Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Aimlessly Playing

For the past week, I've been using my Bernina 440QE (QE stands for Quilter's Edition) because my Bernina 770QE computer screen finally came up with a "needs service" message.
My Bernina 440QE was award to me for "Best of Show" at the 2012 Machine Quilter's Showcase in Overland Park, Kansas

The last time the 770 was serviced was June 2022! Nineteen months in between servicing means that my weekly cleaning routine has paid off! Every Friday I brush out and vacuum the bobbin case area, and then drip Bernina oil on the bobbin case base and in the red spot next to the feed dogs. When it costs $139 plus tax to have the 770 serviced, I can be diligent about cleaning it myself!

Since finishing Prudence (last blog post), I have touched a couple more projects, neither of which are near to being finished.

I'm feeling good about having 122 Glitter quilt blocks completed pieced. Each unfinished block is 4" X 10".

The remaining 30 blocks are cut, machine-pieced, and ready for hand-sewing. I'm coming down the home stretch! I keep prepped blocks in this zipper(s) pouch (10 zippers, to be exact!) at the ready to grab and go. 

The most sewing fun I did this week was spent with Jo Avery's on-demand Organic Pieced Appliqué lessons. After QuiltCon, I purchased the workshop series from The Thread House UK using a discount code given to students in Jo's Improv Tiny Piecing QuiltCon  workshop. Jo is a natural as an instructor, so it was an easy decision to buy her online lessons and give this project a go. 

Jo first went through fabric color options and choices. Then she explained how to make each of four different improv blocks. When the background was pieced - mine will be a 20" X 20" pillow - I made bias tape, and improv-cut vetch leaves.

I wasn't familiar with vetch, which has several beneficial qualities - adds nitrogen to the soil; is good ground cover; reduces rain run-off; and such. In her video, Jo showed an actual vetch stem, so students would have an idea of the leaf shape to cut. 

Have you seen vetch? I'm pretty sure I first heard of "crown vetch" as a kid, when my Dad mentioned it. Before retirement, he worked in agricultural sales. As I recall, crown vetch was considered a nuisance in soybean and corn fields. 

Anyway...I'm looking forward to the next step which is hand appliqué. Yay! Typically, I prefer the back-basted appliqué method, but needleturn appliqué is good too. At QuiltCon 2023 in Atlanta, I purchased a small collection of 80-weight Aurifil thread and I'm glad I did! Eighty-weight thread is perfect for hand appliqué. I'm using color 1231 on a cute wooden spool.

Book Recommendations I've come across a rash of good books lately! I recommend adding all three of these titles to your reading list. 

Kookaburra Cottage
 by Maya Linnell takes place along the Southwest coast of Australia, in Limestone Coast Wine Country where April lives in a small house on the grounds of her family's Lacewing Estate winery. Her dad wants her to take over the business, but she's determined to forge her own path, helping where she can, raising vegetables, and opening a bed and breakfast.

Connor, a winemaker from the UK, arrives as part of a two-year program that sends winemakers from other countries to share and learn. April and Conner meet. She's fresh off a break-up with a cheating boyfriend. Conner has left bad memories of his former life back in the UK. Their commonalities, including an inability to cook, have them spending work and social time together 
With a title that includes a kookaburra, and the delightful voice of the Aussie narrator, how can you go wrong? The book is a charming "Hallmark" type of story - people who misunderstand one another, a very cool neighbor boy, a wonderful dog, and a sense of life lived in Australia wine country. 

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

The Fury
 by Alex Michaelides is interesting because of the way the story is told. It's presented as an objective, first-person account of what happened to a famous American movie star (Lana), her second husband, and the star's best girlfriend (Kate) a British actress.

From her first husband, Lana inherited an entire Greek island with a beautifully restored house, guest house, and pool where Lana likes to escape from London. She invites two friends to join her, her husband, and her son over Easter weekend. 

High winds - locally known as "the fury" - keep them on the island. Too much alcohol makes for loose tongues that reveal grudges and harbored ill-feelings. Illicit love, revenge, and a playwright's script are laid bare in one long night of unexpected revelations for each person on the island.

I liked this book because the plot was presented in a unique way, narrated by Elliot who is Lana's friend.

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

The Secret Book of Flora Lea
 by Patti Callahan Henry is yet another WWII story... but don't turn away! While I'm nearly overfull of WWII fiction, this one is different

Sisters Hazel and Flora are part of British "Operation Pied Piper" - the evacuation of children from London due to fears of German bombings and invasion. As difficult as it is for the sisters to leave their mother, they enjoy life in a rural village, living in a charming cottage with Bridie and Henry. When they miss their mother, Hazel makes up stories about a special place for her and Flora: "Whisperwood" and  "The River of Stars."
Years later, while working for a bookseller, Hazel comes across a book about a place called Whisperwood. She's taken aback. Only Flora knew about that place, and since Flora's disappearance at the age of six, it's been more than two decades since Hazel has thought about Whisperwood. In spite of resistance from her fiancé, Hazel is determined to discover how the author knows about their special place, and whether Flora herself might still be alive. 

When an author uses real places in a story - places I can look up and view pictures of on Google Maps - I'm always more appreciative of the story. Such is the case with this good work of fiction, based on the real Operation Pied Piper.  

Linda's score: 4.3/5.0

Taking a cue from my quilter-blogger-reader-friend Cindy at Live A Colorful Life, I'm keeping track of 2024 favorite reads with a "Book Bracket." A bracket template is easy to find with a Google search, and catching up to March is easy too. My Jan/Feb favorite book was Scrublands by Chris Hammer.

I hope you are being blessed by this Holy Week. Linda

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Prudence Quilt Finish

In June 2019, from Sharon @lilabellelanecreations I won an Instagram giveaway of the Prudence Quilt pattern, plastic template set (four pieces), and pre-cut papers to English paper piece 60 medallion blocks and 61 X blocks, At the time, Prudence was a $120 set, though I see it now for $105 at Red Thread Studio.

In January this year, I completed EPPing the quilt center. Then I hand-appliquéd the center to four black print border strips. In February I quilted it with a walking foot, and then ruler quilted. I used Hobbs Cotton/Wool batting for the first time.

Since I didn't make wide borders, as called for in the pattern, my version of Prudence finished at 56½" X 57". It's pieced mostly from scraps, though a few times I cut into small yardage pieces to get some fussy cut designs. 

Other than knowing I wanted a black and white stripe for the blocks, I didn't have a color plan at all. I simply dug into scraps to use whatever I put my hands on that was large enough. Then I spent time cutting fabric and gluing it to papers, so as to have six to ten medallions ready to piece at any given time. I kept them in a Sew Together bag for whenever I was headed off on a long road trip, or going to weekly Big Cypress Quilters meetings. 

It wasn't until I had pieced all the medallions and all the Xes that I laid out all the parts and worked out how to arrange them. 

Though I never intended to fussy cut pieces, I found myself doing so fairly often. 

Several blocks turned out pretty nice... like the pink block with those palms. 😍

Keeping to my plan to use only stash fabric this year, and not having enough yardage of any print for a backing, I had to pieced a backing. This one was made with an Anna Maria Horner print, surrounded by orange Grunge, and set into a black and white stripe print. 

After walking foot quilting in a diagonal grid, I ruler-quilted four rings in each block.

A couple thoughts about this project: 

1) IF (that's a big IF) I ever English paper piece again, I won't use 60-weight Superior brand "Bottom Line" thread again. It's a great thread, but since it's polyester, it proved to be a little "wiry." I tied it into a square knot to keep it on the needle. Throughout the project, I used one color, a pale gray #623. Next time, I will use a cotton thread that does a better job of "melting" into the quilting cotton. 

2) Hobbs Cotton Wool batting is nice (I have three more such batts to use) but I don't think it entirely stands up to the statement shared with me by two other quilters: "It doesn't hold a fold." I left this quilt folded-up on the square (not on the diagonal) in a zipped-up bag for about two weeks. When I took it out, the center folds were evident, but not quite as distinct as with cotton batting. So I'd say Hobbs cotton wool batting is better for releasing folds, compared to 100 percent cotton. 

Nonetheless, I'm happy to be finished with Prudence, and happy to put away English paper piecing for a good long time! 

Until I can figure out who's worthy to receive Prudence - after all, it is entirely hand-pieced! -it will go into a pillow case, and join dozens of other finished quilts in the top of the closet. Linda

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Cutting and Piecing

Happy mail this week was this Hobbs cotton wool batting which was my prize for being among eight winners in the Modern Quilt Guild's "Use It: Quilt Back Challenge." Winner's list including pictures of backings.

Winners were told we'd receive our batts in February, so while at QuiltCon, I thought to stop in the Hobbs Batting vendor booth, say thank you, and offer to take the batt home with me - saving their shipping cost, I thought. However, I was told that because there had been an October 2023 fire at the Hobbs facility in Waco, they were behind in order fulfillment. They had to scrounge to come up with sample batting packages to display in their booth! So, I feel extra grateful that they sent me this batting. 

With only 27 more blocks to make for my Glitter quilt, I've been motivated to cut out and machine piece all the remaining blocks, in readiness for hand-piecing. (I'm hand-piecing the four outside corner pieces for accuracy of the Y-seam.) 

I've also begun making a quilt for a special friend. The design involves pulling out each of my color-sorted shoeboxes of solid scraps, improv-cutting and piecing bits together, and then using a Hex N More ruler to cut 60-degree triangles.

The quilt pattern is called Floating Pyramid. I'm delighted I can use scraps to piece these shapes. The finished quilt will be cute!

Book Recommendations
The Irish Boarding House by Sandy Taylor is about Mary Kate, a young woman in Ireland who's destitute. Her mother abandoned her at birth, and she was raised by her loving grandparents. After their passing, she's forced out of her tenant row home where happy memories were made, and into a world not meant for single women. 

Ready to end her misery, Mary Kate is saved by an unexpected inheritance that allows her to fulfill her dreams. She restores an old house, and fills it with women and girls in need. She creates her own family, finding the good in others, and in a life that can be happy in spite of trials. 

This was a refreshing book to listen to. I appreciated Mary Kate's genuinely generous nature, and the fact that a story can be told without swearing, brutality, and murder. A charming story with a touch of faith... just the sort of book I like.

Linda's score: 4.5/5.0

Only the Beautiful
 by Susan Meissner takes place shortly before and during WWII. Part one focuses on Roseanne whose parents and brother have died in an accident. The family has lived on the property of a California vineyard, where her dad was employed. With no other family, Roseanne is taken in as a ward of the owners, and employed as domestic for the family. 

Roseanne is taken against her will to a facility for the mentally insane. She has a condition, later identified as synesthesia, that deems her unfit. Not only does she have no family, but she's unwed, and pregnant. During five difficult years, her life is unalterably changed. 

Part two focuses on Helen, the sister of the man who owned the vineyard. Helen has never been married, but has lived a fulfilled life in Europe as a nanny to several families. While in Nazi-occupied Vienna, she and the family she cares for face a new, unbelievable reality - children with disabilities are being medically tortured and killed in a program called Operation T4. Helen goes to Switzerland to help disabled children escape Austria. Following the war, she returns to California to her brother's vineyard. 

The author makes an excellent correlation between these two stories - comparing US eugenics laws in the 1930s to 1970s, to Nazi race purification crimes that euthanize children with mental and physical disabilities. 

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

Travel Insurance
As some of you know, in late January I was to have traveled to the Holy Land. My sister and I had planned to go to Israel and Egypt for two weeks with a group led by a bishop from the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America). What happened on October 7, 2023 changed all that. 

The Atlanta tour company we planned to travel with returned 100 percent of the monies each person had paid to that point, and provided a letter indicating that the tour company itself had cancelled our trip. The letter was given so we could each obtain a refund for travel insurance. 

Last July, through IMG Insurance I purchased travel insurance for $438. In November, by email I requested a refund and provided proof of trip cancellation and my refund check. When I didn't receive a response from IMG, I called and spoke with a representative who told me I could not get a refund. Instead, I have two years in which to use the insurance; and I cannot transfer the insurance to someone else. I was promised (in December) a phone call from an IMG supervisor to discuss it. I haven't heard anything since.

In the meantime, my sister has received a full refund from TravelEx for her travel insurance purchase.

I'm cautioning every travel insurance buyer... beware be aware of who you select to do business with. 


Monday, March 11, 2024

Other Things

Back to a few more things in my sewing room... 

I continue to pick up Glitter blocks (a pattern in Jen Kingwell's book Quilt Lovely) to hand stitch whenever I have a few moments to sit. I can be especially productive while talking on the phone! I've now pieced 108 blocks of the 152 blocks needed to make a quilt that's 67" X 73". I'm getting my hopes up about this being a possible 2024 finish. 

In June 2023, I finished embroidering this "Milky Way" Dropcloth Sampler. The unfinished sampler is not only printed with the embroidery design, but it also has a color washed background. I embroidered with Wonderfil size 8 perle cotton. It wasn't until last week, when a Big Cypress Quilters member came to our weekly meeting with a few embroidery hoops to give away, that I was motivated to finish it. 

I cut the selvage off yardage of Painter's Palette Pale Aqua, and used it to wrap the outside ring of the 6" wooden embroidery hoop. Then I hand basted around the stitchery to draw it into a ring, and trimmed the fabric edges with pinking shears. 

In the same manner, I cut a 6" circle of cardboard and a circle of fabric, hand-basted and drew-up the fabric around the cardboard. 

The fabric-covered cardboard is glued to the back of the hoop, It dried good and flat under a heavy fabric bin. 

I already had the hoop prop which came from The Craft Table Orlando, so it wasn't long until the finished piece was set on top of my fabric bin cabinet, alongside my Lego sewing machines. I like it. 

Book Recommendations
For much too long, posting about QuiltCon instead, I put off reviewing audiobooks I've been listening to. So, here's a catch-up of the last four books I read.

The September House
 by Carissa Orlando is about a retired couple who finally find the Victorian home of their dreams. It's up-to-date and at an affordable price that's difficult to believe. Hal and Margaret soon begin to understand why no one lives in the house for long. It's haunted.

Margaret comes to anticipate blood flowing down the walls from the bedrooms and down the stairs. She expects the former inhabitants to not only keep house, but show up in other ways - trying to strike a match to burn down the house; to bite her; and to keep both Margaret and Hal out of the basement.

Having had enough, Hal leaves. Months later, Margaret doesn't know where he is, and their daughter, Katherine, is determined to come for a visit (for the first time), and find him. Now Margaret has to get the ghosts to behave, and not reveal the house's secrets. 

This story is entirely unbelievable. It sort of wanted to be light-hearted, yet it also wanted to spew blood and gore like a horror story. Neither effort settled well with me.

Linda's score: 3.4/5.0

After The September House, I thought I was listening to another haunted house book when I started The Housekeeper by Valerie Keogh.

This story focuses on a large vacant estate home in England that has been neglected for years. For Cassie, recently of London, it's the perfect place to invest a recent influx of money. She plans to update the home with ensuite bathrooms in each bedroom, open the kitchen by removing tiny storage rooms that block the light, tame the overgrown grounds, and end up with a lovely countryside bed and breakfast.

Yet even though the electrical system has been replaced, and Cassie has verified that everything is in working order, the lights strangely go out when she's alone in the house at night. Accidents happen - she trips on a rock and realizes she's fallen on a gravestone; a floorboard has been intentionally sawed, and Cassie falls through. And there's the sudden eerie feeling she gets when she's in the dark kitchen, and thinks about those little storage rooms in the back. 

Yet Cassie is determined that nothing will chase her from the house. She befriends an elderly woman who shares some of the house's history with her. And the man she's hired to overhaul the house is more than friendly and accommodating.  

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

The Librarian of Burned Books
 by Breanna LaBuskes is a story that spans two World Wars, taking place in Germany in 1933 at the beginning of Hitler's chancellorship; in Paris in 1936; and in New York City in 1944 as WWII has begun.

Three women each have a key role in the telling: 1) Althea, an author who's invited to Germany by Goebbels. She changes her opinions about Hitler after experiencing the harshness of the Reich, discovering herself in the process; 2) Hannah, a beautiful, wealthy woman who, with her brother, follow their beliefs. She ends up in New York City, maintaining a library of banned books; and 3) Vivian who, since the death of her husband in the war, is instrumental in provide paperback books to servicemen, in spite of political intervention by her senate nemesis, Howard Taft.

No doubt, much of the history around this fictional story is true, but that's it's only redeeming quality.

Linda's score: 3.5/4.0

The Teacher
 by Frieda McFadden, is another of her engaging stories, this time about a married couple who are high school teachers. Nate is drop-dead handsome, a charismatic English teacher whose female students are in love with him. Eve is a plain no-nonsense math teacher with a fetish for four-inch stiletto shoes. 

This school year, 11th-grader Addie in each of their classes. She's the girl who, the previous school year, spent alone time with a well-meaning, affable teacher who was forced to leave his position because of Addie. Eve resents that this teacher, who was her friend and mentor. is gone because of Addie. Nate just wants to help Addie, and sees a special talent in the poetry she writes. 

Eve is trying to keep their marriage alive, in spite of Nate's increasing neglect. She finds solace in her shoes, and a shoe salesman. Nate is trying to help Addie who went through the death of her alcoholic dad, and is now alone and friendless.

I like Ms. McFadden's skill in weaving a story. I didn't see what was coming, and especially the "gotcha" in the last chapter. What I learned when I listened to the author's note (at the end) was that her own mother never "gets" those "gotcha" bits!

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

I know I said in my last post that I was done sharing QuiltCon stuff, but then I came across another on-line review of QuiltCon quilts. These are quilts made with Aurifil threads.

My Feelin' Groovy maximalism quilt is included!

As is my Polka Dots and Moonbeams, in the Super Scrappy Challenge category. It's heart-warming knowing others enjoy seeing the quilts I make. 

Thursday, March 7, 2024

QuiltCon Raleigh - Part 5

I hope I'm not beating a dead horse, so to speak, by posting more photos from QuiltCon. 😄
But in fact, I have a few more to share. Most of these aren't award-winning quilts, which I often prefer to quilts that QuiltCon judges like.

If you expected to see your QuiltCon quilt in one of my posts, and you didn't, it's likely because I missed seeing it at the show! While I was certain I had walked through every aisle, I apparently did not. The show this year was that big.  So, in random order... 

In the Super Scrappy Challenge was Nightlife made by Laurice Earl @allaboutcolorquilter. It's 82" X 66" and was longarm quilted with wavy lines.

Linearity: Points and Counterpoints is 16" X 16" (Small Quilts category) and was made by Karla Miley @mileykkm. 

It was domestic machine quilted. 

Also a Small Quilt is Don't Take the Straight and Narrow by Bridget Pasternak. 

It's 23" X 35" and was domestic machine quilted. Obviously. 😊

My South Florida MQG friend, Sarah Muslim Lefebvre @sidestitchesdesign had three quilts in the show. Triangular Waves is 26" X 36". It was foundation paper pieced and domestic machine quilted. No surprise; it sold. 

Speaking of quilts sold... none of mine sold this year, perhaps because I valued my quilts more highly this year than last. I made the decision to up prices after attending a lecture on just that topic - valuing your work.

Still, overall, I don't think quilts sold as well this year in Raleigh as they did last year in Atlanta. I tracked the 176 QuiltCon quilts that were for sale in Raleigh, and at my last look (in the QuiltCon app) before the "Buy a Quilt!" section was taken down, only 28 quilts had sold. Most of them were in the $500 or less price range.

In Handwork was U-Turn, a 42" X 50" quilt made by Debbie Shives. 

Debbie said she longarm quilted wavy lines and then filled in between with hand stitching using wool thread. 

I showed this 23" X 53" Scrappy Manhattan quilt in an earlier post, but I'm sharing it again because Clara Stoikow @bimbambuki_blog was creativity ingenious with how she made it. One of the judge's noticed it too because Clara won judge Stacey A. Watson's "Judge's Choice." 

Clara hand appliquéd cording as main roads, and curved roads and tunnels are made with elastic. It's domestic machine and hand quilted. Clara does amazing work!

This quilt was easily recognizable as the work of Emilie Trahan @mili.tra whose quilt Blooming won Best in Show at QuiltCon Together in 2021. This is Live Stream (what lies beyond the physical world) in the Piecing category. 

It's 69" X 80" and was line-quilted on a domestic machine. 

In the Maximalism Exhibit was United Stripes by Karen Duling @karenbduling. 

It's 36" X 46" and was straight line domestic machine quilted. 

I've been a long-time fan of Sophie Zaugg @lunalovequilts designs because they're always colorful, and very graphic. This is Positive. 

In the Modern Traditionalism category, Positive is 39" X 39" and was domestic machine straight line quilted. 

Also in Modern Traditionalism is Colosseum, a 60" X 60" quilt by Michelle Wilke @ml_wilke

It's another quilt that was straight line domestic machine quilted. 

My friend Patty Dudek @elmstreetquilts had three quilts in the show, and this one, The Twist, was in the Small Quilts category. It's 22" X 22" and was creatively assembled by making two identical quilts, cutting a circle from one, and appliquéing it to the other. Patty domestic machine quilted it. 

Pop! by Nikki Woolsey @nikkidwoolsey is a 60" X 60" quilt that was in the Windham Fabric Challenge. It was straight line longarm quilted.

You might recognize this distinctive piecing style as that of Maria Shell @talesofastitcher and you'd be right! Hulabaloo was in the Modern Traditionalism category, and features lots of her patterned improv piecing. 

Hulabaloo is 55" X 57" and was one of three quilts Maria had in the show. It was longarm quilted with straight lines. 

The CatBird Quilts tagged me on Instagram to let me know they included my Maximalism Quilt, Feelin' Groovy, in their YouTube review of QuiltCon 2024 Maximalism and Improv Quilts, if you'd like to take a look.

And so... I will leave QuiltCon Raleigh behind for now, and look ahead to projects of my own. 

As much as I admonished myself to NOT participate in any BOMs or Alongs in 2024, I find myself making blocks with the Seattle MQG @seattlemqg. Their member, Louise Wackerman @imfeelincrafty designed Like, Totally Quilt and have invited others to join. It's free.

Though I'm using five solids, all my background pieces are low volume and neutrals from my stash. These are the five February blocks. 

And here are the eight March blocks. 

I'm also moving along with domestic machine quilting (Bernina 770QE) Prudence, my long-term EPP project. The quilt center has been walking foot and ruler quilted - concentric circles were ruler-quilted. What remains to quilt are borders. 

On Wednesday, my friend Jody and I went to the movie theater to see the last two episodes - numbers 7 and 8 - of Season 4 of The Chosen (not yet released for free to the general public). I shed tears at least four times.

In the last scene, two disciples have just brought to Jesus the unridden donkey colt that He mounted and began riding into Jerusalem as Passover was being celebrated. His disciples and followers trailed after Him. Very poignant.

The Chosen series will conclude with Season 7, so many more poignant scenes are to come. Linda


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