Amicable divorce

I finally admitted to myself that the relationship wasn’t working. It was time to divorce my sit-down long arm and find a new quilting partner. At the end of January, I filed the papers (posted it for sale) and was fortunate to find a buyer.

The new owner picked it up a couple weeks ago and my sincere hope is that the machine will be a better fit for her than it was for me. The machine is well-built (right here in the USA) and the company’s support and customer service are first-rate. Still, as hard as I tried, we could not get in synch with one another, primarily when it came to thread choice. I’m a cotton fan, while the machine preferred polyester, and we fought regularly about it.

The frustration of coming to terms with our break up was amplified by the fact that, off and on over six years, I weighed the decision to move him in with me. With the whole experience now in my rearview mirror, the most logical (least amount of guilt) perspective is to accept that it was a bad investment (really, more like the wrong investment), learn from it, cut my losses and move on.

And move on, I did. Meet my rebound new quilting partner, the Bernina Q20. Its advantages were instantly noticeable:

  • It has a stitch regulator
  • The bobbin can be wound by the machine (eliminating the need for a cumbersome, stand-alone bobbin winder which didn’t perform well)
  • The thread holder sits on top of the machine, freeing up table space
  • It is capable of stitching with a standard sewing machine needle
  • Tension adjustment is simple and easy (This was my biggest issue with the previous machine and I spent hours upon hours trying to figure out which machine component to adjust, to what extent and in what combination to get the desired result – The tension dial? The bobbin screw? The thread path? Yikes! I nearly lost my mind.)
  • It comes with a bobbin tension gauge
  • The table comes apart for moving

More relationship updates to come, but for now, I’m looking forward to spending lots of quality time with my new quilting beau, who, by the way, has no issues with cotton thread.

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Time travel

We traveled back in time to 1977 last week when we attended the Houston Symphony’s performance of Star Wars.

Watching one of our favorite movies of all time while listening to the music played live was a moving experience, evoking strong feelings of nostalgia and awe – almost as if we were seeing it for the first time. Can’t wait for next year’s performance of The Empire Strikes Back.

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Hi-tech pillowcase

When I saw this techie print fabric at a shop in Fort Collins, Colorado, last fall, I had to get it.

Our younger son is close to graduating with a computer engineering degree, so it seemed appropriate to make a pillowcase with the fabric. I chose a medium-dark solid for the trim and opted to use the same print for the cuff.

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A visit to New York’s Garment District

It feels weird to say this because for so many years we didn’t, but we’ve been traveling. Last weekend we were in Colorado to visit the kids and this past week we were in New York for three days. The New York trip was unexpected, and when John announced that he was going in place of his colleague, I decided why not? It would not cost much, as the lodging would be paid for and I could fly free on John’s Companion Pass.

In Colorado, I caught the Christian Dior exhibit, which was fabulous, although some of the dresses were displayed much farther away than I would have liked.

Still, it was a treat to see such amazingly beautiful, well-made clothing up close (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the details) and compare Dior’s creations with those of his successors. This one, called Miss Dior from the spring-summer 1949 collection, took my breath away:

In New York, we had a jam-packed schedule, starting with the first day when we arrived early enough to catch a matinee of the Rockettes’ Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall.

This bigger-than-life singing and dancing extravaganza, complete with 3-D glasses, was a lot of fun, but probably just a do-once-check-it-off-your-bucket-list kind of thing for us. We were surprised at how large the theater was, including the stage, which at one point held a double decker bus big enough for 36 dancers.

John estimated that the length of the stage was 4 times that of the bus; the depth, 3 times. Also impressive was watching the orchestra move to different locations throughout the performance, starting with being in front of the stage, then under the stage, then above the stage, then behind the stage and returning to in front of the stage. Maybe this is normal in theater world, but we still marveled at it.

John was especially impressed with the twin Wurlitzer theater organs (circa 1932), each containing 4,178 pipes.

On the walk back to the hotel after the show, we wandered over to Rockefeller Center.

On Friday, we had a couple of hours to wander through the Museum of Modern Art and grab some lunch before our early evening flight, but the highlight of this trip for me was a visit to the Garment District (W 34th to W 42nd between 6th and 9th Avenues) on Thursday while John was working.

We were staying at a hotel on 54th between Park and Madison, and my boss kept encouraging me to take the subway, even handing me his Metro Card. But I wanted to walk, and really, I was up for it after being confined for 4-5 hours the day before in airports, airplanes and taxis.

Just past Bryant Park on W 42nd and 6th, I spotted dress forms in the third-floor window of this building.

To save time and footsteps, I had made a list of shops to visit on each street, with a heavier preference for those with trims and buttons than fabric, although one shop on W 38th had some bolts of cotton marked down to $3.99 a yard and I scored these two homespuns:

A couple of fabric stores were located on the second floor of a building like this one on 7th.

One shop was dedicated exclusively to linen, so I popped inside to check out all the beautiful colors and different textures of linens offered.

I lingered at Beckenstein Men’s Fabrics on W 39th (far left in photo).

After seeing hundreds of bolts of beautiful shirt fabrics, I realized that designers and manufacturers of ready-to-wear shirts over the past 10 – 15 years are unaware of or have chosen to ignore shirt fabrics that do not contain the girly colors of pink, lavender and lime green. My sense is that they’re ignoring the older professional male since John hasn’t purchased work shirts from traditional retailers in more than a decade.

I saw a gorgeous stripe fabric and debated whether to rebel against the market and buy a couple yards to splurge on a custom shirt for John for Christmas, but I didn’t because he wasn’t there to pass judgment on the fabric and I wasn’t sure exactly how much to buy.

By far, my favorite shops were those with trims and buttons. Check this out – floor to ceiling compartmentalized boxes of buttons in any style, shape, color and size. If you can’t find it here, it doesn’t exist!

This was only one of the walls with buttons!

More choices than you could ever dream!

This shop on 6th

had a button shop inside its trim shop.

Here’s a peek:

One must-see shop that kept cropping up in all my online reading about the Garment District was Mokuba, and it did not disappoint. Definitely high end, their trims and ribbons were gorgeous, luxurious, elegant; not a single dud in the entire store – one of each PLEASE! Check out a few of these:

I’d never seen pleated, striped grosgrain ribbon before.

One trim shop had rolls of zipper tape in dozens of colors, allowing them to cut any length you wanted, after which they would add the pull and the stops to complete the zipper. This same shop also offered grommet setting.

Wandering through the garment district was fun for a lot of reasons, but one big reason for me is an appreciation for small businesses and the uniqueness that they offer. I’m numbed by big box retailers and the monotony of their selection, and seldom go to one for anything other than basics such as rotary cutter blades and sewing machine needles.

If you’re ever inspired to check out New York’s Garment District, I would recommend starting early (most shops open at 9:00), taking a water bottle and wearing comfortable shoes. You may also want to carry a little cash, as some stores, even if they sell to the public, may not take your credit card for purchases less than $20.00.

Thanks for checking in. Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Framed

The cross stitch project I started while our house was under construction is done and hanging in my sewing room. The framer suggested that it be hung on point and I wrestled myself out of my comfort zone and agreed.

The frame (almost not found from among the hundreds available) is ideal: a speckled gray/green/brown which blends perfectly with the outer stitched border

It’s good to finally have something pretty adorning the big, blank, sterile section of wall above the printer table.

Thanks for stopping by!

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A guide to cross stitch sanity

My ADD tendencies pushed me into another cross stitch project, one of a three-part series with a garden theme and very different from the types of patterns I typically stitch. The finished image is small, measuring only 3⅞” x 5¾” and is jam-packed top to bottom with color changes, many of which require a single stitch immediately followed by the burying of the thread tail because a repeat of that color is nowhere close by.

For copyright purposes, most of the pattern has been blurred, but you get the idea.

Keeping track of my stitching position and nine shades of green was driving me crazy, so I did two things: massively enlarged the pattern (~400 percent) and gridded the ground cloth.

The pattern as originally published measured 7¾” x 5⅜”, with each 10 x 10 graph paper square measuring only ¾”: insanely tiny.

I scanned the image and printed it on E-sized paper with the final image measuring 31″ x 21¼” with each 10 x 10 graph paper square measuring almost 3 inches. Yes, it’s big and a bit unwieldy to handle, but reading the chart is now a breeze.

In addition to marking the horizontal and vertical centers on the ground cloth, I also added grid lines in the same location they appear in the pattern.

It was tedious, to be sure, but highly beneficial for keeping track of my stitching position.

For all you stitchers out there, I hope you find this helpful. What are you stitching?

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In the cross stitch zone

I finished a cross stitch project while on vacation earlier this month

Fern Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

and took it to the framer yesterday. Finishing it inspired me to pick up where I left off on this one, number three of five in the Heirloom Quilts series by Linda Bird:

I made a small upgrade to the organization system I created two years ago for the embroidery floss colors required for a project, which you can see here. Instead of using sheets of paper, I cut 1¼” x 2½” scraps of Aida cloth,

overcast the edges and added labels to the bottom which contain the floss color number and chart symbol. The cloth holds up much better than the paper, so it was worth the effort.

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A milestone in plaid

Sometimes you just have to step back to gaze at your work product

and bask in the satisfaction of what you’ve accomplished, like 63 plaid star blocks. Here are the last two blocks:

If this quilt never gets finished, I will still be happy about finishing 63 blocks with all those bias edges.

With block construction done, it was time to arrange the blocks and decide whether to keep them oriented the same way or to mix them up by rotating them. John convinced me to step outside my comfort zone of neat and orderly and rotate the blocks.

As I worked on the setting, we both agreed that turning them in different positions helped to emphasize the colors and plaid patterns in each block.

All the sashing strips were cut from this red and khaki woven:

A bad case of project burn out surfaced after completing three rows, so it’s back in the closet for now, but I’m still exhilarated about having reached the first construction milestone for this project.

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Plaid star blocks: on the home stretch

I almost made it! With 10 plaid star blocks to go (63 in all), I finished eight this month. Here they are:

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The plaid star blocks of summer

I managed to knock out ten – count ‘em – ten – plaid star blocks this month! Ten is a nothing short of a miracle because by the time I started the seventh or eighth one, I was sick of plaids, sick of stars, sick of bias edges and sick of matching diagonal seams.

When I wasn’t too tired, I sewed a little bit in the evenings after work, and then carved out time on the weekends to power through and finish two or three blocks each week.

Ten blocks to go!

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