HQAL – A New Tool!

First things first; here is my quilt. I thought I was on the last quarter of the middles, but it turns out that I have a half to go (the bottom half in the picture). Geez….I guess I dreamed that I was on the last quarter.

My general rule for machine or hand quilting, is to match the thread to the background. In the case of a dark fabric, it can be difficult to see where I’m going. Although I have Ott lights all over the house and right by my chair, I often have trouble positioning the light exactly where I need it to be. When I was in a toy store recently, I saw this,

and was reminded of a quilt teacher/friend, who uses a miners head lamp for applique and quilting! It works pretty well, though Peter is continually startled when I look at him and pin him in the spotlight. I think it will be great to take when we travel as hotel rooms rarely have decent lighting. (I also know a quilter who takes her own light bulbs when she travels!) Google miner’s lamp and you will find many options…

Despite the fact that I thought I was on the last quarter, I have made good progress – so many football games to watch. As I stitch along, I have been looking at the border and wondering what to do there. Borders always flummox me. I was hoping that the fabric print had a vine or some sort of pattern that I could follow, but it does not.

Stay tuned! And please check out the blogs of these ladies who are working away on their quilt tops! This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Susan , Jessica  , SherryNanette, Sassy,  Edith ,  Sharon and Bella.







Interesting Tidbits & Tools

It’s Spring in the Upstate of South Carolina and outside projects are calling to me. I shared the picture of the veggies coming up and they are growing like crazy – – – I can almost taste them! Peter and I are having our annual debate about what shrubs to yank out and how to make some of the gardens smaller. He bought a new tool which enabled us to take out some stumps fairly easily and now I am going to have a large cutting garden! Indoors, I am quilting away on the Mash Up quilt, weaving the rag runner/mats and trying to get going on the double nine patch quilt again. I thought I would share some tidbits with you…

At some recent quilt show or other, I bought this set of nesting circle templates. It’s really been useful. I used it to decide what size the center circle should be on the Dresden Star pattern. In the past I have wandered around the kitchen looking for plates or saucers or lids for the proper circle size, and used bobbins and spools and coins for the smaller ones, but this set plus Karen Buckley’s Perfect Circles is about all I need now. This size is just for templates, but there is a thicker size to use in machine quilting.

Circle templates

At the same show, I bought this hangar to wrangle my rulers. After I bought it, I realized that a belt or scarf hanger would have worked, so you can go buy one of those! All the rulers can be a mess and despite this nice hangar, they are generally all over the place. Oh – I also use rings to keep templates for a particular project together. Nothing like finding them lying about and wondering which pattern they belong to!

Hanging template holder

When I took the class with Edyta Sitar at the Phoenix AQS show, she said that she had sprayed our fabrics with Best Press for extra stability. And then she said she hadn’t actually used that product but made her own – out of potato vodka and water! I Googled it and below is a great post by a woman explaining how to make quilt wash and color catchers. I always pre-wash my fabrics and so I often use something to stiffen them a bit, so vodka is on the shopping list!


A few years ago a blogger got me going on watching the Decorah IA eagle cam. This year, I came across the D.C. one. The eagles are named Mr. President and The First Lady and they have two eaglets. It is the best cam I’ve seen – there are two cameras and it’s infrared at night, so when I was not sleeping last night, I checked up on The First Lady and she was not sleeping either… Often when the eaglets are being fed, someone zooms the camera so you can see everything. It’s addictive for sure.


And here I am jumping up on my soapbox! Pinterest is one of my favorite places on the Web and I can lose time when I’m on it. The ads that started appearing a bit ago were annoying, but fairly easy to get rid of. Now my page is so full of recommendations “from my recent browsing history” that I can hardly find pins by the folks I am following. I am VERY unhappy about it. I found a survey to take about Pinterest, but I don’t imagine they care what I think…

So what’s up in your neck of the woods – peas, snow, tulips, too many UFO’s ???

A Sticky Day’s Work

Yes, it is June in South Carolina and because of a warmer than usual Spring just about every project has made me sticky – sweaty for weeks. However, yesterday’s stickiness had to do with making jam – specifically strawberry! The berries started showing up at roadside stands about a month ago and I just decided to can them. Happily for me, it was a good idea to wait as they are really sweet and juicy now. They smelled so good in the car on the way home…

Ripe strawberries!

Here’s a tool that I have discovered that many people don’t recognize. It’s a strawberry huller. It only works on nice, ripe strawberries; the grocery store ones are usually crunchy and it’s easier to prepare them by slicing off the tops. The huller pulls the pithy part out, which is an unwelcome addition to jam. I googled strawberry hullers and there are many on the market, but this simple one is the one I use. I’m naming it the June Cool Tool.

Strawberry huller

This is not a good stove for canning. It has a glass top which I dislike for so many reasons, not the least of which is that Gizmo can walk on the stove top and turn one the burners on!  The fan does not cover the entire stove top, so only the pots at the back are “exhausted”. And, because the microwave is over the fan, it is very low. When I am canning, I have to pull the pot of boiling water away from the exhaust cover in order to get the jars in. Dangerous!!! I am looking forward to a kitchen re-do in the future.

Dangerous cooker top

I do not make jam using pectin; I have discovered that what I like to make is called “old-fashioned” these days. Pectin is fine for jelly, but the reason I don’t like using it for jams is that there is no way to control the consistency. Jelly should be “stiff” and melt on your toast. I prefer jam to be on the runny side. In one book I was reading, the author did not like jams made without pectin and said because of the long cooking time involved, they tasted caramel-y and burnt. Perhaps it’s what you grow up with, but I like that flavor as well and the dark red color the berries turn after cooking so long.

Into the jars

I am smiling now. The happiest part of the canning process is tasting the results and I just had some jam for breakfast…..it was wonderful! Eating my jam on toast is a messy, delicious experience, with lots of finger licking after the last bite. I declare this to be a good batch and will label the jars and squirrel them away for Winter after I post this.

Taste test

And then I must clean the  sticky mess in the kitchen!

The Henry Ford (Museum)

I ran away with the circus last week! ;-D

No, not really, but I did run away with Peter. He had work near Detroit and I invited myself along. Being the good guy he is, he agreed. My plan was for us to go to see the Henry Ford Museum after he was done with his work. We’ve been talking about it since we moved to the Midwest. Turns out that it is not The Henry Ford Museum but simply The Henry Ford! O.K. There is a lot to see there, including the (not) museum, an IMAX theatre and Greenfield Village. Amazingly enough it was raining so an outdoor venue was not a good idea and we wanted to see the indoor collections anyway. THF has lots of collections and after seeing what was on display, all I could wonder was what we weren’t seeing. I took random photos of things that interested me, and I hope they will interest you! (And please let me say that I took these with poor lighting, through glass displays and with my iPhone.)

What struck me most about the display of the US Industrial Revolution is that up until that point of time, the most complicated machine in the World was the watch…… How about that? A lot of the exhibits talked about how the Industrial Revolution in the US made Americans want more “things”. Things that were cheaper and more readily available than before. This ad for a sewing machine tickled me, though a sewing machine is a necessity for many of us…..

Here are two sewing machines that were designed to be displayed and used in the livingroom. This first one dates from 1860-1865. It’s a lovely design but looks very difficult to actually use….

I don’t recall what year this one was from, but it has the look of the 1930’s or 1940’s. Notice the lovely design and how the stool fits perfectly under the table!

From a distance I thought this was a loom, but talk about A Cool Tool ! This machine draws lines on paper. Before the invention of this machine, people put a sort of comb down on the paper and had to be careful with their (leaky, difficult) ink pens as they traced  the lines. Wow! Hard to imagine that lined paper was a new invention, but that’s why museums like THF are so valuable. The machine in front is a small printing press for flyers and small runs.

No looms were on display but there was a case with some lovely coverlets woven with Jacquard looms. (They were the first sort of computer – and I’m not joking.) This pattern caught my eye.

I see that I did not take any photos of cars….funny! There was an amazing collection which we thoroughly enjoyed looking at. There were lots of trains to admire as well. Look at this early train – can you see that it is a collection of carriages or stages pulled by an engine? Very fun.

And here – is – Cinderella’s carriage! Isn’t it charming? I don’t know if you can see how very small the door is for a large, elaborate Cinderella type dress to get through. And the carriage is very tall. There must have been quite a high set of stairs to get the riders safely inside of it.

Look at this amazing stage coach with what must be the owner’s faithful dog painted under the seat.

This item comes under The Twilight Zone heading! (Are you hearing the theme music?) It is a Philco Predicta Television Receiver!!!! The notation said it was from 1958-1960. I can say I never saw one of these growing up but I am sure that I would have loved it! With this in your livingroom, the aliens would surely be on their way. ;-D

And this comes under the heading of simply random… We woke up on Saturday morning to an odd sound. We looked out the window and could see a crowd milling about. The night before we’d seen lots of Indian people gathering in the lobby with incredibly lovely saris on and so here was the actual wedding. Out in the parking lot we found the groom (not Indian but enjoying himself) with his family and friends on a horse! Peter realized that they were reenacting the groom going to his bride’s home to collect her for the wedding! There were drums and more beautifully clad guests having a wonderful time. Peter and I still have our outfits from a trip to India and were sorry that we’d not been invited to the ceremony. That’s what makes vacation so much fun; not knowing what might happen next!

Cool Tools : Summer Travel Edition

Rated: PM – for people on the move!

I am leaving soon on a trip to explore where to live next! After spending many hours on the computer, comparing plane fares, looking at mileages from here to there and back again, and what hotels are available, I have the trip blocked out. Isn’t this an amazing time? I was just saying to Peter that years ago I would have had to go to a travel agent, or I would have set off with AAA guide books and maps and hoped for the best! Wow. On this first trip, I am checking out the “Villes”, because I am looking at Nashville, Asheville and Knoxville!

Here are some house hunting and travel aides:

Loaded on my iPad :

  • Trulia This is quite an interesting site, which I found out about in some where to retire book. It looks at houses for sale and areas in an interesting way. It shows lots of demographics and the iPad app has map views which show amenities like restaurants and schools.
  • Zillow You probably all know about this site. I like their map view so you can see the property sizes and whether a place might have the privacy you want. However I hate looking at what they think our house is worth.  :- {
  • Open Table I have used this a lot to find restaurants when we go into Chicago. It’s great to see a map view of where you are going (say the ballet) and what restaurants might be close. The restaurants have their websites listed and menus, and there are good reviews too.

Reference books: Some of these have been helpful and some not so much. The where to retire books and the magazine profile lots of places, but of course we all have places that we don’t want to live. For us it’s probably places with extreme temperatures or states where we have already lived. The economy is going to be a factor for us as well. Our taxes in Illinois are dreadfully high!


The Container Store is a great place to get travel items. They feature them this time of year and have demos and sales. I stopped by the other day for some ideas. I am taking a road trip -but- I am flying to Nashville first and then getting a rental car. A road trip is usually so easy because you can throw everything you think you might need into your car at home. With the baggage fees, I am limiting myself to our biggest suitcase and a backpack, so I have to think carefully about what to bring. Here are some good ideas.

Do you worry about losing your phone? I don’t think I could travel without my iPhone anymore – the GPS, Open Table, texting Peter to keep in touch – it’s amazing. When I first had a cell phone I lost it. I had no idea where it was and Peter (who was at home) called and called until someone answered! Luckily it was at the place where I’d eaten dinner, a block away from my hotel. But imagine leaving it at a rest stop 75 miles away….. I love this idea; a bungee for my phone! It’s called “my Bunjee”.

I love to eat in the car {sigh}, my favorite being a bag of Smart Food (cheese popcorn) and a bottle of soda. This trip I am going to try to not do that sort of thing. I found this Spork which seems to have every eating tool I will need designed into it! Then I can buy a container of yogurt at a convenience store and be sensible.

I also found a water bottle that filters the water as you drink. If I’m going to try not to drink so much soda and coffee, I need water that tastes good and often in motels, it doesn’t.

I “stage” and gather items for trips on the kitchen floor. Gizmo tried to decide which purse I should take and then declared himself exhausted!

I know I am being a bit anal here, but I consider this to be a business trip for me and I want to be prepared for anything! Talk to you soon – – –

Cool Tools: Technology!

Rated: E (everyone)

I have been paining a bedroom and working on my computer the last few days, clearing and cleaning and organizing. Somehow I had 329 e-mails in my inbox and my screen was as cluttered as my “real” desk area is ! I was thinking about how amazing phones and computers and iPads are and thought it was time for a cool tools post.

I have been trying to add a new logo to the sidebar, I don’t know why I am having such problems! But anyway, you have probably all heard of Pinterest and I have been playing with it for a bit. I can understand if you look at it and think “huh?”, but I find it incredibly appealing! It feels like a very elegant virtual scrapbook to save things I like. I spend way more time than I should on the Internet, looking for design ideas and blogs written by interesting people. I admit to pulling images off and printing them on paper for my design files. With Pinterest, I can do it virtually and share them with others. The fun begins when you find pinners who share your interests from all over the world. I have not really explored the whole variety of pinned things; I tend to look at fiber arts and colorful images. Check out my pages and see what you think! If you’d like an invitation let me know and I will send you one. Unfortunately you have to join Twitter or Facebook, but I joined Twitter and just ignore the account. (And I will get that logo up!)

I was telling a friend about games that I have on my iPad and iPhone and she pretty much said she thought it was stupid… I love my games, even though I am a pretty old lady and here’s why – they’re fun! How many times have you sat in a doctor’s office waiting for them to get to you? My former OBGYN was wonderful, but unless I was one of the first patients of the day, I often waited for an hour or two! I usually forgot a book and reading endless copies of Parents magazine wasn’t much fun. Now I turn the sound off and am totally amused as I wait. Here are some games I love! W.E.L.D.E.R. is my new fav! I really enjoy word games and this one is a lot of fun and as well as being visually appealing. It has the look of something very Steampunk. Ever since I learned to play Mahjong when we lived in Singapore, it has been a game I must have. It’s fun to change the backgrounds and tiles and arrangements. I also enjoy Sudoku and there are a lot of versions to choose from.

This app is now on my iPad and I think it will be great. It uses my finger as a pen and I can write notes and draw pictures and save or print it anywhere. It’s called Penultimate. I was just shopping at The Container Store, for instance, and there were some containers that I thought would be useful for the rug hooking supplies I am trying to organize. I took a picture of them. What I’ve found is that they get “lost” on my phone or I look at them later and don’t remember what I was thinking when I snapped a picture. Now I can paste the photo in Penultimate and scribble down the ideas I have for later. Pretty cool.

On my studio computer is the most wonderful site called Pandora. Peter introduced this to me and I love it. I spend hours and hours down here, sewing, hooking, designing, reading blogs and checking out Pinterest and I like to listen to music. I grew tired of my iTunes songs and so Peter suggested Pandora. You can create your own radio stations and it will play an endless variety of songs. Best of all, you can delete the songs or artists that you don’t like!!! There is a free version, but I listen so much that I had to subscribe. But it’s well worth it. Peter says he has loads of stations; I just have new age, current on the radio music, oldies and folk/international music. Oh and Christmas, of course. It won’t let me access the website without putting “my station” on the address, but it’s pandora.com.

Oh and just one more! This app is for the phone and is called Red Stamp. It has all sorts of templates for greeting cards, with and without places for photos. You can create a card, on the go, on your phone and send it off to a friend.

So there you have just a few of my ideas for fun and killing time….Let me know your favorites!

January’s Cool Tools: Containers!

Rated: E (for everyone)

This last weekend, I declared that it was “Get A Grip Weekend”! I have been so disorganized recently because of my show – I couldn’t seem to get my head around tidying up.  Though I am never as organized as I would like, I do love a good container and I thought I would share some of my favorites with you.

I have always collected beads. During college, I used the pretty colored rectangular plastic containers (which are still around) for my tiny treasures. Then I moved to the stacking, screw type ones, which definitely have limitations. The stack I bought a few years ago can be “fussy” and the top will screw only on one of the rings. When creating with beads, this is not a good feature – I can’t count how many times have I had themopen and Jasmine decides to help and we have beads everywhere….Then I found these containers at The Container Store. The are called Lock-ups and come in several sizes. They each have a top and lock on to each other. You buy each container separately, so they are more expensive, but they are well worth it.

I do a lot of hand sewing and have acquired many acrylic templates, as well as the ones I make myself. This all translates to many small bits, requiring organization. Another cool item I buy at The Container Store, is this little handled guy. It’s called a portable project case. Can you see – there’s a clip on the lid for papers and there’s enough depth for small projects. In the case below, I have all the templates for hexagons and their parts, as well as a few sewn bits.

Peter and I were shopping at Staples the other day and I found a new holder for pens, pencils, scissors and other office junk. The one I have had for many, many years is in two parts. If I have a fat pen in there and pull it out, the top section comes out with it and spills supplies all over my desk. It’s very annoying! This design is one piece and has all sorts of fun pockets. It is appropriately called a desk organizer.

I have been trying to trim down the magazines I have and organize the ones I keep. I also like to “decorate” my office things so they look pretty. I found these cardboard magazine holders in Ikea (and boy do they have great storage things too!!!). They come flat, are plain white, and you assemble them, so they are really cheap. I used some pretty scrapbooking paper, so it’s a bit stiff, and decoupaged strips on the ends of the boxes. I was making one the other night and thought I should use these in the kitchen for cooking magazines. I save all the Christmas and Thanksgiving issues to look at each year and thought I might group them in their own holders.

If I had to choose one place to help me contain my stuff, it would be The Container Store. I discovered them when we lived in Colorado. It was a 45 minute drive, so I didn’t get there often, but I so enjoyed perusing their items. Now I live about 5 minutes away and I have to pace myself. A close second would be Ikea!

My favorite magazine dealing with this topic, is Cloth Paper Scissors Studio magazine, which comes out 4 times a year. It is full of fun studios and ideas from simple to extravagant. I much prefer their layout (crisp, clean, focused) to the other magazine that also deals with studios and organization.

Time is passing and I really should get back to tidying the studio….. hope these ideas help you with your precious tidbits!!!

Fun for Cats!

I know there are a lot of cat lovers out there, and this post is for you!

We have had cats since we got home from our honeymoon! Neither set of parents would agree to having a pet cat and we both decided we loved them, so we rushed off to the SPCA as soon as we were settled in our new apartment. Sadly, our local SPCA could not afford distemper shots for the kittens and little Smokey Topaz lasted about 10 days… Sassafrass came next ( and was around for 19 years!) and then another kitten, named Juniper, again from the SPCA and again had distemper … We had 9 cats at one point (a mother we rescued had kittens in my closet!) but tend towards 2-4. And depending on where we live, sometimes they stay indoors or sometimes they are allowed out.

I know that vets say the healthiest cats and most long-lived stay indoors, but I have always felt that it’s wonderful for cats to be outdoors, with all the sights and smells and noises. When our cats have been allowed outdoors, we always tried to get them inside for supper and then didn’t let them out. Bad things, indeed, happen at night when the predators are out in full force.

We now live in a neighborhood where only stray cats are outside; there are lots of people talking on the phone and driving faster than they should on our dead-end road plus we have a small yard, so Jasmine and Gizmo stay indoors. When Jas was little and we opened the slider door for her, she would stay there for hours, looking at everything and chittering at the squirrels. I felt so badly, but of course the problem is that you cannot reason with cats to make them stay in their yard! Then I found what we call The Tube. When we first put Jas out in it she was so excited, she kept running from end to end, bouncing off the netting! We had 2 sections for her and then when we got Gizmo, we added two more. The down side of taking animals out in any way is the flea meds; they are so expensive but they do work.

The Tube is really called Fun Run Outdoor Cat Enclosure. Each section is 62″, so the cats can roam around a bit. You unzip an end and zip it together with the next end and that makes the run. It’s made fairly well, though you might notice that some areas are sewn together. The first two sections that we bought had good, sturdy zippers but the second ones did not, so I have taken string and sewn them together. If Jas gets bored and starts pawing at the bad zippers, she can get them undone and then it’s a merry race around the yard trying to catch her.

Another reason I had to sew certain areas was because of a squirrel. One day I went outside and a squirrel had gotten into The Tube. The dopey thing didn’t realize that it could get out and was busy chewing holes in the netting! I had to darn the holes shut, so now when we let the cats in the house, we try to remember to zip up the end to keep out silly animals. A few more tips – I don’t leave the cats alone in it. It would be so scary if a dog (or coyote!) happened by and they were trapped inside. When the lawn services come to nearby yards, the noise of all the equipment really spooks Gizmo as well. Another tip – monitor the weather. Jasmine loves to bake, but Giz is a black and white long-haired cat and gets hot in a hurry. I make sure that part of the tube is in the shade so he has a cool spot. If I see him panting, he goes in the house ASAP. I usually go outside with them during lunch. I eat and then do a crossword puzzle or some stitching. We’re all happy.

“Nothing like a nap in the sun” says Jasmine! Have a happy long weekend…… ;-D

P.S. This is an edit – Garden2day left a comment which reminded me – Jasmine & Gizmo are declawed on their front paws. Perhaps a cat with claws would be able to make a hole and escape….

May’s Cool Tool: Circle Cutters

Rated: E (for everyone)

The invention of the rotary cutter and the mat that heals itself has certainly been important advance for quilters and crafts people. There are all sorts of incredibly sharp tools that go with the mat and I finally bought a circle cutter. The plan was to make a floor cloth and I do love circles…. The floor mat hasn’t been made yet, but I have been using the tool for other projects. It has a tiny blade, but I have discovered that it will cut through cereal boxes. I used to run around the studio and the house searching for jar tops and plates that were the size I wanted, but the circle tool is much more convenient. In the picture below, you can see that I have been using the cereal box circles as templates to make wonderful large fabric circles to applique. The one I have is a Fiskers Circle Cutter, which cuts 1″ – 8″ diameter circles.

Another circle cutter that is part of my crafts stash is called a Japanese screw punch. Several years ago I took a class with a Japanese woman on how to make Katazome fabric. When creating this lovely fabric, the first part of the process is to make a stencil using a smoked, waxy paper. You can use a frisket knife to cut shapes, as well as the punch for teeny tiny holes. Many Japanese Katazome designs have hundreds of little dots on them, and it turns out that this screw punch is how to make them. Because of its shape, you can make holes anywhere and you can buy many different sized points. Turns out that book binders use them too, so it isn’t as unusual a product as I had thought. Supposedly it can drill through 15 pieces of paper!

You hold the tool upright on the paper to be cut, press down and the tool twists and cuts the tiny hole. It works so well and easily!

I’m not sure that you’ll need to rush out and buy these cool tools, but then again…

P.S. If you love unusual papers, you might want to buy some Katazome paper.

March’s Cool Tool- a paper punch???

Rated: E (everyone)

Another odd entry into a Fiber Artist’s cool tool list you’re thinking? What can I say, I do like to be inclusive.

I discovered this month’s tool in an odd way. Many years ago, I was reading someone’s website about making jewelry from these plastic discs. In those days people didn’t use links much so I had to do some serious Googling to find them. I found out that the discs were actually used as the “rings” to hold together a notebook system. It was called Rollabind, but nowadays it is called Circa and it is sold exclusively by the very wonderful Levenger company.

At first I bought the small puncher and some rings (it’s the little boxy shape in the picture). It’s a bit tricky to use as you have to carefully move it down a large piece of paper to get even punches. Then, after a business trip, Peter came home talking about this cool notebook system his big boss was using…. I quizzed him a bit and found out it was Circa! So for his next birthday, I treated us both by buying the very nice large puncher.

Since the system is essentially just a hole puncher, and the pages pull in and out of the discs so easily, you can do so many things with it. I am using it to make notebooks of my Daily Dose of Fiber postings. You can punch business cards and keep them organized and categorized. The famous Home Style Diva punched holes in her Christmas cards one year to save them. And of course you can make any size book, booklet or card that you like. Peter’s notes are in a very nice leather binder and I like the brightly colored artsy ones. Levenger sells a variety of covers, but it’s easy enough to make your own with the wealth of paper that’s available nowadays.

Back to those rings; the jewelry people I came across all those years ago, glued a tiny image on the center of each disc and then they would punch holes in them for bracelets and earrings. The discs do come in a nice assortment of sizes and some colors. The wider the disc, the fatter your notebook can be.

If you like notebooks, this is a great system for creating your own!

On a house keeping note, I want to point out the new logo on my sidebar. I am very pleased to be a part of Quilting Bloggers! It’s a great resource for finding quilters, stores, guilds – everything you’d want on the Internet. Check it out!