Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Catching up . . .

Long time since I posted, but I've had a house guest, not to mention a bout of shingles. Boo-hiss! I'm a cheap drunk . . . used to go to nickel beer night, and take a dime . . . so, I usually respond well to medications, too. Since I last suffered this malady, the medication routine has changed, and I didn't feel so much like a zombie . . . or like I'd been on a 10-cent drunk! The biggest aftermath that I have noticed, fortunately, is a lack of stamina, but that's building up, too, and I'd say I'm back to 98% normal . . . whatever that is!
My house guest has been our eldest niece, who lives about one hour from Lafayette. Her mother is DH's eldest sister, with a 28 year gap between the two of them, not to mention 6 more brothers, and 4 more sisters. Helen, at 92, has been at the nursing home across the street from our home since last May, after falling down the stairs, and breaking her leg and wrist. She suffers the symptoms of Alzheimer's, and Jane, her daughter, is the only person she recognizes most of the time. With our 20 inches of snow, and road closings, we were delighted to have Jane stay with us. She's a wonderful guest, and we actually had a lot of fun. She said it's been the longest vacation she was ever on . . . about 3 1/2 weeks actually, but it went by so quickly, it seemed like a mere weekend.
Knowing my fondness for old quilts, Jane brought this Double Wedding Ring beauty, made by her paternal grandmother. It is a feast for the eyes with the striking red background, and the piecing is a festival of 20's and 30's prints, including some feed sack prints. As the pictures show, it is in marvelous condition.
Last weekend, Jane needed to check in at home, and there was an auction . . . surprise, surprise . . . so, we had breakfast, and piled into the van for a trip to Monticello. The auctioneer is not one of my favorites. For one thing, when the price offered isn't what he thinks it should be, he berates the crowd, telling them they should check "downtown" to see the value of the object. He also will arbitrarily remove items from the sale if he doesn't like the price offered . . which is a clear violation of the law. If it's advertised without a reserve, he has a legal obligation to sell it. Needless to say, his crowd usually thins out pretty quickly, and at the end, he is subject to selling tables full of items for $1. To make matters worse, he makes derogatory comments against a religious entity, and everyone there wonders how he can be so politically incorrect in these times.
We did buy just a couple things. DH scored a small metal Lily thread cabinet, and a box full of old wooden spools. He found about a dozen Lily spools which will go in the cabinet. There was also a grocery sack full of knitting needles, so he bought that for me. (At that point, Jane and I had gone to her house.) There was another cache of embroidery kits of various types, that he bid on, and the lady who won the bid was kind enough to give me about ten circular knitting needles she found in the bottom of that bag. When DH bid on the bag of knitting needles, he didn't realize they had thrown in four boxes of yarns that were under the table. I found more needles in that stash. The knitter had been a maker of afghans, and there were multiple skeins of acrylic yarns included in those boxes. DH will take all that bounty to our Senior Citizens Center, where the ladies make afghans and other items for sale in their gift shop. We finally have convinced them that sending us a thank you note each time we bring yarn is an unnecessary expense. We are happy that they can put it to use, and that's thanks enough.
My sock knitting frenzy continues. I started a pair of a lace pattern, but have decided that using the self-striping yarns is entertainment enough, and I enjoy the rhythm of just making plain socks. I've also knitted another sweater for my grandson's "American Boy", and my grand-daughter's American Girl has a fun little vest with a turquoise yarn with nubbies of pink, purple, yellow, and green. I used the purl side of stockinette because it seems more of the nubbies show. Both were fun, and fast to produce.
It's time once again to "plow" my studio, which hasn't yet recovered from my Miss Mary's Retreat. I need to take quite a few of the UFO's down to the basement to "mature", and focus on finishing one or two tops. I'm sure my knitting frenzy will be put aside for quilting again because next Saturday, a few of us are heading to Bloomington, Indiana, for the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show, which will be inspiring. I'm trying to stay on a "fabric diet" for this event. We'll see how that goes!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hot knitting!

I've been on a knitting frenzy for several weeks, mostly knitting socks with the fun, self-striping yarns, but including an occasional solid color. The deep purple are a pair for my sister-in-law, and the yarn has little color slubs scattered throughout it. I worked the ribbing in a mock cable, which is very subtle. I think she will enjoy them.

My grand-daughter has American Girl dolls, and in my never ending quest for the title of "Nana of the Year", I have made several sweaters for her collection. The most recently finished just needed buttons and finishing, but I kept putting it off. Finally, I sat down one evening, and completed the yellow vest with daisy buttons, and a light purple "Henley" style for her.

My 3-year-old grandson, Ben, watching his sister play, has been pleading his case for an American "Boy". So, recently, he acquired his version . . . a Cabbage Patch doll, which he promptly named, "Addy", for his brother. One of his first efforts was to try to put his sister's American Girl sweaters on his American Boy. Later that evening, I received a phone call from him, with the assistance of his giggling older sister reporting that the doll needed clothes, and Ben told me he wanted a sweater, too.

The sewing machine assisted in the assembly of a couple shirts, and a pair of purple jeans. One of the shirts has Batman and Robin on it, favorites of Ben. The other has crayons and star buttons, though the closures are velcro to make it easier for those chubby, little, cute hands.

I scouted around, and was fortunate to locate a booklet of sweater patterns on E-Bay. Naturally, no price was too high, when it is for one's grandchild, but I negotiated a nice reasonable price, and as soon as it arrived, commenced knitting with choices made from a basket of yarns left from other projects. For Ben, I was careful to select easily washable yarns, but I have been known to use mohair for his sister's dolls. Projects completed include the green "snowsuit", complete with cable sweater, hat and pants, and a couple pullovers. The turquoise one was actually one I started for his sister's doll, but the gauge was out of whack and it was going to be too large. Once I had the knitting book, I proportioned sleeves to fit the front and back already completed, and was one project to the good in very short order. The last sweater shown was an ombre yarn pullover, with buttons on the shoulders. I can't wait to see that cute little face when I get to give these to him. Unfortunately, the heavy winter storm which attacked us Tuesday forced me to cancel my trip to Virginia today. But, I'll re-schdule soon, and that just gives me a bit more time to keep knitting . . . working on purple socks for grand-daughter's doll at the moment!

Continuing the thread . . . .

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Another auction score!

It's winter, so that means it is also "refinishing season" for my DH. Here's one of his latest efforts with a sewing box. The top drawer is false, and actually lifts up to reveal a small compartment. It appears to have three additional drawers, however, the bottom two are actually a single combination providing a deeper drawer. It was ratty, and dirty, and scratched, but, once again, his skill has triumphed.
The little sewing machine on top was a surprise. We were at an auction, and I had not even seen the machine, though it was listed in the sale ad. Bidding began, and I looked around for DH, believing he was on the other side of the building where they were selling tools. I couldn't see him behind me, but that was where the bidding was originating. Another frequent auction attendee, Bill, usually buys sewing machines and restores them for sale on E-Bay, so I thought he must be after the prize. I just kept to my knitting, firm in the belief that it would sell at a price well beyond my budget. The winning bid was hammered, and the machine carried to the back of the room behind me. Imagine my surprise when the ring man turned and brought it to me! I nearly jumped out of my seat. Behind me, peaking around a pillar, I spotted Norm. So, this little Betsy Ross toy machine, manufactured by Gibraltar Manufacturing in the 1950's in New Jersey, has a cherished spot in our home.
We're looking forward to an auction on Saturday. My niece has been spending a few days with us to be in closer proximity to her mother, my DH's eldest sister, who is 92, and in the nursing home located across the street from our house. Jane asked Norm if he knew anything about old foreign monies, and he reported he had a few contacts, though he felt his knowledge was limited. A few days later, she returned and brought a box of coins, both foreign and American money. A couple interesting pieces included coins minted in the New Orleans mint, which closed in 1905. He helped her catalog her pieces, and contacted an auctioneer who specializes in coins. The auctioneer had a cancellation, so her coins will be substituted and offered to the public on Saturday. I'll report how she does, but we both gasped when she said she nearly took the American money, rolled it into coin wrappers, and cashed it in for face value. There were a number of 1800's coins that are pure silver. It will be nice to see her achieve a little extra pocket money for something that has been in her closet for years!
No one will be surprised to learn that I also bought a box of knitting needles at the sale. Actually, they had a needle roll with about 20 pairs of straight needles in it. The bidding quickly went to about $25, which was still a bargain, but more than I wanted to spend on knitting needles I didn't need. I set my sites on a long box that had circular needles, straight needles, double-pointed needles, and other knitting notions, just dumped into it. Successful bid was $17.50, which yielded 27 sets of straights, 34 double-points, and 26 circular. There were a number of odd needles, but I pulled out my little stash of "orphans" at home, and was able to pair up an additional four pair of straight needles, as well as three sets of double-points, matching not only size, but color and manufacturer. When I teach someone to knit, I launch them into their new hobby with as complete a set of needles as I can provide, to encourage them to keep with it. (I've also been known to share when someone is desperately seeking something hard to find.)
Next post, I'll show the results of my current knitting frenzy in my quest for title of "Nana of the Year".

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Retreat Results

Retreat came and went in a whirlwind. Of course, I had projects for about two weeks, upon review. But I did get quite a bit accomplished. First, i worked on a couple of my red and white Kansas Troubles blocks, just to get warmed up.

Then, I attacked the "scrap box". Last year, Linda G. was working from a bright yellow shoe box of scraps, making a pieced setting for some of the Lorilei girls. She was going to toss the remainder of the scraps, but I protested, and she gave the box to me. I got out my box of Kabnet Wax deli paper (see Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville website), marked a 10 1/2 inch square, with a 2" wide diagonal line for the purpose of centering my starter strip. I chose a white background with small black stars to be the constant fabric. Also in the box were some black as well as white half-square triangles for a 3" finish. Centering my starter strip, I just began adding bright strips of various sizes, to the point where the half-square would fit in the corner. Just worked with my "hand-me-down" strips at first. Since Miss Mary's Quilting Cottage is right next door to the Quilter's Harvest, we had to make a daily foray into the shop, just in case we may have missed something on a previous visit. I selected about ten fat quarters to add to the mix, and just kept going. We also made a "field trip" to Sew Creative, to visit our Mary J., who was working that day. A quick stop at my house, to grab a tub of brights, and I managed to assemble about 20 blocks. I'm planning to make about 28 more. It's going to be bright and fun, don't you think?

What may even be more fun is that we have launched a new tradition with the original yellow shoe box. I've added strips, and as soon as I complete my blocks, I'm passing it along to Ginny K. to play with it. It should be interesting to examine the fabrics when the box has made a full round to see if any of the original fabrics remain.

Next up, the quest of assembling the two remaining sets of shop hop blocks from the four shop hops I participated in in 2006. I had taken time to cut all the pieces, so I merely needed to open each packet and sew them together. With the good journaling habits I've learned from Laura, I pasted each instruction sheet into my journal, noting which shop distributed it, and the date I assembled it. Next project will be to descide on a set. The pinks and turquoises are the 2006 Flamingo Trot blocks from Tampa, Florida, area.

The last packet of shop hop blocks were from the 2006 Paducah Booth Hop featuring Judy Martin's fabric line for Timeless Treasures. I have always loved Judy's approach to quilt making. She doesn't rely on short cuts so much, but offers correct cutting instructions for perfect assembly. Ive managed to collect all of her books. Her book, "Scrap Quilts", has seen so many miles of use, that I had to take it to Kinko's to have plastic covers and coiled binding added to keep it together.
I think I made a remarkable amount of progress. Nothing can explain the fun, and how hard we laughed. There isn't any kind of "training" that prepares one for the aching sides from laughing. What a gift . . . friendship is the thread that quilts our hearts together.