So I did not make my goal of finishing the quilt from hell by Feb 13. Had some technical issues, including what was apparently a spool of bad thread that broke in many places (whatever happened to quality control? This was new thread!) and required frogging and re-stitching (and a great deal of vehement swearing). But I did take advantage of last week's unseasonably warm weather and spent hours every day out in the barn, quilting away. I have assigned my bro the task of creating some means of quilting using the cursed Flynn Frame in a stabilized fashion and moving the machine, mimicking a long-arm sewing machine. He's working on it, and I think he just might figure it out - and be able to do it for around $100. Yes, there are commercially made systems that will let your home sewing machine function like a long-arm quilting machine, but those suckers are several hundred dollars. Plus, my bro is really good at devising cool stuff, so it'll be fun to see what he comes up with.
Speaking of my bro, he just celebrated his 40th birthday (eek! My baby brother is 40? How did that happen?). I invited him, my dad and my neph up to our place on Sunday. Bro asked for two lumbar support pillows (which I sewed last week), and he was happy with them. I surprised him with a big, heavy knitted lap robe (four strands of worsted weight yarn knitted on Size 17 US needles; all garter stitch), because he likes to rack back in a recliner, cover his legs and watch TV. He loved this. So did my dad, who promptly bogarted the thing as soon as they got home. So now I'm knitting another big, heavy lap robe, and my poor, neglected Stretch Socks are again languishing.
Daddy saw the progress on the quilt while he was here. He likee. This thing is going to be nice when it's finished - very warm and cuddly, just like he wants. But I will NEVER EVER quilt with fleece again. The thickness makes it difficult to work with on a three-rail quilt system, because the take-up rod, which sits in the throat of the machine, gets too large as the quilted area is rolled up. I know that the Flynn Frame website says you can quilt any size quilt on one of these frames, but in my opinion, this is crap. Hand-quilting - yes; totally doable. But machine quilting? IF you have a deep-throated sewing machine, IF you are working with thin cotton, the thinnest batting, and thin musin as a backing, and - of course - IF you have the requisite quarter-mile of horizontal space on either side of your sewing maching, MAYBE you could work a queen-sized machine-quilted quilt without swearing so loudly that birds outside stop singing in fear, and without having to stop and reverse everything in the middle of the quilt. But you're still going to end up with aching shoulders and exhaustion from wrestling that honking-big frame around. My shoulders and back were miserable every single night last week from wrestling with the frame. Although I am really disappointed that I did not finish this thing by the time Daddy came to visit, I'm still determined to get it done as soon as I can. The weather has cooled off again (welcome to North Carolina, where Mother Nature has disassociative identity disorder, and it can go from 60 degrees to 6 inches of snow on the ground literally overnight!), so I've been forced to take a break from the quilt. However, I'm working on Daddy's lap robe, so my time is being well spent. I think Daddy was somewhat disappointed that the quilt wasn't finished for him to take home this weekend, but he at least has a very good idea of what the finished product will look like.
Anyway, it was fun having them here; we grilled hamburgers and bratwursts, and had a big picnic-type feast featuring Bro's favorite foods. Stormy the kitten was her usual adorable self, being silly and charming. Bertie Wooster was his usual "OMG there are PEOPLE here!" paranoid self, and made only two brief - and forced - appearances before he dived back into my office to hide behind a file cabinet and fret about whether or not the strangers in his home were the cat-eating type of strangers. He's such a wuss. Gomez the lap-seeking Chihuahua appreciated having three new laps to choose from, and Lulu the attention whore enjoyed hanging her head over the edge of the couch so Daddy could pet her. (She reasons you're not doing anything constructive, so you have no excuse not to pet the big dog head she so conveniently places within easy reach.)
We spent several hours visiting and did the required Happy Birthday thing, with exactly the cake my brother wanted (yellow with chocolate frosting). After they got home, he texted a message to me, thanking for the best birthday he's had in 20 years. I almost cried.