Monday, December 31, 2012

a little catch-up

I am a little bit lacking in blog updates lately, and this morning seems finally like the time to do something about it.  I woke early and the house is quiet.  Bob is in Whitefish, MT, this morning, soon boarding the train to head back to St. Paul.  So it is appropriate that I am now showing some of the pictures from our trip to Whitefish about 4 weeks ago!

We decided to try something new for us, and we booked our travel on Amtrak.  This also accomplishes something from my bucket list!  We have traveled by train in Europe, but never here at home.  So when I realized that the Amtrak route runs right from St. Paul to Whitefish (and points beyond), I investigated.  The price was about comparable to airfare.  On the way westward we booked regular coach seats, which as you can see, are a lot more comfortable than an airplane coach seat.  They do recline a lot, allowing for sleep on our 20+ hour trip.  On the way back home we switched to a "roomette", which was a 2 person sleeper room.  That turned out to be way more comfortable.

The train was not full, so we had some liberty with taking up space in adjacent seats if we wanted.  Also made good use of the observation car and dining car.  It was a fun experience.

After reaching Whitefish and reuniting with Dan, we hauled our baggage to our timeshare condo for the week.  One thing about train travel is that you have a lot more leeway with luggage, meaning you don't have to pay for any of it and you can basically take whatever you can haul along.  Which is dangerous when packing because I tend to pack way too much when there is no limit!

Although most of Glacier Park is closed at this time of year, we were able to drive to Lake McDonald for some sightseeing.  It was a beautiful day and only about 6 other people to be found!

The lake below is Flathead Lake, which lies south of Whitefish.  We drove along it on our excursion to Missoula.  I would love to return there in the spring, because along the east side of the lake there are cherry and apple orchards, which would be so beautiful.

I loved the town of Whitefish, it has succeeded in preserving and maintaining a small town feeling while still being a major destination for visitors.  They have a thriving main street, complete with quaint Christmas decorations. 

At the far end of this street, not really visible in this picture, is the train depot.  And the backdrop of Big Mountain with the ski resort is perfect.  I think part of the key to the success of the town is the fact that almost all of the businesses are local, specialty, non-chainstore enterprises.  All of the "big box stores" can be found 12 miles south in Kalispell, so still convenient but not right in your backyard.  Dan's apartment is located just 2 blocks from main street, so very handy to walk to shops, restaurants, taverns, brewery, coffee shop, bakery, etc.  I was impressed by the fact that there were no empty storefronts on either side of the 3-block-long main street.

One really big plus factor in the use of the train system rather than the highway system was very evident on our return home.  It had started snowing in Whitefish the night before we were to leave, and continued snowing all night, all day as we progressed east across Montana, part of North Dakota, and was even snowing when we pulled into St. Paul.  Driving those roads would have been less than ideal, and we probably would have had to change our plans and dates.  But sitting in the comfort of the train and watching the snowy scene pass by the windows was a pleasure!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

fun to look

I have just spent some time looking at a new ezine that you might be interested in.  (Ezine=electronic magazine).  My sister, Jan, seems to have become an online scout for good stuff like this and the video I posted on a previous day.  Thank you!

This is a new endeavor by Amy Butler, one of the most successful, if not the most successful, designers of fabric and fashion for the home sewer.  This is a free look at the ezine, full of many (270) pages of beautiful photography, very few ads, numerous projects to make--some instructions towards the end of the magazine, some instructions to download for a small fee, some others to link to.  Go ahead, take a look!

Click here to visit the ezine!  You can flip through all of the pages and enlarge.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

just a fun fact

Did you know? - On December 13th (that's today!), 1577, the English sea captain Sir Francis Drake set sail from Plymouth, England to become the first Englishman to successfully circumnavigate the globe. Six ships carrying 164 men set out on the 10-month voyage. Sailing through the Strait of Magellan, two of the ships were battered against the rocks and sunk. Once safely reaching the Pacific, Drake found two different Spanish ships and looted them of over 80 pounds of gold, 13 chests of royal jewels, and 26 tons of silver. When he presented the Queen with her half share, it was worth more than the crown's income for that entire year.

Friday, December 7, 2012

out of town...

I have been occupied with blogging over on the Bear Patch blog lately, and enjoying some vacation time in Whitefish, MT.  A beautiful small mountain town, home to son, Dan.  We have so enjoyed our time here, which is ending soon.  And yesterday I wanted to put up some pictures here to show you the cool places we've visited, but I hit a snag with the Picassa web album that houses my blog pictures.  I wasn't even aware that the pictures were on a Picassa web album, but they say I have reached my limit unless I want to pay for some space!  So no vacation pictures to show you until I get that figured out, or maybe I should say until Dan helps me figure it out!  But I do have a video to share, thanks to a heads up from sis Jan--

I found it very interesting to see more about the process of making fabric.  And there is much more that goes into the artistic design, also.  So hope you like it, and hope I will have some photos to share soon! Going to put on my boots and go to the Christmas Stroll in downtown Whitefish tonight in new fallen snow!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

it's a wrap

Sunday morning came and went far too quickly.  A flurry of gathering up, hauling out and loading in preceded many rounds of farewell hugs and well-wishes.  Some of the group will see each other regularly, others will not have contact for several months until the next retreat.  Everyone always hopes that the others will be able to make it to the next scheduled event, and usually they do, come hell or high water!

Many quilts and bags and tablerunners and wallhangings were started and/or completed, many more than I have been able to capture here for you.  What I have shown is just a sampling of the fabric fun that we had.  Here's a few more:

Marilee's Story Territory quilt, full of potential for a special little guy.  There were 4 new 1st time grandmas on this trip, so plenty of oohs and aahs over little baby pictures.

A good use of the Quilt MN fabric, and now I've forgotten for sure but I think this was Mary's!

Again with the Christmas quilt for Margaret!  She had more Christmas fabric in her stash than anyone else!

And a return to Thimbleberries for Lois--

Lots of little eye-popping zig-zag on this little snowman for Mary--

And Cindy P. put together the blocks for this quilt, and selected borders to go with it.

All in all, a lot was accomplished.  As for myself, I have some work to do to finish up my Lattice Quilt and get it quilted soon so it can be offered on the winter class schedule.  Once that's done, I can go back and complete the 3 things I have started for a ruler demo workshop.  That's the plan!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

running in circles

The colors don't look true in my huge circle, it really doesn't look so drab in real life.  But I do like the effect, and once I figure out what to do with the big bump of seam allowances in the middle, it will move to the next step.  I think I am going to trim out the very center and then applique a circle on top of it to cover that problem spot.  And then the question is do I leave it circular or add a square background?  It's a work in progress to test out the Creative Grids 15 degree wedge ruler.

The BQ2 assembled by Margaret, to be donated for a church raffle---

Leisl managed to put together this nice little tote bag/purse before departing to pick up sister Linda at the airport last night.  Hope they are having a good visit today!  We miss you!

 This is the completion of the applique piece I showed previously, from Kim Diehl's book Simple Charm.  Marva did a great job, don't you think?

Here are 2 versions of the same 5-yard quilt pattern, looking completely different with the fabric combinations.  On the left is the "up north cabin woodsy" look by Jean, and on the right is the "summer garden cheery" look by Geri.  

And below is my Bucket Bag, almost finished except for some topstitching details  It is going to make a great tote bag and perfect knitting bag with pockets all around the inside.  Very detailed instructions from Around the Bobbin.

Friday, November 16, 2012

happy friday!

We are putting the treat back in retreat!  Fun with creativity is all around, people trying new things and just making it up as we go--

Teri has joined the retreaters for the very first time, and she is a welcome addition.  Even more fun is that I used to work with Teri in another life.  The nursing life, that is.

 Peek-a-boo bag by Amy--

 Christmas presents by Cindy--

 Here's Leisl, Marva, Jean and Mary--

 and Sandy, Anita, Deb--

 Nancy, Sue and Mary--

It is always a different experience from the every day routine to be away from home with the chance to relax, laugh, learn and create in many ways.  Sometimes it is fabric, sometimes food, sometimes life experiences to learn from - always a good thing!  Stay tuned for more!

fabric fun

This has been a very busy group, lots of seams sewn (and a few ripped!) and much sharing of ideas.  Several Christmas gifts are in the works and some, in fact, are done!  We love that 4-letter word--DONE!

This is the Fire Escape pattern by Atkinson Designs, made by Amy who always works at full volume!  That's her down below, literally, crawling on the floor for measurements.  Check out those borders!  So straight and flat, she's a pro.  

A wonderful applique project that Marva is putting together after taking a Kim Diehl class from Fabrictown.  This is done by machine, but could be done by hand if that is preferred.  I think she is doing a great job and learning a lot.

Cindy is beaming over finishing this one, great color combo.

This last one is something that I made from fabric donated and recycled into a little boy quilt for donation to Quilts For Kids.  The brown strips running crosswise were cut from a well-aged fabric from my own stash.  I had to laugh when I started working with it, I found some cat hairs here and there.  My cat died in 2001.  So it was a good thing to finally use it!  And now I can get it finished up and some little boy can enjoy it when he is feeling under the weather.  Don't worry, I will wash all the cat hair away!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

a hodge podge of quilt retreat

I am living the good life at the Stitchin' Trips retreat at Bridge Creek Cottage in August, WI.  A wonderful group of ladies are here who have all become friends over the years that they have been brought together by the lure of time to spend with sewing, projects galore, and lots of laughs.  Here's a little re-cap of a few things:

My lattice quilt met her little cousin!  Nancy is assembling the same design with smaller strips and batik fabrics.  Both of us are thrilled by the thought of many, many little seams!

 A completed quilt top for Marilee that has been layered and pinned for quilting.  There's a lucky girl waiting for this one to be done!

A t-shirt quilt, part of a trilogy, getting some finishing touches.

My fancy pants heating pad cover, custom designed with a pocket for my feet.  I won't even show you the gross old cover that went into the garbage!  Every time I used it, I was disgusted, and finally realized that I could probably replace it with very little trouble.  Now my warm tootsies are happier than ever!

Some pieces for my applecore quilt using the 11" template and pattern from Country Fabrics and Quilts in Brainerd, MN.  More pieces are cut and waiting for my attention.

A still life study of the tablescape--

A plucky little chicken--

And the start of Urban Beads--

That's all for now--
My machine is calling me!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

a minor change makes a big difference

Not very long ago I showed this picture--

And shared my thought that I wasn't altogether happy with it, the gray solid was the problem.  I replaced it with white and I like it so much better!

That's sort of what I thought it needed, but I thank Debbie for giving me the nudge to make the change.    Today I had sewing time with some of the women from my Ham Lake Piecemakers group, and I started sewing the rows together.  Hard to tell from the picture above, but it is assembled with partial seams on the horizontal rows.  That's why you see those strips sticking out to the right.

I get to embark on a quilt retreat in just a few days, and I will finish it then.  Along with the numerous other projects that are bagged and packed to go!  Looking forward to the time away, plus Thanksgiving on the horizon and a trip to Montana after that.  I have been researching quilt shops and yarn shops in the vicinity of Whitefish so I will be able to give you a field report.  And this trip will be even more special because we are visiting son Dan in his new place in Whitefish, and riding the train to get there!  The train ride is something like 22 hours, so I plan to have some reading and knitting ready to go.

This scarf, though lovely, will not be riding the train!  I keep getting stitches and rows mixed up in the pattern that makes the diagonal lace rows, so I have to work on it when I can work undisturbed.  I am making slow progress on it.  The yarn is fantastic, super soft, and given to me by Dan after a trip to Alaska.  It is partially made of muskox hair.

 I have finally finished all the sewing on this star quilt--
shown here before all the stitching was done and a few blank spaces can be seen.  It is a great quilt and will make a great class to learn precision piecing, because believe me when I tell you that this one took attention to detail.  Borders have been added and it is on the quilt frame.

We enjoyed a great afternoon here with some sunshine following the rainy start to the day, and pleasant temps that let me go without a jacket--woohoo!  An experience that won't be happening much for the next few months.  Time to dig out the winter gear and get the ice scrapers tuned up!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

the bonus hour

I find myself with an extra hour of life this morning, so I am on my keyboard to update both here and over at the Bear Patch blog.  This comes after a yummy and what-seems-like-decadent breakfast of almond croissants.  Easy almond croissants from the frozen food section at Trader Joe's.  I had not tried them before, but they turned out great.  Also from my last trip to Joe's--

Very tasty!
Here's a little sewing tip and another good excuse to go to the office supply store!  I read about this from someone else but can't remember who.  Scotch, maker of all of those adhesive hooks and hangers, also makes these adhesive patches.

They actually have adhesive on both sides and are thick, like maybe 1/16th of an inch.  When I need to sew something that requires a seam allowance other than 1/4" this is the perfect temporary tool.  I was sewing a hem on the back of a pillow cover, and wanted to make my stitching line 7/8" from the folded edge.  I peeled the adhesive from one side of the strip and put it on the bed of my machine after measuring the correct placement.  Then I could run the fold right against the edge of the adhesive pad and get a nice straight stitching line.  When I was done, I put it right back in the package for another day.

 That hem was on the back of this pillow cover--

which now is complete except for the lack of an 18" pillow!  Previously posted here.

Another pair of mittens for my favorite little guy--

These are quick and fun, and no doubt he will need more mittens in bigger sizes so I should have no lack of knitting!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

in the works...

I have been a busy girl lately, getting quite a few things accomplished and crossed off the list.  Here is the report:

A road map playmat for Ian, whenever he gets big enough to be entertained by little matchbox cars.  This was a printed panel which I quilted to a layer of craft felt.  I outlined around the roads and railroads, then serged around the outside edge for a quick and easy finish.  I am thinking that it needs a little tote bag to keep it with the appropriate cars.  This makes me remember when my kids were little, and how the car/truck thing seemed to come naturally to my little boy, more so than my daughter.  And little boys seem to be able to make that little buzzing motor noise naturally, too!

I think Ian is already thinking about playing on his mat!
Little boys need little mittens to match their little hats and blankies, so here you go!  We are going to try either mitten clips or the cord through the sleeves, and hopefully they will stay on better than his socks!

Pair #2 for Ian started.
I found the metal clips with the sewing notions at Joann's and sewed the elastic to the clips.  Next time I will look for colored elastic!

This looks kind of messy, but it's a work in progress.  This is a lattice strip quilt that I have started and have about half of the blocks made.  I laid it out to get some perspective, and have concluded that it's just not right.  Debbie suggested that the solid gray squares would be better white.  I am thinking at this point that I might just stop and start fresh with a different group of fabrics.  We have a lot of great solids at the store and I am thinking about using those.  I would like to get this done to teach as a class this winter, it is made with the use of partial seams and that would be a good technique for our quilters to know.

 Time to get some binding on a quilt that was wonderfully hand quilted for me by my mom--

I made the top a few years ago and when she told me that she was looking for something to go on her quilting frame, I was more than happy to provide this!  Her little stitches are so straight and neat!

I just took this Christmas quilt off my machine frame and will deliver it to Leisl later today.  She will put the binding and finishing touches on it and then we will display it at the store.  Not distinguishable from here, but I quilted a poinsettia design on it in red thread, and it turned out great.

There are a couple of other customer quilts that I have recently done that made it out of here without photos.  One of them was another lesson in perseverance for me, due to the fact that I had a lot of problems with skipped stitches. This resulted in hair-pulling, headaches, curses, tears, ripping stitches, tweaking thread, tension, timing and anything else I could think of.  Some advice from my company rep finally got me back on track, and the quilt was finished and delivered to the owner, who loved it!  99.9% of the time my machine works like a precision tool, but every now and then something goes wacky and makes me very cranky!

 Next up on the quilting frame--