Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December 31, 2014

Whew!  Here it is, the last day of the year, and I haven't committed to any completely idiotic crafting goals yet.  Eke!

Ideally, I'd say "use up 100 yards of fabric," but in case it has escaped your notice, the only year I have managed to do that was when it wasn't a goal.  So, it ISN'T a goal this year.  Nope, not at all.  Totally Not A Goal.  But if I do manage to use up that much fabric as a pure, unrelated coincidence, that would be really, really great. 

Aside from finishing 100 projects and the usual "read or listen to 100 books," I didn't do very well on my goals this year.  I did 3 threads on the never-ending cross stitch project instead of 12, none at all on the needlework project, finished 1 sewing WIP instead of 3, finished 1 knitting WIP instead of 3, and unless I manage the sewing day of all sewing days today, am going to have used up about 56 yards of fabric for the year. I'll have also knit about 55 balls of yarn, so I'm kind of consistent there.  I do have a new chemo cap on the needles,
so there's a chance at 56.  While I would like to say that there is now a visible dent in the yarn stash, I think we all know that isn't true, but since I've been a lot more active this year, that's okay.  I'll trade mobile for yardage any day.  :)

However, it is time for crazy new goals for 2015:

  •  Finish 115 projects WITHOUT counting any lace embroidery ornaments unless they are the applique ones (those are much harder and take far more involvement than the other ones).  Ideally, not having them to fall back on will force me to finish some of my WIPs and will mean I'm doing projects which are taking up space in the sewing room  :)
  • Paint 2 ornaments
  • Try a bargello quilting project
  • Try a braided quilting project
  • Try a stained glass quilting project
  • Make a shoulder bag
  • Make 3 colorwork ornaments
  • Finish 3 ornaments from the ornament kits, the latest of which arrived on Christmas Eve:
Isn't it just adorable?  I am going to cancel my membership once I reach the 1 year mark and I've seen them all, but I do love seeing what they will be each month. 

I will soon be getting back on my sheep and trying for the TWO and THREE year badges, but I'm holding off for a bit.  If I'm not going to buy yarn for three years, there are a few things I'd like to add to my stash, but I've made a list of projects and thinking about it and making sure it isn't crazy and kind of savoring the moment. 

Okay 2015.  I'm ready!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Wow!  THAT was a busy holiday season!  We had friends over for dinner Christmas Eve, an open house Christmas night, and would have had our holiday party Sunday night had I not picked up a very nasty little bug that forced us to cancel it.  BUT, I didn't miss anything because of my back, which is very exciting.  Hope you all had a great holiday season as well!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays from Château Sutton-Goar!

2014 was a big year here at the Château as Andy turned 50 in July and celebrated by running a marathon in June.  While this disqualifies him as a professional party-planner, it was his longest run ever and involved several months of training.  And blisters.

Because there should also be fun associated with a birthday, we had friends over for a big birthday bash in July, and in August went to Victoria, British Columbia for a week.  We had originally planned to take a train trip across Canada, but decided that once the novelty of the train wore off, it was really going to be a week of mostly sitting.  Victoria, on the other hand, is a city built for walking and with some newly acquired mobility(Toni, not Andy), we did just that.  This was our first trip together that involved staying in one place for the entire week, so we found a nice family-owned hotel with a kitchenette facing the beach, which I thought would give us a nice place to go walking every morning before setting off.  It turned out that we were (once we figured out the shorter version) just a mile from downtown anyway, so going for a morning walk before setting out walking seemed a bit redundant and, frankly, tiring. Eventually we discovered that we could get downtown through Beacon Hill Park, which was simply amazing.  We went everywhere—Butchart Gardens, the Empress Hotel, Chinatown, Market Square, the Parliament building, Craigdarroch Castle, Miniature World—even finding the lesser-known events like an evening ghost walk, street performers, and a water taxi tour—though in all honesty that turned out to be way more taxi than tour.  The big highlight of the trip was sea kayaking (Victoria Waterfront Tours), though the cooler temperatures and a week without kitty wake-up service are not to be sneered at.

As a birthday present to himself, Andy acquired a 5-string fretless bass, and with finishing his electric mandolin, we are firmly in the lead again in the instrument arms race among our friends.  Being fretless, the bass took a bit of getting used to, but he practices music most nights, so he's getting comfortable with it and really likes having the extra string.  Or, as I should say since this IS a Christmas letter, is doing brilliantly and will be talent-scouted by a major record company any day now.  'Tis the season, after all..........

My back problems continued to dominate life much of the year, as the core-strengthening exercises the physical therapist gave me worked so well that it straightened my hip out more than it was to begin with.  40+ years of walking a certain way is a rather difficult habit for muscles to break, but I'm working on it.  The good news is that this year was much less painful and we've been able to even do a few things that involve sitting, such as spending Thanksgiving with my parents at the ranch and going to shows again.  To celebrate, my mother took us to see “Wicked” when it came through town, and Andy and I splurged on season tickets to Broadway in Boise.  While the first show, “Flashdance,” made it all too obvious why the show has never made it TO Broadway, “Jersey Boys” was great fun and a terrific show.  In January we see “Camelot,” then “Book of Mormon” next summer.   I'll have to do the core exercises and other physical therapy the rest of my life, but as much of it is muscle-building and stability anyway, that's fine.  It's just nice to be getting a normal life back.  Or as “normal” as ours has ever been.

The garden (ahem...meaning “me”) got off to a slow start, then one bed got struck by fungus and most of the rest got crippled by the heat.  It turned out that while realigning my back, I couldn't pull weeds anyway, so except for cucumbers and peppers, the garden and I pretty much ignored each other most of the summer and completely during what is normally known as “canning season.”  I almost didn't know what to do with myself with the extra time—except for everything that has piled up in the last 4 years.  There's always that. I also started experimenting with new recipes, sorting and cleaning up our back room (optimistically referred to as my “office” though “junk room” would be more appropriate), entertaining more, walking as many days in a row as my back can take, and figuring out where I put everything when I was in a hurry to unpack the house 8 years ago.  It's like my own little scavenger hunt, but Andy is excited about the space I'm clearing up in the garage.  I haven't yet told him that it means more room for holiday decoration boxes.  I just let him dream..................

Things I have learned this year:
  • My smart phone's auto-correct, while generally up on pop culture references, has never heard of the Bionic Man, but is aware of the lesser-known Bubonic Man, presumably a rather short-lived superhero of the Middle Ages.
  • There are many, many options for massaging chair inserts, including “shiatsu,” which roughly translates to “beating one's kidneys into submission.”
  • Once one has experienced an “English tea,” one can understand the jokes about English dentistry
  • Being supportive of a spouse's hobby or enabling is a very fine line—probably depending on who gets to carry the bags the mile back to the hotel.
  • Mulching does indeed help plants—the weeds in the garden loved it
  • “Taking a break from the garden” and the garden getting attacked by fungus work well together
  • An electric mandolin looks very much like a baby electric guitar—but in a very manly sort of way, of course
  • Even a zipper I'm not happy with is going to function, and if someone is close enough to my backside to see the errors, I probably have bigger issues than whether my seams are straight
  • If one works hard enough at it, one can even get butter into hot cereal recipes, though “why” remains a bit of a mystery
  • I consider myself an optimist, but after 20+ years, it's time to admit that nothing is going to make me reread my copies of Dante's Inferno or anything by James Joyce.
  • When one hasn't seen something since one moved in 8 years ago, it's a bit easier to admit that whatever it is really isn't necessary in life
  • I am sure I have learned things without huge amounts of frustration and swearing, but they probably weren't craft-related
  • Some people consider hobbies as things that are "fun" and "relaxing."  For their own protection, I will avoid these foolish people when I have just inserted a zipper into anything or had to rip back mohair yarn
  • Before ordering several woodworking kits of the same thing to all be finished in one year, the intelligent thing to do would be to order ONE and see how one's spouse survives the process before ordering more.....
  • A “New Recipe Dinner Club” is much easier than a book club.  One can always talk about books, but one doesn't have to pretend that the evening is about anything but socializing and eating. 
  • My ophthalmologist, who is about 12, has started using phrases like “at your age” and upgraded me to bifocals.  He doesn't get a Christmas card.
  • After being in the house 8 years, I finally have a desk again.  I never knew how excited I could be about drawers.
  • This year our neighborhood joined, which is a nice way to find our which neighbors grew too much zucchini, which are paranoid, which need to get out a bit more, and which ones are why we built a fence in the first place.
  • It might be best for marital harmony if the spouse who likes to knit sweaters is NOT the spouse in charge of the thermostat.
  • There is a temperature point where our cat Theo stops waking Andy up at 5:00 AM to go out and starts waking me up at 5:00 for a cuddle.  There does not, however, appear to be any temperature that means we can both sleep in—not even with Theo's anti-stress drugs.  Go figure.
  • I visit the physical therapist regularly, who pushes on my sore spots until I whimper, then I hand over my money and go home.  It's a lot like a playground bully but with insurance involved. 

Wishing you a wonderful holiday and a healthy 2015,

Toni & Andy

Monday, December 22, 2014

Santa Came Early.....

At least I'll still get some crafting done when my fingers need to rest.....

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Was I Smug?

I must have been just a teensy bit smug about the fusible interfacing yesterday, because when I got a chance to finish the table runners up today, the two new ones were STILL wonky where I had embroidered them.  One of them doesn't even really flat.  But,
they're done.  And we'll keep one of them.  In time, I might even forget the stress and trauma involved in making the darn things.  It just isn't right now......

Andy and I had a wild date night last night:  Costco!  During the holidays.  Yep, it might actually be the bravest date we were ever on.  We're having friends over for dinner Christmas Eve and I want to serve baked ham (it was my grandmother's tradition), and they have really nice hams.  We also needed a new iron.  The old one has been acting up for a while, but by Friday it had progressed all the way to shutting off every time one tried to iron things but NOT shutting off even when I was trying to shut it off. Sounds like a very fast way to burn down a house to me, so 
we picked up a newer version of what we had, as that was the only option.  I know there are better irons and I should really look into a nice one for sewing, but the moment they start trying to burn the house down is not really when I want to start researching them--it's more of a fling-them-out-the-window sort of moment, to be honest.  So,
my new $30 friend is close enough for right now. 

Today I did get a bit of crafting time, but tomorrow we have another party to go to, so I don't know that there will be any crafting time until after Christmas, so I was trying to get another quick project going tonight,
but Theo got in the way.  Seriously--I didn't even get a chance to smooth the fabric out on the table.  I have been ironing white and red Christmas fabrics to potentially make this or a table runner using these.  What I have ended up with is an 18-pound cat with entitlement issues.  Oh well.  I do have that baby sweater to work on................

Friday, December 19, 2014

Finishing Friday - FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm not wrapping anything and will only be sending Christmas cards if I need some time on the heating pad today (which is probable as I had physical therapy yesterday).  This morning, I am crafting!!!!!!!!!

Melodye had a great suggestion for the problem table runners--either doubling the stabilizer or using tissue paper.  I always forget how useful tissue paper can be in the sewing room--apparently I prefer to struggle with things.  But having a PLAN prompted me to stitch up the remaining little monsters strips this morning, which is when I discovered that the problem was in the tan fabric itself.  It's a quilters cotton I bought from Hancock Fabrics, and it is bizarrely stretchy for cotton.  All woven cotton stretches on the bias and a bit in the crosswise direction, but I struggled to even get the strips sewn onto the darn stuff.  I'm not a good quilter, but usually even I can manage straight seems on square pieces.  At least this explains the problems with embroidery--the fabric is stretching too much.  So, I decided to try a fusible shirt tailor interfacing on them,  It's maybe a mid-weight stabilizer and so far,
so good.  I have been so irritated with this fabric that I might have been tempted to abandon them for a bit, but 1) I want my crafting table back and 2) I promised myself I could play with this
After physical therapy I stopped at Joann Fabrics to pick up more white patterned cotton for kimono ornaments,
because I've cut up all I had and am still adding Christmas fabrics.  I haven't ever bought a jelly roll before, (and, of course, have tons and tons and TONS of fabric), but ever since I got this book I have been dying to try making something from it,
 and thought the best way would be to cut extra strips from each cotton as I got them out for other things.  While this is working fine in theory,
because I took a break from fall fabrics and switched to Christmas for kimonos, I haven't gotten enough strips of anything even close to working together.  So, if I finish all THREE remaining table runners AND find a spot on the table (another story), I can play with my new toy!!!!!!!!  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

And It Hasn't Been A Whole Week!

Is everyone else having this sort of December? 

The remaining packages were shipped off last night, and with that, most of the wrapping is done as well.  Or at least it feels like it as I can dawdle a bit on the gifts we can hand-deliver.  Christmas cards are in-progress and I think I only have 2 parties to attend this week--so far at least.  Ho! Ho! Ho!

This morning that darn cat Theo woke me up at 2:00 AM because he was feeling lonely and in need of a cuddle, and I couldn't get back to sleep.  I have never been able to nap, but Theo, after a busy night of keeping the humans awake, slept most of the day--in spite of me waking him up regularly just to retaliate.  (I might be a little cranky when I only get 4 hours of sleep.......)  Such days are not the days for high-mental-function projects, so
there are two new mitten ornaments.  I haven't made many of these this year.  But we've given away almost all the wooden ornaments Andy made, and all of the kimono ornaments that didn't go on our own trees, so the gift supply needed a boost.

 look!  It's YET ANOTHER pair of socks.  I didn't buy this yarn though--one of my friends who is learning to knit had originally tried starting to learn on a sock, which didn't really work out.  Finally, she brought the yarn over here and asked if I could make the socks for her as she's working on simpler (actually beginner-friendly) sorts of projects right now.  So, while I don't have to ADD the yarn to the stash, it doesn't count as coming OUT of the stash either, but I am encouraging another knitter, so stash tally vs. world domination.  It works out.

Speaking of stash, I dug these out today:
They're mostly fingering-weight yarns, and I started with the idea that moving bins around in the sewing room is probably not overly back-friendly and since I was digging out the fingering bin, I wanted to not need to do it again for a while.  BUT, seeing this nice little bag of yarn made me think, "If I used up all this yarn, I'd know exactly how much yarn has been removed from the stash."  This, of course, was the theory behind some of the "basket dashes" I hosted on Ravelry--and which I was not even very good at--but I thought it might be worth another try.  So,
 the first yarn is in progress as I type!  Okay, barely, but we who have scary stashes must cling to what we can.  One of my friends had a baby girl TODAY, and while I do actually (hopefully) already have a baby sweater in the gift bin and while this would be spectacularly lousy timing otherwise, I was really motivated to knit a baby sweater or two.  If it will use up stash, I'm up for anything (well, except moderation or giving yarn away.........let's not get stupid)  So it might happen this time........

And, because I am a crafter and therefore obligated to do really stupid things in December,
I did start two new fall table runners today.  The first one:
 is off to its new owner later this week.  On it, I used fusible interfacing to stabilize the squares to embroider.  The design still pulled a little, so on the next one (far right above) I used regular stabilizer and they pulled a LOT and I actually had to trim the blocks by 1/4-inch just to get them square again.  So the next two are going to be pieced, then I'll try either fusible fleece or regular sew-in interfacing as the batting for the entire project, using whichever one as stabilizer.  We'll see how this works.  I don't actually need to get them done before Christmas as I have other things lined up, but they would make lovely gifts..............

A crafter who CREATES December deadlines when she doesn't really need to????  I need help...........

Thursday, December 11, 2014

And It's Almost Another Week.............

My last post was almost a week ago.  Wow.  At least everything has been good-busy since then. 

Saturday we had tickets to the matinee of "Jersey Boys," which was FABULOUS.  And,
We took a "selfie!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  I can't even tell you how proud we were of ourselves for this.

The show was wonderful--I just couldn't even begin to describe how much fun it was.  THEN we went from there to a "Tom and Jerry" party, which is a drink besides being a cartoon character.  You know how exciting it is when your friend marries someone you like because then you can truly enjoy being with both of them instead of just tolerating the spouse/significant other?  Well, in this case the party was hosted by one of my favorite marriages ever--I knew both of them independently and for a really long time before they ever got married.  When they got married it was fabulous and now they have two cute kids and the Tom and Jerry party is a family tradition dating back to at least his grandparents.  We've never been able to make the party before, so we were thrilled to get there and say hello.

THEN we had a holiday house concert party to get to.  I'm sure I've mentioned that we have a large group of friends who have taken up music.  Anyone who wishes to perform simply signs up and practices.  It's a very informal group and a lot of people are new to instruments, but it's the kind of group who applaud everyone for effort and never pay attention to missed notes or that sort of thing, so it's ALSO a terrific time.  Andy has formed a "trio" with the host and her sister (which sounds strange but isn't), and every year they pick a song and practice at our house.  This year was a guitar trio,
 and they did REALLY well--in my completely unbiased opinion.  I've missed them practicing this week.  We all have a cup of tea, chat and laugh, and then I go upstairs to work on whatever with a live music background.  Hello!  Who wouldn't love that?

THEN the next day we drove out to visit some friends who make their own wine and needed to sample this year's harvest.  Again, I had known both of these people before they ever got married, so again just fabulous people who are a joy to be around.  Fun, fun, FUN weekend.

Monday, of course, I was pretty much flat in bed on the heating pad, but it was totally worth it.  :)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hello Christmas!

I was trying to be responsible and bought only a yard of the red metallic red fabric because I wasn't sure it would work as a garland, but experimenting with TWO yards would have worked even better.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


It's December!  I'M NOT READY!

But there are 10 new kimono ornaments tonight. Some have already been put on the tree, some are in the gift bin, but these are the two new color combinations.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

.....And We're Back

Wow!  Was that a fast week for everyone else?  It was here--fast and busy.  Whew!

For Thanksgiving we headed up to my parents' ranch two hours away.  Because it's such a long drive, I've only been there once in the last 3 years, and paid dearly for it later, so it has been a while.  The ranch used to belong to my grandparents and is now a corporation between my mother and her twin sister and their husbands, and is now up for sale, so there's been a great deal of cleaning and sorting.  Since I haven't lived there in over 20 years, anything I wanted of mine I've long since brought home, but I did find an old box that belonged to my grandmother that always had spools and small toys in it when I was a kid.  Some of the spools are wooden, so I brought that and will clean it up.  Originally she used it to carry bottles for the twins when they traveled.  It's just one of those things that is totally worthless but carries fond memories.  My mother gave me these:
which are two old curtains that were probably never used.  We moved to the ranch when I was 4, and at that time there was a hired man named Bob who lived in the bunkhouse, and had been there much of my mother's childhood.  He had a Dachshund, so my sister and I were immediately drawn to him because the first thing on our agenda was meeting all the "safe" animals on the ranch and what is  more fascinating to a child than a weiner-dog?  He died when I was still pretty little, but he was a nice man, and there's enough fabric for a couple table runners and maybe a nice bag. 

We came back Friday, stopping at Joann Fabrics in Ontario for the Black Friday sale.  I'm not sure I've EVER shopped anywhere on Black Friday, but that store on Black Friday is less of a nightmare than the Boise store at any time, and I was hoping to find more of the white tulle (found) and the glittery leaf print (didn't find), I wanted to pick up a bolt of paper-backed fusible webbing while it was 60% off, and I still needed two black prints for the wall hanging pattern I bought in Victoria:

They had THE most beautiful completed one hanging up, and we both really liked it, but ever since then I've been trying to line up pieces and supplies for this thing.  It's more complicated than anything I've ever made, so I'm buying fabric in full yards because I figure some of it is going to end up in the blender.  I think I'll be set to go after the holidays though.  The only thing I might not have by then is muslin because I have almost gone through my stash of it.  I'm going on a crafting buying-ban again on January 1, but rather than scramble at the end of the month, I might make allowances for a new bolt of muslin (seriously a bolt--I use it for everything) when I need it.  Or maybe I'll order one before the end of the year.

There has been a definite increase in the fabric stash this fall, which you can blame squarely on these:
 which I bought with some birthday money.  I am fascinated by the color progressions, and have been padding out my fall and Christmas fabric stashes, as they are the only ones even remotely close to having enough colors to be able to do them.  And, in case you were wondering about the sudden obsession with fusible webbing, Andy gave me these for my birthday:
and I pretty much want to make all of them.  I'm sticking with table runners instead of quilts for a while--they're faster, I can learn quilting techniques on them, and I can do them as gifts.  I could do quilts as gifts as well (and have) but the general lag time on them is about 5-10 years so far, so it's not working out well.  I've decided that one either has to shop a lot OR have a large stash for quilting--it's one or the other.  I can live with that.  The fabric for clothes, however, would be a heck of a lot more useful as clothing, so I am currently flirting with the idea of the goal of 115 finished objects and 115 yards of fabric used up for next year.  We'll see........

I'm hoping to finish decorating today, so I'll have pictures soon, but I did have to show you this:
Not only my very first table runner AND my first-ever quilt-type project, it might be the first thing I made after taking up sewing as an adult.  It looks pretty good from a distance.  I didn't actually quilt it, and it's so thin that either I ironed the daylights out of the batting by now or didn't include any.  I have no idea.  I also didn't understand the directions for the binding, so ended up just taking the 2 1/2 inch strips and not folding them, so on the back side I had to iron a quarter-inch hem onto it.  THAT was a long process.  But it was a learning experience, and is looking quite festive on our landing.  And there are a few things on top of it now in case an actual quilter ever got the bright idea to pick it up and check my work..................:)