Sunday, April 26, 2009

Long-sleeved Muumuu?

I'll start with the good photo - this is the dress I made in February for church. And, I am almost positive that I have worn it every Sunday since then, seeing that I have a fairly limited wardrobe and my favorite thing to wear is blue jeans and fleece. So 1 "winter" church dress. I thought it would be a good winter dress - you can wear it with a black scarf, tights, boots, scoop necked tank top under there, even longjohns if need be (heaven knows there is plenty of room under all that fabric!). My DH took these photos today. It is probably the last Sunday that I will wear tights with it as it is now getting warmer... I am thinking that I will probably get the month of May out of it anyway before I need something with short sleeves.

I lengthened it a fair bit from the original pattern. I will say - those sleeves have way too much fabric in the cuff. This dress makes me think of muumuus... but I've never seen a long-sleeved muumuu before! Maybe it is the Canadian winter version of a muumuu! The fabric I used is a really wonderful knit - almost like a swimsuit type of material. I love the fabric! And, I like the color because it is easy to transition from cold winter to cool spring. I'm not sure I've loved the dress, but it certainly has served its purpose! I've gotten alot of wear out of it - and with all those hidden layers underneath - I was still nice and toasty warm on cold winter Sundays!


Here is the original pattern info: Simplicity 2766

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Re-making a favorite quilt

I only have the last 2 bottom blocks to make - I am not sure I will use that green or not, but definitely the gold. And then - onto the borders. Yup, another "fall" colored quilt. I tell you - I am really getting to the bottom of my fall colors!
For my fabric selections - my jumping off point was this beautiful leafy fabric which I bought for a border... and it just didn't work. So - there sat yardage of this pretty fabric with a large print on my shelf. This pattern is perfect for a large print that you don't want to chop up.

Here is a close-up of some of the fabrics. These fabrics are set aside for the pieced border. Many of my gold pieces weren't wide enough for the border part, but just enough to make a block. I never really know when to use gold so I had more than a few on my shelf - just waiting to be paired with this fabric, I think! So the outer border will be mostly the dark prints. And of course, I used some orange, School Boy's current favorite color! I didn't have enough of the same cream for all the blocks, but the creams are close enough in color that you can't really tell. Every bit from the stash, yeah! I'm not 100% convinced about the pink-y print, but it is all made and will stay.

And here is a photo of the 1st quilt I made using this pattern... before I put the binding on. This quilt has been my winter back-of-the-couch quilt and I just love it (backed in flannel)! And yes, I used lots of fall colors in this quilt too - but some pinks/blues/odd-balls as well, a whole bunch of OLD fabrics off my shelf and into a quilt! Believe me, some of the fabrics that found their way into this top are NOT beautiful. Shoot - many of the fabrics I used didn't really match the focus fabric (a floral). And they didn't match each other either. But - with all that white space around each block - there is a big visual divide so it all works out.

The pattern is by Gayle Bong from the book Save the Scraps. When Christmas prints come back out I plan on buying a beautiful large-scale pointsetta print for a Christmas quilt. AND, I am considering making this quilt using a novelty truck fabric I have on hand with primary colors for the other blocks for my son. There are so many great novelty prints out there that would look great in that large spot. Lots of opportunity to use your stash with this pattern folks! I highly recommend that you give it a try!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Jacks & Using Your Fabrics

Happy Jacks - yesterday at show & tell for quilt group. Today it has the missing border attached and is now 58" X 76". See...

I'm happy with it. I was going to add 2 rows of bricks as final borders, but you know... I think I will use those bricks for a different quilt. They are all cut out - so that is a good headstart on a new quilt and it also means that this one is, gasp, finished! Or at least the piecing part is!
This could be the ugly duckling turned swan quilt. I used all kinds of odds and ends of fabrics... some very dated. I picked "fall" colors (lights and darks) and didn't eliminate anything that ended up in the pile. So, I have large prints, batiks, small calicos, stripes, florals - you name it - it is there. And when I ran out of cream prints even a few pastel pinks and light greens found their way into this top but interestingly enough - they read as cream. I had to make 4 blocks reverse contrast (1 star) just because of the fabric I had/didn't have. So there you go - I used what I had! Once I started piecing lots of blocks and started to arrange them, I would realize that maybe I needed another 2 red blocks to make a star or something like that - and I would rummage around through my fabric again to find more to add. 48 blocks made 12 bigger star blocks when arranged the way I did it.
My quilt group really liked this top (me too!). Some people ask me how I pick my colors.
Don't be afraid to use your "ugly" fabric. Don't be afraid to use fabric you think is too big of a print. I wasn't sure about that big green leaf print on the dark brown, but I used it and it is ok. I mean really, how long do you let a fabric sit on the shelf? Don't be afraid of using a fabric that you think is the wrong color if the value is correct (I used pastel pinks and greens in place of some of the creams). And maybe some of my fabric choices weren't "perfect", but I think that just adds character to my top. Having said that - I still try to "match" my fabrics. This quilt I consider a fall colored quilt so I wouldn't just throw in a "spring" color just for the sake of using another fabric. This quilt has definite contrasts (or at least I think it does). It takes time to make a quilt and I want the end result to be something that I am going to like! I am not going to just "slap" together a quilt with odds and ends of fabric to USE my fabric. I paid for that fabric. It has a value even if I am no longer 1000% in love with it anymore (but certainly 100% in love with it now that it is pieced into a top, but maybe just maybe I only loved it 5% when I was actually sewing it together... the love will grow, trust me!). And my time, energy, effort and knowledge is worth something too. So - I do try to co-ordinate what I have on hand and I think I purchased the border fabric to tie it altogether (I can't remember if that border came from my stash or not). I don't think I have anymore of that border fabric though... so maybe I should save those extra bricks and make a co-ordinating binding with. Well, that is how I picked my fabrics for this quilt anyway.
Here are 2 close-up shots of the variety of fabrics.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Doing Laundry

I can easily spend a few hours every day doing laundry when my business is busy (in addition to all the other stuff I do!). Basically, laundry can kind-ov tend to itself as long as you keep the process moving... except the sheets when it comes to the dryer. For some reason, the sheets always get tangled into big knots or a big roll. So - I watch them. Once the cycle is 1/2 over I open the dryer and pull out anything that is already dry and unknot any tangles on the damp stuff and throw it back into the machine. Then, I like to stay close by so when the signal sounds I can grab everything out of the dryer and get it folded right away before wrinkles set.
When it isn't busy, I can actually sew while waiting for that end cycle. It isn't too much time - maybe 15-20 minutes, but this is how I get alot of sewing done. I've been working on my patriotic heart quilt while doing laundry lately - I've made 4 more blocks, squared them all up, cut the sashing and corner stones and have started sewing the rows together. I ran out of sashing fabric - next time I go to the store I will look to see if they have any more. But look there - I have almost finished my quilt... just by doing laundry!
Here is what my sheet tower for 17 beds was looking like the other day, mid-way through my laundry day. Obviously, I still have alot of laundry left to go to get that thing filled up again. Flat on the left, fitted on right. Pillowcases up top. Arranged by size. Basically, I have 2+ sets for each bed, plus extra pillowcases. Some days all the beds need to be switched over so 2+ sets are necessary. I also have a linen closet that I keep linens in. I like all the sheets to be white, which would be very confusing size wise if I didn't color-code them. I sew colored strips of fabric along the bottom edge of each new sheet before it is used - it is quick and easy to see what size the sheet is just by looking at the bottom edge.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Busy Saturday

Finally, finally it is starting to warm up! We spent the day outside! Even enjoyed our dinners (lunch) outside for the first time in months. My son has a sling-shot type airplane thing that he played with and I had to go up on various roofs several times to retrieve it. Humm, time for a change of scenery!
After dinner I thought we would go for a walk... and we drove to the cliffs where there is a nice walking trail leading away from the edge. Don't go thinking I walk near the edge of these! Except it was windy up there and with spring weather, windy is too cold. So - maybe the beach? Not this beach - I mean an accessible beach! This one is pretty, but obviously - there isn't any way to get down there!

We stopped at this beach, but this one was windy too. Brrrrr. This is a good beach for finding seaglass though so we will go back another day.
Sooo - we drove a little more... don't worry - the speed limit is 50 KM here (about 35 MPH) and there is no traffic. I just held up my camera without even looking and snapped this photo. We have 1 road around here and most of it runs along the water. Pretty, huh? Just going to the grocery store is a scenic trip.

Go around a bend, a few corners... and there is a beautiful SAND beach which just so happened to be out of the wind today. Perfect! Hard to believe all this different geography is within a few miles area of each other.

Tucked behind old smoke sheds, my son and I have a great time searching for sea treasures such as shells and odd bits of pottery. But the real treasure is spending time together. I love having my son home on the weekends! He is gone 6 hours a day for kindergarten. 6 long hours if you ask me.

The sand here is very fine and dark - it absorbs the sun's heat and feels so nice and warm! Ahhhh. Got to remember to toss a beach blanket in the back of the car next time we set out for an adventure!
On the way home I noticed they had the firetruck at the grocery store for a fund-raiser. So we stopped and got to check out the truck - you know, I've never actually seen one of those things with all the compartments opened. It was pretty interesting... oxygen tanks, backpacks, super duty flashlights, shovels, ax , etc. - all in neat little compartments. Of course, my son was happy!
Anyway - good thing I got some relaxing in... because when I came home... my truck looked like this - ALL over.

And my back yard looked like this...

Guess I will be washing my truck tomorrow. DH told me he was going to stay home and do some yard work - so I left my truck and took the car. I am thinking that maybe that was a mistake? The truck was actually good and stuck - had to be pulled out with the tractor. I asked him - didn't you notice the ground was soft back there? His answer: well - I was able to cross 2X before I got stuck. City guys and 4X4 trucks might not be such a good combination!
I couldn't get too mad though... because DH did just build this super spice rack! I am loving it. Oh - and the FRONT yard looks great.

One more thing - before it warmed up outside this morning - I made 17 easy quilt blocks.

It was so nice to just take a day off and enjoy! ALL day. Wonderful! The sun feels so wonderful even if it is still hat weather - at least we are wearing our Spring jackets and don't have to bother with all that bulky winter gear! And the day is lighter much longer now too! The extra hours of daylight combined with some Vitamin Sunshine makes me extra happy!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Squaring up quilt blocks

One of the members of my quilt group is very exacting. She does her own drafting, precise cutting, meticulous quilting. I am sure her blocks come out to the exact measurement she intended when she started out.
Me, well... this is not always the case! Here are my patriotic heart blocks. The brown fabric I used (the words are the Pledge of Allegiance) is a bit stiff and I think that fabric was the problem because when I 1st pressed it - there was a little ridge. Which I didn't really pay much attention to at first. But... it threw the length of my block off by enough that the blocks needed to be "stretched" length-wise to equal 12.5". They weren't off a huge amount, but enough that X5 rows - well, it just wasn't going to work.
Now, this particular member of my quilt group - she was taught to gently press with a DRY iron. Yup - I got the dry iron alright. Hopefully my quilt teacher won't see my water bottle, ha, ha. It dispenses a fine mist - much faster and more even coverage than that silly sprayer on the iron could ever deliver! Besides the fact that the directions for my iron instruct to use some sort of fancy water that you have to PAY for... I don't think so! Water bottle uses straight tap!
Here is how I square up my un-even quilt blocks... 1st I cut a square of freezer paper the size I want the block to be. In this case - 12.5" - because these block are off just that smidge and will be easy enough to stretch to the intended 12.5" length - the width is already perfect, phew!. This square is ironed onto my ironing board so I can quickly just pop each block on that square to see if it is perfect... or not. If not - than a light mist with water and gently pulling while ironing... usually will bring the block up to the right size. If you have a fabric that tends to "shrink" back down when it drys - a little spritz of spray starch will fit that problem (shhhh, don't tell the quilt teacher!).
Now my blocks are ready to be brought over to my cutting mat and using my 12.5" square ruler (I love this ruler), I can quickly trim anything that needs to be trimmed. If you used spray water or starch - make sure the blocks are completely dry first.  I use the back side of my rotary cutting mat for this step. Flipping over the mat to trim and cut angles - it helps the front of the mat have a longer life.  
Buy Your Rulers Here!
The next set of blocks I have to size are my courthouse steps blocks (all done, yeah!). These blocks came out to some odd size that I can't remember off the top of my head, so I will cut a new piece of freezer paper to that size (saving my 12.5" square for later use) and repeat the process. I don't really care what the unfinished size of my blocks are - as long as they are all the same size so that they fit together!
Heart block pattern is in J. Hopkins book - Once More Around The Block. I have used this particular block in several different quilts (various sizes - the book gives you directions for all different sizes!).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Love This Hat!

One of my friend's was knitting this hat to donate to her church fund-raiser... I bought it before it was even off the needles! She has since knitted another 3-4 (various colors)- all of which are being worn, out and about in the community. I think she has started a trend! It is a great hat - covers my ears, holds it shape, is nice and warm. To me, it looks like it has big sheaves of wheat on it... my friend thinks that it looks like cathedral windows. All in the eye of the beholder, I guess. Either way... I think it is pretty and it makes me smile! Actually, my DH says that I started smiling again alot more since the weather started warming up and the sun is shining!

And the hat I knit last week (the simple knit/purl one) - guess who else it fits? One size fits all, I'd say. A good "family" hat! Here is my son wearing the hat - we were outside playing with his airplane today. Oh, is it ever nice to be able to go outside and play again without freezing!
He is also wearing a new pair of corduroys that I just made for him. I put a cute little yellow maple leaf embroidery thing on the patch pocket - matches his shoes, LOL! He hates store-bought pants for 101 - or maybe that is 1001 reasons and honestly, it is just as easy for me to make his pants than to find a pair that fits his tall/thin build. And he loves it when I make things especially for him. Needless to say though - he does not have a huge supply of pants - I make what he needs and do laundry often!
I should note: both of the hat patterns can be found in the book Annabelle's Caps.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Slow Knitting

Usually I enjoy picking away on simple knitting. Socks, scarfs, mittens, headbands, hats and bags being my favorite projects. It has been a hard winter on my hands though and my knuckles have protested mightily the next morning if I knit the night before. Sigh. So, I haven't done much knitting lately. Lately being just about all winter. But, I did manage this super soft hat this past week - just perfect for slightly warm, but still chilly Spring! I tried to pace myself and not do too much at a time - so it took me 2 nights. Slow knitting. And my hands still hurt so I don't think I will be knitting again until the warm days of summer.
I'm not sure why the color is so off on the outside photo, but it is a good photo of the shape of the hat - and below is an indoor photo for better color. The yarn was some sort-ov chunky, slightly variegated yarn. I bought the yarn at Ben Franklin's - the last of the great Five & Dime stores! What do you think about a pom-pom? When I was little my Nana always put pom-poms on all our hats... I guess they aren't really in style anymore? Ah well, I like pom-poms and have plenty of left-over yarn so I just might have to make one for the hat tomorrow.

Speaking of style... a few weeks back when I had my hair done... my hairdresser took a flat iron to it. It was a bit amazing that she was able to get all the curl out of my hair with that thing, but she did... and it was a fun look for a day. As soon as I washed it - it went right back to curly, much to the relief of my entire family - they weren't sure about the straight hair look! Here's some before/after photos.

Pretty funny the difference between curly and straight, huh! Well at least in the straight hair photo you can see that she gives me a great haircut. You usually can't actually see what the actual haircut looks like because it curls right up anyway.


Oh - and guess what? I took all 4 photos on this post - can you tell?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

12 1/2 yards!

A happy quilter is a quilter with new fabric - and that would be me!!! My 1st quilting fabric purchase for the year!!! Well, except 1 fat quarter that I bought for someone else so that doesn't really count.
Guess what? I went to Marden's and almost all their quilting fabric is on sale for $1.99 yard. Wheee! Big restraint not to come home with lots and lots, but I still made out pretty well if I do say so myself. 12 1/2 yards isn't too shabby! Look for this fabric to be used soon, as it all has a purpose. What you are looking at in that photo is all pretty much destined to borders, sashings and 1 backing.
See those yellows (1/4 yard cuts). Already washed, dried, cut into and sewn into blocks... for my on-going courthouse steps. I have left-over yellow - probably should have asked for 1/8 yard cuts, but really, does anyone ever buy such a tiny amount of yardage? Anyway - I think there are only 3 more courthouse steps blocks to be made, so hopefully this week all my blocks will be done and I can set them together. The photo below is my tiny little lay-out that helps me keep track of what fabric goes next to what. I was already busy cutting and gluing bits of that new yellow in place.

I also have an upcoming post about knitty goodness so stay tuned.
NO sewing today as I was busy with church and cooking my super-delicious ham Easter dinner, yum!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Empty Playgrounds

Yesterday was just a beautiful day - all the way up to 13 C which is mid 50's F. Sunny, a bit breezy which can be nippy, but nice none-the-less. And bonus - my son had the day off from school. After zipping through the house in the morning doing chores (my ploy to let it warm up a tiny bit more!), we headed outdoors and played around the yard. Good thing we did too because today it is right back down to 2C (35F).
After lunch we went down to the basketball court. Now, our basketball court is less than ideal, but we won't complain because it is paved and a place to play. It is the center of the farmers market. So - one basket is in front of the tables - and the other basket is... right by the road. If you miss that basket - the ball goes into the road. So - we generally only use 1/2 the court. Except right now that 1/2 of the court is full of gravel from snowplowing and tons of broken beer bottles. Sad really. And gravel is slippery when you are running and the last thing I want is for my son to fall on the gravel and then get cut up on the glass. They will get that all cleaned up once the Farmer's Market opens. The good news is that the middle is still good and my son loves to dribble the ball and play keep away. So, we went down there and played and played and played. He is actually pretty good at it!
After a bit we decided to go check out the playground. It isn't very often that other kids are there either - see the photo... empty. Eventually 1 boy was driven up in a mini-van and he hoped out and the 2 boys played for a bit. He knew my son and was happy to have a playmate. After running around to go up the slide just 4 times the other boy was really out of breath. On the 5th time the horn in the van started honking and he had to go. It is really sad to empty playgrounds, ball courts and out-of-shape kids. Where are all the kids?

I'm no super athlete, but we do enjoy playing outdoors. And even though the playground may look boring to an adult, play does help develop muscles in kids. And fresh air is good for all age groups! I like to TRY to do pull-ups on the monkey bars, ha! I like to jog around the outside edges. And I like to play with my son. We have a good time... I usually don't bring knitting or reading or something else to do (but sometimes I do). I enjoy this moment in time when he is a happy 5 year old anxious to play at the playground with Momma. If other kids happen to be there - so much the better - he loves to play with other kids too, if they would only come out to play.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Skin & Bones

Look who was hiding under the step this morning... my 2 very well fed stray cats were hissing and growling and carrying on... so I had to investigate.

I shoo-ed the protesting cats away and coaxed the poor thing out. He is actually VERY friendly, which is something I can't really say about those other 2 goofball cats I have - although they are good mousers and think that they are dogs - trotting back and forth to the school bus stop daily. Sadly he is all skin and bones, skinny as could be with bones protruding everywhere - his head seemingly huge compared with the rest of him. Really, I have never ever seen such a starved animal before and I thought my other 2 cats were 1/2 starved when they made their appearance last August. I gave him food and drink and he has been out on the side porch all day, slowly eating and drinking and napping in between - right next to the bowls. That cat isn't going to leave a good thing.

Everytime I go out the door he staggers up with a little meow and wraps himself around my feet. Probably he belonged to one of the many families that have moved away the past year... fishing has been bad, there are no jobs and people are moving out in droves leaving boarded up houses and abandoned pets behind.

I wasn't looking for another cat, but he found me. Wonder how long it will take for him to fill out and regain his strength? Oh, and doesn't he have tiny, little ears? In case you are wondering - that is the stray cat insulated cat house behind him in the photo below!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I Need Fabric

I NEED fabric. Oh sure, I have several totes just filled with beautiful, lovely fabrics, but nothing that I need. Call those totes the starter for sour dough bread if you will (those totes are small yardages), what I really need now is the flour (yardage).
Interestingly enough, it seems like I need a lot of BLUE fabric.
It looks like I actually might be near a fabric store tomorrow... and I am going with a list in hand. Because I would really be very happy if I had fabric to finish these quilts. First off, I need some dark blue for the final border/binding for that blue quilt. It isn't my favorite, but I just know I am going to love it as soon as it is quilted, so definitely worth finishing.

And then my star blocks... I am thinking a dark blue narrow sashing and setting triangles - the final borders will repeat the star fabric - which is light. Not sure how I am going to like light borders, but I have plenty of that fabric for borders. I think the darker blue will give it all a bit of definition and if I use the same blue for the binding... it is going to be nice. Anyone else have that mauve fabric in their stash from the 1980's?!

And then I have these heart blocks... I want blue sashing/inner border. I have yellow to make friendship star blocks in the sashings. Outer border can be red or something patriotic (the hearts have patriotic fabric and 1 strip of fabric has the Pledge of Allegiance written on it). So add red to the list too.


If the store doesn't have any blue (or red)... I have a back-up plan...
These heart blocks I made LAST February from lovely fabric Susan sent to me. I think a green batik will be perfect for the sashing and border, but really - all the stores I have been to have very expensive batiks so there sit my blocks... just waiting. I am thinking that if I see a nice green tone on tone while shopping, it is coming home with me. The hearts are all batiks with a solid, pale yellow background so maybe a tone on tone will be a perfect compliment.

Then there is this top (this is an old photo - it has been finished for ages - just waiting on borders). This is a Trip Around The World from a free pattern from Bonnie Hunter at - It is the perfect, perfect pattern for using 1 yard cuts of fabric. My husband really likes the fabrics in this quilt and I would be very happy to finish it... I already bought a border fabric for it once - and when I got it home, it did NOT match! Yikes! That fabric was turned into lining for some bags I made. So, I still need border fabric for this top. The top is coming to the store with me this time around! Inner border of narrow black, outer border - probably a brown. Buy extra black for the binding.

Soooo - as you can see, I really do NEED fabric. I haven't purchased any quilting fabric yet in 2009 (other than 1 fat quarter for someone else). I am hoping that come next Sunday's stash-busting report I will have purchased fabric to finish as least one of these quilts! Fingers crossed that the store has something suitable. Blue, Red, Green, Black, Brown... hopefully being flexible will be helpful. And if I don't get to the store afterall... I will just keep making blocks - I've got plenty of fabrics to make blocks!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Courthouse Steps Quilt Blocks... Progress

I am still plugging along on my Courthouse Steps blocks. Only 8 more blocks left to go - I still need to color 1 box in on my chart. I am hoping that over the next 2 weeks the blocks will be completed and then I can move on to setting them together. Those 1 1/2" strips sure do take ALOT of sewing to get a block done.
Some of the blocks are missing the final strip - I ran out of fabric for those so will have to look to see what I have that sort-ov matches. It's only 2-3 blocks and I guess it will just add interest to the finished quilt.
With warmer weather on the horizon, I re-arranged the living room this week, taking out my sewing corner and moving it back over to the corner in the kitchen - or what will be the kitchen after renovations are finished. It was too cold over there in the winter, but I really prefer to sew in that area, so I am happy. Now, just have to address the issue of lighting at night...
The living room looks so much better re-arranged. It isn't a large room and has a funny L shape, but the new layout is perfect. We now have a separate tv area, sitting/computer area (with great lighting/seating for knitting/reading!), large play area for my son... because of course he wants to be right underfoot no matter where I am, so we might as well just plan accordingly and make everything work. Right on the other side of his play area is my sewing corner.
A knitting note: I love handknit face cloths. Seems most people use them as dishclothes around here, but I like them in the shower. I buy them at the Farmer's Market. Two weeks ago I decided to try knitting my own ... mine is on the right - much too big! Guess I will have to try again with a smaller needle. So, while it isn't the perfect facecloth, it does look to be just about perfect for a dishcloth afterall! And, one of my friends at quilting group took pity on me and knit me the correct scale face cloth I was trying to make myself - that's hers on the left. Wasn't that sweet!

I was going to a business thing this weekend, but have a cold and just couldn't seem to muster up the energy to go. Besides the fact that it is a long-ish trip and that area just got hammered with snow 2 days ago. Guess I will stay home and work on closing out my books for the quarter instead, yuck! But, it will be good to get that accomplished so I might as well take advantage of the time I have in my schedule.