Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

It is a frosty, beautiful day here...as soon as I get dressed, I'll go outside and take some photos. I am enjoying a quiet morning, drinking my Vanilla Chai tea, listening to my new Josh Groban Christmas CD, and surfing through the Stashbusters webring sites, wishing my quilt blogger friends a Merry Christmas.
We had a wonderful, but exhausting Christmas day yesterday. Everything that needed to be done, was done in time. Including our gingerbread house...which was still full of candies on Christmas Day (see last year's blog entry to see why I am happy about that!). To see some amazing gingerbread houses, go to Mare's blog...she is obsessed with them :)
I have cooked 3 huge meals in 3 days...turkey with fixings on Sunday, Roast Beef on Monday, and Ham yesterday. Today I plan to not do any cooking...to relax and rest.
Here are the pillows that I gave to the first batch of nieces and nephews yesterday...I was happy with how they turned out.The pink and red pillows match fabrics in quilts I have given previously, but the rest of the pillows were made from a soft, wintery flannel fabric.
This afternoon I hope to open up my new sewing machine...yes, Santa brought me a little Janome Jem Platinum!! I must have been a good girl this year because I sure was spoiled yesterday! I have wanted a light weight machine to take to classes for a while...my Brother was getting too heavy for me to lug around. I hope to test run this machine by starting Bonnie's mystery quilt. I haven't had time to think about it until now, and have decided that I will only make this quilt if I can use up stash fabric...no fabric purchases. So I'll have to sort through the stash and see if it can be done in a way that would result in a pleasing quilt. Sounds like a fun day to me!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Almost Ready for Christmas

I have been so busy with shopping and wrapping, cooking and going to parties...and loving every moment! I used to feel very stressed out at this time of year, but now I try to remember that everything that needs to be done, will somehow get done...it always does.
I have been sewing some Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews. There are 14 grandchildren altogether in our families, and I have always made something for each of them at Christmas. This year I am making them 14" flannel pillows with their names hand embroidered on a little pocket, which will have treats and candies tucked inside. Here are some of the pockets embroidered and waiting to be sewn together.
And in my spare time, I have continued to be obsessed with beading these little stars. The top two were my first stars made at guild meeting when I learned how to make them....thanks to teacher Kristy Finnigan. Then, of course, I thought that I would like to try to make them smaller and in different colour combinations. Then I added a little beaded loop so they could be tree ornaments. The bottom five were made with size 10 beads and ended up being almost 2". Each star uses 318 beads!
Okay...must get back to wrapping presents now...only 24 hours left before Christmas Day!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dreaming of a White Christmas

We had a beautiful snowy weekend here in Southern Ontario, Canada. And we have spent a lot of time shoveling that snow! But the weather forecast is calling for rain with a high of 7 degrees on the weekend, and the snow might all melt! So I thought I should run outside tonight and take a photo of our house. You can tell by the clear sidewalks that some of the snow has already melted but you can also see that the snow had almost hidden my little Peace Angel. I noticed that my husband had dug a path around her so she could still be seen from the street! She is still holding up quite well after all these years...I think she is at least 15 years old!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Slowly but surely I am getting things done for Christmas. One of my goals this year is to get my Christmas Cards actually mailed so that they arrive before Christmas!! I've already missed the deadline on that for the overseas and US cards, but I haven't given up yet on the Canadian ones arriving on time.
I taught two mini quilt classes on the weekend. Many quilters seem to be tired and as overwhelmed as I am...many are "burning the midnight oil" getting quilted gifts finished in time for gift giving. Here are some of the projects they brought back from previous classes.
I finally got all my Christmas quilts hung up and thought I should show you one of my favorites...a table topper on my dining room table, an older design by Deb Kaffunger of Quiltaholics.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Sewing

I enjoyed a wonderful day of "working" and laughing with the "Sew 'n Sews". We "worked" on designing our group quilt (click here to read more about it) with the butterfly blocks we have been sewing forever. The deadline is approaching for submission of the quilt top for hand quilting, so we have to make some decisions. Making decisions is not one of our group strengths! However, after auditioning about 100 sashing fabrics, we have narrowed it down to "we need to go shopping for more fabric"!!!
Here we are at our sewing day. Mostly the group was working on their Christmas gifts - sewing boxer shorts, tea cozies, and placemats, etc. I was madly trying to finish the binding on my Christmas quilt...and I finally finished it. I used a really pretty striped fabric and was happy with how it turned out. Here is the finished quilt shown at guild meeting this week.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Beading and Beaded Gifts

I think I am getting the message to get back to more beading! This week I received a gift in the mail all the way from Grace in Indiana...check out her blog here to see her beautiful bead work. I was one of the lucky winners of her brooch giveaway! My photo is not great, so you should hop over to Grace's blog to see how it really looks...her photography skills are way better than mine. And her fine bead work is even more amazing up close!
Then at guild meeting tonight, the project was a beaded snowflake, which I loved making. I have not done this type of beading before and was fascinated. Again, you need to check out Grace's December BJP project where she made some similar snowflakes that I was admiring. And what are the chances that I show up to guild meeting and find that I get to learn how to make one!?! Here is a photo of the first snowflake I made. ..and a photo of me working with my beads, and not able to see past the end of my nose without my glasses on!I really enjoyed making this project and I'm thinking of making more for my December BJP. I had to force myself to remember my social skills, because it was, after all, the last guild meeting of the year, and I really should visit with other guild members! Sometimes I get into the "beading zone" and can't think of anything else. And here is the last photo of the night...9:15 pm and everyone else has gone home...something about bad weather? I couldn't get the second snowflake to work...must have made a mistake and I'll have to try again tomorrow morning when the eyesight is better.
Now all I want to do is beading...and I have so much stuff to do for Christmas. Hey...maybe I'll make beaded snowflakes for everyone!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Paper Piecing Class

On Saturday I treated myself to a fun day of paper piecing with Denise McKenna from Meadow Lily Bridge. The quilt guild had sponsored this class and I had been so busy with my MIL in November that I thought I wouldn't possibly be able to go. But since I am having a wonderful break for a couple of weeks, while my MIL is finally getting some excellent medical care in a senior's facility, my schedule is not as crazy as it had been. My husband encouraged me to get away for the day and spend time sewing with my guild friends, so I did!

In the morning, Denise taught basic paper piecing skills and since I didn't want to do the beginner block (I've made many many heart blocks over the years!) I started working on my advent calendar blocks. I have wanted to make Denise's advent calendar for a while, since 2 of the quilters in my UFO group have finished their advent calendars. I had "quilt envy" and wanted one too! I picked out fabric to make my first blocks and in the morning I was able to finish a tree and a candy cane...2 down and 23 more blocks to go. Obviously this won't be finished in time to use this year, but it will be fun to have a Christmasy project to work on over the holidays when I have a few moments (I can dream, can't I?!?!).

Here is a photo of Denise holding one of her Advent Calendars. (You can click here to order the pattern if you have "quilt envy" too!). One of the interesting things about how Denise paper pieces is that she uses Chiropractor Headrest paper that you buy at medical supply stores for her foundation. It is stronger than tissue paper, but you can see through it easily so you don't have to hold your project up to the light to see where the fabric is. I enjoyed trying that and found it easy to work with. The draw back is that you can't run it through the printer and have to trace your block before you sew.
In the afternoon we worked on a more challenging 7" star block, and believe me, it was challenging! You sew the inside star block separately and then glue it to the overall pattern. Then Denise taught us how to make a flat piping border on a paper pieced block. I just love to learn new things and was happy with how it turned out. I think I might use a heat resistant batting and turn it into a potholder (not one to use of course, just to look at!).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas Preparations

I am quilting away on my Christmas mystery quilt. First I stabilized all the vertical and horizontal seams by "stitching in the ditch" with my walking foot. Then I outlined stitched 1/4" away from the seams in the centre star blocks to emphasize it a bit more. This was easy quilting but rather boring. Then I decided to do something more fun and started free-motion quilting hearts in all the triangle blocks. I am about half way done the heart quilting and am eager to finish up and get the binding on. This is one quilt that isn't going to the UFO pile...it's going to be used to cuddle up in while we watch Christmas movies.
On Sunday we picked out and chopped down our Christmas tree. It had snowed all Saturday night, so it was a very pretty day to look for our tree. But then it started to drizzle and we were soaking wet and freezing cold by the time we found the perfect tree. Here's my hubby and kids...I look at the photo on the computer screen and ask myself where has the time gone?!?! Are my children really that old???

Friday, November 30, 2007

365 update

I finally got my 365 challenge quilt entries updated this week...here is a photo of some of my blocks ready to sew together. I had started working on the November entries a while ago, then got distracted with the MIL crisis and never got back to it until the end of the month. However, it is right up to date now and I am so happy about that.
I also have some fabric for the sashing and borders which fits perfectly with the theme of the quilt. The fabric is called "Letters from abroad" by Woodrow Studio. I'm sure there is also enough fabric for the binding and backing too, so I am all set to make more progress on this quilt.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good things come in threes

They say that good things come in threes...it was true for me today!
In today's mail I received my registration confirmation for Quilt Canada 2008! I am very excited about this trip becoming a reality, although it isn't until June of next year.
They have signed me up for the following workshops:
Stitch a Garden (raw edge applique) with Anne C. Morrell Robinson (from Nova Scotia)
Make Your Mark (Setacolour painting) with Margie Davidson (from Alberta)
Skylight: Painted Skies for Landscape (transfer dyes) with Valerie Hearder (from Nova Scotia)
And also today I received my first Christmas gift from my most organized friend! Isn't the wrapping just so beautiful?!?! Too pretty to open! But I did open it and then wrapped it back up again to put under the tree...whenever I get one! Can you guess what it is?!?
And I got good news about my mother-in-law. They discharged her from hospital on Monday because they "needed the bed". We were panicking here and my sister-in-law saved the day! She used her connections to obtain a 3 week placement at a senior's facility in Owen Sound, where my mother-in-law could get a thorough assessment. In the last month in our city nothing was accomplished in terms of diagnosis. In one day there, they got her assessed by a neurologist who is 100% sure that she had medication toxicity, and not a stroke. One medication (which should not be prescribed for old people) was too high a dose, and was a lethal mix with two of her other medications! What a relief to find out that not only is this something that is fixable, but they found out just in time, as this would have been lethal for her. What a great day this turned out to be!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ready and Waiting

I finished the pin basting on my scrappy Christmas quilt and got some bobbins wound. This is the thread I had decided on...King Tut beige thread (called "Sands fo Time") for the bobbins and Sulky "Antique Christmas" thread for the quilting on the top. I had just started the machine quilting when my husband called to tell me that he found my mother-in-law passed out on her bathroom floor. Her first stroke was 3 weeks ago, and the second one on Thursday night.
At least this time we know she didn't lay there long, because I had just taken her to a DR. appointment in the afternoon. She had the Lifeline necklace on, but couldn't press the button due to her weakness. I guess that getting the Lifeline was a good idea in theory, but didn't work out the way we had hoped. So she is back in hospital, weaker than the last time. Now she will be forced to make some hard decisions about her future because we just can't provide the amount of care she will need to stay in her home anymore.
So I am off to the hospital, with my hand stitching bag, and dreams of getting back to working on my Christmas quilt. Of course the mystery quilt is not a possibility for me now, but maybe you'll have time. Check it out here. I also discovered that Planet Patchwork is hosting a mystery on Sunday, but I had already decided that I wasn't going to do that one, since I couldn't understand the instructions/suggestions for fabric selection.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Carpenters Wheel Minis

In this week's mini quilt class I was teaching how to strip paper piece easy blocks using scraps. I will post some photos of this another time, but I wanted to show the wonderful quilts the students brought back from October's class. They pieced Carpenters Wheel blocks that finish at 10 1/2". I challenged the students to only use FQ's from their stash. Didn't they do a great job?!?! That is one of the things I love most about quilt classes is seeing the finished projects, and how happy the women are with their efforts.
I have been resisting any thoughts of starting the new mystery, and keeping the deal I made with myself! I have pieced the backing, and here is the photographic evidence that I have everything ready to pin baste! Tomorrow I plan to baste and quilt. I usually like to do a combination of stitch in the ditch and free motion quilting, so I'll start with the walking foot to stabilize everything and then see what happens next!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Let's Make a Deal

Sometimes I play this game with myself when I want to start a new project but know that I have too many UFO's and I really should not begin a new quilt. I make a deal with myself...if I finish something then I can start something new. So on the weekend I bought the batting, backing and binding for my Christmas quilt and plan to quilt it this week. And if I do that, my reward is that I get to start a new mystery by Merete Veian (read about it here). I already have pulled out fabrics from my stash in anticipation of starting. I wonder if I have enough self discipline to actually quilt the Christmas quilt before I start cutting and piecing the mystery?!?!

And I am one to talk!!! I taught a mini quilt class on the weekend and was encouraging the students to finish their monthly projects, even if they don't feel like they are loving the outcome. Even if the blocks are crooked or puckered or less than "perfect". Each finished quilt adds to and/or refines your skills. And mini quilts are the perfect excuses to practise your skills! Here are the adorable house quilts that were finished from the paper piecing class last month. Aren't they great ?!? The students had a choice of making 2" blocks or 1" blocks or to try both sizes. Most started with the 2" block and some brave souls made the 1" blocks too. And each finished project taught the quilter something new that they either will never do again, or that they want to do more of.
Anyway, I better practise what I preach and finish that Christmas quilt before I start a new project...now repeat after me: "I will follow through on my deal with myself"!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

60 Degree Triangles

We have a light dusting of snow on the ground here, which always makes me feel like machine quilting a large quilt! So today I am going to buy a backing and batting for my Christmas quilt so that I can work on it that this week, and maybe even finish it in time for Christmas.
I have been slowly working away on a mini quilt series that was inspired by Libby on her blog called A Simple Girl. Her blog is not set up for me to link to the specific posts, but last summer (June 15, 2007) she posted about having fun with 60 degree triangles, and I really liked the little quilts she made using the triangles. I had been admiring my pretty "Reichard's Roll-Up" (2 1/2" strips of Batik fabrics) for a few months...I loved looking at it, but decided it was time to use it up. I cut the strips in half to 1 1/4" and sewed light strips to dark strips. Here is my pile of sewn strips waiting to be pressed. Then I cut the triangles and learned the "ins and outs" of working with the 60 degree angle. I tried all my various rulers and found that I preferred the 4" x 8" Omnigrid ruler for this job. Then I had a huge pile of triangles to play with. Here is one design that I might sew together. I am having so much fun with this step that I am not rushing myself to make any final decisions. It is truly a luxury for me right now to just relax with a cup of tea while I enjoy looking at my triangles, rearranging them and thinking of more ways to assemble them. When I stop enjoying this, I might actually start to sew something!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Girls Weekend Away

It was a difficult week taking care of my mother-in-law, who was discharged from hospital with no support services and no plan, other than to see her family doctor. The hospital staff told us they "waitlisted" her with home care and we would be called when they could assess her. So, we privately hired some staff from ParaMed, and we managed to cobble together a care plan that got her safely through the week. We also got her a Lifeline so hopefully she won't lie on the floor for more than 12 hours again if she has another stroke. Although my mother-in-law insists that staying in her own home is better for her (as opposed to moving to an assisted living facility), it sure is more nerve wracking for us. My husband and I remind ourselves constantly that "we can only do the best we can do".
On friday I taught a mini quilt class on working with fusible interfacing as a foundation. These are the finished minis that the students brought back from the last class (which was on paper piecing mini quilts). To give you an idea of size, each goose measures 1 1/2" x 3/4"! They did a great job!
After teaching, I "ran away from home" to enjoy a delightful visit with my sisters and my mom. We have had "girls weekend away" for several years, (click here for the blog about last year's trip) and this year we went to St. Jacobs, Ontario and stayed at the Jakobstettel Inn. The town was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and this quartet was singing Christmas Carols as we arrived at the inn. It was a little shocking to realize that it is already the middle of November and I had not yet given the Christmas season one minute of thought! It was a wonderful and relaxing time together...just what I needed.
I have been hand stitching block #5 of my "Journey of a Quilter". Earlier in the week I stitched the word "burdens" and was surely feeling the weight of that word. As I was stitching tonight, I came to the word "laughed" and was very thankful for all the laughter we had this weekend which will help me to survive the burdens of the weeks to come.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mystery Quilt Top

I had some wonderful quilting time on the weekend. My sister-in-law arrived from New Jersey to give us a much needed break from dealing with my mother-in-law. I got out my blocks from the "Ladies of the Evening" mystery class at Reichards that I attended two weeks ago (which turned out to be the night my MIL had her stroke). I had sewn half of the quilt top together in the class, and I got the rest finished on the weekend.
It is a large lap size and so I am not going to make it bigger with any borders. I love the scrappy look of this quilt and am looking forward to the machine quilting.

Friday, November 02, 2007

I survived Halloween

I was delighted to finish my son's costume in time for his class party. Here are the three musketeers! (My son is on the right).
He was happy with how the costume turned out so I was relieved! They each had the same big blue feather in their hats. I don't know where that sword came from that my son has in this photo...not from our house!
And here is my little Molly in her Santa costume...isn't she just the cutest?!?! She doesn't like dress up, so she quickly wiggled out of it.

My mother-in-law is making some progress in hospital. She has been transferred to the rehab floor, where she is driving the nurses (and me) crazy with demanding to go home. Visits are very trying. I have been taking my hand embroidery along, and because the room is dimly lit, I also take my Ott light. This is block #4 which is only partially finished. Instead of appliquing the hearts on the top block, I did a buttonhole stitch on the edges and like how it looks. I have a bit still to stitch on #4 and I have block #5 ready to stitch.
To see Darlene's Journey of a Quilter project click here. She did a wonderful job on her quilt and it is inspiring to see her quilt top already finished!


Monday, October 29, 2007

The Sandwich Generation

That's me...the poster child for "the sandwich generation". That is the life stage where you have children at home to take care of and elderly parents to take care of. And in between all the caretaking you try to hold down a job, and try to find time for things such as quilting!
My mother-in-law had a stroke on the weekend, and since we are the only family in town, guess who is now in charge of her care? Me! Thankfully they are keeping her in hospital, so we only have to help her with eating meals and personal care. When she comes home, I don't even want to think about what that will involve.
And guess who has not finished sewing a Halloween costume for her son for Wednesday?? Me! My son and two friends want to be the 3 Musketeers, so that is what the moms are sewing. Here are the pieces I am getting ready to cut out. I am hating this pattern by McCall's...it's just the worst written pattern I've ever used and it is impossible to sew according to their directions. I thought it was all my problem since I have been sewing into the wee hours of the morning trying to get this thing done, but the other mother had the same problems. I have to finish it today in order to pass the pattern and equipment to the third musketeers' mother, so she can suffer with making her son the same thing!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Quilted Vase

I took a class in May with Christine Ford on how to make a quilted vase (click here to read about the class). It was a great class as I wrote in my previous blog entry. I finished all the quilted panels and enjoyed that process very much. I ended up making 6 panels instead of 5 because I decided that my first one wasn't good enough to be part of the finished vase! I wasn't used to quilting on the Fast-2-Fuse and it took me and my machine a bit of practise to get the quilting working well. Here you can see a couple of the panels.
So then I was ready to sew them together, but was unable to find the 3/4" fusible bias tape for the top and base. I finally found some and have finished the vase. I was very happy with how it turned out and wanted to take a photo of it to post on my blog.I searched high and low for the thing...I couldn't find it anywhere! I was starting to fear that I had left it at guild meeting. Then I noticed it sitting on my daughter's dresser yesterday...I was so happy to "find" it. It was in my house all along, but not anywhere I was looking...I didn't realize that my daughter liked it so much that she claimed it for her room!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Visiting Orillia

I have made it to the end of a very busy week! Too much fun, lots of excitement and not enough sleep! In the last week I taught three quilting classes locally and then drove to Orillia, gave a lecture to the quilt guild, and the next day taught two more classes. I almost forgot to take a class photo, but remembered at the last minute after a couple of people had already left. So here are some of the students with their projects: A big thank you to Joanne for inviting me and making all the arrangements, including taking me out for supper. Thank you also to Alie for generously hosting me overnight at your wonderful Bed & Breakfast (which you can see by clicking here). I had my very own apartment at Alie's, decorated with her beautiful quilts. Alie also treated me to a wonderful breakfast and lunch, which included her amazing, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies. If you are ever in the Orillia area, you must stay at Alie's, if she's not too busy quilting to have more visitors!
I have to say that this is one impressive quilt guild! This guild of approx. 120 members annually donates more than 140 quilts to charitable needs in their community, in addition to many other ongoing projects such as placemats for Meals on Wheels, making doggie beds for the Humane Society from leftover scraps, and donating large heirloom quilts for fundraising raffles. It was very inspiring to be at their meeting and hear about their generous support of the community.
Of course, the drive to Orillia was beautiful and there are still many beautiful autumn scenes to enjoy in Ontario. Here is one photo that I took out the car window.
I haven't had much time to quilt, but can you guess what I have been doing from this photo?? One of the most dreaded jobs...removing the paper from the back of a paper pieced miniature. And look at all the seam trimmings that I will be saving...they are too pretty to throw in the garbage!! I do throw the paper bits in the composter....see I don't keep everything!?!?!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Too busy living a great life!

I have been too busy living to have time to blog about it :)
We had my husband's family for the Thanksgiving weekend, and this past weekend we had my entire family together for 2 days for a belated Thanksgiving celebration. We took my family on the Grand River Rafting trip and had another fantastic adventure. The photo on the left shows one of our rafts...my husband is the guy at the back of the boat trying to steer.
My 10 year old nephew said to me "today is a day that I wish would never end"! This photo below shows all the children ready to get going...yes, there are 10 of them between the ages of 5 and 15! And there were 8 adults (plus our guide Garth) rowing the rafts. What a great family memory we created!
And we are in the middle of planning my daughter's 16th birthday party celebrations. Here is the invitation production:
She thinks that each birthday should be a series of celebrations including 1) a big party, preferably a sleep-over (which I call a "stay awake" since there is rarely any sleeping going on!) 2) a party with immediate family members, and followed by parties 3) and 4) with each side of the extended family! I really cannot believe my great blessing in having such a creative, loving, talented and wonderful daughter! We waited a long time for her, and she was well worth the wait!
Besides planning family celebrations, I have also been very busy teaching quilting classes. Here is a photo of the project that the Friday class made last month. Today I taught a project using half square triangles made using the Angler 2, which is a great tool for speedy production, but not completely accurate (I'll show the finished quilts after next month's class).
I am heading out of town to lecture and teach for the Orillia Quilt Guild for the next few days and am looking forward to meeting some new quilters. See you when I get back!