Today I put the finishing touches on my fabric reorganization! There are still a few odds and ends to take care of, but most of the heavy lifting is done. Before:




I didn't take a "before" picture of the bins, but odds and ends of smaller fabrics were crammed in there and now they're neatly cut into 5" and 10" squares:


And I can actually get to my machines:

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I'm already reaping the benefits of being a little more organized. Last week hubby bought a backpack at the thrift shop, but didn't like the logo that was on it. He asked me to embroider a WSU logo. Formerly I would have put him off because it would have taken me at least an hour to find my supplies and uncover the machine. As it was, the whole project took just a little less than an hour and he had a great backpack for $2.99.

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Other than that project, I haven't been doing any sewing because I've been too busy organizing, but am hoping to get back in the saddle next week. In the new year I do need to start looking at some projects that will use up my 2" strips. I ended up with a lot more of them than I expected!


I'm sure I'll be able to talk Mei-Mei into coming up and helping me with that. 

This past weekend we took our annual trip to Tall Timber Snow Camp with our church. We missed it last year because of my back surgery, so the girls were very happy that we got to go this year. There was lots and lots of snow, but fortunately the roads were fairly clear.

Isobel and I did some cross country skiing, but I think this may be my last year of that. I fell four times and felt pretty banged up by Monday. Next year I think I'll do snow shoes instead!


Mei-Mei played a little in the snow, but for the most part felt content to stay inside the warm lodge. I taught knitting classes and she brushed up on her skills and perfected what we referred to as "yoga knitting."



On the way home we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow on the ferry.


Right before we left, Bill took delivery of his new classic car – this time a truck! It's a 1972 Datsun pickup. It was pretty funky from being carried on an open transport from Texas, so the first order of the day on Monday was a bath.

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I had mentioned before that I was reaching the end of a longterm project – Aunt Gracie's Garden (pattern by Cynthia Regone). At our last guild meeting I was lucky to be able to display it on a quilt rack and get a good picture. The colors are a little bit washed out, but here it is – and I love it!!


Right now we have a down comforter on our bed, but I can't wait until spring to be able to use this instead.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Those of you who know me or have followed my blog for awhile will get a chuckle out of this post. It's a repeat of one that I seem to post at least a couple of times a year, but usually around the first of January. Maybe it's the flurry of last minute sewing before Christmas, or the fact that my sewing room becomes a dumping ground when we're getting ready for company, but by the first of the year, it's an epic disaster.


That probably doesn't look too bad, but if you turned around, you'd see more piles. But I think I've come up with a system for organizing my fabric that might actually stick. The problem is not pieces 1/2 yard or larger. If you look at the neatly stacked shelf, those pieces lend themselves to being folded nicely. The problem is all the other smaller pieces, that are too big to discard, but too small to fold into a uniform shape. So here's the plan: Pieces 1/2 yard or larger are folded neatly on the shelf and organized by color/theme. Pieces smaller than 1/2 yard are cut into 10" squares. Pieces smaller than 10" are cut into 5" squares and pieces smaller than 5" are cut into 2 1/2" strips. Voila:


The 10" and 5" squares will be stored in bins by color. The 2 1/2" strips are proving to be a little problematic because I already have a bin overflowing with them!


I also have a few jelly roll and fat quarter packs (mostly received as gifts) that will probably be kept as is and go into their own bin.


It's not a quick and easy fix and is proving to be quite time consuming, but I'm hoping it will help keep me more organized. I can't tell you how many hours I spent last year searching for things in my sewing room!

Now that Christmas is over, I can show some of the stealth projects I was working on. First – I made the girls owl purses:


And for my sister, a coat for her American Girl, here modeled by my doll Ivy Ling (the first Chinese American doll and she has the names of both my granddaughters – Ivy is Mei-Mei's first name and Ling is Isobel's middle name).


We also tried something different this year – instead of having both of the girls over Christmas, we had Ivy come three days before Christmas and Isobel three days after. This gave us dedicated time with each of them to accomplish the projects they wanted to do. Ivy was insistent that she make a quilt for her teacher, who is having a baby. She proved to have a great attention span while sewing and finished her quilt. She did most of it all by herself. All I did was help a little bit with the quilting and I applied the binding.


Isobel had a recipe that she wanted to make – a four layer gingerbread cake. It took us about 3 hours and a gazillion dishes, but it turned out beautifully.


Sadly, she got sick and spent the next two days on the couch. We managed to somewhat salvage the time by binge watching Star Wars movies.

And one of the best things about Christmas – we had a white Christmas! This is only the second time in the almost 40 years we've lived here. It started snowing Christmas Eve and stayed until a day or so after. Perfect!


Ok, enough break. Time to get back in the sewing room to iron and cut! Maybe by next post I'll have some "after" photos.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

This phrase has a couple of different meanings for me. First of all, today marks a year since I had my spinal fusion surgery. In the weeks after, I seriously questioned the wisdom of having it done. Although I had relatively little post-op pain, I had two weeks of continuous nausea and I couldn't even do the simplest of tasks by my self. And I had heard horror stories of other people who had it done and they ended up in worse shape, having multiple surgeries. The thought of having to go through that again terrified me! However, I also knew that I was in such pain beforehand, I really didn't have much choice.  Bill was an excellent nurse and after about a month I was at least able to take care of myself. There have been times over the past year that I've become a little discouraged, but my doctor kept reminding me that recovery from this type of surgery takes at least a year. And he was right! I'm happy to report that I am back to normal – completely pain free. I haven't started running yet. I've been a little nervous about it, but Abby and the girls want me to run a 5k with them in the spring so I think I'll start training after Christmas. I don't think I'll ever do a half marathon again, but a 5K should be within reach.

The second meaning is that I am reaching the end of a longterm project. I've been working on this quilt for at least a year and a half (or more) and am in the last stages of sewing down the binding!


There is such satisfaction in finishing off a long term project like this. So much emphasis today is put on finishing things quickly and there are so few quilters left anymore who do hand quilting. I certainly don't have anything against machine quilting and hope to hone my skills in the coming year. But I will always have a hand quilting project going to remind myself that fast isn't always better.

Since we didn't decorate at all for Christmas last year, we decided to go all out this year. Isobel and Ivy came up and decorated the tree for me.


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It was so exhausting, they had to chill out after.

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I'm amazed at how big they're getting. By this time next year, I expect Isobel to be taller than me.

I have more projects to show, but they're stealth projects for the Christmas tree, so you'll have to wait. For everyone who celebrates Christmas – have a very happy one. See you next year!

Goodbye Thomasville

Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that this spring, while we were in Europe, my parents were flooded out of their home. It was a very scary experience for them – they got out of the house with only 15 minutes to spare before seven feet of water and mud destroyed the house. Thankfully they escaped unhurt and over the months have received such love and support from their community.

This month hubby, my sister and I flew back to check on them and to see the damage for ourselves. Just for reference, here is the house three years ago.


And here it is now:


Not a lot of difference from the outside, other than one missing post on the porch. But here is the inside – one taken right after the flood and the others while we were there.



Here you can see the mud line on the curtains – that's how high the water came!


This picture is of my parents with the man who saved their lives by banging on their door and telling them to get out immediately!


Fortunately, they have been able to move into a nice little duplex in the next town, near their friends, their church and shopping. They will never go back to the house, but will put it on the market as is. The town of Thomasville, never thriving to begin with, is decimated with only about 14 or so people left. This was the town where I was born and always the "home" we went back to when my Dad was in the Navy. It was so sad to wander through the town and know that I will never be back to stay. I'm sure we'll stop by on our visits just to see if anyone's moving back, but this was really a "Goodbye" to the town as we knew it. So many happy memories of growing up there, visiting my grandparents and parents and taking my children there. 

Since we got back, I've really had a hard time focusing and settling down to any kind of routine. I've hardly touched anything in my sewing room, but I have managed to plunk myself down in my recliner and knit at night. That seems to be just mindless enough to not take a lot of energy. I do seem to have lots of shawls that are finished except for blocking, so this morning I decided to start making a dent. First up, Taygete by Romi Hill in Seahawk colors.


If you look at the number of T-pins involved in blocking it , you can see how I might put that part of the project off for a bit!

And – birthday socks for a certain relative who is having a birthday soon.  Not to name any names, but it's a big one with a 0 at the end (the birthday, not the relative!)


These are BFF Socks by Cookie A. I do love her patterns, but sizing can be an issue. It is beyond me how anyone could be expected to get 10 stitches to the inch without using toothpicks for needles. Fortunately this pattern comes in multiple sizes so it can be adjusted.

And - Pisac by Jennifer Weissman. This really was comfort knitting at its finest.


Maybe this week I'll get a little more motivated and have more to show. Until then, I need to go get ready for the hoards of Trick or Treaters we get – only 2 in 30 years of living here! But we always buy candy just in case. Never hurts to be prepared, right??

Yes, I’m Still Here!

I can't believe how long it's been since I blogged. I wonder if anyone is still out there reading this? I've debated so much on whether to keep up, especially since my parents got rid of their computer. Much of what I wrote was for them because I knew they followed it faithfully. And, in this day and age you wonder how much to put out there in the public domain. However, I'm going to get past that because looking back on my blog it's probably the closest thing to a journal I have. I may in the near future password protect it, so if any of my formerly faithful readers are still out there, let me know and I will make sure you have the password.

So – where to start? Probably the most significant thing to happen in the past year is that I had major surgery. In fact, that probably contributed to my lack of blogging. Sometime last summer, a nagging pain down my leg erupted into something far worse and over the period of a few months I became unable to stand or walk for more than a few minutes at a time without excruciating pain. A round of physical therapy only made things worse and after an MRI, I was diagnosed with a pars defect. Often found in athletes, especially gymnasts,  it consisted of cracks in the vertebrae between S-1 and L-5. This resulted in crushing of the disk, hence the pain. I was never an athlete, so the surgeon surmised that the cracks happened during a growth spurt in my teen years. He said that when that happens, problems don't usually surface until the 50's or 60's. The only remedy is surgery and on December 16 of last year I had spinal fusion surgery and placement of an artificial disk. The surgery went like clockwork and was totally successful, however I had a bad reaction to the anesthesia and ended up in ICU for four days. Recovery was a bit of a slog, but I faithfully completed all my physical therapy and my surgeon was so pleased with my progress, he kicked me loose from care at the 6-month mark, a full 6 months early!

During the worst of the pain pre-surgery, the only thing that relieved the pain was sitting, so I got lots and lots of quilting done. This past year I've really been focusing on machine quilting. As much as I love hand quilting, I've come to the realization that I will never live long enough to hand quilt all the tops I've made. I was fortunate enough to be able to acquire a Baby Lock Tiara quilting machine and it has revolutionized my machine quilting! It has a 16 inch throat and a large table.


So far I've completed three quilts on it:


This was the first – a row quilt done with my Round Robin group. I decided when I got my machine that instead of doing lots of practice squares, I would just do a few and then dive into an actual quilt. And I promised myself that I would not spend a lot of time ripping out imperfections. Although far from perfect, I was quite pleased with the results.



This is my imaginatively named Blue and Brown quilt. I concentrated on doing free motion from a stenciled pattern in the centers of the blue blocks. 



This was another quilt I did with my Round Robin group, but unlike the others where the group pieced blocks for me, I pieced all of the blocks on this one. This is based on Eleanor Burns' book "Victory Quilts" and are patterns popular during WWII. On previous quilts I did the stitch in the ditch on my Bernina, but on this quilt, I took the plunge and did free motion quilting on the Tiara. The curved cross hatching was done in pale yellow thread. I was quite pleased with this one!

Needless to say, a lot more has happened in the past year, including the granddaughters growing into pre-teens (how on earth did that ever happen??) And for my knitting friends, never fear – I'm still knitting. That also got me through my sedentary months. I promise to catch up on both of these in future posts. So – anyone still out there?


Music and Wintergrass and Knitting, Oh My!

For years our friends Lorette (The Knitting Doctor) and her hubby, John, have been raving about the Wintergrass Bluegrass Festival in Bellevue, Washington. This year we decided to go, and the only question now is, "Why did we wait so long??" To say we had an incredible, amazing experience is a bit of an understatement. We started off the weekend with a performance by Trout Steak Revival (where DO they come up with these names?).


I really didn't attempt to get any more photos of the performers – in a dark concert hall it was impossible. They were absolutely wonderful and things just kept getting better. We discovered a new favorite – The Steel Wheels. They were full of energy and both the vocals and instrumentals were outstanding. I downloaded a couple of their albums from iTunes and listened to them all the way home. I got a chance to talk to their fiddle player, who was there with his wife. They were delightful! He told me that they are all family men and have nine kids between them and try to set up their tours so they aren't away from home any more than necessary. Seldom Scene was another new favorite. The interesting thing about this group is that they all have day jobs because they never wanted their music to be "work". I also loved Väsen, a Swedish group. I don't even know how to describe these guys – kind of a cross between bluegrass and classical? With three of them playing a viola, a nyckelharpa and a 12-string guitar, they managed to sound like a full symphony orchestra.

The concerts weren't the only fun thing about the weekend – Bill and I had fun jamming with other amateurs. We took a class in two-chord bluegrass songs.


Out of about 100 participants, I was the only autoharp and thought I would hide out in the back. But in the middle of the class, the instructor pointed me out and said, "We have an autoharp! I love autoharps!" Although we were definitely in the minority (probably outnumbered 500-1 by banjos, guitars and mandolins), I found the reception to be overwhelmingly positive.

Everywhere you went, there were jams going on in meeting rooms and hallways. We found a couple of jams that we could fit in with and we had a blast!!


There is a certain etiquette to jamming and you just try to blend in with the group unless the "leader" gives you the nod to take the lead. I got "the nod" at least three times during this jam!! I really felt like I had arrived, although pretty much everyone else was way, way more advanced. It was just a matter of finding the right jam. Bill and I discovered that some jams were more inclusive and tried to get even newbies like us involved, while others were led by people just looking for an opportunity to show off. You can guess which ones we looked for!

Oh, and did I mention the food?



Ok – true confession! This last photo was really not about Lorette and John but an attempt to "kinnear" Tim and Dan Lewis, local TV news and sports anchors. We actually got a chance to talk to Dan Lewis later on. He is retired now, but we watched him nightly on KOMO for probably 30 years!

Some knitting was accomplished. Lorette even managed to spin during breaks in the sets. I'm amazed at her ability to drop spindle in a crowd – I would have had that thing rolling down the aisle!


I'm afraid I didn't get much accomplished. I found a split stitch about 5 inches down in my sock. I tried laddering down that one stitch, but it looked so crappy, I ended up frogging down. So I actually accomplished negative knitting! Before I left for the weekend, however, I did get the body finished on Abby's Opposite Pole.


What an ingenious pattern! You basically knit a rectangular upper back section and the rest of the sweater is knit in a circle, attaching as you go. This picture was taken right before I joined the upper part to complete the circle. I tried it on Abby to see if it fit before I started the sleeves and it's perfect! The color in the picture is completely off – it's really a beautiful teal.

Progress has been made on the applique quilt as well as quilting on the kite quilt. Will post pictures next time.


Has It Really Been That Long?

I decided to check my blog today, thinking it had been a few months since I posted. I was horrified to see that it had been over nine months! Where does the time go? Over the months I've considered no longer writing the blog, but in looking back, it's as close to a journal as I'll ever have, so have decided to continue. 

It's probably fruitless to try and catch up on the past nine months, so I will just begin with where I am now. Last time I posted, I was working on the Tulip Quilt and have made sufficient progress on that. All of the blocks for the center are done and I'm working on the border. It doesn't look a whole lot different than last time, so I won't bother with pictures. I have, however, started a new quilt – Bed of Roses by Sue Garman. (Click on the photo in the link for a larger image). I had originally planned to do her Friends of Baltimore, but decided that might be a little too ambitious for my skill level at this point. Instead of red and green, I will be doing this in shades of blue. I am using the paper pattern pinned to foam core to pin on my pieces as I prep. I'm anxious to get sewing, but this gives me a chance to vet all the colors before going to all the trouble of sewing them down. First off – lots of little circles and stems:


To the right is a styrofoam tray with bias strips waiting to be made into stems and to the left is a little heart shaped box given to me by Mei-Mei where I keep all my little circles. Unfortunately, when she gave me the box it was empty, but oh well!

On the hand quilting front, I am working on my Aunt Gracie's Garden. This was from the Fons and Porter website and I utilized lots of fat quarters of 30's fabrics. I'm probably about halfway done with the center.


I'm going to be taking a break from this in order to quilt on a little baby quilt. I made this Windblown Kite Quilt by Susie Ennis way back in 1982 and gifted it to a friend's baby (who has since graduated from Harvard with an MBA – I like to think that my quilt had an influence in his development!) I liked it so much that a year or so ago I dug out the pattern and pieced another top. And now the time has come to quilt it.


I'm trying something new with marking this. Recently I was reading about Crayloa Ultra Clean Washable Markers.


Apparently they really do wash out and a lot of quilters are using them for marking their quilts. I did a test on the fabric I was using for the backing – I made a heavy "X" out of each color and washed the fabric. They did indeed come out. It was still with a lot of fear and trembling that I marked the baby quilt top. To my frustration, I discovered that I marked part of it wrong. This is not like the blue wash-out marker; it doesn't just disappear with a spritz of water, but needs soap as well. So – I tossed it in the wash with laundry detergent, and lo and behold! It came right out. Here's a close up of the marking (this time the wind is oriented correctly).


There are also knitting and music that have happened since last I wrote, but I'll save that for another post. Hopefully it won't be another nine months! For now, I leave you with photos of last weekend's snow camp at Tall Timber.






Tulips, tulips, tulips

It seems as if tulips have been at the forefront lately, both in quilting and in real life! As much as I'm itching to start on my Friends of Baltimore Quilt, I decided to plug along for a while on my Loopy Tulips. After a marathon session of prepping leaves, I had enough to finish one full block.


Lots more to do, but once prepped they are pretty mindless stitching and seem to be going quickly. One problem I'm encountering has to do with aging eyes. Saturday morning I spent about 5 minutes trying to thread a needle – something I've never had trouble with. I had to dig out my trusty needle threader.


This is the table top threader by Clover – a little pricey, but the only one I've found that doesn't break.

In real life, my friend Bethy and I took the girls over to the tulip fields in Mt. Vernon. The tulips were almost a month early this year. We avoided the crowds and went on a weekday, and although we didn't exactly have the fields to ourselves, we were able to get some lovely photos.






The last picture was taken by Isobel. She has quite the eye for photography and it will be interesting to see if she pursues this.

I did need a comfortable knitting project to work on in the car and socks just aren't doing it for me right now, so I cast on for a small shawl. The Geology Shawl.  This is complex enough to keep my interest, but simple enough that I don't need to concentrate too hard.


I'll end this on a sad cautionary tale. The day before yesterday we thought we were giving Maggie a treat and let her chew on a hambone. Yesterday evening we ended up at the emergency vet with our poor puppy extremely dehydrated and suffering from pancreatitis, probably due to a swallowed bone chip. The x-rays don't identify the foreign body as a bone chip, but we accept that that is what it is. We will never do that again! Here's poor Maggie at the clinic wrapped up in a warming blanket. 


Fortunately she seems to be fine after a night in the hospital and a boatload of money! That was one expensive hambone!! 

The Pile

One down side of hand quilting is that my "to quilt" pile is increasing faster than my ability to keep up with it! 


This is only a small fraction of the quilts waiting to be quilted, but are the ones that I want to get to first. Realistically, if I want to get them all done I'll have to machine quilt some of them, but these will be hand quilted.

The latest finished top to go in the pile is my rendition of Erin Russek's "Jingle" pattern.


Not the best photo, but you get the idea. I'm torn between starting this next or my 30's quilt. I'll probably do the 30's quilt since I actually have the backing for that. I also have no idea what quilting pattern I will put in the border and the triangle on the Jingle quilt, so I'll have to do some research on that.

I really wanted to dive right into my Friends of Baltimore, but decided to work on my Loopy Tulips first. Today I spent prepping some leaves. My preferred method of applique is the freezer paper and starch method. I trace the applique shape onto freezer paper, iron it on to the wrong side of the fabric and cut out. Then I use starch and a small iron to turn the seam allowance over. The paper is removed and the resulting shape is glued onto the background with water soluble glue. Here is my work table showing the prepping of the leaves.


I don't even want to think about how many leaves this quilt has!


On the positive side, they're pretty easy shapes to prep and sew down. When I visited my local quilt shop this week I splurged and bought some Tulip needles. I was torn about spending over $1.00 per needle, but have discovered they are well worth it! It makes stitching so smooth! I only tried them with applique but will give them a test drive with quilting this evening.

In other non-needlework news, I had my first public performance (other than church) with our bluegrass band last week. We played at the local assisted living facility for St. Patrick's Day.

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Not the best photo, but I didn't have the foresight to get our friend to take a picture, so that's extracted from a video. You can see that I am very, very serious! I was concentrating like mad to try and keep up with the rest of the group, who are much more seasoned musicians than I am. That's hubby next to me, our friend Pete in front and his kids behind him and Kerry on the violin. The residents seemed to have a good time and I think I managed to not embarrass myself.


Trying to Keep Up

Once again I seem to be remiss in keeping up with the blog. I guess I could throw out the excuse of not having enough time, but in reality I've been using my time for other pursuits.

One of those pursuits was what is becoming an annual event – Snow Camp. Last year we had very little snow and this year we were afraid that would be the case again. Driving up it rained the entire way, even up in the pass where you would expect it to be snow. But we were pleasantly surprised to find Tall Timber had plenty of lovely snow!


The girls wasted no time in joining the other kids for a no-holds-barred snowball fight. These photos were taken by my friend Bethy. I don't believe she escaped unscathed.



She had also requested that Mei-Mei bring her Elsa dress for some real "Frozen" pictures. Mei-Mei was a trooper and allowed herself to be carried and plopped down in the middle of a snowy meadow for some truly magical photos.


One of these I turned into a scrapbook page.


Two years ago Bethy also took some stunning photos of the girls at Snow Camp and this one I used for a challenge – which I won! I think Bethy and I make a good team.


On the needlework front I've been doing a lot of quilting. My priority right now in hand quilting is Abby's quilt. The center and inner borders are done and I've started quilting on the outer borders. I'm hoping to have this done in time for our quilting guild's show in July.


My Jingle All the Way quilt is also coming along, with all of the small applique and pieced blocks done. The only thing left is the embroidery and a few small applique pieces on the large center block and it will be ready to start putting it together.


I still sometimes feel as if I'm going at a turtle's place when others in my guild are showing a new quilt every month. But I know the decision of going slower and concentrating on the hand work is the right one for me. I am enjoying the process and I know when I do finish a project, it will be one that reflects my own personality and vision. I have already picked out my next project, and it is a doozy!


This is "Friends of Baltimore" by Sue Garman. I was inspired by Kerry of Simple Bird Applique. She pointed out that none of the applique is exceedingly difficult – there is just a lot of it! I have bought the pattern for the first block and the background fabric and will begin as soon as I have pieced together my Jingle quilt. Stay tuned!

You may also notice that I have changed the blog's theme to a spring motif. With apologies to the rest of the country, we are experiencing an extremely early spring. All of the spring trees and flowers are in bloom and the tulips over on the mainland are blooming almost a month early. Let's just hope it doesn't kick us in the pants with a late frigid air mass and snow!