Monday, 27 April 2009


I'm safely back in the UK - I've had a nap and a shower and am feeling fairly human. Time for some photos!

I still had some photos on my camera from before I went:

Here is our completed wall unit, made from kitchen cabinets. We still haven't got the two old big cupboards out of the room so I can only take a sideways picture.

Here is my completed Accidental Landscape - Fall, which I started in a workshop in Sisters last year. I finished it at Saturday Sewing Club and gave it to my friend Eileen who admired it.

Downtown Paducah shops display quilts in their windows - here is a great DWR that I admired.

I took loads of photos of quilts at the show, far too many to post here, plus AQS have published a reminder that their policy is that quilt images should not be posted on the internet without permission from the maker.

Here is a shot of the newly-renovated Galleria - this is where the hotel shops and tea room used to be, but they gutted it then moved all the vendors up from underneath the pool area. It got really hot in here when the sun shone. This is just one of several vendor areas.

I don't know why, but there was a giant fibreglass cow parked on Broadway, downtown, which everyone was posing in front of for photos. The National Quilt Museum is behind where I am standing, and there are quilt vendors here and also over on Kentucky. And lots of antique shops.

More photos in the next post!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Last Day :(

I hope someone is reading this blog-live-from-Paducah, no-one is commenting so I am beginning to feel a bit like there is a big black hole in the ether that my posts are disappearing into... Or perhaps you are all just dead jealous... :)

Yesterday after my morning lecture (Mary Sorenson on combining piecing with applique, and she is very funny) I hit the shuttle buses and went out to the mall. I stopped on the way for another trip around the Rotary show at the Civic Centre, where there are some great vendors and 21 nice quilts. I enjoyed a few hours wandering slowly around the mall, looking for shoes and anything else that caught my eye. It isn't a very big mall, but it is air conditioned which is a welcome relief as it is fairly warm outside, and there are some quilt vendors out there as well. Then I walked over to Hobby Lobby on the edge of the car park, where I got some sock yarn and some brads that will make tables in my 1/48th coca cola cafe scene. Someone had told me that there was also a Michael's now (another big craft store) so I asked the cashier where it was. He said it was just along the road, on the same side, but assured me that I couldn't walk there. So did another customer. So I asked how far it was. "It's at least a 1/4 of a mile, ma'am". So I said I would risk it, and found myself there in exactly 4 minutes as it is literally the next little mini-mall along the road. Americans are really wedded to their cars, I think...

So I had a good shop around Michaels and loaded up on Wool-Ease yarn, a cheap wool/acrylic blend. I have a great intarsia pattern for socks, with a scene of a lighthouse and a sailing boat, and I've never been able to afford to knit it because in wool it would cost about £80 which is a pretty expensive pair of socks. Doing it in wool-ease is going to be about £18 which is still a pricey pair of socks but much more bearable. I've never tried intarsia so it should be interesting.

I forgot to mention that I bought a quilt this morning, a gorgeous 30s scrappy 4 point star set against a classic 30s green background. It is in really good condition, possibly never washed, and is a great addition to my collection. I love 30s quilts. I said I wasn't going to buy a quilt this trip, especially with the job situation, but I saw this and loved it and the price wasn't too bad, so I went temporarily insane and went for it. Will post a picture when I get back.

Last night tonight - I may be going out for dinner with my American friends, then tomorrow a long drive back up to Indianapolis airport then the long long flight home. I am going to be so wrecked at work on Tuesday but heck, what are they going to do, take my job away??? rofl

Friday, 24 April 2009

Another sunny day in Quilt City USA

The Exec Inn internet is finally letting me on so here I am early Friday morning. Outside the sun is rising on another warm sunny day, 80 degrees the last few days but not unpleasant as there has been a breeze. I had another great day yesterday and I''m feeling really relaxed.

I started the day with a 7am lecture from Gerald Roy on his collection of tops: "Women's work is never done", I've been to this lecture on most of my trips and it is always good. We saw some fantastic quilt tops. He said that tops should never be washed or finished, the former because it shreds the seam allowances and can make colours run, and the latter because they represent a moment in time and preserve the decision of the maker (for whatever reason) not to finish the quilt. His theory is that a lot of tops turned out not quite the way the quilter was expecting, or perhaps didn't look like something that would be accepted by her friends. I wonder if some of them were like me and just enjoyed piecing a lot more than they enjoyed quilting...

Then I joined one of the guided 90 minute bus tours that the City of Paducah is offering. We had a very knowledgeable guide who told us all about the famous people and events of Paducah as the coach drove slowly past some really beautiful homes. I had only ever seen the lower town area and the business area out by the mall, so it was a real surprise to drive through lovely streets past some really nice old houses. The tour included a trip to the Whitehaven mansion out by the interstate which is now the state visitor centre. Very elegant, with a big southern style columned portico out front.

Back in town I visited some more of the quilt vendors downtown on Broadway, and walked out to the lovely Grace Episcopal Church which was hosting a great display from the Heartland Lace Guild. They had displays of bobbin lace and tatting, and a vendor selling supplies for both crafts, and people demonstrating and free classes to make a bookmark. I know how to tat, and was able to buy a lovely wooden shuttle for my collection. They were very friendly and I had a good chat about tatting with a couple of ladies.

On the way back, I stopped into another church which was offering a Quilter's Lunch for only $7. While I was enjoying that, I got to know three quilters visiting from Houston (one was from New York), two of whom were knitters so we had a great chat about various quilting and knitting topics including the friendly local knitting shop "With Ewe in Mind" which I had visited the day before. I got some great bright red icelandic wool there which I would like to felt into mittens if I can find a pattern.

Then it was back to the show and I shopped my way around the rest of the vendors. I didn't buy anything except some Golden Threads quilting patterns which are 3 inches wide for home quilting systems, but I had fun looking. And in the evening it was "30 years with Eleanor Burns" at the Carson 4 Rivers Centre, a full house cheering the grand dame of quilting as she gave us a retrospective of her career and led us all in a version of the chicken dance.

Wish you were here?

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

I'm in Paducah!

I'm in Paducah, I'm actually in the library using their internet as my laptop refuses to connect to the wireless in the Executive Inn. It's great to be back in Paducah for the quilt show - my last visit was in 2005 and this year is the 25th anniversary of the show. Tonight is the big awards ceremony but I've already seen the prize winners at last night's sneak preview. The best in show this year is 'Renaissance Revival', a very vivid and closely worked applique quilt that almost looks like a tapestry or an illustration from an illuminated manuscript. There are a suprising number of traditional quilts in this year's show, which is great as I prefer those to the more modern art quilts.

So far it doesn't seem very crowded here in Paducah, I have been the sole passenger on the two trolley buses I have taken, Hancock's wasn't that busy, and at last night's sneak preview the vendor aisles were so empty that I felt conspicuous. Hopefully it will get busier, they've had a rough year here with the ice storm and all the problems with the Executive Inn, and I bet the credit crunch isn't helping.

I am not doing nearly as much shopping as in previous years, the exchange rate means that things really aren't too much cheaper. Although I did pick up some 5 inch charm squares from Moda reduced to $3.98 a pack, out at Hancock's, you can't beat that so I bought four packs which should make some kind of quilt. Hancock's were heavily marketing the Moda jelly rolls, layer cakes etc., they were stacked all around the store, and also little brown paper lunch bags of Moda scraps left over from cutting out the jelly rolls etc. for $9.98, I got a couple of those as well full of strips. So far I've been to Hancock's, the Rotary Club show, the National Quilt Museum, the AQS hurt book sale on Kentucky, the AQS vendors on Kentucky, and had a lovely stroll around some of the downtown antique stores. I also stumbled across the Quilt in a Day store downtown. Most of the downtown shops (outside the show) are selling fabric at $4 a yard, but it isn't necessarily current lines. Quilt in a Day had all their fabric reduced to $4/yd also.

This morning I am going to go out and try to find the knitting shop, 'With Ewe in Mind', and I think there is a knitting group meeting downtown at 1 pm which I will drop in on also. Then I am signed up for the afternoon tea party with Nancy Zieman. I am starting to feel like I am relaxing and enjoying myself, and putting some of my job troubles out of my mind. I'm here for the full week, not flying back until next Sunday, so I've got plenty of time to see the show and the other attractions around town. The weather is really good, warm and sunny but it doesn't feel too hot as there is a chilly wind.

Wish you were all here too!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Paducah bound

Haven't had time for my usual post this week because I am too busy packing for... Paducah! I fly off tomorrow for a week, I'm really looking forward to it. I hope I have the right clothes for the weather, some years it has been really hot there and other years it has poured rain. I've packed my extra bag inside my suitcase in case of purchases, although the exchange rate isn't nearly as good for us as it used to be. I'm thinking of taking my little netbook so I may be able to blog while I'm there.

Friday, 10 April 2009

A good Friday and review of Clover Yo-Yo Maker

We've enjoyed our Good Friday (a holiday here in the UK), the first time the family has all been home all day for a long time. And it was raining all day, so no outside jobs. Very relaxing and I even did some sewing, which took my mind off yesterday's debacle.

I finished off this lap quilt, which is going to a friend who is making lap quilts for a cancer hospice. (ignore the red lattice peeking out from behind, which is the quilt on my bed) This used to be a Planet Patchwork mystery quilt, in a double size. I never liked the yellow border, and this year I used it for quilting practice in my frame - when I discovered that you can't continuous curve on squares that are longer than your limited sewing throat on a domestic machine in a frame. It was actually kind of satisfying to cut it down to size and finish it off.

I also quilted this table runner, which I am making from a Quilter's Almanac magazine I bought in Hawaii. It will feature 52 Yo-Yos in 30s fabrics. I made a lot of the Yo-Yos in the car last weekend when we had a really long drive up to see a historic ship, HMS Trincomalee, at the historic quay in Hartlepool. I have been reading the Aubrey and Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian, and this ship is the only warship left that is a similar size to the smaller ships Captain Aubrey sails in many of the books. We had a great time going all over the ship and exploring the buildings on the quay.

I used the Clover Yo-Yo maker to make the Yo-Yos, which is a gadget I am quite impressed with. When I first saw it at a show, I didn't buy it because I couldn't see why I would need one when I can just make yo-yos the traditional way: create a circle template, trace round the template onto fabric, cut out fabric with seam allowance, eyeball a seam allowance and stitch a running stitch all the way around, pull tight to gather Yo-Yo.

Which would be fine for one yo-yo, but when you need 52 identical yo-yos, this gadget is fantastic. I timed myself in the car and I could complete a large Yo-Yo, starting from a fabric strip, in under two minutes. And they are exactly the same size every time, with neatly gathered folds. No tracing or cutting out circles, you just snap the two plastic pieces together with your fabric in between, cut roughly around the device with scissors l eaving an approximately 1/4 inch seam allowance, then stitch through the holes in the device while holding the seam allowance down over the plastic rim with one hand. Pop apart the two plastic plates, pull up the thread and Shazzam! one yo-yo. The round yo-yo makers come in several sizes, and Clover also make fancy shapes. I bought the 'flower' shaped Yo-Yo maker, and I'm going to use some of those on my table runner as well. These are made with the same basic principle, but take a bit longer as there are more holes to stitch through, and a separate circle to gather up in the middle of the yo-yo to create the flower centre.

I snapped a couple of photos of my knitting. Here is 'Hey Teach', as you can see I have finished both fronts but haven't done the back yet.

And this is a new project, a lace shawl for summer which was the March 16 pattern in my Knit-A-Day pattern calendar. The pattern called for an aran weight Bernat yarn, now discontinued. I was imagining it in a smooth cotton or cotton blend but couldn't find anything in an aran weight. Then I remembered that you can knit two strands of DK to arrive at aran weight, and ordered some 'Juicy' (bamboo and cotton blend) online for a good price. It took me a while to get going on the lace pattern and I had to rip back a few times, but I now understand the pattern and am really enjoying this. It is an 8-row repeat, but the alternate rows are just purl.

I've been looking for a project to take with me to Paducah in a few weeks. I was going to try the Pi Shawl by Elizabeth Zimmermann, but I am enjoying this lace shawl so much I am tempted to take it instead, even though it will be a lot bulkier to travel with.

Hope you have an enjoyable Easter and get some quality crafting time in.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The waiting game

Earlier this week we were told that we would find out whether we were successful or not in our job applications on Thursday - today. So the whole week has been a waiting game, and today I am just sitting here waiting for the call or meeting request or email - not sure how I will find out and no time given.

Spookily, yesterday on my way out of the building, I bumped into the HR man who originally hired me into the company 17 years ago. I rarely see him as almost 4,000 people work in this complex - so what does it mean? Coincidence? .... or not?.....

UPDATE: well, I had to wait all morning, and by lunchtime I was feeling a bit hysterical. My line manager was like "Oh! haven't you heard yet?? I should probably call and find out what the timetable is..." - like, DUH. I finally got the call about 1:10 pm, by which time I knew it had to be bad news because my colleague had her appointment at 10:30 am. Sure enough, I was unsuccessful in my two applications.

I am feeling a bit rejected but also like it is probably a good thing. I definitely didn't want the full time job once I found out more about it, and the part-time job (although I would have loved it) probably wasn't a good career move.

Let's just hope something else comes up before the end of the year.... or I am going to running out of fabric and yarn money which would be a BAD thing...

Friday, 3 April 2009

Where to start?

Well, re-reading my last post, I am amazed at how much I have been doing since then. Including a major overhaul of our living room which will finally give me somewhere to display most of my dollshouses.

After quilting the last wallhanging, I finally was able to put away the quilting frame. It disassembles and the long rails go in my closet, while the other bits tuck away here and there under the bed etc. What a huge difference, my bedroom instantly seemed 1.5 times bigger and brighter. Which inspired me to do more tidying up, including finally doing something with my rulers. Up until now they have been living in an untidy heap piled on top of a little grooved wooden ruler holder which was completely inadequate, and I could never find the one I wanted. I was looking with frustration around my bedroom, trying to figure out where I could put the darn things, when my eye fell on the one door that didn't already have something attached to the inside surface. A hammer and several nails later, and 'voila!'. Much better, although I have to close the door carefully.

Last Saturday DH and DS went up to London, so I had a lovely day to myself. I immediately took over the dining table and started work on a project I kept from American Miniaturist magazine a few years ago. It was an article about a club who had converted little Coca-Cola tins into 1/48th scale cafes and soda fountains. I thought it was so cute, and immediately bought a similar tin on Ebay. Recently I have been collecting together the materials I needed for the insides, including some scrapbooking bits I picked up at the Olympia Stitch and Craft show a few weeks ago. I made all the wallpaper and graphics on the computer. Working all morning, I was able to create the two floors, apply wallpaper, ceiling and floor papers and line the inside of the door with a vintage graphic. That's as far as I've got so far, so furnishing still to come, although I've popped in a few chairs and the jukebox I made from instructions in the article to give you the idea.

In the week, I put the last few stitches into an applique block that has been kicking around for ages, block 13 of my 25-block applique quilt (the one I was going to finish in a year, ha ha ha). This is a block from 'Grandmother's Last Quilt'.

I finished sewing the binding on the jellyroll quilt, so it is completely done now and I will take it to work next week to give to my colleague. He wants to give me something for it, and wouldn't take no for an answer. I hardly know what to say, if I told him how much I have spent on materials he would probably faint. I think I will just leave it up to him to decide what he wants to give, even though I tried to tell him that it was reward enough that it would go to a good home. The quilting is large meandering in the centre, with a scrolling feather in the border.

Knitting update: I have spent most of this week fighting with 'Hey Teach'. I have done some lace knitting before, not a lot, and I am perfectly fine working with whole repeats. Once you take off the stitches for the neckline, you are left with partial repeats on the two fronts. I bumbled my way through the right front because I only had a partial repeat on the armhole side. The lefthand side has two partial repeats, and I must have ripped it out about 15 times because I keep going wrong. And frustratingly, I thought I was getting it for a few inches when I realised I had forgotten to take off the stitches for the neckline and had to rip back again, groan! I understand the concept of matching increases and decreases, but the actuality is quite tricky. I am currently about halfway up the left front on my nth attempt - the yarn is quite grubby from the constant reknitting. But I'm not ripping it out...

So what is happening with my living room? Well, you may have gathered that I have a 'few' dollshouses. We moved into this house five years ago, and there has never been a good place for them to live apart from one which sits at the top of the stairs on the landing. The rest have floated awkwardly around, perched on other pieces of furniture, balanced on top of cupboards, and the Greenleaf has been in my bedroom since I moved it out of the kitchen. A few weeks ago there was a programme on TV here in the UK about miniaturists, and profiling an avid and wellknown miniaturist named Caroline Hamilton. I was stunned by the pictures of her real house, which was basically a showcase for her collection, with dollshouses everywhere. They were in the living room and on display shelves, not hidden away or balanced on top of cupboards. Since I have given up on us being able to afford to move to a bigger house, I had been toying with the idea of some kind of wall unit in the living room where I could store more of my hobby stuff, but after seeing that programme I realised I had been thinking too small...

Suddenly it all fell into place. I was at work, in the little kitchenette area getting a tea, when I suddenly realised the solution to an affordable modular wall unit was staring me in the face: kitchen cabinets. And kitchen countertop, the perfect solution for displaying 1/12th scale large heavy dollshouses. At first I was thinking Ikea, and sketching out options from their catalogue, but then I remembered a friend at work had sold her old cabinets on Ebay when she replaced her kitchen. I looked on Ebay, and there was a set of cabinets and worktop which would do just the trick, so I put a bid in. Only I lost the auction, which was depressing. But then the seller contacted me because the winner pulled out, and then I was the proud owner of an entire kitchen's worth of cabinetry for the mere sum of £102. We paid out another £70 to hire a van to go and fetch it, and meanwhile tore apart our entire living room (much to DS's disgust, as a lot of the stuff got piled in his playroom in his way). Here is a picture of some of the units just after we'd unloaded them into the living room and before I drew up my new plan. Amazingly, the cabinets match our other big wall unit, even though I thought they looked white in the Ebay photo, they are actually a birch wood finish which is perfect for us.

So we've spent every night this week working on this, with one trip to Ikea to buy a flat pack wardrobe and then assemble it, then screwing units to the wall and mounting the worktop (which amazingly was exactly the right length and shape - I tell you, this was meant to be).

There is still far too much junk in the way to get a proper photo, but here is a side shot of the rest of my big houses lined up in their final places. It is actually kind of daunting to see them all side by side like this - for one thing, none of them are finished. Hopefully having them out where I can see them and reach them is going to encourage me to get cracking. We still have to figure out how to hang a couple more wall units to accommodate all our books, but it is getting there. I have to say thank you to my DH who was not at all enthusiastic to begin with, particularly because of all the disruption and effort, but he had faith in my vision and is now quite pleased with how it is turning out. He is sad that we are having to sell the two antique cabinets we used to have at that end of the room, but they were dark wood and really closed the room in, as well as not being particularly efficient storage solutions. The new units are much lighter and the living room is going to look a lot brighter and more spacious, as well having much better storage for us. Although he did suggest that a more economical and easier solution would be to just get rid of all the dollshouses...

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