Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

From our hearts and paws to yours, we wish you a joyous holiday season!

Frankie, Christmas 2002

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Proper Kong Toy Management

Nickel is now 1.5 years old and still has an abundance of energy. We know from experience that he won't slow down at all until he's at least 3 years old. Our survival strategy can be summarized in a single phrase:  a tired puppy is a good puppy.

Fortunately, Nickel loves to retrieve his red kong toy so we stand on the deck outside the back door and throw the toy as far as we can into the woods. Nickel will joyfully retrieve the toy many, many, many times before he is even slightly winded. Frankie however, almost 10 years his senior, loves the kong toy too but is more interested in chewing it than endlessly retrieving.

Frankie waits for the next throw

Frankie, being the senior nose sniffer, is more accomplished at locating the toy but Nickel often lunges more quickly once Frankie finds it or he simply takes it from Frankie ... until Frankie holds his ground and refuses to give it up. Then Frankie settles in for a nice long chew. Nearby sticks work well for variety.

That red speck is the kong toy.


After 12 or 15 retrieves, Nickel needs a bit of a breather.

The problem with a brief respite is the kong toy tends to roll off the deck. Thus, the need for proper kong toy management. One day, after fetching the kong toy from beneath the deck, the straw broke the camel's back. Nickel discovered something very exciting while getting a drink of water:

Now stay put!

Safe and secure

These days, our smart boy secures the kong toy then gets his drink of water.

Gotta go!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Miles of Thread

I have used lots of white thread this year, driven in part by the modern quilting trend of white or light gray fabrics used in the background of quilts. Last week, I finished up a cone of cotton thread:

Here is the almost empty cone beside a new one so you can see how much thread that is:

A cone of Aurifil 50wt thread is 6452 yards ... well over a mile! Yea!

Have you noticed the new tutorial menu at the top of my blog? I plan to post all four tutorials over the next few days. I started with the "clever coasters" tutorial and will add the remainder throughout the holidays. After picking up several charm packs, I folded and pinned the coasters while watching "Men in Black 3" the other night. The sewing is the fastest part ... it took a couple hours to stitch all of these:

Clever Coasters

Then a couple evenings folding and poking out the corners while watching the finale of "The Voice" and "X Factor" and wa la ... nearly 100 coasters finished! Most of these are gifts for friends and family. I hope you enjoy making them too!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Nagging Ritual

At our house, play time as well as dinner often begins with a robust nagging ritual. Here, Nickel has gotten bored and would very much like someone ... anyone ... to take him outside and throw his kong toy so he can run like the wind and retrieve it ... over and over and over and over. Is there any chance Harry can be convinced?

Please ... I'm BEGGING you!

But there's always time for a good scratch! Nickel, while a haunt if he doesn't get the exercise he needs, can be very sweet and affectionate. As you can see here, he adores Harry.

Oh that's the spot!
When breakfast or dinner time approaches, Frankie typically takes the lead in proactively reminding Harry ... aka nagging ... that the goldens are absolutely, completely, totally and utterly starving. STARVING! He begins with an adoring stare while sitting beside Harry:

I love you so much ... did I mention I'm a tad hungry?
A few minutes go by ...

I'm definitely hungry now ... can you see me?
 Tick tock tick tock ... a little more in the lap ...

Can you see me NOW?
 A few more minutes pass ...

Now I will get in his lap. He will definitely see me and maybe even hear my tummy growling.

Oh geez ... is he STILL reading?
Trust me when I say that going on daylight savings time is sublime while going off, in a word, sucks.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Curved Borders with Split Seconds Ruler

Have you tried Karla Alexander's Split Seconds ruler? I demonstrated this Creative Grids ruler last weekend at the Pine Needle open house. Not only can you use it to cut curvy 4-patch blocks, you can cut rectangular blocks with a center curve for a fun, curvy border:

Well Connected

The ruler can be used on blocks from 7" to 18" in length. The border is pieced so it is easy to add a curved border to most any quilt. The curved border blocks are sewn in with the rows and the corner block is simply a 4-patch - how easy is that! I think it's an especially fun border for a child's quilt or on a table.

This quilt is made from the book "Dynamic Quilts with Easy Curves" by Karla Alexander. The pattern is "Well Connected". The version I made is smaller with just 9 blocks. Of course you can cut curves freehand, but the ruler makes it easy to put the blocks together with very little waste from squaring up. The end of each curve straightens out so the blocks are as easy to sew together as a 4-patch. I appreciate rulers like these that can be used for a variety of sizes and are so designed.

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Quiltmaking 2 Class at the Pine Needle

I have been sewing madly this summer preparing for exciting events at the Pine Needle this fall. The fall catalog is in the mail so I can now share with you a new design of my own that I'll be teaching in my Quiltmaking 2 class:

Quiltmaking 2 by Pam Raby
I wanted to create a quilt and class that builds on beginner-level piecing skills as well as introduce foundation paper piecing and mitered borders. Because of the symmetry in this quilt and especially the pieced outer border, it would be lovely as a table cloth. After this, an advanced class will be needed for those who wish to continue on. I have a few ideas I'm kicking around ... curves, LeMoyne stars and who knows what else!

For attendees of the summer escape to Hood Canal, Geri hosts a reunion in the store each fall where we gather with our completed or "work in progress" quilts to celebrate. Here is my version of the retreat quilt:

Chopsticks by Pam Raby

The pattern is "Chopsticks" by Julie Herman of Jaybird Quilts. Her patterns are very well written with clear illustrations. This was my first triangle quilt! Because I used the Creative Grids 12.5" triangle ruler, it went together beautifully.

Here is a detail of the quilting. Parallel lines are stitched in the triangle "frames", a stylized "baptist fan" in the large triangle centers and a "trident" design in the small triangles. As soon as I finish stitching on the binding, I will post another detail shot of the quilting as well as a picture of the back.

Detail of quilting
And last but not least, I made the Counterpoint pattern by Kari Nichols of Mountainpeek Creations.  The Pine Needle is offering this quilt as a kit in the fall catalog as well as a  "refresh yourself" retreat at the store.

The long, rectangular block is very clever ... I love the architectural style of this quilt; its structure is ideal for showcasing medium to large scale prints. All of the fabrics in this quilt are by Marcia Derse whose fabrics I absolutely adore! Carol Parks quilted it for me and I'll post a picture of her quilting soon I promise.

Counterpoint pieced by Pam Raby
I used all the left over triangles on the back and will post a picture soon! I hope to see you this weekend at the Pine Needle's Open House. Happy sewing!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Tribute to Benny

Our beloved Benny, March 2012

Harry and I had to euthanize Benny last Friday morning, July 13. His right hind leg had increasingly been bothering him … we naively suspected arthritis. I was in Sisters last week taking quilt classes so Harry took Benny to the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital Thursday to see what was going on with Benny's leg. The news was bad ... a tumor growing in/on the bone of his right hind leg. The only surgery possible was amputation which we were unwilling to consider and they were unwilling to recommend. Benny was a lousy surgery candidate due to a substantial heart murmur and damage from previous chemotherapy but that really wasn’t a factor so far as we were concerned. We simply would not put him through that. They told us the femur was very weak from the cancer and would break soon … a few days, maybe a week or two at most. So, Thursday evening, Harry brought Nickel home from doggy day care and Benny home with pain meds to help us through his last days. Nickel, excited to be home, jumped out of the truck and started running around the yard. Harry lifted Benny out of our truck. Benny started to pee when Nickel started chasing birds. Harry called for Nickel to come. He obediently came running full bore and crashed into Benny, knocking him down. Isn't it ironic that we wish that one time he would've disobeyed? Seeing that Benny was in severe pain, Harry took him back to OSU. I start packing up my supplies and will head home early Friday morning.

The vets at OSU got Benny's pain level down for the night, then did scans Friday morning to determine the extent of the damage. When they saw the femur was shattered, they recommended we not bring him out from under the general anesthetic. Harry asked if they could hold him under anesthesia until I got home. Thankfully, I got there in time and was able to say goodbye even though Benny was unconscious. We got to hold him as they stopped that great golden heart. I deeply regret missing his last few days. The standard of care at OSU is amazing … Benny was wrapped in one of those warm air blanket things so he was comfortable and warm until he drew his last breath. He had brightly colored, happy kids' socks on each of his paws to keep his toes warm. Kate, our oncology technician, made a casting of Benny’s paw for us. Can you believe their kindness? I cannot tell you how much we love them for their wisdom and care of our Benny boy, named for the Elton John song "Benny and the Jets".

Benny (left) wrestling with Frankie, March 2012
Benny (right) playing tug with Frankie, March 2012

Perhaps Nickel did Benny a great favor; in any case, he is forgiven. Pain meds never eliminate pain completely and I’m pretty certain we would have done our best to give Benny as much quality time as we could. He was a happy golden with a hearty appetite making it nearly impossible to determine the extent of his pain. The decision we had to make was clear and unambiguous; I am grateful for that.

Even in April, Benny could "tug" Nickel across the floor
We buried Benny in the back yard where I can see his grave from our kitchen window. I planted an oak leaf hydrangea to mark the spot … hopefully it will be happy in the shade beneath all the big trees. I cannot tell you how I miss my Benny boy. There is no one at my feet, Benny’s usual spot while I am working at the computer. Back and forth from computer to sewing room, Benny would tirelessly haul those sweet old bones to be where ever I happened to be. I am well and truly blessed to have been loved by that sweet soul.

Under my desk are Benny with Nickel peeking over

Z is missing Benny too

I feel Benny's absence profoundly and, at the same time, know we gave him an awesome year and a half since his diagnosis of oral melanoma way back in December 2010. While the words "heartfelt thanks" don't even come close to expressing our feelings, we are deeply thankful and grateful for the wise, loving care of the Oncology, Cardiology and Orthopedic doctors, students, residents and receptionists at OSU's Veterinary Teaching Hospital ... thank you.

Benny playing tug with me, March 2012

Out comes the paw ... let's tug again!
Remember Benny with joy, happiness and a smile!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pine Needle Retreat 2012

It has been far too long since I've posted so I'm going to make up for it with lots of pictures. A couple weeks ago, about 25 of us gathered at St. Andrews House on Hood Canal near Union, Washington for the Pine Needle's annual 4-day quilting retreat. After unpacking, we gathered on the deck to exchange a book we love and to share our most favorite notion.

Gathered on the deck

Our view of the Olympics across Hood Canal:

The Olympics

This year, the quilt pattern we selected for the retreat is Julie Herman's Chopsticks. Connie couldn't wait for the retreat to start sewing; she arrived with her triangle blocks already made! It's difficult to see in the photo, but Connie chose a variety of snowflake and leafy prints in ice blue and white, pairing these with a tiny brown and white polka dot:

Connie's Quilt

Linda chose a palette of pink, red, gray and green to coordinate with a medium-scale floral fabric. The bold black print used in the background accents these beautifully:

Linda's Quilt

Sharron's quilt is almost the inverse of Linda's. Sharron chose a variety of black and white prints but used bright pink in the background. The pink and black floral print ties it all together:

Sharron's Quilt

Saturday evening is the much-anticipated white elephant gift exchange outdoors by a fabulous, huge stone fireplace. I'm certain that gales of laughter can be heard clear across Hood Canal. Check out Maggie, the lucky chick to open this knitted hat complete with ear flaps and tassels:

Maggie in the chicken hat ... cluck cluck!

Another incredible "gift" that left us ... well ... hilariously incredulous ... is the giant foot scrubber complete with suction cups on the back for use in the shower. I think Charlotte was hoping the box did not indicate the contents as Marsha, Becky and Cathie crowed "that's going home with you" !!! I have just one question ... what size *is* that shoe?!

Charlotte opened a giant foot scrubber ... ouch!

Next is Charlotte's quilt ... a palette of blues and purples on white. Rather than cutting the side triangles to square up her quilt, Charlotte decided to cut half-triangles of her background white fabric and plans to add a rectangular border on the top and bottom to balance the white along the sides:

Charlotte's Quilt

Donna chose an eclectic mix of ethnic and patterned batiks from her stash that work together beautifully. Her background fabric is a textured cream that really allows those beautiful reds to shine:

Donna's Quilt

Here is St. Andrews House, overlooking Hood Canal:

St. Andrews House

Mary chose a warm, rich palette of red, gray and gold. Her background fabric, from Northcott's amazing Stonehenge line, is a perfect choice of a warm, textured neutral that works beautifully with all her feature prints. I love the way the bold stripe adds a lively energy to her quilt:

Mary's Quilt

Lou Ann loves red so chose a variety of thirties floral prints in red, yellow and blue. A primary color scheme is among the most difficult to pull off successfully and Lou Ann did a fabulous job selecting her fabrics. The yellow honeycomb print for the background is the perfect color, bringing out the yellows in her prints and giving her quilt a wonderful sense of light:

Lou Ann's Quilt

Next door is Harmony Hill, a retreat center whose cancer program provides support for those affected by a cancer diagnosis including caregivers and health professionals. Taking a break one afternoon, I walked through their labyrinth garden. Here are a couple photos of their stunning California poppies.

California Poppies at Harmony Hill

The inspiration for Suzanne's quilt is water. Her palette of aqua and teal with accents of olive and rust has a feeling of calm yet is visually striking:

Suzanne's Quilt

Sherry decided to make a queen sized quilt using Northcott's Stonehenge group of ginko fabrics ... breathtaking! The silver gray "stone" fabric is a beautiful background for the caramel, soft blue and brown prints:

Sherry's Quilt
JoAnn used one of her treasured hand dyed fabrics along with a variety of orange, purple and green batiks. It's a gorgeous color scheme!

JoAnn's Quilt

The Hood Canal area gets lots of rain as evidenced by these stunning, abundant maidenhair ferns:

Maidenhair Ferns

Horsetail was growing nearby, an ancient plant I love that loves a wet climate:

Common Horsetail

And back to the quilts ... Margie chose a gorgeous palette of blues, yellows, cream and a beautiful soft brown. I find the blue especially stunning, complemented by the same yellow honeycomb print Lou Ann used in her quilt. The yellow print looks cooler here because it is surrounded by all those lovely blues.

Margie's Quilt

Cari chose a selection of Kaffe Fassett prints in greens and blues. Her background fabric is stunning ... an aqua gradation print that ranges from almost white to deep aqua. Look at the motion and sense of light that gradation print adds to the quilt:

Cari's Quilt

I chose a selection of Michael Miller's new cotton couture solids:  yellow, green, peach and tangerine with the addition of a few coordinating prints. The overall bright, "citrusy" palette needed a little something else so I chose two black and white prints that I think are a very nice addition. Sometimes black and white adds that extra punch that takes a quilt from pretty good to exciting.

Pam's Quilt

Mallory is working on a quilt made entirely of Japanese quilt blocks and taupe fabrics. She brought some of her blocks to show us. Now we all want to make a quilt of Japanese blocks and fabrics!

Mallory's Quilt Blocks

Jeanne brought a quilt top she recently finished in a stunning palette of black, white and beige ... so beautiful! I think of glistening pearls when I see this quilt.

Jeanne's Gradation Quilt

The Pine Needle Retreat is an amazing experience ... one we all cherish and look forward to each year! Wonder what white elephants will show up next year?