Sunday, December 29, 2013

DWM: Solstice update and what became of those string blocks

 I've had a busy Christmas holiday! I am editing pictures and composing a post about our wonderful Road Scholar trip to Quebec (12/20-12/26).  I'll get it posted tomorrow, I hope.

Since we returned home late Thursday (actually early Friday: 1:05 a.m.) I've been catching up: laundry, mail, and Celtic Solstice.   (Plus a memorial service Saturday afternoon and a wedding Saturday evening.) Here are 82 units out of 100 for Step 4 and 51 units out of 100 for Step 5.

I left for Quebec with about 100 6.5" string blocks on the design wall. (See the previous post.)  I cut them diagonally and pieced the triangles into chevrons.  I've made a couple of quilts with this block design (such as this one  and this one).   I tried another arrangement, and this is the result. [I had to make more blocks -- there are 120 chevrons in all.] The flimsy is about 58 x 70 and used 5-3/8 yards.

I'm joining other quiltmakers for Judy's Design Wall Monday  and Bonnie's Mystery Monday Linkup . 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Design wall, Thursday evening

 I bought an app so I can upload photos from my iPad.  Next I have to figure out how to edit them.

Here, unedited: the string blocks that were leaders/Enders for Celtic Solstice last weekend. I have some more underway.

The stars are the beginning of the Steelers quilt. The pattern is from Fons&Porter, December, 1998.  They are pieced with freezer paper templates.

That's my design wall until the end of next week.  The limo will get us at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow to take us to the airport for Fete de Noel en Quebec!


2014 challenges!

Barbara at Cat Patches is hosting a NewFO challenge for 2014.  I thank Sophie and Theresa for the link to Barbara's site.  The purpose is to begin at least one project each month to capture the creative impulse before it evaporates.  Finishing is optional though encouraged.  Those of you who have followed my posts in 2013, or if you just click on the "flimsy completion" tab at the top of the blog, know that I've finished many pre-2013 projects and I have started and finished many more in 2013 alone. 

Each year I create a list of quilt obligations.  "Obligations" sounds harsh, but I think of them as opportunities rather than burdens.  I contribute quilts as community fundraisers every year.  Gift-giving events come up, too.  I have the design/pattern in mind for some of these. For others it's TBD. 

Here's my list, in the order that they're due:

1.  Commission quilt -- for a family who are avid Pittsburgh Steelers fans.  I don't know them, but a colleague's sister asked me if I would. (I've made quilts on commission for the colleague and the sister [ here and here].)   Steelers = black, gold, and white.  I've begun making these stars following a pattern in a back issue of Fons & Porter. 

2.  T-shirt quilt #1 -- I offered to make a t-shirt quilt as a raffle prize for the ZB Run Squad. At each of the runs this season people bought raffle tickets. The winner was drawn after the Full Moon Run earlier this month.  I've e-mailed him but haven't heard back. I will wait until after Christmas to follow up.

3. T-shirt quilt #2 -- for one of the mainstays of the ZB Run Squad committee.  It's a surprise for her.

4.  AAUW-IL convention -- I contribute a quilt that the Waukegan Area Branch raffles. Proceeds benefit AAUW projects like the Legal Advocacy Fund
**Note: this quilt is already finished! It's Orca Bay, the Quiltville mystery from early 2012.**

4. LCWFF -- that's short for Lulu Corkhill Williams Friendship Fund, a project of P.E.O.-Illinois.  LCWFF provides grants for emergency assistance to women and men in Illinois.  The recipients are recommended by P.E.O. chapters. I'm one of the three committee members who reviews the applications and determines the amount of the award (up to $2400).  I volunteered to make a quilt to raffle to both raise funds and awareness.
**You can read more about P.E.O.   here and learn about Lulu  here **

4. Zion Township Senior Fair -- I always make a lap-sized quilt as a door prize.  (The past two years the winners have come to find me at the library to thank me, which is so sweet.)

5.  Rotary Golf Outing -- mid-May -- our club's major fundraiser

6. Granddaughter's high school graduation --  Her mom (my stepdaughter) says she likes animal prints. That has given me an excuse to shop, though I know it will mean that I will acquire a lot more than I will use in this quilt.

7.  ALA Annual Conference -- the ALA Biblioquilters collaborate on quilts that are sold in a silent auction at the conference. Proceeds go to the Hoy Scholarship Fund.  In addition to making blocks for group quilts I will contribute a quilt of my own.

8.  Literacy Volunteers of Lake County -- a quilt as a raffle prize at their Literacy Walk in September

9. Corporate Community Spelling Bee -- in November.  This is a big fundraiser for the Coalition for Healthy Communities 

10. P.E.O. Christmas party -- my chapter has an ornament/gift exchange.  I made a banner  this year

11.  AAUW holiday party -- I contribute a raffle quilt for Christmas, too. 


12.  I'm joining Sophie's Tea Towel Challenge which has an end date of March. 

13, 14, 15.....To be determined. I know I'll come up with something that I just have to make!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

DWM: Celtic Solstice up-to-date and Kindness

This past week was nearly as busy as the week before.   Tuesday evening was the Fifth Grade Essay Contest Banquet, sponsored by our Rotary Club.   All the fifth graders in the three school districts (Winthrop Harbor 1, Beach Park 3, and Zion 6) wrote essays on "the kindest person I know." Each of the 23 classrooms had a winner. Those children and their parents (with some grandparents and siblings), as well as their teachers,  were treated to a banquet held at New Tech High School.  Each child was introduced and congratulated by the superintendent of her or his district.  One winner from each district received an iPad.  It was wonderful to the expressions on all of the children's faces as they were honored.  
Saturday evening we enjoyed Full Score Orchestra's Christmas Concert which included   Amahl and the Night Visitors . I remember watching it on TV when I was little. It's been such a delight to hear it again at Full Score's concert.    
"Christmas Presents" was the title of the Christmas pageant presented at church this morning. It was truly the best Christmas pageant ever -- the children were wonderful and the message was meaningful. (We sat too far back for my pictures to be very good.) At the potluck afterward we had a birthday cake for Jesus.   
This week's quilting time was devoted to Celtic Solstice.   I like to make HSTs by the round-up/cut-down method. I cut a lot of 3" orange and yellow squares, sliced them in half, made HSTs, trimmed, and pressed. I made 25 pinwheel units. Then I compared what I'd made to the units from Steps 1 and 2. Oops! The pinwheels were 4.5" because the HSTs were 2.5". Well, it's easy to make them smaller! Here are the re-sized Step 3 pinwheels and a few trimmed HSTs....more to come.  
Step 2 -- finished Friday

At this stage in a mystery it's tempting to see how the units will fit together. (And I see that one of those blue units is wrong way around. I am not going to take another picture this evening.)

The Spring, 1992, issue of Quilt was on the guild giveaway table. I brought it home with a stack of others. This block has some of the units in Celtic Solstice, and the block name has some similarity....hmmmm!



The strips in this box served as  leaders-and-enders while I chain-stitched the Solstice units. They're 7.5" x 1.5", sewn in 6's, and trimmed to 6.5" x 6.5."   I'm not sure how many I'll make or what they'll become.  

I got out the necktie hexagons:  my take-along handwork for our upcoming Road Scholar trip to Quebec. We leave on Friday!

I'm joining Quiltville fans for the Mystery Monday  linkup and with other quiltmakers this Design Wall Monday at Judy's Patchwork Times.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Charlie Madigan's Christmas column

Note:   I re-read Charlie's essay every year and have cited parts of it when someone bemoans the secularization of the season.  I tried unsuccessfully to find it on the Tribune website in order to post a link to it.  I've cut-and-pasted the entire text. 

# # # # # # #

Looking for Christ in all the wrong places

by Charles M. Madigan
Chicago Tribune
December 11, 2005

It's Christmastime again, and the Christians, well, at least some of the Christians, are on the warpath against retailers who opt to describe this seasonal cash bonanza in less than religious terms. This is a sign, we are told, of "anti-Christian and anti-Christmas" bias.  The argument seems to be that if you just call it a "holiday" season without going the full-tilt "Christmas" route then you somehow demean the legacy of St. Luke's Gospel, the only place the whole Christian Christmas has ever actually existed on the record.

They are wrong.

The critics want to make a prophet center out of what is actually a profit center.

Where St. Luke got the Christmas story is anyone's guess, because it doesn't appear in any kind of detail in the other Gospels. In some of them, Jesus just shows up and starts preaching and giving lessons. Only St. Luke puts him in a manger and opens the doorway to choirs of angels and mysterious heavenly developments. To be sure, Matthew's Gospel introduces the Wise Men and the star, but the birth itself is very matter of fact.

If you want the glories of Christmas, you go to St. Luke. Sourcing is not an issue with me on this story.  Maybe God told him. I can't know.  Despite that, the St. Luke's Christmas story is the one I prefer.

I have constructed my belief on it for more than half a century, and I care not one whit whether it is provable, likely, a fantasy, a warm and basically silly myth or any other criticism that is applied to what I think is just one of the best stories of all time. I don't know whether monks put it there, whether a committee of early church bishops cobbled it together from snippets, who St. Luke actually was, what language he might have written it in and how many angels could have fit on the head of whatever was used as a pin in ancient Palestine.

I do believe in it. Take it or leave it. It's a huge Christmas gift from God that requires no evidence, no explanation. I know I don't deserve it, did nothing to get it and, I am afraid, could lose it in an instant because of my cynicism, my occasional hardness of heart, the part of me that is callous, cruel, selfish and unfeeling.  But for now, it's healthy.

You should envy me, because most people abandon this kind of experience in late childhood. I view the Christmas story as something to take to the bank of  emotion, something to tap when you are confronted by the question: "What is the right thing to do?" which happens to me all the time.

Stories show us the path. We need and live on stories. Some of them are myth and some of them are real, but they are stories that point us properly down the pathway of life. The Christmas story is just boffo in my book, then, warms my heart and makes me want to try to live a better life.  I don't think for one instant it belongs at the center of the annual retail blitz.

The Christians, in other words, are so very wrong about this one. You want a place to put the Christmas story, to revere it, to nurture it and take sustenance from it? Then put it in your heart.
But don't put it in Target.

The conservative Christian argument seems to be that we should all rush out and boycott Target, Sears, Lowe's, even OfficeMax and places like that because they don't emphasize the "Christ" part of the holiday.

I would go in just the opposite direction. Thank you, Target and everyone else, for recognizing that this has become, for many people, nothing more than a big commercial celebration and reason to have office drinks, buy gifts and stick lights and holiday trappings all over everything.

The last thing in the world I want is something that implies that Christ will be happy if I use my credit card to buy some dandy power tools for my sons, a hat for my spouse, a new collar for my dog and something shiny and delightful for myself.    I don't want some marketing hawk to find a way to link the Christ child, in his blessed, doomed innocence, to an increase in short-term debt at my house.

If they want to pump their stores full of holiday music, fine, just stay clean away from the classics.  Put "Silent Night" on the disc player at Sam's Club, and what you have is blasphemy in my book. I don't want Christ anywhere near those places.

But I do want them full of holiday good cheer, champagne sales and lots of brand name items that didn't sell last year deeply discounted to fit my current holiday needs. I want them to report in January that they sold more inventory than anyone has ever sold, that they are fat and happy, and that everyone gets to keep working for another year. I don't expect to turn to them for Christ.

Most of what we experience at Christmas isn't very Christ-like, anyhow.  Take the tree. Go to Captain Jack's Christmas Tree Farm Web site, among others ( and take a look at where it comes from.  Not much Christianity there, for sure. Captain Jack, an Iowa guy whose job is to encourage the purchase of nice, real Christmas trees instead of plastic stuff from Asia, notes that our friends the Druids viewed holly in the house as a sign of eternal life.  The Romans, when they were honoring Saturn, put evergreen boughs and special lights in the house.  

Martin Luther is described as the first of the Christians to light up pine trees with candles. He wanted to evoke thoughts of stars twinkling in the Bethlehem skies at the time of Christ's birth. (He, too, was an obvious St. Luke fan. I am flattered.)

The Christmas tree habit didn't hit America until the Revolution, when it was brought to our shores by the Hessian mercenaries hired by the Brits to help put down our little insurgency, Captain Jack reports.

They were so infatuated by the glowing Christmas tree, the legend says, that they abandoned their Christmastime guard posts to celebrate the season, an opening George Washington used to sneak in and whomp them a good one.

I don't know who invented the bubbling candle-shaped Christmas-tree light, but the character was pure genius in my book. It is the best of decorations.  But I'm not for an instant going to think of Christ when I look at one.

For that, you go not to Target, not to Field's*, not even to Bethlehem or to the Bible.  You go inside, where there are no presents, no sales pitches, no hustle of any kind.  There, instead, await choirs of angels, if you are so blessed.

Copyright (c) 2005, Chicago Tribune
Field's became Macy's in 2006. 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

DWM: parties, raffle results, thrifting, and CS Step 2

This past week was a veritable social whirl with two holiday dinners, a holiday luncheon, and a concert/group dinner.  I introduced two new-to-us passing games for the P.E.O. ornament exchange (Crossy and Lefty) and the quilt guild white elephant exchange (Santa and Lefty Elf), both of which were greeted with laughter and a few good-natured groans as the gift passing progressed. 

The AAUW holiday luncheon on Saturday included a silent auction. That's a nice way to say that we bring things we no longer want and buy them from one another.  (There are usually some great baked goods, too, and one member brings freshly-cut bunches of holly from her garden.)    I brought two good-sized boxes filled with junk intriguing artifacts, spent $6 on three small items, and had only three items unsold.  The branch president emailed us last evening to report that the auction raised $904.50!  
A Joyful Noise
In addition, we sold $400 in raffle tickets for "A Joyful Noise," which I made in March and quilted some months later.  The winner is an AAUW member from another branch who was delighted get my message that she'd won.

Our fundraising efforts support AAUW educational grants and fellowships and the Legal Advocacy Fund . Our branch also has a scholarship to the College of Lake County for a young woman entering a science or technology field. 
Ugly? Modern?
Two thrift shops happened to be on the route home from the AAUW luncheon, so I stopped.  Look what came home with me.  I got the green (twin) sheet at one thrift shop and the pink (double/full) sheet at the other. Both are all-cotton, from Pottery Barn. (I don't think I've ever been in a Pottery Barn store.)   This blue/white/gray cotton print is either a candidate for "modern" or "ugly."  Which ever, it's a definite bargain -- 2 yards for $1.50.

With all of this activity, there wasn't a lot of time to sew this week.   I finished Step 1 of Celtic Solstice on Thursday evening.  Here is Step 2 in progress.  (The QuiltvilleChatters discussed how to sew accurate diagonal lines. Note the painter's masking tape on my sewing machine insert. That's what works best for me.)

You can see what other quiltmakers are working on at Judy's Design Wall Monday . I'm also joining the Mystery Monday   linkup on Quiltville.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

DWM: shop your stash, six of one, and solstice beginnings

Our four-day weekend was great.  Thankgiving dinner at the home of friends, with some leftovers to take home.  (Our contribution was Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish, which you can read more about here . It was new to our hosts, and they liked it.)  We drove home about 6 p.m. and passed Wal-Mart where the parking lot was full, even the spaces along the road and around the corner by the auto service center.

We didn't go shopping either Thursday or Friday.  We did, however, go to see the Friday matinee performance of the movie Nebraska .  It was excellent.

Saturday evening was a 50th wedding anniversary party for Winthrop Harbor friends.  It turned out that their actual wedding date was November 30:  perfect.  What a joyous occasion!

Sunday we worshipped at First Congregational Church, U.C.C. in Waukegan.  First day of advent and first Sunday of the month meant lessons and carols plus communion -- followed by a potluck.  We are not members of First Congo but we have friends who are, and it's the denomination in which my husband was ordained and served during his 20 years of parish ministry. It was a great way to begin the sacred season amidst the secular one.

In and around all of these events I sewed. (As my husband says, "Why am I not surprised?")

#1 Shop Your Stash.  I did just that and found the perfect border fabric for Framed Nine Patch.  The flimsy is 74 x 64 and used 5-3/8 yards.

#2 Six of one.  These six pillows are my gifts to the library department heads and office staff. I adapted a pattern from Fons and Porter's Quilting Celebrations 2013. The pillows are 26 x 18  and used a total of 6-1/4 yards (including the fabric I used for the pillow form insert).

#3 Solstice beginnings.   46 white-centered units and 34 orange-centered units so far.

See what other quiltmakers are doing at Judy's Patchwork Times  and check out the Celtic Solstice progress at Bonnie's Quiltville!