IT IS TIME….

This week found me outside everyday.  We had one of those weeks of weather that makes a gardener go crazy.  We call it Minnesota beautiful.  That means sunny, no wind, a high of 70° and no humidity.  It was perfect for everything…work and leisure.  I have learned over the years that I generally need two to three trips to the nursery.  Each time I fill my car to the brim and promise myself I will get everything that I buy planted that same day.  Over a two day period, I planted a little over 150 plants.  Check out my car…full to the brim, including the passenger’s seat. 

Each year I create a plan to determine what color scheme I am going to work with for both bedding plants and containers.  I have some standards that I always use, but will change the accent plants from year to year.  I like to repeat the same color family and plants around the whole yard and in the containers to unify the different areas.  Before heading off to the nursery, I will check out their website to view what they are stocking and make a list so I don’t get distracted by all the great things I see when I make my trip to get the plants.  I try to mix interesting foliage plants that do not flower with the plants that do so the contrast makes both stand out.  This all sounds very much like the same process we all go through when planning a quilting project…right?

When I start planting, I place all of the plants around the yard and in the pots to see how the plan is coming together.  It gives me the opportunity to change combinations before digging.  I use a little fertilizer (Osmocote)  to give the plants a jump start.  Our season is short so it is best to use all the tools available to help the plants thrive.  I will post pictures of this pot and this garden spot to show you the progress throughout the summer.  Everything always looks so skimpy when planted and then glorious at the end of the summer and different every week in between.

I find myself doing a walk through the gardens almost everyday.  I try to make the most of the season and enjoy the fruits of my labor.  It is also a good way to keep up on things “going rogue” before they get too out of hand and doing a little bit at a time makes tending the garden more manageable. 

Now that I have most of the planting done here at home, I have a few pots at the cabin that I will plant this weekend.  I do try to keep the gardening and yard maintenance to a minimum there.  After all, that is suppose to be more about relaxing.  The kitchen duties keep me busy enough.

This is the week that my five ornamental apple trees have fully blossomed out.  I also have lilac hedges on both sides of our property that extend 20-40 feet.  Obviously the fragrance outside right now is pretty glorious.  This is a very short lived period of wonderfulness.  Next week when the rain comes, the blossoms drop pretty rapidly.  However, for the moment, our whole town and countryside is a feast for the eyes. 

I painted a small water color of the apple blossoms for Ella’s room.  Her room is the one I can add all my small pastel pictures and crafts to and they seem right at home. 

Since Sunday was Mother’s Day, I  decided to make my mother’s favorite bar recipe, Mounds Bars, to take to the cabin.  She made these often for many of the weekends at the lake during my childhood. It seemed fitting to have them this year as a tiny reminder of the countless hours she spent over my lifetime making things special.  And it was a nice way to talk about her and all she did for a  little while. She loved the cabin.

If you like chocolate and coconut, you will love this treat.

MOUNDS BARS

Spring Spruce Up

Each season always brings a renewed effort to spruce up the house and garden.  It is always fun to change things up a bit without major investments.  The first thing I turn to is moving my accessories from room to room and changing up the combination of items.   This exercise always makes things look fresh again and each time I do it I think I have found the right combination. But soon, it will change again.  The space above my china cupboard in my dining room is always the first place I start and is the most fun to do.  I know have shared  this view a number of times, but items are a new combination.

I have been dabbling a bit painting with acrylics and this past month did two new paintings for spots in my house that needed a change of pace.  This of course means the other items in those locations got moved elsewhere, starting an avalanche of new picture placement about the house.  The trick always is to make the same nail placement in the walls work.  It can be quite the puzzle, but when I figure it out, everything looks new and fresh again.  Here are the two new paintings I have added.

In my last post, I shared my idea of using embroidery floss and the trusty zig zag stitch to create a fun pillow.  I enjoyed the process and end result so much that  I made another pillow. This time I used a scrap of decorator weight beige gingham check for the base and again  stitched on a grid using embroidery floss.  I changed up the thickness of the floss by using a different quantity of floss strands…sometimes just 6 strands and sometimes 12 and some in-between.   I experimented on a scrap of fabric and whatever I tried seem to work.  the last two pictures show the final result.  And guess what….I still have a lot of floss leftover.

At the beginning of this last week, we had a brief encounter with cold rain and even a few snowflakes.  Even for Minnesota, this is not a fun surprise on a Monday morning on May 1st.  On May 5th, it was 75°, which is pretty much perfect as far as I am concerned.  I spent the whole day in the garden.  All the perennials are up and are at the perfect state for splitting and moving.  This is much like the same process I just went through in the house, moving things I have from room to room to refresh without getting new things.  Now this dose not mean I won’t be heading off next week to purchase the annuals for my pots, but dividing plants is so good for the individual plants and when I do it now, they don’t skip a beat and “free” plants are always fun for a gardener.  This is the time of the year when the garden looks so tidy and all the plants are at their best even if they are not blooming…no high winds, hail, drought or bug infestation has yet happened.  It is also the time of year that gardeners are hopeful it will be a good year and we over buy and over plant, setting us up for a lot of maintenance for the rest of the summer.  And the cycle goes on year after year.  I know some of you might be curious about the plants pictured.  They are all appropriate for zone 4.

Lemon Drop Spirea with Rosy Return Daylillies, Lady’s Mantle, Montana Hosta (one plant has now become ten plants), Lamb’s Ear from my friend  Marilyn, Variegate Daylilly (one plant has now been split into seven plants), Sprite Astilbe, Mugo Pine with lots of new growth, and Climbing Hydrangea (slow growing but now taking off).

We are opening the cabin this weekend which kicks off the summer in a traditional manner that we have been doing since I was a preschooler.  Lots of memories at that place and now that we have grandchildren, more are being made.  Things change very little out there, which I guess is the charm.

SEWING ROOM INSPIRATION

One rainy day spent in my sewing room always turns into either mending and ironing or rearranging fabric, sorting supplies and generally putting things back in order.  Usually, the process results in finishing a project and perhaps getting inspired to use up “stash” items to create something from “nothing”. It is always a good day when new, finished projects are the result.

If you remember the hearts I stitched for Ella’s holiday tree in her room….they needed to be replaced with bunnies and eggs for Easter.  She announced she would like decorations for the tree for every holiday throughout the year.  It sure is fun having someone who loves my little wool felt stitchery.  Here are the new spring decorations for her tree.  Luckily, I have a stash of wool felt, embroidery floss and pearl cotton that I can always dig into to make these small treasures.  There is no pattern.  I sketched a shape within a 2-3″ size and cut two pieces of felt for each ornament and stitched the edges together with a blanket or buttonhole stitch.  Just before I finished stitching around the shape, I tucked a very small amount of polyester fiberfil in to give a little dimension to the ornament.  Cookie cutters make great patterns for simple shapes if you do not want to free hand the shapes.

I think the next thing I need to do is come up with a special box to store all the ornaments in that can be tucked on a shelf in her closet so that as they accumulate they can all be stored in one place and retrieved easily for the years to come.

As I was looking for thread to use for these ornaments, it seemed like a good time to gather and organize all of the embroidery floss and pearl cotton that I have.  It is always frightening to discover the amount I have accumulated.  Over the years I have amassed quite a collection including threads from my grandmother, my aunt, my mother and everything from the Thimbleberries Studio.  They are now all in one antique picnic basket along with my embroidery hoops.  It is always a good thing to get every like item in one spot.

While sorting through, I thought of an idea that might use up a good amount of the embroidery thread stash.  I collected a group of threads of coordinating colors and stitched the strands onto a base to make a new pillow.  I found a neutral scrap of upholstery weight fabric that I had once used as a base for a group of appliquéd runners back in the eighties.  It was one of those pieces that I just kept over the years, knowing I would use it someday.  Well, that someday finally arrived and it was perfect for this project.  It is now a pillow and not a scrap of fabric.

I used a spool of variegated thread, and a huge variety of flosses, a wide zig zag stitch, a medium length stitch and stitched the floss onto the base in a diagonal pattern about an inch apart in both directions. I used the embroidery thread as it comes in the skein…6 single strands in a group.  This made a nice thick cluster to zig zag over.   As I stitched, I would slightly twist the 6 strands to make it easier to catch all the individual strands within the wide zig zag.

For the pillow back, I used the same zig zag stitch in the same diagonal pattern, eliminating the embroidery floss and used my usual envelop closer technique.  (Directions can be found in all of my books that have pillow projects.)

I love the finished pillow and also love knowing I made a little dent in my embroidery floss stash. The best part of the finished pillow is that I have found many places to use it in my house. Because I used so many colors, it seems to blend with all of my other pillow groupings in many rooms.

SCRAP QUILTS

I think most quilters have a soft spot in their heart for scrap quilts.  They were the first antique quilts that I responded to long ago.  I now know why.  Even then, I loved quilts that had large variety of prints in them and I think they reminded me of the resourcefulness of women that made very functional items from ordinary scraps.  We since have moved into an era of some pretty wonderful collections of beautiful fabrics and have many choices of “scraps” to use for scrap quilts.

Scrap Ease, found in my new book, Quilts with a New Attitude, is now my very favorite scrap quilt.  The book shows it in a queen size made from Thimbleberries fabrics and a throw size made in a coordinated collection from Cotton+Steel.  The piecing is easy, the cuts are big and the overall design very pleasing.  It has no border so it is to adjust the size if you need something other than the two sizes included in the book.  I just keep wanting to make more of this quilt design.  It would be so fun made in baby or kid prints….and Christmas prints and Halloween prints and the list goes on. A simple machine quilting design works well on this quilt.

Here is another version of the Scrap Ease made in another, rather wild collection of scraps.

When piecing the units for one portion of the quilt, you will get pairs of triangles that are trimmed off and technically waste.  I used my leftover triangles to make this narrow, long runner….I love it.

NEW ATTITUDE

My new book, Quilts with a New Attitude has arrived and is available from Landauer Publishing and hopefully at your local quilt shop. This was a fun book to work on using traditional quilt designs and showing them in both traditional and modern fabrics.  I am convinced that a good, well written quilt pattern works for all fabric preferences. Thimbleberries patterns have always been the “go to” for teaching new quilters.  Showing the quilts made  in a variety of fabric collections helps everyone imagine the possibilities.

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Throughout the book, each quilt was made using vastly different fabrics.  In some cases the same block was used but half sized.  In some cases, the same blocks were used but sashing and borders were eliminated and in many cases an alternate size quilt dimension was the result.  A touch of appliqué now and then also changed the flavor of the quilt.   Below is large Autumn Crescendo with appliqué and the second one is a half size version with wool appliqué.

 

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Following, the Citrus Crush quilt used very bright hot pink and orange prints.  A stark contrast to the traditional version using the same block and quilt design as the Autumn Crescendo quilt.  This makes the book a treasure of multiple projects.20170304181125599

I worked with my fabrics for the traditional quilts and used a variety of prints from the Cotton+Steel collection for the modern versions of the quilt designs.  Many of the quilts have already found homes to nestle into to add that charm only a quilt can give to a room.

As usual the blocks that were used for the quilts are simple.  The instructions are illustrated in color and so easy to follow.  A great example of the versatility of the quilts in this book involves the Very Merry Tree Skirt and the Black, White and Bright crib quilt.  Both use the same block construction  However, the tree skirt used the 8 inch block and the crib quilt used the same block but half sized at 4 inches.  The tree skirt used traditional red and green fabrics and the crib quilt used a large variety of black and white fabrics with a variety of solid bright colors.  The piping on the Black, White and Bright quilt is a unique mix of two different sized checked fabrics…a nice detail on this small quilt.

Here you see the Black, White and Bright quilt on my daughters new gray tweed couch.  It is a perfect accent to her contemporary room adding a bold, bright accent.  The Very Merry Tree Skirt has been tucked away for her tree next holiday season.  It will be a perfect Thanksgiving surprise to kick off the holiday season.IMG_0020IMG_003020170305081350782

LITTLE SWEETHEARTS

As you have noticed, I get to spend a lot of time with my two grandchildren, Taylor (8) and Ella (5).  Here they are, sweetly posing for me with their quilts we made together that are now on their beds in their bedrooms.IMG_0677 IMG_0678 Ella loves to decorate…rooms, trees, cakes, cookies, etc. How great for me, right?  This past holiday, her mom let her have a little white feather tree in her room that was all decked out for Christmas.  She wants to keep the tree up, so I stitched up some pink and purple hearts from wool felt with pearl cotton blanket stitched edges and a loop hanger.  I added just a bit of polyester fiberfil to puff them up a bit.  As soon as I delivered them, she headed up to her room to decorate her tree.  I guess I better get busy on some bunnies and eggs.  Easter will be here shortly and she will want to transform her tree once again.  Yesterday, she actually suggested I bring her something for every holiday for her tree.  I think it might be a fun activity for both grandma and Ella.  I realize I have a small window to do things like this with her while she still thinks it is special.IMG_0693IMG_0696IMG_0709IMG_0713

SWEET MEMORIES

The first item on my list to do after the holidays was to finish the quilt my 4 year old granddaughter and I started to work on last summer.  Both she and and her brother created their own artwork on fabric squares with textile markers for their quilts.  He is a bit older so his artwork was a little more involved.  Check out the August section in the archives of this blog for instructions and marker resources for the artwork blocks.

Ella was very definite about the colors she was going to use on her blocks which dictated the fabrics used on the quilt.  I had a nice stash of  Cotton+Steel scraps leftover from the projects I made for my upcoming book, Thimbleberries with a New Attitude.  (The release date is March 1, 2017 and I will keep you posted if that changes.)  The fabrics are whimsical and with juvenile images and perfect colors for a little girl’s quilt that blended well with her artwork.  She was determined to just have hearts, flowers and rainbows on her blocks, which is exactly what she did.  Both she and Taylor wanted a “cozy” backing so I used a lightweight fleece on the back which you can see in the photo below. IMG_0675 IMG_0672

I am not sure she will remember drawing these blocks for the quilt, but I certainly will.  It was a fun activity this summer at the cabin on a rainy day afternoon now and then.  When all else failed, we could always work on our quilt blocks.  Now, I must work on labels for the quilts.  These are two that really need to be documented.

When I finish a quilt top, I prepare the binding immediately.  All too often, the fabric I wanted to use for a binding would have been used for something else before the top was quilted.  This way, I can get started on the binding immediately after the quilting is done.IMG_0671

WINTER PROJECTS

This time of the year is an ideal time to get some serious things done in the sewing room. You know, all the unfinished projects laying around that just need a few more hours to wrap up. Then, there are all of those kits you bought with perfectly good intentions that are still waiting for your attention.  On my list is also those very un-fun mending projects that take time but are not so enjoyable so they really get ignored until I am just too sick of sorting and stacking them one more time.  When done, I feel great…just like when the ironing is all caught up. This time of year I have a good amount of cloth napkins to iron and get back in the dining room cupboard drawers.

Here is a baby quilt I put together with charm squares and 2″ (cut size) strips of scrap fabrics as well as scraps to piece the backing.  This always feels the best…using up random fabrics that come together in a great scrap quilt.IMG_0659

IMG_0660For this quilt,  I used the same 2″(cut size) strips sewn end to end for the middle border.  The strips were left over from piecing the center of the quilt, so they are random sizes. I then added the pieced strip borders after bordering the center with a cream 2″ (cut size) border that “set off” the pieced center.  When this is done in a quilt design, I refer to it as a “floating” border.  It creates visual space without adding another design or color element.  All in all, I am pretty pleased with the quilt. I think it is fun, cheery and very functional.

Start digging, I am sure there are the makings for a cute little quilt at your finger tips.

QUILT LOCAL

Happy New Year everyone.  The years seem to fly by.  January is always the month that is quite peaceful for me.  Our weather is challenging to say the least, so this is the month that we have very few visitors from other parts of the country.  Who am I kidding…nobody travels to MN in January.  It is a popular time to leave for the remainder of the winter.  We, however, are not “snowbirds”…sticking it out here in the cold.  However, I have always looked at January as “my month”…the perfect time for what I want to do in the house.  Since I don’t have any chores in the yard to do and no cabin activity going on, and no business commitments or travel,   it means a lot of reorganization goes on and new sewing and art projects get started.  It would also be nice to finish up those that got started and set aside for some reason or another.

One of the projects I am going to wrap up this next week is the quilt I am making with the blocks my 4 year old granddaughter, Ella, drew this summer at the cabin.  I finished Taylor’s last September.  It took Ella awhile longer to draw her blocks so they got set aside just before Thanksgiving when all things get put away until after the holidays.   All of a sudden it is January and she is inquiring about her quilt.

This means I am off to my local quilt shop, Quilt Haven on Main, to pick up a piece of cozy backing for her quilt.  I am so very lucky to have a fabulous quilt shop in my community.  And, I suggest that if you have one near you or close by to make sure you shop locally to make sure all the small quilt shops stay in business.  For years, quilters have found countless bits of inspiration, encouragement, classes, seminars and friendship at independent quilt shops and I am no different.  Even if you just need your spirits lifted, a walk through a quilt shop will do it.

Recently I took a few snapshots at Quilt Haven on Main  while shopping there over the holidays.  The shop is always full of great displays, the newest fabrics, books and patterns and the staff is incredibly knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.img_0580

 

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Who wouldn’t be inspired with all these lovely samples.  Now, if you are not one of the lucky ones that has a local quilt shop, you can become a valued customer at Quilt Haven on Main by receiving their email newsletter or better yet, take a road trip to Hutchinson, MN and enjoy a nice long visit at the store.  They would be happy to become your “local quilt shop”.  Quilt Haven on Main is located at 7 North Main Street in downtown Hutchinson.  Contact information…qhonmain@hutchtel.net or 888-843-8215 or 320-587-8341.

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