Saturday, July 23, 2016

Plain Obsession

When I was in Portland last week, my sister and I walked into a posh little boutique on Alder St. to have a look around.  It was the kind of shop that would drain the pocketbook in minutes.  The wares however, were quite beautiful.  Table tops displayed fine gauge cotton tee shirts, soft wool sweaters, wide legged pants, linen napkins, carved wooden candlesticks and large coffee table books.   Most of the clothing they carried were in shades of navy, black, cream and tan.  If you wanted a few nice basic pieces to start a minimalist wardrobe, this was the place to get them.  I fell in love with this little creamer by a local artist and brought it home with me.
I  also spied a quilt on sale for just over $300. It was a color block quilt in cream, black and gray that fit in with the shop's aesthetic. I kept looking at it.  Thinking about it long after we left.  Obsessing about it's plain simple design.  In fact on the train ride home, an Amish (or maybe Mennonite) family joined us in the dining car and their starched white caps, and dark somber clothes reminded me of the quilt again. I couldn't wait to get home and make my own version.
It only took a few days to put together as I already had everything I needed.  And thank goodness.  A trip to the fabric store would have ruined my momentum.  The Lotta Jansdotter fabric I used for the backing has been in my stash for about 2 years. I never wanted to use it because I loved it so much.  Really that makes no sense.  I need to start incorporating these pieces into my projects instead of hoarding it.  It's not doing any good folded up in the cupboard.

Anyway, now I can get back to my WIPs and relax a bit.  Obsession over.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Going Coastal

On Thursday I'm getting on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train and heading up to Portland Oregon. I took the train once before, from Philadelphia to Washington DC, but I was by myself and think I napped most of the way.  I barely remember it. This time I'll be sharing a sleeper car with my youngest sister in a space the size of Harry Potter's cupboard under the stairs, and I imagine there will be lots of giggling and snorting into the wee hours.  Portland, bless that beautiful city, will only be about 75 degrees when I get there.  I will be leaving 100 degrees behind at home. I might have to dig my jeans out of the "winter" side of the closet.
I finished 5 squares on my popcorn stitch blanket so far.  I know the picture is only showing 4, but it was hard to photograph an odd number, so you get the idea. I'm hoping to make a few more on the train.
 I had some help from the dog going through my scrap bin to make several nine patch blocks.  I want to set them on point but I'm having a difficult time deciding on a background color.  Usually I reach for a cream color (safe), but I feel like all my quilts are starting to look the same. I might need to take a chance on this one and branch out of my comfort zone.
Lastly I'm making a linen project bag to take on the train, and I decided to work a cross stitch motif on the front, found in Alicia Paulson's Embroidery Companion book.  Since she lives in Portland, I thought it would be a fun reminder of my upcoming trip.  Have a great week wherever you are!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Self Sewn

Summer is in full swing now.  I can tell because my air conditioner is broken. A temporary fix is in place, but it looks like we need to buy a new one.  Meanwhile, outside there are plants with minds of their own popping up in areas where I did not originally intend them to be popping.  The morning glories are relentless, twinning around my swiss chard, green onions, or anything that stands in one place too long. I pull them out to get at my vegetables, but there are dozens of little seedlings, laughing up at me, waiting in line to take their place.
A row of sunflowers towers above my tomato plants, casting shade where I do not want it, but I don't have the heart to rip them out. I tried to grow sunflowers from seed last year, but they didn't take hold very well, so I guess they showed me who's boss by moving themselves to a different part of the garden that they like much better.
The compost pile is now bursting with spaghetti squash. I must have thrown the remnants of a cooked squash in there at some point.  The long vines have crashed through the wire farm fencing and were last seen marching eastward across the pasture.
And speaking of pasture, some kind of wild, pale blue flower has sprouted out there, along with yellow mustard,  all courtesy of the additional rain from last winter.

Now onto the fun stuff.  A few years back, I saw a yarny blanket that made me swoon, and set out to make one of my own.  I crocheted 6, twenty round granny squares and sewed them together, ending up with a blanket roughly 40x60 inches.  It's been sitting for ages waiting on those ends to be weaved in, and I'm so happy it's finally done! 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Packing it in

We've been really busy lately helping the oldest daughter pack up her apartment and move.  While that was going on the boy/man came home briefly from university ( in between regular and summer classes) and we cleaned out his bedroom and packed away his childhood. But before that could happen, I had to tidy up the garage to make space for sports equipment, video games and high school yearbooks. I've dropped off so much at the Goodwill lately, they must see me coming and think my house is a never ending bottomless pit of All the Stuff.
I tell you what, my 50 something body can't take too much more of this moving and packing, especially since the weather is hovering around 100 degrees or higher for the next 5 days.
Ah summer, how I want to love you here in Northern California, but I want to experience you in Alaska, or Maine, where I imagine a light sweater is needed when the sun goes down,  people eat supper outside, and you can still wear long pants and shirts with sleeves in them.
There have been beautiful sunsets here though, and the grasses have dried to that rich California gold color.  I get to pick wild blackberries on my morning walks, make fresh lemonade from the lemons off my tree and float on a raft in the pool looking up at a sky so blue it makes you ache inside.
All that kind of makes up for the upper lip and boob sweat, the constant hum of the AC, and the inability to do anything outside between lunch time and 9:00pm without melting your face off.

 Enough complaining about the weather. Guess what? I finally joined the Instagram crowd (I resisted for a long time).  I still prefer blogging because I love the written word, the stories, the connection.  It's quicker to post something on Instagram, a nice picture, two sentences punctuated by a dozen emoji's and you're done. But man you can really get sucked into the looking and spend hours of time on there! I'm just figuring out how to navigate around and so far it's been fun.  I don't have too many posts up yet, but if you want to visit, I'm at  lifeofreilly58.
In between the packing I'm grateful this week for some quiet moments to practice my knitting, and  continue sewing more of my drunkards path blocks.  I've been able to build up a nice little pile so far.  However this is looking to be a 3 year quilt, as I started these blocks last year and it doesn't appear I'll be finishing any time this year.
Anyone got a summer project started?  Besides my white crocheted blanket, I've been itching to try some embroidery and I have 2 new books to read.  I'm down for anything really, as long as it doesn't  involve packing tape and a truck :) 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Changing directions

I changed my mind on two of my projects.  I was dragging my feet about finishing them, so I took a good hard look at why the feet were dragging.  Something wasn't right and I figured they needed to be tweaked just a little in order to regain my interest.  So out came the seam ripper for the quilt, and frogging commenced on the cotton blanket. 
I originally set the quilt blocks in my usual standby, Kona snow.  You can see them here. The white background was bugging me so I remade them with a tan and cream shirting fabric which softens the blocks somehow and gives them a little more interest.  The quilt is now almost done!
The cotton blanket from my last post was a simple sc, ch1, sc pattern, that was soothing to work, but a bit boring.  The plan was to make a solid cream colored organic cotton blanket, but I was constantly fighting with myself so I wouldn't add a colored stripe somewhere.  Maybe what I really craved was more texture.  When I spied this blanket, and this one,  I ripped out my boring one and started the new squares immediately.  BAM!   Instant crochet fun!  I love working on this pattern.
daughter doing the creepy eyeball picture
There are just enough popcorn stitches to keep this fun.  Also the Knit Picks Simply Cotton Worsted has exactly the amount of yarn per skein to make one 10 round block (H hook).
My daughter pointed out that both the crocheted block and the quilt block share similar shapes. Hmm.  Even weirder they both measure out at 13 1/2 inches.
I think I'm heading in the right direction.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Catching Up

Gosh what a crazy couple of weeks it's been. I'm mentally pooped out.  No blogging, no making, (well a little bit on the cotton blanket up there but that's it), no fun.  I spent 2 separate days with 2 different family members at the Emergency room.  One of them was on Memorial Day weekend, so you can just imagine.  Both my Dad and my daughter are now fine, but there's 12 hours of my life I'd rather not repeat.
I hadn't mentioned this before, but my Mom had surgery back in March to remove a pancreatic tumor.  Looks like they got everything, but she started chemotherapy treatment on Tuesday.  I  will be taking her once a week for 3 weeks, then a week off.  This will go on for about 6 months.
She's such a trooper.  So far she's tolerating the chemo pretty well and is in great spirits, still walking 2 miles a day.  I hope I can say the same when I'm 79 years old.

I did get some new yarn in the mail which is always a treat.  Last week was Crochet Week at Quince and Co., and they released 5 crochet patterns to drool over. I ended up ordering 3 skeins of Piper which is a light fingering weight in the color Sweetwater, and 2 shawl patterns.
Two new magazines came as well, Taproot, and the first edition of Making.  In Taproot, they have tutorials for things like arm knitting, or how to season your cast iron skillet.  This issue (18) included recipes for Moroccan chicken with preserved lemons, cheesemaking and and herbal remedies like bug balm. I really enjoy their short stories/essays.
Making is full of beautiful photography, knitting patterns, embroidery, cross stitching, sewing, even recipes. 
 So, relaxing with a good magazine, a little crochet and iced tea is working wonders. Cooking always helps recharge my battery somehow too, and I made some pasta yesterday and added chard and basil from the garden (so much chard!. you pick it and by the time you carry it into the house, it has grown 20 new leaves.). Things are slowly drifting back to normal. Soon I will feel  less like this....

substitute yarn ball instead of rubber ball 

and more like getting back to the sewing room. 105 degrees predicted for tomorrow.  Anybody want to come over for a swim?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I'm not sure if you want to call what I'm doing "progress" or quilting myself into a corner.  When I make a visual list of everything I'm working on/want to work on, it's kind of overwhelming. I actually left 2 other quilt projects out of this post, and will talk more about them later.  This is enough even for me.
Last week I drove about 45 minutes into Sacramento to visit the Quilters Corner fabric store.  I don't get there very often but when I do, you can bet I make it worth my while. I bought some neutral backgrounds, a few Karen Kay Buckley tools, 2 Quiltmania magazines, a handful of fat quarters to feed the stash and a Kaffe Fassett bundle (last picture). They didn't carry a lot of modern quilting fabric, it was heavy on the reproductions and batiks, but they had some fun classes going on, awesome samples hanging up, a large supply of Aurifil thread and other notions, even wool for applique. It was a great couple of hours spent by myself, and I stopped on the way home for an iced tea and a sushi roll from Mikuni's (I love their Marilyn Monroll, yum!)

The snowball quilt now measures about 27 x 29 and I think I'm going to add a border of flying geese next. I'll just keep going until it feels like it's done. The dark blue fabric was pulled because I want to make an indigo quilt, maybe with some sashiko stitching.  I'm still dreaming about that one.
I also received 2 little hangers from Temecula Quilt Co.  They're perfect for mini quilts.

Sadly the Killdeer eggs from my garden disappeared 2 days after I posted about them.  I'm not surprised, since the nest was sitting out in the open, unprotected.  There are a lot of cats, hawks and raccoons around here, and I discovered a hole in the ground just a few feet from the nest (snake?) Could have been any of them. There wasn't an egg shell or feather left behind.  Just, Poof! Gone.

So today it's going to be 97 degrees, and like usual, I'm trying to outrun the heat. Everything has been watered early this morning, and I just finished vacuuming and mopping floors. Soon the air conditioner will kick in, and that's my signal to start sewing. I've got lots to do, some of it I like, some of it I don't.  I'm not complaining.  It could be worse.  I could have been born as a Killdeer egg.