Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Quilts of 2013

Here they are:
My first Avanté practice sandwich

Second practice

Perky Purses - first quilt quilted on the Avanté

My grandson's I-Spy Quilt - I haven't blogged about this one yet

quilting detail

Pillowcase for my grandson
Fuzzy Love

Herringbone Hotpads
Round Robin

Placemats for Meals on Wheels

Maren's quilt

Seaside Rose

Cloud 9 - I haven't blogged about this one either!

Snowman Placemats

My grandson's pjs

Bundle Up! pillow
I'd hoped to have a quilt top pieced for this post, but sadly, that did not happen.  Too much time on the computer today!
Bring on 2014!  Can you believe it's been 14 years since Y2K?!  I know I cannot.

Sewing Goals for 2014

Good grief, two posts in one day.  And I know, I know...the LENGTH of that last one.  Should be in the Guinness Book of World Records.

So I have a plan for 2014 for sewing!!  I have never done this before.  I think I owe it to writing this blog, as well as to following several other quilters' blogs, and seeing what they write about.  This has been percolating on the back burner of my melon over the past few days.  It is my very own idea; I did not read this one anywhere!  Do I care if someone else copies it?  Absolutely not for one nanosecond.

In view of the Modern Quilts movement that I have discovered during the latter half of 2013, I have decided to go back through my many years of American Patchwork & Quilting magazines (ahem, I believe I became a subscriber in... maybe 1999, maybe 98).  I plan to choose one project from each year and recreate it with a modern theme.  I'm not exactly sure how I will do this, but I do have some thoughts:  quilt the snot out of whatever it is; use out-of-my-comfort-zone brighter colours; simplify the pattern; incorporate some grey (I am not a fan of that colour); vary the projects; stick to my stash (as much as possible- - in view of the grey component, I might have to buy a little).  That's as far as I've got.

This will have some goals (remember, I like order and organization so I feel like I'm going in a planned direction, accomplishing something).
1.  Reuse
I'm reusing my magazines that are so nicely organized in their magazine holders, potential patterns carefully marked with pretty-coloured markers.  Get them out of there!  Put them to use!  (Not that I haven't over the years; quite the contrary; I've made lots of projects and even sent AP&Q a couple of photos, which they did not publish, sniff, but I'm over it.)
2.  Use
I'm USING fabric I've had.  For years.  Do I dare type it?  Okay.  Decades.
3.  Challenge
I think my creativity will be challenged as well as my comfort zone as far as colour, and choice of project, if I cannot just make a quilt each time.  The deadline itself will be a challenge!
4.  Deadline
I plan to make 6 projects over the course of 2014.  I'd originally thought one per month, but that is a little tough, since I know unexpected projects do arise, as well as for the first four months of 2014, I will be here in our condo, away from my stash of fabric and magazines.
5.  Design
I keep wanting, trying, to design my very own pattern.  Although I have started with someone else's pattern several times, and modified it, I have not, to my knowledge, designed a quilt 100% out of my head.  That does bear some reflection, however.

Ha, who knows, when (notice I wrote when) I send in some pictures and tell them what I did, maybe AP&Q will publish me!  However, that is not a goal.

And my second plan for 2014 is to choose a Quiltalong project from one of my online blogs, and follow along throughout the year.  I plan to still do Christa's Modern Trees (but that is a secondary plan, an "I hope to" plan).  I probably will do one of Leah's quilts, as I'd like to give back to her for all she's done, and continues to do, for free.  I think her Winter Wonderland Quilt would be a good challenge.  I'd like to support her new one for 2014, Building Blocks Beginner Quilt, but I think it would be too simplistic for me, as I have quilted on my Bernina, and before that, on my Elna, so for 14 years on a DSM.  I don't think this new one would be so adaptable to my Avanté.

And lest I forget, I do have my guild's Self Round Robin to continue.  I am behind on that, but never fear, it is on the list of 26 Projects!

So there you have it.  Time to get off here and finish the final quilt top for 2013, so I can post a third post of the day!!  My Quilts of 2013 post is already underway....

Happy New Year

Just read Gretchen Rubin's post for today, and she talks about choosing a word or a phrase as an over-arching theme for the year.  Last year she chose "Bigger" and her sister chose "Smaller".  (I like that she points out that "the opposite of a profound truth is also true.")  My first reaction was, "This is kinda corny," but when I looked back at the past couple of years, maybe not so much!

Apologies for this, ahem, dissertation, but hey, you can skim!  I won't be offended, because I won't know!!

2011 What If
During our summer trip to Windsor, Ontario to visit our daughter and check on the new house we'd built the year before, (retirement plans for 2013 had been put in place), Joe announced that he did not want to wait until 2013 to retire.  He wanted to go in 2012.  With that sentence, he blew apart my 2-year plan, and made me play the "What If" game over the next few months.  What if we could do this?  Retire a year earlier than originally planned?  Quit our jobs, have no new jobs in place and therefore no income, move, leave our beloved grandson??  Go against expectations?  The norm?  And so I began to examine our potential lives from a new angle, but I felt like I was wearing blinders, as I just could not really see how it could all work out.

January was where I started believing, truly believing, that I was in my final year of my teaching career.  I started throwing school stuff out, recycling the mountains of paper I'd accumulated over the years.  It felt so good.  It surprised me by how good it felt.  That was the month that I realized that the school year 2011/12 was my 30th year of teaching.  It was like a physical cuff to the head.  30 years of teaching.  I used to say I would never teach a day past 50 (back in my 20s I figured 50 was clearly ancient), and here I'd already taught 2 years beyond that.  30 years of doing the same thing was enough for me.  I wanted my life back.  I loved teaching, loved it with a passion, as it's been in my blood my entire life (and I'm talking lining-up-my-dollies-and-teddies-orange-crates-as-desks in my blood) but I was done.  I was still an excellent teacher, getting many parental requests for me as their child's teacher, having fun and feeling a sense of accomplishment within the walls of my classroom, but I'd had enough.

And so we put in motion our move from out West to down East, selling, sorting and simplifying our life.  24 years of living on 1 to 3.5 acre-plots meant we had a lot of simplifying to do.  Yet it felt good.  And right.

I signed up for a year-long Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training course, knowing that I'd have to complete it by either flying back to Edmonton from Ontario, or travelling to Montreal to the instructors' studio there.

I gave in my letter of resignation at the beginning of June.  The bubble of Possibilities was tangible within my chest!  And it did not go away all through the final weeks of packing and into the first weeks of living in Kingsville.  HOWEVER, over that Fall, Doubt reared its ugly head, with Worry and even some Regret waving their tentacles in the background.  I found three helpful strategies.

1.  Getting my new 6-month old kitten, Bella, really helped me to deal with my new normal, strange as that may seem.  Never underestimate the healing power of animals.  Never.
2. Joe's words about my alternatives: to either accept and be happy with this new life, or be miserable.  Adulthood profound truth. (He should write a Happiness Project: Joe's Truths, I swear.)
3.  During a spur of the moment detour home one night in early November, a seemingly serendipitous sign (ha, love THAT alliteration, came out as I typed!) about a Yin teacher training course led to a perfectly placed in my calendar weekend course.  Out of four remaining weekends, I had ONE available, the third weekend of November.  The last weekend of November, and the first in December were my last two for Ashtanga Teacher Training back in Edmonton, and the second December weekend we were leaving for Florida!  The Yin TT dates?  You guessed it, third weekend of November.  Talk about the universe lining things up.......

So this past year really has been about embracing this life change. Ha, now that I've typed that, I realize I can't lay claim to that expression really, as it was said to us by our next-door neighbour, Wayne, who, along with Jude, his wife have become two of our very best friends.  He said they embraced their retirement, the lifestyle.  And I realize now that is what this past year has been about.

Spending the first 3 and a bit months of the year at our condo in Florida was a "pinch me, I must be dreaming this" feeling.  I bought, with my darling husband's well-honed skills on eBay, a virtually new Avanté longarm quilting machine in January.  I began teaching myself to quilt on it, loving the learning process.  I know I mention her in just about every post, but I cannot thank Leah Day enough for the level of educational service she puts out through her website.  Without her guidance, I would not be anywhere near the comfort and confidence level I am.

I started teaching yoga at the beginning of July!  It was Yin, a style of yoga that I felt more comfortable teaching.  Hmm, 200 hours of TT in Ashtanga, 20 hours in Yin.  Makes no sense, although I do see an explanation, but that may be for another musing!  I love teaching Yin, and I love the place where I teach, and I love the people who come to my classes.  Moreover, not to blow my own horn, but I have been very successful, getting much positive feedback, and increases in attendance.

Joe and I started playing Pickleball that summer.  This is a great sport, fantastic exercise and lots of fun for couples.  We met a great group of people and joined the Kingsville Tennis Club, under the Pickleball chapter, lol.  We've got a terrific group of pickleball players.

I joined the Kingsville Quilt Guild in September, and, although I was only able to attend two meetings this past Fall, I am enjoying the meeting of like minds, the stimulation and inspiration, and the challenge of doing something with a very old appliqué block through our Self Round Robin.

We started walking the dogs separately.  I do miss the opportunity to talk and walk with Joe, but all in all, we both know this is the right thing to do: each dog behaves differently (better) alone, each human has a different walking pace (mine is fast) and so each dog/human team comes home relaxed and happier!

I seem to have settled into a routine now, and I realize I need routine, order, and organization in order to feel like I'm accomplishing something, getting somewhere.  That is in my nature, and although I am a firm believer in the power of 'chill-axing', it's not something I aspire to as an all-day activity.  I still have not got a set-in-stone routine, and yet I think I'm starting to be okay with that.  I think as a retired person (and I can now say that, write that, even though I'm not a pensioner yet, still too young, and I LOVE saying, writing that!) I'm learning that I need to have big-picture routine, and I'm learning not to sweat the minutiae.  In other words, my routine includes a daily hour-long dog walk, sewing, reading, getting outside into the sunshine, and my weekly routine includes 3 yoga sessions and some TV, but I am starting to be okay with not having specific hour slots in which to do these activities.  I think just recognizing that in itself is a huge eye-opener.  I plan to incorporate an hour of TV to be watched at supper for this next year, as I'm making dismal progress in watching series:  Heroes, La Femme Nikita, Call the Midwife, to name a few.  Part of this is only having one TV, but still.

I could go back even further!  2008: Monumental Life Changes, 2010:  Big Steps...
STOP!!  I've been at this for, uh, three hours!  I analyze, edit, dissect, WAY too much here.  Maybe I need to stop taking myself so seriously... no, I think part of the reason I take a long time is that I am, by nature, a thinker, a reflector, a philosopher, and add that to an analytical English teacher equals too much time spent writing some of these posts.  I just messaged my daughter that I'm still at this term paper of a post!!  Rather à propos, that, as it is a term paper for 2013.

(and tweaking?)
Just what is my theme word or phrase for this new year?  For now, I am going with that.  When I write my next post, which is about my sewing goals for 2014, I'll keep that in mind and see if it fits.  I like acceptance, because I have made great strides in accepting my new life, yet I also need to accept myself.  Just typing that makes me squirm.  Yup.  That's it.  Be comfortable with all of me.  Accept my body that is changing/has changed with the onset of menopause.  Accept my personality, knowing that I am continually working to improve my flaws.  Accept my physical abilities.  Accept my white hairs- - - Be happy!  Maybe I will be like my paternal grandmother and end up pure white!  So far so good!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bundle Up!

Another finish! Project #2......  24 more to go!

I bought this adorable pillow kit in Eugene, Oregon, when I'd gone on the Sisters, Oregon Quilt Show bus trip.  I think that was 2006.  I've actually had the embroidery done for a few years, and sewed the small pillow section last year.  It's a very odd method of construction: the embroidery gets the borders on and becomes a tiny quilt.  You then make a small 6" pillow of muslin and put it under the "quiltlet".   Next you cut both the green and the white wool pieces, using a hole punch to do the circles (cool!), and blanket-stitich the two layers together.  Finally, you stack the quiltlet and muslin pillow on top of the wool layers, and anchor all the layers together with the four buttons.  They used mother-of-pearl, but I found these snowflake buttons somewhere in my travels, and they are perfect.
A festive setting

Situational Irony (the English teacher part of me loves this!)
It's very floppy, since there is no stuffing between the two wool layers, so quite unusual.  I like it!  Confession: "necessity is the mother of invention", because I did not remember the perle cotton I have at home with which I planned to do the blanket-stitch.  I refused to drive all the way to JoAnn's to buy some, so I rummaged through my collection of threads.... I came up with a combination of Sulky 30-wt Blendable and Premium Sulky Rayon 50-wt, and it turned out just great!  I love the slight sheen from the rayon and the weight of the Blendable makes it visible.  The Snowman Placemats confession? I used rubber gloves to quilt them as my new Machingers hadn't arrived in the mail! My old Machingers are... ancient.  So I didn't even bring them down with me.
On to the next project!  Think I'm going to work on two simultaneously, since I am DYING to piece.  So, piecing a quilt top, and machine quilting one I've already finished is just the ticket!  Off to my sewing room!

Monday, December 23, 2013


As I wrote on the note I included with my grandson's presents that I wrapped and packaged up in an envelope just now, ready to go to the post office tomorrow, Nana has a long-standing tradition of finding forgotten Christmas presents a day or two after Christmas.  Or of giving partially completed handmade gifts, and then finishing them for the person after Christmas!  I've worked on this over the past couple of days.

When I went in JoAnn's for sewing machine oil last Thursday (I forgot mine back in Ontario) I walked by a display of Christmas fabric on sale, and this M&M one jumped out at me.  I could just see Christmas pj pants!!

So I bought a pattern, elastic, buttons, and the fabric (oh, and while waiting in line, I found some awesome monster flannel fabric that I also bought for another pair for later) and headed home to wash it all up before cutting it out.  It has been a while since I cut out a pattern!  Man, I MUCH prefer a rotary cutter!  However, I persevered, even fixing a mistake when I misread the size 5/6 cutting line...oops.  The front fly turned out great, but was quite a puzzle to cut with all the sizes on the pattern.  These have an elastic waist, but also a cute drawstring.  The girl who cut the fabric gave me the idea to pick up a plain t-shirt and appliqué one of the characters onto it: the red dude of course, as red is his favourite colour.

So a small diversion from the quilted pillow I was going to work on today, but well worth it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Snowman Placemats

Well, here is the first finish of the 26 projects I've brought down with me!  This was its picture when I snapped all 26 for the "Just a few projects to complete this winter..." post.

Here are two of the placemats at our little bistro set on the balcony:
And here are all four on our table!  That's an old stack 'n whack tablecloth I made using Bethany Reynolds' LeMoyne Star pattern out of her Magic Stack-n-Whack Quilts book, but the setting is my own design.  I like how the red quilt makes the heart on the snowmen pop.
I decided to quilt a different design in each of the plain sections of the placemats.  The background behind each snowman I just stippled with a snowflake hanging down every so often.  I used a terrific Madeira thread, Polyneon, that has a real shimmer to it.  When I took a Joan Statz class years ago, she praised that very quality of this thread, and, as the store had it on sale, I bought a few spools (1000m each) to finish the Joan Statz quilt, as well as for future use.

Poinsettia - this is the first one I quilted. I drew it in my sketchbook first to get the feel of free-motion quilting it. I still might go back in and do Leah Day's Checkerboard design... Note to self: maybe not such a good idea to follow the lines in the fabric as guides when they weren't cut out straight!

A rather gooby snowman - his hat did not work but his arms, buttons and scarf did! I love my "wind" swirls! The wavy lines are supposed to represent snowdrifts.

For the wreath I traced a circle with an erasable marker and then just free-motioned the feathers around it.  I'm really comfortable with feathers now since I took Angela Walters' class on Craftsy.  I did a stipple with a random holly leaf here and there behind the wreath.

This was the second one I did, just free-motioned a feather down the centre, and then some randomly spaced straight and wavy lines.
And here they are, rolled up.  I've seen several fiished quilts rolled up and photographed on various blogs, so thought I'd do the same.  Looks cool, and this is the way I've stored all my small quilts over the past many years of quilting.  I haven't washed these yet, but I expect they'll crinkle up nicely.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rhymes With Orange

Nothing.  Nada.  Rien.  And that is just what my collection of Sulky decorative threads had in the orange department.  So after a trip to the Bradenton Farmers' Market today, we swung by JoAnn's so I could use one of my coupons and buy a spool of thread while Joe waited in the SUV.  This tactic usually makes me stay on task.  Usually.  I also checked out the OttLite lights, (we DID agree beforehand that thread and OttLite were my two tasks!) as the light in this sewing room is dismal.  I've noticed since I turned 50 yet another physical phenomenon:  I cannot have enough light for my eyes!  Well, I got my spool of orange Sulky (with a 40% off coupon) and also scored a terrific deal on an OttLite, and so far this evening, I am loving it.  I got the OttLite 508 Illumination.  It has a revolving tray as well as a three magnifying glasses in one rectangle which is attached to the bar of the light.  (Think they designed that feature with moi in mind, ha.)  It was 50% off, and then I had my $5 off $35 coupon, so it cost me only $40!  Yay!  Okay, confession:  I did go off task a teensy bit:  I bought a spool of Gütermann invisible thread (50% off) as well as a new-to-me magazine, Quilty, which I've already put in my stocking, without looking at it!  It's the one with Christa Watson's Colorful Chevrons quilt on the front. I find it fascinating how many quilt bloggers are getting published, just in the past several months since I started following Leah Day, and now a few others.

Here's a sneak peek at what I've been working on this week:

I bought the kit for 2 placemats and extra fabric to make 2 more just a few years ago... Funny, but the first project I choose to work on required me to purchase white fabric (I'd brought none with me and needed white for the extra 2 snowmen) as well as backing, and today orange thread!  Darn.  Had to go to a quilt store AND JoAnn's for Sulky thread.  SO annoying. LOL.

Cloud 9 Quilt

I went to the Sarasota Quilt Guild Quilt Show this past March, and was it ever a good show.  There were some stunning quilts, but the show stopper was this one:
It had no less than 4 ribbons on it.  I seem to recall a mother/daughter team had made it.  In the Merchant Mall I saw a beautiful modern quilt on the wall (at the time I did not know anything about modern quilts) and I knew I just had to have the kit.  It was only $40 for the top and binding, and because the next month was my birthday, I decided to treat myself.  I even found the same line of fabric which I used for backing a couple weeks later at Alma Sue's Quilts in Sarasota!  This is the second quilt I quilted on my longarm.

Here it is on the design wall in my sewing room here in the condo.  I got the top pieced before we headed back up north.  It went together in a snap!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Five Senses - I Am In Awe

Just had another "ahhh" (awe) moment this evening:
I am so thankful for my ears.
-whether it's the smooth sounds of Leonard Cohen, or the heart-soaring, literally expanding my ribcage melodic lines of the "Gladiator" soundtrack, specifically "Earth", or David Foster's magical syncopation of "Winter Games", or Mark Knopler's lyrics, I am just so profoundly appreciative of the ability to hear music...these are on my "Easy Listening" playlist, just a few of the 77 songs.

I am so thankful for my eyes
-even though I need a stronger pair of reading glasses, (erk!) I am seeing my snowmen placemats take shape tonight as I satin-stitch the appliqué pieces--such cheerful colours!

I am so thankful for my fingers
-picking off a piece of orange lint with tweezers that somehow got glued onto a black "coal" button, guiding the fabric, or caressing the soft fur of Bella or Rocco.

I am so thankful for my nose
-although I can't think that I used it tonight in my sewing room, unlike the above 4 senses, I guess I do love the smell in here whenever I walk in: a combination of scented candles, or the lotion (Coconut Lime Verbena) I've put on many a time in here...

Nearly forgot...I am so thankful for my tastebuds!
-that savour the fabulous marzipan covered in dark chocolate that I found at Aldi this afternoon for only $1.19!! (I must confess I bought 4 bars...they'll keep a long (ha!) time in the fridge.)  Okay, AND the dark chocolate bar called "Choceur", from Austria, that I also got at Aldi...yup, I keep a good supply in my sewing room.  Always.

May they always work as well as possible.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Just a few projects to complete this winter...

Um ya.  I decided to do what I see several other bloggers do, and list the projects I would like to finish over a set period of time.  I think many set out in January those they want to complete over the year.  Well, I brought several down to Florida with me.  So this afternoon I decided to take a picture of each one and write a "Finish List" post.  I've already dumped the Rubbermaid tub and Canadian Tire rolling plastic toolbox, and organized the projects into the drawers in my sewing room here in the condo.  Quite frankly, I cannot believe they all fit into one tub and the toolbox.  Well, choke, I have brought down no less than 26 in-progress, (WIP) or to be started (and finished) projects!!  Yikes.  And, one of these projects actually is 3, because I have 3 sets of 5"squares which will most likely not all go into one quilt.  Here are the first 5 pictures:
Naala came to pay me a visit, and used the bundle of reds for an armrest!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Delicious Salad

I concocted a delicious salad last night, and recreated it again tonight for supper.  This is mostly copying a salad we had at our next-door neighbour Jude's house earlier this summer, but also similar to one we also enjoyed at their Florida home a couple of springs ago.  I put both Romaine and Iceberg lettuce in the bowl, and then topped it with red pepper, strawberries, mango, green onion, cucumber and radish, both sliced really thin, grated sharp cheddar, chia seeds, and pecans we'd bought at Adcock's in Georgia.  I used 1/4 cup of Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing, and tossed it all together.  I love putting fruit in a salad along with veggies, and I just adore the Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing.  Mmmm.

Of course, a glass of the Tall Horse Shiraz from South Africa just added to the overall enjoyment!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Road Trip Day 2

We were on the road again at 6 am after grabbing a java at McDonald's, and a breakfast sandwich for Joe.  I had my proverbial scone!

Shortly after daybreak, I spotted what at first looked like snow in one of the fields.  I asked Joe if it was perhaps cotton, and he said it was.  Cool!  So again, I can work in a quilt aspect on this post!  I have always wanted to see cotton growing in the fields.  It just is such a deep symbol of so much for me, my sewing, quilting, of course, but also the thought of so many slaves slogging away not so long ago.  So here are two shots I took, zooming along at 70 mph!

It doesn't show up too well; guess we should have screeched to a halt so I could take a proper picture!  Maybe not such a good idea on an Interstate.

When we used to fly down, we always loved the drive over the Sunshine Skyway to Bradenton, so last year we turned off on I-275 and headed west to Tampa so we could take in that incredible view.  However, it was pretty foggy when we were getting close to the turnoff, so we had decided we'd not bother going that way this year unless it cleared off.  Well, it did.  So we did!  This is on one of the little bridges and built-up roads going over Tampa Bay to St. Petersburg.

We got into Bradenton right about noon, and Joe said what I'd been thinking, "Let's take the dogs for a walk before we get to the condo."  So we went for a lovely, much-needed stroll on the Bradenton Riverwalk on the Manatee River.

Then it was a pitstop at the Red Barn Farmers' Market in Bradenton for 3 bags full of produce for $18.  Boy did we grin when Joe went to slice up some of the cucumber we'd bought there for his sandwich today: it has a Canadian maple leaf on the label, and Lakeside is the company.  I googled it, and they are located in Leamington, a mere 8 km (5 miles) from Kingsville!  We made one other pitstop at Winn Dixie for a couple of important items like milk, coffee cream and bagels.  Finally, we got to our condo, after having to call into security to let us in the gate, as our clicker battery was dead!  It is SO good to be back, and everyone has settled in so easily; it's like we never left!