Hello March!

I just could not wait for February to disappear. It always feels like the longest month at the end of Winter. It’s still cold here in Southern Delaware, but at least the sun is shining. Next week things are warming up and we will be out of the “below freezing” at night! Hoping for just one last winter delivery of home heating oil in the week ahead.

Now that the weather is better, I have been venturing out more often to my sewing room. I did a project in February for a birthday gift, but couldn’t really post about it until the package was delivered. Sent it out via USPS priority mail on Feb 19 and it FINALLY got delivered on March 3. So much for 2 business day service! At the time I delivered it to my local postal clerk, I was told it will be there on Tuesday….My package got “lost in transit” between Philadelphia PA and Santa Barbara CA between Feb 24 and March 3. I finally entered a “lost package query” on the USPS website, complete with photos. I did that on March 2nd, when the package was a full one week overdue. Magically, it arrived and delivered to the residence on March 3. So; I can quit wondering what happened and be happy it arrived. The recipient and I chatted about bandits holding up the stagecoach and wishing the pony express was carrying this precious package!

Here are the contents of the very travel weary parcel-

tea time placemats
Two “Tea Time” placemats (Embroidery design by Sew Sweetly . com )
"Tea Towels"
3 Tea towels with machine embroidery design by designs by JuJu Tea Time Applique DBJJ313
Tea Time coasters
2 Tea Time Coasters – machine embroidery design by Sher’s Creative Space

Each of these projects was a lot of fun to make and my recipient is a “known” tea only drinker, and I thought she would enjoy them for her birthday. All of the designs were done in the 5×7 hoop.

I’m sure if they never showed up I could “redo” them, but I would have to dive into the fabric bin and find something else almost as cute as these fabrics. Most of the applique bits came from my never ending bin of scraps that I save specifically for embroidery machine applique. I had just a small piece of the “chicken wire and chicken fabric” and could not repeat that if I had to. I am SO glad the package finally showed up.

The tea towels were “Aunt Martha’s Retro towels” that I purchased last year from Oh My Crafty Supplies . They are available in other places, and are currently out of stock at this vendor. These are my favorite dish towel to embroider on. I have found them at WalMart in the craft section in the store & on line, and on Amazon. They start out at 18×28, and I ALWAYS prewash in hot water for maximum shrinkage. Boy do they shrink, but they are a nice “usable” towel for drying glassware and china. They are durable and will last for many years, unlike a lot of the “flour sack” towels others like to use. I like the size and the loop in the corner, and even though they look so cute with the embroidery, they are usable and functional. The more you wash them the softer they get.

While I was having fun with machine embroidery, I got busy with the verses that go on my church quilts for the high school graduates. I send all the parents to Designs by JuJu website and have them select verses for their graduating student. So far, these are the ones I have stitched out. Special thanks to Designs by JuJu for digitizing so many Bible verses and offering them for free. I am always pleased with the quality of the stitch out and Designs by JuJu’s gift helps me with this ministry at my church. This year, there will be “more than one” verse on each students quilt.

verse for senior quilt
Verse Christopher's Senior Quilt
Emily's quilt verse
Christopher's Quilt

These verses will go in the corners of the quilts we are making along with a photo of the church, which I print out every year on fabric. I am working on assembling one of the quilts, while there is a group working on another.

I have all the blocks made, the quilt top laid out on the design wall to my satisfaction and have started putting it together. I was so blessed to participate in two day long ZOOM quilting days last week and got a lot of stitching done. I have half of the quilt “webbed” together and just need to stitch the 10 rows together, then join it with the right side which is all ready assembled.

Emily's quilt partially assembled
Emily’s quilt

I used the Jodi Barrows Square in a Square ruler, option 2 for the alternate blocks. I like the way the corners make star points if you squint one eye. All the fabric for this particular quilt was donated by one of the church members when she cleared out her sewing room.

Blocks in Emily's quilt

The student likes blue, and I am planning on a blue border, using the same fabric as the wide backing.

The quilt for the other student is very striking as well. His grandmother purchased all the fabric, including the wide backing and is participating in the construction. One volunteer stitched all the half square triangle blocks, and we got together to starch, press, cut, starch, open and press and trim last Saturday. The previous Saturday we worked on cutting out the strips and squares needed for the project.

Blocks for Christopher's Quilt
Christopher’s quilt

This two color quilt will also be quite striking and we are planning on using the same red as the backing for the borders. Both quilts are using 8.5″ squares. With half square triangle blocks you have endless ways to layout the quilt and one of the volunteeres liked this particular pattern. It made her think of the marching band going across the football field in formation. Perfect for this musician.

I’ve ordered wide backing for both quilts and it will be nice to work with. We won’t be quite ready for another week or two so I’m hoping the USPS does a better job with the shipment of that fabric. These two color quilts are very fun to work with and are so different from what we did for the last 12 years. When there are only a couple of grads, it gives us more time to be creative. Normally we alternate a print block and a plain block and allow for space for the congregation to sign the quilt. But, this year, like last year; that isn’t possible, so we really wanted them to stand out. I will make a nice label for the back of the quilt on my embroidery machine as well to let the student know that the quilt was made especially for them.

I did one little embroidery project for my quilt guild. In December we all received a piece of fabric in the mail, and the project was launched. It was called “Ask” to Reconnect Us Project”. Each member was provided an 8″ square piece of fabric with which to create a finished block that reflects you as a quilt maker. I left my square pinned to my design wall for almost 2 months, and then, at the eleventh hour, I got busy and came up with a plan. I found one of my favorite embroidery designs, called Sewing Friends available at Kreative Kiwi. It is a free set and has several adorable Sewing designs. I used scrap fabric for the embroidery and the provided turquoise for the strips around the center square. I don’t really have a name for this block because it didn’t come out exactly like I had planned, and I had to adapt and regroup. I do like how it finished and I think it reflects my enjoyment of machine embroidery along with quilting. That pink came right out of the scraps that were used in the quilt I made in January for Stella. (More about that project on https://stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com/2021/01/31/a-finished-small-project/ )

Block for OWQG
Ask to Reconnect us project.

That should catch you up on my cold February sewing and embroidery work. I did work on my clue for Scrap Dance Pachanga, but the units need to be pressed, so I will save them for the next post.

What is happening in your sewing room?

Cold February Days

Never doubt that little ground hog they call Punxsutawney Phil (https://www.groundhog.org/ ). Back of Feb 2, 2021 we were told “6 more weeks of winter”. I think no matter where you live in America, you will have to agree that the old ground hog called it right this year! While we have had a total of 4 days “above 50 degrees” so far this month…it is the COLD days we remember the most. We have had 11 days where we never got above the high 30’s, and only one night above freezing. We have been inundated with rain, sleet, ice and a sprinkling of snow. And yet, in the mid-Atlantic region of the US, we are fairly lucky to be on the warmer end of things on the DelMarVa peninsula. On Saturday (Feb 20) I went for a drive, and just 14 miles north of us, there is still ice in the branches of the trees in the forest that lines the highway.

Thankfully, the coming week is a turning point in our weather with much warmer weather and today is our last COLD day! Nights will still be cold for the next couple of weeks, so we are reminded it is “still winter”.

So what have I been doing? A lot more cooking to be sure. I won’t bore you with a lot of photos, but just know that the Emeril 360 Air Fryer I blogged about recently is getting a workout every day.

Cooking with Grandma

My youngest granddaughter (4) arrived one morning with an agenda. First up was getting her nails polished, which she is showing off here so cutely. Second up was to bake something. She does love to crack eggs and whisk them in a big mixing bowl. We baked a cake while she was here. (It was in the food photos above)

I’ve done a bit of hand sewing too during the cold evenings. Some days have just been too cold for me to want to venture out to my sewing room or too icy, so I was lucky to have my English paper piecing bag in the house. I usually save working on these hexi’s for sea days on a cruise, but that is another subject! I had given up on hand stitching at home because the cats want to pester me the minute I thread a needle. The night I worked on this double diamond I had to fend them off mightily, but I did win. I actually got two done in the course of two evenings. It is something to keep my hands busy while watching t.v.

Hexi hand work

Another project I have been working on is clue 3 for the Scrap Dance Pachanga Mystery Quilt brought to you by the blog FROM MY CAROLINA HOME (See the link above). This was an easy clue that went quickly, because every thing had already been cut during clue#1.

Clue # 3 Scrap Dance Pachanga
Clue 3 Scrap Dance Pachanga

While all of the above has been going on, my “over 65” friends are seeking out the vaccine from local providers. We are a very small state, with a population just under 1 million (974,051 according to the state website). Our state has a website where you can track what is going on (https://myhealthycommunity.dhss.delaware.gov/locations/state/vaccine-tracker#vaccine_tracker ) with the vaccine. So far we know that 176,959 doses have been administered. No way to know if that is first & second dose. We can also see that there have been NO doses delivered in Delaware since Friday, Feb 12th. I have friend who have had one shot, some who have been scheduled for a second shot.

17% of our population is OVER 65 (data source – https://myhealthycommunity.dhss.delaware.gov/locations/state/community-characteristics). That’s 165,588 people in our state over 65. So, one would hope every over 65 has gotten at least one shot. NOPE. My hubby is registered on the waiting list and still hasn’t been “INVITED” by the state. He gets lots of emails from the state, but has yet to be scheduled, and I know others who are still waiting. I signed him up the first day they had an online registration. I am in what they call “group 1C”, as I won’t be 65 for a few months, yet have “underlying health conditions”. So, I will patiently wait my turn, but will be in line when my turn arrives. Hard to even forecast when that will be if the state isn’t getting any vaccine delivered. The state is blaming vaccine deliveries (https://www.delawarepublic.org/post/state-announces-delay-covid-vaccine-rollout-focuses-second-dose-delivery ) Not sure what is delaying other than “demand and weather”. I thought the “new” president was going to speed things up, but you can look at the above graph and see how that worked out for yourself. This week, there are second doses being delivered – and I am scratching my head at how “excited” the state is. On the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services Facebook page, they posted ” Day 1 of Delaware’s second-dose COVID-19 vaccination event at the Dover International Speedway is underway. With the assistance of FEMA, DEMA, and other local partners, the goal is to give second-dose vaccinations to 3,000 Delawareans each day for the next six days.The Dover International Speedway’s event is by appointment only and all spaces are currently full”. I comment that I thought 18,000 shots in 6 days is a pretty low goal to have when we have 165,588 over 65 year old people.

According to one source “Phase 1c, scheduled to start in March, includes people 16 to 64 with medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus, such as diabetes, chronic lung or heart disease, and cancer; people in high-risk group settings, such as homeless shelters, prisons and group homes; and essential workers in other fields. The rest of Delaware’s 50-plus population becomes eligible in Phase 2, which is expected to start in mid-April.” Source – https://states.aarp.org/delaware/covid-19-vaccine-distribution .

Curious what is happening in YOUR state? What are you doing to stay busy during this cold weather? Are you looking forward to any changes as the vaccine rolls out?

Review of Emeril 360 Air Fryer

I jumped into the Air Fryer craze in early January. My younger sister has one and enjoys using it, and I’ve been reading about how they cook etc. A “you tube vlogger” that I follow, David Abel has been doing videos of how he is cooking in a healthier way using the air fryer. Both my sister and David have a “bucket style” air fryer. One day, watching one of David’s vlogs a commercial popped up for the Emeril 360 Air Fryer. That set me on a day of researching the wide varieties available. I have seen the bucket style on the shelf at our local warehouse store. Another sister of mine has a NUWAVE induction cooking device she uses when she is working.

I ended up choosing the Emeril 360 because it does have more “room” inside. It is the size of a small microwave / large toaster oven. Getting that extra room inside means using valuable space on the countertop! It is also a “MULTI FUNCTIONAL” unit. It has air fry, toast, broil, bagel, bake, dehydrate, slow cook, rotisserie, roast, pizza, reheat and warm function.

DIMENSIONS — The Emeril 360 is 16″ deep (including 2″ for a handle near the top that sticks out at an angle and a bump out at the back). It is 19″ wide and 10.5″ high. There are vents on the sides and the top and the back.

The unit I purchased on Amazon came with a drip tray, a pizza rack, an air fryer basket and a baking pan. I have since ordered an additional air fryer basket from the Emeril website….still waiting for it to arrive.

The chicken in the photo is in the air fryer “basket”. I read about using parchment paper with holes and ordered the 9″ square pieces from Amazon to try them out. The mesh of the air fryer “basket” is a small grid and the parchment saves some scrubbing. The pizza and the donuts and sandwich are on the pizza rack. (It looks just like your regular oven rack).

Cooking in the air fryer – for me, it is similar to cooking in my large wall oven, except it is FASTER, and heating up a much smaller appliance. My number one reason for purchasing the air fryer was healthier cooking (ignore the pizza and donuts) – less fat than pan frying. Typically I would either bake chicken in the oven and pan fry pork chops or fish or steak on the stove. I can tell you, I have been very successful with cooking all of those things in the Emeril 360 air fryer. And the pizza and donuts came out pretty good too.

COATINGS/Breading – When I started looking at how people were cooking in air fryers, I saw a lot of “breading and coating” going on. I have to be careful with my carbs, so I only use breading and coatings occasionally. I also am not going to be cooking things I wouldn’t ordinarily cook (like fried pickles), so I am keeping it simple and really just cooking as I would ordinarily, except much more efficiently. There is a huge difference in time and flavor. I typically cook chicken thighs or drumsticks, and in the photo above I just used seasoning. What I have used for coatings are things that I use on a regular basis.

House Autry Fish fry coating
Cod ready to cook
Cod Fish with coating.
porkchops
Pork chops with seasoned panko crumbs

pork chops and tater tots
Pork chop and tater tots (my veggies were in another bowl)

I’ve also used just Panko bread crumbs with season on pork chops to mimic “shake & bake”.

I also use the same brand of chicken coating. I tend to mix my coatings with Panko bread crumbs to “spread out” the coating a bit and make it not so heavy but keep just enough on the fish or chicken to give it a crunch. In the above photo you can see it is fairly crumbly. I dried the fish well, spritz some oil on, dredged in the crumbs and put on the parchment lined air fryer basket. Lots of loose bits end up on the paper and all over the counter, so I have to keep a tray under them while I am working at getting them ready. In the picture below you can see what a mess it was before I started putting the parchment paper in the basket.

Cooking makes a mess
Chicken cooked in air fryer
Air Fried Chicken

OIL SPRAYS – I discovered that it helps the food to crisp up nicely if you spritz it with a little olive oil. I purchased a small pump spray bottle on Amazon and filled it with olive oil. It doesn’t give me a fine misty spray like I expected. That could be because I bought the low end bargain sprayer, or the thickness of the oil. (It sprayed water very nicely). I’ve also discovered Avocado oil spray and Coconut Oil spray. Those came in a propellent can and give a huge blast of spray. Downside of those two is I have to be careful of overspraying and blowing any seasoning right off the food. Alternatively, you can give the food a light brushing of olive oil before adding your seasoning. After I cooked the fish about 1/2 way, I gave it a good spray with oil. I always remove the basket from the oven, set it on a tray, spray and return to the oven. You don’t want to spray oils IN the oven, as it would be a cleaning mess and a fire hazard if you oil hit the hot elements.

The very first thing I cooked were potato wedges. In my big oven, I would cook them at 375 or 400 or 25 mins or so, and using the air fry setting, it took about 18 minutes at 400 degrees. They were crisp on the outside, and had soft centers.

Potatoes

RACKS/BASKETS – If I was cooking in my wall oven, I might have two things cooking at the same time, like potatoes and chicken. In the Emeril 360, I can use both the wire mesh air fry basket and the pizza rack with a baking dish. Or, depending on what you are fixing, everything in the air fry basket. I often bake potatoes in the microwave and toss them in the air fryer basket for the last five minutes of the meat cooking.

TEMPERATURES / TIMING – The oven came with a cook book by Emeril and I began using it primarily as a reference for temps, settings and times. I ordered a second cookbook called The Skinny Taste Air Fryer Cookbook. I was disappointed in that book because most of the things are using coatings. Sigh…..so, I will just keep cooking what I like. I have discovered you can type air fry *insert food word* into a google search bar and getting times/temps/recipes for anything you want. I did “air fry Brussel sprouts” yesterday and got several recipes quickly. Really I just wanted the time and temp. I threw my Brussel sprouts in the basket with my chicken for the last several minutes.

GADGETS – Truth – I am a gadget girl. So the air fryer is a new gadget for me to learn to use. An absolute must for me is the parchment paper with holes punched (for air flow) when cooking anything that might “stick” to the rack or the basket. I even put parchment UNDER pizza. The # 1 essential for cooking meat in the air fryer is a digital thermometer. My daughter gifted me a very nice Thermapen digital thermometer for Christmas and with the air fryer, I am using it every day. A pair of tongs, an oven rack puller and a pot holder are the other necessities. (Tongs are great for picking up your HOT English muffin off the rack. The oven rack puller is just a gadget, but the pot holder is a MUST. ) (I’ve been busy drinking wine while cooking and forgotten how hot the racks are…duh…..)

COOKWARE – Anything that you put in an ordinary oven can go in this oven. Cupcake pans, baking dishes, corning wear, Pyrex, foil / aluminum pans. If it fits the 11″ x 11″ inside, use it. Pans can go on the “pizza rack” which can be set in one of 4 shelf slots, from broil at the top to slow cook at the very bottom. The window on the door has numbered markings and description of where to put your rack/basket.

CLEAN-UP – In my world, if it won’t go in the dishwasher, I don’t have it in my kitchen. All the racks, baking tray, air fryer basket and the drip tray go in the dishwasher. They come out pretty clean and since I started using the parchment paper, no bits get stuck on the wire mesh of the air fryer basket. The drip tray sometimes needs a bit extra scrub. Oily drips like that from chicken fat can make a sticky mess. So, a bit of Bon Ami cleanser, or a little dawn dish soap help clean the stuck on stuff . Some people cover their drip pan with foil, but I don’t find it too hard to clean using the dishwasher. The inside of the oven needs to be wiped out, and I use a dish cloth with some Dawn dish soap on it, wiping inside, top, bottom, sides and back. Crumbs will collect in the corner too in spots the drip pan doesn’t fully cover. They wipe out easily with a damp cloth.

Interesting notes – and things I have learned in the last month – 1) If you are cooking something that might drip a lot, like chicken on the rotisserie or in the air fryer basket, I put the pizza rack on the bottom position (just above the heating element). I slide the baking pan in and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. This keeps grease from dripping on the heating element and smoking. 2) Make sure you have about 5 ” clearance all around the outside of the oven. Don’t block your vents or push it all the way back on the counter when in use. 3) The top of the oven is significantly warm (unlike the top of a microwave), so don’t store anything on top of it. You can actually put a tray up there to keep things warm, but don’t block the vents on the top. 4)Check the temperature of your food halfway through the selected cooking time and adjust the timing as need be. 5)The oven preheats in under 5 minutes and alerts you when it is hot, but starts the cooking countdown time immediately, so bear that in mind as you are putting our food in, unless you hit the pause, your timer (and the fan) is still going when you open the oven. 6) You have the option of turning the fan on when baking. 7)There is a light switch button so you can peak through the glass door and see how things are looking while they are cooking, without opening the door.

TAKE-AWAY – I love this air fryer and find the meats are cooking nicely and staying VERY moist. My husband always complains that the “porkchops are dry”, no matter how I cooked them in a conventional oven or skillet. He has been VERY pleased with the pork chops I have made in the air fryer. I have done them without coating too, and he likes them either way. A 12″ frozen DiGiorno pizza fits on the pizza rack nicely. Frozen French fries and tater tots cook up nicely too. You can cook on two levels so you can get everything finished at the same time (or close to it). This was a big reason I went for the “oven style” air fryer. I’ve used my wall oven once in the last month when we had 6 for dinner and needed to make large quantity of something. Overall, I think the Emeril 360 Air Fryer is a very nice machine, and I got a heck of a deal on it using Amazon and I recommend it. I joined a couple of groups on Facebook when I first bought it to see how others were getting along cooking and reading their comments and recommendations. Not every food needs to be cooked in an air fryer, and I will continue to cook my “over easy” eggs in a skillet on the stove, and my bacon in the microwave. (Those were BOTH fails in the Air Fryer in my opinion). I’ll keep the rest of the appliances in the house, but I am enjoying my English muffin in the Emeril on the bagel setting and haven’t set the smoke alarm off yet. That’s a win in my cooking world!

No compensation from any source for this review. I promised my sister-in-law (OneBlockWonderWoman) that I would review it after I have had it for a month.

Inspired to Spread a little love

Early in the week I was inspired by a news story on my local station about spreading a “little love”. Watch video below and you might be inspired too.

You readers who stop by my blog on a regular basis know my close affection for a couple living at an assisted living facility nearby. In the past, I was able to visit the facility, and to volunteer there with the ladies who liked to quilt. This last year has been a challenge for those residents and I’m certain for residents in all care facilities. The video above inspired me to do something for my friends at the assisted living facility. After grocery shopping on Tuesday I made a trip to the local Dollar Tree and picked up some “valentine” embellishments and put my plan in motion. I was going to make some cards! I wasn’t sure I could make enough cards, so I got some pre-printed ones too that I could add a bit of embellishment to as well.

My friend Nancy came over on Wednesday and we spent some time in the afternoon working on Valentines cards together, and got 2 dozen made. I emailed the activities director, and she was very welcoming to the idea and gave me the number of residents. On hearing the number (80 residents) I thought I might need a LITTLE more help to reach that number of cards. On Thursday I resupplied my cardstock and envelope supply with a quick stop at Michaels, picking up a new stamp and some washi tape and some new colors of stamp pads.

Friday my youngest granddaughter and her mom came for the afternoon. With a 4 year old, I thought it best that we work in the dining room, with out all the distractions in my quilt studio over the garage. I brought some things in the night before and set the dining room table with paper over the protective pad, and baskets of stamps, pens, stickers, ribbons etc. When they arrived, we went into ‘overdrive’ ! We stamped, we stickered, we used our felt pens and fine point pens, we glued, taped, and embellished cards. We had a lot of fun together! My granddaughter and I worked side by side and she loved adding stickers to cards I had stamped, as well as doing her own stamping and other decorating! Little did I know what expert card makers they both were!

Addy & Grandma

With my embellishment stash dwindling, I had a chance to “resupply again” at a different Dollar Tree while out running errands on Friday evening, and got ‘lucky’ finding the shop well stocked with crafting items. The Dollar Tree in Seaford Delaware is well supplied and certainly will be my choice if I need to pick things up for having fun! Perfect for mass producing cards.

We even got Grandpa in on the fun, figuring out how some of the paper punches I have work. He is an expert at aligning the scallop punch! On Saturday morning my older granddaughters are coming for a couple of hours, and I am sure we will have just as much fun making more cards and hitting our target. If we have extra, well I think the staff at the facility deserve a card too ! With the artistic flair of my friend Nancy, my daughter Heather and the granddaughters, I think every one will enjoy their Valentines Day cards.

This has been a fun project, an interesting diversion, and a nice way to spend some time together within our “safety bubble” this week. I feel like I have had lots of fun too! Thank you Nancy, Heather, and dear granddaughters for all your hard work making cards. I hope it was as much fun for you as me. I know they will be a bright spot for the residents of the Assisted Living center.

My other daughter and I got out for a haircut finally after discussing it, and went on the recommendation of the other daughter to a place with a good stylist, safety procedures etc. For me it has been well over a year! Last haircut was just before my Aug 2019 Alaska cruise. I usually let my hair grow during the winter to keep my ears warm, and whack it all off in the spring for “pool hair”. Well, I got rid of about 6 inches of hair. All those funny layered ends from the last summer hair cut are gone now and I feel less scraggly! (No more COVID HAIR!)

Between a couple of outings for craft supplies and even an outing for dinner with the hubby, it’s been a fun week. We’ve eaten out twice in the past week, once at Delmar Pizza and once at Arena’s in Georgetown. Arena’s is our “safe spot” locally, with every other table removed. I am not a fan of carryout food. If I have to reheat it and plate it, and clean up the dishes, I might as well cook. Going out and having someone “else” do the cooking and clean up is the #2 thing I miss doing ! Restrictions here are being eased again, with occupancy being raised to 50% capacity in restaurants next week.

Hot date
A real treat

How are you prepared for another 6 weeks of winter since that old groundhog let us down? We laughed on February 2nd and said the last 11 months have felt like Groundhog Day, the movie. Certainly having a change of pace, doing something different this week has made it feel a little less like that for me.

A finished small project

Last week I worked on some blocks that I picked up off my “pile” on the corner of the cutting table. I mentioned them here – https://stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com/2021/01/24/little-between-projects/ .

I would like to report a FINISH for that pile of blocks! The disappearing 4 patches have been completed, and joined up and turned into a nice size throw the lady that started them 2 years ago.

Backstory, in case you missed it…..I ‘used to‘ volunteer at an assisted living facility where my friend June is in residence. I would take boxes of squares that had been donated to the quilt guild, and let the ladies choose their own colors and fabrics. This was easier than trying to work with shaking hands and rotary cutters, and a bit safer.

I would go once a week to sew with whoever showed up in the activities room. One resident, Stella, only came to sew a few times and then just quit coming a couple of years ago. I kept bringing her bag of squares every week, hoping she would turn back up. She never did. Stella only sewed for 20-25 minutes and then would leave, even though I was there for 2+ hours. I don’t think she could concentrate for much longer, and other residents told me she was like that in every activity. So, when I came across her bag of squares, I pondered what to do with the blocks she had sewn. I probably am repeating myself, but here goes. I took Stella’s squares apart because her stitches were loose and very crooked. I’m certain her stitch length had been set on a basting stitch (5.0 stitches per inch) because she just could see those “tiny” stitches. Many times I would catch even my friend June, cranking the dial because she couldn’t see the stitches that were 2.5, and I had to “dial” her back. I always promised them all, if there were stitches to rip out, I would do it! Anyway, if you read the blog post about the little in between projects, you know I put Stella’s squares back together as 4 patches, then cut them up again.

More switching
Disappearing 4 patch

The method involves taking a squared up block, then cutting it apart and rearranging the pieces. I cut 1.5″ from the center line, 4 times. My previous blog post has information and links to better explain the method.

I took the pile of blocks I made during a zoom retreat with my blogger friend, Carole, (https://frommycarolinahome.com//) and arranged them on the design wall.

Disappearing 4 patches

Last Tuesday, I had a “ZOOM QUILT BEE” with the Queen Bees. During that bee, I added an “alternate block” in the layout, and worked on getting the blocks sewn together. Since I have all of June’s fabric, I dug in her boxes and found some pieces that I wanted to use up.

work in progress

Once the blocks were put together I decided I needed to break up some of that PINK with another color. Hubby suggested green and I thought that was perfect idea for the borders.

6x7 layout

I dug through June’s stash again, and found a nice green! Borders went on, backing was made, again from June’s stash, and the quilt top got pin basted and ready to machine quilt.

I spent Thursday on another Zoom Retreat with Carole and got the quilting done. (It’s amazing how much you can get done while chatting with others during a day of sewing and zooming!)

Disappearing 4 patch finished

For quilting, I used my walking foot. I went in the ditch down the rows working from the center out, and then went across each block on the diagonal, in both directions. For the border, I switched thread and used the wavy serpentine stitch with my walking foot.

quilting

It doesn’t take long to put on the binding because it is all done by machine, using the Susie’s Magic Binding technique http://www.52quilts.com/2012/05/tuesday-tutorial-susies-magic-binding.html . (Save that link, as it is my GO TO binding method and SEW EASY!!!).

Here is a close up of the binding if you haven’t seen it done before – my hubby tells me it is his favorite because it adds an unexpected pop of color!

close up of quilting and binding
Susie’s Magic binding method – also known as “binding with a flange”

Threads for quilting – Superior Fantastico , colors 5021 (40 wt) blue/purple/green varigated; and Superior Fantastico color 5025 (40 wt) pink green yellow blue varigated. On the back, the bobbin thread was also Superior Fantastico color 5031 ( 40 wt) varigated pink. The pink was also used top stitching the binding in the flange. I love how the thread has a bit of a shine, and on the back of the quilt it all but disappears in the pale pink fabric. When doing the patchwork, I usually sew with a grey or beige thread, Superior Masterpiece which is a cotton 50 weight.

As a side note; while zooming with Carole in December we were chatting about favorite threads. I really love my Superior threads and a favorite I use is Bottom Line Silver # 623. It is a 60 weight and my 3000 yard cone was nearly empty. I went shopping for thread and found it available at the Fat Quarter shop. (I usually buy my threads at quilt shows). It took a few weeks, but my thread arrived on Friday and I can adjust my “inventory” on my spreadsheet (what a geek). It’s true, I keep track of the thread I use and when and where I bought it and the price. Much nicer to buy in groups of 3 at quilt shows as there is a discount usually!

I plan to make a label using my embroidery machine in the next day or two and getting this quilt delivered. Won’t Stella be surprised when the staff takes it to her apartment! Before I head to the assisted living though, I think I will make a couple of placemats for June and her hubby, using the same method of “disappearing 4 patches”. I probably will do them out of reds and whites/creams so she can use them all of February.

RANT – warning….not for the weak of heart…….

I can only “drop off” in the lobby as the facility is still in lockdown for COVID-19. My dear friend June and her husband just tested positive, even after they had round one of the vaccine 3 weeks ago. Hoping that having had the vaccine means they won’t have as severe of a case. Over 53% of the deaths from COVID-19 in our state have been residents of Long Term Care facilities, and 911 out of 1090 deaths in Delaware were people over 65. Those are some frightening numbers and I get angry when I think about staff bringing the virus into the facilities. My friends have been in isolation from their family and friends since early March of 2020, yet now, they have COVID. Obviously , the precautions are not working, staff is not following proper protocol, and these dear old ones are at risk! Sigh…rant over, anger is steaming out my ears yet!

Snowy day in So. Delaware
1-5″ forecasted for this storm

Do you have any weather coming in? You know, my sewing room is “out there” on the 2nd floor of the detached garage, so I will probably do some hand stitching of hexi’s in my recliner today! What’s under your needle today?

A flock or a flight of geese?

When you see a field of geese is it a flock? What about when they are in the air flying in a group are they a flight? The things I ponder before my 2nd cup of coffee……

And so, I learned before my second cup, that on the ground they are a GAGGLE, not a flock! Again, thanks to wikipedia “The collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team, or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump.[2]

This isn’t a blog about wildlife, it’s a quilting blog, so of course my geese have no feathers and are made of fabric! 😉

I am working on Step 2 of the Pachanga Scrap Dance Mystery Quilt and making quite the gaggle of geese. These are nice large flying geese units, made using the no waste method that Carole refers to on her blog post linked above.

No waste flying geese

My goal was to go quite scrappy with the geese, and I worked on them in small batches, trying to mix things up a bit.

Geese needing trimming
Ready to trim this gaggle of geese

Trimming them up, I used the Studio 180 – Wing Clipper ruler. It seems that I have two of those on my peg board, both the same size. The ruler is quite nice for these larger units. Any local friends need one of these for this project?

Trimming tool

Given all those proper terms, I present to you my plump of flying geese!

PLUMP of geese
A plump not a flock of Flying Geese

If you haven’t started the mystery quilt, it is NOT too late. Step one was just cutting instructions so it is easy to get started if you just cut for step 2 to catch up. This year I am doing the throw sized project. It is a very scrap friendly project, and the only yardage I cut was for the background (white) fabric. I did cut one fat quarter to get a little extra variety in my bright fabrics. The fat quarter I cut was that geometric orange & pink on cream you see in some of the wings.

Here is a peek at some of the other fabric I am planning to use in future steps –

Fabric pull for Scrap Dance Pachanga

I think it will make a nice cheery throw.

It is fun to share on the Friends of From My Carolina Home group on Facebook. I enjoy seeing the color choices others have made for this project. Several are using dark backgrounds. If you are a reader of Carole’s blog, do ask to join the Facebook group and share your progress on this project.

Happy stitching.

Linking up today to OH SCRAP – Quilting is more fun than housework!

Little “between” projects

Around the new year, lots of quilting bloggers create for themselves a listing of Unfinished Projects (UFO’s) that they want to complete in the coming year. I’ve done that in the past, surveying all the things I have started and not finished. Not this year. I know that is not a motivator for me, looking at the “LIST”. I would just feel guilty while making it, and staring at it. Sometimes it is just hard to continue on with a project, so in my sewing room it sits in the “time out” zone. I don’t need to make that UFO list on paper, because it is always in my head. I think of quilting as FUN time and the idea of the list doesn’t sound fun at all. If you follow me for a year or more, you will KNOW when I am excited about a project, because it is all I drone on about, post after post. When I get bored with something…you don’t hear a peep.

Now that that is out of the way, let me tell you about a couple of my “between” projects. The “between” projects are those things I work on just to keep my hands busy sewing while I am thinking about all those things sitting in “time out”.

Last week I had fun with an all day Quilter’s retreat on Zoom, hosted by Carole of the blog – From My Carolina Home. This was my 3rd retreat with Carole and I decided the day before I better figure out what I wanted to work on during the retreat, and get some prep done ahead of time. After the last retreat I worked on one more block from the Lori Holt Vintage Christmas Quilt book. My box of blocks is filling up, and I have a couple more from the book I still want to make. I am starting to think about how to “set the blocks” and what I want to do in the borders. The book has SO many patterns that are interesting, and I am coming up with ideas of how I will do it. Meanwhile, I need some training on ‘hand embroidery’ to get a face on my Dolly block.

dolly block for Christmas quilt
Dolly from Vintage Christmas Quilt book

I decided for this retreat, I wanted something “easier” to sew and that would give me a lot more “production” during the all day retreat. I picked up a zip lock bag of squares off of my cutting table and inspiration struck. What was in the zip lock were 2 patches stitched at the assisted living center where I volunteered for a couple of years. This particular bag was a project a lady had started, but never returned after the first couple of times sewing. I looked them over, got out the seem ripper and took them apart. She had made some interesting choices when she picked her blocks out of the big box of squares I brought with me. One thing that happens when I volunteer is the ladies use donated machines, and let’s just say the stitching isn’t always of the best quality. So, my seem ripper and I became friends, and I quickly took the blocks apart. As I looked over the stack, I decided I would put them together as 4 patches and then cut them apart into “disappearing 4 patches” to get a little more interesting block.

So, I started with this – a 4 patch made from 4.5″ squares

Four patches

I squared them up to 8″ and then during the retreat, I cut them up and repositioned the pieces and made this –

Fun with disappearing 4 patch
4 patch changed to disappearing 4 patch

I decided with the size of the blocks, that cutting at 1.5″ would work.

Cutting the 4 patch

The rotating cutting mat is very helpful for this, as you don’t move the fabric, you just rotate the mat and ruler. My Fiskars mat fits perfectly on the side of my sewing machine table, so I could just stand up, make my cut, and not move away from my work area during the zoom.

Before the switch example
four cuts, all 1.5″ from the center seam

After you make the 4 cuts, you rearrange the pieces like this….

Switching the pieces
all rearranged…..

and you sew it back together. This was a lot of fun to do and I managed to get these all done in one day.

Disappearing 4 patches
20 blocks complete

There are dozens of patterns for “disappearing 4 patches” , and I used the one inspired by Laura at Sew Very Easy –https://youtu.be/8iO5ODW5Unw

I was “sewing for the sake of sewing” but this was really fun, and elevated a simple 4 patch into something that looks a little more complex. I’m not sure what I will do with these, but I am thinking I will find a fabric that plays nicely with these fabrics, and put them together into alternating blocks, and make a lap quilt/throw out of it. It will probably end up back at the assisted living facility at some point. (I justified the “sewing for the sake of sewing” because I got the zip-lock off the cutting table! )

What is happening in your sewing room?

A new mystery quilt – Scrap Dance Pachanga

Are you “dancing” along with the new mystery quilt? Every January, Carole Carter, – the blogger who inspires many of us with her posts on From My Carolina Home, starts a new Scrap Dance Mystery Quilt. This year, it is Scrap Dance Pachanga . Do dance your way over to her blog when you finish reading here and check out the fun. When you get to Carole’s blog, be sure and take a minute to watch the dance video!

I was inspired to grab some bright scraps out of the bin, and get busy cutting for the “throw” size today. Check out the bright colors I pulled for this project. MOST of the fabric for this project was scraps with the exception of one fat quarter and the background fabric. These fabrics don’t quite say “salsa music” but they are in the bright fabrics that Carole talks about.

Brights for Pachanga

Before I started to cut, I printed out the PDF with the cutting information. You can chose from table topper to king size and make something that is useful in your life. I’ve done king size for all but one of the Scrap Dance mystery quilt series, but this time, I am going with a throw. One thing I do is put a bit of paper over the columns for the sizes I am NOT doing.

Scrap Dance Pachanga

This keeps me focusing on just the column with the sizes I need to cut. I really like that Carole has you do all the cutting at once, because now I am “ready to sew” when the next step comes out in two weeks. (I covered the specific instructions for quantity because this “is” a mystery, but you can download the PDF on Carole’s blog.)

There is a variety of sizes that were cut to get ready for the ‘next step’.

IMG_20210108_170708511

Bright stripes, lime greens nd blues, turquoise, hot pink look like fun.

Cutting brights for SD Pachanga

Throw in a little yellow and orange and more stripes to mix things up.

Step One cutting

I make sure to mark my sizes so I know which is what in each stack. This basket from the Dollar Tree store has 2.5″, 3.5″, 4″ and 5″ scrappy squares. When I cut scraps for a project like this, I try to cut the “biggest piece” possible from the fabric, then work my way to the smallest pieces. So, you will see lots of that purple stripe in the 4″ group but there are a few in the 3.5″ group and a couple in the 2.5″ group too. Once they are all cut, I group them in bundles of tens, with my little clover clips and keep the “size tag” with them. Everything ends up in a big basket, along with the background fabric. I blurred out the quantity, as it is a ‘mystery’ of course, and if you want to dance along, go download the instructions for cutting.

In Carole’s blog post, she talks about what kind of background fabric choice you might want to make and why different colors might work. I have a large container of “neutrals” and I chose bright white.

Background fabric for Pachanga
Background fabric

I chose this particular piece of background fabric because I like the “not so straight” lined pattern it has as a “white on white” fabric. It has a “modern feel” and I think it will look fine with those bright scrappy pieces. I had plenty ( 5 yards) of it, and when I cut it from yardage, I started with the largest size, and working my way down to the smallest needed. I sometimes use the Robert Kaufmann app on my phone to figure out “how many pieces” I can get out of a strip of a particular size, but you could also use a calculator for that. For example, I need a certain amount of 5″ squares, and I wanted to know how many “strips” to cut, and the app helps me figure it out. Sometimes you cut a strip, get the number of pieces you need and have a “bit left”. With those bits, I then cut them down into the next “smaller” size and try to eliminate any waste or excessive scraps.

Note….I did the cutting of the background fabrics “after dinner/wine”…duh….and my first cut was a wide strip…did it just fine…but my sub cut…my brain failed…and suddenly I had rectangles instead of squares. I stopped….recut the needed strip, got the pieces I was after, and took those “ooops rectangles” and cut them down into some of the smaller bits I needed. Another reminder to pay close attention, especially after a glass of wine! It did take me a moment or two to realize what I had done wrong!

I will probably use this same white fabric if there is a sashing or inner border, but for now, the uncut yardage will go back in my stash, and I can pull it out later. I got this yardage last February at Artistic Artifacts in Alexandria Virginia using a gift card, and I’d rather store it in the stash bin while I work through the mystery. For now, just the pieces on the cut list are in my bright basket, and I am ready for the 4th Friday in January for the 2nd step of Scrap Dance Pachanga!

Are you dancing along? Dig in and go cut some of those scraps! Do share your fabric choices on the Friends of From My Carolina Home Facebook group too. Use the link on Carole’s blog post and join. Be sure to answer the screening questions.

Vintage Christmas Quilt update

My first blog post for 2021 covered all the December 2020 fun, yet here I am still working on Christmas. The “Vintage Christmas Quilt” book by Lori Holt is one that will keep me busy for a while longer. Just over a year ago, my blogging friend Carole posted a suggestion to have a “quilt along” (https://frommycarolinahome.com/2019/12/19/christmas-past-and-presents/ ), and I ordered the book by Lori Holt. I got out the fabrics I wanted to use, made the decision to do some pre-washing and got started. Over the course of 2020 I shared my project updates. I am working on the 12″ blocks, and last month finished the 12 that Carole had suggested in the quilt along. She turned hers into placemats, but I decided I wanted a quilt and needed more blocks. I have gone back through the book and picked out a few more blocks to work on.

On Tuesday this week, Carole hosted a “zoom retreat” for fellow bloggers and having “virtually attended” two others in December, I knew I would log in and enjoy some much needed conversation with others while I sewed.

In order to be productive for a zoom retreat, I got prepared, just like I would going to an “in person” retreat. I precut all the pieces for four of the Vintage Christmas block, got them labeled by using pins and paper with the piece “letter” and with the sizes. I know that Lori Holt and the Fat Quarter shop sell piece ‘markers’ but I like my method, as I write the quantity of pieces and the size along with the letter.

I have made piece markers with pins and beads 5 years ago and shared a blog post about it – https://stitchinggrandma.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/one-block-wonder-row-marking-pins-finished/

When I made the marking pins, I intended them specifically for one block wonders. I have found myself using them when ever I have a big quilt on the design wall and am ready to “start the assembly”, as it can be tricky keeping your blocks in order. If you flip back to that blog post, you will see that I store them in a small pencil box, grouped in chunks of foam by alphabet, to make it easier to use them. I decided that I wanted “another set” with just letters for the Christmas quilt. I gathered up my materials (pins, beads and E6000 glue) and quickly made two sets, A-Z. I had an extra pair of hands working with me, and I think my hubby enjoyed helping. I wanted 2 sets because I can see myself cutting again for 2 blocks at a time. I may “make more” in the future. One reason I wanted the A-Z pins was while working on the blocks for the Vintage Christmas Quilt, I found myself taking my paper note off the pieces and losing track with so many small parts. This way, the pin will help me remember (I hope).

Row markers

Because the E6000 glue takes 24 hours to harden off, I didn’t get to use these on Tuesday, but I am “ready to go” for my next group of blocks.

I bagged up the pieces for each block and put them aside for stitching in my block caddy. I have kept all my fabrics in a bin that I am using for this quilt which makes it easy to pull for additional blocks. On this occasion, I needed the addition of more blue background fabric and another white; so I got into my stash of fat quarters and yardage.

During the zoom retreat, I got 3 blocks done, though I did spend an extra hour working to finish the 3rd block. The first block I worked on with the Gingerbread man block. The pattern called for you to add the rick rack trim during the assembly, so the ends would be caught up in the seam allowance. I added a bit of cut away stabilizer behind the area of the block where I was top stitching the trim.

Gingerbread block

I chose to use the green snowflake fabric for my gingerbread man, because I couldn’t decide on a brown fabric that “felt right”. So, my gingerbread man is “frosted”.

My next block was the Snowman block, which turned out to be one of the easiest blocks in the entire book. Lots fewer pieces, much larger pieces, and super simple construction.

Snowman block

The final block for the day was the Manger block. For this block I knew I wanted a brown fabric that looked like wood, and I had several yards. I only needed to cut a strip off of the yardage for this block. I also wanted a blue background, but didn’t have enough left from the snowman block, so I pulled another blue from my fat quarter boxes. The block was very time consuming, and I engaged my seam ripper a couple of times. My fabric choice for the face of Jesus is a tan that had a print on it, and I used the “back side” of the fabric to get a bit darker tan.

Manger block

I like being able to use my own fabric choices for this project, and quite a bit of them are “vintage” pieces from my “inherited” stash. My buddy that lives in assisted living likes the idea that I am “using up” her fabrics.

My fourth block is “bagged and tagged” for the next time I have a couple of hours to sew. Picture below is the first 12 blocks, and I will be “rearranging” as I finish more, to spread out the various blues and different fabrics. Many of these blocks require some “embellishment” and I am going to have to break down and teach myself how to “hand embroider” and decide at what point I want to add the button trims too.

Vintage Christmas Quilt

A friend of mine asked “how big” is this quilt going to be, and I haven’t decided quite yet. I have a couple of ideas for setting once I get “all” the blocks made that interest me.

What are you working on this week? Are you doing any Zoom get-togethers with other quilters or friends? I had a great time and was happy to be invited by Carole – From My Carolina home, and to meet “virtually” other bloggers who are “regulars” on her comment page. If you are looking for interesting bloggers to follow let me suggest from this list –

Carole – https://frommycarolinahome.com/

Mary Ellen – https://mefutch.wordpress.com/

Brenda – https://songbirddesigns.biz/blog

Emily – thedarlingdogwood.blogspot.com

I’m sure you will find some very interesting posts! Happy stitching!

December 2020 wrap up

Well; thank goodness 2020 is gone. I have always said don’t wish time away, but this is ONE year that has been so full of upheaval in our everyday lives that I don’t want to repeat it ever again. We are blessed that our grandchildren are “IN” our safety bubble and get to see them on a regular basis! In order to be “IN” the safety bubble, we do very little “outside of the bubble” and report in if there is cause to do something that might be “risky”. This means no hanging out with anybody outside the bubble; no dinners out with others in restaurants, no quilt bees or extended visits of friends indoors, no travelling to shop for fabric in Lancaster PA, no parties or social gatherings outside the circle. This has worked very well for all 10 of us, since June; and we are all staying safe because of the trust in behavior we have with each other. It meant we have had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas together with no risk of infecting one another. We are blessed to be retired, and that the kids are doing their best with school via remote learning and limited in person contact when school is in session. My grandkids have adapted to “outdoor play” no matter the weather with their neighborhood friends. We did one day “out” to shop in a local community for Christmas and used all the recommended methods for keeping safe. The bulk of our Christmas shopping was online.

I’m sorry that my blog has been silent in December. I was busy getting ready for Christmas. Along the way I took a LOT of photos. This year was “odd” because my husband wasn’t tied up with his annual train club open house events, and that meant he spent a LOT of time decorating at home.

Decorating 2020 Christmas

Tree decorating at our house started Thanksgiving week and took around a week to get “done”. We set a card table up in the living room and unboxed ornaments, and set aside a lot to have the grandkids give us a hand. They really enjoyed looking at the ornaments and helping us decorate the tree.

It was a lot of fun looking at the ornaments through the eyes of the kids. I had fun looking at the ones we had collected over the years during our travels. The 3 in the slideshow below are just a sample of our travel collection.

Once that train track goes down under the tree, I am finished!

Under the tree
G scale train under the Christmas tree

If you are interested in seeing the train “run” pop over to this link –https://photos.app.goo.gl/Mc17HTuFJFG1uzhd7

Hubby has a large collection of Star Trek ornaments by Hallmark that he hangs on garland on our stair railing. Unboxing and putting in batteries etc is often a 2-3 day project. He had some help from our grandson this year.

Unboxing the ornaments
Unboxing of the Star Trek ornaments

The two youngest grand girls had a “sleepover” at grandma’s one night in December, and they worked hard helping us “arrange” the Christmas village.

To see a little “train action” in the Christmas village, pop over to this link – https://photos.app.goo.gl/bZeRf5Zf6atLEVdU7

I did some sewing in December. My blogging friend Carole ( https://FrommyCarolina Home.com// ) had a couple of ZOOM retreats in December and I really enjoyed participating.

During the first retreat, I worked on 3 blocks for the Vintage Christmas Quilt (book / pattern by Lori Holt). I did the 12″ blocks and the last 3 I finished were the candy canes, the cup and the stocking. I admire anybody who did the 6″ blocks with those much smaller pieces. My favorite block so far is the train, because my hubby encouraged me to put a Santa face in the block.

Vintage Christmas Quilt

This completes the sew along that Carole inspired just before Christmas in 2019. (She was done in July!) I had made kits up for all the blocks, and have now learned to “not cut fabric after drinking wine” with the last 3 blocks! 🙂 During the Zoom retreat I discovered several “miss cuts” in the kits I had prepared months ago! I was able to overcome that problem because I had all the fabric for the project still binned together and quickly recut what I needed. I decided that there are a few more blocks I want to make in that book, so this will hang on the design wall a bit longer. Thinking about how to sash the blocks, which blocks to “make” for another few rows or column is fun, and may be a January project for me.

The second Zoom retreat I chose to work on Christmas gifts. I had decided in October that I was making “pajama pants” for the grandkids, and it took me a while to get around to it. I had all the flannel fabric prewashed, and the day before the Zoom retreat, I copied my pattern into the 3 sizes I needed on butcher paper, and got all the pieces cut out. During the zoom call I got 3 sets of pajama pants made. I was worried about flannel “raveling” during the washing and someone suggested zigzagging the raw edge of the seams. I did that on the first pair, but during the 2nd & 3rd pair I found the “overcast stitch” on my Janome 8900 and that speed up the process of constructing. Following the second Zoom retreat I got a fourth pair of pajama pants made, and thanks to quick shipping from Amazon, I got the elastic and twill tape for ties that I needed. It did this Stitching Grandma’s heart good when the grandkids were EXCITED about the pj’s. It was funny to watch really. The oldest (12 year old boy) was the first to open his package and jumped off the sofa, ran to change. Throughout the afternoon of unwrapping, as each subsequent child opened their package, they ran to change. They all spent the day in their “cozy pajamas”. I included long sleeve cotton t-shirts for them, as I wasn’t sewing tops.

PJs for Christmas!

I also did some machine embroidery. I’ve been trying to give everybody in the family an “ornament” every year. This year, I joined a group on Facebook with John Deer https://www.facebook.com/JohnDeerEmbroidery and he gifted the cutest little gingerbread ornament. These are done as “free standing lace” (FSL) using matching top & bobbin thread on water soluble stabilizer. As you will see as you look through the photos, I put a little bit of tulle in my hoop with the stabilizer to add some extra “structure” to the ornament. There is so much waste of stabilizer, I find that I can reduce the waste by putting more than one design in the hoop, and also by “stitching together” bits of stabilizer that might get thrown away. I use 2 layers for FSL, so one layer often contains some of that “Frankenstein stabilizer”. It works well and doesn’t really matter that I used grey thread to join the bits together. I did have one little gingerbread man who was kinda naughty….He ran away and forgot to get all his frosting and eyes, so I “repaired him” with some sparkly eyes glued on and kept him for myself…as he was particularly acting like he was a 2020 oops.

My other “big embroidery/sewing” project was a gift for my daughter. I purchased a pattern in Dec 2019 for the Sweet Pea casserole carrier . The project includes 10 different blocks to stitch out on the embroidery machine, then join on the sewing machine. You need to do a few “repeat blocks” and it didn’t take me long to figure out some of these blocks took upwards of 30 mins to stitch. I used fabric from my never ending scraps for the blocks, and African Wax fabric for the handles, lining, bottom. I like the continuity to the project the African Wax fabric gives in contrast to the scrappiness of the embroidered blocks. I also added extra wool batting and peltex (http://www.pellonprojects.com/products/70-peltex-sew-in-ultra-firm-stabilizer/) in the bottom of the carrier for added warmth and stability. I also quilted the end panels and the bottom panel . The hardest part of this project was turning it “right side out” with peltex inside, but I think it turned out really well. The pattern directions are a bit ambiguous about sizes for the end panels, and I had to do some “adjusting” because of it.


Each block is done “in the hoop” with batting and Insulbrite under the fabric. The pattern gives you a choice of a 4×4 block or a 5×5 block. I did the 5×5. The hoop is taken off the machine for “trimming” of the batting and Insulbrite, and on the blocks with more than one fabric, for trimming of the seam allowances.

Once all the blocks are made, the carrier is completed at the sewing machine. I had fun picking the fabrics and the threads for the various blocks. The African Wax fabric (the lime green and brown) was gifted to me by my other daughter when she lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I thought it was a special way to keep the fabric “in the family”. I got right down to December 23rd before I finished, but was quite pleased with the results.

Christmas eve and Christmas day were fantastic with the family. We “partied” like rock stars with the 4-12 year old’s and parents on Christmas Eve, playing lots of games my daughter presented. Even ol’ grumpy played along and had fun. (Hubby NEVER plays games….) Christmas Day was relaxed and fun, and my daughters each took part in creating a fabulous Christmas dinner. Hubby helped set the “new table” and I even thought to take a photo, though somewhat fuzzy. The “new table” is our big gift this year. I have been looking for 2 or 3 years for a table we could all fit at, and this one easily seats all 10 of us. One of my daughters found it for sale on Facebook Market place and we took a drive to Maryland to purchase it on Thanksgiving weekend.

Hubby and I celebrate our anniversary on New Years eve, and actually “went out” for dinner to a local place that we haven’t been in since March. It was good to be “out” and behaving like normal people, except for the much hated masks. What was strange is to walk in, seat ourselves in an empty restaurant, where 1/2 the tables are removed, and the workforce diminished to just a couple of people. What was good is the server “remembers” my husband and his very particular ordering habits, eating food that I enjoy, but didn’t have to cook and clean up. We had a quiet “rest of the evening” at home, enjoying our “binge watching” of the program “Heartland” on Amazon prime. We managed to make it to midnight, but I was asleep by 1230!!

The big “sigh” for me is the heartbreak of not seeing our beloved friends who are “locked away” in an assisted living facility who can’t even see their own family, much less friends from “outside” or even down the hall. We also have friends who lost loved ones this year due to poor health and COVID, and others that are living at home, alone, with no family near by. I hope to do better in this new year by calling more often to those who are alone, and staying in touch with distant family members.

I pray that in 2021 you will enjoy good health. I hope that 2021 is a year that will bring renewed health and improved economic situation to not only our friends, but those around the world who have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. I pray that with the release of 3 vaccines in the last month in England and North America, the distribution will be done fairly and quickly. I pray that those who wish to be vaccinated will suffer no ill effects and that we will soon build to that “herd immunity” we have been waiting for. I will be “in line” for a vaccine so that I can “resume” more of a normal life, including travel and recreation with friends. I’ve still got a “cruise on the books” for 2021, and am hoping it will turn into a reality.

Thanks for following along with my rambles. Happy New Year.