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.

Machine Embroidery Fall Fun

Off and on I show machine embroidery projects I have been working on. The month of October has been fun working on the Autumn Jubilee projects that Carole on From My Carolina Home blog has posted. She inspired me to do some stitching out of “leaves” on my machine which I showed in a previous blog post. When I was searching some of my favorite digitizing websites in September for inspiration, I came across this fun pattern for an ACORN Table Runner. I wasn’t certain how the leaves would be used in the Autumn Jubilee in October, but I thought I would possibly find a use for this pattern.

Since I was “all caught up” with #AutumnJubilee2020 with my quilt along row blocks and my sew along tote back, I decided to work on a few blocks.

Acorn Table Runner
pattern from https://swpea.com//

I started working on it Saturday. I had my choice on block sizes and choose the 150 mm block, which I stitched out using my 8×8 hoop.

Working on the acorns
Set up to run on my Janome 11000
Acorn patch first
First block waiting to be trimmed.

The fun of these patterns is choosing fabrics and threads. I used the same gold fabric for all the tops of the acorns. The block design had a meander stitch for quilting and I made the error of choosing a variegated thread. No fixing it after I took it out of the hoop. I even tried doing my own meander on the sewing machine ‘after the fact’ and it looked so bad I ripped it all out. The variegated threads looked great on those open leaves in the corners though. Oh well, lesson learnt. Thread choice is as important as fabric choice.

After I got the second block done, I decided I better be serious about my fabric and thread choices. I chose 2 fabrics for background and a wide variety for the acorns and leaves.

Of course, on Sunday, the instructions came out for the Autumn Jubilee wall hanging that has the leaves. I played around with those leaf blocks and the first couple of acorn blocks, and decided NOT to intermix them. The scale was so different, I decided I would carry on making acorn blocks, make the table runner, and work on the wall hanging later.

Now that I have all 10 blocks embroidered, I have found a layout with them that I think works for me.

Ten blocks completed
ready to put together

The fun of working on these blocks is that ALL of the fabrics for the acorns and leaves came from my “scraps”. Ever since I did that Knitting bag last fall, I have kept 8 small baskets with fabrics sorted by color, just for embroidery machine applique projects. It was handy to reach in and pull out little bits of fabrics for these machine applique pieces.

Next up is to stitch the rows together and figure out what to use as a backing. Pattern calls for you to “turn” this project and top stitch to finish it off. It should finish quickly as there is no binding required. Sweet Pea designs has a Facebook group, and I chatted with someone this week who had just finished her table runner and asked about how easily it turned. The secret is leaving a good opening, clipping the corners and chopsticks for poking out the corners after turning. I usually employ a long knitting needle for that job so keep your fingers crossed. I’ll post a finished picture in a few days.

Another interesting project I did this month was to stitch using my embroidery machine on card stock. Embroidery Library has lots of designs, especially digitized for card stock. I read though the tutorials and purchased one design. The design I selected has just over 8500 stitches of a 5×7 card.

EL for cardstock
First card
inside
I used a package of “quilting papers” I had to cover the inside back of the card, and my stamps to add a message of care to the inside the card. This was a fun card to stitch out, and I think I would another card again. The designs are specially digitized for cardstock and Embroidery Library has quite a few.

I have enjoyed really getting to know my embroidery machine in the last year. I have to say this is so much more fun than making COVID-19 masks!

What is happening this week in your sewing room? Do you have a favorite place to download designs? Do you like projects that incorporate machine embroidery with your quilting projects?

Happy New Year – Christmas Gifts revealed

Wow, it’s been over a month since I have written a blog post.  Sometimes I have “gaps” because I have not been making much or travelling. The past two months I was “getting ready” for Christmas.

Show & Tell – since all the gifts have been given, I can share now.  Most of what I have done in November and December has been with my embroidery machine I bought LAST January. I got it back from the service center in late October and have enjoyed learning to use it. It is a Janome 11000 and has an 8×8 hoop along with a bunch of others. There is a mega hoop, but I still need to learn how to play with software to “split” designs, and my brain isn’t ready for that yet.

My # 1 “big gift” that I made was from a pattern I purchased from Sweet Pea Designs . In September, Sweet Pea had a stitch along in their Facebook group, and I fell in love with the design.  I think this is what got me moving to get my big embroidery machine serviced.  I bought the pattern while it was on special for the stitch along, and it was the FIRST thing I made when I got the machine back in October.

It is an “In the Hoop” project. All 12 blocks were made on the embroidery machine, then I used my sewing machine for making the handles, inside pockets, and putting the bag together. There is batting in each block.  Picking the fabrics and thread colors was fun.  I made the bag using the 6×6 block.  The pattern includes 5×5 and 4×4.

Finished Knitting bag

Button Side

This was a gift for my daughter who knits.  (You should see what she made for me!!! Another post….)

She shared a photo on her knitting group on Facebook and it got some great comments. She was even asked if her “mom would make one to sell”.  I said sure, for $500 and 30 day turn around!  (I’m actually working on a 2nd bag now, just to time out how long it takes to make…..). We joke all the time about the cost of crafting. You get a crafted item as a gift because you are loved.  I’m not “in the business” to sell things, so my price has to be “high enough to discourage”….basically saying “YOU CAN’T AFFORD ME”…  That is a topic for another blog on another day!

A friend of mine, also a quilter & knitter, knew I was making this and alerted me to a fabric at our favorite quilt shop. “Knit N’ Purl” by Whistler Studios from Windham Fabrics  . (If you are a knitter and are looking for some cute fabric, check the link out!)  I used the green cable knit and the animals…..

Now, all that said, I used all SCRAPS from my bins for the blocks, handles, bottom of the bag.  I put bosal-in-r-form in the inside of the bag. Beside the lining and pocket fabric, that was the only “new out of the package” product I used.  I picked a lot of batik and tone on tone prints for the bag. There are a few other prints just to brighten things up. The marching band fabric was something to make the bag “unique” to her without putting her name on the outside. I tried to repeat fabrics on both sides of the bag but baking each block different.

Once this bag was finished, it was on to In The Hoop (ITH) zip bags – I primarily used patterns from In the Hoop by Sher.  These bags are fully lined and were done in the 5×7 hoop.  (Note – Sher often offers a free pattern, so take a look!)

fully lined

This one went with the knitting bag! (Sorry for the upside down pix)

The next one went to my 9 year old granddaughter.

5x7 zip bag

A girl can always use a place to tuck away her money or her bits & pieces like tissue or chapstick.

One of the granddaughters is a Brownie Girl Scout, and just got her “First Aid Badge”. Mom reported she was a bit uneasy during the earning of the badge, and when I saw the next pattern (from Sher’s website), I thought that this might help her feel more confident with her band aid skills.  Of course, I filled it with band aides and an ace wrap!  Just what every 7 year old needs.  I did buy some FUN bandaids.

First Aid bag

I have a daughter who has been encouraging me to ride my bike, and I found this sweet fabric. Of course there was a great pattern by Sher and I used it for her zip bag.  The pattern called for a bike to be embroidered, but I thought the print was perfect.

Just me and my bike zip bag

This pattern was also a 5×7, but I used a bigger hoop and scaled it up to 116%, praying the whole time I didn’t screw it up; as I only had a “scrap” of this fabric.  It worked well.  Check out the size difference. The green is the backside of the first aid bag.

Comparing sizes

I am really pleased that I learned how to enlarge things “in the hoop”.  The 5×7 hoop size zip bag is just a little small for my big phone, but by increasing the size and using the next size hoop, my phone fits in perfectly.   My grandson got a phone for Christmas, and I was waiting to see how big it was before making him this – pattern by Sher too.

Techie Stuff

Of course he can use it for cords, USB’s, change, tissues or other gadgets, but I thought he would like the “techie stuff”.  I scaled this design from Sher up to 116% . My phone fit easily (3.5″ x 6.5″ phone), so i knew his would too.  I had a bit of fun with his Techie Stuff and used a scrap of Star Wars fabric on the inside lining.  That Wookie might make him smile!

Star Wars fabric inside

I had another pattern to try for techie stuff, which was a cord wrap, pattern by Embroidery Garden. This is a free pattern and comes in multiple sizes.  I used fabric fused to felt.  You can use vinyl if you have it.  I used the small design, and learned to “duplicate it” in my 8×8 hoop.  I was able to stitch out a bunch! I included one in his Techie Stuff bag, and kept the others for cord containment around the house. (Hubby is always complaining about the long phone cord in the car!)

I have to clean up the stabilizer on these, but they are functional and FAST to make. I have thoughts of making more.  (Next time I will read the directions too…..maybe use some vinyl…..)

Cord Wraps Pattern by Embroidery Garden

Overall; I am thrilled with the purchase of the used Janome 11000.  I think I have learned a lot about enlarging, duplicating, reducing; repeating, skipping over sections etc.  I finally used some of those colorful snaps I bought last summer.  Other than my time, my costs were “minimal” making everything above. I have been digging through the fat quarters I have, and the scrap bins, the “felt stash” and the handful of zippers my friend Susan shared with me last spring. I did have to order stabilizer for the big hoop though and went for the 50 yard roll of cutaway and tearaway. I have ordered wash away too, so I am well supplied for a while.

So, that is it for now.  Next post I will share the “paper dolls” I made “in the hoop” for my youngest granddaughter.

Happy stitching and Happy New Year!