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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all! 

We're awaiting the arrival of our daughters and their families so we can have our traditional Christmas breakfast together and open gifts — though Santa has, of course, already visited their homes. ;) 

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season. :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

A new pin cushion!

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was in a pin cushion exchange with a group of French quilters, and my new pin cushion arrived yesterday afternoon! It's really nice — all handmade, with a dimensional flower on one side and a six-pointed star on the other. Have a peek:
Flower side
Did you see what was included with the pin cushion? Yes, a lovely embroidered card with a sweet note inside, and a meter of some beautiful floral ribbon! I'm really overwhelmed! But here's a second photo so you can see the star side of the pin cushion:
Star side

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A little more complicated ...

Some time ago, I heard that there were skins available — even custom ones — for certain models of Bernina sewing machines. Unfortunately my Bernina 630 wasn't on the list. :( However, I then learned that the reason was that removing the skin might damage the faceplate, and that replacing that faceplate would solve the problem. Yay! I ordered the new faceplate and a skin, both of which were very reasonable in price, and settled down to wait. In a relatively short span of time, both arrived, and that's when the complication arose. No one had mentioned (even to my dealer) that replacing the faceplate was somewhat tricky, involving circuit boards and that sort of thing. Now, I used to repair Mac computers, so I'm not really afraid of circuit boards, but I was really nervous about doing this without any instructions and without the proper tools. Drat! But onward I marched. 

The skin I chose wasn't the one I'd originally envisioned, which would have had my grandchildren on it. But there really wasn't a way to get all five of them into the space provided without at least one of them having a nob for a nose. ;) So into the breach stepped our little Bisou. I am very pleased with the quality of the skin and the ease with which I was able to apply it to the faceplate! In fact, several of the people at my dealer's shop thought it had been baked onto the faceplate. The tech there spent a couple of hours getting everything all in order, and I'm absolutely delighted with the results! Do you want to see? Here you go:

Skin showing Bisou

Just click on the photo to get a larger view. Can you see how well Bisou fits the available space? Here's a close-up of the main portion of the skin:

Close-up

This is such fun to look at — I can hardly wait to do a bit of quilting this afternoon! Just in case this has inspired you to want something similar, go to this part of the Bernina site and select one of their available skins or design your own! I love mine. :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Decorating

Last year, I posted photos of a portion of our Christmas tree and of our santons. I've just been finishing up the seasonal decorations, so I thought I'd show you a couple of other things we use. 

This first photo shows two special little bears. The one on the right (she has angel wings) reads the nativity story aloud from her book, and the one on the right reads 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to his little son, sitting in his lap. They're both so cute! 

These are two little sand cast figurines. Since we have our adorable red and white cocker spaniel, I fell in love with these and had to have them. The larger one (on the left) is running away with a string of holiday lights, while the three puppies in the basket on the right are all dressed for winter weather. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pin cushion

I'm a member of a French-speaking online quilting group, and the list mom suggested a little swap of pin cushions as a holiday activity. This is the little Santa (Père Noël) pin cushion that I made and which is now on his way to a new home. :) 

He's made from wool felt with hand stitching to accent the mustache and beard and French knots to make the holly berries on Santa's hood. I think he's pretty cute and hope his new owner will agree. He's stuffed with a layer of wool batting to keep his shape, but I also put in crushed walnut shells for weight and because I really like them in pin cushions.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Knitting progress

Blocked and drying!
I mentioned previously that I was taking up knitting again after many years. My first efforts yielded a gift to be given at Christmas, but my next project didn't go as well. Hmmm. Unknitting, anyone? However, during my trip to the Houston Quilt Festival, I ran across a stand that does online classes in a variety of subjects, including knitting. I signed up for a class in knitting lace shawls; the class gives instructions for two different patterns, and I'm very happy with the results! :) My first shawl is now drying after having been blocked, and I'm anxious to begin the second one.

Nostepinne
I'm going to make the second class shawl from a baby alpaca and silk blend that feels like heaven when I touch it. It came in a hank of 875yds, which needed, of course, to be wound into a ball. Do I have a ball winder? Nope. ;) But I do have something called a nostepinne, and it does a great job, albeit more slowly than a ball winder. To the left you can see the finished ball of yarn and the nostepinne. The end of the yarn is looped around one of the indentations in the nostepinne, and then the yarn gets wound — and wound, and wound — around the slightly tapered end until finished. Then the yarn can be fed from either the inside of the ball or the outside. Below is what the ball looks like before being removed from the nostepinne. This ball is about the size of a large navel orange.
Finished winding the ball!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey, turkey, and more turkey!

As most know, yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the US. We had dinner at our daughter's home, and everyone brought something to contribute to the meal. I baked pumpkin pies and made cranberry relish, and DH smoked a turkey — he's a whiz at doing mouth-watering smoked turkey! Others brought salad, potatoes, more desserts, and other side dishes, so our daughter didn't have to do everything herself.


What we hadn't known ahead of time was that our son-in-law's mother was also bringing turkey (roasted) and that his niece's boyfriend was bringing fried turkey! LOL! We all certainly had our pick of wonderful kinds of turkey! This is a photo of some of the meat from the three turkeys laid out for us to pick from. From the lower left and going clockwise: roast turkey, smoked turkey, fried turkey. 

I hope your Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it, was as nice as ours!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lax

7500 Member Block
Yup, that's me lately. I've been neglecting my blog (and other things), and I'm sorry. Unfortunately, I can't promise to do better in the near future, since I'm having some eye problems that aren't made any better by too much time in front of the computer. :S

On a more cheerful note, I've been a member of the Carol Doak Yahoo group for several years now. I really enjoy paper piecing, as you might be able to tell from some of the quilts I've made in the past. :) Carol gives us a new pattern every time we reach a "milestone" in terms of new members or some other special occasion. The latest one was when the group hit 7500 members. I made the block in a slightly different size from the original (9" finished) in order to fit with some others it will be used with, but I did get it done yesterday. It's nice to finish a project, even if it's a small one! :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Home again

I've been home from the big Houston Quilt Festival for just hours short of a week now, and I think I've finally recuperated and caught up enough to get my blog caught up, too. ;)

A friend and I flew to Houston on Wednesday (11/2/2011), arriving in time to dump our luggage in our hotel rooms and dash over to the convention center for the preview night. We headed straight for the vendors, as usual, saving the gorgeous quilts for a full day — at least. I have to say that I didn't buy as much this year as I have in past years, but I enjoyed the shopping and looking just as much. What did I buy?

1. a king-sized batt from Pellon, in their Heritage line. Hobbs was sold out this year in record time, and the Pellon product is just as nice as the Hobbs product — in fact, it's made from the same formula.

2. a large package of Soft and Stable, much of which I'll need when I make one of the two patterns I also purchased.

3. two patterns. The one on the left in the photo will use that Soft and Stable, and it's an adorable dog bed. The one on the right is another wool appliqué project, for which I bought some yummy lavender wool and Valdani thread.

4. a new pair of thread snips.

5. some Martelli rotary cutter blades.

These were my "just because" purchases. ;) No books this year, no fabric other than that piece of wool! But I'm trying to use what I already have, so I was good.

Thursday at lunch time I met up with an online friend from Australia, and she bowled me over by bringing me a gift. She made this adorable little (12.5" x 8.75") koala, using aboriginal fabrics. Isn't he wonderful? I just love him — and I'm so grateful to have him. :D

Thursday I also had a class in curved piecing from one of my very favorite instructors. Here is the block I made, though I still need to add the curved borders:

We learned how to make just about any block into a curvy one and how to put the pieces together to end up with a flat result. One of the tricks was to use a very fine polyester thread. The fine thread takes up very little space in the seam, and the poly allows for a little stretch in the curves. The thread I bought to try out is made by Wonderfil. I bought some Deco-Bob, which is 80wt., and some Invisifil, which is 100wt — as is fine silk thread.

On Saturday I took a second class, this one on machine trapunto. I've experimented a little with this technique in the past, but I learned so much in this class! I still have much to do to finish my piece, but we began with some patterns that we then changed around to become more "personal". I've finished all except the background stippling to make the trapunto stand out more:

Since coming home, I've started yet another class, this time on how to knit lace! It's an online class, and it's very good. The lessons are all on video, so we can see exactly what the instructor is explaining, and we can ask questions, post photos, and make comments. The beginning of my lace shawl is on the left, and I have to admit that the yarn for it was yet another purchase in Houston! ;) That's where I found out about the online class I'm taking.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Current projects


I haven't made a lot of noticeable progress on anything lately, but I do have a couple of projects going. The first is the quilting on my basket quilt. The lines of thread you can see in the photo are just the basting, which I'm clipping as I cross it with my machine. I'm almost finished with the stabilizing quilting, which I'm doing with the walking foot, and then the quilt will have to be put away until I get back from Houston. 

The second project is barely begun. I have some new yarn for a shawl for myself. It's a gorgeous alpaca-silk blend in a very pale blush color, and it's heaven to touch! I've wound two of the hanks into balls so far, with the third still to go. I've been trying different techniques to wind the balls, so it's taking a bit longer than it might otherwise. ;) 

The last "project" is a much shorter-term thing, as I now have my Christmas fruitcakes in the oven. :) I know — many of you promptly thought "YUCK!" as soon as you read "fruitcakes". But good fruitcake is wonderful, and I not-so-modestly think mine is very good. It's certainly nothing like what you find in a tin on the grocery store shelf. :) There will be more holiday baking to come, but these days I'm cutting way back from what I used to make.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Shawl

I haven't had much to blog about lately, but I did finish a couple of projects. One is a gift I can't post here, just in case the intended recipient happens upon my blog, but it's a little pin cushion for an exchange with an online group of quilters. :) The other is also a gift, but it's for someone who doesn't have a computer, so I'm pretty sure she won't see this before Christmas. ;) 

I found some scrumptious alpaca yarn — actually, a blend of 50% alpaca, 30% merino, and 20% bamboo — that's so soft it's almost like a cloud! I knitted it up on some very large needles to get a more open, lacy effect, and I think it turned out rather well for someone with very little experience like me. Unfortunately, I had no ideal place to photograph it, but I'll show you what I did manage to get. This first photo gives a better idea of the color, which is mostly off-white but with some interesting additions of tans, browns and even a bit of grey-blue.


This one will let you see that the shawl is big enough to wrap up in rather well, as I've spread it over the back of our loveseat. Since the leather on the loveseat is brown, the shawl's color doesn't come through as well here.


This was a fairly easy shawl to do; it was a free pattern (Opal) from Ravelry.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Revisiting my youth

When I was much younger, I did a bit of knitting. I really enjoyed it, but I didn't pursue it very far, since I was young and pretty broke most of the time. ;) Lately, though, I've been seeing more and more knitting online, and it's been very tempting to begin again. I resisted at first, but I've given in.

What spurred this change of heart? My sister gave me a fun scarf — all ruffles — in shades of grey and white, in August and I loved it; it will look wonderful with my red coat this winter. I found some similar yarn and made myself another, this time in royal blue, turquoise, and a sort of greyish olive. I finished it yesterday, and it was such fun to make that I'm going to make a shawl next! Here's the scarf:

It's about 38" long and very fluffy! It should be lots of fun to wear. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sad day

I've been using Macs for for almost 30 years now. I added iPods, an iPhone, and an iPad to the mix over the years. I simply can't imagine what the modern computing world would look like today if Steve Jobs hadn't had his vision. My condolences go to his family, his friends, his staff, and to all who — like me — have benefitted from his contributions. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Time flies ...

… even when you're not having so much fun. ;) My poor little dog injured her back seven weeks ago and has been on enforced rest (and a couple of meds) since then. She and I both are about to go stir crazy, since I feel so bad for her that I stay home with her most of the time these days. We had another visit with her vet today, and he wants to continue the rest for another one or two months. I was so sure she was going to be given a clean bill of health today! But the vet is being very conservative, since Bisou has had back problems before. I trust his judgement, but it's still disappointing. :S

On a more cheerful note, a friend of my husband's makes little plaques out of wood, and he made us this cute little cocker head! :)

I'm sorry that the color is a bit off; the wall behind the head is actually white, and the lightest part of the ears is almost white, but they both look pretty yellow in the photo.

To keep myself busy for the next several weeks and while I wait for my current quilt project to "jell", I'm thinking about learning to knit. That should be fun!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yet more wool appliqué

The pattern I've been working on has three parts to it, and I've just finished the last of the three, a heart-shaped pin cushion that will be donated to a project for our quilt circle. I like this one a lot and am thinking about making it again, but adapting it to make a needle keep instead. 

Here's a photo of all three pieces together — a fun project! :) 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wool appliqué

Just over a week ago, I showed you a scissors case I made from wool. Now I've finished a matching pin cushion to go with it. It's rather a large pin cushion, so there will be room for lots of pins, and I'm hoping it will get good use when I send it to a good friend. I'm really enjoying doing some of this for a change; it's nice to have some very portable handwork. 

Soon, though, I should be able to begin doing the machine quilting on my basket quilt; I've given it to another friend, who is going to do the basting on her longarm. Basting is a part of quilting that I simply don't enjoy — though it's not so bad on small quilts. ;) Once this one is basted, I'll bring it home and quilt it myself. :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wool needle case


About six months ago, I posted this project. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to do more — especially after I found about a zillion really adorable ideas at Bird Brain Designs. :) I chose this one on the left, called Americana.



I've just finished making the scissors case, and I'm not unhappy with the result. :) I chose to do it in the same colors as the pattern, but it would look equally nice in pastels or some other color scheme, I think. Here's my scissors case, propped up on the perle cotton I used for the appliqué. What a coincidence that I had some green scissors to keep in it! 

By the way, some time ago a good friend of mine recommended a book that I've found very helpful, since I don't do a tremendous amount of embroidery and frequently forget how to do stitches I haven't practiced in months — or years. ;) It's Judith Baker Montano's Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Tool. It's spiral bound at the top and easily stands up on any flat surface, making it very handy to refer to when trying to figure out how to do certain stitches. What's even better, IMHO, is that all of the instructions are illustrated in both right- and left-handed versions — a great help for a lefty like me! (No more turning the book upside down to see how something should look.) There's also a free iPhone/iPad version, but it's quite limited unless you buy the add-ons for it, which I haven't done. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Strips

I've been working on my basket quilt today and have made some progress. :) All of the baskets were already put together into strips with black setting triangles, and today I cut what felt like miles of an off-white fabric with black pin dots; these strips will be the first and third borders. I'm going to put a narrow black border between the two lighter borders, but I haven't yet cut that one. What I have so far is just about the limit of what will fit on my design wall, so future photos will be a challenge. ;)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Visitors in our garden

We had guests this morning — completely unexpected ones. Actually, they visited our next-door neighbors first, but then they decided to head our way. Can you see them?

It's a family of quail, complete with a baby or two. There were several more that disappeared before I could grab my camera, but I loved seeing their little topknots parading across our garden wall. :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New blocks

Last spring I posted a little tutorial on how to make some signature blocks. Our quilt circle had its exchange, and I tucked my share of those signed blocks away for a time. Fast forward to last week, when our circle had another exchange, this time of half-square triangle blocks. Coincidentally, the signature blocks were 4" (finished), and the HSTs were 2" (finished), which means they could be so easy to use together! I've spent the past couple of days sewing them together into basket blocks with results like these:

I'm going to set them on point, probably with black setting triangles, though I'm still considering color choices. I'm pretty pleased with how they look so far. :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Latest project

I've been AWOL for a time, but I have a good excuse. ;) My twin sister and her husband were visiting us from France! We've had such a good time, but of course blogging went by the wayside. They've left now, though, and it just so happens that my local quilt group had its monthly meeting today. We made what I think will be a very handy little project. Can you see it here?

So, what's so handy about a flat piece of fabric with handles? Can you guess by seeing it all folded up in this photo? It looks like a little purse, doesn't it? But it's not!

Half-open and half-closed, you can see that it's lined with that silver heat-resistant fabric that's used on ironing boards. So this is a caddy for a travel iron, and it just barely fits my little Rowenta travel iron! I think it will be really nice when I need to take an iron to a class or meeting!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Camera case

Have I mentioned lately that I really like Annie Unrein's patterns? ;) I've shown you her MiPad Case and her Name Tag Bag, and now I've made her camera case. It's a bit fiddly to do, since the curves are small (what camera case isn't?), but it came out pretty well, IMHO. The bag has a wrist strap, as well as an adjustable shoulder strap.

The front has a velcro closure on the outer pocket (large enough for a cell phone), and there are several open pockets inside. The back of the case has a see-through pocket that's useful for any sort of ID. The only real problem I have with the bag is that I picked out the wrong zipper, but that's my fault, rather than the fault of the pattern; I should have ordered one of Annie's, but I didn't want to wait. :S

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Do you remember ...

... this post from just over a month ago? I said then that I was hoping to find buttons to decorate my gingerbread house tea cozy, and I did! I went to the Long Beach Festival last week, and there they were! Yay! So I've spent part of today putting them onto my tea cozy, and I think it now looks more like a gingerbread house should. ;)

I'll enjoy using this with my tea!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dinner!

Let's get one thing out of the way from the start: I love ratatouille! It takes a little while to make, though using a pressure cooker does cut that time down a bit. But summer in the desert is no time to be really excited about standing over a hot stove, so I don't make ratatouille as often as I might, and summer is when all of the vegetables for it are in season.

However, a few days ago I just couldn't stand it any longer and made a batch of the yummy stuff. Naturally, the two of us can't really eat an entire batch (and it's not worth making half a batch), but the leftovers are wonderful in a tarte à la ratatouille, or ratatouille pie. That will be our dinner tonight, and I can hardly wait! :) Lovely ratatouille, cheese, olives — what could be better? 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

And another hat

One of my daughters liked my new hat so much that I made her one of her own to wear to her children's ball games. She wanted white, and I couldn't resist making the reverse side a very pale aqua, since that color brings out her eyes.

Here's the aqua side:


Finally, here's my lovely daughter wearing the hat. I had to blank out her face to preserve her privacy, but take my word for it: she looks great in her hat! 



Sunday, July 17, 2011

More hat photos

I've had a couple of requests for photos of my recently-completed hat on me. Ugh. I hate taking photos of myself! But here is the darker side of the hat; please forgive the busy background, as the easiest way to take my own picture is to do it with my computer.

Then I decided to take another, showing the paler side of the hat, but I also wanted a "cooler" background. I just zipped really fast up to Yosemite for this one; it's lots cooler there than here in Las Vegas! ;)

Isn't it wonderful what we can do with computers these days? Anyway, you can see how wide the brim of my hat is, so it's really going to be great for keeping the sun off! :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two finishes

It's been a while since my last post, but I have a good excuse — as usual. ;) Actually, our guild is having a challenge; we have a piece of red batik we must use (it's gorgeous!), and we must use a heart somewhere on the front of the quilt. The challenge isn't due for several months yet, but I had an idea and was afraid I'd forget what I was planning if I didn't do it right away. So now it's finished and awaiting the due date, but I can't show it to you until after the challenge is over! :( 

My second recent finish — as of this afternoon — is thanks to a friend of mine who sent me a link to a pattern for a reversible hat. :) As it happens, I've been looking for a hat I can use to keep the sun off of my face and neck; in our area, the sun can literally be a killer. I hadn't found anything, though I've been looking for some time. Every time I think I've found something good, it's either not good on me, or it's so expensive that I won't even consider it. ;) However, what did I have to lose with a free pattern, fabric from my stash and a couple of hours of my time? As it happens, I like this one! It covers my head and neck and fits well enough to be secure while still not resulting in "hat hair".  

I did make a few changes in the pattern. First, I added a layer of pretty stiff interfacing to the brim. In addition, I added a layer of flannel to the crown for a bit of body. Finally, I turned the hat right-side out through the brim instead of the sides and did a few rows of topstitching on the brim for extra stability. I think it will work quite well! :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Button, button, who has ...

… the buttons? Last week I showed you part of a tea cozy I was working on. Now I've finished it, except for the specialty buttons I need to add to make this look like a traditional gingerbread house. But finding those buttons is proving to be a real challenge; I'm guessing that this is probably the wrong time of year. So my tea cozy will have to be unadorned until I can find what I'm looking for, which includes buttons that look like candy or gingerbread men or anything else you might see on an edible gingerbread house. ;)

In the meantime, you can see what it looks like so far. I made it from a pattern put out by Bent Tree Hollow Designs; they have so many really cute tea cozy patterns!

Friday, June 24, 2011

I don't garden

Yes, I know that's practically a crime to some people, but I simply don't enjoy it. I'm allergic to something (several somethings?) out there, so whenever I've tried to garden, I've spent more time wiping my eyes, sneezing and dealing with my nose than actually accomplishing anything. Luckily for me, my husband loves to garden and is quite talented at it. His favorite kind of gardening is producing various vegetables, especially lots of varieties of chiles so that he can have salsa and pico de gallo. He also grows cucumbers, bell peppers, and whatever else strikes his fancy.

One thing he always grows is tomatoes, which is a challenge in our hot, dry climate. Large tomatoes are generally out of the question, as they crack and split before they can ripen. However, this year we had a long spring and late summer, which has resulted in a bumper crop of gorgeous tomatoes! :) The cherry tomatoes are smaller than usual, but they're sweet enough to make us remember that tomatoes are actually a fruit. The larger tomatoes are full of flavor and beautiful to see. 

Our only problem is getting the tomatoes harvested each day before busy little Bisou can go feast on the ones that poke out of the fence surrounding them. ;)