Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Still Knitting - Baby Blanket Edition

Well, it turns out that my dish cloth pattern made a pretty acceptable baby blanket.  I love how this yarn makes it's own pattern.  And the result is SO soft. It turned out to be about 30" square:

(I'm working hard on the photography thing, but I still think I have a long way to go)

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Circle of Life

It looks like we're expecting......baby robins, that is!  So, on the tails of the dove passing, we have the promise of new little robins to watch.

I have a feeder outside my sewing room window that sits right behind a holly tree.  Here's a picture from my window:

A few days ago I noticed a robin building a nest in the top of the tree.  It was so fascinating to watch her bring up building supplies and mud and then round out the nest to just the right size to fit her body.  She also "scolded" the birds trying to get seed from the feeder.  About this same time we had a lot of activity with window washing and cleaning around this window and tree.  I didn't see much more of Mrs. Robin so I assumed she had abandoned this location because of the activity.

But this morning when I went to the window I startled her.  She had been on the nest and when she flew off I saw a small clutch of eggs! 

A few minutes later she came back and parked herself on top of her eggs.  I saw Mr. Robin down below keeping watch and helping with the protection detail.  I've decided to suspend putting seed in that feeder for a few weeks to give her some quiet and tranquility for nesting and raising her little ones.

You can find facts on robins here: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/EggstraEggstra.html.  It takes robins 12-14 days for the eggs to hatch and then about another two weeks before they fly away.  I'm so excited to have a front row seat to the whole experience.  Or should I say "a bird's eye view"?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Widowed Dove

Feeding and watching the birds is a favorite past time of mine.  We have feeders all around the house.  It's fun to see the different personalities of the birds.  The finches are very social and will feed in large groups.  The mockingbird chases away the other birds when he comes to feed.  And then there's the doves.  Doves are not the smartest birds in the yard.  We've watched them become confused at the feeders with clear tops.  They can see the food but they can't seem to get to it when they are perched on the clear top.  One made it to the feeding deck on another clear feeder only to become stuck for a short time while trying to figure out why he couldn't fly through the clear plastic.  But doves are sort of endearing in their own way.  And they are one bird species that mate for life.  So it was a bit heart wrenching yesterday when we spotted a dead dove on the patio and his "spouse" staying nearby waiting for him to wake up.  (I'm not sure which gender died and which remained to tell the truth.)  She stayed by his side for HOURS and would occasionally poke and nudge him trying to get him to wake up and fly away with her.  She looked so lost and confused.  So sad.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Guild Top #2

My local quilt guild has a robust charity program with a great coordinator.  She starts by requesting blocks of a particular pattern from members and then organizes them into groups and looks for someone to stitch them together.  From there she packages them with border fabric, batting and backing and looks for a volunteer to quilt them.  Lastly at meetings there are often several women sewing on labels to complete the process.

At the most recent meeting I took home a group of blocks to stitch together.  The only instructions were the size (5 blocks by 7 blocks) and to make it totally random, which wasn't difficult since the blocks were so varied.  Here's the result:
Talk about scrappy!!  It will have a border to sort of calm it down a bit before it's done.  It sort of makes me crazy to look at and seems a bit chaotic.  The variety of fabric is amazing.  There is everything from Barbie fabric to lighthouses to autumn prints.  I like being part of the process.  I'm able to participate doing the parts that I like the best (Notice that I didn't volunteer for the binding!)  And it gives me lots of practice and experience with a new pattern.  I know that if I used a scrappy strip pattern for myself I would need to have something consistent to draw it all together.  But this will look great in the end and the recipient will be glad to have a bit of comfort while going through a tough time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lessons from the Dog: Find Joy in the Routine Things

So much has been written about things that we can learn from our dogs - and so much of it is true!  One of the things I love about Seamus is his ability to get SO excited about everyday events.  I walk him everyday, but everyday he gets SO excited when he knows it's time to walk.  Everyday that walk is a special event to him.

Recently, he has come to love our weekend routine.  During the cooler months he accompanies us on our weekend errands.  He somehow knows when we're preparing for an errand run.  I put his harness on and the husband backs the car out of the garage.  Seamus and I wait inside listen for the beep of the horn telling us that it's time to load up.  While he waiting he dances and even whimpers with anticipation.  I open the house door and he RUNS for the car.  Occasionally he needs a bit of help to climb in but often the excitement comes with an adequate dose of adrenaline for him to haul his substantial body into the back seat. 

After a few minutes he settles down to his traveling spot:
And then it's off to our first stop - the coffee shop.  We use a drive up window and our order is often the same:  two supremo cinnamon vanilla lattes, one with whipped cream (the husband) and one without (me).  We love this coffee shop not only because they make great coffee drinks, but because they also treat Seamus.  And of course he has come to learn that a stop at the coffee shop means a treat for him.  So while we wait for the coffee he is sure to make his presence known by sticking his head toward the window and wagging that big hairy tail.  This ritual has come to be known as "coffee and a big bone."

He spends the rest of errand time waiting patiently for us in the car, happy to be with us and just loving life.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

CCC: 80th Anniversary

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps.  The CCC was started with a twofold purpose: to help with the rampant unemployment of the early 1930s and to provide assistance for our national forests.  The group provided labor for many tree planting and conservation programs and built countless parks and camps that are still in use today throughout the nation.  Many young men were able to work and send money home to their families.  Sometimes their  service took them many many miles away from home to parts of the country vastly unfamiliar to them.  And most of these young men were changed forever in ways small and large.   My father was one of these young men.

He served in Idaho protecting trees from blister rust.  He loved the opportunity to live in the woods - a drastically different environment from the Bronx.  And while he was there he sent home pictures like the one above with notes written on the back to his parents.  Most of the money went home with a small stipend going to the CCC boys for necessities.  He was never a stranger to hard work, but the opportunity to perform it in the midst of nature was a special treat.

I've read many accounts written by CCC boys.  I've never read a complaint about the conditions, the hard work or the compensation they earned.  Everyone always expresses gratitude at the opportunity to participate and the chance to help their families. It is so different from the entitlement attitudes we hear so much of today.

We have spent a few weekends in cabins built by the CCC in nearby state parks.  The simple fact that they still stand strong after 80 years is testament to the quality of the construction.  Each cabin is made of hand felled and hewn logs with huge stone fireplaces and cozy front porches.

I've never been to Idaho to see where my Dad worked, but it is an item on my "bucket list".  There are no structures there to visit but it would still be nice to see the forests in that area and experience the scenes that so affected him.  His love of the outdoors led to family vacations in the mountains which in turn led to my own love for the outdoors.   Such a simple program with such long reaching benefits.  I wish our social programs today produced results of this magnitude.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book 2 1/2: Heaven is For Real

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent tells the story of Todd's son Colton and his near death experience.  Colton was only four at the time so his recounting of his experience has an innocent, very matter of fact child likeness about it.  The telling of this very amazing story  unfolded in the months and years after Colton's experience.  Colton explains heaven in a comforting and very faith building way without the fear and guilt sometimes heard in traditional teachings.
The book is short (hence my 1/2 numbering) and filled with family pictures.  It's well worth the read time.  There is actually a web site associated with this story here.  A ministry has been built around Colton's story of heaven.  It truly touches the child in us all.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Etsy Store Grand Opening!

Well, I've taken the plunge and opened a little Etsy store
The store is called SewManyYears.  Most of the stock will be things I've made with a few vintage items now and again.  It's a bit of an experiment.  Pop over and tell me what you think.  I'm always grateful for suggestions.  Everything is priced with domestic shipping included.  I'm willing to ship internationally but couldn't quite figure out a fair way to include that shipping in the price.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

From Easy Street to the Crib

I still haven't quilted my Easy Street quilt but I did manage to use most of the leftover units.
On this quilt as well as the last two (the random squares and llama wall hanging) I decided to try spray basting.  I really liked the spray.  It made it easier to quilt without having to constantly stop and remove pins.  I'm not sure it would work as well on a large piece but it might allow less pins to be used which would be an advantage.

In my continuing binding struggles I feel like I had a bit of success on this project.  The quilt police might not like the solution, but I was pleased with the results.  I've read a lot about bindings and taken pieces of all of the suggestions so sometimes it's difficult to give credit where it's due.  But this time a large part of this method came from Lelia at Sewn.  She has a binding tutorial here.  First of all, I used a store bought double fold binding this time.  It was sewn once in the fold (Lelia has great pictures) from the front and then again on the front using a serpentine stitch.  I tried samples of other stitching but the serpentine seemed to hide any unevenness the best.  Even the corners seemed to come nice:
Oh, and I treated myself to some binding clips.  I've seen others rave about these but they seemed pretty pricey for what basically looks like fancy chip clips.  I had a coupon so I decided to give them a try. They really are nice.  They're made just the right size to hold the binding evenly on the front and the back.  I know that there is also a little gadget to make your own double fold binding which would allow for more color variety.  I may give that a try.  Not every binding method is right for every quilt finish but I certainly will use this one again.

My Yarn-ly Heritage

Yesterday you got to see the exciting product of my vast knitting skill.  It doesn't really do justice to the rich knitting/crocheting heritage passed down to me from my mother.  So I thought one more post was in order.
My mother was the best seamstress on the block.  She enjoyed every aspect of sewing.  But much of it was a necessity.  There was mending and alterations and the need for "fancy" clothes which, in years gone by were much less expensive to make than to buy.  But she also liked to crochet and knit and reupholster and embroider and do needlepoint.  The crafts other than sewing were all recreational.  While she often knitted hats and sweaters, mostly she did them for the challenge or the beauty - not to save money or provide warmth.  So in a way, these were hobbies she did for herself.

Many of the items she made are still around the houses of various family members. Each of my sons has a "Nana afghan".  None of the boys  men are sentimental, but they all treasure their Nana afghan dearly.  There are hats, a baby sweater, balaclavas, a rug  sprinkled throughout the family that all stand testament to her talents.

When I got back into knitting my sister gave me a bag filled with our mother's knitting needles.  The bag itself is amazing.  I wish I knew the story behind it.  It's handmade and rather worn.  But I always remember it being worn so it must have been in her possession for a long time.  I washed carefully.  I have no idea what the fabric originally looked like.  And I don't know if what I washed off was dirt, dye or more likely, a combination:

Here's what was inside:

They weren't organized like that.  I tried to group them by size hoping that I could use some of them.  There are wooden needles, plastic needles, aluminum.....even a few marked "made in Czechoslovakia".  There are double sided needles and stitch holders for doing cable stitching, several rulers and some instructions.  The plastic needles are pretty fragile.  Sadly, I broke one trying to use it during my recent knitting revival.  Some had been used so much that the color was worn off the tips.

They will continue to live in that bag as they have for my entire life, and probably for years before that,  as a tribute to my favorite crafter of all time.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Tale of Two Needles: Adventures in Knitting

A long, long time ago a little girl sat and watched her mother knit and crochet each evening while watching TV.  She wanted to be just like her mother so she asked if she could learn.  So the mother taught the little girl to knit.  She never really made anything - she just learned how to do a knit stitch and a purl stitch and learned about different needle sizes and knitting accessories.

The little girl grew up and went to college and got married and had children.  She didn't think much about knitting during those years.  Then during the busy years of children she remembered the soothing rhythm of knitting and started to think, "One day I'm going to take up knitting again."  Years later with the wisdom of years she wondered why she didn't just take up knitting back then.  It might have made her days more content and her mothering more relaxed.  But nevertheless, it wasn't until about eight years ago that she again picked up the needles.

So many years had passed since her mother taught her to knit that she had to resort to a book to again learn the stitches.  The pictures weren't very good but somehow she managed to produce a few pieces that seemed to look like properly knitted stitches.  A co-worker at the time pointed out that something didn't look quite right with the stitches but they were generally right and created patterns as intended.  Of course she could only knit flat things so everyone in the family soon had scarves.

The little girl (now a grown and almost old woman) had a young son in high school at this time.  He decided that knitting looked like fun and he decided to knit also.  He shared this knitting hobby with some high school classmates.  They were the ones to point out to him that his technique (identical to the woman's since she was his teacher) was indeed backwards!  In fact everything about it was backwards.  So the woman went back to the book and with much trial and error finally learned to knit properly.

But eventually everyone had a scarf and the woman couldn't think of anymore flat things to knit and the needles went back into a bag and were stored in a closet.

Today the woman is indeed an old woman and no longer needs to work thanks to a loving husband who encouraged her to retire early and have time for all the things she gave up for many years to raise her children.  She took up sewing and quilting and eventually her thoughts returned to knitting.  She was encouraged by knitting projects shared by some of her online friends like Stella and Nita

But when she returned to knitting, her natural tendency was to again knit backwards since she had knitted backwards much longer than knitting properly.  And even though she knew there was another, more proper way to knit she couldn't figure it out.  So again there was a lot of book reading, trial and error and UN-knitting done until she finally figured it out, again.

So, recently she has been knitting dish clothes (a flat project that is easy, fairly quick and everyone can use more than one ).  Her loving husband thinks that she takes a lot of time to make something that can be bought for pennies at the store and teases her quite a bit, but still she perseveres.

After two weeks of knitting she has produced:
FOUR glorious dish clothes.  The first one (top left) was knit backwards and didn't exactly come out square.  Not only did she learn to knit correctly but this time she also learned how to add a new piece of yarn to the project!
What does the future hold?  Well, recently the woman was shopping and found this yarn called Chenille yarn.  She decided that she could use this same dish cloth pattern and larger needles and turn it into a small baby blanket.  So that's what's on the needles now.  So each night she happily knits away while watching a bit of (usually bad) TV.

The End.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bloglovin' Time

It's time for a little blog housekeeping post.  I've been reading about blogs signing up with Bloglovin' because Google Reader is going to be discontinued.  When I view my blog "dashboard" there is a reading list where new posts from the blogs I follow show up.  I'm assuming that this method of following blogs will continue.  If I'm wrong about this, someone please tell me.  I would hate to just have the list of blogs that I follow disappear one day.

Anyway, I popped over to Bloglovin since there was also a lot of talk about having to sign your blog up so that others could follow this way.   And....my blog appears to already be there with some followers.  So it seems as though all is well.  Again....if I'm missing something here, please tell me.  It seems as though this blog can be followed via Bloglovin' once Google REader completely disappears and it seems like my reading system (the Reading List) is safe.  True?

And....since every post needs a photo:
This oil painting was done by my cousin.  My poor photography doesn't do it justice.  She got the coloring and shadows so spot on that you feel like you're at the lake when you look at it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Craftsy BOM: April and Revisions

Here's my version of the Craftsy block of the month:
Please ignore the frog fabric on the right that I failed to move when taking these pictures.

After making the March block I decided that although I liked the February block I thought it was way too vibrant for the others.  Here's January to March:
So, I remade the February blocks into this:

THEN I no longer liked the March block.  It originally looked like this:

SO, I remade the March block into this:

And now I'm happy.  At least until May.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Country Threads Block of the Month: April Edition

I've finished up my Country Threads April blocks of the month:

Here are all of them together, January to April:

This is a fun project to work on simply because it's so very traditional.  I'm not sure that all the blocks work together but I'm going to wait until the end before I decide that anything needs to be redone.  I've always liked churn blocks so it was fun to have a reason to make a couple.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book #2: The Shoemaker's Wife

At least one of my New Year's resolutions is right on track.  I've just finished my second book, The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani.  I've enjoyed this book so much.  I didn't want to see it end.
It's well written with enough detail to keep your interest but not so much that the story drags.  The book follows a boy and girl from their childhood in Northern Italy around the turn of the 20th century to their immigration to this country, and the establishment of a life here.  These people could have been my family.  They had different talents and came from a different part of Italy than my family, but their outlook on life and expressions of family values were very familiar to me.  I really appreciated the "goodness" in this book.  The characters had their share of problems throughout the years but they always faced them and persevered without compromising their morals and values.  People died, but no one was murdered.  People were poor, but no one robbed a store.  No one shot a gun.  In fact there was only one person (no details, so that I won't spoil the story) who exhibited unsavory characteristics.

The only thing I don't get about this book is the cover. I understand what part of the story it represents yet it's not the way I would picture it in my mind.

It's definitely a "girl story" but, my brother read AND enjoyed this book!  I think he also appreciated the similarities to our family.

It's a good, wholesome read.  Oh, and the main character is a seamstress!!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A "TV" Project Finish

We watch a bit too much TV but I've stopped feeling guilty about it.  It actually has several benefits that get little press. The husband and I watch together most of the time so it's a shared activity and it creates a sort of "down time" activity to close the day.  Not to mention that by evening I don't really feel like doing anything that takes muscle or brain power.

Many of the shows don't require a lot of attention to follow so over the past few months I've started doing some TV projects.  They make the endless commercials or silly zombie killings a bit easier to deal with.  Presently I'm knitting...but, more about that later.  (Turns out that I've spent a life time knitting backwards...a habit difficult to unlearn.)

I had another go at a rug made with tee shirt scraps.  The first one is pictured at This post.  I learned a lot from that one and modified a bit of my technique and came up with this one which I like a lot better:

This took an amazing amount of time to make even with my modifications.  But it was an easy project, no cost, and perfect for in front of the TV.

Knitting on the other hand....well, let's just say that I'm enjoying it, but presently time spent knitting is equal to time spent un-knitting.  I'm getting a lot of mileage out of a little bit of yarn.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Llamas Rule!

This summer we hope to have a very special visitor.  We are hoping that our grandson will be able to stay with us for a week or two.  He was the recipient of the pirate quilt and the llama pillows from previous years.  He is growing away from pirates, but llamas continue to hold his interest.  (Please don't ask me to explain the llama thing...I don't get it; I just roll with it.)  Anyway, to help him feel at home we are going to hang this on the guest room door for his stay and then he can take it and hang it on his bedroom door at home:
The llamas are felted with sheep's wool.  After I did this I actually found a store that sells llama wool (fur?).  Anyway, you take this hand held device with several long needles and sort of punch the wool into the fabric.  I managed to break the needles (all three) and had to send away for replacements since it's not a tool carried by any of my local stores. There is a learning curve and I don't think I've mastered the technique but hopefully he will like the result.  Here's a close up of one of the llamas:

Have you guessed what the brown beads on the right are?  If you said, llama poop, you're right.  The husband thought that would be much appreciated.  And since my experience tells me that subject is always of interest to boys, I decided to go with it.

Here are a few other close ups:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Making Spring

The weather here is getting a bit warmer, but the wind continues.  According to the forecast we will have one more week similar to today - grey, windy, low 50 degree temperatures and then jump up to the 70's.  I hope they're right, but the steady grey-ness was really getting me down, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a little corner of color to trick me into thinking that it was indeed spring.  Local stores have been stocking pansies and since they're a hardy flower that can usually withstand the light frost that is most assuredly still to come I decided to plant some outside our front door.
I see these everytime I come down the stairs and it lifts my spirits a bit to see that bright yellow and violet standing strong.

Come on, Spring!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Embracing Randomness

One of my projects this year was to work through a few Craftsy classes.  One of them is on Modern Quilting and I finally managed to finish the first project.  I've learned a lot about modern quilting in general.  It seems that to get the full effect of the modern quilting theme you need to start with modern prints and solids.  That was my first challenge since I live in a rather conservative area.  The bulk of the fabrics in local shops are fairly traditional in color and print.  My second challenge was to make something that I wanted to use in my kitchen....a kitchen that does not basically scream "modern decor."

I was pretty satisfied with the end product and I think it fits well on my kitchen table.  It gives the area a fresh look but still seems to blend with the rest of the room:

The focus of this lesson was about randomness.  Sometimes it's more difficult for me to construct something random than to follow a pattern.  So, it was a good exercise in general. 

I'm linking up with Lily's Small Blog Meet today.