Monday, December 31, 2012

Watch this space!

Report from London with PHOTOS!

December 2012 update.

But I'm sick right now. 

Happy New Year everyone!   May you have a happy and healthy 2013, each and every one (five?) of you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Progress update: month 29 (November 2012)

30. Make a will
44. Attend Family Weekend
54. Attend play/musical in Philadelphia or New York each year

7,26,28,33,99,101. Kept up to date.
48. Saw 8 movies:

     The Doors
     Word play
     Marilyn Hothkiss' s Ballroom Dancing & Charm School
     The boys in the band
     Enchanted April
     Lars and the real girl
     Silver linings playbook (theatre)
     Martha Marcy May Marlene
49. Read 5 books: 
     The 19th wife (David Ebershoff)
     The night circus (Erin Morgenstern) [audio]
     The tender bar (J.R. Moeringer)
     The elegance of the hedgehog (Muriel Barbery) [audio]
     The sociopath next door (Martha Stout)
71. Got back to t-shirt quilt for D#1.
72. More work on quilt for D#2's room.
80. Continued to work on quilt photo albums.
93. Volunteered at Hiway.
Extra quilts: Gave mystery quilt as wedding gift.

Priorities for December:
59. Take a big trip with both daughters.
71. Finish top; get it quilted.
72. Finish top.
80. Finish quilt photo albums.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Finishes, actually.  Just late in posting.   Hand quilted baby quilt.  Recipient to be named at a later date.

This "mystery quilt" turned out to be "just right" as a wedding gift for someone who has been an important part of D#2's recovery.  

She and her new husband loved it!   Don'tcha feel good when someone truly appreciates the gift of a quilt??

Saturday, November 10, 2012

W.O.W. -- White Oak Weekend: October 2012

A fine time was had by all.  No surprise there.  I'll be a woman of few words (for a change), since a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand of them.

Pat  was making a classic triple Irish chain in an up-to-date modern color palette:

Kathy put together another of the "sniper" quilts she is making for her Marine son and his platoon.  They are all solid red and solid white, each using a different pattern.   This churn dash made some of us see secondary patterns, which, oddly, are not so clear in the photo.

Nancy put together and bordered a queen-size quilt in blue batiks and white.

Our favorite over-achiever, Ruth, had several projects with her, including a good sized string-quilt and a small hand-pieced wall hanging.

Though I managed to get the first border on the main top of the Quilt from Hell, I discovered problems with the pieced border I was planning.  First, I was short of the two fabrics I had wanted to use, and, second, to use the background I chose, I would need to redesign the entire method of making it.   Forgot to take photos and am still struggling with what to do.   /complaining

I had brought with me twelve "pointless wonder" star blocks for another project destined for someone who has been very supportive during the past few years.  Got the blocks laid out and sashed, ready for a border.  Didn't like any of the possibles I brought with me, though.   (This seemed to be the retreat without borders for me!)

Saved the best for last.  Our dear Judy, was assembling some swap blocks of "cool" batik sawtooth stars on white using a setting that made small stars in the sashing.  The picture does not approach doing it justice.  It is an absolute STUNNER!  Lucky bride and groom who will receive it as a wedding gift!

As usual, I didn't take photos of a number of other projects. But, also as usual, we laughed, we sang, we danced.    These retreats are always a place to share, and to show we care.  I am blessed to have these opportunities to do so.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Progress update: month 28 (October 2012)

No completions this month.

7,26,28,33,99,101. Kept up to date. 
48. Saw 8 movies:
     Chaos and cadavers
     Miss Pettigrew lives for a day
     Argo (theatre)
     Sports night (TV; only one season)
     The Town
     The good shepherd
49. Read 3 books:
      Songs for the missing (Stewart O'Nan)
      The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (Helene Hanff)
      Things fall apart (Chinua Achebe) [audio]
72. Started quilt for D#2's room 
93. Volunteered at Hiway
Extra quilts: finished hand quilting baby quilt; finished main top of PW quilt; finished mystery quilt as wedding gift (to be delivered in November)

Priorities for November:
6/7/9. Work in basement; declutter books & stuff.
30. Finish writing will; have it witnessed.
71. Finish t-shirt quilt top for D#1.
72. Finish quilt for D#2's new room.
80. Finish work on quilt photo albums. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Quilt from H*** claims another victim

Some time ago, our friend, blogless Honna brought a project to White Oak that has become known as The Quilt From Hell.  It's official name was "Simple Gifts" and while it was intended as a gift from her to several friends, it turned out to be anything BUT simple. 

While none of us liked the colors or fabrics in the photgraph, it was pretty clear that it relied for its impact on the contrast among the two framing fabrics, the feature fabric in the center, and the background.  Honna's fabrics (chosen by the recipients) had nearly no contrast at all.  Strike one against her.  She had also been  increasing the size from the generous throw of the pattern to one for a queen bed!   So the numbers of units had about doubled.  Strike two.

The top itself is assembled in units that are put together as diagonal strips.

Most of her time at the retreat had consisted of cutting and sewing together the separate units.  But it was just not going well at all for her.  I spent some time working with her  The biggest problem was the placement of the little triangles, but the only way to complete fix that was to take apart all the segments she'd assembled -- a larger task than she was prepared to undertake.  So we concentrated on how to put together what was already done. Along around Saturday night of the retreat, it became clear that she was just at the end of her rope.  I promptly picked everything up, told her to do something else that she enjoyed, and that I would take it home and get the top together.  A week or so later, I gave her the quilt top.  The lattice didn't "wind" correctly, but the lack of contrast in the fabrics concealed that flaw. 

Unfortunately, as I analyzed what went wrong, I found that I liked the pattern and decided to use it to make the new quilt for D#2's room.  At my request, she fished the book out of her discard pile and gave it to me with her blessing.  My first step was to find fabrics with sufficient contrast, and, in Paducah, I bought these:

After working on a lot of scrap quilts, cutting into these lovely, cheery fabrics, all in my favorite colors has been such a treat!  I have been happily sewing along, preparing all the units (5 more than in the pattern to increase it to the length of a twin bed mattress top) and planning to assemble the top before the upcoming W.O.W. (White Oak Weekend).  There I hope to add borders -- at least one of them pieced -- so I can send it off to be quilted!

Today I began to put the finished diagonal units together.   Here they are, all spread out and ready to go.


Why weren't my lattices winding correctly???   I'd been so careful (or so I thought).  The directions had cautioned that this was wrong:

But somehow I'd found (and used) an equally wrong arrangement:

 The triangles needed to meet here:


Looks like the Quilt from Hell has won the first round from me, too.  Not giving up, though.  I have a lot of "un-sewing" or "frog-stitching" (rippit, rippit) to do before Friday!   Honna....  I know JUST how you feel. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Losses to computer: -2. Gains with people +2

This week I have been bested by computers twice. 

I am an almost-daily user of the web interface to the shared catalog of all the libraries in the county.  I place reserves for books or dvds, and check my account every day or two to check due dates of items I have borrowed.  If I'm not finished with them, I can renew them online.   I count on this helpful tool to keep track of my loans since I often have six or more different things out, usually from several libraries.

Until Tuesday.

On Tuesday, I checked my account and found a crisp new display.  Uh-oh...  I don't trust new displays, which mean a new interface, and which may or may not be an improvement.  It may or may not even work!  Fortunately, I could still find everything that I use, except -- overnight -- everything I had out was shown as no renewals left.   Last week there were 2 available for each one.  I had borrowed an audiobook which took 13 hours to listen to and a book that I hadn't started yet.  So.... POOF!  The computer ate my renewals!   After several emails back and forth, a staff member restored the renewal for the audiobook, but I'm still waiting to see that I can renew my book.  One loss. 

Today, I left my office late in the morning, as I had an 11:00 appointment at my dentist's office for a cleaning.  Arrived promptly.  They had no record of an appointment for me.  Looked at the calendar in my planner, where I keep all important information, especially dates and times.  Thursday, October 18, 11:00 Dentist.    The receptionist looked at me oddly, and asked if I'd received a call to confirm.  Well.... no... but I didn't think anything of it, since I had the date and time written down in my calendar!  Somehow I doubt if patients show up randomly and announce they have appointments!   But maybe she thought I was aspiring to be a trendsetter.

Another loss to computer.

On balance, prior to my ill-fated trip to the dental office, I had received an email from a client of the company I work for.  For some time, over several weeks, we had traded emails in which he would ask me about the services we provide to his library and project a byzantine way of using them to do... well, I'm not really certain what he was trying to do.   I would reply, asking him things like, "what are you trying to do here?" and suggesting "you might try X, which would be much simpler," and so forth.  Today's email said that they had decided to proceed based on my suggestions and ended, "Thanks for saving me from the madness I was proposing!"  A big WIN for me!

Early in the afternoon, a colleague informed me that I had received a delivery.  I was not expecting anything to be delivered to my office, but thought that, perhaps, I might have misdirected some fabric (guilty, as charged) that I'd ordered recently.  Instead, I came into the entrance area to find


(photographed at home, with interested parties investigating)

I had done some analysis for another of our client libraries at no charge, with the permission of my supervisor, as they had been longtime customers.   The library had sent me flowers in thanks!   This is probably a first for the company.   

So..  the computer got the best of me a couple of time.   But I had two touching and validating surprises from people.

I win.

Monday, October 15, 2012

One year anniversary

One year ago today, these two came to live with me.  Know variously as the "Terrible Tortie Twins" or the "Terrific Tortie Twosome" or another variation on "T" words, they have brought so much life and laughter to my otherwise-sorta-empty house!   I almost called them "Smidge" and "Smudge" (for the smudge of orange on her face), but cooler heads prevailed.  In retrospect, there could not be a more apt name for his one than "Sassy:"

And Smidgen:is still a wee one -- smaller and lighter than her big sister.

Sassy likes to help me sew. 

While Smidgen prefers to nap nearby.

 Both like to climb into things -- boxes, bags.... whatever


Smidgen also likes to burrow and "hide" under the newspaper.

While neither one is particularly outgoing -- probably because I was the only one in the house when they came here to live -- Sassy will eventually come out to meet guests, while Smidgen is more of a "momma's girl" who is quite skittish with other people until she becomes accustomed to their presence.  She loves to sit on my lap when I'm sewing by hand and chase the thread.  Not. Helpful. At. All.
However, there are times when I could swear that they are, in fact, simply one organism, split into two halves.  

They have never been separated for more than a few hours.  They groom each other, play together, and sleep together -- usually with Smidgen splayed out on her sister. 

By my count, they are my 13th and 14th cats since I adopted my first at age 20. Call me a crazy cat lady.  No denials here. I love them and hope to have many more years together. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Progress update: month 27 (September 2012)

In September, I hit the 80/20 mark by passing day #800.   Onward! 

21. Gas stove installed
23. Last of old carpet out of basement

7,26,28,33,99,101. Kept up to date.
48. Saw 12 movies
      Six feet under (5th and last season)
      Taking chance
      Peggy Sue got married 
      The way 
      My favorite year 
      The best and the brightest
      A dolphin tale 
      The words (theatre) 
      For your consideration 
      The full monty 
      The remains of the day
49. Read 5 books
      Full dark, no stars (Stephen King)
      Putting makeup on the fat boy (Bil Wright)
      The perks of being a wallflower (Stephen Chbonsky)
            (count as 1 -- both YA)
      The five people you meet in heaven (Mitch Albom) [my first audiobook]
      The Family Fang (Kevin Wilson)
      Unfamiliar fishes (Sarah Vowell) [audio] 

80. started work on quilt photo albums
Extra quilts: “Traditions” charm quilt for Oktoberfest; scrap log cabin for Rebuilding Together Philadelphia (running total of 9 "healing" quilts); Sherbet & Gum Balls (for a friend)

Priorities for October
6/7/9. Work in basement; declutter books & stuff.
18. Work on deck (weather limitations?)
30. Finish writing will; have it witnessed.
71. More work on t-shirt quilt for D#1.
72. Start quilt for D#2's new room.
80. More work on quilt photo albums. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

W.I.B.W.O. -- O.B.S. version

Time for a catch-up on What I've Been Working On -- Obsessed By Scraps version.  In the past few months, I finished one quilt that was made from block-swap blocks, made another that began as a leader-ender project, made a dozen blocks from scraps and put them together in another quilt, and finally started digging out blocks that were made out of scraps and put away.  I had become obsessed with working with the pieces/parts that were already done.

For several years, I made different units out of scraps.  Either I stored the units (whatever they were) "as is," or I sewed them into blocks and put the blocks aside.  In my zeal to use up things I'd already begun, I've managed to finish 3 more tops.  The first was made of more the the "v-blocks" used for the baby quilt I'm currently hand-quilting.  This will made a nice "snuggle" quilt for a young boy (stereotype, I know, but check out the novelty prints) either through children's hospice or through another organization.  I bought flannel to back it and I will quilt it myself, probably without batting. 

Another habit of several years' duration was to sew scrap triangles into half-square triangles (mostly) of various sizes into 12.5" blocks.  I had accumulated 24 of these before I made myself stop.  For some unknown reason, I drug these out of the drawer and decided to set them into two tops.

Pretty wild, huh?  If nothing else, these two tops illustrate about any possible way that HSTs can be used.  I think I'm going to call these "Too **** Many Triangles", Parts 1 & 2.    Someday I'll put a thin, near-solid border on each one and call them done.  Right now, they're put away for later.  

In a drawer of "sample blocks", I found 9 that fit together fairly well, in size and color scheme:

This whole center piece is just 18" square, so I thought a border of small squares might work, though it first needs a small border to frame the center. (This was my "audition" green, but I ended up with a different shade..)

Needs something other than squares to finish out the corners, maybe, so I'm considering scrappy log cabin blocks.  This will be a "companion" to the boy quilt above, also backed with flannel and quilted with no batting. 

In between, I detoured to make another of my "standard issue" 30's repros baby quilt.  This is for the second grandchild of a friend.  The first grandchild (a girl) was given the usual 9-patch version, so I wanted something a little different for the second grandchild (a boy).  I like to make up the repros into traditional blocks so I did 9" churn dashes.  The colored parts of the border were (yep!) scraps. 

Finished this top yesterday at UDLC's Quilt Day. Another for me to quilt on Lizzie.  Baby's due in late November, so I have a little time. 

I realize that, in some ways, I've begun to feel like I can't have my dessert until I've finished my dinner, that is, I can't start a new project until I've completed the many projects for which I already have some or all of the blocks -- something neither practical nor desirable!  Unfortunately, for me, the attempt to be a good steward of my resources (use up my scraps) can morph into that obsession that says I have to save the "good stuff" for later.  This easily transfers into my life in general and brings fear and stress.  Years ago, I heard a sermon that has always stayed with me.  It addressed whether we give out of a sense of scarcity or out of a sense of our abundance.   One type gives what's left, but only after other needs/desires/whatever have been satisfied, the other gives first, recognizing the many gifts that have been received.   Sometimes -- not often, I hope -- but sometimes, I forget the abundance in my life. 

So I'm walking away from any more (new) scrap projects for now (even thought those crumb blocks are calling me...and I even have the sashing picked out!). Very soon, I will cut into these luscious fabrics to start a quilt for D#2's "new" bedroom. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Post 9/11

I mostly shy away from political stuff, since my friends generally know where I stand.  If anyone else is reading, if they happen to agree with me, I'd be preaching to the choir, and if they don't, nothing I say is going to change anyone's mind.

Given our proximity to New York and Washington DC, the event of 9/11/01 touched many people around here more closely than the general population between the oceans, but less so than those in the three true "Ground Zero" locations.

I share the following two links because they touched me deeply.

Elizabeth Kaeton is an Episcopal priest, whose blog I have read for quite a while.  If I recall correctly, she was serving in New Jersey at that time and spent a good deal of time at the chapel at Ground Zero, helping and comforting the workers during the weeks and months after.   If you search her blog for "9/11" you will find other wise and insightful writings.

The other, linked by a commenter on another blog by a writer probably 150 degrees (minimum) from "Mother" Kaeton.   Recent photos from Libya.  Choked me up and reminded me of those days in early September 2001 when the world seemed to come together in our shared horror.

Interestingly -- or not -- I had more trouble than I expected when I searched for an image of rubble at Ground Zero.  I wanted one with no prominent religious or national symbols (no cross, no flag) and one that was not taken from a place that seemed to me to be a political, conspiracy, or hate site.  Things that make you go hmmm....   The one I used was from the website of the UK newspaper, The Guardian.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


An update on a couple of finishes.

The past few years, members of our monthly hand-sewing group/guild have each taken on the summer goal of finishing a healing/comfort quilt for a given organization.  This year's designated group was "Rebuilding Together Philadelphia."  Previously, I had planned to make a zig-zag pattern which used scrap nine-patches alternating with plain cream-on-cream squares, as shown in a book I own.  So, as a leader/ender project, I had already made a bunch of nine-patches from scrap 2.5" squares -- you name it, it was in there: novelties, florals, batiks, everything.  To move the project along, I decided that this would be my donation quilt -- after all, I already had I had I-forget-how-many dozen blocks ready to use.  I tried out the arrangement on my design wall.  Didn't like it.  At All.  My re-thinking process told me that half-square triangles lent themselves to so many possible arrangements that I was sure to find something I liked.  So I paired the plain squares with the made bunches of HSTs.   On the last St. Paul's Quilt Day, I laid out the top in this barn-raising setting.  Machine quilted this one myself, first on the neutral, echoing the seamlines several times, and then zig-zag across the sliced nine-patches.   As I still have a lot of these nine-patches left, I will eventually make up more HSTs and try another arrangement. 

The entire gallery of Uvulati quilts is found on Nancy's blog.

Last spring I caught granny-square fever (it was going around) and dropped my then-current project in favor of making a dozen blocks out of scraps, each with a single color and a coordinating small print background.   My original plan was to sash with a stripe of some sort to frame the blocks strongly.  I took this project to our spring retreat to audition some stripes from my stash, and even ended up purchasing some additional fabric, based on comments and advice from fellow White-Oakers.  (Yeah, I know, it was a chore to shop...)  

But somehow, whenever I'd put the blocks up, nothing that I tried "felt" right.  One day a few weeks ago, I was reorganizing my stash, happily fondling fabric, when I discovered a yard of white fabric with large brightly colored dots.  Excited, I spread it out and put the granny square blocks on top, and it was clear that I had a winner for the sashing!    More prowling in my "geometrics" drawers provided the check that had been a recent acquisition on my first trip to a new LQS.  They were having an end-of-bolt sale and the bolt with the last piece of this bright summery check just jumped into my arms!  The result is, I think, a much more "airier" quilt than if I'd used a stronger or darker sashing with any of the stripes I was considering.   My talented long-armer quilted "bubbles" (circles of different sizes) on this, which I absolutely love!   "Sherbet and Gum Balls" is a gift for a friend who has had some recent health problems.  Hoping it will both add some cheer to her life and stand in for some warm hugs from me. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Progress report: month 26 (August 2012)

Starting off with SIX completions!  Tada!
16. Have lamps in bathroom replaced.
20. Have electrical work done.
50. Take Ds to movies once a year (met minimum.. not max)
51. Go to movies alone once a year (same as above)
52. Go down the shore once a year (and again...)
63. Visit Mutter Museum.

7,26,28,33,99. Kept up to date.
 9. Gave away another 75 books (Abington Library).
21. Had gas line installed for stove.
23. Pulled carpet up from basement stairs.
30. Downloaded forms to write my will; completed Living Will and had notarized.
48. Saw 10 movies:
      The Dark Knight rises (theatre)
      10 things I hate about you
      Ed Wood
      To Wong Foo, Thanks for everything, Julie Newmar
      Ruby Sparks (theatre)
      We bought a zoo
      I'm not there
      The constant gardener
      Punch drunk love
49. Read 4 books (94/60, 49/30, 41/10)
      Don't let's go to the dogs tonight (Alexandra Fuller)
      The remains of the day (Kazuo Ishiguro)
      Nickel and dimed (Barbara Ehrenreich)
      Cocktail hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Alexandra Fuller)
92. Wrote to another of three remaining sponsored children.
93. Continued volunteering at Hiway Theatre; started at Pet Smart's
      cat adoption area.
Extra quilts: finished "Jelly/Fish/Race" for Safe Harbor (running total of 7
      "healing" quilts)

Priorities for September:
6/7/9. Work in basement; declutter books & stuff.
18. Work on deck (weather limitations?)
21. Gas stove.
23. Finish getting old carpet out of basement.
30. Finish writing will; have it witnessed.
71. More work on t-shirt quilt for D#1.
72. Start quilt for D#2's new room.
80. Work on quilt photo albums.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Visitors -- Part 4: Taking leave

D#2 was scheduled to work on Tuesday, when Wonderful Friends were scheduled to leave.  So, of course, we met for breakfast at Fil-a-Bagel! 

We've been connected for so long, it is so comforting when we are able to reaffirm that connection.   In 2011, Wonderful Friends (sans Godson) came to D#1's college graduation and we three went to Ohio for Godson's high school graduation.  This year, they came to Pennsylvania.  Looks like next year, it's our turn to go west.   I've always loved this photo of me flanked by Godson (left of photo) and D#2 (right).

Here's now it looks now:

May God be with all of us 'till we meet again.  And a massive hug to Godson!