31 December 2015

Delving Into 2016


New Years's Eve ..almost. So many people are getting ready to gather for festivities tonight (perhaps a nap before the partying begins, a new coif, shopping for Champagne?) that I almost always feel a bit out-of-step on this day.

There was a time in my youth when I adored going glam (that's hard to imagine when I look in the mirror these days!), dusting off my formal wear and dancing shoes and chilling not one but many bottles of fine 'champs'. I used to look forward to see how my dates formal attire would look on them too. It was, at that point in time, a festive occasion. Not for the first time this year have I wondered if the holiday season is really fit only for the young....

Somewhere along the line my idea of a good New Years Eve became curling up with a good book and getting into bed by 9pm - about the time that my home states (New York and Connecticut) were watching the glittery ball fall in Times Square. I was never much of a reveler - truth be told. I wasn't fond of getting inebriated, for one, and two, I did not think that having a hang-over was, in any way, how begin a bright new year. My endearing, New Years Eve book fest continues...

Of course being the history buff that I am I like to read about New Years customs from days gone by...some of which, to me at least, feel more pertinent now than ever. Until 1752, when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted, New Years was not celebrated until March 25th..which in other times was also celebrated as Lady' Day and/or the Feast of the Annunciation.

The history channel has a nice little round up of New Years history and trivia here: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/new-years...or Wikipedia does a nice job here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Year%27s_Day


It was good old Julius Caesar who originally though to make January 1st the start of a New Year in order to honor the god Janus.

Times Square in NYC began dropping the glittery ball in 1907

In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth) and March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation); Pope Gregory XIII reestablished January 1 as New Year’s Day in 1582.

Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars, typically pinning the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event. In Egypt, for instance, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Revelers often enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States.

Tonight's reading will be finishing up "The Spy Who Loved". It is a riveting biography of Christine Granville...a polish Countess who became a spy for the British during WWII. I learned SO much from this book....it will remain wit me for a long time and has sparked my interest to read more WWII history - something that, hitherto, held little interest for me....other than the French Resistance....they are some true heroes in my opinion.

When I turn the last page on tha book I am finally going to read Rutherford's "London". It has been on my TBR list for such a long time and I am in the mood for a long, historically based, book about one of my favorite places on earth.

Whatever way you celebrate the dawn of th New Year....and I sincerely pray that there are people who still live "puttin'on the Ritz" and dancing and reveling all night.... be safe and call a cab if you need to.

I wish everyone, especially my loved ones, friends and family alike, to enjoy a new year of blessings, light, love, laughter, health, and boundless creativity. Cheers! I may even drink a toast to that before the night is done!


21 December 2015

Respite: Taking A Cue From Tilly

Respite —noun

1. a delay or cessation for a time, especially of anything distressing or trying; an interval of relief: to toil without respite.

2. temporary suspension of the execution of a person condemned to death; reprieve.

This is what spouse and I are doing this year about the holidays. We are not being grinches or grouchers, but we are taking a sabbatical and enjoying a respite; stepping back and "not doing" rather than doing.

I was curious to see how it would feel to "not do" during this time of the year and it feels a bit "out-of-step" certainly but, more to the point, it is a relief to be able to simply be in the relative here and now of the "everyday" watching the world swirl about and hurry on around me.

I admit that I have become very disenchanted with the hyper- commercialism of the holidays, but it feels like more than that. As I get older I do tend to think more about memorable holidays past and, as could be expected, many of my fondest memories are from when I was a youngster- or at least young adult. Christmas really is for kids I thinks. You make memories that will last a lifetime during the holidays when you have children, but I seem to know many adults who would really rather "not" do the do, create the fete, schlep to the malls or otherwise wear their "Santa hat" in public. Most of us still do it anyway because it has become 'expected' if a little hackneyed.

One friend and his family have escaped to a once in a lifetime dream vacation to the Land Down Under...a great way for the family to enjoy their holidays as a family experience. What memories these will be!

Most of my friends and I have also agreed to forego the holiday madness. I prefer to be sending New Years cards this year and birthdays -or perhaps the Epiphany- will be celebrated with gifts instead. It wasn't until 1752 that New Year's was celebrated on January 1st rather than in March and "holiday gifts" used be exchanged for New Years's rather than in December. It wasn't until 1870 (wow!) that we began to celebrate Christmas on December 25th. In actuality the history of the holidays is far more interesting than simply as a religious reminder for a variety of belief systems. History.com has a great little blurb about it all here.

I am enjoying the freedom to jus sew, knit and play as usual without the expectation of so much wrapping (we still have small gifts for three people that need to get wrapped), card writing, and exercising the plastic. My New Years cards are waiting for me on the table...the envelopes are calmly being written out.

So, until we celebrate the beginning of another wonderful year I am taking my cue from my current favorite feline...taking a wee respite in the middle of the maelstrom!

Tilly and I will be celebrating the Winter Solstice together. Welcoming the gradual return of light to the world.


16 December 2015

If At First You Don't Succeed

I made this quilt - " Smitten", designed by Jen Kingwell, to overcome any lingering fear of "Y" seam construction. I thought that it worked well.

Recently the "project that has no name" included a couple of "y-seam" blocks. The first came off without a hitch- the second, however, gave me a few fits. Basically the center square is fitted into the block with y-seams ....sounds simple enough.

This was my first, machine sewn, block. It worked, the size would have been right,but I did not like the colors and it wasn't all that good so I never even finished it

My second try...not bad...not great. Machine sewn. A bit too wonky for my taste. I may keep it...or may not.

Another machine attempt that, once again, looks okay..it's better....just not great....not perfect......but I'll keep it.

Finally, I decided to give hand sewing this block a try. Yes, it took a bit longer, but not all that much when I take into consideration the time I took to cuss my limited abilities at machine sewing this block!

voila! Perfection. Perfect size, tidy, less wonky, all parts well sized, all points meet as they should! Yes! I'll take it! Success is a worthy goal!








11 December 2015

Modern and Traditional Playing Well Together

One project that I am working on is one that I cannot say much about at this point. The blocks, at least at this early point, are traditional blocks while some future blocks are quite unique.

I wanted to do something different...as in using a non-traditional fabric selection- but then decided that I might as well make a second, more traditional, version as well. That helps me use up some of my collection of reproduction fabrics as well.

For the less traditional version I have chosen a selection of fabrics from Parson Grey, Marcia Derse, and Malka Dubrawsky. For the traditional look a lot of my collection is by Judie Rothermel. I love seeing how differnt the effect is!








07 December 2015

Making A "Carry On Travel Bag"

A good friend has, once again, chided me for being such a laggard with posting. Time seems to move along at warp speed sometimes and I confess that I do forget. Most of the time it's more because I don't feel as though I have done anything that new or interesting...
Last Spring I cut out pattern pieces to make "The Carry On On Travel Bag". I had owns the pattern for some time and had looked forward to making it, but quilt projects and clothing endeavors took first place in my time commitments and the Carry On Bag languished in a corner. I finally decided that I wanted to put the "finished" stamp on this project before the end of the year and so I set to getting it done. I did buy the finishing kit for the bag...it makes it so much easier to have everything that you without having to hunt all over the web for long zippers, hardware and the nice acrylic bottom.

The first thing that had to be done was to quilt the fabrics. I chose to use two different colorways of FigTree "Aloha Girl" (with a third color way for accents). Embracing blue has been a new thing for me, but I am enjoying blue- al but true blue pastels at least! I am very fond of using Annie's Soft'n'Stable as my 'batting. It provides a cushy feel to the finished product and the machine sews through it like butter. Although I used a simple straight line quilting design the fabric pieces are large and it took some time, but I have have always liked using this simple design for bags and it was, I think, perfect for this one too.
The pattern calls for the outer straps to be fabric covered poly-web strapping. I preferred to use 1.5" all cotton webbing which I found on Etsy. It's excellent quality and I am very happy with the results - I just did not want the sheen of poly strapping/webbing and I couldn't really see the benefit of covering the straps.
The instructions for this pattern- as for all of Annie's.com patterns- were/are excellent. Some of the best written ones I have come across. If you follow step by step (and I do use the handy places to check off your completed steps) you can get the job done and done well. I will never fear buying a bag pattern from Annie's.com.
I am blessed with a good, strong, sewing machine but there were times when I think that in the making of this bag I pushed my beloved Janome 8900 to it's limits. I used a size 120/20 needle which I am SO glad that I had on hand. In places I was sewing through 8 layers of fabric, 2 layers of Soft'n'Stable and the cotton webbing (mostly when I was binding the inside seams). Managing the bag at the machine also taxed my arthritic hands at times!
This bag is definitely large enough to use as a "weekend away" bag (unless you are a heavy packer and need many changes of clothes) and it is a great size for a carry-on bag. It is sized correctly for under-seat storage on aircraft.
I am going to look and see if I can find any little feet to add to the bottom...just to keep the bottom off as much of a possible dirty floor as I can. There are pockets galore both inside and out...so it will be easy to have a place for everything. I love it when I learn new things when I make a bag and his one gave me some great (not difficult) new techniques that will be a boon to future projects.
I think that buying the acrylic bottom for the bag (they call it poly acrylic on the website- link earlier in this post). It fits perfectly into the bottom (there is a slip for it that you construct), it creates a very stable surface that will not bend or break as something like cardboard would inevitably do. I was happy with my decision to use cotton webbing rather than fabric covered poly and I now know how wonderfully strong and solid my machine really is.
This is bag that will be used a lot. I would make more I think but first I will see if perhaps I can rent some time and use an industrial machine. It isn't that my machine can't do it all...but rather that I think an industrial machine might be easier on my hands.
I have a few more bag projects from Annie's.com on my "to-do" and "want-to-do" lists and I am really looking forward to the net one! Someone making a bag feels very satisfying to me. I like making useful things and we can never really have too many bags can we?!
  • What was the last project you made that stretched your personal capabilities?
  • Have you ever felt that you were pushing your sewing machine to the motor's limits?
  • What's on your project list for the near future? I would love to know what everyone is up to!