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.


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!

I know, I’ve been awful.

Have you ever just hit one of those funks?  I hit one around Christmas and didn’t even bother to open my Christmas cards let alone send any out. It was pretty sad and I needed to find something to focus on so I wasn’t just doing the status quo.  That’s when I made a move to start sewing more regularly.  Then it became all about the UFO challenge.  Now I have almost all my laundry caught up (because when is it ever really caught up?  I mean they just run around making more dirty laundry…) and I can feel more of a balance in myself.  I’m glad to see that there is more sunshine and warmth and I think I really needed that.  I hope that the promise of spring is breathing new life for you as well.

Now, about that UFO challenge I was talking about….I have more show and share!  This month was a little more challenging because I had to go off list for one of my projects.

This is one of my many Block Of The Month projects.  Remember when they were so popular every shop had one?  Or maybe even more than one?  This was based on black and white blocks that came with block border instructions.  (I may have talked about this one before)  The blocks were finished and I had a couple that needed to be fixed.  Then I needed to decide on those block borders.  There were some really good ideas and some that were really detailed.  I thought it might be quicker to go with something simpler. These were done with a partial seam technique which means I could cut all my strips the same size and at the same time. I have found that I really don’t mind partial seams.  Y-seams on the other hand….well, I have not developed a taste for those yet.    Anyway, the blocks are completed and I have to wrap my head around how I want to set them.  I have at least one idea kicking around so we will see if I can get back to these or if I will need to let it gel for a little longer.  I’m sure you have projects like that as well.

This one is another Block Of The Month (I told you I had a lot of those!).  I remember when we started this one that there were some coordinating fabrics and I didn’t like them so I didn’t buy any of them.  Of course, this means that I’m on my own for finding fabric to finish off the quilt and after raiding my stash I think I found the perfect stuff.  Don’t you love those fireworks?  I couldn’t tell you how long ago I found it, so I had to have my husband do some serious math to make sure that what I have will work for what I have in mind.  I will have to be very careful in my cutting, but the numbers indicate that things should work out…but it will be very close.  Oh, and the hubster is a math guy so while quilt geometry is not his favorite thing, he is able to help me with the more difficult math.

Here are all the blocks finally finished.  I had to laugh because after talking with Inez about ideas for setting, she went home and while cleaning in her sewing room discovered that she had done the same BOM only she had purchased the coordinating fabric.  I had to laugh because we have both had these sitting around waiting to be finished for quite some time.

This is the one that threw off my list.  I had this as a completed top (go figure – another BOM) and had tried to give it away at least twice.  As it turns out a teacher’s aide at my son’s school started going through some health stuff and as the school colors are blue and gold I volunteered to donate this top for her.  I had been kicking the idea around trying to figure if I had enough time to see it all the way through but when talking to the teacher, I just opened my mouth and volunteered it.  I knew it was the right thing to do, but I hadn’t made a final decision until we were chatting.  There happens to be a lot of open space on it and so I took it in to the teacher and asked for the children to draw pictures for her on the open yellow spaces.  They had a great time and did a great job and hopefully felt that they were doing something positive for their friend.  Of course that meant that I had to hurry up and quilt/bind it so it could be gifted out.  It has been delivered to her and hopefully it is bringing her comfort and joy.

Lastly, I have yet another BOM.  I use that term loosely with this project but it does fit the definition.  Once a month Northcott fabric company had published a small quilt/block pattern in a Flower of the Month series.  I have (of course) purchased all twelve of them but have completed (fully completed) none of them.  I can’t even remember which year this was, but I want to say 2007.  I have January to the point where it needs to be bound and that’s as far as I have gotten.  This one is April and the kits are cut generously enough that I can get the small quilt and a block out of each one.  At least I can for the two that I have gotten to this point.  Northcott also put out a coordinating panel for their Flower of the Month and I picked that up thinking that I could work something with extra flower fabric from the kits but now I am thinking I could surely do something with the panel and the extra block.  I think that will be a UFO for next year though….

And that was my February.  It was a short month, but I did get quite a few things accomplished.  I’ve managed a couple of things for March, but had to go off list again for a school charity and now have a boring thing to do on one of my oldest UFO’s.  I’m hoping that I can get it completed because I would really like to get this UFO off my list.  I did manage to get two more of those Flower of the Month in there as well.  Now we will see how much more I can get accomplished.

Thanks again Vera!  I really am enjoying getting back in touch with some older projects and moving some of them into my pile of Needs-to-be-Quilted.  I suppose I should be watching for some major sales on batting. I’m even more glad to be out of my funk and getting back to normal things (like writing!).  Here’s to hoping that March is productive in every sense.


I really didn’t make it this month. I was kinda close though.  I did get the sashing sewn on to the flowers and all they need is the border.

Here it is without the border.


Yea!  It’s mostly assembled!

Here is the green I had originally thought I would use for sashing.  I did use it in the corner stones and thought that I would go ahead and use it as the border.


I know, they aren’t the best pictures, but at least I came close to finishing this UFO.  I’ll bet getting that border on before the week is out and then I can call it complete.  Of course I still need to get my star done and the new one comes out tomorrow.  I hope to get some of that done yet this week as well.  We shall see how it goes.  Plus I need to pick the next UFO to tackle.  If nothing else, I’m not doing too badly at carving out a little sewing time during the week.

With it now being summer break, I was worried about losing all of my sewing time.  So far, that hasn’t been the case.  It seems like I will be able to still make it work.  I won’t bore you with all my details, but I’ve been working on a theme a week for summer break.  This week we are doing a Superhero theme this week.  If you are curious, you can read more about my exploits with the boys here.  Mainly I use the Smallest One’s nap time as a quiet time for the older one to do things like his own craft or reading or playing a video game which still gives me a chance to get a little sewing done.

At least I am hoping that it will continue to do so.  Wish me luck!

As far as the 10K stepping, well, this week was easier than last (yea!) and I was able to make that goal 4 times this week.  I was a little surprised that it wasn’t much harder to reach and seemed a little easier than 8K.  I’m not sure why but I am going with it.  I have instituted a little exercise each day with the boys where I get in at least 20 minutes of walking while they do jumping jacks or running or silly goofy things to get their bodies moving.  It’s working and I’m glad for that.

I have my work cut out for me this month and I’m hoping to really get a good start on it during this week.  It always feels like there is more to do than hours in a day, doesn’t it?  Maybe that’s my motivation kicking in….that would be a good thing.




Slipping a little bit.

I’m not sure I’m going to make it this month.  There is still some potential, but I have a feeling that next month I am going to have to make up for this month as well as do what I need to for June.

No excuses.  Just not much time for sewing the last couple of weeks.  That’s okay – sometimes that will happen.  So, I’ll give it a shot tomorrow am and see if I can maybe get those flowers going.  They will be the easiest to complete.  I think it’s a certainty that I won’t get the lovely stained glass star done for the month.  I’ll be okay though.  It won’t take much to get back on track.  After all, this happens sometimes.  We have other things that become priorities.  School ending and potty training seem to be the order of these days.

I did think that I would share one of my favorite tools – Iris Pins.  Well, I shouldn’t say that they are my favorite tool.  I actually hate to pin.  However, if I have to pin (and there have been a few times where I have not been able to avoid it), these are the pins that I prefer to use.

Here is the tin they come in and it’s kinda cool.  You push in the top and it pops loose.  Push it again from the inside of the lid and it will then snap closed over the top of the tin.



Aside from the packaging being pretty cool (because let’s face it, the cooler the packaging the more likely we are to purchase it), the are very slim pins.  Here you can see them one next to a flower head pin.


Yes, it’s a little shorter, but you can see how much thinner it is than a standard flower headed pin.  I’ve had these for quite a while and my tin is starting to feel a little lighter which makes me think that I need to pick up some more.  I got mine at my local quilt shop so I may just have to pop in again to see about picking up some more.

Last week was also pretty bad for getting good steps in.  This week has been going much better and I’ve had 3 consecutive days of reaching my 10K goal.  I’m hoping that today will be a 4th one.  One thing I do wish is that I would see some change in the scale, but so far that has been a bit of a disappointment.  Maybe keeping up with this 10K will help give the scale a bit of a jump-start too.  It certainly can’t hurt.

My feet are on fire!

Well, of course not literally…but I did manage to make 7k steps every day for the week so I’m feeling pretty good about that.  This week I will shoot for the same goal and maybe next week I can bump it up to 8k.  Baby steps…baby steps.

Which is how my quilting is coming along as well….baby steps.  My indigo is soaked and laundered and needs to be pressed.  Then I have to do math since this print is directional as well.  I did add the first border but I’ll save pictures until the second one is added.  I’ve also made some serious progress on my star block of the month.  The pie pieces are almost assembled and then I can get the block together.  One more good session in my sewing room and I should be able to knock that out and get things prepped for the second border.    It’s taken a while, but at last I have progress for this month and I should be able to get my UFO completed although I most likely will not be able to get much, if any, other sewing projects done. I wonder which UFO I will pull together next?  At this point, even I’m not sure.

At this point I feel as though I should make a confession.  Hello, my name if Opal and I am a quilter that has not been to Paducah for Quilt Week.  Whew, I feel much better now.  I’m sure some of you have been or maybe even go yearly.  I saw that for 2017 they are also having a Fall Quilt Week. Isn’t that exciting?  I hope it goes well so that they offer it again.  Well, really the most exciting part of all this is that the Monkeys are thinking that it is time for us to descend on Paducah!  So, if you have been and/or are regular goers to Quilt Week I would love to hear any tips you may have for when you go!  I definitely would like to visit Hancock’s of Paducah.  <sigh>  I think that will be some happy fabric dreaming for me.

In the meantime, I need to get some of those UFO’s taken care of so I can shop with abandon.  After all, if I can get completely caught up on my UFO’s, well, then I’ll just need to get some more projects, won’t I?  Plus I will have a whole year to save to that makes it budget friendly as well (because I have enough UFO’s to keep me busy so I don’t really need to go shopping, unless I need something for a UFO.).  I’m so excited!

Seriously though, if you have any tips with regards to Paducah please feel free to share them in the comments!

I suppose that is really all that I’ve been working on.  I started an afghan for my husband because I was on a crocheting roll and he had picked out some yarn eons ago and I thought while I was in the mood I should get to work on it.  Now, it feels like I may have a bit of tendonitis in my elbow…at least as best as I can figure without going to the Dr. (don’t yell at me Hazel). So, I’ve been icing it today and will do some real resting of it this week.  I thought it was because of the yoga I was trying.  No, I’m not trying to find excuses. Really.  Part of the yoga DVD I was doing had a bit of floor work including planking and downward dog.  The reason that I started doing yoga (and all this stepping) is so I can lose some weight.  Like say, more than 30 lbs.  I thought that maybe I was straining myself with the floor exercises because of my extra fluff.  So, I stopped.  I do miss it though and was hoping in a week or two with some rest it would be back to normal.  Not so much.

So, I racked my brain a bit and realized that I went through this when Small Blonde was of a certain age and weight….where he still liked to be carried but his weight was making it a bit prohibitive for me to be able to do it well.  Little Red is reaching the same point and I really only have one good arm.  The other one is all scarred up from my trip through a plate-glass window.  The arm is good, but he’s squirmy and then he rubs up against the scar and it just doesn’t feel good.  So, that leaves me one arm to constantly carry, wrestle, and subdue this small human that we call Tiny Grizzly.  In my mind that means it was inevitable that I would have another bout of this when this small boy reached similar weight.  For the record he is 35 lbs and has no regard for his personal safety when the thrashing tantrums take over.  Thankfully he can now climb in and out of his car seat so that makes things a little easier when he is amenable to such things.

At any rate, rather than jumping into going to the Dr.  where I’m sure that I would be prescribed some anti-inflammatory, I thought I would just try some home remedies first (don’t worry Hazel, if it does persist I’ll head to the Dr.  I promise.).

Well, that was certainly a whole lot about me!  I suppose I should close with some quilting!  Here is a long arm quilter that I admire.  You can find her blog here.  Her name is Judi Madsen and even her blog and online store have a great name – Green Fairy Quilts.   Anyway, she has some amazing pictures and I visit her blog when I am in need of inspiration.  Maybe you will find some there, too.  She does some amazing things and I wish I had half of her vision.

As for me, I think I’ll head to Hancock’s of Paducah’s website and do some happy dreaming.