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A Quilt for Lyndsey

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My latest quilt has been finished, shipped, and received so I can go ahead and write about it now.
Red subway tile scrap quilt finished!  I love how this came out so much more than I thought I would (I was apprehensive about using reds).

The Red Quilt
This one was a gift for my cousin’s daughter, who was diagnosed with leukemia this spring. They live far away so I can’t  go cook them a meal, but I can make a quilt, so I knew that’s what I wanted to do. You might recall that when my friend Megan was diagnosed with cancer I also made her a quilt. It just seems like there are so many hours one might spend on a couch, in a chair, getting chemo, tired, or whatnot, that a special quilt to wrap up in would be comforting to have.  The quilt I made for Megan was, in fact, the one that got me interested in making rectangular patchwork-a subway tile quilt.  Hers was shades of purple and green, then I went on to make one for us that was autumn themed. I love the idea of just having main color theme for this style so I asked her favorite color and was told red. Now, I have to admit that gave me pause. Red is not a color I tend to think of blending easily among the various shades of red, I also wondered if I even had enough scraps in my collection. But then I thought of that one square of the scrappy prism quilt and I thought that it could be done. It would need whites in with it, but what else? Red,white, and blue is too patriotic, and red and green, too Christmassy. But when I sorted through my red fabrics I was pleased to find that I had several that were red and blue, but the blue was turquoise. There it was then, red prints with pops of turquoise. I did buy some fabric to supplement (and for the backing), but was very happy to find I had ever so many prints that would fit in with the colors scheme and style. And, in true scrap patchwork fashion, I was able to fussy cut some special prints, and also include some fabrics that came from special past projects. Plus, you know I like a bit of fun finds for the eye.  So there’s the Indian inspired elephant from the kimono I made for Mary Lynn, a little car, some novelty newsprint, the beautiful turquoise with sailboats, and one little piece of yellow, with red-hatted gnomes.
The Red Quilt

The Red Quilt
I also asked my sewing friends for some of their red pieces, so their good wishes are sewn into this too.
The backing is a nice dotted turquoise with a band of red and an appliqued heart, where I did my embroidering of inscription and date.
The Red Quilt

quilter's signature
The binding is pieced with a few of the main reds, plus one section of the turquoise on each of the four sides.  It is machine quilted in straight lines on either side of the long horizontal seams.
red quiltThe strips are 3″ wide, with a few rows being 2 1/2″ wide (because I used some jellyroll pieces) and variable length. I laid everything out on the floor, and then picked up and sewed each row. Of course after I finally had it all laid out in a pleasing array I went to fetch my camera to take a photo for reference and while out of the room heard a happy meow, and came back in to find a wicked cat had leapt into it, leaving this:
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I ended up rearranging a lot and got an even better arrangement. So thanks, wicked kitty! (who was then barricaded out)
I enjoyed making this so much, and the result, that I swear I just want to make a series of main color scrap quilts.

My cousin has two daughters and my mom thought it would be nice for her to make a quilt for Lyndsey’s sister. She made a beautiful whimsical quilt that features all different appliqued birds all over it with a worm at the bottom. Every bird is different with a separate beak, wing, and legs. I loved her variety of fun fabriks (a lot of batik), and the flannel backing. And she finished this labor intensive beauty much faster than I did mine!! How does she do it?
Mom's Quilt
Girls, we send you lots of love and quilty hugs! Love, Cousin Sarah and Aunt Joan
Mom and I, with our quilts

A Birthday Weekend

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Happy Birthday to me! Yesterday was my birthday and we had a festive entire weekend (to be honest, some of it was just coincidental timing, but we can pretend they were all birthday festivities, right?)  Saturday was a beautiful spring day and we were spontaneous and boy did it pay off. While looking around for something interesting to do on my birthday Paul had found that there was a steampunk exhibit at a little museum in Bethlehem, PA (which is an hour from here.) With nothing else on the agenda until the evening we decided to get going, especially as Paul has even picked out a restaurant to get brunch at first (it really was so nicely planned!) We headed off to Bethlehem (giving us a good chance to make a lot of headway in our audiobook-The Penderwicks on Gardam Street) and easily parked and found Billy’s Downtown Diner. Paul picked it because he had read good reviews, so we were cracking up when we arrived and discovered that the owner is, apparently, a cousin of Criss Angel “Mindfreak”, who we think is the most ridiculous person in the world, and apparently uses that a bit. There was a Mindfreak Burger. But despite all that silliness the people were nice, the menu was great, Clark deemed his pancakes the best he’d ever had (and I can concur that the blueberries in them were absolutely exceptional), my homefries were crisped perfectly, and, as we were in PA, we had Scrapple too.

It was a short and pleasant walk to the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts. It was the first day of their Steampunk exhibit and there was a craft for kids (or families, as the case may be-we all made one!) Again, friendly people, a neat and weird little museum, and I just really enjoyed everything about it. And am more determined than ever that Clark should read Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.

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Steampunk outing

After that we walked around the charming and bustling town, exclaiming over the lovely blend of historical buildings, easy parking, nice shops and restaurants. We will definitely be back for the Christmas festivities, if not before. We capped it off with a fantastic ice cream from the Penn State Creamery.
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In the evening we had tickets to a show at RVCC, this time for the Popovich Pet Parade. I had no idea what to expect and we were all surprised and delighted. Apparently Mr. Popovich and his famous trained housecats have appeared on just about every tv show you can think of and he is quite well regarded! It was a fantastic blend of old-fashioned vaudville-circusry, plus all these animal acts. The animals were cats, dogs, some geese, some white doves, a couple rats, a parrot, and a couple little goats. At one point 15 cats were on stage. I was really impressed that not only is Popovich clearly an animal lover and amazing trainer (and all his animals are from animal shelters! Ordinary cats and dogs of all types!), but also the best devil’s stick performer I’ve ever seen, and an amazing juggler. It was nice that it was a blend of things like that along with the charming animal acts. It really was a unique and entertaining show.

Sunday was my birthday and I had a wonderful morning leisurely finishing my quilt (a separate post for later this week), having a great breakfast, and opening gifts. The kids seemed really into picking out cards and gifts for me this year, which was so adorable. Then it was off to join the Cub Scouts on a pack hike at Hacklebarney State Park. I had really been wanting to check out this park for a while, so I was happy to have this be our activity for the day. Plus I got to be with so many of my friends! And what a nice park! Astonishingly it is only a half hour from  my mom’s house so I cannot believe I’ve never been there. Very woodsy, easy paths, lots of boulders to climb, and waterfalls. We’re definitely looking forward to going back when we can really just relax and spend as much time as we want there.
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Hiking @ Hacklebarney
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We finished the day at my mom’s with a delicious birthday dinner (carrot cake!).

Thanks for a great birthday weekend, family! I loved spending it with you, exploring, outdoors, and together!
Hiking @ Hacklebarney

*and p.s. it was such a busy weekend I was happy to have today, Monday, to just indulge in uploading photos, being cozy inside, doing some housework, and completing my personal birthday challenge (now in its 2nd year)-which is to reply to each and every birthday greeting on FB with a book recommendation for that person. And I even enjoyed the rain:
April showers

Spring Grab-bag

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After the thrill of our trip to Denver our return to NJ was very pleasant as when we returned it seemed so did Spring. For real. Crocuses blooming, buds on trees, warm spring breezes, and peepers at night. Every day shows a few new things blooming, a brighter tinge of green to the grass, a bit more yellow on the forsythia hedges, and a feeling that yeah, it’s worth hanging out outside and doing something. I’ve been meaning to write something here since we got back, so I think I’ll just do some  thematic recapping

So, the aforementioned blooms:

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Activities: The warm and welcome weather has had us busy: hiking in the Sourlands, playing Frisbee, riding our bikes, trampolining
relaxing

Bike rides after school.yes! Light enough AND warm enough

Events: Easter. A low key Easter, a lovely afternoon at my mom’s.
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I contributed nothing to the delicious feast. But here’s a picture of some amazing lemon bars I made yesterday. Look what a bright yellow they are! I attribute that to using our ladies’ eggs, which have exceptional yolks.
Lemon Bars
Also in the events category, Paul and I went to see The Decemberists, a concert I’ve been looking forward to for 6 months. After Neil Young the Decemberists were in the #2 or 3 spot of bands I’d dearly like to see someday. And I can tell you that they did not disappoint and the show was INCREDIBLE. We saw them at the Academy of Music (same place as Neil) and had great seats in a box on the side. The crowd was great, the music sounded so good I couldn’t believe it, the songs I desperately wanted to hear live were all I hoped they’d be and more, and it was just overall an amazing and fantastic night. This is going to be a big year of concerts for us-we’ve got five more lined up for the year (and none of them will be as good as this. They just couldn’t be!)

Garden: I planted peas but haven’t watered them which is probably why they are not really bursting forth from the ground. Assessing our yard I’m thinking next fall to plant daffodils in a big mass somewhere so we have less of this scattered effect. Also, we locked up our chickens a year ago and yet we still have big dirt patches in our yard. Why no grass? I feel like a lot of things really look like they need sprucing up/cleaning out/rebuilding/etc. I’m sure that Paul is not happy about that but I don’t want everything to just fall into ugly disrepair! (some people a few houses down have had a couch out at the curb for almost 6 months now. It has me incensed. Do they think it will magically disappear? It makes the neighborhood look so trashy. And no one wants your couch that has been outside all winter.)

In the Coop: Spring fever is rampant in the chicken coop and to our shock our dear bunny Gordon is, ahem, trying to get busy with one of the hens.  Oh, Gordie! Gordon and the chickens are loving the warm sun and stretching out in the dirt, busily dusting, and we’re getting between 4 and 7 eggs a day!
long bunny

in the coopSewing: I’ve been busy trying to finish up a special quilt. Hopefully it will be done tonight and then tomorrow can be photographed and I can tell you all about it. Here’s a sneak peek:
red quilt

 

Happy Spring!

Rocky Mountain High

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Perhaps to put you in the right mood you also should be listening to John Denver’s delightful classic, Rocky Mountain High.Because this post is all about our trip to Denver, Colorado last week to visit my brother and his family. we had such a goo dtime the kids didn’t want to leave. Shortly before we left I realized that they’d never seen Western mountains in person and I was very excited for them to experience the majesty (yes! purple mountains majesty, indeed!) of snow capped mountains.
We departed last Monday and were actually excited for a long day of travel. Our non-direct flight was taking us first to Austin, TX. Though we wouldn’t be leaving the airport the kids were excited to be in Texas and Paul and I were excited to partake of the famous local bbq we’d read about. The Austin airport did not disappoint. Delicious barbecue and Texas beer, live music, and lots of SXSW and Austin City Limits merch to be had. We passed a very pleasant couple of hours there before continuing on to Denver. We arrived late, were happy and excited to see everyone and then crashed. We woke the next day ready to spend time with our family and experience Denver. We were also very excited to experience warm weather. We’d been promised temps in the 70s, which sounded positively tropical to us. That first day it was 80 degrees! We were hot! It was sunny! The plants there were easily 3-4 weeks ahead of ours, with tulips and daffodils and trees blooming everywhere. But we’d also been warned that Colorado weather is fickle, and sure enough a couple days later it snowed, was cold, and we were not appropriately dressed. But oh, that first warm day! We headed to the Denver Botanic Gardens, which were expansive and lovely.
Denver trip,  day 1.botanic gardens

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We relaxed afterward with a visit to The Tattered Cover, which is an excellent bookstore. As an aside, we enjoyed driving around Denver and just seeing what a nice city it is.(I feel it’s such a nice progressive city that does a lot of things right, for example commercial composting.)  We laughed at all the different marijuana stores with punny names. It’s like you know how hair salons almost always have a hair pun in their name? All the pot stores in Denver are similar: Buddy’s Best, Frosted Leaf, Rocky Mountain High, Green Dragon, Mile High Green Cross, High Level Health.
Tuesday we were very excited to go up into the mountains and go on a hike up to a glacier.Just 15 minutes out of the city and we were driving through craggy mountains, twisty turns, and tunnels. By the time we parked it was pretty grey, chilly, and windy. And, as we started up the snowy path, it began to snow. It was like Narnia.
Hike to St. Mary Glacier
We soldiered on, up the snowy path, and after a while it stopped and the sun came out.
Hike to St. Mary Glacier
When we got to the glacial lake it was so worth it. The views were amazing.
St. Mary Glacier, Colorado day 2

Hike to St. Mary Glacier

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The trees were twisted and worn and looked like driftwood. It was amazing to see ski tracks up on what looked like a sheer mountain face, and people continuing their hikes well past us, across big snowy expanses. We just had a good time mucking around, taking it all in, and when we left it was through cold snow again. On our way home we stopped at Red Rocks, which was, literally, breathtaking. Seriously, I gasped. The gigantic rocks look like huge ship prows coming up out of the ocean (in fact, Ben says one of them is called Ship Rock.)
Clark and the Ship Rock
Yippee for Red Rocks
It’s incredible to me that when it’s not a concert it’s just an open park and there were groups of people exercising on the steep risers, some guy playing guitar on the stage, no doubt fancying himself a famous musician, and so on. It was truly glorious.
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The next day we hit the the Contemporary Museum of Art, which was featuring a big Mark Mothersbaugh (aka “the guy from Devo”) exhibit. Lots of strange things to see and enjoy and it was a nice museum. Here’s Ben and the kids all taking in the Mothersbaugh composed theme to PeeWee’s Playhouse.
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And Tabby in the “Bubble Garden.”
Ohm...That evening was a fabulous outing to a (apparently) well-known institution–Casa Bonita. I’m not even sure how to describe this place. I recommend you watch the South Park episode that is all about it (as we did when we got home after the kids went to bed that night.) Just google it and it’s watchable for free on Hulu. Basically it’s a huge Mexican entertainment restaurant that is super kitschy. The outside belies just how massive the interior is.

2015-04-02 21.06.55Once you go exploring you see that there are nooks, crannies, rooms, all with booths and seats stashed in them. It can seat 1000 people (one wonders when the peak time that 1000 people would be there is.) The centerpiece of it all is a pool surrounded by cliffs. Every 15 minutes or so there is an entertainment of cliff divers, hokey skits, a gorilla suit skit, and more dives.

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There is an arcade, gift shop, Punch and Judy theater, spooky cave to walk through, musicians, and lots of lots of sopapillas. The deal is that everyone has to buy a meal as your admission, and the food is terrible. So in concept it’s sort of like being at Disneyworld (though not nearly as nice.) We had such a good time there and I’m sure if you ask the kids what their favorite things were they would both shout, “Casa Bonita!”

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On our last day we all went to the zoo. It was a beautiful day for it and Denver has a lovely zoo, and who doesn’t love that? We had some encounters with peacocks, got to see the polar bear wake up from a nap for feeding time, saw all the big cats enjoying big bones (a zookeeper informed us it was “bone day”), were fascinated by a napping rhinoceros, and more.

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All in all we had a great time and it was wonderful for the cousins to spend time together and for Paul and I to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law, who were wonderful hosts. We introduced them to geocaching, which was satisfying. We went to the Mexican bakery, which was tasty.  We had fun!

mosaic denver

 

The Scrappy Prism Quilt-Finished!

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Scrappy Prism Quilt
It’s done! I’m so excited! Clark and Paul both asked me why I was so especially excited about this one, what makes it different from other quilts. Good question. I guess the main thing is that it’s hand quilted and the others I’ve done have been machine quilted.  Once I got into the groove (a full year later) I really enjoyed the process of the quilting and I love how it looks. It is definitely a different look than machine quilting-stitches are larger and farther apart (though I don’t think they are too big)- and I like knowing I did every one.  Also, I like the design I chose to quilt and the diamond panes that form the border. It also puffs up nicely. Around the center dresden plate are radiating lines, as well as an outline of the plate.  The color blocks are tied with coordinating thread to keep them secure. (Apparently I cut a lot of the strings too close because I noticed several threads then came right off the back.)

This quilt started all because I wanted to make crazy scrap blocks with weird angles and pieces. In fall 2013 I delved into my fabrics and pulled out all the scraps of red and just began crazily sewing them together and rotary cutting straight edges.
let the Scrappy Prism Quilt begin!
It was a happy afternoon and quickly conceived of the idea of somehow putting them in a quilt and making red, orange, yellow, blue, green, and purple blocks.
let the Scrappy Prism Quilt begin!
After admiring my blocks and the scrappiness of them I decided they would be put into a field of white. Oh, and I named it “Scrappy Prism” because not only was it going to be rainbow in nature and made of scraps, but also the little angular pieces made me think of light fracturing through a prism when it shines a rainbow. In general I think a lot of modern quilts have too much white in them and am not crazy about that, but in this case it really seemed like white was was I needed as a background for my blocks. And then I decided on the center-the big Dresden plate and it really all came together. I’ve never made a Dresden plate before, but I really like them, and found it satisfying and easy to make. Plus, I adore seeing things arranged in a rainbow order and I loved piecing together the 24 wedges (3 pieces for each color, blending into each of the next colors.)
roy g Biv
The Dresden plate is the only part that had colors purchased to add to it. The blocks were entirely scrap fabrics, which makes them very special to me. And yes, some of these scraps have turned up over and over again (and I have a new scrap quilt in the works with some of these same bits!). For me, as I think I said here once before, a scrap quilt is a memory quilt. I love to look at these blocks and pick out familiar things, such as a snowflake from the dress I made Tabby when she was a toddler, or a bit from the robot quilt I made Clark, or pieces from baby quilts, aprons, and other fabrics I fondly recall.
rOy g biv
I went shopping for the beautiful white and chose a grey blue for the back, a cloudy sky color, if you will, with the front being the light and rainbow after a rain. Here I am I in January 2014 finishing appliqueing the Dresen plate and thus completing the quilt top.
The Dresden Plate and center are hand appliqued
Then I began the quilting. I did the lines in the center and then promptly felt I had bitten off more than I could chew and put it away for a year. Then you know the rest of the story-I pulled it out, buckled down, drew on those diamonds, found a quilting rhythm I was comfortable with, embraced my stitches, and got down to it. I found it a very enjoyable process, though I did feel like I a)ignored a lot of other things on the days I quilted and b)watched more daytime tv than I ever normally would. Here I am quilting away at the Spring Fling Stitch-a-Thon, photo credit Liz/Eleanor:
Sarah Quilting
I knew the binding was going to be black with a white pindot practically from the get-go, and indeed it was the right choice.  Sharp and graphic, nicely framing (but pretty narrow) the white fields.
Scrappy Prism Quilt
I finished it late last night, woke up and had Clark take a photo for Instagram for me,
prism quilt-first finished look
and then bit the bullet and put it in the washing machine. Of course I worried about it falling apart or other terrible things happening, but it definitely needed a good wash before I could do many photos. After a year being folded on the couch (i.e., cat bed), the past several days spread out repeatedly on the floor, and so on, it had accumulated lots of cat hairs, human hairs, random dust, not to mention a few spots where I hadn’t dabbed away my marking pen. Also, I believe it’s going to puff up beautifully. It’s in the dryer right right now with my dryer hedgehogs and hopefully fluffing up nice and bright and clean. (fingers crossed!)

*I can now report that it had a very successful wash and tumble dry and the quilting did puff very nicely.
Scrappy Prism Quilt
The back of this quilt is the plainest one I’ve ever done, with no interesting details or appliques on it, instead it’s just a solid fabric with the quilting making its own pattern on it. I opted to also just stitch my initials and the year very simply in the lower corner.
Scrappy Prism Quilt

Scrappy Prism QuiltAnd there it is-the Scrappy Prism Quilt!

 

One stitch at a time

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I am making great progress on the scrappy prism quilt.  I only have two sections left to hand-quilt and so far it looks just like I imagined it would. It’s pretty wrinkly, but you get the idea.
Quilting Progress

Quilting Progress
Here’s how it shows up on the back
Quilting Progress
I think I will do an outline of the Dresden plate, just to anchor that center section better.
I can’t wait to finish, trim, bind, and wash!(OK, writing that it really does seem a lot of steps away from being done…) I think the diamonds are going to fluff up wonderfully. And, for all that I worried my stitches weren’t good enough, I think ultimately I am proud of them and how they look.
Quilting Progress
I’m pausing on the Christmas block quilt for now to do another quick project. This one will be a subway tile style quilt, like I’ve made twice before. The main color will be red with pops of turquoise and white so it won’t be so intense and also won’t be red-white-blue patriotic. Here’s what I had in my fabric stash, and I’ll be adding more. (and cutting the blocks shorter.)
Reds

Since I last wrote we enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day. For us that just means we make the full corned beef and cabbage dinner and I also make Irish soda bread (always using my friend Denise’s recipe.)
Irish Soda Bread
Is there anything more delicious fresh from the oven, spread with butter?
Irish Soda Bread
Tabby and I marched in a big parade with our Girl Scout troop, and although it was chilly we had a good time.
@the parade

Irish Daisy
Although you are supposed to plant your snow peas on St. Patrick’s Day that definitely is not happening this week. I suppose I do regret a bit not tidying up the garden better because it definitely will need some raking, cleaning up, and turning over of soil before any peas can go in there. A few mild(relatively) days have had us excited for spring and nearly all the snow has melted. It was so very March out yesterday-brightly sunny, chilly, windy, that I felt sure if I looked I’d find a crocus, and…I did. So here it is, indistinguishable from every other “first crocus of the year” picture, but I can guarantee you this is the 2015 one!
First Spring Flower!!

Good Enough Quilting

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I keep a 5 year diary and now that I am in the second year of it I love to see what I did on that day a year ago. In fact,  probably everyone around me knows this because I frequently am saying “hey, guess what? It was a year ago that we…”  Well, thanks to the diary I recently read the entry that said I began to hand quilt my scrappy prism quilt. A. Year. Ago.  After I did those first center rays I put it away and that was that.  Reading that it’s been sitting for a whole year was the kick in the butt I needed to pick it up again.
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As I sat with the quilt on my lap and needle in hand I started to think about what gave me trouble with it and what was holding me up. And I came to some realizations-quilting is just a running stitch. So just relax and stitch like you’re doing an embroidered running stitch. Also, I thought about my mom’s hand-quilted quilts. Did I ever think they looked terrible because they weren’t stitched with teeny tiny Colonial woman stitches? No, I did not. Did I think they looked boring for not being densely quilted? No, I did not. I liked how they looked and they stayed together (which is the twofold purpose of quilting.) I also, gasp!, did away with my hoop.  After a year of being folded up those layers of top, bottom, and batting are not moving anywhere. I’m stitching on the outer edge of the quilt and it was just easier to manipulate. Embracing those concepts and letting go of what I thought I needed to be doing allowed me to just stitch away. And I think the results are great. Here is the finished first section
Quilted
My stitches are not miniscule, but neither are they giant basting stitches. And I’m pleased that the diagonal lines are creating the look I’d envisioned.
Quilted

I was a little worried that my marking pen might be difficult to remove after a year, but it turns out it had been fading a lot and was very easy to remove with a dab of damp cloth.  I drew on the grid for the next section and have finished half of that.
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I think I will tie the scrappy blocks with matching embroidery floss so that you don’t really see it, but it has the needed stability.
You know, with the trends in quilting now and all that long-arm machine quilting, and devotion to fancy threads and what not, you can feel like you’re not “doing it right”. I am using an old spool of Coates hand quilting thread (which is pretty stiff), a regular quilting in-between needle, and no hoop.  I can’t “pop the knot through” like my Mom does, so I’m doing a messy little made-up technique for securing the end that I ultimately think will not be noticeable at all, so who cares if it’s the right method? My pattern is not intricate, just a grid. But I’m loving this and it will be good enough. And also, it will actually get done! And I will enjoy the process a lot more, and shouldn’t that be a big part of a hobby? Yes, yes it should. :)

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