Thursday, January 31, 2013

First Quilts and Unfinished Class Projects

This little wall hanging (15 by 18inches) was a class project at a local quilt shop–my first adventure in hand appliqué. Around the same time, I'd learned to hand quilt and so I hand-quilted it.

  Made by Hand

There were some problems in the borders and so it languished unfinished for years. Last week, when my machine was dead, I pulled it out and decided to look past the warts and just finish it. It's a sweet little reminder of just how much my appliqué technique has improved and how surprisingly OK my first attempt at hand quilting was. Since I have a plan to hand quilt this winter, it is somehow reassuring. 

Do you save/display your first quilts?  All of my early pieced quilts (throws and bed-sized) were given away as gifts or donated to charity quilt efforts. But I still have a few, mostly workshop projects, some of which are in the UFO trunk, like this one was. 

It's one of four projects finished in January, including the table topper that was my designated Lovely Finish for this month. If I can keep up this kind of mix of new and old projects in 2013, I'll be a happy quilter.

January 2013 Finishes 

1. April-December Romance, 2. Johnny Be Good, 3. Table Topper and the Rug/Color Inspiration, 4. Bloom where you are planted, 5. Detail from Bloom, 6. Back of Bloom - Quilting Detail, 7. Detail of first hand appliqué and hand quilting, 8. Made by Hand, 9. Quilting Detail - Large 9-patch blocks, 10. Small Comfort - A Scrap Quilt, 11. Quilting Detail Large Star Block, 12. Scrappy green binding

I'm updating this post to join the Weekend Update on the Block Lotto and Fresh Sewing Day on Lily's Quilts.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Switching Gears: New Projects in-Progress

This week, after finishing up the scrappy comfort quilt, I started quilting the first of the four little quilts I pulled out of the trunk last weekend and put on the design wall.

  Taped quilting design

The little shoo-fly quilt is so busy, I decided to quilt the starry background in simple diagonal parallel lines with black thread.  I marked the first seam with blue painter's tape, adding angles at the outer border. 

quilting parallel linesI used the width of the foot and the bar on the walking foot to quilt seams approximately 1/2 inch apart in the background, skipping over the shoo-flies and green border.

Johnny helps trim threads
Last night, Johnny inspected the quilting and helped me look for any threads I missed while I trimmed ... or maybe he was just trying to convince me it was time to go upstairs.

I also started a new knit project–here's a photo of the project and the gauge swatch I started last night.

Gauge Swatch

I've been in the mood to knit cables and this little book, Hats–A Knitter's Dozen, grabbed my attention when I visited Village Wools in Albuquerque while my sewing machine was at the mechanic. I hope this heathery blue-gray yarn will be light-colored enough that the lovely aran patterns will show.  The yarn shop was lovely and inviting.  If it were closer, I think I could spend a lot of time exploring all the books and patterns.

Inviting corner at Village Wools

I'm linking to Freshly Pieced's WIP Wednesday

That's the Way the Quilt Crinkles

On the Studio ChaiseThe scrappy quilt, Small Comfort, is bound, washed and dried, nicely crinkled and in service in the studio, just in time for the lastest cold front.

It seems like I've been finishing this old project forever–I had to remind myself that my machine was out of commission and all work stopped for more than a week.

Because of the mix of quilting designs, I wasn't sure what would happen when it was washed and dried, but all's well that ends well.

Here's one last round of photos of the finished, crinkled quilt.

Small Comfort - A Scrap Quilt
Small Comfort - 66" square

 Quilting Detail - Snowball Quilting Detail large star Quilting Detail - small 9-patch blocks  Quilting Detail - large 9-patch blocks
Quilting details

Scrappy green binding
scrappy green binding

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Quilters who Cook

While I do follow a few food blogs,  I am always interested by recipes shared by quilters and other artists.   The Black Pepper Tofu that Kate blogged about almost a year ago has become one of my favorite stir-fry recipes.  (Photo and recipe at the link, courtesy of the The Guardian).

Last week, when June mentioned making sweet potato soup, I thought that sounded tasty. Sweet Potato SoupWhen an interesting recipe for Sweet Potato Leek Soup popped up in an email from PBS the next morning, using soy milk to create a traditionally cream-based soup, I knew I was meant to try it. I combined it with a spicy black bean quesadilla on blue corn tortilla.  Follow the link for step-by-step directions and photos.

Here are the basics.


  • 1 medium leek (about 250 grams/9 ounces)
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for garnish)
  • 600 grams (21 ounces) small sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 1 cup + 2 cups soy milk
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • curry powder (for garnish)


  1. Trim the end off of the leek, and slice it into thin rings, discarding any darker green leaves. Put the sliced leeks in a salad spinner and fill with water. Use your hand to swirl the water around and dislodge any dirt from between the leek's rings. Lift the basket out of the spinner, then dump the water out and repeat once. Dump any water out of the bowl of the spinner, return the basket, cover and spin the leeks to remove the excess water.
  2. Add the leeks, celery and olive oil to a pot and cover with a lid. Turn the stove on to medium-low heat and cook, string occasionally until the leeks are soft (10-15 minutes). Remove the lid and turn up the heat and sauté, string constantly until the leeks are reduced to about 1/4 of the original volume and caramelized.
  3. Add the sweet potato, 1 cup soy milk, and water. Cover with a lid and simmer over medium low heat until the potatoes are tender and falling apart.
  4. Turn off the heat, and then add the rest of the soy milk.
  5. Use an immersion blender or regular blender to blend the soup until smooth. If you are using a regular blender, cover the lid with a large towel and hold it there as you slowly turn up the speed of the blender, otherwise the sudden escape of steam will cause the lid to blow off, spewing hot soup all over you and the kitchen.
  6. Add salt and white pepper to taste, as well as more soymilk if you want the soup thinner. Return the soup to the pot to reheat.
  7. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of curry powder.
Yield: 6-8 servings

Soup for LunchI made a half-recipe, which meant there was plenty left over  for lunch the next day.  For a little variety, I replaced the olive oil and curry garnishes with sour cream and (slightly over) toasted pepitas.

Yesterday Judy blogged about making Pad Thai and shared her version of Martha Stewart's Vegetable and Tofu Pad Thai.  I will be trying this soon, substituting spiralized zucchini for the noodles.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Four Little Quilts on the Design Wall

On my design wall today:

4 little quilts

Three of four of these little doll-sized quilt tops have been waiting for far too long for their moment under the needle.  It feels like their time has come.  Sunday afternoon, I pulled them out of the pile and put them on the wall to revisit my original vision and think about quilting designs.
  • The maple leaf quilt is made from 3-inch blocks from a block exchange many years ago on a quilting forum.  
  • I made the wonky shoo fly quilt from off-cuts from some lotto blocks–I blogged about it here, three years ago. 
  • The tall shoofly doll quilt hasn't been around that long–it was made last month from leftover triangles from the Holiday Lane pillow when I was prototyping the Tall shoo fly blocks for the January Block Lotto. 
  • The mini-irish chain is a twin quilt that I made when I messed up the math and made too many blocks for a quilt for a friend, Double Trouble, and then saw the opportunity to make a version for myself. 
Maybe I will end up packing some (or all) of them away unquilted (again), but I am optimistic and planning to have four little quilt finishes soon.

I'm linking with Judy's Design Wall Party post today on Patchwork Times–go share whatever is on your design wall today and check out what every ones is doing.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Trimmed and Ready for Downton Abbey

I don't believe I've ever blogged so much about a single project, but it feels so good to be making progress again, I had to share.

  Trimmed and ready for binding

Scrappy leafy greensI knew I wanted scrappy binding for this quilt.  I decided upon this group of green leafy prints.

I plan to curl up in the den in front of the TV and stitch down the binding while catching up with Downton Abbey.

Downton Abby 

As a quilter, is there a better way to spend Sunday evening? The cats will be happy, too, to enjoy me, the quilt and my lap.

I'm linking with Kathy's Slow Sunday Stitching group.  Check it out to see the handwork others are enjoying today.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Friday Night Sew-In Results

I'm afraid the new photo looks a lot like the old one.  Besides making February blocks for the Block Lotto–which I cannot yet share–it was more of the same, as I returned to the quilting of the border of this quilt.

More of the same 

It seems I mis-remembered how much was left to do ... and so my optimistic plan to be making some scrappy binding by the end of the night was was, well, a little too optimistic, even with the moral support of Grace Hopper, the material cat.

Grace offers moral supportToday the sky is dull and gray and filled with dark, low clouds. With a weather forecast of lots of much-needed rain on the way, I've decided that it's a good day to make soup and stay in the studio and re-aquaint myself with the little purple machine that could.

How did your Friday Night Sew-in go?

Handmade by Heidi

Late afternoon update 

I have persevered and the end is in sight. Johnny Be Good recently came downstairs to provide second shift support cat duty.  He's still a little sleepy–both he and his sister have spent most the day cat-napping upstairs.  Now, I think, they've come down for an early dinner ... but I am determined to finish the quilting before I stop to cook (or feed them).

  Second Shift Support Cat

Thursday, January 24, 2013

To Albuquerque and Back

Today I spent a few hours on the road, taking my sewing machine to the nearest Bernina dealer.  While it is the nearest ... it's not exactly near.  But the weather was great and the drive was easy.


There's really not much along the highway between Santa Fe and Alburquerque but wide open spaces and interesting clouds.

I found the shop, chatted with the Bernina repair guy and left my beloved purple machine in his capable hands.

I met a friend for a yummy, healthy lunch  at Thai Vegan, visited a nearby yarn shop (more on that later) and picked up my machine ... which is now happy as a clam.  Turns out the problem was a MECHANICAL one.  Something had seized, but he was able to resolve the issue and I was good to go.

Bonus! He also fixed the automatic needle threader–honestly, I broke it so long ago that I forgot it was there.

Now I feel ready for tomorrow's Friday Night Sew-In.  I will be making some lotto blocks for February (which I can't share until February 1) and continue the quilting on the scrappy comfort quilt  which came to an abrupt halt when the machine stopped dead in it's tracks a week ago.

The Quilting Continues

If all goes well, at this time tomorrow, I could be making the scrappy binding.  I might even take a break and put together some pink scraps into a little project for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. 

Over on the Block Lotto, I've started a new weekend Linky Party called Weekend Update.  Go check it out and see what this wonderfully diverse group of quilters has been up to this week. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I know I said DECAF

Yesterday afternoon after racing around town running errands, I stopped for a break and very clearly ordered a DECAF latté.

And then, last night, I couldn't fall asleep.  At all. I laid awake in my dark room for hours and hours.

Around 2AM, I thought some reading might do the trick and grabbed my iPad.  I discovered this quilt and couldn't believe I hadn't seen it anywhere before.   I was smitten and immediately put it on my list of future quilts to be made.

mod pop front 
I found it blogged here, on the new-to-me blog Play-Crafts.

With a little more help from my friend, Google, I found the designer, Julie Pickles, her blog–Distant Pickles,  a source for  her pattern and templates, and a Mod Pop QAL group on Flickr–which includes much more Mod Pop eye candy in a rainbow of color ways and layouts.

After a couple more hours of mindless reading and surfing, I gave up and shortly before 5AM, got out of bed, and started my day sans sleep.  I was still, remarkably wide awake.

I was surprisingly awake and alert and motivated to work on the next thing.  I had some fruit, headed into the studio and pulled out my scrap bins.  I thought, too late, to take some sunrise photos.This one of the view from the patio is remarkable only because of the snow still on the ground despite sunny days with highs near or above 50 (F) for the past week.  The rule seems to be that the snow in shaded areas simply never goes away until Spring. I've resisted shoveling my shaded driveway ... just waiting to see if/when it will melt away.

After my brief, unsuccessful, photo session, I went back to my scrap bins and pulled these.

Scraps for a Low Volume Quilt 

I am going for a low-volume look. I'm not sure that this mix is quite there ...yet.  I will probably add more prints with white or cream backgrounds before I start cutting and sewing.

I expected a couple fabrics to jump out as the ones not like the others if I looked at a photo of them in black and white, and they do ... but I was a little surprised because the ones that are questionable are not  the ones I expected.  I look back at the collection of scraps now and I see it differently.  I'm learning.

  The Black and White Version

If you have made (or thought about making) a low-volume quilt, I'd love to hear your comments on my choices.

WIPWednesdayThis is my project for the day and my WIP for the WIP Wednesday linky party at Freshly Pieced.

Grab a cuppa, take a break and go check out what's in-progress for other quilters and have a wonderful Wednesday.  Me? I'm off to make a Post Office run before the caffeine FINALLY wears off and I can sleep.

I will definitely NOT be making a stop at a certain coffee chain today ... grumble, grumble.

Monday, January 21, 2013

New Projects (That I Cannot Share ... Yet)

Although any machine quilting has come to a screeching halt around here, I have been working on a few things that cannot be revealed for a while ...

I've joined another Blog Hop on Madame Samm's blog–click the badge image for details.  I have a crazy idea of where to take this cute little appliqué quilt design by Amy Bradley.  The working title of my WIP is Note to Self.  The blog hop for this one is about a month away.  I'm moving forward with my fingers crossed that my Bernina can be repaired at a reasonable-for-my-current-situation cost ... and I'll be able to machine quilt it.

I'm also busy making sample blocks for the February Block Lotto. We'll be making another 6-inch by 9-inch rectangle block. Those who have made and posted January blocks (33 quilters have made 184 blocks so far) will receive lotto guidelines and block directions later this week ... for everyone else, directions and early block photos will be available here and on the Block Lotto site on February 1.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bad News - Good News

First the GOOD news.

I have chosen the winners for the giveaway for the In Your Words blog hop.

PackagesCongratulations go to:


I have sent email to both of you and only need your mailing address to send your goodies.

Border quilting detail Now the BAD NEWS.

Last night, I was on the home stretch quilting my really old UFO scrap comfort quilt when my little Bernina died.

The nearest dealer is more than an hour away and the earliest same day appointment is at the end of next week.

The contract for my job went sideways and I lost my job just before Christmas–I haven't shared the news because I didn't want to be a downer. Quilting has helped keep my balanced through the stress of no job in an area with few opportunities.

And now my machine is dead.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Grace says . . .

Grace says it's time to stop quilting and go upstairs to bed. I've been quilting the scrappy comfort quilt every night and I think both cats think I should find some handwork to do instead and give them a cozy lap in the evenings ...

Still Quilting Along ...

Pat and I seem to be on the same path–quilting traditional quilts with less-traditional free-motion-quilting–and her post today sums up my feeling as well ... It's Taking Longer Than I Thought.

But I am making progress.  I've finished quilting the 9-patches.

Detail of 9-Patches

I've started quilting feathers into the Flying Geese in the border.

Detail of Flying Geese Border

I only have 88 geese to finish ... and all that background to fill with more pebbles.

The Quilting Continues

Since it's already Wednesday in other parts of the world, I'm linking to Esther's WOW (WIPS on Wednesday) blog post ... and updating this post to add it to the WIPS Wednesday Linky party on Freshly Pieced.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On an FMQ Roll

Scrappy Comfort - detailI seem to be on a free motion quilting roll. The weather outside has been frightfully cold, so staying inside and quilting this weekend had a lot of appeal.

Yesterday, I came downstairs in my pajamas, went into the studio with my morning latté and kept quilting until late in the afternoon--still in my pajamas.  While I was making my late lunch/early dinner, I enjoyed a nice sunset over the neighborhood and laughed at the realization that the sun was setting and I was still in my PJs.

Sunset over the Neighborhood

The quilt I'm working is among the oldest, if not the oldest, of my many UFOs.  It is made from some signed comfort blocks, larger orphan blocks, itty bitty 3-inch 9-patches and some additional snowball blocks and flying geese--added to make my comfort quilt large enough (66-inches square) to be comforting.

Scrappy Comfort - In Progress

At this point, I've quilted the snowballs blocks, the large blocks and the small 9-patches.  The quilting has been a mix of loopy feathers, tiny spirals and lots of pebbles.  I started quilting this project in October with an attitude of using it as an opportunity to practice and improve. I picked it up again yesterday and I think that my practice may be working.  My FMQ technique still has a long ways to go, but I see progress and that motivates me to keep rolling along ....

Feathers, spirals and pebbles

I'm not completely sure how I want to quilt the 9-patches, so I decided it was time to break for some stretching and something to eat ... and to pin it up and think about it.

Updated:  Adding a link to Judy's Design Wall Monday Linky Party.  Go see what other quilters have on their wall and add your own update.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January's Lovely Finish

Johnny Be GoodJohnny Be Good is a little blasé about it, but I'm pretty happy with my finished April-December Romance Table topper, made from the 2012 lotto blocks for April and December.

The color inspiration came from the striped sisal rug under my little dining table.  Notice that Mr. Blasé insisted upon being in every photo.

Table Topper and the Rug/Color Inspiration

This little 30-inch square quilt was my January choice for Melissa and Shanna's Lovely Year of Finishes.  Here are a couple more photos. 

April-December Romance

And a detail of the quilting (my warm-up for Bloom)

Detail from April-December Romance

This first lovely finish has motivated me, so, last night, I pulled out another project and kept going.

I've been quiltingI had to look through my blog to see how long it has been since I last worked on it.  Yikes!  It's been three months.  Here's the photo I took on October 10.

I'm now quilting the folded throw in the background–with more loopy feather-ish shapes–and planning to finish this month.

(Then maybe I can finally get around to working on the project with those selvages ...)
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