Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015

The year's end has come, and I find that I am spending much time reflecting on the ups and downs of 2015. From our youngest graduating from college to my 98-year-old grandmother's death, the year has been a full one. Just this week, we lost a long-time friend from our college days to the insidious cancer. Every life is made up of highs and lows, and the manner in which we cope with those lows and celebrate those highs says a lot about the kind of person we are. I like to think that I am pretty well balanced.

I try to balance my hobbies, as well, one of which is reading. Since retiring, I have done quite a lot less reading than when I worked. Seems like it ought to be the other way around, but in this newfound time that retirement has presented, I've been compelled to sew and quilt, as opposed to read.

Oddly, I read a book over Christmas week. It's a rare occurrence when I feel stress-free enough during the Christmas season to begin a book. I'd received a recommendation of a book called The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick, so I requested it from the library and got it at the very end of November. I decided about a week before Christmas that I'd better get busy on it, or I'd end up just taking it back to the library unread.

It intimidated me from the start. First of all, there were over 600 pages. And the font was tiny. And the margins were small. And the names were foreign. Lots of negatives, but I stayed with it and finished it Sunday. The story is historical fiction about the life of an ancient queen of England, Emma. We are talking about the time before William the Conqueror here - prior to 1066! It has a sequel, for which I have put in my request for a hold. I will give it a go.

And in the sewing arena, I took a little box of 2.5-inch squares with me when we went to visit my FIL on Monday-Tuesday. Over those two days I stitched 29 4-patch blocks! Yay! I now have around 65 completed and I am beginning to plan how I will set them into a quilt. One of many plans for the new year.

My brain has been busy this week planning projects for 2016. It always gives me such a lift to face the fresh start of a new year. I am eager to see what all I can tackle.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sharon's Christmas Finishes

To close out 2015, I need to share with you the last three quilts Sharon finished when we met for our regular Tuesday sewing. She was definitely on a roll to get these done in time for Christmas, a goal which she accomplished.

First, take a look at the race quilt that she made. I wrote about this quilt earlier (click here) and explained that the strips were extras from a previous project. Rather than to let them sit and collect dust, Sharon decided to do a lap-size version of a race quilt. A few weeks later, she brought it back to machine quilt it (click here). In the picture above, the binding has been added and it is a grand finish! This was a gift for her daughter Amanda.

A second quilt was intended for her older grandson, Rye. He had specifically asked for something "soft," so this flannel quilt will definitely fill that order. The center portion of the quilt is made with leftovers from a previous quilt, and because the center is somewhat small for a regular bed, Sharon added some whopping-big borders. It looks very masculine, and absolutely perfect for a teen boy.

And finally, a quilt that Sharon hand-quilting using the 'big-stitch' method. This is the sort of quilt that I would say defines Sharon's taste - soft florals, cottage-inspired, romantic colors. The fabric line is Moda's Lario by 3 Sisters, and the center is made of two charm packs and additional yardage.

Quilts like this have a whispery quality about them - they invite you to wrap up in them with a book and a cup of tea for a lazy afternoon or evening of reading. Sharon gave this quilt to her dad.

I expect all recipients were delighted with their gifts!

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Gifts Have All Been Given

Much of what I've worked on lately has been intended for gift-giving, so I was limited in what I could share here on the blog. With all of my gift-giving behind me, I will at last be able to show you some things I'd previously been hiding. Sprinkled in, there will be a couple of things you may have already seen; some gifts were made prior to deciding that they would become gifts.

Back when I was sewing for the bazaar through the month of October, I came across 4 log cabin blocks. It occurred to me that if I were to sew them together, I could have a right nice looking little wall hanging or table topper. So that is what I did. I also knew that Mom liked her little wall hanging from last Christmas, so I sewed these together and did a simple hand quilting on it.

The squares were left over from a quilt top I made several years ago - the Dressmaker's Quilt. Do you remember it? It's from February of 2011, according to my records.

I can see this new wall hanging going up on the wall beside her first wall hanging. Here is a rerun of this, and I think you will agree that they will complement each other nicely.

Emma, DD2, got a Mondo Bag. I did share this a month or so ago when I made it when Claudia was here making her own Mondo.

Emma also got a little clutch bag.

Mom did, too.

I have a couple of other things which became Christmas gifts. If I can locate pictures, I will share those soon.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Quilt Gift Given

Doesn't it just warm the heart when a quilt you've made plays a part in making someone's Christmas really special? It happened for me yesterday when the Baal t-shirt quilt was at last gifted to the intended recipient.

You may recall back in October-November when I worked on this quilt. I wrote about it here and here. The circumstances that brought about the giving of this quilt are still so very sad for many; even so, from the big grin on this grandson's face, I think he must know his quilt represents many very special memories of his grandfather.

Thanks, Debbie, for sending your Christmas-morning picture! And also for letting me share this expression of love here on the blog.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas To All

I wish all you sweet readers the merriest Christmas! 

My lifetime fondness of the Charlie Brown Christmas special made it difficult for me to select just one picture to share, so please indulge me as I include a few more. 

I have been quite absent from blogging this month. Maybe I have been just slightly burnt out on it; I can't say for sure. Whatever, I really hope I get my mojo back in the new year. I have been thinking a lot about the projects I will focus on in the new year. Already planning those resolutions!!

Here's one more poster - not Charlie Brown, but quilting related. 

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Another Mondo Bag!

I have not said anything about the second Mondo Bag I was making because, of course, it was to be a Christmas gift. Well, that gift has been given, and the recipient was quite pleased.

I used Kaffe Fassett fabrics, mostly scraps from previous projects. Only the lining and the handles were cut from large pieces. Here's a look at the lining:

I've said before but it bears repeating, I love my linings to be light-colored so that stuff in the bottom can be seen and found. Dark bag linings hide things too well.

We had a wonderful evening at DD#1's having our Christmas with them. They will be traveling out of state for the coming week, so we celebrated early. Dear Erin and her hubby Jeff had a lovely dinner planned; we took a walk over to the Scioto Mile in downtown Columbus; and finished off the evening with opening presents and dessert.

Our hosts prepared a delicious ham with all the fixings - carrots, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole with salad on the side. Yum-o!

For a new downtown apartment, they have really high ceilings, so the tree is a tall one - 9 feet, I think. In the year and a half that Erin and Jeff have been married, they have gone overboard on collecting interesting ornaments, too. At some point, a second tree is going to be necessary.

Christmas is almost here! I have most of my stuff done. I plan to spend a bit of time in the kitchen today and tomorrow, but I don't have major preparations to manage, thankfully. I have not mentioned that DS is home from Oregon for a couple of months. That is a nice surprise; we hadn't been planning to see him this Christmas. I will definitely be ready for DD#2 to come home late Christmas eve. It promises to be a warm Christmas this year, but when it's filled with family, the weather is inconsequential. A white Christmas would be nice, but family is nicer.

Merry Christmas, Quilting Friends!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wreath Follow-Up

My last post explained most of the surface details about making the Frienzies Wreaths. Today, I will delve in a little deeper and provide more of the construction process.

First, one remaining tidbit that should have been included in the previous post. This stars used to form this wreath are known as Friendship Stars. This is an obvious reason why I chose to make these wreaths for my friends. Why did it never occur to me to include that essential detail in the first post? I will plead sleepiness. I wrote the post late the night before and scheduled it for early the next morning. Not firing on all cylinders after a late night of Christmastime festivities with the Frienzies, I suppose.

Back  in the middle of November I posted my first mention of these wreaths; it is a veiled hint at what I planned to do because several Frienzies are regular readers. I couldn't spoil my surprise by revealing too much. Here is the post I am referring to. I used Thangles to make the Shoo-Fly block at our Veterans' Day sewing at Sherrie's. When I got home, I made the first set of stars for the wreaths.

The instructions from the website indicated that I needed 3" stars, so I used the package for 3" stars. Well, that wasn't right. I should have used the 2.5" package, as I needed to make the distinction between finished and unfinished. Consequently, I had a lot of trimming to do.

That's a lot of fabric to be throwing away, doggone it! At least I didn't make the first set too small. No way to fix that; look on the bright side, right?

My first set of stars, trimmed to the correct size. Whew. It was at this point I realized how big this project was going to be. I needed 8 different sets of red stars, one for each Frienzie. I really had to get myself in gear, let me tell you.

I began cranking out HSTs like a madwoman - the nice part was I didn't have to worry about stretching those triangles because the Thangles kept everything pretty well in check. Above are piles for making two more sets of stars. I needed 8 stars out of each fabric. There would be 8 wreaths total, and each star has 4 HSTs. (That's a lot of math for this English teacher!) I was getting a bit panicked when the enormity of this endeavor gradually hit me. What made it even more daunting was that I only had a month to get them all done.

 Above is one star laid out. When I had all the parts made, I placed all the stars of the same fabric in a stack and built the wreath block accordingly. It was at this point that I was figuring out how to most expeditiously construct these blocks. In the interest of time management, my desire was to do as much assembly line sewing as possible.

In the photo above the 3 top rows are sewn together.  When they are attached, they become the top one-third of the block. The bottom third is exactly like this, just turned upside down. Take a look:

The center third was easy because of the 8" plain square in the middle.

We sew because we love doing it, but it's hard to keep that in mind when a deadline is fast approaching. I tried really hard to make myself enjoy the process of constructing these, especially because they were for my dearest friends. I played lots of Christmas music while I stitched, and kept my heart focused on the giving, not on the deadline. (I believe this is called mind over matter.)

When I finally got to the quilting part of the process, I used two of my very ancient Thimbleberries fabrics for backing and machine quilted around each of the 8 stars. I also quilted a star in the center block.

At some point in the quilting of all these table toppers/wall hangings, I had to search for more black thread. I found the spool pictured above in my grandmother's sewing kit. At 15 cents a spool, I wonder how old it is? It had never been used; the paper hasn't been poked on a spindle, and the end of the thread was still tucked under the label.

I mentioned in the last post that there were some boo-boos, and that the most egregious of these were on the very first one I quilted; that's the one I kept for myself which currently adorns my counter top. And it looks mighty fine. *smile*

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

At Last, I Can Share!


If you heard a huge sigh of relief yesterday afternoon around 2:30, that was probably me as I snipped the threads on the last binding of the 8 - yes, 8 - table toppers I made for the Frienzies. Our Christmas gathering was last night, which means in true Jayne fashion, I had procrastinated and was feeling the pinch for time.

Here are the goodies, ready to go to the party. Technically I didn't need to make 8, but as it turned out, the first one I finished is mine, as it has all the boo-boos. My prototype is far from perfect, that's for sure.

Above is the inspiration for my gifts. I saw this picture on Pinterest, and I was immediately drawn to it. The longer I studied it, the ideas for using this as a springboard for Frienzies' gifts began to take shape. Here is a link to the source of the picture. Below is my interpretation for the Frienzies.

The 8 stars represent the 8 of us in the Frienzies group. Each star is made from a different yet similar fabric, and is meant to symbolize the common bonds we Frienzies share while we each maintain our unique qualities, too. I'm calling them Frienzies Wreaths.

Here are all eight of them  - wouldn't this block make a pretty quilt?  It would only take 12 to make a quilt big enough for a double bed. Notice that a few of the bindings are different. Because all the fabric used in these wall hangings came from my stash, the backing fabrics and bindings are varied. I also used several neutrals in the design. They are all of a similar hue, though, and look unified as a result.

Now you know part of the reason I haven't been able to post as regularly as I usually do. I have been totally consumed by these wreaths! Note to self: next year, don't get a great idea so close to Christmas. I think I began working on these the week of Thanksgiving. Maybe some quilters could have finished them faster, but I was really sweating it these last couple of days.

That sigh is 100% relief. I loved making them, and I'm pretty certain the girls loved receiving them, but I am really glad they are done.

Now maybe I can get back to more regular posting.

Happy Quilting, Friends!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What's Been Going On?

I think there must be ebbs and flows to the keeping of a blog, just like with any writing. There are times when I have so many things to write about that I need to make a list to be sure to get them all. And I'm eager to write about them, too. Then at other times, I just don't have the slightest desire to write. Those times usually coincide with not having a lot to share and with being busy with things other than quilting/sewing.

In the quilting arena, I have put the little Churn Dash wall hanging in a hoop, and have taken a few stitches on it. It will be a nice quiet diversion for the next month or so.

A really fun event a few friends did together last Sunday afternoon was to have a cookie exchange. Eight girls met to bake cookies and exchange with each other, giving us all a very nice variety of cookies to have on hand for Christmas holiday guests. One of our group is the cafeteria lady at school, so we met in the main kitchen to make use of all those wonderful ovens. It was so fast and clean up was a breeze, too, as the big machines did the grunt work. Our best guess is that we made over 500 cookies in 2.5 hours. We had such a good time, we are thinking about doing it again - this month, perhaps!

I have been slow at finishing some very important Christmas gifts, and need to devote myself to doing just that in the next 2-3 days.

I hope you are enjoying this blessed season!

Happy Quilting, Friends!