Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ghanaian Fabric!

A friend went on a trip to Ghana and offered to buy me some fabric. I gave her money, and today I received the fabric. It is GORGEOUS!!! I wonder how I will use these precious pieces. Feast your eyes:

The third piece was sewn together by the girl from whom she bought it. I may just leave it pieced as is and work around it, but I'm not sure.

I now have in my possession special fabrics from France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Ghana. Some of them I have been nervous to use, because I want the perfect something to make from them (and hope I don't blow it). With other pieces I have just procrastinated. Time to put on my international thinking cap.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sewing Day

I went to a one-day sewing event with friends. The day went really fast. It was hard to gauge how much I might get done and therefore hard to guess how many projects I should take with me. I took extras, but that's OK. It's always a guessing game.

I got this top sewn together (the blocks were already sewn into rows). It is for Quilts Beyond Borders.

I finished the fourth of four doll blankies:

I worked on sewing down some applique on this top. I'm over half done now!

I started cutting for another pattern I'm hoping to get done soon. And I made this little block for a person in my guild who has cancer. Her sister is putting the quilt together. I happened to have my selvedges with me, so I searched for words that seemed soothing such as "serenity" and "sun-kissed." Then I added 100% cotton, because that indicates wonderfulness. And the pretty fall leaves as they are always something spectacular. And the best was finding "Giggles by Me & My Sister" ; the sister putting the quilt together loved that, and I scored a hug for that find.
(This is only a 5.5" block.)

All too soon, the day was done. I came home and vegged out in front of the TV. On Saturday's agenda: visit MIL in hospital.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Postponed Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving this year we decided not to do our usual 150 mile trip to my sister's house. We had planned to stay home, just the two of us, and have a yummy dinner cooked by my husband (pot roast)! Yum. I said I'd do the pies, but I ended up buying them. I'm a lazier cook than ever before.

On Wednesday my mother-in-law landed in the hospital, having terrible abdomen and back pains. They decided it was a gall bladder issue, and it needed to come out. These days that is a pretty routine procedure, but not for my MIL due to many complicating factors. Any kind of surgery for her is risky.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, we postponed our dinner plans and stood watch over Mother-in-Law in the hospital. Well, my husband did. I was going to go later, but ... it was snowing, and I just didn't like the thought of going out in snow and possible ice. So I stayed home and sewed, with the intent of jumping in my car and joining the watch if I was needed. (I never was.)

MIL's surgery was a success; now she has a longish recovery to look forward to, because of all the other issues that need to be watched carefully. What a relief! She came through another crisis! She's is one tough cookie. Hopefully the recovery won't be too bad, although she was in a fair amount of pain after the surgery. I will visit her in the hospital after she is fully awake and will know I'm there.

Meanwhile, I finally got back to my sewing machine. I have not spent much time sewing lately, so it felt great to get back to it. I finished this top:

It is for Wrap Them in Love. They gave me one of the fabrics. I have made two tops for them from the pieces they sent. Did I show you the first one? I might not have. I used the Tahoe pattern and am not as excited about it, but I'll let you see it:

I also spent some time sewing together some selvedge edges. I was planning to make some pot holders. As I worked, I decided I had a good start on a quilt, which surprised me. I never would have purposely saved selvedge edges for an actual quilt.. but it's not the first time my potential pot holders turned into a quilt. I'd rather have a quilt any day (being such a reluctant cook and all.. who needs pot holders??)
You can see it's going to be a while before I have enough blocks for an actual quilt. These are 10-inch blocks.

Tomorrow I have more sewing in my future. Hooray! (I still don't know when our postponed dinner will happen... hubby has an all-day event tomorrow.) Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Books: Out of the Easy

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys; I had high hopes for this book, because her first one, Between Shades of Gray, was fabulous. This one didn't match that level of greatness.

The writing is good, which saves the book, but the characters were too stereotypical - one dimensional, especially the mother and her "boyfriend." It was interesting enough to keep me reading, but I was a bit disappointed overall. It is about a teenage girl whose mother is a prostitute and father is unknown. She grows up in New Orleans, loves to read and learn, and has a burning desire to go to college outside of Louisiana. Twists and turns occur throughout her journey.

Read it for entertainment, but it won't be one of the greats that you remember fondly for years.

photographed in Dakota County Library, Minnesota

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A No-Frills Retreat

I decided to invite several quilter/knitting friends to join me at a retreat at my church (with the church's permission, of course). We ran from 10 AM to 10 PM. I called it a "no-frills" retreat as I had planned no door prizes, no games, no extra frills. Some of us can't help ourselves, however, and brought little chocolates and little hand lotions for everyone.

Nine of us came and went, with sometimes as few as two in attendance. I don't think all nine of us were ever there together. We had a great time, met a new (to us) member of our online Sunshine guild, one attendee joined Sunshine, and we all got a lot done. I hope to do it again, maybe this winter.

I spent Sunday recovering: church, taking a nap, slowly getting my stuff hauled back upstairs to my sewing room, another nap.

First to arrive was my cousin, Beth. And the first project I worked on was Lotto blocks for Sunshine.

My next project was doll quilts. Tops were made; I just had to finish them. These are going to a Christmas toy collection through a friend.

Amy finished knitting this beautiful sweater (in a total of 2-3 years), and Andrea made this quilt top from start to finish in a day. We all have our share of short- and long-term projects!

Various other projects on which we made progress or which we completed:

I found out I'm older than I used to be, because it took me TWO days to recover from this retreat, rather than my usual one. And while we were on retreat, Paris was attacked. I'm so sad for France, but heartened by the responses of love. I have seen some poignant discussions on Facebook and in the news. People are amazing, and I am thankful.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Story of My Row by Row Quilt - guest blogger

Greetings. My cousin, Beth, wrote this story about making her Row by Row quilt, and I asked if I could use her story. She said yes. For those who don't know: Row by Row quilts were in quilt shops all across the USA and Canada. Each store had its own row pattern. If you asked for the pattern, you could get it free. The year's theme was water. In each store, the first person who turned in a completed quilt using eight or more rows won 25 fat quarters. Here is Beth's story, and a picture of her beautiful quilt:

My Row-by-Row, by Beth H.

The story includes some drama, because I had to get it done and submitted before I left for the UK. The contest window was closing quite soon after I would have returned.

You know the ending [she wins], but I did not…

Imagine me trying to manage the time frame. I am cranking row after row, achieving about one row a day at my cabin in northern Minnesota. Labor Day comes, and the row I have saved until last comes up.

I saved the Tahoe row for last for several reasons. [The row was from a quilt shop in Nevada, near Lake Tahoe]. I did not have a kit, and it was appliqué not pieced.

It is time to start (remember - I am at my cabin). I did have the muslin base I planned to use. Oops! I am out of fusible web.
My daughter could pick some up on her way north from the Twin Cities…
My son could pick some up before he leaves his place in Grand Forks…
My nephew could pick some up before he leaves from his teaching job in another northern town…

Nope, the nephew had a soccer game to coach until shops would be closed.
My son was working and stressed and unwilling.
My daughter was leaving too late to catch the quilt shop before it closed.

My nephew mentions that his parents are in our local biggish town getting groceries. There is a quilt shop there, so I call. I get my BIL, and he is quite willing to enter and purchase things in a quilt shop. I give him careful instructions, and he gets the right amount of the right stuff!

I move along carefully, cutting and applying and measuring and appliquéing. I did not finish at the cabin, so it came home where I kept working on it. Then I needed purple for the mountains. I go downstairs and check the stash. What?! No purple batik?! What?! No purple anything?! All I had was purple dragonfly with sparkles fabric.

Of course, this was evening, and I had to suspend all progress until stores opened the next day. I was the first customer in my closest shop the next morning. I also resolved to beef up my purple (lack of) stash. Mission accomplished

Now assemble the rows and make it look good. Did that. That took a day and a half.

Take it in to be quilted. I knew I had to allow them some time to get ‘er done. I hurried to complete with three and a half weeks to go before leaving the country. Turned it in. Told the story and the hope to get it finished before the end of September. “Will October 1 be okay?” she asked. I said, “No.” She put RUSH on it.

I went home and hoped and started packing for Europe.

People had been asking me if I was excited about the trip. Really, the answer was no. I am worried about this Row by Row quilt. Too hard to explain, so I would usually say, “Yes I am excited about my trip.”

For the first two weeks I did not worry. Oh, I called every store to see if anyone had already turned in a quilt. All but two stores said, “Heck, yes! We had our first quilt tuned in less than a week after the contest started.” (Stupid overachievers!) One store was not open when I called, and one store said “Not that I know of…”

After two weeks I started to agitate about this process again. As time went on, I told myself, "well at least I will have a lovely (big) creative blue quilt all to myself."


I will love my quilt.

I don’t really need a prize or reward.

My husband and I are planning one last trip to the cabin before the UK adventure.

Time is getting short.

Oh well, as I said, I will have a quilt to love and to love me back.

I kid you not! One hour before we were leaving for the cabin, the quilting shop called to tell me the quilt was complete! On our way out of town, we detoured to get the quilt. Got it. It was a custom job - more than I had asked for or hoped for. The quilting is great.

Drove to the cabin. On our way, I called the one quilt shop again and they confirmed that my quilt would be their first for the contest prize. Got to the cabin and did the binding. It would not earn ribbon in a show, but it was bound.

The next morning, left the cabin with a complete quilt at 6:00 AM. The shop is 2 1/2 hours away. It is even further north - not a trivial drive from my place in the Twin Cities.

Got there.

Got my picture taken with the quilt. Reported every row’s quilt shop to post on Facebook.

Got my prize - 25 fat quarters. They let me pick my own. That took some time, let me tell you!

Plus a bonus prize, because that shop’s row was in my quilt.

Turned around and drove back to the cabin.



Went back to town and less than 48 hours later, left for Scotland.

The quilt:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Books: Girl on the Train

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was an interesting book, another one that is a genre I don't usually read (mystery). It was engaging and hard to put down. A young woman rides a train into London and back home every day. She enjoys looking at the houses along the route and imagines lives for the people she sees. She is particularly interested in one house at which she gets more time to stare, thanks to a train stop being right there. The story starts to unfold, and the reader begins to understand why that particular house is so fascinating to the woman on the train. Stories begin to twist in and around each other, and you will keep reading to see what will happen next.

I liked it at first; I can imagine looking at houses from a train and dreaming of what the people's lives might be like. That's a fun mental game. By the end of the book I thought it was all rather exaggerated. I enjoyed reading it; it definitely kept my attention and was oddly interesting. I can't give it more than 3.5 stars out of five, due to the conglomeration of odd characters. Not many of them were likeable, though the story was an interesting one.

Would it have been too hard to entitle this book Woman on the Train?

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Kaffe Fassett

Internationally known knitter, quilter, and fabric artist Kaffe Fassett spoke in Minnesota today, and I was there. A group of friends went together, and we had a grand time. Let me tell you, the town of Zumbrota, Minnesota knows how to throw a party!

The quilt shop in town, All in Stitches, was open for the quilters who came to hear Fassett speak. We got a door prize and our names put in several other drawings, too. In addition, several other stores, not normally open on Sundays, opened up for us and also donated some wonderful prizes to be awarded after the lecture. That little town has some beautiful shops! Little artsy shops in which one could browse and shop for long hours.. and more than one of those. You should see the shoe shop in town! I have never seen such unique, attractive shoes in all my life. Prepare for sticker shock, but also prepare for a FUN tour of some very nifty shoes and boots.

We ate lunch at the VFW -- "Tankers." I had a good burger, and we watched part of the Vikings-Rams game on the TVs there. After lunch it was off to the Kaffe lecture. He was very entertaining and interesting. None of the pictures I took there turned out, but I did get one of Kaffe signing books after the lecture:

Back at the quilt shop, there was a small quilt show of quilts made from Kaffe Fassett fabrics. They were beautiful!

I have been stockpiling Kaffe fabrics for a while; I hope to get to them and make a glorious quilt some time in 2016.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Nearly Perfect!

Please pardon me, but I need to brag. I know you'll understand that my amazement is too much to not brag about.

I was working on some blocks; when I finished my first one, I noticed how perfectly the orange pieces had lined up at the point where they make a vertical line. (I know, some quilters are always so exacting that they are always perfect. I'm not! So this was exciting for me.) Take a look at that nice, nearly perfect vertical line!

Then I made a second block, and when I got it all done, I noticed another perfect accident... see how the print on the white background almost perfectly matches to complete the rounded pattern between the two pieces?? I wasn't even watching that when I constructed it! I was watching to try to reproduce the perfect vertical line again (which I did), and this other (near)perfection was a complete surprise. Fun!

I just had to share.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Friday Books: Burnt Paper Sky

Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan -- This was a good book! It was hard to put down. It's about a mother whose 8-year-old son goes missing, and the story of her debilitating grief, the law enforcement search, and all the ups and downs they experience during this traumatic event. I don't usually read mysteries, but this was a mystery that I really enjoyed reading. It was well written, and the characters seemed like full, real humans. They were flawed in various ways, as people really are, and they learned things about themselves and others. The investigation had its ups and downs, too, as real investigations do, I'm sure. I couldn't decide if I should give it 4 or 5 stars. It's definitely up there among the best books I've read in a while. So I give it 4.5 stars. Apparently it will come out here in the USA in December, under a different title. The copy I read was a British publication.

By the way, I can't figure out why it has this title, Burnt Paper Sky, but that's going to change when it comes to the USA anyway. (I can't recall the new title. It's something that sounds very boring.)

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Classes, Quilts, and Kangaroos

This fall a few friends and I have taken a couple of classes from a local fiber artist. She teaches in her studio at her home. It is really fun to learn new techniques with a small group of friends in a comfortable setting.

First class was Brayer painting. My sample looks different from the others because I'm holding up a different style... I have some samples that look like theirs, and vice versa.

Next class was silk screening. Here are the samples I came home with. It's always a learning process, and some turn out great while others are mistakes from which we learn. From left to right, these are shapes I cut out of freezer paper and then screen printed, shredded paper set down on fabric and then screened (the black one below is a second run, but it was too weak and on black.. it barely shows), a couple different pre-made screens, fabric color crayons that morph and run in different ways when set with a "fixer", and the last one in bottom row is color discharge which again, I think I didn't quite use enough as it doesn't show up well.

I spent all day today working on a quilt which incorporates a couple of my class samples. I am having so much FUN making this quilt! I can't wait to show it to you, but it's for a guild challenge, so I'm going to wait until after I show it to my guild in December.

Here's a charity quilt I finished this week (machine quilted by Nancy). This is not one of the pile for which I solicited guesses on my finishing date, so don't get too excited, those of you who "voted."

Here's a baby quilt I made for a friend. Luckily, I worked on it ahead of time; the sweet little baby girl decided to arrive four weeks early. She was born on November 3, and I finished her quilt today, November 5. Her name is Ruby. Here is her adorable self:

and here is her quilt:
I managed to sneak in a few giraffes. Did you notice?

Are you wondering why I mentioned kangaroos in my post title? Well, I remembered I had this sweet little picture which I found shortly after we returned from our trip to Australia last May. This is at a kangaroo rescue that helps raise abandoned roo babies. Isn't this one the sweetest you ever saw, getting its love from a teddy bear? This is not a photo I took, by the way, nor did I visit the rescue location. I simply found this picture upon my return, when nostalgically looking up more facts and fun about Australia. I think this rescue operation tries to return the roos to the wild. Let's hope this one grows up to be a happy and free adult.

Now, back to my Happy Place (sewing room). Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Halloween Party

I helped out at the Fall Festival we had at church last Friday night. It was a Halloween Party for the kids, with different games, a magic show, and the usual competitions and snacks. I hate this picture of me, but I'm going to grin and bear it so you can see my costume.

I was an absent-minded sewist who can't find her pin cushion.

Here are some of the real stars of the show: