Thursday, November 14, 2019

More Cookies!

Last week, I started with the statement that 'some projects are meant to be.' This week, I hafta say, that sentiment continues.

You may recall that two weeks ago, I was lamenting the stack of scrappy four-patch blocks in hibernation on the small table next to my sewing cabinet. The four-patches were, for the most part, intended to be made into puffy, scrappy pin cushions.

Within the stack, also lived nine matching holiday-print four-patches.

Last week, I took notice of those, and made a small (maybe about 15" square) cookie mat from nine four-patches and some 'found' cookie-themed border stripe fabric in my stash.


At the end of the article last week, I took aim at this short stack of 20 matching green and white four-patches.



I was away on business for the last part of last week, and I sat down at the sewing machine on Monday with a sideways glance to the green-and-white stack.

Plus, there was one last strip of cookie stripe leftover from last-weeks cookie mat.

I laid out the checkerboard four-patches at the top and bottom of the last bit of stripe . . .




Sewed two rows of five four-patches into a panel, pressed, then added the trimmed stripe to the long edge of the piecing.

Then, I trimmed the edge of the stripe so I didn't have to guess where to place the second checkerboard panel.



"Wa-la"!"

Cookie Mat, Second in the Series, is nearly complete!



Back to stash-diving to unearth a couple chunks of holiday prints and one last itty-bitty strip of the stripe - you should try saying that.

Stripe strips! Strip stripe!

It works both ways and it's kinda fun to say. . .

(Okay, I'm weird)

Moving on. . . .



I layered with batting then ran out of sewing time for the day.

Only thing that bugs me is that the checkerboard is kinda plain against the stripe strip *a-hem*.

It's a little stark and it needs something else. But what? . . . stitching? a fussy quilting pattern? hand quilting? . . . What?



And then it dawned on me! I have it! But I'm outta sewing time!

That means, you'll have to wait for next week's installment to see if my light-bulb moment worked. I think it's going to be sweet and very festive!



And this added bonus . . . Look at my stack of scrappy four-patches!

Two weeks ago, the four-patches were flirting with the top edge of the storage box!

With 29 four-patches re-purposed (or almost) into finished 'somethings,' my four-patch pin cushioning project is looking a lot lighter.

I'm on a roll. If you're a four-patch, watch out! 

Happy Stitching!
Joan 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Magic Cookie Mat

Some projects are just meant to be.

I mentioned this stack of four-patches sitting next to my sewing machine last week. Most of the 3-1/2" four patch blocks are in wait-mode to become pin cushions.

Some, as it turned out this week, have a different destiny.



As I thumbed through the stack selecting my next pin cushion target, I spotted exactly nine similar four-patches. Solid green, plus candy canes and boughs on cream. Holiday themed.

They seemed to tell me they wanted to be one project, so I sewed them together. No idea where this was going.



The four-patch seams were already furled (or rotated) on the wrong side of the block. . . .



I simply continued the furling as the blocks were sewn into rows.

Makes for a flat, lump-less checkerboard center.

Now what?

The search was on for coordinates.



Down to the fabric storage in the basement (AKA the Ford Underground). I was hoping for some solid reds and greens, but what I found was an adorable Christmas cookie border stripe fabric illustrated by Janet Wecker-Frisch. Several years old. I had 1/2 yard of the border stripe, and 1/2 yard of the deep red with white cookie icing.



Once I found the fabric (buried in a box full of larger, set aside pieces) it was clear what this was going to be . . . a holiday cookie tray mat! Perfect!

Cutting carefully, I had just enough fabric for a small border of red, then the lightly iced row of cookies from the border print.

I mitered the corners on the top and had just enough of the border fabric to make the backing.



You know how the rest of this goes.

Prep for quilting.

I layered backing, batting, and the cookie mat top, and pin basted.



Quilting.

Binding.




DONE!

Ready for a quick photo (along with a couple elf models I made from a Heidi Boyd pattern).

And, of course, a holiday cookie tray. But that'll have to wait a little while longer. Thanksgiving, first, then cookies!



Nonetheless, I'm ready when the cookies are.

Even the back is cute with the red/icing fabric in between three of the alternate stripes.

This little project took a grand total of about 2 hours of sewing time - start to finish, including quilting and binding.



And a lot of luck. I'd bet that the right fabric is always right there in your stash, the luck comes when you put your hands on the right fabric at just the right moment.

Now . . .

These 20 green and cream four-patches could use a little Christmas magic, too!



Alternatively, I'd settle for some Thanksgiving magic. Jus' sayn!

Happy Stitching!
Joan

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Die-hard Pin Cushion Project

Sometimes it's just time to move things out. Or on to the next step. Or to the 'done' pile. Or to give up. . . Give UP?? No-no-no-no-no!

This particular project seemed like a good idea at the time. . . years and YEARS ago . . . when I started it.

I have this stack of 4-patches, some of them scrappy, some of them matchy, some of them just squares-waiting-to-be 4-patches, some of them onesy-twosey leftovers from a bigger four-patch project (you know those last couple cuts when you strip-piece) . . . .



None of the four-patch blocks are any larger than 4 or 5" square. Eventually, they get trimmed to 3-1/2" square if they aren't already that size. Once upon a time, as I created the four-patch stack, I paired each set with four 1-1/2x3-1/2" strips. And they're all in a semi-neat stack in a small storage box on the 'staging' table next to my sewing machine.

Every time I finish a seam on whatever I'm *actually* working on, I grab from the box and sew a seam. Instead of a scrap piece of fabric to catch the thread ends between seams, I make one step of progress on the 'four-patch project'

This has been going on forEVER!

Once I create two 'matching four-patches, I attach a strip to each side of one of the four-patches, like four little ears flopping around.

The paired four-patch and it's fraternal twin with ears are stacked in a soft-sided basket - a different one from the box on the staging table - for the next step.



Each 'twin' set looks something like this.

The next step is to add surface embroidery and maybe some beads to the 'eared' twin, then after that's done, the twins come back to the sewing machine to sew them into a squashed cube.



. . . Like this.

Kinda pathetic looking, right?

It'll get stuffed with scrap batting (there is a 1 to 1-1/2" opening on one of the longer seams) then closed and tufted with a button.



 . .  To make fun puffy pin cushions.

The trouble is, there are about a million of these things in process between the two stacks - the one by the sewing machine and in the soft-basket.

(Okay, I'm exaggerating a little - maybe not a MILLION, but truly there must be about 50 or so, easily).



The log jam is the embellishment. I just have to be in the right frame of mind to add the stitching and beading creatively. It has to be fun or it just doesn't come out.

On the plus side, it's a great way to practice surface embroidery stitches and play with my fabulous thread collection on a small, fast-finish project. And little by little, scrap batting disappears into these little pillows of cute.

On the down side, aside from having so many (does anyone *really* need 50 pin cushions?), I'm not as excited about finishing all these little guys as I once was when I started collecting them. I mean, I am and I'm not.

Why didn't I just throw away those last bits of strip piecing way back when?

You know the answer to that, and so do I . . . I just couldn't.

So now I'm pacing myself. One at a time, I pull one pin cushion set of the basket for embellishing. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. . . or 50 of them. *wink!*

Happy Stitching!
Joan

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Out and About

It has been kinda crazy around here, so I took advantage of a tiny break in the action to run away on the annual sisters trip to Fly Creek Cider Mill in Fly Creek, New York. (Kinda near Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame)

My two sisters and I head there every fall for a fun day of shopping and sister-stuff.

It's about a 90-minute drive with the opportunity to see lovely fall color along the hilly-twisty back roads. 



For several years in a row, feels like we've missed the color and managed to drive through snowy, gray weather for the annual trip. This year, we got a little of the color, but had a damp weather day, despite the prediction of sunshine.

No matter, it was still fun to guess the weight of the giant pumpkin (my guess, I'm afraid, was way low), feed the fluffy-headed ducks . . .



 . . . And, of course, get some apples (the selection is much better in October than November) and fresh apple cider.

And stop for a yummy lunch in Herkimer on the way back home.

It's a fun once-a-year day! 



Back at home, on Tuesday, Dave had a routine medical test (everything's fine) that required that I drive him there and back again. The doctor's office is located near the Syracuse University campus, so I took advantage of the short walk to grab some early-morning breakfast at the coffee bar. Marshall Street (the main shopping and eating street located in the heart of university hill) hasn't changed much since I went to school at SU way back when.



Back at home, I've only just started a quick little project that I hope to share with you soon.

The fabric is cut and the sewing is just getting underway.



Happy Stitching!
Joan

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Old Friends, New Friends

Over the weekend, the Thomas J. Corcoran High School Class of 1979 (my alma mater and class year) celebrated 40 years of life after high school with a reunion event at The Palace on James, a local historic theater.

We were also treated to amazing decoration from Balloons Over Syracuse! The Palace was completely converted to a party atmosphere with Maroon and White balloons everywhere!

My friend and classmate, Kathy Eastman, and I were in charge of organizing the event.

No small task to gather class mates from 40 years ago for an evening of delicious food, adult beverages, and lots and lots of laughs and smiles.



As you can see from the picture below, we barely managed to pull the crowd together in one place for the group photo. Looking at the correct camera in unison was another challenge entirely. 



The party was a HUGE success, lotsa laughs, hugs, and remembrances. Some folks are already strategizing about the next meet-up. It's nice to have some good old friends who know you 'once upon a time.'

-------------------------------------------------------------------

This week, I also spent some time with my new 'friend' the Learning Curve Ruler. I mentioned this in-between project a few weeks ago, here and here.

I have finished all the units I need for a longish scrappy table runner.

Almost. . .



I started sewing the rows together, but planned out the pressing configuration for the two units or 'methods' I'm using - method 3 and method 6 as per the instructions that come with the tool.

With the curved elements coming together near the seam intersections, the seams stack up and get bulky. As shown in the photo below, I rotated or 'furled' the four-patch seams (circular arrows) while pressing the Method 6 blocks (in different rotational directions) on each end of each row. Then pressed the middle seam on the Method 3 unit (in the center of the row) so it opposed the two four patch seams on each end (mini straight arrows). That way, the seams that join the 3/6/3 units nested nicely and distributed the bulk evenly across the intersection (squiggly arrows).



There is a lot going on in this photo, and I know it's a little confusing. Basically, I planned ahead and used common pressing techniques as I constructed the elements to accommodate bulky seams.

Did you notice? The blocks aren't complete! Each one is missing its center.

I have the scraps picked out, and I've cut the blue dots from the yardage for the 'background' centers

Why not sew them into place!?

Why not, indeed!



The secret to the next step on this project is lurking somewhere inside the new Stitchery Crossover membership group. CLICK HERE to learn more! And to be honest, I'm not exactly sure what that next step is. BUT, I have an idea.

Perhaps, we can find the answer together.

Jus' sayn.

Happy Stitching!
Joan
 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Wooly, Wooly

Feels a little early to be thinking and creating 'holidays,' doesn't it?

Eh, maybe not. I bet you can find holiday decorations for sale without too much difficulty in most retail outlets at this very moment. And, I must confess that I started working on my holiday gift card ornaments back in January. (I had an idea early on, and I'm pacing myself comfortably this year, for a change!)

On Saturday, my embroidery guild hosted a workshop to make a crafty wooly tree. It was actually quite a treat to work on something "Christmas" without a clock ticking away the seconds as often happens as the holidays get closer!

Darlene, our workshop instructor prepared kits with everything needed to make the project - wool (ready to rip into strips), a dowel for the trunk, two kinds of tape and pre-cut floral wire for the tree branches.



After a bit of instruction, we set about to making our trees.

Once you cut the wool strips, and cross-snip the strips to resemble needles, you wrap them around the branches/wires one at a time.

It's messy business as the branch is treated with a line of tacky glue before twisting the snipped wool around the 'branch.'



Don't look too closely at my finger nails . . . the gel manicure on my thumb experienced a bit of a mishap just before class time!


You need a lot of branches!

The clothes pin holds the glued wool to the bottom of the branch for a few minutes while it dries.

Once you have a few branches, you can start adding them to the trunk using vinyl floral tape to secure them.



As I looked around the room, it looked like we each had a fuzzy buggy whip standing upright at each place after the first few branches are attached to the top of the 'trunk.'



Once all the branches are attached to the trunk (the trunk is maybe 15" tall), the tree looks a lot like a 'real' tree that is wrapped and ready to tie to the top of the car for the drive home. Only smaller. Lots smaller.

One more step to cover the shiny vinyl tape securing the branches to the trunk with brown floral tape for a more realistic look.



With the second wrap on the trunk complete, after a little branch fluffing, it's ready for some handmade ornaments.

And maybe a small string of fairy lights.

And maybe a step back to enjoy!

. . . with a festive beverage!



Here's the finished tree against a more 'calm' background.

Pretty cute, if you ask me.



If you're wondering about making a tree of your own, I don't really have a pattern to share, just some assembly notes from the workshop. However, I did a quick check online, and if you google "Wool Christmas Tree" you'd find some kits and videos online. I'd also add that having the kit with everything pre-cut and marked was really helpful!

Happy Stitching
Joan



Thursday, October 3, 2019

It's Fall Y'all

This has been a crazy week with lots going on. Last Friday night, Dave and I were guides for the annual neighborhood ghost walk. Not what you might think. . . . There are two ghost walks each year, one in the Spring through Syracuse's oldest cemetery and another in the Fall  through a historic Syracuse neighborhood. 



If the 'spirits' favor us, we encounter historical figures from local history along our short route.

They are actually actors portraying their historical counter part. Always interesting! Always informative. Always a lot of fun!

Above, the 'ghost' of educator Edward Smith who made his contribution to the local area in the late 19th and early 10th century tells his story in front of the school that bears his name.

As darkness falls, Mary Salisbury, just stepping off 'her' porch in the foreground, tells of her life as the wife of the world-famous Syracuse China Factory owner. Once upon a time, you could flip over a plate in almost any fine dining establishment in any part the world and you'd find the Syracuse China stamp on the bottom of the plate or saucer.



The Ghost Walk through the Berkeley Park neighborhood continues this weekend. Local folks can make a reservation to meet these an other interesting ethereal characters at the Onondaga Historical Association. Call them to reserve your spot. It's really fun!

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------


There goes Dave again with another yard project. He found an untouched patch of grass on the side of the house that 'needs' to be a flower bed. He's had this seed of an idea germinating all summer, and finally got motivated (his garden has had a few surgical set-backs this year) to start digging. Truth be known, I think he prefers weeding flower beds to mowing. If it means more flowers, I'm all for it!



    ---------------------------------------------------------------------



And Monday was our wedding anniversary! We celebrated 19 years of wedded bliss with a nice dinner in the lakeside town of Skaneateles, about 20 minutes from our home. Do you know how hard it is to find a nice restaurant open for business on Monday evenings?



    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
 


Back at home, my needles continue to progress along with these alphabet blocks. Once I finish T (for Tulip and Tent stitch), I have four more blocks to stitch (X, Y, and Z are together in one block), then the fun part of making something quilty out of all these blocks begin.

Oh my, dare I say, I can see the light?



Phew! Seems like a busy week around here. Lazy summer days are certainly receding quickly into the past!

Happy Stitching!

Joan