Happy New Year 2018!

Once again it is time for a new year and new beginnings!  Hopefully you and yours are staying warm and safe so far this winter.  It has been a bit on the cold side here and we are looking forward to getting out of the deep freeze – hopefully sooner rather than later!

In the meantime, it’s once again time to get back on track.  I don’t know about you, but it has been a couple of months before I had a chance to sit at my sewing machine.  That’s kind of sad isn’t it?  I really haven’t even been in my sewing room for a while.  I have contended myself with some yarn things and am taking advantage of a New Year of Beginnings to get my sewing room cleaned up once again.  What is it they say?  Fail, get up tomorrow and fail better?  Something like that.  Sums up things pretty nicely.

And I fell down a few rabbit holes…I’ll spare you the details of all of them and just share with you the main one.

It involves the whole family and believe it or not, board games.

As I may have mentioned, we have a couple of kids, boys in fact.  One of them is on the smart side.  Not like genius level or anything, but things come very easy for him.  So, we have been working with his teacher to keep him challenged and one of the ways we have been keeping him challenged at home is by playing board games.  I’m not talking about the usual Sorry! or Monopoly.  While we do have those, we turned toward strategy games like Carcassone, Splendor, and Catan.

Neither my husband or I had ever played any of these games and while a friend introduced us to Splendor.   I also have Wanda to talk to about games as she and her husband both play a variety of similar games.  Thanks Wanda!  I look forward to many more conversations with you (and not only about board games. lol!!)

We found a great resource on YouTube for learning gameplay, in particular we have been avidly watching Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop where we learned about even more games such as Lanterns, Tsuro of the Seas, and Qwirkle.  Tabletop isn’t the only table game channel out there, but we did learn about a lot more games and our selection of games grew with Sagrada and Labyrinth:Oceans.  Most of these games the whole family can play (and the youngest is turning 5) with the boys asking to play more games every night after dinner.

We played a lot during our Christmas break and in case you are curious about  the games, I included a link on each of the titles above to Amazon.   If you were interested in some new games for your family, we have had great fun with all of the ones above.  Let’s face it, sometimes the directions for games are not written in the most clear manner and that can make learning a new game challenging.  Enter YouTube!  Of course, be sure to check out your local game shop.  You might find some experts and recommendations there.  We do visit ours with a bit of frequency and sometimes find some new treasures.

What makes these games different from the usual board games?  Most of those games are based on the roll of dice which leaves a lot of things to chance.  Some of the games above incorporate dice into their play, but they rely more on strategy than chance.  I’m not an expert by any means, but the play experience is very different and seems more interactive.  Many of the games involve paying attention to what your opponent is doing because the play you make may help your opponent or perhaps hinder them.  There are even some games that encourage more of a cooperative play where you are all working toward the same goal.

These games have created a more family fun atmosphere at home and gives us fun things to do while we spend more time together.  Unfortunately our list of games to acquire and play keeps getting longer….  Kind of like my UFO list…..hmm…..



Goodness gracious.

Just when we thought that one hurricane was enough…now we have Irma bearing down and looking to take no prisoners.  I’ve read many articles of late about whether one should or should not donate to the Red Cross.  I’ve also read a few articles on whether or not to donate/what to donate/how to donate/when to donate.

To that end, I have come up with my own conclusions.  I share them here because as quilters and crafters it seems to be in our nature to want to do something to help.  A quilt, an afghan, bottled water, something that brings comfort to someone in need.  I feel like we are all in the same boat.  Perhaps we are close in proximity, perhaps we are further afield from a disaster site.  Regardless, there is a pull to do something that can help and a feeling of helplessness that there doesn’t seem to be anything that can be done.

I am fortunate to have not been through anything similar to the devastation from fires, hurricanes, or earthquakes.  I have not seen first hand the responders that come on scene or the people driving from far away with items from well-meaning communities.  I can’t speak to any of that.  I am fortunate.

I also feel that pull to donate things that would bring comfort.  However, some of the articles I have seen seem to make sense and so I wait. I’m sure you may have seen similar pleas for not sending items now, that places become easily inundated with items that may not need and nowhere to stow them.   My local quilt guild was preparing to send items until they were contacted to not send items now, that there is too much to deal with and to wait.

So, what do we do in the mean time while we wait?  I’m sure some won’t. There always those who pack up and go and do because they feel that overwhelming need while others provide items to send to those in need.  I find myself reminded that charity begins at home.  There are ways to offer support in my local community to fulfill my desire to offer support.  My local food pantry is always in need of items as is the battered women’s shelter.  I could easily crochet more hats for Click for Babies for our local hospitals as well.  There’s no judgement here on what you decide to do.  After all we all have our own paths to walk and what is right for someone is not right for another.

For now I wait, and prepare my items for our local food pantry while Irma rages on.

I know that this doesn’t have much to do with crafting or quilting, but there seems to be so much more going on in the world today that sometimes we just need a moment to process.  Well, I need a moment to process anyway.

I promise we will get back to the crafting stuff soon.

Another word on retreating.

I know that I have really fallen off track on all the quilty things that I was hoping to get accomplished this year, but now that the kids are back in school I am looking forward to trying to get back to the fun quilty things I had planned.  Retreat was a great time and I did manage to get a few things done – I did a couple of pillow cases for the boys, finished another of the flower of the month things, and I managed to start and complete the top for one of the wedding quilts on which I am currently behind.  I also finished assembling the top for the jungle cat quilt for Small Blonde.  He and I will have to decide whether or not it will add a border.  Sorry I don’t have pictures this time, I wasn’t sure that I would really accomplish so much at retreat that I thought I would wait until we were home and the boys absconded with the pillowcases.  I know they probably have a million between them, but it is a small thing that I can do for them that they get a kick out of and will use regularly.

Now that I’m ready to get back into my sewing room I find that I still need to unpack and put away the items I took with me to retreat and as always there are some things in there that need straightening before I sit down to do any work.

Do you feel that way too when it’s time to get back into your sewing room?  That you are in a constant state of picking up?  Somehow my crafting supplies manage to migrate downstairs and sometimes I just with I had an escalator in the house.  I know that sounds silly and I feel I should revel in the exercise of going up and down the stairs multiple times a day, but sometimes I stand at the bottom of the stairs and I think “not right now….”.  I try very hard to put away items when I am done using them and that happens most of the time.  Then I start looking for the next project that needs finishing and I like choices so a few come out at a time.  I think I will need a few days to get things unpacked and put away and to also put away the things that need putting away.

I’m sure those of you that aren’t familiar with retreat wonder what it is like and what kinds of things do you pack to go to such a thing.  If you have traveled to a class, you have a basic idea.   You bring your machine and your basic sewing kit.  Sometimes a small iron/ironing pad and perhaps a small cutting mat and cutter.  Retreat means bringing a few more things..  Since there are a number of us we tend to take charge in different areas so that we don’t have 9 ironing boards and irons.  For us, 2 ironing boards and irons will do.  We also bring 2 large cutting mats and most everyone  brings their cutter and a smaller mat.  We also bring our favorite rulers although someone usually brings a good smattering so you don’t really need to bring any unless your project requires something specific.  We also bring our comfy sewing chairs and extension cords and small rugs to put over the cords so we don’t trip over them.  Often we will have Ott lights in case we need better lighting.  Most of us have a design wall (or two) and those come along as well.  Snacks are a must and so is bottled water and wine.  Some bring an iPod and we bring our favorite movies.  Of course we pack our comfy clothes and toiletries.  The most difficult things to decide on are which projects to take.  You want to make sure that you have enough to keep you busy and also that you have brought all the pieces needed for the project.

I often struggle with this because I am a mood sewer, meaning that what kind of mood I’m in determine which project I work on.  For example, if I’m feeling patient and relaxed I may opt to work on one of my more difficult projects.  Sometimes it is the colors of the fabric or the design of the pattern that pulls me.  It makes it more difficult for me to decide what projects to take with me and so I tend to over pack in this area.

Once you are packed, you are ready to go!  All you need are some friends and a place to go.  Although you could do a mini retreat by just gathering at a friend’s house and working on a singular project.  Order in dinner or throw something in the crock pot and sew until you can’t work any more.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

A different kind of day.

I find my mind drifting toward Texas today.  I’ve never been there and not sure if I will ever make it there, but my mind is drifting there as folks are struggling to survive and pick up the pieces of their lives.  I’m sure many of you are trying to stay in touch with family and friends who may be affected.  Hopefully you are hearing mostly good news.

We always wonder what we can do to help.  The Red Cross is taking donations and the minimum online donation is $10.  There are lots of other ways to help as well.  Donating blood is a good way.  Supplies will be surely needed – clothing, hygiene, medical, food, and school items.

I would love to include links, but the only one I feel comfortable sharing is for the Red Cross.  It would be safest to check with your local churches, schools, and communities to see what kind of assistance effort is underway.  Unfortunately, there are those out there that would take advantage of the situation and funnel any relief efforts into their own pockets.

As you consider what kind of donation to make, think of things that others may not such as underwear and socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, razors and maxi pads, formula and diapers, deodorant, aspirin, bandages, bars of soap, bottles of detergent and dish soap, even Lysol wipes and kleenex.  I’m sure that you will have your own ideas as well.

It’s just somber today, but there is a chance to do something good.  There is always a chance to do something good.  Go out and be kind to one another and maybe by asking at your church or school you will find yourself in the middle of helping in the relief effort.

Also, if you do find yourself getting involved, please share your story.  You never know who you might inspire to do similar things.

The Monkeys visit a jail.

The monkeys have all been pretty busy this summer but after our trip to Paducah we made some serious plans to have our own retreat.  We all calendared the dates and got our plans together.  This was to be our first foray into our own retreat separate from our guild organization and including just ourselves.  The potential for it to be awesome was very high.

I don’t want to string you along – it went so well that we have calendared 2 more retreats with plans for  a repeat trip to Paducah in 2019.

Everyone was able to make it and we kept our minds open as we were at a new venue and weren’t sure how things were really going to work out.  I don’t mean that to sound negative, however at our pervious location we had a method to our set up and we were used to that space and equipment.  Hattie found a place for us that worked out splendidly.  We stayed in a place called The Slammer and they had never had a group like us before (and I mean that in every sense of the word) and they were interested in how it would work out for us.  They were very accommodating for all our anticipated needs (that we provided through Hattie) and we had the basement all to ourselves.  They even helped us carry our stuff in and out.  Hopefully it will encourage them to have more groups like ours (as long as they don’t interfere with our dates!).

I should set the stage a little bit.  The Slammer is a bed and breakfast that is in an old jail. The front half is where the sheriff lived and the jail is in the back half and there are bedrooms (normal, not the kind with bars) on the second and third floors.  I was a little worried about how it would feel to be staying in a former jail, but it really was okay.

See, I told you there were jail cells.


There was even a drunk tank.  See how nicely posed we are in the drunk tank with our sock monkey covered bottles of wine?


I can see you are a little curious about why we have sock monkey covered bottles of wine.  Somehow, some way, we started a tradition where we bring monkey gifts to retreat.  Sometimes they are silly things, other times they are practical usable items.  You really never know.  Hazel brought us all a bottle of wine in those super fun sock monkey covers.  I did mention silly right?  I brought these.  They are supposed to hang on your wine glass.  As you can see his name is Brad and he just kinda hung out wherever.  They were too funny to pass up.

Here’s a little glimpse of how we had things set up.


I know we are in the basement, but there were enough overhead lights that it really didn’t matter. We were prepared with Ott lights but most of us never really used them.    Seriously, that’s how decent the lighting was.  We had two cutting tables and two ironing boards and maybe the round tables they had there weren’t ideal, but don’t worry we have plans for the next time!

The folks at The Slammer took excellent care of us – if you want to check out pictures of the place (including the bedrooms) you can visit their website here.  There are lots of photos of the bedrooms and the kitchen and such.  Oh, yes, there is a kitchen.  Every morning like magic there was breakfast.  Hot breakfast.  The best part was we didn’t have to cook it or clean up after.  For dinner, we took turns making a meal and it worked out splendidly.

For lunch, we went adventuring.  We hit the local Mexican restaurant (and stumbled on $2.99 margaritas), and the local diner, and the local Chinese place, and a coffee shop, and antique stores, and a boutique, and an auction.  I can hear you asking when we had time to sew, but we really did make time for that.

We also made time for this:


In our previous retreat place we were not supposed to have alcohol (it was a church camp so completely understandable), however it is nice to have a glass of wine (or two) in the evenings.

It was wonderful that we were all able to be together again.  I really can’t say enough about the time we spend together.  Retreat was amazing and the space was perfect and with a few tweaks we will have it all configured the best way for us.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures of us enjoying ourselves.


We all had a great time.  Really, the folks at The Slammer were very accommodating and made our first retreat on our own a big success.  If you are looking for a place to have your own scrapbook/quilt/<insert other craft here> retreat, this is a nice place to have it.


I did a baaaad thing…

I went to Goodwill.  I probably should mention that Sandra Dee is the Queen of Goodwill.  Well, really the Queen of Thrift Shopping.  She always manages to find the coolest stuff at  thrift stores.  I don’t know how she does it, but she does have a knack.

So, I rarely find anything really cool at Goodwill.  Mostly cool books and stuff for the boys.  Sometimes I find yarn.  I’ve had good luck with canning jars, too.

This time I went to Goodwill and found this:


Doesn’t it look cool?  Of course I had to take it home.  The price tag was $15.88 and with the cool color and name I wasn’t familiar with made me very curious about it.  I know it now seems like I have a bit of a collection going with the two I brought from my Grandmother’s and the featherweight…  In reality, I have 1 more that I am on the lookout for.  I’ll let you know when I find it.

But back to this lovely green machine.  Once I got her home I found more things that made her interesting.


I found it interesting that the tension jig is on the back side of the machine.  I’m sure I’ll stumble through threading the first few times.  Also, you can kind of see  the throat plate in the above picture, it flips up for access to the bobbin which I thought was kind of cool as most of the ones I’ve seen slide out.

Here you can see that there is a dial for what type of fabric you are working on.  We are guessing that it affects the pressure the presser foot puts on the fabric and perhaps how the feed dogs operate.


You probably noticed the spool holder there on the base of the machine.  It should be used for the thread when winding the bobbin.  There is a bobbin winder by the fly wheel that you can see here.


I was surprised to see that the machine light has a switch to turn it on and off instead of it just automatically coming on when the machine is turned on.  How neat is that?


Here you can see that is a straight up straight stitch machine.  No cams, no zig zag.  Underneath the stitch length settings you can see a little placard indicating nationally sold and made in Japan.  This was biggest clue about the machine.


Isn’t it all lovely green and chrome?  Such fun.  I did plug it in and it does work, although it does need clean and oiled and perhaps a little adjusting.  But back to the made in Japan.  I learned probably as much as I’m going to learn about the machine by googling that.  Apparently after WWII Japan made sewing machines and that’s where we got some of the fun colors of machines from that era.  While Remington is on my machine and while Remington did manufacture sewing machines, they did not manufacture them in Japan.  Another article I found indicated that Remington was able to successfully sue to have their name not put on the machines.  Most of the machines manufactured were modeled after the Singer class 15 machine (thus no zig zag) and so a singer manual should suffice to help me with basic maintenance for this model.  The Japanese manufacturers did make their own modifications and they did make solid good quality machines so I don’t feel like I made a bad decision in bringing it home.  Reading about this part of sewing machine history was very interesting, although it has been difficult to find this exact model.  Inez has been trying to help me and agreed that this machine was probably manufactured in the 1950’s with all the fun Japanese history.  The most discouraging thing has been that even though I have the serial number, I can’t look it up to learn anything about the machine.

I suppose I have my very own Green Mystery Machine (yes, that is totally a Scooby Doo reference).  She most certainly needs to be cleaned and oiled and then I will have to decide what I am going to do with her.  I have heard rumors of a gentleman in a nearby area who services vintage machines so I may just have to take a run down there in case I run into something I can’t handle.

Lesson learned today?  Don’t be afraid to stop at the thrift store(s), you never know what you might find!

Paducah – a little on the late side.

I will confess that this summer has completely gotten away from me (yes, already because I’m including spring).  No excuses, just some things that kicked up a notch.  One of the other Monkey’s and I have a long-arm/quilting business and we are making a move to create a website and to start publishing our own patterns.  To that end, we have to actually make (and quilt) those patterns.  This takes quite a bit of time and while I’m not complaining about that, I am amazed that this wonderful thing happened where my creativity cranked up a notch.   Well, not really a notch, more like a bazillion notches.  However, this isn’t a blog for that business – I just felt that I owed you an explanation for my absence.  By saying that, I would also be remiss if I didn’t also mention that another Monkey also recently started up her own long-arm business.  We are a varied group aren’t we?  We like to grow and learn and we are a bunch of goers and doers.

We made plans a while ago to go to Paducah.  We made it there and it was incredible.  There were lots of lovely shops, and the show, and the museum, and and and….and there was too much to put it all into one post.  I won’t bore you with a series of posts on Paducah either.  I will just hit the high points.

Traveling with friends.  This can either go really really well or really really poorly.  We figured that as we had all managed to do our extended retreat times together that this should not be an issue and it wasn’t.  We talked a lot in advance about meals and plans and since we are all reasonable adults, we kinda all went our own way during the days to see the things that were important to us and sometimes others of us would tag along.  I would highly recommend that if you are planning a trip with friends like that in the future, that you don’t feel like you have to spend every waking moment doing the exact same things.  Sure, you are all going to the same place and have similar interests, but you are all individuals with different needs and sometimes a quiet walk or a little more time at an exhibit can give you a little quiet time.

The Show.  The show was wonderful.  So much to see that when/if we go next time I would prefer to take more than one day there.  We did make sure to hit the vendors (and rumor had it that some vendors were selling out of things on the first day!) and I’m glad we did that, but I felt like I had to rush through the quilts being shown (that is on me not on any of my traveling companions).  Plus it was very overwhelming to see all the things and people that my head was on a swivel and it was hard to focus.  Now that I know more of what to expect it will be not as big an assault on my senses.

Shopping.  Holy cow there were a ton of places to shop.  I have some mental notes of places I really enjoyed and places I didn’t get to go, but that just gives me a better sense of what to do next time.

The little things.  Oh, the ever so important little things.  Like sampling moonshine at 10:30 in the am with your Tribe.  Yeah, we did that.  Yeah, it was worth it.  No, we didn’t get drunk.  We met and talked with some wonderful vendors and quilters and townspeople who helped us to get around.  We visited with people in shops and on trolleys and helped complete strangers pick out fabric.  We had our pictures taken because of our matching shirts (We are the ones your guild warned you about!) and posted online.  We sat in the evenings and shared purchases and techniques and wine.  We enjoyed the breeze from the lake and each other’s company.  We brought home souvenirs and fudge and memories.  I would trade it for nothing in this world.

Advice.  Sometimes you have to go and do something to really understand what others are talking about.  If you go for the first time, keep your expectations low and your mind open.  Also, make plans to go a second time to put all of your new-found knowledge to good use.