Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Couple Stitching Projects

I have a triple batch of Bolognese sauce simmering on the stove – 3 more hours to go before I can let it cool and put in the fridge. The sauce works well on spaghetti, but I’ll be assembling lasagna Bolognese al forno on Thursday for a family get-together at my brother’s ranch this weekend. All of the baby animals are being born. He’s got about 25 new calves, 3 lambs, 5 kittens and 12 piglets.

My tried-and-true, authentic lasagna recipe doesn’t use ricotta, but instead uses b├ęchamel cream sauce, along with parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, ham dices, lasagna noodles and the Bolognese sauce. I use the Barilla no-boil noodles – which are easier to use than the typical thick, wavy lasagna noodles; they are much thinner  like fresh pasta so I can make a lasagna with many more layers. It will need to feed 13 people on Friday night. So yummy!

Sorry, I didn’t think about taking photos while I was making the sauce. But, here’s a photo of the cross stitching project I worked on while travelling to Philadelphia last week. I mixed “Wisper” floss with the off-white floss for the sheep – so it is thicker and a bit fuzzy from the mohair in the Wisper.

This next project will probably only be of interest to any LDS stitchers who visit my blog.

I designed it to commemorate the 200th birthday of Joseph Smith, but after I started stitching it, I wasn’t liking all of my floss color choices. But, I bit the bullet and decided to finish it – even though I’ll most likely re-stitch it with some color switches. I don’t like the light blue alphabet or the pink used in the little blossoms and some of the numbers. I will also use a softer gold for the beehives and house roof.

Plus, after I started the outline lettering with black, I decided it was too harsh – and so switched to dark brown. But I never frogged the black stitching – so although it’s done, I’m only moderately happy with the result.

I designed the Joseph Smith sampler to fit in the top of the Old Colonial burl wood box used for Jeannette Douglas’ Stitching Treasures. Before I invest in the fairly expensive box, I definitely need to re-stitch my project. Actually, I should get the box and make sure my floss selections match the box!

I also noticed that I forgot the letter “W” when I did the alphabet – so I need to do some minor redesign to fit it in (although I don’t think anyone would notice unless they were stitching it themself.)

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back From a Week of Travel

I was in Philadelphia Monday through Thursday last week, and then on Friday my mom, sister and I headed to Las Vegas for the weekend. We stayed at the Las Vegas Hilton, which was very convenient since we just used the Monorail to get around (except for one taxi ride back from the late lunch / early dinner we had at the buffet at the Wynn). It was just too long of a walk back to the monorail station after having shopped at the M&M Store, the Coca-Cola store, and the shops at Caesar’s Forum before heading to the Wynn for what promised to be “the best buffet in Las Vegas”. (As FYI, it was good, but I didn’t think it was any better than the Sunday brunch buffet we had at the Hilton before leaving for home.)

The main reason for going to Vegas was to see the Donny & Marie show at the Flamingo. It was terrific – and even though we had the cheapest tickets possible, we were “upgraded” to better seats in the showroom theater.

I didn’t have a chance to post my next two 2011 quilt finishes, so here is #4. (#5 is done and I did post it before it was bound, but don’t yet have a photo since it’s already found a new home in my parents’ family room.)

I posted a photo before this basket quilt was quilted and bound, but the custom quilting Catherine Timmons did was truly fabulous.

I’m home for a couple weeks before heading off to Orlando for work, so will hopefully have time to post some new projects I’ve been working on over the next several days.

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 Quilt Finishes #2 and #3

Quilt finish #2:

This is one of my first attempts at a blended quilt – where many of the fabrics tend to “blend into” other fabrics such that you can’t always see where one piece ends and the other piece ends. The pattern was from one of the blended quilt books by Marsha McCloskey (I can’t find the book right now to give more details on the pattern name, etc.)

This project was an impulse one weekend to use a pile of fabrics, some of which were from the same line, a couple of which were purchased at a huge discount at a fabric store, and a few to fill in from my stash. I think it has a little bit of a French country look and looks great with the upholstered chairs that used to be in my living room – one’s now in my office and one in the downstairs family room.

While I was experimenting with the blended look, I made some orphan blocks. I love them individually, but don’t think they would work together in a quilt. I might pick one and try to do more in the same color scheme someday. Not that I’m at a loss for projects to start or finish.

Quilt finish #3 is the wedding quilt for Mike and Emily.

Mike is in the army, stationed at Ft. Stewart, GA. I made this quilt top last year, not knowing at the time who would receive it. I’ve had the fabrics for about 10 years or so. It was one of those times when I bought cuts from the entire line of fabrics designed by Kathy Spear/Calico Mountain for Clothworks – and this was before pre-cuts were so readily available. (I bought so much that I have enough to make another quilt. Those were the days – when fabric was $7 a yard or so.) I just needed to figure out the right pattern to show off the variety of fabrics in the collection. It turned out well, but is perhaps lacking some fabrics that pop a bit. But it looks kind of “army-ish”, don’t you think?

The backing was an accompanying border print that is cute enough that it could have been the front of the quilt.

Now I need to think about a baby quilt for Mike and Emily since son #1 is on his way.

I'll hopefully be able to do one more blog post showing the remaining 2 quilts before I have to go to Philadelphia again next week.  I'll be home for about 24 hours and then my mom, sister and I are heading to Las Vegas for an early 80th birthday celebration for my mom. No, we're not going to hit the casinos, but rather to see Donny and Marie at the Flamingo (oh, and do some shopping and eating while we're at it).

Hope you all had a nice St. Patrick's Day. My parents celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary today. I guess it isn't too soon to start thinking about what we will do to help them celebrate #60!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wedding Quilt for Ben and Nicole

I finally decided what I am giving Ben and Nicole for their wedding quilt.

Ben graduates from the University of Utah in two months in civil engineering and has been the top Utah cadet in the ROTC. He and Nicole head to a US Army fort right after he graduates and she finishes her first year of teaching kindergarten. After a few months at that army fort, he will be assigned to who-knows-where?? I didn’t think I would have time to make them a quilt from start to finish before they leave at the end of May, so was looking at some of my finished quilts to decide if one of them would work.

I think I found one that they will like – and when a baby comes along, it would look great in a nursery. This quilt really represents the two of them – Ben in the military and Nicole as a school teacher.

Notice the cute Americana fabric that is in each of the blocks, the flag print in the borders, and the backing which combines both fabrics. I think those fabrics represent Ben and his military service. Then notice the a-b-c print that is in the corners of each block; it represents Nicole and her school teaching.

Am I trying to hard to make this one work?

Monday, March 14, 2011

First Official Quilt Finish for 2011

I’ve actually completed five quilts -- with the help of my mom doing the binding, and will post them individually over the next few days. Here's the first one.

Emrie celebrated her first birthday on Sunday, and I (finally) presented her with her quilt. It matches her nursery and will drape the back of the rocker when not in use.

I also had time to do some stitching while traveling to and from Philadelphia last week. Although I had a couple WIPs I could have taken, I started a new project for the trip. I wanted something on light 28-, 30- or 32-count fabric so that it would be easier to see on the plane and in the typical hotel room with bad lighting. Both of the WIPs were on 36- and 40-count darker fabric. I also wanted something that only had a few flosses to minimize what I had to pack with me. And, lastly, I wanted a pattern that easily fit in my small, vinyl travel-stitching pouch which began life as packaging for pillow cases. (This photo shows how I pack up my stitching for travel.)

I chose a Little House Needleworks design and finished the stitching last night. Quick and easy and fun.

Have a great  Monday everyone!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Late, But Productive Night – and Other Miscellany

Just a quick post as I prepare for a business trip this week.

I picked up three quilts from my long-arm quilter yesterday. So I stayed up late last night to get the binding machine-stitched on these three, plus the two my SIL quilted. Now my mom can hand-stitch the binding down while I’m traveling this week. I’ll post photos after I get back.

Also had my last meeting with my IRS agent yesterday. And guess what? I’m actually getting a refund. I’m always very conservative in my deductions, but I figured – as long as it’s the IRS doing the audit, I’d let them decide if certain other things could be added in. And they were. Of course, he said it will take them 2 or 3 months to send my new return through “the system” before I’ll ever see that refund. (He said this was only the 2nd refund he’s ever given following an audit.))

Everyone have a great week. I’ll be preoccupied with my full-time job this week, although hoping to get some stitching or appliqueing time in during a couple evenings in the hotel.

Bye for now.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Two Quilts Ready to Bind

My sister-in-law graciously volunteered to machine quilt these two quilts for me, using her sister's Gammil long-arm machine. They turned out great. (Thanks Lisea!)

Emrie's quilt will definitely be ready for her first birthday. The photo above shows the quilting from the front, and the one below shows what the backing fabric looks like.

And this is darling Emrie being held by her Uncle Ben's new bride, Nicole!

This darling flannel throw is for my mom. The colors are perfect for her family room, and there are still enough cold days and nights this winter that it will get good use. I love the green / black polka-dot backing fabric.

My mom and I have a good thing going.  I do the machine-sewing part of the binding, and she does the hand-sewing part. I don't know that I'll get it back from her to take a final photo -- so this might be the only one I get.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Scrappy Quilts

Last year I participated in a Quiltville Yahoo group block swap. It was for Bonnie’s Chunky Churndash block.

I loved the blocks I made for the swap. (There's a little preview of what I'm doing for the setting blocks.)

But unfortunately I wasn’t happy with many of the blocks I received in return. Some will work in my quilt. Some were well made, but in fabrics that I'm not sure will fit into the quilt I have in mind.

And some that I can't make work because they were so distorted during sewing and/or pressing that they are misshapen. Plus, they didn't follow the swap rules (i.e. dark fabrics in the corners and lights in the outside of the pieced squares). These were the worst  of the bunch.

Sadly this swap kind of turned me off swapping blocks in the future. In the time it took to make the blocks I swapped, I could have done more blocks that would have fit into my quilt.

So now I do need to make a few more chunky churndash blocks to have enough for my intended quilt. But I also knew that I didn’t want to do hourglass setting blocks like Bonnie’s original quilt. Then I remembered one of Kim Diehl’s quilts and the darling appliqued blocks she used in her Peas in a Pod quilt (from “Simple Comforts”).

So I cut freezer paper templates for the dozens of arcs that I would need for the setting blocks. I went through my scrap basket to find scraps that would work for the arcs.

 Yup, I only used scrappy bits of fabrics – from leftover 2-1/2 inch strips, trimmings from backings and borders, and miscellaneous pieces of fabric – none of which was bigger than about a 6-inch square. Every arc is a unique fabric – and with only a couple exceptions, they aren’t used in any of the chunky churndash blocks in the quilt. I was somewhat indiscriminate in selecting fabrics for the arcs. I used pretty much any scrap except for 30s repros, batiks and brights.

I figured that I would take the fabric scraps and templates with me to Philadelphia next week and finish the prepping by pressing the fabrics around the templates in my hotel room. But I got started and couldn’t stop! I got them all prepped in about 90 minutes.

Then I started mixing and matching them onto the background fabric – and about 30 minutes later I had all of my blocks glued to the backgrounds and ready to machine applique.

I laid out a few of the blocks on the floor to see how the quilt might look when assembled – and I’m loving it.

I do love scrap quilts – but I like to do some things that unify the blocks. Here are my “rules” for scrap quilts:

1) Each block must look great by itself. The 3 fabrics I used in each block were carefully selected from my fat quarter stash to go together. Even though I used a variety of fabrics in all of the blocks (some of which wouldn’t go with each other), those in each block are definitely coordinated. I think this makes the quilt easier on the eyes because each block, in and of itself, is very pleasing to the eye.

2) Depending on the quilt pattern, there is at least one fabric that unifies the quilt. This might be a sashing fabric, as in this 9-patch square-in-square quilt top (needing to be quilted).

 The black sashing creates that unity, and also gives the eyes a place to rest as you look at the quilt with many different fabrics and colors. For the chunky churndash quilt, the unifying fabric will be the background of the appliqued setting blocks. (I have enough to use it for the border as well, but may opt for the srappy border that Kim did in her original quilt.)

3) Lastly, I try to use fabrics that are a similar style. For example, I’m not including any 30s reproductions in my chunky churndash quilt because they are just too “cute” for the look I’m going for. Similarly, some of the fabulous “modern” or “pop” fabric collections that are so popular today probably wouldn’t fit in this quilt (although together they would make a wonderful quilt in their own right.) I'm also avoiding florals for the most part because they are too "realistic" and not folk-arty enough. Civil war repros, on the other hand, would work in my quilt, as well as the fabrics from Kansas Troubles, for example.

I guess I’m just not enough of a risk-taker or rule-breaker to go totally scrappy and mix different styles of fabrics.

Time to get these blocks appliqued so I can get the top finished and deduct some fabric from my stash account!

Bye for now. (PS: yes, my computer is back in business. They claim I had a virus and several malware programs on the system. It's working now -- but I'm surprised that I had a virus, etc.  I run virus protection and malware software.  Oh well.)


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