Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Crocheted Pillowcase Edgings

Yes, I spent a couple of months learning to crochet, even though I really didn't need another hobby.  Now I have been bitten by the crochet bug and I see MANY things I want to make.  YIKES!  But the whole reason I learned to crochet in the first place was because I saw THESE on Beata's blog -- SO BEAUTIFUL -- and I was overpowered with a desire to make them.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Cassie of YouGoGirl has a wonderful, clear tutorial on how to do this very thing!  If you haven't tried this yet, get over there and get started!  (Well, if you are like me and don't know how to crochet, do this first, THEN go to Cassie's tutorial.)

 Anyway, these pillows are my first attempt.

A close-up of the edge, where you can also see the contrasting pocket (which hides your actual pillow):
I made the back out of the contrasting fabric:
This is my second set, which I made for my daughter as a birthday gift.  I love those red roses on the yellow.
Here's her edging:
I took the pillows outside to try to get better lighting, but I'm not sure I did any better.  The top pillow shows the contrasting fabric:
The yarn I used on the edging was Sinfonia, a 100 percent mercerized cotton sports weight.  On the green pillowcases I used a size F crochet hook, but I thought the edging was a bit bulky, so on the yellow pillowcases I went down to a size E hook.  I also have some crochet thread size 3 that I may try next time. (And yes, there will be a next time -- I've already got the fabric.)

I have to tell you that these are very fun to make.  (And very fun to shop for.  Local quilt shops should be pushing pillowcase making.)
It is a pleasure to lay your head on these lovelies at the end of the day.  It is a distinct possibility that even your dreams will be sweeter ;)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Singing Hymns


While I live will I praise the LORD;  I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.
                                                                                        -- Psalm 146:2

Through my memory I am listening to the sound of many voices from my past.  It's odd how the memory of sound holds onto things,  how many voices I can still remember, even though it's been many years since I've heard them.  Today in particular I'm remembering voices singing, singing in church.

When I was growing up, there was a woman at my church.  I don't really know what was wrong, but she could not articulate words, she could only make some sounds.  She sat near the front of the church, and during the songs she always sang right along, despite not being able to form the words.  Just sounds, which of course sometimes could get the teenagers tickled, but true praise to God, how beautiful her voice must sound to him.

At this same church, there was a boy, a little older than me, who had Downs Syndrome.  His family brought him to every church activity, and he was included in everything possible, from taking up the offering, to public prayer, to singing in the congregation.  To my knowledge, both these people still faithfully attend that church, and just their presence has been an encouragement to many others over the years, reminders that there is room in the body of Christ for them and for us.

I also remember lots of old ladies, almost deaf (my great-grandmother was one of them), with their white or silver hair tied up in a bun, and their floral dresses and big clip-on earrings and sensible shoes, and their smiles for the children and their faithfulness, despite poverty and deafness and loneliness.  I can hear their crackly voices even now. Most of them are long gone by now to their heavenly home, but in churches all over others rise up (or age up) to take their place.  And one day, if God so wills, I will be one of them:)

After I was married and moved away, I attended a different church, and there I remember different voices singing.  I loved this church because everyone did sing.  For a while I had gone to a church where, although close to a thousand people might be there, you couldn't hear anyone around you make a sound during the hymn.  I don't know if it was considered bad form, or they were all self-conscious, but hymns are there for singing, aren't they?  In fact, church is one of the few places where we regular people are actually supposed to sing, it's part of our worship.

Anyway, in the church where everyone DID sing, the pastor himself would stand up front and sing heartily to the Lord.  He had a pretty good voice, but it is his heartiness that most sticks with me and that I most appreciated.  It gave permission to all of us to sing just as heartily as he, to "make a joyful sound." And for the most part, that's what the congregation did.

I think for my husband some of the best times of singing have been when he has been in a congregation of men -- mostly pastors -- and that roomful of male voices lifted up in praise to God has been a balm to his soul.

My church now is small.  Sometimes the singing is loud, but sometimes not, depending on how many people are there and how self-conscious they are.  And I have teenagers, and I have found to my shock that they don't like hearty singing, especially from their mother.  So I have tried -- unsuccessfully -- not to be an embarrassment to them.  But I long for the day in heaven when we can sing -- without self-consciousness, without second-guessing our motives -- with abandon to God Himself, when our tongues will not be able to keep silence but must burst forth in praise.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hatbox of Hexagons

This is a hatbox I got several years ago.  I keep it in my laundry/sewing room.

Here's the top.  Isn't it pretty?  Let's take the lid off and see what's inside.


Lots of flowers!

These are all for a flower garden quilt for my daughter, which is the next quilt I'll be working on after I finish the Storm at Sea.

Some of the fabrics are new, some are leftovers from older projects. Altogether there will be between sixty and seventy flowers, two of each kind.

The color is off due to November's gray days.  The green is more of a pale lime green.

They are all hand-pieced (mostly while in the car). Here's a view of the back:

A few close-ups:

I love these bees.

This flower is made of fabric from one of my great-grandmother's dresses.  I never knew her.  She died when my mom was ten, but she was well-loved.  My mom had a few of her old dresses.  They were so tiny!  Again, I'm trying to think of what to do with these fabric inheritances, and it seems better to me to go ahead and use them in something than to keep them stuffed in a drawer.

Here's a close-up of her dress fabric:

I have about fifteen more flowers to make, and then I will start sewing them together.  Right now this is a low-pressure project.  Higher priority has to go to the quilt in the frame.  But this one is more portable, so it gets worked on a little here and there when I'm riding in the car.  I'm deathly afraid of being stuck somewhere with nothing to do, so I keep it stuffed in my purse, at the ready.  And, little by little, it gets done!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving Thanks

From Psalm 145:

"Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.  One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts......They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness.

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.  The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works."

This sign, a gift from my mother-in-law, hangs in my dining area.  It's easy to ignore it or take it for granted, but the words are words my family and I need to hear.  How blessed we are by God every single day!  It's so, so easy to keep quiet about our blessings and only voice our complaints.  And it is our children who most need to hear the ways the Lord has kept us and led us on our journey to "Beulah Land", as an old hymn I love puts it.

May thankful hearts surround our tables today.

A Little Recognition of Fall

Cheryl at Thinking About Home had a series in October called 31 Days to Make a House a Home.  It is a great series, with lots of doable and practical stuff (one of my favorites is Hide the Ugly Stuff :).  One of the days was about celebrating the seasons, doing something to showcase the time of year.

I admire more decorative people, but I am not one of them.  Lack of funds, need to hide all my ugly stuff, etc. usually puts a damper on my creativity.  But Cheryl, as well as Brenda at CoffeeTeaBooksandMe, keeps nudging me along.  So, while a lot of things I wanted to do didn't get done -- a fall wreath, flowers in my pots, etc. -- I did do a few things, and I will choose to focus on those.  Here are some "close of autumn" photos:

A cozy fire cheers up a dreary day --
The little stool in the corner was a gift from my mother-in-law

A glimpse of pottery on my hutch makes me happy --

A wooden bowl of ornamental squashes makes a simple centerpiece --

Candles are ready to warm up the evening --
These candlestands were made for me by a friend's father

Cinnamon-scented pinecones sit in a silvery bowl on a shelf --

After many months of procrastination, a chalkboard (made from a metal sign) is now hanging in my back hall --
My husband was the first to try out the chalk
Little pumpkins are marching across the mantel --

knowing that soon enough they will be replaced by Christmas stockings --

Enjoy these last few days of November before the Christmas season begins!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Stove

My stove oven has been on the fritz for some time.  The oven would heat up, but very erratically, cutting itself off, no temperature accuracy.  We thought the control panel needed to be replaced, but upon further inspection (pulling out some wires), we discovered that some of the wires were burnt.  Fire hazard!  So for the past week I have had no stove at all.  I did use my crockpot and electric skillet, but my enthusiasm for culinary creativity petered out after a few days of this.

The repairman finally came, but lo and behold, he took my stove away and left me with a brand new one!  My husband (good man that he is) surprised me with this:)  Now maybe this wouldn't be that exciting to you, but I cook a lot (there are seven of us who eat regularly, not to mention various drop-in teenage friends).  And I have never had a new stove in my life -- I just always used whatever stove was already there.

Here she is, a Maytag smooth top electric stove:

She has a lot of features I wanted:  large oven window, self-cleaning, variable burner sizes, delayed bake.  Plus some that I will have to figure out, like a choice to use a convection bake.  I feel like she has a slightly retro look, with her tall white back.  I love how shiny she is --

I'm not worried about maintaining the top because I cooked on a ceramic stove for the past seven years (and it was a used stove), and its top still looked brand new when I got rid of it.  A nice thing the installers did was to make sure the stove was level and that it was even with my countertops.  A little perk that I haven't had -- my old stove was an inch or two shorter.
I'm not one to give my appliances names, but I do feel confident this stove is a SHE.  Maybe she does have a name that I will discover later ;) Anyway, her first test was to cook black beans and rice.  She did fine. The oven was inaugurated by baking two beautiful German Chocolate pies.  I used the regular bake setting after reading online that convection is not the best for pies.  This is all that was left this morning:

(A side note:  I painted the plate behind the stove several years ago at one of those paint-your-own-pottery places.  I was going for a peppermint ;)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Learning to Crochet

Last summer I took a notion to learn to crochet.  Now it wasn't completely foreign to me, I'm sure I crocheted something back in high school or earlier, plus one of my grandmothers had been a prolific crocheter, but I really didn't remember much about it.  My daughter suggested Klutz because she had learned to knit from the Klutz knitting book.  If you are unfamiliar with Klutz, they are a company that specializes in how-to books.  Our family has several of them, and they have all been excellent.  After reading glowing reviews on Amazon, I ordered the  Klutz Crochet book.

It did not disappoint.  The instructions were clear, plus the book came with everything to get started:  a crochet hook, two types of yarn, yarn needle, stitch markers, button, and a cute handy case.  Once you have the book, you're good to go.  I spent a couple of months learning the stitches, doing some things over and over until I understood them, and making everything in the book.

Projects include a jewelry roll, a clutch pouch, flowers (I had to make several before I got the five petals it was supposed to have -- I kept getting six or seven), a hat (which turned out well but too small for my giant head), a granny scarf

and a mesh bag for soap, which now hangs in my shower and gets regular use.

Everything was made with the included yarn except for the hat and scarf.  Those are kind of the finale projects and you need to buy your own yarn for them (which by this point you actually look forward to doing).

After finishing the book, I felt confident to delve into whatever crochet adventures I found beckoning.  Other than yarn, the only purchases I've made are a variety of bee-u-ti-ful crochet hooks -- I love their glowing colors -- and a pretty blue pair of small scissors.

If you are pining after all the crocheted goodies on pinterest but have no crochet abilities, I highly recommend you get Klutz Crochet.  It got me started and now I can't quit thinking of things to make.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bedtime Ritual

I have been reading the daily paper since I was nine years old.  I can remember trying to do the crossword puzzle and being able to get maybe one or two answers.  Both my parents and grandparents were paper-readers.  My first year of marriage I worked at a newspaper.  So reading the paper is important to me.  And it's a quality I've (quite without trying) passed onto all my children.  Every day they at least read the comics.  Some of them read the sports, others the weather, local news, sales ads, etc.  Apparently we are in the minority.  (I should add that my husband does not feel the same compulsion to read the newspaper that the rest of us do.)

Of course the Sunday paper has its own special features:  stacks of sales info, coupons (I have to confess I'm not into them -- keeping them organized and keeping up with them causes me extreme anxiety), lots of comics--in color,

and the creme de la creme for me, the five-star sudoku puzzle --

and the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle --

I look forward to this all week because these help me to go to sleep at night.

My husband likes to read before going to bed.  He can read a chapter (or even a page), put the book away and go to sleep.  I have a hard time doing that.  It's the rare book that I can read in little bites.  I have to gobble books down.  If the book is good, I am likely to keep reading til 2 or 3 in the morning.  So while I enjoy reading, I have to weigh my enjoyment against how emotionally involved I want to get.  Movies have the same effect.  I love books and good movies, but they are not "relaxing" to me -- they get my mind and emotions going.

So before I go to sleep, I will work the sudoku puzzle, and once I've completed that, I will work on the New York Times crossword.  Sometimes the sudoku comes fairly easy, sometimes it may take me several days.  The same with the crossword.  There are some weeks I never do get them finished.  But I need them to be somewhat difficult.  This way my mind is engaged -- challenged -- so my attention is focused on what I'm doing.  I can't think about my worries (which always seem to rear their ugly heads at night) and work a puzzle at the same time.  On the other hand, my emotions don't really get involved with the puzzle, so when I get drowsy I just put the puzzle down and go to sleep.  It will still be there tomorrow.

By the way, the Pickles comic at the top was particularly funny to me because for a long time I made the same mistake as Pearl:  I thought LOL meant "Lots of Love."  Wondered why my husband's friends kept putting that in their emails :)  In case you don't get Pickles in your paper, you can click here     to see it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hand Quilting

Today I thought I'd show you a little more about how I go about hand quilting.  There are many ways to do this, and you have to find what's comfortable for you, but sometimes it can be helpful to see how another person does things. 

Once my quilt top, batting and back are basted together (and marked, in some cases), I put it in the frame.

There are many frames on the market in all different price ranges.  The one I have is made by Heartland  Quiltworks.  I chose it because there are almost no parts to tear up (important in my rambunctious house), it's small, it's portable, so easy to use, and it's purty:)  I cannot find a current link to Heartlands' site, so you may have to check ebay or craigslist to find one.  The Ulmer Quilter would be something similar.

Anyway, I leave the frame set up in my bedroom and usually my tools are sitting on top of the quilt in a ziplock bag (not very pretty, but handy).  Here I've spread them out on my bed so you can see them.  Nothing very complicated:  my cardboard template, Roxanne white and silver chalk marking pencils (not shown, a small metal pencil sharpener), Roxanne size 10 quilting betweens needles, YLI hand quilting thread 40wt., thimbles, and scissors.

Here's a closer look at my thimbles:

 A Roxanne thimble is on the left.  While these are a bit pricy and a good fit is required, they are great for quilting.  Before I got my Roxanne, I went through many cheaper variations (rubber coated, etc.) but none of them lasted.  I am NOT sorry I got the Roxanne -- I would've saved money by getting it to start with.  The thimble on the right is Ted's Thumb Thimble.  I love it, too.  They both are great thimbles, a pleasure to use.  I also love that their designers made them beautiful as well as functional.  It makes me happy to see the butterfly and the flowers! And you'll notice the Roxanne needles all come in a little glass vial with a seashell on top!  I love that too!

One thing I have to say about hand quilting supplies:  while they're not that complicated, almost everything will have to be ordered online.  I have access to several quilting shops, but none of them carry more than a smidgen of hand quilting stuff.  In fact, an employee at the largest store in my area looked at me as if I were from another planet when I asked about hand quilting thread.  I was so far off her radar she couldn't even make an attempt at helping me.  Even online, it's not one-stop-shopping.  I got my thread at one place, thimbles at different places, etc.  Don't let that discourage you, just know it up front.

I use the Roxanne thimble when I'm quilting towards myself --

 and I use Ted's thumb thimble to quilt away from myself.  

I cannot impress upon you how convenient it is to be able to quilt with your thumb.  So helpful, plus it gives your hand position a little change.  Try it!

My left hand stays under the quilt, feeling for the needle.  Yes, I get prickpointy rough spots on the ends of my fingers, but that's just part of it. I do have a quilting spoon that I can use underneath, but I find that most of the time I prefer just my hand.  I think it's because with the spoon my hand is GRIPPING all the time, versus the more relaxed way I keep my hand otherwise.

One of my favorite parts of hand quilting is the sound the thread makes as I pull it through the quilt.  Very satisfying!  While an individual stitch may be less than perfect, you will find that the overall effect will be consistent little stitches marching merrily across the quilt.

It is impossible to hand quilt without constantly petting your quilt, running your hands over your stitches. Hand quilting gives wonderful texture.

Did you know that one of the rules of most kinds of creative work is that you must stop every so often and admire your own progress?  Don't begrudge it to yourself -- it's one of life's great satisfactions :)