Gnorman the Gnaughty Gnome

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Late last summer, Gnorman came to live in my garden.  At first I was happy that he had chosen my garden to inhabit, hoping he would chase away the resident rodents who were being so destructive to the vegetable crops not to mention flower bulbs.  Gnorman even brought his own little shovel to dig out the rodent holes and evict them.  After awhile, though, strange events began to occur.  We put in a “beach” area next to our pond, just because we could and because it gave a nice spot where you could walk right up to the edge of the pond to view the goldfish hiding under the waterlilies.  I thought it would be a nice to touch to sprinkle some of those sparkly flat marbles among the gravel just because I’m one of those “oh, look! Something shiny!” kind of people.  Here is how our little beach path looks.

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As you can see, we also have quite a collection of large seashells around the sides of the pathways, not to mention quite a few stray plants growing in the middle.  Ack!  More weeding to do.  My wonderful husband and his grandmother have always collected shells and pretty rocks, and the smaller items I display in a vintage glass cover for a ceiling light fixture which is placed just out of sight of this photo.  This is where one of the strange events started occurring. I kept finding small shells scattered along the pathways of the garden in danger of being stepped on and broken.  I would always place them back in their proper place, and the next day they would be running amok again.  Then my husband would come into my quilting room and hand me a handful of the shiny flat marbles stating he had found them two or three hundred feet out in the pasture.  I even found some near the trees in our orchard, a hundred feet from the garden area.  Then this morning, I went outside to pull weeds, and found proof of who was moving things about in the dead of night.

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The evidence is clearly sitting on the raised bed timber for all to see.  You can see Gnorman in the background pretending he knows nothing about it, but I think we all can see, he’s been caught!

Believe it or not, I haven’t spent all my time lately playing in the garden.  I have been quilting away like a madwoman as well, but spring fever has definitely set in here on California’s Central Coast.  Things haven’t looked this lovely for years, thanks to the ton of rainfall that we’ve been blessed with this last season, continuing up to this past week when we got almost two tenths of an inch.  I know it doesn’t sound like much to most folks, but when your rainfall average for an entire season is only 16 inches, every drop makes a difference.  So far this season, we have received  21.09 inches.  Two seasons ago, it was less than 3 inches for the entire season.  Some of our neighbors who live in the more hilly areas have nearly 30 inches.  As a result of all the rain, our wisteria and lilacs have never looked better.  Here is a quick sampling of the eye candy.

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Wisteria.  Can’t you just smell the fragrance?

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Lilacs

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Rosa banksia (Lady Banks Rose) which blooms only once a year but is spectacular for a few weeks in the spring.

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This photo was taken from the farthest Southwest corner of the garden looking towards the orchard which is the tree in the background that has yellowish green foilage.  As you can see, all of our 60 something roses are about to explode into full bloom, the smoky orange on the right is my Laura Bush bush.  You can also see a little peak of purple wildflowers left on the hill on the far side of the road.  Sadly, the hills and wildflowers are just starting to dry up now that the weather is hitting the mid-80s during the day.  One last photo of a red-tailed hawk I caught soaring in the skies above our home.hawk cropped lbl

As far as quilting, I have been working on a quilt for the person who won the custom made quilt that I raffle off every December to benefit the youth group at our church.  This December’s winner is a lady who belongs to my quilter’s anonymous group (quilt guild), so I feel pressured to get it perfect.  She provided the pattern and most of the fabric.  I added some fabric from my own collection because I just couldn’t resist going with the theme, which is fall leaves sewn into a very interesting Log Cabin quilt pattern.  It required me to figure out how to make trapezoids, a totally new skill for me.  In addition, the pattern made the quilt 58 inches square, and she wants it to be a 40 inch long by 70 inch wide wall hanging.  This required a bit of a redesign once the center of the quilt was done, but I think I have met the challenge.  I don’t want to post any photos just yet because she does read my blog on occasion.  I probably will have to break down and send her a photo later today to see if she approves of what I’m planning to do for the last border, though I usually try to save the finished result as a surprise for the recipient.  Oh, well, sometimes you can’t have it all.  I guess I better get back to finishing up that border.

More projects finished and unfinished

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A continuation of my “Back In The Saddle” post from the other day, here are a couple of other projects that I’ve finished in the last few months.  The one above really should have gone at the head of “Back In The Saddle” since it is a cowboy themed quilt.  I only had to purchase the border and binding fabric to make this one….so that made it free!  Hahaha.  It is going to be donated to be raffled in a scholarship fundraiser for some of the local kids.  I named it “Happy Trails”.  The back fabric is a print of cattle.

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This one has been on the back burner for about 4 years, every since I purchased the pattern.  I searched high and low for just the right bird fabric to go into the bird houses since I wanted a realistic feel to it rather than whimsical that the pattern called for.  I finally found it when I was blessed to be able to go to the Houston Quilt Show nearly 3 years ago.  All of the birds were in one panel, the perfect size and just what I was looking for.  I tried to use prints of actual “building” materials, although the basketweaves are only good for building bird houses or bee skeeps, and I don’t know many people that actually use bricks to build bird houses, but realism does have its limits.  When I went searching for the background fabric, I was aiming for cloudy skies, then ran across this cloudy sky fabric with mallards flying around…perfect!  Not sure how visible it is in this photo.  I never realized how difficult it was to find fabric that resemble flowers climbing on a trellis.  I did the best I could with what I could find.  I particularly like the brown, bare branches that reminded me of a princess under a spell sleeping in her castle and thorn bushes growing up the walls to keep the handsome prince from rescuing her.  Okay, so I had to have some whimsy.

The last project is as yet unfinished.  Every year I raffle off a custom made to order quilt to benefit one of the ministries that our church is involved in.  This year’s winner was…wait for it… the PASTOR’S MOTHER!  Really, the drawing wasn’t fixed, and she being a magnificent quilter in her own right, gave the prize to the pastor’s wife, who truly deserves this special treat for all that she does for everyone else.  She picked out the center panel, and I purchased the other fabrics and then got her approval on the colors.  I’m not going to let her see it any further than that until it is presented to her.  Here is a photo of the progress so far.

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She really wanted me to include some sort of a trellis pattern in the quilt, so the interwoven border is what I came up with.  It took me two weeks to assemble it.  What a royal pain!  I only had a drawing from the internet that showed little squares representing the placement of the pieces, so had to figure it out from that.  I am really proud of myself for being able to pull this off since math is a struggle for me, even with a calculator.  Each piece of the puzzle was only two inches squared up, an inch and a half finished and included dozens of the dreaded Half-Square Triangles that I keep swearing I will never make again.  If anything was out of order, it had to be torn out and redone, so I placed each itsy-bitsy piece in order on my design wall, and pieced each tiny row one row at a time, placing them back in position on the wall when finished.  When it came to turning the corners and making it all come out perfectly, I was tearing my hair out.  It took me two days to figure it out.  Fortunately, I didn’t sew any rows together until I had them all assembled.  The sides came out to be the perfect length, but I just couldn’t make the top and bottom work until I figured out to put a tiny strip of the yellow on either side of the panel to make it come out just right.  What a challenge.

The blue strip on the left will be the next plain border, then I’m considering putting in a ribbon border made with the yellow, green and brown since it needs more brown.  Once again, I only have a drawing to go by, so we’ll see.  I intend to also make a square-in-a-square border with the leftover flowered stripe that is in the third border out and a diamond-in-a-square border with the diamonds pointing to the top and bottom.  Then the last border will be a companion stripe that matches the panel with the flowers and bluebirds.  The quilt will be a large queen when finished…if I survive the math.

This last photo is of the glorious Lady Banks roses that are giving their all in spite of the fact that my darling hubby butchered them in early January after I asked him not to.  Just because they were bending the wire fence they are growing on to the ground was no excuse for pruning them at the wrong time of year.  I thought there would be hardly any blossoms at all since they bloom on the previous year’s growth and only one time a year at that.  What a pleasant surprise and now I suppose I can let him move back in from the doghouse…for now.002

 

Learning new skills

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Well, I now have my first medallion quilt under my belt and am loving the way it has turned out.  I bought the peacock fabric and companion stripes that appear in the 6th and 9th border four years ago on a trip to Pennsylvania’s Amish country.  I also got the peacock feathers and the teal and gold fabrics at the same time, and I’ve been waiting for just the right pattern to come along to inspire me to cut into the peacock, which was a print rather than a panel.  I finally found the pattern that you see above that is by Marie Bostwick and Deb Tucker (the designer of the set of specialty rulers that I’m always touting because they make my life so much simpler and productive).

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go on my local quilt guild’s 4-day retreat, and I was excited to get the peacock quilt done.  My first problem with it was the peacock and accompanying flower design was much larger than the fabric used in the original pattern, so the oval template provided simply wouldn’t work with my print.  The Monday before the retreat was our monthly guild meeting, and as things worked out, our speaker showcased several of her award winning quilts with ovals included in them, so I asked her if she had a formula for figuring out how to cut a perfect oval.  She did not have an answer for me.  Evidently she does hers by the seat of her pants and is much more skilled than I am.  Next I asked the person that I was convinced knows absolutely everything about quilting, but alas, for the first time since I’ve known her, she couldn’t tell me the answer.  So Super-Hubby to the rescue.  I was explaining my issue to him, and he went to the computer and  found two how-to videos on how to make a perfect oval that both used the same easy technique!  What a wonderful quilter’s husband I have.  I’m attaching the links to both videos.  The first one I thought was a little easier to understand, but the second one has a better visual, so if you’re interested you might want to watch both of them.  The second one, I just moved the bar past the goofiness until they actually started showing the technique.  They are both about a minute or so long.

So on Tuesday, we went outside and I made my oval on freezer paper, which I ironed to the back of the peacock design I wanted to use, and then used my usual applique technique to finish the edges, and by the time I left for retreat on Thursday, I had a little over a third of it hand stitched onto the gold background.  I figured, how long could it possibly take to throw a few borders on it, so I packed 4 other projects that I wanted to try to get done.  Evidently it takes a long time to put 9 borders on when 3 of them are pieced borders and two of them are mitered, because I finally finished getting border number 7 on just in time to pack up and head home on Sunday afternoon.  I never even touched my other projects.  And I wasn’t goofing off, but hardly left my work area to check in with what others were doing.  But when you think about it, with 3 pieced borders, I probably made enough pieces to make up a twin sized quilt.  And the pieced borders created another issue.  Since my center medallion was larger than the pattern, when I made the pieces for the borders to the pattern specifications they didn’t fit perfectly.  So my friends Holly and Debby came to the rescue and helped me figure out how to position coping strips to make the borders look good.  I especially love that Debby came up with the idea on the 7th border to use Deb Tucker’s “Corner Beam” ruler to make the corner pieces in that border along with coping strips to make them fit perfectly.  I think it adds an unexpected element, but turns the corners nicely yet doesn’t draw too much attention to themselves.  I also want to thank Holly for the refresher course on how to do the mitered borders.

Saturday night, we had a show & tell.  I had two of the border #7 s on the quilt and it was hanging on the design wall in the main workroom where I was assigned.  There was another small group of quilters in a more remote building who brought their projects down to the dining room next to my workroom for show and tell.  Just as we were finishing up show and tell, the fire alarm went off and we smelled something like toast burning.  Against all rules that you hear about from fire marshals, I ran into the workroom and grabbed my peacock off the wall and the box with the rest of the fabric in it and slept with it in my room that night.  As it turns out a member of the staff was cooking a tortilla over an open flame and it caught fire, so it was much ado about nothing, but I was NOT going to let all my hard work go up in flames.  Don’t try this at home.  Okay, I’m a bad, bad girl.

Even though I didn’t get my other projects done, I had a great time with a great bunch of ladies.  If you’ve always been afraid to try an oval, I encourage you to watch the videos and give it a try.  The worse thing that can happen is you mess up a few pieces of paper.  I am simply terrible at math, and had to do the oval twice because the first one I made didn’t turn out big enough.  It’s worth the time and trouble when you get great results.  I’m glad I didn’t cut up the peacock fabric into a one block wonder as I was tempted to do several times over the years.

Happy Quilting.

A Little Taste of Spring for My Poor Snowbound Friends

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Spent the morning strolling through the garden and pulling those dastardly weeds. I thought all you who still have no sign of Lady Spring might need a little hope…it is on its way.
Just praying that we don’t get a late freeze, which is always a possibility until the middle of May. But I’m going to enjoy this time while I can.
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The Long Saga of the Raffle Quilt…with a happy ending

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Every year, our little country church raises money to pay for a well in a village in Asia that either doesn’t have one or where Christians aren’t allowed to use the village well. The wells are placed on the property of the Christian church of the village and all people from the village are invited to use the well as a witness of Christ’s love to all. So far our little church has been able to provide three such wells. This year I got the idea to combine my love for quilting with this wonderful cause, and we raffled off a custom-made quilt for one lucky person. The winner got to choose the size, colors and general style, traditional, modern/contemporary, or my favorite, One Block Wonder. The winner is the granddaughter of one of our church members and the winner lives in Texas. So after the drawing in early December, I emailed her photos of the various styles and asked for her color and size preferences. She wanted a One Block Wonder (Yea!) in blues, purples with a touch of red with a vibrant look to the colors. Since then, I have been on the hunt for the perfect fabric, thinking it would be easy….NOT!
The photo that I started this post with is fabric number three which I ordered off the internet (as I did the first two possibilities). With this fabric, UPS either lost it or left it next to our mailbox on the busy road we live on, so I had to wait an extra 10 or so days to get the replacement shipment, making sure I would be home to accept the deliver at my front door. I was so excited when it came, and it is a beautiful fabric, but it really lacked the vibrancy that I was hoping for. Here is a photo of what the blocks would look like when cut into the OBW design.
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This is a photo of the OBW that caused the winner to pick that style:
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A world of difference. Fabric No. 3 is nice, and will make a lovely OBW with some tweaking, but just not in the same league as the completed example.
Well, finally, I found the absolutely perfect fabric!
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Now, I’ve never before used panels for a OBW, but why the heck not? So I ordered 7 panels. I always put a piece of the original fabric somewhere in the quilt as a reference to the transformation. The extra panel will be part of the back of the quilt in this case. After cutting the side borders off the panels since they wouldn’t add anything to the quilt, I stacked them and lined up the design elements and started cutting. Here is what the first few hexagon blocks look like, just randomly placed on the wall.
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I think it’s going to be fabulous! Just enough bright colors to keep it from being too serious like the previous fabric. So in this case, instead of three being a charm, four is a charm.
But now I have three other OBW quilts started that need to be finished. Good thing I’m the One Block Wonder Woman.

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I’m freshly home from a fabulous 4-day retreat with my Quilter’s Anonymous (Quilt Guild) group. The above photo is the main building which houses the quilting room to the left, a spacious lobby in the middle and the dining hall to the right. It was held at the St. Francis Retreat Center near San Juan Bautista, CA. What an incredible setting.
These next two photos are where the rooms were located that we stayed in, a short walk from the quilting space…and more importantly…the food!
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This photo is taken from the patio in front of the dining hall looking past the quilting room.
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And this is just a lovely shot from the same patio looking towards the rooms.
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The next photos are all of the interior of the quilting room.
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This last one is of my sewing station. Looking out the window just to the right of my station, I saw a herd of 5 deer and a flock of turkeys strolling by. Of course, they wouldn’t wait for me to get my camera out.
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There were a total of 30 very talented quilters as you can see from the sampling of quilts that were hung as they were completed. The food was also wonderful…and it was such a treat to not have to cook or clean up afterwards. This was my first quilting retreat experience and I am planning to go every year from now on because it was such fun. One of the few times that I was not ready to return to my home routine after four days away.

Guild challenge

Last month was the finale of a guild challenge which required us to pick a bag of embellishments to use in a sewing project. No peeking into the bag to see what you were getting, so I drew a bag with several tiny pink doilies, a piece of rickrack and a piece of lace. I received my bag in May and was stumped at what the heck to make. I don’t do wall hangings because I don’t have a single empty wall, and dear hubby is a talented painter, so have all the “real” art we can handle. A week before the project was due, I was playing with the doilies trying to figure out what the heck to do with my bag of stuff, I remembered some little log cabin chicken pincushions I had made a few years ago, and realized that the doilies could make a really cute comb for the chicken. So this is what I ended up making.
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Spring Is Here Early

Here on California’s Central Coast, we don’t usually get into spring until the end of March, but for the second day in a row, I accidentally flushed a mourning dove out of the Carolina jessamine vine growing on our gazebo.  I checked, and sure enough, she’s sitting on a nest already!

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So, I guess I’m not going to be able to get in there and trim off the frost damaged leaves until the babies leave the nest. Hopefully, they only have one batch a year. Last year we had a quail nest in a potted plant right next to our front door and had to use the back door exclusively for weeks so as not to disturb the birdies.
And I think it might have been very windy last night…
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The goldfish seemed to be saying, “What the heck is THAT!?” Well, at least the ones who aren’t begging for me to feed them. 🙂