Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dots and Stripes

Around the first of November, I had at least a semblance of order in my sewing studio.  I knew where things were.  It was easy to find what I wanted, even if a studio stranger probably couldn't.

And then, just before Thanksgiving, a very kind and generous older friend, who was moving to a smaller home, and who knew that I do some charity quilting, very nicely gifted me with a wonderful pile of quilting fabric.  It was all usable and perfect for what I do, and I appreciate it so much.

But, with the arrival of that fabric, there was a to-me audible, although very hypothetical, clunk and all the organizing wheels fell off.  To be followed almost immediately by some large sewing jobs and then the flurry of holiday projects.  There was the once-a-year resurrection of glitz and metallics that surfaced but never returned to its home.  Oh, my.

I do iron, I really do, but my ironing board was buried.  I have a large cutting mat but only a small corner was usable.  Just to calm myself, after Christmas, I started on a little quilt made with charm packs because that was all that was readily usable.  And I wanted to do something.  Although I had to just sew the charms in rows because I couldn't press them.  You know, the ironing board thing.

So, this morning, I did some organizing.  There will be a new tote involved.    Dots and stripes are together in their home.  The ironing board is clear.  The cutting mat is functional.

Now, if I could only find those Christmas gift receipts that I so carefully kept in one spot.  I need just one.  And I knew right where they were two days before Christmas.

Monday, December 30, 2013

After Christmas Sales

The after-Christmas sales are such happy and optimistic times, planning ahead for eleven months from now, planning to mail the pretty cards on December 1 instead of this year's December 30.

I was the gifted recipient of the tent ornament from just such a sale, and of course I love it.  It goes on the tree with one of the tree lights behind it.  I went back to the Hallmark store today in hopes of buying one for each of my daughters, but they were gone.

It seemed like most things were gone, actually, although I guess it is the fourth post-Christmas day.  A full week plus since the Winter Solstice.

One of my best post-Christmas buys, maybe, came from the GAP outlet store, where I bought two pairs of jeans for $1.99 each, with their zippers broken.  I can easily replace those zippers, and if they fit well with the new zippers installed, then score for me.   

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Owl Pillows

Almost all the gifts have been given now, so I'd like to show you this owl pillow.  The little owls are embroidered on linen, and since my piping foot was still out from an earlier project, there is piping around the edges.  I love the look of the piping put on down all four sides separately instead of in one continuous piece.  Designs from Embroidery Library.

The back was finished with my favorite pillow finish, that is until I saw a pillow that Holly had finished.  She'd put in a zipper and covered it with a neat placket.  Now I have to try that.

Holly has a wonderful Christmas pillow at her house, a tree with a bright yellow star floating above it.  Lots of free motion  When I see it, I know I'd like a similar one in my house.  And this year it's going to be one of my first projects.  There, I've written it down.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Sad Part

After such a wonderful Christmas, with family all the time, it's now the sad time.  The good-byes.

The dog dish left behind. 

Every year I know it will be like this, but every year it's new all over again.  The too-quiet house.  The plain old grilled cheese sandwich.  Well, maybe a pimento cheese sandwich, with left-over pimento cheese. 

The heart too full to process yet.  I miss everyone so incredibly much.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Advent Communion Table

Advent communion table at Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship.  Candles, communion juice and bread, and an urban wasteland.  Somehow, it all works.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Under Construction

Picture from the Party Source parking lot:  the new bourbon distillery under construction.  We'll be back to see this later, although it will be years before any bourbon made here will be ready for sale.

I thought that a weekday afternoon would be a relatively uncrowded time at the Party Source, but I guess not.  I don't even want to think about what it might be like this weekend.  It might be pick a number for a parking space, although there is no empty field for the people waiting for a parking spot so that won't work.

And we're talking serious shopping, too, not just my little couple of bottles of wine and some single bottles of beer.  I wonder where all the parties are. 

Festival of Lights

Last night the temperature was in the 50's, and the big expected rains weren't here yet, which made it the perfect night for the Festival of Lights at the zoo.  I think that most of Cincinnati had the same idea, so it was crowded with families and strollers and wagons.  Definitely "watch where you're going" and definitely wonderful.  Lots of bright lights, lots of music, definitely a good time.

The line for the parking lots stretched far down Vine Street so we parked in the parking garage where Steph works and walked the half mile or so to the zoo entrance.  Besides the lights we saw a few animals, notably the giraffes up close and personal.  They were in their building, and the viewing windows were level with their heads.  Very nice.

You'll notice that the kids' jackets are open, which was a treat in itself during this colder-than-usual and snowier-than-usual December.  Today the rain starts, stretching through the weekend, maybe 3" or 4".  Can you imagine how much snow that would be? 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Little Gift Exchange

I'm going to an event tonight where there will be low-dollar gift exchange, and I know that most of the gifts will be handmade. 

So, I'd been wanting to make a decorated fleece scarf, and this was my incentive.  The only color fleece that was out of the box was pink, so pink it was.  I wasn't actually too sure how the serger would work on fleece, but it was fine.  When I was looking for fabrics I spotted a piece of pink (how lucky was that!) that I'd used for free motion practice.  A couple of slices and some three-step zig zag - done!

I hope whoever gets this will like it, but I'll put a little candle in the bag just in case.  Now I'm REALLY wanting one for myself.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Reminder for next year:  have silver metallic in my house BEFORE December 1, when it gets hard to find.  (Although, I have to admit that I'm picky about what kinds of metallic I use.)

Still, the blue-green metallic was a nice substitude.

Design from Embroidery Library.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Train and Lego Display

Sometimes you don't know quite what to expect - $5 admission at Newport on the Levee gets you in to a train and Lego display, visit with Santa, and (the clincher) an hour at Gameworks.  The grands were fascinated by this Lego city, which takes 12 hours to set up and 3 hours to dismantle.  In chunks, not brick by brick.  We spent quite a bit of time at the various displays and it was definitely worth the price of admission.  The Lego city is larger than the picture, this is just the biggest piece.  It was made by a family.

There were also displays by the local Lego club - who knew there was a club for this?  Here is Aaron admiring a replica of Cincinnati's Music Hall.  On the other side is, what else, the inside of Music Hall.

We spent the obligatory hour at Gameworks, then took pictures outside by the tree.  On the way home, we stopped at Graeter's - the peppermint ice cream is so unbelievable, at least according to me.  The kids are traditionalists.  Vanilla with chocolate chunks, and plain chocolate.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Farm Redwork

This morning I quickly put together this little quilt, for a work sample using embroidery done by my coworker.  Sorry, I don't know the design collection, but if you have an embroidery machine and love redwork and farms I can find out for you.

When I dropped it off, I cashed in a gift card from last Christmas and got a pack of 20 bobbins plus 25 prewound bobbins.  I feel absolutely rich having all those bobbins.

At the fabric store I found a dress pattern and fabric for a dress for Nora - it looks relatively uncomplicated, but very pretty and not labeled as a fast sew.  I'm always disappointed by the "quick sew" patterns because the cutting time isn't part of the time and because it always takes me a least twice as much sewing time as promised.  Leaving me to wonder whether everyone else can sew that much more quickly than I can.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Notice the ice all over this snow person.  And the little bits of white around him - those are flecks of paint that have come off with the freezing/thawing. 

I moved the figure out so it wouldn't be under the gutters that desperately need to be cleaned.  Do I have a big tree that dumps tons of oak leaves in those gutters?  Nope.

Then I turned around to go down the steps and promptly slipped and fell, despite the Ice Melt I'd been putting down all day.  The Universe was good to me, though, I was able to pop back up, shakey but ok.  I have a feeling that I turned just enough that my butt hit on the wallet I keep in my back pocket, and of course I also had a coat with a liner.  My arm got bruised and swollen, but, not knowing what else to do, I sat down after a bit and started picking stitching out of a mending job and that calmed me down and allowed me to keep ice on the arm while I kept working.  And soon, the swelling and bruising started to go down.  Today, it's almost gone.

So, it's ibuprofin for my butt, but I can start tapering off.  I'm going out now to do some errands, and I'm going to be careful. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Machine Embroidered Snowflakes - Here We Go

I think that we already have more snow this year than we had all last year, but maybe it just seems that way. 

There are a few snowflakes starting to pile up inside my house, too.  Don't you love those antique-y snowflakes that someone actually crocheted with fine thread and then starched?  I can't imagine how to actually do that, I have visions, not of sugarplums, but of tangles and frustration.

These machine-embroidered snowflakes, though, are so easy, following just a few little tips.  There are lots of designs out there, too.

Your regular rayon embroidery thread won't work well with these because it's just too soft.  Cotton works great, but to be economical I usually just use polyester Maxi-Lock serger thread on the big cone, sitting on a thread stand behind my machine.  I have no idea how many snowflakes you can get from one cone, but it has to be a lot.  I use a regular NEBS prewound bobbin and that works fine even though it's lighter weight than the Maxi-Lock.  I usually clean out my machine after every three or four snowflakes becauser the serger thread is less smooth than my regular thread.

You'll need a very sturdy water soluble stabilizer, and Sulky Ultra Solvy is the only one I know in that category.  Because there are lots of stitches on a small area, you'll need to hoop it VERY tightly.  If you have a single-hole stitch plate, use that to help keep all those tight stitches from going down under the stitch plate.  (Take my word on that one.)

When your snowflake is finished, trim it to within 1/4" from the design.  Hold it under hot tap water until the stabilizer starts to wash away, then move it to a bowl of hot water.  One minute in the bowl is about right, you don't want to see any stabilizer but you do want some still in the threads so your snowflake will be stiff once it dries.

Blot the snowflake on a fluffy towel, then lay it flat on a towel to dry.  Once it's dry, you can press it if it isn't completely flat.  I just love these things, they can easily go in a Christmas card for just a teeny extra touch.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Snowman's Eyes


Taken from my daughter's facebook page - how creative is it to use Dum Sum suckers for the snowman's eyes?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Holiday Project Sort of Morning

This is a different kind of Saturday morning than I'd planned.  I thought there would be a grandboy waking up and wanting to play Chopped and watch videos and ask a million questions about Minecraft, none of which I could answer.  With the snow yesterday, he didn't come and instead partied it up at Nora's birthday party.  From the report I got, he had a very good time and didn't torment the girls.  And five little girls braved the weather and showed up.

So, this morning I could do what my heart has been longing for:  some little mindless holiday projects.  I've been doing some labor-intensive sewing projects in the past few weeks, including making a dress just like one someone already had and altering a Mother of the Groom dress.  So this morning it was nice to just press a few flour sack towels (where did I get these?  They are really nice, wish I had more like it) and press the Start button on my machine.

Lesson for the day:  I almost never hoop anything any more, just hoop the stabilizer, using a temporary basting spray, and place the item to be embroidered on top.  The lines around the design in the picture are basting lines that will be cut out.  If you have this feature on your machine, pull your bobbin thread out to make a 6" tail, and don't skip the basting step.  And if you don't have a basting feature, consider carefully placing a few pins OUT of the embroidery area.  Placement is so much easier using this method.

I was admiring a new machine the other day and was especially envious of the undo button in the embroidery edit screen.  How nice would that be?  And last night, when I glanced down at my machine, there it was, right above the hoop size. 

I looked at the manual and it wasn't there when the machine was new, so it must have been an upgrade.  I was so happy that the upgrade featured an easy way to set up for free motion quilting that I didn't look much beyond that, other than to admire the new stitches.  SO, lesson number two:  do your machine upgrades, if they're available, and pay attention to the goodies you're actually upgrading.  I'm always surprised at the people in classes who haven't upgraded, which is often just about everyone.  It isn't hard and you get some cool new stuff. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

December Birthday

Tonight is Nora's birthday beach party sleepover, and her mom made these adorable beach-y cupcakes for the big event.  There are a few other equally beach-y games and treats as well.

Only thing is . . . it's snowing, really snowing, and Nora and her mom are wondering how many girls will be able to come. 

I remember sitting in Christ Hospital on the day Nora was born, rocking her and looking out the window at the snow flurries.  I guess snow can easily accompany a December birthday. 

Aaron and I had plans for a sleepover here.  There is ham in the refrigerator for that little meat-eater and a big new package of clay and some appropriate tools on the table.  Plans for having the tree decorated when he comes.

We'll see how this day turns out.  I just got an email from Duke Energy outlining how to be prepared for the storm. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

For My Art Quilting Friends

Last Saturday at the Grove Park Inn, the view from the window showed these bare trees with the sun coming from behind just right to make tree shadows on the ground.  Still a lot of green from summer and fall.  With a little snow remaining from earlier in the week.

It would make a lovely art quilt, but this isn't my personal season for doing that.  So, maybe, you can.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Pillow

I just finished making this Christmas pillow, designed by Viking's Marie Duncan.  Her projects are ALWAYS nice. 

The pillow has lots of piping, which gave me a chance to get out my piping foot and review how to use it.  And a triangle "ruler" came off my wall.  Have I ever used it before?  Ummm, probably not.  And, there was the matter of embroidering using programmed sewing stitches, for the sashings.  I'd never done that, and it's wonderful for those wide stitches, they stay so nice and straight.  Marie has great instructions for all of it.

I asked my coworker which colors were big for Christmas this year - she always knows these things.  She said turquoise and fushia, so the pillow has a fushia backing.  And, the piping has a red/fushia stripe.

The white areas have a white tone on tone pattern and mine ended up with the pattern a little crooked, plus they weren't flat after the tree triangles were quilted down.  Some free motion fixed both those little problems.

This isn't a quick project, but it's pretty darn awesome.  And Marie has a great tip for making a smooth, flat pillow form.

You can get the instructions for the pillow here:  http://new.husqvarnaviking.com/en-US/Be-Inspired/Blog/December-2013/FREE-Monthly-Project-Christmas-Tree-Pillow

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Saturday at the Grove Park Inn

The day after Thanksgiving, Steph and the kids and I piled into the Subaru and drove to Asheville to visit Winnie and Sarah.  On Saturday, we visited the Grove Park Inn to look at the many gingerbread displays.

This just happened to be an actual gingerbread house, but there were many creations made of gingerbread and other edible things.  This was was "Christmas Vacation" - check out the RV in the driveway.

Sarah and Aaron sitting in front of one of the big fireplaces.  This little guy loves the "Sarah and Winnie" visits and has a sad time leaving town at the end.

Winnie and Sarah and the kids in front of the big tree in the lobby.

On Sunday, we visited the Arboretum and the Lego displays, inside and out.  We ate at Apollo Flame and then it was time to leave.  It was a late evening getting home, but a wonderful visit.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Petting Sharks

As many times as we've been to the Newport Aquarium, Nora's never petted the sharks, or even the starfish.  She would hang back and encourage Aaron but never would participate herself.  She would set goals for herself, like saying she'd do it when she was 6 years old, but would then change the age limit.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving was an evening event for passholders, with an introduction to Scuba Santa, cookies and milk, and the introduction of two white alligators from Santa.  Pretty low key, dim hallways, less crowded as the evening went on, the usual holiday fun of finding the reindeer.  My friend Michelle took some great pictures of the kids.

And this time, when we got to the petting tank, Nora petted the sharks.  She spent so much time that Aaron was ready to move on and wondered when she would be ready to go.  Other kids came and went and she just wanted to . . . pet sharks.  The attendant told her that the petting tank must be her favorite part of the aquarium, and she agreed that it was.

I'm not sure why, this time, it was Nora's own good time.  Perhaps it was her approaching 9-year birthday, although as I said, she's been quite willing to move the bar before. 

We left and admired the twinkling lights and the tree at Newport on the Levee.  Cold as it was, Aaron sat on a bench and just took it all in.  This time it was Nora's turn to say, "How long is he going to stay here?"  The evening was a good introduction to the holiday season