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What I Found This Week

starbucksvanilla

I finally got my hands on vanilla syrup (Thank you Starbucks in Dublin!) so I can make my favorite vanilla chai latte at home! The recipe I used is 3/4 cup milk, 3/4 cup chai mix (from Starbucks), 2 tbsp vanilla syrup (also from Starbucks – but I need to order the no sugar one). This is the same vanilla chai recipe over here when I searched to be sure I did it the right way, but it is a little sweet for me so I’ll add less syrup next time.

Tara Swiger’s podcast (that’s the latest one but trust me, listen to them all!) – when I realized I’ve been blogging for almost ten years it’s made me a bit reflective. I had a podcast years ago, I used to blog a lot more, I was way more active on twitter, etc. This podcast reminded me of what I’ve always been enthusiastic about and that I know what to do and where to go when I have questions. Look for a podcast, reviews of my favorite books (quilting, crafting, and other), and more to come from me. I have all three kids in school this year (and I really miss homeschooling some days) and I plan on using my time in a good way.

I finally read Gone Girl – what a twisted thing. Twisted in the sense of … just… wow. No spoilers here but I liked the writing and wish I had someone to talk to about the book.gonegirl

I loved the Fat Quarterly Retreat and issue 18 of Fat Quarterly is zakka themed. I barely got to the second page (which is an ad!) before I started looking for something featured in the ad. Once I looked through I realize I want to make at least half of the projects, that’s always a good sign.

Angela Walters does stunning machine quilting and she’s been posting various tutorials. This one is for the peapod which is dense quilting, but I want to get away from my straight line or meandering quilting so I am thinking of trying this one on a baby quilt I need to finish.

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And watch this trailer for Rosewater, directed by Jon Stewart.

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FQR Deux

Saturday had continental breakfast at the hot hotel and more classes. I took screen printing with Karen and OMG I think I have a new hobby. She taught us how to quickly do screen printing with supplies any crafter would have at home. I ended up having enough time to make two designs and stamp over a fat quarter of the fabric I bought with me. I need to buy more muslin and also some paper for the design so I can get my kids to do screen printing too.

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Here is the fabric I printed on, it is white text on white.

Lunch was a time to chat with people and take things back to the hotel so I didn’t have to lug it all around for the rest of the day. Of course the heat made me forget my bag in the classroom so instead of unloading, I had to bring another bag with me back from my hotel run! My afternoon classes were fun – I attended two lectures, one on getting patterns into print and the other on quilt math.

The patterns into print class was full of great information. Jenny Fox-Proverbs, editor of Love Patchwork and Quilting, gave the lecture and she had enough time to answer a few questions from the class. She gave great tips such as how to submit something to a magazine editor and to remember to be true to yourself every step of the way.

And the quilt maths class was fun! Funny that math can be fun, but it was. Lily gave us tips on how to calculate the fabric we would need based on the design, as well as a couple of ways to figure out and piece the backing. I always struggle with backings so I loved that part of it.

Saturday was dinner with a few friends and I went to a fabric shop that sells Liberty fabric.

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This is crazy. This was so much fabric, it was overwhelming. I wandered around the store for a few minutes before being told they had scraps on the lower level. After flipping through the scraps, I found a handful that I brought home with me.

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I don’t make clothes otherwise I would have definitely bought a few larger pieces.

After dinner, Saturday evening was a night of quizzes, show and tell, shopping, and visiting with new friends. A handful of us staying at the hotel stayed up visiting after we left the center the retreat was held in. Sunday morning were the last couple of classes and then it was over! It all went so fast. My last classes were Modern Knots and a class on learning how to use Touchdraw. The Modern Knots class was fun and interesting, and I finished mine during our camping trip in July. More on this in another post because the idea behind it is interesting.

The Touchdraw class was SO dang awesome! It was seriously really great. This is a simple program that you can use on the ipad that you can use to design quilts. I spent the rest of the day on Sunday, during my travels home, playing on the app and kept it up for a few weeks. I’m not sure how many designs I have, I did no designing while on vacation but I have a lot of pictures to look back on once school starts and I have time to get back to it. I really love that app and highly recommend it. It is easy to use, easy to learn to use, and you can have a design in minutes.

All in all a fantastic experience and I hope to go again next year!

Vacation in the British Isles

We had a really great summer. Technically we have a week and a half left of summer, thanks to the September start of school over here. The first part of our summer was spent sleeping in, the kids reading book after book, sewing, playing with fabric, hanging out with friends. The first part of our vacation was a week of camping. More on that soon! But the second part was a vacation in the British Isles. Thanks to Wikipedia, I can say that is an impressive number of of islands including the UK, Ireland, and Northern Ireland.

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We spent a few days in each of Dublin and Belfast, took a ferry over to the UK, and spent just over a week in London, ending with a few days in Paris before heading home. It was all a lot of fun and I thought I’d share some tips.

The biggest thing in any vacation is to plan, plan, plan. Of course planning is the most important when it comes to a trip, and this includes being organized. We’ve been talking about the trip for months now but didn’t really start buying tickets and making reservations until a few months ago.

If you are a little flexible with the dates you are traveling, you can search for the best price for the flight or train you would need to take. We flew over (our only option, I was not interested in riding a ferry for hours) but we were a little flexible in the dates so I picked the cheapest flight. The same goes with the train, check which dates are the cheapest and plan around that. We are a family of five so transportation and hotels were our biggest cost.

Hotels in Europe are different than in the US. The majority of them will not let you have more than two or four people in a hotel room, so for a family of five we would need to get two hotel rooms. There was only one hotel in London that had a deal on the website that offered the first room at regular price and the second at fifty percent of that cost. We went with apartment rentals because it was cheaper in a lot of ways. We stayed in a StayCity apartment, the Malone Lodge and Apartments, and two apartments through AirBNB. This also allowed us to cook food, which is another way you can save when on a trip, and wash clothes without worrying about emptying a hotel washer or dryer.

We are tourists of course and I love doing the big bus tours. We did one in each city and I think these are great deals since you get to see a large part of the city. You can also use the buses for your transportation, building in time since they are a slow way to get around. Check online for things you want to see or do because they will usually offer discounts. The big bus tours offer anywhere from 10-15% off. Other tours offer the same range of discounts. Double check how your tickets to the tours will be delivered and also accepted by the company. We had tickets that we had to print, others that were delivered to a phone via text message, and others that we had to claim at the ticket office.

Leave yourself open to extra tours or experiences. I’m not a spontaneous person, not really. I like to have a plan, at least a broad overview, of what is going on. We had the big bus tours planned in advance but still had other times open, in Belfast that extra time left us to go up the countryside to the Giants Causeway. This was a stunning sight and a trip we were all excited to be able to take.

10 Quilty Secrets

I love a good list. I saw this over at Molli Sparkles and figured it is a good jump back into things since I’m finally home.

1. I don’t like novelty fabrics. Yet I have a stack of charms and really want to make a Polaroid quilt.

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Charms – headed for a Polaroid quilt. Or a rainbow quilt. Or both (there are a lot of charms!)

2. I don’t pre-wash fabrics.

3. I can sew a quilt top really fast – and then it lives in a stack on a bookcase.

4. I usually have a love-not love relationship when I sew. I love the fabric and pattern when I start, I go toward not loving during the process, maybe I love it, maybe I don’t, when I finish. And then I love it again when the quilt is completed.

5. I can be a procrastinator. I find that I work well close to the deadline, so maybe that’s not procrastination, but just really good planning.

6. I enjoy the ironing (I know I’m supposed to press…oops) during the process, from the hst’s up to a block up to the finished product. Ironing clothes – nope.

7. I didn’t know fabric or quilt designers until the last couple of years. A lot of the time I still don’t, but sometimes I do get caught up in the “ohhh it’s fabric by my favorite designer, must have all of it now.”

8. I’m still not sure I know how to do the stippling free motion quilting when I FMQ. I mean it’s easy, and I’m sure I am doing it “right” and it always looks good, it just feels odd.

9. I love cutting fabric. I love going through my stash and finding the perfect fabric for what I am working on, ironing it so I can cut. I prepared a lot of my own quilt kits before we moved over here and it was so fun to see it all together.

10. Sometimes I desperately miss sewing with others.

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FQR Report

Hands down – my long weekend in London was amazingly fun! This will be pic heavy so I’ll probably break it up into a couple of posts.

I didn’t leave home until the late afternoon and even with the time difference (why is there an hour difference between France and the UK?!??), I arrived with plenty of time to get to the hotel before getting a good night’s rest before the hustle of the weekend. But since I rarely check the weather report I didn’t realize just how hot it was going to be! My hotel room was tiny and hot and there was just the smallest of breezes in the room – and by smallest I mean if I stood near the window I felt a touch of air. The lightest touch ever.

20140722-220412-79452856.jpgView from my window, I think I was on the top floor.

Friday morning I had breakfast and walked down the street to find something to do or see. I ran into a tourist shop and thought I fixed my phone so I had data but I never figured it out. At least they were able to tell me that Starbucks was across the street and a few doors down, so I used their wifi. I don’t obsessively love starbucks, but I do like a vanilla chai tea when I can have one.

I walked down to the V & A Museum, and admittedly I don’t know a lot about what is at a specific museum so this was a great stop for me. I walked the fashion exhibit (though I didn’t see the wedding dress exhibit) and took a few pictures. I passed the Museum of Natural History and the line was CRAZY long. I saw the fashion exhibit as well as a jewelry exhibit. I also stepped into the miniature portrait room, but my alarm went off for lunch so I had to get out of there and get ready for the afternoon.

20140722-220413-79453135.jpgMuseum of Natural History

20140722-222013-80413171.jpgHanging in the V&A

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20140722-222012-80412880.jpgClothing through the years

And so I grabbed lunch and my things for my first class and went to the Baden Powell House to register. I was greeted by Trash (who also made my nametag!) and registration was just a minute. We received amazing goody bags (pics to come!) and everyone was so happy and excited that the energy of it went to everyone. The main hall we were in was not very full and it was air conditioned which was such a nice break from the heat! My first class was Petals with Brioni and even if we took a mandatory break when the electricity blew, I finished as far as getting my petals down on the block!

20140722-220413-79453413.jpgBefore ironing them in place, I played with the placement a few times until I got what I wanted.

I love this and I’m thinking I’ll make this a panel of a tote bag. The method of doing the petals is quick and easy and I’m thinking my granddaughter (my niece’s daughter) needs one! The class was good and Brioni was a fun teacher. Here is a quilt she made, I admit one of my favorite things about this is that she quilted around the petals to keep them down and of course that is the quilting too. Oh and on top is the hat of happiness!

20140722-220413-79453678.jpgBrioni’s quilt

Friday evening I went to dinner with new friends and had a bacon cheeseburger for the first time in ten months. It was delicious. I can’t remember everyone I was with for dinner, but I am thankful that all (I think all, at least most) of us have connected on instagram! I met people I have been friends with on instagram and also new friends. The modern quilt guilds had a lot of people at the retreat so it was nice to hear about their groups and activities.

After dinner we went back to the BP House and worked on quilt tops for the Siblings Together donation that was made. I’m not sure how many quilts were donated (it was A LOT – over 20), but at the end of the night there were a handful of quilt tops that needed to be finished so someone volunteered to take them home to finish. I am hopefully going to participate in a ST bee that makes quilts to donate.

That’s just a day! It was so fun, a few of us visited in the hotel after the sewing was over for the night and once again I slept in a hot hotel room. Next year I need an air conditioner or a fan or a few of us did talk about renting a place closeby. I loved the energy and how welcoming everyone was. It was a little scary to go by myself but I figured I would just meet people. I had no problem finding someone to have lunch with or visit with at any time.

Whew, I’ll be back shortly with the rest of the weekend!

My first FQR

I leave today to attend the Fat  Quarterly Retreat in London!

I am very excited. I feel like I miss out on retreats and sewing with other people since we move so often and now are living overseas. I don’t know anyone here who sews, though I have found a couple of fabric shops, and a shop that teaches sewing. That shop seems to focus on clothing and bags, though they do have classes for kids. I am hoping to find others that sew, but I need to work on my french so I am able to communicate with people and at this point speaking the language is more of a priority between the two.

The classes I picked sound great – at first I signed up for familiar things and then I thought okay why take a class on something I am very familiar with! So I am taking screen printing, an applique class, a quilt math class (I’m hoping to learn a few tricks!), how to design with an ipad app, and a class called modern knots. I think I am most excited about the applique class in the hopes of learning something new to help me love this technique (or at least like it enough to make a few projects).

20140717-133310-48790272.jpgMug rugs for the swap!

20140717-133310-48790495.jpgStrips to swap

20140717-133310-48790712.jpgI can’t find my box of embroidery floss anywhere! Of course, who knows if it is good anymore (does embroidery floss get old and ruined?) because I admit I’ve had a lot of it since before I was a teenager, so over 20 years. Oops.

I fly in a few hours and I had a heck of a time reserving a taxi once I land. I’m just going to play it by ear and see what happens.

Aeroplane Bag Finish

I have been making so many quilt tops that I really wanted a good finish. I have a few bags that I want to make so I decided to just get to work. One of them is the Aeroplane bag. I mostly wanted this so I had something to carry my sewing machine in, even though I have only taken it to a couple of places and don’t see myself taking it anywhere else. I just jumped into my fabric and started cutting the pieces I needed. I ran into a problem because I didn’t have any thick stabilizer. I went to three stores here but none of them had any. Luckily for me, my husband happened to be in California when I was cutting my fabric so I sent him to JoAnn’s before his flight back here.

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I went from just that picture – the part of the main panel and the straps – to finished in a day. I sewed alllllll day long. It was awesome. I was tired by the end, it was after midnight.

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I still have a little bit of hand sewing to do, around the zippers. And then I am all done! I love this bag. It was very easy to sew. The hardest part for me was coming to the end and being sure that the outside main panels lined up correctly. I did have to take out the seams on one side of the zipper and resew to get it lined up a little better. This is a great bag, I can’t wait to need to take my machine somewhere, but I will probably use it on one of our vacations as well.