Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bats in the attic and a tortoise in the loft

This summer when we were in the process of buying our house and long before I saw it, I began pestering my husband about the attic. The house was built in 1850 and I was excited to see what secrets the attic might contain. Unfortunately Roger had only poked his head up there and the real estate agent didn't take a photo. I had to wait to see the attic until I finally got to the house in mid August, and even then it was a few days of cleaning and organizing before I pulled down the hatch and climbed the ladder to look around.


The attic doesn't have floor boards and the space between the beams is filled with insulation. Since I didn't want to take the chance of falling through the plaster ceiling, I stood on the ladder while my eyes adjusted to the dimness, calculating how much storage we would have after laying a floor.


Then I saw them. There were half a dozen common brown bats hanging from the vent at the peak of the roof. How the house inspector missed them, I don't know, because they were quite visible. Rather than look around for more, I quietly descended and quickly raised the ladder. Ironically I had finished reading Dracula the day before, so I wasn't at all thrilled to see our freeloaders. I called my husband at his work and he arranged to have the bat man out to the house later that week.


Bat man found a total of nine bats. He attached a one way door to the attic vents to encourage the little guys to find a new home. I hope they will still be neighbors even though we haven't yet had time to buy and hang a bat house. They are beautiful to watch flying around at dusk and do a good job eating the bugs.


Just a few weeks before I met our bats, I was following a blog called The Tortoise Loft. Sue featured an adorable bat derived from a pattern book first published during the reign of Charles the 1st. Here is her finished piece, stitched on linen with pearl cotton in seed, feather and split stitches.

Photo courtesy Sue at The Tortoise Loft


Who would guess that the pattern is from 1632?! It is a treat to visit Sue's blog to see how she conceived this project and adapted an old pattern for a modern interpretation--no tricks involved!

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

A handmade gift comes from many hearts

This week I set aside my embroidery for knitting needles and knit this little sweater and bunny set for a friend and new mother who I haven't seen in many years. We went to graduate school and then worked together. This new baby is lucky because my friend and her husband are some of the calmest and kindest people I have ever met. As I was knitting though, I reflected that this gift comes not just from me, from a whole host of mutual friends.


Ten years ago we worked for the Massachusetts State Historical Commission with a group of really smart women in their 30s. One was a avid knitter and held knitting classes during lunch to teach the others. I already knew how to knit, but the enthusiasm among this group was very high and we all shared patterns and finished products with each other. One of these women brought in a finished baby sweater one day, along with the free pattern from Plymouth Yarn Company. The pattern has a hood, but she had modified it and produced a sweater with a darling collar. She shared her modifications with us and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. The chunky yarn works up in an evening.


The rabbit came from another friend in the knitting group who had seen a free pattern online that purported to make a bunny out of a square and two triangles. Knowing how much I loved bunnies, she challenged me to figured out how it was done. I did, and was delighted with the results. I've made MANY since then, for babies as well as for rabbit rescue organization fundraisers. It is just an adorable, fun to work pattern.


So this gift comes not just from me, but from all of us who worked together at that time. None of us are still with the state, and many of us have moved far away, but we are still drawn together by our collective love of historic preservation and the camaraderie of needlework.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Will beg for quilts

Begging for things NEVER worked when my sister and I were little girls. We were even told that we shouldn't write a Christmas list--Santa knew what we wanted and we should be grateful for whatever we received. And we were! It turns out, however, that constant begging for new quilts in a public forum is an extremely effective way to influence my mother to sit down at her sewing machine. She just can't resist making a new quilt.


My mother has been inching her way through her scrap pile for the last several months, making quilts for charity. And while I don't want to deny anyone who could be comforted by a new quilt, I have been shamelessly begging on this blog for more quilts. So I was thrilled when my parents arrived for my husband's Oktoberfest birthday party with a new quilt for our house. It is a twin size, but I think it will be just perfect for the air mattress my sister and brother-in-law will use when they come visit for Thanksgiving. This means we now have a quilt for each bedroom. YAY!


I love this quilt. First, I am very partial to combinations of squares and triangles. I don't know why this is, but simple shapes are the most attractive for me. Plus I love scrappy quilts. This has both qualities, plus absolutely gorgeous colors.

Mom has always had what my sister and I felt was a perverse love affair with the color mustard. The kitchen in the house we grew up in was painted mustard and green and there was always mustard in every quilt she made. It is clear from this quilt though that mustard can be stunning. I love how she combined it with the springy blues, peaches, hot pinks and my favorite browns.


Mom has also been learning to use a long arm quilting machine. She rents time on one at her local quilt shop. I think that her machine quilting looks fantastic, and this random pattern is perfect for the homey, old fashioned feeling of the quilt.


Our wedding quilt, which I mentioned in an earlier post, but without a photo, has a similar feeling. It also has squares and triangles in my favorite browns and reds. Since it is made from reproduction Civil War fabrics, it is perfect for our Civil War era house.

So thank you Mom! We REALLY appreciate these quilts. They make the house a home.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is Mom's birthday. When she was visiting earlier this month, we presented her with her birthday gift--a cross stitch sampler that made me laugh even as I stitched. To understand why, you have to know:

  1. that Dad was a history teacher, so our whole family has always been enamored of historical artifacts, and;
  2. Mom has a coffee pot collection. She has at least 50 coffee pots--none of which include a Mr. Coffee. Hers are a variety of new and vintage drip and percolator pots. Included in her collection are my favorite double globe vacuum pots, and a drip stand that I got her in Costa Rica, which consists of a wire on a wooden stand that holds a cone-shaped bag of grounds through which you pour your boiling water.
A portion of Mom's coffee pot collection.

I knew I had to stitch this pattern as soon as I saw it. It is a free pattern from Plum Street Samplers that was featured on the DMC blog back in March. You can download the pattern here.

When my parents saw it, they both started laughing and Dad asked if the poem were made up, or if it came from an actual gravestone. It was made up, but it sure would be a fun inscription to use! It will soon hang in Mom's kitchen near the coffee pots. Happy birthday Mom!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stitching through the shutdown

Over two weeks without work, and after the first week of prepping for my husband's birthday followed by fall cleaning when I couldn't sit still, I finally got to my stitching. I know I am not the only federal employee who has taken to her needles for comfort. A friend in Massachusetts has told me that she is knitting up a storm.


Over the weekend some of my coworkers went back to work due to the generosity of states, cities, and private donors. Most of us have not been so lucky. So we sit and stitch and watch the news and apply for unemployment and hope that we can be back at work soon.


I brought a project with me from Denver to work on, not truly believing that there would be a shutdown. I wanted to work a small coaster pattern that I saw in the latest issue of Inspirations Magazine. It will be a gift. The magazine pattern inspired me to create additional motifs, and over the last several days, I've stitched five sets of four coasters each. I'm now out of linen and since my sewing machine is in Denver, I can't finish the coasters until I return. As I wait out the shutdown, I'll start stitching a little kit from Canevas Folies--my new Rhode Island project.


It is nice to have some extra stitching time, but it is far from a vacation. I would much rather be working and helping make our country stronger than sitting on the sidelines. As I write this Tuesday evening, I think that there is some hope that we will be working again soon.

This is the pattern from Inspirations that inspired me.
All of the flowers were stitched with #5 pearl cotton--a thread I've never used before.
I had to work with the limited palette of threads I had brought with me, but am happy with the results.
Because the buttonhole stitches didn't cover the entire fabric, I supplemented them with straight stitches two different pinks.
I'm not sure what flower theses are. When I finished the four flowers that were my goal, my imagination took over.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Iris jacket

Several months ago I mentioned a jean jacket that I had once embroidered with some irises. I didn't think that I still had the jacket. After all, I had bought it on a lunchtime shopping trip with friends 15 years ago. But, fall is here and while I was looking in my closet last month to see which jackets were in Colorado and which were in Rhode Island I found it! As with my quilts, it has been washed and faded, but it still fits and is very comfy.


Here is the design up close. I stitched the pattern with DMC floss over mesh that you pull out with tweezers after washing the stiffening out. They are more springy than autumnal, but it still makes me smile to see these happy little irises. I'm glad I can still enjoy wearing them.


Fall is just getting started in New England.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New uses for quilt binding

I cannot make bias tape quilt binding to save my life. Actually, if quilt binding could save my life, I likely could do it, but I wouldn't enjoy it. My mother, however, loves to make quilt binding. She always has some hanging from the long arm lamps in her sewing room, ready for any use. And she uses it for many many things in additon to quilts. For example, all of her scissors are attached to quilt binding chatelains so that she can hang them on a lamp or around her neck to keep track of them. I've had presents tied up with quilt binding and have had quilt binding wrapped around heavy packages to use as a handle. This weekend though, I saw quilt binding used in many new ways.


My parents came to visit for my husband's birthday and brought a u-haul truck full of furniture that they had had stored in the basement. We received the dining room table that my parents had bought with their wedding money, my great, great grandfather's lamp, old school desks to use as end tables, and the antique dresser that was in my sister's and my room as children. We're thrilled to have such wonderful keepsakes in our new, old house.


To keep the dresser drawers in place during the 400-mile move, mom wound quilt binding through the drawer handles and around the back of the dresser. It worked well and came in handy later. We couldn't find any twine when Roger was hanging the Oktoberfest sign for his big birthday bash, so he consulted with mom to find a solution. I'll bet it is the first time quilt binding has been used this way, but it worked well and the party was a sucess! In what creative ways do you use quilt binding?

How's that Oktoberfest sign hung?
With homemade quilt binding!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A WELCOME finish

I did it! The Brazilian WELCOME was finished in time for my husband's birthday. It isn't framed yet, but the frame is ordered and my finisher is lined up. My husband calls it my "masterpiece", which is very flattering. I'm glad he never saw the version my teacher stitched, which is so much more perfect! I actually think my stitching was better on my crazy pillow, but I am still quite pleased with how the WELCOME turned out.


Below are all the letters with their beads and bobbles, trimmed and fluffed as appropriate. Once it is framed I'll post a final photo, but that won't be for a few more weeks.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Stitching when life is out of control

Well, the US Government has shut down, and whomever you blame, I am still one of the 800,000 federal employees furloughed. After a Tuesday filled with shut down activities and moping, I can be happy about two things:

  1. I was scheduled to work from Rhode Island for two weeks beginning September 30, so I am home with my husband rather than alone in Colorado.
  2. I remembered to bring an embroidery project with me. It is small, simple and repetitive and will be a Christmas present when finished. It may be just the thing to distract me and calm my nerves a little.

Between the embroidery and planning for my husband's birthday party this weekend, I may succeed in keeping my mind occupied with happy thoughts. Keep your fingers crossed though that the furloughs don't last too long. I don't want to run out of hand work before I can go back to work work!