Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

It's the morning of Christmas Eve and I'm spending the day just puttering and relaxing.  I made cookie dough yesterday for peanut butter blossoms (peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's kiss on top) and sugar cookies.  I baked some of the peanut butter cookies, but the dough was too soft and the cookies expanded too much.  So both dough batches went into the fridge overnight.

Apparently this poor guy got into a nasty fight.

Now I'm back down to 3 projects in progress.  I finished the wedding quilt for John and Regina and presented it to them Saturday night.  

They were both excited by the gift.  It seems, though, that they were expecting something much smaller.  Regina commented that this would not fit on a wall.  I told them it was theirs to do with as they like.  I've never had a quilt recipient look over a quilt as closely as they did.  It made me a little nervous.

I guess I'm out of practice in machine quilting because this quilt gave me all kinds of problems on the  free motion quilting - needles breaking, thread breaking, thread bunching up.  I have one large quilt that I will machine quilt in the coming year, so I guess I will get more practice there.  Perhaps I need to plan a smaller quilt to do free motion quilting on before tackling a larger quilt so I can get practiced up.

I also finished the socks for DD for Christmas.

This was a more complicated patter than I usually do, but again, once I was practiced on the stitches, it went OK.  I love the texture and will probably make a pair for me in the future.

I still am working on Scrapitude, the hand piecing for my purse and hand quilting the charity quilt.  So, I guess I'm down to 3 projects.  I won the block of the month block at my guild in December.  I really like he pattern and was hoping to win these.

It will make a really bright and cheery quilt.  I just found out that a family friend is expecting, so I think this will turn into a baby quilt for her.  That is project #4 right now.

Merry Christmas!  I hope this finds you all happy, healthy and enjoying the day.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Did I Say Limiting to Four Projects?

Shortly after my last post, I found myself without any sort of mindless sewing to do.  I've finished the wedding top and am waiting for the backing I ordered to arrive.  I've finished the latest Scrapitude clue and won't get another until January.  I have a few blocks to make to keep up with my guild's block of the month and 9-patch exchange, but they will only take an hour or two to complete both.  I wanted something I could pick up and sew on without much thought.

My only complaint about this quilt is that either the person who marked the quilt has much better eyesight or lighting than I do.  I have to darken all the markings before stitching because I can barely see them.  but, remarking is easier than doing it the first time.

So, My current project list has been increased to 5, and we'll see if I can hold there.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


My quilty life has been pretty productive lately.  This is what I've been working on ...

Wedding Quilt for John and Regina

They were married last year the weekend between Christmas and New Year.  I offered to make them a quilt and asked for a general color scheme and a mattress size.  Since they were 'savoring' opening their gifts, I didn't hear anything from either of them until August.  She wanted something very neutral, leaning towards sage green.  It took me another month or so to get my head around what I wanted to do with these colors (not my normal palate).  Since this photo I've put on three plain borders and ordered a solid backing material. Once that arrives, I'll machine quilt it.  I think I have a good idea for the borders, but not the body of the quilt yet.  I may just go with something geometric.

Socks for DD

My daughter made some suggestion that she may like some hand knit socks at some point.  I've been knitting socks for me, but haven't ventured out to give as gifts because not all people like hand knit socks.  This was a pattern that looked interesting to me, would be a bit of a challenge and came from a book that DD gave me as a gift.  They were turning out OK until I got to 1 row before the heel gusset.  I somehow lost a stitch.  I figured out where the mistake was and carefully ripped back, tried a repair and started back with the pattern.  Then I found there were 3 missing stitches.  I tried to fix it a number of times and eventually frogged the whole thing and started over.  Two rows into the pattern I found that I was missing a stitch somewhere.  I decided to just create a new stitch and be done with it.  I can't find the extra increase in the pattern.  Lesson learned ...

New Summer Purse

This little tea leaf pattern are made from Ardco aluminum patterns that I found at the Vermont Quilt Festival.  I made one flower and thought that was too difficult, so put it away.  I've been wanting a summery purse and have a pattern.  I think I have to make 10 complete flowers and some fill-ins around the edges to make the front and back panels.  One panel in nearly complete and the other has most of it's components done.  This is all hand sewn.  This is what one panel looks like so far:


This is part 3 of the Scrapitude project going on in Sandy's Blog .  I still need to trim the blocks.  I'm enjoying pressing blocks more (it was job I never used to enjoy and skipped) but I still dislike the trimming part.  I know I get better results when things are nicely trimmed and I try to make the process more enjoyable by listening to podcasts.  Perhaps I will tackle that this afternoon.

Well, there they are - two machine projects and two hand projects.  I've got a bunch more things lined up to do, but I am limiting myself to these four projects at the moment. When one finishes I will pick up the next thing that strikes my fancy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Scrapitude Part 2

I had been anxiously awaiting the next part of the scrapitude instructions and completed it quickly.  

It's not terribly exciting to look at the pieces so far.  I think I have a lot of red and blue in this quilt.  I'm hoping that everything just blends once all the pieces are put together into a top.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


A brief posting to show off what I've been doing lately.

The first is a quilt my sister asked me to make for her first grandchild.  My niece's pet name for her husband is monkey, so I ran with that - monkey wrench block and the middle monkey is holding a monkey wrench. This came together quickly because the baby was a surprise.  Imagine getting a phone call (nearly a year after applying for adoption) that a baby is being born and it is yours if you say yes.  So, the have a brand new son with about 12 hours notice.  He is adorable!

The next is my progress on Scraptitude.  Sandy from "Quilting for the Rest of Us" blog and podcast is sharing a scrap mystery quilt from one of her guild-mates.  I was planning to do something my my ever-growing scrap bag when I saw her blog post and decided a planned project would probably be better than just cutting everything up into 2" squares, which was my original plan.  I've gotten everything cut up and the first set of 4-patches sewn together.  I'm anxiously awaiting step 2 now which is not due for another 2 weeks or so.

I think the project is planned to make a queen-sized quilt.  I'm amazed that all the cut fabrics for a queen-sized top will fit into a single zip-lok bag.

Otherwise, I'm still knitting socks.  This pair will be for my Mother-in-law for Christmas.  My sock enthusiasm is slowing, however.   I started these socks in August and expected them to be done by now.  I like the yarn, the color and the pattern.  I find I'm having to push myself to pick them up to work on them, though.

Lots of other projects occupy my thoughts, but nothing concrete enough to report on yet.  I'm trying to get my head around a sage green, mostly neutral quilt for some friends.  I'm itching to get going on it, but I haven't figured out what pattern I want to do.  I just know I want a pieced project that flows as an over-all design (rather than individual blocks and sashing, for example).  I've been looking over my clippings and quilt books but nothing has really excited me yet.  But, the search is part of the fun.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Plenty of Quilting UFO, But No Knitting UFOs

I have realized the past few months that while I may pick up and put down quilting projects on a whim, that I just can't do that with knitting.  In knitting I am monogamous, but promiscuous when it comes to quilting projects.

I started knitting the red wrap and got distracted on Ravelry with a sock knit-along.  I started a new pair of socks and would generally alternate evenings of knitting on the socks with evenings of knitting on the wrap.  I found that I just couldn't do it.  It made both projects suffer because I just couldn't get into a rhythm of the pattern on either.  I abandoned the wrap while I finished the socks.  Once the socks were done, I've happily picked up the wrap again and am working on completing that.

But I don't do that with quilting.  I usually have two or more projects on which I am 'actively' working, along with a variety of completed tops waiting their turn to be quilted, and other UFOs that are hiding the the closet hoping I will find a glimmer of excitement in them to bring them back into the light and the rotation of 'active' projects.

On reading the forums on Ravelry, I find it hard to imagine why anybody would have knitting UFOs.  Or a knitting stash, for that matter.  (OK, I do have enough yarn to make another 10 pairs of socks, but I know what they are all going to be.  I never buy yarn just because I love it.  Not yet, anyway.)  I KNOW this is entirely hypocritical.  I have absolutely no problem with buying some fabric just because I like it, thinking it will make its way into a project some day.  I have no problem letting a quilt top 'rest' for a while before I take the time to quilt it.  I have no problem putting a project aside because I have lost inspiration, or have no clue or are too afraid to attempt the next step.  But I just can't imagine buying some quantity of yarn because it speaks to me without having a clue as to how I will use it.

I guess this means that I'm a much more experienced and comfortable quilter than I am knitter.  If I had been knitting for 30 years I would have a clue as to how much of what weight yarn I should buy to make a sweater or an afghan or a baby blanket or some other project.  And most of my knitting projects have been small (socks, mostly). I like that because I can play with new stitches and textures without committing to a large project.  Yet I can still knit something useful and pretty.

So, I'll continue to knit projects serially and jump to wherever inspiration takes me in my quilting world.

(Just a bit of eye candy ... ) Goat Island Lighthouse, Kennebunkport, ME at Cape Porpoise - view from the restaurant where we enjoyed lunch on our anniversary.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Where Do They Go

I spend many of my evenings watching TV with my husband and stitching.  I either do some hand piecing, hand applique, hand quilting, knitting or, occasionally, cross stitch or other embroidery.  I like to keep my hands busy.  It makes me feel (perhaps delusionally) like I'm being productive while being a couch slug.

While hand piecing or doing applique, I use short applique pins.  And I usually use size 11 betweens for quilting.  I do have occasions where I drop one of those short pins while trying to move it to or from the fabric and its storage box.  And, on occasion, while starting the next needle-full of quilting stitches, the needle will launch itself off the thread and land somewhere.  I rarely find these pins and needles.  My question is - Where Do They Go?

I have turned that recliner on its back, upside down, and sideways in the fruitless search for the missing sharp object.  I have run my hands over the arms, the seat, the backs, the surrounding carpet, between the cushions and have never had so much as a prick form the apparently vanished metal sliver.  I have tried sort of bouncing the front of the chair up and down to try to dislodge any missing pins into falling to the floor below.  I've even resorted to a rare earth magnet to try to coax the missing sharp object out of it's hiding place.   ...  All to no avail.

So my question stands - Where Do They Go???

I've pondered this for quite some time and I think this is one of those un-answerable questions like "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" or "Why is it if I eat a pound of fudge that I gain 5 pounds?" .  The answer to all is "We can never know".

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hand Quilting Completed (HAPPY DANCE!!!)

I have completed the hand quilting on my version of the Florabunda quilt.  (Insert here an image of me dancing around the room waving my hands.)  I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  I need to trim it up, make a flange and binding and apply both.  I usually have more hand-work time than I have machine-work time, so I don't know when I will actually get to this part.

So, now that the hand quilting is complete, I've started three or four other projects.  I've been itching to knit, so I started on a wrap using Caron Simply Soft in Autumn Red.  I modified the pattern to make the wrap a bit wider because I think I'm using a yarn that is not as thick as the yarn suggested (but I'm not a terribly experienced knitter, so I'm not entirely sure WHAT I'm doing!).  I had gotten four rounds of cables done and found a few mistakes that I know would have bothered me, so I took it off the needles last night and flattened it out to see if the modifications I made to the pattern worked or not.  On the needles, the end looked wavy, but off the needles it looks like it will lie flat.  So, I ripped it all out and started again.  One of the mistakes was on the very first cable and I thought the stitches I cast on weren't particularly even.  This is how far I got last night.

And, I've got a project I started on the retreat I went on a month ago.  I've gotten all the triangles pieced together and have ironed then and am working on getting them trimmed to size.  Again, I spend less time at my machine than I do hand sewing, so this is somewhat slow going. This is the pattern I will be making with those blocks.  It's from "Scrap Quilts - Fast and Fun" by Patricia Wilens.  Once I get all those blocks trimmed, it will go together fast - if I can spend some time at my sewing machine.

Then I picked up the Tea Leaves pattern again. This is my traveling hand piecing project at the moment.  I made one block a while ago and disliked making it so much I thought it would be an orphan block.  But, I decided I REALLY like the pattern, so I'm working through it and learning new ways to work on the block without hating it. Each leaf is about 3" long and less than an inch wide.  I found that easing the curves together without pinning was making this a little easier, so perhaps this won't be the struggle I thought it might be.  And, I'm putting my new block envelope to good use.

And, because it just makes me happy, here are a few pictures from my quick trip to the beach last week.

It looks like there will have to be some work done to move the sand to make that bench usable before the summer comes.  But, I don't think I'll be swimming on this beach any time soon.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Patriot's Day in Boston

I feel a little strange just ignoring the fact that a senseless act of violence marred my favorite day of the year  in Boston and just going on with my normal blog (as sporadic as it is).  I was there, but far enough away to be out of harm's way.  I was near the hospital district after attending the Red Sox game and saw a line of 20 or so State Police motorcycle officers speeding towards the finish line and a steady line of ambulances traveling back and forth.  The whole feel in Boston was tense and unnerving.  I was also there this past Saturday at the first Red Sox home game since the bombing.  The feeling was still a bit tense, but relieved as the immediate threat was eliminated. The tribute to the victims, and all the professionals, volunteers and bystanders who had a hand in helping was very moving.  And, I will be there next Patriot's Day to watch baseball and runners as they near the finish line.  I will never understand why some think that violence will solve anything, but I will not allow fear to stop me from enjoying all the sights, activities and friendly interactions I normally have in Boston on Patriot's Day.

And, to quote Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Still Quilting, Almost Done

Some days I think I'm truly psychotic.  I have been feeling that the hand quilting on the Florabunda quilt has been taking   F O R E V E R  (said in my best teen sarcastic voice).  I'm nearly finished the quilting on the next-to-last block and was thinking how I am going to miss this when it is done.  How can I feel like I'm going to miss this and wish it was done at the same time?  Craziness.

I went to a quilt retreat two weekends ago and left the hand quilting at home.  I've been itching to do more machine sewing - actually putting together small bits of fabric into larger pieces.  I took along some scraps and sewed triangles that will eventually become a scrappy top.  But, the project I had most fun with was a small machine applique piece.  I saw on a TV sewing program a woman who teaches applique and has her students make an applique 'envelope' to hold pieces in progress without having to fold them.  I thought this was a terrific idea and decided I had to make one.  My first inclination was to make it out of some fruit fabric as the entry into my guild's challenge quilt this year.  But, when I was looking around for a pattern for this 'applique envelope', I found these terrific cat patterns by Val Spiers.  You can see her work and these designs on her blog.  Immediately, I abandoned the fruit idea and decided to make these cats.

The portfolio is a little less than 14' square and will fit nicely into the plastic tote I'm using as my applique design case.  I had to buy the foam core, but everything else is from my stash.

The other thing I accomplished on the retreat was to repair a shirt I had made for my mother-in-law some 10 years ago.  

I did this machine applique with the flowers going over the shoulder.  She gave the shirt back to me probably 2 years ago because she developed thin spots on the inside of the left sleeve.  Apparently she uses that crook of her arm to carry things.  I hesitated to do anything with it for a long time, but found it when I cleaned out the closet and decided it was high time to do this repair.  I opened up the seam on the sleeve, drew these black eyed susans, fused them to the sleeve and did a zig zag around the edges.  Just as I turned the corner on one of the middle petals, the shirt tore again.  So, the lady bug was positioned created and added to the design.

Now it's done and will soon be returned to her.  But, no more repairs - the rest of the shirt is too thin to work on.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Car, New (old) Project

I did finally get a car.  After narrowing my choices down to 3, I test drove those 3 types one day and decided on a Mazda3.  Then it was just deciding on what I thought was a fair price, and what color I wanted.  I decided on Copper Red Mica which is, apparently, not easy to find.  I did find one at a dealer about 90 miles west of here, negotiated the price and drove the car home the day I saw it two weeks ago.  It's still strange to drive, but fun.

In the mean time, I'm still quilting on the Florabunda quilt and have 3 more blocks to do before that is complete.  This is the block I'm working on now.

I also cleaned out my craft closet (a very small space that was crammed with much too much stuff).  My guild was having a UFO auction and I used that as an excuse to clear out some stuff.  I donated some, threw out a whole bunch of junk and organized the rest.  This is what is looks like now.

 It still looks messier than I want.  I guess I should attack those flags and other decorations hanging on the door next.

Oh, and this is my entire stash (excluding the scraps I've got packed to take to a retreat soon and the plaids on the shelf below) on that shelf.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.  There is really not enough of anything that goes together for a quilt, but I'm doing more scrap stuff and appliques lately, so it's probably not bad.  The shelves above and below the fabric have projects  and UFOs sorted into bags.  There are more of them than I remembered, so my plan this year is to finish as many as I can and get them to good homes.

Which brings me to this project.

This is what I'm calling a third generation UFO.  My mother-in-law bought these die-cut hexagons as a project for her mother some years ago.  Laura was my husband's grandmother who passed away 15 years ago.  After her death, my mother-in-law gave me all of her UFOs, including this packet.  I started these blocks a long time ago and they resurfaced when I cleaned out the closet.  I just finished piecing the blocks (by machine) and now I need some fabric for surrounding hexagons.  I'll probably pick up something this week.  I'm not terribly fond of this project, but I think it can look nice when completed.

Oh, and 6 of those UFO projects in my closet belonged to my husband's grandmother.  So, they're not all my fault.  I will take the blame for the other 4 in there, though.

I think I've made quite a bit of progress and have some good plans for what to work on next and for some time after that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More Quilting, Getting Closer to a Car

It feels really boring to just keep saying "I'm doing more hand quilting", but, I'm doing more hand quilting.  I had done at least 30 minutes of quilting every day this month except for Saturday.  We had a gathering at out house and overnight guests.  Between preparations and entertaining guests, I never found the time to sneak away to the quilt hoop.  If I average out the time, I have spent WAY more than 30 minutes a day doing some sort of quilting, but I was disappointed that I missed a day.  And, the way the rest of the month is going, I may miss another day or two.  But, we'll see.

I have finished quilting the 8th block on Florabunda and have 4 more to go.  I love making progress.

I may have found a car.  I found one on-line at a dealer 80 miles away.  I called to see if they would meet my price and they will.  I have an appointment to take it for a test drive this weekend.  We'll see how it goes, but I may have a new car in the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Challenge Gets Me Going

I joined Beth's challenge and have successfully done at least what I promised every day for a week.  I wasn't sure I wanted to join because I have some commitments in February that will make it difficult to quilt.  We had folks over last Saturday night and on Sunday for the Super Bowl.  Since I do most of my quilting in the evening, I wasn't sure I could fit any in, but I managed.  There was also an evening that I was feeling less than cheerful and didn't really feel like picking up a needle and thread, but I remembered that challenge and did.

So far, I've put in about 14 hours and completed another block.  If I can keep this up and complete a block a week, I should have the quilting done by the end of March.  That seems like a doable goal.

I'm north west of Boston and was caught in the blizzard yesterday.  It looks like we got 25" of snow, but it's hard to tell because of all the wind and drifting.

I decided to use the front door this morning because I didn't have a shovel inside and the back door just wasn't accessible.

But, we're all shoveled out now.  I set up my BirdCam to take a picture once a second and DH converted it into a video.  Unfortunately, most of the snowfall took place after dark.  The video is less than a minute long and you can really see the snow building up against the bumper of the car after dawn.  And, it looks like we took no time at all to clear off the driveway.

I have a few more chores to complete today then it's time for more hand quilting.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Drop and Give Me Twenty Challenge

After much thought and flip-flopping on my decision, I'm making the commitment to this challenge.  So...

I, Mair (known more formally as Maryann), a quilter of reasonably sound body and questionably sound mind, do commit, for the month of February, 2013, to spend at least 30 minutes each and every day doing some quilting, piecing, cutting, ironing, or some other activity that will bring me closer to having one or more of my current projects completed.  I am planning to work on completing the hand quilting on my Florabunda quilt (which needs 12 more blocks quilted), adding borders to the S-Charm quilt (which will then complete the top), and preparing the backing and basting the iris quilt.  I may not finish any of these projects, but seeing them get closer to completion will be a huge  accomplishment.

If you want to enter, take a look at Beth Helfter's rules here, and her blog here.  Beth (AKA Quilting Hottie) is a funny, talented quilter and designer who is hosting this challenge for the second year.  Take a look to see what everybody has pledged to complete.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Completed Socks

Fresh off the needles.  I  enjoyed making these.  My knitting experience is limited and the rib stitch for the leg was just complicated enough to keep me interested but not so complicated that I needed to keep checking a chart.  This is only my third pair of socks and I'm still not totally confident in the heel and toe.  I think these socks will be very warm.

The next socks will be another over-all pattern on the leg and top of the foot.  But, it's time to get back to quilting.  This was a good diversion and now I'm itching to get back to hand quilting.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Socks, New Car?

I have decided to give into my restlessness and start a pair of socks. I started them on the 8th and finished the first sock last night and cast on the second.  I figure it was like a craving - if I didn't give in to the urge, it would build and build and I would have spent more time looking at knitting and not gotten anything done on anything else.  At least that's my justification.

I was toying with the idea of delaying the second sock while I did some more quilting, but I want to do the second while the pattern is still fresh in my mind.  Another justification.

The other thing that is now occupying  my thoughts is a new car.  My '97 Taurus turned over 200,000 miles in October and it was my plan to start looking for a new vehicle once I reached that milestone.  The car body is getting rusty and every time I take it to my mechanic he clicks his tongue and says " ... it's awful rusty under there...".  He's assured me it's still safe, but parts are getting fused together and it's getting harder and harder to repair.

This is the most miles I've put onto a single vehicle and, after having owned this for nearly 14 years (I bought it used), I've got to find something else.  The question is, what?  I've narrowed it down to small, 4-door sedan.  I took a trip to the library today to check out Consumer Reports and have a list of 4-6 cars that I need to check out.  I guess I'll go and do some test drives this weekend.  Honestly, the whole process of buying a new car doesn't excite me.  I'm hoping a test drive or two will help.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I'm Getting Restless (a small rant)

I've been quilting on the Florabunda quilt since March and I'm itching to do something else.  I have the center block and all the sashing around the center  complete, and 6 outer blocks and all the sashing around those complete.  I figure I'm 2/3 - 3/4 done with the hand quilting.  The fractions make me feel better - I usually count my quilt progress that way.  But, I'm getting really restless to do something else.  However, I know that if I take my attention off of this to start something new or work on some other project, I will put Florabunda down for quite some time.  (As an aside, I really need to come up with a real name for this quilt.)

That being said, I finished a charity quilt last night.  I picked up the package with a pieced top, batting, backing and cut binding from my guild in August with the idea  that I would practice some free motion quilting.  It got tucked away until the whole ordeal of new carpets on the main floor was complete.  Then I felt guilty for having this for so long (not that the guild minds).  Mostly it was an excuse to do some machine work.  Now that it is complete, I'm remembering how much I enjoy my Pfaff, and that I would love to spend some time working on my treadle machine making something beautiful.

And, I find myself browsing patterns and completed projects on Ravelry.  I've got yarn to make three more pair of socks and I'm dying to do those.

It's not that I'm not enjoying hand quilting.  It's just that I'm at that part of the project (and this happens on most projects) where I can envision what it will look like and it's not happening as quickly as I would like.  We all only have so much leisure time and I have to learn to spend it wisely.

So, I think it's time I stopped looking as pictures of other people's knitting projects and start working on my own.  I will still work on Florabunda, but I will cast on those socks and stop wasting time on the computer.

There, I feel better.