Monday, March 31, 2014

Design Wall—or The Drywall-Destroying Panels of Doom?

Sometime in February I batted my eyelashes and wore enough low-cut shirts to convince my husband to help me rearrange my sewing room. (I'm totally kidding. David is awesome and is always eager to help me whenever I need it. So I wear the low-cut shirts to show my eternal love and gratitude. I never bat my eyelashes—it just makes me look like I have allergies or some sort of tic.) My sewing room, as I have mentioned, is also my bedroom, since David and I are both loud snorers and tend to keep each other awake all night. Someday I will write a long, passionate essay on how Separate Bedrooms Saved My Marriage and Yes, Made the Sex Better Too So Stop Looking At Me Like That—but I'll save that for another time. Anyhoodle, I wanted the change so that my sofabed, which had been at one end of the room, would be more in the middle, underneath the ceiling fan. I also wanted to convert my desk to a standing desk, which would end up taking up less floor space. The wall that was behind the sofabed, and was also George Jr.'s home, would now be quilt-free and accessible - perfect for a design wall.

I have spent much of my quilting career looking up how people do their design walls. The options seemed to be:

1) Tack a piece of flannel or one of those felt-backed tablecloths to the wall;
2) Use foam insulation and glue or duct tape flannel or batting to each panel;
3) Use the big mongo 8-ft insulation panels from Home Depot and either lean them against the wall or mount them to the wall with hardware and tools and stuff.

I wasn't crazy about any of these options. Options 1 and 2 I had already tried without success. The flannel was ok, but I hated how it looked and stuff didn't stick to it as well as it does to batting. I have seen countless tutorials where people have used that foam insulation that basically looks like the stuff they make those coolers you buy at 7-11 out of, and even though they apparently had great success with duct tape, MY duct tape refused to stick to anything except itself, me, and the carpet. The big-ass insulation sheets were my option of last resort. I have zero skills with tools and have no clue how to mount something like that to a wall safely and effectively. And we rent our house. If we owned it, I might be willing to at least give it a shot and try to learn, but I ain't messing with power tools and stud joists and wing flanges in what is essentially someone else's property. I also didn't like the idea of just leaning them against the wall because I have children who frequently take advantage of the space in my room that runs from wall to wall to have super speed races. Leaning the panels would have deprived them of precious inches of floor space and probably ended up broken in half after the first crash.

I wanted something more modular, that was still lightweight, and that could take staples. Instead of driving holes in the wall and trying to figure out where the stud thingies are, I wanted to use these to mount the panels:

I used these when I mounted foamcore board on the same wall for pinning quilts for GenQ photography, and they worked a treat. A set of 4 large strips can hold up to 16 pounds, so I figured that would give me a lot to work with. 

On a trip to the craft store, I found my inspiration: stretched canvases!!

That gave me a lightweight wooden frame and with the canvas already attached, if for some reason stapling the batting to the frame didn't work, I was pretty sure I could glue it. As it turned out, stapling worked fine, except for the part where my little hands are entirely too weak to actually squeeze the trigger on the staple gun hard enough to make a staple come out, so there was more of the metaphorical eyelash batting.

I wanted the batting stapled on the edges and not around on the back, because I knew I'd need to mount the 3M strips on the back and batting back there could have impeded that, plus also the potential for lumps that would keep things from hanging flush. Any places where batting started to lift up between staples, I just added a little tacky glue. I mounted the 3M strips on the back at the top and just below the middle. (My canvases were 24" x 36".) In hindsight, I would have trimmed the excess canvas from the back just in the places where I wanted to put my mountings, but I didn't do that and so it remains to be seen if that will end up being my downfall.

3M Command Strips require a bit of prep and I have learned the hard way that this prep is VITAL. They don't tell you to clean the wall with alcohol just to see if you'll actually do it. You really need to do it to get it to adhere well, and you do need to let it sit without anything hanging from it for an hour before you use it, but not absolutely all of that happened exactly as it should have because of reasons, so I have been eyeing the whole thing suspiciously for the last 18 hours, listening for the creaks and groans that might indicate catastrophe is imminent.

So far, so good.

The top is higher than I can actually reach, but I don't mind whipping out a footstool on occasion if I need to. I wanted to keep the plugs underneath clear, so I mounted them a bit higher than I would have otherwise. I also left enough room to the right to mount two more, if I feel it would be worthwhile. If we ever move, I'll be able to easily take this set-up apart and transfer it to a new place, and a single panel could be removed to accompany me on a retreat or if I ever end up teaching someday.

Stop laughing. It could happen.

(And for those who will ask, the blocks I put up for the purpose of the photograph are ones that I made a couple years ago and then abandoned. I just finished one quilt top that was also abandoned a couple years ago, and so now I'm going to stare at these a while and try to decide if I want to keep going on them as well. This is what happens when I sew using my patented Just Making Shit Up method. I get part way through and have a crisis of confidence and shove the whole thing in a box and wonder why I ever thought I could design my own quilts. Then a couple years later I drag it out and wonder if I was too hasty in my abandonment. I'm like a shitty boyfriend with my quilt designs. "I love you! No, I don't! Come back! I NEED SPACE!")

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Missing her today

I am missing my mom today.

My mom wasn't always easy to understand and she wasn't perfect. But she loved us unconditionally and we always felt it. I joked yesterday about the pressure I felt to succeed, but, honestly, every kid should be so lucky to be so encouraged. I know she probably wasn't encouraged like that as a kid and my dad wasn't, so the fact that they were able to cheer everything we did—even if, as children tend to do, I interpreted it as pressure—is a testament to how hard they worked to rise above the way they were raised. As I raise my own children, it occurs to me frequently that I don't have to rise above the way I was raised. I have to try and match it.

When I became an adult, and strode out in to the world on my own, my mom became my friend, and it was the most wonderful friendship I have ever had. No one could make me laugh like my mom. No one found me quite as funny as my mom. And our phone calls were always raucous giggle-fests, and whatever worry I had called her about would disappear in our laughter. She refused to ever pass judgement on anything we chose to do, and if she disagreed, we never knew it. She became, in many ways, an embodiment of pure love and acceptance.

The last couple years of her life were difficult, as she began to lose her sight, her hearing, and her mobility. Phone calls—which had been our lifeline to each other for so many years—became increasingly difficult as she could not hear well, even with her hearing aid. During our last phone call, just a few days before she passed away, I couldn't understand half of what she said and she couldn't hear much of what I said, but we still managed to joke and laugh and I still felt the warmth of her love.

I still do, even now.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Let's Kicking!

My oldest daughter, Harper, has been taking tae kwon do lessons for over a year now. She's done violin and a musical theater class and soccer, and tae kwon do is the one thing that has stuck. So far. You never know with kids what thing is going to stick, or even if anything will. Nothing ever stuck with me when I was a kid, but I think some of that was because I felt so much pressure. If I showed an interest in drawing, I was surely going to become AN ARTIST. If I took a tap class, SHE WILL CONQUER THE DANCE WORLD. My parents were always certain that anything I showed an interest in or an aptitude for was going to be my life's calling, so obviously I had no choice but to abandon it and move on to something else. I was too chicken and too uncool to do anything like get stoned in class, so my rebellion took the form of not taking a second gymnastics class!

Devon doesn't like going to Harper's tae kwon do lessons because it's way too loud. There's a lot of yelling in tae kwon do. And Korean pop music. Sometimes, Master Kwon likes to pump up the jams on the stereo to get the kids' energy level up, but even 10 year olds can only take so much Gangnam Style, and so now they tend to roll their eyes instead of collectively trying to do the horsey dance move. Because Devon gets upset by noise, David and I take turns taking Harper to class so one of us can stay home with Dev. She has class on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings, and I love going to the Tuesday class because we get to see the end of the previous class, which is the Little Tigers.

Little Tigers are, of course, the wee little ones and they are so stinkin' cute, it just makes your whole face fall off from all the grinning. They're like little wind up toys, just wandering all over the place on their little stiff legs and sounding like they've been sucking on helium balloons. Last week, Master Kwon did some exercise with them where he laid down a series of squares in a path and the kids had to jump from one square to another. The squares were, like, 2 inches apart, and the kids approached each gap like it was a cavernous gorge, pausing before each one and dancing on their little toes until finally making the not-a-leap-just-a-really-big-step to the next one. Meanwhile, the line is piling up behind them and everyone is in danger of pushing the whole group down.

That's the other thing that's fun to watch: they fall over A LOT. Feet are a serious deign flaw in small children. What creature can be expected to remain upright on such round little pudge packets? Kids don't get enough praise for the time they manage to stay upright. Of course, they get a lot of positive feedback from me when they fall down.

When Harper starts her class, I am always amazed at how focused she is. A lot of those kids are really just phoning it in. Why get involved in a sport that involves kicking and punching, if you're going to kick and punch like a weenie? I often wonder how many kids are there just because their parents decided they needed "discipline." Martial arts schools are always touting the benefits of learning karate or judo, like all these hyperactive sugar-tweakers are suddenly going to approach life like a steely-eyed ninja. And really, all the instructors ever do with the hyperactive sugar-tweakers is wish they were in a different class.

The parents all sit in rows of chairs off to the side since we're the audience this is all intended for. Not that we're paying that much attention. Most parents are trying to keep the other kids they have brought with them occupied and quiet. Or at least occupied. Some are just happy with "breathing and not kidnapped and the second is negotiable." Some of the dads actually do pay attention and want little Triscuit or Schooner or whatever they're naming kids now to know that he is doing EVERYTHING WRONG. These are the dads that will eventually say, "This report from your school counselor says you have low self-esteem. What the hell is wrong with you?"

It's when I'm around other parents that I wonder if my kids know just how good they have it with us. We're pretty freakin' laid back around here, most of the time anyway. But then I get around other kids and I realize just how good we have it. I volunteer in my kids' classrooms at school and the first graders are a band of total lunatics. No wonder Devon hates school. I'm supposed to be helping during something called "Workshop" but I can tell that this is just a way for the teacher to split off the insane children and make someone else deal with them for an hour while she does something productive with the calm children. And it's not like my presence accomplishes anything—they know I can't do anything to them, so it's pretty much just an hour of total chaos. I can only imagine being the parent of a kid like that, and I suppose after a while, your only recourse is to just try to impress upon other parents that, despite appearances, you really are a hard-ass disciplinarian. "Quimbly! Stop licking that lady's leg! Do you want me to come over there? Good, because I wan't going to anyway."

I'm just glad that my children occasionally allow me these opportunities to observe other people and other children and not only become more grateful for my own family, but also squeak out a blog post when I have nothing quilty to write about.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Essential Sewing Reference Tool Winner told me number 21 was the winner, and that's lisamcgriff who wrote:

If I wrote a book it would probably be about decorating cookies and cakes while trying to potty train a new dog... So I would bribe you with a large batch of the best decorated cookies you have ever eaten, my famous red velvet cake with cream cheese pecan icing (pecans straight from my daddy's pecan orchard) and some time on my sofa holding the sweetest miniature dachshund in the world!

I'll be contacting you shortly via email to get your mailing address. Thanks for playing along, everyone, and remember - I plan to hold you all to those bribes if you ever publish a book. Which many of you should definitely do, because those bribes were sweet!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Quilting Isn't Funny Dots winners

The magic Random Number Generator gave me 27, 10, and 48 so the winners are:

Rebecca Ruch, who said:
Hi, everyone! I'm Beulah Russet, but you can just call me "Bee." Beulah is a silly name. My mother gave it to me. Bless her little heart.

Lisa Schmidt, who said:
Lavina Saffron. I spend my days communing with reptiles looking for my next 'animal inspired' fabric series. Last year I got to know fish.

And Kelly, who said:
My name would be KoKo Aubergine also. But eggplant is not one of my favorite childhood associations. I prefer to go with my stripper name instead. I believe it has a much nicer ring to it. (How do I arrive at that name you may ask? First pet's name and mother's last name.) So, henceforth, my secret quilter name shall be... Drumroll please... Kandy Wiley!

Ladies, look for emails from me asking for your mailing addresses, or if you see this, go ahead and email them to me at dontdrinkandquilt (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks, everyone, for having fun with my giveaways. You all are the funniest, most inventive group of blog readers ever. If you didn't win, please consider purchasing a set from Quilt Dots. It's a small business run by a very cool woman and she clearly thinks I'm funny, so that ought to be good enough bona fides for anyone.

I woke up this morning sounding (and, frankly, looking) like Harvey Fierstein, so I'm gonna go curl up on the couch and binge-watch all the Walking Dead I've missed over the last couple of years. If anyone's looking for me, I'm the zombie who's not trying to eat Carl's head.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Book Tour: The Essential Sewing Reference Tool

Hey, lookie here! I got asked to be on a book tour! For the first time ever! (And possibly the last.)

I believe I have mentioned my undying devotion to Carla Hegeman Crim, the Scientific Seamstress (see here and here) because hers was the first clothing pattern I ever tackled that made any sense. Patterns often seem to me to assume you know a lot about garment sewing going in, and it is safe to say that I know exactly bupkis about garment sewing. And as with many things I do not understand, I fear it, but Carla's patterns are great at explaining everything, so the shaking stops and and I can let my therapist get back to other patients.

So, I did that jumpy-up-and-downy thing when Carla announced the title of her next book: The Essential Sewing Reference Tool: All-In-One Visual Guide.

This book is exactly what is says it is: a reference tool. If you come across a pattern that gives instructions for something—say gathers or a french hem—and you aren't getting what to do, this book will tell you. If you need to add interfacing to a bag or a dress and the pattern just says "interfacing," this book will tell you about every single type of interfacing that exists, whether it is fusible or sewn-in, who makes it, and what types of applications it is best used for. Ever gone to buy elastic for a skirt and had no idea which one to get? This book will tell you. Ever had that moment where you are looking at a pattern and it comes in your size and it looks really good on the model but you conveniently forget that the model is not oddly-shaped and she also weighs about as much as your ten-year-old and then when you make the dress and put it on you resemble a large water mammal trapped in a gunny sack?  THIS KINDA HELPS WITH THAT TOO. (Like, with basic pattern altering.)

I love that you can look up table linens in this book and see yardage requirements for different size tablecloths. Or all the different ways there are to sew in a zipper. Or what different types of straight pins are and what they're for. And sewing machine feet! There are so many. Who knew?

This book won't teach you how to sew and there are no projects contained within, but those are not criticisms. There was also no bribery chocolate attached to my e-copy and that damn well IS a criticism. Journalistic integrity demands that I give an honest opinion, but maybe I would have given an even more enthusiastic honest opinion if someone had seen fit to slip mama a little something. We'll never know now, will we?

Seriously though, I was very, very impressed with this book, as I have been with everything Carla has ever done. Excellent work, Carla! And thank you for letting me be a part of your book tour!

Would you like to win a copy? Leave me a comment below telling me what you'd bribe me with to give your book a good review by midnight on Wednesday, March 12 and I'll announce the winner on March 13. A U.S. winner will receive a paperback copy of the book; international will receive an e-copy.


You still have until Monday to enter the Quilting Isn't Funny Quilt Dots giveaway, so click here to read all about it and enter. And go to Quilt Dots Facebook page and look for the post about my dots to enter to win a copy of my book, Quilting Isn't Funny. (And if you are new here, you can go here to see what Quilting Isn't Funny is all about.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Quilting Isn't Funny Quilt Dots!

When I published my book, the good folks at Quilt Dots suggested that I do a set of dots to go with the book. (For those of you going, huhwhatnow, go here to read the riveting saga of my original designs for Quilt Dots in pins and magnets.) It took me a while to get all the designs done what with all the life issues happening, but I finally did it. Here is my new collection of Dots inspired by my book:

To celebrate this most auspicious and momentous occasion, Quilt Dots is doing a super sweet giveaway: they will give a set of all six Quilting Isn't Funny magnets, PLUS a black necklace base to THREE lucky, lucky people.

All you have to do is leave a comment—but not just ANY comment, oh, no. YOU MUST WORK FOR YOUR LOOT. Tell me your Fabric Designer name using the handy chart below. And if your name sucks, feel free to fudge it to come up with a better one. I am Magnolia Dandelion, a free-spirited southern belle whose designs are like a lemonade on a hot Louisiana night with a naked werewolf lurking in the cypress knees. Do tell me all about yours, won't you? (And yes, they're all girly. I have to work with the numbers here and even though I know I've got guy readers, the vast majority of you are ladies. So, boys, either embrace your inner Magnolia or make up your own.)

Leave a comment with your fabric designer name to enter, and spread the word on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc to get more chances (just come back here and leave another comment telling me so. BE HONEST.) You have all week to enter—contest deadline is midnight EST on Monday, March 10 and I will announce the winners the next day.

And hey - are you wondering what the heck that octopus is about? If you read the book, you'll know—but I also have a thing for eight-armed underwater invertebrates, as my Pinterest followers and various t-shirt makers on Etsy can tell you. And because my Quilt Dots peeps are TOTAL ENABLERS, they have put together a special octo-deal. If you buy any Quilting Isn't Funny set (pins or magnets or bookmarks) between now and March 15th, they'll throw in this limited edition set of octopus pins free! 

AND I'M NOT EVEN DONE. Quilt Dots is also doing a giveaway of my book! Go to their blog to get all the details: (hint: you get to name my octopus!) If you are one of the few lonely, pathetic fools who haven't gotten a copy of what has been hailed as "not the great American novel, but it's a start" by my own personal dad, now is your chance. Oh, and there's the purchasing option, too. Like here. Or here.

Go forth and enter!