Friday, May 31, 2024

End of May

The end of May finds me feeling really good about my fabric use! I'm crediting going on a quilt retreat with motivating me to cut up lots of fabric - stash and scraps - to make quilt blocks and quilt tops:
  • Bonnie Lass - a quilt top
  • Sunny - 20 blocks made
  • Plus/Arithmetic - finished quilt
  • Like Totally - Seattle MQG BOM
  • and 42 bindings for the modern potholder quilt, Pot Luck
So it's with a big whoop that I share my May fabric usage: 11.37 yards! I didn't buy anything. 

Here's the Bonnie Lass quilt top I finished last week after settling on an orange Christina Cameli print called "Moongate" for the setting triangles. 

The top is 61" X 71" and goes into the "needs a backing" pile.

Now I'm quilting again. 

I was asked to sandwich and quilt a top made by Selina Selinaquilts for a veteran who will travel to Washington DC in October on an Honor Flight.

All the quilting is ruler work. I'll pass it along for someone else to bind.

Now I've begun to quilt my Minimalist (Not) quilt. Should that be its name?! Maybe Minimalist (Ha!).

I've begun with with walking foot quilting to stabilize the whole thing. Next I'll focus on different sections to add ruler work and free motion quilting, strategically leaving open spaces for big stitch hand quilting.

Always inclined to have a variety of projects to work on, I'm alternating quilting by machine with hand stitching to join potholder quilt blocks. I'm about halfway done putting together the top which has involved puzzling - working out which blocks to join, and which units to inset into other parts. 

Book Recommendations
I Cheerfully Refuse
by Lief Enger is about what happens to Rainy in a dystopian society, sometime in the not-too-distant future. He's a gifted bass player, and totally in love with his vibrant, engaging wife, Lark. She has invited a young man needing help, to live in their attic apartment until he gets on his feet. What no one expects is the trouble he unintentionally brings to the couple. 

Now on the run in an almost-restored sailboat called "Flower," Rainy learns that Lake Superior, it's unpredictable storms, islands and bays, along with people who are after him, make his life unsettled and desperate. Along the way, he meets unsavory people, often with their own ulterior motives. Rainy also unknowingly takes on a stow-away, a young girl who also wants to escape. They forge a bond that finds them both suffering through the experience of capture.

I found it difficult to get into this story, but as usual, once I reached chapter four or so, it became more engaging. The I Cheerfully Refuse title comes from a book referenced in the story, written by the fictitious and reclusive Molly Thorne, a favorite author of Rainy's wife, Lark.  

Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

She's Not Sorry
 by Mary Kubica is another good thriller, this time about Meghan, an ICU nurse, and her 16 year-old daughter Sienna who live alone in a downtown Chicago apartment. Meghan walks a mile to/from the hospital where one of the patients in her care is a woman, Caitlin, who jumped from a pedestrian bridge in an apparent attempted suicide. Walking to her apartment at night, Meghan knows she's taking a risk, as many attacks on women have been happening in her neighborhood.

Meghan comes to know the woman's parents, and also learns what a terrible person Caitlin is. With so many things to be afraid of, Meghan's not sure who has sent her a message, who is following her, who she should believe, and who she should fear.

I liked trying to figure out who the She was, in the title. Linda's score: 4.2/5.0    

In all, this month I listened to, reviewed, and scored 11 audiobooks. In rank order they are:

The Lost Bookshop




God Spare the Girls




Darling Girls




The Vacancy in Room 10


Seraphina Nova


Time After Time




All the Dangerous Things




She’s Not Sorry









Van Booy



I Cheerfully Refuse




Expiration Dates




I hope you find a couple titles to add to your June reading list. Linda

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Plus Quilt Finish, and Bonnie Lass

I joined Jeni Baker's Plus Quilt (AKA Arithmetic Quilt) quilt along as a reason to make a quilt to donate. Unlike many quilters I know, who make and make quilts only to give away, I selfishly keep nearly all my quilts, later selecting people I want to give them to. 

So making this was a break from my selfish quiltmaking. It's 40½" X 54".

Batting is Quilter's Dream 100% Cotton Select, the last piece of a half-roll, split with a friend. After previously quilting almost exclusively with Cotton Request (Quilter's Dream lowest loft), I have found that I prefer Request loft. When shoving around a quilt under my sewing machine needle, it's easier to maneuver a large quilt that's batted with a lighter-weight loft.

I pieced a backing that has one large plus.

Thread is 28-weight yellow Aurifil on top, and 50-weight of the same color in the bobbin. 

Quilting is an all-over design I saw on @ipatchandquilt, Esther's Instagram feed. She made a video of it. The design begins as a snail trail, but as you quilt back out of the spiral, you make three little "fingers." 

Sometimes I got carried away and quilted four fingers, or put the fingers on the outside of the spiral, but no matter. It was a fun design to quilt (few stops and starts), and I easily accomplished it in a day.  

Thank you, Peggy, for being my quilt-holder!

With an empty design wall - for a change - I almost immediately set to filling it up again, this time with scrappy blocks pieced for a Bonnie Lass quilt. I haven't yet joined the blocks, because I'm auditioning fabric for the setting triangles that are needed on all four sides.

The pattern shows a low volume print as setting triangles, but I'd rather have something more impactful. The problem is that I have very few prints that are ⅝" of a yard!

I'm limited to these three, and am leaning toward the orange one at the bottom, a Moongate print by Christina Camelli. 

Book Recommendation
All the Dangerous Things
 by Stacy Willingham follows a young mother, Isabelle Drake, whose infant son Mason has been missing for nearly a year. Though her husband left her six months ago, she has continued to research, study, investigate, and make public appearances with hopes of identifying the person who abducted Mason. 

A podcaster comes into Isabelle's life who seems to believe her - that she herself didn't do something to Mason. Yet over the course of two weeks with him, she second-guesses her own behavior based on a childhood experience, and watching videos of herself as she sleep-walks. As she reaches the difficult conclusion that she is responsible, she visits her parents where she learns that her childhood remembrances aren't quite accurate, and in fact, the podcaster has more involvement in solving the abduction than she first thought. 

After reading so many such who-done-it novels, I know that it's never an un-introduced character who's guilty, but this author did a good job of keeping me guessing about which character was guilty. 

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

Have a lovely, long Memorial Day weekend, my friends! Linda

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Potholder Quilt Next Step

I feel like I reached a milestone Sunday afternoon when I finished putting binding on the last of 42 blocks for the modern potholder group quilt I'm putting together. 

The pictures below are of the process I followed, putting binding on a 6" X 6" block stitched by JoElla @jemquilter. Step-by-step:
1) sew binding strips on each of four sides
2) trim all four sides ¼" away from the stitching
3) use my ⅝" wide cardboard template as a guide to sew mitered corners
4) four mitered corners sewn
5) turn four corners inside out; use a stiletto to pull fabric to make points
6) fold and clip single fold binding, ready for hand stitching
I sewed 168 mitered corners, but who's counting? Ha! I got pretty good at it. 

I was delighted to see the whole thing arranged on the design wall. At this point it's 48" X 48".

To hand stitch blocks together, I'm using Aurifil 40-weight thread, in color #2605.

After labeling every block, indicating which piece is sewn to another, using column letters and row numbers, I've begun stitching. I position right sides together and use a ladder stitch to join two blocks. I'm taking stitches about ⅛" apart. 

After piecing a seam and laying it flat, this is what the front looks like. Pretty nice, isn't it?

Not all the stripes align, but that's okay. The overall effect is good. 
Blocks shown were made by: 
upper left - Karen @sunrayatplay
middle left - Kathy @kathycookquilts
right - Jane @gonequiltinginflorida
bottom - Debbie @aquilterstable

I so appreciate the variety of blocks I received from the 15 other makers (besides me) whose creations are in this quilt. I asked participants for quilt name suggestions and was delighted by one from Maureen @maydecemberquilts.  

Isn't that just the perfect name?! Not only does it have the word "pot" in the name, but the concept of a pot luck is everyone bringing their best recipe to the table.

Maureen says it best: 

"All the dishes are brought to a pot luck, made by different cooks with no communication between those cooks, and it all works out to be just the right amount and types of food enjoyed by all!!"

Thank you, Maureen for the great name! 

Book Recommendations 
The Vacancy in Room 10 by Seraphina Nova Glass is about Anna, a woman who has just lost her husband Henry. He had an art studio in a run-down apartment complex called The Sycamore. Anna has temporarily moved into her husband's apartment. Cass also lives at The Sycamore. She's been tossed out of a luxurious home where she lived with her boyfriend. Now she's making ends meet as The Sycamore's maintenance person. 

Residents lead routine lives - mothers and children who meet by the pool; single men: a teacher, an online seller, a recent widower; and a husband who threatens and beats his wife. Cass has had enough of domineering men who she knows how to videotape and blackmail into better behavior. However, one video backfires, and she's embroiled in a murder... actually, more than one murder. 

This book had my attention from the beginning. Its twists and unexpected turns didn't conclude until the end. Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

Time After Time
by Karly Lane takes place in small-town Australia. Alice Croydon and her family have lived there for generations. Alice works in a local dress shop. She's engaged to Finn, who's a hard-working farmer on his family's crop farm. 

Alice has dreamed of designing gowns, and her latest masterpiece is her own wedding dress. When she's offered an opportunity to learn about the fashion industry from a world-famous designer in London, she's torn about what to do. Discussing that offer with Finn forces her to make a decision. She'll follow her dream, but only for a year. How things can change in a year.

Alice's dreams become bigger than she anticipated, yet she misses her family and home town. Her little house is still there, the one that her Granny Dot lived. She's drawn back, but will she be the person she once was?

Of course I enjoyed this book because of the Australian accented narrator. If you listen, pay attention to Gram's words of wisdom, and her marvelous accent. Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney takes place in Hope, Texas, where a mega-church - The Hope - has grown because of its charismatic preacher, Luke Nolan. His wife, Ruthie, and two daughters, Abigail and Caroline live in his reflected limelight. 

Abigail is engaged to Matthew, who Caroline is sure is the wrong man for her sister. The book begins six weeks before Abigail's wedding, at a bridal shower at the family farm, bequeathed to Abigail and Caroline by their grandmother. Bombshell news that Preacher Nolan has had an affair sends Ruthie and the girls into a tailspin.

Caroline finds evidence of her father's affair in the family farmhouse. Her already-tenuous relationship with her father breaks down further. The girls determine to find solace together, move into the farmhouse, and await the outcome of the church elders' investigation and decisions about their father's future. 

This story is about overtly evangelical Baptists. I found it interesting that the author used many biblical references, and attempted to apply and/or twist scripture to the situations the characters found themselves in. Linda's score: 4.3/5.0


Friday, May 17, 2024

Same, same

I delayed writing a blog post because I don't have much sewing room activity to share. It's been the same-same as I steadily, daily, work to bind all 42 blocks in the modern potholder quilt. 

My process has been to consider and work on only two or three blocks at a time.

As I look at units, I determine where a pewter-colored solid might be inserted in the striped binding, and how that insert connects or doesn't connect to an adjacent block. 
Sulphur-colored square quilted by Patty @elmstreetquilts
Adjacent block, on the right, made by Rosemary @franticquilter

When I'm looking at a square block - without any piecing - I also determine whether or not to add a pewter-colored hand-appliquéd curve. Sometimes it's appropriate, if I can make the appliqué fit in between big stitch hand quilting.
Banana-colored square quilted by Candi @candipursuits

Other times it's not appropriate to add appliqué because I don't want to cover up attractive big stitch quilting. 
Sulphur-colored square quilted by Maureen @maydecemberquilts

Only 12 more blocks remain to be bound. The quilt will be 48" X 48".

Next I'll determine whether or not to set the whole design on point, and add setting triangles. Will I introduce a new color? Improv piece? Big stitch quilt only? Do nothing more?

I've been listening to audiobooks as I work away. 

Book Recommendations
Expiration Dates
 by Rebecca Perle is a bit of improbable, light-hearted romance about Daphne. Since she was in her teens, she's received a piece of paper - a notecard, a postcard, a folded slip of paper - that gives her a name and length of time. She quickly deduces it's the name of the boy/man who will come into her life and with whom she will have a relationship, and how long that relationship will last. 

Now in her early 30s (20 years of dating and sleeping with different guys) she's yet to have a relationship that lasts more than a few years. The name Jake appears on a paper, but there's no other information. No length of time. Could it mean that Jake is her forever man? 

Though the end works out happily ever after, I think Daphne believing in the paper prediction, and that  sleeping around is part of the process, is a bit too much for me.

Linda's score: 3.7/5.0 

 by Simon Van Booy is about an 83 year-old woman, Helen, who lives a solitary lifestyle. She previously lived in Australia with her husband and son, but has returned, alone, to her hometown. 

In the middle of the night, she sees a man who's carried an old aquarium to the curb. Thinking she might find something of interest, she carries the heavy load back to her little house. From then on, Helen's uninteresting days find purpose with the discovery of a mouse in the aquarium. She determines to make the mouse comfortable and find a home for him. As she does so, she encounters new people who are open, friendly, and fill a void in Helen's life. 

I read this book on the recommendation of Ann Patchett of Parnassus Books who I follow on Instagram. Indeed, it's a charming story, but I became disenchanted as soon as the author used the story as a platform for a personal belief that he assumes everyone should agree with.
Linda's score: 4.0/5.0

The Lost Bookshop
 by Evie Woods is another improbable tale, but I very much enjoyed the characters, and the plot was interesting. 

Three main characters - Opaline, Martha, and Henry - relate their perspectives on a bookstore. Opaline's tale begins in the 1920s, when she's just run away from home after her older brother has demanded that she marry a man who will enhance their family's fortune and status. She escapes to France where she learns the book trade from a free-thinking, independent American woman.

In present day Dublin, Martha too has escaped. Running from an abusive husband, she finds employment as a housekeeper-cook for an aging actress. Just as Martha has moved into the grand house's basement apartment, she meets Henry. He's a literature researcher, looking for an old bookshop that was purportedly on a site near the house Martha now lives in. 

Moving from character to character, through several decades, Opaline's story comes to light, including the fact that she was forcibly taken to an asylum. As Martha and Henry dig into Opaline's story, they discover more about themselves.

I enjoyed the resolution of this story, and what I learned about dealing in old manuscripts and books. Fascinating literary histories can be uncovered.

Linda's score: 4.3/5.0

Friday, May 10, 2024

Post Retreat: Prioritizing WIPs

Retreat was wonderful! Due to a date change beyond our control, we had a different configuration of members, and two guests from the Jacksonville (Florida) MQG), for a total of 15 retreats. Each of us had opportunities to get to know new people, and become better acquainted with those we already knew. 

Also, something different for us this time was sharing dining room space with three other groups: 1) a small quilt group (I knew them from Big Cypress Quilters); 2) homeschool parents and kids (we've never retreated with children around!); and, 3) a church leadership group from South Florida.

II accomplished most of what I wanted, in between taking pictures of members who had "tah-dah" moments when I snapped their picture and put it on Instagram. Go here if you'd like to see some finished quilt tops, and our great group photo. Everyone posed with a rotary cutter or scissors, "cutting" themselves or their neighbor! 

In three whole days of sewing, my only tah-dah was this completed Plus Quilt top, an easy piecing job. I'll be sandwiching, quilting, and binding it to donate to Children's Home Society of Florida.

I pieced more Sunny blocks and I love how they look! I need to make 100 more blocks!

The first blocks were foundation paper pieced through newsprint paper, so when I ran out of those, I tried Tara Faughnan's method of using regular printer paper, a dab of glue, and folding back on the lines to edge stitch (no paper to remove). I'm not sure which method I prefer, but I do have a lot of newsprint I need to use-up.

I also pieced all 98 blocks for the Bonnie Lass quilt. Setting triangles for the sides need to be cut before I can complete that top. 

Assessing where I'm at, I now have EIGHT WIPs! Good grief!

Needing to prioritize these projects, the modern potholder quilt (on the design wall) is number one on the to-do list. Binding each block is taking more time than I anticipated - 15 are bound; 26 to go.

The reason it's taking so long is that I'm piecing Pewter-color fabric into many of the bindings, so the Pewter curve appears continuous. It's tedious to do this, getting the curve right, and making it single-fold. There's been as much unsewing as sewing. 
Block made by Maureen @maydecemberquilts

But I know, in the end, this will be worth the effort. 
Top block by Jane @gonequiltinginfl
Center left block by Maureen @maydecemberquilts with my hand appliqué added
Center right block by Betty @zcabed

As for the other WIPs...
  • I've been hand-quilting the 2023 "30 Days of Improv" since last fall.
  • Last week I pin-basted two quilts (Minimal (Ha!)), and an Honor Flight quilt top I was asked to quilt. 
  • To piece Glitter and Bonnie Lass into tops I need design wall space. One design wall is not enough!
Book Recommendations
by Richard Powers is about a special nine year-old boy, Robin, who's the son of astrobiologist Theo. They're both struggling through life changes since the sudden death of their mother/wife. Robin is not coping well. Several incidences at school cause school administrators to recommend psychoactive drugs. For a while, Theo copes with Robin by homeschooling him, but then turns to a friend of his wife whose experimental neurofeedback test might be just what Robin needs. 

Using recorded tests of Robin's mother, Robin's treatment gradually turned him into a changed boy who's energetic, engaged, artistic, inquisitive, and full of potential. When government control and investigation conspire to shut down the testing program, everything changes. 

Though much of the scientific and technical aspects of this story went over my head, and political perspectives were woven into the story, it was a compelling listen.

Linda's score: 4.1/5.0

Darling Girls
 by Sally Hepworth is about several young girls in child welfare. Jessica, Norah, and Alicia stayed at Wild Meadows, an English farming estate with a foster mother, Miss Fairchild. The three are now grown women whose experiences with Miss Fairchild forged their relationship of protecting one another, and made them sisters in every sense of the word.

The house at Wild Meadows has been demolished to build a McDonald's, and a child's body is unearthed. All three women must leave Melbourne and return to Port Agatha to meet with police investigators. Each of them is dealing with some life difficulty of their own making - drug use; relationship avoidance; lewd behavior - all of which are coping responses to what Miss Fairchild put them through decades ago. 

The unexpected plot twist at the end, once again proves Hepworth skill at delivering an engaging tale of wrong behavior, mistreatment, and it consequences.

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

Something Different
While on retreat I learned about the Mountain Dulcimer Club where my quilt-y friend, Anne plays her dulcimer. Intriguing! On Tuesday I skipped Big Cypress Quilters and visited. I didn't know what that instrument(s) sounded or looked like, so if you're curious like I was, take a quick look/listen. I created this 32-second YouTube clip of a regular dulcimer followed by a hammered dulcimer.

At this time, I'm not planning to join the club, but I'm considering attending a beginner class where I can borrow a dulcimer to try. For now, playing the ukulele is enough. Linda

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Three Day Retreat Plans

Whenever I'm going on retreat, I assess which WIPs are candidates for taking along. Over the years I've learned that it's best not to machine quilt while on retreat because there's never enough even surface space to support a quilt. I've discovered - to my dismay - that quilts I've quilted while on retreat finish distorted or wonky. My home set-up is ideal for domestic machine quilting (large tables to support a large quilt) so it's best not to mess with a good thing.

And not wanting to haul piles of stash on retreat to cut out projects, I've been cutting and cutting so I can simply sit and sew during most of retreat. 

Always on the look-out for a good scrap quilt - so I can "scarp my scraps" 😀 (lookin' at you, Char!) - I opened my copy of the book Quilt Lovely by Jen Kingwell, and quickly chose the design "Bonnie Lass." Entirely from my scrap bins, I cut 400 low volume neutrals, and 400 prints in all colors. I should end up with a 59" X 67" quilt.

Also, as luck would have it, Tara Faughnan (Did you know she'll be the keynote speaker at QuiltCon 2025 in Phoenix?) released a new pattern for a quilt I have admired for several years.

"Sunny" is foundation paper pieced. Honestly, when I first saw it, I liked it so much I attempted to duplicate it in EQ8. Well that was a futile attempt! Happily for me, the pattern was released last Thursday - on sale too! - and I snatched it up. 

It's felt very rewarding to dig into my almost-empty large bin of solid fat quarters, some remaining from 2022 when I won all 100 colors of Benartex Superior Solids, to cut pieces. I'm also using-up leftover chunks (bigger than scraps) of other brands of solids. I feel so frugal! 😉

I sewed these blocks during Central Florida MQG's Saturday Sew-In, and I sure like them.

I'll be taking along parts to make 34 "Sunny" blocks.

Since I'm participating in Jeni Baker's (In Color Order) Quilt Along to make a "Plus Quilt" I cut blocks to piece. I'm not following Jeni's table of block size options, but have cut all my pieces 5" X 5". I should end up with a 40½ " X 54" quilt -a nice size for a child. 

After three full days of retreat sewing (I tend to burn the midnight oil) I hope to come home with two completed quilt tops: "Bonnie Lass" and "Plus Quilt"; and make a good start on "Sunny."

As quilters do, everything for sewing time is prepped and packed - including cleaning and oiling, and putting a new needle in my Bernina 440. Now it's time to pack clothes and personal items! Ha! Don't admonish me! Priorities, right? I know you get retreat-ready the same way I do.  Linda


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