Sunday, November 30, 2014

1 Solstice Project Each Month

I've been thinking how to go the next step with my planning / financial issues that bunch up expenses towards the last quarter of the year. I saw that other bloggers have similar issues and make commitments with their blogs to do small projects that are group-inspired. I looked at what they did for the last couple of years and while some projects are great, others are not items I would take interest in making.

To meet my own needs I decided to do monthly projects on or by the 22nd of each month in celebration of Winter Solstice (12/22/15). I've been collecting ideas I see that I want to use, and now need to make my gift list and then match up my projects for that is a catchy name. Projects for Peeps. I will sit with that for awhile.

I belong to several groups that always have ideas and think that if I am at least a month ahead planning, that I can keep going. Also, a number of quilting magazines and You Tube videos give great patterns. Needless to say, some of these projects are going to take more time than one sit-down-day. 

I've also been thinking I would like to make a quilt or two that is meant to comfort have it ready to go when need arrives. As it is, there are 13 quilts that are in process right now that are designated to family members, plus others I want to make that are as of now undesignated. That's a lot. 

This year, I did come up with a lot of smaller projects, some not even quilting like those Book Safes. I love the two Book Safes I made! And now I am working on Money Trees. If anyone has ideas, please email them to me privately and I will consider if they would work with my skills, interest and budget. The challenge is always making something someone will actually use. I don't want to turn out projects that are not well received or useful to the recipient.

Feel free to use the comment link on the sidebar with your ideas. They won't go public but if there are ideas good to share, I will do that too.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Printed Apron

I am in an apron-craze right now. I've always wanted to make aprons for women in my family, and did make one for my Daughter-in-Law and one of my Nieces. Aprons have a rich history not only for cooking and baking, but for working in gardens and many service industries.

A pre-printed & cut, yet not finished apron appeared in a bin I went through this morning. It has a little feel of canvas but not quite that tight a weave. Cannot tell if it was pre-washed or would shrink, yet thought it was a good idea to line it too. Claudia, from 5 Heart Quilts, a fabric store in town, said that you can help pre-shrink small fabric pieces by spraying them wet and then steaming them dry. 

I wondered if it came from the pieces my friend Virginia passed on from her Mother. I didn't tag it before storing last year. As I looked at it, it seemed the bottom piece was meant as pockets. It got top stitched in place and with vertical lines running between the houses did make the pockets. 

Having just finished a different apron with a tie around the neck and ties at the sides, I had a good idea how to do them. My choice of color for the ties was settled by finding some pre-cut red for the waist ties and pre-cut green for the neck. Its a little long but works according to the print. I used a muslin for the back and top stitched around it for security on the seams. I am not at all sure how it will stand up to use and washing. 

Its still pretty exciting for me to find a use for fabrics in my stash. I am getting better in seeing how to make things happen. Whomever bought this piece thought it would make a nice apron, yet either never found time for it or changed her mind. I honor the Ancestor-quilter for her original ideas and investment in the materials, and give thanks this morning for who she was and where she was in her life. I do hope she likes how it turned out. I do.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Out of Sight

As Winter moves into most of the country, the high temps where I live are in the 70's during the days. I cut a couple of roses to bring inside for my table that have that true old rose scent. Roses in November. mmmm.

Its hard to think of quilts when it is this warm. And, enough leaves cover the ground, so I need to fill the trash container for pick up later today. I admit the excitement for the 2015 to do list hasn't touched me yet. I moved the two project bins to fit behind my futon, which means they are out of sight and out of mind

I am determined to finish the gifts for the Grandkids and my Sons, get them all wrapped and out the door. I bought five rolls of wrapping paper, and some different additions to tuck in with the tied ribbon. Each gift will be wrapped and set within bubble wrap to keep it safe. Then the gifts for each family go into a larger box. I've created this sort of gathering place for the gifts, boxes and wrapping material just so I know where everything is and what it is.

Some of my family members will put their gifts under the tree and save opening until Winter Solstice, and others will be ripped open as soon as they are seen. Needless to say, this is why I hold off sending the packages until the middle of December.

My younger Son, Jerrod's quilt is next. His birthday is 2/2. This is the Kaleidoscope quilt I started at the last quilting retreat. It should never have been left this long between working and means laying it out and working with pattern instructions to see just where I am.

So the concept of out of sight, out of mind has a price to be paid when I do it. In truth, that price will be exacted for all the projects in those two bins. All of them in are in different stages of completion. If I was smart, I left them with instructions-to-self so I could just step right in.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Endings, Closure, Finishes

With just three projects left to finish, I gave more thought to why its become important to me to make lists and finish what I start. And wow, did I ever come up with a lot of reasons.
  • It clears out my stash
  • There is only so much time in a lifetime to do everything one wants to accomplish
  • It helps me downsize my home
  • In my younger days, it was easier to start projects
  • It teaches me how to release things, circumstances, and people in my life 
  • It gives me peace of mind
  • It helps me with my values of re-cycle, re-purpose, re-use and re-gift
  • I love making lists
Finishing up projects sets a pattern for releasing the more significant things or people in my life, and over the years, I came to see that. Someone in my life pointed out that I was a good pioneer, a good risk-taker and initiator, but that I never stayed around to see projects to the end. With that insight, I have worked hard at changing this behavior.

Right around that time in the late 70's, Kenny Rodgers sang The Gambler "who said the secret to survivin' is knowin' when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run". And I am still learning.

I surprised myself when the first of my projects was the holiday stocking I started using fabrics from my friend Virginia's Mother, because it was for me. I admit that I am usually the last person on my list. Holiday stockings are incredibly easy to make and most can be made without an official pattern and usually turn out. As I finished this one, the thought came to me that I 'should' make a lot of them from my holiday scrap bin and give them as gifts to family members. However, that is too easy for me at this stage of my life, so I might hang onto it for a time when my skills are lessened.

The next thing on my list was to fold more dollars for the seven money trees I am making. Its a seriously boring, time-consuming job that takes 140 bills for all the trees, or 20 bills on each one. Its going to be a novelty gift for the Grandkids so I want to keep at it, even if its a project that stops and starts. I folded all the money on hand for it...and until my hands really hurt from creasing the bills. I put together one of the trees and then called it for the day. Seriously boring. If money really grows on trees, then the truth of it is, that a person still has to work at making that happen, even as a gift! I am not sure what I have here, and the next part of the plan is to put bills, pins and bows on styro forms until I figure out what more is needed. 

The third project left for this year is the apron and it is not finished either, so I will wait for a photo of it when its completed. It had only been cut out when I left it. I made the pocket & sewed its button on, sewed the front and back together and then made the straps for the ties and the neck piece. All that is left is to add the neck strap, open the sides for the ties and sew the top button on. That will be enough for another session.

As most of us know, the term UFO refers to projects we stopped working on. I have a quilt project that is a UFO, and maybe I need to look at whether or not I will really ever go back to it. Maybe I should name it for what it is...which means I really do have to look at it again. I need to ask myself if it is something I really want to work on, if its worth my time to work on it, or if it needs another home.

FINY - finish it next year (there is hope)
GIA - give it away (hopeless)
MACCI - make a commitment & complete it (do it now)

If I am really using my quilting to learn my life lessons, then this one is huge. It requires knowing myself, assessing my skills and interests, and making a decision. Its not a light-weight lesson. And it is about time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It is only with the heart

If you ever read The Little Prince, then you know the Fox's secret, 'that it is only with the heart that one can see clearly'. I love that book, love the colors in it, love the fox. When I lived on a farm in MN, there were fox living on the hill to the west. I could hear them calling and yipping and was fiercely defensive of them in their habitat.

Today I made eight fabric heart bookmarks. First I cut the shapes; two hearts out of 4" squares, and one 3" square that folded to the back that is meant to hold pages of a book. Four of them are headed off for International swaps so make each something light to send, one is designated as a gift fitting into a book, which is really the present, and the other three are extras. 

The next step was to pin the three pieces into a sandwich, sew a 1/4" seam all around it & clip the curved edges. I want to make more, and add them to holiday cards. With the advent of e-books, I thought most people were not reading paper books any more, but that really isn't true.

The last step was to turn them right side out, push the seams out with a chop stick, and press. It is one more way to use up scraps and makes a novel book mark. It took just a little careful placement of the heart shape to cut out a piece that held some interest.

My local quilting friend is on vacation, and after I sent her the link to the pattern, she shared it with a few groups she is in and says that one group wants her to teach the steps and perhaps make enough to sell at one of their functions. If only we could spread love around that easily! Its probably a good money maker for their event too, if they price it right and with the variety of fabrics we all have in our stash!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Recipe Card Templates

I am still finishing up 2014 holiday projects. 

What's a quilter doing copying recipe card templates?  Well, I tell you, two of my Granddaughters are off on their own, soon to be followed by a third. And while I am making quilted things for them in their new homes, there is more to my soul's delight, and more to our time together. When I lived in MN and times I have visited, we spent some days baking and cooking. I have recipes they might enjoy now.

I made one of them a 3-ring binder with sheet protectors and pages for recipes that their other Grandmother & I wrote in for her. 

I played with the copy feature long enough to figure out how to print 2 and 4 up (or on) a page. I always had office staff to help print my work so this is a new not be laughing!

Personally I like the 3-ring binder and protection sheets because if I see a recipe in a magazine, I can rip it out and put it in the top loading sheet protector. And when I am cooking or baking, I can take the sheet out and with me whether it is to the grocery store for ingredients or to another counter where It all goes into my magickal cauldron (a.k.a. Kitchen-aide mixer).

I plan to shop in the big city next Saturday and considered recipe card boxes. I am not sure if I want to go that way or the 3-ring binder. I tried writing out a recipe on the index cards and found it crunched for space.

Recipe card templates are saved onto a desktop folder and am ready to print either way. Mother had an index card/box that she wrote in and taped recipes on the small cards. I think its a sweet memory of her which is why I considered it for the grrrrls. Thing is, recipes give much more information on them now and need more space.

These printed cards won't go to waste if I either cannot make up my mind or in fact, change it and decide to wait to make the books for them. I signed up for a couple of recipe swaps where they will come in handy for that reason. I might even use some of the full page sizes for my own 3-ring binder. Some of the pages are looking pretty ragged.

Monday, November 24, 2014

No Accounting

One year, I saved all my shipping receipts to see just how much I spent at the PO and for FedEx. Shaking my head and how much it actually was, I decided that it 'was what it was' and what I could do was to budget in a few hundred dollars and let it go. Its not that I was denying reality of the cost, its just the real reality is I live here and they live there.

I spent my entire day gathering items for the swap packages, getting them bubble wrapped when they needed it, & holiday wrapped for the gifties. Every item going out of the country needs a Customs Declaration Form CN22 filled out with contents/value, my name and their name.

Even though Mr. Tse in Hong Kong doesn't see snow, and I have no idea if he wants to spend time cutting these out, I thought they were brilliant and included instructions for 4 of my favorites in his gift box.

Some of these packages hold the mini quilt projects I've done, some hold things I bought and wrapped, some hold things (like Star Wars Snowflakes) copied and cut to serve as gifts. 

In my travels to the various small stores in town, I stopped at the German deli and found ONE small Advent Calendar card that I want to send to my Sister who celebrates her birthday on the 5th. I LOVE these calendars and know that its very hard to open them one at a time, one day at a time because a person either forgets to do it daily or if there are goodies in the calendar, a child will open them all at once.

Waiting is a skill. And why is that?

One of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho said, "I've learned that waiting is the most difficult bit, and I want to get used to the feeling, knowing that you're with me, even when you're not by my side."

There are endless forms of waiting that we experience in our lives. We wait for the perfect day, for the perfect love, perfect grades, perfect job, perfect family gatherings, and other perfect things we long for. Do they come or do we get up off our chair and go get them?

Like the money it takes to go to the post office...if I waited until I was sure of it or anything else, I might stop what I am doing all together...stop giving, stop creating...and stop living.

I have been waiting to start work on the 2015 projects until finishing up the last few projects for this year, and getting everything wrapped and shipped. 

Thing is, as I do this part, its like all the members of my family are with me even though they are not by my side. I cannot stop thinking about them and loving them and missing them. It is the whole focus of what waiting means.

I want to complete these few projects so that when I do start on the 2015 quilts, they will have my full attention. There is something to be said about undivided attention to those we love and projects we work on.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Swap for a Loved One

One of the challenging International swaps I am in right now is to send a holiday gift to a loved one/friend. The person I send to is a man in Hong Kong. 

The first thing I did was to locate it on a world map and then to look at their weather for this season. I learned that temps are in the higher 60's and low 70's with rain from time to time, but mostly sunny. I think the people are younger, based upon her profile in swapbot and what she told me about him. 

I really don't know much more about WHO they are as much as what they do and like, which is actually the case for all my swaps. What I find is that I cannot sit in a place of judgement about people who swap and what they like or don't like.

It seems that when you send out real love, real love returns to you. Or at least that is the ideal. Many people still keep score and get upset when someone flakes on them. They get triggered into hurting, feeling unloved, and end up not being able to love selflessly. In essence, we are all bargaining for love. I have come to understand that the kind of love I seek, even in these silly swaps, is only gained when I stop expecting it, and continue offering it from my own heart without putting conditions on others.

The person sending to my loved one/friend (who is an infant teacher in a local preschool) comes from  Székesfehérvár in central Hungary. It will be enough just to get a surprise package from there! December is their coldest month of the year, so my guess is that they do a typical holiday season. My swapper-sender is a young woman with a husband and a 4-month-old baby. The information I gave about my loved one/friend is that she is an infant teacher here in town. Most of Europe sees education of infants and preschoolers differently than we do here in the US, and particularly Cali, so the gift she sends from Hungary may be quite interesting.

I have three holiday projects left to finish, the black and red apron, my own holiday stocking, and 5 more of the 7 money trees. 

My stash includes some blue fabric with California cities and symbols on it that will make up a nice mug rug for young Mr. Tse in Hong Kong, who drinks dark, black coffee in the mornings. I've also been able to print off some sorting labels for his Lego collection, and Star Wars snowflake templates. I only know he is interested in them, but do not know if he can or will use these things. Maybe.

Its been getting colder here, clouds cover the valley, and winds bite through light jackets. Winter is coming. And Solstice is the day that makes it official.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

outside the box - box

I honestly try to follow directions. At least that is my story.

This stocking stuffer swap has the theme of purple/lavender, so I decided to make another fabric box. The one I made my Cousin turned out so lovely, and it has been hard to top with others I tried. My confidence was high with this project, so I didn't pull out the pattern and went by memory.

This fabric box turned out kinda cool, yet because I didn't follow the pattern, seams had to be ripped, not just once but twice before it looked decent. The original pattern calls for fabric to be cut at an 8-10" square, and this one was cut at 15". So its got an odd box shape to it that may not be as functional as if I had followed the pattern. I left the seams raw and facing outward. The inner corners are bigger than the opening corners. 

When my Sons were younger, it seemed that I never made most of the same meals twice even if they were so good you wanted to sell your clothes and go to heaven. Looking back, I suppose this denied them the sort of traditional comfort foods, yet did expand their ability to try new things.

Maybe this box is part of my journey into the more artistic expression of quilting. It is nice, and yet, I know that when I try this concept again, I will go back to the more functional look. The box ended up larger just because of the scraps I found that were about 16" wide. It was a matter of using the pieces rather than cutting them smaller and then having smaller scraps. I thought I knew what I was doing and did not think there would be such a different outcome to it.

I have so much to learn.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Heart Bookmarks

It took longer to read the pattern than it did to make these Heart Bookmarks. Seriously, it might have taken 10 minutes total. I made three and shipped out two for my swap partner in Chile.

My partner's profile indicates that she liked the tiny floral patterns and loves the antique rose. The upper heart had issues with the seams, so I am keeping that one. The point of the heart fits on the corner of the page for perspective. They really turned out and I sent her a book (profile-based interest) with both hearts in it as examples of how to use them.

I had not realized how many bookmarks are around here. I tend to use those advertising cards that have gotten to be oversized post cards because they really stick out in a book.

Having a public profile on that swap page makes what you receive your responsibility. Of course, people send what they can afford or have, but we are all strangers and this is the only way we have to make known our secret longings.

I remember my first Secret Santa gifts. They came from commercial addresses, and so I kept wondering who knew me so well as to buy exactly what I wanted because I knew me so well that I know I don't tend to reveal my secret longings, not even to folks closest to me.

I think I have held onto to my secrets because of the roles in life I have played, teacher, advisor, counselor....and any secrets define inner thoughts, dreams and even fears of not measuring up to a perceived standard.

So much in this stage of my life has been healing my entire being. I am much more accepting of my human frailties and the need to cover them up. I am starting to see how good mental health is being more transparent.

Years ago, I created holiday list templates for my Sons and their grrrlfriends so I had an idea what they really wanted. Did those things go out of fashion or am I not looking for them?

Gift-giving has become like a philosophy used with pre-schoolers who are taught, "You git what you git and you don't throw a fit." I didn't see until just now that this has been what I am doing with my quilts and other gifts. I am not sure how to change this part of my life yet because what I do comes from a lot of the fabrics that have been given to me and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

It is a matter of choice, and if we don't take the time to make our needs, wants and even dis-likes known, then we run the risk of being disappointed right along side of the possibility of being thrilled. However, being transparent seems run those same risks and possibilities...and so now what? Which is better for mental health?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Joy oh Joy

Last month, it came to my attention that my blocks were not always measuring the unfinished size. And also, I was not happy with how the contrasting colors worked for the 6" blocks. Perseverance may be one of my strengths. It goes by lots of names like tenacity and stubbornness. Sometimes, those markers tell a different story and they become weaknesses if the outcome isn't healthy.

This morning I worked on making two 6" blocks for my November partner in Australia. She requested purple and blue as colors and gave the freedom of choice for the blocks themselves.

I love how they turned out AND they measure the correct 6.5" unfinished square. The more pastel block is called "Garden Star" and the darker one to the right of the pic is called "Goose Chase".

What I know about my continuous effort is that my confidence in what I am doing on any project grows as it comes together, and then helps me risk doing the next one.

I can get stopped dead in my tracks when I let fears of failure, assumed inadequacies and low self-esteem start to badger me.  What I know about myself is that I rarely back away from a challenge. If anything, I have been pretty foolish at times with things I have taken on. 

Quilting is an easy past time, or it would be if I wasn't committed to learning about myself, exploring my soul and spirit issues, and then just working to better my skills with it.

I've got two more smaller projects to do for the swapbot exchanges: One is a fabric heart book mark from a pattern I discovered at fabric-heart-bookmark.html ; and the other is another fabric box for a 'purple' secret santa swap. The book mark will go to a woman in Chile who speaks more Spanish and German than English. I am going to make two of them so I can get the simple project right. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Baby, Its Cold Outside!

Longing for only joy in one's life is human. Thing is, we all need practice to elevate the quality of our work, as well as staying in some situations that push our growth and creativity. 

I finally finished the 58 rice bag hand warmers. Once I got going with chain stitching them, it wasn't so bad. I did use 5 pounds of white rice filling them along with Rosemary Essential Oil for a bit of a scent. 

Then I tied 2 bags together, sort of matching the colors & now need to make up and print cautionary microwave instructions. I'll hole punch them so the ribbons can run through it for each pair. 

I am still folding dollar bills for 7 money trees for the Grandkids, and need to pin them to the forms. That project marks the end of what I made this year going back to the Midwest as gifts to family and friends. I have a couple of things for local presents, but am not pressured by shipping deadlines. Everything is just about ready to go once those trees are finished, and at least the quilts ship next week.

The next fun part will be wrapping the gifts and finding ways to mail them back safely. The hand warmers will go in simple brown envelopes without gift wrap because they are meant to just be a happy mail treat only related to the cold play days in the Midwest.

I wish that I took time to make mini holiday gifts all year long. Its always a goal of mine, but one I never reach. I have a huge list of items I want to make and simply never get to. Every once in awhile, I meet someone in a fabric store who agrees that we can never sew/quilt as fast as we dream.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I Wonder as I Wander

I am about ready to pour rice into my little bags, all 58 of them. Yes, I pushed myself to finish chain stitching three sides, and then went forward with more intent to do that fourth side with its stop and start-leave a hole to turn, and then load with rice.

The first pattern I followed for this project suggested hand stitching the opening. This had to be for people who were only making a few of them, not for die-hards who had gone over their common sense limit to make many am I making? I am not counting at this point, nor am I taking more photos of the small squares with sewn sides. 

I found another pattern that suggested closing the 4th side opening with topstitching. I am going for that. Maybe they will be worth photographing when they are finished and each pair tied with a ribbon.

This act of photographing the smallest steps for my projects bores me almost as much as comparing myself to someone else and almost darkens the moment. Some projects, like this one, have a lot of details that take days of work and show little progress because there is so much to do.

Here is a pic from the north side of my home. Its a crop of Miner's Leaf Lettuce that I transplanted from the house in the Mountains more than three years ago and is only now the size where it could be harvested. It's a fragile plant that cannot take heat and prefers shade so disappears with the late spring heat. I have yet to eat any of it and may try some this year.

Here is my Great-Aunt, Maria Rosa Capone Squillace, who was both fierce and gentle as women get to be. She married my Grandfather's older Brother, so is not related to me by blood. I guess I am close to her age when she had this was taken because we have the same smile lines that go unused without the smile. Her eyes. There is something about her eyes. I wish we were of the blood because I think I might get more. However, there she is and here I am, across space and time. I know nothing about her other than what I can imagine from her photo. I don't know if she cooked, baked, knitted, gardened or did something either courageous or risky. Like most elderly women of her time, she wore black, and has the same soft gray hair that I do that is asymmetrical. Her almost-smile compels me to sit with this photo from time to time, and I wonder why it was taken and why it came to me, as well as wondering what the Capone connection is. There is no one left with answers. This I find interesting.

Another thing of interest to me is the Buddhist Temple just outside of town. I watched them do these sand art mandalas for hours! Every color laid down grain by grain, shading by the lightest movements. And then, almost as soon as they are finished, they open the windows and doors to let the wind blow their work away. Taking photos here would barely show the few inches of progress in a day. Yet....

Monday, November 17, 2014

Another Apron

This one is really grrrlie and is going to a Niece-In-Law in MN. I found the pattern by designer Patty Young in the Winter 2014 issue of "Quilts and More" magazine. Its made from 7 FQ's, and of course I had some!

I worked on it almost all day, plus a few hours this morning to get the waist band on it done. I love the little gather on the bib and was delighted to use a button from my jar. Its a colorful apron for the season, and I think my Niece-In-Law entertains neighbors so this should come in handy for those kind of hostess settings or special family dinners. It almost looks like a holiday package!

Long ago, when I asked for colors my family uses for the holiday, she told me she likes red. The entire apron has a red feel to it, but cannot get away from its complementary green. I've found that even though red has been my lifelong favorite, too much of it its too much!

I also sewed the second sides to all those rice bag hand warmers. They are really making me laugh as I work on them.  What a task I took on, forgetting I dislike repetition. As I seamed 58 little bags for 29 people, I wondered why I didn't make it an even 30 for 60 bags! Thing is, there is one more side of chain piecing, THEN each bag needs the opening side sewn (stop and start), and be filled with rice, AND the opening topstitched....jeeze, Bellezza, what were you thinking???!!!!

My younger Son texted me this morning to say he sent another 3 packages of batting, so I know there is nothing holding me back for 2015. He is much more sensitive to the needs of people around him than I am, and always seems to offer gifts that are specific to a person's needs. I've watched him from the time he was very young. His kind of attention to giving is a gift of self more than anything. When we do this, we are honing edges and melding into our circles. People usually don't get that. I don't often get it.

My self-centeredness hinders every breath I take and stifles my creativity...just because I have a hard time getting away from my own expectations and self-judgment. 

I will keep on keeping on with this rice bag hand warmer project just because I am stubborn, of course. And I am going to write it down somewhere that I don't enjoy making so many things at one time that are all the same. I wonder if I will remember where I wrote it down!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

It Will be Easy, They Said

After all the internal work I did regarding my budget and gifts, I still fell into the trap of making just a few more gifts. One of the groups I am in offers its members quick quilting or sewing projects each week, and this week it was those mini rice bag hand warmers.

It was promoted as a 'stash buster', and even recommended using up flannel scraps. Each little bag is a 4" square and is filed 3/4 full with rice. There is even a template so the instructions for use in a micro are included.

I have flannel scraps. I have rice! This is perfect. So I made a list of all the younger generation in my family and thought, "I can do this!" and started cutting. Then, I would walk from the cutting mat to my list so I could add names as I remembered the little darlings. This project is so easy, I thought, that I can make a pair for the two older Granddaughters' boyfriends.

Wait. A pair. Two hands - two handwarmers. 

Then I counted and discovered there were 29 people on my list which meant I needed to make 58 little 4" handwarmers. After almost 45 minutes cutting, I spent another 35 minutes chain stitching the first side. Two more sides to go, plus filling them with rice and closing up that seam. Well, it did stash bust the flannel, using up almost half of the small pieces I had in a bin. I really didn't match fabrics to make matching pairs. If I know kids, they will get used, brought in and either forgotten or tossed in the 'mom pile' for her to sort and remember. Next time, if they get brought out, all that will matter is having one for each mitten.

Those pieces were strips I had cut from a quilt I made my younger Son last year (the back was flannel pieces too). I loved how it turned out so cozy and hated tossing the scraps, so was glad to find a good use for them.

I'll work on this project today, and also finish up an apron that is going to one of my other Nieces. Its a new pattern I am trying that uses 7 different FQs. 

There is still time for easy.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Do You See What I See?

Turns out that I wrote down the wrong number on the package that got the scanned label sent to a different city. It finally arrived at the correct home, probably because someone in the USPS was doing their job, read what I wrote AND intended for the city, and got it to the right destination in spite of what the scan indicated. Lesson learned, however. I really need to be more careful.

Later, I worked to finish the 24" square mini quilt for a SSSwap in my partner's preferred colors of Lime Green, Pink and Turquoise. Hmmm. The Lime Green shows up differently in this pic, however matches the Lime Green in the Turquoise print. Hmmm. All three of the fabrics here have dots which sold me as the coordinating factor when I was in the fabric store. My partner told me she likes these non-traditional colors, so I did my best when shopping. I selected a darker Teal-turqoise for the binding that felt like it tied the others together. The Pink is a fabric with very fine lines of Red & White.

Is nothing what it seems? I knew I could trick everyone's eye with this Red & White and they would see Pink. I knew it because of my experience over time.

When I was a kid, I remember asking adults in my life if we all saw the same things, like colors; or if we just all named what we saw with a word that everyone simply called it the same ...and then saw the thing differently. I know that is hard to grasp. 

How more simple to understand that people see the world differently from each other. Right? Needless to say, most of the adults around me had no answer that would have satisfied me. Over time, I learned that what I wanted to know was simply the difference between objective and subjective observations. 

Yes, I was "one of those" who never stopped asking why a jillion times all the time, and drove everyone around me crazy.

I read the zip code in my address listing wrong last week. I saw an 8 where in fact, it was a 6. The PO clerk keyed in my zip code but not the city I put on the box and made the bar code that went on the package. She didn't look beyond her task, and I didn't check for my intention. My fault. Now I know better.

There are all sorts of scientific means for observing data and coming to conclusions that provide empirical evidence. 

What I know is that 8's and 6's are solid objects. An 8 is an 8 and a 6 is a 6. Object/Objective.

And Lime Green, while you can see it in this photo and know what I am calling or naming it to be, the color Lime Green will look different to everyone and is subject to any number of factors that range from facts to emotions & perceptions. Subject/Subjective.

Go into a paint store looking for that color and you will come home with several paint chips that look different in morning sunlight than they do under lamplight. Everyone sees the world differently and makes choices based on what they value. It doesn't mean one color is right or wrong. It is simply different. And being different is ok. We go for what works for us and learn as we go.

That is a mighty simple way for me to define the differences between Objective and Subjective theories. But its what I got for now.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fill My Stocking Swaps

Over the last couple of months, I participated in several swapbot exchanges meant to fill our stockings for the holidays. What I like about doing these particular ones is that you send to one partner and someone else sends to you. That way, there is no expectation or disappointment. I am keeping all the small wrapped gifties unlooked at. 

What I realized is that I have had the same stocking for a long time now, maybe at least 13-14 holidays, and while I made it too, I am ready for a change. It has stuffing in the heel and toe because of the angles and small spaces, and really is more for decor than for use as a holiday stocking. Picky, I know, but its always bugged me. It will be wrapped and sent off to use in a White Elephant gift swap. Whoever gets it gets to chose what they will do with it. It will be out of my hands.

As I went looking for those things I sent my #2 Grandgrrrl yesterday, the bin used to store soft holiday items held some quilted fabric pieces. I think they came from my friend Virginia's Mother. I cut out a shape that is more utilitarian for gifts, sewed the two pieces together and now just need to find a plain fabric for the cuff. This will work better for me and will hold all the swaps I've received.

Yesterday, the PO delivered the 'undeliverable' box I sent. Thing is, I have no idea what they did or what changed. However, Bob got his quilt, and loved it. Haven't heard if the misdirected package found its way yet. Good thing it wasn't a box of cookies! 

There is a sort of awesome power to chose our attitudes when things go in a different way than we expected. Its about perception. When I feel the most centered, I am able to see any challenge as an opportunity for growth. Nothing in life calls for us to suffer.

There are many layers to what we experience. Yes, a physical wound or dis-ease brings us pain. Yes, emotional and mental wounding can bring even more pain to the point of trauma. Sometimes it depends upon how old we are and who is the one inflicting these challenges. A child has less experience in coping, however, those responses a child has to her wounding could set her up for life to respond in the same way.

I am not sure what it takes for us to see old patterns and decide to make a change. Maybe, one day, we simply have had enough. Maybe one day, someone steps in and says or does something to help us see that there is a different way...that we don't have to keep doing something we don't like doing.

Just like that stocking. Its pretty enough. I made it. Its pretty enough. It doesn't hold what I want it to hold or how I want it to hold. Its pretty enough. I can make a new one. I can make a new one every year if I want and give away the one I used the year before. And it might be pretty enough, or be one that used up fabric from a woman's stash whom I appreciated as the Mother of a very dear friend. 

I don't know what she had planned for the fabric. Its become a stocking for me this year. If something else comes about that changes my thinking, I just hope I remember this process. Its pretty enough. Does the situation, person or object serve my needs and greater good? Is it time to release the person or object and let it pass onto someone else who has needs it will fill? If so, then there is a blessing way we can give it in the form of a note or a card. I am learning through these swaps...learning how to be generous, learning how to take care of myself and learning how to heal.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Grandgrrrl #2

Its interesting for me to see my Grandchildren grow up. Many people lock each other into an age, or a behavior, or some expectation. I don't think any of my Grandparents did that with me. If memory serves, and I haven't re-written history, it seemed that they treated me as an adult once I became one, and were there for me, listening and open to when I did visit or call. I don't remember too much of their advice beyond childhood things. It is my hope to do that with my own sweeties.

How this works, in my opinion, is that whatever I do stays in present time. Grandgrrrl #2 is a cat-lover and just adopted a sweet little fluff, so I made a set of french-seamed pillowcases. They really are easy to make, and like I have said quilting cotton is not Egyptian cotton, so these pillowcases are more for seasonal decor than anything. My own set is on my bed already and it is fine. I found a set of 'three little kittens' ornaments to include. I haven't put up a tree in a few years now, and did have some lovely pieces on it that I want to share.

I finished this mini scrap quilt for her too. Its the size of a table topper but could be hung (finished at 17" square). I might add something to the back for hanging before shipping it to her along with a note saying what it is and options for use. The pillowcases are a given.

Then I made a quick little 7" pillow. I personally like these on chairs for just a little more back support. They serve as an accent in any corner or room in the house.

When young people leave home, most kick around from place to place for a few years before settling down. However, that first year of holiday seasons away from home is hard too. We all become little kids in spite of wanting to be independent. Its such a bittersweet time. There is so much fun in creating the atmosphere that we want, starting traditions that are meaningful for who we are: Some come from our families, some come from the families of our partners or friends, and some are things we dream about.

These small handmade gifts to her are non-invasive and will be things she could use with joy in celebrating the season. After all, they are something homemade from her Granny. All that is left is my note to be included with it all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Da Mail

I hadn't heard about a quilt I shipped, so checked the tracking number on it to discover they are returning it and say it is undeliverable! I checked the address in my files, and it is the one they say is on the package. I checked another address on my receipt to discover it is going to the wrong city! At least two of the packages I sent that day are misdirected. My total bill was over $94!!!

Needless to say, I have a trip planned to the PO this morning to see if I can get this resolved.

I've read that the highest incidence of missing quilts happens when they go through the mail system. I thought I was taking extra precautions in how I shipped that included a tracking number, but human error still happens, and every clerk I speak with just shrugs and says either that they don't know what happened, or wants to turn it back to me to say I did something wrong. I am willing to admit my own errors, however in this case, even their records say I had the right addresses on the packages.

We do live in an era where few people are willing to take responsibility for their company as well as their own work. and why is that? Simple accountability goes a long way. I started adding the 'tracking' factor just because I never knew if the package arrived, as well as sometimes having a carrier leave a package out in the weather to get rain/snow damaged.

Its like I have to pay more to ensure their system. No wonder people get frustrated. I am not just pointing my frustrated consumer finger on our postal system. It happens elsewhere in other stores or with other services, which is why I think consumers get so upset and lash out. Sometimes their anger is a release from feelings about many similar issues, and they have reached the end of their patience. Its hard to start fresh. 

And this is yet another bugaboo that goes with this season.

One of the things I look at is the rising cost of postage because almost everything I have for my family needs to be shipped. If the quality of service has dropped, then what re-course do I have as a consumer? This will be one of the questions I ask today when I go in. Meanwhile, I need to keep doing what I am doing, and be sure to double/triple check addresses and bring a list of them with me to check the receipt before I leave the office. I want to be sure I AM doing my part in keeping the system running to serve my personal needs.

How did it get so complex? and why?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Money Trees

Yes, why yes, money does grow on trees. At least it will for my Grandchildren this Winter Solstice.

I found this idea online to use those styrofoam tree-cone shapes for the base. Each tree fits 20 bills of your choice. The one to the right is finished though might be re-done to get the bows evenly placed. Its a simple enough project and perfect for those teens who like money rather than token gifts a $20 bill could buy. Sure its not much, but it should be fun. I think I will try to find some quotes about money growing on trees (or not) and include it with each package.

Bills are folded accordion style the long way with a bobbie pin in the middle to make them fan out into a circular flower look. They get placed starting at the bottom and working up, trying not to have spaces show up or add bows.

My neighbor has 12 Grandchildren, and liked this idea so much, she bought supplies for it too. Later this morning, we are going to sit on her porch and start working on them, one at a time. Luckily, her kids are local so she bought gift boxes. Mine, on the other hand, need to be shipped, and so I bought these long wine-bottle gift bags and tissue paper to keep the postage costs down a bit. Folding & pinning money is actually boring, so working with my neighbor and chatting while we do it will ease that boredom. 

I also did some hand work attaching binding to a pair of mug rugs I am giving, and have a couple more projects left to do before the end of this month. 

And then, there is the wrapping and shipping.

There is a joy in the wisdom about holiday gift-giving that I gained over the years. When I look back over the years and how this frenzy started, I could see that it was media advertising that started all the stress. I grew up in a family that did not celebrate Christmas with gifts but by gathering for family dinners...first on Christmas Eve with a meal consisting of 7 different fish dishes, and then again on Christmas Day with turkey, chicken, beef, venison, pork, duck and home-made sausages. There were veggies and salads, potatoes and pasta. While it looks like a lot of food, usually you would put a spoonful of this and that on your plate, and still have room for pie or some other fancy desert.

No, it was the advertisements when my Sons were young. They showed games, and motorized airplanes, and Legos, Star Wars figures and ships, and things that every kid had to have. So the push was on for me to shop the early-bird sales or miss out and run the risk of disappointing my Sons. Thing was, the toys usually broke on the first flight, or had parts missing and still were disappointing. Next year, I tried harder. 

Every year, my anxiety grew, and as prices rose, my income did not. The pressure was intense and it became more difficult for me to stay sane and centered, and loving.

This last decade is the one that marks the most of my personal growth with this issue, and in truth, maybe only the last few years. There are a lot of reasons for the change in me about my attitude towards this season. Some changes came from within and some came from outside me.

I still struggle to be sure of what I am doing, and struggle to make sure I don't rush to the store (outside of town of course) to buy one more thing to make their gifts not look so light. I haven't owned a TV for decades now, so I don't get the advertisements. I make most of my gifts and have become ok with that. And them? The objects of my affection? What do they say or think? 

My guess is that they will remember the handmade gifts long after the store-bought ones went into the landfills. At least, I hope that is the case.

Monday, November 10, 2014

And yet another

Its almost noon here, and I've spent the morning running errands. This small valley town closes on Mondays, so fewer people are out. There are only a couple of bigger stores like Home Depot and KMart that stay open, plus the grocery stores. And after unloading a full trunk in my Saturn Vue, I was ready to do house chores like watering plants, and mopping the hard wood floors.

I did get outside to see the pond in the west garden. Leaves are peeking fall colors and this pic doesn't do them justice. What I did discover is that the pond has a leak. My guess is that raccoons have just played around in it a bit hard. My next chore is to remove the stones and the pond frame and replace the piece before winter sets in. With a working motor, it is a source of moving water for the critters and birds. Soon enough the leaves will fall and it would make it time to clean out the pond anyway.

I was reading about being blocked in working with quilting. The article spoke about quilters needing to step back and away for awhile. Some never return and others come back refreshed. It gave me pause to think about how quilting fits into my life rather than BEING my life.

Each year, I made a list of quilts I wanted to create and get out, and then worked almost non-stop. This year (2014), I moved some of the quilts on that list to the 2015 list and gave myself some space. Its been ok. At first I thought that I would probably try and do them, but I kept my word and let myself relax.  Right now, I have only a few quilting projects to work on in the next few weeks and really like being able to walk outside in the gardens, walk through the stores without pressure and plan a few things to do that are non-quilting.

I want to take some time and write letters to the elders in my family back in the midwest. Mail is so fun to receive. My life is busy just like everyone else's but those moments of connecting to folks I love is really, really important to me.

The leaves outside tell this story. Brilliant colors that start with green, move to the yellows and now to those bright reds. I know that a good wind can take them off their vines, because it will be time for that change. If the colors are like the seasons in our lives, then the vibrant reds tell the story of life just before it blows away. I just don't want to miss those seasons. And I will get back to quilting soon enough.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Non-quilting Day

The baby shower is this afternoon down in LA, which is a 2/3 hour drive there and back again, so about 6 hours of travel time. 

The fabric bucket has tissue paper tucked in and it looks sweet as a gift. I am not sure I would make another one of these because its pretty time intensive. Of course, the original pattern didn't say to make it this big. I think I went a little crazy using old algebra skills. Luckily, I did have the leftover blocks to use, plus enough leftover fabric for the binding. It was a nice 'stash-buster' project. I do like how it turned out and was also glad to use that odd fabric for the lining on the sides.

I bought some holiday boxes and wrapping paper for the gifts I plan to send back to MN/WI for family. We do have a Dollar Tree store in town, so getting these boxes for a $1 just adds to their charm. I also bought wrapping paper, some stuff for package decor. 
Thing is, I might not be physically with them for the holidays, but can make their gifts look special.

The other thing I did was to shift my 'swap' shelves from Hallows and Thanksgiving to Winter Solstice. While many people complain that stores start the seasons too early,  because I need to plan ahead to ship on time, I NEED to start now if I am going to budget, remember everyone on my list and get things going. I need to send a lot of things out Thanksgiving weekend or that first week in December for my family to receive them in time to set under their trees. 

Yes, that is an empty tissue box. Kleenix is making them in such great colors that it seems a waste to toss them. I take off the plastic opening and use them to stand up all sorts of things. This is my second one from the fall collection. I like having places to store those little small things.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

It was Finished!

I went to my orphan bin (extra leftover blocks or strips that didn't fit in their original quilt) and found a strip of blues that were long enough to work at the base of the lining for the bucket. It simply got sewn on, turned and then hand stitched.

Not that this part was easy with my really sore left index finger. My good goddess, I am such a baby about pain and kept thinking about people who really get injured and wondered how they tolerate the honest-to-goodness pain!

The final step was adding two straps for carrying and that was easy enough. It stands up well enough with the extra lining and added binding on the top. I am pleased with how it turned out. All it needs to make it a shower gift is to add some tissue paper.

Back to the issue of this minor pain on my finger. I can say minor, but Golly Ms. Molly, it sure hurts! Probably what happened is that some finger tip nerve endings were cut off and then just scream when the finger is touched or touches.

Funny thing is that the metaphysical cause for cuts is given as "Self-punishment for not following your own rules." Now there is a lot of controversy regarding the metaphysical health issues, and I fall on both sides of the argument from time to time, so am not supporting one side of it either way here. I am just saying its mighty interesting considering that when I cut myself, I was NOT following my own personal common sense that night.

What I do like about this particular theory are the affirmations. And the affirmation for a cut is, "I create a life filled with rewards." I do like that. Affirmations are a part of my spiritual practice and belief that we face life and all the experiences we have in it with a positive attitude.

As with any health issue, I still think we are the chief of staff for our own health care. Most of the time, the medical staff relies on lab results, probably diagnoses, and statistical outcomes for issues. My health care providers almost never touch me, and usually stand or sit on the other side of the room talking. I wonder if they really ever listen to me or if I am in a given female category according to my age at the time. Bottom line is that we are responsible for treatment we allow, and so we need to be informed consumers when it comes time to making those choices. 

I really panicked with the blood when it first happened and botched up my first bandaging efforts. I did watch for infection and took some pain meds, and made sure I didn't go into shock. I mean, after all, it was just a little cut. And now, I am whining more to myself than anyone else and its healing just fine.  Thing is, I dislike having such a wound, and hate how it interferes with my life and what I want to do in a given day. So being better fast is really a priority. If the affirmation helps, then affirm away!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Finish Something Friday

Today its going to be that scrappy bucket. I made it larger than the one in the tutorial. What WAS I thinking?

The outside collapsed because the batting was not enough to hold it up. The tut didn't use anything for the lining, however, I found this odd piece (from Lee's estate) that has been just there in one of the bins without a designation. It is hefty.

Both the front and lining are quilted now. And it has a machine sewn binding at the top to join the two pieces together. The challenge for today is figuring out how the lining will be attached to the base. I am thinking about that blanket strip, however, it doesn't make sense to me at this point just HOW. It will still be a soft-side bucket and will not stand up the way a plastic or wooden or even cardboard container would stand. And there is no way for me to know if the recipients at the baby shower on Sunday will find any value in it. Oh well. I am learning from the process. Not sure what yet, but something.

Its so easy for people to stop what they are doing when they face an obstacle or when things don't turn out as planned. Too easy to throw it out and feel like a failure. Its interesting that this project ends up where it is on Friday, because I am still (somewhat) committed to finishing something on Fridays.

However, first things first. My next door neighbor & I are headed into town to shop. Yup, I know, that will take all of an hour or maybe two if we meander. Being away from home and the workstations here do bring in a refreshing state of mind.