Friday, December 8, 2017

Thomas Fire

My city/county has been on fire since Monday night. The Thomas Fire started northeast of us in the next city over, and due to severe Santa Ana winds, rapidly burned through 10-12 miles of dry brush in the foothills.   We lost power about 9 pm and, along with our neighbors, tried to find out from our cell phones what was happening.  This was the scene from our upstairs window as flames crept down the foothills a mile or two away.

Evacuation orders were soon announced as the fire began to consume neighborhoods.  Our son was under mandatory evacuation, living very close to the hills, and he packed a bag and bugged out to his sister's at the beach. A nephew went to his grandparent's house. Our other daughter and her family packed up essentials for themselves and the kids and waited for word of evacuation, as did we.  It is funny what you find yourself picking up and considering valuable at a time like that.  We loaded the cars and dozed, on and off, through the wee hours of the night, but never received notice of need to evacuate--all the flames continued westward, away from us, miles toward the western edge of the city.  Our power was restored by about 9 am and we were able to watch news coverage of the horrible devastation of homes in the hills.  My brother's house was threatened, near where a rehab/psych hospital burned to the ground.  He evacuated to his son's house.  Other family and friends were evacuated and waited for word if their homes were spared.
Towering smoke viewed from our backyard.  The wind picked up again in the afternoon and whipped the fire towards Ojai.  It jumped the highway and began burning all the way to the ocean, and even now has continued northward into Santa Barbara County after burning through La Conchita and the beach communities. 
This very blurry photo was the smoke cloud as I left work Thursday.  All our offices were closed but one; this is looking  southwest to the  ocean.  When the winds were calm, the smoke sank to the ground. 

I had never seen this "Smoke" designation before on my weather app. Fires are still burning in Ojai, which was blazing all night with winds 30-50 mph with gusts up to 80, and it is heading to the national forest northward, with firefighters battling multiple other fires in LA and further south.  The Thomas Fire has burned more than 130,000 acres and is still only 10% contained.  There are at least two more days of Red Flag Warnings from the Santa Ana winds.  

439 homes have been destroyed, in the hills of my city, where most of the nicest and more expensive houses were.  My doctor boss knows at least 10 other doctors who lost homes.  I watched a former doctor employer on TV as his house burned and collapsed in 30 minutes, while firefighters tried to keep adjacent homes from catching fire.  There is still danger and evacuations in place, plenty more dry fuel in the hills and embers that could be carried miles.  Amazingly, only one death has been attributed to the fires, a woman died in a car crash trying to escape the flames in Ojai.  The community has risen up and offered much to the evacuees and the fire and rescue personnel.  Rebuilding will be slow, and the bare hillsides may take years to recover.  I have heard of no one who wants to leave our beautiful city by the sea, and know the community will continue to offer help and reassurance.  We remain on alert, until this siege is over.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Design Wall Monday--11/27/17

On my design floor is a Bonnie Hunter quilt.  No, I'm not talking about On Ringo Lake, her new mystery quilt that just debuted, but one with plenty of pieces, still.  This will be a brown version of her Narragansett Blues quilt from the More Adventures with Leaders and Enders book.  I made a lot of 4 patches and cut the rectangles, so a trial layout attempt seemed timely.

This is what the center looks like.  I need to cut a bunch of brown squares for this section as well as for many other rows.  I'm making a throw size for my uncle, whose favorite color is brown.  I always wonder why so many people dislike brown--it is all the primary colors mixed together, which is therefore why brown GOES with every color.  

So far the 4 patches are standing out just fine against the brown.  Naturally, as is usual for me whenever I change the size of a pattern, MATH happened.  I need about three times as many 4 patches for the layout I want.  Lots more cutting and sewing to be done, but that's not worrying me--I have plenty of scraps and am glad to have a place to use them!  I was tempted to sew up some of the vertical rows, but seeing as my sewing room is still disassembled for Thanksgiving Day furniture rearranging, back in the box they went.  Well, once I evicted Mini the cat from it--she can never resist an empty box.

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Slow Sunday Stitching 11/26/17--Thanksgiving Wrapup

A little late to the party, but I do have slow stitching to show.  First, progress on the Lizzie Kate cross-stitch. 

We watched the grandsons last night and after they were in bed, I finished the rest of "forever" , after pulling out most of the V and redoing it, and got a start on the S for Stitching, while watching a PBS show on the Beatles.  I put a few stitches in today before diving into the ongoing binding job, a baby quilt for my daughter's best friend. 
 I had to get creative when I didn't quite have enough of the pink solid for the binding...

 ...though it disappears on my beige carpet :)  The label is next, as baby Grace is finally here, a week overdue.  After a bath, the quilt will be on its way to the newly expanded, happy family--she's the first grandchild for both sets of parents.  Linking up to Kathy's Quilts.

Thanksgiving was a rather quiet affair, with us hosting as usual, but without the big crowd.  One could actually hear oneself and others at the table, since there were only 11 of us: two of our kids, my mom and dad, brother, sister, uncle, and nephew with his girlfriend.  

We even ate together at one long table.  I enjoyed pulling out my Grandma's Red Apple dishes I love so much.  My sister Kathy was a big help to Grant and me in the kitchen, as always.  She peeled and seeded a pomegranate while I put together the fruit salad; she toasted walnuts and almonds for dishes, and made the green bean dish, while I tried to get out all the bowls and serving pieces. Brother Kevin carved the turkey, Mom and Dad brought pies, Erica made the special potato dish we all love.  Everything came out well.  Later, two nephews stopped by, one with his expectant wife, and Kathy gifted them the quilts she made at our retreat at Sewtopia--can it be only three weeks ago? 

First was the wedding quilt.  The couple are ski boarding enthusiasts and got married 18+ months ago in Mammoth Lakes in winter, at 10,000 feet.  Kathy used a panel and coordinates for a snowy mountain themed throw. 

The wedding quilt being late, they got an additional matching quilt for their baby boy due next month!  Mama-to-be has been on bedrest and is hoping for an earlier delivery.    The marrieds also stopped by with the grandsons so we all got to play (wind them up!) with them for a little while.  We had a lovely day and clean up took way less time than normal, lol.  The men even helped empty the living room of the 15 year old couches we were giving away, in anticipation of a new set to be delivered the next day.  Grant and I ended the evening by pulling dining room chairs to the TV to watch WALL-E.  

He had to work Friday, but I had the day off and not only did I not go out and shop on Black Friday, I never left the house. Bliss!  There were a few visitors to enjoy and plenty of pottering time after the busy days before.  Back to work tomorrow, and the mad rush to Christmas.  We'll wait until Dec 1 to get the lights up and house decorated, though plenty of our neighbors took advantage of the holiday to do so. Lots to do in the next month--but there will still be stitching time :)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Design Wall Monday--Nov 20

I'm late to DWM but do have progress to report.  Over the weekend I got the Star baby quilt for my daughter's best friend pinned at last, and set to quilting it yesterday. 

I was lucky to find a match for this Kona Flesh in a door prize Aurifil thread pack.  Wavy lines randomly spaced was my plan.  I quilted a number of rows before realizing that the horizontal lines I thought I was stitching were actually vertical.  Oh well!

Some rows I sewed to overlap and make a ribbon.  Mom-to-be is a week overdue and hoping to deliver soon.  Meanwhile, binding has been made and attached and last night I started stitching it down while watching TV, a process whereby it seems I really only stitch during the commercials!

I've also been getting a few stitches in a new cross stitch project, which I started on the plane to NOLA.  
Lizzie Kate's Stitching Forever, Housework whenever design.  Love my octopus needlekeeper. 

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

More Sewtopia NOLA

My sister joked that we flew 2000 miles to keep sweatshop hours, sewing all day and night at Sewtopia, but we enjoyed every minute of it.  Kathy, the speed sewist, made four quilt tops and completely finished two quilts!  I think she was the only one with that number, but there were many finished bags, blocks, quilt tops, and new projects going on all around us.  Our tablemates were our Guild president Tisha and her mom.  It was nice to have familiar faces but of course we met lots of other quilters.  Me, I cut and sewed, cut and sewed, and used two design walls to help me with my word quilt.  

Lots of color choices were made, plenty of switching around as well, as the quilt grew.  The letters were made from Laura Hartrich's Simple Shapes Alphabet, although I changed the dot of the "i" to a curved block instead of plain square. I used a 4" finished Drunkard's path template set from Jen Carlton Baily for my design.  The curves required a few pins but were not too difficult to sew at that size.  Many attendees were interested in my project and stopped by to ask questions and take photos.  Jen herself said she wanted to make a word quilt, and in her free moments as part of the staff, she sat down to design.  I fed her squirrel project by giving her some cat fabric:)

Lots of people signed up for a secret swap project.  The staff swapped them overnight and there were lots of squeals of delight the next morning as we found them by our sewing machines.  Too funny, my sister found her own swap item on her machine, which was quickly switched by staff.  Here's the beautiful item I received, full of goodies, made by Nela.

Gorgeous zip bag with the pineapples and polka dot lining.  The gnome fabric was made into a bag the items were in.

Tisha's mom's item came in this sewn paper wrap.  Very clever.  The girl who got my item seemed to like it; the house blocks runner I showed in progress a couple of posts ago.

Simple straight line quilting to keep it modern. 

I had fun with the back with this fabric from stash.  The runner looks crooked in this late-night-thrown-on-the-floor shot, but wasn't!  My word quilt grew slowly, letter by letter. I enjoyed choosing all the different colors. Many of the fabrics were from a Dimples charm stack of every color that I won at Superbuzzy a few years ago. 

In progress shot...with Tisha's intricate block project sharing the design wall.  Having the design wall was so great.  Wish I had room for one at home.  One gal the next table over couldn't wait to see what came next and helped me make decisions about the clover I designed to add. I begged additional greens from other attendees.
 It came out looking great, with her help.

By the noon witching hour on the final day, I had managed to sew all the pieces for the letters, clover and stars, and sewed over half the individual rows together.  I stacked and rolled them up for transport, pinning the loose rows and the clover pieces together in order.  They made it just fine in the luggage.  Last Sunday I sewed the rows together, then made the final decisions for the missing section.  Sew, press, sew press...
Hooray, a finished top!  The top is 60x76".  I am pleased with how it turned out and would make another word quilt with this simple alphabet.   What phrase would you make?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sewtopia and NOLA

My sister and I had a grand time at our first quilting retreat, Sewtopia, which was in New Orleans this year.  We had our usual adventures getting to the airport and hotel, but all was well in the end.  I may have a few more gray hairs, however. We arrived the day before the event's start, and had a short rest in the hotel room before venturing out for dinner.  Kathy was mad for trying creole/Cajun food, and forced encouraged me to join her.  Over the four days I tried shrimp creole, gumbo, catfish, jambalaya, etc.  She was mostly pleased, but being a very good cook herself, a little disappointed at the tourist versions of these usually spicy dishes.  Sewtopia provided lunch daily in the hotel dining area (Embassy Suites on Julia Street), in what was once obviously the exterior of two buildings that became a huge atrium painted with Bourbon Street scenes, with life size statues scattered throughout.

Our first morning of Sewtopia included a shop hop and, to my surprise and joy, a tour of New Orleans by bus.  Our first shop was in the Lake District, Mes Amis Quilt Shop. Tiny but chock full of great fabric.  I purchased some yardage and fat quarters with fleur de lis for my word quilt project, then headed out to take photos of the neighborhood.  Along the way I met other members of the group who told me Lake Pontchartrain was a short walk away. 

The Lake Vista neighborhood was full of large houses from many eras, with these large old oaks between them. I loved this yard with multiple tree swings:

 Wouldn't you love to spend time in this one?

The lake is surrounded by a levee and not actually visible from the sidewalk by the homes.  I headed up the slope to take photos of huge Lake Pontchartrain. 

It was a very pretty day with the clouds.  We were lucky with weather and although warm, in the low 80s, it was not very humid.  Not that we didn't appreciate climbing back on the air-conditioned bus to our next destination in the Mid City area!  Morning Call was not a quilt shop, but a very old restaurant famous for beignets and chicory coffee.  It is in the middle of beautiful Audubon city park with stream, sculpture garden, museums, and surrounding older neighborhoods.  I could have spent hours there, but made the most of the time we had. 

 Beautiful Rotunda.

 Bayou scene. 

 Swans, ducks, and two egrets (ibis?) in this scene.  A great jigsaw puzzle picture, right?

I adored the oaks covered with moss, this one with branches arching nearly to the ground.

While we have many oak trees in California, few of them have Spanish moss and never to this extent, in our dry weather.  After a few minutes in the sculpture garden, we headed to our final stop, a quilt shop called Chateau Sew and Sew

Very cute shop with tons of Cotton and Steel and other modern fabrics, along with gifts and patterns for kids.  I did a little buying of fat quarters and then my sister and I headed out for some neighborhood shopping.  I bought a handmade tile from a craftsman and a needlework Shotgun House scene from a shop owner named Annie.  
Loved all the railings and different roof lines of this old part of the city close to the Mississippi.  After returning to the hotel and a short rest, the cutting, ironing and sewing began in earnest... the Sewtopia Ballroom, of course!  Sewtopia provided Juki machines for those who had reserved them.  I was late to register so ended up bringing my machine, for which I received a credit in the Pop Up shop.  But more about that in the next post :)

Thursday, October 26, 2017


On a very sad note, my 98 year old mother-in-law, Frances, who has been living in Memory Care for a year, and under Hospice the last few months, last Thursday had an unwitnessed fall.  She apparently hit her head and left knee, but was otherwise visibly unhurt.  However, she became short of breath later that day and then unresponsive overnight.  Hospice staff put her to bed on oxygen and morphine and monitored her.  She passed away on Sunday morning, 10/22/17, having never regained consciousness.  

Frances (98) and granddaughter Erica , May 2017
A tough old Swede, Frances had bounced back so many times, it was a shock to everyone.  She had expressed many times over the past few years, though,  that she was "ready to go" and wondered "why the Lord didn't take her".  She is rejoined now with those she loved and missed who preceded her, including her husband Marion,  all her siblings, her parents, and many friends.  We will celebrate her long life with family and friends at a service in a couple of weeks.  Rest in Peace, Fran, you  were loved and will be missed.

Thursday Again

We in SoCalif have survived a sweltering few days of record-breaking heat.  It was 97, 106, 104, 103, and finally today only reached the upper 80s.  At least the humidity has been low, making it possible to still move around without feeling like you were dying.  Our recently acquired room air conditioner has made sleeping possible. A little sewing has been happening, for the retreat trip departure a week from today.  Two volunteer sign up projects are due at check in--a blind swap project with another attendee, and a challenge using provided Michael Miller fabrics (selections from In Bloom, by Sandra Clemons, and two solids).

For the swap project, I originally was going to complete an in-progress small quilt that needed a bit more machine quilting and then binding.  But while browsing at the Cotton and Chocolate quilt shop, I came across a sale bin and came home with a new idea from a Fig Tree & Co pattern.  Solids pulled from the fat quarter dresser and some Kona Snow were quickly prepped and cutting ensued.

There were so many pieces for this block (28) I needed a cutting breakdown!

I had never seen a house block like this and loved the different chimney and path parts. 

I kept the "grass" pieces, though trimmed them down.  Eliminating sashing made it more modern.  Basting, batting, backing...hmm, this tune is familiar.  

The challenge project had me experimenting unsuccessfully with scraps last week, so I went bigger.  

Drunkard's Path blocks cut at 6.5" left plenty of the prints showing after piecing.

A few rounds of switcheroo led to this layout.  I liked all the curves and color, and sewed it up this morning before work.

I'll use the remaining fat quarters for the backing and binding.  There is a lot to get done before the retreat, and my typical last minute finishes are not helping calm the stress.   I need to spend some time making lists--I love checking off items. Wish me luck!👍

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Working and Playing

Though not blogging, I've been busy, including in the sewing room.  The baby quilt I showed last time is now a completed top.  Pattern is Signed, Sealed, Delivered from APQ mag April 2017.  I left off the two borders.

It went together nicely and I'm happy with the color placement.  Unfortunately, the fabric I had bought for the backing was not quite long or wide enough for quilt sandwich purposes, so some surgery was necessary.  Luckily I had purchased enough of the pink background fabric to extend the backing as well as for the binding. Sometimes I am smart enough to buy extra, generally MATH is a struggle!

I drew out several designs but liked this arrangement best.  The print is a Valori Wells design.  I'm pondering quilting designs but will likely go with a very simple channel quilting. 

My Dad and his fraternal twin had a big birthday and while at the party, my Uncle asked how I did with my quilts at the Fair, so I showed him photos on my phone.  I asked if he had a quilt for his bed at his senior living place, and he shook his head. I've been making 4 patches as leader-enders for Naragansett Blues by Bonnie Hunter, but having few blue fabrics in stash or scraps, hadn't decided on an alternate.  Luckily, he is fond of brown so I went home and pulled all the browns and some black prints from my fat quarter drawer, happy to have a direction and destination for this squirrel project.  I cut a bunch into bricks with my Accuquilt GO cutter, loving that I had the right size die. 
 I laid out a few of the bricks and 4 patches as a test and think this will work.  My neutrals are white to tan and don't seem to be getting lost in the browns. 
My version will be smaller than designer Bonnie Hunter's, but just as scrappy.  The quilt is constructed in vertical rows, so I'll need to count carefully to make sure I have enough of the 4 patches, bricks and squares for my plan.  

Sewtopia in NOLA is coming up quickly and I wanted a special project for my very first quilting retreat.  I have itched to make a word quilt for ages and the Simple Shapes alphabet by Laura Hartrich, found in the Winter 2017 Modern Patchwork magazine was my starting point.  Last night I drew and sketched and graphed to the wee hours and think I've got a good plan. (FYI: Link to designer is for her sampler quilt that includes the upper case letters)

I'll be using Drunkard's Path templates from Jen Carlton-Baily in the 3" finished size.  My first two sketches made a quilt that was too large and required hundreds more background squares than I was willing to sew up.  Looking through the magazine again, the designer showed a word quilt without spacing between the letters, and that was the key to my final layout. 

The words will be colored prints and solids, and of course the shamrock will be greens.  I plan to use lots of different neutrals and leftover block parts for fun in the background, and will mix plain and pieced squares.  I hope to complete the twin-size quilt top at the retreat, which will necessitate doing a lot of  auditioning,  cutting and sewing over the next 10 days.  Back to the sewing room, then!