Friday, December 31, 2010

Out With the Old, In With the...

The day after Christmas we picked up the keys to our new house. Well, new. Not new exactly; it was built in 1914 or thereabouts.

My husband and I have been looking around for a few years, not in any organized way, but checking out houses we've seen for sale and doing drive-by appraisals. It would go something like this:

Me: Did you see that house on the corner by the high school was for sale?

Husband: You mean the one with the swing on the front porch?

Me: It might need some work, but it could be really cute.

We would jump in the car and take a look. And it would be easy to talk ourselves out of it. Too big, too small. In need of a major overhaul. Too near the highway. Not close enough to work.

A couple of times we were interested enough to call the real estate agent and actually take a look inside. But, there was always something. A wet basement. Shoddy home improvements which would have to be torn out and redone. Or no improvements at all in the past 50 years, meaning that we would be renovating for the next ten years.

This fall we got a little more serious. We made a list of what we wanted. It was simple, really. All that time looking at different houses had given us a pretty good perspective on what we wanted, what we didn't want, and what we were willing to compromise on.

And then we found it. Not too big, not too small. Some renovations done, but done well, and in keeping with the age of the house. A big space for my husband to have his workshop. A nice light room for my sewing. On a quiet side street, but close to work.

This week I've been scrubbing down walls in preparation for painting this weekend. (Not that they needed scrubbing, really. The owners left it in immaculate condition. But, still.) And once we get it painted we'll be moving in.

Now I promise that this won't turn into a home renovation blog, because I think home improvements are really only interesting to the people who are doing them. But, blog posts are going to be a little more sparse than usual over the next month, as we disassemble this household and move it all over to the new house.

Wish us luck, please!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Time

We had planned to drive up Christmas eve and spend the weekend with my daughter and her husband, but the weather forecasters started early in the week with dire predictions about bad weather and snow on Christmas eve and Christmas day. One to 2 inches! No, 2-4 inches! No, wait, 2-5 inches! Freezing rain! Sleet!

Fortunately my husband had nothing pressing at work, so we left a day early and were able to hang out with my daughter and her husband for an extra day. And, after all the doom and gloom in the forecast, we only got a couple of inches of snow--enough for a nice dusting on Christmas morning.

There is no direct route from our house to my daughter's. You can drive north on the interstate, then turn onto a country two-lane road for about fifty miles. Or alternately, you can first drive on an even narrower country road, then drive north on another highway. Neither is appealing. So when we started the trip and my husband, who was fiddling with the GPS, asked if I would like to try a more interesting way, I said why not.

Because if you don't try the interesting way, you might miss things like this covered bridge. I couldn't find out anything about it except that it was built in 1995. Not old and certainly not historic, but something nice to run across unexpectedly on a back road.

We had a wonderful time celebrating Christmas with my daughter and her husband, not doing much of anything except watching movies, reading, listening to Christmas music, and doing a bit of knitting. She prepared a lovely Christmas dinner with a traditional plum pudding for dessert.

Here it is, lit up with the flaming brandy. And it was delicious.

I hope your Christmas stocking was filled with good things!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just in case there is any doubt about the honey I'm married to...

We woke up this morning to a slippery, icy mess. I had some urgent banking business to do, and I was worried about just getting out to the garage. But this is what I saw when I opened the door. Tarps laid out over the deck.

And the stairs to the driveway with the ice chiseled off.

The driveway was an icy mess,

and a half-inch of ice is covering everything.

The temperature is hovering at the freezing mark, making travel on all but the most traveled and treated roads next to impossible.

I made it safely to the bank and back, but I think I'm staying in for the rest of the day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Design Wall Monday

Sadly, there has been very little sewing around here for the past couple of weeks. I did cut out a few more diamonds for another seven sisters block, but you can see progress has been very, very slow.

Since Thanksgiving weekend things around here have been busy. Work and just life in general have been getting in the way of crafty endeavors. I don't even have the excuse of Christmas preparations because I haven't started those yet. Yes, I am one of those last minute shoppers you hear so much about. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things will let up this week either.

This weekend my husband and I took a weekend trip out of town. We both needed the time to get away and just relax. We drove down the road aways to Madison, Indiana, a small, historic town on the Ohio River. Our plan was to spend Saturday seeing some of the historic homes that are open to the public, do a little bit of shopping, and enjoy the wineries. When we arrived we found out that we had lucked into the weekend that Madison puts on a Christmas historic homes tour. So, instead of shopping, we took advantage of the tour.

As you can see from the pictures, we chose a very snowy day. It was cold, but most of the sites on the tour offered warm drinks and cookies. The house above is a restored mansion which belonged to James Lanier, a financier from the 1800s.

A bedroom from the Lanier house.

The tour lasted all afternoon and into the evening. Everywhere you looked you could see sights like the picture above; most of the downtown area features houses from the 19th century which have been restored and are owned privately, although some are owned by a foundation and are open to the public for tours.

It was a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening, walking through the snow and viewing the homes. We've decided to go back in the spring when the weather is a little better and see even more.

You can see what others have been working on this week by checking out Judy L.'s Patchwork Times blog.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Crazy, Beautiful Trees

So, here are some of the tree blocks I received in our sewing group exchange last weekend. (The color of the red background fabric is truer in the first photo. It's what I would call tomato red.)

Some are free-pieced, a la Gwen Marston, some are paper pieced and some are appliqued. I just love them. When I add my four blocks I'll have 24, just enough for a very vibrant couch throw.

Edited to add: I got to the bottom of the problem with posting pictures from my computer. Blogger has added a new post editor, which I had somehow clicked on. In the new editor, when I clicked on the "add image" button it didn't give me the option of adding a picture from my computer. I clicked back on the older editor and the problem seems to be solved.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Busy Time and a Retreat Report

I have been neglecting blogland lately--posting, replying to comments, and even, gasp, reading blogs.  Not for anything major; I've just been overwhelmed lately with work stuff and life in general.  So, this past weekend was a welcome respite as I was able to attend a mini-retreat with my sewing group.  We had a great time: lots of laughing, great food, and some seriously focused sewing time. 

I dithered about what to take, but it was pretty easy after all.  I had a couple of projects still in their boxes from the last retreat I went to in September.  One is this album or chimney sweep project which I'm sewing using a jelly roll of Civil War Homefront from Barbara Brackman.

By Sunday afternoon I had made some progress and I had a few more blocks to add to the growing pile.  I am in love with this pattern.  The pieces go together so easily.  I counted up what I have left and I'll be able to make 20 blocks with the jelly roll fabric, but I would like to keep going, supplementing with my rather alarmingly large civil war stash. 

And aren't these two blocks just the cutest thing ever?  Don't you just want to gaze into each design?  I love, love, love kaleidoscope patterns! 

At one point I was afraid I wouldn't have enough of the the border fabric, but I was able to pick up some extra in September, so I can easily continue.  This is a published pattern called Stacked Posie Supreme by Mary Lou Hallenbeck. 

Our sewing group decided to do a block exchange of improv trees for this retreat.   I'll have to put up a picture later since it was too dark by the time I got home from work today to take a decent picture. But I've got 24 beautiful, crazy tree blocks to play with. And I chose a completely out-of-character background fabric to put it all together.  And, oh my gosh, making all those improv blocks was a very messy affair!   There are bits and scraps all over my cutting.  And floor.  And ironing board.  And sewing table.  But it was great fun and I'm looking forward to our new improv challenge for next year.

I have a question...

Does anyone know why suddenly Blogger won't let me upload photos from my computer?  I use Picassa to edit my photos and I store them on my computer.  In the past I could click on the photo button on the Blogger tool bar and the window that appeared had a button that allowed me to search for the photos on my computer.  Now, I don't get that choice.  I have to upload them to Picassa web albums first.  Did I inadvertently change a setting somewhere? 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Let's just say it hasn't been a good week, which is why it was so nice to come home tonight and find that my husband had finished making these candle holders.  They are bits of a poplar bough which he sawed off a tree in my daughter's yard a couple of weeks ago. He sanded off the tops and bottoms and drilled holes for the candles. I love the way they turned out.

I am heartily glad that this week is over.  I am looking forward to a bit of respite this weekend to get caught up on things around here and maybe, just maybe, I'll even have some time to sew.

 I hope you have all the time you need this weekend to do what you want to do.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Design Wall Monday::A Very Little Progress

Things have been very busy at work and we went up to my daughter's again this past weekend, so I've accomplished very little sewing this week.  I did manage one more corner star for the Auntie's Pride block and have prepped the other.  The rest will be filled in with the background fabric when I have the time.

And I sewed the border pieces on this block.  I cut enough fabric for more sister's star thinking I might have time to sew over the weekend, but I didn't.

Not much to show for a whole week, is it?

You can see what others have on their design wall this week by clicking over to Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times.


BTW--I am trying to pass the word about a virtual quilt show from Quilts in the Barn.  Linda is posting pictures of absolutely beautiful quilts from a show she organized in Australia.  All proceeds from her show went to breast cancer research.  You can participate by visiting her blog and making a contribution to a breast cancer research organization near you.  Check out my last post for details!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Want to go to a quilt show?

A really, really fantastic quilt show?  Right now?  In Australia?  Without leaving your house?

Linda C. at Quilts in the Barn organized a quilt show featuring quilts from the Secret Sewing Sisterhood group and it is super!  Ninety beautiful, intricate quilts were displayed.  The money raised is being donated to breast cancer research.

Now Linda is making the quilt show available on-line on her blog, a few at a time over a couple of weeks.  All she asks is that viewers worldwide donate something to breast cancer research organizations in their communities.  I'm sending mine to Susan G. Komen for the Cure

So, take a look at some amazing quilts and make a donation to help a cause that affects us all.

10-25-10 edit:  Linda, not Julie, was the organizer of this fabulous show!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Design Wall Monday::Sixes and Eights

Last week my daughter and her husband decided that they were tired of looking at the rotten old garden shed in the backyard of their new house.  Demolition time!  We drove up to help on Saturday.  Well, my husband helped.  I sat on the sidelines, wincing as huge pieces of the shed were hacked away and thrown into a  monstrous pile ready to be loaded into a dumpster sometime this week.  My contribution was a big roast chicken dinner for the happy warriors.

I did accomplish some sewing while they worked.  This is part of the Auntie's Pride block.  I bought the template set a few weeks ago.  There are going to be three more half-stars around the center star.  I love how this is coming together.  The block will finish at about 12 inches.  I can see it as a center medallion with lots of little LeMoyne stars around it.  I'm not terribly sure about my fabric choices, but I had cut some scraps to try out the templates and get an idea of how it was all going to fit together.

I also worked on another Seven Sisters block.  I would have kept going, but I ran out of cut pieces. 

I put together the first block by sewing everything around the the center star, which worked out okay, but this time I tried something different which I like a lot better.  I sewed the stars together in rows, then sewed the rows together.  A row of two stars, then a row of three, and another row of two, then a continuous seam to attach each row together.  Much easier and a lot less fiddly. 

I still can't see making a lot of these, but maybe a wall hanging?  I don't know yet.  I'm still just playing around, and these little hand sewing projects are soothing to work on here and there.

You can check out what others are working on this week by clicking on Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times.  As always, a big thank you to Judy for hosting this each week. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Glove Advice Sought. Apply within.


                                            {Insert sorry looking glove picture here.}                                       

My husband was out of town most of the week, and while he was away I tried to knit a glove.  I even took a picture of it, but I seem to be having camera issues, or maybe lighting issues since I waited so late to take the picture.  Anyway, the glove is bad enough without a freaky picture of it, so just use your imagination.

Gloves are quick, I'll say that. Just three inches down the cuff, a few rows for a thumb gusset, and then you're ready for the really interesting parts.  By which I mean the fingers.  Somehow you have to take a cylindrical shaped piece and create four more cylinders coming out of it by some mysterious process of picking up a few stitches and casting on more stitches and then going back at a later time and and picking up and casting on MORE stitches and so on until you have four cylindrical things sticking out of your hand.

When you really think about it, hands are rather oddly shaped, aren't they?

I've started glove #2 and I'm just about to get to the interesting part.  Wish me luck.

Seriously, if anyone knows of a book with nice clear illustrations of this mysterious process, drop me a life line, please.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Socks and Randomness


The weather has turned schizophrenic here--high eighties during the day and low fifties at night.  Taking advantage of the cooler night time temperatures, I've finished some socks that I started last spring which have been waiting patiently in my basket all summer.  I fell victim to a marketing ploy by an on-line yarn supplier (a willing victim, I admit) and bought several more skeins of sock yarn. I think my Christmas gift list is going to be heavily tilted toward hand knit socks this year. 


-We tried the Sesame Noodle recipe from here last night. It was good.  Really, really good.  The trouble with NYT recipes is that here in the hinterland it is sometimes difficult to find all the ingredients, but everything was available at my local grocery store.  I'm going to try the Quinoa-Black Bean Salad next.

-The house smells like chili.  My husband is making a gigantic pot of chile from a recipe we got when we visited Texas a few years ago.  The aroma from the chili will soon be overtaken by the aroma from the beef stew I just put the crockpot. 

-I'm seriously thinking about expanding my knitting repertoire and trying gloves.  I like the idea of it, but I'm thinking about all those fingers.  I've done a lot of mittens over the years, but never tried gloves. 

-The other night I was watching a video of John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy.  When the main character was explaining his rather miserable childhood to the German couple he was boarding with, the lady nodded in commiseration and said, "There was no 'nest warmth'."  Nest warmth?  I'd never heard the term before, but I could understand what she meant right away.  I assumed it was a German idiomatic expression, and last night I got curious about what it would be in the original German.  I tried several search attempts on Google, but couldn't find anything.  Finally, in frustration, I typed in "What is the German for nest warmth?"  It came right up: Nestwarme.  It means love and security, by the way.

-I dropped my iron for the gazillionth time, but this time it appears to be fatal.  Any suggestions on a replacement?  

-I've been sewing, but only in fits and starts on assorted hand projects.  Nothing to show for it yet.

Maybe some pictures tomorrow?

Monday, October 4, 2010

What's On My Design Wall::Design Decisions

I can't show what's up on my design wall today because it's a project I'm preparing for a demo at my next guild meeting.  I was debating with myself about showing it, but I don't want to spoil the surprise for the guild members who read my blog.  Hi, Sew 'n' Tell peeps!

I'm posting ABOUT it, though, because I took the design process challenge a while back and this project shows how I go about making a new quilt.  Most people I know begin with a whole quilt in mind, maybe a quilt pattern they saw in a magazine or a store.  They shop for their fabric.  They cut.  And cut.  Then they begin sewing things together, and, before you know it they have a nice completed quilt. 

Not me.  I begin with a block design.  It may be something interesting that just caught my eye.  Or challenging.  I like challenging, as long as it doesn't involve applique, that is.  Or paper piecing.  I may DREAM about a whole quilt with this new block design, but I concentrate on one block at a time.  Next, I draft the block.  If I can find the drafted block somewhere, so much the better; I like to see how the parts fit together and to get a feel for how I'm going to sew it.  I have a big tablet of oversized graph paper that I use to draw the block or sometimes I use my ancient (and now defunct) EQ5. 

Once the block is drafted, I take a look at how the colors are going to work together.  Where are the lights?  Which pieces need to be dark?  If I switch things around, how will that affect the impact of the design?

Then, I choose some fabrics and I make a block.  At this point, I tell myself that this is just an experiment, but it's really play.  I love playing with bits of fabric and trying out different color combinations.  If the block "works" for me, I hang it up somewhere and look at it for a while, sometimes for a few days.  Do I like it?  What could I do differently?  What might make it better? 

If it looks like it's going to work, I usually shop my stash to see what fabrics I have that will work with the block.  Sometimes I can make do with what I have, but most of the time I find that I have to supplement with a little bit more of a particular color.

Is it any wonder that it takes me a long time to get a quilt finished?

But, the thing is, I LIKE working this way, even though it seems incredibly time consuming.  My joy is in the making, rather than in the finished product.  (Although, I have to admit, the finished quilt is always a big thrill for me.  Maybe because it's such a long journey from idea to fulfillment.)

Later on in the month, I'll post about the demo quilt for guild.

This has been a long post, I know.  I do have one quilty picture.  I've gotten a start on another seven sisters block.

You can see what others have on their design walls this week by checking out Judy L's. Patchwork Times blog.  (And with them, you can probably actually SEE what they're working on.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Design Wall Monday::Seven Sisters

Here is one finished Seven Sisters block.  Phew!  There are a lot of pieces in this one...

And I had to ask just how many pieces when this happened last night:

I was cutting some for another block and laying them out on the kitchen table when a breeze came in through the open window and blew everything all over the place.  By the time I picked up all the pieces, I decided it would be a lot easier to just count them rather than try to lay them out each time. 

Sixty-six pieces. 

You can check out what others have been working on this week by clicking the link to Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times.  And once again, a big "thank you" to Judy for hosting this each week. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nearly Perfect

Sometimes all the tumblers in the universe line up and you are blessed with a nearly perfect day.  I had one yesterday.

After weeks of 90+ degree days, the weather broke Friday afternoon, and Saturday dawned with cooler temps and lower humidity and suddenly it was actually pleasant to be outside.  I drove out to see a quilt show and hooked up briefly with some friends.  The quilt shop across the street from the show was having a sale and I saw a lot more friends and guild members there, too.

Ordinarily I would have just gone home, but I decided to drive out in the country to a quilt shop I had never visited before, a little bit off my usual path.  I took a chance because I wasn't entirely sure where it was, but I found it rather easily.  There was a beautiful selection of fabrics, not big, but lots of things that I haven't seen at other shops in the area.  I found a couple of fat quarters for a fabric exchange at next month's guild meeting and, heaven help me, a stencil set for yet another eight-pointed star block.

Yes, 2010 is shaping up to be the year of the eight-pointed star for me.  There seems to be an almost endless variety of ways to combine these shapes, and I'm so enjoying trying them out.

Heading home, I passed the county historical society museum and saw a big banner proclaiming a civil war exhibit, and I decided to drop in and take a look.  Since the museum is on a one way street I needed to circle the block and my route took me by an antique mall I like to visit from time to time.  I stopped there first and spent a pleasant half hour or so looking around.  There is always such a jumble of stuff in places like that.  Victorian tables piled with garish '60's jewelry.  Old postcards stacked in trays next to "vintage" Tupperware. Is it possible for Tupperware to be vintage?  I ask you!  A dollhouse just like the one my sister had as a child selling for $75.  My gosh. 

Eventually I headed over to the county museum with only about 20 minutes to spare.  There I was doubled teamed by a wonderful older lady and gentleman who gave me a guided tour of each and every exhibit.  I like history in general, but I find local history to be so compelling.  I like knowing that the decrepit old brick building that I pass sometimes used to be the "opera" house and that the big church downtown was a way station on the Underground Railroad.  Or that the beautiful neighborhood that I drive through on the way to work each day used to be a park where William Jennings Bryan spoke. Someone had done a great deal of research on the regiments from the civil war that mustered from this area, and there were exhibits on the battles they fought in. My two guides kept me past their regular closing time, and I had to promise to return so I could spend more time looking through the civil war exhibit.  I left armed with brochures about other historical exhibits in the area and a schedule for the historical society meetings. 

 Altogether, a grand day.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

There Are Certain Advantages to Google Reader

Last Thursday, my computer died.  Completely.  EVERYTHING on the hard drive was gone without so much as a puff of smoke.  My pictures, my accumulated patterns, my files, my documents.  I had been pretty good about backing up all my files on a thumb drive, but in the past couple of months I had gotten lax, and I found, to my chagrin, that the last time I backed up anything was sometime in June.  June!

I discovered two good things, though.  Since Google Reader is web-based all the blogs on my list were still there.  Yippee!  (My Bloglines list is gone forever.)  I also found out that all the pictures I've published on my blog are stored on-line, so they are still intact. Relief!

One more reason to move everything over to Google Reader.

And another advantage:  with Google Reader you can set it up so that blogs written in foreign languages are automatically translated within the reader, saving you from having to pull up the translator each time you want to read the blog.  Now, the translator is not the best; it is often clumsy and a bit surreal, but it at least gives you some idea of what the blog writer is saying.

Design Wall Monday::A Retreat

I'm just back from a quilting retreat this past weekend in a beautiful state park lodge.  It's a very popular retreat among the quilters in this area; for years the woman who organizes it had a waiting list and I feel very lucky that I somehow managed to get my name in.  We work in what I would guess is the hotel's ballroom, with plenty of room to spread out, more than adequate electrical plug-ins, and the comraderie that comes from spending two or three days doing what you love with about 90 other like-minded women. 

Even though there were so many quilters, the retreat is very well organized.  There are plenty of snacks and drinks provided, several ironing stations, cutting stations, and even a vendor on hand to supply anything the retreaters may have forgotten at home and provide a shopping opportunity without leaving the sewing room.  It's no wonder that everyone who attended this weekend's retreat signed up for the next one which is to be held in the spring.

I didn't get as much accomplished as I had hoped.  I had to go in for a full day of work on Friday, so I missed most of the the first day.  Oh well.  I did get eight of my album blocks put together.  The fabric I'm using is a jelly roll of Barbara Brackman's called Civil War Homefront.  The picture above is giving the beautiful soft blues a greenish tint, unfortunately.

The colors are truer in this picture.  I love how this is going together.

I did a quick trip into town on Saturday morning and scored enough of the missing fabric to complete my kaleidoscope posy blocks, but by the time I finished the album blocks late on Saturday afternoon, I wasn't in any shape to begin the careful cutting I needed to do, so that project got put back into its box for another day.  Just knowing I have the right fabric to complete the quilt gave me quite a boost, though.

By Sunday morning I had moved on to hand sewing. I thought I'd post a picture of the difference a one little quarter inch makes.

On the right are 60 degree diamonds cut at 1.25" to finish at .75", measured from one parallel line to the other.  To the left are the same diamonds, but this time cut at 1.50" to finish at 1".  Pretty big difference, no?  It makes a huge difference in sewing, too.  I need to cut some more fabric to finish this little block.

You can see what others are working on this Monday by checking out Judy L.'s Patchwork Times blog.  And once again, thank you Judy for hosting this weekly event.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What I'm Working on Wednesday

Last Saturday one of the quilt guilds in town held a quilt show at the church where they meet. It's always fun to go to a local show because you get a chance to see what everyone has been working on, and around here, at least, you can also see a fair crop of antique quilts which people are happy to pull off beds or out of  cupboards to display. 

As I was walking around, one of the quilts on display brought tears to my eyes.  It was a seven sisters (click and scroll down a bit).  Do you know that pattern?  It's one of my favorites and has been on my bucket list for years.  This one had tiny diamonds of what looked like late 19th century pinks, blues, grays, and browns set with white, and the blocks were offset with solid dark green diamonds.  At least they seemed to be green; the quilts were being displayed in the church sanctuary and the light wasn't the best.  It seemed like an unusual combination to me, since I haven't seen dark green used much in antique quilts. According to the label, the quilt had been rescued from a junk shop. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, so I wasn't able to get a picture. 

The diamonds were tiny, maybe an inch or less.  And I really like tiny pieces.  So, on Sunday afternoon after I finally got it through my head that I hadn't bought enough fabric for the quilt pattern I intended to work on at next weekend's retreat, I picked out some of my reproduction fabrics and cut a few diamonds.  These finish at 3/4" measured across the parallel sides. Now as much as I like small pieces, these are a bit too small for me, so I'm going to try it again with diamonds that finish at 1 inch. 

I'm not necessarily going anywhere with this.  I'm just playing with them--one of my favorite things to do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Design Wall Monday::Frustration

Somehow another whole week has slipped by without a blog post.  I really appreciate Judy L.' s hosting this weekly event, otherwise my posting might be even more sporadic than it already is.  As always, you can check out what lots of other people are working on this week by clicking on this link.

There is very little on my design wall this week, except frustration.  Last spring I fell in love with a certain commercial quilt pattern and I bought what I thought was a generous amount of fabric with which to make the quilt.  Unfortunately, yesterday, MONTHS later, when I finally got the stuff out and began cutting (in preparation for a quilting retreat I'm going to this coming weekend) I found that I didn't buy enough. Grrrrrrr!  I was able to fill in some with stash fabric, but one of the fabrics that I bought, that I truly loved...just not enough.  So, to make the quilt, and I do intend to at least get a start on the quilt this weekend, I'm going to have to buy something else because I'm pretty sure that there won't be any left at the LQS. I'll just have to swing by the shop early Saturday morning and check out what I can use.  Ordinarily I wouldn't mind. I mean, buying fabric is fun, but I would rather not have to spend a chunk of my retreat time hunting down fabric. And, I would like to add, none of this is the fault of the pattern--just my hurried reading of it in the quilt shop.

I've also been working on quilting my challenge quilt for the guild.

The challenge was to use this pattern to depict our favorite place.  Mine is Maine, where we spent our vacation this year.  Can you "feel" the water and the sand and the dark woods and the rocks and the sky?  The picture isn't great, I know; for some reason, my camera has a hard time with these greeny blues.

I tried...and tried...and tried to free motion quilt this, but after my fourth attempt still didn't look good to me, I gave up, picked all the stitches out and started hand quilting. It's only 22 in. x 22 in., but still I would have liked to been able to machine quilt this. 

BTW, the block is based on this.

Above is a detail of one of the corners.  I think I unvented my own block, in Elizabeth Zimmerman's words.  I was attempting some sort of pinwheel-flying geese combination here, but it turned out quite differently than I intended. All in all, I like it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Design Wall Monday::Labor Day Edition

I spent yesterday and today putting these blocks together.  This is a project I began sometime last year; it started out as just an experiment to see if I could piece eight-pointed stars.  Somewhere along the line, I fell in love with this design.  I love how the colored outer points seem to make the stars twinkle. 

I started with two fat quarter bundles of a fabric line called Stars of Provence from Deb Strain.  I bought the bundles on impulse with nothing in mind except that I loved the colors.  Then I got inspired by a quilt I saw in the May/June 2008 issue of Fon's & Porter's Love of Quilting.  At first I made a few stars with reproduction fabrics, but the muted colors didn't seem to suit the design. I was looking around for something brighter when I saw those bundles which had been sitting patiently on my shelves for so long.

I tried making a couple of blocks and I knew I had found the perfect fabric.  My only worry was finding enough of the green to use as a background.  Luckily there was a bolt of it left at my LQS, so I had enough to play with.  I have enough white and another green in the line to be able to add generous borders, my next step.  Ordinarily I'm not one to worry too much about using a particular fabric line for a quilt, but in this case I'm making an exception.

I was also pleased at how well it went together.  Sometimes with blocks that have been made over a long period of time, especially hand sewn blocks, the measurements get a little wonky.  I was able to sew the blocks together with very little easing, although, as you can see, I used enough pins to make a porcupine proud.  I did lose a few points, but that's okay with me.

I enjoyed sewing the blocks so much that I'm almost sorry I've almost come to the end of this project. Have you ever felt that way? But there are so many more things I want to try out, including more with eight-pointed stars

You can see what others have on their design walls this week by checking out Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times

Monday, August 30, 2010

Design Wall Monday::An Actual Finish

I went to a mini-retreat with my sewing group this past weekend, and, TA-DA!, I actually have something new to show on my design wall today.  This is a little wall hanging that somehow got stalled out over the summer.  I had nine blocks done, but the other four blocks had to wait until this weekend when I finally got them put together, along with the sashing.  I love this little block.  It's a great way to use up odd scraps and to play with a lot of color combinations that I ordinarily wouldn't try.  The pattern info is here, if you're interested. (I had to go in the WAY BACK machine, ahem, last June, to find it.)

Because I can't resist, here are some pictures of some of my favorite blocks:

And another one:

BTW these blocks are 8 inches, finished.

And, I got some other things done, too!  Ah, it felt so good to be able to sit and sew.

I finished another of the basket blocks from the basket quiltalong at Piecemeal Quilts.  The pattern is available right there on Sandi's sidebar.  This is the third one I've completed, and I love her clear directions.  Thanks, Sandi!

I did two other blocks at a retreat last spring, and I might have enough for a quilt top sometime this decade... IF I get to attend enough quilt retreats.

But that's not all.  I got some of my civil war jelly roll fabric cut for the album quilt I've been eying here and there on the webs.  I also picked up some Moda Bella solid for the background.  I have the pieces for one block cut out, but didn't have time to get one whole block put together.

Alas, Sunday afternoon came too soon and I had to pack up all my stuff and come home. 

You can check out what others are working on this Monday by checking out Judy L.'s blog Patchwork Times

Have a great week!

Monday, August 23, 2010

What do you do when you don't sew?  Shop.  Online, that is, since I certainly haven't had time to make it out to a quilt shop.  In my last post I talked about the nosegay block that those of us in my sewing group had been admiring.  We couldn't figure out how to make the kite shape for the "handle" of the bouquet.  I went ahead and ordered the plastic template from Marti Michell and it arrived in today's mail.  I don't know when I'll ever get to this, but at least I can cut the pieces when I finally have some time.

I was in a bit of a fog this weekend, trying to recover from my first full week of school and catching up on things I let slide during the week.  By late Saturday afternoon I needed something I could do that wouldn't require too much in the way of brain power.  I had been admiring the Willow Cowl (Ravelry link) and since it just needs one ball of sock yarn, which I just happened to have lying around, I fired up some movies on Netflix and started knitting.

I worked on it a bit on Sunday, too.  Round and round knitting; all you have to do is keep track of is the number of rows in a simple pattern.  Just what the doctor ordered for de-stressing after a long and tiring week.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

School Days and a Nosegay

School started this week.  (Insert descending chord here.)

As you may recall, I moved to the middle school this year.  I spent most of the month of May packing up the tons of teaching gear I've accumulated over the years and dividing it in two parts: a Mt. Everest size pile of primary (grades K-3) materials and a Mt. McKinley size pile of intermediate (grades 4-5) material.  Mt. Everest got transferred by my always-patient-and-helpful husband and me over two hot and sweaty weekends to a storeroom I am lucky enough to have access to.  Mt. McKinley was moved over the summer to my new classroom, just waiting for me.  It took the better part of a week, but I managed to get all the boxes emptied and broken down and the stuff put away before the doors opened on the first day of school.

This week I felt as though I had started a whole new job. New procedures, new forms, new computers, new schedules, new students, new faculty and staff, new everything.  This year is going to be an adventure for sure.

As far as sewing goes, except for my Friday night sewing group, I haven't picked up a needle for a week or more. 

I do have a quilting story to share, however.  Two weeks ago at our Friday night sewing group, one of my friends brought over two absolutely beautiful heirloom quilts that belong to her neighbors.  One was an appliqued poppy, done in several shades of red and dark pink on white muslin, which I didn't get a picture of.  The other was a nosegay pattern. I borrowed these pictures from my friend Anne's cell phone.

I know that had I seen this pattern in a magazine or book I might not have taken a second look, but in person it is truly amazing.  This one looks as though it was sewn last week.  All the fabrics are bright and unfaded and it showed very little wear. 

We all began to try to figure out how to make the kite shape at the bottom of the bouquet.  Anne found an older pattern, but it called for making 1-inch grid paper and tracing the pieces (remember those?).  I thought I had directions for rotary cutting a kite shape, but it turns out that the angles are the wrong size.  What to do? 

Saturday I googled the pattern and I found one at the McCall's website, but I couldn't get the templates to print out at the right size.  And then I saw several references to a Marti Michell pattern that was in the October 2010 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting.  The very selfsame issue that was sitting on the table next to my computer.  In fact, we had been paging through that magazine the night we all saw the quilt. The paper templates are, of course, in the magazine, or you can order plastic ones from Marti's website. 

It just blew me away that I had paged through that magazine so many times and never noticed the quilt.  The quilt featured in the magazine is very pretty, but not "my colors".  I guess my eye just skipped over it without absorbing what it was. 

So another project is added to the list..

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More Odds and Ends

These blocks have been sitting on my design wall since last month.  Each time I thought about cutting the lattice strips and starting to put this little quilt together I hesitated.  Thinking it over, I finally decided that I really LIKE these little things and I want to make more. 

So the other morning before it got too hot in my sewing room, I cut out fabric for a few more...

I have a large scrap basket next to my cutting table just for reproduction fabrics and I pulled fabrics more or less at random.  There is enough cut here for four more blocks; I'll sew those and then decide whether to go on.  I think I probably will.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Design Wall Monday::One Thing Leads to Another

I spent a frustrating Saturday morning dealing with real life stuff and nearly all of Saturday afternoon at the computer.  At first I was looking for a mystery quilt pattern I could use for the guild--not too hard for beginners but with something of interest for more experienced quilters.  Then I got a little sidetracked as it's so easy to do when hunting around on the 'net.

One of the quilts on my bucket list is called Album, or Chimney Sweep, or Chicago Pavements, depending on the source or the coloring.  I just happen to have a jelly roll of Barbara Brackman's Civil War Homefront which would be perfect for this. Clicking around on the 'net yielded dozens of variations of this block.  Bonnie Hunter did a scrappy one based on an antique quilt she saw.  Mereth at Pages from Me did one with a paisley coloring scheme.  She even has cutting and sewing directions for the block on her blog.

With a few more clicks I found myself at what surely must be one of the best sites for antique quilts, the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Not only do they have a fantastic collection of quilts viewable online but they have several interactive features which make it easy to lose hours browsing through their collection.  Which I did. 

And there I found yet another block pattern to fall in love with.  It's one I'd never seen before, and I finally found a name for it after searching through Jinny Beyer's great book Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns. It's called Sunshine or Spring Has Come, depending on the source or variation. I don't know what it is with me, but I like to know the names and histories (if possible) of the blocks I work on.

So yesterday I booted up my ancient copy of EQ5 and drafted patterns for both of the blocks.

Purely as an exercise to see if the rotary cutting measurements were in fact accurate, you understand, I cut out fabric for the sunshine block and started to put it together.

And that's why I have a completely new project up on the design wall today. 

You can check out what others have on their design walls today by visiting Judy L's Patchwork Times blog.  Thanks again, Judy, for hosting this!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This Isn't Design Wall Monday

This isn't Design Wall Monday or even WIP Wednesday; somehow the week got away from me, I'm afraid.  But I have been sewing a bit here and there and have three more star blocks almost completed.  Most of the blocks have a dark and light blue center, but I felt that things were looking just a little too uniform, not enough surprise for the eye, I guess, so I tried a red and blue center.  That red paisley print kept jumping out of the sewing box begging, "Pick me, pick me!".

I did, and I like the result.  It remains to be seen whether I make more.  Although I am enjoying making the blocks, I'm not feeling the love enough to want to make a ton of these.  So far I've cut out enough to make nine blocks total (three more than my original plan), so despite myself this seems to be taking on a life of its own.

My husband was away over the weekend and I decided to take advantage of the relative quiet to work on the challenge quilt for my guild.  I set up an ironing station and cutting station on the kitchen counter and my Featherweight on the dining room table and had a wonderfully productive two days of cutting and sewing.  All the stuff that is normally clattering around in my head (what to do about dinner, is that load of laundry done yet, did I remember to take out the garbage, etc., etc.) just vanished as I got completely submerged in the moment.  I cut, I sewed, I unsewed, I compared colors, I think I even invented a new quilt block.  I wish I could get to that level of concentration more often because it feels so incredible to come to oneself hours later and see all you have accomplished. 

This is just a teaser, I fear, because we are supposed to keep these under wraps until the big reveal next month.  And of course I still have to quilt it.  I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and do it on my machine.  Here's hoping that I don't muck it up too much with my less than stellar machine quilting skills.