Merry Christmas (late again!)

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season, whichever holiday you celebrate.

This year I determined that I would make as many gifts as I could instead of buying them.  So for the last month or more I’ve been sequestered in my sewing room after getting home from work as much as possible.  Trust me, that didn’t hurt my feelings at all.

Here’s what I gave to my kids.

For my daughter-in-law, I sewed a large tote for helping her organize her sewing.  I picked one of my favorite fabrics from my stash and found a bunch of other fabrics to coordinate with it.  I wanted it bright and cheerful, and I think I succeeded.  In fact, I think it kind of overwhelmed her.  Oh well.  She may not have totally loved the fabric, but she loved the tote and all the accompanying pieces.  I included five vinyl pouches with fabric tops and zippers for holding all the little sewing things like ribbons, zippers and thread. Here’s the pattern I used.  She also got a sewing machine mat with pockets to help her keep her tools nearby as she sews.  Here’s the pattern.  And finally, a thread catcher and a chicken pincushion filled with ground walnut shells.

I had such fun making it!  The pattern for the tote and for the thread catcher are mine.  It’s on my list to put the patterns online, but not today.

For another daughter-in-law, I made a long table runner.  I wrote about it in my last post, along with a quilt I made for my brother and his family.

For my step-daughter, I made a yoga bag.  And I forgot to photograph it.  Argh!!!!  It was quilted using a deep red print on the outside with a happy black-and-white print on the inside.  It zipped along the side and had two pockets on the outside.  I also included a little zippered pouch.

My daughter got two gifts, one of which Bruce worked on with me.  And I didn’t photograph it.  (I should be grounded.)  We made her a little cabinet for hanging her earrings in.  We started with a shallow shadow box that had a door on it that latched.  We bought some 1/2-inch square dowels and cut them to make a little frame inside the shadow box.  We also bought a piece of plastic canvas for her to hang the earrings on.  We painted the plastic canvas and the dowels an antique bronze color.  Then we took out the background of the shadow box, mounted the plastic canvas between the frame and the dowels, and finally placed a black panel behind it all.  There is about 1/2-inch of space for the back of her earrings to hang.  So she can hang this on her wall instead of fishing through her jewelry boxes for her earrings, and because it has a door on it, her cat can’t get to it.

I also made a little ditty bag for her car.  She studied music in college, so I pulled out all my music fabrics and picked a few.  For some reason, I always seem to have a little failure with each gift I give to her.  On this one, I put the white music fabric upside-down.  *sigh*  Here’s the pattern I used for this bag.

For my friends and family, I made our traditional homemade turtle candies.  These are made with the best chocolate I can find, fresh pecans, and homemade caramel made with real butter.  The caramel is the best part of these candies, and makes them really delicious.  mmm!

For the annual Christmas gift exchange with my crafting friends, I made this quick little table runner.  I found some charm squares that I liked, sewed them in rows and trimmed them so that I got the right shape.  Then I added the strips around the outside and quilted it.  At our exchange, we play a game where someone can “steal” a gift that has already been opened, and mine was “stolen” that day.  That was fun.

And last but not least, I made “office chair” quilts for my boys.  My oldest son is going back to college, and doing it online, so he spends a lot of time at his computer.  My youngest son works from home, so he also spends a lot of time at his computer.  And apparently, they both get pretty cold.  So what happens when you tell a quilter you’re cold?  You get a quilt!

I wanted to make them so they fit comfortably in the chair with them, and since my youngest says his legs get cold, I decided to make them so they wrapped around the legs.  They were really pleased with them, and I hope they work out well.  I really had fun with the flag motif on the one.  I need to do some quilts for Quilts of Valor.

Whew!  That was a lot of sewing and crafting, all in the last month, give or take a week.  Now I’m feeling a little lost, same as I always do after finishing a big project (or series of projects).  That won’t last for long, though.  Bruce wants an office chair quilt and I have that tatted doily to hunt down and finish.

PS, I just remembered something else I made this season.  For my twin grandsons’ birthday, I made them “Angry Birds” towels.  Here’s the pattern.  And I forgot to photograph those, too.

Happy Thanksgiving (a bit late)

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!  We had a great time, and the food was awesome.  And now that the kids have all gone home, we can decompress.

When we got back from dropping our youngest son at the airport, I went in the kitchen to see what we could have for lunch.  There was absolutely nothing we could just pick up and eat, which was what I wanted to do.  So I did what he used to do as a teenager and stood there with the refrigerator door open, hoping for inspiration.  I opened the freezer and found it.

A few weeks ago, I cooked up the pumpkin from the garden.  Part of what I do is to let it drain in cheesecloth for a few hours.  I had frozen the juice that I collected, and that’s what I found in the freezer.  So I put that in a pot, added all the little bits of vegetables that were in the fridge, added a few spices, and made myself a soup.  When it was cooked, I added the last teaspoon of cream cheese, some heavy cream, and some Parmesan cheese.  It was tasty!  I’ll put the recipe at the end of this post.  Maybe I’ll make it again someday.

So the other day I went to start tatting on the last row of the latest doily row-of-the-month.  And it’s gone!  I’ve looked everywhere for it!  My search continues, and I hope it shows up soon.

In the meantime, I’m working on Christmas gifts.  I’m trying to make almost everything we’re giving this year and since time is short, I’m quilting and not tatting.  Also, since Bruce is the only person in my family who subscribes to my blog, I feel pretty safe posting pictures of the items I’m making as gifts.

Here’s what I have so far.

I watched Jenny Doan’s Wallflower Quilt video and had to do it for my step-son’s wife.  I thought at first I’d do a whole lap quilt, but decided against it when I realized the time it would take for this pattern.  So now it’s a table runner–a long one that should fit the beautiful kitchen table he built for her.  I used gold since it is one of her favorite colors.  I wanted it to be kind of modern-looking, so I made two of the wallflowers then added strips of different sizes.  I really like how it turned out!

And for my brother and his family, I made a lap quilt.  This one went together really fast, and I used another Jenny Doan video.  Her stuff is so fun and easy!

His family is very musical, so here’s how it’s quilted.

Two down, a bazillion to go!

And here’s the recipe.  I can’t figure what to call it.  Maybe “Clean Out the Fridge Vegetable Cream Soup”.

2 cups pumpkin juice or vegetable broth
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/3 cup chopped carrots
1 Tbsp chopped jalapeno or serrano peppers
1 cup slice baby portabella mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
pinch paprika
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dry cilantro
1 to 2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Put everything in a saucepan except the heavy cream and cheese.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.  Add the cream and cook the soup down a little, stirring occasionally.  Add the cheese and stir until it has melted, then serve.

More later!

Time to catch up

Boy, time goes fast, especially when you’re busy.  I just realized a week or two ago that I haven’t even started preparing for Christmas yet.  Yikes!

Here’s what I’ve been up to.

I finished Bethany’s quilt, and we gave it to her a few weeks ago.  She was very happy!  It’s fun to give something to someone who appreciates it.  Here are some photos of it.  That’s her and her boyfriend holding it up.

And the back.  I thought I’d had enough backing, but it turned out that I only had enough for a queen size quilt.  This one is king size.  So I had to dig into my stash and improvise.  I like how it turned out.

And stitching from the front and stitching from the back.

And here it is all set up on her bed.

Not long after it was done, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.  Our local quilt shop set up a charity sew for making quilts to send to the folks down there.  So my friend Brenda and I gathered our favorite novelty prints together and went.  We stayed all day and had a blast!   It was a marathon, but we finished a twin-sized quilt top by 10:00 that night.  We were both pretty goofy by then.  Here we are, holding it up.

We left the top at the shop with a backing, and the owner donated the batting,  She had professional quilters who were donating their time, so I didn’t expect to see this quilt back until it needed a binding.

Brenda and I had brought our own fabric to make this, but when we got there, we saw that a lot of fabric had been donated, and we could make something out of that, too.  I saw this AMAZING panel and had to make something up.  I took it home and added a few borders.  It made up into a really nice lap quilt.

I stitched it with maple leaves.

And I donated this next quilt, too.  I thought I had a photo of it finished, but I can’t find it.  A friend gave me these quilt blocks.  She acquired them from the daughter of a woman who had passed away.  She passed them along to me, and I put them together to make a lap-sized quilt.  I thought it would be good to send down to Texas as well.  Not my favorite quilt by any means, but it’ll keep someone warm.

After a while, Brenda and I realized we hadn’t heard back about the twin quilt.  It turns out that our backing was too small, so the quilter returned it to the store.  When I heard that, the next time I was in the shop I took it to finish on my own longarm.

I got it loaded, got the design set up, and started stitching.  Here’s the design I chose.  Since it was going to Texas, I wanted to quilt stars, and this was the closest thing that I had in my library.

I started the machine going and about halfway through the first row the machine started breaking the thread.  Over and over again!  I just couldn’t figure it out.  So I talked to our local tech, I talked to the manufacturer tech support, and I worked through what they suggested.  Nothing worked.  They finally just asked me to take it to the local tech so they could check it over.

Unfortunately, she was out of town for two weeks!  Argh!  So I waited.  Bruce will tell you how happy that made me.  Finally, she was able to take it.  She tested it, set the timing, and serviced and oiled it.  When I went to pick it up, it worked.  They also told me that my machine just didn’t like the thread I’d been using and that I needed a finer thread.  So I bought some.

Well, I got home, we got it set back up, and it still broke the thread, regardless of which thread I used.  I just didn’t know what to do!  So I sent an email to the tech (who was out of town again), asked a question on the manufacturer’s online forum, and turned to Google to see if I could find the service manual.  I couldn’t find a manual, but I did find a site that showed how to set the timing.

So finally yesterday Bruce and I worked together to see what could be done.  We took off the needle plate, and while I slowly turned the hand wheel, Bruce studied how it made stitches.  A time or two the thread got caught on the edge of a narrow slot.  Ah ha!  I knew it was breaking down by the bobbin!  So he carefully adjusted the size of the slot and the machine has been running perfect ever since!  Bruce was my hero this weekend!

I then spent the rest of my day quilting.  Darn it, I wanted to get that quilt done!  And I did.  I’ll post a picture of it as soon as I get one.  Unfortunately, it’s too late to send it to Texas now.  But it’ll go to a local shelter instead.  I know it will be just as appreciated there.

I’ve also discovered Jenny Doan and her YouTube videos.  Oh my, they’re addicting, and I just had to try one…or more.  Here’s my jelly roll race quilt top.  I plan on using this in a queen size quilt for my guest room.  I may or may not cut it up and make a star out of it.  The other things I’ve tried are going to be Christmas gifts.  I’ll post those when they’re done.

On top of all that, it was harvest time for the garden.  Since the tomatoes had stayed green all summer, they ripened almost all at once, and I had a lot of tomatoes to preserve.  I chopped them up and put them in a pot as they became ripe.  Then I pureed them and cooked and cooked and cooked them.  I’d put them in the refrigerator at night then cook them all evening after I got home from work.  Eventually, I canned them.

I also had a bunch of tomatillos from a local organic farm, made some green salsa out of them, and canned them.  I’m pretty sure this will last us for most of the next year.  Yay!

And with harvest time comes the leaves.  I tried using a barrel composter this summer, and it just didn’t go well.  What I did get out of it, I really couldn’t get out of it.  It has just one hole and the stuff doesn’t come out when dumped.  So I had to shovel it, and that didn’t go well, either.  So since it didn’t make great compost (surely it wasn’t user error LOL), and it was a pain to work with, I’ve decided to get rid of it.

Consequently, I spent some time researching how to make compost this summer.  I really don’t want to have to buy the stuff anymore.  In my search, I found this Ted talk by Mike McGrath, and it makes so much sense and seems so easy, I just had to try it.  So I bought myself a couple of Geobins, then collected leaves from my co-workers and neighbors, and of course from my own yard.  Since we don’t drink coffee at our house, I got some coffee grounds from Starbucks.  Then Bruce and I shredded the leaves and piled them with the coffee grounds into the bins.  It took a week or so, but here they are!  I stuck my hands into them the next day, and they’re good and warm inside.  Woohoo!  Here’s hoping I get compost by spring.

I’m still trying to convince Bruce that we should try worm composting, but he’s not going for it.  We’ll see.

So you can see, it’s been a bit difficult for me to get to my tatting.  And now it’s Christmas crafting season.  And I’m late.

The quilt so far


This is taking so much longer than I expected!  I wanted to have this done this past weekend, but I’m only about halfway done.  I even did a marathon 14-hour day on Saturday (with breaks every few hours).  I just made it too complicated, like I always have a tendency to do.

I took this photo at night, so the colors are a bit off.  The light areas are white, not pink.  But you can see basically what I’m doing.  I designed four different circles, all in different sizes.  The one shown is the largest one.  I’m stitching them in random places, and only on the colored squares.  The white areas I’m leaving unstitched.  This kind of gives the look of the quilting being behind a window.

I’m fortunate enough to have a HandiQuilter with the computerized Pro-Stitcher.  My mother left this set-up to me when she passed away last year.  There’s no way I could pull off this design without it.  You’d think since I use computer drafting software all day at work, that learning to use this would be easy, but it has been a real challenge.  It’s definitely different.  So, the stitching looks great, except where I keep accidentally stitching into the white areas.

Since I’m only stitching a portion of the design at a time, I have a zillion starts and stops.  This is making my quilt rather “hairy”.  It’s going to take some time just to hide all those thread ends.

I really like how it’s turning out, though (other than my many mistakes and general lack of experience).  The effect is what I wanted.

Hopefully, I’ll have the finished quilt to show you sometime soon!


Getting ready to quilt, finally!

Today I finally managed to get my step-daughter’s quilt loaded on the longarm!  (And the cats are officially banned from the room.)  It was a real project just to do that.  The quilt is 104″ square.  I spent a lot of time making sure the quilt is loaded square to the machine.  I don’t want the squares on the quilt to get skewed.

Usually, my quilts are much smaller, and the piecing is more complicated than this one.  But I wanted the quilting on it to be the highlight and the piecing not so much. Besides, she likes a more modern look.  I don’t know if this quite fits, but for a traditional girl like me, it’s what I came up with.

I will be using templates to quilt large circles in random sizes, and will stitch several different quilting designs inside each.  The background of the quilt will be parallel lines.  What complicates it a bit is that the circles won’t wholly fit within the colored squares, and i will not quilt through the 1/2″-wide white strips.  I want the quilt to look like you’re looking through a window to see it.

This is a far more ambitious project than I’ve ever done on the longarm machine.  I hope I do it justice!

So my queue now looks like this:  Bethany’s quilt, and finish the triangle doily.  Then I have my first pair of knitted socks to make, and a lap quilt done in the pineapple pattern with scraps from Mom’s stash.  Once I get more worn out jeans, I can make more progress on the crocheted denim rug.  And of course, I have Mom’s quilts to finish, as well as my quilt tops that are hanging in my closet.


Fixing my nephew’s quilt

A couple of months ago I made a trade with my sister-in-law.  She had a barrel composter I wanted, and she also had a quilt that needed repair.  So we swapped–I fix the quilt, and she gives me the composter.  Deal!

This is a quilt my mother made for my nephew.  Each square has a portion of the song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” embroidered on it.  (She had a Husqvarna Viking embroidery machine.)  So cute!  And my nephew has loved it.  I mean REALLY loved it.  The quilt needed some help.

Mom always used quilt-shop quality fabrics because they last so much longer than the cheap stuff.  But when you have a heavily embroidered section and a lot of use, the fabric around the edges of the embroidery gets very stressed.  In a lot of places the fabric had torn.  Here’s a picture of the barn.  Look around the silo and the base of the barn,

The binding was also in awful condition.

Fixing textiles is not my strong point, but I figured the best thing here would be to stitch a wide zig-zag over the torn area with an off-white thread.  I hoped it would do the job and not stand out too much,  I was pretty happy with the result.  Here’s what the barn looks like now.  Not too bad, unless you look at the back of the quilt.  There are squiggly lengths of off-white stitching all over, and they stand out really well against the green backing.  I warned my sister-in-law that the back wouldn’t look so great.  I hope she remembers.

I found a fabric in my stash that coordinated with the quilt and used it to replace the quilt binding.  The photo of the quilt at the beginning of this post shows the finished and fixed quilt.

Hopefully, it’ll last a good long time after this.  I will probably tell my sister-in-law that hanging it up on display would probably be the best option from now on, although I doubt that will happen.  This quilt has even more meaning for him now since Mom passed away last year, and he loves to wrap up in it.  And that’s ok.  Mom made her quilts to be used and loved.

So one item on my list of things that need done ASAP is done today!  Actually two–I finished planting the garden today, too.

On to my step-daughter’s quilt.  I was supposed to have that done by Mother’s Day.  Didn’t make that deadline, did I?  After that I really need to finish that triangle doily...



Eyes and a recipe

THANK YOU for all your kind thoughts and prayers for me!  I’m grateful, and I’m always touched by the kindness tatters show to one another.

Here’s an update on what’s going on with my eyes.  I ended up going to a doctor who specializes in the retina, and he took some fancy pictures.  One is a cross section of the macula (the point on the retina where we see the center part of our vision), and there’s where he found the trouble.  Apparently, the goober (technical term…ha!) inside the eye often shrinks as we age, and sometimes it sticks to the retina.  When that happens, it can pull on the retina, and tear a hole in the macula.  And that’s what has happened with me.

He told me one of three things can happen.  It can get better on its own, it can stay the same, or it can get worse.  Surprise!  *sigh*

So, he’s not doing anything for now and I’ll go see him again in July.  He’ll take more fancy pictures, and we’ll see how it’s progressing.  If it’s getting worse, I may need surgery.

But what this means for now is that doing detailed work is not aggravating the problem.  I can do my daily stuff without fear of making it worse.  I asked him if there’s anything I can do to help, and he said no.  But my regular doctor gave me some supplements that support the eye, so maybe that will help in some way.

On another note, here’s a little recipe I whipped up the other day.

Usually, when I make pizza at home I use spaghetti sauce and add extra spices because canned sauce can be too bland.  I didn’t want to open a can of sauce just for one pizza last night, so I made up my own.  This recipe made enough for three 14-inch pizzas.  And to be honest, I’m guessing at the amounts of the spices.  I usually just pour the spices in my hand, crush them a bit, and add them to whatever it is I’m cooking.  It’s very likely that I actually added more spice than this recipe suggests, so you may want to taste the sauce and adjust the amounts.

Nancy’s pizza sauce (not Italian…her ancestry is English and Welsh)

1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried oregano
1-1/2 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like a little fire)
1/8 tsp black pepper

Stir all the ingredients together.  This makes a thick, tomato-y sauce that tasted great.  I may just use this very time from now on.

And… I’ve finished my nephew’s quilt!  I secured the areas of torn fabric with a tight zig-zag, and I added a new binding.  It looks considerably better.

Next–finish my step-daughter’s quilt, and I need to get hustling on it.

Best wishes,

Eye troubles and deadlines

It  looks like it might be a while before I can tat.  I went to the eye doctor last week and we discovered that my left eye has a blind spot.  It makes it very difficult to focus.  I’m hoping it’s something temporary, but if not, it may be a while before my right eye learns to take up the slack.  I can still see well enough to do pretty much everything I’ve always done, but it’s definitely more difficult, and nothing is really in focus.  I’m going to give my eyes some rest until the doctors (both eye and regular) figure out what may be going on.

I’m sure I’ll know more in a few weeks, and maybe by then I can feel better about doing fine work again.

In the meantime, I have a few deadlines coming up.

The biggest deadline I have is finishing the quilt I’ve been making for my step-daughter.  I need to have it done before June 20.  It’s a king-size quilt, and the top is done.  I need to piece together a backing and get it on the machine.  Even though it’ll be on my longarm, it will still be a big project.  I have some complicated plans for it–well, complicated for me.  I’m still figuring out this machine.  I should be able to work on this just fine with my eye issues.  I hope!

Also high on the list is my nephew’s quilt.  My sister-in-law traded her composter with me if I would repair the quilt Mom gave to her son.  I thought it was a great deal, but it’s turning out to be a bigger project than I realized.  I really should remind myself that I need to double how much effort it appears to be when I’m looking at something like this.  That’s OK.  My nephew appreciates this, and saving $125 or more on a composter is definitely worth it to me.

Speaking of dirt, my garden is growing great right now!  I planted the onions, garlic, carrots, beets, peas, and lettuce in April, and they’re all up.  Yay!  Now that it’s a bit warmer, I’m going to plant the corn, squash, and cucumbers tomorrow.  Then I’m headed off to the Loveland Garden Club’s annual plant sale where I’ll pick up the tomatoes and peppers I want.  And maybe I’ll find something new and interesting.  It would be really awesome if I could find a Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumber.  They look like mini watermelons!

I also hope to have a truckload of wood chips delivered soon.  We have two trees and grass on the east side of the house, and we never use that space.  Mowing it has been a real pain, and I’ve pretty much had enough of it.  So, we’re going to lay down wet newspaper over the whole thing and then cover it with a few inches of wood chips.  I understand it’ll kill the grass but not harm the trees.  Then next year when that area has settled a bit, I’ll figure out something else to plant there.  I’d like to plant something that produces food, preferably berries, but it’s always in the shade.  That makes it very tricky.  Mint?  Alpine strawberries?  Blackberries?  Anybody know of a good shade berry for zone 5?

I really don’t have time for my full-time job…

At any rate, I’ll post pictures of my step-daughter’s quilt as I go along.

Best wishes,

New free tatting pattern!

Hi all! I finally have a free pattern for you.  Remember my post about the lid?  Here’s the entire box along with the pattern.

Click here to go to the pattern for the Tatted Box

This is a free pattern.  However, many of the patterns I will post from here on out will be “premium” patterns and will be for sale for a small amount.  This helps defray the cost of having this site.

I still remember that I need to do the last row of the triangle doily I was working on before we closed the store.  I promise I’ll get that to you!  It will be a free pattern.

Hope you enjoy the tatted box!

Happy tatting

Quilts for the doctor and receptionist

So you know, I’m still working on the tatted box!  It’s complete, I just need to draw out the pattern. I thought I’d show you a couple of my recent projects in the meantime.

I love to give people baby quilts.  My acupuncturist and her receptionist were both expecting babies and were due in January and February this year.  I’ve tried to have baby quilts done before a baby comes along, but I don’t always manage that.  This time I had one done and one that still needed to be quilted.

The receptionist was due first, so I gave her the one I had ready to go.  She’s having a girl.  I had such fun making this quilt!  I just could not resist the flamingo print.  The colors in this photograph aren’t quite right…the background on the flamingo print is beige.

I also use baby quilts as quilting practice.  They’re quick and hopefully will be used until they fall apart, so it’s not so imperative that they be “perfect”.  I’m very much a perfectionist, but I’m trying to overcome that.

I’ve made quilts before that I thought were pretty messy, but when I saw them later I was surprised they were so cute.  I think it’s because after some time I see the imperfections as interesting and fun instead of ugly.  I rather like the life it brings to the quilt.  I need to keep telling myself that.

Here’s a close-up of this quilt, although I’m not sure if you can see the quilting design.  I did this one with free motion on my regular machine and not the longarm.  Each square of the quilt had a similar motif stitched on it and the sashing had rows of hearts.

And this is the quilt I made for my acupuncturist.  The center was an uncolored muslin panel which I colored with crayons and heat set.  It was lots of fun to do and I was pleased with the result.  My mom gave me the squares years ago because she had no intention of putting them together into a quilt.  I think they worked out great here.

I really like the design of the quilt, but I wish I could say the same for the quilting.  I learned a lot.  I stitched a sunflower over each of the squares using the computer on the longarm.  Part of the way through the first design, I realized it was a mistake.  You could only see the circle center of the flower and parts of the petals–only what was on the red square.  Argh!  So I found a pinwheel design to stitch in the middle.  Lesson 1: consider the contrast between the fabrics when selecting a quilting design.

I did some freehand stitching in the middle panel, which was a great reminder of why I need to put a practice muslin on the machine before I stitch on a quilt.  It’s not my best work, but at least it improved as I went along.  Lesson 2: practice first!

Keep stitchin’!