Thursday, February 28, 2013

2013 Quilt Retreat

One of my favorite weekends of the year is the one where I head for the hills with close to 40 other quilters for a weekend of food, fun, and fabric. This year, while the upper midwest was getting snow, we got ice. We woke up Friday morning to a mercifully thin layer of ice that melted off by mid-morning. Our afternoon of fabric shopping was able to proceed on schedule.
 When we got back we were treated to the sight of this pretty hexagon quilt top.
Some of our group still hadn't made it to the Lodge yet, so the ballroom wasn't quite full when this picture was taken. That's my stuff in the lower left corner.
This is a striking rendition of a 1600 Quilt. Follow the link to a short video by Heirloom Creations on how to make one of these out of a pre-cut roll of fabric stips. The 1600 refers to the 1600 inches of fabric in the roll. Four of these put together will make a queen-size quilt.
Here's another one by QBFF A. It takes less than an hour to sew it together.
One of our members had been working on this Jinny Beyer Moonglow quilt for years. The top is finally finished and isn't it gorgeous?
This applique quilt is based on traditional motifs done in modern, bright colors. Beautiful!
QBFF T. worked on this last year and this year put the blocks all together. I love how it turned out.
And here is the fruit of my labor. It's the UFO project that's due in June. I still have to attach 2 more borders to it. The pattern is "Just Zip It!" by Carol Morrissey.
And here we are, the QBFF, together in pink & purple. That's me, the old one with my trusty back brace, on the left.
Good times. Good times.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TBR Day. The Rebellious Ward / Joan Wolf. 1984

This month's TBR theme is "Recommended Read." I couldn't find anything specific that really fit with the theme. What I do have is a pretty nice pile of old Signet Regencies that I bought thanks to years of participating in the Regency Yahoo email loop. I must admit that these days I just skim the messages, but there was a point when I was a regular participant in the group and I jotted down all kinds of recommendations and then went off to the UBS or eBay to see what I could find. Joan Wolf wrote a couple of Regency trads that to this day remain favorite re-reads: The American Duchess and His Lordship's Mistress. Fortunately much of her back list is now available in e-format. Today she writes for the Christian market.

This particular book is one of her earliest books. Here's the blurb:

Only a girl as captivating as Catriona Maclan could have overcome the scandal of her birth to shine as the most sought-after young lady of the London season.
Only a girl as daring as Catriona would have played with the fiery attentions of suitors as different as the eminently eligible, handsome and proper Lord Wareham and the notoriously worldly and wicked Marquis of Hampton.
Only a girl as stubborn as Catriona would have persisted in adoring the one man she could not have — the brilliant and iron-willed Duke of Burford, the guardian who saw her every fault and was so blind to all else…

As these things often are, the blurb is over-the-top and misleading. The Rebellious Ward is about Catriona, the illegitimate second cousin (Or is it first cousin, once removed? I never get these terms right--the Duke's grandmother is Catriona's great-grandmother.) of the Duke of Burford. She is orphaned at age 9 and brought to live with her great-grandmother. Edmund, the Duke, is 13 years her senior and takes her under his wing as a big brother might. Catriona grows up and despite her social status is taken to London for a Season. Catriona is 17 now and realizes she is in love with Edmund. Believing he intends to marry someone else she becomes engaged to the Marquis of Hampton, a known rake.

Fortunately this book is mercifully short, just over 200 pages in a fairly large font. There's way too much tell and not enough show. The entire book is from Catriona's POV. I liked the Marquis better than the Duke and wish he'd been hero instead of the Duke. Nonetheless I thought it was written well enough that I wanted to keep reading. Wolf was still developing as a writer and if this wasn't a great book, it was nowhere near the level of awfulness that her first book was. Fans of her later work might enjoy this one, although at $3.99 on Amazon it seems a little pricey.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Quilts Finished in January

I was commissioned last summer to make a t-shirt quilt for a young man headed off to his freshman year of college. As you can see, he was active in sports, band, and Boy Scouts. This is now my 3rd t-shirt quilt and I've gotten quite comfortable making them. Once I figure out the layout it goes quickly.

The recipient was supposed to get it to use in his dorm room. His mother took it up to him and promptly decided that dorm living would be too hard on it and brought it home. I'm glad she treasures it, but I'm sad it's not being used. When B. saw his quilt, one of his first comments was "I wondered where that shirt went." Pretty funny. Fortunately he really likes it. He just has to come home to use it.

And a close up of the quilting. I just did a quick all-over meander:

From the 2011 issue of Best Fat Quarter Quilts comes this pattern called Circle in a Square. The original pattern makes up into 12 blocks. I made two smaller units instead of one big one. The wall hanging measures 36x24 in. It's a housewarming gift for a friend. The other unit still needs to be quilted. It'll be for me :)

The quilting is all free motion with no template. Lots of quilting and I love how much texture it has as a result. I don't know how soon I'll get around to quilting the second unit, but I will probably do it the same way as this one.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Phyl's 5 Phaves for December and January

For the last two months I've largely been focused on my quiltmaking. I had a couple of quilts I needed to finish for Christmas that I showed off here. I finished two more quilts in January that I'll show off shortly. And I'm busy working on several others. All that sewing hasn't left as much time for reading. I still read a lot, but I see that my recent reading lists (see sidebar) are full of shorter categories and novellas.

So, in the interest of catching up, and acknowledging that I can't come up with 10 books that really stood out as above average from December and January, here are five:

5. A Hometown Boy by Janice Kay Johnson. Johnson is no stranger to tough topics, and boy did she tackle one here. In one of those odd--and in this case extremely sad--coincidences, this book about the aftermath of a mass shooting was published within weeks of the Newtown school shooting. David Owen is called back to his small hometown in eastern Washington when he learns that his older brother went on a shooting spree, killing half a dozen people before turning the gun on himself. One of the people Robbie killed was the father of an old friend, Acadia Henderson. Acadia, now living and working as a nurse in San Francisco comes home to bury her father and finds her old attraction to David is alive and well in spite of the horrific acts committed by David's brother. Johnson's book explores issues of mental illness, shame, guilt, forgiveness, and more. It's an ambitious book with a believable romance between David and Acadia woven through it. To be honest, I go back and forth at how well the book as a whole succeeds because so many issues are touched on and this is a category-length romance. The small town setting creates a fairy tale feeling about how easily many people rally around David and his mother. BUT, it really got me thinking more about the conversations we're having these days about how we treat mental illness in our society, and I consider that a good thing. I think this book is well worth a read if you can handle the emotional issues covered here; it is certainly not a light read.

4. Grease Monkey Jive by Ainslie Paton. I saw a lot of chatter on Twitter about this one and was eventually persuaded to buy it. The price was right and I'm a fan of Dancing With the Stars. I figured a book involving a ballroom dancing competition would be fun in spite of all of the warnings about the editing and formatting problems. And it was fun. It's amazing what you can overlook sometimes. This book is Australian-set and has not been "Americanized" for North American readers--thank goodness! It was great to read something with language that was obviously idiomatic, yet context gave me plenty of clues to figure out when a word meant something different than I was used to. This was a story with a perfect combination of humor and emotion about Alex Gordon who needs a temporary stand-in dance partner to stay alive in a ballroom dance competition. The dancer she and her injured partner find, Dan Maddox, has a lot of natural ability, but no training. As they spend time together dancing, it's clear they're deeply attracted. But Alex has a boyfriend and Dan is a player. Alex is studying accounting to move into a business career while Dan works as an auto mechanic and shows no signs of further ambition. On the surface it would appear that they have very little in common. Plus, both of them have serious emotional issues and they have to go through a lot to pave the way to a happy ending together. This is a rather long book, but Alex and Dan have much to work through. I enjoyed the journey which was helped along by some memorable secondary characters.

3. Table for One by Ros Clarke. This was my January TBR read.

2. The Last Man by Vince Flynn. Flynn's latest Mitch Rapp novel brings us back to current-day Mitch. The previous two books were a young Mitch, both of which I really liked. I was ambivalent about a return to the present day since I hadn't been too happy with Angry Mitch. In this very fast-paced suspense, Mitch is in Afghanistan to find a missing CIA agent. From the beginning Mitch realizes that things aren't what they seem and questions arise concerning the missing agent. There's a nice twist in this book that readers of the whole series will appreciate. I won't say more because it's too easy to venture into spoiler territory. All I can say is that I'm a huge fan and thoroughly enjoyed this one. I hear a series of movies based on the Mitch Rapp character are in the books. I'd love to see those!

1. The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand. I loved this book and wrote a stand-alone review of it here.