Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A work in progress

My online Friendship Swap group had a "Back to Our Roots" swap this year, recalling our founding around Sylvia's Bridal Sampler, a pattern by Jennifer Chiaverini.   The group started swapping those 6" blocks some years ago, and occasionally we swap them again.   Most of the blocks aren't too hard, although there are a few appliqued ones with tiny pieces that I have never attempted.  2017 was the year for us to run the swap again, and coincidentally the Moda fabric company also had a free online 6" block of the week called "Blockheads."  Some of these were very complicated, so I made some 9" blocks instead.  The one closest to the foreground was made at 9" just because I wanted to fussy cut a William Morris charm square.

I really shouldn't do blocks of the week because I hate having to get the project box out for a half hour and then putting it away again.  I generally end up doing 3-4 weeks at a time and then get impatient to finish before the year is out.  As it is, the Blocksheads project is still going on but I dropped out several weeks ago.  I'm glad to combine these two projects to get a larger piece anyway.   I combined some Civil War fabrics that my Mom gave me from the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum with the William Morris charm pack and other scraps from my stash.  The swap blocks were all different fabrics, making a colorful quilt.

Now it's time to put all these blocks together, and I laid them all out over the weekend with a black print fabric for the sashing.  I dipped into my orphan block box and then made a few more blocks to get it all to the 48" x 60" size.  As you can see, the 9" blocks are interspersed and will end up being focal points with a little wider sashing.  Because it's so busy, my plan is to add a smallish print border all the way around instead of adding a scrappy pieced one.  Will have to see when it's all put together.  I have only put the vertical sashing in on about half the blocks so far, and when I finish that process, I'll figure out the size for the cross pieces.  Matching the blocks up so that the rows align a bit of a delicate operation.

As I put it together, I think about how I'll quilt it.  Should I do it in two halves or all together?   Should I do an overall loose stipple (hard for me to achieve consistency) or do a different overall design or quilt each block individually (a little better)?  Or should I simply ask a long armer to do an overall pattern?   

Friday, December 8, 2017

Westview talk

Wednesday I gave a little talk at Westview Meadows retirement community in Montpelier, where I have some quilts on display through January.  They routinely have an artist's reception for their changing gallery space, and I was surprised and impressed that they had coffee, wine, and yummy snacks on hand.  There were about ten people there all together, including Priscilla, who I had shared an office with for many years and who was my witness in court at my divorce.  Also, Katherine, my former neighbor and world famous children's author, attended.  It was good to see them both again.

Talking about each quilt in turn gave me an opportunity to discuss various techniques and materials, including the swaps and round robins I join in, machine quilting vs. hand quilting, where I get my ideas, etc.  They all asked good questions, and in the middle of my talk, Santa breezed through.  I just happen to know him when he isn't Santa, so that was a big surprise.  He's coming to our library this Saturday along with the lovely Mrs. Claus.   I assume the two of them are pretty busy these days.  At any rate, it added an unexpected touch of whimsy to the talk.

I brought another quilt for show and tell, and encouraged everyone to look at the backs of the quilts with the gloves I have provided so that they can see the quilting more distinctly.  (This photo is from that other show)

Afterwards, one woman wanted my advice about finishing and quilting a Grandmother's Flower Garden, and some friends. Almuth and Peter, arrived to support me and see the quilts.  They had the time wrong, but I gave them a personal tour.  It was so nice of them to come.

Looking at the quilts in the show, the Blue Orange Peels, and my current Storm at Sea project, I feel I have used enough blue for a while.  I'm now able to say that I can finally close the lid on the tub holding blue scraps.  In 2018, I'll try to work on some other colors.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Mug rugs

I temporarily suspended my work on Storm at Sea in order to put my walking foot on the machine and make a few mug rugs for neighbors, our yoga teacher, a friend, and a gift exchange at an upcoming party.  They are so easy to make, yet people who don't quilt find them unique.  I always attach a little note telling what they are ("Enjoy your new mug rug!  Add a cookie for a complete meal, or use with wine and a snack!").
Here are four I made using orphan blocks.  One is a test block from Dutch Treat for a friend whose favorite color is blue.  I made another quilt as you go with 2" scraps and chili pepper fabric.  Now on to those Christmas letters!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


I have all the component parts of the Storm at Sea quilt finished and may even end up with a few extra.  This will be fine as I've been moving various colors around to get a good mix.  Each block has small and large square-in-a-square blocks and diamond blocks.  The points need to meet fairly closely, so I've made the squares a little oversized and then trimmed them down.  I still have to fudge to fit, but after doing two blocks, I think they will go together OK.  I will need to remember to press the rows in opposite directions or they just won't fit together easily.   It all takes some concentration, so I'll take it slow.     

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sisters Choice

I can't remember when I started this - sometime this spring - but I finally finished it at the end of October.  I used my Go Baby! die cutter for the Sisters Choice blocks, so the blocks went together quicker and more accurately than if I had cut them myself.  The quilt grew and grew so that I needed to buy more fabric (the yellow pin dot mostly) and dig into my scraps, but it all started with a fat quarter bundle of "Dutch Garden" from Boundless. 

It took me a while to quilt as I went very slowly and carefully, using a stencil for the on-point plain blocks, free motion in the pieced blocks, and a 1" grid around the edge of the center.   I kept waiting for a sunny day to photograph it - no luck!  November has been exceedingly gloomy.  But here is a photo from our recent show and tell at guild.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


This week, I spent a little time taking apart a quilted jacket that I really liked but never wore.  I had made it using some hand dyes that I bought from my friend Jenny H. some years ago.  It was too warm to wear inside and too light to wear outside most of the time.  And the sleeves were tight.  So I turned it into a vest.  Paul said it didn't look quite right, so I took it in here and there and also made it a little shorter.   It looks OK now, and it will keep me warmer this winter.

I can turn the leftover sleeves into a tote bag, with the bottom part of the jacket as handles.  But I have set those aside for now.  I really need to get back to my Storm at Sea.  I realized that I made a mistake cutting, which isn't bad as I have plenty of scraps to cut up.  My blue box is overflowing.  I've allowed myself to get distracted because it requires fairly precise sewing.   Intense concentration can be hard at this time of year.

Meanwhile, I've been knitting a little scarf for myself.
It's a very light acrylic yarn with little gold threads throughout that I got on sale last year.  I made up the pattern and it's actually working.  I discovered a couple of years ago that I just don't have it in me to knit a whole sweater or even a pair of socks.  Scarves are good for just vegging out in front of the TV on a gloomy afternoon.  I do have to count a little to maintain this pattern, but a stitch counter attached to a needle has proven handy.  It's not a Christmas gift, so I can let it keep me busy (or not) all winter if I feel like it.  :-)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pre-holiday busy-ness

It seems "The Holidays" are almost upon us, and I don't feel ready.  It snowed yesterday - just big wet flakes, but enough to remind us that winter is on our doorstep.  I just planted spring bulbs last week!We put the bird feeders out, and I did some online gift ordering.  Some books just a few days ago have already arrived, and I'm expecting a few more packages soon.  Amazon is right on top of things (My NJ brother's company works for them, so I know they are!). 

I ordered three copies of one new Vermont title and then a few books that I have enjoyed this year for various relatives who seem to depend on our [retired librarian] suggestions.  I like to mail holiday packages out early - there are at least six each year - and that means anything I want to make for Christmas needs to be finished soon.

My WI brother (at left) has been in the hospital and rehab for three weeks, and I have been putting together recipes for a cookbook to give him this season.  He has diabetes and a number of other health issues, so I'm trying to concentrate on easy and healthy foods he can make after work or on weekends. 

He says he doesn't have time to cook so I'm including some things that can be made ahead and frozen, like the following chicken recipe.  I haven't made it for a while, so I tested my recipe the other night, and Paul pronounced it excellent.  Phew!  Here it is...

Amazingly Useful Chicken

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking pan with sides (I using a roasting pan).    Cut 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves in strips and pile in the pan. Mix together:  

2 T. olive oil
2 t. chili powder
1 ½ t. cumin
½ t. garlic powder
½ t. oregano
¼ t. salt

Sprinkle over chicken.  Sometimes I prepare a while ahead and “marinate” the chicken in this mixture for a while.  In a bowl mix:

One or two green or red peppers, cut in strips
One sliced medium onion
Any other vegetables you would like (zucchini, green beans, etc.)

Pour into pan and mix with the chicken.  Bake 20-25 min., stirring once or twice, until chicken is done.  Serve hot or cold, over rice, on top of a tossed salad (like taco salad), or in taco/fajita shells.

Along with the cookbook, I've ordered him some cooking utensils and will make him a couple of new potholders using orphan quilt blocks.  Other than that, I'm not planning to sew any more gifts for Christmas, but those are famous last words!