Friday, May 29, 2015

My cat, Moira

This is my cat, Moira. Actually, she's my daughter's cat but Don and I have been "fostering" her for the past 11 years.  I took this picture of her today because taking pix of the animals is something that I normally don't do. But today was no ordinary day.  

Tessa found Moira at the shelter at a time when Tessa needed a lot of comforting. We had moved to the northern part of the state while she was a student at UW--Whitewater and alone and pregnant with Lily.  She kept Moira for the year before Lily was born and then we took her when Tessa's landlord said, "No cats!"

Moira was quick to sense when people were in pain--physical and emotional--and would always be there to do what she could. She draped herself across my sore knees many times and Don's sore muscles as well. And her regular job was to hop on Lily's bed (during the times that Lily stayed with us)  and tuck her in for the night.

We noticed a few days ago that her pupils were extremely dilated along with some weight loss, which I thought was a good thing because she was a bit chubby.  But we started watching her and realized that she was blind and using her whiskers to find her way around the house.  A search of the Internet led us to believe that she was having a serious medical problem. This morning she went to the vet who found both retinas were detached and she was in acute kidney failure.  No choice but to try to keep her alive for a few extra weeks or to send her on her way now.

That's what we chose to do.  It was painful to watch her bumping into walls and furniture and always jumping when I reached out to pet her or pick her up.  So, this afternoon, Moira, my faithful little buddy, passed on to the Great Catnip Heaven in the Sky while Don and I held her and comforted her as she had comforted us so many times in the 11 years that we had her. I will miss her very much, but we have our other cat, Clem, who will likely need some extra attention--and boy, would he love to get extra attention!

Life has to go on.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Zebras, and giraffes, and leopards, and peacocks--Oh, My!

After I finished the red and neutral Talkin' Turkey quilt, I resolved to quilt up some of the tops that have been sitting around for awhile before I begin working on piecing another top.  About 2 years ago, my guild sponsored a "Stack and Whack" workshop.  I chose a fabric with lots of exotic animals on it which you can see here on the pieced backing.  Leopards, giraffes, peacocks, and zebras, amid viney curlicues and so forth.  

I'd never done a  "Stack and Whack" quilt but I've always been fascinated by the unique designs that you get with this technique.  I made 16 blocks but only used 12 of them on the front of the quilt with the brown sashing and deep red posts.  Then come a gold border and a dark red border and finally a 6" border of the focus fabric.

I put the other 4 blocks on the back of the quilt, along with some green and red tree fabric which wasn't quite enough, and some of the extra animal print.  So this is how the back looks. I had finished piecing both the top and the back except for a strip of about 5" along one of the short edges. This is throw size, by the way.  Anyway, I got distracted and put the thing away months ago when all it needed before sandwiching was that little strip across the end.

I carefully chose the 4 blocks to put on the back because of this:

Do you see it?  A circle of zebra butts!  And there are two "butt blocks" on the back!  How did I do that?  I never saw them until the blocks were laid out and then those 2 blocks just jumped out at me! Well, I guess it's a bit of interest on this otherwise rather ordinary quilt.

So, last week I stitched on that little strip, cut the batting, pressed everything and got it pin basted. 

I have all 12 of the front blocks partially quilted and am waiting for a shipment of threads that I need for this quilt  and then I can finish quilting the blocks.  I noticed that the blocks on the front and back almost perfectly line up so the quilting on one side is nearly perfect on the 4 blocks on the back as well. I've also pretty well planned out the quilting for the sashing and the 3 borders.  I had hoped to get this one done before the end of the month, but I'm having serious problems with both of my Husqvarna machines so I'll be spending some serious time with them tomorrow to see if I can get them stitching smoothly again. 

So, that's what I've got under the needle--zebra butts.  What's under your needle?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nine Naked Quilters

While I was recovering from my knee surgery and was confined to the upstairs of the house, my husband painted my sewing room in a lovely pastel rose color.  Yesterday we hung my 9 Naked Quilters pictures that have been in storage for several years.  I decided to group them above my cutting table so I can look at one of them every time I cut or trim.

There's a story behind these pictures which I will relate as I go through the individual pictures.

Bathing in the outback--decadent!

As you are aware, if you've noticed the pictures I post from time to time on this blog, the lighting in my sewing room is horrible and the pix reflect that here.  

These are simply calendar pictures that I ripped out and stuck into frames. Originally there were 12 but for some forgotten reason, I only framed 9 and threw out the other 3.  I have no idea now why I'd do that!

I always think of my Grandma when I see these well-used hands doing their stitching.  For all of that, this could be a picture of my hands these days!  

Love, love, love these ladies singing and playing Christmas songs naked around the piano--with a plate of yummy looking goodies stacked on top!

Because the lighting is so bad in the sewing room, I resort to using a nighttime setting on my very basic camera. That means that I have to hold the camera still for a second or so longer than usual and as my arms were getting a bit shaky from holding up the camera to take all these pix, the one above came out terribly blurry.  It's actually 3 gals, out among the trees, posing behind a cluster of stuffed animals--Beanie Babies, maybe?

So, I'll begin the story.  Back in 2003 or 2004, my daughter began a conversation online with a fella in Australia. They seemed to hit it off and one thing led to another and she decided she'd like to fly over there and meet him in person.  They had a wonderful 10 days or so, touring around the country, meeting his friends and family, and when she returned she had decided that she wanted to marry him.

He was able to travel to the US in 2005, right after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the Gulf Coast and right before I began working at the local county agency.  The two of them were married in October, 2005 but sadly, they separated in February, 2008 and are now divorced.   

Sorry about the diversion.  Back to the story of these pictures.  When Tessa returned from her trip to the Land Down Under--which she loves so much--she brought me a calendar of Naked Quilters! This was a fundraiser for the Silverton Quilters of Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia.  These ladies shed their clothes and wrapped up in their quilts to pose for the calendar and I absolutely loved it! She couldn't have found a better gift for me!  When the year was over, I couldn't just put it away, so into the frames these 9 pages went.

This is my favorite of the nine.  Two plump ladies, naked on a motorcycle, laughing their heads off and having the time of their lives!  I just love it!

So I have these naked quilters in my sewing room and they bring me so much company and joy as I work by myself making the quilts I love so much.  I only wish I could meet them in person and have a giggle with them!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Finished Turkey

Yesterday I put on the final border of the Talkin' Turkey quilt that I've been working on, a Bonnie Hunter design.  And here it is, laid out on my sewing room floor.

I've been wanting a red and white quilt for quite awhile and now I have the top done!  It will probably join the growing pile of finished tops that need to be quilted up and will have to wait it's turn to go under the needle.  I have made a vow that before I allow myself to begin another quilt, I have to finish up one of these unquilted tops that have been waiting, in some cases, for up to 10 years for me to get them done.

So, today, I'll finish piecing the back of a throw sized quilt that I began about 2 years ago--it's a stack and whack quilt. All it needs is a small piece stitched on the pieced backing and to cut the batting the correct size and then laid out and pinned.  I also have a pieced quilt that I'm using as a tablecloth in the family room that also needs to be sandwiched and pinned.  Those two will be finished before I take up work again on one of the 3--no, 4 quilts in progress that are whispering to me that they want attention--especially the embroidered Farmhouse Windows quilt.  But I will be strong!  I will resist the whispers!  I have to--I'm running out of space to store all the finished but unquilted tops!  (Actually, it's 5 quilts in progress--I just remembered another one that needs to be quilted up this summer in preparation to be donated for a fundraiser in November! Yikes!  Way too many quilts hanging around my neck!)

Speaking of fundraisers, my friend Lois, in Bemidji, messaged me that the yellow Chunky Churndash quilt has arrived and she likes it a lot. It will be auctioned off at a fundraiser in early June for a local organization that provides housing for homeless families in the area.  I wasn't sure what the cause was so when she told me, I was so happy to be able to help.  Too often, homeless families are overlooked in the need to provide for homeless individuals.  I hope this quilt brings in more than a few dollars to help the cause.

And this is the other charity quilt that my friend Bonnie and I worked on last January. Here's the write up I posted about the fun three days we had making this top, Quilt of Laughs,  if you want to read about it.  I found a stencil that's perfect for the green sashing--a vine-y flower and leaf design that will go all around the sashing. On the geese, I'm going to do a curve on each of the three sides of each goose, very simple.  I plan on doing the machine quilting on this piece and sewing on the binding.  Then it will go to Bonnie who will hand stitch the binding so that she will be the official maker of the quilt.  Years ago, I learned that the last person to stitch on a quilt is officially the maker of the quilt, so we'll apply that in this case.  I think this is going to be very nice when it's finished--and it will be out of my stack of unfinished quilt tops--Yea!

Today, I plan on doing some gardening if it doesn't rain--I have onions and spinach to plant. Saturday, Don and I planted peas and potatoes and then it began raining!  I also plan to enlist his help in hanging my pictures of naked quilters in my sewing room.  I'll post pix of them after they're up on the wall and explain how I came to have them.  A little bit of housework in preparation for my son and future DIL coming for the weekend and finally, in to the sewing room to finish the backing for that throw quilt that's next on the list of things to be quilted up.  I hope you have a busy and fruitful day as well!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Back to Talking Turkey

In my last post, I said I was hoping to be able to sit at my sewing machine after a 4 week hiatus due to the knee replacement surgery. Well, I'm happy to report that sitting at the machine is definitely doable again!  I'm so happy!  I find that a combination of some sitting time, some pressing time and some cutting time seems to keep the knee limber and functioning.

Every day this week I've spent a few hours in my sewing room. Strange isn't it, that I simply don't have the energy for housework but have more than enough for quilting?  ;-)  Hmmmmm.  While I was laid up and in the recliner for 4 weeks, I worked on the embroidery project, Farmhouse Window Sills, that I've post about here so I won't repeat myself.  However, when I went downstairs to the sewing room, I put that project away and began working again on Talking Turkey, a Bonnie Hunter pattern from one of her books, that I'd begun in February, 2014.  At the most recent guild meeting, one of the members asked if I'd been working on that quilt--she remembered it from a sew-in I'd been to last November! I had to admit that I'd looked at it a few times and had even opened the box it was stored in, but, no, I hadn't done any further work on it.  For some reason, her comment has been nagging me, so I decided I had to get the top finished before I began again on the Farmhouse quilt.

So here's what I've been doing. I had come to the point where the blocks were sewn into rows, so I made more pieced sashing and sewed the rows together.  Then I began on the first of 4 pieced borders. FOUR PIECED BORDERS!  Who does that!  Well, Bonnie Hunter does and so do people like me who don't study the pattern closely before beginning! I have the first 2 borders attached and have nearly all the piecing done for the 3rd border--my goal is to finish the piecing on that one and get it attached today. It might take awhile--The quilt center measures something like 92" by 77" so it's a big one!

Here is the quilt on the floor with the 3rd border attached on the sides.  The top and bottom borders are next to be attached.

The fourth and final border (yea!) is another row of red and neutral flying geese units.  

But, oh how I love how it's turning out!  I was visualizing it the other day, on one of the beds for the holiday season.  Can't wait!

That's about all that's been happening here.  Lots of exercising--stationary biking, walking, and the stretching and strengthening workout (Ugh!)--very little housework, and some sewing.  I've been surrounded by blooming crabapple and plum trees in the yard and the neighborhood as I take my walks.  Of course, the last 2 days we've had rain so now the trees look quite bedraggled.  This weekend, we hope it stops raining long enough for us to get into the garden and begin planting the cool weather crops like potatoes, peas, and onions.  Everything else will have to wait until after Memorial day to avoid any late season frosts.

That's it. Time to get the top and bottom borders on this darn quilt!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Finished Embroidery!

This morning I finished the embroidery for the Farmhouse Window Sills quilt from Crab-Apple Hill. Yea! This was the project that I've been working on while I've been unable to work at my sewing machine. I had hoped that it would last throughout the rehab and it pretty much has. I'm planning on going to the machine this afternoon if I have the energy.

So, do you want to see what I've done?  Huh?  Do you?  Of course you do, so here it is! These are the 4 blocks that I embroidered.  I was a little intimidated before I began this project but found after a few stitches that it wasn't nearly as difficult as it looked.  The most difficult stitches were the dimensional flowers made with bullion stitches. I'd only practiced this stitch in embroidery class several years ago and I found it difficult and painstaking to get the flowers to look right. There are 3 of them in the blue forget-me-nots and 3 more in the hydrangea. But I worked at it and got them done well enough to satisfy me, and that's all that matters, right?

Wild Roses, Raspberries and Jam

Queen Anne's Lace

Poppies and Forget-Me-Nots

Hydrangea, Lily-of-the-Valley, and Bleeding Hearts

Yesterday I had a follow-up appointment with the ortho doc (all is healing well, he says)  and afterwards, I drove to my favorite quilt shop which carries a lot of 1930's fabrics which is what I had thought to use to finish off the quilt. Well, we couldn't find anything that looked quite right, so we went to the batiks.  This shop, The Busy Bobbin in Rice Lake, has the largest selection of batiks I've ever seen in a shop!  And we found what I wanted for this quilt.

Here's a picture of the pattern. I'll be making pinwheels, adding the flange or inner border, and of course, the outer border. Frankly, I don't like how the company finished off this quilt. It looks too busy to me and I think all the colors of the pinwheels and the floral pattern in the border detracts from the beautiful embroidery.

I chose the green leafy batik and the golden dotted batik for the pinwheels. They'll all be the same unlike the pattern which made them multi-colored.  I thought the dark aqua for the flange and the multicolored floral batik for the outer border.  When the embroidered blocks were placed on these fabrics, they looked amazing!  I can't wait to begin finishing off this quilt!

First, I have to do my exercising and go for a walk, finishing up with a session of icing my knee. During the icing, I'll be watching an episode of "Lark Rise to Candleford," a BBC production that I found on Hulu Plus.  By then it'll be afternoon and I hope to have the ambition to go downstairs and get in some machine sewing for the first time in over a month!  I can't wait to get that machine humming!