Busy as a Bee

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I belong to two sewing bee groups – one on Flickr (which sews quilts for charity) and a private group on Threadbias. Each month I make a total of three blocks for these groups . I thought it would be fun to share some of these with you!

ThreadDivas.Marsha.July0001Marsha (Quilterinmotion) requested an Interrupted Star block with colors which would match her Snails Tails blocks…and she also asked for a tone on tone ecru for background.

Divas.Terry.August010001Terry (Terryt1955) requested a red and white “donut” block. She is going to have an amazing red and white quilt.

Divas.Sept.Conni0001Conni (Conniharns) asked for a scrappy star…this was fun to do! I raided my scrap bins and found some vibrant fabrics in reds, pinks, blues, and oranges.

Divas.OctBlock1.20001Erica (Skynme) wanted a really cool block with Northern Lights colors in the center and black for the points with a low volume, antique like fabric for the background. I made two blocks – one with turquoise/teal (a Kokopelli patterned fabric that felt native American to me), and one with hot pinks (I liked the swirly nature of the pattern as it reminded me of Northern Lights swirling). The background fabric is from Tom Holt’s Eclectic Elements collection and the black tone on tone is Dit Dot by Jason Yenter for In the Beginning Fabrics.

Divas.Novemberblock0001For November, Cathie  (Quilt455) requested the New England block using muted/soft colors for the corner blocks and a saturated green with olive tones for the center cross. I had fun combing through my scraps to find fabrics for this block.

DoGoodStitches.Sept2014.Blocks1.20001Wendi requested paper pieced stars (go here to get the pattern by Faith at Fresh Lemons). This quilt will be for a boy, so Wendi asked us to choose from the following color combinations for our star points: blue/red, blue/aqua, blue/orange or blue/green. She’s changed the background to a low volume (I used a chicken wire print of light gray and white) and asked that we also use Kona medium gray. I picked the blue/aqua and blue/orange color palettes for my two blocks. They came together quickly.

DoGoodStitches.October.030001For this month, Amber wanted a plus block using low volume fabrics for a scrappy background. I’ve been looking at these quilts on line and was so excited to try out a couple of blocks.

Have you ever sewn blocks for a bee group?

A Sudden Light – Book Review

SuddenLightGrowing up in rural Connecticut, I had been told the name Riddell meant something to people in the Northwest. My paternal great-great-grandfather was someone of significance, my mother explained to me. Elijah Riddell had accumulated a tremendous fortune in the timber industry, a fortune that was later lost by those who succeeded him. My forefathers had literally changed the face of America – with axes, and two-man saws and diesel donkeys to buck the fallen, with mills to pulp the corpses and scatter the ashes, they carved out a place in history for us all. And that place, I was told, was cursed. – from prologue, A Sudden Light –

Fourteen year old Trevor Riddell knows next to nothing about his father’s side of the family…but when Trevor’s mother and father lose the family home and go their separate ways, Trevor travels with his father, Jones Riddell, to the Pacific Northwest and lands at Riddell House – a massive mansion made from whole trees and perched on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. Jones reunites with his sister Serena, an oddly sexual woman who harbors some deep and disturbing secrets. Together, the two siblings hatch a plan to force the elderly Grandpa Samuel (their father and Trevor’s grandfather) to sign over his rights so they can sell off the house and property to land developers. Trevor is pulled into the scheme, while at the same time he begins to explore the mansion (guided by a ghostly, long dead great-uncle) and uncover the secrets of the past.

Garth Stein is perhaps best known for his novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain (which I loved and reviewed here), and with A Sudden Light he returns to some common themes of spirituality, connection to others, and moving forward through life’s challenges. But that is where the similarities end. A Sudden Light is really about family secrets and righting wrongs, about finding what is truly important in life and choosing people over “things” and money.

The book is retrospectively narrated by the adult Trevor who is looking back on the summer of his fourteenth year. Through Trevor’s eyes the reader begins to uncover the dysfunctional lives of the Riddell family. The characters are decidedly quirky and not always wholly likable (Serena is just downright creepy). I fell in love with Grandpa Samuel who is deeply flawed, but completely believable.

Stein’s writing is captivating and beautifully penned. The novel is not without its weaknesses (readers have to suspend reality to fully connect with the characters), but I found myself slipping into the story and looking forward to picking up the book the more pages I turned.

Garth Stein has written a family saga that fully immerses the reader in the Pacific Northwest’s timber industry. Those who enjoy quirky characters and novels which touch the human heart, will want to pick up a copy of A Sudden Light.

Recommended.

4Stars

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

Pillow Pop Round-Up: September

BlogButtonThe Pillow Pop group is a really fun sew along over on Threadbias. We’re making pillows from the fabulous book Pillow Pop all year long.

To learn more about the group, visit this post.

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

We chose Crimson Stones (Easy) and  Flying Rainbow (Challenging) as the pillows for September…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.

Crimson Stones: A modern twist on a traditional block gives this pillow a contemporary feel.

CrimsonStones.CandaceCandace’s pillow shines with soft tones and floral patterns.

CrimsonStones.GardenCrafter

Batiks add vibrancy and movement to GardenCrafter’s pretty pillow.

CrimsonStones.Valerie

Valerie’s pillow evokes summer by the seashore.

Flying Rainbow: A great scrap-busting project, this pillow uses clean lines and a rainbow of colors to create a clean, fresh look.

FlyingRainbow.Cathie

Cathie’s pillow uses some gorgeous scraps to make her geese fly.

FlyingRainbow.Sue

Sue used some great fabric from the Square Elements collection to frame her beautiful pillow.

FlyingRainbow.Conni

Conni chose a lovely array of batiks to give her pillow a vibrant feel.

FlyingRainbow.Wendy

I pulled from my healthy stash of Bonnie and Camille scraps to create the geese for my pillow.

Join us next month for more pillows from the Pillow Pop book!

Emerge Quilt

Emerge.Front0001You might remember my post a few weeks ago about the Angled class I am taking from Rachel at Stitched in Color. The Emerge quilt is an oversized Texas star which falls off the edge of the quilt. Instead of piecing it with Y-seams, Rachel’s technique was to machine applique the finished star onto one large piece of background fabric which had already been “sandwiched” with the back and batting – so essentially you quilt the quilt at the same time you are appliqueing. Brilliant!!!

I pulled out some fabric from the Madrona Road collection by Violet Craft which I had been hoarding and decided it made the perfect star. The background is a cool black graphic print from the Architextures collection by Carolyn Friedlander for Robert Kaufman (I bought the widescreen of this fabric so I didn’t have to piece the background).

Emerge.Draped.020001

Besides the applique of the star, I also quilted a straight line echo stitch which radiates out to the edges.

Emerge.QuiltDetail0001The back is a yellow print from the Madrona Road collection.

Emerge.BackReveal0001I used a little blue sprout fabric for the binding along the star edge…

Emerge.BlueBinding0001And then some text fabric along the other edges…

Emerge.Binding0001This is a really cool modernized version of the Texas star block pattern.

Emerge.Draped.010001

In case you’ve never seen the “traditional” take on this block, it just so happens that I am lucky enough to have my husband’s paternal grandmother’s Texas Star quilt. Blance E. Knight Robards was born in 1894 and was a prolific quilt maker (I will show you some more of her gorgeous quilts in a future post – I promise!). Here is her amazing Texas Star quilt which was cut with scissors, and completely hand pieced and quilted. Blanche’s sense of color and balance is truly wonderful:

BlanchsQuilt.TexasStarfront.010001

BlanchsQuilt.TexasStardraped.010001

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Emerge was my first attempt at piecing diamonds…but it will definitely not be my last!

Scrumptious Poppy Quilt

Poppy.front.010001The Poppy pattern from the book Simply Fat Quarters (published by the Fat Quarter Shop) inspired me to finally cut into my fat quarter collection of Scrumptious by Bonnie and Camille for Moda.

SimplyFatQuartersWhat I really love about this book is that it allows you to chose a size that works for you. I picked the lap size, but added an additional row, as well as an outside solid border, to make my quilt 76″ X 76″ which is a good size for my double bed.

This quilt uses large blocks so it came together very quickly for me.

 

Poppy.front.closeup0001The scrappy border is one of the things I really love.

Poppy.front.020001The back is pieced with left over scraps, as well as a little bit of light turquoise solid (by Bella) and some large pieces from the Scrumptious collection that I just happened to be hoarding in my stash!

Poppy.back010001

Poppy.backcloseup0001I quilted this using a combination of stippling and some swirls to give it a little “movement.”

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The binding is a stripe in turquoise (also from the Scrumptious collection).

Poppy.binding0001I stitched a little label to remind me of when I finished the quilt.

Poppy.label0001

This has to be one of my favorite quilts so far. It is just so happy!

Poppy.draoedonswing.backreveal0001I love how it looks with the pillows I’ve crafted using scraps of many Bonnie and Camille fabrics.

Poppy.foldedoverswing with pillows.010001

In fact, it sort of makes up a collection of quilts and pillows that I have sewn from fabric created by these talented designers.

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I’m looking forward to the colder weather so that I can snuggle under this one!

Poppy.folded0001

 

The Lobster Kings – My Thoughts

LobsterKings“…there’s magic in the sea, magic on Loosewood Island. The problem is that some of the magic is like Brumfitt’s mermaid: sharp with teeth.”

It was magic I was looking for in Alexi Zentner’s novel The Lobster Kings – a story about the Kings’ family who have made their home on an island between Canada and Maine, and who have fished the sea and suffered a curse (every firstborn son is destined to die at sea). Cordelia is the oldest daughter of Woody Kings and she has grown up knowing she belonged on the water. With her father’s failing health, she becomes the new leader of her community which includes fending off the meth dealers from the mainland.

I read to page 144 in this 344 page novel before setting it aside. Initially I enjoyed the narrative, sifting through the history of the family and watching Cordelia assert herself with her father who does not see a woman taking over the helm. But then the story became a little unrealistic to me (and not in a good way).

**SPOILERS AHEAD

When Cordelia and several of the men from the town decide to drive out a meth head named Eddie Glouster, the novel goes from captivating fiction to a suspension of reality. Cordelia and her gang not only threaten Eddie and his cohorts, they proceed to burn down his house…and the only consequence is that Eddie flees the island (apparently scared of what might happen next). No cops? No arrests for arson? I think the author felt that he had adequately established Cordelia as a heroine so that the reader would cheer her on during this vigilante escapade. For me, the scene felt contrived and so completely unrealistic, that I decided to stop reading. It also made me lose a great deal of respect for Cordelia who I wanted to like.

*END OF SPOILERS

This is normally the type of book I would relish, a generational saga with a strong female character, a bit of magic in a small town, curses and high drama. Instead, I felt disappointed in a book that had much promise,  but failed to deliver.

I should also warn animal lovers – there is a scene early on where a dog is killed – for no reason whatsoever. I almost stopped reading at that point, but persevered hoping that this was just a blip in an otherwise worthwhile read.

The Lobster Kings has gotten some rave print reviews from from sources like The Washington Post, as well as kudos from some big name authors like Stewart O’Nan, Ben Fountain and Tea Obreht…so although it did not resonate with me, you might still like to give it a try.

Unrated.

*FTC Disclosure: I received this book from Library Things Early Reviewer Program.

 

The High Divide – Book Review

highdivide“The rough country between the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. The divide between those two watersheds. I scouted it this spring. It’s full of rugged ground, like you say – coulees, buttes, and badlands, with a little dry-grass prairie thrown in. The High Divide, they call it.” – from The High Divide –

Ulysses Pope is carrying dark secrets and deep regret, and he is looking for redemption when he walks away from his wife, Gretta, and his two young sons and heads into the rugged badlands of Montana in 1886. But Gretta has no idea where Ulysses has gone or why, and she is struggling to survive with little money and no resources in a small town on Minnesota’s western prairie. When her two sons, Eli and Danny, also disappear, she knows she can no longer sit and wonder…she must find her husband no matter where he has gone or who he is with, and she must bring her sons home.

Award-winning author Lin Enger has penned a truly American novel set in the West during the later part of the nineteenth century. His descriptions of the endless plains and lonely landscapes that stretched across Montana are gorgeous and heartbreaking. Enger explores the themes of regret and redemption against the historical background of the Indian Wars, decimation of the bison and the turmoil of the pioneer expansion into Indian lands.

This is the first novel by this author which I have read and I was moved by the Enger’s honest and poignant prose.

The characters are lovingly developed by Enger who uses alternating points of view to give the reader greater depth and understanding of each one. Ulysses is a complex character, and it is he who drives the narrative as he travels the road to redemption and forgiveness. Gretta ‘s character grows from a woman who has left her home in Denmark and depends on her husband for survival, to someone who must find the  inner strength to take action in order to improve her situation. Danny and Eli come of age as the novel progresses, forced to face their parent’s demons and reconcile these against their own needs as young boys.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about a family divided who must overcome the odds to find their way back to each other. Richly penned with a deep insight into the characters, The High Divide will appeal to those who enjoy historical fiction, literary fiction, and novels set in the West.

Highly recommended.

4hStars

FTC Disclosure: I received this book through the Library Thing Early Review program.

A Mini Step Down Quilt

*Click on any photo in this post to enjoy a larger view.

MiniSteps.TableTopper.Front010001A couple of months ago, signed up for Sarah Fielke’s Big Techniques from Small Scraps class on Craftsy and recently decided to watch some of it. The first class instructs the student how to do “step down” piecing – a technique that is a little tricky at first (it uses partial seams and has you constructing the quilt in sections rather than rows), but becomes easier as you get used to it.

What I like about the class is that Sarah teaches you the technique for a small project so you can see if you like the process. Her new book Quilting From Little Things, has bigger projects using the same techniques if you decide you want to do a larger project.

MiniSteps.TableTopper.SunShot0001I felt really inspired to try this project and pulled out some fabric I bought some time ago that I love:

StepDown.Lowvolume table topper.Inspiration0001I knew when I started cutting the fabric for the 4″ squares that it would have a look of a pieced block…so that really made me excited to see what I could do. I paired it with some low volume fabrics and pops of red to showcase the inspiration fabric.

MiniSteps.TableTopper.Folded0001Because the top was so colorful, I chose a cream fabric with tiny red dots.

MiniSteps.TableTopper.BackReveal0001I mimicked the step down construction with straight line quilting (you can see it best form the back).

MiniSteps.TableTopper.QuiltDetail0001…and then used some red/salmon diagonal stripes from Bonnie and Camille’s Scrumptions collection for the binding.

MiniSteps.TableTopper.Binding0001The final mini quilt is 16.5″ X 20.5″ – so either a cute wall hanging for the sewing room, or maybe a table topper.

Is it Halloween Yet?

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No? Not yet?

Oh well, with this Halloween inspired pillow I’m ready when it finally arrives.

BunchOfCrossesPillow.front0001The pattern for this pillow is from the wonderful Pillow Pop book and is called “Bunch of Crosses.” It uses 2.5″ squares to make the crosses and I decided to use two mini charm packs of the Comma collection by Zen Chic for Moda.

I didn’t have quite enough squares to make a the 20″ pillow that the pattern called for, so I just eliminated a horizontal and vertical row and transformed it into an 18″ pillow.

I used orange thread and quilted it with straight lines in both directions.

BunchOfCrossesPillow.Front20001
After I had stitched all the rows together, it struck me that these colors really read Halloween…and since we are not too far from that fun holiday, I decided to make this a Halloween pillow. I dragged out some of my stashed Ghastlie fabric (oh, how I love that stuff!) and crafted a pieced back.

 

BunchOfCrossesPillow.Back0001I fussy cut a little square for the top and used some charcoal peppered cotton to give the back a bit of a pop. It has a hidden zipper too.

BunchOfCrossesPillow.HiddenZipper0001
Now all I need is a pumpkin or two…and a bag of candy!

Challenging Myself with Angles

TangentialClassPhotoWhen Rachel from Stitched in Color posted about her Angled class, I knew right away I wanted to join in and take the class (it has since sold out, but you can read all about it here). I love angles in quilts, but they can be tricky and this looked like the perfect way to hone my skills and challenge myself.

The quilt here at the top of this post is Rachel’s quilt named Tangential which is a queen sized quilt. There are a total of five quilts offered in the class (which began September 1st and goes through the end of October). It was a hard decision to decide which quilts I wanted to work on during the class period…but Tangential was definitely on the list! As part of the class fee, I will be getting all the lessons (including patterns) for all five quilts…so don’t be surprised if you see me making another one of these beauties in the near future.

Here are the fabrics I pulled for this quilt (click on the image for a larger view):

Tangential.Fabrics.010001Here is a better shot which highlights the inspiration for my color palette – a vibrant fabric designed by Anna Maria Horner in ocean blues, raspberry, and gold:

Tangential.INspiration0001This week’s lesson included cutting and piecing 60 degree (equilateral) triangles. It also included the first installment of the Tangential quilt.

Today I cut and pieced the top border for Tangential, and I am happy to say that it came out perfectly thanks to the great instructions provided by Rachel!

Tangential.TopBorder0001Stay tuned for future progress on this quilt and other projects in the class!

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