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Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Project, New Year

This morning I read a few blogs.  Some reminisced about 2011, some inventoried highlights and accomplishments, one writer was eager for 2011 to just be OVER!  
Like blocks on a design wall, or pieced rows awaiting further attention - we have an idea of what's ahead.
There will be twists and turns along the way. Today, in fact, I marvelled at how many times one can do something wrong, correct it, and find that it is wrong again - but in a surprisingly new and different way! 

But we perservere. 

I wish you health and harmony in 2012.  May the new year present us with enough joys and accomplishments to feed our spirits, and enough challenges to keep us humble and grounded. 

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Double Irish Chain Blocks

I think I'm on my way - what you see here is an entire evening's work.  The first few blocks are always the hardest.  I did some ripping because one dark green was incongruent with the rest, and distracted from the light/green contrast. 
Here's the back.  I think I have all the seams going the right direction.  I found I need to use one needle setting for the more complex blocks, and a different setting for the simpler alternate blocks - which I'll do last. 
Ironically, I made up one "simple" block, only to realize I should have used light green.  Oh well, that's what I get for calling it simple.  :)

I've resolved my desire to work with 1" squares, in green, for St. Pat's and keeping the project to a manageable size.  I've always wanted to do an Irish Chain.  This layout is similar to a design I found at  However, I won't be using a machine embroidered pattern in the white space.  Instead, probably go with applique shamrocks.   I'll probably modify the border to have nine patches in the four corners.  But I was too lazy to figure out how to do that on EQ6.  I think I'd rather spend that time at the fabric store!  :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

One Inch Squares & St. Patrick's Day

I've been tossing fabric scraps in a cookie container, planning to do something with them when the containter got full.  Since I just finished a big project, I didn't feel like launching right into another one - and the container WAS full.  The opportunity to just dabble a bit seemed appealling.
I sorted the scraps by color, with the intention of making a whole lot of 3" nine patches.  I had some odd amounts of thread to use up so I started with pinks and reds.  I had quite a few scraps from a quilt I made using 1930's reproductions.  I may make those nine patches and set them aside with the other 1930's fabric for future inspiration.
I finally took the time to determine what needle position will give me perfect 1" squares.  I'm also trying to decide if I want to stick with nine patches, or go to 4 x 4s with the intention of making an eventual postage stamp quilt - some many years down the road....when my cookie container has been filled and emptied many times over.

The great thing about an open ended project is your mind can go in any direction.  I was looking forward to working with the greens - when I remembered that I wanted to make a St. Patrick's Day wall hanging or table topper this year.  As I'm dabbling with these scraps, I'm also keeping my eye open for a great St. Pattie's Day pattern.  Feel free to share if you have a good one!  :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun...., this isn't an ad for Doublemint gum, but one could chew some while sewing with a double needle

Made a few last minute Christmas gifts - fleece scarves.  After sewing two 10" strips of fleece together lengthwise, I turned them right side out and did some top stitching.  Had always wanted to try using the double needle that came with my machine, and really liked the results.
Corners were a little tricky since you can't pivot in needle-down mode, as you would with a single needle.  So I raised the needles, rotated the scarf, and then hand cranked the needles down toward the fabric, making sure they lined up with the previous stitching before piercing the fabric.  Seemed to do the trick.
If making the scarf for an adult, I use 5/8 yard.  You could probably get away with 1/2 yard if making the scarf for a child.  At Hancock Fabrics, even remnants that were $12.99/yd originally, sell for 3 bucks.  I bought some extra fleece to make scarves for next fall's craft fair.  :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Quodlibet Finish

Here is the finished Quodlibet quilt.  It went directly from the dryer to a very large gift bag and was whisked away for a Dec. 24th delivery.  In my haste to complete it on time, I neglected to take another picture AFTER washing out the chalk lines, and forget to take one showing the red plaid fleece backing.  I wish I could have been there when RJ opened it - but that would have required being in two places at once. :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas One & All

Remembering the reason for the season.  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Quodlibet is Fully Quilted

Sewed all evening.  Here's Round One of the outer border. 
Still lovin' my chalk pen. It has served me well for this entire project.
Here's the second and FINAL round of stitching.  Hooray! 
I turned a LOT of corners, but I'm happy with the result. 

I'm channeling the industrious spirit of Santa's elves. 
Tomorrow I hope to trim, bind and launder.  :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cookies & Quilts

Last weekend's quilting ambitions got derailed by cookie production.  (For recipe see: 

But I'm starting this weekend out right - got 7 out of 12 rows quilted in one evening.  Completing this quilt in time for Santa to deliver it is looking more realistic now.  Hooray!
After much thought and a few false starts, I'm doing straight line quilting.  With a fleece back, this quilt just is too big and too heavy for anything more involved. 

Will continue to practice my FMQ skills on smaller quilts or projects that can be quilted in sections.  Gosh....that sounds a little like a New Year's resolution - doesn't it?   :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quilting Quodlibet...Oh Baby!

As I've been wrassling this large, heavy quilt into submission, it occured to me that SOME people think quilting is a passive activity because you are sitting down. 

This quilt has bested me more than once, so I scooped it up and weighed it.  Seven pounds - just like a full term baby!  It took just as long to make.  This has been an upper body workout, so the word "labor" or the biblical "travail" seem fitting - complete with the gnashing of teeth when I had to rip!  At least I don't have to get up at night to change it and feed it.

I've finished the horizontal ditch stitching so I can now begin some diagonal lines, squiggles, stipples and FMQ leaves.  This quilt offers many options!  It will continue to get easier and more fun - as I remove more (accursed) safety pins.  I hope to pick up speed soon, because this is to be a Christmas gift...and yes, that's THIS Christmas!  :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Santa Came Early...

...and brought me a new toy!

It's a Hamilton Beach Deluxe Set and Forget Slow Cooker.  If you need ideas for your holiday Wish List - I highly recommend it.  Here it's cooking a beef roast, and monitoring the internal temperature.  When the roast reaches the predetermined right temperature, the slow cooker changes to Keep Warm.  You can also use it in the traditional way, turning it to High, Low or Keep Warm when you see fit.  Or you can program it to perform at a chosen setting (or settings) for a number of hours and then turn itself down.
My old crock pot had a non-stick finish that was  finished!  So I really like my new stoneware crock.  I often put on a roast in the morning before work - but always had call my son to tell him to turn it down.  And sometimes I'd forget to the programable feature is perfect.  I also use my slow cooker for potlucks, and that's been a hassle.  This one has a gasket on the lid, and the lid can be locked down for transport.  And the handles on this unit are full sized so you can get a firm grip on it.  Much safer!  Other little niceties are the lid rest, cord wrap and spoon that attaches to the lid handle.
FYI - I'm not being paid to promote this product - just think its the best thing since sliced bread.  :) 

For more info, see: 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Monona Grove Throw

Here's this week's accomplishment.  One night I cut the fleece.  One night I blew up the logo, reversed it and cut it out of freezer paper.  Another night I bought stabilizer.  Last night I pressed the freezer paper onto the solid blue fabric.  Tonight I did the applique, monogrammed the future owner's name in the corner and cut and tied the fringe.  Didn't  expect to finish the whole thing, but was pleasantly surprised. 

I learned a couple things:

1.  For a large blanket, cut fringe to 5" rather than the 3-4" that is usually recommended.  I cut them to 4" and would have liked them to be a little longer.

2.  Press on stabilizer is expensive and can become very difficult to remove.  It's easy to lift off and even reposition at first - but the longer it remains in contact with the fabric, the harder it is to get off.  I went slow and took my time, as I am new to machine applique.  That was my mistake - all the while the stabilizer was slowly cementing itself to the fleece.  It wasn't pretty.  I'll definitely use freezer paper as a stabilizer next time I get the urge to do applique.  :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How to Quilt This?

I'm in the long and laborious process of pin basting this monster.  I've officially reached the "Whatever made me think this was a good idea???" phase.  I reach this phase with virtually every large project...and eventually fall back in love with the end result. 

But how to quilt this bugger?  I do my quilting on a Janome Horizon, no long arm here.  The bigger bed helps, but I'm limited by space and skill.  I'm pretty good at stippling, and am leaning that direction.  Will entertain any and all suggestions!  :)

Its That Time Again....

Tis time to decide how to decorate my tree.  I'm not yet in the mood, as we need a little snow (heavy emphasis on the word little) to put me in the holiday spirit.  The tree pictured above is from 2010.  Below are my decorations in 2009.
Birds, snowflakes and icicles are featured every year, but I'm in the mood to do something new.  And it has to be simple, as I have a bed quilt and throw to complete in time for Christmas.  Lookin' for please keep posting pictures of your own decorations - I get my best ideas from other quilters.  :)

Quodlibet Returns

The Quodlibet Quilt has come out of storage to be quilted in time for Christmas.  The  recipient doesn't know he's getting a quilt - so that makes it all the more fun.  Since pin basting is a bit hard on the fingers and the back, I took a break and made this matching pillow case.
Phew!  French seams are  cool, but it took me a few tries to get them just right.  The red zebra print is used in the quilt's inner border; it will also be used for the binding.   When the next round of pin basting gets tiresome, I'll take a break make the binding. 

I also have a "no sew throw" to make for Christmas, but I'm going to add school letters, so it won't be entirely "no sew" - more like "low sew."  Once I applique the letters, I can take the throw with me to crafters' meetings or work on it over my lunch hour, if I find Dec. 25th is creeping up too quickly.  :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grandma Clara's Chocolate Chip Cake - GF Edition

About a year ago, I was preparing to celebrate my 50th birthday.  Had put two chocolate chip cakes in the oven, and sat down to read my mail.  It was then I learned I had celiac disease and could not eat wheat (or rye, barley or oats) for the rest of my ever-lovin' days. 

Well, I had my last hurrah, and enjoyed my (gluten-containing) cake.  Then got on the bandwagon and purged my home of all gluten-containing goodies and ingredients.

A few months ago, I got a hankerin' for my Grandma's cake though, and began experimenting with the recipe.  I think I've got it nailed down, so here is the GF version of this family favorite:

Grandma Clara's Chocolate Chip Cake - GF


1 cup chopped dates or raisins
1 cup water

1 stick butter, softened
1 T. vanilla
3 eggs
1 Betty Crocker yellow cake mix (15 oz)
3 TBSP baker's cocoa
1 cup semi-sweet choc. chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Powdered sugar

Combine water and dates, and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees for dark tube pan, 350 degrees for light colored tube pan. 
Spray with cooking spray.

Cream butter.  Blend in eggs, vanilla, date mixture and cocoa. 

Add cake mix.  Blend for 30 seconds.  Then beat with mixer for 2 minutes.  Pour into tube pan.  Shake pan gently to distribute batter evenly in pan.

Sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts over batter.

Bake approximately 50 minutes.  Cool on rack. 

When cool, use plastic knife to loosen sides of pan.  Lift center of tube pan away from sides.  Loosen bottom of cake with plastic knife.  Using two large spatulas (pancake turners) lift cake up and away from tube pan center and place on cake plate.

Dust with powdered sugar.

Note: For almost all GF cakes and cookies, I recommend making them 24 hours before you will serve it.  GF baked goods seem to need the additional time to "set" so they are not so crumbly to cut and serve.  This is especially true of GF bars.

For the original recipe see:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Just Took the Pledge...

 2012 FMQ Challenge Badge copy

...for the 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge at:

I'm grateful to Sew Cal Gal for promoting this challenge as I very much need to improve my FMQ skills.  I have had one class, and one class only.  The shop that offers it does not offer beginner, intermediate and advanced FMQ classes - and so I still feel like a beginner.

Here is my chance to learn each month, and at my own pace.  Sounds like the perfect solution!  :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hen House Hot Pads

One week ago I whipped up 15 hot pads, showing three varieties of roosters and two types of hens.  Being a birder, I consulted a chicken-raising friend about the birds - wondering if they were accurate renditions of real birds, or simply the product of an artist's whim.  My friend recognized two varieties - but wasn't sure about the others.

While selling my wares at a craft fair, I discovered quite a few people who had wonderful memories of having chickens in their childhood.  The rock hens were familiar to a lot of people.  One man picked out a hot pad with a rooster that he said looked just like his childhood pet. He related how that rooster would crow bright and early every morning!  Happy as a kid in a candy store, he planned to send the hot pad to his sister for Christmas.

Following the craft fair, I took some hot pads to work to show some friends.  Heck, if I didn't sell 6 more.  Again, I learned of people who had had chickens in the past.  One man noted a subtle difference in the posture of two roosters.  He selected the bird that stood more erect - noting he looked "proud."  This difference was lost on me until he pointed it out.  Now there's a man who knows his birds!

The four pictured here are all I have left.  I hope to find a home for them all.  Who knows what other interesting tales I might discover in the process!  :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Craft Fair Report

I survived my first craft fair!  All went well, and despite low traffic, sales met my expectations.  I learned a few things, which I'll factor in if/when I decide to do this again.  Was asked to teach a class in January - that would also be something new.  But it could be fun.  Now I must turn my attentions to four projects in varying stages of completion - all with a due date of Dec. 25th!  :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Craft Fair Eve

Got my spinning flag table toppers quilted.  Don't know if you can see it, but I settled on a simple diagonal grid.   Since my Horizon decided to act up, my options were pretty limited - but I'm happy with it.  Anything too fussy would have detracted from the flags, I think.
It took a little persuasion, but I got my old machine to sew on the pockets on this tote.  Had fun making a few yo-yos and couldn't resist buying the cherry buttons for this bag. 
Got some holiday bags done today too.  Still need to bind some placemats before I can call it a day!  :)

Bethany Craft Fair 2011

Did you ever notice that a hot pad is really a small quilt?  I noticed because I had fabric to make 15 of them and have been quilting and binding like crazy for the craft fair day after tomorrow.  My progress was hindered by my good sewing machine jamming up so bad I can't run it at all.  I dug out my old Sears Kenmore, which needed tension adjustments.  This resulted in ripping and requilting.
Despite these setbacks, eleven hot pads are complete, four to go.

Once those are done I'll make a few more holiday themed origami bags to go with the 20+ bags that are packed up to go.  If you follow my blog, you may recall the Elvis bags and the pink ribbon bags.  Also have an assortment made from fat quarters that I had in my stash.
I had fun embellishing this bag with leftover pieces from the Quodlibet quilt.  I have another bag all ready to embellish with yo-yos and buttons shaped like cherries.  Sadly, I can only do the embellishment on the non-functional machine.  Will have to put that project on the back burner.

I have one more day to finish getting ready - which also includes typing up prices and getting the business card wizard to cooperate with me.  Sure hope I can get it all done!  :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

What Next?

My church's 39th Annual Holiday Craft Show is 8 days away, and I am NOT ready.  This is my first foray into selling my quilts/crafts and I'm simultaneously worried I'll sell out in the first hour or that nothing will sell at all.  Yikes! 

Tonight I whipped up two patriotic tables toppers (tops only).  They are about 20" square.  I have some red calico I can use for the backs - but I feel like the quilt tops might need a little something more.  Better sleep on it.  A complex border would detract from the geometric design created by the spinning flags.  I've always been fond of this layout - but never got around to trying it.

I'm attending a Crafters' Breakfast tomorrow morning - and some of these ladies have participated in the Holiday Craft Fair for many of the previous 38 years.  If these gals  don't know what will sell, and how to price it, no one will.  I hope to learn lots!  :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reversible Food Fabric Placemats & Napkin Rings

Ta da!!!  The reversible food fabric placemats are nearly done.  I still need to purchase 8 buttons and make one button hole on each napkin ring.  Had considered ripping the darkest strips (the black berries and cherries on black background).  I'm SOOO glad I slept on it.  The next day I realized: What goes in the middle of a placemat? 
A plate, of course.  The strips in question will hardly be visible when the placemat is in use.  Boy, I'm glad, cuz I hate ripping!  :)

They're Back - 2!

Image Detail

I THINK I spotted this winter visitor last week!  The White Throated Sparrow has been a regular winter visitor for many years - but for some reason, I never spotted them last year.  I'm wondering if they headed further South because we has such deep, deep snow.  They tend to feed on the ground and stay very close to cover.  I hope to get another look at this fellow this weekend to make a certain identification.  I sure hope he sticks around this year!

The Juncos are also back for the winter. I love how they twitter and zip around below the feeder. Am seeing lots of Chick-a-dees, Red Breasted Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers - though I see them year round.  I put out suet, which is always popular with this crowd.

I've tried to pay attention to exactly when the robins head south.  So far, they are still here in Southern Wisconsin.  Saw one today, in fact.

The Starlings, Grackles and American Crows are forming good sized flocks.  Its hard to know if they are local birds preparing to migrate, or perhaps birds from Canada passing through on their way South.  Speaking of Canada, today we saw many, many geese on even the tiniest bit of water. 

Will be keeping my binoculars close at hand!  :)


best computer cartoon
I'm not exactly a whiz with computers, but can usually figure out how to do what I need to do.  Unfortunately, since I changed my email address a few weeks ago, I'm not getting my bloggy friends' comments by email - which of course, makes it hard to respond. 

Google Blogger says it won't post emails to  And it won't let me change my primary email address.  It'll only list the new one as secondary.

I WAS getting a copy of all my bloggy friends' comments at my old email address, but have not received a single comment since changing providers and my address.  I looked in my spam folder to see if the new system didn't categorize the messages correctly and they aren't there either.

Anybody know how to correct this?  I'm stumped!

Thanks in advance!  :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday Wellness - Feel for Lumps, Save Your Bumps

An Arizona high school has banned its cheerleaders from wearing pink T-shirts that read, 'Feel for lumps, save your bumps.' >

Have you been following this controversy?

A team of high school cheerleaders made up these shirts to wear while collecting money for Susan G. Komen March for the Cure.  But guess what?  The principal banned the shirts from school.  I gotta wonder if he knows how prevalent breast cancer is, and that it can be detected early by doing self-exams? 

Undeterred, the girls have gone on to sell the shirts on a national scale.  More power to you girls!!!

To Rip, or Not To Rip?

Here's a quilt-as-you-go placemat I made the other day.  I have enough fabric to make a set of four.  The red and green plaid is the backing fabric.  I'll be selling these at a Holiday Craft Fair - something I've never done before.  Am struggling a bit with how to price my goods.  But I have time to think about it.  Meanwhile, the more immediate decision is to replace the blackberry strip or leave it as is?  Only two of the mats will have this fabric - the other two will have cherries on a black background.  The dark color looks incongruent - but then again, isn't that what "scrappy" is all about?  So what say you?  Rip or keep as is?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An "A Ha" Moment!

Sometimes we look, but we just don't see.  I've been making origami bags for more than a year.  Only today did it occur to me that I could remove the work table and position the bag as pictured above.  Doh!  I had been stitcching the casing it in a very awkward manner, which resulted in getting my fingers poked by pins - a lot.  If you never noticed, getting stabbed with pins takes a lot of fun out of sewing!  :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Audacious Autumn - Its a Finish!

This quilt is finally complete.  Hooray, hooray!  I suspected that the red stitching might not show up well on the busy fabrics, and I was right.  But here is a picture of the quilting before I washed off the chalk.
I drew a large, leafy branch across the quilt, then stippled around it.  In the process of marking the quilt, my chalk pencil wore down to a nub.  So I went to the fabric store to pick up a $0.99 chalk pencil.  Wouldn't ya know, they didn't sell them.  I could either buy a washable white pen or the Dritz Chalk Cartidge Set pictured above for $13.99.  Irked, but really wanting chalk (and being too lazy to go elsewhere) I begrudgingly tossed the kit in my cart.  But this story has a happy ending.  The chalk cartidge is superior to any chalk pencil, pouncing powder or washable marker I've ever used.  Yes, it does rub off easily...but if you draw something you don't like, you can just brush it off and mark it again.  I can't (yet) stipple freehand with my machine, but I can draw stippling with chalk and stitch on the line all day long.  Once I found the best way to mark the quilt, the quilting didn't take long at all.  :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The F Word Returns

We've had a number of frost warnings, and managed to extend the growing season by several weeks by covering plants.  But its gonna be 29 degrees tonight; all good things must come to an end.  A coworker told me that if you leave your green tomatoes on a short portion of vine, and tie them up like herbs, the tomatoes will turn red. I don't know if it'll work, but it's worth a try.
Last night I harvested all my tomatoes and peppers.  You saw the tomatoes.  The peppers are now diced and frozen.  The remaining plants were composted.  Lookin' forward to results next spring.
A few days ago rabbits ate the base of my 8' green bean vines. The plants were withering before my eyes!   Had to drop everything, tear down the vines and harvest every last bean as quickly as possible. The beans were promptly trimmed chopped, blanched, chilled and frozen.   No quilting got done THAT night!
Tonight I dug up carrots.  Here are the fruits of my labor.  Short on fruit, long on labor! They ARE on the small side, but they grew in partial shade.  If I plant them again next year, I'll have to relocate them.  Got enough for several meals.  Cleaning root vegetables is a lot of work though!  But they are now scrubbed, peeled, trimmed, chopped, blanched, chilled and packaged.  They are freezing as I type.  Once again, no quilting got done tonight!
I brought my last three herb pots inside until I have time to deal with them.  The chives and parsley were harvested a few weeks ago - but they grew back!  I'd been procrastinating on the oregano because its difficult to work with.  I think I'll dry it this time (froze it last time) and see if that works any better.

So my 2011 garden comes to an end.  The only things  I covered are the flowers and pumpkins around the front lamp post.  I'm not ready quite for winter, but I AM embracing late fall.  I find being in touch with the natural cycle of things is very calming.  (And its a good antidote to the increasingly premature Christmas displays in all the stores!)

This pilgrim is grateful for a good harvest -  and is VERY ready to do some quilting!  :)