Saturday, February 24, 2024

Perfect Applique Circles

 Hello Everyone,

How many of you plan your quilting schedule around the weather?  Well, I looked ahead at the 10-day forecast and I'm seeing close to 20" of snow beginning next Friday on March 1st.  I can't think of a better way to spend my day than sitting by the woodburning stove and appliqueing my entire day. Keep in mind a few naps may occasionally kick in!  I'm preparing 10 blocks to stitch, which means I need to make 40 perfect circles.

As you can see in the picture above, I'm using Karen Kay Buckley's Perfect Circles.  I selected two different sizes of the circles.  The smaller circle is the finished size which I need.

I always begin with fabric starched with a HEAVY DUTY spray starch.  Doing that cuts down on the amount of raveling and the fabric behaves beautifully.  I guess you could say that I starch it into submission.

I use a Frixion pen and draw a circle around the largest of the two circles, and then cut around it with about a 1/16" of an inch beyond the marked line.  Then I take a running stitch along the marked line.

I put the smaller circle on top of the larger circle so you can see the difference in the sizes.

After I've taken the running stitch, I pull the thread to gather it around the smaller circle and then I press.

I do not knot my thread. Now that's a tongue twister!

I then use an Aqua Touch marker filled with Best Press spray starch and apply it to my perfect circle and press.  I do not apply the starch to the gathered side, I only apply it to the finished side.

I then carefully remove the plastic circle and press again.  The fabric has a memory and will spring right back into shape with just a bit of coercion. I will prepare a bunch of these little guys today and tomorrow and also work on some piecing.

I'll also prepare a lot of plaid pieces while listening to a book on Audible.  

I find applique so soothing and productive.  I love incorporating both piecing and applique in my designs.  I guess because it fulfills me.  Do something fulfilling this weekend.


Thursday, February 22, 2024

A Sneak Peek

 Hello Everyone,

Here are just a few snippets of the project I've been diligently working on during all of our storms here in California.  The project includes 12 of the applique blocks.

I'm working with my Hearthstone fabric line, and I haven't tired of it yet.  In fact, I'm loving it more and more as I go.  I'm making 16 of this pieced block.  I finished block #8 yesterday.

Here are the blocks against the backdrop of Hearthstone bolts.

I'm making 8 of this applique block.

I set up an applique station in the great room so I could watch the playoff football games and applique the day away.  I need to find another sport now that football is over for the season.  I'm not a huge fan of basketball.  I wish the Winter Olympics were on so I could do some Olympic-type applique!

Before all of the rains began, we did have a bit of snow.  The shoveling was very doable as the snow was very fluffy and we just had to push it out of the way. We probably could have used the leaf blower as it was so powdery.

The picture doesn't do this scene justice.  It looked like thousands of diamonds were falling out of the trees and glistening in the sun.

We stay comfy and cozy in our cabin in the woods.

While all of this quilting is going on, I also worked on two new fabric lines and submitted them to Marcus Fabrics.  I'm working on fabric line #3 now.  It takes sooooo long to bring a fabric collection to life!  I'm having a Zoom meeting with the graphic designer and Marcus management next week to discuss my submissions and maybe I'll get some sort of timeframe for their release.  

I always set the Zoom call up in my quilting room and change out the quilt behind me.  I really need to tidy up my room so I can show them the entire setting.  We'll see about that!


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Two Beauties

 Hello Everyone,

I received two more pictures from quilters who made my patterns that I'm sharing with you.  The first picture is Country Courthouse which came from Jan.  This quilt took First Place and Viewer's Choice at Happy Trails Quilt Show in Surprise, Arizona. 

Jan did a great job and is very deserving of her ribbons.

The next picture of Heritage is from Betty.  The quilt was made by her husband Bruce.  Here's what she said in the email.

     "Wanted you to see my husband’s completed quilt. He has been encouraged to enter it into the 2024 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Quilt Show.  He is a 72 year old male who began quilting a little over a year ago, with no prior sewing experience.  He plans to begin “A Ribbon Runs Through It” next.  He really appreciates your quilt plans and looks forward to creating more in the future.  He gave me this quilt to display in our guest quarters."

Wow, Bruce, you are amazing.  I really hope you do enter the quilt in the two shows.  I'll be you will be sending me pictures of your ribbons too!

California has been under another atmospheric river for days on end.  The rain was so torrential the other night that it kept waking us up.  I love to hear the pitter patter of rain on the roof unless it resembles elephants tromping across the roof for hours at a time.  The high country is receiving a great dumping of snow which is fantastic.  I'll put up with the rain instead of four feet of snow.  Last winter was brutal when it came to snow at my location.

All of the rain has kept me inside my sewing room.  I'm spending more time quilting and listening to books on Audible.  I just finished and highly recommend The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon and Code Name Helene by the same author.  Look these books up and see if they might appeal to you.  Both books kept me quilting for hours on end, and the reader drowned out the elephants tromping around on the roof.


P.S.  If you are interested in purchasing the patterns for Country Courthouse or Heritage, they are located HERE in my Etsy shop.

Friday, February 16, 2024

An Italian Country Charmer

Hello Everyone,

I love to receive pictures and feedback when a quilter finishes one on my designs.  Isabella from Italy sent me pictures of her beautiful Country Charmer quilt which she made for her daughter.

Isabella incorporated a beautiful color palette in her quilt which she has given to her daughter.

Her piecing is so precise!

The quilting is perfect for the design.

It makes me so happy to know that my designs are being created around the world.  I shipped patterns to 17 different countries just last year.  If you are interested in making a Country Charmer quilt, the pattern is available on my Etsy site HERE.

Thank you, Isabella, for making my pattern and sending me pictures.  Bravo!



Sunday, February 11, 2024

Bridle Path - From the Heart

 Hello Everyone,

It's that time again for another chapter in the life of Lexi, my fictional Packhorse Librarian in Appalachian Kentucky in 1935-36.  Lexi is writing a journal to her young daughter, Grace.

If you are new to my blog, I would suggest you start reading from the very beginning. 

Chapter One    A New Beginning

Chapter Two   Aroma of Time

Chapter Three   Reflections

Chapter Four    The Christmas Surprise

Chapter Five    Les Misérables 

Bridle Path - Chapter 6 - From the Heart

February 1936

Dear Grace,

This has become a time of reflection for me while I ride along my route into the hollers and back country of rural Appalachian Kentucky. I’m not only riding my route and blazing a trail, but as I ride, I’m sifting through an enormous number of memories in my life which have brought me to this new and very unexpected route my life has taken. 

As I look around, I realize the countryside is held captive by the grip of Winter.  I will not be held captive by Winter or by my own thoughts; I’m going to break the bonds and forge a trail even though my anxiety level grows with the height of the snow.  This is one of those times when I wish Starkey was 2 hands higher than he is. If he threw me, at least I would land in snow and not meet the hard earth with a thud.

There is such emptiness yet richness in the silence in the mountains which makes my senses more aware of everything around me.  There are times when I reign in Starkey, and we listen to the stillness around us.  Such sweet stillness that calms my mind and soul and gives me time to sort through my thoughts.  I marvel at the bluebird sky, a color truly designed by a higher power for our enjoyment and awe. I also love looking at the different tracks in the snow.  A very low-slung creature made an odd pattern through the snow in front of me. My first thought is a fisher cat. It doesn’t like fish and it’s not a cat, so I have no idea how it received that name.  I just know that I would rather not come face to face with one.

My saddle has become my chair as I spend more time in it than I do at home.  Was it comfortable….no, but my saddle fits me like a glove and adjusts to my every curve. Or maybe my body fits every contour of the saddle.  I wouldn’t call it an easy chair, but it is becoming a comfortable old friend.

I just stopped in and spent some time with Little Georgie Stoltz.  This is his favorite time of year as he likes to pretend he is Cupid with his bow and suction cup arrow.  I must remind him not to shoot me, so the arrow doesn’t startle Starkey.  The entire family has been enjoying Robinson Crusoe. I probably stayed longer than I should have and spent some time reading to them. Sitting by the fire and sipping a weak cup of coffee was just what I needed to get some heat back into my body. The words of Mrs. Stoltz resonated in my brain as I left their cabin.  “Land sakes child, please be careful out there!”

My thoughts travel back to Valentine’s Day, or the ghost of Valentine’s past.  This is the second February 14th since your Daddy’s passing.  I feel as though the months of the calendar fly by one after the other without much delineation in time. But Winter, oh how Old Man Winter keeps such monotonous and repetitive time. The days tick away like the metronome in Mrs. Welch’s cabin.

I find myself drifting back to when I was in 5th grade in Mr. South’s one room schoolhouse in Cobble Hill.  There were only three of us in the 5th grade if you count Rocky, who took eight years to matriculate to the 5th grade.  Rocky was just there to warm the pines of his chair but never absorb any knowledge between his ears.  His only pleasure in life was trying to torment the entire schoolhouse of students, and Mr. South.

On any given day, there was an assortment of small and large bodies from the age of five to fifteen.  For the most part, we all got along pretty well, except for Rocky and had known each other since we were old enough to walk.  You could say just about all of us were in the same poor economic circumstance. There was no income gap in town; we were all pretty much in the same boat.  Some boats rode a bit higher in the water than others. The good news is we never knew we were poor; we just didn’t know differently.

There was one student, Glen, who truly was poor, and was, as some said, from the wrong side of the tracks. I never knew that tracks had a right and wrong side until years later.  The boat his family was in floated lower in the water than the rest of us and was close to capsizing and taking in water at a fast clip. Glen was the eldest of five children.  The hand-me-down clothes he wore were well-worn castoffs from his father.  The clothes hung on his painfully thin bones like a scarecrow.  I remember he cut holes in the cuffs of an old sweater and stuck his thumbs through the holes to keep the sleeves from reaching down to his knees.  I thought that design modification was genius and told him so.

Glen was likeable but he didn’t see the inside of a bathtub on a frequent rotation with the other children in his cabin.  His face was usually dirty which made his smile extremely white. It was a winning smile that made you overlook the ever-present odor that followed him like a cloud through the classroom.

We were just kids who went to school to have fun, be with our friends, and yes learn a thing or two so we could better our lives. I have yet to understand why long division would make my life better.  Not to mention dividing and multiplying fractions!  Well, I take that back.  My knowledge of fractions has helped Grandma Millie with her quilting calculations.

Every day when we entered the classroom, each of the chalkboards were filled with arithmetic problems. We had to write the problems down on our paper and solve them.  I could breeze through the easy section and would really have to concentrate on the harder problems.  One by one we were called up to the board to solve the problem so we could all learn.  It became a fun game to see who could finish first and we were learning so much; well, some of us were always learning with the exception of Rocky who made a habit of making paper airplanes with his arithmetic paper.  Mr. South put a stop to that and challenged Rocky to design a paper airplane that would fly over the top of the swing set in the school yard.  He could only do that after he finished and solved all the problems on the chalkboard. That Mr. South sure had Rocky figured out. 

During lunchtime, Mr. South always sat with Glen as he knew no one else would sit with him.  Glen welcomed this as Mr. South always slipped him an extra sandwich, an apple, or a cookie made by Mrs. South.   The only one in the room who spoke out about this show of favoritism was Rocky, of course. Mr. South just asked Rocky how his paper airplane was coming along and would he please give us a demonstration of his aerial pursuit after lunch.

Mr. South was a fresh graduate right out of the new teachers’ college in Lexington. He was very tall with jet black hair and always wore the same double-breasted suit every day to school even when the temperature was way too hot to wear a suit.  Maybe this was why he got hot under the collar when it came to dealing with Rocky on a daily basis.

Our assignment for the past few nights was making cards to exchange on Valentine’s Day.  We had to use our best penmanship as taught to us by Mrs. Van Asperen.  Every night before Valentine’s Day, I would sit at the kitchen table and make Valentine cards for my classmates.  Throughout the year my mother saved scraps of paper, lace, ribbon, paper bags, and buttons, and I would sit and make cards.  I was so happy when she saved some paper doilies from a Church luncheon. This was the best addition to my Valentine cards ever! 

I thought about my best friends, and each of their Valentine cards received special attention and extra embellishments.  I had just one small piece of paper doily left and had to decide who would get it. I decided that Glen would appreciate it the most, mainly because Rocky wadded up his skimpy Valentine’s Day cards last year and threw them into the wood burning stove at the end of the day.

I labored over Glen’s card and thought it was the nicest one that I’d made.  I didn’t want him to think I was sweet on him, I just wanted him to receive a nice card since he had so little joy in his life.

The room mothers came into the classroom toward the end of the day, and we had a nice party with punch, homemade cookies and then exchanged Valentine’s.  Poor Glen, literally poor Glen, didn’t receive many cards that day. He shyly looked my way when he saw the card I’d made for him.  His fingers traced the heart on top of the paper doily and his smile lit up the room and my heart. I think both of us were blushing, but I couldn’t see the color rise through the smudges of grime on his face.

That sweet moment was fleeting as Mr. South rang the school bell and we all gathered up our goodies and headed for home.  When we filed out, Mr. South asked me to stay after school.  I was horrified!  I NEVER got in trouble in school.  My mind was racing through the day while I tried to figure out what I had done to warrant the punishment of staying after school. Was my long division that bad? I could feel myself close to tears and was so embarrassed!  I sat back down in my chair and awaited my punishment for whatever crime I’d committed that day. 

Mr. South came over to me and eased his large, lanky body into one of the student chairs with a long sigh.  He looked me directly in my eyes and thanked me from the bottom of his heart for the Valentine card that I’d made for Glen.  The tears of relief started to fall and spill out of my eyes.  He said my act of kindness to Glen made an impression on him and was an example to the other students, and for that he was truly thankful.  All these years later I still remember that day unlike any other day in 5th grade.  I don’t remember any other Valentine’s Day, only that special day in 5th grade. What I’d done made a difference in the life of another.

Remembering back to that day in 1923, took my mind off my current problems in 1936. The passage of those 13 years seems like a lifetime ago. I was now a young widow with a small child who depended on me for her survival.  I’ve known love and loss, too much loss for someone my age.  Then and there I decided that I needed to become a force of nature and blaze my way through the woods to those who came to depend on me for a cheerful smile, a book, a magazine, and to share any news about Cobble Hill and our country. I needed to make a difference in my community.

On my way back to town, I stopped by that one room schoolhouse which has expanded to two rooms.  Mr. South was cleaning the chalkboards in the room for the older kids.  Mrs. Van Asperen had come out of retirement to teach the little kids.  No doubt her Palmer Method of Penmanship was foremost in her curriculum.

I half expected to see Rocky there, but he finally graduated from 8th grade sporting a full beard and moved on to join the service after a short time of working in the mines. I wonder if he’s now piloting a plane over swing sets in faraway places. I knew Glen wasn’t there as he moved away after 5th grade to who knows where. Maybe his family headed off to California to become pickers out in the sprawling Central Valley. I wonder if he still has the special Valentine. I also wonder if his smile can still light up a room.

I asked both teachers if they could save any Valentine’s Day cards from their upcoming party before anyone had the chance to throw them into the fire.  I thought they would be a wonderful addition to the scrapbooks we Packhorse Librarians were making to become part of our distributing circulation.  The handmade Valentine cards would be colorful and good for those learning to read.  The scrap books also contained newspaper articles, hand drawn quilt patterns, recipes, and other tidbits of information we could find about our local area and the world.  We cut pictures out of magazines and catalogs that we were no longer distributing and put them in the scrapbooks. It was a fun diversion for us when the weather was too inclement for us to be out on horseback. I was thrilled to know Mr. South and Mrs. Van Asperen vowed to save the leftover cards for me.

As I left the classroom, Mr. South looked at me, winked, and asked how my long division was coming along.



Thursday, February 1, 2024

Bridle Path - Chapter 5 - Les Misérables

 Hello Everyone,

I'm finally posting Chapter 5 for my Packhorse Librarian story.  I've had a very busy start to the New Year, and there just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done!

Chapter #5 Month #5

January 1936

Dear Grace,

When your daddy was alive, I always looked forward to the first snowfall of the season. You and I only ventured outside to bring in firewood and then we would briefly play in the white powder.  You would mimic me and look up at the sky and squeal with delight when a snowflake landed on your tongue, and you would wrinkle up your little nose and make a face.  That precious little face always made me laugh. I don’t laugh as much as I used to, and I need to work on that.

Now when it snows, all I can think about is breaking trail through the snow to get to the back country to deliver books to those who have come to depend on me, not only for the books but for my company.  When I signed up to become a Packhorse Librarian, I did it to help feed my family.  Little did I know at the time I was feeding my own soul and helping myself heal while helping others.

My mama gave me an old oil cloth tablecloth to wrap around my shoulders to keep the snow from soaking through my jacket.  The oil cloth was held in place by a large safely pin. I found out quickly that the clothes pin I was using to keep it closed was inadequate when it came to keeping the oil cloth snug around my shoulders.  The clothes pin kept popping off and landing in the snow.  This meant I had to get off of Starkey’s saddle and dig around in the snow like a rutting pig to find the clothes pin.  How could something so light get buried so quickly?

This week I have a new couple on my list to visit, Mr. and Mrs. Portage.  Their cabin is located 5 miles outside of Cobble Hill.  I have seen them only a couple of times when they’ve come into town to either see Old Doc Wood or pick up a few supplies.  They are always pleasant when I saw them around town, and they seemed to enjoy the company of others.

Mrs. Portage is a tall, wispy woman with thick white hair pulled back into a bun at the nape of her neck.  There is a regal and elegant quality about her even in poverty.  Mr. Portage was a thin, wiry man who always wore a felt hat with a wide brim.  He appeared to look more like a scarecrow in his worn-out bib overalls and plaid shirt.  When he took off his hat you could see a few strands of iron-gray hair neatly combed across the top of his head. 

They were lucky their cabin received more sunshine than most, making Mr. Portage’s garden the envy of the holler. Maybe it was his scarecrow-like appearance that kept the birds and small critters away from his flourishing garden.  He set up snares around the perimeter of the garden to catch an occasional rabbit on a midnight marauding spree.  After skinning, the rabbit went directly into a big black pot and kept them fed for a few days with the addition of a turnip, carrots, onions, and potatoes.

Mr. Portage shared with me that he loved it when he snared a raccoon.  His face would light up and tell me it was a delicacy which they enjoyed.  They truly lived off the land and nothing went to waste. The snared raccoon meant there was one less predator in the woods to steal the eggs right out from under the chickens in the coop.  Mr. Portage pointed out the shotgun by the front door of the cabin that took care of a raccoon or two over the past few months who were ‘poaching’ eggs from his chickens.  He laughed when he used the phrase poached eggs!

I looked forward to my ride to see Mr. and Mrs. Portage in the early morning hours through the woods.  The snow has a way of silencing and muffling all sound.  Except for the occasional snort from Starkey, and the crack of a broken branch, the woods were quiet.  The avian chorus was also quiet while we made our way through the woods. Blue would bound off in search of a scent while following a trail of tracks through the underbrush.  The world, the morning, and my thoughts were peaceful as we made our way along the path.

Quite often my thoughts were not peaceful as I tried to get through each day.  Not only were we trying to survive after the depression, but there were also rumblings about a new leader in Germany named Adolf Hitler. Your grandma spoke often about WW1 and the thought of another war were just too much for me to comprehend. Just like Starkey, I needed to put one foot in front of the other and make progress through the day and only entertain thoughts about the good I was doing, and how I was able to put food on our own table and make our lives a bit better through the Packhorse Librarian program.  

Starkey, Blue, and I arrived at the Portage’s cabin at different times.  Blue was way ahead of me and was enjoying a belly rub on the front porch from Mr. Portage by the time I rode into the front yard at their cabin. On the outside, I could tell the cabin was small yet well cared for. The inside was as neat as a pin. There was an exceedingly small woodburning stove in the living area flanked by one overstuffed chair and one rocking chair. The wood stove didn’t have to work too hard to keep the cabin toasty warm as it was so small. 

There was a double bed in one corner with an iron head and footboard and a well-used quilt to keep them warm.  I commented on the beautiful quilt and Mrs. Portage shared that she made the quilt for their wedding in 1922.  I looked at them and was doing some mental calculations and soon realized they had only been married for 16 years.  They must have both been older when they married as now, they both appeared to be in their late 60’s, maybe early 70’s.  Time has a way of adding years to a hard life here in the hollers.

There was a small kitchen cupboard in the other corner with a basin for washing dishes.  The open shelves housed two cups, two plates, a couple of bowls and cooking utensils, all serviceable but sparse. Mrs. Portage said she would love to have a piece of calico fabric to cover the shelves to keep out the dust and add a bit of color to the inside of the cabin.

They were incredibly grateful when I asked them if they would enjoy a Reader’s Digest. They quickly said yes as the only reading material they had in the cabin was their family Bible which they read every single day.  They would sit by the fire and take turns reading to each other while watching the storm clouds gather all around them. They were snug as two bugs in a rug inside their modest, little slice of heaven. 

They said they would read an article a day as that was the way the Digest was originally set up at its inception in the early 1920’s.  Mr. Portage said he would very much enjoy reading Humor in Uniform since he was in the Navy during WW1. That brought a smile to my face when I thought about the Popeye the Sailorman cartoon, I’d watched with your daddy at the Senator Cinema in Lexington.  The cartoon played before the main attraction of Les Misérables, which at the time was all the rage.  Mr. Portage looked like Popeye! 

After watching the movie, I asked myself why I wanted to see a movie with the word miserable in the title?  I felt drained and sad at the conclusion as the movie lasted almost five hours!  On a positive note, I felt as though got my money’s worth, and my life wasn’t nearly as tragic as Victor Hugo’s characters….at least not yet since your daddy was still alive.

I wanted to learn more about Mr. and Mrs. Portage, and I knew I would develop a strong friendship with them over time. I didn’t want to ask too many questions, but I expressed my concern over a large sore on Mr. Portage’s lower lip.  He said he was a pipe smoker for years, and his lip was just irritated.  That added more to my image of Popeye! I’m sure Mr. Portage was also growing cans of spinach in his garden which the rabbits could not eat!