Monday, January 30, 2012

Free Motion Quilting Challenge #1

I signed up for the Free Motion Quilting Challenge lead by SewCalGal.
Because we spent the middle two weeks of January in Florida, and I traveled sans sewing machine, So I watched the video by Fances Moore, and did as much practicing as I could before we left.
I'm pretty pleased with my final attempt. I have a few tension issues and I need to make my spacing more consistent, but otherwise, with only half the month work on this, I'm pretty happy.

I'm looking forward to February's challenge by Diane Gaudynski!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quilty techies....this one's for you!

While watching the Giants-Packers game, my sister and I have been on our computers creating our own QR codes.  If you search for "create QR code,"  you'll find lots of sites that you can use to create a QR code for your blog or other site, and some allow you to customize the code.  So here's my very own QR code that links right here to S is for Stitch!  Try it, you'll like it!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012: Am I Nearly Insane? Maybe....

All around the blogosphere, there are 2012 resolutions and To-Do lists and project plans.  One of my very best talents is starting something and not finishing it (someday I'll write about The Chase sampler I have been working on intermittently since, well, since a long time ago.)  So I am reluctant to write about my quilting plans for this year and then spend much of the year procrastinating and then feeling guilty that I am not posting lots of pictures of projects in the making.   But I am putting on my big girl pants and taking the plunge.  So, herewith, are some of my quilty plans for 2012:

First, I am participating in the Free Motion Quilting Challenge organized by SewCalGal (notice the button to your right) in which there will be a FMQ lesson/video posted each month by one of twelve FMQ experts.  The idea is for participants to practice the lesson and post a picture of their best effort, which enters them into the drawing for a prize for that month.  So I am practicing the January lesson by Frances Moore of Fantastic Stitchwitchery, and as soon as I am satisfied with my results, I'll be posting my picture!

Second, I am taking an online course on Free Motion Quilting (do you sense a pattern here?) with Wendy Butler Burns through the Craftsy website.  I took advantage of a half-price sale to sign up for this course, and so far, I have watched the first four lessons.  Craftsy has things nicely organized; students have the ability to pause and bookmark the lessons, take notes, and ask questions of teh instructor and fellow students.  After all this FMQ instruction and practice, I should be an expert by the end of the year!  (Right!)

Third, I am going to complete all the star blocks for Natalie Bonner's star Quilt-along (see link on right) post pictures, and get that quilt finished!

The last quilty project I am going to publicly commit to is to make significant progress on my Nearly Insane quilt.  The Nearly Insane quilt is based on a quilt made by Salinda Rupp in Lancaster County, PA in 1870.  It has 85 six inch blocks with thirteen additional pieced blocks that are halved and surround the center of the quilt.  I bought the book by Liz Lois a few years ago with the intention of stretching my piecing skills and because I love the idea of this kind of project, but I hate the Dear Jane quilt.

Here are the blocks I have made so far: (The block numbers are from the pattern.)

Block #2

Block #13

Block #31

Block #1

Block #6 (with a mistake: the flying geese are facing the wrong way, but that's the way they'll stay!)

Block #11

I had a good time collecting fabrics for this project, and I'm sure there will be lots left over so I can use them in another quilt.  Did anyone say Barbara Brackmans' Civil War Quilt?

So here's to 2012; to starting new projects; to finishing projects; to learning new skills;  to forgiving ourselves when we don't accomplish everything we hope to; and to remaining on the safe side of Nearly Insane!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Catching Up: Sing-Off Stars and a Whole Lotta Bakin' Goin' On

Every year, in December, the Dartmouth Aires, a men's a cappella group from Dartmouth College gives a concert hosted by the local Dartmouth Alumni Club here in New Jersey. The group tours the East Coast after fall term exams and before they go home for the holidays.  This year, the Aires were on the TV show "The Sing-Off," a competition for a cappella groups, and after competing against 15 other groups from all over the country, the Aires placed 2nd!
All of the publicity from the TV show meant that our concert audience was 3 times what it usually is, and there were lots of Sing-Off fans asking for pictures and autographs of these college "rock stars."
The Aires sang songs from the TV show, along with some audience favorites and ended with the Dartmouth Alma Mater.  It was a wonderful concert.
As you can see, they are as energetic in person as they were on the "The Sing-Off," just not as well dressed! ;-)


 The arrival of the Aires is always a reminder that Christmas is coming, and there's baking to be done.

I usually make a dozen kinds of cookies and give them as gifts to friends and family.  I keep a list of what I make each year and try to make a few different kinds along with traditional family favorites.  This year, when I started baking, I had good intentions of posting each batch on Facebook, but after the first few, getting out the camera and uploading the pictures became just another chore after cleanup.  So here are some of the early batches:

In the foreground, pistachio coins, a recipe from an old Gourmet magazine that I tried for the first time this year.  It got good reviews from my tasters, but I wasn't bowled over. 

These are cinnamon stars from Nick Malgieri's How to Bake, one of my favorite baking books.  They are made with ground almonds, cinnamon, lemon zest and meringue.  Part of the meringue is painted on the cookies, then they sit out to dry for an hour or two before they are baked.   Labor intensive, but worth it!

 Also from Nick Malgieri (and also labor intensive) are these checkerboard cookies.  I have actually had people ask me if I put all the little squares of dough together for each cookie!

These Chocolate Kissed Gingerbread cookies are from the blog Becky Bakes.   I think they are gorgeous, but the next time I make them, I'm adding more ginger so the bite of the ginger contrasts with the sweetness of the chocolate.

This is the first plate of cookies I made to take to a friend's house.

When all the cookies are baked and stored in the freezer, it's time to pack them into boxes for gifts.

                 Each box looks like this when all the cookies are packed and ready to be delivered.

And so the Christmas baking is done!

While all this baking was going on, I took time out this year to help my cousin make a t-shirt quilt for her granddaughter who just started college.  

                   Sifa, my cousin's bluepoint Siamese was quite intested in the whole process!

 Our trusty quilt display models are holding up the almost-completed quilt!
The quilt has been tied and the binding sewn on.  I left my cousin with the tasks of clipping the threads and hand sewing the binding to the back of the quilt.
I hope it was a hit on Christmas morning!

Happy New Year to all!  May 2012 be a year of peace, health and prosperity, and may all your dreams, quilty, bakey and otherwise, come true.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Catching Up: November Visits to the Bronx and to Pittsburgh

I have been absent for far too long, so the next two posts will bring you up-to-date on our "adventures" in the last two months.

Before Thanksgiving, we paid a visit to the New York Botanical Garden to see the Annual Train Show. While we waited for our timed entry to see the trains, we strolled around the gardens. Although I did not get the gardening gene, I still like to see and admire the work of those who did! We were struck by the amount of color still evident in the gardens.

I love ornamental cabbages!

I confess to limited knowledge of plants and shrubs, but I loved the contrast of
the bright yellow leaves to the usual green ones on this bush.

Red branches brightened the look of a leafless tree (shrub?)

The train show is much more than a train layout on big tables like we all had in our basements or under the Christmas tree. No, this is a display of trains that travel around small-scale New York landmarks made entirely from plant materials of all sorts. There are hundreds of structures, including the George Washington Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, both of which tower over the heads of the visitors.

Here are a few of our favorites:

The facade of Saint Patrick's Cathedral

The Statue of Liberty

Yankee Stadium

The Brooklyn Bridge

There was also a display of a "work in progress," a miniature Kykuit (the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills) that showed the kinds of materials used in the construction of the buildings.

We spent Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh, visiting my sister and brother-in-law in their home there for the last time. In late October, they had sold their house, so this was our last opportunity to celebrate a holiday there.

My sister is a vegetarian, so I was on turkey duty, and we collaborated on the veggies and sides.

We left them the next Monday to finish packing to get ready for their December departure.

Marce and Jack on their porch

Izzy will miss her neighborhood--she loved to be outside on patrol!

We returned home to begin Christmas preparations which mostly involve combining butter and sugar and flour. Stay tuned!