Monday, December 31, 2012

See you Next Year!

It's really hard for me to get much sewing done with everyone home for the holidays.  I did manage to get a quilt started for my husband, who just celebrated his 50th birthday a few days ago!  It's going to be a bit late, but better late than never.

I also got to enjoy some much needed time in the snow with the family.  Batteries recharged! 

We were originally going to go to ski trails along I-84, East of here in Pendleton, but noticed at about 10:45am that the East side of the interstate had closed due to a crash.  This is unfortunately a way too common occurrence, as this stretch of road is notoriously treacherous.  We headed into the mountains North and East of town, and when we got back (after experiencing the heavy detour traffic on a normally remote empty highway), saw news of a tourist bus that had plunged off the highway and killed 9 people.  The survivors are now being cared for and housed here in town.  We have a small hospital, so many were flown to other towns.  Such a sad, tragic event.  I'm once again reminded of how precious life is.

One last big event to recap is that my oldest son shot his first elk on my husband's 50th birthday (a few days after Christmas).  Best birthday present ever for DH.  We (meaning my husband) decided to butcher it ourselves.  An elk is very similar in size to a beef cow, so we've already been very busy butchering and will be for the next good week.  We've plugged in a 3rd freezer, and between a whole deer and a whole elk, won't have to buy any meat for a good long time!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Few More Goodies

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas, or holiday season!  I thought I'd share a few more things I finished up for gifts this year...  These are little hanging pouches that a family member requested :-).  We decided to use them as containers for a small gift too.
I also got a call from the person who received the notebook cover that I last posted about. It is now the cover of a well-worn, cherished, family Bible that gets used every day.  She pronounced it "better than diamonds"!  Wow!  I don't think I can top that!

Not only do I enjoy making these gifts, but the fact that they are passed from hand to hand and often used every day, gives them a beautiful soul, or essence, or energy.  Whatever you call it, it's a great "raison d'êtra".

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice

I hope you all are having a great holiday season!  With the days so short this time of year, no wonder we all light so many trees and candles!

I thought I'd share a few last minute presents I've been working on.  This notebook cover is going to be a gift for a special person.  The tutorial is from Lee of Freshly Pieced, and can be found here.

I'm also making a bunch of these fabric containers meant to hang on walls as some of my presents.  I made up my own pattern so it's taking a bit longer, but I'm hoping to have them finished up soon, all in different colors.

I also saw this lovely book mentioned on a blog, and requested a copy from our library's inter-library loan program!  Oh library, how I love you, let me count the ways...  I'll be digging into it after these last few projects are complete!

How about you?  Do you have all of your shopping and making done?  I hope you all have a wonderful time together with family and friends!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dragonfly Quilt Finished!

Along with many other parents today, it was just a bit harder to drop my kids off at school today.  I've shed more than a few tears over the week-end, along with many people in our country and around the world.  I think we're all trying to find answers.  We're all holding our kids a little closer now.

This dragonfly quilt is all done, and ready to ship off to its new home. It's going to a young woman who is on hospice care right now, as she suffers from systemic scleroderma.  She's lives with her parents whom I've never met, but this will be given as a gift from a relative of mine.  It's an honor to have been able to make this for her.

I found some fabric in my stash, that I had overlooked before, while planning the top, that had, yes, dragonflies on it!  After kicking myself, I decided to use it for the back.  It just happened to match very well.

As tempting as it was to stipple the whole thing, I just had to define the dragonflies a bit more, and am thrilled at how they turned out.  More and more I'm getting just as much satisfaction out of the quilting as I do the piecing!

Working on this quilt as well as reflecting on the events over the week-end reminds me of the most important things in the world... life, the innocence or children, health and well being, both physically and mentally...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

WIP Wed: Quilting the Dragonfly

Sorry for the dark picture.  This was taken at 8am, natural light, but this time of year the days get so short here.  It'll be dark again by 4pm.  Our long summer days make up for it, but sometimes I miss the more regular daylight cycles that I grew up with in Louisiana.

I got some quilting done yesterday, hope to do more today, and hope to finish it by Friday!

This is also the first big quilt I've made with my new Janome MC 6600 sewing machine, and all doubts about the decision to sell my Pfaff are now erased.  My new Janome quilts like a dream!  I'm using readily available Coats and Clark thread, and haven't skipped a stitch, broken a thread, or had any problems whatsoever!  It also sails right over all of the thick seams like they aren't even there.  I'm so happy!!! 

I'm not quite as fond of the quilting foot on the Janome as I was with the Pfaff, and I still miss the empty bobbin alarm, but may fish out my old foot from my New Home machine and see if it is better.  The inch less of throat space is barely noticeable. One other feature that I didn't realize would make a difference is that with the manual tension disks on the Janome, I don't have to reset anything when I turn off and on my machine.  With the Pfaff, I had to program in the tension settings when I was quilting each time I turned the machine on.  Ugh!  It's nice to have them set up and stay!  It's also nice to be able to use all of my thread again, and not have to wait for an on-line order of special thread to get delivered to me.

It's Wednesday, so I'm linking up with Lee's WIP Wed.  Come join us!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dragonfly Quilt Top FInished

Here's my finished Dragonfly quilt top!  I'm hoping to finish quilting it today!  Wish me luck!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Snowflakes and Dragonflies

Things have begun to slow down in my non-sewing life lately, and I was able to finally get some sewing done, including the snowflake ornament I made as part of the pre-season Project Quilting challenge.  I did this last year, and it was a blast!  The mini challenge was to make something quilty that used 2 techniques, and was holiday relate.  I've been collecting snowflake ornaments for years now, so decided to make one to add to the bunch.  I pieced the background together, and fuse-appliqued the snowflake onto the background, adding some bling with some iron on rhinestones that I had in my stash.  Kim's Crafty Apple has re-branded herself as Persimmon Dreams.  Click on the link to find out more about the upcoming season of Project Quilting!  I had such a fun time with it last year!!
I also finished sewing up all of the dragonflies.  I hope to get them sewn together into a finished top today!  As I played around more with EQ7 I found that this design is really quite versatile.  Here are a few more layouts, and I think the last one is now my favorite!

This post has a few other layouts.  So.  Much.  Fun!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Prizes and a New Machine!!

Check out what just came in the mail!  It's my prize(s) from the Tula Pink Sew Along!!  I've been so eagerly waiting for things to calm down so that I can try out the bias tape maker, and the rulers!  I literally have only a few straight sided rectangular rulers, so this will be so much fun using these! 

I'm also excited, possibly for the first time ever, about making my next batch of bias tape!  I have seen this machine before, but never in action.  I now realize (something that I don't think they market well), that you can get many different sizes and types of bias tip folder things.  I never considered buying one of these, because I always thought it only made one size of bias tape, but you can get tips to make many different sizes!  So neat!!

I also have been waiting for the dust to settle to tell you that I have a new sewing machine, a Janome Memory Craft 6600!!  I took advantage of a very generous Black Friday sale in a big city a few hours away to buy it.  Sadly, they only offered me $400 for a trade in value of my old machine, which I drove all the way over, then all the way back, after deciding to sell it myself.  The price I got for my used machine and the lower sale price was enough to break even, almost to the penny!!!  I'm so glad it all worked out so well, even all before the next credit card statement comes in the mail!!  On a side note, it drives me crazy that there is such a lack of transparency about the prices of these machines.  The closest shop, an hour away, (also the one that serviced my old machine) had these same machines for almost $1000 more than the big city store!!  Crazy.  It pays to make calls and shop around!

I'm already missing a few features of my old machine, mainly the low bobbin sensor, and the auto-pivot, but I love the simplicity of this new machine, and I do believe it's made much more sturdy, if that makes sense.  I still have my 20 year old machine with a free arm that I can sew garments on.  This machine has an arm (platform? / space to the right of the needle) that's only an inch shorter, and best of all, I was able to free motion quilt with it beautifully with all brands of thread within minutes of plugging it in!  We have no sewing machine store or repair service in town, and I can only get a few different brands of thread here, none of which seemed to work well in my old machine.  I hope that this more basic machine will require less maintenance.  It's also going to be nice to be able to buy plain old Coats and Clark thread to sew with, since I can get that easily and locally, in many different colors.  It's been a breeze to learn how to use, since my 20 year old machine is also a New Home/Janome.  All of the attachments are interchangeable, as are the bobbins.  Yea!!  I'll try to keep you posted as I start my new sewing partnership with my new machine!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

WIP Wed: Dragonfly and EQ7

It's been a very busy past week here, so I haven't been able to sew or blog that much, but thought I'd share a new quilt that I'm starting to work on.  I've been so driven to finish up my UFO's that new projects have taken the back burner.

I was asked to make this special quilt last week, and was told the recipient's favorite colors, and that they like dragon flies.  They also are more "traditional" in their quilting tastes.  After looking on the web and in local stores for dragon fly fabric with very little success, I found this dragon fly quilt block among some image searches on line, but no instructions or patterns, so I made up a test block using graph paper and fabric scraps.

It's been a goal of mine to learn the EQ7 program that my husband bought me almost a year ago.  I've been trying it out with each project, with only limited success, but for some reason, it all seemed to click this time!!  I was able to draw the quilt block, then put it into a quilt!!  I can not tell you how excited I am about this!!  I think EQ 7 is best suited for these traditional styles, or at least it's best to start out with these designs to learn the program.
It's even pretty easy to export to a blog (whew hew!!) 

I quickly realized that the block makes a beautiful pattern when they are rotated in a certain way!!!  I'm so in love with this design!!
I think I like it best above, but also did a mock up with sashing to separate the blocks a bit more.
Which version do you like the best?  I hope to get it done by Christmas, and thankfully, my "schedule" will be slowing down a bit next week (hopefully).

Finally, I sent these "use your selvages" postcards off into the world for my last postcard swap.

I'm linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced WIP Wed.  Come see what others are working on!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Finish: Giant Granny Square Quilt

Giant Granny QuiltAnother view of Giant Granny Quilt
It's "Finish Friday" over at Crazy Mom Quilts.  I just finished quilting and binding my "Giant Granny Square" quilt!!  One Christmas present down...

I made this quilt as part of "That Girl That Quilt"'s Giant Granny Square Quilt Along.  It was super quick and easy!  All of the fabric I used was bought on clearance (whew hew!!).  It's not my usual colors, but I love the way it came together.
back of Giant Granny Quilt
Here's the back, and you can see the quilting a little better.  I basically did a square spiral on the whole quilt, making it very easy as well.

detail of back of Giant Granny quilt

It's roughly 65 inches by 65 inches, making it a nice throw quilt!  I knew from the beginning who I was going to give this too.  I hope they like it!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday at the Table: Venison

Please don't scroll down if you don't want to see a picture of a dead deer!!  There are a few live deer in the picture below...

First of all, thank you so much for all of the comments and ideas you gave me about my blog yesterday!!  Through these, and my own digging around, I figured out that it's my "Picasa" photo limit that's been reached, and that my old blog pictures are indeed on it, as well as the new blog, and some others... 3-4 years' worth!  I deleted some to buy me some time, and others have suggested that I can copy and paste URL codes from photo sites, such as Flickr and Photobucket as well.  Yea!!  You bloggers really are amazing!! I'm still having difficulty posting pictures though, even after deleting several posts.  It'll let me shrink my pictures way down, and post them, but only after giving me the warning screen repeatedly....  hmmm

Second, I thought Debbie's "Tuesday at the Table" link up would be a great way to share another big event in our family... my oldest son's first deer!  It's actually the first animal he's ever shot, although he's been hunting very hard with my husband most week-ends this fall,  and has had several shots.  If you're at all squeamish about dead animals, please don't scroll down, but we're all pretty proud of him right now, and I just had to share.

I'll spare you the pictures of the hanging hind quarters, and hide.  My husband and son partially butcher their game in the woods, removing the "insides", and any other inedible parts (hoofs, skin, some of the bones...).  They also use a hand meat saw to cut it into quarters to make it easier to carry out of the woods.  Since this was my son's first deer, he chose to haul the hide  a mile and a half out himself, in addition to carrying half of the deer.  He's going to try to tan it himself (!).  Wildlife officials also require that you keep part of the head to prove that you shot a legal animal.  In this case, he had a "doe" tag.  It's also put into cloth "deer bags" to keep it clean.  Once we get it home, the meat is cleaned further and hung up to "bleed".  Sorry, no other way to put it.  It also is better (IMO) to let it age some.  We've butchered animals right away, and the meat is very tough.  Aging allows it to "tenderize", but it must be kept cold (not freezing).

Once we're ready to butcher, we clear off our big kitchen counter and get the knives out.  We will be putting out hand grinder into action, as well as our vacuum food sealer, and I've been busy using up as much as I can from our freezer this week for meals to make room for all of the meat.  The ground meat can be used for chili, tacos, just about anything BUT hamburgers, as it's super lean.  The steaks we love to cut up, wrap in bacon and throw on the grill, and the roasts must be cooked in a "wet" fashion (slow cooker, pressure cooker), as the meat becomes much too tough if over done with a traditional roast (learned that the hard way).  Again, this is because it's so lean.  I'm always eager to hear about new deer and elk recipes though!!
True story here... When I first me my husband, I ate very little meat, because I'm such an animal lover.  As our relationship got more and more serious, I asked him to take me out hunting with him to see if I could deal with this part of his life.  Although I still to this day can't kill even spiders or mice, I do like knowing where my food comes from, and knowing that it's as natural as it can possibly be.  I do believe that eating deer and elk is much healthier, as it's incredibly lean, has tons of the good omegas, no hormones, antibiotics, etc...

I think it's important that my kids learn this as well.  Butchering animals is a skill that is becoming lost in our society (kind of like sewing).  My husband and I have had to learn it from friends and through trial and error.  Ironically my grandpa was a butcher.  His saw is the saw my husband still uses in the woods.  But I never learned this skill from him.  It's really incredible how much time and work went into my son's first deer... many mornings up an hour before dawn for this teen-ager.  All of us will help butcher it very soon, which also takes a lot of time and effort.  My kids both have some good knife skills now though!  Growing our garden and hunting makes us all appreciate the real value of the food that we eat...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WIP Wed: Swap Blocks, Basting, and Postcards

I did manage to get a wee bit of sewing done in the past few weeks, mostly when Shanna, of Fiber of All Sorts came over to play/sew!  Do you ever have sewing dates with your girlfriends?  I highly recommend them!!

I signed up for a 6 month long quilt block swap at our local quilt store, and these are my November blocks that I made over the week-end.  Below are the ones I got back from October!  So much fun!
Before my car hit the deer, I was able to baste these quilt. 

I hope to get them done in time to give away for Christmas presents!  Wish me luck!

Finally, I have my November postcards that I'm working on for the swap I'm still doing.  The theme is "using selvages".  One thing about selvages is that you don't really have much from any one cut of fabric.  So each postcard is very different!  I just need to trim, finish the edges, and put them into the mail!!

Finally, I would love to hear any suggestions about Blogger's sudden request for me to pay to have my blog pictures stored. What do you do?  I used Flickr to upload these pictures, and copied the link, but the pictures are pretty poor.  Considering the time and effort that I spend blogging, the thought of having to PAY a monthly fee on top of it all, is really a detriment.  I don't make a penny for this blog, but it does get me some exposure, so I guess it's worth something.  Ugh....  I guess I'll be doing some research about it all.  My old blog, Becky's Blabber I had for 2 1/2 years, and never encountered this problem. Hmmm....

As usual, I'm linking up with WIP Wed, over at Lee's place!  Come join us!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On Cloud 9! My 3DTP is a Winner!!

I just found out this morning that my "3DTP" quilt won 2nd place in Sew Sweetness' Tula Pink Sew Along!!!!  I am beyond thrilled and surprised!!  I got to give Tula Pink credit for her beautiful fabrics!!  They really made the quilt!  Considering that Tula Pink picked the winners herself, is even more exciting!

Thank you, thank you, thank you Tula Pink, Sara, and all of the sponsors for holding this sew along!!  My quilting library will double with this prize, my ruler collection will more than quadruple, I'll be making another thread storage box, and I've never even seen the bias tape maker in action.  I can't wait to see the patterns too!! How amazing!!!

Several people have asked how I made this quilt, and if I used a pattern, so I thought I'd share a quick "pattern" right here, since I made it up myself.  Tula Pink is also giving away free patterns this week!!!!
I started with 3 yards of the background fabric (you may be able to get away with less, but this was plenty for the front with lots of fabric left over), and 1 yard of the gray fabric (again, you may be able to get away with less), plus 8 fat quarters of Tula Pink The Birds and The Bees fabric.
I sub cut the fat quarters into 4,    8.5 by 8.5 inch squares.  There are 30 squares in the quilt top, so you could easily use 30 different fabric squares too.  I had 2 left over squares, from the 8 fat quarters, which I put on the back...

I cut the gray fabric into 2.5 inch strips (width of fabric).  I'm afraid I didn't write down how many or take any pictures.

I then sub cut these into 30,   2.5 by 6.5 inch rectangles and 30,   2.5 by 8.5 inch rectangles.

I also cut out a few 2.5 inch (width of fabric) strips of the background fabric, and sub cut these into 60,    2.5 by 2.5 inch squares.

I then sewed a small background square onto each of the grey rectangles, then sewed the shorter pair onto each of the large center squares, then sewed the larger gray/lavender pair onto that.  Make sense?  Again, sorry I don't have any pictures, but here's one of the finished blocks "auditioning" sashing widths...

I decided to go with 3.5 inch sashing strips cut from the background fabric (3 inch finished), but putting them closer of further apart looks great too.  I'm afraid Google just decided right now to tell me that I've run out of picture space for my blog and now have to pay extra to add more  Boooo......

I hope that there's enough pictures and information above to make one of your own!!  I've had more than a few comments telling me that husbands really like this pattern.  I love it because, like me, it's very geeky!

Finally, considering our crazy last few last weeks with a stolen credit card and both of our vehicles in the shop, this surprise was such a welcome change!!  We're back on our feet pretty much now, and this gives me a great "forward push" again!!  Thanks!

Monday, November 26, 2012

How to make a fabric gift bag, and other green gift ideas

With the holiday season already here, I thought I'd share (again) how I make gift bags for my family and friends. They're super-easy to make (if you have a sewing machine), and can be used over and over again. Plus they'd be great for plane flights, as you can tuck it into a suitcase and keep the gift accessible for security searches. It's only a matter of putting the gift inside of the bag, and pulling the drawstring when you're ready to "wrap".

First, I start by cutting out the amount of fabric I need for the bag (big rectangle), turning it right sides together, and sewing 3 of the 4 sides together, leaving the top open. I leave 1 1/2 inch of one of the seams open at the top. You'll see why as I continue.

Next, I fold back the seam above the opening, and sew it like this:

Now, all I need to do is fold back about 3/4 inches at the top and sew 1/4 inch from the raw edge, to form a casing for the draw string. The last step makes a nice finished edge for the casing opening.

Now I use ribbon (that I bought on clearance Dec.26th, along with the Christmas fabric) to thread through the casing.

Secure them with a knot or bead, add a gift tag, then you're ready to go! I've been using my bags for many years, and can't remember the last time I bought gift wrap. They fold and store easily with all of the Christmas decorations.

Don't forget that you can also wrap gifts with other handmade items, like pillowcases and tote bags:

Also, if you just have a big chunk of fabric, the Japanese art of  Furoshiki is a great way to use fabric to wrap gifts.  I especially like this method for my family and friends who like to sew!
The above picture is from this website.

I also try to remember that gifts don't have to be material things.  Skip the wrapping entirely by taking your loved one out to a local restaurant, donating to a charity in their name, giving a magazine / ezine subscription, signing them up for a class at a local art center gym, or recreation department or give the gift of time, or skills that they may need.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bad Things Come in 3's

I really try hard to keep things positive here on my blog, but in the last few days, first this happened...
then this.  We also got a call from our credit card company making us aware of illegal activity on our account.  Needless to say, I've been up to my eyeballs making phone calls to all sorts of people, being a driver to my husband, and kids and on the computer changing passwords, accounts, etc...  If I'm scarce here for a bit, you now know why...

That said, it all does make me very thankful that only a deer or 2 was hurt in the car accident, that we have insurance, and such a good credit card company.  As my husband and I have tried to get things back to normal, I must say that we make a really good team.  I'm thankful for friends who have offered rides and recommended repair shops, and glad that we have a trustworthy mechanic.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope that you all have as much as we do (or more LOL) to be thankful for.  I certainly am very thankful for all of the many readers and friends that I've made through this blog!  Have a wonderful holiday and I hope to see you next week!!