Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Birthday fun

I signed up for a birthday fat quarter swap this year.  All month long, squishy envelopes of all shapes and sizes have appeared, and have been piling up.  It's been hard waiting.  Today I got to open them all - aren't they amazing?!?  These should make a luscious quilt full of nice memories.

So far, it has been a great day!  I went to Montpelier for breakfast with Cindy, Sandy and Polly at the new Clean Slate Cafe.  It's in the old building where the old Thrush Tavern was, next door to my old office.  They had the best burgers in town but closed some years ago.  This Clean Slate has a nice, small menu, and the memorable (to many) bar and tiny bathroom are still there. 

Afterwards, Paul and I drove over to the Burlington area to leave something at Merrill's Auction Barn and stopped at Sew Many Treasures on the way home.  I couldn't find anything that grabbed me, but I hope to see some things tomorrow at A Quilter's Garden.  I have a gift certificate and I get a discount half my age!

My parents called after we got home, and then I took a nap before tackling all the squishies.  Tonight we're heading back to Montpelier for dinner with Chris at J. Morgan's.  Couldn't ask for a more relaxed day!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mid-summer busy

We have been running around most of the past week, and finally there is time to sit down and reflect. Barre's annual Heritage Days Festival  kept most residents hopping.  Wednesday night Paul was the author of the week at the library.  I ran the powerpoint, and 80 people came, including several good friends, family, and neighbors.  He did a great job, despite the jitters all day long.

Thursday morning we put up the tents and tables for the Friends of the Library's summer booksale.  Ugh!  There was a soft but persistent rain the whole time, and a few people we count on were laid up for one reason or another.  Thursday night was a reception at the Vermont Historical Society for the opening of two new exhibits.  It was quite crowded, which was great, but I will have to go back soon to spend more time looking.  One fun thing was bumping into a former guest who was in town for his class reunion.  It's always nice to catch up with those people we became fond of, and I was happy to see his sister Saturday.  In fact, running into people we haven't seen for a while is one of the best things about this hectic weekend, which seems to be stretching to a Wed.-Sun. event.

Friday morning, I was down early helping with the start of the booksale, and I returned at noon for the afternoon.   Business was steady throughout the day and Saturday, and we did quite well despite being short-handed.  Friday night we indulged in the ethnic food tent and listened to the Starline Rhythm Boys in the park before heading home to rest up for Saturday.  After I set up the Democrats' table, where we registered voters and handed out various local candidates' literature, I went back to the booksale until it ended at 2 pm.  Lunch in the park was super - samosas and iced coffee.  Then I went back to the Dems' table which was right along the parade route.  What a good seat!  And, despite looking threatening for both days, the downpour held off until the parade ended.  We decided it was a good time to pack up the table and head for home a little early.  Around dinner time, people aren't inclined to think about politics anyway - they just want to enjoy the food and music, which they apparently did after the rain stopped.

This morning, the last day of Heritage Days featured a bike race, which we watched a little of, and in the afternoon, a newly renovated library branch near our house opened with a little celebration.   Tomorrow we'll be back to "normal," thank goodness!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Happiness is a new roll of sticky painter's tape

Last week, it was so hot and humid that I went to the [airconditioned] library for some frothy mysteries - and finished them in less than a week.  They included Buried in Buttercream and The Body in the Boudoir, definitely lightweight but great for hot days.  It cooled down Wednesday night, and we've had nearly perfect conditions ever since - sunny, moderately warm, low humidity. 

I froze some vegetables from the garden and actually cooked a few hot meals for dinner.  The vegetable lasagna had chard, a small summer squash, green beans, and a few late peas from the garden.  And this morning I made the first two zucchini breads of the summer.  Some sweet little girls came by yesterday pulling a wagon full of just-picked blueberries and raspberries, so those went into the freezer, too.

Thoughout these days, I've been working steadily on the medallion quilt.  I finished outlining all of the flowers, leaves, and stems in the center and did a little decorative stitching with rayon thread to add texture to the applique.  Then I sewed and attached the 16" log cabin borders, along with more batting and backing.  That was a tough job, but it worked out OK.  And now I'm quilting a grid all the way around and into the medallion.  The quilt is quite heavy now with all its seams since the "logs" are only 1/2" finished. 

This part of the quilting has not been without difficulties though.  It wasn't until the second day that I realized I had forgotten to put the walking foot on and a larger size needle in the sewing machine.  Now it's sewing more smoothly.  Then, I was having a terrible time keeping the painter's tape down on the top, and had to keep pinning it so it wouldn't move as I worked with it.  I was so frustrated that I finally went down to the hardware store for a new roll.  I bought Scotch painter's tape this time instead of "Duck" brand, and what a difference.  It actually sticks as I move the quilt around.  At the rate I'm going, I think it will be another week before I'm done, but it's looking good so far.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ready to quilt

Yesterday and this morning, I worked steadily on the many little circles on the 40" center medallion that I've been working on sporadically for a year.   It's from a pattern called Bittersweet Briar by Kim Diehl.  The background is shirting, which I love working with. 

Now I'm sandwiching this section and will begin quilting by machine later today.  I'm going to take it easy partly because it's hot and partly because I want to put quite a bit of quilting into it.  I have the log cabin blocks all made for a border, and then who knows?   It will be 64 inches square by then, so I may add a thin green border and call it finished.  Or...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Block lotto

The other day I made a couple of 12" blocks for a "block lotto" game I'm doing with an online group.  Each of us makes up to four specific blocks and, at the end of the month, we hold a drawing.  Whoever wins gets all the blocks we made.  This month, I made two which were fairly easy.

I still have a bag of rows in black, white and red from this year's guild row robin, so if I win, I'll combine them.  If I don't win (the drawing is August 1), I will work on some Drunkard's Path blocks as initially planned.  I have plenty to keep me busy until then. 

For one thing, I am hostessing a charm square swap with some online friends with an August 1 deadline.  Each person cut as many sets of 5" floral squares as she wanted.  Most people sent between 20 and 35 sets, so that's a lot of charm squares in baggies to handle.  The baggies are slippery and the squares stick together.  But the squares are awfully cute, and I can't wait for them all to come in so I can swap them and use mine.  Right now, the big envelopes are all laid out on the bed in the guest room.

Also, yesterday, I finished the last of about 25 potholders I made with orphan quilt blocks.  I'll put them in my yard sale this September since I don't have a whole lot to sell.  I am enjoying getting to know the two new neighbors as we coordinate the sale. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Christmas in July

Finally, a nice day and two men to hold up the two larger quilts I finished recently!  Here's the first, made with Christmas star swap blocks that came toward the end of 2011.  I put them together and sent them to the long armer, who did an overall leaf and berries design.  I think it's going to a niece, but I'm going to enjoy it for a while before giving it away.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath

The first book of my own "Classics Challenge" (read 50 classics in 5 years) was one that I never got to, perhaps because the story was fairly well-known.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck follows the Joad family from the Oklahoma dustbowl to California to find work during the 1930's.  It's a story of trial and tribulation, some humor, and a lot of anger.  Why don't the "haves" help out the "have-nots"?  How can we allow our citizens to live in hovels and on very little good food?  The Joads are ever-hopeful for a break, but they are beset by their fellow Americans at every turn and, finally, by nature.

Young Tom Joad leaves prison after several years of having three square meals a day.  He runs into Casy, a former preacher, on his way home, and they both arrive just in time to accompany three generations (and another on the way) of the Joad family on a sad trip west.  Death, hunger, and deception follow them at every turn.  When they do find work picking fruit or cotton, the prices get consistently lowered by greedy landowners who know how hungry potential workers are.  If the workers try to strike, there are others hungry enough to take their places.  Organzing has little effect, yet seems the only solution to a situation spiraling out of control. 

The family tries to stay together, with Ma Joad becoming the strength they need and Pa just puzzled and trying the best he knows to do what the situation requires.  It's a sad story and still relevant today.  Jim, visiting here from Alabama this week, mentioned that parts of that state have no electricity or phone service.  Public schools, he says, are lousy and those who cannot afford private schools (blacks, Latinos, the poor) receive minimal educations.  Property taxes, which would pay for education, are kept low, but sales taxes are high and even cover food and clothing.  This is shocking in an age when many of us have so much.  The Grapes of Wrath certainly offers much to think about.  I'm glad I read it!  I even liked the format:  one chapter plot, the next a poetic riff on the situation.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Fruitbowl" of Thanks

Last month, I started a block of the month from Jennifer Chiaverini's latest pattern book.  "Cornucopia of Thanks" is a sampler with very interesting sashing.  I want to make a queen-sized quilt rather than a twin, so I'm making a few extra blocks.  So far, I love the colors I'm using, but I think the result is going to be more fruity than vegie.  Here's the latest block, "Providence."

Last month, I made a Dresden Plate using all of the colors in Providence as well as more yellows and pink/reds.  I'll try to take a photo soon.  You can see a photo of the original quilt at Jennifer's website.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rhapsody in Blue

The guest room will be occupied for a few days, so I hurried to finish a quilt top this morning.  Tomorrow I'll clean the room well before our guest arrives for the family reunion.  This top has been hung on a hanger in the closet and later this month I'll make the back before taking it to the longarmer.  I got on a blue and white kick last fall and made a number of blocks to go along with the blocks I got back from the guild square robin.  I have quite a few blocks left over, but I think I'll turn them into potholders sometime.

Here's another view:

It always feels so nice to finish a top.  I love the border fabric, which you can't see.  It's a swirly blue from the "Sophia" line by Jinny Beyer.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Vermont Quilt Festival

We got home from a whirlwind trip to Colorado Friday at noon, after taking the red-eye.  All we did was sleep Friday, and the getting-back-to-normal continued yesterday.  Today I was refreshed enough to go to VQF, something I look forward to every year.  My friend Pauline went along, and she got quite interested as we went along.  A friend's husband warned her that quilting is addictive.  I was happy to run into that old friend, Sadie, and another, Laurraine, along with some Vermont quilters and vendors.

This year's quilts were pretty glitzy, with winners bejeweled and quilted with metallic thread.  Quite a few entries were of the Paula Nadelstern variety, with amazing bright colors and perfect paper piecing.  Photos of winners will be up on the VQF website soon.

There were quite a few lovely traditional quilts, mostly of the Baltimore Album variety.  In fact, one was Best in Show.  Here are a few others that I enjoyed.  First is a Dear Jane quilt made in neutrals - beige/brown.  Very chic.

This one's for Karen - a One Block Wonder with embellishment.  Looks similar to your Joseph's Coat.

This was based on a Terry Clothier Thompson pattern, and I love it.  Will have to look for the pattern.  I really like the print used for the background, unfortunately not so visible here.  You can tell, though, that it won an award.

Here's another One Block Wonder in very cool colors.  I was disappointed not to be able to see the actual fabric that was used (and sorry about the lady's tote bag in front!).

This log cabin with appliqued border was hand quilted and featured soft colors.  The photo doesn't do it justice.