Finish It Up Friday: Quilting Bee Blocks

It’s Finish It Up Friday and I am officially done with my freelance editing project. Hooray! …

… Oh, right. This is a craft blog. I’m supposed to be blogging about my finished craft projects. Unfortunately, most of my crafting time this week was postponed for freelance work. I DID, however, manage to finish some blocks that I owed the members of my quilting bee. This was a good thing because I was starting to fall behind. I hate when I get behind on bee blocks, thus contributing to other people’s unfinished project piles.

quilting bee blocks pinned to wall

Cubicle wall = design wall! Adds a pop of color to the office…

The May “queen bee” chose a pattern from the book Fresh Family Traditions by Sherri McConnell. I love the fabric in the middle square of the blue block. Took me awhile to realize they were little candles. Two blocks done, checked off the to-do list, and turned in.

I was also hoping to finish the block for the “queen bee” from some time last year (!), but that didn’t happen. She asked us to make two house blocks of our own imagining for a neighborhood quilt she’s planning; her guides were  “anything goes, but don’t make cookie cutter houses.”  The blocks she got back included a zoo, a hospital, a Victorian, an igloo, a tepee, and a house on fire (that last one’s from me). I just need to complete this mansion, which is based on the Southern plantation architecture of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion attraction. Silly me, I forgot just how much wrought iron the facade has. It’s a lot more embroidery than I anticipated.

mansion quilt block

Embroidering wrought iron onto this mansion block

haunted mansion disneyland

For comparison, here’s one of my favorite shots of the Haunted Mansion. If you squint, you can see all the green wrought iron.

I’ve learned two things. 1.) Always use some sort of stitch stabilizer (I’m partial to Wash-Away Stitch Stabilizer); and 2.) I love working with COSMO embroidery thread. Which is good because I’m going to be backstitching for awhile.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday. Also, I’m probably going to the county fair this weekend for the first time in decades. Should be fun. Anyone else have interesting summer weekend plans? Tell me in the comments!

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My Fear Aggressive Dog and Me

Dog wearing muzzle and Gentle Leader

Penny wearing her muzzle and Gentle Leader (she was having a bad day)

Usually on Wednesdays I focus on my work-in-progress crafts, but today I wanted to do something different. Aggression in dogs not an easy subject to discuss in general, and it’s certainly not one that most dog owners like to acknowledge. But, I think it’s important.

Penny has fear aggression.

This surprises people. They hear “aggressive” and think pit bull, not cocker spaniel. They don’t understand how a “good dog” (which Penny most assuredly is) can be aggressive in any way.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I am not a vet, animal behaviorist, animal trainer, or any other sort of professional who deals with animals, aggressive or otherwise. If you have a dog you think is aggressive , seek the advice of a professional immediately.

I adopted Penny from South Los Angeles animal shelter in 2008. She was a 3-year-old stray. At intake, she was underweight, had scabs that looked like they were from cage wires, and had recently nursed puppies. I later learned she wasn’t sure what windows were, was scared of things like brooms and frying pans (!), and was so terrified of having accidents that the one time I came home to a mess she was hiding in the closet. Then Penny started getting sick from chronic, untreated stomach issues and ear infections. The first five months, she was in and out of vets several times a month.

The fear aggression was a surprise. On our first walk, we were at a crosswalk and she turned into a growling, snapping monster when she saw the person across the street. Later, it was the clerk at the pet store. Pretty much any time she was unsure of her surroundings, she would lash out. With the vet bills rising, I couldn’t afford a consultation with a behaviorist; so, I started reading books on fear aggression. Lots of them. And I began training her myself. I made a lot of mistakes, too.

After 5 years of counter-conditioning, Penny is a much happier dog. She’s still learning how to trust, but she tries. She can even spend the day at work with me without growling. But fear aggression is something you can’t just “fix” once. I learned that when I took her to the ARF  fundraiser walk two Sundays ago. I put her in a situation where there were several hundred strange people and dogs and she responded by being stressed and reactive. I should have known better than to put her through that. It was a good reminder that even now I need to be mindful of her nerves and her reactions. It’s a process.

10 Tips for Working with Fear Aggression

For those with fear aggressive dogs, here are 10 things that worked for Penny. I don’t know that they’ll work for your dog, but they may be worth trying.

  1. Know your dog’s triggers. I had a white board on my fridge where I wrote every specific thing Penny reacted to. Eventually I narrowed it down to people approaching Penny straight on, Hispanic men, wheelchairs, hyper dogs, and children. The list gives you an idea of what to work on—and what to avoid. Don’t try “flooding” your dog with trigger exposure … it doesn’t work.
  2. Learn your dog’s body language. The ASPCA has a helpful list of dog body language with pictures. One of the things that helped the most with Penny was realizing how she freezes up right before a freak out. If I can catch it before the fear really sinks in, I can distract her (read: I can bribe her with treats).
  3. Read up on fear aggression. The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell is my favorite resource for fear aggressive dogs. It’s a small pamphlet (about 60 pages) that focuses, step by step, on how to recondition your dog in a positive way. Get it, read it, love it. I also really like this website.
  4. Use a muzzle. Yeah, I know they’re controversial. But you can’t control every situation, and you can’t train your dog if you’re scared of what she might do during the training. Her muzzle has saved us from some close calls. (Also, parents, don’t tell your kids to “go run and pet the muzzled dog.” Seriously, people.)
  5. Train with a Gentle Leader head harness. A lot of dogs—including Penny— don’t like a head collar, but it makes her so much easier to control. If she tries to lunge, it turns her in a little circle. I usually only use it for training now, but it helped a lot in the beginning.
  6. Let her growl. A growling dog may be embarrassing for you, but let her growl! Growling warns people that she’s not comfortable. Fear aggressive dogs trained to not growl often jump straight to lunging, snapping, or biting without warning. Trust me, you want warning.
  7. Provide a different behavior that’s accepted. For Penny, this was down/stay. Sit wasn’t enough. It needed to be something she could really focus on instead of the scary thing. And then, when she’d calmly lie there, I’d praise her like crazy. Eventually, whenever she got nervous she’d automatically lie down … much better than lunging!
  8. Train in a controlled environment. You want to build up to the scary stuff. Friends are a great help with this—I had Penny approach them on her own terms as they sat with treats. Early morning at the pet store was also decent  practice because it wasn’t crowded at that hour. Tell people about the fear aggression, by name, before they approach. I sometimes lie a little and tell people Penny was abused. I don’t know if the abuse part is true or not, but people respect Penny’s space more if they hear that (go figure).
  9. Go to the vet and rule out health problems. Penny’s ear issues made it so that she couldn’t hear people approaching. Some of her more erratic fear behaviors calmed once her ears were healthy.
  10. Be calm. Be patient. Know your (and your dog’s) limits. This is going to be a long process, and it doesn’t let up. You have to always “be on” whenever your dog is in public. You have to be the calm, patient leader. There’s probably years of bad behavior that you’re trying to overcome as quickly as possible. You’re going to get lots of dirty looks. People will say things, like how your dog should be put down, that will make you cry. Penny still has bad days, and there are things that Penny will probably never be comfortable with. That’s okay. And, hard as it is, if you can’t handle a dog with fear aggression or don’t have the time, the most loving thing you can do is place them with someone who can. It’s not admitting defeat.

So those are my 1o tips. Now, I appeal to my readers. Anyone have experience with fear aggressive dogs? What are your tips and stories? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could build up a list of resources in the comments for fear aggressive dogs and their people?

Finish It Up Friday: More Hexagon Flowers!

 

hexagon flowers in various colors

Hexies, hexies, everywhere!

Hooray, not only is it finally Friday, but it’s the Friday before a three-day weekend! (Happy early Memorial Day to my American readers.) I’ll probably be spending the whole weekend, including the extra day, on a couple of freelance projects that snuck up on me … but it’s still something to celebrate. And I even managed to finish something, despite my schedule crunch. Yet more things to celebrate! 🙂

I mentioned two Fridays ago that I have become addicted to hexagons. This week, I finished six, count ’em, six hexagon flowers. Aren’t they pretty? I don’t know what I’m doing with them yet, but when I do decide, they’ll be ready to use. I think a few will turn into pincushions, coasters, or teal towel appliquès to sell at my craft fair booth. Little gifts like that tend to sell.

Basted hexagons and Sulky thread

I’m never quite happy with the amount of thread you can see after you whipstitch the hexagons together, so I decided to use some of my Sulky Holoshimmer thread. It has just the right amount of sparkle to it that if a stitch or two shows it looks like it was an “on purpose” embellishment. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. It’s pretty thin though, so I haven’t had too much trouble with stitches showing. As for the inside, I tried plastic template pieces, wash away stitch stabilizers, and a few other things that escape me, but I’ve decided cardstock templates are my favorite.

As the stack of basted hexagons got taller, they reminded me of a stack of poker chips. So, here’s a bit of Friday silliness for you:

poker game using hexagons as chips

Best. Poker game. Ever.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

WIP Wednesday: Dog Collars!

two sewn dog collars

At ARF’s Animals on Broadway fundraising walk and pet fair last Sunday, I saw lots of awesome dog items for sale. It gave me a hankering to make some collars. Thus, today’s works-in-progress (work-in-progresses?) are dog collars–3 of them to be exact. The first is fabric, the second is nylon web, and the third is knit. With bells. Collars need bells.

The fabric collar is the Olive’s Collar pattern from the book Liberty Love. I actually blogged about making it before on the Stash Books blog, but I feel like making another. The best part is that the pattern is available for free! You can download it using the link at the bottom of the Stash post. I know many local dog rescues appreciate when volunteers make collars for them; perhaps you might consider making one. I’m thinking of making two (one for Penny, one for the rescues) using a polka dot or geometric print. Maybe something in lime green? I’m feeling the lime green today.

This nylon web collar has been a UFO since 2008. It was supposed to be a gift for my mom’s {then)new dog, using a free pattern recommended by Camp Cocker dog rescue, but my old sewing machine didn’t like the nylon (it didn’t like much of any fabric really). I was so disgusted with the nasty-looking seams that I shoved the whole thing in my sewing basket and forgot about it.  Now that I have a nice, reliable Janome sewing machine, it’s time to revisit that mess of a collar. First step is ripping out all those old seams! You can even see them sticking out in my main image above–ick!

pom-pom yarn knit dog collar

Finally, knit dog collars are one of my staples for the craft fair junket come December. I keep them simple–just a little knit bit of color to slip on over the dog’s existing collar. I sew on a button for the closure. Easy peasy. This particular one is made of a pom-pom yarn that I think is discontinued now. I like how it looks like little snowballs (maybe I can cash in on the crazy popularity of the Frozen movie?). I have tons of these to make before November, so now’s a good time to get started. Too bad most of the dogs hate the bells (or maybe not too bad … bugging pets is fun!).

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts.

 

dog sniffing collar

Penny approves of these new collars.

 

Finish It Up Friday: Zigzag Pot Holders

two zigzag pot holders

Did you know that pot holder is two words? I always see it written as “potholder,” and it looks right, but it’s incorrect according to the dictionary. Weird, huh? I thought that was a fitting bit of Friday trivia to introduce my latest finished pot holders.

Back in December, I held an impromptu class for the beginning sewists at work to make quick pot holder gifts. We were inspired by the pot holder project we saw in the book Stitch ‘n Swap (out next month, and a book I worked on!). It’s been about 5 months now, but I’m just now finishing mine.

The Christmas one was a class sample and I made it in a hurry. It sat without its binding for awhile. Nothing like a little Christmas in May!

Christmas zigzag pot holder

I like its wonkiness. 🙂

This floral pot holder was my favorite. I like to think of it as the girliest pot holder ever. So pretty … and such a good use of scraps from my Fresh quilt.

floral zigzag pot holder

Hanging by its loop on the wall

Between these and the auction quilt, I seem to have a thing for zigzags! Linking up to Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts. Have a great weekend everyone. Speaking off …


The ARF Animals on Broadway walk fundraiser is this Sunday! Penny and I will be walking for the first time, and she’s all ready with her ARF bandanna. If anyone is interested in donating to help dogs and cats in high kill shelters find new homes, you can find my page here. Thanks!  🙂

 

WIP Wednesday: The Auction Quilt

Auction rail fence quilt work in progress

Today’s work in progress quilt is one I’ve been calling the “Auction Quilt.” (Any suggestions for a better name? Seriously, I need to name it something for the auction program … )

Every year in October, on the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, my church does a dinner dance and live auction fundraiser to raise money for its ministries. This year, perhaps for the first time, they will be auctioning a quilt. A quilt that I’m donating. Eek. It’s a bit of a gamble since we’ve never tried to auction one before, and I’m sure we’ll get a fraction of its worth. I guess that’s always the dilemma when quilting for a cause. Still, part of me hopes to raise lots of money just to prove it can be done!

work in progress auction rail fence block quilt on bed

When I chose the pattern, I tried to think back to quick, easy quilts that my coworkers and I had done recently. We had just made the Gator’s Club quilt from the book Quilts from Textured Solids by Kim Schaefer for a sick coworker. It’s an adaptation of a rail fence block quilt, which got me to thinking how I could adapt the rail fence block too. I checked out Google and Pinterest, then I got out some graph paper and went to town, making the whole thing overly complicated. Alternate and inverted directions, color gradations, sections where I tried to make cross shapes (since it’s for a church) … when I got to the point where I couldn’t piece the rows without slavishly following my diagram, I knew I was golden.

block layout diagram for rail fence auction quilt

The auction coordinator and I decided to stick to blue, green, and white because those are colors that people don’t have strong opinions on. Orange, purple, and pink tend to be “love it or hate it.” I added a “no flowers” caveat  (that I later broke.) Basically, we wanted the widest audience. Of course, later a friend told me, “If you don’t have strong opinions about blue and green, that means you don’t love them either.” Another friend said the quilt looked like something a grandma would love and a grandpa wouldn’t object too (thanks, I think?).

Lots of dilemmas when you’re trying to maximize donations, really.

I’m actually pretty far on this one considering it isn’t due until October: the quilt top is now done, the pieced back has the jelly roll race section finished, and the binding is cut. Hallelujah!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts and Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story. If you do have name suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments! Thanks!

WIP Wednesday: Aleita Shell knit sweater

Aleita Shell knit sweater in progress

I realized that I’ve yet to have a knitting-related post (it is Penny’s Purls, after all). So, here’s the latest project on my knitting needles: the Aleita Shell (pattern by Bonne Marie Burns). The yarn is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport in Rockwell. I got the pattern from a back issue of Interweave Knits magazine–luckily it’s still available on Ravelry.

Rockwell color swatch, Lorna's Laces

Detail of Rockwell color (Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport yarn)

I must confess I have a phobia about knitting clothes. Three years ago, I tried to crochet a tunic and I screwed up so badly I had to cut the bodice off . (Trust me when I say, if a pattern says swatch, you swatch.) I have not attempted clothes since.

It was time for attempt #2. I chose the Aleita Shell because it was cute but not intimidating.

As for the yarn , you can’t go wrong with Lorna’s Laces. I also love Jimmy Beans Wool, which is why I had so many rewards points to use on skeins of the Shepherd Sport. So far the sweater is turning out pretty nice, but I haven’t gotten to the hard part yet …  and I’ve come too far to have it become another  tunic-turned-unfinished project!

If I’m lucky, I’ll have the thing done by fall, right when the leaves start matching the colors in the Rockwell yarn. That’s a happy thought.

Linking up to Work in Progress Wednesdays at Tami’s Amis.

Penny photobombed me. Apparently I took the best sunny spot on the bed.

Penny attempted to photo-bomb me. Apparently I took the best sunny spot on the bed.