Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Simple Summer Finish

I've finished my Liberty of London project.  I didn't really have much of a plan when I started, just some sort of garden path feel.  I started with two jelly rolls of fabric, but two sweet friends took pity on my paltry Liberty stash and send me some fat quarters, which I  also used.

Since I was starting with jelly rolls I went with  2 1/2 inch wide strips. First I cut my jelly roll strips in half, then cut that section into 2 1/2 inch, 4 1/2 inch and 6 1/2 inch long strips.  Using those pieces I played around with a pleasing setting.

Here's a close up with a better idea of the color and detail.

I pieced the top in rows, and held my breath that no one turned on the ceiling fan while all the pieces were on my design wall.

This is Lifetime Quilt Number 179
I've named it Friendship Flower Garden, since friends pitched in with the fabric.
It finished at 59" x 59"
The fabric is by Liberty of London
It has approximately 404 pieces.

I had been admiring my Liberty fabric on the shelf for too long, I'm very happy I"ll now admire that fabric in a quilt.  This quilt will make a nice springtime wallhanging.  And even better, I only used half of my jelly roll strips and picked up some additional fabric, another pretty floral quilt is in my future.

And while I did enjoy creating and piecing that top, making a few Village scrap houses was the icing on the cake.

I'm nearly halfway to the required number of houses I need, which is good, I'm nearly half way through the year, I just love it when things work out that way!

Thanks so much for the great Christmas pattern suggestions, what a wonderful assortment, I'm trying to decide which direction to go, stay tuned for an update. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Italy - Second Leg, Florence

We sadly said goodbye to Rome and boarded our train to Florence.  Our time in Rome went too quickly, we wished we had another day in that city.

This is the view of our hotel in Florence, the Portrait Firenze.  Behind us is the Arno River and the picture was taken from the famous Ponte Vecchio, a bridge with shops built across it, which used to be common.

We opted to have our breakfast delivered daily, it was delicious and a lovely way to start our days.

The Portrait Firenze was small, just 40 rooms, but we loved it.  The staff was friendly and helpful and our room modern and spacious.  I highly recommend it. You can't beat the location.

Our first activity in Florence was a city walking tour.  It was a beautiful day and after our train trip we were ready to stretch our legs and see the city.

We booked our tour, Essential Florence & Academia,  through Italy with Us.  Our guide was born in Florence, and I think really loved her city, unfortunately we could not understand her "English".  She had a very heavy Italian accent.  There was another couple in our tour, from New York, and they couldn't understand her either.  It was frustrating to everyone involved.  Our guide, Lara, finally quit talking and just walked down the streets with us following her like a row of ducks.  I do not recommend Italy with Us, they were not responsive to my complaint of paying for an English speaking tour but not being able to understand the English spoken.

This is the Santa Maria Novella, Florence's first great basilica.   The marble exterior was breathtaking.

For some reason this huge Baptistery was built in front of this church, basically blocking the view and taking up space that would have been better served as an open piazza.  Not understanding what our guide had to say about this, I decided it was the result of too much money and too much arrogance, but that's just my take.

We did not enter either building, which was a disappointment.  I'm not sure if that's a different tour or if our guide had just given up on us at this point.

There was some story about people knocking on this door to get wine, we didn't catch much of it, but here's Ashley trying it out, no luck.

The final stop on our walking tour was seeing Michelangelo's David, he stands 17 feet tall.  The first thing I noticed were how big his hands were, not proportional at all. But it turns out this statue was supposed to be placed along the roofline of the cathedral, so the hands needed to be large so they would be seen from the street level.

It was an amazing piece of art, and I'm thrilled I was able to see it in person, so much better than any picture you'll ever see.

Our first night in Florence we ate dinner at La Bottega del Buon Caffe. Not only was it my favorite meal for the entire trip, it's my favorite meal of all time.

It was a tasting menu, where we had at least 12 courses, each consisting of maybe 2 or 3 bites of the most fresh, amazing, and decadent food I've ever eaten.  I highly recommend this restaurant.  It was small, less than 25 tables, and the kitchen was open to the seating area.  It was fascinating to watch the level of detail and time that was put into making each dish.  It made me appreciate each item all the more.

Day two in Florence was a walking food tour, and it was amazing.  It really made up for the poor walking tour we had the day before.

We toured a market,

had a cheese and wine tasting,

along with 12 other stops where we ate pastries, sandwiches, gelato, and more.  I loved every item.  Most of our samples were from shops that invented the item.

Our tour guide was Alex, besides being a real cutie he was knowledgeable, friendly, and spoke perfect English, even though he too was born in Florence.

The tour was Taste Florence Food Tour and I highly recommend it.  We were given a map and description of each stop, the only food tour in Italy that provided that, but what a help when you want to go back on your own.

I didn't have much room in my suitcase, so for my souvenirs I picked up prints from artists along the streets.  I always selected artists that were painting, it just made it more personal for me.

It was hard for this artist to sell his work, he said a small prayer and kissed each picture as he wrapped it up for me.  I told him I could relate to how hard it was to see one's work go to a new home, but promised him I would cherish the prints, that I too was an artist.

Something must have gotten lost in translation, the next thing I know he's letting me do the painting!  It was a thrill.

For our last night in Florence we ate at Caffe Dell'oro.

It was a very small neighborhood caffe, very personal and quaint.  The staff was so sweet to us. The food was absolutely amazing, their menu changed based on what was fresh at the market.  My favorite dessert of the entire trip was the tiramisu mousse, amazing times ten, make that times 100.  I highly recommend this restaurant.

It was a short stay in Florence, next up Florence, our last leg.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Christmas in July, in June

Usually, every July, blogs and quilt shops have Christmas in July promos, sew alongs, and gift projects.  I always enjoy following along but in my mind I'm saying, " I sew with Christmas fabric in December, nice try but I'm not biting".  Well that's going to change this year.  I  made a goal to piece several Christmas quilts for gifts this year, the year is half over and I've only pieced two, I need at least two more, four more would be better.  So I'm getting organized now to be all in and ready to finish some quilts this July.  Here is where I stand now.

I have this bundle of Winterberry by Kate & Birdie for Moda that I would like to do something with.  I'm a little iffy on the green, it's a different green, sort of a mint green but not quite.  But I'm sure it will make a lovely quilt that someone would enjoy.  I just need a good pattern.  All I have is this bundle so I would need a pattern with a pieced border or no border.  Do  you have any suggestions?  I googled Winterberry Quilts but only found one hit.  It's a nice pattern by the Fat Quarter Shop, uses fat quarters, but only uses the reds and greens.  I could maybe modify it to add the grays.   It has a Christmas feel but I think I can do better, or I hope you can come up with a suggestion that's better.

I'm having the same problem with this bundle of Holly's Tree Farm by Sweetwater for Moda.  Most of the patterns I saw online were tree farms, I think we can do better.

This pattern is a sure bet.

I've got my background fabric and my bundle of Juniper Berry, I'm just waiting on a bloc_loc ruler to help me with the triangle in a square blocks.  This may be a tough quilt to give away.  The pattern is available here and the fabric is in shops everywhere.

I love this book by Cindy Lammon, available here.

December 2014 I made this quilt from Cindy's book, Garden Lattice.

I used Kate Spain Christmas fabric, of which I have plenty.  I think I will cut and piece a couple of these quilts.  I love mine and have no intention of giving it away, but making two more should be a breeze.

So that's where I stand, not much sewing, more planning, but it will pay off in July,  I hope.  I thought maybe you would want to get some Christmas gifts off your To Do List, if so let me know so I can link to your blog.  If you don't have a blog I would be happy to post your pictures.

If I use a pattern you suggest for Winterberry or Holly's Tree Farm I'll pass along a token of my appreciation.

I plan to start sewing on July 5th, I'm going to have a hard enough time sewing with Christmas fabric in July, so I need through the fourth to do something that's red, and also white and blue.

Sorry about the gap in vacation posts, I plan to blog about Florence on Friday.

Monday, June 20, 2016


I needed a baby girl quilt for an upcoming baby shower and thought this pattern by the Fat Quarter Shop was a winner.  

Plus it's a free pattern, so make that a winner winner.  (click here for free pattern)

The Fat Quarter Shop pattern finishes at 19 1/2" x 20 1/2",  I decided to make my panda a little bigger, by half.

So at this point my quilt was 29" x  30 1/2". 

Since my panda is a she, I added a bow.  This bow was machine appliquéd to the top after I pieced the head. I don't like a lot of bulk when I machine appliqué, since I don't do it but about once a year. To make the bow, I drew half of the bow, then cut two identical sides.  It's a little off, but it's not so noticeable with both sides being off.

To get an even bigger quilt I added two borders.

This was a very easy quilt to piece, I finished the top, start to finish, in one day, and not even a long day.

This is Lifetime Quilt Number 180
The pattern is Panda-Monium by the Fat Quarter Shop (click here for free pattern)
It finished at 40" x 41 1/2"
It has approximately 85 pieces

I thought a pretty quilt front needed a pretty quilt back, so I used my scarps to make this.

And I had enough scraps to make one house for my Village project.

It was a good weekend of sewing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Finish . . . .

I finished piecing my X's & +'s blocks, and while I try to avoid having an unfinished project on my design wall when I leave for vacation, in this case it was very easy to get back in the swing of sewing having all the fabric cut and just ready to be pieced together.  I think I only had 12 blocks to finish when I started back up.

I pieced my blocks in 7 groups, 6 blocks in each group.  Seven groups because of the seven different solid center fabrics I selected.  Here are the pieced blocks but not in their proper placement.

Normally when I'm piecing a scrappy quilt, I put the pieces and parts on my design wall to get the "perfect" placement of each piece of fabric before sewing the blocks together. (plus avoid like fabrics touching, my all time pet peeve) That's pretty time consuming and I've often wondered if it was really worth my time.  So for this quilt I threw caution to the wind and just randomly selected my pieces and parts as I went along.  

Now as I mentioned in my previous post, like solid center pluses run diagonally one way, and like corner fabric diagonally the opposite direction.  So while most of the fabric for each plus block could be random, the corner fabric had to be in a certain order.

This is a picture of Cindy Laman's finished Xs and +s quilt.  I used it basically as my legend to piece the correct corner fabric for each plus fabric.  

The plus fabric was numbered, the corner fabric was alphabetized.   Once all the blocks were pieced and put in their proper place on the design wall, I was very happy with the look, so maybe I don't need to place all my fabric on the design wall then piece my blocks.

I really like how this quilt finished, it's the kind of quilt you need to look at awhile to take it all in.  The solid plus fabric catches your eye immediately, but the diagonal placement takes a little longer to notice.  The like corner fabric running diagonally the other direction is very subtle but a nice little surprise when you notice it.

This is Lifetime Quilt Number 178
The pattern is X's and +'s by Pat Bravo Designs and is available here.
The fabric is an assortment of Art Gallery Fabric, mostly Jenni Baker.
It finished at 60" x 70"
It has approximately 798 pieces.

Next up, my favorite step after finishing a quilt, making some Village scrap houses!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Italy - First Stop - Rome

I'm not much of a traveler, I'm most comfortable at home and happy and content in my sewing room at home.    But once a year this homebody breaks out of her comfort zone to take a mother/daughter vacation.  This year we traveled to Italy, a first for both us, and I am so glad we did.  I met my daughter in Chicago where we flew to our first stop, Rome.

We stayed at the Portrait Roma.  A small boutique hotel with only 14 rooms.  It was a great choice, the staff was very attentive and friendly, our room amazing, and the location perfect.  

We started each day with breakfast on the rooftop terrace.  It was a wonderful way to start our day.

I highly recommend the Portrait Roma.

So we landed in Rome around 9:30 am, checked into the hotel, unpacked, then traveled to the Ancient City for a tour.  All of our tours were English speaking tours, our first guide did speak English, but he was from Scotland, so he had a bit of an accent.  We could understand him but it was a little strange walking through the ruins of The Roman Forum with someone with a Scottish accent.  

After walking the ruins and Palatine Hill we toured the Colosseum.  

The tour company we used for these tours was Italy With Us.  We signed up for a private tour, which was how the first half of the tour was conducted, we were then combined with a larger group for the Colosseum tour which was disappointing, the bigger the groups the slower the pace.   Plus instead of directly communication with a guide you wear headsets, less personal.  But we enjoyed all the sights just the same.

We wrapped up our afternoon walking tour at 4:30 then hustled to the Piazza Navona for a 5 pm food tour.  We intentionally picked two walking tours for our first day to see the sights while keeping moving, we were tired at the end of our first day but slept well and were on Rome time the next morning, which was a 7 hour difference for me and a 9 hour difference for my daughter.

There are several food tours in Rome and we selected Secret Food Tour of Rome, it was a great choice and I recommend it.  We drank our first cappuccino,  ate our first Roman pizza, two different types of pasta, suppli, porchetta, a sampling of cheese and salami, and gelato for dessert.  Our guide did a great job.  I recommend it.

If you're ever in a city for a limited time, a good food tour will give you the opportunity to try a variety of local food in a short period of time plus you walk from restaurant to restaurant, which gives you a good feel for where you are in a new city.

After our terrace breakfast on day two in Rome, our guide Katie Farrar, from Eyes of Rome, met us for a walking tour around the city.

The Trevi fountain surpassed my expectations, it was huge and the detail in the sculptures breathtaking.  We made a point to walk by the fountain several times when we were out and about, I could not get enough of it.

There are ruins and churches tucked around every corner and in each available space.

Are you familiar with the Mouth of Truth?  If you're a fan of the movie Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn then this ancient carving will be familiar to you.  The history of the Mouth of Truth is up for debate,  some think it's a manhole cover, lol.  But legend has it that if you stick your hand in the mouth then tell a lie, you'll lose your hand.

 I still wanted to wait in line to stick my hand in the mouth just like Audrey Hepburn, even if it was an ancient manhole cover.

However, anyone who knows me knows I'm a germ nut, I wasn't going to stick my hand in the mouth of anything that old, especially after people from all over the world were sticking their hands in that mouth, so I brought us gloves, which our guide said was a first for her.

Our morning walking tour included the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps and several other stops.  We loved our guide and highly recommend Katie and Eyes of Rome.

After our morning walking tour we ate lunch at Colline Emiliane, a small family run restaurant.  I ordered eggplant lasagna and it was amazing, although the homemade pasta was so delicious I think I would have enjoyed it with anything in between those layers of noodles.  I recommend it.

We wanted to see more of the city but were tired of walking so we went on a golf cart tour in the afternoon.  

One of our stops was the Secret Keyhole.  I"ll not spoil the surprise of what you see when you look through the keyhole.  The golf cart tour was offered by our hotel, it was fun and a good use of our time.

For dinner on day two we ate at Aroma.

The food was amazing as was the view, I recommend it.

Day three in Rome started with a tour of the Vatican.   We booked the early bird tour through Eyes of Rome and were thrilled to have Katie again as our guide.  Katie is an American who speaks fluent Italian, the perfect combo for us.  

The Vatican was amazing.  The sheer space of the compound took me by surprise.

All the halls are elaborately painted.  The buildings we visited were packed with art and there is more that is not on display in basements.

It's hard to comprehend the size of St. Peter's Basilica, even when you're standing in the middle of it.  I was expecting big, but it was football stadium size big.  No wonder it took over a 100 years to build.  

We were not allowed to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel, but it was as amazing as I expected, but again, bigger than I expected.

The Pieta by Michael Angelo was my favorite pice of art.

Our Vatican tour lasted 4 hours, we were in awe the entire time.

For lunch we ate at Dilla, the food was wonderful and I recommend it.

We spent our afternoon checking out the shops near the Spanish Steps.

For dinner we ate at Casa Coppelle, another great meal, I recommend it.

This was the end of our time in Rome, the next morning we boarded a train to Florence, I'll blog about that leg of the trip later this week.  We loved Rome and wished we had more time in the city, I'll go back for sure, the sooner the better.