Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Bit Sheepish

Here it is, the tail end of February, and I've FINALLY finished the February blanket for my sheep.

This is the wool BOM (which in this case stands for BLANKET of the month!) project I'm doing with my stitchery friends, and I'm supposed to be leading the group.  I'm not setting a very good example for timeliness, am I?  Of course, one could excuse the late finish by pointing out that it IS, after all, still February, and that would be true, but we'll be getting together on Saturday and I'll be giving everyone wool kits for the March blankets.  I guess I'd better get busy on March's block--yikes!

(By the way, if you didn't see my post about this pattern before, or if you're becoming more interested as you see me show these here, the pattern is by Buttermilk Basin and can be found on their website under the New Basin Arrivals tab--just scroll almost to the bottom of the page.  The pattern includes directions for making the sheep and 12 blankets, one for each month.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bunny Hop

Easter's been showing up around my home the last few days.  I still have some tweeking/embellishing left to do, but the "bones" of the decorations are up and I took a few photos to share.

Just inside the front door is this small catch-all table.

The livingroom:

Another view--the small hanging was made from a vintage image printed onto cloth from Olde America Antiques--love their stuff!

In the entry way from the livingroom to the kitchen and the rest of the house hangs Rabbit Transit.  I want to put something--greenery or something--up at the top along the rod but I don't seem to have anything quite "right."  I guess I'll need to take a little shopping trip . . . .

Between Rabbit Transit and the kitchen . . .

I'm a little conflicted with the shamrock tabletopper--I really want to put my Easter tabletopper on, but shamrocks will do for now.  See the carrots in the hutch?  Remember when I did the tutorial to make those?

More of those carrots there in the rail station clock.  I'm not quite satisfied with this display yet but I'm not sure where I'll go with it.  It just looks a little bare to me.

The Spring! quilt--this one always makes me smile!  I think it was the first pattern I designed and published.  A couple quilters who made it eliminated the tulip stems and used green rickrack instead--what a great idea!

Yep, there are the creepy rabbits.  I didn't realize until now, but Mrs. Rabbit isn't sitting in a very ladylike manner.  I'll need to go adjust her posture.

I made this quilt as a picnic quilt but it works just great as a spring time cover for the Wild Child's bed--can you see Spike sleeping on top of the pillows?  She was ignoring me!  I need to make a couple pillow shams to match the quilt--the border is Lecien fabric and I know I have more.

Seeing these quilts and projects around the house inspired me to list a few patterns, kits, and fabric in my Etsy shop today, and when I was going through my stock, it occurred to me it might be a good time for a little giveaway.  Would you like to win a kit containing all the wool and embellishments needed to make a little rabbit pillow?

Leave me a comment telling me you want me to enter your name.  I'll pick a winner Thursday night to be announced on Friday's blog post.  Good luck!  (If you don't trust your luck and want a sure thing, I have a couple more kits listed in my Etsy shop--just click the link in my sidebar.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Sometimes I wonder whether I could become agoraphobic.  It's not that I have a fear of going out in public but simply that it's very easy for me to stay home for days on end.  And left to my own hermit-like devices for a long period of time, would I eventually start to feel uneasy when I DID venture out?  Well, I don't suppose I'll ever know since I'm sure I'll be forced to leave the house to go to work into the foreseeable future, but can you believe I came home from work Friday night and I still haven't gone out again since except to walk down to the mailbox a couple times?

I added the borders to the house quilt today--and, by the way, I found fabric I liked in my stash, so I didn't need to go out to the quilt shop.  I used a jumbo blue rick rack between the sashing and outer border.

I was thinking I might pin it for quilting tomorrow, but maybe not.  I already have another quilt pinned and if I decide to test my arm out on a quilting project, I suppose I can try that one.  My arm seems a little better today, I think, but it might also be that I just didn't use it as much.

I've almost gotten all the things done around the house that I wanted to do while I was off work.  I just have a couple things left to tackle tomorrow.  Most of my Easter things are out, and I'll get a couple photos to share in the next few days.  Do you remember the creepy bunnies?  I unpacked them this year and they're sitting on the bench in the Wild Child's former bedroom.  Oddly enough, when I came out of the Sweat Shop tonight and checked on our two cats, both of them were sleeping in the same room with them; one on the bed and one on the floor by the bench.  I guess the cats don't think the bunny pair are creepy at all!

I'll be meeting a couple friends late in the day tomorrow, so I suppose I'll finally have to leave the house.  I guess it had to happen someday!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mind Over Matter . . .

My arm was still aching something fierce today--probably worse today since I'd done some housecleaning yesterday--but how long can a person sit around and do nothing?  Especially when that person is in the middle of a little four-day holiday?  Did I tell you I took Monday and Tuesday off work, by the way?  Yes, I took a couple days off to enjoy a little "me time" while Hubby's away, but instead it's turned into "oh, my aching arm time."  Figures, eh?  I refuse to let it defeat me though.

So, I finished the fourth and final house.  Happily I found rotary cutting didn't seem to bother my arm  much, if at all--it's only in some positions, doing some things that it really hurts.  Here's today's block:

And here are all four together:

I've surveyed my stash, and I'm not sure I have what I'd like for sashing and borders; I'll look again in the morning, but I might need to make a run to a local quilt shop to see if I can find something I like better than what I have.

Besides making this last block, I spent a considerable amount of time working around the house at taking down the last of the winter and Valentine's decorations and getting out the spring quilts and wallhangings.  There's still a lot more to do, but I think I've made some good progress.  And I still have two more days before I have to go back to work--wooo-hoooo!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Third House

I finished the third house--

But I've been making slow progress.  It seems I've pinched a nerve in my shoulder or neck or strained something, because my upper arm and shoulder have been bothering me for the past couple days and so I haven't done very much sewing.  Still, here are the three houses so far--

I pieced these first three sometime ago, but I'll need to make the fourth one from scratch--and I'll probably work on it tomorrow.  In the meantime, I've been doing a little reading and puttering around the house a bit.  It's time to take down the Valentine's Day decorations and start thinking about Easter.  I haven't gotten very far on that yet, but I did a little house cleaning, and that's the first step!

I stopped at the grocery store the other night to get a couple things, and while I was there, I thought, "What do I like to eat that Hubby doesn't like?"  Because, of course, he's gone and I just have myself to please.  I ended up making a pot of hamhock and bean soup today--yum!  Of course, I'll probably get tired of it in a couple days, but having it on hand will make food preparation simple for now.

Time to take a hot bath and some Tylenol PM and hope my arm feels better tomorrow.  After all, I've got a lot of sewing to do!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Happy Birthday, George!

As I suspected, I don't have a finished house block to show you tonight, so we'll celebrate George Washington's birthday instead--it's much tastier anyway.

Did you know that February 22nd is George's birthday?  I know--we celebrated it last Monday, but the 22nd is the REAL day; besides that, I see no reason why we shouldn't celebrate for a week at least.  After all, he WAS the first president.  And what better way is there to celebrate a birthday than by having cake?

Of course you know the story about George and the cherry tree, so it will not come as a surprise that George's cake has cherries in it.  After all, once the tree came down, somebody had to eat those cherries!

I baked my cake in a glass pan, so I reduced the heat by 25 degrees, but you can use a metal pan instead.  With a metal pan, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 for glass) and grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan (about 2" deep).

In a bowl, combine a commercial chocolate cake mix, three eggs, and a can of cherry pie filling--just use a large spoon to stir the ingredients together until the batter is evenly moist.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it to the edges; bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Can you see the cherry peeking out of the cut side?

As I was preparing the cake, it occurred to me that it's probably a lot lower in fat than if it had been prepared according to the directions on the cake mix box, because the pie filling takes the place of the vegetable oil (and water).  I would imagine if you don't care for cherries, apple pie filling would work too, but whatever you do, make sure you use pie filling and not just canned fruit--it would probably be too runny and not sweet enough.

The recipe I have recommends topping the cake with whipped cream, but since I didn't have any, I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream to mine; but it's also nice just eaten plain as a snack cake.  Yum!

So, chocolate cherry cake for George's birthday--it's downright patriotic!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dancing Naked and Eating Popcorn for Dinner

Some of you have taken classes from Harriet Hargrave--you told me so in response to yesterday's post.  And I think the universal feeling is that she takes herself and her quilting very, very seriously and expects everyone else to do the same.  That's the impression I got from her too.  And while I don't want to approach quilting in exactly that manner for myself, I think there's some good to be gotten from what she has to teach.  Oh, and I think at least one of you was hoping for a photo, so I'll post the one half-way decent but still blurry photo I caught--

And I have to tell you that when I first saw her, I thought, "My goodness, but she doesn't look any older than she did when she was here ten years ago!"  You know what?  I think I'm catching up to her in age!

Since I was at the guild meeting last night, I didn't get very far on my second house block, but I did manage to finish it tonight finally:

And here's how the neighborhood looks so far:

(That hairy stuff between them is just my design wall--there will be sashing between the blocks eventually and it will look much nicer.)  I'm truly not sure I can get the third one done tomorrow because there's a lot I need to do on it, but I'll see what I can do.

So what's the title of this post all about?  I bet at least a couple of you are wondering!  Well, Hubby left this morning for his annual visit to his friend in Florida and I'm on my own.  Free at last!  Okay, I know there are some of you who have lost a spouse or who are alone and would love to have a husband around, so you have trouble understanding my excitement.  And really, if you'd just send me your address, I'd be happy to send Hubby to you for a couple weeks.  The only requirement is that you have a recliner and a TV remote.  And maybe a blanket or quilt to throw over him and a pillow.  But mostly I'm happy enough to have him here.  Still, sometimes it's just nice to not have to answer to anyone or think about anyone else's comfort or well-being, right?  So if I want to have popcorn for dinner and do nothing but watch TV, since I'm on my own for the next week or so, no one will mind.  After 30-something years of marriage, that's a real treat!  And I just want you to know that if I DO dance naked while Hubby's gone, I WILL put some clothes on before I write my daily blog post, because I wouldn't want to weird you out too much.

What's your favorite indulgence when you don't have to think of anyone but yourself?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hello Harriet!

Tonight one of our local guilds had Harriet Hargrave as a speaker, so of course I attended along with a couple of my friends.  Have you heard her give a presentation or attended a class?  I tried to take a couple photos, but I was so far back in the audience that my shots turned out pretty blurry.

I think we all get different things out of quilting, and our approach to this wonderful hobby varies.  Harriet is the kind of person who wants to do well whatever she takes on.  Obviously she strives toward perfection and encourages all of us to do the same.  I buy that--I think my view on quilting is somewhat similar, although I don't think I am quite as serious a quilter as she is.  Still, I take pride in my work, and "good enough" often isn't--but that's me.

I have friends and acquaintances who are happy just making something fast and pretty for their kitchen table or to put on their couch.  The fact that they made something by hand is satisfaction enough.  Just the act of putting hands to fabric is therapy--whether the finished product is precise and the points aren't cut off doesn't really matter.  That's not the goal they strive toward.  And that's okay, I think; I'm not sure Harriet would agree, but that's okay too.  We need people like Harriet who excel at what they do to lead the rest of us who want to be better.

I would love to live near her shop in Colorado and take a machine quilting class from her.  At least I think I would.  It sounds like hard work, but in the end, my quilting skills would be so much better!

Harriet believes that what we do when we piece and quilt--or even when we just think about quilting--is all practice that helps us improve.  I completely agree.  Over the years, the precision of my cutting and stitching has gotten better and better.  I "practice" every day.  I need to actually QUILT more though--in the last year, my quilt tops have piled up but I haven't finished as many; I need to change that.  And I need to do more "serious quilting"--by that, I mean I need to actually plan out my quilting and mark my quilt ahead of time and not just wing it as I go.  I guess I'm saying I need to put a little more thought into it and be more mindful--a term Harriet mentioned--of what I'm doing.

Tonight Harriet talked about the series of six Quilter's Academy books she's writing with her daughter.  They are designed to offer tutorials/lessons similar to the progression of a course of college study, from freshman to Ph.D.  The first four books, from freshman to senior year, are available through Amazon and the fifth will be out soon.  I'm thinking about getting them for my Kindle; since they are "study books" rather than pattern books, I think they might be fine on the Kindle.

I already own two of Harriet's earlier books:  From Fiber to Fabric:  The Essential Guide to Quiltmaking Textiles, and Heirloom Machine Quilting.  I bought the first one when she appeared at our guild about ten years ago, I think; and Amazon tells me I purchased the Heirloom Machine Quilting book on February 3, 2006--funny how it remembers much better than I do.  I brought that book with me tonight and Harriet autographed it for me.  Both books belong in any quilter's reference library, if the quilter wants to learn more about the details of quilting and textiles.

I really enjoyed the evening quite a bit. If you haven't had a chance to attend a Harriet Hargrave lecture yet, keep a watch for the next time she appears in your area.  And check out her books--they are full of valuable information.  Click HERE for a link to her Amazon page.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Home Again

Did you by any chance follow the other Block of the Month project that Anne over at Cottons 'n Wool organized (she's the one who cheered us along with Comfort and Joy)?  It was a quilt project called Country Homecoming from the Primitive Gatherings book.  If you click HERE you can jump over to Anne's blog to see a couple lovely samples of the completed quilt as well as the book the pattern was from.

Back then, when the group got started, I was very tempted to play along too, but at the time--and I think it was probably around early spring last year when I was tired of dark fabrics and dark days--I thought I might like to make some bright pastel houses instead.  So I made a couple and then I set them aside, deciding the brighter houses just weren't holding my attention, and I'm sure I flitted off to some other project.

NOW I want to make the primitive, homespun version of the Country Homecoming quilt because I love the way Anne's quilt and the quilts made by others in the group turned out, and I have a nice little stack of homespun fat quarters assembled and set aside.  But before I start yet another project, I thought I should revisit those poor orphan houses and do something with them.

I had three houses started; I thought that if I made a fourth, I might just end up with a not-too-time-consuming spring wallhanging.  I realized, though, that although I had prepped three houses, I hadn't done the hand applique needed to attach doors and windows.  So that's the project I settled on today--and I got the first house move-in ready.

My goal is to finish these first three houses this week and maybe the fourth--or at least get the fourth started and done next weekend.  I'll show them to you as I complete each one.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Been There, Done That . . .

About now, I'm becoming a bit weary of shamrocks, but I'll show you the last two shamrock projects I completed today:

A little wallhanging for the bathroom (yes, I think it's time to put the snowmen and red bath towels away, and I have a plan for that) . . .

And another little 12-1/2" wallhanging/tabletopper.  Now that I have this small wallhanging done and the one I did yesterday, I'll have to ask the Wild Child to pick her favorite, and then I'll put the other one away for yet another little Christmas gift for next year.

I've gathered up the leftover shamrock-making scraps (I swear no matter how many scraps I use, there always seem to be more!) and tucked them into the Thimbleberries scrap bin.  Now it's time to move onto something else.

Although Monday is a holiday, I don't expect I'll spend very much time in the Sweat Shop as we will be attending a memorial service for Hubby's aunt and spending some time with family.  But I'm sure I'll get in there at some point and figure out which unfinished project I should tackle next.  And, of course, I'll be sure to tell you what I'm up to.  "See" you then!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Now I'M Feeling Lucky

Have you made any of my shamrock blocks yet?  I have, of course--and I've made more!  Remember the project I was working on when we last "talked"?  Here it is, all grown up!

Now it measures just a little over 12" square, so it's a good size for the Wild Child's wire table stand--just as soon as I add a hanging sleeve to the back.  I ended up cutting border fabric at 2" and then trimmed the whole thing down just a bit after I'd quilted it.

I also made myself a mug mat for my desk at work--Since this is the third one I've made this year, I'm beginning to see a trend; I just might keep this up all year!  For this one, I added some small half square triangle "scraps" left over from making the Thimbleberries block the other day.  And I just happened to have some leftover binding that matched the shamrock.

The real reason I feel lucky, though, isn't because I've been playing with shamrocks.  The reason I feel lucky is because I spent the day Saturday at my friend Imelda's house with four of my friends, sewing all day long, except when we took a break to go out for a late lunch of Chinese food.

Then I came home and sewed some more.  Besides the little wallhanging and mug mat, I've made eight shamrock coasters; four were given to my friends on Saturday afternoon.  AND I have the pieces cut to make several more shamrock blocks, so I'll probably play with shamrocks again tomorrow.

Only one more month until St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Are You Feeling Lucky? Well, Are You?!

Sadly, no four-leaf clovers in this bunch to signify good luck, but maybe you'll consider yourself fortunate anyway if you make yourself a little St. Patrick's Day shamrock project.  This post will be partly reprinted from my St. Patrick's Day Quilt Project tutorial--the original larger version can be found by clicking the link in the side bar--but the sizes are adjusted in this post to produce a 10" little hanging or square--add a couple borders and it will be the perfect size to hang in one of those wire table stands.

Here's what my little "block" looks like so far--I'm planning to add borders but I ran out of time tonight:

So, are you ready to get started?

We'll start with our green and background fabrics. For my background, I'm using a cream/neutral, so for purposes of these directions, I'll refer to it as neutral, but you may chose to use a different color. Just make sure you have enough contrast between the green and the background color.

For this step, you'll need to cut:


Twelve (12) 2-1/2" squares
Four (4) 1" x 4" strips


Forty (40) 1" squares
Four (4) 2-1/2" squares

For sashing--
Two (2) 1" x 4-1/2" strips
Three (3) 1" x 9" strips
Two (2) 1" x 10" strips
We'll start with constructing the stem pieces first. You'll make four of these blocks.

Cut the four neutral 2-1/2" squares on one diagonal, so each square will be divided into two triangles.

On the bias edge of four of the triangles, sew a green strip, centering the triangle on the length of the strip (the strip will extend about 1/4" above and below the triangle).

Press the seam allowance to the green strip. You should have four pieces that look like the photo above.

Add the remaining triangle pieces to the other side of the green strip and press, again pressing the seam allowance to the green. Using your ruler and rotary cutter, square up the blocks to 2-1/2" and trim away excess from stems.

Using a pencil, draw a diagonal line on four of the 1" squares. Sew one square to one end of each of your stem blocks.

Trim excess (you may chose to only trim the center layer or both center and bottom layers). Press into place (see blocks above the center example).

In the same way you added the square to the bottom of the stem block, add squares to three of the four corners of each of the 2-1/2" green squares. Trim and press into place.

Lay out three "leaf" blocks and a stem block as shown. These will be sewn together four-patch fashion and pressed.

Make four shamrock blocks. At this stage, each block will measure 4-1/2".
Here's what mine looked like before I added the sashing--you can see I chose to make this batch with scrappy neutral backgrounds:

Finally, add sashing strips to join the blocks--the two 4-1/2" strips between each pair of blocks and one of the 9" strips to join all four blocks together.  Then add the other two 9" strips on the top and bottom and the two 10" strips to either side.

Now you're as far along as I am.  I'm not sure what I'll use for my borders, but I'll go digging around in my scrap basket to see what's there.  I'm leaning toward something purple or lavender, but I'll see what I find.

And besides this little project?  I think like the hearts I made for February, I'm going to make a stack of shamrock blocks to turn into coasters for my friends.  AND I have a couple other little ideas in mind--a mug mat and perhaps a Christmas gift for next Christmas?  Well, we'll see.  I'll be "off" the blog tomorrow night and sewing with friends on Saturday, so who knows what whim will strike me during that time.  But you know whatever it is, I'll share it with you when I come back again.  See you later!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Small Accomplishment

Tonight was the monthly Thimbleberries Club meeting, and that means getting home later than normal but bringing with me a spark of inspiration from seeing all of the show-and-tell projects of the other quilters.  So after having a bite to eat and catching up with Hubby on the news of his day, I headed into the Sweat Shop for a little play time.

Perhaps you remember from last month that this year in Thimbleberries Club, the ladies at the quilt shop gave us an option of doing one of two monthly block projects, and I picked the first Thimbleberries block of the month pattern.  Last month I made the January and February blocks; tonight I made the March block.  You can see all three blocks lined up on my design wall above.  Eventually these will be set with a simple sashing--or maybe I'll tweek the setting somehow; only time will tell.

Here's another look at the March block--I used my shamrock fabric scraps since March means St. Patrick's Day in our home.

And that reminds me:  I want to make myself another mug mat soon; this one will be for March.  I'm also thinking about possibly making another little project I can tuck away for a Christmas gift.  If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you might recall my St. Patrick's Day tabletopper tutorial (there's a link in the sidebar).

I'm not certain what I'll ultimately decide to do, but I think playing around with some of these ideas may be my next project.

But before I skip ahead too far . . . Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Last Look . . . For Now

Finally, I have the border applique completed on Comfort & Joy.  I'm sure the quilt will look even better once it's properly quilted and bound, but even though I just have it pinned up (rather poorly!) on top of another quilt and Scotch taped to the ends of the quilt hanger, it's looking pretty good, I think!  I love the lighter, brighter colors of this quilt.

One of the two tables I use for pin basting quilts is currently in the garage, lost beneath the boxes of "stuff" Hubby has stacked on top of it "temporarily," but he has promised it will be unburied and ready for me to use again by next week, so I can get back to doing some quilting.  (Why is it that anything stored in the garage becomes fair game for Hubby's schemes and plans?)

So what's next on the Sweat Shop agenda?  Good question!  I'll let you know just as soon as I figure it out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Year of the Strawberry?

A couple years ago, I declared it the Year of the Cherry (for myself at least!), and I "indulged" in a couple of cherry quilt projects.  Then, for the past two years, I flirted with watermelons.  And while I can't say I'm DONE with either cherries or watermelons, it seems this might be the Year of the Strawberry.

Why?  I can't really say if it's just me or if it's a trend in the design world, but strawberry patterns and projects keep catching my attention.  The other day, I "discovered" a new-to-me pattern company, Cath's Pennies--I ran across the company's patterns on eBay when I was looking for something else.  I quickly ordered a couple patterns, one of which was a wool candle mat featuring . . . well, STRAWBERRIES, of course!

(If you click the link, check out her wool turkey pattern--LOVE it!  And yes, I ordered that one too.)

Then I received a gift of a key fob from a good friend--again, a STRAWBERRY!

And I was looking at the Buttermilk Basin monthly Wool and Needle patterns today, and guess what?

Oddly enough, in looking through my photo album for the above photos, I was reminded of this Plumcute design from a past issue of Create and Decorate--I'd forgotten about this one!

And another friend just gave me a bent spoon the other day.  Kismet?!  I'm sure I have that pattern . . . along with several more strawberry patterns.  So don't be surprised if you see a strawberry or two popping up around here before long.  Will you be "growing" some too this year?

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Difference

I mentioned that I had prepared more applique for the Comfort & Joy quilt, and I've finished appliqueing the "extra stuff" onto the top left corner--the part I showed you before.  Want to see the difference?  I do!

Here's the original:

And here's what it looks like now:

Better, right?  I think so!  I'm working on the bottom right corner now.  I hope to be able to show you that in a couple days.

By the way, "battyvik" left me a comment yesterday about the Silver Thimble Quilt Co. and one of the other patterns, Snowbound.  But you know what?  I had already visited it last night and ordered that very pattern along with a couple others.  I was just telling my friends yesterday that despite the fact that I had decided I'd be more selective about my quilting-related spending in 2013, it doesn't seem like I've cut back at all!  And on top of that, today I started to plan out what fabrics I'd use in Snowbound that would coordinate with Comfort & Joy and I placed two online fabric orders for backgrounds.  Sheesh!

Still, I guess it's cheaper than crack.  Maybe.