Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Limbo Week

Until this morning, while listening to a favorite but soon-to-be-retired WHO (Des Moines, Iowa) radio announcer, I'd never heard the term "limbo week" - the period between Christmas and New Years. The name suits though, doesn't it? 

It sure applies to my she-cave activities. Projects are in limbo... in the works; not finished. 

On Christmas eve day I pin-basted Italica. On Christmas day, after taking a neighborhood walk and enjoying a lasagne dinner for two, I started quilting Italica. I'm keeping it simple, walking foot quilting with 50-weight pale gold Aurifil on top and 100-weight beige Wonderfil (poly) on the bottom. 

As many of you know, I love making Kawandi - the Siddi-style (India) hand-stitched quilts that use scrap fabrics. Since finishing the last one with Grandma's vintage fabrics (see previous post), and still having vintage fabric scraps on hand, I hand washed more of them for another Kawandi.

I think this particular piece of fabric is interesting. Doesn't it look like a feed sack that was meant to be sewn into a pillow case? Maybe I'm wrong. Do any of you know how it was intended to be used?

Not only do Grandma's scraps include leftovers from garment-making (shoulder cuts; armhole cuts; collar cuts), an old shoebox revealed pile of squares and hand-pieced four-patch blocks. 

I selected a variety of squares to hand wash and enjoyed pressing them in preparation to add to Kawandi. Three different-sized cereal box templates were with the cut pieces.



...and largest.

I've made the first "lap" around the outside.

This one will be 16" X 32". 

Book Recommendations 
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel is a delightful read based on the life of Susan Elizabeth Jarvis, born in 1965, who grew up in Mooreland, Indiana. This coming-of-age story is about her family: a devout Quaker, book-reading mother; a whiskey-drinking, gun-toting dad; an unspeaking, fossil-collecting older brother; a beautiful older sister who is forever pinching Zippy; and a menagerie of defective pets. Life in a town of 300 people meant growing up and living life with them. Haven relays incidences with wit and humor.

A Girl Named Zippy is read by the author, who delivers her observations with deadpan inflections that will have you giggling. I also discovered that Ms. Kimmel narrates at a fast pace! For the first time, I intentionally slowed the book playback speed to .75, so I wouldn't miss a thought! 

Linda's score: 4.8/5.0

Upon finishing Zippy, I read the sequel that Haven wrote to answer her readers' question: "What happened to your mother?"

She Got Up Off the Couch continues at the end of Zippy, when Delonda (Dee) Jarvis, Zippy's mom, climbs onto Zippy's homemade bicycle and pedals away. Zippy continues her anecdotal narrative with more - for me - "Oh! I remember that!" moments woven throughout. 

With many obstacles to overcome Delonda attends Ball State in Muncie, graduates with an English degree in 23 months, and in the doing, exposes Zippy to key moments and ideas that will help define her future. 

Linda's score: 4.8/5.0

If you grew up in the 60's and 70's, these books will have you reminiscing about things you may have forgotten: camping with the family; friends in school; hating elementary school; being in love with Glen Campbell and Telly Savalas; broken bones; canning days; slumber parties; and a Volkswagen Beetle. (I have a soft spot for a VW Bug because I drove one from 2000 to 2011 - a surprise college graduation gift from my hubs.) I laughed out loud through sections of both books. At the least, you'll be nodding and smiling!

What great reads to end the year!

2020 Book List
These last two title bring the total number of books I listened to in 2020 to 70 - a surprising number (or perhaps not) in light of listening to 43 books in 2019. More at-home time (sewing and quilting) and more self-led exercise time meant more audiobook time. 

I've compiled my 2020 book list and my scores into a document that you'll find above - a tab on this blog's home page. Feel free to reference it when looking for books to read. If you want to read the review, go to that month of blog posts to find it. (Note: As I prepared this document, I discovered three titles I'd read but never reviewed. Oops. "No review," also means "no score.") Hope you find this useful!


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Kawandi, Italica back, and Merry Christmas!

I've completed my third Kawandi. This is the quiltmaking technique I learned in a workshop with Sujata Shah @therootconnection. The quilt is hand-stitched, working from the outside edges toward the center. 

It's 16" X 22½" and pieced with my grandmother's scraps of vintage fabrics.

There's one particular large-scale print among grandma's scraps - pink background with white flowers - so in the center I placed one large flower.

Backing fabric is an old-fashioned-looking print by Denyse Schmidt.

Batting is Quilter's Dream Poly Request. Thread is Aurifil #12. And I stitched with a Bohin crewel/embroidery needle #7. I like this type of hand-stitching so much that I'm thinking to make another one. 

After many hours spent sorting and piecing, I finished putting together a back for my Italica quilt. This is  81" X 91" and used up well over ¾ of the bits, blocks, scraps, and leftover yardage from piecing the front. 

I know it looks like a mash-up, but it works for me. Sandwiching and pin-basting will happen in the next several days.

I've got two books to recommend to you. You'll want to add both of these to your reading list.

One by One
 is Ruth Ware's latest book, released in September. If you're a fan of this author, as I am (The Woman in Cabin Ten, The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs. Westaway) you'll enjoy this read.

Snoop is an app developed by a tech company. When the Snoop corporate team of ten goes on a week-long retreat at a secluded ski chalet, tensions between the two former co-owners is palpable. Liz, a former Snoop employee, dreads the week ahead and what it may mean for her. Erin, the chalet's hospitality employee, observes the guests interactions, picking up on verbal and non-verbal cues that make her wary, and a little concerned about the secret she's keeping. 

The storyline involves skiing, including terms that I wasn't familiar with, like "funicular." But everyone knows the word "avalanche," right? Note: Some characters use an excessive amount of profanity. 

Linda's score: 4.4/5.0

The Guest List by Lucy Foley is another unexpectedly delicious read. A wedding is about to happen at an old castle - a folly - on an island off the coast of Ireland. The wedding planner, Aoife (pronounced E-fah) and her husband have updated the folly, and this is their first big event. The bride, Jules, and groom, Will, are celebrities, and the guest list is exclusive. The best man and groomsmen are private school mates of Will's, and have a long history of schoolboy pranks and playing "survivor." Jules's only bridesmaid is her 19 year-old troubled sister. With everyone together, truths are revealed that have several people thinking murderous thoughts. 

The whole book takes place over the course of three days, with the author referring to previous days, and "now," the wedding day. Having the story set in such a wild place with bogs, a cemetery and windswept cliffs, enhanced by an approaching storm, make for an enticing story. Note: Some characters use an excessive amount of profanity. 

Linda's score: 4.4/5.0

Made by me; pattern by Dilys Fronks

Have a blessed Christmas my friends! Linda

Monday, December 21, 2020

Rotary Blade Sharpener Reviews

In my previous post, I invited comments about rotary blade sharpener recommendations. Similarly, I asked for feedback on my Instagram feed. 

In general, comments about sharpeners were negative. As in, "don't bother," and these:
  • No one has a good review for rotary blade sharpeners.
  • Sharpeners won’t fix nicks.
So, using the same photos from the previous post, I've added comments as people provided them. You can decide for yourself.

  • I can’t tell that using it makes a difference.
  • I used this for many years, and it sharpens blades well.
Omnigrid: about $20

Colonial "Twist and Sharp"
  • It seems to give the blade a little extra life, but not a whole lot. If the blade has been bent so it just skips in one spot, the sharpening process may straighten it out.
  • Works fine, but nothing replaces a brand new fresh blade.
  • This didn’t work. Blades weren’t sharper. 
Colonial Needle Company: about $20

No comments about the Colonial brand "Turn-Sharp."

Colonial Needle Company: about $35

No comments about this TrueCut. 

TrueCut: about $35

TrueCut linear sharpener
  • Waste of time, total rubbish.
  • It is hopeless.
  • This was fine as long as there were no “nicks” in the blade, sharpeners won’t fix them. I rarely use it anymore, as even with sharpening they aren’t like new.
TrueCut linear sharpener: about $40

TrueCut/TrueSharp 2 power sharpener 
  • The blades came out duller! Then someone asked if I had wet the stones which is what you do when sharpening knives with some stones. I had returned it before I could try wetting it-so whatever you get, be sure to check. Note: this sharpener comes with stone-wetting oil. See this YouTube video.
TrueCut/TrueSharp 2 power sharpener: about $70

This Tri-Sharp brand, made by Prym-Dritz was mentioned and is about $20. Note: Choose the sharpener size for the blade size you wish to sharpen - 28 mm, 45 mm, or 60 mm.
  • Blades never got sharp.
  • Works really well and is easy to use. 

And yet others pointed me to places where I could make bulk purchases of rotary blades! One person suggested buying Quilt-in-a-Day brand of self-sharpening rulers.

Yet, I'd really like to try sharpening my used stack 'o blades. 

All this information is helpful, but inconclusive. I still don't know which one to buy, if any. Do you?!


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Scrap Quilt Challenge, Tutorial

A new project has me diving into my scrap bins.

While it's fun, it's also very messy! 

But using scraps is the what many of us quilters are looking to do.

Our Central Florida MQG challenge chairperson, Beth, came up with a fun 2021 Scrap Challenge. It makes complete sense during these you-should-be-staying-at-home days.

Challenge criteria include using scraps that are no larger than 6½"; creating a quilt with negative space; and making a quilt any size desired As well, we are to choose from one of three personal challenge options. If you're interested - Maybe you'd like to take the challenge too? - a complete list of our challenge rules is here

For my personal challenge, I picked "rainbow." And, I'll be going big, to make a useable quilt. I've learned that making wall quilts, unless I plan to hang them in my own home, are difficult to give away. Charities can't use them, nor do others want them. So "useable" is my quiltmaking default. 

I experimented with a block idea that I shared in a recent post. 

Now, after going through scrap bins to make piles of colors, I've got it worked out. I'm making blocks in a variety of sizes, and each one is a color.

Basically, the process is to piece scraps into a square block, and cut into a convex circle. Then, piece background fabrics into a block, and cut a concave circle. Join the two sections with a set-in seam. 

If you'd like to try this yourself, here's how.

Collect scraps in a variety of shades and values. Cut into bits about 1¾" X 1½" to 3". Use a shortened stitch length (2.0 on my Bernina 770QE) to join bits into strips. These strips are about 10" long.

Press seam allowances one direction. Trim strips to measure 1½" X desired length (9" to 16", depending on the size of the circle). Sew to join strips. Press seam allowances open. 

Trim to square. This scrappy block is 9½" X 9½" to make into an 8" finished circle. 

I followed Cassandra Beaver's instructions in this "Sew a Full Set-in Circle Quilt Block" YouTube video to cut circles. 

Fold and press the block in half; then fold and press into quarters. With folds on the bottom and left side, position the convex lines along the folds of a Classic Curves Ruler that's been marked with tape ¼" from the manufacturer's marked lines. Cut a circle along the 5" mark. 

This is the 8½" unfinished circle.

Use fabric scraps to piece a background that's 6" larger than the finished circle. My background is 14" X 14". Again, press the block in half, then press in quarters.  

With the folds on the bottom and left side, position the concave lines on the folds. As before, cut along the 5" mark.

I want circles to be at an angle (rather than vertical/horizontal), so I re-pressed the circle to make different quarter fold marks. Match the circle folds to the background folds. 

With both pieces facing up, lift and turn the right side of the background fabric onto the right side of the circle. Match the fold lines. Pin at each fold.

Pin each quarter section until the entire background fabric is evenly pinned to the circle.

On my Bernina 770QE, I use the quarter-inch foot (#37D) and a shortened stitch length (2.0) to sew around the circle, ¼" from the edge.

Press the seam toward the circle. Though this is a little bulky, I did this intentionally because I plan to big stitch hand quilt about ¼" from the edge of each circle. I don't want to stitch through seams. 

Voilá! Please let me know if you need clarification. 

I'm still working in a mess, as scraps tend to be, but it's a happy mess.

Last Saturday was our final Central Florida MQG meeting for 2020. Though we've been meeting on Zoom, Saturday's get together was in-person, at a city park. This is the picture I posted to our Instagram feed (I'm media coordinator for our chapter). 

What a difference a year makes, right? Nineteen of us met, kept six feet apart and wore masks. It wasn't easy to take our annual group picture, no one's distinguishable... but there you go. Most of our members participated in the annual Chinese gift swap - a $12-$15 quilting-related item is wrapped, presents are chosen, and opened presents may be "stolen" up to two more times. One of our members received two pieces of fabric along with a roll of toilet paper and hand sanitizer packets. Perfect, right?

Book Recommendation
White Ivy by Susie Yang is about Ivy Lin, a Chinese girl who relocates to the US at a young age. Ivy and her brother faces challenges growing up in a household with a domineering/strict mother and grandmother who try to impose their Chinese values on a girl who only wants to be American. Ivy finds ways to be subversive - lying and becoming a shop-lifter. Starting at the age of 14 with Rue, she uses men. Years later, when she captures the attention of a childhood friend, Gideon, she thinks she's found her dream man. When her old friend, Rue, reappears, Ivy's bed-hopping, drinking, and general amoral behavior continues, seemingly without value or consequence. She gets away with... 

Call me prudish, but I don't find it enjoyable to read about people who behave like this. Consequences don't measure up to what she deserves. This is a dark read.

Linda's score: 2.6/5.0


Friday, December 11, 2020

Italica Top, and Quilt-y Love

Yesterday I finished my Italica quilt top. It's been a labor of love for several months, and I'm happy to say it's large enough to be a useable quilt - 71" X 84". The addition of "tracks" and stripes as filler, at the top and bottom gave it just the extra size it needed. 

Now, to tackle these leftover bits and scraps! I have enough of them that I can surely incorporate many pieces into a backing. Thinking perhaps a wide vertical strip of bits and pieces, set slightly off-center. 

It's gonna be just about like piecing another quilt top, but I know it's the best way to make good use of pieces that would otherwise languish in the scrap bin. 

In October I gave away 14 quilts to members of my family. I was thrilled to receive the sweetest thank-you note from a nephew, niece and great-niece (she printed her name), and a picture of  her tucked under her "Village" quilt, ready for movie-watching. She's precious! Gosh, this picture just warms my heart!

I also receive two pictures from my sister-in-law who put "Scrap Snap" on the guest room bed of their new home.

And, a picture of her two granddaughters (also my great-nieces) under "Urban Abacus," made in 2014 and never used. Tucked beside each of the sweet girls are quilts I made for them when they were born. Seeing quilts being used makes the time spent making so worthwhile!

Book Recommendation
Another book recommendation is Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney. Oh my gosh... you guys... If you have ever lived in a senior living community, or visited one to understand the culture of it, you absolutely must read this book!

Though the story is about 70 year-old Helen, whose real name is Clemmie, the first few chapters focus on Helen's life in Sun City, South Carolina. She lives in a small tri-plex on a short, looks-like-everyone-else's cul de sac, where residents drive to conveniences in golf carts, and spend their days socializing. Honestly, just replace "Sun City" with "The Villages" and the author has pegged our lifestyle to a T!

However, the story diverges because Helen's hiding something that happened to her more than 50 years ago. And the unusual man, Dom, who lives next door to Helen might not be who he seems. Certainly the couple living two doors away have something to hide. Helen unknowingly comes across a "thing," (she doesn't know what it is) sends a photo of it to her nephew, and sets in motion a series of events that fill her with regret. Neighbors who are friends are not who Helen thought they were. Nor is she who she seems to be.

For the way the author pegged living in a retirement community, identifying senior topics of conversation; their complaints; their aches; and their foibles - and that she made me laugh, I'm giving this a high score. Let me know if you read it, and what you think!

Linda's score: 4.8/5.0

And COVID-life continues. 

The highest number of US deaths in one day was reported yesterday: 3,103. So much grief in this season of joyful anticipation of Jesus' birth. If experts are to be believed, sadly, numbers will get worse before Christmas. 

Behave safely, my friends. Linda


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