Friday, December 27, 2019

Best of 2019

It's fun to look back at the end of the year and see some of the projects that were completed and goals that were met. Although 2019 will go down in many books as a year of both good things and bad things (like any year does), I would have to say that for us, personally, it's been a good year.

2019 saw the loss of some friends, a number of medical operations for Bruce (removal of arm sarcomas, with good results each time) and me (carpal tunnel surgery - no more numb hands!) and the removal of our beloved apricot tree.

But we had great times with the family and saw everyone - even those out of state -  at some point in the year. The grandkids are all healthy, happy and growing strong, our adult children all have new (this year) and better jobs, and some even have new homes. We had a banner year with our garden and got several little projects around the house taken care of. We hope that 2020 brings more of the ups and none of the downs!

Before I get to my quilting recap, I'd like to show you the finishes I had this week. Instead of making one huge quilt of the 9" Rainbow Scrap Challenge string blocks, I ended up making two quilts which will be donated to Quilts for Kids.  First is the yellow, orange, pink and red one.

The other is the blues, green and purple quilt. Both measure 40.5" x 49" and were quilted with a loopy design on my machine.  These were Goals #13 and 14 in my 4th Quarter Finish-Along list, which you can see here.

And last but not least is the kitty quilt for our grandcats. It's nothing much to speak of, but used lots of leftover pieces and scraps on both the front and back. It measures about 42x48".

That brings my total quilt finishes to 32 for the year. However, I basted, quilted and bound dozens more for Quilts for Kids, quilts that were pieced by others. Additionally, I made a half dozen kennel quilts for cats, 3 zip pouches, about 8-10 pillowcases, a pressing mat, ironing board cover, pajama bottoms, and dozens of blocks that were either sent to others or are currently residing in my sewing room orphanage. All in all, very productive year!

Oh! Now that my hands are no longer perpetually numb, I have gotten back into embroidery a little. This little dishtowel (which needs a good pressing) was finished on Christmas Morning as Bruce and I listened to The Nutcracker on vinyl. I'll take this little tea towel with us to Arizona in February to give to my sister-in-law.  It was a little pattern and kit I bought about a year ago at a local quilt shop, but I didn't save any of the information once I finished it. I’ve tried searching for it online, unsuccessfully.

Here, then, is a collage of my "Best Nine" quilts of 2019. Actually, they aren't necessarily my best nine, but more my favorite-ish nine.

From top, L-R: "Gumdrops" selvage and fabric tumblers, Red String Stars, Lattice Birds, Saguaro Sunset, Crumbcakes, Blossoms and Spokes, Stringing in the Rain, Newport Butterflies, and Good Fortune.

Honorable Mentions go to Midnight Scrappy Stars and Kitchen Sink - because they were both so much fun to make!!

Have a Happy New Year’s Eve, and I’ll see you in 2020!

Linking up to Scrappy Saturday at Angela’s Rainbow Scrap Challenge.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

So Much Progress (and a Finish) to Share

Another busy week draws to a close, but I'm jazzed because I have something(s) to share with you! Happy Saturday, and welcome!

First, a finish. YAY! I finished the Newport Butterflies quilt for Cousin Kim. The fabric line that we both loved was called Newport, and it contains several butterfly prints. Kimmie loves butterflies. Hence the name Newport Butterflies. I had purchased the fabric in a 10" square stack (a Layer Cake), and cut those in half to make brick-sized pieces that would show off the print. I didn't realize until just now that the pattern echoes the brickwork of our house in the background!

The sashing or "mortar" is Kona Snow, and Newport Butterflies finished at 58x72".  After practicing quilting butterflies a bit, I forged ahead and quilted lots of little butterflies and swirly loops into the quilt.

Like the meandering lines, the butterflies are multi-directional. 

They are cute, but definitely not a consistent size or shape. Do I care? Heck no! They are different, just like in nature. I know Kim will love them.

Newport Butterflies was my OMG (One Monthly Goal) for December. That makes 12 of my 12 monthly goals finished for this year! Woo-hoo! That is such a happy thing for me, especially given all our challenges this year. And it shows that sewing is definitely my happy place and keeps me grounded when the world is going crazy around me (or is the world just fine and I'm the one going crazy?) Anyway, I'm linking up to Elm Street Quilt's OMG Finish-Along post. This was also my finished goal #3 for the 4th Quarter Finish-Along. My goal list is HERE.

I made a couple zip pouches for sweet friends. One of them I forgot to get a picture of before gifting it this week. But the other one is stuffed with little gifties and I did get a picture. These are just Bonnae's colors! The zip pouch is sitting on a newly-sewn ironing pad made from a couple of fat quarters.

The ironing pad is two-sided. This print above was a quilty cheater cloth that I picked up for a song on this year's quilt Shop Hop. The other side, shown below, is a wild purple fishy print which was a fat quarter I ordered from Spoonflower last year. It's laying on my newly-covered ironing board pad. Yep, I've been busy!

And speaking of Spoonflower, I couldn't resist their 50% off fat quarters earlier this month, so I bought the two shown below. The cannabis print is to make into a zip pouch for my brother who imbibes (and lives where that is legal). He's an epileptic who has used marijuana for decades (since we were kids living at home in California where he secretly grew it) to control seizures. Oh, I have stories about those days! Anyway. The other print is just one I fell in love with.

Next in line will be to quilt this little nap quilt (bad shot of partial basted quilt) for the grand cats Xbox and Carl. The size is roughly that of a crib quilt. It will be delivered sometime between Christmas and New Year along with the family gifts when we see them.

And then there is this monstrosity - my rainbow selvage blocks from this year. This quilt top has been sitting in Time Out for a couple months. I was hoping that it would somehow either change itself or that I might grow to like it. Nope. If it weren't already sashed, I would've ripped the large 16-patch blocks into four-patches and started over. But I hate it so much that I'm not willing to invest that time in it. Heck, I'm not even going to add outer sashing. Just quilt up the da** thing and donate it. Bam! Done!

And last but not least (are you still awake?) are the four blocks I stitched for the Block Lotto this month. They are hourglass blocks that measure 6.5". As usual, since my friend Nann and I have been running the Lotto since August to keep it going until year-end, the blocks I make are for donation. It's sad, but the owner of the Block Lotto site has decided not to renew the site. I can't say that I blame her. Interest has fallen off over the years, and she has to pay the site hosting fees. So, this will be the last month for Block Lotto.

* * * * *
ALERT!  I just moved Newport Butterflies from the washer into the dryer. Since this was the quilt's first laundering, I had thrown two color catchers into the wash. As I went to put it in the dryer, I checked the color catchers - only to find out that they weren't color catchers, but dryer sheets! WHAT?!? What is happening to my brain? Didn’t it just get back from vacation? Well, it doesn't look as though any colors bled. Whew! Thank goodness I used good quality fabrics.

* * * * *

As I age, I've learned that I don't enjoy or cope well with all the stress of the Holidays. For us, that's about mid-November through the end of the year. So, we've devised alternate routines and celebrations that let us keep things very low key. Thanksgiving is either just us (and maybe a family member or two who doesn't have plans) or going out to family or restaurant. Christmas gifts are bought here and there all year as something reminds us of someone, or else they get gift cards or money. Wrapping is minimal (a bag?), reusable or given in a card. Decorating is also minimal (bonus: we've been able to donate a couple tubs of "stuff" to charity). Christmas baking this year was a two-fer. I made Bruce's favorite cookies, which I do periodically for him, just in time to serve some for dessert at our family dinner gathering last week. Neighbor gifts are jars of jam that I made last summer. Even the kitties got their gifts early (new beds and catnip toys) when I took advantage of a Chewy coupon a couple months ago. I can't decide if it's my age, or if I'm getting smart or lazy or some combination of all of them. But I rather like the toned-down version of things. It allows more time to enjoy people; friends, family and each other.

I've already shown you the picture of our tiny Christmas tree, but now I'm going to treat you to our menagerie nativity. There is no baby Jesus, although we did find a half walnut shell for his manger. Stay tuned for that next year. In the meantime we have a little soapstone elephant (from last year’s Kenya trip), a wood deer (that I got in Austria in 1970), a dough turkey (made by son Shane in 3rd grade), a see-no-evil monkey, a rooster from Portugal, two marble mice (they're the best kind), a pewter rabbit (Austria, 1970), a one-eared bunny that just wandered in, a wood-carved owl (also Austria, 1970) and a smiling Buddha-like character. Eclectic, irreverent, cute. Just like us!

Thank you for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts and friendship over the year. I truly love and appreciate all of you. I wish you and yours the Happiest of Holidays, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, the Solstice, or whatever else (because I don't know all the holidays, to my shame). May you enjoy good company, love, warmth, peace and plenty.

Monday, December 16, 2019

When Your Brain Goes on Vacation

To be honest, I don't know if my brain has been on vacation or if it was kidnapped. Of course, that would beg the question "Who would want to kidnap it?", which pretty much answers the dilemma. I just wish it had taken me along wherever it went. But it's back now, and apparently ready to get on with blogging and life in general. So I've got a few catch-up things to share.

First, I sewed up my December blocks for the Butterfly Threads Seeing Stars Sew Along over at Diane Knott's blog. This month we're doing pinwheels, which were fun. Here are my blocks:

This is the 4th month of the Sew-Along, and I'm really enjoying it. I originally started out with busy backgrounds for my blocks.  The more I used them, the more I hated them. So this month I re-did a few previous blocks - the worst offenders - using plain Kona white as a background. Much better. Here are the first three months with busy backgrounds.

Before, with too-busy backgrounds
And here are the four months' worth, having replaced a lot of the square-in-a-square backgrounds with plain white and adding this month's pinwheels:

After, with mostly-fixed backgrounds

Four of those churn dash blocks (two in the bottom row and the two blue ones in rows above them) are likely candidates for some plain white background transplants next month! 

This past weekend I also finished my Block of the Month for December for our local quilting shop's (Nuttall's) BOM class. This used a Mini Quick Curve Ruler for the petals, and I really enjoyed making these. The right one was made with the fabrics they gave us, and the left one is made from stash. 

These are all four of my BOMs with their fabric so far:

And these are my extra blocks, which will eventually make a kid's quilt for donation. Note that there was no way on earth I was going to do all those little half-square triangles again. I did a giant red nine-patch instead.

I also wanted to show you the quilt that Cousin Kim made for her son-in-law for Christmas. He is a graphic designer by trade and a disc jockey by hobby. This was a pattern from our local Shop Hop from a few years ago. The pattern had a lot of mistakes that Kim had to puzzle out and fix. You can see some spacers she had to add to the center of the two side borders.

I had the pleasure of quilting it: a cross-hatch in the center portion and a basic stipple in the outer border. 

My Christmas sewing is mostly complete; I just have to sew up a back for the quilt for Cousin Kim, then baste, quilt and bind it. I'll have a progress report on that this weekend. It's really the only thing left on my Christmas list. How is your Christmas sewing and shopping going? 

This week is mostly free of obligations, other than a doctor check-up for Bruce's arm. It's probably too early to get all the stitches out, but at least he may progress out of the monstrous splint he's in.   

Friday, December 6, 2019

Red Strings Finish and December OMG

This week just got away from me, and I didn't get nearly as much sewing done as I wanted to. First, a dear friend B's husband died over Thanksgiving weekend. There are no words. We (Bruce, me and Cousin Kim) went to visit her one day, as we all spent a lot of time together on sewing days. The emotions of a friend passing just knocks one for a loop. Then Bruce's MRI and cat scan came back and there is another spot of cancer in his arm - in the soft tissue just above where the previous surgeries were done last August. So, he has another surgery scheduled on Monday. The good news is that his lungs are clear, and this sarcoma is in an area where they can take it and the surrounding soft tissue (hopefully) without further maiming his arm. And it's not near a bone. We're all thinking it's a one-surgery procedure without having to do tissue transplants or even grafts. Fingers crossed. This is surgery #14 since 2010 on his right arm. 

So, retreating to the sewing studio was a nice, if altogether too brief, respite. I quilted up the Scrappy Red Stars quilt, and bound it with the backing red check fabric.  

I just did a simple, mindless stipple, because that was all I had in me by then; the previous day I'd quilted two quilts (one large, one small) for Cousin Kim. No pictures yet of those. Anyway, this darling quilt (even if I do say so myself) is so cheery! It finished at 36.5" x 48.5", and will be donated to Quilts for Kids.

The red check background is fun, too. I almost hate to give this one away. And since red is Bruce's favorite color, he really loves it. But I'll make him another one in red that's more his size. As Bruce says, they'll make more red fabric!

Scrappy Red Stars was basically an unplanned (squirrel!) project, so I don't get to cross anything off my Finish-Along list.

I also sewed up my Block of the Month block for the local quilt shop class. It's 12.5".

I didn't make any progress on the quilt I'm making for Cousin Kim for Christmas. But since she can't come over on Wednesday for sewing, I'll have time to work on this that entire day.  I'm selecting this quilt - Newport - as my OMG (One Monthly Goal) for December. I plan to get it completely finished from sewing the top together, to basting it, quilting, binding, labeling, photographing and gifting it!