Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Seven Days of New Year's 2020: Day 4 - 6: Trip Review but Aborted Sewing

Be forewarned:  This is a long one, text heavy and a little sad, although there is a some quilty news in the middle.

You know what they say about the best laid plans?  The plan for Day 4 was the doctor's appointment that had been rescheduled to the morning and some grocery shopping on the way home.  Both were accomplished and once back home the agenda was a break for lunch and a check of email and then back to the sewing.  

However while I was checking email I got a text from my MIL.  She was feeling very lonely since I had left two weeks ago.  The reason I had taken the chance of traveling all the way to North Carolina where she lives despite the pandemic fears regarding holiday travel was that early in November her husband  had passed after a three year battle with cancer (brain and prostate) and a stroke.  It was a second marriage for them both and they had been happily married for 24 years.  

After multiple surgeries, he had been released from a rehab center during the visit to her that I, my husband and oldest son made back in October of 2019.  The rehab agency had consigned her husband just to home hospice care.  My MIL had fought to continue with the occupational and physical therapy he had received while convalescing at the center.  Because of her efforts, rather than just being bed ridden, he had been able to continue to enjoy limited movement around their house in a wheel chair at least partially under is own steam as she, a former senior care nurse, tended to his daily needs.  In her words, had she left him to just languish in the bed or put him in a nursing home, he probably would have passed away from depression before last year ended.

However, along with the other tragedies of 2020, by late summer he began to slowly lose the ability for independent movement.   My husband, I and our youngest son made plans to drive down for a return visit during my husband's last vacation for 2020, the week before Halloween.  However, a few days before our planned departure, we learned that at that time, here in New York, there was still a very strict 14 day quarantine requirement for people returning from travel out of state.  Neither my husband nor my son could do that as both had work obligations either immediately or within the week of our return so we had to cancel the trip.   Unfortunately, three days after our planned arrival, my MIL's husband passed away.  Like so many others with dying relatives during this pandemic, not only did we miss the opportunity to see him one last time, we were also unable to attend the funeral services. 

The situation was made worse when two days before her husband was to be buried, both my husband and MIL received calls that my husband's youngest brother had also passed away (although not COVID related)!  This was unexpected although not a total surprise.  He had led a troubled life and had been estranged from the family for decades only reaching out periodically.  The last time my MIL had spoken to him had been two years ago.  The responsibility for arranging for cremation of his body fell to his oldest daughter here in NY and my MIL as next of kin.  Needless to say all of that was complicated by the fact that the body was in Maryland so identifying the body and arranging for its cremation had to all be done long distance.   

Fortunately, in addition to a few local friends and church members, my MIL had an out of town couple she was friends with who were able to come stay with her for awhile immediately after the funeral.  Then she stayed with her former sister-in-law in Raleigh from the weekend before through the day after Thanksgiving.  After my husband and I discussed it and with the more relaxed return quarantine requirements that had by then been issued (requiring pre- and post-return COVID testing),  I booked round-trip train tickets to go to NC on the last day of November and stayed with her for two weeks which allowed me to be with her for her birthday on 12/11.  My MIL is a quilter and I knew that after such a tough year, a mini quilt retreat would boost both of our spirits.

She had been planning to buy another sewing table for me to be able to comfortably sew on for the long visit.  In the past, when I came down, we would be squeezed into her sewing space and I'd set up my machine on her cutting table.  Instead, I purchased a Gidget table and had it delivered to her home.  I knew Fanny, my trusty traveling Featherweight would fit perfectly in the table and I would be able to recess the machine since I had plans to bring a project to work on requiring space for easy Free motion quilting.

In the box were the projects I mailed down for the trip!

This was my little work space set up in my MIL's late husband's "Man Cave".  Her sewing room adjoins this room so we could "socially distance" yet still be in close proximity while sewing together.  Even better, I left it there for her to use with her small travel machine or for me when I visit again.   Although I adjusted the drop for my Featherweight, it can be readjusted for other small machines too.  She has a friend from NY who comes down each summer to sew with her and has a large machine.  She will be able to just pop the recessed area up and lock it in place to use the table as a flat surface with her machine.  

The project I had plans for quilting was the Blue and White Spiderweb quilt that had been the second project picked for my "Blue and White Holiday Decorating" plan.  It was inspired by the one made by Stitched In Color and using the Accuquilt Spiderweb die and more of the scraps from the AQS BOM stash.   I had made the blocks as leader/enders while working on all the other mystery, quarantine, BOM and mini projects before my trip.  I did get it to a top while in NC but didn't get around to layering and quilting it as you can see in the picture below.

While there I also got a few other tops done, like "Serendipity" (a Fons & Porter Easy Quilts Magazine pattern) using some of the leftovers from the "Modern Bohemia" BOM.....


....and "Indigo Weave" which I had kitted up from the blue fabrics leftover when I made Bonnie Hunter's "Double Delight" mystery early last year.

The blocks were still in progress here but the top is now finished.

On the right in the picture below you see a peek of my "Snow Day" project, another in my series of  Edyta Sitar Laundry Basket Quilts designs.  The Nine Patches in it are made from the scraps of my AQS BOM project.  I got all the blocks and rows I had brought with me put together only to realize, I needed more!  So that was definitely going to need more work on it when I got back home.   While there, I also helped my MIL with some of her projects including finishing up her "Elvira" quilt top and pieced backing (which darn, it I don't have a picture of!) and work on her "Natalie's Quilt" project by Margaret Leuwen (on the left in the picture below).  


However, the first big job we tackled when I got there was to organize her project bits and bobs! After two years of daily caregiving, her scraps, projects (both finished and WIPs) were all over the place!  We put together some storage cubes she had purchased and moved her yardage and finished tops (in the top row of cubes) into them.  On top of the unit, I relocated a big bunch of finished quilts that had been stuffed in the back of a hall closet!   

These were in the "Man Cave" where I was working.

A big job was organizing and more importantly labeling her storage bins of scraps and projects.  The bins were all there but each had either scraps of different colors or project bits from multiple projects.  Now everything is sorted by color or single project so she can clearly see and find what she needs or wants to work on or with.


But the highlight of the trip for both of us was one of the rare outings we made while I was there.  I knew that Keepsake Quilting and Pineapple Fabrics had merged and had opened a new outlet store in Archdale, NC in October of this year.


 A visit to NC is the only time I would ever get there!  This was true for my MIL too since she doesn't like to drive on the highway long distances (Archdale is about 2 and a half hours from her and I drove).  So I made our appointment to shop (with pandemic precautions, the number of people in the store are limited to 50 at a time and visits there can be booked in hourly increments).   We both had a ball!  It is a big store with a good selection of fabrics.  




In addition to fabric on the bolt, they sell fabric precut packs of fat eights and quarters, one yard bundles and packaged wide back bundles of two to three yards.  They also carry a lot of different tools by all the popular companies and patterns by all the poplar designers.  There was also a clearance table.  I think you can see from this picture that we made the most of the day!
   

So the trip was a good one and my MIL was sad to see me go but appreciated that I was able to take time from my family and spend it with her.  Of course as time has gone by she now has to get used to being in her home alone.  Additionally she has been dealing with some nagging health issues so depending on what flares up, has good days and bad.

So Day 4's sewing got aborted because when she texted I called her and we had a real long talk: about her husband, about dealing with one's grief, about what she wants her life to be now as a widow.  That last one is probably the most difficult for her to navigate.  It is the first time in a long while that she has to think about just herself and it is not easy for her.  I told her she was entitled to be sad but not to the point of stopping living.  One of the ongoing discussions while I stayed with her was that she ate because I did but if I hadn't been there she might have not eaten frequently because she was often not hungry!  One thing I had done while I was there was to check to see if she had Skype on her computer which is in her sewing room.  She did, so when I got back I scheduled a Skye sewing session with her which she enjoyed.  

So after our talk, I suggested we do another Skype session the next day.  After ringing off and talking to my husband now I wasn't ready to sew!   So decided I'd save my sewing for the Day 5 Skype session.  Except it didn't happen.  I texted my MIL in the morning to find out what was a good time for her.  She said she had errands to run so would call me when she got back.  Since my husband was unexpectedly off for the day, I spent the day catching up with things with him while waiting for the call.  However, she didn't call until late because she got a late start on the errands and by then was too tired to focus on sewing.  We made tentative plans again for today (Day 6) and I ran errands with my DH in the morning expecting to link up with her in the afternoon.  However the call I got today was that she had not slept well because of pain so had gone in to see her doctor again and was still a little out of sorts for lack of sleep.

It is real tough to lose a spouse and/or a child.  While monitoring her health issues, I plan to also suggest that she might consider a grief counseling group because I think some of the "pains" have to do with dealing (or more likely, not adequately dealing) with the grief.  I went through a similar thing when my mother died and once I sorted out my feelings the physical pains went away.  

However, I also know that grieving takes time so I expect my DH and I will be keeping in close contact with her a lot in the coming year.  When he chose his 2021 vacation weeks back in October, we had set aside two weeks in October again to return to see her.  When I told her that, her response was "But that's a year away!".  So we're trying to see if he can swap a vacation week with a co-worker so we can combine it with one of the weeks earlier in year that has already been chosen.  We could do a one week visit IF the vaccine helps reduce the return quarantine restrictions but so far I've heard not to expect that before mid-year or Fall of next year.     

So hopefully tomorrow, I will get back to my own sewing for both the last of the seven days and the start of a new year.  Let's hope for us all that 2021 will be a darned sight better than 2020 was!  To any who have survived to the end of this very long post, I wish you and your family a safe and Happy New Year!! 

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Seven Days of New Year's 2020: Day 3

Woo hoo!  It took me all afternoon and this evening but the "Snow Day" top is now done!

This is the chair it will go on once quilted and that's the backing on the arm.  With two rows of blocks, setting triangles and sashing to put together, I thought this would be a quick finish.  However, as always finishing takes longer than anticipated.  

I had made a cutting error for some of the strips for the setting triangles.  I had to correct for that especially since I didn't have a lot of the fabric left.  Measure twice, cut once!  I was able to cut a few new strips but still had to figure out how to correct for the mis-cut ones.  Ultimately I took scraps and did a good bit of "poverty piecing" to get the total I needed.  

After finally piecing the block rows and the sashing strips together, it was time to attach them to the rest of the top.  I had cut the sashing strips based on a length I had calculated when I worked on this in NC.  But when I pinned it to the new block row there was a lot of excess.  When I looked at the previously pieced rows, I realized I had (incorrectly) pieced them with too large end triangles that extended the ends of the rows past the seam allowance of the blocks.  the new rows had been pieced with the (correct) smaller triangles on the new rows which explained the difference in length.  So that meant correcting the sashing and after attaching the new rows also having to trim back the previously pieced sides of the top. 


But it's done and I still have a few more days to try to get some more things done.  The good news is that the doctor's office called and moved my appointment for tomorrow to the morning.  I'm glad not to have to interrupt the sewing day to go out.  Look forward to seeing what I can get to when I come back!    

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Seven Days of New Year's 2020: Day 2

It's getting late, time for check-in:  So it was a busy day today -- not so much for quilting but for baking!


Bread was low and who wants to go out to the store on a cold day?  So a quick batch of our favorite quick and easy rolls to go with the equally quick Ham and Cheese Crustless Quiche (another favorite gotten from Judy Laquidara's Patchwork Times blog years ago) to help use up the ham made for Christmas.  Would you believe that I got the ham while in NC at the COVID testing site?!?  The testing was held at a church and was a drive through set-up. 


 After you were tested but before you drove out, each person tested was a given a spiral ham shank and a box with other dinner supplies (potatoes, sweet potatoes and a small bundle of collard greens, corn bread, stuffing and gravy mixes, canned fruit and juice) as well as PPE supplies (a box of masks, a bottle of sanitizer, a digital thermometer, two boxes of Ibuprofen) and a flyer with a number to call if you needed someone to talk to if you were having trouble dealing with stress regarding the pandemic.  If every test site did that, everyone would get tested!  

Since both my MIL and I got tested that day, we both were given the supplies.  I left the collards with her but shipped the rest back home knowing I was set for Christmas dinner!  Of course, good but simple food needs a good but simple dessert -- Sugar Cookies anyone?  It's DH's last day home before returning to work.  The post holiday package rush will probably continue this week so I don't expect to see him much until New Year's Eve so a little indulgence was in order!

As to the quilting:  I did get one of the sets of nine patches done last night before we broke to watch the last two episodes of the "Mandolorian" with our sons.  DH and I followed that with the "Call the Midwife" Christmas special and then I headed to bed.  Today between all the cooking and baking, I got the second set of fifteen made.  Since I don't have my MIL's die, I had to cut the setting triangles the old fashioned way:  strips and the Fons and Porter setting triangle ruler.  


As I had when I worked on the top in NC,  I'll need to attach setting triangles to two sides of each block to make playing with the placement of the blocks easier,


We'll see how many I get done tonight but I think I'll have a better chance of getting a good portion of them and the layout settled tomorrow after the hubby heads out to work.  At least there's enough leftovers that I won't have to cook!  That's always a big boost to plans to spend the day quilting!!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Seven Days of New Year's 2020: Day 1

I hope you had a wonderful and joyous Christmas!  For me, it's time to.....


Last year I spent the period between the Day after Christmas and New Year's Day doing a little project cleanup and creative recharging to put myself in good spirits for the start of the New Year.  Just like last year I am fortunate not to have many scheduled activities (just one doctor's appointment) or any pressing deadlines.  Which is not to say that I wouldn't love to finish off a few things before the year ends though, Lol!  

So once again I'm going to spend this period of time indulging in an extended daily Quilt-A-Thon session.  A lot of it will also be a bit of a look back at the quilt ambitions and obsessions of this year (here's to you Edyta Sitar!).  I don't know about you but I already have a pretty long list of "Want To Dos" for 2021.  The more 2020 projects I can bring closer to completion or finish, the more likely the new list will actually happen!

One of the biggest ambitions for 2020 was to tackle a new Christmas decorating color scheme of Blue and White.  I already had ornaments in those colors that I had purchased years ago.  

So I started the year by compiling a scrappy stash  of a lot of blue and white fabrics for making coordinating accessories for the season.  My plans included making a tree skirt, quilts for the back of our couch and the chair in our living room and for the wall next to where the tree would go.  The first idea for the wall quilt was to make this year's annual AQS Christmas Countdown BOM.  Its color scheme of teal, dark blue and white I felt could easily be expanded to utilize scrappy blues. 

The binder holding all the finished blocks.

As noted in a previous post, after making the blocks, I'm now rethinking whether scrappy was the way to go after all.  So that project is moving onto 2021.  

Unfortunately while a lot of the other desired projects got started, the center piece for the whole decorating project -- the Christmas Tree -- was never found!  We usually decorate with a small 3 to 4 foot tree but was not able to find any this late in the season this year.  So our "decorations" truly suited this year's holiday season:  this was all we did for this year's "COVID Christmas" decorating!

The one thing I did manage to get done for holiday decorating was the blue felt "Merry Mugs" fabric ornament kit I picked up after deciding on the Blue & White theme.  I was lucky enough to catch them on sale from Quilt In A Day back in the summer. 

I've made ornaments from these Rachel of Greenfield's kits before.  I did the stocking ones a few years ago and had half of the set of Mitten ones completed.

Having made these by machine before, I was really surprised at how quick they made up by hand!  Because of that, after finishing the last of the mugs earlier this week, I decided to also finish up the last of the mittens too.

I worked on the skate yesterday and finished up the Bell and Santa this afternoon.  The Bell is not actually from the original kit.  The kit had a Christmas tree for one mitten but since I had already made a Christmas tree as part of the Stocking set, I found a bell design in a Penny rug and Ornaments pattern by Pat Sloan from McCall's Quick Quilts and used that instead.

The chair quilt project was going to be my version of "Snow Day".  

It is also part of this year's Laundry Basket Quilts obsession.  As soon as I saw Edyta Sitar's design on her website, I knew it HAD TO go into the B&W project queue!  I knew I'd have enough scraps for the nine patches.  Then I saw the perfect fabric for the sashing in my AQS BOM stash.  Unfortunately, I only had a half yard of it.  When I went back to the store I was able to find the same print although the background of it was a pale blue rather than white.   

Still works though and I found a good fabric for the setting triangles.  So I worked on the nine patches as leader/enders along with other projects.  For some reason I had it in my mind that I only needed seven rows of blocks (fifteen in each row).  By the time I left for my trip at the start of December, I had five rows of blocks made so shipped the block sets for the remaining rows and the sashing and setting triangle fabrics down to work on them while at my MIL's.  I did get them done while there and also found backing fabric for the quilt.  I needed four inch finished quarter squares for the setting triangles and was able to cut those with my MIL's Accuquilt Ohio Star die which made very quick work of the cutting!  I got the top done....

...except I then realized that no, I needed nine rows of blocks!   So the task for this evening is to finish making more nine patches and then maybe tomorrow, I'll get those last two rows on.  

And the bonus for today?  Because Christmas was on Friday, TODAY is the day to pick up the latest installment of Bonnie Hunter's current "Grassy Creek Mystery"!  Woo hoo!  Hope you had a quilty day planned for today too!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Slow Sunday Stitching and Ornament Talk Today

Good news!  I did go get my return-from-a-trip COVID test on Friday and it was negative!  Woo Hoo!  Freed from Quarantine!  And good too:  we currently have a city council special election going on in my district to fill a recently vacated seat.  I was able to leave the testing place and go right to the polling location to cast my early vote (the official election day is this coming Tuesday).  That accomplished, I also took care of some errands in the neighborhood and then yesterday ran errands that needed the car. 

 As the last week of the holiday package peak season begins, my DH had to go in to work today (UPS) so will have the car which means today I can settle in for some more stitching at home.  In my last post, I noted I was working on this:

Now I have these all done:

The last one I took with me to the COVID testing place and started the stitching on it while waiting for the results of the rapid test.  I am truly surprised at how easy these are to make up by hand and am really enjoying working on them!  Today I am going to work on this one:

This set of Rachel Pellman felt ornament kits (also available as patterns if you already have a felt stash) are all part of the Blue and White Christmas decorating I had planned to do this year.  However right now I'm not sure if that decorating will even happen!  While out yesterday I went searching for a small tree for us but didn't find any in the places I went to.  With our kids grown (but not out of the house) we usually buy a little three or four foot tree that can be put on a table we have at the top of the entry stair case landing.  This was the tree from a few years ago:

I had put the other ornaments I've made from the stocking and mittens Pellman kits on that tree.  It should be noted that those were all done completely by machine, utilizing decorative stitch patterns.  However, the blue mugs I'm doing this year are all being done by hand.  I've completed all the ones from the earlier stocking set but still have three more from the mitten set to finish up.  I plan to do them by hand this time while finishing up the mugs.

Another project I had taken on the trip with me but didn't get to work on while there were for some fabric "Cathedral Windows Ornaments".  They are offered as a pattern or kit by Shabby Fabrics and demonstrated in Jen's videos here and here.

I made one during the return quarantine and have fabric sets ready for two more.  The fabrics for these came from the blue and white fabric stash for my AQS "Twilight Flurries" BOM project.  The only hand stitching on these though is to whipstitch the opening closed after you stuff them!  

Unfortunately, I only realized when I had to pick a ribbon for the hanging loop that I really didn't have anything right for the color or the season.  Good thing one of my errands yesterday was a Joann's run and they had holiday ribbons on sale so now I can replace that blue twill tape! 

Speaking of felt ornaments, Aurifil did a post on them Friday and offered links to some great patterns.  I really want to try this one!

Doubt I'll get to it today but since I'll still be tree shopping this week, there's still time to try it out!.  

There's more hand work fun to see over at Kathy's for her weekly "Slow Sunday Stitching" link up.  Go see what inspiration you can discover there!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Snowed in Quarantine!!


 I came back Sunday night after spending two weeks in North Carolina with my MIL.  Per New York state's current return quarantine regulations, I had been tested last Thursday while there and received the results Monday that the test was negative.  A blessing considering that during the second week I was there, the governor of that state only now had instituted a "semi-mandated" mask requirement and early closing of restaurants and liquor sales in response to skyrocketing transmission and hospitalization rates in their state.  

For NY, the new reduced return-from-travel restrictions instituted about a week before my trip by our Governor,  required me to quarantine for three days once I returned and then get tested again here.  If the second test is also negative, then I would be immediately freed from quarantine and free to move about --- still with a mask while out in public of course!

Well, today would have been the day to go get tested but Mother Nature decided otherwise......

Fortunately I had a project on my design wall when I left that needs assembly and worked on enough projects while away that can also be moved forward should this "snow in" last more than a day or two.  For instance, this ornament started on the train ride back....

A little mobile Slow Sunday Stitching!

....can now get finished up with more to go!

More on the trip in the next few posts!