Thursday, December 31, 2009

New for 2010

Visit Cloth and Clay Dolls
I was browsing the internet over the weekend. This was fun to do as I randomly followed blog links from one interesting site to another. I came upon this Cloth & Clay Doll website and fell in love with the unique, hand made dolls. So many of them have an aged, antique appearance. But there are also many with a fun and funky modern tone to them as well. Each one is hand made, one at a time and unique. If you are interested in dolls, cloth dolls, and hand painted dolls you will have fun browsing through those posted here.

I signed up for one of the on-line classes to learn some new techniques on doll making. This would be a paper-clay over cloth technique. I've been aware of this type of doll for a long time, but never took the time to learn to make them. It is one of my New Year's desires (no resolution here - just a desire) to learn to make this type of doll. I'll keep you posted on the results by uploading some photos of my progress. Right now I'm partially through the series of video lessons I signed up for the Cloth & Clay Doll class from the website. I'm watching through all the videos first to get the general ideas expressed, then will re-watch as I work my way through the process of my first doll. I'm looking forward to getting started with this.

Tonight I was browsing through some of the blogs I periodically check on when I saw this project proposal for 2010. Terri Stegmiller lives across the river in Mandan. She is actually located nearby although I have not met her before. Isn't that funny that you can run across someone over the internet and discover they are living so close. You would think with such similar interests we would have run across each other and had the opportunity to meet one another by now. Strange.

Anyway, this proposal to use a word cue once a week to inspire an art project sounds interesting. I know there are several other projects similar to this on-line. I even have a few posted in my side bar. But given the fact that Terri is located so close to me I've decided to participate in her on-line activity this next year. I'll see how long I stay active in this project. I supposed that depends on how busy I get with other things and how inspiring the word cues are. Stay tuned on this project.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year Anticipations

I found out a few days ago that my uber favorite TV program - did I mention my very mostest favorite TV program - Chuck will be coming back on the air. It will be starting off its 3rd season on January 10th with a special premiere opening program at 8pm central time on Sunday. Yeah!! And the regualarly scheduled Monday show starts the next day -- the NEXT DAY!! -- on their regularly scheduled Monday air time. We cannot wait. We LOVE Chuck. It's the ONLY really GOOD program out there on TV now. After a fall and winter of reruns of watching NCIS (we love the crew here at NCIS also!) and CSI we're so looking forward to some new material.

I purchased the first season of Chuck on DVD when it first hit the stores. We've watched those episodes several times. I know there are some season two episodes available to watch on-line, but that is just not the same. I'm looking forward to the release of the season two episodes to DVD in January, also. But the big kicker is that the new shows will be airing soon. You can watch a trailer for the Jan. 10 2 hr premiere here.

My hubby had signed up to play tennis in the past on Mondays, but will be holding off with that now that NBC is advertising the new season of Chuck. We'll be setting up the TV and snacks, snuggled under a warm blankie, ready and waiting for season three to begin.

Oh, Joy! Did I mention I love the show Chuck? We've been discussing it amongst ourselves the last few days since we saw the new trailers. Hoping 'they' (the NBC executives) don't ruin the charm of Chuck this season. It appears as though they'll be giving him more of a secret spy persona. We just don't want to lose our Buy More nerd as we've come to know him. We see they've spun off the 'Bryce' character (Matthew Bomer) into his own TV series (White Collar). That show doesn't carry the same charm as Chuck. So we are hoping 'they' don't veer off from the loveable Chuck character we've enjoyed in the past. It would be so disappointing if 'they' made Chuck's character just like every other spy show character out there. I'm hoping he won't be all 'super-hero spy guy' and lose the charm of the funny, quirky, nerd-herd Chuck character of the first two seasons.

So . . . waiting . . . with anticipation for season three to begin. It you haven't watched it yet, you'll want to go peek at some episodes available on line then tune in to see the new ones. Chuck is charming, loveable and funny, clever with it's turn of events and humorous/playful banter between the characters without all the overly used gratuitous sex and violence shown so much these days to get viewers. That kind of programming has become so trite - it's why so many people are disappointed that there are hundreds of channels now available on TV, but nothing good on. We're looking forward to seeing if season three is as good as the first two seasons.

In more local news, I get to sew with my friend tomorrow. Sweet!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Things We Eat

crab legs thawing for dinnerNow that we've got lots of snow (12-14 inches) my hubby has been spending lots of time outdoors with the snow blower. He is good about helping out others on our street when it comes to dealing with the snow. One of the neighbors down the street is a chef at a local restaurant. You know they have to eat well with an expert in the house like that. My hubby came home with a surprise box from them as a thank you for helping with the snow so often. It was a box of big, giant crab legs!

crab legs up close - they look kind of freakyMy hubby has ordered crab legs at restaurants before, but we don't get them often. This was something new for us to try to cook for ourselves. What to do? He got on-line and looked up instructions on preparing them. First off he had to break their legs so they would fit in our pot. Then my hubby cooked them, along with a second pot of rice. It was good, but I have to say I'm not a big fan of crab legs myself. I told my hubby he could eat more of them than me since he was the one doing all the work to receive them. He had a whole bunch compared to what I took. It was a good surprise.

Yum! Home made bread!This weekend I baked home made bread. I used the recipe from the book that came with my Kitchen-aid mixer. It makes two loaves. I decided I wanted some buns, so I formed a half dozen of them before I made the rest into the two loaves. That made the loaves a bit smaller than they would have been. No big deal. Our slices are just a tish smaller, and the buns were good.

Mmmm good, potato soup and home made bread toasted with cinnamon and sugarI had a craving for some yummy potato soup this weekend, too. I've made the Gooseberry Patch recipe before and we loved it. This soup recipe was a free download in early October from the 'Taste of Autumn' cookbook called 'Corn & Potato Chowder'. I leave the corn out since my hubby doesn't eat corn. This time I loosely followed the recipe, but made the batch a bit larger with more carrots and potatoes. This is what I had on my desk yesterday . . . potato soup and cinnamon toast made from homemade bread. And of course a nice warm cup of tea - I love tea. Yum! I divied up the pot of soup to individual bowls so they would be easy to reheat in the microwave. There are still several bowls with soup in the fridge right now. That'll make a great lunch for us today. Home made fast food.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Ornaments

New and old pull-toy christmas ornamentsMy sewing friend gave me the snowman ornament seen here on the left. Isn't it so cute!?! I told her it reminded me of some of the German ornaments we saw at kiosks years ago when we were in Germany. The little painted wooden sheep ornament at the right is one of those from Germany. Pull the string and the arms and legs move. The snowman functions this same way by pulling the string. I love it.

New and old pull-toy ornaments without flashI had to try another frame without the camera flash. It was washing out all the detail. This one is photoshopped a bit to help with visability of details. Sometimes I wish I had better lights and equipment to get better photos. At this point I'm limited to shooting either with the flash, delayed flash, or no flash. I do my best with what I have. Funny how the green wires of the Christmas tree lights appears similar to the color of our artificial tree, but once they are illuminated by the flash they appear to be so different. I like leaving the lights on all the time - day time and night time. The colorful lights are pretty.

Pheasant feather ornament - handmade, purchased at craft fair about 10 years agoThis is another of my favorite ornaments. I found a booth at a craft fair about ten years ago with these home-made pheasant feather ornaments. The woman who made them did a beautiful job. She said her husband and sons did a lot of pheasant hunting. Said she loved the colorful feathers and hated to just discard them after the birds were put up in the freezer. When she came up with this idea for ornaments she thought it was a better use of the feathers than just throwing them away. She used a styrofoam ball, glue, a long decorative stick-pin and ribbon along with the feathers to create them. They were hot sellers that year.

Vintage Christmas ornaments - circa mid 1950s?The last of the ornaments I'll comment on are not on my tree this year. I actually have not used these vintage ornaments for a long, long time. They are very delicate, paper-thin blown glass. I used them a couple years after they were given to me, but if they got bumped off the tree they broke immediately. I haven't hung them up since. These old vintage ornaments were a gift from an older couple I knew 18-20 years ago. She said she got them during the first years they were married. They have lost most of their shiny quality and now have that patina that only comes with age. To me that is part of their charm. They remind me of the old fashioned ornaments I saw as a child at my grandma's house and on our family tree in the late fifies and early sixties. The fact that they bring back memories is another reason I like to hang onto them even though I don't use them on the tree any more. Considering the age of this older couple, I would guess these vintage ornaments were made in the early to mid 50s. Some of them have those indented sides that were popular back then. They are all hand painted, some have glitter applied. The boxes don't reveal any further information.

Digitizing Machine Embroidery Fun

Heart River Homebrewers Logo I digitized for machine embroideryJust thought I would share with you an embroidery project I worked on recently. One of my son's friends wanted to get some personalized embroidery designs sewn onto some things for his dad's Christmas gift. I digitized the logo shown here on my Husqvarna Viking 4D Professional software program then sewed the designs onto garments for him. They turned out great. The garments should make a good surprise for his dad. Apparently he's involved in a club/group that likes to brew their own beer. This logo design was drawn/created by another club member. His dad should have fun showing off in his fancy new threads next time the group gets together. It was a fun project to work on.

Close-up view of serger stitching around the test badges.I've been embroidering and digitizing for quite some time, but I learned a few things doing this project. One of those things is that you don't always need to have all the automatic features of the program turned on. In fact, it would have been better on this project to click onto the Preferences icon and uncheck the 'Remove Overlap When Combining Embroideries' option. Had I done this earlier on in my test sewing I could have alieviated a bit of aggravation on my part. You'll notice the narrow black outline surrounding the red fill of the lettering. I wanted a slight overlap so the pull (compensation) of the fabric while it was being stitched didn't cause any gaps between the red fill area and the black outline. I went into the design manually several times to move the wire frames in the .can files in order to reduce a few small gaps that kept showing up. Then when I clicked the icon to 'Create Stitches' this automatic overlap feature kept undoing what I was trying to accomplish. So just a heads up to any other home-based digitizers out there: You might want to uncheck this automatic feature of the program at certain times.

You will notice I also changed the thickness on the black outline bordering the red letters. When I digitized this I did these letters manually. After the first test sew-out I decided to increase the black outline from 1mm to 1.5mm to see if a slightly wider border would solve the gap problem. Until I turned the aforementioned auto feature off I still had a gap because the program was eliminating the overlapping areas. It was pulling back the stitches from the red fill area underneath the outline to do this and I still had some gaps. Plus I didn't like the way the thicker black border was muddying up the look of the overall design. It was excessive. I scaled back on the border to 1.3mm and liked it better when I test sewed the sample. The other new thing I realized playing with those border widths was that even though I digitized each letter individually I only needed to reset the border parameter as it was a global setting and affected all the borders of each letter. At first I thought it would take a long time to change all the borders manually on every letter. I was excited to find the global setting are useful to make these changes very quickly. You will find this feature when working with the .can file in 4D Design Creator - under the Preferences icon, click onto the Border tab then change the 'width' setting in milimeters.

I ended up sewing several test sew-outs before I was satisfied with the design. That's okay though. I decided to play around with testing out some patch making techniques. I've heard there is a specialized machine used in industry to stitch around patches to create that narrow rolled-hem type stitch around the perimeter of patches. I used some of those test sew-outs with my serger to try to duplicate that look. I set it up for a two thread folded rolled hem and got a pretty good result. I might play around a bit more with the serger and do a few other stitches to try for better results. I threw in some buckrum as a base material under the fabric to create a stiffer patch with some of the test sew-outs. That material doesn't fold over with the rolled hem since it is so stiff. I want to try just a standard rolled hem to see how it compares. And I might even try a three-thread rolled hem. I know the edge won't really 'roll' either, but replicating the way the thread wraps around the edge of the badge is the effect I'm going for. On another project I already tried just incorporating a satin stitch edge as part of the embroidery design when making badges. You can see that previous badge project on these chicken bages. The edge treatment wasn't quite the look I was going for. And the satin stitch width was harder to control compared to just running the badges through the serger once the embroidery was sewn.

Today I got together with my sewing friend and did some more work on the Rattlesnake quilt. I've now got only four more paper piecing sheets left to sew. It will be nice to move on to the next stage of this quilt project. I'll need to peruse my stash to find the fabric colors I want to use for the corners on this quilt . . . soon, very soon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sewing, Sorting, Speaking in Tongues

I recently got a 'blue screen' on my Creative Vision.I had a 'blue screen' show up on my Pfaff Creative Vision embroidery machine a few days ago. As I recall this was the second time ever in two years that one of these showed up. To resolve this I just shut off the machine and rebooted it. When the screen came back up things were back to normal . . . no residual effects. The machine works fine.

The most recent things I've been embroidering were some garments for someone who wanted to give them as Christmas gifts. I digitized a logo using my Pfaff 4D Suite software program then sewed it out on some garments. Prior to this assignment I was busy working on some quilting projects. I've been back to work on the Rattlesnake Quilt among others. There are only about a half dozen more paper piecing wedges to complete. Then I can move on to sewing on the corner pieces to finish off the quilt top. It's coming along - slowly.

Yes, I've been away from blogging for nearly a month. I've been busy with holiday events and spending time here at home doing a variety of things. It has been a pleasant month. Lots of things keeping me busy.

During this past month I also worked on re-purposing some of the spaces in our home. I've learned I'm very good at packing away LOTS OF STUFF in nooks and crannies around here. Actually I've known that for a long time, it's just that the point has been driven home really well for me lately. I've been tossing stuff that has been collecting dust and no longer serving any purpose for me. Hauling out stuff has been great for freeing up more usable space. I find myself sometimes getting bored with going through it all. Yet it has been a process to work my way through it all, remembering when I got some of it. There is still quite a bit to go through . . . lots of it is old paperwork right now. So I've been sorting through files and containers. I need to shred most of this stuff before it leaves the house. Sometimes I think I should just light a bon-fire in the fire-place and burn it. Then I wouldn't have to listen to the shredder mutilating all that paper. There's also stuff for give-away. I've got a box of stuff and some winter coats already in the trunk of the car to drop off for charity donation.

Lately though, the last several days, I've been procrastinating with sorting my way through all the paperwork. I've got it consolidated into some bins so it doesn't take up quite so much space, but am getting to the point I hate to sit down and deal with it . . . I know, just buckle down and get it done. The more I procrastinate with it, the longer I will have to look at this pile. Anyone else find themselves procrastinating with something? I read something recently that procrastination is a form of passive-agressive behavior - it is being passive-agressive against yourself. I never thought of it like that before. What do you think?

So, a few more days till Christmas. We are looking forward to spending time with some of our family. It will be fun.

My hubby and I are looking forward to the New Year as well. We've been talking about things we'd like to do differently next year. We had a conversation the other day about doing some things together as a couple. My hubby suggested we learn another language together. Deep down I think he'll probably be a lot better at it than me. I told him so and he balked at that idea. I told him I was up for it though. He has been talking about getting a Rosetta Stone language course for quite some time but put it off because they are so pricey. Plus he said it would be easier to learn a language if a person can make use of it in everyday life with conversations to others. He already knows Spanish - and enough French to communicate a bit with some of the Canadians who come down to the states. I suggested we learn French then we could take a trip to Quebec next year to celebrate. He suggested something completely different like Russian. Then I suggested why not Arabic since that's so much in the news these days with what's going on in the world. He's pushing for Russian at the moment. I'm open.

I took two years of Spanish in High School, but am certainly not fluent in it. I never got to the point where I could think in Spanish. In fact, I don't remember much of it from so long ago. I think my mind works more on a visual level, being interested in art and all, not so much on a verbal level. It might be fun to work at learning a new language together. We talked about setting aside certain times of the day or week as language day. Then only speak that language during those times. That way we could get more of an immersion effect. So what do you think? If you were to learn another language what would you choose to learn? And how would you make it easier to accomplish?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Studio Re-Organization Nearly Done

A stack of fabric from my stash.Here's a view from the studio. Yep, a stack of fabric.

Sorry it has taken me so long to submit a blog entry. Hey, what can I say? I've been busy working on the re-organization of my studio and enjoying my Thanksgiving holiday with the family. Okay . . . no apologies for that. Everyone deserves to take time some time with their family.

Yeah . . . but I've been really E - n - j - o - y - i - n- g it. For the last several days I've been a big bundle of lazy bones, doing some sorting, organizing, re-arranging to be sure, but also just enjoying some time off to goof off and do N O T H I N G ! I've been enjoying myself.

Another stack of fabric from my stash.Today I went to sew with a friend. It's fun to take some time off, but equally fun to get back into the swing of things.

I worked on paper piecing my rattlesnake quilt. Yes, this is the one I made the big OOPS on and cut off the tip of my finger. But now that I'm working on it again (with those cool plastic guards on my ruler) to prevent further accidents, I've gotten past the queasy feeling I felt when I first picked up the rotary cutter and ruler (after the accident) and started working on this quilt again. I'm now being more careful and aware of those kinds of quilting accidents.

It's going well. I got three more of those paper pieced football shaped segments completed today -- while we quilted and chatted the afternoon away. It was a good day. I rather enjoyed sending the month of November off with a good day of sewing and socializing with my friend. This evening I've enjoyed watching tv and relaxing with my hubby. Bye-bye November . . . hello December. I hear on the news tonight we've got wind heading our way tomorrow -- 50 mile per hour wind. Hold onto your hat!

Oh, and just for gee-wiz . . . in other North Dakota news . . . this past week the Police and the Game and Fish Department killed a mountain lion IN TOWN, on the north side of town, (and I emphasize -- IN TOWN) as it was passing near the Home Depot store and the vicinity of the north Walmart store. In the recent past several years some people had made complaints about cougars around here (example: scratches from large animal attacks found on horses) and received rebuffs that lions don't attack that way and how they wouldn't come this far, and not so close to town. Well . . . lo and behold . . . how interesting.

Now, here I sit at the computer watching the colorful lights twinkle away on my partially decorated Christmas tree while I type. My son and his new wife had an opportunity to look through the Christmas ornaments and take what they wanted from our collection of ornaments to add to their holiday tree decorations when they were here for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile our tree is up, lighted with twinkly lights and awaiting the rest of whatever decorations I decide to finish it up with. Some years I've done a themed Christmas tree and other years I just throw on a variety of stuff. I'm thinking this might be a year for a theme, but just not sure how I want to go with it. I'm thinking red and gold perhaps, but not entirely commited to that yet. Meanwhile we've been enjoying the room lights dimmed while we watch tv and have the twinkly lights going off and on. It's pleasant now even in its simplicity with just the light. Perhaps it's time for a humble tree this year with only home-made decorations. The beauty of the lights -- it is pretty on its own. A selection of hand-made designs might be just the thing. How are you choosing to decorate your Christmas tree this year?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Five inch charm square give-away. Leave a comment to enter the drawing.I just want to emphasize the give-away that I have open right now. I will be giving away a bundle of 40 five inch charm squares in a drawing ending November 14th. Please leave a comment to get your name into the drawing.

Ok . . . enough said. I've been thinking cartoons lately. I ran across a flicker site that showcases cartoon drawings of "What I Wore Today". I found it a couple days ago and had fun looking through quite a lot of drawings. Apparently this is a site that gets a lot of submissions from artists and cartoonists. I clicked through the entries for the month of November. There are a lot a really cool drawings to look through. Some are better than others. That's to be expected. I'd love to sharpen my pencil, and dip the nib of my ink pen in the well . . . It would be kind of fun to submit one of my drawings . . . but I'm hesitant. It as been ages since I did any drawings. And even more ages since I did any cartooning.

But . . .

Oh . . .

the . . .

posibilities . . .

I'm tempted.

We'll see how strong that temptation is.

Meanwhile . . .

You might want to go take a peak at this web site . . .

What I Wore Today.

Have fun!

Just one more addition to this post. There is a flicker site that shows all the "What I Wore" submissions. It's worth a look. Okay . . . that's it for tonight.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Studio Floor Plan

I like to store my larger cuts of fabric wrapped on boards like this to keep it neat and organized.My sewing friend came over to my house to sew with me today. She had an opportunity to see the new arrangement of my sewing studio. We are both in agreement that the space seems more confining now even though one piece of furniture has been removed and all the 'stuff' has not even been moved back into the room. Obviously I need to 'go back to the drawing board' and rethink this current arrangement.

I made up a floor plan of the room on gridded paper so everything is to scale. I also have all the furniture and shelves drawn out to scale on paper so I can move furniture and change the layout the easy way before I expend all my muscle energy to do it in reality. I bet somebody's got a software program somewhere that lets you do that kind of thing on the computer in virtual world, too. This current arrangement looked promising on paper, but didn't hold up so well in real life. How disappointing.

We did manage to get some sewing done together. And lots of chatting to go along with that. It makes for a nice day to combine those two things together. Today I was busy sewing together some quilt blocks for another quilt. This will be another quilt top to add to my collection of completed tops ready to do the quilting on my Pfaff Grand Quilter quilting frame. I'll have to do some digging through my bins of supplies and check out how many quilt batts I have on hand. Some time ago I had bought up a number of them to stock up when they were on sale. I don't remember how many I have. At the rate I'm going I might be getting to the point where I have more finished quilt tops than quilt batts. I'm curious just how many I can get completely finished before the end of the year.

The image leading off my post today is a photo of the way I have some of my fabric stored on my shelves. The first board shown with the curved corners is from a set of fabric storage boards I purchased. The others I cut from foam core board. I can cut four pieces this size from the foam core. If you are looking for a way to organize your fabric or store it in such a way that it stays neat and orderly this is one way you could do it.

I usually use these boards for any lengths of fabric that are purchsed in lengths of 2 yards or more. It is easier to handle when you want to use the fabric. You only need to unroll the amount you want and cut it with your rotary cutter. It's like a mini bolt of fabric. They are easy to store vertically on a shelf. That makes them easier to access than fabric that is in piles. I hate it when I work so hard to neatly fold my fabric then when you want to pull out a piece of fabric from the middle or the bottom of the pile they all get messed up. Folded fabric can sometimes be hard to get back into the piles if you like to keep them in color order or with a grouping of like fabric.

I purchased about a dozen more foam core boards that need to be cut down to size. As I work on getting my studio back into a good, satisfactory working condition again I want to do a bit more organizing of my fabrics. If you are like me, you can always find something else to organize a bit better. My studio is a work in progress. It probably always will be as I work through my current stash and make changes in streamlining the way I work. I like to see how other people decorate and organize their studios. I sometimes pick up good ideas that others have found inventive ways to do things. What are some of your favorite studio organizing tips?

Mermaid Fabric Book Doll

Close-up of the Mermaid Fabric Book I created in 2006.I thought I would take some photos of this sewing project from the past. I will be writing up a pattern with instructions for this Mermaid Fabric Book. Just wanted to share some of the images here on my blog. This was my entry in a round-robin type doll swap I participated in three years ago in 2006.

The mini-book gave each participating artist an opportunity to sign their name and write a short message.Someone mentioned to me awhile ago that I should write up the pattern instructions for this doll/fabric book. They thought others might be interested in making up their own Mermaid Fabric Book. I plan on using it in a zine swap I am currently participating in. Alma Stoller's "I Heart Zines" swap is ending this week with the due date this weekend. I'm hoping to include these instructions as part of my zine for the swap. That is if I can get them typed up and printed to include in the book before I drop my zines off in the mail.

I made the zippered pouch as my page to hold the little mini-book.I couldn't fall asleep yet tonight when I tried earlier. So I decided to get up and take the photos tonight early this morning. It's about 1:40 am and I'm starting to get sleepy now. Will head off to bed shortly, just as soon as I'm done posting here.

My Mermaid Fabric Book doll holds the book closed with her hands.The book is held closed by the mermaid's hands. Each hand and finger is created with wired armature so they are pliable and able to be posed. This feature allows the fingers to be bent to allow her to clasp onto her tail and thus hold the fabric book closed.

This was a fun book/doll to make. When I sent it off for the swap, I had completed the front and back covers (that made up the doll's body). And I created one page (the zippered pouch that holds the signature mini-book). Each artist who participated in the swap was to add their own page then send it on to the next person. Everyone had the freedom to do whatever they wanted to add for their page. When she arrived back home it was fun to see what everyone added.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fall Leaves and Sewing Studio Progress

More leaves will fall from these trees that line our street.We worked in the front yard to rake leaves this past weekend. We bagged up eight of those black super-large size yard & garden trash bags. They were jammed full of leaves. Periodically as we were bagging, my hubby would step into the bag to crush the leaves and compact them so more leaves would fit inside them. He also raked the back yard, but those leaves are still there in a pile. We knew there would be more to rake and clear out. There always are several rakings every year before it is over. But we wanted to get started to get a handle on it before it rained or snowed more. That just makes them harder to deal with.

A view from the front window.Looking at the trees above, I'd guess there are another 6-8 bags (or more?) up there that have not fallen yet. We'll be raking again later this week. And unless we get a really good wind that blows them all away, we'll probably be raking next week also. I don't mind, as long as the weather stays as nice and fall-ish as it has been lately. Some years we would have already had snow by now. We have been enjoying the pleasant sunny days lately, so no complaints here with leaves or anything else. The sun can make a huge difference in one's outlook.

As far as my progress in the Sewing Studio, I got the basics in place for my re-arrangement of the room. I'm not entirely sure if things will stay this way. I'm feeling a bit displaced since things are not in their usual spots. I'll give it a few weeks to see if the flow is working better . . .if not, I'll have to give the arrangement of this room more consideration. One thing I'm coming to grips with is just how much 'stuff' I have in that room. I know I need to pare down on some of this 'stuff' but that will have to take place over time. Right now I'm more interested in getting to work on some holiday sewing projects.

I have several projects already in progress. Plus there are more ideas percolating in my head. I am interested in getting started with them. I also uploaded a few pages for my website. It is not quite ready to advertise yet as I need to get the content pages finished. I'll post the link to the website soon. I need to tweak it further. I'm also working on digitizing a logo for someone. This will be used on some garments and is intended for a Christmas gift. I've started on it, but need to get that completed and test sewn so I can embroider it on the garments. I've got to have plenty of time to get it back to the customer in time for the holiday.

Friday, November 6, 2009

five inch charm squares for give-away . . . take a guess at how many are in this pile.Just a reminder of the 5" charm square quilt block give-away I have open right now . . . Enter a comment to add your name to the drawing.

I did some sewing with my friend today. I worked on sewing some tumbler blocks together. I will be cutting out more blocks to add to what I already have on hand. I need to go through my stash and select a few more fabrics to round out the colors I've coordinated together so far. These fabric combinations look good right now. So far so good. Onward to more blocks . . .

I've been thinking more and more about doing some re-arranging around here with the layout of furniture in several rooms of our home. I've got changes in mind. Yes, change is on the way . . . as it always is . . . you can't stop change. But I can control the layout of furniture in my home environment. I'll update with photos in a future session.

Change can be good . . . I'll see how I feel about things in a short time. . . I can always change back . . . right???

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Busy Re-Arranging Studio

Sewing studio pressing table accessories.I was busy almost the entire day doing to re-arranging and organizing my Sewing Studio. I've nearly got it complete, but some fine-tuning left for tomorrow. I'll see how well this new configuration works over the next few weeks.

Needless to say I'm a little tired out tonight. I should sleep like a baby. So . . . on to beddie bye.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

5" Charm Squares Give-away

Got some big piles of five inch quilt squares already pre-cut and ready to sew.I've got a big pile of 5" blocks ready and waiting to be sewn together into quilts. Some of these were already pre-cut prior to getting my Accu-quilt cutter. But I managed to add quite a lot more blocks to the pile a lot faster once I got the cutter.

The tumbler blocks were all cut with my Accu-quilt cutter. I don't have enough coordinating colors cut of those yet to create a quilt. Still working on this. I started just with cutting from a large pile of scraps and managed to work my way through the bulk of that. Now to select some coordinating fabrics from the stash to round out the number of tumblers needed.

When I went to sew with a friend earlier this week I brought the 5" blocks along to sort them by color. I've coordinated some blocks together for a future quilt. But I need to lay them all out again to color coordinate the rest of them. Then I need to sit down and figure out how many blocks it will take to make them into a quilt. I'll do some figuring - and math (see you do use it after high school!) - a little later to help decide if I have enough color coordinated blocks to finish into a quilt. Then once I figure out how many blocks to create a quilt I can tell how many quilts I have sitting here in this pile.

My embroidered tree blocks are finished. Now to sew them together.The other project I brought along to our sewing get-together was the second version of the leaf quilt. This version has trees embroidered on half of the blocks instead of leaves. When I got home I worked on more of these blocks. Last night I stayed up to sew and finished the rest of the blocks for this second quilt. Half the blocks are embroidered and half are not. And still I have lots and lots of the logs left over. Does that mean another of these quilts? Perhaps.

There are a lot of five inch quilt squares here to sort through. This is my start at color coordinating them - some of the more old fashioned ones.When I was at my friend's house I laid all these squares out on the table to match like squares together. It helped to see them all laid out when it came to matching up a grouping that went together. That's what I'll need to do again to see the colors better.

Measuring my big pile of pre-cut five inch quilt squares - nearly 16 inches high.Can you guess how many squares are in this huge stack? It measures to approximately 15.5 inches high. Take a guess. Submit your guess as a comment below. Whoever has the correct number - or the number closest without going over - will win a bundle of 5" charm squares in their choice of color (reds, blues, greens, whites, yellows, etc.) Submit your response before Nov. 14th. I'll announce one winner on the 15th. (I'll take a little time tonight to count this stack and keep the answer hidden away in a hermetically sealed envelope.) LOL! Just kidding. It won't be 'hermetically sealed' - an old Johnny Carson reference. Anyone remember that? Never mind . . . I'll just keep it a secret till the 15th. Okay, take a guess and make a comment.

My big stack of pre-cut five inch quilt squares - bird's eye view looking down from the top.And here's a bird's eye view of the stack of 5" charm squares. I just love looking at all those colors. They are my own little 'quilt rainbow' spread out on my cutting table. Okay, off I go. Time to count the squares. Good luck guessing!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sewing With a Friend and Other Stuff

I collected together all my reproduction thrities fabrics for another quilt idea with this pattern from Moda.My sewing friend and I got together for awhile today. It was fun to sit around and chat while we spent the day sewing. We started off with an early lunch of Happy Joe's Pizza then on to her home to get started sewing. We recently talked about doing the same project together. I brought up the fact that I have accumulated so many of those old-fashioned 30's prints and wanted to make something from those. This past week I happened upon the perfect pattern to make use of them. I like this Moda pattern that looks like taffy candy wrapped up in colorful 30's wrappers. We decided we would both work together on making this quilt after we've finished all our Christmas/Holiday sewing and current projects.

Also pictured here are some blocks I'm working on for a second quilt similar to the leaf quilt. The leaf quilt by the way is still all laid out across the beds downstairs in our soon-to-be painted guestroom. They're patiently waiting for me to join the blocks together to form the quilt top. Yeah, I know, I'm slow to get that done. Feeling under the weather lately has made me not care to accomplish too much other than lounge around. I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things again.

I've been lighting these candles lately for a lovely scent throughout the house. The last several days while I've been working on the computer I've been burning these lovely scented candles I picked up on sale at Pier One Imports this summer. They smell so nice. I love candles. The little squirrel was a quick pick at Hobby Lobby earlier this fall. It reminds me of the baby squirrels we had running around the yard all summer long. Those babies have grown big and fat now. I see them quite often in both the front and the back yards.

MaryJane's Farm magazine had a shawl pattern in their Oct-Nov 2009 issue along with two more versions via their website.I've been getting MaryJane's Farm magazine for awhile now. The recent Oct-Nov 2009 issue had a button up knitted shawl project shown on page 78. There are two more variations of the pattern available on-line at her website. When I was at JoAnn's Fabric last week I decided to pick up some knitting needles to make the shawl. I wanted to search through my stash to see what I have on hand for yarns before I purchase new. They've got their yarn on sale through the rest on the month. It has been awhile since I knitted anything. As I recall, the last thing I was making was an afghan when the boys were still in high school. I cannot remember if I gave away the remainder of my yarn. I think it might just be stashed down in my sewing studio amongst all the rest of my stash. I'll look around tomorrow to see what's left. I used to enjoy sitting on my chair in the livingroom watching TV in the evenings with my hubby while I knit something. This pattern seems so easy.

Ginger got all tuckered out pheasant hunting today.Today my hubby took our hunting dog, Ginger, out to see if they could get any pheasants. They saw some. He said Ginger did her job in flushing them out. But apparently he didn't hit the ones he was aiming at. Ginger was so tuckered out from walking/hunting for a couple hours. She just wanted to lay down on her bed all evening. Hubby gave her a baby tylenol for her aches and pains. Poor thing.

We ate Parmesan Chicken for supper tonight instead of pheasant. Again, that's another thing I haven't made for a long time. Yum, we love Parmesan Chicken. Basically it's a simple pan-fried chicken dish with Parmesan cheese mixed in the milk (or buttermilk if you have it). Soak the chicken in the milk mixture. Enzymes in the milk will tenderize the chicken. While it's soaking you can crush some crackers (I use Ritz Crackers - about 1/2 to 3/4 of one sleeve) and mix together with some flour, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder. I also like to add a bit of ground red pepper for a bit of zing to it. Then just heat up a bit of oil in a large fry pan, dredge the soaked chicken in the crushed cracker/flour/spices mixture and place in the hot oil. Allow the chicken to cook in the oil till nicely browned on one side then carefully flip with a spatula and brown the other side. I only flip them once. Too much handling and the breading will come loose. Yum! I'd give you actual measurements for all the ingredients, but I'd have to look for my recipe. I just tossed in a bit of this and that when I made it tonight. This is an old recipe I've made off and on for the last twenty years while the kids were growing up. Let me know if you need more specifics. I'll search my old recipes if someone needs it - leave me a comment then I'll see if I can locate it.

So, essentially it was a very good day. Lot's of sewing, visiting, good company, good food. What more can you ask for? It was a great day!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grapevine Wreaths Giveaway

One of our grape privacy hedges.When my hubby got home from work today we did something we've been talking about doing but have been forced to delay because of rainy weather. We cleaned up the debris from the garden area, the flower pots on the front steps and pruned some of the grapevines. It was cool today, but at least it wasn't too cool. With this reprieve from the drizzling rain we took our opportunity to get outside and take care of the yard a bit.

This set of grapevines shown here is on the back side of our property. It forms a nice barrier between our backyard patio and the neighbor's backyard. For whatever reason these vines never really produce much fruit. We pretty much just let them grow wild and thick to obscure the view between the yards. It makes a great backdrop for the other plantings back here.

Our newest set of grapes - these are the white (green) grapes.We put in this set of grapes several years ago between our yard and the neighbors to the north of us. This year was the first year with a very robust crop of grapes. I was a bit disappointed to find out they had seeds. When we purchased them at the greenhouse I could have sworn they were labled as seedless. Other than that, they're very tasty as sweet green grapes for eating. We made some juice from them this year - strained the seeds and skins. It was good, but had a greenish cast to it (from the skins I would assume). The appearance of the juice was not like the white grape juice you get at the store - although it tasted just as good. It wasn't clear juice. I'll have to look into that for next year to see what to do differently. I did some research on a few websites, but most info is on purple concord grapes, not green grapes. It could be a matter of straining the juice through a finer mesh than cheese cloth.

More concord grapes along the side of the 'lodge'.This set of concord grapes, along with those in the back, were here when we purchased the house. We've long pruned and cut back these vines numerous times over the years. They always flourish nicely. This summer was an exceptionally good year for grapes. We had more than usual when we harvested them. We made juice and lots of jars of jelly.

We pruned lots of vines today.This is just some of the vines that were lopped off when we started pruning the grapes. Most of these in fact were overgrowth from the back set of vines that grew up and over the shed and the among the branches of the lilac bushes that surround the shed. There were very little grapes to harvest on this set, just lots of vines growing rampant. We pulled them all down out of the trees and lilac bushes. They reached nearly to the phone lines than run along the back of the lot. It's time to trim back some of the lilac bushes again this year. They're reaching up and over the wires as well. We often see the squirrels run from tree to tree and along the vines to the wires. They can cross the yard, above the dogs, without having to touch the ground.

Here's the first grapevine wreath I formed from the cast off vines.At first I was going to just try to wrap the vines to wrangle them into a trash bag. Since I had such nice long pliable vines I thought it was worth while to form some grapevine wreaths. I managed to create four of them before it got too dark. My hubby continued to prune more and cleared through some other yard chores while I wrestled with grapevines. I had gloves on and my regular reading glasses. Good thing, too. Those vines get to whipping around while I worked to untangle them. That smarts when the tips lash out at you when untangling them. You definitely need protection when you're vine wrestling. LOL!

And here's a close up view of one the the four wreaths I made today.This is a close up of one of the four wreaths I created today. There are still lots and lots of vines laying out there on the patio to form into wreaths. If I get another nice day outside tomorrow I'm planning on going outdoors to create more wreaths. The vines will only stay pliable for a short while after being cut. After tomorrow they'll likely become too dry and brittle to work with. There are still more vines to cut from the other two sets of grapevines . . . so could be lots more wreaths to come. It mainly just depends upon the weather and how long I want to stand out there and wrangle vines.

As a thank you to my blog readers -- and all you creative types who enjoy decorating with wreaths -- I will gladly offer up three of these wreaths FREE for the taking to three randomly selected blog readers who post a comment here. This FREE offer is open for the next two weeks through Nov. 4th. I'll draw three winner's names on Nov. 5th and mail one wreath to each of three winners as soon as I get your mailing address. (Sorry, I have to limit this to U.S. residents only please). All you have to do to enter: Please leave a comment indicating how you would use your wreath. Do you decorate for fall? winter? holidays? floral wreaths throughout the year? Will you use it on the wall? on the table as a candle centerpiece? or something else?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Neighborhood Wildlife

A rabbit in our backyard nestles close to the shed. Can you see it?We've got a rabbit that comes to visit in our backyard. I usually see rabbits every year in both the winter and the summer. Actually they can be seen throughout the year around our neighborhood. Can you see it nestled up against the shed doors?

I spotted it when I was calling the dogs to come inside. As they were coming in, it was meandering around. The dogs seemed totally oblivious to it. I could have made a better photo of it if I had ahold of the camera just a bit earlier when it was wandering around, when it was spending more time in the sun.

Here's a close-up of the rabbit in the previous photo. Enlarged greatly, it gets pretty grainy.I zoomed in on the bunny here from the previous photo. I know, the more I increase the size, the more grainy and pixellated the image becomes. But, here's a closer look. And I think this would be classified as a bunny because of the shorter ears? don't rabbits have longer ears? Just wondering. I don't remember what all the differences are between rabbits and bunnies. This is the type you often see here in North Dakota and other western states made up through taxidermy as jackalopes. Whoa! Perhaps this one is a female jackaloupe - a hornless one. Isn't it just the males that have horns? LOL! Anyway . . . the dogs seemed less than unimpressed with its presence. Even when I had the backdoor open trying to get a picture and Ginger (our great hunting dog) hanging her head out the door with me . . . no response from her. She could have cared less. Oh well.

I have to say the day is absolutely beautiful. We've got sunny, SUNNY weather. What a refreshing turn-around from the rainy, cool, cloudy days we've had lately. The high today is supposed to be around 50 degrees. It feels great out there.

Later (approx. 10:20 pm) -- I need to amend my blog. I have to tell you it got to 80 degrees today!!! How great was that!?! But the weather report is talking about that four letter 'S' word coming up. It will be colder tomorrow.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Style Embroidered Leaf

I went to the "Bash" on Saturday. The Anita Goodesign Embroidery Bash put on by J&R Vacuum and Sewing at the Civic Center in Bismarck. It was a lot of fun to see so many of the people I met as customers over the years when I used to work at J&R. This time I went as a customer. It was nice to be on the other side of the fence this time. No prep work ahead of time, no set-up, packing up and cleaning up afterward either. It was fun to go as a customer, chat with so many friends I haven't seen in so long and just be part of the audience for a change. There were some attending the event who didn't realize I was no longer working for J&R so I surprised a few with that info. Apparently there are a lot of phone calls and drop-in cutomers still asking for me at the store. Nice to know I'm missed. It still seems funny to go to events like this as a non-employee - but it's fun to go with no responsibilities for putting on the event.

We got to see all kinds of embroidery samples made up that showcase the embroidery designs, we sewed out some sample projects ourselves, got lunch, chocolates, free embroidery designs to take home, and a free gift of our choice of either an embroidery thread package or a set of scissors as a gift for attending. All-in-all it was a fun day of visiting and taking in all that eye-candy, seeing so many embroidery samples. It would have been even more fun to have won the $1000 Anita Goodesign shopping spree, but alas, I was not that winner. You better believe the gal who did win was pretty excited about it!

I have decided the next embroidery quilt project I start will be a quilt made from their Vintage Autumn Sampler design CD. I had this embroidery package waiting for me at home already. The leaf block you see pictured here is from that design CD. It is one of the projects we embroidered on Saturday at the event. Obviously embroidering a quilt is a really fast way to get it quilted and put together. Just layer your batting between two pieces of fabric, hoop it up and embroider the design. Then trim up the blocks to size with your rotary cutter and stitch them together. You can stitch them neatly with all finished edges or you can do it the quick method leaving raggedy edges exposed like those quick and easy rag quilts.

I have not sewn out any of the designs from this embroidery collection yet. Seeing them in person with the beautifully digitized designs is good incentive to get to working on them for myself. When I got home on Saturday I gathered together all my Anita Goodesign embroidery designs and made up an inventory of the ones I had on hand. I brought my list along with me to the event, but knew it wasn't quite complete. There were several I had purchased that weren't on my list. Now the list is done so I don't mistakenly purchase the same designs twice. It helps to stay organized that way.

I was going to get the embroidery designs transferred to use on my machines this weekend, but didn't get that far. I kind of took a turn for the worse feeling under the weather a bit today. It actually started last night after I got home - feeling nauseous, irritable and out of sorts. By the time I woke up I was feeling pretty rotten. I stayed in bed to sleep longer today, ate light since my tummy started to revolt on me last night with a very disagreeable response to anything I started to eat. Even after I got up for awhile today I went back to bed and took a nap this afternoon for awhile. Things are a bit better now. I have been drinking pink grapefruit juice (for the vitamin C), hot tea and eating crackers and plain old rice rather than anything I'd normally eat any other day. Just keeping things kind of bland to let my tummy take a break. I hate being sick.

One good thing about taking it easy today was the opportunity I had to just sit back and look at magazines in bed for a change. I got caught up on some recently acquired ones - so more eye candy as I read about various scrapbooking and art related news. That was alright - so there is a silver lining behind the 'being sick' cloud.

Okay, I'm off to bed again now. And again my days and nights are all mixed up what with sleeping extra today. Will have to try to get that straightened out again to a more normal waking and sleeping schedule this week.

Oh, almost forgot . . . At the event Chris mentioned to go to the Anita Goodesign website. Take part in their quick survey to qualify to download some free embroidery designs. Then enter their contest using the designs. Have fun! The crazy patch quilt design is another one of the designs we got to do at the event. What fun to get them free!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple Zucchini Pie - A Taste of Autumn

We were blessed with a bag of apples from friends of ours in Minot recently. These came from a tree in their front yard. I also received this huge zucchini from my sewing friend along with her recipe for Apple-Zucchin Pie. She gave me a slice one day during a break from our sewing. It was so yummy. I readily agreed I had to have the recipe so I could make some for my family. Thankfully she sent me home with the zucchini also since we didn't grow any this year. That's definitely going in the garden next year.

Don't these apples look scrumptious displayed on my new kitchen towels? I picked up a couple sets of these towels at our local Pier One Imports store here in Bismarck when they went on sale a while ago. I just love this green color. The apples are really great, too. I'm not sure about the variety, but they are those crisp, tart apples for baking. Just the right amount of zing in them offset by the sugar in the pie - not too tart, not too sweet.

We invited our son, Josh, and his new wife, Samantha, over for supper on Saturday. After a tasty roast beef, potatoes and gravy, veggies and buns we topped it all off with a slice of apple-zucchini pie with whipped topping. We all ate so good we couldn't even finish off our pies. I was hoping they would want to take some pie home with them (I made three pies) but they didn't. Hubby says he'll take the rest in to work with him tomorrow. Says they'll be gone before you know it over there. I thought he might have done that when he left this morning, but when I got up and checked they were still on the kitchen counter.

That was just as well that they were still here. My friend came over for sewing today so we had some pie this afternoon while we chatted. It really has to go to someone tomorrow. If hubby doesn't take it to work in the morning, I'll see if I can take it to some other friends. Pie is such a great dessert, but we don't need to gobble up three of them. Three pies are for sharing. Who wants a slice?

Notice those quilt blocks for my leaf quilt the pie is sitting upon? I've finally got all 56 leaves embroidered and pieced. If you want to read more about my progress on this quilt you can click here and read the posts starting from August 25th on through September and October. This quilt is turning out to be gorgeous with all the fall colors.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Crisp Fall Temps

We took the motorcycle out for a spin the other day when it was still nice and sunny. It has turned cool here in North Dakota. The leaves are falling from the trees - or rather being blown down from the trees with all the windy weather we are receiving now and for the last several days. Our motorcycle trip was fairly short since it was cool. The last ride for the year. We drove along the river and through the Fox Island boating area where all the flooding took place last spring. It was a pleasant ride. I love this time of year.

I've spent the better part of the last two days sewing, doing machine embroidery and cutting up fabric for more quilts. I'll post some pictures of my projects tomorrow when I get more photos taken. The leaf quilt I've been working on now has all its leaves embroidered. I just need to finish stitching the strips on the last blocks so I can put them together. Yeah! This quilt has been so good for using up a good chunk of my scraps. Of course there's still lots more to go. I don't seem to ever run out of scraps. That's okay, though. I absolutely adore a good scrappy quilt. Tonight I started cutting out fabric for my next quilt. This one should sew up real quick. It does not have any embroidery on it. This time it's just basic sewing and quilting. I'm looking forward to getting these quilts put on my quilting frame. It will be fun to play around with the Pfaff Grand Quilter and my Grace Next Generration quilting frame.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dishing Up Some Goodies in the Kitchen

I spent some time today cooking in the kitchen. It was the perfect day for cooking and baking since the temperature was so nice and cool. It felt just like the air-conditioner had been turned on all day and we didn't need to run it at all. Along with the cool air we got lots of wind and a bit of rain. So . . . it was the perfect day to stay indoors and do some baking and cooking.

We had all the fixings to make eggrolls. As soon as my hubby heard this info he was so gung-ho to have me get started on this. When the boys were growing up at home I could make a double batch of eggrolls and between the three guys in the house they didn't last very long. Now that it's just the two of us here at home one would think they'd last a while longer. We'll see. My hubby is talking about taking them as snacks to eat on his break-time at work, having some for breakfast, lunch and supper. I asked him if he wouldn't be tired of them that many meals in a row. The response was, "Of course not!" We'll see how long that opinion lasts. I stuck nearly half of them in the freezer just in case he's had his fill by tomorrow.

They're packaged in sandwich size zippy bags so they're quick to grab and pop in the microwave for a snack. I love them with sweet and sour sauce. Two makes a nice size meal for me. I know hubby munched on more than that.

The other baking project I worked on today was chocolate chip cookies after I was done with the eggrolls. I'd been craving cookies for several days but it seemed too warm to have the oven heating up the kitchen. This was exactly the kind of day to make them. I doubled the batch and put up lots of zippy bags filled with cookies into the freezer. I'll move some of them down stairs to the deep freeze in a day or two when I go shopping to restock the cupboards.

The last week or so I've been working on going through the food in our cupboards to sort out and use up some of the older stuff. There have been some expiration dates showing food past its prime. I hate to have spent the money on stuff only to find I ignored it so long I had to throw it out. I went through the fridge and tossed several things this weekend that hadn't even been opened but was past the expiration date. I know there's still more stuff in the cupboards to look through on the high shelves that I have to use a chair to get to.

I ate a couple cookies while I baked the last of them. They were yummy - really hit the spot with my craving. With being in the kitchen cooking up some good smells, the dogs wanted to be my best, closest friends. Near the end of the bowl I separated out the chocolate chips from some of the cookie dough and made two cookies for each of our three dogs. I gave them each a few bites tonight and saved the rest of their cookies for them to eat tomorrow.