Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How I Spent My Blogcation

Whew. I just finished putting the last of the Christmas decorations away (except for a couple of things I'll keep out through January). And my blogcation is over. 

So now it's time for my essay--you know kind of like the one kids have to write in school at the end of their summer break. How did I spend my blogcation? Let's see. (If you want to, grab a cuppa something. This is long!)

We waited a long time for our family Christmas celebration this year. My dad's birthday is on December 31, and when we found that we could get 19 out of 21 members of his family together (including all 6 of his great grandkiddies) at my brother's home to celebrate his 92 years, we decided to delay our Christmas celebration so that our kids could participate without having to travel twice. All of this meant that we were alone on Christmas. And the weather was unseasonably warm--in the low to mid 40s F. And sunny. With no wind. So we did something we've never done before on Christmas. Bike ride! Our favorite trail was blocked by some flooding so we took to the country roads. I just have to show a few pictures because who knows if this will ever happen again. What a beautiful day! (By comparison, today is in the 20s with snow on the ground.)

Christmas tree farm--all was calm

Wheat in winter

We had a great time with extended family at Dad's birthday party--and then with our own family (9 people and a granddoggy) back at home for our Christmas on New Year's Eve. Our kids had to share bedrooms with their littlest ones (sorry, kids), but it was fun having a full house. And our granddaughter had to wait hours to open presents because first C needed to be changed and then E needed to be fed and then E needed to be changed and then C needed to be fed and then C needed to be changed...well, you get the picture. But L was very patient, and I think it was worth the wait. 

So how else did I spend my blogcation? In addition to the holidays, we had four birthdays to get ready for (My daughter, granddaughter, a brother-in-law, and my dad)--actually, six if you count that I always get a present for my dad in memory of my mother's December birthday and that we have one more birthday to get ready for this week (C is turning 1 year old! I know. I can't believe that's happening already.) So there was a lot of shopping for presents. Some travel for birthday parties. Some cookie baking. Some cake making. (I can't take credit for that--that's my husband's talent.) Decorating (of course). Some mending of two princess dresses at the request of my granddaughter. (She was very specific about what needed to be done--I felt like the royal seamstress!) 

And just a little secret sewing. 

First of all, I needed to make some more Christmas stockings. L was born 4 years ago on Dec 2. I stayed with her family to help out for about 2 weeks and then went home to get ready for Christmas. So her stocking that year was hurriedly made with scraps I had on hand. I was going to do something different for E's stocking this year (he was born at the end of October), and then I suddenly remembered that C needed a stocking, too, because he was born in early January. I rummaged in the scrap bins and realized that I had most of what I needed to make two more stockings like L's. I bought one little piece of fabric for the cuffs, and a strip of twill tape for the cords to hang the light "bulbs." I couldn't get the ecru color I wanted for the twill, so I bought white and tea dyed it with a leftover tea bag. 

Here they all are. I like that I used the same hurried style--hardly any measuring, bits and pieces of leftover fabrics, scrap batting, an old cut-up sheet for the back--and that they all go together. They hold a lot, too. (The names are hand embroidered--covered up with a bit of batting for this picture.)

Every year I make ornaments to put in the kids' stockings. Now that they are both married I give one ornament to each couple (and make one for our tree) and then one for each grandkiddie. For some reason, when L was a year old, I started making her ornament to reference whatever costume I had made for her for Halloween (So far she has a penguin, an owl, and Dash from the Incredibles). This year, she wanted to be Skye from the cartoon Paw Patrol for Halloween. It was a pretty complicated outfit, and because we were waiting for E's birth at the time, it seemed like too much work. Also, the outfit was available for much less money in the stores. So her costume was purchased. But I was able to make an ornament that looks like Skye's badge. I built up the design using felt applique. A fun project for evenings watching bad Christmas movies on TV. In the cartoon, Skye flies an airplane to make her rescues, so her badge has propellers on it. I based the design on various pictures of her badge that I found online.

For the boys' first Christmas ornaments, I decided to make presents since they were our presents this year. I did improv piecing--no pattern, although I started with a drawing on graph paper so that I'd know where I was going with the design. It probably would have been easier in some ways to do a paper pieced design, but I just started sewing bits of cloth together to make a bow until it looked right to me, and then I used a ruler minimally as I added the pieces for the gift boxes and ribbons. It took FOR. EV. ER. I spent a couple of days on each ornament, but it was worth it and so much fun to see the design emerge. They turned out exactly as I pictured they would. I added a little frame for a faux binding and then sandwiched the tops with batting and backing and did a bit of quilting around the presents. I used a permanent marker for the boys' names (blurred out in the pictures) and the date. They are about 4 inches square (and really are square, even though C's looks wonky in the picture).


For the adults' ornaments this year, I made stars based on this Pentagon Folded Star pattern from Love Quilting. I made my pattern about 3/4 inch smaller on each side, and I stuffed a small piece of batting inside to puff it out a bit before quilting. 

Here's the finished version of our ornament:

I followed all of the steps from the pattern, but here's the little extra step I took to stuff the batting in. After I folded each point of the pentagon in and pressed it, I unfolded one point and cut a little slit on the fold line in the yellow fabric. I cut a little piece of batting the size of the folded pentagon.

I took the clips off the folds, unfolded the star, and placed straight pins along the fold lines. Then I used a knitting needle to push the batting though the slit and smooth it down inside up against the pins. It worked best to roll up the batting and then fold it over the end of the knitting needle.

I took the straight pins out and then refolded the star and quilted it with my walking foot.

Here are the ones I made for the kids. The star quilting ended up a little wonky by the time I got to the center, but I like it that way. 

Instead of using a ribbon, I just sewed some embroidery thread through a point for a hanger. 

Now, I know this post is getting really long--but I have a couple more things to share before I go. (When you haven't blogged for awhile, you have lots of things to share!) First, right after I went on Blogcation, I found out that I had won a package of goodies from Soma at Whims and Fancies. Remember her Trunk Full of Quilts online show? Yup, a prize from the giveway on that one. It included thread, a voucher for an online class, patterns from several people, fabric and a gift certificate. (Thanks, Soma, and everyone else who contributed!) What a bundle of quilting joy! I will share some of the prizes as I use them, but here's one: 

Yes, you're seeing that right. I used a gift certificate from Fat Quarter Shop to buy (drum roll, please) a big piece of Moda Bella Solids white fabric!!! Wow! Isn't that exciting?? Who uses a certificate to buy plain white fabric?! I'll be cutting up most of it to make a quilt top with some rainbow colors to make this pattern from Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs (another goodie in the prize package--thanks Cheryl!) You will see this project in action very soon.

The other really fun thing that happened was this adorable gift that came in the mail from Bernie at Needle and Foot--a little zippered pouch and two tubes of rich, heavenly smelling hand cream. 

If you follow Bernie's blog, you will know that she's a prolific quilter and tells fantastic stories about her quilting journey. She also made a ton of these pouches, and each one is amazing. I'm really tickled that mine is an orphan block. Her work is superb. If you haven't read her blog before, drop everything and go read. You'll be glad you did. 

So that's it for catching up. I think. If I think of anything later I'll let you know. I did work on some treadle and hand quilting over the holidays here and there, but mostly I just enjoyed the season and looking at what other bloggers were working on. What I found, though, was that a vacation from blogging also meant a vacation from commenting. Just know I was looking, and I enjoyed everything I saw. And thanks to you if you commented on my blog. I appreciate it. I didn't keep up with responses as well as I'd like, but I just really needed to be away from the computer for awhile. Now I'm ready to jump back in. 

I'm linking this post with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social and with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday (because, hey, there are actually some finishes here). The buttons are on the right side of the page. And watch this space Thursday for some Throwback fun.  

Happy New Year, everyone! 


Bernie Kringel said...

Hurray - You're back! What a great post. It's nice to hear that you had lots of celebrating and family time while you were away. Here's to a great 2016!
That pattern will make a gorgeous rainbow quilt so I am looking forward watching the progress. Will the colorful part be scrappy or solids or ??

Lara B. said...

You packed a lot ow wonderfulness into your blogcation Janine! What a lovely day for a bike ride... which probably helped you feel that much better about delaying celebrating Christmas.
Your Dad must have loved having his family (almost all of it) there for his birthday!
Love the little ornaments you made and the light string stockings.
I had to go see which of Cheryl's patterns you chose. I have two of hers (well actually 4 if you count the current mystery and her upcoming one) that I hope to make this year.
Welcome back to blogland!

Lorna McMahon said...

Those stockings and ornaments are really cute! Especially the stars. Brilliant! Glad to hear you are back!