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I am a wife, mama and grandmama getting through life by hanging on to a needle and thread.

Monday, June 30, 2008

How Many Mistakes Can You Find?

With the completion of this Dear Jane block, J-4 Adelaine's Apron Strings, I have concluded that my paper piecing skills leave a lot to be desired! Note the right side of this block...how many mistakes can you find? The photo hides some of the imperfections, but in person this block is not the best example of how accurate paper piecing can be.

On July 11th and 12th best-selling author and award-winning quiltmaker, Carol Doak, will be lecturing on paper piecing at our quilt guild's monthly meeting and then teaching two workshops the following day. I am planning on attending the lecture and both workshops, so hopefully I will come away with some better paper piecing skills or at least learn enough so that I can get blocks to come out even and square!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Travel Diaper Case

While shopping the baby department with my daughter-in-law a few weeks ago we came across a selection of small fabric diaper bags. The bags are designed to hold a couple of diapers and a package of travel wipes for those quick trips out with the baby when you don't need a big diaper bag. What a neat idea! We discussed buying one, but my daughter-in-law was insistent that I could make one just as nice or nicer than the one that was in the store. I thought about buying one to use as a pattern, but decided that I could probably find a pattern or tutorial online and sure enough, there is a great pattern available at Jan Andrea at home on the web. I added a 6 inch pocket to backside and a wrist strap to this one and had it completed in about an hour. It was a great way to use up the scraps leftover from the baby quilt that I just finished and will make a nice "bonus gift" to go with the quilt.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

BYOB ~ Bring Your Own Bags

Using fabric shopping bags is a simple way to reduce waste and help the environment...not to mention that they are sturdier and prettier than plastic bags. Making your own shopping bags is also a great way to use those fabrics that you thought you couldn't live without and haven't yet used (and probably never will). TipNut.com has compiled a list of 35 Reusable Grocery Bag Patterns and all can be made with very little cost and effort. The pattern that I used for the bags pictured here is the Singlet Style Shopping Bag. It took about a yard of fabric total and a little less than an hour to make one bag...a small sacrifice for what the benefits will be. Just one fabric bag can replace thousands of throwaway bags over its lifetime!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Getting Ready To Applique

Our Dear Jane group meets once a month where we have a show and tell of our completed blocks and then the rest of the evening is spent working on our blocks together. I thought that it would be easier to prepare some blocks for hand applique and work on them at the meeting rather than dragging my machine and all of my materials and supplies out. I think the best applique method (for me) for these tiny blocks is going to be the fusible interfacing applique method. With this method I'll be able to fuse the pieces in place and not have to worry about raw edges, pins, shifting, or most importantly...losing tiny pieces!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Baby Hat...Finally!

The baby hat is finally finished! It's funny how something so simple could cause me so many problems. Of course the "help" from my granddaughter really slowed the progress down, but on the second try I discovered a mistake that I made in the ribbing and decided that the third time would be the charm, so I frogged it again and started over. I'm glad that I stuck with it because it really works up quickly (when things are going right) and it matches the socks perfectly! You can find the pattern for the Welcome to the World Newborn Hat at NonaKnits.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

According to my 7 year-old granddaughter these are "the best cookies a grandma ever made"! Pretty high praise for a cookie and not bad for the grandma either!

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package milk chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat shortening, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt; gradually add to shortning/butter mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 7 minutes or until set. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Teeny Tiny!

For my non-quilting friends who read this blog...the Dear Jane blocks have some seriously teeny tiny pieces! This one, K-2 Grandpa's Chickens, has 36 7/8 inch (before stitching a 1/4 inch seam on each side) squares with a log cabin style border all the way around to make up a 5 inch block. It was a fairly easy block to piece, but those are still some teeny tiny pieces!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Another UFO

This UFO has been tucked neatly away in a basket under my sewing table for nearly two years. For the last few days I have heard it calling me, so I think it's time to finally get it finished. I'm really not even sure how this one became a UFO. The fabrics all came from my stash and I love each and every one of them, so I can't say that I abandoned it because I didn't like the fabric choice. The pattern is from the book, Allegro by Terry Atkinson which has four different designs all using the same simple block, so I can't say that I gave up because it was too difficult. If I remember correctly, I was planning to do the whole thing scrappy using the matchstick layout. All the strips for the blocks have been cut and there are a dozen or so blocks that are finished, so all that is left is the sewing...the part I like the best! Who knows how this one became a UFO?!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Good Garden May Have Some Weeds

A good garden may have some weeds." ~ Proverb

Mother Nature saw fit to give me a break from the yard work yesterday afternoon by way of sending several severe thunderstorms though our area, so I took full advantage and spent the afternoon knitting. My flowerbeds definitely still have some weeds, but the baby hat is growing!

Today I'm back fighting the battle against the weeds...that is, until the first thunderstorm rolls through.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Taking Time To Smell The Flowers

I do not have a green thumb at all and the flowers that grow in my yard do so with very little help from me...especially this year! I'm ashamed to admit it, but my flowerbeds are overgrown and full of weeds, so this weekend my goal is to do some trimming, pull some weeds, edge some flower beds and cut some grass. Maybe I'll even take some time to smell the flowers during the process, but I would much rather be spending my weekend with needle and thread!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rayelle's Fence

I rotary cut this block, C-3 Rayelle's Fence, and had no trouble sewing the pieces together. This one even measures 5 inches square. Another Dear Jane block completed!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Toddlers And Knitting Don't Mix

I had hoped to post a picture of the matching baby hat that was to go with these socks, but there was a little mishap with the hat. It seems that my youngest granddaughter really wants to take up knitting. She somehow managed to get my knitting basket (I'm still not sure how she could reach it, but she did!) anyway, upon discovery of the basket she tried her hand at knitting, but dropped a few stitches...all three needles worth! Once she realized that she had lost all 56 stitches she decided to give frogging a try. Frogging is something that the girl is very good at! Needless to say, I am starting the hat over and finding a new place to keep my knitting basket.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Town Square

As promised, I tried a Dear Jane block with a few more pieces and a little more difficulty, L-7 Town Square. I paper pieced this block without any major problems, but it still came out a little less than 5 inches square. (Insert Dear Jane Rule #4 -- Finished is better than perfect!) It's not so bad that I won't be able to use the block, but it's something that I will have to pay closer attention to on my next paper pieced block.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Field Of Dreams

Hmmm...it seems as though I chose another easy Dear Jane block, D-13 Field of Dreams. I paper pieced this one and it went together easily in just a few minutes. Now I really do need to try one that is a little more difficult!

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Weekend Of Quilting

I spent most of the weekend in my sewing room finishing up this disappearing nine-patch baby quilt. I used four fabrics in this quilt. There were eight fabrics used in the charity quilt that we made last week and it doesn't even look like the same pattern. I just love how this pattern changes with the number of fabrics that are used in the block!

I really struggled with how to quilt this quilt. I am not very adventurous when it comes to machine quilting and I usually just stitch in the ditch, but I have really been wanting to try something different...like curves. Awhile ago I found a quilting design called Lazy Wave Quilting at Acorn Hill Quilts and figured that this quilt would be a good one to try it out on. It was very easy to do and not intimidating at all. Maybe curves aren't the enemy! In the end, I think it makes a really fun baby quilt.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

"Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Daddy."

It was 35 years ago that I carefully printed that saying out with a crayon on a plain piece of paper and gave it to my daddy for Father's Day. That saying held special meaning for us because my daddy wasn't my biological father, but there was never any question that he was my daddy in every other sense of the word. There were many Father's Day gifts after that, some memorable, but probably not any as memorable as that first crayoned message. This is the first Father's Day since my daddy passed away and it feels strange not to have been searching for that perfect Father's Day gift, but I know that I never could have given him a Father's Day gift that would even come close to the gift that he gave to me...a loving, caring father. I miss him immensely.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day

I Pledge Allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one Nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.

Friday, June 13, 2008

UFO Progress

I have finally made some noticeable progress on the obnoxiously bright UFO that I posted about a couple of weeks ago. I can't say that I like it anymore now than I did when it was still buried in the bottom of my closet, but my two oldest granddaughters have absolutely fallen in LOVE this quilt, so I am sure that they will keep me motivated to keep working on it. Now to shop for an equally obnoxious backing fabric!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quilting For Charity

I really do enjoy getting together with my quilty friends and working on charity quilts together. Not only do we enjoy great company and some really wonderful food, but we get to work with color combinations that we might not normally work with and we often learn new sewing tricks and quilt patterns from each other! This is a photo of the quilt top that we completed yesterday. The pattern we used has several names--disappearing nine-patch, tossed nine-patch, split nine-patch and probably several others, but whatever the name, it is fast, fun and easy! You can find a great photo tutorial for the technique at Life is a Stitch.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lunch With My Quilty Friends!

Once a month I get together with a few of my quilty friends and we spend the day working together on charity quilts. One of the benefits of this gathering is the wonderful potluck lunch! Today my contribution to our lunch is fresh baked zucchini-wild blueberry muffins.

Zucchini-Wild Blueberry Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup wild blueberries, fresh or frozen

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Combine the egg, oil, milk, lemon juice and vanilla; mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in zucchini and blueberries. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until muffins test done.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Challenge!

I said yesterday that I was going to try some more advanced Dear Jane blocks, so I figured that a block named "Challenge" (D-6) would be a bit more advanced. Ok, maybe not, but it's one more block that I can cross off the list!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Uncle Homer

I have been advised not to do all of the easy Dear Jane blocks first and I really do intend to try some of the more advanced blocks soon, but I figured I would do an easy one just to be able to say that I sewed something today! Just 15 minutes in the sewing room and I now have one more Dear Jane block, A-6 Uncle Homer.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Laundry and Chocolate

Every college student needs at least one laundry bag, right? I made this laundry bag for our daughter-in-law's sister, who is heading off to college at the end of the summer. I modified a shopping bag tutorial that I found at craftster.org to make the bag a bit wider and longer and added a large pocket to the front of the bag, which will be perfect for holding a bottle of laundry detergent, stain stick and a roll of quarters for use at the laundry mat. Speaking of quarters...did you know that the pastic container that mini M&M's come in will hold a roll of quarters perfectly? I covered the container with matching fabric and then filled it with quarters. Of course, that means that I had to eat the M&M's first. Sewing and chocolate...life is good!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Thank You Sharon Schamber!

Not long ago I discovered the Sharon Schamber Network and found that it is a goldmine of information for all quilters! While looking through this website I found a video demonstrating the Pinless Painless Basting method. This basting method involves a table, two 1x4 finished boards, a spool of DMC cotton thread and a needle. The best part of this method is that it does not require you to crawl around on your hands and knees on the kitchen floor for hours and you don't even need a trip to the chiropractor after a day of basting!

Today I put this "new to me" basting method to the test and basted this disappearing nine-patch baby quilt. I had it completely basted in just a couple of hours and the quilt is smooth, flat, straight and ready for quilting. I don't think that I will ever baste a quilt on the floor again!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Every once in awhile a girl just needs to sit down and reflect on life with a few warm cookies and a glass of ice cold milk...today could be one of those days!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 12-ounce package chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Combine first five ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Add flour, baking soda and salt gradually, mixing well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or until light brown. Cool on cookie sheet for two minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 6-8 dozen

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Farmer's Market and Fabric

Yesterday I was invited on a fabric shopping excursion to the Lewisburg area with several friends. First stop was Verna's Fabrics on Red Bank Road in Mifflinburg. Verna's is a wonderful store full of all kinds of fabrics and notions with prices that can't be beat! After some serious fabric shopping we took a side trip to the Lewisburg Farmer's Market. It would be easy to spend a whole afternoon at this farmer's market...the fresh produce, meats and baked goods were amazing! (The next time I go I am taking a cooler and bringing it back full!) After a trip through the farmer's market was lunch at the Country Cupboard and then several more stops at a couple of sewing centers and another fabric shop on the way home. What a wonderful day we had!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Simple Simon

The Dear Jane block, M-10 Simple Simon, is certainly appropriatly named! What could be easier than a plain old nine patch? Only 167 blocks to go!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

1 Down...168 To Go!

My Dear Jane journey officially began last night at the first meeting of our guild's Dear Jane club or would "support group" be the better term? I completed my first block, A-8 Florence Nightingale, at the meeting. This was a straight forward paper pieced block and came out pretty darn close to perfect, but keep in mind that it was an easy one!

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Little Dear Jane History

The following is the story of Jane's quilt as posted by the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont...

"This unusually large sampler quilt has a unique pieced and scalloped border, and is made up of 169 five-inch blocks containing a total of 5,602 pieces. Within this complex quilt, no fabric or pattern is used for more than one block. The patterns are a combination of original and traditional designs. The quilt is backed by a cream fabric.

Jane A. Blakley was born in Shaftsbury, Vermont, on April 8, 1817 to Sarah Rein (1776-1864) and Erastus Blakley (1786-1831). By 1850, she was married to Walter A. Stickle. Through the couple never had children, school district records note that they had assumed responsibility for three children. The 1860 census lists Jane as living by herself, while her husband Walter is listed as living with his brother-in-law. This arrangement was most likely work related, since the 1870 census shows Jane and Walter living together on their farm. The couple lost their farm after declaring bankruptcy in 1877 and lived as boarders. Walter died on February 19, 1883, and Jane died on March 2, 1896 at the age of seventy-nine. Jane is buried in the Shaftsbury cemetery on Route 7a."

Oh my goodness! Does that actually say 169 five-inch blocks containing a total of 5,602 pieces? What in the world have I gotten myself into???

Tonight is the first meeting of our guild's Dear Jane group. We will be doing a show and tell of the blocks that we have finished, sharing DJ tips and hints and working on our blocks together. I am really looking forward to seeing what everyone has accomplished so far and getting started on the first of 169 blocks for my quilt. I must be crazy!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Those Unruly UFOs

I've decided that it's time to tame some of the unruly UFOs that seem to have taken over my sewing room closet. My goal is to finish at least one UFO before starting a new project, so before I really commit myself to the Dear Jane quilt I am going to finish this Scrappy Trips Around The World quilt that I started over a year ago. This project was not just a step outside of the box for me...it was more like a leap! I am not a huge fan of working with bright fabrics, so I'm not surprised that it ended up packed in a box in the bottom of the closet, but now it's time to get it finished!

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