Friday, September 28, 2012

Gray day GIVEAWAY!

It was a gray day here.  Or grey.  How do YOU spell that color?  Does it matter?

Gray days aren't necessarily bad days.  They are good days to stay inside and sew.  So that's just what I did when I finally got home from work today.  I made my October Bee Blocks.
The blocks are Whirligig Blocks from a Quilt In A Day pattern
Yeah, I know it is still September, but the materials arrived and I LOVE making Bee blocks, so I always make them right away.  It is a chance to do something new and different without committing to a whole quilt.

I also made this little Gift Card Key Ring.
I used a ribbon instead of fabric to hold the ring in place.  Much easier, but I like the look of fabric better.  Live and learn.

Can you guess what is inside?
$5 Starbucks Gift Card
OK, that was easy.  But on a gray day, a steaming mug of coffee makes me smile!  You know what also makes me smile?  Comments from readers!  So, leave a comment, and this $5 Starbucks gift card and Gift Card holder could be yours.

To further brighten your day, I'm adding these 4 balls of bright #8 perle cotton to the mix.
The colors are off - after all, it is a gray day, and hard to photograph accurately indoors - pink, red, orange and purple
And, if your stash is anything like mine, you probably have little to no gray fabric.  When I made that discovery earlier this week, I set off to rectify that with some gray fabric purchases.  Little did I know that gray fabric isn't all that common.  I have only found two so far that I liked.  I bought a yard and a half of each - a yard for me, and half a yard for a reader.
half yard cuts of a DS gray dot and I don't know much about the other fabric except I thought it was pretty.
I head out on another work trip tomorrow morning - Little Rock, Arkansas this time - and I'll be back on Tuesday.  Leave a comment before I wake up on Tuesday morning, and we'll see who Mr. Random Number Generator chooses to win the coffee card and holder, the 4 balls of perle cotton and the 2 half yard cuts of gray fabric.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Much better!

Remember how I said there were some things I would do differently if I were to make those pocket potholders again?  I didn't want to forget, so I tried again.  I used an 8.5" block of pieced 1.5" scrap squares (that I already had made) for the front, a 8.5" block of "made" blue fabric for the back (that I had already made), some gold bias binding (leftover from the last potholders I made) and I piece of red binding (from my binding scraps bag, so already cut and pressed).  Gosh, it makes a project much quicker if you just use pieces you have already pieced for other projects!  All I did was quilt the top and the bottom, trim and bind. I made this potholder smaller - 8.25" compared to the 9.5" potholders I made previously.  The size works much better for my hand.  And instead of trying to attach the binding by machine, I did it by hand, and it looks so much nicer!  For some reason, I sewed onto the back and then finished by hand on the front, which is the opposite of how I usually do it, but it turned out fine anyway.
The front

The back - you slide your hand into the pocket so it doesn't fall off your hand. 

Now to make another one. I'm pretty sure potholders like to have a mate for life...

My birthday was fabulous from start to finish.  I had to rent a car for work this week, and look what they had on the lot...

Yup, I rented it.  After all, it was my birthday!

I received a letter from the President of the University passing on some positive feedback he had received about me.  He wrote it two weeks prior, but I was out of the country, so I didn't receive it until my birthday, so it was like a present to me.

My kids bought me some Swedish Fish (one of my favorite candies), and wrote a sweet card that said, "All the years we've known you and you don't look any older!"  Ha!

I bought myself some new sneakers, and my hubby and I had a great workout together on the heavy bag with our new boxing gloves.

I received some flowers and chocolate from my mom and younger sister.
I just love  the view on my porch, with or without flowers!
Everyone I know either called or emailed or Facebook'ed me.  I felt so LOVED!

The sun shone and birds sang.  It was just a FABULOUS DAY, and I felt like I was on top of the world!
OK, so this isn't the top of the world, but it is 3000 feet above Quito, which is already 10,000 feet above sea level, so it is pretty darned high!
So I decided to do a giveaway, but I don't quite have the whole prize together yet.  Stay tuned - there will be a giveaway later this week.  Until then, may your days be as wonderful as mine have been lately!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Back at it!

It was a good trip abroad, but it is even better to be home again!  Virginia welcomed me back this weekend with lovely weather, and I have taken full advantage of it.  Friday afternoon, when I got back to town, I stopped by to surprise my kids at school and bring them back home with me.  They would have been home in 3 hours anyway, but darn it, I MISSED THEM!  We spent the rest of the day at home, where I spent a good deal of time getting reacquainted with my porch!

Today, it was back to my usual  busy-ness: selling popcorn and peanuts for cub scouts outside Walmart followed by a trip to recycling, the post office, and then a karate class.  We brought one of the kids' friends home with us for the afternoon, while I reacquainted myself with my sewing room.  A friend was having an Autumn Equinox party this evening (which was SO MUCH FUN!  Great people, great food, a pool, a hot tub, a campfire, a tree fort and a raucous game of Capture the Flag - what more could a girl ask for?), and I wanted to whip up a gift to bring.  I decided on potholders, loosely based on this tutorial from Oh, Fransson!  They are huge, 9.5" square, and if I were to make them again, I would make them a little smaller.  I also tried finishing the binding by machine instead of by hand since I didn't have much time.  It turned out much messier than I prefer - I won't be doing that again.  But she liked them, so, live and learn.
Not sure why the bottom one looks warped - they actually turned out square.

See the pocket at the back to slip your hand in?  I like this!

Oh, that trip to the post office earlier?  It was to put this in the mail to Becky, who won my giveaway.
2 fat quarters of newly purchased fabric, two skeins of perle cotton and two Britt Chocolate snack pyramids, one of dark chocolate covered coffee beans and one of dark chocolate covered cashews
Who says the first commenter never wins?  Mr. Random Number Generator chose #1 of the 18 comments.  I can't tell you all how much it means to me to be able to stay connected to all of you when I am traveling.

So, my 41st birthday is the Monday, September 24.  I asked for boxing gloves for my birthday so I could work out with the heavy bag in my basement.  My husband gave them to me early (today) and we did a quick, but killer, workout tonight after putting the kids to bed.  See me all shiny with sweat!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Calle del Algodon

Calle del Algodon - do you know what that means????

Street of COTTON!!!  I was wandering around the historic part of Quito that houses the Centro Comercial, and happened upon this street sign.  Above the sign was...

...wait for it...

A QUILT BLOCK MADE FROM TILES!  (Sorry, no photo.  When I am wandering around alone, I never bring the camera - don't want to mark myself as a tourist any more than necessary.)

I thought for sure, I had found heaven on earth.  I looked down the street to see storefront after storefront of FABRIC!

But it wasn't heaven on earth.  It was like purgatory.  A teaser for what could have been.  There were lots of beautiful fabrics, but NONE were 100% cotton.  Not a one!  I felt everything that caught my eye, and got very good at asking, "No tiene tela de cien por ciento de algodon?"  Unfortunately, they all shook their heads no, and proceeded to show me some lovely knit or shiny cotton/poly mix.  Oh well.

In between the fabric stores were tucked little stores of trim and thread and buttons.  I was drawn in and pored over the buttons for quite a while before settling on these big black ones that remind me of wheels - I can see using them to embellish a kid quilt.

The coin is a dollar coin, placed there for reference - these are big buttons!
And then I saw the perle cotton.  Lots and lots of perle cotton.  I've been wanting to buy some, but I haven't found it anywhere near me, and it seems silly to me to pay postage for it if I buy it online.  So I inquired about the price.  Sixty-five cents for a ball of 95 yards of #8 perle cotton!  I've never bought it before, but that seemed like a steal to me!  I was drawn to the variegated ones, so I picked out five to buy.
I've never heard of Rose Brand, but frankly, I don't care!
Back in my room, I looked online to price them, and I'm finding them for anywhere from $2.29 to $3.50.  Can I just say I'll be headed back to that part of town to pick up some more in solid colors!  Some for me, and some to share in my little "help me figure out how to quilt this" giveaway.  If you've not yet put your two cents in, I encourage you to visit that post and comment.  Not only will there be chocolate covered coffee beans, but now there will also be #8 perle cotton for the winner!  And I'm not done shopping yet!

I did pick up some more trinkets to share around the office at home and put into some Christmas stockings - some colorful leather change purses
I'm not sure yet which one I'll save for me.  Maybe the black and orange?  Or maybe the green and brown?
and some more earrings (I love cheap earrings!!!).  These are made from Tagua, some kind of nut or seed that is indigenous to Ecuador.
I love the ones with the trees!
OK, off to bed to do some more quilting before I sleep like the dead.  The air is thin here at 10,000 feet above sea level, so I yawn A LOT and sleep very well.  Just three more nights until I get to sleep in my own bed!

Monday, September 17, 2012

What's a gal to do?

I've covered a lot of ground since my last post.  I flew to Guayaquil, Ecuador by way of Panama, spent two nights there, and now I'm in Quito.  I spent Sunday in Guayaquil, and of course, schools are closed on Sunday, so I had a ME day. 

  • I slept in. (aaaahhhhh!)
  • I worked out in the gym.  (ugh!)
  • I ate 4 pieces of bacon at breakfast. (yum!!!)
  • I visited a museum. (and just my luck, free on Sundays!)
  • I took a river cruise on a pirate ship. (I'm not even joking)
  • I visited the Mercado Artesenal. (gotta get trinkets for the people back home, you know)
  • I climbed 444 stairs to the top of a neat neighborhood built on a hill, Las Penas. (pretend there's a tilde over the n)
  • I had dinner with a friend who was stranded in Guayaquil after a cancelled flight (and is STILL stranded, poor thing!)
  • And I quilted. (of course, I could have just spent the entire day quilting, and it would have been a GOOD day)

What a day!  Here are some photos:

There was a rail fence quilt in the museum!!!

Close up so you can read it - if you read spanish, that is.

Isn't this tree awesome?  I wanted to climb it, but thought that might really mark me as a tourist...
That's A LOT of steps!  Going up wasn't so bad, but coming down, I thought my legs were going to give out!

The view from the top of Las Penas, looking out over the river (and prepared to shoot canonballs at pirates, is my guess)

Wait!  Is that a pirate right there?

I can't help but buy earrings.  This is just the start - I'm sure I'll have 10 new pair before my trip is done.

And the women in my office always seem to like my bag that I bought in Ecuador two years ago, so I bought some more, in case anyone wants one.

Then, after a day of school visits, I hopped a plane here to Quito.  Lovely upgrade in the room, including access to the Executive Lounge (my second hotel in a row with FREE FOOD!  I'm so spoiled!  Loyalty has its privileges!).  I was tired and feeling grimy.  There was a plush robe, a tub over two feet deep, Sandalwood Bath Salts, and a solicitous young woman delivered a rose to my door while she asked if everything was to my likely.  What's a gal to do, but settle in for a SOAK!
JW Marriott in Quito - I highly recommend it if you are ever here.  They know how to treat a gal like a queen!

Three more days of school visits, and then I get to go home.  Since I've been to Quito about 7 years running now, I'm not feeling too much pressure to go out and explore, although I'm sure I'll find something new to do.  I'm hoping to get most, if not all of the white quilted in the Scrappy String Star quilt.  And with all the time I'll have in the plane and in airports flying home on Thursday night/Friday morning, I'm pretty sure I'm going to finish quilting the Orange Creamsicle quilt on this trip, too.  Woo hoo!
The "vintage" pillowcases and sheets in this quilt are SO SOFT!

Actually, how can you tell if a sheet or pillowcase is vintage, do you know?  Is there an "age limit" for vintage?  Or are we just saying "used"?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Quilting on the road

I may get discouraged by how long it takes me to quilt something by hand, but I am always so thankful that I am a handquilter when I travel and have something to work on.  On this two week trip (Atlanta to San Jose, Costa Rica to Guayaquil, Ecuador to Quito, Ecuador), I actually brought two quilts to work on: my Orange Creamsicle quilt to quilt in airports and on the plane (since the needles are use are so tiny), and my Scrappy Strings Star quilt to sleep under as I work on it.  I am using lots of different colored embroidery floss to quilt it, so I am using embroidery needles, and they, of course, are too big and dangerous to bring on airplanes, so that quilt lives in my checked luggage.

Here's a peek at my hotel room with my quilts out, helping it seem more like home.

view one from my balcony

view two from my balcony
Right now I am in the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica after spending 4 days here visiting high schools and making new friends.  It turns out that my sister's sister-in-law used to live here and still has friends here, so she connected me with them.  I actually had a slumber party in my hotel room last night with one of them - what fun!  We stayed up super late talking, but today is just a travel day for me, so it is OK if I am tired.

And I've got a question for you - on my scrappy string star quilt, I'm not sure what I want to do in my big white squares, continue making concentric squares, or quilt some other type of design in the center of the 4 concentric squares that are already there?  You can see what I've got so far.  In the triangles, since they are smaller, that will just be 3 concentric triangles in there.  Ideas, anyone?

Anyone who leaves an opinion will be entered into a drawing for some goodies from my travels.  I can't guarantee that they'll include anything quilting related, but I can guarantee that it will include at least some chocolate covered coffee beans - YUMMY!!!

I'll holler at you again from Ecuador.  Sew some for me, y'all!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Art of Making Do

I received my last two blocks in the mail for my Scrappy String Star (Let's Bee Together) quilt this past weekend, so I was super motivated to get the top completed.  Initially, I had purchased a couple yards of white on white fabric to be the background, but I was determined to have that be the only fabric purchase for the quilt - the rest was to come from my stash of scraps.

Great in theory, but I once I got the top together, it was 64" square, and I didn't want a square quilt.  I wanted a twin sized quilt, so it needed more length.  Unfortunately, I didn't have much of the background fabric left, and it was already cut into smallish pieces smaller than my blocks.  What to do, what to do??

First, I already had two left over scrappy HST blocks made, so I made two more with the biggest piece of background fabric, and put two pairs together to be the center of the top and bottom row.  Then, I pieced the rest of the background fabric together to finish out a top and a bottom row.
Can you see the two seams, trying to make the pieces I had fit the space I had left?
Of course, there wasn't quite enough.  Into the stash I went, and pulled out a piece of white on white that was close enough.
Swirls, leaves - what's the difference, anyway?
Voila!  It is a quilt top! 
I have to admit, it is a little hard for me to leave it like this - doesn't it seem unfinished on the sides?  But I didn't want a square quilt, so this will have to do.
64" x 85.5" - big enough to cover a twin bed with 10" of drape on both sides and the bottom of the bed.
Donald got excited and said, "Wait!  I get to have TWO quilts on my bed??"  I didn't have the heart to tell him I just put it there to make sure it was big enough and to take a photo...
Definitely big enough to cuddle up in on the porch as I look out on the morning rain.
I kinda wanted to just stay on the porch this morning, enjoying the cool and the wet, but alas, duty calls.
Hopefully, whoever is enjoying the quilt won't notice the way I had to improvise to complete the top and bottom rows.  If someone does notice, hopefully she will see it as part of the charm of a scrappy quilt.  After all, my favorite quilt book of all time and the one who got me started along this delightful, fabric-filled journey, is Roberta Horton's Scrap Quilts - The Art of Making Do!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Bias.  The thought of working with it scares me.  I have visions of unintentionally wonky blocks that won't lay flat no matter what you do to them.  So when I saw that we were making Lone Star blocks in Let's Bee Together, I was scared.  Bias AND Y-seams - yikes!  But it turns out, the method she has us using to make the blocks doesn't include any Y-seams (yay!), and the fabric behaved, bias and all.  I love the fabric she sent, Kate Spain's Central Park, and enjoyed playing with it.  There was even enough scrap for me to add a 1.5" square of each of the 4 fabrics to my scrap tins.  :)

My two blocks - they aren't squared up per her instructions.  I could perhaps see me making this block for myself one day...perhaps.  Maybe as the center of a medallion quilt.

While sewing those, I worked on getting my Scrappy Strips Star quilt sewn together, as she sent the two blocks she made for me at the same time she sent her fabrics.  My goal is to have the top assembled before Saturday so I can take it with me to quilt on my first recruiting trip.  I think it is a perfect candidate for big stitch quilting with colorful embroidery floss.

Now, to completely change the subject - last Thursday and Friday was my office retreat.  As we have for the last 4 years, we spent the night at Fort Lewis Lodge - I love that place!  Not only is it beautiful, but there are quilts on every bed!  This was my room this year.  I have made a point of sleeping in a different room every year so I can enjoy ALL the quilts.

Then, this weekend, a friend visited from Atlanta, and I had a great time showing her around south western Virginia.  I know I am biased, but it is breathtakingly beautiful here.  Seeing it through someone else's eyes helped remind me of how blessed I am to live here.  We went places I've never been, and did things I've never done.  For one thing, we bought an enormous whole trout and cooked it on the grill.  My kids were quite impressed that the head was still attached to the fish (ick!), and Jason declared that he wanted the head.  My friend's husband is from Cameroon, and she explained how the head is actually the "honor piece".  I was skeptical, but she showed him how to remove the meat from the head, and the fool even ate an EYEBALL!  If you are squeamish, look away NOW!