It Took Two

A project finished.

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Where to turn next?

I needed a new project to work on in the evening, something portable and easy to pick up, and put down.

After the long months of working on the fusion quilt, I wanted a to work on something that would provide the sweet satisfaction of finishing sooner, rather than later.

But I loved working with the vintage linens so I chose to collaborate with an older friend, to finish a tablecloth she started.

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Why my friend didn’t finish this project, she didn’t say. It might’ve been that the cloth got stained and she got discouraged. I assured her that I could get the spots out.

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She used the green she loved—look at the flowers in each corner!–but she didn’t object when I wanted to add more colors.

She showed me some new stitches. Left to myself, I would’ve done the flowers with just lazy daisy stitch but her approach, to anchor the sides of the petals as well as the points, makes a prettier effect.

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I wanted to change the way we did the centers of the flowers, from French knots to a pulled thread circle, and she didn’t say no.

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She did a part that I wouldn’t have enjoyed—all that green satin stitch in the leaves and stems. And I picked up where she left off and added color in the flowers.

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I was going to do the zigzag border in the multicolors of the flowers but that looked overwrought so, in a nod to her preferences, I used a green she chose. Now, the zigzags look to me like grass the flowers flourish in.

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I also cleaned the cloth up, so we could be proud of our finished product. It took all my secret formulas to get that big stain out but now I can’t see it, even though I know where it was.

It’s such a pretty tablecloth she and I made!

I’d like to give her credit by naming her and showing you her photo.

But I can’t.

I’d love to have the pleasure of showing her the finished tablecloth and hearing her thoughts on what we’ve made together.

But I won’t.

I have no idea who she is . . . or was, since she has probably gone to that great sewing circle in the sky.

I don’t even know how her tablecloth came into my hands. I imagine I picked it up at a garage sale or it came as a part of a mixed lot I purchased from eBay.

The tablecloth has been sitting around here for what seems like forever, waiting for a new set of hands to pick it up and complete the work begun by those other hands.

We worked well together, she and I.

I’ll enjoy using our little tablecloth, made by two pairs of loving hands at home.

Have you ever finished a project begun by another? I’d love to hear about it!

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That Sound . . .

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The sun shines on a bottle.

The bottle holds a cold drink.

A stiff breeze blows across the top of the bottle.

It makes a special sound, a low “woooooo.”

There’s a lot of summer packed into that sound!

Summer is a delicate balance

IMG_0239Remember when you were a little kid, when summer was unalloyed gold, just hours and days and weeks of playing and lazing about?

And then, eventually you had to get a summer job, but there was still plenty of time to ride bikes and do big splashy cannonballs into the water?

But then you grew up and bought a house, with a big yard. You became an adult. It seemed like such a good idea at the time . . .

At that point, summers changed irrevocably.

Now, summer is the best time, in this region where winters are long and fine days may be few, to do outside chores and upkeep.

We have been working like dogs!

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We have been sanding the deck and the steps and all the other outside wood, sanding it and filling cracks and repainting. We need to seal the cedar siding on the house and paint the trim and deal with the gardens and so many other tasks that can really only be done in the summer months.

But summer is also the best time to enjoy our lovely lakeside location, in the beautiful region where we live.

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It’s the prime time to bask in rare perfect days.

So, we work for the delicate balance that is summer.

We clean the house and plan meals and enjoy time with family and with friends but we balance that with time for just us two, alone, where we find ease and contentment.

We balance the time our cats spend outside, on the roof, in the gardens, lurking in the bushes, with our annual trips to the vet with each of them.

We turn our attention to the details of our surroundings, how the color of that purple iris is nothing like the color of this one.

And wonder whether frogs are like snowflakes, every one unique.

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And the first buds of the first flowers, ever, on the climbing hydrangea.

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We have flowers on the climbing hydrangea!  And they said it couldn’t be done . . .

But we also look to the wider view, the sky that seems bluer in the Adirondacks on Lake Champlain than anywhere else ever. And the dancing white sails of boats, finally set free from winter.

We balance trips to the local ice cream shop, for Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie and Chocolate Moosetrack ice cream, with brisk walks and weeding and more sanding and painting. It is, after all, bikini season (bwahahahaha!) and the best time to be outside, moving one’s muscles.

Summer is the only time, in my purveyor-of-vintage-linens persona, when I can take decent photos of larger vintage items, like blankets and big tablecloths, so I balance ironing and picture taking on sunny days with making new listings and other Etsyfying on days of gray.

Through it all, we kind of lose the idea of a lazy, hazy summer. We’re never bored.

Summer can be hard work. It can be physically exhausting. It can feel stressful, trying to fit everything in.

We balance all that with strict rules about quitting time. We meet at the fire pit, out by the lake, at 5. I might do some hand sewing but no other work is allowed.

We put our feet up. We chat. We plan the heavy lifting for the next day, we have a cocktail, we listen to the foolish kingfishers chatter, and watch the cats snack on the catnip plants.

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And these really quiet moments are all the sweeter because our bodies are tired and hands are sore.

There will be time to be lazy and hazy during the winter . . .

It’s summer now.

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Finally, Fusion Finished!

Have you ever wanted something real bad and then, when you get it, all you can do is sit and grin at it?

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I’ve been grinning at my finished fusion quilt for a couple of weeks now and I figure it’s time to share it with you. I know some of you will be happy to celebrate with me!

A brief re-cap of the project:

I started this quilt in autumn of 2017. As you may remember, I sell vintage linens on Etsy and, in handling my treasures, I often come across pieces that are too damaged to sell.

And, yet, these damaged items still have patches of perfection. A pillowcase may have a big hole in the middle but lovely crochet along the edge. Bugs may have chewed a hole in an embroidered and starched tablecloth but left other areas pristine.

I have never been able to throw these pieces in the trash. Over the years, I’ve piled up a ton of “pretties”—the perfect sections from otherwise useless linens. I always thought I’d find a project for them.

And then I read a post by Tialys, about an approach called a “fusion quilt,” which uses squares of fabric, sewn with batting, edged with blanket stitch embroidery, and crocheted together.

A quick trip to Pinterest gave me more inspiration and I knew I’d found the perfect vehicle for my precious bits of vintage linens, my pretties.

The quilt ended up with 108 5-inch blocks. I included bits from hankies, napkins, towels, tablecloths, and pillowcases. Most of the fabrics came from my special drawer, although friends started bringing me bits they found, too. My favorite square of all is the pink kitty from a decrepit crib sheet, given to me by a dear friend in my sewing group.

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In some cases, with sturdy pieces, I was able to layer the pretty piece with backing and batting, and just sew them and turn them inside out.

With very delicate hankies and such, I ironed the pretty into lightweight fusible web, to give it substance.

When my pretty had lacy or embellished edges I wanted to show, I layered in another piece of off-white fabric as a backing, stitching as much, or little, as I thought necessary.

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I sewed blanket stitch around each square, to serve as a foundation for the crochet.

For the crochet, I used 3/2-weight mercerized cotton from my weaving stash. It is a nice weight, has a pretty sheen, and doesn’t stretch. I did only double crochet, nothing fancy, because double crochet is really the only stitch I know how to do.

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I could have obsessed endlessly about the placement or the squares in the final quilt but I find I get bored with that easily. I did come up with a minimal plan, though, and then my cat rearranged everything for me. So, I ended up placing all the all-white blocks in the middle and then making a transition to borders of brighter-colored blocks at the edges.

After I had crocheted everything together (which didn’t take nearly as long as I feared), I did a row of single crochet around the whole outside edge and then went around again with good-old, reliable double crochet. (Truth be told, I used up hours of my life that I’ll never get back again, figuring out how to do a shell border that would fit tidily within the length of each square, then hated the way it looked.) I used a different cone of off-white cotton for that last border and it turned out to be slightly darker than what I had used for the rest of the quilt and I kind of like the look!

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If ever there were a project that would benefit from being done over again, right now, with the lessons learned fresh in mind, it is this one. I could point out a zillion little mistakes, from bad planning, from inexperience, from winging it.

But I won’t!

All those years, when I taught public speaking to college kids, I told them that Rule One was never to draw attention to any problems or negatives in their speeches. They were NOT to tell us their hands were shaking or that they had forgotten their note cards. Why? Because if the speaker didn’t draw attention to the negatives, the chances were excellent no one else would ever notice. But, if the speaker drew attention to the problem, no one would ever be able to look away . . .

And so, I will follow my own advice and not draw attention to the flaws in my quilt.

I will admit, instead, that I am very pleased with it and have even peeked into that drawer that holds the pretty pieces and thought that maybe, someday, I would start another fusion quilt.

Heaven knows, I have the pretties. And the quilt fits perfectly on a twin-size bed . . . and I have two of those.

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The Big Questions

Nothing like an early walk on an exquisite spring morning to generate the big questions in life . . .

Why can’t I pick trilliums? It was illegal when I was a child; is it still?

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Was that deer flirting with me? Was she following me? Was she as interested in me as I was in her? Why is her tail white? Why can’t my iPhone camera keep up?

How much does a sailboat like that cost?!

Who will live in Mr. C’s little place, now that he’s gone? Will they grow tomatoes, too?

Why does my cat sit placidly and purr when we stick a big needle under his skin and deliver fluids and then bite me, hard, when I clip his toenails?

And a related question: Why can’t I drink alcohol while on antibiotics?

Where does that lilac smell come from? How can it be so poignant and nostalgic and moving?

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Which chore do I tackle when I get home? Which piece of wood do I sand and/or paint today? Which tomorrow? The next day? Can I just keep walking . . . and avoid the chores?

Why do I look so tubby in my silhouette?

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And a related question: Which kind of ice cream shall I choose today?

Why does 71 sound so old and seem so young? I’ll ask my husband—he’s reaching that birthday today . . .

Where does the time go? Are we using it to full advantage?

How can I fit it all in, everything I want to do on this perfect day, and still have time to acknowledge and honor a perfect day?

Can I do this all again, tomorrow? Please?

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Doing Sew Sew

Such a busy time of year!

Nothing profound, nothing deep, or exciting. Lots of time outside, planting and weeding, sanding and painting. Lots of time inside, organizing and cleaning, ironing and crafting.

And in my pile of vintage linens, I came across this piece and thought you’d get a kick out of it.

Isn’t she lovely?!

ScrapHappy . . . LapHappy?

We have (ahem) multiple cats.

But between us humans, we have only two laps.

Therein lies the rub. At any given moment, several cats are lapless.

So when I saw this photo lately, on the internet, it seemed the answer to a felt need!

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And so very easy to make, with otherwise unwanted, unused items around the house.

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I got the jeans years ago, at a Goodwill store. They’ve always been way too long and I kidded myself into believing I would hem them.

But I never have.

The belt has been around forever, too.  Whereas the jeans were too long, the belt was too short. I’ve kidded myself into believing I’d drop a few pounds.

But I never have.

The stuffing is odds and ends of quilt batting and every quilter knows how that can pile up. I’ve told myself I would make some small quilted pieces, to otherwise use up these scraps.

But I never have.

On Saturday, I sewed up the legs of the jeans and stuff them full of batting. I arranged the legs and pinned them into place. I cinched on the belt.

And I announced to the cats that this lap was open for business!

If you know cats, you know that they are independent and not especially eager to please. They were unmoved by the great personal trouble I had gone through on their behalf.

Just one allowed herself to be plunked in the lap and relaxed long enough to have her photo taken.

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Since then, others have walked by and looked, but so far the lap is unloved, un-laid-upon.

So, while I was ScrapHappy, the lap is unhappy. I will try placing it in different locations and sprinkle it with catnip. But I have my doubts . . .

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ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page. She welcomes new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let Kate or Gun know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so they can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry (that’s me!), Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline and Sue L.