red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

Archive for the month “January, 2014”

flora, fauna and fabric in LA

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My husband, Daughter #2 and I visited Los Angeles last weekend and had a fabulous time. D#2 and I had never been there before, so traveling from our freezing temps to sunny and unseasonably warm (even for there) southern California was a bit surreal. At Griffith Observatory we spied this little hummer buzzing around plantings at the base of the Astronomers Monument. I think it was an Anna’s hummingbird. See the dusting of pollen on her beak?

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Also at Griffith Observatory, this wee hummingbird paused long enough for me to snap a quick photo. My guess is that it was a black-chinned hummingbird. Like the other, she also had a pollen smudge on her beak.

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While at Venice Beach, we visited with fauna of the domestic variety at Small World Books, a quiet intellectual haven in all of the craziness. Conan is the resident cat librarian; he gladly assumed a studied casual pose for us Midwestern tourists.

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The Getty Center stunned us with its gardens and architecture (we bow down to you, Richard Meier).

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It felt like we were at Starfleet Academy.

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On our last day there, my husband and daughter indulged me in visiting Sew Modern. We arrived before official opening hours, but the door was propped open because some renovation work inside the store was in progress. The owners kindly welcomed us in and let me prowl around while I wished I had a huge empty suitcase to cram full of fabric.

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However, showing a great deal of restraint, I walked out with only these lovely pieces.

birthday blankets

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For a couple of Daughter #2’s friends turning another year older, I made lanyards and fleece blankets.

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What better way to celebrate than with high tea?! Happy Birthday girls!

happiness is a warm blanket

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The wife of a colleague of my husband’s has been ill, and it’s been a trying and scary time for their family. A few days ago the staff put the word out that they’d be providing dinner for the family this week and would welcome dinner/side dish/dessert contributions. Instead of contributing food, I decided to make a blanket for the family.

I was given the directions to make this blanket by a local fabric shop several years ago. As you can see from the simple design, it is very easy to make. It can be assembled in an afternoon–just be prepared to deal with a lot of fluff while cutting and sewing! After I sewed the first one for my family, it quickly became the sought-after favorite blanket (meaning tussles over exclusive use!), so over time I’ve made one for every family member and then more to give to family friends.

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The blanket is made from fleeced-backed suede–I wait for a good sale/coupon to buy the material. Its soft texture and heft make it comforting to lie beneath. It’s large enough to fit a snuggly group.

Sewn in place are prayers for healing, love and comfort.

finished dimensions: 57″ x 75″
wash in cold water; dry on low

star table runner with bonus blocks

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I started making this table runner with the idea that it would be a host gift for Daughter #1’s home-stay family, but as it came together, she and I decided it was a bit too Christmas-y for a post-Christmas gift. So now I am ahead on Christmas gifts for 2014!

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For the star blocks, I used Allison Harris’ (Cluck Cluck Sew) star block tutorial to make the three star blocks. (I used this same tutorial to make a quilt top you can see here.) I added a 1-inch blue border and then a 1 1/2-inch red pine needle border.

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On the back I used a red stripe ticking fabric, which makes the runner reversible and versatile: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July–you get the idea. (Finished dimensions: 16″ x 36 1/2″)

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When making the star points in the star blocks, I sewed another 1/4 inch away from the corner-to-corner seam and then cut the corners off between the two seams, leaving a narrow 1/8-inch seam allowance. I ended up with a bunch of little 2 1/2-inch blocks . . .

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. . . half of them half-square triangles (HSTs) and half of them the funky layout on the left.

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Playing around with the funky squares, I came up with this 4 1/2-inch block, with a perfect mini 1 3/8-inch square in the middle of the pinwheel. I couldn’t have pieced  this precise a block on purpose if I had tried!

I am sure this windmill-variation block exists out there with its own special name, but I can’t locate it. I looked through The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer but couldn’t find it. Does anyone know its name?

love and wabi-sabi

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When Daughter #1 and I were discussing gift ideas for her family-stay hosts, she thought she’d like to also bring a gift for the program director. Mervyn has coordinated this program with her college for many years. He lives in Northern Ireland, and every year he journeys to her college to meet with the students a couple of times before the study-abroad semester begins. He’ll be working closely with the students while they’re on the program.

At first I thought, well, I’ll make him a table runner too. But then I remembered a mini-quilt tutorial and knew it’d be the ideal gift. You see, Mervyn’s last name is Love, as in Dr. Love–isn’t that the perfect name for a professor of peace studies and conflict resolution?! So I located this true love mini-quilt tutorial by kelbysews on Sew Mama Sew and got to work.

It’s a paper-pieced project, and I had never paper-pieced before. My visual-spatial abilities are sorely lacking (to my architect-husband’s bemusement), so working in reverse is hard for my mind to grasp. I learned quickly to generously overcut each piece to allow for error (and I made a couple). Once I got the hang of it, I managed. If you’ve never paper-pieced before, this tutorial is a great first project.

I made the mini-quilt full size (finished dimensions: 15″ x 20″).

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As well as embracing the challenge of a paper-pieced quilt, I also stretched myself on the quilting. My impulse, given the time crunch, was to do a quick overall pattern. But I saw another love mini-quilt, admired its pebble quilting and thought, I can do that! So I did. I straight-line quilted the letters at 1/4-inch intervals.

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In my stash, I found the best fabric for the back. I bought it at least 4 years ago–snips of it continue to find their way into my quilts. The words embrace the nature of the study-abroad program–and the term wabi-sabi defines my creative approach.

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I pinned a hanging sleeve in place on the back before I sewed the binding in place on the other side. Then when I sewed the binding, the top edge of the sleeve was sewn in place too–one less thing to hand-sew.  I am all about easy.

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If it weren’t for the binding and the hanging sleeve, I think the entire piece would be camouflaged in the snow!

dark-eyed junco

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As ground feeders, the dark-eyed juncos are appreciating the safflower and thistle seed I scattered in the snow this morning. They have to do a little two-step scratching dance to find it in the quickly falling snow. Against all of this white, the male juncos look striking in their two-toned formal-wear feathers.

hometown gifts for out-of-town hosts

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Daughter #1 will be staying with a family during her Northern Ireland semester, so she wanted to bring along some gifts for them. We thought a table runner would be a good idea: easy to pack, useful and decorative. Of course, I meant to make it before Christmas–oops. Her departure date is fast approaching, so I needed to get a move on. I have an apothecary jar filled with 2 1/2-inch squares, so my design began there. I sewed five rows, seven squares each, and then cut six 14 1/2-inch x 5-inch solid panels and pieced as pictured above–easy as could be (finished dimensions: 14″ x 37″). The runner could be made longer by adding additional rows/panels and deeper by adding additional squares to the rows and adjusting the size of the solid panels accordingly.

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Despite my attempts at gently shooing, Hobbes insisted on being in the pictures (note tail above).

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For the back I found this great bit of nuts fabric in the stash.

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I quilted it with organic lines using the walking foot–again, easy and looks lovely.

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Because I wasn’t sure if I’d get a gift made in time, I bought a back-up: this cool dishtowel from catstudio. It comes in its own decorative fabric envelope, perfect for gift giving.

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You can get them for every state–so here’s our home state, Missouri. Although the design is printed, the cross-stitching is sewn.

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And here’s an unexpected bonus: this wonderful card with a quotation from Nelson Mandela. Since D#1 will be studying international conflict resolution and mediation, it couldn’t be more perfect.

my little blue book

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For me, today begins Year 4 of keeping a journal. I have a little blue book called One Line a Day, which is a 5-year diary. There’s a page for each date, with five ruled blocks beneath, each containing only six lines. I’d always wanted to keep a journal, but I wasn’t confident that I had the discipline to make entries on a daily basis. When I came across this book though I thought, surely I can take the time to fill six lines every night? And I have. At this point I feel so invested that the thought of having a blank entry is repugnant.

I’m enchanted with journals, both nonfiction (The Diary of Anne Frank) and fiction (The Handmaid’s Tale). I’m currently following a blog called Ella & I, which shares daily entries from a series of diaries kept by Ella Warner Fisher of Vergennes VT from the late 1890s through 1932. As the author of this blog describes, Ella and her husband had eight children and “she washed and mended and churned and sold eggs and chickens and made lots of pies and bread and was active in her church and the D.A.R.” Through these records and the generosity of the blogger who’s taking the time to share them, I enjoy a view of another’s long-ago daily rhythms as well as (with the advantage of hindsight) cultural and historic forces at work.

When I was young, my grandfather’s journal from World War I intrigued me. Reading his young-man thoughts and perceptions documented in his own handwriting gave me a tangible connection to and a more complete picture of the elderly taciturn man I knew only through once-a-year visits. His diary let me see him as someone like me, with fears, yearnings, private thoughts, petty complaints and joyful moments. There are mysteries too: who’s that person he mentions? Why did he record this particular event? Why did he skip writing on these days?

Both of my parents died relatively young, and my adult self longs to ask them questions that my younger self never thought to ask. I don’t know if my children or potential grandchildren will be curious about me, who I am/was, my motivations or why I made the choices I’ve made, but my leaving clues like my little blue book, letters I’ve written and my blog might allow them a glimpse.

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My little blue book also serves me in a way I didn’t anticipate. Now that I’ve been diary-keeping for a few years, I’m able to revisit and reflect on what I’d written on that same date years before. What had seemed to weigh heavily has been dealt with, overcome, and passed. As a parent of teenager/young adults, this practice of nightly reflection allows me to see how much I’ve grown as a parent and a person and how my children have stumbled, made mistakes, hit obstacles and grown wiser. I go to bed each night reminded of the value of fortitude, patience, love and gratitude.

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