Sunday, December 25, 2022

All Things Christmas

I have no quilty content today, but I have often said I would do a post of my Nativities--so this is it. I know many people have more sets than I, but I have put some limits on myself as to what I would include in my collection. With no boundaries, a collection can quickly get out of hand under my control (or the lack thereof).

My decision was to collect Nativities from other lands--preferably handcrafted. And even more specific is that I wanted them to be from countries my family or friends have visited. Some of them have been gifted to me by my family and friends when returning from travels. Others have been located through online stores, or through a bookstore here that carries a large selection of Nativities (many of them being international) every year at Christmas time. In fact, of the ones I have purchased, most came from this store on the after Christmas sales.

So without further ado--my International Nativities:

Cambodia--When my brother was a missionary in Thailand many years ago, they had to leave the country every 6 months or so to get their visa renewed. Cambodia and Viet Nam were the places he would have to go. This is quilled paper and was gifted to me by my younger daughter.

Mexico--My husband and I got together on a failed tour to Mexico with a performing group. We had paid for the trip, but didn't get farther than a border town--and never got our money back.

   Left: Bolivia--Some neighbors were missionaries there. Right: Peru--just couldn't resist this.

                Left: Argentina--oldest son was a missionary there. Right: Hawaii--youngest daughter got this for me on a family trip

  Left: Germany--my father and oldest daughter have been there, but I bought this Nativity in an antique mall.  Right: Austria--oldest daughter bought this for me when doing a semester abroad. Both of these nativities are beautifully hand carved.         

.                                                                                Both from Kenya and made of soapstone. Silky smooth to the touch. I don't know anyone who has been there--I just can't resist the feel of the stone. It is therapeutic. Sometimes I just have to pet these. :)

Philippines: This was purchased at 90% off on an after Christmas sale a few years ago. It was hand carved. I have a sister-in-law whose parents (whom I knew before I knew their daughter) served as missionaries in the Philippines, and several friends in our community have served there over the years, as well. The proportions of this one are interesting. Mary and the donkey seem on a larger scale than Joseph and the baby.

 Left: Iceland--Our sons got me this wool Nativity on a Spring break trip. Right: Madagascar--made of sandalwood. Smells so good! Couldn't resist it.

Left:  Argentina--(figures only. Barn was found at a local thrift store.) Oldest son was a missionary near Buenos Aires and brought these figures home with him. They are very small. Right: Ecuador--I don't know of anyone who has been there. But my fascination with miniatures won out--this is carved from a Tagua nut, and it is tiny.

.                                                                        Left: Thailand--my brother was a missionary there. This is shinier in real life than it appears. It is made of mixed metals and embellished with beads. Right: India--One of my nieces and her hubby lived there for a while after they were married.

Ghana--a dear friend had this carved for me while she and her husband were on a combination Sabbatical and mission trip there.

Left: Guatemala--my parents and younger sister took a trip there.  But I ordered this online.  Right: Brazil--Our youngest son brought this from his mission on the southern tip of Brazil. The figures are from banana leaves and the shelter is corrugated cardboard.

Left: Brazil--Also brought home by our youngest son from his mission. Notice how the figures nest. Joseph is quite tall. Right: Ireland--Hubby was a missionary there before we were married, and he returned twice with a performing group. This is Waterford Crystal. The company now outsources these, but I was able to find this set on eBay with the Waterford hallmarks.

Left: New Zealand--My older sister brought this to me after visiting a cousin who was living there. Right: Israel--I don't know the exact origin, but it is made from olive wood. A gift from a dear blog friend.

This is my newest addition. Also of olive wood, this was crafted in Bethlehem from olive wood harvested in Jerusalem. Apparently they must prune the olive trees every two years so they will bear fruit, and the prunings are used in many crafts such as this. I love the gorgeous grain of the olive wood. My parents and brother have traveled to the Holy Land.

The last of the International Nativities is my German Pyramid. This is a family favorite. Whenever we gather during the Christmas season, the candles are lit and we enjoy the four, candle-powered, rotating scenes. Again, my father and my oldest daughter have each traveled to Germany, and I have  German heritage on my father's side.

I have five or six other non-international Nativities, and of those I will just share this one. Many of you will recognize it as the Willow Tree collection. It was my first Nativity set that I hadn't painted myself (I used to paint a lot of ceramics).

This is what Christmas is about to me. I love the season of remembering and celebrating the love of our Savior. Whatever your Christmas celebration is like--if you celebrate, I hope it is a day of peace and joy for you (and I am praying for all of those in the path of extreme weather). From our house to yours, Merry Christmas!
Janet O.
(Yes, hubby and I put up all those lights ourselves every year--there are more on the side you can't see here. I keep waiting for him to say we are getting too old, but until then, I will continue to bask in the glow.) 

Oh, almost forgot! A few years ago I posted a link to a version of the song "Mary, Did You Know?" Recently I came across a YouTube of Voctave performing the song, with the lead vocals by the man who wrote the lyric to the song. The vocals in this are so pure, and the joy on the face of Mark Lowry is really touching. Give it a look.

Friday, December 2, 2022

November Monthly Mini

It is still November, isn't it? (kidding--or maybe wishful thinking) 

When I found time that I could sew during the month of November, I could not seem to locate my sewing mojo at that same time. So this little thing, that was made from a bunch of tiny 4-patch blocks create as leader/enders, was all but bound as November came to a close.

Not quite a fall color scheme, but I already had this center assembled. It wasn't difficult (even with no mojo), to slap a couple of borders on from leftover strips from another project, and do some quick, straight line quilting with my walking foot. This finishes at 6 1/2" square.

This photo below gives you a better size perspective, because you may not be able to tell that the carnations in the soft, fuzzy photo above (accidentally taken in portrait mode), are miniatures.

Linking up here with Wendy of The Constant Quilter blog (her mini is gorgeous). Click on her link to see the list of other merry mini makers, and check out their creations.

I had one of those monumental birthdays in November, and my youngest son (seen below, sitting beside me) gifted me with the game we are playing. Can you pick out the box? Calico is the name, and it is a clever strategy game that you wouldn't expect from a game about quilting--and there are cats involved. The winner receives the Master Quilter ribbon my older son is holding up. I played two games with my boys, and they each won one. How did that feel? Just look at my expression. ;) But it is a fun game.

I am slow with my Christmas decorating this year, but we did spring for a new fake tree last week, and I now have the decorating of it completed. You can see the decorations better with the lights off, because it has about a bazillion tiny lights. So here it is without the lights on. I definitely lean toward traditional, old-fashioned tree decor. Vintage glass balls, lots of handcrafted ornaments, and ornaments picked up on family vacations. The tree skirt was made by my mother. Just simple patchwork, and I love it!

The thing I love most about this tree we bought is that it looks like real evergreen branches--all the way to the trunk, not just on the tips, like some trees we saw. And the needles feel soft and realistic. I've waited a long time to be able to get a tree like this. If I can't have a real tree, at least it can look real, and I'll put pine essential oil in the diffuser.

If you are in the mood to make a sweet little Christmas quilt, check out Pam Buda's latest post here, for her Holly & Berry pattern. You can even see the vintage doll quilt on which it was based. I love it, and downloaded the free pattern (until December 5th), but am being true to my "No New Starts" rule--for the time being. If you don't do Christmas, it would look great in any color scheme.

I have done a poor job of blogging this year. I hope to do better in the new year, but during December I doubt I will improve much, if any. Just way too much going on right now, and only some of it is holiday related. 

I wish you all a wonderful December, whether it is your winter or summer. I am going to try hard to post at least a second time this month--and not just for the monthly mini. Of course, that means I need to get some sewing done. We'll see how that goes.

Until next time, be creative and be kind--even to yourself.

Janet O.

Monday, October 31, 2022

A Churn Dash Theme

My monthly mini is something you may have seen before. It was Pam Buda's Circa 1880 Club's Small Quilt for August, in 2019.  I had the top finished in September of that year, and it has been waiting ever since to get quilted and bound.

When I finished the top I posted this about it, "I really messed with the value placement on this quilt, making some of the churn dash blocks sink into the background, while others stand out. A few of the bits of fabric had to be pieced in order to be large enough to cut out the piece I needed. Three of the sashings were pieced. I wanted it to appear to have been made from a scrap basket, where choices were limited. I also slipped a little churn dash block into the center. I had fun playing with this one."

This gives you a little better look at the quilting. It is mostly ditch stitching (as usual), with a rope pattern in the outer border.

You can click to enlarge for a better look.

And here is a glamour shot just for the fun of it. I'm linking with Wendy, The Constant Quilter, for the list of other Monthly Mini-acs. Check out what the others have done.

In keeping with the Churn Dash theme, for Chooky's Churn Dash SAL, I have all the blocks made, and sashing, cornerstones, and setting triangles cut. It is all up on the design wall, awaiting assembly.

Technically, this should have been a finished top by now, but it just didn't happen. However, during a Zoom with Chooky a week ago, she admitted hers wouldn't be finished either. I don't feel so bad now, and I will shoot for the end of November to have this a flimsy. I love the scrappy goodness of this quilt. The blocks were cut from scrap baskets, using 4 different neutrals as the backgrounds. Only the sashing and setting triangles were cut from actual yardage. I have enjoyed making this!

I haven't been active on the blog this month, but I did join in with Chooky's Zoom last week--three different times. Just popped in and out when I could, and saw a different group each time. But I only remembered to take a photo once.

What an encouraging, supportive, funny and talented bunch of quilters from around the world! I appreciated the help in selecting the setting triangles and cornerstones for my Churn Dash quilt. If you are a blogger and want to join in, follow Chooky's blog (link included above) and you will see when she has a Zoom meeting of the Chookshed Stitchers scheduled. Then you will be able to request an invite. Rumor has it there may be another one soon.

I am trying to be really good and obey the sign I put on my sewing room door. It reads: NO NEW STARTS! I have so many UFOs and WIPs, so I will still have a regular monthly mini, and plenty of other projects to fill my time. But it is so hard not to join SALs from favorite bloggers and designers. 

November is one of my favorite months--the month of Thanksgiving. I am very blessed, and I count the friends I have made through this blog as one of the many blessings I treasure.

Until next time, 

Be grateful and be kind!

Janet O.

A sunset after a snowfall on October 26th.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Monthly Mini, Churn Dash SAL update, and Alaskan Adventures

Here is my monthly mini for September. With the cruise prep and participation, I didn't have time to make something from scratch, so I just quilted something that has needed it for quite a while.

This was loosely based on Lori D.'s Sajou SAL, found here. When I chose Abe to go in the center medallion, I didn't know he was going to end up on point. I couldn't leave him tipsy like that, so I reconfigured this quilt 2 or 3 times before I was satisfied with the outcome. This SAL was 4 years ago, and I am embarrassed to barely be getting the quilting done.

It was mostly ditch-stitching around the squares and border triangles, with echo quilting in the triangles, too. The center medallion received a little bit of hand quilting to outline Abe and his frame. You can see the quilting a bit better in this photo.

This finishes at 12 1/4" square.

I chose a splashy star print for the backing. 

A few years ago I had such a stack of unquilted mini quilts that I spent most of the year getting them quilted--almost reaching 50 in number. Dad's passing at the end of that year (2016) prevented my reaching that goal. I am beginning to wonder if I should not allow myself to make any new monthly minis until I have quilted the ones that are piling up around the sewing room now.

I am linking up with Wendy (The Constant Quilter blog), for our monthly mini parade. Check out her post for the links to the other mini makers. And while you are at it, look around her blog at her many beautiful quilts made using the potholder method. Then check out the latest issue of Quilt Mania (#151) for a lovely article about Wendy and her potholder quilts, written by the wonderful Cecile Denis of Patchwork Inspirations blog.

Just this week I completed the very last of my Churn Dash blocks for Chooky's Churn Dash SAL. I am toying with the idea of putting them on point.

I still have quite a ways to go with the switching around of blocks. Chooky commented that the left side all seemed quite dark. They are dark blocks on that side and I will see if I can balance that a bit more, but it also doesn't help that the window is on the right side of the design wall.
These are 9" blocks, and I am thinking of using 1 1/2" wide finished sashing. I have been going back and forth with myself about using neutral sashing and colored cornerstones, or the dark blue I originally bought for the sashing and maybe a red for the cornerstones. I was considering cheddar for the cornerstones with the blue sashing, but that would be such a predictable move for me.
This is going to end up being quite a large quilt if I set the blocks on point.

That concludes the quilty portion of this post, so if you don't want to read about my experience in Alaska, you can stop here.

Well, I survived my first cruise. I have never really wanted to cruise, but hubby has. We ended up going to the inside passage of Alaska, with a group of 10 friends, and we had a great time. Just a little outside of Juneau, we kayaked a total of 5 miles, going across Lake Mendenhall to the Mendenhall Glacier, and back to our docking point. A very cool (pun intended) experience. 
On the left we are the canoe in the foreground. On the right you can see the Mendenhall Glacier behind us.

At Icy Strait Point we caught one of the last gondola rides to the top of a mountain, because it was going to be dark soon. That prevented us from being able to zip line back down, but it was still quite an experience to get to the top and look back at the cruise ship, which looked like a toy boat from that vantage point.
Looking up to the mountaintop. And looking back down to our boat.
On the left I was getting harnessed up for zip lining, in the rain, in a rainforest. It was so fun. One of the platforms even went out over the ocean. I have to say, I don't like heights, so I have wanted to do this to challenge myself. I loved it, and would do it again in a heartbeat.
On the right was our group of brave souls who went snorkeling. It really wasn't cold--we had on fleece "bunny suits" under the dry suits, and Sitka is quite a temperate climate, so the water was near 50 degrees.
I will never forget the amazing sights we saw--starfish in a rainbow of colors and a variety of sizes (even got to hold one our guide pulled out for us), sea urchins everywhere, tiny crabs, several varieties of fish, and lots of shells, and seaweed. I would also do that again, if given the chance.

Our first full day at sea the waters were a little rough. We were out walking laps around the promenade deck when a friend took the photo on the left. You can tell balance was an issue by the wide stance of our feet. On the right we were stopped in Glacier Bay, in much calmer waters, in front of Margerie Glacier, which you can read about here. It was a stunning sight.
Overall it was a very positive experience. Hubby and I decided that we would not use the elevators, after the initial trip to get to our room. My Fitbit recorded between 30-40+ flights of stairs per day, and my record was 57 flights in one day. I am happy to say that I made it through a 7 day cruise without gaining an ounce. I have worked hard to get in better shape this year, and I didn't want to ruin it all in one week at sea.

On the drive home from the airport, we passed this sight on the freeway.  I guess it is getting to be that time of year. Break out the pumpkin spice everything!

Until next time, be creative and be kind!
Janet O.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August Monthly Mini and Churn Dash SAL

I might just be able to sneak this under the wire before the clock strikes midnight. Here is my August monthly mini, for the mini making mayhem over with Wendy, The Constant Quilter.

This was from a pattern by Sheryl at Temecula Quilt Company. It is called Independence Day, and she released the free pattern on July 4th. I cut it out and sewed the top that very week, but I have been slower than molasses in January at getting this quilted and bound. Obviously not in time for summer, but just in time for Labor Day (after which I take down all the patriotic decor).

In this photo you might be able to tell that I machine quilted around all the red in the pieced blocks. Then I hand quilted diagonal lines through the navy squares, using a dark blue quilting thread. 

If you would like to make one of these little quilts, you will find the free pattern download in the Temecula Quilt Company post here. You know, you aren't limited to making it in red/white/blue. Fall colors or Christmas colors would be fun, too.

If you'd like to make it, go to the link above and download the pattern, and then leave a comment below if you would be interested in a die-cut kit to make this top in red/white/blue. I have an extra kit and would be happy to send it to someone.

Next up is Chooky's Churn Dash SAL. I am just as pleased as punch that I have been keeping up with this. That is a rarity for me.

These are all the 9" blocks so far--including my two attempts at a triple churn dash block, with teeny 1" centers. I MIGHT try making one more of those, somewhere in the remaining dozen blocks. And then again, I might not. ;)

Hubby and I are prepping for our first ever cruise. I have never really wanted to go on a cruise, but hubby has. So if I am going to go, the destination would be Alaska--which it is. We are going with 8 friends from our community, and I am surprised at how much I am looking forward to it. I will be crossing a few things off my bucket list. I am signed up for shore excursions where I will be kayaking, zip lining (I do not like heights, but I am determined to power through this), snorkeling, and riding a gondola. I can't get a single soul in our group to snorkeling with me (they all think it will be too cold), but I am going anyway.  

That is all for now. 

Until next time, be creative, and be kind!

Janet O.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Belated BOM and Miniaturizing a Churn Dash

Last year Barbara Brackman offered a BOM called Hands All Around. This SAL focused on Louisa May Alcott and her family. How could I not join in? But after Mom's passing in July of 2021, I just didn't pick this up again--until this July, when I did the August block for last year. Have I confused you yet? This month I did last year's September block.  Here is what I have so far.

These are 8" blocks, and I am making two each month. I choose the fabrics I need for my first block, and after getting it cut out, I rethink the block with the same fabrics, but mixing up their placement--maybe changing the value placement altogether, maybe not. Just whatever I feel like doing at the time. Next block in the lineup is a doozy. I am trying to decide if I will do it as written, or switch it up somehow. Maybe I will make the last two blocks first, while I ponder what to do with #10.

Surprisingly, I am keeping up well with Chooky's Churn Dash SAL--in spite of boo-boos like the one above. (Please tell me you've done this before.) But since adding the double churn dash blocks into the mix, I have been toying with the idea of a triple churn dash block. Since my blocks finish at 9", that means the double churn dash finishes at 3", and a triple churn dash would have to  finish at 1"! Do you know how hard it is to divide a 1" square into a 3x3 grid--when there are no markers on any rulers for 1/3"? Well, I tried one block. The tiny 1" block in the center is pretty wonky. So I tried again.

This time the center block came out a bit more balanced, but still not great. This photo also gives you a better size perspective. I think it is easier to make a 3/4" churn dash, as crazy as that may sound.

The next step is putting this in the center of the 3" block. To me this seemed to enhance the wonkiness.

I'll be back next week with the finished block, and a photo of all the blocks so far.
There will also be the usual monthly mini, assuming I get it bound.

That's all the quiltiness for now. 
Find someone that can use your help or friendship, and you will feel better, too.
Until next time,
Janet O.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Monthly Mini and Churn Dash progress

Just a bitty thing (5"x7") made from some tiny leftovers after cutting up a bunch of 30s repro fabrics.  I bound it in yellow and named it "A Little Bit of Sunshine". 

It is is machine quilted with diagonal lines that form tilted rectangles. The photo below shows the quilting better, and gives you a better size perspective.

Linking up with Wendy (The Constant Quilter blog), where you can check out the other mini makers and what they have created this month.

Here is my progress on Chooky's Churn Dash SAL. I haven't decided yet if I am going with 41 or 50 blocks, but I am on track for 50 with these 25 blocks at the halfway mark.
These are 9" blocks, so the little churn dash centers of some blocks are 3". There are 42 official participants in this SAL--you can find them all in a link list on Chooky's sidebar. And there are several others who are making churn dash quilts with the group "unofficially".

We just returned from our annual family reunion/campout. We reserve a large, private campsite and my siblings and our posterity are invited. We had 55 participate this year, but the little intruder we found in a banana my hubby had hung in our camp, was definitely not invited. Do you think he thought he was camouflaged? Click to enlarge for the full effect.

Don't want to leave you with that photo, so I'll leave you with this one.
These clouds are over the eastern mountains, but this is the sunset, not the sunrise--the colors were just reflecting clear across the valley.

So much going on in this world of ours, it can leave your head spinning. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay kind.
Until next time,
Janet O.