Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

I don't usually like shopping and generally avoid malls and large retailers at all costs, but there's something about being out and about around the holidays, with all the decorations, music and good will that makes me smile.  

Today, when I returned to my car  in a parking lot, I found it next to a car that seemed to be completely filled with the live pine tree stuffed inside. The smell of pine inside that car must have been intoxicating. The image reminded me of this one–of a larger tree in a smaller car (from Curiosities by Dickens).

The snow has all but melted here, but more is forecast for tonight and I'm hoping for a White Christmas.  As the song says, May your days be merry and bright and may all your Christmases be white. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Farolitos, Tamales and Holiday Traditions

A farolito is a small paper lantern–traditionally a candle set in some sand inside a paper bag, but sometimes made of plastic and electric lights.   Outside of Santa Fe and parts of Northern New Mexico, it is also called luminaria. 

They are part of the Christmas tradition around here. Below is my attempt at capturing the effect of the roofs and adobe walls lined with farolitos in Santa Fe.  

Holiday Lights

Here's a photo of farolitos along Canyon Road on the right is from the Chasing Santa Fe blog. The Christmas Eve farolito walk along Canyon Road is another tradition (read more about it here.

One of the pleasant side-effects of living life a bit like a tumbleweed is that wherever you tumble, you are exposed to new traditions and ... you can hang onto the ones you like and make them part of your own tradition. 

I am especially susceptible to the FOOD traditions. 

The Christmas Eve meal along the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France often includes oysters on the half-shell.  My nod to that tradition will be steamed mussels at my house–probably Rachel Ray's Mussels in Mexican Beer

My plan for Christmas day lunch is a local holiday tradition: Tamales.  I'm making these Pork and Red Chile Tamales.

Whether your traditions are new or old, I hope you enjoy a lovely holiday.   

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Project Mashup–My Twofer Twin Quilt in Progress

It's really just a nice case of synchronicity.

I'd been planning to add words to one of my works-in-project; someone dropped out of the group and there was an opening in the In Your Words Blog Hop.  My design idea and words were a fit for the theme of revealing who you are or more about you and I asked if there was room for one more ...

The commitment (and deadline!) means it's more likely I'll get busy and FINISH it.

The little quilt project was one begun a year ago, when I signed up for Julie's Cotton Robin.  Because the fabric I contributed for my quilt was one of two matching Michael Miller fabric sample headers, I decided to make two centers, send one with one set of the fabrics for the round robin and finish the other myself.

The TWIN idea
The starter fabrics are on the right and  my Twins-Separated-at-Birth star blocks made from that crazy, not quite a stripe fabric at the bottom of the collection of fabrics are below.

The "twins"

And here is the round robin quilt I received, begun with the block on the right and completed by Laurina, Andra and Nan. I blogged about this quilt and the cotton robin last summer here: Revisiting the Cotton Robin.  Julie has a few more spots, if you'd like to play in this medium (small quilts made by 4 quilters, details kept secret until the finished quilts are revealed). You can find details on the Cotton Robin blog.

My Cotton Robin Quilt - Finished

That lovely quilt is a hard act to follow–more than once, I've wished I had finished my own sister quilt before I saw this one, but life, several moves and a couple of job changes got in my way.

Beginning work on the Twin quiltBut I am happy to be finishing it now and am having fun using the twin block and a lot of the same  fabrics to create a very different design.

What I've been up to so far is a bit of hand appliqué.  Sometimes when life hands us lemons, a little handwork is just the sort of meditative activity we need ... to figure out how we're going to make lemonade.

I'm not sure this is working, but it's a start and I am hopeful that I can MAKE it work within the original guidelines of adding two borders.  Come back on Friday, January 11 for my reveal in the In Your Words blog hop to see my finished Separated-at-Birth Twin quilt.

The strip of dot com fabric is an oldie but goodie from my stash, purchased not long after I began quilting.  This is just about all I have left, but it's so perfect for the In Your Words theme that I had to include it.

Remember, if you'd like to participate in the next Cotton Robin, be sure to get in touch with Julie, ASAP.

Let Me Count the Ways ... to make Triangle Squares

The last few times I've put together directions for making a quilt block that has half-square triangles (HST), aka Triangle Squares, as one of it's components, I've left the specifics of how you cut and sew those units up to the quilter.

Today, it occurred to me that it could seem a little bit like a cop out, a bit like quilt as desired.

So  while I was making some new blocks that had triangle squares as a component, I tried making them  a few different ways and thought about the list of ways to make them.  

I can't share the blocks I made for another week or so, but here's my list of ways to make triangle squares. Did I include your go-to method?

One Triangle at a Time

Cut individual triangles by:
  • Cutting a square 7/8-inch larger than finished size and cutting it in half diagonally, or
  • Using a specialty ruler or
  • Using a die-cutting machine. 
Pair triangles together and sew together to form a triangle square.

USE this method when you want unique, scrappy combinations and are comfortable working with bias edges.

One Triangle Square (HST unit) at a Time

  • Cut two squares that are the SAME size as your desired UNIT size

  • Stack the two fabric squares with right sides together

  • Draw a line diagonally from corner to corner on the top square
Sew ON the drawn line

  • Trim ¼ inch from the seam (on the side you don’t want to keep

  • Sew the small triangles together for a smaller bonus square.

USE this method if you only need one HST unit or if you want to control the direction of stripes and other one-way fabric designs

Two (HST units) at a Time

  • Cut two squares that are 7/8-inch larger than your desired FINISHED size
  • Stack the two fabric squares with right sides together
  • Draw a line diagonally from corner to corner on the top square
  • Sew on each side of the drawn line, ¼-inch away from the line
  • Cut on the line to create two HST units. 

USE this method if you want to avoid techniques that require cutting/sewing bias edges.


Instead of drawing the line first, cut the stacked fabrics diagonally from corner to corner and sew the triangle pairs together.

USE this method if you like to use a ¼-inch foot with an edge guide and are comfortable sewing bias edges

Four Triangle Squares (HST units) from Two Large Squares

  • Calculate the size of large squares by dividing your desired UNIT size by .64 and round up to something measurable.  For example, if you want a 2” finished size triangle square, take 2.5 (the unit size) and divide by .64 for 3.9 inches, which I rounded up to cut two 4-inch squares. 
  • Stack the two fabric squares with right sides together
  • Sew around the outside edges of the square
  • Cut diagonally  from corner to corner in both directions to create 4 units
  • Press and square up to the correct size.
WARNING: This method results in HST units with bias on all sides.  USE this method ONLY if you are VERY comfortable working with bias edges.

Using Printed Foundations to Make Triangle Squares

Printed Foundations for making HST units are available commercially as strips  or sheets from several sources and are also available as free downloads.  This example, for 2-inch (finished size) units, came from here.
  • Cut the sheet to a size appropriate for the number of triangle squares 
  • Cut two pieces of fabric to the same size as your paper foundation
  • Use a smaller stitch length and stich through the stack of foundation and fabric
  • Cut along all solid lines to create HST units.  
USE this method if you need to make MANY matching HST units  beginning with large pieces of fabric or if you are working  with pre-cut strips.  See the Thangles website to see how this technique works with their strip-based product.

Making Many HST Units from Bias Strips

Create a striped fabric square from bias strips cut as wide as your desired UNIT size, alternating your two fabrics, then starting at one corner, cut  HST unit squares. 

USE this method if you need to make MANY HST units from two fabrics, are comfortable working with bias edges and don’t like removing paper foundations. 

I haven’t yet tried this method, but found a good tutorial on Lois Arnold’s blog, here.

Download a print-friendly copy of this info (with more in-progress photos) here:

Sophie's Tips for Making Half-Square Triangles

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Playing with the Left Overs

Leftover Bonus TrianglesI needed a play break on Sunday afternoon and so I put any and all work I felt I should be working on aside and decided to play with the small triangle squares left over from my Holiday Lane pillow.

Although I probably wouldn't have paired the red, green and/or white fabrics with the white on black star print, since I had these squares, I decided to follow this path and see where it led.

Before I show you what I did, I wanted to share the pillow in it's current state ... yes, Grace has claimed it as her own.

Grace Enjoys the Holiday Lane pillow

I trimmed those half-square triangle units to 1 1/2-inch squares and added some 1 1/2-inch squares and 1 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch rectangles to form a 3-inch by 4-inch (finished size) shoo fly block.

First trial block using triangles Tall Churn Dash

Happy with these proportions, I made some more, using up the left-over triangle squares and cutting up fabrics for two more blocks, for a nice round number of nine blocks.

9 Churn Dash Blocks 

I added skinny 1/2-inch sashing and a couple of borders and now have a pieced quilt top of doll-sized-proportions of 18 by 24-inches, ready to be quilted and hung.  I'm calling it Starry Skies and Shoo Flies.   I still think that if I'd purposely chosen fabrics for this quilt, I wouldn't have used the star print for the background–it doesn't feel like me, but it's OK and it was fun to play in the studio and just go with the flow and not think a lot about it. 

  Starry Skies and Churn Dashes Doll Quilt

Although this project is off the design wall and onto the studio floor (for photography purposes, after it proved too windy to take a photo outside), I'm linking up with Judy's Design Wall Monday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I have no one but myself to blame ...

After looking at some photos I took of our first snow around my neighborhood yesterday, I have one of those insidious songs stuck in my heard.

Here's one of the photos.

And here's the song.

Of course, around here,  there's not a pink one, nor a blue one, nor a green one, nor a yellow one, and they're all made out of faux-adobe and they really do all look the same :-) 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Silver Linings and the Last Lotto Blocks of 2012

Star-Crossed BlockI finally caught the bug that's been going around the office, came home Friday feeling horrible, and headed straight to bed.

As pretty much all I wanted to do was sleep, my weekend plans changed dramatically ... and I pushed off holiday decorating for a week.

But my low-energy state was perfect for spending time in the studio. Though I mostly hung out with the cats on the chaise and watched holiday movies,  I also made some Star-Crossed blocks for the December Block Lotto.

Star-Crossed Block Pattern CoverWe're making completely scrappy blocks in three fabrics of the quilter's choice. Mine were made from a combination of fabrics that I'd recently pulled out for other projects and some larger scrap (you need about a 10" square to make the star points or the background.

I also had time to finish up the directions for making the block.  The blocks on the cover were made by Maree, Toni and me.

You can download a copy (PDF format) of the directions here: Star-Crossed Block.

I think this block has lots of possibilities–whether you go scrappy or use a defined 3-color combination.  I also think it will place nicely with other blocks.  I think a 2 block quilt made from this block and the Hot-Crossed 9-patch could be interesting.

I also finished a project ... but wanted to put it through the washer and dryer for some crinkly goodness before I photographed it.  Stay tuned ... and in the meantime, check out what other quilters have going in the links at the bottom of Judy's Design Wall Monday.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Room with a View

From my bed, I can look through the glass in the door that goes out to the deck and watch the sun rise over the mountains.  Many mornings, I wake up early and linger in bed waiting for it.

Lately I've tried to capture what I see with my camera ... I continue to be awed by the skies, the clouds, the mountains.  I have taken more than a few photos.  Here is one, taken from the deck earlier this week.

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ...

All the tables at a local bakery cafe now have beautiful poinsettias.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Paseo del Sol,Santa Fe,United States

Monday, November 26, 2012

After the Thanksgiving Leftovers are Gone ...

RisottoAre you looking for my Holiday Lane Pillow?  Scroll down or click here:

The Polar Bears on Holiday Lane

After the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone, life seems to return to normal–for me, it's back to work and cooking with the leftover Thanksgiving ingredients.

Tonight's risotto was made from shiitake and white mushrooms from the chestnut-sourdough stuffing and extra leeks from the veggieducken ... with the last of some open Chardonnay.  Risotto is not so photogenic, but it was tasty.  I had dinner on the little table in the studio.  You can see that my bookshelves still need some organization. I'd left the latest lotto block–an improvisational mug block–out on the table as a reminder that I intended to make more blocks this month ... and am quickly running out of time to do so.

Sophie's Mug & SaucerAs usual, when I choose some non-traditional block or technique that pops into my head, I have no idea if anyone will like it.  So far this month, 98 blocks have been made, so I think I found at least a few fans.

If you'd like to check it out or try one yourself, the link to download the directions (and block lotto guidelines) is here:

Take a Break for a Cuppa (block) in November

Here's the virtual quilt, made from blocks made by Cynthia, Dawna, Ginny, Laurina, Linda, Maree, Margaret, Toni and me.

You can see the full size photos of all the blocks in this post in my Flickr photo set Improv Mug and the other 82 blocks that have been made so far this month on the Block Lotto site.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Polar Bears on Holiday Lane

Polar BearsI loved the strong graphic quality of the Holiday Lane pillow and didn't intend to add a thing ... but I couldn't resist adding some of the polar bears from fabrics in the collection that were too large scale to use in the pattern.  Those two houses at the end of the lane had no details ... and the polar bears just moved in.

In the photo on the left, you can see the other small change I made–since   I used a stripe for the pillow flange, I cut the strips longer and mitered the corners.  I also added a couple rows of stitching at the edge of the flange to add just a bit stiffness to the un-quilted element.

When I first saw the announcement for the Holiday Lane pillow blog hop, I knew it would be a perfect holiday accessory for my little red sofa.

Holiday Lane Pillow

Quilting Detail
Thanks to Jill Finley from Jillily Studios, the designer of this pillow pattern, Pauline from Quilt n Queen, the hostess for Holiday Lane, and Madame Samm from SewWeQuilt,who came up with the blog hop and put it all together. 

I confess that I considered making a table runner instead ... and still may make a longer runner version.  I think the design would work well as a table runner or a row in a holiday row quilt.

Here's the list of the rest of Monday's reveals for the Holiday Lane pillow blog hop:

Since this project is hot OFF the design wall (begun on Saturday afternoon, finishing touches added yesterday), I'm linking with Judy Laquidera's Design Wall Monday.  Check it out to see the holiday (and other) projects others are working on.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Technical Difficulties, 11th Hour Projects and the Holiday Lane Blog Hop

I bought the Magic Mouse for my iMac when my original wired mouse died a couple months ago.

When the batteries in the mouse died on Wednesday night and I couldn't find any replacements in the house, I figured the universe was gently telling me to spend less time sitting in front of the computer this holiday weekend ... a lot less.

Living life without a mouse kept me a way from blogging, too ... though, if you're curious, the Veggieducken I made for Thanksgiving turned out picture perfect, if a little bland.

No mouse and no blogging meant no mention of the Holiday Lane blog hop, which began on Wednesday.
The projects have been fantastic and definitely worth checking out.   After wandering out this afternoon and standing in a ridiculously long line at JoAnn to buy a piece of felt for my own 11th hour effort and picking up batteries for my mouse, I can share this set of links of projects posted so far with you, in case you've missed them elsewhere:  
Wednesday November 21
Sew Maybe I Can - Mary is now up
Jane's Quilting - Jane is now up

Thursday November 22

Friday November 23

Bonus TrianglesAside from venturing out for felt, I've had a great afternoon making my version of the Holiday Lane pillow. As 11th hour holiday projects go, this one is easy and fun and completely do-able on a saturday afternoon. I think Jill Finley's pattern could easily be adapted to make a great table runner or wall hanging or row quilt.

My reveal day is Monday ... I hope to also reveal the project I'm making from the bonus triangles ...

I'm not one for following a pattern exactly, but I challenged myself to do so for this one ...  even though I had many tangential ideas along the way.

Come back on Monday to see how well I colored inside the lines ... this time :-)
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