First day of my winter vacation and things are looking up. We are finally getting some snow so it is actually starting to look like Christmas. All the presents are bought, wrapped and if needed shipped. I made the dough for the sugar cut-out cookies and will bake them tonight and decorate them tomorrow. I have 11 days, 3 magazines, 5 books and plenty of quilting to keep me at least a little busy.
As we are coming up on Christmas I figured this would be a good time to sort through all the dog toys and get rid of a few of them. Ivan sensed something was up when I pulled them out and managed to find his way to the middle of the pile and camped out. I did manage to remove a few that had holes and stuffing coming out of them but don't feel to bad for Ivan, we still have a whole boxful for him to play with.
It is a lovely Dec. day - especially since I do not have to go out or do anything. It is lightly snowing. Not having snow on the ground, it just doesn't seem like X-mas around here. I just finished making the dumplings for Chicken Paprikas - I will make the chicken and sauce a bit later, closer to dinner time.
I did pull out one of my UFO quilting projects. I have a 15 inch feathered star block done and wanted to add to it and came up with the idea of using these paper-pieced blocks to frame it. These pictured here will be one corner - I still need to make 3 more sets. I figure with weekends, holidays and a few vacation days I will have 11 days off. Finishing the piecing on this quilt will be one of my goals. I still feel like I should have a whole list of things to get done over the break.
November was a crazy, busy month. Travel for work, the Thanksgiving holiday and I even squeezed in a weekend quilt retreat. I did manage this weekend to finish the two table runners for my sister. I have her an IOU for these table runners back in June. I am thrilled that these are done and I won't be carrying them over on my list of things to get done for the next year.
The blocks in both these table runners are from the Judy Hopkins Around the Block series of books.
I did go through my projects and update my UFO and WIPs list of quilt projects and I am happy to say that the number is down from last year. I have 2 WIPs I am currently working on and 5 UFOs. One of the UFOs is a fully completed quilt top, but I have not decided what sort of quilting I want for it. The other 4 still need some assembly and design and decision making.
I so needed this past weekend's quilt retreat. I really seemed to have lost my quilt mojo lately. You know how it is - busy with work, family visiting in Oct. and of course the seasonal S.A.D. which makes me want to do nothing but eat cheese and carbs and sleep 10 hours a day.
I didn't even have the motivation to pull out a current WIP/UFO project and instead took a few pending projects. First I grabbed a kit I bought at the AQS show in Paducah this year. It is a really simple pattern - Malaysian batiks cut into squares and sashed with your own black fabric. The fabulous fabrics do all the work for this quilt. I still need to put on a border - most likely I will just stick with plain black.
The second thing I worked on is the second table-runner I owe my sister. I had the block picked out and bought the fabric a couple of months ago. I managed to get the whole top done. There are 8 blocks here, each with 36 pieces. So while it is only a table-runner it actually took quite a while to complete (lots of getting up to press individual sections and trimming them before piecing them together).
The final project I worked on was an idea that has been marinating for a while. I got a jelly roll of darker shaded solid fabrics awhile ago as a gift and had come up with the idea of making Lemoyne Stars with them. Several months ago I even explored a few ways to make the stars using different methods. I figured I might get as far as cutting out some fabrics, but surprisingly I managed to cut 8 fabric strips into star pieces (I got 10 star pieces per color using the Deb Tucker ruler method).
I then played around with color and design. I could make 8 single color stars, or I could make 2-color stars, or as I finally decided I would make 10 stars with the mix of all 8 colors. I also had to decide if the layout of the colors would be all the same or mixed up. I went with all mixed up, so no two stars are the same here.So I actually pieced all the stars together and trimmed them, they are 10 inch unfinished.
I can only hope to keep a little of the momentum of the retreat.
As part of our weekend escapades we visited the Conroy Organics store just north of Plattsburgh, NY. Once the band started the whole herd jogged up to the fence so a bunch of us went over to say 'hi'.
Mom made the most of the trip and did some wine tasting and as you can see picked up a box of wine. It doesn't look like it but there is a fence between her and the steer. As those of us who know mom, know that if there weren't a fence she would not be out there! (Wine you can only make you so brave.)
I did get the table-runner quilt blocks finished and pieced together, but this morning when I was going to machine quilt it, in less than 15 minutes the thread broke 3 times and the I broke a needle. I decided to walk away and try again another day. So instead of focusing on this frustration I will share a recent success.
I saw this idea on Pinterest. The idea is to take old Christmas cards and cut them up to re-purpose them as gift tags. I do not know why, but I have a huge stack of old Christmas cards we received from the past few years.
I went to JoAnn Fabrics yesterday and since I had this idea in my head I stopped at the paper crafting section and found this good-sized circle hole punch from EKTools. So I pulled out the cards and got started. Not all cards work well. And if there is writing on the back side you really can't use it to write the 'To' and 'From' info. The great thing about this punch is that you can see exactly that you are punching out - no guess work. As you can see from the photos you can pick and choose what elements you want to keep.
I also bough a regular hole punch so the tags can be attached by a ribbon. I now have a little zip-lock bag of tags ready to go for the holiday season. And probably enough for the next couple of years.
With the start of the semester and the end of summer a lot of the items on my to do list became more urgent. Classes started last week and I was ready for that - yeah! At home I just finished the touch-up painting on the house this weekend. The furnace tune-up was scheduled for this next week, but they had to re-scheduled so that is still on the list for yet another week. Still on the to do list, paint the porch floor and start cleaning out the garage so when we start getting frosts I can put the car in the garage.
I am slowly but steadily working on blocks for a table-runner (in photo). It is understandably taking a while as there are 53 pieces in each block - several of them bias cut pieces.
In other news Damon's plans for buying a few more fish for the aquarium are put on hold when we discovered that one of the fish had babies. He jumped on the internet and discovered that it is actually easy to tell by fin shape that three of the first fish he bought were all females. We figure at least one was pregnant when he brought them home. So now we have 4 tiny baby fish. They usually hang out towards the bottom of the tank but as they have gotten bigger in the last couple of weeks they have gotten more adventurous so we see them more often out and about.
This project started a couple of months ago. I took down the old shelf which was too small and flimsy for all our cookbooks (its been relocated to the sewing room). We went to the local hardware store and picked up a new board which I stained and finished, only to find when we were installing it that is was not as wide as I expected. So back to the hardware store. This time we got one wider, but also thicker - but a bit too thick. So our friend Terry came over with his planer and we reduced it down about a quarter of an inch. Instead of staining this time I opted for a deep red paint. After priming and painting I finally got it installed yesterday. Finding studs in the wall was a pain. But I think at least 80% of the screws are in solid wood. So far it is still up and not drooping or pulling away from the wall so I think we are all set on this project. One more project crossed off the list!
The excitement this week was getting the new front steps and walkway installed. The contractors actually showed up a couple days early. They dug out the old walkway stone and put them aside for us. The steps took two days - one to frame it and another to pour the concrete. We now have a much wider top step and it as a better level to the porch. The old step was slowly sinking into the yard so it was a bigger step into the house. After the steps were in they did the blacktop walkway. And then they brought in topsoil, re-graded and put down grass seed. We are busy now regularly watering the grass seed. I am thrilled with how it looks and the blacktop will be great in the winter to help melt the snow and ice. We do have a good sized pile of stones. They deposited the extra soil along the brook where we are trying to fill in the space, it is now cleared/covered enough that with the stones we may be able to build some sort of stone steps down to the brook.
As Damon and I are both on stay-cation vacations this week we decided to do a couple regional road trips. On Wednesday we took the Triumph to Lake Placid. It was a beautiful sunny day so we multi-tasked and got tans while traveling. We loaded up on chocolate at the Adirondack Chocolate shop.
Today we went farther afield and went to Old Forge, NY. That is a picture of me just outside the Life Is Good Store in Old Forge. How can you pass up a picture with a wooden moose wearing sunglasses? It was a great day for traveling, cloudy and cool (low 70s), but no rain. The main stop was the Old Forge Hardware store (its more like5 or 6 stores). We also had lunch and walked around and hit the other shops in town. On the way back we stopped at the Black Bear Trading Post Quilt Shop in Inlet, NY. OK, I stopped, Damon stayed in the car.
The chaise lounge that dad bought me for my birthday is finally complete. The chair frame showed up last week and I put it together over the weekend. The cushions showed up yesterday and now my summer relaxation can begin in earnest.
In other news Damon bought some fish for the aquarium. We now have two small catfish, two orange fish and one black one. So far only the black one has a name - Gomez. So far (its only been about a week) they are all alive and appear to be doing well.
On my activity list for this holiday week was to try a new quilting technique. I came across the fusible collage idea at the Exuberant Color blog. I didn't follow her idea exactly, but used the basic premise. I grabbed a random piece of batting from a previously trimmed quilt (no it is not exactly a straight rectangle - it tapers a bit) and my bag of scraps. Since I did not have fusible batting, I just added Heat and Bond Lite to the batting, laid out the scraps (this took the longest amount of time as I am fussy about color and placement). And then fused it down. After it was fused I got some backing (again from the scrap pile) and then machine quilted it. The quilting also helps hold down some of the loose edges that are not fused down. The whole thing is roughly 8 inches wide by 29 inches long. I found the four black and white squares in the scrap bag and thought they made nice focus points down the center of the piece. I quilted these down using one of the decorative stitches on the sewing machine.
Also on the list of activities is to try a new recipe. After a huge meal on the 4th, and the subsequent leftovers the thought of eating again delayed this idea. But I have been digging through cookbooks and Pinterest and have a couple Chicken Curry with Coconut milk recipes (1 and 2) that I will merge and give a try. I was deliberately looking for recipes that did not involve having to use the oven - can't imaging using the oven while the air conditioner is running!
It is amazing how much you can get into a week when you are not at work! I took this entire week off and while I am getting plenty of rest and relaxation in I am also moving forward on a lot of projects. I finished yet another quilt - this is the Bloomin Steps pattern that I made to use up some of my scraps. All it needed was the binding.
I am also trying to get outdoors as much as possible this week. I finally got up to the New Land Trust on Monday. I took Ivan up with me. The bugs were pretty bad so we were there for less than an hour but the trails look pretty good. Unlike other parks most of the trails are not trampled down so they still have to mow them. The signage is good but I would definitely print and take a copy of the trail map. I have also included a picture of their state of the woods facilities.
This week is also my birthday and we had a nice cookout with friends, with the guys doing most of the work. We had chocolate cake and Lemon Monkey Bread. Only four more days of freedom - best get off the computer and get out there and do something active.
Yes, I am getting a number of quilts finished lately, but the reason for that is that I sent out 3 to get quilted in April and got them back in June. So here I am with just the binding to do to officially count them as done. This is the second of the three. I already have the binding cut and prepped for the last quilt and will likely post a picture of that one by the end of the week.
This one is about crib sized. Made from purple and lilac fabrics I inherited from Cheryl Patch. This quilt will be donated to the quilt guild for its silent auction in next year's quilt show.
Here it is all done! I just finished putting the binding on today. I had to look back, but the beginning of this quilt dates back four years. Kat came down from Montreal and taught us to paper piece the NY Beauty blocks. I made blocks for about three years off and on again but never in any targeted way. Last year I laid out the blocks I had and pieced the top together. I dropped it off in Glens Falls to have it custom quilted at Distinctive Quilting. I used a black and white wavy striped fabric for the binding.
I think this will definitely be going into the next guild quilt show. Just need to figure out where to hang it in the meantime.
The quilt I dropped off this spring to be custom quilted was done and needed to be picked up down in Glens Falls, NY. I had planned on going down today as they have Saturday hours. It turned out that Damon also had the day off - this is super rare. We almost never have days off together unless one of us is sick or on vacation. So Damon agreed to come with me to Glens Falls - likely because I told him we could have lunch in town at the Davidson Brothers Brewery. So we went and got the quilt - it looks fabulous, I will post a picture once I get the binding on.
We went downtown and had a great lunch sitting outside. The quilter had mentioned that the LARAC art/craft fair was going on. We were not aware of the event (if I had been we would have brought more money!) We did each pick up a few things. Pictured first is a small water garden from Vermont Nature Creations, now hanging in one of the kitchen windows. They even give you the plants! We also picked up (2nd picture) a metal wine rack from Moose's Metal Marvels. The picture doesn't do it justice. The picture was taken while it was sitting on the floor, when it is meant to be hanging on the wall - we just need time to get to doing that.
Damon also picked up a couple special varieties of a local peanut/almond butter and I bought some postcards from an artist and a Christmas gift for someone. I was a really warm beautiful day out. It was great to walk around and look at all the arts and crafts after lunch and they even had a band playing in the central gazebo during the event. Before we left Damon picked up some growlers of beer to take home.
Somehow I became a group leader for one of the dine-a-rounds at the conference (I didn't volunteer and they didn't ask me - they just said here, you are in charge). Anyway I was leading my group up 8th Ave. into the Fashion District, when I had my celebrity spotting for this trip. Christian Siriano of Project Runway fame went right by us, and I was on the only one to notice (yes, others knew who he was).
In NYC for the SUNY Librarian Association conference. Attended the SUNYLA council meeting this morning. As the pre-conference I signed up for was cancelled I had the afternoon free. So of course I had to stop by the City Quilter (it is only two blocks from where I am staying at FIT). I was surprised and delighted to find Maria was there! Maria was in our quilt guild in Plattsburgh, but moved to the city a couple of years ago and is in a mortuary school program. She has a internship in the fall, but for the time being she is working at the shop and teaching a few classes there.
I also ran up to 38th street to rummage through all the ribbon, button and notion shops. One of the best is M & J Trimming on 6th Ave and 38th st. I was able to replace the hand dyed silk ribbons I had bought in Paducah that got lost in the post.
Off to the evening social for the conference in a few minutes and then heading up to see a production of Harvey at Studio 54 tonight.
With the Paducah trip and the resulting postal issues to deal with I am just now posting about our trip to Florida now (2 weeks later). Dad and the guys went down early and attended the PGA tournament. Damon and I went down on a Wed. and came back on Sunday - so it was a pretty short trip, but it really felt like a vacation - relaxing.
One of the things that really appealed to Damon was the chance to take a ride in a Biplane. So the first picture is us next to the plane we went up in. And the second picture is a shot of of downtown St. Augustine from the plane as we flew overhead. You can spot the fort on the left-hand side. We also flew over the lighthouse and then did some dives over the ocean.
A lot of the rest of the time was spent on the beach. This was easy because we were literally just around the corner from beach access. We took walks on the beach every morning and most evenings. The third picture was one of the sunrises.
Eventually, after mom, Tammy and the kids showed up on Friday we even all ventured out to the beach during the middle of the day (last photo).
Overall a really great vacation. We had really great weather the whole time. Too bad when we got back it was dark, cool and rainy.
Well all the excitement of getting my box from the AQS show was diminished greatly by the fact that the box got damaged and several things are missing. What really is a bit upsetting, even though the box was obviously damaged and had opened up, the post office staff who gave me the box didn't even say anything about checking what was inside. I had to insist - and then they did not provide any space to sort through the stuff. Interestingly along with several of my things missing, there were a few things that clearly were not mine in my box. Thankfully I had insured the box, taken pictures of everything I shipped and had all the receipts. So I filled out the insurance claim form and hopefully I will get some reimbursement for the lost items. In the meantime I have started contacting the vendors to get replacements.
Next time I am following my initial instincts and shipping only with UPS or Fed Ex.
Not happy at all with USPS and how they handled this so far. I still have to wait to hear about my claim.
Most of what I lost were the small things like small fabric bundles (charm squares), patterns, stencils and most of the fabric inks from a kit I bought. It appears that just about all the yardage I bought got to me. So I have started with washing it all. Some fabrics really needed it because along with the damage there was some blue staining (not sure from what) but thankfully is seems to be washing out.
Along with the the show and the vendors we also went to Caryl Bryer Fallert's shop and studio know as Bryerpatch Studio. I have always been so inspired by her work! While we were there she offered to show everyone her studio space upstairs, some of the pieces she is working on and answered any questions we had. Gina was smart and took some notes.
The big box of stuff I bought while in Paducah still has not shown up. Can't wait to get it and go through it. It will almost be like all new stuff cause I am not sure I remember everything I bought.
Paducah was both wonderful and overwhelming. The weather was great - usually in the low 80s and partly sunny. It was a bit strange being somewhere where it was full-blown summer, while we were getting snow back home in Saranac. As you can see here even the roses were already in full bloom in KY. These 'Julia Child' roses were at Patti's 1880s Settlement Restaurant. They smelled wonderful.
I just downloaded all the photos I took during the trip. The AQS show rules does not allow for posting pictures of the quilts online, but you can keep them for your own inspiration. I have over 320 pictures! I also bought the show book that includes a picture of each of of the quilts in the show. We were able to see everything on our list and then some. I will share more details in the next few posts - it will take me a while to sort out my thoughts and impressions.
Today my first mailed box from Paducah arrived. I put most of the books and a few bundles of fabric I bought into a Priority Mail box. The picture is the contents of the first box (this is the small box).
Here is a list of the books I got:
Adventure & Applique, by Suzanne Marshall
Art and Inspirations, by Yvonne Porcella
Crazy Patchwork, by Alice Wilhoit
Create your own Free-Form Quilts, by Rayna Gillman
Crop Circles: Stained Glass Coloring Book, by Jessica
Hall and Haywood’s Foundation Quilts: Building on the past,
by Jane Hall and Dixie Haywood
Kaleidoscope Paper Piecing, by Nancy Mahoney
Magnificent Mosaics, by Jessica Mazurkiewicz
Pieceful Garden, by Mary Sorensen and Jan Wildman
Rotary Cutting Revolution, by Anita Grossman Solomon
Scrap-O-Lator Quilts and More, by Dianne Springer
60 Pieced Quilt Borders, by Judy Laquidara
Two-for-One Foundation Piecing, by Wendy Hill
The ideas and projects and fabrics I bought in Paducah should keep me busy for at least a couple of years!
Woke up this morning to snow on the ground. There wasn't a lot. But it is enough to lose faith that it is spring around here. So looking forward to the AQS show later this week. I really hope it will be a lot warmer there than it will be here. Local forecasts here are predicting most nights to be in the 30s this week - yuck!
I think Gina and I are as prepared as we can be for the trip. We have received great advice from friends who have gone to AQS regularly. We have a list of events, shows, vendors, restaurants, and so much more. I am not afraid that we don't now all the options, just that we will have enough time to fit it all in. Also hoping to get to meet some follow Stashbusters - the plan is to have a meet-up at 11:45 each day with any who are around.
OK, only 2 weeks till the big AQS quilt show, and since I know I will be bringing (or shipping) back lots of patterns, books and fabrics to start new projects I needed to make some room and get some unfinished quilts done. These two pictured here were both given to Kathy Russell last week to quilt on her long-arm machine. They will not be ready until after I get back, but then only the bindings will need to be added.
The first one is my Bloomin' Steps quilt, the second one is the large crib-sized quilt I make from Cheryl's lilac and purple fabrics. I also dropped off my NY Beauty quilt down at Distinctive Quilting last week. As I am having custom quilting done on that quilt it will not be ready for a couple of months.
In the meantime I have started another half-square triangle quilt. I am using Thangles again. Each stack has 8 blocks with the same fabric combination.
This method uses Deb Tucker's Rapid Fire Lemoyne Star ruler. She has instructional videos posted on YouTube that go through the whole process of this technique. Here are the video links for Part 1 and for Part 2.
This method uses strip sets. Here are my strips. As I am using fabric from my scrap piles it took me a while to find strips that I figured would be long enough. So this method will not really work if you are planing on using smaller scraps to make the diamonds.
With this method after you sew the strip sets you do a bunch of cutting. Her directions also provide specific pressing instructions so that the seams will nest if you alternate the two strip sets.
If you wanted to be more random you could use a variety of colors, but perhaps make all the warm colors as 'A' strips and all cool colors as 'B' strips to be able to use this method but still get to mix up the star point colors, yet have them still nest as they should.
My strips were not quite long enough and one of my diamond shapes didn't come out after I cut my strips. I tried to rip out the short section and replace it with a bigger piece of fabric - this proved really difficult, so make sure you have more than enough fabric because trying to 'fix' a short piece is not worth the effort. (In the end I was able to make it work).
As with the other methods you work to make quarter sections of the stars, and then sew the quarters together.
With this method you do get a little extra around the outside edges so you can accurately trim your block to the exact size. The ruler comes with cutting instructions for different sized blocks.
Here is my finished block.
Again the points lined up nicely.
There is a little bit of waste, the end bits when you are cutting your strips and the final trimming of the block. Compared to the other 2 methods already tried it is more waste than the first method, but a lot less than the second method.
The second method of making 8-pointed stars I tried comes from Nancy Johnson-Srebro's book Stars by Magic. I bought this book shortly after I began quilting but this is the first time I have used it. I tend to be aspirational in by quilt book and pattern buying - I liked star quilts and figured I would have the courage and skills eventually to try these.
One of the pluses of this method (if you are wary of working with 45 degree angles) is that you start with squares and rectangles, not diamonds. Another plus is that the book includes listings for a wide variety of block sizes (from 4 to 18 inch blocks) with the corresponding cutting instructions.
After you cut all your pieces follow the instructions to put them together. Again I was alternating blocks so I had to be careful to layout and sew the sections the same way each time.
While you start with squares and rectangles, you will need to mark and sew diagonally a few times for each quarter section. My machine tends to like to eat those first diagonal corners so chain piecing helps minimize this problem.
As with the last method, working in quarters is best. Here is my first quarter and next to it is the 'waste' left over from the block construction. So this is one of the negatives - quite a bit of waste.
Another consideration is the direction of the prints. With fussy cutting diamonds you have a bit more control, with this method it would be a bit more difficult to line everything up the way you would like.
Here is the finished block. I was a bit shy on one quarter so it is not exactly 12 1/2 inches, but it was within a 1/8 inch fudge factor.
I also think the center points on this version came out a bit bulkier than the previous method.
One other issue for me was the need to keep changing the needle position to alternate between centering the needle for sewing on the diagonal lines and the 1/4 inch setting for sewing the regular seams. (I usually don't catch that I need to change the setting until the needle starts going through the fabric).
The points did come together as well as the other method.
Not sure I would use this method just for a plain 8-pointed star because of all the waste. One of the strengths of this book though is that she has lots of alternate styles for 8-pointed stars (multi-colors and different layouts) that would be worth making using this method.