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 – .

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, ( 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.


It doesn’t take long to put on the binding because it is all done by machine, using the Susie’s Magic Binding technique . (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 –

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’.

More bright colors for Scrap Dance Pachanga

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” ( ), 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 –

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 –

Mary Ellen –

Brenda –

Emily –

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 –

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 –

I did some sewing in December. My blogging friend Carole ( https://FrommyCarolina ) 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 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 ( 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.


You ever have a situation where you feel like you are just STUCK IN THE MIDDLE with no where to go? That’s what the last week has been like for me!

The week started out fairly well. I finally got the courage TRY again to quilt on the frame, with the Janome-1600P, that has been taking up 12 feet of space in my sewing room. (If the setup is unfamiliar, the frame has rollers for the quilt, the machine moves back and forth and left to right on a platform that glides the length of the frame. You are moving the machine while quilting, not moving the quilt. ) This set up enables you to quilt something large fairly easily using a domestic sewing machine. It is a scaled down version of what long arm quilters use, at a “scaled down” price.

time to practice
Quilt frame and practice piece

Backstory – the frame came from a friend who lacked space, I added the Janome 1600 P machine ….and it sat. I bought the machine used for $500, and it was serviced before it was shipped. This was a great price, as a brand new one was over $1300 at the time.

Two or 3 years ago, two friends came over and helped me “trial load” a practice piece, and then it sat. Things got in my way, mostly fear of screwing up a quilt, so I did nothing. At some point, I “unplugged” the Janome 1600P, maybe during a thunderstorm.

In 2018 I did some quilting on a long arm machine and gained some courage. My sister-in-law, Carolyn, allowed me the opportunity to use her brand new Gammill long arm quilting machine, Greta. Of course, that required a trip to the other side of the country to do that! I had a lot of fun working on my Grandma’s Kitchen quilt.

Quilting at Carolyn's on Greta the Gammill
Quilting at Carolyn’s

Still, the frame at home with the Janome 1600P machine sat. Quilt tops (LARGE) continued to be made, and hung on hangers in my sewing room. I did order some LED lights last year, because my excuse was it was “too dark” to quilt on it. My dearest friend often pokes fun at me for not using it!

I decided in 2020 with all the “extra” time I had due to COVID-19, that I would start finishing things I started. I cleared up a couple of UFO’s and was determined not to create any MORE UFO’s. Small projects got finished, a couple of older things got finished.

I recently put borders on my Autumn Jubilee 2020 quilt, and I made the backing for the quilt. I decided last week, I was going to tackle this machine on the frame come one way or another.

I cleared off all the “stuff” that got stored on the top shelf, my husband added two rows of LED lights under the shelf to give me better lighting of the quilt, and I loaded the thread that I intended to use on my quilt top. (I even dusted the machine and vacuumed all around it!). I played with the practice piece for 2 or 3 hours, until I felt comfortable with my stitches, speed, tension etc. Then, I took photos of the “set up” of the practice piece so I could “unload it” and load my quilt.

I have to say, that taking those pictures was a “smart” thing to do. I had to look through the photos two or 3 different times so I did the loading properly. I am sure that experienced long arm quilters will laugh, but this is only the 2nd time I loaded anything.

My hubby was a HUGE help getting this process done. I remembered things Carolyn had told me, and that my friends had explained, and he helped me get the backing on squarely and pinned to the “take up” leader.

loading the backing

Eventually, I got the batting on and anchored, and the quilt top got loaded.

Pinning the top

That process, the practice and the loading took care of Sunday and Monday! That process was NERVE WRACKING to say the least.

By Tuesday, I was convinced I could start quilting and had a joyful time! I was confident with loops and swirls!

Getting started with quilting

The first couple of rows seemed to go along nicely. Then to my horror, I rolled the quilt forward to do the next row and saw this —

tension trouble

It seems that I was having a huge tension problem….SIGH….what was going on??? I started trouble shooting and low and behold….somebody forgot to put the pressure foot down……SIGH…..another learning curve. (Am I getting too old to learn new tricks?)

Quick message to Carolyn gave me good advice on how to “rip out those stitches” . It was decided I should carry on, and go back to them after the rest of the quilt was done. Since this is all free hand guided quilting, I should be able to fill in as I need to. Sigh….. I made a mental reminder to LOWER the pressure foot. (Note; whenever I need to advance the quilt, I slide the machine to the far left, off of the quilt. I have to unclip the side clips to move the machine. When I bring the machine back onto the quilt, I have to raise the foot to get the 3 layers from the edge, UNDER the foot.) And, even with a mental note, I did that more than once, and not realize until I advanced the quilt. I think I have about 3 rows to “unstitch”.

With my brain engaged, I continued stitching through Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon until suddenly the machine absolutely FROZE. I was 3/4 of the way down the length of the quilt, stitching like a happy girl, and it just seized up. The handwheel would not even turn. PANIC ensued. I was grateful that the problem happened when I was at the far end of the row and and inch from the edge.

I looked at everything and could not determine what the heck was going on. On Thursday my husband helped me “disengage” the machine from the frame. He has great mechanical skills, and started taking things apart, looking for where the machine was “bound up”, and looking for the giant ball of thread wrapped around inside of gears etc. NOTHING ….that machine was clean as a whistle.

Inside the Janome 1600P
Under the 1600P

I could not understand why it seized up. We “read” the owners manual, and I about fainted when I read the part about OILING it daily.

Oh my goodness, maybe I ruined it. I have had this machine sitting for 3-5 years at least, and had forgotten this MAJOR detail.(My two other Janome machines have NO place for the consumer to oil, and I honestly didn’t think about it when I got started on Sunday.)

I got out the oil, and the lube, and hubby oiled and lubed, and tried to free it up. He went to the computer, and studied parts diagrams that I downloaded, and tried again on Friday. He “isolated” areas that were working and determined it was the bearing on the main shaft of the machine that might be seized up or “galled”. (He tried to explain that but…phew…basically ruined). He was shocked that the oil wicks were completely dry again when he was looking at it on Friday afternoon. More oil went in the appropriate spots. LOTS more oil. The decision finally was made to put it “back together tomorrow” and pray that the “authorized” Janome service center could order parts and get it working. (He could fix it, but Janome won’t sell parts to the consumer). So, sadly, I looked at my unfinished quilt and started thinking about how to move forward.

I called the shop and inquired about business hours next week and talked about the 2 week turn around due to the holiday etc. I decide I would take it up on Monday. I didn’t need to bring the foot pedal or the power cord, which was great by me. We have the foot pedal, but don’t use it on the frame. The power cord is “zip tied” to another cord and a big pain to undo, so we have been “testing” using the power cord from my Janome 8900.

Friday evening I decided to go out to the sewing room and do SOMETHING. I was depressed that this quilt I worked on so hard was stuck on the rails, the machine was dead. I dug out another UFO, and decided to work on something fun. But first, I needed my power cord. I unplugged it from the broken J-1600, and while I was doing that, I thought I would just try to give the handwheel a spin. IT MOVED!!!!! I was in shock!! It had been absolutely seized up early in the day. I plugged it back in, turned it on and it RAN! FAST!!! And didn’t seize. I was amazed to say the least. I messaged my hubby, and knew that since it was apart all over my cutting table, to leave it alone until he could have another look on Saturday. I went ahead and unplugged it, so I could sew on my J-8900. I gave it a parting shot of MORE oil, 5-7 drops more, in every spot.

Fast forward to Saturday night, and this is what happened.

Reassembly time
Reassembly of the Janome-1600P

It seems that this machine forgave me the abuse I rendered, and through the grace of half a bottle of sewing machine oil, it is functional and working again. It took us about half an hour to get it set up again on the frame, get all the poles holding the quilt reattached and straighten the quilt up again!

Ready to stitch again
Ready to resume quilting.

Three quarters of the way finished with this quilt, the machine is functional and I am no longer feeling “stuck in the middle” with no where to go!

Moving forward, I will finish the quilting, and then roll back to the places with the tension problems and do some “unstitching”. Carolyn sent me to You Tube to watch a video on how to “efficiently unstitch” – Natalia Bonner, a nationally known quilter & author gives great explanations of the process, and I can tell you, it WORKED for me in a couple of areas I tackled already.

Also on You Tube, LEAH DAY has a great video tutorial on “How to clean and oil the Janome -1600” –

So; ready to move forward and get this quilt finished. Hopefully, with all the pitfalls of this week, I will have the courage to “quilt again” on the frame. My hope is that I will improve over time, and graduate from Loops and swirls to more sophisticated looking quilting as I learn. The downfalls of this machine and frame is the very limited space for quilting. The throat of the machine and the space that the take up reel uses limits you to about 6″ for actual quilting. The upside is, you only have to man-handle the quilt to load it, and advance it as a row is complete. The quilting itself is fairly easy with the quality frame moving at the slightest touch while I work my way from left to right across the quilt!

Wish me luck! It’s a new week! (And the optimist that I am, I have the fabric picked out for the binding!) I did that while the machine was off the frame.

I also decided to iron another wide piece (104″) of backing for another quilt while the hubby was tearing things apart. I think this backing will go on my Scrap Happy Stars Quilt. More about that quilt on this post –

(Look for the one with the orange borders!)

IRON to distraction
Do you iron when you are stressed?

And I did get something done on that other UFO I mentioned! I got out my bin of VINTAGE CHRISTMAS QUILT blocks (Book by Lori Holt) and worked on the Candy Cane block –

Candy Cane block
Vintage Christmas Quilt book by Lori Holt.

I have 3 more blocks cut out and ready to stitch. This has been languishing since MAY! More about the project here –

Autumn Jubilee 2020 Quilt Along update

Last time I posted about the Autumn Jubilee Quilt Along was when I was working on the pumpkin row ( ) . About a week later, Carole published the assembly information on her blog From My Carolina Home, and I got busy assembling my rows in the specified order, with sashing in between the rows and a surrounding border.

Row quilt for #Autumn Jubilee 2020
First round of borders on

At this point with the project, the only “yardage” cut was the fabric I used for the TREE row, and for the sashing/borders. The sashing has a wonderful little golden dot, which went nicely with the fall colors. I do get inspired by nature when picking fabrics for projects.

Fall in Delaware
November 10, 2020

Nature was slow to show me the colors this year on my favorite tree. We had some lovely warm days (and lots of bike riding) so it was hard to focus on the “next step” on the Autumn Jubilee quilt. I decided that I wanted to do something a bit different than what the pattern called for so I measured the quilt, and contacted my sister in law, Carolyn. She makes the BEST borders!! So, I sent along details and this is what she suggested –

test block
Square in a Square block, using the JODI BARROWS tool.

I did a “test block” and then got busy sewing. The fabric for the 4 patches came right out of my scrap saver baskets, already cut to size. The outer fabric, is the same as the border and sashing fabric. I knew I did not have enough to do all the blocks I would need for the border, so I went with scrappy neutrals, cutting strips from my bin of neutral fabrics.

I spent an afternoon making a stack of 4 patches first, then working in small batches to turn them into Square in a Square blocks.

units for the border

We had several days of rain where I did not even go to the sewing room, but when I finally got back out there, I trimmed my blocks and made 4 strips for borders.

Making the border units

Making sense of trying to fit my blocks to an existing project, I followed the steps Carolyn outlined in her blog –

Carolyn was kind to work with me on the “quilt math” on Saturday, and we came up with similar numbers for the border that goes on between the dot border and the square in a square blocks. At one point I confused myself, and resorted to drawing out the picture of what was going where, and that helped my little brain. Turns out, I do this all the time, as I flipped back through the little 5×7 notebook I keep in the sewing room. I am a visual person and the numbers have to make sense.

drawing it out

She reminded me to “dry fit” everything before stitching. That was great advice.

I settled in to work on these borders yesterday afternoon and was quite pleased with the results.

Side borders going on

So far, everything was fitting well. By the end of the afternoon I had the pieced border on and everything fit as Carolyn had predicted.

Autumn Jubilee 2020 row quilt

At this point, the quilt is 67 x 74. Oversized throw I think. And, for the moment, I am “DONE”. I have to think about it for a bit and decide if it gets another border or not. (It is a bit “odd sized” at this point….and I never answered the question Carolyn asked about “how big” was I planning to make this or what what I planning to do with it?)

I really enjoyed this project working on a weekly basis making a row quilt.

What’s happening in your sewing room? Are you inspired by nature in your color selections? How big is “big enough” for a throw size quilt? Would you scale this up for a queen size quilt? Inquiring minds want to know.

Autumn at the pond

Hubby suggested a bike ride on Thursday, and how could I resist? We have had a few days of wonderful fall temperatures, getting up in the 70’s during the day. Bikes seem to stay loaded on the rack on the SUV, so all we had to do is fill water bottles and GO.

There were very few people out on the BOB Trail where we usually ride at Trap Pond State Park on a weekday. This is an ‘inland” park, away from the tourist crowds at the parks near the beaches. During our ride I think we encountered less than 20 people total on the trail, with the majority being on bikes, and as OLD as us. I guess with kids back in school, and people back to work, the only people really out are the senior citizens. (We did see one young ‘courting’ couple though). As we were leaving the park around 4 pm, we did see some younger families arriving, so it must have been ‘after school’ activities for them.

After our ride, we sat for a while on the east side of the pond, just enjoying the view. There was little boat activity, so the water was very smooth. The honking of the geese was about the only sound. There is a blue heron that makes the pond his home and is usually out on a point watching his domain. Someone was fishing in that area, and the heron moved off to the area where we were sitting. My husband enjoyed watching the bird as it went through it’s motions stalking for food. I enjoyed watching the reflections on the water. Enjoy the photos below by using the left / right arrows to flip through.

I usually post the ride map. I use an app called STRAVA to map my rides.

November on the Bob trail

We take it easy on the ride, and just enjoy being out in the woods. Sometimes we stop along the way and enjoy the view of the pond along the road.

We’ve been riding an extra trail (The American Holly Trail) that starts just past the nature center & garden that is really narrow and nice. It gives a little extra mileage. I thought you might like to see a map of the available trails, which are ALL very well marked with posts/signs.

Trail map at Trap Pond.

Panoramic view of the pond
panoramic view after the ride

Sitting after the ride, munching a granola bar, snuggling with the hubby in the shade and just watching the water are highlights for both of us.

We have 4 or 5 days of good weather ahead, so I am anticipating a few more bike rides! My quilting will take a back seat in favor of an afternoon at the pond.

The weather was so nice on Saturday, that we had another ride at the state park. We were somewhat surprised by how many people were there! I guess with this great weather, we should have expected it. For this outing we parked a bit away from the general population…out in the “horse trailer” parking /sports fields area. We decided that was the safest way.

We went “exploring” a bit , starting on the American Holly Trail and then turning into the Huckleberry trail, which is marked for horses. We didn’t see any horse trailers or horses, so we rode the Huckleberry down from the Am. Holly. We didn’t cross over the road at that point, but in hindsight, I wish we had. We returned to the American Holly trail and continued on it until it joined the BOB trail. The first part of the BOB trail is very wide (think “drive an SUV” wide). There were LOTS of people walking and bike riding. We were shocked to be overtaken by 5 young men on powered – electric bikes (think mini-motorcycyles). They were moving FAST compared to our leisurely (with sweat) 6.5 mph. The came up behind us and passed with no indication, bell, call out, hello or go to he**. Because the trail was so ‘active’ with people walking in large groups, the were zipping in between people and the regular bicycles. It was a bit nerve wracking. Hubby said later they had off road tires and were more like motor cycles than bicycles. I am familiar with “power assist” bikes, and these were nothing like the ones I have seen in the past. The folks I have seen use them are usually seniors who need a little assist but they mostly pedal. Anyway, once we recovered from that shock, we carried on and road our normal route on the Bob trail, until we came across the “unnamed multi use trail” on the North side of the pond. We ventured off on it, and rode it along the water and to the next Horse Trailer parking area, on the north side of the pond. We found our way back to and through the campground and back on the Bob trail, giving us a little over 6 miles on this outing. The unnamed multi use trail was too rugged for our hybrid bikes and much more suited to mountain bikes with big tires and shock absorbers in the handle bars etc. A few too many tree roots and a bit sandy for our tires. Hubby definitely needs better tires. We managed, but I don’t think we will venture of the beaten path again, and I think we will stick to “weekdays” for the next little bit. It was much too crowded this weekend, with COVID -19 on the rise in our area.

We had fun taking pictures on Saturday as well, and hope you enjoy the view.

bike ride on Saturday
Saturday in the park

I’m sure they all start to look the same, but I see the changes each time we visit during the fall. I just love the reflection of the trees on the water.

Are you enjoying Autumn in your area? What kind of activities are you doing outdoors?