Friday, April 4, 2014

We're moving to the Country!

Hello dear friends! A lot has been happening of late. If all goes well, we are moving from the Washington, DC suburbs to the Shenandoah Valley the end of this month. I have lived in these suburbs my whole life - even when I attended the University of Maryland. So this is a big move for me. It has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl to live in the country. And since setting up my first home I've always wanted to live in an old house. This one sure fits the bill. It is a 1926 foursquare on 5 acres and it needs some loving care. I am both excited and daunted by it all!

Here is the foyer. The chandelier looks original to me. Needs a good cleaning and I'm ready to protect it with my life on move in day!

This bright pink room is a small sun room off the dining room. I plan to put a couple of chairs in here so I can stitch away to the late afternoon light.

I love these spice cabinets in the kitchen next to the back door.

A little out of order here - these are the stairs going from the foyer to the upstairs hallway. Can you see some quilts hanging from the upper rail?

I think this will be my sewing room. That treadmill will have to go! It will get morning light from the east window on the right. Not my typical time to be in the sewing room. There are built in closets/shelves that I thought would be could storage for my quilting paraphernalia.

There is an upper and a lower porch on the back of the house. That is a stairway going from one to the other in the center of the photo.

On the way to the barn. Virginia got an unusual amount of snow in March. These photos were taken last week.

I'll own a barn!

The back of the house. That is a two story tool shed on the right.

This is a small apartment above the garage. I love the little potting shed under the porch.

The living room. I hope that mirror stays. There is a lot of good junk here. We told the owners we will clean it out for them. Don't know yet if they will take us up on that. I just hope they don't take all the good stuff and leave the trash!

It seems like ages ago that I finished my pineapple top. Don't know when I'll get to quilting it. We have big plans this summer. We are hoping to grow and raise some of our own food. My daughter is back from her travels and she is going to help us get started. She has some experience with chickens and goats.

My sewing room has been packed up for a month. I did manage to make these labels for my two quilts with wool batting before it was all put in storage.

I expect I'll be in and out of blogland for a while. I'm toying with the idea of a new blog. Fifty somethings starting a new life in the country - what do you think?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snowed In and Stitchin!

We are well and truly snowed in. It is now sleeting for good measure. If only I wasn't dealing with a geriatric cockapoo who had to do her business at 3 o'clock this morning. I ended up having to dash inside and upstairs to get my snow boots to rescue her as she kept going farther into the snow despite it being as tall as she is. She actually seemed a bit peeved when I picked her up out of the snow!

Awake and knowing my oldest son was probably out at work delivering The Washington Post there was no hope I was going back to sleep. I decided to enjoy the peace and quiet with a cup of tea. My son called at 7AM saying he had gotten his papers and started his route but got stuck on the first street. He dug himself out and went home to his apartment. I wish his customers knew he gave it his best effort.

This is what I'll be working on today. My tutorial on how to use Gyleen Fitzgerald's Pineapple Ruler is my most popular post. I decided it was time to get these blocks out and at least finish the top. Nancy, who teaches at Jinny Beyer Studio, just shared her completed scrappy pineapple quilt at our guild meeting. She used a Jinny Beyer border fabric to finish hers off and it looked great. Isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How long did it take? by Astrid Hilger Bennett

It took a life.
It took pain and elation, sorrow and joyousness.
It took death, it took birth.
(It's about expression, you know.)
It took war and fear and dread and cancer.
I took the loss of a parent in great pain.
It took trust. And regret.
It took eroticism unbound.
It took intoxication of scent, of lilacs, of the softness of rose petals.
And that was just the painting part...

It took sewing that herringbone wool suit in seventh grade.
It took the isolation of being a student in an art-starved high school.
It took many needle pricks.
It took delay, learning to life-flex.
Cradling feverish faces instead of paintbrushes.

It took crystalline stillness on a moonlit January night.
It took the experience of seeing true red, of an autumn that might have been missed.
It took the profound experience of my mother's favorite National Geographic yellow following her passing.
It took Shostakovich. And Bach.
And Miles Davis and Etta James.
It took children squealing in sprinklers and clutching bloody knees.
It took depressing realism.
It took mortification and embarrassment.
It took solitude and silences.
And sometimes, lonesomeness.

It took pursuit without reward. And truth.
It took years of study.
It took a supportive spouse and friends.
It took threads getting caught in the sewing chair casters.
It took packages of broken needles.
And bandaids.
It took a cat or two, come and gone.
It took yoga to insure being able to work on the floor.
It took the struggles of all those forebears.

You see, it's not just a blanket.
It's a piece of life.

By Astrid Hilger Bennett

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The quilt exhibit at Gallery 65 was a big success. I was nervous and stumbled over words but the ground didn't open and swallow me up so life is good. I had a big smile on my face as I drove home because 1.) I had a good time and 2.) I was laughing at myself. It's funny how often in the last year my encounters with friends, acquaintances and strangers turn to farm animals. And it isn't always me that turns the conversation that way.  I know I've mentioned before that I want to live in an old farmhouse and have chickens and sheep. I don't understand why people find this to be an odd dream for a 52 year old suburbanite ; c ) Anyway, one of the gals shared a quilt of appliqued hens and roosters. Not one of those comical ones but very elegant and finely done. The husband of the gallery owner told me he really liked that one. He'd raised chickens as a kid and from there we talked about chickens, goats and sheep. I'm now a little wired - up past my bedtime so I thought I'd share what I've been up to in the sewing room.

I was a bit disappointed with the first few lines of curved stitching - just a bit too wobbly. I continued stitching and once the circles started to form I became happy with how it looks. I think in many creative endeavors there is that feeling of dread like - @#$%, I've ruined it! I find stepping back or taking a break from it often (though not always) makes whatever I'm doing look much better. In this case I just had to continue on for the complete pattern to form.

Ages ago I won a Collections for a Cause Comfort Charm Pack from Janet O. of Rogue Quilter. I'd made this tote bag before as a gift and liked how it turned out so decided to use this charm pack to make another. Thanks, Janet!

I took this photo a couple weeks ago. We've had some really cold weather here and these little pansies are doing great. I have two pots of them on my front porch. These blooms are gone now - they stuck around a few weeks and then we had single digit temps which did them in. As I clipped the old blooms I noticed there are lots of buds waiting their turn to open.

I hope to be back soon to share a finished quilt.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Gallery 65

I have a small completed project to share but I think I'll hold that for my next post and tell you about some exciting news (for me anyway). I've been asked along with nine other quilters to exhibit at Gallery 65 in McLean, Virginia next Thursday evening.  I'm to share three reproduction quilts "for non-quilters to see that traditional quilts are not only still popular to make but show where we came from as quilters and have the same design elements found in modern ones." We are to say something "about each in terms of what they represent to your specific genre". My genre being traditional/reproduction quilts. I've been thinking about what I want to say and would appreciate any observations you have about these quilts and in my quilts in general. I'm not the best public speaker and even in the best circumstances I can forget to say the obvious. I only have to talk for 5 minutes so it's not like I have to say a whole bunch.

I based this triangle quilt on a 1898 quilt in the Smithsonian collection (below). I used calicoes from the 1970's-1990's along with current day plaids, stripes and dots. I named it Concord, Cranston and Peter Pan.

I started making these hexagon flowers in the late 1990's. It was my take along project for a long time. After many years I wanted to start doing something with them but didn't know how to stitch them together into a grandmother's flower garden quilt. This was before the current hexie rage. It didn't occur to me that all I needed to do was a little bending of the hexagons so I decided to applique them onto a background. I was inspired by a 1930's quilt in a Mary Mashuta book (Cotton Candy Quilts, I think) that had big yo yo's appliqued to background squares and sashed.

These star blocks sat in a drawer for a good dozen years because I thought they were too puckered to do anything with them. I've relaxed my standards a bit and found that some things do quilt out. The double sashing idea came from a Quilterie blog post. I think that first quilt in the post is late 19th century. What do you think? Many but not all of the fabrics in this quilt are 19th century repros. At the time I made these stars I didn't really know the difference. The quilt was made for a challenge - we had to use at least 250 half-square triangles. I think there are something like 347 one-inch hst's in this quilt.

In writing this it occurs to me that all these quilts have elements that had to wait - the fabric in the triangle quilt, the hexagon flowers in the 30's repro quilt and the stars in the challenge quilt. Not necessarily something I would bring up at the exhibit, just an observation - probably more a function of where I am in my quilting life.

Thanks for your concern about my carpal tunnel. Which is actually, according to a doctor, tendonitis. I was doing better but once I started spending more time on the computer and doing some hand stitching it started bothering me again. I start physical therapy at the end of the month.

More good news for me - my daughter returns to the U.S. on February 1. Unfortunately, she lands in Los Angeles and my sister will get to see her first. I can wait though - she's been traveling since September of 2012 - so a little longer won't hurt me. She and her French boyfriend who she met in New Zealand have traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam and are now in Japan. It has yet to be determined how they will make their way across the U.S. so I don't know when exactly she will arrive home.

Hope you all have had a good start to the new year. I've enjoyed seeing so many new and old projects presented on blogs the past couple of weeks. Happy Stitching!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


It's been so long since I last posted I wonder if anyone will read this! I've been away from the computer for a while because I started up with carpal tunnel symptoms again. As I've mentioned, we are hoping to move next year and part of getting ready to do that is cleaning out. We knew we didn't want to move the huge, obsolete computer cabinet I was using so we got rid of it. I thought I could use a rickety little desk of my son's. Within just a short time of using it I started having pain in my wrists and up my arms. Thinking the desk was too high, I ordered a little white corner desk from hoping that would work. No improvement even after my DH adjusted the keyboard tray for me. I spent weeks just doing the bare minimum on the computer. One day I took the time to think about why this wasn't working. The height of the keyboard tray was the same as the old set up  - what could be the difference. I closed my eyes and thought about how I sat at the old cabinet and it dawned on me that I always rested my feet on the bottom trim. I found a box to rest my feet on while at my new desk and that seems to have done the trick! I still feel a twinge now and again and am still trying to limit my computer time and wearing wrist braces at night and part of the day. Less computer time did allow me extra time to do some cleaning out of closets and drawers. I thought I'd been pretty good about doing that all along but when I heard movers charge by the pound it changed how I thought about my stuff. Every couple of weeks I've been putting out boxes and bags of stuff for the charities who pick up your donations at the door. Makes it very convenient. I also cleaned out my sewing room and had the back of my Forester full of things to take to my guild's Stash and Dash. Have you heard of that? Everyone brings quilting supplies and fabric they don't want anymore, the guild sells bags and you have a set amount of time to fill them. Unfortunately, our meeting was cancelled due to snow (love the snow, not the cancellation). I know of another guild who has a free table at their first meeting of the month so I may have to do that instead.

My, my how I've gone on! I have spent some time at the sewing machine and was able to put together this churn dash top. These are the blocks Janet O and I swapped. I made quite a few extra. It grew even larger than I'd initially planned when I decided on this border setting.

Last Saturday we took a drive out to Berryville Virginia to see their Christmas parade. I took the opportunity to get quilt photos in an outdoor setting.

This policeman directing traffic before the parade began reminded me of the policeman in the Frosty the Snowman TV show.

the high school band 

 Berryville is in Clarke County in the northern part of the Shenandoah Valley. It is still very agricultural even though it's only 1 1/2 hours drive from Washington DC.

this girl is carrying a turkey wearing a Santa hat 

 Clarke County Benevolent Association

Just a few more photos-

The people on the floats and in the parade vehicles were throwing candy. I guess that's standard practice at parades nowadays.

I also finished up the quilt for my great niece Halle who was born a few months ago. This took forever to quilt - just a meander pattern - because I was having trouble with breaking threads and thread tension. I usually use Aurifil thread and was using a varigated pink Mettler I've had forever. I went to a local quilt shop to get some pink Aurifil and the owner told me it was probably time to get my machine cleaned. So I did. My sewing machine repairman - at a different LQS - said if the cleaning and adjusting didn't work to try a 90/14 needle or bring the BSR back in for a new spring. I was still having problems so as a last ditch effort I tried the Auriful thread and breezed through the last bit of quilting. Why don't I listen to myself! Oh, well. It was time to get the machine cleaned anyway but wished I'd tried the new thread at the very beginning. That Mettler thread went into the trash!

I need to get this mailed off. Halle will need it in the cold temperatures of Minnesota.
I used the corners I cut off when making the star points to add a little more interest to the back of the quilt.

Don't know if I will post again this year. Hope everyone has a safe and jolly holiday season!

Friday, October 18, 2013


A couple of weeks ago I read this article on how to buy lightbulbs in The Washington Post. It made me realize that the problem with photographing things on my design wall wasn't just a problem with my little point and shoot camera but also the lighting. My sewing room is in the basement so my only source of light is artificial.

I learned from the article that the lower the kelvin number (2700-3000) the more yellow the light. The higher the kelvin number (5500-6500) the bluer the light. White light is 3500-4100. Typically, modern decor looks better with whiter light and traditional decor looks better with yellow light.

Last night Dave was going to Home Depot so I asked him to pick me up some light bulbs on the white/blue spectrum.

Here is a before photo of the Sisters Choice blocks I've been working on.

CFL 750 lumens 2700 kelvin

And here is the after photo (with a few additional blocks).

CFL 800 lumens 5000 kelvin

Quite a difference! I'm going to pay more attention to lighting in the rest of my house now.

These blocks are for a quilt for baby Halle, my great niece. What do I need more or less of? Any advice is greatly appreciated. I just started making blocks without much of a plan. I really should take the time to pull fabrics first.