Tuesday, December 29, 2020

What a long, strange year it's been

 Hello everyone, and welcome to the end of 2020! I'm so happy to say that, aren't you? What a year. There's no reason to go through the litany of why I am so glad to see this miserable year come to a close, is there? I'm betting that many of you are feeling the same way. I was going to say "we made it!" but of course that isn't true for too many families. Instead, I'll just say that I'm grateful that my husband and I remained healthy this year, and my parents, kids, and grandkids are all still with us. 

The word of the year for 2020 was STRESS. It's been a very challenging time that felt like several years all piled up together. This year I didn't blog as much as usual, mainly because of the stress and time involved in teaching live classes online, but I did manage to make a bunch of things in 2020. According to the handy spreadsheet that I keep, this year I finished ten quilt tops, nine fully completed quilts, and a very large number of quilty projects, including some quilted scrap baskets and many, many cloth masks. I am amazed by these numbers, because all year I've felt like I was failing at everything.

The most popular finish this year was this lovely quilt:

A tiny bright spot

(Clicking on the captions will take you to the post about that quilt!)

This was the quilt top made last year from scraps for the Tiny Tuesday blocks at the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, and this year it got quilted and bound. It now hangs in my dining room, and it makes me happy every time I see it.

Next on the list were two quilts that I donated to Mercyful Quilts:

Spring in spite of it all and A little bit of mercy

 Readers certainly liked these and I enjoyed creating them. I hope they are now comforting families in this year of so much suffering.

I made a bunch of cheerful things this year, but by far the most cheerful was the quilt I made for my nephew:

O is for orange

I called this quilt Big Orange, and it certainly seemed like a ray of sunshine in a dark winter.

And speaking of cheerful, is there anything more cheerful than yellow?

Wrong Turns

I quilted this one with a walking foot and kept turning the wrong way, but it turned out to be quite cute anyway. 

I also finished two star quilts with blue backgrounds:

Constellations and Galaxy Stars

One of these now lives with my daughter, and the other is in the guest room in case anyone ever somes to visit again. Funny how many of my quilts have walked off to my kids' houses.

My personal favorite finish for the year is this lovely autumn flower quilt:

Autumn abounds

And then, of course, there are the unfinished tops, which I am determined to get finished up in the new year: 

Colorful summer finish, Child's play, Rainbows in the pines, and Rising from the leaves

As for non-quilt quilty projects, I spent a lot of time making (expletive deleted) masks:

I'm sure you all made a ton of these too! I think I made about 60, all told, but I have friends who made hundreds. You are all better people than me! These were necessary, but almost zero fun to make, though I'm happy they're keeping people safe.

I also made a bunch of quilted scrap baskets:

I didn't get to make every color, so I'll finish those up for next year's RSC.

And I ended the year with a doll quilt that lives here, waiting for some small person to (finally) come over and play:

Small but satisfying

All in all, looking back has been a really good exercise, because in all the stress I lost sight of what I had already accomplished. Overall, it was a better quilty year than I thought! There is plenty left to do in the new year, though, so I'm sure I won't run out of projects.

So, now that we've looked back, let's look forward, shall we? On to goals for 2021!

Quilty goals for 2021

At the end of a year with all of my personal and professional goals in pieces at my feet, (totally not joking!) I'm really unsure what to have as goals for next year. I'm just keeping it simple with these few:

--Get the remaining unquilted tops quilted or donated (or both!)

--Continue cleaning out and repurposing UFOs

--Finally finish a quilt for our bed (already in progress!)

--Work on things that make me happy, without a real schedule

--Be true to my own aesthetic

--Learn one new skill or take on one new challenging project (maybe this will wait until after the pandemic!)

--A personal goal for 2021: find some kind of ~balance~ after a year of almost unrelenting stress

That seems like a set of goals that I can actually accomplish this coming year. (Any resemblance between last year's goals and this year's is strictly coincidental!) I'll leave it to someone else to figure out how we can manage to continue wearing sweatpants all the time once we have to actually go in to work again. 

Finally, here at the end of the worst year ever, I want to thank all of you for coming around and reading my ramblings, offering funny and supportive comments, and being a fun community to belong to. It's good to have friends, now more than ever.

And with that, we're kicking 2020 to the curb and moving on to 2021! Wishing you all peace, joy, and happiness in the new year. This coming year will be different, and with any luck, it will be different in good ways, so let's make it good with plenty of color, fabric, and community in our little corner of the Internet.

Happy 2021, everyone, and peace and joy to all!

Sharing with Cheryl's Best of 2020 linky party at Meadow Mist Designs, and Yvonne's 2021 Planning Party at Quilting Jetgirl.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Rainbows in the pines

 Hi everyone, and happy week before Christmas! Are you feeling very merry? Thanks for all of the great holiday stories on the blog hop on my last post! I really enjoyed putting my feet up and reading about your families. After the year that we have had, no one could blame us for just sitting around eating cookies, drinking something warm, and telling happy stories for the next couple of weeks, could they?

Down in the sewing room, I have finished another repurposed project, just in time for a some nice photos in the snow. Yahoo! Here is the Rainbow Pines quilt top:

In the actual pines!

If you recall, the strings started as a Rainbow Scrap Challenge project, and like many others, it never got finished. So I repurposed these string sections into some colorful pine trees, using Bonnie Hunter's Pine Tree Point pattern, which you can get in her shop  HERE

This pattern was super-easy, though that might be because I had already made the string parts and only had to cut them to the right size. I also had to depart from Bonnie's pattern a little bit because I wanted to use up all the string bits that I already had pieced, so I used the extra parts that I cut off the tree sections to make the colorful borders.I think they're pretty striking, and it used the scraps! A win all around, I think.

I also decided to use up a bunch of neutral strings for the border, which I think makes the whole thing. I pulled out every unloved bit of neutral and white that I could find and used them here, and I even included a couple yellows, grays, and pinks. I think the borders just sparkle. I always forget how great strings can be, but then I do a project like this and I change my mind. It seems like strings will be extra labor intensive, but they're actually quite soothing to piece together. And did you notice my string corners?

I am so happy that I decided to repurpose a number of projects this year, because then I have empty project boxes, much less guilt, and happy quilt tops like this one. Altogether a lot better than projects just sitting around unloved, don't you think? And this way I can start a new RSC project in January without guilt, too!

 I don't think you can see it in the pictures, but on the land behind this quilt top were these fun visitors:


A deer family! I didn't see them until I had already taken a few photos, but they completely ignored me. They must be colorblind, because this top was really striking in the snow.


This fun quilt top is my last finish for 2020. It's time to clean out the sewing machines, replace the rotary cutter blades, and rake out the scraps on the sewing room floor, and then settle in for some rest and recharging. It will be a quiet holiday for us this year, and if you are heartbroken and missing family this year, know that you are not alone. Whatever your situation, I wish you all a chance to relax and de-stress, a joyous holiday in whatever form you celebrate, and a new year filled with peace and joy. 


See you next week for a year-end roundup, and maybe a few more pretty pictures before we (finally) welcome 2021.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Tree traditions

Hi everyone, and welcome to my stop on the Holiday Tales and Traditions blog hop! Bernie at Needle and Foot organized this hop to spread a little holiday cheer. I know this holiday is different from all the others, and at least some of us are having a bit of a time this season. It's been a hard year, so let's pull up a chair, grab a cup of whatever you like, and share some happy stories of our holiday traditions. At the end of my post today, there is a small giveaway just to spread a little more cheer, and also a fun holiday recipe that we have enjoyed for years and years. (And it can be made gluten-free, too!) Read on and enjoy, then share your own story in the comments! Off we go. . .


My holiday traditions story will be quite familiar to people in the Upper Midwest, where Christmas-- and sometimes Thanksgiving or even Halloween-- are usually marked by lots of snow and cold. We always had a "real" Christmas tree, and as soon as our kids were old enough to walk a bit in the woods, we started going to cut-your-own lots, where you can cut down your own tree. We did this until our kids left home, and we have some of the best memories from those times.

My very first Christmas ornament, bought for my first "adult" tree almost 40 years ago.

We usually had a great time getting a tree, walking through the whole lot to get the best one. Then of course the kids each had to take a few swipes with the saw, which really did not make any progress in cutting down the tree, but it felt good to them. One year we picked a tree that came with pinecones already attached, and I saved them and still have them.

Non-digital photo that survived from the 1990s.

My favorite year was the year that it was 5 degrees below zero and very snowy. You would think that we would have just forgone the tradition that year, but nope-- traditions do not die that easily! And we were pretty hardy folks, you know, so we bundled up the kids and went out and found a tree. It was probably the longest time we spent in a tree lot, and it was hard walking through the snow, but it turned out to be one of the best times ever. And no frostbite, either! We all still talk about the "freezing year." 

Christmas trees meant for eating!

Of course, after all that activity, we needed hot chocolate and cookies! While the tree thawed out (and dripped) in the garage, we had as many cookies and as much hot chocolate as we could hold. It ruined everyone's lunch, but who cares? They got plenty of vegetables at dinner, I promise. Then, of course, we got to decorate and enjoy our prize tree, which somehow always ended up being way too tall for our room. They look much smaller outside!

Ah, memories! I might be tearing up a bit. I know the picture of those cookies up there is making your mouth water, so now I have two small gifts for you. First, at the bottom of this post is our family Christmas cookie recipe, which makes a *lot* of cut out sugar cookies. Also, I am offering a small giveaway so that you can create something fun in the new year. I have this to share with you:


This is a small package of Christmas-tree-colored Aurifil threads in different weights and types. There is some floss, and a spool of regular 50 weight, and some 12 weight thread, too, I think. I didn't want to open the package, so I'm not super-sure, but I know that someone who enjoys experimenting with these things will have a great time with these threads. To enter the giveaway, just share a happy holiday memory in the comments! If you don't celebrate Christmas, that's okay, too! I'm happy to hear any of your happy family stories. I will choose a winner using a random number generator on Sunday evening, December 20. 

This giveaway is now closed! Thanks for sharing your stories!

Be sure to visit everyone else on this hop for some more holiday stories, too:



 And, as promised, here is the cookie recipe:

Note: This recipe makes a LOT of cookies-- between 10 and 12 dozen. Hey, I come from a big family! The dough can be divided and frozen, and it will keep a good six months in the freezer if well wrapped. I have made cookies at Easter from dough that I froze at Christmas, so don't be afraid to make the whole batch and have cookies for months.

2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
5 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine.
In a very large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, beating for at least one minute until well combined and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the milk and vanilla and scrape the bowl to be sure everything is well combined.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, making sure all of the flour is incorporated after each addition. Dough will graually become stiffer and the last of the flour mixture may need to be added with your hands. When well combined, smooth the dough and shape into a rough loaf shape. Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight (at least 12 hours). Dough can also be divided and frozen at this point.

To bake, preheat oven to 350. Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness a small portion at a time on a lightly floured surface. Dough will be stiff but will soften as you work with it. Cut with cookie cutters in any shape you desire. Place cookies about an inch apart on greased cookie sheets. (Cookies do not spread a lot.) Bake until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks, frost or decorate, and enjoy!

To make these cookies gluten-free: I am gluten-free and I have successfully made these cookies using Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. I find it helps to let the dough sit on the counter for about an hour before refrigerating it when using this flour blend. Then refrigerate and bake as described above. Yum!

I hope this was a cheerful post for you, and I'm really looking forward to reading your stories. I have some tea and some cookies, so I'm ready! Share your stories below, and pass on some Christmas cheer!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Small but satisfying

 Hi everyone, and happy weekend! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here, except for the fact that today it was 55 degrees outside. I feel like I could make do without snow, though, as long as there are plenty of Christmas cookies, and maybe a small bit of mulled wine. Our tree is up and decorated and there are even a couple of presents. Wait, how did those get there? And are they for me?

Back in the sewing room, which is decorated with various fabric scraps and snippets in festive piles on the floor, the repurposing of unfinished RSC projects continues. This week I have a particularly satisfying repurpose to show. Here is a small but happy finish:


This is a small doll quilt that was repurposed from an unfinished Boston Common project from RSC19. I had planned to do another round every month, with some white or neutral rounds to separate a few of the stronger colors. I did great until it was time to move to Baltimore! It went into the project box and did not come out, sadly. I really intended to work some more on it, but I never did. I'm blaming the virus, but really, I also lost enthusiasm for the project. You know how that goes, right?

Why do I say this little quilt was a particularly satisfying finish? Because one minute it was a sad, unfinished project hanging on the design wall waiting for some love, and a couple of hours later it was a cheerful little doll quilt. What a transformation! This little quilt is about 20 by 26, a perfect doll size. 

I quilted this in a simple, fast cross hatch with a pale yellow thread, because it happened to be handy, then bound it in some leftover orange, which also happened to be close at hand. I really like the way cross hatching makes a quilt look. It's super-easy, but it always turns out looking great. I'm also really happy with the orange, which I gave literally no thought to at all. It was just a handy leftover, but it gave the quilt just enough zing. 


This little quilt is going to live at my house and wait for the time when some small girl (or boy--no fossilized gender roles here!) can come and play again. I have three granddaughters now, and sooner or later this stupid virus will be finished and they will be able to come over and have a tea party with some dolls. I can't wait for that day to come, truly.

Anyway, one more project repurposed and finished. Yay! Now I think I need to get going on some more of those Christmas cookies. It's wet and foggy right now, a perfect day for some baking and stitching. Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Sharing at soscrappy for RSC20.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

O is for orange

Hi everyone! How are you doing these days? Are you getting ready for 2020 to be finished? I certainly am ready to kick this year to the curb and move on to something else. Before that, though, I have to finish grading these confounded exams and finish up a bunch of quilty projects. Which of those do you think I am looking forward to more? At this point, I honestly couldn't choose!

I hope you are all in the mood for color and brightness today, because I have a finish to show off that is very, very bright and very, very orange:


Yep, the big orange quilt is finished and ready for my nephew! Everybody do your happy dance now, because this was a bear to get done and I am so, so happy to see it finished and in the mailing box.
This is the Elvira pattern from Gudrun Erla, and she had a quarantine quilt along for it some time ago. Somehow I hadn't made a quilt for my nephew, even though I know he likes them because my sister-in-law's mom was a quilter before Alzheimer's took her. He's grown quite a bit since then, and he needed a couch quilt that would cover his 6 foot 4 frame. I (foolishly!) asked him what color he would like, and he requested orange. I think this fits the bill!

I was determined to quilt this myself, which I eventually succeeded at, but I have to tell you-- it was a bear and a half. This quilt finished at about 65 by 87, which is much larger than I usually think I can handle (but a great size for Joe!) I knew I'd quilt this with a walking foot and just straight lines, so I thought it would be okay. Well, it took me four days to baste this monster, and even then I was obsessive about flipping the quilt and checking the backing after every stitching line. I even resorted to a few small spots of spray basting to keep things from shifting.

The lines here are about an inch and a half apart, and they took forever. There are a few wobbles, but mostly the lines turned out straight because I was obsessing over them and stitching pretty slowly. I'm not sure it's apparent in the pictures, but on the top half of the quilt, the lines go diagonally, and in the bottom half they are straight. In person this looks great, and it was easy enough, but it did take a long time, and then I had to bury the threads from the bottom half. After all that worrying, it worked out fine. I used an antique gold thread for the top and a gray for the back, and somehow that worked, too!
The backing is a geometric gray print, and I used whatever pieces I could find to make a scrappy orange binding, which I then spent several evenings stitching to the back. I love the binding, and it used up a whole lot of the leftover orange pieces that I still had. Looking at the scrap basket, it seems like I'm back to a "normal" amount of orange scraps, which feels pretty nice. Orange may be Joe's favorite color, but it isn't mine!

I hope you've enjoyed this bright and happy quilt, and that you got a nice dose of happy color. It does brighten the day, doesn't it? I'm hoping to have a few more finishes before the end of the year, so stay tuned! And please stay healthy and safe, too! 
Sharing at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Finished or Not Friday, and Brag About Your Beauties

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Challenge met

 Hi everyone, and welcome to December, the last month of this wretched year. Has winter arrived in your area? I understand many places have had snow. We haven't had snow, but we did have a lot of rain and it's gotten a good bit chillier. I am not up for this, I have to confess. It seems like the cold is just 2020 piling on. I really dislike beaches (sand is just dirt, you know) but for maybe the first time ever I feel like a beach would be a good idea. This year has definitely turned everything upside down.

By the time you read this, I will have taught my last class for 2020. Yahoo! Let the chorus of Hallelujah begin! We still have finals next week, but my exams are all written and so for the next few days I am relaxing just a tiny bit for what feels like the first time since July. As a part of this new relaxation regime, I finished off the Color Challenge blocks this afternoon after class:

To be clear, I only made the red ones today. The "buff" ones were for November, though somehow they never got posted. Oh, well! I know the December block just came out yesterday, but there it was, all ready to make, so why not? It was easy enough, though it did involve a lot of pieces. I'm not sure I like either of these blocks, but they're finished, so let's call that good. No fair checking the points on those blocks, either.

And speaking of finished, here are all of the 2020 blocks:

Twenty four finished, colorful blocks! The question now is how to set them. I'm thinking that I should make one more block and set these five by five, just like they're shown here. The other option is to just set them four by six, which might make for a better donation quilt. Thoughts?

I'm so happy to have finished these off and be at this stage, and I can't believe I kept up with it! Seems like a miracle right now. And I'm really, really happy to have spent some time in the sewing room today. A little relaxation is good, right?

Hope you are all having a relaxing day and are getting some stitches in, too. And maybe dreaming of beaches. . .

Sharing at  Midweek Makers at at Patterns by Jen for her linkup.