11/22/14

Another Cat Down, One More to Go

This morning I finished top-stitching Cat No. 11. Cat 11 has another whirligig associated with it. It was to be placed on the sashing below, and so I started there. The sashing below is already attached to the block I made way back in November of 2012...back when I still had hope of doing one block per month. It doesn't take a math genius to divide 25 months (the number of months I've been working on this) by 11 (the number of completed blocks) and realize that doesn't add up to one per month.

Anyway, here is November's "turkey" cat, now complete with whirligig above his halo. I believe this cat is named Smitty. You can probably guess why.


So then I went ahead top-stitched the rest of the block. I was all set to sew it to its neighbor to the left when I realized that I'd forgotten to machine embroider the whiskers.


So I did that. I'm using the "triple stitch," which is stitch #6 on my Bernina 750. It takes two stitches forward and one stitch back, which makes a nice heavy outline stitch that works especially well for straight lines. It can be used on curved lines too, but it's a little more tedious when done on a curve.


I've had such a hard time remembering to put the whiskers on these cats that I went back and looked at the rest of the completed blocks. Sure enough, I'd forgotten the whiskers on Cats 3 and 4, so I gave them some whiskers too.


What self-respecting cat would walk around whiskerless? Sheesh.


And when I'd given everybody their fair share of whiskers, I sewed the newest block to its neighbor on the left, and then snapped a picture of the whole thing.


Well...not the *whole* thing. There's a pretty big gap there, but I'm hopeful I'll be filling that last one in tomorrow or the next day.

Also today, I reached the end of the second sheet of Sticky Fabri-Solvy on the Vintage Tin stitchery. 


I'm not quite halfway across now. It's slow stitching, for sure.

Mike and I are just getting ready to take off and run some errands. We need to pick up a wine shipment at a local winery, do some recycling, and pick up a couple of things. There probably won't be any more time for sewing today, but it seems a good time to stop for now anyway. The sun has come out, and it's a good time to get out and enjoy the scenery. Sunshine is always short-lived this time of the year.

11/21/14

Cat No. 11

Think Chanel No. 5...or not. It just popped into my head with that "No." abbreviation for number. Today I got well along on the 11th of 12 cats. My goal is to have them all finished by the end of the weekend. Think I'll make it?

Sue and I walked this morning. It rained. A lot. We were wet by the time we finished. When I got home, spending the afternoon in the sewing room sounded divine, and that's just what I did. When I left off, I'd only pulled fabrics from my stash for this latest cat. First I had to piece together the background.


The background ended up taking far longer than expected for reasons too hard to explain in writing. If you're a glutton for punishment, I'd be happy to bore you in a separate email. If not, then just take my word for it. 

Nevertheless, I was feeling pretty smug at this point, thinking I was well along. Only, then I looked more closely at the cat and realized he was another one whose tail and feet extended out into the sashing. That meant I had to put all the borders and the right side of the sashing on before I could continue. It also meant making strip sets for the checkerboard sashing. Fortunately, there is just one more sashing needed to complete the quilt, and I've done both. And, yes, that did restore me to my former smugness. (I looked up "smugness" just now. Yes, it is a word. I didn't just make that up. It was a little disappointing to realize that.)


So with that done, I was ready to make the appliques and fuse the cat. This one makes me think of Captain Cattastic. (You would need to have been reading long enough to remember George, Smitty's predecessor.)


This cat happens to be leaping for a dragonfly. I can't fuse the dragonfly until I've sewn this row of blocks to the row above it because the dragonfly extends into the sashing above.

Coincidentally, this quilt was featured today on the Quilt Inspiration blog. Click on that link, and you can see the quilt that was made by Kathy Mack of the River City Quilt Guild in Sacramento, California. The guild held a show recently, and Kathy's quilt won an Honorable Mention in the show. I'm only showing you this one image of the block I'm currently working on, so that you can see the placement of the dragonfly.


Kathy's quilt is quite different from mine, and it's fun to see another interpretation. Be sure to click on the link I've given you to see her whole quilt and the rest of the blocks. I enjoyed seeing how it was quilted.

Now all that's left is to do the top-stitching and embroider the face. That's enough for one day, however. I'm just going to keep on going until I have all of the cats finished. It's getting very close now.

11/20/14

A Few Little Things

Today I took a little break from sewing. I think I've sewn every day for the past couple of weeks. That's not a complaint, mind you. The weather has kept me inside, but my intense desire to finish those darned cats has also kept me pushing forward. Tomorrow I'm walking with Sue in the morning, and then I'll get back to them. And don't think I've forgotten about my quilting either. Finishing the quilting for the Gardner's Journal quilt by the end of the month is also looming large.

So here's what I have to tell you about today's activities. For one thing, I want to remember to show you the inside of the Double Layer Cranberry Ginger Upside Down Cake I blogged about yesterday.


It isn't a very good picture, but I wanted you to see the layers of the cake. The top layer is the cranberry upside down cake, then there's a filling layer made from fresh cranberries and raspberry preserves, and then a plain cake from the same batter as the upper layer. The cake was surprisingly moist and tasty. The topping (which actually goes into the pan before the batter...thus, an upside down cake) is made from fresh or frozen cranberries, hazelnuts, and a generous portion of candied ginger. The hazelnuts give it a nice crunch, and the candied ginger keeps it from being too tart. Anyway...it was delicious, and I will definitely make it again sometime. Click right here for the recipe. It's a bit of a production to make it, but it isn't difficult.

Then today, instead of sewing, I went to the Sewing & Craft Festival in Portland. It was a bust, in my humble opinion. I had free tickets that I picked up at a local quilt shop, but they were selling tickets at the door for $10...or half off if you came with a coupon. Then, there was the additional $8 for parking at the venue. The "festival" was rather small, and it was strictly a marketplace...there was no associated quilt show. I went because I was interested in looking at threads and purchasing some cones of thread to keep upstairs with Eliza. Would you believe there were no thread merchants there at all? None selling cones, anyway. There were a few vendors from quilt shops selling spools of thread. I was hoping to do some comparison shopping, but no dice.

Nevertheless, there were some cute patterns from designers that were new to me. I picked up a few patterns, because if there's anything I need, it's more patterns. You know what I mean, don't you? Just now I got off the phone from Mike and told him about how much I needed these patterns. Here's the essence of our conversation:

Mike: Yes, because of course, you're going to make all the ones you have now.

Me: Yes! If I live long enough.

Mike: How long would that be?

Me: I think if I lived to be 192, that will do it.

Silly man.

This first one is called "City on a Hill". It's applique designed by Sandra Coffman, someone I've never heard of. (Whenever I say that, I get a jillion comments from folks who know all about the designer. So go ahead and tell me how ignorant I am, will ya?) Anyway...here's a picture of the quilt that was on display with the pattern. See if you can tell what caught my eye:


I liked it for it's Southwest flavor, but of course, anything cat is always on my "gotta have it" list. As for the designer, her business is called "Shepherd's Gate Designs", and you can find her website right here. This particular pattern has an associated Bible verse: "You are the light of the world. A house set on a hill cannot be hidden." Matthew 5:14  It made me think of the Three Cats Ranch set on our hill.

Then I found a couple of other patterns I liked from a designer called "More the Merrier Design from Janet's Sewing Room". You can find her website right here. This first one is called "Bird Watching". I just thought it was cute. I like the dyed fabric she used for the sky.


And look at how the trees have been done. It's a striped fabric with the tree forms quilted in. Great idea and very effective.


From the same designer, this pattern called "Sun Shinny [sic] Day". I just thought it was cute. Some good friends from high school are expecting their first grandchild next summer. I might make this as a baby quilt for their new grandbaby. 


Also, there was a very small embroidery pattern that I liked as a housewarming gift for some good friends who recently moved to Central Oregon. I would have purchased it at the show, but they only had it on display, not for sale. No problem. It was from Bird Brain Designs, and I found it on their website. I like the one on the lower right. I can stitch it in no time at all.


Have I said lately how much I love the internet? I stood right in the middle of the show and ordered this pattern and paid with Paypal. It's like magic, I tell ya'. How did we ever live without the internet? (I'm guessing we might have been better at saving our money.)

There were some other things that sorely tempted me, but I resisted the urge. The "show" was overly crowded and photography was prohibited except for purchased patterns. That always puts me in a bad mood, and so I didn't stay long, nor did I need to. Interestingly, the tickets were good for three days. I was in and out in less than two hours. I'm not sure what the three-day hard core people were going to do with all that time, but maybe they felt less ripped off. When this "show" came around last year, I skipped it for just that reason. Had I not been interested in the thread, I would have skipped it this year too. My curiosity abounds, however, and so they drew me in. Never again. It's basically a chance for you to spend up to $18 to get in for the opportunity to spend more money. 

It seemed as if it took me forever to get home, and I was just kind of worn out from the crowd at the show and the terrible traffic getting home. I laid down and took a nap, and then was just kind of a lazy bum the rest of the day.

Recall, however that I gave you a sneak peek last week of the fifth of five pay it forward gifts I made for friends. I received word from my good friend Sher today that she'd received the mug rug I made for her. Sher loves all things Disney and that is going to keep Sher young at heart for the rest of her life. For her, I made this little mug rug I call "Mickey's Mug".


My inspiration for this came from one I saw on another blog, USS Craftsy, written by T'onna Peters. I made mine a little differently from the one she made. T'onna seems to be more of a crafter than a quilter, and I loved her idea. In any case, it's safely in Sher's hands now, and so I can show it to you.

And that's about it from me for today. I'm making a German potato salad for dinner, so I'd better get that going. I hope you had an easy-going day. Buffalo people, you have my sympathy.

11/19/14

Cats and Cakes

This morning my inner baker and sugar fiend got a burr up her behind to try a cake recipe I saw online recently. It's a Double Layer Cranberry Ginger Upside Down Cake. It looked complicated, but I decided to give it a try anyway. I love upside down cakes. And I love cranberries. And I love it when it's November and December and cranberries are widely available. And I love candied ginger, and so this just seemed to me to be the perfect cake.

So basically, you make two cakes: one is plain, one is a cranberry ginger upside down cake. Also, you make a filling. When the cakes are done, you let them cool for a while, then slather the filling on the plain cake, then top it with the upside down cake and voila! You have something that looks like this:



Looks yummy, no? I haven't actually tried it yet. I'll delay gratification just for today and wait until after dinner. I'll try to remember to take a picture of it once it's been cut so that you can see the inside. But if you can't wait until then to bake your very own, here's a link to the recipe.

And as long as we're talking about recipes, I want to share a fun link with you. It's from the New York Times: Thanksgiving recipes from all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. I love the recipe from Oregon: Cranberry Sauce with Pinot Noir.




Since both cranberries and pinot noir are grown/produced in Oregon, it seems the perfect choice. Check out your state and see if you think the editors chose wisely. And let me know. I saw quite a few of these that looked delicious. I'm curious to know what you think of the recipe they chose for your home.

So the cake was sort of baked in stages. While I was waiting for things to "gel", I finished up the 10th cat. Recall that yesterday, I just needed to finish up the face:



Then I added the sashings to each side.


And here it is with the rest of the blocks.


It's getting pretty close! I've picked out all the fabrics for the next block, and I might get started on it later on today. For now, I'm taking a little break from it. As much as I want to finish it, I'm getting a little tired of looking at it.

As a handy diversion:


That's a little squeak toy I like to throw over his shoulders just to bug him. He looks thrilled, doesn't he?

And just to be extra annoying, I wrapped its tail around his neck and told him that all the fashion-conscious cats are wearing them.


I don't think he believes me. The things this cat puts up with.

In other news, I got my yaktrax yesterday. They fit perfectly on my shoes. Mike tried to convince me I'd be safe walking out to the culinary herb garden last night.


It was dark...and down hill...and I kind of felt like Smitty about this latest fashion. The downhill in the dark had me a little spooked, and so I told him I wanted to wait until daylight...and that I would prefer level ground for my first outing. And since the ice is almost gone, I might get out of this whole thing altogether. It was sweet of him to get me my own pair though. I'll get out there and be bold one of these days.

Some of you must be fairly well snowed in today. Are you staying warm where you live?

11/18/14

The Tenth Cat

So on and on I go with my cats. It looks as if I've committed to finishing all twelve before I rest.

Yesterday I made the background for Cat #10.


I wanted to show you what I did here because the instructions would have had me fuse that entire piece of purple fabric. That would have made the quilt too stiff for my taste, but this block has quite a bit of machine embroidery. It seemed advisable to have something that would stabilize the fabric. 


I ended up fusing just the pickets at the top of the fence and about an inch below. For the rest, I used an iron-on stabilizer. Then, I fused the fence piece to the orange background piece. I left enough at the top of the orange to trim the block to the right size once I had the different fabrics pieced together. Once it was trimmed, I had my background piece. That's where I left off yesterday.

When I came downstairs this morning, I noticed right away that Smitty had some ideas about alternative layouts for the blocks. He's been so helpful with this particular quilt.


I'd blame him for this mess, but I'm afraid that's all mine. I had to clean-up some before I could continue. There comes a time in every quilter's life when she must admit the mess has defeated her.


So once I had given myself some room to work, I continued on getting all the pieces fused down. This poor little cat...such dull colors I gave him.


I decided to do the machine embroidery first, and so I drew in all the lines I needed to follow.


The stabilizer worked great and my fence stayed nice and flat. Once the machine embroidery was finished I got most of the top-stitching done as well. I still need to finish up the appliques on the cat's face. Then I'll add his eyes. The bird has an eye too.


Tomorrow I'll finish up the top-stitching, and then I'll add a checkerboard sashing to each side. All of the mini quilt block cornerstones are finished now, so the sashings should go a little faster. Once that's done, I'll be ready to move on to Cat #11.

You might think I'm only working on cats, but I'm making my way across the Vintage Tin stitchery as well. I'm almost halfway now. Slow but sure.


I needed to go to the grocery store this afternoon. There are many Christmas tree farms at the top of our hill, and the harvest is on.


This farm is down the road a ways, but there is another farm about 50 yards away, as the bird flies. When that farm changed ownership, the trees had grown too large to be domestic Christmas trees. Now they are only harvesting the boughs each year. They do it by helicopter, and that means that I have a helicopter hovering overhead for about a solid week around Thanksgiving each year. It's annoying, but fortunately, it's only for a few days. 

And that's what's going on here at the Three Cats Ranch. The ice is clearing little by little, and it was slightly warmer today than it has been. Still, I need some fresh sage from my culinary herb garden for dinner, and there is a sheet of ice between my feet and the sage. I'll have to send Mike out there to risk breaking his neck when he gets home this evening. Actually, he has the benefit of yaktracks on his feet. Mine may have come today, but the two packages that were delivered are addressed to Mike. I'll have to wait until he gets home to open them. 

And that's my day. Tomorrow I have a day at home. Thursday I'm going to the Knit, Stitch, Sew...or maybe it's Quilt, Knit, Stitch...or maybe it's Stitch, Quilt, Knit. Whatever. I wish they'd give it an easier name. Anyway...Thursday. I even have some money in my pocket. That should be fun. Tomorrow, it'll be me and the cats...both fur and fabric.

11/17/14

More Cats

Yesterday I nearly finished the 9th of my Folk Art Cats. I had taken it this far, thinking, "There. Now I can sew it to the rest."


Only, not so fast there, Cowgirl. Almost in the same thought, I realized I hadn't yet embroidered the face, or added the little whirligig to the bottom sashing. Geez.


So I did that, but then I needed to stop for the day. Mike and I went to see Interstellar last night. I know some people have liked it, but "Meh" is about as much as I can say about it. To me, it seemed like a cheap knock-off of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is one of the best sci-fi flicks of all time, in my humble opinion. Anyway...

This morning when I got home from my morning walk with Sue, I sewed it to the rest of the blocks.  Now the top two rows are finished. All that is left now are the three blocks in the third row. As long as I have my cat mojo going, I'll just keep working on these. I really, really, really want to finish this quilt top. I started it back when I was just a baby in October of 2012. Okay, so maybe not a baby...more of an advanced beginner of a teenager. I wish.


Speaking of my walk with Sue, I braved the ice skating rink that is my driveway and made my way down the hill today. There is only about 500 feet of elevation between me and smooth sailing. Nevertheless, the beginning of the trip is pretty scary.


When the sun shines in winter on this side of the Cascades, the temperatures are usually frigid. Warmer temperatures invariably bring rain. I say this only to explain why the ice has been hanging around for so long. The temperatures have been bitterly cold and there is a frigid wind blowing. Nevertheless, the sunshine has been dazzling. 

When Sue and I got started this morning, we hadn't even reached the trail when we saw this Great Blue Heron. He was standing so still, we wondered if he was a decoy...or dead...or frozen...or something. In our usual way, we crept as close as we could...


Taking pictures as we went...


Until he turned and started to amble away, as if to say, "Okay, Sister. That's close enough."


So then, we left him in peace. He started to spread his wings as if he were going to take flight, but then he just resumed his position doing whatever he was doing before we so rudely intruded into his personal space. 

I made a stop at the post office on the way home, and then drove on up the hill. I pulled over to the side of the road to shoot this leafless oak tree. There is something I love about oak trees once they lose their leaves. 


It could be one of our favorite wineries down in Salem that caused me to start noticing them. Their label bears the image of the tree for which the winery was named.


The tree has an interesting history, and apparently there are "witness trees" all over the country that bear witness to historic events. Back east there are many witness trees that mark the location of historic battles, but the true witness tree serves a more pragmatic purpose. There is an article in the New York Times about it from September of 2012 that talks about the witness trees in more detail.

In the case of the Witness Tree Vineyard, the tree above their tasting room once served as a survey marker in Polk County, Oregon. The 250-year-old tree is one of just a few that have received the designation of Oregon Heritage Tree. I was certain I had a picture of it, but I did a search and couldn't find it. Nevertheless, I did find an image in our local newspaper:


and here is a link with some more information about it.

Anyway...all of that to say that I believe my interest in leafless oak trees probably started with the Witness Tree Vineyard. Some of the earliest pictures I took when I got interested in photography were of oak trees in our area. An oak tree has to be very old before it achieves this size. 


For that reason, they are rarely cut down, but left standing, even when they are growing in what has become an inconvenient location.


And I love this quote from George Herbert: "Storms make oaks take deeper root."

My guild meeting is tonight. I can't recall what we're doing tonight, or whether there is a speaker, but I'm going. I need to make up a grocery list for tomorrow and fold some laundry. Other than that, I'm going to continue on with my cats. What's on your agenda for the day?

11/15/14

Some Cats

When I posted my goals for the month of November, there were two with big flashing lights beside them. One was to finish the quilting for the Gardener's Journal quilt. The other was to finish the blocks for the Folk Art Cats quilt. I'd say I'm a little more than 1/3 of the way on a Gardener's Journal. Nevertheless, this being the middle of the month, I've felt some internal pressure to get going on these blocks as well. That said, I've spent the last two days working on these cats.

When I left off with Cat #8 yesterday, I had it all finished except to machine embroider the mouth and whiskers.


So that was where I started this morning. Using oak gold thread, I stitched over the chalk lines I'd drawn in, and with that, Cat #8 was ready to take his place with his seven brothers.


Or sisters...you decide.


And then I went straight to work on Cat #9, which meant piecing together the background first.


Yes, that pink square is supposed to be there like that, although I shifted it over a square or two. It's one of the things I love about this whimsical quilt. It's full of little surprises and asymmetry.

Well, don't you know I'm getting a lot of help on this quilt. We're trying to make it as realistic as possible, from a "folk art" standpoint.


"Here, Mom, let me help you with those strip sets."


And with all that help, it's simply amazing that I was able to get this far.


The tail on this one extends out into the checkerboard border. This is as far as I can take it until I make the border and the little mini quilt block cornerstone. I'll work on that tomorrow. Once I have the borders in place, I can top-stitch it and then add the eye and the face.

As for cats, this one is trying to figure out how to get past that protective shield known as a window to get to the little hummer outside. He sat there for the longest time yesterday afternoon...and the hummer sat there too...mocking him. It was very exasperating for Mr. Smitty. 


The temperatures have warmed just barely on our icy hill. It gets above freezing during the day, and the ice is thawing where the sun shines. Unfortunately, a good portion of our driveway is in the shade all day, and those areas are as slick as ever. Today, Mike put some sand bags in the back of his truck to give us some extra weight, and we did manage to make our way out to the main road. I would never try this without him, but we made it out and all the way down the hill into town where the weather was nothing unusual for this time of year.

As we were leaving, we noticed that one of our faucets was leaking and had created this rather substantial ice sculpture. Impressive, no?


So, without Mike and his big bad truck, I'm still iced in here. It was nice to get out for a little while today, however. The sun has gone down now, and our temperatures have dipped back below freezing until tomorrow. It needs to warm up, or I'll continue to be stuck here when he returns to work on Monday.

How's your weekend going?