Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Communing with Nature

When there’s so much nature to see, who has time for quilting?

Our middle daughter recently purchased an inflatable paddle board. This inspired my husband and me to purchase an inflatable kayak so we could spend time on the water with her. Plus, as an added bonus, we’d have something economical to use to float down the Manistee River. (Or any other river.) Renting a canoe, raft, or kayaks from the local liveries can be costly, especially if you want to go often. In the past we’ve only taken maybe four or five trips over a bit more than 20 years. Since purchasing our kayak just a few weeks ago, we’ve been on the Manistee River twice and one of our local lakes once.

Our first trip on the river lasted about an hour. Our ending point was a sketchy looking “dock” at a campground. After deflating our kayak and stowing it in the car, we added a couple miles onto our North Country Trail goal for the year. Our hiking miles aren’t adding up quickly this year, but we keep plugging away.

This past weekend we spent a bit over four hours on the river. We saw lots of turtles, some ducks, and a MONKEY. I am not kidding. An actual MONKEY. A woman was floating down the river in a canoe with a monkey on her lap. I think that ranks up there as one of the the most bizarre things I have ever seen!

Last night we spent an hour on the lake. Last week I spent a couple hours at the beach with our daughter. I’m turning into a water person who has a tan, and this was not something I ever thought would happen when I was canoeing for the first time at 19 and was so terrified about falling in that I sat super still and didn’t even help paddle until maybe the last ten minutes of the trip. Actually I’m still terrified about falling in, but the kayak is a bit steadier in the water than a canoe.

Side note: On our way home from the beach, we stopped at a health food store to purchase some bulk grains. (Wild rice is so ridiculously expensive!) Our daughter found some dark chocolate-covered ginger and wanted to try some. I would NOT recommend anyone ever try such a thing. My mouth was burning up and I got a nice stringy chunk of ginger that I couldn’t chew up no matter how long I worked at it. So chocolate-covered ginger is a big thumbs down for me.

So remember when I said that I didn’t have time to sew? I lied a bit. I managed to finish the Lemon Pepper quilt top by sneaking in a few minutes of sewing over several days. I probably won’t start quilting it until fall. Here it is:

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Playing Around With, You Guessed It, More Scraps

We’ve been replacing our deck this summer. Actually, we’ve just been replacing all horizontal surfaces, which has left us with, what I think is, a cool new look. (I’m not sure what’s going on with the little guy. I think I caught him just before he sneezed. He loves the deck. It is his absolute favorite place to be. He would probably prefer a few less trees so he could spy on the neighbor a little more easily. He really likes the neighbor or his dog. I’m not sure which. But he can stare over there for ages. It’s quite embarrassing.)

Several years ago we stained/painted the deck. It has not held up well. Within a couple years it was peeling up, falling off, and getting stuck to our feet. But this was only happening to the horizontal surfaces. Plus the wood was just getting old. Like me. We decided this year was the year it had to go. In the interest of frugality and objecting to the American way of just tossing things that are still perfectly serviceable, we kept all railings. (The old boards will be repurposed into a “boardwalk” to the pond. Presently we have an ankle-breaking path made up of downed trees.) I actually really like the painted railings with the new wood look. And, that view isn’t too shabby either!

On Saturday I assisted with the deck project, attempting to unscrew the stairs and being mildly successful at it. This was NOT an easy task, and it aggravated the tennis elbow I’ve been dealing with for nearly a year now. (Which I did not get from playing tennis. I got it from weeding the garden. Because I’m getting old. And everything seems to cause some sort of ache, pain, or injury now.) So, thanks to elbow pain, I spent Sunday inside sewing.

I pulled out some fruit and veggie scraps and played around with those. I’m thinking of creating some sort of small, place mat-sized project to use on a plant table we have by our front door. I also dove back into my scrap boxes and started another scrappy lap quilt. You can see from the photos that Rosie did not approve of my arrangement of the blocks. I also spent some time corralling the scraps and at least it now looks like I have some sort of handle on the scrap situation.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

When Will the Scraps End???!!

My frustration level is high. Let me tell you why.

I have scraps. So, so many scraps. I’ve been diligently (maybe not as diligently as I’d like) working my way through the mounds and mounds of scraps.

And guess what?

The piles aren’t getting any smaller. The pieces are, but the piles? Not so much.

How is this possible? And will I ever be rid of them, or will they just continue to multiply like rabbits no matter how many projects I use them in?

Allow me to present Scrap Quilt #2:

I finished this quilt top over the weekend when I, amazingly, had several hours to spend in the sewing room. Summers are more for hiking and outside projects than for sewing for me, so I haven’t had much chance to work on any quilts over the last few weeks. This one had been sitting there just needing to have the last block finished, so I put aside the other quilt I’ve been working on to get this one finished.

I’m using everything in these scrap quilts. Unused blocks, little scraps, long scraps, thin scraps, thick scraps, a leftover pieced strip from the second quilt I made way back in 1999. Each block is 16×20, making a finished quilt size of 46.5″x58.5.” It finishes at a nice lap quilt size. For those of us who are vertically challenged, we can easily cover from our toes to our nose with this size.

I will probably hold off on quilting this one until fall or winter. I’m not a fan of having a pile of fabric and batting in my lap on warm summer days, though the last few days have had me pulling out the long underwear and long-sleeve jammie shirts in the evenings. (I’m not complaining. It is a welcome change from the almost 90 degree days we were seeing just last week.)

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Priorities

I recently lamented not having the time to do something. I don’t remember what that something was, but it was probably a hobby-related something. My middle daughter retorted, “You have the time. It’s just not a priority.”

Hmm.

That’s true, I suppose.

Maybe.

But this past month has shown that even if something is a priority, there isn’t always time to do it.

For example, having a tidy house is sort of a priority of mine. I’m not a fanatic cleaner (Unless I’m angry about something. Then I go into “rage-cleaning” mode), but I don’t want to exist in a slovenly environment with chaos spilling out of every room. However, chaos reigned here for a few weeks as we helped our oldest daughter transition from college life into adult life. There was an apartment to find (not so easy to accomplish as EVERYTHING was waitlisted), an apartment to move out of, furniture to shop for, moving to help with (that involved a U-Haul, help from the grandparents, and an entire day), and her old room to tidy up when she left.

Then there are the other two kids. One moved home from college for the summer. The other will be heading to college in the fall so there are all the preparations and forms for that and a graduation open house to plan.

And finally, there’s the cat who decided that now was the perfect time to get sick. A slew of lab work showed she is actually pretty healthy for a 16 year old. Her kidneys are just not working quite up to par, though the function is still in the normal range. She was treated for a UTI with (thankfully so I didn’t have to shove pills down her throat) an antibiotic injection. Here she is the day after visiting the vet still feeling angry about it all:

She rarely takes a good photo, but this one is probably the worst.

In what little spare time remained I worked on prepping the garden and other outdoor work, exercising to maintain my sanity, and cooking vaguely healthy meals. We also managed to squeeze in a day of hiking.

Finally, on Saturday, I sat down in my deck chair intending to put my feet up and read and promptly fell asleep. Saturday night I sat down on the couch and fell asleep there also.

But on Sunday…I spent some time sewing. My Lemon Pepper quilt is finally staring to come together. After piecing all 100 blocks, I began sewing them into rows. I’ve completed 5/10 rows and have 4 of them sewn together. I am loving this design! It looks so complicated but is so simple.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Loving This Quilt Pattern!

I found a little time to sew yesterday and ended up with a heaping pile of blocks for the Lemon Pepper quilt. Sadly, I don’t have quite as many as I need to begin assembling the top. I hadn’t decided when I first began cutting out the strips needed for this quilt whether I was going to make the lap size or the XL lap size. I had enough fabric for the larger version, but I wasn’t certain if I wanted to go that big, as quilting a large quilt on a regular sewing machine can be quite a challenge. I just love this combo of fabrics so much, though, that I’ve decided the XL lap size is the way to go. If I find the time tomorrow, I’ll start working on the 32 blocks I still need.

Since I don’t have much progress to share on this project, I thought I’d share an older wall hanging.

This one is definitely showing its age. I can’t recall how many years ago my mom and I got together to make these–it was probably around 20 years ago, as we stopped doing much sewing together after my second child was born and definitely didn’t do much at all after the third one came along.

This little wall hanging was made of nine paper-pieced hearts. We had no actual pattern for the hanging. We pulled paper-piecing patterns from the internet and then decided how we would tie them all together.

You can really tell how long this has been hanging on the wall by the difference between the backing fabric and the sashing fabric. The front has faded significantly. I’ve found that different fabrics seem to react to light differently, which probably has something to do with how high quality the fabric was to begin with. That particular black/purple floral was most likely purchased from Joann Fabrics, as that was where I purchased most of my fabric then.

(I recall standing in line at the cutting counter FOR AGES when they’d have a big sale. I think we were able to get a yard for $1.99 or some equally ridiculous low price. Now it’s over $10/yard at the nice quilt shops! I probably sound like an old person…”Back in my day the fabric was so cheap you could get 5 yards for what you pay for 1 now!”)

This little wall hanging hangs in the guinea pig room…the room formerly known as the reading room…the room that will one day be the yoga/plant room when the guinea pigs move in with our middle daughter (their owner) when she graduates from college and moves to wherever she’s going to live. Until that time comes, my husband and I get to cater to the demands of those two tiny tyrants and get to enjoy their little wheeks, chatters, and chirps whenever she’s away at school.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Recovering Perfectionist

“Never let perfect be the enemy of good,” or some similar quote attributed to Voltaire (who I’ve heard of but know nothing of as my high school Honors English class never delved into his life or his writings and I’m not motivated to do so now), came to mind today as I was piecing together quilt blocks.

When last I sewed, I discovered I had used the wrong presser foot and some strips were sewn together with a slightly larger seam allowance. Old me, the me who learned to sew from a mother who spent years during her childhood sewing for 4-H projects and incredibly picky judges, would have immediately ripped out all the stitches to start over. New me…the me whose sewing time is jammed in between making sure son has completed all of the college-freshman-in-the-fall stuff and graduating-this-year-stuff (all of which is much more confusing thanks to the Great Contagion) and the me who has taken on the care of middle daughter’s guinea pigs while she’s at college and the me who’s helping eldest daughter apartment search from hours away from the city she’s moving to next month…that me doesn’t have time to be picky. That me just enjoys the process of sewing and making something new. That me has little patience for perfection anymore.

You can see in the photo that the wrong presser-foot strip sets are off by about 1/8.” That’s fine with me. I can make that work by just centering the smaller piece on the proper-sized piece. Had I been off by much more, I might have corrected the issue. As none of the seams need to line up properly from section to section, there was no need to make any corrections.

So far I’ve sewn a lot of strip sets together and cut them into the required width pieces. I don’t think I have quite enough pieces yet for the entire quilt, but I was antsy to actually get a few blocks sewn together. Below is a sampling of the blocks I’ve completed. I’m loving this pattern as it looks quite complicated but is really very simple.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Because I’m Tired of Scraps…

I’ve started a new quilt with fabric I’ve probably had for at least four years. I purchased it on a shop hop pre-Year of Doom, but I can’t remember exactly how long ago.

Which is slightly embarrassing.

Should my memory be that bad?

Anyway, the fabric was sitting in the closet just waiting for the right pattern to come along. As 2020 and the first part of 2021 was spent dealing with my scrap hoard, and making what felt like minimal progress getting it under control, I was ready to cut into some new fabric.

Here’s some of the fabric and the pattern:

I’ve chosen the Lemon Pepper pattern by Madison Cottage Design. I’ve not yet decided if I’m making it throw size or XL throw size. I’ve enough fabric for the larger size, but I’m not certain I want to make a 70″x70″ quilt or if I want to use the extra fabric to make a couple matching pillows. (I’m sure we don’t have nearly enough pillows.) I may also have to make this pattern again using yellows.

As I started this project, I read the pattern carefully and all the way through as the first direction stated. In bold print the pattern told me to test my 1/4″ seam allowance. I sorta, kinda did that and declared it good enough. Imagine my horror today when I sat down to sew and realized I had sewn several strips together with the wrong presser-foot! My 1/4″ seam allowance was off by a smidge. But I’ve left it as is and believe the pattern is forgiving enough to handle this error. We’ll see.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Sláinte!

Cheers!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This part-Irish girl finally has a table runner for the holiday. I didn’t know if I would be able to complete it in time, but I finished it up on Monday night. Luck was with me when I realized I had enough black binding left from a previous project. Not only would I not have to take the time to make the binding (which I really don’t enjoy doing), but my black fabric was in short supply and I wasn’t certain if there was enough left for binding.

This project was made with bias strips (cut 1″ wide, sewn right sides together and pressed flat with the trimmed seam to the back). I sewed the strips down and outline quilted around everything. I added a quilted shamrock in the empty space above the middle of the word, but it isn’t visible as the green fabric is so busy. (Hint: Search for simple tattoos on Pinterest. They make great quilt patterns. I traced the design onto tissue paper, pinned the paper to the runner, and quilted right through it.)

Sadly, this runner will only be out on the table for a short time this year since I want to have a chance to use the Easter runner I made last year.

I’m not certain what my next project will be. I have a couple things in the works–another scrap quilt (as if we need another one!) and a paper-piecing project–but I really want to start something else. I just saw a cute hexagon quilt pattern I’d like to try, and I have a few patterns and fabrics paired up that I have plans for.

Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

Missing our Easter Kitties

I’m happy with how my St. Patrick’s Day table runner is progressing. On Sunday I was able to spend a few hours sewing the letters in place. I was recently asked what “Sláinte” means. It translates to “health” in Irish. (Let me tell you something about the Irish language which I am discovering as I learn it. I’m fairly convinced that they just threw letters, making certain lots of them were vowels, on a page and called them words. Irish words would make excellent “vowel dumps” in a game of Scrabble. One of my favorite words is “comhghairdeas,” which is “congratulations. I truly have no idea why half the letters are in that word as they aren’t even heard when it’s spoken. Here are a few more delightful words to learn how to spell and pronounce: bhfuil, dteastaionn, dtriobloid.)

I began pinning the second clover down (not visible in the photo) then discovered I needed to make a bit more bias which meant changing out the thread and presser foot. Am I the only one who hates having to do this in the middle of a project? I was tempted to stop working for the day but forced myself to get the bias made so it would be ready when I next had time to sew.

I thought, as Easter is approaching and the decorating has begun, that I would share some of my earlier Easter projects.

First, in the bottom left photo, are our Easter baskets. My mother made the small one for me when I was a child. The other four were ones I made for my husband and our kids. This year I was finally able to put them back on top of the piano. They were there for many Easters until we had the piano completely refurbished inside and refinished. Several years ago we had all new innards put in the piano. Almost everything in there, with the exception of a few replacement strings, was from 1927. Once the piano was returned, we chose not to put the baskets on top at Easter as we had three cats at the time who liked to climb into them and we didn’t want them to scratch the surface. There was some sadness this year as I placed in the crochet eggs my mom and grandmother made which the cats liked to remove and leave around the house. (As children, my brother and I liked to throw them at each other.) A beat up pom-pom bunny brought back fond memories of our cat Buster, who loved to battle with that bunny and toss him on the floor. Buster died in 2017 at the age of 15. His brother Boo-Boo died in 2019 at nearly 17. (That was a rough year. Our daughter’s beloved guinea pigs, Beatrice and Mabel, also died.) In early 2020 we had to say good-bye to our cat Belle. She was 15. We have just one cat now, and she was never one to play in the baskets. Rosie is 16, and I’m convinced she has outlived all the other cats out of spite. (She’s truly a sweetheart. A mouthy, crotchety sweetheart.) We also have two dogs and two guinea pigs, but it would be amazing if they figured out a way to get into the Easter baskets!

The other two projects were cross-stiches I made. I have a snowman cross-stitch for Easter, Christmas, Fourth of July, and Halloween.

knitting · Quilting · Quilts · Uncategorized

The 2020 Afghan

My kids prefer afghans to quilts for cold winter days or chilly summer nights. I’ll let you in on a little secret…I do too. When it comes to having something to snuggle up under on the couch, afghans are our go-to.

That’s not to say that quilts don’t have their place. In our house that place is on the walls, the backs of the couches, or atop the beds. So basically everywhere…just not on top of us.

It’s silly, I know. I love making quilts and all the different designs, but to me they are more of a decoration than a way to keep warm.

We recently had a conversation after what happened in Texas about how we would never get too cold in our house even if the power was out for days since we have so many quilts and afghans and blankets all over the place. We could build a fort and stay nice and cozy in front of our fireplace. While it sounds fun and novel, romantic even, in reality it would probably be none of those things!

Without electricity, we’d have no hot water and quite quickly no water at all since our well would stop pumping it from the ground. While we’ve cooked in our fireplace before, it’s never been anything more complicated than a hot dog. In fact, hot dogs cooked over the fire was our Anniversary dinner this past December since we were without power that evening. Also, the guinea pigs, Winston and Basil, would suffer as they are delicate little fellas who can’t handle the cold. I’m not sure I’d enjoy having them in our fort since they throw hay all over the place!

I finished this particular afghan last weekend. I began working on it early last year. It looks a lot like another I finished last year since I wanted to use up all of the remaining yarn from that project. The pattern was my own design:

The first 10 and last 10 rows were all Knit rows.

Then Knit a row, Purl a row for as many rows as desired. This started out as 20 rows. As I ran low on some yarns and had a lot left of others, I adjusted and did less rows of some colors and more rows of others. (First 5 stitches in all rows were Knit.)

Then (when on right side) 2 knit rows, 1 purl row, 1 knit row. (I did these in green and purple)

Things got a little wonky color-wise as I neared the end of my yarn supply and had to change up the color pattern I had started out with. This didn’t bother me as it was a project I began just to use up leftovers. I was amazed that I was able to get two very large afghans out of 5 1-pound skeins of Caron yarn.

The Celitc Knotwork St. Patrick’s Day project is coming along nicely. I’m still not sure I’ll finish in time for the holiday, but I made good progress yesterday. The first clover is completely sewn now, and all the letters are glued in place. I’ve also begun sewing the letters. I’m hoping to make some progress this weekend but may not as there’s a birthday to be celebrated. Special food will be prepared. Brownies and ice cream will be consumed. Presents will be unwrapped. And fun will be had.