Thursday, December 31, 2015

Morning walk

A gray morning. The deer were late coming out of their nighttime lairs.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Clue 5 All Wrapped up

Played around a bit with the units we've made so far. I'm betting that something string pieced goes in the middle, if this is anything close to the final layout.  But I've also wondered if this quilt might be less block-like and more row like, who knows....that's part of the fun. 

My piecing is getting better and better, the more I use my 301.  I do love that machine. So much so that my Berninas may be a bit miffed.  Some of my clue five blocks needed NO trimming, and many just needed a hair's width cleaned up on each side, as you can see from the pile of smidgies next to my blocks:

Monday, December 28, 2015

Allietare Clue 5 almost in the bag

Well, all I have to do is a final size check and trimming up of my clue five units.

Linking up with the gang.

Was a busy day.  This is the earliest I have ever pitched a Christmas tree out the door, but we had a real needle dropper this year, and it didn't help when those quiltorium cats started eating it, and batting bitty branches around the room. It will be fun to vacuum under the sofas, but that is fun for another day, not today.

Then it was on to Clue 5. I started with the easy blocks first and got them done before lunch.My neutrals are not as yellow as this picture shows.  Must be caused by my flipping the mat over to the pink side.

And my other blocks. For the most part, the points turned out well, except for one or two.  I need better daylight to do the final trimming, so I will save that for tomorrow morning, and then I will be done with this clue.

I have some utility sewing that needs to be done this week and hope to accomplish:

1.  A canvas cover for the new snowblower.
2. Hem the black suit pants for Son#2....they have only been sitting in my sewing room closet for about a year.
3. Put sleeves on 3 or maybe 4 wallhangings and put them up.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sewing during the Intermission

I completed Clue 4 of Allietare, and then took a break for Christmas.  I am ready to get back to my normal routine!  I have a Christmas Cookie hangover, and need to return to eating healthy foods.  I feel groggy, bloated, tired, and my joints ache from all the sweets.

It's hard to focus on sewing, so I did a little hand quilting, and took a look at my crumb bin, which had been filling up with Allietare scraps, so I pieced a bunch of crumb blocks in various sizes. 4.5", 4" (the easiest to trim with my long 4" ruler, I find) and 3.5"

I may make some of these into pillows and place mats.

And here is what my wastebasket looks like. I am thinking this is too pretty to throw away--AM I CRAZY?

Last year, the quilt I finished around new years was very crumb-y and I called it "Stress Fracture-Vertigo"  in honor of my two biggest health problems last year. Both happened while I was commuting almost weekly between my home in NY and Dallas.  Right now the vertigo has resurfaced in a minor way, I just feel a little off balance, especially if I move my head in certain ways.   I also had a stress fracture in my foot while I was away. I had to google  how to tape it up so I could fly home and get it looked it.  I am so glad that part of my life (being a road warrior) is OVER.

Tomorrow is on to Clue 5!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Allietare Clue 4 scrap soup and linkup

Linking up for Clue 4

I am making Allietare 2/3 size so I only needed 20 guillotined geese sets in the red, neutral, black colors.  Got them done yesterday. I used the specialty rulers, and my accuracy gets better and better. I am crazy enough to "proof" each of these little sub-units and trim them just a hair if necessary.  I can never do bias seams 100% perfectly, no matter which method. Here are my sets.  I was worried I didn't have enough black, but I just poked around further in my not-very-well-organized stash, and came up with enough of everything. I feel like I am running low on small print neutrals though, this could be a problem in this quilt or in future ones.

I also re-purposed a kitchen tool that I rarely used in the kitchen. If you have one of these, it is very handy for sweeping the little trimmies off your cutting mat.
Image result for pampered Chef kitchen scraper
Lastly, as part of my ongoing kitchen cleanup (years overdue, but I'm retired now, so no excuses left)  I am trying to use up stuff in the pantries.  Felt like some soup, and didn't want to take away from sewing time to go to the grocery store for any additional ingredients, so I made a scrappy black bean soup. I have to say, my mom and grandma have always been very good about serving up a tasty menu from whatever is on hand, so it's part of my Italian heritage.


  1. Sautee two or three slices of chopped bacon
  2. Throw in  some chopped celery, onions and carrots for starters.
  3. Dump in a quart of chicken broth
  4. Add about 3/4-1 cup of dry black beans
  5. Bring to a boil, simmer til tender
  6. Reserve about a cup and half of the beans and veggies and bacon
  7. Use a stick blender to puree the remaining stuff in the pot
  8. Dump the reserved stuff back in
  9. Toss in some baby spinach leaves and wilt (I hate overcooked spinach!)
    • I had just a little left in a package that I had to use up
  10. Season with a dash of chipotle powder, cumin and salt to taste.

Had this for lunch with a toasted cheese sandwich and got back to work on my blocks for the rest of the afternoon.  Plus lunch for a few more days already made.
We are enjoying a fairly mild week here in the northeast, and were happy to catch some friends on the trail this morning.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A warm December

Not the staying warm under the quilts kind of December, an unseasonably warm December weather-wise.

On the brighter side, we have been able to walk our 10,000 or so steps (actually my husband walks twice as far as that each day), and we have even spotted some new (for us) wildlife, perhaps a great blue heron? I'm not sure, as I am not a birder. It looked very nonchalant with it's legs crossed, holding its perch with one long blue foot.

On the downside, there seems to have been a brush fire along our local greenbelt trail, which makes up part of our daily route. It must have happened on Sunday. I hope no animals were hurt. The Fire Department does not know the cause. It didn't consume many trees, just downed leaves, and some of the underbrush. 

I finished my 80 four patches for Allietare today, and pressed and cut some of my neutrals, but I was too tired to finish, having stayed up too late to watch the debate. Tomorrow will bring a rainy morning, so I will sew instead of taking the usual morning hike. I also tried to clean up some of the strewn fabric that happened while I was looking for more golds and neutrals for this quilt.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Clue three piecing done

All the piecing done for. Clue 3.  Trimming and cutting the neutral rectangles tomorrow.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Life in the Slow Lane

Had a busy weekend. Saturday we took our mom to lay a wreath on Dad's graves, and decorate the graves of other relatives.  She's 91 and frail, and we saw so many other middle aged folks doing the same with their frail parents.  Is this a custom in your family too?

Sunday I had a holiday dinner out with my two quilting friends here. Between general busy-ness and colds that we don't want to pass around, it seems to be far too long between visits together. I hope we can quilt more together in 2016.

On to Allietare, it's time for the Clue 3 Linkup!  I am loving these golds, they are so ITALIAN.  I've been to Italy twice, and treasure the memories, but I grew up next door to my Italian maternal grandparents.  Christmas traditions are rich in our culture.  Friends randomly dropping by with trays of food because everyone has made too much!  Fish and angel hair on Christmas eve, some folks still do the 7 different fishes. Strufoli always seemed a favorite of the old ladies as they sat long at the table chatting and laughing. Here is a genuine Italian recipe from the "olda country" as they used to call it. 

SANDRINA SCRIVE DALLA CUCINA: STRUFFOLI di donna Emma Donnarumma  Sort of has some Allietare colors in the photo, huh?

And Panettone, toasted, sliced and buttered for breakfast.  Italian raisin bread, only with richer taste. Packaged in a lovely hatbox like thing with a ribbon loop at the top so it was easy to carry along as a gift.  I always give one to my mom.

Today I got my Christmas packages out, did some paperwork and settled down to crank out more four patches.  I'm not even halfway done, but I am very well caught up on holiday preps, so I should be able to catch up by tomorrow or Wed at the latest.

Not sure if my notes will display at a readable font here, but I am asking how many of you are using that gold that the blue arrow is pointing too (please leave a comment) and if you know how old that fabric is.  If you scroll down this blog, you can see I am using it in several quilts, and I bet it's played a part in many earlier scrappy adventures as well. . .

That pink thing is the wire from my earbuds, as I am listening to Pandora, enjoying great Christmas choral music on the Chanticleer Holiday Channel. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Quilty Christmas stuff through the decades

After my morning walk, I buckled down and did some more decorating. So many of the ornaments for our humble tree were gifts from talented crafty friends, and they are the things I treasure most.

I can't even begin to date some of the quilty things I've made myself over the years, some of them must be at least 20-30 years old at this point. You can just tell from the fabric on the largest candle mat that it is an oldie.  The smaller machine embroidered mat must date from the early 2000's when I got my embroidery machine.  The mugrug and smaller blue and red mat were made in the last few years. I know I used my Accuquilt Go! to cut out the little trees for the mugrugs.

 Just another reminder of the swiftly passing years.

Next up is a very old paper-pieced project, I bet many other quilters have made one of these.  Can't remember the pattern source. 

Just added more stuff to my quilts page, take a look!

Friday, December 11, 2015

New Clue, and relearning old skills

I spent most of my quilting time in the past week relearning how to handquilt.  Life has gotten in the way of handquilting for many years.  My first quilt was one I made for my then boyfriend/now husband during the great American quilting revival of 1976. I bought Beth Gutcheon's Perfect Patchwork Primer and dove right in. My dad made me a frame that I could prop up across my desk and a chair, and I mostly stab stitched. Big toe catching stitches. Dad actually helped me stitch a bit. He was the youngest of three boys, and remembers playing under the quilting frame as a very young child while his mom, and probably his grandmom quilted. 

I think my next handquilting effort was a rather lumpy, ugly crib sized quilt for my second son.  

I will photograph both of these humble quilts eventually and post them here. 

The last time I went to a quilt show in Hershey (can't remember how long ago that was), I took a handquilting class with Deidre McElroy. We used her mom's book, That Perfect Stitch, and I finished the class piece a few years ago. It was a little whole cloth smiling cat.  I will try to get a good picture of that, too.
Anyway, here are two photos of my handquilting from this week. The crosshatching is on a half inch grid, so I guess I am doing ok.  I really stabbed my left index finger to a pulp for the first few hours though. Had to use liquid skin on it for a few days.  

As a note, I just can't wait until I have used up all the old white on white in my stash.  Makes handquilting so much more challenging. 

Since it's Friday, Clue 3 of Allietare posted this morning.   I had a lot going on today, so I only cut and made a few blocks.  I've got quite a mixed bag of golden toned fabrics, I think it's good variety.
As an Italian American, I have to smile at the metallic gold on gold prints I have. Reminds me of wallpaper in my mom's foyer, her gold sculptured wall to wall carpeting, and the gold trim or gold upholstery on many pieces of furniture in her house.

We are having very odd weather here for December.  Very warm and foggy in the morning.  I've been afraid of slipping on the wet leaves on our usual walking trail, so yesterday I took a shorter walk at dusk with my husband, after he did the full route in the morning. The trails had dried up, and we watched the woods quiet down, saw the owls leave their nests to begin the evening hunt and heard them calling to each other.  This morning, it was so dark and foggy that I found it difficult to keep my balance as we did the first part of our route on the neighborhood streets.  I had a case of vertigo last year, and sometimes, the feeling creeps back up on me. 

Tomorrow I am driving over to my mom's to help with a few things, so no sewing time. Sunday I am meeting friends to exchange gifts and share an early dinner. After that, it should be a fairly quiet time til Advent. Have to finish the tree, send a few more cards, and do the food related work for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I thoroughly ruined an attempt at making Ricotta cookies today, I think I will stick with the basics and make a batch of toll house for the family and they will be happy. 


Monday, December 07, 2015

An ancient ufo surfaces

I think it was a bom from fat cat patterns. Chocolate stars.  Got it blasted and began to relearn hand quilting. Have had this hinterberg floor hoop for years and never used it! 

Allietare Clue 2 Link up

Since I am shooting for 2/3 of the number of blocks in the original pattern, I was able to finish Clue 2 this weekend. The linkup is in full swing, and there is great eye candy from all the pictures and blog posts already up there.

My blocks:

Maybe I should make another set to replace the third one from the left in the second row from the top, now that I am looking at them in a photo. The neutral reads too close to the gray. I'll wait and see if that's necessary as the design unfolds. I mostly went for very muted neutrals, nothing with too much contrast in the pattern.  I think it's because I found all the black and white prints in my  Lazy Sunday a little too bold for my taste.

Here are my blacks, which include batiks and mourning prints and one larger scale graphic floral:
The week was not without it's challenges.  First, it was too many visits from quiltoriumcatClyde, who was also so "helpful" on Clue 1. Then I made my usual assortment of measuring wrong and sewing things front to back, requiring ripping, resewing, replacing, and a dose of quiter's emergency chocolate.

I want to do some more piecing, but I really should make headway on basting at least one of my ufo's this week. The backlog of flimsies is getting too large, and leading to guilt feelings, as are the bins of strips and crumbs.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Quiet Lady

I feel somewhat guilty that Clyde is getting all the free publicity here.  My other cat, Bonnie, rarely visits the actual quiltorium. In the past she has only curled up quietly for a little nap on the bed (quiltorium doubles as spare bedroom) and not caused mischief like Clyde. She is a little bit older than Clyde, and likes to spend the day in peace and quiet, between meals.

She does love to snuggle down on a quilt though. This time of year, by midmorning, she catches a patch of sunshine in the living room on a corner of the big sofa, which is draped with quilts and a fuzzy blanket in a failing attempt to keep all the orange and gray fur off the upholstery.

Bonnie came to us after she had lost the eye to infection while a foster kitten.  It doesn't slow her down--she keeps Clyde in his place pretty well without assistance.  She's cuddling on an old signature swap quilt from an online group --the swap might be about 15 years old now.

I have finished my allietare clue 2, will post tomorrow with pix. 

Friday, December 04, 2015

Allietare Clue 2, Humming Right Along

Clue Two posted this morning. Thank goodness it involves more than grays and neutrals!

I decided to try a new technique that Bonnie included, one that doesn't generate bonus triangles. I have a bin full of them somewhere, may never use them up. Although I did make a bed runner from the bonus tri's from Lazy Sunday.

Here is my yet to be quilted Lazy Sunday.  

Anyway, here is where I am with Clue 2 after a few hours of cutting sewing, pressing and trimming.

I am using reds that are rich and tomato-ey, and some darker burgundy reds, but I put aside some that were too pink or too purple.  Some are Christmas prints, but I don't mind, let's keep Christmas in our hearts all year!

Speaking of Christmas, we saw enough deer this morning to pull Santa's sleigh. I've gotten out of the habit of bringing my camera. Will try to bring it tomorrow if we get out early enough.

Our dearest deer, the lame doe was in one of her usual spots. Sadly there is a second lame deer. I thought I had seen a fawn following her this summer with the same crippled gait. The fawn was in a garden near the end of the greenbelt trail. I don't know if this is her baby, or they are just together because they can't move as fast as the rest. It does look like the right size to have been born this year. I hope they have an easy winter. So far, it's been very warm here.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Clue 1 Done!

Well, 2/3 done, anyway.  I don't want to make a huge quilt, so I just put away 200 of the Clue 1 HSTs.

It has not been without its challenges though.  First of all, Clyde, the lovable tomcat was lonely yesterday. He was prancing around my sewing desk, giving head rubs to my Singer 301, walking behind the machine, sitting on my scissors, sitting on my pile of cut HST pieces, and finally, trying to grab the thread just before it went through the tension discs. He had to be banned. Had to give him extra attention later in the day. I just can't resist that face.

I gave him a second chance in the afternoon, after I discovered I needed some help on the quality control. Wandering mind was causing me trouble.

He came back to visit after lunch, and kept an eye on my piecing without causing any mischief. Thank you Mr. Clyde!

Do you have cats in your quiltorium? Leave a comment! Post a photo!

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

All Sewn Together!

Major bout of gift sewing completed. Four Sew Together Bags. Broke 3 or 4 needles, and gouged my thumb in the process. I think they will make nice gifts for the crafty ladies on my holiday list.

Some additional hints and notes if you attempt this pattern,

  • I pinned the flaps on the lining back before sewing on the side binding, after having to pick out part of the seam on the first bag I was working on today. The next two bags finished up a lot quicker without all that ripping.  
  • I clipped the bulk back at the base of the vertical creases in the side panels to make the binding go on straighter. On that first bag I had to fight to get it over the hump. In the process I gouged my thumb somewhat when it got in the way of the needle clamp screw as it descended during a stitch.  
  • I basted the zippers to the lining with a long machine stitch and a 1/8" seam allowance. This made binding the zipper a lot less stressful.
  • On the first two bags, I used my edgestitching foot to topstitch the second edge of the binding down. This did not work well when crossing a bulky area like the seams and folds.  For the second two bags, I just used my zipper foot, and that seemed a lot easier. 
I will put some little notions and quilter's emergency chocolate candies in the zippered pockets before I wrap them.  

So tomorrow, it will be back to clue 1 of Allietare

Does anyone have any good handmade gift ideas for 3 to 4 year old girls?  

Monday, November 30, 2015

Allietare Clue 1 Linkup

Let's see if I do this right. Trying to join the Allietare Linkup.

60 HSTs sewn and trimmed for Clue 1. What do you think about the rather dark tan on the upper left? Too close in value to the Gray? I will make extra in case this doesn't work.  I am going to make about 250-200 of these this week, as I don't need a bed sized quilt.

Progress has been slow, because I continue to work on the Sew Together bags.

Got three more in progress, and have the liners just about all done.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

I finished one!

Sew Together Bag, that is.  Of course, mine had to be made from cat fabric that has been stashed for more than a decade.

Tons of room in this. In addition to use as a craft bag, it would also make a great travel bag to hold laptop charger, phone charger, kindle charger, etc.and keep the cords from tangling...I should have made myself one while I was still working!

Clyde almost made me give up on finishing this today. He seemed very needy this afternoon, and kept prancing around on my sewing table.

I have three more of these bags in progress to give as gifts.  Hopefully I can finish them this week. It should be faster now that I've figured out the directions, which, as I said yesterday, could have used a lot more illustrations.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I'm Sew Not Together (Yet)

Worked mostly on the Sew Together Bags today. I have four of them in progress. Was going to complete one first as a prototype, but it seems much more efficient to do some assembly line sewing.

  1. Cut all pattern pieces for 4 bags
  2. Make the side panels for all 4 bags (I should have topstitched them right after step 5, but I think I had to break to make dinner at this point and didn't have my Lean Process Consultant brain working well. I'm retired now, but old habits die hard.
  3. Fuse the interfacing for all four bags
  4. Put in all the zippers (12 9 zippers in all for 4 bags)
  5. Topstitch both sides of all the zippers (didn't lose time switching between zipper and topstitching foot this way)

And here is where I stopped for the day: Made one whole lining assembly

I have to agree with some of the reviews of this pattern here and here where the bloggers noted that more illustrations and photos would be helpful. The verbal instructions are ok, but numbered steps would have also made the process easier to follow, instead of block paragraph instructions.

Somehow, during this long, blissful afternoon of sewing, I managed to strain my back. I think my L-shaped sewing desk is too crowded with three machines set up (Babylock Evolution serger, Bernina 180 that I was using for bag assembly today, and my Singer 301 that I am using for piecing quilt blocks. So, it's off to bed to hunker down with my Kindle under this quilt (another free pattern from Bonnie Hunter) read more of the latest book in the Outlander Series.

A few fun facts about this quilt:

1. We use it as our extra quilt over a scrappy log cabin.
2. It was finished in 2014, but it contains actual Y2K fabric, as does the slightly older scrappy log cabin.
3. It was one of the first quilts I made without an inner and outer border.   I'm not sure they are always needed, especially for something that is more of a throw than a bed quilt.  I guess I am just getting lazier as I get older.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Getting back in the swing

Been away from my computer for a while, first to take a short road trip, and then to prepare for Thanksgiving, which involved cooking part of the meal (including the turkey) and taking it to mom's house. Traffic was awful and we arrived an hour later than planned.

In the Quiltorium, I had been working on some Sew Together Bags, but that got interrupted because I was out of fusible interfacing.  I have four of them cut out (one to keep and three to give away), and hope that I can make good progress on them tomorrow.

In the interim, if you are a scrappy quilter, you will know what Black Friday usually brings: the start of another Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt: Allietare. I haven't quilted my first BH mystery, Lazy Sunday, so I suppose I should get hoppin' on that, but I love piecing more than basting and quilting, unfortunately. And this new mystery is Italian, and two of my grandparents were born in Italy, so how could I not participate.

I will probably make this one lap sized, as I just don't do well quilting large quilts by machine.
I made a small dent in clue 1 today. The gray is a constant in this quilt. I found this small print that actually reminds me of a course aggregate concrete, which is right in line with the Italian theme, since the ancient Romans were expert creators of that material.

Since my fusible interfacing arrived this evening, it will be back to work on bags after a morning walk tomorrow. Hopefully I can share a picture of at least one of the bags tomorrow.

Another thing I did today was sit at the piano for about 15 minutes. It's another part of my life that had fallen away during my career. Good news: I can still read music. Bad news: My left hand's 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers will need a bit of retraining, and it's much harder for me to coordinate two lines of simple music. I am hoping that my brain is neuroplastic enough to revive this long-dormant skill.

I also moved my little spinning wheel to a different room where I can close the door and spin in a cat-free zone.  I'm multi-craftual, and haven't yet touched my wheel or my loom, although I have been crocheting and kntting a bit. Just trying to get it all back.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Got a little piecing done

Had to tidy up a bit in the quiltorium first, there is just too much clutter in there right now. But I started putting together these  blocks which were based on Bonnie Hunter's Pfefferneusse quilt, but laid out differently.
I am not sure I like the arrangement....or if I proceed, will it be too big for a table topper/too small for a lap I am going to step away from it for a while. If you have any ideas, leave a comment please.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A quick and easy Christmas Infinity Scarf

Just wanted to share a quick project I made up with my serger.

At Joann's sale last weekend, I picked up some cheap cotton T-shirts. The fabric used to be a lot beefier than what you could find in a fashion retail store, and at 4 for $10, if you buy the large sizes, you can get a lot of yardage for $2.50.

So, I started with a couple of men's 2XL white shirts.
1. Press them flat and cut off the hem.
2. Fold them in half lengthwise and cut them into six inch strips. You can get two full tubular strips from a men's 2XL.

These T-shirts have no side seams. 

3. Cut one side open.  

4. Give it a twist and pin it to make that moebius strip that every good infinity scarf needs. 

5. Set your serger up to flatlock.  I used a swatch from the T-shirt's sleeve to test the flatlock settings. If you don't have a serger, try a zig zag, press it to one side, and then stitch the seam flat with a straight stitch.   

6. Set your serger up for a lettuce edge rolled hem. I used a three thread, with red wooly nylon in the loopers, and red thread in the needle.  Stitch all the way around. Because of the twist, it's one continuous run of stitching. 
If you don't have a serger, you can do this with a narrow, short stitch length zig zag, as described here. 

7. Set your serger up for cover stitch and stitch away in loose curves all the way around.  The cover stitch will look different on the two sides of the twist, even though you are still sewing all the way around once. 

8.  Finished product.  

My self-critique and suggestions

1. The T-shirt fabric was thinner than I would like, I may go poking around Joann's today and see if I can find yardage that would work better. I might also try doubling the fabric, but I'm not sure what type of lettuce edge that would give me.  A good excuse to experiment some more. . . .
2. A two thread rolled hem might have given a better lettuce effect, I will definitely swatch some more.
3. the 2XL was perhaps too wide to start with so maybe an XL would be a better source of fabric if you go the T-shirt route.
4. Since I actually made four of these, I may try straight stitching two of them together, right down the middle, perhaps ruffling it up slightly with a ruffler attachment on one of my straight stitch machines, to give the whole thing a bit more body.
5. Red and Green wave stitch might be a lovely edging for something like this as well.....

I will update on this blog if any of these experiments work!

Drop me a comment if you try this and come up with any other suggestions.