Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Lighthouse is in Sight

Ahoy Mateys,

Here is an update on my journey "Crossing the Pond".  The borders are on, and I'm doing a happy dance across the main deck!

The corners ended up being total serendipity.  I didn't have enough fabric for my border, since I changed my idea mid-float.  In the beginning I had no intention of using these two fabrics together in the border, so I didn't request a lot of it.  I worked with EQ8 software for a long time, and came up with this idea.  Both Mr. Joe and I liked this layout a lot. 

My plan was to put just a square of fabric in each corner.  One day when I finished appliqueing one of the border sections, I just tossed it up on the design wall, and the end of the border ended up next to one of the pinwheels in the quilt.  Bingo! My corner issue was solved.  Serendipity?.....YES!

My goal is to finish pattern writing this week.  This is a complicated quilt which requires a lot of detailed directions.

Here's an update on the cabin staining.  One of my friends suggested we wear shower caps while the cabin is being power washed.  This is not a bad idea.  We almost broke out the umbrellas on Friday. We already figured we were in a streak of bad luck, so we didn't want that to intensify.

The painters do a thorough job removing the old stain with a combination of HIGH water pressure, and a "stripper".  Not the kind of stripper doing a pole dance, but a combination of who knows what, to remove the old stain.  Fifteen years of pollen, dirt, chemicals, bat poop, and dirty water found its way into the cabin through the cracks.  We ran out of towels Friday while mopping up and plugging leaks.  I'm sure we looked like the Little Dutch Boy with his finger in the dike. Except we ran out of fingers. I would have used my toes, but I'm not very limber.

To make matters worse, Mr. Joe decided early last week that he wanted to re-build the front porch before the staining started.  He finished that project yesterday just in the nick of time before the staining starts.  This is the same, dear man, who hired a crew to remove all of the popcorn ceilings in our city house just prior to a bridal shower.  The plastic came off of the walls the day before the guests arrived. The mess was monumental! I repeat, MONUMENTAL! That was the closest we've come to divorce court. 

Tomorrow the crew will start covering all of the windows.  Since we don't have to physically be inside the cabin cleaning up the water, we may plan a lot of day trips next week to escape our "cave".  We have another week and half of this to live through, since they are applying two coats of stain. It will all be worth it in the end.  I'm just looking forward to that end.


Friday, August 28, 2020

Chinks in the Armor

Hello Everyone,

Here is what I worked on yesterday, the border on my new pattern called "Crossing the Pond".  I have three sides done, just one to go.

Today I will attach the borders to the quilt.  I also have to make the corner squares.   The entire time I've been making this quilt, I'm contemplating just how I'm going to quilt it.  I have a lot of light space to fill in addition to complex blocks.  My brain has been working overtime in addition to my hands.

Now let me tell you about yesterday, and explain the title of my blog post.  We contracted with a well-respected painter to stain our log home. Our logs are very thirsty and need to be stained.  This is not a trivial matter, and I feel like I'm hemorrhaging money. This is probably going to be the last time in our lifetime that we will have this done.

So, let me set the stage at 7am yesterday morning.  The painters showed up and immediately started working.  We listened to the drone of the power washer from 7:30am to 3pm. The 2-man crew worked so hard all day long.

Our job was to stay inside and wipe up the water that "may" come through the logs.  Well, now we know why it is so hard to keep this place warm in the's full of gaps between the logs.  We don't have your normal "chinking" like most log homes.  Our logs fit together like Lincoln Logs.  It's a post and beam cabin, so where the beams meet the logs, there are some gaps from the cabin settling over the years.

We soon discovered we had an immediate problem around the front porch area.  I now know where the term "bat sh*t crazy" comes from. The bats enjoy the comfort of our front porch, and poop in the cracks.  That poop was catapulting into the house from the shear force of the power washer.  The poop was coming in from all angles along with the solution of water and bleach.  It was all hands on deck with towels, and the vacuum cleaner.  Mr. Joe always thought I had bats in my belfry, now it's confirmed.

We also had an issue in the master bathroom.  Mr. Joe got a shower without even stepping into the shower.  Twelve years of dirt and dirty water coated him from head to toe.  I now have a very clean bathroom inside and out! Mr. Joe is clean now too.

The painters will be back today to finish power washing the rest of the house, so we will be manning our mops and towels.  The logs will dry over the weekend, then first thing Monday morning the first coat of stain will be sprayed on.....then coat number two will be applied during the week. 

On a positive note, if a fire came along this weekend, our logs are too wet to burn!


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Season of Fire

Hello Everyone,

Here is my progress on my newest pattern called Crossing the Pond.  It fills up my entire, large design wall, and the borders aren't on it yet.  I'm making the borders as we speak.

I want to thank you all for your outpouring of support and prayers for my state which is on fire.  The immediate threat to my home in Livermore has past, but the fire is still burning.

The warnings Sunday about a dry lightning storm with high winds for my mountain location were quite ominous.  All day long, we prepared for evacuation in case the dry lightning sparked more fires.  Our neighbors call their "go" bag a "bugger out" bag. 

I was in a very weird space for all of Sunday and Monday. I felt as though I couldn't concentrate, and would flit from one room to the next trying to make rational decisions.  All day long we felt like we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. How do you decide what goes and what stays?  Well of course you are limited by the space in your car.  We decided we would only take one car because we didn't want to become separated.  After we saw just how much we were going to take, that decision had to change to two cars.

Mr. Joe gassed up both cars, and got cash from the bank while I flitted around the house wringing my hands.  The first things I packed were important documents that I didn't want to have to recreate after the fact.  All of them are now packed in one bin.

All of the quilts that I designed, and made are packed in huge bags that hold about eight quilts.  The quilts that I made, but didn't design were going to be left behind.  This wall hanging made by my friends Lynnette and Barbara, was one of the first quilts packed, and was going to go with me!  The girls presented it to me at my retreat last October.

Mazey's bag is packed with a favorite toy, treats. kibble, water, and leash.  Mazey takes up a least half of the car, so that's why we are taking two cars.

We were also contemplating the potential evacuation of our Livermore home.  My granddaughter called and asked what we wanted to have them save.  She wasn't amused when I said the Grandfather clock! 

My mountain girlfriend Kaaren and I were comparing notes on what we were going to take.  She's created a list of items room by room that she is going to take.  I thought that was a good idea.

So Sunday night at 10:30, the thunder and lightning storm arrived.  Boy did it arrive with fury!  I was reading in bed, and saw the entire sky light up. My heart fled down to my toes.  Mr. Joe was sound asleep.  When the first crash of thunder hit, Mr. Joe nearly jumped out of bed.  For an old guy, he can move pretty fast!  I swear the storm was directly over the cabin.  We both breathed a collective sigh of relief when it started to pour.  The storm was brief, yet very intense.  By morning, the storm had cleared out some of the smoke, and the wonderful smell of mountain air was back.

We are still packed and ready to "bugger out".  All of this preparation led to organization and sorting.  I finally felt normal yesterday, but what is normal?  Well, normal for me is being able to concentrate on quilting longer than a nanosecond. 

My heart goes out to those who have lost everything.  My thanks go out to the thousands of firefighters trying to put an end to the devastation.  I have a horrible feeling this is going to be a long season of fire.


Sunday, August 23, 2020

Red Flag Warning

Hello Everyone,

I was going to work on the tutorial for my little Churn Dash blocks today.  Instead I'm going to prepare for the Red Flag Warning which is posted for most of Northern California.   The state office of OES posted this warning:
"With this comes low humidity, high probability of fire starts, erratic winds, and the possibility of rapid-fire spread.  We are urging everyone in the community to review their emergency evacuation plans, emergency preparedness kits, home hardening measures and take personal accountability for preparation of a potential wildfire".

Those of you who have been following me for awhile know that we still have our home in Livermore, CA.  See the red arrow?  The whole town is right on the edge of the "Evacuation Warning".  All three our our grown children and their families live in Livermore, which is about a 2-hour drive from our location.

The 4th largest fire in the history of the state is raging just south of town, mainly in an unincorporated area of large ranches, farms, and hunting cabins.  Our kids have many friends living in the "red" area and have evacuated their animals, and now themselves.

At this writing, the winds are calm here in my mountain community.  The issue we have here, is that there is one road in, and one road out of town.  We know the risk we take living here in a wildfire area, but we never imagined our home in Livermore would be so threatened.

I'll be packing bags today so we will be ready to leave in a moments notice.  I'd rather be quilting.

Soon, I hope,

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Crossing the Pond Update

Ahoy Mateys,

This week, I've been totally focused on my new design called Crossing the Pond.  I will have the quilt top together today, minus the borders, if I really "turn to". (AKA get to work!)

My original design for the ship in the center of the quilt was quite different than what I actually ended up doing.  During the mini-retreat at my sister's cabin last week, my friend Paula suggested I do a reverse applique.  I thought that was brilliant, so that's what I did.  I will fill the off-white with beautiful quilting when the time comes. 

I worked last night until the sun was over the yardarm.  Late enough to have a drink.  I was pooped by the end of the day between the heat, the smoke, and the intense time spent in my quilting room.

 I took this picture from the stairs at the back of the garage around 6pm yesterday.  That angry, yellow sun was on display all day long while it watched our state burn.  Currently, there aren't any fires in my immediate area, but there is a thick layer of drift smoke from the fires all around us.  It was dark, gloomy, and smoky for the entire day.  Look how dark it was at 6pm!

We keep our lots ship shape, and follow the guidelines of CalFire and our homeowners association.  But when a fire gets up in the trees, no amount of raking is going to make a difference.  Yesterday I had the strong feeling that I should pack up the quilts, and have them ready to leave the house at a moments notice.  Last night I was reading about the fires, and a fire chief suggested that all Californians should be ready to leave.  Your car should be parked facing out, and have your evacuation plans ready.  I'm going to put my thoughts into action today, and try to be a bit more prepared and proactive.

My county is going backwards during the re-opening.  Now, more businesses are being asked to close as the virus cases keep going up.  This is getting very old.  I can't believe we've been sheltering in place since March.  We've ventured out a few times.....but not many. 

We have fires, and a pandemic.  Are locusts next????


Monday, August 17, 2020

Betsy's Blessing Blocks

Hello Everyone,

I put about 30 of these little blocks together last week.  It is a very simple Churn Dash block using only scraps from my bin full of Betsy Chutchian fabrics.

I'll put a tutorial together this week for the sashing section.  The sashing finishes at 1".  The little red stars are going to twinkle across the wall hanging or tabletopper.

I can see an entire bed quilt comprised of these cute of these days.  I have only 6 more blocks to put together to make this complete.  I like to occasionally make a small project to add to my collection of designs.  This one is going to be as sweet as it can be.

The blocks are on display on the island in our kitchen.  Mr. Joe made this from a tree that was harvested just down the street from us.  He spent weeks sanding and staining.  It is a huge slab of tree, and I love it!

Those of you who have been following my blog know that my twin granddaughters are involved in FFA.  This year, at the online FFA auction, we bought one of the pigs they raised. Since we bought an entire pig, we had to buy a freezer.  These are the most expensive pork chops EVER!  Who knew how hard it was going to be to buy a freezer.  Did you know they are in short supply due to the pandemic?  The earliest we could have one delivered was the middle of November.  So, we bought the floor model at a store about 45 minutes away from us.  I wanted an upright, but the one we found is a big, honkin' chest freezer.  The arrival of the freezer meant we had to clean the garage and make room for it.  We soon discovered that when you lean over the freezer to get something from the bottom, it would be easy to tip over and end up in it!  If you don't hear from me in a few days......check the freezer.

We drove out of the county last Friday to pick up the pig at the processing plant about 2 hours from the cabin.  This was the biggest outing for us since March.  We discovered there's a whole world out there that actually seemed quite normal.  On our journey, we stopped by Cloth and Quilts in Hilmar, CA.  Ann finished making the shop sample of my "Christmas Ribbons" quilt, and they have a couple of kits left HERE.  You could have this one made in time for the Holidays.

It has been insufferably hot here in the mountains as we are in the grip of a days-long heat wave with no end in the foreseeable future. Yesterday is was downright scary with the wind and the heat.  We are in the peak of fire season, and we are holding our breath until the rains come.  We don't have air conditioning, so we exist like two slugs sitting in front of the fan.  Luckily my sewing room is the coolest room in the house, so I tend to spend a lot of time in it. Mr. Joe visited me often. If it is as bad today as yesterday, I may be checking out spending some time in the freezer!

This week I'm setting sail on my "Crossing the Pond" design.  I made huge headway last week, and hope to again this week.


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Cutie Patootie Blocks

 Hello Everyone,

It was a great day yesterday making these cute little blocks.

By the end of the day, I had a nice pile of thirty blocks.  The HST, and strip sets were already made.  I just had to sew the blocks together.

I cut, and made some sashing sections, and I like the look.  I'm going to stick with this setting.

 It's my turn to cook this morning for our mini-retreat of three people, so I have to scoot and tie my apron on. 


Monday, August 10, 2020

Betsy's Blessing Tutorial

Hello Everyone,

As promised, here is the tutorial to make this adorable block.  I'll be posting my blocks over the next couple of weeks so you can see what I've been up to.  So why don't you join in and start churning out Churn Dash blocks?  

If you are like me, I know you have a ton of scraps.  I also know during our Shelter in Place, you may have been cleaning out your sewing room, and found a lot more scraps.  The largest piece of fabric you need for this block is 5" x 5".  The strips used in the strip set for the Churn Dash block are only 1" x 24".

I love fabrics designed by Betsy Chutchian for Moda.  I put all of my Betsy fabrics in one spot, and I named it "Betsy's Bin".  This way I can see exactly what I have.  When dealing with scraps, you have to be organized from the get go.  You can't use a fabric if you can't see it or find it!  How many times have you looked for a fabric that you know you have, but you can't find it?  Welcome to my world!

So let's begin making this cute block.  They go together very quickly.

Here are the cutting directions:

Center - 2" x 2"
Cut (3) 1" strips by 24" to make the strip set
Half-Square-Triangles - Cut (1) 5" x 5" light and cut (1) 5" x 5" dark

STEP ONE: I began by selecting a center that has more than 3 colors in it.  In my center, I see red, brown. blue, and cream.  I use this as my key to the selection of the 1" x 24" strips for the strip set, and the fabric for the half-square triangles (HST).

STEP TWO: Sew the 1" strips together to make the strip set. The 24" length will make enough 2" x 2" sections for 3 blocks.  Set the extras aside to make 2 more blocks.  You can change up the center and the half-square triangles to get an entirely different look.  Press in the direction of the arrow.

                                  Not to scale, but you get the idea.

I'm left-handed, as you can tell by the placement of the ruler.  Actually I can cut with either hand, but I prefer this orientation.

STEP THREE: You will make the HST (8) at a time.  Follow my tutorial to make HST by clicking HERE.  This will take you to a tutorial in my virtual classroom.  Or you can go HERE to The Quilt Show, and watch my video on how I make HST (8) at a time.  All of my classes are available for free on The Quilt Show.  You will be making (8) HST at a time, enough for two blocks.  Set your extra HST's aside for another block.


STEP FOUR:  Putting the block together.  Press in the direction of the arrows. When sewn together, the block will measure 5" x 5".  The finished size when sewn into the quilt is 4-1/2" x 4-1/2".

I have a basket where I keep my extra parts and pieces.  I have about 20 blocks that are ready to be stitched.  It's been fun watching this basket fill up.

I'm playing around with a setting idea, and really like this one.  A wonderful tool that I use is EQ8.  (Electric Quilt).  I imported images from Moda of all of the fabric lines I used. I made, and filled all of the blocks with fabric in EQ, so I could get a good idea of what the finished quilt would look like.  You can see that I have used all different colors in this quilt,  and all works together.  My eyes dance across the quilt looking at each and every block.  This quilt is happy, and cheerful.  I don't usually use a lot of yellow in a quilt, but I'm going to use it in this one!

I'll be making blocks today, and I'll post them tomorrow.  Once you get the strip sets made, and the HST, the blocks fly together.

Start digging through those scraps and put them to good use.  They are just begging to become a beautiful quilt for all to see.  If you make some blocks, send me pictures and I'll post them on my blog.  My email address is:  

Start churning out those Churn Dash blocks!


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Lesson Learned

Ahoy Mateys,

This is how I spent my day working on my new "Crossing The Pond" pattern. I put all of the blocks on my design wall and started attaching the sashings to my I thought.  The ship on my journey was totally blown off course.

I always tell my students to make a "pilot" or test block before you continue with the entire quilt.  My blocks are perfect.  My sashing measured exactly 10-1/2" which it was supposed to be.  So I was good to go to start putting everything together.....right?  Sew, sew wrong!

My sashing didn't line up perfectly with my block.  Could it be that this "math lady" made a huge mistake?  I checked and double checked my math, and sure enough, my perfect sashing didn't line up with my perfect block.  This "math lady" deserves 10 lashes with the cat o' nine tails. I think 10 lashes with a wet noodle would be more appropriate.  I felt like a wet noodle by the time I finished disassembling and re-cutting a few pieces for each sashing section.  Then re-assembled the sashings.....which I will continue to work on today.  

Part of my nautical knowledge base today is about the cat o' nine tails.  When not in use, it was stored in a bag.  Hence the term "the cat's out of the bag".  "Not enough room to swing a cat" also derives from this.  I was dodging the cat all day long!

The seam ripper came out and spent the day with me out on the deck while I ripped and ripped some more, then started remaking the sashings.  It is a good thing that Marcus Fabrics produce a high quality fabric with very little fraying.  I pressed all of the parts and pieces to remove the wrinkles and seam lines, and I was good to go to insert the new pieces and start over.  (Boy, I wish I could iron myself and remove the wrinkles!)

This is how it should look.  Much better now and I no longer have that sick to my stomach feeling when I look at my design wall.  I think I had a huge case of seasickness.

So I learned a huge lesson yesterday, which I vow never to repeat.  My ship is back on course, my sails are harnessing enough wind to power me across the ocean, and I'm back to "Crossing The Pond".  I'm no longer at the bottom of the sea in Davey Jones' Locker.


Monday, August 3, 2020

Mini Retreat Preparations

Hello Everyone,

What do you think of this cute little block that will finish at 4-1/2"?

This block came about when I started preparations for a mini retreat next week.  I got out my collection of Betsy Chutchian fabrics which I call my "Betsy Bin".  I like to keep certain collections all together in one place.

I started selecting fabrics for the triple Churn Dash block, and started making little components.  All of Betsy's fabrics work so well together.  I can mix and match from my fabric assortment, and know it is going to work.

I love to begin with a center that has more than three colors.  In this center I see red, blue and brown, so that's what I selected to create a frame around my center.

Next Monday, I'm going to post a tutorial with the cutting directions and construction for this little block.

I'll be experimenting with different setting options in EQ software, and post suggestions.  So you will get to choose what you want to do with the blocks if you decide to make them.

This little project came about when I wanted to have something small to work on at a mini retreat next week.  My big, Sew'n Wild Oaks retreat with 36 quilters was supposed to start next week at Snowflake Lodge.  Well, as you can guess, that was cancelled.  

To fill this time with something fun, my sister is going to come up to her cabin which is only a mile from mine, and we are going to have a mini retreat.  A couple of friends from our "social bubble" will be joining us.  I needed a small project to work on, due to space issues.  This little project is going to fill the bill nicely.  So tune in next Monday and throughout the week to watch my progress and check out the tutorial.