Easy Street - Part IV

It's been a quiet day here at my house in Rhode Island. My husband and youngest DS are off skiing and I stayed home to work on some projects and finish decorating for Christmas. We had such sad news yesterday about the shooting of 20 first graders and their teachers that I just needed time to quietly sew while listening to public radio. It's inconceivable that someone could kill that many innocents like that. Thursday night I attended a choral presentation by our lower school chorus where 2nd through 5th graders sang holiday music. They are beautiful children, full of enthusiasm, energy and excitement. I keep picturing those happy children while thinking of those who will never have the same chance to sing for their parents. With sadness, but relieved to have something to do, I finished part IV of Easy Street, Bonnie Hunter's mystery.

Thank you Bonnie, for helping to calm my mind.

Rosemary shortbread

Rosemary shortbread smells divine after coming out of the oven.
Hope the recipients love them.


Easy Street, Part III

 All done with my 64 pieces in the latest installment of Bonnie Hunter's Mystery: Easy Street. Each clue is so much fun to complete, and not as time consuming as the string piecing in Orca Bay or Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll. Thank you, Bonnie, for keeping it easy this year.

I had all these grand plans to use fat quarters, but found as the clues keep coming my strip drawers can provide much of the needed colors. 

A possible arrangement? 

 This block I've blown up too much so it's pixelated, but can you see the teal millenium fabric? Tina from Seaside Stitches gave out half yards of this at our last Habitat for Humanity quilt-making workshop in November. Yes, it will date the quilt (literally), but this is what scrap quilts are all about.

Hope we get to play with the greens next week!


Easy Street, Part 2 (and 1)

It's been a while since I posted - life just gets in the way sometimes!

My oldest came home from college for 10 days.

Here the boys are along with our Irish Setter. This photo was taken just before Thanksgiving.
Lately though I've been in the Quilt Cave, as my youngest DS calls it. In my attic, I have a room all to myself, and I can't hear anything happening in the rest of the house. I put on NPR, and sew away happily. Several projects are on the go, including Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt, Easy Street. You've probably seen lots of blog posts about how quilters are keeping up.

Part one of Easy Street. I went with some off-whites with black as well as pure black and white. It's all about using up stash! In this photo, the twosies still need to be paired up to make a 4-patch.

Then came the  128 flying geese.  I love how they came out and almost every one is perfect using Bonnie's technique with the EZ Angle rulers. Still need to snip the dog ears.

Last night I had trouble sleeping, and part of the problem was the division problems I was doing in my head. I kept thinking of common multiples for the pieces already done on Easy Street. Can you tell I'm a math teacher? Perhaps our blocks will be similar to this? 

Next step is published on Friday, and I've got all this from the stash waiting to be used. I stuck with the recommended colors and dug deep in my bins.

See you next week!


Twisted Tradition - Block 3

It's getting back to normal here in Rhode Island after Sandy, and we are still worried about all the people in NJ and NY who have been hit again by rain, snow, more flooding, and more power outages. It seems the electric companies will be working for a while to get everything straightened out.  In my town, people who want to help clean up near the beach are being turned away due to sewage leaks, gas lines leaks and other hazardous materials lurking beneath the sand and debris. Some homeowners are wearing respirators as they shovel the mess out of their homes.

I've been working here and there on a few things.
The first is the Queen of the May and Block 3 of my block-of-the-month from the quilt store Material Obsession in Australia. Here's a peek of the corner. Aren't these colors crazy! This is the reason why I'm making this quilt - to push myself in a color discomfort zone.
Half of the block

Almost all of the block
Ta da!

Block 2

Queen of the May was a lot easier to piece than the Carpenter's Square from last month because there are no inset seams and very little fussy cutting.

Block 3

I recommend checking out Material Obsession if you are intrigued by these blocks. The owner, Kathy Doughty, has written some amazing and inspiring books.

Saturday, some people in my guild are getting together to piece tops for Habitat for Humanity. We give quilts to every resident who moves into a  Habitat home. Perhaps some can go to hurricane victims.


Power is a wonderful thing

I always wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, living on the prairie, and making do with very little, but a few days without power starts to make one realize how truly difficult it was living on the frontier. I am very grateful to have a roof over my head, insulation in my walls, and many warm clothes. Laura had sod homes that leaked, no insulation and very few articles of clothing. Just to wash dishes the past few days, I had to boil water twice - once for washing and once for rinsing. How lucky I was to have a gas stove and not have to light a fire in my backyard. The romantic side of Ms. Wilder's books is still in my heart, but reality says I need my power tools - iron, Bernina, washer, vacuum cleaner and coffee maker. I am so happy the power was back on tonight!

Sandy has wreaked havoc in my small town. My yard just had many leaves and twigs blown down, and my neighbors lost a few trees, but there are parts of town where people aren't even allowed to drive yet. Some roads still have trees lying across them, and other roads have been washed away or have three feet of sand lying on top of them. This video by local videographer Chris Walsh shows some of what happened to our beach:

Hurricane Sandy - Misquamicut Beach from Chris Walsh on Vimeo.

These are some aerial photos that the state newspaper took: http://www.flickr.com//photos/ridotnews/sets/72157631891636224/show/

So many places have it much worse than Rhode Island, but we seem to focus on what's right in front of us. New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut are suffering in terrible ways. Let's hope the clean-up goes smoothly for all those affected.


Twisted Tradition - Block 2

The cars are full of gas, cell phones charged, extra water in containers on the counter, generator checked, propane purchased for the grill and all items that could become windblown are safely stowed. Sandy is roaring outside at 35 mph, with expected gusts to 70 mph and my school is closed for two days. The crockpot is filled with pirate stew, and we're hoping the power stays on long enough to cook it without firing up the generator. After painting some trim in a bedroom this morning, I decided to finish handpiecing block 2 of my Twisted Tradition quilt. This is a block-of-the-month that I purchased after seeing the quilt in Sisters, OR, in summer of 2011. My aunt made the same quilt and hers is done; I'm just quite a bit slower! See block 1 here.

It turns out that somehow I received the wrong block in the mail, but only realized it recently. This block actually goes to Let's Twist Again, but I'm not going to pursue having this remedied, since the store is halfway around the world in Australia!

I love how we had to fussy cut the diamonds in the block center to create this pattern. As well, the purple patches and green paisley. Can you find the purple patch that is sewed in the wrong direction? I'm ready to sew block 3, but there's some fabric missing, and I'll need to head to my LQS to see if they have anything that can work. Of course, the LQS is closed along with everything else in my town, so it will be a few days before I can get started. Guess I'll have to get out some other UFOs!

This is my neighbor's beautiful red maple. It's hard to tell, but it's really blowing hard out there. Her oak trees (in the background) have lost almost all of their leaves in the wind from yesterday. Stay safe if you are in Sandy's path!


Have you tried Freecycle?

I started using Freecycle this summer and found it to be a wonderful place to give away items I no longer needed. It's online through Yahoo, and you can post items you no longer want, reply to others' posts for things of theirs you want, and to ask for things you might need. It's all over the USA and perhaps there is something like it in other countries. Reply and let me know. Their motto is "changing the world one gift at a time", so it's probably in other countries.

This first item to go were socket holders - my hubbie decided they needed to go since he has something better to hold all of his various sockets. Within minutes of posting, I had 4 requests for the socket holders. I replied back to the 2nd person who responded (the first had a very nasty email address) and after leaving the sockets outside my house, they were gone by the next day.

The second item to go was an old-style TV. (My set was MUCH newer than the console set below, but I had friends whose families had these when I was younger) We haven't had cable in ten years, but still had a hand-me-down TV with which to watch movies. This summer, we painted a side-of-the-road bureau to use as a TV stand and hidden storage, and found the old TV stuck out over the front of the bureau. So, we had to buy a flat-screen and off the old TV went on Freecycle. At first, no one responded, so I "marketed" it as being good for kid's video games and a young couple picked it up promptly.

The third item to go was a bag of assorted bits and skeins of acrylic yarn that belonged to my mother, who died 7 years ago. I really thought I would finish her projects, but it's never going to happen. I really thought no one would want the yarn, but 6 women responded and I gave the yarn to a woman whose church group will use it for donation afghans and baby hats. My mom would like that group to have the yarn.

I've seen people offer and take clothing, mattresses, fish tanks, kids' toys, spider plants, green tomatoes, garden bulbs, ice-cream from a summer business that was closing, rugs, all kinds of furniture, knick-knacks, bicycles, microwaves, etc. It's a wonderful way of keeping things out of the land-fill and is a cornerstone of recycle, reduce, reuse and rethink. There are no fees involved, no money changes hands, and posts are all monitored by volunteers. Give it a try!


Jack-in-the-Box Quilt


A few weeks ago, I spent the day at a new venue for me- the Lyme, CT, Public Hall, taking an all-day class. The 11 of us who attended had two options for the day, one class in the morning and one in the afternoon. I had chosen, sight unseen, Jack-in-the-Box for the morning, and Grandmother's Bag (blog post to follow) for the afternoon. Both classes were taught by wonderful women.

Mary Juliette-Paonessa taught Jack-in-the-Box, and her goal was for us to finish one each of the two blocks in the quilt. Since then, I've finished the top. My color choices were a bit blendy, but I do love how the top came out. The snowball blocks don't meet up with the sides of the other blocks, but the blendiness probably helps from this error taking over visually.

There were lots of bonus half-square triangles left over from the snowball blocks.

I'll put them together as pinwheels and use them on the back. 

It was a cloudy today when I took this photo, but inside, the colors glow a bit more. I love these fabrics and since I'm mostly a scrap quilter, it was fun to cut into yardage greater than 1/4 of a yard. A member of my guild was selling lots of fabric at bargain prices a year ago, and I took full advantage of her sale. The greens were leftovers from previous projects and I had exactly enough for the blocks and use a different green for the thin border.


Make your own "Swiffer" pads

I bought a Swiffer sweeper many years ago and didn't use it much because the replacement pads were so expensive. You can easily use one pad in each room and I doubled my usage by flipping each one over. A few years ago, I tried using dryer sheets that had already been used in the dryer a few times. (Yes, I'm frugal - using dryer sheets more than once, plus I only use my dryer in the winter. I tried hanging wet items in my basement, but they ended up smelling bad.)

When DS 2 broke his leg in February, he asked that I make him "toe socks" to cover the tip of his cast where his toes stuck out. Since it was quite cold and there was snow on the ground, we had to make sure he was warm. I found some leftover fleece and whipped up a couple short tubes that he could tug on his cast. (Make that, I tugged on over his cast, because his knee was immobile). After the cast came off, I cut off the seams of the toe socks and tried them on the Swiffer. The fleece worked much better than dryer sheets, but didn't come out great in the wash with my other rags. I needed more fleece pads to have enough to make their own wash load.

So to make your own - you need fleece. You could use new fleece, or cut up an old fleece jacket or blanket that's hanging around. Isn't this an ugly piece of fabric? It looks like purple islands floating in a sea of algae and has been in my attic since before kids. I was in a fleece jacket-making mode back then.

Measure your Swiffer or measure a Swiffer pad.  9 inches by 12 inches works for my Swiffer.

Cut away! I tried using my rotary cutter through 4 layers, but it didn't work. I just used my kitchen scissors. You can estimate your meausurements and don't worry if you cut a crooked line. The housekeeping police don't care! If you cut a piece too small to fit on your Swiffer, use it for dusting your dresser.

Place your Swiffer unit on top of the fleece.

Press the fleece into the grabbers.

Start cleaning. These are my front stairs which were vacuumed last week.

This is what came off my stairs. Yuck! With one cat and a dog who is not allowed upstairs, it's amazing how much fur is on there.

Now, just flip the fleece over and you can keep going. When the fleece is yucky enough, toss it in the laundry. I try the peel off the biggest dust bunnies first before washing.

I only use this technique for dry-mopping. There are Swiffer pads for wet-mopping, which I wouldn't recommend because of all the chemicals. If you have an idea for wet-mopping, let me know.


New doll clothes and vintage dolls

Do you remember your dolls? I still have a couple of mine. One was a baby and I have clothing for her that my grandmother made out of dress scraps. She lives in my sewing room and I can't think of a reason to give her up. Later, I had a Littlest Angel, by Vogue, complete with a pink trunk to hold her and her wardrobe. Yes, still have her also, but I thought I would sell her recently and I think together with the trunk, she's worth about $40. (Anyone want to buy her?)

Vogue baby doll with Grandma's dress scraps outfit

Littlest Angel

Green and blue-eyed Vogue sisters

My mother wouldn't let me have a Barbie, because she didn't look like a real woman and back then Barbie wasn't a good role model as her focus was on fashion, high heels and Ken. Skipper (Barbie's little sister) was for me since she was more athletic looking. (Photo from Ebay) Now I found out there was another Skipper who grew breasts when you rotated her arm. Mom would NEVER have let me play with her!


Now girls have the American Girl dolls, which are a huge marketing win for the company. One niece of mine, who is taller than me, convinced her parents to take her to the American Girl doll store in New York City. It was the first time to NY for my brother, and a culture shock to his country ways.

Niece number 2 is five years old and doesn't realize that her American Girl doll has a store from which to shop, so I made her several doll outfits for a Christmas gift from scraps from my garment sewing days. The blue polka-dot dress came from blouse scraps.

This red polka dot dress could have been from dress scrap, but I'm not sure. I still love polka dots! In my hoard stash, I found fabric to make crinolines (from my mother's stash), so made a quick slip for poufiness.

The yellow pants were leftover from a crib bedskirt (my oldest is 18!) and the striped vest is leftovers from a high-school tube-style top.

The jeans are scrap from a denim maternity dress and the hot pink is supplex scrap from my days of making fleece jackets with supplex trim.

The nightgown is leftover from a flannel nightie I made for myself and just tossed recently.

Making all of these clothes was rewarding, as I traveled down memory lane of past outfits and I hope my niece loves them!


Material Obsession Block 1

My DS, the racer above, broke his leg last February when he was skiing. Luckily, it was a closed spiral fracture of the tibia and didn't require surgery. It did, however, require quite a bit of physical therapy.  He had a full-length cast for 6 weeks, followed by a below-knee cast for 6 weeks and started therapy before the last cast was off. We found out that his crutches were too short which caused him to have an odd gait when he was allowed to put weight on the cast. Also, his hip and ankle were extremely weak. Therapy just ended this week and I'm happy that he is now walking well with only a slight limp when he's tired. He isn't allowed to run for four more weeks and then we'll have a final orthopedist visit. When racing season starts next December, he'll be all set to ski again.

I started this block before he broke his leg, but finished it while he was in therapy. It was very peaceful to sit and hand-piece while he was engaged in varying exercises with Michelle, his therapist. The block itself has a story: I went to the Sisters Quilt Show in Oregon last year and was enthralled with quilts hanging from one building. The fabrics sang to me and the color choices were something that I would never pick, but loved. As I was gushing over one quilt - a woman came up to me and told me I could make the same quilt as it was a block-of-the-month designed by Sue Ross from a shop in Australia. (Maybe it was Sue Ross I was talking too. Can't remember) I signed up as soon as I got home and packages with pretty stamps started arriving. The blocks were put on the back burner, as I was working on a bunch of other things, but now they are coming out and challenging me with fussy cutting, hand-piecing and curved lines. It's been fun so far and I'll share other blocks as they are completed. The blocks are from the shop Material Obsession in Drummoyne, Australia. Kathy Doughty, the owner has written amazing books with wonderful patterns and also has a blog.

I love how the stripes radiate out from the block's center. It's a bit wrinkly right now, but lays flat.

 Doesn't this center just make you smile?