Wednesday, May 31, 2023

End of Month Check

Participating in monthly fabric-tracking (counting only fabric that comes into my sewing room, and outgoing fabric that's made into something) has made me more aware of how much stashed and scrap-binned fabrics await use.

Being the last day of the month, it's time to be honest about what's come in, and what's gone out. 

In-coming: 3 yards of fabric needed for a bag lining (yet to be made), and to complete my Dancing With the Wall improv quilt. Since that improv quilt top isn't yet finished (picture below), it will be part of June's outgoing total.

Out-Going: Most of that 6.61 yards was 332 - 4"-square Unallocated blocks. As soon as the improv quilt is off the design wall, these blocks will go up, be arranged, and sewn together. 

Yay! More out-going fabric than incoming, for the third month in a row! 

In April I bought 2 yards of Painter's Palette Sachet-colored solid from Keepsake Quilting, to complete the improv quilt. However, when I saw the original Sachet color with the re-ordered color, the dye lots were different - see the "wrong" dye lot on the right in the photo below. So, I ordered 1 yard of Sachet from the business I'd first bought from - The Quilt Place (Orlando, FL).  That dye lot matches - see the new dye lot to to the left of the wrong one. Whew. 

I took apart and replaced obviously offending pieces, and am now moving toward a quilt top finish. Our Dancing With the Wall virtual group (workshop was April 15-16) is meeting again this Sunday for a recap of everyone's projects. I'm looking forward to it, and hope to share my completed quilt top, which will be about 60" X 70". I have a little way to go.

While waiting for the yard of Sachet to arrive, I made my third Zippy Crossbody Bag, a pattern by Sallie Tomato. I'd prepared all the parts and pieces for retreat, but didn't work on it. With my "kit" ready, it was easy to make at home.

The tropical print cork was an impulse buy - what could be more "flourishing palms"?! - from The Sewing Studio in Lady Lake, FL Since the shop also stocks Sallie Tomato zippers and hardware, it was a no-brainer to decide I needed to have it. 

My modifications to the Zippy Crossbody Bag pattern were to: 
  1. cut all bag pieces 1" wider, to more easily accommodate my IPhone 14 in an outside zipper pocket.
  2. add an interior zipper pocket 
  3. add an exterior clear vinyl pocket for my community ID card

Book Recommendation
The Measure
 by Nikki Erlick is about a dystopian (an imagined state or society) world.

In one day, every individual in the world, age 22 and older, receives a small wooden box on their doorstep. No one knows, or can see on videotape, who has delivered them. But every person gets one. Inside is a piece of string. Each person's string is a different length. It takes a while for people to work out what it means, but it's proven to indicate: "How long will my life be?"

The story follows eight characters. Some have short strings; some have long strings; and some choose not to open their box. How does knowing how long one has to live alter how one lives the rest of their life? Will I make different choices than I would have if I hadn't known? It's definitely an intriguing concept, and one that (perhaps unsurprisingly) divides people, just as politics do - there are short-stringers and long stringers, and even the men running for president have different views.

I'd call this a thought-provoking work of fiction. 

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

Hello Beautiful
 by Ann Napolitano is a story about the legacy of the Padavanos women. Taking place in the Chicago area, the reader follows the lives of Rose and Charlie Padvanos, and their four daughters, Julia, Sylvie, and twins Emeline and Cecelia.

Self-driven to succeed, Julia attends Northwestern University where she meets the man who she shapes into her future husband, William. A quiet man, he's at Northwester because he earned a basketball scholarship. Playing basketball is only time he feels like himself. It's what got hm through lonely childhood. William is 6" 7" tall.

The story unfolds as the four Padavonas girls grow into adulthood. There's an unexpected pregnancy, a death, a departure, a divorce, a separation. Yet in spite of uncomfortable and awkward situations, love is a familial bond that can never be broken, even through a heart-breaking death. 

Hello Beautiful is long read (15 hours, 6 minutes) with a few slow sections, yet the topic is such that I wasn't surprised to learn it's an Oprah Book Club recommendation.

Linda's score: 4.1/5.0


Thursday, May 25, 2023

To Texas and Back

Yesterday we returned home from traveling for eight days, driving to and from Austin, Texas, where we visited our son and grandsons. These grandsons are ages 9 and 13 now.

We've made the same trip enough times that it's almost routine with stops at Busy Bee in Florida, and several Buc-ee's in Alabama and Texas. If you aren't familiar with Buc-ee's you're missing a happy place to stop for gasoline, the cleanest bathrooms you'll ever find, and whatever snack your littl' ole heart might desire. People living in Central Florida are anticipating a new Buc-ee's to be located just north of Ocala on I-75. It will have "120 pumps, 720 parking spaces and an 80,000-square-foot store." Personally, I also like that Buc-ee's doesn't allow 18-wheelers.

While in Austin, we spent Saturday afternoon in a downtown park along Lady Bird Lake.

We also ate barbecue at Terry Black's, and tried an unusual handmade "rolled ice cream" at Frozen Rolls Creamery.

On Monday we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center where we saw hundreds of varieties of flowers, bushes, and trees. Happily, I came home with some handmade lavender soap - my favorite!

Afterward, we ate at my all-time favorite Texas barbecue, Salt Lick - one of the few barbecue places that offers pulled pork. All I ate was a half-pound of pulled pork - no sides - and a slice of delicious pecan pie.

I always travel with handwork and this trip allowed me lots of time to EPP Prudence blocks. I pieced rows together first, then joined them.

I found it difficult to make the horizontal rows match. The joining angles are so awkward - forced - that several pieces of card stock popped out. Now I'm wondering if I chose the wrong way to join blocks. Might another arrangement been easier to join? I'm not looking forward to stitching together the other nine rows I've already pieced.

Since returning home I finished trimming these HSTs for my Unallocated quilt. They're ready to have strips added to complete a block. 

Book Recommendations
I Have Some Questions for You
 by Rebecca Makkai is read by one of my favorite narrators, Julia Whelan. 

After 27 years, Bodie Kane has returned to Granby, a New Hampshire private boarding high school she attended. During her years there, three students lost their lives. The most controversial death was that of Bodie's former roommate, Thalia, who was murdered. Her killer is in prison, though all along he's claimed his innocence.

Bodie is now at Granby to teach a two week podcasting course to a small group of students, one of whom wants to research and talk about Thalia's death. The more the student reviews, the more she uncovers that makes Bodie think the wrong person was convicted of the crime. 

This is a very long book at around 14 hours of listening, and reads somewhat similarly to a podcast. I thought the author took too much time explaining the ins-and-outs of the crime and the possible who-done-its. The ending left me feeling a lack of resolution. 

Linda's score: 3.8/5.0

The Safe Man: A Ghost Story
 by Michael Connelly is only an hour and 33 minutes listen. 

Brian Halloway is self-employed as a locksmith and safe-opener, also known as "a box man." He's just opened a locked floor safe in an old home recently purchased by a famous author. However, after opening the safe, strange dreams begin to haunt Brian. When he's questioned about the disappearance of the author's daughter, he begins to regret opening the safe.

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

On Saturday morning, while watching Austin news on TV, I learned a very interesting bit of news that will likely impact quilters. It seems that the Austin Convention Center, where QuiltCons have been held in 2015, 2017, and 2020, will started being renovated in 2025 over a four year period, at a cost of $1.6 billion dollars. Since the Austin Convention Center won't be available during renovation, it's likely QuiltCon won't be in Austin again until at least 2030. 


Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Quilt Retreat

Last weekend, from Friday morning through Monday morning, 24 of us from the Central Florida MQG retreated to Luther Springs in Hawthorne, Florida. It's a Lutheran bible camp that caters to quilters and crafters, and is a wonderful place to "get away from it all," with delicious meals, comfy accommodations, and outstanding camaraderie. May marks the the month when, eight years ago, we first retreated to Luther Springs with members of the Gainesville MQG. Our chapter wasn't yet large enough to fit the space on our own! Oh how we've changed.

My work station...

I took along three prepared-for-sewing projects, but spent all my sewing time on only one of them, piecing scrappy Unallocated blocks. 

Initially I laid blocks like this, to see how they looked together. 

Unallocated was made by Michelle McKillop, and can be seen, with instructions, on her Instagram feed.
This is MICHELLE MCKILLOPE'S Unallocated quilt, measuring 74" X 74". 
Made by Michelle McKillope

Then, I used a design wall to arrange the 80 blocks I'd made That's when I had a "Oh! It's lovely!" moment. Light values in the vertical columns became apparent. It's also when I got excited about piecing more blocks. 

I had no shortage of cut-out scraps! During the entire retreat, I pieced 180 four-inch blocks...

....and pieced another 190 half-square triangles to be pressed, trimmed, and joined to short strips to become Unallocated blocks.

That will be a total of 370 blocks. It remains to be seen whether that's enough for a usable-sized quilt.

Considering that I was among the last retreaters to go to bed each night - at about 12:30 AM (up before 7 am) - and that I also taught a member how to use Instagram; consulted on a few others' quilt projects; attended a two-hour 2024 CFMQG program-planning meeting; took photos of other makers' "tah-dah" moments and posted them to Instagram (see their projects here); took our group photos; and did a wee bit of socializing, I'm happy with my Unallocated progress.

In addition to taking a smiling-faces group photo of our retreaters, each year I try to think of what might make a fun picture. Noting that a basket on the dining room side table was overflowing with bananas, I asked Miss Sarah, the camp director (and best cook) if each of us could hold a banana as a prop. "Of course," she said."They're going to become banana pudding." 


"We're bananas for quilting!"

Book Recommendations
The Yellow Bird Sings
 by Jennifer Rosner is another book about WWII. Having read so many fictitious war-related stories, I have to be in the right frame of mind to listen to another. This is a good one.

Four year-old Shira and her mother Roza, are Jews in Poland who have fled their home. Hiding in a rural barn, they find sympathetic farm owners, though at a cost. Forced to remain silent, Roza constantly tells her daughter to be quiet. That's very difficult for little Shira, who finds some relief from the quiet by taking care of her imaginary bird, and creating music in her head. 

When the Germans confiscate the barn for their purposes, mother and daughter must flee. Shira is taken to a home for orphaned children with the promise that Roza will come for her. While in the tender care of nuns, Shira is given violin lessons; her instructor recognizes her special gift. But when Germans bombings begin, Shira is again moved. In the meantime, Roza has walked 300 kilometers to the convent to find Shira, but the convent is in rubble. While Rosa continues to look for her daughter, Shira is taken wherever others lead her. Shira doesn't know her mother's name, but he always remembers her through her music.  

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

Wrong Place, Wrong Time
by Gillian McAllister was a page-turner! That's because I am fascinated by the concept of time travel, such as The Time Traveler's Wife, and Benjamin Button. This story has a different time premise than others, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jen is waiting up for her son Todd to return home when she sees him walking down the street approaching a man. Suddenly Todd pulls out a knife and stabs the man. Her son is jailed. With support from her husband Kelly, Jen's trying to comprehend why her son would do such a thing. 

When Jen awakens the next morning, she sees that the calendar has turned back a day, and the murder never happened. How can this be? What does it mean?  

The author does a great job of making the story believable and very thought-provoking (What if we could live our life again, differently?) while manipulating the reader to draw the wrong conclusions about people and incidences. 

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

At Luther Springs, this is on the hallway wall as quilters walk into the large (chapel) room where we set-up for sewing. 

It was easy to praise Him for such a wonderful retreat experience. I love spending time in such a lovely setting; eating great food; and spending time with my bestest friends. We'll be back at Luther Springs the same Mother's Day weekend next year. Linda

Sunday, May 7, 2023

A Week of Making

This past week found me with an unexpected opportunity to take a virtual workshop with Sheila Frampton-Cooper through the South Florida MQG. A friend in that chapter forwarded me an email, letting me know that a couple of their members had to back out of the Saturday-Sunday (three hours each day) workshop. Was I interested? Definitely. The workshop wasn't one I was familiar with: Appliqué + Piecing = New Possiblities. 

Basically, we learned Caryl Bryer Fallert Gentry's technique for fine machine appliqué to create flowy designs that may include lots of detail. Here's an example of Caryl's work.

 This piece made by Sheila.

We could create Sheila's simple workshop design, or create something of our own. Since I don't have an I-pad, and therefore do not have Procreate - the software Sheila used to demonstrate how to design - I decided to make the sample design Sheila provide.

The process is pretty detailed, using freezer paper; a paintbrush and starch; an iron; then glue and iron; followed by machine-stitching a fine zig-zag with polyester thread... all a bit futzy.

When I got to placing fabrics, I decide to use a few gradated/ombré fabrics which would be really effective in a large quilt. My piece is only 7” x 9” - a nice trial size, and a good reference piece in case I ever want to make a large quilt. 

Sheila said that one of her large quilts took her six months to make, working on it every day. I cannot imagine devoting that much time to one quilt - that's not how I enjoy quiltmaking. Still, I learned something new, and that's the point. 

Wanting to move along on my improv quilt, I began joining components in my Two-Step: Dancing With the Wall quilt. I'm starting to "see" something in this design, and will come up with an appropriate title for the piece. 

Taking a break from the mental strain of improv, I sewed a new bag. For several months this PDF download has been on my to-make list. The pattern is Sunshine Crossbody Pouch, a freebie from BagStockDesigns.

Having previously bought and made a Bagstock Designs “Selene” bag pattern, I know Namrata writes very clear instructions. Happily, her bag patterns are surprisingly inexpensive! Here's the Selene bag I made that I love and use.

To make the Sunshine Crossbody PouchI began by cutting the middle front and middle back pieces from white muslin, adding a ½" to each side. Then, starting at the bottom, I covered each piece with selvage strips. When the pieces were covered with selvages, I added SF101 fusible to the back. Then I cut the piece to the accurate pattern size. 

Selvages came from this large bag into which I've been tossing selvages - and pulling out for bags, pillows, and two skirts! - for years. Using only aqua-colored selvages for this pouch hardly made a dent in what I have!

Note: If you're thinking to save selvages, be sure to correctly cut them from your yardage.

Add ½" of the print fabric to the selvage. 

To use selvages, layer them from the bottom to the top, topstitching along the bottom edge of each selvage strip. If you cut off only the selvage, you won't have material to overlap and topstitch to add the next selvage. 

In addition to selvages, I used cork I'd won in a Brewer Sewing Instagram giveaway, so this was an inexpensive make - free pattern, free selvedges, free cork! The only items I bought were ¾" hardware - two D-rings and two swivel hooks.

The right side of the exterior has a zipper pocket, perfect for my I-Phone 14. 

The opposite side of the exterior is plain, but I added a clear vinyl pocket, edged with bias tape, to hold the ID card that gets me into our community recreation centers. Very handy!

The inside has a zipper pocket on one side. Just below the zipper is where I sewed my Flourishing Palms label.

On the opposite side I added a slip pocket. (Susan S. @patchworknplay see the orange tissue holder you made and sent me years ago? I still use it, and think of you. Thank you!)

My Bernina 770 handled the cork very well. I used a jeans needle to sew through four layers of cork in the strap!

Now I want to make bags in more colors! Don't you think orange should be next? (That 22 foot-long orange wall is in our living room. I love it!)

Book Recommendation
The Villa
 by Rachel Hawkins mostly takes place in Orvieto, Italy, in Villa Aestas, an off-the-beaten path authentic Italian home. The villa has a long history, including where a group of rock-star musician-druggie-types met, and culminated in a murder.

Emily and Chess have been friends since elementary school. Now Emily is recovering from a long bout of unexplained poor health, and the sudden departure of her husband of seven years, who has filed for divorce. Emily is meant to be writing another book, as is Chess who's a popular self-help author and social media icon. A two-week trip to Italy seems like a good way for them to reconnect and write. 

However, Emily is intrigued by what transpired in the villa in 1974. She finds a copy of the internationally best-selling book, Lilith Rising, written by a woman who was there in 1974, and discovers that it holds clues about what really happen. Suddenly, Emily craves knowing more, and she wants to write. But can she be true to herself, when Chess wants to collaborate with her? 

Linda's score: 3.9/5.0

Our daughter, who lives in Kansas City, sent this photo. It's a long view, from a soccer field (where our grandson was playing), of the new Kansas City Quilt Museum being built on the western outskirt of the city. 

Though it looks a little "warehouse-y," no doubt the space will be sub-sectioned into areas for various quilt displays. It's great that it's centrally-located for Midwesterners. The museum is expected to open in the fall of 2024. Details here.



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