Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Spectacular Find

Today was Day 1 of our Mainely Fun Quilt Shop Hop, and ten of us hit the road early this morning and headed south to start the shop hop. There are eight shops on this small circuit, and we visited five of them today. Two of the five I had been to before, and I found two more with a contemporary flavor that I really liked and will visit again.

We stopped about 2:00 for lunch at Mike's Clam Shop in Wells. They have an extensive menu of seafood, steak, and chicken dishes, and the food was really good. I had a scallop basket with onion rings and cole slaw. Best onion rings and scallops I've had in ages. I'm in the white shirt in the photo.

I was on a mission to find a couple of books today; and I came home with five, all new releases, plus several patterns, and a few more half yard cuts of pinks for the pink and brown quilt I want to make.

Calico Basket in Windham, one of the shops we visited today, advertises that it carries 7000 bolts of fabric and over 1000 books, and that's where I hit the jackpot. I was browsing their extensive book racks when I unexpectedly came across a brand spanking new copy of Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking. I thought I was going to have apoplexy right there in the quilt shop. I was so excited I could barely contain myself, and I walked around that shop hugging my book and never saw another thing in the shop.

Liberated Quiltmaking was originally published in 1996 and has been out of print for many years. It has become the focus of a whole new style of quiltmaking, which encourages "liberated, unrestricted, outside the block" quilting. It has also spawned a blog ring and a number of blogs devoted to the method, most notably Tonya's at Lazy Gal Quilting. It is nearly impossible to find this book anywhere on the web, at least not at a price approaching anything close to reasonable. And I found it today at the same price it was available for after publication years ago.

I am going to bury myself in my books for the rest of the evening, then get up tomorrow morning and do it all over again!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Stash Report

Several weeks ago, our local quilt chapter conducted a workshop to make some lap quilts for donation. I took fabric home with me from the workshop and have been working in earnest making quilts since Friday. Besides the two quilts in the photo which are now completed, I've finished three other strippy tops and cut kits for two more. Although I did bring home fabric for the strippies, I contributed some from the stash to complete a couple of the kits, plus some of the backings.

My goal for the week is to get the other five strippies completed, so I can get back to my other projects, including the miniature quilt I had hoped to finish last week.

I actually blogged about both of the quilts in the photo a long, long time ago, and it feels good to get them done. These will be my completed quilts for the One Project a Month Challenge.

Here's the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 9-1/2 yards
Fabric used year to date: 37-3/4 yards
Fabric added last week: 16-1/2 yards
Fabric added year to date: 58-1/2 yards

Net used year to date: -20-3/4 yards

Still in the red, but at this same time last year, I was 54 yards in the hole. That's improvement, but the Shop Hop is at the end of the week, so it'll probably get worse before it gets better!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mainely Fun Quilt Shop Hop

I headed up to Waterville bright and early this morning to finish up some business with my (former) employer and then went to the yarn shop to pick up one of those magic loop style circular needles. My good friend Chris was using one last week to make a hat, and I immediately realized the advantage in using it for my little bitty beaded bag. I actually bought one last week but wasn't thinking and bought the wrong size.

I bought some sock yarn too. I found a book a couple weeks ago on making toe up socks and wanted to try it. The directions don't make a lick o' sense to me right now, but I joined a new knitting group on Tuesdays, and one of the ladies has agreed to teach me.

I also went to the quilt shop in Litchfield to pick up some Shop Hop passes for the Mainely Fun Quilt Shop Hop, which includes eight shops and runs from April 30 to May 3. You get a little giftie from the shop when you buy the pass, and we got these green coffee mugs with a little treat inside and a seed packet tied to the handle. The mugs have the Shop Hop logo on one side of the cup and the names of the participating shops on the other side. There are about eight of us going together on the Shop Hop over two days, so we'll have a ball!

I did do some stash damage at the quilt shop. (And I expect to be in a lot deeper after the Shop Hop. Darn good thing I didn't go to MQX last week!) Anyway, I've been collecting fabrics for a pink and brown quilt for a year or so, and today I bought a bunch more. I probably have enough to get started now...even though I must already have a dozen or so quilts I should be working on finishing. Well, I've said before how much I love starting a new quilt! I know that would drive most people nuts, but it's my favorite way to work.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A New Quilting Notion?

Well! This is absolutely the last thing I ever expected to see at a quilt shop! I was cruising a favorite website this evening and came across a logo for Quilt Dash, which is some kind of online shop hop sponsored by Cotton Spice. There were less than 30 sites listed, so I thought it might be fun to play since I'd never done a shop hop before.

This ironing board cover is the featured product at the Global Quilt Shop website. You can actually choose from not one, but three different covers. Know what else? When you iron over the towel, it disappears. Yes, it disappears. I have no idea what kind of quilt shop this is--there's no fabric for sale except a few batik panels, and the rest of their offerings are... just plain strange. I didn't quite know what to make of it. Maybe I have too much time on my hands, now that I'm retired!
Need a new ironing board cover? Anyone?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Stash Report

The daffodils are blooming--spring has finally arrived in Maine. It was a lovely day, breezy, cool, so we worked in the yard. I spent seven hours picking up branches and pinecones knocked down by the winter storms, raking leaves, and pulling a few weeds. The War of the Violets has already started this year, and I've added lilies to the list of Weeds To Eradicate this year as well. Yes, I know lilies are a cultivated flower, but it's a weed if it's growing where I don't want it! I was wiped out by the time I came in for supper, and I'll be paying for it the next two days.

Last week I joined the ranks of the retired. The decision was put to me by an employer looking to pare down its work force due to the deplorable business climate, and it was a decision I agonized over for weeks. I changed my mind so many times I lost count. In the end I took the offer because, in my heart of hearts, I do not believe the Obama administration will be good for business over the next four years, and I wasn't willing to gamble away my retirement benefits by risking a layoff at some point. I'm not happy about it at all, but my consolation is that I can go back to the company as a seasonal hire during the holiday season.

In the meantime, I have plenty of housework to catch up on, and it feels good to finally get some of this work done. Course I also have a multitude of quilting and knitting projects waiting for me, and I will finally be able to make it to some of the quilting and knitting groups that meet during the day. And blogging! More time for blogging!

That said, I haven't sewn much the last week. I did make some headway on the Snowman quilt, but it's not close to being finished. On Friday we got together at Kay's for quilt group, and beforehand I foraged around in my sewing room for a small project to work on. I remembered a miniature I started years ago, so I dug it out to take with me. I made good progress on it and am nearly done with the blocks.

There are 13 blocks in the quilt, set on point. Each of the squares in those tiny nine patch blocks finishes to 3/8 ", so it is painstaking work. The whole top will finish to 18" x 18", so I'd be surprised if I used a yard of fabric, but that's what I'm reporting.

Here's the Stash Manager's Report:

Fabric used this week: 1 yard
Fabric used year to date: 28-1/4 yards
Fabric added last week: 0 yards
Fabric added year to date: 42 yards
Net used year to date: -13-3/4 yards

Goal for this week: finish the top.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Herbed Spinach and Goat Cheese Strata

A few people asked for the recipe we had for Easter Brunch, and I am enthusiastically sharing it here. This stuff is so good that it makes me want to go make another batch!

This recipe came from our local paper, courtesy of Executive Chef Jon Ashton. You can prepare it the night before and pop in the oven in the morning, or let stand a couple hours and bake. It’s also great for dinner with a big green salad.

1 10 ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt, divided
Coarsely ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups rustic bread, such as Ciabatta (about a 1-pound loaf), cubed (We used a boule.)
1 cup crumbled goat cheese (6 ounces)
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2-3/4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
8 eggs
1 to 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (We used a pinch of dried rosemary.)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried

Place thawed spinach in colander and squeeze out excess water. Chop finely.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in spinach; remove from heat.

Toss bread cubes, spinach mixture and cheeses together in a large bowl. Place mixture in a buttered
13x 9-inch baking dish or 3-quart gratin dish.

Whisk together milk, eggs, mustard and herbs. Add remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Pour evenly over bread mixture. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, remove strata from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and bake uncovered, about 45 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.

Notes: I failed to recognize that this was supposed to sit overnight in the fridge. When I made it Easter morning, I mixed it up pretty well until the bread soaked up most of the liquid, then popped it in the oven, and it turned out just fine. We left the onions out too.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Stash Report

Happy Easter to all who celebrate it. It was just my husband and I for most of the day, but my younger son came up from Portland in time for dinner. We decided to try this dish for brunch this morning, Spinach and Goat Cheese Strata, and it was simply delicious. It is sort of like a quiche, I guess, but no crust, and quick and easy to make. Not only was it a fine brunch dish, but it would be a lovely quick supper with a salad. I'm happy to share the recipe if anyone would like.

I'll bet I haven't sewn a thing in two weeks. I've been tired lately and preoccupied with things at work, and knitting fit the bill on many of those nights.

Not quilting hasn't kept me from thinking about it though, and it didn't keep me from shopping for it either! When I was down in Freeport the other day, I stopped in to Cottonweeds and found this lovely quilt on the wall, all done in batiks. So I bought the pattern and some background and border fabric for it and will supplement with fat quarters from my stash. I've wanted to make a pink and brown quilt for ages and have been collecting the fabrics for one, so I added a few more of those as well.

Last week I bought border fabric for the Neptune quilt plus another jelly roll.

So here's the Stash Manager's Report for the last couple weeks:

Fabric used this week: 0 yards
Fabric used year to date: 27-1/4 yards
Fabric added last week: 16-3/4 yards
Fabric added year to date: 42 yards
Net used year to date: -14-3/4 yards

I wasn't in the black for very long, was I?

I did sit down at the sewing machine this afternoon, finally, and worked on sewing the squares together for the snowman quilt. I'm glad to be making some headway on it.

Knitting With Beads

To the trained eye, this may look like a watermelon bag. To me, it doesn't look like much of anything yet; but it is, in fact, a watermelon bag. The focus of my knitting class this month is knitting with beads, and Donna offered us a choice of two projects--either the watermelon bag or a small beaded bag. Overachiever that I am, I elected to make both.

The watermelon bag is 8 or so inches in diameter and 15 inches tall, a pretty good sized bag really. Donna suggested it would make a good knitting bag, and I might just do that. It will have a drawstring top, and we'll learn how to make an I-cord for the drawstring.

I just loved the way this small knitted bag looked made up in perle cotton and had to try one. This yarn is actually satin bamboo and very close in gauge to a #3 perle cotton. It is the finest yarn I've worked with so far, and I spent hours one afternoon fixing multiple mistakes, because the stitches kept sliding off the ends of the needles. It was awfully frustrating, but I was determined to fix it rather than rip it out and start over, and I learned a lot about recognizing and correcting my mistakes that way. This bag also has a drawstring closure, but we'll make a twisted cord for this one.

Learning to work with beads has been fun, and not as difficult as I thought.

With the leftover yarn from the little green sweaters, I made a couple of baby-sized beanies. I tried to make a pom pom for one of them, but it looked quite bedraggled, and it was suggested to me that I needed to wind more yarn for it. I'll give that another try some day.

From one of the last posts, Norma wanted to know if I had a yarn stash yet. Actually, yes, and it's startling how quickly it developed. Most of what I've collected so far is for specific projects, but I can foresee a time when I'll buy yarn like I buy quilting cottons--for no other reason than because I like it. This is not necessarily a good thing! Storage is already getting to be a problem!