Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My garden in May

Our spring has been goofy. It's been super hot, into the ninties for crying out loud. And then almost within the same day, the temperature would drop to way below freezing. It has wrecked havok on my perenials, and has made me very skitterish about putting in any annuals.

But finally, with nothing but good temperatures in the forecast, I started easing into the garden. We are not, NOT, going garden mad as we did last year, for the wedding. I don't even want to think about how much we spent last year.

Filling the planters with annuals starts with deciding on  a color scheme. I love geraniums, and they have some really gorgeous colors now-a-days. Good old cherry red geraniums are perfect for our old house, and I love them, so I will likely continue with the red/white/blue theme in the front.

In the back is a whole other story. The patio, pond and many planters are right off my studio sliding door. This is my happy place. For this year, I'm going with a white and pink palette. Actually, I've found it challenging to find truly pink flowers, so they are actually almost lavender.

I have this concrete urn thingie in my rose garden. A twelve inch plastic pot fits perfectly inside, making it easy to bring it in to over-winter.

In the past I've filled it with annuals, mounds of lobelia, and little bell petunias and trailing verbena, plus a couple of huge geraniums.

This year, in the spirit of cutting back, I decided to fill the urn with hardy English ivy. The little wire tower will add the height I wanted. It will be fun to train the vines to it. I used three different varieties of ivy, one edged in yellow, another edged in white, and two plain leafed. Half of each plant will be trained up the tower, the other half encouraged to drip over the edge.

To fill in the space, I added a little summer color. In keeping with my pinky-lavendar colorway, I've added in pink/lavendar and white super bells, which are lovely, trailing, minature petunias.

The urn is centered so that it lines up with the trellis and forms a lovely vignette coming into the back garden.

I like the idea of creating garden "rooms".  I also like the Japanese idea of making the path crooked to slow the journey. Often my garden dreams are way bigger than what I could ever keep up.

The pond is really coming along. I can't remember when what year we put it in, but it's at least six years old. The water plants are getting established, offering shade and hiding places for the fish. I think, this year I will need to break up the big clump of iris. But I'll wait until it's done blooming.

It's amazing how quickly the water lillies shoot out of the bottom of the pond. Here are my two first blooms. I'm hoping that the pink plant will bloom again this year too. Time will tell.

I love the moss growing on some of the rocks. This one is so happy that it's blooming. I've had to add more of the smallest rocks (which fill up the spaces between the larger rocks) to the edges of the pond, especially the edge touching the patio. A certain couple of grandchildren (cough Alex and Nicole cough) love to toss the little rocks into the pond. As long as they don't target the fish, I'm completely okay with it. Another bag of little stones costs just a few dollars, and the giggles of my grands are priceless.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Even more culling

This is my other stash of fat quarters. These are batiks (mostly arriving here by way of a batik "collection of the month" program). There are also a bunch of polka dots and such, which are my version of novelty prints.

As with the other shelf, it was too hard to find anything I liked in here. Many of these batiks are fairly old, going back almost twenty years, when batiks were rarely found in quilt shops. The older batiks all had a gray undertone, it was very hard to find pure color.

Now, isn't this better? The batiks are now rainbow ordered on the left side of the shelves (which are actually three DVD racks, hung together on the wall). Each color gets half a shelf.

To the right are my novelty prints, now separated by predominant color. The center rack holds the problem children. In the middle is a bunch of Stonehenge fabric Northcott sent me. I'm trying to decide if I should keep them together as a group, or deal them into the other shelf.

At the bottom are multicolor fabrics, both batik and commercially printed. I love these! Clearly I need more, and now I have the space for them. Wa hoo!

And here are the losers. One really big box and two smaller ones. I don't even want to guess how much fabric is here. There is even yardage in the larger box.

While I'm done with sorting through the fat quarters, I still have my shelves full of yardage to go through. I have three bookcases with a total of seven shelves between them holding my "more than a yard" fabrics. Some of the shelves are pretty well packed... but I'm done culling for now. Let's see what I bring home from North Carolina, it just might get me culling again.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A culling of the herd

Okay, I confess, I like order. It's probably due to raising four ADHD boys, and most likely being ADHD myself. I need to be in charge of my environment, and more than anything, I want to be able to find it when I need it.

This is my stash of commercially printed fat quarters. It's a mess, partly because when my darling (%^&*) boys slam the nearby door stacks of fabric rain down to the floor; and partly because I've been trying to jam new fabrics into the space. But most importantly, I find myself standing in front of this shelf and not finding the right fabric for the job. I'm not a storer, I'm a user. Too many of these fat quarters don't deserve the space they're taking up. Time to cull.

These are the fabrics I've been buying lately. I'm still in search of the rainbow. My fabric choices are pretty much governed by my old buddy, Roy G Biv. (Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet) Bright, clear colors, tone on tone, this is my favorite box of crayons. (Yes, that is a bottle of nail polish, and a noodle bowl from my sister, the potter. It's a horizontal surface. Just saying.)

Now, this makes me happy. The fabrics are in rainbow order. The gray, civil war and multicolor fabrics are gone. I decided that each color should have its own stack, and I could keep only as many fat quarters as would fit a single column. Except for the greens. They are my favorite. Can't possibly have too many of them. And I can stop buying aqua. For so long it was hard to come by, I would snatch it up whenever I saw it.

Quilt shops, it seems, are forever looking for inventive ways to package fat quarters. These lovely greens were stacked in a celophane tube. Totally cute. But look what I found when I opened the roll to fold it into a shape that would better fit on the shelf. What a mess. I was sorely tempted to iron it before folding it, but I am a recovering perfectionist, and decided that the creases would ease out on the shelf. It could happen!

Of course, solving one problem often begets another. These are the rejected fat quarters. They are perfectly fine, quilt shop quality fabric, but some were duplicates, others were fabrics that I bought years ago, and haven't liked in a very long time. What should I do with these? I'm considering a quilter's rummage sale, but I'm more inclined to just give them away. Know a good charity?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The edits and approvals

While the major work for me on the book is done, a whole team from the publisher goes to work. It takes a small army to prepare a book for printing, and my book is not the only one they're working on.

First come the edits. Sending the manuscript off for the first edit is pretty much terrifying. I always assume the worst: that they hate it and want to take back their acceptance of my proposal. One day, when I was writing my first C&T book, a small book-sized box arrived at my house, from C&T. I couldn't open it for three days because I was convinced they had sent back the manuscript with a "never mind" note attached. When I finally screwed up my courage, I discovered the box held lovely gifts from the publisher, with a "welcome to the family" note. Sometimes I'm such a dork.

But the truth is, I enjoy editing. Getting the first, raw words on the page can be a struggle. Seeing the words through an editor's eyes is a real treat. My main editor on both books, Cynthia Bix, has been a pleasure to work with. Always sensitive to retaining my "voice", she has a keen eye for sharpening up a sentence. I do believe I love her.

Up until this point in the process, the words have been zinging around the internet. I don't see them in hard copy until the "flow" arrives.

This is the first time I will see the book with the pictures and the words together. This is the last chance to make major changes. I need to make sure that the step out pictures have been taken properly, that they focus on the right aspect of the sample, that sort of thing. It's a chance to rearrange hunks of text to make the book flow top notch.

And it's an office supply addict's dream come true. Using four colors of post it tags (five actually because I added another category after this picture was taken) I was able to flag pages where I had issues or suggestions. Larger post its were used to attach notes. It took me the better part of a week to go over it and over it and over again. And then off it went, back to the publisher.

Some where along the line I get to see the cover design. The book designer and I talk about what I'd like the book to look like, overall tone and personality of the printed page. I am totally thrilled with the cover, but it's too soon to show on the blog. Sorry! (Don't you just hate it when a blogger says "I'm doing all this work on this spectacular project, but it's top secret for now." It feels kind of neiner, neiner, neiner to me.)

Now we're up to date. About a week ago the sample pages arrived in an email. (I do love technology!) It's my first chance to see the words and pictures formatted as they will be in the final book. This is another opportunity to make suggestions and correct errors. And it's darned giddifying. (That's a technical term, I'm sure of it.) Just now I received an email from my tech editor approving my suggested changes (they were pretty minor).

I'll see the book one more time before it goes to print. It will be my absolutely last chance to make any changes. It's been just over nine months since the proposal was accepted, and work began. It does feel like giving birth. Seeing and feeling it grow to maturity, having professionals to make sure that it's healthy, and finally, a crack team to deliver it to a quilt shop near you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks

Yes, I'm a little late in coming to the party. The blog hop for the new issue of Quiltmaker's 100 blocks was a while ago. I was invited to take part, but the invitation came while I was fighting with a hacked computer and a dying blog. Very frustrating.

But they still have a contest going on. It's a "name that designer" puzzle that will be a snap if you have the latest issue. And for a few minutes of your time you could win four of the blocks from this issue! It's for US residents only, sorry! But for a few minutes of fun go here.

My block is on the cover again. It's such an honor!

I really enjoy doing these blocks. It's a small thing, just twelve and a half inches square, and I don't have to quilt it or make a zillion, although sometimes I really want to.

Like this one. Believe it or not, the applique is fairly simple, the shapes are really easy. The fabrics came mostly from my stash, although the red and yellow are left overs from a project in the new book. I have a small collection of polka dots, they were perfect for this project.

And look at what simply sewing a bunch of the blocks together will do!

For this one, which is my favorite, I eliminated the hourglass block background and just positioned them on a single background fabric.

I love the secondary designs the wings create. I may just make myself a little stack of butterflies to work on this summer. It would be a great tv time project, or perfect to enjoy a little quiet time on the patio.

I like this one too, and when the background fabrics are different colors but the same value (as they are in my actual block) the subtle harlequin patterned background could be killer.

The nice thing about my applique technique is that I won't have to decide until the butterflies are done. I just need to make up a couple hundred butterflies (that should be a good start) and then decide where they need to live.

But I do have to decide if I'm making them all the same color, or random, maybe will all the same bodies? What do you think? What would you do?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Moving things along

It's a little frustrating, having lost five years of blog posts. So much of what I have to write about are continuations of stories started months, even years, ago. So now I'm feeling a little like the Discovery channel, or HGTV, where they spend half of the time reminding us about what we just saw. Really? If we can't remember what we saw just before the commercial break, then clearly we have other problems to address.

So now, with the blog situation being what it is, with each post I have to decide how much to backlog. I still have all the pictures, I'm thinking that I'll do a series of posts, catching us up to the present day over a few posts. For long time followers (I love you for that), I hope you'll forgive the repeated content. For newbies (welcome!), you'll have the background stories that were lost.

Today, I'd like to catch us up on the progress of the new book. It started last summer. Three days after we hosted Caleb and Elaine's wedding here (alas, another story lost), I began serious work on my next book with C&T. In order to have the book debut at Fall Quilt market in 2012, I chose a rediculously soon deadline: November 1, 2011. That gave me exactly three months to write all the words, take all the layout sample pictures and make all of the projects, several of which were bed sized quilts. Oh, and spend twenty-three of those 92 days on teaching trips. Luckily I wasn't starting from scratch, it was on a topic I've been teaching for years.

The most fun part was pulling fabric for the projects. Some came from my stash (woo hoo!) and some was generously provided by fabric manufacturers.

Throughout the process, being organized was the thing that saved my life. Each project was assigned one of my beloved artbins. In each bin I kept a copy of the pattern so I could make modifications and corrections as I worked. I made the samples for the step outs along with making the quilt. And scraps were stored in the bin until I was sure that I had all the step out samples I needed from that fabric.

Here's the set up that I used to take the pictures. We canibalized a clamp-on swing arm lamp, removing all the electrical parts. My brilliant hubby created a small metal angle fixture to hold the camera, (which is not in the picture, it's in my hand, taking the picture). The light is clamped in place, and uses a trumpet bulb designed for photography. Whoa baby, is it bright!

The least fun part was all the background paperwork that goes with writing a book. When I self published my first few books I could start with the raw parts and photograph each step as I completed it. When working with a publisher, a separate sample was required for each step. Oy vey! But worse than that, each sample needed to be bagged and labled, and entered into a log so everyone knew what was what. This ring binder was my master reference, including text, projects and image and project logs. It saved my sanity, such as it is.

At last, everything was packaged and ready to go. Each sample bag contains the fabric sample and also any special tool that was used in the process. To help keep the slippery bags in order,  all the samples for each chapter were placed in yet another, bigger, bag. I totally love zip top bags for keeping things in order. They are one of my favorite quilting tools.

The scary part came next. The product of three months of intense work was packed up and shipped to California. The quilts had been sent earlier, and had arrived just fine, so I tried to hold on to that success as I dropped the boxes off at the shipper. They arrived without a hitch. And then I waited for the next step, which I'll save for the next post.