Friday, December 30, 2011

Tea Time!

  I hosted a Christmas Tea this afternoon for my quilting friends and their daughters.  We had a wonderful time partaking of 3 kinds of tea , numerous cookies, double chocolate muffins, cinnamon struesel bread, chex mix, and assorted chocolates...yum! Kayla and her daughter, Ashley,(also a quilter) and Darla with her daughters, Sarah and Victoria all attended. Jane and her daughter, Melissa, came last Friday for a mini tea since they were going to new York this week for a family Christmas.

The table set for Christmas tea...

Seated and ready for tea...those are tissue-wrapped party favors sticking up in their cups, ornaments I made using wooden spools...
And the sugar feast begins..

  It's always fun to have company when the house is decorated for Christmas. I enjoy my village and trees and light them even when I'm home alone, but it's nice to see them in someone else's eyes as well. This was the last chance to use my Christmas china for this year too. It was with a little sadness when I washed them and returned them to the hutch for another year.  Christmas 2011 is at last over and I'll undecorate this New Year's Day. Does anyone else get the after Christmas blues besides me? Home is just more "homey" at Christmas, isn't it?

  Kayla brought a newly pieced quilt top to show me. The Civil War repros are in delicious colors. She's backing it in a wonderful soldier blue print and trying her hand at machine quilting it herself. The pattern is Appalachian Trail by Sew Unique.

Here are some spool ornaments like the ones I made for them...these hang on my sewing room tree...

  Can you tell my pictures are better? Randy came through for me again this year and gave me the requested new camera for Christmas. It's a Sony Cyber Shot with 16.1 mega pixels, 10X zoom, 25 mm wide-angle lens, and 3.0" LCD screen. This is all "Greek" to me (remember, I'm technologically illiterate), but all I know is this is the same camera my Sissy has and she takes great pictures. This was the last present I opened (Randy handed them out) so I didn't get to take any Christmas pictures with it! Luckily, he took some on his camera, so our Christmas isn't lost to history.

  Alas, poor "George Washington" still isn't finished. I was quilting last night and I complained to Randy that I had expected to be finished with "George" and on to quilting on the quilt in the frame by now. Randy, being the ever so uplifting husband he is, said, "Well, Bec, you are getting older, maybe you're getting slower too." If I hadn't been hindered by the quilt on my lap and needle in hand, I swear I would have smacked him! I settled for a nasty look instead and assured him that that wasn't the case, it is just that I haven't had a lot of time to quilt this week except in the evenings. I've spent all this week cleaning out closets and switching winter clothes from storage and packing summer clothes in those newly emptied totes in the basement. I decided I'm definitely a "clothes horse", yea, I know, some of you already knew that. I took 2 car loads up to our local good will store and I promised I'd be back next week with more. In my defense, some of it was Randy's and Isaah's clothes. Ok, a small portion of it was theirs. I only admit this because some of my family reads my blog and they would correct me if I wasn't totally honest! Anyway, someone or a lot of someone's can get some good wear from those clothes. My New Year's resolution is that if I buy a new article of clothing, I have to get rid of an article of clothing. I might not save money, but my closets will stay neater and Good Will will love me. 

  Here's wishing you all a Happy New Year! I hope 2012 is good to you and you sew lots of new quilts. And as always, Keep Stitching!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bah! Humble Bug!

   I have to offer my most humble apologies to the UPS guy, you know the one. The one I've been complaining about. Thursday night, I finally decided he wasn't bringing Randy's Christmas presents this year. I called Bike Nashbar to ask them what happened. The lady who answered was very nice and willing to look into the situation. First, she couldn't find me in the system at all. I gave her more details and reminded her that I had placed the order on December 5th. She finally said, "I'm sorry, but I don't seen your order anywhere." I became frantic and told her it had to be there. She could tell I was near tears and kept trying. She finally said, "Oh, I have an order on the 5th in Randy Wright's name." When she read it off to me, it was identical and I told her I placed that order and used my credit card number so it should have had my name on it. Anyway, the kicker was when she said, "Maam, our records indicate that the package was delivered to you on the 10th." I really lost it then and said I'd expected the UPS truck everyday since the 5th and it had never come. Then she told me, "Oh, our records indicate it was sent using the US Postal system."   What?!!!

   I told her we have the nicest mailman who we've given access to come into our garage with any packages. He's even added postage for us when I've made a mistake and lets me know later. She suggested I go to the post office on Friday and inquire. I did and as luck would have it, our mailman hadn't left on his route yet so I got to talk to him. He said he hadn't had a single day off this month and he'd certainly never seen a package for us from Bike Nashbar. He was very apologetic and felt really badly about it (not that it was his fault) and I assured him of that.

  I called Bike Nashbar back when I got home and was lucky enough to get the same lady I'd spoken to the night before. She said I could get a full refund or they could reship at no charge to me. I told her this was my husband's entire Christmas and to please reship. She said she'd get it to us hopefully by Monday or Tuesday. I cried when I told Randy about it. He was sweet and assured me that it wouldn't spoil his Christmas, but I knew it would spoil mine.

  Randy was up and gone at 6 AM this morning to go on a bike ride with friends in Burlington. I was just getting out of the shower at 9AM when I heard a knock at the front door. I tried to dress as quickly as I could, but I missed whoever it was. I opened the door to see if someone was walking away and noticed a big box on the porch. It was from Bike Nashbar!!! The lady had shipped it overnight express! I was able to get everything wrapped and hidden before Randy got home. Boy, will he be surprised tomorrow morning. I have to say Bike Nashbar really offers excellent customer service and I intend to write them a letter thanking them. As for the poor maligned UPS guy, I'M SORRY! I never should have doubted you. Boy, I would sure love to know what really happened to my order. Randy's birthday is January 2nd, but don't worry, there won't be any drama. I already have his gift wrapped and hidden for safe keeping.

  I hope all of you have a blessed Christmas Day with the people you love and if traveling have a safe trip. Ours will be spent with first with our church family for early service, then to Illinois to Randy's family for dinner, and evening at my Mother's.

Keep stitching,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Help, 911, I Have a Christmas Emergency!

   A few days until Christmas and I find myself being held hostage by the UPS guy. Ok, melodramatic perhaps, but it's almost true! My husband who enjoys surprising me by getting almost everything on my wish list (in recent years when we've been more flush, empty nest you know) is terrible about giving me a wish list of his own. He finally relented and circled some items in his various catalogs (Cabella's, Bike Nashbar, Camp More, etc.) on December 5th. I promptly placed orders via phone and was assured a Christmas delivery by each salesman. Now, here I sit and NOTHING, not one single thing has arrived and it's December 19th! UPS doesn't deliver on Saturdays, so I have only 4 days of opportunity left. It won't be fun to have gifts of my own to open and Randy have a big fat nothing in front of him. Aarggg! Can you say, "STRESS"? That UPS guy has my Merry Christmas in his hands and he better deliver!

  I'm almost finished hand-quilting my George Washington quilt. I wasn't especially impressed with the top when I got it done, but now with the quilting, I'm really starting to be happy with it. I will share pictures when I finish, hopefully before Christmas. I do have some pictures to share with you, but not my own work. I visited Jane's house a couple Saturdays ago and remembered to take my camera. I'm learning!

 This is the quilt Jane just finished in time for her son in law's graduation from Sandhurst Military Academy in London, (think England's equivalent to our West Point.) Tim flew to London for the ceremony, a formal tuxedo affair, and took Jane's quilt to present to him, as a graduation gift. He had said he would feel like part of the family once his mother in law had made him a quilt. I don't recall the name of the pattern, but it is a beauty and hand-quilted.

  Of course, I couldn't leave without a visit to Jane's studio to see her latest work in progress. She has collected fabric with teacups for years and has started a Teacup quilt. Her quilts always reflect the influence living in England had on her. Her color and fabric choices scream England to me. I just love them. My camera never does justice to whatever I'm taking pictures of . The colors are always "off". Trust me, this quilt is very soft and subtle and scrappy. Jane is very good at sewing scraps into beautiful quilts. The brighter blue is her design wall, not part of the quilt.

Another view. Notice yet another work in progress on her table... this one in 30's scraps.

  Keep your fingers crossed for me. I put a new camera on my wish list! If Randy gives me nothing else, I hope he got me a camera! I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

PS...  If you see the UPS guy lollygagging around somewhere send him to my house!

Keep stitching,

Monday, December 5, 2011

Merry Quilting Christmas!

   I showed a photo of my George Washington quilt in progress in my  last post. I looked forward to the weekend, because Randy had inventory Friday and Saturday which left me with guilt-free quilting time. Never one to miss an opportunity like that, I did indeed sewed this weekend. I'm happy to say that George is done! Well, at least the top. I'm basting it now for hand-quilting. I had no particular plan for the size quilt it would be. I sewed, planned, cut, sewed till it looked finished. It turned out 54" square which will be good for storage and display reasons. I'm pleased with the quilt, but I wish the fabric had featured Abe Lincoln instead. Sorry, George, I understand you are the father of our country and I have a healthy respect for you, but what can I say, I love old Honest Abe better. Oh well, it's done and I have used part of my hoard of "I'll use it someday" fabric. That's a good thing.

The George Washington top layered, ready for basting...

This is a cabinet I display in my dining room during Christmas. It holds some of my Santa collection with my daughter's dollhouse furniture...
I treat the cabinet like it's a dollhouse. Here is shelf #1...the kitchen...
Self room...
Shelf #3...the bedroom...
I took this picture for my Christmas card to all of you. It's the centerpiece on my dining room table. Isn't the primitive reindeer cute? His antlers and legs are made out of branches. I bought him today at Kountry Primitives outside of New London, Iowa.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Keep stitching,


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey, Stuffing, & Stuff!

  After all the things I was thankful for on Thanksgiving Day, I'm thankful now that it's over! Don't get me wrong, I had a great 5 day break from school, my son was home, we had good family time, and a delicious turkey dinner with leftovers that lasted till lunch on Sunday. The down side was I had no quilting time till about 8 PM on Sunday night. I have a tradition that I always decorate for Christmas starting the day after Thanksgiving. Even if I would waver on that, my son wouldn't let me. He's BIG on tradition. So with all the usual festive activities associated with Thanksgiving, dishes, laundry, family time, and 3 days of decorating, there was little time left. I still have the family room tree to put up, but I can put it off for another few days since Isaah is back in Iowa City. What he doesn't know won't hurt me! Shhh!

  Now, I'm back in quilt mode. Ahhh, that feels better. Here is what I've been up to...

My Christmas village, 2011 version...
Angel tree,in memory of my daughter, Elizabeth...
My cow tree with over 250 cows...
Santa tree (I still believe, don't you?)

Two Love and Valor Quilts with binding at last...

Remember George? I'm finally back to working on that quilt...(the small tree has all sewing related ornaments)
  I put up a tree and another village scene in the HS  Media Center on Monday. I've sewn every night this week though, so I'll be in the mood to put up my last tree this weekend. Randy has to do inventory Friday night and Saturday anyway, so I should have plenty of time for that and time to sew too. I'm back in the groove! Yeehaw! Hoping you're having a groovy time too!

Keep stitching,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Civil War Update

  I've been quilting every spare minute this past week. Only 2 1/2 blocks to go on Baby Kitty's Quilt. Yea! I thought I'd better take some time off to post though, since it's been a week. Yikes! Where does time go?

  Since I can't show my quilting progress, I'll share some Civil War history instead...

   President Lincoln proclaimed a naval blockade of all southern ports on the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf on April19, 1861. The plan was to keep the Confederacy from exporting their cotton crop and from receiving goods from abroad. The Union bought or hired 200 ships to implement the blockade. The blockade was extremely effective, though some small , fast-sailing blockade runners made it past the larger Union ships delivering much needed supplies. Still, by the end of November, 1861, cotton exports fell to only 5% of what they were before the war. Southern commerce was dramatically affected. British mills, no longer able to get the needed cotton from the south, began to buy raw cotton from Egypt and India instead. Cotton exports had been the biggest part of the south's economy, thus the term, King Cotton. Now with a sharp decline in cotton exports, the Confederacy began to want for even the basic necessities. It would only get worse.

  I recently purchased this group photo taken in the 1860's. It appears to be a composite of photos for a girls' academy or maybe it's ladies involved in the Sanitary Commission. That's my best guess anyway. The back has a list of names. Maybe one of you will recognize a name.

This next pictures, bought from the same source, is identified on the front as "our teacher" and on the back as GSM Darcy, 1866. I wonder if he taught before the war or began a new career after surviving the fight.

This gentleman is identified as Chas. (Charles) K. An enlistment picture or "after the war" photo?

These two photos are of  sisters, but I can't tell if it's the same two sisters' photos taken a few years apart or is it 4 sisters in separate photos grouped by similar ages. What do you think?

In case I forget it or don't blog again soon, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope we all have plenty to be thankful for. I know I do. Keep stitching!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Offer I Couldn't and Didn't Refuse!

  A couple weeks ago I received an offer I couldn't refuse from my friend, Jane's husband. Jane is a quilter and her husband is a biking friend of Randy's. They  retired from the southwest TO Iowa a few years ago. Why, you ask? Tim had ridden for the Air Force bicycling team on RAGBRAI for several years and he was struck with the friendliness of Iowans and it was centrally located to relatives. They were a perfect friendship match for us...a quilter for me, a biker for Randy.It didn't take us long to match up.

  Back to that offer! Tim likes to go to auctions and he likes to do "projects." Awhile back he had bought an old wooden ironing board at an auction, cut a large piece of plywood, attached it to the ironing board, added padding, and wallah, a great pressing board for Jane to iron large quilt tops on. I was impressed when I saw it. I only have a small fold-down ironing board on the back of the door in my sewing room. I had purchased plywood and had it cut to fit a large pressing pad I had bought with a 50% off coupon at JoAnn's a couple years ago. BUT, guess what...I had no surface to set it on in my sewing room. Bummer!!! It stood leaning against the wall behind the door unused for 2 years. We were invited to Tim and Jane's for dinner a couple Sundays ago. After dinner, it was only natural for Jane and I to migrate to her sewing area in the family room downstairs. She shared her quilts,works in progress (many and gorgeous) her stash acquisitions, books, etc. Tim told me he had bought another wooden ironing board at a sale and if I supplied the wood, he'd make me a pressing board like Jane's if I wanted one. IF?!!! I jumped on that offer immediately. Heck, I already had the 22" x 62" padded board already just needing a base! It can still hide behind the door when not in use, but when I need it, I can simply unfold it and stand it in the middle of my sewing room. Having a handy friend is really really handy! Here's pictures of my new treasure...
     The pressing pad has good cushioning and all the required markings necessary to keep tops squared up while pressing.

  The view of the back showing it's humble plywood underside. I attached a heavy duty Velcro strap to lock the legs in place when folded up...

Ready for action...

   I've found it also comes in handy when I'm marking a quilt for the quilting. It's a large surface and it keeps the top from sliding around when marking. I've had that problem when marking on a table top or counter.

   Those old wooden ironing boards usually sell cheap at auctions and sometimes yard sales. Keep an eye out for them and you could have a terrific pressing board too!

  I've had a 3 1/2 day weekend, thanks to parent teacher conferences Thursday afternoon and all day Friday, which I didn't have to participate in. I've nearly quilted nonstop and have the sore fingers to prove it! I am quilting on Baby Kitty's Quilt, one of the two hand-quilted quilts  for my book.  Randy is on a bike ride with Bike Burlington for what he says is "probably the last ride of the season before it snows." He's said that for the last three rides he's gone on. Funny thing is, he'll go on bike rides even if there is snow, just not as often. He goes on an annual New Year's Day ride, the Brr ride in February in northern Iowa, and the CRAMP ride (cold ride around Mt. Pleasant) in March! I don't know why he feels he has to make me promises about not riding. I don't believe them anyway and I don't even care that he goes! It's good for his health and he enjoys it, but, hey, if he feels guilty and like he owes me, well, that can come in handy when I want to go do something quilt-related! Heh heh heh. A nice little arrangement, don't you think?

  Hope you're finding time to quilt too. Keep stitching!

Monday, October 31, 2011

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go!

  Are you familiar with that old saying? That's been me all week, or, really it's been my Giveaway prize to be more exact. I've had it packaged ready to ship to my winner, but my winner never sent me her address! I really was excited to hold a giveaway and disappointed that a nice bag of goodies is sitting patiently in my sewing room waiting for the winner to claim it. I have decided I'm tired of waiting, sooooo, the first FOLLOWER to comment on this post and send me their address will claim the prize! For privacy, use the email button on this blog to send your address privately.

  Here's a reminder what's up for grabs....

   Ready, set, GO!!!!

Keep stitching,

Friday, October 21, 2011

We've got a Winner!

   Hello to all  my wonderful followers! It's been fun this week reading which of my posts is your favorite. Thanks for all the great comments and for entering in my little give away. I know, I know, you're saying "Alright, already, cut to the chase! Tell us who won!" Sorry, I was only trying to create some suspense, you know? It's not every day that I have a give away. In fact, this is my first! Ok, enough already. I've tried your patience too long. It took me a long time to get 100 followers and I don't want to lose any of you now! Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, I was about to announce the winner. Drum roll please.................the winner is #27, ytsmom, who commented at 8:40 AM on Monday, October 17th! I just need you to email me your name and address and I'll ship your prize. I wish I could give one to all of you. Hey, if I reach 200, who knows what I'll do to celebrate!

  I'll share a little news with you all. We sent out our book proposal to multiple publishers who expressed interest in my book this week! I'm terribly excited, but it's not published yet. Please keep those positive vibes heading my way. I'll keep you informed. Heck, if a publisher offers me a deal, you'll probably hear me squeal (literally) wherever you are!

  This seems like a pretty puny post, so I'll share some more Civil War Era photos. It's been cold the last few days and I've had to wear a jacket to work, so my theme I chose photos for was ladies in jackets.

   Look how short the first lady is! She is barely taller than her husband with him seated. This is a foreign photo. Maybe one of my European followers can tell me where it was taken. The back says,"H. Sander. Photographisches Atelier Neumunster." Anyone know what language this is?

             The standing lady in the picture on the right is in a maternity jacket...
  I think this lady's jacket is a maternity one also. Isn't that little girl adorable? Love her curls!

  This photo was taken in Plymouth, Indiana. The man is identified as John Shaile. His wife's identity was ignored!

  150 years ago newspapers would have been reporting on several battles this week. On the 16th of October Union troops took control of Lexington, Missouri from the Confederate forces who had commanded that position since September 20, 1861. Naval forces joined the fight when the USS Massachusetts engaged the CSS Florida off the shores of Ship Island on October 19th. Two days later the Confederates defeated Federal forces at Ball's Bluff, Virginia on the 21st and by the 22nd news of that loss reached the North alarming the citizens. The first 90 day enlistments had long expired and people now realized this war would not be over anytime soon.

   I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and find time to sew. I certainly plan to!

Keep stitching,

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It'a Give Away Time!

  Since I've passed the 100 Follower milestone I want to celebrate with a give away. For the give away prize I bought a really cute vinyl tote, 1/3 yd. pink and browns bundle, Fall 2011 issue of Primitive Quilts, and a magnetic quilt bookmark at Quilter's General Store last week. I'm adding an assortment of 3 quilting rulers, an Orphan's of War pattern, and just for fun a Ziploc bag full of Civil War repro scraps left from making the quilts for my book, Love and Valor Quilts. It's about a $75 value altogether.

  To enter, you must be a Follower and leave me a comment telling me what has been your favorite post so far. I'll choose the winner Friday night. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read my quilting adventures and sometimes, misadventures!

  Here's a picture of the prize. I can't wait to send it out to one of you!

Good luck! Keep stitching,

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Treasures and Travels

  Last week was a busy one for me. I gave 2 Civil War presentations. The first was for the Old Capital Quilt Guild in Iowa City, Iowa. It is a large and very active group of quilters. I was fortunate enough to see the show 'n' tell portion of their meeting. Members shared some pretty quilts, but I was dressed in my Civil War costume and didn't have my camera on me to take pictures to share with you. Later in the week, I traveled to Delafield, Wisconsin, accompanied by my friend, Darla. We stayed overnight in the beautiful Colonial style home of Pam Quebbermann. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her and by bedtime felt like old friends. What a gracious hostess. We each had our own bedroom with lovely quilts made by Pam, and our own bathroom. My presentation for the Lake Country Quilt Guild was at 10 AM the next morning. They have a large membership and lots of activities going on. I was surprised to meet Barb Johnson, who is the sister in law of Robert Johnson (Christopher Staffinger's great great grandson) and the owner of Tea and Textiles, a quilt shop in Jefferson, Wisconsin. She treated us to lunch after the guild meeting.

   On our way to Wisconsin, we stopped at the Vintage Threads Quilt Shoppe in Dyersville, Iowa. It was featured in the latest issue of Quilt Sampler magazine. It was a lovely shop with something for every quilter's taste. If you're in the NE Iowa area, you'll want to check it out. Coming home, we detoured so we could stop in at Quilter's General Store in Rockford, Illinois. It is fantastic and I posted about it in an earlier post a few posts back if you want to see photos.

  Have you seen Barbara Brackman's new line of fabrics, Lately Arrived from London? It is gorgeous and when I saw the full line at Inspirations, in Hills, Iowa, I had to buy the fat quarter bundle plus 3 yards of one of the large florals in the line. Sorry for the picture quality. I took this at night and it doesn't do the fabric justice at all.

   I told you about finding a lot of orphan blocks to buy in Des Moines when I was there for the Expo, but I haven't shown you pictures of them. Here are some of my favorite orphans...

and, lastly...
I love them all! Here is a picture of an 1880's 4 - Patch quilt top I bought at the Jean S. Lyle booth at the Expo. It is a treasure trove of 1860-1880 fabrics.
A little closer look...

   Pam Quebbermann, our hostess in Wisconsin, had this wonderful 1880 quilt draped over the banister in the upstairs hallway. It has many Civil War Era fabrics in it and 1870-1880 fabrics as well. Someone had a great scrap basket! We had a lot of fun examining it, spotting a few fabrics that have now been reproduced, but many more that we wish would be  reproduced! 

A closeup of some favorite pieces...
   I passed the 100 Followers mark this week! I'm very excited about that. Thank you to all who have signed up. I'll try to keep you entertained and informed. I'm planning a give-away to celebrate this event. I bought some goodies at Quilter's General Store to add to some other goodies I already had for the give-away. I'll take pictures tomorrow and post the particulars on how to enter either tomorrow night or Monday. Check back then to enter. I'll draw the winner Friday evening.

Keep stitching!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Shhh! Can You Keep a Secret?

  When asked what I do with antique quilt tops, to quilt or not to quilt, I always say,"Don't quilt them! They are too fragile and it devalues them to add new work to them." Uh oh. I broke my own rule! The 1880's doll quilt top that I showed in my last post was partially made and I had the vintage fabrics bought with it to finish it. I thought it was so small, it could surely be finished and quilted. It would be so cute finished. I got half-way through the quilting and guess what happened. A brown polished cotton piece in the center "shattered." The brown dye used at the time  it was milled was harsh. Fabric with that dye, would over time, basically crumble, or "shatter." It looked perfectly normal when I started quilting, but obviously, it had never been handled or exposed to light. Those pieced blocks had probably been kept in a closed box or trunk for decades protecting them from wear. I should have known better. If it had been a full-size top, I would have followed the rules. Here's the problem...

See, right in the center, of course!

My solution...
A closer look... just don't look too close to my applique stitches!
   Lucky I had some of the vintage red circle fabric that was used in the blocks. Lesson learned; follow my own rules!!! Lesson to you; do as I say, not as I do!!! 

  Confession is supposed to be good for the soul. I confessed my quilting transgression to you, but it can be our little secret, ok?

Keep stitching,