Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out with the Old

Changes are a part of life. Learning how to deal with them gracefully, I think, is the secret to a happy life.No matter how we may rail against the injustice of the ticking clock, if we're lucky, tomorrow will still arrive right on schedule.

In the past few years we have been navigating the changes from parenting to advising. My husband likes to remind me that having independent grown sons is exactly what we were working towards. Last summer I realized that I had been putting everyone else first for practically my entire life.

Now, to be clear, I am not whining about that. I have adored being mother to my children. Although they could be exhausting at times, I have loved almost every moment of their lives, even with their ADHD and alphabet soup of learning disabilities and differences. Some would say it was a luxury to be a stay-at-home mom, and maybe it was, but we did without a lot of things so that I could focus all of my energies on these boys. But, I must admit, indulging myself this year has been rather delightful.

It's been a couple of years since the last fledgling flew the coop, and I'm just now embracing our lovely, empty nest. It's kind of nice to put food in the refrigerator and find it still there a day later. I can wear my pretty night gowns without scarring the boys for life, and have (except for the very coldest nights) retired the pajamas that Kent called the husband repellent.

What used to be a noisy, filled to the brim home now feels empty and too big. The huge yard and gardens that have given us so much pleasure over the years now seems overwhelming to keep up. In short, we are considering a relocation, to a smaller home with less upkeep. The problem is, every time we try to define the type of house we'd like to find it turns out to be this house.

We've known for over a year that Kent's job could take us anywhere. We may end up staying here in Saginaw for years to come, or the current contract could end in June with a new assignment in a new town. In a lot of ways we are just waiting for the other shoe to drop, a handy way to justify making no decision at all.

To make ready for what ever may come, we've been doing a lot of cleaning out. I've never been terribly sentimental, so there's not a lot of ephemera to cull. In November, my BFF mentioned a charity looking for orphaned projects, UFOs, fabric and yarns no longer needed. I sent her several boxes of stuff that could happily live elsewhere. As I taped the boxes closed I felt a great sense of relief.

I suppose it's rather weird, but I like throwing things away. Whether it goes in the trash, or off to charity, I love the sense of space that cleaning out gives me. It reminds me of the saying: you can't receive into clenched fists. Letting go of stuff (both the physical and metaphysical), opens me up for new.

I've always liked ringing in the new year with a clean house. We seldom keep the Christmas decorations up past New Year's Day. This afternoon I'll be changing the sheets on the bed and sifting through the pantry for food that has expired. As I work, I often reflect on the past year, as a way to package it up into history.

Even though it has a fancy name, tomorrow is just tomorrow. It's a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to begin anew, just like every other day. I'm looking forward to the new adventures all these tomorrows will bring. We can plan all we want, but we can never really know what the future will hold. I kind of like it that way.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Back to Plan A

In between and round about all the holiday festivities, some progress has been made on Of a Summer's Day. There as been a good deal of hemming and hawing about what to do next. For a good while I was convinced that the quilting needed to happen next. I think that maybe I was suffering from "done is better than perfect" syndrome.

After walking around the project, all laid out on my cutting table, spools of thread and all, I began to realize that I wanted more for this little quilt. I have been seduced by embroidery, which is something that I've loved all my life. In fact, it was the very first needlework I ever learned, from my Grandma, when I was just four.

I'm taking my time with this, because I think this little quilt could be something special, which is probably putting way too much pressure on myself. Not probably, nope, it's fairly obvious that the desire for perfection (or at least my bestest best), is what's keeping from me moving forward at a reasonable pace.

Just when I think I've licked that damnable beast, perfectionism sneaks right up and bites me hard on the butt. I guess that's why I say I'm a recovering perfectionist. Does anyone ever really recover?

I'm getting the itch to start something new, but would also hate to leave this little quilt undone. Little seasonal quilts are coalescing in my heart, and Valentines' Day is not so far away.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Catching up on Christmas

The tradition started more than two decades ago. We were scraping by, raising four kids on one income, and we just didn't have the ability to buy gifts for our extended family. To fill the void, I began baking Christmas cookies and breads for the family. We were living in Wisconsin in the early years, far from family. To make the gift seem more substantial (to me at least), I packaged the stuff as prettily as possible, and called it an instant party: just pull it out of the freezer about an hour before guests arrive and let them believe you've been baking all day.

I started this Christmas season with a whopper of a sinus infection. Honestly, at one point I thought my teeth were being forced out of my jaws. Ever hopeful that I might keep up with my baking schedule, I spent a week stockpiling cookie dough for baking when I felt a bit better.

After eight days of misery I threw in the towel and went to a "Doc in a Box" (MedExpress). When the doc lightly touched my face it was all I could do to keep from decking him (and it wasn't the "with holly" type of decking I had in mind). He gave me excellent drugs. I felt nearly human again in a couple of days.

And then I tried to bake up all that cookie dough. When the first batch turned into lava in the oven, I realized that I had doubled the butter in all of the recipes. I guess I decided that 1/4 pound = 1/4 cup. Hey, I was sick! There was nothing else to do but toss the dough for double batches of gingersnaps, oatmeal jumbles and sugar cookies. Yikes! How long have I been baking?

I love orange cranberry nut bread. I use an old family recipe from Ocean Spray. (I didn't say it was MY old family). This year I planned to use tiny little bundt pans for the baking.

Aren't they adorable? They would have been, if I had thought to turn down the oven temp just a smidge so they could bake long enough to cook through without over browning on the outside. The first batch turned out to be piles of mush, that I practically had to pry out of the pans because I took them at their word when the label said nonstick coating. After a liberal dose of antibiotics (for me, not the bread), the second batch came out much better.

When I wasn't throwing a pity party on the couch, or inflicting miserable crimes on baking ingredients, I did spend a bit of time weaving up some of my hand spun yarn on my rigid heddle loom.

I'm not sure that I'm sold yet, on the whole weaving thing. It's pretty repetitive. But it is rather fascinating to watch the colors change, and there are some nifty weaving tricks I look forward trying. We shall see.

Our Christmas was very quiet this year. Our boys are far flung now, and none of them made it to the house this year to celebrate. I thought I might be sad about that, but, to tell you the truth, I was totally okay with it. Since we also weren't hosting any family Christmas parties this year, we barely decorated, and that was okay with us as well. Despite all the kitchen fiascoes, and the quiet household, we had a lovely, joyous Christmas. Here's hoping that your holiday season brought you the same.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What I really did in November

Alex (6 1/2 years) and Nicole (almost 4), and me (29),
getting started on gingerbread houses.
It appears that I don't actually have a novel in me. Every time I give a lecture, at least one person tells me I should be writing. (Hmm, maybe that's instead of speaking? Never thought of that before.) Turns out it's not for me. At least not fiction. And not now.

But I do have these amazing grandchildren who need an amazing grammy. This, this is what I want to be remembered for.

Alex was most excited about the mess we were about to make than anything else, I did everything I could to indulge him. We had flour everywhere, and laughter and joy.

The holidays are different for us this year. None of the boys lives in town with us. First Nate and Amanda left to take a job on the west side of the state. Then Jake and Rachel took of to Baltimore so she could finish school. David joined Nate to find a job. And the Caleb and Elaine romped off to Kansas this summer to find their fortunes there.

Nate and Amanda usually come into town for Thanksgiving, but they usually arrive at our house later in the day, stuffed to the gills from her grandmother's table. This year, instead of trying to out Martha Martha (which I normally love),Kent and I and David had just a simple dinner early in the day. I made a turkey breast (why on earth hadn't I thought of this sooner?), and just the sides that we like the best. And pies. And dough for gingerbread houses.

Just as the sugar overtook the turkey drouse, we fired up the oven and started building our cookie homes. I have a simple cutter set for the basic walls and roof, but this is a creative family and the deviations from the simple plan began immediately.

The next day, instead of fighting the crazy people at the stores, we got together again to build and decorate our houses. Even the men folk had a ball. Kent used a meat tenderizer on his gingerbread pieces for texture, so he built a "waffle house". Nicole pretty much just stuck pink sprinkles on everything, including some of us, but it made her happy.

Even the "big kids" had serious fun. This is what you get when you ask David to pose with his house. Isn't it cool? He used yellow mini m&ms in the windows for the Advent candles we always place in ours.

It's kind of amazing what sticks with our kids. It may be trite, but it is true: life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. The boys seem to cherish the small things that made us a family, not the grand schemes meant to create a once-in-a-lifetime memory.

Nate, my son the engineer. I have always thought of him as my quiet son. He's always been intensely private. I'm not sure where this hysterically funny guy came from, but I'm so happy he's here. This guy works long hours; he and his wife are raising two delightful kids and creating a loving home. He makes my heart full.

Alex got his mess alright, and then some. Even though we had some housing disasters when the mortar failed, we all had just a spectacular time. The houses are currently living on my dining room table, but I have plans for them.

When it comes to holiday, sometimes different isn't so bad. I got to keep the best part of Thanksgiving, and have started a new tradition on holiday house building. If it turns out that Kent and I are on our own on Christmas morning (for the first time in more than 30 years), I don't think it will be bad at all. I hear I may have some new "grown up" jammies under the tree.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Computer Blues

It's my husband's fault. The office computer was ancient, practically a techno-saur, making glaciers look downright rushed in comparison. Truly, a pot of coffee could be brewed and consumed in the time it took for it to come to life. Hubby got tired of waiting.

He suggested that it was high time for the business to put him (er, the computer) out of its misery. After all, it didn't need to be a fancy computer, a lower end, basic computer would be fine for the needs of the office. I rather chafe at the idea of spending money on a lowly thing, especially when just a little bit more will make for a whole lot better. Hubby didn't want to deal with Windows 8, something all new pcs seem to be loaded with these days.

But I don't mind learning a new operating system. Frankly, I think folks make a huge fuss over it all. Of course there has been a learning curve (why do they always feel the need to rename commands?), but mostly, it's been business as usual. 

So, I was the one to get the new computer. With Kent acting as my geek to English translator, we set out to find a computer with just the right bells and whistles for what I do. I was sorely tempted by the new all-in-one desktop models, with their touch screens. They are so stylish! But in the end it was decided that a touch screen was a silly thing for me, for the kind of work I do. (I fully expect to be disappointed by that decision long before it's time to replace this new computer.)

The downside, of course, is installing all of my favorite programs. Every few days I go looking for a program, only to find that it has not yet been installed. Or worse, requires an upgrade, or an activation code. It's a little frustrating, but I know it will all work out in the end.

All of this is a long way of explaining why I've been away from the blog, and why there are no pictures in this post. I'm kind of hoping it will mean that I need to upgrade my camera. I hear they can download the pictures wirelessly these days. And it is seven years old. Why, that's practically prehistoric in e-years.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Na No crazy?

November. It's going to be crazy, but I'm hoping it will be crazy in a good way. I'm finally going to do something I've meant to do for a very long time. I'm going to write a real book, or, at least give it my best shot.

It's time for National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. This event encourages us to just sit down and write. For folks who want to write, but don't know where to start, NaNoWriMo encourages us to just start writing. Our goal for the month is to write 50,000 words. Luckily don't all have to be good words, we will have the rest of the year to edit and rewrite to our heart's content.

It seems like every time I speak at an event invariable someone will ask me if I've ever considered writing a book, a grown up book without pictures. Well, I have. A lot. But I'm so used to writing nonfiction that I don't quite know how to tell a story that never happened.

So, ever the rebel, I'm working on a memoir of sorts. I think once I have my fifty thousand words, I will likely fictionalize the story, mostly to protect the guilty. I haven't decided if it will focus on my needlework life, or something else, but needlework has already crept into my first fifteen hundred words.

If that's not enough, there is also a spin off group (pun intended) called NaKniSweMo, National Knit a Sweater Month, that I am going to shoot for. The sweater I intend to cast on today is called Hitofude Cardigan. Isn't it lovely?It's knit all in one piece, with a lace pattern just intricate enough to keep things interesting.

And this is the yarn for it. It's Dream in Color Smooshy, which is 20% cashmere. Won't that make a gorgeous holiday sweater? The color is called Sundown Orchid, it's a bit darker than the photo shows. I can hardly wait until I see it knitted up.

I'm also thinking that I'd like to knit up some Christmas stockings, for at least the grandkids, and Kent and me. We don't usually give each other a lot of gifts, so it would be rather fun to fill a stocking with Christmas cheer for each other. Aren't these adorable? It's Spindleknitter's Stockings, the pattern is on Ravelry. I'm not going to tell you about the crap load of yarn I've just ordered to make these. I've got to have all the colors, after all.

And one more thing. It's time to start baking Christmas cookies. Since pretty much everyone I know already has anything I could afford to buy for them, I make platters of assorted cookies for gifts. I guess they all like them, because the hinting starts early.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Oh My Stars!

It's here! My Craftsy class covering my favorite piecing tricks is ready for prime time. Anyone who has been around me for any length of time knows that I have a passion for teaching. Almost every quilt I have designed has started with a list of concepts or tips I want to include in the instructions. I love learning, and I especially love skill building patterns and projects.

Oh My Stars is no different. Even though the blocks range from simple to complex, each one is chock full of hints and techniques that will apply to all of our piecing. I have been piecing quilts since 1975, and I have learned a lot in that time, especially what not to do.

I am thrilled with the details we can see in the close ups. I was concerned, as we were taping, that they might be lost, but Craftsy's commitment to creating quality videos shines through. Really guys, these are not You Tube!

Honestly, I have been addicted to Craftsy classes since the web site went live just a couple of years ago. They have a fantastic range of classes, from quilting to fine art to cooking.

And, just so I can share my addiction, click HERE to receive a 50% discount on the class fee! The discount makes it cheaper than most guild workshop fees, and you'll have me forever! The class never expires, I'm there to answer questions (well, technically, I'm here, but I'll answer questions there), and you can watch it on your tablet! See you there!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Plan B

I have made woefully little progress on Of a Summer's Day. I am still struggling with the order of work, embellish first, or quilt.

The larkspurs have been outlined with coral stitch, and I am happy with that result. But as I began to add in embroidery details to the leaves and stems, I had a crisis of confidence. I can accomplish the same look with my quilting lines. Indeed, I will want to stitch in the ditch around all of the applique to enhance the dimensionality. Hand embroidery now will just cover exactly where I want to stitch.

So, it's off to Plan B. I've pulled some of the thread for quilting in details. I see that I forgot to pick out some yellows for the coreopsis. Instead of my usual choice of fat threads for dramatic effect, these are fine threads, for a more subtle look.

It must be that I am pretty invested in this pattern for it to be giving me so much grief. Maybe it's because I have no deadline, or publication plans. Either way, I would like this project to end up being top notch, and that's a lot of pressure. I find myself wanting this to be "the" best instead of "my" best. Silly me, way to suck the joy out of what should be a fun and interesting adventure. I think it's time for me to get over myself and get working.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Embroidering Of A Summer's Day

At last! The cold has been conquered (more like endured), and I feel like I'm back to as close to normal as I'll ever get. I can knock it off my to-do list. Finishing up is so gratifying, isn't it?

There really isn't much left to do on Of a Summer's Day. Everything is stitched to the background. I could just jump to the machine quilting and call it good. I could finish it in an afternoon. But I'm still thinking. I'd like to add some embroidery. I have all the floss picked out and ready.

What a yummy pile of colors. Before settling on floss, I had a whole pile of pearle cotton ready to go. In the end I decided that being able to separate the strands would give me more flexibility.

Just as my students do, I am lamenting how truly awful the stitching looks. There is nothing invisible about this work! But I know from long experience that batiks do look terrible at this stage, because of how tightly woven they are. And I know that by the time the wall hanging is done, the stitches will all but disappear. But still... it's tempting to give it a quick swish in the sink to soften up the edges.

I'm also still working out the order to work. I'd love to embroider in serrated edges on the rose leaves, but then how would I quilt that? Seam like my usual stitch in the ditch would mangle up that edge, unless perhaps I gently echo the embroidery. I'm having a little bit of "but first" syndrome here, to finally decide on the best order of stitching. Help me out here, what do you suggest?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Down for the count

Imagine being held in a death grip, wicked hands wrapped around your throat, squeezing the life out of you. The monster that holds your life in its hands is undead, gruesomely disfigured by the trials of life after death. You claw at the hands, gasping for air, taking that comic book wheezing last breath, just before you snap awake and realize that watching shows about the zombie apocalypse might not be conducive to recuperation, and, oh darn, now I'm going to have to rewind the show to find where I fell asleep.

This is how the past week has been for me. After a wonderfully successful trip up to Interlochen, MI (standing ovation!) on Monday, enjoying the beautiful fall colors all the way there, the rest of this week has been a downward spiral of coughing, sneezing and general misery.

To cap off the joys of a head cold, I fell while packing the car for the trip up north. My feet just slipped out from under me while moving stuff from the studio to the van. No biggie, I thought. First, and most importantly, no one saw me fall, which gave me time to assess the situation before trying to regain my dignity. No real harm done, just a bit of a sore knee, and the need to change my jeans, I couldn't give a lecture with lime green moss staining my pants, now could I? (I'm ashamed to admit this took more thought that it should have. I mean, who's going to be looking at my knees anyway. I planned to distract them with quilts, after all.)

It wasn't until the middle of the night when I realized that everything from the knees up ached in new and marvelous ways. So, while falling didn't leave a mark, apparently I twisted myself up enough to remind myself that I'm not a kid anymore. Already dealing with a dicey neck, it's always interesting to see how many new ways I can find to hurt myself.

So, I've been on a television binge. First there was a zombie apocalypse to catch up on, now I'm ready for the new season of The Walking Dead. And then Homeland, a spy show trying to avert a terrorist apocalypse, also caught up to the new season. And now my binge of choice is 24, a show I'd never watched when it originally aired, which is yet another spy/apocalypse show. As I'm being to feel better, I'm thinking it's time to find a comedy or two to lighten the mood.

The good news is while I've been turning my brain to mush, I've been finishing things. The socks are done, and the pair I knew was hiding in a basket are well on the way to being done as well. The toy rabbit is done, although I'm sorely tempted to give the poor thing bloomers. She's pretty nekkid under that dress. I sewed the buttons on the sweater.

In the process of finishing up I found another sweater with only the sleeves left to knit. Now it's done and blocked. I also found a lovely silk lace shawl I had knitted years ago. It's also blocked and ready to wear.

Probably most importantly, Of a Summer's Day, the flower basket quilt, is now all stitched to the background and hooped up for embroidery. I've pulled a bunch of embroidery floss but from there I'm a little stuck. I know I want to embellish it a bit more, but I'm not sure what or how much. Perhaps it will come to me in my next snooze. It sure would be better than dreaming of zombies.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Back in the Day

While I have been doing needlework all of my life, it wasn't until 1975 that I made my first quilt. As a freshman in college, separated from my true love by almost a thousand miles, I did needlework instead of partying. Always the boring and cautious type, I have very few memories to live down. (I might be the only person left of my generation who is truly qualified for public office.)

This was back in the day when a long distance phone call cost nearly a dollar a minute. After years of being constant companions, our universities were at opposite ends of a very large state. It didn't take me long to figure out that being with my guy mattered more than the degree I was after. I followed him to the great white Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I am not at all sure what I'm doing to the quilt here, my best guess is that I am using whatever I had to baste the layers, which looks a lot like yarn to me.

There was no quilt industry in '75, Quilt Market (the annual wholesale show) didn't begin until four years later. I bought my fabrics at the local JC Penneys. Remember back when department stores carried fabric? The only magazine devoted to quilters was Quilters Newsletter, and it may have still been a true newsletter, stapled together at Bonnie Lehman's kitchen table.

My directions for the quilt came from a very short article in Better Homes and Gardens. (Yes, I was reading "shelter" magazines at 18. See "boring" above.) I had a template cut from a Cheerios box, which I traced and traced and traced. My motto at the time was "the bigger the stitch, the sooner I'm done". I understand now that the quilt was basted together.

Quilting and I have come a long way since then. My bed quilts hold together more than a couple of years now. I'd rather work by machine than by hand, at least when it comes to making quilts. Fabric choices have exploded. There are classes and books and videos for learning just about anything a beginning quilter could want to know.

But I'm not sure there has been a moment as sweet as when I first spread that quilt out on the bed in our married housing apartment.  It was wonky for sure, held together with dreams of a future filled with love. The quilt didn't last very long, but the marriage it greeted is still going strong.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


I was mostly lost during my shortened summer sabbatical. I have been running up against deadlines for decades and I just didn't know how to handle the freedom. I spent a lot of time in a sort of free floating soup of guilt for not being productive, what ever that means. When Craftsy gave me a deadline, and a short one at that, I breathed a sigh of relief. I guess I love structure, and nothing provides that better than a deadline.

In trying to find a groove I started all sorts of projects, looking for my muse, I guess. I started socks:
One sock syndrome, not usually a problem for me, strikes again. I know there is another pair of colorwork socks, partially done, hiding in a basket somewhere.

I started a softie:
I insist the purchase of the kit was totally industrial espionage. From Posie Gets Cozy, one of my all-time favorite blogs, I thought it might be fun to make something three dimensional. I used to make dolls and teddy bears all the time, but here it sits.

Then there's the sweater for Camp Loopy:

The Olivetti Cardie, knit from fingering weight Heritage Silk yarn from Cascade. This project was the ultimate of startitis. It began life as a totally different pattern, which I ripped out at least three times. Shifted to another pattern, and then ripped that out. By the time I settled on this pattern, some of the yarn was actually worn out and had to be replaced. It was supposed to be finished by August 31st to qualify for Camp Loopy, but I just finished it about a week ago. Finished, that is, except for the buttons.

I'm really pleased with the way the lace blocked out.

There are other projects waiting for completion, the basket of roses, the crazy quilt cat just to name a couple. I am working on the roses, stitching the motifs to the background. I'll show you my progress shortly.

Some great successes came in August and September, which have helped me come to decisions I have been struggling with for some time. All in all, it's great to be back in the saddle. Hmm, which of these projects shall I work on today?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Rumors of my death....

have been greatly exaggerated! There seems to be a tipping point, where I've been away from the blog just long enough that I feel like I need to reintroduce myself. Like I can't just jump into a story without catching up with you.

But then, the reason I haven't blogged is because I haven't really had anything worth saying. I've been on a summer break, after all, meaning that I have been largely, and gloriously off task. There has been spinning, and knitting, baking, gardening and such, but nothing really interesting to anyone else but me.

My summer off came to a screeching halt at the beginning of August. Craftsy accepted my proposal for a new class, and we set the taping date for September 15. Yikes. I had four weeks to prepare all the step-outs and make all the samples. I could have asked for a later shoot date, sure, but I figured I had nothing else pending, so why not?

The first thing I did was get organized. Oh, how I love zip top bags. I really should buy stock. This was my starting point for the class project, but just about the time I had finished cutting up the background fabric, my editor suggested a more traditional layout for the quilt. Yikes again.

Despite a few (okay, maybe more than a few) anxious moments, the prep work was done in plenty of time, even a few days early! And, as before, my crew was totally top drawer! They have a marvelous way of soothing the fears of working in front of a camera. Thank you, Jeff, Linda and Rob for making me look so good!

I don't know yet when the class will air, and I can't really say exactly what it will cover (although you can see part of the main class project in the background). We are looking at late October, perhaps, but of course, this is subject to change.

In the coming days I will be catching you up on the other goings on here.There has been spinning and knitting, and a sewing revelation. And, in the following weeks/months I will be going on a UFO/WIP hunt. I have odds and ends of projects for publication, step outs, bits and parts. It's time to either finish up the project, or toss the lot. Or perhaps something in between.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

On the Newsstands Now

This is the super secret project I mentioned earlier this summer. It is a new favorite quilt for me. It's in the current issue of Quiltmaker, on newsstands now. (I just saw it in the grocery store, and got a nice giggle when I saw my name on the cover. Bazinga!)

It signals the beginning of a new approach to my applique process. The working title for the article was "Hand Applique by Machine, By the Numbers", sort of a take on the old paint by numbers kits we used to buy as kids. (I don't remember what the end title was in the magazine, probably something close.) If you'll excuse the pun, it's a way to be a little more painterly in my fabric choices.

I've modified the addressing system that has kept my sanity all these years from being just a way to keep track of all the pieces to focusing more on light and shadow and fabric choices. I've gone from mass producing perfectly matching motifs by the hundreds to cutting shapes out one at a time to give each a little special character.

I've used sort of the same idea with my Of a Summer's Day project (which hasn't changed a bit from this earlier picture, maybe next week.) I've tried to use light and dark to give the roses a little more dimension. I started working out the new labeling system on this project.

Here's a close up to show the quilting. I think the overlapping circles on that upper fabric reminds me a bit of the movement in some Van Gogh paintings. The lower fabric is quilted in vertical straight lines, a nice contrast to the circles and curves above.

Hand embroidery was added for a little more definition, and to add details too small to applique. (Okay, I have to admit that I could applique the stems, I just didn't want to.)

Even in my large quilts I've always been mindful of value placement. It can make a quilt sparkle. What do you think, would you like to have your applique patterns tell you where to place the lights, mediums and darks for a certain look? Is that even something that matters to you in your projects?

Monday, July 29, 2013


Several years ago, while chilling in a hotel room on a teaching trip, I tried to find something worth watching on tv. Hotel cable has lots to offer as long as it's sports. Unless it's the Detroit Tigers, I'm totally not interested.

I finally settled on the Food Network,with Emeril Lagasse in all his glory. I don't remember what he was making, something on his stove top. He was emphasizing that this dish should be cooked on medium low. In his silly way, he pulled the knob off the stove and pointed out all the settings between off and scorch. Bam! It nearly knocked me out of my chair.

All of my life I have struggled with a black/white, on/off, right/wrong  kind of thinking. I'm sure that it goes hand in hand with my perfectionistic tendencies.These things do not make for happy camping. I've come pretty far on my journey to recover from perfectionism. At least I can catch myself in the act and give myself a stern talking to. The yes/no, not so much.

I've been in kind of a bad place for the last couple of years. Raising my rambunctious boys had been my sole purpose in life for decades, and now they are well and truly launched. I know that my empty nest is weighing on me. Don't get me wrong, Kent and I are thrilled to have our honeymoon suite back, but some days I kept those boys alive by shear force of will, despite their best efforts to thwart me. That they are thriving, responsible adults, taking the world by storm gives me more joy than any deal ever sealed. And yet...

Travel has also been getting me down. Oh, how I love to teach. I really do believe that it is my strongest skill. But I can only think of bad words when I consider the travel experience. It's never the people on the other end, it's the travel itself. In a word, it hurts.

I've pretty much emptied my bucket list in the quilting universe. I've done almost all of the things that I thought would be pie-in-the-sky achievements: being on Simply Quilts, and other tv shows; designed fabric; designed for magazines; project on cover of magazine; name on covers; teaching at big shows; teaching all over the country (and beyond). What more is there to do but more of the same?

So, I've been thinking about quitting. Everything.Seriously. No more travel, no more teaching, no more designing, no more sewing. Nada. Applewood Farm has served its purpose (to put the boys through college), so what's the point, right? In or out.

This morning, as I was weeding my herb garden it occurred to me that I could weed for just as long as I wanted to. Every gardener knows that, unless you have a one planter on a sea of concrete, a garden is never completely weeded. Sometimes all it takes is to turn your back, and there will be new weeds. And yet, here I was thinking that if only I worked harder, the garden could be somehow done. Duh.

Some. What a concept. If I weed some every now and then, the garden will be better for it. If I clean some, the house will stop looking like a war zone. If I teach some, the travel can be fun instead of arduous. If I quilt some, I can make what I like and work at a pace that comes closer to play.

I know, too soon old, too late smart, but I'm not quite done yet. I'm still a work in progress, as we all are. I'm going to try out this some for a while and see if I like it. I'm off to make some stems for my applique, and maybe cut some flowers for the dining room table, and perhaps bake some cookies. (Some spinning could happen too.)

Friday, July 26, 2013

One Crazy Cat

Even in the midst of all the moving drama here, I have been working on stuff. Well, sort of working on stuff. I have given myself the summer off from work responsibilities, taking some time to recharge and refresh my creative soul.

I signed up for Allie Aller's Crazy Quilting Craftsy Class (try saying that three times, I double dog dare you!), and I was immediately hooked. Click HERE to get the class at 25% off!

To create her crazy quilt blocks, Allie uses several different foundation piecing methods. The class materials include templates of the blocks for download. So I did. I printed four of them and joined them together.

About the same time I found all the parts to recreate a kitty from my More! Hand Applique by Machine book, with the templates already pressed in place and just waiting for my attention. (Dealing with all of the leftover parts and pieces from book and class samples will be my mission for the rest of the summer, but more on that in another post.) So I glue basted the kitten and then traced her onto the crazy quilt templates.

From there I needed to refine the shapes, getting rid of segments that were no longer needed with the cat in the center. I swear that I started out planing to do foundation piecing, just as Allie showed, even going so far as to cutting a muslin base. But in the end I just couldn't make myself do it.

Instead, I treated the entire piece as one big applique. You're shocked, I know. I glued together several sheets of Wash Away Applique Paper. I used up some sheets that were misprinted class handouts. Taping the sheets shiny side up (shiny = same when deciding orientation. Matte = mirror image) to the templates, I used a pencil and ruler to transfer the lines to the WAAS.

To try to save my mind as I fitted these back together, I marked the unbasted edges with x's and transferred the piece number to the matte side of the paper.

As always, picking out the fabric was fun. A little creepy with the googly eyes peering out at us, huh?

First the cat was glue-basted and sewn together,

and then the crazy part of the background was also glue basted and sewn together.

Here she is, in all her crazy glory. My next step is to embellish her with embroidery, beads and what ever else comes to mind. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Letting go, again

My third son, Caleb, and his wife, Elaine, just left for a fantastic adventure. They loaded everything they own into a rental truck and left for new jobs in Garden City, Kansas, more than a thousand miles from here.

It was just about two years ago that we hosted their wedding here. It was a crazy wonderful time, preparing the for the wedding. Having four sons, I had pretty much given up on the idea of ever having a bride in my house, but Elaine made that dream come true.
These two kids are hardworking and determined. They have goals, and to meet those goals they moved in with us Memorial Day weekend, hoping to save enough money to make their move to Kansas a little easier. They were terrific roommates, despite the roller coaster ride of managing the logistics of moving half way across the country.
After a fruitless search for a rental unit that would allow two cats, a crazy woman (me, of course) suggested that they look for a house to buy. Fasten your seat belts for a wild ride. The loan was pre-approved, a quick trip to Garden City to house shop, offer written and accepted, loan un-approved, new bank, pre-approved, and endless paperwork for about six weeks.
It nearly broke my heart to see them go. It was different than seeing the guys off to college, that was a temporary separation. It was different than moving my oldest to the other side of the state, just a couple of hours away. This move marks the beginning of their truly grown-up lives.
Even while feeling sad to see them go, I am so excited for them. It has me remembering the move to our first grown-up jobs, and how thrilling that was. When they arrive in Garden City today, they will do the final walk-through of their house. Tomorrow they will close and move in. They've taken two giant steps into the rest of their lives, and I know they will do great! I hope Garden City knows how lucky they are to have them.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Camp Loopy again

 The deadline for finishing my first Camp Loopy project is fast approaching. It needs to be done and posted on The Loopy Ewe's website before the end of the month.

Gracie, the wonder dog, stands guard over the drying yarn. I learned a lot while spinning this yarn. While the gradations are not nearly as gradual as I wanted them to be, the yarn turned out to be fairly consistent in size and soft. It was a joy to knit.

It's a modular knit, meaning each little fan was built on the earlier fans. It was a lot harder than it should have been, mostly because I seem to be incapable of counting rows.

My "hiking buddies" and I were assigned to Mt. Tinknomore. Tink is knit backwards, or to unknit. I did a whole lot of tinking on this project. Not that it was at all hard, I am just still waiting for the return of my brain.

All in all, I'm pretty impressed with myself. I spun enough yarn to knit up this pretty shawl, and knit it up, all in just about a month. Stand back lest my cape snap you in the eye!

I'd like to knit this shawl again, with a solid color, perhaps a pale pink or peach. It has the potential to be quite elegant.

And hot of the heels of Project One, Project Two is about to start. This month's challenge is to knit something that has been very popular on Ravelry. (If you knit or crochet or spin or weave, you HAVE to get on Ravelry. It's simply awesome.)

 I'll be making a sweet little cardigan with cotton yarn, and hanging out in treehouse #4.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Yellow or no yellow, that is the question

Moving forward again on the On a Summer's Day project, finally! Almost everything is pinned to the background. I seem to be a larkspur short of a quilt (no surprise there). I'm hoping it will magically appear while I'm making other choices. After looking for several days for the leaves, I found them exactly where I had put them: in my project bag for my last teaching trip of the year.

All the dots are the heads of the flat flowerhead pins. Those babies are sharp. There was a whole lot of ouching going on as I pinned more and more pieces. I'm just glad that I didn't bleed on the thing.

Clearly I still need to add in the stems, but I have to decide which will be fabric bias stems and which will be embroidered in.The butterflies have been left off as well. I had planned for one in the upper left and the middle right. The missing larkspur should be right at the top. I'm not at all sure that it needs to be replaced.

Now the little yellow flowers have been added in. I fancy them to be little coreopsis zagreb, named for a small town in Croatia, where my grandparents are from. Along with them, feathery ferny leaves would be embroidered. I moved the top larkspur over just a smidge, and now I don't think the a.w.o.l. flower is missed at all.

Yellow or no yellow, what do you think? I'm tending towards the yellow, and I think it also needs a few more. Just a couple up top, and maybe in the lower left. Yes? No?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Beth quilts!

At last! All of my deadlines are met. (I did do a super secret project that you will be able to see this fall.) And I can finally get back to my own applique project. The project went into hibernation when my crazy travel schedule started, but more importantly, when I couldn't decide on a background. I really, really, really loved the one on the left, but it does overpower the applique, sigh. And the one on the right is too close in color to the larkspurs.

One of the nice things about travel is the opportunity to visit new quilt shops. If only I could remember which city this was in! I came home with several candidates for the background, and this one won. It's a little more vibrant than this shows, it's mostly a robin's egg blue with hints of a purple undertone.

So, with that, I could get back to the embellishing. My mind is just too literal sometimes, and I just couldn't get past the idea that veins are usually indented, not elevated. Embroidered lines are elevated. Luckily I hadn't gotten very far (I think I knew I wasn't going to like it in my heart of hearts), so it wasn't hard to pick out.

I did want to add more dimension to the roses, so I pulled out the heat n sta fleece from Floriani.  It's what I used on the basket rim and base.

Using my trusty light box and a sharpie pen, I traced the shapes I wanted to emphasize, and then cut them out. After the first one I realized that there was no need to trace each shape if I was going to cut it out as a unit.

There were also places that I wanted to really push forward, so additional little bits were cut. My original plan was to layer the fleece with the smallest parts pressed in place first, and then secured with the larger, overlapping piece. But in the end I decided to do just the opposite, adding the smaller bits on top of the larger, hoping that would reduce any lines or sharp drop offs.

My next thought was that I needed to add free motion veins in my emphasized areas before I put the motifs on the background, which would allow those areas to retain their puff.

From the back side you can see how the fleece was layered and then stitched through. Every one of this steps are a bit of an experiment for me. I'll only know if they were effective when the quilt is done. It's so very lovely to have the time to hash this out. A project without a deadline is just way more fun.

The remaining embellishment will have to wait until the motifs are stitched to the background. The roses and basket are in place, the little yellow flowers are awaiting their placement. Now, if only I could remember where I put the leaves and larkspurs. Well, where ever they are, I'm sure they're safe.