February star blocks – better late than never

I missed my self-imposed deadline for my February star blocks. Now, if February had the same number of days as March or June, and I’d had a day off work, they’d have been done in time. Yeah, that sounds good.

I’m well aware that piecing these blocks falls well outside the realm of instant gratification so, out of curiosity, I set a timer to see how long it took to just pin, sew and press five star blocks: 2 hours, 34 minutes. Yikes! That’s more than half an hour per block. Sewing the sub units together consumes most of that time because of the difficulty in matching all the diagonal seams. Once in a great while, I’m lucky and nail it the first time, but more often than not, un-sewing and re-sewing multiple times is required for a perfect match.

For the next set, I’m going to see how long it takes to mark the seam lines.

Happy quilting!


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Snow days and star blocks

We have been enjoying real winter weather here in the south. I should probably rephrase that to say “I” have been enjoying real winter weather. Most people who live here are sub-70s wimps and don’t do cold. For me, I’ll take 30 degrees over 90 and humid any day.

house with snow

Proof of our snow! We covered the camellias and they survived just fine and continue to bloom.

I would have posted about our unusual weather sooner, but my computer died and it’s taken this much time to order a new one and bring it up to speed. The old one got stuck on a Windows restart loop and John said to bring it back to life would require a complete overhaul, including reinstalling the operating system and re-configuring the hard drive. Thank goodness for Carbonite! I was able to retrieve all my files and emails, and although a few tweaks are still needed; I’m up and running close to 100 percent.

Back to the winter weather: Two weeks ago, we experienced temps in the high 20s/low 30s, had our second dusting of snow this season, and rain, which iced up the bridges and overpasses. With weather like that, things here shut down, and for us, that translated into two days off work.

I took full advantage, spending two glorious days in my sewing room making five more plaid star blocks:

5 star blocks

I decided to try to make one star block a week until I have enough to put the top together. That kind of a goal should not be too difficult to manage around a full-time job, and since I do fairly well with deadlines and schedules, I thought it was worth a shot.

Hope you’re sewing something fun today! Thanks for stopping by.

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Bacon boxers

Did you ever see Jim Gaffigan’s 2009 comedy performance King Baby? We watched it with the boys and enjoyed it immensely, especially when he got going on the subject of bacon. Since then, when we see or smell bacon, we think of Gaffigan running on about bacon and smile. So it seemed like a fun thing to do to make boxer shorts for the boys with bacon fabric.

The pattern featured a mock fly and only had two pieces: a front/back and a waistband. Still, construction was a challenge and when the instructions called for sewing through the two overlapped layers in front to create the mock fly, I didn’t like the way it looked or felt when smoothed out. I also wondered why it was necessary, so I ripped out the stitches and instead, reinforced the opening ¾” below the waistband

and again at the bottom of the fly.

The boys were underwhelmed, so it’s not likely that this pattern will be used again, but I’m still glad I made them.

I also managed to finish two beaded Christmas ornaments that I had purchased many moons ago.

I had started the stocking in Colorado, and finished it first,

after which I decided to tackle the Santa sack.

I enjoy these little kits, but sorting the beads for the Santa sack ornament took an hour. I finally pulled a round baking dish from the kitchen to keep those bouncy, roly-poly beads contained.

Maybe 2018 can be a year of finishes…

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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In-house tech support

I have nothing quilty or crafty to show this month. Since I went back to work in May, that part of my life has really fallen by the wayside. I wish there was room for more work/life balance, but startup companies like ours don’t allow for it. It’s okay for now, and my income is helping to pay for college. Plus, I like what I do and I enjoy my co-workers so I can’t complain too much.

We enjoyed having the boys home for Thanksgiving. They flew in Monday evening and left Saturday afternoon. It was hard to say good-bye, but they’ll be home within the month for Christmas. After that, it will probably be another year before we see them again.

While they were home, John arranged it so we both had one-on-one time with each of them, which was nice. Also nice was the fact that when I had trouble booting my laptop, both of them jumped in to figure out what the trouble was.

I am so lucky to have in-house tech support!

The diagnosis was insufficient memory, so all the menfolk piled in the car for a trip to the computer store, which likely doubles as male bonding, right?

The added memory did the trick, and I’m grateful for avoiding the purchase of a new laptop.

Thanks for stopping by!

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I finished piecing two more plaid star blocks and I’m really liking the way they’re turning out, even though the going is slow.

I also finished the second charity quilt required by my guild. Both quilts allowed me to practice quilting on my APQS George, and although I’m still getting used to it, I learned a lot. Now I’m anxious to finish a couple of my own quilts that have been languishing in the UFO pile because they are too big to run under the Bernina with any modicum of success. Twenty inches of throat space is magical!

Admittedly, the quilt is nothing special to look at, as the fabric in the kit put together by the guild is vintage 1990s, but hopefully it will get good use and keep someone warm.

Over the weekend, I upgraded to Electric Quilt 8. It was nice to save a little cash by having the option to download the two guides rather than having to purchase a printed manual.

I got both printed and bound, and worked through the first exercise in the Quick Start Guide.

The user interface is completely different and I really like it. Now I’m wishing for a week off from work to immerse myself in it and start designing again—maybe over the holidays.

My last little tidbit of news is that I scored a free ticket to the Houston Quilt Festival next weekend.

The woman who cuts my hair has a client who works for Quilts, Inc. The client left some complimentary tickets with her to give to her customers so she called and asked if I wanted one! I only have one day to go, so it will be a marathon day, but I’m looking forward to it.

Happy quilting!


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The cherry on top: quilt labels

I think everyone has their favorite method of labeling their finished quilts; mine is to cross stitch them.

Here is the label I put on my mom’s quilt:

For privacy, last names have been digitally edited from the photos.

I use 18-count Aida cloth in either white, antique white, or ivory. I start by charting the words on graph paper, left-justifying the majority of the lines of text. For stitching, a size 26 tapestry needle works best, with two strands of embroidery floss in a color that blends with the fabrics used in the quilt.

How do you label your quilts?

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Greetings from Harveyswamp, Texas

Harvey needs to leave. It’s almost 7:30 p.m. and it has

Not.    Stopped.    Raining.    All.    Day.

Fortunately, we are still dry, although last night I was uneasy about the water lapping at the top of our curb. It has since receded, but the anxiety returned with news that the Army Corps. of Engineers was planning to release water from the Addicks and Barker Cypress reservoirs. This excess flows into Buffalo Bayou, (already reported to be overflowing) which runs behind our neighborhood. It’s so close, you can walk to it from our house.

It’s so saturated outside, inside our house, both downstairs toilets and the drains in the kitchen and laundry room are gurgling.

Over the weekend, residents in our subdivision have been out periodically to clear the gutters of debris so that our streets continue to drain, and earlier today, a call went out for help clearing this tree that had fallen into the street last night.

A neighbor and his teenage son showed up with a chain saw which worked for about five minutes before quitting. John and I donned beach shoes and rain gear to see if we could help and John ended up fetching his handsaw from the garage. By then a couple other neighbors joined us with a second handsaw and rake and within about 30 minutes most of the tree was out of the street.

With no working chain saw to cut the remaining trunk into sections, the guys tried to rotate it, but that that didn’t work because the roots were still holding firm.

In most places the water was at mid-calf level, which is nothing compared to other parts of the city, so we can’t complain.

On the quilting side of life, since returning to work in May, I have not sewn or quilted much. I did complete a charity quilt for my guild, which is not at all attractive—or square, which is one reason I stay away from panels. I didn’t realize there was a panel in this kit, otherwise, I would have picked up another kit; but it’s done and hopefully, a kid somewhere will enjoy it:

Thanks for stopping by!

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Small adjustment = life changing results

Over the Fourth of July holiday, John and I had a four-day weekend. The better part of one of those days was spent on a medical insurance appeal. I composed several letters, printed forms, scanned documents and made copies for everyone under the sun who was in a position of “need to know.”

That’s when I realized my office space needed adjusting. When we first set it up after we moved, I’m not sure why, but I had positioned the chair, keyboard and mouse to the right of the center support for the desk (where the trash can is in the photo). In doing so, when I needed to use the work table (forming the L in the photo) the chair would run off the floor mat into the carpet. Turning the floor mat the other direction didn’t help, so I was stuck for a solution.

I am lucky to be married to an engineer because there isn’t much he can’t figure out. He agreed that a bigger mat was needed but also suggested I switch sides and work to the left of the desk’s center. Having the mouse to the left opens up space on the right for papers and writing, which is logical for a right handed person like me.

John found a large enough mat that allows for the chair to roll under both the desk and the work table without falling into the carpet. Also, we were able to re-purpose the other mat so we didn’t lose anything there. In the end, I was amazed how much easier it was to work in the space just by switching sides.

If you’re curious about the left handed mouse thing…Many years ago, John and I converted to using a mouse with our left hands to save wear and tear on our right hands. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s perfectly doable.

If only our medical insurance claim effort was that easy.

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A visitor and some cross stitch minis

My brother visited earlier this month and we had a good time hanging out. He brought the cross stitch designs I stitched for my mom back in the mid-90s. They’re done in her colors and she displayed them in her dining room. After she died, my dad said he didn’t mind if I had them.

Now I need to make two decisions: where to hang them in my house and whether or not to replace the pink matboards. Although I like pink, I think those two look dated. Anyway, here they are:

The designs are from the Just*Nan Ornamental Treasures collection and include




Victorian Floral

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Shadow boxes

No quilting in my world since I was called back to work May 1. Our startup company lost funding last September and my job wound down in October. It was pretty depressing, but the team found a new funder and, this time, we have a real, honest-to-goodness project, so we are back in business and going 100 miles an hour every day. Moving from no job to a full time job was rough, but I’m adjusting and glad to be at the office doing whatever I can to help out.

I thought I would show you my sewing-themed shadow boxes, now that they’re all done. Back in January of 2014, on a trip to Houston, I took a bunch of my grandmothers’ and mother’s old sewing related items to a framing shop there to be made into shadow boxes. Three years later, we ended up with three unique boxes.

This one we named the Baby Box (27½” x 21½”) because it features magazine pages about how to make baby clothes. These likely belonged to my paternal grandmother, and if they were made for my dad and/or uncle, these pages would date prior to 1930.

Mom and Grandma used a lot of bias tape, piping and other trims for their sewing projects, mostly clothing, and some of the more unique ones with their unusual labels and ultra-cheap prices looked good here.

I wish I knew which of my grandmas had had all the crochet hooks. Only a couple of them might have belonged to my mom because I only remember her crocheting one thing in her life: an afghan for my college dorm room.

Most of the crochet hooks I found among her and my grandmother’s sewing things had teeny tiny hooks, likely not suitable for the thicker yarn Mom used for my afghan.

We picked a different frame for each of the three boxes as well as a different lining color. Here is the frame for the Baby Box:

Here is the Notions Box (21½” x 35″).

It’s a bit chaotic, but that’s often how our sewing rooms look, so it seemed appropriate.

This box had to be built up to make room for the box of pins and the wrist pin holder you see on the middle-right side, which belonged to my paternal grandmother.

My grandma could have been a tailor. Her sewing and fitting skills were impeccable. She used a dress form when she sewed her clothes; in fact, my dad remembers helping her make it. She handed him a roll of brown tape one afternoon and told him to cover her with it! When he finished, he and my grandpa (who was very supportive of her sewing endeavors) cut it and got it off of her. She mounted it on a stand that either she had made or my grandpa had made. Both my grandparents were very clever at fashioning things they needed for around the house, rather than buying everything.

Here is the Notions Box frame:

The last one is the Embroidery Box (41¾” x 25¾”).

In addition to the embroidered pieces, it also contains most of the crochet hooks I mentioned earlier, some darning tools and some upholstery needles like the wicked looking one to the left of the crochet hooks.

The envelope in the upper left corner contained a mail order pattern for my grandma and dates from 1937 to 1947, when she and her family lived at that address (removed for privacy).

After learning that postage in that decade was between 3 and 5 cents, I asked my dad about the 1 cent stamp.

He thought that commercial mailings at the time may have qualified for a reduced rate, similar to the discount second class (periodicals) get today.

I love and appreciate all the knots in this embroidered piece, which was a tablecloth for a card table (Grandma played bridge).

Here’s the frame:

Many sewing supplies remain, particularly thread and buttons.

I filled an old Ball jar from John’s grandmother with a bunch of the spools, and it sits on a shelf in my sewing room.

As for how to showcase all the old buttons, I’m still thinking

It was fun creating keepsakes that highlight two generations of my family’s sewing history. It’s also comforting to know that those little notions, buttons, thread and patterns won’t be lost forever and now can be enjoyed every day.

Thanks for stopping by!

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