Gift Ideas For…

…your cat. Last year I found the Buttercup bed in an expensive catalog. I waited for the inevitable 20% off and free shipping offer and ordered one. Our cats loved it! Gizmo slept in it during the day and Jasmine did at night. This year when I got the bed out, Jasmine immediately jumped in it. Gizmo stood there, looking disgruntled and so it went. I Googled Bowsers Buttercup bed and found many sellers on Amazon, including several for Amazon Prime (yippee!). Both cats are now happy to have their own beds. It comes in several sizes and is made for small dogs… You can see that there is a drawstring to adjust. The cats love it no matter how we have it adjusted. It washes well, though cat owners will have to pick out the fuzz.

…your husband. I can’t remember where I came across this website, but it has fun/ny things for men. If you have been married a long time, you know how difficult it is to find something for your DH. As well as gifts, Man Crates carries advent calendars. This one is called The Strike Before Christmas and has a funny verse behind each door and a jerky or candy treat! (I also found a lot of great “man” gifts” on The Grommet.)

… the crafty person. I have known about Spoonflower for some years; it’s a web-based company that makes fabrics from a design that you send them, or you can purchase other people’s designs. This Fall I got a catalog from them and discovered that they print not only fabrics but wallpaper and wrapping paper. The catalog is full of fun ideas. I was particularly taken by this page full of dish towels. Every December, one of my grandmothers would buy a calendar dish towel, use it and then make it into an apron the following year. Spoonflower has loads of calendar dish towels. (They suggest making them into pillows after the year is over!) I ordered several fat quarters, which evidently will include one design repeat. The towels will need to be hemmed, but they will be fun small and last-minute gifts.

…stocking stuffers. When I was little there were Decembers that my family (and often some cousins), would board the train in Trenton New Jersey and head for Christmas with my grandparents in Florida. An overnight train ride was super fun and our families had several rooms in a row on the sleeper car. Before we went to bed, my parents would give us each a surprise ball. Tiny toys and gifts are wrapped in crepe paper and what a treat it is to unwrap them! If you Google surprise ball, lots of sellers come up. I bet the hand-made Etsy ones would be really wonderful.

I really enjoy shopping for the special people in my life. Inquiring minds want to know – what unusual things have you found this year?

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Christmas Counted Cross Stitch

“Christmas in July” as a sales pitch made by quilting and needlework stores does not appeal to me; I work on Christmas projects in December when I am in the mood. Consequently they take several years to complete! This cross stitch project is a mash-up that I started it in 2015 . As you can see from the photo below, the patterns are by Birds of a Feather, who no longer do counted cross stitch patterns.

When I bought these patterns, I envisioned the designs being combined into one picture. I do not make or collect Christmas stockings…I adore the knitted ones my mother made for me {at birth} and Peter {when we got engaged}. I also hang another knitted one that a dear friend made decades ago. I came up with the mash-up idea so that I “could” buy the patterns. ;-D

The fabric is cotton and 18 squares per inch – my favorite size to work on. Nowadays, I require good light and my readers, because of the size and the dark fabric. My design plan is to stitch the sledding elves to the bottom right of the snowman and Santa will be dancing in the top right. I’m not sure whether the reindeer will make the cut – perhaps he can be in the top left jumping towards Santa. I have a lot of stitching to go until that decision needs to be made.

I work on this one night and then I hand quilt on my quilt along project the next evening.

{Should you want to find some of the delightful Birds of a Feather patterns, 123stitch still has some stock.}

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Hand Quilt-Along Progress….

…very little! Has it been three weeks already???

I started hand quilting this top some time ago and then I put it in my “quilt top” cupboard. Often I wrap the threads I am using in the unfinished project, but I did not this time, so I had to take some time to match the thread. I am stitching in the ditch around all the flying geese {sigh}. In the more open spaces, I marked a little leafy pattern, which I will have to inspect to reproduce it. As I complained mentioned in the previous post, the fabrics are all batiks, so the quilting will be slow.

Today is a full day of football, so I will really get started on the quilt. I get a lot of handwork done on Sundays and Monday night. It’s one of my favorite times of the year.

I am relieved to see that we all have had other things to do. ;-D  Please click on the links below to see what the other ladies have been up to!

Kathy, Bella, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  Susan , Jessisca  and Sherry

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Happy Thanksgiving from Tommy Lee (and me!)

He’s finally done and hanging up, though just in the nick of time. I see from the post where I announced that the quilt top was completed, that Tommy Lee has been waiting to be quilted since 2015… I pulled him out of the closet a month ago, and though I had plenty of time to get him quilted before Thanksgiving, it has come down to the wire. The quilting went fairly well, but I always rip out and curse over adjusting the thread tension. {And as you can see, he does not want to hang straight, so I will add a sleeve to insert dowels on the top and bottom of the quilt.}

An incredibly helpful template to outline and to quilt zig zaggy lines was this machine quilting ruler that I read about on Jenny’s Quilt Skipper blog. I have been practising, but I do not find it easy to use a ruler for straight line quilting; while trying to keep the foot tight against the ruler, the ruler can easily shift, and the next thing I know, the line isn’t going where I want it to go. With the line tamer, made by Four Paws Quilting, the foot fits in the slot and I can hold and guide the ruler with both hands  – it’s so much simpler! Add some sticky tape or Handi grip (which is a bit like sand paper) on the back of the template, and it’s a great tool.

I hope you all have a delicious and happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Hand Quilt-Along Group!

Kerry of Lovethosehandsathome  recently posted about a hand quilt-along group that she had joined. It sounded like a great idea to me, as I guiltily remembered a quilt stuffed in a cupboard waiting to be completed. The quilt along was started by Kathy of Sewingetc, and I contacted her to be added to the group. Here is the story of my project….

I was surprised to see the date on the post – I didn’t realize that it was so old. (The top was completed pre-move (2013) and it is still not done!) I did start quilting it at some point and it is perhaps halfway done. It is not an easy project to hand quilt. All of the fabrics are batiks, which are always printed on very finely woven cotton, which means that it is harder to pierce with a needle. The backing is also made up of batiks… To compensate for the difficult fabrics, the batting is a thin polyester. Sneer as you might, but polyester is very easy to quilt, it’s very light, it washes easily and many award-winning hand quilters use it for all of these reasons.

I noticed on the post I wrote celebrating the finish, that I was planning to machine quilt it. In those days I had the #%$& Bernina sewing machine and was having all sorts of trouble using it, which would explain why I decided to hand quilt it. I use the teeny, tiny quilting needles with my readers on and a bright light over my left shoulder. Now that the weather here has finally cooled off, I will surely attract a cat or two with this cozy project.

This quilt was made in what I call my Illinois colors. I have moved on to lighter, brighter colors in South Carolina. But I do still have the Indian rug that I used as an inspiration, and it will still be lovely in that room.

Let the quilting begin!

Here are the other quilters who are participating! Click on their names to see what wonderful quilts they will be finishing. Check up on us November 26th to see what we have accomplished.

Kathy, Kerry, Deb , Bella Lori , Margaret , Emma , Tracy

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A Cruise on the Rhine: Windmills & Cheese!

One of my favorite tours on the Rhine River Cruise was the (free) windmills tour in Kinderdijk, Holland. Before we arrived, I was pronouncing the name several different ways, but it turns out to be perfectly simple! Dijk is dike. ;-D This area has been a UNESCO World Heritage site for many years and is a delightful spot to visit.

What makes the windmills so magical? The Dutch have so many wonderful stories like the boy putting his finger in the dike and Hans Brinker and the silver skates, and somehow, windmills figure into the folklore. I was not the only one enchanted by them! The cameras and cell phones were out with each of us exclaiming that we’d gotten such a wonderful shot. It was an overcast day, which made most of my pictures sepia toned until the sun peeped out for a few minutes…and then we knew we’d gotten the best picture.

There are 19 windmills in Kinderdjik and all of them are inhabited but one, which we were able to go into. They are cosy, to say the least, but terrifically charming. The kitchen is generally outside because of the danger of fire. The downstairs has living areas and a small bedroom with a built-in bed not unlike a boat. It was surprisingly quiet! Then you start climbing up ladders and you can hear and feel the mill working. This was a fun view!

The people who live in windmills, no matter what the windmill’s purpose, are all called millers. These mills were built in the mid 1700’s to pump water. Some mills grind grain and others are sawmills but the guide said that most mills pump water – obviously a big priority in a country that exists below sea level. You can tell the purpose of the windmills by the shape and the length of the sails. Just one more little video….

Later that afternoon, Peter and I took an optional (paid) trip to a farm which makes cheese. It was a wonderful and informative tour; first to see the ladies and their babies and then to see how Gouda cheese is made. I grew up by my grandparents’ farm, where they raised Angus beef, but I’ve not been around milking cows. They are very sweet and seemed interested in us as well. We arrived while they were being milked, so I suppose they were glad of the diversion. This sweet girl is making sure her friend is clean, and right after I took this shot, she put her head in the food and sprayed it all over everyone nearby!

I won’t go into detail about cheese making, but I will tell you the proper pronunciation of Gouda, which is How-dah! The accent is on the how and you need to gargle a bit. (The proper pronunciation of Edam is e-Dam, accent on the dam!) The cheese making room smelled divine. Here are cheeses getting salted.

These cheese are aging, though they certainly look like loaves of bread ready to bake!

And here the cheeses are getting waxed. You can see that they make many, many flavors of Gouda, some of which arrived home safe and sound in our suitcase.

This farm is a family business. The grandparents take care of the babies and do a lot of chores. The father and the boys milk and care for the cows and the mother and girls make the cheese. They do have some workers to help as well. Obviously manure is recycled and they have some acreage to grow grain. The pigs down the street love the whey left over from the cheese making and the birds (lucky them!) get fed bits of cheese that is shaved off.

A trip to the windmills of Kinderdjik should be on your bucket list!

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Neighborhood Dyeing Projects

Last Summer I had so much fun doing tie dyeing with my niece and her family that I offered to teach the ladies some dyeing techniques. First up was tie dyeing and June was game to try. Here is the result of our morning’s work…

and here is her shirt washed and dried! Perfect for gardening or a Summer music festival or kayaking on the lake!

Then I offered a little class on the many sorts of shibori dyeing. I had three ladies who spent another morning working on samples. We wrapped and sewed and tied indoors and then dyed and unwrapped in the shade.

A few weeks later, Joan and June came over to do a project of their own. June came ready with 6 napkins wrapped and ready to dye.

She made them to go with her Fiestaware china. Didn’t they turn out well?

Joan decided to make a pool cover-up. Isn’t it great?

 

Though the best time for tie dyeing is over, I am anxious to get dyeing again. I want to make some shibori napkins and I also have an idea for an ikat warp. This Winter I am determined to try some ice dyeing as well. Stay tuned!

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A Cruise on the Rhine: Signs & Shop WIndows

After years of watching the ads for Viking River Cruises that precede Masterpiece Theatre, I finally went on one! Our friends invited us to join them more than a year ago and we had a lovely time. My plan was to write a blog every few days as we moved along on our voyage. Ha! Best laid plans…..

Though the Internet connection on the river was somewhat better than an ocean cruise, it was still iffy. One moment I would think I was online and sometime later I’d get a note that I was offline. The pictures I took on my phone never really downloaded onto my iPad, which I was using for the blog. And still, after all these years, I find the WordPress app to be unreliable and difficult to use. Thus, I am at home, wanting to share the trip with you and wondering how to do it. {My father delighted in very long slide shows after trips with my mother, complete with a sunset photo at the end! I will endeavor not to do that.} My plan is to group interesting topics together and hope you enjoy!

As you probably know from the adverts, Viking has free tours at almost every port. We always chose the morning ones for orientation and then Peter and I wandered around and amused ourselves. The local guides were for the most part, outstanding, and always gave great advice for lunches and shopping and further sight-seeing.

It’s so much fun to window shop in a foreign country and see how they display things or what interests them! This was my favorite store – hard to decide what it sold from this intriguing window display, but we discovered buttons and ribbons and threads and zippers. (What we used to call notions in the olden days.) The woman did not or chose not to speak English and my high school French does not include sewing and ribbon and notion-type vocabulary, so I ooohed and ahhhed and she smiled a lot. I would love to have asked her about some of the projects in the window display.

There were storefronts with garlands over the doorways. This entrancing one was above a bakery…

…and this one topped a butcher store. Don’t you love the hams hanging amidst the rose bower?

Many, many years ago, the stores and businesses advertised themselves with these sort of signs.

Peter spotted this sign high atop a building. Looks like it was a shoe shop long ago.

We were on a tour in Cologne Germany and did not have time to have a drink in this brewery. Peter was quite disappointed!

And here is the last one, advertising something unknown to me…

You certainly can get a stiff neck looking at everything and trying not to stumble on the cobblestones or be run over by the hundreds of bikes whizzing by…

 

 

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A Wedding in Vermont

Peter and I are on the road, driving home from Vermont. Our dear friends’ youngest was married and we couldn’t miss the big event. Now that Peter is retired, planning such a trip is not a big deal. Just get the cats to the boarding place and we’re off.

It’s a looong trip to Vermont and I decided that we’d have a long day of driving and spend a whole day in Washington DC. When we lived in central Pennsylvania, we went there often, but it’s been forever. There’s so much to do and see! We don’t often do selfies, but could not resist this one…

Washington at night is magical, with all the wonderful buildings and monuments lit up.

Our first museum stop the next day was the Renwick. It is my favorite since it is devoted to contemporary crafts. I have a few delightful pieces to share. Isn’t this a wonderful quilt made by Sabrina Gschwandtner?

Now take a closer look – what do you see? The quilt is made of 16 mm film! It is called Fibers and Civilization (1959).

An old favorite from the permanent collection is Portal Gate by Albert Paley. I did not realize this, but he was making jewelry when he entered the contest to design a gate! Getting that commission was certainly a life changer for him.

A visit to Washington would not be complete for me without checking out the First Ladies section of the The National Museum of American History. I won’t bore you too much, but this is astounding to me – here is Martha Washington’s silk taffeta gown from the early 1780’s! It is hand painted….

Mamie Eisenhower is the first First Lady that I remember. Look at her ball gown from 1957. Such a yummy red and weren’t her feet so small?

And last but not least, all the amazing flying machines at The Air and Space museum…

Fibonacci Striped Runner

When I took the last warp off the loom, I said to myself – “I am not going to make any rag runners for a time” – but here I am, weaving more. We have a wedding coming up and I do think this bride will appreciate a hand-made gift (as well as a gift card!). When I was asking her mother what colors the bride might like, I asked her, (she is a dear friend), if I could make a runner for her October birthday, and she happily agreed. Weaving something I’ve done a lot of in the last few years seemed a good idea because I wanted to try some of the tricks and techniques that I learned at the Vavstuga workshop. I fiddled a good bit while I was warping the loom and I am happy to say that it is a great warp! Nice and tight; nice and even!

The bride wanted blues, and my tendency is to use navy and white, because I have so much Asian china. When I scrounged around in the closet where I keep the carpet warp, I found a navy and a bright blue, so I used them in the warp. Then I debated whether to do a random stripe, which is what I generally do, but then I remembered the Fibonacci sequence, which I was discussing recently with a friend, and decided to try that out. For reasons that I won’t bore you with, I have cut off the bride’s runner/mat.

 

It is always hard to photograph runners, but if you look closely, you can see 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-8-5-3-2-1-1 sequence in different blue color stories. You can also see that the bright blue warp only shows up in the hem. I thought that might be the case but I didn’t feel like ordering more carpet warp. I’m glad that I cut this off because now I can use it as a reference for how the fabrics look when squished and woven. The bride’s mother wants blues and greens and I am fairly sure that she will not be as happy with dark values. I will use the lighter blues and those with white backgrounds and see what green fabrics I can add.

This is quite different from my usual runner/mats, but I do think it will look nice when in use. The wedding is in Vermont in a few weeks and I hope to have some fun things to share with you….