Friday, November 29, 2013

Great Thanksgiving!

We had a sunny, frigid day yesterday, but it was cozy indoors.  Here's the "before" picture:

And now to figure out what to do with the leftovers.  Hope you, too, had a great holiday!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Good reads for 2013

This year's been one for some great books, and for introductions to some really interesting authors.  I have enjoyed reading the mysteries of Elly Griffiths (coastal English anthropologist), Sara J. Henry (Adirondacks), Susan Elia McNeal (during the London blackouts of WWII), and Swedish writer Camilla Lackberg.  I'm all caught up with them, so I hope to read new offerings by each in 2014.

I enjoyed new titles by favorites Chris Bohjalian (The Light in Ruins), Jennifer Chiaverini (Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker), Sandra Dallas (Fallen Women), and Jacqueline Winspear (Leaving Everything Most Loved, another Maisie Dobbs mystery).  Most disappointing was W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton.  Perhaps I expect too much from her after all the books I've enjoyed.

The books I felt were most amazing, that left me nearly breathless, were, in no particular order:
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett - a scientist goes deep into the Amazon to hunt for a missing colleague
  • The Dog Stars by Peter Heller - a post-apocalyptic pilot sets out to look for other survivors in Colorado
  • The Language of Flowers by Victoria Diffenbaugh - a young woman leaves foster care and ends up homeless in San Francisco
  • How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny - latest mystery involving the very human Quebecois Inspector Gamache in which many loose threads are tied together.  How will she top this?  This was my absolute favorite of the year.  I am sorry to have to wait another year for the next book.

Other favorites this year included:
  Eight Prison Camps - Bonga - Japanese concentration camps in Indonesia
  The Perfume Collector - Tessaro - woman is left a mysterious inheritance
  The Dry Grass of August - Mayhew - travels through Jim Crow south as seen through the eyes of a young girl
  Where'd You Go, Bernadette? - Semple - just fun!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Weekend projects

I made the Loyal Unions Sampler  block of the week and a couple of Nearly Insane  blocks over the weekend.  Here's a look at my design wall this morning.  I'll be packing them up as I make more this week.
I must be in a gray mode lately because I also made this pillow out of two old t-shirts.  I got the idea from a program at my guild meeting a few months ago.  You cut out two 14" squares from one t-shirt and use another one to cut 1 1/2" strips which you ruffle and sew on.  It was very easy, and the hardest part was sewing the opening closed after putting the pillow form inside.  T-shirt fabric can be uncooperative sometimes.  The base t-shirt was a little darker than the ruffles, just by chance, but I like the effect.  I don't know if someone will be receiving this for Christmas.  I like it too much to part with just now!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Round Robin

I worked on a round robin quilt over the last few days and finally finished yesterday afternoon.  I love bright colors and batiks, so this was just the right quilt for me.

It's gotten quite large but I'm the last round, so the owner, Candy in Illinois, can leave it as is or add another border.   Mine should be coming back from Debbie in Arizona soon - can't wait!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Several projects at once

Here's a picture of what's on my design wall this morning.

In the middle is my trial block for next year's Around the World swap.  I'm going to do Yankee Puzzle, so I tried it in my Loyal Union Sampler colorway of gray and blue.  (Every trial block is in that colorway this year!)  We are all making 6" blocks representing ourselves, and since I'm one of two New Englanders in the group (and probably the only one participating in the swap since Charlotte is busy with other things), that's what I chose.  Each person will send a fat eighth to each other participant who will make a block representing her and send it back.  I ordered some fat quarters for this swap from Hancock's of Paducah, but they haven't arrived yet.  They're a little "modern," which should be fun.

The block on the right is this week's Loyal Union Sampler block, Massachusetts, and while it appears easy, my finished product is a bit ragged.  I'm hoping the sashing will help.  When I put the rest of the blocks I've made away, I noticed I have about 20 made, which is nice.   About 100 more to go!

At left is a section of scrappy border for the Flying Diamonds quilt made with snippets from the diamonds.  I spent most of last week quilting the first half and have just a little left to do.  However, I need to take out some quilting, a pain-staking process fraught with worry that I'll punch a hole in the quilt.  In this case, I used multi-colored thread and don't like the look, so I'm going back to black.

To avoid that worry, I'm procrastinating by putting the last border on Candy's very colorful round robin quilt.  But we have yoga this morning, and I want to do a little holiday shopping and baking this afternoon.  These are busy times!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Feeling productive!

Here's the quilt I made with blocks received in two block lotteries.  It's going to the Parkinsons Comfort project in honor of my Dad who has been dealing courageously with PD for 17 years.

Yesterday, I finished putting together the two halves of my Flying Diamonds quilt and started pin-basting.  I also did a few lines of quilting on one half, and I hope to finish basting the second half soon.  As I quilt one half, I use up pins which go over to the other half!  I am trying something called "Quilting Made Easy," pre-printed patterns on tear-away paper, for the large open squares.  My quilting is a little shaky, but I hope it improves as I get toward the center where it really shows.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A few photos

Last year, I participated in a swap of 6" blocks made with Christmas novelty prints.  I took them to a workshop this past summer on Circle of Nines, a way to put nine blocks together with spacers.  These blocks really leant themselves to this setting, and I'm pleased with how they turned out.  I hope my brother Axel will enjoy them!
Here are some nine patches I made for Angela in this month's "block lotto" in one of my online groups.  I'll get a photo up of the quilt I finished today whenever it stops raining!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Busy but nothing to show

I have been quilting apace lately, but nothing warrants a photo.  On Monday, I finished quilting and binding a small (18" x 18"?) Christmas table topper that I think I'll give to my brother for his new apartment.  It is made of 6" blocks from a swap.  For the last few days I've been quilting a 50" x 50" quilt made from two different swaps - both black and white with an accent color - that I'll give to the Parkinsons Comfort Quilt Project.   Will take photos of both when I find time.

I have also finished all of the 16" flying diamonds blocks and have put them together in four rows.  The borders are also almost ready to put on, but I can't decide whether to quilt it in four pieces or two.  Such a dilemma!  I'm waiting for the backing fabric to arrive and also need to go out to buy more thread for quilting.  I have been using Aurafil thread lately - it's a bit lighter than the Mettler but lasts so much longer.  Also on order are some "Quilting Made Easy" patterns for quilting the large 8" centers of each of the blocks.  I seem to have gone crazy mailordering lately, but I am determined to get a jump on Christmas.

I want to make photo Christmas cards this year but am having trouble deciding which quilt to feature.  I found a "deal" online for Shutterfly, so I need to jump on that also.  The holidays are fast approaching.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

LUS Block of the Week

OMG!  This week's block for the Loyal Union Sampler was pretty hard, with Y seams.  I think I held my breath the whole time I was working on it.  But block B-6, Charley Stokey's Star, is done!  Those are all Civil War repro fabrics this time, along with a gray blender.  I do like the mix of contemporary and repro fabrics in this quilt.

I made a few more Nearly Insane blocks this week also, but mostly I worked on the flying diamonds quilt.  I put the 16 16" blocks together in rows, and I'm now trying to decide whether to quilt it in two pieces or four.  I have the borders about ready to go on the top and bottom, too.