Saturday, December 30, 2023

Year End Recap and 2024 Plans

I can’t believe we’ve arrived at the last weekend of 2023. What a year of ups, downs and changes! And so much to look forward to in the new year! There’s a lot of stuff to cover in this post, so I’m going to just dig right in.

This year I was not as productive, quilt-wise, as I have been in the past. I finished 33 quilts, which is the least I’ve made since 2019. But I did work on a lot of “community” (several-person effort) quilts; basting, quilting and binding 11 of those. And that reminds me that I need to update my Quilts pages under the blog heading pictures. Of those quilts that I made, the following three are my favorites.

Frosted Windowpanes donation string quilt. 42x48”.

International Sisters, 56x70”

Christmas Stars, 88x98”

This past week I did finish up the two quilts I had basted earlier. These finished up just in time to be counted for 2023. Both were made from Rainbow Scrap Challenge (RSC) blocks. 

Above we have the Thrifty Block quilt using navy blue as the constant. It finished at approximately 54x64”. I did some straight line and loopy quilting on it, but I didn’t take any closeups. The little Framed 4-Patch below is a donation quilt that finished at 40x48. 

I have lots more blocks and UFOs to carry over into 2024, but before I get to my plan, let me show you the string blocks I finished this week.  Two piles of fifteen each and then three extra blocks on the right. That was a total of 33 blocks.

When I added the 33 blocks to the pile I started on October 1, it came out to 418 blocks! My goal was to sew 400 string blocks in the fourth quarter of the year, and I did it! The string bag isn’t totally empty, but it is very low and anemic! YAY!!  So, wanna see what 400+ string blocks look like?

The stack is about 11” high, with the few odd blocks in the foreground. WHEW!!! Cool, huh? Except for some of the light neutral string blocks, they’re all going to Quilts for Kids for quilt kits.

My Bernina, “Nina”, is in the shop for her first annual Spa Treatment. I had intended to get all my batting scraps sewn into Frankenbatts, and that is well underway, but I didn’t finish them up. I still have five donated quilt tops that I need to sandwich up, so I’ve been sewing backings and making Frankenbatts specifically for each of them. I have 3 ½ done. Once they’re finished (later today), I’ll just sew the rest of the batting pieces into standard sizes I use a lot. I may get another three or four out of it all. That’s not as bad as last year, because I did occasionally made a Frankenbatt here and there during the year. 

After Thanksgiving, Cousin Kim and I took inventory of my scraps and “kits” that I had assembled into two cardboard boxes. Over the last couple years I would match up a kit or two with the RSC color of the month and make a donation quilt. Well, that had slacked off toward the end of the year, so I needed a new plan. Kim and I numbered each “kit”, which is just a large baggie-ful of scraps, chunks and small yardage cuts. Sometimes we combined two into one or just added more stuff. The result blew me away. There were   39 or 40 kits! I had planned to try to sew 2 kits into quilts per month, but I’m going to amp that up to 3 per month! I’ll write out the numbers on scraps of paper, put them in a jar, and randomly pick out three per month. That all starts next month. Um, I mean next week. I’ll take a picture of the whole mess (now very well organized). 

To squeeze the kit sewing in (to say nothing of the RSC finishes and personal quilts) it means I’ll be doing fewer new RSC blocks in the new year. But “fewer” means maybe 3-4 simple blocks instead of 6-8 more involved.  

And on top of all that, we’re continuing the purge and declutter process, even with the holidays in full swing. We didn’t have time to take a load of junk treasure to the thrift store last week because of the short week. It’ll be the same story in the coming week. But then we really get busy! We’re listing the house in less than 6 weeks!

Have a Happy and Safe New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day! We’ll probably stay up until midnight and then crawl into beddie-bye. We’re such party animals. 

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Same Old Same Old

Not much going on here to report. The week flew by before I knew it. How does that happen? It seemed that every time I wanted to spend an afternoon sewing, something came up - neighbor gifts to prepare and distribute, mountains of laundry, plumber coming over (we’re getting three new toilets for the bathrooms we otherwise remodeled ten years ago). And then there’s the never-ending decluttering of the basement storage room and the “library”/Africa bedroom. Another load of stuff is ready to go to the thrift store - books, clothes, and about a dozen parts storage cabinets. Ugh.   

But I did sew on Sunday and a couple short afternoons. The result was 45 string blocks at 6.5”shown here in piles of 15. 

My friend Ruby finished the quilt she made from blocks that Wanda sent me earlier this year. Ruby added the turquoise sashing. She did stitch-in-the-ditch quilting and wanted to unpick it all. I told her no! Just wash it before you donate it and all the crinkly goodness will equalize everything. As I write this, Ruby has donated it to the Salt Lake Women’s Shelter.

I did manage to baste two quilts yesterday afternoon. Not sure if I’ll be able to quilt one or both of them before I take my Bernina in for her first annual spa treatment on the 26th. 

My back-up Brother machine doesn’t do free-motion quilting. But that’s OK because the week between Christmas and the New Year is when I usually gather up my batting scraps and sew Frankenbatts. And I’ll finish my fourth quarter frenzy of string blocks. I think I only need to sew another 20 or so to meet my goal of 400 string blocks. 

That’s about it from here. I have sure appreciated your comments and friendship during the last year. It never ceases to amaze me what a great group of supportive women (mostly women, but some men too) quilters are. May you all have a joyous and healthy Christmas!

Linking up to Scrappy Saturday.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

As Christmas Approaches

Our week started off last Saturday with a fun visit from our (Bruce’s) daughter Stacy and her three daughters. Her hubby Chad had to work and the two boys were ill. The six of us went out to lunch and then the girls got to clean out the toy cupboard and keep whatever they wanted. The younger two grabbed the princesses and crayons, markers and stencils for their art. But then grandma (me) brought out a large shoebox-ful of ribbons and trims from my crazy quilting and embroidery/embellishment days. These were just the ones that were headed to the thrift store, not the good vintage, silk and expensive ribbons. Those are going to my friend Flora. 

The girls thought they’d died and gone to heaven and dug into the ribbons right away. But then Grandpa Bruce sat down on the floor and they began to decorate him. Mom Stacy had a good laugh as we snapped photos because she and her sister Emily used to do this back in the day when they were little. Stacy sent a photo to Emily who laughed and replied “That brings back memories!” Indeed. As the family lore goes, when Emily and Stacy were little, they were doing Bruce’s then-brown hair by putting curlers in. Of course, someone knocked at the door and Bruce answered it with curlers in his hair. It was a police officer who was canvassing neighbors about something or other. Bruce said the officer looked at him and didn’t bat an eye. He must have had little girls himself! Anyway, here are our granddaughters Remi and Evie doing grandpa’s hair! 

In sewing news, I finished the last two dozen or so Zipper blocks for my very own personal quilt. These blocks, designed by Lynn Dykstra of Klein Meisje Quilts, finish at 6x9”. I have 72 of them which will be set 9 across (54”) by 8 down (72”). This is my fourth Zip quilt, and I’m determined that this one will be for us to keep, not donated or gifted. Here are some of my favorite blocks:

Click on the pix to enlarge them. Anyway, these are now bagged and ready for assembly in the new year. For the rest of this month I want to concentrate on finishing up a couple more Rainbow Scrap Challenge (RSC) quilts from blocks I’ve made this year. Oh, and I need to make more string blocks in the next couple weeks - about 60 or so - to meet my goal of 400 string blocks in the last calendar quarter.

I did have a quilt finish this week, though. This delightful and colorful Chaser Block quilt. I would do this one again in a heartbeat! 

There was also some progress this week on sewing the Thrifty RSC blocks together. I just have two borders to sew on, and one of those is sewn together and just waiting to be attached. It’s hanging there on the left in the picture below. 

So then it will be quick work to sew on the bottom border to finish off the top. I then hope to baste this and the third (of three) Framed Four Patch quilt tops. Don’t know if I’ll be able to quilt them during the coming week or not.

Did You Know??? “Xmas” is NOT Disrespectful!

The term Xmas comes from the Greek letter Chi (X) the initial letter in the word Χριστός (Chrīstosmeaning Christ. And the word Xmas actually predates the word Christmas by centuries. While the use of Xmas peaked in the 1950’s, it is still commonly used, although not in formal settings. And it’s not part of a (fictitional) “war on Christmas”. See this entry HERE to explain it more thoroughly. So, use it or not as you prefer, but please don’t get your knickers in a twist over it! This is my public announcement for this year to spread a little cheer and peace!! 

And speaking of Christmas, everything is done. All the gifts are wrapped (easy when you have bags and envelopes for gift cards). The out-of state things are mailed. The Christmas decorations have been sifted through and donated or are actually decorating the house! Meal planning is done. Parties are underway! Here is a photo from our Weight Watchers card group Christmas gathering.

L-R: Linda, Ruby, Lory, me, Lisa and Annette. Ellie is photographer.

We ate shrimp, veggies, fruit, and a great light pudding parfait that Linda made. Ruby brought the silly headbands for us. That huge pink sweater I’m wearing is definitely oversized - it’s a Medium. Ruby and I should’ve stood up, because we are both at goal. Actually, I’m about 4 pounds under goal now, and heading down to lose another 7 pounds. I’ll be careful during the Holidays and focus on those last pounds in 2024.

This past week saw Bruce and me make yet another trek to the thrift store. This week we donated kitchen stuff (more to come, I’m sure), old Christmas decorations, toys, a bird cage, clothes and towels. Who knows what will be in the next load! And when we get tired of sorting sh-stuff, we cruise potential neighborhoods to move to, sew (me), read (Bruce) and watch Christmas movies. Life is good!

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Winter Activities

What a varied (and fun) week this has been! It seems that there is a new adventure or challenge awaiting around every corner. Having grown up in Southern California and never learning any snow/winter sports after moving here to Utah 40 years ago, it is usually much easier to keep myself occupied in nicer weather. There’s always quilting and sewing of course, but there is so much more to do outdoors in nicer weather.

This year, however, we are devoting our winter weekdays primarily to the impending spring move. We want to downsize to a condo and hopefully cut our house square footage in half. We also want to eliminate the yard work, although we prefer a main-level condo so that we can have a patio, courtyard or little patch of ground that we can care for. We want to keep that all-important (to us) connection to the earth. Nope, no upper level high rise condos for us! We’ve narrowed down our geographical area here within the Salt Lake Valley, and have started “neighborhood” and “condo complex” hunting. The area has to have the right “feel”. We’ve eliminated high traffic areas, neighborhoods with dilapidated-looking exteriors (even though some of those condos looked very nice on Zillow on the inside). The condo can’t be too small, too large, we don’t want a stacking washer/dryer set-up, plus all the other things - HOA fees not too high (older complexes have understandably higher fees), and have the right number of bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen that has a window or is open to the living area. We’ve found a great real estate agent, after meeting a few that didn’t feel right. 

Gratuitous photo of Alfie & Darla (doing what they do best)

So, we are shooting for listing our home in early February. Bruce has been working on his workshop/laboratory for months, and has made great progress. We are tackling the basement storage together, and I’m doing my studio, the kitchen, and basically the rest of the house. We take a load to the thrift store every week, and offer up potential treasures to Kim and Ruby when they visit every Sunday for our Church of Bernina sewing day! Ruby liked a lot of my old Christmas decorations and Kim favors the books, Pyrex and other useful things. This week they’re getting to pick through old quilt books and patterns, old clocks, and some specialty fabrics (wool and chenille) that I no longer want. 

Between looking at condos, house decluttering, visiting family and friends (December game night and Christmas Party for our Weight Watchers ladies card group), I have been cleaning house and SEWING!! Christmas shopping is all done - it was all gift cards and cash this year, with the exception of the big Christmas Stars quilt and stocking stuffers. 

What sewing did I do this week? I finished the Chaser Block quilt! I totally love it and will probably save it so that we can gift it personally (as opposed to donating to charity).

Chaser Finished at 48x56” and was quilted with a simple meander in gray Aurifil thread. 

I worked on some Zipper blocks - more on those next week.  No progress or work on anything else. So I’m going to take this space and time to tell you about a longer-term (as in over the next 2-3 months) project I’ve started. But first, more talking...... I want to tell a little of the back story.

When I began losing weight seriously last year, I decided to set myself 5-pound goals and non-food rewards. In the early stages, when clothes were just becoming looser and not yet warranting replacement to a smaller size, I chose things like earrings, shoes and the like. I must’ve mentioned once in a WW (Weight Watcher) meeting of my plan, and a fellow member named Ann had simultaneously brought some cute motivational ‘punch cards’ for us to use to tick off the progress. (I may have been the only one who actually used them, but use them I did). 

Fast forward to this summer, when I was 60-ish pounds down. Ann stopped me on the way out of the meeting and said she had something for me. She pulled out a square box and gave it to me. Inside was gray velvet box about the size of a compact disc, only thicker. I opened it to see a beautiful gold necklace with a pendant containing four diamonds in a beautiful setting. She said she had gone a little crazy and bought herself too many things lately, including this necklace from B--- Jewelers (very exclusive), and she wanted me to have it. I said I couldn’t accept such a gift, but she talked to me quietly, saying that I had been an inspiration to her and others, and that it would mean a lot to her to be able to give it to me. I cried, thanked her, and she was gone. Flabbergasted, I took it home and cried for a week before I could put it on. (You know, feelings of being undeserving, yadda yadda). I wore it hidden it under the blouse I wore to the next week’s WW meeting, and Ann wasn’t in attendance. But I showed it to our leader Kris who herself was flabbergasted. She said to me “You know who Ann is, don’t you?”. I didn’t. Kris said that Ann’s late father was XX, a bigwig (as big as they get) in the LDS (Mormon) church. And Ann has a daughter and granddaughters, but chose to pass that necklace to me. Cue another bout of tears...

So, all that to say that I am making Ann a thank-you quilt. Seems a small thing by comparison, I realize, but I know that she takes interest in the quilts that some of us bring to share before our WW meetings with other quilters in the group. What fabric line am I using? My coveted Anne of Green Gables, of course. Here are the first two blocks that I’ve made.

The pattern is Quatrefoil from Missouri Star Quilt Company. I have fussy cut the Anne pieces for the block centers. The corner four-patches will make a lovely chaining effect between blocks, and there will be two borders - a stop border and a wider floral outer border. I hope to give it to her around Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure yet if I will quilt it myself or have it professionally done, but I’m leaning toward the latter. Anyway, I wanted to share that story with you as I get going on this very meaningful quilt. 

Today we have Bruce’s daughter Stacy and her kids coming over. They live about 45 minutes away and the weather has been off-and-on-snowy, so we decided to hedge our bets and have our Christmas gathering way early. We’re taking them out to lunch, giving them all their Christmas gifts, and letting the kids clean out and choose anything they want to keep from our soon-to-be-defunct toy cabinet. (Ha! A method to my madness.....)

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and week, and that you’ve got that Christmas shopping beast tamed! 

Linking to the Rainbow Scrap Challenge

Friday, December 1, 2023

Back in the Saddle Again!

It’s so good to be back in the land of the healthy and strong! My recent left hip replacement was as easy as most everyone said it would be. But I didn’t blog last week because I was laser-focused on my healing and meds and exercises - and the time just sailed by. Bruce and I have mended our differences and he was an excellent nurse, LOL. We spent Thanksgiving at my friend Ruby’s house with her man and her half sister. She had the meal catered and it was delightful to just sit and talk and laugh. And eat, of course. 

Did I tell you that I hit my Weight Watchers goal just before my surgery? Actually, after weeks and weeks of a weight plateau, I finally broke through and sailed past my goal, which was -64.4 pounds. I’m actually at -67.8 pounds. Luckily, as a Lifetime Member, I only have to weigh in once per month. I’ve been mindful of my healthy eating through Thanksgiving, but the hip surgery tends to add weight with the fluids they give you, the swelling, etc. Luckily, most of that has passed, but even though I never miss a workshop meeting, I won’t weigh in for another week or two just to be realistic. Now, I hope to lose just a few more pounds - to total 75 lost. They give us these lovely charms for various milestones, and I want that 75 pound charm!! But that will be my winter to spring focus - I’m in no rush. 

I do have some quilt blocks to show you. After the first several days of recovery, I began to be interested in sewing again. After a week, I had Bruce take all my sewing stuff back down to the studio (he’s such a gem) and I ventured downstairs carefully to take up residence once again in my sewing chair. And all was right in my little world! 

So, in the two week since I last posted, I managed to sew 75 string blocks (at 6.5”). These will be added to my Bag O’ Strings for Quilts for Kids. They’re pinned in batches of 15 for kit-making.

That brought my total for November string blocks sewn to 90. In October I sewed 243, so my total so far this fall for my String Finishing Frenzy is 333. My goal is to hit 400 blocks by the end of the year, so I’m going to have to put the pedal to the metal! At least my string tote bag is breathing easier!! But I doubt I’ll be able to get to the very bottom of it. We’ll see!

I also have my Chaser quilt half quilted. These were Rainbow Scrap Challenge blocks for this year. Watch for that finish next week.

While I convalesced, I also began sewing up some Zip(per) blocks for another quilt. I haven’t counted them, nor do I even know how many I want for a quilt top. Hopefully this one will be for me, because my first two  three ended up going to charity, my daughter and my cousin, respectively. 

Winter has arrived here, and leaves from the big tree have fallen and littered our front lawn. I haven’t been able to rake or blow them into a pile because of my surgery - and then the rain and snow came. Hopefully we’ll get a few clear and dry days so we can get them all cleaned up! 

That wraps it up for this week. I have more to show you, but it will wait for next week. Have a good one, friends!

Linking up to the Rainbow Scrap Challenge.