Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Little Quilt

A couple of years ago I took a class from Teri Henderson Tope on reverse applique. This is a method where the top layer is cut away to reveal the fabric underneath. (Regular applique involves sewing pieces of fabric down to a background.) The class involved making a small floral piece and the applique work was done totally by hand. I only managed to sew a few of the petals of one flower in the class that day, so every now and then I would pick it up and work on it for a little while. When the block was finished I sewed the corner pieces on and decided to hand quilt it. That, too, was something I did little by little. And low and behold, last week I finally finished it.

This first picture is a close-up. Hopefully you can see some of the applique stitching.
 And this second picture is the finished quilt. It measures just 17" x 17".
When I first began quilting I hand pieced and hand quilted everything I made. Slowly I transitioned to using my machines for all of my piecing and quilting. In doing this project I realized how much I still enjoy hand quilting and I've taken steps to make sure I do more of it this year. I'll tell you about it next time out.

Meanwhile the tally stands at one finished quilt for 2015.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

TBR Day. Love for Lucinda / Gayle Buck. 1996

Last month while I was out in California to spend Christmas with my in-laws, I had the great pleasure of meeting up with our TBR coordinator, SuperWendy. She took me to an awesome used bookstore with a whole room full of romance. As I write this I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of the Room of Awesome. Anyhow, while I now buy pretty much only in digital, there were some titles I was anxious to buy to fill in my print keeper collection. I scored about a dozen of those. There was also a little section of old Signet Regencies. As I browsed through, I picked out this book by Gayle Buck (no website found), an author I had enjoyed reading before. This was one I had not read.

So even though it had only been in the TBR pile 4 weeks, I picked it out because it was short (this month's theme) and in honor of my visit with Wendy.
Love for Lucinda is the story of our heroine, a recent widow who had a brief, unhappy marriage to a libertine. Lucinda's late husband kept her exiled in the country and now that her period of mourning is over, she is determined to return to London to resume the social life that was interrupted when her husband banished her. As a young widow with a modest fortune, she attracts a lot of attention. There's her wastrel cousin who wants her money, a match-making mama who wants Lucinda for her son, an acquaintance from the country who is courting her, and her husband's cousin who is her friend-- to name a few. I think this book would probably be called a "Regency Romp" because of the humorous situation of all of these men after Lucinda.

This book is all Lucinda and her return to society. With the exception of some odd sentences here and there, the POV is Lucinda's. The rigid structure of polite society is a major part of the story. Lucinda is careful to have a companion so that all of the proprieties are observed. She also ends up helping her late husband's sister come out into society. There are so many parties and balls as well as all of the men in her orbit that somehow the romance is left until the 9th page from the end. It was kind of obvious who the hero was going to be, but just to be sure I cheated and read the last page when I was only about 15-20% into the book. By the time I was 75% in, I was frustrated because Lucinda and her hero spent so little time on the page together. It is hard to consider this at all a romance just because two people end up together at the end. Actually, 3 couples end up together as both the companion and the sister-in-law find true love as well. All neatly wrapped up and mostly off the page. Lots of telling, little showing.

So sadly, this book was a bust. Still, it's a nifty souvenir of a wonderful morning spent with a kind friend who knows all the best places to go. Thanks, Wendy!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mister DJ Quilt

My last finished quilt of the year is a twin-sized quilt that's my version of this quilt by Melissa Corry found on the Moda Bake Shop site. I even used the same fabric, Sphere by Zen Chic. The fun thing about this particular pattern is that the maker needs to put the strips together randomly making it highly unlikely that there are two identical quilts made from this pattern. But since I used the same fabric, mine looks very much like the one Melissa made.
I like the name, "Mister DJ," because it does remind me of the indicators on a music board. It's a very clever design.

This pattern uses two rolls of pre-cut strips. I had to separate the strips into high-volume, low-volume piles and then cut them into sets of varying lengths. The cut sections were then paired and sewn together with a small strip of the green. I wound up with 210 strips. In a pile they looked like this:
They had to be pieced together randomly, so in order to ensure that, I jumbled them up into a pile like this:
And I just grabbed and sewed, grabbed and sewed, until it looked like this:
Similarly, I grabbed the pairs randomly to build the blocks:
I put the blocks on my design wall:
And then I had a quilt top:
Here are some pictures of the quilting:

Because I was thinking of the lights on a sound board, I quilted loopy horizontal lines in the bottom, darker strips and loopy vertical lines in the upper, lighter strips. I put no quilting in the green. I quilted with two colors of Aurifil thread--gray for the upper parts, turquoise for the lower parts.


Kudos to Melissa Corry, for an imaginative and easy-to-follow pattern. I would like to make it again some time, perhaps using batiks or fall colors. The trick is finding a fabric collection with a good contrast and enough color to make parts of the quilt pop out. Of course, I have all those other things I need to finish first!

My 2014 tally is 7 finished quilts and 1 finished bag. I made 3 additional quilt tops that are waiting to be quilted (I haven't shown them here yet). Looking ahead to 2015, I want to quilt all three of those. I also want to return to working on my Aviatrix Medallion quilt and of course I have a few other things I'm anxious to start. So here's hoping for plenty of quality quilting time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TBR Day. To Scotland with Love / Patience Griffin. 2014


To Scotland with Love is Patience Griffin's debut book. And it's the first book in her "Kilts and Quilts" series. Quilts! Quilts! ..... Oh, what's that? The theme this month is the holidays? Never fear! While the grass is green on the cover, the first two-thirds of the book take place in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas and it ends a few weeks after Easter. Lots of holiday stuff within. And quilts.

Cait Macleod moved to Chicago from Scotland with her parents when she was 13. A short time after that, Cait's mother died of cancer. Cait grew up, began a career as an investigative journalist, but gave it up to marry her husband, Tom. He turns out to be a serial cheater and dies in the middle of sex with another woman. I assume Cait's father is also dead because Cait decides to sell everything she owns and move back to her home town in Scotland where her only remaining relative lives, her maternal grandmother, Deydie. Cait and Deydie haven't had much contact with one another over the years. Deydie is angry that Cait's father took his wife/her daughter away and that she died far from home. Cait hasn't wanted to admit that her marriage has been a spectacular failure, so she has avoided talking to her grandmother. But Chicago holds nothing but bad memories and Cait needs to start over. Why not go home?

On her first night back she runs into Graham Buchanan, a major movie star. Graham is known for keeping his personal life very private and he often disappears for weeks at a time. No one knows where he goes. When Cait runs into him, she realizes that her hometown is also his hometown and she may have stumbled upon the scoop of a lifetime, something that would surely jump-start her career again.

Cait's reunion with her grandmother does not go well, and it's Graham who acts as a bit of a buffer between the two. Also acting as a buffer are the ladies of the village who gather at Deydie's every week to quilt together. Cait remembers quilting with her mother and grandmother, and in fact has also become a quilter. She immediately joins the ladies and their sewing projects. Soon Cait is getting to know the people in the village again, and getting to know Graham much better. She postpones her plans to out Graham's whereabouts, especially as she begins to develop feelings for him.

This book is not at all an inspie, but it does deal with Christian themes as Christmas day approaches. Cait is angry at men, angry at God, and finding it hard to enter into the required religious activities given her feelings. I thought Cait's attitude toward the old rituals was rather realistic given her past. I liked that the book even dealt with that aspect of Cait's feelings.

One thing I found hard to believe was that in this day of TMZ, no one on the planet knew where Graham disappeared to when he wasn't working. Sure, the villagers vow to keep his secret, but I wasn't buying that no one was telling. Graham has his reasons for keeping his home secret and they make him an interesting character. The sparring between him and Cait was funny in spots.

All in all, this was an enjoyable debut and even without the quilts I would probably read the next book. But since there are quilts, I will definitely read the next one which is due in early January.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"One" Leaf

Judy Niemeyer is a quilt teacher, pattern designer, fabric designer, and all-around very creative person. She and her family run a company called Quiltworx.com and I highly suggest you click on that link, go to the Products tab and select Patterns to see the wide range of exquisite quilts she has designed. Her stuff has become very popular of late. Her patterns use a unique paper piecing technique that is remarkable for the way it helps you organize all of the pieces you need to make her designs. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I took a class in November from my local quilt shop using one of their most basic patterns, called One. It is a long curved leaf sewn to a two-color background. It makes a nice table runner or a nifty wall-hanging.

Here is half of my leaf before it has been trimmed:
Here are both halves of my leaf, trimmed, but not sewn together:
Here are a bunch of leaves held by some of my classmates:
Here's my leaf, all finished and quilted:
Close-ups!


I doubt I'll ever make one of the big quilts, but I would definitely make this one again and some of her other smaller designs. It was fun and quite fast once I got my pieces organized.

This quilt is a retirement gift for my boss, the Director of the library where I work. He has been my boss for the past 26+ years and I could not have been luckier. He has been kind, encouraging, flexible, and supportive. It's going to be hard to walk back in there after the Christmas break and know he's not around anymore. Godspeed, D.

Monday, December 1, 2014

November Reading

In November my re-reading continued via audiobooks, most notably Joanna Bourne's The Spymaster's Lady and My Lord and Spymaster. Her newest book, Rogue Spy was released this month and when I heard that it overlaps some of her earlier books, I decided to re-read them all. And this time to try the audio versions. I like the way narrator Kirsten Potter reads these books and I'm looking forward to listening to Black Hawk next.

A comment by Emily Jane on Twitter reminded me that Bring on the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins has been in the TBR for a few years now, so I moved it to the top of the list and I'm glad I did. This novel is not a romance, although it has some romantic elements. It's a fascinating story that was touching, funny, and thought-provoking. Set somewhere in modern-day, rural Kansas, it uses as its backdrop the history of freed slaves who migrated west after the civil war and founded towns that thrived for generations. Today, only Nicodemus, Kansas remains. Jenkins' fictional town of Henry Adams is on its last leg, so the town leaders decide to put the town up for sale on Ebay in hopes that someone would invest in the town to keep it together. The buyer turns out to be Bernadine Brown, a woman with a huge divorce settlement who has a vision to turn Henry Adams into a home for foster children and the families who take them in. There is an ensemble cast of characters with multiple points of view. I laughed and I cried and became really invested in the various story lines. I've already finished the 2nd book in the series, A Second Helping. It appears there are now 5 books in the series and I'm anxious to read them all. I highly recommend this series for anyone looking for something a little different.

There was lots of normal romance reading this month as well. A favorite was Kristen Ashley's Breathe, part of her Colorado Mountain series. The heroine of this book is Faye, the town librarian. Ashley uses every librarian stereotype I can think of describing Faye--she's shy, retiring, and walks through town with her nose in a book. Still, Ashley makes more of Faye than those stereotypes. Faye becomes concerned when she notices a young boy who frequents her library, but appears to have been abused. As she becomes involved with Chace [that's how Ashley spells the name], a police officer, they join forces to rescue this little boy. It's very typical Ashley and I really enjoyed this one.

Also worth noting is that I read The Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev. This book received a lot of positive buzz which was well-deserved. Mili has come to the States to study; she was married at age 4 in a traditional village ceremony, but hasn't seen her husband since. She's been waiting patiently for him to come for her. But it turns out he wants a divorce and he allows his brother, Samir, to go to America to secure the divorce for him. When Samir arrives, a series of mishaps leaves Samir caring for an injured Mili and thus they get to know each other. But Samir doesn't reveal who he is and why he is there. That bugged me, I have to admit, although not enough for me to stop reading. I thought the book was mostly fun and funny. Dev is a talented author and I look forward to reading more from her.

Before I close, I guess I should mention that I got a start on my Christmas reading with Sarah Morgan's Maybe This Christmas and Marion Lennox's Christmas at Waratah Bay. I thought Morgan's was a really well-done conclusion to her 3-book series. I have quite a few Christmas titles queued up on my Kindle for December. Some will be re-reads. I've found it very relaxing to go back to old favorites, so I'm looking forward to them.

You can see the rest of what I read by taking a look at my sidebar.