Frustration, But Finished

IMG_1260I completed one quilt in the past few weeks. I read a blog post about a picnic quilt recently. Now I’ve been wanting/meaning to make one of those almost since I began quilting.  After reading that post I decided it was time. I pulled out a jolly bar set, Sundrops by Cory Yoder, I got in a Sew Sampler box from The Fat Quarter Shop and decided to make Picket Fences pattern from the jolly bar book. The main color is such a beautiful peachy pink.

Turns out, it is not a picnic quilt. I have a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer so it went to her. It HAD to go to her because that peachy color is her favorite color. She can now surround herself with a quilt of her favorite color. The picnic quilt will have to be another project down the road.

What frustrated me was the quilting. For the first time I decided to spray baste the quilt. I read a few blogs and it was as easy as they said. BUT something went terribly wrong. Either I sprayed too heavily or the spray was too old (I think I bought it a year or so ago) and the machine quilting was nearly impossible to do. First it skipped stitches, and then it frayed and broke the thread.

I refused to give up. I found a needle/thread conditioner that I received from a Sew Sampler box again, and I stopped and conditioned the needle every few feet of stitches. It was a quilt-saver, for sure. I refuse to show a close-up picture of my loop-d-loop quilting as I could never get into a rhythm. But I finished and gifted the quilt. Ruth is not concerned with perfection, nor am I. Her perseverance is much more critical than mine will ever be.



The Hearts of Men: A Book Review, of sorts…


Nick Butler is a local author; he lives in FallCreek.  The book is set in Eau Claire and Northwest Wisconsin at a fictional boy scout camp in Haugen.  I liked the book; my friend, who lent me the book, didn’t like the subject matter.  Most of the men in this book do not have many saving personal qualities. I felt the characters were very real, whether you liked them or not.

Butler’s language was beautiful; I loved his descriptions. A good story, well written is a winner for me.  The book follows three generations of scouts and what/who they grow into. All is not rosey, and there are bullies, macho men, and soldiers. I like getting into the heads of different people to understand where they are coming from. After reading this, I get it.  I felt that same way a “Girl on the Train.” I understood alcoholics and what drives them after reading that book.  I feel I understand some men’s personalities better after reading The Hearts of Men.  I’m glad I read it. I will be going to hear Butler when he speaks at the Chippewa Valley Book Festival this fall.

A Change of Pace, Kind of…

A few years ago I decided I wanted to learn the art of crochet.  It’s similar to quilting in that it takes some skill and you can make warm blankets. I learned to crochet, but I haven’t made a warm blanket yet.  The task seems too daunting for me. And it seems I seldom get the number of stitches I need.  I do a lot of ripping.  So I’ve learned to stick with mandalas, coasters, and dish/face cloths.

Because my dish cloths are wearing out, it was time to get out the crochet hook and make a few for John (he does the dishes and cleans the kitchen; I cook). I found a pattern and this is what I turned out.IMG_1253It’s just a simple granny square with a tight weave.  I made the green/yellow one first.  It was way bigger than it needed to be with four different colors.  Therefore, the second one in blue and yellow has just three colors and two fewer rounds. A much better size.  I made the first two Monday evening while watching tv.  Maybe that’s why my number of stitches is off a bit; my mom says you have to pay close attention while you crochet. I’m sure that’s why she was much better at it than I am.

It was so much fun that I made a third one the next night.  All the stitch-counts are correct, and I only had to pull stitches out twice. They are made from left over cotton yarn from projects I did more than a year ago when I was “into” the craft. So does that mean they really didn’t cost me anything? At least I didn’t have to buy any supplies.

At 98 years old, my mom no longer crochets.  She made and gave away 99 afghans, and she didn’t count the number of doilies she made and gave away.  She was good. My sisters, brother, nieces, nephews, grandkids, and step-grands all have afghans and doilies and scarves to remember her by. And I got all her hooks, too.

IMG_1256I had to sew something this week so I took some charm squares and some background fabric and made two blocks like this one. I made a pillow out of one and the other is waiting for quilting to use as a mug rug.  When I don’t know what to do with a block, it usually ends up being a mug rug.

I’m still waiting for spring to progress so I can do outside work.  I worked up my raspberry patch, as many of the canes were over 6 years old. I dug out the old rooted canes but kept the younger ones and trimmed them back.  That was ALL I could do because very few plants are out of dormancy yet.  Maybe this warm weather we’re having now will awaken them.  You know, April showers bring…outside work.

A Wicked Easter Weekend

IMG_0301Kelly and I were in Emerald City last Saturday.  A few months back Kelly texted me from work saying “Wicked” tickets were going on sale.  I quickly looked at the schedule at the Orpheum and decided the Saturday Matinee of the first week would be ideal.  I wasn’t thinking about anything other than being able to get tickets, that I hadn’t realized that was Easter weekend.  We usually have family plans for Easter Sunday so it wasn’t until after I was able to secure the tickets that I realized Easter plans would be different this year.

As it turned out, it wasn’t really such a bad idea.  Dan had air miles available so he booked Easter weekend in Florida at Harry Potter at Disney World.  He, Kari, and the girls left Friday, toured the park on Saturday, and flew home on Sunday.  It was a quick fun weekend for them.  That left Easter Sunday for us with just Kelly.  Everything worked out. We decided to dog sit Jhanna so we travelled to Coon Rapids on Friday to arrive after Dan had left. We scheduled a car checkup for John’s car in Wayzata for Saturday morning, getting another errand completed.  I went to the play while he walked and watched the dog, then Kelly and I returned to Coon Rapids for dinner Saturday night because we were eating at Burch for Easter brunch.

The  play was amazing. Kelly has seen it once before, but it was a first for me. The Broadway productions in Minneapolis never disappoint. It was funny, fun, heart-warming, and she’s really not the “wicked witch of the West.” What a great story. Spending the weekend in The Cities made everything convenient for us and the dog didn’t have to go to a kennel.  We all won.

My next visit to the Twin Cities will be in June when my friend Renae and I travel to St. Paul to see The Moody Blues.  Renae and I looked for something to attend in The Cities last summer but nothing excited us.  When this came up we jumped at the chance.  I’ve seen the Moody Blues once before, live, maybe 20 years ago.  “Days of Future Past” is the only album I have in every format: album, tape, CD, and digital.  It may be my favorite piece of music ever. (Ya think?)

Can’t wait.

Where Have I Been?

I have been playing in my sewing room.  These two blocks are leftovers from projects I did last year and the year before.  Both will probably end up as pillow covers unless I can think of some other use for them.  I love half-square triangles because they can make so many different patterns.  The one on the left is from Jeni Baker’s book Half Square Triangles.  She has close to a hundred patterns and lots of quilts, too.  I picked one I liked and went with the blocks I had left.  It’s so cute.  The one on the right is larger. It ended up being 18″ square.  The first one is 16″.  Those will be some pretty big pillows.IMG_1241Then this happened.  Can anybody sew together 64 half-square triangles without making a mistake?  That seam ripper sitting next the block was useful.  It’s all correct now and waiting for a pillow and a chair to sit on.

IMG_1247My next project was a table runner I made with charm squares I received in a quilt box from the Fat Quarter Shop.  Moda color of the year is flamingo, and I received a charm pack of the color. I also got the floral charm pack earlier and the two seemed to fit together. I have a table runner from that same pattern in red and apple fabric for fall.  This one seemed suited for spring and summer on my side table.

Speaking of spring, that’s what I’m waiting for.  Last Saturday it was warm, 70 degrees.  I went to a landscape center and bought the best compost ever.  Pure cow manure, no seeds, no weeds, nor straw; just pure, unadulterated manure.  I covered my raised bed garden and enhanced my flowerbeds.  I’m really wanting the weather to get warm so I can get some early seeds in the garden: lettuce, radishes, broccoli, parsley, onions.  I’m watching gardening videos, planning my summer landscape.  But until it gets warm in Wisconsin I’ll remain in my sewing room.

Do You Sit On a Tuffet?

IMG_1236IMG_1234More than a year ago I bought a kit to make my own tuffet.  I liked Kelly’s two midcentury modern footstools she bought for her condo and figured I could make my own.  I found a kit that contained a base, feet, and foam.  All I had to do was sew the cover.  I could have just covered it with upholstery fabric like I did my small footstool, but I wanted it unique and cute.  Of course, there were tons of pictures of them all over the Internet.  Besides that, sewists were making and stuffing their own.

After procrastinating long enough, I broke down and bought a pattern custom made for my square tuffet.  It was worth it. It included fusible interfacing with the pattern on it, a button for the center, cording to attach the button, and instructions to carry me through to the finish.

I found the fabric at Stitch Supply Co, in Altoona. (Love Anne’s shop). The main fabric is new from Joel Dewberry and the stripes are coordinates the clerks helped me find. The sewing was fun but not for a beginner, lots of bias and curves. The construction of the tuffet after I completed the top required the help of Patty, my neighbor, who is a craft/sewing genius. John was even helpful with attaching the foam and fabric, and getting the button in place.

I love it. It was worth the time and money. It wasn’t cheap, but I wasn’t looking for the best deal; I was looking for one-of-a-kind.  I got that.  Of course, I have extra fabric to make a few coordinating pillows.

kit and pattern are from Quilter’s Cocoon


Getting Scrappy

I save scraps, fabric scraps.  Some sewists don’t save any, some save every bit.  I don’t get too obsessive, but I do save pieces that I hope to use at some point.  My sewing room and closet were getting a tad messy from tossing scraps randomly, so I got busy sorting through them and organizing my sewing room and supplies. After sorting through my fabrics I ended up with a small tub of strips, a box of squares and rectangles from 1.5 inches to about 4 inches, another box of small(ish) scraps, and another of large scraps.  Large scraps are pieces that I can’t make into fat quarters.  I organized the entire closet where I store my fabrics.  I bought plastic storage containers, I labeled them and packed away much of my supply of fabrics and supplies.IMG_1223The first thing I did was admire my work, then I got after the strips and sewed a few of them together.  Then I “made” fabric by sewing scraps together.  From that I made a hot pad and a pillow.  I’ll be making pin cushions, too.  I have one project to finish before spring gardening and golf begin, so most of my summer sewing will be from the scraps I have accumulated and organized.

I love fabric; I love to look at it, admire it, pet it, and ooh and aah over it.  Why would I throw it away.  Sometimes I don’t even want to sew with it. I know many sewists who are like that.  But once I use the fabric, it’s important that I utilize as much of it as I can.  I have to get ideas from blogs and Pinterest and the internet, but I try to get the most I can out of my fabrics. Here’s the cute little pillow.


We Love the Fair

IMG_0295This is Hannah’s science fair project.  What is the best way to thaw raw, frozen chicken to prevent bacterial growth?  That was the question and she researched and tested and concluded that using a cold-water bath is best with thawing in the refrigerator close behind.  Don’t thaw on the counter…that’s where those 700 colonies of bacteria appear.

So research gave her the best answer, and she wrote up the entire procedure, cited background and graphed results.  That project took her to the Minnesota State Science Fair.  She was one of about 500 middle and high school students asked to display their work on individual scientific research.  IMG_0297

Isn’t she cute?  As a seventh grader she was unable to compete for state awards; these middle schoolers were there for experience and sponsor awards.  Food science businesses like Minnesota’s Land-O-Lakes and Institue of Food Technologists awarded Hannah money for her excellent research and hard work.  Food scientists are important in many businesses in Minnesota as our family found out this weekend.  We are very proud of Hannah and know how hard she worked on this project. She is a very deserving student.

She and her friend Becca spent the weekend at the Marriot along with the rest of the participants.  We took the girls out for something to eat at the end of the fair and before the awards presentation.  I’m sure this is a weekend neither will forget. Hannah has a bright future.IMG_0298

Making Birthday Gifts


I grew up on a dairy farm which meant work 24/7.  There was never a break, except on our birthday. That was the best part about our birthday; we never had to do chores in the house or in the barn. Nothing. No work. All day. It was a special day. All six of my sisters and my brother have all grown up and are off the farm so birthdays are different and gifts become more relevant in making the day special.

My mom crocheted and gifted afghans for many years.  She gifted 99 in her lifetime and she told me every time she made one she would think about the person for whom she was making it the entire time.  I know what she means.  I made this spring mug rug and two pin cushions for my sister Jo whose birthday was on the 19th.  I thought about her the whole time I was making these.  Jo embroiders. She does beautiful work.  She made me a table runner for my birthday.She was able to listen to 50 hours of Gone With The Wind as she sewed.  That’s a long time.  Of course, my simple little gift took just a few hours and cannot even compare to the gift I received from her.

But she has to know she is loved a lot and my thoughts are with her.  I hope she uses her mug rug as she continues her embroidery work.  And from one seamstress to another–who can’t use another pin cushion?