Monday, December 23, 2013

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree...

These imaginative stuffed monsters and animals are just a sampling of the items made by the women in a local prison crafting program. I brought them out of the prison in time to get them to local charitable agencies for Christmas distribution.

The program is part of a faith and character initiative, and the women who participate have to meet certain positive behavior standards. They love coming to the workroom to sew and craft, so they protect the integrity of the program very carefully. Here are a few of the dolls they've made.

The quilts they make are simple, tied, lap-size ones. These go to veteran's and children's agencies. The women rely on donated materials, and they make very creative use of all of it, with plenty of flair. Quilters and other supporters have been very generous with donations of batting, fabrics, fiber fill, yarn and more.

The ladies crochet a variety of hats for chemotherapy patients and homeless shelters. And the tote beneath the hats is an example of another project. They make dozens of these roomy bags for domestic crisis programs. Everything the women make is donated to the community. They love the opportunity to give back and to develop hand-crafting and sewing skills. I've enjoyed my association as a volunteer with the program, and see many benefits and blessings, both to the women and those they serve... and to their volunteers! Thought I'd take this opportunity to share the good work they do.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Funky Quilt Top and a Gator Stroll...

This is only a quilt top presently. The randomly pieced, sort-of Log Cabin blocks are ones our donation quilt chairperson offered a couple of months ago. Taking a set of blocks is a commitment to incorporate them into a donation quilt. I knew I wanted to work with these colorful blocks, but what to do with them?

I began by joining them into a very large 9-Patch, using polka dot sashing. And then I made another.

Then I re-cut the 9-Patches into quarters, Patience Corner style. It was just a matter of rearranging the quarters to make the quilt top. With a few blocks still leftover, I decided to increase the quilt size by piecing cut up sections of the blocks and adding them along each side of the quilt top. It turned out so lively and disorderly, that I find it quite appealing! Our guild donates many quilts to local agencies each year, and most of them are made from donated blocks and fabrics, plus they're worked on collaboratively. It's a nice opportunity to experiment a little and try some new design adventures.

And I'll add a little touch of nature here. Can you see the alligators in the photo? Our daughter visited last week and we took her for a stroll out onto Paines Prairie to see them. They are so pre-historic looking and HUGE! You can actually get uncomfortably close to the gators here, and there are signs warning hikers to remember you are not in a theme park or behind protective glass. The word is that these creatures can move very, very fast. Happily we were there mid-day when the gators are resting and sunning themselves to store up body heat. Feeding time is early AM and later toward evening. But I don't want to push it in case any of them missed a meal, so I kept a respectful distance!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Quilt is a Stash-buster!

Here's a Christmas quilt that became home for all the Christmas fabric scraps leftover from other projects. The pattern is from City Quilts by Cherri House. In her pattern, the pinwheels were made using a folded dimensional method. But I stuck with standard flat Flying Geese units. This quilt was just the right size to complete with hand quilting worked in the Big Stitch style with Perle cotton thread. I really do love to hand quilt, and would do more but I'm in a hurry to get on with the next quilt. While it's a simple one, it was fun to quilt.

Even the backing used up the last of the holiday fabrics. I'm happy to say I have no Christmas fabrics left after making this stash-buster! I do, however, have a large Princess Feather block made in an applique class that will someday require more red and green to go with it. And there is one other quilt-in-progress with a Christmas feel. But all of its fabrics are set aside with the project, and there won't be much left at all. Now that's a good feeling, to have used up all of something. It doesn't happen very often. I'm happy with this toasty small quilt- just right for a winter's nap!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Over the River and Through the Woods...

At last this quilt is hanging on our wall in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a redwork design by Spring Hill patterns.  I like to embroider and this is the kind of portable project that is easy to carry along to work on. But there are tons of tiny lines to stitch! Inch by inch each of the panels progressed until they were ready to assemble with the patchwork blocks and geese. This one is a keeper!

You can see some of the detail in the tree branches and fence lines, plus the roof and windows in the house and barns. I named this quilt "Nostalgia" because it is so reminiscent of days gone by. We lived on a farm in New York for many years, so the wooded background and snow-covered hills are familiar to me.

I used a light box and a red Pigma fine-point pen to trace the design on the panels ready for embroidery. It was a new way to transfer a pattern for me, but it worked out very well. The other things that worked well is that the pattern called for a white muslin liner behind each panel. That kept the red floss knots and traveling stitches from shadowing through on the front. It was a fun quilt to make, but I'm glad I'm done!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Surprise Sew-in...

Take one Jelly Roll and a yard or so of background fabric, and the result is this fast and simple "Mardi Gras" quilt top! Our guild recently held what we billed as a "Surprise Sew-in". It was a one-day retreat, and everyone who signed up brought the above fabrics and their machines, ready for a fun day of sewing.

We selected four different patterns from Villa Rosa Designs. Members chose an envelope at random, and that was the pattern they used. Everyone was quite delighted with their surprise selections. You can see the style of the Villa Rosa designs in the last photo. The entire Rosecard pattern is printed on a post card, and each one has an attractive full-color photo of the quilt on the front. There's a large selection of patterns, but we kept it to those that use Jelly Rolls.

It was fun to see the assortment of fabric strips members brought. All of the work surfaces looked chaotic for awhile.

But fairly quickly the blocks and pieced units began to take shape. Members also had the option of using a kit assembled for them by the organizers to sew a donation quilt. The kits were assembled using 2 1/2" strips from a large bin of donated strips we keep for Friendship Quilts. The kit above had brights and the one below contained florals.

Everyone made excellent progress, and many had their quilt tops ready to assemble by the end of the day. This pattern is called "Blueberry Hill."

And here are two more patterns I purchased and plan to make sometime. We held a show-and-tell of the tops at our guild meeting, but I was holding up quilts and didn't get any pics! It was certainly fun to see all of the quilts made from a single pattern held up together. And the event made for a popular guild activity which I'm sure we'll repeat.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Know Thy Featherweight...

What is it that makes these little vintage Singer machines so captivating to quilters? It may be due in part to their diminutive size, light-weight portability, work horse attitude, and nostalgic good looks. They are a legend. I've had this 1951 model since trading in a beautiful antique treadle machine for it several years ago. But I didn't use it very often. For some reason I was a bit intimidated by it! I think I considered it too fragile. But it's far from that. So today I enrolled in a Featherweight class taught by The Old Sewing Machine Man, Johnny Johnston, who repairs and restores vintage machines and specializes in Featherweights. There were 7 of us in the class held at his home and workshop, and we did hands-on oiling and use of the machine. Plus we learned some interesting history of the machines that were first available in the early 1930s. Johnny and his wife Debra have a wonderful personal collection of all types of old machines.

While you might think that one Featherweight is quite like all the others, there are some distinguishing characteristics upon a closer look. For instance on this model the chrome end plate has a striated pattern.

While earlier models had this fancier scroll pattern. Several of the machines in class had a similar scroll design end plate. Also, the oval badge on the bottom right of my machine has a blue border which indicates that it was a 100-year anniversary issue from the Singer company. Johnny told us that the model that has a red badge for the Texas centennial is a much sought after machine. So keep your eyes open!

This was the oldest model of those brought by students and it was a machine owned by the quilter's great aunt, so she's keeping it in the family. The tension dial on this early model has no number markings for adjusting the tension. Johnny told us that the Featherweight is still the most popular sewing machine. So after cleaning and oiling, removing and replacing pieces and parts, all of us "bonded" with our little machines. I know mine will get more use from today on!

Debra and Johnny have done a great job arranging little vignettes like this one all around the workshop. On the treadle and at the left you can see the unfolding "puzzle box" that contained all of the feet and attachments for one of the vintage machines. Debra's quilts add a beautiful backdrop. You could spend a good bit of time enjoying all the machines on display. We all learned a lot and had great fun at the workshop.

And just after I posted showing the animals that live here at Oak View Farm, this adorable pup wandered into a neighbor's yard. She was going out of town and could not take care of her, so the little dog wound up here. We gave her a flea bath, a meal, and a warm bed for the night. She was in pretty good shape and had a collar but no contact info. However, the next day, before I could get her to the vet to see if she had an ID chip, she squeezed out of the gate in the fenced yard and took off like a streak. I guess we can see how she wandered so far from home. She was super-fast for a little dog- it was almost as if she remembered something. I hope she remembered where she lives and returned there because I was unable to find her. I did learn from another neighbor that she'd seen a poster up about a small white dog about a mile down the main road, and that the poster is down now. And that's the direction I saw her running. So hoping "Maddie" (that's what I was calling her in case she stayed!) got back to her owners. She's a sweet thing.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Some of my blogging friends asked me to tell a little about our farm. This is our young horse Jackson who recently traveled to Ohio to show at the Quarter Horse Congress. Here he is posing in the paddock on our farm. Jackson is a two-year-old bay roan gelding. Our old red roan mare Peaches is his mother, and she also produced a 12-year-old gelding Freckles (below). So Jackson and Freckles are half-brothers. Freckles was born on our farm here in Florida, while Jackson was born in Aiken, South Carolina, where Peaches now lives in retirement. Retirement.. except for the fact that she also gave birth to Jackson's full brother Smarty last spring. Smarty looks much like Jackson.

Here's Jackson under saddle in Ohio. He's a Western Pleasure horse now, but as he matures he may also be shown in English classes as he's fairly tall. He's home now from the Congress and enjoying some well-earned R&R on our farm. In this photo, my husband Jack (who Jackson is named after) was leading him outside the practice ring where our trainer was preparing to work him.

While this isn't a great photo, we could not resist this early morning shot of Freckles a few weeks ago when the moon was full and there was a mist over the paddock. If you can see the detail and are wondering, Freckles is wearing a fly mask that covers his eyes and part of his head. Looks strange, but it helps protect the horses. Jack showed Freckles successfully throughout Florida a couple of years back. Now he works with him here on our farm each day and trail rides around our area some. People ask me if I show or ride the horses. I took some lessons years ago, and can ride some, but it's not my passion. We've decided that I don't make Jack sew and he doesn't make me ride. Works out nicely! And he never complains about the supplies and tools I purchase for making quilts. He says it could never add up to the cost of having horses! He's loved them since he was a teen, so we feel very fortunate to live here in "horse country"- the Ocala, FL area.

Ever-curious Lily had to come and see what we were up to when taking the photos of Freckles. Lily is the kitty we found a couple of years ago on a remote section of a bike path. We couldn't just leave her out there, so she's part of the family now.

And it's been just about a year since Scooter found his way to our farm, too. He was a 12 week old pup I found sitting and shivering at the entry of the barn one morning. Of course we were not looking for a dog, but since he chose us he got to stay, too. He's bigger now, but it's hard to get a photo of him because he's on the move so much. And we no longer have our little Cairn Terrier Jesse who lived till the age of 15. So that's the family down on the farm! A great bunch.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Home, Sweet Home...

"Home Sweet Home" is where I am at last! We spent several enjoyable days at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio. And the week prior to that, I spent three days at a very productive quilt retreat. So I'm glad to be home once again. Although since arriving home, I've devoted some time being quite befuddled by losing my photos in the web albums. But at last I located them and was successful in adding them to this post. My computer always seems to be several steps ahead of me, and it does the most inexplicable things. This quilt was my entry in our recent guild challenge of making a house quilt. I found the houses design in a Thimbleberries quilt and surrounded them with free-pieced lettering and some quilt blocks made as part of a Modern Quilts Craftsy class. It was one of those quilts that kind of invents itself, and was fun to piece. The orange gives it a bit of a Halloween look, although that's not necessarily what I was going for!

And this is the back. I added bits and pieces to a large piece of fabric that wasn't quite large enough to form a backing. We had more than 16 entries and all of them reflected a lot of creativity. Do you participate in challenges? I find them hard to resist.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Back in the Day...

The quilts came out for an annual airing this past weekend at Dudley Farm State Historic Park near Gainesville, FL. There were clotheslines full of lovely vintage and newer quilts on display at the visitor's center.

A winding footpath led back to the historic farm house complete with many of the original furnishings. The park is a working farm that demonstrates Florida farm life from the mid-1800s to the 1920s. They have a working cane syrup operation and some livestock on the farm.

This is the kitchen outbuilding.

And here's a glimpse into one of the bedrooms with shoes, chamber pots and slingshot at the ready. There was also a "keeping room" or "company room" that had a quilt frame suspended from the ceiling where it could be lowered to work on the quit, or raised out of the way when room was needed for company.

How inviting is this rocker on the porch? You could catch a nice breeze while stitching on a project. 

And when the quilts needed washing, these tubs filled the bill.

I had to get a photo of this quilt because I hadn't seen one in a long time. Do you remember Chicken Scratch designs like this one that were formed by embroidering on gingham-check cotton?

More quilts on display.

I just love the Dresden Plate pattern, and this lively one was enhanced by the Orange Peel hand quilting. Such a lovely day spent in the company of old quilts!

Monday, September 30, 2013

You Can't Have Too Many Totes, Right?

When I saw these vintage-look fabric panels in a quilt shop last spring, I just loved everything about them. The neutral colors, the sweet images, the vintage-photo look. So they took their place in the sewing room awaiting their time, which arrived last week. We had a guild program on sewing an easy tote bag. I machine quilted the panels using the serpentine stitch and a thread with just a bit of glint in it. So that was simple enough.

Then we watched the demo which included how to create the stand-up bag bottom and the use of the woven nylon webbing for handles. The handiest tip for using the webbing is to slightly burn the ends of the cut pieces of webbing. This melts the fibers and keeps them from unraveling.  I made the small tote which seems to be my favorite size. It holds a project, books, and other items without becoming too bulky or heavy.

Here are the images from the other side of the tote. I'm sure this will get plenty of use. I often use the tote bag method of filing and storage and there's already an assortment doing duty in the sewing room. The totes have nearly become a collection all by themselves.

I was surprised when I saw that it had been several weeks since I last posted on the blog. Where does the time go? It's nearly October, and that promises to go by as fast with a quilting retreat and a travel opportunity coming up.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shaggy Chic?

Shaggy, yes. Chic? Maybe. Perhaps you are scratching your head wondering just what this is. While it's difficult to photograph, you may recognize this as a pillow. It looks a little misshapen, but that's a trick of the camera (and not a good trick.) You know how sometimes you see a unique project and you just have to give it a try? That's what led to this creation. I saw a pillow like this one in a quilt shop and bought the pattern by Atkinson's Designs titled "Shaggy Chic." There are instructions for a raggedy rug, too, but I've stopped at the pillow for now. The project was lots of fun to sew, using 5" strips cut from various red fabrics.

Here's a close-up that shows all those narrow fringed strips.

I wondered how I'd cut all those strips, but then I happened upon this June Tailor strip cutting ruler among the supplies at our local sewing group. Voila! Narrow, even cuts were easy to make. You can see how a folded strip was cut to within a fraction of the fold, resulting in ready-to-sew strips.

I then sewed the fringed strips in evenly spaced rows across a marked background piece, using a top-stitch foot to guide the sewing lines. After assembling the pillow front and back, even those wide edges were fringed. I tossed the whole thing into the washer and dryer, and it fluffed and buffed itself right into the shaggy chic pillow you see. Now how easy was that? I had fun making it, but now what to do with it? It doesn't really go with anything in my home. But, after all, that's not really the point when we start playing with fabrics, is it? If I needed to know what to do with things before I began a project, it would really slow me down! So the project was fun, kept me happily occupied in the sewing room, and I learned some things. All of that counts big with me. And isn't that vintage hexagon quilt top behind the pillow a dandy? I just love those fabrics and what the quiltmaker did with them. Someday I'll have to do a post on some of the old quilts and tops in my collection.