Thursday, December 31, 2015

Turning the Page

I experimented with background fabric possibilities for the Joy in the Morning quilt, which is looking more like it will be Joy in the Evening.  The pattern in the book has the brights against a sunny yellow background.  I'm going to go the other way.  I'm kind of a night owl anyway.

First I tried scrappy dark blues and greens, above.  By the way, this is just a portion of the quilt as fit on my small design board.  Just trying to get an idea of what might work.

Of course, I was hoping to use what I had on hand, but wasn't going to rule out a trip to the fabric store if need be.

Didn't have enough of this paisley blender, but I liked it.  Of course it's out of stock now, so...hmm.

The only black I had enough yardage of was this one, but the gray swirl really jumped out in the photo.  Ix-nay on that one.

So a trip to the store was in order this morning, and of course I couldn't decide so I bought a couple options.  They're in the washer right now.  Guess we'll have to wait and see!

Today is Norm's last day of work, after 30 years of making cheese.  One hour from now, he's officially retired!

Hope you all have a very Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Snow Day

I woke up to find Norm's car stuck and abandoned in the driveway, with footprints leading away from it.  He must have had to walk to work this morning.  That can't have been fun.

We had a winter storm yesterday and into last night with snow, sleet, and wind.  I ventured out this morning to put the recycle bin upright.  Walking on the snow, it felt like styrofoam, dense and hard.  Perfect for building a snow fort, although that's not in my plans today.

Though the weather outside was frightful, it was comfy in the sewing room yesterday.  I'm piecing strips together for a new quilt.  The pattern is called "Joy in the Morning" by Gayle Bong, found in her book, S is for Scraps: 18 Great Quilts.

These gorgeous fabrics were sent to me by fellow quilter Marei as part of a scrap swap last year.  I finally took time to sort the 3.5-inch strips over this past weekend.  Thanks again, Marei!

I put the brightly colored pieces into one pile and then started pairing them.  I'd like to make a bigger quilt than the one in the book, but we'll see how it goes once I get a count after cutting the strip sets into pieces.

The big-stitch hand quilting on the improv quilt is slow going.  Here's how things look so far (and you might have to look closely, lol).

I wove in and out of one of the straight stitching lines with a red thread, just for kicks.  Something a little different, and my favorite part about the stitching thus far.

We spent some time at my daughter's place on Christmas.  She couldn't travel because she was tending to the medical needs of her cat which had surgery a few weeks ago.

Keaky is hanging in there but is not out of the woods yet.  He apparently had a fairly good day on Sunday, though, wanting belly rubs and rediscovering his favorite mermaid toy.

Later in the evening on Christmas, I attended the regular family get-together.  Even Dad got into the crazy sweater spirit and wore his vintage John Deere sweater from 1971.  Nita's and mine were from the thrift store.  I thought about sewing some tacky garland around the neckline of my ugly-sweater vest, but that didn't happen.

My brothers provided the entertainment.  It's always a treat to listen to them jam.

There was the annual Dirty Santa gift exchange as well, where stealing is allowed and encouraged.  My first gift was stolen, but I kept a scrap of the paper it was wrapped in.  Why?  

Quilt inspiration, of course!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Sundry 12-20-15

I started doing some big stitch quilting on a UFO from about a year ago, an improv quilt using corduroy and some clothing scraps.  You can read about its creation HERE.

Hand quilting isn't something I do much (at all), so it's a different experience for me.  I'm not using any kind of hoop, so it's a bit awkward.  I think a hoop would crush the corduroy and leave weird marks on it. I don't know, maybe I should try it and see.

I also flicked off my thimble pretty quickly because it was just getting in the way.  Although this corduroy is fairly soft and not too stiff, I need to maintain a good grip on the needle to work it through.

I'm hoping it'll grow on me as I get a bit more comfortable with it.
I've also pretty much resigned myself to not burying the knots on the back.  It doesn't seem worth worrying about, since it's sort of one big experimental piece anyway.  I am burying the tails, but the knot itself doesn't seem to want to pop through the fabric without a struggle, and I don't want to tear the backing, which is a vintage fabric.  

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on knots and hoops and thimbles when big stitch quilting.

* * * * *

The caramel corn has been made and delivered to my coworkers as of last week Thursday.  I forgot to take a picture, but the process and recipe was the same as in years past.  I may make another batch this coming week to share with others, but that stuff's dangerous to have around my house, addictive as it is.

I did make a small batch of gluten-free chocolate covered pretzels yesterday.  I hadn't made them before, or if I did, it was so long ago I don't remember.  They made quite the Jackson Pollack-esque mess on the parchment, but they were fine once the chocolate hardened.

* * * * *

While puttering in the sewing room yesterday—actually, procrastinating on starting the hand quilting mentioned above—I looked through a box of hand-crocheted vintage lace that my mother had saved.  Decided to take photos to share.  

They were all made by one of my dad's uncle's wives (I need to ask him which wife, as I think Hank was married twice).  These pieces probably date to between the 1920s and 1940s.  

Aren't they amazing?

This piece is one of my favorites.  It's the top to a nightgown, I believe, or maybe a slip.  

These would have been chair covers, the larger piece on the left would have gone on the chair back (behind the head) and the smaller ones on the armrests.  

Love the pineapple design.

There were a few cut-work and embroidered pieces in the box as well.  

I had to keep reminding myself that all that satin stitching, etc. was done by hand, not machine.  It's just perfect.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Trimming the Towel

I bought a 10-pack of flour sack dish towels at the local big box building supply store last week.  I needed to replace a few of the more pitiful ratty rags in my kitchen towel drawer.  Also, I thought they might be good for a quick little Christmas gift or two, embellished in some way. 

Inspired by THIS tutorial on Crazy Mom Quilts, I thought I'd sew up a Christmas-themed towel.

First I put them through the washer and dryer.  The towels came out of the dryer a wrinkled mess, so I pressed one before I began.  And that's when I noticed how flimsy they were.  As in really thin, loosely woven, not quite cheesecloth or gauze.

Definitely not good.

Okay, maybe okay for dusting or mopping up spills (while they last, anyway), but not good for embellishing.  It'd be like polishing a tur...well, you get the point.

But I was in the mood to sew, darn it, so I poked through the stash and came up with something appropriate in feel, and made my own towel.

Then I embellished it per the tutorial mentioned above.  Et voila!

Here it is hanging over a curtain rod in the kitchen window.  See the grass in the background?  That's right, no snow! 

This time of year, the backyard usually looks like this, taken two years ago after a six-inch snowfall.  

According to the extended forecast, it looks like it may be a green Christmas in 2015.  Fairly odd for the Upper Midwest, but a plus for any travel plans.  

I'm not complaining.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pecan Fingers

Yesterday I tried my hand at adapting a family favorite Christmas cookie recipe to make it gluten-free.  

Pecan Fingers.  I think they're known by other names and shapes...Wedding Cakes, Pecan Crescents, etc.

The good news is they tasted pretty good!  I substituted a gluten-free flour blend and ghee instead of butter. 

However, they were much more delicate than the traditional version made with regular flour, and tended to crumble and break easily.  That's not surprising, since the gluten in regular flour is what makes dough sticky.  The GF flour blend compensates for this somewhat by including xanthan gum.

You're supposed to roll them in powdered sugar after baking. The rolling part was a no-go.  They were too breakable, these gluten-free cookies. 

Instead, I resorted to sprinkling them with powdered sugar sifted through the tines of a fork.  That worked pretty well.

After an initial small test batch, I decided to use a cookie dough scoop to just plop the rest onto the baking sheet, no fussing with finger shapes.

So instead of Pecan Fingers (aka Broken Fingers), we had Pecan Snowballs.  They tasted even better today.

Here is the original recipe, in the words of my mom.  I'd asked her to write down this and a couple other family favorite recipes for me about 10 or a dozen years ago.  I like how she included helpful hints and her own words of wisdom. 

Next up, caramel corn!  What's in your oven?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Sundry 12-13-15

Checking in on the Challenge
Are you doing the 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge?  How's it going for you so far?

One thing I've noticed is that if I work on a post late at night, say between 10:00 and midnight, I tend to get a second wind.  

Great for writing.  Bad for sleeping.  

Once I get that second wind, I am wired and then have trouble downshifting and relaxing my mind into sleep mode.   Many years ago, I got an entire family history book written that way, taking full advantage of my second wind and working well into the wee hours.  I was a lot younger then.

Looking back, I've probably created the majority of blog posts during the late night.  It's quiet and there are no distractions, the work day is (usually) done, and I feel like I have time to bring together a post.  But I'm not someone who can bang something up in 15 minutes.  I've got to think about it and play with it a while.  Time hour...90 minutes... 

For about the past year, though, my late night routine has changed to involve winding down with yoga, stretching and breathing and laughing along to a few minutes of late night TV.  It's a nice stress reliever at the end of the day, and I look forward to it.
So, that said, I've got to figure something else out there.  I value and enjoy my bedtime routine and a good night's sleep, especially at this point in life when it seems many things are vying for the chance to interfere with it. 

On Loan
I visited my sister today and helped her with getting her Christmas tree up.  It still needs lights and ornaments, but it is up.  We got sidetracked several times during the process, in a good way.

She had asked if I'd bring her some mini-quilts or wall hangings to display at her house.  

She recently moved and is decorating her walls, as well as her halls.  

So I brought her a few to choose from, namely those you see here.  Some older, some newer.

I thought she'd pick one or two, but she wants to put them all up.  I am honored.

Guess I'll just have to make more!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Three Amigos

Now that certain gifts have been duly gifted, I can show you what I've been working on.

I finished a couple of Christmas table toppers for friends.  I did one in a Carpenter's Star pattern.  

It measures about 19 inches square, which is, yes, an odd size.  Reason being, I flubbed the math.  I cut 3-1/2 inch squares to start with, but then my half-square triangles ended up being too big.  So I had to trim each HST down about a quarter inch.  How did I know it was too big?  Well, I had one of those "about yay" measurements to work with, where someone separates their hands by a certain span in illustration, and you take mental note of that size.  I'd be shooting for about 18 or so inches, in other words. 

See, last month my friend had asked if she could commission me to make her a Christmas table topper, something to set her poinsettia on.  I gave her a halfhearted yes, which she may have interpreted as more of a no from my lack of enthusiasm (sorry!).  But inside my pea-brain, a light bulb clicked on and I was thinking it'd be the perfect thing to give her for our Christmas gift exchange.  And I'd make one for our mutual friend and fellow gift exchanger, too.

So that very afternoon, I started working on them.  I used parts of a charm pack of Blitzen fabric for the center star, and supplemented with other things in the stash.

For the second topper, I decided to make a string star, slicing some of the remaining Blitzen charm squares into strips, mixing them up, and re-sewing them together into squares. Then I made HSTs from those strippy squares and put them together to make the star.

I still had some charm squares left.  I'd been using all the reds and greens in the pack for the previous quilts, and had separated out the aquas and grays.  So I made another string star for myself!

Have you been doing any stealth sewing this season?  Do tell! Mum's the word!

Linking to Confessions of a Fabric Addict's Can I Get a Whoop Whoop.