Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Free Motion Quilt Challenge - February

I'm skidding in under the wire on this one.  Nothing like procrastinating until the last hours of the final day of the month, but I was determined not to miss the linkup at SewCalGal (like I did last month).

I did practice drawing the free-motion feathers earlier, both last Tuesday and this Tuesday afternoon.  That is a day I typically spend a lot of time on the phone (on hold) with insurance companies.  Doodling ensues.

Except I had only skimmed the instructional post so I basically practiced them all wrong last week (no wonder it wasn't really working).  Before going to work this Tuesday, I actually read the post word for word, and man, what a difference that made!  Go figure, huh?

So this evening, I slapped a quilt sandwich together, but unfortunately chose a couple of fabrics that don't really help to show the quilting.  I think you can still get the gist from the pictures though.  I armed myself with a cup of decaf, a "Beethoven for Relaxation" CD, my "bi-fogeys," and quilting (aka football receiver) gloves.  I used the Sulky thread that was already on my machine, with a cotton thread in the bobbin. 

What I had trouble with most was the echo quilting.  Not sure why.  It helped to remember to look at the area I was heading to and not directly at what was under the needle.  It reminded me of the day I got behind the wheel of a car for the first time and Mom directed me to get on the highway, where she noticed I was looking at the road right in front of the car.  "You have to look down the road at where you're going."  Really?  Oh, okay, I get it.

Sure, my stitch length is all over the map and my lines are wobbly, but really, for a first crack ever at feathers, I didn't think it went all that bad.  I was expecting more of a train wreck, really.  

I'm a little disappointed that didn't happen (kidding).  It must be Beethoven's fault.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leap Day Giveaway!

Happy Leap Day!  Elizabeth at Such a Sew and Sew is hosting a Leap Day Giveaway blog hop in celebration, and I am linking up!

Leap Day Giveaway
I'm also celebrating two years of blogging!  It was in February of 2010 that I dove into the blogosphere, and I've been having a great time ever since!

So what does all this mean?  Well, I am having a little giveaway today, as are many others who have linked up with the Leap Day Giveaway.  This is what I'm giving away here.
A little square mug rug/mini-quilt, along with three fat quarters of fabric featuring birds, and a mug to go with it!

I love spring, especially when the songbirds migrate back through this area from their wintering grounds.  That's a few weeks away yet for us in the Upper Midwest, but these little bird print fabrics put me in the mood.
From left to right, the fabrics are Legacy Studios Fresh Fusion Blue Birds, Lantern Bloom Hanging Cages by Laura Gunn for Michael Miller, and Woodcut Garden by Paula Prass for Michael Miller.  All have been prewashed and pressed, because that's how I roll.
(Back of mug rug/mini shown)
The mug rug/mini was made by me last fall.  The groovy flower mug is thrifted, naturally.  I dithered about including the mug, so I will give you the option to decline it, if you're the winner and so choose.  I like it and think it works, but if groovy thrifted flower mugs aren't your thing, that's cool too.

This giveaway is open today, February 29, only and will end at midnight Central Time.  I will select a winner at random on Thursday, March 1.

To enter, simply leave a comment.  Maybe tell me what you like (or don't) about spring!  

This is important:  Make sure you include an email address to contact you.  If you are a no-reply commenter, I won't be able to reply and let you know you've won. You can be a no-reply and not even know it, so please check that and fix your settings before you comment, or leave your email address within the text of your comment.  This giveaway is open to U.S. and international entries.

Thanks for stopping by today, and to those who read this blog from time to time or regularly, whether from the beginning two years ago or more recently, I sincerely appreciate it!  Good luck to all on the giveaway!

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Patch of Sun

I had guests yesterday, my dad and my daughter and her boyfriend, who came over for dinner.  We had good food and conversation, as always, and laughed a lot.  After the turkey kicked in and some became sleepy, my daughter and I moved to the living room where I still had the leftover kaleidoscope quilt pieces stacked in piles by color on the floor.

So we played and talked, and played some more, like when we used to put puzzles together except more randomly.  M. has a good eye and is very creative, and in no time flat, she had put the yellow and gold and white half square triangle pieces together into this configuration.  She said it reminded her of sunshine, like the patch of sun coming in the window of her apartment in which she and her cat had curled up and napped recently.

I needed to clear the floor today, but I snapped a photo so I could remember this arrangement.  Then I figured I may as well just sew it together.

My sewing room is in the basement, which is usually devoid of natural light, but at this particular time of year, the sun has moved a bit and peaks in through a small, southern facing window for a few minutes in the afternoon.  It happened to catch the squares as I had them laid out on my table.

A patch of sun, indeed.  That will be the name of this mini.  And it will remind me of the light my daughter brings whenever I see her.

Later, after everyone had gone home, my husband and I ran to Goodwill for a quick poke around.  There were a few small Pyrex pieces looking for a new home.  The smaller bowl was the perfect size for some berries at lunch today.

 Talk about sunshine, that orange piece does the trick, doesn't it?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Flimsy

I managed to get the Hubcap Diamond Star Halo flimsy sewn together this week.  If you're scratching your head about the name of this little kaleidoscope quilt, it's based on a song lyric from "Bang A Gong."  I explained how it came about in the previous post (and also made a video of the trial-and-error design process).

We got a little snow yesterday, and it was still flurrying this morning when I set this 36-inch square jobber just outside the patio door and snapped some pictures.  

Snow (as in the cold and fluffy stuff this is laying on) isn't really bright white in color, is it?  Hunh.  I guess Kaufman did its research when they invented the fabric color Kona Snow.  I used Kona White in the quilt here.

It was really fun putting these colorful blocks together.  Individually, they reminded me of the tops of bright umbrellas.

And before you know it, I was mulling over how I could use the leftovers for my next quilt, based on a Led Zeppelin song lyric, entitled With a Purple Umbrella and a 50-cent Hat (from "Living Loving Maid").  Oh, go ahead and listen.  You want to know what in blazes I'm talking about, right?

Just kidding...maybe. (Could that be a "raspberry beret," that pink one? The kind you buy {for 50 cents} in a second-hand store?  Too much of a stretch?)

Not kidding about the leftovers, though.  I could make a whole 'nother quilt with the pieces I have left.  Maybe with a black background to make those brights really pop?  *Sigh*  So many quilts, so little time.

I hope you do have time to visit the Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? linky at Confessions of a Fabric Addict—P.S., she's having a giveaway—and thanks for stopping by here!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Frustration of Creation

I spent a good part of the afternoon yesterday and the morning today crawling around on the floor, trying to get the look I wanted for kaleidoscope quilt v.2.0.  Then I'd ask my husband's opinion, and he had some.  But by the end of it, his opinion was that he just didn't care anymore. 

It was exasperating and it gave me a headache.  But I think I finally have a plan, and if I change my mind again, I deserve to be hit over said aching head.

This is a quilt I started last summer, shortly after my first kaleidoscope quilt was done.  That one turned out beautifully, but it wasn't quite what I had envisioned, so I started a second one.  This one might not be exactly it either, but it seems closer.

See, it all started as my husband and I were driving one day when the '70s classic T. Rex song, "Bang a Gong" came on the radio.  There are some strange lyrics in that song.  I wondered what the "teeth of the Hydra" or a "cloak full of eagles" had to do with anything, but more importantly, what a "hubcap diamond star halo" would look like.  My imagination went into overdrive.

"I want to make a quilt and call it Hubcap Diamond Star Halo," I told Norm while the song played on.  Talk about working backwards.  The name came first.

I knew it would have to have elements of '70s psycha-funka-delic style, and I probably just made that word up.  I was envisioning those bold, bright colors like Peter Max and H.R. Pufnstuf cartoons, and glam rocker and T. Rex front man himself, the late Marc Bolan.

Soon enough, I found the fabric for it (different than what I'd used in the first kaleidoscope quilt).  I cut out last August but just got back around to playing with the layout the other day.  This is going to be a wall hanging size quilt, I've determined.  A medallion type thing will get the point across just as well and for a lot less investment in Extra-Strength Tylenol.

Speaking of first ever video documenting the process.  Oy, what a time suck that was, but I think it turned out pretty well, all things considered.  I am grateful to my brother Russ for helping me out at the end when Picasa decided to muck up the audio.  You're my hero, bro.

View it in full screen so you can read the text panes between (in the future, I'll use a more legible font).  Here we go.  Bang a Gong!

Friday, February 17, 2012


I am so glad it's Friday and officially the start of the weekend.  I did a lot of sitting in front of the computer this week (working, or otherwise known as growing my bum).  So what am I doing still sitting here on Friday night?  Uh, you got me there.  I guess I feel like I've been neglecting things around here, though there really isn't much to report—but I'm sure I'll find something!

I did sew another string Dresden ring together.  This one features a bold blue print.  I hope to knock another couple of these out in the next week (though I'll be happy with one, at the rate things are going).  I have some new scraps from Jenny that she tossed into an Etsy order for me this past week, and I'm looking forward to playing with those and working them into the string Dresdens.

Jenny was de-stashing and putting some fabrics in her shop, so I had to go have a look.  I can't believe she was selling this piece of Michael Miller fabric.
But it's mine now!  

Is it possible to be in love with a piece of fabric?  Because I think I at least have a serious crush on it.  And I'm pretty sure fellow Pyrex fans would agree that everything looks (even) better in Pyrex!

Here are a couple other pieces I am the new owner of.  I didn't buy these with the intention of using them together, but it would totally work.  Love the little vintage floral!  Anytime you want to weed through your fabric stash, Jenny, just let me know. ;)

What's for Dinner... and Breakfast
I made some fantastic barbecued chicken in the crockpot yesterday, and I wanted to share the recipe, which I cobbled together.  In former times, I may have just dumped a bunch of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce on the chicken and called it good (and there's nothing wrong with that, if that works for you).  But as you may know, I'm trying to eat less sugar and refined stuff, plus I am gluten and dairy intolerant.  I know there are others who may have similar issues.  Even if you do not, this goes together in under 5 minutes and tastes wonderful!  So good, I also had it straight out of the plastic container, cold, for breakfast this morning.  It's one of those things that is even better the second day.

But before I get to the recipe, I have to tell you something.  My husband, when it comes to chicken (let's get that clear before I complete the sentence), is strictly a breast man.  In all the years I've known him, I have yet to see him eat any other part of a chicken, or turkey for that matter.  He claims it's the only part he likes.  End of story.  

So I sort of tricked him with this chicken dish (though I haven't fessed up to it yet...well, except for admitting it here to the entire internet), because I made it with chicken thighs.  Shhhh!  I thought for sure he'd notice something "fowl," but I was willing to take that chance because all it would mean was more leftovers for me.  See how that works?

So when I asked how he liked the chicken (with as much nonchalance as I could muster), he said it was GREAT!  He ate his shredded on sandwich buns, I ate mine with rice, with steamed asparagus on the side.  Yep, it was a winner of a chicken dinner!

I will tell him...eventually.  I'm going to make it at least one more time before I do, though, and see if the response is still the same.  Then I'll give him the full disclosure.

And let me apologize here for what may be the most unappetizing food photo in the world, but it was an afterthought, right before the leftovers went into the fridge.

(Now, even with those prettier dishes and photos above, what do you want to bet this'll be the photo Google/Blogger features in the preview?) 

Crockpot BBQ Chicken 
1/3 c. tomato paste
1/4 c. soy sauce (I used low-sodium, gluten-free San-J brand Tamari)
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 T. Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrin's is gluten-free)
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 t. dried onion flakes
1 T. honey
1/2 c. water
1/2 t. black pepper
1 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1-2 t. chili powder
1 pkg. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (6-8)

Lay chicken in crock pot. (I used a brand of chicken with "Healthy" in the name—sorry for lack of specifics—which I found at Walmart, which packaging said there were no additives and the critters had all led happy and free lives before they came to live in the refrigerator case of the big box store...or words to that effect). 

Whisk all the above ingredients together and pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on Low setting for 4-6 hours.  (My generic crockpot cooks a little faster than most, even on Low, so it was already falling-apart done after 3-1/2 hours, but I let it go for a total of 5.)  Serve as is or shred for sandwiches, if desired.  Enjoy!

The chicken dish was my Favorite Thing this week, so I'm linking to Favourite Things Friday.  And I think the Dresden, though not much, is still something to Whoop about!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

My husband came through with my special request for Valentine's Day!

He had to go to three different stores before he found it, commiserating along the way with a few other beleaguered spouses in hot pursuit.

Whatta mighty good man.

I had to share this chuckle, straight from today's newspaper Police Beat column.  You can't make this stuff up.

I bet the Fashion Police would beg to differ...

May you all have a good day and be surprised by your special Valentine, who should know whether to bring the pizza or the fishnets.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Sundry 2-12-12

Cheap Sunglasses
I saw these at a thrift store yesterday.  They have "stitching" around the frames and down the bows. They fit my face and are a classic shape, so for a quarter, how could I refuse?  I could not.

My dear friends Kathy and Marie came over for breakfast yesterday, and we watched the movie The Help together.  The movie was very good.  My friends had both read the book, which, it turned out, was a good thing when I needed them to clarify something, though I had first told them to "shut up" when they started discussing how the movie differed from the book less than a minute into the film.  Sorry gals.  Why they put up with me, I do not know.

I realized recently that we three have been friends for 30 years this year.  We met when we all worked for the same law firm back in the day.  Our old boss passed away last week, which had me reminiscing on this fact.  He was one of those people who seemed larger than life, both literally and figuratively.  He ended up doing a stint in the clink for some shenanigans and was disbarred.  Yes, those were some strange times.  I will say one thing, though; he knew how to pick quality people for employees.  I believe he was a good judge of character, despite any shortcomings in his own.  May he rest in peace.

Thrift Spotting
So we're in line at the cash register at the thrift store yesterday when I suddenly spotted something 10 feet away that I hadn't noticed before that moment.  It was a funky green shallow bowl with a scalloped edge.  My vintage pottery radar was activated and I asked Norm if he would please go flip it over and tell me what it was.  

"Red Wing," he reported. 
Suffice it to say, that was a quick sale.

I trusted my gut on a plate too, which was all by its lonesome on a shelf.  I was immediately drawn to its mid-century aesthetics, the clean black-on-white design.
I don't know anything about the maker, but I bought it just because I liked it.  Made by Kyoto Fine China, the pattern is Mercury, according to the stamp on the back.  Named after the space program, I wonder?
I tried drawing the design on paper last night, like a quilting design.  My drawing skills leave a lot to be desired, but I think if I traced it, I could quilt it.  Wouldn't that be cool?

(Says she who has been procrastinating and freaking out a bit at the prospect of practicing free-motion feathers, this month's FMQ Challenge...)

The Day the Internet Died...and the Sewing Machine Hummed to Life
My internet and phone connections were hit-and-miss last week, and on Thursday they went down altogether.  While I waited for the cable company to fix the problem, and since I couldn't work while offline, I sewed.
I worked on another string Dresden for a quilt, which is my String Thing-Along project. I also finally got around to doing an introductory post over on the String Thing-Along blog.
I am loving how each of these string rings will be different, depending on what scraps are used.  I'm also noticing that if I throw in one bold graphic print per ring, it adds just a little extra something-something.  On the one above, it's the red/black print that overall forms a five-point star.  On the one I laid out last night, it's in blue (no pics of that one yet).

It appears that I am in need of a catnap this afternoon.  Lots of yawning going on right now.  Hope you finish out the weekend in a good way, and have a bright week ahead! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Scrap Block Challenge

It's funny where inspiration can be found.  The tiles on the bathroom floor, a zigzag coffee mug—you name it, some quilter is bound to be inspired by it.

The day I decided to bounce down off the no-sweets wagon and bake something dense and chocolatey*, I wasn't really looking for inspiration.  But there it was, staring me in the face on a chocolate bar wrapper, of all places! 

I was admittedly giving in to some serious cravings that day, as well as trying to use what remained of the giant bar of dark chocolate I'd bought over the holidays before my husband could eat it all.  He'd already polished off half of it before I'd found out and hidden it deeper on the pantry shelves.  So let's say I was managing a security risk by deciding to bake with it that day.  Yeah, that works.

After rough chopping the chocolate, I set the wrapper aside.  Then while waiting for the chocolate to melt in the microwave, I happened to study the wrapper a little more closely.  Probably checked the carb count to see just how much dietary damage this baking venture was going to do.

That's when I saw it.  Take a look.

A quilt block, no?  And I was supposed to be creating a quilt block for Sarah's Scrap Block Challenge.  Could this be just the ticket, the inspiration I needed to get started?  I thought so!

The challenge was to use the sizes in the scrap management system described in the book Cut the Scraps!  Fabric scraps are cut to measure 2 inches, 3.5 inches, and 5 inches square.

So I scribbled something on paper that more closely resembled a primitive cave drawing than a quilt block.  Did some mental gymnastics on the math, trying to wrap my head around how to orient the center square in the way it was depicted on the wrapper.  On failing to come up with a solution, I modified the plan somewhat.  Close enough for rock and roll!  Then I chucked the cave drawing aside and went to play with fabric.

And voila!
Here's how it went together, using 5-inch and 3.5-inch squares.

For the string-pieced centers, you are going to sub-cut a variety of your 5-inch blocks into 4, 1.25-inch strips, and then sew four different strips together.  Cut the other 3.5 and 5-inch squares on the diagonal.  

I am using two different background fabrics, ash gray and a gray/white print, and two different corner fabrics, a black polka dot print and a wine colored print.  (I was literally just grabbing what was lying around on the table, so it is what it is—scrappy!)

Sew the diagonally cut 5-inch background squares to the string-pieced centers. Try to center the diagonally cut pieces; they will be about an inch longer on each end than the centers.

Sew the diagonally cut 3.5 inch pieces to the opposite ends, as shown above.  Press open and trim blocks to 6 inches square (actually, 5-7/8 inches square might give you a slightly better match of the corner squares, especially if you sew with a scant 1/4 inch seam, but that's sort of a fiddly measurement and it came out close enough when trimmed to 6 inches square).
Arrange four units into one block and sew them together.  The block will measure around 11.5 inches square at that point.  You can orient the corner triangles so that there is all one color in the center, or do like I did and alternate.  Same thing with the background fabrics; you can use two different ones like I did here, or all the same. You have options, is what I'm saying.

So there you have it!  I'm sure it's nothing original, although the way in which it came about for me was.  I mean, how many blocks have been inspired by a chocolate bar wrapper?  (Quilters, don't answer that!)

I can't wait to see what others have created for the Scrap Block Challenge.  Visit Confessions of a Fabric Addict today for the linky!

*I used this recipe, but substituted 1/2 c. honey for the sugar and ghee for the butter, and left off the glaze.  It was fabulous and totally worth it!