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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Book Finish

Well this week has been pretty much a write-off.. no sewing happening here...  :(  I've been laid low by a sore throat and now a miserable cold. I'm sniffin' and snuffin', coughin' and shiverin'. NO FUN. I had to cancel both the classes I was to teach this week. I hate cancelling, as it is so hard to re-schedule and find dates that suit everyone.  Wednesday's class cancellation was the result of the storm that blew through- we had freezing rain overnight and road conditions early in the morning were not great. Schools were closed too, so I know we made the right call. Freezing rain, rain, snow in some areas and high winds made for a good day to stay home, warm and dry. That's the day my cold started. Ugh. I've been spending a lot of time horizontal, on the couch, wrapped up in a  quilt, Kleenex box and throat lozenges handy. Oliver has been very sympathetic and frequently jumps up to check on me - his 14 pounds, sitting on my chest (ooof!) doesn't do a lot for me, but his purring and kitty cuddles make me feel loved.

The up side to all this time spent horizontal is that I've finished another good book. The Painted Girls by Canadian author Cathy Marie Buchanan is set in Paris, 1878-1881. This historical fiction is a story of opposites - wealth vs. poverty, weakness vs. strength and beauty vs. ugliness. The beauty and glamour of the French Opera and Ballet stage hides behind it the truth - the ugliness of the extreme poverty of the Paris slums, post revolution, and the struggles of young girls to make it as dancers, against seemingly insurmountable odds. Buchanan weaves together the story of the van Goethem sisters who are struggling to survive after the death of their father and their mother's alcoholism, and the work of painter and sculptor Edgar Degas. Marie van Goethem is accepted to train for the ballet and her meagre earnings go to help pay their monthly rent. She is soon modelling in the studio of  Degas, who eventually immortalizes her in the sculpture Little Dancer Aged 14.   Marie's older sister Antoinette finds work for a short time, also on the stage, but before long her association with a dangerous young man is her downfall and her life seems to spiral out of control. She is torn between her responsibilities to her two younger sisters and her love for Emile.
Buchanan, herself a ballerina and teacher of dance, long admired Degas' portraits of dancers and  after research on the van Goethem sisters, the Paris ballet and the social climate of the times, she was inspired to write this novel, mixing in several notorious crime cases of the times. Her writing is rich, emotional and heart-breaking, her characters real. The story of the sisters is captivating, their circumstances heart-wrenching, their sisterly love hopeful.  You will be engaged from beginning to end by this richly painted study of poverty, crime and the harsh realities for poor young women in Paris at this time. If you like historical fiction and have an interest in ballet or art, I'm sure you would enjoy this book.
I have picked up several new Followers in the last few weeks. Welcome all! I hope you'll enjoy following along with my crazy life! I appreciate your visits! Please feel free to leave me a comment so I know you've stopped by.


You know you're reading a good book, when you have to cover up the next page so you don't read ahead...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Longest Book Title Ever?

I have just finished reading The 100 -Year- Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. What an entertaining read! The story is as "unique" as the book title. You have to admit- that title piques your curiosity, doesn't it?? I immediately thought- what's a one hundred year old man doing climbing out a window? (He could hurt himself!!) Why would he? And was it a first floor window? Was he trying to escape from something? Or to something or somewhere? And where did he disappear to? And why?
The author "had me" from the very first chapter with the hilarious exploits of the main character, 100 year old Allan  Karlsson who does not wish to attend his own birthday party at the Seniors Home. He's a bit of a Forrest Gump type, and his adventure is as amusing as it is unpredictable. The author certainly has a vivid imagination and a broad knowledge of world history and events. You could never predict, or even guess what will happen next...  His current month-long escape/adventure is paralleled by the story of past events in his colorful life, when he met leaders and influenced events of the past century.  Harry Truman, Churchill, Mao Tse-tung, and Stalin all "have dealings" with Allan.. (I learned  a lot about past events of historical significance!!) This parade of characters is almost as improbable as the current "colorful friends" he gathers along the way. The zany story holds your interest right to the last page.
A serious read? No. Entertaining? Absolutely!!


"If a book is well-written, I always find it  too short." ~ Jane Austen

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tutorial - Easy Placemat Finish

A few days ago I showed you a set of four placemat tops here. The pattern was quick, easy and fun! What more could you want? The pattern directions for finishing off the placemats suggested either binding the mats (who wants to spend time doing binding for placemats!!? Not me...) or pillowcase style where you leave an opening along one edge and turn through that opening. Yeah.... well, you know how hard it is to then close that opening and get it totally straight and smooth so it's not noticeable. I prefer to use another method and thought I'd share it with you here. I find it gives a better looking product- all edges are even, straight and smooth. It's as easy as a seam across the backing of your placemats, leaving an opening in that seam and turning the mat through it, then hand-stitching the opening closed. Who really cares if there is a seam on the back- seriously, who would even notice??
First of all I should tell you that I have trimmed down these placemats slightly to "fit" the request from Meals on Wheels - they like the mats to be about 12" by 16". The Take Four pattern will give you placemats larger than that, but the pattern  does not give an exact size, as what you get will vary depending on the size of your four fat quarters. (Yes they should all be pretty much the same size, but they're not... just sayin')

This method does requires purchasing a few more inches of fabric for the backing IF you are laying the mats lengthwise on your backing fabric. (If laying crosswise on your fabric, no worries.) I like to make this backing seam a 1/2" seam, so I cut the backing at least 1.5" longer and about 1" wider than the mat. I chose a dark green from the Moda Marble Swirls line.

Then cut it in half - crosswise, not lengthwise. Stitch a 1/2" wide seam, beginning with normal stitch length for several inches, then backstitch and switch to a basting stitch. Don't even cut your thread, just continue stitching/basting across to within a few inches of the other edge, then switch back to normal stitch length, backstitch, and finish seam at normal stitch length.

I then press this seam open - press it well so you get a good crease. Then the choice is yours whether to press to one side or leave it pressed open. The well defined crease will come in handy when hand-stitching the opening closed.

Now lay your placemat top on top of backing, right sides together, smooth out with your hands, and trim the backing to fit your placemat exactly. Leave these two right sides together, and place on top of your batting with wrong side of backing up. Your "stack" should be in this order: batting on bottom, placemat right side up and backing right side down. You can trim the batting to fit now, or trim after stitching. Pin around the edge so that nothing will shift.

Let me tell you about this new product I tried for the batting. It is called Stiff Stuff and it's made by Sew Lazy - Lazy Girls Designs. I. LOVE. IT. (If you're a local reader you can get it at our new local quilt shop- The Christmas Crab Quiltery.) The label describes  it as a "firm flexible sew-in non woven 100% polyester "interfacing" - it is PERFECT for placemats.  It is firm but not stiff and it yields a perfectly flat placemat ( no wine glass wobble! ha). It is not bulky at the edges where it is in the seam either. LOVE IT. It's my new go-to for placemats and runners from now on.

Stitch a 1/4" seam all around the placemat - no need to leave an opening along the edge. I chose to round the corners. I like the look of rounded corners, and it's easier than trying to get four perfect square corners- seems one is always too pointy! pffft! I found a small Tupperware lid in my kitchen to draw the curve at each corner. Once I have sewn all around the mat, I trim the curved corners a bit, to reduce bulk and ensure a smooth corner edge.

Now you are ready to remove the basting stitches along that backing seam. If you backstitched at each end of the regular stitching, it's easy to pick out the basting and stop when you reach the backstitching. Now reach through the opening and turn the mat right side out. Smooth out the mat and take it to your ironing board. Press carefully all around the mat's edge, being careful that the backing fabric does not show on the front. (Again- the Stiff Stuff gave a beautiful edge. No, I don't work for the company. I'm just a new fan! lol) Once your mat is well pressed, you can hand-stitch the opening closed. I use matching thread of course, and small invisible stitches. I slide the needle along inside the fold - that nice creased edge you got from pressing that seam open - then take a small stitch of the fabric below if you pressed the seam to one side. If you left the seam pressed open, you'll be sliding your needle inside both creased folds, going back and forth from one side to the other. The trick is to keep your stitches small so the seam will be fairly strong.

The final step is to quilt your mats. I just did stitch in the ditch with monofilament thread. Some choose to also topstitch around the edge, about 1/4" from edge.

I am so pleased with  this set of placemats, I sorta hate to part with them, but they will be going to Meals on Wheels for the Christmas dinners. Hopefully they will brighten the day for four clients. I'll be making another set for myself one of these days, and I'll be using this method for turning them. Easy Peasy. Merry Christmas!
If you have found this tutorial as a result of a search for "placemat finishing," please leave me a comment and let me know how you like my technique. Better still, send me a photo of your finished placemats!


"Some people choose not to donate their services because they believe that it somehow devalues them by 'giving them away.' In truth, there is nothing that demonstrates the value of your skills more than putting them to good use for a cause you believe in." ~ Scott Allen

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Vee's Notecard Party

It's mid month again and so it's time for
Vee's Notecard Party. I've had a busy few days so I'm a little late to the Party! (What else is new?) Each month, participants select up to four photos (at least several which have been published previously on their blog) which they feel would make good notecards. Also, this month Vee suggested that we make a "Box Top" collage for the box of said notecards so you'll see that at the end of the post.
I have to say I struggled with selections this month. I haven't been out much with my camera lately... November does not inspire me....
Regardless, I have chosen four  images; they aren't as cohesive a group as I would like, but  here we go...

Do stop by to visit Vee here and see the other participants' work this month- there are some lovely selections.


What a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp.  ~Author Unknown

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tutorial for a Quick Easy Gift

I made up this little item on the weekend, from directions a quilting friend gave me a few years ago. And then I thought, I wonder if others would like a little tutorial on how to make this cute little giftie item... Can you guess what it is?

 No, it's not a Needle Book... It's a Tea Caddy- for those who carry their own tea bags. Are you a tea drinker? If so, you might like one of these to pop in your purse or totebag, or you might want to make some for a few of your tea-drinking friends. It is very quick and easy, and holds up to six teabags.

All you need (other than your sewing machine, thread, marking pencil and pins) is three pieces of fabric and one button. Choose two co-ordinating or contrasting fabrics - your choice. Cut a rectangle measuring 9.5" by 12.5" from each of the two fabrics, and one piece 5" by 1.25" from either of the two fabrics.

First, let's make the closure tab. Using the 5" x 1.25" piece, fold in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and crease well. (I press it) Open up and fold each lengthwise edge in to the center (meet that creased line). Press again, then fold in half lengthwise. Your strip should now measure just slightly more than 1/4" wide by 5" long.

Topstitch the folded edges together- your choice to just stitch one side or both.

Bring ends together and stitch across to hold.

Place the two rectangles right sides together, and stitch all the way around with a 1/4" seam, leaving an opening of several inches for turning, about 1" from corner on the longer side.

Trim the bulk at the corners - I snip off the corner at a 45° angle, then trim just a bit more from the seam allowance on each side of the corner.

Now turn it right side out, through the opening, and press edges well all around, being careful to get right out to the seam. It should measure about 9" x 12". At this point, if you haven't already, decide which fabric you want on the outside. I chose the floral batik as my "outside" and the smaller design batik for the inside.

Take each 9" edge and fold in toward the center (inside) leaving a space of  1/4" to 1/2" in the middle.  This will form the pockets.

Insert the tab in the opening, centering it along that pocket, pin. Topstitch both ends, catching the tab in the stitching, to secure. Piece now measures roughly  6" x 9".

With a marking pencil, draw two lines straight across from side to side, dividing the long pockets into three equal sections, approx. 3" wide each.

Stitch on each line, through all thicknesses, creating six pockets.

Insert teabags. I left three peeking out here, so you'd know they are there!

Fold in half lengthwise, then fold up in thirds, from end opposite the tab. Mark placement for button on outside of middle pocket. It is important that teabags are in the caddy before you mark placement for the button, as they "fill it out" and it will be too tight if you placed button when caddy was empty. (Ask me how I know that... lol  Yep, gotta move the button on the first one I did...)

It's a little tricky to sew this button on, as you only are sewing through the outside layer- not right through to the inside of caddy. The finished caddy is roughly 3" square, thickness depends on your teabags.

That's it. You're done.  This is the first Blog Tutorial I have done, so if you follow these directions to make a Tea Caddy, I'd love for you to leave a comment and let me know how you found it- all constructive criticism and suggestions welcomed!!  I should have waited for a brighter day so I could have taken all photos outside, but wanted to get it done today and Ma Nature didn't co-operate, it was a dark dreary day so all photography was done inside. Not the best. Anyway, it's a simple little item for a gift and it doesn't take long. Just what we need these days. Christmas is only 36 days away. Just sayin'....


I cannot count my day complete, 'til needle, thread and fabric meet.

Rainy Days and Mondays....

Today is dark and dreary, it's raining hard, and it's Monday. Ugh. I figure the only way to combat all that is to just hole up in my studio and sew, sew, sew!! Doesn't that sound like the perfect answer to such a  day?! Hubby is out now for the rest of the day, at his "Monday afternoon job", supper is planned and Oliver is napping (what else is new?) so I am going to spend a blissful afternoon at my machine. If I can get decent photos on this dark day, I'll be back a little later today with a tutorial for a quick and easy gift idea that you might like to try, so check back later. Until then - here's what I accomplished this weekend - well, mostly yesterday, as I taught a class on Saturday, so that pretty much shot the day.
I've been chipping away at making the many half square triangles I need for Jamestown Landing... I know, I know, I told you I have other projects I need to get to,  (they're still waiting...) but I just can't tear myself away from these beautiful (favourite) blues..... So I now have  57 Broken Dishes units together. Slow progress... but at least it is progress.... What does the tortoise say... Slow and steady wins the race...
Later today I hope to finish off the placemats I showed a few days ago, so you'll see them tomorrow, with my quick and easy method of finishing and turning.
And today is my oldest brother's birthday.. it's a big one.... you know - one of those that end in zero.... so I think I'll make him a batch of Nut Brittle... Happy Birthday Wayne!! Love you!!


"Methinks it is a token of healthy and gentle characteristics, when women of high thoughts and accomplishments love to sew; especially as they are never more at home with their own hearts than while so occupied." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun, 1859

Blogathon Canada Begins Today!

Today is the first day of Blogathon Canada. This is a week-long blog hop which will take you on a tour of Canadian quilters' blogs. It is organized by Sew Sisters Quilt Shop in Toronto. Each day you will visit a different province or area to visit the blogs of several quilters there. And best of all - there are wonderful giveaways! So check it out here each day to see who's featured for that day. Today we begin on the west coast in beautiful British Columbia with Holly and Heather. Tomorrow - the Maritimes!! Yay!! And if all goes as planned, you'll see a link to my blog, so I'm hoping you'll stop by tomorrow to visit me!! Don't forget to leave a comment to say Hi so I'll know you dropped by... I hope you'll have fun finding some new Canadian blogs, making new friends and entering to win some amazing prizes!!  What are you waiting for? Get going!!


Our lives are like quilts - bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Traveler's Rest

A quick book review today.. Traveler's Rest by Ann Tatlock is an easy read - perfect for when you want something fairly "light" that you can enjoy without a great deal of concentration. This is the story of a young couple, Jane and Seth, who are engaged to be married, until he returns home from military service in Iraq a quadriplegic. He wants her to go on with her life and forget him, feeling his life is now over and that he has nothing to offer her. But Jane is determined to honour her commitment to him, and although he seems ready to give up on them and on life, she is not. With the help of a retired doctor who volunteers at the Veterans Medical Center where Seth is in the Spinal Cord Injury Unit, Jane works through her conflicting emotions and the decision of whether to stick with Seth despite his protests or move on with her life. There's an interesting twist near the end that I didn't see coming...  Not in my Top10 all time favs, but fine if you're looking for a quick and easy  read...


"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a  tree, with flexible parts on which are imprinted  lots of funny, dark squiggles. But one glance at it, and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millenia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic." ~ Carl Sagan

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sew Much Fun!

I had such fun yesterday, with more sewing!! Hubby has been away for a couple of days and I spent almost the entire day in my studio. Bliss! I mentioned in my last post that I have several small projects to cross off my list so here is the first one. A set of four placemats which will be donated at Guild for Meals on Wheels. Each year we do Christmas placemats for them for the meal trays on Christmas Day. I have been wanting to try out this pattern- "Take Four" placemats, a Something Sew Fine Quilt Design by Cary Flanagan. If you cannot find this pattern at your local Quilt Shop, you can purchase it online and download it here. This is a quick and easy project and I can certainly see myself making another set or two (or three) of these! The tops are made from four fat quarters, and the pattern gives complete directions for two variations, plus simple directions for three more variations. In my books that's good value!!
Here are my four fabrics- two Modas from Kate Spain's Joy collection (2012), a beautiful red from Essentials by Wilmington Prints and a lovely darker green print from an unknown source (sorry- no info on the selvage). These four fabrics are stacked, trimmed so they are all exactly the same size and then you cut strips of several different widths through all four layers. Then you shift a few in the stacks and sew each set of strips together. Next you cut several vertical strips off the sewn sets, shift a few in the stacks again and re-sew. Sounds confusing, but really VERY
simple as long as you pay attention and keep things "in order". Accurate consistent seam widths and careful pressing assures good matches at all the seam intersections. I totally meant to take a few progress photos along the way, but I was having sew much fun with the process, I was on the final step before I remembered the camera. Sorry! I promise next time I make them, I'll take some "in progress" shots. Anyway, here they are. Actually they are not totally finished at this point - these are just the "tops". I need to find backing fabric, then they'll be sandwiched and quilted. I'll show you a photo when they are totally done, I promise!


My Doctor told me to get more fiber so I went to the quilt shop for more fabric...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thanglin' along....

It's high time I got back to sewing. My machine has been feelin' neglected, I'm sure. Now that the dreary grey shorter days of November are here, I'm settling in to my studio and the pile of projects awaiting me there.  I have three more classes to teach this month and several projects I want to make some progress on... Today I'll show you the one I have been slowly chipping away at...
You may remember that last May I was lucky enough to take a class with renowned quilter Bonnie Hunter. She calls the quilt "Jamestown Landing" and the directions are in her book String Fling. I knew at the time that the project would be set aside for a while, and even now, I have other more pressing things to get to, but I have been chipping away at "components" for this quilt. It requires 840 half square triangles, and you know me - I love using Thangles. So I've been "Thangling".. lol   I think I have about 310 made- so only 530 more to go!! It's pretty mindless sewing, doesn't require extreme concentration so it's great when you've got lots going on and you can just take a break for short periods of time here and there, sit down and do some straightforward sewing. I usually chain 5 pairs of strips together at a time,  which yields 30 hst's.

Next the hst's are sewn together in pairs,

then two of these are joined to make the "Broken Dishes" unit. I need 210 BD units. Yes. I have a long. way. to. go.

I have about 40 Broken Dishes units made - so only 170 more to go..... sigh....

In my next "Jamestown Landing post", I'll show you the stars that are formed with these units. But I want to make lots more hst's first, as I want a good mix of fabrics before I start putting stars together, so it might be a while before you see more progress on this particular project. I do have several other smaller projects I'll be sharing first... Stay tuned. Are you sewing today?


“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”  ~ Winston Churchill

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lest We Forget....

Let us never forget what our veterans have done for our country, and what our soldiers continue to do as peacekeepers around the world... Today is November 11 - Remembrance Day here in Canada, Veterans Day in the USA. Let us honour our veterans and pray for world peace....

I went to see the soldiers

I went to see the soldiers, row on row on row,
And wondered about each so still, their badges all on show.
What brought them here, what life before
Was like for each of them?
What made them angry, laugh, or cry,

These soldiers, boys and men.

Some so young, some older still, a bond more close than brothers
These men have earned and shared a love, that's not like any others
They trained as one, they fought as one
They shared their last together
That bond endures, that love is true
And will be, now and ever.

I could not know, how could I guess, what choices each had made,
Of how they came to soldiering, what part each one had played?
But here they are and here they'll stay,
Each one silent and in place,
Their headstones line up row on row
They guard this hallowed place.

~ Kenny Martin 


“You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us. And the world will live as one.”  ~ John Lennon

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November Personal Photo Challenge: Layering Texture

It's time again for Donna's Personal Photo Challenge. I missed it the last two months so decided I should make the effort this month to get on it! This month's topic is Layering Textures. This is definitely a challenge for me as I have never done this! Nope. I don't play much with my photos - pretty much what you see is what came out of the camera, except for perhaps just a little lightening or darkening and the occasional slight sharpening. I don't own Photo Shop or any other editing programs. I use Picmonkey, a free online service. So this is all new to me, but I decided to give it a shot. Why not? It's fun to play! And play I did. Any suggestions or constructive criticism is welcomed!
First of all, to choose photos to work with... How does one choose just one or two when you have thousands???  With Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the US) just 2 days away, my thoughts turned to poppies so I found a simple photo of a single blossom, taken in July in Deb's garden.

  This is the original - poppy against blue sky. Pretty simple. Not a stunning photo.

First I looked at the exposure and decreased the brightness just a bit to darken the background slightly. Then I added a Picmonkey Paint background. I increased the saturation somewhat, then faded it slightly. Then I added a Bokeh effect and softened it a little on the blossom itself. And here's what I ended up with...

I liked it at this point, but it still was a little light for my liking so I went back to "Exposure" and decreased the brightness then brought up the contrast, shadows and highlights just a smidgen. 

 I like it better now. What do you think?

That really was fun (thanks Donna!) I guess it's good to give yourself "permission" to just play and see what happens. So I thought... why not do another? So for my second attempt I chose a simple sunset shot taken this summer at a friend's cottage at Maquapit Lake. Below is the original.

Again, nothing fabulous. It's not even in sharp focus. So I went to work. (I think I could really get into this.. it's fun. Donna, have you created a monster?) First I sharpened a bit. Then on to Exposure. I decreased the brightness and increased the shadows and contrast somewhat. Then I added Picmonkey's Water texture. Wow. All of a sudden, I had a more interesting sky- where did those "clouds" come from? Even though it's a "water effect" I think it worked in the sky as well - don't you think it looks very natural? The texture added more color to the water too, and perhaps at sunset you would not see as much blue and green there, but I don't think it's unrealistic, do you? In this case, I don't think the average viewer would even know I have added any "effects".. I've just used the texture to enhance the photo...

Be sure and drop by Donna's Personal Photo Challenge here and see what others have done this month. Thanks again Donna. I think I'll be playing with Textures more often!!


"Texture is the most enduring and ubiquitous underpinning of form... certainly a calming, meditative and appealing world for both the eye and mind. " ~ Lynda Lehmann
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