Archive for March, 2009



As I was drifting off to sleep the other night, I started worrying about my addiction to magazines, especially quilting mags. Of all things. This attraction is nothing new for me, I’ve been a book-aholic from childhood (I’ll blog about my quilting book collection in another post). While I *try* not to keep a stash of regular magazines around the house (I do clean out the Southern Livings from time to time), quilting magazines are different because they have patterns and tips/tricks, how-tos, etc. These are things that have a long shelf-life. 

And I have, on occasion, gone back through them looking for inspiration. But during this late-night angst, I began to wonder if I’m becoming a hoarder. Or at least, I was reflecting on how easy it would be to become a hoarder. My genealogy projects stack up everywhere in my studio because, well, when you find a lead, you’ve got to print it out so that you don’t forget about researching it at a later date. I’ve got folders of leads stacked on the floor, so at least they’re somewhat organized, but that’s another blog post.

I have two nearly floor-to-ceiling bookcases in the studio which house my genealogy book collection, my graphics/photography book collection, my quilting book collection and the magazines. I’m afraid the weight of these magazines is going to cause the shelves to collapse so I really need to do something with the issues that I don’t care about keeping. And I just can’t throw them away or recycle them. These have value to somebody, I’m sure.


When viewed like this, they don’t look like such a big problem to me, and maybe not to you. (There’s also a 4″ binder full of mags not pictured here.) But obviously, something in my brain was telling me the other night that I can’t continue to live like this. I need suggestions. John and I are not yard-sale people, as much as I’d like to recoup a little of the equivalent to the gross national product of a small country that I’ve spent on them over the years (I think the oldest issue is dated 1999). I can and will check with my local library but I’m under the impression that they don’t take donations to put on their shelves. They might take them to resell in their “Friends of the Library” program which would be my second choice. I just want them to find loving homes, to quilters who will get something out of them. I’m looking for a creative way to give these away. Seems to me I remember seeing a segment on Simply Quilts that featured a woman who taught women in prison to quilt. Maybe they could use some of these. I could send them to a developing nation but the postage would be killer.

Any ideas?


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I was gifted with a bundle of 30’s fat quarters a few years ago and they have sat in my stash while I agonized over how to use them. (I agonize over everything, it’s a wonder I get anything started or completed.)

I finally decided that this process could last until the end of days so I’m just going to use them in my favorite pattern, Irish Chain. I scanned them into Electric Quilt, although they are much more saturated in person than in the scans. The look is totally cottage-style though. 

Here’s where your help comes in. In order to use all the fabrics, the quilt will be scrappy. The lighter colors will be in the alternating blocks and one lucky darker color will make up the chains. But which one?





Which color should I use for the chains, red, purple or blue? I don’t have enough fabric of any one of those colors so I will have to buy new (what a shame). I like them all! Once the color decision is made I’ll work on whether to add borders or not. This pattern is from Alex Anderson’s Start Quilting and she didn’t use borders. I made a smaller version of this early on in my quiltmaking career and I didn’t use borders either, the only time I haven’t I think. Borders create a frame around the design but are totally optional. So I’ll leave that part as a mystery to be revealed later.

Please cast your vote! You’ll need to register to leave a comment here (why? to foil the spambots) or you can email me directly at kaspar dot robin at gmail dot com (why no link? those darn spammers again).

Thanks everyone!


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I’ve tried to do my part this week.

First, I ordered this:


This funky little tripod has legs that are flexible and can wrap around things. I was thinking it might work better than my full-size tripod for photographing the heron nests from the pipeline at the river. But when I tried it out, it has obvious limitations without the optional ballhead. So now I have to decide if I want to invest in one. I’ll wait a while and see if I need one or decide if the Gorillapod is just a novelty and not as useful as I thought it might be.


Yesterday I went to the grand opening of our new Joann’s armed with a 50% off coupon and bought a rotating cutting mat. They’re quite pricey without the coupon. It will come in very handy when squaring up blocks.

At Quilting Adventures I used a gift card I’d been saving for one of Patsy Thompson’s free-motion quilting DVDs. Again, I think the price is a little high, but I haven’t watched it yet. It’s two hours long which is a lot more generous than some other quilting DVDs I’ve bought.

I read on a blog last week that Adorama Camera was offering an 8gb SDHC memory card for $14.95, so I jumped at that. Free shipping, no sales tax! I just checked and it’s still on the website. Head on over there if you want one.

Our next stop was Barnes and Noble where I browsed the magazines (my favorites) and brought home the new Quilter’s Home. I don’t buy this mag for the patterns, I haven’t seen one in it yet that I like. I think it’s kind of funny that Mark has a pattern in another magazine that I’m totally in love with. 

Last but not least, we went to the garden center and bought a spider plant for our bathroom:


This plant hanger is the only survivor from my 1970’s macrame period. I had a pothos in it last year which somehow got infested with mealy bugs. They say insecticidal soap will wipe them out but they lie. I didn’t even have much success with repotting/changing out the soil and using rubbing alcohol on the little buggers. I took some cuttings before dumping the plant. That’s when I discovered it appeared the mealy bugs were living in the jute of the hanger. Could it be? So I used the rubbing alcohol on the bugs I could see and left it empty for a long time. It’s a beautiful plant and is a different variety from the normal ones. I sure hope I can keep this one healthy.


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Weekend wrap-up

We had quite a busy weekend. Erin came into town on Friday for a dentist appointment and catch up with some of her Richmond peeps. We tried a new-to-us BBQ restaurant that night but were underwhelmed. Our favorite BBQ places are Famous Dave’s and Buz and Ned’s (featured once on a Food Network “Throw-down” with Bobby Flay). I still miss Memphis BBQ, not only because it was so close to home and not so busy on a Friday night that you had to wait much and not only because Brian used to work there. I really, really like Memphis-style BBQ. I really, really don’t like vinegar-based, North Carolina-style and Friday night’s disappointment was my own fault because it was right there on the menu after the words “pulled pork.” I don’t know, maybe I didn’t think they meant it? John had baby back ribs which were way too huge to be baby backs in our opinion, and Erin had Texas brisket and said the sauce on it tasted like smokey marinara. But they had a good deal on onion straws and those were very good.

Our big family news is that Kevin came home Saturday night. He flew into Norfolk airport so we didn’t get to see him, but I talked to him yesterday and he’s soooo happy to be home and reunited with his wife. Unless things change again, they’ll be moving to New Mexico in about 3 weeks. We wish they were still going to Florida because that would only have been a long day’s drive for us. New Mexico is another story. Erin’s arranging a big family night out before they move so we’ll get to see them before they go.


Saturday night brought a busload of college students from Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA to our church to give a concert. They’re on their way back home from their annual spring break tour, this year’s being the southeast states. They are a 50+ member a capella chorus (The Genevans) and they were wonderful. They did a selection of sacred and quasi-secular pieces. One of them was called “A Capella Overtures” where they sang, scat-like, some of the most familiar overtures from classical music. That was fun. Another piece was called “Marry a Woman Uglier Than You.” I don’t think I need to say anything more about that one.

We took 3 of the girls home with us to spend the night and we enjoyed having them, even if it was for such a short time. Karey has a cousin living here so she went out with he and his sister for dinner and we stayed up late with Bethany and Jessica talking about band and choral music. John got the opportunity to show off his new Mac Mini media center and played snippets of choral pieces from iTunes right on the television. We had Belgian waffles for breakfast and then took them back to church where the Genevans provided the music during the service. After church, 20 pizzas were delivered and we stayed and helped serve all the kids before they left on the next leg of their journey.

It was dreary and rainy all weekend so not conducive to yard work (yay!) or any other outdoor fun. We ran to the mall to do a little shopping but otherwise stayed home. I swear I don’t know where the time goes because I can’t think of what-all I did yesterday when we weren’t at church or the mall. Arrgh, it must be an age thing.

I think I’ve finally settled on a quilting design for “What Was I Thinking?” so I need to get it marked and stitched. I’m running out of month if it’s to be finished as my March project. I added a few more items to the class project I did for Laura Wasilowski so I think I’m about ready to start the quilting on it. That one doesn’t count toward my monthly UFO goals though, since it was an add-on.

UPDATE: It is an age thing. I remember now. While John was upstairs Sunday evening doing work-work, I watched an old movie on TCM (it’s depressing when movies made in my adult lifetime are considered classic), The Goodbye Girl. It came out the year we were married, 1977. Quinn Cummings played the daughter and she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for that role. After it was over, I checked IMDB to find out what she’s been in since because I don’t remember hearing too much about her. It reminded me that she was in “Family” back in the 90’s, remember that one? And not much else. So I Googled her and found out that she’s an inventor (really?) and businesswoman. When she had a baby a few years ago, she created the “Hiphugger Baby Sling” and now heads up a company selling them. She also has a blog and from the looks of today’s post, I’m not the only person who watched/Googled yesterday.

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Please do this

I saw something on the news last night that about broke my heart.

A husband had recently lost his job and his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The wife said that in some ways, the cancer was preferable to the job loss because she got calls and cards and support, but her husband got nothing.  Their friends and family were ignoring him and I’m sure it’s not because they don’t care, it’s because everyone’s scared, no one knows what to say because no one has any answers.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone, so I’m going to call a friend today who lost her job a couple of weeks ago and just say Hi, how are you coping, I’m thinking about you and saying a prayer that your circumstances will change for the better, etc.

If you can relate to this, please pick up the phone and make one or more calls. If you absolutely can’t do it on the phone for whatever reason, send a card. We’re all in this together and if there was ever a time that the Golden Rule applied, this is it.


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Holly berries


60mm 1/20 @ f/2.8

60mm 1/20 @ f/2.8

John said these weren’t the prettiest berries, but they were eye level LOL. I took out a few blemishes with Photoshop, otherwise the image is as shot.


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This is a fantastic book, easy to read (lots of pictures! LOL) and I have learned a lot from it. Specifically, I’ve finally learned how to read and use my in-camera light meter. So I can set my camera on full manual, decide if what’s important for my shot is depth of field (aperture) or motion (shutter), set that priority and then fiddle with ISO and the other component until the meter shows the proper exposure. The problem I have always had with this camera when I took it off automatic is a surprisingly long shutter speed and crappy results. Not understanding how to read the meter and not understanding the relationship between the exposure triangle led to a lot of frustration and the beginnings of my quest to learn all these things and get better at this.

But after reading this book, I feel confident that I can shoot on full manual, at least outdoors where I don’t have to worry about using flash (I’m not there yet in my self-education process).

Or can I?

This morning I went out to shoot a picture of my daffodils that were just about to bloom when it snowed. After the snow melted, the daffies look horrible. Bryan Peterson describes what he calls “Who Cares?” aperture settings of f/8 and f/11 when the depth of field is not important to the shot. I figured I didn’t care, so I put the camera on Av mode, set the aperture to f/11, ISO to 100 and let the camera choose the shutter speed:


ISO 100 .3 sec @ f/11

ISO 100 .3 sec @ f/11

Yuck! The shutter speed was a tad long and because it was hand-held, I have a bit of blur caused by shake. (story of my life)

I won’t bore you with all the pictures I took using different settings, but I assure you each time my meter told me I had the proper exposure.

I still wasn’t getting the sharp shot I was after, so I tried one on automatic. I learned something new about my camera: I can’t get RAW images on automatic, only jpegs:


ISO 100 1/50 sec @ f5.0 (automatic mode)

ISO 100 1/50 sec @ f5.0 (automatic mode)

Now this is the shot I wanted. OK, I hadn’t tried that combination so I put the camera on manual and dialed in the same exposure settings:


ISO 100 1/50 sec @ f/5.0 (manual)

ISO 100 1/50 sec @ f/5.0 (manual)

What? What’s my problem? Shouldn’t I have gotten the same great results? All of these shots were done using autofocus. I know that cameras do a little processing when they create jpegs as opposed to RAW images which are pure. Is that the problem? Is the jpeg sharpened in the camera and the RAW image needs to be manually sharpened? I’ve always thought that all digital images (from cameras or scanners) are inherently “soft” and need sharpening in post processing. Even jpegs. Do RAW images need even more sharpening? 

Or is it something else?

I’m not ready to give up and go back to full auto yet. I want to understand this.

UPDATE: In hindsight, I should have been more mindful of shutter speed since I knew I would be hand-holding the camera. I’ve heard that 1/30 second is the slowest for acceptable hand-holding and for me, I probably should have gone way higher than that LOL. That doesn’t change the situation above, since the camera used 1/50 second as its shutter speed…



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Winter storm report

I’m sure my family and friends (and the nation) are sick of hearing us talk about snow, but this is a big deal for us as enough snow to close our offices doesn’t happen very often. I think in the 12 years I’ve worked there, The Martin Agency has only been closed 3 times. However, schools close at the drop of a hat (or even a forecast of snow) because the buses can’t get into the subdivisions.

Which reminds me of a story. The kids, Lizzie the cat and I boarded a plane on Friday, February 2, 1996 to join John in our new home in Richmond. When we got to O’Hare airport in Chicago that evening we found out that a huge storm with ice had hit Virginia and closed the airport there. The airlines were canceling flights but not putting people up in hotels because it was weather-related. I about panicked because I had a cat that hadn’t eaten or used a litter box all day and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I called John’s cousins, John and Sharon who live in one of the northern suburbs, and these angels cancelled their dinner plans and came and got us, took us to a department store so that we could buy “real” winter coats (the kids were wearing southern California-weight jackets as that was all we had), took us to a store where we got a disposable litter box (I didn’t know they made them) and then gave us a place to stay the night. The next day another cousin took us back to the airport as John and Sharon had to work and we were able to get to Richmond.

I don’t know how much snow we had with that storm, but the kids were in heaven. I think it might have been comparable to this storm. Their first day of school on Monday was a snow day, and probably the next couple of days too. We didn’t realize at the time that that was the exception, not the rule. But they still got a number of snow days during the rest of their years in school even though the levels were not enough to keep John and I home too.

Yesterday we spent about 3 hours shoveling the driveway.  It’s so long, I had to take 3 pictures to capture it all:


We took a ruler reading out on the front lawn as John thought it was deeper there than our first reading of 7.5″ on the deck. He was right:


Here’s our winter wonderland:



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I got up bright and early Friday morning and headed out to Hampton, Virginia for the 20th annual Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival. I’ve been going every year for the past several (ok I did miss one year) but this was the first time I took a class. Usually, I don’t think about it until after Christmas and all the good ones are filled and closed. This time I lucked out and got a slot in one of Laura Wasilowski’s fusing classes. I’ve seen her on Simply Quilts and The Quilt Show and she is just so much fun, what with her Chicago School of Fusing (she’s the Dean of Corrections). She writes funny little songs, too, like the school’s fight song. We sang her graduation song at the end of class.


My class was working on Laura’s series of Bad Dog and Bad Cat patterns. Before we got into actually working on our pattern, she had us free-cut some flowers. These are mine:


It’s a wonder I got out of Kindergarten. Most of these look more like amoebas than flowers. Thank goodness I don’t have to free-cut stuff when I do this at home, I’ll have better luck drawing things and then cutting them out (not that I’m much of a draw-er either).

I’m not going to show you my class project yet, it’s not finished. I didn’t follow the rules of cutting your biggest pieces from your fabric first and I didn’t have enough of the kit fabric in long enough strips for my binding. Truth is, we were so cramped in these skinny little tables (4 to a table) that I wasn’t comfortable enough to think straight. I was just trying to keep up with everyone else.

The day went by really quickly. I ran into one of my co-workers, Missy, down on the show floor during the lunch break. I don’t know her all that well and I didn’t know she’s a quilter. But she and I will talk about that when we get back to the office tomorrow.

One of the women in class lives here in Richmond and is a professional photographer. Lynda Richardson has done work for National Geographic, Smithsonian and other magazines. She also teaches at the local colleges and holds workshops. Don’t you know I stopped her on the way out to talk photography. I will be following her schedule and see if I can’t get into one of her lectures someday.

I went to Erin’s after the class to spend the night. We had a nice dinner in Virginia Beach and then tried to stay awake and watch a movie (P.S. I Love You) but at 11:30 I had to call it quits. That was waaaay past my bedtime. I’ll have to see that movie some other time.

On Saturday I went back to the quilt show to see the exhibits and shop at the vendors. This year, I joked that I was going to stimulate the economy, but in reality I didn’t have that many wants. I stopped at the Superior Thread booth and bought a couple of spools of Alex Anderson’s Masterpiece line for piecing plus I bought Laura’s first book. Now had I been thinking correctly, I would have bought the book on Friday when I could have had her autograph it for me. The only other thing I saw at the show that I might have bought had it been within my range of impulse-buy pricing was one of those portable design walls. I’ve been looking at them every year and I’m glad I didn’t buy one before because they keep improving them. This year’s models have stabilizers. That’s one thing that struck me about previous models is that they looked a little flimsy. Maybe next year they’ll be even better. Of course, I’d have to buy the largest one because who wants to buy a small one to save money and then curse yourself all the time when it’s not big enough?

Here are a few of the quilts that caught my eye. There are always so many excellent ones and I don’t try and photograph every one of them, it’s too overwhelming.

This quilt was done by one of the women who sat across from me in class, Christy Proost, who is from Mechanicsville. I didn’t even read the show program until I got home and then I found out she had 2 or 3 others in the show that I didn’t see (or didn’t get close enough to realize they were hers). 


One of the exhibits was from a guild who had a challenge called “Punchline.” The quilters were to illustrate the punchline of a joke. Some of them were hilarious and a tip of my hat to them, as I have no imagination.

This one has tiny telescopes at the bottom pointing to the picture of Russian buildings at the top:



I thought this one was imaginative. Didn’t you just love these puzzles in Highlights Magazine when we were kids? It had everyone stopping to try and figure it out:

I’ve always been fascinated by these dahlia patterns, but I doubt that I’ll ever make one. The title of this one says it all: Another Year Down the Drain.


I snapped this one because I love feathered stars and this one had such beautiful quilting:


All in all, a very inspiring weekend.


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