Monday, March 30, 2009


I have a friend who teaches quilting classes and she insists that whenever anyone in her class finishes something, they have to hold it up and announce, "Ta-da!" to the whole class. I love that tradition of hers!

I did manage to get this put together over spring break, finally finishing the last stitch during the NASCAR race yesterday afternoon. All those flying geese! I know it's busy, but I'm loving it. I don't really know where I'm going with it after this, but I'm going to continue with borders around it until I run out of material. It's going to sit on my design wall until the next inspiration hits.

And, I finally got the binding sewn down on this batik quilt. I finished it Wednesday, but couldn't get a decent picture of it until today when the sun finally came out. I've shown this before, but I wanted to wait until it was completely finished before I talked about it. I started this years ago and put it away because I was disappointed in the way it turned out. I was trying to get the effect of late twilight on a summer evening when the fireflies come out. At the time, all I could find for the setting blocks was this blue fossil fern fabric. After I got it all together (and this is all hand sewn, so it was quite a job) I didn't like the blue--I thought I should have gone with a darker, more midnight blue.

So, the top has been sitting folded up in a bin of finished tops. I don't even know what made me take it to my longarmer after all this time.

When I got it back I was astonished at how well it turned out. I had always called it Twilight, but I think I'm changing its name to Tranquility.

Anita at Bloomin' Workshop is having a show and tell of work spaces today. I was going to play along, really I was. Then I took a look at the current state of my sewing room and decided I daren't expose my messy sewing room to the world, so you'll have to use your imagination. I do my machine sewing in a tiny attic bedroom which used to be my daughter's bedroom. She painted it dark blue back when she was in high school. I would like to repaint it a nice light, neutral color, but I can't imagine shifting all the boxes and bins and books and piles of fabric somewhere else while that happens. The best thing about the room is the light--it has a nice northwestern exposure, so sewing up there in the afternoons is very pleasant. If you can stand the mess. At some point I guess I will get around to organizing it, but it won't be this week!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What I'm Working on Wednesday

Yes, I do have a thing for blue and white quilts. This month the activity committee of our guild distributed 6 1/2 inch squares to those who were willing to work on putting them together with some of their own material. Nine of these will make a baby quilt with some sashing and binding. I don't remember how many they said they would need for a twin size, but judging from the pile of squares that people carried home from the last meeting, we should have enough units for several.

These are for charity quilts for a local home for unwed mothers. Yes, I know. In this day and age there is still such a thing. We've been making quilts for them for the past year or so.

We have a regular group who gets together one Saturday a month and assembles the squares into quilts. And we have a longarmer in our guild who quilts them for us.

In the handsewing department, I have finally finished all of the flying geese units and I'm now sewing them into units to complete the setting squares for the Prairie Paisley quilt. I would really like to be able to show some measurable progress on this before spring break is over.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

...and sometimes the bear gets you.

I should have known when I woke up Friday morning with a sniffly nose that things weren't going my way. I talked myself into believing that it was just going to be a little cold. Even on Saturday morning, the day of our guild's big Quilter's Day Out effort, I thought I'd be fine once I got going. Unfortunately, by early afternoon I knew I needed to come home and just surrender to whatever bug had me.

I hate getting sick.

I especially hate getting sick at the beginning of a week-long break from school.

Today, finally, I am feeling much better. I'm heading up to my sewing room for some (I think) well-deserved quality sewing time. Hopefully I'll have some photos to post soon!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stash Enhancement

Oh dear, more Prairie Paisley. I don't know what it is about this fabric, but I I love it. After looking at what I have and what I want to do with it, I decided I needed more of the red. And, as the line is fast disappearing, I thought I probably wouldn't be able to do without the ticking stripe and the large print. I want the ticking for the binding, and I want to fussy cut that big print somehow.

I've never fallen this way for a fabric line before--mostly I just browse the fat quarter bins. I seldom even buy yardage, except for borders or backings. Enough is enough, though. This quilt has grown from a little wall hanging to bed size quilt. I seriously need to get out my graph paper and make some definite plans while I'm still fired up about it.

The weather here has turned warmer in the last few days. The forsythia popped out sometime this week and I've noticed daffodils are beginning to bloom here and there. Spring has sprung!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Same quilt, after reading the friendly guide from Quilt Otaku.

Today is overcast, but even on a sunny day the best afternoon light in our house is in my sewing room. I took Marisa's advice and got out the tripod. I put the camera on macro and pushed the tripod down so that I was shooting from a lower angle. She also suggests arranging things around what you are photographing to avoid clutter in the frame. I moved my cherry sewing box upstairs and set it next to the thrifted basket that holds my small rulers and extra cutting blades. With the little bit of the curtain showing in the corner I guess I have a better composition than the "before" picture.

I think the quilting shows up better, at least. I don't know. What do you think?

This is a quilt that has been sitting around for a while. I finished the top a couple of years ago and just laid it aside. I wasn't too thrilled with it because of the blue fossil fern background fabric. I'd have liked something a little darker and with a touch more green in it.

Then, after I had it quilted last summer I just fell in love with it. My daughter also fell in love with it and has requested it. So I'm working on the binding and hope to have it finished in the next few days.

I'll try an "improved" photo when I finish.

edited to add: I guess NOT having to view my neighbor's winterized air conditioning unit in the corner would definitely qualify as an improvement! Thanks, Marisa!


I'm playing along with Marisa at Quilt Otaku for improving my pictures. I am supposed to post a "before" picture (see above). Then I am supposed to read her directions for improving my photos and use them to create an "after" picture.

Here goes.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sewing Kit

I don't want to bore you with the growing pile of flying geese for the setting squares (just picture the pile sloooooowly growing), so I thought I'd share this little sewing kit I made a few weeks ago.

I finally decided that I really needed to make myself a little hand sewing kit. Over the years I've used lots of different containers for my sewing things, but I never really found anything that worked for me. I was hunting around on the web for something that would be fairly quick and easy to make, big enough for the things I use, but small enough that supplies wouldn't get lost in the bottom.

I found a wonderful tutorial for this on Mackville Road, Diane's blog. It's really three fabric envelopes tacked together, with a fourth sewn as a flap to go over the top. The three envelopes are large enough for my minimal regular sewing supplies. It's just long enough for my six inch ruler and a small pair of scissors and tall enough to tuck in a spool or two of thread.

Diane's directions didn't call for quilting, but hey, it was an enticing little project to practice my machine quilting skills on. Instead of using heavy weight fabric, I just used regular cotton and a lightweight batting. Hers also called for a button closure, but I'm afraid I must have missed that class in home ec. I like the ribbon tie because it allows the pockets to be expandable, depending on how much I need to tote around.

I love that it stands upright while I'm sewing so I can drop things into it and then find them again when I need them. I also love that I decided to dig into my stash of Kaffe Fassett fabrics to make it, because it looks so pretty.

The Destination Imagination tournament is this Saturday, so by next week I'll have a little bit more time to be working on some projects I've had to let slide. I am really looking forward to some quality time in the sewing room...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ah, Monday...

Yesterday we reset every clock in the house except for, you'll guess it any second now, my bedside alarm clock. So this morning I woke up at exactly the time I should have been stepping into the shower. Am I the only one who has the morning routine timed down to the minute so I can get out the door on time?

Instead of the leisurely have-a-cup-of-coffee-and-do-the-crossword-puzzle pace of a typical morning, I was rushing around like a maniac trying to get out the door on time. I made it, but only by a hair (extremely damp hair, by the way).

Luckily I had packed my lunch the night before because I had a really good lunch lined up for today. I had leftover barbequed chicken, browned new potatoes, and a really, really good new broccoli dish.

Sometime ago I clipped this recipe from a blog, but never got around to trying it. Sunday seems to be my day for new cooking adventures, and since I had most of the ingredients and I really needed a new take on broccoli, I decided to give it a try. I'll attempt to link to it here.

You go read the recipe, then I'll tell you my mods, per my pantry. Since we're on a heart and blood pressure healthy diet here, I substantially reduced the salt to just a sprinkle. I also reduced the oil quite a bit, and even at that (about 1/3 cup) there was plenty to spare. Also, I didn't have cumin seeds, so I just used a teaspoon of cumin. I don't keep sesame oil in the pantry, so I totally eliminated that.

Let's just say, I adhered to the spirit of the recipe if not the literal word.

I can tell you, a large amount of broccoli disappeared very quickly. There almost wasn't enough to take for lunch today. I'm glad I was able to save some out, because it was even better today at lunch than it was last night for dinner. (Just now my husband started rooting through the refridgerator, wanting some of "that broccoli from last night.")

No pictures, though. I never think to take pictures.

Tonight I'm working on more flying geese, hoping that I can get the major pieces for the setting blocks finished before the weekend.

And I'm going to reset that darn clock.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I was busy most of the day Saturday with one thing and another, but I did manage to finish the one setting block for the prairie quilt. See this post. Somehow I didn't manage to get a picture of it, but it turned out just fine. I went ahead and cut all the pieces for the other three blocks, and this afternoon I started sewing.

There are a lot of flying geese in this block! I know I'm the one who chose it and all, but drafting a block and actually sewing it together are two different things which apparently take part in separate parts of my brain which don't communicate very well. Anyway they are coming along and look just the way I envisioned.

Now I'm getting worried about the amount of fabric I'm going to have left, so I've been checking out some on-line stores for more. I'm really terrible with estimating how much fabric I'm going to need for a project. Part of the problem is that I'm not really sure what I'm going to do next. I have some ideas, but I haven't gotten to sketching them out yet. I guess that's my next step.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Now that I've found you...

I will never let you go...

A few years ago I found that the key to not missing doctor's appointments or forgetting hair appointments or showing up on the wrong day for staff meetings was to WRITE THEM DOWN. Not only is the writing down important, but writing them down in the same place. A place where ALL the stuff is written so you can check and say with authority, "Yes, the 15th is fine, as long as we do it before my 7:00 Yoga class."

I had a job long, long ago where we met periodically to discuss important things and then, at the end of the meeting, we would schedule the next meeting, and everyone (except me) would whip out an important looking calendar and murmur, "Noooo...the 13th, can't do it on the 13th, why not the 12th." Me? I just wrote the day they decided on a scrap of paper I shoved into my purse and prompted lost. Luckily, that job didn't last long.

So, each summer I haunt the office supply stores looking for the perfect calendar. Since I'm a teacher I need an academic calendar, otherwise I have to spend the first half of January digging up all the schedules of meetings I'm supposed to attend for the second half of the year and transfer them into the new book. Much easier to have a calendar that works with MY year. I need lots of room to write things: notes, addresses, phone numbers, measurements, reminders.

I love the calendar on the left, but it has a problem. It is too big for my purse. I tend to leave it in the car, so when everyone else is writing their appointments down and looking incredibly organized and professional, I'm still writing them on a scrap of paper which disappears into the bottom of my purse, lost for all time.

I found the calendar on the right in a bookshop in Boston. I really love this little guy. It fits in my purse for one thing. The other thing is that it has a blank page opposite each calendar page, so I have room to write notes about things I'm supposed to remember that don't really fit on the calendar page. I've got people's phone numbers and addresses. I've got the measurements for the quilt I left with the longarmer. I've written the list of things we still need to do for the Quilter's Day Out. I have the name of the lady who knows how to do short row heels, for heaven's sake. It's got a cute little ribbon in it so you can keep your place. It has a nice expanding pocket inside the back cover so you can save people's business cards or receipts or whatever.

It's called a Moleskine, by the way. Apparently it has a long and distinguished history among artists and writers. Seems a little small for that, but that's what the card inside says.

Anyway, the Moleskine went missing this weekend, and with it, my entire life for the next six months. At first I thought it had just gotten tipped out of my purse Sunday morning when we took my dad to the emergency room and my purse somehow ended up in the backseat of the car upside down. I searched the backseat more than once, but it wasn't there. (I don't know why I searched multiple times--if it wasn't there the first time, was it going to magically reappear the third or the fourth??)

Anyway, I spent a lot of time this week trying to reconstruct my life.

And then. And then? I found it right where I had put it last Friday night. I even remembered putting it there as soon as I saw it.

I did a little happy dance when I found it. Now I just have to hold onto it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I Did a Little Sewing

I've been working on the setting squares for this. I started working on the star blocks last summer after I found this lovely fabric, Prairie Paisley. At first I intended it to be just wall hanging size, nine blocks with some kind of little border around it. I was very, very careful in cutting into it because I'd only bought a few fat quarters and a half yard of what I thought would be the border material.

I love the colors in this fabric. The picture above doesn't really show how all the colors are slightly grayed so that they have a softened, almost antique look.

I wanted the setting squares to carry on with the flying geese from the flag squares, but not take too much attention away from them. I sketched this block pattern from somewhere--not sure where. It works for me. I'm just not too sure about the corners, though. I might use half square triangles or maybe look for another solution.

I'm envisioning a pieced border of something or other around the nine square center medallion and then, if I have enough fabric left, maybe another one with more flying geese. Quilt Sampler magazine featured a quilt using this line in their Spring/Summer 2008 edition and I've gotten some ideas from that. But this is a design as you go sort of project, so I'm just going to wait to finish the setting blocks before I cut any more fabric.

I've bought some more yardage here and there, so I think (hope!) I'll have enough to finish something in a lap quilt size. I just plan to keep going until I run out.

The flag block, by the way, is a Judy Martin design I found in Quilter's Newsletter a few years back. July/August, 2005--I just went and looked it up.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Another post without a picture. Sorry. Last week was very busy: three after-school Destination Imagination practices, my book club, quilt guild, Friday night knitting. By Saturday I had achieved...exhaustion! I spent most of the day in my pajamas, thinking that the next cup of coffee would perk me up enough to get something (anything!) done. It was not to be. Sunday was no better. My dad injured himself in a fall so we took him to the emergency room early Sunday morning to make sure he hadn't broken any bones. He hadn't, but he is still in pain from a number of scrapes and bruises.

March is usually a very busy month for me. We have our Destination Imagination tournament in two weeks. Quilter's Day Out is in three weeks. Parent-teacher conferences and third quarter report cards are in there somewhere. By the last week of the month I truly NEED spring break.

This week is shaping up to be a little less frenetic. We still have three DI practices this week, but thankfully I don't have any more evening meetings for a while. Tomorrow I'm taking the afternoon off to take my dad to the doctor, so I may be able to steal a little time to work on something after he is through.

By the way, this past month our book club read A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini (the author of The Kite Runner). I highly recommend this book both for the skillful writing and for the different perspective on Afghanistan. It's not a quick read, nor a happy story, but it is well worth reading. To me, a novel succeeds if it pulls you into another world where you feel that the characters are real and and will continue to live after the book is read. Since I've finished it I find myself wondering what Laila, the main character, thinks of the recent events in Afghanistan before I remember that she is just a character in a book.

For next month we are reading The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman. Another continent, another war.

Other books on the bedside table:

Dreams of My Father, Barack Obama
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000, David Quammen, editor
Butcher's Crossing, John Williams
Collapse, Jared Diamond

You see? I NEED spring break!