Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back

It hardly seems possible that another year has come and gone.  I'd like to take a minute to look back on 2011.

First, I'd like to thank all the students who have put their faith in me and my classes.  It's so amazing to see people's skills improve, but, even more, so wonderful to see friendships bloom.  When I sometimes wonder if I am making a difference in the world, I think of the many friendships that may never have started but for the classes in common.  

Thank you, too, for the many kind things you do for me throughout the year.  Sometimes it's a hug, a note, a comment on the blog, an unexpected gift--there are not enough words to express how these make me feel.  So, even if I don't always send a written thank-you, please know how grateful I am.

The best thing?  Seeing your smiling faces--whether in class or out.  I am truly blessed to be doing work I love with people who appreciate it.  And knowing there are people who miss me when I don't blog--even people I've never met--or haven't had that pleasure yet.

My 2012 wish for you is peace, prosperity, joy, love--amazement and wonder at all the beauty and goodness that surrounds us.  Let's choose happiness in our lives.

And our motto for 2012 and beyond?  Semper calcitat (Always quilting).

See you next year!

Yet more holiday hugs,

 P.S.  The picture above is of "Parcheesi", a mariner's compass block designed by Anita Shackelford and hand pieced by me.  There is no applique on any of my mariner's compass blocks (a bonus for those who are applique phobic--which I am definitely not!). 

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Little Help

Have you noticed how cats love to be near you when you are sewing?  While trying to finish the binding on two pieces this week, I spent more time moving Callie off the pieces than actually sewing.  So I finally found a piece of fleece and put in on the counter.  She, of course, has to inspect the progress by climbing over the piece in question, but she then goes to the fleece where she is close enough to supervise but not be constantly moved.

The duck quilt you see above is a baby quilt for my best friend Cindy who is a first time grandma.  Can we just say that the baby turned five months old recently and Cindy will get the quilt soon.  I will show you more pics of this when the binding is finished--if it ever is!  I only have one more corner and part of a side, but it seems to be moving at the slowest pace possible.  I'm sure it couldn't have anything to do with my attention being sidetracked onto lots of other things.

Hope you are enjoying the last few hours of 2011.  Big plans for New Year's Eve?

Holiday hugs,

P.S.  I am reading Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich and listening to Dick Francis's Gamble by Felix Francis.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nature's Majesty

Some sky pictures for your viewing enjoyment.

Holiday hugs,

P.S.  Terri:  I think your best bet for the replacement heads is through a shop.  I cannot find an on-line source.  I'll keep looking!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Eyes Have It

Callie wanted to send along holiday greetings of her own.  I think she looks way too stern.  Probably not enough catnip!

Still with the holiday  hugs,

P.S.  Apparently the winter-lovers united--we now have high winds, almost 0 degree wind chills and a bit of snow.  So come on, winter-not-so-fond-ofs, we need to battle back!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Bit of Rambling

Sorry, no pictures tonight.  I've been doing a bit of this and a bit of that today.  Finished the hand sewing on one wallhanging today and added binding to a crib quilt tonight that I will hand sew tomorrow.  

Started a new sweater a couple days ago, twisted the join, but didn't discover it for several rounds, ripped back, corrected the mistake and continued.  Only to find that I had a hole where I apparently did not pick up an increase correctly.  I kept thinking, it will be okay.  I'm sure it won't show, blah, blah, blah.  Tonight I took it all off the needles and ripped it out.  Have it restarted and am doing the yoke increases again.  I'm happier and there is no hole.  (Yes, I do know there was probably a simple way to fix the hole, but my way made me instantly happy.  I am definitely  a process knitter--unafraid to rip back to the beginning!)

I know others are lamenting the weather we are having, but seriously, I don't have to shovel rain!  

Do you all have your 2012 calendars ready?  I just love the Lang calendars with the Lowell Herrero cows.  They are just the best, and I use mine in my sewing room to keep track of classes.  The pictures never cease to make me smile.

I must admit to being a bit disappointed that only one person responded to the Stockings post!  I couldn't stop laughing as I stood out in the rain and wind at 10 pm to get the picture.  Yes, I know, I am a bit warped.  I prefer to think of it as part of my charm ;-)

Head over to the Quilting Professor blog (see link on side bar) and take a look at her serious blog topic.  I'm not sure what I would do.  Any suggestions?  Leave them here or on Kate's blog.

Okay, enough rambling for tonight.  Oh, wait...I will be so glad when the holiday commercials for the car company with the big blue oval signs are over.  Just sayin'.

Still with the holiday hugs,

Monday, December 26, 2011

One Giant Tree

Tonight my family and I went to a friend's house to see her lights and tree.  Outside she has over 80,000 lights and displays!  People drive purposely to see the display!

But this is her inside tree:  WOW!  Here is it with just the tree lights for illumination.

And here it is using flash.  Now...believe it or not...this tree is 7.5 feet tall and--wait for it--8.5 feet wide at its fullest!  Hard to imagine!  There are 700 lights on it and what must be tons of tinsel.  The tinsel is placed in almost pyramid-like shapes which overlap, creating almost a gossamer net effect.

Truly beautiful!  How's your holiday afterglow?  I've spent the day reading (Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell) and napping, and hand sewing binding on a large wallhanging that you'll see soon.

Holiday hugs,

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Merry Christmas!

I hope your day was spent with family and friends, 
surrounded by love and a belief in miracles.
The year is counting down.
Let's make every minute of what's left
of 2011 count.

Holiday Hugs,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Stockings...

were hung on the chimney with care!!!!!

Okay, admit at least smirked if you didn't outright laugh!

Holiday hugs,

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Ghost of...

Amaryllis Present!

I just took the bulb out of the box this afternoon.  Imagine my surprise when it was already this big--but totally white!!!  These are not black and white pics!

The blooms are supposed to be a pink and white stripe.  I'm just hoping the leaves turn green!

Holiday hugs,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Reveal

Ta Da!  The piles of fabric you saw a couple days ago, plus black and a royal/medium blue turned into this:

(The gray around the edges is my carpet!)  

Twenty different batik squares--10 for the center and 10 for the border.  I think this combination looks a lot like stained glass.

The pattern, you ask?  It's actually in a Creative Grids Snowball template package!  Theirs was done in black and white and red.  Really striking, and I did consider those colors, plus a few other combinations, before deciding on what you see.  I can see you shaking your head about why you would need a special template for snowball blocks.  Well, unless you particularly like making snowballs with one large and four small squares, drawing lines, etc., this is money well spent. can be made from a charm pack plus 1 yard of fabric for sashing, binding and backing!  This tablerunner cut fast and accurately and went together like a dream.  Add more blocks and you'd have a great quilt top.  Think different holidays or occasions--it's that easy!

Last night was our holiday party and Debbie, our hostess, gifted us each a ruler.  I cut the kits beforehand  and we did some serious sewing after our sit-down dinner, complete with candles and good china!  Which is why I couldn't reveal this until today!  So put this on your list for 2012--and plan for holiday gifts that can be done before Easter (if you buckle down now!).

Holiday hugs,

P.S.  Emily--you are so going to be the official candymaker to the President.  Plan on it-- I fully expect to be elected in November 2012.  There are no words to describe those peanut butter cups--and caramel--super yummy doesn't begin to cover it ;-)  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not the View from My Window!

I can't tell you how thankful I am that this is not the view from my window.  I know the skiers and "snow" people are disappointed in our present weather, but as someone who has to travel a fair bit, I am thrilled.  We'll get it sooner or later, but my vote is for later!

Happy Hanukkah to those readers who are celebrating this holiday.  Celebrating is good for the soul--we really should celebrate even small things.  Because, really, it's the small things that make up our lives.

Holiday Hugs,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wednesday Surprise Update

Just a quick note for tonight.  Remember last night I posted a picture of fabrics and said to imagine them with black and a deep gold?  Well, luckily I did the math on the gold before cutting.  And found, alas and alack, that I did not have enough and nothing in the stash to even come close.

So today, before class, I stopped at the LQS and looked for gold.  Curses, foiled again!  There was nothing close to what I had and nothing else looked good with the other fabrics (remember they were already cut!).  So on to plan...C...D...whatever.  

The gold has now been replaced by a lovely mottled medium/royal blue batik.  I think it will look even better than the gold and it looks quite good next to the black.  So tomorrow I will wash it and finish cutting and make my sample.  

And no, still no pics til Wednesday!  I'm quite excited about this!

Holiday hugs,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's a Surprise!

Picture this stack of fabrics with solid black and a deep gold.  All batiks!  And all from my stash!

Here's a handy tip you might enjoy:  When I need to cut multiple blocks or groups of things, I use paper plates to hold the pieces for each block or project.  Stacked, they take up almost no room, and it's easy to pick up just one part of the project and work on it without trying to sort out what I need each time.

The surprise cannot be revealed until Wednesday.  Stay tuned!

Holiday hugs,

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's Not Too Late...

to add one of these wonderful threaders to your Christmas (or other holiday!)  list.  And if, after the official holiday, you have not received one, get yourself to a quilt shop and get one for yourself!!!!

These are the new Sewline quickthru needle threaders.  Just slightly larger than a lipstick tube, it is a joy to work with.

Here is the glamour shot!

The top retracts to reveal the actual threader.

A size 9 to 12 needle is inserted in the pink part--the hole is small and holds the needle securely.  Lay your thread into the V groove.  (The instructions on the package are clear and easy to understand.)

Now press GENTLY with your thumb.  If you feel any resistance, STOP!  This is a delicate threading mechanism and it can be broken if you force it.  Simply turn the needle slightly and try again.  This allows the needle eye to line up with the threader.

After pushing gently, you can remove the needle from the hole.  You will see a "bubble" of thread.

Pull the bubble, and the needle is threaded!

Adding to the major coolness of this threader:  a magnet on the bottom AND and a needle storage place!

While the ability to thread needles easily is priceless, these dandy threaders are a bit over $16, depending on where you buy them.  And another benefit?  If you are a bit forceful and bend the threading mechanism?  You can buy just the replacement head for about $5!  Did I mention the cutter?  On the opposite side from the threading lever (see photos 5 and 6 above).

How's the shopping, baking, wrapping, etc. going?  I am about 6 rows from having a hat done!

Holiday hugs,

P.S.  As always, I get absolutely no endorsement fees...and I don't tell you about anything I don't personally use.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Everyone Should Have One

Several years ago a friend gifted me a Christmas tree made of chile peppers!  It has a star that blinks, and it even plays Christmas carols!

It sits in my octagonal window on the stair landing.  An equal opportunity decorator, it stays there year-round.  The little wreath on top is actually a napkin ring, but it is perfect as a tree ornament!

So there you have it--a bit different to be sure.

Holiday Hugs, my friends!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Do you realize that at midnight, it will be exactly nine days til Christmas?  Literally.  Just helping you keep it real.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

So Beautiful

Carol R. of Ithaca, NY, is a special friend indeed.  Each year she makes me something beautiful for Christmas--hardanger work, zippered pouches in multiple sizes, a baby alpaca scarf, napkins...the list goes on and on.

But this year!  Carol's work is meticulous and she pays attention to detail.

A detail.

And another detail.  3D buttons are the perfect finishing touch to this superb piece.

Just Carol's presence in my life is gift enough.  She's one special lady.  Thank you, my friend!

How is holiday prep progressing for you?  I am still teaching through the 20th and trying to get a few small things done in my "spare" time!

More tomorrow!


P.S.  I am listening to Beyond Suspicion by James Grippando and reading Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trees, Trees...and More Trees

You may remember Terri H. from her beautiful In Baltimore Style quilt a few posts back.  Monday night she came to class with this beauty!  The trees are from a cutwork pattern I designed.  Terri completed three and set them into this stunning tablerunner.  She is definitely on a finishing roll!

I tried very hard to get Terri to show a bit more of her face but to no avail.  This is so Kilroy--but it needs a bit more nose to be truly right!

Thanks for sharing, Terri!

That's it for tonight.  


Monday, December 12, 2011

Raw Edge Ornament Tutorial

I'm sure that many of you know someone with young children or four-legged children who like to help "undecorate" the Christmas tree.  So instead of filling those bottom boughs with heirloom ornaments and breakables, you can gift them with these lovely ornaments.  I have designed a bird for you to get started, but anything you can imagine is fair game.  Cookie cutters are wonderful for design ideas.

Here is the pattern, drawn on 1/4 inch graph paper.  You should be able to print this picture and then see how large or small you want it.

Make two plastic templates.  One of the full bird and a separate wing section.  I write RS for right side on my template, as the wing is asymmetrical.

For each ornament, you will need two 5-inch squares of fabric (I usually use muslin for both sides, but feel free to experiment).  The biggest concern is the ability to mark the pattern on one side).  The pieces can be larger than 5 inches, but not less.  You will also need a 5-inch piece of batting--I particularly like cotton for these ornaments.  I have successfully used Hobbs Heirloom bleached and unbleached.  This batting will show at the edges of the ornament.

Trace the full bird template onto one piece of fabric.  Place the bird at an angle so that it fits better.  I use Prismacolor Verithin pencils in silver for this step.  This should not be a permanent marker.  Make a dot where shown on the wing.  This is the marker for the hanger.

Now place the separate wing into place and

trace the bottom edge! Layer the backing right side down, the batting, and the top piece (with the traced design UP, of course!).  Baste about 3/8 of an inch beyond the drawn line through all three layers.  You could add more basting if you'd like, but it is not really necessary.

I like to use a Richard Hemming Between size 10 to quilt with.  Here I have used a variegated 24 wt. YLI Fusions thread.  Start on either side of the wing and quilt as shown above.  Quilt right on the line.  It is not a good idea to travel any great distance when using light colored fabrics on both sides and a thin batting.  Bury knots in line with a quilted line to make it look more like a shadow.

Now start at the tip of the wing and quilt the wing section.  Consider using a different colored thread for the wing.

Ta-Da!  The quilting is done!  Pretty fast and easy, wasn't it?  Add an eye to both sides with pigma pens or you could embroider the eyes with a french knot--or how about a small glass bead on either side.

With small, sharp scissors, carefully cut out the bird.  I like about 3/16 inch; you may like a bit more.  Don't be tempted to get too close to the stitching--it will fray out!

Remember the dot on the wing?  Now use a piece of quilting thread to make a hanger.  You can do single or double strand, no knot yet.  Bring the needle up or down through the dot, match the ends and make a knot at the end of the hanger.  You may want to sign the back of the ornament or you can embellish the bird more.  I'll just warn you to beware of heavy embellishments.  If you decide to use buttons or such, the bird starts to tip--you may need to adjust the placement of the hanger to compensate.

So there you have it!  Quick, easy and unbreakable.  And you won't be too annoyed if two- or four-legged children grab hold and chew or drool on them.  Because you can repeat this for next year's holidays!  And don't forget, these make great gift tags at any time of year!

Big holiday hugs!

P.S.  I finally finished The Boleyn Inheritance--and trust me you so do not want what those girls inherited!  I'm now listening to The Affair by Lee Child.

Get a Move On!!!

Only thirteen days left to finish all that holiday stuff--you know--like decorating, presents, cards--breathing.

Check back later today for something you might enjoy. 


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Is This You?

Do you have your head stuck in the water? (Yes, I know it is traditionally sand, but just play along.)

Are you asleep on your feet?

Holiday pressures making you grumpy?

Almost came to fisticuffs over that last--insert item here--you found at the mall?

Then take a break and reflect on how lucky we all are. It's easy to think "oh woe is me" at any time of the year, but Christmas seems to make it all seem worse. Look around, you will see someone who is far worse off than you are. We all have a gift that can be given freely, costs nothing, but spreads warmth and good cheer wherever we go--the smile! So spread it around. Let's see if we can brighten up some grumpy faces! At the very least, people will wonder what we are smiling about!

Sending smiles your way!


Friday, December 9, 2011

I Give Up

The photos and their captions were chosen with care. Uploading them to the blog was unsuccessful--twice. So I give up. I will post that hopefully tomorrow.

I have something fun in store for you probably on stay tuned.


P.S. I am still listening to The Boleyn Inheritance in case you were wondering. 15 cds--and compelling as all get out!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's Snowing!

A wet, heavy snow. About two inches since 4:00 pm. This time last year I had already cancelled at least two classes!

A knitting question answered: The yarn I used in my sweater was Plymouth Encore, 75% acrylic, 25% wool. Color number 7991 Drifting. I purchased mine at Knitting Etc. in Ithaca, NY. Their website is They have a wonderful selection of yarn and patterns, and their customer service is tops.