Sunday, December 31, 2023

Year End reflections

 One more year in the rear view mirror and OMG it went by so quickly!!  This week it was again interesting to go back through the blog and my spreadsheet to see what I actually finished in 2023.  And to plan for lots of fun, colorful sewing in 2024.

I'm a list maker, and have a love affair with spreadsheets.  For several years I've maintained a project spreadsheet that tracks blocks, finished projects, and UFO/WIP/PIG projects all in one place.  I love being able to check something off as finished, but also don't mind going "off-list" and working on new things.  Looking at the totals automatically generated by my spreadsheet, I've come to the conclusion that 2023 was the Year of the Mug Rug.  LOL

The APQ UFO Challenge (online) and the PHD Challenge (local quilt shop) are both parts of the spreadsheet. APQ announced they would NOT be drawing monthly numbers this year for their challenge, instead having people choose their own monthly number/project.  I've chosen to just begin with #1 in January.  The asterisk identifies the PHD (Projects Half Done) priority.  

My PIG (basically something not started yet) project for January will be a Quick Strippee kid quilt.  There are 2 kits carrying over from 2023, and one new one I just kitted up this week.  I'll choose one of them.  

And I plan to continue with Quilt of Valor sewing in some form each month too.   

Saturday, December 30, 2023

RSC23 - Week #52

One final scrappy report for 2023!!  I've had an awesome year playing with the scraps, no matter what the color of the month was.  And I'm very eager to see what part of the rainbow will pop up for the new year in January.  For me, 2024 will bring a mix of new projects and on-going projects.

One of the most fun blocks that I began making very late in 2023 is the Zipper block.  These use 2.5" squares and strips.  But it could certainly be done in other sizes, right?

There is a container full of 1.5" squares on my shelf too, so I dipped in and played with the Zipper block idea in miniature.  Pretty cute!  It's pinned onto the bulletin board for now.  I'll stick to the original size for RSC.  

There are only 4 of these Chaser blocks made so far, as it is also a new one I recently saw online.   It's kind of similar to the Zipper in how it's constructed using 2.5" squares and strips.  But the look of the quilt will be totally different.  


As I've been organizing and cleaning this week, the overwhelming "wealth" of scraps kept me thinking about how to use them more quickly.  Especially the small pieces.  This 8.5" Beads/Chandelier block became an experiment.  A scrap of muslin is the foundation under that 5" string section, but I think using the paper from an old phone book to cut foundations would work just as well or maybe better.

Having several different blocks to work on for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge keeps me from getting bored.  Some of my block choices are fast and easy, like all of these and other are more complicated.  But it's really fun to have the variety, and gradually the collections add up to make a whole quilt.  

Happy New Year!  Check out more rainbow fun . . .

Friday, December 29, 2023

Taking advantage of organization

The chair piled with projects and random fabric has been cleared off and the contents of the pile has been organized.  Two of my bigger design boards were near the bottom of the stack, and it was interesting to see what was on those boards - Quilt of Valor block parts.  

Seeing these reminded me that my red, white, and blue fabrics need some serious sorting and organizing too.  So that area should be the next area of my sewing room to get some attention as I continue the clean-up.  Some progress can be seen.  

Sometimes I even find forgotten things - like this package of applique stars.  This was also in the stack on the chair, but I have no idea what I had planned to do with them.  So now they're tucked into a drawer until something comes to mind for them.

During that sorting process this week I've cut a lot of scraps into sizes I use frequently, including 5" charms in pairs for Windmill blocks.  There is a shoebox size bin for these, and also ones for 2.5" and 3.5" squares.  I dip into those little bins frequently.  

I love these Windmill blocks - so bright and cheerful. 

Near the bottom of the pile was a 2.5" strip of black that worked great with the grey/red Canadian flag squares I had cut the day before for a Zipper block, but didn't use.  Now they won't be wasted, and one more Zipper block is hanging in the closet.

Also in that pile were several black and white strips (2.5") that I had probably cut for these Boxed Square blocks at some point.  And then they most likely got buried under that avalanche of scraps.  Those strips are now in the project box with the others.  

These blocks are adding up quickly, so I'm going to begin sewing them into "two-sies" and "four-sies" in preparation for assembling a whole quilt top during 2024.   

Thinking about 2024 has me making plans, and making new project lists.  

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Year end cleanup

 This area is my cutting table.  My very messy cutting table.  Actually it's a kitchen cabinet section about 40" long with a butcher block top, and drawers below.  They were inexpensive purchases at Menards several years ago and work perfectly for cutting.  Except that there is just enough space to the right of the 24" cutting mat to allow leftovers to collect.  

I'll quickly admit the mess is because I would rather sew than clean.  It does overwhelm me after awhile, and then I finally deal with it.  This time I spent parts of 2 different mornings sorting and organizing that pile of fabric.  Most of it was strips or small chunks remaining as I cut parts for various projects - and just tossed them to the side instead of putting them back into the scrap bins. 

By noon on Wednesday that same messy space looked like this - neat and clean again.  The few larger pieces were folded and returned to the stash.  The small strips and pieces were sorted into the scrap bins by color or cut into sizes I use frequently.  

Next cluttered area to deal with is the stack on this chair.  This stack shouldn't take as long to put away or organize as the cutting table did. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Playing with the scraps

 Yesterday morning was focused on scraps, scraps, and more scraps.  I have a very messy cutting table, full of discarded scraps that I've been too lazy to deal with, and it was definitely time to clean it up.  It's not completely organized yet, but I'm getting there.  More on the Before and After some other day.  While cleaning up that mess, I used quite a few of those discarded scraps to kit up a few blocks to add to the RSC projects going on.

The sewing of those blocks happened too.  I like to use the cheap thin paper plates for easy block organization.  I made 3 new Zipper blocks.  The red/grey parts still on the plate did not have enough contrast, so the grey Canadian flag pieces were replaced with a darker color.  I'll pair up the flag pieces with something else, so they won't go to waste.

More of the scraps ended up in 3 Windmill blocks.  

In addition to these I also sewed a QOV block and a Potato Chip block.  Next step - hopefully today - is to finish tidying up that cutting zone, and putting the remaining scraps into the appropriate bins by color or size.  Once that area is cleaned up I need to work on a couple of other messy areas in my sewing room.  It would be nice to begin a new year with a less cluttered creative space. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Being flexible

 Mother Nature put a small crimp in our Christmas plans.  After weeks of my whining about "brown winter" around here, we finally got our first actual measurable snowfall - on Christmas Day. On Saturday the girls suggested we could move up our Christmas gathering to Sunday to beat the winter storm moving our way.  I got out the overnight bag, and gathered up gifts and other things we planned to take in the morning.  

We woke up to rain that was quickly changing into freezing rain.  And they woke up to one of the kids running a temp and having a nasty cough.

The grandson is feeling much better, but it's probably good that we stayed home anyway.  We got several inches of wet snow on top of ice.  So - we're postponing until New Years. 

Christmas Eve afternoon I felt that need to sew something - anything with a holiday feel to it.  One of the fat quarters I picked up on my road trip this week had these cute Santas.  Digging into the stash I paired these up to make a cute little square table topper.  As of this morning it's partially quilted.

Christmas Day - while it snowed - I put all the gifts for the kids back under the tree, and we both curled up with some old movies and good books.  Mid afternoon my husband presented me with this big box.  Based on the pretty wrapping I still had no clues as to where he might have been shopping. 

Once we fought through the bubble wrap and tissue paper, I found this large kneeling angel and the 5 little angels.  Sometimes this man surprises me!  I have a lot of angels I've collected over the years, and every once in awhile he will find a special one - like this kneeling angel.  And then he explained to the ladies in the store that he wanted 5 small angels to go with it to represent each of the grandkids. 

Think I'll keep him!!

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Merry Christmas

The lesson is . . . be careful what you wish for!  I've been grousing for weeks about having a brown winter, and now we have a winter storm warning impacting travel plans for Christmas.  We might have a white Christmas after all.  

EDIT: Because a couple of the grandkids are sick, and because of the weather expected tomorrow, our family Christmas has been rescheduled to New Years Day.  We celebrated together on New Years last year too, so it works out just fine.  

Saturday, December 23, 2023

RSC23 - Week #51

Rounding out the year, there are 2 kid sized quilts ready for binding and plenty of scrap play just waiting for me.   Our family will get together at one daughter's house on Christmas Day, so the weekend is open for sewing time.

I dug into the leftover binding drawer, and found enough light and medium blue pieces to bind this scrappy quilt.  It seemed appropriate to use a scrappy binding on this one.  Attaching the binding to the quilt will be my first task today.  Then it will be ready for the hand stitching. 

The parts are cut for Clue #5 of Indigo Way, and a couple of unit sets have actually been sewn.  Bonnie Hunter used a focus fabric for Clue #5, so I am doing the same.  The background neutrals are scrappy, with each set using matching neutrals.

One more Zipper block was finished.  One task yesterday was to kit up more blocks for quick sewing over the weekend.  There will be more Zipper blocks happening.  When I kit up blocks, I like to cut the pieces and then put them on the cheap thin paper plates. I can stack a bunch and just grab one when I'm ready for a quick stitching project.

Check out more RSC23 fun . . .

Friday, December 22, 2023

Road trip

Yesterday morning while drinking my first cup of coffee, I made a very selfish plan for the day.  It involved escaping for a SOLO road trip.  I could listen to any music I wanted in the car, stop anyplace I wanted to without getting the "deep sigh", and could linger at a stop without feeling guilty. Shopping and lunch with friends or family is lots of fun, but sometimes it's really nice to just be alone.

One stop was at a quilt shop near where one daughter lives, to use a gift certificate before it expired. Seems like we're always there when the shop is closed - evenings, Sundays, holidays.  It's small shop but very cute and carries a lot of reproduction types of fabric, which I love.  All of her fall and Christmas things were on sale.  This patriotic print came home with me, along with some cute Christmas fat quarters, a kit for a small zippered bag, and a pattern.  

My second stop was the mall and a bra fitting.  I bought 2 new ones.  A bit of window shopping followed as I walked around the mall.  There were lots of great sales going on, but I didn't indulge, except for the new bras.  Lunch was sesame chicken in the food court while people watching.  

A couple of other stops were made, and I check off everything on my list.  Now today I'll need to do the grocery shopping, do some laundry and hopefully spend a little time in my sewing room.  I may have to make something using my new purchases. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Mid-week check in

Not much to report here, except for cutting all of the pieces for the final section of this year's Saturday Sampler project.  Eight spool blocks will finish up the monthly blocks, and then I can trim them all to size and start assembling the quilt. 

I'm actually a bit nervous about having enough of the background to finish up the quilt.  The final border might change if there isn't enough of the background, but that's a decision down the road.

Hmmm - Tuesday didn't exactly go as expected in terms of stitching time. But it's OK because it did involve some family connections and genealogy research.  On Monday afternoon a cousin contacted me to say he would be passing through here.  He arrived late evening, spent the night in our guest room, and we had a good genealogy conversation while he was here.  Our grandmothers were sisters - Kansas farm girls who grew up in a big French Canadian family.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Playing in the scraps

 With a couple of hours of sewing time, it was a no-brainer for me to just play with the scraps.

Beginning with the Rainbow Connection project that is going to become larger, I added the setting triangles to 2 more of the string sections.  Then I squared up both blocks to 11.5".  The black block still need several inches of strings added before it gets triangles.  Doing these string sections have been good Leader/Ender sewing in between other projects. 

These blocks really could be done in a variety of sizes.  My string sections get trimmed to 7.75" by 17" before adding the triangles.  And my triangles are from a 7.25" square cut once diagonally.  With a little fairly simple math this block could be bigger or smaller.  

One very interesting - and easy - scrap block that I've been seeing online recently is the Chaser block. This block goes together just like the Zipper block, only shorter (8 x 8).  The Zipper is 8 x 12. 
Check out some fun examples here:

Again, Chaser could be done any size, but I have a whole box full of 2.5" squares already cut from scraps.  I've been using squares from that box in the Boxed Squares blocks with the black and white frames.  So, now I sorted out 8 of each color (green, pink, orange) to experiment with the Chaser block.  I got the green block sewn together.  The black and white scraps will fit right into this plan too.  

The newest edition of Quiltmaker magazine has another interesting scrappy block.  In each edition Bonnie Hunter has a column called Addicted to Scraps, and this new block is called Whirling 9-Patch.  Her instructions call for 2" strips and squares, but since I already had the 2.5" squares out . . . it just made sense to test it out using those.  The block features a partial seam in that outer border, but it's still an easy block to make.  This just might see some future play too.  

I could have kept playing in those scraps all day.  Some progress was also made on the Quilts of Valor blocks that were cut out and laying next to my sewing machine.  Maybe more sewing time will happen today, and I'll have those finished - or something else scrappy and fun could happen.  

Monday, December 18, 2023

Design Wall Monday - Dec 18

 Only 2 weeks remaining in 2023!  I have no deadlines looming.  So I'm just planning to slow down now and savor the season.  There is some binding to work on, lots of scraps to play with, and my stitching plans and ideas for 2024 to refine.  I'm a list maker you know.

A little more sewing happened to finish the Clue #4 units for Bonnie Hunter's mystery Indigo Way.  For now I'm only making 1/4 of the units.  These turned out very cute.  Half of each set have red triangles, and the other half has light blue triangles.  I cut the pieces for these slightly oversized, and then squared up each block once it was sewn. 

So far her weekly clues have involved matching sets of 4 units, except for a few matching sets of 6.  When I hear "sets of 4" my brain assumes those will go into blocks together.  But the sets of 6 have me completely stumped. It's a Mystery quilt, so that is the whole idea most likely.  We'll see what Clue #5 brings this week.

Because a lot of reds, dark blue and neutral scraps are out in my workspace for Indigo Way, I am also working with those colors for some Quilts of Valor blocks again.  The pieces have been cut for several blocks - Floating Star, Brighten, 4-patches, and more.  

This one began with a 6.5" star block that was leftover from a box of blocks donated to us.  I just framed it to bring it up to 12.5", and it will go into another QOV Sampler.

The Brighten block was a Sewcialites block from at least a year ago.  I've done a few in Rainbow colors for RSC, and there were a few in patriotic prints.  Two new ones have joined the stack.  This block will also be one of my Rainbow Scrap Challenge blocks for 2024.

Once I finish sewing the QOV blocks already cut, then I will try to organize those patriotic fabrics again.  The bin has become very messy lately. 

And I will cut the pieces for the final Saturday Sampler spool blocks.  I'm hoping to work on putting that quilt top together in the next couple of weeks, but the Show n Tell isn't until the second Saturday in February, so I can take my time.

What's on your design wall today?

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Do you remember?

 First of all today - Happy Birthday to my lovely younger daughter!!  This is the big 4-0!!  She is a wife, mom of 2 great kids, Occupational Therapist, yoga instructor, adaptive ski instructor, former roller derby skater, and more.  How did I get to be old enough to have kids in their 40s?  

This photo is from 2022 when the girls took me to a play - younger daughter on left side and older daughter in glasses on right side.  I have 2 really awesome daughters!!!!

Do you have special memories from Christmas, either growing up or more recently?

Our first Christmas as a married couple was in a small town in Iowa, where we were living at the time.  His family was in SD and mine was in MN.  I remember being really mad at my new husband for a couple of reasons - he wouldn't help decorate the Christmas tree we picked out and he tried to give me CASH to buy my own gift.  My best friend was horrified about the cash thing and took him shopping.  This little porcelain music box is what they chose. It's about 6" high and plays Jingle Bells when wound up.  I collected "mousy" items back then, so this was really special.  It comes out every year.

This year it's sitting in the kitchen.  I asked him the other evening if he remembered that first Christmas, and going shopping with my girlfriend.  Nope - he didn't remember ANY of it!  And BTW - he still doesn't help decorate the tree, but will carry the boxes upstairs for me.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

RSC23 Week #50

Week #50 - I can hardly believe there are only 2 more weeks left in this year.  Back in May, I finished this quilt top.  It has been hanging in the closet waiting for it's turn to be quilted.  The block is Rainbow Connection and uses strings sewn together into rectangular sections.  Currently it's 55 x 66, as the blocks finish about 11", which is a strange size. 

During the summer and fall I've made more of the string sections but left the side triangles off until I decided what to do with them.  Well, I now have a plan.  I'm going to make the original flimsy large enough for a twin bed.  That is the size that the local Sleep In Heavenly Peace needs for the beds they build and deliver to kids.

There are 11 of the string sections hanging in the closet, and two partial ones.  A few more will be needed to make this twin sized.  I may add a narrow outer border around it all too, something bright and full of color.  I have plenty of strings just waiting in those overflowing scrap bins.  This could be a fairly quick finish for 2024.

One scrappy finish for this week - another of the Suitcase blocks.  This cherry print was a purchase some years ago in Door County Wisconsin.  It rained, sometimes horizontally, the entire 2 days we spent there, so shopping was about the only thing we did on that visit.

Check out more RSC23 fun . . .

Friday, December 15, 2023

Busy baking

Other than the occasional pan of brownies or loaf of banana bread, I don't do much baking except for around Christmas.  Do you have traditional treats that you make every year?  One year I skipped making these, and was quickly reminded that I messed with tradition. 

For my family it's a cream cheese spritz cookie that is done in the shape of a wreath, and decorated with green icing leaves and cinnamon red hots holly berries.  I baked the cookies on Wednesday.

Yesterday morning I started to decorate the cookies but things didn't work out as expected. I do not make my icing from scratch when there are perfectly good versions available in the grocery store.  But this year I bought "cookie icing", which turned out to be a gel icing which just slipped and slid right off the cookie - along with those holly berries.  This required another trip to the store. Luckily I stopped after 2 cookies because they look awful. 

The correct icing makes all the difference!  

I also have baked a couple other treats this year.  I tried 3 different kinds of gluten free goodies, so that one of my best friends could enjoy them. And one of my daughters eats mostly GF too.  The dining room table was full of containers of goodies. Some are now in the freezer so they aren't all gone before we actually get together for Christmas.  

I experimented with my spritz cookies with just a simple substitution of Cup4Cup gluten free flour.  I made them in a different shape to keep them easy to identify.  They taste OK but were a bit dry, so I made a quick almond glaze for them. Yum!! 

My daughter gave me a recipe for a Bulgarian Honey Cookie, also GF.  The recipe called for melting chocolate chips for a drizzle over them - but I just stirred the chocolate chips into them, because I didn't read the recipe close enough.  Also quite yummy.  The weird thing about the recipe is that it calls for making the dough in a food processor or blender.  Note to self - my hand mixer works much better than my blender did.

And finally I made Rice Chex clusters.  These have a peanut butter/corn syrup sticky mix to hold the clusters together.  And have a chocolate glaze on top.  These are also gluten free and very rich tasting. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Mid-week play

The last of the grandkids' pillowcases are done finally.  Two of the boys are Chiefs fans, so that is what they are getting for pillowcases this year.  

And once the pillowcases were finished it was time to play with scraps again.  I really really need to clean up the cutting table, so those were the scraps I started with. 

The suitcase section using the Door County Wisconsin fabric is also done, but I haven't cut the handle or background pieces yet.  For now this section is clipped to the skirt hanger with the rest of the suitcase blocks.  I'm still looking for the dice fabric from Las Vegas.  Maybe I'll find it soon, or maybe I have already used it all in some project. 

A new Stashbuster block was born from the scrap bins yesterday.  There are about 20 of these hanging in the closet.  I think a couple more will join them this week. This was a stash buster challenge block offered free from Border Creek Station in 2022.  There are other free block patterns too.

And while moving around those hangers full of block sets in the closet I found a block set that didn't get onto my list the other day.  Actually I found several.  These are called Plaid, and I was doing these as an I Spy type of kid quilt.  I made a lot of these for RSC22, and even have one row sewn together.  In 2023 these were completely neglected.  But for 2024, the Plaid blocks need to become a quilt, even if more blocks are required.  I'll have to go back into my blog to figure out where this pattern came from for sure, but I think this was maybe a Lori Holt pattern in one of her books. 

Half a dozen of the Boxed Squares came to life.  These used up the parts already cut and laying in the project box.  But I'll need quite a few more for a twin quilt, so this project box will stay near the top. 

And finally, here is a little experiment - a 3D Pinwheel might possibly be used on a future Christmas stocking. As I was surfing through Pinterest recently for tree skirt ideas, I began to see some stockings too.  And then at our Sew Vintage group last weekend, the topic came up of a Christmas stocking exchange in 2024.  It's not a done deal, but would definitely be a fun activity for our group.  I've been thinking that a couple of the stockings hanging on our fireplace need replacing anyway, so a bit of playing with designs will make my 2024 To Do list.