Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oh My {Wonky} Stars!

God's promises are like the stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine. –David Nicholas

Over the past eight months or so, I've been working on a little stash enhancement project tending towards more modern prints. Most of it has come from on-line shops and quite a lot of it has been on clearance. 50% off is my favorite price. I also joined the Stash Stack Club at Pink Castle Fabrics. Each month they feature a certain color and you can get six or twelve different fabrics in either fat quarter or half-yard cuts. The fabrics they send are considered blenders, that is, tone-on-tone or a single color and white. They have their shop organized so that you can search their blenders or Stash Builders, as they call them, by color. I've also ordered from their sale fabrics and beefed up my stash that way. She who dies with the most fabric still dies, but at least she'll have lots of pretty fabrics to make lots of pretty quilts before then.

Now, I'm not getting paid or compensated by telling you this {but if the folks at Pink Castle get a ton of traffic from here and want to send a little something my way, I wouldn't turn them down}. I've just had a really good experience with them and wanted to show off a little something I've been working on, using things I pulled from my stash.

Generally, I'm not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl. I like to have a plan. But when I saw this Wonky Stars Tutorial, there was just enough organization there that I felt safe being a little wonky.

I had so much fun playing in my stash that I couldn't stop at one.

Or two.

The blocks are 12" and they go together pretty quickly. You could have yourself a nice throw quilt in a 5" x 5" layout in no time at all. I'd say that close to half of the fabrics in these blocks came from Pink Castle. And there's some good stuff in there; Metro Living, Bonnie and Camille, Pearl Bracelets and True Colors. I'm not sure what I'll do with these blocks. Maybe if someone puts out a call, I'll contribute them to a collaboration or something. Or maybe I'll quilt them into table toppers, or sew them into a row and make a table runner. Or maybe I'll make a few more blocks and throw together a quilt. I'm feeling rather adventurous without a plan here.

Today's post brought to you by:
Pink Castle Fabrics

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday Tales

The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser — in case you thought optimism was dead.Robert Brault

I forgot to post two Personal Progress Totes I finished this month with the bags I posted yesterday. I was planning to put them all together in one post but forgot, so you get to hear from me two days in a row, with is an altogether uncommon occurrence around here these days. We only had one April birthday girl in our ward.

And this second one is for one of my cousin's daughters. I made one for her other daughter earlier, and casually included it into my post with the ones for February and March birthdays, hoping she wouldn't notice her daughter's name. I sent both of them to her a few weeks ago as a surprise and she was tickled to receive them.

For me, that is what it is all about — I love it when someone loves what I have made for them. I put a lot of thought into the things I make and try to use fabrics and colors that suit that person. When I first started working with the Young Women, I had each of the girls fill out a questionnaire so that I could casually find out their favorite colors for the ribbons and their embroidered names. Even though all of the totes are made with the same fabric, I wanted them to be personalized for each girl.

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by someone wondering if I would make a Gumnut Baby quilt, like the one I made for one of my Twi-Quilter friends. It was a collaboration quilt and we all made blocks for it. I did the center block, which featured the main characters, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

For the most part, I turn down requests for commissions. Honestly, it takes all of the fun out of my "me time." It makes my hobby a job. I'm torn, on this one though. I love needle-turn appliqué. And I'm very flattered that someone liked my work enough to pay me to do it. But that's the sticky part right there. I don't know how much to charge. I'm sure those Gumnut Babies took at least 20 hours. Add to that quilting time and supplies and we're looking at $500+ for a baby quilt. I don't know if I would dare ask that. Another sticky spot is that I tend to procrastinate something I perceive as a chore. Creating for money makes it a chore. The person who wants the quilt doesn't need it until Christmas, but that just means I have lots of time to put it off and then I'll end up stressing myself out trying to pull it together at the last minute. I also don't know if I saved my pattern. I don't even know where to start to look for it. I'm a fool if I threw it out, regardless of whether or not I will ever make this block again. And then there's real life; kids, husband, church stuff, job, summer vacation . . .

Do all of those "cons" outweigh the joy of creating something so individualized? I don't know, but I probably should e-mail the person back to let them know I'm still considering. That is the polite thing to do. And whether or not I make the quilt, I can be polite.

Today's post brought to you by:
My 2014 Finishes

P.S. Don't tell, but I think those Gumnut Babies are a little bit creepy.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Amelie x7

Friends are like handbags . . . you can never have too many.

I've been working on a secret project for the last seven or eight weeks. Before we get to that, I have to fill in with a little backstory. In January, I was called to work with the Young Women at church. I decided that I wanted to make a Personal Progress tote for each of them for their birthdays using Deena Rutter's Good Life fabric, which is based on the Young Women program. I also knew that I was going to need a bigger bag to tote back and forth to church and while I was making one, I could make a few more for the women who work with me as leaders over the girls. I've been working on these pretty much every day since I finished my last quilt, but I had to keep it quiet. We're all friends on The Facebook and my blog posts also show up on my timeline there. Naturally, I didn't want to ruin the surprise. But they've all been delivered now and I can finally show them off.

I used Geta Grama's Amelie Purse pattern. The pattern, with the accent fabric in the front pockets, was perfect for the Good Life fabric. The purse is nice and roomy, but I added 2" to the height of the bag, so they'd be tall enough to fit a standard size binder in them.

I think the funnest part of the assembly was installing the magnetic snap closures, which I ordered from Etsy for a really terrific price.The bag has tons of pockets; besides the two really deep pockets on the front, there are two pockets inside, one each on the lining front and back.

I think the back zipper pocket is my favorite because it has polka-dots inside. If you've been hanging around for any amount of time, you know how much I love polka-dots. I really love the zippers, which I also got on Etsy.

On the practical side, I sprayed them all with Scotch Guard, inside and out. Although I debated about spraying them before I put the pieces together, I decided to wait until after they were all finished, in case the heat from the iron did something funny to the Scotch Guard.

This is the only sewing I've done lately and this is the first project I've worked on from start to finish without getting detoured in a long time. Sometimes I wondered if I was ever going to get them done. It was tempting to work on something else. And having my nose up close to them and seeing all the not-so-perfect top-stitching made me wonder if they were going to turn out good enough to give away. But the reaction I got from the women when I took the bags to them really made it all worth while. One of them said, "this means so much," as she ran her finger over her embroidered name. That meant a lot to me and I'm so glad they are finished and delivered. I can't wait to use mine!

Today's post brought to you by:
My 2014 Finishes

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tulips Are My Favorite

And tulips, children love to stretch
Their fingers down, to feel in each
Its beauty's secret nearer.

–Elizabeth Barrett Browning, A Flower in a Letter.

I'm not quite sure what it is about tulips that I love so much, but they are my favorite of all the flowers. Whatever it is, I think they are a miracle. I thought I'd take you on a little garden tour and show you what is blooming in my yard. These pretty pink ones are Apple Blossom tulips. The pretty burgundy foliage on the left is a peony, which I also really love.

These are parrot tulips, although I'm not sure of the variety because I ordered them in a grab bag. I love the pretty daffodils, rimmed in apricot, behind them, but again, they came from a grab bag so I don't know their name either. On the left is a bleeding heart, which has gotten really big. Does anyone need a cutting?

Once upon a time, I knew the name of these pretty purple tulips, but I don't remember now. The red parrot tulips are also from the grab bag, but I think they are a different variety than the others. It is hard to see from the pictures, but the color isn't quite the same.

This one is called Blue Diamond.

I love orange flowers. This one is the Donald Duck tulip. It was bred for his 50th {I think} birthday.

A neighbor brought me this bulb, so I don't know the variety, but it is absolutely gorgeous. The picture doesn't quite do justice to the beautiful apricot color.

I thought I'd try something a little artsy-smartsy here. Not sure it worked out how I wanted, but I love these delicate pink tulips.

The bulbs are getting a little crowded. For the past several years, I keep thinking I need to dig them up and spread them out, but then these beautiful groups of a dozen or more tulips come up and I can't bear to separate them because I know it will be a few years before they will multiply enough to grow in pretty bouquets again. I think that it really needs to be done this year, though. The tulips won't last much longer so I'll enjoy them while I can, and when they start to fade I'll make a little time to rearrange them. It will be fun to have a new tulip show to see next year.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Because of Him

The sun rises up over the vast cityscape of Jerusalem, lighting the white limestone walls of the old city and creeping over buildings. Just north of the walls, a garden sits undisturbed.

Shortly, a throng of tourists will arrive and take their spots on the benches overlooking the garden. Some will descend the steps to the lowest point in the garden, quietly duck through a door carved in stone, and stare reverently into a hollowed portion of the rock where a body was laid to rest about two thousand years ago. As they leave, they will notice a sign on the door: “He is not here, for He is risen.”

The tourists don’t come to the Garden Tomb because this is where they hope Jesus was buried; they come because they hope this is where Jesus did what had never been done before—He lived again.
–The Meaning of Easter,

Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. Because of Him, death is not the end, and life takes on new meaning. We can change, we can start over—and we can live again with God. This Easter, celebrate His life and discover all that’s possible because of Him.

As part of our lesson today in Young Women, we each took some time to think of how our lives are better because of Him. On this beautiful Easter day, I hope you will take some time to reflect on the good things in your life because of Him.
Back Row, L to R: Sarah, Erica, Elizabeth, Kim
Front Row, L to R: Maddie, Jehni, Sam


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gluten Free Is Do-Able. Or So I Keep Telling Myself.

There are very few one-size-fits-all solutions. –L. Tom Perry, Obedience Through Our Faithfulness, April 2014

My tummy has always been a little fussy. I was tested for Celiac in December of 2012 and it came back negative. I knew that dairy bothered me so in January of 2013 I decided that it was time to give it up completely in hope of easing the discomfort. And for a couple of weeks, things seemed better. But it wasn't long before the the gastrointestinal distress returned. Since I'd tested negative for Celiac I was sure it couldn't be gluten, and I stubbornly refused to give up my daily bread. I mean, I'd already taken the cheese off my pizza. If I took away the crust too, I'd be left with sauce and pepperoni and that just didn't cut it in my book. I figured that I just had a more sensitive digestive system and that it was something I was going to have to live with.

About five weeks ago things became pretty unbearable. My stomach hurt all the time. It hurt so much that it woke me up in the wee hours of the morning, and as I laid in bed tossing and turning and waiting for relief, I started to worry. I got up and started cutting scraps into 2" squares, and I worried some more. And I was convinced that something was VERY wrong. I e-mailed P., who is dairy-free and also gluten free. She also tested negative for Celiac, but is gluten intolerant and feels much better without it. We've discussed our intestinal woes on occasion and she urged me to try giving up gluten for a couple of weeks {as she has done on several other occasions in the past}. I figured that the only thing I had to loose were a few worrisome symptoms, so I did. And I made an appointment with the doctor who took some blood, did a bunch of tests, including for Celiac {which was negative again}, and then sent me to a gastro doc where I was subjected to more and less pleasant tests. Everything is normal. Except it's not, because my body doesn't tolerate gluten.

Within just a few days of giving up the stuff, I started to feel better. A lot better. And I got to wondering why, suddenly, so many people are gluten intolerant or have Celiac disease? I mean, wheat is the staff of life, and all that. Why would our bodies suddenly turn on us? I followed a few rumors, like that hybridized wheat was to blame, or genetically altered corn, cotton, alfalfa and papaya {among other foods} were to blame. And someone to throw the blame on is just what I was looking for. I wanted to buy into those rumors, because they were on the internet, so they must be true. After more consultation with P., she pointed me in a different direction, and it would seem that lectins, gluten and phytates are just plain hard to digest. I suspect that, coupled with a diet high in the grains that contain these components, would eventually lead to rebellion. And it looks like the rebellion has won in my body.

While stubbornly refusing to believe that gluten was an issue, I thought giving up bread was the worst thing in the world. Now, almost five weeks on the other side, I can't believe I spent so much time eating myself sick. My tummy is SO much happier and I feel a lot better. Before, my brain felt like I should always be eating, even if my stomach was full. Now, my blood sugar stays pretty steady and my stomach is in charge of when I eat and it knows when I'm full too.

Granted, it is a more work to try and come up with interesting and tasty things to eat. The first week was a snap. I was so anxious for relief that I happily met the challenge. The menu I already had planned for that week lent itself nicely to being gluten free. All I had to do was pick up some GF soy sauce and I was set. The next week was much harder, because I was pretty sure we'd eaten all the things that are gluten free the week before. Somehow, I managed to scrape together another menu. It was seriously lacking in imagination. The week after that I put together another. And then another. We've only had a few repeats {the Not-So-Little Bugs love chicken tacos, and I'm good with having a crunchy corn tortilla and leaving off the cheese as long as there is plenty of salsa, homemade guacamole and dairy-free sour cream}. I'm hoping to develop a fairly well-rounded répertoire of menu items because fast food is quickly becoming a distant memory {although I've had some very lovely salads lately from Wendy's, Chick-fil-A and a local cafe. And I really love an "unwich" from Jimmy John's – think lettuce wrap sandwich}. I've made quite a few Asian recipes because they're mostly dairy-free, and if you've got the right soy sauce then gluten isn't an issue either. Potatoes and rice and quinoa have made appearances. We even tried gluten free pasta and I was pretty impressed. I tried a loaf of gluten free bread and wasn't impressed at all with that. When I left dairy behind, I discovered that it really is best not to try to substitute ingredients, but rather to find new recipes that don't require those particular ingredients. Although I am going to try P.'s gluten free double chocolate chip cookie recipe. I haven't had chocolate for five weeks, people! Five weeks! Almost. {Sidebar: did you know that Oreos are dairy free? Makes you wonder what is in that creme filling, doesn't it?} Eventually, I'll get around to trying homemade gluten free breads. Perhaps when I no longer have to go to work every day.

In the meantime, I think it has been a very positive change. I still have days here and there when I can't figure out why I've got a belly ache. I wonder if I forgot to read a label, if there are other items that my body doesn't like or if there were cross-contamination issues. But I'm not going to let it get me down. And I'm not going back to a pizza filled life. To be honest, I remember pizza and garlic bread, ice cream, cookies and cake with fondness, but I don't crave them. I don't even really want to eat them. Jimmy John's put cheese that I didn't ask for on my unwich a few weeks ago and I didn't notice until I'd eaten about ¾ of the sandwich {it was wrapped tight in lettuce, you know}. Within a half-hour of eating, I felt uncomfortably nauseated, and my tummy was pretty unhappy for the next 36 hours or so. I'd rather eat a nice salad or some beans and rice and fresh fruit makes a delightfully satisfying dessert.

Yes, I suppose gluten free is do-able, after all.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Stitch In Time: March Finishes Giveaway Winner

If you take responsibility for yourself, you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams. –Les Brown

Here we are again, a good way into the month and I'm just getting to posting the winner for the March Finishes Linky Party. The first of the month has always been particularly busy at work, but more so since we had two software change-overs at the beginning of the year. I keep hoping we'll settle in and things won't take so long, but we're still figuring things out {read: making things up as we go}, so here I am, late again. It is an improvement from last month {by five days}, and my goal is to continue that trend. In other news, I've been enjoying the beautiful weather we've been having and loving all the spring bulbs in bloom. In the category of finishes in March, I did two aprons {Honey Bees II and Groovy Garden} and a baby quilt in March! It was awesome to get a few things done. Since then, I've been working on a few {read: seven, because if one is awesome, seven are beyond spectacular} tote bags. I still have to cut the linings and I'm at about the half-way point in assembly. I have been enjoying puttering along with these. I hope to pick up the pace, though, and get them finished by week's end, because about twelve different quilts are calling my name and begging to be worked on.

And now, what we've all been waiting for, the winner of the March Finishes Linky Party Giveaway, a charm pack of Kona in Bluegrass, sponsored by The Fat Quarter Shop. Thank you to everyone who linked up! It is so fun to visit the frequent-linkers and see what they've been up to since the last time and to visit bloggers who haven't linked before and see their amazing work. Seeing your amazing projects is a highlight for me. This month Grasshopper pulled the winning number – 19!

Kona Bluegrass Charm Pack

Congratulations to
:partytime: Lisa Maria :partytime:
at Quilts by Lisa on Flickr

Lisa usually links a quilt or two up each month, but she was extra busy this month. In addition to her winning entry, Geometry School, she linked up and adorable set of hot pads, Shop Cook Eat, and three other quilts this month, Owl, Favorite Colors and Oldies. And if you're looking for some other fun projects, check out this Geese in a Circle pillow at Made With My Two Hands or the Chess and Checkers Game/Pillow at ShannonMac Designs.

The April Finishes Linky Party is open, so you can link up as you go throughout the month. Remember to include the April Finishes button {code found in the April post} somewhere in any post you link up. Code for a button for your sidebar can also be found at the bottom of the April post. The giveaway this month, sponsored by The Fat Quarter shop, is a Dottie Charm Pack by Moda.
Dottie Charm Pack

Today's post brought to you by:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Stitch In Time: April Finishes Linky Party

If you can't figure out your purpose, figure out your passion; for your passion will lead you right into your purpose. –TD Jakes

I love spring! The longer days and the pretty colors just bring contentment to my heart. All the extra daylight and plants coming to life gives me a bit of renewed energy, too. There are about 50 things I want to work on. Finding the time is the only problem. I'm working on a few tote bags right now, which I hope to have finished soon. After that, two or three different Ph.D quilts are begging to be worked on and I need to put together signature blocks for a quilt for a woman in my neighborhood who is turning 100 years old this year {I decided on the flower layout, if you were curious}. At any rate, I'm hoping that April will be full of finishes for both me and you! Let the linking begin!

To participate in this month's linky party:
• Your project must be completed sometime in April 2014.
• Once you've got your project finished {as in done, finito, nothing more to add, ready to use/display/give away} with some sort of stitching in it, blog about it or post a photo of it on Flickr.
• Scroll down to see what other bloggers are up to and link to your own finishes.
• Please include the April button in your blog post. Copy the code in the text box below and paste it somewhere in the post you link for this month's finishes. The button is a link to this specific post, so that other bloggers can find their way over and link up too. If you'd like a button for your sidebar, the code is at the bottom of this post.

• Each time you link up a finished project, you're entered to win the April giveaway, a Dottie Charm Pack by Moda.
Dottie Charm Pack

• Thank you to The Fat Quarter Shop for sponsoring our giveaway!

The Fine Print {which might be boring but you really should read}:
• Your project must be completed during the month you are linking to.
• Projects must include stitching of some sort. For example: appliqué, crochet, cross-stitch, embroidery, knitting, practical sewing {garment construction, bags, curtains, etc.}, quilting.
• Projects must be completely finished. As in done, finito, nothing more to add, ready to use/display/give away.
• You can pick something new to do, but projects do not have to be started during the month. If you pick up a UFO, Ph.D, WIP and finish it during the month, it counts.
• Finishes must be completed during this month, but you have until 5:00 pm MST on the 1st of the next month to link your post.
• Post about your finish and then link your specific post {instructions here} above. Links to your blog and not the individual post about your finished project will be deleted.
• Have more than one finish this month? Great! Post about each finish individually and then link the specific posts up separately. Each finish, and therefore each link you add, counts as one entry for this month's giveaway.
• If you've already posted about a finish for this month, there's no need to do a separate post. Just add the button to that post and link up.
• Please copy and paste the code below to include this month's button somewhere in the post {not your sidebar} you link up for this month.
April Finishes

• Don't have a blog? You can link from your flickr account. Just post a picture, include a little note about your finish and a link back here {code included below} in the description. Then join the linky party.

• Want a button for your sidebar? Copy and paste the code below into an HTML gadget for your sidebar. This button is a link to the main A Stitch In Time Linky Party page, which always has the current month's finishes and links to all previous linky parties.
A Stitch In Time Linky Party

• Make sure to visit a few of the other links and leave them some love {ie, a comment}. A good rule of thumb is to visit two links for every one you include.
• Winner of the sponsored giveaway will be drawn randomly from among the links and announced by 8:00 pm MST by the 5th of the following month.
• Kindly consider changing your comment settings to the pop-up window option for faster and easier commenting for visitors to your blog. Instructions can be found here.