Thursday, July 31, 2008

A gentle push...

Sometimes we need, or get, a gentle push...

to go in a direction we would not have otherwise gone.

to try something outside our comfort zone.

to take a chance.

I've had a few pushes over the years.

Dennis R. "pushing" me towards becoming an exchange student by bringing me to an informational meeting with him.

Brother Bill "pushing" me towards trying Indian food that I said I hated by taking me to a restaurant in Hong Kong (loved it!!!)

Jen B. "pushing" me towards joining an online quilting group by giving me a personal invitation.

...there have been many more...and they have taken many shapes and forms.

One recent gentle "push" came in the form of a charm pack of fabric. Fabric I never would have selected myself - fabric I probably would not have known about as it is not carried at the shop where I purchase most of my fabric - fabric that I ended up falling in love with enough to figure out a plan and a pattern... to seek out more charm packs and yardage... and then to create this:

I think you know who you are. Thanks for the push!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Life in the Landscape

I am definitely a child of the hills, a product of the environment of my childhood in Alfred, NY. Alfred is part of the Allegheny Plateau, at the northern part of the Appalachian Mountain chain. I always used to tell people that Alfred was a main street in a deep valley, with two colleges (Alfred University and SUNY at Alfred) terraced up on either side. My home was on one of the roads that led up and out of town, just below one of the highest points of elevation in the county, well over 2200'.

Still today I can recall certain hills and twists and turns in the road where suddenly the whole valley vista would open before you - those were, and still are, some of my favorite places.

And nothing is better than a sunny day with scattered clouds, when you can see the shadows formed by the clouds moving across the green trees that covered the hills. Or a fall day when the hills explode into a hundred different shades of red and orange and yellow and green - with the brilliant clear high blue sky above them.

Hillsides dotted with sheep and cows and hay bales, barns nestled in little hollows in the valleys.

I miss these things - although I live in farm country, my home is in a different topography and our highest hill is laughable in comparison to the hills of my childhood, topping out around 650'. Other places I have lived have been somewhat hilly, but nothing like those rolling hills of childhood. The vistas just don't take my breath away like those Allegheny hills.

Last week's Shop Hop took me back towards those hills - on a sunny day with scattered clouds. I didn't think to pull out the camera on the way down to capture the landscape, and by the time I was headed home the sun was setting, one of those wondrous long sunsets that came and went as the car traveled from valley to hilltop, opening up vistas of valleys in shadow while the hilltops were kissed by that late day orange light. Two hot air balloons drifted high above the valley in the late lingering light, and I envied their view. I snapped a photo out the car window as I drove - but it just does not do it justice (the dirty car windows don't help, either).

Although I was stopping at new destinations, I was actually on roads well known and often traveled. My second shop stop came on a route that, had I continued on, would have led me back to Alfred. With the sun and the puffy clouds and the blue sky above - my heart and soul were tempted to head in that direction and let my eyes soak in the hills.

Alas, commitments (and quilt shops) called me in another direction. Which was again over often traveled roads, roads that used to take me from my childhood home to my grandparents, or to visit a school friend in another town. Roads that marked the start and end of nearly every family vacation I remember. It was actually odd to get off this highway to visit a quilt shop, as it was a region that was always a "pass through" and never a destination.

I did squeeze in a stop at an old "destination" - a McDonald's in Bath, NY - halfway between my home and the home of that old school friend. Parents used to drive us to this McD's to meet for pick up or drop off for a weekend visit, eliminating the need for either family to make that long drive twice.

Although I had never actually done the driving myself, there was something comfortable in coming off the highway exit, making that left turn, and turning into the parking lot. Even the on-ramp to get back on the highway, westbound towards homes both old and new, felt familiar and just so right, like I had just done it yesterday, or last week, or 23 years ago.

Again I reached a crossroads, west towards Alfred or north towards home.

This time there was no temptation - home isn't in the hills anymore, it is where the Munchkin and Hubby are waiting.

But I will visit those hills again - and bring them along to enjoy the views.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tutorial Tuesday - Orphan Block Box

A cute little box with a quilt block interior. A fun way to use up and show off those leftover blocks.

Supply List:

Quilt Block of your choice
Batting – cut to same dimensions as quilt block
Backing fabric cut per instructions below

Cutting the backing fabric:

You will be wrapping the backing fabric around the block and batting to form the binding using an “edge turned binding”.

You can make this binding as wide or as narrow as you wish. Simply determine the finished width of binding you desire (I like somewhere between ½ and ¼ inch) and follow the formula below to cut your backing fabric.

Size of block + (width of binding *4) = size of backing
Example: 10” block with a 1/2” binding
10 + (.5 * 4) = 12” backing square


Layer the quilt block with the batting and backing fabric. Be sure the block and batting are centered on the backing fabric. Pin or baste in place so they do not shift during the quilting stage.

Hand or Machine Quilt as desired. Please remember that your quilting stitches will show on the outside of the box.

Measure in ½ inch (or width of your desired binding if different from example) from each corner OF THE BLOCK and make a mark.

Fold the corner of the backing in towards the center, being sure it is even on both sides.

Trim off the corner so that it is even with the mark made in step 3. PRESS

Fold the backing fabric sides in half towards the center, pressing lightly. Fold them in again, press, and pin in place – aligning the corners as you fold in.

Stitch down this “binding” by hand or machine.

Pinch in each side, finding the middle, and pin about ¼ of the way up. Do this on each side, being sure each side is even with the others.

Blind stitch these edges together, and fold the flaps of the box back.

NOTE: To make a taller box with a smaller opening, stitch further up the sides of the box. If you go much further than ½ way up, it becomes harder to see the beauty of the inside of the box, but you can play with your block to see what works best for you.

For another variation – try stitching up the corners to make a wide, shallow box.

This works well for blocks with solid color corners, while the basic version shows off more detailed block corners.

(this block was made using the Lazy Angle ruler from Lazy Girl Designs.)

(.pdf version is pending -check back here soon. Thanks for your patience)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Turtle of the Day - Lightless Night Light

Brother Bill sent me this turtle -it "was" a really cool night light with an amber glass shell - or at least I am taking Brother Bill's word for it as that was how he saw it in the store. The people who shipped it from that store must have figured that the turtle is a sturdy little critter and really did not need bubble wrap or cushioning in the package for shipment from Boston to Ohio.

By the time it got to me, I think the glass had turned back into sand. There wasn't much left.

I have kept the framework -I keep intending to build this guy a new shell, but I don't do glass work. Maybe some translucent polymer clay would work? Hmmm......

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dirty Tales from the Garden - Alien Invasion

Today's feature plant is Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascene).

Otherwise known around my house as the “Alien Seed Pod”

These first came to my home from seeds gathered from my mother’s house in South Carolina. I am not sure where she got them - I don't recall any UFO sightings in the area, but sometimes I gotta wonder.

“These are good shade plants,” she said. And at her house they were – lightly scattered beneath a birch tree they gave a bit of delicate color to that spot.

But at my house – the “Alien Seed Pods” obviously found something they loved –because what started out as “lightly scattered” in the shade soon became “thickly clustered” – anywhere and everywhere a seed touched the ground. Full sun, part shade, in the lawn, in the cracks of the sidewalk. Even under the Black Walnut tree where most things do not like to grow.

I love these plants, though. From the first delicate ferny fronds that peek up in the spring, to the unexpected colors (I never ever know what color they are going to be), to the wild variations in height (some are 2” – some are 12” or more), to the fun and funky seed pods, they never cease to bring a smile.

And I love what this website says about their bloom time:

Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall
Mid Fall

Around here –that pretty much means I have “aliens” in various stages of growth and bloom and "poddage" from spring until frost.

It's so great. They are also not common around here, so they make for some interesting conversations.

Nearly time for the first pod harvest. Anyone need some seeds? Just send me your address and I will pop a pod or two in the mail to you.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Travel Report

12 hours, 232 miles, and FIVE quilt shops. Not at all a bad route to take to my meeting.

I left the house at 9:00 AM - scooted to the PO to mail out a squishie to the winner of my 200th blog post giveaway, filled up the gas tank, and headed out. Miranda was packed with my maps, my lunch, my camera, and my shopping list. I had my wallet and necessities tucked into Sassy to bring into the stores, but ended up leaving my lunch in the car and just grabbing all of Miranda. I had some swatches and other things in her for matching and it left my hands freer in the stores. She was a perfect companion for the day!

My first stop - Mt. Pleasant Quilting Company, is actually only 17 miles from me. Now WHY OH WHY have I not been here before!!! What a great store - I got there before they were officially opened, but that was not a problem. They welcomed me right in, and when they found out I was a first time customer one employee gave me a tour of the store as to where everything is, and then went off to try to match one of my swatches while I browsed. They were having a "make your own sale" where your entire purchase was 25% off with their newsletter coupon, and I had found the downloadable newsletter on their website before I headed out, so I was all set. They've got some great classes and a wonderful classroom space, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere there. If schedules allow - I hope to take a class or more from them.

I had brought my turtle quilt pattern with me - and decided that I would collect "turtle shells" on this shop hop, and then other fabrics as they called out to me. I didn't want to commit to buying for a big project so I figured I would just pick up little things here and there. At this first stop I found five good turtle shells. Ialso found a great jacket pattern, and a couple fun FQ's.

Lazy Sister Sue was just starting out on a road trip of her own to FL with a couple shop stops planned. I called her a few times on the cell phone during the course of the day, so she kind of went along with me.

Stop 2 was Material Rewards Quilt Shop. This is a bit further away, but actually someplace I have driven past many times and never noticed. This shop was HUGE and had a wonderful selection of flannels - if I decided to do a big flannel project I will definitely head back there. They were holding a "Christmas in July" workshop but I did not join in because I was watching the time, although I did peek at the projects after the group broke up. Lots of ideas.

This shop did have the primary fabric I was searching for (Moda A Morris Garden gold - to do the inner border on my Disappearing 9 Patch. ) I also found a few more turtle backs, some fun Gecko fabric for the Munchkin, and some map fabric for a project I am working on for a Lions Club leadership training retreat. They also had great buttons, and I picked up some turtles and bees (go figure!).

While in their store I chatted with LSS, sampled the Christmas Cookies, and just marveled at the huge selection. In the parking lot I consulted my next map, pulled out my bag lunch, and headed down the road again.

The third stop, Sew Pieceful Quilt and Gift Shop, was the shop I originally intended to start at, before LSS bought a Quilters Travel Companion and spurred me to extend my list of stores. I got there shortly after noon, after calling once to get directions through the farm field and rural roads. Beautiful countryside (more on that in a later post) and a beautiful sunny day for a drive.

This was another very personable and friendly environment, where I felt like I had known these people forever. I had talked to the shop owner a few days ago, telling her I planned to be there when they opened. I apologized, and told her about my extended hop. We chatted through the room as I browsed, and she also gave me the quick tour of where everything was.

I found some AWESOME fabric to do a travel tote for my FIL - who is restoring an old car and would appreciate the vintage oil can and automotive sign themed fabrics. I also found some train themed fabric for the Munchkin, a few great scraps in the remnant bin, and a BRIGHT FQ for a good online friend who bested me in June's quilting hours contest and likes really bright colors. Zoe needed a bobbin keeper, as her bobbins are a different size than Melody's - so that rounded out my purchases at this stop. No turtle shells here, though.

After leaving this shop, my next destination was actually the hotel where the meeting was being held, in Corning, NY. My plan was to park the car at the hotel, and walk one block over to Market Street, where there are lots of shops, boutiques, antique dealers and restaurants. I had already had lunch, and once I got to the hotel I had a little over an hour before I had to report to the meeting.

I headed straight out to Corning Stitch Works, a tiny little shop in a great old building with the high high ceilings and old woodwork and great 'atmosphere' . The selection here was smaller, but very unique as she had a lot of vintage fabrics, trims and lines I had not seen at most of my other stops. Quilts and projects were intermixed with antiques and it was just a fun and funky environment.

I only bought a few little things here. I loved the vintage fabrics, but nothing called out strongly enough for me to bring it home, and so I got a turtle back and a couple of neat little 1/4 yard rolls.

And then this is where I got lucky and discovered a FIFTH stop in my "Four Shop Hop". A shopkeeper from a few stores down had stopped in to chat, and when she heard my story about my "One Woman Four Stop Hop" she suggested I stop into her store as well - she said she focused more on embroidery machines, but did have fabric, as she was going out of business and moving to NC everything was on sale.

We walked back down to her shop - The Glass Thimble - (did not get a photo of me in front, but you will have to take my word for it that there was a 5th store) and I found a couple more fun fabrics.

With 25 minutes left to go before my meeting, I headed back, poking my head into two antique shops on the way. I was tempted by an old quilt block, but had spent the last of my cash (had 25 cents left) and did not want to pull out a credit card for a $1 purchase so I passed it up and headed back to the hotel.

The meeting went well - and the best part came at the end...when they told me to submit a voucher to have my mileage covered!!!

Can't wait for the next meeting -so I can plan another hop. Wonder where that one will take me?

Friday, July 25, 2008

One Person Four Stop Shop Hop

I am off exploring today - I have to go to an out of town meeting about 120 miles from here, and it just so happens that there are at least FOUR quilt shops between here and there, and I don't need to be there until 3:00 PM.

So my maps are ready, Miranda and Sassy are being packed and prepped to go, and I think I am going to pack a lunch for the ride.

Will report in tomorrow.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Inspiration Take II

As promised yesterday, this is what Lazy Sister Sue created for the Seven Dwarfs nursery - working with the same paint chip palette as I did. I will have to look for photos of the entire quilt -but I think you can get the idea of colors here.

And what's fun is that extra fabric from this quilt found its way into Summer Sunshine! And I actually think a piece from the baby quilt I did is in LSS's quilt, but I would have to look carefully to be sure. 50+ scraps in all -it got a bit confusing as to who had what.

LSS made the "quilt" underneath as well - probably one of her first, it was made with two sheets and some batting sewn together envelope style and turned, then topstitched on the edges and tied. She made 2 of these and they were bedspreads in Terri and Cindy's room - oh many many many many years ago (I was in early elementary school at the time).

Some of the ties are frayed, but they are soft and cool and totally machine washable and a staple item on our bed. They were great on the floor when the Munchkin was learning to crawl - or to give a cooler surface in the summer than the nylon carpeting.

Getting "custody" of these was lucky! I made one a few years after for my bed, and the sheets were not as nice, and the batting all pilled through - ugh. Just not the same.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Finding Inspiration - in unexpected places.

A fellow quilting blogger in Ohio wrote today about a current "slump" and asked where other quilters find inspiration and motivation.

I don't always know about motivation - some times I get on a roll and sometimes I don't - but inspiration - well sometimes that comes from very unexpected places, and not necessarily a pattern book or fabric store display.

I have been meaning to share with everyone my son's "baby quilt" and the inspiration behind it.

For a long time before my son was born I had been amassing a small collection of Seven Dwarf plushies. It started when I was living in Japan the first time around and visited Tokyo Disneyland just before returning home. My host Mom bought me a stuffed "Happy" and the collection was begun.

A few visits to Disneyworld during my college years added to my collection, and by the time the Munchkin was on the horizon, I had two full sets of plushies in different sizes, plus a few other accessories.

I decided to "do the nursery" in Seven Dwarfs - but I did not want the typical printed sheets and curtains and all that - it was way too busy. Instead I took the plushies to Home Depot (!?) to the paint department and picked out paint chips that matched the different colors of their clothes, shoes, and hats. Those chips were paper-fastened together and a set was sent to Lazy Sister Sue and grandparents, and I kept a set in my wallet. The wall paint was chosen from among those colors, and the rest would be incorporated into the quilt, bedding and curtains. Frequent visits to all sorts of fabric stores and the bedding departments of other stores finally completed the stash needed to put this quilt together. The backing is flannel from a sheet set, and the light creamy color is from a percale sheet set. The pieces were all cut to random sizes and shapes, and stitched randomly onto flannel strips, then assembled in a "quilt as you go" style. The rust and cream fabrics were fashioned into dust ruffles and curtains, and the remaining flannel recut to make crib sheets.

The Munchkin's room is now more of a jungle than a Disney forest, and the rust curtains have given way to dark green leaves and parrots, but this quilt still remains a required fixture in his bed - even in the heat of summer. Many washings have it nice and soft and pliable and cuddly.

Tomorrow I will show what the same paint chips inspired Lazy Sister Sue to create.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tutorial Tuesday - a product review

This is not so much a "how to do..." post but a "wow oh wow can this tool really make your life easier" post.

I confess that I am not a triangle quilter. The quilts I have done that do use triangles are few and far between, and I have usually struggled with them, or avoided them all together.

Some months ago I was gifted with a Lazy Angle Ruler and the accompanying book Lazy and Lovin' It by a very dear friend, and I set them aside - still finding the idea of triangles intimidating and frustrating.

Then this week my Prolific Online Quilt Guild members decided to make a friendship quilt for one of our members. The colors are red, white and blue -and right away a whole bunch of star blocks were proposed and produced. Stars were not a requirement - but that seemed to be the direction many members were headed.

Thinking I had to make a star block with it's requisite triangles (ever seen a square star???) I looked at some paper piecing options, and then turned to the Lazy and Lovin' It book for more ideas.

This tool and book just blew me away! What complicated looking designs - and yet once I started cutting and assembling, I had a block together in NO TIME AT ALL!!! And with the super efficient cutting, I was able to cut an incredible amount of pieces from a 44 inch strip, leaving only selvage bits for the trash bin.

The best part- once I squared up my strip, each triangle was cut with ONE cut!! Not 3, no twisting and turning to work around a triangle, no spinning and rearranging fabric, no fuss, no muss, no bother!!! LOVELY!

I cut out 3 blocks lickety split, and had 2 together before bedtime.

Forget "Lazy Angle" - Joan is my "Lazy Angel" -
Now pass me some more triangles, please!!!

...the wheels are turning - I am already plotting a quilt using some of the ideas in the book... Stay tuned!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Collectors and their Collections

It must be pretty obvious by now that I collect turtles. Over the years I have been a collector of many things - in one phase of my childhood it was rocks, for a while it was bandannas (long story there - embarrassing fashion phase in my life), postcards, various stuffed animals... and I cannot forget my extensive collection of Castle themed LEGO sets, which the Munchkin will gain custody of ...when it is time.

I know I have purged these collections from time to time - the rocks went to NephewBob for Christmas one year. That was funny because his dad had taught him that if Mommy (Lazy Sister Sue) asked what she was getting for Christmas, he was to tell her "Rocks, Mommy, just Rocks." So for Christmas one year I actually gave him "Rocks, just Rocks." He loved it!!!

Mom is purging one of her collections - and I told her I would help get the word out by posting them here before we turn to an online auction with it's associated fees.

As a gift shop retailer, Mom has stocked many collectible lines over the years - including Lizzie High. She's got a few at home that were sold as Collector's Special Buys that she is now hoping to send off to a new loving home.

Their photos and names are listed below. If you are a Lizzie High collector, or know someone who is, please contact me and I will put you in touch with Mom about her asking prices and any additional information.

Audrey High (1993)
Becky High (1993)
Chloe Valentine (1994)
Dottie Bowman (1995)
Ellie Bowman (1996)
Fiona High (1996?)

Turtle of the Day - Ornament

This is a little porcelain ornament made by Rob Gentry. He makes REALLY gorgeous stuff, but much of it is beyond my price range. However, at festivals you can usually find baskets of fun porcelain stamped ornaments at his booth - turtles, gingerbread men, snowflakes, and other fun motifs. I used to buy lots of them to use as package tags, writing on the back with a gold paint pen. A few were given to me as gifts that way, and about a dozen or so are in our Christmas decorations box and are hung with ribbon on our tree each year.

This one stays in the turtle box - although I really need to hang it up somewhere.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dirty Tales from the Garden VI


People either love it or hate it.

And those that love it are either purists or want it combined with something else -usually strawberries.

I did not grow up eating rhubarb. I knew what it was - I think - and that my mother did not like it, so we did not grow it or eat it. I am not sure if my Dad likes it or not, or any of my siblings.

My first real exposure to it came in my mother-in-law's rhubarb custard pie - homemade pie, pure rhubarb. See -she's a purist, as is my father-in-law, and my Hubby. Brother-in-law on the other hand has to have the strawberries.

When our friend M lost his house and gave us his garden, that included his patch of rhubarb. Hubby was ecstatic. We had just put in a small "raised bed" for seasonal produce, and before you could say "boo" it became home to four nice crowns of rhubarb.

Sitting it out the first year after they had been transplanted was torture for Hubby, but that was what we had read was recommended, and he eagerly eagerly awaited the harvest the 2nd year.

We've cooked with our rhubarb exactly once - hubby made a rhubarb crisp I think - the rest of it gets carried to his parents as often as possible - usually resulting in a weekly, fresh out of the oven, rhubarb custard pie. Every time MIL comes to the house she checks to see how it is growing - and BIL was positively drooling over the bed when he was here July 4th (I did let him take some home - even though he was mixing it with strawberries)

The Munchkin has yet to try it - but I wonder if he will be a purist like Hubby, or take after my mom?

A few crowns got divided this year - I was careful to leave enough alone to be able to harvest next spring AND give the new stuff a year off. One entire 4x4 square of my new vegetable garden has been committed evermore to the cultivation of rhubarb. See - I am not the rhubarb preparer - but I am the rhubarb tender - and that makes me very special in this rhubarb loving family.

Any good rhubarb recipes out there? Maybe I should learn to cook this stuff, too???

Saturday, July 19, 2008

OOPs - I missed again

Note to self - when you run a giveaway for your 200th post it helps to actually pick a winner!!!

Kim from A Peach in Stitches is the random number pick of the day (or as my Sesame Street loving Munchkin would say - "2 is the nuner of the day")

Thanks for all your great recipes - and for coming back to read my craziness!