Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Perfect English Summer Day

Happy to be back in South Dakota!

It is a perfect English summer's day, the temperature is about 55, it is very damp, drippy & overcast, looks like more rain. There is no snow, the lawn is greening up, some of my plants have unexpectedly survived the winter and so have the ones that were supposed to. Spring is just around the corner. This is actually pretty much the same weather I left behind in Hawaii and I like it.

Lori picked me up in Sioux Falls in my normal state of full on streaming allergy attack and some hours later poured me into my house, then shut the door and left me blessedly alone with a box of Puffs. There is something on the Delta Connection planes which fly from Minneapolis that 'gets me' every time.

Yesterday I went through a month's worth of mail, paid all the bills, napped a lot and just enjoyed being back. I do love my cozy little house but, unfortunately for me, I also love my husband and his job is not in South Dakota so I can't stay here forever.

I didn't have time to sew at all in Hawaii. Today I planned to put together the throw shown below. It is called Mary's Four Patches and the pattern (and picture and kitty) are from Country Threads of Iowa.

I made the four patches as leaders & enders last year, mostly of scraps salvaged from Lori's trash box. The setting squares and triangles are a dark jade tone on tone from Lori's stash which she bought many years ago. All ready to go except for the borders.

The first thing I did was to sew one of the smaller corner triangles to a four patch for a setting triangle. Oops! After unpicking I found the correct triangle in the box and carefully sewed it on with the wrong side up. Ah!

Maybe it is time for a nap.

Y'all come back!

Friday, April 26, 2013


Flowers of Pride-of-India (Chinaberry) tree, called Inia in Hawaii

Click to enlarge

So many names for one tree, Melia azedarach is a member of the mahogany family;
  • Pride-of-India,
  • Persian Lilac,
  • Bead Tree,
  • White Cedar,
  • Chinaberry,
  • Indian Lilac,
  • Umbrella Tree,
  • and it is called Inia in Hawaii.

Inia is comfortable in USDA Zones 7 through 11, it is both deciduous and will tolerate an occasional hard freeze. Although it is fairly short lived it is a good shade tree. The flowers have quite a strong fragrance. Everybody's sense of smell is different but to me it smells like Buddleia which also has a lot of names

I grew this from seed, it is about 7 years old and this is the first year it has flowered heavily. Yesterday it blew down in strong winds.
I am sad, but all is not lost, sometimes Inia will grow back from a stump and I have another one which has grown through the bottom of its pot.

Y'all come back!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Peacocks On The Roof & The Old Avocado Tree

A young peacock on the roof of our lean-to shed. He and his wife visit almost every day because somebody throws yummy lay pellets up there. Isn't he just gorgeous? I particularly like his little white pantaloons. I am not sure when the tail feathers grow but will be sure to take pictures if I am here. Click pictures to embiggen.

The shed is attached to the garage directly opposite the deck and shaded by the same incredibly messy avocado tree. Not to say that this particular tree is messy, they are all just messy in general. The cycle is as follows starting in February:
  • All the leaves fall off. There are lots of leaves.
  • Flowers form, many flowers, then 98% of the flowers fall off, you can see flowers behind the peacocks head on the right.
  • New leaves grow and baby fruit. Shoots to make new branches.
  • All summer the tree provides dense shade which cools about half our house. Dried up branches & twigs fall constantly,together with immature fruit
  • Generally around November 'Green Bomb Season' starts. Large avocados hit the tin roof with a thunderous crash and rumble roll noisily down to drop with a thud on the ground.
  • We all eat avocados until we can't stand the sight of them. Humans, dogs, chickens, sheep and Mr Quigly the pig.

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Design Wall April Fools Day

Saturday it was almost 70ยบ, I sat on the porch, the birds were singing and little green things were visible in the garden. Yesterday it snowed, and froze, hard.

Last week was the unpicking week. Don't ask .. a border I didn't like, another one that was so wavy it was seasick, a sashing strip that mysteriously moved 1/8" over and wasn't noticed until I went to press it.

Domiciles is done and on the design wall so I can admire it. See many other quilter's design walls at Patchwork Times.

No two house blocks are alike although some fabrics have been used several times. The blocks with tiny houses were done 'freestyle'. Some are short and stout, others tall and skinny. There is a barn with a tall grain bin. Very tiny scraps were used and that part was fun.

Only the bias binding to make and the backing to piece, then it goes into a bag to wait it's turn to be quilted.

Y'all come back!

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I love to read. At home I have an enormous collection of books. Almost every wall has a bookshelf, yes even in the bathroom. I am one of those people who will re-read a book, more than once.

In South Dakota I haven't stopped buying books but I treated myself to the most basic model Kindle and now I am reading more downloaded books than 'real' ones. I enjoy the convenience of being able to carry it in my purse. If I am waiting for Lori who likes to shop a lot more than I do, I can find a place to sit and read.

Although I am told repeatedly that this is a very mild winter it has been cold. Some days I only go outside because Boysie needs to 'go' outside. On days like that I read more.

This week I have finished reading The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig. It is a novel set in rural eastern Montana 100 years ago, written from the view point of Paul who is thirteen years old. I enjoyed it so much that I bought a paper copy, it is a keeper.You can read the publishers blurb and the reviews via the link above.

If I had to describe this book in one word I think it would be "evocative".

It is set in the era of homesteading prairie farmers and their children who attended a one-room schoolhouse. Although the family is not dirt poor their way of life was hard enough to make me very grateful for what we have today.

I am sure the quality of schools 100 years ago was dependent (as it is for the most part today) on the quality of teaching, but I can't help feeling that children were better educated in their eight years of compulsory schooling than many are today after twelve years. Where did we go wrong? What do you think?

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Monday, March 18, 2013

On My Design Wall Today

This is "Cotton Garden" by Margaret Languedoc of the Pattern Basket. It is a UFO and I wrote about it previously here and here.

The pattern called for 30 blocks set 5 x 6 with 1-1/2" sashings between to yield a 56" x 74" quilt.This was a bit smaller than I wanted, so I planned changes, including upping the sashing width to 2".

It wasn't until after I had carefully set out all my blocks, adding an extra row of five that I realized I would then have a very long and still very skinny quilt. Ooops! Rearranged to a 6 x 6 setting my quilt will finish to at least 70" square, possibly larger depending on my border width choice.

I will finish the last three blocks today. Then I will wait for the batiks I ordered from Hancocks of Paducah to arrive so I can cut and piece the sashings and borders. See many other design walls at Patchwork Times

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Take Care of the Pennies

Lori introduced me to the wonders of Clorox Kitchen spray last year. I love the stuff, it works miracles on stained tea cups, sanitizes surfaces and kitchen tools (I eat a lot of chicken) and is easy and convenient to use.

Unfortunately it is a bit expensive and I go through quite a lot. I have bought generic brands which seem to work just as well, but they are not exactly cheap either!

I was looking at yet another empty bottle and saw the ingredients. Basically water, chlorine bleach and a surfectant. Those ingredients are cheap.

Here is my recipe for home made bleach kitchen spray. It makes enough for one recycled 32oz spray bottle:
4 tablespoons bleach
1 tablespoon of liquid soap
Fill with cold water (hot water decreases efficiency of bleach) and use.

Caution! be sure your liquid soap is just soap. Adding anything containing ammonia to a chlorine product can produce harmful chlorine gas.

Approximate cost is about 6c a bottle based on $1.49 per gallon for bleach. Now that is some serious saving!

Y'all come back!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

No, You Will Not Sew

I had planned . . .

. . . but Bella had other plans.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cotton Garden Process

In the process of making my Cotton Garden quilt blocks I have deviated from the instructions in the pattern a few times. The blocks are 8" which will finish to 7-1/2" in the completed quilt. There are 29 pieces per block and obviously most of them are quite small.

The pattern designer suggests drawing a diagonal line on each of the sixteen 1" squares which segment the petals, but with a square that small I chose to simply point and shoot stitch, saving the not inconsiderable hassle of drawing 480 pencil lines. If it is very 'off' I unpick and throw away the offending square! Yes I do, so far only once by the way and that was Kitty Bella's fault; which is a whole different post. Click images to embiggen.

The pattern calls for trimming off the corners 1/8" away from the resulting seam then pressing four of the segments in one direction and the other four the opposite way so they 'nest' when two of the sub-units are joined for each side of the block. Personally I find stitch and flip corners tend to warp even when I press (not iron) carefully. This might just be me but it is real. On these tiny corners I trim away the excess background fabric but leave the focus fabric of the corner intact, see the photo above. This gives me a guideline for trimming and to some extent helps stabilize the corner without adding much in the way of bulk. I then press that seam open.

I do not stress when my triangle seams don't meet perfectly (within reason,) anyone who has a need to inspect my quilt that closely is unlikely to ever have the opportunity to do so. In the immortal words of Auntie May "If you can't think of something nice to say just keep your mouth shut." Bless her heart.

Finally, when adding the joined 'petal segments' to the center square I press the first two sides in towards the square. This allows me to press the second pair and the corner square seams outwards, preventing a lump where the triangle seam and corner squares meet.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Last Monday in February

Click to embiggen images

I have been clearing up the scraps and putting things away this last week more than sewing. Among the things discovered were these five completed blocks from a pattern by Canadian designer Margot Languedoc called Cotton Garden.

I love love love the look!

I thought about throwing them into the strippy, briefly, and if I change my mind or get distracted again, well, that is always an option.

The project as designed requires 30 x 8" blocks set with sashing and when I started it I thought it was ideal to showcase the delicious 10" Tonga Treat pre-cuts in Pomegranate I have been hoarding.

Not a difficult block to make and I don't recall how I got distracted. Anyway goals for this week:
  • make another five Cotton Garden blocks
  • make border, piece the backing and make the bias binding for Domiciles

Check out lots of other Design Wall Monday blog posts at Patchwork Times

Y'all come back!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Waiting for the Storm

We had a storm warning, it was not been as bad as initially forecast, so far. We had about 4" of snow last night and more is expected. The sound of the wind howling, keening, singing and sighing through the grain elevators about 1/2 block from my house is one I will forever associate with my stay in South Dakota. My home in Hawaii is in a very windy area so I am used to wind noises, (not that there is any comparison in temperatures of course) but I do like the extra, slightly eerie dimension the elevators contribute.

I can't help thinking about the homesteading pioneers in South Dakota. No tee-vee machine, interwebz or radio, living in a shack built out of sod if they were lucky or an uninsulated wooden shack if they were not. What a hard life they had and how comparatively easy we have things today. How lonely those bitter winters must have been. They were a hardy breed as were their children, the generation that is almost gone now.

The other day I read a blog post written in May of 2010 about
"... quilting blogs where we don’t just show finishes or occasionally confess about our moments of indecision, but chat openly and often about our works in progress, our inspirations, and our moments of decision."
This struck a chord with me and reading further I saw that over 850 quilt bloggers had signed up and linked to it. I was quite surprised because I do not recall ever seeing that particular button on any of the many blogs I visit. On the other hand it is quite old so maybe it was a passing fad, but it made a lot of sense.

This brings me to the batik windmill blocks I had made. I saw the project as a wall-hanging or very small lap quilt in an old magazine of Lori's and it caught my fancy as such things are wont to do. After making three of them I knew I didn't want to do another 27 for an entire quilt.

They are an odd size, about 13" because I put narrow sashing and a cornerstone in the middle. I did that because I just did not like the way the block looked with the fairly ugly and very mismatched "bought in a moment of madness bargain bundle of batiks" I decided to use. What to do? Waste not want not and all that. This is a moment of indecision if there ever was one...

I have some thoughts, mainly in the direction of a row or horizontal strippy quilt. This might (partially) solve my butterfly moments problem. What do you think? If I do go that route, what should I choose for my next row?

Y'all come back!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Design Wall Monday

Very little on my design wall this Monday and this is a good thing! It means I am getting stuff done. Top left are four blocks for, one day, a scrappy blues Ocean wave quilt. They just sit there from week to week because I like looking at them.

Top right, I have added quite a few 2-1/2" triangles to my ongoing 'leaders & enders' Thousands of Triangles quilt. All the triangles are bonus triangles from various projects; most recently the little red houses blocks. I join them into sets of sixteen to make an eight inch block. If I live long enough one day I will have a bed size quilt.

Bottom left are two batik windmill blocks. This is my present to myself for being a good girl and completing two UFOs, I get to create another one, but only 4 blocks, then it is back to turning UFPs into happy dances! Woo-hoo!

Mt Domiciles top is pieced, all that remains to do is make a narrow border, piece the backing and make the bias binding.

Check out lots of other Design Wall Monday blog posts at Patchwork Times

Y'all come back!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Silently Falling

This morning it is curiously warm, probably because there isn't a breath of wind.

The white spots in the picture are enormous snowflakes, falling straight down.

I was amused by Boysie snapping at snowflakes landing on his back as if they were flies. Little things please little minds! Since the snow was literally hock deep for him at a little over 6" on my measuring stick, he didn't waste a lot of time before asking to go back inside. That dog hates wet feet.

My plans for today are simple:
  • finish sewing rows together on my Domiciles quilt,
  • find a border & binding fabric,
  • make a narrow border & bias binding,
  • catch up on some friends blogs, and,
  • finish reading (re-reading) The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye while curled up in my chair, drinking tea.

Y'all come back!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Red and White

In October 2011 I saw a simple red and white quilt on my friend Jay's blog, Midwest Quilts. I don't know why it caught my imagination. All I can tell you is that I went and dug out all my ancient red scraps mostly from a 1999 Fat Quarter Bingo win and made my own version of it. With all the ancient and ugly red scraps used I was able to buy lots of lovely new reds with a clear conscience.

Click any image to embiggen (I hope)

I dug out some backing fabric, made some bias binding and sent it off to Lori to quilt.

Lori didn't like the backing and she hated the binding so it sat, unloved, on a shelf.

When I came back to South Dakota last year I brought some chicken fabric with me. I bought it in 1996 from JoAnns, mainly because of its name. Who could resist "Tossed Chickens"?. Those were the days when they had nice fabric, before they got so cheap in quality and expensive in price.

The chicken fabric met with Lori's approval. Phew!

The finished quilt measures approximately 60" x 72". It was quilted and bound by Lori. The large Hibiscus pantograph is by Diff'rent Strokes, and as you can see, the quilt is undergoing the nap test.

Done is a feel good moment and this is Number Two for 2013.

Y'all come back!

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Little Helper & Friends

Bella is very attached, and needy. She was very ill when I found her but physically fine now. She positions herself strategically between both computers. She seems to like the fact that my mouse hand is constantly touching her.

Dottie is much more independent. Her main concern is that the food bowl is kept full. She is much older than the other two who are still kittens.

Boysie is a Jack Russell Terrier, also a rescuee, we adopted him and a cat when his previous owner had an ultimatum from her employer/landlord... He will be three years old May 1st. Sandy is exploring the vacuum cleaner box and Boysie would dearly like to get in there too but he is just too big, or the box is too small, or something. Bummer.

Bella and Dottie share a deep appreciation of quilts, especially when they are on a bed. This is a scientific nap test.

Y'all come back!

Monday Design Wall

Having cleared all the works in not very much progress off my design wall, this is the current project to be finished before I even look at anything else! It is my Domiciles house quilt, pattern by Aardvark Quilts, available here with free S & H.

This pattern is not the tiny paper pieced houses that had such a following last year. These blocks are 6" finished, quite small enough, thank you

I am having difficulty keeping blocks up on the design wall.

Kitty Bella has developed a passion for the yellow glass head pins I use. As fast as I put blocks up she takes them down and runs off with the pins.

I had six rows arranged before she fixed it! Grrrr!

See lots more design walls at Patchwork Times.
Y'all come back!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Snowy Saturday Houses

I woke this morning to a dusting of snow. It is quite lovely. Being from the islands I am thrilled by the snow. Boysie, not so much. He is thin coated and I think his toes get cold, but you know, everything is bearable when you have a red ball.
I have been avoiding new projects and plan to actually finish some of the things I started since getting here.

First step to accomplishing this was to find them all, there are rather a lot!

I cleared off the design wall, made a list and noted what needed to be done to each one. Then I sorted and bagged the pieces, the fabric and the pattern with my "to do" note.

Number One was the project which required the least effort. The blue and green batik kit quilt. Finishing it only involved one corner, trimming to square, piecing a backing and making bias binding. "Done" is a virtuous feel good moment. Onward

Next on the piecing list is the Domiciles red houses quilt. When I started it I thought the pattern size of 48" x 60" was pretty wimpy and useless for anything other than a wall hanging or baby quilt. Mine was going to be bigger! Much BIGGER! Then I got tired of it, the butterfly brain went "Oh look" and found another project. The house quilt languished and sulked in a pile of fabric. So sad.

My method for small block scrappy quilts is to start making blocks and stop when I run out of fabric or enthusiasm. I had made 66 blocks plus one four house block. The pattern supplies a paper piecing template for the teeny houses but I do not enjoy paper piecing so I winged it on mine, the houses are a little wonky (but charmingly so) and I prefer wonky to picking bits of paper off the block any day of the week.

My get it done plan is to make a total of 99 blocks, set 9 x 11 and add a 3" border to yield a 60" x 72" top. Not a lot bigger than the pattern but a good size for a snuggle up to read quilt or a bed topper.

Goal for the week:
  • make at least 16 house blocks
  • start laying them out in rows on the design wall
  • paw through my stash and probably Lori's stash too for the backing, binding and border fabric

Y'all come back!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust

The best way to describe today's weather is "raw". It is not that cold, around 34°F but the humidity is 100%. As it is not actually raining we have fog.

This brief tropical interlude mid-winter has caused much of the snow to melt, into slush, mud interspersed with sheet ice. Cold + damp = raw. Very British.

So, what bit the dust? A UFO bit the dust, the first 'finish' of the year... Here it is:
Click photos to enlarge
This was a kit bought on sale for under $50 from Connecting Threads. I can claim no credit whatsoever for the fabric choices.

The fabrics are from their own line of batiks (which are incredibly well priced) and the pattern is called Fabric Dance by Grizzly Gulch Gallery.

It uses just five fabrics pieced into four patches and alternating five inch squares set on point. This would be a wonderful first quilt project and I had fun with it too. The backing, shown below, was off a bolt I bought a few years back.

It was quilted and bound by Lori. The pantograph is "Flowing Feathers" by Australian designer Hermione Agee of Lorien Quilting.
I used to be quite snooty about quilt kits, I mean, who needs a kit? Well I was wrong wrong wrong. What a quilt snob I was!

Quite often kits are a bargain. You get just as much fabric as you need with a generous fudge factor for cutting oopsies (in most cases) and, when you add in the pattern and the convenience it is a no brainer, literally.

A word to the wise. Most kits assume you will use straight grain strips for the binding and calculate fabric quantities accordingly. I prefer bias binding. The binding gets the most wear on a quilt and bias binding is strongest. I always order at least an extra yard of the binding fabric.

Have you ever made a kit?

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013


I don't know if it is a symptom of aging or lack of focus, or both, but I am increasingly unable to start something and progress through until it is finished. I have always been a 'small bites list' person but these days I don't even get around to making a list, then not much gets done.

The number of 'works in progress' is becoming alarming, and they are not progressing. Butterflies in the brain, that's what it is. Is there a solution? I am working on it but there had better be!

Hippeastrum White Christmas
The halfway point seems to be the slipping point. I start out with tremendous enthusiasm and about half way through "Oh look! That's nice, I want to make that!" and I am off in a completely different direction. So far I seem to be running at the rate of about one stalled project a month.

My White Christmas Amaryllis in bloom, snow outside. Click picture to enlarge This is a butterfly moment. Not flea brain as some people say, butterflies, much prettier. Oh look there is a flower! Isn't it pretty?

Step one, make a list. Step two, kill Lori when she helpfully points out the omissions.

Happy New Year to all!

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