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Looking Back and Looking Ahead

I find that I get very antsy in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. The arrival of the new year is a relief I look forward to after the hustle and bustle of the holidays is over. The days are getting longer—incrementally so, but longer nonetheless—and I am full of energy and ready to move forward. I lost so much time last spring with that unexpected illness that I feel like I have to make up for it this year. 

One of my favorite activities of this week is to read David Collum's Year in Review and listen to his podcast interview with Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity. David is no lightweight—he is the Betty R. Miller Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University and a very savvy investor. He has a gift for observation, collecting folders full of information over the course of a year and then distilling all of it down into a very entertaining read. Be warned: it isn't light bedtime reading. If you give it the attention and consideration it deserves, you likely will spend hours pondering David's insights. He and Chris really only hit the highlights in their podcast interview, but it's fun to listen to them. If you're feeling particularly brave, I also recommend John Michael Greer's traditional end-of-year blog post in which he scores how well he did with last December's predictions and makes some new ones for the coming year. The more optimistic among us might find his comments unsettling; those who regularly read that class of reality writing known as "doomer porn" likely will nod their heads in agreement. 

I've started checking Twitter more often (DD#2's Twitter feed makes me laugh). I follow both David Collum and John P. Hussman there; they are gems among all the white noise. 

I always feel that it's best to go into the new year with my eyes as wide open as I can get them, even if that includes considering some future realities that make me uncomfortable. I don't have much tolerance for people who stick their fingers in their ears and sing la-la-la when they hear things they don't want to hear. Denial is not a good life management model. 

The making world has its own Year in Review, put together by the excellent Abby Glassenberg at While She Naps. Craftsy—now owned by the NBC conglomeration of companies—sent letters to all its crafters in December. Some makers received letters informing them that their pattern stores would be shut down and they would not be allowed to sell on the Craftsy platform any longer. Other, luckier makers received a stay of execution and will be allowed to keep their shops open. These constant attempts by big corporations to monetize creativity—in many cases preventing the people doing the actual creating from getting decent compensation—is becoming very wearying and I'm only watching from the sidelines, not trying to keep my business afloat. Knitters, I think, have an advantage in having Ravelry available for marketing our patterns, so we are less dependent on these other platforms. Knock on wood. 


On a lighter note...I noticed yesterday that the employees at Target wasted absolutely no time in tearing down the Christmas displays, deeply discounting the leftover merchandise, and getting items set up for the next major retail holiday, Valentine's Day. I expect the same thing to start happening at Joann Fabrics soon. 

[Interestingly, we did not see the huge day-after-Christmas crowds yesterday that we have seen in the past. Our one big department store—Herberger's—closed earlier this year after a massive expansion of their store. The parent company announced shortly after doubling the square footage of retail space that they were closing the store. It was one of the dumbest retail moves I have seen in a long, long time. Our mall is struggling as a result. We mostly stuck to the smaller boutique stores in Kalispell and Whitefish, but even the traffic at Target was fairly subdued. I wonder if this is a reflection of current consumer sentiment or if everyone just went to Missoula to shop, instead.] 

My friend Marcie posted this on her Facebook page this morning:

It's Cori Dantini's new fabric collection called Love is Spoken Here, available from Hawthorne Supply Company. I love Cori's fabrics and Marcie happens to be good friends with her. (Sadly, the last time Cori came to visit Marcie, I was on the east coast.) 

The job search will ramp back up in earnest next week. The Ritzville quilt is at the top of the quilting to-do list, and I still need to get that industrial serger up and running. Seed catalogs should be arriving soon. I am excited about gardening this year. We are not going to do pigs in 2019, so that will give us some breathing room and allow the pasture to recover. I am kicking around the idea of seeding a cover crop out there. Oh, and there is that new blog I need to launch soon...


No Muppets Were Harmed

My mother was delayed getting to Montana for Christmas. She would have gotten out of Cleveland too late to make her connecting flight in Minneapolis, so she stayed home an extra day and arrived Saturday night instead of Friday night. My sister and DD#2 spent Saturday morning baking cookies, and I re-covered DD#2's vanity stool while waiting to go to the airport to retrieve DD#1. 

It looked like this when I started:

I removed the pink stripe fabric and found the original layer of vinyl underneath:

Once I removed all the staples—a heavy-duty staple remover purchased in the upholstery department at Joann's helped a lot—I was able to use the original pieces of foam and fabric as patterns and cut replacements. I was pretty pleased with the end result and—most importantly—so was DD#2:

The tip to cut only the backing fabric of the faux fur (thank you, John Thomas) was a huge help and kept the mess to a minimum. I need to try sewing with the fur, next, but probably not soon. 

My mother, sister, and the girls and I had our annual spa afternoon on Sunday. I had a massage and the girls had facials. We met the husband afterward for dinner. My voice recovered enough by Monday night for our quartet to sing at the Christmas Eve service at church. We opened presents yesterday morning, ate ourselves silly, then topped it off with "Mary Poppins Returns" in the evening. The movie was a bit saccharine, as expected, but overall very well done and enjoyable. 

I have had the bin of Ritzville quilt HSTs in the living room and have been working on trimming them in odd moments over the past four days. I am about three-fourths of the way through the bin. I'll probably devote New Year's Day to a sewing marathon and start putting blocks together. I'd like to have that top finished by the end of January. 

Everyone but DD#2 leaves tomorrow. She'll be here for a couple more weeks. I have just a few days left in my "vacation" from work and then I need to get back to looking for something to do to make some money. 


A Gross Miscalculation

I spent yesterday afternoon getting the last of a stack of Magic 8 squares sliced up so I could put the cutting table away today. I decided to make one Ritzville quilt block just to see how it looked. When I looked at the block layout in the pattern, however, I realized that each block was made up of 16 squares, not 32. How did I get 32 stuck in my brain? There are 32 triangles in each block, yes, but only 16 HSTs. I had been thinking that I needed four Magic 8 squares per quilt block and did my math based on that. I only need two Magic 8 squares per block. I also enlarged the units from the original pattern to make a block that finishes at 12" square instead of 8" square. 

I told this story to the husband when he got home and he said, "So, you're making two quilts instead of one?"

I have A LOT of HSTs. I am either going to be making a king-sized quilt and a wallhanging (or six), or two smaller quilts. And I still have about a dozen blue squares cut out that need to be paired with white squares. I don't want to put them in the orphan blocks bin. I might as well go ahead and use them. 

A king-sized quilt is not the end of the world. In fact, the quilt sale organizers have told us that they would prefer to have more bed-size quilts instead of lap quilts. I just have to laugh at myself for getting carried away with my prep work. Anything worth doing is worth doing in excess, as usual. 

I trimmed down 16 HSTs and made a block just to see what I thought. Some quilt blocks are so picky to put together that they suck all the joy out of the process. This one, being comprised of 3-1/2" squares in rows, went together easily:

It's pretty the way it is. In the final layout, however, this block will be set on point, like so:

That completely changes the look of the block and it also results in some very cool secondary patterns across the width of the quilt. I'll have to get more blocks made, though, to be able to show you that. For now, you have to use your imagination. 

I am still not sure what to do about the quilting. The church ladies have two commission quilting jobs at the moment and I am not sure how long those will take. I think Margaret would be willing to quilt it, but I am not sure she has the space to work on a king-sized quilt. I could always have it quilted by machine—on a longarm, because I wouldn't want to try quilting a king-sized quilt on my Janome—but hand-quilted quilts sell better. 


I think this may be the last blog post until after Christmas unless something really noteworthy pops up. I picked up a cold this week and I've been feeling kind of punky. It's mostly in my head with a lot of sneezing and watery eyes. I managed to get through the last Advent service at the Lutheran church last night without succumbing to a sneezing fit, which was good. I said to the husband that getting sick again has dredged up a whole bunch of anxiety about having had the flu last February and ending up in the ICU on a ventilator for a week. He reminded me that that kind of anxiety isn't healthy and that a meteor could hit the house tomorrow and I'd be dead from that. I love how he helps to put things into perspective, LOL. For now, it's ibuprofen and a lot of hot tea. 

Merry Christmas to all of you and thank you for being such a great audience for my ramblings!


I Embroidered a Cactus

Squarespace 5 is just not playing nicely with the new computer for some reason. The formatting in this post is all wonky. I may be switching over to the new blog sooner than expected, but you'll find out here, first.

Slowly but surely, I am getting sewing stuff put away and rooms cleaned for houseguests. The husband and I have decided that if our renters ever move out—they are talking about buying a house—we are going to keep the rental house as a guest house for friends and relatives who come to visit. That way, I'll be able to devote one room upstairs to being my sewing room instead of having stuff spread out over three bedrooms. I need to finish up everything that requires the cutting table, because it is in DD#2's room and she is expecting to sleep in there. 

We have enjoyed having our current renters in our rental house, but it's hard to find good renters and even harder to kick bad ones out (we've been there). The husband wondered if I could just make the rental house my sewing studio. I'd prefer to keep my sewing stuff here, though. Sometimes I work on projects in the evening and I wouldn't want to have to hike through the snow to get over there only to be by myself. My kitchen needs an overhaul, too, and we've talked about moving over to the rental house while that's happening. We'll get it figured out. It's not an immediate issue. 

This is the current project list:

• The Ritzville quilt blocks. I had a marathon cutting session a few weeks ago and cut out probably 60 or 70 blue blocks and white/cream blocks. These got paired up and I have been working my way through the stack, sewing Magic 8 squares for half-square triangles. I have a nice supply now:

 They just need to be trimmed to the proper size and then sewn into blocks. 

• A pillowcase that is going to be a Christmas present. Yes, nothing like waiting until the last minute. At least I am not making anyone's Christmas dresses. That way lies madness. 

• The cover for DD#'s vanity chair. 

• About two dozen canvas grocery bags. 

• The Sparkling Diamond quilt blocks. I have all those squares ready to make into four-patches. I pulled out a chunk of Kona Snow last night; I'll press that and cut it into 9" squares today. Those 9" white squares will get paired with a stack of 9" colored Kona squares that were in my orphan blocks bin, and I'll use the Magic 8 method to make them into HSTs, too. 

I am not allowing myself to start any other projects. That overnight bag project will have to wait until everyone leaves. And I have amassed good supply of things I can work on while spending time with the family. I can trim Ritzville HSTs or get out one of the handcranks (probably Jane, my favorite Singer 66) and make Sparkling Diamond blocks. I've knocked out four cotton dishcloths so far:



I have my ongoing embroidery project:

That dark green thing is supposed to be a tree, but it looks more like a cactus to me. 

[I am wondering if there is some kind of official psych diagnosis for people who are terrified of being stuck somewhere with nothing to do. I think I could be the poster child for that condition, followed closely by the husband, although he is better at sitting and watching TV than I am.]

Sewing will continue this week, albeit at a reduced pace. 


Bonnie Hunter, one of my favorite quilting professionals, has been having a hard time of it recently. She has a very demanding schedule. She recognized a while ago that she needs to pare back a bit, and one way she could do that is to have quilters come to her instead of doing all the traveling herself. She bought a beautiful old Victorian house and has been getting that ready to open as a retreat center. It will have space for 16 quilters at a time. Because she's booked out as a teacher sometimes five years in advance, she has to wait until 2020 for her schedule to clear up completely.  

She also had a new scrap quilting book published, called String Frenzy. It's available through quilt stores and Amazon, but she also sells it on her website (where she makes the most profit). Bonnie has come up with what I think is a very smart system: She only puts 500 copies at a time up for sale in her online store, fills those orders, and then puts another 500 copies up for sale, etc. That way, she's is not overwhelmed with orders. Even so, she has filled something like 3500 book orders in the past three weeks, all while also running her annual Mystery Quilt project that starts the day after Thankgiving. The design is inspired by a place she traveled in the past year or two. Each Friday, she releases a new set of "mystery clues" and quilters piece along. No one really knows what the finished quilt will look like until the end of the project. 

[Having run two knitalongs myself, I can assure you that there is a huge amount of behind-the-scenes work going on to make this quiltalong successful. I marvel at her ability to keep all these balls in the air.]

Sadly, Bonnie's brother died of a brain tumor in September, and now his widow has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. You would think that people would be able to show a bit of compassion under the circumstances, but it's truly amazing how badly people can behave. Bonnie has a blog where she talks about getting the retreat center ready. A lot of her fans have stepped forward with donations of period-appropriate furniture and decorations. However, that brought out the trolls who made comments along the lines of "Must be nice to be famous and have people just give you things." Why is it necessary to say something like that?

Then she had the customers who didn't think that she was filling book orders fast enough. (And don't forget that there was a weather event recently that slowed things down beyond her control.) She has had to deal with people placing orders using outdated e-mail addresses or addresses belonging to someone else and then wondering why they didn't get order confirmations or tracking numbers. She does the mystery quilt project out of the kindness of her very big heart, but that doesn't stop people from demanding clues ahead of time ("I am going to be traveling and I need this information to keep working on the quilt!") or making other unreasonable requests. 

She was advised by many of her fans to start her Christmas vacation early and not worry about getting book orders filled. I feel so bad for her. This overblown sense of entitlement that some people feel never ceases to amaze me. Apparently, once someone starts being a celebrity of any kind, they stop being human in some people's eyes. It's unfortunate. I hope that she is able to take some much-needed time off to rest and recoup before her schedule ramps up again in January.