Quilting Fun


While I love the satisfaction of finishing a quilt, it isn't the only way to have fun with quilting. Fun also comes from the great outings with girlfriends, shopping expeditions with Grandma, or just sitting in my "thoughtful spot" chair perusing magazines and books. The thrill of the next project waiting just there on the horizon...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Service Returned

All the rainy weather caused our internet to go out! Water leaked into the control box (for lack of a better name!) where our internet comes into the house, causing a short. It took us all week to figure out what the trouble was. Small troubles for us, however, when most of the southern US has faced real troubles. God bless those so devastatingly affected by the destruction of those tornadoes. It's heartbreaking to see the rubble left behind.

A quick catch-up, and promise to provide pictures when time permits: I finished the prom dress; prom is tomorrow (Saturday); book club had a lovely discussion of Henrietta Lacks; have a yard/garden full of spring blooms.

Not only do we have a lot going on in the remaining month of our youngest's last month of high school, it seems we have extended family obligations and friends with needs.

Happy quilting, friends. Take a few stitches for me, as I'm away from my needle with all these other priorities!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter, Quilting Friends

I grew up on the Peanuts Gang. When I saw this pic in the image search for Easter, I just knew I would use it.

As children, we had several little Peanuts books, about 6" square, that we read over and over again until we practically had them memorized.  We definitely wore them out. Last time I remember seeing them, they were quite tattered. We never missed the television specials that were on each holiday - my favorite to this day is the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Anyway, of all the Peanuts Gang, Snoopy is my favorite. I just love his happy-go-lucky attitude. How he'd take crabby old Lucy's tirades, and then just lean in and giver her a big, slurpy dog kiss. He was so protective of Woodstock, holding that dog dish over him like an umbrella. I loved his imaginative nature - that whole make-believe world of the WWII fighter pilot. Wonderful! Wouldn't you agree that the cartoon above has happy-go-lucky written all over it?

(Here's a pic of one I found on ebay for $3. The copyright date on this one is 1963.)

I need to ask Mom if she still has any of those books we had as kids. I know she will remember them. I'll bet we got them as gifts in our Christmas stockings or our Easter baskets. She might remember that, too! I have to give my mom a lot of credit for creativity. When you have 5 kids in 6 years, I'm sure there were limits on what she and Dad could afford on gift-giving occasions. Easter was always special - hunting for those Easter baskets that she hid all around the house.  What halcyon days they were.



I sure can digress, can't I? I just wanted to stop by today to wish everyone a Happy Easter! Let's remember, though, the real message of Easter has nothing to do with happy beagles, chocolate bunnies and baskets of eggs...


Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to Procrastinate

If procrastination were an Olympic sport, I could compete on a grand scale. I have this prom dress to get finished, and I really want to finish it so I can get back to my quilting projects. So what do I do instead of finishing the dress??

I read a book, of course.

I picked it up on Tuesday and finished it on Wednesday. So you know I barely put it down to do anything else!  While I'm mentioning it, I might as well recommend it, too. It is a wonderfully satisfying read!

This pic is taken from the author's website. It's reviewed as "a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race and medicine." Riveting  is the operative word there - I swear, I couldn't put it down. It's non-fiction, and is being made into a movie, I believe. My book club is meeting next week to discuss this book, and we will have many topics to cover and issues to explore.

Strangely, I really was not looking forward to reading this book. It's heavily science-based, and I just couldn't see myself getting into it. How wrong I was! It was incredibly fascinating, and I strongly recommend it to any of you readers out there in the blogosphere.

So, you see how my procrastination works? I will read a book that I am not even looking forward to reading in order to avoid working on something that I really MUST get busy on!

Geesh.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Prom Dress Mess and Recovery

Prom dress mistakes - yes, that's plural. It has been a roller coaster ride of a project, that's for sure!

I did what I thought was a smart thing and made not one, but two, practice bodices. The first was too big, the second was the correct size and included several steps that I didn't do on the first: boning, lining, and interlining. Well, I still think it was smart to do those mock-ups, but part of the purpose was to make the actual dress construction easier with fewer mistakes. Hmmph.

Problem number 1: The bodice front has two parts that are mirror images of one another. I made both the mock-ups correctly, but made the real thing incorrectly. Both parts were identical, not mirror image. This meant that we had 2 bodices for the right breast, and no bodice for the left. Yes, this is a problem.


Look at all the fraying. I know, I should have used pinking shears. You know what they say about hindsight, right? These are the parts that comprise one half of the bodice lining; the interlining is sewn to it.

Problem number 2: Attaching the midriff to the bodice was easy when I used cotton. But sewing this shantung and organza has proven quite a bit more challenging. The organza has tremendous amounts of gathering, both top and bottom, to provide a ruched effect. The seam which attaches the midriff and bodice had 7 layers of cloth: one midriff, one midriff lining, one midriff interlining, one bodice, one ruching, one bodice lining, and one bodice interlining. Where the left and right bodice pieces crossed in the center front, there were 11 layers of fabric. (Think of the thicknesses where seams met!)  It was this center front with all these layers to manage that I had my second problem. It required unsewing, not once, but twice! It was a bugger!



Here, Emma is holding the bodice and midriff around herself. This is straight off the sewing machine - it hasn't been pressed or even straightened out! Looks pretty rough, but she was happy with it, thankfully. Now to attach the skirt with its overskirt of organza. One of her girlfriends said it will look like a goddess' dress. I certainly hope so! My plan is to finish in time to take it to our local dry cleaners and have them give it a professional pressing. I'm absolutely scared to death to put my iron near this fabric!

Here are some interesting things that are happening out in our yard. Oh, glorious spring! I love these flowering times!



Our first magnolia. We've owned this place for over 18 years, and our previous place for 11 years, and we've never had a magnolia. I can't explain it.


Grape Hyacinth. I remember planting a patch of these as a child. I think my mother bought a bag of seeds/bulbs at the county fair. She prepared a spot near the kitchen window of our house. She made a big production of having us (my siblings and I) watch as she opened the bag and poured the seeds out. There were pennies in the seeds! It was so cool. We thought it was absolute magic.
Happy Quilting, Friends!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bloggie Update

Today has been spent trying to give my blog a facelift. For quite awhile now, I've wanted to create tabs across the top that show the quilts and quilt tops finished since retiring. It has taken me several tries, but I think I've arrived at a look I can be satisfied with. I was then able to weed out some of the redundant sidebar gadgets that I'd had over there. That bit of housekeeping and organizing has made me very happy.

No prom dress updates to report. DH and I are getting ready to go out for dinner and one of these:


We love the margaritas made at this one Mexican restaurant in my home town about 35 minutes from here, so we go just about every Saturday night for dinner. Our kids think we are turning into old fogies in our predictability, but what do they know? They rarely turn us down when we offer to take them out for dinner at this establishment. Maybe they are just interested when Dad and Mom are paying the tab.

Have a great evening, Quilters!



Friday, April 15, 2011

Cheesy Potato Casserole

The promise of recipes from the brunch I hosted about a month ago needs to be checked off my list, so here's the last one, I believe. I've already shared the Strata and the Pound Cake.

Once you make this recipe, you'll find that you really don't need a recipe! Just dump a bunch of ingredients together! If you have a little less cheese, or a little more onion, no big deal. It always disappears.

The only warning I will give is to be sure not to overbake, especially if you might be short on moisture-providing ingredients (butter or sour cream). If you do end up with a casserole that is on the dry side, my family compensates by topping with more sour cream. Whatever works! :-)

I serve this as a side dish with dinner, or with a big hearty breakfast! It can be prepared the night before, and baked in the morning, for convenience.



Cheesy Potato Casserole

Yield: 12-15 servings
Ingredients

1 package (26 oz.) frozen hash brown potatoes, slightly thawed

1 lg. container (2 lb.) sour cream

1 stick butter

2-3 c. shredded cheddar, plus a bit extra to sprinkle on top

1 small onion, chopped finely

Salt, pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 11x13-inch loaf pan with shortening.

2. Melt butter in very large mixing bowl. Stir in sour cream. Add cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, and onion.

3. Fold in hash browns. Mix well.

4. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake approximately 40-45 minutes.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tuesdays with Sharon

Now that Sharon and I are committed to sewing together each Tuesday, I need to come up with a clever name for the endeavor. Tuesdays with Sharon will have to do for now, and truly, it is the simplest way to reference it!

She came to my house this time, since I was working on the prom dress. Sharon brought her Aviary charm packs and continued to work on her project from last week. I need to get the book she's using and report the title here, along with the exact name of the quilt. It's a book that specifically addresses using layer cakes, charm packs and jelly rolls - precuts, I suppose you'd say.

At the beginning of the day, Sharon had this:

She was chain piecing, so all these rows are attached, and are ready for horizontal rows to be stitiched. But wait!! There's a problem!!!

This star has a twisted point. A bit of unsewing was required, and she was back on track.

We took our lunch break while this was stretched out on the floor. Guess who came to play? Gracie.


I don't know what her fascination is with quilt parts on the floor, but she had done this before. She goes nuts!


She had the quilt top tossed into quite a mess before we finally got her out of there. (Throw kitty treats down the basement steps, and watch her go! We shut her in the basement.)

At the end of the day, Sharon had the center portion of her quilt top nearly fully constructed. There are about 4 rows at the top there that still need to be sewn. Next, she has decisions to make concerning borders. I also think she intends to restitch a couple of the blocks that form the stars, as she is dissatisfied with certain points (or lack of points!).

At this point my DH came home from work; he admired it (like a good quilter's husband should!), and Sharon referred to it as a "girly quilt." Yes, it is, but it is so beautiful, and so Sharon! She has a decided preference for the cottage look, and this speaks to that preference perfectly. It makes me want to work on a floral, soft, girly quilt, too!

The prom dress work for me consisted of making a second trial bodice. I did one without lining and boning, which was way too big. Into the trash with that, and I cut out a second bodice, a full size smaller. This time I went for all of it - lining and boning, included. It took quite awhile, but it came out pretty well, and when Emma tried it on, we had a  pretty decent fit. I've got a couple of places to take in just a skosh tighter and we will be good to go.

Here's practice bodice #2, constructed using some ugly, cheap '80s cotton.


Today, the real dress goes into production.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Home from Cincinnati and Spring Happenings

We four Frankfort girls had fun in Cincinnati at the International Quilt Festival. I took pictures, but the rules for sharing photos have me scared to death that I will break some copyright rule and be hauled off to prison.

My thinking is this: I keep this blog for no other reason than to record the stuff I'm working on and to share it with a few people. It's sort of a public diary or journal. I do not make any money or advertise for any company or individual. So as long as I identify the maker of the quilt and the festival where I saw it, why would anyone care that I shared a picture? Or two? Or twenty?

All this mumbo-jumbo about what's legal and what's forbidden has me somewhat gunshy! I'm going to be bold and show this picture, which was the quilt photographed on all the literature for the festival. It's called Basket of Tulips and is made by 4 women: Andi J. Perejda, Joan Bruce, Barbara Collins and Rene Jennings.

Since I'm too wimpy to show the other pictures I took, I will simply explain that I mostly photgraphed the tradtional quilts, as opposed to the art quilts. I guess I take pictures of quilts I am likely to make; I don't ever see me making anything that would fall into an "art quilt" category. I appreciate the workmanship, but have no desire whatsoever to attempt any such project.

I did a lot of shopping and even more browsing. I thought the place was very warm, but it might have been just me and my power surges. *g*

After busting the bank account on fabric at the festival, I am home and redirecting my focus for a couple of months. I don't know if I've mentioned it here on the blog or not, but Emma and I decided that we are making her prom dress. She showed me what she liked in the magazines, and her favorite one seemed really simple. So we went shopping for a pattern; believe it or not, the first one I suggested to her is the one we bought! It is going to be pretty easy to make (however, I've never put boning in a dress bodice before, so we shall see how that goes). It's a McCalls pattern.

The color is champagne, and we are using shantung as the underfabric and organza as the overfabric. It is all very flowy from the empire waist down; the strapless bodice is ruched and the midriff will be trimmed with some beading.

I've constructed a practice bodice today (minus the boning) and am waiting for Emma to try it on. Once we are certain that everything is going to fit properly, I will hunker down and get to work! Prom is April 30.

In addition to the prom dress, which is an immediate need, in June I am hosting 2 events here at our cozy abode - Emma's graduation party in early June, and a bridal shower for the daughter of a dear friend in mid-June. I've got some mighty big lists to work through in order to be ready for these shindigs!

 Both events will occur here on our screened porch, and we have some serious cleaning and sprucing up to do in the meantime! This is an old picture of the porch; at present it still wears it's winter layer of grime and dust. I will need a warm sumny day this week to get out the hose and get to scrubbing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cincinnati-Bound

Right here in my own backyard an International Quilt Show is going on this weekend. Over 6 months ago, the Frankfort quilters and I planned our trip, sent in our reservations, and highlighted this show on our calendars.


The Cincinnati skyline by day...


...and the skyline by night.

Here is the link to the Cincinnati show.

Originally, all 5 of us were going to go, but sadly Sharon has been under the weather for a couple of months, and she has decided not to go. We will miss her! Our previous overnight outings have produced plenty of giggles and fun, and Sharon has been in the thick of our antics! Granted, I expect the 4 remaining festival-goers will manage plenty of silliness, but we will definitely miss Sharon's involvement in the mix.

We will stroll through the exhibits and shop the vendors. I've got a mental list of things I might be interested in looking for, and of course, I'm always open to spontaneous purchases!

I hope some bloggers will be there. Several bloggers I follow are from Ohio, so maybe we can meet. We leave this afternoon, and will be back home tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Oh, What a Finish!

By gosh, I did it!!

I have actually finished my Broken Dishes quilt!

I am so glad to have it finished.

As of 2 weeks ago, I had not one notion that this quilt would become the focus of my work, much less that it would be finished. It's funny how something that was simply grabbed as a diversion for a day of sewing could become a week-long obsession.

I'm going to try to go back and figure out when I began this quilt, and on some future post I will record the story of Broken Dishes. For now, I can say that it's a pattern in this book:



Kaffe Fassett's A Kaleidoscope of Quilts.

Okay, I've again had 2 days devoted to sewing, and it's been wonderful! Yesterday, I sewed with Sharon at her house. She worked on a new project using layer cakes of Aviary, and I cannot believe that I didn't take a picture of it. I guess I was too wrapped up in myself and my own project! Shame on me.

Here is what I started with yesterday - 2 piles of quilt blocks and my trusty diagram.


At the end of the day, I had 5 of the 9 rows constructed.


Today, at Terry's, a group of ladies met for more sewing. This same group met last Wednesday in Grove City when we sewed at Mary's barn. Terry worked on a little project with tiny pieces, Milton's Musket Balls from Civil War Legacies.



This is her first block. One down, 11 more to go!!

Mary had a neat project involving the Civil War, too. Her project is from A Path to the Civil War.



Just look at her beautiful blocks! She was bummed because she didn't have all the pieces cut that she thought she did, but what she did get finished sure looks great!

Cherie and Monica worked on the same projects they had going last week. Cherie continued with her black and white blocks, while Monica was churning out basket blocks.

Cherie's 16-patch blocks. She has a beautiful assortment of  fabrics.


 Monica's basket blocks look amazing. I wish I could get my triangles to look as perfect as hers do!

And Sheryll, who was under the weather last week, worked on some handquilting for a special anniversary in her family.


Sheryll does beautiful handwork. The guests at an upcoming party will be signing this wall hanging - a signature quilt commemorating a golden wedding anniversary. Won't the recipients love it?

And I finished Broken Dishes. Wow. What a job. Let's do the math on how many pieces are in this guy. There are 42 center blocks which have 64 pieces in each block; that comes to 2688 pieces. The border has 30 blocks each consisting of 16 pieces which comes to 480. So added all up we get 3168 pieces. Wow. 
That makes my brain hurt.

But I'm glad it's done. I really, really am.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Raspberry Pound Cake

I will be busy sewing today, so I thought I would offer another recipe. This pound cake was on the menu of the brunch I hosted about 3 weeks ago. I saw it on Everyday Italian on the Food Network. It is really good. The recipe does not call for chopped nuts, but the last time I made it, I added them. Delicious! My husband and I really like nuts in things, so I will probably continue to add them to this whenever I make it.

A note about the pic below: Notice the sunken look this cake has; I've not ever had this trouble before with this recipe, and I think I know why - my oven was set at 300 degrees, instead of 350 degrees. I should have been more careful in checking, but was not. It was when I was turning the oven off that I noticed the temperature. Just a note of precaution, if you should decide to try it.

Raspberry Pound Cake with Vin Santo Cream

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis of the Food Network
Yield: 6-8 servings

Pound Cake Ingredients

1 ½ c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the loaf pan

1 t. baking soda

2 t. orange zest (from 1 medium orange)

½ t. ground cinnamon

½ t. salt

1 1/3 c. sugar

½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan

3 eggs

1 t. vanilla extract

1 (10-oz.) bag unsweetened, frozen raspberries, thawed and drained

Preparation

1. Set oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, soda, orange zest, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until blended, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, until just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold the drained raspberries evenly into the batter.

3. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Cake may deflate in center during cooling.

Topping Ingredients

1 c. heavy cream

½ t. vanilla extract

3 T. powdered sugar

3 T. Vin Santo wine or Moscato wine

Preparation

In large bowl, beat the cream until it hold soft peaks. Add vanilla extract, powdered sugar and wine. Continue to beat mixture until cream holds stiff peaks.

Bon appetit!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Broken Dishes Progress

It feels good to say that I've really had some good, quality sewing time lately. After those busy weeks with Emma's school stuff and having very little time for sewing, I'm starting a 2nd week now with much time set aside for working on quilting projects.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I sewed with girlfriends, working both days on Broken Dishes, a quilt I started approximately 4 years ago. I was making really good progress, so I kept it going on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with steady work on those blocks. The quilt requires 42 interior blocks and 30 border blocks. Here's an interior block, all 64 pieces of it!!

There is much stitching in a single block for this quilt, and it's easy to get discouraged. I am sure that is why I've worked on it in fits and starts over these past few years. I seem to be inspired to work on it when I have an opportunity for a sewing day with friends, or some such event. Now that I am close to having all the blocks done, and can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, I am motivated to finish it without delay! Hoorayyy!

I've played around a bit with the possible layout of those interior blocks.
I've placed them randomly on the family room floor. There are so many colors, I really don't think there is going to be a "wrong" layout;  more than likely I will just go with what looks pleasing to me at the time I'm ready to do the rows.


This is Gracie. Doesn't she look like a perfect angel? Cats can be very sneaky. Just prior to this picture, she was frolicking on my quilt squares.

No harm done, I suppose.

I'll close by backtracking a bit to the labor-intensive nature of the construction process of this quilt. The many steps involved in making a single block of this quilt is somewhat illustrated here. The first step is to sew together 8 pairs of fabrics on the diagonal, cut them apart, and press them open. I have 3 stacks of squares at this point in this photo. Each triangle needs to have the points clipped, so you see my little pile of "ears" in the bottom left of the  pic. The next step is to join 2 HST blocks on the diagonal, clip those apart, cut off more points, and press open. This produces the QST blocks that comprise the block shown at the top of this pic. Whew. It seems like a lot of work.

On the bright side, though, my points are matching up pretty well, all in all. I've got a few "duds,: but I am pleased overall with the results. I've not resewn very many. I hope to be creating rows on Tuesday when I meet with Sharon for a day of sewing together.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Quilting Day, Chapter 2

Hello April, and welcome! You've been a long time in coming!

On Wednesday, I went with Terry to quilt all day at Mary's Barn.

On Thursday, my long-time friend and new retiree, Sharon, came to quilt all day at my house. Oh, how I have enjoyed these 2 days!

Sharon arrived around 10:30 and we got right to work. She wanted to finish a quilt she began on Veterans' Day of 2009, using 2 layer cakes of a fabric line called Aviary. She did finish the quilt top, and even has the backing prepared, too. It is a pieced back and it is going to look fantastic.





We had a lot of catching up to do! We taught together at CHS for 30 years, and when I retired in 2009, we saw a lot less of each other. Her schedule became more hectic as mine was considerably less so. Finally, at the end of February, she reached eligibility for retirement. Those intervening months when she still taught, and I didn't were months where we really lost touch. We were accustomed to daily visits, so it was an adjustment barely seeing each other once a month! Aaagghh! We have much catching up to do!! Consequently, we covered a lot of ground while we quilted. Can't you just hear us? Quilts, kids, quilts, books, quilts, politics, quilts, teaching, quilts, vacations, quilts -- well, you get the picture.

One result of our day of quilting is our committing every Tuesday to sewing together, either at her house or mine. We are determined to try to get our fabric stashes whittled down! I thnk I am going to like the discipline of a set time and day for quilting. I work much more reliably with "appointments" as opposed to relying on myself to get motivated. (I'm a procrastinator, big time!!)




While Sharon worked on her Aviary creation, I continued the work from yesterday - chugging away on the Kaffe Fassett Broken Dishes quilt. The time it takes for each block is daunting. There are 2 sizes of triangles needed for this quilt. The block used for the interior consists of 16 smaller quarter-square triangle units. These take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to construct. I need 42 of them and have 27 finished, all made one at a time (not assembly-line sewing). For the remaining 15, I am going with the assembly-line method. It's still slow going, but hopefully some finished blocks are not far off.



The block used in the border consists of 4 quarter-square triangle units. Much larger and more user-friendly! I need 30 of these blocks, and had 16 completed. I have actually now finished 6 more of these blocks, so my total is 22 - only 8 more to make!! They go together so much faster than those little 16-unit buggers!

We sewed until 6:45pm, at which time we had to rush off to our book club meeting. That was just up the road from my house, and we planned this day to work out so we could move directly from quilting to book club. After book club, we came back here and tidied up the clutter.

It was a wonderful day to celebrate Sharon's first full month of retirement, marked by a finish - her UFO top and backing ready to be sent off for quilting. What a sense of accomplishment! It also brings with it a feeling of promise of all that we can get done now that we have established a regular time for quilting together.