Monday, December 30, 2013

Celtic Solstice Step 5 and Christmas Wrap-up

I'm just sort of barely keeping up here, but I think the holiday activity has pretty much come to a close.  There is still all of the "taking down" and "putting away" to do and we have one more Santa trip to make up north (and a few more presents to buy for that trip!)  We affectionately refer to this get-together as "Janumas".  But the pace is slowly returning to normal.

Son #3 spent a full two weeks with us and since he is girlfriend-less this year I had the chance to spend lots of time with him.  I know opportunities like this are fleeting and this may be my last year for such a luxury so I was sure to take full advantage of our mutually waking moments (anyone with teenagers/young adults knows what that means - the time between noon and whenever I go to bed).  I will admit that I had forgotten how much these men eat!  I was able to dust off my cooking skills and put a few old favorites on the table but my skills in "appropriate food quantity" were not so good.  More than once there wasn't a crumb left on the table (and my sister will tell you that in an Italian family that means that you didn't make enough).

So, Celtic Solstice, Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt for 2013....I was not only able to complete step 5 but I also was able to do the cutting for my missing step 1!  I used the easy angle ruler for the first time and I think I like it!  I will admit that occasionally I got a bit lost with all the measurements on the ruler but the blocks seem to be fairly consistent and even actually square.  I found that on my machine it was important to change to the single hole plate when sewing on these teeny triangles to prevent the fabric from getting mashed down into the machine.
I've been back to sewing for several years now and finally have begun to develop some opinions on brands and items that I like or dislike.  So, let me just say that I've come to LOVE Superior Top Stitch Needles and their Masterpiece thread.  I met their representative at a quilt show last year.  He patiently taught me the basics of the differences in threads.  I bought a sample assortment and was impressed.  The thread even feels smoother to your fingers and it sews like a dream.  Then I decided to try these needles.  I won't bore you with the details on the specifics (the web site has all that info) except to say that they are titanium coated and work great.  I get their newsletter and it is always entertaining.  Let's face it, it takes some creativity to make thread and needles entertaining, but these guys manage to do it.  There shipping is very reasonable and the orders come quickly.  If you live in Hawaii Dr. Bob (he's a self proclaimed doctor of threadology) will personally deliver your order for an additional $700, to give you an example of their humor, or you can just pay the regular shipping of $3.95 and let the post office deliver it.  They also run a lot of specials on their web site from time to time.   

Perhaps I need to say that this particular blog has no paid ads or testimonials.  That's just my opinion.

So, I'm joining the linky party on Bonnie's site.  See you there!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Celtic Solstice Step 4

I've thought a lot about blogging this week, and I have several posts just waiting to be written.  But my days have been cram packed with shopping, wrapping, decorating and spending time with son #3.  I did manage to get step 4 of Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt done though.  I just spent a bit of time here and there.  Fortunately it was an easy enough step that I could do it in the fragments of time available.  All of the blocks aren't trimmed and checked for problems, but I'm calling this one done.  I still haven't even started on step 1....maybe later this week?
We're having grey rainy days.  I had to take that picture right in front of a window with the blind raised high and still my camera wanted to use the flash.

I'm linking up with Bonnie.   If I don't get back here before Christmas.....Best wishes to all of you for a wonderful holiday.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Celtic Solstice: Step 3

I've been able to get some work done on Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt: Celtic Solstice.  My ruler for step #1 arrived and I have my fabrics laid out on the cutting table waiting for some action.  But, I have step #3 finished!
I made my half square triangles (200 of them) the same way as Kevin the Quilter- sewing around a pair of larger squares and then cutting the squares on the diagonal both ways making 4 half square triangles. He explains this technique really well on his blog.  Does anyone know: is there a formula for doing this?  I used 3 1/2 inch squares which were a bit too big and required trimming.  That's not such a bad thing for "little miss inconsistent" me.  But it would be nice to know the formula.

So, hopefully before Friday I'll have a chance to get busy n step #1.  I still have two last minute Christmas presents to get done, decorating to do and presents to wrap....oh, and a bit of shopping, too!

I'm linking up with Bonnie Hunter's linky party.  Happy Mystery Quilting, everyone!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Paper Pieced Beach House

A few months ago I mentioned in a previous post hat we often stop at a fabric store on our way to the beach.  I may have also mentioned that on our recent trip the husband added a kit for a paper pieced beach scene to my check out pile.  I'm not sure he really knew what it was - only that he liked the picture and thought our son would like to have it for Christmas.

I've done some paper piecing before but nothing this small.  But, I stuck with it, made my share of mistakes and I think the end result turned out well:
The house is a bit wonky....although it wasn't meant to be.  But I tell myself that once it's hanging on the wall who can tell if the house is off or the piece isn't hung straight?  And, besides, a lot of beach houses truly are wonky in real life!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Donuts Anyone?

I made this placemat for an uncle of mine.  He teases that when his wife needs to go somewhere for a few days and he is left along, he stocks up on donuts to last him until she returns:

I got to use my embroidery machine and do a bit of small scale free motion stippling.  I hope he gets as much fun out of it as I got out of making it!

Views From My Sewing Room Window

We live where the plow comes late.....


Monday, December 9, 2013

Celtic Solstice Step 2 and Mis-step 1

I just finished the second step in Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt.  Actually I'm two blocks short and they all need a bit of trimming.  Here's a picture of them on top of my fabrics for step 1.
You might be wondering why I haven't posted about step 1.  First, two disclaimers:
  • Bonnie, if you're reading this, I am not whining.  My frustrations with step 1 were totally due to my own poor planning.  Your directions are great and you've given me several options.
  • And Linda and Monkey at Inklingo....You are great and you have a great product. You provided fast responses to my emails and questions about using the system.  Again, I am the author of my troubles.
So, back when Bonnie first posted the materials list for this quilt I decided to use the Inklingo method instead of the rulers.  I really like this idea where you mount your fabric on freezer paper, send it through a printer and it comes marked with cutting and sewing lines.  It seemed to conserve fabric since there is a lot less trimming and most of all I thought it would give me consistent pieces.  I can be a bit rotary cutter challenged at times.  We can blame it on "old eyes" or inattention or whatever but getting 200 consistent cuts can be a bit of a struggle at times.  If I were on top of my game I would have tried out the system and gotten the process down before the start of clue one, but I didn't.

Only when I started to print my fabric for step one did I discover that my current printer does not accommodate custom sized paper.  There are probably many of you reading this and thinking, "Oh, she's wrong and just doesn't know where to find it."  Trust me on this, I've worked with many printers, I have a husband who has had a long career in computers since before the microchip was invented and this printer that I currently have can not print on custom sized paper.  My husband has a printer in his office which will do custom sizes and he graciously offered to let me use it.  But, I've been married long enough to know what a bad idea that would be!  I would be in his little room, getting in the way while he was trying to concentrate on his work or make phone calls.  I just couldn't see it working.  And without custom sized paper the amount of fabric waste would have been incredible.

So, I decided that my plan B would be to go to the local quilt shop to buy the ruler.  I called all the fabric stores in my town and discovered that only one carried the ruler but it was out of stock.  I guess there are a lot of mystery quilters around here.  They had no idea when it would come in.  I printed out the templates and considered going that route and I'm still holding that out as Plan D.  But for now we are waiting on Plan C to unfold.  I ordered the ruler online.  The first four sites I tried were backordered.  The fifth one has mailed my ruler and it might have even been here today if we hadn't had this winter storm which has slowed down the mail.

And that is my woeful tale of "mis"- step 1!  Hopefully I will soon be able to work on it between the other steps.  Often there are a few easy weeks around the holidays so maybe I can catch up then. 

I'm linking up with Bonnie's  Mystery Link-up Part 2.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Me and Santa

We're having a "snow day" of those days when the weather changes your plans.  The "plans" were to have another go at Christmas shopping, but with the snow, sleet, ice and general "ick" outside it seemed wiser to just stay inside today.  I've been working on Christmas cards, Celtic Solstice clue #2, a bit of wrapping and organizing.  So with time to think and the white landscape outside for inspiration my thoughts have drifted back to Santa.

That picture above stood on my father's dresser for a long, long time.  I would guess that I'm about three in that picture. (The snow pants look a bit tight.  My mother's tactic was, "Buy them big, wear them for at least two years!)  The thing I remember most about Santa is that EVERY year when he left my presents he wrote me a letter!  He must have written it as he was eating the cookies and drinking the milk that I left for him in the kitchen.  I also left some water outside for his reindeer and a few carrots for them to eat.  Toys and gifts being left for me was always a nice surprise but just as amazing was the cookie plate, empty except for crumbs, and the empty glass of milk.  His letter usually told me that he was glad I had been and good girl and he hoped I would continue on that path for the next year, obeying my parents and helping around the house.
Eventually as I grew up I realized that Santa's handwriting was very similar to my father's.  I was in school by then and with the help of my peers I began to realize that Santa wasn't as real as my younger self thought.  But, I couldn't tell my parents.  I was afraid to ruin their Christmas! A little background might help me explain this:  I am the youngest of four by 11 years.  When I was born, my siblings were 15, 13 and 11.  So there were no slightly older siblings to burst my Santa bubble early on.  In fact it wasn't long before my siblings were out of the house and either married or in college. I somehow realized that once I admitted that I didn't believe in Santa, my parents would have no one left to "create Santa" for.  So I went along with it for 2 or 3 more years to keep from disappointing them.  They truly seemed to love making Christmas come alive for me and I didn't know what would happen to the holiday once I announced the truth.  But eventually my wise mother realized that it was time and casually, one early December asked me about Santa.  I had to admit that I realized who wrote the notes and ate the cookies and milk.
Amazingly my parents took it pretty well; Christmas went on, although the cookies, milk, reindeer food and letters didn't.  The spirit of Santa lived on in our house and there were soon grandchildren for them to share it with - but of course, Santa's visit for them occurred at their own house, not ours.  Hence, no need to resurrect the Santa letters and snacks. I still remember the magic, though.  And I'm glad to have lived the magic.
So, I'm curious.  Did you grow up believing in Santa?  How/when did things change?  I'd love to hear any Santa memories you'd like to share.  HO HO HO!!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Catching Up and Still Time to Vote!

This has been a week of catch up after a full Thanksgiving holiday.  We had lots of family time and food and meals and talk and food and dishes and food and....well, you get the idea. 

One little tradition we have is to put out a jigsaw puzzle when there is a family gathering.  This year we finished two puzzles.  Gathering around an activity like that seems to encourage conversation across the generations and limits the awkwardness that sometimes comes when people gather only a few times a year.

So...I have more to share but the husband is ready to go shopping so it will have to wait.  But....just one thing.....there is still time to "like" or "+1" my entry into the Iron Quilt challenge.  The voting is open until Sunday.  All votes appreciated.  I would love to get to 100 (my combined votes are at 73 now)  I know that won't be enough to win but somehow that number seems like an accomplishment.  The links to the voting pages are on the previous post here.  My local quilt store put a post on their Facebook page about the quilt...that was exciting! 

I'm off to help the economy......wish me luck in finding just the right presents for everyone.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Iron Quilter 2 - Time to Vote! Calling All Facebook-ers

I've been saving the "unveiling" of this quilt for a few weeks and now is the time!  In September Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilting Company visited our local guild and told us about a contest they were going to have: Iron Quilter 2.  You must use a certain "secret ingredient" in the making of a quilt.  In this case the ingredient was 1 to 3 charm packs of Lovely by RJR Fabrics.     I had never used precuts up to this point, but Jenny's enthusiasm is so infectious that I just had to give this a try.  So, with one charm pack and some precut Kona white strips, I present to you, "Backyard Trellis":

Of course there is voting and prizes along with the contest.  You can vote for my quilt (or to be fair....for the quilt of your choice) on the Missouri Star Quilt Company Facebook page.  All of the entries will appear in a Facebook Album and you vote by "liking" the photo of the quilt.  I'm one of the last 20 people in the world (kidding, of course) NOT on Facebook (not kidding) so I can't even vote for my own quilt!  But, I'd be grateful for any votes you can toss my way.  The top 25 will go on to the next round for the final voting.  THIS link takes you directly to the picture of my quilt which is anxiously awaiting your "like". 
Notice anyone peeking around the back of the quilt?

 There were three off white charms that just didn't seem to fit the flower theme so they went onto the back to become a label:
Quilt particulars:  I used one charm pack and a bit of other fabric from my stash and the white precut strips.  They were 1 1/2 inches wide.  The only fabric I bought was the backing.  I actually had a piece of fabric to use for the backing but the husband walked in while I was pondering some quilt decisions and declared the other fabric "too light" for the front.  He sent me out to the fabric store to buy something else.  Isn't he great?  The blocks are snowballs set on point.  I free motion quilted loops in the center to continue the "viney" feel and then wavy lines on the borders.  This quilt doesn't have a "forever home" yet.  It may live in the guest room....time will tell I guess.

That's enough for now....I want to leave you time to vote.  :-)

I'm linking up with Lily's Quilts Fresh Sewing Day also...(gotta work that social networking!)

New info:  Turns out that you can also vote on Google+.  In fact you can vote in both places if you want.  :-)  THIS link will take you to the Google+ photo of my quilt.  You vote by "+ing" it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Platform Rocker: The Next Generation

I have lots of great memories of my early life with my father, but few possessions of his.  Many, many  years ago my mother gave me the platform rocker: "his" chair.  You know, the one he sat in all the time to read the paper, nap, think.  It lived in the corner of our dining room when I was growing up.  During my lifetime my mother had recovered it in a brown fabric but by the time it got to me it was in need of a redo.  I brought it to an upholsterer and chose a utilitarian blue fabric.  It became a much loved chair in my house.  The boys watched TV in it, argued over who got to sit in it and generally abused it even breaking one of the legs at one time.  So, I found a furniture restorer who was able to repair the leg just about as good as new.  But eventually after 20+ years of love by three boys, it looked like this:

The stuffing was flattened, the seat dirty and not visible in this picture is the side that the cat decided was a nice scratching post long ago.  I love this chair because it reminds me of my Dad.  When he sat here after work decompressing from his day he was approachable and available for my childish questions or to read me my favorite comic strip in the newspaper. Although Son #2 has no memories of my Dad, he has his own fond memories of this chair developed over his own childhood.  So when I offered to have it recovered again for them to use in their nursery, he was very excited.

His wife and I had a bit of trouble picking out fabric.  Our first three choices were discontinued!  But after two trips to the upholsterer and browsing countless sample books we finally found a fabric we were happy with and would go with the rest of her nursery choices.  I picked up the chair a few days ago:

The picture doesn't do it justice...maybe because it is taken with my phone in the shop.  I like how the chair is quiet and unassuming.  It doesn't jump out at you. The softness of the fabric invites you to sit and be cozy and comfortable.  My father was a quiet, unassuming man who provided for our needs, our safety and our comfort.  So in a way the chair has become a representation of that. I love the worn spots on the arms developed over the years and most of all the idea that there will be a connection between my father and his great grandchild.  I know that I could have bought a brand new chair for less, but I could never buy that connection.  I hope our new grandchild loves the chair too and builds his/her own fond memories of it.  I've told son #2 and his wife that the chair is to be used and loved.  Don't "save it for good" or worry about spills or stains.  Just use it, rock the little one in it and know that it has been a source of comfort for several generations of our family through the years.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quilty Thanks

We will be having a houseful for this Thanksgiving which we will celebrate a day late to accommodate everyone's schedule.  I've been busy getting the house ready and the refrigerator filled.  Since much of the family lives a distance away, holidays are multiple day affairs with people coming and going according their available vacation days.  It can get rather confusing.  But I'm thankful to be seeing all of my grown men at some time during the weekend along with their partners and some additional family.

I also have some recent quilty things to be thankful for.  I was gifted some GREAT green scraps from a friend!  They will come in handy for the upcoming Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt as well as some other projects in the works.  Thanks, Friend!!

And...recently I've been a winner, twice!  First, from Heather at Quilts in the Queue I won a great book by Elizabeth Hartman. And then from Carol at Just Let Me Quilt I won a kit of some great boy fabric to make a pillowcase.

Thanks Friend, Heather and Carol for filling my mailbox and making me smile!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Busy Elfish Days

I've been busily sewing this last week, but  I'm not ready to share many of my projects since they will be Christmas gifts.  I did finish two service quilt tops for my local guild.  They will get passed on to another member (probably a long arm quilter) to be sandwiched and quilted.  Here's a picture of my contributions with some Christmas gifts peeking out underneath:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Tinker Tote

This tote is the main project of a Craftsy Class called Quilt As You Go Patchwork Bags by Tara Rebman.   I learned a lot from this project.  I made some choices along the way that actually made things a bit more difficult.  Someday I'll learn to just follow the directions! 

The class starts out with a potholder project...great for using up scraps.  It's a good way to learn the quilt as you go technique and gave me a place to practice a few binding techniques before deciding which one to use on the bag.
I need to mention about the cat fabric.  I won this in a giveaway at Lilypad Quilts during the Pets on Quilts contest.  The contest sponsor was Fabrics 'n Quilts.  Thanks Snoodles and Shannon!!  So sorry for taking so long to mention that, but it all happened the day before we left for vacation!
The blue fabric and lining came from my stash and the bottom is made out of denim from an old pair of jeans.  There is a zippered pocket, a patch pocket and a key fob inside and a magnetic closure.

So, what would I change?  I would have used the more traditional QAYG as presented in the video.  But, my thinking took this track:  I want to use this cat fabric.  It's not scraps, why not use larger pieces?  I think even using the strips I might have been happier if I had put them directly vertical instead of on an angle.  Once you go through the project one you realize what parts could have used an extra measure of attention.  For example, I wish I had positioned the magnetic snap a bit better, but all in all it was a great class and I would definitely recommend not just for the quilt as you go technique but for general bag construction and zipper pocket installation.  All the techniques can be applied in a lot of other projects; and I'm sure I'll make good use of them!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book #5: Elizabeth Street

This book was recommended by my genealogy sister.  Much like The Shoemaker's Wife, it tells the story of an Italian immigrant family at the turn of the century.  This family was from Southern Italy, a town named Scilla, and the book is based on true stories from the author's family.    Elizabeth Street was written by Laurie Fabiano, a former deputy mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey.  It's her first novel and truly well done.  The story reads like a novel, not a "documentary".  There is plenty of plot, yet it is so very real in the telling.  I especially appreciate the family tree at the beginning of the book to help keep the characters straight and the Italian/English glossary to help with the smattering of Italian words that add a real element to the story.  Elizabeth Street is a great read for both the human story and the history that it conveys.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Quilt Finish

I don't have a name for this quilt.  It's going to be a Christmas present for a friend of mine.  You might recognize the fabric.  This same friend gave me yards and yards of this fabric a while back.  I've made a few projects from it including a pair of pillowcases for her.  Whenever I visit and she has those pillowcases in use it just seems to brighten up the room so nicely that I thought she might enjoy a matching quilt.

I really enjoyed this project and am pleased with the outcome.  The pattern isn't original to me.  I found a picture on Pinterest which links back to this link.  I like the secondary pattern that comes out and the large pieces compliment the large print.  I've yet to make any pattern more than once, but this might be one I make again.  Variations in light and dark, width of the solid colors and border or no border give different looks to the pattern also.  There are examples of some variations at that original site.
I even enjoyed the free motion quilting this time AND....the binding!  It seems like on my machine polyester threads work better for FMQ than cotton.  I think perhaps they take the directional stresses a bit better? (Just a guess from someone who knows little about the whole thing)  And for the binding I sewed it on the back and machine sewed it down on the front using just a plain old straight stitch. I might like it better than the zig zag and fancy stitches that I've used in the past. And since the stitch was straight and I used the straight stitch foot and single whole plate it was easier to keep everything looking nice and even.  The thread contrasts on the red binding but matches the backing and it's stitched so that the bottom thread hits inside the back binding.
The colors sort of scream Quilts of Valor and Alycia, if your reading this....I had so much fun on this one, maybe they'll be a QOV one for 2014.
Here's a few more pictures.  I found this great backing on sale at the Quilter's Corner near Richmond.  It has become our half way stop when we go to the beach.  It's definitely worth the stop if you're ever in that area.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Country Threads Block of the Month: November

I'm still managing to keep up with the Country Threads Block of the Month.  I think this was the most difficult block yet.  You can see that the small one is way off on the bottom left corner, but I was ready to be done today.  Perhaps I'll go back and redo that corner later.  Some, or several of my measurements were clearly off:

I had some extra time to play with possible sashing colors this month.  So far I've decided that I DO want to use sashing and that it should be a dark color.  I had these three colors on hand and thought I'd give them a try.  Most of the blocks look good on the navy, but a few get lost because they have dark pieces on the outside.  The same can be said for the green and the red.  I had a new idea - what if I framed each pieces in one of these three colors using the one that contrasted best with that particular block?  Or would that just end up looking too busy - exactly what I was trying to avoid by using sashing in the first place?  Please, let me know what you think.  I'm looking for some input here.  These next two pictures look the same, but I switched the blocks around a bit to see them on different colors:

Maybe it would help if I primarily used one of the colors switching out only when that color was clearly a poor match for a particular block.  Or perhaps I should just stick with the green and the blue?  I'm anxious to hear other thoughts.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Postcrossing: Postcards from the World!

 I've posted before about how very much I enjoy getting mail.  I've always enjoyed mail.  I was the kid who every summer would write to someone listed in the back of comic books looking for pen pals.  I was probably some guy in prison somewhere, but it was mail!  I still keep in touch with several family members including son #1 by written letter and one of my dearest possessions is a pile of letters written to me by my parents many years ago when I was at summer camp and then during my first year of college.

So, when I heard recently about a site called Postcrossing that would result in people sending me mail, my immediate thoughts were:  "This was made for ME!" and "How is it that I haven't heard about this before?!?!?"
Postcards Exchange
I've only just joined and have yet to start getting mail, but it works something like this.  You sign up for free and start sending postcards.  Once you've sent five and they are received, you get on the list to have postcards sent to you.  Your address isn't listed on the site, it is just emailed to the person who sends you a card.  For added security I rented a box at my local Post Office but that isn't a requirement.  Each postcard gets a number assigned to it by the site.  The receiver then registers the card by that number which makes it clear that it reached it's intended destination.  It also helps them keep track of statistics like how many cards are sent across how many miles and to how many different countries. The person who told me about this had shoe boxes filled with cards from all over the world!  He has been doing this for several years and some of the cards are very interesting.  You can even put a preference for a particular type of card.  For example, he likes to get pictures of bridges whenever possible.
The total cost for this new hobby of mine includes my box rental ($20 for 6 months in my area); postcards (50 cents to one dollar each) and postage (33 cents domestic; $1.10 for a global forever stamp which sends a postcard anywhere in the world).
So, if you like little surprises in your mailbox from places far and wide....check it out. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

October Wrap Up

The year is drawing to a quick close. It will soon be time for reflection on what was accomplished over the year and for plans for the next year.  The thing is, in this season of my life I really want to just enjoy what I'm doing - not strive to accomplish a list. Neither do I want to sit around all day watching TV.  But, just to put my new collage making skills to good use, here is a recap of the past month:
From the top left:  I worked on my Country Threads Block of the month; finished my knitted dishcloths; started a teeny tiny paper pieced project; finished a baby quilt and entered it and the blue wave quilt in the Blogger's Quilt Festival (you can view the festival at the previous link, vote for your favorite in each category and enter to win a sewing machine and other prizes.  There are some awesome quilts there to inspire you.); started a quilt with that large print fabric in the lover left; finished a quilt for another contest that I'll tell about in a few weeks and visited the Land of Oz.

I guess that's not too bad considering all the fall yard work that comes with this time of year.  I'm going to link up with Lily's Fresh Sewing Day

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book #4: Pukka's Promise

I haven't done too well on my book reading goal this year.  I took a long time on this book: Pukka's Promise: The Quest for Longer Lived Dogs by Ted Kerasote.  I enjoyed this book and it was pretty thought provoking in many ways, but being a non-fiction book with a lot of detail, parts were hard for me to get through.  The book explores and questions a lot of dog ownership practices and their effect on dog longevity including the practice of pure breeding, commercial dog food, and spaying and neutering.  My main "take away" is that each of these decisions have pros and cons and the list of pros and cons will vary depending on your particular life circumstances.  But regardless, it would be good to consider the options.  For example, the author questions why male dogs are routinely neutered when this absence of male hormone makes them more susceptible to certain types of cancers.  The arguments for behavior control have been shown to be false and if what we are trying to control is reproduction why not perform vasectomies on the dogs instead of castration?  That retains the hormones, eliminates the extra cancer risk and still controls the puppy birth rate.  Like I said...just something to consider.  The chapters on dog shelters are really hard to get through and not for the faint hearted.

So, good book, but now I'm ready for something much lighter.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Two Color Category

The Blogger's Quilt Festival at Amy's Creative Side is growing by the hour!  Each person can enter up to two quilts in different categories.  I decided to enter this one in the Two Color category:
I made this for my sister and her husband.  It's an Elizabeth Hartman pattern.  I added extra rows to make it longer.  When I made this quilt I didn't really grasp the whole idea of "color value" so I just kind of stumbled into this arrangement because I liked it.

I think this is one of my favorite quilt categories.  With the colors limited the patterns really take the show.

Wonky Log Cabins - My Blogger's Quilt Festival Entry

I shared this top a month or so ago and I was able to get it finished this week!  I also learned about the Blogger's Quilt Festival over at Amy's Creative Side and decided to enter this in the Baby Quilt category.

The basic inspiration came from the Inspired Modern Quilt class by Elizabeth Hartman on Craftsy  and these cute animal prints that found their way into my stash via some fabric exchange over the past year.  I added the top and bottom borders to make the quilt a bit bigger and to bring in the elephants.  I free motion quilted it and was really pleased with the texture it gave the quilt.
The corners are rounded:
And the back is a nice cozy flannel chevron pattern:
This quilt is staying here at my house to welcome our first grandbaby expected to show up at the end of January.
There are so many creative entries in the different categories.  It's a nice to have a quilt show available at your computer - no lines, no tickets needed, no driving necessary.  Check it out.
Two more facts on this quilt festival:  you can vote starting November 1 for favorites in each category (there are lots of categories!)  and....there is drawing for a Baby Lock sewing machine which asks me to post about why I want to win one.  My current machine is a Baby Lock and I've really bonded with it.  Who wouldn't want to add another baby to their family?!?


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's Time for a Mystery Again

Last year I participated in Bonnie Hunter's Mystery Quilt.  It was fun although the timing with holiday family time was a bit busy and I've yet to actually quilt the top, so it was basically the start to my year of UFO creations.
When I was finished I told myself that I wouldn't do another one, but I find myself drawn again to this challenge.  This year is titled "Celtic Solstice" and I'm hoping that means that the design has a Celtic feel to it.  I also "met" a lot of my blog friends through the activity last year and that part was a lot of fun.

So....anyone out there participating this year?  KevinNancy? anybody?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Good-bye Knitting; Hello Crochet

I'm ready to move on from knitting.  I've made an amazing amount of dish cloths in a variety of patterns which will probably be distributed around the holidays and after I go back and hide all those start and stop strings.

So now I'm moving on to crochet.  The learning curve is steep here.  Reading written crochet directions is like learning a foreign language!  I've been watching YouTube videos which are immensely helpful and then also downloading different patterns to try.  As you can see, I have nothing to show even after several nights of "practice".  But, I'm now ready to go buy some yarn and start on a small baby blanket.  I've figured out two different patterns enough to give it a go.  And just in time too....The Walking Dead has started a new season and I'm in serious need of a TV distraction!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Train Art

The other day I was stopped at a train crossing, and as I watched the freight train go by I saw this through the drops on my rain soaked windshield:

I kind of like the impromptu artwork.  Train cars are a bit drab and ugly.  We don't have any passenger trains that run through my town so I don't know how common a practice this is on passenger trains or how I would feel about artwork on them.  And I don't get around all that much.  The first time I traveled somewhere that required a passport was two years ago.  So I'm asking my readers to help broaden my horizons.  I have two silly questions:
1.  Do passenger trains get tagged also?
2.  Is this a worldwide practice or more of an American culture thing?

My inquiring mind wants to know. 


Friday, October 18, 2013

Maybe My Fabric is Alive?!?

I guess I just need to accept the fact that things move.  Just when you thought you knew where the grocery store stocks toothpicks....they move them.  Just when you thought you knew where the remote to the TV's not there anymore.  One day you take a good look in the mirror and realize that certain parts that used to be one place have, umm...shifted - usually south.  And just when I thought I had two pieces of fabric lined up exactly, well, I don't.  Somewhere along the line things move, fabric shifts, the sewing machine feeds a bit unevenly.  It just doesn't cooperate or behave.  So I've decided to try to compensate for my active fabric by measuring and remeasuring and trimming as needed.  It helped some on this last project, as did a new technique for making the quilt sandwich.  I can't show you the whole quilt yet, but here's a peek:
I may be late to the party on this one, but here's how I did the sandwich:  I took some kabob skewers, cut off the pointy ends and taped them to the center of my table making a cross.  Then I found the very center of my backing, lined it up with the cross and secured it tightly all around using binder clips and tape.  I did the same with the batting and the top, got it all smooth and pinned the layers together.  I found this suggestion online at several places.  My apologies for not remembering where so that I could give credit. The main difference from my previous sort of haphazard technique is that I started in the center.  Before this I would try to start from one corner working out in two directions.  It never seemed like I had everything square and even.  I like this a lot better.  There was still some fabric movement, but it was a lot less than my last few quilting attempts.  I also became very generous with the size of batting and backing taking advice from Elizabeth Hartman in her Craftsy class on quilt backs.  She recommends adding two inches to the size of the top all around for the batting and then another two inches on all sides for the back.  So the backing ends up being four inches larger than the top on all sides.  The nice thing about this is that you have a lot of coverage if the fabric shifts.

This was also my first experience working with precuts.  I used a charm pack and some 1 1/2 inch strips (honey bun, maybe....I mix up all those names).  In general I like the idea of pre-cuts since I'm a bit rotary cutter challenged. With precuts you know that everything is the same size.  The pinked edges took some getting used to.  And my take away is this:  Not every piece in the charm pack will work with your design so even if you only need one pack, you might want to get two since you might not be able to use the really low volume or high volume pieces.  I ended up utilizing the last few blocks on the back of my quilt for that very reason.

So this is my Iron Quilt for Jenny Doan's Iron Quilter II challenge at Missouri Star Quilting Company.  Once it gets closer and I've entered the photos I'll post it here and probably suggest that you consider voting, particularly if you like the quilt.  I was encouraged by the husband's reaction to this one.  I think he really likes this effort.   

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Prove You're a Quilter

There is a fun contest/challenge over at Lilypad Quilting.  If someone came into your house, would it be obvious that you are a quilter?  Besides your sewing room, are there quilty things being used throughout the house?  I decided to play along.  But first I had to figure out how to make a collage of photos.  I know some of you have generously given me advise on this, but until now I wasn't able to face the challenge.  I'm happy to report that I've succeeded!  It took a bit of focus and concentration, but look what I made happen!!

After deciding that I did not have a program that made collages and after getting frustrated on the Flickr site trying to make a collage, I downloaded a Picasa program (Thanks, Nancy)  It works like a charm!  In fact, I can make those pictures come out in a variety of cool arrangements.

So...about quilts in my home.  My first thought was that more than half of what I've made has been given away.  But then I remembered that basically we are nesters.  The husband and I both like to snuggle under a quilt when we're watching TV, reading the paper, going through the mail...any quiet sitting activity and I've managed to keep plenty of quilts for nesting.  What you see above is a few of our "nests" with the quilts obviously in use.  From the top left:  the Dog Quilt on our bed; My Mother's Garden in "my" chair; a wall hanging of quilts I made throughout the year; the Cuddle Quilt on the husbands chair (it's folded only because I caught this picture after a clean up session); a quilt made from his childhood bedspread on the "TV spot" (the only one I haven't ever blogged on because I made it years ago); a quilt table topper (Random Squares) and a small wall hanging in the laundry room.

So....would I be convicted of being a quilter? 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Country Threads Block of the Month: October

I feel like I'm sewing a lot but finishing little.  In fact, this may be my year for creating UFOs.  I'm plugging along on my block of the month projects.  Of the two that I'm doing, I think this one (from Country Threads) is my favorite.  The blocks and construction techniques are very traditional and I've used some traditional fabrics.  I like modern compositions also - maybe more, but there is something soothing and comforting about working on these blocks with their simple shapes and creating such a variety of different looks.
This month I learned about starch.  Now, I always knew about starch, but up until now I had only used the commercial type.  I wasn't too keen on it.  But recently I made some out of cornstarch and water (1Tablespoon cornstarch to 2 cups of water) and I really like how it helps to keep the seams flat.

I didn't have much time this month to play with the arrangement of these blocks or to audition different sashing colors, but I did take two pictures of all the blocks together.  The first is the recommended arrangement and the second is just an alternate arrangement.  The blank areas are for blocks that are yet to be made.  The colors are softer than they appear here.  We've had several days of clouds and rain and my camera insisted on using the flash.

I still find the whole thing a bit crazy without sashing.  It just seems like it needs something to draw it all together. I also think that I'm over the whole block of the month thing now....or for awhile at least.  It's been a great way to learn and practice different techniques, though.