Saturday, December 31, 2011

No resolutions

Everywhere I look in the last few days, there are ruminations and directives about making resolutions for the new year. Last year, I resolved to eat more fruit, and I have pretty much stuck to that. In the fall, I bought a treadmill, and I try to walk a mile at least five times a week. On the days when I don't walk, I vaccuum. I ought to go to the gym more, since I'm paying, but I ought to do lots of things!

At this year's end, quilters are especially good at exhorting themselves to de-clutter, de-stash, finish UFOs, and more. We have such visible evidence of things we ought to do. I have only one quilt top, the Winding Ways one, in the closet waiting to be quilted or added to. I'm still deciding. I do have a sweater I finished knitting this past winter that needs to be put together. I have two sets of blocks that will be put together this winter - 25 Christmas stars (need to find some nice sashing fabric) and a bunch of Amish blocks made by members of one of my guilds. The Amish quilt will be raffled off in the spring/summer for the library. Those are my UFOs, and I have several works in progress. I can't beat myself up about them really. I've gotten pretty good at throwing scraps away or putting stuff I don't want on the guild "free" table.

As this year draws to a close, I note that I finished quite a few projects, gave many away, and helped quite a few people with this or that, in ways large and small. Family and friends are all doing reasonably well, and we are snug here in our house on the hill. My hopes for the new year: a cleaner environment, smarter and nicer politicians, peace for all, and plenty of good reading!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Civil War quilt #2 for 2011

By the time I finish this, it will be 2012. :-) Over the last few days, I've been putting together the Barbara Brackman blocks of the week and the Virtual Bee blocks of the week I've been making in Civil War fabrics. Yesterday, I pieced a back using reject and orphan blocks as well as some fabrics I know I will never use again. The result is about 64" x 64", a good-sized throw. I pin-basted it and started quilting today but am taking it easy. It's fun to look at the blocks again as I quilt them.

Christmas 2011

We had a very nice Christmas! Dinner on Christmas eve with Polly was fine, with delicious cranberry chicken and brownie a la mode. Chris came for brunch Sunday, and then we opened a pile of presents. I got some very lovely jewelry (including donkey earrings to wear to Democratic functions), an immersion blender (from Chris), books, and some gorgeous batiks (from Mom). We had a quiet afternoon and evening since we both had big, thick books to keep us busy. I'm moving along with Out of Oz but Paul is almost finished with Stephen King's latest.

On Monday night, we were invited to Vicki and Samantha's for a Boxing Day dinner with Polly. Samantha received a turkey from her company for Thanksgiving, and saved it to cook for us. Yum!

I don't know when I'll take the decorations down since we have a busy weekend ahead. Thought you'd like to see my "Christmas with Jane" quilt on the couch. I enjoy looking at it and remembering all my adventures with the various Dear Jane quilts.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Still dark at 7:02 am

We woke up to snow so it is still gloomy. I was planning to go to the grocery store early, but I guess I'll have to go with the crowds after the roads clear a bit. Going down the hill is just too scary when it's snow-covered. We are out of the usual - milk, eggs, etc. - and need some of those occasional things, like ice cream. An apple-and-possibly-pear crisp is on the menu for Christmas eve, made with some lovely fruit my parents sent.

If I get hung up with the groceries, I may not be able to go to the quilt shop today. So I put the red and whites away and pulled out the Civil War blocks at 6:00 am. I have plenty of blocks for a quilt but some are 6" and some are 8". Then there are some of neither size that could be expanded or put on the back. Four 8" blocks have an on-point orientation, suggesting a medallion. Last winter, we "secret stitchers" were quite taken with a sampler in the VT Historical Society collection. It had a center medallion on point surrounded by smaller blocks, too. It's a good day for moving blocks around. :-)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Red and white swap

I made two sets of six 12" red and white blocks for another swap over the last few days. The one on the left is Jacob's Ladder and, on the right, Lady of the Lake. Each of the latter takes 20 half-square triangle squares so I don't think I'll be making any more real soon.

I discovered a way to make a lot of pretty accurate half-square triangle squares, though. Cut one square from each of your two fabrics, put them face to face, sew all around all four sides, and make two diagonal cuts. If you start with 6" squares, you end up with 4" HST squares. With 5" squares, the result is 3.25" HST squares, and with 4" squares, 2.25". These do have bias edges, so they need to be handled with care.

I fiddled with three more possible squares for the swap, but decided only one would work. Watch for more pictures... eventually! With all this trial and error, I am running out of white-on-white fabric, and if I can go to the quilt shop tomorrow, I will get more. If not, I am out of luck until Jan. 3 since the shop is closing for the holidays.

I am pretty excited about making another red and white quilt. My first quilt was red and white, started in 1974 and finished in 1986! Made of polyester blend cotton, it has been mended several times. I also signed up for a new year-long two-color mystery quilt developed by Brenda Papdakis of Dear Jane and Gay of Sentimental Stitches, called Just Takes 2. Should be interesting and I'm hoping I can use the blocks in this quilt, too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Even though we plan a low-key holiday, I have been busy either preparing or enjoying the season. Not a lot of quilting going on. Sunday night, we went to some friends' house for an Indian dinner which was fun. Monday, we had some dear friends over for a dinner of French-Canadian meat pie, "tourtiere." I had never made it before, and the recipe was a composite from various ones I found online. With Sandy's salad, Cindy's bread, and Polly's apple pie, it was just right.

Yesterday morning I had tea at my former neighbors' in Montpelier. When we moved there, Chris was only two so he views them as surrogate grandparents, and they had to be the most supportive people this single mom could ever have had. I wish we saw them more often, and it was nice to catch up.

Today I'll finish some blocks I'm making for a swap and maybe start on a few more. I'll do my Civil War block of the week sometime, too. There's only one left to go before Barbara Brackman's series is over. Then I'll have to figure out if what I have is enough for a quilt or not.

Mostly these days, I've been baking cookies and Chex Mix, reading, and just enjoying the sights and sounds of the season. The classical radio station has been having a good mix of music for quilting or reading. It's snowing lightly now but I don't think we're going to have much accumulation before Christmas, and that will make traveling a little easier for those who do. Polly will join us for dinner Christmas eve, and Chris will be here for brunch on Christmas day. We'll call various relatives and just play with our "toys." "Santa" (my brother) did send me Out of Oz so I know what I'll be doing later in the day!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The tote

Ever since I spilled coffee on my everyday tote, I have been thinking about making a new one. I usually need one that will hold a book, calendar, distance glasses, snacks, and papers, sometimes all at once if I'm traveling. The button on the tote came from my former MIL and has moved from item to item as I wore whatever it was on out. There are a couple of pockets inside made from selvages, too.

The books of 2011

2011 could easily be called "the year of the series" because I discovered new ones and read the most recent book(s) in various ones I have enjoyed over the years. I discovered the Irish Country Doctor series by Patrick Taylor and devoured the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. They were entirely different but enjoyable for their reflections of the times, with Taylor's covering the 1950's in Northern Ireland and Winspear's England post-WWI.

I also caught up with Precious Ramotswe, VI Warshawski, and Kinsey Milhone, three of my very favorite characters. Inspector Gamache, Louise Penny's wonderful detective from just over the border in Quebec, also made an appearance in one of my favorite books of the year, A Trick of the Light. A new contemporary series, set in Ireland and Minnesota, fascinated me, beginning with Haunted Ground by Erin Hart.

Other favorites included:
The Book Thief - Zusak, recommended by Carole
Sarah's Key - de Rosnay, read in the book group and now a movie
My Life in France - Julia Child, recommended by Karen and soooo enjoyable
Dreamers of the Day - Russell, set in Egypt in 1921
The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins, also read in book group

A few books I'd like to read in 2012 include new titles by Geraldine Brooks, Sarah Addison Allen, Sandra Dallas, and Gregory Maguire. In fact, I hope "Santa" (my brother) brings Out of Oz!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Yesterday, in a frenzy of sewing, I made a new tote bag for myself. First I made a fat quarter out of selvages sew together. I cut it down slightly as I squared it off, and I had enough selvages left over to make inner pockets and an little outer pocket. I realized that the pockets needed something on the backs so that I didn't catch stuff on the unfinished sides. So I faced them with Pellon. Anyway, I don't have a photo, but am happy with the new bag which I hope is big enough to carry papers and books to various meetings, library Friends, Democrats, and otherwise.

Along with several tote bags, table runners, and mug rugs, I really finished quite a few quilts this year:

  • A 9-block appliqued sampler for flood relief

  • A red, white and black baby quilt for Jovianne

  • A green and white Irish Chain baby quilt for the Mad River Charity Auction

  • A batik squares quilt for the MRCA

  • "Full Duty" Civil War quilt

  • "Candy Land" wallhanging (hand quilted)

  • Australian fabric baby quilt for Robin's Yann

  • A garden row robin wallhanging

  • "Lasagna" flannel baby quilt for Hudson

  • "Prairie Flowers" friendship swap quilt

  • Ugly rectangles quilt for flood relief

  • "Virtually Pink" quilt using Tante Wil's last UFO for cousin Marianne

  • Basket block swap throw

  • Calico County challenge


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beautiful morning

We had a couple of inches of wet, sloppy snow over night, but the roads seem to be melting quickly. My meeting tonight in Montpelier was cancelled, so I have a free day!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winding Ways

Over the last few years, maybe since I read Jennifer Chiaverini's book with that title, I've wanted to make a Winding Ways quilt. Last summer, I bought 3 yards of a very sweet cream background fabric with pink and gray. I used it to make a few test blocks in other patterns, but still the Winding Ways was calling my name. So I bought a couple more yards and a set of templates. Last week, I took the plunge, using my Curvemaster foot. At first, I thought I'd never master the process, but with each block, I seem to be getting better. The hard part is matching the center. The Curvemaster likes you to have the convex piece on the bottom, but sometimes you just have to have the concave part there. There's quite a bit of "easing" that goes on, too. I have fat quarters in pink, hot pink, gray and black to use along with the background. So far, I've made about 10 blocks and have four more cut out. Since it's still a fairly intense process, I'll see how large it will grow. 16 blocks? 20?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Calico County Challenge

My Saturday quilt group, the Calico County Quilters, is holding its second annual "pretty/ugly" challenge. At our November meeting, we were each to bring a fat quarter that we think is pretty and another we think is "ugly." These were put into separate bags, and we each drew one out of each bag. With our two fabrics and no more than two others, we are make a piece no larger than 12" square. It can be traditional or not. Last year Elaine made a chicken pot holder with hers while I made a landscape.

I couldn't go to the meeting because I was teaching an applique class. But Polly drew for me - a lovely burgundy "blender" as well as a wild fabric with spools of thread, buttons, and measuring tape. There was no way these two fabrics were going together in any kind of traditional block. The pink thread clashed terribly with the burgundy.

I kept looking at my fabrics and decided that the spools of thread were like a bad dream. And so an idea came to me! I found some motley light pink for a face and some black with irregular dots for the night. It just so happened that yesterday's quilting motif of the day by Leah Day was a swirly one, which went very well with a dream.
Hence, this piece, which I am calling "Quilter's Dream." Or maybe "Visions of Quilter's Sugarplums"? The reveal will be at our February meeting. Can I keep it a secret from Polly until then?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Scrappy wreath

Last week, I saw a pattern online (at for a wreath made with green scraps. It looked like just the thing I've been looking for. I usually have small quilts on our door, and I change them with the seasons. Our Christmas one hung on the door at Maplecroft where it was exposed to high sun. It is really faded and should be retired. This wreath didn't take long to make - maybe 2 afternoons - and looks real from the street. One bad thing is that it didn't use as many scraps as I had hoped. The tote with my green scraps is still overflowing!