Monday, December 22, 2014

Almost Ready

We are almost ready for the Christmas celebrations at our house. We'll be spending Christmas Eve at our son and daughter-in-law's new home. I'm looking forward to celebrating with the newlyweds, both sets of them, and our #2 son and his family.
Christmas morning we'll have a late brunch at our house and then my mom will join us for Christmas dinner, later in the day. 
One of the things I really love about decorating is making floral arrangements. I learned from my friend, who used to be a florist in Germany, that you don't always need fresh flowers. I like mixing fresh greens with some artificial decorations, dried hydrangea from the garden and candles. Super simple.

christmas greenery arrangement with candles

I saw some pretty flowers and greens at Trader Joe's today, so I made another arrangement to give as a gift.

christmas floral arrangements

I have some cooking to do tomorrow, but today was all about the table settings. I set the tables for breakfast using my red plates and glassware. It's times like this that I am glad we got rid of our living room and have a double dining room. 

christmas table decor

christmas table setting

The kids still have their own table, but they usually end up wanting to sit by one of their aunts or uncles, whoever is the favorite that day. That probably means that things will get moved around, but that's ok.

The tableware for the dinner is all ready to set after breakfast is cleaned up. It's sure to be a busy day and it's nice to get some things done and prepped far in advance.
Tomorrow is my last cooking day. I plan on enjoying the holidays and keeping things simple and planning ahead will help me to enjoy every moment.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Snowflakes are Falling

Well, they're not really falling, but I wish they were. I needed a gift for my German friend who dislikes warm winter weather even more than I do. She loves everything cold and wintery and I need a hostess gift because she and her husband asked us to join them at their house for dinner this weekend. I have already expressed my love for Amy's {During Quiet Time} snowflake pattern here. It is a paper pieced pattern that comes in three sizes; 6", 9" and 12". This time I made the 12" version and added a three inch border to make an 18" pillow for my friend, Monika.

I quilted it with swirls and loops after fusing some Thermolam to the back of the pieced pillow front.

I backed it with the only piece of Christmas fabric I had in my stash. {Note to self, buy some Christmas fabric}. I even put in a zipper with a covered flap and matched the print. I know, I sometimes amaze myself, too.

The gift was a hit and dinner with friends was a perfect evening.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Working Under Pressure

Self-imposed pressure is the best motivator for me. For some reason, yesterday, I found my Christmas spirit. I think it had something to do with Molli Sparkles putting out a call on Instagram to collect hashtag blocks and make quilts for the families who tragically lost loved ones in a gunman's terrorist attack in Australia. You wouldn't think hearing such horrible news would cheer someone, but to see the amazing outpouring of love and help from quilters all over the world really does make me happy. So I made 7 blocks and packaged them up to ship off to Australia.

And then I went to my granddaughter's kindergarten program.
I have been putting off finishing the decorating of the house but I was feeling such joy after the program that I went to the nursery to buy the fresh garland and wreaths I usually use to decorate the outside windows and fireplace. Disappointed, because they were out of garland and wreaths, I made a mental note to be sure to get to the nursery earlier in the season from now on. But I did buy the fresh flowers and poinsettias I needed to make the centerpieces.
I came home and made two arrangements and also decorated the dining room tables.

Now all I need to do is set the tables for Christmas Day and wrap gifts and bake cookies and maybe make a few more gifts get the picture. I'll be ready and it will be a great day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Snowflake Label

Yesterday, I told you I would tell you about the special label I made for my Fair Isle quilt. I always label my quilts and usually use a pre-printed label I had made on Spoonflower. But some quilts just scream for something more special.
When I saw Amy's {Durng Quiet Time} pattern, I knew it would be the perfect finishing touch for my quilt. I decided to make it with a background of red and write the quilt notes on the white sections.

I used the 6" version of the pattern. It also comes with instructions for paper piecing a 9" and a 12" version.

Now I want to make a bigger version into a pillow. Or maybe I'll make another 6" version for a pot holder for a friend. I'm running out of sewing time before Christmas, but there's always next year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

When I first saw Lee's {Freshly Pieced} post about her Fair Isle Quilt pattern I knew I wanted to make it. I have a hard time choosing colors for a quilt but this time I immediately thought of using a black background and making the reindeer look like Rudolph. I used Lee's photo and loaded it into PhotoShop Elements and then did a rough draft and changed the colors using the color picker tool.
The finished quilt makes me so happy. The colors seem to glow with that black background. It turned out exactly like I wanted it to look, even though the making of the quilt gave me a few headaches.
fair isle quilt

I really struggle with getting a perfect 1/4" seam. I have used every trick in the book and still I ended up with uneven sized blocks and reindeer that look like they have arthritic knees.
Once the blocks were all sewn together and sashed, my quilt was not perfectly square but the quilting helped to make it look more symmetrical. I could have quilted it myself, because in the end I just had my long arm quilter use wavy lines spaced 1" apart. I also wanted to try wool batting and I am sold on it. It is so warm but yet light weight and gives a lovely, squishy, cozy feeling to the quilt. I have been sleeping with it every night since I finished it last week.

The backing fabric is a perfect compliment and the black 1/2" binding keeps your eye on the beautiful colors and doesn't distract from Lee's design.
basic grey christmas fabric

This quilt needed a special label.Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you all about the label I made for this quilt.
Chalkboard Christmas Snowflakes Multi

The best part of finishing a Christmas quilt at Christmas time is being able to get some photos by the tree.
fair isle quilt

fair isle quilt
Rudolph and Santa feel nice and cozy with the quilt, too.
This last photo was made using several photo editing apps on the iPhone 6.
fair isle quilt

Quilt Stats:

Name: Midnight Christmas
Fabrics used: Michael Miller Cotton Couture Solids in Black, Cranberry, Lipstick, Cappuccino and Turf
Batting: Hobb's  Heirloom Washable Wool
Backing: Chalkboard Christmas Snowflakes Multi by Basic Grey
Thread: Pieced with Aurifil Black #2692
Quilting: by Susie Peterson with Perma Core Cranberry Thread
Finished Size: 70" x 73" after washing.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Ugly Angel Returns

The tradition started as a joke probably 20 years ago. I was at a Christmas party for a Children's Hospital charity group I was involved with and we were playing the steal the gift game. The gifts can be stolen twice and then it cannot be stolen again. I received a great set of cheese spreaders. They were really cute, Christmas themed and silver plated. I tried to hide my gift as each person opened their own gifts or stole from another. It was getting down to the last few gifts to open, when my BEST FRIEND decided to steal from me! In it's place I ended up with this angel!

ugly angel

Well, I decided to show her; I snuck the angel into her house and hid it among her lovely Lladro collection. It took her a while to find it. Ever since that day, long ago, it has become our little joke and our special way of saying Merry Christmas. Each year, we take turns by sneaking it into the other person's home. This year, I received it as a "Christmas gift" at our annual get-together. The funny thing is, each year we are shocked and surprised as to how or where it shows up. It's always good for a laugh. {p.s...we never did find out who brought this ugly, plastic thing, when everyone else was bringing real gifts.}

That first year, Jennifer also surprised me with my own set of cheese spreaders. It's funny, because the mate to this cheese spreader has long been lost, but our memories of fun and the ugly angel lives on...and now I have to wait another year to hide it in her home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Handmade Birthday Club, the Final Edition

The last of the birthday girls in my group of the Handmade Birthday Club has received her gift so it is safe to show you what I made without ruining the surprise. Those who know Lee {May Chappell} will understand my anxiety when making her a gift. She is a rock star when it comes to quilting, sewing and designing. After a lot of thought, I decided to make her some place mats.

quilted placemats

I used strips of Anna Maria Horner fabrics in widths of 1", 1.5" and 2" and strip pieced them together. I then cut this pieced fabric into varied widths and sewed them together with Essex yarn dyed linen in the Flax color.

quilted placemats

I layered the pieced place mat tops with Warm and White cotton batting and backed each with a different Anna Maria Horner print. I then quilted them in a 1" grid using Aurifil 50wt. in the color #2310.

quilted placemats

To keep a more elegant look to the place mats, I used the linen for the binding. too. I had so many great suggestions for binding these place mats from my Instagram friends, but in the end I went with the simple, elegant look of linen.

essex yarn dyed linen

These finished place mats measure 12" x 16" and look really pretty on my rustic bar table. I hope they will look equally pretty on Lee's dining room table.

quilted placemats

A close up of the backing fabrics.

anna maria horner fabric

In true swap fashion, I added a few extras to Lee's gift. Aqua paper straws, wine glass markers, sticky note tabs, some tissues and washi tape.

handmade birthday club

Happy Birthday, Lee.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Merry Christmas Mug Rug

When Jennifer asked me to be a part of her fun blog hop I said yes right away, and then worried over what to make. I have the hardest time creating so in the end I opted to make this mug rug using the Crafty Quilter's tutorial.

I think it has a Scandinavian feel to it with the fabrics and colors that I chose.
I also used a snowflake stitch to attach the binding and add an extra detail.

This is meant to be a cookie plate crumb catcher, but I think it makes a nicely shaped mug rug too.

Check out the Crafty Quilter for more Christmas tutorials.
And thank you, Jennifer for asking me to be a part of this talented group.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Merry Mug Rugs

The Merry Mug Rugs blog hop has started at Ellison Lane. Be sure to check each day to see the guest bloggers that Jennifer has lined up to share some fun mug rugs and tutorials.

Jennifer has lined up some fun and talented quilters to share their mug rugs. Somehow she snuck me in there too.

Ellison Lane 
Fabric Mutt
Owen’s Olivia
Clover & Violet
Patchwork Posse
Sew Lux
Petit Lyons
Bryan House Quilts
Modern Sewciety
The Sewing Chick
Family Ever After
LR Stitched
Random Thoughts Do or Di
So Sew Easy
Flying Blind on a Rocket Cycle 
Between Quilts

Monday, December 1, 2014

Guild Meetings

I have been a member of the Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild for nearly two years. The meetings are the first Monday of the month, and I usually plan to attend.
For the meeting this month we are supposed to make a pot holder to swap. I made the paper pieced trivet/pot holder from the Patchwork Please book.
I'm happy with the way it turned out, except I am not good at machine binding. The backside of the binding looks better than the front.
We are also supposed to bring a dessert or snack to share. I made an angel food cake with all the egg whites I had left over from making nut rolls a few weeks ago. They were safely kept in the freezer and whipped up into stiff peaks after being defrosted.
We were also supposed to bring a yard of fabric to swap. It could be any mixture of yardage or fat quarters, half yards, etc.
But in the end I decided to enjoy the cooler weather and forecasted rain and stay home and make chicken soup for dinner.

Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 1 large whole chicken, preferably organic
  • 3 quarts low sodium chicken stock
  • onion, cut in half
  • 2-3 stalks celery, cut in half
    1 carrots, cut in chunks
  • clove garlic
    3 springs fresh parsley
    1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, cut in half
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
  • carrots, quartered and sliced in 2" pieces
    6-8 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 package Fideo noodles, cooked as directed on package
  • Wrap parsley, bay leaf, thyme, garlic clove and peppercorns in cheesecloth and tie closed. Place all but the last four ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain broth, reserving chicken. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken or cut into chunks. At this point you can refrigerate the broth over night and when the fat has hardened, skim it off the top, but you don’t need to.
  • To finish the soup, bring broth to boil, add carrots and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add celery and cabbage and cook an additional 6 minutes, until tender. Add shredded chicken and cooked noodles and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

LA traffic is the worst and by not going I saved myself over three hours of driving. I'll miss celebrating with the girls in the group but I'm still tired from traveling last week and all the Thanksgiving festivities. I think I'm going to enjoy sitting at home, snuggled in a quilt and knitting instead of spending all that time on the freeway.

...and later that evening
Since I skipped the meeting, I unpicked the machine binding and stitched it down by hand. It looks so much better.