Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Customer Service

On Christmas day just as I was about to start whipping the potatoes, my circa 1970 hand mixer gave up the ghost with a snap, crackle, pop, and a plume of acrid smoke.  It all happened so fast that I thought it might have been my imagination.  Except for the smoke.  There was definitely smoke.  So I very carefully unplugged the mixer and mashed the potatoes the old fashioned way. 

During dinner we were lamented the mixer's passing, since the crowning glory of our dinner was to be persimmon pudding with a sherry wine/WHIPPED cream sauce that has been part of my husband's holiday tradition since...forever.  I've made whipped cream with a whisk, but it's not easy.  And I don't own an egg beater any more. 

Then, he remembered that he had his mother's old KitchenAid stand mixer stored away. This mixer was a fixture in her kitchen until she and his dad moved into assisted living a few years ago. My husband can't even remember a time when it wasn't there.  After a little digging around we found it and set it up.  It works just fine.  It whipped up the cream for the sherry wine sauce in an astonishingly short time.

But also in the box  were with a lot of dangerous looking attachments and we had no idea what they were for.  One thing looked like a meat grinder, complete with a wooden thing to push the meat through.  There was some sort of attachment for pureeing and something for slicing and/or shredding (I think I remember her using that to shred cabbage for cole slaw). And a large heavy glass bowl with a spout and a hole in the bottom.

We were pretty curious, so we looked online to see if we could find a manual or some directions from KitchenAid itself.  It turns out that this mixer is pretty old, probably from the '40's or '50's. 

The Monday after Christmas I called KitchenAid to see if they could give me any information or if they had some sort of manual which would explain what the various attachments were for and how they worked.  The girl I talked to didn't offer much hope.  In fact, she suggested Ebay.  She left me on hold for a few minutes, then came back and took my name and address and told me they'd check into it.  What I thought was that she'd found a way to put me off. 

Then, this morning in the mail, I received an envelope from KitchenAid with a copy of the original manual for this mixer!


I'd call that customer service, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

After Christmas

We had a relaxed, mellow Christmas weekend.  Once I had all the supplies laid in by late afternoon on Christmas eve, neither one of us so much as stuck our noses out the door until Saturday when my husband made the regular Saturday run for groceries for his parents.  We watched a few movies, listened to my husband's new CD's, and I alternated knitting and sewing.  We did bestir ourselves to cook a turkey dinner for Christmas day; somehow it wouldn't seem like Christmas without turkey and all the trimmings.

The week before Christmas I made a hat for my husband out of some yarn I found in the stash.  No picture--he's wearing it today since the weather has turned very cold.  That set me off on a hat search around Ravelry and the rest of the internet.  I was looking for something else that would be quick and easy to work on in between Christmas preparation chores.  I found a really nice pattern here for this hat.

Can you see the owl motif?  It worked up very quickly; I think I had it done in less than a day. I'm thinking of getting some tiny buttons and sewing them on for the eyes.  I'd forgotten how satisfying it is to knit hats.  For one thing you don't need to knit a mate! The other great thing about hats is that sizing is less of an issue as long as it fits over your head and doesn't want to fall off too easily. 

I also started on a long-delayed project for a red and white Ohio Stars quilt.  I love Ohio Stars and this has been on the back burner for a long time.  I bought a fat quarter bundle of turkey reds a couple of years ago and I had the plan of the quilt all set in my head, inspired, I thought, by an antique quilt I had seen in a book.  The bundle has been sitting on my shelf all this time, just begging to be used.  This weekend seemed like a good time to start it. 

I used the square in a square ruler to make the little units.  A friend of mine taught this as a class at the LQS a few years ago and it makes crisp, precise blocks.  These blocks will be 8 inches, finished.  You can see the units put together on my design wall (only the top left block is sewn all the way together).  The plan is to make nine of these for a doll quilt or wall hanging.

After I got started on this I went back through my books to find the quilt that I was sure was my inspiration for this one.  I couldn't find it anywhere, but I found enough ideas for other quilts that would keep me busy through the next decade.  Oh boy! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Wish for You

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle loud and clear,
Merry Christmas, 
Peace on Earth,
and a wonderful new year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

What's On My Design Wall Monday

I pulled out the box with these pieces two weeks ago when I was looking for some hand sewing to work on that WASN'T itsy bitsy diamonds. The blocks have been sewn together for ages, but I needed to set them together and had been putting it off for one reason or another. In fact, I'd put it off for so long I had nearly forgotten about them and the project box had become buried under many other UFO boxes in my sewing room.

I'm a little further along than this picture shows. I took advantage of brighter skies on Saturday to get a picture of two of the strips together. I love the secondary pattern that is emerging there. Yesterday I worked on the third strip in between some other things. Each block is about 16 inches, and I have a total of 12.

My plan is to sew a four inch plain border around the 12 block set and then to sew a pieced border of the same half square triangle units in a zigzag pattern around that.

This is a long-term project that I am making entirely from scraps. Yesterday I cut some more pieces for the pieced border, but I've only got about a quarter of what I need cut out. For a while there I was being really good and cutting a 5-inch strip from any likely fabric I brought into the house to make the dark triangles and squares. When the project box got buried I fell off the wagon and so I've been going through the scrap baskets looking for pieces large enough. There are plenty, believe me.

Sewing these block units together has been really satisfying this week. Not too fussy, not too demanding--something I can pick up and put down when other things come up. I doubt I'll get the whole border sewn together right away, but I'll keep plugging along.

You can check out Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times to see what everybody else has up on their design wall this week.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Twas the week before Christmas...

This was a very busy week and I am heartily glad that I am at the end of it.

--All out-of-town Christmas gifts have been bought, wrapped, and mailed out.

--I have shipping confirmations for the on-line gifts. Amazon and L.L. Bean, I love you!

--We made it through the last few days before the Christmas break at school with no major meltdowns (either the kids or the teachers). The classroom parties seemed to go well and I didn't see any students in the office. One of the perks of being a special education teacher is not having to do room parties with dozens of sugar-crazed kids. I count that as a perk, and heaven knows, there aren't many. The other side of the coin is that sometimes my students don't handle the change in the routine well and become a little too sugar-crazed and they end up in the office or my room for a time-out. Not this year.

--My Secret Santa gift recipient really liked her yo-yo garland. You never know with a hand made gift, so that was gratifying.

--I only had to stay for about 45 minutes after school on Friday getting lesson plans ready for the week after break. I had all that extra time, you see, not having to deal with sugar-crazed children.

--I slept around the clock on Friday night and woke up late Saturday morning feeling that all was right with the world.

--The snow they predicted for Friday and Saturday gave us a pass, although the Weather Service keeps threatening that there might be some on the way. We don't handle snow well here in southern Indiana, and even a couple of inches sends us into a frenzy of panic-buying of milk and bread.

I have a little more shopping to do, but this week I'm going to be able to slow down and enjoy the last few days leading up to Christmas.

I hope that you can too.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Design Wall Monday

I've stalled out on the Sister's Choice blocks. Half of them are still up on the design wall and the other half have drifted onto the floor, where I pick them up one by one and put them on the table. What I need to do is buy fabric for lattice strips, but in order to do that I need to figure out how much I need to buy, and in order to do THAT I need to spend a little time with a paper and pencil. I don't think it's going to happen this week. I have a design idea I drew up in EQ, but the yardage estimates for the lattice and the borders seem extremely generous; I think EQ wants to figure yardage based on length of fabric rather than width.

This week is shaping up to be very, very busy. It's the week before Christmas break and there are just tons of things to get done before Friday. Even if I do figure out my yardage needs, I won't be able to get to the LQS until Saturday at the earliest.

I did get nearly all of the out-of-town presents on Sunday morning. I headed out early in the morning, well, early for me considering it was Sunday. I was home a little before 1:00 with a trunkful of Christmas stuff and a back seat full of groceries. Once we finally mail off the Christmas presents I'll be a lot less stressed out. Those should go out tomorrow if I'm able to get everything wrapped tonight. We'll see.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon working on a yo-yo garland similar to this one for my Secret Santa person at work. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it last night and I've already taken it in to school. I think it turned out really nice and I hope she likes it.

You can check out what everyone else is working on by checking Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Please Don't Make Me Go Out There!

I say it every year, right about now: "Why didn't I start my Christmas shopping earlier?!"

Every year I make the same resolution to start my holiday shopping RIGHT AFTER Thanksgiving and every year I...don't.

I had to go out this afternoon to pick up some fabric for a Secret Santa gift I'm making for someone at school. I was also supposed to stop by the grocery store for a few things. And, I thought, maybe I can pick up a couple of Christmas gifts at the mall. Let me just say that we live in the shopping mecca for this area. Picture four county's worth of people funneling into our little town, all intent on bargains and parking spaces. It's gridlock out there!

I made it to the fabric store, but somehow couldn't manage to work my way over to the grocery, never mind the mall.

Call me a coward. Call me a wimp. Call me anything you want to, but you can't make me go back. I'll give it another try tomorrow morning. Early. Very early.

My stack of stars continues to grow, but I'll spare you yet another picture. I took a bit of a break the other night when I found a group of bitsy kaleidoscope hexagons I made a few years ago as a practice for another quilt. These little things were made from 2 inch strip sets, and although they're not the best for showing off the repeating pattern since their colors are so subtle, I've always loved them and had them tucked away for something. (Click on the picture to enlarge it and you'll be able to see the repeats a little better.)

It took just a few minutes to cut out some triangles and set them together. This little block reminds me of a tussie-mussie, a kind of small round bouquet popular in Victorian times. I think I'm just going to sandwich it as it is and use it as a table mat.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Design Wall Monday

Design floor, that is. By the time I got home this afternoon about 4:30 it was too dark to take pictures in my sewing room, so I laid these out on the living room floor.

It's been slow going with these blocks. They are very fiddly to sew, although I'm getting better with them the more I do. I have been working on them during my Friday night sewing group, but I wasn't getting much done. Yesterday I decided I'd better devote some more time to them or this project will take, oh I don't know, roughly forever.

I've got ten done, or at least to the finished star stage, and I've prepped enough diamonds for two more. At first I was only going to make 12. Then I liked them so much I decided to go for 15. After playing around in EQ this morning I've got a layout that I like that will use 18.

They are very soothing to sew, once you understand how to line up the diamonds. And yes, I'm a big-time pinner, even with hand sewing. I get the centers lined up, then make sure the intersections at each end are lined up correctly. In the end, its quicker to do that than to sew and maybe have to rip back. There are so many bias edges in these that I avoid ripping if I can.

We were awakened this morning at 5:15 by a telephone call. My husband answered it since the phone is on his side of the bed. He sat there so long listening and nodding (and looking very serious) that I thought something awful must have happened, but it was only the new automated calling system to let us know that we had a two hour delay this morning!

We got the famous southern Indiana "winter mix," which is snow, freezing rain, and sleet. Not a fun thing to drive through before dawn. By the time I left for school it had quit and the snow quickly melted off. But, they are forecasting a winter storm for tomorrow. It looks like I'll have plenty of time to sew some more stars.

Edited to add: Sorry! I forgot to link you back to Judy L.'s Patchwork Times. You can check out what others have on their design wall this week by clicking on the link.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Don't Know If I Can Resist

Okay, block of the month quilts. They sound so easy. So foolproof. Make a block or two each month, right? Easy, peasy. At the end of the year, you've made one nice size quilt. Quilting on the installment plan, right?

I've only made one, or sort of made one. It was in the early days of a LQS and I bought into a civil war block of the month. Some months I loved the fabric choices, other months, not so much. Some of the blocks never got made, and with the others I made two--one with the store's fabric choices and one with my own. I had it quilted over the summer but I haven't bound it yet, although the binding has been sitting right there on my ironing board for a couple of months. It's actually my husband's favorite and is on our bed right now in all its unbound glory. It's at the top of the list, though. Maybe this weekend. Maybe.

Then, yesterday I got the monthly newsletter from another LQS, featuring this quilt as a BOM for next year. It's designed by Sarah Maxwell and Dolores Smith for Homestead Hearth. Fabrics by Judie Rothermel. Oh my.

My inner conflict goes something like this:

PRO: It's so beautiful!
CON: Yeah, but it's also huge! It'll take forever to sew!

PRO: The fabrics are going to be gorgeous.
CON: Don't you have a rather large stash of fabric already? Hmmmm?

PRO: Well, yes, but it's so BEAUTIFUL! And look at all those intricate blocks.
CON: And do you really NEED to start another project?

PRO: Yes! And the blocks commemorate civil war battles. I'd have a great excuse to get back into all my civil war books.
CON: As if you needed an excuse...

PRO: Why, it'd be educational, I tell you! You BELIEVE in education...
CON: ****

And so it goes. And I think that Saturday morning I'm probably heading over to the LQS. Just to look, mind you. Just to take a peek at it.

Am I insane? Is anybody else out there going to try this?


And, in the spirit of education, Fat Quarter Shop is offering the BOM here. In case your LQS isn't. This information is strictly for educational purposes, okay?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving here. My daughter and her husband drove down Wednesday night and my son flew in on Thanksgiving day. With my husband's sister and brother there were seven of us at the table for dinner.

I love that moment before we begin the dinner, when the candles are lit, the food is laid out, the wine is poured, and everyone is eying the platters with anticipation. That's the moment I work for all day. Is there a word for that sweet expectancy?

I finished binding the blooming nine patch quilt with just a few days to spare and was able to present it to my daughter and son-in-law for their wedding present. It was only five months late, but who's counting? Hopefully, you'll be able to click on the picture to see the quilting. Vivian, my machine quilter, thought the fabrics looked like the ocean, so she quilted it all over with swirly designs that look like waves and whirlpools. I love the way it turned out.

This is not a great picture, I'm afraid. The sun just wouldn't cooperate, and the center looks washed out. This quilt just doesn't photograph well.

Having three extra people in our tiny house for the weekend meant that space was a bit tight. My daughter and son-in-law slept in the back bedroom where I normally use the computer. And my son bedded down in the half of my sewing room that I was able to clear out. I had to stack fabric bins and boxes willy-nilly, my poor sewing machine barricaded in the corner.

No computer and no sewing for the weekend. It was hard, let me tell you.

I did start a sock last week, using a free pattern called Wickerware, which I found through Ravelry. I was happily knitting along all weekend during the short bits of time I had until Sunday night, when I noticed that my pattern wasn't looking like the picture. Not that it looked bad, mind you, but really NOT like the picture. Unfortunately I was already at the heel at that point.

I frogged it. NOT so much from a dedication to perfection, but I was really concerned that I wouldn't be able to reproduce whatever mistake I had been making, and since I really love this yarn, I would like to have two semi-identical socks to wear.

So here is my progress so far.

The pattern, by the way, is not at fault, just my hurried and careless reading of it. It's super easy to memorize and is knitting up into a nicely nubbly pattern. The yarn is called Socrates: 30% baby alpaca, 30% merino wool, 20% bamboo, and 20% nylon. In the picture it looks gray, but the color is more like prewashed denim. Soft, soft, soft, with a bit of sheen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mini Quilting Retreat

It's another gray November day here, not really the best for taking pictures, but I wanted to post these because I'll be busy for the next few days and I probably won't have a chance to blog again for a while.

My little sewing group had a retreat over the weekend and I got a LOT accomplished. This stack and whack had been languishing in a project box for too long. The hold-up was that my cutting mat is too small to cut out the 22 inch squares I needed to make the setting triangles. Not that I couldn't have found someone who would have let me use their large cutting mat, but I never thought about it when I had the opportunity. I cut the squares at another retreat (two retreats in one month, yippee!) but didn't get a chance to put the whole thing together.

Now it's done. The irony is that I took this stack and whack class from a friend and got every block done that day. Every. single. block. A speed sewing record for me.

Sewing the borders on was a real bear. Sewing width-of-fabric borders to length-of-fabric borders is tough! One gives and stretches while the other won't budge. I persevered, though. That's one of the advantages of sewing at a retreat--no distractions and no excuses to quit when things get hard.

I really love kaleidoscope blocks and will probably be making lots more of these.

One of the activities that we had planned for the mini retreat was making little bags, and I even brought fabric which I intended to use. Those plans changed for me when I started putting together this little quilt. Now, I don't buy a lot of patterns, but this one just caught my eye last summer. I blogged about it here. It's called "Winter Retreat" by Pam Buda at Heartspun Quilts. I fell in love with these little blocks. The whole thing will finish out at about 35 x 35. (I am planning slightly larger borders than those called for in the pattern.)

When I started this on Sunday morning, I got on a roll and couldn't stop. It almost seemed as though it was sewing itself together. It needs two more borders which I have already cut out, and I plan to use it as a table topper this Christmas season. Well, some Christmas season, ahem.

The mini retreat was wonderful. There is nothing like a whole weekend with my sewing peeps. The retreat takes place at a quilting shop, so there are no worries about running out of supplies or sewing ideas. One of my friends lives nearby and loves to cook, so we were treated to Saturday night dinner of Julia Childs' beef bourguignon and Queen of Sheba chocolate cake. We've already planned another retreat for some time in February. I can hardly wait!

I have tomorrow off and I will need to spend it house cleaning, because my family will be coming here for Thanksgiving. It's been months since we were all together, so this is a weekend I am really looking forward to. I hope all my U.S. friends have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving. For everyone else--have a great weekend!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Update and Some Actual Quilting News

If you haven't seen this, you should check it out at TECHknitting blog. Techknitter, in this post, puts into words better than I ever could why I feel such satisfaction in hand crafting. Even if you aren't a knitter, I think the two theories she discusses apply to any hand craft.

Below, you see the latest sock I've been working on. This is a simple (free!) pattern called Primavera. It's just 5 rib rows, then one easy pattern row. But look at the effect! Techknitter calls it "work to glory ratio." I've always thought of it in my head as "bang for a buck," much less elegant a term, but it's still the same idea. The simple pattern turns an ordinary sock into something a lot more special.

I knit with KnitPicks Essential yarn, fingering weight, Wine Kettle Hand-Dyed. I love the feel of this yarn as I knit with it, and how the pattern is so well-defined. It's for a gift, so I hope it holds up well.

I also love Techknitter's discussion of product and process in crafting. I think it applies equally well to quilting or any other craft that requires long hours of work. When I look at one of my finished quilts, I see the quilt itself, but I also "see" how and when and where I made it. I remember the choices I made as I was constructing it. I remember matching the bits of fabric, pinning them together, and the lovely feeling of things going together the way I wanted them to.

And, ta-da! Some actual sewing has taken place here. A couple of years ago I won a jelly roll at a quilting retreat and I had been looking for the perfect project for it. Well, by way of Gudrun and Bonnie at Quiltville, I found a great pattern called Sister's Choice. All of the blocks can be made with 2 1/2 inch strips, and I had more than enough to make 20 blocks (although I did have to supplement some of the background cream). Now I just need to get some border fabric and some more cream for setting triangles and I'll be able to put it together.

You can check out what others around blogland are working on this week by checking in at Judy's Patchwork Times blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


October was not a great month here at our house. It was an extremely stressful time for my family and me, and I'm very happy that we are done with October and we are now well into November. Happily, things are on a more even keel around here, and we are all looking forward to Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season.

Early in October I posted about one of my quilts for the Blogger's Fall Quilt Festival and I was notified that I had won a prize. It was a great surprise and I was looking forward to a package arriving in the mail.

Then, well, the other stuff happened, and when the package arrived, I put it to the side thinking that I would deal with it later. Somehow the package got moved into my sewing room and there it languished until this afternoon when I suddenly realized what it was.

My goodness! It's an entire block of the month set for a quilt called "A Little Bit More...About the Bears," by Canadian designer Dorothy Baker. It is darling!

Thank you so much, Dorothy, for this wonderful gift! I am very sorry it has taken me so long to acknowledge your generosity.

And thank you to Amy at Park City Girl for hosting the Quilt Festival and giving all of us a chance to share our work with each other.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Back for November

I did, in fact, go to the Fiber Arts Festival in Corydon. Was it that long ago? It WAS that long ago.

The festival is held at the Harrison County Fairgrounds, just on the edge of the town of Corydon. Although the weather prediction had been for rain and cool temperatures, it turned out sunny, cold, and windy that day.

There were a few animal exhibits, although not as many as in the past. I think the goats and sheep (which I didn't get a picture of) were very happy to be covered in warm wool coats.

There were quite a few people there, although these pictures make it look practically deserted. Mainly people hung out in the barns with the vendors because of the strong, cold wind blowing most of the day.

One yarn store had set up outside, and the vendor and her helpers were wearing most of the shop samples in a vain effort to stay warm. Each time a blast of cold wind blew through, they worked in concert to hold down their tarp and the tables where they were displaying their wares.

This year it seemed as though the weavers and spinners had the most booths. Each time I visit the festival I think about maybe taking a spinning class, but that's going to have to wait until I have a bit more free time. KnittingDragonflies was able to take lots more pictures of the wool available from the local farms, so check out her blog for more pictures.

I ended up with a Crazy Zauberball. I fell in love with the long, long color runs on the display samples. And, as I am a total sucker for kits, I bought a little one to make a couple of washcloths for Christmas presents. It's a wonderfully soft cotton and the knitting instructions sound interesting. I also found some handmade soap to go with them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fiber Festival

I'm heading out tomorrow to the Southern Indiana Fiber Arts Festival at the fairgrounds in Corydon, Indiana. The festival features knitting, weaving, and crocheting exhibits and supplies.

The weather promises to be cold and drippy, so be sure to wear your woolens!

Hopefully I won't forget my camera again this year so I'll be able to share some pictures.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fall Festival 2009

Here is my entry in the Fall Festival virtual quilt show being hosted by Amy at Park City Girl. I was hoping for a better picture, but it is raining here and this is the best I can manage today.

This is one of my earliest quilts. When I began making it I had just learned about our local quilt shops and, wonder of wonders, fat quarters. I remember driving out to a quilt shop aways out in the country around this time of year to look for fabrics. All the fall colors on the trees were there in the shop in the lovely little bits of fabric I bought for my quilt.

I couldn't decide between the two quilt blocks, so I used both. I like how on the corn and beans blocks the flying geese seem to fly toward the center of the block, while on the rambler blocks, the geese are flying away. Incidentally, I read somewhere there was a superstition that if you gave a quilt of rambler blocks to a son, that would mean that he would leave home.

One of the best parts about making this quilt was choosing the fabrics for each block and seeing how they worked together. Some blocks are subdued, while others sparkle and really stand out.

I hand pieced the quilt, cut the material for the borders, and then put it away. Years later, at a quilt retreat, I met a wonderful longarm quilter. This is one of the first quilts I ever "sent out" to be quilted. I wanted heirloom quilting on it because I had spent so much time planning and piecing each block.

As you can see, she did a wonderful job. The lattices are all feathered, and each individual block is quilted beautifully. I'm really glad that I waited to find someone who would take the time to do such an incredible job on the quilting.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Design Wall Monday :: Nothing

The rail fence quilt is still on the design wall and I haven't made one smidgen of progress.

Nor have I worked on any other quilting projects. Not. One.

Life just kind of got in the way this week.

What I have been doing is lots and lots of sock knitting. There is something about the rhythm of knitting which helps me deal with stress, and since there has been quite a bit of that (stress, that is), socks are practically knitting themselves off the needles these days. And because I'm spending so much time knitting, I decided to make a lot of socks for Christmas presents this year. How's that for turning lemons into lemonade, or something like it? Some of the recipients are readers, so I'll not show pictures just yet.

Let me say, thank goodness for Ravelry. If you knit or crochet, take a quick look around the site. It's like the central office for the on-line knitting community.

It looks like things will be calming down a bit this week. Maybe I'll be able to get up to the sewing room and get the last few rows done on the rail fence. Maybe.

If you would like to see what others have been actually working on and what they have up on their design wall, check out Judy L.'s Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times.

In the meantime, I have some socks on the needles that are calling my name...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


My husband has wanted a kayak for a long time. He's browsed on-line catalogs and Ebay, looking and longing. The problems boiled down to two things:

*What kind and what size?
*They cost so much!

Then, earlier this summer, both of us happened to see an article in the local paper about a man who had a kayak building school in the Big City near us. The ironic thing was that the article ran in the sports section, which neither of us usually reads. It was serendipity.

Problem number one was taken care of because at the school they used an old method of sizing the kayak to the individual based on their height. The second problem? Let's just say that Santa came early this year.

All summer long my husband has been driving over to the Big City a couple of nights each week after work to build his kayak. These are not the short, little boats that you usually see for white water kayaking, which I was most familiar with. These are long, narrow boats built in the Greenland style, used originally by hunters on the open seas. They are built of hard woods and pine, held together with pegs and lashing. They did use some screws to attach the keel strips, I believe.

Along the way he's met some new friends and learned a lot about kayaks.

The weekend before last was the great kayak launch. Would they float? Would they tip?

Here he is making a last minute inspection:

A blurry (sorry about that!) detail of the sewing job he did on the outer skin:

Stepping into the water:

And floating away:

I love the sunshine showing the ribs in the above picture. He chose the clear coating over the outer skin so that he could see all the interior details of the boat.

It seemed a little tippy at first, but after a few strokes across the water, it was pronounced stable and comfortable.

There are still a few things he needs to finish on the boat and some more equipment to get.

But stroking your hand-made kayak across the lake on a beautiful afternoon? Priceless!

Monday, October 5, 2009

I'm Back for Design Wall Monday

I'm back and feeling well, but the same can't be said for most of the people I work with and the children I teach. It seems as though everyone is either getting sick, is sick right now (and therefore at home), or is just getting well. We've got colds, flu, flu-like illness, and now, to top it all off, a couple of cases of hand, foot, and mouth disease. All of us are looking forward to this Friday, our fall break, when hopefully the cycle of illness will be broken, and we can breath a sigh of relief.

The ironic thing is that the weather here has been lovely: cool nights followed by beautiful, mild days. Doesn't seem like cold and flu weather, does it?

The pictures above shows the sum total of sewing I've done in the past two weeks. Actually I think that two of the blocks were done before that, but at least I've put the background fabrics on all of them. I guess you could call this my design "floor" Monday. The rail fence is still taking up the design wall, but I haven't made it into the sewing room to work on it for a long while now.

You can check out what others are working on by reading Judy Laquidara's blog Patchwork Times.

Incidentally, I found an interesting blog called Letters of Note. These are letters, memos, telegrams to and from some famous and not-so-famous people which are fun to read. It's definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I've been laid low by a particularly nasty head cold and have actually taken a sick day. With the arrival of swine flu in our area, we've been encouraged to stay home if we're sick. Not that I needed much encouragement.

Hopefully I'm on the mend and will have something crafty to blog about later in the week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

More Random

Nancy at Blogging, Near Philadelphia mentioned this afternoon that Blogger seems to have had some sort of hiccup and has reset some commenters to "no-reply." Well, I just checked my profile and that is the case for me, even though I hadn't been in the dashboard for months. You can check your settings by following the directions at Sew Many Ways. Judging by the number of messages I've seen lately about "no-reply" bloggers, this may be the case with many people.

A couple of situations at work have resolved themselves over the past week. I am hoping this will mean less stress for me and that I won't come home from work every day feeling as used up as I have for the past month. So far (two days worth) I've felt a lot better and had more energy.

I have both of the Most Frustrating Socks to the Kitchener stage. The second one was easier than the first, but there were still a couple of places where I had to frog back. No pictures today because it is dark and rainy.

The rain continues. We are under a flash flood watch until tomorrow. The stand pipe is standing and we continually monitor the water levels in the street outside.

Hey, it's Friday! I'm looking forward to some quality time with my sewing machine this weekend. Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Flash Flood Redux and Design Wall Monday

There has been enough rain.

Yesterday was warm, but rainy. It kept up pretty much all day. Just as we were finishing up our regular Sunday night dinner with my dad, the rain seemed to pick up. We dawdled for a while, waiting for it to subside so I could drive him back to his apartment, but finally because it was getting late we decided to go ahead and go.

Cue the deluge.

By the time we drove to the end of the street, I could barely see the road. It felt a bit like driving into the business end of a fire hose. That lasted for about five minutes, then let up. Just as I was beginning to draw a sigh of relief, the fire hose started up all over again.

My strategy was to drive really slowly and watch the center line in the road. That was working, until we turned on to a side street and the center line just disappeared. I could dimly see the car ahead of me turning the corner where I needed to turn and it looked an awful lot like the water was up to the bottom of the doors of the car. The center line hadn't disappeared--it was just covered in water.

As we turned around in a parking lot I mulled over going back home or trying a different route. I decided to try the different route. Again, the rain let up a bit so I could see where I was going. But, as we got on the street where my dad lives the situation was getting steadily worse. The torrents of rain started again, making visibility nearly impossible, except for the brief snatch of time the wipers cleared the windshield before the streams of rain hit it again.

We made it another block, just to the driveway of the apartment building. Now, running parallel to the road we were on is a drainage ditch. The driveway for the apartment building crosses the ditch, then bends around as you drive toward the front doors. Last night the ditch had flooded. It was impossible to even see where the driveway was because the water covered everything. Just to underscore that, there was a car IN the ditch at a sickening angle. Evidently they had misjudged where the driveway was.

Ahead of me I could just make out cars backing up and trying to turn around to come back towards us--evidently the road had flooded there. To the left was a side street with water flowing down it (toward us!) like a small river.

I opted to turn into the side street and look for a place to safely turn around. We drove out of there very carefully and slowly and picked our way back to my house. My dad spent the night comfortably in a motel near us.


We got nearly 6 inches of rain over the course of the day yesterday. Four inches of that rain happened in the hour I spent trying to drive dad home.

If you think we've had enough, check out the Atlanta area where they've had even more, and their rain is continuing.


Just so you won't think this is turning into a weather blog, there is some quilting content here. I worked on the rail fence quilt Saturday afternoon. I've got all but the center strips put together. Working on this quilt has been fun because I have enjoyed remembering when and where I bought all these fabrics. Some of these are scraps left over from other quilts and some were just pieces I bought because I liked them. It's a good feeling to use up these scraps that have been sitting around in baskets and bins for a good while.

The blocks are 3 1/2 inches. I think I'll have enough of the fabric I'm using for the setting squares to do 12 x 15 blocks. It's possible I may be able to eke out more, but we'll see. I'm going to use another, darker fabric for the outside triangles. With a border this may end up being a small twin size quilt.

I'm participating in Judy's Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times. Check out her blog to see what others have up on their design walls.

Wishing all of you a dry (or at least a flashflood free) week!

Friday, September 18, 2009


Another busy week at work. I've been meaning to post something, but all I have are little random bits and pieces.

I have about 3 inches done on the other Most Frustrating Sock in the World. I didn't take a picture, but just imagine the sock from the last post, only smaller. I haven't had any major problems so far, meaning that I've only had to unknit twice. I'm calling that a success.

My laptop developed some sort of wasting disease. I had, quite literally, worn out the keyboard--the "c" key had fallen off, a couple more were a little wobbly, and the space bar only worked on one side. Then it got very, very slow. The sound was distorted, and videos quit working. AAAAGGGGHHHH! Life without Hulu! The horror! My very able and computer savvy husband found me another laptop and we've moved everything over, except for my Firefox bookmarks, which somehow didn't make the jump. We're going to work on that before the old laptop passes on.

I found the time somehow to get a couple more rows of the rail fence quilt put together, but not enough that it would be worth taking a picture. Hope to work on that this weekend.

I'm taking a yarn dying class tomorrow at the LYS. I'm not too sure what to expect, but it will be fun since I'm doing it with friends.

Everyone else is talking about their cool fall-like weather. Here in Indiana it is cooling down into the 50's at night, but the daytime is still like summer with temperatures into the high 70s and low 80s. It makes for some interesting decisions on what to wear each day.

I'm still hunting for the Sister's Choice directions using a jelly roll. I dunno, maybe I just dreamed it up? If you've seen it anywhere, let me know.

If you haven't heard or read about it yet, check out Leah Day's 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs blog. She's creating a different free motion quilting design for each day of the year. Good instructions with great videos.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 14, 2009


Is it Monday already?

We spent the weekend taking care of some family business, so there was very little time left over for crafting. In fact, my design wall looks just about the same as it did last Monday; I've finished a couple more strips of the rail fence blocks, but not enough to show any real progress, so I'll spare you another design wall photo.

I did work on this sock. Oh boy, did I work. This is the one that narrowly missed being thrown out the window last weekend. The yarn is incredibly slippery and splitty. Loose a stitch on this, and you'll find yourself frogging back row after row trying to catch it.

For every completed stitch you see in the picture, I've probably knit three or four. The leg has been pulled back and reknit at various stages three or four times. I did the heel four times. The heel gusset has been redone three times, once because of an incredibly bone-headed mistake I made, but the other times were due to stitches that simply dropped themselves and then started a race back to the beginning. It's virtually impossible to pick up a dropped stitch because the yarn is so splitty. I even dug out my size 0 needles in an attempt to pick up stitches and it still didn't work.

I've never had this many problems with yarn before.

On the other hand, the yarn is soft without being too fuzzy. I love the colors and how they are playing out. I love, love, love the pattern I chose: Roundabout Socks by TheYarnarian. It's an incredibly easy, clear pattern with only one pattern row (the other is a knit row) and it makes that lovely spiral.

Can you tell I'm psyching myself up to get the second sock done?


I have a request. Several days ago whilst reading around the quilting blogs, I came across someone's directions for making Sister's Choice blocks using a jelly roll. I know that Bonnie at Quiltville has a really good tutorial for the block using scraps, but I would love to find those directions for the jelly roll again. If you've seen it, could you send me the link? I'd really appreciate it, since I have a jelly roll which would be perfect for it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Eighth Anniversary

This morning as we talked about the date in my little third grade math group, I tried to explain the significance of September 11. The principal had called for a special moment of silence to commemorate the tragedy and the kids didn't really understand. As we talked, one girl piped up and said 2001 was the year she was born. The others all realized they were tiny babies when the attack occurred. Their main concern was whether any planes would crash into our school, so we talked that one through.

I remember that I was administering a state-wide achievement test to another group of third graders that morning. When we stopped for a rest break, the maintenance man told me that a plane had hit a building in New York City. I immediately thought of a story I had read about a small plane hitting the Empire State Building back in the '40's. But, when we broke again an hour or so later, he told me that another plane had hit the other tower, and I realized that something dreadful was happening.

It was like that all morning. Testing, taking a break, and finding out another piece of the horrible news. By lunch time some parents were coming to school to take their children home. Everyone was terribly worried, but we went on with our day in order to keep the students from becoming scared. Hearing about the events in disconnected bits over the course of the day was very hard--it wasn't until I got home that afternoon and I was able to watch the news for myself that the enormity of what had happened hit me.

We found out later that the brother of a colleague of ours had been in one of the planes that hit the Trade Center.

Today my thoughts go out to her and to the others who lost loved ones in that vicious attack.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What I Did on My Labor Day Weekend

I had big plans. Oh my, yes. I had sewing projects I was going to work on, projects I was going to finish, things to do. Big plans.

Instead, I could barely get myself off the couch. Tired, draggy, pooped out, that was me this weekend.

I did start a sock, but the yarn was being very contrary--splitty and slippery, so I gave up on that before I tossed it out the window. Which I was sorely tempted to do.

I started browsing through Ravelry just to see what was new and I came across a nice simple scarf pattern using yarn I already have. If you remember this post from last year, I made a couple of entrelac scarves, one for my sister and one for me, each in a different color. I happened to have a couple of skeins, one from each project, left over. It's Plymouth Boku, a wool-silk blend with luscious colors. One is a colorway called Autumn, all orange, pink, brown, and jade. The other is called Ocean, with blues, greens, purples, and teals.

This scarf calls for 2 skeins in 2 different colors. It's all garter stitch. Knit 2 rows of one, knit 2 rows of the other. Just the thing for vegging out with a bunch of movies over a long holiday weekend. I love how the colors seem to alternately glow and fade and then glow again as the scarf grows longer. I'll probably have enough to get 40", which is short for a scraf, but garter stitch tends to stretch, so it'll be okay.

Things seem to be settling down this week as we get into a routine we can live with. Maybe I'll be able to find some time to get into the sewing room.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Been Knitting

As you can see, there's been some sock knitting going on around here. I've been working on these four pairs (plus another pair which didn't make it into the photo session) since the weather turned warmer last spring. There isn't much rush to finish woolen socks when the temperature is hovering in the high 80's.

I don't suffer from second sock syndrome, but I do put off doing the Kitchener stitch until there is no alternative, such as needing the last two needles holding the final stitches on one sock to start a new sock. As a result, I seem to have acquired multiple sets of size 1 knitting needles. The Kitchener isn't hard, but neither is vacuuming the living room* or cleaning out the refrigerator. They are all just chores I procrastinate on for as long as possible.

You can also see that I love self-striping yarns. When I start out to buy sock yarn I tell myself to get something plain so that I can try one of the beautiful lacy patterns I see all over the internet and in knitting magazines, but then I see all those lovely colors twined together into one skein and my resolve vanishes. You just never know how the colors are going to play out, and that makes the knitting a lot of fun.

*About vacuuming the living room? Let's just ignore the dusty floor there in the picture. I'll get around to it sometime today. Right after I Kitchener the pastel sock, 'kay?

Monday, August 31, 2009

What's on My Design Wall Monday

Last night my husband fixed dinner (chicken on the rotisserie on our gas grill), and because I was still in sewing mode and had the extra time, I worked for a while on this long term project. A while back I had cut lots of strips for a log cabin border that didn't work out. I kept all the strips thinking that I might use them for another log cabin or a rail fence quilt.

Now this isn't as organized or efficient as Bonnie's leaders/enders, but whenever I have a leftover piece of fabric I've been cutting off a 1 1/2 inch strip, piecing the strips into threes, then cutting them into 3 1/2 inch squares. Some weeks I don't do any, other times I might make three or four. I've accumulated quite a bit, and I keep them in a shoebox under my sewing table.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking for something to take to my Friday night sewing group and when I accidentally kicked that shoebox, I thought, why not?

I have about 150 squares so far and, as you can see, I've still got a lot of strips that have been sitting around waiting to be pieced. I try to find strips that are approximately equal length so I don't waste too much.

This probably will only yield a throw size quilt, but now seems like the right time to move on with this.

You can check out what others are working on this week by visiting Judy's blog. It's also a great way to find new blog friends and find some inspiration for your quilts.

So what are YOU working on?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Done At Last!

It's been hard to find any sewing time this week. The beginning of the school year is busy. And it seems to be taking a while for me to adjust to going to bed early (i.e. 10 p.m.) and getting up at the crack of dawn (i.e. 6 a.m.) after a summer of sleeping in. I am in no way a morning person so my snooze alarm has been getting thwacked quite a bit this week. By Friday night I was just plain exhausted.

I rested up yesterday and today I finally got to the sewing room to put the borders on the Quiltalong nine patch. I really wanted to get this to the flimsy stage so I could move on to some other projects. I don't know why this was such an issue with me; I've left plenty of other UFO's in the lurch to begin new things, but anyway, I did push myself to get it done. And I did.

I'm really pleased with the way this came out. It's such a happy looking little quilt. I was able to use quite a lot of odds and ends from the scrap baskets, although I did fill in with a few fat quarters I bought in order to give it some variety. I'd like to back it with some yellow fabric like some of the older scrap quilts I've seen.

At first I thought I would just tie it, but I've decided to go ahead and take it to the longarmer for some all-over quilting. Baptist fan maybe?

Many thanks to amandajean for hosting the quiltalong this summer. It was lots of fun to participate. She has already started round 2, if you're interested.

I spent the rest of the afternoon trimming the Blooming nine patch and sewing on the binding. Now I need to hand sew it down and that will be done. I'm not sure where this new-found dedication to finishing projects is coming from, but it's nice to have a few things in the "done" column rather than sitting around in piles in the sewing room.

The blue and white quilt came back from the longarmer this week looking really good. I should start working on binding it, but hey, I don't want to go too far with this finishing business. I've got a couple of projects in mind and I don't know how much longer I can keep myself from starting something new.

Going back to work also means less time on the computer, so I am very behind in reading blog posts and replying to comments. I hope to get caught up soon!

Monday, August 24, 2009

What's On My Design Wall? Something Different

We had a wonderful time at our weekend mini-retreat. There was lots of laughing, sewing, good eating, and fun. It's nice to be able to get away from real life for a while.

The nine patch is put together, except for the border, but it is too big to hang on the design wall, so I've put up my Provence star blocks.

I love this star design. The plan so far is to set them with plain setting squares of the same green as the background of the squares, so that they look like flowers (or stars) in a field. I need to get a few more done before I can tell if that plan will work out. I had bought a little extra green earlier in the year, but this weekend I bought more, so I think I'll have enough to do what I want.

I also found some more of the white. I had been running very low on that, so finding it means I can make many more stars. I also found some more of a blue in the same line last week, so I think the borders will be taken care of. At this point I have seven complete stars, but I can make many more.

This afternoon I learned of the death of an old friend and fellow guild member, not unexpected, but sad nonetheless.

Instead of sewing tonight I pulled out a simple stockinette sock I've been working on sporadically. There is something very calming about the simple rhythm of knitting round and round. Unfortunately, as you can see in the picture, I dropped a stitch five or six rows back, so I've frogged as much as I've knitted tonight. I just find it better to keep my hands busy.

You can check out what lots of other bloggers have on their design wall by checking out Judy's blog.