Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve Mystery Quilt

A couple of weeks ago I joined the online Yahoo group for those of us who enjoy Mark Lipinski's humor and his quilting magazine 'Quilter's Home'. Mark is very funny on many topics and the group is very active with discussions on everything from quilting to politics. One of the group organizes on-line mystery quilt sewing sessions and today was one of those days. I decided to try it out as the colorways included a scrap version as well as a three fabric version and I have plenty of stash fabrics for either. I completely bombed and posted the following cautions and warnings at the Yahoo Message board:

Now that we have a pretty good idea what the quilt will look like, I will now share my expeience with this exercise today by posting these cautions and warnings.
1. Do not decide to do the quilt with a different color way than origianlly planned without carefully reading the quantities required - 2 yards of a lucious red does not equal three yards of a dull black.
2. Do not assume that you can substitute Light for Dark without checking your quantities of each - 1 yard of a lucious light green does not equal 2 yards of a lucious dark red.
3. Do recheck your seam allowance periodically especially if you are doing another sewing project at the same time - a 1/2" seam for a pants repair does not equal a 1/4" seam of a quilt block.
4. Do know up from down and left from right - flying geese bits do not magically change direction just because you want them to at the last step.
5. Do not expect to produce a quilt equal to the mystery one even if you are really, really good at fudging things if you do not follow the instructions precisely.
I will now try to salvage something from this exercise by randomly joining bits and pieces together in some order so I can at least say that I made a candle mat today

If I can get the bits and peices to fit together I will post a picture but until then I hope you and yours have a happy and healthy new year.


Sunday, December 30, 2007


No picture this time but maybe later. Now is later so here it is:

I solved a problem I had and finished a UFO all at the same time. I attended the introductory classes for the embroidery machine I bought in August and ended up with a bunch of scraps of fabric illustrating various techniques and with my notes written on them. I had these in a disorganized pile and did not know how to organize them. While I was finishing off a huge dust cover for the machine I realized that the best way to organize these samples was to sew them directly to the dust cover. Now my dust cover, which was pretty scrappy anyway, has my class samples attached. May not be pretty but I can now find them when I need to refer to them. One more UFO down.

Quilts needing quilting may take more time than I figured. I seem to have picked up an intestinal bug so I have not spent any time today sewing. Maybe next year :-)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

UFO's #2,3,4 & 5

Yesteday I got a chance to work on a few more UFO's as part of my year end resolution. First I came across an embroidery I had done many years ago that I had made into a wall hanging. Three or four years ago I ripped off the original borders and backing as they were just too ugly to retain. Since then I have moved it from pile to pile to drawer trying to avoid redoing it. I went to my favorite quilt store (Sunflower Quilts in Houston) and picked out new fabric for borders, binding and backing. I think the fabric matches are perfect though the binding is about the worst I have ever done. Next year I will use it as a decoration for the holidays... until then I will try to carefully store it so it doesn't get all crinkled. Here is how it all turned out -

Next I came across a fabric book panel that I had started to work on a couple of months ago. I have been in love with Beatrix Potter's work for many years so when I saw this fabric I just had to have it. I had started off using regular batting as a filler and finished it up with fusible batting for the interior pages. I think the fusible was a better choice and made for smoother pages. I have no idea who will get this but I am sure someone will have a grandchild some day who would like a Beatrix Potter fabric book to chew on.

Several months ago I asked Paul's girlfriend if she had access to empty 50 pound rice bags. Her father passed on quite a few to me and I have been playing with them. I actually completed one tote and have been using it for Alex's obedience training school materials.

Yes, that is Alex's nose as he checks out the beautiful Three Ladies on the front panel.

There were two other bags I had started but not completed so in keeping with the theme of the day I finished them last night. One was an experiment in lining this type of bag. I am most impressed that even though I measured and cut very carefully the lining went in sideways. Rather than shading from darker to lighter, from the top to the bottom of the bag, it now shades sideways. Even with the cockeyed lining, I think I will use this bag for hauling other doggie stuff when Alex and the girls travel between homes.

My third rice bag experiment was a special order from Paul's girlfriend. She asked for a gym bag to be made out of the rice bags. Instead of the Three Ladies bags I used a wonderful orange dragon bag as the basis for this experiment. I had cut out the pieces at least a month ago and last night I put it together. The straps may be too long (which is an easy fix) but in all other aspects the bag should work well for her.
The girls seem quite intrigued by this bag!
I will keep working away with the rice bags because they are such a weird material. The woven plastic bags are very durable, completely waterproof and have lovely graphics. Even as simple tote bags these should be fun to use... heck I might be able to sell them.
Next up ... quilts needing quilting.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Year End Resolutions

Every year when I look the next year in the eye I make a mad rush to fulfill some of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the current year. I vaguely remember this year's resolutions as eat less, move more, stop buying thread, fabric and craft papers. I have been moving more and eating less which has resulted in a 15 pound weight loss. I have not stopped buying thread, fabric or craft papers. Heck, I bought a new embroidery machine this year and you have to buy special thread for that and lots of fabric to try out different embroideries, right? Craft papers are just too luscious to resist with all the colors and textures.

Seeing that I have a 60% failure rate I have decided to add a belated resolution for 2007. My new goal for 2007 is to finish UFO's. Finishing includes completing the project as it was originally intended, or re-doing a project so that it has a different end result or deciding to toss a project that no longer has a desired goal. I don't know about you but there things in this house that I just keep moving out of sight so I do not have to confront my inate laziness.

My first UFO confrontation was a couple of days ago. Before I moved to Texas I took a class at a local fabric shop in Rochester, New York. The three session class was held to learn how to make a reversible bog coat and my goal was to learn how to make a simple garment. The very first class was a problem as the teacher said I was too tall and too fat to make a traditional bog coat. Talk about an embarassing moment! At the time I was pretty thin but 39" hips, even if all bone, are not abnormal and since when did 5'7" become tall? Any way, I made it through two classes and blew off the third. Although I have shown this jacket at a couple of neighborhood groups one of the cuffs was hanging loose as I had missed sewing some of the seams. I have been messing with it ever since and yesterday I finally fixed the last problem I had with one of the cuffs. Here it is in all its glory -the dark side:

- the light side:
All seams are securely fastened and Alex has given it his seal of approval by taking a nap on it this morning. A couple of things you might be interested in are the inserts. The dark side has Afghani piecing and the light side has Seminole piecing. The Afghani piecing took a ton of time as you have to do it all in order... one little seam at a time. I also ran out of fabric so the back of the neck has no piecing on it. The Seminole piecing I did on the serger as I had no confidence in my ability to sew a quarter inch seam. I ended up with a ton of it and still have a couple of feet left over even after adding the patch pockets. BTW - The dark side has in-seam pockets.

One UFO down...1,675,345 left to go!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Road Trip

Yesterday I got an e-mail from my favorite on-line quilt store that they were having a big sale on Boxing Day, the 26th. Stitchin' Heaven is in Quitman Texas, about four hours from here. Feeling a littIe out of sorts, I decided that I needed a road trip, so I headed out at about 5:30 this morning to drive to Quitman. In case you were wondering, Paul took the dogs home with him yesterday so I didn't need to worry about them.

The drive up was done mostly in the dark with rain and fog vying with mad truck drivers to make the drive a little exciting. The store is huge, the staff knowledgeable, the savings substantial and the other shoppers very funny. One woman kept asking me if I was really going to take the rest of a bolt of fabric. I offered her a yard of some womderful wool for the origianl price rather than the $2.99 a yard I was paying. She decided to pass.

I haven't felt as energized by a quilt store in a long time. I didn't spend all that much but ended up with some lovely fabric, a bunch of embroidery designs and other bits and pieces for 66 - 75% off the original prices. Now all I need is to get focused and use some of these goodies. If you are in the neighborhood or looking for a good on-line quilt store, try Stitchin' Heaven. I don't think you will be disappointed.

On the way back I noticed several things that I had missed in the bad weather earlier in the day. In no particular order, some of the oddest things I saw today...

You can take an Amtrak train to Mineola Texas but not to Houston. To take a train to Houston you need to go to San Antonio and be bussed to Houston.

All of the little cafes and dives that used to line the streets of our small towns have mostly closed to have their business now handled by the big chain junk food restaurants. Truly sad as I really needed a blue plate special for lunch today.

Why isn't there a visible beauty shop on Beauty Shop Road? I checked and couldn't see one.

Is Texas the only state in the union where many roads seem to be just very long driveways? Hall & Mark Road is barely a lane wide, unpaved, ungravelled, with a mail box on the highway. Seems to me that one mail box means one address but the driveway is a named road... go figure!

Tyler, Texas has a beautiful historical district of fine old homes. I saw at least six I could easily move into tomorrow... if I had the money and the energy! However, it was right next to an incredibly run down area of little shotgun shacks... maybe for the help? Such poverty in the midst of such wealth was sobering.

The Piney Woods of East Texas seemed to go on forever... or at least from here to Quitman. There was cleared land for cattle but the woods seemed to be the major road side feature for most of the trip.

And, finally, at one point during the drive I could only get six religious and two spanish language stations on the radio. Don't get me wrong, religious stations have their place but why do they have such bad music and sophomoric talk shows? You would think that with such an apparently large audience these stations would rise to a higher standard. I have no idea what was going on at the spanish stations. I think I need a new car so I can play CD's if I am faced with this choice on a future drive.

Puppy Christmas

It took me until just before Paul left yesterday to find where Alex had hid my camera...upstairs under some fabric wih a rawhide bone he has been hiding from Kemora! Clever boy. Here is a shot of him as model for the 2007 Christmas Puppy Ruffs. Now if I could figure out how to get rid of his white eyes, he wouldn't look like a devil dog.
Here is the official Puppy Christmas portrait for 2007. Thanks Paul for corraling the crew for me!
In case you were wondering, I like making fabric ruffs for the dogs for the holidays as coats, sweaters and dresses seem to irritate them more than those outfits please me. For the ruffs I rip an eight inch strip of fabric from selvedge to selvdge... about 42" long. Sew it into a tube, insert a 12" piece of 1/2" elastic anchored at each end. Add about an inch of velcro as a closure and voila... the puppies are dressed up and looking so-o-o-o cute ..... even if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

From all of us in chilly Kingwood may you and yours experiance all the joy of the season and that the new year is healthy and happy.

(Please imagine a really cute picture of all three dogs looking into the camera with their tongues out, tails wagging and cute fabric ruffs around their necks until I find out where Alex has hidden my camera ... sorry!)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Maxine's Holiday Eating Tips

Courtesy of the Quilters' Home Yahoo Group called Pickle Road Studio at


1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare. You can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's.You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again .

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips;start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.

Remember this motto to live by:"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arrivings afely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, "WOO HOO, what a ride!"

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another Great Day

Today was one of those days that should be recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records. The weather was perfect, the dogs were out most of the day, presents got made, paperwork got done, hair got cut and my present to myself arrived. And there is still time for me to make a dent in the chaos in my kitchen.

The weather started out quite cool this morning so the morning walk was pretty short. By the time the sun went down in a cloudless sky, the temperature was almost 80 and many of the windows in the house were open. There was also a slight breeze and very low humidity. Not the kind of weather I expect a few days before Christmas.

In this beautiful weather, the dogs spent most of the day chasing squirrels, and each other, in the backyard. I even took took them on an extra walk midday to make up for my cutting their walk short this morning. Now the girls are stretched out on the couch sound asleep and Alex is in his kennel, of his own accord, snoring to beat the band. I even caught an hour long nap late this afternoon without fighting the dogs for a comfortable position on the couch.

I was able to make a couple of things for my Dad and to try out a pattern from a new, to me, designer. For my Dad I made a lumbar support pillow from stash ultra-suede that I had embroidered earlier with an appropriate seasonal greeting. I will not share the embroidery disaster that preceeded this pillow but I think the results are pretty good. I am hoping that it will help reduce some of the strain on his back when he is sitting in his wheel chair.

I also made a lap robe for my Dad so that when he is out in his wheelchair he can cover the waist and groin restraints he has to wear. I made it out of the bag he used to carry his QC robes before he became a judge. The first picture is of the bag he used for his judge's robes, which is indentical to the one I used for the lap robe except for the color. The second is of the lap robe (it's about 39" square) with Alex trying to decide if he should sleep on it, play with it or steal it. I added black fleece to the sides to make it wide enough and used the same fleece for a backing. I hope he likes it.

The pattern I tried out was for a wallet from Turkey Track Designs. I picked up the pattern at Stitch and Stash in New Port Richey with the understanding it was from a local designer. The pattern was well laid out but the instructions themselves were a little whacky. After carefully cutting out and labeling the peices with their alphabetical labels (as instructed!) all of the construction steps did not use the alphabetical labels but the longer piece descriptions. This was a pain as I cannot imagine they meant me to label each piece with, for example, 'inside large card holder' rather than a 'G'. The results are okay but that lump on the side is a velcro closed, attached, change purse which is not very attractive or useful. I may try this one again but eliminate the change purse.

The paperwork was all related to my Dad's illness and it took a couple of hours to get all the forms completed and faxed, checks mailed and phone calls made. Not a big deal but I had dreaded completing it so I was pleasantly surprised when it all came together.

The hair cut... well that was a small problem as my regular hair dresser will be off her feet for a few months as she broke her femur in a tub fall. Apparently she broke it just below the ball at the top of the femur and there is now a metal plate in her leg to assist in its healing. As a result I had my hair cut by one of her colleagues who may have done a good job but there is so much stuff in my hair that it might take days for me to see the cut unfettered by gels and potions.

The best thing that happened is that my present to myself came today. It is called the Big Board Tower Set and I got it in white. You can see it here - The people behind these products have been wonderful throughout the whole process. I met the guy who makes and delivers the units at the Quilt Festival. Unlike many vendors at the Quilt Festival, only a small deposit was necessary to place the order with the rest paid today. Most of the vendors make you pay for it all up front and then wait months before a delivery is scheduled. In addition, delivery was free and sales taxes eliminated because the order was processed in Wisconsin. It's in the garage right now as it will be going upstairs and I think I should wait for Paul to help me or a disaster will surely ensue. Come soon Paul, I have lots of ironing that needs to be done for my next quilt project.

A pretty perfect day. I will now go and clean-up the kitchen and settle in for another Hitchcock festival, this time with my own set of films rather than AMC's. I hope your own Friday was as good as mine and that the rest of the days leading up to the BIG ONE are full of fun and finished projects.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's a miracle!

Today I went to a Christmas party for the Sewing Friends ASG neighborhood group. In general it was a pot luck luncheon at the home of the amazing Carol Lane Saber. You may remember my raves about her trunk show earlier this year of Japanese textiles and her incredible garments. Her home was filled with many wonderful textiles and other Japanese items. I wish I had brought a camera so you could enjoy the beautifully decorated and spotless rooms of her home. Since my home is close to a toxic waste dump right now, I really enjoy visiting homes like hers just to get away from the piles that need to sorted out from my Dad's Forida apartment.

That was not the miracle, the miracle is that I actually made something from scratch for the pot luck lunch. While we were clearing out my Dad's Florida apartment I found my mother's recipe box. Most of the contents were menu cards with desert recipes. Just what the post WWII bride would need to have a happy home. The rest were hand written file cards from the late 40's and early 50's. One that I found was for Peanut Butter Squares. I'm not sure when it was from but it is attributed to Hazel Goodwin, a neighbor from when we went to a cottage on Georgian Bay for the summer.

Here is the original recipe... with key amounts erased by some fluid spill:
Here is the result - the one piece that was not falling to pieces by the time I got home:
The women at the party all seemed to love them and, even though the icing became like a rock, I must admit they are delicious. Here is what I interpreted as the right amounts and the process:


1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup

Melt these ingredients together in a large bowl over a pot of boiling water as a make-shift double boiler. Do not boil the results.

Remove the big bowl from the pot and stir in:

2 cups corn flakes
1 cup rice crispies (yes, these are beakfast cereal and I used generics)

Once well mixed (it takes a lot of strength to get everything well blended) press the results firmly into a well greased 9" x 13" cake pan. I used a canola oil spray but I bet mom used Crisco.

When cool, top with the caramel icing below.

Caramel Icing

1 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons sweet butter

Combine in a pot over medium heat and boil for one minute.

Have your mixer handy. Remove the pot from the heat. Quickly beat in about 1 1/2 cups of sifted icing sugar and enough vanilla to make it all combine properly.

Spread on top of the peanut butter base. To serve, cut into squares.


In our family my mother made these for my younger brother as a special treat. She made pineapple upside down cake for my older brother as his special dessert. Today, someone asked me what she made for me and all I could remember is how she once made me boiled cabbage as part of a special back-to-school meal. YUCK! Maybe my brothers will remember my special dessert or maybe, like many women I know, as long as chocolate was part of the description I was happy.
PS - I think I will try these again with more corn syrup so that the cereal mixing will be less difficult.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Halloweiner 2007

I mentioned before that the Alex and the girls went to a Halloween party for Dachshunds rescued through the local organization. Today, I saw that they had posted the pictures that were taken then ...of particular interest to me because I had left my camera at home. If you would like to see Alex the Great in his minimilist costume click on this link -
I couldn't find any pictures of the girls, although several seem to be of Kelis she does not wear a harness so I guess the guy taking all the pictures missed them.

AND I am really pleased to see that Dachshund Rescue of Houston seems to be just a few dollars away from meeting a $10,000.00 matching grant challenge. I am heading back to the site to add a few dollars to my original donation...maybe that will put them over the top 10 days before the challenge expires.

I Am Legend

As part of my decompression from my trip to Canada I took yesterday afternoon off to see the new Will Smith flick 'I Am Legend'. As a science fiction lover this movie met and exceeded all my expectations. Heck, there was even a scene where Will is doing pull-ups where even the most jaded of us will be gasping for air at the sight of his incredible six pack. During an interview that I saw on Sixty Minutes he talked about how he and his manager have plotted his movie career based on the fact that the best selling movies are science fiction, heavy with computer graphics and include a love story. It seems that Will has covered all three in this movie.

If you are a fan of '28 Days Later' some of this movie will seem old hat but I still think you will love this movie.

As a side note, I took particular notice of the audience at the Tuesday afternoon screening. The audience was split pretty evenly between men and women but I noticed about 50% of the men were there alone while the other half were with a female companion. The women were there with a male companion or a female companion (seemed to be mothers and daughters). I was the only single woman at the screening. Women don't go to the movies alone?

I noticed something else really odd ... about 90% of the men were very overweight with their bellies hanging over their belt buckles. About 70% of the women seemed to be just right... not too heavy, not too slim. Of the half dozen kids present only one of them seemed to be a little heavy. Given my informal and purely subjective poll why do I see news reports and ads focusing on over-weight women and kids when I mostly saw fat men?

Both of my observations may have had to do with the fact it was a science fiction movie but both facts seemed curious to me. Next time I will have to go to a different genre and see if I can repeat the results.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Back From the Frozen North

I returned yesterday from Canada and a visit with my brothers and father. The key purpose of the trip was to hear the prognosis for my father's recovery from his stroke in late August. We did not hear a lot of good news. There was a lot of damage to the front of his brain which will not recover. He will continue to have poor executive decision making and is argumentative and easily distracted when asked to do tests by the occupational therapist. He has seen improvement in his physical skills but will not be able to live without 24/7 assistance for most everyday tasks, like getting out of bed, going to the toilet or getting dressed, for the rest of his life. His biggest physical problem is that he does not know where his left side is most of the time. I watched several PT sessions and in each one he seemed unable to keep both halves of his body coordinated.

It was not a great time as he can change his demeaner between one breath and the next. I took him to the local mall for lunch and some shopping on Friday. It was a really stressful time as one moment he would be engaging in a nice sonversation then he would start criticizing the family for ignoring him. I had a hard time with that as the last thing I wanted to be doing was freezing in Canada and continuing to clean his filthy apartment. That evening a couple of his friends came to the hospital and he could not remember that he had been out of the facility for the first time since he was admitted. His roommmate had to remind him of the trip, the purchases he had made and that his daughter had arranged it.

Frustration all around. My younger brother noted that all of us kids had cried that week... probably the first time since we were beating each other up in the backyard growing up in Stayner.

It started snowing Saturday night and didn't end until there was about a foot of snow on the ground Sunday night so I did no see him on Sunday. I was paranoid on Monday about my flight (most were cancelled on Sunday) so I headed straight to the airport on Monday for my flight home. Unfortunately my last sight of him was sitting in his wheelchair looking befuddled as a nurse tried to get him into the washroom for some much needed toilet time.

I really don't want to go back but I figure I will in March to see if he can be moved to a long term care facility and discuss with him, if possible, what we should do with his apartment. Despite the medical opinion I hope he will become more coherent before then.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Scarf Madness

Although Houston is not seeing the extremely cold and blustery weather that the rest of the country is , we do occasionaly need scarves to keep oursleves warm... or as a fashion accessory. I have been experimenting with some of the yarn I have around here that just isn't enough for a big project but just right for a scarf.

The scarf below is made from a chenille type yarn, multi-colored and hand dyed by the Great Adirondack Yarn Company. There was about 100 yards of it on the skein as I had only used a bit for the Carol Taylor project. The yarn was a little hard to work with as it tended to be a bit sticky. I garter stitched it on size 35 needles, 10 stitches wide, and ended up with about seven feet of scarf. I washed it in the washing machine and dryed it in the dryer. Some bits are now sticking out where the knitting was a little loose. Fortunately, that does not bother me as it does not detract from the great colors or the general coziness of the result.
My second attempt at playing with yarn for a scarf was a bit more adventurous. I had about six balls of various yarn in lovely sherbet colors. I garter stitched it using three strands of whatever was at hand, about 20 stitches wide on those size 35 needles. It came out to about four feet long and more like a shawl than a scarf. I don't know how cozy it will be but the various textures feel great and the fuzzy fringe will be fun to play with.
My final attempt is still on the needles but the texure is so fun that I thought I could share it now. I am using Tahki (I think that's the correct spelling) classic cotton yarn in navy and bright pink so there will be pink followed by blue followed by pink in color blocks. I had previously seen the basket weave effect in a fancy yarn shop with fancy wool made up into an elegant sweater. I loved the effect but had no idea how to do it until I read 'Drunk, Divorced and Covered with Cat Hair" by Crazy Aunt Pearl of blogging fame. The basketweave is achieved by knitting 10 stitches, pearling ten sticthes and continuing until you get to the width you want. I did not have a width in mind so I repeated the pattern once. The basketweave effect comes when you switch from knitting first to pearling first every ten rows or so. I'm using 5mm needles to do this one and it is 40 stitches wide.
BTW - Crazy Aunt Pearl's book is a wonderful read, not about knitting but about how she recovered from a divorce with knitting as therapy. We have all been devastated by an unexpected event in our lives and her journey is truly inspirational. You'lll laugh, you'll cry and, if you make it through the book, you'll find a few easy knitting patterns at the back of the book including instructions on the basketweave effect.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dark Fairy Swap

While I was away I received a package from my partner in the Dark Fairy Swap sponsored by the clothier Free People. You may, or may not, remember that I was in two swaps at about the same time - one for fall craftiness and this one. I sent off packages that were kinda, sorta identical for both of these swaps. Kinda, sorta because they both worked off of a fabric box project.

Here is what I received from my partner in the Dark Fairy Swap - note the Ball preserving jars as yarn barns with incredible wooden flower decorations and wooly yarn goodness, the woodsy collage in a shadow box and the two pairs of sterling swirl earrings. The incredible thing is that most of the bits in the collage and the roses on the jars are objects found while dog walking. Thanks Chris for a truly rewarding swap.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Creative Canadians

When I travel and I find a quilt store, I like to see the work of local designers that I would probably not see back home. A few years ago I came across a Canadian quilt designer at a Kitchener quilt store. Her name is Kathleen Bissett and she has had several incredible quilt designs published. My father had become entranced with one of her designs and I made it for him. Its called Tango Tiles and was a bit of a pain to make. From a bunch of coordinated fabric strips that are cut and put back together several times you get the approximately 6' x 4.5' quilt shown below.
Although I know I missed on many of the corner match-ups, you really can't tell when the whole thing is done. This is a special quilt for me as my mother had passed away a few months before I finished it. Her name, her childrens' and grand-childrens' names are all quilted into the big blue squares . BTW, the edges are sraighter than the photo shows as the hanging method is less than ideal - double stick tape and a curtain rod. I failed to make a wide enough hanging pocket to accomodate the rod my father chose. Live and learn!

I just found another of her patterns at another Kitchener quilt store - Creative Sisters. The pattern is called Star Dance and I am contemplating making it up for the Winter portion of the Four Seasons Quilt Swap. It makes up into a 15" x 17" hexagon which seems like an idea size. The instructions are excellent and each step can be done in a variety of ways ... fusible applique, needle turn applique or foundation piecing. Then again, it may be all those blues on the cover sample that make me think of ice and snow.
If you come across her patterns and you would like a fun challenge, try one. Her website is at . Maybe a Quilt guild in Houston would book her for a workshop... hint,hint!

BTW - if you are ever in Kitchener you must visit the Creative Sisters quilt store. They seem to specialize in batiks and asian fabrics and have the most 108" wide quilt backing fabric that I have ever seen... 200 bolts of it!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Stitch and Stash

While I was away I happened upon a really wonderful quilt store. While zipping by a plaza to drop off more stuff to the Hospice Thrift Store I saw the words 'QUILT STORE' out of the corner of my eye. I got a chance to stop by with my sister-in-law and found myself in a quilt lovers haven. It was bright and airy, had thousands of bolts of wonderful cottons and even had a selection of hand embroidery patterns and fibers. I also discovered a 'new to me' line of fabric by Shamash and Son. These were very colorful prints with an African flavor done on cotton from Korea with a wonderful hand. Their website is: The fabric I fell in love with is not listed by line of fabric and is only included in the Novelty listing. AND this company is no longer producing consumer cottons so their whole line is on sale for $4 - 5.00 a yard.

Here is a link for a particularly beautiful print I picked up a few yards of:

Off the Road

I'm back in the land of the living... actually I've been back a couple of days but I seem to be spending most of my time sleeping. I did go to two different neighborhood group Holiday parties and came home with some good loot. I hope I gave as good as I got as I went stash shopping for my contributions. I will try to update this blog a bit more regularly now that I am connected again.

While I was away I attended a church bazaar where some of my Dad's things were being sold. While there I picked up a new dog toy. Its a long multi-stranded multi-colored rope, twisted into a figure eight with a bone in the middle. Alex has decided its his forever and has been trotting around the yard and the house with it in his mouth. He seems to think that I want it and when he sees me he immeadiately starts trotting away with it. The problem with it as a toy is that it is too big to make it through the doggy door without some clever manipulation and it really is heavy for such a little dog.

Here are the dogs playing follow the leader when I stepped into the yard..
Then Alex spots me and runs to find where he has hidden the new toy to keep it from me.

And here he is trying to keep it from me... let's try right... or left
The girls know this is all nonsense and just loll around the yard begging for belly rubs.
Do you think I missed them while I was away?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On the Road

Later today or tomorrow morning, depending on the weather, I will begin my trek to New Port Richey, Florida, to clear out my father's apartment there. This trip is very bitter sweet for me as it marks the end of era for my family. For about 30 years my father, and my mother, (before she died), spent half of the year in Florida and half in Canada. From the reports I am getting from Canada, my father will not be visiting Florida again as his physical condition has not materially improved, and his mental condition continues to deteriorate, since his stroke back in August.

Many of our family heirlooms are in Florida and it will be my job, and my brothers when they get there, to weed out what needs to be kept and what needs to be tossed/donated/given away.

There are a couple of weird little chairs that have seats upholstered with needlepoint, the backgrounds worked by my grandmother. And the silver tea set that I only remember being used once but is quite lovely. Then there are the soup tureens and crystal that my father collected that do not fit into the lifestyles of this generation. And there are the shoe boxes full of undocumented photographs and the bookcases full of books that will need to sorted. What about the tea cup collection, the battered 78's or the evening gowns my mother wore on the cruises they took together? All will need to be evaluated and disposed of in some manner.

Although I have known for a few years that I would need to do this, I hate it. I feel like I am wiping out part of my father's life and, at the same time, closing out a chapter of my own. To add insult to injury, I will need to travel to Canada after I return to Texas to officially be told the dismal prognosis for his future health and, probably, begin the process to have him transferred to a long term care facility. I know it has to be done but I hate it, hate it, hate it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ultimate Shopping Bag Update

I thought you might enjoy seeing the bag as a doggy carrier -

I won't say he enjoyed it but he endured it quite well. Sorry for the devil dog eyes!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ultimate Shopping Bag

With Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, upon us, I thought I would share another project from the Quilt Festival. It is called the Japanese Market Bag and was presented on Bag Lady Day by a very nce woman with a name I just can't come up with right now.

It is incredibly simple and will hold a days worth of frantic shopping or a wiggly Dachshund or maybe an infant but I haven't tried the latter.

You start with two 30" x 40" rectangles of fabric. Serge them together, wrong sides together. An inner layer, like batting, is not recommended as it may make the bag too bulky. On the 40" sides create two button holes about 1" long on each side of the bag, about 10" from each end. Fold the button hole sides into the interior about 1 1/2" and sew down creating a casing. Thread a cord about 30" long into the side casings through the buttonholes and tie securely. At the top of the bag, create two other casings about 2" wide. Thread two more cords or straps through the casings to make handles. The cords/straps should be about 50" long. My directions may seem odd but here is the one I made the other day. The embroidery was a test for an embroidery pattern I like. The exterior is a rough brown cotton homespun. The interior is a commercailly available orange batik. I think it is best worn acroos the body rather than hanging from a shoulder.
Happy shopping!
PS. The pattern also included a pocket but I did not add one. The recomended size is 4" x 8".

Happy Thanksgiving!

While the rest of you Americans are cooking like mad people in the kitchen, I had plans today to do some house cleaning before Paul and I sit down to a very non-traditional steak and salad meal. My house cleaning hasn't gone very far because AMC is having a Hitchcock festival and I can't resist watching every minute of it. Earlier I saw The Man Who Knew Too Much, now Vertigo is showing with Dial M fo Murder and Rear Window following. Better than Football!

Before anyone gets all outraged at my non-traditional celebration or all sad that I won't be at a big meal please remember that I was originally Canadian. Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, on Columbus Day Weekend. Those festivities were spoiled for me many years ago because of the job I had that had a huge deadline every year on the day after Columbus Day. With a four hour drive each way to my parent's home and the huge deadline the next day I rarely enjoyed myself. Many years I would be at work that Tuesday until mid-night (when the system closed) trying to blance the Bank's budget submissions. Not conducive to a relaxing Thanksgiving meal! American Thanksgiving, while I was married, always meant another long drive each way to my in-law's home and spending four days with them. They are very nice people but there is only so much I can take of whiny sisters-in-law and long discussions about people I knew nothing about.

Be that as it may, please accept my best wishes for a healthy and happy Thanksgiving day for everyone and a calm and joyful holiday season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sleep of the Innocents

So sweet after a day spent destroying 4 pairs of shoes, one doggie bed and peeing all over the kitchen. Not Alex - the girls!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Carter Smith Bias Top

Suzy Seed has allowed me to publish her instructions for the Carter Smith bias top I talked about the other day. Here they are (with additions by me):
Take your full bust measurement and subtract 4- 6 inches from that amount. If you are working with really stretchy fabric on the bias, subtract 6", very firm 4". The answer is the length of one side of a square of your fabric. If possible, rip your fabric into a square. Rip/cut another square with each side equally one half of the first square.
For our example: Full bust measurement equals 44", thus each side of the large square will be 40", the small sqare will have 20" sides. For you techie types, the small square will have one quarter the area of the larger square.

Attach the smaller square to the larger one at one corner by serging. The blue masking tape represents ther serged seams.

Pull the unstitched corner of the small square to the opposite corner of the larger square and serge along this edge making a funny looking box. Stop serging a bit from the end for your hand to go through - try your hand in the opening to see ifs the right size.

This is a little tricky but just follow along. Hold two opposite corners of the small square away from each other and smooth into place. Cut a slit along this edge to just before the serged corners. This slit is for your waist.
Hold the two corners of the large square away from each other and measure a slit eight inches long at the middle. Cut out this slit about 2 1/2 inches down form the edge for your neck.

Serge around all the openings... wrists, waist and neck. Turn the serged edges to the inside and top stitch down.

You now have a fabulous top or slit the front down the middle and make it a jacket. Use the top as is if you are using your final fabric or how about using the top/jacket as a canvas for your best embellishments?

Here is the one I made... please note that the wrist openings were cut incorrectly by me as I forget to leave an opening. You will do better with yours.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Site Update

I think its time that I give you some more sites that are a lot of fun.

First up - Perpetual Kid at some of the items offered for sale are bandaids with fake tattoos on them, fake tattoos for the eldery and gingerbread men cookie cutters wth parts missing. A little twisted, I admit, but a lot of fun none the less.

Sew, Mama, Sew is posting tutorials available on the web all this month. There really is a lot of stuff out there ... even things that I have no interest in ever making like felt donuts or recycling a bath mat. Check it out at

Another site, by a fellow Kngwood resident, has the most beautiful and simple things for making or just admiring. Check out A Little Hut at

And have you seen the latest Penguin pictures at Antarctic diary (

Don't forget the funniest blog in the internet - just remember that it is not for kids as some of the material is definitely for adults only.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Another DIY Bias Top

Yesterday I attended a wearables neighborhood group of the Houston chapter of ASG. The agenda included a topic called 'Carter Smith's Bias Cut Blouse or Jacket'. I thought it would be a presentation on the one bias cut blouse I already had information on as I had no idea who Carter Smith was or why I would care about his garments.

Did I get an education!

Carter Smith is an incredibly talented shibori dying artist who creates high end garments and beautiful silk banners. His website ( shows some of his garments and other work and it is awsome. Check out the K dress and see if you can figure out how he constructs it from squares of fabric with little or no scraps. It's a bit of a mind bender.

Cut to the meeting yesterday. The talented Suzy Seed took a class with Carter Smith at the Surface Design conference this summer and came back with a top that is constructed with a large square of fabric and a small square of fabric. The only leftover fabric comes from an oval cut out of the top for a neck hole plus two scraps from cutting out holes for your wrists. It is a very clever design that anyone can do if they read and follow Suzy's instructions. I failed to follow her directions and made a couple of mistakes this evening when I tried out the design. I've asked Suzy if I can publish her instructions so that we can all enjoy this design. I'll post a photo of how mine came out when I post the instructions.

If you are intrigued by this design idea, experiment with paper first. Take a large square of paper at 8" x 8" plus a small square at 4" x 4". Sew/Tape up the edges. Cut a slit at the waist then cut out an oval for the neckline and two chunks for wrists. It will definitely make you beieve in a fourth dimension or alternative universes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Trade A Craft

Several months ago I read about a site called 'Leahpeah's Trade A Craft'. The concept is that people who make stuff usually have some things they have made for no purpose other than they liked the process. In my case it seems to be that I make little funky purses to try out a process but never seem to use them. I do admire them on my mantle but I never seem to go to the places where funky little purses would be useful. I joined the group and for my first trade I put up a crocheted and felted purse that I had made. I traded it for a large color photograoh of a dragonfly scuplture. Remember this bag?... actually I can't find a photo of it but it was brown, pretty free form, lined with linen camo fabric and closed with a wooden leaf button.

This time Leah organized a Christmas themed trade. A few of us signed up and were paired with each other for a more directed trade. I offered to trade with two others and gave them both a choice of a funky little purse or a more Christmasy item. They both opted for funky little purses. If they hadn't I would have traded them one of the embroidered poinsetta wall hangings I have been trying, unsuccessfully (so far) to complete. Here are the purses I mailed out today..
That green felted purse ended up with a large felted flower on it centered with a wonderfully large glass bead that reflected all the colors in the wool.

I hope they both enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed making them and admiring them as mantle decorations... and that they get used!

On a lighter note... The girls and Alex have been showering me with a lot of attention the past few days. In the evening I have ended up with all three of them curled up next to and on top of eah other on the couch. As I was trying to take a picture of the doggie pyramid, Alex decided that he had had enough of that and slipped off the couch to the doggie bed pile under the TV to get a nap.
That's me on the left, working on my lap top with my mouse on its mouse pad to the right of the girls. It's sometimes quite a stretch over their sleeping forms to get to the mouse but they don't seem to mind getting pushed out of the way every once in a while... they just crawl back to their former position regardless of my wishes. With Alex in the pie with them I have to really stretch to reach the mouse.
Ah.. the little prince wondering why the wacky lady with the big lap is flashing lights at him again.

Are they cute or what?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dark Fairy Swap

The clothing company, Free People, sponsors swaps every once in a while for readers of their blog. I participated in the Travel Swap earlier this year and ended up with a custom made silver pendant presented in an embellished box with several other goodies. When I read that they were having another swap based on their new clothing theme of Dark Fairy I just had to participate. Then I took a big gulp and thought 'What the heck's a Dark Fairy?'. I came up with the idea that a Dark Fairy is a creature of the night and therefore needs accessories that will reflect the night.

Here is what I came up with:

I started with a fabric box covered in black fabric embellished with copper and gold threads and copper ribbon. That led to a covered journal, a beaded pen in a fabric slip case, a zippered purse with copper sequins and copper and gold thread, a ribbon covered magic card case, a baggie of extra copper bits, a copper brushed woven belt, a hand dyed silk scarf and some stinky candles. The icing on the cake was a pattern I found at the Quilt Festival for a Fairy House. It makes up into a 20" tall house... perfect as a house for a small pet... like my guys or (heaven forbid!) a cat. I may have gone a bit crazy with the volume of stuff but once I got started, I had a great time figuring out what else I could do with the fabric I was using for the box.
I hope my swap partner will enjoy all the goodies!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Handbags

While my friend was visiting during the Quilt Festival she brought a pattern to show me of a bag she had seen in Virginnia Beach. I liked the style and the fabric choices on the pattern. She loved the actual bags that she had seen made-up in the store offering the patterns. She showed me the pattern within an hour of her getting here and we never saw it again until a couple of hours before she left.

Fast forward to the night before my surgery. I was sorting through the loot I had picked up from the Quilt Festival and found the two bag patterns I had purchased. Lo and behold but they were from the same designer as the pattern my friend had shown me when she first arrived. The company is called Quilts Illustrated ( The bag she loved was the Bow Tucks Tote. I picked up the Weekender Tote and the The Desk Deli. All the samples at Festival had fabric kits available for them in fully co-ordinated color ways. They were also selling Pellon's fusible fleece, which they recommend as the inter-facing for these bags, which made me ask Paul to pick up some from WalMart so I could try these bags.

The Weekender uses fabric for the exterior that I received from my Fall Swap partner in Florida. I had just enough for the exterior and the handles so I don't have enough for the luggage tag that the designer included in the pattern. I used some fabric I bought a while ago for another project for the lining and added a small zippered pouch and an attached change purse to round out the tote. I used the fusible fleece to interface the interior and exterior but I did not use it to interface the pockets... that just seemed like over kill to me. The button is really fabulous but I think I need to move it up a little on the bag so that it fits better with the tote. I added, as suggested by the designer, a purse bottom made out of two layers of mat board and covered it with the lining fabric.

The Desk Deli uses the fabric from the weekender tote lining for most of the tote. I added another fabric cut on the bias for the trim. I admit that I misread the pattern (or maybe I just skipped over this instruction) but the tote is supposed to have a bottom that is two inches smaller than the top of the tote. Ths means mine does not have the nice slanted sides of the pattern. I also eliminated the fleece interfacing for the exterior and for the pockets to reduce the number of layers my machine would have to plow through. The pattern includes instructions for a two layered napkin and the suggestion that you make up five of them if you are giving this bag to a daily user. The interior pockets are set-up to hold disposable silver ware, the napkin, a blue ice freezer pack, snack bars and other condiments. The interior is large enough to hold a water bottle, a microwave meal and anything else you might want to take with you for an office lunch. I have not made a bag bottom but may in the the future.

These patterns are very well written but do require that you read each instruction in order. If I had, I would have made the adjustment required to the sides of the Desk Deli. Be aware that if you follow all the instructions that your sewing machine will be sewing through up to six layers of fleece so plan accordingly.

Watch out for these patterns if you are interested in well thought out instructions that return good results.