Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Shared Spaces and Laughter

""Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.""
Author: Stanley Horowitz

This autumn weekend was definitely a mosaic of beauty, fun, creativity and friendship as I took part in the fall quilting retreat that our little group has each year.  The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful as Mary once again welcomed us into her beautiful lakeside home.  We had everything we needed, sewing machines, fabric, rulers, seam rippers, ironing board, food, snacks and wine.  What more is needed for a weekend with friends?

We arrived at Lake Panorama on Friday night and after claiming our sewing spot and our bedroom we went back into town for a great Italian dinner at Billy Vee’s.  Great, food, wine and service!  Then it was back to the house where we threw open all the windows and listened to the sounds of nature.  I could have sworn there were whales in the lake because of all the noise the fish made jumping out of the water after bugs.  Aside from setting up our machines and getting cozy for the evening, no work was done but we had a good time chatting and laughing and breaking into the snacks.

I didn’t even hear the thunder during the night and was surprised to find the deck wet when I woke up.  We spent a leisurely time procrastinating on the deck, while we drank coffee, shared favorite vacation spots and watched the occasional fishing boat glide by, causing gentle waves to lap at the dock.  A pair of loons surprised me.  I didn’t know we had them in this area.  They were fascinating to watch.

I had thought ahead and had all my fabric cut before this weekend.  The cutting part is my least favorite and I wanted to spend my time at the retreat doing actual sewing.

Jean was even more efficient.  She had color coordinated her fabric squares and strips into cute little boxes ready to be plucked out and worked into a quilt.  I will have to keep that idea in mind, although I’m not sure I’m quite that organized.

It’s amazing how much varied interest there is in our group.  I just love to see the intricate, fun patterns that my friends create.  Lynette was working on a wonderful bag to carry her laptop.  She had fun fabric and finished it before she went home.  I failed to get a photo of the finished product.

Mary was eager to give Lynette, the Home Ec teacher, advice on figuring how to cut her pattern.  There is no shortage of advice in our group!

Nancy got the baby quilt for her newest grandchild completed.  This new baby is only a few days old and will surely enjoy being cuddled in the soft fabric.

Karen has a finish.  Her beautiful appliqued poppies looked gorgeous against the batik background.  I’ve got her pattern now so hopefully I will find time to get to that one.  It will look great on my wall, and since she didn’t offer to send the actual quilt home with me I will have to make my own! 

Here’s another finish from Lynette.

And a new cat quilt top that Deb has been working on.

This is what I was working on.  I still have the bottom two rows that will get sewn on this week.  I just pinned it on the quilt on my wall while I was working on it, which reminded me that I had never posted the finished photo of the quilt that I was working on in my last couple posts.  Here it is hanging from my quilt rack in my hallway.

And this is what is currently in my hoop.

A quilting group shares more than just fabric and patterns.  We share, laughter, tears, celebrations of weddings and births and give comfort to each other during the changes that inevitably come as our lives play out amongst the tapestry of our years.  This weekend we shared beautiful weather, great food and made fun of each other when the quilt measurements didn’t turn out quite right.  But mostly we shared and created memories that will be woven into the fabric of our lives.

“Blessed are the children of the piecemakers, for they shall inherit the quilts.”

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Roses, Star Trek and Quilts!

It has been a while since my last post.  I'm not sure how that happened.  June went by in a series of one rain storm after another.  My garden has certainly been challenged after the hard winter and then the continued pelting of rain.  My rose bushes are definitely not as vibrant as last year but the ones that survived the winter are holding their own.  Between raindrops I have been working at the Texas size weeds that seem intent on taking over everything.

A couple weeks ago my mother, sister and I went on the Master Gardener tour.  We got a wonderful reprieve from the rain that day to enjoy some beautiful gardens.  I am sure the people who opened their yards to us were holding their breath for good weather.  I have attached just a few pictures that inspired me from that tour.

 I loved this door that led nowhere.  This particular yard was very wooded and landscaped beautifully.  It was surrounded by a heavy woods and deep ravine.
 When we first stepped into this yard I thought they had a CD playing somewhere and was fascinated when I stumbled upon the real thing!  The music was beautiful and added to the charm.  My photography skills aren't the best as you can see that I managed to cut my sister in half on the right side of the photo.

 I loved these lillies and hostas that surrounded a sweet little statue!

Last weekend we took our grandson and his friend to the small town of Riverside for the Trek Fest.  Not really a Star Trek fan myself, I was not particularly looking forward to the day, but was surprised at how much fun it actually was.  As we waited for the parade to begin the dark clouds rolled in but miraculously brought with them no rain, only a nice cover from the hot sun.

I hadn't been to a "small-town" parade in many years.  They did a great job of weaving the futuristic Star Trek atmosphere in with the small town patriotism and enthusiasm.  I never expected to see Klingons tossing out candy from a float but here they are.

After finding the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk we relaxed in the beautiful town park, listening to a fun band and eating barbecue.   Then hubby and I decided to drive to the Amish town of Kalona to look around while the boys enjoyed the rest of the Trek fest.  We enjoyed poking around in a couple of cute shops.  I was on a mission to find ice cream but instead stumbled upon a great little quilt shop.

I am still hand quilting my current work in progress.  I took a little hiatus from it for a while but am back now going strong.  It is about 80% quilted.  In the meantime here is a little wall quilt that I made about ten years ago.  Half the time I forget to get it out until July 4th has come and gone.

This weekend we are painting my granddaughter's bedroom.  But will also find time for a little family cook-out and of course, fireworks.  I hope you all have a great weekend, filled with fun, sparkle, family and friends!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Memorial to a Busy Life

"As it fell upon a day
in the merry month of May
Sitting in a pleasant shade
which a grove of myrtles made."
Richard Barnfield

The trouble is that May is so busy.   There is no time to sit in the shade!  There are graduations, bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties to plan and flowers to plant.  The rosebushes need to be pruned of their old dead wood.  Four trips to the garden center and mulch still has not been bought.  Two more flower pots in the yard need to be filled with something.  I think maybe coleus, begonia and ferns this year.  As the days grow longer and finally warmer I have worked at getting the flower pots filled and tucked into various corners of the yard.

In the meantime the perennials are coming along nicely.  My bleeding heart bush blooms without fail.  In our previous house I had a beautiful white bleeding heart.  I miss it.  But the hostas and lilies are doing nicely.  I can't wait to see blooms on my clematis!

This is the first year I've left the bottle tree out all winter and it seems to have come through the icy weather just fine.  I can't say the same for some of my plants.  I lost four rosebushes this year.  It was a hard winter.

Work has been busy and hectic this spring with many changes going on.  I have never been the kind of person who welcomed change very well.  I wouldn't really say that I'm set in my ways, but there is definitely an unsettling feeling of the unknown that I am feeling in the workplace lately.

But then I remember that Bible verse "Be Still and Know that I am God."  There is no need for me to worry.  I need to practice the part about "Be Still".  I have always been such an impatient person and have trouble sitting back and not doing. 

I was thinking about this very thing the other day when I pulled into Woodlawn Cemetery to sit and eat my lunch before going back to work.  I saw the old stone shaped like a pulpit with a Bible on top and just had to stop.

Time has a way of marching on, no matter how much we scurry and worry. I wonder how many of these people rushed through life, worrying about the trivial, forgetting to sit down and take a breath and enjoy the life that they had been given.

And yet here they are.  And around them the grass is still green, the leaves have filled out on the trees.  Another spring has come and gone.  Time has gone on even without them here to worry and wonder. 

And as I remember my own loved ones on this memorial weekend, I will try to slow down, take a breath, realize that life will go on whether I fuss and fret.  I will concentrate on enjoying the moment that God has given me.  

And I will celebrate the 13th birthday of my beautiful granddaughter Shannon.

Time passes quickly and we can't slow it down.  We have one life to celebrate, to love, to learn and to live.  I don't want to waste a minute of it worrying about endless things that I have no control over.  My wish to you is that you can make the most of yours as well and live this spring to the fullest!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Time to Quilt and be Grateful!

Spring continues to play the cat and mouse game with us here in central Iowa.  We get a few days of wonderful weather when I dream of taking all my plants outside to their summer home and then we are slammed with another cold front.  But we are getting wonderful much needed rain that I definitely can't complain about.  The grass is growing green and lush and flowering trees are in bloom wherever I turn.  It's just too cold and wet to get outside and enjoy it.  But our time is coming. 

While the horrible storms were slamming the midwest this weekend I was slammed with the flu.  Talk about a lost weekend.  I was barely able to stick my nose out the door.  When I did finally surface enough to turn on the television I was horrified to see that tornadoes had once again ripped their way through middle America.  Seeing images of homes in ruins my heart went out to those people who have lost so much.  While laying on the couch I looked around the house and envisioned what I would grab while I was running to safety. 

The photo of my parents and grandparents, the old violin that belonged to my grandpa, photo albums, and how could I grab all my quilts??  This wall quilt hangs on the quilt rack above my sewing table.

Of course the only way I would be able to try to save anything is if I had warning and so many times there is no warning.  You grab onto your loved ones, your precious pets and pray that your home will be spared.  There is just so much that I take for granted and in that moment of realization I was overwhelmed by the way we have been blessed.  I am so grateful for the family and friends who make my life so happy.  I determined to not take for granted one little moment but to savor the joy and blessings that each day brings.

This little tulip quilt always makes me smile.  It is so bright and cheerful and says spring each time I hang it on the wall.  I drew the flowers and vines free hand in the middle of the quilt and then on the outside border I used one of my favorite flower stencils.

I have used this stencil on numerous quilts.  It is a fun one to quilt and the meandering lines flow smoothly.

 In the meantime I have been using this rainy time when I am stuck inside to quilt on my current work in progress.  I think the interlocking circles are working nicely.
 While the storms of life blow at us, I wish you all the blessings of quiet time to stitch and enjoy all that we have been given!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Promise of Spring

Spring has finally stopped teasing us here in central Iowa and decided to hang around.  The trees are budding and clumps of green are showing around the garden. I haven't been brave like some of my friends and uncovered my perennials yet but I am off work this week so maybe by the end of the week that will happen.  The arrival of spring is a good excuse to visit Chocolaterie Stam for some wonderful coffee and a few pieces of chocolate.  My girlfriend and I did just that. So Good!!

This time of year there is such a renewal in the air.  It makes me want to re-arrange, de-clutter and soak in the joy of the changing season.

As though it wants to shout Hallelujah to the coming Easter weekend, one of my amaryllis is blooming beautifully.  The other one hasn't decided yet if spring is really here to stay so it's slower to open up and say good morning to the world.  My mother brought these two beautiful plants to me when she moved back here from Georgia eight years ago.  They grew happily in her lovely yard but here in Iowa I treat them with fragile care and they repay me with glorious blooms!

Yesterday it was such a glorious day that we loaded up the dogs in the truck and headed for a walk In the woods.  Squirrels were chattering overhead and a woodpecker was drumming away somewhere in the massive oaks.  I saw this banner ahead of us across the creek and was curious so we had to go that way.  

Two teenage boys had just finished writing the sign below with sticks in the sand of the creek bed.  One of them told us he was going to bring his girlfriend here later and this was his way of asking her to prom.  How sweet!  I told him I was impressed to know that someone his age could be so romantic!  Polly was very interested in the sign but contented herself with a long drink in the creek.

I hope you all can find a little spring magic and romance this weekend!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

To De-Clutter....or NOT!

This weekend I was putting away a few piles of fabric that I had used to make the border on my current quilt in progress.  No matter how much I rearranged there just was not room in the drawers to get the correct colors put back with each other.  How could this be?  I keep vowing that I am going to use up my scraps and I faithfully do it, but then somehow other fabric just seems to show up on my cutting table begging to be included.  I know I could make quite a few quilts using just what I have without making one more purchase.  Why is it that those colorful bolts of fabric just call from the shelf begging to come home with me?   While I was folding and straightening and grumbling that I need more storage space I came across a scrap of fabric that I had used in an apron. 

That led me on a whole other search.  Where was that pattern?  I had made an apron for myself and my sister Laurie. I'm the one on the right.  It was such a simple pattern and it occurred to me that I could use up a whole lot more fabric if I made some of these aprons as gifts.  Since I have been displaced from my sewing room to make it a bedroom for my grandson I have sewing stuff stashed in various places.  One thing led to another and soon I had a mess everywhere while looking for that particular pattern.  I got to thinking that I really should de-clutter.  Do I really need all this fabric, all these pattern books, all these rulers?  Am I a hoarder?  What a thought! I looked around at my mess, at all the lovely patterned cottons, this one was made into a baby quilt, and that one was a scrap left over from a quilt for my mom.  And then I knew.  I did need it all.  I just needed more space to put it.  Another cabinet?  Another closet?  Another room maybe???  I knew that if my husband could be inside my head he would begin to worry.   But in the meantime where is that scrap of lavender?

As I began putting everything away I realized that I never did own that pattern.  I had borrowed it from a friend.  I hope you all have a marvelous day! Quilt a stitch for me……

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hoops, Gray Skies and a Promise

Last weekend I finally tied myself to the house and got my quilt top all pinned.  I was going to baste it but it’s not really all that big so I decided to just do the pinning instead.  I’ve got almost four blocks quilted already and I think I am going to really like the all over circle design.  Here it is below in the hoop.  You can see the circles taking shape.  My last quilt was all batiks.  These nice soft cottons are sure easier to pull the needle through than those beautiful batiks. 

Speaking of hoops, I sat down last weekend to do a little knitting while I watched our Iowa State Cyclones team play to victory against North Carolina.  It was such a nail biting game that I had to put my knitting aside or I would have had a mess.  Tomorrow night they will play again in the Sweet Sixteen tournament in New York.  As we cheer them on I’m not even going to try to get any stitching done!

In my last post I was hopeful that spring was on the horizon here in Iowa.  But it’s still teasing us with one warm day and then three days of cold, gloom and wind.  Lately it seems these dark clouds have stopped and decided to hover over us indefinitely. 

Spring weather can be treacherous and it proved to be yesterday.  When I tried to pull into my neighborhood on the way home from work I was surprised to see blocked streets.  But then I noticed the thick black smoke up the hill.  One of our neighbors had a house fire.  Fire trucks from several areas were parked everywhere and they were fighting it as best they could in spite of the horrible wind.  They feared that the houses on either side would also succumb but they managed to keep the fire contained.  They found the owner in the backyard suffering from smoke inhalation and whisked him off to the hospital.  He will be all right but the beautiful home was a total loss.  It definitely cast a pall over the rest of the evening.  My prayers go out to the family who has lost so much.
There has been so much devastation lately -  the Malaysian Flight, mudslides in Washington and several fires around the Midwest.  But no matter how much we complain about how awful things can be life still goes on.  This morning the sun was trying it’s best to peek through the clouds with the promise of another day. 

And imagine my happiness when I saw this little clump of summer yarrow peeking through the soil this morning!  It reminded me that even though spring can be reluctant to come, and will even blow petulant winds through the threads of our lives, it will also promise such beauty to bless us and bring color to our world.