Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm almost ready for Rockford, IL (but, are they ready for me??)

In case you're wondering, all that's left to do on my "to do" list is write and copy the handouts for the two workshops and glue card stock templates to sandpaper for the construction workshop. Yeah, I got it all done, YAYY!!

This morning, I scanned all my printing to make PDF files of everything, and emailed it to FedEx/Kinko's for copying (including the book). I got design tiles (for "freebies"), templates (for the construction workshop), and enlarged tiles (for demonstration purposes) printed on card stock.

As for the book, I got a glossy card stock for the cover (the front cover IS color, after all), and a heavier paper for the interior pages (so you can't see through it). It cost a bit more, but I'm very pleased with the finished product. Yes, it's worth every bit of $20 . . . you'll be able to get YOUR copy middle of October, once I get these next two weeks outta the way.

I'm setting up a staging area in a corner of the apartment so I have everything I'm gonna take with me. They'll think I'm moving in to stay at the hotel . . . sewing machine, cutting mat, rotary cutter, acrylic rulers, fabric (I'll assume there's an iron and ironing board in the room), quilts, books, muslin foundations, etc. Well, it IS an Extended Stay America hotel, after all), LOL!!

I don't know about internet access (I have no laptop) . . . maybe there's a "business" area where I may be able to post about the trip. Otherwise, you'll have to wait until my return next week.

Thank you for reading this post. Please leave a comment and follow this blog!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"He's making a list, he's checking it twice . . ."

Don't worry, the only one "naughty" around here is me (in a nice way) . . .

It's the "Countdown to Rockford," my lecture/workshop gig this week, and there's so much to do, I've made a list (and added to it) to make sure I don't forget anything.

1. Rent car. I did this Friday . . . it'll be cheaper to rent the car for two weeks instead of renting two cars for two different weekends (I go to the western suburbs of Chicago the following week).

2. Complete foundation squares. Yesterday, I stamped and heat-set (ironed) six hundred 8" muslin foundation squares . . . it sure beat the hell outta stencilling 'em all (which is what I used to do). I like the new stamping ink I got. It's thicker, so while the ink does bleed through the starched muslin, it doesn't wick outwards, making thicker lines. Also, the ink gives off very little smell; the ink I had before gave off a harsh chemical smell that permeated the apartment (even with windows open and fans blowing).

What's left to do??

3. Buy rubber stamp cleaner and a fabric marking pen at ArtMart. There are some muslin squares where the ink didn't bleed through enough to be seen on the back (I want these squares to be reversible) . . . I intend to draw in the missing lines where need be.

4. Finish book. I need to design front and back covers; insert running feet and folios (page numbers); insert Table of Contents. Then, I'll run off a copy to scan in the office tomorrow and turn into a PDF file. I'll email the files to FedEx/Kinko's for copying/binding. I'm optimistic--I'll print 75 copies for my first printing.

5. Assemble design workshop materials. The other day, I had an idea: I'll enlarge the design tiles to 8", then copy 'em. I have a cheap bulletin board that will fit on my easel. I'll stick a pin through the center of the tiles and attach 'em to the bulletin board. Then I can rotate 'em for the entire class to see!!
I need to create a handout for the students. I'm pulling the tables of possible blocks from the book. FedEx/Kinko's can copy the handouts and design tiles (on card stock and regular copy paper).

6. Assemble construction workshop materials. I need to print templates on card stock, then glue 'em to the backs of sheets of sandpaper. I have no idea how many students in either workshop, so I'll prepare for twenty-five, just in case.
I'm supplying each student a template to cut out, and sixteen foundation muslin squares, enough to make four 4-patch blocks. They can either make a 2 ft. sq. wall hanging or a 4 ft. long table runner. If I have time, I'll write the handout as I go; I'd like to make a sample to show.

Um, er, if you'll excuse me, I've got work to do . . .

Thank you for reading this post. Please leave a comment and follow this blog.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prepping muslin foundations . . .

Last evening, I began prepping muslin foundations . . .

Previously, I had bought several 1.5 yard lengths of 108" bleached muslin, which I pre-shrunk in hot water (and hot dryer). I folded the fabric widthwise and laid it on my cutting mat . . .

I trimmed off the end and cut the fabric in 8" strips along its length . . .

I ended up with a stack of sixteen 108" strips of muslin . . .

Next, I prepared a solution of liquid starch and water. The bottle gave a formula of one cup liquid starch to six cups of water for "light" starch, and one cup liquid starch to four cups of water for "medium" starch . . . I used one cup liquid starch to five cups of water (heavier than "light," and lighter than "medium"). When I first started using this method, I used a 50/50 starch/water solution: the muslin came out as stiff as cardboard, the sewing machine needle made a "pock, pock, pock" sound while sewing, and I noticed little puffs of "starch dust" (which can't be good for the machine). I quickly learned to dilute the starch even more.
I starch the muslin for two reasons: the starch adds stability to the muslin, making it less likely to stretch when sewing on the bias; and, the starch keeps the ink from spreading too far when I stamp the squares (I don't mind the ink bleeding through to the other side, but I don't want the lines too thick).
I poured the starch/water solution in an aluminum roasting pan (they're not just for turkeys, you know). While wearing latex gloves, I added strips of muslin until all the solution was soaked up, then I'd flip the entire pile over, kneading the solution through (and out of) the strips, then let it get soaked up again. I did this several times to make sure ALL the strips were soaked.
Next, I covered my worktable with a plastic tablecloth. I wrung out the excess starch/water solution, then spread the strips on the table to air a bit. I do not let the strips dry completely because it's difficult to iron out any wrinkles. Instead, I let the strips air until they're just slightly moist to the touch (this varies depending on temperature, whether there's a fan blowing on them, etc.).

Then, it's time to iron the strips. The heat from the iron removes the last of the moisture and gives a smooth, clean finish to the strips.

I layer the ironed strips on my cutting mat, trim off the selvedge, then cut the strips into 8" squares. There is usually a piece left over that's less than 8", but too big to throw away. That's ok: I have a 3" stamp I'll use on them.

Here you have one hundred ninety-six 8" squares and sixteen "remnants."

Today, I ordered some new fabric ink from Dharma Trading . . . the ink I had been using is toxic and gives off a strong chemical smell. I'm hoping the new ink will be friendlier. I bought a bottle of yellow and a bottle of blue. They should arrive Friday . . . now, back to the studio to make more starched muslin squares.
Thank you for reading . . . feel free to leave a comment and follow me.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I have ten days to get the following things done before I leave for Rockford, IL and my 3-day lecture/workshop gig:
  1. Complete book and get copies printed (a la FedEx/Kinko's) . . . at this point, I need to write front matter, and add additional material to two sections.
  2. Extract material from the book to turn into handouts for students (the students do not get a free book).
  3. Cut, starch, and stamp muslin squares for the construction workshop.
  4. Write handout and prepare templates for construction workshop students.

At this point, I'm a little hindered by the fact that the guild has no idea how many students I should expect. I'm sure my contract states the maximum number of students per workshop . . . we'll see . . .

The following week, I have a 3-day gig in the western suburbs of Chicago. They have no idea how many students to expect, either . . .

GRRRR (and, not in a good way) . . .

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In Like Flint in Flint (like) . . .

This weekend, I attended (and participated in) the Flint Festival of Quilts 2009 in Flint, Michigan . . . if you ever get the chance or opportunity to attend, jump on it!! There were six different quilt shows with six different themes in six different locations . . . I attended three of 'em.

There were several rooms of quilts featuring star blocks, star fabrics, or star quilting at the Longway Planetarium (go figure) . . .

The Greater Flint Arts Council curated a show of small art quilts entitled "Nature" . . .

The Flint Public Library hosted the 20th Anniversary of the Flint African American Quilters Guild with a quilt show in the library. They also featured ME as lecturer on Saturday afternoon (you knew I was coming to that) . . .

I spoke for about an hour to a room of about 150 men, women, and children . . . I entertained my audience with tales of taking up sewing on a dare; bonding with my father over a sewing machine; and, "outing" myself . . . then, the lights went down, and I showed them slides of my quilts (they "oohed" and "aahed" appreciably, in all the right places) . . . the lights came up, and I told them about my current design system: I also gave away nearly 200 sets of my design tiles (though I'm sure some of 'em took more than one apiece, LOL!!) . . . I spent the next hour signing autographs, taking pictures, and getting a couple of possible commissions (if they follow through).

The entire lecture was filmed for Public Access TV . . . the producer, Ernestine, loved me and my presentation!! She thought me a natural, the way I interacted with the audience and kept them involved. Hey, I'm passionate about quilting . . . talk with me for more than five minutes and you'll "catch it"!! Ernestine had 4-5 markets to show the finished product; had orders for the DVD; and, promised me a copy I could embed on my website. I gave her a flash drive with jpegs of the slide show (to insert post-production).

About 10:30 p.m., I got a call from Ernestine . . . she had a problem with the jpegs: they weren't high-resolution enough!! (Did I think to take my photo album with me?? No.) She wasn't far from my hotel, and was gonna retrieve the flash drive from her technical guy and return it to me. She arrived around 11:30 p.m., but wasn't coming into the hotel because of her chemically-induced asthma sensitivity to the chlorine in the indoor swimming pool. We sat outside in our jackets and she talked about politics, and sex . . . I stopped her before the topic turned to religion because it was 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning by then, LOL!!

My flight back to St. Louis was uneventful . . .

My first stop was for some lunch . . . my second stop was to buy a new copier/printer/scanner (mine was "pushed down the stairs" years ago). Now to scan some thirty photographs so I can overnight 'em back to Michigan tomorrow . . .

Later, sweet tater . . .

Monday, September 7, 2009

A weekend with LOTS of reading, little writing (and no 'rithmetic)

Saturday morning, Ed and I went to the library among our other errands. Ed had a book to return and we both needed to renew our memberships.

I checked out four books on self-publishing, and requested 3-4 more.

Saturday afternoon, I read Mark Ortman's "A Simple Guide to Self-Publishing" (1996, 54 pages) in about an hour.

I started reading three books concurrently: "The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing," by Tom & Marilyn Ross (2002, 443 pages); "All-By-Yourself Self-Publishing," by David H. Li (1996, 241 pages); and, "How to Get Your eBook Published," by Richard Curtis and William Thomas Quick (2002, 261 pages). I'd read a chapter (or two) in one book, then put it down and read a chapter in another. If the chapter went on and on and on, I'd put it down and start reading something in a different book. I've read about 100 pages in each.

The books have been great! Not only have they helped me reorganize my material, but they've given me some great ideas about titles, and my audience (can YOU think of who else would appreciate this book??). I am still considering publishing an eBook originally, followed by a print book.

Don't worry . . . I haven't forgotten about you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From design tile to block to pattern . . .

I trust you've been playing with your set of design tiles . . . If you don't have a set of design tiles, I suggest you leave your name and email addy here, and I'll send you a set.

Have you been keeping a block log?? With thousands of 4-patch blocks and millions of 9-patch blocks, just how good is your memory anyway?? . . . Merely use the numbers in the upper left (or right) corners, separated by hyphens.

You're gonna have to have your tiles handy, because I'm gonna describe some things in this post, and I want you to SEE for yourself, rather than me just showing you . . .

4-Patch Blocks and Patterns

Lay out four tiles of your choosing . . . as an example, I'm using 1-1-1-2:

Now, lay out three more identical 4-patch blocks:

Do you see the emerging pattern?? Now, move the left column to the right side of the pattern:

Now, instead of four 4-patch blocks of 1-1-1-2, I have four 4-patch blocks of 1-1-2-1. The pattern remains the same, only "shifted" to the left. Now, move the top row to the bottom of the pattern:

Now, instead of four 4-patch blocks of 1-1-2-1, I have four 4-patch blocks of 2-1-1-1. Again, the pattern remains the same, only "shifted" upwards. I could continue moving columns and rows of tiles, "shifting" the pattern as I do.

So, although 1-1-1-2, 1-1-2-1, 1-2-1-1, and 2-1-1-1 describe four distinct 4-patch blocks, the pattern remains the same for all of them. This should be the same for the four 4-patch blocks you're working with.

9-Patch Blocks and Patterns

When I was studying the symmetries I found in other books, I could easily reduce them to a 4-patch block. Repeating the 4-patch block generated the pattern. The same does not hold true for 9-patch blocks.

Using the four 2-1-1-1 blocks above, I can form four different 9-patch blocks. These blocks generate four different patterns. Group your tiles as shown below . . . if you have enough copies of tiles, lay out three identical 9-patch blocks:

By their very nature, 9-patch blocks are "odd." Though they connect with each other, they do not "shift" the pattern repeat as they do with 4-patch blocks. There are a few arrangements that are more or less symmetrical. One arrangement alternates two tiles, checkerboard fashion; one arrangement uses one tile to form a cross in the center of the block, with a different tile in the four corners; and, one arrangement uses diagonal groupings of three tiles.

As always, thank you for reading this post. Please feel free to leave a question or comment, and follow this blog.

Medicating Rambo . . .

Thanks to those who asked about my kitty, Rambo . . .

When I last wrote about the felonious feline, he was drooling blood . . . it was a "giving" morning: I gave Rambo a trip to the vet; the vet gave Rambo two shots in the butt (after cutting off his collar, the cause of the problem); the vet gave me a bottle of antibiotics (and, the bill) . . . ERK!!

I put the antibiotics in the refrigerator, where they stayed until I returned from Ste. Genevieve on Saturday . . . then, the fun began. Who would have imagined that getting an eyedropper of medicine down a cat's throat is a two-man job??

First, we wrapped Rambo in a towel for two reasons: cats shed fur when stressed (and, this was gonna be a stressful moment for all concerned) . . . and, the towel acts like a straight jacket, immobilizing his legs (did I mention that our cats have their claws??)

Ed held Rambo while I pried his jaws open to deliver the medicine (Rambo's jaws, not Ed's). Rambo's jaws clacked shut at the first eyedropper of medicine, bathing his gums and my fingers in goo . . . I think I got some medicine down his throat the second time, but I'm not sure. And of course, he's squirming and thrashing in Ed's arms the whole time. He took off as soon as he got free (Rambo, not Ed).

That was Saturday evening . . . we haven't repeated the experience, though the vet suggested using up the entire bottle of antibiotics.

I think it'll be less of a hassle if Ed and I take the medicine . . . maybe during Happy Hour, when we can chase it with a good, stiff cocktail!!