Friday, November 11, 2011

Seasons change and so do I

When I was a kid, there were two seasons of cleaning:   Spring Cleaning and Fall Cleaning. Now, don't ask me if I still adhere to such fanciful thinking, but I have been doing a little more than just dusting and vacuuming in the sewing room this past week. You see, we are having the windows replaced in that room, and all my sewing stuff is right up against the window.

In order to have access to the window, we have to move my sewing cabinet and all the lovely things I had stashed behind it, (and under it) ...bags of scraps, bits of batting, leftover items from my garment sewing days, cross-stitch patterns, embroidery floss, and a few linens given to me for safe keeping when my parents downsized.

Of course, a good cleaning means sorting and cleaning out everything else in the room, right? So this week I have been going through the heaps of fabrics that needed to be put away, the books and magazines that needed filing, the gizmos and gadgets that cluttered up my cutting area and the assorted stuff that ends up in the sewing room.

Also being cleaned up and sorted was the tree that fell outside our house during the storm last week. We had to have a crew come with a crane to take down what was left of the tree. It's not often you look out your second story window and see this:

Of course, Toby wanted to see what was going on too:

But Shorty couldn't get up high enough to get a good view.

Not to worry! There's always an alternative:

We are nothing if not resourceful around here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mother Nature's Trick or Treat

I had this cute photo of Toby in his pumpkin costume all set to display on my blog on Halloween, and then Mother Nature sent a freakish snowstorm our way and knocked out my access to the computer.  So here he is, better late than never...

Trick or Treat!

We were very fortunate that we did not lose electricity like so many did in our town and the neighboring towns.  However, we did lose a large tree which fell down next to our house and took along our Internet, cable and telephone service wire with it.  No fun to look up and see this:

At least the sky was blue!  In fact, the day after the storm was a gorgeous clear sunny day.  Looking around at the snow on the foliage was odd, but also quite pretty.

We went to church on Sunday and learned that they had lost their electricity.  We had Mass just the same in the cold, dim church lit only by candles and whatever light came in through the stained glass windows.  With the sun and the snow outside, the colors in the windows were practically glowing.   I snapped this pic quickly with my cell phone as we were leaving just to remember how lovely the stained glass was.  It's quite overexposed, but it gives you an idea.

We also found that the grocery store had no electricity.  We stopped in to get a few things and were surprised it was still open.  A store clerk told us that they had generators for the most important things:  the lighting, the refrigeration, the cash registers and .... the time clock!  No sneaking out in the dark for those employees!

Speaking of employees, I'm very grateful to all the state, city and utility workers who put in so many hours to help get the power restored.  The majority of things are back to normal, except for the sound of chainsaws as people all over clean up after the storm.  Lots of wood for the fireplace!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Snuggly

I finished knitting the afghan I started!

Just 2 and a half months ago, this project looked like this:

If anyone had told me that I would finish knitting an afghan by the end of October, I would have laughed.  (This was supposed to be my longterm project.) But somehow, I found myself picking up the needles at every opportunity and before I knew it, I had seven knitted strips.

Instead of sewing the strips together, I crocheted them together.  Here is the reverse side showing a row of crochet:
I really like the stability the crochet added, and it was a real timesaver too.

As I went along, I tried to keep continuity in each strip so that the stripes would line up when sewn together.  When I laid the strips side by side, it looked like I was doing an okay job.  I expected that there would be some variation, but not quite this much:

I kind of wish I had paid less attention to trying to match the stripes.  In that case, I might have something that looked casually unmatched on purpose.

I think the problem was that I used skeins of yarns from different dye lots.  I thought that since there was such a range of color in the yarn, that if there were a subtle change in the dyes from skein to skein that it would be okay.  What I didn't consider was that different dye lots apparently had differences in the lengths of the bands of color.

However the stripes may fall, I love this afghan!  The yarn is very soft, and the weight has a nice drape to it.  It fills in any drafts around your legs.   Don't tell my quilts I'm admitting this, but  I just might prefer the afghan to put over my lap on a cold night.
(Did I really just type that?)

I still have quite a bit of work ahead of me to tie in all the loose yarn:

The nice thing is that the afghan does double duty as a legwarmer while I'm working on it.

Now what will I do for my longterm project?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall colors

Just a few pics of some of the glorious Fall colors we had before the rains came.

I finished knitting all the strips for my afghan, and am almost done putting it together.  More about that tomorrow in a post that can only be titled
"The Good, The Bad and The Snuggly".

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quilty weekend

It was a busy weekend for quilting in my neck of the woods. 
There were 3 quilt shows, including my guild's show, and also a seminar on quilts and textiles of the 1930's that I was fortunate enough to attend.

I don't have photographs from any of it to share, so I thought I'd share this little black cat quilt. 

I did not make it, but I've had this little quilt for years now.  I think I won it as a door prize at my guild.  My favorite thing about it is that the cat's neckerchief is a 3 dimensional prairie point.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Home, Home on the Plains...

I love a good quilt history book, and this one is no exception:

It's a fascinating look at the lives (and quilts!) of women pioneers in late 19th century Nebraska, written by 2 quilt historians, Kathy Moore and Stephanie Grace Whitson.
The book is illustrated with many photos of Nebraska families and their sod houses.  The sepia tone photo on the book's cover gives you an idea of  the kind of photography you'll find inside. 
One of the featured quilters is Grace McCance Snyder:

You may have heard of her well known Flower Basket Petit Point quilt.  Grace made her first quilt out on the plains while herding her father's cattle.  Details of her life are recounted in the book, but you can spend 3 short minutes to learn more about her online here.
Another highlighted quilter from the book is Luna Sanford Kellie.  What a hearty soul she was! 
She and her husband, JT,  had 13 children, and Luna worked the farm right up to each birth.  Let me share this quote from a 9 months pregnant Luna that  left me awestruck:

      "... started in to help JT cut the broom corn, but we only worked 2 or 3 days when I got sick in the night.  JT made a hurried run a mile east for a neighbor woman who hurried back and about daylight Friday we had another lovely little boy .... I got dinner on Monday and then being so worried about the broom corn went out and helped cut some ... Tuesday morning I wrapped the new baby in a quilt and took it to the field and worked all day ..."
Yikes!  Those pioneer women were made of strong stuff!
The book includes patterns for some of the quilts highlighted in the book.  One of the patterns is for a signature quilt called "Wedge and Circle"

Another is called by the whimsical name "Laws O Massey". 
I imagine that "Laws o Massie" was a local version of "Lord 'a Mercy!" 
All in all, a very enjoyable and interesting read. 
I love this book!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Now she knits, too!

My longtime quilter friend, Rosemary, has been hosting a monthly get-together at her home for a few quilter friends.  The funny thing is, instead of quilting, we are all knitting!

 We have not given up our quilting by any means, but the portablility of a knitting project has won us over.  Come in, sit down and start knitting.  No sewing machines to unload from the car.

I haven't done any knitting since the obligatory baby sweater when my children were born.  (What? That's not a requirement?) , but my mother and sister are avid knitters and always have a project going.  My sister  Joanne practically never leaves the house without taking her knitting with her.  She brings it out and knits a few rows at every opportunity.

I decided that an afghan would be a nice longterm project that would keep my fingers occupied at our monthly get-togethers but that I would be in no rush to finish.  First and foremost, I am a quilter, and I have lots of quilts to keep me warm, so it almost felt like a betrayal to start knitting an afghan.

I found a free pattern that I really liked, and shopped around for a sale on yarn. Afterall, I am a quilter, and I don't want to spend a lot of fabric money on yarn.

I found a lovely, soft, variegated yarn at my local craft shop.  There was plenty of it, it was on sale, and it passed my sister Joanne's softness test.  (Joanne's softness test:  Hold the skein of yarn against your neck and determine if you could wear a scarf made from it without itching.) 

The colors in the yarn I picked vary from cranberry to rose to jade to moss to beige.  It didn't make me think of Christmas until I saw the name the yarn company had given  it which was "Holiday".  Undaunted, I bought it anyway and decided that it didn't scream Christmas too much.

The pattern I'm using can be found here.  The afghan is made in strips and then sewn together.  I decided to make it bigger than the pattern calls for.   This was going to be my longterm, no-rush, keep-my-hands-busy, take-along project.  Afterall, I am a quilter.

I started knitting in August.

Fast forward just 2 months later.  I have completed 6 of the 7 strips needed, and am halfway done with number 7.  After that,  I just have to sew them all together.

I think this afghan might be done within a couple more weeks, and when that happens, I will be in need of another longterm project.  Longterm?  It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride:

"I don't think that word means what you think it means"!

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Autumn Twister

We're just on the eve of foliage season around my area. It put me in the mood to play with my orange and gold fabrics.

I chose a pattern called "Primitive Pinwheels".

It came with a small tool/ruler called the "L'il Twister".

To start, you sew squares of fabric together into a simple quilt top.  Then you align the crosshair markings on the ruler with the seams on your quilt top and re-cut to make pinwheels.  

I wish I had stopped to take pictures of my progress along the way, but I was too anxious to keep going and see what my finished quilt was going to look like.  If you want to see how it is done, here  is just one of many tutorials you can find on the web which show you more detail.

Here is the quilt top I ended up with:

The finished size of the little pinwheel blocks is one and three quarter inches. (They don't call it "l'il" for nothing! ) The resulting quilt  measures about 19" x 15".

Here is a detail shot:

And here it is quilted, and just in need of the binding to be sewn down:

 I thought that I had enough contrast just by using lights and darks, but I think that if I made another Lil Twister quilt, I would include a little more contrast in the colors as well.

Can't wait to get the binding finished and start enjoying this little bit of autumn indoors.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Two years of Toby

Hard to believe that 2 whole years have passed since we first laid eyes on this little guy:
at the shelter

We had been looking for a dog for a couple of months but as soon as we saw him that day at the shelter we knew right away that he was the dog for us.   The  staff told us that they thought he was part Lab and part Bassett Hound. We were hoping for a small to medium sized dog, and both of those breeds can grow to be pretty big, but we had already fallen in love with him so he came home with us.

Toby is my first dog.  I didn’t know what to expect.  But I have become totally smitten with this tennis ball loving,

and Bunny

ear flapping,

happy dog

slipper stealing,
slipper stealer

frog sittin’
Frog sit

comically large pawed,

snow plowin’,
Snow surfer


tongue wagging,

tennis ball retrieving,

Willie and Toby

Toby endures



smile inducing,
nap time

bundle of furry cuteness:
New toy

Happy Anniversary, Toby!  You're all those things and more!
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