Friday, February 17, 2017

Jam-packed Week

The entire week has seen Di and me going from activity to event to activity.

On Monday we headed out early on the golf cart ride to visit the Sharon Rose Wiechens Reserve, where we went to look for alligators - and saw only one that made a few ripples in the water.

Then Di visited my improver/intermediate line dance class, followed by an ultra beginner class for her. We stopped at Starbucks before going to the Central Florida MQG meeting that evening (read about it here) where Di gave a program to 34 modern quilters called: "Meanderings of a (Moderately) Modern Quilter." She shared a little of her traditional to modern quiltmaking journey, and talked about the similarities and differences between quilting in Australia and the US. Her program was wonderful! 

As a thank-you, Central Florida MQG President Karen (also a former Iowan), presented Di with a Pixie Basket filled with 50-weight Aurifil threads.

On Tuesday Di gave the same program to Big Cypress Quilters, a chapter that is part of Quilting Guild of The Villages. Again, she did a great job, and everyone was impressed with the quilts she showed in her presentation.

Following her program, she gave a demo to make a Cathedral Window Pin Cushion. I was her stunt sewist, following her instructions and sewing on my Bernina to demonstrate the steps to make pin cushions like these.

Here Di is attempting to turn the pin cushion (the last step) through the too-small opening I left for turning the pin cushion right side out. I'm glad she managed to smile through that effort! 

When needing to push out the corners of the pin cushion, a quilter let her use a Precision Turning Tool. It's all metal and has a small ball on the tip that doesn't poke a hole through fabric. It worked so nicely that Di and I have already been to local Sharky's Vac 'n Sew to buy one for ourselves ($14.99). 

We spent all of Wednesday at Epcot. Though I was there last June with family, it's quite different visiting without grandchildren. 

I saw this a lot... Di taking pictures and more pictures.

I think we rode/saw seven different attractions, and though we had Fast Passes for three of them, only "Soarin'" (my favorite ride, though I had to look away a couple times because of my fear of heights) had a line that made the pass worthwhile. Otherwise, we walked into most attractions with only a 10-15 minute wait. It was a good plan to go to Epcot before March 1, and the start of spring breaks.  

It rained a little in the afternoon, which chased out many visitors, but we contentedly stayed into the evening. I don't remember ever seeing the space ball at night, with colored lights. Very pretty.

Thursday morning after I line danced, we drove about an hour east to Homosassa Springs State Park. It was my third visit to this Florida wildlife park, and was the best visit yet! Wild manatees were in the channel to the springs where they keep warm when the ocean waters are cold. We saw lots of them, including this mama and baby.

This manatee was the cutest one there!

We also enjoyed watching the flamingos that were doing some pattern "dancing" and squawking. As a group of about 20, they would repetitively run the length of a stream, potter around by waving their wings and weaving their beaks through their back feathers, squawking, and then running back the opposite direction to do it all over again.

The color of these American flamingos is definitely not Robert Kaufman Kona Pink Flamingo fabric, the 2017 color of the year, but they sure are pretty! While their bodies are pink toward the bottom, their upper bodies and necks gradate from coral to nearly orange on their heads. Quite striking among the other white, brown, and bluish waterfowl (white and brown pelicans, ibis, blue herons, and more) in the park.

No pictures were taken Friday, but we went to Bible study, and then to a luncheon for ladies on our street. Di and I are next preparing to drive north. Savannah, Georgia and QuiltCon are our ultimate destination. But before that, our first day of driving will get us to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. I've heard such wonderful, positive things about it.

Di too is blogging about our activities, so if you want to see it all from her perspective here is where she blogged about The Villages. Here is where she blogged about some of our good eats!

Di gave me these lovely gifts when she first arrived - two hand-covered, padded hangers, one of the pin cushions she taught how to make, and a clock set to Australia time ๐Ÿ˜Š that will most assuredly be hung in my sewing room.  She's so thoughtful. 

And we're having such a good time together! A great friendship. More adventures, including QuiltCon, coming up soon! Linda

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Di's Arrival

Friday evening at the Orlando airport, at about 8:30 pm, I was thrilled to once again see my friend Di (DarlingDi on Instagram) of SnippetsnScraps. (Her latest blog post was written while she was high over the Pacific Ocean, on a Quantas flight to the US!)

Yes, Di is a taller than me, by three inches.

The last time I saw Di in person was when I was in Sydney in April 2010. Happily, we haven't forgotten one another and have Skyped and FaceTimed a number of times since then. We've often talked about Di coming to visit me, whether in Iowa or Florida.

Now that "the day" has finally arrived, we're making the most of her month-long visit, with an extensive itinerary of activities. Due to the fact that this is her first visit to America, every store, restaurant, facility, event, and activity is fair game for memory-making. Suffice it to say that we've already been on the go!

Amazingly, Di seems to have rebounded to the time change due to an herbal tablet called No-Jet-Lag which she took periodically - per instructions - throughout her 30-plus hour trip. She slept soundly Friday night, and was up and ready to go - all day - Saturday! We went to the Farmer's Market by golf cart, bought a coffee, produce, looked around the lovely sales office and then going up close to see the bronze statues of cattle, a cowboy on his horse, and dog at the entrance to Brownwood.

Later we stopped in to say hello to seven Central Florida MQG members at the Saturday Sew-In, and moved on to JoAnn Fabrics; Bed, Bath and Beyond; and dinner at the local Oakwood BBQ. Perhaps not exciting things in themselves, but seen from a foreigner's point of view, very fun and interesting. No surprise that Di has commented several times on the size of the stores.

We have so many things on this coming week's agenda, that I will have lots of photos to share. How I'm enjoying all this, seeing it through her eyes!

I can now share what gifts I made to welcome Di here. Using my all-time favorite wristlet pattern - The Essential Wristlet by DogUnderMyDesk - I made a pink wristlet (her favorite color). She's already been using it, so I think that means she likes it! I followed the Fobio pattern by Lazy Girl to make a matching key fob.

We're heading to a square tonight for some live music, and maybe dancing. Linda

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Quick(er) Finishes

If you know me at all, you know that I like to mix-up the sewing I do. While quilting is still number one on my list of ways to create, occasionally I like to make other items. The gratification from a quick(er) finish - as compared to the process for making a quilt - goes a long way toward making me feel like I'm accomplishing something.

Over the weekend I managed a few finishes. First done was the Dainty Tote started a week ago. It turned out pretty cute. Get free instructions to make your own, here.

A wristlet will always be my favorite way to carry the few small things I need, but I think I'll use this now and again. If it has a zipper top, it's a good-un.

See my ukulele? It's now hanging on the on the wall in my sewing room, on a "String Swing," where I can easily grab it whenever I have a few moments. Practice, practice, practice. I'm lovin' it!

Second done was this knit top. Pink flamingo fabric came from The Cloth Pocket, when I visited that Austin shop in December. When Liesel and Co. had a 40 percent off sale on patterns I nabbed this Maritime Top. The fit is perfect!

My third finish is what I spent most of the weekend making. A ukulele case.

Not surprisingly I located an online tutorial. It's here. Since I have a concert-sized ukulele (versus the soprano size in the tutorial) the tutorial was more of a guide for me.

Freezer paper came in handy for drawing an outline of my uke, to which I added ease and seam allowances.

I had the inspiration to give the case extra padding by adding Annie's Soft and Stable. And then ran out before cutting out all the pieces! Neighbor-friend Becky came to my rescue with a package of Bosal I-R-Form.

So, the layers are: home dec fabric; Pellon 987 fusible fleece; Soft and Stable or In-R-Form; and the cotton print which is from JoAnn Fabrics.

I wanted to give structure to the case, so I spiral-quilted both pieces of the case body. Airfoil 50-weight is still my go-to quilting thread.

The case came together by trial and error - by sewing, unsewing, and resewing. After adding the sides (no easy task with that piping!), I tried it on for size and found I'd made it a too deep. I trimmed it down. Have to mention that I was tickled to purchase a heavy duty double-tabbed, 36"-long zipper from the Etsy shop, ZipIt. I highly recommend the shop for its economical prices, and accurate prompt service (from Wisconsin). It's where I buy all my zippers.

What didn't go well was the lining. I pieced it from orange-colored Grunge, and then hand-sewed it to the inside. It's slightly too big, so it's wrinkly. In hindsight, I should have fused it to the inside of the exterior, perhaps with basting spray. Since the inside doesn't show, I'm trying not to think about how it is... because if I do, I may yet unsew it and remake it!

Dan is predicting that when I show up with this at Ukulele Club, I'll be asked about making them. I'm ready! "Sure, for about $200 $300." Ha!

Time is whizzing by, and before I know it, Di will be here. Her flight from Dallas (via Sydney to Dallas) arrives Friday evening! Both of us are trying to get our heads around the fact that her long-planned trip (like more than five years!) to visit me is really happening. I've written an itinerary with our activities in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, documenting travel dates/times; attractions and activities; addresses; hours of operation; phone numbers; costs; and reservations and confirmations for the 28 days we'll spend together. The list of possible add-on activities is long too!

For sure, we'll be at QuiltCon (February 23-26). It's exciting to think of being in Savannah with friends from the Central Florida MQG chapter (about 20 of our members are going!), and thousands of other modern-loving quilters. Di's taking four classes, I'm taking two, and we both have all-lecture passes (18 lectures, in total). Then, we'll no sooner return home than we'll be off to Daytona Beach for the AQS show that's March 1-4.

Di will also be at Central Florida MQG, and Big Cypress Quilters, (a chapter of Quilting Guild of The Villages). She's giving a talk to both groups - "Meanderings of a (Mostly) Modern Quilter" - and leading pin cushion-making workshop for Big Cypress. Aren't these adorable?!

So much quilt-y good times ahead! I hope to help Di make some really good memories. Linda

Friday, February 3, 2017

Quilt Show

The Quilting Guild of The Villages "Showcase of Quilts" was last Friday and Saturday. How does a week fly by so quickly?! It was a busy, fun, and hard-working three days, what with helping Lora to finish setting up her DragonflyQuiltworks booth in the vendor area, cutting fabric - LOTS of fabric - and showing some of her new products - Kona Pink Flamingo, and these quilting mitts made by a woman in Brazil - and then tearing down her booth late Saturday afternoon. Now that was some physical labor.

Lora sells fabric on the bolts as well as bundles. She leans toward 108"-wide backings, and as those are always priced more affordably than 40" to 42" wide fabrics that also have to be pieced, it's a great shop from which to stock up on wide backs. Which is what I did. ๐Ÿ™€
Lora and me
I wish I had pictures of all the "old friends" who surprised me while I was working in the booth! Lola Z., an Iowa quilter with whom I was once in a small group; and Gayle, a Virginian I knew from quilt market in Kansas City and hadn't seen for 15 years - she had no idea I lived in The Villages! And then these new friends who are friends with my Instagram friend Dena (LivingWaterQuilter). How fun that I would meet Dena's friends before meeting her! Wish you'd been here, Dena.

As for the show... I earned two ribbons (only two quilts entered per member). Prism won third. I'm so tickled about how well this photographed! I've never looked at Prism in a way that so dramatically shows up the quilting.

This is the blue ribbon winner in the same category. It was long arm quilted. 

And my Florida quilt also placed third. 

This is the blue ribbon winner in the same category. It too was long arm quilted.

You might rightly guess that I'm championing for a domestic machine quilting category at the 2019 Showcase. And a modern category would be nice too.

After numerous comments about my Florida quilt, and inquiries about a pattern for it, I am doing just that... writing a pattern. Since I have lots of experience at it, it's proving to be not too much work to pull together. Only my lack of design software is somewhat inhibiting. I plan to sell the pattern as a download only; not a paper pattern. I'm just not up for printing, packaging, shipping, distributing and such.

So what with pattern writing, ukulele practicing, a Central Florida MQG executive committee meeting, and prepping for Di's arrival from Australia next Friday! (OMGosh!) I've started and not finished a Dainty Tote, a free pattern from Three Owls Handmade. I'm making it just because.

This week I also received a yarn order from WoolWarehouse in the UK. Attic 24 is offering crochet-along (CAL) to make a "Moorland Blanket." The designer's yarn colors are gorgeous, but not terribly suited to Florida. So neighbor-quilter-friend Becky and I collaborated to pick yarns to make our own version. I haven't crocheted a blanket in many years. It felt good to remember how to hook single, double, and triple crochets to check gauge.

The yarn is Stylecraft DK Special, and feels luscious! Now I'll be crocheting a little bit too.
The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings!
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, January 23, 2017

My Favorite Things

Here I am with a couple of my favorite things.

My ukulele arrived last Tuesday afternoon, and I haven't stopped playing it... well, except to give the tips of my left-hand fingers a break. Not only are they sore, but they're numb! From all my Internet reading, that's not unusual. For now, I'm aiming to build calluses, and master a half dozen (of thousands) chords. Slow going!

Ideally I prefer to practice for a half hour three times a day. My goal is to master a dozen or more songs by May ("You Are My Sunshine") when I'll next see my grandsons. On previous visits with them, I've taught them several songs (the video I made of Tay singing all of "Animal Crackers in My Soup" is especially precious), so playing a ukulele while we sing together will be even better! It's good to have something to strive for.

I anticipate Di's arrival from Australia in a little more than two weeks, I've been practicing "Waltzing Matilda." Appropriate, don't you agree?!

Sewing-wise, I haven't done much. My heart hasn't been in it, though I've returned to some FMQ. I'm making a little progress on my "Out of Orbit" quilt (Thanks very much, Deb, for the name inspiration!), using rulers to quilt much of it. I used "Circles on Quilts Template Set 1" by Sew Steady, to quilt circles.

I'm filling in some of them with other quilting designs.

I really have no overall plan for the quilting design... just quilting something that suits my mood at the moment.

By Thursday, life will be a little busier here as those of us who are members of Quilting Guild of The Villages prepare for the biennial show. I'll be delivering two of my quilts to be displayed ("Florida" and "Prism" that have already been judged) and 27 of my wallhangings and quilts will be available for sale in the Boutique.

Also on Thursday I'll be helping my friend Lora set up her modern fabrics booth,  Dragonfly Quiltworks. She's staying with me each night so we can work in her booth on Friday and Saturday. I'll mostly be helping customers, and cutting fabric.

Doing that is such a good time! I happily recall my days working in Iowa quilt shops - first at the Quilt Junction in West Des Moines (now closed), and later at Creekside Quilting, Clive, Iowa. I really enjoy getting to know quilters and help them pick fabrics for their projects. 

So, there's plenty of fun to be had this week! It's especially appreciated after a couple unpleasant days - Friday and Saturday - looking at Instagram. People can be strongly opinionated when they express political views. It's best for me to stay away from such things. If I can't say anything nice, I won't say anything at all.

Instead I'll focus on positives, like my recent all-clear mammogram, and blessings. I'm in good health, and heck, I'm learning to play a ukulele! Linda

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

First Finish

I've been head-down on a couple sewing room projects. The first was recovering my ironing table. The fabric is just a piece of white duck, which I like because of the plain background for photographs. The old one was quite stained.

This prompts me to share a couple photos of my sewing room. I don't think I've posted pictures since the floor was replaced, and several new pieces of IKEA furniture and the rug were added. I love this bright space, and particularly so now because the weather has been mild enough that I can open the windows and enjoy the fresh air. 

My Wiggle Me Colourful (that's the spelling of colorful by the Canadian designer) is my first 2017 finish. It's 57" X 65" and pieced entirely with fabrics I had in my stash. I love the interest created by a variety of text prints.

I opted to quilt an all over design because the prints and backing are so busy that the quilting doesn't show.

Batting is Quilter's Dream Request Cotton, quilting thread is 50-weight Aurifil #2615, a silver gray, and the quilt design is from a tutorial shared by A Few Scraps. I came across this design, and many others, through a Pinterest search for "all over" and "filler" designs.

The quilting was finished on Saturday. On Sunday - for the #mqgsewday - I pieced scrappy binding, squared up the quilt top by measuring and drawing a straight edge around the perimeter, and sewed binding to the quilt. On Monday I hand-sewed down the binding.

I'm not digging into anything else because I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of a ukulele! After last Thursday's Ukulele Players Club get-together, where I took my first 40-minute free lesson on a borrowed plastic ukulele, and had a blast playing along during the song/singing time - as well as I could - I simply can't wait to get my hands on my own instrument! 

A chat with a knowledgeable sales person at Sweetwater, an online music store out of Fort Wayne, Indiana, helped confirm that the uke I ordered is appropriate for me. I'm getting a Kala concert-sized uke made of Pacific Walnut laminate with Aquila Nylgut strings (for those of you who understand these things). (See picture.) Now, if you see me chasing down a FedEx truck on my street, you'll know why!

As I've been impatiently waiting for my ukulele to arrive, I've been thinking a lot about the similarities between learning to play chords on a ukulele and learning to line dance. (I line dance at least 5-1/2 hours a week.) An analogy relates to muscle memory.

When line dancing one learns dance steps (coaster, mombo, jazz box, shuffle, charleston, lock, rock, etc.) Once-learned, muscle memory takes over so a dancer can recall those steps, and only needs to learn to put them in order for a particular dance. Playing the ukulele is much the same: practicing the chords so muscle memory of the fingertips of the left hand on the frets takes over, and learning to put chords in order for a particular tune. 
I also find it interesting that not only were several line dancers in the Ukulele Player's Club, but also a few quilters. After all, it was quilter-friend Sarah who invited me to join her at uke club in the first place! It must be each person's need to create that prompts us to take on multiple expressions of creativity.

So you quilters out there - you know who you are who never comment on my posts! - please tell me because I want to know if my theory is true:

Does your need to create take any other form of expression besides making quilts?



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