Monday, April 29, 2013

Quilt Block for Boston

The Boston Marathon Bombing has affected all of us.  It's still impossible to wrap my head around why anyone would commit such a heinous and cowardly attack.

Quilts for Boston
As soon as I saw this post about making quilt blocks to send to Boston to help comfort, I started sewing.  The Boston Modern Quilt Guild is collection blue, yellow, white and gray colored blocks to make quilts to give to those affected.

I decided to make the Morse Code word for "strong", as in "Boston strong".  It's indeed going to take a lot of strength for these people to move on with their lives.  I've never been to Boston as an adult, and my memories of going there as a young child are gone, but it sure seems like a pretty special place full of special people. I'm more than happy to send a little bit of fabric to a city that's been through such a difficult time.

Please click on the link above if you want to help out as well.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Organic Chemistry Quilt is FINISHED!

After 2 years of working on and off of this (mostly off), I am so happy to say that my Organic Chemistry Quilt is done!!!

I started this originally as part of the Modern Quilt Guild's challenge, which had a theme of "organic".  After hand embroidering the first few blocks, it quickly became obvious that I wasn't going to get it done in the time period allotted.  I had time to stitch the blocks during  a cross-country road trip 2 summers ago, and even stitched together the back that same summer.  Then, I put it away and it sat for a very long time...

I think it sat for 2 reasons... the finished quilt wasn't as nice as I had envisioned in my mind's eye.  It's still not really a "favorite" quilt, but I love the concept of it, and wanted to see it realized.  I love geeky science quilts!  The other reason was that I had no idea how to quilt it.  In the end, I pretty much just closed my eyes and started quilting it, hoping for the best.  The hexagon quilting too    f o r e v e r   , but I'm glad I endured and got it done!  I was thinking about adding some free motion quilting in addition, but decided that I like the "simplicity" (ha!), or clean lines of the hexagonal quilting, and left it alone. The back is pieced together from all of the various fabrics that I used to make the hexagons and pentagons on the molecules.

It's 60 by 75 inches.  Each embroidered square is backed by muslin to keep the stitches from showing through the fabric, so it's a thick heavy quilt as well.  I think if I added up all of the time I spent hand embroidering each block, researching the chemicals, and quilting this beast, I probably put more time into this quilt than any other.  Whew!

Shanna and Melissa's "A Lovely Year of Finishes" helped motivate me to finish it, but I'm also getting it done with just a few days to spare to enter in our upcoming Krazy Horse Quilters' Quilt show!!  If you're in town May 4-5th, come see us!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

I finished this "Eurasian Jay" Forest Quilt Along Block over the week-end, and thought it'd be the perfect block to share on Earth Day!  I've never seen a Eurasian Jay, but the pictures of them are so beautiful.

I decided to modify / disguise my bird and try to make a Western Tanager.  It's probably the most beautiful bird that I have ever encountered in the forest.  When I worked in wildlife biology surveying for the Spotted Owls in SW Oregon, I'd see these timid birds from time to time in the forest.  The males are so incredibly beautiful, and as you can see from this page in my "Peterson Field Guide to Western Birds", he's definitely a male.

Here are my Forest QAL blocks so far.  I have been enjoying this quilt along so much, as it combines 2 things I love... quilting and forests.

I though I'd put in a picture of our solar panels.  We were so lucky to be able to be involved in the local city program that helped us buy these.  Due to the weak economy and budget cuts, the program has not been able to continue, sadly.

These 12 panels supply all of the electricity we use in our house, including my sewing machine and iron, for all but about 3-4 months out of the year.  It fluctuates, depending on how hot the summer is (and how much we use the AC), and how cloudy our winter is (short cloudy days are not good for solar electricity production).

We are so happy with these!  We also drive a hybrid car, which we bought used about 6 years ago.  Our next plan is to replace our not-very-efficient heat system and hot water system, both of which are natural gas.  We try to do as much as we can to "lower our carbon footprint", but there's always room for improvement... One very small thing I'll do today is to head off to our local recycling center.  We have no curb side recycling here (booo), so I take a load every month or so.  I'd love to hear about any other Earth Day activities you are doing today and every day, because, as the saying goes... Every day is Earth Day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

WIP Wed: More Organic Chemistry, Clothes, and a Few More Postcards

I'm sure you all are getting so tired of seeing this WIP, but as usual, it's taken me much longer than anticipated to get it all quilted.  I love the hexagon quilting that I'm doing on it, but it takes a whole lot of time, and can't really be rushed.  It'll be so good to get this one finished.  I'm ALMOST there too!  These 2 blocks are at the bottom of the quilt, and are the last part to be quilted.  With any luck, I can finish it today!

I also got the itch to make some more clothes!  I have been keeping my New Year's Resolution to start and keep a regular exercise routine, and after 3+ months of "just doing it", my clothes are all starting to get really loose.  I really haven't lost a whole lot of weight, which is a bit discouraging.  I'm not overweight, but did want to loose about 10 pounds, but the inches are definitely coming off!!  I made a quick "1 hour" Simplicity pattern skirt, and it turned out pretty cute.  I plan on making more clothes soon!

Finally, my last round of postcards were fun thank you notes, but this last round was a condolence card for a family member, and a get well card for a good friend who recently went through her 5th brain surgery to remove a malignant Glioblastoma Multiform. She's been battling this cancer for 12 years, which is remarkable, since it rarely has a survival rate more than a year.  If you have a strong stomach and an interest, she recently posted a journey before and after her surgery.  She's an amazing woman! Her Youtube channel also has a beautiful video climbing Mt Whitney in California last summer that is a treat for anyone to view!

As usual, I'm linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced WIP Wed.  Come see what others are working on!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Estrogen / Estrone

This past week was a mix of busy and sad.  My mind has been in another place, and I haven't gotten much sewing done.  Last week was also a solo week for me, as my husband was out of town.  Other than allergies and Spring colds though, my immediate family is fine.

I still want to highlight each of the molecules in my Organic Chemistry Quilt though, and today is estrogen.  Estrogen is actually a catch-all name for the female sex hormones.  The 3 main ones being estrone, estradiol, and estriol.  My molecule above is estrone.  It is the main estrogen present in menopausal women.  Estradiol is the predominant in women in reproductive ages, and estriol is the main hormone found in pregnancy.  The horse equivalent of estriol is the main component of birth control pills, as it tricks the human body into thinking it is pregnant.

These estrogens are present in both vertebrate animals, and invertebrates or insects, meaning it has been around for a very long time.  They not only control sexual maturation and development, and reproductive cycles, but contribute in many ways to most organ systems in the body.  They are also classified as "steroid" hormones, a group of hormones that also includes testosterone and progesterone.  Believe it or not, they all use cholesterol as a basic building block.  Though cholesterol is considered a "bad" thing in our diet, it is essential for making these hormones.

Both men and women's bodies make estrogen (women also make testosterone).  It is the balance of these that creates "wellness".  Besides reproductive disorders, there are many many disorders or illnesses associated with abnormal estrogen levels or receptors, including high blood pressure, blood clots, bone issues, cancers that are estrogen sensitive, and even mood disorders and mental illness.  It is an incredibly important chemical that helps our bodies work.

Since I've worked in the wildlife field and am very environmentally concerned, I have to add that the excess "synthetic" or horse estrogens that many women taking birth control pills or hormone therapy excrete also gets into the environment and act as "endocrine disruptors", which are a huge number of chemicals that can cause developmental disorders in aquatic and other life, as well as potential harm to human wellness. 

Again, these chemical highlights are purely for fun, and should not be taken as medical facts or used in research in any way...  I try to

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Postcards, Forest QAL and Sea Star Blocks

I thought I'd share a few postcards that I made for friends we visited on our Seattle trip!  Since we were right at the ocean, Tula Pink's Saltwater was perfect.  I also realized that these are the first postcards that I've made with my new sewing machine.  Of course, it sewed them up beautifully!

One of my friends works at Microsoft, so I used their logo as a design inspiration.

I also spent much of the last week or so sewing up these 2 "Forest Quilt Along" blocks!  I am certainly challenged by these!  I think my seam ripper may have to be replaced very soon, as it's getting a whole lot of use!  They are so worth the effort though!

Finally, I made up my April Lucky Star BOM, or "Sea Star", as I've been calling them.  After the Forest blocks, it was an easy, fast block to make LOL!  I love fussy cutting this Saltwater fabric!  It's hard to see, but I put a different item in each of the blue center blocks.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Dopamine is one of the many neurotransmitters found in the human body.  Neurotransmitters are chemicals that essentially transmit signals from the nervous system to other cells.  Since the nervous system (including the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves) is the "control center" of our bodies, these neurotransmitters play important roles.

Dopamine has long been associated with things that gives us pleasure, such as food, drugs, and sexual activity.  More recently, researchers found that it's also released in stressful situations.  It is now thought of as responsible for motivation and the pleasure of motivation, or the "reward system".  It is also involved in physical motor behavior, and in emotional arousal.  This explains why Parkinson's Disease, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Depression and possibly ADHD are often associated with abnormally low dopamine levels, or abnormalities in the dopamine receptors of cells, as these are disorders that involve either poor motor function, low or disorganized "motivation", or emotional response.

Disclaimer: Once again, I'm not a doctor, and none of this should be used for medical advice.  I just love science and find beauty in it as well.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Adenine and my Organic UFO

Since I'm still working on my Organic Chemistry Quilt, I decided that this will be my April finish goal (since I didn't finish it in March) for "A Lovely Year of Finishes" link up.  I'm also linking up with WIP Wed, since it is still a WIP ;-).  Below is the half-quilted quilt.

I also decided that it'd be fun to highlight my organic chemicals one by one while we all wait for this quilt to get finished!

Organic Chemistry was one of my most difficult classes in college.  It was required for a biology degree, and I'm sure glad it was, as I used a lot of it in the medical lab.  Working in the Chemistry and Special Chemistry departments in the lab gave me much better knowledge and appreciation of this science.  Organic Chemistry is, after all the chemistry of life.

For my quilt, I picked only chemicals that have these fun little hexagonal and pentagonal rings.  Each side of the pentagon or hexagon is a chemical bond.  Here's what it looks like on paper:
Adenine is one of the "nucleotides", or essential building blocks of DNA and RNA.  They're so vital to living things that I had to include them on my quilt.  There are 4 of these that make up DNA (Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine and Thymine), and 4 that make up RNA (Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine and Uracil).  These 4 DNA bases combine with a "sugar phosphate backbone" in pairs that make up the classic DNA double helix.  These long chains are then coiled up into chromosomes that are found in the nucleus of every living cell.  Pretty amazing!

Adenine is also a major component of ATP, or Adenosine Triphosphate, which is a major energy-releasing compound found in all cells. It is also used in other metabolic cellular  processes.

So that's our Organic Chemistry trivia tidbit for the day!

I'll try to do a write up on each of my quilt molecules in the days to come.

Meanwhile, if anyone can tell me how to get that awful smudge out of my digital camera, I'd really appreciate it.  The lens is clean, so I fear it's inside the camera somewhere.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Break

I'm afraid I did not get my March Finish Along goal done this past month, but I had a good excuse... a very nice Spring Break trip!  I've spent the last few weeks getting ready for the trip, and traveling.  We only went 4-5 hours away, to Seattle, Washington, but it just as well could have been another country, as we stayed right downtown in the center of the city.  The people watching was incredible, and we must have seen people from many dozens of countries.

We did a few of the tourist attractions, including the Space Needle, a tour of the Boeing plant, a stroll through Pike Street Market, Pioneer Square, a few ferry boat rides and a trip to the Microsoft Headquarters.

We also headed over to Olympic National Park, although much of it was closed.  We did manage to get in some great beach time though!

Besides a few visits to friends and family, I also got to meet Debbie, of "A Quilter's Table".  She was kind enough to meet me at our hotel for a very nice visit.  She even brought me a few goodies!  Thanks Debbie! I hope we can get together again in person!!