Thursday, July 31, 2014

Welcome Sapphira!

As you may know (or not), I've been thinking for some time (several years, actually) about getting either a mid arm sewing machine or a sit down quilting machine.  I've shopped around a bit, trying out both kinds of machines and various brands. I've spoken with friends about which brand of machine they like--and realize that we all seem to like the brand of machine that we currently have, so that was no help.  

About 3 weeks ago, I stopped in at the Husqvarna Viking shop in the nearby JoAnn's and looked at their mid arm machine. I went back a couple of days later and bought the Sapphire 960Q.  Here she is!  

I spent an afternoon playing with her and going through the manual that came with her, and I realized that for the first time in my life, I needed to attend the classes offered in order to learn how to use her to the max. There are so many stitches and it's all computerized with files and zip drives and lots of other features that I never knew could be incorporated in a sewing machine!  And since I'm kind of a computer dinosaur, I figured I needed to take the classes.  So, Tuesday was the second of the two classes and now I feel somewhat comfortable using the machine.

I'm alone for the next 4 days (Yea!) so I set up Sapphira (named after a very good quilting friend of mine) on the dining table and have been working on the blocks to my daughter's "colors of the sea" quilt. She asked me to make this quilt for her several years ago and we picked out the fabric about a year ago. I took it with me to Alabama in February and had made most of the blocks before I ran out of the off white border fabric. Then it sat in my closet until today. Since Tessa has moved to Maine, she's especially wanting me to finish this quilt and ship it out to her, so I'll be working on it during this little vacay/retreat.  

Tessa wanted the palest colors of the beach and the sea for her quilt so I cut 3.5" blocks of the colored batiks and bordered each block with a 2" strip of the off white batik.  I'm just sewing the blocks together in no particular pattern.  I'm not even going to lay them out since I don't have floor space large enough to handle 255 of these blocks.  And my back wouldn't tolerate laying them down and then picking them up repeatedly. LOL I'll be quilting this on Sapphira and that's the main reason I bought her. She has an 11" throat compared to my Lily's 7" throat (not my granddaughter; Lily is the name of the other Husqvarna that I have!) so it should be somewhat easier to move the rolled up quilt in the larger throat.

I also realized today that I can use one of the alphabets to make the label for the quilt. At the Bonnie Hunter workshop in Champaign, one of the quilters had used her embroidery machine to make the most fabulous labels and now I can as well. I decided to name this quilt  "Colors of the Sea" and will include these lines on the label from Van Morrison's song: "Smell the sea and feel the sky/Let your soul and spirit fly/Into the mystic."

I also wanted to show off what I found at the local thrift store the other day.  I was looking for a large container to use for a variety of homemade cookies for Don to take to his family reunion and I spied this on the shelf. Can you see?  It's a crazy quilt of country things!  For $5, I had to bring it home and then I looked up the name on the back--Fitz and Floyd.  That sounded a little familiar and it came up right away when I googled it.  The 3 compartment tray that I now have in my hot little hands is for sale at Macy's for over $100!  Needless to say, I used another container for the cookies!

Now I have to decide if I want to display it in the dining room or in my quilting room.  Could work in either.

I also found a Necchi Lydia 544 priced at $10.  I haven't decided if I want to get it or not. Any thoughts would be welcome.  Now, it's back to sewing Tessa's blocks.  Lots to be done before the day is over.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ghost Plant, Indian Pipe, or Corpse Plant

Yesterday, Don and I took to our bikes with Lily and we ended at a nature trail near the house. Lily's been on the trail numerous times but we'd never taken the time to go there. Lily brought with her the fungi identification booklet I'd got for her when we were in N MN last month.  I was amazed at all the mushrooms she spotted!  She has got eagle eyes, I swear!  We must have spotted a dozen or so different kinds and most of them we could identify from the booklet. I think we should find a fungi expert to teach us more about these crazy things.

One thing I spotted was this:

I've never seen anything like it before so Lily looked it up when we returned home and found it's not a flower or a fungi but a little of both.  I copied the pix from Wikipedia, I think--didn't take it myself. Here's a link if you want to learn more about this mysterious plant. Indian Pipe

Today, I finished the pj's I was making for Lily and I expect she'll wear them tonight.  I don't really like garment sewing these days. It's been years since I've really done much of it other than a sundress or nightgown for Lily these past few years, but I did my best and she's pleased with them.

Tomorrow, I'll be back working on my quilts. I have several quilt tops started (would they be considered WIPs?) and several finished tops that need to be quilted (I think they would be called UFOs) and of course, a list longer than my arm of things I want to make.  Oh, Lord! Save me from my quilting addiction!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Quilting with Bonnie Hunter

I got home last night from a 4 day quilting trip with my friend Barb S.  On Wednesday, the 23rd, we drove South to Champaign, IL (Who knew that the city spelled it's name with an I but without the ending E?) to attend a 2 day quilting session with none other than the famous scrappy quilting queen, Bonnie Hunter!  Both of us were so excited, we wanted to begin the very evening we arrived in Champaign but had to hold on until  Thursday AM.  If you follow Bonnie's blog or her Facebook page, you will have already seen the pics she posted of our group but I have the links here for anyone who missed them.

The first day, Thursday, we worked on My  Blue Heaven which is one of the free patterns on her website.  I've been wanting a blue and neutral quilt for some time and have been collecting fat quarters in various blues and shades of neutral for a couple of years. Even after I cut all the pieces I need for My Blue Heaven, I have enough left for at least another blue and neutral quilt!  That's fine with me!

Bonnie showed us how to use two of the specialty rulers she likes--the Easy Angle and the Companion Angle--and what a breeze it was to cut the various sized triangles for the quilt.  I managed to complete about 6 of the blocks while in class and have how many left to go?  I don't want to know, I'll just do them!

My Blue Heaven                                                  My Blue Heaven

The second day, Friday, we had a crumbs workshop which I really didn't want to go to. I signed up for it simply because I had come all that way and I wanted to learn as much as I could from Bonnie.  Well, after only an hour or so, I had become a crumbs convert! I LOVE making the free form blocks and will continue to make them up from now on, but I had difficulty making the wonky stars and was a complete failure making the heart and letter blocks.  But I tried. As I've also tried paper piecing  and have been a failure at that. My brain simply doesn't comprehend sewing the fabric first and then flipping it over. I do more un-stitching than stitching, if you can believe it, and get super frustrated. But at least I tried it and know that I can try again if I ever feel the need to make hearts and letters.

Miss Lilly                                                                   Crumbs

Barb and I are included in the pictures but I won't point out which one is me since I'm way overdue for a haircut and look like a quilting hag in these photos!

Regardless of my hair, I had a great time with the ladies in Illinois. Some of them were at both workshops and some were only there one of the two days. Barb and I weren't able to get into the third day of quilting which was disappointing, but we pulled up our big girl panties and dealt with it.  Everyone we met at the workshops was amazingly friendly and welcoming. We were invited to dinner both Thursday and Friday evenings with the hosts and Bonnie which was a lot of fun, and great food as well.

And being with Bonnie is so satisfying. She is a such a genuine person--no frills, no pretense. She is what she seems to be. And so upbeat!  OMG!  She has so much energy and everything she said was positive, even when she had to correct someone.  It is always good to be with positive and vibrant people, don't you think?

Barb and I will be keeping an eye on Bonnie's schedule and if she returns to Champaign, we'll do our best to be there as well.  With luck, we hope to be able to bring her here to Menomonie in a couple of years so quilters in our neck of the woods can spend some time with  her.

Today, I'm taking care of errands and spending time with Lily this afternoon before I go downstairs to finish her new jammies that I began before I went on the quilting trip. Once the jammies are done, I can return to My Blue Heaven and the crumbs!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Update on the road trip to Maine

Tessa arrived in Portland ME yesterday without any mishaps on the road! She sounds very happy to be there and able to spend time out from behind the wheel for a change!  She lives about 10 minutes from her work site so she can easily walk or bike there. She said Lily's school is also within walking/biking distance so she won't have to deal with bus transportation when she gets there.

We are all doing fine here--a couple of teary moments on Lily's part but she seems to be okay for now.  The question is, "How will she be spending her time from now until school starts?"  With summer school having ended, there's lots of time to be filled.  There are a few activities planned--county fair, family reunion in Illinois, school shopping, and of course, golfing with Papa!  But still, there will be lots of hours where she'll need help filling the time. She knows no one in the neighborhood since she goes to a different school than the kids around here. And there's not much reason to make new friends since she's going to be moving soon.  

We decided that once a week, Lily will be in charge of dinner, from planning a menu, shopping for ingredients, cooking and serving.  And she's a good cook, too, so I'm looking forward to her meals!  She also will go golfing with her grandfather at least once a week and she and I will have a weekly event--movie, science museum, park and picnic, etc.  

But this morning, while I was looking through the most recent issue of McCall's Quilting magazine, I found this quilt and showed it to Lily. She loves it, but would like it in bright neon colors instead of the autumn colors shown.  Of course, I offered to make it for her but then the light bulb went on! Instead of me making this quilt for her, she can make it herself!  She's had a sewing class and she's used my machine for making other things, and now that I have my new Husqvarna, she can use the Lily (It's a Husqvarna Lily 545. Coincidence?)  to make her quilt! Both she and I are excited to begin this project, but it has  to wait for a week or two.

Lily is going to Illinois for Don's family reunion on the first Saturday in August. I'm staying home to avoid having to get a hotel room--Don and Lily will bunk in with relatives.  But I'm leaving tomorrow for Champaign, IL for 2 days of a Bonnie Hunter workshop!  My friend, Barb S. and I are going together as we did last year--we call ourselves "the Two Barbs from Wisconsin."  We're going to be doing a cumbs workshop one day, something I've never done before and since I never save those tiny pieces, I've had to scramble to come up with enough scraps to take along. Barb assures me she has enough crumbs for both of us, and I believe her! She keeps her crumbs in a laundry basket by her sewing machine!  The second day we'll be making the "My Blue Heaven" pattern.

I've been wanting to make a blue and neutral quilt for awhile now and have a large collection of fabrics to use, so I've been spending a lot of time cutting fabric into strips and triangles so I don't have to spend my time doing that at the workshop.  I'll just enjoy being in the company of great quilters and the most upbeat quilter I know--Bonnie Hunter!  But last night, I looked over my things to make sure I had everything ready to go, and I realized I still have to cut about eleventy thousand half square triangles in neutral!  

Before I allow myself to go to the sewing room, however, I have to do my daily housekeeping chores.  So now, it's off to scrub the toilet for me! Oh joy!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Happy/Sad Days

My summer has been filled with events, most of them happy ones. Between gardening, quilting, and having family and friends over to the new house, life has been full.

Of the greatest importance right now is the fact that daughter Tessa has begun her life's journey. She and granddaughter Lily moved into our house in March/April in anticipation of a job promotion and transfer that was supposed to happen in April. Well, there was a delay and the following months were spent not knowing if she would be offered the same opportunity in August. YES!  She was offered the transfer and needs to be at the new work site by July 23rd.  So, Tessa packed up her car Friday night and took off on a solo road trip to Portland, Maine on Saturday morning.  Saying good by to Lily was hard on both of them and they both spent sometime in tears--Tessa admitted to me that she cried in the car for awhile and Lily spent some time in her room by herself after her mom had left. But they both understand that this is short term pain for (hopefully) long-term gain.  Lily is staying here with us until Tessa gets settled into her new job and community and then Don and I will drive her out so she can begin her life in Maine as well.

Tessa & Lily relaxing after a day at DisneyWorld, May, 2013
How do I feel about my child moving so far away from Wisconsin?  That's a hard question to answer. I've had my youngest, Jo, spend 2 years in Bulgaria in Peace Corps so I've learned to Skype and re-learned how to write letters, so it's not that this is a new thing for me.  Tessa and I, however, have always been close and especially with her having Lily, I've felt a special bond with Tessa that I haven't had with my other daughter. I've helped her parent Lily in a way that wouldn't have happened if she'd not been a single mom. I was with her through paternity hearings, marriage and subsequent divorce, cared for Lily while Tessa went to college and tech school, and have been there to listen to all her frustrations in life as well as her triumphs.  Tessa has struggled with emotional issues and has come a remarkably long way in her journey for emotional stability.  I'm so happy that she has finally reached a point were she's capable both financially and emotionally to make this move. I'm also sad and a little anxious to see how my life will evolve without her woven into it so tightly.

Both of us are having to move on--Tessa and Lily to a bigger and better life in Maine and me to a more fulfilled life here in Wisconsin. Time will tell how this all turns out.

The absolute BEST thing about Tessa and Lily moving to New England is:  I GET TO VISIT MAINE! Even Don says he's looking forward to trips to New England, a part of the country we've never visited. Now if we could only get son Dan to move to the West Coast, and Jo to move to Texas as she's mentioned, we could travel the entire country! ;-)