August 31, 2010

That Telltale, Impish Grin...

If you've only been reading my blog for a short time, you haven't met my friend, Krisann, yet. I've written about her before, here and here. She's a whiz kid with a crochet hook!

Tuesday night, when she joined our girlfriend group at Books a Million, she had that telltale, impish grin on her face. She was smiling at me, and I could tell she had something up her sleeve.
She held out her hands to reveal another of her little crocheted bowls. For me?!! Oh, yes, thank you! But, in addition to this wonderful crocheted bowl, she said it held tiny treasures from her recent trip to Massachusetts...Northeastern acorns! I was giddy, I tell you! Simply giddy!

If you'd like to own one of Krisann's beautiful little crocheted bowls (or choose from another of her crochet creations), please head over to her Artfire shop here. If you'd like a little bowl like mine, just let her know. I'm sure she'd be happy to make one just for you!

Thank you, Krisann...for the beautiful bowl; those helpful, healing massages; our long chats; and most of all, your friendship. (Smooches!)

August 30, 2010

Love Birds And Lovely Gifts...

I didn't finish my quilt top on Monday, but I did put the blocks together. I'm going to add three borders to surround the blocks. The next time you see this quilt top, it will be finished and ready to assemble. I'm so glad that I've called it Love Birds, because I am completely smitten with it.
I received a package in the mail on Saturday. I was so tickled to see a new atc for my collection! Bobbi Ann of The Bead Goes On... sent me a thank you package for including her in my 400th Follower artist card giveaway. She wrote about our exchange on her blog, too. You can read it here.
I think the dog featured on Bobbi Ann's atc looks just like Kessie! Isn't this adorable? I'm almost expecting her tail to wag!
Bobbi Ann even decorated the back of her card to me! I don't usually decorate the backs of my cards, but I've noticed beautiful backs on many of the cards I've received. I may have to rethink this. I usually pour my soul into the fronts, but I so love the cards I've received with decorated backs!

Bobbi Ann, girlfriend, you really outdid yourself on my behalf. Not only the artist trading card in exchange for the one I sent you, but also a piece of beautiful red cotton fabric, the two stretch bead bracelets (I love the letter beads spelling out "Jesus"), and the autumn-themed stickers (that even include acorns and a squirrel!). Even her little card with the sweet patchwork cat makes me smile.

Thank you so much for your lovely gifts, Bobbi Ann. I was surprised and so grateful to have received such a thoughtful package from you.

August 29, 2010

Girly Goodness...

This was the view that greeted me on Sunday morning when I walked into the studio. Sunshine was pouring in my east window, the light diffused by my sheer curtain, and all of my fabric strips waiting patiently for my hand. It was a cheerful sight, indeed. I didn't start right away. It was mid-afternoon when I returned.
I began assembling triangles into pairs to make new small blocks. After I trim the blocks to ensure that they're square, I'll assemble the small blocks into one large block. I laid this set out just to give you an idea of what the a finished block might look like.
When they're all assembled, they will sit next to each other to form diamonds within the blocks, too. All of them will be mismatched, but that really is the charm of this design, I think.
My love birds block was not the right size to sit at the center of all this girly goodness, so I decided to assemble a border comprised of all the patterns and colors of the blocks. I'll cut the border down to the right size after the blocks have all be assembled and squared up.

I'm really enjoying this process. It's always fun to work on a new pattern and then modify it to suit my own taste. I think the sun will set today on a finished quilt top.

August 28, 2010

The Collection Identified...

I stole a little studio time yesterday to work on my Love Bird applique' quilt. We had friends join us at our home for dinner, so preparing for their visit and the meal we would be sharing kept me in the kitchen for more of the day. I managed to sew all of the strip sets together, and I'm showing just a few of them to you.

Thank you to Jan (from Bessie Mary )blog for figuring out which Fig Tree fabrics were in my jelly roll. Most of the line is called Dandelion Girl, but there are also elements from the Urban Indigo line, too. I really appreciate that you spent some time online, Jan, and then sent me links so that I could see for myself. Above and beyond, my friend. I really appreciate the effort.

I'm going to have time to play in the studio today, so I'll press all the strip sets I assemble before I cut them into squares, and then triangles. I'll take lots of photos so I can share my day with you tomorrow.

I hope your Sunday is filled with rest, relaxation and time spent doing what you love.

August 27, 2010

Ella's Etsy Treasury...

I've been featured on Etsy! My Sweet Pea Baby Shoe Pincushion is being featured on Ella's Treasury on Etsy! Ella (dollsandbunnies) contacted me on Thursday night to let me know. Squeeee! Click on the photo to go to Ella's Etsy Treasury. Pretty exciting for me. It's a new first!
I'll be back tomorrow to show you my quilt progress. I still don't know the name of the fabric collection, so I'm going to call this quilt "Love Birds", after the applique' block. They remind me of love birds. What do you think?
There's still time to enter my Vanilla Extract Giveaway, too! Just leave a comment on the Vanilla Extract Tutorial post here to be included. It's that easy!

August 26, 2010

A Beautiful Surprise...

"...And there are days when life rewards us
and seems to make amends
by granting
us a marvelous gift,
the precious gift of Friends. "
- excerpt from The Gift Of Friends by Karin Schaefer
The little heart pin is one of my creations.

I was blessed this week with a beautiful surprise. I hope you don't mind, dear friends, but I just had to share this with you today. Circumstances separated us over twenty years ago. Not seeing her or talking with each other was a huge loss to me, and I believe it was to her, as well. I know both of us felt that it was unavoidable.

I received a message on my blog from her. Like a message in a bottle sent out into cyberspace. She knew it would mean something special only to me when I read it. I would know immediately that it was her. She was right. I gasped when I read her words. Tears streaming down my cheeks when I realized she had left her message for me.

I know I'll see her again. We'll be catching up on years of quiet. We'll trade addresses and phone numbers. I want to see photos...lots of photos! I want to learn about her life. I want to hear her voice and her laughter again. I'll look forward to hugging her and thanking her, in person, for leaving that message for me. I'll cherish it the rest of my days. Thank you, my dear friend, for leaving me your cryptic note. I'm grateful beyond measure.
Love always,

August 25, 2010

And Now, For A Little Strip "Tease"...

I was very careful to accent "tease" and not "strip tease", because I certainly didn't want to give you the wrong idea! I decided to spend a little time in my studio playing with the fabrics I'd chosen for the applique' quilt to help me decide which pattern I wanted to use.

Aren't they just the most girly, restful colors and patterns? I'm quite sure they're Fig Tree fabrics from Moda, but I can't find my label. If you know which design line they are, please tell me!
I paged through my two favorite quick quilt books...Lickety Split Quilts and Jellyroll Quilts, because...well, I'm using a jelly roll of scrumptious fabrics for this quilt! (You knew that though, right?)
After spending the better part of three days trying to decide, I finally settled on this pattern, called Spiral Strips from the Jelly Roll Quilts book. I read through the entire pattern, and then embarked on the project. The center of this design will be my bluebird applique' square. It's just the right size.

First, instructions said to choose the fabrics and cut the lengths of each strip in half. Check! Then, arrange the strips in groups of four - dark, light, dark, light. Check. Next, I loosely folded each set of four and lined them up like little soldiers awaiting assembly. When I stacked them to fold, I started from the bottom up, so you'll see all the "lights" on top of each set.
Today, I have a long-awaited eye doctor appointment and my four-week haircut. Maintaining this short haircut requires a cut every three to four weeks as my hair grows like crazy, and it's thick to boot! Anyway, I'm telling you this because I'll be out of the house early and home late-afternoon. My appointments are in Sarasota, so Handsome and Kes will hold down the fort while I drive north.

I'll try to get back to sewing when I get home, but probably won't get back to it until Friday. Kes is telling me that I ought to run the vacuum when I get home, too. Don't you just hate it when housework interferes with play dates? But I have to admit she has a point. Perhaps I'll do a little "maintenance" when I get home and set myself up to be able to play all day Friday. Yeah...I'll go with that. I promise my next post will not be photos of my vacuum cleaner!
OH MY GOSH!!! I just realized that I'm only 13 (THIRTEEN) days away from my 500th Post! Can you even believe it? I'm going to have to put some thought into how I'm going to commemorate this event. Anyone have any good ideas? How would you like to see me mark this occasion? Don't be shy. I'll read and consider every single suggestion.

'Til tomorrow, girlfriends!

August 24, 2010

Dreaming Of Martinique...

I finished a project today, but because it's a gift, I can't show it to you quite yet. I'm sure you do what I do when you're in between projects, or have just finished one and are too scattered to start another. We dream on our stash! Today, I'm dreaming of Martinique. Beautiful fabrics reminiscent of a romantic Caribbean island. Cool ocean breezes, coral reefs and fragrant blossoms.
I can dream on this collection, assembled for the applique' quilt I'll be finishing soon, with all of its soft and feminine colors, or perhaps...
those French General fabrics I've been contemplating for a table runner for our antique oak table?
I always return to these soft colors...restful, quiet, subtle...they all speak to me, each with their own voices. Calming my mind. Focusing my thoughts. Preparing me to start anew with a sense of purpose. Excited for a fresh start. Where will I go next? Where will you go next?
Don't forget to enter the Vanilla Extract Giveaway if you haven't yet. You can read the tutorial and, just by leaving a comment, be entered for the bottle I made in the tutorial. The giveaway button is near the top of my left sidebar. Good luck, Girlfriends!

August 23, 2010

New In The Boutique...

Moving into the Boutique today is the Bloggerette Sorority pillow I created for the challenge in June. I thought that one of the other sisters might want to have this cushion for her home, or as a gift for someone special. To me, this pillow symbolizes the sisterhood we all share.
I listed it in the Boutique today, so if you're interested, just click here for all the details.
I have the most generous friends in Blogland! Click here to see what my friend, Rett at The Gazebo House, did for me today! She posted a wonderful tutorial on applique' for me. Her purse is fabulous! Thank you, Rett for the tutorial! I'm going to be trying this for sure!

I'm back in the studio today. Can't wait to share what's next. See you tomorrow!

August 22, 2010

A Learning Experience...

The sun set on Sunday evening with a finished needle turn applique' first. I did what I said I'd do. I searched for information and videos to help me accomplish this technique, and finished it my way...without using glue to secure all the edged for sewing.

I can't tell you how much your comments helped bolster me through this process. I suffered a serious loss of confidence because of the methods used in "teaching" this class. I've been a needleworker for the better part of forty seven years, but I felt like a complete and utter imbecile when the instructor looked at what I had accomplished as of our last session and then critiqued it. (She didn't like the fact that I hadn't glued everything. She didn't like my "baste method", and said that my work was not neat enough because I hadn't used glue.)
You cheered for me when I managed to obtain the pattern for Block Two (when the instructor said she "didn't hand them out before Block One was complete"), and I thank you for that. But here's my question: Do I now work on Block Two (above), or do I let this go and learn how to do another applique' method...from someone else?

My completed Block One will be incorporated into a quilt which I will proudly keep and display. It will remind me that my job as a teacher is to instill confidence in my students. To do less is to rob them of a joyful learning experience. As teachers, we all owe that to every one who seeks new information from us. Whether we teach our children, grandchildren, friends, acquaintances or class students, they all deserve to learn in a fertile environment full of belief in their abilities. We need to give it to them until they know it for themselves. This is what I will remember every time I look at my finished block.

8/23/10 a.m. - Edited for clarification. This was a free class taught by a member of our quilt guild to other guild members. She has taught before and everyone raves about her. This is my first experience taking one of her classes and I was really enthusiastic. I'm really sorry that I was less than enthralled with her methods. Oh, and just one more thing. When she held up her latest finished quilt during our "Show and Tell" part of the meeting, you could see her (multiple) block mistakes from the back of the room. I guess it's true...Nobody's perfect! ;-)

August 21, 2010

Summer Morning...

How beautiful the morning,
When summer days are long;
O, we will rise betimes and hear
the wild-bird's happy song -
For when the sun pours down his ray
The bird will cease to sing;
She'll seek the cool and silent shade,
and sit with folded wing.

Up in the morning early -
'Tis Nature's gayest hour!
There's pearls of dew upon the grass
And fragrance on the flower.
Up in the morning early,
And we will bound abroad,
And fill our hearts with melody,
and raise our songs to God.

-Summer Morning by Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)

Don't forget to click on my Vanilla Extract Giveaway button if you haven't signed up yet! (You'll find it near the top of my left sidebar. Good Luck!

August 20, 2010

I Love Surprises...

Sharing some Blogland love today. I recently received this scissors fob as a thank you from Sherry at Createology blog. A sweet gift in appreciation for the 400th Follower Ltd. Ed. artist trading card I sent her. Shades of green and brown, with those sweet acorns hanging from the last bead. I love it! Thanks, Sherry! I really appreciate your thoughtful gift.
Lucky me! I recently won Kate's giveaway at Chronicles of a Country Girl. The winner was able to choose two (TWO!) of her prints. You had to know that I'd choose the acorn, right? The white blooms are beautiful, too. I'm looking forward to framing these and displaying Kate's beautiful work in our home. Thank you, Kate! I love 'em!
I received one other wonderful package this past week. I placed an order from the talented and generous Michelle Palmer and she enclosed these gifts for me. An apron embroidered with oak trees, acorns, leaves and an owl on it, and one large acorn button.

The apron is long, like the ones I remember the nuns wearing when I was a girl. (We lived just down the block from a huge convent when I was growing up.) It's all done in a single-color thread and it's old. Michelle cleaned it after she found it on one of her vintage linen hunts, and there are a few age/wear holes in it. I'm going to think about how I can conceal the damage and highlight the embroideries. It's really beautiful and I love it!

But look at this big, honkin' button! It's about 3" in diameter with a metal plate, featuring my favorite little gift from nature. Michelle, I'm just enthralled with this button and can't wait to figure out what I'm going to do with it. Thank you so much for both of your generous gifts!
Finally, I'd like to share the fabrics that I'm using in my newest project. A gift from my hands to a friend. I'll share more when it's finished and on its way to a new home.

I love surprises! When they're received, I am filled with gratitude, and humbled by the gesture. When they're given, I give with an attitude of love and appreciation for the recipient. I'm so grateful for the friends who share their talents with me...and glad that I'm able to share with them, too.

If you haven't read my Vanilla Extract Tutorial yet, please be sure to click on the giveaway button under my August Celebrations at the top of my left sidebar. I'm offering a bottle of my homemade extract in a drawing for one of my friends.

I hope you have something relaxing, fun and/or creative planned for this weekend. You know, I always wish the best for you. See you tomorrow.

August 19, 2010

Vanilla Extract Tutorial...

Today, I'm sharing my promised tutorial for homemade vanilla extract. When you find out how easy it is to make your own, you're going to wish you'd done this a long time ago! There really is nothing quite like homemade vanilla. You'll need to gather your ingredients and supplies first.

You'll need to purchase quality vanilla beans, which you can find online through eBay. I buy Madascar/Bourbon vanilla beans. (Here's a link for one of the US suppliers.) This one has a "Buy it Now" option, so you don't have to bid to make a purchase. You also want to be sure that the seller has a 100% feedback rating to ensure that they're reputable. I store my unused beans in a ziploc bag inside an airtight container to keep them fresh.

You'll also need a bottle of vodka. I use Fleishmanns, but any inexpensive vodka will do. (Edited 8/20/10 9:30 pm: Two of my blog friends suggested that you can also use brandy, and one of them also suggested cognac! I'll be trying those, too! Thanks, Maggie B. and Patricia!!) And you'll need empty bottles. I like to use the empty bottles from Starbucks Frappuccinos. I wash them thoroughly when they're empty and the labels remove easily. Then, I put them into the dishwasher to be sure they're sanitized.
Take about 8 vanilla beans for one batch of extract. You'll be using them as is. No need to rinse them. I always slit 2 or 3 beans to open them up and expose the seeds inside. They'll mix in with the extract as it ages.
See what the seeds look like? When you eat French vanilla ice cream, these are the little dark spots you see in the ice cream. I'll warn you that your hands and the kitchen are starting to smell really good already!
Place all of the vanilla beans into the empty bottle. Make sure that there is at least an inch head room from the top of the beans to the neck of the bottle. You're going to need to cover them completely with the liquid. (FYI, the good vanilla beans are usually between 6" and 7" long.)
Now, pour the straight vodka into the bottle and be sure to completely cover the vanilla beans. Resist the temptation to dab a little behind your ears, and I don't recommend taking a sip either. If you do, you might forget to make dinner tonight!
At this point, I take the knife I used to slice open the beans and stir it into the liquid. I want to make sure that all the seeds on the knife end up in the mix!
Put the lid on the bottle and then place a label on the bottle. I'll also add today's date on the label so I know when it's "ready". You'll want to shake up the bottle a couple of times a day for at least two weeks before you use the extract. It will darken, day by day, until it becomes the pure vanilla extract that will add that special touch to your recipes.

I finish packaging my bottles by adding a circle of fabric, tied with kitchen twine, raffia or a ribbon. You can add a little recipe, or instructions on the "care and feeding" for your extract. As you use it, if you just top it off with the equivalent amount of vodka, it will last for years! My bottle in the background was made at least two years ago. I always top mine off and it's just as delicious as when I first made it. In fact, it really gets better and better with age.

From time to time, we make our own ice cream around here. When we do, I take one of the vanilla beans out of the extract, slice it open and scrape the seeds into the ice cream mix. Then you can put the rest of the bean right back into the extract! It's a gift that keeps on giving.
So there you have it. Didn't I tell you it was simple? I made my labels in a program called Print Shop 2 on my mac, but if you don't have such a program, I can steer you to Karen's website, The Graphics Fairy, where she has some really great label frames that you can use to make your own. Click here for a link to her labels. Pick one you like and personalize it to suit your own style.
Now, just for reading all the way through my tutorial, I'm going to have a little giveaway. One lucky reader will receive the bottle of extract I made for this lesson! All you have to do is leave a message on this post. I'm going to leave the drawing open for two weeks, because the vanilla won't be ready to try before then.

So, leave a comment and you'll automatically be entered. That's all you have to do. Giveaway will end on September 3rd, and I'll announce the winner on September 4th. Thanks for stopping by again, and Good Luck!
UPDATE: 09/04/10 - DRAWING IS CLOSED. The winner is Natalie of Hungry Hippie blog. Thank you to everyone who left a comment and entered the drawing.