Thursday, December 8, 2011

More Red, White and Block Blocks

Since I've run out of hand applique, I'm back to working on red,white and black round blocks as my hand work.  I started these probably a year or so ago when I started to get interested in hand piecing.  Most of my interest in hand piecing can be directly contributed to the handpeicingandapplique Yahoo group that I joined.  They are a very talented, helpful and encouraging group of folks who are all doing incredibly beautiful hand work.  At one point, one of the members (Becky, I think) was drafting and publishing these wonderful round pieced blocks.  I started collecting them and making them out of a pallet of red white and black.  Someday they will go together in one quilt.  I have 10 blocks completed and two more that I'm working on.  When I find a round block that strikes my fancy, I save the pattern.   I've got a bag of fabrics that I use for this project and when I need more hand work, I drag out a new pattern and go through the fabric.  These are the three latest blocks that I completed.

I think the top block is 12" and the other two are 8".

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Quilters' Gathering

I live a few towns away from Nashua, NH where "A Quilters' Gathering", an annual quilt show with classes and vendors is celebrated every year.  I spent a few hours there on Saturday looking at all the beautiful quilts, getting inspiration and spending money on some fabric and a pattern.  I didn't take many photos of quilts, but here are the few that I really thought were interesting.

A nice applique quilt with a beautiful edge treatment.

And a close up of the flowers.  The largest flower is about 10" across.

A wonderful arrangement of grandmother's flower blocks.

And some beautiful quilting on this quilt.

There are only 6 different blocks in this quilt.  Each row is a single block pattern done in different fabrics and  values in the design to show how different an individual block can look using different color placements.

A beautiful scrappy quilt.  What a great way to use up colorful scraps.

A gorgeous wedding ring quilt.  A wedding ring is on my list of quilts to do in the near(ish) future.

Gayle's beautiful Star Berries quilt.  I hadn't noticed the scalloped edges on the top right and lower left before.  Pictures don't do this quilt justice.

Congratulations, Gayle.

Irises are my favorite flower.  I really like the quilting on the background of this.

Well, there you have it.  This is certainly not all of the quilts, but some that I particularly liked.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kousa Dogwood Fruit Jelly

I'm not a cook.  Sure, I can cook edible, sometime even delicious food.  But, I don't love to cook.

OK, that being said, I made jelly this weekend.  Well, I made very sweet syrup that was supposed to be jelly but didn't jell into jelly.  And I don't know what I'm doing wrong.  This is my second attempt at jelly.  Have I tried something with a definite recipe?  No, that wouldn't been nearly challenging enough.  My first attempt was hot pepper jelly.  I think I mostly had a recipe for that.  It looks wonderful, has a great flavor, but didn't jell.  My next attempt was to make jelly from the fruit from our Kousa dogwood. What is that, you ask?

Well, this is what the tree looks like loaded with berries.  The berries have a leathery, bumpy red exterior with a pumpkin colored sort of fibrous interior.  I tried the berries and they are OK, but it's something you'd want to pick and pop into your mouth like cherries.  But, we've got this abundance of fruit, so we (DH and I -- mostly DH) thought we should do something with them.  We've heard that you can make wine, but I haven't done that for years, and that takes some time.  So, jelly seemed like a better solution.  After failing at jelly once, I couldn't possibly fail again, right?

This is what we picked for the jelly.  This is a small fraction of what is on the tree.  But, having never done anything with this fruit, I didn't want a whole lot more in case this turned out inedible.  This is nearly 4 pounds.

Upon the advise of a friend, I rinsed the fruit, boiled it with about a cup of water and mashed the fruit with a potato masher to break it up.  I then put it into a metal sieve and mashed it with the bottom of a ladle.  At that point it looked mostly orange and cloudy.  I took that pulp and juice and put it into cheesecloth, secured it closed with a rubber band, hung the rubber band over the cabinet handle and let it drip into this pot.  I came up with about 3 1/2 cups of liquid.

I added some more water to bring the juice to 3 3/4 cups and put that in a sauce pan with 7 cups of sugar and 1/3 cup of lemon juice, brought it to a boil and added two packets of liquid pectin per the recipe.  I used the recipe for strawberries from the pectin packet.  Then I boiled the pectin and juice for another minute and got ready to can.  I got these seven jars of jelly, another 8 ounce jar and a partial bowl that I refrigerated.  I let it cool and waited.

I got wonderfully clear syrup.   It did not jell.  Again.

Off to the internet to look for suggestions.  I saw a number of people suggesting what the Certo pamphlet suggested - to reboil the syrup with additional sugar and lemon juice.  I also saw a suggestion to put a plate in the freezer and drop a bit of the boiled liquid onto it to see if it jells before taking it off the heat.  So, the next day I took the syrup that I had put in the jar and bowl and stored in the fridge and reboiled it with a few more tablespoons of sugar and another tablespoon of lemon juice.  The few drops of liquid on the cold plate looked like it was jelled harder than the original syrup, but I couldn't tell for sure.  Poured it back into the cleaned jar and bowl, sealed them up and put in the fridge again.  The next morning ... JELLY!  I'm not a total jelly novice any more.

The jelly tastes somewhat like plums.  It's pretty good on toast.  I'll probably make more next year if we have an abundance of fruit again.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Florabunda Blocks Finished!!

I finished the center block of Florabunda earlier this week.  And here it is...

I have to give credit to my husband for picking out the fabric for the basket.  While we were on vacation, I dragged him to 2 quilt shops looking for fabric for this basket and two purples that I will use as sashing for the quilt.  I found a plaid that was 'basket-ish', and he went poking around the shop and found this basket weave fabric! 

So, as I was approaching the end of the stitching on this block, I started to panic because I don't have another hand work project lined up.  My original idea was to baste the iris quilt top and start the hand quilting on that.

I love this quilt!!!  I'll do a whole blog post on it some time later.  This was started quite some time ago and was nicknamed the 'forever' quilt.  Anyway, my plan was that hand quilting this was to be my winter project.  But, money is a tad tight and I don't have the extra cash to get backing and a king sized batting for this beauty, so it will have to wait for a while.

So, what to do.  I decided to find  my sewing machine under all the clutter that has accumulated on my sewing table for the last 6 months or so and become reacquainted with her.   I found some small UFOs that needed some attention and got them completed.  I could machine quilt the maple leaf quilt since it is all prepared and everything, but that doesn't give me something to do while watching TV and wouldn't have given me the happy jolt of finishing a project.

This one was some extra blocks from my maple leaf top that I put together and machine quilted.  All it needed was a binding.  I've never been happy with my mitered corners on my bindings, so I used this as a learning exercise to try a different technique.  My conclusion is that I like this, but I need more practice.

OK, don't look at the miters too closely.  Like I said, I need practice.  Yes, the leaf placement was intentional.  I think I'll use this as a trivet for the table.

The next jolt of happiness for finishing a project came from these pot holders.

Aren't they cute?  Again, left over flowers from another project put together for something useful.

Then I started a new project - a pin cushion/thread catcher.  I've had the pattern for quite some time and have been planning to make one of these  since April.  I'm still not quite done.  I have the hand stitching to do and I have a plan on when that will happen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More Updates

I got a nice note from a follower with a nudge to post more frequently.  First of all, I have a follower?!  Wow.

Not much going on quilt-wise.  Nothing speedy anyway.  I'm still working on the center block of Florabunda.  This is what I've got so far.

I realized on this block that most of my projects go in sort of a 3-legged wave.  The first leg is like the down hill slope of a roller coaster.  I'm excited about the project and am anxious to see how it is going to look.  I choose fabrics and stitch on it as often as I can.  Then, I either get bored or stuck and I'm on the up hill climb on that roller coaster.  I either know how it is going to turn out, or I can't imagine how it will go, and I drag my feet and find other things to do or excuses not to do this.  This is the phase when lots of projects turn into UFOs.  I've managed to power through that phase on this particular block and am now onto the coasting into home stage.  I've pretty much decided on how everything will look and am looking forward to the next ride - that is, I'm looking forward to getting all 13 blocks together with sashing and seeing this come together as a quilt rather than a set of blocks.   This picture was taken a few days ago and I have all the petals of the center pink flower sewed on and all but one of the missing 6 leaves done.  I'm guessing it will be done in a week or so.  Then maybe I'll have more exciting things to blog about.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Life is Moving Fast

I don't remember the last time I posted a blog.  I suppose I could go and look, but it doesn't really matter.  Life has been busy.  In the last 2 months, our daughter graduated from college and we attended both ceremonies and went to two of her gallery shows.  She had knee surgery, we celebrated our 31st anniversary with an overnight trip to the cape and another wonderful lobster roll, celebrated Mother's day, Father's day, my husband's birthday, my daughter's birthday, moved daughter into an apartment, kept a business running and are winding down on our office remodel.  Quilting has sort of taken a back seat to the rest of life, although I have been trying to do a little stitching in the evenings for the past week or so.  We're on a push to get the office/basement updates completed before the 16th because we're having a party that day and relatives staying in the house.  Right now, the spare room/sewing room/guest room looks like an episode of Hoarders.  That is where everything from the basement and office went (well, all the small stuff) while we did the remodel.  As of today, we have new walls, new carpet, new ceiling, new lights and outlets, painted walls and stained woodwork, and new desks.  We're waiting on the delivery of some cabinetry and plugs for telephone and computer that should both arrive this week.  In the mean time, I'm struggling to try to get the house back to what used to be normal.

Having our office in the kitchen makes everything cramped, but I have a terrific view.  We have two bay windows meeting in the corner of the kitchen which gives me a wonderful view of the back yard and my cherry tree.  The birds are out in force and I've really enjoying watching all the babies being fed and taught to look for food by parents.  I've also seen more new birds this year than I have seen lately.  New to me this year are red starts, orchard oriels and red breasted nuthatches.  Today I saw a lot of a new cardinal family and seemingly dozens of titmouse.  I made sure that I picked cherries yesterday because we are getting lots of birds, squirrels and chipmunks visiting that tree for juicy treats.  I get most annoyed at the robins because they eat half a cherry and move on to the next.  (I'm sounding like a crazy bird lady!).

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, May 27, 2011

More Florabunda Block Pictures

This is a shot at the quilting retreat with all the Florabunda blocks together.  Block 12 wasn't quite complete at that time.  I've decided to change two of the blocks.  I don't like the colors of the leaves in either, and one block doesn't have any pink in it so I'm changing the color of the flower centers.  Otherwise, I'm very pleased with how they look together.

After those two blocks are finished, I can start with the 24" center block.  I think I have an idea of the flower colors, but no idea for the color of the basket.  I guess I'll have to play for a bit.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Florabunda Block 12 Completed

I've been doing a little stitching nearly every evening, but finally sat down to finish the last of the 12" Florabunda blocks last night. 

Next is the 24" center block.  I'm excited to see it all come together!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Quilting Retreat

I went on my second quilting retreat this past weekend.  This was 48 hours of quilting, eating, sleeping and chatting.  Well, I did take a break at one point and took a walk to stretch my legs and enjoy the glorious New England spring weather, but really the rest of it was quilting, sleeping and eating in that order of the time I took.

The two things I like best about a quilting retreat is that I get a huge block of time to indulge myself in my favorite hobby, and a lot of space in which to spread out.  At home, it's a few minutes here and there or an afternoon if I'm lucky.  And right now, my sewing room is doubling as a storage area for most of the stuff that was stored in the basement while we remodel that.  So, it's not really usable for large projects. 

I went on the weekend with two quilt tops, and a few smaller projects in mind to work on.  My goal was to get both tops basted, one top quilted and make a  cover for my new Kindle.  I got that all accomplished and a little more.  I made the back, ironed, basted and machine quilted a UFO that was originally just a scrap project to keep me busy.  Then I was going to complete the top and donate it to a raffle for my troop.  But that never came to be, so I decided the quilt would be a Christmas gift for my sister.  That is not complete with the exception of a label and hand stitching the binding down.

The second project was to make the backing for and baste the maple leaf quilt top.  I had made 140-ish 4 1/2" maple leaf blocks by hand because I was looking for a hand work project to work on.  In addition, there are about 10 9" maple leaf blocks that I got as part of a box exchange project with my guild.  This project will be machine quilted and as of now, has no specific home.  But, I'm thinking I should be giving more of my quilts away, so this one will go to another relative.  I just don't know who yet.

The third project I did was a little, scrappy sleeve for my kindle.  My "table-mate" was making a lap sized quilt of bright colors and a white fabric with black swirls on it.  The method she used for the blocks made a lot of good sized scraps left over.  So, I scooped some of them up and put them together in a random fashion to make this sleeve.  It probably took me all Saturday morning to make, but it's bright and cheery and will protect my Kindle which is all the criteria I wanted for the item.

I found that Sunday morning is a perfect time for small, mindless sewing projects.  Sunday morning before lunch is a great time to gather up what I've worked on and just putter with little things.  I took some cut out applique flowers to make pot holders and sewed them to a background.  I've made a few of these before, but they aren't very heat resistant.  I have some heat resistant batting at home, so these three tiny projects will be finished up later.

Oh, and I also did some prep work for the last of my Florabunda applique blocks.  I don't enjoy using the iron, but being surrounded by other quilters makes it tolerable.  So now I just have the stitching to do on that block and it will be done.

The worst part of a weekend quilting retreat is that it ends.  I was tired because I don't sleep well in a strange place without Wayne, and I had a room mate that I didn't really know well and I didn't want to annoy her, so I was very self-conscience of  what I was doing.  So, coming home to sleep in my own bed is the good balance to coming home to real life and work.

I'll post pictures soon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Finding Time to Quilt

I took part in a challenge posted by my on-line applique group last week.  The challenge was to spend at least 15 minutes every day doing some stitching.  That is not a lot of time.  Mostly it was a reminder to take time for yourself every day doing the things you love to do.  Considering that my current hand projet is a set of applique blocks, I almost always have something sitting by my chair to pick up and sew in the evening while relaxing and watching TV.

Yes, I did spend at least 15 minutes for every day for those 7 days doing some sort of stitching, preparing, choosing fabrics, etc.  But, it got me thinking...  I have no projects with deadlines.  I am doing these applique blocks because I thought the patterns were beautiful and wanted a portable stitching project.  There were some days that I picked up needle and thread because I had this challenge hanging over my head and I felt guilty NOT stitching.  And, I do admit that I rarely just spent 15 minutes.  Once I got going, I typically sewed for at least 30 minutes.  And, a few days I took a stitch or two and put the block down only to pick it up again and repeat this because I hadn't gotten to my 15 minues. 

So, why am I doing this?  I do this for enjoyment.  I do this because I like making things.  I enjoy being able to step back and admire something I created and I enjoy sharing them with other people.  I've never really been a selfless person who never takes time for myself.  So, why force myslef to do something on a hobby if forcing makes it seem like a chore?

I guess I have mixed feelings about this challenge.  It did focus my attention on getting the 11th block of this series done.  I had been feeling less than enthusiastic about the project and it may have gotten put away onto the pile of UFOs.  So, this challenge did get me over that hump, but I did resent HAVING to sew.  Perhaps I need a different spin on this of not necessarily having to do something every day, but having to finish a project before jumping off to the next.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Florabunda 11 finished

I finished block 11 of the Florabunda series two nights ago and started on block 12.  The last 12" block has close to 100 pieces to applique on.  When I think about it that way, I am intimidated and don't want to start.  But, thinking that it has 16 flowers seems more manageable.  I guess I am growing weary of this project.  Not that I don't love it.  But I enjoy the stitching so much more than preparing the applique, picking out colors and figuring out how to do the block - I am a process person.

Oh well, I'll get some pictures up this weekend.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nine Patch Completed

Yes, I completed the nine patch quilt that was started in 1993 as an internet 9-patch swap.  This was in the day before stricter post office rules went into effect and you could put a 6" 9-patch block into a baggie and stuff it into an envelope with a regular stamp and send it on its way.  They were easy to make and fun to get "squishies" in the mail with beatiful patches made from fabric that you may not have been able to buy in your area of the country. 

I think there are 143 blocks in this quilt just set simply with 2" sashing.  Once I set the top together, I put it aside for quite some time because the horizontal sashing was puckered.  I made the mistake of cutting those strips mathematically rather than using a real measurement. That is, I figured that the blocks are each 6" with 2" sashing and figured out what the size SHOULD be rather than what it was ACTUALLY.  So, I had to stretch the sashing and gather some of the blocks and the top looked auful.  I really did not want to rip the whole quilt apart and resew it.  Especially since I didn't have enough of the sashing fabric to recut each of those sashings.  So, I put it aside.

Eventually, I pulled it out and ironed the beast flat and it looked just fine.  Also, I think time magnified the puckering in my mind.  When I took it out of the closet to iron, it really wasn't as bad as I had remembered.  A good lesson to remember. 

Now it's quilted, labeled, bound and complete!  And it is sitting on the huge pile accumulating in my sewing room awaiting the basement remodel to finish and the guest room to be reassembled so I can put it on that bed.  I can be patient when I want to be.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I have finished that 9-patch UFO!  I think I finished sewing the binding on the 16th.  I'm continuing to work on the Florabunda blocks.  I probably have 24-30 petals to sew onto block 11 and all 8 centers before I can call that one done.  I should have a photo of the 9-patch in a few days.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More quilting this weekend.  I quilted with some friends on Saturday.  I don't particularly like making bindings for quilts, so I figured this was a good opportunity to spend some pleasant time with friends doing an unpleasant task.  I trimmed the 9-patch quilt before I went and took the rest of the supplies to do the binding there.  I made the continuous, bias binding and sewed it onto the quilt there by machine and started hand sewing the binding to the back of the quilt.  I also made a label and got that attached before machine sewing the binding.  Labels are another piece that I don't really like to do, but I do like the preprinted labels that I got as part of the UFO auction from my guild last fall.  I may take some muslin and pigma pens and make up my own labels to have on hand when these run out.  I've gotten over half the binding sewn down so far and then have to look over the quilt and snip off all the loose ends of thread from machine sewing.  I'm anticipating it to be completed by the end of the week.  Yahoo!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Just an update on the progress I've made... I believe I got to sew down one and a half petals (of 44) last night before my daughter came home for a visit. 

Here's another attempt at photos.

I think I've got this upload problem figured out.

And another...
I do need to do a little fix on this one before I'm really happy with it.

And another.
And another.

And the last one completed.  Two more 12" blocks and one 24" center block to go.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More Applique Progress

I got one whole leaf sewn onto Florabunda block #11 last night.  I thought I'd try to post some more pictures of the ones I've completed.

This is one of my favorites.

OK, my fussy computer is only allowing one picture tonight, so I'll try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Applique Progress

I've completed 10 of the 13 Florabunda blocks now.  There are a few tweaks that I need to make to two of them, but I'm really happy with what I've done so far.

This one I want to add replace the pale yellow center with pink.  This is the only block in the series that I didn't have any pink in.

 And for some reason I can't upload any more pictures tonight.  So, the two listed so far will be all for now.  You can take a look at Erin Russek's blog for more of her beautiful patterns.

Monday, February 28, 2011

More quilty progress this weekend.  I completed the third section of quilting on the nine-patch quilt.  It's done with free motion machine quilting in a Baptist fan pattern.  I created a template which was a good idea for this.  I don't think I could have done this without markings; especially around the edges of the section in the center of the quilt where the pattern only covered a portion of the block.  I thought I might be able to do the quilting on these curves using a straight stitch, but I would have had to twist the whole quilt around too much.  Free motion was easier to move around.

I'm also nearly done with the applique on Florabunda block 10.  I have 4 more leaves, 6 flower centers and the double center of the patch to complete.  I'm looking forard to getting this top together, but I'll be sad when it's done because I have really enjoyed working on these blocks.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A little bit of light, Holywood style snow today (you know, the kind that has big, fluffy flakes that don't really look real).  But it was less than an inch and melted off the driveway before noon.  I do love my brick walkway, but the snow rarely just melts off of it.

Got a bit more quilting done this weekend.  Spent Saturday afternoon with my applique group and got all of those pesky stems sewn on.  Spent Saturday evening basting all those petals (60 of them) and the centers (12) to get ready for ironing.  Spent over an hour starching and ironing 8 leaves, 12 centers and 60 petals.  Now they're complete and I get to do the fun part - sewing them down.  Always a relaxing thing to do in front of a roaring fire watching a movie.  And that's just what I did last night.

Friday, February 18, 2011

With the temp nearly 60 today, I went out for a walk through the neighborhood.  It's funny how warm 60 feels when there's still two feet of snow on the ground.  But I did see a robin hopping on the snow and some actually bare patches of grass.  I know we still have cold weather ahead of us, but this is the promise of spring that can help us over that.

I worked on Florabunda 10 again and have the stems for a second flower completed, all the leaves, petals and flower centers cut out.  The last 3 will have to be starched and ironed.  And the petals and centers will need basting before ironing to make them.  As much as I hate to admit it, they will look better using that method rather than just needle turn.  I've got a gathering of quilting ladies tomorrow afternoon, so I'll probably do the rest of the stems and all the basting there.  At least it won't be so boring if I have company to sew with.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I've been working on block 10 of the Florabunda pattern published by Erin Russek (check our her blog here  I've gotten 3 of the 12 stems appliqued down and am having a mental block that I just need to work through.  Stems just aren't fun to sew down.  They should be uniform in witdh and the methods used to achieve this are the parts of applique that I dislike.  The thing I really like about applique work is that it need not be exacting. Flower petals aren't necessarily all the exact same size, shape and color.  Actually, varying the size, shape and color slightly makes the whole piece more interesting.  But, stems are generally more uniform, which means they would be better if prepared by sewg and ironing before sitting down to sew.  And, I just don't find that part of the process relaxing and I am doing this project as evening relaxation.  So, I need to make the time to do the prep work so I can take the time to do the relaxing part.  It's all just part of the process.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

OK, so here it is.  A brand new Blog.  Sort of like starting a brand new journal with pristine white pages, no marks, no doodles, no ideas. 

I spent about an hour today working on the machine quilting for my 9-patch quilt.  All the blocks are from internet exchanges that I particated in between 1993 and 1994.  I think therea re 132 blocks in the quilt.  This is what my quilting station looks like at the moment.

My space is rather cramped, but I can manage a full sized quilt like this with little problem.  Right now I am just doing straight stitching so I don't have to worry much about spreading the quilt out. 

To make the quilt more interesting, and to make the quilting more interesting for me, I've divided the quilt into quadrants and am quilting each quadrant differently. This first section is getting all stitch in the ditch in the blocks and sashing.  I have about one more hour of work until I complete that.  Another section will also get straight stitching, but something more interesting.  A third section will have some sort of curved pattern in each block and the last will have an over-all corved design that covers the entire section.  I'm planning to have this complete by the end of February. 

I find that I can only sit at the sewing machine for an hour at a time because I hunch up my shoulders and get a stiff back.  I have to constantly remind myself to relax and enjoy. 

Time to relax with some hand work.