Saturday, September 30, 2023

First Week of Autumn

It was another busy week of “spinning plates”. Don’t you feel as though your life is sometimes a circus act? Please tell me I’m not alone in this, LOL.

The garden is waning and slowly coughing up the last of the cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. But last Tuesday, I still had two whole baskets-full of surplus produce to take to my Weight Watchers meeting. Going forward, it will now dwindle to one basketful per week, and then end when I pick all the green tomatoes before the frost, which will likely happen in the second half of October. 

A couple days ago I roasted/steamed all my poblano peppers from my single very prolific plant. They are now all skinned and sliced and waiting to go into a casserole I’m going to put together with the chiles, cheese, chicken, tortillas and eggs. I’ve got it narrowed down to a couple recipes, so wish me luck! 

We’ve pretty much ignored the grape arbor this year, although a couple neighbor kids have enjoyed some that we picked for them. The birds (and bees and wasps) are getting the rest. We’ll have it all trimmed down when our arborist comes to do his annual tree and bush pruning in a couple weeks. 

All this talk of food is making me hungry, so we better move on to the topic of sewing...

I finished my blocks in Aqua (plus teal, turquoise, etc), September’s color in the Rainbow Scrap Challenge

Three Split Nine blocks at 6.5”

Seven crumb blocks at 6.5” (pinned so close together that they may look like a single block!)

For the Christmas Stars quilt, I sewed 26, that’s TWENTY-SIX (yes, I’m excited!!) of the little stars this week. Here they are, combined with all their friends. My total is now 63, and with 16 red squares already cut to eliminate some sewing, I only need to sew 10 more to reach the total count of 89. Easy Peasy!! (Thanks for the encouragement, Chantal!)

So, once I finish the ten stars, I’m giving myself a couple weeks to assemble the top. I have the “road map” for assembly at the ready!

Another project I hope to begin in October and continue through the end of the year is a Finishing Frenzy! If that sounds familiar, it’s because I did it last year. As part of the Finishing Frenzy, I’m repeating a sub-goal of knocking back some of my multi-colored strips. These are the ones that didn’t make it into my scrap bins that are sorted by color. With copious donations from Kat (cuttings from quilt backs for Covered in Love) and donations from our local Quilts for Kids chapter, and my own scraps, the strings have outgrown their large beach/book bag (the green and pink flamingo bag). Time to do some string sewing!

That pile is seven inches deep! The bag and my Bernina give an idea of scale. I’m hoping to cull some wider scraps out of the mess, like that black and bright swirly print in front. I’m collecting a lot of those to cut into various sized “bricks” for some future (but as yet unplanned) project. 

Last October my goal was to sew 300 string blocks, but I was only (“only” - hah!) able to churn out 180, plus 45 blocks of green strings. This year, my personal String Challenge will run all quarter as part of my Finishing Frenzy. Target Number: 400 (go big or go home, eh?) Along with the strings, I hope to finish an ample list of Rainbow Scrap Challenge quilts from the blocks of the last couple of years.  I want to clear the decks and start fresh in 2024!

Will you be finishing quilts for this last calendar quarter? Do you have strings laying around, yelling at you? You are most welcome to join in on the String Challenge and/or Finishing Frenzy if you are crazy enough!  Muahahahahahaha........

See you next week! xo

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Wedding, New Car, Sewing Progress

Wow, what a week! It has been almost nonstop go-go-go. But it’s all good!

On Saturday evening of last week, we attended the wedding of Bruce’s younger daughter Stacy to her fiancĂ© Chad. This is the second marriage for both.  Here is Bruce walking the lovely bride down the grass “aisle”. The wedding was held in their backyard, and the weather was perfect! It was very casual and absolutely lovely and fun.

The ceremony was short and sweet, then the music, food and beverages (alcoholic and non) were brought out. There were so many extended family members on our side that we hadn’t seen in years, so it was nice to catch up. And Chad’s (the groom) family were so friendly and warm as well. It was just such a pleasant evening.

The Wedding Party 
Back Row, L-R, Hunter (Stacy’s oldest), Aleisha (Chad’s daughter), Stacy, Chad and Aleisha’s best friend, whom Chad said is like a daughter to him
Front Row (all Stacy’s kids): Evie, Bear, Oakley and Remi in pink

The guys: Hunter, Groom Chad, Bear (who was Ring Bearer)

On Sunday, Cousin Kim and friend Ruby came over as usual, and we sewed the day away. It’s always so fun and relaxing to laugh, sew, listen to music and even squeeze in a bit of puzzle-making with friends. 

Monday saw us working out in the yard All. Day. Well, almost all day. I did come inside about mid-afternoon to finally get a shower and start tackling Mt. Washmore.

Tuesday morning was my Weight Watchers weigh-in as usual. I’m a mere point six (.6) away from my goal. Total weight loss to date: 63.8 pounds. Once I hit that goal, my Lifetime Membership will be restored (no monthly fees!). I plan to lose another 11 pounds after that so I can have a total loss of 75 pounds. That will give me a little leeway in minor weight fluctuations without having to stress about losing that Lifetime status again! 

On Tuesday, Bruce and I began car shopping for me. We’ve been a one-vehicle family for several years. We figured that once we retired and his arm was amputated, one car would be plenty. But now that we’re in the process of getting divorced (very amicable, don’t feel sorry for us), we realized we’d need to get another car. On Wednesday, we purchased this 2021 Nissan Kicks for me. It has low miles, a pristine Carfax history and title, and was very clean. I would’ve preferred a lighter or brighter color, but I’m totally thrilled with my new baby.

But you’re probably here to see what was happening in my sewing studio this week, and I’m pleased to say that it was, at least, SOMEthing. 

More 4.5” Christmas Stars were sewn. As well, I decided that where I could, I would replace some of the little stars with squares of red print, low-contrast (with the red background) fabric. I think that will save me from having to make about 16-18 of the 89 small stars I’m working towards. Also, Cousin Kim has volunteered to help me churn out a few stars, so we’re hoping to finish those off by mid-October. 

Here are the three sizes of stars for comparison. Naturally, I’m only showing a few of the 19 large stars and a few of the 50 medium (8”) stars. The quilt will finish at roughly 90x96”, or something like that. I’ll give you more of the details as the top gets closer to a finish. 

Once the stars are all sewn, it should be only a day or two (hopefully) to get the top assembled. Then I can hand it off to the quilter before the end of October so I can have it back by Thanksgiving weekend. I want to be able to give it to son Ryan and daughter-in-law Kim so that they can have it on their bed this Christmas season.

Finally, I did get the aqua strings quilt top sewn together as was my goal this week.

I have the perfect piece of aqua fabric with bright dots on it for the backing. Perhaps I can get this basted this week, along with a scrappy quilt top I made a couple weeks ago at the Quilts for Kids workshop. Come to think of it, I’ve never shown that top, but I will soon enough. 

That’s about it for now. Has fall arrived where you are? Our temps dipped on Friday, and it was positively frigid here. The furnace even kicked on. But it’s supposed to warm up to the high seventies for next week. I believe that is an early Indian Summer for us, and I hope it lasts. It just feels to me as though this is going to be another long, cold, snowy winter. We’re busy “gathering our nuts and acorns” - which means harvesting the remaining tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and potatoes. It sure has been good eating (and sharing) from the garden this year.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Little Stars

The stars I’m making now for the Christmas Stars quilt are 4.5”, and finish at 4” in the quilt. I need 89 of this size, which I consider an obscene amount. Fun fact: it is no easier or faster to cut, sew and trim 4.5” stars than it is to sew 8.5” or 12.5” stars. I may be hovering on the brink of insanity before these are all done, but then I’m getting ahead of myself because I only have 19 out of 89 finished. There are seventy, 7-0, left to go. My friend Ruby is cracking the whip and says I need to have 25 done per week. Oh well, Roobs, it didn’t happen.

They look just the same as all the other stars; boring, I know. Maybe next week I can include some of the other sizes for scale. 

To break the monotony and fiddliness of sewing tiny stars, I pieced string blocks in aqua and teal, the Rainbow Scrap Challenge color for September. Yeah, that’s me - replacing one monotonous sewing task with another monotonous sewing task. The difference is that I really LOVE sewing string blocks. Call me crazy. You’d be right.....

My scraps yielded 46 string blocks at 6.5”. When I added in the 5 that I had left over from last year, they totaled 51. It was not enough to make a quilt (at least, of the size I wanted), so I added in this last bit of rainbow batik I had that was left over from the backing of my bright Jelly Roll Race quilt finished in April (see this post). 

The blocks are pinned up there haphazardly, mostly because they haven’t had their papers removed yet. I’ll be doing that in the evenings as time allows. I hope to get it sewn into a top by next week. And other than that, there will probably be nothing else in my immediate sewing future except for sewing some more d%#@ little stars. At least the music in my studio is good, LOL!!

This afternoon we’re heading up to Bruce’s daughter Stacy’s house in Syracuse (Utah, not NY), where she and her fiancĂ© will be tying the knot. It’s marriage #2 for both of them, and we’re very excited. Bruce will be walking Stacy down the aisle!

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Some September Sewing

Not much news this week. But let’s jump right into my sewing and we’ll chat along the way...

In the continuing saga of the Christmas Stars quilt, I did finally sew the final ten 8.5” (unfinished size) to bring my total of these up to 50. See, I CAN count, hehe.

These 50 stars were constructed with the 4-at-a-time No Waste method for flying geese, which are the star legs. When I sewed the first 19 stars of the 12.5” size, I made the star legs using my Easy Angle ruler to construct 8 half square triangle (HSTs) and sewed them together that way.

For the next size - the 4.5” stars, of which I have to make 89 (not 69 as I previously misstated) - I will be using the Easy Eight method for HSTs. For that I’ll put two squares right sides together, draw diagonals on the back of the red, and sew a ¼” seam on each side of the lines. Next I’ll cut them north to south and east to west, and then on the drawn diagonals to yield 8 HSTs at 1.5” each. It’ll speed up the star point process, but I’ll still have to fiddle with the little pieces to get the entire star assembled. I’m not a fan of tiny sewing, and 1.5” is tiny to me. But I love my son and daughter-in-law, so I’ve got to put on my big girl panties and continue plugging away on this Christmas quilt for them. I did make the first prototype star this week, and it looks as though there may be some star points lost. Hopefully, practice will help me improve! One down, 88 more to go...

I was able to dig into my aqua and teal scraps for this month’s color in the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. First up were these seven Four in Nine blocks, which my friend Cathy reminded me (thanks, Cathy!) are called Thrifty Blocks. 

Of the nine blocks you see above, two were stitched with a dark gray constant and the other seven were stitched with a navy constant. The camera in my iPhone and the computer cannot pick up the difference in those colors. But suffice it to say that this now completes the making of these blocks, and I’ll be assembling two quilts sometime over the next few months (onceIgetthedangChristmasStarsquiltsewn).

I also sewed the final Chaser Block (a Cynthia Brunz pattern). Assembly time? See above paragraph.

There was one quilt finish this week, the first of three quilts from my 2022 Framed Four Patch blocks for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. This one uses the reds and oranges.

It’s a very bright quilt, and I quilted it simply with loops. It measures 40x48”. The backing used three scrap chunks, and the Elmo print just makes me so happy!

On the non-sewing front, I spent all day Thursday cooking some very fattening (but delicious) Hungarian food for my Cousin Carrie. She has finished her first round of chemo, and the results are looking fairly good. The second round is in two more weeks. Carrie has been losing weight too quickly, though, so we (Cousin Kim and I) decided we needed to fatten her up. Goulash (Gulyas) and Hungarian Potatoes (Rakott Krumpli) to the rescue, along with Mac and Cheese. The potatoes were from our garden. Sometime in October I’ll make Carrie another batch of food, and I’m thinking lasagna, cheese and chili meatloaf, and whatever she may request more of!! It’s all stuff that I won’t eat - I love it but it has long since been off my healthy eating plan. So it’s fun to get to cook those things again. I’ll probably have to streamline my cooking process, though, because a day on my feet on the hard kitchen floor saw my ankles swell and everything from my knees down scream in pain. I took a water pill and 2 Tylenol PM’s, went to bed at 9:30 and slept ten and a half hours. Woke up feeling just fine. 

Have a great week, and don’t forget to check out all the other fun blocks and quilts at Scrappy Saturday for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. 

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Dancing in September

I love September! The worst heat of the summer is behind us, as is most of the work in the garden.  Speaking of the garden, I went out on Thursday morning and harvested vegetables (it had been three days, yikes!). There were lots of Armenian cucumbers that were ready; at least 8. Plus I had to throw three giant ones into the compost pile. Thursday was also my granddaughter London’s birthday, and she and her dad (my son Shane) were over in the evening for dinner out and a tour of the garden. At that time, I found another monster cucumber growing that I had missed and had to throw away. Then on Friday morning, I decided to make another trip out to the garden, and what did I harvest? Seven more cucumbers! Plus another giant for the compost pile.

I tell you, zucchini has NOTHING on these prolific cucumbers. Every week I’m taking at least a dozen to my Weight Watchers meeting. The neighbors, like Bruce, are getting tired of cucumbers!! Three Armenian cucumber plants could feed a third world country. I’m afraid to go out there this morning. We have a running joke this year that if an hour or two has passed, one of us should go out and check the cucumbers......

During the last week, it was my goal to finish the last 9 of the 50 needed 8” Sawtooth Stars for the Christmas Stars quilt I’m making. Here are my “FIFTY”. Can you see the problem?

Yeah, so someone (who shall remain nameless) apparently forgot to cut out the last ten block parts. So, in sewing the “last nine”, it brought me up to 40, not 50. Oh snap! *facepalm* And I had so wanted to be done with this size star in August. It looks like I’ll be sewing the actual last ten 8” blocks over the next week. Toward that goal, I DID get them cut out for real.

But there was one finish this week - the On the Farm little quilt I was making with the yellow string blocks (the Rainbow Scrap Challenge color for August) and other pieces from my stash. This little cutie finished at 38x43.5”.

I had just enough of the darling farm fabric for the squares and border, and just enough chambray for the inner stop border and the backing/binding. I love it when a plan comes together! Here’s a closeup of the print (and the simple stipple quilting):

The backing and label:

September will be dedicated to our Aqua and Teal scraps in the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, but other than sorting my scraps I haven’t really started sewing with them yet. I think I’m being held back by cucumbers. At least, that’s my story....

When Londy and her dad were here on Thursday, she decided she wanted to go out in the front yard and snap some photos. She had left her own cell phone home (voluntarily! She’s 14 - is that normal?). Anyway, she snapped some photos in the front flower beds with her dad’s phone, and I’m going to share a few here (unedited) to close out the post. Have a great week!

See the bumblebee?

.... off to check on the cucumbers. If I’m not back by next week, call for help....