Monday, February 25, 2013

quilt progress

I've been working on the log cabin quilt that I started in Linda Halpin's class last weekend. . . with a little help from my friends.

Dovey mostly wants to see what Mya is up to, while Mya sits and watches every little thing I'm doing. She'll watch with her front paws together, back ramrod straight, unblinking, purring a mile a minute the whole time. I think she loves the colors. In the shot above, Mya is giving her version of lovin' to the fabrics.

The goal of the class was to use only fabrics already in your stash, which for me, is heavy on autumnal hues: greens, rusts, golds, reds, browns, creams.

I've been sewing 4 blocks of each color combination, with black as the center square.

I work by doing two sets at a time. First I choose the colors that will become the next two blocks, lay them out beside my machine, and chain piece to move the process along.
My new dining room table is the perfect work surface. My cutting mat is there, the strips organized by color within reach, and the iron standing by. I only work in the daylight because the lamp light is more suitable to romantic dinners than sewing accuracy, but since I have no company now, and I mostly eat dinner at my computer desk while Skyping my husband, it doesn't matter that the table is busy as a studio work surface.
Anne is again posting Joy List Mondays. I love checking in on what's bringing her joy, as her joy is my joy as well. As for joy in this little farmhouse this particular Monday in February, I think my quilt blocks are on my list today.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

quilt class

Yesterday I attended my first all day quilt class. In the past couple years I've taken a few 2-4 hour classes  and my teachers have always been quilt shop owners or their employees or members of my guild. Our instructor yesterday was Linda Halpin who has taught all over the US and Canada. She's authored several books and is a pattern designer as well.
The morning was bright but bitter cold and the ground was both icy and snowy, not ideal for dragging my wheeled sewing cart, but it all worked out and in the company of my cheerful classmates all having to schlep their stuff too, it became fun.
Everything about the day was delightful. Linda loves what she does and is a great teacher.  We each brought what she asked for: a suitcase full of fabrics from our stash in the colors we hoped to use. The quilt for the day was a Lincoln Log scrappy quilt with center squares made of half square triangles. The finished center square is 1 inch and all the "logs" measure 1 inch finished. Here is a screen shot from her website of the quilt she made as a sample for the class.

We began by sorting our fabrics into three colors and a neutral for the first blocks.  To simplify the task, Linda discussed small, medium, and large scale prints, prints that include a bit of the other colors to be in the quilt as bridge fabrics, tone, hue, contrast, etc. as well as taking a leap of faith i.e. stepping out of your comfort zone to find the spark each quilt needs to come alive. By process of elimination we had to arrive at just 5 fabrics of each of those three colors and 5 neutrals for the first 6 blocks. Three of these blocks would combine a color with a neutral and three would be pairs: of color 1 and 2, color 2 and 3, color 1 and 3. Whew!
Next: press the chosen fabrics, rotary cut 1 1/2 inch strips, do a test of your machine's quarter inch seams by sewing three strips together and measuring the middle strip to confirm 1 inch, construct the half square triangle centers using a demonstrated short cut technique, and then begin to construct the blocks.
Every so often we'd take a break and watch another technique or see a few more of Linda's quilts. We each received a straight forward 20 page handout with step by step detailed instructions and Linda referred to this with each demonstration.
She encouraged us to get up and stretch, visit our classmates' work stations, share ideas, look at her quilts and browse her "shop." I was amazed at the variety of machines my classmates brought. Many of them have a machine they use just for traveling and have another machine or machines at home. I'm not in that league yet, but am interested in the newer machines that are designed for quilting. My Husqvarna is great for home sewing but it would be heaven to have a stitch regulator for free motion quilting!

Here are two blocks I completed in class. Because this is a scrappy quilt, the idea is to use only what you have in your stash already, not buy anything new. We had only begun the process of selection in class yesterday so this morning I worked through my stash and chose the remainder of the fabrics that I plan to use.

That done, now I'll get to the business of pressing and cutting strips from these groupings and lay them out in a way that makes the most of the assembly line tips we learned in class. I'll keep you posted.
I couldn't resist this little chicken pin cushion from Linda's shop.

Perfect addition to the farmhouse sewing room.
Thank you Linda for a great class and even more thanks to my guild members who arranged it all so beautifully.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

hearts and flowers

Happy Valentines Day to each of you.

These beautiful flowers arrived from my sweetheart yesterday. Jerome likes it when Susan at The Flower Basket here in town arranges flowers for me and can take her time having fun doing it. So he ordered these for me to be delivered the day before the rush. By now she knows  just what I like and loves being able to please. And the owner, Al, loves being able to deliver them and chat with me for a while. Thankfully Jerome gave me a hint about it and so I baked my no fail walnut brownies and had them ready to give to Al, still slightly warm from the oven, when he arrived. 

Though I have to be apart from my honey today, I do have both of the girls here now. Each day they are getting more comfortable with living together again. Yesterday I found them sharing the smaller of the two cat beds in the upstairs sunroom.

Usually either one would have preferred to be alone in the larger bed you see to the left in the photo above!

And this morning

they were on bird watch together, sharing Dovey's favorite "perch", my portable pressing pad on the sewing table arm. Dovey has shown no signs of being possessive of "her" farm house. She even let Mya push her away from her favorite treat, tuna water, at lunch time today. Sweet, sweet. They do wrestle and chase and tease one another, but never in a mean spirited way. Great spectator sport! And my heart is full sharing my life with them. May you each find a little joy to treasure today.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chinese New Year

It has been a miserable weather day today. First pouring rain making a slushy out of the paths to the chicken house and garage. Then fog. As I bid the chickens good night, the fog deepened until I could barely see across the road. And now, just before bed, the winds are howling.

I was very glad for the company of my two sweet cats and a really good book, the conclusion of The Giver by Lois Lowry called Son.
I also took joy in this little forced hyacinth bulb on my kitchen window ledge.

It might be winter outside but this little bloom filled my heart with spring.

In three days time we begin the season of lent and by Easter Sunday, March 31, spring should be truly on its way. I can't fight a lifetime of making lenten promises to myself and so this year my goal is to continue my heart health focus beyond February through til Easter morning. By then perhaps it will be a life long habit. That's the plan.

Jerome's morning email wished me happy Chinese New Year. I had forgotten it was today and was glad for the reminder.
I really enjoy good Chinese food but unfortunately we do not live anywhere near a good Chinese restaurant. I spent some time today remembering two of my favorites, Sun Luck Garden in Cleveland Heights, Ohio and Hung Lung's in Springfield, Ohio. Not surprisingly, the memories are sweeter because they include being with our children. It's been too long since we've eaten at either...
Well, I didn't have any Chinese food today but I did remember a gift I received which I will now keep out on my desk and use more often.
Two years ago my sister Mary and her husband Ed went to China. Mary works hard at finding just the right gifts for people. Gosh I was excited when I opened her package! She brought back a chop for me. Wow.

What you see above is a photograph she took of the artist carving my chop. Imagine, carving into stone with tiny tools and creating my name in English and Chinese characters and doing it backwards.

Here you see my chop, lucky red Chinese ink, and the sample of my name.
Thank you again Mary.
Happy year of the snake.

Friday, February 8, 2013

the Thursday circle

On the first and third Thursdays of the month I get to meet with a group of women who began assembling as spinners and weavers many years ago. They have graciously welcomed me into their circle though I have never done either craft. Believe me when I say I desire to learn both skills and will be embarking on those adventures later. When we gather now, they mostly knit. And their work is beautiful. I've been bringing my crochet to each meeting and yesterday did this small heart.

For years I saved every back issue of craft and gardening magazines until it became impractical to continue. Instead, I've bravely gleaned those patterns and ideas which speak most clearly to me, tearing pages and recycling the rest.  The result is numerous notebooks of tear sheets like the one above.
At our meeting yesterday the girls encouraged me to put down the crochet hook for a while and pick up knitting needles. When next we meet they will help me choose a pattern that will begin me on the knitting journey. I have my own version of the knit stitch that has produced numerous scarves over the years, and one intrepid colleague at school helped me to learn to purl after a fashion. But I am awkward and have no idea how to read much less interpret a pattern. They all admit they each hold the needles and knit the way that's most comfortable for them. And so, I will begin as a beginner and try to learn the way that's best for me.
I won't put my crochet hook away for good. Recently I purchased a book of 100 crocheted snowflakes that I would like to make in the months ahead, quick satisfying projects. But I hope to be sharing my baby steps along the knitting path in the weeks ahead.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Woman's Heart Health Month day 6

The heart: the 4th chakra
I have been trying to focus on my heart's health, living purposefully. And because the heart is more than a muscle that takes some doing.
The first 6 days of February have flown past because I've spent them with my sweetheart. On this his last morning at the farm Mother Nature provided a gift:
her most spectacular frosting.


But the rusty red Jeep eventually had to leave and to provide heart's ease I turned my attentions to hearts of a different sort. My sweet and talented friend  Judy has a February goal and I'm trying to participate. So, here are two just completed hand mades that contain a few hearts. The first is 9 1/2 inches wide and is called Sunny Morning from a South Maid doily pattern collection by Coats and Clark 1992.

This second is 19 inches across and  is simply called Crocheted Doily # A-917 from a Coats and Clark pattern booklet from 1972 which cost 35 cents. I've made it several times in a variety of colors, given a few as gifts, but never made a white one for myself before. I think I will keep this one.

My beautiful and imaginative daughter often finds hearts in most interesting places. If you've been a follower of her blog you will have seen many. I often see them myself, and it's funny how once you start looking you seem to find them everywhere. I'll close my post today with one of my favorite little hearts, Mya's sweet nose.

Welcome to our ridge meadow farm, Mya. Dovey and I love having you here.

Friday, February 1, 2013

a month's focus

I will do some specific thing each day this month for my heart.

Please, for me, do likewise.