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.