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Category Archives: Sewing

Giant Pinwheel Quilt!

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(picture by Tabby, not sure the caption goes with this, but whatever!)

A few years ago I checked a book out of the library called A Month of Sundays–Family, Friends, Food & Quilts. I was quite taken with one of the, a giant pinwheel, and photocopied the pages so that someday I could make it.  A pinwheel is a basic and familiar quilt block and here the entire quilt was made to be a big single pinwheel block–made up of other pinwheel blocks. I really loved this concept. It’s pretty simple looking in design, and I found it striking, especially because it used two colors only. The colored blocks would be made up of many different fabrics, printed, all in that color. The book showed it in green and white and though I considered many, many other color combinations, that is also the colorway I wanted. This winter I saw a lovely new line, Greenery, at Hawthorne Threads. That did it– I ordered a few of their fabrics (that bark! those deer!) and that was the start. The Hawthorne Threads fabric is digitally printed and definitely not the beautiful softness you’ll find in other high quality non-digitally printed fabrics, but I think since I bought it it has softened through handling (and washing.) That fabric did cut very nicely. So I chose a combination of their fabrics, plus some I saw at the store, plus a few little bits from my own collection. Although I tend to bemoan the vast swathes of white fabric prevalent in modern quilts, that is what was needed here. I chose a white-on-white with an all over floral pattern. Because two of my prints had tiny bits of bright pink in them, I chose a beautiful pink for the binding.
As for the backing, I’m so in love with it. I decided that the perfect backing would be a green and white vintage sheet. I got right on Etsy to browse and found a 1980s sheet from the seller BlueRose Retro. It was in terrific condition, so smooth, and the colors and pattern looked made for my patchwork pinwheel! Inexpensive and delivered quickly, to boot! (certainly less expensive than 4 yards of good cotton.)2017-09-03 15.54.24

The construction of the top really wasn’t very difficult at all. Good instructions from the book, and it’s all just triangles and squares. The hardest thing was cutting 4 gigantic triangles of the white fabric.  Because the center of the quilt is one complete pinwheel block I made extra certain that those triangle points lined up perfectly.  The prints are randomized, though I was careful to have that center block be 4 that I especially liked together. The one design flaw I made was that I had just 2 triangles of an old fabric I liked, a dark green with hearts on it. Because it was only two I wanted to be sure they were nowhere near each other. So how did they both end up in one block?!

Perhaps it is because I sewed the top so successfully-matching points, laying flat, pretty square, that it is especially galling that this ended up being probably the worst made quilt I’ve ever done!! More on that later.

For quilting I decided to do curved lines in the big white section so that they might mimic or evoke a pinwheel’s movement. Though I used saucers and plates to draw on the first lines, after that I used a string held at the center and my pen. I also decided to not measure, but have variable widths. My thinking was that I would have different widths intentionally, rather than accidentally (and yet they ended up fairly even. ) I also decided that the lines of stitching would not go seam to seam, but rather end short of the other seam. Unfortunately, I kept forgetting and so some go all the way and some end. Ultimately I do love how the curved lines look and think they give big impact when seen all at once.
But here’s where the problem came in… tremendous wrinkles on the back. And then, the front not laying smooth and being loose and blousey. Because I did the white sections first, and curved around rather then going out from the center, (and also I should have used a walking foot on my machine.) it all just ended up fairly bunched. However, after a few tears I pulled it together and accepted it. So what if there are wrinkles? So what if I had to take a few little pleats when I applied the binding. I’m not entering it into a contest and it’s for family use. It’s soft and the colors are beautiful. The stitching in the white areas does look how I envisioned it, too. In the green sections all I opted to do was one large triangle the same shape as the overall piece.  Oh, and while the drama of the wrinkles on the back was happening, something I’ve always worried about finally did happen: while snipping a thread my tiny sharp embroidery scissors cut a tiny hole right in my fabric!! Not visible but I worried that it could fray and grow over the years. I was going to cover it with a piece of matching fabric, but since I usually like to put something special on the back that is where I appliqued a small pinwheel block made of the backing and binding. I did embroider my initials and the year on two sides of the block, but frankly did such a lousy job I’m going to pull it out and redo it.

After all the quilting woes the binding was a treat to put on. I was eager to wrap this up and call it done. I’m back to work on Tuesday, and while my initial goal in June was to complete two quilts this summer, by July I knew it would only be one. There was no way I was not going to finish this so I spent some solid time Sunday finishing the binding. And, as there was definitely a September chill in the air on Sunday morning, I can attest that having the quilt on my lap was very warm and snuggly. So, as Liz says, “does it work as a blanket?” You bet it does!  (And I love the way it looks, too.)


A Retro Day

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Last week I saw a listing on Freecycle for a girl’s banana seat bicycle. Tabby has always been in thrall of them from me talking about how great they were when I was a kid, so I jumped on this. I picked it up on Thursday and it’s lovely and in great shape. A pink Schwinn with the flowers on the seat still looking good, the chrome shined up nicely, and it fits her. She has been having such a great time with it. Yesterday we went to the park to ride it (alas, after all the effort of putting the bike rack on the car, filling my tires, wrestling the bikes on to it, getting to the park, wrestling the bikes off of it, I discovered that my rear tire was flat again and apparently has a hole in it.) Since I remember my own banana seat bike so fondly I hopped on to see if I cold pedal, even though it’s too small for me. I could! It was wonderful! Here’s a blurry pic Tabby took.
Our second retro event is sewing related. Last week I buckled down and sewed together the quilt top of the green and white giant pinwheel quilt. I am really pleased overall with my points (Here’s a perfect one, but they weren’t all perfect) and the overall look. For the backing I got the idea that a vintage green and white sheet would be perfect. Got on Etsy, found several to choose from, I especially liked one and it was only $15, which I certainly couldn’t buy 4 yards of fabric for, and ordered it on Friday. It arrived yesterday (so fast! 5 stars for that seller!) and it looks perfect. The greens actually match perfectly. I’m going to baste the quilt together today and then I need to figure out how to quilt up those vast white triangles.
Last week Tabby went to Girl Scout camp (day camp) and loved it. The camp has been closed a few years and just reopened this summer, so it was her first time. The week included a final overnight on the Thursday of the week, which she really enjoyed. After she returned Clark headed out early Saturday morning with his Boy Scout troop to go to Virginia for a week of camp. I’m sure he’s having a great time, though we do miss him. Paul, Tabby, and I are doing lots of movie nights of movies Clark never votes for her. First we watched Moana, then last night Tabby chose The Shaggy D.A., which was a hoot. Between the bike, the fabric, and the movie is was a full day of visiting the past!

Happy Summer!

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It’s been a bit over two months since my last post, but I’m inspired to catch up-mostly because my dear friend and loyal reader said she missed it and today is her birthday, so here you go Perri! As a present to you I will be self centered and write all about my life 🙂 I think I will work backwards with the last few days. (*edit: it’s two days since I started this, so no longer her birthday, but there you go.)
Yesterday late afternoon I was thinking about the two fresh apricots I had bought and some leftover toasted almonds on my counter. I thought, “hmm…I bet that Thin Pear Tart I sometimes make in the winter would be a quick and tasty dessert with fresh apricots, and I even have the 2oz cream cheese necessary for the dough.” I easily whipped up the dough (this really is a quick and easy thing) and then saw that the apricots had rotted. No matter-the NJ blueberries are showing up at store and I had a few tasty pints in the fridge. I scattered blueberries across the top, baked, and voila!
Now, what else? Since that last post we’ve had Paul’s birthday

Father’s Day (I don’t have any cute pics of Paul and his human children, so here’s a very sweet picture of Paul and the kitty who adores him.)

The Last Day of School.  This is such a crazy event for me still and the whole last month of school felt so exciting and like we were barreling towards summer. I will really miss some of the students and it made me feel so good when many of them told me that they would miss me (our 5th graders are moving up to middle school.) I may have been even more excited than the kids for school to end. This was my first full year of teaching and hooray! I made it!! I like my job a lot, but was definitely ready for some resting and recharging, looking forward to plenty of time in the hammock and plenty of reading. [School got out June 23, today is July 4th, and I’ve read 7 books so far.]

Since summer has begun we haven’t done much of anything: reading, relaxing, kids playing with friends. I did sign up for tennis lessons through the rec dept. and am doing that with friends. We’ve only had 2 lessons so far, but I think we’re doing great! I even got together this morning just to play with someone. I know I’ll be even better when I can actually run to the ball. Presently I’m plagued by a painful knee situation. After being troubled by it for weeks I did go to the dr. and unfortunately the treatment is one of those slow and steady “do this exercise every day” things. It’s been a week and today it hurt all day long. Which is a total drag and makes me cranky.
I hosted a luau themed bunco, which was an excuse to make pina coladas and pull out a bunch of “tropical” recipes.

The main thing I’ve been itching to do since school let out is get into some sewing projects. I really do miss having the time to quilt or embroider (yes, I could do it in the evening, but I’m usually just needing to lie down in front of the tv), which is my creative outlet.I am hoping to make 2 quilts this summer. One is a giant pinwheel, which I got the pattern out of a book a long time ago. My pinwheel will be green and white, and I bought all the fabrics a couple months ago. I cut out the squares of green, but neglected to buy the background fabric, which I’ll be doing later this week.(*done! and I bought a hot pink for the binding, which will be a perfect accent.) The second is something I started a long time ago and then somewhat recently made a plan for. Like the pinwheel quilt it is all triangles (not my best shape-let’s see how many points line up!) and I bought the fabrics a few months ago. I sorted out the triangles today and made 5 blocks. I have a lot of pieces and have decided to NOT lay out the whole thing at once, but rather create a lot of blocks and then decide how they will be put together. My general guideline is that the center is a pair of peachy/coral and a pair of mushroom/taupe and the outer triangles are in the green/blue collection. But the pairs don’t necessarily have to match. I’m not even sure if it will all be put together just block after block after block, or if I’ll separate the blocks into concentric squares. I love all the fabrics I chose for it.

Finally, here’s a darling dishtowel I started, oh, years? ago. This was a set of retro style embroidery transfers, and I put this on a vintage style dishtowel. I think I got both at Walmart on the cheap. When I didn’t have a bigger project at our stitchathons I just worked idly on this. I basically forgot about it and came across it a couple of days ago noting that I only had the text left. What was I waiting for? Not only is it cute, but it would also be an adorable background for freshly baked bread that I’m taking a picture of for IG!

In the coop our numbers have continued to dwindle. A small sad flock remains. However! A hen finally went broody and last week chicks hatched. But it was a difficult week, there were deaths, and there is just one little chick. Let’s cross our fingers it grows up to be a hen, not a rooster. *update: the chick died yesterday. I found it lying on its side, dead. What gives? did a big chicken step on it? Not only that, but this morning it looked like something scratched up the dirt outside the coop gate. And the mother is missing. We are down to 4 hens and 3 roosters.

Willow just had her second anniversary of coming to us. Boy has she grown! We are so lucky to have her-she really is a marvelous dog.

In other dog news, my mom got a new dog! His name is Harry and he is adorable.
And today (2 days ago) is Blackie, our only remaining guinea pig, ‘s birthday. She is 5. I guess she’s at the far end of a guinea pig’s life span, but she still seems pretty spry. She even accommodated me for this birthday photo op.

We are not doing any vegetable gardening this year, save for lettuce and cilantro in a pot. Our peach tree is loaded with peaches and we hope at least a few will be edible. For the first time EVER the sad apple tree has apples on it- 3!

The flowers are in mad bloom and there are so many lovely colors everywhere. The coneflower has spread even more, making the front garden look almost cottage gardeny-just what I’ve always wanted. I’ve noticed that coneflower is also very popular with many different insects and butterflies and moths, so that’s good.

And, of course, peony season was tremendous and beautiful.

And as I type this we are getting ready to celebrate Clark’s birthday–#12! He is now officially taller than me by 1 1/2″.  Ok, that was also a couple days ago. The day was celebrated with many special meals and some fun at the arcade.


I think I’ve gotten some photo organization under control and hopefully will do more posts this summer that aren’t so long and rambling, but perhaps focused on one thing at a time. With that in mind-time to start sewing! (Of course it poured rain all morning and I cozied up with a book. Now the sun is out and it’s gorgeous and I probably SHOULD be doing outdoors things.)

I’m not late for Christmas, I’m early!

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At long (long) last, my Christmas scrap quilt is finished!20170220_151555 The original intention of this quilt was to use up all my Christmas fabrics so I could be done with them once and for all, as I was tiring of seeing the same Christmas fabrics in my stash year after year. Well, that sounds reasonable, but of course I did end up buying additional Christmas fabrics and not even using up all of what I already had. The thing with Christmas is you’ve got red and green, but which red? which green? In this case I have a forest green as my main shade. The reds lean to the orange-red.
There are plenty of novelty prints, and lots of fussy cutting. I chose my old standby favorite-subway tile. Uniform width, but just random lengths of the strips.
The main body of this quilt was finished before school started, with the thought that it only needed a couple more days of work. Oh, silly me. I ended up putting an extra floating piano key border on it, and then with my finished top, continued to just put it off. The backing needed to be pieced together and it took me a while to decide what to do (blah blah blah.) I’m pretty pleased with the back. The main part is an adorable Mary Englebreit fabric that was handed down to me from someone cleaning out her stash. I made the corners and sides symmetrical.

Christmas Scrap Quilt-done!This quilt was a wee bit too big for my machine to quilt, and I really didn’t want to hand quilt. I opted for tying it, figuring it went along with the cozy charming feel of it. I did tie the knots in a very uniform way-in the middle of every strip, evenly spaced.

Sometime before Christmas Paul took himself to Joann Fabrics with a giant coupon and sale and bought lots of Christmas fabric. I loved one of them very much and wanted it for my binding. Last weekend was the annual Midwinter Stitchathon and I decided to buckle down and finish this thing once and for all. I stitched and stitched through Step Up and The Cutting Edge and got 3/4 of the way done. A couple of days later I finished-hooray!

I had grand plans to applique a tree on the back and the tree would have my name and date. But you know what? I really just wanted this done. So I took it outside for photographs even before the basting safety pins were taken out.Christmas Scrap Quilt-done!Then I brought it in, took the pins out, and just embroidered my initials and the year. I had noticed, to my dismay, that a few of the knots had come out already. (WHAT?!) I grabbed some embroidery floss that is green, but not the same shade as what was used throughout, and just tied it up. And then I decided that it was a bad decision to not have tied or quilted around the border and I machine stitched along intervals of the piano keys. And now I can finally say it is truly done.


I really love the look of this-it’s cheery, Christmassy, has lots of fun fabrics to look at, and is big enough to snuggle under while watching Elf or Arthur Christmas. I’m looking forward to pulling it out the day after Thanksgiving and enjoying it all season!img_7635

And, Liesl approved:


Anything Else?

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So anything else from this fall? Let’s see, we went to a Princeton football game and a Princeton hockey game, and had a grand time at both.
2016-12-13-19-32-35 Hockey is more my speed than football, and as the far less popular sport, it was super cheap and easy to get to for a quick weeknight game. The rink was great and the rows only 6 back from the ice (we sat right at the glass.) 2016-12-13-21-10-12
Clark and Paul went on a couple camping trips with his Boy Scout troop, including a fantastic trip to Harpers Ferry, which included a hike up to this beautiful view of three states. See the beautiful view here and the proud hikers here .

In doing all these scout activities Clark was able to rank up to Tenderfoot at the December court of honor. This achievement made me finally get some sewing in, in the form of embroidery.2016-11-12-19-59-49 The tradition in this troop is that when a boy achieves this rank he receives a hand embroidered neckerchief. Pretty simple embroidery-all satin stitch and the design is printed on the kerchief. (You receive a kit.) Satin stitch is not my favorite, but it’s certainly easy to do and while this was a little tedious I was happy to do it and think it turned out beautifully. (I can only imagine if you didn’t stitch that this would have been extra tedious.)

Congratulations, Clark!

Tabby and I went with our troop to see a Disney on Ice spectacular and that was a lot of fun, too. I didn’t do any other sewing, despite getting that Christmas quilt top finished right before school started. I finally took a day and made the back and yesterday I put it together and began tying it. My hope is to finish tying it today and do the binding tomorrow, thus finishing it in 2016. It may need to be a “finish by the end of vacation” goal, though. I’m sure we’ll all enjoy it very much and it will be brand new to us when we pull it out at the start of next year’s Christmas season.

There will not be a Garden Wrap Up post this year because there really wasn’t a garden. I will do my usual Top 10 Books of the Year post, and possibly the big annual look back. In the meantime, I’ll wrap up with a couple pics I especially liked, from a day at a conference.




Spring Celebrations

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This weekend we had two special events-my mom’s birthday and Clark’s Arrow of Light ceremony from Cub Scouts.  The latter was a pretty big deal-he started Cub Scouts in 1st grade. He’s continued on and is now moving on to Boy Scouts.Arrow of Light//’ve had a lot of fun with other families in the pack, camping and other crazy events, and Paul enjoyed being the Cubmaster for the past 2 years. Lots of great memories were made, so this farewell was bittersweet. It was quite a ceremony and as the boys walked over the bridge they were welcomed by their new Boy Scout troop. Clark is quite excited to join his new troop and looking forward to good times and making new friends.IMG_5945

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My mom’s birthday was also this weekend and I always see it as a sign of spring and enjoy coming up with a good menu for a special birthday dinner. I made cherry chicken spirals (chicken with cherries and some other stuff, rolled up), rice pilaf, asparagus, and a delicious salad of Boston lettuce, red onion, and avocado. Of course it’s really the cake we were all looking forward to. Happily my mom likes coconut, so things for her are always a good opportunity to make coconut things.  I made the Tropical Carrot & Coconut Cake from Baking by Flavor. Happy Birthday, Mom!// I had not made this before and it’s definitely a keeper. Super delicious. The cake had shredded carrots, coconut, and crushed pineapple in it. Happy Birthday, Mom!// better it had lots of fresh nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon it. So much that those flavors really came through. There was even a tiny bit of freshly grated nutmeg in the cream cheese frosting. The frosting was delicious, though there was a lot of it. Actually I thought this cake would be fine with just a little powdered sugar on top. Happy Birthday, Mom! Happy Birthday, Mom!//

The final spring celebration was the now annual Midwinter Stitchathon with Liz and Eleanor. This lovely event is an afternoon spent stitching, watching tv, and eating special snacks and seasonal candy together. Midwinter Stitchathon// menu this year was tea brack (an Irish tea cake with lots of dried fruit and demands to be eaten with butter), apricot turkey pinwheels (forever known now as “Yoshi Wellingtons”), cherry cola cake, and, as always, carrot dip and prosecco (not mixed together. Carrot dip eaten up with pretzels, prosecco guzzled down.)
Midwinter Stitchathon//
Midwinter Stitchathon//
My stitching project is an embroidery pattern I’ve had a couple of years and have decided would be just the thing for when I have a little time to want to do something stitchy. I actually went and bought all the suggested color flosses for this. Midwinter Stitchathon// was a grand time! And, oops! This is indeed quite a catchup. I’ll also mention another special event-the Father Daughter Dance for Girl Scouts. Tabby was so excited, felt so glamorous and excited to be going with Paul to this dance. It was a lovely event for them. Father Daughter Dance 2016So many special events!


The Last PWD

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As we wind down Clark’s last year in Cub Scouts we are beginning to have “lasts”. Tonight was the last Pinewood Derby. Clark and Paul made a car that looked exactly like a Wii remote. In our pack the scouts get to vote on design categories and a new one this year was “video game theme”, which is what Clark was hoping to win. And he did!2016-01-31 18.45.22 He was so pleased, especially that this is the third time he’s won. Previously he won Most Original for his fantastical dragon design, then Best Animal for his alligator, and now this one. 2016-01-31 20.55.15Recently he and his den made display things for their derby cars and it looks great to see all five in a row.
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Also this weekend Paul and I went to (another) concert. This time it was the Indigo Girls!

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They sounded wonderful–just as good as they did 30 years ago. I had seen them in concert once before at, of all places, an ALA conference. They did a benefit concert and it was lovely, though an unusual venue. This was a more standard concert and I’m so glad we could go.

This weekend I did a little prep work on the Christmas scrap quilt I’m making. I cut out the rest of the pieces (including the lovely new fabric I bought on Friday) and began to lay out.A new quilt to work on// I was kind of unhappy with it. I knew that it would be a crazy hodgepodge but it turned out I just had two different sets of fabric and there was no way I was going to be happy with blue reds mingling with orange reds. Willow took over the role of meddlesome cat by lying down right on top of it. Why do the animals love fabric on the ground so much?2016-01-30 14.21.39 I decided to take out the blue reds and was much happier with the results. I also am strongly considering putting a thin strip of solid fabric between the rows, and I just so happen to have a favorite green that would look great. That will also add a little more to the overall size.  Today I did the final design layout and Tabby helped me with some placement. She was a good advisor! After I numbered and carefully picked up all the pieces Sweetie came into the room. There is nothing more she loves than to dive into the middle of a carefully laid out quilt, so she was quite disappointed to be too late. A new quilt to work on// made the best of it by just sitting next to my stack, rolling her head against it, and purring.A new quilt to work on//
I’m not sure how much sewing and creating I’ll be doing in the next few months, given some forthcoming news and the fact that I’ve recently begun a graduate level online course. I’m quite certain I should have been doing my readings today, but I did want to at least set up this project so it’s ready to go when I can turn to it. I also have decided on embroidery projects for the year and gotten those ready. I anticipate I won’t be keeping up on the blog so much anymore, too, but I’ll definitely try to post about finished projects and big events.
Cheers, friends!Hanging out with Gordon//