Monday, December 28, 2015

In between

I love this week in between Christmas and the New Year.  All the crazy pressure is gone and the real relaxing can begin.


At my house we hang out in pajamas, eat left-overs or order Chinese takeout.  We watch movies, make popcorn, and finish off the Christmas cookies.  When the dogs get too rowdy, we take them out for a walk.
A trip to the movie theater to see Star Wars (sooo good!), and lunch afterwards at a local brewery for ribs and craft beer.
 Slowly the kids leave to go back to their jobs and school, and the decorations come down in sections, in between naps and meals. I'm reading, reading, reading as fast as I can.  Katherine by Anya Seton, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (which was a nice surprise gift from the husband, since I didn't even know she had a new book out), and a photography book, Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.
One of my favorite presents was this mug rack I'm using to keep my scissors organized. A fresh new stack of fat quarters sits waiting for inspiration to strike and a mini patchwork project is in the works, just the right size to take up space in the "between" moment.
I hope you all have a great week and very creative New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Friends forever

I made this quilt top way back when.  Time to get it quilted.
All crinkly and washed and ready to be wrapped.  This is going to some friends that we have known for almost 20 years. Our boys grew up together and next year their son will be joining ours at the same university.   Friends forever.  Why have I never made them a quilt before this?

Wishing you all a peaceful and very merry Christmas xxx

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Some Sugar

Hello blogging friends!  It's about time I showed my face around here.  Are you all getting ready for Christmas?  Me too.  A storm just blew through our valley, wind howling through the cracks in the door, stripping trees of the last fall leaves, and pelting the windows with rain.  Inside there is a fire snapping in the hearth, Andy Williams singing The Christmas Song in the background, and cookies in the oven.  I ate 4 while writing this post.  Didn't even think twice about it.

This cookie recipe came from my Grandma, and was a holiday staple in our family. It was probably the first cookie I learned to make as a kid.  It's just not Christmas at my house until the shortbread is baked.
With only four ingredients, it's easy to remember.  Sometimes I make a whole batch of dough, divide it in half, bake one half and freeze the rest.  That way if company is coming, I defrost the dough and pop some in the oven.  Or, I'll just make half the recipe for a quick couple of dozen.  This is not a hefty sugar cookie recipe to be used as a vehicle for gobs of icing and decorations.  It's a delicate shortbread that is good completely naked or with a few sprinkles like I've shown here.  I usually mix a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar with a bit of water to create a glaze of sorts.  I brush this on when the cookies are still slightly warm.  This helps the sprinkles stick to the top of the cookie.

A good batch will crunch around the outside, and still be a bit soft in the center.  You can roll them out and use your favorite holiday cookie cutters, or shape the dough into a 2 inch diameter log, chill for about a half hour in wax paper, then slice into 1/4" rounds.


4 cups of flour
4 tablespoons of cornstarch (secret ingredient that makes them melt in your mouth)
sift the flour and cornstarch together and set aside

1 pound of butter (4 sticks) room temperature
1 cup of sugar
cream these together

Now start working the flour into the butter/sugar mixture.  It takes a while, roll up your sleeves, and use your hands until everything sticks together and makes a nice round of dough.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4" thick and cut out with cookie cutters.
Bake on parchment paper at 325 degrees for at least 10 minutes. All of our ovens are different, so add a few minutes to your baking time if you need to. Take them out when they just start to get light brown around the edges.  If you turn your back on them, they can quickly go from "almost done "to "what-the-heck-just-happened" in a short time. They're sneaky like that.
Decorate as I did above, or just leave 'em alone.  Make sure you have coffee, tea, or a big glass of milk on the side.  Eat at least 4 at once.  No regrets.
Christmas crocheted coasters from here. I used some leftover Cotton Ease and an H hook.  I haven't decided if I'm going to make the basket that goes with them or not.  It does make a cute little set.
I'll have another cookie and think about it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Patchwork and linen. A dishtowel.

I spent Sunday playing around with scraps.  This piece of linen from an old skirt of mine became a dishtowel.  Really, I need to make things like this more often.  It was a totally spur of the moment  make-it-up-as-you-go kind of thing.  I had so much fun I want to make another one.
The patchwork to the right will be a quilt.  Eventually.  I'm trying to finish some old WIPs first.  Meanwhile all my 3 1/2 inch squares are being auditioned on the wall.  So far it's looking like another low volume color scheme.

I frayed the edges on the dishtowel by pulling out a few threads, then stay stitched all the way around to keep it from fraying any further.  The patchwork was zig zag stitched down on the raw edges.  Lastly, I added a bit of hand stitching with embroidery floss, leaving the knots on the front.  Kind of Anthropologie meets Zakka.

Love. It.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Stash busting and repeat performers

I started a few crochet projects back in October while I was visiting my Mom in the hospital.  They were one skein/color, repetitive and easy to carry around.  This half granny shawl was made with a ball of Madtosh Pashmina that I bought about 3 years ago and has been in the cupboard ever since. 
I suppose I was waiting for the right pattern, but I ended up going back to this shawl pattern.  I made it in a sport weight in the color Graphite, and I used an N hook so the drape is quite significant.  I added a tassel to each end, including the back point.
 I've worn this twice already and got compliments from strangers both times!  And they were younger women, so maybe I'm onto something here.  The yarn is delicious, and worth every penny.  I'm eyeing another skein in Daffodil, or maybe Silver Fox.

This one is made from 2 skeins of Noro IHaveNoClue.  I think it is Kureyon.  I will probably gift this one, because the colors are not me.  The yarn was bought online, on sale. When it arrived I was dissapointed and tossed it into the same cupboard next to the Pashmina. 
The pattern is One Skein Chevron Scarf, that I've made several times already, and despite the name, I always use 2 skeins.  I'm on the lookout now for more yarn de-stashing patterns.  Any ideas?
Now that it's getting dark earlier, I find myself on the couch in the evenings scrunching sideways under the closest table lamp, straining to see my yarn or needle.  I bought an Ott lamp at Joann's with a coupon, but it honestly seems like overkill.  Never mind the family comments regarding burning eyeballs and needing to break out the sunglasses while they're trying to watch T.V.  I might need to rethink where I sit, and set up a work space in the corner of the living room. 
After all, it isn't enough that I have a whole room dedicated to fabric and yarn, and usually have to clear my projects off the table so we can eat dinner.
Do you guys have your own little space?  What works for you?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


White, black, tan and brown.  I took a brief detour from all my colored scraps to make this mini friendship star quilt.  I copied the neutral theme shown in the tutorial sample, its simple shapes appealed to me very much.  A two inch border was added all around to finish up at 25 x 25 inches.
This spiced tea appeals to me as well.  Fits right in with the color scheme.
Our Fall temperatures dropped from 84 degrees on Halloween, (followed by a good soaking rain) to a low of 47 last night.  Hot tea weather is officially here!
Another neutral, this time a crocheted puff stitch cowl for my daughter using Lion Brand Thick n Quick.  I originally made it the same size as the instructions from the U Tube video, but ripped it back because it was just too overwhelmingly big on her and weighed a ton.  I started over with a chain of about 45 or 50 (sorry can't remember exactly).  I also cut it down to 8 rounds.  Okay so I completely butchered the original pattern, but the tie and tassels I kept for sure.  They add a lot to the cuteness factor.
I have another one started in the color Eggplant.  For me :)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Camp Blankets

Firstly let me thank you all for the well wishes sent for my Mom in my previous post.  I haven't had time to answer you all back individually, but you kind words meant a lot to me.  Mom is healing remarkably well for someone her age, and is being discharged to a rehabilitation center at the end of the week.  She will need plenty of rest and physical therapy in order to get her strength back and return home.

Now for the sewing part.  In the spirit of Pendleton and Hudson Bay, I made two camp blankets.  These are meant for camping, snuggling under at football games or singing around the campfire.  They're cut by width of fabric, so they measure about 44 inches across, but are about 60 inches long.  You need 1/4 yard of fabric for the colored stripes and about 1 1/4 yards for the background.

Since everything is cut by Width Of Fabric, there are no seams in the stripes, just piece the strips together and you're done!

The white one is made with Kona Snow, the darker one with Essex dyed linen.  The colored stripes are a combo of Kona and American Made solid cottons.
If you want to make one do this:
Cut 2 white (for each end, top and bottom) 5.5" x WOF
Cut 6 white strips 3" by WOF
Cut 2 each of black, yellow, red and green solid, 3"x WOF
Cut 1 white (middle) 15.5" x WOF

Sew a top section in this order:
One 5.5" white  (This is your top or bottom end piece)
black strip
white 3"strip
yellow strip
white 3" strip
red strip
white 3" strip
green strip

Now make a bottom section in the same order as the top.
Then sew the top section to the middle white 15.5" piece, then sew the bottom section to that.  The middle piece should have a green stripe on either side of it.  Done!
I chose a plaid flannel for the backing on the dark blanket, and a deer print from Birch fabrics for the white one.
As soon as this miserable heatwave is over I can snuggle with them.  Fall is still a couple of weeks away yet for us.  Looking forward to rain, wind, and cooler temperatures, just about anything Mother Nature has to throw at us that doesn't involve sweating.

*The dark blanket has wider stripes than the white because I wasn't paying attention and cut all the white and solid strips 3 1/2" instead of 3". Ooops.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

In Limbo

What a summer/fall it's been.

Three birthdays, my daughter turned 33, my son - 21, my gosh, seems like I was just going to his t-ball games, and  I turned 57 in September.  What! How?  I don't even know what to think about that.
I finally grew my hair out to a style I'm actually happy with, particularly the gray streaks.  No more layers, all one length, bob.  I would have never guessed I would go there, but it works.  It only took  me 57 years to figure it out.

My middle daughter had a very large fibroid removed in a 4 hour surgery that scared the hell outta me.  She was off work for a month after that and needed help with, well, everything. Three months before the surgery they gave her a shot of Lupron (to help shrink the tumor before they operate) which temporarily shuts down all production of estrogen. She was thrown into menopause within a few days.  Meanwhile I have been cutting down on my estrogen dosage to eventually get off it altogether, and so the mother/daughter hot flash, cranky pants team was born. What a scene.  It's times like this that I'm really grateful I don't have to work.

I have been reading and reading and reading. I can't seem to get enough lately.  First,  Mrs. Poe, then this series, which is Young Adult, but really good, followed by All the Light We Cannot See (sooo well written) and now The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

My Mom went in for a relatively low risk outpatient procedure that turned into a nightmare.  The last few weeks we have been running back and forth to the ER, and three surgeries later she is now in ICU.  She's 78, and pretty tough, but it has taken a toll on her.  We just want her home.  Hell, I'd settle for a coherent conversation with her at this point, where she's not heavily medicated and doesn't think it's 1958.  It's weird, I keep thinking "I need to call Mom and talk to her about everything that's going on" but, then I catch myself. Sigh.

So you can see why I've been away for a while.  I'm still here lurking around the edges of blog land, reading your blogs, tying to remain inspired, but just not motivated to work on my sewing.
Before all the above happened, I managed to add some borders to my Tulip quilt, which is basted and ready for hand quilting.  Not much else, although I picked up a ball of Paton's wool yesterday and started to crochet row after row after row in moss stitch.  Simple, meditative, and repetitive.  Healing.
Maybe it will become a blanket for my Mom to snuggle with when she gets out of the hospital.

Thanks for listening.

Me and Mom, heading to a concert in 2012

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Summer baskets

This basket block has been on my bucket list for a while now.  It's from Liberated Quiltmaking II by Gwen Marston.   She shows you how to make a block and attach the handle, then you just kind of wing it from there.  The border fabric from Joann's dictated my color scheme, and the addition of some linen in the background of 3 of the blocks neutralized it a bit.
I only made nine of them, enough to satisfy my need to try it out.  This one measures  40x34 inches, perfect for a wall hanging or baby girl quilt.

There's a lot going on here at Pieceful, so I may be absent for a while.  Enjoy what's left of this summer and I hope to keep up with my visits to your blogs!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Picnics, books and paper piecing

Friday night we went to Durst Winery and had a picnic.  There was salami, cheese, olives, deviled eggs, bread and fruit and mini pies from the farmers market.  We drank wine and listened to the band and talked until the sun went down and the mosquitoes came out.  It was cool for once and it turned out to be a really nice evening.  Thanks to my sister in law Karen and her guy Gabe for suggesting it and meeting us there.  There are so many great wineries within 20 minutes of our house we really should take advantage of this more often.

I've barely been in the sewing room except to retrieve a pair of scissors or iron a blouse.  I read this book, and now I'm off on a tangent reading about Permaculture, here and here.  If you like to garden, this is heady stuff.  I feel as though everything I have ever learned about gardening is all wrong, and I'm blown away by how simple and natural it can all be.  Who knew.
 I'm shamelessly copying this quilt (scroll down a bit when you get there).  I ran out and bought a few fat quarters to add to my red stash.  I would like something to show for this handwork by Christmas, but who am I kidding.  It's going to be a long slow project, and if I did nothing else, I could maybe have a table runner by the holidays.

Lastly, there has to be a place in my yard for this.  If only I could make a chicken coop like I can make a quilt.  I would have coops all over my yard!  A whole chicken village with flowers and pathways and ponds, maybe some ducks too......... 

I have to go vacuum dog hair.
See ya :)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Busy not sewing

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen last week.  In the garden too.  I'm trying to keep up with the weeding because it will mean less clean up come the end of Autumn.
This risotto recipe was delicious.  I added some zucchini and served it with a salad.  I will be making that again for sure.
I bought two nice bowls and a calico apron, (you know the kind that crisscross in the back?) during a thrift store shopping trip. I really like that blue bowl.
Then I made some granola, using a combination of this recipe and this one. I love to see that big jar sitting on the kitchen counter.
The pumpkins that sprouted from the compost pile are slowly ripening (there are 4 so far), and the cantaloupe are ridiculously sweet. 
The cherry tomatoes are plentiful, yet four feet away, my regular tomatoes are struggling.  The yellow and red peppers are doing great, but my jalapeno plant had exactly 3 peppers and looks like it's done.  That's gardening for ya.  You just never know.
I picked basil and sage, dried them in a 200 degree oven on cookie sheets then packed them into old glass spice jars.  Next week I'll dry rosemary, but not in the oven.  The last time I tried it, my oven and everything I cooked in it afterwards reeked of rosemary for at least a week.  It put me off of using rosemary for a while.  
I'm slowly quilting a small basket quilt and made a few pink blocks (more on that later) for my next scrap quilt, but I just haven't been in the sewing room much at all.  I felt like I needed break, so I'm just going with it.  Hopefully I'll get back into some sort of rhythm here soon.
It's August!  Fall is right around the corner.  Yippee! I can't wait :)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hanging with the Dogs

The Dog Days of Summer are here.  The forecast is calling for 4 straight days of over 100 degrees, and I wish I owned a shady cabin next to a creek, high above this hot valley up in the mountains somewhere. Anywhere.  All I would need is some sewing and a coffee pot.  I could leave right now, stick my bare feet in that cool creek and not come back till October.  Instead I've got a wilting garden and brown grass and I'm so done with the pool chores (I know, I'm actually bitching about having a pool), because it's really too hot to swim, and the only one who goes in lately is the dog.   Blah.  Oh well, just turn on the AC and finish up some Hillside Houses.....
It's wall hanging size 30 x 37, and the free pattern is from prettylittlequilts blog.  I used some of my American Made fat quarters and added a few Kaffe Fasset shot cottons.  I love the backing fabric.  It's a Moda (?) bird panel that I've had for years but never found a use for it.  It shares a lot of similar colors with the house blocks.

My next scrap quilt will be made up of a lot of half square triangles.  I love this block, but hate bending over the table squaring them up.  So I ordered the Quilt in a Day HST ruler and people, trimming these babies just got a whole lot easier.   Wish I 'd bought one long ago.

So yeah, just me and the dogs next week, staying inside, sewing and crocheting while the yard burns.
When I told my daughter I didn't really like summer, she said "Mom you like summer.  You just don't like it here"  Amen.