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A Sunrise Quilt for my Sister

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VoileAroundWorld.Front.010001This quilt was made for my sister, Paula who is my best friend and partner in crime when it comes to quilting. In many ways, Paula is my hero…she is extremely courageous, gritty and fearless. I wanted to make her a really special quilt…and this is it.

This quilt measures 72″ X 60″ and I used the Scrappy Trip Around the World pattern. I decided to finally cut into my stash of voiles – fabrics that I have been collecting for about 3 years whenever I saw them on sale, or saw a print I couldn’t live without. Most of them are from Anna Maria Horner collections, but there are also some Valorie Wells prints in there. I controlled the scrappiness of this quilt by making sure that the dark blues always ran down the center of every block…otherwise, I simply paired fabrics any old way.

VoileAroundWorld.OnRail.010001Voile is not all that hard to work with if you control some of the “floatiness” of it – I used light spray starch which really helped with the cutting part of things. I also used a very fine, Microtex needle.

The back is Shannon Minky Dimple Dot in Dusty Rose which I ordered from The Minky Boutique (I first ordered samples in order to chose the color – this shop is very easy to work with and offers discounts on purchases of 5 yards or more).

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The binding is a Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton which picks up the blues, purples and pinks in the quilt top.

VoileAroundWorld.Binding0001I used the embroidery function on my sewing machine to craft the label, then hand stitched it on the back with perl cotton thread.

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The quilting on this is straight lines following the diagonals and diamond patterns from the front (you can see it best by looking at the photo of the back of the quilt).

The batting is 100% silk for a great drape and lots of warmth.

VoileAroundWorld.DrapedOnSwing.010001My goal was to create a super soft, cuddly and warm quilt that represented something extraordinary. A friend of mine told me it reminded her of a sunrise when I first showed her the photos of this quilt on my design wall…and so that was my inspiration for the name of this quilt!

VoileAroundWorld.BackReveal.020001I was able to deliver this to Paula in person on my trip back to New England…so of course I’m going to show you some photos of that…

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In My Stacks for May

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It has been a long time since I’ve posted a dedicated post about books! Have you missed these?

The other day I sifted through my recent unread book stacks and pulled out several I’d like to read this month. Now, it is unlikely I will get through ALL of these…but I will give it the good ole’ college try!

SavingFishMy current read is Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan (2006 Ballantine Books Trade Paperback Edition) which I am reading for my online book club. I’ve enjoyed Tan’s writing in the past (check out my review of The Hundred Secret Senses which I loved) and I am really liking this novel which is narrated by a dead woman. You have to be an excellent writer to pull that off! And Amy Tan is a wonderful storyteller. Stay tuned for a review by the first of next week.

Invention of WingsI also need to read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd for my book club. I’ve been seeing a lot of great reviews and comments about this one, so it is a novel I am looking forward to on multiple levels. Have you read this book? If so, what did you think?

Also in the stacks this month are Peirene Press’s latest novella – The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov (translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield) as well as a novella by Meike Ziervogel (the editor of Peirene Press) titled Magda. I don’t know why I haven’t read these yet…but I am determined to do so soon.

DeadLake Magda

Other possibilities for this month include:

whiskeybeach ruby FairyTale

  • Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013)
  • Ruby by Cynthia Bond (Hogarth, 2014)
  • A Fairy Tale by Jonas T. Bengtsson and translated from the Danish by Charlotte Barslund (Other Press, 2014)

WhentheCypressWhispers Byrd PTforAnimals

  • When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon (Harper, 2014)
  • Byrd by Kim Church (Dzanc Books, 2014)
  • Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Animals by Susan E. Davis, PT (JoyCare Media, 2013)

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

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A Scrappy Little Pin Cushion

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scrappypincushion.front010001Sometimes a girl just needs to do something quick with a bunch of scraps that might otherwise be destined for the trash can. So why not whip up a sweet, colorful pin cushion?

I hardly ever use the purples in my stash – but recently I made a couple of Bee Blocks for another quilter…

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And there were so many pretty scraps left over.

I used the trimmed edges from that first block…and the gray dots from the second block to make this improv pin cushion.

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Both the front and back are pieced…and I did some simple straight line quilting to finish it off. It measures 5″ square and is perfect for my sewing room!

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A Pair of Scrumptious Pillows

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ScrumptiousPillows.Fronts0001*Photos in this post are clickable to enjoy a larger size

Summertime is almost here – so what better than a pair of crisp pillows using the Scrumptious collection by Bonnie and Camille? I had two mini charm packs to play with and thought it would be fun to make two pillows which coordinated with each other.

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The first pillow is the Don’t Be Square from the Pillow Pop book (this is one of the pillows the Threadbias Pillow Pop group is making in May). This pillow uses tiny 2.5″ squares and lots of negative space and it seemed perfect for some intricate quilting…so I decided to practice my quilting skills using my walking foot and this tutorial.

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I’m happy with how it came out, although there was definitely some distortion in the process. This pillow finishes at 20″ square.

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The second pillow uses a pattern by Sherri McConnell and is part of her Simply Small Projects for this year. I really had fun making this one – it comes together quickly and I love the star pattern. The pattern is for a 16″ pillow, but I added on a turquoise border to make it 18″ square.

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I quilted it by doing some very simply echo quilting.

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I decided to match the backs for these pillows and used up some leftover mini charms to piece a strip across the top of each one. The big pieces of turquoise fabric is something I bought on sale a long time ago: Flora by Lauren and Jessie Jung for Moda (it is a perfect match with the turquoise in Scrumptious!).

ScrumptiousStarPillow.HiddenZipper0001 DontBeSquarePillow.Back0001

Both pillows have hidden zippers.

I couldn’t resist putting them on my bed with some of my other Bonnie and Camille creations!!!

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The Bear – Book Review

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BearI turn over and hug Gwen and snuggle into Stick and hope the sounds will go away. Momma screams like a monster is tackling her. That’s why I know it’s a dream so I should keep my eyes shut tight. It is dark behind my eyes. Momma never yells. Mostly not ever. Except sometimes. – from The Bear, page 10 -

Five year old Anna and her two year old brother Alex (aka Stick or Sticky) are camping on Bates Island in Algonquin Park (just northeast of Toronto, Canada) with their parents. It seems idyllic. And then tragedy strikes. A three hundred pound black bear attacks Anna’s parents in the middle of the night. Anna and “Stick” are spared, but as morning comes, Anna sees the chaos left behind. Her mother whispers through dying lips “Get your brother in the canoe and go to the middle of the lake.” And Anna does just that.

What unfolds is a highly suspenseful, quite terrifying story told in the innocent voice of Anna. As Anna tries her best to care for her young brother, she is haunted by “the black dog” who has become a monster in her eyes. The choice of Anna as narrator is brilliant because Anna is a child, and not able to fully grasp the danger or how to deal with it. Her thoughts return to happier times, then catapult back into the traumatic present. Meanwhile, the adult reader is all too aware of the precarious future facing these two very young children.

The pages almost turn themselves as the days in the wilderness unspool. I was mesmerized, thrilled, terrified and ultimately moved by Anna’s story. I do not want to tell you the ending – but let me just say that it is perfect.

The Bear reminded me of another compelling novel narrated by a child. When I read Emma Donaghue’s novel Room (read my review) I could barely breathe. Cameron’s book took me to that same space – one of almost impossible tension. I think writing a novel from the point of view of a young child must be very difficult, and so when I see an author pull it off, as Cameron does, I am amazed at the brilliance of the feat.

Claire Cameron was inspired to write this story based on a real bear attack on two campers on Bates Island in 1991. There was never any good explanation for that attack, and so the people who who lived in the area were haunted by their imaginations, about the what-ifs and how-comes of such a thing. Cameron writes in her author’s note:

The Bear is based on my memories of and research into this bear attack. I added the kids.

The Bear is a taut, stark novel about family, and about growing up; about tragedy and courage, and what it means to be brave when you are still too young to understand the definition of such a thing.

This book is fantastic and highly recommended for those readers who love to indulge in literary fiction with a thrilling edge. It will appeal to those readers who loved Room by Emma Donaghue.

Highly recommended.

5stars

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Pillow Pop Round-Up: April

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BlogButtonHave you checked out the Pillow Pop group on Threadbias? We’re making pillows from the fabulous book Pillow Pop all year long.

We would love to have you join us. If you’re not already a member at Threadbias, why not join – it is free, and it is a great community of sewists.

We chose Urban Seaweed (easy) and Garden District (challenging) as the pillows for April…and here are the wonderful finishes with links back to each sewist’s project page. I hope you will click through to see the entire projects as the backs and quilting on each pillow are also fabulous.

Urban Seaweed: A quick, easy pillow that uses fun fabrics against a solid (or near solid) background.

UrbanSeaweed.Margaret

Margaret put her own spin on this pillow, renaming it Urban Streets and using a wonderful palette of soft grays, pinks and a pop of chartreuse

UrbanSeaweed.Marsha

Marsha’s version in tangerine and turquoise also used fussy cut fabrics to give her pillow an extra pop.

UrbanSeaweed.Sippe

Sippe’s neutral background allows the modern red prints to really shine in her version of the pillow.

UrbanSeaweedMonsters.Kathy UrbanSeaweedDinos.Kathy

Kathie crafted two wonderful versions of this pillow: one in monsters, the other in dinosaurs. I think any child would love these!

Garden District: A trellis of sashing strips allow colorful fabrics to twine like blooms on a vine.

GardenDistrict.Erica

Erica used rich jewel toned fabrics against a textural Essex Linen for a stunning look

GardenDistrict.Cathie

Cathie gave her pillow a classy feel by choosing to eliminate the scrappiness in the original pattern

GardemDistrict.Wendy

I used fun, whimsical prints to give this pillow a bit of a retro look

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The Secret Life of Violet Grant – Book Review

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SecretLifeVioletGrantSexual attraction. Violet knows what it is; she knows she’s feeling it now, that she’s felt it from the moment he prowled into the middle of her dark laboratory room ten days ago. - from The Secret Life of Violet Grant -

Vivian Schuyler is a sharp, sexy, New Yorker trying to climb the journalistic ladder of the famed Metropolitan magazine in the year 1964. She isn’t looking for a man, and even if she was, she longs to protect a heart that has been broken more than once. So when she goes to the post office in Greenwich Village to pick up a parcel she has no idea that her life is about to take a dramatic turn. The parcel is a battered suitcase which apparently belongs to a Violet Schuyler, a woman Vivian has never heard of; and the man who offers to carry it for her is a blond doctor who takes Vivian’s breath away.

Soon Vivian learns that Violet is a great aunt of hers, a scientist who married her professor (the squirrely and perverse Dr. Grant) and traveled to Berlin…where just before the beginning of WWI, she apparently murdered her husband and fled with a lover. No one has heard from her since. Vivian is captivated and determined to uncover the mystery behind Violet’s disappearance.

In a compelling narrative, Beatriz Williams moves effortlessly back and forth from 1964 New York to pre-war Berlin in the early part of the twentieth century. Vivian’s voice is filled with a sardonic wit which covers a more vulnerable young woman. Violet’s story is written in the third person and is filled with suspense and intrigue. Both woman charge across the pages of this new novel by one of my favorite authors in the Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction genres.

Williams introduces historical characters such as Einstein, as well as carefully developed fictional characters. She intertwines romance with history for a thrilling story about two women separated by time but connected by family, desire and fate.

I was really happy to see that Beatriz Williams was publishing her third novel this month (look for it in bookstores by May 27th) as I have loved her previous work: Overseas (read my review) and A Hundred Summers (read my review). Once again she wowed me with pitch perfect dialogue, a fast paced plot, engaging characters and plenty of heat in the romance department. Williams is fast becoming my go-to author for Women’s Fiction laced with historical detail.

This is a terrific book which I read in record time despite its over 400 pages. If you’re looking for an entertaining, well-written book…look no further! I loved this one.

Highly recommended.

5stars

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review on my blog.

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Playing with Quilt Design

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The other day I got a luscious package in the mail all the way from the UK. I finally bit the bullet and ordered a bunch of Oakshott cottons – gorgeous, medium weight crossweave quilting cottons. Here are photos of the Lipari and Italy collections (courtesy of the Oakshott website):

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Because these fabrics are not inexpensive…and also because my supply of them is limited, I am wanting to plan carefully before cutting into them.

Yesterday I discovered a terrific quilt design tool called Quiltography. It is a paid ap and only can be used on IPad, but it is currently on sale for more than half the normal price. So I bought it and started playing.

Although I have never used a design tool before, I was up and running in about an hour. There is a bit of learning curve, but once I got the hang of things, I started designing like crazy!

The tool allows you can upload photos of fabric from your camera or directly from websites which is awesome. I found the uploaded images to be very true to the actual fabric.

Here are some of the designs I created using the custom block and pre-loaded blocks on the ap (I did not upload all the colors of the Oakshott I bought, but tried to do a fair representation to give me a good idea of what the quilts might look like):

Drunkards Path with Oakshott.curvychain

Wavy Chain

Drunkards Path with Oakshott.Flowerblock

Spinning Flowers

Drunkards Path with Oakshott

Drunkard’s Path

As you can see, I used the same block in different layouts. I could easily have chosen completely different blocks, or combinations of blocks. But I am liking the circular nature of this particular block…now I just need to decide which layout I love, or if there might be other ways of placing the blocks.

Stay tuned for an Oakshott quilt sometime this summer!!!

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Spring Pillows

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FreshBloomPillow.3SpringPillows010001

If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you probably have noticed a lot of pillows! That is because I am sewing along in a Threadbias Pillow Pop group (actually, I’m helping to lead this group!). I’ve been trying to make at least one pillow for every month to help members of the group as needed. If you want to join us, there is no deadline to sign up. I am really impressed with some of the interpretations of the pillows from the Pillow Pop book  – we have a very creative bunch over there!

I’ve been getting ahead the last few weeks and have three spring pillows to show you today – they are all very different, but to me they represent spring so well. All three pillows measure 20″ X 20″ finished.

GardenDistrict.FinishedFront.010001April’s Pillow is called Garden District … and it was a bit labor intensive, but I made some small changes in the pattern which made it come together quicker (namely, I chose to strip piece some of the petals and used one fabric for other petals in the design).

The fabrics in this one were scraps of Bonnie and Camille collections to make the petals.

GardenDistrict.FinishedFront.020001I used Kona solid in Taupe for the trellis.

The pillow is machine quilted using a red thread and following the pattern of the petals.

GardenDistrict.Front10001I made a simple envelope back to finish this one.

GardenDistrict.FinishedBack0001FreshBloomPillow.Front020001May’s pillow, Fresh Bloom, is meant to represent a vibrant bloom of flowers using fusible applique. The project in the book used multiple colorways and over 80 circles. I decided I wanted something less scrappy looking that more clearly depicted a flower.

I chose three colorways: orange, yellow and gray…and cut about 45 circles of various sizes. Careful placement of each colorway resulted in a pillow which looks like a bouquet of brightly colored flowers.

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I quilted Fresh Bloom by stitching about 1/8th of an inch along the edge of each petal and then echoed the entire “bloom” around the outside.

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The back is pieced and sports a hidden zipper.

PhotogenicPillow.front030001Perhaps my favorite pillow of the three is June’s pillow which is titled Photogenic. I was thrilled to discover some vintage Heather Bailey fabric – two older collections which I bought when I first started quilting and then had no idea how to use those huge prints.

This pillow is super easy to piece and I finished it in less than 3 hours. I chose a print with huge roses to be my focus fabric.

I really like how the turquoise and kelly green prints frame the whole thing.

The back is pieced with a hidden zipper closure.

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I used a simple, straight line echo quilting to make the pillow pop.

PhotogenicPillow.quilting0001I really had a lot of fun making all three of these springy pillows which I hope I will enjoy year round!

FreshBloomPillow.3SpringPillows030001

 

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Tapestry of Fortunes – Book Review

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TapestryofFortunesDon’t we all want company in some form, are we not attracted to the idea of a body beside us in a thunderstorm, or another voice to help decide on dinner; to share astonishment at the latest political buffoonery or appreciation for the lush sets on Downtown Abbey? Are we not, at our most basic, social animals, people who need other people, whether we want to or not? – from Tapestry of Fortunes -

Cecelia Ross is reeling when her best friend dies of cancer. A motivational speaker who often does not follow her own advice, Cece feels lost and alone. Impulsively she decides to take a leave of absence from her work, sell her home, and move into an apartment with three female roommates. She also receives an unexpected postcard from an old boyfriend – a man who she once loved and has never truly forgotten.

Tapestry of Fortunes explores female friendship and healing from loss, as well as rediscovering connections with others.

Elizabeth Berg has long been a favorite author of mine when I want to sit down and read a novel with strong female characters. So I was a little disappointed with this latest effort. I really wanted to love Cece and her new found friends, but everything felt very contrived to me. I couldn’t fully believe how fast the friendship between Cece, Joni, Renie and Lise developed…and the impulsive decision for them to pick up and make a long journey together felt a little unbelievable.

Despite these shortcomings, I did finish the novel and it was an okay read for me. Berg’s prose can be spare and insightful, and I liked the themes of change and personal growth which she explored in the book.  Readers who have loved previous work by this author might be a bit disappointed with Tapestry of Fortunes – but if you are looking for a light, quick read, this one might just appeal to you.

Other reviews of books I’ve read  by Elizabeth Berg:

3stars

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review on my blog.

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