Category Archives: Christmas

Triple finish

Done, done and DONE! Finally, I finished two UFOs and all eight Santa place mats. I hadn’t done any machine quilting since before we moved in 2014, so I chose smaller projects to ease myself back into the groove.

I admit, shame was the motivating factor for crossing the finish line, particularly since each of these projects was started around the turn of the century. First is the 42″ x 42″ Fences ‘n Firs wall hanging.

Designed by Susan Preglow and Cathy Slatterly, the pattern for this was featured in the January 2000 issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts.

I loved the scrappy nature of the design, but as a newbie quilter back then, I had no stash and no scraps, so I used fat quarters and standard, quarter-yard cuts to piece the top. Now, 17 years later, I can’t imagine my quilting life with no stash, although I could definitely embrace the no-scraps aspect of it!

Quilting this little project was an exercise in one step forward, two steps back. Besides not knowing for the longest time how to quilt the tree blocks, once I did figure it out, I ended up re-quilting all 12 of them because I hated the way they looked. The nylon thread I had used just didn’t look right, so I ended up using matching thread. Tension issues led me to quilt nearly half of them yet a third time.

On top of that, I’m hoping the stain in one of the rail fence blocks hasn’t permanently set in.

I’m not exactly sure how it got there; it’s possibly an acid stain from the packing paper the quilts were wrapped and stored in while we moved and built our house. More likely, it was caused by a Texas cockroach (no amount of pest control keeps them ALL away). Disgusting, I know.

The backing is pieced with leftovers from the top:

I used a simple cable design for the border:

Here’s a look at the free motion machine quilting of a tree from the back:

and a maple leaf:

The vertical lines running through the leaf are the ditch quilting lines inside the rail fence blocks.

My machine quilting is definitely improving, but I still find it intimidating.

My second finish is this simple, 46″ x 54″ quilt:

There must’ve been a perfectly good OCD reason for the last square in the bottom row to be red instead of blue, but so much time has passed, I don’t remember what it was.

The squares are quilted with diagonal lines spaced two inches apart and the sashing strips and border are quilted with a single cable design.

It’s made with Aunt Grace Christmas prints, which were available between 1996 and 2001.

Check out these vintage cuties:

Here is the backing fabric:

The only two places I could have bought these prints is Houston or a little shop in Estes Park, Colorado. The striped fabric used for the binding was purchased at the Houston Quilt Festival in the early 2000s.

Completing the binding for all eight Santa place mats is the third and final finish. Here they are with their matching table runner:

Although the curved edges in this project required it, I discovered that I’m not fond of working with bias binding!

It feels good to say “done,” but there’s still a lot on the list, so I’d best keep on keepin’ on.

Thanks for checking in!

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Filed under binding, borders, Christmas, fabric, machine quilting, quilting, scrappy backs, thread

Resolutions? Yeah, well, maybe…

Last month, in typical New Year’s resolution fashion, I plugged all my quilty UFOs into an embarrassingly lengthy Excel spreadsheet to get a

visual

reality check

WAKEUP CALL……….about the true number of tops languishing in the closet that need finishing—after which I dove deep into piecing my batik zig zag nine patch top.

zig-zag-9-patch

One project I dug up while compiling the spreadsheet was a Santa table runner and set of eight matching placemats which I had started when the boys were little (around the turn of the century) and stashed away under the bed with a serious promise to myself that I would finish them onedaysoon—ha!

santa-placemats1

Life intervened and those poor, cute little santas snoozed under the bed until last Thanksgiving when, for about two minutes I deluded myself into thinking that I might be able to finish binding the placemats in time for our company Christmas party—ha! The table runner was completely finished and all the placemats had binding sewn on, needing only hand stitching to secure it to the back, but with eight of them, there was just no way.

santa-placemats2

The plan is to stitch one per month to avoid boredom, but still finish the set in time for Christmas 2017. Now that’s realistic.

Thanks for checking in!

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Button wreaths

There is no better activity in life than making something. I ignored fabric and thread last weekend and played with three generations of buttons: mom’s, grandma’s, and mine. I found some cute ideas online and made four new ornaments for the Christmas tree:

button-wreath1

button-wreath2

button-wreath3

button-wreath4

I started with a package of four 3½-inch diameter plywood circles from the craft store.

button-wreath5

John cut a 2-inch diameter circle from the middle of each one, leaving a ¾-inch rim for the buttons.

First, all the buttons got a quick bath in dish soap and warm water. Then I sorted them by color, setting aside the most interesting ones for the top layer of each wreath.

button-wreath6

Instead of hot glue, I used a size 4 flat/shader paint brush to apply tacky glue to the underside of each button.

button-wreath7

The tacky glue dries clear, plus I didn’t want to deal with globs and strings of hot glue on such small pieces, some as little as ¼ to ⅜ of an inch.

For the first layer, I used a combination of large and medium sized buttons, generally picking the less attractive buttons or ones that I had a lot of since they were going to be covered anyway.

button-wreath8

The bottom layers generally needed between 25 to 30 buttons.

The second layer was created by covering the gaps between buttons in the bottom layer. As much as possible, I tried to evenly distribute the buttons by size, value (light/medium/dark), and finish (shiny vs. matte).

button-wreath9

The tacky glue always came up through the holes in the buttons, but it dried clear, so it wasn’t an issue.

I used a wire cutter to clip off the shanks from buttons that had them.

button-wreath10

button-wreath11

It was fun to go through all the buttons and see the prices on the cards, and recall clothes my mom made for me in junior high and high school. I also enjoyed my grandma’s notes. She would write on the card where she bought her buttons and when:

button-wreath12

button-wreath13

I hope you’re having fun making something, too!

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Boy makes kuchen

This was our first Christmas since moving back to Houston and we’ve been having a good time ever since the boys flew in a week ago. We celebrated Eric’s birthday on the 19th and marveled at how much better the chocolate cake is when baked at sea level (click here and here for the back story on the chocolate cake).

Eric birthday past

Because of our temporary housing situation and our desire to unpack as little as possible until we move again, the Christmas tree and all the decorations stayed tucked away upstairs in a hallway closet. We also successfully avoided bringing additional stuff into the house, not setting a single foot inside a mall this season (the kids just want cash anyway) by shopping online and shipping directly to the recipient. Still, it was a fun day with the family all together, sharing our traditional Christmas dinner of lasagna, playing games, helping Ross in the kitchen, and staying unplugged.

When Ross was a sophomore in high school, his German teacher wrapped up the fall semester by asking her students to bring German food to share with the class. That was Ross’s introduction to making kuchen and he’s made it at least once a year since.

Preparing the custard filling.

Preparing the custard filling.

Kuchen takes on different forms, but our family’s version is made with a yeast dough, fruit and a custard filling. John remembers his mother and grandmother making it but believes the recipe to have been handed down from his great grandmother.

So yesterday was Ross’s day in the kitchen because I’d made the lasagna the day before.

kuchen2

Ross made cinnamon rolls with the extra dough. Between the two of us remembering how our moms made them, John and I were able to guide Ross through all the steps.

cinnamon rolls1

After making the first cross cut (much like cutting a strip set in quilting), we heard him exclaim, “Hey, this is a true spiral!”

cinnamon rolls2

The dough didn’t get a second chance to rise, but they were still good.

cinnamon rolls3

cinnamon rolls4

While Ross was busy in the kitchen, John, Eric and I played Scrabble,

Scrabble

then Rummikub.

Rummikub

Merry Christmas, everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Christmas, home cookin', kids

Back from the cold and frozen south

Houston was COLD last week. Thursday and Friday it was warmer here in Denver than it was in Houston—cold, wet, icy, teeth-chattering, bone-chilling cold—burrrrr! I was so grateful to Rhonda for loaning me her parka and gloves (shiver)!

As usual, I had a great time—got to see the old neighborhood, visit with a few of our former neighbors, see my niece, get a decent haircut from my former stylist, shop at some local quilt stores, have lunch with the girls and marvel once again at the monument to concrete that is now Interstate 10—seven lanes, both sides. What more could a girl ask for?

On Thursday, my niece picked me up at the airport and we went to lunch at one of our favorite pizza places. Dining choices in Denver consist primarily of boring and tiresome chain eateries; the city sorely lacks one-of-a-kind, sole-proprietor restaurants with great food, so when I return to Houston my agenda always includes hitting at least a couple favorite spots since it will be a year before I get to enjoy them again.

Erin

Later we went to see her new apartment; it’s in a good neighborhood and close to great supermarkets, tons of office space (if she ever decides to change jobs), and a fabulous bike trail—if she’s so inclined. I’m so proud of her because she managed to get out of a lousy roommate situation before her lease expired—no small accomplishment.

On Friday after my haircut, I ran across the street to Half Price Books and found these:

quilt books1

The blue book titled Taking the Math Out of Making Patchwork Quilts by Bonnie Leman and Judy Martin is a great reference for computing yardage for patterns. I especially like the tables that give you measurements for diagonal sets, including how different sashing widths impact the size of a diagonally set quilt.

The topics addressed in this book are referenced on the back cover.

The topics addressed in this book are referenced on the back cover.

quilt books2

Ever since I started designing, I’ve been on the lookout for block books and I was rewarded this trip with two. I also thought it was time to learn more about color (the book on the left) so I scooped it up. These four books together, all in excellent condition, cost $9.00 to $10.00 less than one brand new quilt book you would find at any quilt shop.

Score.

On Saturday, neighbor Joe Ann, Rhonda and her co-worker and I went out to lunch and did our own little shop hop of three stores south and west of Houston. Joe Ann was excited to go to one that had recently opened because she learned it was stocked with Downton Abbey fabric and she just had to have some.

I found some basic Christmas prints

Christmas dots

and a homespun plaid:

purple plaid

Here are the next 10 snowball blocks for my 30s scrap quilt:

AG100

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Patchwork progress

Lately, I haven’t posted all that frequently, but I have been working on quilting projects, in between house cleaning, tending to a high school senior and baking for Eric. If you’ve been following the story of Eric’s Christmas packages, they finally arrived in Afghanistan after Christmas. Meanwhile, in response to my request for an update on their delivery status, the post office emailed me a link to their customer service survey with a request to fill it out.

Huh?

Three or four days later, I finally received a form letter in my inbox explaining that mail for overseas military members goes into a ginormous black hole so no one can be accountable—well, that clears things up nicely, doesn’t it?

box1

We packed two more boxes of snacks and other items to send, hoping that now that the Christmas rush is over, it will take less time for them to reach their destination—why did I just say that after what I wrote in the first paragraph above? I suppose my head needs examining now.

One of the boxes has four loaves of quick bread: two apple, two pumpkin, which I hope Eric will share with his maties (I know that’s not a word, but it sounds cute, so I’m going with it).

box2

At our TSA meeting on Tuesday, I finished stitching the binding onto my Christmas tree table runner:

table-runner2

I increased the amount of quilting on the tree trunks, and I think they look much better with more.

I increased the amount of quilting on the tree trunks, and I think they look much better with more.

I completed two more sets of rows on my scrappy 1930s quilt. I really, really like the way it looks but don’t think I’ll take on another one of this kind.

scrappy 30s progress

You sew and sew and sew to get your 4-patch, you sew and sew and sew to get your 6-patch, then you sew and sew and sew to put bunches of them together and four hours later you have a row. Then you get to pin match 30-plus seams and sew some more and hope this doesn’t happen:

mistake

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Filed under binding, Christmas, piecing, quilting

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! I hope you happily spent your day with people you love and care about.

It was pretty quiet around our house today. We’re glad Ross was here, but Eric is halfway across the world in Afghanistan and we were sad that he was not with us.

Christmas 1997. First wagon, from Grandpa and Grandma.

Christmas 1997. First wagon, from Grandpa and Grandma.

We are also monumentally peeved that he did not receive the packages we mailed to him three weeks ago and are beginning to believe that he will never get them. The USPS tracking database says the last scan was ten days ago on the 15th when they left Chicago, so they should’ve gotten there already. We now have a USPS case number because we don’t think it’s too much to ask for Eric to get his stuff.

Thirty-one years ago, my husband married a very practical girl. I’m one who just doesn’t understand the “he didn’t give me anything personal” complaint. I don’t much care for jewelry, dislike perfume, and prefer to pick out my own clothes.  So you can imagine my thrill when I unwrapped this today:

rapid boil pot1

rapid boil pot2

It’s a high performance, rapid boil stainless steel pot with a removable insert.

rapid boil pot3

Its base has fins

rapid boil pot4

which decrease heat-up time by up to 40 percent. Bottom line, stuff boils faster, reducing your time in the kitchen—something I’m all for these days. I love it and couldn’t be more pleased. Thanks, honey!

In the meantime, this week, I managed to sneak a few minutes between a tiny bit of shopping, wrapping gifts, cooking and baking to get a little sewing done. I’m trying to stick to my plan to make 10 Aunt Grace snowball blocks per weeks, and so far, so good:

AG blocks

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More Christmas, some blocks and a recipe

Today I have some more Christmas crafts to show you, a tasty vegetable recipe and a progress report on my Aunt Grace snowball blocks.

I made this advent calendar when the boys were little. It was a panel and difficult to work with because it was printed crooked. It’s one reason I shy away from panels now. It was my first attempt at machine quilting.

advent

Very 1990s, but still cute, this stuffed, stamped, hand stitched Christmas goose was my first attempt at basic embroidery stitches.

goose

John sanded and finished this set of three shaker boxes for me before I padded and applied the cross stitched tops to the lids. The edges of the lids are finished with a green grosgrain ribbon.

shaker boxes

Even older than the stuffed goose above, I cross stitched and finished this in the late 1980s.

xstitch

This was my first published quilt. You can read all about it by clicking the MY QUILTS tab at the top of this page.

I confess: When I finished this project, I joined the binding ends together with no attention to matching the stripes and it looked terrible. Upon learning that McCall's wanted to feature it in their magazine, I ripped out the binding and struggled to figure out how to make the stripes appear continuous before delivering it to their office. I'm not sure I could explain what I did exactly, but I'd do it again because it looks so much better.

I confess: When I finished this project, I joined the binding ends together with no attention to matching the stripes and it looked terrible. Upon learning that McCall’s wanted to feature it in their magazine, I ripped out the binding and struggled to figure out how to make the stripes appear continuous before delivering it to their office. I’m not sure I could explain what I did exactly, but I’d do it again because it looks so much better.

I found this project in a 1998 issue of a Christmas crafts magazine. You can read all about it by clicking the MY QUILTS tab at the top of this page.

table mat

And finally, here’s a photo of the mantle over the fireplace in the kitchen

kitchen

and the family room:

man cave

I finished 20 more Aunt Grace snowball blocks over the weekend. My goal is to make 10 per week. At that rate, I’ll finish all of them by the last week in June 2014. It’s a lot of blocks, but at 4½” square, you need a lot of them to make a decent sized quilt.

AG block set3

AG block set4

On Sunday, it finally warmed up enough to fire up the grill so John cooked a couple of pork loins and I made this wonderful butternut squash casserole.

squash casserole

The recipe was posted on a college friend’s Facebook page, and it looked pretty good so I made it with a few modifications. The original recipe called for Swiss cheese, which I could not fathom with the squash so I substituted parmesan. I also doubled the mushrooms and onions because I thought doing so would provide a better balance between savory and sweet in the dish. The modified recipe is given below. To conserve space, I’ve colored in orange the main ingredients you need to make the recipe.

But first, to make easy work of peeling the squash, I purchased one of these—totally worth it:

peeler

Butternut Squash Casserole

Small butternut squash. The recipe calls for 2½ pounds, but I only use half since there are just three of us. I peel and chop the entire squash, though, saving the other half to make another casserole later.

Peel and chop the squash into small, bite-sized chunks.

Coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan or gratin dish with cooking spray.

In a hot skillet using olive or canola oil, sauté:

  • 16 ounces fresh mushrooms (coarsely chopped) for 2 minutes, then add
  • yellow onions (finely chopped)

When onions are lightly browned and water from mushrooms has evaporated (about 10 minutes)

Add to mixture in skillet:

  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • salt to taste

Mix well, remove from heat, cover and set aside.

In a small saucepan, whisk together, then heat to a simmer:

  • 1 cup 1% low fat milk
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)

Whisk constantly and when sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, add:

  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

To assemble:

  1. Spread one-third squash in prepared dish.
  2. Top with ⅓ of the onion/mushroom mixture, then ⅓ of the cheese sauce.
  3. Repeat twice to create three layers in your dish.
  4. Top with ¼ cup parmesan cheese.

Bake 45 minutes at 350°F or until squash is tender.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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Filed under Christmas, home cookin', piecing

More Christmas crafts

Yesterday I turned in the final T-shirt quilt to my neighbor and, as gracefully as possible, ended my career piecing T-shirt quilts. Back home, I got a burst of energy and cleaned the house: dusting, mopping, vacuuming, even the bathrooms. It felt good to be away from the sewing machine (gasp!) and getting stuff done.

Today, I thought I would show you some more Christmas items that I’ve made over the years.

Here is the wreath I made for our front door:

outside wreath

Here is a close up of a table runner I cross stitched:

It's hard to see them because they're red, but there are a gazillion French knots in this design.

It’s hard to see them because they’re red, but there are a gazillion French knots in this design.

dining table

I also cross stitched Christmas motifs onto this bayberry colored Anne cloth. This project was a lot of fun, possibly because it was so different from others I’d done. It required a size 22 tapestry needle and six strands of embroidery floss. Stitching with only one color of floss certainly made it quick to finish.

afghan1

afghan2

afghan3

Here’s the dining room all decorated:

dining room

As I look at all the things I’ve made, it occurred to me that I must be happiest when I’m making something, although that most definitely does not include dinner.

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Back to work

I’m back into T-shirt quilt production (starting #6), but I did manage to sneak in a little regular piecing at our TSA meeting on Tuesday and finished 10 more Aunt Grace snowball blocks:

AG blocks

In the meantime, I’ve slowly gotten my house decorated for Christmas and thought you would like to see a candle ring I made about 10 years ago.

candle ring1

I found the design in a holiday decorating book and couldn’t resist making it. It occupies a place of honor on top of my grandma’s old treadle sewing machine, which is in the dining room.

candle ring2

candle ring3

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Filed under Christmas, piecing