Saturday, December 31, 2016

Gearing up for 2017

Looking Back - Looking Ahead

At this time last year I was in a bit of a funk, lamenting the fact that my mother-in-law (a/k/a the Queen Mother) had taken to her bed for the final time, we had called in Hospice, and were anticipating the end to come within a couple of months.

Fast forward 12 months.  The Queen Mother is still with us, having not left her bed in a year, breathing with the aid of oxygen, peeing with the aid of a catheter, and barely able to recognize us.  Obviously God has a plan for her; I just wish he/she would reveal it to me.

In the last 12 months we sold a property in East Tennessee, came close to purchasing two others, and are now looking at houses to be our retirement home in the Johnson City area.

Husband recently "officially" retired and so far is not driving me crazy. I've heard stories from friends about how much their lives changed -- not necessarily for the good -- once their husbands retired.  Since mine has worked from home for the last two decades, there's hardly been a blip in our routines.  Nevertheless, I look forward to spending more time with him, my all-time best friend, when he no longer has the pressure of caring for his mother.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to 2017, trying to settle on a plan that equitably shares my love of quilting with my love of travel and my love of spending time with my beloved.

Happy New Year

2016 in Review

One Thing I've Learned

I'm a terrible planner

Or overly optimistic.  Or just plain lazy.

This year, in a capsule, I had planned to:

1. Make only monthly goals, rather than sweeping year-long goals. While this approach did help me focus, I met my monthly goal only about half the time.

2.  Reduce stash.  I didn't keep track this year but I think I came close to maintaining a balance.  I had quite a few finishes, many out of my stash scraps.  My shopping sprees were fewer, but I made up for that in quantity when I did shop.

3.  Do something with UFOs.  This is one area where I succeeded.  About half my finished tops came from the UFO pile, thanks to the Rainbow Scrap Challenge which I used to pick a UFO each month.  And several other finished tops came out of  leftovers from other finishes.

4.  Update and improve my blog.  Never made it past first base on this one.

My specific UFO plan included 10 projects.  Of these, I only worked on two. 

The blocks for Jubilee were finished, then auctioned in the Orphan Adoption event in September.

The Color Project was split into two tops -- Tropical Trellis (finished top) and Tropical Stars (remaining star blocks have gone back in the box waiting for inspiration on how to finish).

Tropical Trellis
Apparently specificity in my list is not the answer as I was quite successful in other areas.
  • Out of 22 quilts started in 2016 (WHAT was I thinking!), eight became finished tops and one mini made it to a quilted finish.   
  • Nine UFOs became finished tops, two of which have been quilted with binding still to turn.
  • A total of six quilts and four runners were quilted.
  • And I started and finished three travel iron totes and one pillow cover.
Not a bad year, all-in-all, but my UFO stack continues to grow, not to mention my cache of finished tops. May be time to learn to quilt ... maybe ... we'll see.

Thanks to all my faithful readers.
Your friendship and support mean the world to me.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Quilty Christmas Loot

Let the fun begin!

Gotta love Amazon Wishlist.  It sure makes shopping for others easy.  But it also makes it easier to let family members know what you really would like to receive, especially when it's some obscure (to them) quilt-related item.

This year my family really pulled through.  Here's the haul:

Christmas Loot
Crafted Applique by Lara Bucella.

Masterpiece thread, 50 wt. 3-ply, extra-long-staple Egyptian cotton.

Creative Grids Two Peaks in One 6" triangle (a/k/a "Peaky and Spike").

A set of 4 clamps to hold quilt backs taught when making the quilt sandwich.  (They're also good for a hand workout!)

A rolling tractor seat to take to retreats.

And a Garmin GPS to make sure I can find my way to retreats!

Merry Christmas to me!

Monday, December 26, 2016

One Monthly Goal

I didn't declare a goal for December since I didn't finish November's goal.  I'm happy to report that I am now caught up.

My November goal was to finish the Christmas table runners for MIL's caregivers.  I finally finished these with a few hours to spare.

Triangle Frenzy
While I didn't meet many of my goals in the designated month, I did find it helpful to have a goal motivating me to finish deadline projects and UFOs.

Thanks to Heidi (Red Letter Quilts) and now Patty D (Elm Street Quilts) for hosting this activity in 2016.  I plan to participate again in 2017.  In fact, I spent a good portion of today reviewing my UFOs in anticipation of OMG2017.

Even though I didn't declare a goal, I'm still going to check in with Patty D.  Why don't you hop over to Elm Street Quilts to see what the excitement is all about.  Then join us for OMG in 2017.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

'Twas the Day Before Christmas ...

... and all 'round the studio ...

Last-minute projects are finished!!!

Three of the Queen Mother's caregivers have received Christmas table runners.

Triangle Frenzy
The tops were finished last year, but I didn't get them quilted in time for Christmas.  Almost didn't get them done this year, either!  The pattern is Triangle Frenzy, designed for border prints cut with a 60-degree triangle.  I did some simple stitch-in-the-ditch quilting and added a couple of straight lines along the S-curve/figure 8.  After my experience with the travel iron totes earlier this month, I was confident enough to do the bindings on the machine.

Machine binding
I cut the binding at 2-1/4" (I usually cut 2") and applied from the back side.  I gave it a good pressing out from the back and when I turned it to the front I stitched 1/8" from the folded  edge.  The foot on my Baby Lock has 1/4" on the right side and 1/8" on the left side which is perfect for this application.  The bobbin stitching on the back side was pretty much in the ditch, or at least parallel to the ditch, all around.

The fourth caregiver is receiving this table runner tomorrow.

QAYG Braid Table Runner
The other three had received runners made from this pattern several years ago.  I attempted machine binding at the retreat earlier this month but I had not cut it with the added quarter inch so it was less than successful.  I will be spending the next few minutes trying to resurrect it before we have to leave for a family Christmas celebration across the county.  (Of course, a shower and salad construction have to fit in that time slot, as well -- and I could sure use a nap since DH and I were up at 4 this morning in order to get to church in time to feed breakfast to the homeless ...)

Most of my day has been spent on this last project which I'm quite proud of.

Deconstructed Flying Geese
Grandson-2's girlfriend has come to meet the family -- bless her heart.  She had a modern pillow on her Amazon Wishlist and, of course, my first thought was "I can make something like that."  Never mind that I've never made a pillow cover.  The one she wanted was 18 inches so that is what I made.

I used a linen-look background fabric and cut some flying geese in grays and blacks.  My strips and geese were cut at 2-1/2".  Originally I had planned an orderly progression of geese across the pillow top, but in the end I decided spacing them out would give a more modern look.

I used a pretty Cotton + Steel print on the back and opted for an envelope overlap closure since I was pushing the deadline.

Well, that's it for Christmas preparation.  I did manage to make a few of dark purple tri-recs units for Bonnie's mystery (that I'm not doing), but just could not find time to work on the latest clue, half-square triangles.

Off to spend time with family. Best wishes to one and all for a very Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On the Homefront

Studio Time

After my flurry of errands last week, which included wrapping gifts and shipping two boxes to Arkansas on Saturday (crossing my fingers they arrive in time), I plan to devote most of this week to finishing last-minute gifts.

Come Fly With Me
The geese are finally heading in the correct direction and have joined the rest of the flock in a Springy wall hanging for SIL.  I couldn't get it finished in time to go in yesterday's post, so it will be waiting for her when she comes back to visit in January.  Gotta love quilt-as-you-go for a quick finish!  Still needs to be squared up and bound, but since I have a couple of weeks till it's due, I'll move some other projects to the front today.

First up will be Christmas table toppers for MIL's caregivers. I'm hoping spray basting and machine binding will expedite the process. And sometime before Saturday I want to make a pillow cover for Grandson-2's girlfriend who's coming to meet the family (I hope she has a sense of humor). 

Health Update

Forgot to mention I got my flu shot.  Had a voucher for free shot at CVS/Target and on top of that, they gave me a $5 gift card just for getting the shot!!  Now let's see if I get the flu ...

Mammogram was normal; lumbar x-rays confirmed some degeneration and stenosis as I suspected.  So my lifestyle changes have commenced.  The least invasive thing I need to do is lose some weight -- no, really, a lot of weight -- to take some stress off the back.  Since most exercise is painful, the easiest way is to simply reduce intake.  Already lost 1.5 lbs!

I've started wearing a lumbar support around the house and will begin stretching exercises this week.  I'm also checking out yoga classes at the rec center.  The last things I want are drugs and surgery.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What's Wrong With This Picture?

15 Geese flying in the wrong direction!

I should know by now to test something before I start chain piecing!  But, NO! I stitched 15 of these suckers heading east west (thanks, Nann) instead of north!

This is more like it!  Unfortunately I didn't get this simple project done today, so if it's not finished tomorrow, it will have to wait till after Christmas because I have other gifts to attend to that don't require mailing.

I know it's been a while since I posted -- and I appreciate those who expressed concern -- but it's been a week of doctor visits and Christmas errands.  My occasional back pain has gotten to the point that I am hoping I can determine the cause and settle on some lifestyle changes that will give me some relief.  It's not so bad that I need surgery or drugs; it's just a pain in the butt -- literally.

I used the doctor's order for a lumbar xray to also schedule my mammogram.  I was also able to get a last-minute appointment with the eye doctor for a routine check.  DH has had a year of medical expenses, so why not pile on for tax purposes?

Such a weird weather day we've had.  Last night at 10:20 p..m. it was 70 degrees here and 38 degrees less than 60 miles west.  We woke this morning to this:

Mostly sleet.  And the roads were still warm enough from the day before that driving was not an issue.  I know many of you have had much colder temps and more snow.

Stay warm
Stay safe
Quilt On

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Mystery I'm Not Doing

Friday morning, Bonnie Hunter released the third clue for her annual mystery quilt-along --  purple 4-patches.  As I was in the midst of iron tote production at the time, I couldn't start Clue 3 till Sunday.

I'm not sure which direction I want to go with the purples ....

My first idea was to make them like the neutrals, with similar color and value.  I chose two red-purples to go with the magentas, but in the end they are so close in color and value that they blend into one big blob.

I also thought about staying on the lighter grayish side of purple since I already had quite a few strips cut.

These are kinda bland, but might work as long as a strong dark/light pattern is not required.  So today I tried making pairs with more value contrast.

I think I'm done until I can see where these units will go in the quilt.  I can always use the rejects in something else.

Third Time's the Charm

Kinda like the Three Bears

The Music City Modern Quilters do a Secret Santa swap each year.  My designated recipient said "surprise me"!  The only hints she gave were that she likes batiks and colors.  Rather than do another mini-quilt I decided to attempt a quilty non-quilt project.  I chose the Travel Iron Tote pattern by Sisters' Common Thread.

The pattern was a lot easier than it looks, but it still took quite a bit of concentration at first.  However, it was a bit small for the iron I had purchased to go in it.

First Tote -- Too Small
So I enlarged the pattern by 3/4" in every direction.  You guessed it; the second attempt was too big.

Second Tote -- Too Big
It wasn't too big to be unusable; it just didn't make a nice tight package around the iron.  And my small travel machine wasn't able to handle some of the heavy stitching, but it was good enough to put in the Smores' Dirty Santa swap.

Still needing a Secret Santa gift for the modern guild party, I attempted a third tote once I got home from the retreat where I could use my heavy-duty machine.  Tote #3 was JUST RIGHT!

Tote 3 -- Just Right!
On this one I enlarged the pattern just 1/2" in all dimensions and that turned out to be a perfect fit for the iron I had purchased to go in it.

Tote 3 exterior
Tote 3 interior
My swap partner was thrilled with it and I suspect that everyone else might have been a bit jealous, based on all the questions I got about the pattern.

The pattern got easier with each one I made.  I'll keep the small one for myself and just let the cord hang out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Best Intentions ...

... Go by the wayside

I had several projects lined up for retreat that would require large design walls -- at least larger than I have at home. But in the end I left those at home since I decided I should finish a few small projects and work on Christmas gifts. 

First up yesterday I enlarged the tote pattern and quickly assembled another one.  My little travel Janome did not handle the stitching quite as nicely as my Baby Lock at home, though so I have plans to make another one for Secret Santa when I get home Thursday.

Tote #2 - New and Improved
This one went into the S'mores Dirty Santa swap tonight.  It was picked first and stolen once.  Quite a record for me!

My first gift pick turned out to be an oh-so-soft pink and gray wool scarf with matching gloves.  It was stolen by the person who brought it because she couldn't bear to part with it!  The nerve!

I ended up with a Frivols mini quilt kit.

This one is Polka Dots & Paisleys (Minick & Simpson for Moda) in luscious patriotic colors.

The kit will make this sweet 26" x 26" mini.

Guess what I'll be working on tomorrow!  I haven't been able to finish any of the other projects I brought for one reason or another.  And I don't think my small travel machine is the best choice for quilting the Christmas table runners.  So why not start something new!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Secret Santa

Shh, it's a secret!

My first attempt at a quilty non-quilt item is less than spectacular.

Travel Iron Tote - needs handles and buttons
The little travel iron tote -- pattern by Sisters' Common Thread -- looks a lot more intimidating than it is.  The instructions are well written, considering it's difficult to describe with words where to put stitching lines in an oversized rectangle. 

A template would have been helpful, but I carefully followed each step, double checking measurements along the way. Voila!  The amazing thing is the stitching lines really make the thing fold like it's supposed to!

So why do I think it less than spectacular?  First, the only elastic I have on hand is pure white so I tried both coffee and tea dying it.

Attempting tea dye
Apparently polyester and rubber don't absorb dye, but I did take a little of the whiteness out.

Could I find my button box when I need it?  NO. So a stop for buttons will be on today's agenda. 

The main reason for my disappointment, however, is the iron I purchased to go in the tote is too big!

I don't have to include the iron in the gift, but I thought it would be a nice touch.  I plan to attempt making a bigger one this week at retreat.  Stay tuned.

And now I'm off to three days of sewing with some really great friends.  Have a great week, Y'all!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Oh, Happy Day!

The second clue of Bonnie's mystery -- you know, the one I'm *not* doing -- was revealed on Friday.  Even though triangle-in-a-square blocks are my least favorite, this clue made me happy because:

1)  I found the perfect magenta fabric in my stash!

2) I was able to make the units at 4-1/2" to match my erroneous 4-patches without doing any higher math calculations!

And 3)  Even at half the number, the larger unit size will yield a nice size quilt.

So far, so good. Forty-eight TiS units done; waiting to see how they will be used before making more.

Hop over to Quiltville's Quips and Snips to check on others' progress.

In between I squeezed in some small flying geese as leaders/enders.

The beginning of Dutchman's Puzzle
I had cut the geese for another project, then changed my color scheme for that project. I think this chocolate brown with sprinkles background/sky will be unexpected.

This morning I went in a totally different direction, working on a Secret Santa project.

No, it's not a placemat.  It is going to be ...

... an iron tote!!!  Once I worked through the geometry of the stitching/fold lines, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  Now on to the binding, handles, and buttons.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Not Doing Bonnie's Mystery

Repeat, Not Doing Bonnie's Mystery

For new readers, Bonnie Hunter at Quiltville's Quips and Snips hosts a mystery quilt-along in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.  A clue is released each week on Friday and the following Monday there is a link-up to share progress.

I am NOT doing Bonnie's Mystery!

Pretty strong declaration for someone who made 120 neutral HSTs last weekend, huh?

I still have lots of UFOs as well as new projects in progress, so I made the decision not to play along  this year.  Instead, I will look at it as an extension of the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, using appropriately colored scraps with each clue until I run out of that color.  I may or may not have enough units to make the quilt even at half scale. But, as Gayle at mangofeet said, Bonnie's units always fit together and I can use them in a design of my own, if necessary.

There's one problem, though ... I was working from memory and pulled 2-1/2" strips instead of 2".  Big DUH!  I could easily trim them down to the correct size, but the thought of wasting that much fabric hurts.  OR, I could just make everything else bigger.  If that plan requires high-level math, then I'll just use the neutral 4Ps as background for applique!

Hop over to Quiltville to see how others are keeping up with the mystery.