Monthly Archives: January 2024

SAHRR – Round 1 and 2

Last week turned out to be a busy one and while I did make the first blocks for the 2024 Stay At Home Round Robin, I never had a minute to write a post. So, let’s catch up!

For the first week, Wendy of PiecefulThoughts, chose signature blocks. I was pleased with the choice because they make a nice graphic border and are simple to make. So, thank you Wendy!

I made eight of the signature blocks without a real plan as to how I would use them. At that point, I set them aside to wait and see what Round 2 would bring.

Anja of AnjaQuilts is the host for week two. She surprised all of us with a very simple instruction. We are to do as we please but use only two colors. My vision came easily. I decided to use black and white, include the signature blocks and finish off the first border.

The signature blocks are arranged in a pattern reminiscent of the zig zag on Charlie Brown’s t-shirt. They follow around the corner of the block and each side finishes with either black or white. The two remaining sides are bordered in black. At this point the block measures 15 inches which is great. I hope to combine the next two weeks into one border as well because I keep this to about 20″ square. I plan to hang it on the wall in my sewing room. Within the next round or two, more of the royal blue will be included.

I will be linking to AnjaQuilts for this week’s link up. One thing I love about this SAHRR is the unique interpretations of the weekly prompt. Looking at all of the projects linked up, one really wouldn’t think they have much in common yet we are all following the same prompts each week. To see the variety of SAHRR projects, click here.

Green Strips and Pink Hearts

We just finished up a week or so of bitterly cold weather. We don’t often drop into the teens here but yikes it was cold. No snow (which disappointed me). Lots of rain but then this is Washington, so it is to be expected.

With the super cold weather, our heater was just keeping the house warm. My sewing room has never gotten much heat and it was pretty chilly up there. But I braved the cold and sewed anyway. Nothing an extra sweatshirt couldn’t take care of!

I finished up the quilt top for the twin bed in the grand kid guest room. It is going to be so cute! Yesterday I pre-washed the backing fabric because it is a deep pink color and I was concerned it might bleed into the white background. Now I can sew one seam to make it large enough and do some spray basting. For quilting, I am thinking an edge to edge over the white background and some sort of meandering motif in the patchwork heart. I am excited for this one – it will look so cute in the girls’ room. (Hmmm, if I ever have more grand children, are the girls going to think it is unfair to have to share ‘their room’ with cousins???)

A few weeks ago Ray and I (mostly Ray and only a little me) painted the kid room. That pepto bismol pink was so awful. In the summertime when the sun came through that window, it cast a deep pink glow over the hallway. The room had so much pink and ugly dark gray curtains! I bought some off white paint and found these sweet polka dot curtains on Facebook Marketplace. What a difference this made. When the heart quilt is done, it will replace the patchwork that you see above. I love the twin bed frame. Ray made it for Julia when she was about four or five years old. It weighs 500 billion pounds and should we have an earthquake we will all run in there and hide out under the bed. We will be perfectly safe there.

Always thinking of my girls, I saw this (undressed) doll at a thrift shop for a dollar. I went to get my stack of doll clothes patterns to make something for her and remembered I donated all of them. Why did I do that??? Anyway, I had a pattern for pants and drew a little pattern for the shirt. It closes with velcro in the back and looks pretty cute (if I do say so myself). She needs a bit of hair styling but I am thinking H and A can take care of that when they come over.

Quite a while ago, I participated in the annual Rainbow Scrap Challenge project. These projects are hosted by Angela at So Scrappy. Below are some projects I made with RSC blocks. In case you are unfamiliar, and I cannot imagine anyone is, Angela picks a color each month. The quilter makes blocks with that color and at the end of the year assembles a rainbow themed, scrappy quilt.

Rainbow Scrap Challenge 2014 Quilt; Finished January, 2015
RSC 2017; finished March 2018

This year my goal is to use up my bin of strips. It is stuffed to the brim. The only thing I won’t use are binding strip leftovers. These are rolled up and measured. Maybe I can use them as a scrappy binding at the end of the year? As for what blocks I plan to make with these, that remains to be determined. Right now, I am just joining strips and ‘making fabric’.

This week I joined all of the green strips. Most of these pieces of made fabric are seven inches tall. The length is determined by the size of the strips I used. Hard to tell from this picture but the bulk of this measures about 30″ wide and 21″ tall. So it is a good chunk. The green has been dealt with for now. If one of the monthly colors doesn’t exist in the strips bin, I will just skip it. I have a few books for inspiration when I think about how to use the strips. Sunday Morning Quilts, No Scrap Left Behind, and 15 Minutes of Play are my favorites for this sort of thing. I am sure I will find inspiration within one of these books and decide how to use the strips. Thank you to Sandra of MMMQuilts for this idea. I saw her working on something similar on Instagram and decided to follow suit.

That sums up my work in the sewing room this week. Good start to the year, for sure.

My son texted this picture to me last week. He was picking A up from preschool. She was covered in mud! She goes to a farm based preschool and they play outdoors no matter the weather (which makes sense around here or the kids would never be outside.) When the school year began, parents were warned not to send the kids to school wearing anything special. These kids play hard and are allowed to make mud, dig holes, whatever. There is a really cool area called The Mud Kitchen which has all sorts of utensils, bowls and pans to ‘cook’ with. She clearly had a great day. I love the expression on her face. “Mud? What mud?”

Linking up with Angela at So Scrappy.

Stay At Home Round Robin

Last year was the first time I participated in the annual SAHRR (Stay At Home Round Robin) hosted by Quilting Gail each year. Gail began this quilt along during Covid as a way to stay connected during quarantine. I jumped on board last year and it was a lot of fun. I like the challenge of a new block to use weekly in any way I want. There are quite a number of quilters involved now and seeing the interpretations of the new block was really inspirational.

Round Robin Quilt; March 2023

Last year I made a baby or toddler size quilt using pieces I had cut for a different project which had since been abandoned. It was a great use of the fabric.

This year I had a few ideas of what I wanted to work with. My bin of orphan quilt blocks (the leftovers from projects, test blocks etc.) is stuffed! After pulling three different piles of fabric and unused blocks, I finally made a decision.

This block is made of bits left over from a quilt I made years ago as a gift for my niece and her new husband.

I have quite a variety of pieces leftover and will do my best to re-purpose them into this quilt. I can always add to this as needed but I hope to use most of this. Likely I will have to cut up or take apart some of the existing blocks. The challenge will be meeting my two goals; use up the leftovers and keep the quilt size as small as possible. Watching other quilters last year, I saw many who combined weekly assignments into one round. Six bloggers will each post one block but this doesn’t mean the quilt has to have six separate rounds.

If you want to see what some of the other quilters are planning as their starting point, I would pop over to Quilting Gail’s to take a look. We are linking up our starting blocks there. I can tell from the variety of chosen center blocks, each quilt will be unique. Now to wait until the 23rd when Wendy of Pieceful Thoughts announces what we are to use for the first round!

2023 in Books

Between sewing and reading, how is there time for anything else?? So many projects to make and endless numbers of books to read but there are only 24 hours in the day – ah, one of life’s challenges.

This year I managed to read 52 books. For me, an average of one book each week is great. Of these, nine books were audio. For the most part I enjoy listening to a book while I am sewing or driving. Sometimes the narration is disappointing. For example, my notes on Home Front by Kristin Hannah say “meh- poor narration in this audio version. Didn’t like the sound of her voices.” This can make a big difference. Conversely, I listened to This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel and my notes mentioned “Narration really well done – voices of Poppy, Mom and Dad are perfect.”

Here is the list of books I read in 2023:

The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey by Serena Bursick

The Affair by Lee Child

The Pig and I by Rachel Toor (memoir)

I’m Glad My Mom Died  by Jennette N McCurdy (memoir)

Call Of the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

Good For You by Camille Pagan (dumb and predictable)

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus- Very depressing book.

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Home Front by Kristin Hannah – meh- audio – poor narration in audio version. Didn’t like the sound of her voices

Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen

The Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett

Camino Island by John Grisham

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus  

The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett – Audio – great book.

Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes

Hour of the Assassin by Matthew Quirk 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (so good and such a surprising ending)

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

Dressmakers of Prospect Heights by Kitty Zeldis

Camino Winds by John Grisham, sequel to Camino Island

Blue Moon – by Lee Child – audio

Happy Go Lucky by David Sedaris (audio)

The Yellow Room – Mary Roberts Reinhardt

Of Foster Homes and Flies by Chad Lutzke This short book is a gritty coming of age story – it is dark but I felt compelled to read this sad story.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harmon

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson (meh, not great)

Canary Girls by Jennifer Chiaverini (interesting but a bit slow)

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (audio)

Call the Canaries Home by Laura Barrow OK – story of sisters and family conflict

Caught by Harlen Coben (audio)

A Girl Called Samson by Amy Harmon – excellent read about a young woman who disguises herself and joins the military. Really good read!

The Road Towards Home by Corinne Demas  (sweet story of a relationship between two people in a senior home.)

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – Audio

The Way Life Should Be by William Dameron – mediocre book

Choosing to Run by Des Linden (memoir – Des Linden is an athlete – not a writer)

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin – very good read.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder 

Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery  – inspiring memoir of a woman who walked the Appalachian Trail by herself with very little equipment or experience. The writing is lackluster – but what Emma Gatewood accomplished is amazing.

O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton

A is for Alias by Sue Grafton meh, not a great book

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson I loved this quirky book!

For you Mom Finally by Ruth Reichl – audio

Nora Nora by Anne Rivers Siddon  (Soo good!)

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel – audio – narration really well done, voices of Poppy, Mom and Dad are perfect.

Acceptance by Emi Nietfeld – a memoir of a woman with little support who makes it through mental illness and foster homes to become a successful software developer. It moves slowly and even though she has an extremely difficult and challenging life, the book sounds like she is always whining.

Since I started keeping track of the books I’ve read, I have found it fun to go back and look at the books in list form. A few things jump out such as themes I was drawn to, books I didn’t enjoy but finished anyway (why do that when there are soooo many great books to read) and books I read for a second time. Last year I read two books for the second time. One was Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. By David Sedaris, this book is funny and a good one to listen to while sewing. I don’t have to concentrate on the book as it is a selection of humorous essays. I love Sedaris and his quirky family! The other book was This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. I read the book several years ago and have recommended it to a lot of people. The message about raising a transgender child is really well written – sometimes humorous and sometimes so sad. The audio book was just excellent and I am so glad I listened to it.

As for themes – It appears I was drawn to memoirs this year. I read five of them and all were interesting. Choosing to Run by Des Linden, winner of the 2018 Boston Marathon was a disappointment. This book was really hyped thus I had high expectations. As one reviewer said on Good Reads, ‘Des is an athlete not an author’. The writing is mediocre and basically the book reads like a log of her training. It moved along very slowly and is not one I would recommend.

The second theme I noticed was that of the strong female protagonist. Grandma Gatewood, A Girl Called Samson, Acceptance, Choosing to Run and Girl Runner all feature very strong women who achieved something they felt passionate about. I found a great deal of inspiration within these pages. My favorites from this collection were A Girl Called Samson and Girl Runner.

That is it for 2023 and the books I read; some were fantastic and others not as great. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these. Did you read one or two of them? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

First Finish of 2024

Have to say, I am on a tear lately. Lots of sewing has been happening up in my sewing room! Sometimes the mood hits just right and everything lines up – inspiration, enough time, wintry weather which encourages staying inside, plus fun projects to work on.

Toward the end of December, I found myself wanting to practice some free motion quilting. I pulled out a small set of 2 1/2″ strips I bought at the thrift store a while back. There were only 20 strips so I decided to make a small quilt. This makes the FMQ practice easier to do. They were odd strips – someone had cut them by hand and each one was off at one point or another. I had to trim all of them – but you get what you pay for and I paid three bucks for these!

I have no idea what fabric this is but the set has tiny gold metallic dots on a variety of colors. For the most part I keep the red and black strips to a minimum. Otherwise I used the whole set. Simple columns of rectangles with a solid purple strip between them made for a quick quilt top. I strip pieced the strips in sets of six and then cut those into blocks, six inches wide. Rather than sew columns, I chose to sew two of the sets together, making blocks. Then I made the columns.

I took a look through my FMQ book by Christina Cameli to find a design to use. I wanted to quilt edge to edge so I would not have to worry about movement, getting stuck in corners, etc. As is my usual, once I settled on a design, I practiced it by drawing it on a large whiteboard I keep in the sewing room. Once it was comfortable, I started the quilting. This was such a pleasant process. Just going back and forth, back and forth – it was finished in no time!

Here is a closer picture of the quilting – it was sort of a clam shell shape with a swirl inside. The motif is super easy. I started at the bottom of the quilt and moved upward. About half way through the stitching becomes so much smoother; proof to me that practice really helps. The repetitive motif gets easier and easier as my brain learns the pattern.

The quilt is backed with fleece, making it really cozy. When our grand daughters are here they tend to use one small quilt I have because it is backed with flannel. They prefer the soft feeling of the flannel. Now we have two soft ones for them. I like seeing the quilting from the back. Sure – I need to continue to practice but seems like with each one I improve just a bit. I spray basted this project but there are some bubbles on the back side. Maybe I needed to use more spray or it could be because it was fleece? I am not sure. There is always something to learn.

I have already moved onto, and made a lot of progress with, the next quilt. Younger grand daughter has outgrown the toddler bed and we are putting another twin bed in the guest room. The other twin bed (where her big sister sleeps) has a quilt with a huge heart made of charm squares in the middle with white all around it. This quilt was given to me when I moved from California by a wonderful friend. I am replicating the design and making another heart quilt using pink and purple scraps.

Here is a progress shot (with weird color because I took the photo in the evening) . I have some of the rows stitched together but I am still moving things around for color placement. Surely it won’t take long to finish the quilt top. One thing I am pondering though – the quilt made by my friend has a white background which she pieced with white charm squares. I will be using white yardage. Rather than cut the five inch squares it seems to make sense to cut five inch strips. The piecing would certainly take less time. Do you know of any reason not to do it this way? Let me know your thoughts!

OK – that’s it for now. Hope you all have something fun to work on this weekend!

Linking to Free Motion Mavericks and a few others. (Check out the Link Up tab at the top of the page for lots of fun places to check out.)

2023 By the Numbers

If you have read this blog for a bit, you probably noticed I like looking at the numbers. They don’t mean much, if anything at all, but I find it interesting. For instance, in 2023 I wrote 47 posts. The post show the most hits was Comfort Quilts, Who Really Benefits. The stats show this post was read (or at least opened) 6,769 times. For my posts this is crazy. So much so, I am not sure it is ‘real’. When I saw it was getting that many hits, I tried to figure out where they were coming from. Sometimes if a more popular blog links back to a post, it will drive a lot of traffic but not this much. So – I am attributing this to some sort of robot activity and don’t honestly believe it was regular blog readers. (I did like this post though as well as the comments many of you left on it). Let’s look at a few more numbers to see what the year was like for me!

I made or finished 11 quilts. Of the 11, I would say my favorite is the modern, circular wall quilt you see in the center, made with solids. I love seeing the quilt hanging above our bed. It is just what I wanted it to be when I started and this doesn’t always happen!

Other than quilts, I made a number of fun projects. Doll clothes, hospital gowns for A Doll Like Me, doll quilts for Carole’s holiday project, and tree skirt for Julia to name a few. There were four pair of pants (joggers, pjs and more) as well as a dress and two shirts for me. I didn’t post about all of these garments because it is a pain to take pictures of me wearing them and sometimes something looks weird just hanging on a hanger. I suppose I should work on this going forward so I can share more of this sort of thing.

Let’s dig a little deeper here and talk about project fails. There were a few!

For instance, I was making this cute dress for A and I lost the sleeves. What??? How did this even happen. The worst part is not only did the sleeves go missing but the pattern piece attached to the sleeve also disappeared. I have to think I threw them away accidentally. I really annoyed when this happened and tore the sewing room apart. Now I think I will try to make the dress sleeveless because it could be so cute – or – I will leave it sit on the shelf forever, find it in ten years and toss it. (hmmmm, which is most likely??)

The dress I mentioned above isn’t a total fail but it fits weird. I am fairly certain I can modify it but haven’t done so yet. It has be be in the fail category until I can actually wear it! Look at the fabric though – it is so pretty. I feel very motivated to get this one fixed so I can use it.

Also included in this category are the pjs I made for my grand daughters. Both were too small and thus didn’t get worn. To me, that’s a fail. I see these girls all the time! I should have a better bead on their measurements. (Except those measurements do change on a daily basis so ….. it isn’t easy!)

This number is pretty fun – I worked on three new-to-me quilt skills. With the assistance of my friend Sophia I re-learned how to paper piece. She also helped me figure out spray basting. That was such a win! Spray basting takes the yuk out of preparing a quilt. It is so quick compared to pins and my backings look much nicer. Finally, ruler quilting! I splurged and got a ruler foot plus two sets of rulers. It has been so fun to practice with these. Sure it feels awkward at first, but I think I am getting the hang of it.

Quilt tops – here is another number I try to track. Currently I have three quilt tops I need to finish. Two were made by me and another was given to me to finish for Mercyful Quilts. I feel like this number is not terribly unreasonable. I will be able to get these finished up (2024 goal!)

Other numbers I keep track of are my exercise stats. This is to keep me honest and motivated to be healthy. All year long I kept this printout on the fridge. For each day I exercised a minimum of 30 minutes, I colored in the day. So the blank days mean I didn’t exercise or it was less than 30 minutes. Turns out I exercised for 242 days in 2023. Not too bad but I hope to improve this in 2024. The 2024 sheet is on the fridge and will motivate me going forward. (I didn’t make the sheet and cannot give credit because I can’t remember where I got it. If anyone knows who made this, please let me know so I can update this).

UPDATE: Thank you Kathleen!! She pointed out that right near the July section there is a notation. I was able to enlarge the photo on my phone and find the maker of this habit tracker. If you are interested in something like this, it was sold at The Lost Button on Etsy. I feel so much better! I ordered a digital copy of the 2024 sheet because this is a leap year (which I didn’t know).

I also like to track my miles walked – this year the total is 328! Not too shabby. I started to run back in June. The total miles ran is 133. This makes me happy and I am positive I will increase this number because I am just getting started here. By the way, if you wear an Apple watch to track your fitness, there is a fun app called Fitness Stats available. I just bought it to be able to see my totals. So if you are wanting a way to see what your activity levels are, this is helpful.

All in all, it was a good year! Busy with family activities, friends and family visiting, playing with grand daughters and more. The start of a new year feels good – it is fun to think of what the year will bring. It is my hope it brings all of you good health, much joy and many, many hours of creativity!!

Linking up with Cheryl at Meadow Mist for her annual Best of 2023 party.