Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Last Minute Gifts

My shopping was done long ago and I found some time to do a bit of stitching.  Last minute presents.  Over the years I've made dozens of boxer shorts and my family never tires of getting a new pair.  I use Pattern 1672 from Kwik Sew.  The gorgeous inukshuk fabric is by Northcott.   these are for my niece who is visiting from overseas.
 This pair is for son. I've run out of time, so daughter's will have to wait a few more days.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.
I almost have these ruffle scarves out of my system.  Daughter had several balls in her room before she went to University and I've been stitching them up.  The two on the right are made from Bernat Twist and Twirl. both are made with 6 stitches.  New colours are now available.  The scarf on the left is made from Ruffelina, which is now discontinued. It has the look of poodle curls. If you have a ball of this in your stash, cast on at least 8 stitches.

This is my last Needlework post of the year.  i'll leave Mister Linky up until the new year so you can show off your stitched Christmas gift whether you gave them or received.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley

This audio book was wonderfully entertaining and I kept making excuses to keep listening.  At first I thought it was a story of good brother versus bad brother.  As I kept listening, I realised it went a lot deeper than that. 

Clive McCahon has served his time for dealing drugs and now wants to return home to remote Cold Storage, Alaska to open a bar/church.  His brother Miles, the town medic, is unaware of this until a state trooper, bent on re-arresting Clive, fills him in.  Fishing is the largest industry in Cold Storage and trooper wants to ensure that Clive doesn't bring any of his drug dealing ways with him.

From the moment Clive and his uniquely ugly dog step foot on shore, all plans seem to take on a life of their own.  The arrival of ones of his pre-jail associates complicates matters, though not in expected way.  A series of comic mis-adventures doesn't hurt either.

Cold Storage is a remote community with access either by water or air.  City people can't envision themselves wanting to stay here, but it has a knack for getting under their skins and they find it hard to leave.  Perhaps it's the sense of caring practised by the residents.

Author John Straley has turned a cold, isolated community into an inviting yet funny family. 

This audio book was read by Stephen R. Thorne. 8 hours 9 minutes.
Cover image courtesy of Blackstone Audio.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Splattered Blood by Michael A. Draper

Johnny thought he had the perfect job  as Chief of Internal Security for the New England Highlanders basketball team, until he committed suicide.  His wife Roseanne couldn't believe that he would choose to end his life and pushed for an investigation.  Along with her brother Graham and friend Randy, they carried out their own probe.

The story is told from Randy's point of view.  He's been a friend of the family for many years since selling them their first insurance policy.  His job has given him many opportunities for investigation, but never as in depth as this case promises to go.  At first, I felt a little unsettled by Randy's story telling, but then I realised he was telling the story from the present rather than the past tense as I expected.  Once I had read a few chapters, that unsettled feeling went away.

Their investigation proceeds at a realistic pace, at times stalling for days and at others moving ahead in leaps and bounds.  This kept me guessing as to what would happen next and when it might happen.

I enjoyed the assortment of characters involved in the plot.  Detective Chuck McElroy never quite welcomed the three as he felt it was safest to leave the investigating to the police, but then again, he didn't run them out of town either.   It didn't matter that I knew little about professional basketball, it is a backdrop to several characters, one of whom plays an important part of the investigation.

This is definitely not a cosy mystery, it contains a fair number of gruesome deaths, though Mr. Draper has not gone into glorified details, rather he has confined the descriptions of the bodies to that needed for the storyline and not gone beyond to gratuitous gore. 

Thanks to author Michael Draper for creating a good book with more than a few interesting plot twists.  Mike's latest book Three Strikes and You're Dead is now out in print.

Cover image courtesy of the author.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Tangled Thursday - Negative Space

It's been far too long since I tangled anything.  Diane has nudged out group back on track by challenging us to use negative space.

I tried this once before and was unhappy with my results.  I didn't outline my space and then the tangles I selected had too much open spaces with in them.  This time I outlined my space with a black pen and then tangled away.  I am happy with the results though I have some ideas on how to improve next time.  Always a learning opportunity.

Thanks to Diane for the challenge.

My post from yesterday is looking for photos of your Advent or Countdown to Christmas Calendar

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current Zentangle related post or a negative space tangle from a previous post.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Great Advent Calendar Hunt

When I was growing up, it was so exciting in December when one of us kids got to open one of the doors on the Advent Calendar.  Hiding behind those doors was a tiny piece of chocolate.  Since there were four kids in my family, I didn't get to open very many doors.

I decided that when I had kids, they would each get their own calendar.  Well, it didn't quite happen that way, instead, I bought a calendar with pockets that I could fill myself.  We have used it for the past twenty years and my kids still look forward to seeing what I have hidden for each morning.  I'll give you a hint, it's always chocolate and more chocolate.

I bought this from Avon about twenty years ago. The little Santa, currently in #9 moves from day to day.  The pockets are large enough to hold about 6 Hershey Kisses.  The first year I used it, I got the great idea of filling all the pockets ahead of time and then hanging it on the wall.  I had no sooner left the room and there was quite the crash.  The calendar was so heavy that it pulled the picture hanger out of the wall.  From that day forward, I just fill one day at a time.  The tree is about 25 inches tall and 23 inches wide.
This year, my sister sent me a surprise in the mail, a new style calendar.  This one is a magnetic black board with twenty five little tins, each of which contain a chocolate coated cookie and one contains a gift certificate.  Hmm, wonder which that might be.  Measures 12 inches on a side and is from Starbucks.  Thanks sister, you are terrific.

Christmas tree skirts are the feature of this post from 2012.

Homemade ornaments were featured in 2013.

This post and the earlier ones all have open Linky. you are invited to add a link to your post that features Advent Calenders, Christmas Tree Skirts or Home made ornaments.  It can be a new or previous post.  Advent calendars and tree skirts can be either bought or home crafted.  Thanks for joining in the fun.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Inspiration Takes Time

 I traded for these blocks in 2000-2001. I was quite excited by all these 9 patches arriving in my mailbox.  Then they sat and sat and aged and I still didn't put them in a quilt.  Last week I showed you how I updated them using a disappearing 9 patch method.  The first photo shows my original layout.  I alternated blocks that had light or dark at the outer corners and left space for sashing.  Too busy.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.
 Next I put the light corner blocks in the middle and the dark corners to the outside. It's a little more defined, but still not what I wanted.
Add another round of sashing.  Now it's heading the right direction.  This seems to tune down the busyness.
 Since this was a 50 State swap, I wanted to emphasis that it was American. First I selected the 9 blocks with light corners that were mostly red, white and blue and put them in the centre.  The blue fabric with the tiny white stars for the sashing was bought years ago.  The cornerstones with the fussy cut blue stars was an afterthought that I am very happy about.  I am still undecided about a border.  Perhaps 3 or 4 inches if I can find a red and white stripe.

Last evening I put some decorative stitches on the Christmas stocking.  I used a fluffy yarn to duplicate stitch a couple of snowflakes. The pattern is one that I purchased many years ago and is no longer available.   Now my stocking are all ready for filling.

Tomorrow I'll have a special post of Advent or Christmas countdown calendars.

I'd love to see what you've been stitching on. Mister Linky is waiting below for the link to your current needlework post.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

I could hardly put this book down, and that's saying a lot since I have previously read it two times. Karigan G'ladheon has faced life threatening challenges since she ran away from bullies at her boarding school and I can't help but cheer for her. 

The lands of Sacoridia are bounded by magical  D'Yer Wall that has stood for a thousand years.  It has served to keep the nightmare creatures of Kanmorhan Vane out, but  the Gray One has breached the wall.  I had hoped that the wall would be more involved in this story, but that comes in future books.  The Green Riders are the main theme.  They are the legendary couriers of the lands, though their reputation has tarnished over the centuries and their role in the liberation from evil has been forgotten.

This book has many of the features I look for in a good book.  A strong female character, a good cast to support her, magic that keeps me guessing and a wonderful setting.  The land of Sacoridia is realistic in many ways, yet the possibility of magic adds numerous twists.  I had one problem with this created world. The road that Karigan travels from school to the capital city is impossibly long compared to those travelled by he father.  Unfortunately there is no map of the lands included in the book, so I have to imagine that the route she took was the 'milk run' that passed through all the out of the way towns. 

Karigan does a lot of growing up in this coming of age story.  From school girl to respected Green Rider, she faces challenges that might have thwarted vastly more experienced adults.  True to form for a teenager, she says she wants travel and adventure and then when she's presented with it, all she wants to go is go home. 

I first read this book shortly after it was published in 1998 and I feel that it still reads well for a debut novel.  If it were to be published now it would probably fit in the YA category.  The story continues in First Rider's Call.

Cover image courtesy of author Kristen Britain.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Slabscape : Reset by Spencer S. Baker

This is the story of Dielle, a man who re-awakens on a generation ship more than 300 years after it has left earth.  By awakens, I mean, his body has been rejuvenated over the past 300 years and he is mostly a new man.  He has no memory of his earlier life and is trying to find his way in a society that is almost totally foreign to him.

The ship is a massive vessel more than a thousand kilometres in length housing over thirty two million humans. 

While I found this story to be intriguing, I had two major problems with it.  First was the method of re-integrating Dielle into society.  There was almost no protocol for doing this even though the technology has been in use for well over 300 years.  He was released from the hospital totally unprepared to live in the current society.  A recipe for disaster.

Second, I found it surprising that Kiki, Dielle's love interest,  was allowed access to such a high priority Reset.  She had minimal nursing experience, yet she was allowed to care for one of the most prestigious men on the entire ship.  Doesn't sound likely.

Once I could get over these issues, I did find the story worth reading.  The concept of the ship and how it worked is what kept my attention.  I glazed over the parts where the author strayed off on a tangent that really had nothing to do with advancing the plot.  The story moved rather slowly at the beginning, but got better as it progressed.  By the half way point, I was actually looking forward to my reading time.

The story continues in Slabscape : Dammit

Website for author Spencer S. Baker

Cover image courtesy Amazon.ca


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Reworking a quilt design

As I was putting away the quilts and quilt tops that I used for my presentation last week, I realized that if I were to put these 9 patch blocks away, they would probably stay hidden for another ten years.  Why not keep them out and work on the quilt.  Exactly what I am doing,  Lots of progress in this past week.

 Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.
 I have grown as a quilter since I started making and trading for these 9 patch blocks at the turn of the millennium. While it was a good block for me at that time, I am now interested in making such a quilt at this time.  I want to play with them instead and try a disappearing 9 patch technique.  Most of the blocks do not measure what they should (9 1/2 inches), so I had to fudge a bit when it came to re-cutting them.  First i laid them on the cutting mat lining up where the seams should lie.  Cut 1 1/2 inch  from the middle panel along the left and right.  Then move them out of the way and do the same for the top and bottom.

 Substitute in the centre from another block and sew them all back together.  There are some little ends to trim off.
A lovely new block.  I have trimmed this to 8 1/2 inches.  I'll need 49 for the design I am planning.   Last week, Roslyn linked up and showed a quilt using the same block technique but with a different layout.
25 blocks tentatively laid out for the centre panel.
Not to leave all the fun to one craft, I'm also knitting a Christmas stocking for a friend who will be visiting for the duration of the holidays. The stocking itself is simple and then I will duplicate stitch some snowflakes using a fluffy yarn.  note that the colour really is more of a teal than the blue shown here.  Natural lighting and flash together do weird things to colour.

Are you one of these people who will be stitching at Christmas gifts right up till midnight on the 24th?  Me, I'll be done by 5pm as Santa makes his rounds of my town at that time with the help of the local volunteer fire fighters. This is something I have enjoyed for the past seventeen years.  What a pleasure to see the township pull together to bring such joy to the families who live here.  I hope that you enjoy my short video that I made a few years ago.  It's rather dark by that time, fortunately Santa's ride is decorated.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your recent needlework post.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Needlework Tuesday - my first quilt presentation

I was a little jittery, but I made it through the presentation at my local quilt guild last evening.  I had two suitcases full of quilts to share. Three of them hot off my sewing machine.  Last week  I promised you an update of what has been keeping me from my blog.  here goes:

 Earlier in the year, I took a class with a friend and we made bargello quilts.  I finally have finished assembly and adding borders. Next is to decide how to quilt and select backing fabric.  This will make a good size lap quilt.  Pattern "I used to be a Layer Cake" from Black Cat Creations by Nancy Altsman.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.
One can never have too many lap quilts.  This pattern is from Judy Martins Knockout Blocks and Sampler Quilts,  "Free Spirit Medley".  This is the result of joining a challenge in which another participant sent me 4 fabrics that I had to use together. the light green, the beige, the dark green with the snails and one of the blues. I was allowed to add as much other fabrics as I wanted as long as I used 90% of the sent fabrics.
close up of the quilting, which i used a variegated green thread.

 From a swap with friends. Snowball and 9 patch blocks in a none traditional setting.  I named this quilt "A Snowball in Vegas".  I quilted it with a beige variegated thread.

the back of the quilt shows why i chose that name.  Also features signature blocks from the swap participants.

 Early in 2000, I traded for far too many 9 inch  9 patch blocks.  At this point in time, I really don't want to make a 9 patch quilt.  Instead, I am remaking the blocks using a disappearing 9 patch x 2 technique.  For excellent instructions visit Susan at the blog Life on the Bayou. I've included a little photo story of my progress starting with 4 9 patch blocks.
simple cutting the block into 4

add some new fabrics to make a new 9 patch

cut this new block apart just like you did the first time.

re-arrange the pieces and sew the block back together again

4 disappearing 9 patch x 2 blocks sewn together.

I am quite happy with how these blocks turned out and will be using this technique again in the future.

I still have oodles more 9 patch blocks to deal with and will share my progress in upcoming posts.

Mister Linky is waiting below to share what you've been stitching.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Needlework Tuesday - A short break

I'm taking a short break this week from my usual needlework post. I should be working on a presentation that I'll be giving next week at my local guild.  To date, I have a short point form list, that's it.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to show and actually finished the quilting on two of those quilts, but I am  far from ready.  Today is my writing day.  I'll make the notes for my talk as well as double check some pattern and designer names I might have missed on the quilt labels (or I might even have missed putting a label on a quilt heaven forbid).

I'll be back next week with a couple of items to share.

In the mean time, I'm not letting you off the hook.  Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This book did not work for me.  It had moments where I listened in rapt attention and others where I was lost listening to long, monotonous discourses on some abstract topic that I couldn't relate back to Theo and his plight.  On the whole, there just wasn't enough of the compelling passages for me to recommend this novel.   I'm sure there are many who disagree with me, as this book has won numerous notable awards. 

The story starts in New York City while 13 year old Theo is visiting a museum with his mother.  An accident takes the life of his mother and in the confusion that follows, Theo takes The Goldfinch, a painting by artist Carel Fabritius from the museum.  The reader then follows Theo for the next decades while he attempts to resolve his angst over what has  happened in the past.

A coming of age novel for a boy without a suitable/stable adult influence.  Even before the accident, Theo had set a pattern of not learning from the bad decisions he made.  This doesn't change regardless of the many second chances he is given. 

Two characters helped to redeem this book for me.  Theo meets Boris about a year after the accident and together they get into all sorts of risky situations.  Boris is the bad boy type that as a parent I don't really want my child to hang out with, but as a literary character, I can't wait to read about his next exploit.  Shortly after the incident that killed his mother, Theo meets James (Hobie) Hobart, a elderly furniture restorer, who later becomes his guardian and mentor.   This is a man who you want to know and would trust as part of your family.  He is a stabilising factor in Theo's life and he keeps the story grounded.

I listened to the Hachette Audio book version, 32 hours and 24 minutes and read by David Pittu.  He did a good job of the many characters and their different ethnicities.  Hobie and Boris became real in my mind while listening to them talk.

 "The Goldfinch" by Carel Fabritius is a real painting that is part of The Frick Collection that is housed at The Royal Picture Galley Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Thanks to The Frick Collection for use of the image of "The Goldfinch".

Thanks to Hachette Audio for use of the cover image.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Getting Ready for the Cold Winds

No matter how much I want to, I can't hold back the changing weather.  Today, Remembrance Day is sunny are warm and I am enjoying it.  Tomorrow and days after will be all downhill.  Time to get ready for the winter onslaught.  A small project for daughter is on the needles.  This is my first time knitting with alpaca.  It is soft and inviting.  I am using 3 skeins of Kutama from Mirasol.  This is a wonderful company that sources it's wools in Peru and returns a portion of profits to that country to the benefits of the children.  Visit the Mirasol website to learn more of their worthy projects. 

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

 I have enjoyed knitting cables since I first tried them almost 30 years ago.  It still amazes me how I twist and turn stitches and end up with a garment that isn't full of holes but is warm and cuddly.  (the first photo above is more accurate in colour).

The Kutama wool is easy to knit with and is quite sturdy.  I started knitting fingerless mitts and was half way completed one hand when I realised I needed larger needles.  i ripped it out and started again. I finished the first mitt and then wondered why i had 3 skeins instead of the two the pattern called for.  Looking through the pattern book, I saw the pattern for the cowl that used three skeins.  oops, I was making the wrong project.  i ripped out the knitting for the second time and started again.  The wool has stood up to this mis-handling and still looks great.  Mirasol has several weights and blends of wools  available and I will definitely be trying some of them.  I am using the pattern for the"Loreto Cowl" from the book Kutama Book 23 by Jane Ellison.

Have you used any of the wools from the Mirasol Project?  I'd love to see what you've made.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework project.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Quick projects

This past week brought my area lots of clouds and rain.  Not something I want to be outside in, so I elected to stay indoors and work on my needlework.

First up were a hot matt and a scrubbie made with Scrub It yarn from Mary Maxim.  I used the free patterns from their site.  They were both fairly straight forward crochet, though I did have to redo a few bits on the the Floral Scrubber.  It measures about 5 inches across and I think it is too pretty to be used to scrubbing anything in the kitchen, off to the bathtub it goes.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you
This next series of photos shows step by step stitching the Floral Hot Pad, also a free pattern from Mary Maxim.

Make two of these base pieces using worsted weight cotton.

 Use Scrub It in a co-ordinating colour for the next round of the flower.

 I pulled all the ends to the back and tied them off securely.  Layer the other base piece behind to hide all those ends.  Single crochet to attach the layers together.

I have lots more Scrub It to use.  Daughter likes these little scrubbies for cleaning her face.  This pattern is quick and easy.  It is designed by Melinda Miller at MoCrochet.com.  Pattern is found on Ravelry
While I was wandering around at Ravelry, I found reference to this fun scrubbie and searched it out.  There is a video showing the step by step which made it extremely easy to make.  The pattern and link to the video can be found free on Ravelry

It was last year when I first saw information about knitting tea towels.  The cost of the kits was too much at the time, but the idea stuck with me.  Recently I came across a pattern for dish clothes with a hanging loop.  It occurred to me that if I added more stitches I'd have a tea towel.  The pattern is from from Yarnspiration and uses worsted weight cotton.  Pattern is called Red White and Blue Dishcloth  (to knit). 

The small size was knit according to the pattern and the larger was made starting with 86 stitches.  The left hand one is a bit small for drying hands, but the one on the right looks just about perfect.

Now I am thinking about the further changes in weather that are on their way and am knitting a cabled cowl for daughter.  I'll have photos next week.

Have you started your seasonal projects?  I'd enjoying hearing about them.  Leave a comment as well as add a link to Mister Linky and I'll be sure to visit with you.