Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sewing in the kitchenette

As promised, here's a pic of where I'll be sewing for the next few months:
I am comfortable in my new sewing space, but I look around and it really isn't that cute yet.  Like, not cute enough to show off on my blog, you know?  But it's just temporary and I'm lucky to have any space at all.  When I first started coming to this house, oh, 11 years ago, this was the family's main kitchen.  It was crowded, cluttered, and HOT.  It feels so strange to have it all to myself now..
I still don't have my transformer yet so I've been passing the time with lots and lots of hand stitching.  I decided I'm going to collect all my stray threads and tails and see how big the pile gets by the end of our trip.  Random, but if you're a hand piecer, you know how fast they accumulate. 
Thanks for the free internet entertainment tips you sent in, there really is a lot available out there.  I thought I should clarify for a minute though-- I don't plan on sitting inside all spring and watching TV.. believe me, we definietly get out a lot!  Our social life here is quite busy, and we're close enough to the sea that we've been twice already in less than a week.   
But at night, after George goes to bed, I've got some time to spend just stitching and relaxing, and no TV to do it in front of.  This morning while he was at school I listened to greek radio streaming online, but it's comforting to have familiar stuff to listen to in English too. 
I've also had some time to catch up with what's going on in the online quilting world, which I'll admit I largely neglected for the past 2 months while I was teaching.  Seems like I jumped right from the rose star block party to the sprocket qal.  Man it's nice to know there are other EPPers out there like me.  So many beautiful stitches being taken,  so many pretty items being made.  I'm sure there's more out in blogland that I've been missing, but to me it just seems like everyone is hand stitching right now.  I'm in good company..

Monday, March 26, 2012

Athens in early spring

I've never been to Greece this time of year before, so many things are new to lemons and oranges still on the trees in our garden:

Enjoying a sea-side playground in sweaters and jackets:

Spring fashion: (knee high boots in late March?  and I only brought flats!)  plus everyone is still bundled up in warm jackets-- this 60~70 degree weather is still really cold for them.
It's cold for us too-- concrete construction keeps the houses much cooler inside than it is outside-- something I've always been grateful for in the summer (75 inside is better when it's 95 outside), but the heaters are off already and we're pretty chilly inside now-- thank god I thought to bring slippers and my fleece hoodie!

Many thanks to all your good packing suggestions, I managed to get all our stuff in 4 suitcases and 2 carry-ons that clocked in just at or under the weight limit.  My sewing machine made it fine, but I haven't bought a transformer yet so I can't plug it in.  Thankfully, Theodora has offered to take me to the electronics shop, so I should call her this week and arrange to do that. Today we went to the local public nursery school to check it out and introduce ourselves.  George will start to phase in later this week and will go 5 mornings a week from next month.  Then we'll find our balance and routine here.

Already I'm finding lots of time to sew, especially at night after George goes to bed.  We don't have a tv in our "apartment" upstairs and there's not much else to do besides laundry and playing on line.. I realized quickly what a Netflix addict I am-- it's killing me that we can't get access here.  Also terrible that the American tv network websites will not show full episodes (hate to say it, but I miss!  i miss Glee and House!) when you're out of the country.  I've resorted to enriching myself through and browsing the complex world of quilting podcasts.  Btw, if you have any free online entertainment to suggest, I'd love to hear it~  which are your favorite quilting podcasts?  What about streaming live radio? was good for a while, but you can only quilt to the Cure for so long..
Need to charge the camera battery and then I can take some pictures of my new sewing space.  So far I've been a bit too distracted by the perfect backdrop and multiple photo ops like this one:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Making it fit

In my last post I hinted at an extreme packing nightmare and upcoming travel plans.. well,  this is the situation:

We are going to Greece early this year and staying for quite a while-- the entire spring actually.  Important stuff has been arranged at both ends (housesitter in NY, registering George for preschool in Athens) but now all that's left is the packing...

In past years I have always just brought handwork with me, but now that we'll be there for so long, C will be working and George will be at school, I decided this is the year to pack the sewing machine.  And.. fabric.  I've got a few special quilts and projects to get done before the summer and thought this would be a good chance to work on them.  Quilt fabric and notions I'm used to are almost impossible to get locally in Athens (if you know where to buy things like 100% cotton thread, Let Me Know!!) and rather than pay to ship them, I'm just taking an extra suitcase. 
Before I get comments saying how frivolous this sounds, let me point out that I'm already packing two season's worth of clothes, shoes and accessories for 3 people for 3 months.  Ask any mom who's tried, unless you want to look like tourists the entire time (same 5 t-shirts and 2 pair of pants worn in rotation), getting all that into 3 suitcases isn't easy.    Believe me, the extra space won't be all thread and fabric.  Of course there are some presents (who comes from America and doesn't bring presents?) and  I'm also planning to entertain the cousins with one kick a** American style egg hunt for Easter, thanks to the Oriental Trading Company.  So yeah, packing is going to be a challenge. 

If you've been reading for a few years, you know I am a seasoned traveler, but even me, whose child has been on over 30 planes before age 4, is anxious about this.. any suggestions?  What are your best travel and packing tricks?
I had grand ideas of whipping up a bunch of Jeni's draw string pouches but there just won't be time.  Maybe I can get some done before the vacation in our vacation (Paros again, woo hoo!)
At this point all I can do is take a deep breath and dive in.. wish me luck~

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bee blocks

I'm frantically trying to get caught up on my bee blocks before we head off to Greece at the end of the week.. (wait, I didn't post that "how the hell am I going to fit all this cr** in the suitcase?!?" post yet, did I?)
Here are blocks I finished over the weekend:
A wonky star for Carole..

And a signature block for Maureen.. (I was in the mood for a house block)

And in case you haven't seen already, I'm guest blogging over at A Few Scraps today (talking about EPP, what else?), hop over and say hi!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why I prewash, a cautionary tale.

When it comes to "Quilting Rules" it's trendy to say that there are no rules, or that the "quilt police" are out of fashion.  But still, secretly (?) some of us stick to certain ways of doing things and passionately defend our positions when questioned.  For me, prewashing fabrics has become a sticking point..

Some people might think I'm crazy for prewashing because I wash all my fabric,  jelly rolls and layer cakes included.  I even wash gifted scraps, but I wasn't always so cautious.  

This weekend we drove up to Boston to visit friends, and I got to visit two of my quilts as well.  I made this one for Ayane before she was born (backstory here) and I have always loved it, so imagine my surprise when I spread it out and saw this:

Two of the blue fabrics I had used had bled.  They were gifted or scavanged scraps and I think they were hand dyed (possibly by whoever I got them from). Back then I didn't have a washing machine at home and didn't prewash. I took my chances, and look what happened.
Of course the quilt is still beautiful and definitely still functional,  but I wish I had been more careful and it would still be perfect.
So just a reminder. Please learn from my mistake.

Are there any "rules" that you secretly cling to?

Sunday, March 4, 2012


It was time.  Well, waaay overdue actually.  Yesterday I took my little Kenmore for service.

It had not been professionally serviced since I got it for my college graduation, 11 years ago.  It was looked at by a home repair woman when I lived in Hokkaido in 2002..
A really awesome and totally random Japanese experience-- I was in my apartment and the doorbell rang.  I answered and found a woman there, asking if I had a sewing machine.  Huh?  I showed her to my machine and she said she'd check it out and give it a tune-up.  I said "Ok" and went back to my guests in the living room.  "How cool is this that sewing machine repair people make unsolicited house calls" I thought.  After she was done I thanked her and she left, then just wrote it off as one of the many cool-yet-bizarre experiences I was having in Japan.  It's only now, as I write the post that I realize I probably should have offered to pay her.. and with hindsight, the 32-year-old me really regrets missing out on this chance to talk sewing with a knowledgeable Japanese lady.
But anyway, back to the machine..
I haven't used it much since I got the Janome in '10, but I decided to get it cleaned up so I can bring it
 to our house in Athens.  The repair guy said I'll need a transformer for the power issue, but they sell them at the shop so I guess I'll just pick one up when I go back next week.  Has anyone dealt with this type of power issue before (bringing a machine to a country with a different wattage)?  I'd love some advice/guidance, thanks.
Since this is the machine I used since college, I treated both it and its case like I was some sort of folk singing guitar player, plastering stickers all over them. 
(February 2010-- he's really gotten big, huh?)
The lady at the repair shop gave me quite the look when I lifted the cover.  I got the same look again when I handed her my guild ID to get a discount.  She had never heard of the Modern Quilt Guild and asked if we had a newsletter.  "No,  but we've got a blog."  I told her to check it out because I'd really like to bridge the gap between "traditional" services/shops for quilters and the big, booming online quilting world.  I hope she takes the time to learn about what her customers are up to online..
So, I'm happy I finally took it in, and wonder why I waited so long.  The cost for service is actually less than I was expecting (provided nothing's broken), and I'm anxious to see how she runs after the tune-up.  Next in line is the Janome, which in 14 months has quite a few miles on it and the bobbin thread has started to get hooked on the feed dogs when I free-motion.  That's a problem I need to get fixed, but I couldn't take both machines at once, I'd have separation anxiety..

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Balance sought, not yet found

At the start of this teaching session I warned you it might take me a while to find some balance, but now, here we are 7 weeks into classes and it'll all be over next week (we teach 2 sessions each university semester), and still, I never found a way to balance work, quilting, blogging, and housekeeping.  Well, that's not exactly true.  Life does have a balance, but blogging just never made it smoothly into the equation.  I go to work, prep after class, clean the house as necessary; we've scaled back on our play-date schedule, but we spend lots of quality time the 3 of us.  Every night I cuddle with George in bed as he falls asleep and I've somehow found a way to slow it down and really enjoy those moments, instead of wishing he'd fall asleep faster so I could get up and go do something else.  I think AmandaJean's new year's resolution to be more intentional has found a place in my life as well, but I'm not just trying to be intentional with my sewing, but with all of my actions.  If it's not worth it, I don't do it, and then I release myself of the guilt and don't worry about it either.

A few weeks ago I sorted through all the big pieces of fabric in my stash (haven't tackled the fat quarter bins yet).  This was brought on mostly by the fact that they had migrated off the shelves and onto lopsided stacks all over the futon and the rest of the room, and I needed the futon to be cleared off so I could use the space to organize another project.. but the process was really insightful.  I touched each piece of fabric and decided if it was something I wanted to work with this year, or if I should shelf it for "later".  I have this goal to bust stash, and you can't really bust efficently if you don't know what you have.  You can't make quilts you like if you can't find the fabrics you love, and for me, they were all there, I just couldn't find them.  So I sorted and I thought, "What colors and patterns do I want to have around me?"  Out came all the strange prints that I loved but didn't know what to do with, and a stack emerged of balanced neutrals, small prints, and sentimental fabrics collected on trips here and there.  those are the ones I want to live with..  I'd take a picture if the light in the sewing room weren't so bad (damn overcast day)..
But hopefully you'll see those fabrics put to use over the next few months. 

I'll end with a photo of the pillow I made for my mom for Christmas.  I sent it off to her before I could get a good photo, but snaped this one when we went to Chicago in January.  The center fabric is one in my "neutrals" pile.. I'd like to use up the rest of that piece this year..

Travel Quilt #6 and some public crafting

I have been working steadily on Travel Quilt #6 since last fall and it is growing.  I got a chance to piece a few units while I was in Manha...