Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

It's time to look back and look ahead.  2012 was a good year.  I really seemed to hit my stride in learning to enjoy retirement.  We took some great trips from Florida, to England and Scotland and to our favorite beach house.  We weathered two storms with minor damage all of which has been repaired.  We got to see family numerous times (although that never seems enough).  It was the "Year of the Move" for many of our extended family, many of them moving long distances across the country.  I learned lots and lots more about quilting and sewing and had tons of fun along the way.  And I seemed to get into the groove of blogging and became acquainted with the wider world of quilting and textile crafts.

On a more individual note:  I had set a  book reading goal (6 books/year) and was able to meet (and slightly exceed) it.  I had decided in March to try to remember the birthdays of my immediate extended family (siblings, nieces, nephews and spouses of all) and have been able to keep up with that.  My weight loss goal of losing that elusive last five pounds did not get met.  Truth be told, I think I sort of gave up on that one.  But, on the positive side, weight was maintained with little effort which seems to indicate that, while one must always be vigilant for those creeping extra pounds, my present lifestyle seems to be in balance regarding calories in vs. calories out.

Things I would like to modify:  I'd like to return the focus on losing the last five pounds.  I don't think the health implications are as great as they were 15 pounds ago, but I feel like I've left that undone.  I'd like to be more involved in the use of time and talents for others.   I'd like to continue the reading pattern that I started.  And I'd like to be more consistent in work in the yard and with the house plants.  I enjoy that work, but often, well, I'd just rather sew.  The same goes for general household organization.

I've never been one for resolutions in the past.  I think I had a habit of setting aggressive goals and then getting discouraged when I couldn't keep up.  But I do think goals help me keep focus on certain things I would like to accomplish.  And blogging does provide a certain amount of accountability since writing these down defines the task as worthy of attention. So, with all that in mind, my 2013 resolutions/goals look like this:

  • 6  books read in the year.
  • 5  pounds to lose.
  • 4  volunteer projects (quilt donations, time donations and the like)
  • 3  times/week for 15 minutes - additional exercise (This one may be the hardest but will assist with the weight goal above.)
  • 2  times/week, work in the yard or with the houseplants for a duration of about 45 minutes (They have a way of getting ahead of me and hopefully this goal will help)
  • 1 time/month complete a declutter project around the house. 
There are many sewing and quilting projects that I want to complete, but since I enjoy those so much it doesn't seem necessary to set them as goals.  They seem to happen without really trying.

Now, back to sewing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A New Baby in the House

It's time to tell you about my new Baby Lock sewing machine.  We've spent the last few days getting to know each other and I must say that I've been impressed at every step.  There are some very clever features and so far nothing at all disagreeable.
You can read all the particulars on the Baby Lock website, so let me just highlight the quilting features that I've discovered so far.  There are several dedicated piecing and quilting stitches.  One adjusts the needle position to insure an exact 1/4 inch seam on the right - or if you choose on the left.  There is a small stippling stitch which would be great for fill quilting a small area.  It would be too dense for a large part of the quilt.  There is a pivot feature.  The machine stops in a needle down position and lifts the pressure foot slightly so you can pivot the fabric.  When you start to sew again the foot is automatically lowered.  It will automatically cut the top and bottom threads if you choose.  It comes with a straight stitch foot, but these features created a great stitch without changing the feet.  It also came with a walking foot, free motion foot and a whole array of feet I haven't begun to figure out.  There is an optional foot that would be great for piecing like was done on step five of Easy Street.  It will sew and trim the fabric in one motion resulting in a sewn and trimmed seamed all in one.  There is a ton of storage in the flatbed.  I was able to fit all the feet, a seam ripper and 10 bobbins.

Today I played with the embroidery for the first time.  I've never ever done machine embroidery, so I was pretty proud of the result.  There is room for improvement, but the accomplishment of figuring it all out just from the book felt pretty good.   I think the number spacing looks off, so I'll have to work on that next time.
This was three separate patterns all stored on the machine.  I was able to edit the patterns on the machine to come up with this and then embroider it all together.  It also accepts a USB stick or will connect directly to the computer, but I haven't gotten that far yet.  It addition the machine came with Embroidery Works software.  Haven't looked at that yet either. 

Today we had a snowy, stormy day - great weather to stay inside and play with the new Baby.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

We have a white Christmas here today!  There's not much snow, but enough to add to the Christmas feel.  We celebrated most of our holiday a few days ago when everyone's schedule allowed us to get together.  So today the two of us will have a quiet day to relax.  There were several "firsts" this Christmas.  When we look back to this holiday memories will include:

...the chance to get everyone together.  Work schedules and other family commitments makes this harder as the years go on.  Son #3 and girlfriend spent about a week here giving me the opportunity to have another female in residence!  That was very special.  We also got to spend some extended time with son #1 and girlfriend and get to know her better.

.....the first appearance of Santa Pig.  I've mentioned before that my husband has a linking for pigs.  It's become a bit of a family joke with pigs making appearances in unusual places.  So, how could we pass up this when it became available at the start of the season?
Santa Pig replaced our tradition of Christmas stockings.  The stockings became more difficult to fill as the boys got older and the family expanded.  This year each person got a special present from Santa Pig.  Most of them came from the "As Seen on TV" store and, though useful in some way were a bit of a joke present.  For instance, the husband got a nightlight of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story, his favorite seasonal movie of all time.  Son #3 got soap on a rope due to his recent disbelief that such a thing ever really existed.

....two special presents from my dear husband.  I now have a Baby Lock Elegante 3 sewing machine.  So far all I've done with it is sew straight, but it holds the promise of hours of sewing and embroidery fun in the years ahead.  I would tell you more about what it does, but I haven't figured it all out yet.  It made some great Easy Street blocks, though.

And, secondly, he played to my love of The Wizard of Oz with a beautiful red sparkly illustrated book of the original story:

and a pair of ruby slippers to hang on the tree:

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Easy Street: Step 5

I'm racing a bit to keep up with Bonnie Hunter's Mystery Quilt this time.  We celebrated Christmas on Saturday since it seemed like the best day to get everyone together this year.  The festivities coupled with a house full of family pushed sewing to the back shelf.

But, yesterday everyone went home or to other family and today was spent returning the house to it's usual arrangement, collecting ribbons and wrapping, running the washer constantly and doing my blocks for step five.  This was especially fun because I was able to use my new sewing machine - a gift from my husband!  I'll post more about that later, but for now, here are my new blocks:

There is much more variety of red than shows up in my picture.  In fact there are four very different fabrics there!  Photography is clearly not one of my strengths!  Anyway, I had fun with these blocks and they seemed to go together without a hitch.  Now I'm anxious for the next step!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Easy Street: Step 4

My journey down Easy Street continues.  This week was a bit difficult since the Christmas chaos has begun in earnest here.  My sewing room and guest room are both serving as sleeping quarters.  I managed to finish my blocks before family arrived, but you might be able to tell that the pictures were taken on the bathroom counter and I'm posting from a folding table in my bedroom.

This step was a bit of a reality check of my sewing abilities.  Apparently my seams are not as consistant as I wanted to believe.  Some of the blocks seem a bit small.  We'll see how it all turns out in the end.  I may need to remake some of them.  On the positive side, I'm liking the color choices more with each step and still enjoying the journey.  I haven't done any of the "extra credit" cutting at the end of each step, so I may have more work further down the line.  But time was running short; the room needed to be transformed and I didn't want to rush things.

So, that's enough excuses.  (One more: sorry for the bad picture)  Here they are:

In case you've stumbled onto this post, let me give some background.  I'm participating in Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt.  Each Friday she gives the instructions for a set of blocks and then on Mondays we link up with her blog - here.  We don't know what the final quilt will look like - that's the mystery.  She did mention this week that we are about half way through.  She has an Easy Street tab at the top of her blog where you can check out the past details, or join in if you choose.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pillow Presents

I decided to make a few pillows at the last minute to sort of round out my gift list.  Pillows are fun to make for me.  It's a small project that can be completed in a short time and usually I have the supplies on hand.  Here's what I came up with:

For a fish loving family member:
(Maybe someday I'll learn how to tile pictures.)  That's the front and back of the same pillow.  And I got to use my ten cent/yard bargain find cording.  Also on my "some day" list is learning how to get the binding tighter.  I use a zipper foot, but perhaps I need a cording foot?

This next pillow was made for a family member in a nursing home.  I was hoping that the shape would be useful for positioning.  I embroidered their name on it since things in nursing homes have a way of disappearing.  I put paper over the name in the picture for privacy.  This one is made out of flannel for softness and purposely has no binding to prevent pressure points.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Easy Street Correction

It appears that I've mixed up my blog friends.  I credited Miss Thimble for the encouragement to get involved in Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt.  She graciously told me that I was mistaken and indeed she is not traveling Easy Street. 

I owe Nancy at joy for grace  both an apology and a BIG thank you for posting about Easy Street which resulted in my participation.  So sorry about my confusion!

On a positive note, it sounds like perhaps Miss Thimble has become interested in the mystery quilt idea.  I guess there are several ways to pass on inspiration.

Walking Down Easy Street

I'm late to the party, but all caught up now!  A mystery quilt was on my "some day" list.  So when I read Miss Thimble's (please see correction here.) post about joining in on Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt I decided to check it out.  At first I dismissed it as being too large a time commitment at this season of the year but it kept calling to me. So I jumped in with a few changes:  I'm only making half the blocks hoping that I can make this into a child sized quilt as a donation (more on that when I get to my 2013 goals).  And I tried to lean toward primary colors for the same reason.

First let me say a BIG thank you to Miss Thimble for the nudge and to Bonnie for the experience.  I am SO enjoying the journey.  As someone who is usually anxious to see the finished product the mystery part helps me to focus and be satisfied with the product of one step at a time.  And the practice is great.  These might be the most precise blocks I've ever made. Bonnie's directions give great detail.  I'm not so sure that I've made good color choices since determining "color value" is an emerging skill for me.  But, time will tell.

And I think the added task has amazingly made me more productive overall.  Not only am I caught up on my blocks, but also on my decorating, shopping and after today hopefully my wrapping!

Here's my progress thus far.  I'll be linking to Bonnie's post:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Quilting Inspiration

Quilts are composed of many elements that come together for the final look that we love so much.  First there's the fabric and the colors they bring together, often influenced by availability.  Then there is the choice of pattern we choose to use, from scrappy to more organized to minimalistic.  Then we choose batting - thick or thin - cotton or poly.  Then we decide how to quilt the piece: free motion, edge to edge, long arm, home machine, and a million other options.  Lastly we choose a type and style of binding.  Given all the choices (Oh, I forgot to add size: lap, twin, double.....) I would expect that no two quilts are alike. 

The inspiration for our designs is much the same.  We look at each others quilts and are inspired to either make the same one or, more likely, take an idea and change it slightly to suit our tastes or to please the intended recipient.  That's one reason the Internet is such a great quilting tool.  We get to browse each other's ideas and then create our own. Often we take elements we like from many different places and blend them together to something new and different.

So, last week I had a first.  A reader shared her quilt with me which was inspired by my pirate quilt!  My pirate quilt was inspired by another blogger's pirate quilt.  So, here are three generations of inspiration....

This quilt:
was inspired by this quilt:

which was inspired by this quilt by Helen at Quilt Bindings:

Each quilt borrowed elements from the previous one and added or changed elements according to tastes, availability of product and ideas gleaned from other quilts. Although they resemble each other, they're not alike (sort of like family resemblances),

So....I would encourage all of you out there in quilt world, if someones quilt has inspired you in some way to create one of your own, tell them.  It's very nice to see your own creation spark an other's creativity.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Virginia Quilt Museum

I'm still not back to the sewing machine.  My days have been pretty full lately with seasonal activities.  I've also spent quite a bit of time researching new sewing machines!  But this weekend my sister and I paid a visit to The Virginia Quilt Museum.  It's a museum devoted to quilting through the years and through different cultures.  They have special exhibits that change regularly.  The current exhibit is from a mostly Latina quilting cooperative in California and depicts scenes of family life, border crossings and life in Mexico.  There is a also a room devoted to Civil War quilts, to quilts made by groups, quilts from several generations of a local family, a room filled with old sewing machines and a small library.  The gift shop is filled with quilting related items.  I decided to become a member which allows me free admission for the year as well as some other benefits.  No pictures were allowed in the museum but if you follow the link above there are some nice photos of some of the exhibit quilts.

Admission is $7 for non members.  If you're in the area (the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia) it's definitely worth the visit.  The skill and detail of the older quilts made with a hand needle or one of the primitive machines really made me think about my desire for a new sewing machine that "does more"....than my present 34 stitches!  These ladies had so little to work with and created beautiful pieces.  And their quilts were not only pretty but had to be useful and stand up to the stresses of the day.  I really admire their work.

And, I'm a little late but I'm hooking up with the small blog meet again at Lily's Quilts. What a great way to "meet" other bloggers!
Lily's Quilts

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Strufoli (often pronounced "strew-fulls" by my family)  was a special treat from my childhood.  My mother made these every Christmas.  In fact, it was a group project.  It's an Italian sweet made with an egg rich dough that is cut into small balls, fried and then coated in honey and decorated with sprinkles.  When she could, my mother bought the honey from an old lady in town who kept some hives in her back yard.  Believe it or not, I found a picture online (Isn't the internet a remarkable thing?):
I've never made them myself, but was starting to wish I could taste them again and was considered trying to recreate this memory.  Imagine my delight when son #1 showed up at Thanksgiving with some!!  He had found them in an Italian bakery and remembered them from his childhood visits to his Nana.  I was SO excited.  In fact, I may have eaten the entire package over several days. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Scrap Quilt - Finished

This quilt was really done before Thanksgiving, but things got sort of busy just before the holiday with grocery shopping and getting my sewing room transformed into a guest room.  It was great to have the family home.  Things have just about returned to normal around here.  This picture looks alot like the one I posted of the top.
 I had a lot of spare binding from old projects and used that to bind the quilt.  It's quilted with a free motion loop pattern.  The back is made from white fleece so it's soft and cozy.  I want to use more fleece and flannel as backing this year.

So, the only things I bought for this project were the thread and the backing (which was a steal at $2/yard for 60 inch wide fabric).  It will live in my sewing room for now to use when I'm hand sewing or reading. 

This is probably my last project for the year.  It's time to think about Christmas activities and such.  But I've been thinking about which project to start next.  There are quite a few patterns that I'd like to try.  I'll just have to see where the adventure takes me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Full House

It was a quiet Thanksgiving day here.  Only son #3 was here with us.  The rest will be arriving soon for our "official" family dinner on Saturday.  I remember all too well the stress of trying to cram visits to several sides of the family and work obligations into a few short days.  So we decided to postpone the holiday a few days to try to reduce the stress for everyone. And sewing has been put on hold while my room serves as sleeping quarters.

I'm looking forward to having the boys all around the table again.  We have a new table to fit the ever expanding family ( and their 3 partners).  I'm truly grateful for the privilege of being their mother and for the chance to see them grow into adulthood.  Sometimes we forget to appreciate the everyday.  I'm glad for the big accomplishments in their lives - the graduations, awards, plays, games, wedding - but also for the small things: their love of books, teaching them to swim, trips to the local diner for a hot dog, delivering newspapers, sleepovers and birthday cakes.

I'm thankful for the yesterdays, for the todays and for any tomorrows that come my way.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Flicker? (Not the bird)

There was a time that I considered myself pretty computer savvy.  That was about 15+ years ago.  We had just bought our first computer and I realized that no one in the family knew much about it.  Since I'm one of those people who likes to read the directions, I sat down with the instruction book (all in print and very extensive in those days) and learned how to operate and maintain our new family edition. But technology moves at lightning speed these days and I quickly fell behind.

Flash forward to today.  I can manage many aspects of the computer with ease, but I choose to ignore others because I just don't see the point.  And I learned early on that computer files are just one more cleaning chore - you need to declutter now and again or you have a mess - just like your sock drawer.  So, I can do some basic blogging although I still struggle with some of the finer points.  And I'm acquainted with Flicker, although until recently I didn't care to participate.  But, my desire to join a particular group required me to have an active Flicker account.  Hence, I took the plunge.  Call me dense, but I still don't quite get it, so any clarification is appreciated.  It appears that Flicker is sort of a place where you can have a visual blog with short discriptions and comments?  Or am I missing something?  So far I've uploaded some pictures but haven't gotten as far as adding comments or even really figuring out how to tell anyone how to find my Flicker page!  And, I've yet to use it to connect to the group that originally caught my attention. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Birds At My Sewing Room Feeder

My sewing room used to be located in a closet.  It was a big closet....but a small sewing room.  I didn't sew as much back then, but it was still quite a production to get things set up and put away.  But the family dynamics have changed with son #3 moving away to college and then grad school and coming home less and less.  So I slowly took over his room.  It's a large room over the garage.  It still houses a large bed so a good portion of the floor space is occupied.  But, I'm not complaining!  I have my desk, computer, file, sewing machine, cutting table and even a small TV and chair all in here.  There is a window at each end of the room.  Early on I decided to try to attract birds to the front window and was pretty successful.  Here's my latest set up (without birds since they're a bit camera shy):

(Please ignore the dirty windows!)   My usual customers are finches, blue jays and cardinals with an occasional dove.  But lately I've had quite an assortment of different birds!  Black capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, mockingbirds, all kinds of sparrows and even a woodpecker have visited!  I'm enjoying the assortment of birds (there are links to pictures of each one above) and would love for it to continue although I think many of them are passing through en route to warmer climates.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wizard of Oz Wallhanging and a Giveaway

This little project is just about finished.  It still needs a hanging sleeve, but here it is:
The inspiration for this came from here at Lilly's Quilts.  And the original pattern can be bought from a great online magazine called Fat Quarterly.  You can purchase this magazine by the issue or as a subscription.  The issue can be downloaded as a PDF file and then printed off in whole or part.  There are quite a few patterns in each issue and the per issue cost is $8.00.  Even though I knew I wasn't going to make the quilt as originally illustrated I wanted to read the directions for the filmstrip part and they were very helpful. The overall scale of the filmstrip is decreased to coordinate better with the smaller scale of the pictures.  It is quilted with clear thread to avoid competition with the patterns and pictures.

Being the Wizard of Oz fan that I am, I wanted to place the blocks in the order they occur in the movie.  The patterned pieces are meant to represent other parts.  For example:  The sepia tone piece is life on the farm, followed by the occurrence of Glenda the good witch with her magic wand, the distributed "wishes" are near the end and then the ruby slippers for transportation back to Kansas.

Now for the giveaway:  There is a giveaway at Lilly's Quilts for a Odd's and End's Layer Cake from Simply Solids.  You can enter four times and it's open worldwide.  Thanks, Lilly!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pondering The Wizard of Oz

I'm working on a small Wizard of Oz wall hanging.  Even though it's a simple project, the progress has been quite slow.  Hopefully I will be able to finish it this week.  This has always been one of my favorite movies.  So, as I was sewing, I found (first major accomplishment) my VHS copy of the movie and figured out how to make the old VHS player work (second major accomplishment) so that I could watch it as I sewed.  I realized a few things:  I still love this movie.  I love the characters, the old special effects that were cutting edge in their time, the songs....everything.  Back in the old days, you couldn't just sit down and watch a movie whenever you wanted.  I didn't see The Wizard of Oz in the theater until I was in college.  My first introduction was on TV.  And since you couldn't record TV back then, you had to plan to be available whenever it was going to be aired.  It seemed like this movie was aired about once a year and my mother made sure I was aware of the show time.  Commercials were your only opportunity for food or bathroom breaks if you didn't want to miss part of the show - there was no rewind.  After several years my family got our first color TV (yes, I'm THAT old!).  And I was introduced to the color extravaganza of The Wizard of Oz.  I loved it even more.  I thought it was so clever of the director to start and end the movie in black and white making the magic of Oz even more breathtaking.  I do admit to being scared of the wicked witch and her flying monkeys in those days, though.  And they were uglier and scarier in color.

As I was viewing the movie recently I think I realized some of my attraction to the story.  I like Dorothy.  I think I related to her without being aware of it back then.  She grew up, as I did, surrounded by adults.  (I'm the youngest in my family by 11 years).  And there were times for Dorothy, as for me, when being "good" basically meant staying out of the adults way.  But Dorothy also has spunk and I admired that in her.  She was willing to speak her mind and stand up for the less able including her dog and her companions.  She was scared of the witch and even the wizard to an extent, but she didn't back down.  And, most of all, she came home.  She was frustrated with home at first, but she quickly realized that home and the people there were important.  In a way, she grew up and learned to value what was right in front of her.

After all, there's no place like home.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book #7: The Time Keeper

I just finished reading The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom.

Like many of his other titles, the book was short, engaging and thought provoking.  I was perhaps a bit confused about this one.  I understand that he is trying to comment on the time focus of our culture, but I'm not sure that I absorbed the entire message that he is trying to convey.  Maybe I'm looking too deep.  Sometimes a story is just a story.  But that is seldom the case with this author.  Perhaps he is trying to say that our worries over time only exist because we have come to "count" time.  It makes me wish I was part of a book club just to discuss this one.

Small Blog Meet.

There is a small blog meet sponsored by Lilly's Quilts.  I thought I'd give it a try.  Here's the link:
                                                        Lily's Quilts
Hop on over and have a look. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Storm Update

Today is sunny and cool - a big change from the past few days.  The storm didn't hit my area as hard as expected.  Somehow we escaped both the high winds to the east of us and the blizzard snow 20 miles to the west of us.  Schools have been closed for two days but today things are back to normal.  Son #1 escaped any flooding damage to his basement apartment.  Even though all goverment offices were closed his workload required him to go into work.  Without any mass transit running, that required a long soggy walk in the cold rain.  One sister had to postpone her moving plans for a few days.  New Jersey had restricitions on traffic on the road - hence no moving van and now they have a ban on house closings to allow for damage assessments.  My other sister is not quite accounted for, but we are trusting that "no news is good news".   And.......Lucy still stands although there is not yet any access to the island she is on.  This picture is on her website (link above) and was taken several hours before landfall.  Lucy used to stand where the large building in the upper left of the picture is now.  The aspect of this picture is a bit skewed and makes it look like she is much farther from the water than she is.  It's as though the sides of the picture have been curved around.  In fact, there is a beach access point right at her base.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Preparations

Well, the east coast is getting set for a huge storm.  We are on the edge of the projected area of damage but well within the "get ready" area.  So, the cars are gassed up, the flashlights have new batteries, the cell phones are charged.  There is food in the house - dog and human, books to read (real books, since electronic books eventually run out of power), hand sewing projects and lots of blankets.

I have two sisters right in the path of the storm and son #1 lives in a basement apartment in Washington, DC - also expected to get hit badly.   So, there is concern for all of them as well as my favorite elephant, Lucy.  She stands within sight of the Jersey shore.  I'm hoping Hurricane Sandy is polite when they meet.
She has weathered many storms, but at 131 years old, I'm sure she is getting tired.  Hang on, Lucy!  We need you. You make us smile.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New Fabric Stores Near Me

When I first posted about fabric stores in my area I never exactly mentioned where "my area" was.  So, just to set the facts straight, I'm talking about stores in and around the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  I have two additions to my list:

Sew Classic Fabrics - They are located inside the Shenandoah Heritage Farmers Market.  They have a Facebook page, but I can't view it since I'm one of last few people who is NOT on Facebook.  They sell both quilting fabric and garment fabric.  I visited before their official grand opening and really liked the variety that they had.  My only problem was that some of the fabrics were shelved too high for me to see.  I'm sure I'll be back to visit.

Walmart - I'm not a big fan of Walmart and I visit very seldom.  We have two Walmarts in this area but only one has a fabric section.  They have a good selection of various stabilizers and muslin and a fair amount of prints.  The quality isn't as good as quilt stores, but the price is great.  They often have a sale area with fabrics for $1.50 and $2.50 a yard.  And, they're always open so if I have need of something basic on a's off to Walmart I go.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Scrap Quilt Top

I've finally finished the top of my "scrap quilt".  This is the quilt I got distracted by while I was organizing my scraps.  I'm not going to quilt it for awhile so I thought I would post the top.  It's made entirely of scraps or leftovers from other quilts.  Some of the border and black sashing was fabric cut for a border on another quilt until I changed my I often do!
This quilt top was started before I had my revelation about color value.  There are a few pieces that I should have not used.  I think the biggest offender is the light colored print near the top right of the red block.  And that brings me to one of the big lessons that I'm taking away from this project: not all scraps can be used successfully in a scrap quilt!  Again, perhaps it's obvious, but I had to learn it.  The light colored areas are a combination of greys and white fabrics from recent projects.

I wanted this to be made entirely from fabric that I had on hand, but I also wanted to start using soft backings like flannel and fleece for a warm cozy feel.  While shopping recently I found an excellent buy on some wide white fleece, so that will become the back.  I'm thinking about using a rainbow thread to quilt it with a free motion pattern.  Since I only feel confident about two patterns that I know it will either be stippled or looped.

So I still have some fabric to cut up but little by little I'm getting there.  I do some until I'm tired of it and then move on to something else.  I'm not sure how I'll use the scraps, but they're easier to store and should be more useful cut up into predetermined shapes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book #6: The Best of Me

Well, with the reading of this book I've reached by goal of reading six books in 2012.  I finished The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks about a week ago but our beautiful autumn weather has made for busy days.  This was the perfect beach book and I did indeed start it while on vacation.  The plot involves a couple who dated in high school but life took them in separate directions after that.  They reunite years later with the usual life complications that the years tend to bring.  The beginning of the book was a bit slow with the final 100 pages being the most engaging.

So, with my 2012 goal complete, I hope to continue reading.  In fact I have the next two books already picked out.  I'm thinking of setting the same goal for next year and continuing to keep track here just as added motivation.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Color Value: Maybe I Didn't Want to Know

I sort of jumped into quilting with both feet relying mostly on  garment sewing knowledge from my younger years and a perhaps over zealous feeling that I could pretty much do anything if I just put my mind to it.  During my first quilting experience I discovered the rotary cutter (yup....didn't even know there was such a thing) and the acrylic ruler - which I thought worked like a template.  And with each quilt I learned a bit more.

So, I've been quilting along for just short of two years now and in general have been pleased with the results.  Sure, there were things on most of the quilts that I would have done differently, but overall I was happy.  Whenever I came across something I didn't understand I would look it up online. You Tube became a great source as did Google and Bing.  Now I have a fair knowledge of most of the basics and Ive been studying on the particulars.  My Internet browsing took me to a study of "color value".  Prior to this I would have described color value as the "lightness or darkness" of a fabric.  As I read about how to arrange fabrics with color value in mind and as I looked through a site of quilter self proclaimed "ugly quilts" I began to think through my past creations and found that I was less satisfied.  The good part is that I could now identify why I thought a certain fabric didn't work.  The bad part is that now when I look at some of the quilts all I see is the piece with the "wrong" value.

To be fair, I don't think it's ALL about color value.  But something needs to tie a quilt design together.  Perhaps it's the theme like my pirate or tee shirt quilt or perhaps it's the pattern of the New Wave or Take Five quilts.  Color value does explain why some scrap quilts appeal to me and others seem too busy.  I think even with random pieces there needs to be something that draws the design together or else it just looks way too busy.  So feel free to browse my quilt gallery.  Comments are welcome.  I know that I will be keeping an eye on color value next time I have the opportunity to buy fabric or try to make something out of existing fabric.  I may even treat myself to one of those ruby value finders on one of my next shopping trips.

I guess I'm glad to know about color value.  I honestly don't think I could have absorbed the knowledge much earlier in my quilting journey.  And honestly some quilts like the fractal quilt and New Wave
 I think did well on color value.  But then there's the BACK of the fractal quilt. 
Oh well.  Live and learn.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Scrap Update

Recently, just before my beach trip,  I mentioned that I needed to get a handle on my scraps.  Well, I've been working toward that end, but have got a bit sidelined.  In general, I'm not attracted to totally random quilts.  I like there to be something that ties the elements together - some sort of organization or direction, I guess.  So as I was sorting through my scraps I began to separate them by color and also noticed that many of them were in stripes.  So, I'm trying my hand at a scrap quilt.  I only have the start of a plan and here's what I have so far:
Clearly, blue wins out so far as my most abundant scrap color.  So my thought is to finish my color blocks and then set them in a neutral background with a border made with a few other multicolored scraps.  I'm hoping not to buy any fabric for this project.  We'll see how my creative endeavor turns out.  This is NOT all my scraps mind you.  Some are being cut into blocks as I originally planned.  And from here on out I hope to always cut my scraps into planned sizes to be stored for future projects.  I promise. Honest. I mean it.  Without a doubt!  For real.  No kidding.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Celebrating "Not Dead Day"

Today is my day for reflection about the gift of life.  31 years ago today while newly pregnant with son #1 we (unborn "he" and I) were in a horrific auto accident.  We have both lived to tell the tale despite my serious injuries and his precarious reliance on my well being. But each year the anniversary of that day is very sobering.  Son #1 named it "not dead day" and we usually exchange text messages or emails in a sort of virtual "high five".  I was 24 years old at the time, newly graduated from college and working my first job.  I had longed to be a mother and was thrilled to be pregnant.  In short,   I felt like my life was getting underway.  Oddly, at that time in my life I didn't expect to live long.  I was well acquainted with the passing of various aunts, uncles and more distant relations.  In addition to the relatives I didn't know well, my nephew died when I was only six and he was 3 years old  and my father passed away when I was 19.  So all in all I grew up feeling that life was short - especially in my family.  And if you had asked me about longevity then I would have told you that I didn't want to live long in part because it was so hard to see others go before you and to miss them so much (I know, this is sort of a depressing post, but I don't mean it to be that way.  It's just a very sobering topic, I guess) But here's the strange thing.  The older I get, the more that I realize that I would be glad for a long life.  In fact if you could buy a ticket for life to 100 years old with a guarantee of a modest amount of well being, I would be the first in line.  I think being retired is responsible for much of this attitude change.  This might be the most stressfree time in my entire life.  My responsibilities are minimal and I am free to pretty much do as I please more or less. And despite the sadness of saying good bye to those we love, there is so much still to enjoy - places to go, people to see, things to do....and, of course, quilting!

So, I raise a glass to "Not Dead Day" and all those who played a part in our survival.  I'm thankful for the many many experiences, aquaintances and accomplishments that surviving that day has allowed me to experience.  I'm glad for the perspective that it has provided for the rest of my years and I pray for the opportunity to celebrate many, many more "Not Dead Day"s in the years to come.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Llama Pillows for the Pirate

We have an 11 year old grandson - recipient of the pirate quilt who, for some reason decided to like llamas.  I know...huh?  Anyway, llama themed fabric, appliques, etc. are not that easy to come by.  Trust me, I've searched!  And don't try to sneak an alpaca in and call it a llama.  He knows the differences better than me. His interest in pirates continues, but llamas have taken center stage.  In addition he likes to share a pig interest with his Granddad.  Okay, let's make this a bit more complicated and add that he has taken a liking to the llama-duck song.  Curious minds can click here for the video of the song.  So, putting this all together I came up with this:

Pillow one front-
and back-
Pillow two front -
and back -

The red stripe reads, "quack, quack, quack, quack, oink."  After deciding that any llama applique pattern that I found was beyond my abilities, I chose to print the llama pictures on printable fabric, bond them to the pillow fabric and machine blanket stitch around the edges. So, we have all the themes of the moment (Which I'm sure will change in a matter of months!) - llamas, pigs, pirates and the llama-duck song! 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Two New Lighthouses and a Revisit

While we were at the beach, we added to my lighthouse visits.  First, we revisited Currituck Lighthouse to show it to my brother and his wife.  We climbed to the top again and I took the same pictures that I took in June.  It is still probably my favorite lighthouse trip on the Outer Banks.

Then in the middle of the week we decided to visit some of the lighthouses south of our location.  First we stopped at Hatteras Lighthouse.  This one was moved several years ago to protect it from falling into the ocean.  It is a VERY impressive sight.  Unlike the other lighthouses, this one is nationally owned and part of the National Park Services.  It is the tallest lighthouse on the east coast.  We made the climb, giving us a little cardio workout for the day.

There was a ranger stationed at the top to answer all of our questions.  He commented that the remoteness of the location added some challenges to family life, but admitted that this was a pretty sweet place to be stationed.  The view from the top was, of course, awesome:

Next we decided to take the ferry to Ocracoke Island and visit the lighthouse there.  This is where we met our only "low point" of the week.  The ferry is supposed to run every 1/2 hour but we had to wait 1 1/2 hours for our turn to cross!  When we got there we didn't realize how the system worked or we might have rethought our plans and done some other activity rather than try to cross to the next island.  But by the time you invest an hour in line that decision becomes more difficult.  Basically you cue up in a line in the hot sun and wait...and wait...and wait for your turn on one of the ferries.  The schedule is really of no account.

Once on the island it is another 20 miles to the fishing village.  We got hungry and crabby and finally found somewhere to eat.  That was a good stop.  The seafood was about as fresh as it comes and the barbecue and coleslaw were excellent.  So, with our tummys filled, we went on to find the lighthouse.  It was a total disappointment.  When you see pictures of lighthouses on the Outer Banks, apparently they are not in scale to each other.  This lighthouse is TINY and you can't go inside.  The parking is limited to five spaces and 15 minutes in parking time, but that doesn't really matter since you would be challenged to spend a full 15 minutes there.  There isn't even a gift shop.  But it is the oldest operating lighthouse on the east coast.  For me, this lighthouse gets filed under, "been there, done that, no need to return."

Then of course we had to drive back to the ferry, wait in line again (only about half an hour this time) and take the 45 minute ferry ride back to the other island.  We got home about dark, tired, but glad for the adventure.  I had never ridden on a car ferry before, so that was a first for me.  Seamus handled the day well, but even he seemed glad to be home.
So, next year there is one more lighthouse to see - Bodie Island Lighthouse.  It is under renovation at the moment.  We're hoping that it will be open for climbing when we go back. 

Lesson of the day:  Ocracoke is only worth considering if you are really looking for a way to waste the day.  Bring a book to read while you wait for the ferry.  Don't even consider the trip if you have small (or even older!) kids in the group.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Seneca Rocks Hike

The day before leaving for the beach I met my brother and his wife at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia for a hike.  This rock formation is well known to rock climbers and considered one of the best climbs on the east coast.  It was used during WW II to train soldiers in climbing techniques.  Although I lived in West Virginia for many years I've never climbed to the top.  My last attempt was over 20 years ago when I was very pregnant with son #2.  I didn't make it very far before I decided to turn back and wait in the car.  So when my brother suggested that I meet them there to join the hike I decided it was time to check off another item on my bucket list.

The hike is short at about 1 1/4 miles, but you climb 1000 feet in elevation.  I'm a very slow hiker on the uphill.  In fact, on the way up I usually feel like I'm going to die and begin to wonder why I didn't just look at pictures of the view from the top.  But then you get to the top and are rewarded with this beautiful view:

We rested awhile, had a snack and then walked down.  The way down is always easier on me.  And at the end I felt rather accomplished!  Seamus came with me, although I was concerned that the uphill might be a bit much for my 11 year old Golden Retriever.  He carried his own pack with his water and bowl in it.  I was also glad that I had brought my hiking stick.  It was particularly helpful for balance on the down hill climb.

Seneca Rocks has a lot of legends associated with it, some of which are mentioned in the link above.  But, for me, one of the fascinations has to do with the change in it's looks.  There used to be a large center formation called "The Gendarme".  You can see pictures in the link above also.  I thought it really made the formation distinctive.  Then in 1987 the rocks made headline news in West Virginia when the Gendarme fell off!  In a natural event of some sort, the center rock lost hold and tumbled to the bottom.  Fortunately no one was hurt in that event.  But every year rock climbers get hurt and many killed trying to scale the face.  They've put a helipad at the bottom to facilitate transportation to medical services since the location is rather remote.  There is a sign at the bottom warning about the dangers and stating that 15 people have died since the 60's making the climb.

We, of course, took the tame trail up the side of the rocks to the safe overlook.  So, I've conquered Seneca Rocks and although I share this distinction with many, many others, I'm still left feeling a bit like Sir Edmund Hillary!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Beach: Once More in 2012

I've been busy having fun for the past week.  We returned to our favorite beach in Duck, North Carolina and were joined this time by my brother and his wife.  The weather was near perfect and it seemed like we were trying to squeeze in all the activities that we haven't been able to do during our last few beach trips.  Here are a few pictures:

The sea oats were beautiful:

As were the sunrises:

We flew the pig flag (which is a great way to tell which house is yours when you are walking on the beach):

did a little puzzling....this one turned out to be super difficult.  The pieces were so similar that we spent a lot of time reworking areas we had already done.  We never did get it finished.  It didn't help that the box contained pieces from some other puzzle and a few pieces were missing completely.

and discovered the beauty of the sound side of the island....

It was nice to spend extended time with my brother and sister-in-law talking about old times and making new memories.  We love the little house that we rent and the area. And it was nice to introduce others to a place we enjoy so much.  So, we bid the beach a warm farewell.......until next year.