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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ho-Ho-Ho Garland Finished

You may remember my former posts, on Nov. 19 when I exhibit the results of drinking a mocha & visiting a shop of STUFF and begin making a banner or garland for the holidays. On Nov. 21, I posted a tutorial on how to make the fabric letters. Yesterday, the day after a wonderful Thanksgiving meal and conversation with our daughter and friends, we watched a university football game fraught with rivalry (the University of Oregon "Ducks", our family's team, versus the Oregon State University "Beavers", my sister's family's team). The incredible game kept us on the edge of our seats till the very end, when our team won in the final seconds, 36-35!!! What's this got to do with the garland?, you may ask. My dear husband set up a card table so I could finish its design and bring this fun project to completion so it could be hung on our front door before Christmas. I spread all the ingredients I'd collected on the table including scissors, wire cutters (for the canvas ribbon used as the base), thread, needles and pins.

 I love the result!
 Now when we open the front door, it's fun to hear the tinkle of the 4 green and red bells.
Bells, fake holly & berries, ribbons, and ornaments.

I found this cute Santa at a thrift store & gave him a new home.
If you make something like this, please share it. 
I enjoy seeing what others create!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Christmas Tree Skirt (reversible) almost finished! and Thanksgiving Prep

Patchwork & quilted tree skirt with ties, reversible.
grab a button
My work in progress: I started this tree skirt before Christmas last year. Apparently I created my own layout since I didn't place the parts of the stars in the right positions. Oh well! I am so happy to finally have the binding and ties attached. The ties are black (made from a small Christmas print) to match the back side, which I also chose to design. I finished hand-stitching the binding to the back this evening after a long day of Thanksgiving meal prep. I want to add some machine quilting to the larger spaces now that I have a new machine (purchased after I'd put this together and did the initial quilting on my old, very old machine)! I'm so glad this will be done for our tree this year! How cheerful and homespun it will look.
Close up of what was supposed to be a star :P

****Don't forget to check out my recent interview of 2 designers featured on my previous blog page!****

I spent most of the day cooking the following:
Roasted & flavored pecans & walnuts
Homemade stock for gravy making

Homemade chocolate fudge

For those of you in the U.S., I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day celebration!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Meet 2 Pattern Designers: Sisters Barbara & Ann

I attended a "trunk show" for 2 sister designers at a favorite local quilt and fabric shop on Saturday, Piece by PieceBarbara and Ann graciously allowed me to take some pictures, inadequate though they are, so that you can become acquainted, too! Their patterns are reasonably priced, creative, and perfect for gifts!

Vanilla House Designs

Meet Barbara Brunson whose whimsical and delightful patterns will help to make your environment sparkle!
Barbara modeling one of her apron designs.
She's been designing for 20 years!! I think it's time you checked out her blog: , and her website: (Click on the titles.) 

Her dynamic display included: aprons (women, men, children--for every task, not just cooking!), cooking mitts, Christmas stockings, doll clothes, soft sculptures (useful in the sewing room!), table runners, portable ironing boards, bibs, pocket hanger, SATCHELS, home dec, and so much more!
My photo is an inadequate representation.
Check out her chic apron design that challenges symmetrical quilters and sewists: Off Sides (#P167). There's also the bling jewelry.

Olive Ann Designs

Notice her sample dresses featured with her patterns.
Meet Ann Blair who makes patterns for girls' clothes that will definitely highlight their vivacity, as well as other handy items for moms (and grandmothers)! 

I'm partial to the new Michael Miller chicken fabric
used in this "Classy Cargo" pattern (#OAD84)!

"Easy Peazy Pleats" pattern (#OAD83)

What inspired her to pursue this endeavor two years ago? It's a common refrain: she wanted to make cute clothes for her granddaughters, and the patterns available didn't fit! That's always disappointing! You're in for a treat when you go to (click on it) and see what she's got for you: dresses, tops, shorts, doll clothes, slings, duvet covers, crib comforters & rugs, changing mats, burp cloths, leggings, nursing shawls, baby hats, diaper covers, adult & child totes, and offers custom orders!

Check out her patterns with the giraffe appliques--very cute!! Yeah Ann!

Let me know what you think, & thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Newly listed on Etsy: Handmade Black & White Quilted "Picket Fence" Table Runner

I like this design because the stars really shine in the 3 sections, especially when using fabrics with high contrast. It's difficult to photograph so that it doesn't look washed out (or like blah black & white photos). In person, it's bright!

I chose a charm pack from a quilt shop featuring black and white fabrics with bits of yellow/gold here and there (see posting on Nov. 15, though those fabrics are the leftovers). I had to augmented the group with a few others. Then I needed fabric for the back and binding (an excuse to go to the quilt shop, yeah!). I machine quilted with a 1/4" outline in white cotton thread.

back view
I look forward to making more of this pattern in the future, and like I said, I hope to publish the pattern, too! Let me know if you're interested. I'll notify you when its done :)

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Dress up your holiday!
Skill level: Easy!
  •          (2) ¼ yd. or more fabrics of choice, 1 for back, 1 for top (if you want the letters to be reversible, think about this!)
  •          Lofty acrylic batting/wadding
  •          Temporary Spray Adhesive (I used Sulky KK2000)
  •          Glad Press’n Seal
  •          Sharp Pinking or other fancy edge scissors or rotary cutter
  •          Paper cutting scissors or craft razor blade
  •          Paper
  •          Pencil
  •          Marking Pen (to mark on Glad Press’n Seal)
  •          Utility thread
  •          Decorative thread in top & bobbin
  •          Other decorative items of your choice: ribbon, candy canes (real or fake), ornaments, tinsel, etc.
  •          Something by which to hang the letters, eg, O-ring, fabric, craft board, etc.

Making the stencils:

    1. .       Draw your letters to make stencils—I did mine freehand (the 'H' measures about 4"x5"; the 'O' measures about 3"x3").  You could also use the computer for choosing fonts: select a font that will give you a block style from which to make a stencil and print. Cut out with craft scissors or razor blade. (If you’re really confident, skip this step and go to step 2 directly.)

      2.       Place your cut-outs (or do your freehand) on a piece of cardboard or template plastic. Draw around the stencil with a pencil or pen. Cut out with craft scissors or razor blade.
Making the "fabric sandwich":
  1. If you’ll be using the adhesive spray product, I recommend that you do it in the lid of a cardboard box, or take it outside so that any overspray will not affect other surfaces or cause problems with fumes. I used a box lid.
  2. On your chosen surface, place and smooth out the backing fabric wrong-side up. Spritz with adhesive quickly across the fabric or in bursts—not necessary to use much, so watch your trigger finger.
  3. Place and smooth out the batting/wadding on top of sprayed wrong-side of backing fabric. (I used a raggy scrap of batting.)
  4. Place top fabric wrong-side up on top of the batting, smooth out and spritz. Turn over and place on top of batting. Take out of box, or return inside and smooth out.
  5. Pull out a small sheet of Glad Press’n Seal that will cover the fabric surface that you will be stenciling. Note that the Glad Press’n Seal is bumpy and sticky on one side (easy-to-remove sticky). Place this on the surface of the fabric and smooth out with your hands. 
    Product placement?? (LOL)
Stenciling Fabric and Stitching:
  1. Place your stencils on top of the “fabric sandwich” you just created. Leave at least ½” or more between letters as you will be leaving a ragged but decorative edge when you cut them out. (Stencils should be on top of the Glad Press’n Seal.) Using a marker, draw around your letters. Don’t be too fussy. They’re supposed to looked folksy or homemade.
    Tracing the letters onto plastic wrap.
  2. Set your straight stitch length to about “2” for closer stitches (makes the Glad Press’n Seal easier to remove like perforated paper). With utility thread in your machine (top & bobbin threads), stitch around your drawings. Cut threads between letters. Be sure to stitch around the inside circle of the ‘O’s as well.
  3. When you've done all this initial stitching, pull away all the Glad Press’n Seal. You don’t need it any more. If some little bits are left behind, they’ll be covered up by the decorative stitching in the next step.
    Removing plastic wrap
  4.  I chose to use a zigzag stitch with my open applique foot to finish the edges. I set the default width of the stitch smaller. You may need to adjust the length of the stitch as well so that it is close. I also selected to have auto-knot & -snip for any time I completed the stitching on a letter. My applique foot has a center mark that I could use to aim my stitching as I sewed around all edges. I paid attention to corners of the letters to make sure they were covered with thread as well.
Zigzag stitching
Zigzag stitching complete
Finish Work:
  1. Use pinking shears or other edge trimmers for cutting out the letters, being careful not to decorative stitching. If you do snip some of the stitching, go back over it in those spots.
    Snip close to stitching, but don't clip stitching!

  2. Snip any thread ends.
  3. Place on a background of your choice. This could be a ribbon, fabric, craft board in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal position. Decide how you’d like to adhere it to the surface and how it will hang once it’s put together. It could be stitched (by hand or machine), glued, Velcro-ed, etc. Decorate your garland or banner with ornaments, candies, ribbons, bells, buttons, tinsel, etc. Add some cheer to your walls, mantle, shelf, door, etc. Have fun!
    I haven't finished mine, but here's my idea.
    Finished size is at least 4" x 24".

    **As a bonus, I'd like to have you email me if you make one yourself! I'd love to feature them on my blog. When you finish, take a good photo, and Google+ the photo to me, along with your name and/or blog name. I can't wait to see what you do!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A stop at a local shop bursting with stimulation & inspiration, add an iced coffee mocha and... 

the Rest is History…

There’s a small shop in town that specializes in cramming every bit of its space with (new) STUFF. I used to enjoy going into this store while attending university. In fact, this type of small shop reminds me of browsing and shopping in Japan. I loved it! Real estate is very expensive in Japan, so making a space, however small, profitable is important. In fact, many of the shops are truly storefronts with their small personal living space behind a curtain at the back. It’s not unusual to find the shopkeeper watching tv, cooking for the family or doing other household tasks when I came by. I would peruse the space like a detective so I wouldn’t miss any nook or cranny. I had a fascination with all the items, some unfamiliar and curious. In any case, it’d been a long time since I’d stopped at this local shop, so after “visiting” the dentist (argh!) and being on that end of town, I decided to “reward” myself (ever do this??) and venture in, just for a little look. An hour later…

After returning home and eating lunch, I enjoyed an iced mocha at 2pm. I make it a habit, for my health, to take a daily rest, usually by 2pm but I didn't get to it early enough today. As I shut my eyes, it swiftly became apparent that actual sleep wouldn't be happening, no matter how long I lay there. Images flooded my head. My mind took flights of fancy, envisioning sewing and art endeavors that put a smile on my face. Excitement increased as each image and idea fled by, and I knew I was swamped…wrong beverage to drink at 2pm! So I gave up.

This is one idea I had today, and I will designate it as my project for "Works in Progress" Wednesday:

A seasonal banner

I envision this little banner to be capable of hanging on a wall, a mantle, a shelf…wherever someone wants to add holiday cheer! 
So I’m still working out the details. 
What flights of fancy have come to you lately?
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Debut: Reversible Black & White Picket Fence* Table Runner

I gave a sneak peak of the fabrics for this project on Nov. 15th. 
When those fabrics (blacks, grays, whites, & little bits of yellow/gold) played together, this is what happened:

Top View

Notice the Japanese kanji fabric? I think it says "ninja."
It might looked "washed out" since the fabrics are black, white, gray, but in person they're sharp.

Back View
I chose a fabric with a plaid design for the binding, which is more gray than black. I thought the yellow/gold would help draw out the yellow/gold in the top. The splash of floral on the back makes a contrasting statement to the geometric-type of fabrics and layout that dominate the top. All that's left is hand-stitching the binding to the back, then watch for its appearance on Etsy!

*I mentioned in my Nov. 12 blog post my plan to publish a tutorial and/or pattern of this "picket fence" design. If you'd be interested, please let me know so I can notify you when it's done.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chick Bag Complete!

Ta Da!
I am happy to announce that I have finished the hens & chick fabrics handbag, & enjoyed using it yesterday, even though it "didn't match my outfit," LOL. I only needed to make and add the handles to finish the project from several months ago. Isn't that the way it goes sometimes? It's very roomy inside, keeps its shape thanks to thick interfacing, & has many pockets. I added pockets to the inside as well as to each side of the outside. Can never have too many organizing pockets & pouches! I want to be forthcoming in admitting to you all that it's the fabrics, featuring my favorite "pets" (who produce eggs & entertainment as a bonus), that inspired this handbag. 

Here's what my real chick, "Dickens", looked like as a hatch-ling:
Ain't she sweet?!
Seeing she and her brothers hatched by mother "Skitters" became a very special memory that we were able to record with a camcorder (we couldn't see them crack out of the egg, but we did get to marvel at their first few days of taking a peek at the world from under the warm feathers of their mother). We couldn't keep her noisy & aggressive but BEAUTIFUL brothers as they came into their own at 3 months, so she is special (and the original intent: more egg-laying hens). Speaking of "Running Hen", she is the inspiration for the title of my blog.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sneak Peak of the components of a new project that's almost done...

Look at these luscious charm fabrics (5" pre-cuts) assembled: 

What will they be?? Stay tuned for the big reveal!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's "Works in Progress" Wednesday!

I've been working on my Red & White Picket Fence Table Runner for a couple of months, along with other projects I've posted previously (and many that haven't been finished or shared yet!). 
I love the spark, the zap, the zing of this design:
Here's the top...

...and here's the back.

There's only the hand-sewing of the binding left, and maybe a little more machine quilting around the borders. I bought a charm pack of reds and whites assembled and sold at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show this past summer. I think it was a wise investment, don't you? I added a few more fabrics on my own for the back and the binding.

Have you ever made a "picket fence" block? Want to learn how? 

Leave a comment so that when I finish editing my pattern, and perhaps actually publish/pdf it, I can notify you.
Happy Quilting, or Sewing, or Cutting, or Planning!
Most of all, dream, dream, dream!

Quilt Labels

A friend needed a label for her quilt of valor, and my sister needed 2 labels for quilts she's completed. Their suggestions, my designs. I think they turned out lovely:
The left label is a combination of machine embroidery and applique.
The center label features a 
nice saying for the quilt of valor,
don't you think?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Nature's inspiration

My husband and I walked along paths in some marshlands nearby yesterday. We heard the beautiful song of these red-wing blackbirds and I wanted to share it with you. You can see one in the tree in the movie. Click on the movie so you can hear them, too.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My life in Japan...

...continues to leave its mark on me and my extended family. I lived and worked in Yokohama for 2 years in the 1980s, and Tokyo for 6 months in 2001. Before our marriage, my husband worked in Tokyo for 2.5 years in the 1970s. He became our cultural ambassador, and the rest is history!

When my friend (now husband) returned to the States in the 1970s, he prepared an authentic Japanese meal for me. How sweet! He made 2 mistakes: he served white rice and raw egg. I didn't like white rice, and I've always disliked eggs. Thus began my education into good cuisine (how to cook rice correctly and the importance of using the right variety!) and the expansion of my cultural horizons. Now I eat quality white rice on a regular basis, love most Japanese foods and often prefer them over Western meals, enjoy cooking their foods, and even found ways in which eating an egg is acceptable (fried and chopped to little bits, sukiyaki, etc.). (Baking with eggs has never been a problem--let's hear it for cookies!) Japan continues to influence our personal lives in a number of ways: our behavior and cultural sensitivity, foods, customs, literature, drama, and the decor of our home! Our children attended bilingual Japanese/English public schools in our city. My husband and I each led cultural excursions to Japan for 25 fifth-grade students and chaperons from these schools. Our daughter lived in Japan for 9 months during her second year of high school as the guest of four different Japanese families while attending a private Japanese high school.

Now Japan influences my art and stitching. I couldn't pass this book up at a fabric store and have fantasies of making some of these luscious blocks--has anyone else used this book or a similar one? (Warning: Most of these blocks are not simple!)

Japanese motifs adorn my home. I love Asian fabrics, and the simplicity of sashiko. I haven't dabbled in sashiko yet, but I probably will someday. Hand-stitching is calming and I usually enjoy this part of the process. My mother taught me hand embroidery long ago. Several years ago I did a quilt block swap with others around the country who enjoy hand embroidery. I haven't committed these blocks to anything yet, shame on me! Their personal designs are lovely!  

Have you been influenced by another culture in your creative stitching endeavors? What have you done or are you pursuing as a result? Do you do sashiko? I'd love to see!

I would love to hear from others who enjoy Japan, Asia, and other cultures. I know that we now have access to translators on our computers. If you can't write in English, write a little about yourself and interests in your native language, tell me what language it is (if it's not Japanese or Spanish), and I'll try the translator, too. I know these programs have their limitations and get the nuances wrong sometimes, but we can try :)

May your day be full of creative expression!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Works in Progress Wednesday"

Forest of Trees!

I find paper-piecing of quilt blocks intriguing. The detail in following the patterns can be aggravating since it's so easy to make a mistake: mis-positioning the piece of fabric, using a piece of fabric that ends up too small for the section, flipping the fabric to the wrong side, or....each error necessitating ripping it out or finding another piece of fabric. So why do I like doing it?, you may ask. I like a challenge, even if it gets me into trouble sometimes. I also appreciate the results.

I made these trees last year and have as yet to commit them to something. I'm thinking along the lines of placemats. With winter coming, and the holidays, trees seem appropriate for something.

Have you tried paper piecing? Do you like it? Share some of your "successes" with me (and all of us!). Thanks!

I'm getting some great suggestion on how to trim these trees. Thanks so much!

Top view of runner & quilting
Close up of quilting

   Holiday Twirl: Almost Done!

I thought "Holiday Twirl" table runner should have an encore, now that I've finished quilting it. I still need to do the binding, but I think it's cheerful, don't you?
Back view of runner & quilting

Gardening & Harvesting, the other interest

How about this morning's harvest as well? I planted the carrots in September so we'd have those sweet darlings to enjoy in the Fall.

Now it's time to check out fabric at the store since the local newspaper had a coupon for a shop I haven't been to yet. Maybe those paper-pieced trees will find some fabric to play with!