Saturday, March 31, 2012

Podcastaversary Give-Away--Week 1 "Celebrate Podcasts!"

Yay! It's my two-year podcastaversary! My, how time flies. When I started this venture, I had no idea that (1) I'd still be doing it two years later and (2) I'd have made friends doing it! A community has been created amongst quilting podcasters and our listeners and I thoroughly enjoy being part of that.

To kick off a month of celebrations, this first week, we're celebrating podcasts!

The giveaways officially start Sunday, April 1st. I've got to post this on Saturday to give the podcasters time to link up here--so if you're reading this on Saturday, come back tomorrow and see who all has joined in! :-)

First, my own giveaway:

You can win yourself this set of four fat quarters by leaving a comment answering the question, "Where do you listen to your podcasts?" If you don't listen to podcasts, you might want to subscribe to mine and everyone else's! But you can still leave a comment anyway. I'll put your name in the mix even if you're not a listener!

Leave your comment by Friday night, April 6th, midnight Eastern-Sandy-Time (U.S.)--I'll do my drawing on Saturday the 7th.

Don't forget: Your email address needs to be in the comment itself or visible on your profile for me to be able to get back to you to tell you you've won! If I don't have an email address, I'll have to award the prize to someone else.

And before we move on, want to help spread the word about the month-long giveaway? Grab the blog button at the top of the right-hand side of this page and put it on your own blog! Make sure people know they'll have the opportunity to win Aurifil thread, gift certificates to the Fat Quarter Shop, and more!

Check out below for other podcasters' pages and giveaways--support the podcasting community!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lookie! Lookie!

Kinda makes you want to run out and buy you some Shiva paint sticks, doesn't it?

Slow Quilt Monday--Oh, the Possibilities

I don't have many words of wisdom today because I'm deep in the midst of finishing a UFO (which has developed a real back-story, by the way, but more about that later in the week when it's actually done). So I haven't been practicing "slow quilting" these last couple of days so much as "get 'er done quilting." There are seasons for both of those in our quilting lives, to be sure.

However, I started out this morning in an endeavor that might indeed fit well under the slow quilting rubric, as it's all about imagining the possibilities.

You see, I've developed a thing for Shiva paint sticks. I picked up a few at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival and have been playing with them here and there. A couple of weeks ago I brought them with me when I made a quick drop-by to our guild's March Sew-Days. I knew my buddy Lori would appreciate them--I didn't realize the number of other folks who would fall in love with them too. Soon enough I had a crowd around me as we played with rubbing plates, sketching, and blending. Lori, Florence, and I decided a short shop-hop to an art supply store was in order. So, this morning we met in a grocery store parking lot, hopped into Lori's car, and did some financial damage in a short amount of time!

Today's purchases:
More paint sticks, of course; a few pigma pens, some stencil brushes and a couple of small stencils, some regular paint brushes of three different shape/sizes, and brush cleaner. And then a random bag of little bitty hair scrunchies to keep my bobbins in control, because they've started to bug me of late ($1 for a bag of 300 at Family Dollar, if you're interested).

Florence and Lori also picked up a few paint sticks and some other accoutrements. I'll let Lori blog about hers. Florence doesn't blog, so her quilting life will just need to remain a mystery to you all. Let me just say, though, Florence is a seriously prolific quilter. It's a rare guild show n' tell that she doesn't have at least three finishes to show, and often more. And she does tremendous charity quilting. We love Florence. She da woman.

I've done as much as I can get done on my UFO for the day--waiting for a shipment of remaining parts. :-) So now it's time to cover a work surface and get down to some serious play. I love me some paint sticks. Playing is a big part of slow quilting--you need to mess with something to get a feel for what it will let you do.

So, go mess with something. And have fun!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sew-Day Tomorrow

It's like bunnies, the way guilds are multiplying in my life these days.

Y'all know how much I love my usual guild-that-is-not-a-guild. I've been with that one for about six years now. Actually started talking to people about four years ago. (That's the "i" word thing that we won't talk about at the moment.) Now they're my peeps. My main quilty squeezes. No one will ever replace them.

But a few months ago, I decided to go ahead and join a second guild. The second one is the big guild in the region--maybe something like 400 members? They've been around since the dawn of time, too--they're one of the oldest/longest running guilds in the country. However, they meet on a weekday. In the morning. Urgh. So really, I can pretty much never make meetings. But they do have good speakers and classes and such, so being a member means that if I can plan far enough in advance, I might be able to periodically take a vacation day and attend something. Meanwhile, I keep up through the newsletter and news groups. While I'm technically a member of that one, it's hard to feel like a member when I'll probably only be physically present maybe once or twice a year.

This week, a bit on a whim, I joined a third guild. This one doesn't have meetings, from what I've been told. They just do sew-days on a Friday and Saturday once a month. And, as it turns out, of the 30-ish people in that guild, about 10 of them are also in my Main Quilty Squeeze Guild. Always a bit easier for this i-word-person to join a group where I already know a third of the people. My thought process is that when I'm back to work in a few weeks, between my MQS Guild's sew days and this new one's sew days (never scheduled on the same weekend), I should be able to make one or the other every month. All the more opportunity to "go get my quilty on" on a regular basis.

New Guild has their sew days tomorrow and Saturday, so I'm getting my thoughts and supplies together about what I'll be bringing with me to do. Hence, this:

Remember the self-mitered receiving blanket from yesterday's post? I went back to the sale at Joann's this afternoon to pick up a bunch more fabrics and will be cutting the sets of 30" and 40" squares tomorrow. I'm planning on using this as a project to teach some of the women I've been volunteering with how to use a sewing machine. It's really perfect. All they have to learn to do is find the middle, pin, sew in a straight line,  mark a line, cut on that line, then sew a zig-zag stitch. Easy Peasy. And, what's more important, they end up with usable receiving blankets for all the many babies being born into their community!

I lost track. I think those three hangers of fabrics add up to about 15 receiving blankets or so. I had them all sorted out as to which ones were pairs when I was stacking the bolts in my cart, but then the woman doing the cutting kept flipping my piles back and forth, mixing the sets up. I decided I'd better take care of sorting them back out again as soon as I got home before I completely forgot what my original intentions were. There are a couple that I'm questioning, but ultimately I ended up with even sets so it's good enough for horseshoes.

I haven't decided yet what else I'll work on tomorrow. Here is my usual criteria for a sew-day (different from a retreat since I'm there for shorter periods of time):
  • No machine quilting. I only do that on my regular set-up at home.
  • Nothing that requires intense concentration. Who can concentrate with a cast of thousands?
  • Nothing that requires a lot of parts. Hate packing it all just for a few hours.
I still have some hexies to mark, so those will probably come with me, then I may just bring my scrap bins and work on cutting everything to usable sizes. That's the kind of tedious work that's nice to do while I can be entertained by everyone else!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Donation Quilt Wednesday--Receiving Blankets

I wanna make me a bunch of these! How cute and easy are they?! Thanks to Missouri Star Quilt Company for this idea--great for donating to hospitals, women's shelters, clothing cupboards, and so forth. (As always, check with the intended recipient organization first to make sure there are no special requirements.)

I thought this looked like so much fun I picked up some flannel on sale at Joann's ($2.79 a yard! and a coupon on top of that!) and made one myself. It works! (Not terribly keen on the decorative stitch I chose for the finishing touch--it worked well on the sample but I didn't like it in the end. Next time I'll just do a zig-zag, I think.)

And here's the fabric I've got to make a second, more boy-like one.

1. Make sure you bring the measurements with you when you go to buy the fabric. Oops. Since I made these on a whim, I stopped at Joann's while running other errands and didn't have the ability to double-check the measurements. I had in my head 20" and 30". Nope. That would be 30" and 40". Fortunately, while I'd only intended to buy a yard of each of the four fabrics, one in each pairing I'd picked up was the last of the bolt so I got a few extra inches. Bingo. Saved by happenstance.

2. It's flannel. Yikes. Flannel is hard to work with in the best of circumstances. In this case, you're sewing something smaller to something bigger, which involved a lot of smoodging around to get things to line up under the presser foot, so that was kind of a pain. Ultimately, it didn't turn out to be that big a deal when all was said and done. The miters still worked well.

3. The video could have used a little more detail in the "sewing everything together" section. Since you sew from the center out on all the sides, that means one seam you sew with one side up, then you have to flip it over with the other side up to get it under the presser foot correctly. Which affects how you pin or mark things. It wasn't a huge deal but took me a couple of sides to figure out how to do best, and it was still a lot of flipping around. If I'd thought ahead, I could have done four seams on one side, then flipped and done the other four on the other side. I didn't think ahead. I suppose you could try just sewing straight down one side without going center out, but with flannel as stretchy as it is, I'd think you'd risk not having things line up in the end.

4. Ten minutes? I don't think so. The first one took me about an hour. It took me ten minutes just to get the cutting done because my cutting table isn't set up well to do a 40" square. However, I think the second one will take me significantly less time, and if I were to do a bunch of them, I could probably get it down to under half an hour. I still don't buy 10 minutes. Still n' all, half an hour isn't bad either! And this could be a good project for a group to do in assembly line fashion--some folks cutting, some folks pinning, others sewing, etc. You could knock out a bunch in a few hours.

So I've now got a receiving blanket ready to donate. I'm hoping to knock out the second one today, as well as make progress on my other projects.

Have you ever made these? Leave a comment!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Slow Quilt Monday--I Think I Can

When my son was about going on 3 years old, we went through an entire summer of reading The Little Engine that Could every single night--sometimes two or three times a night. He had it memorized within the first couple of nights. Even though he couldn't read yet, he knew when we tried to speed things up on the umpteenth time through the story by skipping words here and there. He'd call us on it. "No, mommy, you missed a part!" (Sigh. Flip back a page, start again.)

At 21, he's now a very confident guy who thinks he can do pretty much anything he can set his mind to. Can I attribute my son's confidence to his early passion for Watty Piper's story of the little train engine that believed itself up the steep hill? Probably not entirely. But something in his little 30-month-old brain recognized that there was something to that story that he could relate to. Or that there was something to that story that he needed to remember for later life.

I've been reading a lot about creativity these last few weeks, and really, it all boils down to one salient point: If you think you can, you will. Yes, you may need to learn a new technique to be able to adequately execute that vision in your head. But there's nothing keeping you from learning that technique. Yes, you may have a few disastrous starts to a project before ending up with something at least closely approximating what's in your head. But who cares? It's only fabric. I've been reading about a number of great artists and novelists who were all angsty with fear every time they started out creating, and who were positive that what they were creating was just every sort of wrong through the whole process. But they kept thinking they could. And so they did.

What's the difference between me and the man or woman who created that gorgeous quilt I'm admiring in the show? Simply this: They thought they could. So they did.

This week, I think you should find a copy of The Little Engine that Could. Remember what it feels like to think you can.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Little Bit about a Lot of Nothing

Random thoughts on a Sunday.

Here's what I'm reading:

The Brutal Telling, by Louise Penny. This is #5 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series. I just started them a few months ago and am trying to slow myself down--she's just started work on book #9, if I recall (I follow her blog), so I'm pacing myself. Love these books. I enjoy the characters, the storylines, the writing. Best mysteries I've read in a long time.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I'm finding this book entertaining. Cain's a good writer--you have to love nonfiction that keeps you coming back for more as much as a good story does.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. I read this book several years ago and got a lot out of it the first time. I'm getting as much out of it, if not more, the second time around. I've read several of Anne Lamott's books, although none of her fiction. She's earthy, funny, and wise. This book of advice for writers is full of her typical self-deprecating humor and sometimes pointed jabs; note that it's not about being published--it's about writing for the sake of writing. Great stuff.

And get ready for an upcoming episode on my podcast about some quilt design books I've been reading: A Fabric Journey: An Inside Look at the Quilts of Ruth McDowell; Transitions: Unlocking the Creative Quilter Within, by Andrea Balosky; Journey of an Art Quilter: Creative Strategies and Techniques, by Barbara Olson; and probably others by the time I get around to recording that episode. I'll also be talking at more length about my experience with The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.

What I'm watching:
Modern Family, The Amazing Race, The Voice, American Idol (although I could skip that one pretty easily), The Bob Newhart Show (the original one, being shown on Hallmark Channel); just started watching Cranford on DVD from Netflix, but not sure it's grabbing me yet. Have some Masterpiece Classic DVDs of the Jane Austen persuasion that I'll be watching this week too, as my husband has a lot of evening commitments for work. And yes, I confess to watching Hoarding: Buried Alive. I don't understand why or try to explain it, but there it is. On the Great Courses front, I've finished Museum Masterpieces: the Louvre--which was wonderful, by the way. Now I'm working on From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism. I hit a great sale in their catalogue a couple of weeks ago and picked up three new lecture series so I'm ready to go. Now that my daughter has gone back to college after her spring break, I get a lot more control over the TV again.

What I'm working on this week:

My still-unnamed funky landscape

The next border on my medallion challenge--it's supposed to be 6" finished, and somehow involve stars and/or pinwheels. I'm still pondering.

Remember "Fortune?" I'd intended to do the quilting myself but have decided I really want to move onto other projects now, so Fortune is making it's way to my wonderful long-arm quilter tomorrow. I'm sure it won't take long--just a basic overall pantograph, since this is a donation quilt. Not sure where I'm donating it yet, although I have an idea. I just need to do some asking first.

And it's time for me to start working on my paint chip challenge for my guild. It's due next month. Not that I'm waiting until the last minute or anything...

So that's where we're at as we look at the week ahead. What are you planning on reading, watching, or working on this week?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Food Friday--Homemade Pizza

I own a breadmaker. Do I ever use it to make bread? Uh, no. Let's name it a pizza-dough-maker and call it a day. Once every couple of weeks I make us homemade pizza. When it's just my husband and I home alone, I will make two personal sized pizzas and we each make whatever we want. Note: I'm much more creative than he is. He's happy with tomato sauce (and plenty of it), mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni. I lean towards a white sauce, spinach, caramelized onions, and goat cheese. But we'll keep it simple for this blog post.

I've adapted a bread machine pizza dough recipe I found on the Internet a little bit. Then I'm going to share with you three sauce recipes--I've tried them all, and they're all tasty!

Although the pizza dough recipe is made for a breadmaker, check out this link for some tips for how to make a bread machine recipe by hand instead:

Here we go:
Pizza Dough in Bread Machine
(Adapted from


  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry milk powder
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • Optional: approximately 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning or mix of dried oregano, basil, thyme, etc., if desired, to taste
  • Optional: grated parmesan or romano cheese for crust

If desired, make an olive oil mixture to brush on the crust before baking: olive oil, garlic powder, dried oregano or Italian seasoning, grated parmesan, or whatever seasonings you like.


1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle. Press start.

2. Remove dough from pan after rise cycle. Roll to 14-16". Allow to rest several times in the process of rolling--this will help it get to the desired size more easily.

3. Place in lightly sprayed pizza pan and allow to rise a few minutes.

4. Brush with plain olive oil. Poke holes in dough with a fork to prevent bubbles from forming. (Remember to also poke the edge of the crust.)

5. Bake in preheated oven at approximately 400 to 425 degrees for about 8-10 minutes, until slightly browned.

6. Optional: Sprinkle parmesan or romano cheese on crust after first baking, then bake again for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese, then add toppings.

7. Top with sauce and desired toppings, brush crust with olive oil or olive oil mixture, then bake again until toppings are at desired doneness. Brush crust with olive oil as soon as it's out of the oven if desired.

And now, onto the sauces!

Parmesan Sauce (not low fat!)
(Learned at cooking class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center)

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, or to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste


1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and saute garlic until softened but not brown.

2. Add cream and heat until foaming. Add parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste. Turn down heat and heat until thickened to desired consistency. Use over fettucini or pizza.

Simple Margherita Sauce
  • 1 can San Marzano Tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1. Open can and remove several tomatoes to lessen volume and set aside. Using immersion blender, puree remaining tomatoes in can (or pour tomatoes into blender). Give removed tomatoes a rough chop and return to can. Salt and pepper to taste; use cold over pizza. (Freeze into 2 cup portions for other pizzas, or use as a base for spaghetti sauce.)

Susan's Pizza Sauce
(From History Quilter Susan--who gave me permission to post this!)


  • 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano (add at end)
Add all ingredients above (except oregano) to saucepan and let simmer about 20 minutes at the minimum. Puree to your desired consistency or keep it chunky. Add 1 tsp oregano just before you are ready to make your pizza. Makes about 1 1/2 cups - easily doubled/tripled.

(I made Susan's sauce for the first time tonight--thanks so much for sending it to me, Susan! We loved it!)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Guest Blogger on SeamedUp

Hey, podquilters! I'm the guest blogger this week on SeamedUp. Check it out--and while you're there, be sure to check out their plans for National Quilting Day on Saturday!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Progress! One Finish, a WIP, and a Challenge (O My)

Yesterday was a banner day here in the "Quilting...for the Rest of Us" quilt studio. (Ooh, doesn't that sound all sorts of official?)

First, I started out with a little mini-project that I'd volunteered for last week. If you're following my Fabri-Sabbatical blog, you'll know I spend Wednesday afternoons with the Women's Learning Club, which is a group of recent arrivals to the U.S. from Burma. Last Wednesday, a couple of women from our church brought some fleece, hearts cut out of fabric, and embroidery threads to make baby blankets that will be donated. This is a project they've been doing with various groups for a few weeks, so we thought it would be fun to include our group as well, and in the process, teach a fast and inexpensive way to make extra blankets for your family if you should need them.

The women organizing the event decided it would take too long to do a blanket-stitch around the outer edge by hand, so they were taking them home to do by machine. I volunteered to take one as well, so I decided to knock that out first. It turned out OK, although I still prefer doing it by hand. It took about twenty minutes to sew, and then another twenty minutes to get all the fleece lint out of my machine.

One of our group had embroidered the heart onto this one, and she taught me how to do the chain stitch as she was doing it. My chain stitch doesn't look nearly as good as hers yet!

That project done, I moved on to my funky landscape quilt in progress.


...became this.

Everything is just stuck down with glue stick at this stage, so I may still move some things around. I'm playing with perspective and balance and such. And I'm still working on getting the fern-y things to look more like ferns and less like Seussian birds. Quilting will help that a lot, though.

Haven't decided yet what's going in the center section. I'm going to live with it for a bit to see what comes to me.

Then I turned to my guild medallion challenge. The dang thing is due tonight, so I really wanted to get it done. And I did! (Only three more borders to go until the challenge is done. I'll find out tonight what the next border is supposed to be.)


Monday, March 12, 2012

National Quilting Day giveaway!

I'm always up for a party--especially one focused on quilting! This coming Saturday is National Quilting Day, and SeamedUp is hosting an NQD Sew-In with giveaways and all sorts of other fun. I'm ready to play along!

Feel like spring? I'm offering a one-yard cut of a happy, vibrant focus print, with four coordinated fat quarters to get you started! Or, if you want to break them up and use them in five different projects, that's fine by me. I just want these fabrics to find a good home.

The focus fabric is "Fondly Flowers" by Laura Heine for Kings Road. This is no longer available--so you want it in your stash! (The fat quarters have no selvedges so I can't identify them for you, sorry. But they're also great stash-builders.)

You can enter for the giveaway several times. Here's how:

1. Leave me a comment on this post describing what affect the changing seasons has on your quilting. Do you start using different colors? Do you start making placemats for picnics? Do you hurry to get all your quilt projects done before summer so you can hang out in the back yard as much as possible rather than being on your sewing machine? Do you go on a fabric diet so you can fit into that fat quarter before summer? (Tee hee.) For those of you in the other hemisphere where things may be starting to get cooler rather than warmer, the same question applies, just in reverse. How might you be switching quilty-gears now as you start to look towards winter months?

2. Leave me a comment that you have subscribed to my podcast, "Quilting...for the Rest of Us." (Subscribe through the podcast page or through iTunes.) Already a subscriber? Just let me know. It'll count!

3. Like the Quilting...for the Rest of Us Facebook page and leave a comment here to let me know you've done so. Already liked the page? Just tell me!

4. Follow this blog and leave a comment here to let me know you've done so. (You'll see some follow options on the right of this post.) Already a follower? Just tell me!

5. Friend me on SeamedUp! I go by sandyquiltz there, so seek and ye shall find. Already buddies with me on SeamedUp? You know what to do.

(I also hope you will track me down on Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, and just about everywhere else in cyberspace. I go by sandyquiltz everywhere I hang out. I'm not including those in this drawing, though. Just 'cause.)

Winners will be chosen randomly using the random number generator. Be sure you are NOT a no-reply blogger when you leave your comments. Make sure your email address is on your profile, or in your comment itself. I'll need to know who you are and what your email address is in order to contact you if you win the giveaway. Any anonymous postings will have to be automatically disqualified since I won't be able to be in touch with you.

Be sure to check out the SeamedUp blog post for more giveaway fun. And join in their Twitter party on Saturday, March 17th. I know it's also St. Patrick's Day, but you can always wear your Irish while sitting at your sewing machine!

My giveaway will be open from the time of this posting on Monday, March 12th, until midnight (my time, Eastern U.S. time) Sunday, March 18th. I'll draw the winners on Monday, March 19th. Looking forward to sending out some fabricy-love to someone somewhere!

Slow Quilt Monday--A Spring in My Step

I heard the birds singing this morning.

OK, so, yes--I've been hearing certain intrepid birds sing right along even in the darkest days of winter. Our yard backs up to woods so we're never entirely without birds even on the coldest days. A peep here, a cheep there. Not much, but a reminder that they're around. On the other hand, this winter has been so mild that the robins I've been seeing over the last few weeks are positively pudgy--they've not had a problem finding things to eat this year.

But this morning, there was a slightly different quality to the song. It seems to me, anyway, in my just-emerging-from-my-February-funk-self, that it's happier. More hopeful. Warmer.

Today is our second day in a row of mid-60s weather, after a weekend of snow and freezing rain. I'm just starting to see some buds starting to appear on trees and shrubs (pictured is one of my dwarf Japanese maples). I was checking out my forsythia yesterday. No yellow yet, but a few more days of this--which we're supposed to have--and I'm sure I'll start seeing a little extra color there too.

It'll break our Western New York hearts just a little bit when it snows again, because I'm sure it will. It's not unusual for us to get snow on Mother's Day, frankly, although you get past March and snow doesn't stick around for long. We may whine when we see it, but ultimately it just makes spring all that much more welcome. So I'm definitely a little perkier today--a little giddy, in fact. I can smell spring in the air!

When it comes to slow quilting, I've been poking away at a project I started, by surprise, last week.

I had a whole week to myself last week--sort of a personal retreat. The kids were still away at college, and my husband was out of town on business for the entire week. I missed them all terribly, of course, but it allowed me to set a rhythm for my week that worked for me. Well, me and the dogs. Somehow they wanted to keep being fed and getting to go outside--go figure. In any case, mostly I realized how little TV I watch when left to my own devices. I finished more "Great Courses" lectures, did a lot of reading, and got some more work done on quilt projects. I got just enough social life out of my volunteer commitments and was happy to spend the rest of the week pretty much solo.

One evening I decided to test my need for control. I decided to just start snipping fabric into shapes and fuse it down, not really planning ahead too much. I ended up having a ball with it. It's been fun to watch this project evolve. This picture was taken after the first night. I've now added a lot more flora to it in various places and will keep working on it later today as well, although I've got the borders for my Medallion Challenge project for guild to work on--I want to catch up by tomorrow night's guild meeting.

My daughter got home from college for her spring break on Friday afternoon, and my husband got home Friday night. And I've not made a lick of progress on my quilt projects since. But today is another day and my daughter has a friend coming over, so they will actually prefer if I stay holed up in my sewing room. So I'm trying to get back into a rhythm today that works around other people.

But it doesn't matter. I can smell spring in the air. I'm good.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Donation Quilt Wednesday--Quilts for Kids

You may well have heard about this organization already, and perhaps you've already helped out. If so, great! If not, well, you need to know about it: Quilts for Kids, founded in 2000, has distributed tens of thousands of quilts worldwide. Quilts for Kids transforms discontinued, unwanted and other fabrics into quilts that comfort children with life-threatening illnesses, as well as children of abuse.

You may have a chapter of Quilts for Kids near you--you can check the interactive map on their website to find out. If you work through a local chapter, the quilts stay in your community. If you don't have a chapter near you, just send your completed quilts into the national office and they'll get used where needed most.

You can create a quilt from your own stash--they give some guidelines and offer several free downloadable patterns if you need one. If you work through a local chapter, they may have donated fabrics you could use. If you would like, you can request a kit from the national office--all you have to add is your own batting. (Quilts created from these kits need to be returned to the national office.)

The website highlights that there is a real need for quilts appropriate for teenage boys. So if you think you might have something appropriate in your stash, go for it!

If you decide to do a quilt for Quilts for Kids, please pay close attention to the guidelines--the guidelines are primarily related to health issues so if you don't follow them, your quilt may not be able to be used.

For more information about Quilts for Kids, visit their website at

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Carol Doak Mariner's Compass Star block done!

Finally! It's done!

After several ill-fated attempts at a Mariner's Compass block using one book, I finally called it a day on that one and pulled off the shelf one of my beloved Carol Doak books.

Mind you, I've never actually made a Carol Doak block before. But between what I had purchased myself and what I'd inherited from my Mom, I'd guess I probably have most of what Doak has published over the years. I own and use her DVD on paper piecing quite frequently. Her directions are so clear and straightforward, she doesn't leave anything to guesswork. So when I couldn't make it work with the other designer, I decided to give Carol Doak a shot, and it worked. This was so much easier!

First, she did the math for me. Always a plus in my book. Rather than having to try to expand a smaller design to get the size block I needed, Doak's designs happened to be the right size already. Doak also gives cutting lists for each of her designs, so I didn't have to try to figure out what size fabric piece would cover the needed space. Third, her compass blocks are done in square quarters rather than the traditional circles, which just make them easier to handle.

(As a note, I'd already determined my color choices and placements before going to Doak's book. It just happened that I ended up choosing the Africa block from the book, which has very similar colors and placement! I was just looking for something that had roughly the same number of pieces that I'd been doing before so I could use the same fabrics. Go figure.)

This isn't quite a traditional Mariner's Compass block, which is why I refer to it as a "compass-esque" block. Still, I was able to use the same fabrics I'd intended to use the first time around and get pretty much the same effect, so I'm a happy camper.

Isn't that Stonehenge line just absolutely gorgeous? I'm in serious love.

Now, by my next guild meeting next Tuesday night I really should have two more borders done. Maybe three. I forget how many, I'm so far behind now. The first border is supposed to be pieced. My original thoughts were a very complicated applique but the center block turned into such a saga I'm thinking I'm going to cut myself a whole lot of slack and do something much simpler. But that's a problem for tomorrow.

BTW, the picture makes the light green in the center look a little more neon than it does in real life. Everything blends better than it looks like it does. The darker green on the other half of the center also has splotches of purple in it so it really pulls everything together. Mmmm. Stonehenge. Yum.

And just because I could.... I had to make a stop at a quilt shop yesterday and they had these stacks of gorgeous batik fat quarters, so I picked out a bunch in teals, aquas, greens, & turquoises, and paired them with blacks and grays. I'm thinking maybe disappearing nine-patch, but don't hold me to that. Right now they're just seducing me from their stack on the cutting table.

So all that's to say, I've decided I'm sending Fortunate out to my long-arm quilter because I have too many other projects I want to get to!

And also by the way, my sister and niece just came back from a mission trip to Ghana and she informed me tonight that she bought me fabric. Yay! Can't wait to see it!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Back on a Roll...Jelly Roll, That Is...

I got another block in the Jelly Roll Sampler project done (using the book by the Lintott Gals) today. This is the one I started last fall and worked on during my October guild retreat. Got two blocks done then; just got block #3 done this afternoon. They're not hard--just pokey. The project has been sitting in a bin on my shelf since shortly after I got home from the retreat. It's not a high priority project so it kept getting shuffled down the line behind other stuff. I'm going to try to keep poking away at the remaining 9 blocks over the next few weeks as I'm finishing up other projects.

The Mariner's Compass? Deep-sixed. (Going back to the jelly roll project was a bit of therapy for me--Quilt Trauma Recovery.) I'm working on another concept for the guild challenge now. One thing I've learned in years of quilting: When to cut my losses and move on. My theory is that when I used my copier to expand the block it didn't expand both units equally. There is often a slight variation in a copy. Well, what can be just a hair's breadth off for one unit, multiplied by 8, can create real issues by the time you're done. I had the same issue with matching certain points with each unit, very consistent, even though I was dead on that line every time. That says to me there's something wrong with the unit itself as it came off my copier. Too bad--I liked the color combinations. I'm using basically the same color combination with some slight variation in my new attempt, so hopefully I'll be as happy with it. And hopefully it'll actually work this time. Still paper-piecing, just using a Carol Doak book this time and a slightly different approach to a mariner's compass. I think I'll call it "compass-esque." I've got the fabrics figured out, so after I run some errands this afternoon I'll probably start working on that one.

I'm now in week four of my sabbatical and just now feel like I'm getting into a groove. Illness, travel, and the hectic first couple of weeks of taking care of stuff that had gotten put off for months before meant I didn't accomplish as much quilty-wise as I wanted. So I'm struggling not to let myself "feel behind," because I'm really trying to take seriously my goal to accept what I'm able to do as I'm able to do it and not get into mind games with myself over what I feel like I have to get done. But if I don't get called up for jury duty this week (I have to call every afternoon to find out whether I need to show up the next day) I'll have lots of time to make some progress on current projects and play with some new ideas.

Here's to playing with fabric. Yay.

Slow Quilt Monday

"A mind too active is no mind at all."
(Theodore Roethke)

Many days I think my doofus dog has it right.

Occasionally ask for a scratch under the chin.

No self-imposed deadlines to meet. No sense of obligation or overblown feelings of responsibility. No need to feel productive.

"The most potent muse of all is our own inner child." (Stephen Nachmanovitch)

Eat. Sleep. Play.

I think I'll do all three of those this week. And I'll scratch Doofus under the chin in thanks.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Food Friday--6-Week Bran Muffins

I always think of this as my mother's recipe since she made them frequently while we were growing up, but I later found that she'd gotten the recipe from a cookbook our church had put together when I was young. I've also since seen the recipe on the Internet, unattributed, so I don't know where it originally came from. Whoever originally came up with this one, thank you!

They're a favorite for my family-of-birth and were on the table for most holiday meals as well as for just regular-day-eating; when the grandkids started coming along, Mom would make batches of these when she knew they were coming over for the weekend. My niece got married just a few months after my mom had passed away, so for part of her wedding gift, I made a big batch of the muffins for her and her new husband to take on their honeymoon with them and included the recipe so we could pass along a family tradition to a new family. They told me later it was one of their favorite gifts, and my nephew-in-law has joined the ranks of Mom's bran muffin lovers.

Why are they called "6-Week Bran Muffins"? Because you can make up the batter and it will keep in your fridge for up to six weeks, allowing you to bake fresh muffins any time you want. Frankly, I've never had the opportunity to test the theory because I always end up baking them all within a week or so. I do recommend making the batter a day before you want to make them--you can bake the muffins immediately and they're good, but they're so, SO much better if you can wait at least a day and then give it another really good stir. The ingredients meld more. You can also bake up the entire recipe and freeze them...but why would you? There's nothing more enticing than smelling them baking and eating them warm from the oven!

You can make these lower fat by swapping out the oil for applesauce, and you can play with the proportion of egg whites to egg yolks as well. I've done several variations in that respect and the flavor is always good. However, I have found that the result is a bit too chewy for my taste, so I prefer to make them straight-up and just be careful how many I eat. Indeed, you need to be a little careful how many you eat at one time anyway. They are bran, after all.

6-Week Bran Muffins

Yield: approximately 7 dozen

1 16-oz box Bran Flakes (with raisins if desired)
3 cups sugar
5 cups flour
5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup shortening, melted, or vegetable oil
1 quart buttermilk

1. Mix cereal with sugar, flour, soda, and salt in a very large bowl.
2. Mix eggs, shortening, and milk in a separate bowl, then pour into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
3. Store in covered container in refrigerator and use as needed. Batter will last 6 weeks.
4. To bake, fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes.

Remember--the batter is better if left for at least a day before baking. But if you don't want to wait, you'll still enjoy the results!