Saturday, February 6, 2016

Randomday, with Violets

 It may be only barely into February, but we have flowers in our backyard!  The violets are really pretty.
 Under the apple trees, it's like a carpet of them, and they smell beautiful.  Tertia and I picked a few.
On the camellia tree, one single bloom is starting.  Steve had to hold it for me at camera level.
And the crocuses are looking perky in the sunshine. Daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are on tap for the months to come.  We may get a lot of rain, but I do like the early spring weather.

This past week involved lots of grading and data entry, and some writing, but probably not enough. Saturdays find me tired and completely unambitious, and today was no exception.  Steve is looking for a movie to watch on Netflix and I might do a bit of knitting or sewing. I'm getting close to finishing my first knitting project in months, a pair of socks. In a lovely spring green.  Just in time for the season.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Allietare and Other Quilt Progress

Amongst the end-of-term teacher stress and exam grading, (you can see above what happens when I walk away from it for a few minutes) I found some time to work on quilts this week.  Allietare is seamed together, the center part with all the blocks, and I just have to determine the fabrics I'll use in the borders.
We had scattered sun a few times on Saturday. This was one of those times.
I think I've said this, but I really love the mix of colors in this quilt. And I've seen a lot of different color combinations, and it really seems to look good in any color combo.  Check out some of the other Allietare quilts at Bonnie's linkup.  Some people already have theirs quilted and bound! 
This above is my current top contender for the narrow inner (gold) and wider outer (red) borders.  The red is one that didn't work out for my Country Stars quilt, and I'd be glad for it to find a home in this quilt.  I also have enough of that really light, subtle gray for either an inner border or the binding.
Not quite so sure about this lighter yellow (the same one I used on the narrow border in Grand Illusion, ironically)...
 The only black fabric I have that there would be enough of is this yardage... but I think it has too much brown in it and would take away from some of the liveliness of the colors.
And then this.  I really am leaning more to the red.  But let me know if you have any opinions on the matter.  It should come together relatively fast once I make the decision.
And of course, I have a charming helper! She's there right now.
I have the rest of the January blocks finished for the 365 challenge.  I love making a variety of sampler blocks, but I'm not completely convinced about the 3" size of these.  We'll see if I can come back and catch up on February's blocks after this week of teacher work is done.

Here is the one finish I have for the year:

It's a simple flannel baby quilt.  4.5" squares, with a 2" border, backed with another piece of flannel but no batting.  This makes it an ideal weight for swaddling a baby, or for a toddler to drag around and wrap up in. I sewed it around the border with right sides together, leaving just enough space to flip it right side out and then topstitch around the edge.  This avoids having to bind it, and it really doesn't require much more than utilitarian quilting along a few ditches.  I have enough flannel squares for at least 4 more of these, but maybe without the border.  My mother-in-law made several of this basic kind for my kids, and it's really a nice, cozy gift to have on hand.  And will use up some fabric I no longer want to keep in my sewing room.
I'm also linking up to Patchwork Times for Design Wall Monday and
Stash Report:

Quilting Fabric:
Used this week: 2 yards for the baby quilt.  Maybe next week I'll have the Allietare top done!
Used year to date: 14 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: 3 yards (+ 1 sheet)
Net fabric used year to date: 11 yards

Knitting yarn:
Used this week: 0 yards
Used year to date: 0 yards
Added this week: 0 yards
Added year to date: undetermined amount from sweater (from Goodwill) that needs to be unraveled
Net yarn used year to date: 0 yards

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Randomday, and What I Haven't Been Blogging About

It's the midpoint of the school year.  Final exams are graded but not all given back to the students.  There are still stacks of worksheets to grade and a few extra credit points to assign, and the comments to write, and the report cards to finalize, and the 3rd quarter's syllabus to finalize, and the Latin Olympika Certamen tests to write, and ... and... and...

This will be my final year teaching at Cedar Tree.  I have known for a year or more now, and it is a good and necessary change even though I will miss my 16 years of teaching Latin to young minds. But somehow it has become That Thing That I'm Afraid to Blog About, and that has kept me from writing as much and as freely as I need to on this blog, for the last year. I have noticed a distinct lack of the spunky sense of fun that I think my blog should have, although the very few who do follow this blog have probably, at most, only thought, "hm, she's not blabbing as much anymore."  We all live in the world of our minds to some degree; I especially plead guilty to replaying and overthinking and overanalyzing every decision.  If you're wired this way, it helps tremendously to have some kind of creative outlet (knitting, quilting, writing) and a circle of supportive friends; so I will be unpacking my thoughts on the idea of not being a teacher anymore over the next months.  I don't require comments or feedback, although I'm by no means shutting them down. There's a lot I, personally, need to process and my personal blog is the most logical place to do it. Even there and presuming I share it to Facebook friends, I'm always fearful of negative feedback. But first, you know, I have to make the initial announcement.  So, yes.  I'm not going to be a Latin teacher after this year.

I get some people who ask "What will you do?"  These are the people who have no memory of me as anything other than a Latin teacher at my kids' school.  With the best of intentions, I'm sure, but this only has the effect of making me feel more typecast into a role somebody else wrote for me.  I have always enjoyed the Latin teacher identity, but I have 4 young adult (well, teenage at least) children, one of them with special needs, a 100-year-old house, and far too many hobbies and interests to keep up with on one blog. I have been teaching longer than any of my students have been alive.  I'm relatively sure I will find plenty to do.  Whether any of it will make money or not is quite another matter, but money has always been a secondary consideration for me.  Rather obviously.  

I could stick in the Latin field and be quite happy, doing things like creating this course on the Duolingo discussion forum.  I'm rather proud of it, even though it's not official and not finished yet.  I believe that some of my more conventional study guides and lesson plans would be useful if published.  Or I could devote myself to researching the legal and financial steps needed to prepare Tertia for life and work as an adult with Down syndrome.  I could take a few months and schedule all the medical appointments I've been putting off far too long, then another few months for that thorough housecleaning that has never happened.  I could write books, people! Or I could just make a lot of quilts and sweaters.  I used to be a community organizer... some people have found that leads to very prominent careers.  There are some who think that William Shakespeare, during his "lost years," was a teacher of Latin at a country grammar school.  He had a pretty good second act.

So, there are my ramblings for today.  It will be back to quilting and wooly endeavors and blabbing about literature, philosophy, family, politics and who knows what else after this, I sincerely hope.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Design Wall Monday and Stash Report

 Let's be completely up-front about it... when it comes to putting together a bed-size quilt like Allietare, my design wall is just not big enough.  You need the family room floor, and you need to vacuum first if there's been a sleepover last weekend.  So after I came home from teaching today I unpinned the sampling of blocks from my design wall and started laying them out on the floor.  Then I decided I really had to change into jeans, because there's a fair amount of crawling around and rearranging.  This is what I came up with, trying to keep a pleasant variety of both reds and golds throughout.
I love the scrappiness of this quilt -- I decided midway in that I was going to go broader in my use of reds and golds if I had to be more restrained in my blacks and neutrals, and I'm glad I did.  It makes the overall effect very lively, to have such a wide variety of tones.  Including those red/white/black prints that wanted to play! They jump out and say "notice me", but in this quilt, that's going to be okay!  I double checked to make sure no two gold squares were matchy with each other at the corners, and I think I caught them all (is anybody else bothered by scrappy quilts that aren't scrappy enough?)  I don't think that will be a problem for me with this one!  Now to find time to stack and label the rows from NW to SE, and I can begin the sewing together.

I'm linking up to Patchwork Times for this. And while I'm at it,

STASH REPORT!  It has been about a year since I've tried this, and SOMETHING needs to be done to keep me accountable.  Plus, I finished the Grand Illusion top Saturday, so that means I can count stash used.

Stash Report:

Quilting Fabric:
Used this week: 12 yards (according to Bonnie's estimate at the beginning, I'm claiming it!)
Bought this year to date: 3 yards (3 Goodwill shirts, already deboned)
Net fabric used year to date: 9 yards

Knitting yarn:
Used this week: 0 yards
Bought year to date: undetermined amount from sweater (from Goodwill) that needs to be unraveled
Net yarn used year to date: -? yards

I will try to do these updates at least monthly, and get my consumption of fabric and yarn up so that my cupboards can be more neatly organized. Yay for a new year and a new start on organization!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Randomday - With an Actual Quilt Finish

This week we were blessed with back-to-back phone calls from our two college sons.  Peter called to report on how his classes are going, and let us know he is joining the crew team.  Exciting news for him and a new sport to pick up.  He is finding his way around the U.W. campus and his room has ended up being a single, which is fine with him.  He's taking classes toward a business major, including one on the hospitality industry, and two music classes.  He missed a lot of social opportunities by coming in as a freshman just this semester instead of in the fall, but I'm sure he'll be making it up in no time.  Daniel is in his final semester at Grove City, taking an honors English seminar and slated to write a seemingly impossible number of words per day, and figure out his future plans in the space in between.  The house has been quieter since they have been gone, and cooking for only 4 is strange.

Tertia's theater class put on a play this week: Cafe Rio, a series of vignettes from larger works on the theme of how theater addresses social justice issues.  So they had an opening scene from "Cabaret," a French Resistance scene, a bit from Anne Frank and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a bit about the arrest of Alan Turing for homosexuality, a scene from Anouilh's Antigone, a scene from Tesich's On the Open Road, and then Tertia's scene... she had no speaking part but was a background walker in a scene from "Mr. Universe," a play about two drag queens in New Orleans.  I'm not sure how it portrayed social justice issues, but Tertia walked her little heart out in the background and had a fine time doing it.  

Quarta's friend G. came over yesterday evening for a sleepover; they watched the Star Wars episodes they hadn't watched the last time (6, 1, 2, and they are in the midst of 3 as I write), with some breaks for Target runs, frozen yogurt, sleeping, making makeup out of Crayola crayons, and doing their nails.

I've been following the East Coast blizzard news with interest; my brother Andy was planning on making his annual bus trip to the March for Life but it was cancelled and he is enjoying a snowy weekend at home in Virginia instead; I hear there are several busloads stranded on the PA turnpike, and it reminds me of the March for Life of 1989 when I was in a similar bus during a similar storm.

 And in a little time in my sewing nook today, I made my first finish of a quilt (top) in 2016... and 2015 as well, for that matter.  Here is Grand Illusion.
As Tim Gunn from Project Runway would say, "It's a lot of look."  Busy in a very nice, mid-century way.  It reminds me of my Grandma Maffett, her greens and blues, her black and white tile floors, and her favorite pink flowers. The individual fabrics are really whimsical and varied, though, which is part of what makes this type of scrappy quilt so fun for me to make.  Now let's see if I can get Allietare together.  And get some of these tops quilted.

Gotta go and watch the final lightsaber battle.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Works in Progress and a Reality Check

It was one of those "if you give a mouse a cookie" moments.  Although I still haven't been blogging much, I have been chipping away at various quilting projects in an attempt to get back to having something to blog about.  There is Allietare, with all the blocks finished and needing the setting triangles and borders:
There is Grand Illusion, which looks like this at the moment:
You'll notice I ran out of the gold constant fabric that shows up in the squares, and I had to substitute the gold stripe for the inner borders.  That's because, when I was playing catch-up last month, I mis-read one of the clues and I made 25 of each kind of 4-patch, instead of 25 of the one and just 4 of the other:
That means I have a lot of "orphan blocks" to use in a future project, and also I used too much of the original gold and had to use the other gold. But I actually like the stripe better, so it's all good. There was getting to be a large pile of fabric on my worktable as all these different scrappy quilts piled up, and I hadn't put any of the old fabrics away yet because I wasn't sure I was finished with them (and this was taken a few weeks before Christmas!):
But! I never met a scrappy quilt-along that I didn't want to jump into, and some of the chatter on the Quiltville Facebook page led me to the 365 Challenge from Australia.  The idea is to make a block every day, and the ones they were starting with were easy and cute.  All 3" squares so far.  I decided to go scrappy blue and green, and added that to the mix (Allietare red, gold, black and neutral; Grand Illusion green, pink and aqua; and the flannel baby quilts and string quilts I had been working on as well).  Here's the first 19 blocks:
 (Yes, that's Dr. McCoy in block 6, scraps from some boxers I made with Star Trek fabric).
There's no denying they are awfully cute little blocks.  But little! Did I mention they are only 3"? I have no guarantee that all the different fabrics will work together, but I did make the Farmer's Wife Quilt a few years ago (even though it's STILL on the quilting frame) and that all worked out.  I certainly am not worried about running out of blues or greens.  But I'm not sure whether I'll stick with it all the way.  I think it's a sampler quilt that wants to be more matchy-matchy than I am necessarily willing to be. It's kind of cool, though, to be able to do tomorrow's block today because it's already tomorrow in Australia.  But I discovered, in one of those necessary reality check kind of moments, that the huge mess of scraps, bits of fabric, and multiple projects in my sewing area, had made me lose my triangle ruler.  So I went looking for it.  The more I looked, the more it wasn't there, so I resolved to take the necessary action and remove all the mess from my sewing counter and put it on the floor of the family room:
 Um, yes. I need to deal with all that.  I have bins for strips that are 1.5", 2", 2.5" and 3.5", and bins for some special fabric collections, and bins for strings and squares and bricks.
 First I had to declutter around the sewing machine, and vaccum the lint and dust it nicely.  I raised enough dust that I have been suffering from bad allergies for the last few hours, and that's why I'm blogging now instead.
I'm happy to report that my cutting counter has now also been cleaned and dusted.  I'm using it as a staging area for cutting up the rest of my flannel into squares (I'm getting out of the flannel storage business by making a bunch of utility baby quilts that I'll eventually give away). Oh, but I did also find my triangle ruler -- it was under some of the other mess on the cutting counter, and I did go ahead and make tomorrow's 3" block. The clean-up of the family room floor is going forward; most of my fat quarters are now put away, as well as yardage. There are about 4 bags or bins of scraps that need to be cut into usable smaller strips, strings, or squares.  That's a lot, but I can manage it if I work steadily.  And throw out some of the scraps I don't like anymore.  I've been discovering quilt projects that have been neglected for a long time. Some of them I don't like anymore.  I will eventually have to make some decisions about priorities.  Maybe I'll get together a UFO list for the year sometime.  But I have learned one thing for sure:

Apparently 4 active quilt projects going at once is the point I start to lose things.  And the warning sign is when your cat starts sleeping on your fabric pile.  She has had to move:
From on top of the lovely sweater I bought at Goodwill to unravel for yarn, Muffball rebukes me for taking on too much at once.  I know, I know.  I think I'll go to bed.  Tomorrow's block is already done.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Allietare Link-up and Design Wall Update

It's a bonus day! That's when a surprise snow/sleet storm comes and cancels school the first Monday after Christmas break. (It made getting to church interesting yesterday, too!  And I have to give kudos to my mother-in-law, who made the attempt to drive herself to church but turned around when she figured discretion was the better part of valor. We were able to pick her up and have Sunday dinner with her anyway, and returned her safely after helping her with some errands. It was Peter's last family dinner before heading off to college, so I'm glad we were able to have her over.)
This is what it looked like outside my sewing room window this morning. Very pretty! And a good day to stay in and sew!  Fortunately for all scrap quilters everywhere, New Year's day marked the release of the final clue in the Allietare mystery quilt by Bonnie Hunter, and we all have something to work on.  It is such a pretty pattern, and I'm really excited to see it come together.  There are many others doing their interpretation of this design -- check them out at the Quiltville blog link-up party.  You can also find links there to download the pattern clues, for a limited time, if you missed it.
Here's what my design wall looks like at the moment.  I decided not to remove the rainbow string star underneath, but just pin the Allietare stars up to see the pattern develop.  So far I've made about 25 of the main stars and 4 of the Pisa blocks.  I also re-discovered that basket of flannels when I was attempting to tidy up some things, and started piecing a scrappy flannel baby quilt as leaders-and-enders, which are pinned on the right. There are three quilts on my design wall (which is not really big enough for a bed-sized quilt), and about 7 others in various stages scattered throughout my sewing room. My sewing room messy?  No, I'm just a creative genius!
 It's pretty, the way those patterns play off each other.  I still like my light gray, even though it's a bit subtle. It saves something to enjoy close-up. If I hustle, I might even get the blocks done today. But probably not. It's a good day for not-hustling.
Flannel baby quilts... my mother-in-law made several for my kids and they loved them to death.  These are some scraps from her as well as flannels I have saved for years.  I'm trying to clear them out.  They're just 4.5" squares.  I'll probably back them with more flannel and not put in any batting. It's a good, flexible but comfy weight that way.

I haven't set any quilting goals for 2016, or knitting goals, or anything. I'm still recovering from the great quilting wasteland of 2015, and hoping to finish a few things, that's about all.  Maybe in a month or so I'll figure out some concrete objectives.  The biggest challenge will be getting back onto the quilting machine. I have had my Farmer's Wife quilt on there for about 2 years now with very little progress in the last year. Yikes!