Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In which we plan for Grandbebe three!

Exciting news! Dearest Sister is to have three Grandbebes by years end! I am so glad that my assignment for bebe quilt number two has been delivered!

Now, I can concentrate on bebe quilt number three!

Sunday, I sorted all the feedsacks and vintage cottons by color so I could get a sense of possibilities

In keeping with our gender neutral color scheme (so as to have it finished before bebe arrives), we thought about purple. Not the largest pile after the sorting, but enough, I think.

If we could find out the bebe's gender in the next week or so (and if it were to be a girl) we could consider this group! I love the bubble gum pinks!

My favorite fabrics are feedsacks because they are so sturdy and nearly always have been pre-washed. (I guess if a feedsack wasn't washed promptly after the "feed" was removed, it would probably be eaten by bugs, so the "unwashed" probably wouldn't survive!)

I think this is the group that we will use. Lots of prints and a couple pieces of yardage that could probably work for the back, if DS decides to use something besides flour sacks. Blue, but not bebe boy blue, so I think it still fills the neutrality requirement.

I am using this motif for the embroidery. Martha over at Q is for Quilter has made some really beautiful things. I want to make all her projects!

The design is by Nancy Page and was a serial published as a block a week in the newspaper in 1935. All the designs in the series are really cute. It will be difficult to narrow it to just twelve that I will need for this project. Anyway, I was so happy to be able to start right in. Thanks Martha, for sharing with me!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More like meatballs than drumsticks...

My hyacinths are blooming!

Not quite as I had envisioned with very thick stalks and perfectly arranged tiny trumpet florets. No, these are squatty, malformed, stuffed down in the foliage blooms. But they are bright and their fragrance is wonderful.

Fortunately, I discovered that the lack of proper form has nothing to do with my gardening technique!

This weekend, I was sorting through a festering pile of paper that had gathered on the counter and came across a pamphlet that I picked up when I bought the bulbs. (So now you know that the pile has been "gathering" since October!) I decided to look through it for any ideas for next year's crop, and it turns out that some bulbs have to have a winter. Not just a cold spell, but a looooong cold spell. Although my hyacinths had been labeled as "prepared for forcing", they had not been prepared long enough. The pamphlet said so!

Too short cold preparation = short stalks.

Too long preparation = long spindly stalks.

Naturally, my hyacinths began to bloom at the same time as the grocery store began to display pots of perfectly formed hyacinths in full bloom! So much for "forcing"! Apparently, they bloom on their schedule, not mine! Oh well, it has been fun to be able to watch the progress.

And the kitchen smells divine!

Friday, January 23, 2009

"You like me, you really like me!"

I want to thank my wonderful mechanic (The Mister), the fabulous artists at the paint shop, of course I have to thank DuPont for making the wonderful color (pure fire) and all the fans who voted for me!

Okay, it's not a gold statuette, but it is fun to get an award!

This is one of the projects that moved forward on the completion timeline.

I guess I could have pressed it before I took the photo!!

For some reason, this teapot was a tough one to get through. I think that I did not press the transfer long enough and the stitch lines were not as distinct as they should have been. It was difficult to make progress. I carried it all the way to The Frozen North and back, last month, with about 10 hours of airplane time which is usually prime for stitching. I am glad to say it is complete!

Garden update!

This is my kitchen garden today. The paperwhites are my second crop, the bulbs are my souvenirs from The Frozen North. The others are making sloooooow progress, but progress all the same.

I am looking forward to a weekend at home. I hope I am able to find suitable fabric and motifs for the next Grandbebe quilt from the stash!

I will let you know what I find!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We are all home again...

The Mister was released from the hospital today!! Yeah!!

It is really nice to have him home so I don't have to be in charge of everything! When he is not here, I have to bring in the paper, get the mail, make the coffee - I just can't deal with it all!! Just kidding, but my life is simpler when he is here to look after me.

The nice housekeeper at the casino said that she would have UPS bring my power cord to me, so I should have it back on Friday. When I get it, I will show you some photos of the projects that helped me pass the time the last few days. (here is a hint!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Lost Weekend...

Last weekend, The Mister and I went to Mesquite, Nevada for the weekend. It is about an 90 minute drive, so I left work a little early on Friday and we headed North. The occasion was a car show and the entry fee included two nights in one of the casinos there. We took the Isetta and had a very good time showing it to folks who have never seen a micro-car.

We brought home two awards, a "Vehicle of Distinction" award from this car show and we picked up an award from this show - the "Dare To Be Different" award. We had left the show last fall after listening to the presentation of all the awards we thought we might have a shot at. Later, we saw that we had won when we checked the website. Anyway, the shows were sponsored by the same group, so we asked if we could pick it up while we were in Mesquite.

I would show you a photo, but I left my laptop power cord at the hotel in Mesquite. I am using my work laptop at home, which I am allowed to do, but I am not able to load photos on it from the camera. The housekeeping folks said they would hold the cord for me, so perhaps we will take another drive to Mesquite this coming weekend.

Anyway that is one reason that I have not been able to post.

The other, more pressing reason is that The Mister had a "incident" after we got home that required transport to the hospital where he has been (impatiently) for the last several days.

I have gotten quite a bit of knitting and embroidery done while I have been keeping him company, but it will be good to have him home again - hopefully tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Conundrum of Butterfly Porportion

This is a pair of towels that I made for the Lovely Ms M. She is one of the Las Vegas nieces and is so kind to our kitties when we are away. She is a fan of butterflies and so I wanted to make her some "especially for her" towels. (No spoiler, since I don't believe she reads my blog. She is a "My Space" girl, so our circles do not generally overlap!)

These are larger motifs than I generally use on towels. Instead of putting them in the corner, I centered them on one side.

I didn't have any transfers in my stash that I thought were quite right, so I ordered this Aunt Martha collection from an ebay seller. They were not as detailed as the packets of designs for days of the week, etc, but I like the more contemporary feel.

They are uncomplicated designs. If I were more artistic with my stitches, I am sure there could be more "interest" or "texture", but I like how they turned out.

Towels are simple gifts, though that is part of their charm to me.

I have seen (and bought) lovely towels and other linens at estate sales that were still in the gift boxes that they were presented in decades earlier. I imagine because the recipient didn't want to "spoil" them by use, they were put away in a linen closet or perhaps a cedar chest. So the only enjoyment that they brought was looking at them occasionally.

I hope my embroidered gifts are useful and used. I would like to think that whenever one is pulled out of the drawer for drying dishes or wiping counters that it might bring a smile. I use sturdy fabric, (except for the unfortunate "tea pot towels" - which are still WIP...) and try to make all the knots tight and close so the designs will last through use and laundry. I don't want them to be saved for an eventual estate sale (or garage sale!)

If they don't last, or an unfortunate run in with a paint brush or dip stick ruins them, I will just have to make a replacement!

One thing that I have been puzzling over lately is whether they are "dish towels" or "tea towels". I have always referred to kitchen towels as tea towels, but it doesn't make much sense, when I think about it. Mother always called them tea towels, but never drank or served tea, as I recall... If she ever did have a tea, I am sure the she would have used something more formal on the table.

What do you think? Are they dish towels, or tea towels?

Monday, January 12, 2009

"When the days begin to lengthen...

...winter begins to strengthen" is a saying that my mother attributed to her mother (or maybe her grandmother). It certainly did apply in south central Kansas, but not so much for me in my current environment - "Desert Crazy Town".

I have been trying to think of a variation that might fit my current situation:"When the daylight has more hours, I can cut pretty flowers" or "December chilly noses, give way to January roses" or "January roses can't be beat! They will wither in July heat!"

The Mister and I were doing a bit of post holiday re-organization in the storage shed and I noticed that we had blooms on almost all of the rose bushes. I use the term "bushes" loosely - The Mister prunes the landscape (and I use the term "prune" loosely) without the benefit of research or arboreal knowledge. (Our first summer, he hated the fruit dropping from the plum tree, so he "pruned" all the fruit bearing branches. Read: all the branches!) His motto is "It will come back". Most things do, perhaps not in the ideal shape, but they do come back.

Usually, I do not bring flowers into the house, because the cats consider them night toys and pull them out of the vases. By morning, they are usually past reviving. The roses, though, were all bending down on their spindly stems, so I decided to cut some of the canes back so they would be sturdier for the next flowering.

I am not an expert on pruning, either, as I always prefer to grow species plants that take care of themselves. I have been reading the garden column over the past 30 months and trying to remember all the guidance from the Master Gardeners, though. I may not have done the plants any good, but I hope I didn't do them any harm!
Most all of our roses are hidden away in the side yard, where I only go if we are shuffling cars/trailers/camper, etc. so it is nice to enjoy them in the house. I just have to remember to shut them in the bathroom at night to keep them safe!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My frantic search... over! I found the quilt blocks! I knew they were in a safe place, I just couldn't remember which one!

When dearest sister found out that there was to be a grandbebe, she declared that she would make a quilt. Of course, I wanted to tag a long, (as I always do) and claim partial credit. I offered my vintage fabric stash and somehow the idea of embroidering blocks came up. It was decided that I would contribute the fabric and embroidered blocks and she would do... all the rest. Even though she did almost all the work, the quilt was from the both of us. She even allowed me to embroider a tag on the back that says so!

For that quilt, I used this vintage transfer from my collection. (I have since seen re-issues of it and purchased a couple more sets. They are very cute!)

When we (and by we, I mean she) finished the first quilt, I suggested that we start another, as it seemed likely that there would be more grandbebes. We (and by we I mean me) decided on a color scheme (green and orange) and again went to my vintage fabric stash.

I found this transfer for grandbebe quilt #2.

I cut the blocks out of some vintage flour sacks and started stitching. It was a great project, since it was so portable. Each block took about an hour or hour and a half, so I would carry the one I was working on plus a spare and worked on them at car shows, traveling, or while listening to Prairie Home Companion on the radio Sunday mornings. Since I only needed two colors of thread, there was not much to fuss with.

Anyway, I finished them up, but DS was not anxious to start the next quilt, so I went on to other projects and left the quilts in the "sewing bag" that I was using at the time.

The thing is, I created a memory of me putting them somewhere in my sewing room. I thought I knew exactly what shelf that I would find them on. Of course, they were not there! Then I thought that perhaps in the holiday spare room conversion, I might have tucked them into a box or basket with other project materials. I went through just about every box and storage tote looking for them!

I did look in my sewing bag, but forgot that I had moved to a different one for our travels last summer.

Finally, I found the original bag and the blocks! I was not really in a "panic" because I knew they were in the house, somewhere, I just couldn't lay my hands on them!

Worst case, I would have had to re-do the blocks, but I am glad that I can send them off to DS tomorrow so they will be in her charge!

I haven't seen this set re-issued, so if I find more vintage ones, I will probably stock up with a couple more. So vintage-y and really fun to do.

It is the Story Book Crib Quilt transfer pattern. These are some of my favorite blocks and some of their stories!

This is the cleverly named Cubby Bear. I loved doing the britches!

Betty Badger with her flowered hat, almost makes me think a badger might make a lovely nanny for the children!

Tillie Turtle must have been the inspiration for the pattern of chicken wire fence!

Bonniebelle Bear - I believe the story goes that she invented lip gloss!

Racky (ra)Coon, the twin brother to Rocky (ra)Coon, who was immortalized by the Beatles on The White Album!

Okay, maybe not, but that is what I think of when I look at him!

It was fun to spend some time with them today as I took the photos. Now I will pack them up and send them on their way! I hope the post office doesn't lose them!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A bird in the hand

Ms A has promised me my own bird necklace as my Christmas gift from her! I am very excited because her bird necklaces are her signature pieces, much admired by all! Her holiday season was very hectic, due to the busy gift season and a move to a new apartment before her visit here, so she gave me a promise instead of the real thing, but I know that she is good on her word! She showed me photos of some that she had consigned at a gallery holiday sale and I picked a "blue" one. Not a blue bird. She told me what kind of bird, but I forget. It had a lovely blue breast, though.

These are some pictures that I took of her senior exhibition in 2007. The words of the chain are what the bird calls sound like. My necklace will not have words in the chain. I am not a words in my chain kind of girl.

This one says "do you see, do you hear, do you believe?"

(I am not sure what type of bird it is)

Song Sparrow
"Madge, Madge, Madge, put on your tea kettle!"

Barred Owl
"Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?"

Sorry for the uneven quality of my photos!
I will try to take a better photo of MY bird necklace when it arrives!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Baby Hats for Charity

The event that inspired me to pick up knitting needles after 43 years was Save the Children's baby hat campaign in the fall 2006. Prior to that time, I believe the last time I knitted with "purpose" was in my Kindergarten play (I played a Grandma and knitted in my rocking chair). Perhaps there were some four-stitch "headband" efforts during my elementary school years, but nothing that I remember finishing.

A woman at my work told me about the campaign and we adopted it as a community service project. The patterns provided seemed easy enough and I bought a kit at Tuesday Morning that had even easier instructions that refreshed my rudimentary skills. I cranked out about 20 baby hats for the project. When it was over at the end of 2006, knitting baby hats had become part of my routine, so I kept knitting. I tried to find a local hospital (or even one within 300 miles)that needed hats but they all said the same thing, "We have PLENTY of hats!" Eventually, I stopped knitting hats and picked up my embroidery projects and then transitioned to dishcloths this year.

October 1st of this year, I received a post card from Save The Children telling me about another campaign for 2008, so I sent out the word and joined about a dozen other knitters and crocheters, ultimately creating about 200 caps!

We shipped them out a couple of weeks ago, but before I packed them up, I laid them all out for a "portrait". It was such fun to look at each hat and see each crafter's style and creativity. I think the campaign really wanted letters to lawmakers in support of reducing infant mortality, but writing letters is not as satisfying as knitting.....

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Zen of Dishcloths

Now that the last gifts have been given and opened, I will reveal the extent of my holiday handicraft. Dishcloths. Eleven of each colorway.
I saw these at Jo-An in September, I think, and bought one 12 oz. skein of each and began knitting. I do not like to have partial skeins of leftover yarn, so I just kept knitting until they were all used. I ended up with a ball the size of a large marble of one and a golf ball size of the other. (Which subsequently became the strings on my gift tags made from holiday cards!)
Photo taken at Jo-An's, since I forgot to take one before I started knitting!

My mother knitted dishcloths from this pattern for about 25 of the last 30 years of her life. I saw the instructions in a Workbasket magazine from the 80's, but her version was slightly larger (cast on 17 instead of 15 stitches). Mother and her sister, Dear Aunt worked out the variation and Dearest sister has the envelope that they wrote it out on.

Mother always had her knitting with her and a stack of finished dishcloths beside her chair. They were perfectly uniform and always reminded me of a stack of colorful pancakes.

On just about every visit she would say, "Do you need any dishcloths?" and I would pick out three or four or five different colors to take home. After awhile, I had my own growing stacks tucked in a cabinet here and a drawer there. The Mister always thought that I was hoarding them unfairly. What he didn't know (but I did!) is that my sisters each had a cache of their own. Ms A once said that we guarded them like hissing dragons protecting our gold.

Last spring, I decided to sharpen up my knitting skills and try to tackle a project bigger than a baby hat. Dearest Sister walked me through a dishcloth pattern that she has adopted and I knitted several of those. Then, I decided to try Mother's round pattern.

Since then, in the past 10 months, I have knitted 50 or so of the round dishcloths. Tonight, I sat down with The Mister to watch TV and grabbed my needles and a new ball of Sugar and Cream yarn and started casting on. He asked me what I was going to make - I said, "a dishcloth". He asked me why, but I didn't answer. (He wasn't really expecting one!)

After I thought about it, though, it occurred to me that the dishcloths create their own kind of zen state. It is routine, but with markers of progress in the pattern. I am beginning to understand that Mother didn't knit them to pass the time, or for the few dollars that she sold them for at the annual senior housing craft fair (which were my assumptions) or even to provide everyone in the family with a lifetime supply of fabulous dishcloths. She knitted them because she enjoyed it! And now, when we have guests, I find myself asking, "do you need any dishcloths?"

Monday, January 5, 2009

Holiday Visitors v 1.2

Our holiday season is officially over! Ms A flew home to Ohio today. We had a great visit, though. We checked off all the destinations on the shopping list: Outlet Malls, Clothing Exchange store, Hello Kitty Store etc. This visit did not have any visits to National Parks or other nature appreciation events and the only museum was the "Aviation Museum" display in the airport on the way to the security line.

But, we went to a show! Most of the shows in town are way too expensive for my budget. However, due to the economy and subsequent decrease in tourism, there are several "locals" specials running. One of them is for Bette Midler's show at Ceasar's Palace! I have been a fan of The Devine Ms M for as long as I can remember. When I heard that she was replacing Celine at the Colosseum, I really hoped for an opportunity to see her (without paying $200 a ticket!)

I saw the special in the paper last week and bought two tix for Sunday evening ($50 a ticket, plus all the "fees" - total $124 for two!) I didn't even look at the seating chart, assuming that we would be in the nosebleed section, but figuring that there probably are no terrible seats.

We arrived and followed the directions to the second balcony. The usher at the entrance to our section asked if we would like to exchange our seats for the front orchestra section on the floor. Since this is Vegas, I assumed that it would require additional funds, but was happily surprised when she said that they were ours if we wanted them!

Well, it turns out that there were quite a few vacancies in the high priced section that they wanted to appear a little "fuller". So, instead of sitting 6 rows from the ceiling, we ended up 10 rows from the stage!

I am sure I enjoyed the show more than Ms A, but she was a good sport (and one of a very small percentage of non-boomers in the audience) Lots of great singing and dancing by Ms M, The Staggering Harlettes, and the Caeser Salad Girls ("each one is a tomato with very little dressing").

The salad girls were a very non-homogeneous group! I really appreciated that there were a variety of sizes and shapes in the group. All great dancers, but some were not a classic showgirl silhouette. One even had a tiny muffin top going on.

Ms A and I also had time to go through some of the boxes of her things that we moved and have been storing. We were able to weed out some things that were no longer precious to her and condense quite a bit into a more space efficient arrangement. All in all, it was a very good visit and a very nice way to end the holiday season!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Holiday cards - post holiday disposition...

Over the past few days, I have been finishing up putting away the holiday things. One area that I have done differently this year is the holiday cards. I love getting them, reading them, sharing them with family and guests, but I never know what to do with them afterwards.

The Mister would be content to open the envelope, remove the card, read it and then throw it away. That is his routine with his birthday cards and any other greeting card that is addressed to him. He does at least share them with me before he throws them away, but he would never dream of keeping them.

In the past, I have saved holiday cards, as I do most personal correspondence. I really never go back to them though, except maybe the letters once in a great while. I have decide that I really don't want to keep them, but I hate throwing them away!

Over the years, I have read tips for turning holiday cards into various incarnations of decor.

Workbasket published an idea to make place mats by cutting out the designs and arranging them into a collage on clear contact paper. (We don't use place mats, so not really something that appeals to me)

I recall a suggestion of framing attractive cards for future holiday decor. (We don't have enough surface area to set all the frames that we would accumulate using this idea)

I believe I even saw instructions some where to make small gift boxes from holiday cards. (This would limit the size of the gifts, dramatically!)

This year, I read an idea that suggested turning holiday cards into gift tags for next year. (I apologise for not giving proper credit, but I really do not remember where I heard the idea, I just know that it is not original with me!)

This is an idea that I thought could work very well for me!

I saved the letters and the one or two cards with notes written on them, but most of the rest became gift tags. I just cut the cards into one or more separate elements, punched a hole and threaded with my left-over dishcloth yarn.

I suppose some folks may receive many more cards than we do, and maybe this wouldn't work for everyone, but I love the way they turned out. I think they will really look nice on the gifts next year!