Friday, July 3, 2015

Some Stitching Finishes

Sometime in the last year, I received one of my stitching kits back from my mom.  It is a stitched picture of the Ponte Vecchio that I purchased while in Florence more than 10 years ago.  I gave it to her, but she decided she wouldn't ever stitch it, so gave it back to me. I started on it around the beginning of March and it took me 3 full months to finish it - I had some other projects going in between and almost stopped to put it away once, but I managed to stick with it and I am really happy with the finished product.  It was a stamped pattern on Aida, and it convinced me to 1) never buy a stamped pattern again, and 2) avoid Aida at all costs - at least in a kit like this. It was really stiff. I will probably try my hand at framing this one myself and it will go on a wall somewhere in the house. 

One of the other projects I was working on at the same time is the Alphabet Sampler from Stitch Supply Co.  I saw this on someone else's instagram feed and fell in love with it. I purchased all the materials (yikes, a new kit!) earlier this year and followed along with the stitch along that Ann hosted for the first few weeks. For some reason, this kind of got put away, so once I finished Firenze, I decided to pull this out and work on it until it was finished.  I am really happy with the finished result and very pleased with all the new stitches and techniques I learned. I have a few other embroidery pieces in the basement and now I am looking forward to pulling them out. 

I've got two projects going right now - both fall themed.  As soon as I finish one of them, I am going to start on a baby sampler for a little boy born recently. All of his older brothers and sisters have their own announcement, so he will get one too. I am going to have to stay disciplined, because I really want to start on it right away! Hopefully by writing it down on my blog, I will stay true to my plan! 

Monday, June 22, 2015

String Blocks and Teacher Gifts

Each month this year, I have selected a color and made some string blocks with my scraps from that color. It started as a way to experiment a little more than I normally do and there is also a goal to begin to use some of the many, many scraps that I store in pretzel barrels.  In January, I had so much fun making the string blocks that I decided to keep going with them! I didn't get my May blocks made in May, so I worked on them in early June and yesterday made a couple in the teal-blue colorway.  Here are the most recent blocks, and then all of them on my design wall.
Oranges -- my color from May

Teal-blues made for June
 I just love how these blocks look all together and can't wait to make enough to get them into a quilt top.

Next up is teacher gifts. I have tried really hard since our pre-school days to make something personal for all of the kids teachers and I think I have done a pretty good job. I can usually find out a favorite color or hobby through the year and then tailor my gifts to that.  I shared here the background on the quilt I made for Jenna's teacher, and she reports that it was a big hit! For the other teacher, I made a fabric bowl. I did a bunch of these many years ago and I forgot how fun they are. I think I will be making some more as I head into holiday season.

For the bus driver, I have made just about every kind of bag pattern I have, so I wanted to come up with something a little different. This pattern for a fabric box showed up in my email the week before school ended, and it was perfect.

The kids are off for the summer now, and they have been enjoying time at camp - last week was Lego camp for my son and overnight Girl Scout camp for my daughter and they both had a blast. Let's hope that this week's sports camp has the same result!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

May Meals - 2015

I seem to have fallen off the wagon a bit when it comes to photographing our meals, but we continue to try new recipes and the monthly posts are a good way for me to remember what we've had and liked when I am digging through to look for recipes to re-use. So, apologies in advance that I don't have photos for all of these! 

First up is Ham and Cheese Baked Frittata.  I think we may have actually made this in late April, but it got mixed in with the May recipes.  Mike made this one night for dinner with some leftover ham. It was good, but it made a very full 9x13 pan of food.  This would really be better suited for a brunch or or breakfast when friends are visiting.  We all liked it - I think three of us more than Jenna, but she is my pickiest eater in the family. We decided we'd make this again for a weeknight meal, but just make a half recipes. Ours looked pretty much like the picture on the recipe page. 

Next was a Cooking Light recipe, Sweet Sesame Noodles. It took me forever to find the soba noodles in the grocery store, so I might stock up on them at Trader Joe's next time I am there (assuming they are easy to find there!).  This was a really tasty and quick meal (it was featured in the 20 minute meals section of the magazine) and we'd definitely make it again. This  meal did not look like the picture....our noodles clumped together a little more and looked more like mud in the bowl..but they tasted good!

About the middle of the month, I pulled out a few recipe books that I didn't use in year one - the first is a new cookbook that I asked for after we started the challenge - The Pioneer Woman Cooks. This is the first recipe that we've made from the book. It is the Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich.  It was good and Mike really liked it. I didn't think it was quite as good as some of the other sandwich meals we've had, notably the French Dips and the Italian Pork Sandwiches. I will keep an eye out for cube steak sales though, and we'll make it again. 

The second was Naturally Healthy Cooking, a small book that is from Minute Main Lemon Juice (if I remember correctly, I saved a few proof-of-purchase seals and sent in for this).  I love lemon! We made the Baked Cod. I couldn't find the exact recipe, but found a good list of baked cod with lemon and dill recipes. This was a really tasty recipe, with just the right amount of lemon. 

Still in the lemon theme, the last recipe of the month was an oldie from the March 1999 Cooking Light - Sliced Lemon Pistachio Chicken over Greens. In addition to using lemon zest in the chicken breading, you make a lemon vinaigrette dressing. I loved every bit of this salad and I would argue that it is as good as any similar salad you can get in a restaurant.  Since this only used a small portion of the pistachios I bought, we will be making it again soon! 

Hope you see something you'd like to try!  If you do, let me know how you like it. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Accomplishments for March, April, and May 2015

I fell off the wagon a bit on recording my finished projects, but I really like having the ability to go back at the end of the year to see everything that's done. So, here goes....

In March, I had a great retreat, so finished several things and started some new ones too. I worked on quilting projects a total of 43 1/2 hours, 27 of those at retreat.
- Made a quilt top from a kit - The Caroler
- Made Fossil Fern Kaleidoscope (I might still add borders, but just in case I don't, I am counting this as finished now)
- Made "Watcha Got" bag, which is now holding my embroidery
- Made Zippy Strippy bag, another kit
- Made Minkee baby blanket, the third kit that I finished at retreat
- Quilted Loralei's blue, purple, and yellow batik quilt
- Made green string blocks (see the picture below of them with April's string blocks)
In my stitching, I finished:
- Lizzie Kate Reindeer (a stitching kit)
 - Let There be Peace (a project 18 months in the making, on and off, and yes, another kit!)

In April, I spent a fair amount of time most weekends getting some quilting done. I spent 14 hours cutting, piecing, and quilting, and here's what I finished: 
- Bound my friend Melissa's quilt (this quilt - I didn't take another picture of it with the binding on - it is the same red fabric as the outer border)
- Stitched some pillows for a work friend that her daughter made for her for Christmas (but used fabric glue on...)
- Zippy bag summer purse 

- Yellow/gold string blocks (with the green ones from March)
- 2 headbands for my daughter
- Quilted, made binding, and attached binding (to be ready for hand sewing) to Merry & Bright (another kit!)
- Made back for my Easy Street quilt
- Cut over 55 yards of fabric from my stash for our guild quilt show mystery bags (you can see some of what I cut in stash reports from April and May.

I didn't finish any stitching projects in April as I started working on one of my larger kits in mid-March and April was dedicated to moving it forward. 

In May, I had 16 hours of sewing time. Here are the items I got finished: 
- Finished hunter's star quilt top (I have worked on this at my bee work day each month and vowed not to put it away until the top was done!)
- Quilted Barbara's star quilt
- Made a tote bag for a bunco prize
- Cut, pieced, made a back for, loaded and started quilting a quilt for Jenna's teacher
- Made another tote bag for our neighbor, with fabric left over from something his grandmother made him (or at least the fabric came from her; I added the red for the reverse of the bag)

No stitching finished in May either as I continued to work on the big project....I did get to backstitching by the end of the month, so it should be a finish for June!

So, that gets me current to this week.  I am continuing to work on teacher gifts and hope to have some finishes there and a stitching finish to share soon! 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Stash Report - Week 22, 2015

Just over a week ago, my daughter had the great idea to make her teacher a quilt as her teacher gift. As this has been her favorite teacher and she's had her twice, I thought that was a reasonable request. I pulled some patterns and fabric and Jenna picked out the ones she liked. We decided on black and gold as her teacher is a graduate of Purdue. 
It's hard to cut into a pretty Sweet Treat! 
She worked well with me last Sunday to press all the fabric and snip the chain piecing apart while I made the blocks...but her interest waned after that. I got all the blocks made by Friday and finished the quilt top yesterday.  I made the back and loaded it onto my frame yesterday, so it is ready for quilting.  We still have a week left, as the last day of school isn't until June 9. 
Background choice #1
Background choice #2
Fabric added this week: 0 yards
Fabric used this week: 6 1/2 yards

Fabric added year to date: 6 3/8 yards
Fabric used year to date: 111 1/2 yards

Net fabric used: 105 1/8 yards
Lap size quilt top finished!
I guess I better get going now on the gifts for our bus driver and my son's teacher...

Friday, May 29, 2015

Quilt #4 2015 - Barbara's batik swirly stars

Ok, one more quilting post to bring me current on this facet of my blog.  The next quilt is another one from a bee friend - she gave me two to quilt a while back and this was the first one where inspiration struck (I am still waiting on inspiration for the next one...). 

On Instagram, I have seen several quilts done with the same design all the way across, row after row. It isn't a panto, but just a small freehand design (at least I assume it is freehand, I guess some of them are probably computer aided).  I have been thinking about this for a while because I love the texture it gives a quilt. This became the quilt to try it on! 

It took me a few passes to figure out that I could use the piecing as a guide for the size of my figure eights. The quilt is based on 2 1/2" strips, so I decided about 5 passes into the quilt that I should really use that as my guide (if you look closely, you'll see that one end of the quilt isn't quite that uniform). 

While I was in the midst of quilting this one, I posted a picture to Instagram saying that this was going into the category of "if sounded like a good idea at the time" because it takes a while (I am used to a pass being 10-12" of a quilt top, not 2 1/2") and it gets kinda boring.  The good news is that I had a fantastic thread combo and no issues with thread breaks - that makes the whole process go a lot better!  I used So Fine in the top and Bottom Line in the bobbin - they seem to play very well together.  The batting in this one was Warm and White, my standby. 

Once I pulled it off the frame and laid it out, I loved it, so I am sure I will use this design again! 

The frame has been empty since I pulled this off Mother's Day weekend, but it will have another quilt loaded soon, as Jenna and I are making a quilt as a teacher gift.  I should have some pictures to share of that one this weekend! 

Quilt #3 2015 - Merry and Bright

The longarm sat empty for a while after I finished #2, but I finally loaded one of my finished kits (well, the top was finished at least). Merry and Bright was a line made by Terri Degenkolb, a local designer who is the owner of Whimsicals Quilts. Terri is a friend from my guild and a few years ago, I hooked her up with my mom, who has worked with her for a few years helping her with the administrative side of the business.  

This line came out before mom started working for Terri, so I actually bought this kit (since then I have received several cuts/FQs for free, which is a great bonus!). It sat and sat until I declared the year of the kits. I put the top together on my Singer Featherweight earlier this year.  

I decided this one needed a custom quilting job. I started with curlicues in the outer border, inspired by the fabric, and then added them to the inner border too.  It was pretty tight in a few places, so I was glad for my microhandles, which help handle tight spots by giving more control.  
Microhandles in action
Once I finished that part, I did cross-hatching in the center, using a template, chalk (which didn't show up very well at all!), and a ruler. For my first time cross-hatching, I was okay with the result.  I finished up by changing the thread color to red and doing tiny back and forth squiggles in the red border.  
Close-up of cross hatching and borders
I had a good time quilting this one (probably because I didn't have any thread breaks!) and it was quick - on and off the machine in the same day.  I got the binding made and attached the next day and it is in my bee bag, so I have been taking it with me and making progress on the binding at bee meetings.  I realized half-way through putting the binding on that I forgot to put a hanging sleeve on it, so I will need to add that later. 

Detail and texture on the back
I think this one will hang in my family room during the holidays - it will complement our furniture in that room well. 
Ready for trimming and binding