Sunday, 24 July 2016

Gidget (1959): A Movie Review

It can sometimes be challenging finding a movie that's both appropriate for children and enjoyable by adults. So, when I saw The Complete Gidget Collection at my local library, and noticed that two out of the three movies were rated G, and the third PG, I decided to borrow it. I remembered Gidget as being silly and funny and thought it would make for some light-hearted entertainment, though I was puzzled by the PG rating on one of the movies. I was also puzzled by it being called "complete collection" as I knew there were more movies than these three.
A 'G' rating, in my books means it's appropriate for my Grandson to watch. He's not yet 4-years-old. Gidget was definitely not appropriate for a child of that age. Later, when I looked carefully at the back, I noticed that 'G' is the Canadian rating. The US rating is PG. My daughter has pointed out to me before that the US ratings tend to be stricter than the Canadian ones. Good point to remember for next time. However, neither my daughter nor I found it appropriate for us, either. It was very sexist, protraying the teenage girls, with the exception of Gidget, as boy crazy, that having a boyfriend is the be-all and end-all of a girl's existence, and the sole purpose of summer vacation is to chase boys. Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it wasn't long into the movie before the girls were sashaying down the beach in their bathing suits, directly in front of the surfer boys' shack, just to attract their attention (with the exception of Gidget, who at first appears to be the only level-headed one).  I actually remember having fun at the beach, even as a teenager, without feeling the need to attract a male's attention. And I resent it when women, even teenage ones, are portrayed as mindless ninnies.
Another concern was the witless parents. Sure, I'd be happy to have my teenage daughter spend her summer vacation hanging out with a bunch of older, male surfer bums that I don't even know, without any other females present. NOT!!! And when Gidget comes home from the luau, whining that she's still "pure as the driven snow" to her MOTHER, no less, her mother fails to pounce on that and give the requisite talk about saving yourself, if not for marriage, at least for a committed relationship. Seriously, maybe I'm old-fashioned (yes, I am old-fashioned), but what kind of parent wants their daughter to engage in casual sex? And even if the parents did not believe in "saving yourself for marriage," how about the talk about birth control and safe sex? Yes, we might not have been using the term "safe sex" back then, but STDs did exist in 1959. And so did unplanned pregnancies. Neither of which is a joking matter.
And then there was the luau itself, which portrayed multiple couples lying on the beach "making out" in the middle of the party. "Get a room," as my daughter would say. Definitely not what I want my grandson seeing and nothing my daughter or I wanted to see either.
The scene where Moon-Doggie pushes Gidget under the water, while all the other guys are laughing, until Gidget doesn't come back up again, is infuriating. This is abuse, and there's nothing laughable about it. The idea that manhandling a woman is humourous is a frightening concept that has evolved into the rape culture prevalent today. That scene was especially offensive. The fact that Gidget went on to "fall in love" with the perpetrator of this abuse is very troublesome. There are too many women involved in dysfunctional relationships with abusive partners. We should never be portraying this situation as amusing entertainment, nor that the perpetrator turns out to be a "nice guy" after all. They never do and we should not be encouraging young women in the delusion that "he will change."
Four thumbs down for this movie, mine and Sophia's, and we definitely did not watch the other two movies in the set.

Monday, 18 July 2016

24-Hour Quilting Projects - A Book Review

I have to admit that doing book reviews for craft or cookbooks when you receive a free digital copy can be challenging. In order to review them, I like to actually cook from the cookbook, or make something from the craft book. Kindle is not the most friendly way to do this. It's a little more cumbersome to "flip" back and forth between pages on a Kindle, and pictures don't always appear to their best advantage and if you need to print anything out, or copy it, like a template, that's just not possible. Occasionally, I receive an Adobe Digital Edition of a book, rather than a Kindle edition. The pictures might appear better on my PC monitor than on the Kindle greyscale, but it definitely isn't as portable. And it's still not printable. Plus these editions have a time limit (54 days), so I've got a limited time to read and create.
 I received this particular book as an Adobe Digital Edition from Net Galley. One of the things I found challenging was that the fabric measurements - especially the fractions - were very difficult to decipher in this edition. I tried zooming, but they just became blurred. However, I could still guestimate and I bought sufficient fabric to make the Fractured Pinwheels quilt from this book. Unfortunately, before I had a chance to work on it, my copy expired. However, I did a little research and discovered that this isn't a new book at all. It's a reissue of this one: 
I borrowed the older one from the library so I could make the quilt and finish the review. Once I got the hard copy, I could understand why the fractions were so challenging to read in the digital edition. They're not even that easy to read in the actual book - quite tiny. There is plenty of white space on each page, so the publisher really should increase the font size, so that it's easier to read.
The "24 hours" in the title does not include quilting and binding. But most of the quilt projects have a substantially smaller time allotment than 24 hours. However, I did find that my project took a good deal longer than the suggested 5 hours, but it still was a relatively quick quilt top. And I didn't follow the directions exactly. I did some things out of order because I wanted to work up a few blocks so that I could get an idea of what it was going to look like. 
Here's the finished quilt top: 
I think it's a pretty amazing looking quilt that appears more complicated than it is to construct. After cutting strips, you sew the light strips together and the dark strips together, then cut the strip sets into 6-1/2" squares. Then you cut the squares on the diagonal. But you have to ensure that you cut all of the dark squares and all of the light squares the same way. That's the tricky part. But you just have to follow the diagrams in the book. I wondered why the author wasn't using the half square triangle technique where you draw a diagonal line on the back of one square, sew a quarter inch on each side of the line, then cut on the line. But I assume it's because it would make it a little complicated keeping all the squares going in the right direction. I followed the instructions for the first square, but I hate cutting and sewing on the diagonal. I have enough trouble keeping my squares square. So I decided to try the half-square triangle technique - and it worked. I had at least one square that I sewed together incorrectly, but I checked before cutting and was able to remedy it. And I finally got a system where I had the squares laid out correctly preparatory to drawing the lines.
The lighter squares are face down in this picture. This is the direction you need to lay all of them out if you want to do it this way.
Sorry, the line is rather faint in this picture, but this is the direction you need to draw the line, then place it directly over the darker square. 
One other thing I noticed in the cutting directions is that the author has you cutting more pieces than you need for the borders and binding. The first border said to cut 5 and I only used four. For the second border, I decided to cut what I figured I would need, which was 5 whereas the instructions called for 6, and I had plenty. Ditto for the binding, though I haven't bound it yet, so it remains to be seen if I will need the 6th one. I doubt it. 
Overall, I found the directions pretty straightforward and easy to follow. A few of the quilts look rather boring to me, but the majority of them are ones I would be happy to make. As a matter of fact, I liked this book well enough that I ordered my own copy. But I ordered the older copy for $2.96 plus shipping!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Back to Work on the Bluenose II

I had been laboriously working on the Bluenose II pixel quilt since some time in 2014. It was supposed to have been my sister Cindy's 50th birthday gift, and she's now 52. But this is a very tedious technique, involving many 1" squares of fabric, all of which have to be sewn with the correct colour in exactly the right place. I chose to work in mostly 10" blocks, with the exception of the topmost row, which is 13" deep and the rightmost column, which is 12" wide. To aid in working on the blocks, I drew a grid of 1-1/2" squares (unfinished size of the squares) 20 wide and 10 deep on one of my design walls, to accomodate working on two blocks at once. When I commenced the renovations on my basement sewing studio, all of my sewing/crafting supplies had to find a temporary home elsewhere, including the design wall with 2 blocks in progress. Trying to find a place for everything was not easy, and this design wall ended up being tossed on the bed in the basement bedroom with various and sundry other items. Not exactly the best way to store it. As a result, some of the squares fell off the design wall. So, when I finally got around to working on this project again, I not only had to find as many missing squares as I could, but I also had to make sure everything was where it belonged. That took me a number of hours, plus adding the remaining squares to complete the blocks.
Sewing the squares together is about as tedious as assembling them on the design wall in the first place as I still had to ensure that each square remained in the correct place. I finally managed to finish these two blocks.
It had been so long since I had worked on this quilt top that I didn't realize these were the last two blocks I needed to complete for row 5. I had blocks 1 through 4 and 7 completed. I'm not sure why I had skipped blocks 5 & 6 and completed block 7, but these two blocks were now done, I joined the whole row together and then added it to the bottom of the quilt. You can see the results in the top picture, and below.
As you can see by comparing the top picture with the one immediately above, pixel quilts look best from a distance. The closer you get, the more it looks just like a random bunch of different coloured squares of fabric.
It appears the boat is finished, I just have to add more water: one more row of 10" blocks. These last two rows are the most tedious part of the quilt as there is much greater colour change amongst the squares - not too many solid blocks of colour like in the sky and the sails. So it will likely still take me awhile, especially since this quilt requires full focus. I don't like to work on it if I'm tired or preoccupied. 
You can find my previous posts on this quilt here:

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Bushwhacking and other Unladylike Pursuits

As a single home-owner, I have had to learn how to do things that I never learned in Home Ec. Or nursing school. It wasn't that long ago that power tools intimidated me. Hand tools can be dangerous enough, but add some power to that and they can do an incredible amount of damage in a short period of time. So I left the heavier stuff for my husband. When I had one, that is. Not that he always got it done, but that's another whole subject. After all, he worked in construction (at least he did for the first half of our marriage. He later became a truck driver), so he not only had the tools, but he also had the expertise to use them. But then I got a divorce and eventually bought my own house. And unfortunately, houses are not self-repairing. And it would just be altogether too time-consuming, if not impossible, to do it all with hand tools. And it would also be too expensive to pay someone else to do everything that needs to be done, even when it can be done with a hand tool. I have installed a deadbolt, a doorknob, a programmable thermostat; hung curtain rods, blinds, mirrors, towel bars, replaced a toilet seat (after having to use a hacksaw to cut off the rusted bolts on the old one); removed, cleaned out a replaced the p-trap on the bathroom sink and changed the oil and filter on a lawn mower. And trimmed trees. In order to accomplish all this, I had to invest in some power tools. I now own power drills, power screw drivers, an electric hedge trimmer, jig saws and circular saws. Have I missed anything? Yes, I finally had to break down and buy the granddaddy of all power tools - the chainsaw. I had used hand saws to trim trees, but that's a pretty labourious method. And I had lots of dead limbs and low-hanging branches that needed to be dealt with. 
One of my nursing colleagues (someone who enjoys doing home renovations) said that she bought herself a little chainsaw that came with a pole saw attachment. So I decided that's what I would get. I bought it last summer. Yes, I admit, it's just a baby chainsaw, or what I refer to as a lady's chainsaw, with a 10" blade (I think), but it still can reak a lot of havoc. After reading the instruction book, with all its attendant cautions, I was really nervous about using it, so I started by using it as a polesaw. I figured that if it somehow went out of control, I had the entire length of that 10' pole to escape injury. I soon found out that wasn't practical, however. It's challenging enough hoisting the weight of a chainsaw directly in your hands (a compelling reason why I don't use anything powered by gas when I have to carry it around - I don't need the added weight of the gasoline) - much more challenging when it's at the end of a pole. (My colleague must have much better arm and shoulder muscles than me). I then took that baby in my hands and cut my first limb. Tree limb, that is - not human limbs, thank the Lord. 
This year, I decided I needed to tackle the pin cherry on the west end of my house (or maybe it's a choke cherry). Before I even knew what was wrong with it, I had used my hand saw to remove one or two branches that appeard diseased. Now I know it's black knot, and most of the tree is infested with it. I got an estimate from an arbourist (or whatever you call them) on trimming out the infected branches - $300-400. Removing the whole tree would cost me $700. That was already a year and a half ago, and he told me it was the wrong time of year to do it anyway. Meanwhile, my niece's husband borrowed my chainsaw to cut down one of his cherry trees that was infested, and then volunteered to do mine. But life has a way of getting ahead of us, and he still hasn't had the chance to do it. So I started the job. 
First I tackled a small tree and a shrub that had sprung up of their own volition where I didn't want them. Then on to the pin cherry. I was only planning on doing one limb, but when I cut the first one down, it got caught on another limb, and so I had to cut the second limb as well. 
That's as far as I've gotten and that was a lot of work, because I then had to trim the limbs down to more manageable sizes. Here's one pile of branches. 
And here's the other pile. 
And that's not including the pile from the first tree I cut down that's still sitting between the houses. And all of it is still waiting to be loaded up and hauled to the dump. And then I will have to start on the next limb, until eventually I have the whole tree down and hauled away. I really don't think there's enough healthy tree left to salvage it, which is too bad. My bedroom window faces west, and the neighbours across the street. So I will now have less privacy and more heat in my bedroom from the sun during the summer. But it can't be helped. 
I will admit that I am proud of the fact that I can tackle these big jobs, considered traditional man's work. I am not so much of a feminist, however, that I can say that I actually enjoy having to do them. They're just something that needs to be done, and if I don't do it, it won't get done. 
Okay, I'm going to be really frank here and say that honestly, there are times when I would really love to have a good man to help out around here. 
Now for the comical part: As I was buzzing away with my chainsaw, a man walked by with a baby in a snugli. In a pause between buzzing, I said hi to him, but he didn't reply. On his way back, I once again greeted him, this time with just a smile. Again, no response. I can only conclude that he is either a snob, or is intimidated by a woman with a chainsaw. 

Monday, 23 May 2016

Unbroken

This quilt was inspired by the Ring Around the Posies quilt pattern that appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Fons & Porter's Scrap Quilts. 
 

While I liked the pattern, I had a couple of issues with it. First of all, it called for 28 fat quarters of fabric! That's in addition to 2 more yards of fabric for the top and 3-3/4 yards for the backing. Wow, that is a lot of fabric for a quilt that is only 60" square. And why should I use 6 fat quarters for something that should only require 2? I would end up with lots of miscellaneous pieces of fat quarters, and I really don't like that. If I can, I like to use as much of my fat quarters as possible. Unless I'm going for a really scrappy look, why would I want to use so many random fabrics? And that's my second issue. I really don't like how ultra scrappy this quilt looks in the magazine. I can barely discern the pattern. It just looks like a bunch of random triangles thrown together. I like some continuity in the pattern so I can actually see it. There's really no place for the eye to rest on this one. So I switched it up quite a bit to make my version. 
Since the centre of each block was 4 pink triangles forming a square, I decided to make it a solid square. Whether you're doing it my way or according to the pattern directions, you still only need one fat quarter of pink, not 6 as the directions state. Maybe 2 or even 4 if you want some contrast. 
I cut nine 4-3/4" squares from one fat quarter (finished size 4-1/4").
From the light pink patterned fabric, I cut 18 squares 3-7/8". These are for the corners on the centre squares. 
I chose three different light fat quarters and three different dark fat quarters for completing the basic units, plus one green fat quarter. Because the lighter fabrics I chose had a more definite pattern, I chose to use tonals for the darker ones. 

These could have been done as flying geese units as well. 
I used the same light fabric to complete the corner units for each block. Remember I'm using three different light fabrics in these blocks. I also chose to pair each dark with the light that I felt it looked best with, and used that pair consistently throughout the quilt, but you could switch it for the different blocks if you wanted more variety. Alternatively, you could use three fat quarters of the same light and dark to have a more homogeneous appearance to the quilt. 
This is my version of the basic block unit. I'm sure it's named some kind of star, but I don't know what. The actual pattern is a version of Broken Dishes, set at an angle, but since I made the centre solid, I guess my dishes aren't broken. LOL! Hence, the name I gave this quilt: Unbroken.
I had to decide what to do about the other greens I needed in this quilt. I had two fat quarters of the same green which would have been sufficient to do all the other points on the block, but I also wanted to make sure that I could carry some of the same colours into the green part of the border, so I used three different fabrics in these points. Here's the actual (un)Broken Dishes block:
As you can see, it's the same block as in the above picture. I just added more pieces and then folded back the portions that weren't part of the broken dishes block. Here's the whole section: 
This is a rather complicated quilt to assemble, making sure I've got all of the right pieces in the right places. I ended up assembling it in 9 - 18" sections, like the above, laying out one section at a time on my cutting table. 
If you look carefully at the finished quilt, you can see that there's a secondary block - I call it a wreath block - in between the Broken Dishes blocks. It probably has another name, but I'm not about to spend a lot of time looking it up. 

Here's the backing: 

I'm still not entirely pleased with the end result. While I do like it better than the one in the magazine, I still think maybe it's a little too scrappy for my tastes. But, since I'm giving it away, as long as the recipient likes it - that's the important thing. 
And speaking of the recipient, this is going to a friend who has gone through a lot - physically and emotionally - so the name of this quilt is my wish for her: that she remain Unbroken. 
I actually finished this quilt top in 2014, but quilting it has been an adventure. After spending $150 (ouch!!!) to quilt Far Above Rubies on the longarm, and taking a machine quilting course, I decided to try quilting it on my domestic machine. I basted it using a quilting gun, which was very quick and successful, except where I basted it to the carpet. (That was the one and only quilt I used the quilting gun on, because the next time I tried to use it, it went kaput. I didn't know it was a single use quilting gun). I used a stencil to trace a pattern on the centre block to start. The quilting results were disastrous and I labouriously picked out every stitch. I set it aside as I had other projects to work on, and didn't get back to it until I discovered that my LQS rents their machines for $35 per quilt. I then had to cut out all of the quilting gun tacks I had put in because I didn't need those for quilting on the long arm. I decided to try computerized quilting, selecting a butterfly pattern (actually I used 2 separate butterfly patterns in this quilt) and let the machine do its work. I only had to cut off the thread and then punch the button to start the next butterfly. Really lazy quilting. Or so I thought. And I didn't really like it. It was actually slower than I could do on my own and I didn't find the pattern really any neater done by the computer than when I use a pantograph. That was back in March and I didn't get around to putting the binding on until today. When I flipped it over to trim off any loose threads, I discovered that the top thread tension had not been great and there were several sections with big, long loops of thread tangled up on the back. Ugh! More stitch-ripping to do, plus re-stitching on my domestic machine. I doubt I will do computerized quilting again. 

Essential Guide to Modern Quilt Making: A Book Review

To me, a lot of modern quilts look like a dog ate the fabric and threw it up again. They remind me of something I might have found in a 60's hippie pad: no rhyme or reason, no beauty or symmetry. I can't figure out why someone would waste good fabric on something so ugly. However, I really wasn't sure what exactly defined modern quilting. Not every quilt I make can be considered strictly traditional. Take, for example, Stars Over Africa: I used a traditional block in a non-traditional setting, and used bold colours with high contrast. Was that modern or traditional?  So, I googled a definition and found a good description on Craftsy. Characteristics which help define a modern quilt are "the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. 'Modern traditionalism' or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting." Based on that definition, I guess a lot of my quilts would fall under "modern traditionalism." And maybe not all modern quilts have to be ugly. 
Having said all that, however, none of the quilts in this book really appealed to me. I do try to make at least one project from any crafting book I review. And I did intend to do that with this book, but I couldn't bring myself to waste good fabric/time/money on something I really didn't like. The paper piecing section looked the most interesting of any of the projects, so I started with this fedora: 
I was originally planning on making five of the paper-pieced blocks and using them in a tote bag, but after finishing this one and starting on the Sunny Dress, I decided I really didn't want to waste my time sewing microscopic pieces of fabric together. Seriously! I have much better things to do with my time. 
Do I recommend this book? If you really like Modern Quilt Making or want to learn it, then it is likely worthwhile. Each workshop is set up really well, with detailed instructions and lots of pictures. I didn't read the whole book, but I did glean some interesting tips in the "workshop" on colour. In the paper piecing workshop, I also found out about a seam roller, a tool which I hadn't known existed. Overall, however, this book is definitely not for me as this type of quilting is definitely not for me. 
I received a free advance digital copy of this book from Net Galley for review purposes. I borrowed a hard copy from the library to use the paper piecing templates. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Handbag Workshop: A Book Review

When I first requested this book on Net Galley, I thought it would be fun to make my own purse. That way I could customize it exactly how I wanted it. Then I read Clutter Free. One of the things Clutter Free discussed was hobbies and the fact that for every hobby you have, you need to have all of the paraphernalia associated with it - and a place to store it. And you need to evaluate whether or not you are actually going to pursue that hobby seriously before purchasing all the requirements for said hobby. And having to figure out where to put it all. And how many hobbies does one woman need? Especially one that works full time outside of the home. I crochet, I knit, I quilt, I read. Sometimes I garden and occasionally I blog about my hobbies and books. I do like to cook as well. And then there are all those acrylic painting supplies...
I generally like to make at least one project from every hobby book review I complete, but when I looked at the basic toolkit required for making handbags and the specialty items that I wasn't even sure where to purchase (zipper tape?), and thought about all that new clutter I would have to accumulate, I decided to forgo the attempt. I did, however, give the book a good "look through" in order to review it.
This book has an introductory section which includes a list of basic tools and supplies required for making handbags. The rest of the book is divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced bags, so you know where to start. There are detailed instructions and lots of photos for each bag, plus patterns to copy. I think for anyone determined to make handbags, this book would be a great place to start.
My one complaint: As an animal lover, I'm not too impressed with the liberal use of leather and definitely not with the use of rabbit fur - BOO! However, it would be very simple to replace this with fake, animal-friendly stuff. After all, why else would you make your own bag?
I received a free advanced digital copy of this book to review from Net Galley. I borrowed the hard copy from the library for a better look at the pictures and patterns.