Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Bag

I think I've become overly fond of making bags. I now have quite a collection of them and I show no signs of stopping. They seem to multiply much like my book collection does. I especially like the patterns from Pink Sand Beach Designs. Not only are they attractive, but the pattern instructions, complete with color photos, are very easy to follow.

The Hamptons Handbag is the 3rd PSBD pattern I've made. It's designed to use 5" charm squares, typically sold in packs of 40. I love the batiks used in the pattern's picture below.

But I had a set of charm squares from the Sphere collection by Zen Chic that I thought would work nicely and I wasn't disappointed with the results.
Inside there are 6 pockets and it closes with a magnetic snap.
I used Aurifil thread, Light Turquoise (#5006) 50 wt. to make it and it was the perfect color, especially for the topstitching.

Beside the charm pack, I had some larger pieces of the collection for the lining, bottom and straps. I used scraps from those for a new coin purse and Kindle sleeve.
I'm looking forward to using these!

Monday, November 3, 2014

October Reading

October was a weird month. A rather distressing one at times, given some of the news and behaviors affecting the online community where I lurk. I hope November turns out better. I didn't read as much as usual. I think I spent more time sewing, which may account for some of it. I also spent more time doing online Jigsaw puzzles. That is one addictive website.

There were several books that I enjoyed, but not to the point I couldn't put them down. Average and mildly entertaining is the best way to describe them. This includes Counterfeit Countess by Lynne Connolly and two more of Kristen Ashley's backlist, Creed and Lady Luck. Lauren Willig's The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla was fun, but I think I'm worn out on this series. I hope it's true that the next book is the last one.

Speaking of series, as I write this I realize that the only book this month that wasn't part of a series (as far as I know, anyhow) was Connolly's. So, there were three new entries by authors who are auto-reads for me. Jennifer Ashley's Rules for a Proper Governess and Elizabeth Hoyt's Darling Beast were both above average, but Indecent Proposal by Molly O'Keefe was my favorite book of the month. This was the only book of the month that I put down only when I absolutely had to.

Two were first books in new series. Nalini Singh's Rock Addiction was rather disappointing. I ended up skimming the latter part of the book. However people seem to really like the next book Rock Courtship. I'll give that one a try, but I'm not sure I'll keep going after that. I really liked new-to-me author Penny Reid's Neanderthal Seeks Human. The heroine was so charming and the humor in the book appealed to me. I am looking forward to reading the sequel Neanderthal Marries Human. (Can you consider the latter title a spoiler?)

I continue to explore my library's audiobook collection. I've been limiting myself to the ones in MP3 format available via Overdrive because they're a snap to download to my phone. The selections there are not overwhelming, but it did lead to me trying a new author.

First, I listened to a really old Linda Howard, Midnight Rainbow. Taciturn hero and perky heroine. This has been done elsewhere by Howard herself much better than this, but it wasn't awful either. Then I revisited an old SEP, First Lady. I last read this 10 years ago and I don't really remember how well, if at all, I had liked it. I was not so fond of it this time around.

My third and final audiobook was Laura Kaye's Hard As It Gets. This was the first book by Kaye that I'd ever read and it's first in her Hard Ink series. And today I finished listening to the second book in the series, Hard As You Can. Frankly, parts of both books seemed a little too far-fetched, but they were entertaining and had me pretty engaged. What I find interesting is that the books are structured to actually overlap one another. Not just continue one another, but whole scenes are played out again, this time from the POVs of the h/h of that particular book. I haven't listened to it yet, but the next book, a novella (Hard Ink 2.5), will surely have scenes that are repeated or expanded because the h/h of 2.5 are featured prominently in 2.0. It's a clever way to engage the reader in the entire series, but it hasn't all been published yet and I'm totally going to forget stuff between now and whenever I get to the books coming in 2015. There's a suspense thread that runs through the whole series which means that this will continue to be on my radar because I want to know how it's resolved. I have A Theory.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Paint Chip Challenge 2015

In the wake of Halestorm (#HaleNo), lots of book bloggers are taking a break from normal reviewing for several days. I doubt I would have blogged books this week anyhow, but to show some solidarity here's a quilty post that had been brewing.
One search phrase that frequently sends folks to this blog is "paint chip challenge" because I had participated in one back in 2010. You can read more about that with the series of posts here. It was such a fun thing to do that when I became president of my guild this year, I decided to issue a similar challenge to guild members. I passed out close to 100 paint chips at our September and October meetings. They were in sealed envelopes, so no one knew what color they would receive. The rules are as follows:

  1. Use the color family represented by your paint chip as closely as you can manage.
  2. Use a minimum of 3 (three) tone-on-tone and/or solid colored fabrics.
  3. Use ONE multi-colored fabric or ONE neutral fabric (black, white, grey, etc). Remember, one or the other. NOT both.
  4. Use any technique or combination of techniques. There is no size requirement.
  5. When your quilt is revealed in June 2015, pin your paint chip to the front of your project.
  6. If you absolutely hate your paint chip, you may trade it in for another. But remember, the goal is stretch yourself, to try to use what you received.
Yes, a few people did opt to trade for another color, but most have stuck with what they got. I got this bright blue palette.

I've already found a couple of fabrics that are perfect! I'm doing mine in batiks. That's all I'll say.

For fun, here's an update on my Aviatrix Medallion project. I've made the 40 blocks for the next border. Aren't they pretty all lined up together?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I just need to say Thank You

The best part of my online life over that last 10 years has been that corner of the book world -- including both readers and authors -- where people talk openly and freely about the books they've read. Whether the reaction was love, hate, or something in between, those reactions are probably directly responsible for 99% of the books I've read (or added to the TBR pile) in that time span. Whether I've been introduced to a specific title or a specific author, I've derived countless hours of enjoyment devouring one book after another.

Look, I mostly lurk on the internet. I don't engage very often. In the almost 4 years I've had a Twitter account I've amassed a whopping total of 1,697 tweets. I blog here, what? -- maybe twice or three times per month. It's not in my nature to put myself out there. I'd rather read or sew. Still, I've managed to make some wonderful connections and discover where to go for the next great book to read. I'm so grateful for that.

So to all of you who take the time to give an honest opinion about a book, whether it be in 140 characters or in a 1500-word essay, THANK YOU. Seriously, thank you. Given the crap that has been happening to book bloggers over the last month, what you do is amazing. And appreciated.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

September Reading

In an effort to show up here a little more often, I'm going to change how I talk about what I read. For the time being, no more "Phyl's Phaves." Maybe some random blathering will be equally useful and less taxing to write.

When I left off my Summer Reads post, I was getting ready to listen to Sarah MacLean's 2014 RITA winner, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished. I tried, and quit about 4 chapters in. As much as I wish I could say her books appeal to me, they do not. I can see why they appeal to other readers, and I'm happy that her writing peers awarded her a RITA, but I am not the reader for her. Are they too anachronistic? I don't know. Maybe. But then please tell me...

Why am I so enamored of Grace Burrowes and Kristen Ashley? Burrowes is often accused of historical inaccuracy and Ashley writes a kind of contemporary fantasy that I find very appealing while I simultaneously go, No! That's just nuts! I introduced a friend of mine to Ashley's books and she'll periodically text me to complain that she just can't believe she's caught up in another one of her books. I find it comforting to know I'm not alone. Anyway, In September I read The Golden Trail and Knight by Ashley. I liked both, but preferred the former. One of things that appeals to me most about Ashley's books is the community she creates around her MCs. Knight focused pretty much only on the MCs, but was shorter as well. I also read Burrowes' The Traitor and I found it to be a very interesting look at what happens when a man is caught between a rock and a hard place. Burrowes has a style and degree of emotional depth that drew me right in to this story. I haven't liked all of her stuff, but the truth is she hits more often than she misses.

Right now I find myself craving the familiar. I sailed through the latest JD Robb, Festive in Death. A visit with characters I'm fond of is almost as good as re-reading. Which I did a little of. This time I listened to my re-reads, as I continue to explore audiobooks. My re-reads were Mary Balogh's Simply Perfect and Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels. I think it's interesting to listen to a book I've read previously. If I tune out for a moment, I haven't really missed anything.

Other familiar authors include Sherry ThomasLiz Carlyle, and Stephanie Laurens. Actually it had been quite some time since I'd ready anything by Laurens. The plot of Loving Rose sounded interesting, so I gave it a try. It was so familiar I skimmed through the last half and decided that I'm pretty done with Laurens too. I loved Thomas' My Beautiful Enemy ONLY because I'd read the prequel, The Hidden Blade. Frankly, I think they should have been one book. That still ticks me off a little, but I have to admit, together they made a wonderful story.

So here is one thing that is UNfamiliar to me-- Outlander. I bought a print copy of it close to 10 years ago, started it and put it down for reasons I no longer remember. Then, about 4 years ago it was free for Kindle, so I "bought" it, gave away my print copy to save space, and left it unread. Now I have Starz only because it came with the sports package that gets me the MLB Network and NFL Red Zone. I really didn't intend to watch. Honest. Seriously. I mean it.

But two hours before the premier I set my DVR and watched. And yes, now I'm hooked. So, do I read the book or not? You tell me.

I'll leave you with a sneak peak at the latest quilt I started. The first of 12 blocks in a 3-color version of Elizabeth Hartman's Solar Eclipse pattern

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Summer Quilting

Last spring I wrote that I had started numerous projects and finished none of them. I can tell you that I finished one (yes, ONE!) that I started in the spring. This easy little nine patch quilt was made out of fabrics I had on hand to be donated to a local organization that distributes quilts to foster children. They expressed a need for quilts with sports themes. I dug into my baseball fabrics and came up with this. I hope this small quilt will bring comfort to the child who receives it.

Next up is a little paper-pieced gift for a friend who recently retired and likes nothing more than to go camping out in the wilderness. Once he lived in Minnesota and frequently canoed and camped in the Boundary Waters. I actually bought this pattern years ago with him in mind. This was also made with scraps I had on hand. The finished quilt is about 18" x 15". I made in in about 2 weeks in July.

A year ago a friend of mine asked me to make a quilt for her baby granddaughter. We decided to make a rather large quilt, one that the child could use as she grew. Mom was to pick a pattern and colors. After months of indecision and nagging by my friend, Mom finally gave me some ideas and in July I picked the fabrics and my friend bought them. I started piecing it in early August and finished the whole thing last week. It took me just under 6 weeks. It measures approx. 63" x 51".

The quilting is very simple--horizontal and vertical lines to outline all of the pieces of the quilt.

While I was working on the one above, I also made this one. Yes, two quilts simultaneously. The one below took just under 4 weeks. I was nuts. Anyhow, I was invited to a baby shower and I wanted to bring a quilt. I learned that baby's room is being decorated with a nautical theme. I had two yards of this cool fish fabric and scraps of a couple of whimsical fish prints, so I put them together to make this. It's about 52" x 45".

This one is quilted with an all-over meander pattern. Fast and easy.

So, that makes 4 finished quilts, a total of 5 on the year. I still have several unfinished projects, although last night I started working on my Aviatrix Medallion some more. But between now and Christmas I have to make 2 baby quilts and a retirement gift for my boss. Most of those other projects really will have to wait. And knowing me, I'll find something else to catch my eye that I have to make RIGHT NOW. Seriously, I have a problem.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Quilt Show

I should be doing a TBR Day post. But once again.... total fail. 

So. How about some gorgeous quilts? I attended the American Quilters Society Chattanooga show on Saturday and here are a bunch of photos that I took.

First up, several quilts from a special exhibit called "Stitch Like an Egyptian." AQS is licensed to exhibit and sell artwork by the Tentmakers of Cairo. In addition to the exhibit, a member of the Tentmakers was there to demonstrate his technique. These quilts are very interesting. A design is sketched on a background fabric and the background fabric is attached to a lightweight canvas. Then the artist stitches the applique pieces into place. The artist we saw uses a large needle and stitches so quickly! I was amazed.

Here's a close-up:

Next up was a special exhibit by quilt artist Melody Johnson. Go take a look at the galleries on her website. Her exhibit here was called "All Color, All the Time." I got to hear a lecture by her some 5-6 years ago. Her work is so bright and beautiful. Note that the second picture below is a close-up of a small section of this first quilt. What a fun, interesting technique.

This one was my favorite.

A portion of the show includes quilts entered in a contest for judging. I didn't try and enter, but I think I will submit an entry next year as I plan to go back down if all goes well. This next section of pictures are just random ones that I particularly liked.

The grand prize winner was Marilyn Badger of Utah. She was there by her quilt, chatting with attendees. She makes about one quilt per year. There is piecing, applique, embroidery, and more.

There is an online group of quilters called the BadAss Quilters Society. They have over 7,000 members from all over the world.

This one cracked me up. The background quilting includes more sharks, and I couldn't help but think of Sharknado as soon as I saw it.

This a close-up from the quilt above. It appears that medical gauze was painted or hand dyed and reverse applique was used to attach the gauze to the squares. Then the squares were hand appliqued to the background. I love this quilt. Just love it.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the quilt show. Now it's back to work on my own projects.