Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving cold

I came down with a cold on Thanksgiving Day and have been feeling under the weather ever since.  There's no time to be sick during the holiday season!  We have something happening every weekend, and only a few hours each weeknight after work to prepare.  Luckily I got most of my holiday sewing done already, because I don't even feel like sewing in the evenings.

I did drop off this quilt with its new owner, my great aunt, at her nursing home.  She's 92 and had no idea who I was, even when I explained it to her.  But she seems happy enough, even though I don't quite think she understood that I was giving her a quilt.
December is only a few days away and I have not even really had to pull out any coats yet.  Maybe once or twice for early morning soccer games this past fall, but for the most part, days have been warm, even in Pennsylvania this past weekend.

It's Cyber Monday, and a lot of online quilt shops, including my favorites Green Fairy Quilts and Burgundy Buttons, are having big blowout sales.  I'm not in the mood to buy anything.  Our kids still have stuff from last Christmas that they never even took out of the package.  It seems sometimes like we are just inundating them with stuff, most of which they either don't want or don't appreciate for long.  I'd like to take them on a vacation this year instead, but I'm waiting on others to decide what's happening there.  To me, money is better spent on making memories than buying things no one needs.

With my Honey's family, we do a round robin gift exchange.  This year, we've decided the theme is "things associated with the letter A."  So I could do an gift card, a homemade apron (gender-neutral, of course), a gift basket full of things like apple butter and artichoke dip, or maybe a pair of agloves, like I just bought myself and love. It's hard to think of something that might suit anyone in the family, male or female, married or single, aged 40 or 70.  Do any of my readers have any suggestions?

I hope you all enjoyed your holiday and are not yet swept up in the craziness of December!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's a crazy week for us here - two and a half days of work and then hitting the road to go see my Honey's sister and my great aunt over the holiday, and hopefully coming home early enough to do some holiday decorating.  I finished with binding and label on the Prayer Flag quilt that I'm giving to my great aunt last night and will try to get a photo today to amend this post with.  But I don't want to hold things up.

I brought home four sewing machines from Mom's sewing room this past weekend - I didn't realize she had a Bernina Activa 140 as well.  I posted on Craigslist (local to Dad) for the free fabric stash.  I hope I get a taker.  Nothing so far.  Selling the machines will take more organizing than I can do right now.

I don't really post much about giveaways and sales, but here are a few worth mentioning.  First, the giveaway from Lily Pad Quilting includes a tutorial for a star block she named after my own little town and our star.  You could win a Go Baby or precuts from Green Fairy Quilts.  It's open until Monday so you have a little time.  Second, SewCalGal made a great post about Black Friday quilt sales.  If you're in the market for some goodies, or want to drop a hint to someone who is(!), check it out!  Burgundy Buttons has Terrain on sale through tomorrow and I've already forwarded that tidbit to my Honey since it's on the list I sent him!

I hope that it's a safe and happy holiday for you and your family if you're somewhere that celebrates American Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

buying and selling

My mom, a lifelong seamstress, passed away last summer.  My dad hasn't done much to clear her things out of the house, including her sewing room.  Every other weekend when we stay with the kids at his house, my Honey's daughters have to sleep on the foldout sofa in the library.  I asked Dad about the possibility of converting my mother's sewing room to a guest room with twin beds and he was receptive to the idea.  But we need to tackle the very big job of getting rid of her stuff, including her fabric stash.

People assume that because I sew, I would want all of her stuff.  Honestly, our work rarely overlapped - and only in the home decor arena like curtains.  She was an apparel seamstress, and loved her embroidery machine for personalizing things like towels, tote bags, aprons, hats and shirts.  Her closet is stuffed with 20-30 boxes of fabric sorted by fabric content, but none of them is 100% cotton.  She was also a smoker, and confined her habit to her sewing room, so I wouldn't even want to sell it, just give it all away.  But to whom?

Her machines are another story.  When she retired, she spent her money on her hobby and bought two Husqvarna Viking machines:  the Designer I embroidery machine, and the Huskylock 936 serger. 

I don't want either of them.  I would much rather have a longarm quilting machine.  I saw a used APQS Ultimate I on eBay with bidding starting at $3,000 that would fit the bill.  I think I could organize and sell these online for almost enough to cover that $3K, but, oh, the headache!  So I shot an email to the local sewing guild to see if they might have any interested takers for either the free fabric or $2500 for both machines and all accessories and software.  I'll start packing up the machines this weekend and carting them back home until they find a new place to live.  And then there's all the patterns, books and notions to unload. 

If this were all quilting stuff I could think of a dozen places to send it to for charity or resale.  But I'm not a sewer.  Can anyone help me think of ways to sell or give away this stuff that I'm not already considering?

Geez, I guess I don't wonder why my Dad hasn't bothered to tackle this project yet.

Monday, November 14, 2011

a foodie post

I didn't do any sewing this weekend, beyond working on a few Civil War Chronicles BOM blocks Friday night.  Instead, we hosted a family dinner Sunday night and much of our weekend was spent on getting the house ready for company.  We spend so much time between work and visiting our kids every other weekend that our down time is usually spent relaxing (for me, sewing) and not cleaning or other stuff.  But I needed to dust, and clean dog nose prints off windows, and vacuum, and move around some hanging things, and generally get the house in order (while my Honey kept up with the neighbors doing the yard work and bagging fallen leaves).  We took some time out Saturday night for date night at a restaurant in Blacksburg and then watching the movie, "The Way," which was an excellent film.  On Sunday it was back to the kitchen.

I managed to get out of hosting any of the holiday meals this year.  My Honey's older sister will be having us all for Thanksgiving, and his younger sister will be hosting Christmas.  With my Honey and me debating whether we should have put up the Christmas tree this weekend, it felt like we were hosting a holiday dinner when in fact we were just having his father and friend over, as well as sister, BIL and their 6-year-old son.   Still, I put out all the good family china, and lit the candelabras, and put out placecards in these adorable little holders I just got from

We do love our food around here, and my Honey is quite the gourmet chef.  He first clipped a soup recipe he found from the Fresh Market and that became the anchor for our autumn-themed meal:

First course (appetizer):
Black Bean Chipotle Dip and chips

Second course: 

Third course:
Winter Squash Soup with Chipotle Chili Peppers and Cream

Fourth course:
Quinoa Goat Cheese Risotto
Espresso-Bourbon steaks

Fifth course:
Pumpkin Pie tartlets (100 calorie!)
Apple Cherry Pastries with Vanilla Cream

Dinner was a hit and enjoyed by all.  I especially liked the miniature desserts - everyone could partake without feeling like they were overdoing it, they were easy to make in advance, and it was so easy to pack up leftovers to send home.  And the soup was phenomenal.  Had I to do the whole meal over, I might try the sweet potato side mentioned in the steak recipe.  I was aiming for a protein-rich meal and nothing beats quinoa on that level.  I was raised to believe that each meal includes a protein, a starch and a vegetable, and when I'm making meals with multiple courses I try to combine the starch and the vegetable into one.  The quinoa worked given the pound of spinach that went into it, and the sweet potatoes would as well.

We have lots of delicious leftovers for this week, so hopefully that means less time cooking and more time sewing!

Friday, November 11, 2011

contest entry

I'm part of the Quilting Gallery Quilting Bloggers ring, and they have a weekly themed quilt contest.  I entered this week; the theme is Veterans' Quilts.  I uploaded one photo and a 300-character story, but I'm expounding upon it here.

I began this quilt around 2003 and the start of the Iraq War.  I hadn't any special intention for it, really.  A friend was being deployed and I just began sewing.  His deployment was eventually canceled and I still had a quilt top I wasn't sure what to do with.  I thought about finishing it and raffling it as a fundraiser for something military-related.  But then I left my ex-husband and all my sewing room was packed up for years while I moved from tiny apartment to tiny apartment to tiny house, and then eventually here to Virginia.

The same week I moved into a house with a sewing room, my mother passed away.  My cousin Laura and her husband Justin came to the memorial service.  As my dad introduced the family he mentioned that Justin had just returned from his fourth tour of duty abroad as a naval officer.  Now, I knew that he was often away on aircraft carriers just by being Facebook friends with Laura, and I always marveled at how she managed to work and care for two small boys (one with considerable health issues) while he was gone.  I decided to finish the quilt and give it to them to thank them all for his service.

It was the first quilt top I gave to Star City Stitchery to stitch.  Laura there quilted a star design into it, which you can see from this picture:
The back, though, has some great military girl pinup fabric that I bought when I did the quilt top.  You can see a little below, which is the picture entered in the contest.

Voting is underway - go check out the Veteran themed quilts and vote for your favorites (it doesn't have to be mine!).  You can select up to four.  The prize includes some nice Kimono silk thread which I would love to try out with my appliqué project.

In other news, I won a copy of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks Volume 4 for my response on this post

I've been entering to win a copy all over the internet and while I'll keep visiting the designers' blogs for the tour, I'll stop entering to win.  That means better chances for you, so go check it out and enter!!  And while I'm on the topic of giveaways, Green Fairy Quilts is having one also where you can win a favorite precut!  Go check it out!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

a sewing night

I left the office right on time yesterday to head home, get comfy and start sewing.  The first thing looking at me when I entered my sewing room was, of course, Ready Set Star!  I rearranged it a few more times and I think I've found a layout I like:
And so it sits until I start trying to piece it together.

I wandered around my sewing room for a bit trying to decide what I really wanted to work on.  Baron von Quilthausen wasn't threaded for Dark Star, so I passed on that.  Whatever it was, unless it was Dark Star or Ready Set Star!, it was going to require some cutting.  And then I remembered that I received my Block of the Month for the Civil War Chronicles series.  Remember that?  This is the finished picture:
And this is the partially constructed top:

I also have the four larger blocks in the corners done but not photographed.  This month I received one of the two smaller blocks that go into the corners and so last night I cut them and began piecing.  I had to finish one in its entirety before I could call it a night.
It measures 7 1/4" with seam allowances, so it's definitely smaller than most of what I've been sewing for this quilt.  I was happy with my seams on this, but is just so much bulk on the underside - even with snipping off the dog ears - that I went a little nutty with the Best Press when I was finished.

Frankly, I'm surprised how fast the year has flown by - this BOM is almost at an end.   Each month I enjoy getting the squishy packet in the mail, reading the story, and admiring the fabrics.  I really believe that undertaking the entire project as a whole would have been too much for me right now with all the other junk I have going on, quilting and otherwise.  I'm glad I spent the money to do this since I'm really enjoying it and I'm actually keeping current with it.

Speaking of stories, yesterday I bought and downloaded Tori Amos' "Night of Hunters" album and I have been unable to stop listening to it.  I even put it on my phone so that I could sew with headphones and not miss calls.  From Tori's website:  "Night of Hunters is a 21st century song cycle that finds Tori drawing on themes from Satie, Granados, Chopin and other great composers. It tells a modern love story that is only unraveled after a journey to Ireland's mythic past. Guests include such esteemed players as The Apollon Musagete Quartet and the Berlin Philharmonic clarinet soloist Andreas Ottensamer."  Her 11-year-old daughter Natashya also sings on this release.  I love both Tori Amos and classical music and frankly, I was worried that whatever she released next would be a disappointment after Midwinter Graces.  Each of the songs is inspired by some classical piece - Wikipedia has the list - and I will be listening to this one compulsively for quite some time. 

Today I'll work from home in the afternoon so that the plumber can come fix our hot water heater.  I wish "working from home" meant sewing, but not quite.  My Honey and I have plans tonight when he gets home but if he heads off to man night later as is typical for his Thursdays I might do a little more work on these Civil War Chronicles blocks.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

reporting in

I gave the demonstration on needle-turn appliqué at quilt guild this past Monday night.  Even though I thought I was fully prepared, I was nervous ... and more so when I saw that the woman who could probably be considered our guild's resident expert on hand appliqué in the audience.  I prepared a handout which made it to the guild's website along with a few pictures (I have no future as a hand model!).  I felt like I had a lot to cover in a very short time.  To me, the big challenge in hand appliqué is preparation of the work.  How do you put the pieces where they belong?  How do you mark the lines on which you sew?  I tried to cover a few ways to answer each of these questions as well as demonstrate the actual stitch technique (including points), but I'm not quite sure if it was too much information in too short a time to be helpful.  I am glad that I did it, though, because in researching the presentation I learned about back-basting, which can best be explained in this link from All About Applique.  It may permanently replace the freezer paper technique that I've been using.  Considering I first learned needle-turn appliqué in a half-day seminar taught by Piece O'Cake's Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins in Lancaster, Pennsylvania years ago, I won't feel too bad if I couldn't sum it up in 20 minutes.

My Honey left on a trip yesterday morning and won't return until Thursday.  Yesterday I worked out after work (I am up to twice a week and my mile run is now around 14 minutes) and then went to the grocery store before returning home to remember his words yesterday morning that we had no hot water in the shower (I often shower or bathe at night and wanted to last night!).  Sure enough, the best I could get out of the tap was lukewarm, which made for a very quick and uncomfortable shower this morning.  Luckily we have a shower in the ladies' room at the office, which I will take advantage of tomorrow morning before the plumber comes tomorrow afternoon.  However, we have no electrical outlets in our ladies' room, which means no hair washing (and drying).  Ugh.  If only I had had the foresight to bring a towel to work today.

On the bright side, his being gone means I can do some sewing tonight.  I would like to rearrange those Ready Set Star! blocks in a few other ways, sew a block for my son's quilt, and maybe piddle a bit on some other projects.  Stay tuned for photos

If you aren't already aware, Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, volume 4 is being released and the quilting blog world is talking about it.  Go to Quiltmaker's blog and get in on the fun to win an issue or other prizes!  I was fortunate enough to have won volumes 2 and 3 this past spring and one of my UFOs is from those issues using blocks designed by Quiltmaker's own Denise Starck.  She has now created an adorable paper-pieced hat:
to go with her earlier blocks already planned for my quilt - the purse and shoes!

Of course, I only have one pair of shoes done so far but seeing her hat has gotten me itching to get back to it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

layout fun

Most of my time lately has been working to prepare a few blocks for my needleturn applique demo at Quilt Guild on Monday night.  We will be away all weekend and since Sunday night's NFL Steelers-Ravens showdown is a big one for us (being on opposite sides of that fence), nothing will get done once we get home if it's not happening in front of the TV.

But I did manage to trim up the Ready Set Star! blocks and lay them out in a couple of different layouts according to Kimberly Einmo's book.

 I definitely like the "bursting" ones better and will fiddle with them some more next week.  They did not work out so uniformly for me - probably because I was sloppy when cutting on the 45° angle (those pinked edges of the jelly roll are always enough to mess me up - line up on the inner points?  outer points?  split the difference?) - so I'm hoping that there won't be too much headache for me when it comes time to sew them together.  Still, the fabrics were fun to play with and it's such a happy Christmas-y quilt.

Yesterday I emailed my Honey a summary of our schedule through the end of the year.  Wow!  We have something happening every single weekend, and most of them are away from home.  It's a good thing I finished most of my gift sewing already since I don't know when I'd squeeze it in.