Saturday, August 12, 2017

Twiddle progress

My strategy started out as  doing these twiddlemuffs in batches: crochet the tubes first (which are two layers) and then embellish each batch.  I finished my first three, but it was a few hours of sewing.  The good news is that this project uses up many odd bits of things that I have collected over decades of crafting: yarn remnants, buttons, ribbons, trims, beads, etc.

In case you don't know what a twiddlemuff is, it is similar to a fidget quilt, but it also provides a warm tube for cold hands. We put twiddly things on the inside too.

Anyway, I think I will do them one at a time from now on.  This felt like a huge unfinished mess until I got them done last night, and I have two other crochet projects on hooks right now. I need to fight my tendency toward project proliferation.

I went to my lqs to pick up my Bernina Aurora which had gone in for a little tuneup, and did some minor stash enhancement. A scrap quilter can always use some new neutrals, and with the leaves hinting at fall around here already, I couldn't resist buying the little embroidery project.

Now, off to stitch some fun.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

And sew it begins again.....

I'll admit it. I have been in a quilting lull the past month or so, except for the project that is eating my summer. The reasons are many:

  • Taking more time to exercise every day
  • Joining some new activities (crochet and art groups) that have taken hold of my craft attention deficit disorder and eaten up a lot of time that normally goes toward quilting. I'm ok with that though.
  • The sheer messiness of the quiltorium
The quiltorium consists of a bedroom and a walkin closet. The walkin closet has much of my stash, plus supplies from other crafts. Not yarn, that gets squirreled away in a downstairs closet.  The closet is also known as my hobbit house, because I am the only one in the family short enough to use the space effectively. It contains some built in shelves under the front eave of the roofline, a stack of two formica dressers from my mother in law's house, and two drafting tables, plus bins of stuff. I 
attacked the closet first, and threw out several bags of "stuff" -- old patterns, yucky fabric, old magazines, small bits of batting, etc. 

Now the drafting tables can be used for both my alto quiltcut and my accuquilt, and I was able to store more stuff on the shelves. An afternoon well spent.

Today I attacked the main worktable, where I do my ruler cutting, and the L-shaped desk on which my 301 and serger reside. 

It's never going to make the pinterest list of most beautiful sewing rooms, but I am grateful to have this private space for my sewing. All I need is my phone and pandora for some music, my coffee and water bottle, and I am good to go.  If Bonnie comes to find me, she usually just curls up quietly out of the way, but Clyde sometimes comes in when he feels I owe him a meal, and he makes a major pest of himself.  

Yay! I feel motivated again. Got my leaders and enders in order this evening, so I can do a little piecing every day--then we will all agree that I am still a quilter!

Monday, August 07, 2017

A diversion

Tomorrow I do have quiltorium cleanup pencilled in for my morning.

Today I went to crochet/knit group, then art group, where I have been having fun picking up my art skills where I left them off in high school. I hope to take a sketching class next week.

And then a return to machine piecing. I hope.  Unless life intervenes.

But for right now, retirement is finally turning out to be fun!

Monday, July 31, 2017

The project that ate my summer

I made some quilting progress this weekend. But to quilt out to the edge, i have abandoned my hoop. Stitches are slightly larger, but not what I would call big stitch quilting.

And I did finish this:

Got the hanger at the new Hobby Lobby. The quilt is not crooked, the photograph makes it look that way.

And here is the twiddlemuff I am working on. I am using up lots of leftover yarn on these so far. Which is a good thing!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Not much sewing

Been mostly about crochet these days....

1. Making a call the midwife baby blanket, barely past the cast on there. Love that show, with the glimpses of handmade baby layettes from bygone years. Loved the books too. My youngest was delivered by a hospital based midwife, almost 30 years ago!

2. Making a corner to corner blanket (charity project) with some variegated yarn in the stash.

3. Started making a couple of twiddlemuffs, we were asked about whether we wanted to support a local nursing home with these last week at the crochet group I started attending at the senior center.I remember my dad's fidgety hands when he was in the later stages of dementia, so this seems like a great project.

4. And the COTDN hand quilting is becoming the project that ate my summer. I will try to work on that a bit tonight.

In other noncrafty news, I have lost nine pounds in the last month. Tracking everything over on Still a lot to lose, but it's nice to be fitting back into my clothes again. I may not have to spend the entire winter in stretchy pants.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

These Dog Days of Summer

The heat, humidity, and biting mosquitoes continue on. But I have been logging over 15000 steps a day thanks to recent rerouting of my morning walk.

But today, I was fatigued and demotivated after showering. I started digging out the quiltorium before lunch and decided it has to be a multi-day effort. I wanted something to show for my time so I made myself a little cross body bag.

I think it's a good alternative to my usual oversized tote or my regular purses for quick trips to the store and such.  Need to photograph it against a less busy background, but it was made from two hunks of well-marinated batik stash, these fabrics must be 20 years old by now!

As usual I was flailing a bit when I got started. My serger seemed to have a tension issue, so I pulled out the manual for troubleshooting guidance. It's a babylock evolution, supposed to be self tensioning for the most part.   Well there it was in black and white, I had not reset the little ABCD stitch indicator knob to A.  It was on B when I was doing a narrow overlock at some point, I can't even remember what project that was for.

With that issue resolved, I can now take in some t-shirts a bit, since I am starting to lose a few of the many pounds of stress weight I gained over the last year.

Rain is  in the forecast, thank goodness. I am tired of watering my struggling garden beds.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tropics on my mind

Hot, sticky Long Island July, not my favorite month.

The only good thing is the wild raspberries, which I am plucking by the handful along my morning walk. They are so tender you can only eat them as soon as you pick them, or they turn to mush before you get them home. My other strategy this morning was to soak my bandana in people's sprinklers and mop my head and neck every block or so once we were on the neighborhood part of our walk, after the gnat-filled splendor of the trails.

But there are also deer, and lots of rabbits, an occasional turtle or waterfowl sighting to keep us motivated.

Tropics being the theme of the day, I forced myself into the quiltorium and made this this afternoon.

Patterns like this are showing up everywhere, with variations using all HSTs or such.  But I needed a break from the handquilting.

Stay cool folks, wherever you are!  I am avoiding the sun and the heat after the morning outings.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I'm trying!

Really pushed hard with the hand quilting on COTDN this weekend. My eyes are feeling the strain!

So, I took a break and tried out a new hobby. Actually something I hadn't touched since high school.

Watercolor painting. It's always intrigued me, having to think through the negative space before you begin. You can't just highlight with white like in other opaque types of painting. Now that I am officially a senior citizen, I can head over to the art group at the senior center during the week.  I just wanted to practice a bit so I wouldn't feel inadequate. I found my brushes and paints, and did a few small warmups. This was the best of the lot.

I need to up my game in terms of composing a scene or a still life if I am serious about pursuing this. But anything to push the aging brain in a new direction is a good thing!  I also need to start playing the piano again.

And of course, I really need to finish COTDN!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

We have a Finish!

At long last, my Dawn's Early Light quilt is done.  I was struggling with some low energy the last week, but I had more spring in my step today.

 Found some Americana background, and am trying not to notice that Declaration of Independence and Abe Lincoln are not contemporaneous.

A little bit of hand quilting progress today as well. No point showing a pic until that is done.

Saturday, July 08, 2017


The daunting task of cleaning out mom's main home continues. We go once a week, starting out at 5 am to avoid metro NYC traffic, and try to be back on the road by 1.   We brought home part of my old high school bedroom set to use in the quiltorium after we take up the rug and put in a solid surface floor. This is the little desk where I sweated out calculus problems, translated my french and latin, and wrote my college applications.  In a sea of Italian-American decor, it is the one thing I picket out to my own taste at the time.

Quilt inspector approves.

I am still handquilting slowly on COTDN and made the binding I need to finish Dawn's Early Light. It's been hot and sticky today, and it has really sapped my energy.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Seasonal Quilting

I was in a patriotic mood for the past few days, and enjoyed working on Dawn's Early Light.
Center, border and quilting are done, and it's ready to be bound.

This one gave me fits in several ways:

  • I didn't count what pieces were made and was surprised twice that I needed to piece more string blocks.
  • The orientation of the blocks is crucial at every step of the assembly. I nearly wore out a seam ripper.
  • I should have bought another half yard of the backing. I ended up piecing it.
It gave me a few afternoons of stitching while considering the blessings of being born in America. I stitched with gratitude for all those ancestors who came from Naples, Sicily, Bavaria, England, Canada and probably some points unknown, to become part of America's history. Some settled here in the northeast, some in the early Virginia colony, and some settled down to farms in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. I know that some of them did the same type of handiwork that enriches my retirement: sewing, tatting, embroidery, quilting, crocheting. I have some of their work and I treasure it. I don't know if my quilts will outlive me and stay in the family, but I don't care too much about it since I enjoy the process even more than the product sometimes. 

Happy Fourth! Here is how it looks out my front window today.

Friday, June 30, 2017

I'm here

Just a bit bogged down in clearing out mom's belongings. I can't wait until I don't have to make this trip anymore. However, the work involved in this task makes me want to spend more time decluttering my own home. I surely don't want to leave the task to my sons. So it's just another thing to try to balance into my day.

Nevertheless, my hand quilting continues, and I got some work done on the patriotic project I hope to finish this weekend.

After I finish stitching these blue units together, i have to make 16 more 3" string blocks in the neutrals and assemble my wallhanging of Dawn's Early Light.

In other news, I decided it's time to get my health and weight back under control. I'm over on Sparkpeople as Joknits, if anyone wants to join me. They were quicker to the web than weight watchers, they are free to join, and their mobile app is pretty good, although I have trouble getting the barcode part of the app working well on my current phone. I like the way you can customize your tracker to track micronutrients as well as carbs, fats, and protein, and of course, total calories. It interfaces well with my fitbit too.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hand Quilting

Although I have another hand quilting project that is stalled out in the closet of the forgotten UFOs, I decided that I just couldn't machine quilt the COTDN tabletopper. So this weekend, I managed to get the center section just about finished.

I have seen people hand quilt without a hoop, so I tried it on one of the triangles. Result:  The fabric didn't lay flat. So I am back to using a hoop, rocker stitch, very small between needle. The downside of that is that I have no quilting callus on my under-finger, so I need to stitch a little each day to toughen it up. Proud to say, I haven't bled on the backing with all the poking into that sore finger.

Much to do this week, with a looming trip to a graduation upstate.

The fawns are out and about in our woods and the youngest bucks are proudly sporting stubby little antlers. As we move into July, our walks will slow down, because the wild raspberries are coming into season. They are so tender that I can't bring them home without bruising them to a pulp, so they are food for the trail.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rainy Day Stitchin

Today is kind of a blah day. Spent the morning trying to put away everything I've brought home from cleaning out mom's house so far, and managed to get that done. After a late lunch, I got out my accuquilt and cut some strips (of the correct width) to work on the blue HSTs for Dawn's Early Light. For the last few hours, I've been stitching COTDN. I think I will actually finish piecing it today.
Ever onward!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I have the chucklin blues now

Full disclosure:  I have a master's degree in engineering, which required hours and hours of really brutal higher mathematics. I hope they don't rescind my diplomas because I can't do basic arithmetic anymore.

Thankfully, I was only intending to crank out a test block of the blue/neutral HSTs.  I did cut about twenty or thirty of them matter, there will be other ways to use them.

So, I started hacking away at 1.5" strips without giving it much thought. I need to make a triangular unit of HSTs and extra blue triangles, mate it to a string pieced triangle and attach it to a 6" finished block that is a four patch layout of 2 red friendship stars+2string pieced squares.

So take a look at what I did:

I made a mini!

I guess I need to start hacking 2.5" strips this afternoon. Sheesh, I amaze myself sometimes.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mission Accomplished

Have I finished something? Well, no.

But  I sort of met the goals I set out for myself at the end of yesterday's post.  Just had to reduce some of them to a lick and a promise approach.

Sewing machine cleaned, oiled, gears greased.  Sewing station not perfect, but clean enough to move on to the next step.

With the advent of hot hot weather, I have been trying to only use my little travel iron, and use it sparingly. I batch things up for one big pressing event. Have to be energy efficient in an un-airconditioned sewing room. It gets some passive cooling from a window unit in an adjacent area.

Cutting station: all reds put away and there is room enough to work on the blue and neutral HSTs.

I got about twenty of them sewed before dinner.

Ready tomorrow to make a test unit to make sure my seam allowance is precise.

After dinner, I decided to take some handwork (COTDN) into the worktable in our bedroom, because that AC had been cranking away all afternoon. Again, energy conservation.  Since we were only downstairs at mealtimes, we didn't turn an AC on at all, but kept some fans working all day. 

Tomorrow is bee day, and the semi-annual birthday luncheon.  Anyone with a milestone birthday (60, 70, 80) in the first six months of the year will be showered with FQs.  And since I'll turn 60 in a few weeks, I'll be coming home with some. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

And the chuckles continue!

I need to rebuild my quilting stamina, I guess.

As I was in the final stages of assembling the friendship stars, I must have discovered ten more wonky stars that needed to be frogged and restitched. I don't know how I didn't notice them as I pressed and stacked them last night. One even slipped through into the joinup with the string pieced blocks.

Today's big oops was this. I thought I made enough string blocks for the red friendship stars. I only made half as many as I needed. Oh well.  I at least got them joined up into the large four patch layout. As usual, I needlessly worried that some of my reds were too dark, or two pink, or too orangey-red. But I think it is coming out fine.
Oops!  I think I see three of these that need to be picked apart and sewn correctly so that there are little triangles in the center where the  string blocks meet. Three blocks were pieced so that the stripes run end on. I believe that's wrong.  I hope it's wrong, otherwise, I have a lot more blocks to fix!  But I am getting so good at frogging this week.

Tomorrow's goals are:

Clean up the mess from the red blocks: sewing table, cutting table, ironing board and floor.
Clean and oil the trusty 301.
Start cutting the blue triangle sets and begin string piecing.

I would rather move on to the blues before piecing the rest of the 3.5" string blocks.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

I just have to laugh

Thought I had half my red friendship stars done, but one of them is a bit rebellious:

No naps this week, and I am starting to catch up on some overdue chores around the homestead. We also wore ourselves out on a workday at mom's house, to clear things out so we can list the house.  It's a bit overwhelming and I have to resist the instinct to bring too many things home. I just remember what Marie Kondo said, and I give it thanks for the joy it gave mom, or all of us, and try to donate what I can.  My own house has too many closets and too much stuff. And cleaning out mom's closets are a real lesson that those hard to reach shelves really need to be purged regularly.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Approaching green

Well, as of this week, I am no longer napping during the day.
I am walking more, quilting more, stressing less.
I finally went to the garden center and bought some flowers.  Next week, I hope to weed and mulch. 
This is all good news.

I have a lot of hand piecing left to do on COTDN, but am making progress.

I started Dawn's Early Light and am mired down in tiny half square triangles. Slow and steady on this effort. Need to strip cut some more recent red yardage to increase the variety. 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Getting back on my feet

I'm back, but I did not expect to feel this tired after the deathbed vigil and funeral. It's a perfect storm of grief, allergies, a headcold and the list of things that need to be done related to Mom's estate, as well as the list of things that haven't gotten done around the house for the past year.

Naps are good. Naps are allowed. Naps are necessary these days. I think that mourning requires an approach similar to the Red, Yellow, Green  framework that this young mom uses to cope with depression.

For me:

Red days: Exercise, prayer, rest, feed the family are the only essentials.Anything else earns me feel-good bonus points.
Yellow days: All of the above, plus the top three things that need to be done.
Green days: full throttle, no naps, get out for errands.

On any of these days, stitch as much as possible, because that's the only way to mend this hole in my life, and recover from those final heart-wrenching days before Mom passed. Loop through loop or stitch through cloth, by hand, by machine, it doesn't matter.  It's ok to start a new project and not feel guilty. It's ok not to be a slave to my UFO tracker.

So what am I working on? Finishing the hand stitching on COTDN, and starting Dawn's Early Light.
String piecing is good mindless fun, isn't it?

Tried to make myself a little planner for making this into a wallhanging sized project.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Rest in Peace Mom

Last week was the most difficult of my life. Every day mom grew weaker as she rarely woke, lost the ability to eat, drink, speak. After that, she passed within two days.

I am sure I will return to therapeutic stitching in a few days after we get through the funeral. 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Pulling the pieces together

I managed to finish my third rosette for La Pass, and connect all three finished rosettes together. The joining requires concentration and it focuses my attention away from all my other stresses. Sometimes when life is stressful, I need to do some mindless stitching like making string blocks, but right now, this intense work is really helping to steady me.

I'm a little mad at my phone's camera, there whas a huge difference in half an f first shot washed out the yellow ring entirely, and this one made the background murky. I really need to think about getting a real camera.....

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Minor progress on all things

 Finished the second charity lap quilt:

Working a bit on my third rosette:

 and was very excited to see the big reveal for COTDN on facebook. Had to lay my pieces out to see how it will look:

Friday, May 05, 2017

One Down, one to go

Managed to make the binding for both lap quilts and get one done.

I lucked out...I used the last of a fabric cut to make the green binding, and had only 12" leftover. And the bobbin thread did not run out.  I have a whole box full of leftover binding. I need to think up some small projects to use that up.

My sewing was not without its challenges today. Yes, a certain quiltorium cat... Both have decided to spend this rainy day with me. My little gray lady has just curled up in a cozy napping spot at the head of the bed. She is never a troublemaker.

However, my ginger boy couldn't get close enough....first he was head butting my 301 as I assembled binding pieces. Then he hid under the ironing board and thought the dangling ends of the binding were some cool new cat toy.  I snatched it from his paws and it had no bite marks. Thankfully, he finally fell asleep there and allowed me to finish one of these quilts.

I think I feel a little more productive after I did some spot cleaning in the quiltorium. You know how it goes. Quilting is just not a very neat hobby, at least in my world.

Too many projects in motion, that's my problem.

Are you a daily tidy-er type of quilter? Or more like me?

Thursday, May 04, 2017

And now for something completely different

Worked on the charity lap quilts today.Quilted. Edges serged to prep for binding. Will work on binding tomorrow. Made these out of old online swap nine patches and friendship stars. My online groups were a lifeline during the years of business travel. The erratic travel schedule of my consulting career made it very hard for me to develop an in person social life. Leave a comment if you made any of these blocks!

It's been a year and half or so since I retired. I continue to try to shed my old professional persona and settle into a more relaxed, more real version of myself. As part of that effort, I stopped dying my hair in February. Because my  natural base color is so close to the permanent dye color, there is not much of a skunk line. Lots of silver coming in around my face for now, but the rest of my head is dark brown with threads of silver. The dyed hair should be gone by July or August. Less time at the salon, more money in the budget for my hobbies!
A little more tidying, and then handwork is on my agenda until dinner time.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Quick Update

This is the view out my front window from my favorite chair. Full of spring green.

I finished my center block for COTDN yesterday at my weekly bee. Not pressed yet, but it looks pretty good.

I have been handstitching so much that my "under finger" is quite sore. I guess I always nick it a bit with my needle to know when to dip back up when making a running stitch, just like I do when hand quilting.

After a bit of garden cleanup, I think it's time to tidy the quiltorium just a little and work on some charity lap quilts so I can cross them off the list of "Gotta-dos". Have a great day!

Monday, May 01, 2017

Right as Rain

Well, we have had a bit of rain every day. It's definitely bringing on the May flowers. But the good news is that my eye has calmed down and I have had no facial pain, headaches, or eyestrain today! In spite of working assiduously to finish up the last clue of COTDN. These were terribly hard for me to match up at the intersection of so many seams of little pieces. But it's good 'nuff.

Pressing must be done carefully and Linda always gives instructions. I snapped a picture on my phone and used that as a guide at the ironing board. Things pressed out flat with a dry iron.

I have printed what I need for my chosen center block. I have to use a white print that is a bit lighter than the one I've used throughout the other pieces....I ran out. Visited two stores on Friday, but no luck finding a match. That's the problem with well-aged stash. 

I pieced two charity lap quilts last week, and am awaiting backing fabric that I ordered. I hope to make progress on those this week as well.

And, spring garden chores....there are many waiting for us.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


The good news is that I have a relatively minor inflammation of the white of my left eye. The bad news is that it hurts like the dickens across my whole face. Not infectious. Some cortisone drops should clear it up. Yesterday was a bad day, I got about this much sewing done:

The top parts of the remaining five pieces I need to make for the current clue of COTDN.
All I could manage after lunch was some crochet and lying about like a slug.

Today, I am a little better, but went back on ibuprofen because the pain is getting a bit much and it should also clear the inflammation. I used a cold compress over my eyes for a while too. So, I am getting a little bit of hand piecing done, and started assembling two charity lap quilt tops from a pile of old nine patches from online swaps -- they are decades old....

Well, I am sure Clyde is trying to chew through the closed door to my office to let me know it is definitely his lunch time. I'd better hop to it, or he will take his frustration out on poor little Bonnie and start a kerfluffle.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ready, Set, Go!

I laid low this weekend, and lots of rest and home remedies got rid of the sinus issue and most of the facial pain. My eye is still red and sore, so I will see the eye doc this afternoon.

I managed to get meals on the table, do some light chores, (not nearly enough!) and printed and trimmed everything I need for a week's worth of hand stitching. My go-kits are packed and ready for my bee tomorrow. Clue Six of COTDN and the rest of my third La Passacaglia Rosette.

I also string pieced a few blocks for Dawn's Early Light.

Question for anyone doing this mystery quilt:  Are you pressing these fiddly blocks with your full sized iron, or a smaller craft iron?  I had trouble in an earlier clue getting the intersection of so many pieces to lay flat when I pressed with my full sized iron.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Gift that Keeps on Giving.....

The Palm Sunday Stomach bug of 2017 has been difficult to recover from. I've had bad facial headaches, and my left eye is still today, I am breaking out the home remedies to see if I can improve things. So far, it's just a normal level of sinus pain, not that "Who hit me in the face with a baseball bat" feeling.  Tea tree oil, neti pot, eyewash, homeopathic eyedrops.  I really hate going on antibiotics, but I may break down and see a doctor next week.

I've been mostly devoid of energy and ambition, but I have caught up on my COTDN mystery quilt clues. Struggling with the small fiddly pieces that meet in an 8 part seam and I think my green is too dark. But it should be interesting to see it come together.

After errands, I'll see if I have the oomph to sit at a sewing machine for a while. String piecing or something mindless perhaps.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Printer Jam

Nothing ruins an inklingo project like a jammed printer. I was hopping right along printing Clue 5 of the Case of the Diamond Necklace, and when I turned my back, I noticed this giant jam up of my printer. Can't even get to the feed tray now.

Soon it will be time to deposit the requested ransom in his food dish, and I will be able to sneak back here and finish.

I finished stitching Clue 4 this morning, before a very nice walk in the warming and greening woods. Our deer friends are in hiding, but we did see a garden snake. Not as much fun as deer spotting.

I am eager to put this mystery quilt top to bed. For some reason, I feel like I have too much in motion right now, so I will stick with this til at least the finished quilt top phase before moving too far onto something else. I haven't been near a sewing machine in weeks, it's been all hand stitching. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Feeling a bit like Flat Stanley

Perhaps your children or grandchildren have done a school project involving mailing around a little fellow named Flat Stanley. I was laid low this weekend by a stomach bug that easily ranks as the worst one I have experienced in my nearly sixty years. Eldercare stress, a virus, food poisoning, I don't know what it was, but it had me flat out for a good 18 hours. Clyde the cat rarely left my side, he is such a good chum. Poor guy had a rough week with his two canines being extracted last week, so he has been needing extra comfort. But he gives it all back to me, for sure.

So, very little quilty stuff happened til today. And today there was only slight progress.

I finished Clue 3 of the Case of the Diamond Necklace, and have just printed Clue 4.

Went to my bee for a while today and started another rosette for La Pass. The center is from some fabric someone left on the donation table at the bee. An easier fussy cut since the center doesn't have match points.