Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Beauty

Another poem of Mary Oliver's spoke to me.  And tied so many drifting thoughts together.

Black Swallowtail

The caterpillar,
   interesting but not exactly lovely,
humped along among the parsley leaves
    eating, always eating.  Then
one night it was gone and in its place
    a small green confinement hung by two silk threads
on a parsley stem.  I think it took nothing with it
    except faith, and patience.  And then one morning

it expressed itself into the most beautiful being.


"small green confinement" Isn't that beyond a perfect description?  To borrow her phrase, here's a "small blue and red HST"


that is becoming a beautiful quilt for our bed.

Our quilts are expressions of beauty.  Sometimes they may not seem that way in the early stages, but with patience and perseverance, they transform into small, or large, wonders.

Beauty...
Practise "the profound (and I think, divine) act of paying attention."
(quote from a Boston Globe critic of Red Bird by Mary Oliver.)

the deep dark green of the small lizard or large gecko that inadvertently found his way onto our lanai (we shooed him out)

the gecko perched on top of the fence, throat puffing out in a balloon of orange fire as the sun caught it

the fuzzy peachy-orange of the foot and a half high baby Sandhill Crane standing between his mama and papa on the median of a road yesterday (first sighting of a baby for us - a gift)

the brilliant reds of the cardinals, their melodious refrains, their shrill chirps that wake me early each morning and serenade us all day

the package of fat quarters and yardage that arrived yesterday, mmm, promises of another quilt to gift


our two oak tree sentinels, one in each corner of the backyard, busting out all over in new glowing green leaves

in friendship...sharing a wonderful afternoon with dear friends for a BBQ here, dog walks and time with John and Brandy, long chats or short ones with dear blogland friends, with faraway friends, some of whom will soon be next door or in the same area

of family...a daughter who is befriending Poundcake, in hopes of getting her spayed and re-released into her neighbourhood; another daughter who has just started her own blog, and called for advice and to give warm accolades about mine.


"It's a beautiful heart, not a perfect body, that leads to a beautiful life," is a quote from Stephanie Nielson, author of the bestseller Heaven Is Here and the blog NieNie Dialogues.  I finished this gripping book on the weekend, written by a young woman who survived a small plane crash, but was badly burned and nearly died.

Yes, beauty is visible.  It is tangible.  Yet real beauty is in the intangible, heartfelt and heart-filling moments of our lives.  Would that all our hearts be filled with this beauty.
Always.  I'm going to continue to work on mine.

Pay attention.  Be present. (a yoga teaching)  Anytime, anywhere, but especially in Spring, it is so easy to do just this.

Linking with Free Motion by the River.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sharing

Happy First Day of Spring! Happy International Day of Happiness!

So sharing is a rather à propos topic for this day, and for this week for those of you who read Sew Fresh Quilts on Wednesday.  Most quilters share.  They share fabric, sources for fabric, patterns, quilting tools, tips, advice, designs, photos of our projects, the list goes on.  I have benefited from this sharing so many many times. I hope I have reciprocated as much in return.

I gave you a sneak peek at a cow muzzle a few days ago.  I have two entire cows done now! These are January (blue) and February (pink) blocks for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge at SoScrappy. Yellow is March, so she will have to wait until we are back home in Kingsville to be made.


They are paper-pieced from Piecemeal Quilts, a pattern she kindly shared on her blog.  I just love these whimsical, personality-filled cows! They will be going to an aunt when they all become a quilt. They are 12" unfinished, so I will be sewing a 1/2" border on two sides to make them a standard 12" block.

For my followers who are not quilters, here is a glimpse of the ten sections of the paper-pieced pattern.

My good friend Judy who writes a most wonderful and inspirational blog, Quilt Paradigm, told me of two sources for quilting stencils.  I ended up buying the same stencil she has also purchased for her going-to-be-out-of-this-universe linen quilt.  I didn't intend to buy the same stencil, but I guess I did.  My mum used to say when someone copies you, see it as a compliment, because clearly they admire whatever it is they have copied!  And I admire Judy's quilting prowess, her ideas, her vision.

Here is the stencil quilted out yesterday:

This is my Brr! Park quilt, and it is one of my goals for the Finish Along.  Let's see, I have 11 days left to finish it...

Judy suggested I echo it to help the design pop, so I did. And then I thought maybe I should flatten down some of the "gap" areas to further help it pop, so I did some matchstick quilting.


And I'm really happy with how it has turned out!  Here's the back:

The back of this quilt is really really cool, probably the most cool back I've ever made.  I plan to do some swoopy quilting in the Tree of Life HSTs, and some Dot to Dot in the trunks.  And then feathers in the setting triangles.  I am so happy that the quilt basting spray has held for a year! I did stitch in the ditch right away, so that also helped.  This is a quilting in thirds approach to quilting on a domestic.  Click the Tips and Tutorials tab up top for the link to that technique!  My gift to you.

Speaking of gifts, you should visit Craftsy! (see the button on my sidebar) I did, and bought a Cindy Needham class, so now I have both of hers.  Cannot. Wait.  (but I have to; quilts to make; people to give them to; Finish Alongs deadlines to meet) Anyhow, Craftsy has, like, everything on sale, and half price classes are too good to pass up.

Rocco flopped down in my sewing room on ... yep, Bella's cushion the other day!  He's just too funny.

And he brings me SO MUCH happiness.  Every. Day.  Period.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Itty Bitty...

Knitting Bag!  Bet that wasn't the completion of the title you first thought of!  It started with a plastic bag which didn't quite cut the mustard for carrying around the fingerless gloves I've been working on.  I thought I should make a small bag for this small project, one I usually take in the car on the trips up to Sarasota for yoga twice a week.  I thought it should be scrappy.  I just happened to have a block left over from Scraps of Calm.  That is where it started.  I added a row to make a 16-patch, almost started cutting some 2.5" squares, and then I remembered!  I have a bunch already cut!
Do you see the scrap from the Seashell runner? Lower rh corner
Then I decided I wanted the other side to be a different colour.  You know how I love blue and green together... I pieced it using my tried and true Book It! method:
Chain sew the pairs together, alternating the direction the seams are pressed; sew each pair, aka "book" to the pair below it

Press the seams of one double column down, the other up; notice how everything nests perfectly?
Second side done
Sewed the two sides to become one piece...but in future, I would not do this. Keep each side as a separate unit.



Franken-batted some pieces together from my leftovers and quilted away.  I had a great Gutermann sparkly thread that is pretty thick, so I did some bobbin work.  Started just doing a simple meander, and then pow! I thought why not try one of Christina's designs from her new book, Step By Step Free Motion Quilting book I just received?  And the first design in the book, called Cherish, was an open, simple meander-type design! Love it. Nope did not rip out the beginning meander. It's just a bag for moi, no pattern, making it up as I go.

the front
and the back
Sew tabs onto your zipper using Nancy's tutorial here. Sew one side of the zipper to one side of the bag, right side of the zipper to right side of the fabric.  Manipulate (I would do this bag in future keeping the two sides of the bag as separate units to make the zipper insert much easier) the other side of the bag into position to sew the other side of the zipper to the bag.  I fudged it (yep technical quilting term) at the closed end of the zipper...

With right sides together, sew the remaining two sides of the little bag together, pivoting at the bottom corner, backstitching at beginning and end and remembering to leave your zipper open so you can turn the bag right sides out! I did not box the bottom; I just wanted a small pouch type bag.

Lining
Cut a piece of fabric 16 1/2 (mine was 16 3/8 after quilting) by 8.5".  Sew the sides and bottom together so it looks like your pouch.  I turned the top edge of my lining over 1/4" and topstitched it in preparation for somehow stitching it to the wrong side of the zipper...  I used a laminated Kona, so generously given to me by Lara earlier this winter. It is just terrific for bag linings!



So I pinned it in place, wrong side of lining to wrong side of zipper, and then carefully, with my walking foot, and decorative thread in the needle, topstitched on the quilted side of the bag, catching the lining exactly on the topstitched line! Rather like machine stitching the binding down to the back of the quilt from the front side of the quilt, if that makes sense.  I couldn't get all the way around because of the zipper ends, so I got as far as I could, about 2/3 of each side, and then handstitched the remainder of the lining to the inside wrong side of the zipper.  The zipper is now encased between the wrong sides of both the lining and the outer bag.




And another shot of the latest gloves under construction inside the little bag.
Kind of cool what one can do with two 16-patch blocks made from leftover 2.5" squares, no?  When I make another, which I will do, I won't sew the two sides and treat it as one unit before quilting; I will quilt each side.  That will make the zipper insertion much easier.  I will also add a little strap I think, but for now the round elastic I put on the zipper to create a pull works as a grabber-nabber (all these technical quilt terms, I know!)

And it is official: I have joined in the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, RSC 2015, over at SoScrappy.  I love scraps, in large part because looking at a block, I not only see the block as a whole, I see the pieces of past quilts.

When I saw this Cow Block at Piecemeal Quilts, that Leeanna is also doing for the RSC Challenge, it all fell into place: this quilt is going to my aunt for her birthday in December, when she will be 75.  She IS a farmer.  A farmer's wife, and a farmer's daughter.  I will be incorporating a couple of other farm-themed blocks in with the cows for her quilt.  One thing I know for sure is that there will be a minimum of 12 cows in the colours of the rainbow in her quilt. Here is my progress so far this morning:
Um, cow??  Sure, Sandra.... Well, this is 2 sections sewn together of the 10 that make up the block, egad.  Do you see the nostrils (black) and the lips of my cow in her pale blue muzzle?  Hopefully will have her done to show you tomorrow.  Sadly, I cannot link up with the RSC this month, because March's colour is yellow, and I have one tiny piece of scrap yellow down here from Fleurs, sigh.  My stash is calling me...but I will wait until the snow is gone, thank you very much!

Linking up with Oh Scrap! and with Pet Project Show at Pink Doxies, buttons on sidebar.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Chickpeas and Stars

I made this recipe, another one from Pinch of Yum, two weekends ago, and have been meaning to share it on the blog, as it was soooo delicious.

It is called Roasted Veggie Pitas With Avocado Dip. She doesn't often have a short and sweet name, but the recipes are often just that: short, as in easy to make, and oh so sweet as in delicious. This was no exception. I will type out the recipe below just so you have it in one place, and let you know what changes I made, but click on the link I provided to see that it turned out pretty much exactly as Lindsay's photo!

Roasted Veggie Pitas With Avocado Dip (on a quilt-as you go reversible table mat, lol)

Avocado Dip
2 ripe avocados
1-2 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
2 T water (more as needed)
a handful of cilantro
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
half of a Serrano pepper (I used some leftover canned jalapeños)
juice of one lime

While the veggies are roasting (see below) purée the dip ingredients in a food processor (I used my blender) and set aside.

Roasted Veggies
2 heads of cauliflower (I used one)
2 14-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I used one)
1-2 tsp chili powder
1-2 tsp garam masala (which I could not find in a couple different grocery stores, so I found this link here, and put in about 1/4 the amount called for in her recipe of cumin, black pepper, cinnamon and cloves, because those are the spices I had in my cupboard here)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper if you want spicy (and I'm not a fan of really hot food, but I put this in and it was great, a zing, but not overpowering)
oil for drizzling
salt and pepper to taste
8 small whole wheat pitas (we had enough for 4)
plain Greek yogurt for topping

Preheat the oven to 425F. Pat the cauliflower and chickpeas dry with paper towels.  Arrange in a single layer on one large baking sheet, if you have halved the recipe as I did, two if you did not.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with spices.  Gently shake the pan as well as mix gently with a spatula to coat evenly. Roast 15-20 minutes, stir, and roast another 15-20 (less if you've halved the recipe; I did 15, stirred, and then did another 10 and it was fine.  The cauliflower will be golden brown and the chickpeas will be semi-crunchy.

Assembly:  Spread each pita with a spoonful of Avocado Dip and top with roasted veggies. Sprinkle with extra salt, pepper if desired (I didn't), cilantro (I did) and a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.  I found the yogurt cut the spiciness perfectly.  As you see from my picture, I cut the pita in half so we could have a snack as a sample.  This, I discovered, was the best way to eat it even if you were planning on having a whole one or more, as we did for supper, as it makes picking it up and taking bites out of it a little more manageable.  Of course, you can use a fork and knife and be all civilized if you like.  If not you will need a napkin for sure!  Really delicious and the veggies warmed up nicely both in a small pan on the stovetop (I avoid the microwave as much as possible) or in a pinch, in the microwave.  The dip kept nicely in the fridge too.  Good protein here for us vegetarians too.

And here's a peek at one of my soon-to-be in-progress quilts.  This is a test block for another pattern I have in the works.  I spent half an hour this morning trying to find the blog of the girl where I first saw this block, to no avail. She was using it for her guild nametag.  If you recognize the block, please let me know, A) the name of it, and B) if you know whose blog that might have been on.  Now to get the damn diagrams done on my first pattern, Pocketful of Sunshine. Then I can upload it to Craftsy!

Speaking of Craftsy, they are having a terrific sale (and you know I love sales) on pretty much all of their classes.  They have lots of free ones, (I may have taken a few of those) as well as lots of awesome educational (and that's coming from a teacher here) classes in quilting, knitting, cooking, photography, painting, and more (I just looked: at least 16 different fields including Gardening! Who knew.)  I have sung the praises of Craftsy for no payment for well over a year now, but now I have become an affiliate, so if you'd like to try a class, click on the link on my blog, and if you do decide to try one, I get a bit of thank-you-moola from Craftsy.  If you are unsure as to how it all works, then send me an email, ephdra at gmail dot com, and I can happily answer any questions.  I have bought classes as well as patterns both while down here in Florida as well as up north in Ontario, so it works across borders, and we quilters love that, bahaha.  Since this post is getting waaay longer than I anticipated, I'll talk about the patterns I've purchased in another post.

yep, should've cropped this...I DID pick a bunch of threads off the design wall




Friday, March 13, 2015

Serendipity Strikes

Again!
Ta da!  My Seashell Runner is tout fini.  And I couldn't be happier, because it fits absolutely perfectly on our coffee table!  I had not planned that when I bought the pattern and some of the batiks in oh, 2008.  I had envisioned it perhaps on a dresser if we ever did buy a home in Florida.  Which we did.  Later that year.


It was fun to make, even though the directions were fairly ambiguous.

The back, which looks pretty cool too - I need to sign and date it
It took over an hour to tack all the shells together in various small overlap spots.  I started to do it by hand, and then said, nope, ain't gonna happen, and slightly overlapped them here and there to hold it all together.

Each shell is double-sided, and has warm 'n natural batting between the layers.  Lots of satin-stitching was done on each shell.  No satin-stitching on the sharks' teeth, which I made all black, as that is how they look, that or a dark grey.  The pattern had them grey tips with black roots.  I have found a couple of real ones on Manasota Key, not far from here.  They are fossils, don't get excited.


Trying to get some more daylight on it, as well as a straight-on shot.  This is another of my goals for the first quarter finish-along at On the Windy Side.  Of my 8, I now have just 2 left!

One last one, just because.

Quilt Stats:
Size:  48" X 19" approximately
Pattern: Shell Runner by Cracker Country Creations
Fabric: batiks plus one marbled fabric for the sharks' teeth
Warm 'n Natural batting scraps
Threads: pieced with Gutermann and Aurifil, satin-stitched with Sulky rayons and one Mettler polyester, oh, and one Sulky Blendables

Linking up with Confessions of a Fabric Addict and TGIFF







Wednesday, March 11, 2015

She Sells Seashells...

Slow going on the runner, but my machine is getting a workout with all the satin-stitching! She hasn't had to do that in some time.  We've also been to two Spring Training baseball games in the last week, which were good, yesterday's especially.

Shells, and a starfish, completed as of Saturday
I'm pretty happy with the selection of batiks I picked out for the shells.  It also helps a lot that I have quite a large selection of actual shells here to look at for added inspiration and detail. The starfish was a bear make that a crab (haha) to turn right side out.

Shells as of yesterday; two of the clamshells have yet to have their detail stitching
So I have two conch (I learned from the most excellent book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes, by Ann Vanderhoof, that it is pronounced "conk") shells to make and two shark's teeth.  I need to buy some black batik for those as I did not bring any with me.  A few days ago, I finished Ann's second book, The Spice Necklace, which tells of their second sail to the Caribbean 9 years after the first. Both were such good reads, and both of them sent me to the Internet to Google information, look up various images of trees and plants she describes. I love it when books educate me!

I do have a finish for this Work in Progress Wednesday:


Finally. I had to rip out the first glove a third time, the second glove twice in order to have enough yarn from the ball to finish them. Good thing Brianne's hands are small, like mine, as I omitted 3 rows from the hand part of the gloves, and one row from the knuckles part.  I had about 60" of yarn left!  This pattern cuts it that fine. 
One of the few times Naala wants to be in a picture and Rocco has to get in on the act like the annoying little brother he can be; can you see how she's just smacked him?!
Now, I just have to finish Brady's DVD movie of their trip to see us last Fall, and then I can send these off.  And I can start on Dayna's, but think I'll unwind the ball of yarn and divide it exactly in half before I start! 


Linking up with WIP Wednesday and Let's Bee Social.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

One Down, Fourteen to Go


This is another of the projects on my list of eight for the first quarter finish-along.  There are 13 shells and two shark's teeth in the runner.  The pattern leaves a lot to be desired as far as method goes, but the design is great.  Batiks are perfect for the shells' variance in colour.  This one is called a Turk's cap.  Who knew.  They are quite plentiful along the southeastern shores of the Gulf coast. Love the white sugar sand that fell out of one!

A quick note about markers.  I did a post last year on my favourites here so I won't go into much detail other than to show you the difference in three washaway markers.  I traced the shell pattern onto the wrong side of the batik, and used 3 different ones I have.  I've laid each marker over the line I drew with it so you can see the difference.  I was quite surprised just how much thicker the Mark-B-Gone line was!  There is no discernible difference between the Chako or the Water Erasable one (which I bought form Leah Day).  The only issue with the two über-fine ones is that at first the line is almost non-existent, but it darkens within a few seconds. The urge is to go over it a few times, but there really is no need.  It really is a fine line.

A view of the back; you can see how much the Mark-B-Gone bleeds through!
The good news, however, is that each one disappears with just a light spritz of water.  So this is my WIP.  I still have two after this to complete by the end of March.  Three if I pick something for ALYOF.  For this one, you are allowed to have something like a quilt top, or a set of blocks as your finish; it doesn't have to be a fully completed item, so I do have an idea of a project for which I'd like to at least have the flimsy by the end of the month.

I did finish the kitty mats for the Humane Society.  I ended up with three!  I'd planned on making two, but miscounted squares needed and had half of another one done, so a third was born.

Here they are before washing:
Isn't that stripe fabric just wild?

Here are the backs:

Recognize the houndstooth?!  Leftover backing fabric from Shamrock.  All that now remains is a couple of strips.  Why is there a chunk out of the backing in the bottom mat?  I needed one more rectangle (two squares) for the front, so I pieced in a little extra of the other squares fabric.

Rocco in his favourite spot
This was fabric given to me by my brother (well, when I saw it, I asked for the leftovers!). He and a couple of colleagues did a Laugh-In skit (that's dating us, I know; it ran from 1967-73, but it was mainly our parents who watched it as we were too young) at the office Christmas party and when I saw their set, I fell in love with the fabrics.  I'd hoped to use one for kaleidoscopes, but I don't think there are enough repeats, so it might become another mat.  The Humane Society gives their cats each a mat in their cage on which they sleep or repose, while waiting for their forever home.  I made them a couple last year too.  It's great for leftover pieces of batting.  It's also great for playing with FMQ.  I did both walking foot quilting and FMQ.  Each mat measures 15X18"; the squares were cut at 3.5".

Washed and cuddly
One of Naala's visits to my sewing room with one of her babies, Rudy.  Rocco killed all his. Naala still has all four, although Bird is sadly missing most of her stuffing!
Linking up with WIP and Let's Bee Social; see the buttons on the sidebar.  Speaking of buttons on the sidebar, you will notice a new one, Craftsy.  Thanks to Cyndy at Quilting is More Fun Than Housework, whose blog was one of the first two or three I started following about a year ago, I am now a Craftsy affiliate.  Those of you who have followed me for any amount of time know how much I love the whole Craftsy experience.  It's brilliant.  Reasonably-priced classes that you can watch from home or on the road, anytime, anywhere.  You can replay them to your heart's content, back up the video and replay a section five times in a row if you like. They never go away; they're yours forever. There are loads of free classes and free patterns too, a variety of topics from sewing to knitting to cooking to photography and more.  I've sung their praises for some time now, but if you use the link on my sidebar (I think) or one of the text ones above and  then decide to take one of their classes, I can now earn a little moola!  If you are interested in how to become a Craftsy affiliate, shoot me an email!