Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mesa Santa

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a good holiday, or at least, better than us! We have been through the wringer here in Toronto, where a massive ice storm knocked out power, and therefore heat in most homes, for several days in subzero temperatures right over the holiday.

After the first night we moved to my sister's cat-infested house, which had power the whole time. I am extremely allergic, and recovering from a surgery the week before, so it was pretty challenging. But, I'm glad she was able to take us in! It could have been much worse. We are back home now and the lights are on, but it will probably take a few more days to really recover from it all.

This Mesa Santa Christmas ornament in the photo above is one of the Southwest Santas collection from Mill Hill. Do you see the cute armadillo in the lower right corner? I love his blanket too, with just a few chunks of turquoise to set it off. It was my take-along project to my sister's house. So, at least I got one more project both started and finished in 2013.

I'm sure ready for a fresh start in 2014!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Well, I'm taking off early this year, so I'll wish everyone a happy winter holiday now! I did not have time to finish all the placemats from the last post, but at the least the potholders were finished before I packed it all away:

My internet access will be sporadic, but I'll still be sewing, I hope!

And, let me be the first to ask you, have you been considering any New Year's resolutions? I have! Last night I heard a local radio DJ who has resolved to gain weight over the holidays, lol. This made me think that maybe it is time for a whole new attitude to New Year's resolutions. Feel free to leave any of your "anti-resolutions" in the comments, and I'll be back around the New Year with mine!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Homegrown Kitchen Set, Part 1

The other day I was looking back through the last few months of posts, and I realized that there have been a lot of Best Friends Forever posts, and not much else! Except my big finish, of course. I figured it's time for some variety!

So today I pulled out this Homegrown collection of fabrics from Connecting Threads. A few hours later, I finished a potholder!

LOL. No, there's more than that!

You can see another potholder coming in the centre of the mat, and at the bottom right are strip sets that have already been cut 2.5" wide, ready to be added around the edges of these...

...which will be placemats.

The vegetable print is more like a light home dec weight than a quilting fabric. Perfect for placemats and potholders. It's almost all gone, but I see there're still some kits left.

I adapted the patterns from the kits to my own sizes, and I was able to streamline the construction by using the same strip sets for both the placemats and the potholders.

Normally I put everything away at the end of the day, but today I am living dangerously and I have left it all out and hope to finish the construction tomorrow. They probably won't be quilted until after the holidays. My plan for the new year is get more serious with some FMQ practice, so these are the first to be prepared for that.

See you again tomorrow, with luck!

Friday, December 6, 2013

BFF Month 2.4 Stitching

Without further ado, here's the final motif for Month 2 of Rosalie Quinlan's Best Friends Forever:

I am continuing with the Northern Cardinal colouration on all the birds, even though they don't all have crests. Northern Cardinals mate for life, and they are rarely far apart, so they feel appropriate for the best friends forever theme. Plus, they are one of the few species of birds that stay near our house all year. The others tend to fly south for the winter, or north for the summer.

I know the photo is dark again too. Yes, it's still very cloudy around here! I had to use the flash for the next photo:

The next steps for Month 2 will be to wash the whole thing again, cut the motifs apart, line them, and piece them into the blocks. Plus, Month 3 is already underway!

Monday, December 2, 2013

BFF Month 2.3 Stitching

Here's the apple tree from Month 2 of Best Friends Forever, all finished. I think I've already said it all about this one! I will admit, though, that the solid apples in padded satin stitch do look pretty nice. :)

You can see by the dark photo that after an early taste of crisp January sunshine and snow, we are back to our usual grey and rainy December weather here in Toronto!

The last motif for Month 2 is also almost done, but I ran out of the grey-brown thread, DMC 840, so I'll have to dash over to the store some time this week. It's annoying, because somehow when I stocked up on thread for this project, I forgot that one! Well, I guess I'm lucky to have the option of a nearby store, I know many don't. On I go!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

BFF Month 2.2 Stitching

Here, finally, is the next instalment of the Month 2 stitching on Best Friends Forever:

I did a lot of experimenting on the big hearts here before I hit upon a stitch that looked the way I wanted it to. I wanted a lot of texture so the hearts would stand out even though I was using a light colour.

When I'm "shopping" for a new stitch, I always come back to Country Bumpkin's A - Z of Embroidery Stitches, vols. 1 & 2:

These are probably the most used books on my bookshelf. They are spiral bound inside the cover, so they lie flat, and the detailed photographs are excellent.

Twisted chain stitch turned out to be perfect for this design. It works up quickly, and I found it to be very forgiving -- it creates a fairly straight line even when your stitches aren't! It's worked on both sides of the line...

...and can also be used for applique.

For the flowers I stuck with the stitches I've been using since Month 1:

The petals and leaves are done in back stitch with four strands of floss, the flower centres are tiny chain stitch, and the stems are stem stitch, naturally!

Regular readers may be wondering what happened to the apple tree from Month 2? After much procrastination it is now well under way! Here's another preview:

In the long run I think the padded satin stitch will prove to be a bad choice here, because I'm sure it will catch on something. But I'm committed now! Hopefully the whole tree will be done soon. ;)

In the mean time, happy stitching!

Saturday, November 23, 2013


I have been writing this post in my head for two years, but now that it is finally time to write it for real I've forgotten what I meant to say! In any case, it is two years since I started this blog, almost two years since I started this quilt, and well over 30 years since I started starting quilts, and this is the first one to make it all the way to the end. 100% finished!

Nine Patch Jubilee, 54" x 66"

The sun was not co-operating today, but it was too cold to stand out there for long! I made one attempt to style the quilt before I hurried back inside:

Yes, that is a small dusting of snow around the garden pagoda.

I named the quilt Nine Patch Jubilee because the filler squares and the backing are from the Jubilee Garden collection by Connecting Threads, which they had a couple of years ago. And it seemed right to celebrate my first finished quilt.

With the red and white colour scheme, it felt appropriate to do the label in redwork too:

The quilt is machine quilted (yes, by me) in channels the length of the quilt, 1/4" on either side of each square in the nine patch block, and carried through the solid squares. The binding is machine sewn to the front and hand stitched down on the back. I miscalculated the width of the binding, so it is a little wide on the back, but I think that's fine.

I also tried out a sewn mitre technique for the corners of the binding that I saw Ricky Tims demonstrate on The Quilt Show. It uses this tool from Animas Quilts:

There is a video demonstration of how to use it here. Two of my corners came out perfectly...

...and two did not, lol. But the problem was that I had miscalculated the width of the binding, so the corner didn't hit in the right place. Those corners are a little wrinkly, but again, everything can't be perfect on the first quilt. I have concluded that I do like the tool, and I will continue to use it on large projects. The big advantage for me is that you only have to sew the binding on one edge at a time, so each length of binding is more manageable, and I can take a break after each long seam.

So, yay! And, whew!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recent Photos

My plan tonight was just to update the Texas Star Ticker in the right sidebar, which you can see is now up to Number 120. But I found two weeks of photos on my camera which provide an interesting (I hope) cross section of what I've been working on, so I thought I'd share a few.

Do you ever see inspiring quilt or stitching ideas on tv? I take photos! I hit pause, turn off the flash on my camera, and they come out pretty well. (Yes, I understand that this makes me a total fibre nerd.)

This still photo is from the tv drama Betrayal, on ABC in the U.S. and on City here in Canada. If you've been watching, you know it is about an affair between two married people, Sarah and Jack. The quilt is an interesting prop here. In the scene Sarah is sleeping in her studio after her husband has discovered the affair and kicked her out of their apartment. To me, the use of the quilt implies that by leaving her marriage Sarah has returned to a more wholesome way of life. Throughout the series, so far, there's been the suggestion that the affair is somehow more moral than their two marriages, his to a corrupt developer's daughter and hers to an ambitious prosecutor who's using her to forward his career. It will be interesting to see how it ends!

The other still is much less deep:

I think this is a Leapfrog commercial. But look at those cool drapes! They could be a stitching design, or a quilting design, or even an applique design. Plus, they remind me a lot of that Orla Kiely fabric and wallpaper design that has become an instant modern classic.

I found a bunch of poorly-lit photos of another new stitch that I'm using on Month 2 of Best Friends Forever:

I've been doing the hearts in twisted chain stitch, which I'm very pleased with, but more on that later.

Finally, I took some photos earlier today of the new background fabric that I bought for BFF:

Last time I showed you the solid light green background that was my first try. But I'm not sure if I like this either! It does tend to make the flower blocks look a little shady, doesn't it? I cropped the photo and tried a different angle to see if I liked it any better:

The blue looks very electric against the petals, which have a slightly grey undertone, and the olive leaves. It clashes, but just a little, and I'm starting to think I like that, the more I look at it. For a while now I've been trying to break away from "safe" colour schemes, but I'm not sure if this is the right way to do it. What do you all think?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

BFF Setting

So, there's kind of a long story behind the idea for my setting for Rosalie Quinlan's Best Friends Forever stitcheries. Feel free to scroll to the end to see the final plan, and if you wonder how I came up with that idea, you can come back to the top and I'll tell you now. :-)

In the summer of 2012 I had two new English Paper Piecing projects in mind -- Texas Star, which is now well under way, and Botanic Roses. Botanic Roses was a reworking of this old UFO that I started almost ten years ago:

This quilt design was on the cover of an old issue of Australian Patchwork & Quilting. Each block has 72 pieces! All are hand cut from templates and hand pieced. For me, the cutting was the worst part of that, but there was also a problem with the white-on-white background fabric, which was printed with gummy ink that was terrible for hand sewing. The quilt ground to a halt.

When I learned about English Paper Piecing, and I saw that you could buy these kite shapes precut, I wanted to revive the project, but with a more disciplined colour scheme. Botanic Roses was born. My idea was to interpret my favourite dishes as a quilt:

I thought this would be a good way to restrict the colour palette, but right from the start I had trouble showing all the detail in the rose. I just hated that clumsy hexagon in the middle of the block. I tried many variations:

I played with cutouts:

Finally I realized that the batik fabrics I bought for the project were too busy, and they would blend out all the tricky piecing, so that would just be a waste of time. The whole project went back on the shelf.

This summer, along came BFF, and I suddenly realized that the clumsy hexagon which gave me so much trouble on Botanic Roses, would be just right for the hexagon stitcheries:

It fits perfectly!

So, there you have it. Having seen the photos now, though, I am pretty sure that I will change the background from this pale green solid to something a little darker and with a slight pattern. I didn't want to detract from the blocks at all, but now I see that this doesn't do them justice. One of the threads I'm using is a cooler, jade green, and I'm thinking that may be a good background colour too. Now I have something to shop for again!

Ironically, some of the yellow fabrics that I bought for this quilt have the same gummy ink that set me back on the original version of this quilt almost ten years ago! I can't believe I made the same mistake again! Fortunately it is only here and there, so hopefully it will not be as bad.

And, Botanic Roses is still not dead, I have a new plan for that one too. But there is a fair bit to get done before that...

The Needle and Thread Network has not seen me in a while, so I am linking up with WIP Wednesday there. Happy stitching!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

These kitty jack o'lanterns are my sister's creation, and I think they are pretty cute! She gets quite a few trick-or-treaters at her house, so her work should be widely admired. Our house is more isolated, and rain is predicted for this evening, so we will be lucky to see 10 kids, if that. Our local weatherman warned us to make sure we buy treats we like, since we may well have to eat them all ourselves!

In any case, here's to a safe and fun Hallowe'en for all!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Start on Christmas

Ever since the deluge of "Christmas in July" marketing emails, and many blog posts too, I've been completely off the idea of Christmas. I understand that the fabric companies need to give you lead time to make your Christmas projects, but I just can't think about Christmas when it's hot and sunny outside. It's my conditioning. But, now that we've had a couple of cold and rainy days, suddenly, a cozy Christmas project seems just the thing!

So, this is a new-ish cross stitch project, "A Kiss For Snowman" from Dimensions Gold Petites. I say new-ish because I actually started it last year, but it was so similar to my Lima Beans project that I put it away again. It is stitched on 18 ct aida in crosses and half-crosses with varying weights of thread, similar to other Dimensions Gold Petites projects that I have done. The stitching will finish at 6" square, and the piece is destined for the centre of a Christmas pillow. The last Dimensions Gold project took me 5 months, so I'm not sure that I'll finish this by Christmas, but at least it gets me in the right mood!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

BFF Month 2.1 Stitching

With the Thanksgiving holiday last weekend, there has been very little stitching going on around here. Instead, I had a full week of Thanksgiving planning, shopping, cleaning, baking and cooking. So much production for one meal! But, I have realized that I think I enjoyed the meal a lot more than those who just sat down and ate it, lol. You appreciate the details more when you understand what was involved!

It's been a little challenging to get back to business as usual, but last night I did manage to finish the first motif for Month 2 of Best Friends Forever:

This is probably the least interesting motif in the Month 2 set, but at least it was fast. And I did manage to squeeze in one new element:

These little purple buds are just circles, but I stitched them in blanket stitch to give them a little more presence and tie them together with the flowers from last month.

The next motif will be the apple tree. I decided to try out the apples in padded satin stitch:

In the lower left corner you can see the remains of a failed attempt at this! But, I secured the thread so firmly that it is melded with the fabric. So, like it or not, I am now committed to satin stitch for the apples! But, I did find that the padding acts as a stabilizer and the fabric didn't pucker, so I think it will work out ok. Stay tuned!

And, today I have managed to link up again with all the Canadian blogs for WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network. There's lots to see this week!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Free Fabric for Life

Wouldn't that be nice? I got this notice in my email today, and if you already haven't seen it yourself, I thought it was too good not to share it. "Free fabric for life" means 52 yards of fabric per year for 20 years, supplied by Keepsake Quilting. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, and no purchase is required. Click here to enter the contest!

Good luck to us all!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Back to Spring?

Yes, it is autumn here in Toronto, where we have been having some really spectacular weather recently, with mild, sunny days and cool nights. So it is not appropriate at all for me to have revived this project, Breath of Spring, but, that's what I've done.

Mary Corbet posted a photo of her grasshopper from this project a few weeks ago, which made me guiltily aware that I hadn't touched mine since March! I was hung up on this bee:

I stitched the left wing at least three times in long and short stitch with varying degrees of success. This time I stitched them both with closely worked rows of stem stitch in one strand of DMC floss. You may recall that I am doing something similar for the Viceroy butterfly on the Meadow quilt too. Anyway, I'm finally happy with the bee!

I went on to lay in a lot of the green stems and background leaves in more stem stitch, with one or two strands of floss:

There are a lot of inconsistencies in the instructions. I'm sure that Inspirations has published corrections, but I am just taking the opportunity to do my own thing instead. These large flat leaves below are one example:

They were supposed to be worked in a very bright Kelly green solid coloured floss, but instead I borrowed some of the hand dyed floss from the grasshopper. I covered the outline with split stitch in a co-ordinating DMC floss (which you can see on the left), and then worked a slightly open fly stitch with two strands of the hand dye (on the right).

When it's finished I want the flowers to be the first thing you see, not the leaves, so I'm hoping that these more muted colours and open stitches for the leaves will blend into the background a little better.

It would be nice to have this done by spring, because I am thinking of putting it on the front of a new spring/summer bag. However, that is probably a long shot, based on past experience!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cruise Ship

First, a little theme music:

Now you will be singing that all day!

Since I've been in such a tidying up of loose ends frame of mind, I pulled out my Summer Sampler next. The second motif just needed a few more details to complete:

Those French knots were not for the faint of heart! They are not perfect, but I don't think I can do any better.

The bite out of the left side is for the next motif, the postcard from paradise! That's next, but probably not soon, because I have still more loose ends to finish up. ;)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

BFF Month 1.4 Stitching

Monday was a very productive day for me. In addition to finishing off the Lima Beans, I went on to put the last stitches in Month 1 of Best Friends Forever. There's nothing like an extra cup of coffee during the day!

Today I tried to get some photos in the morning sun before it went behind the trees:

The photo's still a little shady, but let's call it "atmospheric." Here's the whole month:

The next step is to cut them all out and start work on the setting, which will be English Paper Pieced. Right now, though, I've started to stitch Month 2. I've been thinking about the colours for a month now, so I'm keen to see how they will look, but I absolutely would not let myself start until Month 1 was done. Good plan, I think!

It's Wednesday, so I'm linking up again to WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network. Onwards!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lima Beans Finished!

The other day I was reading back in my blog, and I was chagrined to see that it was back in June that I was starting to hint that this project was almost finished. I guess not! But, now it's finally done.

I started out thinking that this would be an easy, tv watching project, but it was not nearly as forgiving as I expected. Even when counting was not an issue on the large flat areas, I still had to give it my full attention in order to make neat stitches on the 18 ct aida and cover the fabric as much as possible.

In the end it was just sheer persistence to finish it. I would strip 6 strands of the black brown floss each day, sew until they were gone, and then put it away again. Now I think I will do the same thing with all the metallic gold on Celtic Spring,* which has been stuck for a while too. I have too many cross stitch projects on the go, so I am determined to finish some of them! Anyway, it is nice to have this one done. :)

*Holy moly, I see I haven't posted on Celtic Spring since last November!!! But, I do want to finish the dratted gold in the hem before I show it again...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Texas Star Turns 100!

It is just under a year since I started my Texas Star project. Today I have posted Star #101 in the Texas Star Ticker in the right sidebar. Woo hoo! That works out to a little more than 2 per week, which, for me, is pretty good. The ticker idea continues to motivate me, and I have enjoyed photographing almost every single star along the way.

Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement! I realized this month that it will be easier, and maybe faster, to batch the stars a little, rather than doing each one individually from start to finish:

Thinking about which fabric to do next seems to really slow me down, so hopefully this new method will result in less thinking and more sewing!

I also had a complicated plan to sew the individual stars into blocks of four:

...and then join the small blocks into larger blocks:

I originally liked this plan because I thought it would be too boring to join all the stars at the end, and I thought I could assemble the blocks as I go. But, I've abandoned this idea too. There are too many points, the thread is constantly snagging, and the whole thing is very hard to manage.

My new plan is to finish all the stars, mix them together in a large box, and pick them one at a time randomly and sew them onto the whole. I did that with the yoyos, too, and it was a lot of fun. (No, the yoyos are not done yet either!)

I owe a couple more updates on other projects, and I'm very close to a finish on one, but it didn't seem appropriate to show a finish for WIP Wednesday, which I'm linking up to again today. In any case, the weather has turned, and we are enjoying some wonderful crisp northern air, so I think things will start moving again around here!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

BFF Month 1.3 Stitching

Here's the third stitchery motif for Month 1 of Rosalie Quinlan's Best Friends Forever:

The only issue I've had so far with these patterns has been the gummy ink that they are printed with. It is very hard to stitch through. My solution has been to pick a side of the line and stick with it. For the most part, I've found that stitching on the outside of any curves is best, because the thread has a tendency to roll inwards and cover the line.

I've been stitching all the half pinwheel flowers to the outside of the line as well, which makes them a bit larger. So far, though, I still think they are pretty cute!

The fourth (and last) motif for this month is the teapot. I am chain stitching almost the whole thing, so it has been slow going. I'm hoping it will be done next week, but no promises!

This week I am linking once again to WIP Wednesday (which starts late Tuesday, if you are wondering) at The Needle and Thread Network.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

BFF Month 1.2 Stitching

Here's the next finished motif from Month 1 of Rosalie Quinlan's Best Friends Forever. I have already shown this while it was in progress, where I discussed the flowers, leaves and bird. The lettering is back stitch, done with two strands of floss. By breaking the back stitch down into two steps, instead of just one step worked from the front, I have finally managed to get it to be fairly consistent.

I am happy with it, anyway! The third one, the umbrella, is not far behind. The teapot will need a few more days. Onwards!
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