Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Very Merry Christmas

Between my cold and Christmas I haven't been at the computer very often lately. But we had a very merry Christmas indeed, in spite of my cold. And I'm almost over it now. :- )

DH loved his new quilt.

There's no way I could photograph it to show you the quilting. It's black on black most of the time. Besides, I can hardly get it away from him! Suffice to say that it was well done and perfect for the quilt.

Reilly was happy with what he found in his stocking.

I was THRILLED with what was under the tree for me! This was a complete surprise:

But I knew this box of fabric would be there. ;- )

Chaos reigned when the younger generation made their appearance.

But they seemed to enjoy their gifts too.

Another gift that was sort of under the tree (there were a few packages that wouldn't fit!) was a new light fixture for our dining room. DH is off of work this week so he hung the new fixture and we tweaked the arrangement of things in the dining room. The kitchen may be next since they are adjoining rooms, only separated by a peninsula counter. Long-time readers may remember that at the beginning of this year I had my eye on the smallest bedroom of the house, thinking I would turn it into a sitting room. That has not happened and probably won't in the near future. But the changes we made in the dining room may make it possible for me to use it as my "studio annex" from time to time. I'm hopeful. It would be so much easier to get pastel chalk dust off that hard surface floor than out of the carpet in my Nest.

I have a few goodies to share with you that I completed before Christmas. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas From the Magpie's Nest

I haven't been at the computer much this week. Been busy helping Santa put the finishing touches on Christmas for the granddaughters. Apparently I've also been coming down with a cold, courtesy of my husband and/or son. I don't have a lot of energy at the moment but I wanted to be sure to send heart-felt wishes to all my cyber friends for a warm, loving, and joyful Christmas.

Reilly is a little confused about which tree his presents will be under ;- )

I hope all your wishes come true!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Couple of Quick Projects

A Creative Dreamer's challenge for the month of December is "Home." I'm not sure anything could be more appropriate! As usual, at first I was flabbergasted at the range of possibilities, especially since there are no rules as to how we interpret the challenge. It didn't take long for me to think of the orphan house blocks in my stash however. There aren't a lot left at this point but there were a couple that I had designed and sewn up several years ago. One seemed particularly suited to this challenge. All I had to do was add a bit of landscaping.

There's something magical about the twilight hour, that brief space of time when day and night co-exist. Lights come on in houses, giving them a warm and cozy appearance from outside.

Around here at this time of the year the trumpeter swans are making their commute from the farm fields where they've been feeding during the day to wherever it is they spend the nights. It's a special joy for me to hear them as they pass overhead. They may have been the inspiration for the title of this Priority Quilt for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative: "Coming Home to Roost."

I was tempted to add some beads for sparkle in the night sky. I decided to keep it simple this time around though. Instead I used chalk pastels to create smoke coming out of the chimney and a bit of Micron pen ink to add a nest in the tree.

This quilt has already received its' registration number, 6280, and with any kind of luck will be on its' way to AAQI's quilt processing facility tomorrow. ;- )

When I could no longer go to the beauty school to get my hair cut every 6-8 weeks I found a gal who makes house calls. She's very diligent about coming over as scent-free as she can manage. I made her a pair of potholders this week to show my appreciation.

There are a couple more little projects I'd like to get finished before the end of the year. I may get a burst of creativity after Christmas and get a back made for my "Play Group" friendship quilt but right now I'm not feelin' it. I may have to spend some time playing in my scraps or with orphan blocks while everyone else is away at Christmas parties...

Friday, December 17, 2010

I've Been Here Before

Regular readers may have noticed that every once in a while I seem to drop out of Blog Land. This was one of those weeks. Part of it was holiday madness, but only a very small part. Most of it was due to my chronic health issues. They can be such a drag sometimes. Today I finally had to bite the bullet and tell our newspaper to stop delivery. I wish I could convey what a blow this is for me. It's like losing yet another battle in a long drawn-out war. I can read the paper online but I'll miss the color and the advertising supplements and just everything about a physical newspaper (except maybe the ink coming off on my hands). It's been about a month since I realized that by skipping the morning paper in its' physical form I could also skip the daily morning headache. {sigh}

Since "Monkeyshines" there has been another finish but I'm not going to show or talk about it yet because it's a Christmas surprise. Well, I will say that it was not part of my New Year's Eve UFO challenge. As far as the two remaining items on my UFO list are concerned, I'm not thinking about them this week. They may or may not get done before the new year makes its' debut; at this point I don't really care.

With the exception of that one finish for Christmas there hasn't been a lot going on in the Magpie's Nest. I finally got disgusted with the drawer overflowing with scraps of batting. I took out the pieces that were suspect of having polyester content and cut them into narrow strips, essentially shredding them. That didn't take long and before I knew it I was pulling out and cutting up the skinniest strips of cotton batting too. This is what I ended up with:

I'm thinking that eventually I will piece together some of those crumb/liberated log cabin blocks that are piling up and make at least one dog bed, using the shredded batting as filler.

I do have something I haven't shared previously that might make it worth your while to have stopped by today. I've been catching up on my Bead Journal Project for this year. Back in May I was thinking about the cycles of creativity we all go through. I cut my diamond shape, layered it with a piece of cotton batting, and seed stitched all over it with embroidery floss. My goal as I was stitching was to create bands of color to represent the various levels of creativity or inspiration we experience. It may not show well in the pictures but I used magenta, navy blue, sky blue, yellow, and Kelly green. Once I had that step done I set the ornament aside and didn't touch it again until last month. I knew what I wanted to do but wasn't quite sure how to go about it. Then I had that influx of beads and sequins when our local store closed its' doors. That was enough to get the juices flowing again.
. I knew I wanted a representation of the spiral path Julia Cameron talks about in The Artist's Way. It was just a matter of finding the right beads or sequins to create the path. Back in May I was thinking about couching a line of seed beads or back stitching some other small bead in a spiral. Apparently that was too daunting. In November these flat sequins came into my hands and seemed the perfect solution.

I changed out the color of the seed beads I used to tack the sequins down as I worked through the bands of embroidery. The white heart is the pinnacle of our journey up the mountain. As we walk the path we slowly climb the Mountain of Enlightenment. We pass the same "scenery" with each circuit but hopefully at a higher level of understanding each time.

I have yet to mount this ornament on the watercolor paper backing I've been using. There are two other ornaments at this same stage of completion. I'll have to show them to you soon. :- )

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Sunshine!

Woohoo! Did you see Michele's comment on my Monkeyshines post? Quilters have made a real difference in the fight to fend off Alzheimer's disease. My brain is a little muddled from a toxic exposure this morning but my interpretation is that the $30,000 that was raised from our little quilts was given to researchers at the University of Michigan. To quote Michele:

Because of our funding, Dr Lim and her team were able to create new
molecular tools that show promise for cleansing the brain of amyloid plaques.
These plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, are clumps of misfolded
proteins thought to cause cell death leading to devastating memory loss and
cognitive decline. Finding ways to cross through the blood brain barrier is
something I have been reading about for years and here this team has worked out
a means and a method that might significantly alter Alzheimer's research from
now on!

I couldn't be happier that I have in some small way helped contribute to this breakthrough. And now I want to go make another Priority Quilt!

I just found the AAQI blog post telling the good news. Go check it out HERE. Hooray!!!

A Little Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

After a rough weekend (from which I have not entirely recovered) I'm here to share with you another finish. Yippee! I'm delighted with how it turned out too.

Here's "Monkeyshines" in the process of being quilted. (Thanks to Michele for the inspiration for the quilt name!)

This is the stitch I used for the quilting. It seemed appropriate. Used up a lot of thread though!

There was enough of this bright green I'd bought on spec, on sale, to use for backing and binding.
Ta daa! The completed quilt on my kitchen floor:

It's now in a box, ready to be shipped off to its' final destination. My poor DS will be one of the many standing in line at the Post Office this week. We have quite a stack of packages to send off. Of course they aren't all ready to go just yet. Getting them ready is the order of the day. Before we do that we have to take Mr. Reilly over to the groomer. Busy, busy, busy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Flimsy Finish

Woohoo! I have finally brought my collection of black and white and pink friendship blocks from 2002 to the first stage of quilt completion. {big sigh} What a relief!

When you last saw this work in progress the blocks had just been set together. That was quite an ordeal in itself. Fun, but time consuming and just a tiny bit tedious at times.

At that point I honestly thought this would be another double bed quilt. It was nearly wide enough. But I was tired of working on it and slightly tired out by it. So I put it away and worked on other things. It hung around in the back of my mind though. A couple of weeks ago I decided to make finishing this top one of my goals for Finn's New Year's Eve UFO challenge. Another goal is to make a back for it, but that will be another project altogether.

When I got the top out again I was happy to discover that I could look at it with fresh eyes. After some journaling about it I managed to get past the idea of a bed quilt. The top is nearly square in the picture above; I decided to let that be the shape it would keep. In order to make it more squre I needed to add a narrow border to the two sides. The right side is shown below in the process of auditioning possibilities.

The left side is in the picture below, pinned together.

I had to pleat the flimsy on my design wall in order to see both sides at the same time and try to achieve some sort of overall balance.

It hung there for a few days while I did some beading to get my Bead Journal Project caught up for this year. Once I had those skinny borders on, however, I realized that I no longer wanted a frame of pink like I had originally planned. Further auditioning of various black and white prints for a final whole-cloth border revealed that a predominantly black border was not going to work either. But a white with black print seemed to magically do the trick. Here's the right half of the quilt top on my kitchen floor:

And the left half:

I think now that I will use a pink for the binding. Long-time readers may remember a pink stripe I bought; it should effectively bring all the different pinks together.

I had to do a bit of piecing to get the final border on this top. Out of the one yard cut I started with this is all I have left:

A slightly off-kilter 4.5" square and a width-of-fabric strip that varies from 3.5" to 4" in width.

And to cap off my accomplishment I have come up with an actual name/title for this quilt: "Play Group." No doubt that's due in part to all the nice compliments I received on my 'play' block that ended up in the cover quilt of Tonya's new book!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Almost Missed It!

Couldn't let this day pass without a shout-out to Tonya Ricucci on the publication of her first book, Word Play Quilts.

I'm proud to say that one of the few word blocks I've made ended up on the cover of the book.

I haven't made many other word blocks. Almost put my newest granddaughters' names on their baby quilts but ran into difficulties and opted out. I'm not saying I'll never make any more words out of fabric but for the time being I'm content to enjoy all the other wonderful quilts being made using Tonya's tips (many of which can be seen on the blogs you'll find here). Once this book gets into the hands of quilters there are going to be a LOT more quilts featuring words and sayings!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's Starting to Look Like Christmas

We've had a relatively dry week. Yesterday we even had real sunshine, as opposed to the glare of sun through a thin layer of clouds. We took the opportunity to drive up to one of the verdant forests of trees in the area to pick out our tree for Christmas this year.

We usually have a Douglas Fir. For a change of pace this year we chose a spruce. Here's our personal lumberjack hauling it out of the forest for us:

Now all we have to do is dig out the Christmas decorations and get busy!

This past week I also made one last foray into the local sewing supply store that is closing. The owner is retiring for health reasons. That business is going to be sorely missed. I brought home a pile of sequins, a couple tubes of beads, half a dozen fat quarters, and some funky yarns. The sequins posed a storage problem.

Up until now I've just kept them, for the most part, in the same drawers I use for storing my beads. More than one of my bead drawers had become hard to open and close however. I made the decision to remove the sequins and see what kind of difference that would make.

It made a world of difference. Suddenly drawers that were all but overflowing now have all kinds of room for new beads! But where to put the sequins?

I had this cute animal crackers tin laying around, waiting to be used.

Not quite big enough. Hmm... what else?

Maybe if I dump these scraps out of this plastic shoebox... Ah, they all fit, with room for more. Perfect!

So far I've resisted the urge to sort them according to color. It might be more stimulating to have them all jumbled together.

Another perk is that this activity has sent me back to my Bead Journal Project ornaments. I was behind by about 5 ornaments when I brought those new sequins home. I'm happy to report that I am now almost up to date. Two ornaments have been embellished and are ready for backing and hanging loops, one is in the process of being embellished. Maybe I've miscounted - I'll have to go look. Near as I can figure though, I should only have December left to create to complete the collection for the year. Woohoo!

I wasn't sure I was going to sign up to participate in the BJP for 2011 because I had fallen so far behind this year. After spending some time catching up with other BJP bloggers I realized it's not the finishing of the individual ornaments that is the main thing. It's what you learn about yourself along the way that is the most valuable. And I've learned a lot. So I signed up again. If any of my readers are even remotely thinking about participating in the BJP for 2011 I would encourage you to do so and to hurry up! and register because registration closes this Wednesday, December 8.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One Down, Three to Go!

After that little bit of playtime to make the house block (see previous post) I buckled down to quilt "Cookies & Lemonade." It had been pin-basted before I signed up for the New Year's Eve Challenge but I wasn't really sure how I was going to to quilt it at the time. No brilliant answers came to me in the interim so I figured I'd just start in the middle and see how it developed. I eyeballed a diagonal line through the crumb blocks in the central panel of the quilt, stitching from corner to corner of each block. It wasn't always easy to find the corners, let me tell you!

Then I stitched a giant zigzag pattern in each successive ring of strips. All I used for marking were the corners of blocks or a ruler and straight pins.

I had a bit of a problem when I finished with the last ring because there were still the strips at the top and bottom that give the quilt its' length that needed to be quilted. Eventually I decided to just keep going with the zigzag pattern and was able to figure out spacing without too much trouble. In this case I chose to ignore the seam line between the two prints altogether to take my quilting closer to the perimeter of the quilt.

The next day I trimmed the quilt and made binding for it. I would have sworn that I'd measured and reckoned correctly but I came up short of binding as I was headed toward the home stretch. And of course I'd used up all of the print I'd chosen for the binding; there was no more to be had. It took some doing but I finally found something else altogether that at least blends in to cover that last 12" or so. I'd be interested to find out just how long it takes the quilt's new owner to discover the change in print. ;- )

So this quilt is officially done and can be checked off my New Year's Eve Challenge list. Woohoo!

This is not a wonderful picture of the finished quilt because it was taken in the living room under very poor light. We may have to try again before the quilt leaves for its' new home. It looks like we're having a bit of sunshine at the moment... but of course there aren't enough hands available and no place dry enough to take a picture outside. LOL - my inventive son just suggested we put the quilt on the roof of the house and then get a satellite image of it. I would love to see how well that would work!

Monday, November 29, 2010


It's not the first Monday of the new month, it's the last Monday of the current month. Be that as it may, I'm going to show you now what I did with A Creative Dreamer's Creativity Challenge for November.

The challenge this month was "Red." Just "red." Talk about a world of possibilities! Of course I thought of all kinds of things I could do. What's interesting to me is that of all those possibilities it was something I hadn't thought of that moved me to action.

I was innocently reading blogs and visiting quilters I hadn't met before when I came upon Love, Laugh, Quilt. Beth has a ton of followers but I hadn't discovered her yet. She's hosting a house block give-away to celebrate the friendly neighborhood of bloggers. I've always had a weakness for house blocks. It only took a nano second for me to decide not only to participate in the give-away but to make my house Red!

I tried, I really tried, to make a free style, liberated house. This is what I ended up with. Still straight up but at least I had fun with it. I started with the computer image with the message that "You have mail." Had to add my Reilly-dog in the other window. Then it was a matter of landscaping. I happen to love Jay McCarroll's leaning trees, and evergreens of that general shape are predominant in this area. I had a strip of the print I used on the border of the Harry Potter quilt that was just the thing to flesh out my immediate neighborhood. The hardest part was stopping with just this one block! If I hadn't made other commitments I would surely have made several more by now. There's a very good chance that I still will ;-)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sunshine on a Snowy Day

I hope all my readers in the United States had a warm and tasty Thanksgiving Day. Because of the snow and icy roads in this region DH and I had an intimate turkey dinner, just the two of us.

There was new snowfall here Thanksgiving morning. It made for a very pretty holiday. By Friday it had all melted away. At least it stuck around long enough for me to get the baby quilt top finished. When last you saw it I'd made points for maybe six of the 20 stars. The next day I had all the stars in place.

It was at that point that Jan Mullen stopped with her Starz and Stripez quilt. I felt mine needed more.

I am absolutely thrilled with how this turned out.

Poor DH went to JoAnn's yesterday to try to procure batting for this project. When he saw the length of the line he turned on his heels and left the store. So we'll wait to quilt this up until I either piece together some leftover bits of batting or someone else can go to the store for me. In the meantime I need to get back to those projects I told Finn I would finish up before New Year's Day!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

From Green to White

I lied. I didn't cut the green patches for the baby quilt over the weekend. I got distracted by an opportunity created by Beth over at Love, Laugh, Quilt. I'll show you what I made a little later.

Sunday our world outside went from green to white. There's something about falling snow that makes me want to warm myself by the heat of my iron and cuddle with my sewing machine. ;- )

I took down all the Churn Dash blocks that were on my design wall so I could put up the background patches for the baby quilt. I used a variety of yellow prints and I wanted to get them distributed as evenly as possible across the surface of the quilt. Mz. Mullen used a lot of prints in the background of her Starz and Stripez quilt; that's part of what drew me to it in the first place.

Really, one could stop at this point and sew the patches together for a simple, happy quilt. Lots of fun quilting would make a top like that sing. (The big squares are only 5.5" and the rectangles are 3" x 5.5".) Since I'm not that proficient a quilter I pulled out a lot of greens from my stash to make the starz.

I was wondering how I would get the greens distributed evenly across the quilt when suddenly it dawned on me that I could work on one star at a time and just keep the points all the same for that star. Mz. Mullen has mixed her star points all up from what I can see. I also suspect she did all the sashes in one go and then arranged them to make up the starz. Guess I'm not feeling that random right now. Ya gotta do what works for you (I know that because Gwen Marston said so in her recent books!) and this is what works for me.

Since daytime temperatures are not going to be climbing above freezing for another day or two I may even get this top together before Thanksgiving. :- )

Saturday, November 20, 2010


So naturally, since I have committed myself to four projects between now and New Year's Eve, a new project has come to the table. I'm happy to take on this new project but this is exactly why I am so reluctant to make major commitments!

My elder son's long time friend married earlier in the year. Now the couple has a new baby boy and my son asked if I would make a quilt for him. Of course I will! He'd like them to receive it for Christmas. Hoo boy. While we've known this young man for many years we never really got to know him. DS gave me a list of potential jumping off points but nothing specific.

I went to my favorite quilting books and spent time looking at pictures of baby quilts on At bedtime that night I was looking through Jan Mullen's Cut Loose Quilts and came across this little quilt:

I've never made one like this, where you don't make blocks per se. The stars are created from what you do to the sashing. One of the suggestions DS gave me was that his friend's mother is from Jamaica and that I could incorporate the colors of the Jamaican flag in the quilt. I looked at this quilt pattern and thought it would be lovely done up with yellows in the background and green for the star points/sashing. The center squares will be assorted black and white prints like it is in Jan's version. This color palette was sealed when I found this delightful print:

I can put a border around the stars to make the quilt just that much bigger and therefore it will be useful that much longer. Hurray!

So far I have the background patches cut.

It's going to be a very green weekend. :- )

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What's Next?

We're having another blustery day today. These normally staid shrubs are doing quite the happy dance.

I only hope the river stays within her banks with all the rain we're getting. It's a wild time of year around here. As long as the power stays on I'm happy. :- )

I shipped these two quilts off to Margaret's Hope Chest on Monday.

They were warm and soft coming out of the dryer. Especially this one, with a flannel back.
Wouldn't it be lovely to be able to pack that fresh-from-the-dryer warmth in with the quilts?

Now I'm looking forward, trying to figure out what's next. I need to clean up from these last several projects. That may entail taking the Churn Dash blocks off the design wall so I can throw leftover scraps and strips on it and see what develops. I really don't want to put that stuff away again. I want it used up and gone. At the same time, however, I don't want to start a brand new project. As this year draws to a close I want to do some closing of my own.

I've been a fan of Finn's ever since I started reading blogs. She's hosted a New Year's Eve UFO challenge for the last three years and a lot of quilters and crafters have finished a lot of projects that had been laying dormant in their homes and studios. I've resisted the urge to commit to that particular challenge, preferring to work at my own pace and as my muse dictated. I think the time has finally come for me to play along.

Long-time readers may remember this top:

It was built from blocks I received from members of my local quilt guild. I spent a lot of time putting those blocks together in the summer of '09. So much so that by the time I finally had them together I couldn't see what to do about a border. I bought several pieces of yardage as possibilities but nothing really spoke to me. So it got put away.

Recently I received this piece of yardage from a new friend.

I'm not sure it will work on the front, as a border, but it could be prominently featured on the back. The point is that it has brought this unfinished top to mind again and has awakened the muse. As a gift to myself I want to have this top and a back for it done by New Year's Eve. I also want to have my Sketchbook Project nearly complete at that point (or maybe even done!). And to top it all off, I want to have "Cookies & Lemonade" quilted and bound and ready to ship. The beauty of Finn's challenge is that no-one will come to my door to beat or berate me if I fail in any one of these commitments. But it's going to feel great to get them all done!