Weekend Goals and Craftsy Sale

Once again, I have the pleasure of a largely unscheduled weekend in front of me. I'm treasuring these because they are about to end. Next weekend I'm home, but I leave the following Monday for my summer board meetings and national conferences (work). I get home the 27th, have a week at home, then head to Boston for my August classes. And we all know what happens after that--back to assignments, papers, reading, work travel, and no more free weekends for awhile. 

So my goal is to get the Annie Unrein Ultimate Travel Bag done this weekend--or at least enough done that I can do the finishing touches in the evenings next week. I'd really like to be able to take this with me on my work trip.

I've got the class for this one so fingers crossed.

Join me? Craftsy is having a 50% off sale on some of their top classes this weekend! 


And yes, I'm still plugging away at that binding. Still feel like I have miles to go. We're running out of episodes of Stargate: Atlantis...


(Using Craftsy links in this post helps support my podcast and blog. Thank you!)

Post-4SI Weekend Accomplishments

On the spur of the moment, we U.S. #Twilters declared this past weekend #4SI--in other words, the 4th of July Sew In. Most people were out and about with friends and family for the weekend so there wasn't a ton of activity online, but it was still, as always, fun to keep up with one another. 

So here's what I got done with some mammoth (for me) sewing sessions on Saturday and Sunday:

Catch-All Caddy--done! I'll post a separate blog entry about this one. It was a thing. Although it wasn't as much a thing as the Everything in Its Place Bag or the Cosmetics Bag. But still. A thing.


Designs stabilized and traced for Postcard Cuties Halloween embroidery BOM for months one and two--done! Just in time, too, as we got the email today that month three is on its way. (Yeah, I know, you can't see much in the pictures, but really--they're all done!)


Design traced for Nouveau Witch--partly done. I've got the linen background cut, pressed (which took some doing--it is linen, after all), and stabilized. I haven't gotten the tracing done yet. See above. By the time I got all that done my neck needed a break from looking down so I put off tracing the witch for another day. No pics yet since it's just, well, a piece of linen. 

And gravy: I did get the second snowman embroidered. Just need to get him fitted with his hat, sewn together, and stuffed. I'll post a pic of him when he's totally done. Not that he looks much different from the other guy.

Binding on Jacob's Ladder--not done yet. By the time I got done working on that caddy every day my shoulders, neck, and hands were whining at me so I didn't push it. I'm working on it this week, though. Although I got the BOM embroidery designs traced I'm not letting myself start embroidering them until I get that binding finished, dang it.

Basically--woo for me--I got everything done I wanted to get done! 

I don't have much going on this coming weekend, either, so I am already starting to think through what I might focus on accomplishing. I think I'm hearing Annie Unrein call my name again...

(Craftsy links help support my podcast and blog--thank you!)

Pre-Long-Weekend Progress and Plans

Ooh. I love alliteration.

I do find it helpful to state boldly--sometimes rashly and foolishly--all those things I seriously think I could actually get done over a weekend. And then at the end of the weekend, I generaly look back and say with some sheepishness, "Well, at least I got this one little thing done. That's something."

Here in the U.S. it's the 4th of July weekend. For many of us, that means we have Monday off. I also had slightly-early-dismissal today (Friday). Even though it was only about 90 minutes early, it still feels like a nice way to get a head-start on the weekend.

We'd originally planned to have people over Monday but as it turns out, we're going to be meeting my son for breakfast and then maybe going to Genesee Country Museum for their festivities (including a swearing in ceremony of new citizens--always a highlight). Since we're not actually having people over and I don't have to prep for a party, that means woo! Sewing time the rest of the weekend!

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First: I plan on finishing the Catch-All Caddy.

It's been in this state since last weekend. That does actually represent good progress made last weekend, but obviously it wouldn't catch or caddy much in its current state.


Also: I plan on getting the binding done on the Jacob's Ladder. 

Miles. I have miles to go. But our family is in the midst of a Stargate Atlantis binge so I've been to working on this all week while watching the Atlantis crew fight off the Wraith. Here's to hoping we watch enough TV the rest of the weekend that I've got it done by Monday!


Finally: I'd really like to get started on putting together the first blocks of my embroidery BOM. 

I want to finish the little Christmas snowman guy I'm working on before starting the embroidery on this one, and I will get back to him once I get the binding done. (He's a "handwork in front of the TV" project.) But I need sewing room time to get the blocks for the BOM together and prepped for embroidery so I'd like to do that this weekend when I have more hours in the day available to me. 

By the way, I've also started thinking through my other new Halloween embroidery project. So that's a possible other endeavor this weekend, depending on time. 

Thanks to Trisha who turned me onto Urban Threads (see the Quilting for the Rest of Us Facebook page for that conversation), I bought a really wonderful Art Nouveau Witch design. Love Art Nouveau. This Halloween design is seriously classy and SO right up my alley. I've pulled out my tracing paper and colored pencils and am starting to think through thread choices. I printed a picture of an Alfonse Mucha painting to use for color inspiration. (Mucha's a fave.) I might toss into the weekend schedule a trip to an LQS that I recall having some great Art Nouveau/Art Deco/William Morris fabrics to see if I can find some borders I could use on her and blend that with color inspiration from the Mucha painting. I did find some pretty nifty possible border fabric from Fat Quarter Shop but really don't need/want an entire half a yard of it, so I want to see what I can get at an LQS first. Unfortunately, said LQS is about 45 minutes away so it would take a big chunk of sewing time out of Saturday, so we'll see what I feel like when I get up tomorrow morning.

So, let's see what happens this weekend, shall we?

Post-weekend progress and errata

I got a lot done this weekend, but I also realized I had two designers confused when I wrote a blog post and spoke on my podcast episode (posted yesterday).

The Christmas ornament embroidery I'm working on is Lynette Anderson Designs. She's from Australia.

The Postcard Cuties for Halloween Block of the Month I'm doing is Bunny Hill Designs. She's not from Australia. She's from the U.S. 

I've fixed the BOM blog post to note the error. I can't fix the podcast episode in which I think I said both projects were Lynette Anderson. Apparently I had too relaxing a weekend and my brain just stopped working altogether. Sorry about that!

Meanwhile, I did make progress!

1. I got the label affixed and the binding put on the front of the Jacob's Ladder quilt. I then got about 36" of the binding hand-stitched to the back while watching Stargate Atlantis (our current summer viewing fun). I haven't done the math to figure out how many inches I have left to go on that hand-stitching. Too depressing. I'm just enjoying the zen.

By the way, tried a new method for keeping the binding organized while sewing it on--I've seen this as a tip in a few places, and it really works! 

If you've got two thread spindles on your machine, roll up the binding and put it on one of them. I was concerned it would get tangled with the thread but it never did--I just kept a bit of an eye on it to make sure. 


2. I made progress on the Catch-all Caddy.

Trust me--that's a lot of progress. 


3. I got the first of the two Christmas ornaments completely done. The second is now on hold until I get that binding done.

He's kinda cute. His button hat is a little off in this picture (you shouldn't see the end of the stitching on the one side) but I just twitch it with my finger and it goes back into place. 

A point of slight interest on the stuffing: I bought myself a meditation cushion a few weeks ago as none of the cushions in my house were the right height/firmness. That puppy was rock hard when I got it, so I kept pulling out more and more stuffing until it got to a comfortable firmness I could handle for meditation sessions. The stuffing is 100% cotton fiber--beautifully smooth and soft, actually. I kept all the stuffing I was pulling out in a bag and stashed it in my sewing room. Came in handy for this! I've still got plenty left--can stuff more little fun things like this, of course, but some may also eventually make it down to my dye studio. I think it would be fun to play with. Way to re-purpose!

So--all of this progress, plus time poolside, a Saturday afternoon nap, and lunch with a friend, adds up to a really wonderful weekend. Ready for the week ahead!

Pre-weekend progress


By working in fits and starts this week (where does that phrase come from, anyway?), I've gotten all the cutting done for the Catch-All Caddy. The blue fabric is very old (inherited from Mom, no idea how long it had been on her shelves) and has been washed several times so even though I used Mary Ellen's Best Press with abandon, it's still a little squidgy. Fortunately it's my accent fabric and mostly used as trim so I don't think think the squidginess* will be a problem.  

Nothing much on the calendar this weekend right now except taking the Doofus to the vet on Saturday to figure out why he's lost fur in a patch on his shoulders (fortunately, he doesn't seem bothered by it), so I plan on spending plenty of time in my sewing room.  


  • Get binding and label on Jacob's Ladder quilt
  • Get Catch-All Caddy at least partway done
  • Finish embroidering the two little Christmas projects I started last weekend.  

I'm keeping my goals reasonable. I have a lot more in my head that I'd LOVE to get done but I always over-expect and under-deliver, so here's for trying to keep my feet firmly grounded in reality... 

*auto-correct did not like this word. "Squid news" was it's replacement of choice. I'm not up on the latest squid news, are you?

Pretty Mail (AKA: Like I Really Have Time for This)

BOM bag.jpg

Yesterday I got the first couple of installments of the embroidery Block of the Month (BOM) that I signed up for at The Quilt Block, Inc., when I was in Exton, PA, in April. Woot!

I ended up getting month 1 and 2 at the same time due to some delays around getting my payment info to them, etc., which is part of the fun-tricky part of doing a LQS BOM from a distance. Still, we worked it out, and it's all good. It was a kick getting a box filled with goodies!


The BOM is "Postcard Cuties for Halloween," from Bunny Hill Designs. My package included all sorts of great stuff to get me rolling!

Even candy corn for a mid-project sugar fix!



There's a jelly roll of fabrics to work with--Moda's Spooky Delights by Bunny Hill Designs.

As you can see if you use the link for the whole project above, ultimately this finishes to a 38" x 36" finished wallhanging. To date, I've never made a Halloween quilted decor item of any kind, although I do have a few patterns I've collected over the years. As I told my daughter yesterday when she was admiring my pretty mail with me, this isn't my usual style. But even if I don't love it when it's done, it would only be hanging up for, at most, a couple of weeks a year. (More likely, the way I usually forget to decorate until the last moment, a couple of days a year.) 

I do the cutting for each block as I work on them, and it looks like I can choose which fabric I want to use each time, so that'll be fun too. The only thing I'm a little worried about is whether I'd end up with two fabrics sitting next to each other in the finished wallhanging (which would bug me no end) so I may end up, for simplicity's sake, just following her picture. That's not normally like me, either, but much of the time I'll be working on this I'll be deeply enmeshed in work travel and schoolwork again and won't want to unduly stress myself out for what's supposed to be a fun project.

I know my limits.



The package also included some Tulip embroidery needles. This is a Japanese brand made in Hiroshima. According to the packaging, they're made in such a way as to make them slide more easily through the fabric. I bought some Tulip needles when I was at the shop but I made the mistake of opening the package and dumping them into my usual magnetic needle case with all the rest, so I have no idea now which is which to compare. I'll keep these needles separate with this project to make it easier for me to get a feel for them.


And then there's the embroidery thread--everything I'll need for the project. This is Cosmo embroidery floss, another product from Japan. I noticed that it's also sold on the Bunny Hill Designs website so she must be a fan of this floss; hence, it's use in her project. 

I'm not familiar with Cosmo, but since it's from Japan, and since Bunny Hill Designs is Australian, I'm thinking maybe Cosmo is more common in Australia...? Any of my Australian/New Zealander buddies want to comment on that? I'm looking forward to using it to compare it with DMC and the other threads I'm used to working with. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Error here--sorry. I had Bunny Hill Designs and Lynette Anderson Designs mixed up in my head. Bunny Hill is not in Australia, Lynnette Anderson is. So Australian/New Zealanders would have no more reason to be familiar with Cosmo thread than I do!


And just to be extra nice, they included a water soluble marking pen. I already use this type and really like it, so I'm glad to have another!


Month 1 will be fun--I get to start out embroidering bats. Woot! I need to make five bat blocks altogether, but it's a really simple design so I don't think it'll take too long. I will have to practice my satin stitch a little more--I've not gotten that one really smooth yet and it's used for the bats' eyes. The bats are scattered throughout the finished wallhanging on that orange dot fabric included with the package. The official first block includes a cat and spider (on the off-white background). It's got a little more going on, especially in the satin stitch department. If I'm not good at that satin stitch now, I will be by the time this puppy is finished!


Month 2 is another cat block with some lettering. That one is simple enough that again, it should go pretty quickly. (I know, I know: "Famous last words.")

Month 3 comes in July, but I do have a few other projects I really ought to get done before starting on this so I may end up with Month 3 arriving before I've managed to get both 1 and 2 done. I'm determined not to fall too far behind, though!

I'm thinking I may have found the ultimate use for the Annie Unrein toiletries bag--I feel like it would be the perfect project bag for this BOM. It would easily hold all the supplies, so it's just a matter of what size hoop I'll need for the blocks. I'll keep you posted...

Just a little embroidery fun

My guild had a sew day today and although I didn't feel like I could be gone an entire day, I put together a quick embroidery project I've wanted to get at for awhile and stopped by for about an hour or so. It was long enough to get my social fix with my quilty peeps and it was good motivation to finally get these little puppies underway.

I have two identical little kits that I picked up at one of my LQS a few months back. It's from Lynette Anderson's Sweet Christmas Ornaments patterns. There are 12 designs in all and you can choose to make a wallhanging out of them or use them individually as ornaments. I think I bought these right after Christmas and they only had a few of this one design displayed. It's possible they'd started out with the whole set but sold out of most of them before Christmas. I didn't mind picking up two of the same: I thought they'd make nice last-minute gifts and/or I'll keep one/give one, or something. Undecided. The kit came with the design, fabric strips and squares to trim to size, and a wooden hat button. I'm using my own floss. 

I got both of them sewn together and traced before heading to the sew day, then I got partway through the embroidery on one of them while I was there. It's been so long since I've touched my embroidery that I had to re-start my stem stitch three times because I totally blanked on how to get myself going. Once I worked that out, though, it was a relaxing hour just hanging out with my friends and doing some simple stitching. 


Another finish! A New Travel Accessory

Probably not a surprise, given how much I travel, I've been hankering after some updated travel accessories of late. I've been using a jewelry roll that I bought from Etsy a few years back and I really liked it at first. But over the years my necklaces have shifted to bigger, clunkier, heavier things that refused to stay neatly corralled when it was rolled and were always trying to make a break for it out the ends. I began a search for a jewelry roll pattern with pockets that would keep everything more together and was so pleased to find such a thing in a jewelry roll pattern by ModKid/Patty Young Designs on Craftsy. Perfect!

The inside has one lined zipper pocket, four pockets on one panel (two tall, two shorter), and two tall pockets on the third panel. The button straps at the top are mostly for rings but I don't wear any other than my wedding/engagement rings and those puppies never come off. (Not even sure they could at this point; been wearing them nigh on 30 years). However, it's nice to be able to just slip the necklaces on without having to unhook them, and then button everything back down again.

(Photo gallery below will automatically forward, or use forward/back buttons on the sides. If viewing this in a feed reader or by email, the gallery may not appear; you may need to view it on my blog.)

 True confessions: I broke two needles doing the last topstitching as I hit some really thick seams (should've had a denim needle on hand, I guess), but other than that, and the fact that I had re-learn how to use my buttonhole feature on my machine, and I also had to learn how to do a different type of zipper pocket on this one...it all went pretty dang well!

Plus, I got to use up some cute fabric that hadn't found a purpose yet. Looking forward to this jewelry roll becoming a travel companion for the next several years

Finally! A finish that's been a long time a-comin'...

Remember oh-so-long ago when I started Annie Unrein's Travel Organizers class on Craftsy? Remember that I did actually finish the Everything in It's Place bag and post my class review back in the yesteryear? Remember how I mentioned in that review that it would probably "take me six months" to get the second bag done?


At least it's not a full year. Not quite. I'm about three weeks shy of a full calendar--which is, in this case, very similar to being a few cards short of a full deck.

Ah well, it's done. There was a bit of cussing, a couple of broken needles, some major surgery and a mulligan on a whole section of it, then finally just bagging any idea of something I'd be happy with other people seeing when I then messed up exactly the same part the second time and just moving on so I could get 'er done.

This puppy ain't making it to show n' tell at guild. It's definitely a note in the category of "I learned a lot, and mostly I learned I'm never making this stinkin' cosmetics bag pattern again." This is not an Annie-Unrein-Pattern problem. This is all in my execution. And this was a particularly challenging project for someone with my fairly newbie status when it comes to sewing accessories like this.

It actually mostly went swimmingly until the very end. I was extremely optimistic, indeed. And then the whole project went pear-shaped, to make the whole experience sound far too gentle and sweet, in the last couple of steps. The binding is my Waterloo, as it turns out. And Annie sure is fond of her binding--inside and out. I had similar problems with the EIIP bag binding, but this one took those problems and magnified them to the nth degree.

The first little snafu was with the webbing that goes in the handle. I'd had an early piece completely shred on me so I'd had to cut a second piece, which then meant the remainder was a bit too short for the piece it was to be used in. So I had to "franken-webbing" the unshredded part of the discarded webbing back to the longer piece. I tried zig-zagging it together. 

It felt strong enough, but as I was pulling it through the fabric casing the ends shredded again and the whole thing fell apart--which subsequently required about 10 minutes of fishing to get the short end back out of the middle of the fabric tube.

Fortunately, I happened to be on a Google Hangout sew-in hosted by the Stitch crew and got some good advice for options. The one that worked (I believe maybe originally from Nancy Zeiman?) was to wrap a piece of scrap fabric around it and then stitch the fabric to the webbing. Beautiful. Although, by the way, I learned that webbing--made from nylon which wasn't really on my radar--hardens into a tough plastic mess when you accidentally hit it with an iron. (Fortunately, I was able to clean up the iron.)

And then everything was fine for a few more steps (representing a few more hours). And then I got to the binding. Oh well. It's done.

Here's the outside, all hooked up. 

The fabric is a batik that had been given to me as a thank-you gift when I did a speaking engagement in ...where? Can you guess? Yep, Kansas, the Sunflower State. I've held onto it for a few years to try to find the right project for it. I thought it would be fitting to have a travel bag for work made from a gift received through work. And it still is--even if no one ever actually sees this thing. I won't be sending them pictures. 


And here's the inside in all its four-pocket glory.

Strangely, that pouch pocket on the bottom didn't really give me any problem at all. Nor did the vinyl pockets, since I've now got my handy-dandy Teflon foot (or, in the Janome world, the Ultra-Glide). Yep, if you're going to work with vinyl, that is well worth the purchase. My Ultra-Glide foot just skated right over that vinyl with no problem whatsoever. If only I'd just bitten the bullet and bought it when I was working on the EIIP bag. Life would've been much easier!

However, getting the binding on around that same darn pouch pocket was a real... ahem. This is a family blog. There will be none of that language here, young lady.

Now, the real question is--will I really use this when I travel? The jury is out on that. I'm going away with my husband on vacation next week and we're driving so, in that instance, yes, I'll take it for a spin. Luggage space isn't really an issue. 

However, for air travel? Probably not so much. Pam of Hip to Be a Square made this bag awhile back and told me she had problems traveling with it because the hook on the top is too small to hang on the clothing hooks on the back of hotel bathroom doors, which is what you're supposed to do with a toiletries/cosmetics bag like this. So that's kind of a pain.

Of bigger concern is the overall size. Here's a comparison photo with my usual L.L. Bean (well-worn) toiletries bag.

Compared to a bag that I already sometimes have difficulty finding room for in my suitcase, the Annie Unrein bag is a bit of a behemoth. I like to travel really light. In fact, when I'm only gone a couple of days I don't even bother with the L.L. Bean bag--I just use a zippered pouch or two and use as many hotel-provided toiletries as possible.

So the jury's out on how useful this new cosmetics bag will be. I strongly suspect I'll find some other use for it--like as another embroidery project bag or something like that. As long as it's something that doesn't have to appear in public, I'm good.

But it's done. And sometimes, done is even better than not-particularly-good, let alone perfect.

Craftsy Class Review: Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot with Jacquie Gering

I'm back to the machine quilting classes again. I know, you've seen me take a lot of them. But I do always get some new ideas and a few tips and tricks to help make it a little easier!

Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot with Jacquie Gering would make an excellent class for a beginner in machine quilting, with the caveat that she doesn't spend a whole lot of time on some of the basics. She does address machine features that are helpful, and she does talk about basting. I've been machine quilting for too long now to be able to judge how easy it would be to learn how to machine quilt from scratch with this class, but I think it would be possible. 

The designs themselves are quite straightforward, as you would expect with a walking foot. I was personally able to watch most of the classes on faster speeds as I was watching for things I didn't already know. I did pick up a few tips for being more successful at some of the walking foot quilting I have already done. It was useful, though, for getting some new ideas.

Since I'm working on the cosmetics bag for the Annie Unrein class, and I needed to quilt some of the components that go into the bag, I took the opportunity to nail two Craftsy classes with a single project.

I've used painter's tape in the past to mark lines so doing it here a la Jacquie Gering wasn't new for me. What was new was doing a second strip as a "registration" line. You use the first line (in this case, the one in the middle) to run the side of your walking foot along to keep your line straight--the registration line is handy as you begin to echo your first line to one side or the other; now you have a second line to eyeball too. That was a useful little tip.

For the first Annie Unrein bag I made (the Everything in Its Place bag), I quilted the units with a meander stitch. That worked really well for the bag but in hindsight I probably should've done a much tighter meander as I ran into problems occasionally along the edges as I was piecing--in some cases there were gaps between meanders on the edge and the fabric was pulling away from the batting a little as I pieced two units together. It wasn't a huge issue--just required some attention. But having had that experience, this time I decided that one of Jacquie Gering's suggestion of using the curvy decorative stitch on my machine might be just the ticket.

I like the way it looks. I hated how stinkin' long it took to do. Two quilted pieces, neither all that big, took me about 2 1/2 hours all in. Not only do you have to go slower when doing decorative stitches on a walking foot (as Gering says repeatedly in the class), I was using a 28 weight thread and if I got going too fast, it shredded. I finally turned the speed on my machine down to keep me from getting bored and hitting the pedal to the floor. I can't even begin to imagine using a stitch like that on a whole quilt. She must have far greater patience than I do.

Gering offers good ideas on choosing designs for various types of quilts and even though, again, because I've been doing this awhile I was already familiar with most of the designs, I did pick up some ideas for future quilts. Also, she's a very good, thorough teacher.

 This definitely a good class for anyone new to machine quilting to give a try. It's also good for experienced machine quilters if you've never thought of your walking foot for anything other than stitching in the ditch. Gering has a second Craftsy class on the same topic, Next Steps with Your Walking Foot, if you really get into it. I don't own that one so I can't speak to it, but I imagine it would be equally good.

The Basics

  • 8 lessons, ranging from 18 to 40 minutes (most are around 25 minutes). 
  • Lesson 1 discusses helpful features to have on your sewing machine for machine quilting, as well as a brief overview of how to prepare your quilt sandwich
  • Lesson 2 goes into the walking foot itself in detail. She also addresses straight line (matchstick), crosshatch and grid quilting.
  • Lesson 3  through 6 are different families of design: using decorative stitches, radiating designs, curves, spirals, echoes.
  • Lesson 7 is about quilting text--a slightly different technique than I've seen before and one I'd like to try
  • Lesson 8 is quilting strategies--supporting large quilts, etc., as well as the all-important "ripping out stitches." She does also include some discussion here about choosing quilting designs.

Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot with Jacquie Gering--worth your while!

(Transparency: Using Craftsy links in this post helps support my podcast and blog. Thank you!) 


Craftsy Class Review: Slow-Cooker Savvy with Michele Scicolone

For awhile there, the only Craftsy classes I had time to do were the cooking ones. After all, a girl's gotta eat even in the midst of writing papers! That being said, this is another class I finished awhile back while snow was still on the ground.

Let me clarify, since we had snow on the ground well into April. I finished Slow-Cooker Savvy: Make Your Best Meals with Michele Scicolone in early February. Just the [normal] season for slow-cookers. Nothing like smelling your dinner cooking all day long when the snow is falling outside your window. (Although by mid-April even the smell of dinner couldn't make me feel any better about that snow. But I digress.)

This was a good class, and I tried several of the recipes out of it. I do have to give you fair warning, though: These are not your typical "dump it in, turn up the dial, walk away" recipes. Some of them take a fair amount of work either before the slow-cooker does its job or after. The Beef and Beer Stew, for example, took me about half an hour to get everything ready just to go in the slow-cooker. (That also didn't turn out to be my favorite recipe, but you may enjoy it.)


I made her White Beans with Sage recipe, although I didn't have any sage so I did thyme and rosemary instead. I used them as a side dish with some other ingredients here and there over a period of days. I intend to use the techniques again with a variety of other beans as I like the idea of having beans on hand to use in other ways.


The Peking Chicken recipe was quite good. My husband even liked it, which is saying something since he approaches any slow-cooked meal with suspicion, plus I used the chicken thighs the recipe called for and he is not a fan of dark meat. This recipe is definitely a keeper. (That being said, I may do chicken breasts next time to cut him some slack.)


For me, the Beef and Beer Stew recipe, maybe not so much of a keeper. I've got other stew recipes I like better. Still, there are several other recipes in this class that I'm looking forward to trying, now that I have time to cook again. (Even the "dump and cook" recipes take too long when I'm on the road more than I'm home!) For example, there's a pulled pork recipe that's intriguing--I want to try it out to see if it beats my others. Hmmm. Maybe this weekend--more time for sewing if the slow-cooker is working for me!

Michele Scicolone is a polished instructor and has written twenty cookbooks--if you dig this class, you can pick up some of her cookbooks and have all sorts of slow-cooked recipes in your repertoire.

The first lesson talks about the varieties of slow-cookers on the market, and gives pros and cons to several of them. I already own three slow-cookers of varying sizes and after watching this lesson, I've started thinking about getting a fourth for some of the very handy features I don't have on any of the others. She also shares some cautions about using older slow-cookers, such as ones you might find at a garage sale. Michele goes through safety concerns and caring for your slow-cooker, as well as how to calibrate the temperature settings.

The rest of the classes walk through different types of meats, side dishes, and "fast slow-cooking" (frittata and creme caramel). In each, she not only talks about the one recipe used to show the technique but also shares substitutions and basic information about considerations you need to keep in mind for cooking that particular type of food using this method.

I don't tend to use my slow-cooker as much in the summer, for some reason, but I think this class may make me adjust my usual habits. After all, there are some great summer salads using beans, and a frittata would be a nice brunch dish. Something to consider, anyway!

The Basics

  • 7 lessons ranging from 16 to 30 minutes
  • Lesson 1 is an introduction and includes lots of fantastic information about slow-cookers
  • Lesson 2 is cooking a whole chicken (which includes good information about how volume affects cooking)
  • Lessons 3-5 are various types of meet: chicken pieces, beef, lamb, and pork
  • Lesson 6 is side dishes--mashed potatoes, beans, and polenta
  • Lesson 7 is "fast slow-cooking," including an egg dish (frittata) and a creme caramel. 
  • The class materials include a brief list of some of the slow-cookers she talks about in the class, as well as 12 recipes. 

I did find Slow-Cooker Savvy: Make Your Best Meals with Michele Scicolone very helpful. Recommended!

(Transparency: Using Craftsy links in this post help support my podcast and blog. Thank you!)

Craftsy Class Review: The New Chicken Dinner with Ian Knauer

Time to kick in with the Craftsy class reviews again! This one will make you hungry (unless you're a vegetarian like my daughter: sorry!). If you're a carnivore and are looking for better ways to cook chicken, you really need to check out The New Chicken Dinner with Ian Knauer. I finished this class a few months ago but it's one that I definitely keep going back to the well on. In fact, I just did the rotisserie-style roast chicken again last week (pictured below) and am likely to do it again in the next few days. It's probably become my favorite way to do a roast chicken now. 

For the most part, Knauer addresses fairly common techniques for chicken but he teaches different approaches that just have wonderful results. The rotisserie-style chicken (lesson 2) is really the best dang roast chicken I've ever had, and I've made a lot of roast chicken a lot of different ways! It's incredibly moist with a wonderful crispy skin.... Huh. I may make it for myself for dinner tonight even though no one else will be home. It's pretty easy to do and you can change up the flavors of his recipe really easily.

But let me move on. There's more to the class than an incredible roast chicken. (Although it's worth it just for that!)



Well, wait--let me just do one more picture to make you really get hungry: here's the rotisserie-style chicken cut up and covered with a pan sauce from the class recipe. Wowzer. 

I know I made another recipe from this class but I don't know that I took a picture of it. I remember thinking it was also really good. There are a handful of other recipes and techniques I also want to try. If I could only get that roast chicken out of my head. 

Knauer is an enjoyable teacher to watch--very straightforward, offering lots of great information about substitutions or variations on the techniques in each lesson. There are eight recipes in the class materials but, again, with variations there are dozens more possibilities. The ingredients are all quite normal ingredients, easy to find, and the flavor profiles run from fairly traditional American to Italian to Asian. However, again, the techniques are key: Although he uses an Asian recipe to teach poaching, for example, you can do any flavors you want. 

I highly recommend this class--it'll elevate your every-day chicken to make it feel new!

The Basics

  • 8 lessons, ranging from 9 minutes to about 20 minutes
  • Lesson 1 gives good information for what to look for in the supermarket and how to store chicken safely.
  • Lesson 2 is that really wonderful (have I already said that?) rotisserie-style roast chicken. It also includes information on compound butters and a pan sauce, as well as tips for trussing and carving.
  • Lesson 3 is deep-frying. He almost made me want to try it. (I avoid deep-frying for health reasons as well as to avoid a messy clean up!)
  • Lesson 4 is searing both bone-in and boneless chicken (this is the one I did but didn't photography--it was great!)
  • Lesson 5 is a salt-baking technique that I definitely am going to try at some point; it also includes how to salt-bake vegetables as well.
  • Lesson 6 is spatchcocking (or butterflying the whole chicken and grilling with bricks)
  • Lesson 7 is braising, using a recipe that creates a ragu for pasta
  • Lesson 7 is poaching and torching, with information about cooking rice.
    • Many of the lessons also include carving and plating suggestions.
  • The materials include eight recipes, as mentioned above.

The New Chicken Dinner with Ian Knauer is probably one of my top three favorite cooking classes from Craftsy now. (Artisan Bread Making with Peter Reinhart and Homemade Italian Pasta with Giuliano Hazan are two others, although ask me on different days and I'd probably name different ones!) In any case, I definitely, wholeheartedly, recommend this class!

(Transparency: Using Craftsy links in this post helps support my podcast and blog. Thank you!)

Why you may have not been able to access my podcast lately...

One of my listeners had to reset all her podcast feeds and asked me if there was a problem with mine because she suddenly couldn't access it. I looked into it and, sure 'nuff, I had apparently missed some emails in all my travels and my account had expired. Oops. I've now re-upped and all my episodes are now available again. Sorry about that! I am in the process of uploading a new episode this afternoon...

Not quite OT: Longyi from Myanmar (Burma)

It's not quilt-related; it's arguably embroidery-related; it's definitely fabric-related. I thought y'all might enjoy seeing the collection of longyi that I've amassed over the last 18 years, including two trips to Burma (Myanmar) and one to Thailand. Some of these I bought, many were gifts. At some point, I may need to cull the herd a bit and either gift some along to others or have other types of clothes made out of them because, as I said to my husband, I now own more longyi than I've ever owned skirts of any kind at any time in my life!

Longyi (pronounced "loan-gi" or, sometimes, "loan-gee" as in "Gee, I have a lot of longyi!") is the traditional sheet of cloth worn by men and women in Burma. It's a long sheet of fabric that's wrapped and folded around the waist--the wrap and fold method differs for men and women. Sometimes it's sewn into a cylinder that you step into, then wrap and knot. I've posted a couple of YouTube videos at the end of this post that demonstrate the method.

Tailors in Myanmar generally have a couple of ways they'll turn the longyi into something a timid Westerner like myself, who doesn't trust herself to wrap it in such a way it'll actually stay up at all, is more likely to wear. You can have them made into skirts with zippers, of course, but it's easier to have something done with slide clips or just cut to the chase, have straps put on, and wear it as a wrap-around skirt, my favorite option as it's far more one-size-fits-all. Most of mine have been done as wrap-arounds, though some still have clips. I'm about to take those to a tailor to have them changed to wrap-arounds and altered slightly in other ways.

Here's my collection. The photos don't really do them justice as several of them are beautiful cross-wovens. (Cross-wovens show different colors depending on how they hit the light.) I've included captions that show the ethnic group the design represents and other info here and there. This is an auto-rotation photo gallery, though it does have forward and back controls on either side of the images. If you're reading this through a blog-reader, the gallery may not appear. You might have to go to my website to view it. 

And believe it or not, I don't think that's all of them. I know I've got a Karen top and skirt hanging in different closet, and several Karen tops scattered through a couple of closets. Maybe some day I'll get those posted as well. But for now, this will suffice!

Back...and not-so-much "better than ever"

It's been two months and sixteen days since my last post. Ahem.

I've returned to the Land of the Living Quilter. Or, rather, perhaps I shouldn't be quite so optimistic yet. I've returned to the Land of the Want-to-Be-Living-Quilter and the rest remains to be seen. The key points here are:

  • I'm officially done with school for the semester. My next class isn't until August, although I still have plenty of school-related work to keep me busy. (You should see the stack of books I want to get through before August, ahem.) Still, no weekly assignments or papers to be turned in for awhile, so things can get more relaxed and predictable.
  • I'm done with most of my travel until our summer events in July. I have a mid-length vacation planned with my husband in May (a few extra days around Memorial Day weekend), and a speaking engagement in June, but that one is within an easy drive and won't take a whole weekend. And although I still have some evening conference calls, it's not nearly the volume we had earlier in the year. So I feel like I'll be able to have a life outside of work and school for awhile!

But it wasn't all "work and no play makes Jane a dull girl." Although I haven't had the time or energy since my retreat in February to do much in the way of quilting (none) or embroidery (two evenings, about 20 mins each, as I recall), I did succumb to "quilting/embroidery preparation," so to speak.

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As I was driving home from a set of meetings in Exton, PA, I saw a quilt shop in a plaza on my right. There may have been a squealing of tires. Welcome to The Quilt Block, Inc. (Their Facebook page is a little more active until they finish getting their website put together.). This was a wonderful store! I was the only customer there at the time so I had a nice long chat with one of the owners, Cynthia (with thanks to a reader who was able to identify her for me so I could update this post accordingly). She mentioned, by the way, that since she'd opened in 2006, 10 other quilt shops in the area had closed. I was surprised to hear that since there's a very fine national quilt show in the area--I would think that would equal a solid fan base locally. I guess not in this case, although it may also be that property values are so high in the areas surrounding Philadelphia that the overhead shuts them down before they can even really get started. In any case, if you live in the area or are vacationing around Philadelphia/Valley Forge, make sure you check out The Quilt Block and keep them in business!

Here's the goods. I'm not buying fabric very often at this stage except to finish projects, but if there's embroidery threads available, well...

And yes, you're seeing right, that's an Annie Unrein pattern. I love her stuff, even if I do whine every step of the way in making it. To be clear, her patterns and instructions are actually extremely well done. We just all know how I feel about this kind of sewing. But I keep going back to the well.

The green box is a bit of over-packaging for embroidery needles. The owner spoke highly of Tulip brand and I'd never tried them, so this is an assortment collection.

The two buttons were irresistible. The one with the red circle and slash has the word "mending" behind it. The other one says, "No you couldn't make that." At least, they gave me a giggle at the end of a long day. 

And yes, that picture was taken on a hotel room bed. I've seen a lot of those lately.

Cynthia, one of the owners

Cynthia, one of the owners

What's not shown here is that...and I really can't believe I did this...I signed up for the store's embroidery/quilt block of the month. Apparently I was having a really weak moment. I posted about this on my Facebook page so I won't say more here.

Except to say that I know I'll have completely forgotten about this by the time I get the first block in the mail in a couple of weeks. Will it be like Christmas, or will it be like "What the heck did I just do to myself?" Only the Shadow knows...

2016-04-18 22.54.27.jpg

One of the brief times I was home between travel, I saw on Mary Corbet's blog an announcement that my favorite Etsy shop for hand-dyed embroidery threads, ColourComplements, was having a sale. So I bit. Lovely. Lorraine does a beautiful job. 



And, in celebration of being done with school, I suddenly paid attention to my quilty email again and saw that Craftsy was having a sale. Mind you, while I do still own several Craftsy classes I haven't gotten to yet, I didn't have any left in the areas that I felt the need for new ideas. (Rationalization is a good thing.)

On the quilting front, most of what I need to do to finish up UFOs is machine quilting, so I decided to pick up a couple of classes that I'd been looking at. I now own Jaquie Gering's Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot. It's been on my wish list for a l-o-n-g time and I've heard Frances of Off-Kilter Quilt and others speak highly of it. I also picked up a newer class, Quilting with Rulers on a Home Machine with Amy Johnson. Color me intrigued. I don't own any longarm rulers but if she convinces me it's the thing, I'd be happy to pick some up. 

And now you're going to laugh. And laugh. And laugh. Remember that Annie Unrein pattern I referenced above, and what I said about whining my way through projects like that? Well, she has a new class on Craftsy. Again, did I say I've had a few weak moments? This one, though, makes a certain amount of logical sense. Her new class is The Ultimate Travel Bag. We can all agree I do a lot of traveling, right? And I'm always on the lookout for that perfect carry-on, weekender, totebag...whatever. I haven't found it yet, but I live in hope. However, I need to finish the second bag from the Annie Unrein class I started last year before tackling this one. Still, there's no reason I can't start digging through my stash to see what fabrics I can use, right?

What I Want to Do Now

I'm going to talk more about this in my next podcast episode--and yes, there will be a next podcast episode soon!--so for the purposes of this blog I'm just going to get a few things down in writing for my own clarity.

In the realm of personal health

Being back in school has not been good for my health, sadly. So I've got a few goals now that I've got several weeks on end where the word "routine" can actually come back into my vocabulary.

  • Start paying close attention to what and when I'm eating
  • Get back into an exercise routine.
    • Includes, but not exclusively, canal walks with the Doofus as he's put on a couple of pounds this winter himself.


In the realm of life organization

  • Clean my office/sewing room. Things have gotten a bit stacked and muddled these last couple of months.
  • Clean my daughter's room--she left behind a bit of a heap when she moved, and I need access to her bookshelves for my academic overflow, as it were. So she's coming over this afternoon and we're doing a Clean Sweep. (Tanesha of CraftyGardenMom was recently talking about that show and I was also a HUGE fan and, like her, am very disappointed that it's not on Netflix or Amazon Prime!)
  • Get my dogs to the groomer. Yikes.
  • Finally finish several blog posts (Craftsy class reviews) that I started over the last couple of months but never actually got posted. (Is this "life organization" or is this "quilting/sewing? Hmmm.)

In the realm of embroidery

  • I just want to start doing it again, regardless of which project it is. Technically speaking, I have a few projects in the works but they're all just me playing around--no deadlines involved. So my crazy quilt blocks tend to take priority, but I also have my crewel embroidery project and one purchased embroidery pattern I'm poking away at when I'm in the mood.

In the realm of quilting/sewing

This is where I have the most specific goals, although I'm not pressuring myself on them.

That's it! My daughter just showed up and she's making me vegetarian avocado/tomato burritos (her own concoction, no recipe) for lunch. And then...the Clean Sweep is on.

(Transparency: Using Craftsy links in this post help support my podcast and blog. Thank you!)

And so I went on retreat... (I guess this is #SBSI)

I made an impulsive almost-last-minute decision to attend a quilt retreat this weekend sponsored by a sorta-kinda-LQS. I went on her first retreat two years ago--horribly sick, had to go home at night to sleep in my own bed, didn't get a lot done. Couldn't go last year as I'd only recently gotten home from my international jaunt. I'd put my name in for this year but waffled for months over whether I'd be able to go. Finally decided I really needed some friend-time and quilty-time so about 10 days before the retreat I contacted the LQS owner and was able to send in my deposit. I'm so glad I did.


My home away from home... It was a small enough retreat that several of us got rooms to ourselves. That's my "Quilt I Saved from Almost Certain Destruction" on the bed (episode 17 and this blog post). The armchair was convenient for getting some class reading done here and there as well.


Our weather. 

Unexpected, but pretty. (Drive 10 minutes in any direction and no snow. For some reason, our retreat center was right in a blizzard pocket.)



The way we ate. All freaking weekend. I don't even want to know how much I gained/ 


Oh...and did I mention the desserts? Yikes.


My friend surprised me with a little gift on the table space she'd set aside for me (I arrived a few hours after most others). Adorbs! 


The retreat started Thursday morning but I didn't go down until after work Thursday, which meant I got there right about dinner time. Thursday evening, therefore, after getting my stuff all set up, I decided to just go for a little embroidery Zen. I got one more patch on my crazy quilt block done. 

I wasn't keen on the way the feather turned out (my markings kept disappearing on me, urgh), so I used the Rule of Distraction. Put enough beady-bling on there and you don't notice anything else!


By Friday morning, I was ready to rock n' roll. This was a guild BOM from 2008. Got all the blocks finally pieced a couple of years ago. I'd put fabrics for the sashing, inner border and outer border in the bin with the blocks so at least I knew more or less what I'd intended to do back then. Now the top is done--woo!  

This is just for me so I'll probably just do an all-over FMQ on my DM. So we'll see how long it takes me to get it REALLY done.


Saturday's job was my second UFO of the weekend. This is a jelly roll quilt from Jelly Roll Sampler Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott (a gift from listener Carolyn of the U.K.--thanks!). Started it around 2012-ish. Finished the blocks in maybe 2014. Took it to an LQS Super Bowl Sale this weekend and amazingly found sashing and border fabrics pretty quick despite the crowds. That burgundy stripe between the two borders is a flange--first one I've done, and I love it. Just the right amount of accent for the burgundy in the blocks. I'll probably use that same fabric for the binding. Haven't decided if I'll do it myself, or maybe rent time on a long-arm to do it myself that way, or send it out. I'm giving myself another week or so to think about that. It's going to someone else so there's a little more at stake than with that other one.


As a small, fast project for a break between the two UFOs, I fused this kit. It's most likely from an Edyta Sitar BOM quilt* but I bought just this one block at an LQS so I don't actually know for sure: The block kits were in an unmarked basket; there were only three months' worth there; and no picture or information available about the completed quilt. I thought this one would make a great background for some fun embroidery and beadwork. All the pieces were pre-cut and pre-fused, so it was basically just putting together a puzzle. I mostly followed the picture on the package but I moved the bird from sitting on one of the leaves at the top to sitting on the basket--I thought that made him far more prominent and we all know how I feel about pudgy birds.  

*Later edit: I did some googling and yes, it's Edyta Sitar, Seasonal Silhouettes.

I also traced another embroidery design on some linen using a big picture window and the last remaining light of the afternoon, but didn't take a picture of it. Not terribly exciting anyway. 

Finally, I had some time left Saturday night and Sunday morning, so I made another little zipper pouch. This one is the Ditty Bag pattern from www.byannie.com. (The pattern has three sizes; I made the medium-sized one.) Wasn't too hard to do, other than the usual annoying fiddly bit sewing around that curve on either side. Zippers are going pretty easy for me these days. Yay. It's got some nice structure but if I use the pattern again, I won't bother with the binding on the inside--it was a pill and doesn't really add much. Finishing the seam with a zig-zag would be good enough. 

Oh, and I got a decent amount of class reading done. So there's that too.

All in all, a good time. And now, for the rest of #SBSI, now that my week's assignments are done, I'm going to hang out in front of the TV with my man and four-leggeds and do some more embroidery.

(By the way--I realize I didn't draw the name for the Quilty Resolution challenge yet--I'll take care of that manana!)

Vacation Days 4-6 Accomplishments

If you're looking for the 2016 Quilty Resolutions Challenge and Giveaway, click here!

What with another holiday thrown in there, I didn't have time to post a daily update. Sorry!

What else I've gotten done:

  • More reading (although not nearly enough at this point, but taking a break is important too so I'm not beating myself up about it)
  • One pre-class assignment that we're supposed to have done before we arrive on campus late next week
  • Smelling wonderful downstairs as I'm typing this: A slow cooker meal for dinner tonight from the Craftsy class I'm working on (hopefully posting a review in another couple of days)
  • These containers are now mounted. I bought them last May. Ahem.

Two pics: What they look like "at ease," and what they look like in action.

I got them from the Container Store. Adorable office supplies--gotta love it.

(The plaque above them reads: "Ask not what your mother can do for you.... But ask only what you can do for your mother." That's hung behind my desk since the kids were in middle school. I don't think the message quite sank in....)

  • And, of course, some more embroidery. Woo! 
  • And probably most significantly: The Jacob's Ladder is done! Woo! Major happy dance! It's now at a LQS awaiting longarming. I've tweeted another pic but won't post it here on Facebook for another few weeks. Of course, I'll still have binding to do when it comes back home to roost, but I don't mind doing binding so much.

I also had an unexpected shop hop today. I called BFF/BQF Kate to see if she wanted to meet up with me at the LQS where I was dropping off JL and she said yes. Actually, she squealed with delight. I understood that to mean yes. We had lunch afterwards and then decided we were really obligated to visit a second quilt shop that was right in the same area. I always start out saying, "I don't really need anything." Ahem. 

Both shops had some Christmas sales, which was enticing. What jumped into my bag to come home with me (how can you resist those puppy dog eyes?):

  • Deb Tucker's Rapid Fire Lemoyne Star (not on sale, unfortunately). I loved using her petite Hunter Star ruler that I'd won in a giveaway by AJ of The Quilting Pot a couple of years ago, and have been looking at this Lemoyne Star ruler ever since. Having just completed a big scrap project (the JL) that I mostly enjoyed from the perspective of having used up a lot of stash on it, I thought it might be fun to start making some Lemoyne Star blocks from stash fabric as well. Good retreat project, anyway, if I ever get back on a retreat! (Tentative plans for one in February--stay tuned.)
  • I got a few patterns--more zipper pouches (they are great for travel!), plus some Christmas-related embroidery patterns that were pretty cute (and on huge sale). 
  • The button thread is for Daisy's armchair buddy tutorial. I hadn't been looking for any but it was only a buck, so I figured it was worth making life easier on myself when I got to that step in her process.
  • And whee! A 120" tape measure! I'd heard rumor this rare beast existed. After spending a couple of days crawling around on the floor shuffling my 60" tape measure from side to side to measure the JL for borders and final measurements, I was thrilled to see something that would actually cut the mustard for those occasional times I do make big quilts.
  • In the upper right is a nifty little block kit that looked like it was part of a block of the month but they were being sold separately. There were only three or four months available, and I only liked this one block of those that were displayed, so I just got the one. It's got die-cut applique pieces and the background fabric. I took one look at it and thought, "Oooh, I could embellish the heck out of that with embroidery and beads!" I've definitely drunk that Koolaid. It's a fall design--a basket with leaves and such. I'd best start it now to have hopes of finishing it time for decorating in September.
  • Then, of course, some pretty Weeks Dye Works embroidery threads because they're candy. And some funky colored zippers to use for pouches because those colors are harder to find, and I think I've got a collection of fat quarters they'd work beautifully with. If they don't coordinate as well as I thought they would, as I joked with BFF/BQF Kate, I guess I'll just have to buy fabric to match the zippers. As you do sometimes.

Not that I needed any of this stuff. But I guess I was so relieved and, darn it, proud of myself for successfully completing that dang JL it felt like a reward. 

Tonight is an embroidery night. Tomorrow, my last day of vacation, we're hosting my side of the family's Christmas celebration so I won't get much of anything done, I suspect, although I may be able to knock out a little more embroidery while waiting for things to come out of the oven and such. I also doubt I'll get a report post up tomorrow night, although maybe Monday. We'll see.

As usual, though, as I get to the end of a vacation, I look back and think, "Sheesh! Where did all that time go? I still have post-it notes left uncompleted!" Still, it feels good to have gotten as much done as I did, and I did take some time out to relax and hang out with the fam. So it's all good.

2016 Quilty Resolution Challenge and Giveaway

Here it is! Listen to episode 193 In Which We Talk Quilty Resolutions and Fidget Quilts to hear about this year's...

2016 Quilty Resolution Challenge!

Remember, I always have very specific themes and/or questions I ask--it's not just your laundry list of quilty stuff you want to get done! You may also want to listen to episode 194 In Which We Recap 2015 and Look Ahead to 2016 Quilty Resolutions for a look back at my 2015 resolutions (and you listeners!) and I talk about my 2016 resolutions based on my challenge theme--you may get some ideas.

Once you know the theme, the form is below: fill it out to enter the challenge.

  • You may only complete this form once to enter, so be sure you fill out all three items. (The word of the year is optional.) Any incomplete forms will be disqualified.
  • Make sure you include your name and accurate, complete email address where indicated in the form. If I don't have your information, I wouldn't be able to tell you if you won!

(Life has gotten away from me and I've not had time to post what you'll win. But those of you who have entered my giveaways before know that it's always been good! So trust me... it'll be good!)

Complete your entry by midnight, Eastern time, on January 31st. I'll draw the winner on February 1st.

If the form does not appear below, just click here instead.