Sunday, April 28, 2013

Daffodils, salix discolor*, and bargains

 Daffy-down-dilly has come to town
In her white petticoat and her yellow gown.

Daffodils are my favorite spring flower. The blossoms finally opened sometime in the early, early hours on Friday. They're about two weeks behind last year.

After the  torrential rain on April 18 I couldn't even get to the parking lot at the Camp Logan unit of Illinois Beach State Park due to flooding.  This picture, taken April 27, shows the path that we often take when we walk in those woods -- there's still a lot of standing water.  

Salix discolor
(*Salix discolor is the Latin name for this plant. The common name has a word that which some filtering software excludes, as I found out when I looked at my blog on my iPhone.  You can read more about it here: )

As I've written before, if I can't not buy fabric, then I need to be sure to get it at a bargain price.  I went to an estate sale on Friday.  The fabric was crammed onto storage shelves in the basement.  The sign said, "$2 per piece." I grabbed anything that looked like quilting cotton, rejected some very flimsy stuff, and filled a box.  I bargained the guy down to $40.

Back home, washed and dried, ready to press, measure, and fold.

TG&Y label--that's an Oklahoma dimestore chain ("turtles, girdles, and yo-yo's").

The final count:  92 yards -- at $40, that's .43 per yard.

I have a modest collection of bandannas for a someday quilt --these were .50 each at the estate sale. 
I used some of the estate sale fabric for the sashing for this sailboat quilt. The green pindot was just right.   This is a gift for a library staff member who is having a baby in June. (It's the first baby in the library "family" since anyone can remember.)  The all-staff baby shower is May 14 so I need to get this finished!  (You can see the companion sailboat quilt in this post.)             

See what other quiltmakers are up to this Design Wall Monday at Judy's Patchwork Times.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Now you see 'em, now you don't

Button, button
Here's a lesson for us all.  Not only measure twice and cut once, but try on twice. 
but never the RIGHT button
I was determined to make new jacket this spring.  The process involves a lot of forethought. There's fabric selection.  This time, a nice collection at Joann's for $4.99/yd (good quality, too) came right to the fore.  I really like the lemon-and-gray palette.  Then there's pattern selection.  My body has, er, changed dimensions.  I really, really need to adapt ONE jacket pattern that I can use as a "canvas" for a variety of pieced designs.  
Now you see 'em
I finished the piecing and assembled the jacket.  I looked in my button stash for five matching gray or yellow buttons, 7/8" or larger.  Nothing.  I went back to Joann's and found lovely yellow buttons. They came two on a card, and since I needed five,  I had to buy three cards. At $4 per card. Yikes! With coupons the price dropped somewhat, so I paid just $10 for the three cards. But still.
Pfrieda, my Pfaff 1472, is wonderful sewing machine in nearly all respects -- except for buttonholes. I gritted my teeth and made adequate buttonholes. I attached those expensive buttons. I cut the buttonholes open.
Now you don't
I tried the jacket on. It was oddly tight across the bustline. What? I looked at the pattern -- it was designed for no buttons!  There was no allowance for the button/buttonhole overlap.  I slept on the matter and in the morning had the solution. I cut off the strips with the buttonholes, replaced them (which meant replacing the foundation to which the strips were pieced as well as replacing a strip of the lining). I reattached the binding. I closed the buttonhole in the yoke with a tight zigzag stitch that you wouldn't notice unless you were looking for it.   WHEW!

(There are now six 1-1/8" yellow buttons in my button stash. The jacket used five yards of fabric. I have lots of gray and lemon fabric left over. )

In other quilting news: here is bookshelf quilt #30, made for a library trustee who was elected to the Village board and thus has to resign from the library board.

Check out what other quiltmakers are up to on Design Wall Monday at Judy's Patchwork Times.
 P.S.  More buttons. The vintage Hawaiian buttons are pinned on my bulletin board. 

P.S. 2   First garage sale purchase of the season! These chairs were $3 each. They are in rough shape but they'll be great practice for decorative painting -- and as plant stands on the patio this summer.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I stopped at the Salvation Army in Zion on Friday to see if there was anything interesting.  I couldn't pass these up.
They are custard-cup or cream-soup sized bowls.  I googled Pine Lake Trout Farm and found only a reference from an eBay-watching site reporting on the sale of a Pine Lake Trout Farm platter, also by Walker China. 

My father's stepmother lived at the Alhambra home at the end of her (very long) life.  I looked it up -- the home is operated by a private company and is called Marguerite Gardens.  The P.E.O. flower is the marguerite, or daisy.  (I can't tell if California P.E.O. outsourced the management, or if they sold the property.)

The Illinois State Chapter also had a retirement home in Knoxville. It needed significant upgrades to conform to code. The ISC sold the property and used the proceeds to start the Illinois P.E.O. Home Fund.  "The purpose of this project is to provide assistance toward housing expenses that will enhance the lives and living conditions of Illinois senior women. Support is given to P.E.O. sisters and to non-P.E.O. ladies upon the recommendation of local P.E.O. chapters. The applicant must be at least 65 years of age and an Illinois resident."

The Colorado State Chapter still owns and operates the Colorado Chapter House.  The website explains, "....Several state P.E.O. Homes were established. They were all state projects. The houses in Mount Pleasant, Iowa; in San Jose, California; in Knoxville, Illinois; in Saint Joseph, Missouri; and in San Antonio, Texas are now closed.  Still open and fully operational are the homes in Beatrice, Nebraska; in Caldwell, Idaho; and in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The home in Alhambra, California is scheduled to undergo substantial modifications."

Alpha Gamma Delta envisioned a retirement home for its members. For many years chapters, clubs, and members contributed to the Billet.  It never opened, however.  Instead, the Billet funds were used to create the Founders Memorial Foundation established at the 1954 Golden Anniversary. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


This was the poem in The Writer's Almanac on April 2.

by Stephen Dunn
Fifteen years ago I found my father's
in the family attic, so used
the shoemaker had to
repair it, and I kept it like love

until it couldn't be kept anymore.
Then my father-in-law died
and I got his, almost
identical, just the wrong initials

embossed in gold. It's forty years old,
falling apart, soon
there'll be nothing
that smells of father-love and that difficulty

of living with fathers, but I'd prefer
a paper bag to those
new briefcases
made for men living fast-forward

or those attaché cases that match
your raincoat and spring open
like a salute
and a click of heels. I'm going

to put an ad in the paper, "Wanted:
Old briefcase, accordion style,"
and I won't care
whose father it belonged to

if it's brown and the divider keeps
things on their proper side.
Like an adoption
it's sure to feel natural before long—

a son without a father, but with this
one briefcase carrying
a replica
comfortably into the future,

something for an empty hand, sentimental
the way keeping is
sentimental, for keep-
sake, with clarity and without tears. 
# # # #
Here's what I wrote to Mr. Dunn:   
Dear Mr. Dunn: 
Your poem “Briefcases” was the poem-of-the-day on the Writer’s Almanac yesterday.
My response was immediate – my dad had just that kind of briefcase, with his initials stamped in gold. It smelled like leather, ink, tobacco, and paper. (Actually he had several of them, because the handles did, eventually, break off to the point of no repair.) I can imagine him coming in the door (5:15 from Union Station, home at 6:00) and giving my sister and me the Chicago Daily News (“red stripe edition final markets”) so we could read the comics. Mother got home from her office sooner, so she had a drink poured and dinner almost ready. Ah, the 60’s….. Our parents passed away in 2002 and I believe my sister has Dad’s last briefcase, kept for the very reasons you describe.  
# # # #
He wrote back: 
Thanks for the wonderful response. My Dad died at 59 in the late 1960's. An old poem, therefore, which Keillor found and evidently liked.
* "Briefcases" by Stephen Dunn, from New and Selected Poems 1974-1994. © Norton, 1994. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Design Wall Monday: swap blocks and postage stamps

 A week ago the path to Dead Dog Creek ravine was still snow-covered and slippery -- too slippery for me to walk down without a walking stick. Warm days have melted nearly all the snow so today I could easily go down the hill.  The alligator still lies in wait in the woods. 

The skunk cabbages have come up through last season's fallen leaves.

 Back in the studio:  here are my contributions for two of the five installments of the Progressive Swap.  Lori K wrote that she has a stack of pine tree blocks and wants houses and stars to go with them.  She provided three different gray/white prints for the backgrounds.   Cassandra is working on a design with different sizes of blocks, all batiks.  Once I pull out the boxes of batik FQs and scraps it's hard for me to stop!

 Here's how my latest postage stamp (1.5" squares) project has turned out. The blocks are 5.5" unfinished. The orientation is supposed to alternate (horizontal strips, vertical strips) but now that I look at it, there are a few that flipped. (How does that happen? LOL!)  The flimsy is 51 x 56. 

See what other quiltmakers are working on at Judy's Patchwork Times.

Furniture and stories

I can count on my fingers and toes the furniture that I have bought brand-new. (I don't count assemble-them-yourself metal or plastic bookcases.)  My mother taught me to appreciate antiques and bargains -- that is, why buy new when used will do?   Used furniture comes with stories -- where purchased and sometimes how much paid.

This green pie safe was the first piece that I bought with my own money.  I got it in 1977 at Boeker's antiques (it was more like a junk shop) on South Day St. in Brenham, TX.  It cost $35 and I had to pay for it in two installments. There was a little scrap of newspaper (remnant of shelf liner) with Czech text that I still have tacked inside the cabinet.  When I painted it I learned that it is better to pour out the paint into a smaller container than to dip right from the can -- because I dropped the can and found out how far paint can splash!  I starched muslin for the panels in the doors, just temporarily....and they've worked just fine for 36 years. This cabinet has been in kitchens and home offices in the places I've lived since.  The soft green paint has worked fine in each location. Now it holds greeting cards and other office supplies.

 Mind you, we don't NEED any more furniture.  When my husband retired and we combined households (after a 20-year commuter marriage in which we'd managed to fill up two houses) we had to rent a storage locker for the pieces that won't fit in the house but are too good to give away. 

So, to come to the inspiration for this post, HERE is my latest acquisition. It was FREE!

Several weeks ago I posted that I'd gone to Northbrook for a funeral.   Debbie had never married and lived in the family home. Her sister Pam was my classmate. She said they'd sold the house and that cousin Sue, another classmate, was coming for the weekend and would I like to go down to see them?  Certainly! When I got to the house they were finishing up.  "Would you like a dresser?" Pam asked. "None of us wants it."  Of course!  Pam's teenaged nephews put it in my car.  It is now in the basement storage room  until I can find a better place to put it.

And here is another treasure from the estate!  Sun Valley Dairy was in Highwood, Illinois.  It was the dairy that delivered to our house, too.  I've never seen a Sun Valley bottle and I was delighted when Pam said I was welcome to it.  (The liquid is water and cornstarch, to better show the lettering.)

Pam, Sue, and I had dinner at Northbrook's historic Landmark Inn which we were never allowed to enter when we were kids. (Back then it was a tavern called the Cypress Inn.)  It is always great to get together with people you've known just about forever--conversation jumps from the present day to the past and back again with no pause. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

DWM: first quarter review; boats and birds

Melanie posted a link to her "first quarter roundup" blog post here which prompted me to do the same.  On January 1 I stated these goals for 2013: 
* End the year with 10 or fewer flimsies
* Buy less and use more
* Improve proficiency at a minimum of two techniques (e.g. y-seams or a specialty ruler)
[Objective: by January 15 determine what those two techniques are.]

How am I doing?  As of March 31 I have
* Not chosen two techniques to work on.
* Finished 7 flimsies (begun 2012 or earlier)
* Started and finished 3 quilts (2013)
* Created 3 flimsies (including the sailboats in this post -- and I'll have the quilt finished this week)
* Used 63-7/8 yards
* Acquired 68 yards (of which 17 yards were gifts)     
There are 15 flimsies in the box
I obsessed way more over this quilt than I needed to.  If I used the red sashing then a red border wouldn't work. I auditioned three different blue fabrics and they didn't work.  Well, of course they would have worked, but not to my satisfaction.  The border fabric left over from this project would have been ideal but I was short 20", so back in the stash it went.  I finally went out and bought the bright yellow polka dot (at Joann's).  I think it's a cheerful solution.

The sails on each boat are made from "I Spy" novelty fabrics.  The blocks are 10" and the flimsy is 45 x 45.  I've nearly finished quilting it. ("Mr. Selfridge" on Masterpiece Classic ended just as I finished quilting the sashing.)
I joked to Sophie, the coordinator of Block Lotto , that it could be called Block Yoga instead.  Her monthly blocks are sometimes a challenge that STRETCHES me....and it feels good when I'm done.  We can make 9 of these bright bird blocks (6 x 9) for the April lotto. Here's my first.

See what other quiltmakers have on their design walls at Judy's Patchwork Times.