Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Homemade Christmas

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a lovely one.

Now that the gifts have all been given and received, I can share some of the things that I made for Christmas. I must admit that after writing this, I'm amazed I actually got it all done! Some items were commissioned, and some presents to my loved ones.
The biggest project is a large queen sized yellow and blue quilt that was commissioned for the master bedroom in a restored 1800's farmhouse. I must say, it turned out beautifully! I've always wanted to do a blue and yellow quilt, and this fulfilled that desire. It's also the largest quilt I've ever made. I had to stand on a ladder and take the photo from across the room.

It's a Barn Raising pattern made from a Split 9-Patch and is made from something like 742 solid squares and 224 half squares! Yikes! It didn't seem like that many when I was sewing it. It has over a dozen each of blue and yellow. I think it's more like 15 of each, but I don't recall the exact number. I should have written it down. I used batiks and prints on the front and a fantastic 118" spotted batik on the back that I found at Sew Batik during a quilt show a couple of years ago. (Sew Batik, by the way, is run by the nicest husband and wife team. They design and manufacture their own batiks.)

I had seen the design of the quilt in several antique quilts and thought it would be appropriate to the house it was going to, so I drew it up in EQ6.

I spent quite a lot of time figuring out how to make it rectangular with out messing up the pattern, since you need to always add a row at both the top and bottom to make the pattern come out even. Adding 2 rows made it much too large. Taking 2 away, much too small. I played with borders, block sizes, settings etc. I finally had a light bulb moment one day and decided to take just one row of the 9-patch and put it at the top and bottom, making the pattern symmetrical, but not making it overly large. Was that ever a relief!!!
After spending all that time designing it I happened on a Kaffe Fassett book at the store, and what is in it? The Split 9-Patch barn raising!
At Dori and Jennie's suggestions, I quilted the blues in a straight line and the yellows in a swirly pattern that is reminiscent of the paisley in the border and center of the blocks.

I made another of my folding grocery bags for the wife of one of my co-workers. I just love this one! Who am I kidding? I really love them all! It's made from Sandi Henderson's Farmer's Market cherry print for the main section, Heather Bailey's Bijoux for the side gussets and bottom, and a Micheal Miller red ticking for the handles. I used the Kaufman bamboo/cotton blend for the interior.

I also whipped up a Tammy Tadd Designs "You Go Girl" tote for my friend's teenage daughter. I used the Summer Dayz fabric from a couple of years ago that I had been hording, not able to cut up. To "bling" it up a bit, I found a pony tail hair thingy at JCrew that was perfect! I just cut out the elastic band and had Jennie sew it on for me (button sewing falls under the hand work category that I don't do). I read the directions wrong when I was putting the outside of the bag together, so the bag is actually about 3" too tall. It's fine for the teenager in question though, since she's a catcher on multiple softball teams and has a lot of equipment. I'm told that she loooovvved it and has already used it several times for sleep overs at friends houses since Christmas!

It's a great bag for hauling around quilts too. I have one and use it all the time.

If you remember back to this entry, ages and ages ago, Jennie guessed what I was making. But she already knew, since she was working with me when I picked out the fabric, so it didn't really count that she knew what the pieces were to become. I had bought this pattern of Tammy Tadd's a few years ago and always wanted to make it, but didn't find the right fabric. Then we got in the Merry and Bright line by Sandi Gervais. It's perfect for my sister's brightly painted house. And it's whimsical, like my sister. It was in Tammy Tadd Designs as a sample for several months. Tammy liked it so much that it's now the cover for her pattern!

Tom got his quilt for Christmas. Donna sent me a photo of him today, all wrapped up in the quilt, napping in the chair. As soon as I saw the Hawaiian fabric, I knew I would have to make a quilt for him because he used to always wear Hawaiian shirts when he and Donna were dating. I mean always. His closet was wall to wall Hawaiian shirts. I backed it with Moda's version of Minky, Snuggle. The stuff is to die for! I quilted it with waves, surf boards and the cars from the main fabric. I blew up the pattern on the copier, then traced it with Sharpie and then traced it onto Golden Threads paper. I wish I had figured out my new way of quilt top marking at that time! The designs look way better on the back then the front, since you really can't see them on the front unless you are looking for them. Oh, and it's my all time favorite pattern, Yellow Brick Road!

Anna got her Bluebird of Happiness quilt. She immediately wrapped herself up in it. I had intended it for a wall hanging, but if that's how she wants to use it, that's how it will be used! I'm just glad she likes it.

Things I made but forgot to photograph prior to giving them away:
Ryan got his flannel tie dyed blanket that I made from the flannel we tie dyed together this summer. I forgot to take pictures of it though. I made both Anna and Ryan Scooby Doo at the Zoo pillowcases and Carolina a Frosty the Snowman pillowcase since she's been obsessed with Frosty since this summer. I also cranked out two of my carry along bags one for the early 20-something niece of a friend and one for my early 20-something friend Liz.

And last, but not least, I finally made the pillows for Amy to give to her hubby. He requested pillows made out of his old college sweatshirts like 2 or 3 years ago. I procrastinated making them since I had no clue what I was doing and 3d things scared me. Now that I've been making bags, I decided to jump in and try it. They were totally easy to make! 2 hours, start to finish for 2 pillows! I used the scrap denim material Amy had given me years ago for the backing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The weather outside is frightful...

But the Huskies find it most delightful!The photo above was taken after the snow storm we had last week, not the one we are having today. Apparently it will be a white Christmas for quite a bit of the country. Here in Chicago we are having February winter in December. The hubby just came in holding a broken snow blower belt. Bummer.
The Huskies go outside to lay around and eat the snow. They get really frisky too. They run around like banshees and wrestle more as the weather gets colder. Abbie gets frisky too, but doesn't stay out too long since she has a hard time walking on the snow because of her bad leg. The poor dear face planted in it the other day. Luckily it was soft and powdery at the time.
The picture on the right is Cocobean (now commonly referred to as Beaner). She is a nut! She presses her nose into the sliding door so it's like a piggie. It pulls her lips back so her teeth are showing. Then she just stands there like that! In this one, she'd licking the door. It's -5 degrees out with a -20 windchill and she's licking the door. What a wacko.

Robbie's not so fond of the weather. He has no hair for his hairbrush , so he gets cold when it drops below 40 degrees. We got him a coat a few years ago, but even with that, he still doesn't linger long outside in the winter. If you are wondering why he is tethered, it's because he can, and will, jump our 6ft high fence. He always does it in the worst weather too. He always manages it on either the hottest or coldest days of the year. Knock on wood, but luckily he hasn't managed it for a couple of years now.
Robbie was a stray in our neighborhood about four years ago. He was out wandering the neighborhood literally all winter and had a den by one of the ponds. He would follow people walking their dogs, but never come with in grabbing distance. You could tell he was not aggressive. Animal control couldn't catch him either. Finally the hubby and a neighbor were able to lure him into our backyard with their dogs and some lunch meat. He was so afraid of people that he would curl up into the smallest possible ball, as far away as he could get and tremble violently. You could see him trembling from across the yard. It was extremely obvious that the poor dog had been very, very badly treated. We think he was probably dumped in the corn fields a few miles away. No one ever reported him missing. Since the authorities take strays to a "low kill" shelter, we decided to try and get him a home ourselves. A dog this timid would be deemed unadoptable and put down within a week. A neighbor originally took him, but he didn't adapt to the house. He just hid under a desk all the time. It was too noisy for him.

I took him back and my friend Amy was going to take him, but he became so attached to me that it wouldn't be good for him to go else where. We named him Brave Sir Robin after the Monty Python and the Holy Grail character. Brave Sir Robin bravely runs away. And so does Robbie. It's been about 4 years and he's almost warmed up to the hubby now. He's actually been making great strides this month. Maybe he finally realises that it's much better in our house then outside by the pond in the cold, yucky weather, hiding from coyotes! Possibly the steak and tasty morsels the hubby feeds him all the time may have a wee bit to do with it. The photo on the right is Robbie all snuggled up in a pile of pillows this morning while the wind howled and snow blew horizontal outside.

Daisy isn't so into the cold either, but does enjoy eating the snow. Look at that little face! Doesn't she just emanate the thought "for God's sake woman, pleeeease let me in!" She was kept outside during her first year and half of life, before we got her. She doesn't like to be left outside for very long. She probably thinks she'll never be let in again.

As for me, I like this weather. Well, I like it if I can remain ensconced in my house that is. It's great quilting weather! I've been sewing like a madwoman, but I can't show most of it as they are Christmas presents. I'll post them on Friday once they have all been received.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Quilting in the woods

We had a lovely time at our fall girl's quilting retreat in November. The trees were lovely and the weather yucky, perfect for staying inside and quilting!

We always have good food too. Everyone signs up with a partner to cook a meal and I must say, the food is always great! This is Dori's french toast casserole. I need the recipe for this one! And look at how she used her scraps from her quilting project as little napkin rings! Isn't that a fun touch? Retreats are always so inspirational. All those creative people getting together, helping each other out! I forgot to take pictures until the end of the weekend, so I didn't get some of the ladies' projects. We made aprons, bags, quilts, it was a fabric frenzy!

I accomplished quite a bit. I finished a Tammy Tadd Designs "Girly Girl" purse made with Ava Rose fabric by Tanya Whelan, accented with a gorgeous Lakehouse stripe. I finished two of my grocery bags for Jennie.
I also got all of the strips pieced together for a quilt that I've been commissioned to make. That was no small feat. It's a 100 block quilt, made of split nine patches, with an extra row of 2.5" blocks at the top and bottom to make it a rectangle. That means 220 half squares, and something like 750 squares! Whew, it didn't seem like that many when I was putting them together! I'll post about it after the holidays, when it's safely in the hands of it's recipient.
Barb made these lovely bags out of charm squares. I don't recall the pattern, but it had a couple of different options in the one pattern. Aren't they cute?
Karen worked on this fabulous "Yellow Brick Road" by Terry Atkinson, set on-point. This my favorite pattern. It's also Jennie and Karen's favorite as well. We've made dozens of them between the three of us. Jennie and I were at the Madison quilt show when we saw it set on-point. We were blown away! How did it never occur to us to set it that way?!?! The fabric is the "Ginko" line by Lonni Rossi, I think. It's a few years old. This quilt is gorgeous!

I had to share DiscoJen's green polyester jogging suit that she was wearing when she was dubbed DiscoJen at our first retreat. It was like 2am and she put on her disco cd and started shaking her booty to "YMCA" thus earning her the name DiscoJen. It will live in infamy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Giving Thanks

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had as lovely a one as I had. It's really a nice holiday if you think about it. It's really a good thing to reflect on your loved ones and things to be thankful for.
Growing up, my sister and I were the only people under the age of retirement at our holidays becuase all of our cousins lived in other states. We spent our holidays listening to the elders in our family discuss whose bunions were worse and whose retirement home food was better. My sister and I were really thankful when we were finally of an age to enjoy my father's margaritas.
Now at holidays, we have my cousin Ashley and her new hubby, Chris, DiscoJen and the family, and my Aunt and Uncle are back in the holiday group. It's so much more fun with all of them. The hubby would prefer a smaller group, but I feel the more, the merrier.

And since inherited the so called Abodanza gene from my Italian Great-Grandmother, having enough food is never a problem! Most of my friends and family like to cook, so everyone brings something to contribute to the meal.

The Hubby also doesn't understand why I feel compelled to cook for three solid days for a 4 hour meal, but he just doesn't understand that my Martha-esk urges can't be denied. I have to mold butter into holiday related shapes, make my own cranberry jelly, pumpkin puree, and ice cream! And DiscoJen's little guy sure enjoyed the pumpkin pie! Ok, maybe it was really the whip cream he liked best!
I actually started back in September when I made my tablecloths. I'm quite thrilled with them. I was able to find brown napkins at Home Goods for a very reasonable price, so I didn't need to make those.
I looked everywhere for napkin rings, but they were hard to find and ridiculously priced when I did find some I liked. $36 for 4 napkin rings! I'm not spending $144 on napkin rings! I ended up at JoAnn Fabrics to get ribbon to tie around the napkins when I happened across the Christmas garland section, which was 50% off. I was able to get 12 beaded napkin rings out of the bronze pine cone garland! I think they are fabulous!
Thank goodness Chris was in attendance this year because he is apparently the only one who knows how to set a table! I asked the hubby and Uncle Tom to set it and they yelled for Ashley, who claims she doesn't know either. I think she's just wiley and got out of setting the table by saying she didn't know. She and Chris did the napkin rings for me. They did a lovely job, don't you think?
Now, just for Donna, my molded butters! They amuse her. The acorns are honey butter for the sweet potato biscuits DiscoJen made, which are amazing! This year I raised the bar by making my own cranberry jelly too. It turned out really well, but made a ridiculous amount, so next time I will only make half of the recipe. I used a mini bundt holiday pan to form them.

And because I like to form things, I made the apple pie crust into little leaves and acorns. I forgot to take a photo of the whole thing, but it was pretty! I made vanilla tea ice cream and cinnamon ice cream to go with the pies. Yum!
I found my floral centerpiece on Tuesday in downtown Crystal Lake when I met Jennie and Paige for lunch at Benedict's Strata for the hand off of Jennie's gorgeous "Fine China" quilt that Paige quilted for her. There is a small shop across the sidewalk from Benedict's, called Mum. They have some wonderful and different arrangements. I actually still have this on my kitchen table! The Gerbera Daisies are the only thing that I had to get rid of so far, and I just threw those out yesterday.

I gave Carolina her birthday quilt on Thanksgiving since her 4th birthday was just a few days prior. It was the cutest thing ever! She exclaimed "It's gorgeous!" then "It's just perfect for me Vicki!" Doesn't that just all make it worthwhile? I think so.