Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year Squirrel

We have a new friend for the New Year, a new squirrel friend that is. This baby fox squirrel showed up with it's mom and a sibling last week. It seems as though it's mom is cutting the apron strings and is ready to take her leave of them. She has reluctantly let them nurse a few times but we can tell she's ready to be done with it. Anyway, this little one seems to like hanging around the deck, but the sibling must have found better diggs. Fox squirrels are larger than gray squirrels and are colored much differently as you can see. I have seen all black and all blond fox squirrels but the normal coloration is like this little one here.
Speaking of apron strings, I tied my apron on today to make some homemade applesauce. The apples are so good this time of year and it's just so easy to make it fresh. I usually use 3 different kinds of apples. Today I have 2 McIntosh 2 Gala and 1 Granny Smith. I peel and core them then cut into a large dice and toss them in the saucepan with a dash of lemon juice. I add 1/2 cup water, cover and cook over medium low heat. I stir every few minutes and mash them up with the spoon as they cook. At the end I add about 1/4 cup of sugar and cook about another 5 minutes. I usually buy the cinnamon flavor applesauce when I buy applesauce, but when I make it fresh I leave the cinnamon out because the apples are just so scrumptious without it.
Well tomorrow I head to the printer with two new patterns, my distributors should have them by the middle of January at the latest. I'll post the pics next year - speaking of next year... Yes, of course I have a New Years resolution. It's the same one as last year, get more organized and stop procrastinating. Oh well, what can I say.
What resolutions, if any do you have and are they also the same as last years?
Wishing all of you a Happy, Healthy and Creative New Year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Florida Christmas

Yes, we decorate for Christmas in Florida, and yes, that's our bright green front door. In fact, sometimes I think we Floridian's tend to decorate a bit more to help jump start the mood in the absence of snow, ice, and frigid temperatures. In one popular downtown area we even have "snow" (actually soap bubbles) that comes floating out of the street lamps once a week. In Florida Santa may show up on a boat, a motorcycle, in a convertibles, on water skis or even on a hang glider. Santa is obviously still in pretty good shape. Today I started baking cookies. I have always loved making Christmas cookies. I pass them out to family, friends, neighbors, the postman, the UPS guy, etc. and my husband helps by taste testing every batch. Of course I always leave a few out for Santa. My favorite cookies are the old fashioned sugar cookies cut out with all sorts of cookie cutter shapes, (I'm a cookie cutter junkie) and then decorated with colorful frosting ala Martha Stewart. Except they somehow never look like hers, but I have fun doing it, she would probably faint if she saw the mess I make while baking.
Another favorite are Spritz cookies that are put through the cookie press. I loved it when my mom got out the food coloring and the cookie press and put in a disk and then out popped the prettiest cookies. I may have to go test those again before bed. I like to try a new cookie each year, this year I made chocolate mocha sticks and they are quite tasty if I may say so. They got the nod from my husband, and I've noticed quite a few missing already.
My husband suprised me one morning by setting up the tree before I got up in the morning. What a wonderful way to start the day.
It made putting the light and ornaments on that much more enjoyable. The tree skirt was a gift made by my dear friend Marti and we absolutely love it. The pattern she used is from the December 1999 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting and the designer is Karen Comstock, what a great pattern.
I spoke to my parents in Wisconsin today and my Dad had just finished coming in from blowing off the driveway with the snowblower after their 14" snowfall, brrrrrrr. Well, it seems that our Christmas day weather is obviously going to be drastically different from theirs.
They're going to be having quilt and hot cocoa weather, while we'll be having lemonade and shorts weather. We wish we could all be together for Christmas, but we will make do with numerous phone calls and e-mails and hopes that perhaps next year we will be. We did receive a package from home today filled with all kinds of goodies - cheese popcorn and fudge, my husbands favorites. Christmas cookies and butterhorns with apricot jam that my Mom made - my favorite. A tin on Pistachios and mixed nuts, no the squirrels won't get these, and a beautiful homemade Christmas card.
Well, I hope wherever you are, and whatever the weather, you have a very happy Holiday filled with family, and/or friends, laughter, good health, and the wonder of the season.
Merry Christmas to you and yours,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Whisperlite™ - A "how-to" lesson

I just finished packing up an order of my Whisperlite™ product to ship out and realized that now that I have a blog I can show you a "how to" on it's many uses.
Whisperlite tracer is a sheer, lightweight, yet strong material. It's a very versatile product and the techniques are designed to help save you time and frustration. It can be used for marking quilts, as a guide for applique placement and for foundation piecing.
I'll begin by showing you how to use Whisperlite™ to easily mark your quilts or any other fabric projects.
Note that this marking method requires that you wet your fabric afterwards so don't use it on a project that you can't or don't want to get wet.

To protect the page with the design, place a piece of plastic or a page protector over it.
Tape the Whisperlite on top of the design you want to trace. Using a water soluble marker, trace the design on to the Whisperlite. The tracing I am doing here is from my Berry Cherry pattern that was featured in McCall's Quilting magazine.

Remove the tape and place the marked
Whisperlite onto the quilt or fabric you wish to mark.

Pin in place. With the water soluble marker, retrace over the marked design and the marking will come through to the fabric underneath. You may have to retrace more than once if your marker is running low on "ink".

Lift the Whisperlite occasionally to see if the marking has come through to your satisfaction. That's it, your design is marked. To remove the markings follow the instructions for the marker you chose. Most water soluble markings are made to remove with clear cool water. If you are in doubt, test the marker on a scrap of the same fabric.

Whisperlite™ comes in 1 yd. packs or is available wholesale to retailers by the 10 yd. bolt.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

By the way...

Yes, we ate the pattypan squash from the earthbox and it was delicious. Tastier than yellow summer squash and better than zucchini, in my opinion. We didn't have enough to serve to the 20 guests at Thanksgiving so I saved it for Jeff & I for the following night. I didn't do anything fancy with it, I just sliced it up along with some red bell peppers and a little onion and sauteed it all in a bit of butter, olive oil and Italian seasoning. Yummy!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Talent & ingenuity all in one

I am referring to my friend and fellow quilter Pat La-Pierre McAfee.
She is a super talented free motion quilter and an inventor besides. She was just in Houston at Quilt Market (did I mention I wasn't, boo-hoo) and did a fabulous video for QuiltersTV demonstrating her Supreme Slider. It is the neatest tool. It is a teflon mat the you put on the bed of your machine to create a zero friction surface. This enables you to move the quilt very freely and eliminates shoulder and muscle fatigue while you quilt. I love it and use it whenever I do free motion quilting. Of course, my machine quilting cannot compare to Pat's but it is much better than it was thanks to using the Supreme Slider. One of my first quilts that I quilted on the Free motion Slider was the Lenny the lizard quilt. It's just a wee little quilt, only 9" x 11", but I wanted to fill in the surface well as it is a raw edge fusible applique pattern. You can see in the detail view that I was able to fill in the arm with free motion quilting that didn't look like a 5 year old did it (maybe a 10 year old). Anyway, after that I was a big fan. If you've been hesitant to free motion quilt, watch her video clip and be brave and try free motion quilting, it's a lot of fun. Here's the link to her video clip on QuiltersTV. You can find the Lenny pattern on my website.
Have fun and try new things, it keeps you young!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Time Lapse

Oh my goodness, has it been 2 weeks already? Don't say I didn't warn you. Well, I have been scurrying about gearing up for 20 guests that are coming for Thanksgiving day dinner along with my day to day routines of writing instructions, shipping orders and stitching designs and samples. I hope to be able to show you my new design soon, my photographer a.k.a. my dad, is working on the images and as soon as I have them you'll get a sneak peek. Anyway, I have also been tending my precious squash and ta-da we have squashes! Now remember this is Florida and these are summer squash. They are called Pattypan squash and are very similar to zucchini and yellow squash. At the rate they are going I will soon be sharing them with friends until they beg me to stop. I'm sure that any of you that garden know what I mean. Here are a few pics since the first I showed you which were taken several weeks ago. You'll notice that we had to cage in my earthbox and the reason why is standing in front of my garden. We seem to have acquired a gang of squirrels that rove our yard and they are fond of yummy things like veggies and peanuts. We have gray squirrels and we also have some very cool fox squirrels that have also joined the gang. This one has babies tucked away somewhere because she is obviously nursing. She usually shows up around mid day for a snack. So, back to the squash........ I just love the blossoms, they are so numerous some days, and quite large, about the size of my hand. They are such a beautiful glowing yellow orange, who knows, my squashes may inspire a future design. I have been told that the blossoms are also very tasty, no really. I'll have to try them soon. The bell peppers in front are getting crowded out by the squash but they are holding their own.

Time lapse......Here are my first squashes!!!
The one my husband is holding I already picked as it was getting giant, The other I will pick tomorrow and we'll eat them at Thanksgiving dinner after our game of croquet.

Granted with 20 people coming I will have to add a few other veggies in the mix, but I can't wait to taste them. Time for me to put the stitching aside for a day or two and get busy cooking.

Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marinating & pumpkins

While I don't have a pumpkin patch, I do have a couple of nice squash vines growing right now. You may have noticed a link in my friends and favs to www.earthbox.com
This is a picture of my Earthbox planted with squash and some bell peppers. It's my first attempt, I'll let you know how they all progress. Optimist that I am, I hope to be serving squash on Thanksgiving. Anyway, about marinating....
I've been asked many times where my ideas come from for my designs. Well, they tend to pop into my head any old time and I seem to have spurts of ideas rather than a constant scheduled trickle of inspiration. Because of that I keep a sketch book handy and make some basic notes and sketches so I don't lose an idea. I am usually working on more than one design at once and usually in different stages of completion. For example I may be binding one quilt while cutting out another and also writing the instructions for one of them.
When I am getting ready to start a new project there are times when I have to let the concept marinate for a bit before I get started. While I am marinating an idea, I will sometimes take a break and stitch up some fun little whimsy of a project for a change of pace, after I water my squash of course. I enjoy doing redwork and so I made a couple of redwork wristlets as gifts and then had so much fun I made a few more and put some in my Etsy shop. I still had some more marinating to do, so I drew up a couple of little redwork illustrations to share with you.
Yes, one of them has a pumpkin. You can download them both for free from my website www.thistledownquilts.com or www.Quiltersshowcase.com and stitch them into fun little projects for yourself. Hope you enjoy the marinade results.

Monday, November 10, 2008


When was the last time you contemplated the longevity of our art form - quilting?
Are we taking our quilts for granted?
I was reminded of these questions this weekend when my husband and I took a spin up to nearby Ft. Myers Beach to enjoy the artists that had descended upon the sand, or more aptly put, into the sand. The art medium for these artists is the powdery white sand itself.

We stood mesmerized as we watched small mountains of sand transformed by, trowel, hand, brush, bucket, and numerous other tools, into breathtaking works of art.
But for these artists, their works of art, unlike our quilts, are exposed to
the mercy of the wind, the rain, shore birds, and of course time. They toil for 2-3 days creating imaginative, and unbelievably detailed sculptures knowing full well that their fantastic sculptures will, very quickly, once again become the beach sand we walk upon.
So it is also the same with the artists that use sidewalks as their canvas, or the patient monks that create intricate sand Mandalas, food artists, graffiti artists, and more, all making art that is fleeting in it's physical form.
Imagine for a just moment if you had to shred or burn your quilt when you had finished it. Could you? I am grateful to all these artists that are willing to spend their energy and creativity to share with us their imaginative works of art knowing that only a memory or photograph is all that will be left. Would it be enough for you?

until next time,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's blooming?

Yes, I know it's the day before Halloween and all my northern friends and family are or were, looking at beautiful Autumn foliage, Indian corn and pumpkins.
Well, we have our share of pumpkin patches here in South Florida but I had to share these with you before they are spent. These are the blossoms blooming in my backyard right now. The soft yellow blossoms some of you may recognize as the frangipani a.k.a. Plumeria. We started planting these a couple of years ago and now have several in our yard to enjoy. Soon though, they will drop all their leaves and just look like big bare sticks poking up out of the flower beds. In a few days the pink one should be blooming and I'll get a picture of that for you too. The other picture is one of our orchids hanging on the side of a cypress tree. I just love looking at the showy little blooms on this orchid, they are so ethereal and I think their color is fabulous.
I guess that's why it inspired me to design a block and include it in my Florida Album Quilt pattern which consists of 9 applique blocks. After living in Florida all of my adult life I decided it was time to design a quilt of some of my favorite Florida flora and fauna. There was no shortage of inspiration surrounding me. I have always enjoyed the outdoors, I love bird watching, discovering new plants, new butterflies, even some new bugs. Yes, we have bugs in Florida but we won't get into that. Anyway, I got out my sketch pad and started scribbling and then had to decide which critters and such were going to be in the quilt. Some people ask me why I didn't put a pink flamingo in the quilt. Well, one of my favorite birding spots is the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island (FL) and many times we have seen large flocks of Roseate Spoonbills gathered there and to me they are just as amazing and more "real" Florida, not "postcard" Florida, so I added them instead. And they're still pink !
Today I am working on a little surprise for everyone, so I better go get busy.
Til then, enjoy what's out your window.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Houston Blues

Today I have the "Houston Blues" This is the first time in five years that my friend Karen and I will not be at Quilt Market. I had too many conflicts this year and so we won't be there to see all the glorious new fabrics and notions and all my friends and customers that I usually only get to see at Houston. We'll also miss going to Josephine's restaurant for fabulous Italian dinners.
This image is from my booth last year. The pink and brown quilt behind me is "Chocolate Chips" and the pattern gives directions for 3 different size quilts.
The quilt behind Karen is "Spin Cylcle" and is perfect for large scale florals and prints ~ super quick and easy too!

As always it was a great Market and we had a chance to visit with Mark Lipinski a bit even though he was overwhelmed with visits due to his debut of his "Katmandu" fabric line.
We always love seeing all the other booth displays, especially the fabric vendors. They always seem to out do themselves each year. I'm sure it was unbelievably stressful for Quilts Inc. this year to get things in place after being hit by hurricane Ike recently. But in true form, they always come through for us quilters.
The year before last, we were watching our own scary scenario unfold as hurricane Wilma was bearing down on our hometown while we were at Market. Karey of Quilts Inc. was kind enough to have a TV brought into the exhibit hall turned to the weather channel for those of us from Florida so we could keep tabs on the storm. Well, as it turns out hurricane Wilma it hit Naples and our brave and fearless husbands battled out the storm on their own. Of course we came home to no electricity for about a week, which meant cooking meals on a camp stove and showering in a motor home, but our husbands and homes were intact and we considered ourselves very blessed.
So I guess this year I will have to make due with viewing Quilt Market online and hearing all about it from my friends and associates and then make plans to be there next year so I don't suffer from the "Houston Blues" again. I think right now a healthy dose of quilting will help to chase the blues away. Where's my thimble, where's the chocolate?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Don't look now- I'm blogging

Welcome to my blog,
I must give credit where credit is due. I have been pondering on starting a blog but it took some gentle pestering by my friend Karen to finally spur me into action. I told you I was a recovering procrastinator. Anyway, she follows several blogs and so now she will have one more to add to her reading list. Thank you Karen I hope you'll stop nagging me now - just kidding, I'm glad I'm finally blogging.

My husband just shakes his head when I tell him of my latest venture into the Internet world.
I've had my website for quite a while but when I told him I had an Etsy site and that I was starting a blog his eyes started to glaze over. But he's a sweetie and very supportive.

I hope to post quite regularly but when I am in a design fog it is sometimes hard to walk away from a new quilt and spend time at the keyboard. I am also a challenged typist. I am challenged because I never learned the "proper" way to type.

I am currently finishing up two new quilt designs for patterns and they are complete opposites.
I will be sure to share them with you when I get the photos. The patterns should be available by December.
If I had to name my "style" of quilts I would have to pick several. One would be "playful" another would be "contemporary" and then of course there's always the "what was I thinking" style! Oh well, we all have our days.
If you get a chance pop over to my website. www.thistledownquilts.com

Hope you have a creative day,