Friday 27 September 2013

Today's Progress

I was in Edmonton today for a wound care workshop. Whenever I go to one of these programs, I like to take a crocheting project along so that I can keep my hands busy. I find I can get more out of the presentations that way. I'm not as likely to get bored or restless. Today I brought along the purple and green afghan that I've been working on. It is getting pretty huge to bring along, but it still fits in the tote I've been using for some of my crochet projects. Here's how it looked at the end of the workshop:
 Here's how it looked before today:
So I've made some substantial progress. I think I completed 8 rows and it now measures about 43" x 53" or something like that. I actually left the workshop early, so I could have completed even more if I'd stayed. :-) It was supposed to end at 4:45, but I left around 3:00 before the final session, which was on incontinence. One of the other nurses that was there from my office had told me her plans to leave before the final session, so I looked through the handout for that session and realizing that I knew most of what was going to be presented, decided to leave as well. So did our third nurse that was there. That would get us out of the city before the worst of rush hour started.  
I had really been looking forward to the session on nutrition and wound healing. So Not Impressed! I was appalled at the presenter's ignorance: "I don't know how vegetarians can get enough protein." Grrr! It didn't help that she set the protein requirements at more than double what we actually need. No wonder there's an epidemic of heart disease and cancer. And she's a registered dietitian working with heart patients! I was tempted to go up to her and say, " You know I've been a vegetarian for over 35 years (almost 38 to be exact) and I had no idea I was so malnourished. Totally amazing that I was able to produce a healthy child considering the fact that I went vegan while I was pregnant."  
Well, the consolation was that I did win a door prize:
a solar light that I will use on my deck.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Yarn Along - WIP Wednesday

I just discovered Yarn Along on a blog called Small Things (see my sidebar for the link), where we can share our knitting and crocheting projects. And since it's Works in Progess (WIP) Wednesday, and since I've generally been neglecting my crocheting in favour of my quilting, I decided it was time to highlight some of my crocheting WIPs. Maybe it will prompt me to get working on them.
This is an afghan I'm working on for my living room. I got a lot of this yarn when it was on sale at Wal-Mart. Purple is my favourite colour and green is my second favourite, so I really like this yarn. So far I have used it to make tiebacks for my living room drapes and a wrap for me. I have plans for some pillows and another afghan for my bedroom.
This is a zippered sweater I've been working on for myself for not quite forever. I got stumped on the sleeves because the instructions were so poorly worded, but I have finally figured that out and am well on my way to one finished sleeve. However, it's been so long since I've worked on it that I'm afraid I might have forgotten what I figured out. :-) Notice the purples and greens again.
This ruffled scarf is almost finished. I don't know why I don't just sit down and finish it off. Perhaps because I've been too busy at the sewing machine.
This is a baby afghan that I started several years ago. I finished a cardigan out of the same yarn for my grandson, 
but the yarn is not pleasant to work with. It has a shimmery strand in it that tends to separate from the rest of the yarn. By the time I finish it (if I ever do), my grandson will be too old for it, so I will just save it for another child. Besides I already gave him a much nicer one:
Ah yes, I actually do finish projects occasionally.

Sunday 22 September 2013

William, Bill, Billy

First, some family history. My paternal grandfather's name was William. He was a veteran of World War I and died when my father - his oldest child - was only 9 years old. I don't know if he was called Bill, like my father, my brother and my nephew (all Williams) or what he did for a living after the war.
My father was a veteran of World War II, having served in the Air Force as a stretcher bearer in Britain. After the war, he pursued various and sundry lines of occupation, eventually landing a job at the local psychiatric hospital. Through adult education, he was able to become an RNA (the Ontario equivalent of an LPN) and continued his employment at the psychiatric hospital, working with the mentally retarded. Yes, I know that is not the politically correct label, but, believe it or not, it is the correct professional diagnosis according to the ICD-9-CM (International Classification of Diseases). My father died in 2000 at the age of 80. 
My brother Bill did a short stint in the Royal Canadian Air Force, fortunately during a time of peace. He, too, pursued various and sundry lines of occupation. He was not quite 31 when he decided to go back to school and graduated as a Registered Nurse. While Bill enjoyed most fields of nursing practice, his favourite was mental health and he spent most of his nursing career in this field. He served for nearly 2 years as a regional mental health director in the North West Territories. His final nursing position was in crisis intervention. Bill passed away in February, 2009 at the age of 57.
While Bill was in nursing school, his son Billy was born. Billy is now 29 years old and yes, as an adult, he now goes by Bill. But old habits die hard and to me, he will probably always be Billy. I now understand why my aunts and uncles and some of my older cousins persisted in calling me Laurie, which is what I was called when I was little. Like his father and grandfather, Billy tried his hand at different jobs, but this year, he too decided to go back to school. He is pursuing social work. While not in the nursing profession, it is still a helping/caregiving profession and he intends to eventually do similar work to his father. Billy is the father to a beautiful little girl, so no other William has been added to that branch of the family line at this point in time. However, two other nephews have sons named William. One is William James, called William, and the other is William Jack, called Jack. With William's father a pastor and Jack's father a teacher, chances are these two Williams will continue the helping/caregiving tradition in the family line. 
Much of that lengthy preamble is by way of background and introduction to the quilt block I did in memory of my brother. When I was considering what block to use, I couldn't find one that satisfied me. I googled and looked in my quilting books and couldn't find a block I liked with William in the name. At least not one that I wanted to use. I found Sweet William and Dear William and even William Morris, but they are too flowery and ornate. Definitely not my brother. And I couldn't find anything else that I considered relevant to my brother. I finally decided to do a block with several appliqued items that, to me, represent Bill. Though there are numerous items I could have chosen, I finally narrowed it down to 6. My other siblings or Bill's children may have chosen differently, but this is what I came up with.

Now the explanation:
1. Inuksuk - to commemorate Bill's time in the North West Territories and his enduring love for the north. Though he never returned, there were times when he considered it. I wasn't sure what fabric to use, but once I found this Stonehenge fabric, which looks like rock, I knew this was it.
2. Husky - While Bill lived in Tuktoyaktuk, he found and adopted a husky-cross dog that he named Tuk after the town he was living in. Tuk became an important and much-loved member of Bill's family.
3. Harley-Davidson Motorcycles - During his teenage years, Bill developed his lifelong love for motorcycles, especially the Harley.
4. Red Cross - This represents my brother's nursing career. He had pursued other jobs, but I believe he really found his calling when he entered nursing. I looked for nursing fabric, but couldn't find anything I really liked for this block, so opted for a basic red cross instead.
5. Fireman - During the last few years of my brother's life, Bill was a volunteer fireman. It was a second career that he loved. Several of his colleagues from the force came in their uniforms to his funeral service. I will forever be grateful for the honour and respect they paid to my brother. His son followed in his footsteps and became a volunteer firefighter as well.
6. Blue Maple Leaf - As long as I can remember, Bill was a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. On Saturday nights, our brother "owned" the television as he watched Hockey Night in Canada, which to me, as a young girl, was incredibly boring. It wasn't till years later, as he taught me everything I know about the game, that I learned to appreciate and even enjoy Hockey Night in Canada. I looked for Toronto Maple Leaf fabric, but wasn't able to find any. So I looked for fabric in Toronto Maple Leaf blue. Another woman in the quilt shop helped me locate what we felt was the right colour. Then I downloaded a logo to get the right shape and printed it out in the appropriate size to use as a pattern. 
As I was contemplating the creation of this block, I began to think that I would make a duplicate for Billy. But what would I do with it? Should I make a pillow? No, maybe a wallhanging? Then Billy contacted me about his plans for going to college. He knows I'm proud of him. He knows he has my support. But I wanted to give him something more tangible, something to give him comfort when he wished for his father's guidance and advice while pursuing his education. So I decided to make him a quilt. But what quilt? And how would I incorporate his father's block. Without telling him why, I asked for his favourite colour. Blue. And I was able to get this 6-half metre bundle at my LQS for half price:
This bundle will form the core fabric for the quilt, together with some others from my stash:
Then I had to decide on a pattern. I went to and searched for blue and white quilts and found this Blue and White Pinwheels. I will be making it larger than the pattern, with 36 blocks in the centre, rather than 25. It's still a work in progress, but here are the first few blocks:
The finished block size is 6 inches. And since I've just finished a quillow for my grandson, I decided to make this into one as well, using my brother's block as the pillow front.

Saturday 21 September 2013

The Source

Like towing my holiday trailer with my pickup truck, the thought of free motion quilting (FMQ) makes me nervous, but not nearly to the same extent. After all making a mistake in FMQ is highly unlikely to result in a fatal or serious injury. :-) But I really do want to learn how to do FMQ (I've already learned how to tow my trailer and it still makes me nervous - and I still can't back it up). To this end, I enrolled in a few online courses and I tried it a couple of times. Not very successfully. Getting loops of thread on the back, broken thread, "eyelashes"... Ugh! I can't even begin to tell you all of the frustrations I've had. And I wasn't finding the answers I needed in my courses. That's a factor in why I enrolled in a few, rather than just one - I wasn't getting all the information I needed from one course. I'm a rank beginner and I need to know all of the details. I asked friends in an online quilting community, googled, checked youtube, asked at my local quilt shop and got lots of good information. But some of it was also conflicting: feed dogs up/feed dogs down; same thread top and bottom/bottom weight thread in the bottom; use only cotton thread/use polyester thread... I was confused and uncertain and trying to follow everyone's advice just made me more so. And I just wanted to do it right and do it well. How was I going to make it work? 
Finally, I picked up the phone and called the shop that sells and services Janomes (my make of sewing machine) and got just the advice I needed. Excellent advice. Sensible advice. Not that I didn't get good information elsewhere, but this was just what I needed to hear to get me going in the right direction.
Religion can be like free motion quilting. Opinions and advice abound: some of it good, some of it not so good, some of it conflicting and some of it downright dangerous. But it's all just from another human being, and religion is supposed to be about our link with God. So, where does one find dependable directions? How does one determine truth? As far as I'm concerned, there's only one source. Just like I got the best directions from someone who knows my sewing machine, the only safe and reliable source of truth for our lives is Someone who knows us. And He gave us those directions in His "letter" to us, the Bible. If you want to know more information about the trustworthiness of the Bible, please follow this link: Is there anything left you can trust? That's a study that's beyond the scope of this brief devotional.
I have met people who want to pick and choose what to believe in the Bible. I've never read anything in the Bible that says that we are allowed to do that. As a matter of fact, I find this in the book of Revelation: "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll." 22:18,19 NIV. If this warning applies to the book of Revelation, might it not be relevant for the whole Bible? How do we decide what to accept and what not to accept as truth? And if we decide, does that not put us then above God. What good is a god that is beneath us? If we are wiser than Him, why do we need Him? The Bible itself says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." 2 Timothy 3:16. What right have we, then, to pick and choose what is truth and what is not? 
People that do this seem to want to create their own god to their liking. But we mere human beings cannot create something superior to us, something omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (all powerful, all knowing, present everywhere). And if our god is not all these things, then he is not really god, is he? He is a rather useless deity, the worship of whom avails nothing. And if he is not capable of performing miracles above our human perceptions, like creating the universe out of nothing in 6 literal days or allowing a large fish to swallow a man, is he really worthy of our worship or our trust? And if we have a god who leaves it up to us to decide truth for ourselves, without giving us any absolute guidelines, then we have chaos. And God is not the author of chaos, confusion or disorder (see 1 Corinthians 14:33).
For me, I choose to accept the credo of the Protestant Reformation: Sola Scriptura, the Bible and the Bible only. But all of the Bible, not just the parts that please me, that make me "happy" and don't condemn  me. God is our Heavenly Father and, like any good father, He rebukes and disciplines (see Revelation 3:19 NIV), not just comforts and encourages. 
Years ago, I attended a series of meetings called a prophecy crusade. One Bible text that was used over and over in that crusade was Isaiah 8:20: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Basically it says that if someone is teaching anything that doesn't agree with the Bible, then it isn't truth or "light." Another thing I remember the speaker sharing frequently was the following poem:
What says the Bible, the blessed Bible?
This my only question be.
The teachings of men so often mislead us.
What says the Bible to me?  
And that's my source for truth. Make it yours. 

Thursday 12 September 2013


Hurrah! My grandson Damian's quilt is finished. Even though I've been quilting all year, this is the first quilt I've finished this year. Working full-time certainly limits the amount of time I have to quilt, though I have quite a few other projects on the go as well. 
I'm not quite sure how other quilters take really good quilt pictures. If you take the picture with the quilt lying down, you end up with an angular view of the quilt. But where is there to hang a quilt to get a decent picture? I do have one of those umbrella-style clotheslines, but it's not installed yet and I don't know if the lines are high enough to keep the quilt off the ground. In order to get this picture, I took the quilt to work and got a couple of colleagues to hold it up. Not perfect, but it was the best way I could think of to get a good overall view. 
The pattern is the Triple Irish Chain. When I first decided to make Damian a John Deere quilt, I wasn't sure what pattern I would use. I just started collecting John Deere fabric. Once I started looking over the fabric, I realized that something with a lot of small and/or triangular pieces was not going to work if I wanted to avoid chopping up all of the farm equipment, slogans and logos. Short of fussy cutting the whole quilt, I knew I couldn't keep all of them whole, but I wanted at least some of them to be. So I chose the Triple Irish Chain with a 3-inch square as the basic unit. Since this is a 7-patch with two complementary blocks, that made for very large 21" blocks.
Block A
Block B
These are the two basic block units. 
It's a pattern that would have lent itself well to strip piecing.
Unfortunately, some of the fabric was in fat quarters and some was full width and that did not work very well with strip piecing. It did create some frustration and some misaligned squares. 
Another quilter had posted about increasing accuracy by pressing the seams open instead of to one side. I did some research and decided to give it a try. And decided I wasn't too impressed with this method in quilt making. Because there are no knots or backstitching at the ends of the seams, if you press the seams open, it's very easy for the seam to start separating. So, I don't think I'll be using that method again. 
I finally managed to get the quilt top done and it was around this time that I realized I had calculated the backing without the added border on the quilt top... Not enough backing fabric. What to do? The local quilt shops did not sell John Deere fabric and I really did not have time to run to every fabric store in Edmonton to see if I could match the fabric. Nor did I want to wait to order more online. I could have bought a whole new JD fabric for the backing, but I really liked the one I had chosen. I finally decided on a more creative approach to resolve the issue.
After sewing the two main pieces of fabric together vertically, I then split it horizontally and added the green solid to which I had appliqued my grandson's name in some of the JD fabric from the quilt top. I'm quite pleased with the result. I'll talk about the bottom green square shortly.
Next there was the issue of where and how to pin baste the quilt. I asked one of our casual nurses, who also quilts, how she did it. She said that she had actually brought a quilt into work and used the big tables in our largest meeting room. So, one Sunday I packed up my supplies and that's what I did. No pictures as I forgot to take my camera along. 
Next, I had to set up my sewing room for quilting by adding a couple of extra tables.
Finally, there was the quilting to be done. After a brief but unsuccessful foray into free motion quilting, I realized that I needed much more practice before I attempted it on a quilt. I decided to just use my walking foot and do straight line quilting. 
I had lots of help.
I had originally planned on doing crosshatching, but after doing all of the diagonals in one direction, I decided I had done enough quilting and left it at that. And my lines are crooked and uneven, but I'm still learning.
I then trimmed up the edges.
Mystery didn't see how I could possibly do that part of the job successfully without him. 
So he stuck around and offered his assistance.
And tested out the quilt for comfort.
I consulted the internet for advice on binding a quilt.
Confession time: I don't hand sew unless I absolutely have to. So I used my machine to attach the binding, as instructed in this video. And I have an embroidery machine, so I have lots of fancy stitches from which to choose. 
The quilt's done, except... I actually planned on making it a quillow. You can find quidelines for making a quillow here:
My next step was to do the pillow panel. I had purchased a JD pillow panel, to which I added a border. 
Pin-basting the Pillow Panel
Now I have another confession: I seriously dislike cotton batting. This is actually the first quilt I made using it and I really prefer the loft and drape-ability of polyester fibrefill batting. In comparison, the cotton is flat and stiff, kind of like quilting with cardboard. That might be fine for a table runner or a wall-hanging, but not for a quilt meant to snuggle with. It just isn't as cuddle-able. And when I folded it up to see about the fit for the pillow panel, I realized it would not make a nice soft pillow. So, in order to soften it up, at least a little, I used polyester fibrefill batting for the quilt panel. Ah, the pins go in so much easier. And the quilting went much smoother as well. There's much to be said in favour of polyester fibrefill batting, in addition to the fact that it's a lot cheaper than cotton. I read somewhere that you shouldn't use it with free motion quilting. Well, considering the fact that I have yet to master that art, that's not an issue for me at this point in time. And when I do learn FMQ, I will see if I can figure out how to do it with polyester batting. Because I really do prefer it. I wonder if the cotton batting softens up at all with washing. Since this quilt has been fully tested by my cats, I decided to wash it before giving it to my grandson. It's still drying so it's too early to tell, but the polyester in the pillow panel still feels much softer. 
Back to the pillow panel. I just reviewed the instructions in the above link and discovered that I wasn't supposed to bind it. And I did. And I realize that the hand-sewing to attach the panel to the quilt probably would have been a little easier if I hadn't bound it. But it still looks good and works fine. Now you know what that green square on the bottom of the quilt back is. And here's the finished product. 

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Carob Berry Trifle

As I mentioned in a previous post, Wasn't That a Party!, the carob cake I made for my ex-husband's 60th birthday party turned out quite dense in texture due to outdated baking powder. The flavour was still good and I tried to redeem it by pouring Peanut Butter Carob Pie Filling over the top, but, while it tasted good, it still was unpleasantly dense. About half of it was eaten at the party, probably without much "relish" and so I had to decide what to do with the remainder. I hate to throw food away and so I put the cake in the freezer. Eventually, I resolved to use it in a trifle. I thought about doing it several times, for church potlucks or for my own personal consumption, but never got around to it till now. 
Today we had a barbecue at work. It was a fundraiser for the flood victims in southern Alberta, and included a silent auction and various raffle items. We paid $10 each for the burger of our choice, plus we were all to bring either a salad or a dessert. Just a word on the burgers: for the first time, they actually offered veggie burgers as an option. Hurray! I've only been working there 6 years... Three other people besides me ate veggie burgers. 
I opted to bring a dessert and decided this was the time to bring out the carob cake and make the trifle. It still had the Peanut Butter Carob Pie filling on top of it, so that went into the trifle as well. I used the basic directions for the trifle recipe from the  Seven Secrets Cookbook. Of course, I used my carob cake, cut into one-inch cubes, instead of the cake recipe in the book. And in place of the lemon pie filling or vanilla custard that was recommended in the cookbook, I used the Carob Pudding and Pie filling recipe from Whole Foods for Whole People. This cookbook is an old favourite of mine and I've made the carob pie numerous times. Yummy! Half of the cake cubes were put in the bottom of the bowl, then covered with the just-cooked carob pie filling. The remaining half of the cubes were distributed on top of the pie filling and pushed down into it. This was allowed to chill overnight. Meanwhile I made the Whipped Topping recipe from the Seven Secrets cookbook, which was also allowed to chill overnight. The main ingredient is a can of coconut mild, and it makes a very rich and delicious topping. 
Next evening after work, I added a layer of raspberries and outlined the dish with strawberries cut in halves.

I whipped the topping once more in the blender, as per instructions, added it to the dish, and completed it with more strawberry halves and some blueberries. 
Red, white and blue - looks kind of patriotic, dosen't it? 
Only about 1/3 of it went at the meal today, but considering how many people there were and about half of us brought desserts, that's not too bad. Besides I'll enjoy the leftovers. And it did turn out quite good. I just ate another bowl for supper. I might try it again some time, but next time I'll make sure my baking powder is not outdated. 
Just a couple of comments: In spite of the fact that there's all that info "out there" about the antioxidants in chocolate, there's still bad stuff in chocolate, some of which is a contributing factor to breast disease (See Personally, I once had a very painful cyst in one of my breasts and when I went to see the doctor about it, he asked if I used a lot of tea, coffee, chocolate or salt. I don't drink tea or coffee and don't think I use a lot of salt. I really didn't think I ate that much chocolate either, but that motivated me to quit and I didn't eat any for years and never had a recurrence. I have eaten chocolate occasionally more recently, but I prefer to get my antioxidants from things like the blueberries in this trifle, that I know don't have any disease-causing substances in them naturally. That's why I choose carob over chocolate. I heard Dr. Winston Craig speak and he said that it's okay to eat chocolate as long as you only eat as much as he does: about one or two squares a month. Note that's squares, not bars. 
The second point I want to mention is that, while I know there are ready made non-dairy whipped toppings available, I prefer to make my own if I have time. That way I'm in control of the ingredients.

Monday 2 September 2013

Machine Quilting with Cats - A Photo Essay

Both of my cats, but especially Mystery, like to be in the middle of whatever I am doing. I'm sure those of you with cats can appreciate this. I actually had to give up on a jigsaw puzzle I was working on. It was virtually impossible to get any of it done with a cat sitting in the middle of it. And somehow Mystery knew, even if he had been sleeping in another part of the house, whenever I sat down to work on that puzzle. Occasionally he would sprawl all over it, knocking pieces around and onto the floor. It just wasn't worth the hassle.
Machine quilting? Yes, they like to get involved in that, too.
Did you actually want to work on this project?
I'm taking a machine quilting course through Annie's Crafts and this is the sample project that Mystery is testing. I decided I need more practice with FMQ before I finish it. Once it's finished, I'll write a separate post about it and the course. I was thinking it might just become a table topper. Or more likely, a cat mat.
I left it on the table, hoping the cats would lie on it instead of the quilt I'm working on. So, yes, here is Mystery being quite cooperative, for the moment. Tinker was at first too.
 But really she needs to be up close where she can get petted with my Machingers gloves.
Tinker really isn't satisfied staying in one place, unless it's really close to me. 
 Mystery's back. He can't supervise the job well enough when he's sitting on that other project, so he had to get up closer.
 I think I like this one, Mom. It's comfy to sleep on...
And closer...
How did I get so far away?
The fabric was bunching up by the cat, so I grabbed the quilt on the opposite side of him and tugged both the quilt and Mystery farther away.
I had to turn the quilt around, so he went back to the sample project for a bath. This is the back side up. It was actually supposed to be done in solids, but how could I resist some beautiful batiks?
 Yes, he had to move right up close and personal again.
I guess I'm finished quilting for now...
By the way, that's my grandson's quilt. Since I haven't had enough practice with free motion quilting, I'm doing it all straight line with my walking foot.