Old made new again.

I am venturing into a new passion. I'm doing a great deal of hand piecing of quilts. I'm starting to understand why. It's very similar to the feeling I get when I knit and I think that is the appeal
Let me count the ways....
  • It's therapeutic. 
  • It's calming. 
  • It gives me something to do while watching a movie. 
  • My cat loves it as she gets to lay on my lap with fabric all around me.
  • It's transportable. 
  • If I have even 1 minute free I can do something productive with that 1 minute.
  • It's a great way to use up all that old thread that I have accumulated from auctions and garage sales, plus all those threads you aren't supposed to use with a Bernina machine....
  • And best of all, it uses up every single scrap of fabric one can find.
So that brings me to my latest interest. English Paper Piecing. I started making some hexagons and began cutting and piecing like a woman possessed. It really is a fun thing to do because you are not glued to your sewing machine and your iron. It's all about the needle and the thread and scissors. There are countless resources on the web for  English Paper Piecing and they all work. I find the freezer paper method the easiest and fastest. I'm making great strides and I'm making a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt; my own version.
This picture shows the beginning stages, but already the quilt is twice the size as shown and is growing daily. It is a pleasure to create and never boring.
And this brings me to my next quilt....
Bouckville Antique Find! An unfinished hand pieced quilt!
This past week was the Bouckville Antiques Festival in Bouckville, NY. A week long of 1000's of antique displays covering a acres of land. I try to make it every year and usually give my self something specific to hunt for. This year I zoned in on the vintage fabric displays. I found a real treasure. I came upon this wonderful unfinished hand pieced quilt. The card that came with it says it all. (Click on the photo so it enlarges and then you read the card). It even included all the remaining pieces marked and ready to sew. The workmanship on this quilt is exquisite and an inspiration. So, when can I retire?


Quilt like crazy II

Road to Ireland Quilt.
Inspired by Fat Quarter Quilts by M'liss Rae Hawley.
I wanted a quilt to place over my bedroom headboard.
This is a very easy quilt to piece and satisfying to create. I am pleased with the color combos and again made from my fabric stash. This would also look nice hung vertically on a long narrow wall or staircase, I think.

The other quilt I have finished is an UFO. It has been on the back burner for over a year or two. It is a completely hand pieced and hand quilted little lap quilt or baby quilt. I LOVE it. I pieced most of this on long car rides. The piecing goes very quickly if you are comfortable doing it. A great way to use up tiny little scraps. This quilt just makes me happy.
It is called Jack's Chain and the Marcia Hohn's website http://www.quilterscache.com/J/JacksChainBlock.html 
has the directions for making this fun and travel friendly project.

Quilting like crazy.

I think I am possessed!  I really am!
I have been so busy enjoying quilting and I am addicted. It may have to do with the fact that it is a creative outlet for me and if I'm not teaching, well why not play with needles, thread and fabric.
I have made more quilts and I think my focus has been using all of the fabric that I have on hand. I tend to admire and enjoy quilts that are more random rather than planned in terms of fabric selections.
My latest one was so much fun to do. It had it's challenges, but it was never boring!
It was inspired by a quilt book:
Radiant New York Beauties by Valori Wells.
I can't take credit for the inspiration of this pattern. It is from the book called Vintage Beauty, however they are my own fabrics from my huge stash. No fabric piece was used twice in the quilt blocks. A couple of the fabrics were duplicated in the leaf appliques. Once again, the Bernina Stitch Regulator made the machine quilting so satisfying.
It makes a beautiful wall hanging. It is about 40" x 40".

The freehand leaf quilt pattern I used throughout.


Home is where my heart likes to be

So this is where things stand. The school year is done and I am diving into my fiber arts projects. I am almost done with the front of the sweater I started a few months ago. I intend to knit all summer so this can be finished by fall for my husband. It's turning out nicely. I did frog the sweater after starting 6 or 7 inches as I was concerned it was going to be too small. Rather nice pattern, I think.

 I'm into making scrappy quilt projects. I found this clever pattern from allpeoplequilt.com. It's actually called Bold Sunburst Runner, but I adapted the pattern and size. I love candlemats and I just wanted something bold and fun for summer. It also gave me some more opportunities to machine quilt with my Bernina BSR.

It will be fun for a summer fiesta dinner.

A new project just finished! Cottage Garden Table Runner
Finally, I made an extraordinary table runner. Lots of applique, but it was fun and not at all difficult, although it helps to have experience and practice, plus patience and time. This lovely pattern is from the October 2008 (issue 94) American Patchwork & Quilting Magazine (A Better Homes and Gardens Publication). It's called Cottage Garden. It has a background of Irish Chain Blocks and the flowers, stems and leaves are appliqued on top. I am so pleased with how it turned out.
This particular issue is one that has several projects bookmarked. I want to make them all. Funny how some magazines leave you wanting and then on the other hand, certain ones are destined for wear and tear!
Some close ups.....


Cool / New Found things

What is it, you say? I've been meaning to get myself one of these for sometime. I've eyed them from afar online however when I went to the Hamilton Farmer's Market on Saturday I found a pottery maker named Jessica Hofmeyer who had them for sale. I didn't even hesitate to purchase it from her. It's a butter keeper. It will keep my butter spreadable and fresh this summer (and winter!) Just a really cool thing that will get constant use. (And no, even though it looks like it; I didn't have butter for dinner!)

What I did have for dinner was a delicious new recipe from Epicurious. It's Fettucine with Peas,Asparagus and Pancetta. It is yummy and a perfect summer evening dinner.
 And to accompany this lovely dish a newly discovered Sauvignon Blanc called Brampton from South Africa. I am not a big Sauvignon Blanc fan (I'm a Chardonnay girl)  but I am going back to the store to see if I can find more bottles of this for the summer.  It is fruity and at first taste I thought this was sweet but the finish is more on the dry side. I loved it. Incredibly easy to drink and I think one that would be great for company.


Since it is Memorial Day weekend and some time off from teaching I am wallowing in just doing things for fun at home. It's so nice to have the time to open a cookbook and try something new. Well, sort of new. First of all, when I saw this recipe in the Better Homes and Garden cookbook (you know, the red and white plaid one) I thought it looked familiar. I remember this as Cowboy Coffeecake from my Home Economics class way back in High School. Don't know why it's called that, but the recipe in the cookbook is simply Buttermilk Coffeecake. Simple, very moist and delicious. I was thinking, wouldn't this be great with some cut-up rhubarb in it? Perhaps next time.....

Buttermilk Coffeecake
Cut in butter with a pastry cutter until small crumbs ( toss it into the food processor and it
makes quick order of this step)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup butter
In a separate bowl, put aside 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture and combine with 1/2 cup nuts
( I use pecans)
Stir into the remaining crumb mixture:
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
In a separate bowl, combine these two ingredients and then add (all at once) to the flour mixture:
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/3 cups buttermilk or sour milk
Pour into a greased 13 x 9 pan. Sprinkle the topping over the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40
minutes.I like to combine about 1 cup of confectioner's sugar and 2-3 Tbs. Half and half and drizzle
it over the top of the coffeecake when it has cooled slightly.
That was breakfast.


Snow on Mother's Day! Well time to start a wool sweater, I guess.

Already on to my next project. I've made one sweater from Garnstudio and it came out beautifully.  AS soon as I saw this sweater it spoke to me. I'm making this one for my husband, Michael. The yarn, Karisma, is beautiful to work with. this will take some time, but perhaps by Autumn! The pattern is number 85-5. (I think I found an error in the pattern. It says to cast on with size 2 needles. I did and it didn't look right, especially when the rest of the sweater is knit on size 6 needles. I frogged the ribbing and tried again on size 4 and it looks great. Thinking of notifying the company.)  Anyhow, I'll keep you posted to it's progress.

Stash buster and a Diet buster.

My one book I continually refer to is Karen Comb's "Combing Through Your Scraps". To me this is a Five Star book!  I love illusions using color values in quilts and Karen rocks at this.  This simple book is wonderful. I never dispose of scraps and keep boxes of precut strips and squares ready for the making of another scrap quilt.  If I have a few minutes on hand, or need a break from another quilting or sewing project, I'll piece together a 9 patch block. That is how this last quilt was created. I can't even tell you when I started it. I accumulated enough split nine-patch blocks until I had enough to make this quilt called "Off-Set Spiral". I love it. Even the less than lovely fabrics or fabrics you tire off are given new life using this method.
I added a binding without any border and I love how it looks.
I also did meandering quilting using the Bernina BSR. It was my first time experimenting with the BSR and what a great tool. I had the entire quilt "stippled" in no time. This quilt has some of my least favorite and tired out fabrics incorporated into it and they have been transformed into one of my favorite quilts.

The back of the quilt. Thank you Bernina Stitch Regulator!

Last but not least. Another cookie recipe.
Chocolate Mountain Cookies. My mom loves chocolate drop cookies. With Buttercream icing. Really reminiscent of homemade chocolate cake and wonderful with a glass of milk or cup of coffee.
So I just made her a batch. Happy Mother's Day!
(This recipe makes a ton, so you may want to halve the recipe)

1 cup shortening (don't use butter as they won't puff up quite so nicely)
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk
3 cups flour
2 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cocoa
1 recipe Buttercream frosting

Mix shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Mix dry ingredients together in another mixing bowl. Mix in flour mixture into the sugar egg mixture alternately with the milk. Mix well, but do not over mix. Measure a round tablespoon for each cookie onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 14-15 minutes or until tested done. Frost with your favorite buttercream frosting.
(I mix 3 cups of confectioner's sugar, 4 Tablespoons butter, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and add 2-3 Tbsp. half and half until icing is the right consistency. It makes the ideal amount of icing.)

Recipe notes: I use buttermilk as I like the tender crumb that it creates. If you do, add 1/2 tsp. baking soda with the dry ingredients. Also, I'm not a big vegetable shortening user. However this is the one recipe I do.


Cleaning out the sewing supplies and the freezer

A week of activities. Then last two weeks were spent helpingh with costumes for our School Drama Club's production of "I Remember Mama". I love this show, but this was especially wonderful as the cast was truly amazing.
We had to come up with most of the costumes from what we could salvage in our costume room and scouring the local second hand shops. Along with resewing and fitting and reconstructing costumes, I made 6 nurses caps from a pattern I found on-line. Amazingly so, they were made with things I had on hand; muslin, stabilizers, fusible interfacing, spray starch. In fact it pretty much used up a good deal of my interfacing, as well as other things in my sewing cabinet.  Easy and I made them all within a 2 hour period. Here is the website: http://sewing.about.com/library/nnurse.htm
The pattern was easy and fun. No sense buying a costume!

The weather has been gorgeous. Time spent outdoors is just great and the birds are absolutely deafening on Deep Spring Road. We spotted our first bluebird. The aerial battles between the bluebirds and the swallows are pretty constant. Hope the bluebirds hold down the fort. I managed to catch a friend basking in the sun
Of course, we are preparing the garden beds for another year of growing. Last year we purchased a share of a local CSA to buy our organic vegetables and we are doing the same this year. Since we will be receiving new vegetables with a month or so, I have been spending the last few weeks starting to clean out the freezer of last summers bounty. I had one bag of frozen pumpkin puree left and as unseemingly as it seems for a springtime dessert, I made our favorite recipe for pumpkin bars. I think I liked them just as well now as in the fall. First of all, pumpkin puree made by ourselves is satisfying and tasting pumpkin a few months after the holidays was quite pleasant. Cleaning out the freezer; you do what you have to do!
Anyhow, these are delish. It also makes a ton; plenty to share with a friend or neighbor.

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 (15 ounce) can or 2 cups solid pack pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup golden raisins
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese,
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
1.    In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Pour into an ungreased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely.
2.    For icing, beat cream cheese, sugar, butter and vanilla in a small mixing bowl. Add enough of the milk to achieve desired spreading consistency. Spread over bars.


Updating with the latest and greatest~ EQ7

Announcing the arrival of EQ7
Well now that I own a new Bernina I am pretty excited to see that Electric Quilt Company is coming out with EQ7. I have had the EQ 5 for several years ~ perhaps 10? In fact I it has lived through 3 computers. Pretty excited to see what this new software holds for me.I have been so happy with EQ5, I never even upgraded to EQ6. However I just upgraded from my Kenmore machine to a Bernina, so it's all about venturing into a new world and delving into the latest technology. The imaging aspect has me absolutely drooling with excitement.There are just so many new features, it will be difficult to resist!  It is coming out in June!


Spring to life with a new Bernina

Spring Break. I have been waiting for this week all winter long. I have been carefully saving my money for my dream sewing machine. Well, last Saturday I did it. I drove to Patchwork Plus in Marcellus, NY (an amazing quilt & yarn shop by the way (a candy shop for my eyes!) Fortunately (or not), it's 40 miles away, just far enough for me to limit my trips so I don't spend every last penny I have there.
Upon much deliberation, I bought the Aurora 440 QE.
 I brought it home and immediately set upon finding out what makes this machine so special. I was intimidated at first. Was it buyer's remorse? Well, the only way to find out was to delve into it and try everything out imaginable. I designed a placemat using scrap fabrics. Something that I could use to try the bells and whistles of the machine. And start sewing I did....
First I was thinking, okay...it feels different from my last machine and then I was hooked. I have been sewing non-stop since last Saturday afternoon. I woke up in the middle of the night wanting to go sew. I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. one night to explore more features on the machine. I was saying things  to myself like, "So that is what a walking foot is supposed to work like". The BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator) is awesome. There was a little bit of a learning curve, but I am well onto my next quilt to explore the use of this feature. 
The bobbin winder!
The light over the workspace!
The needle threader!
The stitches...it does basic embroidery stitches (letters and numbers)!
I am so pleased. It is a terribly expensive machine. It is worth it knowing that I can have it serviced easily and that technical support is only a 45 minute drive away.

Things I practiced and explored upon using my machine. Started with a small project, easily finished in a short amount of time.
  • patchwork (piecing 1 1/2" fabric strips)
  • embroidery stitch (blanket stitch) around fused fussy cut squares in corner
  • walking foot
  • BSR ~ some stippling and free motion quilting.
Now I have a nice little placemat to go under a plant. Officially my first test project on the Bernina.

Now I am on to the next project. A quilt made from 2 1/2" squares (all scraps that I dutifully cut up from leftover fabric). The squares are done and now the sewing begins. I love how it is starting to look.
It's called "Off Set Spiral". I'll keep you posted.


Midnight Garden Quilt
A Jo Morton Design featured in the the April 2009 Better Homes and Garden publicaton; American Patchwork & Quilting magazine.
Finished April 11, 2010
It is a beautiful wall hanging and will look great on any wall in my house. I just have to decide where...

This was officially my last project on my Kenmore machine. I am going sewing machine shopping. I have a Bernina in mind.

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For the love of being home. Finished projects and biscotti

Now that the endless rehearsals are over it's back to having fun on my UFO's.

A trip to Maine (6 1/2 hour trip) to see our kids is one great way to get those knitting projects done.
I managed to finish my "Basic Sweater Pattern" by Jacqueline Fee (seamless bottom up sweater) made from Noro Silk Garden yarn. It turned out very well. Interestingly enough, the Spring weather turned a balmy 80 yesterday so it may be a while till I wear it on a regular basis.

The car ride allowed me to start and finish the matching sock to one already made.
Love tying all these projects up. Makes me hungry for more, though.
This is a great sock pattern. No fuss and easy to follow. I discovered this nice yarn shop when upon a visit to Brunswick, Maine, where my children and grandchild live.
The shop is called "The Knitting Experience" and the pattern of the sock is called "Comfort Socks"

Well, for the love of being home and being able to schedule my days activities for once, I knew tea time today was going to need something to go with that tea so I tried this recipe for Biscotti sent to me from my daughter.
Don't laugh. It has Weleda Pomegranate Body Oil in it. (I know~everyone has that in their cupboard..yeah right!) The only reason I do is that my daughter gave it to me. It is fabulous after a bath. It's so pure and natural, you can eat it. Nice to know that there are products out there like that! But getting back to the recipe....
Very yummy.
Simply substitute another oil for the body oil. Click on Recipe title to get the link....


Turkey Track Tote Bag /Unfinished Object - finished!

Today I headed straight to the sewing room. There say a box of two unfinished projects which had to be removed from the cutting table to accommodate costume making for the show.  There sit two projects, an unfinished purse and a wall hanging that only needs to be quilted and binded.

I finished the tote bag. Turkey Track Designs. Neat purse, for sure. The pattern is not for a beginner, though. It can be a bit confusing to follow. Any one with purse making experience will not have a problem.
I would make the handle a little shorter and a little narrower. I added interfacing to the handle for strength. This pattern has lots of possiblities.  I probably will use the ideas in some of my own designs further on down the road. I found this pattern at Joann Fabrics.
Anyhow, it felt good to get back to the sewing room and to say I finished an UFO.


It' Spring.

Walks and springtime discoveries.
Hiking in the woods is great in March. No tall grasses or black flies. Warm sun, sap dripping from the trees.
No school, only the peace and quiet of nature. Sapsuckers, red winged blackbirds, robins, geese.
The world is coming to life.


So this has been what I have been up to.....

Directing a musical.  That's it. No time for anything else. No quilting, no cooking. 15 hour days at school 7 days a week. Three months of intense rehearsing. But now it's done.
The Sound Of Music. I know; pretty saccharin but it was wonderful despite all of it's preconceived notions.
The poor show gets such a bad reputation.  It doesn't help that the movie plays a million times a year on TV. Well we were out to debunk the Julie Andrews myth. (I still love Julie Andrews) But Maria Von Trapp she was not.  Plus the stage production is so different from the movie.
Such amazing people involved and most importantly, a truly wonderful learning experience for all.

The "VonTrapp children" were perfectly cast......

A cast of 50 people.

25 nuns. A beautiful sound. We had some alumni and faculty members join us.

Georg and Maria were perfect. Such voices.