Hand Quilt-Along Group!

Kerry of Lovethosehandsathome  recently posted about a hand quilt-along group that she had joined. It sounded like a great idea to me, as I guiltily remembered a quilt stuffed in a cupboard waiting to be completed. The quilt along was started by Kathy of Sewingetc, and I contacted her to be added to the group. Here is the story of my project….

I was surprised to see the date on the post – I didn’t realize that it was so old. (The top was completed pre-move (2013) and it is still not done!) I did start quilting it at some point and it is perhaps halfway done. It is not an easy project to hand quilt. All of the fabrics are batiks, which are always printed on very finely woven cotton, which means that it is harder to pierce with a needle. The backing is also made up of batiks… To compensate for the difficult fabrics, the batting is a thin polyester. Sneer as you might, but polyester is very easy to quilt, it’s very light, it washes easily and many award-winning hand quilters use it for all of these reasons.

I noticed on the post I wrote celebrating the finish, that I was planning to machine quilt it. In those days I had the #%$& Bernina sewing machine and was having all sorts of trouble using it, which would explain why I decided to hand quilt it. I use the teeny, tiny quilting needles with my readers on and a bright light over my left shoulder. Now that the weather here has finally cooled off, I will surely attract a cat or two with this cozy project.

This quilt was made in what I call my Illinois colors. I have moved on to lighter, brighter colors in South Carolina. But I do still have the Indian rug that I used as an inspiration, and it will still be lovely in that room.

Let the quilting begin!

Here are the other quilters who are participating! Click on their names to see what wonderful quilts they will be finishing. Check up on us November 26th to see what we have accomplished.

Kathy, Kerry, Deb , Bella Lori , Margaret , Emma , Tracy

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A Cruise on the Rhine: Windmills & Cheese!

One of my favorite tours on the Rhine River Cruise was the (free) windmills tour in Kinderdijk, Holland. Before we arrived, I was pronouncing the name several different ways, but it turns out to be perfectly simple! Dijk is dike. ;-D This area has been a UNESCO World Heritage site for many years and is a delightful spot to visit.

What makes the windmills so magical? The Dutch have so many wonderful stories like the boy putting his finger in the dike and Hans Brinker and the silver skates, and somehow, windmills figure into the folklore. I was not the only one enchanted by them! The cameras and cell phones were out with each of us exclaiming that we’d gotten such a wonderful shot. It was an overcast day, which made most of my pictures sepia toned until the sun peeped out for a few minutes…and then we knew we’d gotten the best picture.

There are 19 windmills in Kinderdjik and all of them are inhabited but one, which we were able to go into. They are cosy, to say the least, but terrifically charming. The kitchen is generally outside because of the danger of fire. The downstairs has living areas and a small bedroom with a built-in bed not unlike a boat. It was surprisingly quiet! Then you start climbing up ladders and you can hear and feel the mill working. This was a fun view!

The people who live in windmills, no matter what the windmill’s purpose, are all called millers. These mills were built in the mid 1700’s to pump water. Some mills grind grain and others are sawmills but the guide said that most mills pump water – obviously a big priority in a country that exists below sea level. You can tell the purpose of the windmills by the shape and the length of the sails. Just one more little video….

Later that afternoon, Peter and I took an optional (paid) trip to a farm which makes cheese. It was a wonderful and informative tour; first to see the ladies and their babies and then to see how Gouda cheese is made. I grew up by my grandparents’ farm, where they raised Angus beef, but I’ve not been around milking cows. They are very sweet and seemed interested in us as well. We arrived while they were being milked, so I suppose they were glad of the diversion. This sweet girl is making sure her friend is clean, and right after I took this shot, she put her head in the food and sprayed it all over everyone nearby!

I won’t go into detail about cheese making, but I will tell you the proper pronunciation of Gouda, which is How-dah! The accent is on the how and you need to gargle a bit. (The proper pronunciation of Edam is e-Dam, accent on the dam!) The cheese making room smelled divine. Here are cheeses getting salted.

These cheese are aging, though they certainly look like loaves of bread ready to bake!

And here the cheeses are getting waxed. You can see that they make many, many flavors of Gouda, some of which arrived home safe and sound in our suitcase.

This farm is a family business. The grandparents take care of the babies and do a lot of chores. The father and the boys milk and care for the cows and the mother and girls make the cheese. They do have some workers to help as well. Obviously manure is recycled and they have some acreage to grow grain. The pigs down the street love the whey left over from the cheese making and the birds (lucky them!) get fed bits of cheese that is shaved off.

A trip to the windmills of Kinderdjik should be on your bucket list!

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Neighborhood Dyeing Projects

Last Summer I had so much fun doing tie dyeing with my niece and her family that I offered to teach the ladies some dyeing techniques. First up was tie dyeing and June was game to try. Here is the result of our morning’s work…

and here is her shirt washed and dried! Perfect for gardening or a Summer music festival or kayaking on the lake!

Then I offered a little class on the many sorts of shibori dyeing. I had three ladies who spent another morning working on samples. We wrapped and sewed and tied indoors and then dyed and unwrapped in the shade.

A few weeks later, Joan and June came over to do a project of their own. June came ready with 6 napkins wrapped and ready to dye.

She made them to go with her Fiestaware china. Didn’t they turn out well?

Joan decided to make a pool cover-up. Isn’t it great?

 

Though the best time for tie dyeing is over, I am anxious to get dyeing again. I want to make some shibori napkins and I also have an idea for an ikat warp. This Winter I am determined to try some ice dyeing as well. Stay tuned!

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A Cruise on the Rhine: Signs & Shop WIndows

After years of watching the ads for Viking River Cruises that precede Masterpiece Theatre, I finally went on one! Our friends invited us to join them more than a year ago and we had a lovely time. My plan was to write a blog every few days as we moved along on our voyage. Ha! Best laid plans…..

Though the Internet connection on the river was somewhat better than an ocean cruise, it was still iffy. One moment I would think I was online and sometime later I’d get a note that I was offline. The pictures I took on my phone never really downloaded onto my iPad, which I was using for the blog. And still, after all these years, I find the WordPress app to be unreliable and difficult to use. Thus, I am at home, wanting to share the trip with you and wondering how to do it. {My father delighted in very long slide shows after trips with my mother, complete with a sunset photo at the end! I will endeavor not to do that.} My plan is to group interesting topics together and hope you enjoy!

As you probably know from the adverts, Viking has free tours at almost every port. We always chose the morning ones for orientation and then Peter and I wandered around and amused ourselves. The local guides were for the most part, outstanding, and always gave great advice for lunches and shopping and further sight-seeing.

It’s so much fun to window shop in a foreign country and see how they display things or what interests them! This was my favorite store – hard to decide what it sold from this intriguing window display, but we discovered buttons and ribbons and threads and zippers. (What we used to call notions in the olden days.) The woman did not or chose not to speak English and my high school French does not include sewing and ribbon and notion-type vocabulary, so I ooohed and ahhhed and she smiled a lot. I would love to have asked her about some of the projects in the window display.

There were storefronts with garlands over the doorways. This entrancing one was above a bakery…

…and this one topped a butcher store. Don’t you love the hams hanging amidst the rose bower?

Many, many years ago, the stores and businesses advertised themselves with these sort of signs.

Peter spotted this sign high atop a building. Looks like it was a shoe shop long ago.

We were on a tour in Cologne Germany and did not have time to have a drink in this brewery. Peter was quite disappointed!

And here is the last one, advertising something unknown to me…

You certainly can get a stiff neck looking at everything and trying not to stumble on the cobblestones or be run over by the hundreds of bikes whizzing by…

 

 

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A Wedding in Vermont

Peter and I are on the road, driving home from Vermont. Our dear friends’ youngest was married and we couldn’t miss the big event. Now that Peter is retired, planning such a trip is not a big deal. Just get the cats to the boarding place and we’re off.

It’s a looong trip to Vermont and I decided that we’d have a long day of driving and spend a whole day in Washington DC. When we lived in central Pennsylvania, we went there often, but it’s been forever. There’s so much to do and see! We don’t often do selfies, but could not resist this one…

Washington at night is magical, with all the wonderful buildings and monuments lit up.

Our first museum stop the next day was the Renwick. It is my favorite since it is devoted to contemporary crafts. I have a few delightful pieces to share. Isn’t this a wonderful quilt made by Sabrina Gschwandtner?

Now take a closer look – what do you see? The quilt is made of 16 mm film! It is called Fibers and Civilization (1959).

An old favorite from the permanent collection is Portal Gate by Albert Paley. I did not realize this, but he was making jewelry when he entered the contest to design a gate! Getting that commission was certainly a life changer for him.

A visit to Washington would not be complete for me without checking out the First Ladies section of the The National Museum of American History. I won’t bore you too much, but this is astounding to me – here is Martha Washington’s silk taffeta gown from the early 1780’s! It is hand painted….

Mamie Eisenhower is the first First Lady that I remember. Look at her ball gown from 1957. Such a yummy red and weren’t her feet so small?

And last but not least, all the amazing flying machines at The Air and Space museum…

Fibonacci Striped Runner

When I took the last warp off the loom, I said to myself – “I am not going to make any rag runners for a time” – but here I am, weaving more. We have a wedding coming up and I do think this bride will appreciate a hand-made gift (as well as a gift card!). When I was asking her mother what colors the bride might like, I asked her, (she is a dear friend), if I could make a runner for her October birthday, and she happily agreed. Weaving something I’ve done a lot of in the last few years seemed a good idea because I wanted to try some of the tricks and techniques that I learned at the Vavstuga workshop. I fiddled a good bit while I was warping the loom and I am happy to say that it is a great warp! Nice and tight; nice and even!

The bride wanted blues, and my tendency is to use navy and white, because I have so much Asian china. When I scrounged around in the closet where I keep the carpet warp, I found a navy and a bright blue, so I used them in the warp. Then I debated whether to do a random stripe, which is what I generally do, but then I remembered the Fibonacci sequence, which I was discussing recently with a friend, and decided to try that out. For reasons that I won’t bore you with, I have cut off the bride’s runner/mat.

 

It is always hard to photograph runners, but if you look closely, you can see 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-8-5-3-2-1-1 sequence in different blue color stories. You can also see that the bright blue warp only shows up in the hem. I thought that might be the case but I didn’t feel like ordering more carpet warp. I’m glad that I cut this off because now I can use it as a reference for how the fabrics look when squished and woven. The bride’s mother wants blues and greens and I am fairly sure that she will not be as happy with dark values. I will use the lighter blues and those with white backgrounds and see what green fabrics I can add.

This is quite different from my usual runner/mats, but I do think it will look nice when in use. The wedding is in Vermont in a few weeks and I hope to have some fun things to share with you….

 

Midwest Road Trip

Last week, Peter and I were on a road trip. It was wonderful to be away – we have had one of those Summers when everything has been going wrong. Since his retirement, it seems like Peter has done nothing but repair things and read online guides and talk to repairmen, when he can’t fix something. Some months ago I signed up for the Midwestern Handi Quilter Event in Highland, Illinois, and when I asked if he would like to come along, I got a resounding “yes!”.

Our first stop was in Franklin Tennessee, which was #2 on my Where To Live Next List. It is a charming town set in lovely, rolling countryside, not far from Nashville. The horse farms and large estates (I looked at a house across the street from Reba McEntire’s farm!) are breath-taking. We had some yummy meals downtown and Peter toured the area on his bike while I window shopped. Next trip we will explore Nashville.

Handi Quilter makes my Sweet 16 quilting machine and I thought I’d like to go and see what I could learn about the machine and how to get better at free motion quilting.The Handi Quilter Event was sponsored by Mike’s Machine Shop and they did a nice job, and Mike is so knowledgeable about the machines. The classes were held in this Masonic Temple in Highland…..it’s quite a beauty!

The Event was 5 days long, but only the first two were relevant to me. I have a Sweet 16, which is called a “sit down, mid arm machine”. I do not use the HQ version of a stitch regulator, nor do I use a computer. She’s a plain vanilla machine and I’m delighted with her. Over the years I have taken machine quilting classes from “big deal quilters”. They show you how to do their quilting; the way they like to do it. Mary Beth Kraptil gave an overview, with many, many ideas for designs and how to accomplish them. After going over the basics of the machine and how to get the quilting started, she talked about a variety of quilt patterns, including “ruler work” and there was even a bit of time to try out her ideas and play with the rulers. And the mantra always is, no matter who teaches the classes, practise for 15 minutes every day!  She had samples galore, which are so helpful to see up close.

This idea for a practise piece was one of my favorites. She started with a printed fabric in the middle and then “finished” the motifs that were cut off. You can see that she added more floral and leaf shapes in the background and then fill, fill, filled!

Highland is about 45 minutes from St. Louis, so we decided to go to a Beer Week Event at the Anheuser Busch Biergarten. As you can see, it was a lovely evening… and check out the arch appearing in the distance!

It is so incredible!

The trip home was not as fun as the getting-there – isn’t that often the case? We were listening to a book on tape and I was secretly tracing quilting designs on my leg. I have so many ideas and some new tools and toys to play with!

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Chalk Paint Chairs

After moving to South Carolina, our brown upholstered dining room chairs seemed heavy and out-of-place. Though I wanted to re-upholster them, the cost of the fabric and labor was way too high and they weren’t particularly special chairs. There is a chalk paint store in the area, and after I took an introductory class with them, I decided to paint unfinished chairs. The instructor told us about an Amish furniture store which was full of choices for straight-backed chairs. After spending a good amount of time dithering about which chairs to buy, I decided on six different styles! Somewhere I had seen an old farmhouse kitchen where mismatched chairs sat around a big table. Though there are many antique stores nearby, new chairs seemed a better option. This was all about a year ago and the unfinished chairs with cloth seats, sat in the diningroom looking forlorn.

Sometimes I make quick decisions about fabrics and colors, but not this time. Finally I found an ikat fabric that I liked – with watery, soft colors.

And then the paint color debate started in my head. For a long while I thought I would be clever and paint each chair a different color and collected paint samples. I came to my senses a few weeks ago and decided that one color would suffice. I went back to the chalk paint store which sells Annie Sloan’s brand. They have a large selection of colors, but nothing appealed to me. I didn’t feel like mixing their paint either, so I started to Google. It turns out that chalk paint is very easy to make and Lowe‘s had a recipe and all sorts of good information. It’s Plaster of Paris and water and plain paint and that meant that I could simply choose a color I liked and make it myself. (And it was lots less expensive.)Why chalk paint? It is very thick and goes on easily. There are far fewer drips and these are easy to spot. Years ago when I painted furniture for our apartment, I could not find a finish that I liked; it was always too shiny and then when I sanded it, it looked – well – sanded. Chalk paint has a dull finish and then when the finishing wax is applied, it can be rubbed to make it shine a bit. There are all sorts of amazing techniques one can do, but I just did plain painting. And I’m very pleased with the result.

Next I am debating painting a red leather recliner…. Have any of you tried chalk painting on leather?

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