Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Quilting is my first love, but unless I have a binding ready to work on, there are times it’s just not that portable.  So I decided to give knitting a try.  I became intrigued with the idea of knitting socks while reading Judy Laquidara’s posts about knitting on Patchwork Times.  Judy actually hosted a sock knit along, but it conflicted with my travel plans to Houston.  Also, it had been decades since I held a pair of knitting needles and my first effort was anything but successful.  As I recall, Aunt Mary had to finish the project for me.

So, I started with re-learning the basics by making a number of these dishcloths using a free pattern I found online.  To my surprise, they have withstood the stress of being used and laundered beautifully.

After many false starts, I have almost completed my first sock.  It doesn’t bear close scrutiny but at least it is recognizably a sock.  I need to attempt the technique for weaving the toe closed before I can begin its mate.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Favorite Cookie Recipe--Merry Christmas

On December 21 Judy at Patchwork Times asked if we had recipe boxes.  My answer is an enthusiastic “YES!”  And here it is.  When I first set up my own household in the 70s, Aunt Eula Belle gifted me with this acrylic recipe box and over the next few years she and other aunts, especially Aunt Mary for whom I was named, provided me with a collection of lovingly typed recipe cards. 

Christmas at Aunt Mary’s house always meant bountiful platters of cookies. 

The recipe for her nut crispies follows.  It is still my favorite.    I remember her serving them from the 60s forward.  I offer it as a Christmas gift to you and living memorial to someone who was very dear to me.  I hope all of you are having a safe and joyous Christmas.

Aunt Mary’s Nut Crispies

1 cup shortening (2 sticks butter)
1 egg yolk (use egg white for top of cookies)
1 cup ground nuts (not too fine)
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups flour

Cream shortening and sugar and then add egg yolk. Add flour.  Spread as thin as possible on ungreased cookie sheets (this amount just about fills two sheets).  Beat egg white slightly and spread over top of dough.  Sprinkle ground nuts on top.  Press nuts down firmly in egg white.  Bake in 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Cut in bars while still warm.  Do not take cookies up until cool.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Last Minute Gifts

Last night I got into a panic thinking that a couple of gifts I had prepared were just a little too skimpy, so I pulled two more tote bags I had cut out and sewed them up.  Bob was at the ranch hunting so the dogs and I had the house to ourselves.  It gave me a chance for some quiet time before our holiday company starts arriving Monday.  After that we will be busily involved with friends and family for the better part of two weeks. 

The quiet time also gave me a chance to listen to an audio book I checked out from the library:  Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.  I have been enjoying it so much I hope I can finish the last CD before shutting down my sewing room to make room for air mattresses.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Finished…I Really Mean It This Time

Even though I posted about finishing this quilt October 28 when it came off the quilter, I don’t consider a quilt really finished until it is bound, labeled and ready for service.  I managed to get the label on this one last week.  I think it will go on a bed at the ranch.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Design Wall Monday—12/20/2010

The center for Carolina Chain is almost together and I have found a pattern in a very old Quilters Newsletter for a paper pieced border.  Here is a picture of the published quilt with the border.  I won’t be adding the prairie points. 

Here are the fabrics I thinking about using.  I hope the green, which is so dark it almost appears black, will tone down the center’s busyness and give the eye a place to rest while the gold/burnt orange and fuchsia/orange batiks will give it some life.  As usual, the photograph shown on my computer is not true to the colors.  This is really outside my comfort zone for both design and color, so I will do a few blocks to get an idea of how it will look assembled and get some feedback before going too far. 

Judy Laquidara's site, Patchwork Times, has lots of inspiration to offer today.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Getting Ready to Party

The house smells wonderful today.  I have been baking cookies to take to the annual Christmas party with my circle of quilting friends.  The gift I’m taking for the exchange includes a bottle of Mary Ellen’s Best Press wrapped in one of my tote bags and decorated with a “quilty” Christmas ornament.  I used two cuts of Christmas plaid instead of tissue paper for the gift bag.

 I hope the recipient is pleased…I wonder what I’ll get!     

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bound, Labeled, and Done!

I finished binding and attaching the label on Dave’s quilt last night.  It’s ready for its new home in his RV.  I hope he will be able to pick it up on his way to South Texas where he spends the winter to escape Wisconsin’s cold.  

I’m learning just how hard it is to get a photograph of large quilts.  I can hang twin-size and smaller from some bookcases we have in one of our rooms.  However, at 98 inches square, I had to put this one on our bed, stand on a ladder and hold the camera over my head.  Can anyone give me hints on how they handle photographing their big quilts?  I’d love to hear from you.  Unfortunately, I also had trouble with lighting in the room where I took this photo and the colors are washed out.  The photo does not do it justice. 

Carolina Chain is progressing slowly in my very messy sewing room, but the rows are coming together. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Design Wall Monday -- 12/13/2010

Work continues on Carolina Chain.  Redoing some of the blocks to include more contrast has made it easier to see the positive/negative pattern.  I’ve rearranged the placement of some of the blocks since taking this picture in an atempt to make the left side transition a little softer.  Sewing the top together has begun at last.
Someday this messy pile of half square triangles may be a new project.  The squares are the result of a friendship triangle exchange hosted by a local quilt store using a collection called Harvest Homecoming.  Sadly, the store closed its doors last week after being in business less than a year.  Whenever I needed a break last weekend from playing with Carolina Chain, I would remove foundation paper, trim dog ears and press the pieces while pondering how I might use them.  I should have enough for a throw.  Shortly before the store closed, I went back and bought fabric for a border from the same collection.

Here are the last of my home grown tomatoes, still edible in December.

Check out other design walls at Judy Laquidara's site for lots of quilting inspiration.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting the Spirit of the Season

Time to get serious and make some decisions about decorations this year.  I pulled out a Christmas throw I competed early in the year along with some older decorations that are very dear to me. 

Here is the nativity scene that belonged to my Aunt Mary.  According to the stamp on the bottom of one of the figures, it was made in 1955. 

My Aunt Mary made this Christmas stocking for me.  It’s had a few too many years and a little too much loving to be in pristine condition.  However, even today I marvel at the detail she lovingly put into it.  It is draped over my grandmother’s rocker. 

It wouldn’t be the season for me without a little whimsy.  These two reindeer are perched on a pair of vases my father brought back from India where he served during World War II.

Just as all the bittersweet memories were beginning to crowd in on me; I glanced outside and saw this.  Even though they were being naughty, I had to smile.  Fortunately, they were fighting over a cast-off towel.

It looks to me like Chloe is having to work a whole lot harder than Harley.  She doesn't know it yet, but she's about to get a bath.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Play Time and Another Sheet Bites the Dust

One of the nice things about being retired is that we can sometimes take advantage of spontaneous opportunities that were not possible during our working years.  We decided Sunday to make an impromptu trip to the ranch after church.  As a result of our rush to get away, we forgot some groceries we intended to take and were forced to make some creative menu modifications, but we managed nonetheless.  Bob killed another hog which he smoked, and I loaded an old sheet on Fiona along with some batting remnants and practiced making feathers using my new Micro Handles.  I need lots more practice, but I am encouraged.  When I became fatigued with standing at the quilter, I indulged in some piecing therapy and worked on my Carolina Chain project using my vintage Singer 301.  I really love that old machine.   At night I worked on the binding for Dave's quilt while we watched television.

We’re home now and its back to the joys and stresses of the Christmas season.  Hopefully there will be other opportunities for stolen moments at the sewing machine.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Back From The Ranch

Following a Thanksgiving celebration with neighbors we headed for a four-day trip to the ranch.  Bob used the time to hunt wild hogs and succeeded in killing two which were smoked and are now in the freezer.

Meanwhile, I loaded the Lone Star Quilt shown above on Fiona and went to work.  It was made at the request of my brother-in-law, Dave, who purchased the fabric last April.  Our agreement was that I would work on it during the year with goal of having it complete by the time he's back in Texas.  Dave is a Winter Texan with roots in Wisconsin.  Weather permitting, he will pass through our area in late December on his way to the Rio Grande Valley, and I want to have it ready for him. 

It is by far the largest quilt I have put on Fiona.  It measures 98 inches square and took up the entire frame.  The quilt is now ready for trimming and binding.  I hope he will be pleased with it.

See these tomatoes?  I have tried unsuccessfully to grow tomatoes many times.  My husband thinks they are ugly plants but swears that it is entirely by accident that they frequently encounter weed killer.

When the local grocery store started selling plants in September for fall gardens, I bought one and planted it in a pot.  It grew extremely large but somehow managed to survive toppling over three times, stiff winds, light hail and outright neglect when we took trips to the ranch.  It finally succumbed to an early frost while loaded with green fruit.  Friends suggested that I wrap the tomatoes in newspaper and store them in a cool place.  I did so and we had home grown tomatoes for our salad Saturday night! 

Finally, while at the ranch we celebrated my birthday.  It was one of those "decade birthdays" we all love so much.  I was showered with cards, Facebook greetings and Bob even got me a birthday cake.  I can’t remember the last time I had a cake with my name on it. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Memories of Thanksgivings Past

We have the good fortune to live in a community that was built on a former pecan orchard.  Many of the trees still grow in public areas and this year has yielded a very good pecan crop.  Gleaning pecans with my family during Thanksgiving holidays is one of those happy memories from my childhood.  Here is some of what we’ve harvested thus far this year.  Hopefully, we’ll be adding more to the bucket before the season ends.

I haven’t had a chance to post in a while.  A good friend invited me to spend a few days with her in Dallas so there has been no opportunity to sew since my last post.  Then, of course, there were the preparations for Thanksgiving itself once we returned.  Hopefully, I will soon have a project loaded on Fiona and be back at work. 

Life happens, and family could not join us for Thanksgiving this year.  In the meantime, we are enjoying the company of dear friends.

I hope all of you have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Blue and Yellow Quilt

I have always lived in the south where temperatures are toasty most of the year, making me wonder why I am so drawn to a craft like quilting.  It finally got cool enough recently that I wanted to cuddle under a quilt while watching television.  I pulled out this blue and yellow quilt I finished earlier this year.  It was supposed to be a scrappy quilt from my stash, but I soon discovered that I did not have enough variety in my color-way and ended up purchasing more fabric.  Fortunately, I was able to use almost all that I purchased so this project did reduce rather than add to my existing stash.

The light wasn't very good in the room where I took the picture and the colors look a little washed out in this photograph.  They are much more vibant.  The pattern is one I found on Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville site.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Design Wall Monday -- 11/15/2010

My Carolina Chain quilt has grown some.  After taking some measurements and crunching some numbers, I think I will have a satisfactory throw size quilt if I add 70 more blocks and a modest border.  So, I’ve been busy cutting and sewing. 

When I delved back into my quilting closet, I surprised myself with all the fabric remnants I had forgotten about.  I’m a little heavy on greens and a little short on lights, but I should have enough with what I have on hand. 

There are several other projects waiting in the wings so I want to finish this one.  Unfortunately, work on it needs to pause later today, as I really must hem up some pants. 

A few of you were nice enough to inquire about my new smart phone.  I found its internet and e-mail features useful while travelling to the Quilt Festival in Houston.  I still don’t quite get the texting thing, but am forcing myself to try that too.  I've also discovered I enjoy listening to music on it with the ear buds.  There’s a pretty steep learning curve, but I think I’ll adapt to this new tool.

Be sure to check out other design walls at Patchwork Times .

Monday, November 8, 2010

Design Wall Monday -- 11/8/2010

Progress on the Carolina Chain project I’ve posted about before slowed this week so I could work on this tiny quilt that is about 24" square.  This was one of the Christmas quilt kits handed out at the Quilt Club in October. It will be donated to the Threads of Love organization which benefits premature babies and their families.  It is nearly ready for simple machine quilting.  The photograph was taken at a bad angle and does not do it justice. 

Check out Judy's site at Patchworktimes for lots of inspiration.

A good friend unexpectedly invited me to accompany her and another friend to Houston for the International Quilt Festival last week.  We stayed at her daughter’s house, enjoyed the experience of seeing some truly masterful quilts, and took advantage of the opportunity to shop for and learn about supplies not readily available locally.  Most of my purchases were supplies for my mid-arm quilter.  Those items are at the ranch waiting for my next opportunity to load something on the frame.  Here are a couple of my other purchases.

Finally, the Texas Hill Country has been enjoying a delightful fall season.  Ths is a rose from my garden.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Another Early Quilt

I had a lot of fun making this bow tie quilt which was competed in 2008.  I was still very new to quilting when I began it and would pick up a blue fat quarter or two any time I went to a quilt store.  It took about two years from start to finish and was one of the earliest projects I attempted to quilt on Fiona using a Baptist Fan Groovy board.  We have it on the bed in our guest room.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Design Wall Monday -- A Day Late and More Than a Dollar Short

I've made a little more progress on my Carolina Chain quilt.  This isn't the final layout, but I enjoy putting the blocks up so I can watch it grow.  I've started "unsewing" a few of the blocks that don't have enough contrast and changing the fabric combinations so I can add them to the mix.

I might have more to show if I hadn't lost this old friend....

Actually, it was my husband's cell phone that died.  That meant a new contract (hence the more than a dollar short comment in my post title) and new phones for both of us.  Here's what we ended up with ....

These "smart phones" are a lot smarter than I am.  Most of our spare time since Saturday was spent trying to figure out how to use them.  We are both registering high on the frustration meter.  Better wait a while before asking me how much we like it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finally...a finish

Thank you to all who left encouraging comments on my last post.  Immediately after I published the post, we left for a three-day trip to the ranch and I did not see what you said until today.  I do appreciate hearing from you.

My husband was anxious to finish some chores at the ranch including cleaning out a stock tank and getting things set up for the beginning of hunting season the first weekend in November.  The trip gave me a chance to load up Fiona (a.k.a. HQ16) and work on this project. 

The pattern came from this book. 

The author calls it the “Two Step.”  I think I will name my version “All Boxed In and Singing the Blues.”  Although the entire quilt is done in a single block pattern, the color placement gives the optical illusion of movement and blocks of differing sizes.  I chose to quilt it using a simple meander.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Design Wall Monday - 10/25/2010

I have been using this as my leader-ender project for a few months.  Instructions for this block appeared in Bonnie Hunter’s “Addicted to Scraps” column in the May/June 2010 issue of Quiltmaker.  She called it Carolina Chain and it has helped me gain a new appreciation for the importance of value.  I have had to set several blocks aside simply because the value difference wasn’t great enough.  Although I have several blocks remaining to piece, I suspect this will become a throw rather than a bed size quilt.  I’m really not looking forward to matching all those seams.  Units for the blocks are cut from 2-inch strips.

Check out other design walls at Judy Laquidara's site, Patchwork Times.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Not My Usual Quilt Cub Meeting Day

We celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Marble Falls Quilt Club today.  One of the things the members were asked to do was participate in a challenge that included a heart motif.  The project could be a quilt or clothing item and the heart could be incorporated any way we chose.  There were some extremely nice entries and I was unprepared when they announced my Heart and Home quilt had won second prize.  One of the bees had made really cute heart ribbons and my prize included a gift certificate to a local quilt shop!

This project had languished in my stash of unfinished projects for well over a year.  The challenge gave me the motivation I needed to finish it.  It was a pattern published by Design Originals called “Heart and Home.” I used a jelly roll from the Madeira Collection by Blackbird Designs for Moda.  This was the first time I had attempted hand appliqué and free motion feathers in my quilting.  

After the meeting, I joined some quilting friends for lunch – just about the nicest day I could have imagined!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Design Wall Monday

This weekend our local Dear Jane Club met and I switched tracks from the projects I’ve previously reported on to work on these applique blocks.  My version of the quilt uses batiks and tone-on-tone fabrics, and I’ve completed 34 blocks. These blocks do not bear close scrutiny.  I know there are easier applique methods than needle-turn, but I have my heart set on mastering that skill.  I should get lots of practice as I continue working on this quilt. 

As always, Judy’s Patchwork Times website offers lots of inspiration on Mondays.  Be sure to check it out.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Another Little Jo

I joined a group of quilting friends for a sew-in at the local quilt shop two days this week.  A sew-in is sort of like a mini-retreat where you get to go home at night and sleep in your own bed.  We had a great time and it made it possible for me to complete this month’s Little Jo project before the club meeting today.  This is my second Little Jo quilt and, again, it is quite small with blocks measuring 3 inches.    It took a while to get the hang of it, but I finally learned how to make passable Ohio Stars.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Handmade Gifts

Judy at Patchwork Times is inviting us to post ideas for handmade gifts.  I have two to share. 

This pattern for a heart pin cushion is available for free at Fat Quarter Shop.  I have made several for gifts for quilting friends and have even had direct requests for them.  They are nice and large.  I modify the pattern slightly.  Instead of using the plastic pellets called for, I make a separate little packet of sand in the center of the pincushion because I like the added weight.  I buy my sand in little bottles from craft stores because it is clean.

I posted about this gift a few days ago.  It is an extremely easy pattern that can be found in this book Down & Dirty, Quick & Easy, I Need a Last Minute Gift Project Book! by Linette Dowdell and Kim Fillmore.  I have made several of these as hostess gifts and use them myself.  I also modify this pattern.  I prefer to use handles made out of the fabric I use for the bag rather than the webbing the pattern calls for.

Thank you, Judy, for the opportunity to get gift ideas early in the season!

Monday, October 11, 2010

An Early Project

I haven’t figured out what it is about us Texans and armadillos.  My personal experience with these critters has not been positive.  If left undisturbed they will plow up your yard and tunnel under your foundation.  But being crazy for all things Texan as I am, this was the first quilting project I undertook after retiring and coming home to the Hill Country I love so much.  With the encouragement of several new quilting friends and a lot advice on how to get started, I made this wall hanging in 2007.  It still hangs in my sewing room.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Favorite Vintage Tool

I just love it when you can take a tool, especially a vintage tool with a sentimental connection, and repurpose it for quilting.  The wooden block in the picture belonged to my father who used it in his printing business from the mid-1940s until his retirement in 1978.  His print shop used the old letter press process that Gutenberg would have easily understood.  When type had been set and locked in a frame, the wooden block was used, in conjunction with a mallet, to tamp it down so it was flush and ready for even inking. 

I discovered the hard way that my HQ16 does not like really bulky seam intersections like those in the quilt I blogged about yesterday.  When I saw some of my quilting friends using a modern tool to flatten their problem spots, I remembered I had held on to this tool (I wish I could remember the correct term for it) as a memento of my father.  Since it was exposed to a lot of print shop oil and grease over the decades, I wrap it in a thick towel, lay the problem area in the quilt top on it, steam it with my iron and then tap firmly with the mallet.  The results I get are as good as those using the newer tool.  The mallet is a new purchase from the hardware store.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

One of Last Year's Projects

Work continues on the projects I've posted about before, but they are all at that stage where there is little new to show, so I am documenting a quilt finished last year.  This was a kit designed by Charlotte Angotti and presented to the local quilt club as a "Let Me Surprise You" workshop following our monthly meeting.  I believe she named it Huckleberry Friend.  It was the most challenging project I had attempted to that date and I was so very relieved when it was finished.  As you can tell, some of the borders were not captured in the photograph.