"...for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make" ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Eve Of July

I found myself with some unexpected (but not unwelcome...) Hubby-free time this evening! So I grabbed out a pile of Amy Butler scraps I had hanging around and put this together. It took me about 2 hours, start to finish! The brown is a Moda Bella Solid.

I've named it "Eve Of July", since it kinda reminds me of a sunset sky and was pieced on the last day of June. It's about 36" by 48". It evolved as it went... I initially had a totally different idea, but after playing with the squares and rectangles a bit, this happened instead!

It will be quilted with straight vertical lines about 3/4" apart, with brown thread. I don't actually HAVE brown thread, so I guess I'll have to head to the quilt shop tomorrow (oh, darn...!).

I'm going to go "wind up the calendar" as Hubby puts it, and go to bed. See you next month!!

4th Of July Garland

I was looking for a way to decorate the house for the 4th without spending any money... and I found the answer in my cardmaking supplies!

If you'd like to make one too, here's the "recipe" :)

You'll need:

Red, white and blue cardstock
a star-shaped paper punch
something to punch a tiny hole (I'm using a paper piercer, a 1/16" punch would work too)
Strong thread (I'm using a 12-weight cotton thread)

Punch out star shapes. Using your hole punching tool of choice, punch holes near the end of two star points.

String onto thread. Hang up and enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

June Swap Fun!

Well, I was up and sewing by 7am today- it's so good to feel like myself again! Sir Alexander Fleming is my new hero :)

Look at this cutie I received from Cathie for the S.T.U.D. swap! I just love it- it's so bright and happy! Her piecing is beautiful, too, and her binding is out of this world!! So straight, with perfectly mitered corners!

I finished up and mailed out a mini quilt for Cathie today. Here's a "sneak peek"... I know she reads this blog, so you'll all have to wait until she gets it to see what it is!!

I was also in a placemat swap this month! The idea is to get a personal placemat to use, one that's all your own. I was partnered with AmandaJean from crazymomquilts. She's so creative, and so prolific, and has such a popular blog that I was actually a little intimidated by the thought of making something for her! But I think she'll like her placemat! Here's her "sneak peek"... I think she reads this, so no pictures yet!!

I am going to have a personal quilting retreat this upcoming holiday weekend... Hubby won't be home during the day for most of the weekend, and I am going to sew, sew, sew!!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Favorite Quilting Tools

I actually sat down and sewed today!!! It was SO exciting- I made the tops for both the STUD swap and the Placemat Swap- I'll get them quilted tomorrow, and mailed out on Tuesday... just under the wire!

I have read a few blogs lately that have given a "review" of their sewing machines. I thought I'd join in too, plus show you a few of my other "secret weapons"!

Firstly, my beloved Pfaff 2056! I would not trade this machine for any other machine in the world- not even a new Pfaff! I love this machine, and we've made a LOT of quilts together :) I got it in 2004- less than 6 months after I started quilting. I love all the features! The IDT, or the "top" feed dogs, is the best feature by far- the machine feeds the fabric from the top AND the bottom, so you don't get the "rainbow" effect that happens with other machines. Having the fabric feed from both sides evenly is also a great help in keeping the seams from shifting!

This is the Bendable Bright Light. This little thing gives off a LOT of light! I use it along with my Daylight work lamp to light my work area. I recommend it to anyone!
If you've never used a cordless iron before, you are really missing out! I LOVE this thing, and absolutely hate it when I go to retreats or classes and have to use an iron with a cord! Some people don't like it because you have to put it back on it's base occasionally to heat it up, but I think the "trouble" is well worth not having that cord around, tangling in your fabric and dragging blocks off the ironing board. Maytag doesn't make them anymore (which is really sad, because it was the best of the cordless irons on the market), but there are other brands available!

And lastly, my real "secret weapon"!! I love both these products, and every single piece of fabric I sew with will see both these used on it! I use the Magic Sizing after I pre-wash my fabric, to put some sizing back into it (without the arsenic, formaldehyde and other chemicals that are used to prevent bugs from eating the fabric in the warehouse), and I use the Mary Ellen's Best Press (unscented, all the scented ones make me sneeze!) when I press during piecing! They are a great help in getting fabric and blocks pressed really, really well, and that aids in lining up seams and keeping things square.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thirty Minutes

Today I decided to motivate myself to clean the house by setting a timer for 30 minutes, and cleaning non-stop for that period of time. I figured I could get a lot done in 30 minutes- nothing ever takes as long as your imagination thinks it does!

Well, I did get quite a bit done in that 30 minutes... I got the bed made, the laundry put away, the bathroom cleaned and my cutting and ironing tables cleared off. But then, something funny happened!

It happened while I was cleaning the bathroom. I had the electric broom out, to sweep the floor. And I thought "I have the broom out, I might as well sweep the bedroom and master bath, too...". Then I decided I might as well do the hallway, the living room/dining room, the family room, and the kitchen too! You know, since I had the broom out and in my hand anyway.

Then an even funnier thing happened... While I was sweeping in the dining room I decided that the china cabinet needed to be dusted. Well, you can guess what happened next! Now the china cabinet, buffet, bookcases, living room furniture and lamps and the bedroom furniture have all be dusted too!

My 30 minutes turned into 2 hours. And the house now looks great! I am completely wiped out, of course- I am on a stong antibiotic right now, and it's sapping the little energy I had left. But we are having leftovers for dinner, and the only thing I am going to do tonight is sit and knit :)

So the next time the cleaning seems overwhelming, set a little timer and go to it! I bet you'll get more done than you ever thought you would!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fun With String!

I've been spending quite a bit of time lately knitting. I have become quite enthusiastic about it!

It's just so neat that you can take 2 sticks and some string and make something beautiful :)

this is a simple drop stitch scarf made with a bamboo/nylon blend yarn. This pattern works up super fast! And the yarn I used is so soft. I love it!

And this is the progress I've made on my first actual pair of socks! They are made with Blue Moon Fiber Arts "Socks That Rock", in the color "Pink Granite". It's a hand-painted yarn that has sort of striped as I work with it. I love the gray streak it made on both the heels! I've been knitting them at the same time (worked both cuffs, then both heels, etc). The one on the left has the gusset done and just needs to have the foot knit. I've just started gusseting the sock on the right.

I have a lot more energy today- I think it's because I've been making an effort to think positively! I also spent a very small amount of time out in the sun today, just to soak it in and get some vitamin "D" going! I've been working on cleaning the house, and now I am going to make a pasta salad for dinner.

We have a family reunion of Hubby's side of the family on Saturday. I'll have about 6 hours as a passenger in a car, so I am really hoping to finish the socks then! Then on Sunday I'll start working on the STUD swap, the placemat swap and the Round Robin. I have fabrics picked for all of them!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Things I Am Thankful For

So I spent most of this past week feeling sorry for myself. It's hot- REALLY hot. I don't feel good, and I haven't for a couple weeks now (NO, I am not pregnant, that's the first thing I checked!). I miss my friends in NY. I am behind on my swap projects. I can't seem to keep up with the house (because I am tired because I don't feel good)...

Well, let me tell you all, sitting around making a list of all the reasons life sucks takes even more energy out of you! So I decided to make a list of all the things that are GOOD right now. And guess what? I came up with more things that are good than things that are bad! Life isn't so bad after all!!

1. I have central air conditioning. This is very, very good!

2. I now know what is making me so tired. It's something chronic that flares up every once in a while. There's nothing I can do but wait it out. But at least I know what it is now, and I should be feeling better in a couple more weeks!

3. One of my hobbies (knitting) can be done while sitting, and takes very little energy. So I can still make stuff even when I'm feeling icky!

4. I have a wonderful Hubby who provides for me, and helps me when I am unwell.

5. The garden is giving us salads! This is good- veggies taste SO much better straight from the ground :)

6. I know what I am going to make/give to my swap partners, so once I do have energy to work on these, I can get them done quickly.

7. I have several bottles of very good wine! ;)

8. I am still losing weight. Which is good!

9. I have great friends, both in real life and online! And even though I am far away from some of them, cell phones and computers make it easy to keep in touch.

I really think making a list of all the good stuff in your life helps boost your energy levels! Smiling helps too. Try it and see!

Love to all!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Garden Update

So, I kinda let the garden, um, do it's own thing for a while. I have been sick, and in New York... I have lots of excuses! Turns out that weeds grow REALLY well in deep beds- I have been out weeding for a total of 9 hours over the last 3 days, and I'm still not done cleaning it up! I should be able to finish up tomorrow morning... I can only work in the early morning, since it's in the 90's here this week!

Fortunately, though, the "real" plants survived and grew as well!

The broccoli and the radishes...

The tomatoes are doing really well!
The peppers are also doing well, and in this weather you can practically watch them grow!

And the strawberries are starting to get their second round of flowers.

The sugar snap peas have started flowering too! Yummy- I can't wait for these to come in!
Once I get the garden back on track I am going to start turning over the new garden area. We are more than doubling the garden for next year- I'm so excited!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Few Of My Favorite Things!

Well, we are almost done clearing up the downed branches from the terrible storms we had on Friday. Our neighbors across the highway had some major yard flooding, but that's receding now. It's amazing what a few feet of elevation will do- we are about 6 feet higher up than the people across the road and we had no water in the yard at all! We are pumping in the basement, though. No flooding or anything, just the sump pump and pit doing their job!

Here are some of the things I brought home with me from New York... :)

isn't this fabric amazing? It's a Hoffman California fabric. I found it at Weaver View Farms- that's an Amish fabric and general store in Penn Yan, NY.

Some fat quarters I picked up at a quilt shop in East Rochester, NY. I didn't care for the shop at all. It was apparent that because I was not a "regular" I was not worth giving the time of day to. It didn't have a very good selection of fabric, either. But I did manage to find something to take home!

100% Pima cotton yarn I found in a yarn shop in East Rochester, NY. It's called The Village Yarn and Fiber Shop- it was really cute! They had a lot of nice stuff there. They were also very friendly! I will definitely go back there the next time I am in New York. I bought enough of these to make a sweater.

And now for my FAVORITE thing- Finger Lakes wine!! It is the best wine in the whole world! Not California, Australia, or France can beat the Finger Lakes region of New York for tasty, yummy wine! And that's not just me talking- many of the wineries have won numerous ribbons and trophies and awards for their wines, beating out California and international wines. Swedish Hill Winery, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards and Chateau Lafayette Reneau are my 3 top favorites. Three Brothers Winery was a new one to me... they have 3 wineries and a brewery. Passion Feet is one of the wineries, and their raspberry reisling is SO good!!

Last but not least, the grape pie filling! As far as I can tell, grape pie is a Western New York thing. No one I know here in Illinois had ever heard of it before, and even people in other regions of NY have never heard of it before! It's really a shame, too, because it's SO GOOD! This stuff is made by Amish families. I had these jars shipped to me from Fox Run Vineyards. Hubby told me to "spare no expense" to get grape pie filling home- it's become his favorite!

Today I am doing some cleaning and organizing... and then tomorrow- I GET TO SEW!!! It's been almost 2 weeks since my sewing machine was even turned on- yikes!

Friday, June 19, 2009

WAY Too Close

So today we are experiencing a severe weather "outbreak". NO KIDDING!! I've spent most of the morning so far in the basement. Right now we are between storm fronts.

We had golf-ball size hail, 90mph winds, 3 inches of rain, and a really, REALLY close call with a funnel cloud in the last round. I don't think I have ever been more scared in my life! I was actually just starting to think that maybe we could come back upstairs, when I heard weird popping noises, followed by my ears popping like mad (they still hurt), and the cat actually screaming. A glance out the basement window showed the tree in back had all its branches straight up in the air. About 10 seconds after that, the weather radio went off to issue a tornado warning! It said there was "strong rotation in a storm 8 miles west of Huntley, IL". Or in other words, right on top of my house!! There are branches and leaves down everywhere. I haven't been able to get outside to see if there is any damage to the house. No windows are broken, at least!

But round 3 is coming... I'm watching it on the radar, and the weather radio is saying it has a history of destructive straight line winds and large hail. I have a feeling I'm going to be spending a lot more time in the basement yet this morning...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I Love New York!!

The surgery went well, my friend is recovering nicely, and I am home again! Now that I'm not dead tired from travelling I'm really starting to miss my friends (really, they are more like family to me!). I always feel so alone when I get home from NY- we all do everything together out there, and always have! Here I spend most of my time alone. Oh, well, it will pass, and I'll get used to the loneliness again. And I can look forward to October, when we go for another visit.

We did manage to fit in a wine tasting drive (I drove, and did not taste- much! Just sips out of a friend's glass if he thought I would like it) and a cookout. I also became addicted to the show "N.C.I.S." while I was there- gotta look that up and see if I can watch it online! Mark Harmon- yum! But I've always had a thing for hot older men. :)

The train rides in both directions were uneventful, except for the INS taking a passenger off the train on the way out there. The train home was not very full, so I was able to have 2 seats to myself, which was nice!

Today I am just doing laundry and recovering. We are in the middle of a "severe weather outbreak" today and tomorrow- thunderstorms, tornadoes, that kind of stuff. So far it's all been west and south of here.

I bought some great fabric and yarn while I was out there- pics and a post about that tomorrow!

Monday, June 8, 2009

I LOVE My Mailman!!

He brings me lots of lovely packages... including this one:

Brand new Joel Dewberry- "Deer Valley"- all 45 prints. Yeah, baby!

Train Fun

Yesterday we went with some friends on a little excursion on the South Shore Line. It's an electric railroad that runs from Chicago, IL to South Bend, IN. It was lots of fun- the train actually runs down the middle of the street in Michigan City, IN! It was so cool- almost like being back in the 20's with all the inter-urban trolleys and stuff.

Hubby is a HUGE railroad and public transportation fan. He volunteers every Saturday at the Illinois Railway Museum, restoring trains and trolley buses. So this was perfect for him! I went along for the ride and the scenery. I got a lot of knitting done :)

On Thursday night I'll be taking another train... this one from Chicago to Rochester, NY! I'm excited to see all my friends :) I've never travelled on the train alone before, and I'll be going in coach, unfortunately... we usually go in sleeper cabins but it was too expensive with this short notice. Oh, well.

I have a TON of stuff to do at home before I leave! Hubby was laughing at me this morning... I was making lists: of stuff to pack, stuff I need to do at home before I go, stuff I need to get at the store... he says I am going to need a list to keep track of all my lists soon!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Quilty Stuff

Well, I spent the last 3 days cleaning my sewing room- I can actually get to my sewing machine now! It was pretty bad- the last straw was the realization that ALL of my laundry baskets were full of pre-washed fabric that needed to be pressed! Yikes! 3 days of ironing later, it's looking pretty good :)

Here's a couple of bins with fat quarters, half yards and some yard cuts. I still have a basket of fabric to press, and that should just about fill up the second tub!

I also got my strips laid out for the Old Red Barn Co. quilt along... I shamelessly took the idea of using the drying rack from one of the other participants! Her Flickr name is GossamerDreams. I don't know if she has a blog. But I want to give credit where it's due!

And lastly I got my black, white and red fabrics all washed, pressed and organized for the Round Robin!

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers! I may be going to New York next week to be with her when she has surgery. Hubby can't go, so I'll be taking the train if I go- lots of time for knitting!! I'd rather drive, but he doesn't want me to make that long drive alone. I will not fly, so train it is!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Yellow Bird In A Yo-Yo Tree

One of the themes for last month's Swap Till U Drop (STUD) was Alphabet Mania. Kimmie (the illustrious and fearless leader of our group) matched us up with a partner, and assigned us each a letter to base a theme on. I don't know if she thought I needed to be extra challenged or what, but she assigned me the letter "Y"!

This was my final design... Yellow Bird In A Yo-Yo Tree! It was sent to Meg.

I've already blogged this one, but here it is again...

This is what Meg sent me: Outragiously Bright Owl With Orange O's!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mark Lipinksi Workshop

I am signed up for a Mystery Workshop with Mark Lipinski in July!!!!! I am so excited- he's SO cool! I just know it's going to be tons of fun!

It's being put on by Prairie Shop Quilts. Vicki heard about it, since she is on top of everything quilty in the greater Chicago area, and got us signed up!

The hardest part? Picking fabrics! I went over my whole stash, and 6 quilt shops, trying to decide what fabrics I want to use... you need 3: a light, a medium, and a dark.

I finally went with a combination that was one of my original impulses when I first signed up- white, gray and black. I bought the fabric today at Quilt In Joy in Huntley, IL.

I picked out the dark gray print and solid black. Kathy, the owner of Quilt In Joy, was the winner of the "what light should I use" contest when she brought the awesome swirly batik to the table!

I've been wanting to do a monochromatic quilt for a while, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to do so. I'm excited to see how it will turn out. I have to wait a while, though... the class isn't until July 26th!