Monday, 2 May 2016

Clutter Free: A Book Review

I received a free digital preview edition of this book from Net Galley to review it. I am not receiving any compensation for this review.
What can I say? As the daughter of a hoarder (my father) and the granddaughter of a hoarder (my paternal grandmother), hoarding is in my blood. As the daughter of parents who went through the great depression and the second World War, I learned that "it might come in handy someday." So, yes, I have my share (more than my share) of clutter. And honestly, as part of that clutter, I have several books on being organized and conquering clutter. So far, it hasn't happened. You have to both read them and apply them. I have done a little of both, but obviously not enough. So once again, I got a book on conquering clutter. Only, at least this time, it isn't adding to my clutter since it's on my Kindle. No matter how many books I put on my Kindle, it doesn't get any bigger. Maybe that's a start to being clutter free. 
I honestly love this book. It was written by one of us - people with clutter, not some superior form of human life who never so much as left the day's mail on the kitchen table. And it's real and it's practical. And it also gives some of the psychology behind why we clutter. And it's very readable. I actually enjoyed reading it. 
Now, I just have to apply it. 

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Still Room for Hope: A Book Review

I'm really not sure what I was thinking when I requested this book on Net Galley. When I received it, I couldn't help but think, "Do I really want to read this?" And I continued to think that even after I started reading it. And I considered quitting. It was too disturbing, too graphic. But I persisted, because the title and the blurbs on the jacket led me to believe that there was a happy ending. As the author herself would say, "There is an 'after'."
This book is the true story of a young woman who, at the age of 16, was drugged and subjected to a particularly brutal gang rape by three of her male "friends." She remembered virtually nothing of the incident, but the perpetrators videotaped it, and the tape made it's way into the hands of the police. Through the resulting two court cases, she was badgered, demeaned and emotionally beaten up by the team of lawyers hired for the defense, while both she and her family were subject to stalking and harassment from minions hired by the wealthy and prominent father of one of the perpetrators. Her friends even testified against her in the courtcase. To escape the emotional misery, she turned to alcohol and drugs, eventually becoming a methamphetamine addict. She lied, stole and cheated to maintain her drug habit. That's the first half of the book. It was quite horrible. 
But the remainder of the book tells the story of how she got herself into rehab, got clean and surrendered her heart to the Lord Jesus Christ and now lives a life of joy and victory. She has found meaning in what she endured by becoming a public speaker and a certified sexual assault victim advocate. She admits that she still has bad days, some of them really bad, but she can work through them with her relationship with God. She also is choosing to forgive the perpatrators, not condoning what they have done, but not living a life of bitterness either or allowing the assault to shape the rest of her life. 
The author's writing style is very readable, but, for the average reader like me, I cannot honestly recommend this book. I found the first half just too disturbing. As a woman, and the mother of a daughter, I was wishing for some sort of vigilante group to step in where the justice system failed. And failed it did: the perpetrators of this heinous crime were sentenced to only 6 years each, and got out after serving 3. I found myself seething with impotent rage. However, this woman's story ultimately is an inspiration and I think could be especially beneficial to those who have endured similar outrages. And I believe that's why she wrote it: to let other survivors know that what happened to them does not have to define them for the rest of their lives, that there is an 'after,' as she says, that there is "still room for hope." 
~
Now that I've completed the main part of this book review, I want to address a theological issue regarding the author's "visit" with her dead grandfather, found on page 153. While the idea that we go straight to heaven (or hell) when we die is a commonly accepted belief, it is not a Biblical one. The Bible tells us that the dead "know nothing," that death is a "sleep," and that we won't "wake up" again until the resurrection at Jesus' return. (Ecclesiastes 9:5; John 11:11-14; Job 14:12; 2 Peter 3:10). As a matter of fact, the Bible condemns anyone who tries to communicate with the dead. (Leviticus 20:27). So, it definitely was not her grandfather she was communicating with. For more information on this topic, please refer to "Are the Dead Really Dead?" or "Spirits of the Dead". Or you can click on the "Ghost Truth" link in the sidebar on the right of this page. 

Monday, 25 April 2016

Damian's Star

As I work on different crocheted projects, once I finish a round or a row, I will often spread them out on the floor to assess my progress, and sometimes snap a picture.
If my grandson is anywhere around when I do this, he will inevitably come to sit or lay on the project, sometimes counting motifs, rows or colours or whatever his imagination comes up with (you can see part of his legs and arms in the top right of the above picture). If I get out my metre stick or measuring tape, he likes to help me measure. With my temperature change afghan, he will designate each round or colour as a different animal. Eventually, I decided, even though I had already made him two afghans, that he needed a floor afghan, one that was specifically for spreading out on the floor, to lay on, to measure, to count or whatever he wanted it for. I decided on cotton yarn (Bernat Handicrafter) for practicality and was planning on doing it in a practical colour, but I allowed him to choose the yarn. He chose Moondance, which has a fair amount of white, so not the most practical, but it was his choice. I chose Frank O'Randle's Mini Galaxy of Change for the pattern.

Honestly, I've done so much crocheting over the last year, with my sewing room in limbo, so I couldn't quilt, that I'm quite tired of crocheting. That and the fact that I now have nerve problems in both wrists (carpal tunnel syndrome plus involvement of the ulnar nerve as well) have left me with little motivation to crochet. So it took me two months to finish Damian's Star. And I'm glad I finished it. I honestly got bored with it. I'm working on more quilting projects now. 
Hee's the finished project:
It ended up being about 50 inches across - a good size for a 3-1/2 year old. Here's a close up of some of the stitching: 
And, in case you're interested, here are the other afghans I made for Damian.
This is the rainbow afghan I made for him when he was a baby. I made this same pattern for my daughter when she was a baby, only using white with pastels.
This is the Choo-Choo Train afghan I finished more recently. In addition, I made him this hooded cardian when he was smaller.
And this knitted cardigan is a WIP (hopefully, I'll finish it before he outgrows it). 
 I made this John Deere quilt for his first birthday. This is actually a quillow.
And I have the fabric to make him a dinosaur quilt for his bed. 
I'm a rather indulgent grandmother, aren't I?

501 Timesaving Tips: a Book Review

In today's fast-paced world, who doesn't need to know how to save time? This book is jam-packed with ideas covering almost any aspect of everyday life, all categorized for ease of reference. And don't let the word "Woman" in the title turn others off, as they can certainly benefit from this book as well. That's probably my only complaint about this book: the title should have said "Everyone," "Every Person" or "Every Household" - because it's not just women that need these hints. 
For example, did you know that petroleum jelly will deter ants? Or that you can use old toilet paper rolls to keep your rolls of wrapping paper from unrolling? How about removing pet fur from upholstery and carpet with a squeegee or a fabric softening sheet? With a long-haired white cat in my household, that's certainly a tip I can put to use.
My only regret about this book is that I got an advance copy for review from Net Galley and it's on my Kindle, so I can't flip through the book as readily as I could with an actual book.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Stars Over Africa

I remember my mother saying about one car she drove when I was a child, "It's like driving a lumber wagon." Pan forward about 20 years and I got a firsthand experience of what she was talking about. I was about an hour's drive from home on a Sunday evening when my power steering belt broke. Nowhere to get it repaired, so I was left having to drive it home without power steering. While I've never driven a lumber wagon, driving that car home was about what I would imagine it would have been like. Well, this past Sunday, I got a chance to drive the "lumber wagon" of long arm quilting machines. 
I have used several different APQS machines (Millie, Freddy and Lucey, I think). More recently, I had the opportunity to "drive" a Tin Lizzie and a Pfaff Powerquilter. And I've been happy, for the most part, with all of them. However, I needed to get my entry quilt for Johnson's Sewing Centre's quilt challenge quilted. As a Seventh-day Adventist, I don't quilt on the Sabbath (Saturday). And I didn't have a day off - other than Sabbath and Sunday - until this coming Friday, which is the day I plan to take the quilt to Johnson's, so I didn't have time to quilt during the day and wasn't sure if my LQS would allow me to come in after hours to quilt it. And no place was open on Sunday. So, I resorted to following up on an ad I had seen months ago on kijiji. A woman was willing to rent her machine for $75 a day. I hadn't actually pursued this option previously because it was about an hour's drive to get to her place, and I wanted to have more than one quilt top ready to make paying for the day and driving that distance worthwhile. And then I discovered I could rent at my LQS for $35/quilt, so the kijiji ad no longer seemed worthwhile. However, I needed to get this quilt quilted and was running out of options. So I booked the time with her and Sunday morning loaded up Stars Over Africa and Evening Snowfall quilt tops and made the trip. I don't even recall what brand of machine she had, but as I started to quilt, I kept thinking the machine wasn't gliding smoothly like the other machines I had used, like maybe it needed a shot of WD40. It felt heavy and cumbersome. I was using the Fluffy Clouds pantograph, but my clouds didn't turn out very fluffy because the machine was so difficult to "steer." They came out looking sort of squarish, with rounded corners. Not exactly the look I was aiming for. The owner even mentioned (without me commenting on it) that her machine was a little harder to use because of the weight of the computer unit on it. I'm not sure if that was valid rationale or not. Somehow I didn't think so. Those little computer units really don't look like they would weigh all that much. Not enough to significantly affect how smoothly the machine handled. Besides, I think the Tin Lizzie I used also had a computer unit on it and that was the machine I used for my first free motion quilting on a long arm. And it handled like a dream. Nevertheless, I needed my quilt quilted and I had driven all that way, so I plodded along with it. Until I was about 3/4 of the way through the job and the machine went kaput on me. I felt really bad since it happened while I was using it. But then the owner informed me that it had been acting up for awhile and she had planned on taking it in for servicing, but she had already booked another lady (who quilted a few days previous to me) and me to use it. She was hoping it would hold out until we were done. Unfortunately for me, it didn't. She offered to allow me to leave my quilt on the frame and return to quilt it later, once the machine was serviced. But I needed to turn it in for the quilt challenge, so I said that I would have to finish it on my sewing machine. 
Fortunately, in my supplies at home, I have some Golden Threads Quilting Paper. I used this to trace the pantograph so I had something to follow while I finished quilting it. And here it is: 
I'm quite pleased with it, though I did get some puckers in the quilting in the lower left block, which frustrates me. But I really didn't want to pick out all the stitches and requilt it. I did pick out and requilt quite a bit, but still didn't totally fix it.  In my last post I wasnt sure what I was going to use for the border, and I ended up buying this green fabric. Here's a close up of one of the corner blocks:
You can see that I fussy cut the elephants for the centre of most of the blocks. Finally, here's the backing:
I love, love, love this backing fabric. 
I still haven't gotten the Evening Snowfall quilt quilted. That will have to wait for another time. I'm really starting to think seriously about getting my own machine. I found a couple of mid-arm machines on kijiji, but they only have 9" throats, so I'm not sure how genuinely useful I'll find them. Especially since I don't really like free motion. I'd be very limited in what pantographs I could use with such a small throat space. But, I called Central Sewing Machines to see if they could give me a retail price on a Viking Mega Quilter to see if the price on kijiji was a good deal or not. The woman I spoke with said that they don't carry that machine, but hopefully could get back to me with a price tomorrow. However, as we chatted, I discovered that they still rent their quilting machines for only $15/hour (only half of what Sparrow Studioz charges) and they are available most days that the store is open, plus evenings when they're having a class there. I'm not sure where I got the idea that their prices had gone up or that the machines were only available on certain days. Obviously something in their flyer I must have misinterpreted. I'd still have to take their training course for $150, but it's nice to know I have another option for long arm machine quilting. At least until I can afford to get my own...

Monday, 28 March 2016

Looking for an Aggressive Fabric

Have you ever thought of fabric as being aggressive? I haven't, at least not until I was looking for fabric to use for borders for my Stars Over Africa quilt. The quilt is a project I'm working on to enter in the Johnson's Sewing Centre/Quilter's Dream quilting challenge. I purchased a 4 fat quarter bundle and have to use some of each fabric in my quilting project, and can add whatever fabrics I want. The quilt has to be a minimum of 16" square, but can be a bag, a jacket or other quilted project - not just a quilt. I opted for a throw size quilt, and here's what I have so far (ignore the purple square as that's part of a different project):
These are the actual fabrics in the bundle (Northcott's Karma Spirit):
Those elephants were just begging to be fussy cut. Originally I was planning on doing a scenic childrens quilt with elephants, water (aqua fabric), grass (green fabric) and flowering shrubs (pink fabric). I purchased the blue batik in the photo below to use as the sky:
I also added the coral fabric, just because I liked it and it seemed to fit in the colour scheme. However, if I wanted to win the challenge, I felt that I needed to come up with something better than a funky elephant scene. That's when I decided to use the black fabric and make the star quilt. However, I wanted it be at little more interesting and decided to set this section on point. I want to put a border around this section, add four more blocks (not sure what those blocks will be yet) plus setting triangles for the corners, then a final border. The setting triangles will likely be the blue batik. But coming up with a fabric for the borders is another matter. I'm trying to avoid purchasing more fabric, so I rummaged through my stash. I had to find something that both colours and patterns suited the rest of the quilt. Because the colours and patterns in the fabric are definitely not subdued, I realized I needed something "aggressive." 
Upper left and centre fabrics are just too "wimpy" for this quilt. Top right fabric is not quite the right colours, and the pattern is definitely not right. Lower left - the pattern is great, but the colours are not quite right, though I haven't totally ruled this one out. 
These two are awesome colours, but not bold enough for this quilt.
More great fabrics, but nothing really aggressive about any of these.
Ouch! The colours are right, and it's definitely bold, but the pattern really doesn't work.
The one on the lower left is what I purchased for the binding. I will probably use the one on the lower right for the first border. I don't want to use it for the outer border as it doesn't contrast sufficiently with the binding. I'm not really sure if the orange fabric in the centre will work, and there's not enough of it for the outer border. Still considering... I may have to break down and buy some fabric, which, of course, will be such a hardship. LOL!
Meanwhile, in my 5 days off work over Easter, I did a couple of mini quilts to enter in Moda's contest celebrating Electric Quilt's 25th anniversary. I would have dearly loved to win a copy of EQ7, but I didn't. I had fun anyway. 
This is Summer Star.
Here you can see it's been cat-tested and approved.
And this is Spools. 
And yes, I actually did free motion quilting on my domestic machine on both of these quilts. 
That's all for now. Time to give my grandson a bath, which is Grandma's privilege tonight.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Sweet Dreams

It had been over a year since the last time I quilted on a long arm machine. That was the Far Above Rubies quilt, for which I had chosen a more detailed pantograph. It took me 5 hours to finish the quilting and, at $30/hour, that was $150! For a 60" x 60" quilt! I was very frustrated. It should not cost more to finish a quilt myself than it does to pay someone else to do it. But I also didn't want to limit myself to just using very basic pantographs so that I could complete the quilts more quickly and keep the expense down. The time it took to load the quilt, if I needed help or stopped for lunch or to chat with another quilter, I was still "on the clock" and paying for my machine rental during that time. Yes, they did provide the thread and the pantographs, but I wasn't always happy with their selection and ended up buying my own, thus adding to the expense of the quilt. I decided to do a little shopping around. There was a sewing machine retailer that also rented their long arm machines - for half the hourly rate of the studio at which I had been renting! Unfortunately, they only had certain days when the machines were available for rent, which didn't necessarily coincide with my days off work. And when their prices went up to the same, or nearly the same, as the other studio, it definitely wasn't worth paying $150 to take the training required to use their machines. I'd already paid that to take the training at the first studio. On kijiji, I found an ad from a woman who was willing to rent her machine for $75/day, and I was seriously considering that. She lived out in the country, likely over an hour's drive away, so it definitely wasn't convenient, but the price was certainly more attainable. Then recently, one of my work colleagues, who had also gotten into quilting, informed me that our local quilt shop was willing to rent their machines out for $35 per quilt! Hurray! $35 including thread, and no need to take a training course as the store owner is willing to help as needed! And that's for any size of quilt. The only drawback is that only her smallest machine, an HQ Sweet 16 (I think), has a laser stylus to use pantographs, which are my preferred method of long arm quilting. Plus the fact that the longarm machines are in the basement of the store: concrete floors, not the most pleasing aesthetics, and it's cold down there. But these I am willing to endure for the sake of finishing my quilts. At least until a better option occurs, like buying my own long arm machine. I've already decided that if I ever marry again, I want a long arm quilting machine rather than a diamond ring.  Seriously! But since that is not likely to ever happen, I'll have to save up and buy my own.
I took Sweet Dreams and Unbroken (more about that one in a future post) to the quilt shop, with the intention of using pantographs on both of them. That never happened. I ended up deciding to try computerized quilting on the Pfaff Powerquilter 3 for Unbroken. And somehow, Geri, the proprietor, managed to convince me to try freemotion on the Tin Lizzie for Sweet Dreams. She demonstrated the first row, and then had me trace the design with my finger before finishing the quilt myself. I'm certainly not as proficient as her by any means, and there are lots of mistakes in my quilting, but it really doesn't look horrid. And as my mother used to say, "A blind man will never see it." 
Here's the finished product:

Now for Sweet Dream's story: Keepsake Quilting has some awesome deals in their clearance section, and, when our dollar was on par with the US dollar, I have made several purchases there. And likely will again, when the exchange rate becomes more favourable. Or maybe even if it doesn't... That's where I purchased the Sweet Expressions layer cake, which is all desserts - baking - candy fabric, and they provided a free pattern for the Uneven Nine Patch, which I chose to use for this quilt. It actually called for 25 - 10" squares while this layer cake only came with 20, so I had to add some other fabrics to complete the total. I decided to use this for a neutral baby quilt. I still have the Scrappy Shine that I made with pink binding for a little girl's adoption that never happened. And there haven't been any little girls born in the family since. So I have resolved to henceforth make neutral baby quilts (with the exception of a boy's quilt that I already have the fabric for). And I knew that I had two great nephews expected this year. One, Patrick, is already born, and he will be the recipient of the Sweet Dreams quilt. Here's the backing:
And a close-up:

When this fabric, and others like it, was on sale at Fabricland, I bought several metres of it to use as backings for children's quilts. I like to make my baby quilts less baby-ish, and more child-like. That way the child can use it throughout childhood, without being embarrassed by all of the diaper pins and storks on it. 
Now to finish the binding on Unbroken, which has been languishing for over a year while I got the basement renovations done and searched out a more economical alternative for longarm quilting. I did attempt to quilt it on my domestic machine, but that only resulted in a lot of stitch-ripping.