Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pretty in Purple

Last summer I got to spend half an hour in a lovely little quilt shop, People, Places & Quilts in the heart of old Charleston, SC. An employee was doing a demo of the "Lil' Twister," a plastic template tool made by the Country Schoolhouse to help you make easy pinwheel quilts. Naturally, I had to have one.

At my quilting retreat last month I pulled out a stack of purple batik or hand-dyed fabrics and started cutting them into squares.
When I was finished, I laid them out rather randomly, just trying to make sure there was some contrast between a block and all of its neighbors. This was about as far as I got before the retreat ended.
Last Saturday, International Quilting Day, I pulled those squares out and set to work again. After all of the blocks were sewn together and a border added to the outside, I was able to use the tool to cut new blocks that were centered on the intersection of 4 blocks. Here's an idea of what the process looked like:
Next, those new squares are sewn together. And viola! Pinwheels. The resulting top is almost half the size of the original piece.
And here it is, all quilted and bound. Photographed in much better light, too. This picture below is a good representation of the colors. I like the sense of movement. It's a little risky making something like this in a monochromatic color scheme. I was lucky to have a wide range of fabrics to choose from (hey! that's an excuse to keep building up my fabric stash!). The final quilt measures only 21" x 15".
I think it would be quite interesting to make this in a selection of fall colors. But for now, on to other projects.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TBR Day. Fallen / Emma Jensen. 2001

This month's theme is "series catch-up" and Fallen is book 2 in a trilogy by Emma Jensen (no website found) that also includes the titles Entwined and Moonlit. Ironically, Entwined was my June 2010 TBR read. The heroes of these 3 books were spies together during the Peninsular wars and carry various physical and emotional scars from their time there.

Fallen takes place almost entirely on the island of Skye in 1812. Our hero, Gabriel, the Earl of Rievaulx, has been asked by his friend Nathan (and hero of Entwined) to go to Skye and track down an elusive traitor.

A SIDE NOTE: I think the fact that an Earl was running around Spain spying on French troops and is now free to go to Scotland to find a traitor causes this book to meet the definition of a "mistorical." I try not to get caught up in the finer points of what constitutes a mistorical because I am no expert. But Gabriel's "profession" did not ring true and in the end did a lot to detract from the better parts of the story.

When Gabriel arrives on Skye, he introduces himself to Maggie MacLeod and her family who are in-laws to Gabriel's friend, Nathan. Maggie's father insists that Gabriel stay with them and Gabriel spends his time getting to know the locals so he can find the traitor he seeks. And over the course of the book he gets to know Maggie and the two fall in love. Jensen is a fine writer and the book is peppered with interesting characters and wonderful descriptions of the island. Both Gabriel and Maggie are likeable people. Gabriel made a serious mistake while in Spain that dearly cost the British war effort. He is trying to atone for that. Maggie is a caretaker. She watches over her alcoholic father and cares for her teenage sister. She's an herbalist and provides her friends and neighbors with all manner of tinctures and salves. Maggie is also a bit heart-sore from a previous relationship. So both Gabriel and Maggie are nursing their wounds when they meet. I enjoyed the chemistry between the two of them.

Ultimately I found this a pleasurable read, although not stellar. And thanks to the various quotes from "Scarbro Fair" to lead off many of the chapters I experienced Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" as an earworm as I read. How bad can that be?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Phyl's 5 Phaves from February

I'm sitting here watching a little March Madness, anxious to get back to some sewing. I just agreed to make a t-shirt quilt for the son of one of my best friends. He'll be a freshman at Loyola Chicago in the fall, so I can't procrastinate. These days I feel as if my UFO (Un-Finished Object) pile is as bad as my TBR pile. If I'm not careful I'll get behind on my blogging, too!

5. The Bentleys Buy a Buick by Pamela Morsi. Morsi's latest book isn't really a romance, although there are romantic elements. Tom and Erica are a happily married couple with a young child. After being a stay-at-home mom for 5 years, Erica has resumed her career as a medical coder. Tom is working hard to grow his business which is an auto repair shop that focuses on classic cars. Tom gets an opportunity to do some work on an old Buick in nearly mint condition. His obsession with the car leads to time away from home causing Erica to wonder if he's having an affair. Her insecurities are exacerbated by the gossipy co-workers at her new job. This is really a book about a normal young couple facing fairly normal problems and having to learn again how to communicate with one another. Just like in a traditional romance, they overcome these problems to ensure the ongoing health of their marriage. I enjoyed the characters, the touches of humor, and a realistic portrayal of the difficulties a couple can face.

4. The Bro-Magnet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. At one point this book made me laugh so hard I had to get off my treadmill before I hurt myself. This got a good review last month by Dear Author. After reading that review I thought that a book about a guy who loves sports and is a guy's guy sounded like fun and something totally different. Told entirely in 1st person from Johnny's POV, this book is really unlike anything else that I've read in quite some time. I loved this light-hearted look at how easily we are tempted to make ourselves over to be attractive to someone. Johnny's interactions with various people in his life are fun and down-to-earth. It takes a little while before Johnny & Helen get together. And overall, they don't share a whole lot of time together through the book. However, it was such a fun, quick read that all I wanted to do was keep reading.

3. Flawless by Carrie Lofty. SuperLibrarian Wendy wrote a strong positive review for this one and I can certainly understand why. Vivienne is a strong, determined woman and a heroine I really liked. When the book open she's estranged from her husband Miles. She has just received a strange inheritance from her late father. She will be responsible to make a South African diamond business profitable or she forfeits both the business and a large cash settlement. Vivienne travels to South Africa only to find that Miles has beat her there, ready to pave her way and try to repair their marriage. This was a fascinating historical that had me looking for more information about the infamous Big Hole of Kimberley. I loved the way that Lofty used the social setting of Kimberley to emphasize Vivienne's and Miles' relative strengths that had to be combined in order for them to be successful. Theirs was a marriage where trust had been destroyed; perhaps it's fair to say it never existed. But now they have to learn to trust one another and in the course of that their physical attraction turns into something much deeper. This was really well done and if I have any complaint it would be that I wish there'd just been more, that it had been longer.

4. In Love and War by Carla Kelly. This is a re-publication of four of Kelly's novellas that appeared in various Signet Regency anthologies. I have collected a lot of those old anthologies, but not all of them. As far as this book goes, I'm not aware if it's available in print. It does not appear to be. I couldn't tell from the product description on Amazon which four stories were in the book, but for $2.99 I decided to buy it for my Kindle. I'm awfully glad I did. It turns out that there was one story I had not read before, and three I enjoyed just as much the second time around. As usual, Kelly writes about ordinary people who are sometimes caught up in extraordinary events. There is a military veteran who had served under Wellesley (before he was Wellington) in India and suffers malaria attacks. And there is an American widow who is in London trying to confirm that her Nantucket fisherman husband had been the victim of a British naval attack. Kelly's stories have a certain poignancy that I find very appealing. I'm glad to have this collection in one place.

1. Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke. My February TBR book. I gushed about it here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Annual Retreat Fun

Two weeks ago at this time I was safely settled in my room in a beautiful state park lodge, just a few miles north of the Ohio River. My guild's annual sewing retreat was to begin the next morning at 8 am. We spent the weekend at a new location and had an amazing time. Our group has gotten smaller in recent years and because there were fewer of us I think we were able to get to know one another a little better. It also meant that we were able to spread out more in the ballroom--more sewing space for each of us. Here are a few photos of the weekend:

Sunrise the first morning. This was the view from my room.
Here's a view of the ballroom set up. I took the spot down the room on the far right. Near the window!
And here's the ballroom just a few hours later, full of quilters working away.
My sister-in-law had asked me to make something out of this pre-printed wolf panel. Here are a couple of shots of my work. Now I just need to quilt it!
On Saturday we took a road trip! We went to Kentucky & visited some quilt shops. That's the Ohio River on the right and the building on the left is one of those shops.

When I got back to the lodge I made this decorative outdoor flag. Can't wait for spring so I can fly it!

When I was done with that I started a purple project. More on that some other time.
Here's something another quilter was working on. This is an improvisational quilt based on the cover of a best-selling YA book. A lucky daughter will be the recipient of this. Apparently it's her favorite book. Isn't it clever?
This image has a yellow dot that is not on the original cover.
And I'll leave you with a couple of shots of some of the other quilts under construction. I'm blessed to spend time with some talented friends each year.