Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sew-In with Modern Girls

Last weekend's sew-in was great! We were a small group of 10, but mighty in quilting abilities and production!

Even though I thought I was going to work on my medallion quilt, after checking over the instructions I realized I needed to measure the quilt top to add appropriate-size coping strips before I could sew scraps for the last border. That's too much thinking for a sew-in!

So, I worked on a couple other things. The most progress I can show is on my Circle of Geese foundation paper-pieced blocks. Thanks to Penny who brought along her portable design wall, I had a chance to look at arrangement possibilities.

If I sew them together his way, I'll have five gray background blocks and four white background blocks. Notice that all the red geese are at 12 o'clock high.

If I sew them this way, there are five white background blocks and four gray background blocks, and the 12 o'clock high geese are various colors. Which version do you like best?

I'm pretty sure I'll arrange a combination of the two: five gray background blocks and four white background blocks as in the first picture, and various colors at 12 o'clock high as in the second picture. 

Drat. If I'd taken along enough gray solid, I could have finished the last block!

The best part about our sew-in was getting acquainted with everyone. It's really pleasant to be around younger members of our MQG and hear them chat about their babies and toddlers. 

As we were sewing, I noticed a couple of them using their phones to take pictures of their laid-out quilt blocks. After sewing a row they're refer to the phone picture to make sure the blocks were in the arrangement they meant them to be. I asked if they'd like to learn the method I teach, in Stitchin' Mission beginner quiltmaking classes, for keeping blocks in orders. They kindly indulged me, and oh how I love teaching moments like these! I enthusiastically put on my teacher hat to explain the concept of blocks arranged as columns and rows, like a spreadsheet, and how to chain-piece columns together to make "a web." 

Crystal and Emily caught on right away. Here they are with their webs. I'm very proud of them!
From this point, they had only to sew the rows together to complete their quilt tops. Yay! A quilt top in hardly any time at all! We were all proudly grinning by the time they were done. Excellent job, girls! Great fun. A super sew-in, MQGers! Linda

Friday, January 27, 2012

Blast from the Past

The year 1976 was the year of our country's bicentennial. It's also been said that 1976 was the year quilting first began to reemerge as a pass time. I was a teeny part of that resurgence.

In 1976, I was a 23 year-old, stay-at-home, new mom. We lived in a rented townhouse in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I didn't know very many people because we had moved to that city, from Wisconsin, less than two weeks before our daughter was born.

Never able to be idle for long, I needed something to do. I'd already been sewing, done some crewel embroidery, and joined in the macrame craze - it was the 70's after all! I needed something else to occupy myself during naptimes. That's when I took a three-week adult education class on quilting.

Everything we learned was done by hand. We drew templates and cut them out of cereal boxes. (Rotary supplies hadn't yet been conceived.) We pieced and quilted by hand. The only quilting book I could find to buy was this one, a Dover publication originally printed in 1949.

Our teacher taught us how to make a Grandmother's Flower Garden block. I appliqued mine to the back of one of hubby's denim shirts. Ha! What a great guy he was to humor me by wearing it, even though he looked like a walking target.

We didn't keep the shirt, but what I still have is the first quilt I ever made.
It's also my first UFO. 
Variable Triangles, 84" X 93"
The pattern is Variable Triangles, and it's made from all found fabrics in my house at the time. Curtains, Jill's little dresses, and my old maternity tops were fair game for being cut up and put into this quilt. I'm sure that not all the fabrics are 100 percent cotton.

After hand piecing it, I hand pieced widths of muslin for a back, sandwiched it with polyester batting, and started hand quilted it. The quilting isn't finished.

After all this time, I can't think of any good reason for finishing it.

But I will keep it.

Until now, this quilt hadn't been photographed, but since I've been inventorying all my quilts, it's one I'm glad to document. On a spreadsheet, I'm noting things like the quilt name, pattern used, colors, dimensions, and year made. When I'm finished, I'm looking forward to knowing how many quilts I have!

This evening, in spite of the snow, I'm heading for a sew-in with members of our Modern Quilt Guild. We'll be sewing all day Saturday too. I've got a goal: to make and add the last round to my medallion quilt. There. I've said it. Now it will happen. Right? Linda

Thursday, January 26, 2012


What do you do with awards you've won? And don't tell me you've never been recognized for anything! I'm sure you have.

This week I decided to spend a couple hours sorting through ribbons. They've been accumulating since 1964 when I received my first "Style Revue" ribbon for modeling a 4-H outfit at the Fayette County Junior Fair, when was 11 years old. My family lived in Washington Court House, Ohio then. Oh my but handling these ribbons have been a trip down memory lane.

I have ribbons from Van Cleave Prep School, Troy, Ohio; the Dodge County Fair, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin; the Iowa State Fair; and Des Moines Area Quilters Guild, Des Moines, Iowa. If nothing else, they're certainly indicators of a few of the places I've lived.

Muddling through what to do with them I recalled ribbon pillows and ribbon wallhangings I've seen. Nope, not for me. I settled on listing each one on a spreadsheet, indicating the event, year, placing and description of the item that received the award. Then, I laid out all 87 ribbons and took pictures. They're certainly colorful!

It's a bit shocking to estimate the hundreds of hours of stitching and sewing these represent. And what about all those entries that didn't receive ribbons!?

These ribbons were earned for Hardanger, counted cross-stitch, pulled thread embroidery, duplicate stitch, smocking, sewn wool clothes and aerobic wear, and quilting. Oh, and some bread and brownie-baking in there too. Of course the ones I'm most proud of are the rosettes, for "sweepstakes" and "best of."

I'm dusting my hands of these. They're old glories and it's time for them to go. The spreadsheet and photos will satisfy as proof enough of my efforts. One more task ticked off a long list of items to sort and purge. It feels great! Linda

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


It's been quiet here for a week. But only here, not in my house! There's quite a bit of sorting, excavation and purging happening in our basement. Everything is topsy turvy. I thought that after several weeks of this I would have touched, examined, considered, and made decisions about what to do with this or that, but I have not! My slow progress might be blamed on caring, perhaps too much, about who is getting this stuff. I want to find good homes for my UFOs, patterns, books, magazines, yarns, craft items and such. They must go to places where they'll be valued, used and appreciated. This is a much more time-consuming way to purge oneself of stuff, but it makes me feel a little better.

As I unearth each treasure I find myself shaking my head at younger me asking, "What were you thinking to buy that?" How could I not have foreseen that there's a price to pay for 23 years of living in the same house and accumulating!? Oh, I've given away many things, but there are even more things I've clung to for no sensible reason. "Just in case" never happens. Still, why is it so difficult to simplify? 

In between pondering how one, who doesn't think she hoards, can acquire so much stuff, I have taken snatches of time to ignore the mess and focus on sewing. It's restorative!

These Blogger's BOM blocks are from December. I'm still liking my pink and green combo. My quilt will be called "Strawberry Fizz and Lime Pop." 

I spent a good chunk of time scrounging through a large bin of small pieces so I could cut loose and mindlessly sew 36 funky Ezekiel blocks. In Stitchin' Mission we make them into New Life quilts. I don't bother with precise quarter-inch seams, just sewing a bunch of pieces together until I make a hunk large enough to cut out a 6-1/2" square.

I needed 36 blocks to make a small sashing and cornerstones quilt.

I put it together, quilted and bound in the past week. It's 49" X 49".

Hope Quilters is hosting a Quilt-a-Thon on Friday and Saturday, February 3-4, so we can teach others how to make Ezekiel blocks that we'll sew into 48" square to 50" square quilts that have been requested by Mercy Children's Center, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, here in Des Moines.

Whenever I make a donation quilt, it's an opportunity to try a new-to-me free-motion quilting design. The idea for this free-hand spiral design comes from Fran-tastic Stitch Witchery. I like it, and it was easy to quilt. No marking needed.

It makes me happy to have made this quilt back from my stash. I used up one whole piece of fabric and some orphan blocks.

For "fun," as I've been writing this blog post, I'm scanning photos on our home printer. After learning that our photos, stored in adhesive photo albums since the mid-70's and 80's, are damaged, we've decided to remove them from the albums and digitize them for safe keeping. With approximately 18 albums that hold about 80-90 photos each, and scanning at 600 dpi at the rate of one minute per photo...  It's taking days to do! Though it will be totally worthwhile in the end - both our kids will get CDs of their own - gosh, I'd way rather be sorting, excavating, purging, sewing! Linda

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reentering Reality Since Retreating

Three days and two nights of almost non-stop sewing, away from home, were invigorating and draining. It's invigorating to be with 12 quilters who have different tastes, and fun to see them utilizing different techniques for creating quilts. Draining because I stayed up too late, including until 2 a.m. Sunday morning, sewing!

Here are some of our Hope Quilters, minus one quilter who could come only for one day. That's me, lower right. Would you believe, there are FOUR Linda's in this picture!?

The quilt on the wall behind us is none other than my still-progressing Friendship Medallion quilt that I'm putting together according to instructions parceled out by Patchwork Pumpkin, in Australia. I've completed seven steps now. Part eight will wrap it up.

It has, most assuredly, been the scrap-buster quilt I hoped it would be. But I still have heaps of those colorful 1-1/2" cut squares, used in the nine-patch blocks. I have a basket of them that I'm sewing into my first-ever Leaders and Enders project. 

Here are pictures of what a few people were working on. Lola is showing us the quilt from Elm Creek Quilters, Sylvia's Bridal Quilt.

Lola and her mother have been working on this together for the past five years. It's just stunning!

Jodi worked on this creation using a collection of Kaffe fabrics.

And she completed this creative quilt top.

Rachel used Ezekiel blocks to make this New Life quilt that will be given to a mission.

Help! I've fallen sewn blocks together incorrectly, and I can't get up can't take so many apart by myself! What better place to make a mistake and have friends help deconstruct lots of patches? That's what good friends do!

These are 60-degree diamonds. I began making them with Carla when she and I attended a November retreat. At our Hope Quilters retreat I finished sewing all 225 diamonds for Picket Fence. Yay!

I put only some of the blocks on the design wall, so I could again marvel over the optical effect. Isn't it something?! String-pieced blocks are so easy to sew together, but it's the value contrast - dark, medium, light - that makes this design so striking.  It will be just plain fun to lay out all the pieces and begin sewing them together!

One of our quilters brought along a sack of zippers from which we could take whatever we wanted. I had to giggle when I saw this zipper. First of all, check out the price for a metal zipper. Only 55 cents! Second, see the color name? Tango. This year, 2012, is the color year for Tangerine Tango. Ah, what once was old is new again. Now if we could only go back to those prices!

Reality this week means it's back to Bible study, taking my VW Bug in for servicing, getting my annual check-up, choir practice, and house purging. The list of to-sell and to-giveaway items continues to grow while the piles do too! Pretty soon I'll be needing to actually, physically, move these things out of the house. I'm trying to find deserving homes.

Our three Kansas City grandchildren came for an overnight the day I returned from retreat. They so seldom visit us - we're most often going there - that it was a treat to see them toddling through our house. Is there anything much cuter than little boys wearing fire truck sleepers? Linda
Tay 28 months; Aesa 14 months

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

Last week, Marlene of StitchinbytheLake had the most interesting post about her favorite things. Reading it, you quickly grasp how grateful she is for simple blessings in her life. Shouldn't we all be? Certainly! Here are a few favorite things for which I am grateful.

Sleeping in. Not everyone gets to do that - there's that thing called "a job." I'm grateful to not have to go to a job, though I usually rise between 6:15 and 6:45. How do I know what time it is the moment I open my eyes? The clock time is on the ceiling! It's a projection clock. I'm so used to it that I really miss it when I'm away from home. The numbers are foot-high, so I can even see the time without my glasses. See how late I slept in? Goodness! Lounging in bed until 6:10 a.m!

Bible reading, and practicing memorizing Bible verses is a favorite thing. I'm not as diligent as I could be, but I try. I have index cards, cut in half, hole-punched and put on a ring so I have palm-size verses to flip through. I'm in a womens' Bible study: "James: Mercy Triumphs," by Beth Moore, so James is the focus of my memory work.

Once I'm up and about, I make a small pot of decaf coffee for myself. Yes, decaf. Last August the doc diagnosed hypothyroidism and told me "no more caffeine." I had the devil to pay to go cold turkey from six cups of coffee a day.

Using my favorite mug, I make the coffee even better with french vanilla soy creamer. I love it! It adds a touch of creamy sweetness that, I swear - and this is just me saying so - curbs my appetite. I think I'm less hungry when I've had soy in the morning.

Have I told you that my husband is an awesome cook? He really is one of my favorite things! A man who watches all the cooking shows, does all the grocery shopping, shops at Penzey's for the best seasonings, and then cooks up the most tantalizing foods.

A pizza recipe he picked up from the chef at Wine Country Inn in St. Helena, California, where we stayed for a week last September, is his latest cuisine triumph. This "white pizza," as we call it, begins with his from-scratch, healthy, herb and wheat crust. Pizza ingredients are: pesto, green onion, red bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, and two cheeses: brie, and monterey jack. Before it goes in the oven, it looks like this.

After baking on a metal pizza pan - the one with holes in it so the crust can crisp up - this is what it looks like in its yummy deliciousness.

I always eat too much of it!

No big surprise, whatever happens to be my current quilting project is my favorite. I've been sewing these foundation paper-pieced Circle of Geese blocks for a colorful wall hanging.

Another favorite thing is winning giveaways. Stephanie from LoftCreations emailed me to let me know I won her new bag pattern, "All About Anna." I am certain I'll make it. Thanks, Stephanie!

After such a week, what more could a girl want? Well, I'll tell you. It's one of my favorite things. A quilt retreat! This weekend Hope Quilters are are heading north to Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp for three whole days of indulgent sewing time. A quilt retreat with 13 Christian friends. Is there anything as fun? Maybe it's time for a good 'ole Iowa blizzard.

By the way, we're planning a Hope Quilters event - a Quilt-a-Thon. If you live in the Des Moines area, please join us! I bet it will be your "favorite thing!" Linda

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Stitchery-Lovers' Alert

I've noted on others' blogs that January seems to be the month for getting oneself organized. Here in Iowa, winter's snow and extreme cold would normally keep me happily ensconced in my sewing area. Instead we've been experiencing unusually mild and record-setting weather, like a high of 62C/16C last Thursday! Still, everything I need to do is indoors, so I've still committed myself to doing some knee-deep purging and reorganizing.

Removing the lids of bins of craft supplies, yarn, smocking fabrics, orphan quilt blocks, Hardanger embroidery, and counted cross-stitch UFOs has nearly been my undoing! It's been appalling to find and count the incomplete needlework pieces that have been languishing for a dozen or more years. They're a testament to how my interests have changed.

Hopefully you'll find this is to your advantage. You see, I'm giving away these UFOs to anyone who will love them as much as I once did.

If you'd like one of these UFOs for yourself, or will give it to someone you know who loves needlework, and do your best to finish the piece, all you have to do is comment and tell me the number or name of the project you want. I'm offering them first-come, first-serve. The postage is on me.

Update: I knew that interest in these projects would come from people in Australia and New Zealand, but I didn't expect that so many would come from there. Due to the high cost of postage - certainly more than each project is worth - I find myself needing to change this giveaway to US commenters only. Please forgive my change of heart. Thanks for your understanding.

In no particular order, these are the eight incomplete projects I want to give away.

Project 1 - Colorwheel Square This is no longer available. 
This is counted cross-stitch with a few other stitches worked in too, per the included instructions. The design area already stitched measures about 3-3/4" square. Twelve floss colors come with this piece.

Project 2 - Hardanger Table Runner This is no longer available. 
There was a time when I was heavily into Hardanger embroidery, even winning a couple blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair. This is a Hardanger table runner started in the mid-80's. Though the picture shows the 22-count Aida cloth as gray, it's really more of a "Williamsburg" blue. (How many of you remember that trendy color!?)

The design area already stitched measures 26" X 13". The person who gets this will need to do the cutwork part of Hardanger.

The perle cotton needed to stitch this is DMC #809, sizes 5 and 8. One ball of #809 size 8 is included in the bundle, along with the book.

Project 3 - Reindeer Ornaments This is no longer available. 
At one time I made Christmas ornaments every year. I guess I didn't finish the one planned for this particular year... in about 1990.

One reindeer design, 3" X 3" is stitched and only needs the glass beads (included in the bundle) added to his antlers. Another of the same reindeer design has been started, and is included, as is the book to make this and other ornament designs.

Project 4 - Christmas Village This is no longer available.
Oh, don't I still love this! It's a Stoney Creek Design called "The Village Tree." It's stitched over two threads of 28-count white Oslo, perhaps? The area already stitched - with metallic threads in the ornaments, I might add - measures 6-1/2" X 8." No DMC floss comes with it, but you get the book. This one will be a really pretty finish.

Project 5 - Serenity Prayer This is no longer available. 
I started "Serenity Prayer" in the 1990's. The area already stitched measures 10" X 11" and is all half-cross stitches. It's stitched on 28-count Aida cloth over two threads. DMC floss for finishing it isn't included, but the book is.

Project 6 - Silent Night
Still love this one too, but my eyes can't see to stitch on 18-count black Aida as well as they once did. It's another Stoney Creek design called "Silent Night." The area already stitched measures 5-1/2" X 7-1/2". No DMC floss comes with this, but you get the book.

Project 7 - Easter Eggs
At one time I annually put up an Easter egg tree. I have lots of smocked ornaments for it, and I guess I intended to add some counted cross-stitch ones too!

Both of these Easter eggs have been stitched and only need finishing... to be sewn around a styrofoam egg (not included in the bundle). I've included the ribbon and pins I meant to use to decorate the eggs. The pattern book comes with this, of course.

Project 8 - Winter Pines This is no longer available.
Quite honestly, this may be the piece no one wants! It's very fine stitching - a variety of stitches - done with silk thread. I took a workshop with Catherine Robinder (now deceased) in 1992 to make this "Winter Pines" Japanese-themed piece. The area already stitched measures 1" X 2-1/8". The bundle comes with instructions and silk threads. The piece is mounted on an 11" stretcher frame, so for that reason - the size and weight of the frame - I'd prefer to give or mail this to someone closer to Iowa. Thank you for understanding that.

After seeing these - my once insane interest in needlework - you might figure out that at one time I owned a shop, "The Stitchery Niche,"where I primarily sold counted cross-stitch patterns, fabrics, floss and supplies. For several years, from 1980-1983, the shop was in the upstairs of an old farmhouse (since torn down) on the north side of Altoona, Iowa. It was my hobby business when I was a young mom with five and one year-olds.

I hope that offering these UFOs doesn't offend you... like you're getting my cast-offs. Rather, I couldn't bring myself to trash the hours of stitching already in, what I consider, lovely pieces. Giving them to you, to a good home, would make me very happy.

Please leave a comment stating the number and/or name of the piece you want. I'll be in touch to get your snail-mail address. Thank you! Linda


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