Monday, December 30, 2019

Bee, Myself & I in December

Yup, I had time this month to stitch for my own pleasure - and healing. After exposures to toxic fumes I often end up in a zombie state. It's impossible to concentrate and often impossible to settle to any specific activity. It helps to have quilt binding to sew down or, in this case, an embroidery design ready to be stitched and colors chosen.

I'd traced off the main lines of this free design from Joy McDonald some time ago. In fact, I'd stitched the tree limb and swing a couple of months back. This month I polished off the details.

The leaves look a little puny to me now. I think the branch is a whipped or wrapped chain stitch, a couple of rows of chain stitches. Were I to do this over again I wouldn't make it quite so thick. Or I'd add some smaller branches for the leaves to sprout out of.

I do like the flowers growing out of the vines that support the swing though. 😊

I'm particularly pleased with the striped tabby I created.

The embroidery is done but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. One of my projects for 2020 may have to be turning my stitcheries into a quilt or something!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Post Christmas Post

This post is as much for my own benefit as for anyone who may choose to read this. πŸ˜‰ Time to process the last couple of days and clear my head for the days to come.

We had a lovely, quiet Christmas Day. Just us three adults. Then the next day our daughter and son-in-law brought their family over. It was a much more boisterous afternoon! But of course I loved every minute of it.

I ended up having a very technological Christmas haul. Not only did I receive a new Paperwhite Kindle, I was gifted a card promising a new smartphone. The Kindle hasn't been strenuous to learn but the phone will function as both communicator and camera (among other things, no doubt). Up to now I've been using separate devices for those functions. My camera has been acting like it's on it's last leg though. This particular Gramisaurus has finally been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. But readers should be warned, it may take time for me to master the photographic capabilities of the phone. Consequently, posting may be infrequent for a while. Plus there's the whole matter of getting back into the swing of things after the holidays - which aren't entirely over yet.

In spite of the high tech gifts, probably the most welcome and cherished gift is the ruler rack our son made for me. It was modeled after the cardboard affair I've been using for a frightening number of years. The cardboard dividers had bowed somewhat over time but overall the unit fits my working space and my style so well that I didn't want to replace it with anything else.

Even the maker was impressed with how well it turned out. His girlfriend gifted me with the layer cake of William Morris prints she'd picked up during her visit at the Victoria & Albert Museum this summer. That girl's a keeper! Because of the potential for off-gassing of the layer cake (completely wrapped in cellophane) they also gave me a set of charm squares of the same print collection so I could see what was in the larger set. They're beautiful.

So far I really like the Kindle. It's smaller and lighter than the Nook I had. And the Paperwhite technology really works to reduce eye strain.

The second gift card was for this set of variegated floss from Nancy Turner:

It hadn't arrived before Christmas Day but was delivered the day after, which was sooner than expected. I'll have to figure out a way to put them to good use. For now I'm in heaven just looking at them and fondling them. 😁

I received another handmade gift too, from my friend C~. It's a perfect addition to my studio!

I tried to inculcate our two youngest granddaughters into stitching with embroidery kits I put together for them. Of the four girls they are the two who always ask for the stitching cards to be brought out when they come over for a visit. So I figured it was time for them to graduate to the real thing. I found a couple of cute lunchbox style containers...

And filled them with (what I thought was) floss, a pair of needles in a plastic case, a 4" hoop, cute little scissors, and fabric I'd transferred a simple design onto.

Turns out the floss is more like perle cotton and wouldn't fit through the eye of the needles I'd provided. Or any other needle I could find that would also pierce fabric. {sigh} I didn't want to have to make color choices for the girls so I just went with a big variety pack that divided up nicely between the two kits. Should have looked more closely. Live and learn - apparently right up until the day you die! I was so looking forward to being the one to teach them how to do simple back stitching. Fortunately, I was able to provide them with half a dozen skeins of DMC floss before they left. And our son has gone to their home with them to spend some time; he can show them how to back stitch.

Meanwhile, our daughter had the means to take photographs of each of the girls and turn them into bookmarks for me. Well, I'm supposed to share with my husband but he always loses his bookmarks. He's not getting his hands on these! (Didn't think to take a picture to share, sorry.)

So now I have to shift my thoughts away from gifts and Christmas and find my footing again in terms of what I refer to as studio work. Easier said than done I'm afraid. Especially with a new phone to learn and accessibility to new books to read! And then there are the tedious year-end chores to take care of. Well, they'd be tedious for me at any time of the year but I'd really like to make a clean start in 2020. At least I've had the most toxin-free Christmas I can remember. That was a gift in and of itself, for which I am excessively grateful. 😊Here's to a happy and healthy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Two Holiday Projects

We're making last minute preparations for Christmas Day around here. We'll actually be celebrating for two consecutive days as our daughter and her family will come over for festivities on Boxing Day. In the meantime I've managed to keep up pretty well with my advent blocks. 😊

You may remember the the challenge was to make a block a day for each day of advent (Sundays excepted). There are two more blocks to be sewn up today. The plan proposed by Susan is to use the days between Christmas and New Year's Day to assemble our blocks into quilt tops. I don't know that I'll be able to keep to that schedule exactly but I plan to give it my best shot. I suspect there will be some additional design decisions to be made as I lay out the blocks and that could slow the process down a bit.

When I pulled out the Nativity panel at the outset of the Advent Project I also pulled out another, larger panel. It's another one I've had forever, intended to be a Christmas quilt for one of our children. All I've managed thus far is to frame it up with a couple of rounds of strips, and I just did that this month.

This panel must have been a second. If you look closely you'll see that the colors are not consistent across its' width. I've decided to just go with it as it is. I've also decided to work on it in a similar manner to how I've been making blocks for my Advent Project. I figure I'll make at least one 8" star in red on white each week until such time as a more clear plan for building this quilt top presents itself. Maybe 'self discipline' will be my word for 2020. 😏Or not. There's still time to make up my mind to such a commitment.

Warm wishes that your holidays are happy ones!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

SAL in December

And now it's time for my progress report on my needlework activities! If you're here for the Scrap Happy Day post just scroll down. It should be immediately below this post.

It shouldn't be surprising that I haven't done a lot of stitching since our last check-in. I've been preoccupied with piecing and, of course, Christmas preparations. In November I showed the progress I'd made on the foxes pillow cover.

Almost immediately after that post I backstitched the crescent moons at the top and bottom of the design and a couple of stars I'd missed earlier.

And then put it away so I could focus on Christmas stitching and it hasn't come out since! There's not much left to do really. Mostly it will be a matter of choosing what color to use I think.

Since I doubt the recipients read this blog I'll show one little gift I embroidered after putting the pillow cover away.

I stitched the initials of the recipients and the year on the back. The lettering is all whipped back stitch. I'm finding I really like the look of whipped back stitch. It replicates the look of stem stitch but I get better results IMHO. It' fun to use two different colors or shades of one color too. πŸ˜€

I didn't make it around to see what the other stitchers had accomplished last month. Hope to do better this month! Here are the links you'll need to take you to their blogs:

HeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeJenny

In this SAL everyone works on their own projects and we check in with each other every three weeks. That means the next SAL post will be in January 2020!! Until then, enjoy the holiday season with your family and friends with best wishes from Magpie Sue. πŸ˜ŠπŸŽ„

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Scrap Happy in December

Scrap Happy Day is the 15th of each month, hosted by Kate and Gun. As it happens, this time around it falls on the same day as our Stitch Along check-in so I'm posting this earlier than I usually do - on the 15th in Australia as opposed to the 15th in the Pacific Northwest! We are encouraged to share whatever we may have done with scrap materials, fabric or otherwise. As usual, I've made a few blocks for my Parts Department.

One 12" Lego block, five 6" blocks, and one lonely flying goose. But I also made this 8" star. πŸ˜€

Merry Christmas!

Even better, when I came across those candy cane scraps I found a some orphan Christmas parts. They hadn't fit into previous Christmas quilts and weren't likely to fit into the new seasonal projects I have planned. Thinking of the children my daughter works with, I turned them into doll quilts. 

This first one is made of blocks a friend of mine made a long time ago. I've pulled them out and tried to incorporate them into something several times. Apparently they were meant to be a doll quilt all along. They were an odd size but made for a 15" square when I set them this way. Then all I did was sew them together, add the border, and do the simple straight line stitching. It's about 18" square now. There's no batting in either of these doll quilts. I included a layer of thin muslin to help compensate for the bulk of the seam allowances but retain good drape. These are meant to be used for swaddling doll babies after all!

This second one began with a 12" block I'd made back in the day. I extended it with that strip of green and then the border. It came out just a bit bigger that 18" square. All the materials used in these two quilts were leftovers from other projects. It sure feels good to have put those orphan blocks to good use and use up a bit more of my scraps in the process. 

You can click on the links below to see what others have done with their scraps since November. 😊Enjoy!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

My Advent Project

Apparently, ever year Susan over at Desert Sky Quilting challenges her readers to make a block a day during the month of December and then turn those blocks into a quilt top during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. I'm sure I must have read about this effort in the past but it's only been this year that it has struck a chord with me. You can make any type or size of block you wish and do whatever suits you with the resultant quilt top. She happens to be making blocks for American Hero Quilts. 

Her post (back at the end of November) caused me to pull out the box of Christmas Parts. A few blocks, remnants from past Christmas projects, and three pre-printed panels from the 1990's (the last century!). The idea back in the day was to make a Christmas quilt for each of our three children. That never happened. I do have a couple of Christmas quilts courtesy of block exchanges I've done with friends in the past, just in case you were worried that we were deficient in that respect. So at this point I figure I'll make one more Christmas quilt for us and then when I'm gone each child can choose the one they want for their inheritance. At least, that's the plan for now. πŸ˜‰

Two of the panels I've stored over the years are identical. I know one son expressed an interest in it when he was a boy so I've chosen that one to work with for my Advent project.

This is a craft panel, meant to be a small-ish wall hanging.

However, I always saw it as the focal point in a couch quilt. I just never knew quite what how to pull that off. Now that I have years of experience under my belt and a live-in long arm quilter at my disposal some of the previous issues have been resolved. For example, the large open areas that will be created by the block I've chosen to use around the panel can be filled in with lovely quilting done by my son!

I already know it's unrealistic for me to expect to actually make a block a day but my goal is to make six or even seven blocks over the course of each week. So, one block one day and maybe two or three the next.

You can see I've chosen a fairly simple block, although it does contain the possibility for errors. I even went so far as to purchase yardage specifically for this project (!) rather than trying to make do with what I have on hand.

Since I have completed (I think) my gift sewing I found myself between projects as it were. This Advent project prompted me to think about the other Christmas panel and what I could do with it. I have pulled it out and trimmed it and am now considering my options for building it up to couch size. I'm not going to worry about keeping to a schedule or deadline for it but I do like the idea of a block or two a week as a goal. Unless, of course, it takes on a life of its' own. There's no harm in having a Christmas quilt top finished in February after all. That will make for two new Christmas quilts next year, one for our collection and one to give away. 😊

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Eve's Quilt

With the completion of a couple of secret seasonal projects I've been able to return to the medallion quilt I began with this panel:

The last time you saw it I believe it had grown to this stage:

I made more flying geese and surrounded the medallion one more time:

Obviously, I couldn't stop there!

At this point it will finish at about 60" square. I've come to like that size to use on my lap when we're watching movies on the couch so I believe I'll stop it here. I'm thinking I'll also use the border print for the binding. I actually have enough of it left over to do that!

I've already selected the primary print I'll use for the back too.

It's more yellow in person. I've been wanting to make a black and yellow quilt for some time now. Between the front and back of this one I may have satisfied that urge. Eve may not have been able to make a quilt in her day but this daughter of Eve has done so in her honor. 😊