Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winding Down

Remember all that snow we had?

It's rapidly melting away now. I'm not aware of any flooding issues, at least in our neck of the woods. Sure feels good to get back to what's normal for this area. Even though that means gray skies and rain. We never lost power during the bad or really cold weather. On Christmas morning, however, we were without power for four hours. A transformer blew just before we got up that morning. So we opened our gifts under an unlit tree. Fortunately our house seems to be very well insulated as we didn't start to feel chilled until right before the electricity was restored. Hurray!

I didn't think to get pictures of my more favorite gifts yet, but I intend to. The best, biggest, surprise was a brand new computer just for me! It has to off-gas in the garage before I can use it of course, but it's not 10 years old or one I have to share with another family member. Woohoo!

It was just us three grown-ups for Christmas Day (DH, DS#2, and me) so it was a rather quiet and peaceful day. Which is appropriate I suppose. But the roads were clear enough the next day that DD and family were able to come over for a few hours. What fun to have the two little girls here to play with!

This is Susan modeling a felted hat my sister sent me for Christmas.
I have a small head but I think I'm going to have to wet it down and
stretch it out a bit for it to fit my head better!

Our tree has already been stripped and removed so that DH can turn the livingroom inside out and make it into a home theater for his week of vacation. This is the earliest we've ever taken our tree down; it feels a little strange. Still, it's helping me to look ahead to the new year sooner than I normally would and that's a good thing. I may actually have goals and plans in place before the new year officially begins for a change!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From My Blog to Yours

We wish you a Merry Christmas...

And a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

No Way

We've had more snow. This is a picture I took of our birdbath yesterday. Now picture it with a cap that's twice as tall as what you see in the photo. Mr. Jack O'Lantern has completely disappeared, and not because he was yanked out of the ground.

We even have icicles hanging from the gutters:

This bush has had a cap of snow for over a week. Now it's almost completely wrapped in a coat of white.

We have been fortunate so far in that we have not had freezing rain. I will be surprised if we don't end up with flood warnings when all this snow begins to melt though.

I found a piece of blue plaid homespun in my stack of Patriotic prints that should be ~just~ big enough to make binding for my flannel Courthouse Steps quilt. I also have my December Take It Further postcard laid out, ready for hand stitching. Too bad I'm so intimidated by both projects that I'm reluctant to begin either! Maybe I need to get my band sampler out and warm up by stitching a few snowflakes on it ;- )

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Snow! and Another Christmas Quilt

Yup, we've had even more snow since my last post. And the first batch didn't even have a chance to melt away. Puts me in mind of my childhood in Michigan. Except we had snow tires on our cars back then. We've never needed them here ~ until now! I'm afraid I may not have stocked up on enough foodstuffs the last time I went out ;- )

My poor jack o'lantern is up to his chinny-chin-chin in snow!

I have made some progress tying my flannel Courthouse Steps quilt (see previous post) but it's not ready to bind yet. Which may be a good thing since I can't for the life of me find a binding fabric I like with the quilt top. You'd think anything would work with that wide blue border. So far that hasn't been the case.

I've also made myself a new pillowcase, and made another for a gift. I don't want to show them yet because of the whole keeping-surprises-for-Christmas thing. I've also been thinking more about possible challenges for myself for next year. What a convoluted process that is turning out to be! A challenge in and of itself. As of this morning I have committed to participating in this workshop (sort of a workshop) in the hopes that it will help me establish a solid foundation for this year and the future. (There may still be room in the group if you think you would benefit from coaching in this area too.)

And now for another of the heirloom quilts in my collection... This is a Single Irish Chain made by my great-great grandmother, Abigail Stillwell Smith (bet she never used a three letter monogram on anything!).

I currently have it on the bed under my Christmas Round Robin quilt. Having inherited this quilt earlier this year I feel like I'm sleeping under a Christmas gift every night. It would certainly be appropriate as a Christmas quilt since it's all red and white. Because of it's age - and good condition, which I want to maintain - I don't dare leave it on top of the bed. That room gets full afternoon sun (well, when the sun shines) and my dog spends part of his day on the bed. Talk about a disaster waiting to happen!

It would appear Abigail ran out of her primary print and had to find something else to fill in with to get enough blocks for her quilt.There are four blocks in the quilt top that are not identical to the others. Two like this one:

And two like this one:

Hopefully you can click on the pictures to make them bigger.

Overall the quilt measures about 67" x 84." There are no borders, and it is bound with the same muslin she used for the alternate blocks and the back. I didn't measure the blocks themselves; there are 8 across and 10 down. I have no idea whether it was hand or machine pieced, but it is hand quilted. I also don't know exactly when the quilt was made. Since Abigail was born in 1835 and died in 1911 I think it's safe to say it was made between the Civil War and the turn of the last century. I feel a real sense of responsibility to have ownership of this heirloom. I may have to begin grooming one of my children to inherit it from me one day...!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Staying Warm

This is what it looks like in our little piece of the world:

I realize an awful lot of North America looks like this right now but this is unusual for us!

I had to scrape some 6" of snow off the top of my car yesterday afternoon before I could go out for more food. DS had to chip ice off the windows underneath the snow too. I feel very fortunate to still have power when so many are having to do without (and however are they managing?!). Our home is all electric so if the lines go down for any reason we would be up the proverbial creek. I don't even like to think about it. {shudder}

Happily, I have been keeping warm under this new-to-me quilt:

Because I have been keeping a studio journal of sorts for several years I was able to go back into old journals to discover that the original row-by-row round robin project that was the seed of this quilt began in January 2001. That's the part in the center of the bed/quilt. I started the project by making the two rows of reindeer (the snowball blocks). There were six other women who contributed to the top by making one or more rows. I set the rows together to create that center panel and then decided I wanted something more than a wall hanging. That's when I started making the sampler blocks that became the two side borders.
(right side border)

(left side border)

We moved in 2002 and consequently the quilt got put in a box and neglected for a few years. I unearthed it again in 2007 and began to assemble the top. Now it's a done deal. Woohoo!

I honestly thought the Christmas quilt project had been a UFO much longer than that. Maybe because I've intended to make a Christmas quilt for our bed pretty much ever since I started making quilts. Just to keep things in perspective, the next quilt that gets finished will be this one:

...which has been a UFO since about 1995. I'm currently tying it and auditioning binding fabrics. Last night I was tempted to add it to the bed and sleep under it unfinished!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Never Say Never

Everytime I work on a quilt that uses a black fabric I vow to avoid black in the future. It would appear that by doing so I only doom myself to work with it again!

My Christmas round robin quilt is back from the quilter and I'm sewing down the binding. When I can see to sew it that is. I didn't get a particularly bad spot in this photograph, but there are places where I'm sewing black to black with a black thread. It doesn't help that we've had nothing but heavy cloud cover for the last week (or more). My studio is the best-lit room in the house but even so I feel like I'm sewing blind.

These have been keeping my spirits up during this gloomy week. They are tiny carnations, and they have the strongest scent of cinnamon that I've ever encountered in a fresh cut flower. Absolutely wonderful. I wish I could somehow subscribe to a constant supply of these beauties.

I have also been working on projects I cannot show you for fear of spoiling the surprise for folks who may or may not read this blog. One of the hazards of the season. :- )

I want to get this Christmas quilt bound as quickly as possible as we are apparently headed for some seriously cold temperatures for the next several days. Even now we are experiencing very high winds so I'm going to stop here, just in case the power goes out.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pondering Goals

I think I was a teenager before the concept of setting goals was officially presented to me. And it did not go down well, let me tell you. Every time I was given an assignment that involved setting goals I would put it off, try to get out of it, moan and groan and complain until finally I was forced by the deadline to sit down and apply myself to the task. I never followed through on the stated goals if I could help it either.

Now that I'm in my fifth decade I have matured sufficiently to find goal setting not only easier to do but also desirable (at least in some cases!). Who'd a thunk it?! It only took some 40 years.

I bring this up because I've been thinking about how I'm going to cope without the Take It Further challenges next year. There doesn't seem to be enough interest amongst this year's participants to keep it going another year and Sharon is going in another direction with the challenge she's sponsoring in 2009. So I will have to challenge myself. I want to do a small monthly project, and I want it to be as much a mental challenge as an artistic one. (Does that make sense?)

I figure I need to come up with 12 challenges before January 1 otherwise I'll spend half of January trying to figure out what my challenge is! Also, part of the fun of TIF was waiting with bated breath for the first day of the month to find out what the challenge would be. So I'm planning to write out the challenges in advance, put the slips of paper in a tin or a box and draw one out on the first day of each month.

This is a new experience for me, planning this far in advance. By nature I am a leave-it-to-the-last-minute kind of gal. ;- )

It's not really eye candy, but I can't leave you without pictrues of some sort. I've done a couple more rows on my band sampler:

You'll notice I didn't bother with guidelines. I'm determined that this is to be a working sampler, not a showpiece. As a recovering perfectionist it's actually more difficult to let myself stitch freestyle than to mark nice even lines and have my work turn out more polished.

I have also sewn up these Bow Tie blocks:

They finish at 6" but they sure look bigger than that to me! Right now they're orphans; someday they'll end up in a preemie quilt or something. Oh, and my Christmas quilt has come back from the quilter. All I have to do now is trim it and bind it. Time for a seasonal movie!

Friday, December 5, 2008

More Color!

On my way home from my daughter's house the other day I took the opportunity to stop in my favorite shop for embroidery supplies. I went in intending to indulge in a purchase of maybe 5 to 7 dollars. An hour and a half later I left with $20 worth of happiness.

This isn't all of it, but there were only two other skeins in my bag that didn't make it into this picture. These are Watercolours by Caron. I bought them in part because I figured the luscious colors would help me get through the gray days of winter. (I had to lighten up the photo a bit; I think I overdid it.)

Then yesterday I finally took the plunge and dumped all of my embroidery threads on the floor to reorganize them. I'd had all my cotton flosses grouped according to color in the bigger plastic box you see on this shelf. The smaller tote had the lesser quantities of rayon threads, silk, linen, and perle cottons.

Now the bigger box holds my neutral threads and cool colors, and the smaller box has the warm color threads in it. My cotton flosses were strung together by color on shower curtain rings and then all the rings were loose in the big box. I've kept all the cotton flosses strung on their rings and then strung the other fibers together on another ring (within the color family). The rings and the balls and skeins of bulkier threads are all kept together now in one or two-gallon Ziploc bags.

The Ziploc bags keep the color families separated from each other within the boxes.

After all that I finally put my band sampler in the hoop and had a go with the new threads and some new-to-me stitches:

The top row is Portuguese Stem Stitch done in two different threads. The first part and last part of the line is done in 6 ply cotton floss, the middle bit was done with two strands of the Watercolor thread (which is a 3 ply cotton).

The second row is a laced running stitch. The bottom two rows are the same stitch, another version of the laced running stitch. In all three of these rows I did the running stitch in a perle cotton (#5 or #8; the 8 was really too fine). The yellow row is laced with another of the Watercolor threads (all 3 ply). The next row was laced with a fine ribbon intended for knitting. The bottom row was laced with a thread called Overture by Rainbow Gallery.

Can you tell that I like the variegated colorings? ;- )

(The stitch links will take you to Sharon B's Stitch Dictionary. She does not have the Portuguese Stem Stitch up there yet.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I went to the thrift shop Monday. It was so much fun! Mostly because it had been a long time since my last visit. All the Christmas goodies were out on display and I found some not-Christmas things for my own use. A package of small artificial leaves, 2 yards of straight black fringe (think roaring 20's dresses), short pieces of black boa that might end up on my Halloween hat someday, four silk ties...

and another Whitman's candy tin (minus the candy of course!).

Look! It's a bicentennial tin! And it's in pretty good shape too.

It wasn't until I started photographing them that I realized how many Whitman's tins I have. Whitman's candies were one of the special treats we would only see at Christmas or maybe Easter when I was growing up. I don't remember ever getting a tin full of chocolates, but there must have been the occasional cardboard box or why would they be such a fond memory? Anyway, I remember being fascinated by the boxes because of the simulated cross stitch.

I like the one on the bottom in the photograph above because it also features buildings or houses, another of my favorite things.

There are two more I didn't take single shots of... and who knows what might be hiding somewhere else that I haven't remembered?! One of the reasons I like the Whitman's tins is their shape. They're flat and rectangular and usually have a hinged lid. One holds my patterns for small things like dolls. Another keeps my coloring supplies contained. One has elastic. A couple are empty, used only for decoration. Not quite sure what I will do with this new acquisition (the bicentennial version). I was just excited to find it and be able to take it home for fifty cents :- )