Friday, December 27, 2013

A Closer Look at the Finished Pillows

Here's another look at those pillows, brought inside and on the bed where they are being used ... until I put the Christmas quilt away.

Before I assembled the pillow covers, I took a couple of photos of the quilting from the back because the red, white and green thread I used blended into the fabrics. The pillow front is 24 inches square. 

The pillow covers are made with a plain fabric envelope-style back.  I assembled them, wrong sides together and covered the seams with binding.

When I went looking for a photo of my Christmas Pinwheels quilt the other day, I couldn't find one, so I brought it downstairs to the studio, hung it and took one.

This quilt is 84 inches square. I finished it in 2011. It was the first large quilt that I quilted on my little purple Bernina. It was my first effort at free-motion feathers–they fill all the white areas of the quilt. The quilt was made from some blocks from a star sampler block exchange–most of which I dis-assembled and remade into one of two star patterns when I didn't receive a sampler of different blocks as intended.  The star blocks on the pillow covers were made from leftover blocks and bits and pieces from the disassembled blocks.

And here's how it looks all together (along with the little pillow I made from a hand-quilting class project.)

This makes the third pair of pillow covers I've made this year.

For me they've been great projects to use up scraps and practice free motion quilting.

I'm joining the parties for LAFF and FMQ Friday

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Lovely Year of Finishes ... and a few Failed aLYoF Goals

As part of A Lovely Year of Finishes, I set 11 monthly goals and managed a lovely finish for 8 of them.

1. January: April-December Romance, 2. February: A Whole Lotta Love,
3. March: Cock-a-Doodle-Tea Towel, 4. April: Finding My Way,
5. May: Checkerboard Picnic Quilt, 6. Tweet - July's Lovely Finish,
7. September: Ring Around the Lone Star, 8. December: Holiday Stripes
9. #aLYoF 2013 Logo

To make it easy for the Lovely Ladies behind the Lovely Finishes challenge here are the specific blog posts that I linked for each of these finishes:

January:  January's Lovely Finish
February: Ta Da!
March: Cock-a-doodle Tea Towel
*April: April's Late but Lovely Finish
May: Ready for a Picnic
July: Tweet
September: Ring Around the Lone Star
December:  Holiday Stripes

*I missed linking April's finish in time (because I forgot April doesn't have a 31st-doh!) so it doesn't actually count for the challenge even though it was done and I personally count it as a lovely finish ;-)

Of my three #aLYoF "failures," two were stalled while I considered design decisions: one was finished as a goal for a later month, finishing the other may become an early 2014 goal.  The third was layered and basted and probably could become a finished mini-quilt in an afternoon, maybe  by year's end.

1. June: Stalled ..., 2. August: Flying Geese assembled,
3. October: Mini Maple Leaf Quilt

I like that I ended up choosing a combination of new and old (in some cases, very old) projects. I plan to continue the same mix and the Lovely Finish habit in 2014. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

A most un-Christmas-y image with my heartfelt wishes for a Merry Christmas.  It's not a white Christmas in Santa Fe, but there are a few leftover dashes of snow.  Nonetheless, it's promises to be merry and bright, as I hope yours is, too.

The Christmas Starburst pillows were finished in time yesterday, in time to go onto the bed before I settled my brains for a long winter's nap.

As usual, Grace helped.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Playing with Paper Dolls

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time."  

~Laura Ingalls Wilder

I love this quote and it might explain why, instead of rushing around doing some last minute errands, this morning, I was making this:

A few blog-less quilters had asked about a group blog for the Tea Towel Challenge.  It didn't seem to make sense to me because the challenge is relatively small and short term.

But then I thought about setting up a blog for my blog-less friends that occasionally have a reason to blog and the image of a string of paper dolls is what came to mind.

If the lack of your own blog has been holding you back from joining the Tea Towel Challenge, let me know ... and I'll hook you up.

Monday, December 23, 2013

It Didn't Happen Friday Night ...

I abandoned my plans for the Friday Night Sew-In and went to bed early ... and I didn't find any time on Saturday to spend quilting either, but yesterday, I finally did begin to make some progress on my intended plan to quilt the Christmas stars I plan to use in pillow shams.

The good news is that this is the second one.  They MIGHT make it on the bed in time or Christmas.

The star blocks were made from the leftovers from a quilt I made from some swap-gone-wrong blocks a few years ago–I ended up disassembling and remaking the mishmash of blocks into Pinwheel stars.  These stars are quilted with loopy stars like those in that quilt–you can see some of the quilting from it ... and the fact that I pieced these big stars two years ago (!) here.

I do love quilting in the making-it-up as I go style.  Sometimes it happens on the design wall.  For these pillows, I decided while putting the loopy feathers in the stars that I'd echo quilt around the outside.  With these 24-inch squares, it was easy to use the walking foot to do that.

Except for some January blocks for the Block Lotto (which I can't share yet), my design walls are bare.  But designing is going on as it sometimes does for me, under the needle.

Friday, December 20, 2013

'Twas the (Friday) Night (Sew-In) Before Christmas ...

With less than a week to go before Christmas, it is usually right about now that I really enjoy all the hustle bustle (and the quiet moments) of the season. Any gifts that are going to be made are finished and wrapped and, in most cases, mailed.  I might be out and about, but because I want to (and don't desperately need to), I really enjoy it.

And I can choose projects simply for the joy in working on them.  For me, it's a great date for the December Friday Night Sew In.

This morning, I went looking in my WIP boxes for a project from a year ago–some large stars that I intended to make into pillow shams to go with the Christmas quilt on my bed ... and ended up taking photos and beginning an inventory of UFOs.  Lately, I've really been in a (re) organizing mood and moving things around all around the house.   Tonight, I am looking forward to some quiet time with my sewing machine (and maybe a silly Christmas movies or two).

Here are those newly excavated star blocks.

Remember the thrifted Christmas cross stitch I brought home with some frames? I washed it yesterday. When the water turned bright pink, I was pretty sure I had ruined it, but it came out of the experience just fine. I have an idea for displaying it and it could happen tonight, too.

I might learn to love it, but I'm not so much liking this new Flickr interface when I only intend to share one photo.

C'est la vie.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Ideas for the New Year

2014 NewFO Challenge
Last year, I didn't join Barbara's NewFO Challenge because I wanted to focus on OLD projects and thought NewFO would make it way too easy to keep starting new ones ... but, of course, quite a few new projects happened anyway. This year, I gladly accept that fact that I am happiest when working on a combination of old and new quilts and am joining the 2014 NewFO Challenge. I am currently thinking about all the quilts and other projects I'd love to be working on–whether I finish them or not–in 2014.  I'll share some of my existing UFO's and on-going projects as well as my plans for the 2014 Block Lotto in future posts, but here's a look inside my brain at some new ideas I'd like to explore.

Two secret projects to start the year

  • A small quilt for Kate's Another Little Quilt Swap 8. The deadline is January 20. I've known what I want to make for a while ... but haven't yet made it. Must get busy soon.
  • Another round of Julie's Cotton Robin. Our centers will be due February 1, so this is another January project that, like my quilt for Another Little Quilt Swap, I won't be able to share my quilt nor my contribution to other quilts until sometime after it's all done.
(If you are intrigued, there's still time to join me on either/both of those :-)

Tea Towel Challenge 2014

Detail from Fairytale Tea TowelThis challenge has an end of March deadline ... and since it was my idea, I suggested the timeline and I have compelled a dozen or so quilters to join me, it will be a priority for me for the first quarter.

FYI, it's not too late to decide to grab a tea towel and play along with us–you can find all the details and see what some others have planned from this page:  Tea Towel Challenge 2014.

The Block Lotto

The Block Lotto continues and begins anew in 2014. There will be a new direction, new blocks, new block patterns, some quilts made from some of the blocks through-out the year and a sampler quilt (and sampler quilt pattern) that uses all the blocks.  For the curious, look for more information in the future.

New Series ideas

  • The Chinese Year of the Horse begins near the end of January.  I have had a idea for a series of fabric horses since first seeing Ann Wood's cardboard stampede (photo from her site) and it would seem the time is right to begin, especially since I am one of the horse people, born during another year of the horse.
  • Sometimes, I cannot believe it myself, but I will turn 60 in 2014 and I have some ideas about new art quilts on the theme of Facing 60.

Continuing Series 

Some Fully Formed Quilt Ideas

  • I'd like to (finally) move forward on using up all those leftover bonus triangle squares I've collected over the years and creating the big scrappy quilt that has been living in my head for too long.
  • I rarely make a quilt from a pattern, but I love Ann Marie Horner's Featherbed quilt and plan to make it (and count those feathers on my way to 365, too :-) I found this lovely example, made by Meredith Daniels, on Flickr.

    Feather Bed Quilt

  • Two giveaways won combine: Provencial fabrics + Japanese Garden pattern and a not-yet-used set of acrylic templates (an impulse buy at a quilt show long, long ago) will become Jardin Provençal

    When give-aways collide

  • After the holidays last year, I found this book on sale and planned to dye fabrics and make a wall quilt for this Christmas ... then I promptly misplaced it and soon forgot about it.  It turned up when I moved the bookshelves to the other side of the studio. I still love it and would love to make Melinda Bula's Candy Cane Lane Christmas quilt for Christmas 2014.

    Candy Cane Lane

Following Along

  • Esther Aliu's Love Entwined is the most incredible pattern.  I've been lurking, thinking about fabrics (and changing my mind about fabrics) and planning to start in 2014.  She has published 6 steps of the pattern so far–they make up this center square.

  • I love Leah Day's new plan of using a quilt made of pieced blocks for her free motion quilt-along next year.  I have an idea for playing along with a liberated twist, if this one doesn't fall off my list.

  • After taking a year (or was it two) off, I plan to rejoin Angela's Rainbow Scraps Challenge.  There will likely be other projects, but I definitely want to finish the blocks needed for this one.

    12 new green blocks added

I tend to avoid making lists like this one, of quilts I will make or UFOs I will finish because I know myself too well and I will always end up working on whatever idea catches my imagination at any given time no matter what I plan or say I'm going to do. I don't stress about it because quilting is something I do for fun.

I also know that any wish list in my head (or on the page) far exceeds the time and space needed to complete it.  In case you've read this far and think I'm more than a little bit crazy, rest assured, I have no expectation of finishing all of these, but I do expect to spend some time on most of them and make some forward progress.

I've Been Lucky Lately

I had fun with my own little giveaway during the Quilting Gallery's recent blog hop–I loved reading the comments about what everyone collects.  I also won a couple of the giveaways myself.

I've been luckyI picked up the last package yesterday after standing in the longest Post Office line ever. It was so worth it.

Cynthia, from Quilting is More Fun Than Housework, offered an interesting set of fabrics that I thought would be a great starting point for the Block Lotto sampler quilt I plan to make next year. She also included a copy of Quilty magazine (with her quilt in it!) and some cotton stuffing–perfect from some pincushions I plan to make.

The tiny buttons are from Incomparable Buttons in South Africa–their blog is Button Mad. I think they'd be great added to a basket block (I can't help it, I love basket quilts) or on a summer blouse.

The Japanese Garden pattern, by Emily, The Caffeinated Quilter, was my choice of some of her patterns–you can see them all here.  It's a very clever design, made from 6 inch Winding Ways blocks.  I have some old, never used acrylic templates from John Flynn for an 8 inch block (which he refers to by it's other name, Wheel of Mystery).  I'm thinking that if I make the quilt from the large blocks, instead of a 54-inch square quilt, I'll be making an 72-inch square quilt ... and may add borders for a bed-sized quilt.

I'm thinking that my larger Japanese Garden may be more  of a Jardin Provençal because I keep seeing the last of the giveaways won in that quilt: a stack of fifteen FQs of Sally's Provencial  by Iron Orchid Designs.

Not in the photo is the license for Adobe Creative Cloud that I won from Spoonflower last week.  Yep, I do feel like a lucky girl.

Thank you again to Cynthia, Emily, Sally, Spoonflower and Incomparable buttons.  Some of these blogs were new to me and I have glad to find these interesting, creative, generous artists.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Holiday Finish and ... a start on a new Design Wall

The old "design wall" is off the wallMy design wall is off the wall. After almost two years of using this flannel-backed tablecloth, I'm putting up something a little more substantial as part of my studio clean-up and re-organization.

Since. at the moment, I am without a functional design wall (new or old), I hung my finished Holiday Baskets quilt in front of the black wall to take a quick picture to share.

Finished feels so good.

Holiday Baskets

I mentioned on the Block Lotto blog earlier that I haven't really been able to get into the holiday decorating spirit and how it seems to happen later and later each year. I've only gotten as far as putting a wreath outside on the door. This little quilt might lead the way to some last minute decorating around here :-)

Holiday Baskets on the Table

I did go looking (unsuccessfully) for a rug to replace the southwest striped sisal rug under the table ... I was thinking lime green would be nice and festive.

Here are some detail photos of the quilting; as usual click the images to go over to Flickr for a closer look.

Detail - Corners Detail - Baskets Detail - Center

And be sure to click over to Judy's Design Wall Monday Linky list to check out some more last minute holiday projects (and others, too, of course.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Later the Same Day ...

Cat Nap in the SunshineBy the time I had finished my earlier blog post today, Johnny was fast asleep with three feet in the air and not a care in the world.

I had folded up the Holiday Baskets quilt and left it sitting on the corner of my work table and was puttering around the studio, thinking about some of the things on my Wish-I-had-a-Honey-to-Do-it list and deciding what I could take on this afternoon.

Before long,  I noticed Johnny had moved to the other end of the studio and was re-asserting his claim on that quilt.

He won't even look at me

Can you tell that he knew that I didn't want him there?  I couldn't get him to look at me.

And he didn't budge an inch, even as I covered the table with books so that I could (finally) move the bookcases as part of my re-organization of this space.

Claiming the almost finished quilt

What do you mean, you want me to move?  As usual, when all else fails, he attempts to charm his way into getting whatever it is he wants.   He's such a smart boy.

I felt like such a meanie when I finally lifted him off his new quilt so I could move it and use the table.

Plans for a Relaxing Sunday Evening

Sewing on the bindingLike Kathy, I added the binding to a recently quilted project and plan to spend the evening stitching it down while I curl up in the den and watch some television.

I usually use my walking foot and almost never pin or clip the binding in place.

Look close and you can tell that I washed the Holiday Baskets quilt before binding it.  I knew that my backing fabric (muslin that was not pre-washed) and batting (Mountain Mist Cream Rose) choices were going to result in a lot of lovely crinkle and wanted to make sure that my quilting design choices would result in a flat square quilt after it was washed.

I left it to dry flat on a worktable in the studio ... and only found a few hairs on it this morning–evidence that one of the cats was curled up on it, claiming it, last night.

Just enough fabricI had put aside the green stripe fabric with an idea to use it for binding.  I was a little surprised how little of it there turned out to be, when I pulled it out to cut it.

That 1/2-inch wide string was all that was left when the binding strips were cut. I'm not sure if that's an indication that it was meant to be the binding or I was just lucky.

Here's a photo of the quilted, washed quilt on my design wall before the binding was added.

quilted and ready for binding

I think the symmetry in the quilt and quilting design gives these whimsical baskets a bit of a more formal traditional air.   Outlining the baskets, boxes and (marked) rings was good FMQ practice for me, and fun to try.

Johnny helps with the bindingIn case you're wondering, yes, there was some more feline supervision today.

Johnny Be Good stretched out on the table I had set up adjacent to the sewing machine table and watched for a while, before moving back to his preferred napping spot in the sun, on the chaise.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Quilting the Holiday Baskets

Outlining Pieced ElementsLate last night, I started free-motion quilting the Holiday Baskets square quilt. I started by outlining the pieced and appliquéd elements.

I knew I wanted to repeat the circular shape of the basket handles in the quilting.  I used a compass to draw rings around the squares in the center and corners, then used the rings and the basket handles as spines for adding feathers.

The third element in the quilting design is pebbling, used to add a dense quilted element.

I woke up this morning, with nothing else in mind except continuing work on the little quilt.

Last night, I quilted the large rings and feathers.  Today, I will continue to fill in the spaces with rings, feathers and pebbles.

Filling the Spaces with Rings, Feathers and Pebbles

It's far from perfect, but I am happy with it and am looking forward to putting it on my table in time for Christmas brunch.

I'm sharing with the party at Leah's FMQ Friday.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Good Morning

What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks?Sorry for the blurry iPhone photo. I was still in bed and (maybe obviously) not yet quite awake when I woke to another beautiful sunrise and thought to capture it while I was still in bed.

I found myself thinking that I could happily wake up to this view each day for the rest of my life.

I watched for a while, then had to get up and grab my camera and go out on the cold–yes, it's still pretty cold here–in my pajamas to try to capture the beautiful morning I was enjoying.

Sunrise Thursday, December 12 Sunrise Thursday, December 12

How can a day that starts out like this be anything but great?   I hope yours is great, too.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's Official - I'm now a Tea Towel Collector

It all started so innocently.  When I saw the Fairy Tale 2014 Calendar tea towel on Spoonflower, I knew it would be great inspiration for another tea towel quilt.   If you are reading this before 10 AM Eastern time on Thursday, you still have time to enter the drawing to win a Tea Towel bundle from Spoonflower (including that Fairy Tale one I love) as part of their 12 Days of Give-aways.

And when I blogged about another tea towel challenge, Moira sent me a link to an eBay auction for the Run Runner tea towel and I had to have it because it was exactly what I was desperately looking for earlier.

Paris Tea TowelMoira wasn't the only one helpfully sharing links.

Grace left a comment with a link about how she thought I'd like a Paris-themed tea towel from Michel Designs because I had lived in France for a few years and ...  she was right. I did.

It is one of four tea towels that arrived at my house this week from Amazon.

I like the collage-y style of many of the Michel Designs items and had to have this Christmas themed tea towel, too.

Christmas Tea TowelI am very happy with both the quality of the fabric base in their  all-cotton tea towels and the color printing on them.

There were two more tea towels calling my name as I surfed the web. They are a pair of balloon-themed designs.

I love the design, but I am less satisfied with the quality–they are also 100% cotton, but seem to be printed on something more closely related to cheese cloth than the usual fabric used for tea towels. I don't think they'd hold up functionally, but with some fusible interfacing, they'll be fine in a quilt ... and I think the poorly sewn hems will be easy to un-sew.

Balloon-themed Tea Towel The Other Balloon-themed Tea Towel

Only time will tell if I move from being a collector of tea towels to a quilter who makes a series of tea-towel inspired quilts.

Check out the link list on the Tea Towel Challenge 2014 page to see how others are expanding their collections and winnowing down their choice.  While the challenge doesn't actually start until January–giving everyone a few more weeks to shop, decide and commit, there's been a whole lot of planning going on.

How about you?  Inspired by a tea towel design?  Want to play along?


I've made progress on a couple of projects and started something new.  Here's my in-progress report.


12 more scrappy green blocks made. I've decided to pull out a new color each time I pick this up and keep circling around the color wheel until I have enough for a rainbow for my bed.

Backing and batting prepared for the Holiday Baskets table topper–you can see it in this post.

Another last minute holiday decorating idea took me on a thrifting adventure today, looking for interesting frames. The good news is that I found lots of them.  Here are some of them lined up at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Thrifting for Frames

The not so good news is that in the art center that Santa Fe is, a lot of them were priced based on the thing that was being frames–too pricey for the project I have in mind.

I came home with four, half-price at the Salvation Army today.

Some Thrifted Frames The sweet Christmas cross stitch in the frame on top was a bonus. I thought it deserved a new life in my house at Christmas.

I'm going to start with these four and if it looks like my idea will work, I'll be on the road looking for a few more ...

...  and then there was this hat that flew off the rack into my hands.  I liked the soft gray color and think it will be a great hat for summer ... after I deconstruct and remake it into something much more casual and more me–another project for the future.

A Hat with Possibilities

I'm joining the link lists on Lee's WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced, Esther's WIPS on Wednesday (WOW), and Angela's Scrap Happy Saturday.

Monday, December 09, 2013

More of the Same

On my design wall today, more of the scrappy broken-dishes blocks.

I've left the red scraps behind for the moment and am now working on making more green blocks.

Working on more Green blocks

I realized last night that I probably pulled out this old project and decided to make more blocks as an alternative to jumping on the bandwagon and joining Bonnie Hunter's latest mystery.

Pulling out these old blocks and playing with them on my design wall has motivated me to make another pass through my scrap bins and see how many more blocks I can make.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Playing with Scraps Again

Playing with Red ScrapsYesterday afternoon I wanted something  to work on for just a couple hours.  I pulled out the blocks I had made as part of Angela's Rainbow Scrap challenge a year ago (or was it two?).

I have since accumulated more scraps and thought I could add to the collection.  Since my bin of red scraps was sitting on the work table, I started there.

This is both the old and new blocks. My idea about how large I want this quilt to be is growing ... I now have 15 red blocks; I'll probably make a few more today.

I'm joining Angela's Saturday Roundup for the Rainbox Scrap Challenge.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Holiday Stripes - My Lovely Finish for December

The weather outside has been, at times, frightful.  The first big storm of the season inspired me to make this quilt ... and, as the temperature dropped to the single digits, I was motivated to finish it.

I'm not usually a quick quilts kind of girl, but this one was very quick and reminded me that simple quilts can be quite lovely.

Holiday Stripes

It is made from this month's pattern for the Block Lotto, Stripes, using strip sets to make this quick block even quicker.

This morning, after seeing this great photo of Kathy's Flying Geese quilt (made from blocks she won from the Block Lotto earlier this year), I was inspired to take mine outside for a photo, too. After a couple failed attempts, I threw it over a neighbor's adobe wall.

On a Neighbor's Wall

I'm happy to be finished with this flannel cuddle quilt for grown-ups–it's 75 inches square and can't wait to curl up in it ... inevitably with the cats.  I am joining these link parties: 

Richard and Tanya's Link a Finish Friday
Amanda Jean's Finish it Up Friday
Sarah's Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? 


Friday MorningFor my friends in the Bay Area who are "freezing" ... just a little reminder of how everything is relative.

I didn't want to get out of bed this morning ... mostly because I knew I had to go out and drag the trash and recycling bins to the curb and see how much snow and ice I'd have to deal with on the walks, on the car, on the driveway.

It's going to be an adventure.

But at least for the moment, the snow has stopped, the sky was clear, the sun is coming up bold and bright and I can see the the beautiful snow-covered mountains in the distance.

Clear Skies after the Storm

Schools and government in Santa Fe are operating on a 2 hour delay ... which means it could be a while before the snow plow comes to my little street.   Another good day to stay in the studio and quilt.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

It's Still Snowing ... I'm Still Quilting

A new storm blew in last night and the big fat snowflakes are going to continue to fall for a while.

Another snow storm

And I'm still quilting the Holiday Flannel Stripes with some loopy texture. Linking this simple example to Leah's FMQ Friday.

Quilting Detail

Impatient JohnnyThe cats have been hanging out with me, each in their own way.

Johnny wants a quilt that stops moving around as I quilt it, so he can settle in for a nap. 

Grace Hopper thinks I ought to stop and go upstairs with her and provide her with a warm lap–the studio is cold today as the temps outside drop again. 

Somehow, I have managed to finish the center of the quilt ... and now, onto the borders. 

I know both cats will be happy when I'm sitting in a comfortable chair with the quilt on my lap, stitching down the binding.  Me, too.

Grace - not helping

Updating this post with a link back to the Year of Lovely Finishes mid-month check-in
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