Monday, January 23, 2017

My Favorite Things

Here I am with a couple of my favorite things.

My ukulele arrived last Tuesday afternoon, and I haven't stopped playing it... well, except to give the tips of my left-hand fingers a break. Not only are they sore, but they're numb! From all my Internet reading, that's not unusual. For now, I'm aiming to build calluses, and master a half dozen (of thousands) chords. Slow going!

Ideally I prefer to practice for a half hour three times a day. My goal is to master a dozen or more songs by May ("You Are My Sunshine") when I'll next see my grandsons. On previous visits with them, I've taught them several songs (the video I made of Tay singing all of "Animal Crackers in My Soup" is especially precious), so playing a ukulele while we sing together will be even better! It's good to have something to strive for.

I anticipate Di's arrival from Australia in a little more than two weeks, I've been practicing "Waltzing Matilda." Appropriate, don't you agree?!

Sewing-wise, I haven't done much. My heart hasn't been in it, though I've returned to some FMQ. I'm making a little progress on my "Out of Orbit" quilt (Thanks very much, Deb, for the name inspiration!), using rulers to quilt much of it. I used "Circles on Quilts Template Set 1" by Sew Steady, to quilt circles.

I'm filling in some of them with other quilting designs.

I really have no overall plan for the quilting design... just quilting something that suits my mood at the moment.

By Thursday, life will be a little busier here as those of us who are members of Quilting Guild of The Villages prepare for the biennial show. I'll be delivering two of my quilts to be displayed ("Florida" and "Prism" that have already been judged) and 27 of my wallhangings and quilts will be available for sale in the Boutique.

Also on Thursday I'll be helping my friend Lora set up her modern fabrics booth,  Dragonfly Quiltworks. She's staying with me each night so we can work in her booth on Friday and Saturday. I'll mostly be helping customers, and cutting fabric.

Doing that is such a good time! I happily recall my days working in Iowa quilt shops - first at the Quilt Junction in West Des Moines (now closed), and later at Creekside Quilting, Clive, Iowa. I really enjoy getting to know quilters and help them pick fabrics for their projects. 

So, there's plenty of fun to be had this week! It's especially appreciated after a couple unpleasant days - Friday and Saturday - looking at Instagram. People can be strongly opinionated when they express political views. It's best for me to stay away from such things. If I can't say anything nice, I won't say anything at all.

Instead I'll focus on positives, like my recent all-clear mammogram, and blessings. I'm in good health, and heck, I'm learning to play a ukulele! Linda

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

First Finish

I've been head-down on a couple sewing room projects. The first was recovering my ironing table. The fabric is just a piece of white duck, which I like because of the plain background for photographs. The old one was quite stained.

This prompts me to share a couple photos of my sewing room. I don't think I've posted pictures since the floor was replaced, and several new pieces of IKEA furniture and the rug were added. I love this bright space, and particularly so now because the weather has been mild enough that I can open the windows and enjoy the fresh air. 

My Wiggle Me Colourful (that's the spelling of colorful by the Canadian designer) is my first 2017 finish. It's 57" X 65" and pieced entirely with fabrics I had in my stash. I love the interest created by a variety of text prints.

I opted to quilt an all over design because the prints and backing are so busy that the quilting doesn't show.

Batting is Quilter's Dream Request Cotton, quilting thread is 50-weight Aurifil #2615, a silver gray, and the quilt design is from a tutorial shared by A Few Scraps. I came across this design, and many others, through a Pinterest search for "all over" and "filler" designs.

The quilting was finished on Saturday. On Sunday - for the #mqgsewday - I pieced scrappy binding, squared up the quilt top by measuring and drawing a straight edge around the perimeter, and sewed binding to the quilt. On Monday I hand-sewed down the binding.

I'm not digging into anything else because I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of a ukulele! After last Thursday's Ukulele Players Club get-together, where I took my first 40-minute free lesson on a borrowed plastic ukulele, and had a blast playing along during the song/singing time - as well as I could - I simply can't wait to get my hands on my own instrument! 

A chat with a knowledgeable sales person at Sweetwater, an online music store out of Fort Wayne, Indiana, helped confirm that the uke I ordered is appropriate for me. I'm getting a Kala concert-sized uke made of Pacific Walnut laminate with Aquila Nylgut strings (for those of you who understand these things). (See picture.) Now, if you see me chasing down a FedEx truck on my street, you'll know why!

As I've been impatiently waiting for my ukulele to arrive, I've been thinking a lot about the similarities between learning to play chords on a ukulele and learning to line dance. (I line dance at least 5-1/2 hours a week.) An analogy relates to muscle memory.

When line dancing one learns dance steps (coaster, mombo, jazz box, shuffle, charleston, lock, rock, etc.) Once-learned, muscle memory takes over so a dancer can recall those steps, and only needs to learn to put them in order for a particular dance. Playing the ukulele is much the same: practicing the chords so muscle memory of the fingertips of the left hand on the frets takes over, and learning to put chords in order for a particular tune. 
I also find it interesting that not only were several line dancers in the Ukulele Player's Club, but also a few quilters. After all, it was quilter-friend Sarah who invited me to join her at uke club in the first place! It must be each person's need to create that prompts us to take on multiple expressions of creativity.

So you quilters out there - you know who you are who never comment on my posts! - please tell me because I want to know if my theory is true:

Does your need to create take any other form of expression besides making quilts?


Monday, January 9, 2017

Week One of 2017

I've been comfortably settling into 2017 with sewing and a return to regular activities - line dancing, Big Cypress Quilters, and Bible study: Trials: Don't Resent Them as Intruders by Juanita Purcell. Tonight is the first 2017 Central Florida MQG meeting.

Piecing is complete for the scrappy Wiggle Me Colourful quilt. It took a lot longer to join all those rows - 33 of them - than I thought it would! Matching up Trying to match up every intersection of 33 seams can be a tedious process. But in the end, it's worth it. The top measures 57" X 66-1/2", and sandwiching will happen this week. Quilting will be simple. An all over design because anything fussy will be lost in the busy prints.

Last September I went through a process, trying to design a quilt top. Actually, I did so several times, quite unsuccessfully! This design was inspired by an image of "casino art" found on the Internet.

I played with a little transparency...

... rearranging...

...and tilting.

My thought was to design something modern and "out there." Well, it has a sort of space-y vibe, doesn't it? I have no idea what to call it!

Being (mostly) the kind of quilter who finishes what she starts, I've pin-basted, and begun quilting. In the aqua and white squares are free motion switchback designs. Quilted lines in the orange were done by ruler work.

This is how I've been sitting at my quilting machine. My friend, Dee, gave me a cell phone holder that she made of Blueberry Park fabric. I prop it on top of a sewing machine, plug in the headphones, and watch and listen to movies and series through the Starz app - Cinderella; Concussion; Fathers and Daughters; and Flesh and Bone. Truth be told, I mostly listen. And occasionally, glance. Funnily, I've found it keeps me quilting longer, as I stay put until the storyline reaches a good stopping place. Ha! Bonus!

This morning's view of Hogan made me chuckle. After his morning walking, I found him asleep on his pad (a favorite spot in the living room) with his head under the dry bar. He's done this before, but I've never seen him under all the way up to his shoulders! I wonder if he likes the coziness of it.

That dog. We love him to pieces. Health wise, he seems to be doing well but we're noticing a slight enlargement near the site of the December 31 (2015) surgery on his chest. The vet was unable to get clear margins through four layers of tissue, and we were told that soft tissue sarcoma is the sort that will return. We've had a wonderful year of spoiling him rotten - the reason for his weight gain - and have been surprised and grateful that he's still with us.

Last Thursday, at the urging of quilty friend Sarah, I did something new - I went to a ukulele club! About 130 people attended, with just a few of us ukulele-less. On the wall were projected words and chords of songs that everyone sang and played. How could anyone not be happy in such an environment?! Occasionally, a violinist and harmonic-player accompanied the ukuleles.

I think I smiled my way through the whole two hours - 45 minutes of playing; socializing; and ending with 45 minutes more playing. I'm looking forward to returning Thursday, a little early, to get a ukulele lesson on a loaner uke. I've been watching YouTube video ukulele lessons, so I hope I have a good first try.

Ah, this is one of the advantages of living in a retirement city - the opportunity to try, and participate in numerous activities at no charge. With more than 2000 clubs and activity groups in The Villages, I'll never be at a loss for something to do. In fact, I have the opposite problem - restricting myself. Otherwise I'd never be at home to sew! Linda

Monday, January 2, 2017

First in 2017

Sometimes I think about quitting. You know, no longer making quilts. Would my life be easier? Less busy? More fulfilled because I'd focus on other things? Then I look at my stash and tell myself, "Sew what you have, and then stop quilting."

So, I pull out another project and keep keep makin' - I adore seeing a finish! - and I find I'm again caught up in the excitement of creating. Choosing fabrics (I've never bought a quilt kit and never will. Where's the fun in letting someone else pick fabrics?!) always gets my juices flowing, and such was the case on New Year's Day.

This is the "Wiggle Me Colourful" quilt, found on Sandy's blog UpStairHobbyRoom.

Her quilt was sewn, cut and pieced from batik jelly rolls. I don't like batiks or jelly rolls, so I figured how to apply her design to my own kind of piecing - scrappy!

Over the past year, going to Big Cypress Quilters almost every Tuesday afternoon, I've been piecing on my highly portable - like carry it in a tote bag over my shoulder! - Janome Derby machine.

I made 66 colorful print "bars" using scrappy 2-1/2" squares. Yesterday I put the pieced bars on my design wall, and cut and arranged around them neutral background strips from text prints.

For the in-between/background, I'd originally thought to just use plain Kona White. Boring. Then I thought one print would be more interesting, but I'd have to order a two-yard piece of fabric. I settled on cutting 2-1/2" strips from about 24 text prints - the right way to use what I already have.

I've organized the rows, and will take everything to Big Cypress Quilters to begin sewing together the pieced bars and text strips. Clover Wonder Clips are great for holding parts together!

The quilt top will be about 56" X 66".

On New Year's Eve I sewed together the 8" blocks I'd sewn onto telephone book foundation papers. I swear that it took as long to remove the papers as it did to make the blocks! But well-worth the effort for the resulting quilt top. I used up lots of fabric strips, so I'm calling this a "free" quilt.

This quilt top measures about 64" X 80". 

As usual, I don't have a home for either of the above rainbow-ish quilts. (Sis, Cousin Barb, Cousin Ginny... when they're finished do you want one? I'm sure none of you have bright colors in your homes, but if you'd like a cheery spot of color, let me know!)

I also finished crocheting my fabric throw rug that's now alongside my side of the bed. I love it! It's 35" X 45" and only needs a rubber mat under it so some morning I don't go gliding out of bed. If you'd like to crochet your own fabric rug, CrazyMomQuilts, Amanda Jean, has a tutorial here. I'm saving strips for another one.

Tip: Strip-cut and save the unprinted selvage edge of fabric yardage - the one that's plain, and is usually tossed. I cut off between 3/4" and 1" of the selvage. It's perfect for crocheting.

Weekend quilting found me doing my bit on our Central Florida Modern Quilt Guild's QuiltCon Charity Quilt. I quilted two sections: the blue swirling waters, and the sand.

About 14 members of our chapter participated in piecing the quilt top, three of us pin-basted it, and two of us are quilting it. We're aiming to get volunteers to add binding, and a sleeve for hanging at QuiltCon.

The quilt backing is a popular Carrie Bloomston print called Newspaper, and was donated by Al from Sharky's Vac 'n Sew.

It'll be great to see the Charity Quilt Challenge display at QuiltCon. Quilts will be hung around the perimeter of the lecture hall where everyone has a chance to see every chapter's interpretation of "scale" and how they used some or all of the eight colors we were limited to. Our chapter used all eight colors to make "Paradise Central." When QuiltCon is over, quilts will be returned to chapters for donation as the chapter chooses.

Happily, I've jumped into 2017 creating! Now I'm wondering if I should come up with a word for the year. Linda

Saturday, December 31, 2016


The last day of 2016 has to be a recap of a few highlights, and a brief look into 2017.

With Christmas in the recent past, it's appropriate to share a picture of our two Kansas City grandsons sporting the new pjs I sent.
Aesa and Tay
Though the thermal tops are store-bought, I made the bottoms. Of course I was pleased to see that they fit. PJs are an Oliver and S pattern so when they've grown taller, mom can make them longer by unstitch the thread tacks that hold up the cuffs.

As for Celina's PJs... they were too big. So, it was a trip to Joann Fabrics for more hedgehog print flannel. This photo of Dan is expressly for the sake of letting my dear cousin Barb see that he is around, and we do live together 😊.

I've re-made Celina's pj's in a smaller size and they're in the mail.

Looking back on my makes during 2016 I count 21 finished quilts. If you're so-inclined, you can see them by clicking the tab above "2016 Quilts." Of those 20 quilts, nine were smaller-sized wallhangings. Some of them were gifted and donated.

I also participated in making two charity quilts, donated a pillow to Quilting Guild of The Villages, for a silent auction, and sewed two little girl pillowcase dresses for Dress A Girl Around the World. I made six pj bottoms; several bags and travel cases; a wristlet; a skirt, a dress; and a tuffet.

According to Iconosquare, an Instagram activity-reporting program, these were my top nine most-liked Instagram photos in 2016.

In order of popularity, from the top left to right, Row 1:
1) The "Rebel" quilt gifted to my cardio-vascular doctor.
2) Our guest bedroom with the new laminate flooring.
3) My Bay Area Modern block-of-the-month quilt.

Row 2:
4) The skirt I made with Abacus fabric I colored using washable fabric markers.
5) My "Florida" quilt.
6) My Cross-cut Quilt made during AQuiltersTable quilt-along.

Row 3:
7) The Swirly Twirly Dresden pillow donated to Quilting Guild of The Villages for a silent auction.
8) My freshly-organized fabric stash.
9) String-pieced blocks made and arranged in a rainbow gradation.

Looking back...
In February friend Lora and I were thrilled to receive third place for our "Ad Libbing" quilt in the AQS (American Quilter's Society) show in Daytona Beach. The same quilt was in the October AQS show in Des Moines where it didn't receive anything.

In June I had a quilting machine muck-up - actually, the quilting foot was the problem - and ended up with a new Janome 1600P.

In September I presented my first live webinar to the Modern Quilt Guild; I'll be doing another next spring.

In December two quilt entries to QuiltCon were rejected; one was accepted and will also appear in a 2018 Modern Quilt Guild book.

On the home front, during the year we saw some improvements: new Lazy-Boy living room furniture and brightly colored wool area rug; tile on the sides of the kitchen bar; house exterior painted; living room wall painted orange; all the carpeting replaced with wood laminate in the three bedrooms (one of which is my sewing room), and the master closet replaced with ceramic tile; and a new doorbell installed when the old one burnt out.

ding-DONG is the new sound! 😀

"Lighten" was my word for 2016, and I think it was well-lived.

I'm no longer teaching quilting through the Lifelong Learning College, presenting my last workshop (Free Motion Quilting with a Quilting Foot) on November 11. Though the decision to teach at the College was my choice, on December 2 we learned that due to litigation by 32 hearing-impaired plaintiffs, the Lifelong Learning College closed, effective December 30. The controversy around the lawsuit continues while refunds were given to 18,000 people who had registered and paid for January through June 2017 classes!

Healthwise, the burden of severe PAD (peripheral artery disease) in my legs has lifted. Having had two catheterization procedures, one in February on my left leg and the other in March on my right leg, to reopen stenosis in my femoral arteries, those arteries have now remained clear and opened for the longest duration - nine months! - since my disease was diagnosed in October 2013. During my November visit to Dr. Q, he said, "You're as near to normal as you have been since starting to see me." I can confirm he's right, as I continue to line dance three times a week, and walk for 50 minutes or more at a time with no calf ache or burn whatsoever. Hoorah!

Darn, but a new condition has arisen since a dentist visit - some bone loss that's possibility a side effect of taking my breast cancer drug, Arimidex, for the past three years and 10 months. My new dental hygiene regimen now includes daily use of a WaterPik. I quickly remind myself that my health could be far worse, and then count my blessings.

Looking ahead...
While I've never been a "list person" (I end up feeling too terrible and guilty when everything isn't crossed from a list), and shy from writing down all that I intend to create in 2017, I am very much looking forward to several things during the first few months of 2017.

Quilting Guild of The Villages' Showcase of Quilts (an every other year event) comes up at the end of January. I have two quilts in the show, "Prism" and "Florida," and will be working in friend Lora's Dragonfly Quiltworks vendor booth during the two day duration of the show.

Then, the big event is the February 10 arrival of DarlingDi - my Sydney, Australia friend, Di - who's coming to the US for the first time! Go here to see us at our first meeting in 2009, at her home in Sydney.

Such a beautiful picture of Di, taken near Luna Park, with the Harbour Bridge and CBD in the background. Oh how I miss Sydney!

Di will be here for a month, and I hope to show her some of the wonders of the US. We're making travel plans around the two quilt shows we'll attend: 1) four days at QuiltCon in Savannah where we're both taking workshops and attending lectures (I have a quilt in that show), and later 2) the AQS show in Daytona Beach where Di has a quilt in the show!

As well, we'll spend time with local quilters and go to: Asheville, North Carolina and Biltmore Estate; Charleston, South Carolina; St. Augustine, Florida and the Fountain of Youth; Epcot; Universal Studios and the Blue Man Group; Cape Canaveral; Homosassa Springs; Silver Springs; and Winter Garden where we'll visit the Morse Museum of Louis Comfort Tiffany glass.

What a grand adventure we're going on!

Dan and I are spending New Year's Eve day quietly, and after church on New Year's Day, it will be more of the same. I'm quilting our Central Florida MQG QuiltCon charity quilt and will share a few pictures next year!

Wishing all my blog readers a wonderful 2017! Linda

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Elephant Family Quilt

I've neglected blogging about a baby quilt I completed at the 5GalsQuilt week-long retreat in October. But since Miss Madelyn didn't arrive until November 19, I had to save pictures until the quilt was sent to her. And I waited so I could post these pictures of her with her quilt.

Maddy's mother is my nephew's wife (I made this quilt - Love Links - for their wedding) and she requested a quilt with pink, gray, and elephants. I was happy to oblige, especially when she gave me free reign to make it as I wished.

Using the elephant shape on the invitation I received to the baby shower (which I wasn't able to attend), I enlarged it to different sizes. At first I made only a mama and baby elephant, but when Dan saw them on the design wall, he suggested that they needed a "daddy" - a perfect idea. Each elephant is machine-appliquéd to the background fabric which is Kona Silver.

You'll probably notice that I prefer a quilt to not have an "up" or a "down." So the elephants are parading along the top and bottom of the quilt which should look good draped across a crib rail. Or whichever way Maddy sees it from her stroller seat.

Scrappy pink Three Rail Fence blocks frame the elephants.

Quilting is mostly cross-hatch, though there are a couple rows of quilted letters: "M." Yes, we knew ahead of time that her name would be Madelyn.

The 38" x 48" quilt is backed with an elephant print in flannel.

Babies are very precious, and this little one is exceptionally so. I can't wait to meet her in person next spring.



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