Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Four Footed House Guest

We are dog sitting for son #2's dog while he and his wife have their last big pre-baby vacation.  After a few last minute snafus including waiting until Friday to get a name change on a passport and driving to the wrong airport early this morning, the most recent text he sent me said they were boarding in Miami and would soon be at their destination.  Of course, their luggage may not arrive at the same time due to their last minute check in.

Jackie is a mixed breed 12 year old (same age as our Seamus).  Our daughter-in-law found her as a newborn pup in the woods behind her house left to die.  She brought her home, convinced her father to allow her to keep the dog (which was no small task!), bottle fed her and has had her ever since.  She looks a lot like a Shiba-inu, a Japanese breed.  And she has the best disposition.  Jackie and Seamus get along like they were raised together.  She's sort of adopted our new welcome mat as her back patio spot:

Jackie is also a bit hesitant about our stairs, but at ten pounds we can easily carry her up each evening and down each morning if needed.  I really enjoy having these two together.  In the evening she curls up next to the husband or me and Seamus lies down on the floor near us.  It's really cozy.

We had a little photo shoot in the backyard so that I could take a picture to post.  I tried to get them a bit closer together but I guess they really respect each other's "private space". 
Jackie walks with Seamus and me each morning.  I've tried several ways to walk these two together and this lead seems to work the best.  They each have some independence and they don't seem to get tangled or trip me either:
You can adjust the lead for each dog and there are appropriately placed swivels to allow them to sort of dance around each other without getting tangled.  We found it at PetSmart

So, for the next week and a half, we are a two dog household and loving it!


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Playing With Zippers

As my children young men get older there are less and less things that I can do for them.  So when they express a sewing request I'm always glad to fill it.  It's probably been 30 years since I've put a zipper into anything, but these projects are giving me lots of practice.  I took a bit of a break from quilting to come up with these......

Son #3 is spending his summer taking a few graduate classes, playing volleyball, and climbing the rock wall at his university.  He found it difficult to securely carry his student ID, keys and a bit of cash in his active clothes.  He requested a secure pocket on the inside of a tee shirt.  The first one that I made to his specs had the pocket on the back.  I thought that was a bit odd since how do you access the stuff when you're wearing the shirt?  So on the second version he requested that the pocket be put upside down on the bottom front so that when you want something out of it you flip up the shirt and the zipper is then at the top.  Now he's thinking!

Son #1 lives in a city.  He jogs to work each morning, stops at a gym to shower and change and then goes to the office.  He also was having difficulty finding a good way to carry his phone, wallet and keys.  His request was for a large secure pocket either on the back of a pair of shorts or at the front inside.  So, I made one of each for him to try:

I'll get these in the mail and out to the "beta testers" to see if the goals were accomplished.  At the least I've brushed up on my zipper skills.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jitterbug Quilt Top

My local quilting guild had a mystery quilt activity a few weeks ago.  The pattern was created and named by one of our members and she cleverly organized the instructions to make the result a mystery.  At the start we were told that this would be a good two color quilt with a light and a dark color or a scrappy quilt using light and dark scraps.  I decided to make it red, white and blue and donate the result to Quilts of Valor.  But, when the teacher realized my color scheme she gave me "permission" to peek at the final layout and decide how I wanted to arrange my colors.  Here's what I came up with:
It measured 65 inches square.  I'm going to send this one on (once we have another meeting so that I can show the pattern creator) as a top since my "to quilt" list is getting a bit long.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Seamus Update

So many of you have been sent me comforting words concerning my recent post about my Golden Retriever's difficulties that I thought a quick update was in order.

The vet advised putting Seamus on a pain reliever because he felt that the behavior and mobility changes were pain related.  We think that Seamus either physically hurt himself in one of his slides down the steps or became scared from the fall and unwilling to risk the activity again.  We have arranged to have the steps carpeted but that won't happen for several more weeks (because at least around here nothing happens quickly).  So as a short term solution we took three latex backed bath mats and cut them to fit on each step.  When he goes up the stairs he tries to step around the mats!  But he does make use of them coming down and the last two mornings he has come down the stairs without any trouble.  He still doesn't join us upstairs during the day like he used to but he does come up for the night.  He also is moving a bit easier and has a bit of a spring in his step so I do think the medication has helped.

So it appears as though the immediate crisis is resolving and while I realize that he is not any younger it is great to see him enjoying himself and comfortable once again.

Thanks to all of you for the comfort of your kind and wise words.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Modern Crosses Quilt

This is the next project in the Craftsy course I've been working through: Inspired Modern Quilts with Elizabeth Hartman.  The project was really just the center part, but I wanted to make it a bit larger so I decided to add the border.  The quilting is purposefully uneven and wonky to go with the blocks.  The funny thing is, when you're sewing wonky on wonky it's easy to get lost.  Things that are actually straight end up looking crooked and vs. versa.
At first I was going to set the center "wonky" in the border but opted for a border of different widths.  Thee is a two inch difference between the widest and thinnest border but I don't think it looks as "wonky" as I had expected.  Except for the border all of the white fabrics are polka dots of some kind.  Here are a few close ups:

And the back..........I really wanted to incorporate this fabric into the front somehow but the scale of the dots was just too big.  It sort of took away from the crosses.  I have a lot of this fabric since it was on the sale table at my favorite store so I'm sure I'll use it again somewhere.
When the husband saw this on the design wall he said that he liked the green block on the right side of the quilt because it was the "least wonky".   His comment was, "I don't like wonky.  I like things to be straight."  Next I'm on to wonky log cabins.  I'm guess he won't like that one either.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


I don't really know how to title this post and mostly it's a bit of a therapeutic posting for me.  My beloved dog is aging and it's getting more obvious this week.  The last two mornings he has been unable to walk down our stairs.  He goes up fine in the evening, but loses his footing on the hardwood surface and does a not so controlled fall down the flight of steps.  Lately we've had to help him which is no easy task with a dog his size.  And his behavior has been different.  He wants us all together in the same area.  Often he wants to go outside and wants my husband and I to sit outside with him.  And he seems weary and tired lately, but still tries to continue his routine in loyalty to us.  He still walks with me each day and appears to enjoy it.  We go early before the weather gets too hot but still he has a long recovery time when we're done.

We're making a few changes to try to help him out some.  Our stairs have needed to either be refinished or carpeted for some time now.  So, Monday I'm going to call about carpeting hoping that the extra traction will improve his ability to navigate them for a bit longer.  He manages our outside steps and curbs without hesitation, so perhaps a little traction will go a long way.  I've started him on a higher dose of glucosimine/chondroitin medication and aspirin therapy as per the vets orders.  And on his upcoming visit I intend to ask about any other ways to reduce his discomfort and maintain his mobility.

But I need to admit that 12 years old is getting on in years for a Golden Retriever and soon he will have to leave me.  It makes me cry just to type that.  If you could wrap up sweetness, joy, loyalty, dedication and love in a big hairy soft package, you would have Seamus - the best first dog a person could ever ask for.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Fun in the Sun - Galloping Horse Version

I've heard woman at my local quilt guild remind each other that "If you can't see it from six feet away, then it's not a mistake."  Or, the saying that I like even better, "If you can't see it when you're galloping by on a horse, then it's not a mistake."  At our last meeting one member gave a trunk show of her quilts titled, Mistakes Happen.  She commented that her problem is that she makes the horse rider slow down and then points out her mistakes.  Well, that's what I'm doing here.  I'm slowing down the horse and pointing out the errors because after a quilt like this it's just sort of therapeutic.

It feels like I've been working on this quilt for a year.  And I can't begin to tell you all the problems that I had with the construction.    It will leave this afternoon in the mail on it's journey to my niece who hopefully won't see this post before she opens the package.  And who, hopefully, will find the quilt comforting and "homey" in all of it's imperfection.  Because, personally I find that sometimes there is a comfort in less perfect things. (Like when you drive an old car you're less worried about getting that first scratch or when your carpet is starting to get older you relax when the little kids drop their jelly bread with the jelly side down.)

So, let me start with the positive.  I loved making the applique.  It was a lot of fun to fussy cut some of the designs to make "eyes" in the sunglasses and designs on the flip flops.  The quilt is a pattern by Kariepatch Designs that you can find at this link.  There are a few things I would have done differently on the larger applique. On the larger ones I would have cut the center out of the bond material so that the design would have been a bit less stiff and perhaps easier to quilt.  Let me show you a few close ups before I need to tell "the rest of the story."

Then came the backing.  My first thought was to use a wide fabric so I wouldn't have to deal with seams and since my "Plan A" was to free motion around the applique and straight line the frames I was going to get a small print to help camouflage any problems.  That would have all been good if, first of all, I wasn't seduced into buying this solid in a great sea foam color and secondly if I hadn't gotten the great idea to use a row of scrap strips across the back.  Because what good is a nice wide back if you seam it anyway?!?!?
The free motion part went south quickly.  I had lots of problems, most of which were related to thread breakage and getting the top fabric to lie flat around the applique.  Some of this (I think) was because of the thickness of the applique.  It's also related to my ridiculous thinking that I can dive into a project like a fully appliqued quilt just because I know how to sew.  Anyway, I proceeded to "Plan B" which was to do the straight line quilting down the frames first.  Here's where the backing decided to take on a life of it's own.  Honestly, it was like that backing grew every time I worked on it.  Even though I had everything pin basted and sandwiched using techniques I've used successfully for every other quilt, the back was a MESS.  The fabric pulled this way and that and wanted to pucker and fold over on itself.  I quilted and then I got the seam ripper and "un-quilted".  I pinned, I basted, I straighted and smoothed and used every trick I knew.  I lengthened my stitches, I lessened my presser foot pressure but still this quilt took a fair amount of my blood (literally - needle sticks), sweat (literally) and tears (yes, literally).  It was truly a humbling experience.  I even managed to accidentally cut a small hole in the backing while trimming threads!  And after working on this for weeks I realized that I totally missed stitching around one lens on one pair of sunglasses!  It was too late to go back and machine applique the piece so I tried to match it as best I could with a hand stitch.  I don't think it stands out, but if you happen to see it you can tell that it was done with a different technique than the other applique.

Finally during one of my frustrating sessions, my dear husband came in and spoke words of wisdom to me.  He said, "You know, the theme of this quilt has such a casual air about it that you can get away with a bit of wonky-ness here (I'm paraphrasing a bit) that you wouldn't be able to get away with on one of your more traditional quilts.  Maybe you should just go with it."  So with that, I began to look at things a bit differently.  I certainly didn't want any big folds in the fabric or giant puckers but I began to accept smaller gathers and some pulling up or down along the quilt.  Finally the quilting part got done.

Then, I went to bind it....never my favorite part of a quilt.  By this time I was a bit tired of this project and decided to use some store bought bias tape in white....but......the white was too see through and looked awful.  So, I un-sewed (which was more difficult that regular "un-sewing" because I used a nice serpentine stitch which, it turns out, is a real bear to un-stitch!) and made some regular binding, fought a bit with it and after two ugly corners and two decent corners it was bound.

And so, with the finishing touch of a label to hide the hole that I cut in the backing and a letter of "apology" for the's finished.  I still find the whole piece cute, bright and happy even if it isn't perfect.  Thanks for galloping by. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Craftsy Block of the Month: June Edition

This month's Craftsy block was the most difficult block I've ever done.  I had to watch the video twice - in some sections three times.  I've learned a lot about piecing and I don't think I would like to make an entire quilt of this block.  In fact, some of these blocks make me really lean to the side of modern quilt construction where wonky is OK.  But, I'm happy with the result.  I think it's sort of funny that the points line up better here than in my simplier pinwheel blocks from last week.  As some of you suggessted, I relied more on my pinning and was much more careful with pin placement and leaving them in as long as possible.  It really did seem to make a difference. I think this is my favorite block of the bunch:
Here's all the blocks placed approximately where they will be in the end:
At the half way point, here are some of my thoughts:
  • Even though I used the same colors and fabrics, the blocks don't all "read" the same.  Some are much busier than others.  And overall, at this point it looks a bit disjointed.
  • I like the calmness of this month's block and it's probably significant that there are only three fabrics used.
  • The husband isn't keen on this color combo.  I know it's a bit unconventional, but I sort of like it.
  • I might not make this into one large quilt, again because it doesn't seem unified.  Perhaps a smaller quilt using my favorite blocks and then some other items out of the remaining blocks.
  • Lesson learned:  a good composition is more than just colors that go together and even more than just color value. Some prints are more "serious" than others and some play better with others.
So, again, this project is teaching me a lot about choosing fabrics as well as basic construction. There are two more large blocks left: one appliqued and one with tumbling blocks.  I'm anxious for the tumbling block lesson.  I dove into an entire quilt of blocks early on before I even knew how to cut them out.  More corners were mismatched than matched but back then I was just glad that I got it to lie flat and be quilted!  You can see it here.  I didn't take many close ups of the points, though.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Large Print" Birds

Our bird feeders continue to get lots of visitors including this lovely bright yellow goldfinch:
My husband has a feeder outside his office window and enjoys watching the birds while he works.  He has even begun to recognize the different types of birds and the different genders. He commented recently that blue jays are like large print birds and are great for "old eyes".  They're big, colorful, easy to see and easy to identify.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Country Threads BOM: June

I'm still chugging along on my blocks of the month.  Here's the June edition for the Country Threads project:
You can see that I'm still not too good at getting those points to match properly.  I'm not sure why.  The cutting was especially accurate for the large block since I used my Accuquilt Go and the seams should be good since I have a 1/4 inch foot.  So I'm not sure where the problem is.  Any suggestions?

And here are the blocks for January - June:


Monday, June 3, 2013

More Baby News!

Only this time, it's not about birds.   Son #2 and his wife came over Saturday to give me a belated birthday/Mother's Day present, or so they said.  They told me to open this first:

I was a bit confused and asked if they were trying to tell me something.  And...........sure enough, the little one is due in February!!   The second envelope contained a gift certificate to my favorite fabric shop to stock up on baby sewing supplies!

Excited would be an understatement!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June Small Blog Meet

I haven't been too consistent with my blogging this month.  It's the time of year (around here, anyway) that calls you outside to work in the yard or grill or just sit and watch all the loveliness.  I missed last month's Small Blog Meet so I'm writing this early and getting ready!

Sewing-wise things have been a bit slow.  I've been working hard on this quilt:

Can't show you much more because it's sort of a secret.  The quilting part has been a real problem.  I've un-quilted almost as much as I've quilted.  But hopefully it will be done soon and I'll tell you the whole story.

I've also worked on a few small items here and there like this:
They're great for carrying a few toiletries to the gym or office or just organizing a purse or car or a diaper bag.

And I've been knitting in the evenings - at least when I'm not un-sewing the quilt!

And, we had the baby bird excitement this month.

So, on to June.  My main goal is to finish "the" quilt, keep up with my blocks of the month and do another project or two from my Craftsy classes.  I keep being drawn to other classes, but I've told myself that first I need to finish the ones I've started.  I also signed up for another mystery quilt through the local guild.  It will be fun to see how that turns out.

I can't promise that my blogging will be any more consistent but I do enjoy keeping up with you all and gain lots of inspiration from your posts.

I'm linking up with Lily's Small Blog Meet this month.  I think I should get a lifetime membership.  You can link up until you have more than 50 followers for you blog.  That might take me awhile!