Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Bag of the Day

This one might be my favorite.  I don't know how many yards of that nice tan William Morris fabric I had to begin with, but I tell you, I've made three bags now, and there is still a fair amount left!  The prairie points are scraps of Bill.

While I was digging around in the Bill bin, I found a dozen 12" blocks from one of those swappy kinds of things where you send out a focus fabric and people each make a block and return it.  I put them up on the wall and some went together better than others did; one was really way too bright to play with the rest of them, so I took him down and took him apart and will replace the very vivid orange with something a little quieter.  I think the rest of them will do well together after that, and I believe I'll try to get a top assembled out of them this summer.

I've started a new Leader-Ender project this week, but this isn't it. This is dear Nate -- Anastasia sent the photo this afternoon.  It is so hard that he is so far away.

Back to the L-E project, however.  I've got a big Rubbermaid tub of CW pieces, mostly smaller than a FQ and a smaller tub of CW shirtings and backgrounds.  I've always liked the cactus pot block (Diana, that link is for you!) and am making it super scrappy in the eight-inch size.  I've started with the largest section and I'll need 21  units for the 6 by 7 quilt I've got in my head.  It will be a good while before there is anything to share, but know that slow progress is occurring.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bag Frenzy

Bag frenzy, eh?  Perhaps.  I'm having a lovely time.  Half-way through the second week of Summer Hours, and I've sewn every single day so far.

I paused in the bag frenzy tonight to make a belt.  And then cut out yet another bag.

People on my summer gift list surely will not be surprised.  But I sure hope they're happy!

Back to the sweat shop . . . .

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bag Lady and One More Cow

I'm turning into a Bag Lady again.  This has happened before during the summer, when a particular pattern gets under my skin and I start producing bags like crazy.

My wonderful neighbor is a caterer; she has a stall at an upscale "farmer's market" and every couple of weeks surprises us on a Saturday evening with a care package of some goodies that didn't sell.  One night it was her salmon cakes and they were so good that we now have a nearly weekly trip to the market to buy them.  She's a lovely gal who is known as "Blackberry's godmother," and has an explosion of curly red hair.  When I saw this fabric, with some chefs that resemble her, I had to make her a bag.

Someone connected with school asked me if I'd make her a bag to carry her knitting in exchange for a pair of hand-knit socks.  I'd have to be a fool to reject that offer.  I've never had hand-knit socks.  Then an early childhood teacher who is some kind of an artist got into the deal and she's making me something yet to be revealed in exchange for a big bag to haul things back and forth to school.

I decided to improvise some prairie points on these bags, after a commenter on my last post mentioned them, and I like their look.  The butterflies are for the teacher and the tribal ladies (please click to see how gorgeous they are) are for the knitter.

And I cut out another bag last night!

The postal person brought a cow from all the way across the sea and then some.  Annemiek in The Netherlands make this gorgeous gal, complete with identifying ear button.  And look at the little bitty purse she made!

I know that there are a few people I'm still indebted to, ladies who have sent me cows in exchange for something on my end.  Taking care of my end of this deal is high on my list for this week, and I thank you for your patience.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fixing What Was Broken

A year or so ago, Facebook reconnected me with a friend I'd been close with during the high school years.  We did some brief messaging, and admired photographs, and talked about getting together.  I was interested to meet up with her; at the same time, I was a little nervous about it.  So I didn't come up with a concrete proposal and the months went by.  Then she suggested lunch at a place in Flemington, about an hour from each of our homes.

Of course, the drive up was filled with memories.  I had been a high school dork, immature, silly, insecure, uncertain; she was a year older, smart, not afraid to be who she was, and on the elegant side. She had an eye that didn't work and was passionate about music. I didn't know why she wanted to be friends with me, but I was glad that she did.  Her family life was different from most:  Instead of a pair of parents and a sibling or two or three, she lived alone with her father.  Her mother had walked out on them a couple of years before I met her.

I thought about that as I drove up through Hatboro, and how at fifteen I had found it interesting and curious and unusual, but nothing more.  It never occurred to this self-focused teen to wonder about feelings of rejection, unwantedness, abandonment.  By the time I reached New Hope, I was thinking about what I knew of my friend:  She'd written on Facebook last winter of losing her father; I knew she had also lost her husband many years ago.  So I was going off to reconnect with an orphaned, widowed, childless only child.  And in Lambertville, I wondered what kind of a person I was meeting, what kind of impact all that loss would have.

The woman I met in Flemington was a delight.  I would have known her right away.  Looking younger than her 67 years, she still had that gleam in her [good] eye and warm, engaging smile.  The conversation was easy, with a back-and-forth, give-and-take telling of life stories.  Neither of us had that unpleasant eagerness for the other person to stop talking so it could be our own turn.  We listened and shared and understood and affirmed.

She shared an epiphany she'd had after her husband had passed away:  She had thought back to her high school years and had seen herself as uninvolved, unathletic, unpopular, a dorky follower (her?  dorky?  my early-elegant friend?) and decided to fix what was broken.  She became involved in all kinds of things:  a professional women's organization, the library board, a needlework group, and even took up horseback riding.

She spoke, too, about the experience of being abandoned by her mother, giving details I'd never known nor thought to ask about.  She shared her feelings of anger, abandonment, incredulousness, bewilderment.  And gave me the opportunity to listen, to affirm, to reflect and to empathize.  Giving me, as well, a chance to fix what was broken.

After more than forty years, to find that a friendship between children can be rebirthed as a friendship between women -- it was an amazing gift.  A day that was lovely in so many ways.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Thing She Carried

She came into school to attend a meeting.  It was the first time I'd met her, and she was awfully nice, and she was personable, and she was obviously very bright.  The kind of person -- you know -- that has it all.  And, indeed, she did have it all.  She was carrying the most amazing handbag (and I believe if you click on it you can see a larger, clearer, brighter version of it), and after the meeting, Gabrielle and I descended upon her to get a closer look.  And she generously let us peruse her handbag to our hearts' content.

Someone had given it to her, she said, and she loved it.  She just wished it was bigger.  Like a tote bag, she said.

I asked if we could get a photograph of the bag -- I wanted to try to make a similar one for myself.  She went me one better.  "I'm an interior decorator," she told me, "and I have left-over fabric galore.  How about I bring you some and you give it a try -- make one for each of us -- I'll bring the fabric, you provide the labor."

Such a deal!

It has taken far too long for me to fulfill my part of the bargain.  But at last I have finished hers and am eager to begin my own.  Here's my interpretation of Kristine's Bag.  I made it using the fabric she provided, following the dimensions and directions for "Jackie's Sewing Bag" from Living the Dream by Leanne Beasley.

My version, I think, is a bit tamer than Kristine's.  And it is certainly bigger.  Inside I added three pockets -- a long narrow one to hold pen or pencil, a shorter wider one to hold keys, and a good sized one on the opposite side to hold other things.

I didn't have rhinestone pins for decoration.  But I did have a really nice ladybug button that I thought added a little something.  I'll be handing it over to her this coming week.

I hope she's pleased.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I know that I am blessed in that the school where I work has a lovely thing called "Summer Hours."  As long as we get everything done, we can work shorter hours.  It's a gift of time.

Some summers are so fractionalized by trips away, long-term house guests, and the usual summer events, that Labor Day comes and I don't feel I've had the benefit of refreshment that Summer Hours should bring.  This summer is different.  We have no long-term house guests, we have scaled back our July 4th celebration, and are taking just one six-day trip and one three-day weekend away.

I have lovely plans for my summer.  First, I've begun walking in the mornings which is abetting my weight loss efforts (now at -28.8 pounds with a goal of -30 by July 4th).  I don't hate it!  I try for three mornings each week and sometimes I awaken early on unscheduled days and walk anyway.  Last week it was three days.  It's a wonderful time of solitude, reflection, planning, and noticing.  I see other walkers with ear buds plugged in, listening to music, but I prefer to listen to the birds.  It's a good thing.

A goal for this summer is to try out some new quilting techniques.  In a moment of lunacy, I subscribed to the Prairie Women's Sewing Circle Journey #2.  When the first package came, I saw that it involved freezer paper applique, and promptly set it aside.  Now there are three little packages, perhaps four.  This week I began the project in the upper left-hand corner of the photograph, "Remember Me," the one that involves the freezer paper.  As of now, the little blocks are pieced and the freezer paper is ironed onto half of them.  I'd said I wanted to learn how to do this, so here goes.  I also want to try paper piecing, something else I've put off.  And there's the cow quilt to put together -- A spectacular Dutch cow came yesterday from Annemieke and will be featured in the next blog post (when I find where I put my camera).

And then there is Summer Reading; I've reserved a few titles at the library and picked up a couple of things at the bookstore.

Summertime.  And the livin' is easy.  Thanks be to God!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Great Spirits

We spent part of the weekend in Alexandria, visiting Eli, Amy, and Andrew.  A and A wanted to attend an event at the National Harbor and asked us if we would stay with Elijah Boo while they did so.

What a nice baby Eli is!  Very good natured, mostly happy, energetic, and flirtatious.  And a good eater.  We had a wonderful time being grandparents, and afterwards A and A took us all out to a Mexican place for an excellent dinner.  The table adjacent to us was laid out for about 20+ guests and we knew from the photos posted everywhere that it was a graduation party for someone named Alex.  And, apparently, it was to be a surprise.  It was a huge surprise, because as soon as Alex walked in (we all recognized her from the photos), everyone at our end of the restaurant cheered and applauded!  Such fun . . .

Early this morning before anyone else was awake, I finished reading The Boy in the Moon.  I found this to be an important book.  Ian Brown is a writer who has a disabled son, as opposed to a parent of a disabled child who wrote a book.  He writes not just of his family's experience, but travels to meet and interview other parents of children with the same or similar syndromes.  He also visits a network of care facilities designed for people whose intellectual capacity is seriously compromised.

In one place he says, "I don't want to minimize the difficulty of raising a handicapped child. . . .  But it's just a mistake to think of them as lesser than.  There's no lesser than.  There's just different from.  It isn't just great minds that matter.  It's great spirits too."   I was well aware of the irony that I was reading this during a visit to my perfect and "normal" grandson.

This book is an excellent read.  One of my commenters wrote me that she was afraid it would be too difficult a read for her inasmuch as her own grandchild had just received a diagnosis of difference.  My thought is that this book would let her know that she is not alone.

One pair of our children has close friends who have a young daughter who is developmentally delayed.  I'm recommending this book to my kids -- it will help them understand their friends a little better and help them to be better friends to them.

Friday, June 17, 2011

This and That

Here at the end of a long and full week, I finally have some time to catch up.  The week after school closes is always at least as busy as the last week itself, but we seldom remember that until we are knee-deep into it.  Long days, lengthy meetings, and way too many opportunities to overeat were the fodder of our days.

These two splendid additions to the herd came this week from Suzan and Jane No Blog respectively.  I don't know that I've ever seen a cow as happy as Suzan's.  Unless it would be Jane's.  Thank you, my friends.

We've had a house guest since Sunday in the form of my seminary classmate Sharon who serves a congregation in Massachusetts and had come to town to take an intensive class at the seminary.  She's just about the easiest guest to have -- pleasant company, gets along famously with Joe, helps in the kitchen but not too much, not a picky eater, fan of Blackberry (and he of her), spectacular grace-sayer -- and we were sorry to see her pull out this morning but are happy to know we'll see her later on in the summer on her turf.

I've been reading this book in the little bit of free time I have.  No recollection of how I heard of it.  And it is, in fact, best read in small pieces.  Because it is extraordinarily well-written and I need time to digest between segments.

The author is the father of a boy with a complex syndrome so rare that there are perhaps fewer than 200 individuals worldwide, rendering it an "orphan syndrome," one that medical research doesn't grant much time or energy.  Mr. Brown writes with excruciating candor about family life and complicated feelings.

It is scarcely the sort of book I can say I "enjoyed."  But I am glad that I am reading it and learning quite a bit from it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mercy Quilt

My sister recently has affiliated as a volunteer with the local hospice, and mentioned that there is a need for quilts of all sizes for the patients.  I posted earlier about a very, very sad need for tiny quilts for neonates, and made a handful of them last month.  I decided that for the summer, I would have a personal goal of making one hospice quilt per month, of any size.

I need to say that sometimes when I see what people call "charity quilts," I am disappointed in them.  Sometimes they look as though the maker just threw together whatever fabrics were around.  I understand this in situations such as Lutheran World Relief where the quilts aren't used as coverings but rather to create makeshift "walls" in refugee camps.  So I'm thinking that the quilts that we make with particular care and with pride, quilts to give away to folks we don't know who need them, these might be "mercy quilts," rather than "charity quilts."  At least in my garbled mind, there is a difference.

Yesterday afternoon when I was looking for something else (that I still haven't found), I came across a large bag of 9" finished CW CDs on muslin -- I remember when we did that swap and I had something in mind at the time.  Whatever that was is long gone.  There was a kind of masculine look to most of the blocks, just perfect, I thought for a hospice quilt for a man.  I had a jar of 2.5" CW strips from another swap (why do I feel compelled to get into these myriad swaps?) (rhetorical question) and started cutting sashing strips from them and from some muslin left over from a recent backing, got the cornerstones.  I have a bolt of extra-wide muslin that I bought for backs, and will get this all pin-basted together and then I'll begin tying it.  There might be a half-yard piece of brown CW that I could use for binding, but if not, I think scrappy would be just fine.

This is a quilt I'd comfortably give to one of my sons if he needed a quilt.

I believe there are enough pastel CDs left to yield a baby quilt next month.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Surprises on a Sunday Afternoon

So, we're sitting on the back deck talking about when to start a fire to grill some nice salmon that's been marinating in teriyaki (Soy Veh brand, readily available at your local Trader Joe's), and the doorbell rings.  Neither of us is expecting anyone until sometime later in the evening when good friend Sharon is coming to stay for the better part of the week.

So all three of us go to the door, with Blackberry leading the way, and it is Nettie!  She was a participant in the Bonnie Hunter Workshop we held a couple of months ago, and she was on her way to visit her daughter and thought she'd just stop by to deliver some cows.  I'm so glad she did!

Just look at them -- close up, please!  Aren't they just terrific?

And then the phone rang.  It was Turbo, calling to say she'd just been propositioned by a midget.

You just never know, do you?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

COW News

I spent much of today in the company of some COW friends, sewing down at the church.  Each of us brought her own project to work on and we combined forces for lunch.  I made these five six-inch blocks for my second "Farmer's Wife" quilt.  I use the quotes because I'm following that pattern's general idea, but using blocks I enjoy making without templates.

I took my Featherweight rather than the Bernina today because I need to get some experience using it.  It is so much easier to haul around.  I had at least three Featherweight experts there to help me with questions.  It was a terrific day, and this pile of blocks is growing, growing, growing.

These two terrific cow blocks arrove during the past week.  Gari's Cow Quintet meandered all the way up here from Alabama, and Fitzy's amazing cow came from Out West.  Aren't they splendid?

I'm well aware that I owe some people some goodies in exchange for the cows, and I hope to fulfill these obligations before June is out.  I have one more week of full-time work and then the blessed summer hours (8-1 rather than 8-4) begin!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Cool Quilt

I've no recollection at all, really, of who it was that suggested I look into the Patchwork Penguin's annual UFO challenge as a way of coming to grips with my UFO abundance.  To whoever you are:  I'm once again grateful to you!

The way this challenge works is that Patchwork Penguin asked each participant to select ten UFOs and give each one a number.  Then, beginning in January, each month she randomly chooses a number and that is the UFO we work on for that month.  I decided that for UFOs that were nearly-completed tops, finishing would mean getting them quilted and bound.  For UFOs that were bunches of blocks or some blocks made and fabric to make more blocks, completion would mean getting them assembled into a top to be quilted and bound sometime in the future.

Friends, it has worked for me.  As of tonight, I am six for six.  The top above was my Project #9:  Amish "solids" with black.  When I got into the box that held the blocks, it turned out there were way more than I had remembered and putting them all together was way too jumbly.  So I sorted out the cool colored blocks and put them on point with solid black squares separating them.  It will eventually be quilted and then bound using one of the cool colors.  I'm considering this my finish for June and will put the rest of the blocks away -- if Penguin runs this challenge again next year, I'll pick out another group for another top.

It has worked well for me to get my projects to flimsy stage and then to shelve them until a quilt is needed.  Then I get it quilted and bound.  The flimsies take up much less room than finished quilts do.  And somehow it is easier on the checkbook this way, too.

Monday, June 06, 2011

American History 101

I just dug this up in The Atlantic archives. Apparently, this was Longfellow's first draft of the immortal "Paul Revere's Ride."*

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear    
Of the early evening ride of Paul Revere,    
On the twentieth, or twenty-first, of May, or possibly June, in Seventy-six, or maybe Seventy-seven;    
Hardly a man is now alive    
Who refudiates that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, while ringing those bells, 'We must see the French a-coming    
By land or sea or some other way, maybe by air, from the town to-night, 
And tell our British friends, and our British enemies, 
And warn them of bears, the big majestic polar bears, that lurk amid the French a-strumming
Their mandolins, and other French instruments, that make a patriot so squirmish.    
Shoot a flair up at Lexington and Concord,
Those fabled towns of New Hampshire and Vermont
Where General Lee made his valiant stands;. 
And no one will take that flair gun away from me,
Not from my cold, dead hands.   
Of that church, you know the one, with the name, whatever it's called, up in the tower as a signal light,--    
One, if by land, and two, if by air;            
And I on the opposite shore will be, in a very large bus;
That is painted so patriotically;    
And I will ride my white steed so fair. 
Then I will ride a Harley, that I was pulling on a trailer behind the bus, and spread the alarm,  
Man, I love the smell of that emissions
That smell is freedom, carried by horse,
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
Not horse emissions, chopper emissions. 
But horse emissions are very patriotic. 
And I will warn the British that the British are coming.
Which should confuse them very much.    
Then he said, 'Good-night!' and with shotgun in hand            
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore, that Last Frontier, 
We were rowing because the outboard motor didn't work, thanks to the EPA;    
Just as the sun rose over the Mighty Mississippi,    
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay    
The Somerset, British man-of-war; 
Which sounds a little gay;    
A phantom ship, part of our hollowed-out Democrat Navy
Across the moon like a prison bar, where we should lock up all the French,    
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified, by Fox,    
And by its own reflection in the tide, not the detergent, but the water that comes in from the sea in waves, I'm not sure how exactly.

*With unrefudiated gratitude to Frank Vollmer

Sunday, June 05, 2011

A Little Clothesline Exhibit

Today we had the opportunity to photograph three recently finished quilts -- this one was finished as recently as last evening!

This quilt is for Sherry's expectant co-worker whose little boy is due in July.  It is very similar to a quilt I saw on Nicole's blog a few months back.  I changed the border arrangement a bit and added the pinwheels in the corners.  Although recently I've been resistant to quilts made from a single line of fabric, I'm pleased with the way this one turned out.

This is the quilt's back.  Some of the fabrics used in the top of the quilt have rather-hard-to-see bunnies in them, so I asked my machine quilter if she had any designs with rabbits.  She immediately showed me this one which I fell in love with.

I hope that by clicking it you can see the bunnies and the carrots.

I love the quilting on this project.

This quilt was my UFO Challenge project for May.  The top had been done for quite a while and was just sitting around waiting for a recipient.

I'm still not sure who the recipient will be, although I do have an idea that I need to discuss with someone else.

The blocks were from a swap and the nine patches were made to try to pull them all together.

The quilt is hand tied with DMC floss.  I really, really like the binding.

And here is Justin and Tal's quilt.  I pieced the blocks and set them when we were at White Oak this spring, but didn't get the borders on.  This is Emily Cier's Irish Chain, and the pattern in the book didn't call for any borders.  It wasn't big enough to suit me without borders, and when I consulted with a colleague, she persuaded me that I shouldn't border it but rather to add more blocks.  I wasn't convinced.  I put the borderless top on the wall and felt that the eye was drawn to the outer edge and beyond and that wasn't what I wanted.  I'm glad that I added the borders -- they seem to draw the eye back into the center.  I might see Tal and Justin this week and if I do, I will give it to them, although the wedding isn't until September.

Weekend Update

Judy may remember it all very differently.  But here's my recollection:  We were at White Oak, having our lunch together outside because it was a beautiful Saturday.  Across from the picnic table was a field with a smallish herd of amiable cows.

We'd been up late on Friday night, sewing and laughing and singing along to Kingston Trio, Smothers Brothers, and New Christy Minstrels.  Earlier in the day we'd lamented to one another that a particular repetitive song from the evening had become stuck in both of our heads.  But we weren't talking about that during lunch.  We were hoping to get it out of our brains.  We finished up Carol's wonderful soup and veggie pizza and just before we got up to return to the sweatshop, the cows, of one accord, assembled in front of us, formed a single file line, and without giving us a glance, ambled off into the distance.  And simultaneously we began to sing, "We're Marching to Pretoria."  Judy has made this block so that I will never, never ever get that song out of my head.  Thanks, Judy!  (Love you anyway)

We have weekend house guests, and on Friday evening while we were visiting, I finished the fingerwork on the summer robe that Sherry had asked me to make for Caroline.  I'd like it better if the person who sold me the pattern hadn't lost the collar piece, and, again, don't look too closely at my buttonholes, but I somehow doubt that a three-year-old will be concerned with either of those niceties.  I enjoyed making it for her.  And while I was at the LQS picking up the buttons for it, I also picked up the cutest little summer dress pattern.  Size 4T.   Later this week, perhaps.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

No Bull

These two terrific cows came on Friday from Jan and Kim in California.

Check the note on Jan's.

And Kim's cow wants to know, "Does this bow make my butt look big?"

Friday, June 03, 2011

Rockabye Baby

I wrote earlier that I'd learned that the local hospice was looking for quilts of all sizes for their patients, and that a particularly pressing need was tiny size quilts -- about 12" x 18" -- for neonates in the program.

My thoughtful and generous cousin, I understand, has already sent a dozen or more soft flannel quiltlets (which I'll see this weekend) and I made five out of orphan blocks.  I took a 12" block and added 3" to either end and machined the quilt sandwich together.  When I had them done, I turned them out and closed the opening and the other night I did some machine quilting to hold all of the layers together.  I gave them to my sister last evening to take to the hospice the next time she goes to volunteer.

In my dwindling box of 30s, I have orphans in smaller sizes and will have to get creative in figuring out how to turn them into these kinds of quiltlets.  It breaks my heart to think that there is this tremendous need.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

How Now, Brown Cow?

These beautiferous bovines arrived in the past couple of days from Helen "Mimi," from Lurking Linda, and from dear Tanya who also included the Moo.

And people have written that mooooore are on the way!

On other fronts, this week I've been stitching a little summer robe for my granddaughter, size 4T.  Been a while since I've done something like that.  I bought the pattern used on Etsy and the seller didn't mention that the collar wasn't included, so it is collarless.   Don't look too closely at my buttonholes, either!  Picture in a day or so, once the hems are done and the buttons sewn on.  I have five little incubator quiltlets just about ready, and Justin's quilt is all done and just needs to be photographed.  Am hoping for a photo-shoot tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

It's Happened Again

The inbox has somewhere between 600 and 700 messages in it.  I had really thought I would respond to nearly all of them.  But the task at this point is too daunting.  Please know that I read every single comment that comes in and actually plan to answer all of them.  I hope this is one of those cases where it is the thought that counts.