STITCH LINES...... Ramblings on life as a quilter, stitcher, traveler, photographer, gardener and lover of books, cats and fine chocolate....

Thursday, January 31, 2013

H'mong Applique

Pa'ndau, framed at 15" square

I purchased another Hmong applique recently and just got it back from the framer. I now have a nice grouping of three for my studio wall. I have shown the others previously - you can see them at the end of this post. These amazing pieces of handwork are known as pa'ndau (pronounced "pan-dow") by their makers - the H'mong women of northern Thailand where it meets Burma and Laos. Pa'ndau is translated as "flower cloth". This extraordinary needlework has long been a part of that culture, with H'mong girls beginning to learn the stitches at five years of age. The H'mong people have no written language so rituals and artistry have been vital in keeping their culture alive.

I am always interested to see needlework from other cultures - not only the stitches, but the designs, the use of color, etc. I feel very fortunate to own three pa'ndau. I would love to see these being done - the stitching is so fine (both in quality and size). I wonder how long each one takes... what type of needles they use, what conditions they are made under... Wouldn't their "Show and Tell" be an amazing experience??!!!


"What we are is God's gift to us. What we become is our gift to God." ~  Eleanor Powell

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Hate Spam!

I do hate spam! I know, hate is a strong word and I try not to use it often. I'm not talking the "luncheon meat" here (although I'm not fond of it either). I'm talking about the anonymous comments that bloggers get, clogging up their inboxes and sometimes actually appearing under blog comments. Since I took off the Word Verification on my Comments, I usually get upwards of half a dozen per day. A bit of a pain, but it's manageable. I just delete them and keep on going. Few actually show up on my blog. But today- I seem to have been hit with a flurry of spam comments - over 50 so far. So I have disabled "Anonymous Comments" on my blog for now. I'll leave it for a few days and see if that helps. Those of you without google accounts who use anonymous comments (Jeanne Kaye, Lucy, etc.) will have to be patient for a few days, until this darn spam robot gets fed up and moves on.... Then I'll change the settings back....


A person of words and not of deeds, is like a garden full of weeds. ~ Anonymous

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Little Color in a White World..

Only one who has had an amaryllis really understands the "anticipation" as you watch this wonderful bulb produce its regal blooms atop towering stalks. Several weeks ago, after my Christmas red amaryllis had finished blooming (2 stalks and 8 blooms), I cut the stalks down and resigned myself to watching the (somewhat boring) leaves grow. Just a few days later, I noticed something else...could it be? In another day or two it became clear that yes, it was another bud. I had never seen this happen before (and I have had quite a few amaryllis over the years).

So I've been enjoying the entire process again, from the same bulb. Lucky me!! Now in full bloom, it has reached a height of  19.5 " from pot edge to tip of blossom. These are such amazing plants, well worth the investment. There are days when you truly feel you can see them growing. Once the bud cracks open to reveal the tightly furled petals, it is several more days before they actually open; you can watch things "shift into place" as each vertical bloom bud moves down into a horizontal position so each large funnel-shaped blossom will have space to open. Nature is amazing, for sure...

Watching the daily growth progress, seeing the buds crack open and the petals "color up",  the petals open into the huge blossoms, the entire thing is one of nature's  miracles. I am always fascinated by the long slender stamens, tipped with pollen covered anthers. The petals are velvety and there is more "variation" in the red coloring than shows here.

Even the back side of the blooms is interesting, don't you think? Look at the coloring - how the red shades almost to a purple... If I was a little buzzy bee, I'm sure I would be attracted to this beauty if it was in the garden!! Wouldn't you?

Amaryllis (pronounced am-a-RILL-iss) is a small genus of flowering bulbs with two species. The better known of the two species, Amaryllis belladonna, is a native of South Africa. They are widely available in early winter, often already potted up in time for Christmas blooming.

And.... I have another bulb sprouted; I'm not sure which one it is, so the blossom color will be a surprise. (I should label the pots.) So stay tuned for more photos - I'm happy to share some more of nature's beauty with you... especially in the midst of winter.


"Nature is the art of God." ~ Dante

Friday, January 25, 2013


I have been slowly working away at the borders of my Talkin' Turkey quilt. Of course this involves a whole lot more cutting... so the progress is not as fast as I would like. I think I have now decided what I'm going to do, but because I promised you a look at my two options, here they are. I just laid this out on my studio floor and placed the two options at one corner so you can see them both  at the same time. The first option (across the bottom) is just a "piano key" border - varying widths of red strips - quick and easy. The other option is flying geese units on either side of the piano key border (a whole lot more cutting and work). Which do you prefer? Be honest, tell me which you would do like best. Thanks for your help...  Now, back to the cutting table...


Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. ~ Author unknown

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Good Weather for Reading...

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson is the story of Feng, a young Chinese woman of the 1930's who must "follow the path of duty". Feng grew up as the neglected "second daughter" destined to care for her parents as they age; her older sister has been pampered and spoiled, in preparation for a marriage into a wealthy family. When her older sister suddenly falls ill and dies, Feng is thrust into her sister's place in the arranged marriage, thus "saving face" for her family. Feng is poorly prepared for the subservient role she must play in her new family where her father-in-law and his two wives treat her cruelly. Feng becomes bitter and resentful and plans her revenge, a choice she will regret for the rest of her life.
I really enjoy a story which gives one a good look at another culture. Jepson's debut novel paints a rich picture of family relationships in early nineteenth century China, the disparity between the wealthy and the poor and the sweeping changes brought by the Communist Revolution. If you enjoyed reading Memoirs of a Geisha, or any of Lisa See's novels, I'm sure you'll enjoy this book too.
I hope you have a good book to snuggle up with on these cold winter nights.  Our forecast for tonight says temps (with wind chill) of minus 35 to minus 38!! Brrrrrr......... You know this chickie will not be poking her nose out the door...


"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." ~   Charles W. Eliot

Monday, January 21, 2013

Blue Monday...

Silly me! The day is almost over and I just realized it's "Blue Monday". Supposedly the toughest day of the year.. (maybe because the credit card bill just arrived?) Well to me it sounds like the perfect excuse to  celebrate the most beautiful color of all (in my humble opinion!)  Lest some of you start thinking I'm headed over to the dark side with all this talk lately about red....  lol
So, since we are in the depths of winter and I'm already getting tired of white... here's a collage of  a few of my fav pics from my garden, featuring that beautiful color BLUE! Enjoy! I hope it brightens up your Monday, especially if it was blue!


"Nature is a painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty." ~ John Ruskin

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Big Reveal

 Well here it is. Finally!! No doubt you are getting tired of hearing about this quilt by now.You've likely been thinking  Will she EVER finish this one? Of course it isn't finished yet - still three borders to go.. and then the decision on how to quilt it, but I am feeling good that I've finally got the top together and the first border on. That first border is necessary to complete the nine patches in the intersections. I'm not 100% sure yet on the other three borders. I'm going to try two options and post photos and get your opinions.. if you'll indulge me just a little while longer...  One option would be much
faster than the other but I'm thinking I won't be satisfied unless I do the more time-consuming one..  We'll see... By now some of you will have recognized this as one of Bonnie Hunter's quilts. She calls it Talkin' Turkey, as it is her variation of the Turkey Tracks block. It was her block contribution for the Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks Volume 5 magazine (Summer 2012). I loved it as soon as I saw it and knew right away I wanted to try it. It has really been a lot of fun and working with red, a color I don't use very often has been.. well.. refreshing!!  Blue is still (and will always be) number one in my heart but I think I have a new appreciation for red. (Are you listening Jeanne Kaye? lol)
 I had great fun selecting fabrics for this project. As I went through my stash pulling reds, I quickly realized my red fabrics were "boring" - largely all tone on tones that "read" as solids from a distance. So I began the search for more "interesting" reds that would add some movement to the quilt - dots, swirls, paisleys, stripes, etc. Adding some novelty fabrics of things I love (cats of course, music symbols, candy, etc.) was fun, and I managed to work in a good number of good ole Canadian maple leaves too.

(If you look real close you'll even spot a few pieces of CQA 25th anniversary fabric!) And of course I did what all good quilters do -  I appealed to some of my quilting friends for their red scraps! Thanks to those who answered my plea  - Jeanne Kaye S, Gail M, Barb F, Monica W, Barb P, and Nancy E. I do hope I haven't forgotten anyone...
 So there it is. At this point, it has roughly 1,795 pieces. Ready for borders.... Now for more cutting!


"If one says "red" - the name of color - and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different."
~ Josef Albers

Friday, January 18, 2013

Winter Garden

Well it seems I've fallen off the horse! After announcing I was "back in the saddle", since Wednesday I've been laid flat (literally) on the couch with the most miserable cold and cough. I sound like a bellowing moose and I'm going through kleenex like there's no tomorrow. I sure hope this passes soon 'cause I'm getting mighty tired of being sick. So - the red quilt patiently waits, once again. I have it all together but for one joining seam. Maybe by tomorrow I'll feel like sitting at the machine for a while.... Right now I just feel all my energy has been sucked away. Blahhh...
So today, another brief book review. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah was another book that I just happened to pick up while at the library. It did not come recommended by a friend, nor had I read this author before. Because I don't have the energy for a real "review", I'm just going to say I really enjoyed this novel and give you the synopsis.
From the book jacket: "Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as two sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family business; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, these two estranged sisters will find themselves together again, standing alongside their disapproving mother, Anya, who even now offers no comfort to her daughters. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise: Anya will tell her daughters a story; it is one she began years ago and never finished. This time she will tell it all the way to the end.
The tale their mother tells them is unlike anything they've heard before - a captivating mysterious love story that spans more than sixty years and moves from frozen war-torn Leningrad to modern-day Alaska. Nina's obsession to uncover the truth will send them all on an unexpected journey into their mother's past, where they will discover a secret so shocking, it shakes the foundation of their family and changes who they believe they are."
Well written, a captivating story, a great winter read when you just want to curl up with a quilt and a hot "cuppa"...  and yes, that is my layered fruitcake....


"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~ Frederick Douglass

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back in the saddle...

Yup, I'm back in the saddle again... and it feels gooooood!! My red quilt is a comin' together.... I have three rows all together, fourth row of blocks is together but not yet attached.. fifth row still to do. I've been slowed a bit yesterday and today with a sore throat and now a head cold, so not as much energy as I had on Sunday when I sewed for 8 hours... but I'm gettin' there.. stay tuned...
DD has another major exciting "project" in the works, so have been on the computer a lot today doing "research" (when I should be sewing!!) Stay tuned for that exciting announcement soon too... It just might involve an airplane to a far off destination... 


The joy is in the journey, not at the journey's end...

Friday, January 11, 2013

DIY wreath

Don't think that because I haven't been blogging much lately that I've just been reclining on the couch eating bonbons... I've been a busy girl! Reading, stitching, crafting, sewing.... But first - good news - I had my fifth Physio appointment today- the first in almost three weeks, and I got an A+ !! She was extremely pleased with my progress so I guess I've been doing something right!! You know what this means- full speed ahead on my red quilt - rotary cutting here I come! More on that later.
Today I want to show you my latest craft project. You know how Christmas balls and ornaments go on sale after Christmas for almost nothing? (Makes you realize that we are paying waaaay too much when we pay full price...) Anyway - who can resist a sleeve of a dozen balls for $1.29, or a few days later $0.54?? That's just too good a deal to pass up - so my buddy Sue and I decided to do a few wreaths. Actually Sue had  done one already with her daughter while she was home for Christmas, so I had the benefit of her experience. Lucky me. They are so simple- you just need a styrofoam wreath base, a good glue gun and LOTS of balls and glue sticks. Actually we also got a can of silver metallic spray paint to give the styrofoam base a light coat of silver color. (In hindsight now, I think this is optional as you really don't see any of the base by the time you're done.) If you decide to do one and get the
spray paint, be sure you choose the type that is labelled safe to use on styrofoam, as the other will just "eat away" the styrofoam! (Great time to use a 50% OFF coupon at Michaels!) The easiest way to spray the base is to stick some pushpins in the wrong side, "stand" it on the pushpin "legs" on newsprint and then give it a light spray all over, being sure to get the outside and inside edges as well as the top. Do this in a well ventilated area - I did it in the garage after I backed out the car- one wouldn't want overspray on one's new red car, would one?? Let the wreath dry well before starting to add the balls.
We used four different sizes of balls - let's call them large (3"), medium (2.5"), small (1.5") and mini (1"). To the best of my memory, because I did not "take notes", I had 1 doz. large red,  4 doz. of each medium, small and mini sizes in red and silver - 2 doz. of each color. That sounds like a lot, I know, but it does take quite a few. I had a variety of shiny, dull, pearly, glittery and frosted. If I was doing another wreath, I would choose a color that  had balls in several shades of the color as well - Sue's green wreath had balls in emerald, lime and "goldy-green" as well as silver. Our wreath base was the 16" size.
We started with the largest balls and just randomly placed them around the wreath - having some off to the side. You just push the "hanger end" of the ball into the base, to make a bit of a depression in the styrofoam. Then pull the ball back out, put some hot glue around the hanger end and push it back into the styrofoam base, holding in place for 10-20 seconds until it is secure. Actually it works really well to have two people doing this, one wielding the glue gun, the other placing and holding the balls. After the largest are placed and secure, then we just continued adding the medium, then the small. You just fill in the spaces, and just add a small daub of glue to two of the nearest balls to hold the next one, if that makes sense. By the time you are placing the small size, you should be "covering all the spaces" so you are not seeing any of the base. The mini balls are added last to fill in the "cracks". Of course you are placing all balls with the "hanger end" down so it is not seen. Let it dry well - at least overnight.
We then fashioned a hanger on the back with a loop of 1/2" wide grosgrain ribbon, held in place with duct tape and No Nails glue plus a few staples from the staple gun for good measure! We let that dry well for 24 hours before hanging. Then you can put a loop of narrower ribbon or string through the grosgrain ribbon loop and make it long or short depending on where and how it will hang. A BIG thanks to my buddy Sue for all the guidance and help.
Here you see my wreath on the dining room wall, which was my original intention. (Color slightly affected by the flash...) However the jury is still "out" on whether it is just a bit too large for the space. Who knows where it may end up next Christmas -  maybe even the front door!
So there you have it. A simple DIY project. (Do you think Martha Stewart would be proud of us? lol)  If you do one, send me a photo! My next project? Why the red quilt of course. I should be ready for photos in the next few days. Now that I've got the "go ahead" from my Physiotherapist, I have a little more cutting to do to finish the last dozen sashing strips and then I'll be putting it together. I have the first border all pieced and ready to attach...


Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Another Good Read

When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt is the powerful story of Irma Vitale, a young Italian woman who chooses to emigrate to America to escape a life of poverty in a small Italian mountain village. From the book jacket: "Too poor and too plain to marry, and unwilling to burden what family she has left, twenty-year old Irma Vitale sees no choice but to flee her Italian mountain village. Risking rough passage across the Atlantic and the dangers facing a single woman in an unfamiliar land, Irma boldly pursues a new life sewing dresses for gentlewoman.
Swept up in the crowded streets of nineteenth century America, Irma finds not only workshop servitude and miserable wages but also seeds of friendship in the raw immigrant quarters. When her determination to find a place for herself leads at last to a Chicago shop, Irma blossoms from the guidance of an austere Alsatian dressmaker, sewing fabrics and patterns more beautiful than she'd ever imagined. Then tragedy strikes and her tenuous peace is shattered. From the rubble, and in the face of human cruelty and kindness, suffering and hope, Irma prevails, discovering a talent she'd never imagined and an unlikely family patched together by the common threads that unite us all."
I picked this book up at the city library. It had not been recommended to me by anyone, just one that caught my eye. What a lucky choice! Schoenewaldt's first novel draws you in right from the first page. The compelling story of this determined young woman is told with simple language and rich description. The character development is strong, the people in the book are as real as you and I. The author's sensory description is so very well done, she writes with great clarity and attention to historical detail. The immigrant's life of poverty and struggle was real and it is difficult to escape a personal attachment to Irma. I am not a Book Club member, but if I was, I would be recommending this book to my group. And you can be sure I'll be watching for another novel from Schoenewaldt....


"Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be." ~ Sonia Ricotti

Monday, January 7, 2013

Measha and David... I'm a fan!

If you are a fan of either David Myles or Measha Brueggergosman, both musicians from my hometown, you will want to watch their newest video "Whole to my Half". Just released at Christmas, it's their first video as parents and "features" Measha's son Shepherd and David's daughter Maria. David and Measha both grew up in the same church I did so I've "known" them since they were young children. Fredericton is so very proud of these two talented musical artists. Have a listen. I bet you won't be able to get this "tune" out of your head...


"Music cleanses the understanding, inspires it, and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if it were left to itself." ~ Beecher

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Only a few more hours....

January 6. Finally! I have been waiting for this day for months. And now I have only a few more hours to wait. Tonight is the beginning of Season 3 of Downton Abbey on PBS and it seems like it has taken forever for this day to arrive. I love this BBC drama - the story, the characters - both the aristocratic Crawleys and their servants, the costumes (oh my!!), Highclere Castle and the beautiful English countryside.. I love it all.
Do you watch this series? Who is your favourite character? I can't pick just one (or even two) although Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by Dame Maggie Smith is certainly at the top of my list. I love her sharp wit and sarcastic one-liners, not to mention her costumes, especially the hats....oh be still my heart! Lady Mary Crawley, Bates and Anna are also all high on my Favs list.
Oh I can hardly contain myself. I don't think I've ever looked forward to several hours of television more than this... Only 2 hours, 33 minutes now.. but who's counting?


"The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting." ~ Andy Warhol

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Winter Beauty Bonus!

Here we are five days into January 2013 and it's time I got back to blogging! Our nest is now empty once again as both my chickies have flown back to their "other" homes... The laundry is caught up and the freezer is a little lighter... Supper is in the oven - a nice rich Beef Stew - slowly simmering away and smelling yummy. I love "comfort food" in the winter, don't you? Stews, soups, chili, Shepherd's Pie... yummmm. Just add a salad and some crusty rolls and my tumtum is happy...ahhhhh.

I neglected to share these Amaryllis photos with you in December when this was in full bloom. It had two stalks with four blooms each. My photos are not the best, but you get the idea. It is such a treat to me to have fresh blooms in the midst of a cold snowy winter. There's not much I enjoy more than this (well, maybe chocolate.... wink...) Although the two stalks did not grow quite as tall as usual (I blamed it on the lack of sunny days) the red blooms added a festive touch to my blue kitchen! I cut down the two stems about  a week ago and placed the pot back on my kitchen windowsill to watch the three emerging leaves grow...

Imagine my surprise when two days ago I see this! Another big bud is growing - there's going to be more blooms! BONUS!!! How lucky am I?!! I love the anticipation  - watching each day as the stalk grows a measurable amount and the bud slowly cracks open to reveal the unfurling petals. As the long cold winter stretches ahead of us, what a treat to have this to look forward to. Of course.. the blooms never last quite long enough. Too bad they couldn't last for weeks instead of days... But hey!  I'm happy. I'm certainly getting my money's worth from this bulb!!


"Faith sees a beautiful blossom in a bulb, a lovely garden in a seed and a giant oak in an acorn." 
~ William Arthur Ward

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