Saturday, May 31, 2014

Flowers, Sewing, and Knitting

Hooray! I finally got my summer flowers purchased and planted. And my irises are blooming! We've had some beautiful days. How lovely to sit outside and read and to have my flowers arranged. Now I need someone to come do the weeding.

I made this quilt top from scrap blocks and pieces that other people made (for the most part). The sashing is a Nigerian fabric I was given. I now have several tops that I need to quilt. I ran out of batting but plan to buy some this weekend while it's on sale. (Great timing!)

I made six blocks for Sunshine. I thought they were for June, but I realized I made them according to the July directions (novelty fabrics). Harumph. I still have June's blocks to make (pink and green).

I finished knitting this hat. The yarn was a little bit hard to work with, and my hands got really tired. I'm glad this one is done. It's summer time: a good time to work on small knitting projects such as hats and mittens, because they don't drape into a person's lap to make her hot. So I hope to get more small projects finished in the next couple of months.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Books: by Ms. Ng

I read Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This was an Advanced Reader Copy. It will officially go on sale on June 30 this year. How does one pronounce the author's last name, Ng?

This book is sad, but it's very well written so it's "easy" to read despite its sadness. The story is of a family whose daughter dies, and the aftermath of her death.. what happens to each family member as they deal with grief in different ways, and what happens to the family unit. I haven't given you any spoilers by telling you that she dies. The first line of the book is "Lydia has died."

It's sad but not hopeless. I recommend it because of the excellent writing, and the great character development. You get to see events through several different eyes. I like that kind of a story. I give this book 5 stars.
Note about my Friday Books posts: On Fridays I like to share pictures of people reading, but I don't always have appropriate shots to share. I decided to share library pictures with you as well. This first one is a gorgeous library which I found online. It's the Canadian Library of Parliament. I assure you, the library pictures will not always be this spectacular. I will continue to post pictures of people reading, also. I love when I find a situation which I can photograph myself rather than borrowing from the internet. Now that it's summer, I may find more photo opportunities.

Gorgeous library, eh? (See how I'm speaking Canadian?)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Donation Sent Thanks to You

Thank you for your comments on my post entitled "I Won, I Won!" I promised to send one dollar per comment to my favorite charity. I had 28 comments here and 29 comments at Facebook, so I have sent $57 to Ampersand Families. Thanks for all your kind messages!

Ampersand Families has been very busy doing some great work. I love to support them as I can. Thanks for your help inspiring me to send a donation.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Learning to Machine Quilt, as Always

Here is what I have done so far this weekend: I made a doll blanket out of some very skinny strips. My sister saves all her scraps, no matter how skinny. Then she gives them to me. I put some of them into a pooch bag (it will be a bed for a dog or cat in a shelter), and some I decided to use in a small quilt. This will be donated to a child at Christmas time, along with a small doll.

Now I am going to focus on one quilt and will provide details of how it came together. First, I was given some free fabric that was purchased in Nigeria! (The buyer gave the fabric to Wrap-a-Smile for use in quilts for kids.) That is the fabric with the orange and green circles on it. I am afraid I did not succeed in my quest to use and show off this fabric at its best. Happily, it's not a failure, either. It was a learning experience, however.

The inner part, made from HSTs, came from the scrap bag from my sister. I got those put together and then decided I wanted to make curved pieces around it. That was a fun challenge (I used the "how-to's" from Debbie Bowles' book, Cutting Curves From Straight Pieces.) The mistake I made here was not enough contrast between the two sides of the curved piece. Shucks!

In my attempt to emphasize the curves so that they are actually visible, I zig-zagged on them with white thread and then did that again during the quilting process. It worked out OK, but starting out with better contrast would have been better.

Next I made the nine-patches. They looked so nice set around the corners, but then I put more circle fabric in the middles, and the whole design got lost.

See? Before...


I decided it wasn't that serious. Sad, but not enough to undo and re-do the borders. No, thanks.

Today I quilted the top. I'm proud of myself, because I'm trying to force myself to quilt some of my own tops instead of sending them on to others to do my work for me. In recent weeks I have quilted three Wrap-a-Smile tops so far, plus a couple guild projects. It's a bit of a chore for me, but once I get it done, I'm usually happy I did it. So.. maybe I'll get comfortable with machine quilting one of these years. Sure would be nice!

Right now my machine is on the old side, and has a few problems: it has a short, and it sometimes hiccups during sewing, which can be a challenge when trying to free-motion smoothly. Also my darning foot is held on by a screw, which I lost, so it just sits there loosely and can fall off if I don't watch it carefully. And my machine tends to skip while free motion quilting, so I have to watch that, too. All that plus the regular challenge of trying to machine quilt beautifully... it's a lot to ask!

So I quilted this today and mostly did stitch-in-the-ditch. I also, as I said, zig-zagged along the curves, attempting to emphasize the curves. Then I did a small amount of free-motion on some of the circles:

and then decided to do some circles in the center, to pull it all together. Can you see them?

Then I decided I was done! And thrilled to have completed another quilting job by myself! This goes into the box to be sent to Wrap-a-Smile. I think there is room for one more quilt. And I still have some of that fabric from Nigeria and will make another quilt with it!

Now I have run out of batting and run out of basting spray, so a trip to Hancocks is in order. What do you use for basting quilts? Pins? Basting spray? Some day I'll show you pictures of my new (to me) technique.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Books: Two Books

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Excellent book! This takes place in Nigeria. Political upheaval is happening, and during this time the story focuses on an extended family which is also experiencing upheaval and trauma. Excellent character development, exquisite writing. Several years ago I also read and loved Half of a Yellow Sun by the same author. She's a great writer! 5 stars

Gemini by Carol Cassella was recommended by my sister. It takes place in the Pacific Northwest, in the beautiful Olympic Peninsula. We once had a family reunion in that area and thought it was a beautiful spot; it was fun to read a book that takes place in the same area.

I liked the book in the beginning. There were two story lines running side-by-side. One was about an ICU doctor and her un-named patient, Jane Doe, who came in after a hit-and-run accident, critically injured. Another was the friendship between two young people (pre-teens). One was a full-time resident of the area and the other was a summer-only resident. They have an interesting and sometimes odd friendship.

The two stories eventually merge, and as the characters all turn into adults, I began to like the story less. The characters as adult weren't as interesting, and some of the circumstances were ... odd. There is medical and scientific detail that is interesting and was well researched. I just didn't think the characters were as well developed.

In the end, I wasn't as interested as I had hoped. I wonder if my sister really thought this was an excellent book, or was the familiar setting what prompted her to recommend it? I can give it no more than three stars out of five.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Short Jaunt in Minnesota

I went to visit my mom. She's doing pretty well, but getting weaker as she ages. She is considering moving into assisted living! We thought she might veto that option, but she seems open to it. What a relief! It'll be a job, selling her condo and getting her moved, but I think it's worth doing.

While I was in town, I took a couple pictures of places from my childhood. This is the building in which I attended junior high school. Guess what it is now -- it's the sheriff's office and a jail! I find that humorous. I can remember taking 7th grade math in one of those rooms that faces the street, and junior high angst happening in many different hallways and classrooms. Uffda. You couldn't pay me to be that age again.

This shows the construction mess happening on main street, right through downtown! ugh. Those businesses are going to be hurting. That includes my sister's bookstore which is in the 2nd picture, first business you see on the left side in the photo. I did my duty while there and purchased a pile of books. (What fun!)

And here's my quilty touch for today -- a photo of a gorgeous quilt my sister made. It is hanging in her bookstore. The picture does not do it justice. The colors are awesome, and the machine quilting enhances it perfectly. It's worth a trip to her bookstore just to see the quilt, and then heck.. buy a few books while you're at it! You have to fly in from another state or country? It's still worth the trip! Just step carefully around all the dirt and the construction mess.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My 4th Cycle

Remember last week I posted my Cycle quilt; I wasn't very happy with it and debated about turning it in for the challenge.

Thanks for everyone who encouraged me to turn it in, even though I didn't like it. Instead, I made another one. My 4th attempt. And finally I am somewhat satisfied with it. Believe it or not, I could still stand to change a couple things, but overall I am happy with it; it's definitely the best of my 4 attempts.

It gets turned in on Monday night at our guild meeting.

Here's a table runner I made from skinny scraps, mostly from my sister's donation of scraps.

And here's a weird picture.. it's a color catcher after washing some mostly blue fabric. It had a little bit of green in it.. I just thought the color catcher was a surprising color, so I took a picture.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Books -- Naked in Baghdad

Naked in Baghdad, the Iraq War and the Aftermath as Seen by NPR's Correspondent, Anne Garrels

This is a great book! Garrels was a correspondent in Baghdad, one of a handful of journalists who stayed there to report on the initial "Shock and Awe" campaign and the arrival of U.S troops in 2003. In the next year she also goes back to report on the aftermath.

This is an in-depth study of what had happened, what was the current situation, what were the locals and regular Iraqis experiencing, and what was the result of what happened. No one does this better than NPR. This book really impressed me and floored me. Garrels saw a story that needed to be told, had the courage to do it, stayed when it appeared too dangerous to do so, and got the true story of how this was affecting everyday life and everyday Iraqis.

Clearly, the U.S. government and the military were supremely ill prepared to make this campaign a success. They knew how to come in, bomb certain targets accurately, and oust the dictator. But then what? From then on, chaos reigned. And with years of hindsight, we see that it stays that way for far too long.

Garrels examines the complexities that make up Iraq; how I wish the government had paid heed to the insights and predictions of Garrels and other journalists who were on the ground attempting to understand the complex situation. They reported it; the government ignored it. Sad.

Definitely a 5-star book.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Won! I Won!

I am so excited and amazed! My quilt won First Place in the Viewers' Choice vote at our recent quilt show!!! This is the first time I have ever won anything through my guild shows or challenges! It feels great!!! I won a $25 gift certificate at a local quilt shop. Fun, fun, fun!

Here's my winning quilt. The books are made from selvage edges with fabric titles that sound like book titles. The 2nd picture shows a close-up, sideways view of some of the "books."

Now that I have won a guild quilt prize, I can die happy!

Here is another thing that I am celebrating: it, too, is amazing! This post at my humble little blog is POST #1600! Can you believe it?? I have been posting my thoughts and ramblings about quilts, and even book reviews, since January 4, 2006. Who knew I'd still be happily posting away in 2014!?

To celebrate, I am going to do my usual Blog Celebration. Please leave a comment here. Answer this question: what do you enjoy about reading other people's blogs? For each blog comment, I plan to donate $1.00 to my favorite charity, Ampersand Families. Please make me donate a LOT to Ampersand Families! And thanks for reading.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Well... I don't know... It's Done, at Least

My new guild, Minnesota Contemporary Quilters, had a challenge: make a quilt representing the word Cycle. Anything goes: bicycle, cycles of life, recycle, anything. You get the idea. I decided to use the Water to Earth cycle.. in my mind it turned out great!

In real life, not so much. I made this thing THREE times. The first one.. forget it. The second one is what I ended up keeping. The third one had some elements that I liked better than on the second, but not enough of them to warrant keeping it. I much preferred my clouds and lightning in the second one (the keeper), but I preferred my lake/water/ocean in the third one. Wish I could pick and choose from the three attempts, but I already had the keeper one quilted. Well, live and learn, as they say.

I'm learning, still... I'm sure I'll feel humbled by the beauties created by the other guild members. There is a lot of talent there. (I have already seen several other Cycle quilts and am awed by the creativity and the workmanship.) But, I'm glad I'm there and can learn and absorb from them.

Without further ado, the Water Cycle:

The next two show the rain and the water on earth:

I wanted to include at least one traditional block. I attached it with that little fishy button. (It's a fishy with a nose.)

I don't know if I should turn it in. It will be on display at the Minnesota Quilters show in June, which is a BIG SHOW. Will I survive the public showing alongside the beauties I've already seen?? Eeek. Kinda scares me to think of it.

Edit: It is now the next morning. I tossed around in bed last night, thinking about this quilt. I decided NOT to turn it in. I am just not happy with it. I still have a couple weeks. I could make another one if I get inspired. After deciding that, I slept like a baby. I think it is the right decision.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


I don't have many sewing finishes to show you. Just two knitted bird nests, and one pot holder.

Someone at Facebook posted a link to a request for knitted bird nests. They actually use these with real baby birds that are orphaned and rescued. The nests help keep the babies warm. So cute! I had to give it a try. It was fun. I am modeling them with a couple of giraffe tub toys that are about the size of real baby birds, I think. I don't think I'll make any more right now, but I might make a few over the next year and have them ready to send in the spring. They mostly need these in May and a bit into June.

Here's the pot holder:

And that is it for the exciting adventures in Carol's sewing room!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Friday Books -- THREE books!

She is very absorbed in her book. I like that!

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I listened to this audio book and enjoyed myself. I read this probably 50 years ago and had forgotten it all, I thought. As I listened, it seemed vaguely familiar, and I enjoyed remembering my child self reading this book. I loved it back then, not noticing that it was written for a purpose: to teach and encourage humane treatment of animals and people. That part was a little bit heavy handed, but as a kid, I didn't notice it. It's still an enjoyable read. The reader gets a taste of life before cars, when horses were everywhere, from doing farm work to pulling cabs in London, horses were an every day part of life.

Did you know that it is an autobiography? It's called "Black Beauty, the Autobiography of a Horse," translated from the Equine by Anna Sewell. Yes, Black Beauty tells his own story, first person. I love that.

It's worth a read every fifty years or so!

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie

This is the book I handed out free on World Book Night. I decided I should read it, since I gave it away. Well.. there is a reason I was disappointed when I was assigned this book. I've never been a huge fan of Agatha Christie books, and this one did not change my mind. Kind of boring. I kept reading just to finish it and to find out "whodunit." I hope the class to whom I gave this book likes it, but I predict they won't. Bummer.


Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn

Would you believe this is the 4th time I have read this book within just a few years? I love this book so much, and when I'm in a group looking for suggestions, I often suggest this one. Such is the case with a new book group we have at church. We will be discussing this on Sunday, May 11. I hope the others in the group find this book as astonishing and stunning as I have. Each time I read it I learn... it is FULL of wisdom and such a great description of what happened here when Europeans arrived and found the Indians already here. Very fascinating look at our history. I wish every American would read this book.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

My Challenge Quilt - C.H.E.

My guild's quilt show just ended, so now I can show you the challenge quilt I made. Rules were, use your 3 initials. Pick colors that begin with the letters of your initials.
c: coral
h: heather gray
e: eggplant
That's what I chose. I used artistic license even in those, especially in my purple which was lighter than a true eggplant color should be. C'est la vie.

Then we were also to give our quilt a name, using our three initials. Mine is called Carol "Hearts" Europe. Here it is:

I really wasn't satisfied with this quilt. In fact, when I finished it I thought it was ugly. I didn't have time to re-do it, so I left it as is. I no longer think of it as ugly, but I'm still not thrilled with it. It didn't turn out like the image I had in my mind. The Eiffel Tower represents (guess what) - France! We visited Paris and had a great time. The greenish background fabric is an Eiffel Tower fabric which I purchased in Paris! The tree represents Czech Republic where we also had a great time. It's a chestnut tree.. something we saw a lot of there and enjoyed picking up the beautiful chestnuts that had fallen. Just one incident of many great memories there.

So that is that. Our quilt show ran longer than usual this year, and I missed my quilts. I am happy to have them back home.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Hello, Friday Readers!

I am sorry to say I do not have a book review to share with you today. I even sort of forgot that Friday and a book review were "due" on the horizon! My week has been a little bit crazy, so I just forgot.

Anyway, right now I am in the middle of reading THREE books at one time. That may explain why I didn't get one completed. This method of reading distracts me and slows me down. One is an audio book, so at least it's a whole different format, so there's a bit of change-up in my routine.

Instead of books, I will tell you about my trip to Iowa last weekend. Three friends and I went to southern Iowa to attend a quilt show in Kalona, Iowa. All the quilts in this show were hand quilted, and all the quilts were also for sale. I found that interesting. Didn't any of the makers want to keep their pieces of beauty? Anyway, some of the quilts were antiques from way back up to about the 1940s, and the rest were current productions. The display was in a small space, and quilts were jam-packed in there. They were so close together that it was hard even to SEE the quilts. You'll get the idea from the pictures.

We also visited a quilt museum. One room was quilts by the "English," and one room was quilts by the Amish. I LOVED the Amish room. Quilts were spectacular, and of course, pictures do not do them justice.

My friends in the English room:

the Amish room:

Kalona, Iowa is home to the largest Amish community in the state of Iowa, so we saw a lot of horse-drawn buggies, and we shopped at several Amish shops. These were out-buildings they have right in their yard, or even a shop area right in their own house, so it meant a lot of country driving from shop to shop. I bought this rag rug, which is so colorful. I love it.
(klip klop, klip klop - what a pleasant sound)

We also saw a cheese factory, another quilt show of feedsack quilts, ate a LOT of food, and enjoyed the quilt blocks in the sidewalks of Kalona. There are also a lot of quilt blocks on barns in Iowa. They really appreciate quilts in that state! We had a great time, and enjoyed lovely warm, spring days, which we have not yet had here in Minnesota. We're getting rain, rain, and more rain!

Thanks for visiting my blog on this non-book-review Friday! And good news: the sun is just now peeking out. Hooray!