Category Archives: gardening

so many of us enjoy this hobby as well

I’m back!

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I’m back from my trip to Disney with the godsons and family. I am so glad for this WNY weather. The heat and humidity in Florida were beastly in my opinion. Temps in the low 90’s and humidity around 60-70%. That is not for me, thank you very much. Of course both kids and adults got a bit cranky from the heat, so we would return to the hotel pool each afternoon for a cool off. But I must say the Disney crew sure has everything under control; everything so well-organized and running like clockwork, as we said in the old days. Now with everyone relying on phones instead of clocks for keeping time, what new saying will arise? Running like phone-work just doesn’t have as nice a ring to it.

Before I left on my trip, I asked for comments to my post about my 250 milestone.  A prize would be given to a commenter chosen at random. There were a total of 14 comments to the two posts where I  said you would be in the running, so I have a random number chosen from 1-14 by the computer.

randomCommenter number 12 is Kathy T, our former guild president. She’ll get her prize from me at the June guild meeting next week. Thanks to all of you readers, and especially to the commenters. It helps a bit to know I’m not just talking to myself. Although I do that a lot too!

After being gone for a week, when the weather was great for growing here in WNY, the weeds have the upper hand in my garden. Last year’s cleome and morning glories spewed seeds which have rooted everywhere in the flower beds. Mulch is coming next week so the weeds have to be gone soon. Guess what I’ll be doing in my free moments instead of sewing.  TTFN!



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What to write about today?

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

How do I find something to write about nearly everyday? Strange how the mind works. Usually I’m just commenting on something I got in my e-mail or that has recently happened in “life”. For example…

In today’s e-mail I got my blurb from “The Quilt Show”, the Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims adventure. When they first put the show up to the web, I paid for a subscription so I could watch the videos like I used to enjoy Alex’s Simply Quilts show on HGTV. Now though I just do the free stuff, since there are so many free videos available all over the web. Today in the e-mail there is a slideshow of free patterns from Bonnie Hunter. In it you’ll see 2 of the blocks Bonnie will be teaching at the fall seminar for us: Boxy Stars and Pineapple Blossom. Also shown is the block I demoed at our recent quilt show: easy delectable mountains. Bonnie calls it scrappy Mountain Majesty. click here for the slideshow

Last night we had the Jim(?) and Wally show at guild meeting–two machine mechanics from a local quilt store talking about machine maintenance. I was amazed at how many of our members own featherweights! When Jim called  ladies up to show how to free motion quilt on a featherweight, nearly the entire audience went up! They took questions from the audience on a variety of machine care concerns. One member asked about having magnets near our machines. Both fellows said to keep the magnets away! Interesting because I had just read information to the contrary in the past day or two. This exact question came up on the message board at The Quilting and all of those who had chimed in said magnets today are not a problem. This is the link that one of the responders included to support her claim. click here for the opposing view  Just goes to show that even the “experts” don’t always agree. I keep the magnets in my sewing room (pin dishes mostly) away from the machine. Better safe than sorry I’m thinking. Another question of note: how often to change the needle? The answer boiled down to: more often than most of us do. You can usually hear it when the needle needs changing. Popping sounds as it pierces the fabric. Or you can see it when it needs to be changed. Poor stitch formation or skipped stitches.

Well the question for today–sewing or gardening? Gardening in light rain is not a bad thing. The transplants love it–no need for me to water them. The weeds come right out without a fight. Anybody else find that all of your garden edging heaved up this past winter and had to be completely redone this spring? I’m about 3/4 of the way around the yard and I must say the edges are looking better. I’m thinking though that it’s time to find a permanent sort of edging–river rocks or something. Of course if it rains as hard today as it has the past few days, the sewing machine will win. Actually I’m working on a second wreath sample for my seminar class, and it requires more hot glue than stitches. Tangled with some hot glue yesterday and have a blister to prove it. Maybe I’ll find some stitching to do instead. There’s always another project in the queue.

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looks too good to resist

Hello all, Mary Ellen again.

Was trying to catch up on my e-mail and blogs this morning and came across a photo of this recipe at Pat Sloan’s blog (our upcoming seminar teacher). (BTW have you signed up for your class yet? We’ll be mailing supply lists out soon, if you want to get yours the easy way please register this week!) Anyway this recipe really appealed to me. I have loads of fresh basil in the garden waiting for the right recipe, and have been overdosing on fresh spinach in my toss at salad bars. If you made your own bread crumbs from Fiber 1 cereal (click here), this could be a very WW friendly recipe.

Have a look at the photo and see if you can resist. click here. The text in the blog entry that goes with it is amusing too. I think the ingredients will definitely be on this week’s grocery list. Are there any other quilters out there like me, who like to eat more than to cook ? Hate to chop stuff up (that’s why I go nuts at a good salad bar) but love to enjoy the finished product. Let me know if you try this recipe out.

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what goes on in our heads?

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

I’ve been sitting here with my coffee watching the rain come down. It’s such a rarity these days. (NOT!) Actually I think I’m watching my grass grow. I missed my opportunity to mow yesterday and will now pay the price for procrastinating. That lawn will be too heavy to mulch it, so I’ll be emptying the mower bag repeatedly whenever I am able to get out there. I only have only garbage can which I dedicate to yard waste and my lawn will over fill it. I either need to mow more often, or buy another can. The compost bin is full so that will not be an option til I use more of it.  Oh well..this makes for a great day to sew!

I’m working on some fabric scarves from an Amy Butler pattern. She calls for voile but I’m using some regular quilting cotton from Art Gallery Fabrics. Their fabrics are luscious, in design and texture, but they are heavier than voile. So far I have adapted the pattern by making my scarves narrower. I wish our local shops would carry more of the unusual fabrics, such as the voile and home dec fabrics from these new designers. And way up at the top of my fabric wish list would be some Liberty cottons. I’m sure the owners have the dilemma that their customers don’t ask for them so they don’t carry them. But my response would be-how will your customers learn how superb those fabrics are to use if no one sells them? Hmmph! I guess that is where the internet comes in. Sadly there is little demand for our brick and mortar retailers to add those “unusual” fabrics to their inventories. In the “old days”, when I did quite a bit of garment sewing, I loved to purchase fabric off the beaten path. Raw silks, cashmere wools, Pendleton wools, rayon batiks, …  They made for great garments that no one else had. Often I could get them at sale prices, because not many sewers used them. Do you remember those days when sewing your own clothes was actually cheaper than buying them? Particularly for folks like me who had “champagne taste and a beer pocketbook” as my mom used to say.

I think I’m aging myself. Saw a great book at my local quilt shop yesterday full of funky garment patterns with very cute design elements. The fabric choices were so much fun. Sadly I think they would look much better on a younger woman who either has the body or the attitude to carry them off. I know I’ll be going back to that book every time I visit the shop. I’m going to keep thinking until I come up with a fabric combination that I think a woman of a certain age (my age!) could wear. Almost all of them require zipper insertions! It has been many moons since I’ve dealt with a zipper in a close fitting garment. I don’t wear close fitting any more. How about you? I subscribe to Gilda Radner’s fashion philosophy. Here are two of my favorite quotes from Gilda on this topic: I base my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” and “I sometimes stand in front of a mirror and change a million times because I know I really want to wear my nightgown.
A student shared this visual of what goes on in our heads that I think you’ll enjoy. I recognized most of the areas as being in my quilter’s brain. You too?

quilters brain

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there’s an app for that…

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

How many times has a tech savvy, usually younger, person said to you “you know, there’s an app for that”? Well here’s an app that you might find useful if you are one of those folks who collects apps like the rest of us collect fabric. It’s an app from Schmetz needles, that will tell you just about anything that you might need to know about sewing machine needles.

What size needle should I use with this fabric?  on the app

What kind of needle  for this project? on the app

What’s the difference between all these kinds of needles? on the app

I often get asked needle questions while making demonstrations or teaching classes and this app answers just about all of them. See what you think: click here.

I last wrote about the skirts I was making from the “Cute Skirts” pattern from Favorite Things. I have finished all three views of the skirt now and I love them all. I think I’ll be looking for some fabrics for other seasons of the year and I suppose that will mean tights or pantyhose (I just can’t do the bare legged thing with any shoes other than sandals!). I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve pulled on panty hose since I retired, and they weren’t happy occasions. I’m now working on visors to go with the summer outfits. My bosses found the pattern while they were at Quilt Market, and I’m trying it out. The first one was so easy, until I put the bias trim around the edge. Should have followed my hunches, instead of the pattern directions I think. I frogged stitched it while watching tv last evening (rip it, rip it!) and will be trying again shortly. I have made girly baseball caps for myself and my nieces in the past and used peltex for the brims. This pattern calls for Soft and Stable. It is light and firm and easy to work with. (This product reminds me of head liner like that used in a car’s ceiling. You can buy headliner by the yard at the big J store, but I have only seen Soft and Stable in specialty stores or online. I haven’t sewn with headliner in a really long time, so the next time I’m scrounging for something to use my 40% off coupon on, I’m going to re-visit the headliner and see how similar it is to the Soft and Stable, the color selections, price, etc. I’ll report back!) One clever thing about this visor pattern is the method the designer uses for closing the adjustable “tabs” at the back of your head. She uses curly shoelaces that don’t need to be tied. (I found them in black and white at Walmart, and in lots of colors at an online site.) I’m going to keep this clever closure idea in mind to use on other kinds of projects. So simple and easily adjustable. The designer is Annie Unrein, the same one behind the product called Texture Magic, that you might be familiar with. She has lots of free info at her website. Click here.

I’ve been attempting to catch up with the weeds in the garden, and fortunately (or not) Mother Nature has kept me from overdoing it by raining fairly regularly. I’m dividing perennials and using a limited (compared to my past history) number of annuals in the garden this year. I need to get some perennials that bloom later in the season. I think I buy the ones that are in bloom in the spring because they are so refreshing in the garden centers after a long winter that I can’t resist them. And I also seem to be a bit heavy on purple in the bloom colors. Gotta work on that too. Anyone want to trade plant divisions with me? I’ve got hosta varieties galore, sedums, perennial geraniums, lysimachias, astilbes, etc. Most of what I’d like to trade are plants for shade or part sun. I don’t really have any spots of full sun, other than where I stick the lettuce and tomato plants.

Heading off to the sewing room, TTFN!

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some new books

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

It is a beautiful morning here in the neighborhood-truly, not tongue in cheek this time. The canine and I had a great walk in the sunshine, and by the end I had taken off my gloves and hat. (whisper-I think spring is in the air) When we returned home, I took a circle around the garden in the spots that aren’t too squishy wet to see what’s up. It’s time to do some clean up of the parts I can reach from the paths–too early to walk on the beds. Don’t get overly anxious you gardeners out there. It’s not good to pack down the dirt walking on it too soon. Lots of leaves are in the beds from our Snyder trees-no matter how late the last fall raking occurs, more leaves come down after. The daffodils are looking great, the hellebores too. Starting to see bits of green on many of the perennials. Got to thinking of my nana and thought I should bring some forsythia inside to force. She always had branches of things in jars on her windowsills in early spring. She would force them into bloom, and then usually get them to root. They would be returned to the garden to expand the stock! I always think of her when I spot the first shrubs blooming. She had a flowering quince bush the size of a Volkswagen bug that was gorgeous every year. Haven’t seen one like it since.

I ordered some new quilt books for myself and they all arrived this week. Our blog discussions of modern quilting were the inspiration for these titles: 15 minutes of Play by Victoria Wolfe Findlay, Liberated Quiltmaking II by Gwen Marston, Modern Patchwork by Elizabeth Hartman, and not so modern Happy Trails:variations on the Classic Drunkard’s Path by Pepper Cory. I think my favorite is Victoria’s book. Her outlook on the process and her love of scraps are transmitted so clearly. She shares her love for her grandmother’s scrappy crazy style quilts that inspires her own style today. I’d love for us to have Victoria at a seminar in the future. I think both traditional and “modern” quilters would enjoy her. Great book for the guild library. I don’t own Gwen’s first Liberated book but I have seen many quilts in its style. Very fun way to work. Jackie G’s seminar class this year is a child of Gwen’s technique. Both of these authors have a tempered disregard for rules that the Quilt Police might want to enforce about the use of color and color placement, precision of points, placement of grain. And that disregard makes for some great quilts. Both authors intersperse reflections on their point of view and creative process throughout the pattern directions.

Surprisingly the 12 patterns in Elizabeth’s book  are noticeably more structured than Victoria and Gwen’s. The piecing is more complex (lots of pieces requiring precision matching, and quite a bit of curved piecing) than her first book introduced. But that is what she was aiming for–the subtitle of her book is “12 quilts to take you beyond the basics”.  I feel the first book (which I also own) was for the young woman, just joining the ranks of quilters, who wanted to make pretty things from fresh fabrics in a somewhat “Pottery Barn” style. Now she has some basic skills and can “take it up a notch”.  Elizabeth does have more construction knowledge than some of  the other modern style designers whose patterns I’ve read.  I don’t always agree with the methods she chooses, but then I seldom follow a pattern the way its written. I notice that some of the newer pattern designers do things in “old school” ways; perhaps after they’ve been at it as long as some of us have, they’ll come to the streamlined methods we have developed over many years of quilting. (That really sounds snooty, doesn’t it?) I do really like Elizabeth’s style and will make a couple of these quilts. The patterns she includes for the pieced backs are as nice as the fronts! They can be quilts on their own, but what fun surprises to turn over your quilt and find some piecing similar to the front. Also great for those times when you have muddy paw prints on the front of the couch quilt and want to give the quilt an Irish wash because company’s coming. (Ask me about my mom’s explanation of that expression.)

Pepper Cory’s book is a reprint of an oldie but goodie. The original copyright date is 1991! I’m getting into the Drunkard’s Path block these days. I have recently come upon a circle ruler from Creative Grids that makes cutting very accurate circles a breeze. The secret to painless(relatively speaking) curved piecing, in my humble opinion, is correct cutting and accurate seaming. Once you’ve got those under control, blocks like the one which is the basis of the Drunkard’s Path are easy to sew. And you have so many layout options, for quilts which look much more complex than they really are, that you can have fun for days coming up with your own designs. These new rulers and gadgets that come out so frequently these days are helping to make blocks, that used to require templates and hand piecing, achievable on the machine.

Have you purchased any new books or patterns lately that you can tell us about? With the price of them so high these days, we should share our opinions. If you’re willing to share some reviews, I’ll archive them here for others to check out before purchasing. I’m off to work on a quilt from a Pam and Nicky Lintott jelly roll book–a mom and daughter team who’ve written several very good books on using precuts. Pretty quilts, well written patterns that you can count on to have no mistakes, which is a rarity!


Filed under "modern" quilting, antique quilts, gadgets, gardening, quilt books

twofer Tuesday

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

If you love making purses and bags, I’ll bet you would enjoy following this Purse-palooza 2012. Reviews of patterns, giveaways, etc. Try this link.

Remember when Darlene Zimmerman visited us not too long ago? Gave a lecture at a meeting and class the next day. She has been designing quilting tools for 20 years for EZ quilting and a celebration is underway. I have her Dresden Plate ruler which I have used many times, not always for dresdens. It works great as a tumbler template too. Here’s a link to a challenge, with goal to use that ruler, that is running through the summer. Great prizes to be awarded. If you’re working on a dresden, or want ideas for one, here’s a great inspiration blog hop to follow. Perhaps you’ll want to enter the contest-perhaps just use it as eye candy. It has only been underway for a few days-already am loving the ideas shown. The dresden plates made from striped fabric are calling me.

Going out to plant a few more hanging baskets and containers. Good day since it’s not raining-at least not now!


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Adding to the Fabulous Friday…

Hi everyone,

I think Fabulous Friday is not bad at all! 🙂 Or at least that could be the first part of it?

Anyway…I have couple of surprise-extra hours here at work , can you believe it? (well that’s enough for me to make  Friday fabulous, lol!) Its just that normally we have a lab meeting on Fridays from 10 to noon and today’s one got cancelled- me not knowing about that, came to work early to set all the experiments ahead of time…and voila! – some free time!

So while checking my email, in the newsletter from Better Homes and Gardens (highly recommend that one!!) I found this – and since we are all in the gardening mode now I had to share:

Isn’t this cool?! A nice bench made from just cinder blocks, with so many “extras”! Love the idea of planting some herbs or flowers right in it!

As it is shown, it might be a bit “rough around the edges” for my taste, but with a full tutorial on how to make this, I can add all kinds of “bells and whistles” – like nice cushions, maybe even paint that concrete… And there is a photo of how to do a chair, and table…just really fun!

The web site is also quite full of different ideas on how to re-purpose many things – something to bookmark for sure!

NOTE: for some reason normal way of imbedding links is not working now…so here is the link that you can copy-and-paste:

I just might have to try this one…

Have a fabulous Friday and a whole weekend,


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Fabulous Friday

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

Marija and I have a flexible agreement about posting-not a schedule exactly but Monday is her day and Friday is mine. Just an easy arrangement to make sure that at least twice a week, something will get posted here. So far we have had no problems keeping up the flow of “information” to you, but if we ever don’t have something to say (LOL), we each have a once per week assignment!

Since Friday is my day, I’ve wondered if I should come up with a theme for the Friday posts, and perhaps a catchy title. I know, “Fabulous Friday” doesn’t really do it for me either. I’m hoping you’ll help me come up with something.

I might have written about this website, Colourlovers, at our previous blog. I really enjoy exploring there when I have time to spend. It is designed for all lovers of colors and is organized to easily explore. The patterns and palettes that members come up with are very inspiring, and are a great resource for all crafters. You also can get a heads up on trending in all things colorful-fashion, fabric, home decor, …  I’m thinking about painting a room and need some ideas for my favorite color-blue-which isn’t just same old/same old. I have found several ideas that I like using my favorite shades of blue mixed with other colors that wouldn’t have occurred to me. If I go with blue, that will make every room in my house some shade of blue. Maybe that’s too much??

I’m beginning to get the gardener’s itch to put in some of my seeds for annuals. Risky this early. I have to remember that this warm weather is an anomaly–the hard frosts mixed in this spring have slapped the hands of a few eager gardeners in my neighborhood. Tender annuals turned to mush with overnight temps in the 20’s last week. I’m pretty sure I could risk the peas and lettuce. They’ll take cooler temps and I can just throw a tarp over their beds if frost threatens. That means I need to move the perennials that are in the spot I have in mind for my new veggie bed. Ah yes a garden is never finished–and have we ever made our final quilt?

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a bit shady

Hi Y’all, Mary Ellen again.

Shady #1: The huge tree I wrote about a few posts back has been down for about a week now. A friend has been busy cutting up the majority of it for firewood. He’s down to the huge parts of the lower trunk now, so work has slowed down. You can imagine how much saw dust has been generated. My dog thinks it is a great cushy mattress and has enjoyed laying in it. His fur is the soft fine type, to which sawdust just loves to cling. Hence lots of sawdust has come into the house. I spent some time yesterday cleaning up what the loose sawdust I could-not easy because of the rain of late making it heavy and clingy. I was surprised how heavy and dense wet sawdust is-had to fill the paper lawn bags only part way full. They got to be too heavy to move quickly. I thought with the tree down, creating less shade, that the area of the yard which used to be shaded by this tree would dry up more quickly but not so far anyway. I had planned to put some plants that can take more sun into the beds near there, but I guess I’d better hold off on that decision til I see how it goes. Kind of like choosing the fabrics for the quilt block, better results when you actually put the real fabrics side by side, than when you plan it on the computer.

Shady #2 I’ve just about finished quilting the table topper I mentioned in my last post. I chose the fat quarters I would need for two toppers and had jotted down where I planned to use each fabric in the topper.  In my first one I used a lime/poison green tone on tone, which I thought would be the fabric to really stand out, in what the designer called the “dark” position. In the completed top, the green doesn’t stand out as dramatically as I had hoped. So…in my second version I made a few changes to my original plan. There is now a dark purple in that position-not what I had jotted down in my notes. Playing with the colors is part of the fun isn’t it? When they’re both complete, I’ll post the photos and you can decide what you think.

Shady #3 Would you like a quick tutorial on the shaded 4 patch? The piecing of the tops went very quickly, using the Billie Lauder trick. I can’t imagine why the designer chose to cut 5 triangles, with their stretchy bias edges!

I see the sun coming out–maybe the flower beds will dry out. Although the damp soil made the dandelion harvest in the curb lawn much easier. As pretty as the flowers are-they’ve gotta go!

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