Karen writes about life as a Quiltmaker in Austin, Texas; surviving in an empty nest, marriage, cooking, gardening and (did I say?) Quilting...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Small Business Saturday


I  don't know if you've heard of this yet... but I think it 's a GREAT idea, and today I plan to stop by one of my favorite local quilt shops to do my part...
I believe that if everyone started devoting a larger portion of their normal shop shopping budget away from the big boxes to a local shop, we'd all be soooo much better off! 
See you at The Quilt Store, Honey Bee, or Ginger's Needlework in Austin today - I'm not sure if I'll make them all, but I'll give it a good try! 

For more details:

Here's the scoop:

The day after Black Friday will now be known as Small Business Saturday, where the focus will be on Christmas shopping at small businesses all over the country. Small businesses, especially in this part of the country are very important to our local economy. In fact, small businesses are the backbone of the entire country’s economy. The mom and pop stores across the nation account for over 70 percent of merchants and retailers. Spread the idea of seeking out and supporting our favorite independent shops this weekend!
Here's What Happens When You Shop Local
You keep dollars in our economy.  (a retail study explained that if even half of the employed population spent a mere $50 a month each, at any 3 independently-owned stores - instead of at the big box/chain stores, this economy would turn around in the blink of an eye!     AND ... You can save a business from closing!  (this same study further explained that if you spend minimum $12.00 a week at each of 3 favorite independently-owned retailers, those 3 businesses would be saved from closing.)
    1. You embrace what makes us unique.
    2. You create local jobs.
    3. You help the environment.  (buying from a local business conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation and less packaging)
    4. You nurture community.  (studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains)
    5. You conserve your tax dollars.  (These taxes go to building our infrastructure, salaries, education and funding police and fire departments.
    6. You create more choice. (your local business picks the items we sell based on what we know you like and want.)
    7. You take advantage of our expertise. (we're passionate about what we do. Why not take advantage of it?)
    8. You invest in entrepreneurship (creativity and entrepreneurship are what the American economy is founded upon)
    9. You make a destination. (the more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbors, visitors and guests - this benefits everyone)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another Quilt Festival...2010

Well, I haven't anything to say for myself as a blogger. While I've been busy with many projects (including "quilty" ones), I've definitely NOT been keeping up with my blog - so here goes...

A Baby Quilt EVERY Month...

I continue to work on charity baby quilts for the guild... my ever-favorite pattern for these quilts is still the "Super Sized Nine Patch" pattern by Anita Grossman Soloman... nothing is simpler! Two cuts (and trim) on three yards of fabric results in three lovely 42" baby quilts. Of late, I've taken to putting them together "pillowcase" style - top and backing placed right sides together with the Warm and Natural Batting on the bottom. I trim and sew almost all around the edge, leaving about 6-8 inches open and turn it inside out. The opening is sewn closed with machine stitching. The result is a neat edge that needs no binding! I use my sewing machine's (Husqvarna Viking Topaz 30) decorative stitches to sew a "faux" decorative "binding" around the edge, and quickly quilt with an  all over pattern. These little quilts can be put together in just a couple of hours, and are WONDERFUL PRACTICE for your free motion quilting!
Here's a link to download this little pattern... it deserves to be in every quiltmaker's  quick quilt projects "bag of tricks"!


Another QUILT FESTIVAL - Houston 2010
Yes, another fall means it's time to soak up the biggest quilt show in the world - or at least in the US... The International Quilt Festival occurs at the end of each October - this week for the first time AFTER Halloween, so no quilters were dressed in Halloween finery - which, in past years adds to the creative interest. As always, there is so very much creative energy, so much to look at, so many colors, one almost get's "overdosed" with it all. With over a thousand quilts to see... it results in a rewarding but tiring day. This year I was accompanied by my good friend Writer Russ Barnes, who is exploring Quilting from his perspective as an active board member of the American Creativity Association. Look for more info with links to his work on this subject in the future.

This time, just a day trip, so my pictures of the event were limited, but, I was lucky enough to see Sharon Schamber standing in front of her unprecedented THIRD "Best in Show" winning quilt. Titled "Mystique"... the stunning work, while quilted on a long arm machine, exhibited a stunning amount of hand work, with tiny bias cording tubes arranged lace like to hold the sectioned, medallioned quilt together. The applique work was soooo fine! visit the http://www.quilts.com/ web site to see the professional pictures.

Here's my favorite of Sharon turning the quilt back forward for us to take a peek - of course the back was almost as exciting as the front!

Here's Russ in front of what was a pieced and appliqued work.

And my personal favorite, a work of whimsy (and PERFECT appliqued circles) by Becky Goldsmith. It won a Judges Choice award!

Again - visit the Quilts Inc website: http://www.quilts.com/ for really great pictres of the winners!

- Until next time  - Karen Alexander, Austin, Tx

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sewing the Dog Days Away...

I thought I'd write eloquently about the difficulty of getting through those last hot days of the summer..but someone else has beaten me to it quite well. Almost no one (IMHO) writes of American life these days as well as Garrison Keillor. heres a GREAT Link for you: http://www.publicradio.org/columns/prairiehome/sundberg/2010/08/12.shtml

I love that beginning - "the heat rising up like a wild creature"... it does almost seem alive, and it certainly gets your attention. Causes me to step faster getting through a hot parking lot to the workplace. Makes me turn on the fan in the sewing room - even though I'm in the relative cool of the air conditioning. Don't know what's worse, trying to stay cool enough, but not so cool as to feel the angst generated by worry about that every higher electric bill that comes at the end of August!

Unlike Garrison's thunderstorms in Minnesota, we are past the unusually wet and somewhat milder weather we enjoyed in June and early July and are into the throws of  the great Texas summer "bake off". Unrelenting sun and heat - 100 degrees or highter with no relief in sight. An afternoon shower is now pretty rare - generally the result of some tropical activity at the Gulf shore that really never quite get's to us. And any rain just magnifies the oppression with stifling humidity. Thought processes slow. Cooking no longer has any appeal. Clothing is indeed pretty optional... the less the better!

Like Garrison, we await with impatience that first hint that a break in the heat will arrive... At least we do have the benefit of air conditioning!
I really have machines to work on, and a quilt to finish up in time for the Austin Show... but staying on target is just so difficult. I've cut back on my hours at work by stepping out of the Manager position to try to refocus on my quilting and vintage machine work... but focus seems illusive at this time of year.

I think just getting in front of the machine and doing ANYTHING is a creative and productive strategy that I'll try to stick with.

On a lighter and more quilty note... I am still continuing my first time ever membership in a Block of the Month activity... Gyleen Fitzgerald's "Canal Street Tiles" group project. I finished blocks three and four this week:

I think they came out nicely, and will continue with these, although 5 and 6 won't get tackled until my Show quilt is finished... I have one month to finish it up! Come on cool weather!

- Karen

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A New Life for an Old Girl...

My latest fun project has been the restoration of a Singer model 15 Treadle Sewing Machine. With Tiffany Decals, this old girl has some real class. Her commission date gives her a "birthday" of February 13, 1914. So, she is just a few years shy of 100.

She has a lovely new home in my 4 drawer Victorian Singer Cabinet. I bought the cabinet many years ago (at least 25), and it became something of an inspiration. I acquired it initially strictly because of it's looks, restored it to learn something about preserving these lovely old oak pieces, and eventually started learning about these old machines. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was dragging home other old Singer machines and restoring them to working condition. The cabinet originally came with a terribly hard worn "Sphinx" Decaled Model 27. I looked  high and low for suitable replacement, but never really found one that I liked. Early on, I knew I wanted to return the treadle to working condition - with a period machine. The find of the Tiffany was fortuitous, as a collector show. It had grubby plates, and was a bit dirty, but seemed to show good potential, with a good bit of it's decals still extant, and wear not beyond the realm of further use. It did not have suitable plates for the rear and side, so after further search last year, a good set in a period design were found.

Last week I finally got the restored head up and running. With a new belt, she purrs along, and I pulled out the purple "Texas Two Step" quilt I've been working on to give it a go. It will take some use and practice to get smooth at using the treadle... it takes some getting used to! A bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach in terms of the coordination needed to pedal with your feet and guide with your hands. The right hand has to stand at the ready to help stop the machine, I never did get the hang of that manuever.

The purple top is one I've been working on off and on now for two years. I've only worked on it at Mom's house, using her mother's model 66 treadle, which I also returned to good working order. I want to at least have a top that I can say I produced by "foot power". I'm thinking it would be fun to demonstrate the treadle at some fairs or such.... hmmm?  Enjoy the photos.