netbook....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Another Gourmet Dinner -- My House

Always fun to have the gang for dinner! This month's menu was inspired by the February 2010 issue of Food & Wine magazine article, "Invent Your Own Cocktail Party Menu". We didn't have cocktails, but I did make some of the food along with my own favorites.

The quilted love knot placemats were a gift from my friend Gayle Farmer. The basket in the lower left corner contains sun-dried tomato foccacia.

The recipe for the foccacia is in Lora Brody's book on pizza and flatbreads; there are three recipes for pizza dough (garlic, sun-dried tomato and pesto) and directions for making foccacia from each of the doughs. The dough is made and allowed to rise in a bread machine, then dumped out, shaped, allowed to rise a second time and then baked in the oven.

The bibb and radish salad with buttermilk dressing was made from the F&W article and was very good.

The main dish, Chicken Peperonata, was also from the article with a minor substitution; I could not find Peppadew peppers in my local grocery stores. I looked them up online and then used sweet cherry peppers. I made mashed potatoes with roasted mushrooms (F&W used semolina with the mushrooms) and garlicky broccoli (instead of F&W's broccolini).

Every week, we get a box of organic fruit and vegetables from Abundant Harvest Organics and I had plenty of broccoli and potatoes that I needed to use up, so I just sort of mixed and matched what I had with the menu recipes.

For dessert, I baked an apple pie and served it with caramel praline ice cream -- yum! Dan always helps me with the pies; he does the peeling and slicing with one of those handy dandy gadgets that we call the "mutilator" -- I'm sure it has a better name!

Next month, dinner is at Fay and Leith's -- Fay is absolutely the best cook I know, so can't wait to go there!

Bernina Webinar -- The New Cutting Tool

Went to my local quilt shop yesterday to see the webinar broadcast by Bernina of America about their new cutting tool. The tool can be used with any Bernina machine that has embroidery capability as all of the sewing is done "in the hoop". The webinar showed how the tool worked as well as ideas for using it.

The blade on the tool is very sharp, so several layers can be cut at the same time. The tool could be used not only for cutwork, but was also demonstrated making dimensional appliques from suede, leather and other difficult to cut fabrics as well as reverse applique on a sweatshirt.

After the webinar presentation, Dawna Harrison (one of the shop owners) demonstrated its use by doing cutwork on a tea towel. Some very important tips were given in the webinar and Dawna went over these as well: First, make sure that your fabric is stiffened, either by using starch or, as the webinar recommended, Mary Ellen's Best Press. If the fabric is soft, you won't get optimal results.

The design can be transferred to the sewing machine using several methods; Dawna used a USB stick. She hooped the tea towel with a layer of Aqua Tear for stabilizer.The first sewing is done with the embroidery foot attached and the machine threaded to do the outline of the design.

After the outline is stitched, the cutting tool is attached, the stitch plate is changed to the cutwork stitch plate (comes with the cutwork tool and is specific to your machine model) and the top thread is removed, although you may leave the bobbin in since the blade of the cutting tool does not reach the bobbin case. Second big tip: Turn off the sensors that stop the machine when the thread breaks or runs out; since you are not using thread, the machine will keep stopping unless you turn these off.

The tool has four directions, represented by numbers on the top of the blade -- if you look just above the blade and to the right, you will see the number "1". After the tool cuts everything in that direction, the machine stops and the color bar area will indicate that you manually change the direction. It's easy to do; you just reach in and turn it.

At this point, all of the cutting has been done....

A couple of pictures of Dawn lifting out the fabric from the cut areas with the point of her scissors.

Then she re-threaded the machine for the embroidery portion of the cutwork design, removed the cutting tool and reattached the embroidery foot. She also smoothed a square of Aqua Mesh Plus, a sticky backed water soluble stabilizer to the back of the design to improve stitch quality. One thing I am learning about machine embroidery is that the proper stabilizer is absolutely the key to good results!

Embroidery done....

Here is another tea towel that Dawna had done previously. She held it up so that you could see the cut out areas. After the stabilizer was washed out, there were some threads and fabric showing, but she felt that two factors could have made the work better:

One: She did not stiffen the fabric enough for the tool to get a clean cut.

Two: The webinar showed a foot (#29 or the new #44, echo and cutwork foot) attached to the machine while using the cutwork tool. Dawna did not use a foot for the embroidery immediately above, but she did use it for the blue embroidered piece that she did for the demo. It looked like the piece using the foot got better results.

A few things interested me here: One thought popped into my mind when I was watching the demonstration of dimensional applique on the webinar; could you use fusible stabilizer so that your applique could be directly pressed onto its background? I want to play with this further. I also feel that the cutting tool could be used for various trapunto applications, since the most tedious part of that technique is cutting away excess batting.

Some food for thought and a new toy to play with!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Quilt 'n Home -- Ridgecrest CA

During the quilt retreat in Ridgecrest last weekend, there were two shops in which to spend time and money! I reviewed the first a couple of days ago and here's the other: Quilt 'n Home, located at 425 E. Ridgecrest Blvd., and owned by Jerry & Ron Cohn. The name is derived from the fact that they carry home decorating fabrics and patterns as well as quilting fabrics and supplies.

They are also Viking sewing machine dealers....

Ron joked, "If we'd known you were going to take pictures, we would have cleaned up a bit!"

But I didn't think the store was messy, so much as just really full of good stuff!

And quilts to look at, of course....

A couple of upcoming classes: The shape and binding on the left was intriguing; the jacket below is a workshop taught by my friend, Terry Wojciehowski.

The shop also provides long-arm quilting services to its customers...

And you have to look everywhere, even up, or you might miss something!

Seeing the table runners reminded Terry and I of one of our vast projects: We were going to do a table runner a month every single month for a year. Hey, Terry, I did February!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hoffman Challenge 2009

These are the Hoffman Challenge quilts that were displayed at Road to California; as with the New Zealand entries, I was impressed with the creativity, the workmanship and the thought involved to put these beautiful art quilts out there for all of us to see:

More rectangular and square quilts than in the New Zealand entries....

I was buying fabric for a couple of projects yesterday at my local quilt shop, Bolts in the Bathtub, and saw the 2010 Hoffman Challenge fabric. It is mostly turquoise and there are some very nice coordinates with it. Not to confess a color prejudice, but I think I will like the quilts made from it very much...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quilting From the Back

I worked on a project recently for a customer that had a lot of open space between pieced areas. Trying to think what to do, I turned it over and studied the backing fabric -- it seemed like there were quilting design possibilities within the printed pattern.

The fabric pattern definitely suggested feathers to me.... my next step was to draw them in with an air-soluble (purple) marker.

Here are a couple shots of the quilting using the thread I had chosen for the back of the quilt in the top of the machine and the decorative rayon thread in the bobbin.

The picture taken without flash showed the quilting definition more clearly.

Here's the front of the feather quilting -- it was stitched using Sulky Rayon #1002, Soft White.

To complement the feathers, I chose a 3" Reversing Feather Border stencil from StenSource Int'l, Inc. for the border stitching (#BC1607).

Here's how the corner stitched out -- the little bat is my "signature" that I stitch into the lower right hand corner of every quilt.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Quilted Quail, Ridgecrest CA

Retreat with my friends was so much fun and I got a lot done -- but, of course, we had to take time for shopping!

The first shop we went to was The Quilted Quail. My friend and retreat hostess, Terry Wojciehowski, told me that if the little quilt is hanging up out front, the store is open.

I liked the stained glass....that would look lovely in my house!

As we walked in, this quilt and pink to burgundy range of fabrics were to our left.

And to our right was Terry's wedding ring quilt, so I took her picture with it. Terry teaches this pattern at the shop.

A better look at the quilt and a closer look at the quilting, which was done by me...

Lots of fabric to browse through....

And more -- I found lots of goodies to take home with me!

A little stuffed quail on the counter -- behind it is a sign advertising 20% off the first bolt of the day. Of course, this changes daily depending on who the first customer is and what s/he buys! It looks to me like it would be worth coming in really early if you needed several yards of something...

What I bought: I found a pink polka dot to go with the rose blocks that my friend Carol Tarras laser cut for me. Boy, does the work go fast when everything not only is pre-cut, but has little slots cut to make it easy to match all the pieces up! Carol and her daughter Shelley own Three Crazy Ladies and they have all sorts of pre-cut kits. For more information on that, click here.

Then I found this very cool grey/black/pink/wine print and a few coordinates to go with it -- don't know what I will make, but absolutely had to have it. Would like to find one more deep burgundy fabric....but the weekend's not over!

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