Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday weekend and more

We had a very nice Thanksgiving with Samantha, Vicki, Cindy and Sandy. Each brought something which really helps spread out the work. On the menu: turkey breast, broccoli, wild/brown rice, corn casserole, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry chutney, pumpkin bread (made with pumpkin I grew last summer), apple pie, brownies, vanilla ice cream. Yum - o! Tonight we finished the last of the leftovers, and I will miss them. I made turkey stroganoff twice and also turkey curry. Hannaford's cranberry chutney is wonderful with turkey sandwiches, even if the turkey came from the deli.

Over the weekend, I packed up all the packages for mailing except my parents'. Chris still has some shopping to do for them. We also addressed all the holiday letters to people far and wide. So today we made the second of several post office trips. I learned that postage to the Netherlands and Belgium is $0.98 per letter but it is worth it as it's my only contact with some relatives and friends each year. Oh - the first trip to the P.O. was Friday when I mailed my sister's package to the Netherlands. I feel good to be on top of things!

Saturday afternoon, after a huge burst of snow made it difficult to see even the houses across the street, we headed down to the Old Labor Hall for two performances of "Monuments Come Alive," a multi-media presentation of stories of monuments in Hope Cemetery. The former HS music and drama teachers performed quite a bit of magic with a group of college students. Les Bartlett, a photographer who we first met as a guest at Maplecroft, gave a little slide talk of his work photographing the quarries here and on Cape Cod and the hands of the stone workers. We helped with refreshments at both showings, which totally benefitted the Old Labor Hall. Estimated attendance: 300!

Sunday night we went to a concert by country-western singer Kathy Mattea. We weren't familiar with her songs but she was great. When she started to sing, I was reminded of Ann Murray, the grande dame of Canadian country music. Her band was wonderful, and, as Paul says, those Nashville musicians are consummate professionals. The Opera House was almost full which was great.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Secret Santa gifts arrive

I belong to a "Friendship Block Swap" group online, and this year we each made Christmas ornaments. We didn't reveal who we were until the person received her ornament. I made a tiny "Star of Hope" block with a snowman's face in the center and sent it to Cindy. My Secret Santa was Angela, and she really went all-out. The hanger for the wallhanging is a giant cinnamon stick, the biggest I've ever seen! There there is a set of pear-shaped pot holders with magnets. Finally there are four wool applique ornaments for the tree. I really feel like I hit the mother lode!

A coupla quilt finishes

It was sunny today although cold enough that the plow people sprayed salt in our driveways this morning. It was really windy, too, which wreaked havoc with the trash and recycling that we set out. I hope most of it stayed in the bins.

I finished binding my Asian Jane quilt a few days ago. It took over two years to finish, but, part of that time, it was at the long arm quilter's. I love the Asian prints with solid black (I used Keepsake's Amish black fabric), and the 4.5" blocks came from Dear Jane, Dear Hannah, and a few other sources. Because some of the Asian prints feature fairly large motifs, I alternated Dear Jane-style triangles with solid black. I love the back, too, which is a teal green Jinny Beyer fabric. Many of the Asian fabrics were gifts from my 2009 Dear Jane Secret Pal, Julia.

I had a lot of Asian fabric scraps left since the blocks are small, so I made a Chinese Coins table topper last week. It has Thanksgiving fabric on the back which goes well with the black binding. It went together very quickly, and I quilted it myself, in the ditch as well as a little free-motion here and there.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Calico County Challenge

The Calico County Quilt Guild has met in the afternoon on the second Saturday of the month for many years. I belonged before Chris was born, couldn't fit it into my schedule for perhaps 30 years, and have rejoined since I have been retired. It's a small group that now meets in the basement of Bethany Church in Montpelier. When I first joined, the group was large and had a number of well-experienced quilters in it. Sometimes, it was intimidating to a newer person. Now it is smaller and the range of skills and interests varies, but I enjoy the fellowship of the group.

This year, we decided to try a challenge. Each person was to bring a fat quarter of fabric that she loved and another that she didn't like at all. I brought a multi-colored Kaffe Fassett that I just didn't know what to do with along with the moth and dragonfly fabric that I used for the back of Vicki and Samantha's quilt. We put the likes and dislikes into separate paper bags, and each person pulled one from each. We can add only 2 other fabrics and the final piece should be no larger than 12" square. It's due in February.

Here's what I pulled out of the bags. I loved the blue swirly fabric, but that khaki with beige was definitely outside my comfort zone. The khaki fabric also had some deep red and black. I knew that the traditional patchwork block just wouldn't work for these two fabrics even though I am dying to try the Anita's Arrow block described in the most recent issue of Quiltmaker magazine.

We had a newcomer visiting the group who also got some challenging fabrics, and I sure hope we haven't turned her off from the group. Before we left, though, I realized that my final product, which needs to be no larger than 12" square, would have to be something non-traditional. Elaine said that the last time she participated in such a challenge she ended up making a little bag, with one fabric on the outside and the other (the ugly one, presumably) on the inside.

Not quickly defeated, I thought a landscape would be a possibility. The blue swirls looked like a very bright night sky. Who knows what the khaki looks like! I thought back to a landscape quilts workshop I took at VQF years ago, and I also decided that fusible applique, though not my favorite, would be OK here.

So here is my final product, and I really like it. I ended up appliqueing the swirly hills and stream by hand but the tree was fused. I ran up and down the trunk with rayon thread on my sewing machine to give it a little texture. I cut the blue swirls on the borders out with a rotary cutter and fused them on. I machine quilted the whole thing. This was a fun activity that I would love to do again.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Off to the quilter!

My "Red, Red Robin" quilt is finally ready for quilting. It ended up measuring 85 x 86" so was too unmanageable to quilt on my home machine. Friday night, I took it to Mad River Quilting in Waitsfield for some long arm work. Lisa told me she wouldn't be able to get to it until after the holidays, which is fine with me. I have plenty to keep me busy.

The center medallion is from the Piece o' Cake Design book Applique Outside the Lines, and the other appliqued border is an adaptation of a design in the same book. The other borders are pieced, and the whole thing uses scraps from my stash. I pieced the back (90 x 90 or so) from scraps also, and now I can actually close my pink box and almost close the purple one. I'm sure they will be bulging again soon since these seem to be colors I buy and receive as gifts.

The "Live, Love, Laugh & Be Happy" came subliminally from Paul who was practicing When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along on his ukulele this summer when I was starting on it. I made the three robins a little pudgier than the Piece o' Cake bird. It will be a while before I tackle anything as ambitious as this but it sure was fun.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

2 finishes and one give away

Yesterday, I finished the big purple and pink quilt top I've been working on for a while. Actually, it's not that big - just 84" x 84" - but it felt that way because the applique took a couple of months. First there was the center medallion with a large flower pot and tulips of all shades of pink and purple. Then there was an 8" pieced border of odd shoo fly blocks. Then there was an 8-10" border of Live, Love, Laugh, & Be Happy surrounded by the Piece o' Cake ladies' inimitable ferns and lolly pop flowers. The final border was a scrappy uneven nine patch. Now I am piecing the back out of purple and pink scraps, and I decided to take it to a long arm quilter since it's now too big for me to handle at home.

This morning, for a change of pace, I made a Secret Santa ornament for an online group I belong to. It will be winging its way to the lucky recipient soon, but I need to take a photo first. It's a horrible, rainy, foggy day, so not good for picture taking.

Yesterday was good, however, so we took a picture of a quilt I made last year that I'm going to give to my dear friend Sonia. It's an Ohio Star quilt with 3", 6", 9", and 12" blocks. I quilted it in three sections and love the way it turned out. I've made a couple of these quilts using a simple block in different sizes, and Ohio Star is by far my favorite quilt block. The background fabric is a warm natural with turquoise, red, caramel, and brown.

Sonia lives in Plattsburgh, and we have been friends for 37 years or so. We met in the Syracuse area when we were neighboring librarians, just starting out in our careers. We kept in touch through marriage (hers), divorces (both), child (me), moves (lots for her, a few for me), new jobs, various relationships. Now we are both retired but we still don't have as much time as we'd like to get together. We try to go to the Jane Austen Society meetings together but that doesn't always happen. Tomorrow we'll meet at the Asian Bistro in Williston, and I'm anxious to hear about her recent trip to Italy.