Saturday, May 27, 2017

TWO Completed Projects!

Okay, this 'retired' business is starting to pay off.

Last Monday, I went through all my surviving bins and buckets and made a list of all the projects contained therein. Actually, I was looking for (and still looking for) the pair of Gingher sewing scissors and rotary cutter I KNOW I replaced after the fire. I put them somewhere 'safe'. Really, really safe apparently.

Anyway, it's a LLLOOONNNNGGGG list of quilting and knitting projects. And I won't even go into the project bags I want to make and the clothing.


While at The Sewing Palace looking at the quilt for the Block of the Week program this summer, I found a 'kit' for a fox-themed quilt-as-you-go throw.

Texter was all for it, clearing off her computer table (she uses it for school work) so I could set up my sewing machine. My very, very basic sewing machine. 

Now I shouldn't be complaining about my machine. It's a Singer and does what it is suppose to do. However, for a 'beginner' machine, why the hell do they have a bobbin you have to dismantle the machine to put in? It's enough to make someone stop sewing before they ever start! Secondly, the tension isn't self-adjusting to any degree.

And that was my initial problem. Tension. I started sewing this 'beast' and the thread on the bottom looked like the cat threw up a hairball. After a frustrating hour, I set the project aside until I could figure out my problem.

Then in the middle of the night (of course!) it came to me and the next morning I dropped the tension in the bobbin and it sewed up like a dream.

I am going to keep the pattern and probably reuse the design. It was quick and easy, something I could do in a day basically. And since it's a quilt-as-you-go, once I sew the top strips together, it's done, except for the binding!

Yes, it is a bit tricky since you have two layers of minky, which is thick enough, but I also added a layer of batting (suggested by The Sewing Palace). Texter is always cold, even when it's 90 outside! It makes a nice, hefty throw and the minky makes it soft and cuddly.

The kit is by Shannon Fabrics and I only had to supply the batting, backing and thread. There is enough in the kit to make a matching pillow, which will probably be made in the next day or two, before I clean all the lint out of the machine.

The current power struggle - who will use the throw - Texter or Lady K?

Project #2 was finished about a week behind schedule. It was suppose to be done by Mother's Day on the KAL, but I got distracted by the Joji Mystery Wrap.

The Colorwash scarf has been a fun knit. An easy project with lots of yarn-overs and swapping out yarn every two rows. I was a bit hesitant about the combination of yarns, but wanted to use my stash.

It knit up all 'curvy' and you can't really see the 'holes' in it. Pretty dinky as far as a scarf goes in my opinion. But then you block it.

I will admit, as much as I am not much of a 'swatcher', I am also not much of a blocker. But I did block this one. And what a difference!

It's 2 or 3 times larger and you can see the lovely holes in it. What is interesting are the little 'bubbles' of light in it where the two yarns became very similar in color.  Great pattern and I would make one of these again.

So two projects marked off my list of to-do's. Now back to the Joji Mystery Wrap. I am still on week one and week three was just released. And I have a quilt and sock-a-long starting June 1!

Friday, May 26, 2017

A "Bitter-Sweet" Class

First off, let me say, the amount of liquor I consume monthly could, some months, be considered, none. I'm not a big drinker. But when I do drink, especially when out in public, I want a really nicely made one. 

Hence, one of the reasons I really enjoy going to Gulch Distillers (formerly Triple Divide). They continually have 'special' drinks, such as the Lilac Bee's Knees, made with lilac infused honey.

So when I found out they were offering a class on amaro, I had to go.

I have been intrigued with amaro since reviewing the book, Amaro. An Italian digestif, it's a bitter-sweet drink made with herbs and spices.  In fact, Gulch Distillers now has their own award winning Fernet and constantly is make a 'house' amaro to serve, experimenting all the time. (Saving my pennies for a bottle of it!)

Last Saturday, between rounds at the quilt show which was only a couple of blocks away, I sat down for a class on making my own amaro. It was especially fortuitous since I had in mind to use some cherries and make a cherry liqueur.

So the line-up of possible additions to the alcohol. Several of the spices and herbs I was familiar with, like cardamom, fennel seed and cinnamon. Others were completely unheard of. And since amaro is based on 'family-recipes', handed down through generations, there is no set recipe for concocting an amaro.

A run-down of the possible additions to your amaro making - 

Gentian Root - common in bitters
Angelica Root - also used in gin
Calamus Root - used in Compari, vermouth
Devil's Club Root - adds earthiness 
Licorice Root, Star Anise, Fennel Seed - for that licorice flavor
Wild Cherry Bark 
Birch Bark
Cinchona Bark - quinine
Cinnamon - and they had cinnamon which was really thin and 'fragile' compared to the honking sticks I usually get at the grocery store
Orange and Lemon Peel - dried 
Nigelia Sativa Seed - spicy flavor
Schizandra Berry - which is suppose to detox your body

Actually, if you are into homeopathy, most of these ingredients are ones you would use to aid digestion, calm an upset tummy, and the like. (Ok, am I deluding myself thinking I am creating a medicine?)

Something interesting in the discussion of making and creating your own bitters was how the two owners of Gulch Distillers sample the herbs they come across to figure out what they want to add to their mixtures. They make TEA! Actually, they take whatever herb/spice they want to see how it will taste and pour hot water over it to make a tea and then drink it. This gives them an idea of what taste it will impart.

I trotted home (actually I drove) with a bottle of 'professional proof' vodka to create my own amaro.

Since I was determined to use cherries (and they didn't laugh at my idea and in fact, encouraged it), we put together my mixture of herbals to use.

I didn't put in cinnamon because of Texter and they suggested when I get to the stage where I add a sweetener I use brown sugar. You can actually use just about any sweetener you want - honey, molasses, cane sugar, etc.

So here is one of my two pint jars with my herbals and cherries infusing away. They are on the counter in the kitchen by the coffee maker so I can remember to give them a shake or two every day.
I have one more week before I can strain it and add the sweetener and 'cut' it. 

They said, since I/we were using 'professional' strength vodka, we needed to cut it with an equal amount of water. So when we get to the point where we strain out the herbals to then take the strainer and run hot water through it to strip out additional flavoring and then put that water into our alcohol infusion. 

And since I had to use two jars to make my amaro (I didn't have one jar big enough), I will blend the two together. Which is what they do at Gulch Distillers! They said, even with the exact same proportion of ingredients, two batches can have different tastes, depending on the quality of the ingredients, when they were harvested and how long ago, the weather - lots of factors. So they will blend together different batches to get the taste profile they are looking for.  What fun!

Once it's strained and back in one bigger bottle, it will sit for several weeks, aging. I can't wait. It already smells wonderful.

June's class at Gulch Distillers is all about making syrups. I see several bottles of different flavored syrups in my future!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Helena Quilt Show 2017 Part II

So after an delightful hour learning about bitters and making bitters at Gulch Distillers, I toddled back up the street to finish up my tour of the Helena Quilt Show 2017. 

This one is designed and sewn by someone I actually know, Cheri Bergeron. However, I don't know her from quilting, but rather by another passion, orchids. She is an officer in our local orchid society. (And I have some orchids she gave me to replace ones I lost in the fire!) 

I love the gradient and it just works for me. It's always amazing to me how turning a block on it's point changes the way it looks completely.

Sewn by Nancy Gillespie, another Judy Niemeyer design. This one I don't have.

This one hit on several levels. First, I have some fabric for a Montana State quilt for a friend. Uncut. Sitting in a box. But I love the memory quilt idea. Have to get hopping on the quilt as her oldest is leaving in August to attend MSU. I think she needs a quilt to cuddle with when he's gone.

This one is by Lisa Lovell and was a graduation present to someone.

I like this quilt as I am collecting cat fabric (and foxes) for quilts for the girls. What a great idea to make this quilt, using cat fabrics for the cats! Wouldn't it?

Anyway, this is a round robin quilt by Carolyn Meier and using a pattern from a 2000 McCall's Quilting magazine.

The above two wall hanging, by Andrea Atwood, really had me looking. 

First, they appeal to one of my first loves, embroidery. Secondly, the top picture is a panel she embellished. What a super idea. If I'm not creative enough to do something like the bottom design, at least I can embellish a panel. Wheels are churning as I have several panels in mind. But what a way to combine the two, needlework and quilting merged. Yummy!

Sewn by Kathy Grant, this Elizabeth Hartman design, Fancy Forest, is sitting in my 'to-do' pile. I have her Fox and Cat patterns too (for Texter and Savvy). Those I have started on. Or at least pulled fabrics for them.  But Hartman's pattern, Tokyo Subway was one of the first 'modern' quilts I fell in love with and want to make it still.

Yep, One Block Wonder. Sitting in a box, several dozen units sewn up and needing some finishing. Of which I have an idea how I want to do it.

Sewn by LaDonna Fabian, I love how she has a panel at the top and then the blocks underneath. With the quilting done the same all over, you really can't tell when it goes from blocks to whole cloth.

Also by LaDonna Fabian, this is the 2015 Mystery Quilt from the shop hop. My Peony Quilt is done with this pattern (and isn't as nicely sewn!) What a difference fabrics can make to the design! I didn't even realize this was 'my quilt' until I read the label. Now I HAVE to find backing and get mine finished up.

Red and black. Tumbling Blocks, always a favorite of time. But look closely. Each white size of the block has a different quilt design on it!

By Mignon Waterman, she is donating this quilt to a local church. You couldn't pry this quilt out of my hands if it was mine!

Another entry by Sue Wheeler. This is using the Fabulous Fractures by Brenda Esslinger. I have read the book and want to give it a try one day. What a great way to use an interesting panel.

Another Irene Wilson and another idea on how to use orphan blocks. 

This is one of two antique quilts on display. And once again, one of my first loves - crazy quilts. Needlework and quilting. One day I will start on one!

This is not really a quilt entered into the show, but rather a sample from The Sewing Palace for a kit. Right up my alley. But right now I am signed up for the Almond Country Beauty BOW (Block of the Week) quilt which starts in June. Not to mention, quilt store hops will start in June and I'm sure I will have tons more 'stash' and patterns coming in as I visit the stores. After all, you can't not buy something from each store, right?

So now...

Seriously wanting a new machine to replace my better Singer which melted in the Temple of Fire. Hopefully, figuring out how to sew this minky throw on the basic Singer. And then deciding which quilt top to start on in my stash of 33 quilting projects of which are already in some form of WIP. Not to mention the 4 quilt tops ready for backing and quilting. Or the patterns I want to start.

I won't mention the knitting projects or the 'other' sewing projects. Thank goodness, I retired. I'm exhausted already!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Helena Quilt Show 2017 Drool-worthy

There is a BAD problem with attending quilt shows. It's similar to letting a drug addict loose in a drug factory. 

The GOOD thing about attending a quilt show is it really rejuvenates the creative juices and inspires me to 'good-forth-and-quilt'.

So some of the eye-candy from the 2017 show. And some revelations about my quilting plans.

By Jan Larsen, this is a merging of an image off the internet and some Celtic blocks by Philomena Wiechec. So really opened up a whole realm of quilting - taking images in pictures and turning them into a quilt.

First, it's read and black, Texter's favorite color combination. This was a BOM and done by Sue Wheeler. But just proves what a difference color combinations can make.

This is En Provence, the Mystery Quilt 2016 by Bonnie Hunter, and sewn by Irene Wilson. I didn't participate in this quilt, but may have to go back at one point and do it. 

One thing I have learned is I am learning to recognize pattern designers before I ever read who designed it. Designers have distinctive styles. I could do this with needlework patterns back in the day and now I am learning to do it with quilt designers.

Sewn by Lou Moore, this is a Jen Kingwell design (and I LOVE her stuff). Gypsy Wife is probably her pattern I will start with.

Also by Lou Moore (does she ever leave the sewing machine?), this is a Judy Niemeyer design. Of which I currently have 9 patterns for her quilts, one of which is actually a WIP and another I have the fabrics for. One day...

Ok, this one caught my eye. It's a completely random design, using up scraps and turning them into blocks and then turning the blocks into a quilt. Sewn Bobbi Bridgeman, this gives me some ideas on how to take all those orphan blocks and use them in a quilt.

By Glynis Scott, another Judy Niemeyer design. At least I am consistent. Maybe it's the use of batik fabrics?

Another quilt sewn by Irene Wilson, this is the Allietare quilt from 2015 by Bonnie Hunter. Mine is 'almost' completed in that all the parts need to be sewn together. A jab in the butt to get off mine and get it finished and in use.

Sewn by Sue Wheeler, this is an adapted pattern by Sassafras Lane. I LOVE compass/kaleidoscope patterns and designs. What a great way to combine the two.

Ok, so I need to get out my EPP and work on my La Pass quilt. This is the New Hexagon pattern by Katja Marek and hand pieced by Dawn Valle. I have mine in a box and may sit in on her class at the Sewing Palace this summer to spur me on.

One of many round robin quilts by the Helena Hot Flash group. Love, love, love it. This one is by Julia Dess.

I love this design to show off Asian-ish fabrics. What a great idea. Sewn by Sue Kissinger it's the Oriental Fujita Maze Pattern from McCall's Quilting Magazine.

Another quilt by Sue Kissinger, this is 4 Patch Posy by H.D. Designs. Love the black and how it makes the kaleidoscope blocks pop.

So this was my first hour at the show, marveling at the quilts, before I ran back down the street for a class at Gulch Distilleries (quilts and drinking in the same day!) I will feature the second part tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Learning to "Work" Retirement

Ok, this is tough.

You would think not having to go to work would be something easy to do. Well, at least it was while I was working!

But now, not so easy.

And Monday, it dawned on me some of the benefits of no longer having to stop what I'm doing and go to work. And the above is one of the many reasons why it's a good thing.

  • I missed much of my daughters growing up having to work and keep house and cook and...
  • Now I can enjoy being at home with Lady K and 'reliving' to some degree the things I missed when the girls were growing up.

As I was working on cataloging and list making for my fiber and fabric projects, I could stop and sit in the yard with my knitting while Lady K was playing in the yard and digging in her sandbox. No problem! Nowhere I HAD to be. No deadlines (except for those self-imposed for knit-and-stitch-alongs).

It also means, during her summer vacation (and during the school year), Texter is free to do more with friends and follow her interests more. Right now, I'm listening to the movie "Sing" for about the 100th time with Lady K while Texter is with our LulaRoe dealer, helping her out. And she got to stay out late Saturday night, playing D&D with friends. Win-win for everyone.

So while my body/mind is learning retirement, I can enjoy a bologna sandwich in the yard in the sunshine with Lady K for lunch. And plan some fun trips this summer hitting quilt shops around Montana on a quilt hop. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Week In Review - May 14 - 20

I'm still trying to 'adjust' to not working. Being able to do things on my on schedule (pretty much). But it's been a full week, lots of knitting, falling off the 'no-sewing' band wagon only to have machine issues with the project, cooking and some time in the yard around a gray, drizzly day (my kind of weather). 

Since the seedlings are now outside, all the orchids (pretty much) are in the bay window. A second flowering branch had grown on an orchid I 'rescued' and is opening up. The early morning sun through the bloom is beautiful.

I'll take pictures this coming week of what we planted, but Lady K assisted. She even has her own hanging basket and huge planter of flowers she picked out. Luckily, we have had a couple of days of a bit of rain which has helped de-stress the plants and get them off to a nice start. The coming week is suppose to be a tad warmer and things should really take off.

And that is it for my exercise this past week. Really lax on going to the gym or doing yoga!

Lots of cooking this past week, much to the delight of Savvy's co-workers. A Fresh Cherry/Almond/White Chocolate scone and an Asian Noodle Salad were the two biggies. This morning will be an Apple Pecan Oatmeal Bake, by the way.

Saturday was the big day.

I had an Amaro (bitters) 'class' at Gulch Distillers in the afternoon. It was basically showing and explaining how they make amaro or bitters. You could also call them liqueurs when you add sweeteners during the process. I already had my mind set on some cherry liqueurs before I went.

Now, isn't this the proper way to study! A drink with lilac infused honey (yummy!). 

I'll have a longer post about the class next week, but I went home with "Professional Strength" vodka and some of the ingredients to add to my cherry liqueur I will be making.

More about what is in there, but it was great fun talking to someone who does this for a living and putting together a selection of spices and barks to compliment the cherries. Can't wait for the fall when my concoction comes together.

Next month is syrups, so I anticipate all sorts of little bottles in the kitchen infusing various sweeteners for drinks (and not just alcoholic ones). I'm already signed up!

And after the drinks, I went to the Helena Quilt Show all by my lonesome. Browsing without checking to be sure Lady K isn't dismantling the show!

Lots of quilts and further weakening of my 'no-sewing' pledge. A new machine is definitely in the plans soon. Maybe. If I can afford what I want. Hopefully. But there will be a longer post coming about some of the quilts. Lots of eye-candy and a furthering of my resolve to get some projects done!

I do have to show this one quickly. I love the gradient of colors and all the different size stars. It's similiar to some different patterns I have pinned and would love to do and really like how the blocks are set on-point.

And the best part? Cheri B., my orchid guild person, made this! 

There was a bit of a downer as I was heading home after picking up Lady K so her mother could play Dragons  & Dungeons uninterrupted with friends.

What was suppose to start on Monday, the 22nd, has already taken place. The Temple of Fire is now the Temple of Rubble. It's a bit bittersweet. On one hand it's sad to see the kids first home being torn down after only a year and a half of ownership. On the other hand, it was the catalyst for us to be able to move back to North Carolina. Lady K was a bit upset to see her house in a pile. But I'm sure the neighbors are glad work is being done to get rid of the house after it sitting there, charred, for about five months. Now to have them remove the rubble and the kids sell the lot.

Otherwise this week - 

  • Finished two books
  • Received a book to read and review
  • Received a box of yarn from a friend who wasn't going to use it (Thanks, Beth!)

This coming week - 

  • Off my butt and lots more exercising!
  • Finishing up more books
  • Finishing up some knitting
  • Figuring out how to sew on this minky fabric and complete a throw
  • More writing being done
  • More staying on track, and tracking, various things (like drinking water and taking vitamins)
  • Going through my bins and cataloging all the projects and trying to find where I put the sewing supplies I bought (like the pair of Gingher scissors and rotary cutter!)

So, until then...

More coffee!

Friday, May 19, 2017

And Another Fun Thing...

It's bad enough I have fallen off the wagon and decided to drag out the sewing machine. And we WILL NOT discuss the fact that somewhere in one of several bins of 'stuff' is a rotary cutter, scissors, etc. which I purchased after the fire and stored safely away. So safe I can't find it. 

Which means, between now and June 6, when the quilting starts, I have to go through each and every bin, bag and basket to locate items. Well, I figure it will give me a chance to catalog my outstanding projects (which I had done and then lost the list!).

Anyway, in between all the fiber and fabric fun, I have a huge stack of index cards on my desk I have been using for grocery lists. So why not actually break out the art supplies (which I know where those are!) and be creative!

Daisy Yellow is a fun website to follow and I think I will really enjoy a little mixed media art in my life over the summer. If you want to join in too, here is some information on the Daisy Yellow site

If nothing else, I can tape them to the blank wall over the computer and add some color!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Have No Willpower!

Actually, I am equating my willpower to that of a starving mosquito on a nude beach. Catch my drift?

I had thought I would abstain from quilting since I am down to the plain Singer (which I hate the bobbin case on) and really have a terrible set-up for sewing. I would have to set-up and take down every time I sewed.


Yep! I am falling off the band wagon of no-sewing.

I am blaming my local quilt store, The Sewing Palace, who is doing this block-of-the-month during the summer. I have fallen for more than one reason...

  • The most important is I love the American Beauty style quilts. They remind me of compasses and kaleidoscopes, all the things I love.
  • There are deadlines. I have to finish blocks and pick up the next set of blocks in a timely manner. And with being retired, that should work, shouldn't it?
  • And....if I finish my blocks by the end of August I get the border free!
  • A friend is going to do it also. This friend also has a quilting machine. Do you think I might be able to whimper and beg to get it quilted once finished? A great to-do after everyone is back in school at the end of August.

Not only did I fall off the wagon, I am seriously dragging it along now.

Isn't this little bird cute!

The Sewing Palace is offering a one day class on making these little scrappy fellows.  I have some scraps. I can bring a potluck dish. The date is on my calendar now!

And finally, if all the the above is not enough, I have my eye on this class, also at the Sewing Palace.

Handwork! I love trees and this is so much like a crewel work design I did when I was about...9 maybe. Back when you could only get black and white! (Family joke)


As I sit here, surrounded by yarn, my heart is going to fabric. I think I will be giving in shortly and taking a dive back into fabric for the summer!

(All pictures I 'borrowed' from The Sewing Palace and hopefully they won't mind.)