Thursday, August 22, 2019

Time Out!

I'm a bit distracted today. It has been a while since I've gone on a sewing retreat, just for me. I love them. It's kinda why I got into the whole quilting thing to start with. Quilting is a social sport, after all.

This time I'm headed to a stitchery retreat a bit later this morning, and I'm really excited to work on the stuff I'm bringing, excited to meet new people and see what they're working on, and excited for a short change in routine, just for the weekend.

Do you know the feeling? Are you a retreat person, or a sew-alone person?

Of course, there are the decisions . . . what to bring. . .

Couple evenings ago at my embroidery guild meeting, I learned how to make these little starfish. Mine (shown) isn't done yet, it's about the size of a quarter and still has a few rounds left. Don't look too closely, I'm rusty with the beading, and this isn't perfect. . .

This starfish, when it's done will be part of a nautical-themed holiday tree at the Festival of Trees at the Everson Museum in Syracuse later this year. The guild is sponsoring a tree and all the decorations are going to be hand made. From what I've seen of the decorations being completed, it's shaping up quite nicely!

I might have to make an extra starfish or two for myself after this one is finished! . . . They are a little like potato chips . . . .

But it made me dig out the beading stuff and pack it up to take with me to the retreat. . . . because you can always add one more project to the list, right? I have already packed enough stuff to keep me busy for three WEEKS, unfortunately, the getaway is three DAYS.

I'm also taking along this peacock book mark that is morphing into a peacock wall-hanging. I am modifying the pattern from one that appeared in a single issue magazine (aff.) at a news stand about a year ago.

It's moving right along and I'm almost ready to start the fabric borders.

More news coming soon about a new quilty-stitchery group with the Hummingbird Highway!! So slow, on my end, right? I know, I sound like a broken record. Just gotta DO it!

And, the letter blocks are still on the project list - I'm up to 'P'. This will be a quilt. . . eventually!

Some have asked where to get these alphabet pattern charts by Erica Michaels. You can get the charts HERE. Each letter features a different stitch, along with cross stitch, so it's a really interesting sampler.

The charts feature Rainbow Gallery threads, but I've been substituting from my thread stash, and changing colors to match the fabrics I 'm working with.

And maybe a new project or two . . . or three. . . or  ??

This collection of threads/floss in my handy-dandy pencil case from the school supply bins at Staples is a Christmas stitchery project. Honestly, it's probably low on new project start list. Gotta, gotta, gotta finish some stuff first!

And, of course, I'm taking my sewing machine, just in case!

I hope I have enough room in the car for a change of clothes!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Ides of August

Okay, so technically, that was August 13th . . .but here we are somewhere in the middle of August . . . already.

Being in the middle feels frustratingly, oddly half way from and to . . . Plus, after a week or two of successful medical procedures and preparations around here, and as last weekend approached, I was having a stare-down with some of the projects stuck in mid-needle. I needed to START and, more importantly, FINISH something. QUICK!

I needed the satisfaction that only a finished project would bring, and nothing I had started was close enough for a finish. Weird, huh?

So-o-o. On Friday, I pulled out my stash of floss and selected a variegated thread, and two coordinates (I ended up needing a third coordinate), a small piece of 32-count lugana cloth for cross-stiching (maybe about 6x12"), and a new book full of biscornus that I've had for a few months now (a birthday gift to myself back in May), had drooled over, but hadn't used yet.

I followed the chart, and by Saturday afternoon, I had the stitching part done. BUT there was enough room on the cloth for a second chart, but not if I cut the first one off - my small hoop wouldn't fit on the fabric that was left. Not wanting to waste the fabric, I selected a few more threads. This time only three, not four were used. . . . And a second panel was completed.

Cut apart. Leave an allowance around each stitchery. And start the final assembly. This was sometime on Sunday evening. I love working with 32-count fabric - over two stitches the panel is about 16 stitches per inch - but that also makes the backstitching very VERY small, so the work is tedious, but satisfying.

The weekend slipped way without the desired 'finish,' however, the finish was in sight.

Another Monday evening session, a movie, and lots more tiny stitches and stuffing. And two more biscornus are complete!

VERY satisfying! And quite fun. I may make one or both of these into a key fob or zipper pull. . . . Or not!

Oh, and the juicy birthday biscornu book, from which this pattern came? La Passion des Biscornus (aff.). It's written entirely in FRENCH! Completely appropriate since Biscornus are said to have originated in France.

My French is VERY rusty (I took 5-6 years of French classes way back in my high school days). But this book is pretty special, filled with unique biscornu offerings in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Fortunately with a little help from my translation app, I can decipher enough of the written language to follow along. Technically, if you already understand biscornu basics (I highly recommend this book (aff.), if you're just getting interested in making odd-shaped puffs of stitchy fun), the charts are really what you need and those are written in universally understood 'language.'

I sorta have a 'thing' about biscornu lately . . . more on stitchy stuff from me soon! I promise!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, August 8, 2019


Nope, not talking about sergers or sewing machines, but the hospital and doctor kind of surgery - I just kinda liked the play on words. 

Some background

Back in April, Dave (the hubby) was experiencing some health issues. Nothing too serious - at first. Went and had a few tests and learned he had a large gall stone that was so big that the whole gallbladder had to be removed.

No big deal right? A lot of people have this, the whole process is done laparoscopically, it's relatively easy, and involves a quick recovery.

Dave's situation is a little special - one of the tests he had  back in April landed him in the hospital for a full week with pancreatitis. Bad stuff. For the last few months we've both been on a low-fat diet waiting for his guts to settle down for best conditions to have the gallbladder surgery.

That day finally arrived yesterday. No gory details, I promise. Bottom line, a long day in the hospital waiting room for me, and excellent surgery results for Dave. He's already home (as of this morning) and on the road to recovery. For the next couple weeks, I'll be doing all the heavy lifting around here, but that should be the worst of it.

Dave needs a good story

So, here's the fun part. I started speculating with a friend how Dave might have to play this up in his cocktail party conversations  (no, we really don't do a lot of cocktail parities, but  . . . you know the drill).

What will his story be? He's got to explain these scars on his abdomen. 'Gallbladder surgery' just isn't very exciting. He needs a better story.

This is not without precedent

Some years ago, Dave and I went to the Cayman Islands and dove with the the sting rays - a popular tourist-y nature experience. Our guide left some squid (a favorite food for the sting rays) on Dave's arm, and Dave ended up with a stingray bruise. Stingrays don't have teeth, but they are kinda like a high-powered vacuum cleaner, so their 'bite' is more like a hickey than an actual 'bite.' Since stingrays are members of the shark family, the vacation story became "I was bitten by a powerful shark on a diving excursion." (We were in no more than 15' of water, btw).

And this is where the speculation began in a series of texts with my friend this morning. . . Here is a starter list for Dave's 'gallbladder' surgery story:

  • Want to see where I was attacked by a shark? (of course with the prior story, this is where the conversation started!)
  • I got this scar wrestling a mutant iguana . . .
  • I was injured while saving a child from the jaws of a wild tiger . . .
  • I escaped an alien abduction . . .
  • I went sky diving without a parachute . . .
  • I thwarted a rabid squirrel assault . . .

The list could go on and on. . .

Do you have any additions? 

In fact, let's hear them! Comment below with a good opening line for Dave's gallbladder surgery scars! Let's lighten things up a little after a long recovery journey that has a happy ending.

As for myself. Yesterday was one long day of waiting. I was really grateful that things went well, of course, but also grateful that I had a bunch of grab-able packets of stitchy travel goodies I could throw in a sack. At first, I thought I brought too much stuff with me. But I worked on most of what I brought at various stages of the waiting exercise.

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Summer Cleaning

Earlier this year, Dave and I set a goal to spruce up our master bedroom. I don't have a traditional matched bedroom set - more of a smattering of pieces from different collections. Which I like! Mostly.
We've been trying to replace the bed and 25+ year-old mattress and actually purchased both back in April, and have run into one snag after another with the delivery. Long story, not interesting, and pretty frustrating. Yes, it's now August, and this really shouldn't be a monumental task but the new stuff hasn't been delivered yet . . . I won't bore you with those details.

As a diversion, this weekend my attention turned to this piece of furniture tucked between two windows (temporarily) when we first moved into the house (20 years ago).

Yes, this is a Bakers Rack, normally a piece of furniture you'd find in the kitchen. Since that space between those two windows is only about 40" wide, it's difficult to find something that is functional and fits nicely in that space - most pieces are either too wide or too narrow. So the bakers rack was placed there *temporarily* 20 years ago. Yeah. I know. That doesn't sound temporary to me, either!

Bakers rack fix

I really wish I had a 'before' picture of this shelf - particularly the top half - but I'm also really glad I don't have a before picture. Take my word, it was a MESS!

Because we're running into so many issues replacing the bed and mattress (again, not going into those details), I decided to make do with the bakers rack a bit longer. But the mess had to go. Keep in mind this is the 'after' picture. You'll just have to imagine the disgusting layers of dust and stacks of odd jewelry boxes and extra button packages and what-not that accumulated here.

organize with boxes

Before the clean up started, this cheapo piece of furniture needed a little TLC. The whole thing leaned forward just a bit and wasn't stable.

The more top-heavy it got, the more the tilt, and the less stable it became. A righty-tighty turn or two of the octo-wrench on each of the support screws was all that was needed for a short-term fix.

Octogonal screw

Only problem is where is the correct octo-wrench?

Now, before you start laughing at me again, this is my original tool box.

Years ago (years AND years), one of the smartest things I received as a gift from my parents was a few common tools presented in this not-as-sturdy-as-it-used-to-be-but-sturdy-enough cardboard fruit basket. 

tool box

I got the tools as a house warming gift when I moved into my very first apartment. And I must say, it has been one of the most lasting gifts I've ever received. If you're looking for ideas for that college-bound co-ed, newly-wed, or first-time renter, this is a fantastic gift. It's not sexy in the least, but the first time I had to fix a toilet urgently, I thanked all that is holy because I had the proper tools.

Granted, I've added to the box over the years, and not always very efficiently - it could also use a good purging, but not on this day.

I was on the hunt for the right octo-wrench (I'm certain that's not the right term). I have, of course saved all the octo-wrenches that came with every cheapo assemble-yourself piece of furniture I've purchased over the years.

Octogonal wrench

After a bit of trial and error, the match was made and the leaning tower leans a bit less now.

Back to the task at hand.

On Saturday, I wandered into Michael's on task to purchase a pillow form. Got the pillow form, and a 70% off sign caught my eye (as these signs do!). All the summer storage box supply was on sale. 70% off! SQUIRREL!

Couldn't resist. I purchased one for some thread storage. Then I got a 'think' going.

On Sunday, I went back to Michael's and spent a whopping $26 on 4 or 5 boxes, came home, and set upon my target - those top two shelves on the leaning tower of bakers rack.

Granted the boxes are covered cardboard. Definitely temporary. But then so is the baker's rack.

Let the purging begin!

You can see that this little unit is really an office paper tray. In my world, it's collecting small decorative boxes with pins and jewelry items. The two side drawers are perfect to stow more small items.

organized boxes

drawers contain more stuff

My husband will tell you that I have an 'issue' with Swatch watches! It's not an 'issue' it's a happy obsession!

One of the new long, skinny boxes is dedicated to my Swatch collection.

Did you know that Swatch means 'wear more than one watch?' Um. I actually think that means "Swatch has a brilliant marketing department." I still gotta have my little party on my arm.

swatch wrist watch storage

With the collection of old empty jewelry boxes and various accumulated junk sorted and gone, there is now space for a dish full of Christmas pins, and a second one for Halloween pins - that Halloween stack needs some work! The ghost pin is pretty cute, right? I don't even remember when I got it! It was lost in the former leaning tower of bakers rack!

Dish of christmas pins

dish of halloween pins

And that shoebox hides a bunch of worn boxes with pieces that I couldn't part with. But they are now inside a box. Accessible, but not eye-scorching.

shoe box organizer

what's inside shoebox organizer

Such a relief! So much dirt and accumulated yuck, gone. With all the boxes holding their respective treasures, I can now actually dust around things easily!

Wait! What?! Did I actually say the D-word as a VERB? Don't tell Dave - I don't want to elevate his expectations!

Next up, the bottom two shelves. But not this week. Much too hot to be sorting through wool sweaters. This can wait. After all, it's only temporary!

By the way, I have a 'Swatch' affliction for slippers.

One never knows when you need to make the toesies cozy!

bottom part of shelf, still needs work.

I feel much better now. How about you? Do you have a 'temporary' space that needs an update, temporarily?

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

I'm Done!

When I first started making quilts, someone (was that you, Amy H.?) told me that I should take a picture of each quilt as it's finished to keep a record of what I've made. Many, many quilts, and several cameras, detailed scrapbooks, and photo folders later, I still don't consider a quilt 'finished' until I've added a label and taken a picture of it.

I've lost track of some of those photos (someday, I'm going to put together a series of Chatbooks to keep a visual record of my finished quilts, just not this day!), but I am still in the habit of adding the label (most of the time), and taking a photo (nearly all the time).

So what's in a label, after all?

  • It uses some fabric leftovers from the quilt. . . or not
  • It can be fancy or plain
  • It can be generated on the computer . . or not
  • It provides the quilt's 'voice' and records the maker, the pattern source, the purpose (is the quilt a gift?), and special washing instructions

add a label to your quilt

As you can see, I keep it pretty simple. A scrap of fabric, placed on a small piece of sandpaper with information written in my hand using a pigma pen. Then bordered, in this case the borders are mitered. Doesn't really matter where you put the label on the quilt, however, I usually put mine on the lower right corner on the back. I pin it in place with applique pins.

I press the raw edges under about 1/4", then pin the label onto the quilt.

add a label to your quilt

I wear a thimble when I quilt or applique, and I consider the label a lot like applique.

This thimble is a fancy one from TJ Lane - but I have several that I use, some not quite as fancy as this one.

I put the thimble on my middle finger of my right hand - I'm right-handed.

add a label to your quilt

I start sewing with a buried quilters knot. Then come up to grab just a thread or two of the label's folded edge.

Then the needle is inserted into the quilt back and batting, but not all the way through to the quilt top. I travel the point through the batting a short distance and come up through the quilt back and grab another tiny 'bite' of the label fold and repeat the process.

add a label to your quilt

As you can see above, my left hand holds the label in place. My thumb inches along as the stitches are completed. Underneath the quilt (unseen), I keep my left middle finger right under the needle movement. If I feel a slight prick in my middle finger, I've gone through all the layers and I adjust, then carry on.

To add a bit more security (the label can get a beating through use and laundering), I like to add some running stitches in size 8 (in this case) perle cotton along the label edge or border . . .

add a label to your quilt

I'm careful that the running stitches also don't migrate all the way to the front of the quilt, and that they don't just grab the label material but also grab a wee bit of the quilt backing and batting as I 'rock n' roll' the needle to make the stitches.

securing the label to your quilt

With that little embellishment, the label is complete! and so is this quilt (almost!)! (Yay!)

Here's a view of the finished label, and a view of the back of the quilt, so you can see how the quilting I used creates playful texture. 

add a label to your quilt

add a label to your quilt

As I said up front, the quilt isn't complete until it has a label AND a photo. Here are two. One flat on the ground and one a bit more crumpled in a chair. It helps to have a beautiful sunny day!

 Final photo of the quilt

This pattern, "Split the Check" is found in the book ScrapTherapy, The Versatile Nine-Patch and it'll be featured on an upcoming Caribbean cruise in 2021 (not the Hawaii one in 2020!) that hasn't been announced yet. Save your pennies, and watch this newsletter for specifics on the cruise, if you'd like to join in on the fun (Yes, it will be VERY fun!). This particular quilt has lots of setting options, much like a log cabin. This offset barn raising is one of my favorites.

Do you add a label to each and every quilt you finish? Do tell!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, July 18, 2019


As you've probably heard, this week marks the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's historic first steps on the moon.

This is so remarkable to me on so many levels. I was a kid for that historic step, but still remember watching all the events unfolding on television. As an adult, and as a recent visitor to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, I'm even more in awe of what was achieved by, not only those who took that amazing journey, but by all the people who supported that effort.

On that recent trip to Florida, one of the exhibits that pulled at my heart was the exhibit hall that held the Space Shuttle Atlantis - the ACTUAL space shuttle itself! And within that exhibit an area that paid tribute to those 14 special people who died in the two space shuttle disasters.

Each of the heroes lost has a dedicated space in the exhibit which includes personal and professional items that had importance to each individual.

The exhibit case pictured below, as a close-up, and above includes items that belonged to Michael P. Anderson, a native of Plattsburgh, NY, which is a short drive from my home in central New York.

His 'Star Trek' lunch box speaks volumes of his passion for space travel from an early age. Makes you wonder what today's future heroes are consuming from the media. Captain America, perhaps? That'd be okay!

And the display dedicated to Kalpana Chawla, also part of the ill-fated Columbia crew, touched my heart. She was an avid bird-watcher, and her favorite book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, is one of my all-time favorites, too.

These exhibits touched my soul because they show each Shuttle astronaut's humanity. These were real people with real passions and dreams who probably didn't consider themselves as any kind of extra-ordinary role models or heroes.

Awright. I've been knocked off the internet at least three times since I've started this article. I'm using the data package on my mobile phone (an invention that probably wouldn't have come about if not for the space program) to access my message-writing software. I hope I haven't bored you too much with my musings. 

Happy Stitching

I'll have more stitchy stuff to report next week.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Catchin Up

Just before the July 4th holiday, I was in Florida, Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area for a meeting with my business coach.

Direct flights to anywhere are an unusual thing out of the Syracuse airport, so when I saw one, Syracuse to Orlando, I grabbed it. No matter that I had to get up around 4 am to catch the early flight.

That also means I got in to Florida early enough to do a short tour of the Kennedy Space Center.

I have never been there before, and wow! I highly recommend visiting there if you're in the area, especially if you have kids in your party.

It's all the thrill of Disney World, without the rides and the fairy tales!

Real-life heroes are available to meet-and-greet. And the exhibits pull you into the awesomeness of space exploration. This is the main entrance to see the space shuttle Atlantis. Holy cow! Amazing stuff!

Even though I was there on business, you can't go to the 'beach' without actually going to the beach!

As always, early morning is my favorite time before the heat and crowds.

This is just after sunrise. The storm off in the distance kept out of the way on this particular morning, but we did have our fair share of tropical (rainy) weather as the weekend went on.

No trip to the beach is complete without some local flora and fauna. . . this great blue heron was keeping an eye on a beach fisherman just a few feet away. I think he was hoping for [a part of] the day's catch. I'm not sure the fisherman had the same idea. Empty lures, at least while I was watching, disappointed both hopefuls.

Cocoa Beach is very much a vacation spot, even though we were there 'working hard!' We gotta eat, and we managed to find some pretty good grub along the space coast.

This is Carton Brown, of Occasional Occasions Catering by Carlton (Atlanta GA), one of my colleagues in attendance at the meeting. I hear he makes a mad savory cheesecake, but right now he's more intent on that stack of savory ribs for lunch!

Back at home, I was back at making these stitchery blocks for this crazy bordering process I'm developing.

I've talked about this project before and it's progressing nicely, but there are 24 blocks! I'm working on #12!

I started on this pattern series from Erica Michaels, and created this border treatment as an experiment.

As I was working my way through the alphabet blocks, (J is shown, K is finished), I realized that if I want this to be a cohesive quilt eventually, I'd better start planning a bit.

So I grabbed all the blocks that are finished, and headed to the Ford Underground to have easy access to my fabric stash.

I then laid out A-K, some blocks still in progress.

Then envisioned the rest of the quilt block colors, taking into consideration the block subject matter (A=acorn, B=butterfly, C=castle, etc - I didn't want to have a purple acorn, for example) and the eventual 24-block quilt layout.

And selected fat quarters for the remainder of the blocks.

Then, since this might take a while, and I don't want my fabric selections to get scrambled into another project, I labeled each block by letter with a piece of paper pinned to the fat quarter or scrap fabric.

Which left me with a pretty weird arrangement of colors for the blocks-to-be-made.

They don't look like they'll go together in this stack, and I may change some out as I go.

But I now have a clearer picture of where I'm going. Perhaps 'clear' isn't the right word, but I have a plan.

And I think the weird combination will work out fine!

Now that each block has a fabric 'theme,' as I pull out the next one to work on, L in this case, I can choose the floss colors that pull in the stitching and the fat quarter color.

And I have a bit of confidence that all the purple blocks won't be stuffed into one corner of the quilt.

Sometimes I can't get away from the tidy-butt in me!

Happy Stitching!